So Let Them Watch – Girls’ Generation

February 26, 2014 in moonrise31, So Let Them Watch by moonrise31

In this ten-chapter fic, each member represents a concept from a different Girls’ Generation music video—with a few creative liberties tossed in, of course.

Seohyun: The robot with a key, some bravery, and quite possibly a heartbeat.

Introducing Yoona:I’m going where my heart is going. Don’t tease me because I’m young.

Seohyun wasn’t quite sure which way was up. Normally, it’d be whatever direction the top of her head was facing, but she wasn’t even quite sure she was standing. And what was that at her back? The scent of something much cleaner, more open than the room with a sign and a shadow that was hopefully very, very far away by now. It tickled the backs of her bare arms—did robots get ticklish?

“Hey, are you alright?”

Seohyun didn’t want to open her eyes. She turned her head in the direction of the voice and opened her mouth, expecting her vocal chords to creak from disuse—she’d given up speaking a long time ago, because it didn’t seem necessary when no one else would hear her. But the question came out smoother than she’d dared hope. “Why wouldn’t I be alright?”

“Well, you’re lying down. I heard you fall so you might’ve fainted? Do you need to go to the nurse’s office?”

“Nurse’s…office?” Seohyun repeated, finally lifting her eyelids. She was indeed lying on her back, on the ground. She turned to stare at the green blades millimeters from her pupils. Grass? There was a warmth on her skin, blanketing her in a sensation so new and incredibly pleasant. She turned her head again, looking up, and her eyes widened at the blueness before her. And was that—the Sun?

“Are you okay?”

Her gaze switched to the concerned girl crouched at her side. The nametag pinned to the stranger’s collared shirt read,

Im Yoona
Class 2-F

“I’m…fine.” Now that she had reoriented herself, Seohyun had no problem pushing herself up into a sitting position. “Thank you.”

Yoona smiled then, and Seohyun had to blink. According to the books she’d read, the sun was one of the brightest things in the universe. But here she sat, able to stare directly at the center of the solar system, feeling only its welcome heat on her face. Yet she was almost blinded by Yoona’s grin.

Now there’s something a book didn’t teach me.

The thought hit her quite suddenly.

“School starts soon. We should probably get going.” Yoona got up and straightened her skirt.

“School.” We. Seohyun looked down and saw the same skirt on her own legs, the same collared shirt, the same nametag reading, “Seohyun, Class 1-B”, pinned to the lapel.

When did I change clothes?

The puzzle would have to wait, however. Because apparently now she had to go to school, and she wouldn’t be a very good robot if she wasn’t punctual. Then her train of thought sputtered to a stop again, because there was a hand in her face.

“Here, I’ll help you up,” Yoona explained when all Seohyun did was stare.

“Thank you.” Seohyun suppressed an exclamation of surprise when Yoona pulled her to her feet as if she weighed no more than a feather.

“You’re stronger than you look,” she said automatically. Then it occurred to her that such bluntness might not have been the most polite course of action. She opened her mouth to apologize, but Yoona just laughed.

“I get that a lot.”

“I must be heavier than I look,” Seohyun added. Robots are made of metal, aren’t they?

Yoona scoffed. “Are you being serious right now? I’m surprised the wind hasn’t blown you away already.” She gave Seohyun a good-natured punch on the shoulder, and then winced as she drew her hand back. “I’ll tell you what though—your bones are no joke.”

And Seohyun laughed. Because Yoona’s statement was silly: she was a robot, and robots didn’t have bones.

But Yoona laughed too, again. Seohyun wanted to explain to Yoona that they were laughing about different things; somehow, though, she couldn’t stop her own chuckles long enough to do so. She decided that maybe the reason didn’t matter that much, anyway.

Yoona was good at making small talk and didn’t seem to mind when the other person only listened. So Seohyun just walked and nodded and absorbed the lightness of her words, the airy way she gestured as she spoke, the crinkles at the corners of her eyes as she smiled goodbye.

And just like that, Seohyun was watching Yoona disappear down the hallway amidst a mass of other students dressed in perfectly pressed uniforms. Seohyun stayed right where Yoona had left her, and others simply walked around as they made their way to their own destinations. Conversations slipped out from the bustle and echoed inside her head: football after school—last night’s “Running Man” episode—homework for Teacher Park that was never quite complete. People walked past her too many at a time and she couldn’t focus on each one entirely; she caught flashes of grins and arm-linking and shoes squeaking on linoleum.

There were more students passing her in this hallway than all the books in her room full of shelves now swallowed in darkness.

Eventually the crowd started to thin, and Seohyun realized that she was left with the settled silence of an empty school hall. She looked down at her nametag. Class 1-B.

Robots shouldn’t be late to class.

She found the correct room without much difficulty and even managed to notice an empty spot in the front of the room. But at the last moment, she passed the desk for a seat near the back. Seconds later, the teacher called for attention, and Seohyun knew that she had made the right decision. Because this was first-year high school material, knowledge she had read backwards and forwards and would retain for the rest of her existence.

But observing people? Now that wasn’t something a robot got to do everyday. So instead of listening to the lectures, she listened to the whispers passed from seat to seat. Read the frantically taken notes and watched the texting done under the desks. Noticed the glazed-over eyes and drooping heads.

She had never encountered anything so fascinating.

When the school day came to an end, however, Seohyun realized that she didn’t know what else to do. The students around her had after-school activities, or decided to head into the city, or began the journey home for the evening. But she didn’t have any activities, nor did she have a home, so perhaps she should just—

“Hey, Seohyun.”

Im Yoona had saved the day.

“Where’re you headed? You can tell unnie.” Seohyun thought that telling a person to call you “unnie” wasn’t what you did to just anyone—especially a strange girl who had apparently fainted outside of your school building just that morning. So she wasn’t sure at all why Yoona was saying that it was okay.

Yoona seemed to make Seohyun unsure about a lot of things.

Like how she wasn’t quite sure if Yoona actually was older, but by the numbers of their nametags Yoona was a second-year, and if Seohyun had learned anything that day, it was that Yoona had eons on her in terms of knowledge not learned from a page.

Another certain thing was that when Yoona smiled, lips stretching and ready to break into a grin, Seohyun found herself looking forward to the brightness.

“I don’t know.”

Yoona’s eyebrows raised. “You don’t know where you’re going? Hey,” she leaned in and knocked her knuckles on Seohyun’s forehead, “you sure you didn’t need that visit the nurse’s office?”

Seohyun shook her head. “I don’t have anywhere to go,” she said.

“Oh.” Something flickered across Yoona’s expression for just a moment, and Seohyun didn’t have time to figure out what it was before it got covered up by an open-mouthed grin. “That’s fine then—we can take a walk instead.”

They headed further into town, and Seohyun learned about the best place to get noodles and the tastiest beef restaurant and the cutest little shop that served the most amazing kimchi—Yoona didn’t tell her much about the other businesses along every street they passed, but Seohyun didn’t mind. The way Yoona talked about food, it didn’t really seem like anything else mattered.

I wish robots needed to eat.

But then Yoona stopped by a building that didn’t have food as the priority. Sure, it was a pub, so there were tables inside and a few seated patrons scraping at plates; but Yoona wasn’t even looking at the dishes, which Seohyun figured was a miracle in itself. No, the older girl was decidedly staring at the small raised platform towards one side of the establishment. On stage stood a microphone on a stand and a woman with a guitar. Seohyun read the words on the singer’s lips and wondered what they sounded like.

Yoona watched and said nothing.

“Who’s that?” Seohyun finally asked, because she had finished observing the older man in the far corner booth roll a cigarette between his fingers, as well as the bartender eying them from the other side of the window as he wiped the inside of a glass for the twenty-fourth time.

“A singer,” Yoona answered, the wistfulness in her voice catching Seohyun off guard.

“Is she good?”

Yoona turned to face her. “Good enough to be up there, isn’t she?”

Seohyun didn’t know how she was supposed to respond to that.

She didn’t move at first, either, when Yoona suddenly grabbed her hand and headed down the sidewalk. But it didn’t take her long to fall in step with the now thoughtful-looking girl. And then Yoona said, “My mom left when I was little.”

Seohyun frowned. “That doesn’t sound very good.”

“It wasn’t,” Yoona agreed. “I don’t really remember her, though, since I was so young. And the only thing my dad would ever tell me about her was that she was really pretty. The prettiest woman he’d ever met.”

Seohyun focused on their intertwined hands swinging back and forth between them.

“So when I was a kid, I, you know.” Yoona let out an embarrassed chuckle. “I used to pretend that I would meet my mom someday. Bump into her in a grocery store. In the street while we waited to cross the intersection.”

On stage with the spotlight shining on you and the audience murmuring its approval in the background, Seohyun finished silently. Out loud, she said, “You’re still a kid, though, aren’t you?”

“Not enough to pretend a random stranger gave birth to me.” Yoona shrugged. Seohyun thought that malice or at least bitterness should accompany those words, but Yoona seemed to be truly nonchalant. The passing fact had been acknowledged and she was moving on. “I have to thank that singer for one thing, though. She showed me music.”

Seohyun tilted her head. “You sing?”

“I’ve even got a band with some of my friends.” Yoona grinned ruefully. “We’re not that official, though. I mean, a band isn’t really a band ’til it lands its first gig, right?”

“In there?” Seohyun jerked a thumb over her shoulder.

Yoona puffed out her cheeks. “The pub owner won’t even listen to our demos. He says we’re just children and should be studying instead of wasting time.”

Seohyun thought. She thought about the teachers that lectured class 1-B and the people she had watched the entire day. And she said, “Well, in my experience, unnie, adults don’t always know everything.”

Yoona laughed and ruffled her hair. “I’m glad you think so, Seohyun.”

“Can I hear you?”

Yoona’s hand stopped. “What?”

“I want to listen,” Seohyun insisted. “I want to hear you sing. Hear your band play. It doesn’t have to be on that stage.”

Yoona stared for a moment, but then the signature smile began to spread. She pulled out her phone. “Well, since you don’t have anywhere to go…”

“Now I do,” Seohyun said.

The makeshift venue turned out to be the garage of one of Yoona’s bandmates. Besides her, there was a drummer and a guitarist. The three girls joked and chatted as they set up their instruments while Seohyun found a seat on top of a dull red lawnmower.

Yoona grabbed a hammer off its hook on the wall and held it upside down as her makeshift microphone. She winked at Seohyun. “Ready? And…a-one, a-two, a-one, two three…!”

Seohyun only had one comment about the performance after the last chord dissolved into the air: “That was the most amazing thing I have ever heard.”

Yoona laughed and threw an arm around her shoulder. “Flattery won’t get you everywhere, Seohyun, but it’s greatly appreciated.”

“I was being serious,” Seohyun said.

Yoona considered the statement. “You usually are,” she agreed.

“Hey, Yoona,” the drummer called from the other side of the garage. “Gonna introduce us to your new friend?”

“Oh yeah! Guys, this is—” she paused and turned back to Seohyun. “Hey, I never got your last name, by the way.”

Seohyun tugged at a lock of her hair, the strands falling over the nametag still pinned to her shirt. “Just ‘Seohyun’ is fine.”

She knew that if she brushed her hair aside, there would be a blank space on the tag where her family name was supposed to go.

YOU ARE A ROBOT.

The sign, with its big red letters glowing even in the encroaching blackness, sprang unbidden into her mind. She shut her eyes tightly and asked if she could get some fresh air. Yoona walked her out.

“It’s getting late. I can bring you home,” Yoona offered.

“I don’t have one,” Seohyun said, concentrating on counting the stars above as they winked into sight against the darkening sky.

“Oh,” Yoona said, solemn. Then she continued, voice soft, “Hey, Seohyun, when you said you had nowhere to go…I mean…if you’re having trouble at home…”

Seohyun shook her head. “Unnie, I mean it. I don’t have anywhere to go.” She hesitated. Then she bent her head forward and swept her hair to the side, revealing the back of her neck.

Yoona exhaled sharply. “Seohyun?” The name was whispered, uncertain.

“I’m a robot,” Seohyun said. She straightened and turned to face the other girl. “Unnie, I don’t know how I got here. And I don’t know how I should leave. But I’ll figure it out somehow.

“Thank you for today. It really was amazing for something that has never stepped outside a room full of books until this morning.”

Yoona caught her hand before she could take a second step. “Hey. Who said you had to leave?”

Seohyun stopped. She turned to glance over her shoulder. “If I don’t have a place to go, I’ll find one.”

“You’re the one who’s always serious about everything she does.” Yoona was grinning again. “And you agreed to call me ‘unnie’, so that means you’ll let me take care of you, right? Let unnie do her job, then.”

Her job, it turned out, was bringing Seohyun to her house for the night, after a call to her dad—currently out of town—to let him know she had a friend who needed a place to stay. She didn’t protest when Seohyun refused dinner. As she ate, she launched into an entertaining story about how she had cooked sweet potatoes on a playground when she was little—it was a lot funnier, Seohyun thought, because Yoona seemed to think it was.

Seohyun sat down on the couch when it was time for Yoona to head upstairs and go to bed.

“Good night, Seohyun,” Yoona told her.

Seohyun felt the corners of her own lips tugging upwards. “Sleep well, unnie.”

Robots didn’t need to rest, but Seohyun was quite content to stay in the living room of Yoona’s cozy apartment and practice her smile until the sun peeked through the blinds.

And then she watched intently as the hands on the clock hanging from the opposite wall made one full turn after another. It wasn’t until 11 that Yoona finally came downstairs, covering a yawn with one hand and stretching the other high above her head.

“School started at 8 AM yesterday,” Seohyun informed her host as the latter opened a kitchen cabinet and pulled out a box of cereal.

“Yesterday was also Friday,” Yoona said as she set a bowl on the counter with a loud clatter. “You really should try sleeping, Seohyun. It feels absolutely heavenly.”

Seohyun just smiled.

Yoona finished her breakfast with a speed that Seohyun thought was only logical, given the other’s enchantment with food. She waited until the dishes were washed and placed in the drying rack before saying, “I think I have an idea, unnie.”

“Idea?” Yoona repeated, wiping her hands with a towel.

“Your band,” Seohyun elaborated. “If the owner of that pub won’t let you play inside, you can just do it outside instead.”

Yoona frowned. “What, like a public concert? Don’t we need a permit for that?”

Seohyun shook her head. “It’s the same as calling the police to report a five-year-old’s technically unlicensed lemonade stand—no one should have the heart to ruin young dreams like that.”

Yoona laughed. “So we’re what? Five?”

“The pub owner seems to think so,” Seohyun pointed out.

“That’s true.” Yoona rolled her eyes. Then she leaned on the counter, propping up her chin with one hand. “Last night, you said our song was the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard.”

Seohyun nodded. “It’s true.”

“Really?” Yoona raised her eyebrows. “I mean, I don’t think we’re bad. I just didn’t expect us to be that good.” She trailed off, her mouth forming a silent “oh” and then sliding into a teasing smirk. “You haven’t heard any other music at all, have you.”

Seohyun shook her head.

Yoona straightened, tilting her head back in a silent chuckle. Then she walked around the counter and grabbed Seohyun’s wrist. “Okay then. Let’s go hold a concert.”

While Yoona called up her bandmates, Seohyun thought about all the things she wanted to tell the other girl. Like how even though she might hear other songs in the future, Yoona’s would always be the first. The first time a melody graced her ears and a rhythm pumped through her limbs, the excitement of making music resonating with something deep inside her.

And a robot would never forget.

Seohyun didn’t get to say any of that, though, because Yoona finished her phone call and talked of other things until they met at the same garage as the night before. Seohyun helped the drummer carry a cymbal stand and a heavy coil of extension cords all the way to the plaza outside of the pub. Yoona hauled a battered old generator all by herself, a microphone stand slung over her shoulder.

Their setup didn’t gather too much attention at first. But after the first verse echoed in every shop around the square, a small crowd began to gather. Seohyun stood in a corner, immersing herself in her second experience with the deceptively complex entity called “music”. Names like “Mozart” and “The Beatles” emerged from the recesses of her memory—would their songs be like this too?

Yoona finished the bridge, and people began to clap to the drummer’s beat. Seohyun joined too, letting her awareness melt into the crowd. They waved with one pair of arms, cheered with one voice. Seohyun could imagine Yoona standing on that stage, the spotlight turning on and off like a strobe, pushing the song to an elevated finish.

Except the lights kept flashing even as the crowd applauded its approval, and Seohyun remembered that they were outside, where the sun wasn’t something with a power button. The excited chatter of the audience around her began to cut in and out. She leaned against the lamppost next to her, staring as her view of the pavement disappeared into pitch blackness and then appeared again. Dark. Cement. Dark.

“Seohyun—you—kay?”

“Key,” Seohyun gasped.

“What?” Yoona’s confused face blinked into sight for a moment, and then Seohyun looked down again, exposing the back of her neck.

“Turn.”

“I—hyun—tell—wrong?” Yoona started to crouch, trying to get on her eye level.

Turn,” Seohyun forced with the last of her breath before dropping to her knees. Her forehead hit the cool pavement, and she closed her eyes. Her skin should be scraped, but robots didn’t feel pain…

Clink.

A spark exploded from the top of her spine. It surged all the way to her toes and shook her mind into consciousness with an almost painful clarity. Now she felt Yoona’s hand on her shoulder. Determined fingers twisting the key, each turn bringing a fresh wave of energy.

When Seohyun could stand up again, she tried to tell Yoona that everything was alright now. But Yoona just dragged her to a nearby bench and sat her down, throwing one arm over her shoulder and reaching over with the other so she could continue turning.

“I’m alright, unnie,” Seohyun said, one more time.

“For once,” Yoona replied, “I think you’re lying.”

Seohyun frowned. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Okay, not lying,” Yoona amended. “But I don’t think you know. When you’ll run out of time again.”

Seohyun had nothing to say to that.

They sat on the bench until Yoona’s arm ached. She gave the key one last wind and then tucked a stray strand of hair behind Seohyun’s ear.

“Thank you, unnie,” Seohyun said quietly.

Yoona laughed. “Right back at you.” She glanced up at the sky, a content smile on her lips. “We’ve never performed for so many people before. The most was one, and that was you.”

Seohyun opened her mouth to reply, but a sudden brightness to her right caused her to flinch. On her other side, Yoona squinted and leaned over to get a closer look. Her grip around Seohyun tightened slightly.

“What’s that…shining? It’s like a door.”

Seohyun instinctively glanced behind them. No shadows. But she reached up and gently unwrapped Yoona’s arm from her shoulders. She stood. “I think that’s for me.”

“For you?” Yoona jumped to her feet as well. “You mean you’re going? Now?”

Seohyun smiled, the action as easy as a thought. Then she bowed 90 degrees. “Thank you for everything, again, unnie.” She started to straighten and almost yelped when Yoona suddenly pulled her close.

“Be careful,” Yoona said.

“I will,” Seohyun promised, returning the hug.

She felt Yoona’s laugh vibrate through her entire body. “You’re warm,” the older girl murmured before stepping back.

Seohyun tilted her head. “What?” Even though she’d heard it perfectly.

But robots can’t be warm.

Yoona grinned and waved. “I’m going to believe that we’ll see each other again someday, Seohyun. So until then!”

“Until then,” Seohyun repeated. “Goodbye, unnie.” Then she turned and stepped into the light.