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Second Chances

Chapter Text

Click. Click. Flash.

A flurry of cameras enveloped the stretch limousine that had just pulled up to the red carpet. The two women stepping out of it were no strangers to the limelight. The minute their stilettos hit the ground, a flurry of reporters were shouting questions at them.

“SuA, when will you be dropping the teasers for your next comeback? Your fans are chomping at the bit to see what you’ll do next!”

“JiU, is it true that you’re among the star studded cast for next year’s big superhero flick?”

“Who are you two wearing? You look divine!”

The two women, completely unphased by the attention, strutted down the carpet. They mostly ignored the sea of paparazzi except to pose for a few pictures. They had both been in the business for a long time and knew who was worth acknowledging. Most of these people would publish complete and utter garbage on their rags which sold at drugstore checkouts, but a few of the prominent media outlets were in attendance. SuA and JiU made sure those photographers got them at their best angle. Nothing was worse than having an unflattering picture pasted on a major magazine cover for everyone to see.

Since the two had gone public as a couple several years ago, they were no longer scolded about PDA in front of the cameras. When they’d first started dating, their joint manager, Yoohyeon, had nearly imploded trying to protect their image. She had forbid them from even linking pinkies outside of their penthouse apartment. They had been living together since they both got into show business, having been friends for many years before that. Now the two were known as the biggest power couple in the idol industry. JiU’s acting and modeling career was at its peak, and SuA was at the top of the music charts every comeback.

SuA looped her arm through JiU’s and threw a coy look at a nearby camera. Her dress had been custom made for her by one of the biggest designers in the world, and she knew she looked fabulous. Throughout her time as an idol, she had cultivated a figure that her countless fans both admired and envied. She made sure to show it off in her short, tight, custom black dress. It had just enough sparkle to catch people’s eyes without being gaudy. Its length and fit flattered her fantastic shape. To make up for the dress’s subtlety, she accessorized it with plenty of bling in the form of jewelry, a sparkly clutch, and diamond-encrusted heels. Her newly dyed dark hair was pulled into an immaculate updo with not a single strand out of place. SuA reveled in the attention as she was told how good she looked from countless onlookers.

Next to her, JiU looked just as breathtaking. While SuA’s taller companion was more subtle in her attention-seeking, she nonetheless smiled at her girlfriend’s antics and shared in her praise. JiU’s red hair was down in silky curls, framing her doll-like face. She wore a strapless maroon gown that swept down to her knees, allowing her iconic legs to be seen by the public along with her expensive strappy heels.

JiU, like SuA, was a celebrity whose looks were envied by all. Unlike SuA, however, JiU did not take pride in this. In fact, anyone who interacted with the girl claimed that she seemed almost embarrassed by the attention she received. While SuA thrived on the adoration of those around her, JiU preferred to just live her life with as few cameras as possible. They were an interesting pair given their different personalities and approaches to fame, but they complemented each other well. Everyone agreed they were the most in-vogue couple at the moment. Reporters were practically wrestling each other to get snapshots of the two together in their finery.

After posing for countless photo-ops and stopping for a few interviews, the two women made their way into the venue for tonight’s event. They were attending a movie premiere which starred one of JiU’s colleagues. The two had worked on several projects together, so she insisted on supporting him in his breakout role. SuA, as her routine plus-one at said events, was thus invited along by proxy. Even though the two had a tendency to capture the room, it was considered a huge career boost to have the industry’s power couple in attendance at your event. Thus, JiU and SuA were asked to attend just about everything as a pair.

At the premiere, JiU looked thrilled to be watching her friend achieve his dreams. SuA, on the other hand, was trying not to turn up her nose. She was mostly there for publicity purposes, and because the love of her life had asked her to come. Her plan was to dip after the screening and then hit up her favorite nightclub for a surprise performance. She and Yoohyeon had agreed that it would be an amazing way to get some publicity for her upcoming album. It worked out that the nightclub was near the venue where the premiere was being held. She had little interest in watching JiU’s friend as the killer in this cheesy slasher flick, but she would pretend to enjoy it in case any photographers were present for the screening. After that, she would be free to do as she pleased. The minute she and JiU took their seats, SuA was already counting down the minutes until she’d be free.

The next two hours were filled with grating, suspenseful music and over-the-top special effects. SuA pretended to be surprised by the predictable plot-twist at the end of the movie. JiU, either demonstrating her talent as an actress, or just being a supportive friend, seemed completely engrossed in the story.

Mercifully, the film eventually came to an end. SuA clapped along with everyone else, trying not to yawn or roll her eyes. The last thing she needed was another scandal. Several celebrities had already flocked to social media to victimize themselves in attempts to use her for relevance. She couldn’t help that she had a bit of resting bitch face and a tendency to speak her mind. While JiU was the industry’s sweetheart, SuA tended to be seen as a bitchy diva. Yoohyeon claimed that SuA was her worst nightmare as a publicist, but had been by her side since the beginning of her career. Speaking of Yoohyeon, it was time for SuA to meet her at their agreed pick-up location.

SuA turned to JiU, gently tapping her arm so as not to draw too much attention. Shouting someone’s name at a high society event was equivalent to farting in public. Celebrities were highly encouraged to be subtle unless they wanted their interactions broadcast to the world.

“I’m gonna head out now. You wanna tag along and see your girlfriend in action?” SuA whispered while texting Yoohyeon that she would see her soon.

JiU turned to her and shook her head.

“Sorry, but I’d like to be at the afterparty. It’d be impolite not to congratulate my friend and celebrate his hard work with him,” JiU insisted.

SuA rolled her eyes.

“You’re always so concerned about other people’s feelings. That film was a total snooze fest. Why anyone would wanna celebrate its making is beyond me. Oh well, meet me at the club later if you’re feeling up to it. I’ll probably be there until pretty late,” she muttered, giving her girlfriend a peck on the cheek as a farewell before jetting off.

SuA was greeted with a barrage of camera flashes as she made her exit from the premiere venue. Despite opting for the side door, an army of paparazzi had surrounded the perimeter on stakeout for photo opportunities. SuA didn’t mind the extra buzz, it would get people wondering what she was up to and would hopefully prompt more people to check out her performance. She waved at the cameras as she headed towards her exit vehicle where Yoohyeon was waiting. A limousine was too flashy for a discrete exit, so SuA had to settle for a luxury sports car chauffeuring her to her performance.

Yoohyeon had on her customary headset and business suit as she ushered SuA into the car she’d arranged to drive them to the club. Yoohyeon was constantly on the move since she managed two of the most powerful celebrities in the world. JiU and SuA had known Yoohyeon for many years, and she had always been meticulous about every detail. She was a perfect choice to be their manager. “Manager” was really an umbrella term when Yoohyeon’s real job was juggling the duties of publicist, agent, assistant, and friend to both girls. Yoohyeon handled it all with ease, though, and never complained about her work load.

SuA smiled at the taller girl who was in the midst of a rousing conversation with the club owner, arranging the final details for SuA’s show. Yoohyeon returned her smile and gestured for her to buckle up while still in conversation. SuA did as she was told. Once she was buckled, Yoohyeon urged the driver to put the pedal to the metal using hand signals. The car shot off towards the open road, a sea of cameras capturing its departure. SuA opened the window to blow some last minute kisses to the nearest reporters. She hoped she would be a front-page story by the end of the drive.

As the car rolled along on its way to the club, SuA was engrossed in her phone. At JiU’s behest, she had kept it off during the premiere. It had been agony having to sit through that crappy movie without any distractions, but she had done it out of respect for her girlfriend. She hoped that JiU would at least make it for the end of her publicity stunt. She could respect wanting to support a colleague, but was it so wrong for her to want some validation from her girlfriend? SuA was front and center at every fashion show, award ceremony, and general event that JiU attended. She had to admit she was a little bit miffed at her for opting to pass on this performance in favor of her friend’s dumb after party.

Yoohyeon had hung up the phone and glanced at her favorite client. She could see the smaller girl focused on her phone, which was typical. She was always taking selfies, posting on social media, or lurking on her hashtags to see what people were saying about her. Still, Yoohyeon could see that SuA was in a bit of a mood. SuA was cheerful ninety-nine percent of the time but when the girl was pissed she could be a real handful. Yoohyeon decided to tread carefully.

“Just so you know, everything’s all set for tonight. All you gotta do is show up and be your usual, talented, beautiful self. How was the premiere?” she opened, trying not to flat-out ask what was wrong.

“It was fine. The movie sucked, but at least JiU and I slayed the carpet walk,” SuA huffed, not looking up from her device.

“I see JiU chose to stick around. She texted me that she’d need a ride from the afterparty,” Yoohyeon observed.

“Yep, she decided her friend’s stupid movie is more important than her girlfriend of many years’s music career,” SuA snapped, looking ready to throw her phone at something...or someone.

Yoohyeon bit her lip. At least she’d caught on to what was wrong. That was the downside to being friends with both girls instead of just their employee. Yoohyeon was already tall, but she often found herself being stretched out as the middleman in lover’s spats between the two.

“I’m sure she’ll stop by when she can. JiU has never missed any of your concerts unless I screwed up and scheduled something for her on the same day. You know she loves you and your success means the world to her,” Yoohyeon assured SuA, who just frowned in response.

Yoohyeon was relieved when they pulled up to the alley adjacent to the nightclub. She could tell the driver felt similarly. SuA was small in stature, but her moodiness could fill the Taj Mahal.

“Looks like we’re here. I’ll go fetch the manager and make sure there’s security personnel to escort you in. We wouldn’t want any rogue fans catching wind of you being here and doing something dangerous. Wait here until I’m back, okay?” Yoohyeon instructed, stepping out of the car to enter the club’s side door.

SuA scoffed as an indication that she’d heard her manager’s directions. Yoohyeon ordered the driver to remain nearby until she got back. With that, Yoohyeon scampered off to find the club proprietor. The driver, obviously wanting to be as far away from the tiny primadonna as possible, informed SuA that he was stepping outside for a cigarette. SuA didn’t even acknowledge that she’d heard him, and kept her face in her phone.

“Bitch,” the driver muttered to himself as he emerged from the car, careful not to be overheard.

He lit up and looked around as the smoke wafted from his lips. While the club itself was one of the hottest spots in the city, the alley they were parked in was grungy. The only scenery was a nearby dumpster and the entire space reeked of piss and garbage. It was certainly no place for a famous popstar to be parked at.

As the driver noted their surroundings, a large truck was backing its way into the alley. He narrowed his eyes as he observed the gigantic vehicle coming towards his own. What kind of idiot was driving a big truck like that in these tiny side streets? Not to mention it was way too late for any utility workers to be on the clock. He had a feeling that whoever was driving this truck wasn’t qualified to do so.

His suspicions were confirmed when the truck continued to wedge itself dangerously close to the car SuA was in. The chauffeur felt his stomach drop to his knees as he realized that there was a possibility his beloved car was going to be crushed by this behemoth. Even more troubling was the fact that the pop princess had yet to exit the car. Was she aware that a gigantic truck was about to run her over if she didn’t haul ass out of there? Despite his dislike of the self-centered idol, he would never wish this upon anyone. He began yelling at the top of his lungs at both the driver and SuA, hoping one of them would come to their senses.

Inside the car, SuA had just received a text from JiU. Her girlfriend was practically shooting rainbows out of her ass at this afterparty. She had sent every happy emoji in her arsenal along with pictures of her with her favorite actor friends. SuA snorted. It was nice to know her girlfriend was having the time of her life at a dumb party for a pathetic excuse of a movie when she could have been here to support her. She smirked in triumph as she closed the app, leaving JiU on read. That would teach her. With her attention no longer on her mobile device, SuA realized someone was screaming. She looked up to see what was wrong only to see a giant truck careening towards her before the windows of the car shattered and the crunching of metal was all she heard. After that, the world went to black.

Yoohyeon stepped out with the club owner beside her along with a team of security guards. They came out just in time to witness the truck crashing right into the car with SuA still inside. Yoohyeon observed the chauffeur who was madly thrashing about and screaming at the truck driver to stop. SuA was nowhere in sight. The taller girl’s knees went weak.

“Oh my god! Is she still in there?” Yoohyeon screamed at the chauffeur, her face deathly pale.

The driver nodded, prompting Yoohyeon to fall to the ground and scream in anguish. The club owner and security personnel raced to remedy the scene, hoping to stop the truck before it continued its collision course and took the building with it too. One of the guards climbed into the truck and forcefully removed the driver, a young guy who was clearly drugged out of his mind. With the driver out of the way, the guard pulled the emergency brake system and the truck lurched to a clumsy stop, the sports car attached to its underbelly.

Yoohyeon, not bothering to see whether it was safe or not, raced to the scene. The proprietor was already on the phone explaining the situation to the emergency dispatcher. First responders would be there soon, but not soon enough for her. She had to know what happened to her dear friend. Yoohyeon joined the security guards who were trying to dig through the rubble and salvage any signs of life.

“SuA, are you okay in there? Answer me!” Yoohyeon shrieked, her voice sounding animalistic even to her own ears.

One of the security guards put a hand on her shoulder, sending a wave of panic through her. She hoped the next thing he said would be anything but that.

“Miss, I’m sorry. We can see the body from here. I don’t think she survived the impact,” he explained in a voice so small she almost didn’t hear him at first.

It took a moment for the words to register and send Yoohyeon to the ground with a heart wrenching sob. SuA was dead.

Chapter Text

SuA woke with a start. She glanced around confusedly. Last she remembered, she had been sitting in a sports car with a truck barreling towards her. Now she found herself in a room with stark, white walls and matching flooring. Was she dreaming? This entire place had an odd glow to it that was beyond anything of this world. She had heard about people seeing lights in tunnels and all kinds of stuff when they died. Maybe she was having one of those near death experiences? Was she currently hallucinating while her body was laid out on a hospital stretcher?

“Wow, you’re extremely intuitive,” a voice piped up.

SuA shrieked and clutched a hand to her chest at the sudden invasion of privacy. Had she been thinking out loud? She glanced around for the source of this mysterious voice. To her surprise, a short haired woman wearing a white pantsuit was standing directly in front of her. She hadn’t even seen her come in! SuA’s eyes widened as she tried to figure out where the hell this chick had come from and what she was doing here.

“Where did I come from? I come from everywhere. This is my domain,” the same voice answered her question.

SuA nearly fainted. She could hear a voice, and the woman in front of her looked like she was conversing with her, but no one had actually opened their mouths and said anything. This time she knew for a fact she hadn’t voiced her thoughts, and she didn’t see the woman’s lips so much as twitch. This was seriously starting to freak her out.

“I know this may all be a bit overwhelming, but do not be afraid. Here in the Great Beyond we communicate via telepathy. You see, your earthly body died so now your soul is here with me. That’s why we’re able to talk without using our mouths,” the woman explained.

“And who the hell are you?” SuA fired back, testing out this so-called telepathy.

The woman chuckled, putting a hand to her mouth. SuA blinked. Apparently she was capable of using her mouth to make noise as well. Did souls even have mouths? This entire thing was crazy.

“My name is Dami. I’m the ruler of the Great Beyond. Basically, my job is to greet every soul that comes here after death and decide where they end up. I suppose the best way to describe my job is a death god. I can see that you’re full of questions. They will all be answered in due time once you end up where you’re supposed to. Now then, let’s take a look at your life on earth, shall we?” the now identified death god spoke up.

“As you’ve probably learned in basic theology and philosophy classes, we decide where each soul will end up based on how much good they did while on earth. Those who did extraordinary deeds get a front-row seat to paradise. Those who caused pain and suffering get their just desserts in hell. A majority of souls, however, are unremarkable either way. Those that are neither good nor bad get to spend eternity in a place I like to call limbo. They basically chill out in between worlds and don’t really do much,” Dami explained.

SuA nodded, absorbing what the woman was saying. She had a feeling Paradise wasn’t the place for people like her. Sure she’d attended and even hosted several charity galas, but all she’d done was sign a hefty check and then spend the rest of the evening pretending she cared in order to promote her image. She still liked to think of herself as a decent person. Sure she’d made nine choreographers, five makeup artists, her doorman, and just about every person in the food service industry cry at some point, but it was only because she wanted the best and they failed to deliver. Was it such a crime to call someone an incompetent excuse for a human being because they’d failed to make her triple soy nonfat latte in under five minutes?

As she pondered her life on earth, Dami had pulled out a manilla folder with her name on it. The death god was currently sifting through its contents. The look on her face suggested that she was less than impressed with SuA’s moral conduct. The short haired woman closed the folder and cleared her throat before speaking up, or, in this case, sending another telepathic message.

“My, my, it seems like you were quite the celebrity in your prime. We get a lot of famous people here. Of course we do, everybody dies, don’t they?” Dami paused to laugh at her own commentary before continuing, “Usually celebrities go one place or the other. The ones who went out of their way to contribute to wholesome causes get to perform on the great big stage in the sky, aka they go to heaven. The reality TV stars almost always get sent to hell. Can’t say I feel too bad for them, most of them are intolerable,” the death god kept talking.

SuA was getting impatient with all of this chatter. She had hated being forced to wait when she was alive on earth, and she detested it just as much now. It felt like she was trapped in an elevator with some annoying schmuck while she waited for the machine to arrive on her floor. She wanted to scream “Just get on with it already!” but wasn’t sure that would help her case.

“It seems you’ve forgotten about the whole telepathy deal. I don’t appreciate being rushed, just so you know. Anyways, you can probably guess that you’re not the most promising candidate for Paradise. You don’t exactly have the best track record for kind, selfless behavior. On the other hand, I’m torn on whether you quite deserve the hell sentence. I mean, you seem to have been pretty vain, shallow, and high maintenance, but you do have some redeeming qualities. Your fans absolutely adore you, as does your manager, and I could write a novel using the good things your girlfriend has to say about you,” Dami trailed off, clearly deep in thought.

SuA’s heart clenched at the mention of JiU’s name. She remembered that the last interaction they’d had was SuA purposely leaving her on read. It hurt to think that was the last impression she’d left on the woman she loved. She couldn’t leave things this way between them. It was too cruel. She could already picture how devastated JiU probably was. She knew the other girl well enough to imagine that she’d be blaming herself for not being there for SuA’s final moments. She longed to reach out and embrace her girlfriend, to reassure her that she had done nothing wrong. SuA wondered if her soul was able to cry, because that was certainly what she felt like doing.

Dami, still able to read her thoughts, expressed her sympathy.

“I’m sorry that you and JiU didn’t exactly end things on a good note. I hate having to separate lovers and families, but it’s part of the job. Death may be inevitable, but it still sucks. If you’d like, I actually have a way to see what’s happening on earth. It might make you feel better to watch JiU and see how she’s doing,” the death god offered.

SuA nodded, knowing that words were no longer necessary. With that, Dami pulled an orb from her coat pocket. The white, circular object in her hand began to glow before projecting an image for the two of them to see. SuA gasped. It was like she was watching JiU on television. SuA wanted to reach out and grab her, but knew that wasn’t a possibility. JiU was currently curled up on their shared couch, sobbing into a blanket that had been SuA’s favorite. Yoohyeon was sitting beside her, rubbing soothing circles on her back.

“I’m sorry there wasn’t more we could do,” Yoohyeon’s voice came through the projector.

SuA felt a pang of sympathy for her dear friend and manager. Yoohyeon looked like hell. She was still in the outfit she’d been wearing last night, and her hair was a mess.

“Please don’t apologize. You did everything you could. I’m glad at least you were there for her final moments. I wish I’d gone with her like she wanted instead of going to that dumb party. Maybe if I’d been there she wouldn’t have-” JiU couldn’t even finish her sentence before she broke down into another round of pitiful sobs.

Yoohyeon pulled the other girl into a hug, joining her in crying. SuA’s hand instinctively reached for their image on the orb. She would have given anything to be able to tell them she loved them and didn’t blame them for anything. This was all so unfair. SuA had been young and healthy, yet some idiot in a truck had taken her away before her time. She hadn’t had the luxury of knowing what was going to happen, so she hadn’t made her peace with anyone. If she had known she was going to die, she wouldn’t have been so bratty to JiU that night.

Dami, once again using that annoying ability of hers, cut in. The death god had put the orb away and was looking at SuA once more.

“I understand you’re full of regrets, but that’s the kicker about unexpected deaths. If you know your time is coming, you’re more likely to make peace with those around you. The thing is, shouldn’t you have been living that way all along? No one truly knows when they’re going to die. Doesn’t that mean everyone should always be acting as if at any moment they could disappear forever?” she pointed out.

She had a point. Still, SuA was fuming. Just because this chick was a death god, that didn’t give her the right to go wasting SuA’s time with this lecture on morality. What was the point if SuA was already dead? It’s not like there was anything she could do about it now…or was there? If there was even a fraction of a chance that she could see JiU one more time, she was willing to take it. Maybe Dami would be able to pull some strings for her. After all, she’d always received the VIP treatment on earth. Why should the Great Beyond be any different?

“Are you seriously trying to get me to arrange a way for you to go back to earth? Did you not hear the part about you being dead?” Dami scoffed.

SuA crossed her arms. Or at least gave the illusion of it. She still wasn’t quite sure how this whole soul thing worked. Did she actually have arms or did she just think she did? Either way, her soul was irritated. Why was Dami acting so surprised? SuA had heard of people claiming to be reincarnations of others who had died. If those people could do it, what was stopping her from sending SuA back as well?

“Hm, interesting. I just started this gig, but I did hear about some of my predecessors cutting reincarnation deals with people. Usually they did it just to shut them up because they kept whining about their sentence. Some humans are such pests. I suppose you’ll be just as irritating if I say no to your request,” Dami mused.

SuA grinned deviously. If being difficult was what got you what you wanted around here, she could most certainly do that. She had contended with countless powerful people during her life and had always gotten her way. CEOs, politicians, reporters, celebrities, and other figureheads had all been forced to bend to her will throughout the years. A mere death god was nothing compared to the time she’d had to fight for dinner reservations at the hottest new restaurant for JiU’s birthday. Dami would have hell to pay if she didn’t fork over a ride to earth right this instant.

“Wow, you might just have what it takes to dominate in hell. I’ll keep that in mind. Either way, I suppose we could work something out. So far, most of the people who have come to me have accepted their fate without any argument. At least you’re keeping me on my toes. I suppose I can send you back to earth for a little while,” Dami relented.

SuA was about to do a victory dance, but Dami stopped her before she could celebrate too hard.

“If you think I’m going to make things easy for you just because you’re making a fuss, then you have another thing coming. For one thing, SuA no longer exists. The minute your soul left your body, you relinquished that identity. If I’m sending you back to earth, it’ll be under a new name and form which means JiU won’t know who you are. Second of all, I am not going to give you an easy life. You won’t be reincarnated as the queen of Sheba, if that’s what you were hoping for. You’ll have to be a regular, plain old plebeian,” Dami warned her.

SuA was less excited now, but still not seeing what was so bad about this. She would just make JiU fall for her all over again. After all, the other girl had always said she was helpless to her charms. She had been a regular person before becoming an idol, so she was confident she could handle a return to normalcy.

Dami smirked in amusement.

“Nothing shakes your confidence, does it? We’ll see if you still think you’re such hot stuff when I send you back. Let’s raise the stakes a little while we’re at it. I wasn’t gonna offer you permanent residency on earth, but I’m willing to give it as a prize if you can make JiU fall in love with the new you by the time one month passes. That way you can be with the love of your life, and I get the chance to not have to deal with you again for a little longer. If you lose, however, I’m bringing you back here and hiring you as my new servant. How does that sound?” Dami reasoned.

SuA grinned and gave the death god a thumbs-up (if her soul even had thumbs). She was always up for a challenge. She had full confidence that even if Dami reincarnated her as a sewer rat, she’d still be able to win JiU’s heart. The two of them were soulmates. Dami, picking up on her feelings, smiled warmly at her.

“My only rule is that you aren’t allowed to tell JiU who you are in any way, shape, or form. Alright, now you know what’s expected of you. I guess there’s nothing stopping me from sending you off. I’ll have one of my underlings accompany you to make sure you don’t do anything reckless. She’ll meet you on earth once you get there. Now then, I’m about to generate a portal. Just step through it whenever you’re ready,” the death god told her before channeling her energy and causing a vortex to appear in the middle of the room.

SuA wasted no time hopping in. She was eager to see JiU again, even if she wouldn’t be doing it as SuA. As she felt herself traveling through dimensions, she found herself looking forward to her new life on earth. Regardless of what was in store, all that mattered to her was seeing the love her life one more time. She had full confidence that she could handle anything that came her way. Come hell or high water, she would make JiU fall in love with her all over again and win back the life that had been so unfairly taken from her.

Chapter Text

After what felt like an eternity, SuA was suddenly jerked out of her interdimensional experience and found herself in an unfamiliar room. SuA winced at the cheap, tacky decorations covering the place. Before she could notice much else, a cheerful voice greeted her. SuA whipped around to find herself face to face with an adorable, beaming girl wearing a white dress. A maternal instinct SuA didn’t even know she possessed welled up inside of her. She didn’t even know this chick and wanted to envelope her in her arms and pinch her squishy cheeks. Before she could do that, the girl spoke up again.

“Welcome back to earth, SuA! Wait, I suppose I shouldn’t be calling you by that name anymore,” the girl chirped, giggling at her mistake before restarting, “Welcome to your home, Bora! There we go, that’s better. My name is Gahyeon and I’m a friend of Dami’s. I’m actually stationed in heaven, but I owe Dami a favor, so I agreed to be your guardian angel for this little game you two are playing,” SuA’s new guardian angel informed her with a smile.

“Dami’s great at her job, but she sure can be mischievous. I have to admit, I was totally interested when she told me about you. She warned me that you’re quite the handful, but I’m confident that we can be friends. Just think of me as someone you can go to with any questions or concerns you have. My only job is to make sure you don’t break Dami’s rules or do anything too crazy while you’re here. If you do, you’ll be sent back to the Great Beyond and the game will be over. Other than that, I’m by your side and cheering for you. I’m a sucker for a good love story, so I really hope you succeed,” Gahyeon explained.

SuA, now apparently known as Bora, blinked. The two had time to have that much of a conversation about her? Then again, it had felt like she was trapped between dimensions for quite a while. She shouldn’t have been surprised. Gahyeon chuckled at her silence and grabbed her hand.

“I can see that this is a lot to take in. It must be overwhelming to suddenly die and then just as suddenly have a new identity. Don’t worry, you’ll adjust soon enough. I can tell you’re the resilient type. Anyways, how about we take a tour of your new home and then you can practice being ‘Bora’ instead of SuA. After all, it’s not gonna be easy to act like a regular girl after being a global phenomenon in your previous life,” Gahyeon continued, urging “Bora” to follow her.

Bora’s jaw dropped. This shabby shack was her new home? She had been in bathrooms bigger than this pathetic excuse for an apartment. Clearly the room she was currently in was the bedroom, filled with crappy decorations with a full-sized bed wedged into what little space was available. Through the open door, she could see the tiny hallway with a tiny, grungy-looking bathroom directly across the way. Gahyeon led her to the kitchen, which was pathetic and had appliances older than her grandmother. The front of the apartment acted as a living room with a tacky sofa squeezed off to the side in front of the saddest television Bora had ever seen. Gahyeon pointed out the accommodations as if she was showing off a five-star hotel, meanwhile Bora was trying not to cry as she realized this was going to be her new life for the time being.

“That’s about it. As for laundry, the machines are all in the basement. Your apartment is on the top floor, so you can take the elevator in the hallway,” Gahyeon informed her.

“Geez, are you my guardian angel or my landlord? I didn’t realize you’d be so in-depth about my living situation. Oh well, at least I’m on the top floor. This place sucks, but being in a high-rise is better than nothing,” Bora muttered.

Gahyeon tilted her head to the side in confusion.

“I think you might have misunderstood me. You’re on the top floor, but this is only a three floor unit,” she stated.

Bora let out a cry of defeat and fell to her knees. She was living in a dingy, three-floor apartment unit with tacky decorations and terrible accommodations. Dami must have decided to send her to hell without telling her.

“Cheer up, it’s not so bad! You have everything you could possibly need here. I know it’s not as glamorous as what you were used to as SuA, but Dami warned you that things weren’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows if you agreed to this deal. Look on the bright side, you don’t live too far away from JiU. Dami kept that in mind so that you’d have an easier chance of encountering her. That was really nice of her considering she could have sent you anywhere in the world,” Gahyeon tried to comfort her.

Bora’s ears perked up at the mention of her former girlfriend. JiU was the entire reason she’d agreed to this insanity. She would make JiU fall in love with her all over again, and then she could move back into their wonderful penthouse and escape this awful place. The thought of being with her lover again reinvigorated Bora, and she leapt up from the floor.

“You said JiU lives near here? Do you know where she is? Come on, let’s go see her! I missed her so much, I have to apologize and let her know I’m okay-”

Bora raced towards the door but was stopped by Gahyeon yanking her back and pinning her down on the ground. Bora struggled against her while Gahyeon tried to reason with her.

“I should have expected this. You thought you’d never get to see JiU again, so the opportunity to be with her is making you forget the most important part of this whole deal. The number one rule is that you can’t tell JiU anything that indicates who you used to be. SuA is dead, and everyone here thinks that she’s gone forever. You’re Bora now. If you go up to JiU claiming to be SuA, then you’ll be sent back to Dami the minute you open your mouth. Not to mention, you haven’t even looked in a mirror yet, which is surprising considering what Dami told me about you. Maybe you should, so you can better understand your current situation,” her guardian angel said through clenched teeth, struggling to keep Bora under control.

Bora froze when she heard the last two sentences. Dami had said she’d be a different person once she came back to earth. She hadn’t even thought to look at her new appearance. A feeling of dread went through her at the awful possibilities. She was confident that she could win JiU’s heart back no matter what, but it would be a hell of a lot harder to do as an ugly chick. With wobbly knees, she made her way over to the only mirror in the entire place (much to her disgust). She walked into the bathroom and reluctantly turned on the light so she could take in her new appearance.

Gahyeon, who was laying on the living room floor waiting for Bora’s return, jumped at the blood curdling shriek the other girl let out. Moments later, Bora raced out of the bathroom in a frenzy.

“What the hell is on my head?” she panicked, gesturing to the blonde bowl cut she was now sporting.

“Um, hair?” Gahyeon replied unsurely.

“I can see that it’s hair, but why on earth is it styled like this? I look like a blonde coconut! We need to book a hair appointment right away. I can’t live like this,” Bora huffed, clutching at her head in dismay.

Gahyeon rolled her eyes. Leave it to the former starlet to throw a fit over her haircut when she had a perfectly functioning body that was hardly different from her former one.

“I’m sorry your hair isn’t to your liking, but in case you forgot, you’re no longer rolling in riches. Dami was kind enough to make sure Bora has a little bit of money in her bank account, but she only provided you with enough for the necessities. A trip to the beauty parlor would hardly fall into that category. Not to mention, you’re on a deadline here. Your priority should be making JiU fall in love with the new you. An unfortunate haircut isn’t going to make or break your relationship with your soulmate,” the guardian angel pointed out.

Bora huffed and crossed her arms. All of two days ago, she could have the top hair stylist in the city at her beck and call in minutes. Now she was reduced to looking like a total loser while living in a crummy apartment and wearing polyester blend clothing. All it took was one glance in the mirror to know that her current outfit was a far cry from the designer goods she was used to. How could she go from wearing Chanel originals to rocking a hideous outfit that clearly came from the local department store? Maybe this was all a mistake.

Still, Gahyeon had a point. JiU had always insisted that the two of them were meant to be. When Dami had offered to let her come back, SuA had been confident that she could win JiU’s heart back, regardless of the circumstances. Sure, this situation was less than ideal, but she couldn’t let ugly clothes and shitty dwellings take away from the real reason she was here. She turned to look at Gahyeon.

“Okay, fine. I’ll suck it up and accept that I look like a lemon with bad fashion sense. I get it. My name is Bora now, and SuA is a thing of the past. Can I please go see JiU now?” she demanded.

Gahyeon smiled at her acceptance of reality. The guardian angel nodded enthusiastically and stood up from her spot on the floor.

“I’m glad you’ve come to terms with all of this so quickly. I was worried for a moment there. I know you’re eager to be with JiU, and I promise I’ll take you to her soon, but I really think we should sit and discuss our strategy-”

Gahyeon’s voice was suddenly drowned out by a cacophony happening out in the streets. Bora raced to the window to see what the commotion was. She was stunned to see a marching band clad all in black marching down the street playing one of SuA’s most popular hits. A sea of beautiful flowers enveloped the area in color and fragrance. Along the way, an audience of mourners sobbed and paid their respects to the late popstar. It was a tribute fit for royalty.

Bora’s hand flew to her mouth. She was watching her own memorial service. It ripped her heart to shreds seeing the fans she loved so devastated. They all seemed genuinely distraught over her death. It was touching to know that so many people had cared about her. She had to believe JiU was somewhere in all of this. She needed to see how her lover was coping with her death. Bora bolted out the door, ignoring Gahyeon’s protests. The only thing she could think about was finding her former girlfriend.

Once she was gone, Gahyeon sighed.

“I should have known two seconds of peace was too good to last. Dami was definitely right about this one. It looks like my job really isn’t going to be easy,” she muttered before racing after her new responsibility.

Chapter Text

Bora’s feet kept hitting the pavement, despite having no sense of where to go. She had to admit, there was one perk to her tragic new wardrobe. The hideous sneakers she was currently wearing were much more comfortable to run in than the contraptions she was forced to wear as an idol. Her feet almost ached at the mere memory of some of her former footwear.

She continued running, racing past countless people who were lamenting the loss of a pop icon. It was surreal to be milling her way through her own memorial service. None of these people knew that the very person they were mourning was actually right in front of them.

“Bora, hold on! Think for a moment, will you? You can’t just charge around without a plan! Besides, it’s really inconsiderate to ditch the person whose only job is to keep an eye on you!” a voice panted, coming up from behind.

Much to her surprise, Gahyeon caught up to her pretty quickly. Bora wondered if she’d invoked her special angel powers to make that happen. It sure didn’t seem like it, based on how hard the poor thing was gasping for air. It seemed like she had sprinted to catch her and was suffering for it, just like a regular person. She stopped running and waited for the other girl to catch up. When Gahyeon arrived, she grinned at her guardian angel, who looked ready to sock her in the face for making her run.

“You should really consider doing more cardio. This body is nowhere near as in shape as my old one, but I’m still doing a lot better than you. Aren’t angels supposed to be like, invincible?” she teased.

“Keep your voice down! Do you want people to think we’re lunatics? Besides, there’s a funeral happening right near us, show some respect. To answer your question, I’m not supposed to use my powers while I’m here. The only time I’m allowed to do anything is if you break the rules or fail your mission. If either of those things happen, my job is to send you back to Dami and then erase the memories of anyone who interacted with you,” Gahyeon whispered, glancing around to make sure no one was listening.

Bora gulped. Even though her new life was inferior to her old one, something about having her existence completely erased was disconcerting. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that. After all, she was still sure she could make JiU love her, even in her new form.

“Anyways, you should really be more careful. In your mind you’re still SuA, but as far as everyone else knows, SuA is dead and you’re just a regular person. If you do anything too rash, you might end up with a restraining order or a solitary room in the loony bin,” Gahyeon warned her.

Bora frowned. She knew that Gahyeon was right, but it still sucked to hear those words. The guardian angel continued, gesturing to the people around them.

“Besides, all of these people are in a vulnerable state right now. They just lost someone very important to them in an unexpected way. How do you think your fans will feel if you interrupt your own memorial service?” Gahyeon pointed out.

Bora gazed out at the sea of mourners. Many of them were clinging to their favorite merch from her concerts and sobbing loudly. Some of them held stuffed elephants as a tribute to her favorite animal. Beautiful flowers of every color and variety dotted every available spot in the area along with gorgeous silk decorations and balloons. This was truly the memorial service of a beloved icon.

Bora’s heart stung seeing her fans so upset and being unable to comfort them. Despite her reputation for being a diva, she had always showered her fans with love and gratitude. They were the reason for everything she ever had. She already missed them like crazy, even though many of them were in front of her.

It was dawning on her that even if she succeeded, she would never get to be SuA again. Why did that stupid asshole in the truck have to run her over? Everything she’d worked her whole life for had been taken away from her in an instant. Even if she managed to get JiU to love her, Dami hadn’t promised anything about her returning to the way she was. She hadn’t realized how difficult it would be to accept that she could never be the same as she was before her death. She had built a stunning career with hard work and resilience. All the days she spent in an aching heap on the floor of her practice room meant nothing now.

She was so upset that she couldn’t even take comfort in the fact that so many people were affected by her death. What did it matter that people were mourning SuA when SuA didn’t even exist anymore? How was she supposed to even know she was now? Of course she still felt like she was SuA, her soul hadn’t changed. Unfortunately, the world would now see her as Bora, and no one would believe she was anybody else. It was all too much. The former popstar felt her knees begin to buckle and meandered over to a park bench in order to sit and catch her breath.

Gahyeon could see that the other girl was upset and her expression immediately became sympathetic. She walked over to a nearby ice cream stand, bought them both a treat, and headed over to sit beside her companion.

“I know I said this before, but this must be a lot to take in. I can’t imagine it feels very good to watch your own funeral and not be able to do anything about it. That’s the tough part about the deal. You agreed to give up your identity in order to have a second chance at life. Don’t worry, I’m sure things will get easier as you adjust. After all, this is only your first day back! You have a whole month before time’s up. Remember, you’re not alone here. We can figure this out together. I’m on your side,” Gahyeon comforted her, handing Bora one of the cones.

Bora gratefully accepted the ice cream. She hadn’t had the chance to eat many things like this when she was an idol. The sweetness immediately filled her taste buds and caused her to let out an involuntary squeal. Some of the nearby mourners glared at her for the sudden noise. Bora gave them an apologetic expression before turning to look at Gahyeon once more.

“Thanks, Gahyeon. I gotta admit, I was afraid that you’d be a real stickler. After all, Dami doesn’t seem like a pushover, so I would’ve expected everyone under her to be just as tough. I really lucked out having you by my side. I guess I’m realizing that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Who knew it’d be so tough to watch everyone around you grieve over your sudden death?” Bora chuckled bitterly.

Gahyeon rubbed the other girl’s back sympathetically.

“I know this is tough, but you’re doing great. Now then, how about we discuss a plan of action? Like I said, you’re not alone in this. I know you want to see JiU again as soon as possible, but it’s important that we make sure you do this right. After all, you’re going to have to win her heart without revealing you who you are-”

Gahyeon’s eyes widened as she watched Bora stand up suddenly. The angel groaned when Bora ran off for the second time that day without any indication of where she was going. Gahyeon uttered every curse word she hadn’t been allowed to use in heaven as she once again chased after her troublesome liability.

The reason for Bora’s sudden departure was standing atop a podium in a gorgeous black dress. JiU was front and center at the memorial service, as expected of the deceased’s lover. Countless cameras were trained on her as she reacted to the tribute to her girlfriend. While mourning clothes were not exactly intended to be a fashion statement, JiU naturally made them look like the hottest item on the runway. Even with a professional makeup job, it was obvious that the poor woman had been crying her eyes out.

Bora’s heart was torn to shreds seeing her lover so distraught. Nothing else had mattered as she charged forward to embrace the love of her life. Whether she was SuA, Bora, or anybody else in the world, JiU would always be the only thing that mattered. Everything and everyone else faded away as Bora aimed for JiU’s arms. She had to hold her and tell her everything would be okay. JiU would know it was her and they could be together and forget all of the awful events that had transpired the past few days.

Unfortunately, Bora’s vision was not in touch with reality. A team of security guards noticed the unfamiliar girl heading for the podium and raced to tackle her before she got too close to the starlet. JiU, consumed with her grief and far from the scene, remained oblivious to what was happening.

“Let me go! I need to be with her! Do you even know who I am?” Bora grunted as she tried to wriggle free from the iron grip of the security guards.

“Gee, lady, let me guess. You’re best friends with JiU’s stepsister’s neighbor’s cousin or something. I’ve heard every excuse in the book. I know it must be tough to see her so upset as a fan, but you gotta keep your distance. Don’t you think it’s a little inappropriate to try and take advantage of a funeral to get closer to your idol?” the security guard reprimanded her.

Gahyeon had finally caught up and smacked her palm to her face at Bora’s impulsivity. She could see the former starlet growing angrier at the security guard’s words and decided to intervene before Bora got herself arrested or worse.

“Aw jeez, you sure do run fast! I turned away for one second and here you are causing trouble,” she scolded Bora before addressing the security guards, “I’m so sorry about this. My big sister recently suffered a head injury and is all out of sorts. It seems every day she’s been convinced that she’s some other celebrity. You should have heard her Shakira impression last night. I hope she hasn’t caused you all too much trouble. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take her home now. Our mother will be expecting us soon,” she lied.

The security guard, smitten by the angel’s adorable expression, nodded and released Bora immediately.

“Sure thing, sweetheart. I hope your sister’s noggin heals soon. Make sure to keep a closer eye on her, okay?” he agreed.

Bora was one second away from telling him exactly where he could shove the flashlight on his belt, so Gahyeon quickly thanked the nice man and whisked her away before she could cause any more problems for them. Bora was raving mad as they headed away from the service.

“Did you hear the way that jackass talked down to us? He treated me like a nutjob! Little does he know that until yesterday I was signing his paycheck. I’ll make him rue the day he made a fool of me. I’m calling the security office and getting him fired!” she ranted, balling her hands into fists.

Gahyeon sighed, “You really need to calm down, Bora. That man was just doing his job. You seem to keep forgetting that SuA is dead, and you’re just a regular person now. What was he supposed to do when he saw some stranger racing towards the person he’s in charge of protecting? If anything, you should be grateful that your girlfriend’s in good hands,” she reasoned.

Bora’s expression softened. Her guardian angel did have a point. Seeing JiU had made her act too hastily. She needed to come up with a strategy if she wanted to succeed. Gahyeon had done her a huge favor by stepping in before she got herself arrested or got a restraining order put on her. Clearly, running up to JiU and expecting their emotional connection to magically fix everything wasn’t going to cut it as a plan.

Gahyeon rubbed her temples. It was only the first day back and Bora was already proving to be exhausting. She was relieved that she seemed to finally be getting through to her. The smaller girl looked deep in thought, carefully considering her options.

“I take it you’re finally grasping how things are going to have to work around here. You’re going to need to use your head rather than acting on intuition alone. Please tell me you’re not going to charge off like that anymore. This human body has such a weak heart and I already hate cardio of any kind,” the guardian angel pleaded.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. Don’t worry, I’ll take it easy from now on. Boy, this sure will be tough. I have no clue what I’m gonna do. Hopefully I can think of something,” Bora mused, looking around for inspiration.

Suddenly, the girl’s eyes lit up. Bora was once again eyeing something (or someone) in the distance, but this time she held her ground rather than running off.

“Gahyeon, you said Dami’s only rule is that I can’t tell JiU who I am, right?” she clarified.

Gahyeon nodded, “Yes ma’am! If JiU finds out that you’re SuA, then you’ll be back in the Great Beyond in the blink of an eye and everybody here will forget that Bora ever existed,” she reminded her.

Bora’s eyes sparkled with mischief and a cat-like grin spread across her face.

“Excellent. That’s what I thought,” she murmured before strutting towards whatever she’d been focused on.

Gahyeon felt her stomach fill with dread. Why did she have a bad feeling about this?

“At least she’s not running this time,” the guardian angel muttered to herself as she followed Bora towards whatever shenanigans she was stirring up this time.

Chapter Text

Bora was a woman on a mission. She hadn’t expected to be struck with a plan so quickly, but things were shaping up quite nicely. She had seen the perfect opportunity and was ready to take advantage of it. This opportunity came in the form of a very familiar individual, dressed in a suave black pantsuit and black boots, who was openly weeping into a handkerchief as she stood off to the side watching the memorial service. Like JiU, this person was flanked by security guards, but Bora approached much more carefully than last time. As she drew closer, she slowed down and strolled casually on by, looking for an opening to speak to the girl in question.

Bora’s face lit up as she saw the perfect opportunity. She recognized one of the guards from when she was SuA and he’d been hired for one of her shows. He was a total sleazeball who accepted bribes from fans to let them into her dressing room. Rest assured, she had not been happy that day. Still, it was her lucky break that he was on duty since she knew he could be easily bought. She fished around inside the pockets of her jeans to see if she had a crisp bill to offer him. Lo and behold, she had a decent sum of money on her and meandered over to where he was stationed.

“Can I help you?” the security guard murmured out of the corner of his mouth, trying to be quiet.

“I’m a big fan of Lee Siyeon’s and was wondering if you’d be willing to let me say a quick hello,” Bora explained, slipping him the money under her sleeve.

Upon seeing it, the security guard smirked and stuck it into his pocket, careful to make sure no one was watching.

“I suppose I could look the other way just this once. Make it quick, though,” he told her, letting her squeeze past.

The other security guards, figuring she was supposed to be there, stayed in position to make sure no one else tried to sneak past. Bora grinned. Idiots, all of them. It was a wonder she and JiU were never kidnapped. Bora made her way behind them where Siyeon stood, absorbed in her grief. She wanted to hug her, but knew that would be completely inappropriate in this situation. Instead, she calmly approached the other popstar and tried to look like she was supposed to be there. She cleared her throat to draw attention to herself.

Siyeon, finally noticing her presence, looked confused. Her eyes were red from crying, but she tried to blink back her tears and hold her composure. Bora wanted to smile. Siyeon was the same as always. She constantly tried to look tough, but she was as sensitive as ever.

“Um, do I know you? My manager didn’t mention any new staff. You’re not from the press, are you?” Siyeon demanded, narrowing her eyes.

Bora shook her head.

“I’m not a staff member, and I’m not from the press either. Listen, I don’t have much time but I really need to talk to you. That asshole who let me bribe him to see you isn’t gonna let me stick around for long. Can we meet at the zoo later this afternoon?” she asked, using their favorite hangout spot.

Siyeon, obviously associating the zoo with memories of SuA, teared up once more.

“Who are you and what do you want?” she questioned, her voice cracking.

“I can’t tell you that right now. If you come, I promise I’ll explain everything. Meet me at the elephant exhibit in an hour. I’ll explain the difference between African and Asian elephants one more time,” Bora told her with a wink.

With that, her time was up. The security guard from before grabbed her by the elbow and told her it was time to go. Siyeon reached out, wanting the mysterious woman to stay and answer more of her questions, but she was unable to produce the words before the other girl was dragged away.

Bora, confident that Siyeon would show up, let herself be escorted away without a fight. She thanked the jerk for letting her through, and then headed on her merry way. She noticed Gahyeon was waiting for her nearby with a wary expression. Bora waltzed over to her guardian angel with an easygoing gait.

“What was that all about? Why are you in such a good mood?” Gahyeon inquired, eyeing her nervously.

Bora grinned, putting her hands behind her head with her elbows propped outwards.

“Oh, it’s nothing. How do you feel about taking a trip to the zoo in a little bit?” the shorter woman brushed off her inquiry, breezily changing the subject.

Gahyeon wasn’t even given the chance to answer before the smaller girl whisked her away to her intended destination.
~
Bora glanced down at her new cheap watch. She was expecting Siyeon any minute now. She had known the other singer for years and was confident she would be there at the agreed upon time. After all, she’d chosen her words carefully to entice the other girl into coming. Gahyeon, still confused to what Bora was plotting, sat down at a nearby bench to watch whatever was going to happen.

Sure enough, Bora eventually spotted Siyeon heading her way. She had ditched her security team and was going rogue. Bora expected as much. Siyeon’s staff members would probably have advised her against meeting up with a total stranger in a secluded location, especially without security on standby. Bora was glad she could count on Siyeon’s trusting nature. At least the popstar had thought to wear a disguise so she wouldn’t get swarmed by fans on her way there. Bora was only able to recognize her because it was the same disguise she’d used whenever she snuck off with SuA.

It was surreal seeing her friend of many years reuniting with her at a spot they’d visited countless times, but having to face her in the form of a stranger. Bora had been painfully reminded of her circumstances when she’d been tackled for trying to comfort JiU. She was reminding herself not to act too familiar with Siyeon yet, lest she scare the other girl away and ruin everything. Bora wasn’t sure if Gahyeon knew what she was planning or not. She guessed the angel was still oblivious to her intentions or else she would have stopped her by now.

Siyeon seemed to recognize Bora from this morning and walked up to her. She looked somewhat hesitant, but her being there was a sign that she was at least willing to talk. Bora smiled warmly at her.

“I’m glad you decided to come. I promise I’ll make it worth it,” she greeted her.

Siyeon nodded wordlessly, her mouth set in a tight line. Bora winced at the lack of friendliness. If Siyeon knew who she was, she’d have already tackled her in a bear hug by now.

“I really shouldn’t be here. For all I know, you’re some kind of psycho who might try to kidnap me or steal my identity or something. If my manager knew what I was up to right now, she would have a cow. In fact, the only reason I’m risking my safety like this is because of what you said this morning. It reminded me of the very first conversation I had with my best friend. She died recently and I’ve been a total wreck. We actually used to meet here all the time. It was our chance to escape the limelight and be normal people for a little while,” Siyeon murmured, reaching out and stroking the bars of a nearby cage affectionately.

Bora frowned. Siyeon was clearly distraught over losing her. She hoped the other girl would accept what she was about to tell her. Before then, she had been so confident that this would work. Now that she was about to take the plunge, she realized how nervous she really was.

“I know that. You and SuA used to meet here whenever you both wanted a break from being idols. You’d dress up in disguises like the one you’re wearing now and sneak off without telling your managers. Yoohyeon got so exasperated that she put a tracker in SuA’s phone so she could at least know she was safe,” Bora chuckled, remembering what she’d put her poor manager through with her antics.

Siyeon glared at her.

“What are you, some kind of superfan? I didn’t think anybody recognized the two of us when we came here. Besides, I thought SuA kept the phone tracker thing a secret. How the hell do you know so much?” she demanded.

Bora took a deep breath. It was now or never.

“This is going to sound crazy, but you’ve always said that ‘crazy’ is the standard for us. I’m actually SuA. I died and made a deal with a death god and she sent me back here in this form. My new name is Bora, and I look a little different, but I’m still the same person I was before. I have thirty days to make JiU fall in love with the new me or else I have to go back forever,” she explained.

Siyeon listened to her words, her eyebrows furrowed in concentration. The two stood in silence with Bora holding her breath until Siyeon erupted into giggles.

“Wow, I haven’t heard that one before! I gotta give you points for creativity. I’ve had fans make up all kinds of stuff to try and get a moment alone with me, but this is next level. You clearly did your research. Anyways, you got your fun, and I’m a sucker for ever meeting up with you. I’m gonna head off now, and let’s pretend this never happened,” she declared, her tone becoming venomous once her laughter ceased.

This time it was Bora’s turn to glare. She stomped her foot emphatically.

“I’m telling the truth! I can even prove it. Remember that time you broke your hand because you got too heated during Infinity Wars and punched the screen? You were so embarrassed that you made me make up a story about you hurting it while practicing for your concert tour, and that’s what all of the news outlets went with. Ooh, and only your best friend would know about your secret routine to warm up for a show. You’ve never told anybody outside your inner circle that you howl like a wolf before every show for good luck. Most importantly, I know about that birthmark on your ass-”

Bora was cut off by Siyeon shrieking and clamping a hand over her mouth. The popstar’s eyes darted around frantically.

“You can’t just blurt that stuff out in public! You could ruin my image! What if the paparazzi are lurking around?” she hissed.

“Do you believe me?” Bora asked, her voice muffled by Siyeon’s hand.

Siyeon removed her hand from Bora’s face and bit her lip, mulling over the girl’s words. Everything she’d said were things only people she trusted would know. Either someone was leaking secret details of her life to strangers or else this person was telling the truth. Bora, noticing Siyeon’s hesitation, pulled out the most powerful weapon in her arsenal.
“I have one more thing to share. We agreed never to even speak of this again, but I’ll make an exception to get you to trust me. Before JiU and I dated, you and I were friends with benefits. News of our hookups could have destroyed both of our careers, so we agreed never to breathe a word of it to anyone. Not even JiU knows about it, since I was scared she would hate me,” Bora whispered, staring deep into Siyeon’s eyes.

That sealed the deal. Siyeon’s eyes filled with tears and she pulled Bora in for a hug.

“Oh my god, it really is you! This is insane. Then again, I should know to expect the unexpected with you,” Siyeon cried, her voice choked up with emotion.

Bora smiled, her own tears falling freely.

“I knew I could get you to trust me. Even death can’t keep the dynamic duo apart!” she chuckled.

“This is absolutely insane. I’m still partially convinced that I’m hallucinating right now. I’ve only ever seen stuff like this in the movies! What is dying like? How did you make it back here? Is it really like all those people who claimed to have near death experiences say it is?” Siyeon began bombarding her friend with questions, her eyes wide with excitement.

Bora grinned. Siyeon had always been interested in the supernatural. She knew it would only be a matter of time before her friend was completely sucked in with childlike wonder.

“Well, I can only speak from my experience, but I made it to this place called ‘The Great Beyond’ where I met this death god chick named Dami. She was pretty, but I am still confused about whether I can say that since apparently souls are the only things that exist after death, so who knows if she even has a physical form or if my soul just conjured one up for her. It’s all very confusing. Anyways, she was gonna send me to paradise or hell, but I demanded that she let me come back to earth. I mean, for crying out loud, a dumbass in a truck killed me! I was only in my twenties! Thankfully, she did as I said and we worked out a deal. I couldn’t come back as SuA though, because apparently that identity died with me. I’m now Bora and I have thirty days to make JiU love me if I wanna stick around,” the smaller girl informed her.

Siyeon blinked as she took it all in.

“Wow, that’s quite the story! Then again, I really shouldn’t be surprised. If anybody would be able to outwit death itself, it’s you!” she snickered.

The popstar, now convinced that it really was her best friend standing before her, enveloped Bora in a bone-crushing hug.

“I can’t believe you’re really here! I missed you so much, SuA! Wait, I should probably call you Bora now, shouldn’t I?” she gushed, before realizing her mistake.

Bora smiled sadly and nodded.

“That’s probably a good idea. Everyone else thinks SuA is dead, so you’ll look pretty crazy trying to refer to me by that name,” she agreed.

Siyeon noticed her friend’s sadness and smiled encouragingly, grabbing her hand.

“Why so down in the dumps? You came back to life! This is amazing! We’ve gotta go tell JiU. She has been taking your death super hard. Now that you’re back you two can be together again and she’ll fall back in love in no time!” Siyeon insisted, trying to yank Bora who remained rooted in her spot.

“Siyeon, I’m not allowed to tell JiU who I am. That’s part of the deal. I have to make her fall in love with Bora, not SuA. That’s why I was hoping to ask for your help,” Bora confessed, a forlorn expression on her face.

Siyeon frowned at this revelation. She was well aware of how in love SuA and JiU had been. She had been ready to sing at their wedding someday. How cruel it was that JiU thought the love of her life was gone forever, meanwhile SuA was forced to watch JiU suffer while being unable to tell her that she was back. She knew she would have to help the two of them reunite.

“Don’t you worry, we’ll figure out a way for you and JiU to meet again. You’re still the same person, so I’m sure she’ll fall in love with you in a heartbeat. Everything’s gonna be okay! You’ve not alone in this!” Siyeon comforted her best friend, giving her shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

Off to the side, Gahyeon had been watching the heartwarming scene with a smile. She had known what Bora was up to the moment she approached Siyeon’s security team. She had to hand it to her, the girl was clever. She’d found the loophole in Gahyeon’s words and had revealed her identity to someone who would be a huge help in getting her to JiU. Gahyeon was not surprised when her otherworldly communication device immediately pinged with an angry message from Dami. The death god insisted that while Bora had not broken any rules in telling Siyeon, she was implementing a new rule that no one else was allowed to learn the girl’s identity or else the game was over.

Gahyeon decided to give the girls a little bit more time together before heading over to deliver the message. Bora saw her coming and offered a small wave. Siyeon was less friendly, but calmed down when she saw that Bora recognized her. Gahyeon smiled warmly as she approached, waving at both of them.

“Hi, Siyeon, nice to meet you. My name is Gahyeon. I’m the guardian angel assigned to watch over Bora while she’s here on earth. I’m in charge of making sure she doesn’t break any rules, and sending her back if she does. It may not sound like it, but I’m actually on Bora’s side and want to see her succeed,” Gahyeon explained, throwing her hands up in defense when she saw Siyeon’s hostile glare.

The angel turned her attention to Bora with a smirk.

“Not bad, Bora. You really are clever. Having Siyeon in your corner will definitely help you get to JiU faster. Unfortunately, Dami was not as impressed by your behavior. She created a new rule that you’re not allowed to tell anybody else about your former identity,” she informed her.

Bora grinned.

“I expected as much. She’s probably embarrassed that she got outfoxed by a human. Oh well, Siyeon is the only help I need,” she stated, poking her friend affectionately.

Siyeon, who had remained stone faced at Gahyeon’s words, walked over to the angel. She inspected her features closely, narrowing her eyes as she scrutinized Gahyeon’s appearance. Her expression suddenly shifted as she squealed, poking the girl’s squishy cheeks.

“Oh my god, you’re so cute! Bora, I can’t believe you have a genuine guardian angel! She looks like one of those cute baby cherubs in my grandma’s bird bath!” the singer gushed.

Gahyeon allowed the other girl to continue poking and prodding at her, a small pout on the angel’s lips. As a divine entity, she wasn’t sure how she felt about being compared to statues of babies, but she couldn’t say she minded Siyeon’s affections.

“Siyeon, I need you to focus! I know Gahyeon’s adorable, but you can fawn over her another time. We need to figure out how I’m going to win JiU back in less than thirty days,” Bora snapped, yanking Gahyeon away from her enthusiastic friend.

“You’re right, sorry about that. I just got carried away. Can you blame me though? She’s so freaking precious! Anyways, don’t you worry, Bora. I’ll find a way to get you in touch with JiU. Why don’t we head back to my place? We can come up with a cover story for how we met and who you are while we’re there,” Siyeon offered.

Gahyeon and Bora exchanged looks and nodded.

“Sounds like a plan. The apartment I got put in is my own personal vision of hell. Spending the night at your place would be a great escape,” Bora agreed.

“Well then, what are we waiting for? Let’s do this! I’ve never hosted a reincarnated person or an angel before. This will be so exciting!” Siyeon squealed, grabbing Gahyeon’s and Bora’s hands and racing off.

The three of them tore down the street at lightning speed. Bora let herself be dragged along, feeling the wind in her hair and the sun beating down on her face. In the past, she’d have never been able to dart around like this without consequences. It dawned on her that now she was no longer burdened with the possibility of being recognized as SuA. In this moment, she felt completely free. Maybe being Bora wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Chapter Text

After a while, the trio arrived at Siyeon’s apartment building. Once they’d cleared the security area, Siyeon discarded her disguise. They were now safely inside the building, so she wouldn’t have to worry about being mobbed by fans.

The exterior of the building was already magnificent, but the inside was just as incredible. Bora had visited the location many times when she was SuA, so she was used to its splendor. Gahyeon, on the other hand, was gaping at everything with wide eyes. The minute they stepped into the lobby she was gawking at the crystal chandeliers, spotless marble flooring, and ornate statues placed all over the lobby.

“Ah, Miss Lee! How nice to see you. Your manager was wondering where you’d gone off to. I’ll let her know that you made it back safely. Who are your guests?” the nicely dressed man behind the front desk welcomed them.

“Thanks, but please tell her I’d like to be left alone now that I’m off the clock. That memorial service was extremely draining. My friends and I are going up to my apartment to rest. Please ensure that nobody bothers us in the meantime,” Siyeon replied, continuing to strut towards the elevator.

Bora followed her friend with confidence, not even bothering to look at any of the building staff. She was behaving just like she had when she was a popstar. Gahyeon, on the other hand, made sure to smile and wave at every person they passed.

“Sure thing, Miss Lee. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you. You know how to reach me,” the doorman called out as they left.

The trio soon reached the elevator where Siyeon pulled out her key card and placed it in the scanner. This caused the elaborate doors of the machine to open, revealing a splendid interior. Gahyeon gasped out loud. Bora rolled her eyes, exasperated by her guardian angel’s outburst. Siyeon, on the other hand, giggled. She clearly found the angel’s actions endearing. The three of them headed into the elevator and Siyeon pressed the button for her floor. As the doors closed and the machine lurched upward, Gahyeon broke the silence.

“You know, I work in freaking heaven and even I’m amazed at where you live! I’ll have to suggest some design changes to my boss. I think nice columns like those ones downstairs could really spruce up the place,” the angel mused.

Siyeon grinned.

“By the way, what’s it like in heaven?” she inquired, her eyes wide with interest.

Gahyeon pursed her lips, clearly deep in thought.

“Well, I’m not really sure how much I’m allowed to tell you. It’s not really fair if you get a sneak peek while most people have to die to know what they’re in for. Besides, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be sent there,” she pointed out.

Siyeon pouted.

“What do you mean? Do you think I’m terrible enough to be sent to hell?” she whined.

Gahyeon shook her head furiously.

“Not at all! In fact, I think you’re wonderful. It’s just that they make paradise pretty hard to get into. It’s reserved for the folks who build hospitals in underserved communities and rescue endangered animal species during the course of their lives,” she insisted.

Bora nodded, “It’s true! Dami told me most people actually don’t go to heaven or hell. They get sent to this in between place that is kind of like a middleground. That place is for people like us who aren’t downright awful, but who aren’t winning the Nobel Peace Prize anytime soon,” she supplied.

Gahyeon put a finger to her lips, quickly silencing the shorter woman.

“Haven’t you spilled enough secrets today? That’s enough from you, or else I’m telling Dami to give Bora a wardrobe consisting only of sweatsuits,” Gahyeon warned.

The former popstar closed her mouth so tightly and suddenly that it prompted Siyeon to cackle. Gahyeon, satisfied with the ending of the conversation, put her hands on her hips and smirked. With that, the elevator dinged, signaling that they had reached their floor.

Once the doors opened, the trio padded out along the plush carpeting of the hallway. Siyeon led the way to her unit. The singer placed her key in the lock, turning it and entering the apartment with Gahyeon and Bora in tow. Gahyeon once again gasped at the luxurious, spacious place before her. Bora, having been there many times, made her way inside and instantly kicked off her shoes as usual.

“Your home is beautiful!” Gahyeon complimented as she copied Bora’s actions, carefully stepping onto the expensive-looking carpet.

“Thanks, kiddo. Is it okay if I call you that? I know you’re an angel and probably like five million eternities older than me, but your face is just too stinking cute!” Siyeon gushed, pinching Gahyeon’s cheek one more time for good measure.

Gahyeon shrugged, “I suppose I don’t mind. You seem like the type who’d do it even if I asked you not to,” she relented.

Siyeon snickered at her words. The two were sharing a moment, smiling warmly at each other. Bora coughed loudly, interrupting their bonding. She had noticed that the two were straggling behind while she had already made her way to Siyeon’s dining room table. It had been their meeting space and the birthplace of many harebrained schemes throughout their friendship.

“It’s nice that you two are getting along so well, but can we focus on the more important issue at hand here? I have less than a month to make my former lover fall for me when she has no idea who I am, or else I’m toast. We need to get cracking on a plan here, people!” she nagged them.

Gahyeon and Siyeon immediately raced over to the table and took a seat on either side of Bora. They all got to work discussing their next course of action.

“Well, you’re very similar in personality to when you were SuA. I don’t think it’ll be that difficult to make her fall back in love with you. The harder part is going to be thinking of a way to get the two of you together without it being suspicious. We need to give ‘Bora’ a backstory that makes sense. I mean, no offense, but you’re a nobody right now. If we just introduce you to JiU as you are, she’ll probably think you’re some delusional fan who snuck their way into her world,” Siyeon confessed, wringing her fingers together as she anticipated Bora’s reaction to her words.

Bora frowned.

“You’re right. It totally sucks, but there’s no good way for me to approach her without a ruse. It’s so shitty that I can’t even talk to my girlfriend now without lying. Still, I agreed to this deal, so I have to hold up my end of the bargain. At least I have you in my corner now. It’ll be a lot easier to see JiU with your help,” she admitted.

Siyeon nodded, “So we need to find a plausible explanation for why the two of us are friends without you being famous. Obviously, telling the truth is out of the question. We’ll have to get creative in how we frame this. JiU knows most of my friends and family from back home, so that’s not gonna work. There’s gotta be something we can use,” the singer trailed off, her face scrunched in concentration.

The three of them sat around the table racking their brains for any idea that might work as a backstory for Bora. Amidst the silence, Siyeon’s stereo system was streaming. Suddenly, a very familiar voice came over the radio waves. Bora jumped up from her seat, squealing in delight and startling her companions.

“Oh my god, they’re playing my debut song! God, I miss performing it. I still have the choreography memorized after all these years. I wonder if this body can do it,” she mused, running into the living room where there was more space.

Bora immediately launched into the choreography, totally nailing it. Gahyeon and Siyeon watched as her body moved in perfect synchronization with the music. The two clapped along with the beat, cheering her on. Their expressions indicated how impressed they were with her skills.

“Oh my god, it feels like I never stopped being an idol!” Bora gushed as she maneuvered through one of the most intricate moves in the choreography with ease.

As she was dancing, a brilliant idea crept into Siyeon’s mind. The popstar felt a smirk forming on her face. She knew exactly how she was going to introduce Bora to JiU. She waited until the other girl was finished dancing to reveal her plan. Bora collapsed into her chair when the song was over, breathing heavily with a light sheen of perspiration on her forehead.

“Damn, my choreography really is tough. My old body was in such good shape that it felt like nothing, but right now I’m really struggling,” she panted.

“Don’t worry, it was still amazing. You dance way better than I or most other people could ever hope to,” Gahyeon reassured her.

Siyeon nodded, “Gahyeon’s right. You’ve always been one of the best dancers I’ve ever known, and even now you’ve still got it. This is perfect!” she chirped, clapping her hands in excitement.

“What do you mean by ‘perfect?’ In case you forgot, I can’t exactly go back to performing my songs anymore. I don’t see how me still being good at dancing is particularly useful, even if it was fun to do that just now,” Bora pointed out, quirking an eyebrow at her friend.

Siyeon shook her head, “That’s where you’re wrong. You being able to dance is incredibly useful because I’m still hiring backup dancers for my upcoming concert! I’ll just hire you and bring you along to stuff until we can get you alone with JiU. It’s perfect!” she explained, bouncing up and down excitedly.

Bora’s eyes widened.

“Wow, you really think I have what it takes to be your backup dancer? I thought I was a little rusty. I guess this just means I’ll have to practice more,” she muttered.

Despite her concerns, the smaller woman immediately perked up at the opportunity before her.

“This couldn’t be more perfect, though. You always introduced people from your tour to JiU and I. Some of them were actually pretty cool, and JiU seemed to like most of them. Unlike me, she actually remembered most of their names,” she murmured, stroking her chin and grinning.

Gahyeon nodded, giving a thumbs-up to indicate her support of the plan.
“I think it makes perfect sense. This is a win-win. Siyeon gets the backup dancer she needed, and Bora has a way to meet JiU without seeming out of place,” she stated.

“What about you, Gahyeon? Shouldn’t we have a way to explain you tagging along with us as well?” Siyeon pointed out, directing her attention to the guardian angel.

“Oh, that’s easy! I’ll just be Bora’s darling little sister. That’s how I introduced myself to the security guards last time anyways,” Gahyeon assured her, throwing her arms around Bora who scowled.

“Yeah, when you made me look like a fool. You’re just as annoying as a little sibling,” she grumbled.

“I apologize for saving you. Next time I’ll just let you get arrested,” Gahyeon huffed, pulling away from the other woman.

The two put their hands on their hips, glaring at each other. Siyeon watched the battle of wills with an amused grin. Nobody would ever guess that those two were a guardian angel and her fledgling. They acted more like a pair of bickering siblings. Thus, the backstory they’d invented was all the more fitting.

“Gahyeon’s idea is perfect. You two sure make convincing sisters! I can’t believe we came up with a way to make you fit in so quickly. All it took was a blast from the past,” Siyeon giggled, patting her friend on the back.

Bora eased up at Siyeon’s words and smiled at her.

“I can’t thank you enough for hearing me out and believing me. You’ve already been a huge help,” she told her, grabbing her hand.

Siyeon squeezed Bora’s hand in hers before releasing it and grabbing her phone. The singer pranced off towards her room, dialing her manager’s phone number.

“I’m gonna let them know I chose our final backup dancer so they won’t keep looking for anybody else. We have rehearsal first thing tomorrow morning! I’ll try to arrange lunch plans with JiU once we’re finished. Get ready for a big day tomorrow!” she called over her shoulder as she raced off to have the conversation with her staff.

Bora plopped down on the couch with a sigh. Tomorrow was already promising to be a lot to take on. She was worried enough about being able to keep up with Siyeon’s choreography in her new form, but now all she could think about was the possibility of being reunited with JiU. What would her girlfriend think of the person she’d become? It was weird to think that after all the years they shared together, now the other girl would see her as a stranger. She hoped she could make a good first impression. It felt like having a first date all over again, and it wasn’t even going to be a date! Siyeon would be the one arranging their reunion and would have to be present to introduce them. Bora hated that she couldn’t be alone with the woman she’d known and loved for years, but that was just the way things had to be for now.

Amidst her lamentations, Bora was surprised to see Gahyeon take a seat beside her and grab her shoulder reassuringly. She wondered if Gahyeon was accessing the same telepathy Dami had used on her when she first met her. It was as if her guardian angel could see what was on her mind and was here to ease her sorrows.

“Bora, I can tell you’re nervous. Don’t worry, you can do this. When you were SuA, you constantly had to overcome your fears to perform for your fans and further your career. JiU means a lot to you, so it makes sense that you’re scared of meeting her again for the first time. Still, you made that deal with Dami because you knew that the two of you are soulmates. JiU loved SuA, and I’m certain she’ll come to love Bora too. You got this!” Gahyeon cheered her on, smiling warmly.

Bora, touched by the other girl’s words, was stunned when she felt unexpected tears welling up in her eyes.

“Thanks, Gahyeon. Your support means a lot. I’m glad to have you and Siyeon by my side,” she said, gesturing her words to both Gahyeon and Siyeon, who had just come back from making her phone call.

“Aw, don’t mention it. This is what best friends and I’m assuming guardian angels are for! Now then, what are we waiting for? We gotta get you caught up with all of my choreography before tomorrow morning!” Siyeon declared, grabbing Bora’s hand and dragging her off to practice.

Gahyeon watched the duo as they got to work. Even though SuA was now Bora, the two were still the same pair of best friends. They collapsed into fits of giggles every few seconds as they goofed around like old times and had a blast. Bora’s guardian angel was confident that if she and Siyeon were able to break the ice this quickly, there was a good chance she would be able to win JiU’s heart, even as a stranger.

Chapter Text

The practice room pulsed with the heavy beat of Siyeon’s latest track. Siyeon’s choreographer barked out the beat count as Siyeon and her backup dancers gave it everything they had. Gahyeon, who had been watching them practice the same routines for the past several hours, stopped paying attention and had fallen asleep. They had been at it since the crack of dawn, and it was approaching lunchtime. Finally the last run came to an end and everyone nearly collapsed from their final poses when the choreographer declared that they could break formation and take their lunch break.

“And that’s a wrap! Great work, everybody!” Siyeon panted, giving all of her backup dancers a thumbs-up before continuing, “You all have two hours for ample digestion time. We don’t need anybody puking in the practice room. I’ll see you all back here in a few. Enjoy your lunch break because after this it’s back to the grind!”

All of the dancers thanked their boss and headed on their way. As they were filing out of the room, the idol headed over to her best friend who was lying down in a pool of sweat on the floor. Siyeon chuckled, giving the smaller girl a swift kick to rouse her from her current state. Bora yelped and glared at her, too exhausted to retaliate properly.

“Look alive, hotshot! I’m gonna text JiU and ask her to meet us for lunch in thirty minutes. The restaurant’s only ten minutes from here so you need to be ready in twenty. I don’t think you wanna reunite with the love of your life looking like that,” Siyeon stated, gesturing to Bora’s sweat stained t-shirt and grubby leggings.

“You’re only giving me twenty minutes? How am I supposed to look presentable in so little time?” Bora whined.

“Well, for starters, you should get your ass off the floor and into the shower. Move it or lose it!” Siyeon barked, still in drill sergeant mode from the rehearsal.

Bora did as she was told, but not before giving her best friend the finger on her way out. She moved sluggishly, dragging her aching limbs along at a snail’s pace. She hadn’t realized what she’d been in for when she signed on to be Siyeon’s backup dancer. The usually jovial girl turned into a monster the minute practice began. Bora shuddered at the memory of her best friend’s immediate transformation. Siyeon was a force to be reckoned with when it came to her career as an idol.

Bora was exhausted enough from rehearsal as it was, but she had also gotten little to no sleep which certainly didn’t help things. She had spent all night fretting about seeing JiU again for the first time. She had agonized over what to wear, keeping Gahyeon awake with her. The usually cheerful angel looked exhausted as she remained slumped over in the corner of the practice room. At least she’d gotten to nap while Bora had to endure the hell Siyeon put her dancers through.

Bora was lucky that Siyeon’s company had showers on site, otherwise there was no way she’d have made it back to Siyeon’s place or hers to freshen up before their meeting with JiU. Bora knew lunchtime was their best shot at catching the starlet by herself. She and JiU used to go on lunch dates all the time when she was SuA, since that was the only time they could find in their busy schedules.

Bora smiled to herself as the water ran over her, reminiscing on her time with her girlfriend. She had missed her terribly. Bora was nervous about seeing her again, but was also excited to finally lay eyes on her lover after so much time apart. Bora was determined to be as charming as possible to leave a good first impression. As she rinsed up, she resolved to make JiU fall in love with her once again. She could do this.
~
“JiU said yes to our lunch offer. We’ve gotta get going or we’re gonna be late!” Siyeon’s voice called from the doorway.

Bora took a deep breath, resting her hands on either side of the bathroom sink. She’d been fussing in front of the bathroom mirror for a while. She’d managed to pull together something presentable, but it was nothing like what she’d rocked as a popstar. She’d found a cute purple sweater to wear with jeans, knowing that JiU had always liked that color on her. She had done the best she could with the awful hairstyle she’d been given, blow drying it and styling it to hopefully look decent. To finish off her look, she’d borrowed some of Siyeon’s top-of-the-line beauty products for her face. She knew this wouldn’t hold a candle to her old appearance, but she hoped JiU would at least be somewhat impressed.

Bora’s stomach filled with butterflies as she made her way out of the bathroom on shaky legs. Siyeon, relieved that her best friend was not being as much of a diva as she used to be, was glad to see her ready on time. The other girl whistled as she took note of her friend’s appearance.

“You look great! I’m glad I gave you that palette for your eyes. You really made them pop with that sweater. JiU is gonna be amazed at how pretty my new backup dancer is!” Siyeon gushed, pinching Bora’s cheek affectionately.

The smaller girl chuckled and swatted her friend’s hand away.

“Thanks, Si. To be honest, I’ve never been more nervous in my life. I mean, this is like having a first date all over again! At least in my previous life I’d known JiU forever so the whole dating thing was a little less intimidating. Now I have to win her over as a complete stranger. What the hell am I gonna do?” Bora confessed, wringing her fingers nervously.

Siyeon smiled at her.

“No need to worry. For starters, it’s not really a date. This is more of a first meeting than anything else. Gahyeon and I are gonna be there the whole time which kinda ruins the whole romance thing. I can only imagine how scary this is for you, but we’re gonna take this in baby steps. Today is a chance for me to introduce you to her and for you to be your usual charming self. You gotta remember, JiU still thinks you died and is going through a lot right now. We don’t wanna come off too strong and scare her away. We’re gonna have to take things slow. I’ll be helping you every step of the way, and this is only the beginning,” she insisted, giving her best friend a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder.

Bora smiled and nodded, calmed by her best friend’s words. Siyeon was right. In all her nervousness, she’d never considered that JiU probably wasn’t in the right headspace for a relationship right now. In JiU’s eyes, Bora would just be Siyeon’s backup dancer who she was meeting for the first time today. She would have to play the role of a sympathetic acquaintance for now and then take it from there.

“We really should get going if you’re ready. I’ll go drag Gahyeon out of her little corner over there so we can head on over to the restaurant,” Siyeon explained, checking her watch and urging Bora out the door.

Crossing her fingers for good luck, Bora headed outside the studio. Moments later, Siyeon joined her with a sleepy Gahyeon trailing behind her.

“Alright then, let’s do this thing!” Siyeon cheered, leading the way to her limousine.

Once inside, Siyeon told the driver the address and they were off. Gahyeon was rubbing her eyes, clearly disoriented by the human experience of exhaustion. The poor angel was desperately struggling to stay awake amidst the soothing rhythm of the vehicle’s movement. Beside her, Siyeon was jabbering excitedly about the restaurant they were about to eat at. It was apparently one of her favorites. Bora, on the other hand, gazed out the window and tried to empty her head of all thoughts. She knew that if she started thinking she would get herself nervous all over again. Her only hope was to just wing it today. She was relying on her faith in her and JiU’s unbreakable bond to make everything else eventually fall into place.
~
The limousine finally pulled up to the restaurant and the driver scurried to open the door for the famous Lee Siyeon and her friends. This place was a hotspot for celebrities to dine at, so naturally a sea of paparazzi surrounded the premises. Siyeon, used to their presence, paid them no mind and strutted past them to reach the hostess’s desk.

Bora was brought back to old times as she stepped out to a flurry of camera flashes. Even though she was no longer someone worth paying attention to, she made sure to smile and pose as she followed Siyeon inside the restaurant. She was proud that she was still able to work a camera, even as a regular person. Behind her, Gahyeon was stunned by the attention they were receiving. The angel smiled awkwardly and waved, unsure of what to do. Bora wanted to roll her eyes. What an amateur. The trio’s fifteen minutes of fame was shaved down to a few seconds when another celebrity’s driver pulled up to the curb. With the paparazzi gone, they were free to transact their business with the hostess.

“Ah, Miss Lee! I got your call about your lunch plans this afternoon. I made sure to reserve one of our best tables for you and your friends. Thank you again for dining with us,” the hostess enthused, basically ready to kiss the soles of Siyeon’s expensive shoes.

Siyeon smiled, “Excellent, thank you. I take it JiU isn’t here yet? When she arrives, please direct her to us,” she stated as the hostess led them to the table she’d mentioned.

As they were being seated, Bora noticed the hostess subtly eyeing her and Gahyeon. The former celebrity could tell that she was wondering what a household name like Lee Siyeon was doing with two nobodies dressed in plain clothing. She made sure to give the woman her fakest smile and a look that dared her to say anything. The hostess returned her stiff smile but remained silent, continuing to place their menus and table settings.

“Well, it looks like everything is all set. I’ll make sure to send JiU your way once she gets here. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. Enjoy your meal,” she said, bowing to them before speeding off, probably to grovel at another famous person’s feet.

“Did you see the way that bitch looked at me? Little does she know all of a few days ago she would have been begging for me to grace this sorry place with my presence!” Bora seethed once the hostess was out of earshot.

“Don’t take it personally. You know how those types of people are. They only care about seeming more relevant than they actually are so they suck up to the people who they think are worth sucking up to. Besides, she should be the least of your concerns. JiU will be here any minute now. Gahyeon and I may know who you really are, but now you’re going to have to play the part of Bora. Are you ready for this?” Siyeon pointed out.

Beside them, Gahyeon nodded her agreement with Siyeon’s words. She rubbed her eyes, still recovering from her drowsiness.

“Siyeon’s right. You got away with telling your best friend about your situation, but Dami made it clear that’s the only favor she’s giving you. If you screw this up, I’ll have no choice but to send you back to the Great Beyond. Please don’t make me do that. You know I’m rooting for you,” the angel commented, a cute yawn accompanying her words.

Bora swallowed nervously. She had been trying not to think about her impending reunion and how much was at stake. She didn’t want to reveal how much she was actually freaking out, so she opted to fake confidence so as not to worry her friends.

“Wow, guys, you have so little faith in me. I’ll have you know that when I was SuA I had a brief acting career and totally nailed it. If I can pretend to be interested in the pig that was my costar in the drama I did, then I can definitely pull off being Bora,” she insisted, adding a hair flip for good measure.

The conversation stopped there because the trio could see the hostess greeting someone and leading them towards their table. Bora suddenly found herself unable to breathe as she laid eyes on the love of her life once more. JiU looked ravishing as ever in an elegant sundress with a matching hat and sunglasses in order to hide her face from the press. Siyeon got up to greet their guest with a warm smile and a hug. Bora was ready to do the same and take her lover in with open arms, but Gahyeon discreetly stepped on her foot before she could leave her chair. The smaller girl hissed in pain and turned to glare at her guardian angel, who gave her a pointed look. Bora frowned and leaned back in her chair, realizing that she would have to wait for Siyeon to introduce her to JiU.

“I’m so glad you could make it! I wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. I know things haven’t been easy for you,” Siyeon cooed as she held onto JiU.

“Thanks, Si. I still can’t believe she’s gone, but I’m doing my best to stay strong. I know that’s what she would want,” JiU murmured into Siyeon’s shoulder, already on the verge of tears.

Bora’s heart went out to her girlfriend. She would have given anything to be able to tell her that she was not actually gone, but right here with her. Unfortunately, she couldn’t do that unless she wanted a one-way ticket back to the afterlife. She tried to keep her patience in check as she waited for the two of them to stop hugging and Siyeon to hurry up and introduce her already. She decided to speed up the process by letting out a fake, dainty cough.

“Ah, Siyeon, are these friends of yours? I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met before. Won’t you introduce me, please?” JiU broke apart from Siyeon and smiled at Bora and Gahyeon as she spoke.

Bora’s insides were doing backflips and she felt her cheeks heat up. It had been too long since she’d seen the beautiful sight of JiU’s smile, even if this was one of her forced, polite ones.

“Ah, yes, of course! I was just about to do that. JiU, this is my newest backup dancer, Bora. She’s from a small town and she’s new to the idol scene, so I thought I’d bring her to lunch with me and help her get acquainted with all the glitz and glamour. That little cutie sitting across from her is her little sister, Gahyeon. These two moved here together and thus are a package deal,” Siyeon explained, gesturing to each of them as she flawlessly lied about their backgrounds.

“Oh, wow, that’s great! You mentioned that you’d finally found someone to replace that girl who broke her ankle a few weeks ago. It’s nice to meet you, Bora and Gahyeon. It’s so sweet that you two get along so well. You’re making me wish I had a sister!” JiU gushed, smiling warmly at them.

With that, JiU took the remaining seat at their table. Siyeon shrugged and meandered back to her spot beside Bora. After much deliberation, they had decided to arrange it so that Bora and JiU would be sitting across from each other. That way they could make plenty of eye contact throughout the meal. As she gazed at the other woman, she found herself captivated by JiU’s beauty. She savored the sight of the love of her life seated before her, the sun illuminating her striking features. A few days was too much time away from her.

Bora found her eyes drifting to JiU’s hand, which was placed delicately on the table beside her water glass. The temptation to reach out and squeeze it was overwhelming. Unfortunately, given their current circumstances, to do so would probably come off as creepy. Instead she tried to think of a topic of conversation that would draw the other woman’s attention.

“So, JiU, Siyeon tells me you’re a wonderful actress and bigtime model. Gahyeon and I never had a television growing up, so I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing you in anything. Would you care to tell me about your career?” she came up with, batting her eyelashes in hopes of being convincing as the innocent small-town girl.

Next to JiU, Gahyeon scrunched her face in disgust. Bora shot her a subtle glare before turning back to JiU with the same Bambi eyes she’d been using. She was committing to her character, damn it! That little runt with wings would be smart to play along and not ruin the image she was creating for herself. She figured JiU would find the backwoods girl with no television who relied on talent alone to take her into the heart of idol life charming.

Much to Bora’s elation, JiU did in fact find her little act endearing. The starlet smiled and put a hand to her chest, clearly humbled to have met someone who had never heard of her. That had been one of the biggest differences between SuA and her girlfriend. The one time a waiter dared to confess that he’d never heard of her and wouldn’t be able to accommodate her dietary requests, SuA had railed him so hard he’d been reduced to a sobbing mess on the floor. JiU, on the other hand, seemed to like it when people didn’t know who she was.

“I’m flattered that you’ve been talking about me. I hope Siyeon didn’t exaggerate or give you any ideas. This probably sounds cliched, but I’m just a regular girl who happens to have gotten lucky and had her dreams come true,” JiU insisted, taking a sip of water.

“Oh yes, because every regular girl has been nominated for or won almost every award in television and film,” Siyeon grumbled sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

“I’d be hard pressed to find any regular girl as pretty as you are,” Bora supplied, resting her head on her chin and giving JiU the same doe eyed look from earlier.

Gahyeon and Siyeon caught each other’s eyes and made gagging gestures at each other. JiU, naive as ever, interpreted Bora’s words as a genuine compliment and blushed slightly.

“Could you be any sweeter? Gosh, SuA would have loved you. Her favorite thing was being told how pretty she is,” JiU reminisced, her words trailing off as she gazed into the distance sadly.

When the actress realized what had happened, she quickly tried to pull herself together. Bora frowned when she noticed tears trailing down the other woman’s cheeks.

“I’m so sorry. I have a bad habit of bringing her up all the time. She just passed away and I’m taking it rather hard. Please forgive me,” JiU apologized, her voice full of emotion.

The table fell into an awkward silence as JiU tried to recollect herself, Bora watched her lover with sad eyes, and Gahyeon and Siyeon remained unsure of what to say. Naturally, their waiter chose this moment to arrive and take their orders. Once everything was settled, Gahyeon decided to be brave and try to pick the conversation back up.

“So JiU, do you have any exciting projects coming up? I’m sure your life must be busy as such an in-demand actress,” she wondered.

JiU, seemingly grateful for the change in subject, nodded enthusiastically.

“I actually have a meeting tonight with some producers and channel executives for a new drama I’ll be filming. Apparently, some really famous Chinese actress and model is gonna be my costar. I guess she wants to branch out to a new market or something. Anyways, I’m really excited. The premise of the show sounds really interesting,” she divulged, her eyes lighting up.

“Oh wow, you didn’t mention that before! That’s so exciting!” Siyeon congratulated her friend, punching her arm affectionately.

JiU’s smile faltered slightly.

“I was going to tell you and SuA soon, but then the accident happened and that became the least of my concerns,” she admitted, once again becoming emotional.

Bora bit her lip and tried not to join her lover in her grief. It killed her to see the other girl so distraught over her death. She would have given anything to be able to tell her about her situation, but then her agreement would be as good as useless. She hadn’t realized what a cruel arrangement this would end up being.

Thankfully, the food arrived soon after JiU’s emotional relapse. All four of the girls were grateful for the distraction. Everyone ate in silence after the somber note JiU had left things on. Siyeon was all too ready to pay the bill the moment it arrived, much to JiU’s protest.

“You invited me out to this lovely lunch. Please let me pay for at least my share,” she argued.

“Hell no! You’ve been through enough as it is. Let someone else take care of you this time,” Siyeon demanded, handing the waiter her credit card before the other girl could do anything else.

JiU relented, knowing she had been bested. She moved to gather her belongings, turning to address the other three before she left.

“I really need to be getting back to the studio. I’m sure Yoohyeon has a million things she wants me to do before tonight’s meeting. Siyeon, thanks for lunch. We’ll have to get again soon. I appreciate you checking in on me, but let me know how you’re doing too. This is a hard time for all of us. Bora and Gahyeon, it was so nice meeting you. I apologize for not being more lively, but things are not the best right now. I hope you enjoy your time here. Please let me know if you need anything,” she stated, giving Siyeon a hug and Bora and Gahyeon a smile and wave before racing off for her limousine.

Bora frowned as she watched the other woman get in her vehicle and drive off.

“All I got was a smile and wave? I used to have her tongue in my throat for minutes at a time and now all I get is a quick farewell,” she murmured, barely audible.

“Uh, first of all, ew. Anyways, come on, don’t be such a downer! This whole situation is less than ideal, but as far as today’s meeting went, you nailed it! Did you see the way she smiled at your commentary? She even enjoyed that awful line you dropped. Given the circumstances, I consider today a big win!” Siyeon tried to cheer her friend up, slinging an arm around her shoulder.

“I’m with Siyeon! She mentioned that we should let her know if we need anything. She’s already giving you more excuses to talk to her! That innocent, helpless act you pulled is already making progress!” Gahyeon added, pumping her fist in encouragement.

Bora pursed her lips in contemplation.

“I guess you guys are right. All of this needs time to work out, and patience has never been my strong suit. It’s gonna drive me nuts to keep thinking about this. Can we please get back to the studio? Dancing will help clear my head,” she declared.

With that, the smaller girl charged off toward Siyeon’s limo. Siyeon and Gahyeon glanced at each other before racing after their strong-willed friend.

On the ride back to the studio, Bora found her mind lingering on what JiU had said earlier. She’d be working alongside a model and actress from China. SuA had never been jealous of the countless hot people JiU worked with on a daily basis, but SuA had also been a glamorous popstar with the looks of a goddess. Now that she was a regular girl, Bora was beginning to see what she was up against. She trusted in her bond with JiU, but she hoped it would be enough to win her over before someone else managed to sneak in and steal her heart.

Chapter Text

The trio had arrived back at the studio and were waiting for the rest of Siyeon’s dancers to return. In the meantime, Bora had fallen into a sour mood. On the one hand, she was thrilled to have seen JiU in the flesh after having been away from her for too long. On the other hand, things had been awkward since she was a stranger, and could only do so much to comfort her. She knew there was a reason Dami had given her thirty days to make things happen, but she was frustrated that things were going to have to move so slowly. Why couldn’t she just come back as herself? This whole death thing really sucked.

The minute the three of them got back to the studio, Bora hit the dance floor and began stretching. She didn’t care about waiting an hour after lunch for digestion. She just wanted to clear her head, and dancing was the best way to do it. Bora hit the floor and kept repeating Siyeon’s routines with increased intensity. Siyeon and Gahyeon watched her with concerned eyes, afraid to say anything. They figured unpacking today’s experiences could wait until rehearsal was over. Besides, the rest of the dancers had started filing in for practice, so they would have to keep their thoughts to themselves until then.
~
By the time they finished, Bora had exhausted all of her energy. The smaller woman sat down on the dance floor with a sigh. She was drenched in sweat and practically every muscle in her body was on fire. Her legs trembled as she crouched down. Siyeon made her way over to her best friend and sat down beside her.

“Damn Bora, you went ham for the second half of practice! This morning you were a little sluggish, but I saw the other dancer’s faces when we got back from lunch and you were suddenly dancing circles around them. You’ve definitely still got it,” she complimented, nudging her friend’s shoulder with her own.

Bora acknowledged her friend’s words with a shrug. While normally she would revel in any kind of praise for her dancing, right now she was not in the mood. Her mind kept circling back to how hard it was to treat the love of her life like someone she had just met. There were a lot of things about her current situation that were difficult, but her relationship with JiU was definitely at the top of the list.

Siyeon, sensing her friend’s sadness, closed her mouth and fell silent. She hated seeing Bora so upset, but there was little she could do or say to remedy the situation. She had already done all she could do by introducing them. It was up to JiU to fall in love with her, and that would take time. The pop star wished she could do more for them. After all, she wanted nothing more than for her two closest friends to be happy.

Siyeon turned to Gahyeon who was standing nearby, hoping that the angel could offer a few words of wisdom. At the very least she hoped Gahyeon would offer one of her adorable smiles. Those could make anybody’s day.

Gahyeon eyes met Siyeon’s and she took a seat on the opposite side of Bora. She looked thoughtful for a moment as she decided what to say to cheer her up.

“Bora, I know this situation is less than ideal, but for what it’s worth, you’re doing great so far. You made it through an entire lunch without spilling any beans you weren’t supposed to, and you’ve really developed a believable identity for yourself. You weren’t kidding when you said you had acting chops!” Gahyeon complimented, giving her a warm smile.

Siyeon nodded frantically, glad that Gahyeon was full of kind words to try and cheer up their friend. Still, this did little to lift Bora’s mood. She made a noise of acknowledgement to confirm that she’d heard what the other girl said, but her expression remained dour.

“It’s sweet of you guys to try and make me feel better, but this whole thing is just really hard for me. I thought I would be able to handle it, but having to act like a stranger to someone I’ve known for almost my whole life and who I love more than anyone else in the world really sucks,” Bora murmured, her tone filled with sadness.

Siyeon and Gahyeon looked at her with pity. Bora was clearly trying not to cry in front of them. The shorter girl wiped at her eyes and tried to compose herself, sighing deeply. Siyeon, used to comforting her best friend, wrapped her arms around her and placed the smaller girl’s head on her shoulder. Gahyeon joined the group hug, squeezing Bora’s shoulder reassuringly. After several minutes of wordless snuggling, their bonding moment was interrupted by Siyeon’s phone going off.

The popstar broke the group hug and grabbed her mobile device to see who had texted her. Gahyeon and Bora leaned over, trying to get a glimpse at her phone screen.

“Who is it?” Gahyeon inquired.

“It’s JiU,” Siyeon stated, causing Bora’s heart to beat rapidly.

“What does it say?” she demanded.

Siyeon pulled up the text and read its contents to the two other women in the room:

“Hi Si, thanks for lunch today! It was so nice meeting your new backup dancer and her little sister. Bora and Gahyeon are so sweet, I hope you bring them around more often. Please let them know that they are always welcome whenever we hang out. I gotta head to my meeting soon, but I just wanted to make sure I thanked you and told you how much fun I had. Please let Bora know that my show might be needing some dancers as extras and I’ll make sure to pass her contact information along to the producers if she’s interested. Love ya and talk to you later!”

Gahyeon squealed and punched Bora’s shoulder in excitement.

“Did you hear that? She really liked talking to you! How often do people send follow up texts talking about how great someone is? Not to mention she wants to help you further your dancing career! This is huge!” the angel cheered.

Bora couldn’t help but feel a smile forming. The unexpected text was a huge pick-me-up. Nothing could make up for having to pretend her relationship with JiU didn’t exist, but at least this was a sign that the two were getting along and things could possibly go somewhere. After all, the first step was that JiU had to like her. Her girlfriend was nice to everyone, but even she wouldn’t offer unsolicited favors to just anyone. She put her arms around herself, wiggling from side to side in giddiness. Siyeon grinned at her actions.

“It looks like there’s a silver lining in this shit cloud, isn’t there?” she joked.

Bora nodded.

“I gotta admit, this was a pleasant surprise. It seems like she really wants to be my friend at least. Hopefully we can get to more than that soon enough. I can’t wait to hear more about that show she’s working on. It sounded like a star studded cast. Didn’t she say her costar is some famous Chinese model and actress? JiU has always wanted to expand her international reach,” Bora mused, her thoughts trailing off as she smiled with pride at her lover’s ambition.

As Bora spoke, she remembered the other feeling she’d been trying to avoid ever since they got back from lunch. Her initial reaction to JiU’s mention of her fellow leading lady had reminded her that she herself was no longer famous. She was an average girl with plain looks, a crappy apartment, and hardly anything in her bank account. How the hell was she ever going to compete with the people JiU surrounded herself with on a daily basis?

Siyeon and Gahyeon could see the worry etched on her face and looked at her confusedly.

“What is it?” Gahyeon probed.

“I just remembered that I have this haircut,” Bora gestured to the yellow atrocity atop her head before continuing, “and no money now. JiU works with rich, beautiful, famous people all day. How the hell am I gonna compete with that? Am I delusional for even thinking this could work?” Bora confessed, her expression reflecting her anxiety.

“Oh come on, you know JiU doesn’t give a shit about any of that. When you were SuA, she loved you when the two of you were broke as a joke trying to make it big in this town. JiU will love you because you’re still the same person you were in your other life, just with a different face and circumstances,” Siyeon insisted, her arms folded across her chest.

“Besides, her costar is probably straight. We don’t even know if it’s an on-screen romance or not. She might just be playing her best friend in the series or something. I’m sure you have nothing to worry about,” she added as an afterthought.

Bora nodded, although she still held onto a shred of that uncertainty.

“You’re probably right. At least, I sure hope you are,” she muttered as the trio gathered their things and got ready to head home.
~
Meanwhile, in another part of town, JiU’s limousine pulled up to the studio offices with several minutes to spare before her big meeting. JiU used the extra time to scrutinize her appearance. The starlet checked her teeth for any signs of the salad she’d eaten earlier or the lipstick her stylist had applied moments before she left. Taking a deep breath, JiU popped a few mints into her mouth. The last thing she needed was bad breath when meeting her costar and the executives greenlighting her show before production.

“Relax a little. You’ve gone to so many of these meetings you could probably conduct one in your sleep. What’s got you so nervous this time?” Yoohyeon asked, observing her client’s anxiety.

JiU turned to her manager with a shrug.

“I have no idea why I’m wigging out like this, but I need everything to go perfectly. Handong is huge in China, which means a successful project with her could help me expand there. If anything goes wrong during this meeting, it could mean her pulling out of the project and my career taking a hit,” she explained, biting her lip nervously.

“Your career could take a roundhouse kick to the face and still be fine. You’ve been a household name for years now. You’re a global sensation, baby!” Yoohyeon assured her, patting her on the back.

JiU smiled slightly at her manager’s words, but that smile quickly faltered as she brought up her next point.

“I think I’m putting extra pressure on myself for SuA’s sake. I just really want to make her proud, you know? She was always so hard on herself when it came to her career. Even perfection wouldn’t have been good enough for her. I guess I’m just trying to keep her with me by striving to be the best like she always did,” she confessed.

At her words, Yoohyeon’s expression became sympathetic and she immediately pulled her in for a hug. JiU buried her face in her manager’s shoulder, taking comfort in the soft material of the sweater she was wearing.

“Oh sweetie, I have full faith you’re making her proud. SuA thought you were one of the seven wonders of the world. Nothing you did was ever short of amazing in her eyes. I’m sure she would want you to be proud of yourself and to continue with confidence,” Yoohyeon insisted, her voice breaking as she thought of their deceased friend.

JiU felt her own eyes mist with tears. The starlet rushed to grab a handful of tissues before she could ruin the makeup job her team had worked so hard on. Yoohyeon did the same, frantically dabbing at her eyes so that they wouldn’t be red and puffy during the meeting. Before they could exchange any more emotional words, the pair decided to exit their vehicle. After all, they had gotten there early, but time was drawing near. The last thing they needed was to earn the reputation of being fashionably late or difficult to work with.

The two composed themselves as they entered the company building and greeted the receptionist. Yoohyeon didn’t even have to say a word before recognition registered on the woman’s face and she buzzed them into the building. One perk of having such a big-name client was that everybody rushed to accommodate you without you having to lift a finger.

“The show executives are waiting for you in room 300 on the third floor. The elevator is just past the desk to your left. The room is right nearby so you won’t have to walk far in those gorgeous shoes,” the receptionist informed them, her beaming smile revealing how starstruck she was in JiU’s presence.

JiU and Yoohyeon thanked her and scurried to grab the elevator. It wasn’t long before they were on the third floor entering the meeting room. When they arrived, they could see a row of men in suits waiting for them at the conference table. It appeared that JiU’s costar had yet to arrive.

“Ah, one of our leading ladies has arrived! It’s good to see you, JiU. You’re looking fabulous as ever. How are you holding up? We were all so sorry to hear about your loss,” the president of the broadcasting company spoke up, getting up to greet the two of them with a handshake.

“I appreciate your concern. Things are hard, but I’m looking forward to working on the show. I think it will be a great way to take my mind off of things. I take it Handong is on her way?” JiU replied, taking a seat across from the executives with Yoohyeon taking the chair beside her.

The president nodded, returning to his seat as well.

“She should be here any minute. You know how traffic can get around the studio, especially at this hour. I hope you can bear with us. We don’t intend to take much of your time. We truly believe this show has a lot of potential, we really just need the two of you to be here to sign your contracts,” he explained.

JiU smiled warmly.
“I’m more than happy to do so. I hope Handong is still on-board with the show. I’m really looking forward to working with her,” she chirped.

“JiU is looking to expand to the Chinese market, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so,” Yoohyeon chimed in.

The executives nodded. All of them seemed to have similar goals of increasing their viewership from Chinese audiences. A prominent figure like Handong was certain to help boost their ratings and spread the word about their network. Everyone turned their attention to the door, anxiously anticipating the starlet’s arrival.

Several minutes later, a beautiful woman raced through the door toting a handbag that cost more than most people’s homes. JiU recognized the face of her soon-to-be costar, that is, if everything went according to plan. Handong was wearing a silk dress that flattered her incredible figure along with a pair of heels that enhanced her smooth, endless legs. As she scrutinized Handong’s flawless appearance, JiU made a mental note to ask for her skincare routine. Handong’s hair had recently been styled in a shorter cut with bangs that framed her face and made her look even more elegant. JiU felt like she was in the face of royalty. She remained silent as she waited for Handong to get situated. She figured the president of the network would eventually introduce her.

“Both of our stars are finally here! Welcome, Handong. We’re thrilled to have you with us. I was just explaining to JiU here how excited we are about this project. If both of you are still interested in doing the show, this meeting should go by very quickly,” he spoke up, extending his hand to the Chinese actress.

Handong accepted his handshake and smiled warmly.

“Splendid! I’m definitely willing to sign on. Sorry I’m a little late, I hope you all weren’t waiting long?” she drawled, glancing around to gauge the room’s reaction to her tardiness.

“It wasn’t a problem at all! You’re, like, ten minutes late, if even. One time my limo broke down right before a studio meeting and we rolled in three hours late. I thought the producers were going to strangle me!” JiU chuckled before shaking Handong’s hand herself.

“I’m JiU, your costar, by the way. I have heard such great things about you. I hope we can work together,” she beamed.

Handong returned the smile JiU gave her with dazzling wattage. JiU couldn’t help but admire how flawless the other woman’s teeth were. She made yet another mental note to ask who did her dental work. Much to JiU’s surprise, she felt another arm snake around hers and reach over to shake Handong’s hand. She realized Yoohyeon was also trying to make the acquaintance of her costar and quickly shuffled over to give the two of them room. Evidently she had been taken in by the other woman’s beauty and had lost track of her thoughts.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Handong. My name is Yoohyeon and I’m JiU’s manager. We’re honored to have the opportunity to work alongside you,” Yoohyeon gushed, using her go-to suckup line for those she deemed beneficial to furthering JiU’s career.

JiU tried not to cringe at her manager’s doe eyes. Yoohyeon had certainly turned on the charm since Handong stepped into the room. She hoped she wasn’t coming on too strong.

Handong, either being gracious or completely unphased, shook Yoohyeon’s hand with the same pleasant smile she’d used on everyone else in the room.

“It’s nice to meet you too. Unfortunately, my manager wasn’t available for the meeting today. He’s handling some business arrangements for me back in China. I’ll make sure to pass his contact info along to you so that we can continue to work together in the future. I’m a big fan of JiU’s, she is one of the biggest reasons I decided to expand my horizons and come here to work on the show,” Handong admitted, eyeing JiU with admiration.

JiU blushed at the attention. She received compliments from other celebrities all the time, but she never got used to it. She twirled her hair self consciously, already wanting the spotlight off of her. She decided to return the conversation back to Handong.

“I’m flattered that you like my work. I have been watching some of your Chinese films and you’re a brilliant actress yourself. I’m really excited to be working with you,” she pointed out.

Now it was Handong’s turn to be embarrassed. Unlike JiU, her reaction was to put a hand to her chest and laugh modestly. The laugh was followed by an endearing hair flip and Handong thanking her profusely before complimenting her outfit. It wasn’t long before JiU was looking for more features of hers to admire with Handong returning each one with another compliment.

The two actresses were so wrapped up in their battle of kindness that they had forgotten about the table full of executives waiting for them to sign their contracts. The president coughed, reminding them of what they had come for. The two actresses quickly turned to accept the pieces of paper he held out to each of them along with a ballpoint pen.

“We’re thrilled that you two are getting along so well. This show is bound to be a hit, especially if China’s princess and Korea’s sweetheart are best friends on top of it. Keep up the good dynamic. It’ll make for excellent press. Not to mention, the writers mentioned that they are still deciding whether they want to explore a romance between your characters or not. The chemistry between you two will only help. Now then, we’ll give you two some privacy to read through the proposed contracts and sign your names if you’re still interested. One of our lawyers will wait for you at the front desk when you’re ready to drop them off. All the best, ladies! We hope to see you on set soon,” the president gushed before getting up to leave with the rest of his entourage.

This left only JiU, Handong, and Yoohyeon in the room. Yoohyeon held out her hand, expecting JiU to hand her the contract. Yoohyeon usually advised JiU on whether or not it was worth it to sign in on a deal. She was much better at reading between the lines and noticing the details. JiU gave it to her and turned her attention to watching Handong. Without her manager, the other starlet was charged with reading her contract and coming to a decision herself. JiU couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the other woman was as she studied the contract. Her eyes were a lovely emerald shade and look almost catlike in the lighting of the room. Handong’s concentrated expression made her perfect eyebrows furrow and caused her nose to scrunch adorably. She was beautiful enough onscreen, but her features were just as angelic in-person.

JiU felt heat rise to her cheeks at the president’s words. He’d mentioned that the two of them had “chemistry.” It had been news to her that the writers were considering making her and Handong’s characters love interests. Not that she was opposed to it. She’d had on screen romances with both men and women in several of her roles. Even SuA hadn’t minded, although she tended to get very affectionate with JiU at the cast parties for those projects. When she thought of SuA, the actress felt her heart break. Maybe that was why she felt so awkward about this. It felt like she would be cheating on her dead girlfriend, even if this was only acting.

After several minutes lost in her thoughts, JiU saw that Handong had finished reading her contract and was in the midst of signing her name. At the same time, Yoohyeon handed the contract back to her with a nod. The two had developed a signal system that kept them from having to use words when discussing contract negotiations. A nod was a clear “yes” and meant that she could sign her name without worry. With shaky hands, JiU did just that.

“Looks like we’re both on board with the deal. Hooray, this is going to be simply splendid! I’m afraid I need to get on my way for another engagement, but I look forward to seeing you again soon. We’ll have to explore this ‘chemistry’ we’ve been told we have,” Handong declared, giving JiU a wink before strutting off towards the elevator and waving goodbye.

Once she was gone, JiU stood there with her mouth agape. Beside her, Yoohyeon wore the same expression. Both of them had picked up on Handong’s implication.

“Wow, looks like your new costar is one heck of a flirt. I’m so jealous! You always get the prettiest girls,” Yoohyeon sulked.

JiU frowned.

“Yoohyeon, need I remind you that the love of my life just died? I’m sure Handong didn’t mean anything by what she said, she’s probably just joking around. Besides, if she really is trying to hit on me, she needs to know that I won’t be ready for another relationship for quite some time. I can’t move on from SuA that quickly. She’s too special to me,” she insisted, all traces of her earlier happiness vanishing from her face.

Yoohyeon nodded, “You’re right, I’m sorry. That was really insensitive of me. Do you think you’ll be able to handle it if the writers put your characters together?” she wondered, squeezing her friend’s shoulder.

JiU shrugged, “We’ll just have to wait and see. Handong seems nice enough, and she’s definitely gorgeous. I’m used to acting like I’m in love with someone for my job, but I’m scared that she’s a person I could find myself actually falling for. I don’t know if I want to take that risk, especially with SuA being gone,” she admitted.

“That makes sense. I didn’t even think about how losing SuA might impact your acting career. I promise to do whatever I can to keep your best interest at heart. We’re both still struggling with losing our golden girl, but she will always be with us in spirit. In fact, she’s probably cheering you on as we speak,” Yoohyeon comforted JiU, the two of them holding on to each other as they started to make their way out of the room.

JiU turned to Yoohyeon as they waited for the elevator, biting her lip. She was hesitant to divulge what she was about to, lest it make her sound crazy, but she knew Yoohyeon would never judge her.

“Wanna know something crazy? I can’t shake the feeling that she’s still with me. Like, it’s like she isn’t even gone. Maybe it’s just the grief talking, but I’m still holding onto her as if she’s still here with me,” she told her manager, her eyes filling with tears.

Yoohyeon pulled her into a hug.

“I know, sweetie, I know. For someone so small, she filled a room with her presence. It makes sense that her memory lingers on. She was pretty unforgettable,” the taller girl assured her friend, murmuring into her shoulder as she held onto her.

The two separated once the elevator arrived and Yoohyeon indicated for JiU to step in first before following after. On the ride down, JiU couldn’t help but think that her manager hadn’t quite understood what she was saying. Her feelings about SuA were more than just holding onto memories. Her instincts were telling her that her girlfriend was nearby somehow. She knew that had to be wrong, she’d seen the body herself. Yoohyeon had told her everything that happened that awful night. JiU shook her head, desperate to forget the subject. Maybe she was going crazy. She needed to remember that SuA was dead and life had to go on.

The starlet took a deep breath as the elevator opened and the lawyer stood waiting for her to hand him the contract. With the document in the hands of the right people, JiU and Yoohyeon headed back out to their limousine. As the starlet left the studio parking lot, she resolved to give the show her best effort, for her sake and for SuA’s. This would be her way of carrying her girlfriend’s legacy while taking the steps to move forward in her life and her career.

Chapter Text

A few days had passed since Bora’s first meeting with JiU. During that time, things had been uneventful for the resurrected popstar. She found her days primarily consisting of dance practice for Siyeon’s upcoming tour, and then she usually spent her evenings back at her apartment with Gahyeon since Siyeon was still an in-demand idol and had countless appearances and schedules.

Even though being a regular girl had its perks, Bora missed being in the limelight. As much as she loved dancing, it was boring to do that all day and come home to a tiny apartment with little to do except binge watch TV shows and old movies. At least Gahyeon was easily satisfied. The angel had never experienced human television and was riveted by every single thing they watched. Bora had gotten her hooked on a lot of JiU’s movies. She figured if she couldn’t see her lover in-person for a while, she could at least admire her on the silver screen.

Speaking of JiU, Bora had received little update on what her girlfriend was up to. Her new show was supposedly in the beginning stages of production, but she didn’t really tell Siyeon much about how things were coming along. She did at least confirm the name of her costar, a popular Chinese actress named Handong. Bora had wasted no time looking this woman up and was dismayed to find that not only was she successful and stunning, she was apparently also a humanitarian who donated to animal rights causes all the time.

Bora lamented over what she was up against, but Gahyeon reminded her that JiU was still grieving over SuA, and that Handong’s sexuality was not confirmed in any of the things Bora had read about her. Besides, there was no guarantee that there was any kind of chemistry between them. There was a possibility they completely hated each other. Bora decided to pretend that was the case, regardless of whether it was true or not.

Bora was in the midst of another one of her movie nights with Gahyeon when her phone suddenly began going off. Gahyeon glared at the interruption, clearly engrossed in the plot of the mystery movie they had chosen. Bora quickly snatched up her cell, curious as to who could be calling. It turned out to be Siyeon’s number flashing across the screen. The popstar was supposed to be at a radio interview, but she must have been calling during her break time. Bora wondered what was so important that her best friend couldn’t just text her. Gahyeon looked ready to throttle her, so Bora quickly pressed pause on the TV and took the call.

“Hey, Si, what’s up?” she greeted, stepping away from the couch to carry on her conversation.

She could hear Gahyeon grumbling at having to stop the film. For such an adorable angel, she sure could be hell bent on getting her way sometimes. The other night she had almost thrown Bora’s entire living room in disarray when she accidentally spoiled the last episode of the series they were binge watching. Bora was glad she had fled the den this time to avoid Gahyeon’s wrath.

“Bora, do you have plans tonight? If you do, cancel them. I just got off the phone with JiU and her new show is having some kind of press conference and launch party tonight. She practically begged me to come support her and told me I could bring a plus-one if I wanted. Congratulations, you’re my plus-one and we just scored you another chance to see your girl!” Siyeon rapid fired, not even pausing to take a breath as she broke the news.

Bora took a moment to digest all of the information Siyeon had sprung on her. When her friend’s words registered, the smaller girl broke out into cheerful screaming.

“What are you shrieking for? It better be something darned good since you paused the movie right when we were about to find out who JiU’s evil twin is working for!” Gahyeon called over from the family room.

“Is that Gahyeon? Bring her along too! I’m sure JiU won’t mind if my plus-one turns into a plus-two. She’s the star of the show, so nobody can kick us out if we’re with her!” Siyeon insisted.

“Gahyeon, I’m on the phone with Siyeon. We’re both invited to a party for JiU’s show tonight!” Bora relayed the news to her guardian angel, broadcasting her loud voice across the apartment.

“Couldn’t you have moved the phone away from your face before you did that?” Siyeon whined, her ears probably ringing from the volume.

When she heard the news, Gahyeon raced in from the living room to stand next to Bora. The angel’s face was lit up in excitement, a total 180 from how cranky she’d been when Bora interrupted their private movie showing.

“Wow, we really get to go to a real celebrity party? This is so exciting! What should I wear?” the angel gushed, bouncing up and down.

“Is that Gahyeon? God, could she be any cuter? Tell her she’ll look beautiful in anything and all she needs to bring is that precious smile of hers,” Siyeon cooed.

Bora rolled her eyes at her friend’s mushiness. Siyeon was probably the embodiment of heart eyes right now. She’d noticed that her best friend had a mega soft spot for her guardian angel. Siyeon was always so embarrassing whenever she fawned over someone or something she found cute. At least this wasn’t as bad as the baby talk she used whenever her and SuA visited the animal shelter. There was a fine line between the way Siyeon spoke to puppies and how she talked to Gahyeon.

“Quit the baby talk, doofus. How much time do we have before you pick us up?” Bora demanded.

“I have to get back to my interview in a little bit here. That should finish in about twenty minutes, and then I’m meeting with my stylist to get my hair and makeup done so that I look camera-ready for tonight’s festivities. When all is said and done, I should be able to pick you and the cute little angel up in about two hours. Sound good?” Siyeon informed her.

Bora nodded, “Sure thing. We’ll be ready. See you then,” she agreed before the two hung up and she turned to Gahyeon to give her the 411.

“We’ve got two hours to look presentable for this thing. With hair like this, I’m really gonna need your angel powers to work a miracle here. I don’t even wanna discuss how bleak the contents of my new closet are,” Bora muttered, frowning at a nearby mirror as she spoke.

Gahyeon rolled her eyes.

“Last I checked I’m not a fairy godmother like that Cinderella movie we watched yesterday. I can’t just make a couture gown and styling team appear from thin air,” she reminded her.

“Since when did you get so sassy? I suppose you’ve been spending a lot of time with me which helps. I have to say, I’m impressed, kiddo,” Bora complimented, slinging an arm around her guardian angel before her expression darkened and she continued, “You’ve got a point, though. We’re stuck doing this ourselves. Siyeon didn’t even offer to send somebody to help us, that bitch. Does she understand what I’m up against? Whatever, I’ve always been decent at doing hair and make-up since I wasn’t always famous enough to have an award-winning team to do it for me. I guess I’ll just have to work with what I’ve got and hope I stand a chance.”
~
After Bora finished working her magic, the result was actually quite impressive. Gahyeon had turned out to be utterly useless at both hair and makeup, so Bora had to make both of them look good with only two hours and a wardrobe full of cheap polyester dress clothes. Despite the odds being stacked against her, she had done a good job.

Bora had taken a blow dryer to the unruly bowl cut atop her head and managed to get it to curl slightly in a sexy way. For her outfit, she’d salvaged a decent leather jacket from her closet to pair with a figure-flattering red dress. To finish off the look, she’d found a pair of tall black boots with a heel. She’d topped it all off with a smoky eye and red lip combo. She looked damned good if she said so herself. She just hoped JiU would feel the same way amidst the sea of girls in designer gowns that she was surrounded by on a daily basis.

As for Gahyeon, Bora had found a black and white striped dress that suited her companion well. Gahyeon had chosen a pair of black pumps to complete the outfit. For her hair, Bora had gone with a cute, classy bun that made Gahyeon look elegant while still suiting her adorable image. She’d kept the angel’s makeup as natural looking as possible with light colors and a simple gloss. Bora couldn’t help but smile when Gahyeon checked herself out in the mirror and twirled around giddily. The angel insisted that Bora had made her look like a princess. Why this was impressive when she was already an angel, Bora had no idea. Still it was cute to see her so happy.

Bora glanced at her phone and saw that it was nearing the time that Siyeon agreed to pick them up. Like clockwork, her phone pinged with a text notification from the popstar announcing her arrival. Bora turned to talk to Gahyeon, who was still admiring her reflection in the mirror.

“Our chariot has arrived,” she announced, prompting Gahyeon to skip over and link arms with her so they could walk out together.

Once they’d locked the apartment and were making their way out of the building, Bora began to fidget nervously.

“Holy crap, I’m so nervous. Are you sure I look presentable enough? Maybe I should go back and do a touchup on my hair. It could probably use more product,” Bora mumbled, inspecting her appearance in her phone.

“Bora, you did a great job. Both of us look perfect. JiU will be thrilled to see you even if you roll up in a burlap sack,” Gahyeon promised her.

Bora smiled at the angel’s comment. Her guardian had a talent for cheering her up. She poked Gahyeon’s shoulder affectionately and the two kept walking toward the limo. As they drew closer, Siyeon’s chauffeur exited his seat to open the door for them. The minute they climbed into the car, Siyeon was squealing in delight.

“You two look amazing! I see Bora is still the best at hair and makeup. Love the outfits. You both look fabulous!” Siyeon gushed, clasping her hands together.

Gahyeon beamed at the compliment. She scooted closer to Siyeon who was admiring her dress and hairstyle. Bora smirked and took the spot beside Gahyeon.

“Thanks, Si. You look pretty good yourself. Then again, you also have a team of stylists who you chose not to share with us. Thanks for that by the way,” the former starlet quipped.

Siyeon grinned sheepishly at the snarkiness of Bora’s tone. She twirled a strand of the wild curls she was sporting for tonight. The popstar was rocking a black, pin-striped suit complete with a tie and black pumps. Her dark makeup made the look perfect for an evening affair. She was sure to turn heads as usual.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t send anybody to your place. It was all so short notice and I barely had time to get ready after my interview as it is. I wanted to share my glam squad, I really did,” she apologized.

Bora rolled her eyes. Her best friend was giving her puppy dog eyes which totally clashed with her witchy aesthetic. Still, she found it hard to be annoyed with Siyeon. She had gone out on a limb and invited Bora to help her when she could have brought another celebrity for publicity. In fact, it meant a lot to Bora that Siyeon even believed she was really SuA. The more she thought about her situation, the more she remembered how insane it actually was. She had started to accept it as a fact of life, or in her case, the afterlife, but Siyeon had chosen to trust her when she could have just as easily decided she was lying. All of this was a lot more bearable with Siyeon and Gahyeon’s combined companionship.

“Whatever, let’s get going before I chicken out. I’m about to face JiU in a department store cotton blend and faux leather jacket when we used to be photographed together in custom-made designer outfits that cost more than my apartment,” Bora grumbled, giving Siyeon a smile to show she wasn’t actually angry.

Siyeon chuckled at her best friend’s antics.

“Well then, what are we waiting for? Please take us to that party at the address I mentioned,” she told her driver before turning to address Gahyeon, “Just wait until you see this place. I know Bora’s been here before as SuA, but you’re gonna be blown away.”

Bora blinked. It was weird to hear snippets of her old life. She wondered if the party venue would bring back painful memories for her. She hoped she could handle the bittersweet feeling of returning to a familiar place as a stranger. Most of all, she hoped she would be able to cope with seeing JiU again. As the limo sped off, Bora found herself struggling to breathe as her nerves went haywire.
~
Eventually, the limo pulled up to the party and it was time for the trio to make their grand entrance. Bora was practically glued to her seat, she was so nervous. She was so wrapped up in her anxiety that it didn’t even register to her that it was time to get out. The chauffeur ended up letting out an uncomfortable sounding cough to remind her that he was holding the door open for her. Bora blinked and mumbled an apology, scrambling to exit the vehicle so that Siyeon and Gahyeon could do the same.

The minute they emerged from the limo, a flurry of camera flashes documented their arrival. A chorus of voices began shouting questions for the famous Lee Siyeon. Everyone wanted to know who she was wearing and the reason she was escorting two unknowns to one of the biggest events of the year. Bora found her heart swelling with pride at the crowd JiU’s event had drawn. Even a party for a show that hadn’t started production was getting lots of attention.

The girls barely had any time to bask in the limelight before a woman dressed in all black wearing a headset and toting a clipboard approached them. Like just about everyone else they’d interacted with, the woman only had eyes for Siyeon.

“Miss Lee, we’re honored to have you here tonight. I understand that you and JiU are close friends. I’m happy to escort you and your friends through the VIP entrance. Please follow me,” she explained, immediately heading off and expecting them to follow.

Soon Siyeon, Gahyeon, and Bora found themselves being led past a line of people waiting to get into the party and the extensive security surrounding the venue. The staff member led them through velvet ropes into a private entrance that immediately dumped them in the center of everything. They found themselves on the outskirts of the dance floor where nicely dressed people held expensive looking drinks and talked while ignoring the DJ completely. A well-stocked fancy bar was set up nearby along with an impressive catering display. Everything about the party was perfect, including the elegant decorations lining the space. Bora was taken back in time to the many fabulous parties she went to as SuA.

Gahyeon, as expected, was mesmerized by the extravagance of it all. She looked around with stunned eyes, taking everything in. Siyeon grinned at her expression. Bora, meanwhile, found herself strolling down memory lane. It was bittersweet to remember her former life knowing that all of it had been taken away from her. She used to be the guest of honor at events like these, but now she was only even able to get in with Siyeon’s help. It hurt to think about her fall from grace. Siyeon could see the pained expression on Bora’s face. She frowned, wanting to check in on her best friend, but one of the staff members running the party grabbed the mic and made an announcement before she could say anything.

“Hello, everyone! Thank you so much for joining us today. Some of the best and brightest stars are among us in this room today to celebrate what we hope will be the show of the year. At this time, I’d like to introduce our company president and let him say a few words,” the staff member proclaimed before handing the mic off to a man in an expensive looking suit.

Bora recognized the company president of this studio. JiU had done projects with him before and he always tended to be at the parties she went to as SuA. He ran an extremely successful media company, so Bora was sure that this new show was bound to be a hit. The president cleared his throat before speaking.

“I’d once again like to thank all of you for joining us today. I know I’m not the one most of you came here for, so let me be brief,” he joked, pausing while the room burst into chuckles before continuing, “I just want to introduce you to the two dazzling young women who are going to take this show to the top. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for our two lead actresses, JiU and Handong!”

Everyone in the room began clapping enthusiastically as JiU and Handong emerged from a nearby door and made their grand entrance. Both of them looked stunning. JiU had her hair in elegant curls and wore a simple white cocktail dress interwoven with golden fabric along with matching golden sandals and jewelry. Handong had on a black pencil skirt that clung to her fabulous legs and waist along with a red halter top that looked fantastic on her. She completed her look with a pair of red pumps, red lipstick, and expensive looking pearls. Bora felt sick to her stomach as she watched them link arms and pose for photo-ops. They looked like they could be on the same magazine covers she’d been on with JiU when she was SuA.

Naturally the stars of the show were immediately swarmed by the paparazzi who began their ambush of questions. JiU and Handong got to work reciting the answers their publicists had gone over with them. While they were having their press conference, Siyeon grabbed Bora and Gahyeon by the arm and led them towards the refreshments.

“Come on, we’ll wait for JiU over here. She’s not gonna be free anytime soon and I’m starving,” the popstar whispered, clutching her stomach dramatically.

Gahyeon shrugged and followed Siyeon’s cue, grabbing a plate and piling on as many things as possible from the fancy assortment being offered. Unlike the two of them, Bora wasn’t hungry. She found herself constantly glancing back at the two actresses. Handong’s beauty was even more surreal in person. How the hell was Bora supposed to compete with that? She seriously hoped Handong was straight.

“Bora, you need to calm down. I know that look. You’re totally freaking out. Handong and JiU are professionals and this show is just another job for them. I highly doubt they are suddenly going to elope or anything,” Siyeon spoke up, giving her best friend a onceover as she munched on her appetizers.

“Oh please, ‘professionals’ have workplace relationships all the time in this industry. Need I remind you of your steamy summer fling with one of the sound technicians on your Japan tour?” Bora scoffed, glaring at the other girl.

Siyeon winced at the memory. The popstar shrugged, hoping to reason with her best friend.

“Okay, that’s one unfortunate example of people who work together getting together. If it makes you feel better, that relationship tanked real fast. Anyways, regardless of what happens between Handong and JiU, you shouldn’t sell yourself short. You’re still the person JiU has always been in love with. Once she spends more time with you I’m sure she’ll fall for your charms all over again,” she insisted.

Gahyeon watched their exchange while munching away on her food. The angel’s cheeks puffed out adorably as she ate. While Siyeon and Bora were talking, Gahyeon felt someone tap her shoulder. She whipped around to see JiU smiling warmly at her. The starlet had evidently finished her interview and sought out some familiar faces. Gahyeon quickly swallowed her last bite so that she could socialize.

“Hi Gahyeon, I thought I recognized you. You look wonderful! Thanks so much for coming. Have you been enjoying the party so far?” JiU asked, ever the perfect hostess.

Gahyeon nodded, “Most definitely! I’ve never been to anything like this before in my life. It was so nice of you to let Siyeon bring Bora and I,” she replied.

“Speaking of Bora and Siyeon, those two seem to be having quite the discussion. Is everything all good?” JiU asked, gesturing to the two girls who were still deep in conversation.

“Oh yeah, those two are fine. I’m sure they’ll realize you’re here in a second or two,” Gahyeon assured her, popping another piece of food in her mouth.

Sure enough, Siyeon and Bora both eventually turned around and took in the sight of JiU standing behind them. Bora found herself starstruck as she took in her lover’s appearance up close. She was at a loss for words. She hadn’t expected her to approach them so quickly. Thankfully, Siyeon didn’t have the same problem. The popstar immediately went in for a hug.

“Congratulations on the big project! The show sounds like it’s gonna be amazing. Thanks for inviting me to this little shindig. I hope it’s okay that I brought some stowaways,” Siyeon joked, talking about Bora and Gahyeon.

JiU returned the hug along with a dazzling smile.

“Thanks, Si! I’m thrilled that you brought Bora and Gahyeon along. I hope you girls get the chance to build your network. It must be hard coming from such a small town. Hopefully you can meet some more show business folks and begin to feel more at home here,” JiU explained, giving Bora a swoon-worthy stare as she addressed her.

Bora suddenly found it difficult to breathe. She had been on the receiving end of countless looks like that one before, but that had been when she was SuA. She’d forgotten how deadly her girlfriend’s charms could be. Before Bora could open her mouth to reply (and probably make a fool of herself), JiU noticed her costar walking by and grabbed her hand to bring her over to their group. Handong was taken aback at first, but smiled when she realized it was JiU who had touched her.

“Everyone, I’d like you to meet my costar. This is Handong. She’s a huge star in China and we’re hoping that this project will take us to a more global audience. Handong, this is my good friend Lee Siyeon. I think I mentioned her to you before and you said you’ve heard some of her stuff. These two cuties she brought with her are Bora and Gahyeon. Bora is a backup dancer for Siyeon’s tour, and Gahyeon is her little sister. They’re not used to the idol world so Siyeon is showing them the ropes since they came from humble beginnings,” JiU explained, indicating to every person she was talking about as she introduced them.

“Ah, how lovely to meet you all! Thank you for your support. Siyeon, I’m a big fan. It’s nice to meet you as well, Bora and Gahyeon,” Handong spoke, extending her hand to each and every one of them for a formal handshake.

Bora clenched her teeth as she felt Handong’s smooth hand in hers. What did she use to moisturize, the tears of the gods? Nobody had any business having hands that soft. She envied Handong’s flawless manicure. It had been ages since she’d gotten the star treatment. She could only imagine what a horror scene her feet were without a proper pedicure.

“I wish I could stick around and chat, but JiU and I have lots of people to greet. The show has a lot of investors coming tonight, and the president of the company will roast us alive if we don’t make it a point to charm each and every one of them. Don’t even get me started on all of the reporters who staked out exclusive interviews. I’ll need at least two more glasses of wine before I’ll be ready to face those people,” Handong admitted, rolling her eyes and taking another sip of her drink before speeding off.

“I hope you all enjoy the evening. It was lovely to meet you!” she called over her shoulder as she strutted away.

“Handong’s right. I should probably follow her example and get going. I wish we could all hang out for longer. Maybe we can plan something soon. Enjoy the party!” JiU added, giving the three of them an apologetic look before racing after the Chinese actress.

Bora blinked, stunned. That encounter had wrapped up just as quickly as it had started. She hadn’t had a chance to get a word in before JiU had to leave. At this rate, JiU wouldn’t even know the first thing about Bora, let alone fall in love with her. What the hell was she supposed to do?

Siyeon and Gahyeon could see that Bora was upset and quickly tried to remedy the situation.

“Okay, so that definitely didn’t go as planned, but we can still have a good time tonight. I’m sure we’ll see JiU again soon. Let’s just focus on one thing at a time. Right now my vote is that our attention goes to hitting the buffet table for round two,” Siyeon offered.

“You’re right. I have no chance with JiU so I might as well eat my feelings,” Bora grumbled, marching back over to the table and grabbing a plate.

“Bora, don’t you think that’s being a bit too pessimistic? I mean, I know things are progressing a little bit slowly, but that doesn’t mean they won’t happen,” Gahyeon intervened, watching with concern as Bora began heaping a generous portion of rice onto her plate.

 

“Gahyeon, did you see who she’s working with? Even I would marry Handong, and I’m supposed to hate her for stealing my woman! I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve maybe spent thirty minutes total with JiU in this form, meanwhile she gets to be with Handong every single day now. That’s like trying to get someone to pick up a Walmart purse when they’ve been using a Chanel handbag. The point is, it’s just not gonna happen!” Bora griped, stabbing her fork angrily in the cut of meat she’d grabbed.

Gahyeon and Siyeon exchanged worried looks. Bora was clearly in a funk and they didn’t want to risk her causing a scene if they pressed the issue any further. The two women just shrugged and decided to let the smaller woman unleash her fury on the food she was angrily chewing. The three of them made their way over to a table where they could sit and enjoy each other’s company while watching all of the glamorous party attendees. In Bora’s case, it was a chance to bitterly eat her food and lament her current situation. The three stayed there for quite some time as the evening progressed.
~
Eventually Bora finished her meal and decided now was as good a time as any to take a bathroom break. She got up from the table and excused herself to Siyeon and Gahyeon, assuring them she’d only be gone a few minutes. The two seemed somewhat relieved to be free of her grumpiness, even if only for a moment. She’d certainly brought the mood down ever since she’d seen how perfect Handong and JiU were together.

Bora searched for the restrooms, and was dismayed to find a line out the door. Thankfully, she remembered this venue from when she had last attended a party as SuA. No one would ever expect an A-list celebrity to have to wait for other people to finish peeing before being able to do the deed, so there had been separate VIP bathrooms reserved for only the most prominent guests. She was able to remember exactly where they were hidden and snuck over in that direction. She figured she could get away with it unless they’d instituted a bathroom security guard or something.

Bora pumped her fist in victory when she arrived at these bathrooms to see that they were practically empty. She was ready to head in and do her thing when she heard a strange noise coming from the stall on the end. It sounded like someone was crying. Bora recognized the sniffling noise of someone who was trying to avoid being heard. Bora would have just let the poor girl be sad in peace, but the cries sounded too familiar. She had to believe it was JiU behind that stall door. Her heart racing, Bora found herself abandoning reason and marching over to pound on the door.

“Are you alright in there?” she asked, at least having the common sense not to use JiU’s name.

Bora could hear JiU trying to stifle her sobs and compose herself. Her heart ached for the woman she loved who was suffering so much yet trying to put on a brave face. Eventually JiU mustered enough strength to open the door and stick her head out.

“Oh, Bora, it’s you. I’m guessing Siyeon led you here. Aren’t these restrooms nice? It’s so much more secluded than the main ones,” JiU tried to change the subject.

Bora frowned.

“It sounded like you were crying. I don’t mean to pry, but is everything okay?” she asked, trying not to come on too strong.

JiU twiddled her fingers, clearly trying to come up with an alternative explanation. Getting JiU to vent about her problems was like pulling teeth. She was perpetually happy and always thinking of others, which led her to believe that talking to others about her problems made her a burden. Bora had resorted to all kinds of tactics to get JiU to open up when she was SuA, even after they had been dating for several years.

Bora took her hesitation as an opportunity to wedge herself in the stall door. Now JiU wouldn’t be able to close it. She figured this was her best chance at getting JiU to let down her emotional wall. It had the desired effect. JiU, knowing there was no chance to easily brush Bora off and escape, began tearing up once again. The starlet fanned at her tears, desperately willing them away.

“I’m so sorry you have to see me like this, Bora. We barely know each other and yet here I am bawling like a baby in front of you. Why can’t I keep it together?” JiU’s voice cracked with emotion.

Bora knew it was risky, but she couldn’t hold back. The smaller girl immediately engulfed JiU in her arms, pulling her into a tight hug.

“What’s wrong, JiU? You can tell me anything. I’m not leaving you alone until I know you’re okay, so you might as well reveal as much as you’re comfortable talking about. Venting will help you feel better. Whatever it is you’re facing, you shouldn’t have to bear it alone,” she assured the other girl, trying to play the role of a kind stranger even though she was much more invested than that.

“You’re such a sweetheart. I feel so bad doing this, but if you really don’t mind, I could use someone to talk to. I’d feel bad going to Siyeon since she’s going through the same things I am, and most other people I know are either too busy or don’t care. Famous people can be so heartless,” JiU admitted, wiping her eyes and swallowing.

“Siyeon told you about my girlfriend, right? Her name was SuA and she just passed away in a terrible accident. I’m trying to stay strong and pretend life goes on, but every day is just so hard without her. I would give anything to have her by my side again. I thought I was finally on my way to accepting what had happened, but then I got invited to this party and remembered all of the events we went to together. When I was with her, nothing else mattered. They could hire all of the fancy caterers and invite the biggest celebrities in the world, but the only thing I remembered from any of those events was the way SuA smiled at me or the stupid things we’d laugh at with each other while everyone else was trying to keep up appearances. Cameras always snapped pictures of us as the famous power couple, but we never cared who saw our love. We cared about each other before the fame, and she always stuck by my side as we made this journey together. Without her, I just feel so lost,” the actress explained, collapsing into sobs as she uttered the last sentence.

Bora felt her heart break in two. Tears began to well up in her own eyes as she realized the extent of JiU’s grief. How cruel it was that she couldn’t tell her about what had happened. Her only chance at getting to have a happily ever after with the woman she loved was to let her suffer and try to win her heart back once it was mended enough to do so. Bora debated giving up on the entire thing just to alleviate JiU’s pain, but she tried to think of the bigger picture. She could eventually tell JiU everything if she earned the right to stay on earth permanently. This was killing her, but she had to think of what was overall going to do the most good for both of them. Bora gently stroked JiU’s hair, gently holding onto her and letting her cry on her shouder. Heck, JiU could have used these clothes as snot rags if she wanted. That was about all they were worth when compared to what everyone else at this party was wearing.

After several minutes, JiU had finally let out most of her emotions. The taller woman was finally able to compose herself somewhat, though she was still sniffling lightly. Bora grabbed several wads of toilet paper to help dry her tearstained face. Thankfully JiU could afford waterproof makeup that actually worked, so not much damage was done. The only telltale sign of her sadness was the redness of her eyes. JiU smiled gratefully at Bora as the smaller girl gently dabbed her tears away. Bora found herself swimming in JiU’s eyes as she lovingly caressed her cheek with each swipe. She wanted to kiss her, but knew that would be taking it too far. It was one thing to be a friendly shoulder to cry on, but trying to woo her would just be taking advantage of her vulnerable state.

“Bora, I can’t thank you enough for letting me vent to you. I’m once again so sorry you had to see me like this. You were so kind to me, I really appreciate you helping me calm down. I know we don’t know each other particularly well, but you acted like a true friend. Please let me know if I can ever return the favor,” JiU urged, clasping Bora’s hands in hers.

Bora was once again struck speechless. She found herself drowning in the warmth of JiU’s gaze as she took in the lovely scent of the perfume she was wearing and savored the warmth of her hands on hers. The smaller woman was disappointed when JiU’s hands were removed from hers moments later so that the actress could grab her purse and get going. She wished the two of them could remain alone forever, even if this wasn’t exactly the most romantic location.

“I apologize, but I really need to get back to the party. I’m sure Handong and all of the people working on the show are wondering where I am. The press is going to have a field day if I don’t make it seem like everything is completely fine. I hope you have a wonderful evening. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon. I’d certainly love to see you again, if you would be willing to tolerate me after that ungraceful display,” JiU explained, smiling sheepishly as she waved goodbye and headed towards the exit.

“I’d love to hang out again sometime! You shouldn’t feel guilty for having emotions. What you’re going through is completely understandable, and anybody who tries to make you feel guilty for being sad about losing your girlfriend is a jerk. So what if you’re one of the most famous actresses in the country? You’re still allowed to be a human being. It was my pleasure to help in any way, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!” Bora called after her.

JiU turned back to face her at these words. The actress, touched by Bora’s passion, smiled warmly at her and waved goodbye before finally heading out.

Once she was gone, Bora stood in silence for a few moments. The former popstar found herself struggling with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, this was the longest conversation she’d had with JiU. It had worked in her favor to be alone with her former lover during her hour of need. This was a small victory, however, considering what her death had done to the poor girl. What good was making JiU fall in love with her again if the other girl had to suffer as she did? Bora had no idea what she was going to do next. At least she wouldn’t have to figure that out tonight. It wouldn’t exactly go over well to claim to be JiU’s dead girlfriend at the launch party for her brand new show.

Bora sighed, glancing at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She had started to recognize the face staring back at her, but whose face really was it? Who was she? What did all of it mean? In a sudden fit of rage, the smaller girl punched the mirror, shattering it into a million pieces. As she stared at the shards of glass littering the floor, all she could think about was how the broken mirror was a metaphor for her life, JiU’s heart, and this entire situation at the moment.

Chapter Text

A few days had passed since the release party for JiU’s show. In the meantime, Bora had decided to keep the events of her bathroom encounter with JiU to herself. Bora didn’t want Siyeon and Gahyeon to read too much into it and get her hopes up. JiU had just needed a shoulder to cry on and she was more than happy to provide that. She couldn’t expect anything else from someone who was still mourning the love of her life.

JiU’s feelings were a double edged sword for Bora. On the one hand, she was thrilled to know how much SuA meant to her. On the other hand, though, it was painful to watch her lover suffer and not be able to do anything about it.

Bora had spent the past couple days trying to move forward and forget about that night. She wanted to check in with JiU, but didn’t want to seem too pushy. She had JiU’s contact information memorized, but JiU would think “Bora” got her information from Siyeon and might be upset if she reached out. It was tough not knowing what to do next. Now she was beginning to remember why she hated the dating game so much. There was too much guessing involved.

Today Bora was on her own, leaving even more time to dwell on her relationship with JiU. Siyeon was recording a brand new single and would be stuck at the studio all day. Surprisingly, Gahyeon had made plans as well. The angel had decided to make the most of her human experience and sign up for activities she couldn’t enjoy in heaven. Her activity for today was wine tasting. This left the former starlet all alone in her apartment, free to stew in her feelings and fears.

Bora flopped down on her couch, curling up and getting ensconced. She figured she would watch some movies in hopes of distracting herself from the issue at hand. There was nothing she could do about JiU for now, so it was best to channel her nervous energy into something else. She was just about to press play on the first of her movie choices when her phone unexpectedly went off. Curious as to who it could be, the smaller woman grabbed it and took a look. She was stunned when she saw JiU’s phone number listed on top of the text message.

‘Hi, Bora! It’s JiU. I asked Siyeon for your number-I hope that’s okay. I can’t thank you enough for the other night. I was actually wondering if I could take you out today? It’s my only day off for a while and I’d love to repay the favor you did for me!’ the message read.

Bora gaped at the words, making sure she had read them properly. She knew for a fact that was JiU’s number, and the text sounded exactly like something she’d send. Her heart began to flutter. With shaky fingers, she grabbed her phone and whipped up a response. She found herself pressing backspace and retyping multiple times to get the words just right. She didn’t want to sound dumb or greedy or ungrateful. She wanted to make sure her reply was perfect.

‘Hi, JiU! No problem at all-I’m glad you got my number. I’m totally free and would love to get together with you. You don’t need to worry about paying me back-I was happy to do it. We can just hang out. What did you want to do?’ she ended up saying.

‘You’re the sweetest! How about I pick you up in thirty minutes? Is that enough time for you to get ready? Do you mind telling me where you live so I can tell my driver where to go? I look forward to seeing you! :)’ JiU chimed in just minutes later.

‘Sure thing!’ Bora sent before putting her address in the next message.

Once she was sure that JiU knew how to get there, Bora raced to spruce up. There was no way her current outfit of yoga pants and a t-shirt was going to cut it. After all, this was the closest thing to a date she was probably going to get.

She clawed at the racks on her closet, desperate to find something worthy of JiU’s eye. Her current wardrobe paled in comparison to what both SuA and JiU owned, but she was determined to work with what she had. She decided on a simple blue dress with a white shirt underneath and light colored sandals. She finished off the look with a sun hat she noticed laying around. She kept her hair and makeup as simple and natural looking as possible, trying to fit the beachy summer theme of her outfit.

As Bora checked herself out in the mirror, nostalgia washed over her. Without even thinking about it, she had chosen an outfit that resembled what she’d worn on her first date with JiU before they were famous. The two of them had gone to the beach to watch the sunset and eat ice cream together. Bora had never felt happier than she did with JiU’s head resting on her shoulder, the rolling tide gently rocking them to sleep. She felt her eyes misting over as she reminisced. She would give anything to go back to those days.

She quickly snapped herself out of her reverie and glanced at the clock. She didn’t want to keep JiU waiting. Much to her relief, she still had a few minutes to get outside so that she could meet JiU’s limo in the parking lot. She figured it was humiliating enough to have fallen so far from grace in terms of her living situation, so it would only add insult to injury if JiU saw her humble abode. Bora made her way outside and waited for the other girl to arrive.

The smaller girl jumped up and waved excitedly when she saw the expensive vehicle pull in. She strolled over to the door and didn’t bother to wait for the chauffeur to get out before opening it herself. JiU was sitting there in all of her perfection, dressed in a gorgeous sundress and sandals. Bora tried not to drool at the sight of her lover’s perfect figure. JiU squealed and moved forward to greet Bora with a hug. The smaller girl found herself in a state of bliss as she relaxed in JiU’s embrace, savoring the scent of her shampoo and perfume. It was comforting to be reunited with those familiar smells along with the treasured feeling of her lover’s arms around her. Bora wanted the moment to last, but JiU quickly pulled away to make room for her to hop in.

“Hi Bora, how’s it going?” JiU squealed, as bubbly as ever.

Bora smiled as she took her spot beside the starlet and closed the door of the limo.

“I’m doing alright! How are you holding up?” she asked, referring to their conversation the other night.

JiU smiled gratefully at Bora’s concern. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. The driver, aware that an intimate conversation was taking place, focused on heading to the destination JiU had given him.

“I’m coping just fine, thanks for asking. I still miss her every second, but I’m trying my best to keep it together. I still can’t thank you enough for getting me through that party. You were so sweet to check in on me. Anyways, today is supposed to be a happy day, so let’s focus on the exciting stuff! I hope you like the beach, I was thinking that we could spend the day on the boardwalk,” she explained, clasping her hands together in anticipation.

Bora felt chills run along her spine. The boardwalk was the place she and JiU had had their first date. At the time they were just friends, but it had led to much more by the end of the evening. She couldn’t help but wonder if JiU had similar plans for her relationship with Bora. Given the other girl’s grief, she doubted this was the case. Still, the coincidence was almost unbelievable.

“Uh, yeah, sure thing! I’m looking forward to it. You can’t go wrong spending a beautiful summer day on the beach,” she agreed.

“Great! We should be there pretty quickly. It worked out that your place is on the way. I actually don’t live too far from you. You’ll have to come by sometime!” JiU offered before launching into cheerful small talk.

The two girls jabbered excitedly for the duration of the car ride. When they pulled into the beach parking lot, the chauffeur seemed a bit hesitant to let them out.

“Madame, are you sure you should be here without security? There are a lot of people here. A celebrity of your prestige is almost certain to get mobbed,” he pointed out.

JiU waved her hand nonchalantly as she donned a large, floppy hat and sunglasses along with a blonde wig.

“That’s what my handy dandy disguise is for! Don’t worry, I’ve been here by myself before. You’d be surprised how easy it is for us famous folk to go incognito,” she assured him.

The driver relented and got out to open the door for the two of them. As they were leaving, Bora could have sworn she heard him mutter prayers under his breath about not losing his job.

“He’s got a point, you know. Are you sure you want to do this? Maybe we should go somewhere with less people,” Bora pointed out, glancing around concernedly.

“You’re sweet to worry, but this isn’t my first time doing this. You’d be surprised how easy it is for a famous person to hide in plain sight,” JiU insisted, giving Bora a wink before urging her onward.

Bora’s heart fluttered. Sneaking around with JiU gave her the same adrenaline rush that it had when she was famous. SuA and JiU had donned all kinds of whacky disguises in order to get away from it all and feel normal for just a little bit. As Bora, SuA no longer had to worry about being flocked by fans, but JiU would still have to be careful. The smaller girl mentally vowed to protect her lover from anything that might put her in danger.

JiU had grabbed Bora’s arm and was pulling her along as they darted through the sand. There was so much of it that running was difficult, but their excitement kept them moving at a fast pace. Bora relished the feeling of the sun beating down on her mixing with the cool breeze blowing in from the sea. There was not a cloud in sight. She was running through paradise with JiU, an actual angel, by her side. If Gahyeon were there she would point out that she was the one who was literally an angel, but that was beside the point.

“Alright, what do you wanna do first? I was thinking we could hang out on the beach for a while and then hit up some of the rides on the boardwalk when it gets later. I don’t know if you’ve ever been before, but there’s a really fun carousel and a ferris wheel where you can see the entire beach for miles! It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset,” JiU spoke up, suggesting their itinerary for the day.

Bora felt butterflies in her stomach. As SuA, she had always wanted to go on the Ferris wheel with JiU, but it had been under renovation until recently. Her untimely death had definitely put a damper on that plan. The thought of her and JiU pressed together on a tiny bench gazing out at the incredible view from the top made her both nervous and excited. She hoped she could restrain herself around the other woman.

“Bora, are you alright? You seem to be zoning out there,” JiU cut in, waving her hand in front of Bora’s face gently.

The smaller girl blinked as she returned to reality. She mentally berated herself for looking like a total weirdo in front of her crush. When had she turned back into a twelve year old? Second guessing herself like this was so exhausting. Now she remembered why she was so thankful to have been in a relationship and have been finished with all of this stuff. Having a second chance at life meant dealing with the phases of a budding romance all over again. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but she was glad that if she had to do this for anyone, it was JiU.

Before she could dwell on her thoughts much longer, Bora realized that JiU was heading towards the water. The former starlet immediately raced after her, kicking off her sandals to increase her speed. The sand felt hot on her bare feet, but soon she reached the water which provided relief from the heat. Bora watched as JiU kicked her feet in the waves, reaching down to splash water around and twirl in the breeze. The skirt of her sundress whirled in the wind, billowing around her as she moved. Bora found herself reaching for her phone, desperate to capture the sight of JiU’s gorgeous smile as she enjoyed herself. When they were dating, she had loved taking candids of her girlfriend whenever she could sneak them in. JiU was used to having a camera on her at all times, but had always insisted that her favorite photos were the ones taken when she least expected it. She had always enjoyed seeing her life captured without a script. Bora was hesitant to do it lest she seem creepy, but decided she would have to get bold if she wanted things to go anywhere. It had already been a couple weeks without much happening. She needed to move fast or risk being sent back into oblivion.

JiU’s head snapped up at the sound of the camera flash. Bora held her breath as she awaited the starlet’s reaction. Much to her relief, JiU was eager to see what Bora had photographed. The smaller girl nervously handed JiU her phone, and the taller girl’s mouth dropped open in surprise.

“Wow, you’re really good at this, Bora! Remind me to bring you along whenever I go anywhere. Heck, you’re better at capturing me in my element than just about every paparazzi and professional photographer I work with. Those other pictures are so posed and artificial. You really have a talent for capturing real life. SuA, my girlfriend used to be good at that too,” JiU explained, her voice trailing off as she mentioned her lover’s name, “There I go again bringing her up. I’m sorry, I can’t seem to carry on a conversation without bringing her back into it.”

“You don’t need to apologize. In fact, I’d love to hear more about her. You and Siyeon bring her up a lot, so she must have meant a lot to you. If it makes you feel better to keep her memory alive, I’m more than willing to listen,” Bora spoke up, grabbing JiU’s hand and giving it a squeeze.

Bora’s words had multiple intentions. She genuinely wanted to do what she could for JiU, but she also figured that letting the other girl talk about SuA not only made Bora look better, but would also let her reexperience the love she and JiU had shared in her former life.

JiU shook her head.

“I really appreciate you saying that, Bora, but you don’t have to do that. As much as I love talking about SuA and want to hold on to her memory, I invited you out to have fun. This is supposed to be about making happy memories. I can always treasure the ones I had with SuA, but I have to try and keep moving forward. The more I talk about her, the harder it is for me to accept that she’s gone. I know that grieving is a process, but it’s been extremely difficult for me,” she explained.

Bora resolved then and there to give JiU the best day ever. Sure she would be helping her lover forget about her death, but that also meant she might be willing to move toward a new future with her new identity. It was all very paradoxical. She knew it was a reach to expect JiU to be able to fall in love again so soon, let alone with someone like her new self, but this was her chance to shoot her shot. The smaller girl grinned and took JiU’s hands in hers.

“If it’s happy memories you want, then I’ll make sure to give you as many as I can! Let’s make today something SuA would be proud of. I’m sure she wants to see you happy,” she insisted, knowing that it was certainly the truth.

JiU wiped at the unshed tears that had collected in her eyes before nodding and heading after her smaller companion.

“Thanks, Bora. You’re right, she’d definitely want that,” she murmured.

With that, the two of them ran into the beautiful day, eager to make the most of it.
~
The day ended up being a total blast. Bora and JiU managed to squeeze as many things as possible into the short time they had together. They began by walking along the beach, enjoying the scenery along the pristine shore. JiU couldn’t help but smile when watching Bora chase a flock of seagulls along with a group of kids. A slight pang came to her heart. SuA had also loved children and JiU had teased her that it was because she had the same height and maturity level. She quickly shook off the feeling and focused on having fun.

After their beach stroll, the two had gone for ice cream. JiU was surprised when Bora ordered the chocolate swirl combo with rainbow sprinkles. That had been SuA’s favorite as well. Bora even licked the cone with the exact same methodology. JiU mentally reprimanded herself for trying to draw comparisons. After all, Bora was her own person. She shouldn’t have been comparing her to her dead girlfriend.

Once they finished their treat, the duo eventually made their way to the theme park on the boardwalk. JiU found herself strolling down memory lane. The sounds of laughter and carnival music brought her back to her first date with SuA. She could almost feel the girl’s presence beside her as they linked arms and scoured the park. JiU felt her eyes misting with tears once again. She would give anything to hear the smaller girl’s shrieks of terror on every single ride, even though they made her ears ring. Her heart ached at the memory of winning SuA a stuffed animal in the ring toss and having the smaller girl engulf her in an excited hug. Her girlfriend’s undying love for elephants had been one of the many adorable things about her. JiU was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn’t register what was going on until Bora was standing directly in front of her, mere inches from her face.

“Earth to JiU, I asked what ride you wanna go on first. It looks like the roller coaster has a surprisingly short wait. Wanna hop on that?” she offered.

JiU found herself stunned as she took in the sight of the girl in front of her. How had it not clicked before now? Even Bora’s outfit reminded her of what SuA had worn on their first date in this very place. She knew she was being ridiculous, but the coincidences were starting to boggle her mind. After all, she was still grieving a loss so it was natural to try and find commonalities that weren’t there. She tried to remind herself to stay rational.

“Uh, yeah, let’s go ride that one!” she agreed.

Much to JiU’s surprise, Bora’s loudness rivaled SuA’s. She knew it was normal for people to scream on thrill rides, but those two were on a whole other level. She ended up clutching her head as she exited the ride, her brain practically melted by the sonic screams of her shorter companion.

As the day continued, JiU noticed more and more similarities between Bora and SuA. They both wrinkled their noses in a similar way when hit by the strong smell of nearby food. They had a similar way of fiddling with their hair while waiting in line. They even laughed in a similar way when they found something really funny. Much to her shock and shame, JiU found herself feeling something that she hadn’t felt since she had been with SuA. She had to believe it was because of the similarities between Bora and her dead lover. She was projecting these things onto her friend and it was unfair to her. JiU spent the whole day mentally scolding herself and trying to show some restraint.

The most difficult challenge of all came with the grand finale, the ferris wheel. JiU’s knees began to tremble even before getting on the ride. All day she had been trying not to be discovered by fans or paparazzi and yet this made her more nervous than anything. Bora seemed oblivious to her feelings and was jabbering away. She was sounding more and more like SuA as she spoke. JiU watched her and found her heart pounding harder and harder. Finally, it was their turn to board. They climbed into the bench, tightly packed together. Bora’s arm brushed against hers and JiU’s breath momentarily hitched. Soon the ride started back up.

“I can’t wait till we get to the top! The view from up top is stellar,” Bora cheered.

JiU blinked in surprise and turned to stare at her.

“Isn’t this your first time here?” she pointed out.

Bora froze for a moment.

“Yeah, it’s my first time on this particular ferris wheel, but I’ve been on one before. I went to a fair in my hometown one time and the view from the top of the ferris wheel was lovely. I figured this one would be even better since I’m guessing you can see the beach,” she explained.

JiU nodded. Bora’s statement made perfect sense. Still, just for a moment she found herself entertaining the craziest thing she’d thought all day. She wanted to laugh out loud at how ridiculous the notion was. Her mind really seemed to enjoy torturing her. Here she was with a beautiful kind hearted girl who just wanted to make her happy, and all she could do was convince herself that this girl was linked to her dead lover. It was preposterous.

“Huh? Why are you laughing? Did I say something funny?” Bora asked, looking at JiU with confusion and concern.

JiU shook her head, gazing out at the view before her.

“I’m sorry for laughing. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My brain has been such a mess since SuA passed. Please excuse me for acting so strange,” she sighed.

With that, the two went silent. JiU was busy arguing with herself about her feelings while Bora just watched, unsure of what was going on or how to help her. Eventually they reached the top of the ride. The silence was broken when Bora let out a high pitched squeal.

“Would you look at that? It looks like a painting!” she gushed.

JiU couldn’t help but smile at the other girl’s excitement. Despite her grieving, Bora was once again able to bring her joy. She gazed out at the magnificent scene before them. Like Bora said, it was worthy of a masterpiece. The setting sun cast a rosy glow over everything. The gentle tide mingled with the golden sand, woven together like a pink and amber blanket. JiU was in awe of its beauty. She snuck a glance at Bora and found a sight equally as beautiful. Her heart stopped as she admired the girl’s gentle brown eyes and the way they ate up the scenery. Her face, lit up with childlike wonder, was almost angelic. JiU was terrified by the overwhelming urge she had to kiss her. She had been battling these temptations all day, but this was almost unbearable. How could she betray SuA like this?

It felt like they were suspended in time for ages. JiU was in turmoil as she tried to fight her feelings for Bora. She prayed for the ride to keep going and get her out of this hypnotic state. It had to be the scenery that was causing her to feel this way. After all, every romance movie she had ever watched pushed this type of atmosphere as the time when a couple gets together. The context they were in combined with how much Bora reminded her of SuA had to be what was messing with her mind. Much to JiU’s relief, the ride finally kept going. Unfortunately, much to her horror, the urge to kiss Bora remained. The starlet found herself unable to stop staring at the smaller girl as the ride continued before coming to a stop. She was so stunned that the attendant helping them off the ride had to yank her arm rather hard in order for her to get out of the way so the next customers could ride.

“Are you alright? That kid should have been more gentle. I’ll give him a piece of my mind for grabbing at you like that! Does he even know who he’s messing with?” Bora grumbled as they walked away, noticing that JiU had once again gone silent.

“You don’t have to do that, Bora. I’m fine. Anyways, it’s getting late. We should both be getting home. I’ll call a chauffeur to pick each of us up. I’d offer to let you come with me, but I have another engagement to get to,” JiU declared, hurrying to get out of the situation.

She hated how abrupt she was being, but she was terrified by the feelings the day had caused. She wasn’t sure she could last much longer. As it was she could barely look Bora in the eye after coming so close to kissing her. It wasn’t fair to SuA or her for something like to happen. Bora was her friend and it was her job to show her around, this had never been part of the arrangement.

JiU didn’t even give the other girl time to reply before she was on the phone ordering each of them a ride home. The drivers only took a few minutes to get there, and the wait was spent in awkward silence. Bora was too taken aback by JiU’s sudden change in mood to even know what to say, and JiU was afraid of making things worse. When the time came to part ways, JiU mumbled a quick goodbye and wish to see Bora again soon. The smaller girl chimed in with similar feelings, but JiU’s car had sped off before she had a chance to say much of anything.
~
During the car ride home, Bora tried to process what had just happened. Why had JiU been so aloof towards the end of the day? Everything had seemed fine until they boarded the ferris wheel. She wondered if she’d said something to offend the other girl. She had certainly pissed JiU off before when they were dating, but she hadn’t noticed any signs of anger during any of their conversations. The smaller girl frowned as she pondered what could have caused JiU to act so strange.

Then it hit her. She had noticed the way JiU stared when she was playing with the kids earlier, as well as the way she’d gawked at her outfit when she’d noticed what she was wearing. Heck, she’d even thought she caught her stealing glances at her on the ferris wheel. Not to mention there had been small lulls in their conversations that were barely noticeable, but Bora had observed the way JiU paused whenever she fell back into one of the habits she’d had as SuA. She was almost certain JiU was seeing the similarities between her and who she used to be. A glimmer of hope flickered in her chest. She knew it was crazy, but she just had an instinct that this was what was happening. After dating JiU for so long, she knew the other girl so well that she could practically read her mind. JiU wore her heart on her sleeve.

Bora whipped out her phone and decided to fill Siyeon and Gahyeon in on what was happening. This time she was ready to get her hopes up.
~
JiU couldn’t stop thinking about Bora the entire ride home. The guilt was eating her alive. Her girlfriend had just died and here she was falling for someone else. She knew it was probably because Bora reminded her so much of SuA and she was desperate to hold onto her in any way that she could. Still, it was unfair to Bora. The other girl probably just wanted to be her friend, not to mention it was an insult to SuA’s memory for her to move on to anybody else. SuA was irreplaceable. JiU was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she almost didn’t notice Yoohyeon sitting outside her door. Her manager rocked the overprotective mom glare, complete with her arms folded tightly across her chest.

“Where the hell have you been? I paged your driver and he said you gave him orders to drop you off at the boardwalk without security. Naturally I assumed he was either lying or joking, fired him, and then reached out to your bodyguard crew. They then told me that he was right and you hadn’t requested any security detail today. Would you care to explain to me what place you could have possibly gone without any protection? If your answer isn’t an underground bunker or the Russian secret service I might physically combust on the spot,” her manager ranted, growing more and more agitated as she spoke.

JiU bit her lip. She should have seen this coming. Yoohyeon was like a guard dog, a loyal companion with an overprotective nature. Going out in public with a wig as her only defense was not her best idea.

“Er, I wanted to take a friend out on the boardwalk and I figured she wouldn’t enjoy having my babysitters along,” she admitted before explaining, “Don’t worry, I wore a disguise and nobody even noticed me.”

Yoohyeon scoffed, “You really think a global superstar can sneak around in a wig and sunglasses and expect everything to be hunky dory? You’re lucky you didn’t get mobbed by fans or kidnapped by some psycho. Who the hell is so important that you risked your life just to not have security tag along?” she demanded.

“Her name’s Bora. She’s a backup dancer on Siyeon’s tour. She’s not from around here so I figured I’d show her around. She did me a huge favor during the premiere party and it was my way of thanking her,” JiU answered.

Yoohyeon held the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath, closing her eyes.

“JiU, you’re a sweetheart, but you really need to think about the consequences of your actions. Anytime a celebrity is spotted in public with a stranger or even another public figure, people’s minds automatically jump to dating scandals. If you two had been caught, a nasty scandal could erupt, regardless of how you feel about this chick. Imagine what people will do if they think the nation’s sweetheart is sneaking around with other girls only weeks after the love of her life passed away?” the taller girl insisted.

JiU’s stomach dropped. She hadn’t even thought of what people would think. None of that had mattered to her. Now she realized how foolish she had been. Fans loved her with SuA, and if anyone thought she had other intentions, Bora could have been targeted. As a famous person, she was used to receiving hate, but Bora wasn’t like that. She had to think about other people besides herself. Not to mention she could have brought shame to SuA’s legacy. She felt a lump forming in her throat.

Yoohyeon could see that she was about to cry and raced to pull her in for a hug.

“There, there, I’m sorry for being so harsh with you. You know I only do it because I love you and am looking out for your best interest in the long-run. Come on, it’s been a long week and you’ve been through enough. It’s time to get some rest before your schedule picks up,” she declared, gently ushering JiU inside.

In her mind, she began making plans to insure that JiU’s schedule would in fact pick up. The starlet was already busy, but she intended to make her even busier. That way, this Bora chick wouldn’t be able to cause any more trouble for her client. JiU was too kind to realize this, but she had her suspicions about what was going on. Who did this unknown think she was, glomming onto Siyeon’s tour and weaseling her way into JiU’s life as well? She had seen too many two faced people use celebrities for fame-the town was full of people like that. With SuA gone, she knew it was her job to protect JiU’s trusting nature from anyone who might take advantage of her. If this Bora chick wanted anything to do with JiU, she would have to go through her-and she was not going to make that easy.

Chapter Text

“Absolutely! She’ll be there. We look forward to working with you!” Yoohyeon chirped before hanging up the phone with a satisfied expression.

JiU looked up from the magazine she was reading, curious as to who her manager was speaking with.

“My my, you’ve certainly been making lots of phone calls today. Who was it this time?” she remarked.

“You, my dear, just got booked for yet another appearance. I swear, people are going nuts for your new show. Every place in town wants you and Handong to endorse them. I’ll ping her manager and make sure you can both be in attendance for all of this stuff. Either one of you is already worth enough on your own, but together you two are the talk of the town!” Yoohyeon gushed, clapping her hands eagerly.

JiU ran a hand through her hair and whistled.

“Golly, that’s gotta be the tenth thing you’ve booked for me. It’s going to be one heck of a week! You sure have been hitting the phones,” she commented.

Yoohyeon smirked. Everything was going exactly as she’d hoped. After JiU’s little rendezvous with Siyeon’s backwoods backup dancer, she had taken it upon herself to protect her dear friend’s honor. She couldn’t risk anybody getting wind of JiU’s relationship with this woman and using it against her or SuA’s legacy. They had all worked too hard for anything to go wrong. Besides, she had her suspicions about the new girl in town suddenly buddying up with the biggest stars. She had a feeling this Bora chick was just a gold digger posing as a doe eyed small town sweetheart. She hoped Siyeon’s manager was taking similar precautions to protect her.

Yoohyeon glanced at the clock. They had about three hours before JiU’s next appearance. The taller girl smiled at her older companion, poking her on the shoulder.

“Come on, princess, we’ve gotta get you ready for a banquet. You and Handong are being asked to present an award at the cardiologist’s foundation dinner. If all goes according to plan, you two will be the ones stopping hearts in that room,” Yoohyeon joked, helping JiU up so they could head to their limo.

JiU did as she was told, thanking her manager as she followed her. She was thrilled to have so many appearances coming up to gain publicity for the show, but a small part of her was bummed out about her busy schedule. She was hoping to see Bora again soon. She owed the other woman an apology for ending things on such an awkward note. Still, she knew her career had to come first. Plus, she was worried that her heart was betraying SuA and everything they’d had together. Perhaps it was better for her to keep her distance.

JiU’s mind was preoccupied with these thoughts as she followed her manager into the limo and the driver slammed the door behind them. She found herself thinking about Bora the entire ride there. She hoped her busy schedule, courtesy of Yoohyeon, would eventually take her mind off of the other girl, but for now she kept running through her head.
~
Bora bit her lip, staring at her phone which was just inches away from her. Next to her, Gahyeon munched on a bag of chips, oblivious as to what was going through the other girl’s mind. Siyeon sat on Bora’s other side, watching her friend with a knowing expression.

“You’re debating whether to make the first move or wait for her to call, aren’t you?” she spoke up before turning to Gahyeon and explaining, “She was just like this in her past life. She was always second guessing herself when it came to anything romance-related. One time she almost slaughtered me for texting JiU to call her because she thought she was mad at her.”

“Hell yeah I did! I still can’t believe you did that. Excuse me for not wanting to humiliate myself or ruin my chances with the woman of my dreams,” Bora quipped.

Siyeon rolled her eyes, “Oh, for crying out loud, Bora! You’re the same girl she used to go down on every night, just with a different haircut. Get it together, man up, and give her a call!” she snapped, shoving the cell phone into the smaller girl’s hands.

Gahyeon tilted her head to the side.

“Forgive me for being out of touch with human terminology, but what exactly does it mean to ‘go down’ on someone?” she inquired.

The tension between Bora and Siyeon evaporated as the two of them burst into laughter.

“Should you tell her or should I?” Bora snorted.

“Er, I don’t know how I feel about corrupting an actual angel with knowledge of human lust. We’ll tell you when you’re older, Gahyeon,” Siyeon declared, winking at the angel in question.

Gahyeon puffed her cheeks in indignation.

“I’m thousands of years older than both of you!” she huffed before changing topics, “Anyways, I think the more important part of all of this is figuring out what’s going on between Bora and JiU. After all, the clock is ticking and we only have a few weeks to meet our goal or else Bora has to go back to the Great Beyond as Dami’s slave.”

“I perish the thought! Bora and JiU are meant to be. She’s going to be here forever!” Siyeon insisted, throwing her arms around her best friend.

“I’d like to think the same thing, Siyeon. Unfortunately, we’re on a time crunch here. Although, Bora, based on what you told us about the other night, I’m surprised she hasn’t reached out yet. Maybe she’s worried she made you uncomfortable. She still thinks you’re a stranger, you know,” the guardian angel observed.

“You’re probably right, Gahyeon. It’s the funniest thing-the way she looked at me reminded me so much of our first date. It was probably based on my outfit choice. I didn’t even mean to pick the outfit I did. Hell, I didn’t even know where we’d be going! Was that some kind of crazy coincidence or does Dami have more magical powers she never told me about that she used to make that happen?” Bora pondered.

“I still can’t believe you two went to the same place you had your first date. The boardwalk is so much fun! Plus the view from the top of the ferris wheel is mega romantic. I’ve canoodled with plenty of attractive people up there,” Siyeon gushed, sighing contentedly at the memories.

“What if I’m reading too much into it? I mean, it sounds like she’s still grieving my death. Maybe wearing a similar outfit in the same place we had our first date caused her to hallucinate and remember my old self? After all, she just met Bora. If I come on too strong she might lose interest in the new me. Besides, I still love JiU. I can’t just force myself on her too fast and risk breaking her heart,” Bora fretted.

Siyeon and Gahyeon exchanged sad expressions at her words. It was tough to see their friend in such a difficult situation. On the one hand, her deal with Dami gave her a second chance at life if she could achieve the desired results within the time limit. On the other hand, she was risking hurting the person she loved most of all who was still mourning the loss of her former self. Their hearts both went out to her.

“If I could go back in time and stop that truck from crushing your limo, I totally would. Unfortunately, our time travel powers were taken away when one angel got too excited and threw the rock that killed the dinosaurs,” Gahyeon muttered.

“Thanks, Gahyeon. That’s sweet of you,” Bora smiled at her guardian angel before furrowing her eyebrows and saying, “Also, did that actually happen? Here on earth we were taught that the meteor that wiped them all out came from outer space. Anyways, that’s besides the point. I still just don’t know what to do about JiU.”

“Bora, I know you’re worried about hurting her, but you really don’t have much time left. You’re going to have to move quick if you want any chance of sticking around. I sure know that I want you here, and I’ll do anything to make that happen. Besides, think of how much happier JiU would be to have you with her instead of losing you forever. Did this Dami person ever tell you what happens after you and JiU fall in love again? Can’t you just tell her who you are then?” Siyeon pointed out.

Gahyeon and Bora exchanged looks. Siyeon made a valid point. Bora was never told what would happen after she made JiU fall back in love with her. All Dami had said was that she’d have a second chance at happiness. Bora’s spirits lifted at this information.

“You know, Siyeon, you’re totally right. Last I checked there’s no rule that JiU can never know I’m SuA ever again. The only limit Dami gave me was that she can’t know during the thirty days I have to make her love me,” Bora explained.

Siyeon squealed and clapped her hands in delight.

“Imagine how happy JiU will be when she finds out you’ve been here with her all along! What are you waiting for? You need to go make her fall in love with you so that you two can have your happily ever after!” the popstar cried, helping Bora up from her spot and shoving her towards the door.

“Siyeon’s right, Bora! Go get the woman of your dreams!” Gahyeon cheered, getting up and following the duo.

Bora clenched her tiny fists in determination. Siyeon’s words had given her a new purpose. The thought of being able to alleviate JiU’s pain trumped everything else. Even if things might get messy, the end would justify the means.

“Heck yeah! I’m gonna do it. Watch out, JiU, your queen charming is on her way!” Bora declared, ready to make her grand exit and chase the love of her life.

“Er, I know love is blind, but maybe you should change first?” Gahyeon called out, stopping the smaller girl in her tracks.

Bora glanced down and realized that all she had on was a pair of underwear and an oversized t-shirt. The smaller girl groaned, racing into her room to get dressed. Siyeon snickered at the scene while Gahyeon put a palm to her forehead. Love really could make a person forget everything.
~
JiU kept a smile etched on her face as she was met by the usual barrage of camera flashes that greeted her at every appearance. She was so used to being surrounded by cameras that it came as naturally as breathing. She tuned the paparazzi out as she strutted past, her mind still preoccupied with thoughts of Bora. Even though she was grateful to Yoohyeon for keeping her busy, it was tough not being able to gauge where things stood with her new acquaintance. She needed to sit down and have a conversation with her. It was crucial that JiU sort out the mess of emotions she was experiencing. SuA’s death was a hard pill to swallow and she would probably never come to terms with it. Still, her evening with Bora was the first time she’d begun to feel that she could move forward. She was afraid of what this all meant, but shutting Bora out wasn’t going to accomplish anything.

JiU jumped when she felt an arm snake around her waist. She’d been so preoccupied with her thoughts that she hadn’t noticed Handong waltz up beside her for a photo-op. Her costar pulled her in close, evidently trying to generate some buzz about their relationship. JiU had already seen one or two dating rumors pop up on the web. She found it silly how quickly people jumped to conclusions. Did they all just magically forget that the love of her life died only a few weeks ago? It was hurtful that some people thought she’d get over SuA so quickly. JiU tried to recover from the unexpected sensation and leaned in to Handong’s touch, making sure the two were posed at the perfect angle.

“Sorry for scaring you. My manager told me to take advantage of the mob scene out here. Who knew so many photographers would show up?” Handong murmured through the corner of her mouth, her perfect smile never falling out of place.

“No problem. I promise I’m not normally so jumpy. I just had my mind on other things. I’m so excited to work with you on this project. With the buzz it’s already generating, I have no doubt it’ll be a huge success,” JiU replied, continuing to pose for the cameras as she spoke.

Handong placed a hand on JiU’s shoulder, gazing at her with sympathy. The photographers ate it up, their cameras flashing in a frenzy. There was bound to be a headline gushing over the bond between two of the biggest names in entertainment. JiU didn’t mind, Handong seemed to be a genuinely kind person. She had a feeling her costar wasn’t just doing this for attention.

“Let me know if you ever want to talk. I was reading up on what happened to your girlfriend. It all sounds dreadful. I can only imagine what you’re going through. Just know that you’re not alone. I am always here for you. We may be coworkers, but I hope we can also be good friends who confide in each other,” Handong assured her, smiling warmly.

JiU returned the gesture and grabbed the hand resting on her shoulder. Everyone around them cooed at the sight. The two ignored the onslaught of questions about the nature of their relationship and focused only on their conversation.

“Thanks, that means a lot. I’m not in the best place right now emotionally or mentally, but I promise not to let that impede my work. I’m looking forward to our project. You have done amazing work in the past, and I’m excited to see what we can pull off together,” she gushed.

The two posed for a few more photos before linking arms and heading in for their appearance at the gala. JiU was relieved that Handong was so understanding. She had worked with some eccentric people in the past. It was a breath of fresh air to star alongside someone so laid back and good natured. Not to mention Handong was certainly easy on the eyes. JiU felt herself blushing as she glanced at her costar through the corner of her vision.

Being in close proximity made her realize just how stunning the Chinese actress was. From her symmetrical features to her alluring eyes, Handong’s beauty was unreal. She was suddenly aware of how close together the two of them were as they walked side by side. Normally dating rumors with her costars didn’t phase her, but she suddenly found herself growing more and more nervous as she considered the possibility of being paired with someone so beautiful. For a brief moment she wondered what it might be like to date someone so flawless. The minute that thought crossed her mind, JiU mentally reprimanded herself. It was one thing to feel things for Bora who reminded her so much of SuA, but where did these feelings for Handong come from? She found herself contemplating everything as she wondered what to make of her current situation and how to best assess her emotions.

Beside her, Handong wore an unreadable expression. If someone held a microscope to the Chinese woman’s face, they might notice the tiny smirk of triumph twitching at the corners of her lips.
~
Once she was properly clothed, Bora raced to JiU’s place as fast as her legs would take her. This body was not as physically adept as her former one which meant that her pace was somewhat slower. Still, she pushed herself to get there as quickly as possible. She had no gameplan in mind, but was going to follow her heart.

The closer she got to her former home, she realized how foolish this was. There was no way security would let her in without approval from Yoohyeon or JiU. Not to mention JiU rarely spent her days lounging around at home. She was constantly at appearances or on set for various projects. Bora couldn’t believe how stupid she’d been to assume this evening would be any different. Stopping in her tracks, Bora whipped out her phone to send JiU a text in order to confirm what she was up to.

While she was drafting her message, a nearby television was broadcasting the news of the day. Bora’s ears perked up when she heard JiU’s name mentioned by the reporter.

“That’s right, folks! The country’s favorite leading lady and beloved widow was seen cozying up to her costar at the cardiologist’s gala this evening. Here you can see the pictures captured by our crew when this touching moment occurred. Could this be just another publicity stunt or is there something more going on? We’ll keep you updated as we uncover more details!” the news anchor declared, wrapping up the segment.

Bora’s face fell. She ran over to the TV, pressing her hands and face against the cool glass of the window. She kept her eyes glued to the screen, desperate for someone to clarify that there was a misunderstanding and nothing was going on between the two actresses. All she got was another photo of Handong’s arms around JiU while the two had a heart-to-heart. As a former celebrity, she could tell the difference between a posed conversation versus a genuine one. Her stomach dropped as she observed the expression on JiU’s face. She had looked at her the same way when they were on the red carpet together in her former life. If JiU was catching feelings for Handong, there was no way she stood a chance.

With a dejected sigh, Bora deleted the message she’d been typing to JiU. She slammed her phone shut and shoved it in her pocket. Once she’d done that, she turned around and started heading back home. What was the point in even trying? Handong was a world renowned star with all the money in the world and beauty to match her riches. If that weren’t enough, she was also considered one of the most charming and personable celebrities out there and received countless praise for her contributions to charitable causes. All Bora had was her shitty haircut, a crappy apartment, and some commonalities with JiU’s dead girlfriend without being able to tell her she was said dead girlfriend. She felt like an idiot. When would she learn to take a hint? JiU probably hadn’t reached out to her because she was too busy spending time with Handong. The two certainly seemed to be warming up to each other. Even though it hurt, she couldn’t say she blamed JiU. They looked perfect together.

What made it all even more painful was that JiU’s relationship with Handong was a sign that she was getting over SuA. It felt like a double whammy of being rejected and also being forgotten. Bora felt herself go numb. The heartache she felt was so painful that she was unable to feel anything at all. She walked like a zombie, dead silent with a somber expression on her face. Her mind was empty as she relied on her feet to guide her back home.
~
Back at the apartment, Gahyeon and Siyeon were chattering excitedly about the thought of Bora and JiU getting back together. Naturally, the two were surprised when the former came back much earlier than expected. Both girls exchanged looks of concern when they saw the forlorn expression on their friend’s face.

“Babe, what happened? You look like you saw a ghost and then it beat the shit out of you,” Siyeon worried, getting up to stand beside her best friend.

Bora laughed joylessly.

“A ghost, that’s funny. I may as well be one at this point,” she muttered, dragging herself over to a nearby chair and flopping down.

“Bora, you’re scaring me. When you left this apartment you looked like Rocky running up the steps ready to kick ass. Now you’re more like the kid who sees dead people in the Sixth Sense. What happened to you?” Gahyeon wondered, leaning over to look at Bora and assess her current state.

Bora pulled out her phone and searched for the most recent articles about JiU. She handed it to Gahyeon and Siyeon leaned over onto the angel’s shoulder so she could see as well.

“Bora, why are you letting this get to you? You used to be famous too. You know how ninety-nine percent of these things are completely bogus. People snap one picture of two famous people being nice to each other and suddenly everyone thinks they’re married or something,” Siyeon insisted.

Bora smiled sadly.

“That’s exactly why this one’s getting to me. The picture of JiU and Handong reminds me of some of the photos taken of us when I was SuA,” she explained.

“I don’t believe it. You and JiU are meant to be! JiU’s just confused right now. She thinks her soulmate is gone forever. Handong just happens to be around. You’re the one she’s supposed to be with. You can’t let this discourage you. This Dami chick is a supernatural being, right? She’s gotta know what is meant to happen, otherwise she would have just let you be stuck in that dead people place!” Siyeon cried, stamping her foot emphatically.

“Siyeon, let it be. You’re just saying that because we’re best friends. I appreciate it, but I need to respect what’s best for JiU. Maybe I should just disappear and let her move on. It might have been a mistake for me to come back and watch her suffer. It was selfish of me to think only about my happiness and not hers. I should just let those thirty days wrap up so that I can let JiU move on with her life,” Bora stated, tears in her eyes as she grabbed her best friend’s hands.

Siyeon shook her head furiously.

“No, I won’t let you do that! You’re giving up way too quickly. I’ll call JiU right now and find out what’s going on. You can’t just decide your entire fate based on one stupid photo! Bora, you were given a second chance at life. You’re really going to throw it away that quickly?” she whimpered, becoming teary eyed.

Gahyeon watched the exchange with sympathy. Despite not being human herself, she was getting a firsthand look at their suffering. She had never had to experience the devastating effects of death and loss. As an immortal being, she was only now getting a firsthand look at the pain it caused. She had grown attached to Bora during their time together, and found her heart breaking. This was the closest she’d ever been to experiencing humanity.

“Bora, I’m with Siyeon. Dami wouldn’t have given you this opportunity if she didn’t think it was worth it. Your love for JiU is what convinced her to do this. If you were able to convince a death god, why can’t you win over someone who already loves you? The only thing Dami changed about you is the way you look and the amount of money you have. Everything else is still the same. You’re still the same dynamic, funny, beautiful soul and that transcends anything else. Handong may be perfect, but she isn’t you,” the angel spoke up.

Bora looked up at Gahyeon with a stunned expression. She was taken aback by the angel’s wisdom. Even with such empowering words from her friends, she still couldn’t shake the feeling that what she was doing wasn’t best for JiU. She sighed, gazing at her two friends with admiration.

“Siyeon, Gahyeon, thank you for everything. I know you both mean well and want what’s best for me, but I’m not sure that me sticking around is what’s best for everyone else. You two deserve to move on with your lives just as much as JiU does. All I’m doing is holding everyone back because I couldn’t let go and just accept my death,” she told them, smiling sadly as she spoke.

Siyeon shook her head.

“Stop it. You can think whatever the hell you want, but I won’t let you put words in my mouth. I would never be better off without my best friend in the whole world. I didn’t even know what to do with myself when you died. Getting you back was the best thing to ever happen to me. I’m not going to let you throw away your second chance because you’ve suddenly assumed the world is better off without you,” she warned.

Gahyeon nodded, “I’m with Siyeon on this one. I’ve always wanted to be a guardian angel, and you gave me the chance to follow my dreams. Accompanying you has been one of the best experiences of my heavenly career. I’ve gotten a taste of the human experience. Heck, I’ve grown so attached to you both that I almost feel like an honorary person. Therefore, my life is most definitely not any better without you, Bora,” she stated.

Bora’s heart swelled. Her friends meant a lot to her, and their words were comforting. She was at a crossroads with what to do about JiU, but she didn’t want to let them down either. This whole situation just kept on getting more and more difficult. At the very least, they were right about her giving up too easily. That wasn’t in her nature as SuA, so why was she so quick to throw everything away now? Resilience had been her ticket to stardom as well as the way to JiU’s heart in her past life. Maybe this was yet another trial that she needed to withstand in order to be with the love of her life. The smaller woman made a decision then and there to take things day by day and see how they played out.

“You guys are too good to me. I’m not sure what my plan is in regards to JiU, but I promise not to throw everything away just because she’s getting along with her hot costar. Can we all agree to just take things day by day and see how it goes?” she relented.

Siyeon and Gahyeon cheered.

“Hell yeah, that sounds like the once SuA now Bora I know! You’ve never shied away from a challenge in the past. I’m gonna give JiU a call right now. Maybe I can arrange a way for you two to have some more alone time. Time to get back on my matchmaking bullshit!” Siyeon declared, speeding away to make arrangements.

Bora snickered. It was no surprise to see her best friend jumping into action so quickly. Siyeon was efficient when fired up. With the popstar’s departure, this left just her and Gahyeon.

“Bora, I’m proud of you for not giving up. You’ve still got time. I believe you and JiU are meant to be. Dami knows what she’s doing. She gave you a second chance for a reason,” Gahyeon complimented, beaming at the other girl.

Bora glanced heavenward, a smile forming on her lips.

“Thanks, Gahyeon. I have a feeling Dami is the one responsible for my change of heart. She seems to be pretty good at taking care of things behind the scenes,” she murmured.

Gahyeon giggled, putting her hand to her mouth.

“You’re probably right. She pretends not to be biased, but she definitely has a soft spot for humans. The more she acts annoyed, the more she likes you. I think you’re one of her favorites. She admires your spunk,” the angel chimed in.

Bora clenched her fists in determination.

“Well then, I can’t disappoint her by letting a minor inconvenience ruin everything. I may not know what the right thing to do is, but I’m ready to keep trying,” she decided.

“Is that so? I’m glad to hear it because I just got invited to the premiere of JiU’s show tomorrow and you’re gonna be my plus-one!” Siyeon announced, breezing back into the room.

“Wow Siyeon, the devil moves quick, but you move quicker! I know that for sure because we met once. Not a very nice guy,” Gahyeon commented.

Bora couldn’t help but burst into laughter at this comment, with Siyeon and Gahyeon quickly joining in. Even though things were uncertain, she savored the joy of being beside her friends. After all, her time was limited. She hoped to make the most of it, regardless of the outcome. Regardless of what came next, she was going to live each day like it could be her last again.