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   Today fucking sucked.

 

  Firstly, her schedule was jam packed.

 

  Now, that wasn’t the bad part. She was used to hectic days, absolutely thrived on the constant rush of having more and more tasks and meetings and interviews to complete before her day was done. She’d been in this business for years now - anything less than a completely full day felt like a waste.

 

  No, but the bad part was that her first schedule for the day (a photo-shoot for Ceci) had been delayed by an hour due to some irreparable damage an intern had wreaked on some of the studio lights. It had taken the engineer that long just to get them working again, and by that point Nayeon should have been halfway done with a photo-shoot that hadn’t even begun.

 

  So, it was barely 8am and her day had already been thrown off. But y’know, shit happens. She’d faced more than a few setbacks and delays throughout her career and honestly, one hour behind on schedule just meant cutting a few things short and her manager pressing a little bit harder on the gas pedal than he should. She could deal with a photo-shoot being delayed by an hour.

 

  But then she arrived at her second schedule, a radio interview that the hosts had graciously delayed to a later segment of the show, and although the hosts themselves were lovely and understanding and went out of their way to make her feel comfortable, the other invited guest had been… less than pleasant. Nayeon didn’t particularly like people probing about her private life anyway, but for this crusty, old, lame ass has-been to insinuate that the actual reason she was late was because she was more preoccupied with a boyfriend than paying attention to her schedules live on air irked her more than she’d care to admit.

 

  (Mostly it was the implication that she was heterosexual in any way, mind you.)

 

  The hosts had swiftly moved the subject on with practiced ease and tact whenever an awkward situation like that arises but the damage had already been done. It was barely noon and Nayeon had already counted at least seven articles about her ‘mystery lover’ and another three on her ‘ungrateful attitude’. Delving into the comment sections had done little to improve her mood, though she did read one comment calling that old asshole a ‘bitter, pint-size butterball bitch’, and she laughed so hard she smudged her make-up and the Unnies had to re-do it in the car on the way to her next schedule.

 

  So, one crusty old bitter bitch with the world’s worst toupée set up her foul mood for the rest of the day. Her third schedule went off without a hitch, surprisingly enough. A small respite in the midst of all this fuckery - until her script reading after with the highly decorated cast she was still in disbelief she’d be working with, where she completely botched everything. Her delivery of the lines, the flow, hell - she even missed her cue and that had just been utterly embarrassing. Nobody said anything, but she could feel the mounting frustration and patience wearing thin for every single person in that room with each mistake, and it just made her want to crawl into a hole and disappear for a few years.

 

  And then during her sixth schedule, she tripped over a stray box in the corridor and had a beautiful bruise forming on her shin. And then when she was climbing into the car, she managed to spill her fourth coffee of the day down her (formerly) pure, white blouse, and she’s positive a fan-site managed to capture the moment in excruciating detail.

 

  And then, as if the day couldn’t get any worse, she finally crawls through her front door after a fourteen hour-long day only to find her cupboards to be completely bare. She couldn’t order take-out because her managers had her on this new, strict diet to prepare for this new film role (that is, if she even still has it after today's shitstorm), and she’s pretty certain he’s bribed the concierge in the lobby to inform him if she tries to cheat her way out of the diet, so that was out of the question. It’s with a heavy sigh that she tugs on an old, over-sized hoodie and sticks a faded baseball cap on her head, making sure to grab her keys and a plain black face-mask as she heads to the elevator to go straight back down to the lobby.

 

  Convenience store food it was.

 

  At the very least, the walk to the little corner store should have been nice - a quiet, few moments where she could just walk and have her headphones in and ignore the world for a few minutes, not to mention the night air was nice and cool this time of year. It was refreshing, and she enjoyed the feeling enough to pull down her face-mask and let the air wash over her for the remainder of her walk to the store.

 

  As soon as she stepped out of the store however, she became keenly aware of the presence of the little man a few metres behind her with a very non-discreet camera held securely in his hands.

 

  Oh of course , dispatch following her was just the pretty little cherry on top of this fucked up day.

 

   Whatever , she huffs heavily, pulling up her face-mask and adjusting her glasses as she starts the trek back to her apartment building. Dispatch were about to capture her heading towards this delicious little date with the instant ramen swinging in the bag by her side. How scandalous.

 

  It was almost midnight and the guy wasn’t doing the best job of being secretive if she’s honest, almost like he wanted Nayeon to be entirely aware that he was there and watching to see if she was indeed going to meet up with her ‘secret boyfriend’ that the media had concocted for her all before the day was out. She was almost tempted to turn around and give him a little wave, but there was a body very firmly marching towards her direction and she felt herself freeze up.

 

  Fans could notice her fairly well, even when she was dressed in casual clothes and had most of her face covered by a hat and a mask - hell, some of them could distinguish her just by her fingertips if she stuck them out of a window, so she was fully prepared to talk to this fan as politely as possible and prayed that it wasn’t going to be a saesang at the very least.

 

  “Oh my Gooooooood, Jinnie! I haven’t seen you in forever!

 

  Wait, who?

 

  The now distinguishable woman threw her arms around Nayeon like they were the best of friends, engulfing her in a tight, awkward hug because Nayeon’s one arm still clutched limply at the bag in her grip while the other tentatively went to wrap around the stranger’s back. She had a big, mesmerising smile, by far the most genuine smile she’s seen today, and she leans in close to press her lips against Nayeon’s ear.

 

  “There’s a weird looking guy following you with a camera, just play along sweetheart, okay?”

 

  Oh no , did she think that…?

 

  “ God I haven’t seen you since eleventh grade, what have you been up? We soooooo need to catch up!” She pulls away from the hug to tug both of Nayeon’s hands into her own, a little difficult seeing as they were covered by long, sweater paws and she was still feebly holding onto the convenience store bag like her life depended on it. Nayeon stares at her in stunned disbelief, open mouthed and she was grateful she had the face mask on so the kind stranger couldn’t see how stupid she looked right now. She laughs, loud and bright into the mostly silent night and leans in with a grin.

 

  “I’m Jihyo, remember?” She says with a teasing wink, linking arms with Nayeon as she leans back in to whisper softly. “I’ll walk you back home, okay?”

 

  Nayeon should probably tell her that she wasn’t actually in any danger. Nayeon should definitely tell her that she wasn’t actually in any danger, but ‘Jihyo’ is pressing so comfortably against her side, and she’s warm and friendly and is looking at Nayeon with those large, inviting eyes…

 

  She nods slowly, something getting stuck in her throat at the megawatt grin the other woman sends her in response.

 

  “Cool, you lead the way and I’ll stick to you like glue, I promise.”

 

  Jihyo gives her a dorky thumbs up that pulls at her heart, just a little bit she swears.

 

  It’s quiet, just the sound of shuffling footsteps and the rustle of the plastic bag at her side, punctuated by the occasional car driving by in the distance and Nayeon’s uneven breaths as they got closer to her home.

 

  “So, what’s your actual name then, unless I’m actually some sort of wizard and you’re called Jinnie?”

 

  Nayeon laughs heartily, pulling down her face mask seeing as there was no point in trying to go undetected at this point.

 

  “No, it’s Nayeon, though Jinnie is pretty cute.”

 

  “Nice to meet you Nayeon.”

 

  There was no flash of recognition at her exposed face or her name, just a light squeeze of the hand wrapped around her arm and a cute grin.

 

   Holy shit, this girl doesn’t actually know who Nayeon is.

 

  She isn’t sure if she’s thrilled or if her ego’s a little wounded.

 

  “N-nice to meet you too, Jihyo.” She stutters awkwardly, coughing into the sleeve of her hoodie in an attempt to mask the nervousness. This just in, Korea’s up and rising it girl actress can take out an entire gang on screen but can’t actually talk normally to a pretty girl on the street. Tzuyu would never let her live this down.

 

  They talk for the rest of the walk home, just mindless chatter and getting to know each other, and somehow Nayeon feels more comfortable in the presence of this woman she’d met just a few minutes ago than people she’d known for most of her career. She learned that Jihyo is twenty-two, so just two years younger than herself, and she’s a student at SNU studying psychology. The course eats up a whole chunk of her time considering she also works part time at a nearby restaurant, which is why she was walking home alone on the same Seoul street that Nayeon was at almost midnight.

 

  Her apartment building comes into sight and Nayeon’s reluctant to pull away, but even though the man following them disappeared a few blocks ago she’s keenly aware of the slightly more discreet dispatch van following them at a steady pace a little further back. She wonders how many pictures they already have of the two of them walking cosily arm in arm down the streets of Seoul and she winces a little. She has to make sure Jihyo doesn’t turn around, otherwise there’ll be pictures of her plastered across every news article come morning.

 

  “Ah, thank you Jihyo,” she murmurs softly, pulling away from her arm to start the walk to her building but she’s pulled back into a fierce hug.

 

  “Thank you for letting me walk you home Nayeon,” she sinks into the embrace, can practically hear the rapid fire click of the camera shutter in the van following them and for a moment, she just doesn’t care, “I don’t think I’d forgive myself if I didn’t know you got home safely.”

 

  “You don’t even know me though.”

 

  The younger girl shrugs, a sheepish grin stealing its way across her face and Nayeon has to blink the infatuation out of her system.

 

  “I see you sometimes. When I’m walking home from a shift, you always pop into that little corner store about the same time. I uh,” she pauses, rubbing at the back of her neck with what Nayeon thinks might be a blush rising on her cheeks, “follow you sometimes. Not in a creepy way! I promise! Just, I make sure you get home safe.”

 

  “This might just be the cutest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

 

  Relief overwhelms the girl’s face at Nayeon’s response.

 

  “Being escorted home by the stranger who may or may not have been following you for the last few months to avoid being followed by another, arguably more creepy stranger?”

 

  “Yes,” Nayeon says through a laugh, pushing her glasses back up the bridge of her nose with a wide smile, “but luckily the stranger turned out to be pretty cute and has just been looking after me without me knowing these past few months.”

 

  The sheepish grin turns bashful at the compliment, a strip of red riding high on Jihyo’s cheeks as she looks anywhere other than Nayeon’s teasing gaze.

 

  “But seriously, thank you.” The idol turns to look back at her building when a thought flits across her mind. “Wait a minute, how are you getting home? ‘Cause I’m not about to stay here and let you walk back home alone after you’ve made sure I got back safely.”

 

  Jihyo shushes her with a soft laugh, finger reaching out to tap at the hard ridge of her brows as they furrowed in concern. Her eyes widen in surprise at the unexpected contact, and how the the gentle lilt of the younger girl’s laugh made her tummy tighten familiarly.

 

  “I only live five minutes away.” She scuffs her shoes against the pavement, hands reaching into her pockets nervously after pulling away from Nayeon with a jolt. Maybe she hadn’t expected to be so bold either. Nayeon thought she was cute. “And before you say, I only walk on the completely lit pathways and I’m a black belt in taekwondo. So I think I’ll be fine.”

 

  Nayeon grumbles a few more times, clearly reluctant with letting her go and Jihyo pulls her hand back out of her pocket with an amiable eye roll.

 

  “If you want I can give you my phone number. Y’know, just so you can text me and make sure I made it all of the two steps back to my dorm okay.”

 

  Her stomach flip flops pathetically at the shy smile on the other girl’s face as she waits with an outstretched hand, the tips of her ears burning red and balancing unsteadily on nervous tip toes.

 

  She can vaguely hear her manager’s warning blaring loud and clear in her head, multiple lectures and talks about how she should never give any of her personal information to a stranger, or give them any sort of access to her phone or private accounts.

 

  She plucks her phone out of her pocket, swiping to unlock the device and hands it hastily over to Jihyo, who lights up like a kid at Christmas.

 

  The younger girl taps at the screen for a few moments, face illuminated by the bright light of the phone and Nayeon thinks that if she’d have really wanted to, she could have made it in the entertainment industry too. A model, perhaps. Or maybe even a singer - her voice was rich and soothing and Nayeon would bet her right arm that she’d amass a legion of loyal followers in a moment if she’d really wanted to.

 

  But no, instead she’s just a ridiculously pretty, overworked, tired psychology student coming home from her shift at a nearby restaurant, who had just finished typing her number into Im Nayeon’s phone and was handing it back with a small smile.

 

  “I texted myself so I’d have your number, but you can’t look until I message you back - okay?”

 

  All Nayeon can do is nod compliantly, taking back her phone from her outstretched hand and pretending that she didn’t linger when their fingers brushed. Her brain goes numb and she’s all nervous jitters when Jihyo pulls her back in for one last hug before she departs with a small wave and a soft farewell - nothing like the highly accomplished and decorated actress her wikipedia page claims her to be.

 

  She doesn’t really register much after that. Doesn’t remember walking into the lobby of her apartment building, or the fact that she walked straight past the concierge and he would most definitely inform her manager that she was out way past curfew, or the entire elevator ride up to the sixteenth floor or even getting into her apartment and sinking onto the couch in a half-dazed slump of disbelief.

 

  It’s not until her phone pings with a text alert about five minutes later that she actually snaps back to the present.

 


Pretty Jichu who walks me home~

 

Told you I’d get back just fine ;) If you ever need someone to protect you from all the weird, creepy guys out there, I’m just around the corner :) Good night Unnie!    

 


  She gnaws at her thumbnail hesitantly. She really shouldn’t be such a mess over one pretty girl. Her entire line of work is filled with pretty girls left, right and centre for Christs sake.

 

  And yet…

 

  She makes her way into the kitchen, rapidly typing out a message before her nerves get the better of her, and then throwing her phone onto the couch so she wouldn’t be distracted by any replies or angry messages from her manager.


 

Thank you Jichu :) I’ll take you up on that some time, good night~




 

 

 

   Jihyo wakes up to what could at best be described as a war zone.

 

  Momo is on top of her, literally, shouting some vague incomprehensible nonsense that she was definitely not awake enough to understand yet, shaking her shoulders and shoving her phone in her face urgently. Sana’s just behind her, eyes wide with disbelief and excitement and Jihyo knew that having these two as roommates would make University more interesting, but maybe she was having second thoughts about agreeing so easily to share a dorm with the Business and Maths students at this moment in time.

 

  “Jihyo, what the fuck !”

 

  “Look at the fucking screen, oh my god !”

 

  “How the hell did you meet Im Nayeon? I didn’t even know you knew her? What else are you hiding from me you traitor?”

 

  Okay, the mention of Nayeon’s name snaps her to alertness, sluggishly wiping the sleep out of her eyes and shoving Momo’s phone out of her face.

 

  “How do you know Nayeon? I literally only met her last night and didn’t mention her name.”

 

  Sana and Momo stare at her in muted shock.

 

  “Jihyo, she’s literally one of Korea’s biggest actresses right now.”

 

  She thinks of the small, pretty woman who she always see’s going to to the shop on the corner, in her baggy, worn out hoodie and cute, round glasses.

 

  “Nah, you must be mistaken with another Nayeon.”

 

  Momo shoves her phone back into Jihyo’s face, the younger girl squinting at the close proximity and barely making out the front page of Naver.

 

  “Jihyo, you guys are plastered on every single news site.”

 

  She’s never moved so fast before in her life, snatching the phone out of her concerned roommates hand and clutching it in her own as she scoured the website. Everywhere she scrolled, there were articles with Im Nayeon’s name attached, and vaguely blurry pictures of the supposed actress deep in the embrace of a currently unidentified woman with a big, dopey smile on her face. Jihyo swallows the bile that had crawled into her throat.

 

  “Im Nayeon meeting a mystery lover?”

 

  “Secret boyfriend just a ruse? Nayeon actually dating unknown non-celebrity.”

 

  “Late night adventures with Korea’s sweetheart? Exclusive photos of Im Nayeon meeting for a midnight rendezvous.”

 

  The phone drops into her lap as the pictures and words begin to blur together the further down the articles she gets, wiping her eyes in stunned disbelief at the unexpected revelation.

 

  “She’s… just some girl I always see at the convenience store by my work… I didn’t know she was a fucking celebrity, Jesus Christ.”

 

  “You mean to say you’ve been spying on Im Nayeon for a while and didn’t even recognise her? Her face is everywhere , Hyo! Literally, there’s a billboard just down the street with her gorgeous face slapped across it!”

 

  Momo shushes Sana with a hand across her mouth, pulling the other girl down onto the bed and ignoring the muffled sounds of protest she made against her hand.

 

  “Hyo, half of Korea thinks that Im Nayeon is dating you now.”

 

  Jihyo stares down at her hands, focused on the slight tremble as her fingers clenched in her bed sheets for some form of stability.

 

  “No, you read the articles.” She glances pointedly between the two girls, continuing at the affirmative nods she gets in response, “They didn’t get my face. Just hers. And they don’t know it’s me in the pictures.”

 

  “I mean we could tell it was you. Mostly because we recognised the street and your jacket has that big ass coffee stain we never quite managed to get out - look, I said I was sorry, stop giving me that look - but,” Sana huffs exaggeratedly, holding Momo’s arm behind her back in retribution for not letting her speak earlier and ignoring her pleas of mercy, “the point is if we could tell, someone else is gonna see the pictures soon and think ‘hey - that girl looks kind of familiar’.”

 

  Jihyo pales at the thought of being famous in any way shape or form - especially as part of some lesbian dating scandal dispatch seemed to have pulled out of thin fucking air.

 

  Her phone. She has to talk to Nayeon about this - get some kind of explanation for whatever the fuck was going on.

 

  She fumbles on her bedside table for the device but it wasn’t where she left it, looking frantically under her pillows and the sheets for the device until Momo coughs pointedly, dangling the device between her thumb and forefinger so she could grab it. She doesn’t figure out why the older girl looks so apologetic until she presses the home button.

 

  “Why the fuck is my phone disabled for an hour?”

 

  Momo purses her lips childishly, looking down at her clasped hands as she mumbles into her shoulder.

 

  “You uh, had a lot of messages from who we’re pretty certain was Nayeon. And we might have tried to reply.”

 

  “You guys know that my pass-code is just my birthday backwards?”

 

  There’s a pregnant pause between them, interrupted by the quick smack Sana aims at Momo’s shoulder and a few hurried whispers between the two, arguing ‘I told you to try that!’ and ‘You didn’t say shit!’ as though Jihyo wasn’t sitting right in front of them listening to every word. She drums her fingers on the device patiently - she knew trying to get their attention when they were bickering like this was futile.

 

  Nearly an hour and one super-sized, full breakfast that Momo had made as a peace offering (Sana drew a smiley face on the pancakes in syrup, and claimed just as much credit as Momo for the entire meal), she takes painstaking care to type in her pass-code correctly. There’s a slew of notifications waiting for her, various social media updates that she’d missed over the night and a few messages from group chats, but there’s a handful that catch her eye as she skims through them. Sana’s too busy trying to take swipes at the older girl’s pancakes, and Momo’s desperately trying to fend her off with a mouthful of food and an open bottle of syrup clutched threateningly as a weapon.

 


Nayeon Unnie with the cute glasses~

 

Jihyo, I know this is a lot but could you please let me explain

 

I know we only just met but I feel like I owe you an apology - and I want to make sure you’re okay. Would you mind coming to meet me today? If you’re not busy, that is

 

Jihyo-ah

 

Oh I’m an idiot, you’re probably still asleep >.<

 


  She glances up from the screen to see Momo leaning over Sana with her hand squishing her cheeks, yelling at the other girl to ‘spit it out!’ and Sana shaking her head vehemently, chewing defiantly on whatever part of Momo’s breakfast she’d managed to stuff into her mouth before she could stop her. Momo brandishes the now open bottle of syrup like a knife, Sana’s eyes widening in comical alarm as the excess begins to trickle down the bottle and closer to her face. Jihyo weighs up her priorities, reasoning that she could sacrifice the cleanliness of the kitchen (and Sana) for this conversation. The screams start a few moments after she starts typing out a reply.

 

I’m fine, don’t worry - but I’d still like to meet you if that’s okay. Where did you have in mind?

 

  Her phone chirps with a text not even half a minute after her reply had been delivered. Knowing the older woman had been waiting for her response eased the ache in her chest at seeing the thick globs of syrup now streaked across the kitchen counter and the floor.

 

That’s good to hear :) There’s a cute little café not too far away from my apartement actually - you know The Little Pot?

 

  There’s a loud crash followed by an unearthly shriek. She doesn’t bother looking up.

 

Yeah I walk past it on the way to one of my classes. What time is good for you? :)

 

  Footsteps thunder heavily in the dorm , followed by the sharp clatter of someone rummaging through the drawer full of utensils. Oh no.

 

Anytime you want :)

 

  More screaming.

 

How about now?

 

  “Momo if you don’t put that fucking bottle down, I swear to GOD - MOMO!”

 

Now is good :) See you soon pretty jichu~

 

 

  The bold teasing coaxes an involuntary smile from her lips, distracting her enough that she only just narrowly dodges the stray tangerine one of her roommates had lobbed in a vain attempt to hit the other. She locks the device, shoving it in the pocket of her jeans before pausing to grab Momo’s letterman jacket from the back of the couch and nimbly jumping over the two girls as they grappled in the kitchen. She doesn’t spare a glance behind her as she slips out the door, unwilling to think about what kind of state the dorm would be in by the time those two losers were done.

 

  That, she thinks, walking toward the stairwell with faint screaming echoing behind her, is most definitely a problem for later.

 

 


 

 

  Nayeon has been waiting for nine minutes and thirty three seconds.

 

  (Not that she’d been counting, or anything.)

 

  The café is calm and quiet, expectedly slow on a lazy Thursday morning, and she’s grateful for the extra bit of anonymity that the lack of other customers affords her. There’s a reason she keeps coming back to this place, and it’s not because of the vintage, hard wood flooring or the admittedly unique interior decoration that makes Nayeon feel like she’s about to shoot for some glamour 80's indie band magazine there and then.

 

  No, it’s because all of the staff there are nice, and more importantly discreet. They also know how to make a bitching cup of coffee, but after the absolute ball ache of an early morning she’d had - dragged into an emergency meeting at 6am in the goddamn morning over her ‘scandal’, all of her schedules for the day being wiped so she can keep a low profile while her company prepares a cover up story, the sheer possibility that she might have to find a beard just to make things convincing - she had never felt such relief as when she took one step into the little store and the cashier serving had taken a single look at her and ushered her into their most tucked away table at the back.

 

  Her coffee is already prepared by the time she’s guided into her seat, the other barista sliding it down the counter-top with an easy, warm smile and a cheeky wink for good measure. The other girl rolls her eyes so smoothly Nayeon’s almost impressed, taking the cup and placing it on her table for her. She reaches in her bag for her purse, but there’s a slender hand on top of her own preventing her from doing so.

 

  “It’s on the house.”

 

  She laughs, eyes a little wide in surprise.

 

  “I think it goes without saying that giving me a freebie is unnecessary, Dahyun.”

 

  The easy going part-timer folds her arms stubbornly, taking a step back when Nayeon tries to stuff a few notes in the front of her apron.

 

  “I know, but you look like you could do with a little kindness today.” She glances around the mostly empty cafe, the only other patron an elderly man reading a newspaper by the window. “Stay here as long as you need to. Chaeng’s on pap patrol, don’t worry Unnie.”

 

  She looks up to see the orange haired girl glaring menacingly towards the front door, eyes peeled for any potential reporters or dispatch photographers that might come this way. The college student looks about as threatening as the life-sized rilakkuma plushie Nayeon keeps at the foot of her bed, with her arms crossed and firm frown fixed in place as she squints at every single passerby with suspicion.

 

  The sentiment is appreciated, regardless of how effective her 5 foot nothing bodyguard might prove to be. She might want to ease up on the frowning though, lest she give the wrong person a bad impression and get chewed out by some cranky, middle-aged worker looking for their daily fix of caffeine.

 

  Dahyun walks away while she’s distracted by the other, leaving the money in Nayeon’s outstretched hand. She can’t help the small smile that creeps onto her face at the nonchalant whistling as the college student busies herself with wiping down the already immaculate counter, taking a small sip of her coffee and letting the flavour wash over her tongue as she makes a note to leave a generous amount in the tip jar. She knows the owner, knows that the employee’s actually get to keep whatever’s left in the jar - knows for a fact that both of the girls pulling stupid faces at each other as they stack coffee cups together carefully deserve something a little more than the instant cups of ramen they survive on.

 

  She really shouldn’t be so fond of them. And yet, here she is; watching the two bicker over the settings on the espresso machine with a fond smile sneaking it’s way to her lips, hiding it behind the rim of the cup to take another sip as Chaeyoung thwacks the other girl upside the head with a drinks menu. She doesn’t think it’s their intention to distract her like they are, but the unease and trepidation that had been building in her stomach since the moment Jihyo first replied to her had been steadily eased away by challenging smiles and muted yells of pain as they flicked and poked at each other behind the counter.

 

  Yeah. She’s definitely going to slip as many extra bills inside that tip jar as possible.

 

  The door chimes loudly, breaking through the cozy, sleepy haze of the café as someone shuffles into the building slowly. Nayeon can’t quite see the door from her seat, but she watches Chaeng spring into action at the intrusion, only to falter in her step a moment later.

 

  “Oh, Jihyo - what are you doing here?”

 

  The anxiety returns with vengeance. It had slipped her mind that the two barista’s were students at SNU too, and there was that small chance they might have known the pretty girl she’d accidentally dragged into the world of defamation and scandals.

 

  She peeks her head just enough above the top of the booth that she can see Jihyo smiling at the smaller girl fondly, eyes glancing around the café nervously.

 

  “Oh I’m uh, here to see someone, actually.”

 

  She can literally see the gears and cogs turning in Chaeng’s mind as she comes to conclusions, turning to look back at Dahyun for confirmation of whatever she was thinking. The blonde looks towards the back at Nayeon, who shoots a dorky thumbs up back at the girl.

 

  “She’s at the back Jihyo,” Dahyun interjects before Chaeyoung malfunctions, guiding the older girl with a gentle hand on the back, “Want me to fix you a drink?”

 

  Jihyo beams and Nayeon feels something sink pathetically in her chest. She thinks it might have been her dignity, or her pride - at this point it doesn’t matter because oh God, she’s walking towards her.

 

  Nayeon pretends like she hadn’t been watching like an idiot, taking another sip of her coffee. She was going to have to get another one, at this rate. She looks up at the wrong time, almost choking on her drink as she swallowed when she saw Jihyo looking down at her with a knowing smile.

 

  “So, you’re an actress huh?”

 

  Ah. She shouldn’t have expected her to not beat around the bush.

 

  “Y-yeah, I am.” Im Nayeon? Stuttering? God she was absolutely done for. “Is that...okay?”

 

  Jihyo finally takes a seat, shrugging off her jacket and Nayeon isn’t sure if she’s grateful or a little upset that she isn’t wearing it anymore.

 

  “Mmmm,” She hums playfully, index finger tapping on the table lightly, “I don’t know, I’ve never met any actresses before. What are they like?”

 

  Nayeon blinks once. Twice. Jihyo grins at her expectantly.

 

  “Some are really nice. Most of the ones I’ve worked with, anyway. A few are a little demanding, very confident in themselves and they want nothing but the best.”

 

  Honestly is the best policy. Jihyo hums thoughtfully.

 

  “And this one actress, Im Nayeon, what’s she like?”

 

  She scratches the back of her neck anxiously, but there’s a determined grin that peeks through even behind the rim of her cup and Jihyo’s smiling like she knows every thought running through her mind. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, she should know how pretty she thinks she is.

 

  “She’s kind of demanding, a little spoiled.” Jihyo laughs softly, shooting a grateful smile up at Dahyun who places her freshly made drink in front of her. It smells sweet, hot chocolate she thinks, and the wave of comfort that washes over the younger girls face as she takes her first sip makes Nayeon wish she had a camera to record it.

 

  “Does she make a habit out of getting caught taking pictures with strange girls in the streets late at night?”

 

   Now there’s a prominent blush rising on her cheeks.

 

  “N-no, she doesn’t. My company’s handling that now, by the way. And I can assure you that nobody’s got any clue of your identity so far.”

 

  “I feel a little bit silly, just marching up to you thinking you were in danger when all I did was cause a bigger mess.”

 

  “Don’t,” Nayeon begins, waving her off gently, “I’ve been in worse scandals, trust me. And it was really cute.”

 

  Jihyo blushes, opting to take another sip of her own drink. Nayeon celebrates silently.

 

  “But I’m really sorry for any distress I may have caused you.”

 

  “Shouldn’t I be saying that?” Jihyo chuckles lightly, leaning forward slightly on the table, cup comfortably held between both hands and an eyebrow raised teasingly.

 

  “Nah, if anything you got me a few days off where I can just relax. Management wants me to lay low for a while until this blows over, they’ve already issued a statement anyway.”

 

  “What’s the story?”

 

  “Hmm,” Nayeon hums, glancing up thoughtfully, “you’re a childhood friend that I’ve known since middle school.”

 

  “Cliché, but continue.”

 

  “And we happened to bump into each other when I was out for a walk. Nothing more nothing less, and pretty soon there’s going to be some coincidentally well timed rumours about me and some older actor going around.”

 

  Jihyo’s nose crinkles distastefully. “Gross.”

 

  “Yeah, but it’ll mean I can actually breathe easy for a little while. A lesbian dating rumour hits a little too close to home unfortunately.”

 

  Her manager was going to kill her. Yeah, sure Nayeon - basically come out to a random girl you barely know (not to mention the same girl you’ve been pictured with the night before) and risk your entire career. Real smooth, Nayeon.

 

  Jihyo smiles empathetically.

 

  “I thought it was bad enough having to hide it in high school, but this seems way worse.”

 

  Wait, what?

 

  Her jaw almost hits the table as Jihyo continues talking.

 

  “What, you’re surprised?” The younger girl laughs again, loud enough for the two barista’s pretending they aren’t listening to startle.

 

  “No, I mean yes - kind of?”

 

  Jihyo shrugs, eyes glowing with mirth.

 

  “I get that a lot, don’t worry.” She shuffles closer, close enough that all Nayeon had to do was stretch out a finger to touch her hand.

 

  “Hey, can I ask you a question?” Nayeon asks abruptly, fueled by a little bit of liquid courage (seriously, how did Chaeyoung make coffee taste so good). Jihyo nods and she continues.

 

  “Did you really not know who I am?”

 

  Jihyo smirks.

 

  “Why, wounded ego?”

 

  “No, I just - it’s been a while since someone hasn’t. And you’re still not treating me anything differently, even though you know now.”

 

  The younger girl tilts her head in thought, almost like a puppy.

 

  “Do you want me to?”

 

  “...No. This is, really nice. I really like it.”

 

  “Good, because I knew you as the cute Unnie with glasses who buys way too much ramen before I knew you as Im Nayeon the actress.”

 

  “Is that how you referred to me?”

 

  She looks away sheepishly. So that’s a yes, Nayeon grins smugly, adding another mental tally to her list of victories today.

 

  She goes to take another sip of her coffee only to find the cup entirely empty. There’s barely time for a frown to form before there’s another fresh cup steaming in front of her, Dahyun whirling away before she can even say thanks while mouthing ‘It’s on the house!’ with a sloppy wink.

 

  There’s silence for a moment, each of them taking sips of their drinks and Nayeon wincing at the discovery of hers still being too hot.

 

  “I like it.” Her voice is uncharacteristically quiet, enough so that Jihyo has to lean a little closer to hear her. “Being the cute Unnie with glasses. Who may or may not buy too much ramen.”

 

  “Yeah?” The younger girls smile is tender as she looks at Nayeon warmly.

 

  “Yeah.”

 

  “Then that’s how I’ll keep treating you. Although, I think I want to get to know you a little more. Y’know, just so I can protect you better when I walk you home again.”

 

  She’s long given up fighting the absolutely smitten smiles.

 

  “You need to know my favourite colour to keep me safe?”

 

  Jihyo grins.

 

  “Yes.”

 

  “Blue.”

 

  “Purple.”

 

  She shouldn’t be so excited because of such a simple exchange, but Jihyo is looking at her so playfully, and it sinks in that she’s just - sat in a regular, old café on a Thursday morning. No schedules, no hectic film sets, no screaming fans. Just her, and a pretty girl with eyes like the moon and a warm cup of coffee underneath her fingertips. It’s a little surreal, that something so mundane has filled her with more exhilaration than anything she’s done in the past few months.

 

  (Good company really makes the difference.)

 

  She looks over at the counter, Dahyun and Chaeyoung’s heads whipping away so fast she thinks they might have self-induced whiplash.

 

  “But uh, now that we’ve been good friends since middle school,” Jihyo laughs again and Nayeon adds another mark to her tally, “We can meet up more. If you want to, I mean.”

 

  The tally chart smashes straight through the window with how soft the smile on Jihyo’s face is. “I’d really like that, if you have time, of course.”

 

  “I can make time.” She almost trips over her words with how eagerly they blurted out. “I mean, y’know, I’m not that busy.”

 

  A finely shaped eyebrow arches in disbelief, but the amused smile softens the blow a little.

 

  “Suuuuuuuure.” She drawls playfully, eyes disappearing in a warm smile when Nayeon sighs dramatically.

 

  She isn’t sure how long they stay there; she measures the time in cups of coffee and the number of times she makes Jihyo smile, both of which she lost count of before the clock had barely struck noon, but she leaves with her chest warm and light, feeling like she’s walking on clouds when Jihyo gives her a quick hug goodbye. She watches the younger girl hurry down the street (she did not, in fact, have a free day of classes - forgetting the one class annoyingly situated late in the afternoon), pulling back on her face mask as she disappears within the throng of people walking around the city. She catches sight of herself in the reflection of a shop window, feeling much more fond of the way the thick-rimmed glasses looked resting on her face.

 

  Yeah, she liked it a lot.