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I Wanna Be Red

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Seulgi likes to think she’s a pretty experienced individual. She’s felt the struggle and hopelessness of the entertainment industry, and she’s tasted the sweet, sweet fruit of critical acclaim and success. She’s been in a failed relationship before. On the other hand, she’s also kissed Bae Irene, for fuck’s sake. She’s experienced a decent amount in life— both heights of the emotional roller coaster, she thinks.

And yet, there’s still nothing like starting a live show feeling like a complete and utter idiot.

Technically, Seulgi doesn’t know yet. She figures she’ll know in a few minutes though, after she’s finally done scouring every nook and cranny of this god-forsaken waiting room, looking for the guitar picks she knows full well she actually left at home.

“Why am I such a dumbass?” Her head feels like bricks, so Seulgi looks up at the ceiling and groans.

“You look like you’re in a panic,” an amused voice says from behind. Seulgi whirls around, eyes wide, only to find Irene leaning against the doorframe of the dressing room, clad in a casual white blouse and jeans, the corner of her mouth quirked in amusement.

“Hi,” Seulgi breathes, eyes raking down Irene’s figure.

“Hi yourself,” Irene smiles, taking Seulgi’s fish-eyed stare as an invitation to come in.

“How’d you get back here?”

“Wendy let me in through the side door since I’m watching from the wings today.” Irene easily side-steps around the guitarist, reaching up to fix the tie that had loosened during Seulgi’s frantic scouring of the room. Lines of concern etch their way onto the actress’s brow, and she touches Seulgi’s arm gently, coaxing the musician in a loose hug. “What’s got you so frazzled? I’ve never seen you like this before.”

“I’m missing my guitar picks,” Seulgi mutters. She buries her face against soft hair, the scent of lavender sending a wave of calm through her tense body. “I definitely left them at home by accident. Chungha offered to lend me one of hers and I’m grateful, but it’s not the same. I’m a dumbass.”

“Has this ever happened before?”

“...Only once, five years ago.”

“So you’re not a dumbass, then.”

“Maybe not a regular dumbass, but Irene, I was holding the picks in my hand right before I left. After the show, I’m gonna go home to find them sitting on my coffee table, I know it. That’s some top tier dumbassery.”

“So maybe you’re a teensy bit of a dumbass on a rare off day. So what? That’s normal.”

“So I’m an infrequent dumbass.” Seulgi hides her smile in Irene’s hair, presses her lips there, soft.

“Oh my god— alright, you infrequent dumbass,” Irene laughs, drumming her digits against Seulgi’s pulse point. “Good thing I’m here then.”

Something cold and plastic gets pressed against Seulgi’s cheek, and Seulgi yelps, fingers coming up to grab at the new object.

When Irene steps away, there’s a gold-colored guitar pick resting in the palm of Seulgi’s hand, the guitarist's eyebrows shooting up in surprise.

“Also lucky that you gave me two of these,” Irene winks, her right hand toying with the pick still fastened securely around her neck.

“I’ve only got one more left, so you better not throw the one I lent you into the crowd or something like that,” she chides, although her knowing grin begets any real threat.

“You’re an actual angel, Rene!” Seulgi’s eyes shine with appreciation. She pockets the pick securely. “I’ll need to make it up to you.”

Irene rolls her eyes playfully.

“You’ve got, like, five minutes tops until showtime, so just kiss me, you infrequent dumbass,” she says affectionately. Seulgi’s eyes turn into crescent moons as she beams, hopping forward to press her lips against another pair of soft ones, sinking into the kiss with a content sigh.

They’re not girlfriends, at least not yet, and that’s perfectly fine with both of them. If Irene’s taught Seulgi anything, it’s that it’s okay not to have clear cut lines for everything; not everything needs to be defined so perfectly, so efficiently.

The world will keep turning. They’ll get there when they get there, that’s all there is to it.

(They’ve started kissing a lot more though. Seulgi gets the feeling that she’ll never get tired of the tingling sensation, never ever, and that’s thrilling. )

“Make the crowd your bitch,” Irene requests when they pull away. “In exchange for the pick, of course.”

“Anything for you,” Seulgi promises, and they both know she means it.

--

“Were they on the coffee table?” Irene asks later, breaking into a yawn by the end of her sentence. She makes a show of shifting under her covers, pulling her duvet all the way up to her nose.

It’s 3 in the morning, having just got home from the concert, and they’re on FaceTime from their respective residences, neither quite sure how they’re still awake.

“No,” Seulgi grumbles. She makes a show of tossing one of the aforementioned guitar picks over her shoulder, the piece of plastic hardly making a sound as it bounces off her hardwood floor. “Kitchen island counter. I don’t know how this affects my dumbassery rating.”

“I don’t have the brain capacity to do the calculations right now,” Irene yawns again. “I’ll figure it out after I sleep.”

“Are you sure sleep will be any help?” Even past the brink of exhaustion, Seulgi can’t help herself; she smirks.

“Good night, asshole!” Irene says loudly, and she ends the call while smothering a smile into her pillow as Seulgi pointedly laughs way louder than anyone should— especially while alone in their apartment at 3AM.

--

It’s not always easy.

There are Irene-less days, and those days can sometimes add up to even a week because they're both busy and Irene's incredibly successful but also incredibly booked, and those days are the longest. On those days, Seulgi glances at her phone more; longing seeping through her skin whenever she sees no new messages, her calendar becoming a countdown to the next time she can see Irene again.

She feels clingy, and whenever that thought occurs, Seulgi buries her face in her hand and groans— she doesn’t want to be That girl. It’s just that Irene’s presence is so infectiously addicting, and once you've gotten a taste of her, it's hard to go without.

(There’s also this underlying level of anxiousness, despite every bone in Seulgi’s body knowing that Irene’s not the type. And yet, every so often, Seulgi finds herself worrying about if she’ll ever get a text from Irene, demanding to know why she hasn’t messaged or called or just somehow checked in, because the last time she’d been in a relationship, she’d—)

“Seulgi?”

Seulgi jolts, snapping out of her thoughts.

“Irene,” she exclaims, startled, and the girl kneeling in front of her hums knowingly.

Seulgi hadn’t even heard the front door open, hadn’t even registered Irene casually entering her apartment with the spare key she’d handed the actress herself, just a few days ago.

“I was shocked when I came in and you didn’t even move. You were like a statue— were you meditating? Did you decide to become a monk after the rockstar thing didn’t quite work out?” Irene teases playfully as she stands, and Seulgi feels some of the tension in her body leave the system, a smile naturally worming its way across her face.

“Just a bit lost in thought,” Seulgi admits, and she takes the outstretched hand offered to her, lets Irene pull her up from the couch.

“Busy day?” Irene asks sympathetically. She runs a hand down Seulgi’s back, rubbing comforting circles.

“Yeah, something like that,” Seulgi sighs, shaking her head. “Anyway, ready to head out? That new bakery you were interested in finally opened.”

Irene visibly perks up, nodding eagerly.

“Do you think they’ll have pineapple bread?”

“Since when did you like pineapple bread?” Seulgi laughs lightly. Absent-minded, she reaches her hand out for Irene’s.

“I mean, I haven’t exactly tried it, to be honest,” Irene shrugs. “But it’s your favorite, isn’t it? I always want to try the stuff you like.”

Seulgi freezes, blinking up owlishly at Irene in surprise.

She pulls her hand back.

“You do?”

“Of course I do.” Irene’s brow furrows, as if she doesn’t understand why Seulgi would ask such a thing. But she doesn’t ask questions and instead smiles at Seulgi reassuringly nonetheless, reaches out and takes Seulgi’s hand herself. She squeezes it, and Seulgi looks at their interwoven fingers reverently, a pang of something aching in her chest.

“Should we head out?” Irene asks.

“Yeah,” Seulgi says.

--

jenna @iloveirene_ · 10m
YO IRENE JUST ENTERED THE BAKERY I WORK AT WITH KANG SEULGI OMG

jenna @iloveirene_ · 4m
Replying to @iloveirene_
aw Irene bought her and Seulgi pineapple bread bc it’s Seulgi favorite that’s so sweet!

sam @baebaebun · 3m
Replying to @iloveirene_
OOMF WHERE DO I APPLY FOR A JOB???

kay @seulnaefighting · 3m
Replying to @fckyeahseulgi @baebunbun
YES I DO THE COOKING YES I DO THE BAKING

jenna @iloveirene_ · 2m
Replying to @iloveirene_
Lmaoooooooo yeah right, as if I’d tell you guys

jenna @iloveirene_ · 1m
Replying to @iloveirene_
I didn’t ask for a pic or anything tho bc Seulgi seemed really shy and quiet tonight :( I asked Irene if she was alright and she said Seulgi had a long day :(( I hope she feels better soon, Irene seems to really care about her

--

It’s stupid. Like, really, really stupid.

But there’s something about the way Irene makes a happy, squealing noise after she takes a bite of the bread Seulgi loves so much; about the way Irene laughs and curls herself around Seulgi’s arm so easily; about how Seulgi feels her head spin when Irene’s the one who closes the distance without a care in the world.

All throughout the night, Seulgi finds herself reaching out, only to hesitate the moment Irene would turn to her.

I can’t ruin this.

So she pulls her hand back every time and pretends to not see the slight upturn of Irene’s lips; the concern clouding Irene’s expression.

--

When they return, Seulgi strides into the apartment and immediately goes to sit on her couch, trying to ignore the heavily fast way her heart seems to pound in her chest— not with the good kind of ache either, but the kind that relentlessly threatens to swallow her whole, merciless. Her leg bounces restlessly without her realizing.

From where she stands by the kitchen counter, Irene frowns, worried.

“Do you wanna watch something?” Seulgi asks off-handedly, trying to distract herself. Her hand is already on the remote.

Irene raises an eyebrow— not out of judgement, but of crystal clear concern.

“Do you?”

Seulgi sucks in a breath. She lets go of the remote.

“No,” she says quietly, suddenly finding her carpet incredibly interesting. Her leg keeps bouncing.

“Do you want to talk, Seul?” Irene suggests gently, a clear contrast from her teasing nature back when they’d been with their friends. She doesn’t join Seulgi on the couch cushions, instead opting to sit on the far side’s arm, letting the other girl have as much space as needed.

Seulgi nods.

“I don’t know where to begin,” she admits.

“Doesn’t matter where,” Irene says encouragingly.

“Should I start with context, or…?”

“Doesn’t matter where,” Irene only repeats, chuckling. “We can fill in the gaps as we go. The goal here is to help clear your mind. If you think me understanding will help you, then we’ll find a way, but there’s obviously a lot going through your head right now. How about you just blurt out the first thing on your mind, and we’ll go from there?”

“Can it be a question?” Seulgi asks, timid. As soon as the query leaves her lips, though, she ducks her head as the urge to crawl into a hole and never climb out only intensifies. Stupid, she tells herself. She’ll get fed up with all you— no! This is Irene. She cares for you.

And Irene doesn’t seem to find issue with Seulgi's inner turmoil in the slightest, only smiling reassuringly at her and nodding.

“I don’t see why not.”

Seulgi hesitates.

“Do you like holding my hand, Irene?”

“I love holding your hand,” Irene says immediately, warmth exuding from the affectionate note in her tone. “That’s why I keep taking it myself, Seulgi.”

“And if I took your hand…?”

“I’d squeeze it even tighter.”

Seulgi nods wordlessly, rapidly blinking back tears.

“Seulgi?” Irene calls softly. “Did you think I wouldn’t like it if you took my hand? Even though I’ve taken yours plenty of times before?”

“I wasn’t sure if you would,” Seulgi mumbles, shrugging helplessly. “I didn’t know if it was something I could do.”

“You can always take my hand, Seul,” Irene says. She chews on her bottom lip thoughtfully for a moment before speaking again. “Were you… were you doubting yourself, Seulgi?”

Seulgi flinches. Irene only smiles sadly.

“I’m sorry I ever made you feel that way,” she apologizes, lips upturning in a frown only directed only at herself. Seulgi automatically shakes her head at the sight.

“No, no, it’s not your fault!” She says hastily, wanting to clear that up quickly. “This… anxiety I have isn’t your fault, Irene, I promise.”

Irene stays quiet but nods, clearly doing her best to understand.

“I’ve tried to shove that insecure part of me down as much as possible,” Seulgi explains slowly, thinking through each word with care. Irene leans in, resting an elbow on her knee, listening intently. “That self-deprecative part of me that feels scared and hurts even when I shouldn’t be. I didn’t want to be that scared and hurt person— I don’t. But that song I wrote, the one for your movie? I think some of the lyrics hit closer to home than I ever want to admit. I was in a relationship before, but I felt alone.

Seulgi sighs.

Irene feels her heart start to ache.

“She said I never did enough to show affection,” Seulgi mutters. Her hands dig into the leather beneath her, nails digging into the palms of her hand, constrictive, tight enough to leave marks. She doesn't even need to mention a name for Irene to immediately know who she was referring to. “We hardly got to see each other because of my work schedule, and she’d complain about my behavior and how I wasn’t trying enough to reach out to her, and how I kept breaking promises I wouldn’t remember making. Then when we’d meet up, I just couldn’t bring myself to be as open as I was before. There was a night where I stopped trying to touch her because I just couldn’t, and then I drew farther and farther away.” And the worse her words became.

“It was stupid though,” she continues, and Irene nods encouragingly. “I wouldn’t mind when she’d cling to me, or press against me, or take my hand. Because if she was the one initiating the contact, then…” Seulgi trails off.

“Then you couldn’t be blamed for doing something wrong?” Irene concludes, and Seulgi nods.

“Something like that,” she chuckles dryly. “It made me feel like I was doing something right.”

Irene nods again, soft and gentle and way too patient; a reminder that despite her fun, beneath everything, Irene’s still a goddess amongst mortals, and there’s no way someone like Seulgi deserves this, and—

“And so,” Irene prods gently, “The reason why you’d been trying to bring yourself to take my hand all night…?”

“I trust you,” Seulgi replies, not even having to think about it. She shifts in place, still nervous but the churning ocean in her stomach is starting to find its way back to the calm. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and I want to touch you so bad it’s killing me, and I know you’d never hurt me like that. I can’t even justify it, I just know. You’re somehow still here, with me—”

“You know you’re stuck with me.” The corner of Irene’s lips raise cheekily, and Seulgi chokes out a laugh that Irene joins with a light chuckle of her own. The noise echoes through Seulgi’s otherwise silent apartment, resounding through the living room, dancing down the hallways, floating off the open balcony and over the cityscape below.

Irene waits, her head tilted indulgently, patient like always; too good for this world yet the most deserving of it all the same.

“Shit,” Seulgi finally says, sighing. “I didn’t want you to think I’m a coward.”

There’s silence.

Then—

Irene giggles.

And there’s nothing belittling about it— it’s the most genuine, enchanting laughter Seulgi’s ever heard spill from Irene’s perfect lips. And then all she can see is Irene, smiling at her with such affection on her red, red lips—

“Oh, Seul,” Irene murmurs, pushing herself off the couch’s arm to stand in front of the idol. “I could never see you as a coward, never. We’ll go at a pace that fits, you don’t have to push yourself to make a first move if you’re not comfortable. So, until you’re ready…”

And Seulgi can’t do anything but stare in wide-eyed fascination, her mouth parted ever so slightly as this goddess of a woman takes Seulgi’s face in her hands, tracing Seulgi’s lips with her thumb, sending shivers down Seulgi’s spine, before leaning in so close that their foreheads touch.

If Irene hears the sharp way Seulgi inhales, she doesn’t say anything about it and Seulgi is overcome with the strong urge to thank her for her kindness and more; for bearing with her incapable self; for never not commenting on her moments of weakness. Irene is a goddess, in more ways than one.

“You’re so brave,” Irene whispers, and Seulgi instinctively shakes her head. “No, no, fuck, Seul, I really mean it.” The look in Irene’s eyes softens. Seulgi wishes she could wrap herself in that warmth, or maybe pocket it and keep it somewhere secure for safekeeping; in case she needs it for a later date. “I don’t even know what I’d do after that sort of shitty situation.”

“You probably would’ve broken up with her before it got as bad as it did,” Seulgi says, chuckling. There’s no humor in the sound.

Irene’s brow furrows in sympathy. She strokes the side of Seulgi’s face before crawling into the guitarist's lap, wrapping her arms around Seulgi’s neck and pressing her face in the space between. It’s pure instinct when Seulgi’s own arms encircle Irene’s waist, pulling the other girl ever closer, as if the thought of any space between them could shatter the world of solace they’d made for themselves, right here, right now.

“Maybe I would’ve,” Irene says, her lips moving against Seulgi’s neck, the contact comforting. “But then again, maybe I wouldn’t have. I can’t say for sure— I’ve never been in that kind of situation, let alone any kind of relationship that serious with anyone. No one before you, Seul.” Seulgi’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise at that. She doesn’t interrupt. “But she manipulated you emotionally, Seulgi. That would cloud anyone’s good judgement.”

“I knew I had to leave,” Seulgi mumbles. She decides to occupy herself by hiding her face in Irene’s hair, fingers playing with the ends of it, heaving a breath. Watermelon. She allows a small smile to grow. Of course, watermelon. It’s so perfect, so Irene. “But I was scared of what she would do. I was scared of being left alone.”

“But you made it out. You’re not alone now. And you’ve always had your friends.”

“I had to stay afloat somehow.”

Somewhere through it all, her leg had ceased in its bouncing. Seulgi hadn’t even noticed.

“You’re so brave, Seul.”

“You really think so?” 

Irene (much to Seulgi’s chagrin) pulls back to look Seulgi in the eye, fixing her with a serious look before leaning in and pressing a brief, chaste kiss to Seulgi’s lips.

“Yeah,” Irene says when they part, her breath ghosting over Seulgi’s cheeks. “I do.”

“I was afraid to have this conversation,” Seulgi admits ruefully. Her head is still spinning from that kiss – as per usual with Irene’s kisses – and she cradles the actress carefully in her arms.

“Was it as bad as you thought it would be?” Irene tilts her head, and Seulgi’s struck yet again by how effortlessly Irene manages to teeter between intimidatingly gorgeous and downright adorable.

And so Seulgi shakes her head, smiling.

“No. But I just think you make everything okay, Irene.”

--

“Hey, Rene?” Seulgi asks. They’re strewn across her couch, the credits of some Netflix original movie currently rolling down the screen. (It had been a ridiculous film about some girl actually complaining about being too tall. Irene had scoffed the entire time, making snide comments every 5 minutes that had Seulgi about to bust her gut from laughing too hard.)

Irene looks up from where she’s playing with one of Seulgi’s hands, “What’s up?”

“You said that you’d never been in any relationship as serious as us before.”

“Oh yeah.” The actress nods.

“Not even a friendship?”

“I can’t say I have,” Irene hums. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends I’d consider close. Solar’s one of my closest friends, and she says I’m one of hers, but in the end, she found Moonbyul before me. Hell, Nayeon’s basically my best friend, but she’s also my manager. These days she’s got Mina too, and for that I’m glad; they’re good for each other. But yeah, lots of close friends, not really one of anyone’s first picks. I never really minded either; I’m not someone who’s bothered by being alone. Why do you ask?”

“I just hadn’t realized,” Seulgi explains. “I know you’ve described yourself as stubborn and childish, but you’ve always been so mature with me, and so sure of yourself too. You knew just the right words to say earlier.”

“Did you think so?” Irene throws Seulgi a smile as she relaxes in her seat, leaning back with the TV remote in hand. “I’m glad. Years of learning what not to do from starring in romance films and dramas with questionable on-screen relationships has finally paid off.”

“I’m glad your award-winning dramas are finally finding some meaning beyond allowing you to find out how much dust your trophies can collect,” Seulgi teases, ducking at the cushion Irene playfully tosses her way. “But really!” She insists, still smiling despite Irene’s embarrassed assault. “I’m grateful, Irene. I was afraid that you wouldn’t want someone with so much… baggage.”

“Oh, please,” Irene scoffs, almost sounding offended that Seulgi would even entertain such a thought; Seulgi laughs at the face Irene pulls. “It’ll take a hell of a lot more for you to scare me off, Seulgi. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with this stubborn, childish girl for life— one way or another.”

--

She calls up Irene late one day, when it’s nearing midnight.

The phone rings twice before Irene answers.

“You and I are different, aren’t we, Irene?” It’s more of a statement.

“Yeah, we are,” Irene hums.

“Like, the way we think and live our lives is fundamentally different,” Seulgi says.

“Very different,” Irene agrees. “But also not, at the same time.”

“And that’s not bad.”

“Not at all.”

“I like that we’re different, Irene. And I like that we’re not, too.”

“I like it too, Seulgi.”

“What was that, Irene? I couldn’t hear you, our connection’s shitty. Can you say that again?”

“Goodnight, Seulgi!”

Seulgi goes to sleep that night with a grin on her face and light in her heart.

--

When Irene hears the final product for the first time, she’s in a meeting room with the rest of the cast and screw, reclining in dignified office chairs around a boardroom table— a sight that’s way too formal for the casual way they’re all sitting. Irene’s one of the main leads, so she sits to the right of her director, observing the way her castmates sway back and forth to the music with a proud smile on her face.

“She’s in the rain! You wanna hurt yourself? I’ll stay with you. You wanna make yourself go through the pain. It’s better to be held than holding on.”

The song hits its climax during the final chorus, her director makes an audible noise of appreciation, the older woman nodding her head like yes, this is good, and Irene feels the ball of pride and happiness that been building within her finally burst free, exploding in her chest and sending her heart hammering against her ribcage.

“We’re in the rain! In this falling rain, I fill the scattered you. So I could see how beautiful you are, we’re in the rain.”

She raises her gaze from her castmates, finally turning her gaze to look down the table and catching the eye of Seulgi herself, who’s been standing with Moonbyul, Eunae, Chungha, and Mina by the stereo system in the front, fiddling her fingers nervously while gauging her employer’s reaction.

As soon as she meets Irene’s gaze, however, a smile blossoms across Seulgi’s lips when Irene gives her one firm, eager nod.

Just like that, the nerves that had plagued Seulgi’s expression disappear, replaced by that steady, quiet confidence that Irene’s grown to love, and it reminds Irene of flowers blooming in the spring.

--

“I can’t believe it’s already summer,” Yeri comments as she hops into the surprisingly warm night air, nothing but a light jean jacket covering her shoulders. She walks backwards, addressing Irene, Joy, Wendy, and Solar as the five of them make their way to the Red Room, where they’d meet up with the rest of their friends to celebrate The Velvet’s successful OST. “It felt like spring just started yesterday.”

Irene tilts her head, considering. “Winter lasted a pretty long time this year, didn’t it? And so spring came late, I guess.”

“Spring’s such a weird season,” Joy says, hip bumping Wendy’s. She hoists her bag further up her shoulder, huffing. “Everything starts getting warmer, and flowers start to bloom, but at the same time, spring is when it rains the most. I, for one, am glad that this year’s spring was short.”

“No flooding,” Wendy pipes in.

“Didn’t stop the pollen, though,” Solar sighs. “Looks like pollen season’s gonna bleed into summer.”

“That’ll be annoying,” Irene frowns. “Summer’s really just around the corner, wow. I don’t even remember when spring began, now that I think about it. How do you differentiate between late winter and early spring?”

“Easy, just say spring started when you met Seulgi.” Yeri wiggles her eyebrows suggestively, and Irene rolls her eyes in some attempt to stop the redness from spreading across her cheeks.

--

“Spring is t-shirts and jeans season,” Seulgi tells Irene later, when they’re standing in their corner of the Red Room, and it reminds her of when they first met. Seulgi’s standing near their booth again, casually leaning against the wall, looking ever much like a rockstar with her leather jacket and hair up in a high ponytail. Meanwhile, Irene’s clad in another shoulderless dress, this one red in color, matching her lipstick.

“But you always wear t-shirts and jeans,” Irene complains, and she’s not wrong, especially if Seulgi’s current band tee and ripped jeans mean anything.

“I know,” Seulgi says cheekily, flashing Irene a smile that has the actress whining through her teeth, positively adorable.

“You’re no help,” the actress pouts, flushing prettily at the way Seulgi reaches for her hand, raising it to her lips.

“How about you go dance with Solar and the others?” Seulgi suggests, presses a kiss to Irene’s knuckles.

“You should join us,” Irene replies.

“Maybe later,” Seulgi says, honest. “I might get something to drink first.”

“Promise?”

“Of course.”

“Alright,” Irene smiles, squeezing Seulgi’s hand in hers once before, backing away. She waves at Seulgi once, waiting for Seulgi to return the gesture before she spins on her heel to find their friends in the crowd.

Seulgi doesn’t immediately head to the bar, though. Instead, she stays in place for a few minutes longer, eyes tracking Irene’s red-clad figure through the crowd, over to where Solar, Nayeon, Yeri, and Joy are dancing. It’s like a slow-motion scene from some cliché teen movie. She watches the way people seem to part like the Red Sea for Irene, like she’s some higher being.

A devil in the skin of a goddess.

The sudden thought from their first real encounter makes Seulgi let out a startled laugh.

It was in this very room that they had met— really, truly met. Under the red flashing lights, Irene’s smile reaches Seulgi even through the crowd. From where she’s dancing with Joy, effortless, Irene catches Seulgi’s gaze, their eyes meeting; electric.

But Irene is still smiling, the corner of her lips quirking into something coy, something only reserved for Seulgi and Seulgi alone (this, they both know), and Seulgi feels it, welling in her chest— a warmth that pulses and breathes and expands, threatening to overtake her very being, and it’s right here and now, as she stands at the edges of the Red Room, an ocean of people between her and Irene – but never separating, no, they can’t ever be separated – that Seulgi realizes that she wouldn’t mind being consumed by those flames.

There’s a knowing glimmer in Irene’s eye as she swings back around to listen to something Solar yells over the music, and Seulgi lets out a breathless laugh as she tips her head, stares up at the red lights.

You love her, a voice says in her head. You’ve loved her for a while.

And the voice is no longer as small and meek as it once had been. Instead, it resounds, and Seulgi revels in it, another laugh leaving her lips. Maybe she looks crazy in the moment, laughing to herself in a nightclub. She can’t bring herself to care, because it feels crazy too; how long it’s taken her to realize. But then again, she hardly noticed the fall— loving Irene has been as natural as breathing, even from the very start.

Except now she’s finally made the choice to acknowledge it, this love that now seems so integral, so crucial, and oh, yes, this is the air that fills your lungs, you are alive, now you see it, and now you embrace it.

A more low-key song starts playing over the sound system, and Seulgi watches the crowd relax into more lethargic head-bobbing.

Her feet move without her even willing them, slowly making her way through the ocean of bodies, eyes locked on Irene’s figure the whole time, and the moment Irene notices her approaching, the actress is already moving away from their other friends, drawing herself into Seulgi’s arms; magnetic.

Irene pushes her cheek against Seulgi’s shoulder, arms wrapping themselves around the taller girl’s torso in a loose but intimate embrace.

“Nice of you to finally join us,” Irene hums, content, and Seulgi can hear how pleased she is.

“I feel like I can’t be away from you for too long,” Seulgi admits, her revelation leading her to feel even more honest than usual. She pulls Irene closer as they sway to the music. “It’s more for my sake, if I’m being real.” Seulgi keeps track of the rhythm mentally, their steps coinciding with every other beat.

Her right hand runs itself up and down Irene's spine, eventually settling on the small of her back. Irene shudders, seeming to melt even further into Seulgi’s body, and she turns her head to plant a kiss to Seulgi’s collarbone.

This time it’s Seulgi’s turn to shiver despite the heat coursing through her veins, and she tries to bite back a strangled noise that Irene definitely hears— she feels the way the actress’s smirk presses into her skin.

“I didn’t drink anything tonight,” Irene says, lips moving against Seulgi’s neck. She raises a hand, rests it against Seulgi’s pulse point, feels how her heartbeat races, aching.

“I didn’t either,” Seulgi states simply, ignoring the goosebumps that run down her own arms at Irene's touch.

“It’s strange though,” she continues, keeping her tone light and innocent, and Irene inhales, waiting with baited breath. “I didn’t drink anything, and I’m certainly not tired, but I already want to get out of here.”

Irene releases her breath, hands coming to fist the hem of Seulgi's band tee. She leans up, lips coming near Seulgi's ear.

“What a coincidence,” Irene murmurs, voice fleeting like the wind, and yet her words echo through every crevice of Seulgi's mind. “We seem to be on the same page.”

“My place?” Seulgi breathes.

The look in Irene’s eyes is dark and dangerous, wicked, an incantation for something more ; a demon with an angel’s halo, a devil in the skin of a goddess. Seulgi loves it.

“Do you even have to ask?”

--

She doesn’t know how Irene knows.

Nevertheless, Irene not only knows but wants.

“Yeah?” Irene asks, breathless in the moment the door to Seulgi’s apartment slams shut, and Seulgi’s got her pressed up against a nearby wall, face buried in the crook of the actress’s neck, layering kisses there as Irene’s fingers tangle themselves through dark locks.

“Yeah,” Seulgi replies lowly, having used up all her self control to briefly pull away from Irene’s skin. Tortuously slow, she burns kisses up the column of Irene’s neck, eventually making her way up to tug on Irene’s bottom lip between her teeth. Her hands snake their way up the other woman’s back, toying with the strap of Irene’s bra as her digits dance near her shoulder blades.

Seulgi leans down, biting on the bare skin there, and Irene’s head tosses back to groan.

“I love you!” Irene gasps, tugging Seulgi close. Her white-knuckled grip clutches desperately to the fabric of Seulgi's shirt. “Seul, I love you!”

Seulgi merely chases Irene’s lips with her own as a geyser of giddiness erupts in her chest, heat flooding through every rivet of her being. Irene’s lips are soft like usual, but their kiss is hard— more passionate than chaste, filled with more vigor. Seulgi kisses Irene and blinks back tears as Irene’s love sears itself against her mouth, hot and demanding and so willing to give.

“I love you too,” Seulgi tells her when they come apart to breathe. She steers them into her bedroom, cupping Irene’s cheek as the back of Irene’s knees hit the edge of the mattress before they come tumbling down. From above the other woman, Seulgi admires the whole view— Irene, hair disheveled, cheeks flushed, chest rising and falling with the weight of mountains, lipstick smeared, lips absolutely ravaged.

Irene has never been more beautiful.

“I love you so much,” Seulgi whispers, because she needs Irene to know, and Irene’s eyes shimmer with unshed tears before the other woman surges up and connects their mouths once more. Seulgi barely registers the feeling of her band tee getting tugged over her head, tossed aimlessly to the floor. Her hands find the zipper of Irene’s dress.

Irene’s eyes are hooded as she coaxes Seulgi impossibly closer, heat threatening to consume them both. She will never love another like she does Irene, this Seulgi knows. What they have is unique, it cannot be defined; one-of-a-kind, Seulgi would dare not try to replicate it with anyone else.

And as she lays Irene down onto her bed, Seulgi gets the feeling that she will never want anybody else, ever.

--

She’s awoken by light streaming in through the window.

Irene stirs in her arms. Seulgi makes a sound of content as she snuggles closer to that warmth.

She’s still Seulgi. Irene is still Irene. They’re still them.

Nothing is different in the light. Seulgi realizes that now.

The world’s still intact, miraculously.

“You’re thinking too loud.”

Irene mumbles onto Seulgi’s skin, head turning to blink blearily at her.

Seulgi smiles softly, pushing strands of hair from out of Irene’s face.

“If I recall correctly,” she says, pretending to think, “You said that exact same line to your lover in your hit movie, Body Talk, three years ago—”

“What kind of shitty pillow talk is this?” Irene complains, burying her face in Seulgi’s collarbone to smother a barely-suppressed smile, and Seulgi laughs loud into the morning air.

“The best kind,” Seulgi tells her as she presses a kiss against Irene’s temple, eliciting a squeak of surprise from the other girl as she squirms in Seulgi’s arms.

“I wanna wear that shirt you had on last night,” Irene declares right then, and suddenly she’s pulling herself out of bed to snag the band shirt where it had been tossed onto the floor in the whims of everything.

Seulgi watches in amusement as Irene pulls the single piece of clothing on with no resistance, and she smirks at the realization that the shirt reaches well down to Irene’s thighs as the actress hops back onto the bed to lean against the headboard, tugging the sheets up to her waist.

“You’re ridiculous,” Seulgi chuckles. She pulls her hair from its low, messy ponytail, shaking it out and propping herself up on an elbow, a lazy smile growing across her lips as her eyes rake down Irene’s form in appreciation.

In the early morning sunlight, with the sheets pooling at her waist, Irene looks nothing short of a goddess. Even with her hair a mess of dark tresses, with Seulgi’s oversized, thin band t-shirt slipping off a petite shoulder, just enough for Seulgi to notice the darkening marks at Irene’s collarbone; even with the remains of smudged red lipstick pulling at the corner of a coy smile of lips swollen from being nipped; despite looking everything like she’d just stepped out of a sinful dream, Irene manages to look heavenly nonetheless.

“What about it?” Irene asks whimsily, twirling a loose thread like she’d managed to twine her way so seamlessly into Seulgi’s life, and somehow the mundanity of the entire thing brings tears to Seulgi’s eyes. Irene doesn’t say anything about them, but one look is all it takes and it’s clear that she knows and Seulgi is grateful.

“I’m ridiculous, that’s right,” Irene says haughtily instead, and it’s finally Seulgi’s turn to laugh, swiping at the lone tears that escape with the back of her hand, overcome with the urge to kiss Irene over and over. “You love that about me.”

Nothing is different in the light.

“I do,” Seulgi says, grinning, in absolutely no position to argue.

“You’re a dork,” Irene counters.

“I am,” Seulgi says. Her smile softens. “You love that about me.”

“I do,” Irene says, not missing a beat.

Seulgi doesn’t miss the way Irene leans in, a challenge; the way Irene’s hand inches closer to hers between what little space remains between them. It’s easy for her fingers to find Irene’s and they’re like magnets, twine themselves in between, electric.

She pushes herself up, letting the sheet covering her chest fall to the bed, no longer caring, and she meets Irene’s challenge with new vigor, stealing Irene’s laughter with her own lips.

--

The admission happens one random Friday, when a group of them are over at Irene’s penthouse – Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, Joy, Yeri, Moonbyul, Solar, Nayeon, Chungha, Eunae, and Mina – seated around the giant living room area, glasses of wine in hand and loud laughter ringing through the air at every single incriminating story being shared around the space.

If someone had told Mina a few months ago that she’d end up here, in Bae Irene’s residence, having been personally invited by the actress herself, Mina would’ve laughed and waved them off without a second thought.

(Now, if someone had also mentioned that Mina would not only hit it off with Irene’s manager, let alone start dating said aforementioned manager, Mina would’ve gaped for a good minute-and-a-half before directing that person to the nearest mental facility.)

These days, it’s hard to imagine what her life would look like without Nayeon’s presence. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine a life without Irene’s effortless persona waltzing its way into their combined “The Velvet + Baes” groupchat with her strikingly witty remarks and invites to hangout. Now, it’s just funny to look back and reminisce.

“Remember how it took Mina two weeks to speak to Irene first?” Chungha asks with a snort, bumping her shoulder against Yeri’s, who’s sitting next to her. Mina just rolls her eyes good-naturally, long past the phase of wanting to melt into a puddle by now.

“She couldn’t even message me,” Irene giggles, taking another quick sip of her wine. “I thought she hated me!”

“No! Like I could ever hate you, unnie,” Mina immediately protests, shaking her head vehemently. “I like you best!”

“Careful, Minari,” Seulgi chimes in, a twinkle of mischief in her eye. It brings a smile to Mina’s face— Seulgi’s always had a sort of teasing streak, but her time with Irene has definitely increased it tenfold. “Nayeon might get jealous.”

“I’m not jealous, I actually have no idea what you’re talking about!” Nayeon retorts, but the arms encircling Mina’s waist tighten, and the drummer smirks to herself as she swiftly turns around to press a kiss to an off-guard Nayeon’s lips.

“Look at how bold she’s gotten!” Eunae coos, and Moonbyul and Wendy holler off to the side. “Our baby Mina’s grown so much!”

“You guys are just bad influences!” Mina shoots back playfully, resulting in a chorus of voices in protests rising in volume. “Every single one of you!”

“Even me, babe?” Nayeon bats her eyelashes.

“Especially you, baby,” Mina says sweetly, cupping Nayeon’s jaw.

Her girlfriend pouts, resting her cheek against Mina’s shoulder. “We’re talking about this when we get home.”

Mina doesn’t even register what was said before the living room seems to erupt into chaos. Suddenly, Moonbyul and Seulgi are standing up in shock, Eunae, Solar, and Chungha’s mouths are definitely making noises that Mina can’t even discern, and Wendy and Irene look like scandalized parents who’ve just walked in on their child doing the deed.

Meanwhile, Joy and Yeri have taken to cackling in their corner of the couch.

“Wow, Nayeon-unnie,” Yeri snickers. “You really move fast, huh?”

Nayeon’s mouth opens and closes dumbly like a fish.

“I—”

She’s cut off by Solar’s loud exclamation.

“You two live together?!”

“Y-yes?” Mina stammers, sharing a confused glance with Nayeon.

“Kids these days, moving so goddamn fast,” Wendy mutters under her breath. Joy barks out another cackle, rolling her eyes.

“They’re adults! And you say that as if we didn’t move in together after a year, Wan,” Joy reasons. “And weren’t you the one who told Nayeon that Mina was single?”

Oh? Mina raises a questioning brow at her girlfriend. At Nayeon’s resulting shrug, she stores that piece of information in her little mental filing cabinet for future reference.

“That was a year!” Wendy argues. “And we’d known each other personally for even longer than that! Nayeon and Mina literally met only a few months ago.”

“Same with Seulgi and Irene,” Joy points out.

“They don’t live together!”

Mina slowly lets her gaze wander to where Seulgi and Irene inconspicuously sit beside each other on the couch across the coffee table, Irene pressed against Seulgi’s side like usual. They have their pinkies hooked, which also isn’t out of the norm, but it’s only upon closer inspection that Mina notices the way Seulgi places a soft, barely-there kiss against the side of Irene’s head.

Seulgi made the first move.

Mina grins.

Well, that’s new.

“Have you ever thought about how little time Irene spends in her own penthouse these days? Like, I swear I saw a layer of dust on the counter earlier,” Joy comments, her tone light and innocent, and everyone freezes.

There’s a beat of silence. Then—

“Minari!” Irene calls innocuously, beaming as she rises from the couch. “Wanna help me prepare some fruit in the kitchen?”

“Sure, unnie!” Mina immediately pushes off Nayeon’s lap to follow the actress.

“Wha—” Seulgi stutters. “Rene, you’re just gonna leave me to fend for myself—”

“Love you, babe!” Irene singsongs.

“You traitor!” A laugh leaves Seulgi’s lungs. Mina can’t see her bandmate’s face as Irene leads her away to the kitchen, but she can already picture the faint smile of disbelief as the lead guitarist goes to defend herself from the rest of her friends. “Okay, you guys caught us! But my girlfriend should be able to visit my apartment whenever she wants!”

“Since when were you two officially girlfriends?” Wendy screeches.

“Uh, two weeks, give or take…?”

“Bitch, you didn’t think of telling us!?”

Mina had forgotten how loud Moonbyul could get.

“Well, they sure are rowdy,” Irene chuckles as she pulls out slices of watermelon from her refrigerator. She hands the container over to Mina, who pries off the lid and starts laying them on the platter Irene had placed on the counter.

“You and Seulgi are dating, unnie?” Mina finally comments. “You’re official now?”

“Yeah,” Irene smiles softly.

“I had been hoping you were.”

“Could you tell these past two weeks?”

“Yeah.” It’s Mina’s turn to smile.

“How?”

Mina lifts her shoulder in thought. “I guess I knew when Seulgi came to practice that Saturday after our last trip to the Red Room looking like she’d just been given her own slice of heaven.”

--

Love, Seulgi realizes, is an aura that announces its entrance even without a red carpet.

When had they come so far? She can’t even remember— nor does she particularly mind.

“Move in with me?” Seulgi asks on a late Thursday afternoon, no other context necessary. “Joy made a good point a few nights ago. You basically live here.”

“Oh?” Irene looks up from the book she’d been reading on Seulgi’s couch, fond and amused. “What got you suddenly thinking?”

“I mean,” Seulgi shrugs, smirks with some of that wickedness that Irene's managed to infect her with, “I guess it’s just that this afternoon was the billionth time I walked into my bedroom after a recording session to find your underwear somewhere on my floor, so I’m just saying—”

“You bitch!” Irene laughs, cutting her girlfriend off and Seulgi’s yelp transforms into a laugh of her own as she has to shield herself from Irene’s onslaught of slaps to her arm. “It’s not my fault we both have early schedules and no time to clean!”

“We’re gonna have to find time to do that,” Seulgi muses, completely ignoring the way Irene reaches over to grip at her wrist, shaking in silent snickers. “One of these theoretical days we’re going to get random visitors and the place is gonna be a literal dump.”

“Fuck those theoretical people for showing up unannounced!” Irene proclaims indignantly, and that gets both of them to look at each other, Seulgi’s smugly amused eyes meeting Irene’s faux innocent ones, and they burst into laughter.

“We really do need to clean though,” Seulgi eventually says between lighter laughs. “Or else your squeaky clean image to the public will be a big lie.”

“Hey, I love cleaning!” Irene says, defensive and pouting. “Again, not my fault our director wants me on set literally everyday, even for the scenes I’m not even in.” She rolls her eyes. “ ‘You need to observe and get a feel for your own scenes,’ my ass.”

“She might want you around all the time for your ass, yes,” Seulgi helpfully quips. “I can relate.”

“Seulgi!” Irene shrieks through a laugh, hitting Seulgi’s shoulder again. Seulgi can see it, though— the hint of red that stains Irene’s cheeks at the comment. It’s way too cute for its own good, and Seulgi takes pride in how she knows she’s the only one who gets to see this adorable side of the usually stoic actress. “And my director for this film is straight!”

“Irene! Do you think so little of the straights?” Seulgi gasps in faux offense; leans forward, taking Irene’s hands and staring her seriously in the eyes. “I know for a fact that many straight women can still appreciate and give credit where it’s due.”

“You’re impossible,” Irene shakes her head, grinning wide as she playfully shoves away Seulgi’s face with a palm against the other girl’s cheek.

“I know,” Seulgi replies boldly.

“Seul,” Irene says, serious. “We will clean the apartment this weekend, when we’re both free.”

“Yes, we will.”

“Actually wait, scratch that. First, we need to get the rest of my stuff.”

“Yes, we do.”

“And then we clean.”

“Yes, we shall.”

It’s such an easy conversation to have, such an easy decision to make, despite it being completely new to both of them. After it’s over, they’re back to staring at each other— in mild surprise on Irene’s part, and more of a what on earth just happened on Seulgi’s.

But then Irene’s crossing her eyes and scrunching her nose and pulling a funny face, and that has them falling onto each other in laughter yet again, limbs entangling on the couch as Irene manages to get back to her favorite position, perfectly tucked under Seulgi’s chin, laying on Seulgi with her arms around her girlfriend's waist.

This, Seulgi decides right in their corner of the universe, is love too— laughter, residing in the place of everything else, making their world just a little bit lighter.

--

They’re out eating dinner at a nearby restaurant with their friends one late, late Saturday summer night when the air suddenly goes cold, their usual lively atmosphere being silenced with the appearance of one key figure who Irene’s one hundred percent sure that Seulgi (and by extension, the rest of The Velvet) hoped to never encounter again.

In all complete fairness, Irene’s been warned about The Ex before. After all, Chanmi lives in Seoul, just like Seulgi, and Irene, and the rest of their friends, and while it’s not like Irene’s never been aware of Chanmi’s existence, she can’t help but be surprised when the blonde woman walks up to their table like she owns the damn place, all white teeth smiles and pink lipstick and greeting their friends like she’d never hurt Seulgi in the first place.

“What are you doing here, Chanmi?” Moonbyul interjects abruptly. It’s hardly a question; more like a demand. Across from her, Joy agrees with a sharp nod, muscles tense like she’s ready to spring as Yeri visibly appears to prepare to hold Joy back.

“What?” The newcomer asks innocently. Her gaze wanders aimlessly across the table before finally landing on Seulgi, who stiffens in her place beside Irene. “A girl can’t say hi to her old friends?”

In an uncharacteristic show of aggression, Wendy actually sneers but says nothing, Eunae and Chungha having to place warning hands on their manager’s shoulders. Mina similarly remains quiet, apprehension flashing through emotional brown orbs as Nayeon eyes Chanmi in suspicion, occasionally flashing Irene and Seulgi concerned looks.

Irene, in the meantime, keeps her expression strictly neutral. She’s an actress, and a fucking good one too. No one ever catches Irene off guard.

And for Seulgi… well, she’d do just about anything for Seulgi.

“You must be Bae Irene. What a pleasure to meet you,” Chanmi smiles, charming, like caramel. She extends her hand in friendly greeting, and Irene can see why Seulgi – or anyone else, for that matter – would’ve easily fallen in. There’s a dangerous glimmer in her eye though, that Irene catches when she cocks her head to get a better look at Chanmi in the light. There’s just something about the way Chanmi tilts her chin back, looking down at Irene from the bridge of her nose— like she’s being looked down upon not only physically, but metaphorically too.

Irene stifles a giggle. Unfortunately, she can’t be won over that quickly, not by someone like her.

Come at me.

“To say I’m honored would be an understatement of my own achievements,” Irene replies easily as she stands from her seat to take the outstretched hand, giving one firm shake with her smile a similar sugar sweet. They’re on equal ground now, Irene meeting Chanmi’s gaze levelly. “But nice to meet you nonetheless.”

From the corner of her eye, Irene sees Seulgi choke back a snicker.

Their friends watch the exchange like they would of a nail-biting tennis match, and Irene bites back a smirk of her own. She’s never been known to lose, and she surely has no plans of starting now.

“I thought it might’ve been you when I spotted you all from that table over there, where I'm sitting with my date,” Chanmi says, smile wavering only to the sharpest eyes. Irene takes a moment to glance over Chanmi’s shoulder, to where a man watches their interactions from alone at a table where Chanmi once sat. “I’m so used to seeing your red carpet pictures on the news, but in your more casual clothes with no makeup, I couldn’t recognize you clearly.”

Nice try.

“That’s alright,” Irene hums, nonchalant as she twirls midnight hair around a finger. “I’m pretty good at avoiding attention from people I don’t particularly care for.”

The spoon Mina had been nervously fiddling with clatters to her plate, and several other mouths gape open in utter shock, Chanmi’s included. Joy and Yeri’s resulting cackles cut through the tense air, and Seulgi tips her head back in a full-blown laugh that has her ex-lover struggling to regain her composure.

“Are you now?” the blonde woman asks, trying to keep her lofty tone. “Because you’ve got my full, undivided attention right now. I’m simply a people person, Irene- ssi.”

“When the goal is to back me into a corner, I can’t exactly stay idle, now can I?” Irene fires back smoothly, her smile unfaltering as she slips into something comfortable; something coy, wicked. “How do you think I rose to the top of this cutthroat industry, Chanmi- ssi? You could say that I’m a people person too.”

“Our definitions of a ‘people person’ must be different, then.” Chanmi’s voice is steely, now fully on the defensive.

It makes Irene’s smile widen. “That’s right. Maybe you and I both understand people, but I also know the type of person I want to be. And I know that person isn’t a manipulator. You won’t be seeing any of that bullshit from me because I know when I need to cut to the point and be honest, just as I'm being right now, Chanmi- ssi. Our definitions are very different.”

Chanmi’s face contorts into one of sheer anger, and Irene allows her lips to curl back and relax into that smirk she just knows infuriates even the most stone-cold of industry higher-ups.

Checkmate.

--

The table remains speechless even a whole minute after Chanmi’s stormed off in a blind fury; even after Irene’s already plopped back unceremoniously in her seat, taking a swig of her wine like the most unbothered woman in the world.

“And don’t come back,” she’d snorted once the other woman was out of earshot, to the further shock of the table.

Even Seulgi’s still struck dumb, having been shooting obvious heart-eyes her girlfriend’s way throughout the entire exchange.

Then—

“Irene?” Joy says, breaking the silence.

“Yeah?” Irene swirls her wine around in its flute before sipping.

“You’re a whole ass legend.”

Joy receives a signature smirk and hair flip in return.

“I should hope so,” the actress says breezily, a finger once again twirling a dark lock, and Joy barks out a laugh.

A second later, Seulgi’s tugging Irene out of her seat, a come with me the only warning having been given, dragging her out the side door to an empty alleyway— a small, necessary haven of privacy as Seulgi leans in and kisses her silly against a red brick wall, away from prying eyes.

--

They leave the dinner thirty minutes later in high spirits, and Seulgi doesn’t think they make it back to her apartment soon enough.

Honestly, they barely make it through her door.

“Have I ever mentioned that you’re fucking amazing, Rene?” Seulgi asks, lips red, red against the span of Irene’s throat.

“You could stand to say it more,” Irene giggles. She threads her fingers through Seulgi’s hair, already pulling it out of its neat ponytail.

“I’m taking you on the couch.”

“We just cleaned the couch,” Irene says, breathless with laughter as Seulgi’s lips continue their relentless assault down her neck.

“Do I hear you complaining?”

“No, ma’am.”

--

Dispatch @Dispatch · 10m
The Velvet’s leader, Kang Seulgi and top actress, Bae Irene were seen at a dinner with friends yesterday, where the two were seen sharing a passionate kiss in the alley beside the restaurant.

[ @Koreaboo, @allkpop, @soompi, and 103k others retweeted this photo ]

sam @baebaebun · 10m
Replying to @Dispatch
UM, EXCUSE ME?? KINDLY FUCK OFF???

the velvet comeback soon juseyo @fckyeahseulgi · 9m
Replying to @Dispatch
we wanted seulrene endgame BUT NOT LIKE THIS, THEY CLEARLY DIDN’T WANT TO BE SEEN

Dispatch @Dispatch · 5m
Bae Irene seen to have gone back to Kang Seulgi’s apartment following a dinner with friends. The two were seen to be holding hands in the lobby area.

[ @Koreaboo, @allkpop, @soompi, and 73k others retweeted this photo ]

kay @seulrenefighting · 3m
Replying to @Dispatch
GET THE FUCK OUT OF THEIR PRIVATE LIFE FUCK YOU

low quality seulgi @seulgilqs · 2m
Replying to @Dispatch
Society has moved past the need for stalkers who follow celebrities to their homes for clout. I hope Irene fucking curbstomps you.

--

Seulgi wakes up the next morning to both her phone, and Irene’s, buzzing like as if their little electric lives depend on it.

Grumbling, Irene begrudgingly hauls herself out of Seulgi’s arms, snagging her phone from the opposite side-table, just as Seulgi sighs and picks up her own device.

As soon as she opens the lock screen, a string of messages from Wendy are the first thing she sees. The very moment she spots the infamous Koreaboo tweet, complete with candid pictures of her and Irene at the Red Room and roaming the streets together, Seulgi throws back her head to groan in unadulterated annoyance.

> [sent tweet]

> Okay, I know you’re probably still asleep, or doing… other things, but PLEASE respond ASAP, Seul!

> Dispatch saw you and Irene kissing beside the restaurant last night.

> They caught an image of you and Irene in your apartment’s lobby too.

> The fact that they followed you to your home gives us the grounds to sue on its own, but anyway, dealing with the more immediate problem

> We’ve got 2 real options here

> Either we deny

> And let’s be honest, that’s more like delaying the inevitable, considering how iirc you just told me she’s moving in with you

> And she’s basically the air you breathe at this point

> OR

> You guys can go all out.

Seulgi raises an eyebrow. She hadn’t been expecting that. She scrolls down to the last message.

> Your call, Seul. If you wanna try something else, just let me know and we’ll figure it out together. But also know that I and the rest of your bandmates will always vouch for your happiness :) - Wannie

Peeking over Seulgi’s shoulder, Irene quickly scans the younger woman’s screen before giggling.

“Hey, I got basically the same thing from Nayeon. Do you think our managers have been talking behind our backs?”

Seulgi bumps her forehead against Irene’s with a chuckle. It’s strange how calm she is in this situation. Scandals are nothing to scoff at, typically. Except this matter is that Irene’s here, in bed with her. They’re not some sketchy fling in the dark anymore. Chanmi hasn’t never been further from her. Seulgi can’t really bring herself to care about anything else besides the happy feeling in her chest.

“Oh, definitely.”

Irene scrunches her nose. She shakes her head, mumbling to herself. “Well, fuck, it’s 5AM. I should, like, send Nayeon a fruit basket for her efforts or something.”

Seulgi’s about to say a word in agreement when she’s distracted by the sudden buzz of her phone again— more messages, this time in The Velvet groupchat.

> Eunae: we’ll support you no matter what, seul !!

> Moonbyul: You get out there and chase your happiness! *flexed biceps emoji*

> Chungha: make us proud!

> Mina: unnie istg if you break up with her after all this

> Mina: I will NOT hesitate to break your arms

> Chungha: holy shit Mina it’s only 5am

> Eunae: whoa when did Mina get so violent

> Moonbyul: I need to have a nice, civilized convo with Nayeon

Seulgi chokes out a laugh at Mina’s uncharacteristic showcase of aggression, and Irene snorts, their heads clunking together again.

Their eyes meet, holding each other’s gaze for only but a moment— for all Seulgi knows, it could’ve lasted lifetimes.

Einstein’s theory of relativity, she muses to herself yet again. But think about how happy you could be, even happier than you are now. Maybe it goes the opposite way too— lifetimes of happiness with Irene by her side in the blink of an eye. How strangely romantic.

Something knowing is exchanged, then and there, and they grin.

“I’ll go all out if you go all out,” Seulgi shrugs, trying to look as laid-back as possible about the whole thing. In reality, excitement seems to spark through her entire being, coursing through her nervous system; a new type of giddy energy just flooding every inch of her body.

The world will keep on turning.

They’ll keep on working at it.

And Irene grins, wide and toothy, signature coy and wicked with that dark sparkle in her eye, and god, Seulgi’s never going to stop falling in love; she’ll never love another like she loves Irene.

“Oh, bet!”

--

Yeri’s in the middle of brushing her teeth when Joy kicks the bathroom door wide open and barges inside with a clamor. With a shriek for her dear life, Yeri desperately clutches her chest, toothbrush still hanging from the corner of her mouth as Joy frantically waves her phone in the younger girl’s face with incomprehensibly loud noises and the eyes of a crazy person.

Her sleepovers with her best friend have been chaotic in the past, yes, but not this chaotic.

“Park Sooyoung, what the fuck —”

“Read the fucking tweets, Kim Yerim.”

“Okay, okay! Christ, what’s gotten into you— holy shit.”

--

Irene @renebaebae · 15m
@hi_sseulgi hi babe aka the love of my life

Seulgi @hi_sseulgi · 13m
Replying to @renebaebae
Rene, I’m literally right next to you

Seulgi @hi_sseulgi · 13m
Replying to @renebaebae
Also, this isn’t what I thought you meant when you said “all out”

Irene @renebaebae · 11m
Replying to @hi_sseulgi
dear girlfriend of mine, you should know better than to think i’d halfass this

[ @fuckyeahseulgi, @seulrenefighting, @baebaebun, and 205k others retweeted this video ]

--

Yeri taps on the attached video, entranced, as the short 30 second clip starts to play.

Irene herself isn’t in the frame, but her distinct signature laughter can be heard as the camera pans around what Yeri easily identifies as Seulgi’s kitchen.

“Be real with me, Seul,” Irene says from behind the camera, fixating the view on Seulgi, who stands next to the sink with her phone in one hand and a takeout menu in the other, donning nothing but an oversized t-shirt and short shorts, hair an absolute mess but looking like she’d just stepped out of a teen romance movie’s day after scene anyway. “Like, let’s settle this once and for all: pineapple on pizza isn’t that great.”

From where she’d been reading off the menu, Seulgi gasps, the textbook definition of horror etched on her bare, makeup-less face.

“Take that back, Bae Joohyun! If you’re going to live under this roof, you have to like pineapple on pizza.”

“But it’s actually disgusting,” Irene snickers through her teeth.

“Okay, now you’re just fucking with me,” Seulgi accuses, waving the takeout menu animatedly and trying her best to look annoyed. Yeri sees past it with ease— there’s no way no one notices how the corners of Seulgi’s lips twitch upwards, smothering back laughter.

“No, Seul, that was earli

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence!”

The video cuts off there.

Yeri doesn’t even notice when her toothbrush leaves her mouth and drops to the bathroom floor.

(Joy makes a mental note to buy a new one for Yeri later, figuring that her friend definitely will blame her for its uncleanly demise in the next thirty minutes.)

“They’re insane,” Yeri says. Her eyes return to her friends’ tweets, crawling over each word obsessively, each new read lending itself to the smile of disbelief that creeps across her face.

“They’re literally crazy,” Joy affirms.

“You need to step up your game when you publicly admit to being involved with Wendy.”

“I know,” Joy bemoans.

--

And so the world keeps on turning.

As she sits still for the makeup artist on set, Irene lets her mind wander, wondering briefly if an entire planet can somehow stay on its orbital with a metaphorical spring in its step. She has a new scene to film, and then she’ll be back in this same chair for a touch-up in maybe an hour or so. Then back to filming. Rinse and repeat.

She’s in the Rain plays through the earphones she has on, Seulgi’s soothing voice filtering through her ears.

Not everything has to be clear cut, Irene knows. Still, it’s comforting to think about what she already knows; the things that will almost definitely happen.

Tomorrow, too, the world will keep on spinning. Irene will be back in this make-up chair. She will record a new scene. Maybe this time she’ll ask Nayeon to get her boba tea instead of the coffee she’d requested earlier— the choices are endless. Maybe tomorrow, Nayeon will actually use the credit card Irene hands her to use at the café instead of insisting on using her own.

And just like that, her thoughts drift to her best friend.

On a day off that Irene just knows Nayeon could’ve spent with Mina, her manager had fought her little heart out at the company building for Irene’s decision in the wake of her dating news— “Irene’s way more than an internationally acclaimed, well-established actress, and she’s dedicated over half of her life to this place, so I think this company at the very least can give her this happiness.”

“Why do you do these things for me?” Irene had asked honestly as they'd stepped beyond the company's glass doors and into the mid-summer sunlight.

Nayeon had shrugged. “Beyond the fact that you’re probably my best friend and I know you’d do the same for me? You're a good person, Irene. And Seulgi’s a good person. And good people deserve each other.”

Irene’s eyelashes flutter as the makeup artist dusts some blush over her cheeks. That conversation had played on heavy rotation through her brain since its occurrence. Irene’s been hitting pause, play, and rewind, mentally chewing on each word with purpose. Good people deserve each other.

And as her head gets tilted ever-so-slightly backwards so that crimson red lipstick can be applied to her lips, Irene makes a decision right then.

Tonight, she will go home and talk to Seulgi about relinquishing ownership over her penthouse— the one that’s been collecting dust since she all but moved into Seulgi’s place. Seulgi will ask Irene if she’s sure, because she’ll want Irene to have a safe place to go in case she ever needs her space. Irene will smile as she leans in and kisses her, thank her for being so considerate, and tell her girlfriend not to worry because yes, she’s actually thought that far ahead.

Tomorrow, she’ll wake up earlier and make three cups of coffee at Seulgi’s place: one for herself, one for Seulgi, and one for Nayeon. At 7AM, Nayeon will pick her up, and Irene will happily explain that they don’t need to stop by Starbucks this time. Instead she’ll hand over the coffee and ask Nayeon to take the long way to the film set, and Nayeon will look suspicious but agree anyway.

“So you told me you were planning on going apartment hunting for a better place soon,” Irene will say as they drive along the Han River. “And it just so happens that I was looking for someone to give my penthouse to.”

Nayeon will slam on the breaks, the car skidding to a halt, to look over in complete shock at Irene in the passenger seat, where she will be innocently sipping her coffee like nothing even remotely life-changing was just said.

“You really just want to give me your penthouse? Just like that? What?”

“You heard me,” Irene will reply in return, and at Nayeon’s scrunched up, unbelieving gaze, she’ll pout. “Why the look? You always said you liked the view from the balcony.”

“Of course you’re bringing this up on the drive to work like the grass is green, water is wet, Nayeon I’m giving you my whole-ass penthouse.”

“It’s a gift, so no tax,” Irene will continue, blatantly ignoring her manager. “Because, y’know, I actually bought that thing, including all the furniture and stuff. It’s mine. I own it. Well, not for long now— but you know what I mean.”

“You’re so weird,” Nayeon will say, shaking her head. “They say the industry makes you old and jaded, but after nearly four years of partnership, both of us have done nothing but turn out so, so weird.”

“We’ve always been at least a little weird,” Irene will shrug. “From the very start, back when you bought me a different flavor of boba tea than my usual because you told me I needed more variety in ‘my boring ass, grayscale life,’ you sure as hell were weird.”

“Can’t deny that,” Nayeon will admit begrudgingly, and they’ll chuckle because it’s true, and they’ll smile because they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The world will keep on spinning.

Irene imagines all of these things right as the director calls her name— time to get to work. It’s not like she’s getting paid to daydream. Carefully, she unhooks Seulgi’s golden guitar pick from around her neck, slipping it securely into her pocket— her good luck charm. Hopping out of the makeup chair, she dusts off her wardrobe daintily, like the professional actress she’s known to be, a faint smile on her lips of promises and contentment.

“I fill the scattered you so I could see how beautiful you are,” Seulgi’s voice sings, and Irene lets that familiar warm feeling encase her heart as she plucks out her earphones, leaving them in her trailer.

Reality will be so much better than her daydreams anyway.

--

“When do they move in?” Seulgi asks a few days later – it’s a Friday night, which means it’s especially theirs – and she raises her arm for Irene to easily slot against her as they step out of their apartment building and into Seoul’s bustling nightlife.

It’s another one of those nights of easy wandering. This time, however, they’ve decided to forgo the baseball caps and masks— everyone knows they’re together now anyway, so no point in hiding more than they need to, they figure. Maybe next time they’ll want more privacy, but tonight they’ve decided to bask.

“Next Saturday,” Irene chirps, an extra excited bounce to her walk. “Mina texted saying they’re going to need help moving boxes even though Nayeon doesn’t want to admit it.”

“I’ll tell Mina we’ll be at their old place bright and early,” Seulgi chuckles, and her hand reaches for Irene’s absently, fingers weaving together like a tapestry, and Seulgi’s thumb rubs circles onto the back of her palm.

Irene beams, leans up and presses a kiss to her cheek.

Somewhere in the night, they hear the click of a camera shutter.

Seulgi snorts, resting her forehead against the side of Irene’s temple. Irene seeks out the lens with a playful eyeroll, raising her middle finger without a care in the world.

Neither of them rather care, as a matter of fact, and it feels pretty good, Seulgi thinks.

--

kay @seulrenefighting · 5m
HELP SEULRENE ARE SO FUCKING CUTE, LOOK AT THEM WAVING AT DISPATCH AND FANS WHILE ON THEIR DATE I’M GONNA CRY

[@ baebaebun, @fckyeahseulgi, @iloveirene_, and 5k others retweeted your photo ]

the velvet comeback soon juseyo @fckyeahseulgi · 3m
Replying to @seulrenefighting
can y’all believe just less than a year ago seulrene didn’t even have a ship name???

sam @baebaebun · 10m
Replying to @fckyeahseulgi @seulrenefighting
Did seulrene even know each other last year LMAO

kay @seulrenefighting · 8m
Replying to @baebunbun @fckyeahseulgi
fam i was legit a seulnae shipper until a few months ago and now i’ve sold my whole soul to seulrene FDHSFKJDSHFKJLDSFJKSL

--

Seulgi doesn’t think she’ll ever get tired of waking up to the soft, pliant body of Bae Irene in her arms. There’s nothing like a peaceful morning, when they wake up before the rest of the world does, conversation trickling in and out like a quiet stream in a forest of thought.

“A few weeks ago, when she was helping me in my kitchen, Mina asked me what my secret was,” Irene says, her head finding its way to the crook of Seulgi’s neck. Her hand trails over Seulgi’s bare body, her palm eventually coming to rest over Seulgi’s beating heart.

“The secret to being Bae Irene?” Seulgi presumes.

“Something like that,” Irene muses. “She seemed to struggle to explain what she meant.”

“I can completely understand,” Seulgi says, garnering a furrowed brow from Irene. The musician smirks, leans forward to press her lips against Irene’s forehead. “There’s no sum of words that could ever perfectly package just who you are, Rene. You’re like a conundrum wrapped in a riddle— you’ve got so many facets, and I’m still learning new things about you every day. I could never grow tired of it.”

“You’re bound to find parts of me you don’t like,” Irene frowns.

“You don’t know that.” Seulgi says playfully, and Irene’s lips part as a conflicted expression crosses her features.

“Statistically, though,” Irene argues quietly. “I don’t know if that’s even possible.”

“Well, I’ve got the supposed ‘impossible’ in my arms right now,” Seulgi replies, a laugh leaving her lungs, and Irene flushes and buries her face into Seulgi’s chest. The younger woman chuckles. “Clearly, nothing’s actually impossible. You taught me that.”

“How so?”

“I never thought someone like you was possible.” Seulgi tips her head slightly, thinking. Irene continues to run her thumb over Seulgi’s chest, slowly rising and falling with the intake of breath. “You’re stubborn and persistent, but also open-minded. You know what you want, even without all the facts. Maybe you could call that childish logic, but you’re so mature with how you seem so sure of yourself. You know what you can handle. You know yourself in a way that the rest of us are still trying to figure out, and that sets you apart. But at the same time, I’ve never connected to anyone like I’ve connected to you.

“Plus,” Seulgi’s hold tightens. “You… You’re okay with being alone, but you don’t push anyone away. You know how to stay afloat.”

“I can’t let myself drown.”

“As if I’d let you,” Seulgi smiles.

“I’m fine with being alone,” Irene says. “I’m fine with it, I really am. I guess I just try to remember that I’m alone on the ground like everyone else. I discovered a mentality that works for me. Besides, I won’t always be… like this.” She shrugs her shoulders, momentarily lifting her hand to push some hair out of her face. “Fame doesn’t last forever. I’ll make the most of it, and once it’s over, I’ll make the most of that time too.”

Alone, but not lonely. The words resonate through the space despite remaining unspoken. Seulgi remembers them as clear as day, Irene and her proclamation on that first visit to her apartment, her words resounding like the sound of crystal bells.

“You sometimes wish you were normal?” Seulgi reckons. Casually, she traces the red marks that remain on Irene’s neck, mentally apologizing to whichever stylist would have to cover those up later. “Like, you wish you weren’t in the spotlight all the time?”

“I’m not in the spotlight right now, here with you,” Irene giggles, but then she shrugs again. “But sometimes, yeah. Try as we might, we’re not entirely immune to toxicity of the industry. And sure, maybe I sometimes go entire weeks without seeing the rest of our friends thanks to work, but at the same time, that makes all of our gatherings that much more precious. And I’ve experienced so much that the rest of the world doesn’t ever get to see. Sometimes it sucks. Like, really sucks. But I might’ve not met you, or our friends, otherwise. You guys help keep me sane. Especially you, Seul.”

For a heartbeat, Seulgi allows herself to imagine what life would’ve been like, had she been pursuing her dream alone. What could her life have looked like, had she not found Moonbyul, Chungha, Eunae, and Mina?

Terribly lonely, is the singular answer she finds, and it doesn’t even take that long to search for, either. Fame is lonely. The top is lonely. She doesn’t really want to think about it too much, because Seulgi isn’t Irene, and she doesn’t think she’d be okay with being alone, but that’s still okay.

“Good thing I’m here to keep you grounded,” she says in lieu of anything else.

“Somehow, you’ve kept my feet on the ground and taken me to the highest of heights,” Irene says fondly.

“We’re climbing mountains together,” Seulgi simply says.

“And now my feet hurt!” Irene pouts. She taps Seulgi’s arm insistently. “They’re sore, and I’m hungry. Carry me to the kitchen?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Seulgi chuckles, detangling herself begrudgingly and tossing a band t-shirt Irene’s way before lifting her girlfriend up in her arms.

--

“I want you to listen to something,” Seulgi says that later that night. Irene’s in the kitchen, pouring them glasses of wine as Seulgi sits in the living room, Netflix cued up and that new Alice Wu directed-film already loaded and ready to be watched.

“Is this for the new album you were talking about?” Irene asks curiously.

“Yeah, my members voted for it to be the title track.”

“Oh, wow!” Irene marvels. “Am I really allowed to listen to it?”

“I don’t see why not,” Seulgi laughs. “I’m not even kidding, Moonbyul told me to have you listen to it first. I’m the one singing basically all of this one… the girls were pretty insistent.”

“That’s really cute! I’m excited to hear it.”

“You ready?”

“Never more, Seul.” Irene settles onto the couch next to her girlfriend as the musician hits play, and Seulgi’s voice drifts in through their surround-sound speakers.

“Stay, little star lights, the fireflies that pull me in. Take, take me with you, inside of your breathtaking gaze.”

“Oh,” Irene whispers, awestruck. Oh. Her grip tightens around Seulgi’s hand subconsciously, pure reflex, no reaction more natural. “It’s you.”

“I wanna be red! Just like the burning fire in front of me! I wanna be red! Just like the sky painted crimson, I don’t care! I wanna be!”

Sometimes Irene looks at Seulgi and wonders if her nerves have been rearranged, because every time Seulgi touches her, it’s familiar and new all at once; like after all this time, there are still new things to discover. She has stared at the ocean of Seulgi and squinted at the horizon, has wondered where it could possibly end, only to find that there is no limit, no boundary, just as how there is no place where the sky ends. This, she realizes, is one ocean she would not mind exploring for an eternity.

“You sound so happy,” Irene says, and her lower lip trembles.

“Do I?” Seulgi smiles.

“You sound like you.” Irene buries her face in her hands, because it’s overwhelming, how amazingly happy Seulgi sounds through the speakers— how wonderfully, beautifully weightless Seulgi sounds; as though she’s been freed. Seulgi always sounds beautiful, but this is something else entirely. Irene wishes she could drown in this, that sort of light and happiness and freedom.

“I want to shine in this darkness, so throw your sticks and stones! So what if we’re different from others? I don’t care at all! I wanna be red! I don’t care what anyone says!”

Irene presses her ear right below Seulgi’s collarbone, tucking herself under the taller girl’s chin; feels the way Seulgi’s heart beats along with the percussion. It’s amazing to her, still, how this astounding girl manages to live and breathe music. If Irene could place a bet, she’d wager that Seulgi had staves running through her veins, music notes doting her bloodstream and composing its magnum opus: Kang Seulgi herself.

Seulgi squeezes her hand, and Irene’s heart clenches in pride right along with it.

“I don’t wanna be dead, I wanna spread high above like fire! Fireworks! I wanna be!”

Irene feels her love swell in her chest— her love that she hadn’t been able to recognize at first – she's never been in love before, after all – but at some point she’d realized that she’d been peering at it for so long, gazing in awe at the sheer vastness, at the way that kind of boundless emotion had the ability to knock the breath from her lungs but fill the scope of her being with life nonetheless, drenching her soul with a light so bright she hadn’t even known it existed.

“Can I listen to it again?” Irene whispers after it’s all over. Excitement tingles through her body as she peers eagerly up at Seulgi. “And another time after that?”

“You can listen to it as many times as you want, Rene,” Seulgi tells her, leaning down to kiss her forehead. “It’s thanks to you that the song exists, after all.”

“I really can?”

“Of course,” Seulgi murmurs, lips moving against Irene’s skin. “Might get tired of it though.”

“As if I could ever get tired of listening to you,” Irene says immediately.

“I beg to differ,” Seulgi laughs. Then her mouth drops open as she realizes what she'd just said. “Wait—”

Irene's eyes glimmer as her gaze snaps up, and they both know what comes next.

“Then beg.”

“You know what?” Seulgi shakes her head, grinning. “That doesn’t sound too bad anymore.”

“Kang Seulgi, you’re crazy,” Irene snickers.

“Crazy for you, babe,” Seulgi shoots back before defensively raising both of her hands, her girlfriend raising an eyebrow. “Hey, listen, this was all your influence! You’re the one who turned me into whatever this is.”

Irene tilts her head. “They say lovers start to resemble each other the longer they’re together.”

“Wow. I don’t even know if that’s a good or bad thing. Like, imagine two Irene’s, or even two Seulgi’s.”

“That does sound a bit chaotic, doesn’t it?”

“We’re gonna wreck hell, aren’t we?” Seulgi grins.

“Seul,” Irene smirks, “Every day we’re together, the line between heaven and hell blurs just a bit more.”

“Is that our goal now? To make our own world?”

“Oh, definitely. Stretch goal is a whole new universe. It’s a process.”

“We’ll work on it?” Seulgi asks, raising her wine glass.

“We’ll work on it.” Irene smiles, clinking hers against Seulgi’s.

And it’s a promise, so they do.

 

End.