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Happy Without Me

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It all starts with Taeyeon's collaboration with Key. She has long since gotten over the pettiness of refusing to listen to Taeyeon's music, so she listens to it the day it comes out, and well, let’s just say this one hurts. The lyrics have an uncomfortable way of peeling off her skin and peering into the parts of her that she'd prefer to keep hidden. She wonders if Taeyeon wrote this one. She also wonders how Taeyeon knew how to make Jessica feel like she had severed the darkest thoughts about Taeyeon from her brain and put them into a horribly catchy song.

So she listens to it again. And again. Because she’s a masochist.

Ugly jealousy digs its claws into her stomach when she watches their vlive together. She pushes it down and quashes the memories of a simpler, happier time with Taeyeon. It was a long time ago, she reminds herself. And Taeyeon still hasn’t contacted you, a darker part of her prods.

But she has to go on with her life. She’s the CEO of a fashion company. She has people whose lives depend on her functioning, for god’s sake.

Soojung calls her that day.

“Hey unnie.”

Jessica rolls her eyes, mouth quirking into a smile.

“What do you want Soojungie?”

Soojung coughs. “So I talked to Taeyeon unnie today.”

Jessica’s head goes blank.

“Since when did you and Taeyeon talk?”

“We didn’t. Until today. And I may or may not have given her your new number.” Soojung says the last part in a rush.

“Oh,” Jessica says.

“So, yeah,” Soojung mutters. “Are you mad?”

Jessica sighs. Taeyeon has her number. Hope and fear wrestle in her head.

“Not really. I mean, I can’t blame you.”

“Ok,” Soojung says, the relief evident in her voice. her voice softens. “Are you ok?”

Jessica’s throat tightens. “Yeah,” she murmurs. “But I gotta go. Love you.”

“Love you too unnie,” Soojung responds before Jessica hangs up.

Jessica stares at her phone all day. she isn’t sure if she expects Taeyeon to call or not. It wouldn’t have been that hard to get her number. All of the other girls had already reached out. Yuri was the first, of course, then Seohyun, always way too mature for her age. The others all followed stumbling naturally back into her life. There was fighting, there was crying, but in the end, she knew they were going to be okay.

But Taeyeon… Taeyeon was always going to be different. They never did anything, Taeyeon was too responsible for that and both of them were too busy and too tired for a relationship, but there was always a sort of… tension between them.

The phone rings. Jessica nearly jumps out of her skin. She hesitates, watching the screen light up. Taeyeon. Taeyeon. Taeyeon- she picks up.

“Hello?”

“Jessica,” she hears breathlessly.

“Taeyeon,” she responds.

“Um. Hi,” Taeyeon says.

“I see you’re as eloquent as ever.”

Taeyeon coughs. “Sorry. How are you?” she asks awkwardly.

Jessica sighs. “Just ask me what you need to ask me, Taeyeon.”

She hears a deep inhale on the other end of the line.

“Meet me for lunch?”

That wasn’t what Jessica was expecting. She swallows, trying to dissolve the thickness in her throat.

“Where?”

—-

When Jessica shows up at Taeyeon's house, she has to psych herself up for a full five minutes before knocking on the door.

Taeyeon opens the door immediately. It seems like time freezes as Jessica stares into Taeyeon's face. Taeyeon shifts uncomfortably.

“Do you want to come in?”

Jessica snaps out of it. “Yeah, thanks.”

This whole thing feels way too formal.

“I didn’t know you cooked,” Jessica manages.

“Yeah, well,” Taeyeon gives her a tiny smile, “I guess we have a lot to catch up on.”

Jessica isn’t quite ready to go there.

“Do you need help?” she diverts hastily.

Taeyeon looks surprised. “Uh, sure. do you want to chop the onions? Don’t worry, I’m not putting any cucumbers in.”

Jessica gives a startled laugh. She slips by Taeyeon in the kitchen to grab a knife. They cook in silence for a while before Taeyeon brushes a loose strand of hair out of Jessica's face absently as she stirs the japchae, saying, “You should really tie your hair back when you cook,” and Jessica freezes. The room seems to spin around her because they hadn’t touched since… well, a long time ago.

“I’m not used to seeing your face without it being through a screen” Jessica blurts, far too honestly.

Taeyeon glances up at her, surprise written across her face as she pours the noodles into a serving bowl.

“You monitor?”

Jessica laughs, setting down utensils. “I’ve listened to every release. Congratulations on Hate That, by the way.”

Taeyeon's eyebrows shoot up as she places the serving dish on the table and steps back, leaning against the counter.

“And I hate that I hate that you’re happy without me,” she half sings, smiling wistfully, and Jessica tenses. She can’t do this. She can’t, not yet. Not when she knows exactly what that song means to her.

Jessica digs her nails into her arm hard, forcing back her tears, and Taeyeon notices because of course, she does. She stops singing, grabs her hand, and murmurs a “Hey” gently, too gently, uncurling Jessica's fingers and running a finger over the indents her nails have left in her arm, and something inside Jessica just breaks.

her hands shoot out and tangle in Taeyeon's hair, pulling her in, her mouth following and pressing over the other woman’s, and Taeyeon kisses her back after only a split second, hot and biting and soft at the same time. She can taste the salt of her tears, and so, she thinks, can Taeyeon, but Taeyeon kisses like she sings, soul-wrenching power hidden in a tiny body, and Jessica can’t find it in her to pull away.

Soon Taeyeon's tongue is licking like a flame into her mouth and Jessica bites down on the other woman’s lip and oh god Taeyeon makes this sound and it scares her how it sends a bolt of heat straight down her spine.

“Sooyeon,” Taeyeon gasps, pulling back, her cheeks flushed, eyes half-closed, and lips slightly parted, and all Jessica can think is that she has never seen someone so beautiful in her life.

“What are we doing?” Taeyeon's shaky voice brings her back to reality.
Jessica’s hands drop to her sides, untangling themselves from Taeyeon's hair.

“I don’t know,” she breathes, “just let me?”
This time it's Taeyeon who closes the gap, and her hands press into the nape of Jessica's neck as she nips at Jessica's lower lip. Jessica sighs back into Taeyeon's mouth and lets herself bring a hand up to trace Taeyeon's jaw.

Taeyeon gasps into her, and Jessica stumbles forward blindly, pressing her against the counter, molding their bodies together. She groans lowly at the overwhelming contact between them, and her hips roll forward involuntarily.

No. They’re not doing that. Not until they’ve at least addressed the mindfuck of their situation. She pulls back, breathing hard. Taeyeon's eyes are still closed. They open slowly, clouded with emotions Jessica used to be able to read.

“I’m sorry,” Taeyeon says eventually.

Jessica bites the inside of her cheek.

“You should have said that a long time ago.”

Taeyeon's face falls. “I know. But I'm still sorry.”

Jessica needs to breathe. She's still pressing Taeyeon against the counter. She takes a step away and collects herself.

“I’m sorry too.”

Taeyeon's mouth twists. “You shouldn’t be. You seem happier now.”

Jessica almost laughs. “We've both said things we regret. Although only one of us wrote songs about it. ”

Taeyeon snorts, rolling her eyes, then sobers again. “But really, I just wanted you to be happy. it was selfish of me to invite you over. you deserve better friends than-“ she gestures between them “than whatever this is.”

Oh god. Jessica looks down at the floor. “You think I’m happier without you.” It’s a statement, not a question.

Also, ‘friends’, she thinks, is pushing it a little after what just happened.

Taeyeon smiles sadly. “It’s true. I mean, you’re you, and I’m just…”

Jessica takes a step forward. “Yah, Kim Taeyeon. don’t you dare finish that sentence. You’re worth a hell of a lot more than you give yourself credit for. And, for the record, I was never better off without you,” she says, tilting Taeyeon's chin up to look her in the eyes, her voice softening when she sees Taeyeon's eyes brimming with tears. “I love you, you fucking idiot,” she sighs exasperatedly in English.

Taeyeon melts against her, wrapping Jessica in a fierce hug and burying her head in Jessica's neck. “I love you too,” she breathes, and Jessica feels the words etch themselves into her neck where Taeyeon's lips move.

Jessica hugs her back, and they stand like that, tangled together in the kitchen as they both refuse to acknowledge their tears. they breathe together, and Jessica feels the rise and fall of Taeyeon's chest against her own. The quiet settles around them like a blanket of snow until Jessica mutters, “I think the food got cold,” and Taeyeon laughs, a dimple forming on her cheek.

“Probably,” she says, and it feels like a beginning.