Taeyeon is sitting on her chair, casually tossing the little metal cube in her hand. Her legs are propped on her desk, and her mind is hung on the strange little conversation she had with Tiffany yesterday.
Trust me. I know better than anyone how much trouble it is.
What does that mean? What’s Tiffany hinting at? What kind of trouble is she talking about?
“Are you any closer to cracking it?” she asks Summer.
The lanky woman meets her eyes for a moment before turning back to the screen that’s full of alien-looking code and running numbers. “Totally. I’ve eliminated about fifty-eight percent of encryption patterns,” she says with a huge smile.”
“Fifty-eight percent is barely more than half . . .”
“You asked if i’m any closer to cracking it. This is closer.”
“If you put it that way.” Taeyeon stands and takes two steps forward. “Look, I’m totally two steps closer to punching you in the face.”
Summer sticks her tongue out at her. “Get me a tub of ice cream, will you. I think I need an energy boost.”
“Ice cream. Sure.” Taeyeon takes two steps towards the door. “Look, I’m two steps closer to getting ice cream for you.”
Summer throws a slipper at Taeyeon. “Get out. I’m not gonna get any closer with you around.”
Taeyeon laughs. “So do you want me to get out or get ice cream?”
“Get ice cream then get out.”
“Sure, I can do that.” Taeyeon lets herself out of the room and trots to the kitchen where the freezer lies. She opens the freezer and smiles in contentment. Chocolate, dark chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, you name it, she’s got it. Ice cream is one thing she’ll never run out of in this house.
She takes a mini tub of chocolate ice cream and brings it to Summer before retiring to her room and lying on her bed. She’s due for physical training in a couple of hours but she refuses to make a move until the last second possible. There’s no way she’ll willingly spend an additional second in that torture chamber they call the national security headquarters. Even if the agents in there are as pretty and cute as Tiffany is.
“So you finally decided to show up.”
Taeyeon looks at her wrist ICE. “I’m not late.”
“You’re supposed to be here at two-thirty.”
Tiffany’s glare is fierce.
“Wait. Seriously? ‘Cos I clearly remember three o’clock.”
“Well, whatever it is, I’m here now.”
Tiffany nods. “Your training will be intensified.”
“Because of lost time.”
“What? No. You can’t be serious. It’s just thirty minutes.”
“Try telling that to someone who has five last breaths to breathe.”
“This is just training. No one’s on the verge of death here. Give me a break, goddamnit.”
“I’ll give you a break. During your break time. Now, move quickly.”
Taeyeon groans and drags her feet but keeps up with Tiffany nonetheless. There’s no telling how much more this mean woman might intensify everything if she doesn’t.
“Pull harder, come on!”
“OW!” Taeyeon yells when Tiffany spanks her bottom.
“Don’t be so weak.”
“I’m not weak.”
“Then prove it.”
“I need a break.”
“You’ll get a break when you grab the water.”
Taeyeon groaned. The band around her waist is pulling her backwards, away from the bottle of water and break that she desperately needs. “Argh!” she growls and puts in her last burst of energy to push forward. She makes it two steps closer and reaches for the bottle. She can taste the salty beads of perspiration on her lips as she finally grabs the bottle.
“Yes!” she cheers but her victory is short lived as the elasticity in the band pulls her back and she loses her footing. “Ah!” she cries as she lands on her bum. Fortunately, it doesn’t hurt too much since the floor is lined by training mats.
Tiffany’s face appears over her. “Get up,” she says.
The lack of compassion infuriates Taeyeon and she drags Tiffany down with her by sweeping her legs out.
“I’m taking my break now,” she announces and pulls Tiffany in for a kiss.
“What the heck,” Tiffany growls after their kiss ends. “I’m not a tea time snack.”
“Oh, really? I could have sworn you were a snack.”
“You’re gonna regret saying that.”
“Oh yeah? How will I regret?”
With an actual growl that sounds much like a dragon or angry pig, Tiffany pins Taeyeon to the floor.
“Fuck, no!” Taeyeon exclaims as Tiffany bites her shoulder. She manages to push the woman off but her legs are pulled into a twisted mess and pinned tight, much like they do in wrestling matches. “Let me go!”
“I told you you will regret it.”
“This is torture and assault. Let me go!”
“This is teaching you a lesson. Find a way to push me off.”
Taeyeon tries to jerk her legs free. It doesn’t work. Pushing against the floor to gain leverage doesn’t work either and the pressure Tiffany is applying on her legs is painful enough to distract her. “Ow!”
“Grab my arm.”
Taeyeon cranes her neck and makes a grab for Tiffany’s arm.
She pulls, hard. She finds more leverage in this and gets another hand into the act. With a hard yank, she’s able to topple Tiffany and push her away. “Damn,” she murmurs while scrambling away. “You’re a sick woman.”
“You have to learn about the principles of hand-to-hand combat and self-defense as quickly as possible. There’s no telling what or who you may run into when you break into the CORE.”
“Trust you to turn a nice moment into a painful lesson,” Taeyeon grumbles.
“We don’t have time for games and play.”
“There’s always time for games and play.”
“Not in this situation.”
“You’re scared. You’re backing down.”
“Scared?” Tiffany snorts. “Me? Scared?”
Taeyeon lifts her chin to emphasize her point. “You’re backing off because of the trouble you’re afraid of.”
Tiffany frowns. “I’m not afraid of trouble. I just want to avoid it.”
“If you’re not afraid, why should you avoid it?”
“The whole team is at stake. Your life and Yuri’s are at stake. Trouble should be avoided at all costs.”
Taeyeon gets to her feet. “I see how it is. So you’re the type who backs off at the slightest sign of danger.”
“I’m responsible for all of you.”
“We’re all responsible for ourselves.”
“I don’t see it that way.”
“Hm.” Taeyeon scratches her chin. “Pity you don’t.” She points at the door. “May I have a toilet break, Agent Tiffany?”
“Your training is done for the day. We’ll see you again at dinner time.”
“Thanks for the training, Agent Tiffany. See you later then.”