"You should stop."
Ji Ah's eyes flitted over to Jae Chan at the curt words. The videography team was browsing through the snippets of the AMA rehearsals while Bangtan geared up for their upcoming performance. Within the glittering Microsoft Theatre, the ceremony was proceeding in full swing with the members monitoring the various stages and awards being presented as they prepped themselves. Ji Ah and Jae Chan were currently in the audit room along with some of the Big Hit staff, awaiting the green signal to begin shooting once BTS took the stage.
Confusion flared in the brunette-haired woman's eyes and she motioned towards her laptop. "Stop what? Screening the rehearsal clips?"
Jae Chan quickly glanced over his shoulder to ensure no one was listening and he shrugged, sliding his revolving chair closer to Ji Ah's. "I meant something else." He chewed on his lower lip, fingers fidgeting with his camera lens and he turned to her with a solemn expression on his face. "Whatever it is you have going on with Kim Namjoon, I suggest you stop before you both get hurt."
Ji Ah couldn't help the shock that slackened her features, thrown off by the fact that the head videographer knew about their relationship. "How did you find out?"
"Well, it was pretty clear actually. The way he looks at you, the way you speak to him. Everything about the two of you screams intimacy which extends beyond professionalism. Not to mention how the rest of Bangtan react whenever you guys are in the same room." Jae Chan watched Ji Ah squirm slightly, dismay flickering over her face and his voice lowered just a tad bit. "It's the job of a videographer to read the atmosphere. And you're not as subtle as you'd like to think you are, Ji Ah-sshi."
The woman stared at him, her head swirling from the sudden confrontation which she had neither expected nor been prepared for. Ji Ah liked to think she was doing a good job of appearing neutral around Namjoon but her senior had obviously not been fooled. "Are you going to replace me?" she asked quietly, knowing well that it would be the obvious course of action to stall any scandal. But being aware of it didn't make the prospect of being fired any less scary. Not to mention the fact that she would probably never be allowed near the rapper again.
How could she give up after coming so far?
Ji Ah didn't know where the strength or the thought had surged from. She just knew that she would fight, that she wanted to fight. Jae Chan was studying her carefully as if privy to the knowledge that she wouldn't give up without a fair amount of struggling.
"Ji Ah, you're the best assistant I, anyone actually, could ever ask for. And I would hate to see you lose your position over something like this which could very well be momentary." Ji Ah's hackles rose at his flagrant dismissal of her relationship with Namjoon and she knew Jae Chan didn't miss the way her features darkened at his words. "Even if what you have with him is real, I hope you realize that it's a very delicate and important time for Bangtan and any gossip arising from your association with Namjoon could be potentially contentious. For both of you."
"I know that," she stated quietly, her eyes roving over to the screen protruding from the wall behind which she could see the members beginning to assemble for their performance. Namjoon was smiling, leaning in to whisper something in Yoongi's ear which made the older rapper laugh. The dance line was engaged in an impromptu dance battle to ease their nerves and Seokjin invaded the party by breaking out into his trademark traffic moves which had Taehyung roaring with unhinged laughter, wiping away the tears in his eyes as he watched the oldest member flail his arms about.
Ji Ah knew every word Jae Chan was spewing was something she should heed before it was too late, that whatever was brewing between her and Namjoon would be short-lived and painful if they weren't careful. And she would be lying to herself if she denied harboring thoughts of setting him free to concentrate on his career while she could concentrate on hers.
The videographer was more than aware that this was not the right time to be with him.
But will there ever be a right time for people like us? she thought wearily.
Namjoon picked this very moment to turn in Ji Ah's direction even though he couldn't see her through the one-way screen. But he knew she was watching him and he quickly blew a kiss in the guise of posing for the cameras but subtly intended for her and something inside Ji Ah's chest sparked, all apprehensions instantly evaporating at the sight of that dimpled smile she adored more than life itself. "I'm well aware of the consequences but I'm willing to take the risk."
Jae Chan didn't answer, silently looking at Ji Ah and then at Namjoon visible beyond the screen, and his face contorted with something akin to pity. How many such cases had he witnessed where people fell in love only to be ripped apart because their reality and circumstances were too cruel? "Do you love him?"
Ji Ah's lips pursed in consternation, her eyes fixed on Namjoon who had turned away to double-check the equipment, fitting his ear piece in place and shrugging on the bomber jacket which was part of his ensemble. But before the members filed out of the green room to stride towards the stage, the rapper turned in her direction once more and mouthed a silent 'I love you' and Ji Ah's heart clenched agonizingly, her chest bursting with affection for the leader of Bangtan, her conviction strengthening. "Yes. I do."
But Ji Ah didn't know if she was convincing Jae Chan or herself.
"You set the stage on fire. I thought my ears were gonna pop off from all the screaming going on in the theatre," Ji Ah remarked later that night when Namjoon had suggested a late night walk before their flight back to South Korea the next day. It was inching close to midnight and she could see the rapper still buzzing from the excess champagne he had downed with the members earlier in his room during a VLive with ARMY.
Strolling down the streets of LA wasn't as intimidating as the videographer had previously envisioned, Namjoon's mask and cap warding off any recognition. The lanes around the Elite Pier were mostly deserted anyway and to most people, the two looked like any other couple out on a late night escapade.
Namjoon chuckled, intertwining his fingers with hers and tugging her closer to him. "I had the time of my life. These past few days have been overwhelming but so enlightening. It's been a good experience." The contentment in his voice was evident and Ji Ah smiled softly, their silhouettes illuminated by a particularly brightly lit shop which they passed by.
"I'm glad I could witness the, what was it again, international k-pop sensation sunshine rainbow-"
"-traditional transfer USB hub shrimp," they finished together, laughing at the ridiculously long but apt tag that the members had invented. Ji Ah shook her head, her eyes gleaming with pride.
The night air was crisp with the winter beginning to set in and the videographer shoved her hand into Namjoon's coat pocket, snuggling closer to revel in the warmth of the rapper who smiled at her. "This is nice, you know. Walking around aimlessly and pretending like we're a normal couple." She felt the vibrations in his chest as he laughed, the sound of his voice reverberating in the air around them.
"I swear I never thought I'd ever have something like this. Maybe when I was older and less caught up with work, but definitely not at this point in my life," Namjoon mused in a cheery voice. Ji Ah knew it was meant to be a light-hearted statement but she couldn't help the dark thoughts it steered her mind towards.
"Do you think this will tie you down?" she asked him quietly and Namjoon's eyes widened. For a moment, he scrambled for words, wondering if he had said something wrong.
"I didn't mean it to sound like that, Ji Ah. And no, never. I want this," Namjoon declared firmly, his fingers tightening around hers. "I want us."
The videographer didn't answer, her thoughts a whirlpool of conflicting emotions, some of which she knew were futile and were only riling her up for no reason. The negativity wasn't real, but his heart beating in time with hers was. His skin against her skin was real. His touch was real. He was real.
"Me too," she finally said, leaning her head against his shoulder and sighing. But Namjoon knew something was bothering her and he didn't hesitate to broach the tension hovering over her words.
"Ji Ah, is something wrong?"
Was anything wrong? Or was she just letting her worries get the better of the time she did have with him?
This isn't me, she thought ruefully.
So Ji Ah shook her head, simultaneously willing her incessant concerns to glide away like the cars on the smooth roads of LA. "Nothing's wrong." She tilted her head, cocking it slightly to face him. "We're together. That's all that matters, right?"
Namjoon smiled, relieved and happy to have Ji Ah by his side. "Right."
They walked in amiable silence for a few minutes, the glimmering moon a constant companion. Halting at an ice cream cart to savor the variety of tastes and flavors of the thriving city, Ji Ah felt her jittery nerves quell a little. Stars, though speckling the horizon, were obscured by the haze of the clouds and she squinted at the sky, swallowing the last bit of her Belgian scoop. "Is there any place here from where the stars are visible?"
Namjoon followed her gaze, head upturned and he snorted. "What is it with you and your fascination with stars?"
The videographer smirked, tossing the plastic container into the nearest bin. "Well, I like watching them, you know."
"You could spend your time doing more…substantial stuff?" Namjoon ventured blatantly but Ji Ah merely snickered, swaying her hips slightly as she ambled closer to Namjoon. They had been treading down a beach street, the ocean sparkling and rippling under the night sky, waves rolling languidly towards the shore, smudging the sand in their wake.
"Stuff like what for example?" The underlying challenge was apparent in Ji Ah's tone but Namjoon refused to let her distract him. He simply grabbed her elbow, turning the videographer so she was now facing him. Save for them, hardly any people milled about the area. So the rapper deftly pulled down his mask, his face only inches away from hers.
"I can think of a few things right about now," he whispered and his lips curved in a satisfied grin when Ji Ah shivered. "If we weren't in public, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have hesitated to take things up a notch." Namjoon bent to bite the soft flesh of her exposed neck, flicking his tongue over the mark to soften the sensation but Ji Ah knew it would bruise.
"Getting cocky, are we?" she managed to ask despite their proximity and the heat raging in her blood. "You're quite daring, Kim Namjoon. I'll give you that."
He pulled back to grin at her, pushing her ruffled hair out of her face. "Always." He leaned in again and Ji Ah thought he was going to kiss her but the rapper's lips merely grazed her cheek. "Your perfume is driving me crazy, by the way," he muttered slowly and she had to hold back a laugh, wrenching out of his grasp.
"Yah, Kim Namjoon! I thought this was supposed to be a platonic date," she chided accusingly, walking backwards in the direction of the beach. Namjoon instantly gauged her intention to race towards it and he bucked up, his eyes shining with unrestrained delight.
"Oh, darling, there's no such thing."
Ji Ah's laughter was the only reply Namjoon heard as she sprinted towards the water, her hair fluttering in the wind. He darted to catch up with her, pulling up his mask once again and chuckling softly. The sand was soft beneath his feet, crunching soundlessly and imprinted with their footsteps. Ji Ah had run almost a good length of the stretch, finally stopping near a small alcove jutting out from the huge rocks at the very periphery of the beach. She sprawled out on the soft sand and Namjoon raised a questioning eyebrow. "Um…I know what I said but doing something out here in the open…it's pretty audacious even for you."
Ji Ah looked confused for a minute, and then laughter ripped through her as she flung a handful of sand at Namjoon which he narrowly dodged. "We're only going to watch the stars, you pervert!" Her eyes pinched shut and her body convulsed with amusement while the rapper stood staring down at her sheepishly. "Have you never slept under the stars before?" He shook his head and once Ji Ah had calmed down, she patted the space next to her. "It's the most relaxing sensation ever. And out here, you can even discern them in all their glory."
Namjoon's head whipped up to see she was right. A canopy of stars dotted the night sky, twinkling and shining brightly, their light illuminating the ocean stretching beyond the shoreline. The shapes were beautiful and distinctive, an almost ethereal experience to gaze at them. Lying down next to the videographer, the rapper's eyes glinted with wonder. "I can certainly see the appeal now." Beside him, Ji Ah only hummed in response and Namjoon reached out to cocoon her head in his arms. "I've been missing a lot I see."
The videographer chuckled softly, tipping her head upwards so they were face to face. "Well, you're here now. So let's make the most of it." In that serene moment, everything ceased to exist except for them and the stars blinking overhead. The lapping waves were the only source of sound, their rhythmic tune lulling Ji Ah and she yawned sleepily.
Namjoon studied her, his chest contracting with love as his eyes roamed over her long eyelashes, her endearingly choppy fringes concealing her forehead, the faint mole just below her lower lip, the stars shining in her eyes, their reflection replaced by the outline of his features as she turned to face him. "What are you thinking of?"
Ji Ah considered the question, her brows wrinkling in thought. "Right now? I'm thinking of how bright the stars are tonight, how lucky I am to gaze at them with you." She smiled softly and Namjoon's heart skipped several hundred beats in the span of a millisecond. "What are you thinking of?"
And the answer came to Namjoon quite naturally.
"I'm thinking of you."
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