Ji Ah tried to steady her breath as she rummaged in her bag for the door keys. Her meeting with Namjoon hadn't been as awkward as she had anticipated. On the contrary, she was surprised to discover the relative composure of her thoughts. Namjoon wasn't who he used to be, no. But that didn't change anything. Not in Ji Ah's eyes at least.
Her fingers finally closed around the object she had been seeking as she pulled it out to unlock the door. Despite the proposal, Ji Ah felt that she owed it to both Namjoon and herself to take a step back.
Lee Mi Na, however, had shared no such sentiment.
"You want me to do what now?" her boss had shrieked when Ji Ah had suggested that she assign someone else the position of assistant videographer. "First, you lot mess up. And then you have the audacity to advise me?"
"It's just a suggestion," Ji Ah had tried to reason with Mi Na but the Head of Productions had shot her down immediately. The brunette-haired woman had had no choice but to reconcile herself to the decision. And hope that Namjoon could indeed prove her wrong.
For both our sakes.
Ji Ah shook her head as she stepped into the modest, two-bedroom apartment situated on the 12th floor of a Seoul high-rise. The living room was tastefully furnished, with brocaded curtains gently rustling in the summer breeze. A small coffee table was positioned on a rug, small bean bags placed around it. The aroma of freshly brewed beans wafted in the air and Ji Ah scowled at the figure lying prostrate on the couch opposite the balcony overlooking the bustling city life unraveling in the streets of Seoul.
"Yah, Kang So Min!" she growled with unrestrained annoyance as her roommate, and colleague, winced in surprise. "You have no idea of the hell I've been through today all thanks to your lazy ass!"
So Min looked sheepish as she held up her smartphone, EXO's Byun Baekhyun grinning at Ji Ah through the screen. "I've been nursing a cold all day long!"
Ji Ah's eyes narrowed at the seemingly blatant lie. "And yet you seem well enough to stalk Byun Baekhyun."
Her roommate instantly dropped her phone, scrambling to retrieve it. The sight of her fumbling around was too funny and Ji Ah laughed despite herself. So Min's eyebrows scrunched up as she watched her kick off her shoes and sink into the soft leather of the sofa. "What happened?"
Ji Ah sighed as she dived into the particulars of her story. Listening with rapt attention, So Min could barely conceal her trepidation as her friend's narrative continued, knowing about her history with Kim Namjoon all too well. "I'm sorry, Ji Ah. If I'd known that Mi Na would send you, I wouldn't have taken a leave."
Ji Ah shook her head. By the wan expression on So Min's face, it was evident that she hadn't been lying about her condition. "It's done. And I've decided to face it."
So Min bit her lip as she scrutinised Ji Ah's face for any signs of deception. Not finding any, the red-haired woman placed a placid palm on Ji Ah's knee. "I'm going to be right there with you, I promise."
"Good, because I need you to take over when I leave," Ji Ah stated as So Min's eyes widened questioningly.
"You think he can do it," she said and Ji Ah realized it wasn't a question. She shook her head.
"I'll leave regardless of whether he can do it or not, and whether Mi Na likes it or not," she began slowly as her forehead creased. "Namjoon may have become wiser, but the uncertainty which plagued him in the past still haunts him in some way. Reflection is proof of that." As she alluded to the rapper's solo song, Ji Ah's eyes traced the sunlight which illuminated the room in a golden glow. She could still recollect the unhinged emotions with which she had heard him sing the lyrics, words which she was well-versed with. "And I don't know if he'll ever be able to outrun it."
"Then why did you even offer him this deal?" So Min's voice belied her skepticism but Ji Ah's mind was too preoccupied to register it.
"Because I want to believe he can."
"And this here is where the interviews will take place," Manager Sejin was saying as Cho Jae Chan and his team, including Hong Ji Ah, were touring the rooms at Big Hit. "Will it do?"
The space they were currently occupying was almost as accommodating as Bangtan's practice rooms, bright lights flickering in the overhead rafts. Posters and pictures festooned every inch of the plaid walls, with rows of chairs and desks lining one end of the room. Instruments were placed at every interval and a table laden with snacks had been pushed to one side of the wall.
The videographer nodded his approval. "This is fine. We'd like to begin with the individual interviews so if you could please inform the members," Jae Chan addressed the boys' manager. His silver hair caught the light bouncing off the sleek floor, his dark eyes carefully assessing every minute facet of the allotted space. The head videographer of MSL was infamous for his attention to detail, something which allowed him to command the respect of his entire team despite his young age.
Sejin nodded, taking his leave as a few members, including So Min, took up their positions to set up the room. Ji Ah had scuttled to the middle, adjusting the camera stand and ensuring the stable connection of the wire. Jae Chan slinked to her side as she was inputting the details when he suddenly froze. "I completely forgot to tell the manager that this is a mere practice session. I simply want to test the adequacy of the equipment." He looked winsome as his eyes clouded over. "I hope they don't take the trouble to dress up."
"I'll go inform them!" Ji Ah announced, realizing that she wouldn't be needed till they began filming anyway. Before Jae Chan could voice any protest, she barreled out of the room.
Ji Ah was fairly familiar with the layout of the floor and the boys' schedule by this point, knowing that Bangtan would be in the main studio right about now. She strode down the tiled corridor, arriving at the same room where she had met Namjoon the day before. Ji Ah knocked twice and pushed open the door slowly, not wanting to disturb the boys in case they were in the midst of recording.
But her apprehensions were unwarranted. The room was empty, save for the sheets of paper lying in a messy heap on the desk closest to the door. Ji Ah approached it tentatively, studying the sheets which were scribbled with lyrics. The letters RM arrested her attention, written next to what appeared to be the title of the song.
Sea? I'd like to hear what this sounds like, she mused silently.
But no sooner had the thought formed in her mind when a sound startled Ji Ah. Head whipping up, her eyes widened as Namjoon's profile came into view. The momentary flash of light when she had pushed the door open had concealed his figure.
But now, Ji Ah could see him clearly as he stood before a mic, his long fingers clutching a sheet. A glass tinted barrier separated them, though Namjoon would've been able to see her if his eyes weren't squeezed shut.
The song was soulful; the rapper's voice even more so. Before she knew it, Ji Ah had begun to sway slightly, lulled by Namjoon's baritone notes. She was about to quietly step out, when his eyes shot open as they pierced through hers.
The sudden action surprised Ji Ah, causing her to accidentally knock over the coffee mug which had been placed on the other end of the table. The contents spilled over the brim, morosely soaking the nearest sheet.
A door clanged and Namjoon rushed over to the desk as Ji Ah tried to salvage the ruined lyrics on the paper, of which only the word 'Outro:' was clearly visible now, the word next to it smudged beyond recognition.
"What have you done?" His voice was shaking as he held up the paper. "I'd been working on this for days!"
"I'm so sorry! I didn't realize there was a-"
"Did you bring the coffee in here?" Namjoon couldn't believe it. He had admonished the members about bringing any sort of beverage into the studio while a recording session was in progress. Despite his precautions, disaster had still struck. And this song was so important. "There are strict rules curtailing the carrying of any food items or drinks in the studios!"
"If you'd just stop for a second to listen you'd know I didn't bring the coffee in here!" Ji Ah was saying as her anger simmered beneath her skin.
But Namjoon refused to be pacified. "Do you not understand the importance of this? And of privacy? Do you realize I might have to write the entire song again?" he demanded as he shot her a pointed look, gesturing to the ruined sheet.
Ji Ah fixed him with a cold stare as she grabbed the object in question. She waved it in Namjoon's face, causing him to recoil. "This is clearly printed. And I know you're diligent enough to have backed up several files of every song you've ever composed."
Namjoon knew full well she was right, and he hated how petty he felt. Maybe he had overreacted. Maybe I shouldn't be in her presence for too long, he thought sullenly. "Why are you here anyway?" he asked, digressing from the distressing topic at hand.
"I'm here to do my job." Ji Ah's words were cold, clipped. Namjoon almost winced. "You're not the only person who has one if you remember. And as far as the question of privacy goes, I did knock. It's not my fault if you didn't hear it. I'm simply here to tell you that we're ready to begin." She turned away, halting at the door. "And I'm sorry that we can't seem to remain in each other's presence without one of us flying off the handle."
Namjoon instantly felt guilty at his outburst as Ji Ah walked out. What was it about this woman's words that they always tugged at his strings, uncoiling them just when he thought he had succeeded in knitting them together? But the fact remained that he had acted out of line. It was unlike him and he was honest enough to acknowledge when he was in the wrong. Which meant that he would have to apologize. To Ji Ah.
Namjoon sighed. It was going to be a long day.
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