Uncover (sequel)

Be Natural

Those who knew Joy and Yeri knew that they had a certain brand of mayhem. They took their jobs as a trouble-making duo very seriously. There was a process to it - a method to the madness, you could say. And Joy might be known around their school for being brainy, but it was Yeri who was the true mastermind behind their schemes.

Always, the two would be chilling together somewhere like normal people, doing normal things that weren’t yet threats to society, when Yeri would drop a seemingly harmless line. It could be something like,

“I have a purely hypothetical question.”

Or, “That looks detachable.”

Or, “Wow, did you know dropping a Mentos into soda creates a small explosion?”

Or, “So I just went to the store and am now in possession of 41 packs of Mentos.”

 

After 2 years of dating her and acting as her primary accomplice, Joy was proud to say she was used to this and could now recognise the early signs of trouble. Seungwan, however, did not possess this same talent, having been involved in too few of their shenanigans. And so when Yeri suggested they take a break from the little project they were doing together that night, Seungwan was caught completely unsuspecting.

“I’m tired.” Yeri leaned back in her gaming chair, stretching her arms over her head. “Shall we call it a night?”

“Yeah, sure. Thanks so much for helping me produce the track. It already sounds better than I could imagine!” Seungwan grabbed the back of Yeri’s chair and swayed her back and forth excitedly, making Yeri laugh. “And Joy, your vocal harmonies were sung perfectly!”

“Of course, I don’t know any other way of singing.” Joy shrugged. “Those snobby music colleges better be super impressed.”

“I still can’t believe I’m going to college next year. Fingers crossed that the admission people like my portfolio.” Seungwan closed her eyes and clasped her hands as if in prayer, then opened her eyes again and smiled softly at her two friends. “But, you know, even if they don’t love it, I do. I really appreciate everything you guys have done to help me make my music.”

“Okay, nerd, we get it,” Yeri held her hands up in intervention. “You love us and everything we do and we love you and most of the things you do. We’re good? Now, it’s not too late in the night yet. You guys wanna watch some drama?”

Since their brains were on the same frequency, Joy immediately picked up on the strange use of “some drama” instead of “a drama”. She quirked an eyebrow at Yeri, wondering what was cooking in her head this time. Seungwan’s innocent ears, however, completely missed the warning signs, and in her good mood she nodded eagerly.

“Sure. That sounds great. You can pick the dram-Yeri, why are you opening Discord if we’re watching a drama? Isn’t that a chatting app?”

“I’m gonna video call Joohyun unnie,” Yeri said simply while sending Joy a conspiring look. Call it sharing one brain cell or telepathy, Joy got the signal and the shape of the scheme started to solidify in her mind.

“Okay… To invite her to watch the drama with us?” Seungwan still hadn’t caught on but at least she sounded suspicious now.

The grin widened on both Yeri and Joy’s faces, as if eerie reflections of the same person in the mirror.

“Something like that,” Joy said to Seungwan, and then hopped off Yeri’s bed and pulled a chair to sit next to her favourite little devil. “You’ve got a task for me?”

“And now you’re opening an image editing app?” Seungwan observed Yeri's computer screen with audible concern, but Yeri ignored her and turned to her partner in crime instead.

“Yes, Joy, a task for you. Do you have a photo of Seulgi unnie crying?”

Joy snorted. “Do I? How many do you need?”

“Hmm, just one. For now.”

“All right, let’s see.” Joy navigated to a specialised folder in her gallery (innocuously titled Not blackmail material) and started scrolling through her options. “How about that time I told her the green paint smudge on your shoe was because you accidentally stepped on a snail?”

“Man that was good.” Yeri smiled, looking peaceful, like an old woman reminiscing her maiden days. “But I think I’ve sent that as a meme to Joohyun unnie on three separate occasions?”

“We need something fresh, huh? Got it. How about that time Seulgi unnie cried over hearing your Digimon ringtone because she said it reminded her of her childhood?”

“Let me see?” Yeri pushed non-existent glasses up her nose and peered at the said photo on Joy’s phone. “Nah, her hair looks too different from what it is now.”

“Gotcha. We’re going for fresh and recent. Hey, Seungwan unnie.” Joy reached over to Yeri’s other side to tap Seungwan, who seemed to be transiting from concern to distress. “Can you stop mumbling and help me here?”

“I have a strong feeling I should say no.”

“Come on, I know you have juicy crying Seulgi memes in there,” Joy coaxed, and then added in sing-song. “You owe us~”

Seungwan heaved a great, weary sigh. It was a sigh reserved exclusively for the very two other people in this room.

“What have I gotten myself into?”

After five minutes of combing through her photos, Seungwan was still not quite sure what she had gotten herself into, but she was definitely getting into it. She became absorbed with finding the perfect crying Seulgi, excitedly throwing out suggestions for Yeri’s appraisal, while walking down a memory lane lined with the little moments she had created all through high school with her gang of friends, Sejeong, and, closer to the more recent end of her gallery, Joohyun too.

“When Joohyun unnie serenaded her on her birthday?” Seungwan suggested, showing a photo of Seulgi trying to multitask between blowing out some candles and managing her nasal mucus flow.

“Nah, it must be something Joohyun unnie hasn’t seen, remember?” Yeri reminded her.

“Ooh, how about that time we were filming that song parody and Seungwan unnie tripped and fell down?” It was Joy's turn to hold her phone up for Yeri’s examination. “The camera was still rolling and we got this crying shot of Seulgi unnie.”

“That could work,” Yeri contemplated, rubbing her chin.

“Wait,” Seungwan held up a hand, the memory from almost a year ago coming back to her in bits and pieces. “Didn’t all three of you cry that day after I fell?”

A pause.

“Nope. Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Same. Moving on and never ever mentioning that day again, what else you guys got for me?”

Seungwan and Joy couldn’t believe it, but they were both reaching the bottom of their extensive collections and still hadn’t found something that met all of Yeri’s criteria. Just then, a photo caught Seungwan’s eye and she paused the scrolling, a smile automatically lifting the corners of .

“How’s this one?”

“Ooh I like it.” Yeri nodded in appreciation. “It’s cute enough but still has full tears and snot. Candid, ya know?”

“Agreed. What’s the story behind that, by the way?” Joy asked.

Seungwan shrugged. “I think Seulgi was just laughing so much that she cried.”

And that was it. The perfect crying Seulgi turned out to be a laughing Seulgi. As a great philosopher once said, it's funny how life do be like that.

“Okay, under-saturation for a sadder mood… ,” Yeri mumbled as she worked on editing the photo. “Glossy effect to make the snot look more prominent… Rotating the image to subconsciously evoke the original sad cat meme… done. Aaaaaaaand sent.”

“You know what, Joohyun unnie is probably not even gonna notice it until tomorrow,” Seungwan said. “She never checks her ph-”

“She’s online! She’s just seen the photo!” Yeri reported.

“How?” Seungwan stared disbelievingly at Joohyun’s username popping up green on Yeri’s screen. “What voodoo do you two practice?”

“Oh, trust me, you don’t really want the answer to that,” Joy said. “But in this case, it's technology, not voodoo. I a very loud notification for Discord on Joohyun unnie’s phone the last time she visited, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know how to turn it off.”

“She sent three question marks back, guys,” Yeri continued to update them.

“She must be really concerned. She usually uses a maximum of two.”

Joy and Yeri then started laughing as they watched Joohyun type a variety of commands into the chat box to order Discord to make a call. Seungwan admitted that she did find Joohyun’s bizarre competence at everything except technology funny as well, but if any of them three were to step up and do the mature thing, it would have to be her.

It hadn’t even been a full second after Seungwan had pressed ‘video call’ that Joohyun had picked up.

“Hello?” Joohyun said a bit too loudly.

“Unnie!” The other three greeted in unison. It had been more than two months since Joohyun had had to travel to another city to attend her second semester in university, and they all missed her a lot.

“Hey, uh, is Seulgi okay? She’s not there with you guys?” Even with most of her forehead out of the frame, Joohyun looked obviously worried.

“No, she’s at home,” Wendy explained. “We’re working on something for my college application at Yeri’s place. Seulgi’s fine-”

“Except she misses you very much,” Yeri quickly added. “Like, a ton.”

So that's what this is. It finally clicked in Seungwan’s head what Yeri was trying to do, but she still wasn’t sure what the implications of that might be.

“Oh. I see.” A pause on Joohyun’s side, and then a hesitant restart. “Is that… is that why she was crying in that photo you sent me?”

“Yep. It was heartbreaking to watch, even for one as tough as I.” Joy nodded somberly.

Seungwan winced, seeing the sad turn of Joohyun’s immaculate eyebrows. She almost blurted out the truth behind that photo, but she was in too deep now. Damn it, why did Seungwan have to be the one to pick out the photo herself?

“Gosh, I had no idea.” Joohyun’s shoulders slumped, transforming her from small to tiny on Yeri’s screen. “She always seems so bright when we talk.”

“You know Seulgi unnie. Always putting on a brave front,” Joy continued to nail it in. “Never showing her tears over small things ever.”

“Yeah, so I’m gonna invite her on this call so you two can talk more and miss each other less okay?” Yeri eagerly went on, already working her mouse to add Seulgi in.  “Just pretend the three of us aren’t here at all.”

“Wow, what a great idea, Yerimie!” Joy gave an ostentatious thumbs-up. “But remember, Joohyun unnie, don’t mention that we sent you that photo. Seulgi unnie didn’t want you to see her like that.”

“Oh. Okay?”

“This is gonna be so good,” Yeri muted her microphone and said to Seungwan as they waited for Seulgi to pick up. “I wished I’d made some popcorn.”

Seungwan sighed again the sigh only Joy and Yeri could pull from the depth of her lungs. She’d never met two people with more capacity for creativity or more determination to use that creativity for evil.

“Hi!” Seulgi emerged onto Yeri’s screen with a smile that took up half of her face. “What-Everyone’s here? This is awesome!”

The frown deepened on Joohyun’s face. The others had just managed to say hi back when Joohyun cut through everyone’s enthusiasm with a soft, concerned tone. “Hey. How are you doing, Seulgi?”

“Unnie!” Seulgi’s smile grew impossibly wider and she started to bounce up and down, her forehead bobbing in and out of frame. “I’m doing great. Just went for a run. A full round around that huge lake near the school. You know the one? I didn’t think I could finish, but I did it!”

“That’s nice, baby.” Joohyun smiled and leaned closer to her screen, as if that would bring her closer to her long-distance girlfriend. “But you know, you can tell me anything, right?”

Seulgi stopped her bouncing, and her lips shifted into a pout. “Okay, fine. I’ll confess. I didn’t run but jogged the last 300 metres. I think I just wore the wrong socks…”

As they watched Joohyun listen patiently to Seulgi’s rambling about the unfavourable wind conditions and the various ways her shoelaces became undone during the run, the double-trouble duo and their new recruit had a hard time not laughing aloud. Seungwan was considering maybe she should join Joyri more often on these little quests, while also feeling the need to intervene soon to stop the impending disaster.

“Okay, Seulgi,” Seungwan interrupted Seulgi’s exposition about how 6 pm was a particularly bad time to run because of the angle of the sun rays. “We three, Joy, Yeri, and me, need to come clean. We told Joohyun unnie something just now.”

“Yeah, Seulgi.” Joohyun nodded. “I know you’re not... as okay as you appear to be.”

Seulgi tilted her head, staring back and forth between Joohyun and her three friends. “I’m... not?”

Joy exited the frame to laugh in peace, while Yeri had to fully bury her face in her arms. Seungwan saw the prank had gone far enough and was about to clear things up, but Joohyun went on before she could.

“Yeah. Your friends showed me how you were crying because…” Joohyun’s voice was infused with a tenderness Seungwan had never heard from her before. “Because you really missed me.”

Joy had eagerly rejoined Seungwan and Yeri as they waited for the punchline of this practical joke - Seulgi’s reaction to a lie that Joohyun had been so quick to believe.

Seungwan wasn’t sure exactly what she had expected to see. But, whatever it was, she definitely wasn’t expecting the eye-smile she so adored to slip like melted icing from Seulgi’s face. Nor was she expecting the eyes that she could see more clearly in the absence of that smile to appear so dim and defeated. And Seungwan was neither expecting and nor in any way prepared to hear the light tremble in Seulgi’s voice when she spoke.

“How did you guys know about that?”

The three friends sitting in Yeri’s room froze. Seungwan kept hoping for her best friend to break out laughing and tell them she was just messing around to give them a taste of their own prank. But the sadness in Seulgi’s face was so plain it made Seungwan’s chest hurt. Of course Seulgi was having a hard time being apart from Joohyun now that the older girl was out of town for university. Of course. Seungwan must have been too focused on her own college application recently to notice it.

“Oh dear. Seulgi.” Seungwan was the first of the three to break out of her stupor. “I didn’t know. We didn’t know. We just sent Joohyun unnie a random photo of you crying, as a prank.”

“What?” Seulgi and Joohyun said in unison.

Seulgi scrolled up the group chat and saw the carefully selected photo of herself. The shock of the realisation took over her previously despondent eyes. “This is just that time Seungwan did a bunch of funny impressions and I laughed so much I cried.” 

“Yeah, sorry, unnie.” Joy scratched the back of her neck awkwardly. “We didn’t mean to expose you like that.”

“No, this is good,” Joohyun cut in. The girl straightened in her seat and crossed her arms, and the rest were reminded that she was the oldest one here. “We should talk about this, Seulgi.”

“Yes, you should,” said Yeri, who seemed not to have given up on her plan to watch some drama. “Just pretend we’re not here-”

“Okaaaaay, we’re gonna leave you two to it.” Seungwan nudged Yeri’s chair away and took control of her computer. “Just text me when you’re done, okay, Seulgi?”

Seungwan waited for Seulgi to nod her affirmative before logging out of the video call. She heaved her third sigh that night and sat back, only to find Yeri staring at her with a weird look in her eyes.

“What? It would have been rude to stay on the call. It’s their private matters, Yeri.”

“That’s not it,” Yeri said, and left that hanging for a while before continuing. “I’m just thinking, next year, you’re going to college. Possibly in Canada.”

“Okay?” Seungwan nodded slowly. “And?”

“And you won’t be here with us,” Yeri said matter-of-factly, and then gestured towards her computer. “You’ll be on the other side of the screen.”

Seungwan felt something bloom in her chest. Something warm and sweet, if only the slightest bit prickly.

“Aww.” Seungwan pulled Yeri’s hands into her lap, while Joy gently combed her fingers through Yeri’s hair on the other side. “You’re trying to say you’ll miss me? A ton?”

“N-no. You don’t understand.” Yeri yanked her hands back in indignation and avoided Seungwan’s teasing eyes. “Half the fun of causing trouble is having an uptight motherly figure freak out next to you. Seulgi unnie will be soooo bad at that. We’re gonna have a hard time finding a replacement, that’s all-”

“Oh, shut up and come here you tiny dorks.” Joy stood up and gave them one second’s warning before squishing them both in a bear hug.

Seungwan laughed, completely happy in that moment, and then suddenly sad knowing that the moment would pass.

 


The trio’s exit from the call left behind a long, unnatural stretch of silence. Joohyun had her talkative days, sure, but much of the time she was content with listening to Seulgi’s aimless rambling about her day. Joohyun realised now she had mistaken that tendency to rant about inconsequential things as emotional openness.

Seulgi definitely didn’t seem much of a conversationalist right now. She just sat there, halfway across the country, chewing on her fingernails and occasionally glancing at Joohyun on her screen. On any other day, Joohyun would have scolded her for the bad habit, but there were other more pressing problems.

“Seulgi ah?” Joohyun coaxed, as if approaching an easily frightened animal.

“Yeah?”

“You know, it’s normal to feel upset when you cannot be with your partner." Joohyun decided to be direct, not knowing how else to breach the topic. "Why didn’t you just tell me? You’re always acting like you’re having a blast when we talk. I had no idea.”

Seulgi pulled her legs up onto her chair, hugging them and putting her head on her knees. She looked small. Sounded small. “I’m sorry.”

“No. Don’t apologise. Did I make it feel like you couldn’t talk to me about it?”

“No, it’s absolutely not your fault. I just… didn’t know how to act.” Seulgi curled up even smaller in her seat. She kept her eyes on something on the floor. “I've honestly never felt…”

As Seulgi tried to find the words, her hands started to flail around, grabbing and releasing thin air as if trying to catch some invisible liquid. “I’ve just never felt so much negative emotions before in my life? And I didn’t know what to do with them. It’s so silly, I know. Here I am, 19, but I’m acting like a child who couldn’t get her ice cream.” Seulgis’ voice and gaze dropped further, her hands returning to rest in her lap as clenched fists. “Feeling like one, too.”

Joohyun’s heart ached at that. It hurt for her girlfriend, and it also hurt for how familiar this scene was. She herself remembered all too well how it was to suffer in isolation, all the while fearing that your crappy feelings were invalid because what caused them seemed so trivial.

But she knew better now, and partly thanks to this very girl sitting in a curled ball on her laptop screen.

“No, don’t dismiss your feelings, Seulgi. Tell me about them.”

“Tell you about my feelings?”

“Yes.”

“I... don’t really know how to start.”

“Then, just ramble.” Joohyun shrugged and gave her girlfriend a reassuring smile. “Like you do about the weather and TV shows and shoelaces.

Seulgi hesitated for a moment. Then, slowly, she uncurled herself and dropped her feet back down on the floor. She shifted her chair closer to the screen and, without realising it, Joohyun drew closer on her side as well.

“Okay, uh, I guess… ” Seulgi began wringing her hands and cracking her knuckles, her mind chasing the words she wanted to say. If she were there, Joohyun would have stilled Seulgi's restless hands with her own. As it was, Joohyun could only hold a steady gaze and listen. “I just feel like I should know how to deal with myself, and everything I’m feeling, but I honestly don’t have a clue. It’s easy to act bright and happy, because I’ve always been bright and happy. And everyone has grown to expect that from me. But this year, school’s been so busy, Seungwan’s been so busy as well, and I have to prepare for the university entrance exam, and Chemistry is still so hard, and who knows if I’m going to the same city as you for university, and you’re not here, and…”

Seulgi inhaled and released the next words in a breath.

“I miss you. I know I say that all the time, but it’s not just, like, I really look forward to seeing you again. It’s more like, you’re missing from my life, and I feel that absence so acutely? Does that make sense?”

Joohyun found herself reaching out to Seulgi’s hair, but realised that was impossible and dropped her hand with a sigh. “It makes perfect sense, baby. I miss you the same.”

“Yeah?” Seulgi asked, and she looked so genuinely hopeful that it alarmed Joohyun.

“Wha-Of course I do. I’m halfway through my second semester in another city, and I still catch myself on Fridays getting excited thinking about date night with you, before realising, you know, that you are 2000 miles away.”

“Aw, I didn’t know that. I just thought, you would have gotten used to it by now. I mean,” Seulgi paused, slouching, as if about to curl into a ball again, “you started to call less often, and stuff. And I know I shouldn't feel upset because I know you love me but-”

“No, Seulgi, listen, I was calling less often because I thought you were busy. You’re in your last semester in high school, I know how hectic that can get, and I just thought I’d let you reach out to me on your own terms, whenever you have the time. I just-”

Joohyun stopped suddenly and then let out a chuckle. Seulgi looked at her curiously, a smile appearing automatically to mirror Joohyun’s own although she wasn’t sure what was funny.

“I’m such a hypocrite.” Joohyun shook her head and laughed again. “Here I am, telling you to communicate your feelings, but I’m just the same. How were you supposed to know what I was thinking when I didn’t say anything? I’m not qualified for helping you with this at all, I realise.”

Her admission hung in the quiet air between them. Joohyun felt herself slowly sink into it - the familiar feeling of inadequacy. There was so much she wanted to do, so much she wanted to be, for Seulgi and for herself too, but she didn't know how to even begin.

“That’s okay.” Seulgi said after a while. Simply, and with a smile. Not her signature massive, silly grin, but a gentle one that made Joohyun’s heart melt all the same. “We can help each other. That’s even better.”

Joohyun didn’t know why her eyes began to water. A wave of adoration had washed over her without warning. Seulgi gave herself so little credit for her intelligence, but Joohyun knew just how wise and understanding she was. God knew long-distance was taking its toll on both of them, but if there was anyone Joohyun was willing to try so hard for, it was Seulgi.

“I love you, Seulgi. I wish I could hug you. I wish I could hug you so bad.”

“I love you, too, and your wish is my command.” Seulgi stood up and proceeded to wrap her arms around her side of the screen, and Joohyun’s own’s screen was dominated by the view of Seulgi’s collar.

“Gosh, you’re so weird.” Joohyun laughed, turning her tears into those of amusement. She let out a squeal when Seulgi drew back and started sending kisses directly into her webcam. “Argh! What are you doing!”

Seulgi frowned at her. “Aw, you’re not kissing me back.”

“Seulgi, stop! Your lips are gigantic on my screen!”

“You’re still not kissing me back,” Seulgi stated factually and continued her assault.

“No, stop! It’s disturbing!” Joohyun was out of breath with laughter at this point. “I can see droplets of your saliva stuck on the camera lens.”

“Kiss me back and I’ll stop.”

Joohyun sighed in resignation. She felt a blush rushing up her cheeks as she leaned in and landed a timid peck on her own webcam.

“There. Happy?”

Seulgi finally sat back down, swaying lightly on her swivel chair, her shoulders looking a bit wider, her eyes a bit clearer, and her smile a bit deeper than Joohyun had seen that whole of that night.

“Yeah.” Seulgi nodded. “I think I am.”

 

 

A/N: Thank you so much for reading! I can't believe new people are still finding and liking my silly story XD For any old reader here, I've really treasured and read all your kind comments over and over again in the 2 years since the last chapter. Seulrene's debut has bulldozed through my writer's block, and I know a lot of people are experiencing separation and difficulties due to the pandemic, so I wrote this little thing. As usual, I hope the story made you smile, and thank you again :)

(btw this is really the end. I really don't have any juice left for this story hhaaha)

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FishnRead
A feature??? Out of nowhere??? I'm still convinced it's just some weird quirk in the system that made this happen, but nonetheless, thank you for visiting this story, readers old and new <3 (RV TINY MICRO-MINI ALBUM SOON)

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CatsRCute #1
Chapter 2: I love them both 😍
railtracer08
409 streak #2
Chapter 6: Forgot i read this on AO3 a while ago and was wondering why the hurdler seulgi thing was so familiar 😂 ended up rereading and loving it again❤️
CatsRCute #3
Chapter 1: I love this so far 😂
soouislove
#4
Chapter 6: Awww 💚
gomtokkim
2164 streak #5
Chapter 1: Back here again<3
morphine007 #6
nice
hi_uuji
#7
Chapter 6: This is the liteeral meaning of mission failed successfully
hi_uuji
#8
Chapter 5: I'm melting
hi_uuji
#9
Chapter 3: SWEEETT
hi_uuji
#10
Chapter 2: Goshhh why did I feel that the whole chapter was a very seulgi thing