Title: Skandl! (Chapter 17)
Pairing(s): TaengSic, side!YulTi
Rating/Genre: PG-13 + language; AU Idol Romance
Warning(s): Nah, bish.
Disclaimer: I don't own Soshi. I don't own anyone, in fact. All Fiction.
Author's Notes: No countdown, gays! Though, I can’t believe we’ve made it to seventeen already. Dayum.
“...and he turns to me like, ‘Where’s the five thousand dollars?’ and I say, ‘This is your frickin’ bank, Mr. Patel. You don’t pay me to investigate.’”
Jessica cackled at a full screen of pissed-off sister. “Are you abusing your boss?”
“How would I hide that much money? Oh, yeah. Lemmie just check my ass.” Soojung, svelte and indignant as the Korean stars she mocked, yanked the loop out an argyle ascot. Part of her douchey part-time attire. “He should concern himself with that weird mole on his chin.”
“Don’t call me by my government name! I’m practically a certified nurse.”
“You major in film.”
“Because I have a lens...” She narrowed Jung-esque eyes like a predator. “...into the body, mind, and soul, big sis.”
Jessica spent time Skyping Soojung after her call ended with Taeyeon. Her brain wouldn’t shut off, replaying her girlfriend’s megawatt smile and how her facial language--brows taut, eyes out of focus--put her heart under arrest. Soojung’s rage rant about work couldn’t overshadow her rose-tinted, hazy reverie.
Instead, a stampede of knocks did the trick.
“C-come in?” she granted, shutting her laptop in the middle of Soojung’s incredibly offensive Patel impression.
“Sica!” Yoona long jumped into Jessica’s bed wearing only a sports bra and pajama pants. Her hair was everywhere. “When will Fany be back?”
Tiffany. Jessica guarded her displeasure; she’d been evading her roommate since Taeyeon spilled the news. “Any minute now.”
“Yuri’s lurking outside our window,” Seohyun said, tying her robe. “We heard this voice from the yard--”
Yoona waved frantic fingers. “She’s serenading us! I thought she was a murdo-rapist until the motion lights came on.”
“God,” Jessica gasped, scrambling after the two girls to crowd at their open panes. Yuri wobbled in the grass, swinging her arms idly, singing for Tiffany to emerge from the YoonHyun window. “She seems…” Smashed. “Did Hyo and Soo notice?”
Seohyun gave major side-eye. “They can sleep through anything.”
True. The women in the messiest room probably snoozed through her jangly Hyperballad performance, too. “We should rescue this lost soul.”
“Really?” Yoona leaned out the window, bobbing her head to mangled lyrics of ‘My Girl’ by the Temptations. “It’s kinda nice. Is your lady unintentionally charming, too?”
“Totally,” Jessica affirmed. That took no contemplation.
They watched the Skandl member in her mismatched Air Jordans and backwards shirt, lifting her shirt halfway for a little belly dance. “Draft me to your team, Sica! I could get used to this.”
Sides split from Yoona’s outburst, they hurried down the building’s staircase, peeked for any active personnel, and coaxed the crooner past an exit. Yuri complied begrudgingly, certain that Tiffany would pop out the wrong window at any moment.
Seohyun steered the woman to a corner of the couch. Miso bolted from his comfy spot just in time. “You didn’t drive here, did you?”
“I did. Slooooowwwlyyyyy,” Yuri wailed, swatting at an invisible bug. “I’m not dat drunk.”
“We beg to differ.”
“Heh. You talk funny.”
Scooping the oversized cat into her arms, Seohyun sighed, nuzzling her nose into thick brown fur. “Yoong, I’m not picking up on this charm. Maybe I’m broken.”
“Probably.” Yoona filled a tall glass from the water filter. “Did Yonghwa see you, Yul?”
A weak attempt at a shrug was the Skandl member’s primary response. Once upon a time, Yuri could come and go as she pleased with no worries on their sometimes-y dorm patroller’s part. However, recent events and anonymous sources made Yonghwa keen of visitors’ frequency.
This brought shudders to Jessica’s spine. Tiffany.
She unlocked her phone, revealing a list of missed calls, ending in Taeyeon’s ‘i’m coming over’ text. Jessica hated that on any other night, this would be a perfectly welcome surprise. But, during their sweet Skype exchange, Taeyeon briefly mentioned a Heechul interview in the morning.
6 a.m. stared back from the top of her screen. They wouldn’t get much sleep.
Taeyeon and Tiffany arrived roughly at the same time.
Madam Hwang, hair ablaze with temporary highlights, draped her intoxicated lover across her lap like some fucked-up Pietà. Then there was Moody bear: fighting sleep while disrobing, bitching about the rude cab driver as Jessica brushed her hair, groggily texting Sunny her whereabouts, and whining for a smoke until her cheek contacted a pillowcase.
Jessica lay at her side in a strange sort of bliss. Taeyeon slept with both arms above her head. As if she’d fallen from rockstar heaven and conveniently slid beneath comforters she once deemed “fluffy, but doable”. She grinned at the memory. Her girlfriend tried so hard to hide her emotions and failed miserably each and every time.
This bliss suffered a heavy blow as Tiffany, Yoona, and Seohyun trampled through their haven’s door, lugging a passed out Kwon Yuri. With a chorus of grunts, they flipped her onto her stomach.
“Thank you, girls.” Tiffany smooched her helpers on the cheek, tasted Yuri’s cold water, and placed it on her nightstand. The youngest two waved their leave, giving privacy for her to strip down to a matching bra-panty set.
Tiffany presumably felt their tension, too, because she made no concerted effort to ask why the brunette eyed her like a terrorist. She hiked on shorts and reenacted Yuri’s flop into bedsheets. Her fingers skimmed a tan arm and shoulder, in-tune with bends and toned bows. Memorized down to the smallest muscles, as evidenced by the practiced drawing. Jessica bit her lip. She used to envy their connection.
“What time should we wake our girls?”
Our girls. Didn’t carry the same togetherness vibe.
“Nine,” Jessica answered plainly.
Layers of makeup doubled as an expression mask. Tiffany yawned and rolled to her side, peppering kisses to Yuri’s neck. “My darling works too hard.”
“Party’s too hard, by the looks of it.”
“Hey, pot. I believe your girlfriend’s in the same boat.”
“Hello, kettle. Tae’s not wasted.”
Tiffany’s painted eyes regarded her slowly. “She told you, huh? I have to say I’m impressed.”
Jessica examined the rise and fall of Taeyeon’s blanketed chest, making sure she didn’t stir. “What are you implying?”
“You put more energy into the relationship than she does.”
“God, shut up.”
“The accordion, midnight show appearance,” Tiffany counted on her hand, “You two met in your car and she brings drugs around you without asking.”
“The drugs you and Hyo finished?”
“That’s beside the point. She’s taking advantage of you,” the woman hissed, gently cupping Yuri’s exposed ear, “You’re too love-stricken to acknowledge it.”
Tiffany knew nothing of Taeyeon’s episode after the bridge scare. And she’d keep it that way. It established Jessica as the only one who put her fears into perspective. The one who could make the planet stop spinning. “She loves me.”
“Don’t make me laugh. Tae would have responded to any attractive lady’s advances. Including mine, if I wanted to undo three years of commitment.”
‘She’ll like you’, Jessica’d heard over and over until she and Taeyeon became acquaintances. Maybe Tiffany had no special knowledge; she was only assuming. Jessica’s stomach lurched at the thought. “Have you sent the gossip fodder yet?”
“What if I told our girls, hm?” Jessica winced at her thin voice. “How you’re just as bad--no, worse--than Jinnie.”
“You sound like Taeyeon. No-one’s worse than Jinnie.”
“You’re both merciless. I see no difference.”
That snapped the final string to Tiffany’s deep, threatening voice. “You really don’t get it, do you? Years ago, six girls with a common dream were merged as one to dominate every fucking music chart in Asia. Six. And now that Jinnie’s gone, five. You didn’t climb the mountain nor shed blood for your Lucky status. If abandoning my own ethical sensibilities protects this...” She kissed the part in Yuri’s black hair. “So be it.”
“Fany, I thought we were friends.”
Tiffany’s face faltered--that statement caught her off guard. “Not all bonds are equal.”
Jessica stroked her girlfriend’s eyebrows, trying to make sense of this inability to keep merely five women appeased. JiWook named her ‘leader’ before the ink dried on her contract. What an empty title. Especially for a greenhorn such as herself. Tiffany knew she wouldn’t tattle; that she’d bite her cheek and iron out her own fake smile. It’d become second nature.
She didn’t ask for the undue pressure of heirdom to Bae Soojin’s goddamned dynasty. Daydreams--or, waking nightmares--of Jinnie doing things with Taeyeon plagued her all week. They’re what rearranged her outlook on the Southeast Asia tour. Or the Triple Threat incident. Their fates as idols were up in the air, but Taeyeon didn’t lay a finger on those boys. Only gave a vague instruction to a rapper for some iota of protection. Control. Leader types obsessed over control.
The daymares reaffirmed her dedication to Taeyeon. This arms-over-her-head singer wasn’t noxious and vindictive. She played a yellow ukulele and abbreviated ‘sweetheart’ and told corny jokes. Stuck in victimhood after years of never resolving issues with Jinnie...and the other members.
“Did you know what Jinnie was going to do to Tae?”
Tiffany fluttered confused eyelashes until realization emerged. “I knew she wanted to…” She glanced down to her lap, pushing the hint. “Since she practiced on me.”
“Jinnie works for herself first. Others be damned if they’re in the way of her plans.”
“Were you and Jinnie an item?”
“I was the only known lesbian amongst our friends. She called me ‘available’.”
“Bitch needed to sharpen her oral skills and I wanted to lose my virginity,” she mumbled, volunteering a thousand words-worth of pain in a single, slanted smile. “Everybody won.”
“I doubt that.” Jessica really cared not to pity this person. She pitied anyway.
“When I began dating Yul, Jinnie considered it some bizarre insult. That’s how she gets when her lackeys stray from her expectations. She goes on the offensive.”
All fragility in Tiffany’s demeanor hardened to contempt. “Shut the fuck up.”
Jessica refused. “I’m telling the truth.”
“You--” Her pointer stabbed the skin at her heart. “You have no place to make that comparison!”
“You’re putting our fucking jobs on the line, Fany.”
“Whatever. PR will fix it.”
“That’s a lot of faith in our company.”
Tiffany tapped at Yuri’s ear, visage crumbling. “Our lives are a chess game, Jess. Will you choose to be a queen--striker from every angle, a naïve knight to save your lady love, or an impotent pawn?”
No training could prepare her for this side of the entertainment business. Earnestly situating herself into the metaphor, Jessica broke out her daze when an unsuspected hammering echoed from the dorm entrance.
Jessica’s heart clenched in her throat. She searched the back of Tiffany’s head as the other girl stared at their closed bedroom door. Shuffles of activity migrated down the hall, accompanied by mutters and whines at the intrusion.
A man’s deep voice sounded. Not just any man. JiWook.
“Shit!” Tiffany looked to Yuri, then Jessica in bed with Taeyeon, and back at Yuri.
How to explain this one?
“Ladies!” His perennially stern tongue pierced their door better than the preceded knocks. “Brush your teeth and get dressed. Meet me in the living room in six minutes. There’s huge matters to discuss.”
Jessica’s best imitation of a death glare hit Tiffany automatically. Her groupmate defended her ignorance. “It’s not my doing.”
They flitted throughout their bedroom, toothbrushes hanging from their mouths, hopping into pairs of jeans and socks. Unplanned encounters by management promised dire news. And if it involved either women tucked lovingly in their beds...resolution unknown.
JiWook knocked a second time. “Everyone else is out here. Will I need a battering ram?”
He was bluffing; the 5’4” man fully turned his back out of respect when they wore bathing suits or even pulled off a sweater. No way in hell he’d risk barging upon them partially-dressed. Regardless, they cranked their runaround into overdrive.
JiWook removed his hat whenever he took more than three steps into the Lucky space. He scratched his stubby fingers into a prominent bald spot, appearing more approachable than he had in months. Satisfied by the members situated in orderly fashion--with Hyoyeon at the end of the couch using Miso as a pillow--his tone leveled out.
“What I need to tell you…” He wrung his faded orange cap in two fists. “should be done over a decent breakfast, don’t you agree?”
“Breakfast--heard of it?”
Seohyun, whose anxiety apparently fell on the sleeping lesbians under their roof, asked the most appropriate question: “Is everything okay?”
JiWook rubbed at his gruff chin. “Depends on how you interpret it. Anyone hungry?”
“I’m sleepy,” Hyoyeon griped. “Can’t you be a sensible man and buy us food in the afternoon?”
He chuckled, ceding a nod. “You’ve been knackered with promotions, I understand. This is the type of news that can’t wait.”
“Yes. Until breakfast.”
The idols gathered their wallets, shoes, smartphones, non-midriff-bearing tops and let JiWook herd them to the outside hall. All except Jessica and Tiffany.
“Tae and Yul?” Jessica murmured, pressed that she had yet another secret to share with the woman.
Tiffany nibbled her pinky nail. “No fucking idea. It’s almost eight.”
“They can’t be late ag--”
“Miss Jung, Miss Hwang--something the matter?”
They sprung into soldier-like attention for JiWook poking a head into the doorway.
“Double-checking the oven,” Jessica babbled, lie taking her nowhere, “can’t be too cautious.”
JiWook dished out his signature ‘no men’ frown. “I’ve gone over all that. To the van, slowpokes.”
The women faked a giggle and watched their manager lock up behind them. Unless time permitted the squad to drive to a Western restaurant, order, eat, receive this mysterious news, and make it back within the impossible span of an hour, Taeyeon and Yuri stood no chance of honoring their schedule. Trading discouraged sighs with someone she’d have to love and hate, Jessica hoped for some sort of miracle.
Lucky Feeding Time brought temporary peace to six busy pop stars. A hallowed non-quiet kind of harmony: Hyoyeon stealing from others’ plates, Sooyoung giving in-depth analysis on every sauce, Yoona explaining lacto-ovo vegetarianism, Tiffany boredly nodding through the explanation, Seohyun trapped in conversation with JiWook, and Jessica--
She glimpsed up at Yoona grinning. “Hm?”
“You’re always on your phone at the table. It’s your meal quirk.”
Even in her freakout after a dozen wake up calls to Taeyeon, Jessica beamed. She had a quirk! And someone noticed! “Tae’s not answering.”
Yoona split the crust of her kale quiche with a fork. “No Yul, either?”
Tiffany perked at the aforementioned name, spinning in her chair. “Let them sleep. They’d be useless in this state, anyway.”
“Tae wouldn’t,” Jessica countered, innately responsible for her Skandl-mates.
“You talk a big game for someone who couldn’t even cover her hickies. Amateur.”
Yoona wavered between each member, discomfort tangible. “Who wants to taste my quiche?”
“Me.” Jessica hacked into the slice with an unnecessarily large steak knife. Said visual got a good reaction from Tiffany. “Any tips on how to not damage my love life?”
“Nope. You’re doing a splendid job on your own.”
By then, the apprehension spread down the table--down to their manager who shot out his chair to address the group. “Having trouble, ladies?”
She, Tiffany, and Yoona shook their heads in childlike unison.
“We’ll be needing teamwork, teamwork, teamwork,” he went on, slapping the edge of a flat hand onto his palm, “absolute cohesion for…”
They drifted in, forgotten chopsticks and utensils dangling mid-air.
“A world tour!”
“HELL YES!” Hyoyeon bellowed first, fists pumped to the sky. “HELL FUCKING YES.”
JiWook blanched. “Language, Miss Kim!”
Jessica realized her body hadn’t caught up to the shock until Sooyoung ripped the smaller woman from her seat for a bear hug. “We all did it, Jess! You helped.”
Tears dotted the corners of her eyes and her ears finally registered the wide-mouthed, larger-than-life roars of pure joy--something one couldn't quantify and tack onto a long list of triumphs. And she helped.
Seohyun’s face crinkled in a happy cry. “W-what cities?”
“Pivotal stops like London, Paris, Milan...” JiWook spoke that to Hyoyeon in particular, who’d grown an obsession with Europe. “Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Dubai, Bueno Aires…” He racked his head for more. “Mexico City, Melbourne...I lost count! This will be massive!”
“When, man, when?!” Yoona screamed.
“Next year. We’re working out the kinks.” He pointed to every member, lingering at the previously arguing duo. “So no mishaps. No objectionable acquaintances. And I belabor this, no--”
“No men,” Lucky Six finished, wholly entertained by his fatherly grumbling.
“No men,” he rehashed.
Of course, a couple of them had boyfriends. A couple more had girlfriends. Their friends hovered on every boundary of objectionable. As for mishaps--who cared? They were too ecstatic to dwell on tiny details.
“Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots!”
“Miss Choi, it isn’t even 10 a.m. and you--”
“Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots!” Hyoyeon sung along with her room buddy, sprinting to the a sleepy dude at a counter before JiWook could guilt trip them.
Yoona spun circles in her skirt. “Celebration, bitches!”
JiWook crossed his doughy arms, grimacing. “Language, Miss Im! You have a ladylike image to uphold.”
Jessica laughed, feeling like she was floating above her body, watching the scene from the softly lit ceiling. Classifying the idol life a roller coaster would be an understatement. For this maze of unexpectancy ruptured murky corners and walls made of hoarse throats, regulation diets and schedules, non-physical money, cheers in every language, weak signing wrists, camped-out Charms outside stadiums, minor injuries, improved signatures, dancer’s cramp, their faces magnified onto projections and glossy posters, half-day photoshoots, busybody interviewers, real-life photoshopping makeup kits, a sea of gold shamrock light sticks, hugs from people who called The Six ‘their life’, delicacies delivered on silver platters, laser hair removal, psychic fancammers, immortalized voices via albums, countless likenesses online, and if they were lucky beyond the group name...true love.
Thirty calls and no reply.
Sooyoung and Hyoyeon returned toting bottles of sour apple vodka, soju, plum wine, and rum (aka a recipe for afternoon hangovers) as JiWook stepped out to ring contacts for more specifics on the tour. Honestly, Seohyun drilled him with the perfect storm of “but…” “would we…” “isn’t that…” questions to get the man away from their table for at least a half hour. The girls took turns patting thanks to her bony shoulders. If only a pint-sized someone would wake from the dead so Jessica could enjoy the festivities.
“Drink it off, honey,” Hyoyeon assured, sliding a clear shot to her hand.
She wondered how much the blonde knew. Regardless, she drank.
Grinning at the party girl’s attention, she quaffed another tart apple shot, praying her hefty serving of pancakes would absorb the brunt of the alcohol. “Don’t take advantage of me, Hyo. I have my eye on you.”
Hyoyeon’s eyebrows bounced in defiance. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you, panty licker?”
Jessica scanned the surrounding empty tables; all the privacy they could want. “I only have one smart aleck on my mind.”
She snorted into a water Seohyun immediately offered. “I agree.”
“I’d bone ‘er!” Yoona chipped in, buzzed from a single splash of soju. The rest snickered at the lightweight; she couldn’t tell.
“Sunny’s the hot one,” Sooyoung interjected. “Y’all are blind.”
Hyoyeon scoffed, unplugging the wine. “Shut your straight ass up!”
The taller woman ‘duh’-smacked her forehead. “You pick Taeyeon, really?”
“Helloooooo,” Tiffany gulped straight from the soju bottle. “Kwon Yuri?”
Sighs of agreement swept over their lips. “Ahhhhh, right, Yul.”
Yoona slapped the table, unaware of Sooyoung confiscating a second shot. “Yuri’s a stallion.”
“A horse?!” Tiffany objected. A smile nearly cracked on Jessica’s lips. “Are you stupid?”
“Stallions are sexy!”
“Juhyunnie, back me up.”
Flustered, Seohyun sipped her wine. “Stallions are sexy.”
“Yul is nobody’s damn horse!” Tiffany was defiant about this one, so naturally, the girls erupted in obnoxious ‘neh’ing imitations.
“Your horse is totally sloshed,” Yoona voiced, smile shrinking. “Did somethin’ go wrong?”
Tiffany made a humorless noise. “More than the usual? Not sure.”
The rest drank in silence, dropping the subject. Jessica found this interesting. “You’re all pretty cool about Yul, then?”
Jessica thumbed the call button. Nothing. “Always?”
“Pretty much,” Sooyoung said, reading a bottle label.
Tiffany was shooting all kinds of daggers, but Jessica didn’t flinch. Her curiosity had been sparked. “Was Jinnie?”
And again came The Jinnie Effect. Averted eyes. Held tongues. To no surprise, Hyoyeon spoke up first. “They avoided each other at all costs. Couldn’t occupy the same room without hostility.”
For someone as easygoing as Yuri, Jessica colored herself bewildered. “Like?”
“Jinnie made snarky remarks about Taeyeon running her mouth,” Sooyoung clarified, uneasy, “and Yul defended her friend every time.”
“Passionately,” added Tiffany.
“Oil and water.” Seohyun shook remnants of her wine. “Yuri couldn’t trust Jinnie due to their...past. Well, Jinnie’s past with Taeyeon, specifically.”
There it was. An open opportunity to ask, “How well did you know Tae? In the Elite days?”
Mum responses ate up the next minute. Jessica downed another shot.
“At first,” Seohyun started, “trainees were grouped as one. As more and more failed to make the cut, Won Chi Woong decided to segment the rest of us.”
“To encourage competition,” Yoona air quoted.
Seohyun sucked through her teeth, eyes reflecting off polished glass. “Groups A and B. Every Lucky member managed to make it into A. Sunny and Taeyeon did not.”
Jessica pictured her then-innocent Tae losing a glimmer from her eyes. “You weren’t close to them?”
“Group A was tight.”
“The tightest.” Sooyoung stretched in her chair, reminiscing. “Other group was a mess. They spent too much time trying to upgrade to Group A. Taeyeon could sing her ass off--don’t get me wrong--but, at practices, Won told her it took more than that to make a memorable idol. She was meek and awkward--”
They paled as if Jessica she used a cursed word.
“No razzle dazzle,” Hyoyeon mocked in a throaty timbre. “Personally, I thought the man was a blowhard.”
“You still do.”
“He signs my checks, Soo. Therefore, I love him.”
“And Jinnie’s uncle owns part of Elite; she was guaranteed a spot,” Seohyun continued. “When Jinnie started bringing Taeyeon around, we were really confused. She always poked fun at Group B-ers and all of a sudden she glued herself to the most talented one’s hip? Out of character.”
“Nothing’s out of character for fucking Bae Soojin,” Tiffany groaned a little too harshly. “Jinnie’s one of the most unpredictable human beings on Earth. Manipulative, erratic, and too resourceful.”
She was one to talk. “Was she into girls or not?”
Yoona shrugged, twisting and untwisting the rum bottle. “Taeyeon’s the only girl she ever flaunted. Jinnie would invite us over to see how tightly she had her wrapped around her finger. Then, we were dismissed so they could make out. Nobody saw the clusterfuck waiting to happen.”
“We should have done something,” Seohyun concluded. “I’m sorry.”
“Me, too,” Sooyoung murmured, licking a shot clean.
“Sorry”s echoed a couple times. Neither from Tiffany, Jessica observed.
Jessica patted Hyoyeon’s hand, moved by the soft yet impactful apologies. That’s all she needed. To know the rest of her girls weren’t out for Taeyeon’s blood. “Does Jinnie still have a key?”
“I uh--she, I kinda forgot to--” Hyoyeon stammered. Tipsy glares zapped her from several positions. “Shit, how would I remember? I am not a wizard!”
“It’s fine, really,” Jessica giggled, relieved by the younger woman’s irresponsible streak. “For that, you owe me a favor.”
She may have bought a monstrosity. Endured one-sided love syndrome. Or set up sex dates in her tinted car. Maybe, to commentators outside her relationship, unbalance gleamed brighter than a Lucky Six stadium.
Well, she had nothing to prove to them.
Jessica Jung moved two squares up and one horizontally. A knight, she’d be. Because only honorable warriors chucked their pride from the top of a castle to save the queen. Or however chess worked.
Even the entered phone number Hyoyeon provided raised hairs on arms. She touched the [SEND] button, hoping this last stitch effort--a capricious, possibly traumatic move--would grant Taeyeon a late arrival. Better than nothing.
Right now, I can’t help Taeyeon myself. Won’t you show me how it’s done?
Happy Belated Birthday to Jessica LaGoddess Jung. (She should have that fabulously ratchet middle name for real.)
AND LOOK AT HER BRA. LOOK AT IT.