Jeremy Fic! Yaaaaaay! It's not perfect but it's good fluff. Enjoy!
It was on a frosty December morning that Jeremy found Mi Nyeo sleeping on the couch.
The cold had woken him early. He'd left the window ajar overnight because he'd noticed a funny smell in his room. He thought that it might be the half eaten bag of prawn rice chips he'd stashed away a couple of weeks ago, but he wasn't interested in knowing for sure until after he'd eaten breakfast.
His stomach growled as he stomped across the room and pulled the window shut. It was a sign that it was time to feed Jolie. Their stomachs and appetites had always been in tune from the day he'd brought the golden retriever home.
With a yawn, Jeremy stuffed his feet into a pair of slippers that were too small for him and gallomped his way downstairs to scout for food. He gave his blond hair the ritual ruffle on the way down. The tummy was about to get scratched too when he noticed a girl lying on the living room couch.
He only had to see the soft round cheeks to know that the girl was Mi Nyeo. It had been a year since he'd last seen her, but like his Hyungs, Jeremy had trained himself to recognise her in a city-wide blackout. It was important to be able to find her, because when she was bothered by something, Mi Nyeo liked to make herself invisible.
Mi Nyeo certainly wasn't invisible today, and Jeremy worried over the dark circles under her eyes. He guessed that her red-eye flight from Africa must have worn her out with all the white noise and long hours of darkness. Night flights wore him out too.
"I won't bother you with a welcome home party until you have rested well," whispered Jeremy, pulling the covers up to her dimpled chin. He wanted to touch her long hair. The auburn waves had already grown down to her shoulders.
"I know you can't hear me, but I am soooo glad to have you back," he said to her beautiful face.
With a satisfied nod, Jeremy went into the kitchen to make breakfast for Jolie and himself. As he poured out the dry food, he couldn't help humming an old song to himself. He'd once heard Coodi Noona singing it to herself when she'd thought nobody was around.
Mi Nyeo likes Jeremy. If she keeps liking him, what will he do?
The lyrics weren't true, but Jeremy didn't mind. He was just happy to have the girl he loved around in time for Christmas. He'd be a good friend, and make sure to give her the things that he knew Hwang Tae Kyung wouldn't mind him giving – like tinsel and Christmas trees.
"Jeremy?" called a tired voice.
Having just come inside from feeding Jolie, Jeremy was astonished to see Mi Nyeo already wide awake and standing near the kitchen table.
After a long yawn, she smiled at him in that adorable way of hers. "Jeremy. It is you."
"Mi Nyeoooo!" he shouted happily, maybe a little too happily, opening his arms for a hug. She was about to fall into them when they both hesitated.
"Can I?" asked Jeremy, thinking of Hwang Tae Kyung.
She looked doubtful. "Oppa-nim would say I shouldn't."
"Neh!" Mi Nyeo nodded eagerly. "I am teaching myself to call him Hy-...Oppa. It is very hard when I have always called him Hyung-nim, so I have combined them until I can say Hy-...Oppa."
"Ah." Jeremy nodded in understanding. "Good idea. Calling him Oppa-nim in public will mean less questions than Hyung-nim. You know I still find it very hard to call you Mi Nyeo when you have always been Go Mi Nam to me."
She gave him an affectionate smile. "Sometimes I wish I was still Mi Nam too, so that I could be a part of ANJell. I missed you all so much that I got homesick over a place that I lived in for such a short time."
He gave her an air-hug – where he opened his arms wide and closed them - pretending that he was holding her. "I missed you too."
To his surprise, Mi Nyeo looked like she was going to tear up. Before a single drop could fall from her eyes, he yanked her by the wrist and led her to a kitchen chair. He wasn't going to let her cry.
"Don't be sad. You're here now, and I'm glad that you can think of this place as home. Are you hungry?" he asked, pulling the chair back for her. "Rice and juice makes everything better."
"Juice!" Mi Nyeo perked up. "Jeremy, please make me some of your breakfast juice."
"You read my mind. Jeremy's best juice - coming up." He pulled out his juicer from the cupboard and then went to the fridge for ingredients. "One day. When I'm a very old grandfather, I'm going to sell my juice to pay for my grandchildren's grandchildren's college."
"Really?" She leaned across the table to get a chopping board and knife so that she could help him with preparations. "I think your grandchildren's grandchildren will go to the best colleges because of your juice."
Jeremy resisted the urge to pinch her cheeks. "I've even thought of an advertisement. Want me to show you?"
She clapped her hands in supportive applause.
He squeezed his own cheeks. "Jeremy's Juice...A little bit of Jeremy's freshly squeezed smile in every bottle."
"Don't you think you'll be a bit old for those sort of ads by then?" said Hwang Tae Kyung, appearing at the foot of the stairs.
"I'll be cute forever," muttered Jeremy.
"Good morning Oppa-nim," said Mi Nyeo. "Did you sleep well?"
"You mean during the two hours since we got home from the airport? Surprisingly, yes," said Tae Kyung. He walked over to the fridge to get his bottle of water. "It must be because I don't have to worry about what a certain Pig-Rabbit is doing in Africa."
Mi Nyeo smiled. "Remember that I have to go back in four weeks, Hyung-nim."
"Yes-yes," he said, looking annoyed. "Why did those nuns only let you come now? ANJell is fully booked for the season and I'm in the middle of composing for a new album in the New Year."
"Sorry, Hy-Oppa-nim, but I did warn you it would be like this."
He sighed. "It can't be helped." He walked around the kitchen bench and squeezed her hand. "I have to work in studio all day, but we will go out to dinner tonight. So be ready to leave here by seven."
He gave her a smile, and then glanced over at Jeremy. "I am trusting you to look after her. Make sure she gets lots of rest today, and no parties until I say so."
Jeremy grinned. "No problem. I will take good care of her, Oppa-nim."
Tae Kyung's frown appeared.
"Oops." Jeremy put his hand over his mouth. "I meant, Hyung."
Mi Nyeo slept on the couch until noon. Mi Nam and Shin Woo whispered a welcome to her sleeping form before heading off to the studio. Jeremy was supposed to go there too, but he decided to keep watch over Mi Nyeo instead. He could catch up on his music theory instead, and it wouldn't matter if he missed one day's practice to be with his friend.
In the afternoon, Jeremy took her out on his walk with Jolie. Her pale cheeks recovered some of their colour as they strolled in the winter sun.
"I feel much better now," said Mi Nyeo, tilting her moon face up to the sun. "It was so cold on the plane that this cold seems so much warmer."
"Mong!" Jolie barked in agreement. Her yellow fur looked gold in the sun's rays. She stuck out her tongue and snorted at Mi Nyeo as if to say, I remember you, and even if I like you, I won't hesitate to attack you with my sloppy tongue if my owner tells me to.
Mi Nyeo took one wary step away from Jolie.
"How about we make some spicy soup when we get back," Jeremy suggested, not noticing the exchange between dog and girl. "It will warm you up, and we can make it as hot as you want."
"I can make it," she offered. "But Jeremy, you don't have to look after me like Hy-Oppa-nim says. You must be as busy as him."
"Don't worry." He slapped an arm around the back of her shoulders in his non-Korean way. "Everyone knows that I slack off during Christmas so that I can celebrate it properly."
She tilted her head to one side. "But you didn't celebrate Christmas last year."
"Ah." Jeremy rubbed the back of his neck. "Yes, that's because my parents were in Seoul at the time. I have to celebrate it with the band this year. Do you like Christmas, Mi Nyeo?"
"Yes," she replied. "And sometimes, no. Christmas is like one of those sweet and sour lollies for me, only it tastes more sour than sweet."
"Ah." He nodded, thinking of her parents' fate. "Then I won't force you to celebrate Christmas."
Mi Nyeo hung her head.
He patted her back. "You know. It's stupid, but I want to celebrate Christmas because I miss my Eomma."
"Ah. Because she's staying in the UK this year?"
"That's not stupid. Do you wish that you could stay in the UK and see her all the time?"
"All the time!" confirmed Jeremy. "But I must be strong so that she doesn't worry about me. She worries a lot."
Mi Nyeo nodded and squared her shoulders. "Then I will be strong for my Eomeoni too, or she will worry. I will celebrate Christmas for her, even if it is sour."
"You don't need to be strong while celebrating Christmas," he said, handing her Jolie's leash. "I will make it sweeter than you remember it to be. Also, what I think your parents would really like to see is you being dragged down the street by a dog that's bigger than you."
"You need some exercise." Jeremy broke out into a run. Jolie barked in excitement and then tore after him, dragging Mi Nyeo with her. He looked over his shoulder, and smiled when he saw Mi Nyeo red-faced and running against her will. She'd thank him later.
At ten to seven that evening, Mi Nyeo reappeared in the living room to wait for Tae Kyung. Jeremy looked up from his bucket of ice cream, and swallowed everything in his mouth at once, giving him brain freeze.
"You look nice, Mi Nyeo," observed Shin Woo from the depths of the couch.
With a shy blush, she tugged at the hem of her white sleeveless dress even though it went past her knees. She smiled as a ribbon of her long hair fell past her ear and onto her cheek. "Thank you."
"Nice?" Nice was an understatement. Jeremy dropped the spoon into the bucket at the sight of her smiling kissable lips. Her earrings sparkled under the room's light.
She's an angel.
"What are you watching?" Mi Nyeo crossed the room and sat down next to Jeremy. He could smell talcum powder and a whiff of girlie perfume as she placed her coat on the edge of the couch.
He blinked, and tried not to freak out.
Pull it together Jeremy. She's beautiful, but she's just a beautiful friend. Nothing else.
"Want some ice cream beautiful-I mean friend-friend!"
Mi Nyeo smiled at him with her pink lips and took his spoon.
"Mmmm, choc-chip mint."
Jeremy felt like the world had stopped spinning as the spoon went towards her tulip mouth. Mi Nyeo didn't know it, but she was about to give him an indirect kiss, and he really, really wanted it.
"Wait!" he shouted, surprising himself and making her jump. "Let me get you a towel so that you don't spill it on yourself." He hopped to his feet and took the spoon off of her. "And I'll serve it to you properly. With your own spoon!"
"But Oppa-nim might be here any moment, and I'm hungry," she mumbled, rubbing her tummy. Shin Woo's lips curled, but his eyes remained glued to the TV.
Once Jeremy was in the kitchen, he put down the ice cream and slapped his own cheeks.
"Pull. Yourself. Together," he whispered to himself. "Mi Nyeo is Hyung's girlfriend. You can't let her have indirect kisses with you! Bad-bad-bad!"
"Jeremy, are you okay?"
He turned around to look at Mi Nyeo. She had the spoon – his spoon - in her mouth.
"Yah!" Jeremy barked at her. "Why did you do that?"
Like a child caught red-handed, she put the piece of cutlery back on the kitchen bench. "I was hungry."
Ten past eleven that same night, Mi Nyeo had fallen asleep on Jeremy's shoulder with his spoon half-hanging out of her mouth. Tae Kyung had never come, and Jeremy assumed that his Hyung must have gotten inspiration for a new song.
"Maybe it's a good thing he couldn't come," Jeremy said to himself. "She needs a good sleep."
He switched off the television and then moved her off him, taking care not to wake her up. When he was free, Jeremy got to his feet and then hoisted her up into his arms. It was hard to believe that a body as light as hers could handle almost a litre of ice cream without help.
Getting Mi Nyeo up to his bedroom door was easy. The rest was the tricky part. It took him three tries to get the door open without bumping her head. He then had to pick his way through his own mess in order to get to the bed.
Once Mi Nyeo was on the mattress, Jeremy peeled off her high heels one by one and tucked her in.
"I could look at you all night," he whispered to her sleeping face. "But Hyung wouldn't like it."
It was then that he remembered the mess surrounding her.
"Aaaaargh!" screamed the imaginary Mi Nyeo when she woke up the next morning. "I'm in a dump. I can never be friends with someone who lives in a dump. Mother Superior, save me!"
"No." Jeremy rubbed the back of his neck. "I can't let her wake up to a dump."
With an image of Mi Nyeo's horrified face to spur him on, Jeremy cleaned up his room for the first time in twenty or so months. The overflowing rubbish bag outside of his door multiplied into two, and then three. His prawn chips also got thrown away, and Jeremy lit a candle stolen from Tae Kyung's room to get rid of the lingering smell.
After the clutter was cleared, he did the mopping, made sure that the windows were locked so that the bogeyman couldn't get in, and then switched off the lights.
"Mmmm," smiled the imaginary Mi Nyeo when she woke up the next morning. "Jeremy's room is so clean and fresh smelling. Mother Superior, why did I ever pick Tae Kyung over him?"
"Stop it Jeremy," he said as he walked downstairs and stretched out on the couch in the living room. "She picked him. You're only hurting yourself."
Jeremy let Mi Nyeo continue to use his room over the next few days, and she was very grateful to him. He made sure to clean it often - like Tae Kyung would - so that she would be comfortable. He even bought his own candle so that the room would always smell good.
Mi Nam and Tae Kyung didn't like the sleeping arrangements at first, but when they saw that the blond had made his home on the couch, and he never went near the room if he could help it, they soon relaxed.
"I've never seen your room like that before," said Tae Kyung one morning. "Are you trying to impress her?"
"No," replied Jeremy. "She's our guest. She deserves a nice room."
Tae Kyung smirked. "You shouldn't try so hard. Pig Rabbit is as messy as you."
Mi Nam grunted in agreement.
"No she's not," argued Jeremy. "She takes good care of my room."
"Then it wasn't her I saw cleaning the sleep out of her eyes with your pillow this morning," said Tae Kyung. "My mistake."
Jeremy dropped his glass onto the table. "Nooo!"
"Make sure to take care of her today. I told her that I'll be home late," Tae Kyung added as Jeremy tore up the stairs.
"Mi Nyeo!" Jeremy knocked on the door. "Mi Nyeo, what have you done to my pillows?"
He opened the door and saw Mi Nyeo standing by the window. Without a word, he leapt onto the covers and began checking the pillows for damage. There was nothing, and he heaved a sigh of relief. Tae Kyung had only been teasing him.
"Phew!" He fell back onto his very own covers. "Hyung told me lies again. Mi Nyeo, you need to look after these sheets so that I can sleep on them in the future."
She didn't reply.
Jeremy wondered if she hadn't heard him.
"Mi Nyeo? What's happening outside the window? Is that Ahjusshi next door talking to his gnomes again?"
She twisted around and gave him one of her sad smiles. "Hyung-nim can't come Christmas shopping with us today."
"We-we will still have fun without him, won't we Jeremy?"
He forced on a smile. "We will have so much fun that Hyung will be angry that he didn't come...but Mi Nyeo...Do you want me to go and kick his butt for you? Maybe I can talk him into coming instead of me?"
"Thank you, Jeremy, but I want to let him work. He likes to make new songs. I can't make him go Christmas shopping instead. Besides I think that he doesn't like Christmas very much. I think it's sourer for him than it is for me."
Jeremy nodded. "It is sour for him. Tae Kyung likes Christmas as much as he likes people sneaking into his room and stealing his candles. He's not a Grinch about it. It's more like...he pretends that it isn't happening."
"I will buy him lots of presents," said Mi Nyeo. "Maybe he won't hate it so much when he opens presents and comes to your Christmas party. Then maybe he will have some of the sweetness."
"You can bring him around, Mi Nyeo. He's changed a lot since he met you. I know you can do it."
"Neh," she said. Her smile was still sad.
Using the disguise of a cap and sunglasses to hide his identity, Jeremy took Mi Nyeo to his favourite strip of markets in Seoul. It was a bit less popular than some of the other hot spots like Myeongdong, but the area had a rock-climbing wall that he thought she might like.
"Does Hyung-nim like to climb?" asked Mi Nyeo as they put on their harnesses. The metal carabiners clinked noisily as they walked to the wall.
Jeremy shrugged. "He never comes here when I go with Shin Woo Hyung."
"Maybe he can't climb?"
Jeremy tried to picture Tae Kyung scared of the wall, but it didn't compute. Tae Kyung's pride would overcome any fear he had of climbing. "What if he can climb, but he is afraid to."
Mi Nyeo's eyes widened. "Why would Hyung-nim be afraid of climbing?"
"Hmm." Jeremy rubbed his chin. "What if he was once a famous rock climber? Only...one day, he had an accident and fell. Maybe he nearly squashed his belayer like a pancake."
"Oh! Poor Hyung-nim!"
"And he is now afraid that if he goes up, he will hurt someone again."
Mi Nyeo gaped. "That is a very good reason."
Jeremy felt proud of his imagination. "Really?"
"If he was here, I would say, Hyung-nim, please climb with me. I care about you so much that I would let you squash me."
She followed this speech up with a pretty doe-eyed smile, and Jeremy cleared the sudden dryness in his throat at the sight of it.
"Eh-hem." Jeremy adjusted his cap under his helmet. "Want me to give you a leg up, Mi Nyeo?"
She put a finger to her chest. "I'm going first? Oh. Okay."
Jeremy let her use his knee to lever her onto the wall. He then stepped back to loosen the rope when she needed it, or hold it tight when she stopped moving. Mi Nyeo was a nervous beginner, and kept giving him frightened looks as she very, very slowly made her way up.
"I can't do this," she fretted. "I can't climb."
"I've got you," said Jeremy. "You're doing great."
Mi Nyeo stared back at him, and Jeremy gave her an encouraging smile.
For a confusing moment, she seemed to forget that she had to hold on.
"Ah!" She slipped and fell away from the wall.
Jeremy leaned back in his harness to stop her from dropping too far. The rope jerked to a halt, and she was left dangling in mid-air.
"Okay?" called Jeremy, once she'd stopped swinging.
"Hyung-nim!" she cried out like a kitten stuck in a tree.
"Go Mi Nam! I'm coming!" Jeremy made sure to take up the slack of the rope as he approached the wall. With one arm he lifted Mi Nyeo up by the waist and placed her on the ground...which happened to be only half a metre away from her feet.
Mi Nyeo looked dazed. "H-how did we get down so fast?"
"It's okay," said Jeremy. "The first time is always the most scary."
Still dazed, she leaned her head against his chest. "Thank you!"
Jeremy felt his heart melting like a marshmellow.
"It's okay," he repeated in a softer voice, enjoying how her hair tickled his chin.
With an effort, he managed to extricate himself from her by walking backwards. Holding Tae Kyung's girlfriend like that made him feel incredibly guilty.
"Let's go," he said with a smile. "I mean...we should go shopping. That's what we came here for, right?"
Mi Nyeo gave him a long look before taking off her harness.
They dove into the Christmas shopping with fervour. Jeremy took Mi Nyeo to a large stall for a new Christmas tree and decorations. As her winter jacket was green, he made her wrap different colours of tinsel around her body to see what looked best.
"Pink doesn't look right," he said, scrunching up his nose. "It's not very Christmassy. What do you think?"
She popped a candy cane out of her mouth to speak. "I like pink."
"I don't like the silver, and the green is too boring. What idiot buys green tinsel?"
She looked down. "What about the white and the gold? They look nice together."
Jeremy observed the two colours and realised what they meant.
"Nooo!" He had to nip this in the bud straight away. "I've changed my mind. The green tinsel is the best on you. We're going with the green."
"Ah-okay?" she said, peeling off the tinsel and following him to the decorations table.
Jeremy was more cautious during the next task. He steered Mi Nyeo clear of any ornaments of gold or yellow colour and drew her attention to the greens.
"Jeremy, why are we only buying green things to put on the tree?"
"Green is good," he answered. "Choosing green is not confusing and doesn't make yellow feel bad because green wasn't chosen. Choosing green doesn't give yellow any false hope so that he gets hurt and cries and cries into Jolie's fur until he stops."
He took a deep breath when he'd finished speaking.
Mi Nyeo looked puzzled. "Does that mean we can't have a gold star to put on top of the tree?"
She pointed to a display tree decorated in everything gold. The star winked at him like a sort of evil eye at the top of its temple.
"Gah! Presents!" he announced. "It's time to shop for presents."
He led the way out of the stall, leaving the almost-purchases far behind. They could deal with the tree later, when he wasn't so worried about betraying his Hyung through Mi Nyeo's preference for yellow.
"I have lots of ideas of what to buy for Hyung-nim, but I want one really special thing to give him," said Mi Nyeo. "Can you help me with an idea?"
"Hmmm." Jeremy's eyes fell on a table of bric-a-brac. "What about a pin? You were always nuts about the one he gave you. Remember how you'd always freak out whenever you lost it?"
"A pin?" Mi Nyeo looked uncertain. "I don't think Hyung-nim would like to wear a pin. He has very nice hair but it's not long enough to keep a clip in place."
Jeremy pursed his lips at the image of Tae Kyung with a sparkling bow in his hair. "Yah. Not that kind of pin - one that he can wear on his clothes."
He pointed to the buttons on display. Jeremy cleared a way to the stall so that Mi Nyeo could take a closer look at them. Some of them were brightly coloured with anime pictures. Others were carved out of metal or decorated with stones.
Mi Nyeo picked up a Saint Christopher pin with both hands, and gave it a reverent kiss. The action caused a sudden twinge of envy in Jeremy's heart – which he chose to ignore.
"This is Hyung-nim's present," she said, holding it out to the Ahjumma for wrapping.
The pair bought so many things that they had to return to Shin Woo's car twice in order to store them and buy more. Within one day, they had purchased enough presents and decorations to fill the entire 'gifts' closet in the ANJell dorms. Mi Nyeo was very proud of their work, and offered to treat Jeremy to some food.
He accepted, and as the sun began to set, Jeremy and Mi Nyeo wandered through the markets with hot food in their hands. Romantic music blared out of some outdoor speakers, lulling the crowds as they browsed the stalls. There was a gathering around a public stage showing a Christmas waltz, and the pair stood on a set of plastic chairs to watch.
There were three couples moving around in a circle. Their lightweight clothes of blue and white gave the illusion that they were floating on the stage. Mi Nyeo didn't even hear their shoes tapping on the ground.
"So beautiful," she murmured. "Jeremy, don't you think they're beautiful?"
He wrinkled his nose. "They're all right, I guess. I'm not really a fan of that sort of stuff."
"I thought you liked dancing. When I was Go Mi Nam, you were the first person to get up and dance at all the parties."
"That's because I only like modern dancing. It's fun. The old stuff that they're doing up on that stage is not fun."
She pouted. "I think it would be."
"It's not. It's painful. My school in the UK made me do it. The teacher kept hitting the back of my neck with a ruler whenever I made a mistake. And I usually made a mistake because the girl they made me dance with kept standing on my feet."
She smiled. "Why would a school make you waltz when you didn't want to?"
"It's tradition. The best schools in the UK teach you how to dance, go horse riding, and play sports like cricket and tennis."
Mi Nyeo looked thoughtful. "Do you think Hy-Oppa-nim knows how to dance like that?"
"No way. Tae Kyung doesn't dance if he can help it. You should see him when he's dancing for a music video...But he did become less of an arrogant butthole after he found you at that concert last year. And he does know how to peel vegetables with his teeth. Who knows? Maybe he would dance with you."
"I would really like to dance with him," she sighed. "Could you-would you teach me to dance so that when I am brave enough to ask him, I won't stand on his feet?"
Jeremy stalled. He knew that he should just say 'no', but he stalled because he really wanted the excuse to hold her.
"Yah!" he shouted at her. "Are you crazy? If Hyung caught me teaching you to dance that way he'd..."
Imaginary Tae Kyung crept into the kitchen while imaginary Jeremy was teaching Mi Nyeo to dance. The elder reached for a tub of rocky road ice cream and a bottle of arsenic from underneath the sink. A nasty smile appeared on his face while he poured the poison into what was to be Jeremy's last meal.
Jeremy shook the image out of his head. "He'd kill me, and I'm too young to die. Besides, you're his girlfriend. Why don't you just go to a class with him or something?"
Mi Nyeo apologised, and the subject was dropped.
As soon as the band had crossed off their last concert before Christmas, Jeremy decided that it was time to pull out the decorations. When they returned to the ANJell dorms, he got the tree out its box, and with the help of Mi Nyeo he began to piece it together.
"How does this thing stand up?" whined Jeremy. He couldn't find any part that would keep the tree upright.
Decorated in chains of green tinsel, Mi Nyeo shrugged. She turned to dig through the packaging on the floor and produced the missing tree stand. "Is this it, Jeremy?"
He brightened. "You found it! Can you hold up the tree while I put it on?"
"Mm." She took the tree and held it up so that he could lie underneath it.
"Yah, hold it still," he ordered.
With a smile on her face, Mi Nyeo pulled the tree's base out of his grasp.
She broke out into a giggle. "I'm sorry. Jolie is tickling me."
"What?" He peered around and saw that Jolie had somehow gotten inside. She was licking Mi Nyeo's leg like it was a popsicle.
"Jolie, who let you inside?" he asked the golden retriever. "Stop tickling Mi Nyeo."
The sounds of footsteps made them look across the room.
"What on God's green earth is that?" said Mi Nam, looking at the tree with undisguised horror.
"It's a Christmas tree, Oppa."
"But it's white!" protested her twin.
She pouted. "A tree can be white."
"Yeah, when it's on display in a department store. No one actually buys a white Christmas tree. Oh God. Is that green tinsel around your neck? That's so weird!"
"Jeremy says that I look nice in green."
Shin Woo appeared just in time to hear this. "He did, did he?"
"Hyung, why did you let Jolie inside?" said Jeremy. "You know how Tae Kyung hates having her around."
"Tae Kyung isn't here to complain, and Jolie deserves to join in some of the Christmas festivities. Interesting tree: A mix of green and white. It's not your usual style Jeremy," observed Shin Woo.
"We even managed to find a green star!" said Mi Nyeo.
"I don't get it," said Mi Nam. "What's with all the green?"
"Maybe Jeremy thinks that it is Mi Nyeo's favourite colour."
"Green is nice," she admitted. "But there were so many beautiful decorations in yellow and gold that I liked better."
Jeremy winced and focused on adjusting the tree stand. He didn't want to see Shin Woo's reaction.
"Where did Hyung-nim go?" Mi Nyeo asked belatedly.
"To the studio," answered Mi Nam. "He's really on a roll with that new album of his. Who knows, maybe we'll be recording it before you go back to Africa."
Jeremy gave Mi Nyeo a worried look. "I'm sure he'll be back soon, Mi Nyeo. Why don't we decorate the tree so that he can see it finished when he comes back?"
"Mong!" barked Jolie.
Mi Nyeo patted the dog's fur. "Do you think that I should cancel the reservation he made for dinner then?"
There was an awkward silence.
"What dinner, Mi Nyeo?" asked Shin Woo.
She draped some tinsel around the tree. "He's so tired these days that he must have forgotten we were going to eat together. Do you think that Hyung-nim is getting enough to eat?"
Mi Nam shrugged, and Jeremy scratched his head. Tae Kyung didn't eat much in general.
"I'm sorry Jeremy, but I think I will take Hyung-nim some food instead of decorating the tree tonight," said Mi Nyeo, looking dejected.
Jeremy, Mi Nam and Shin Woo traded looks faster than they could read them. Mi Nyeo was about to exit the room, when a strange noise came from the back of Jeremy's throat.
The three others stared at him.
"I mean, aish! I'm so stupid. How could I forget that Tae-Kyung asked us to take you instead."
Mi Nyeo looked puzzled. "He did?"
"He did?" said a disbelieving Mi Nam.
"Yes. He knew that he would be busy and he was worried that you would feel lonely, so he asked us to take you out. I completely forgot to pass on the change in plans."
She looked relieved. "So, he didn't forget?"
"Forget?" Jeremy pasted on a smile. "Tae Kyung never forgets anything."
"Unless he chooses to," muttered Mi Nam. "Look, I'd like to have dinner with you, twin, but I'm already doing something with He Yi. So you three have fun without me."
As if on cue, Shin Woo yawned. "I don't think I can go either. Jeremy, your drumming tonight gave me a bad headache. Mi Nyeo, is it all right if I stay and decorate the tree?"
"You want to decorate the tree?" said Jeremy suspiciously.
"Why not?" teased his elder. "Besides, I have a feeling that you will have more fun without me. Two is company, three is a crowd. Right Jolie?"
Under the pretence of forgetfulness, Jeremy had to ask Mi Nyeo where and when Tae Kyung had made the reservation. Once he learned that the restaurant was one that served overpriced food with candlelight and flowers, he began to feel nervous, and decided that the situation called for grunge wear. The problem wasn't that he was afraid of expensive and romantic places; it was that he was going there with Mi Nyeo – the one girl he had to pretend that he didn't like.
He was in for another surprise when they arrived to claim their booking. Tae Kyung had reserved a romantic secluded room with an optional view of the band playing in the main dining area. It was the kind of place where girls got proposed to every night.
Mi Nyeo stared at the candles and flowers in amazement, and then folded her hands over her black jeans. "This is...nice."
"Sure, if you like having a stick shoved up your butt," said Jeremy, with a hint of envy. He wondered if Tae Kyung was planning to propose to Mi Nyeo during her visit. "Do you want to eat someplace else?" he asked. "Ten levels of hotness is just a scooter ride away."
She shook her head. "Let's eat here. Hyung-nim would be hurt if we went somewhere else. And I don't think this place will put sticks in our...backs."
"Okay," he said. "But don't say that I didn't warn you."
They sat down to drinks and entrees. In defiance of everything that his parents had taught him, Jeremy pushed aside the napkin and cutlery, and went straight for the food with his fingers. Mi Nyeo hesitated, but soon followed his example. After all, there was no one to offend at their secluded table.
"That's good food," said Jeremy holding up his greasy fingers. "Mi Nyeo are you ready?"
She held up her own hands over the empty plates. "Ready."
"One, two, go!"
The race was on to see who could lick all their fingers the fastest. Mi Nyeo was more thorough, but Jeremy covered more ground at once by shoving the tips of his fingers in his mouth. When they were done, they threw up their napkins as a sign that they had finished. Mi Nyeo's napkin went up half a second before Jeremy's – and there was no one to say that Jeremy had done it on purpose.
"Noooooo!" he cried, playing the part of the bad loser.
"Want to flick my forehead?"
"Hmmm," she puffed out her cheeks. "No. I want...to go and wash my hands before the main meal so that we can have a rematch."
"Yah. That's a terrible idea. Come back and flick me."
Mi Nyeo shuffled off to the wash room. Jeremy decided to do the same, and wandered through the main dining area to get to it. When he returned, she was loitering at the entrance to their room, watching the people dancing to the live music.
Some of the couples knew the steps, while others made up their own. One girl with long black hair was laughing as she turned under a boy's arm. A pale-faced man was staring at his feet while the woman was waiting for him to look up at her. An Ahjumma led her husband on the floor with the confidence that only experience could bring.
"Do you think that if he came here, he would have wanted to dance?" asked Mi Nyeo.
Jeremy looked at her.
Even though she was hiding the shadows, he could tell that she was sad.
"Not if you're going to stand on his feet," he answered.
"Ah. Yes. That is a problem."
"Watch me," he said, standing next to her. "Back, left, together."
She looked at him in surprise. "Jeremy."
"Yah. I'm only teaching you the basic steps so that I don't feel bad," he said, blushing. "Now, do what my feet do. Back, left, together. Then it's forward, right, together."
Standing next to him, Mi Nyeo looked down and mimicked Jeremy's steps.
He grinned. "You got it. Now just do it over and over again."
The pair kept at it while their main course was placed on the table.
"I'm not as graceful as the people out there," she said, comparing her own awkward steps to an ahjumma and her husband. "They seem to fly."
"That's nothing," said Jeremy, jogging over to sneak in a mouthful of food with a fork. "You can do it too."
Mi Nyeo stared at the couples and tried to move like they did.
Jeremy came back over to her. "Give me your hands."
Mi Nyeo held them out and he lifted one up to his shoulder.
"You can do it," he said. "Ready?"
He moved forward, and she moved with him. A broad smile broke across her face when she got the first step just right. Her eyes lit up when Jeremy helped her get through the next five. They went through the motions again, and she was livid with happiness, even when she made a mistake.
"Jeremy!" she gushed. "I feel so happy that my heart is about to burst."
His eyes widened. "You do kind of look like you're going to explode. You want to sit down and eat something?"
"No!" Her cheeks flushed pink. "Please, no. I'm not hungry."
"All right." He smiled. "But I'm going to move you around a bit, but with the same steps. Are you ready?"
"Yes," she replied, like he was challenging her to ten levels of hotness.
Mi Nyeo was different this time. She was more confident with her feet, and she kept her shining gaze on him. The sky-blue blouse she was wearing floated when she moved. Her hair got into her eyes, and then got swept back again. She was laughing; clutching at him whenever he led her in another direction.
When they had worn the steps out, she held onto his shoulder and rocked with him from side to side. Her laughter began to disappear, and her smile was replaced with a far more curious expression. Her eyes were searching for something in his face. He wasn't sure what.
Suddenly, her head dropped against his chest as if they were back at the climbing wall.
"Thank you, Jeremy," was all she said.
He managed to get the banter between them up and running by the time dessert arrived. Their mutual worship for sweet things meant that they ordered everything, and then treated the plates like a rotating buffet. Spoons were shared without much thought for indirect kisses- although Jeremy couldn't resist smiling whenever she'd shove his spoon into her mouth.
Mi Nyeo seemed like she was enjoying herself, but Jeremy sensed that she was treating him differently. He didn't know how to fix it. If he called her out on it, and made her put it in words, there was a chance that it would make things worse.
His scooter made things easy for him on the ride home, but as soon as they climbed off and went inside the ANJell dorms, Mi Nyeo was back to looking at him with the same curious expression she'd given him when they'd been dancing.
"I see that you both had a good time," said Shin Woo from the depths of the living room couch. Jolie was sprawled out on the floor nearby, looking contented to be inside for once.
"Mm." Mi Nyeo nodded. "My teeth are still aching from all the cold desserts."
"I like the tree, Hyung," said Jeremy. "I didn't know you had it in you. What do you think, Mi Nyeo? Are you happy with it?"
"Shin Woo Hyung is a great tree decorator."
"So no more backing out on helping me with parties, Hyung," warned Jeremy. "You're helping me with the one we're having on Christmas day."
Mi Nyeo moved towards the stairs. "Good night, Shin Woo Hyung. Thank you, Jeremy. I will see you both tomorrow."
"Good night Mi Nyeo," said Shin Woo. "Tae Kyung isn't home yet."
"Ah," she nodded. "Thank you for telling me."
They both listened to her climbing the stairs in silence. Jeremy sat down on the ground to pet Jolie.
"She'll check his room anyway," said Shin Woo. "It's become a habit for her. I guess we should be glad that she didn't ask for him as soon as she was back."
Jeremy frowned. "I tried to message him, but I couldn't get through."
"I tried, too. His phone is off. He's in one of his hermit moods."
"Why do you think he's acting like this with her, Hyung? He's crazy about her. You'd think he'd take a bit of time off of work to see her."
"You're the one that's been skipping the most rehearsals. If anyone was crazy about her I'd say it was you."
Jeremy squirmed around to look at Shin Woo. "Nothing happened.
Shin Woo stared at him.
"Hyung asked me to look after her!" Jeremy protested.
Shin Woo's lips curled. "You're full of guilt and shame, too, I see."
There was a long pause. "H-how did you know? Was it the tree that gave me away?"
"That and many other things."
He sighed. "I can't help it. I tried to get over her but she won't get out of my head and my chest. I'm doomed to a one-sided love."
"Do you really think that? Huh. You're more obtuse than I thought. I guess that means more fun for me."
"How did you – you know – get over Mi Nyeo? Maybe if I do just what you did, then she won't be the end of me."
They were interrupted by the sound of someone coming down the stairs. Jeremy glanced up and caught Mi Nyeo running past them in her pyjamas.
"I'd better see if it's Tae Kyung she's going to meet," he said. "After I warn him, I'm going to hit him."
Shin Woo yawned. "Get one good punch in for me, too."
"MiiiiNyeoooo. Wait! I want to talk to Hyung first!" shouted Jeremy as he burst out the front door of the ANJell dorms still in slippers. He was about to run down the paved steps when he spotted her sitting in the courtyard.
"Oh." He skated to a halt.
He came over and plonked down opposite her. To his surprise, she averted her gaze.
"Mi Nyeo? Are you okay?"
"Yes," she said in a strangled voice. "I'm fine. It's just so warm inside."
He spotted the tears on her cheeks as she spoke, and Jeremy grew sad. "I can see that you're crying, Mi Nyeo. You can't hide in the dark from me."
She swallowed, and looked up at him with her wet lashes and shining eyes.
He sighed. "Spit it out Mi Nyeo. You will feel much better, and your shoulders won't feel so heavy."
"Hyung-nim doesn't like me anymore." She followed this up with heavy sob. His heart aching for her, Jeremy went to sit beside her and touched her back.
"That's total doggie crap," said Jeremy. "He loves you. He's just busy writing songs. He's always had more work to do for ANJell than the rest of us."
She rubbed her nose on her sleeve. "He was annoyed with me that I could only come to see him at this time. When I arrived, he was nice to me, but he asked you to look after me. He hugs me in the morning, but he doesn't come to the dates he makes with me at night, and tonight you..."
Jeremy froze "I..?"
"You lied to me because he didn't come again."
He slumped. "I did. I was kind of hoping that you wouldn't find that out."
Mi Nyeo choked on more tears. "I tried to call him all day, and just now he sent me a message to say that he wouldn't be able to come to dinner after all. Why does he do that? It confuses me. If he just worked and stopped telling that he wanted to see me then...then."
"Then it would be worse, because it means that he doesn't miss me at all." She buried her face in her hands. "What do I do?"
Jeremy ruffled up his hair. "I don't know. I'm not really good at giving advice. I'm better at the comforting and hugs part. Hoh!" He jumped to his feet. "Neon Naege Banhaesseo!"
"In Neon Naege Banhaeeseo, the hero, Lee Shin, is hot and cold. At first he's all angry like he's about to burn the college down, and then he's all 'Hey, that nerdy girl has stopped paying attention to me. How dare she?', and then he breaks his hand protecting her and he becomes all damaged and twisted."
Jeremy shrugged. "I didn't ever watch the end. It was getting too sad. I think she becomes famous, and Lee Shin turns into an alcoholic and dies from chronic liver disease or something. Anyway, my point is that if you watch it then maybe it might help explain why Tae Kyung is being the same way!"
Mi Nyeo looked doubtful. "You think so?"
"It's worth a try. For our plan B I need to go somewhere. Is it all right if I get something out my room?"
Jeremy put his hands on her shoulders. "Don't worry. You find the drama tape and watch it until you fall asleep. Tomorrow, everything will be all right. I promise."
It was a quiet evening at AN Headquarters. Tae Kyung had an entire studio to himself for composing, recording and experimenting with sound. The only people to bother him were the subdued night shift cleaners and the quiet security guard who came to check on him every two hours with his flashlight.
He recognised Jeremy the moment he stepped into the recording room. He didn't know why Jeremy was there, but the junior looked peeved about something. Jeremy walked up to him. Something silver flashed before his eyes, and he realised that the pointy end of a sword was tickling his very expensive voice box.
The idea of Jeremy using a weapon on him was so unexpected that Tae Kyung, usually never lost for words, was stupefied.
"I have never pulled this thing out on anyone out of anger before. Anyone!" shouted Jeremy. "I only bring it out when my Appa comes to Seoul. He always wants to spar with me because most of his Korean friends don't like the sport."
"Sport?" Tae Kyung tried not to swallow. The point was scratching his skin.
"Ah, the goal is easy. You put holes through the other person until they bleed to death."
"And that's a sport?"
"Where I came from, it was. My point is that I'm really angry with you. Mi Nyeo is miserable because you tell her that you want to see her, and then you change your mind. You've made her sad and confused. Now you're going to fix it."
Tae Kyung's eyes narrowed. "Did your brain get punctured while playing death sports with your Abeoji? I explained to Mi Nyeo about the new album long before she arrived. I would expect you would know how things work by now, too."
"Why do you have to work this hard, or fast?" argued Jeremy, pointing at the music sheets in Tae Kyung's hand. "I get that music is great, but Mi Nyeo is better than music and she's back for really short time. Who cares if the album hits the markets a week or two later?"
"That's why I run the schedule of this band and not you. You don't understand that we'll only be able to work in music as long as we're famous. And we'll only be famous for as long as we keep working. We won't be able to do this forever, and by the end of it I plan to give Mi Nyeo everything she's wanted, including time. Does any of that make sense to you?"
"No!" Jeremy grabbed the paper work out of Tae Kyung's hand and lowered his sword. "I'll compose a song that you can have some free time with Mi Nyeo now."
Tae Kyung frowned. "How can I trust you with a song when you're not even taking this seriously."
"Yah! I am! Tomorrow, I'm going to spend all day and night in this dark vampire coffin they call a studio and compose the most awesome song in the world. Meanwhile, you and Mi Nyeo are going on a date that lasts for eighteen hours so that you don't end up turning into a lonely old dude."
"That's the most insane line of reasoning I've ever heard."
Jeremy pointed the sword at Tae Kyung's heart. "Lonely. Old. Dude. That's if I don't turn you into a dead dude first for breaking Mi Nyeo's heart."
Having said what he wanted to say, Jeremy withdrew his sword and left with Tae Kyung's latest composition clenched in his fist.
Unwilling to continue working on his song without his notes, Tae Kyung got to his feet and frowned. "Aish! I thought Pig Rabbit understood."
The next day, Jeremy had his old composition notes from college spread out on the kitchen bench while he ate his breakfast. He'd dug them out from his boxes of stuff in the garage, bringing a sense of nostalgia to his morning. He thought back to all the fun he'd had with Princess Amy and his friends during college breaks, and smiled.
He remembered that as a college student, he dreamed that one day he'd write a song that would be so life changing for people, that he'd win a Nobel Peace Prize for it. Warlords would shake hands to the sound of it playing in the background. Elton John would be doing a cover of it at the Queen of England's funeral because it would be that good.
"So," said Shin Woo, interrupting Jeremy's thoughts. "I heard that today is the day that you're going to write the most 'awesome' song in the world."
Jeremy grimaced. "Why couldn't Tae Kyung keep his mouth shut?"
"Because I couldn't believe my ears when you said you'd write an 'awesome' song in twenty four hours," mocked Tae Kyung, appearing from behind him. "I had to ask Shin Woo if he thought it was possible."
The guitarist hid a smile while boiling hot water for his tea. "My opinion was that Chopin would turn in his grave if he'd heard you say that Jeremy."
"Beethoven would throw a tantrum."
Jeremy scowled. "Mock away, Hyungs! You'll be swallowing it all at this time tomorrow."
"He's so confident," teased Mi Nam, going over to the fridge to get some leftovers out. "The poor guy will have no pride left if he stakes it all on this one itty bitty little day."
"Don't psych me out!" said Jeremy. "As my bandmates, you should be cheering me on."
Tae Kyung, Mi Nam and even Shin Woo sniggered.
"I'm all ready to go, Oppa-nim!" announced Mi Nyeo. She beamed at Jeremy like a lamp, and then schlomped down on the stool next to him.
"Hy-Oppa-nim says that you're going to help him with work by writing an awesome song today."
Jeremy was inundated with more sniggers, but they did not come from Mi Nyeo.
"I know that you will be able do it." she said. "Hyung-nim and I will cheer you on. Won't we Hy-Oppa-nim?" She didn't wait for an answer from Tae Kyung. "Also, I think that you should be able to sleep in your own bed after working so hard, so I will sleep on the couch tonight."
"Awww." Jeremy resisted the urge to pinch her cheeks. "You're an angel. I wish my Hyungs would be as nice to me as you are."
"Blech," gagged Mi Nam. "I'm not your Hyung. I owe you nothing."
"And you're not mine, you double-lidded fake," countered Jeremy.
"Jeremy." Mi Nyeo tugged his sleeve to get his attention. "I hope you don't mind, but I only watched the last hour of Neon Naege Banhaesseo. I really had to know what happened."
He nodded in understanding. "So...what happened? Did it, you know, help?"
"Lee Shin broke up with the heroine to keep his secret. He didn't want to hold her back," said Mi Nyeo in a low voice.
Jeremy leaned closer so that they could whisper. "So he thought he was doing the right thing. And-and?"
"She found out that he was doing it for her, and after a while, she forgave him."
"So it was a happy ending?"
"Yes," she smiled.
"That's so great!" shouted Jeremy, celebrating as if Mi Nyeo had been talking about her own life. He reached over to give her a hug...and then changed his mind when Tae Kyung and Mi Nam scrambled around the kitchen bench to stop him. Tae Kyung twisted one of his arms back so that it hurt.
"Aya! That's my writing hand. I can't work without it!"
Tae Kyung let him go. "Then don't let her get used to your UK habits."
Jeremy scrunched up his nose and mouth like a rabbit, and grabbed his notes. "It's called a hug," he muttered as he retreated.
On his way to the studio, he paused to check on Jolie. The retriever sniffed his face as he hugged her.
"You don't mind my UK habits, do you Jolie? Nuuuu."
He looked over Jolie's head and smiled. It was Mi Nyeo. She'd snuck on some soft pink lipstick while waiting for Tae Kyung to get ready, and she looked really pretty. However, she seemed torn about something. Her mouth kept opening and shutting like a goldfish.
"It's okay," he said, guessing that she was worrying about her date. "Talk to Hyung about all your problems and you'll see."
She still looked uneasy.
"I'll leave my phone on. Yes? In case a friend has an emergency and needs to talk," he hinted.
Mi Nyeo bit her lip and gave him a grateful smile. "Yes, for an emergency. I will also leave my phone on...in case a song writer is having an emergency."
They both wavered on the spot. Jeremy wanted to say something more to her, but he couldn't think of anything. Shin Woo Hyung was always the one that gave good advice.
He hesitated, and then went down the paved stairs, aware that Mi Nyeo was watching him the entire time. He hoped that she wouldn't have to ring him. Despite his feelings for her, he only wished her the best with Tae Kyung.
End of Part 1