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The Recollection of Han Jisung

Chapter Text

Hyunjin's phone was buzzing. He put down his book on his bed and cautiously took his phone off the bedside table, trying not to stir a napping Seungmin on his lap.

 

Caller ID: Minhoe the stripper

Well, he was a good pole dancer. Hyunjin slid his thumb across the screen, answering the call.

 

"Hyunjin"

"Yeah?" Hyunjin's voice was deep and quiet, almost a murmur.

"I got the job" Minho didn't sound excited, though rather like he was expecting to be given the job of 3RACHA's newest backup dancer. Oh, and lead choreographer.

All thanks to Hyunjin when he suggested the job to him after a dancer decided to quit one day.

 

"Oh. Congrats," Seungmin stirred slightly, Hyunjin spread his fingers through his hair and stroked it calmingly. "Guess I'm stuck with you for a while." Hyunjin was a dancer at JYP, and now Minho was too. They had studied dance together at the same academy and quickly became close. Now they would be backup dancers together in 3RACHA's upcoming tour.

"I have to meet the group to start discussing the choreography soon. Any tips for meeting with them?" Minho asked. "What are they like?"

"Hmm... You should listen to their songs for starters. Only the newer ones though."

Why only the newer ones? Minho thought.

"But in terms of members, Chan's pretty chill. He's friendly and encouraging, he's like a true leader. We all get on well with him and he comes and stays with us when we practise really late. I swear he never sleeps. He's a really good dancer too and sometimes a goofball." Seungmin stirred again when Hyunjin realised his voice naturally got louder, so he lowered it again, "We rarely see Changbin. We only see him in meetings and... he wears a lot of black. That's all we really know about him. He's pretty mysterious and literally never talks."

Hyunjin paused for a moment, Is it necessary to mention him? No, it's pointless.

"Felix is... pretty quiet. He's a really good dancer, better than Chan, and he used to practise with us a lot. These days he's either studying Korean or in the recording studio working on songs. He's really cute but don't let that fool you. Wait 'till you hear his voice." Hyunjin grinned at the thought of Minho's reaction. "He'll probably be talking to you the most about the dances but these days he's quite reserved."

"Okay, got it. So how should I speak with them?"

"You mean like honorifics? Um..." Hyunjin thought for a moment, and then, "Chan's the only one you'd call hyung. He doesn't mind if you don't use honorifics but we still use them anyway. Felix is the youngest and Changbin is little bit older than him. In terms of first impressions, just be casual. Don't try to impress them or anything and just flow with their atmosphere. Chan is the easiest to talk to." 

"Okay, I'll listen to their music and learn their faces too."

"You do that-" at this point Seungmin was whining because Hyunjin wouldn't let him sleep. "You wanna sleep a little longer, baby?" Hyunjin asked him, to which Seungmin only responded with a soft hum. "Okay, okay. Minho I have to go. Call me and tell me how it goes."

"Will do. See you"

"Bye" and with that, Hyunjin was snuggling tightly with Seungmin on the bed, dozing throughout the afternoon.

 

-

 

Minho's meeting was tomorrow. They were going to start practising straight after the meeting so he decided to wear his dance clothes. He still had to listen to 3RACHA's songs. He opened iTunes and searched them up - the process was fairly simple. He found two recent albums and immediately dived down the rabbit hole.

All of the songs were amazing - no doubt, but there was a song in the album he was listening to (said album was called Placebo, which happened to be a name of one of their older songs) that really caught his attention, so he tapped back onto the app to see the name of it.

 

Album: Placebo

1) Intro: Mixtape #1

2) What Went Down pt.2

3) Spiral

4) S_TALKER

5) Claws

6) 4419

7) Outro: Recollection

 

The album had softer songs, but this - this was different. Very different. It was almost a ballad - there was almost no rap at all in the song, just the surprisingly calming vocals of 3RACHA. 

Turns out the group was good at composing, rapping and singing.

Minho pulled up the lyrics and read along with the song:

 

All I see is red, the panic sets in, I try to count to three but I get stuck at one, when I collapsed in your arms you were my saviour but when I woke up you were gone, you became a part of me.

 

Damn, that voice is deeper than the goddamn ocean.

There was English words Minho didn't understand but that didn't change the fact how melancholic the song was. It was like a cry for help, a funeral service and a death scene all at the same time. He wondered what had caused the group to write such a song compared to the others.

Composed by CB97, LIX

Lyrics by CB97, SpearB, LIX

 

Well, Minho thought, I hope they're okay, at least.

 

While he was listening to them Minho tried to guess their voices based on their face - just to see if he was right. The highest voice must've been Felix, or LIX, because he literally looked like a tiny baby that must be protected at all costs. The growly voice must've been Chan's, leaving the cave voice to Changbin. That seemed to suit his demeanour.

Turns out he was horribly wrong when he momentarily switched to lyric videos.

"WHAT!? THAT'S FELIX'S VOICE?" He practically screamed when he discovered cave voice belonged to the supposed sunshine and freckles.

But this was only the start of his shocking discoveries.

 

He learned more and more about the members that evening:

CB97 - Chan. Leader. Responsible, the oldest, but sometimes a goofball. Quite affectionate, especially with Felix. From Australia, never sleeps, composes all songs, can also sing.

SpearB - Changbin. Rapper and vocalist. Middle child. Wears lots of dark, quiet, a bit moody, doesn't like affection but lets Felix have his ways sometimes. Mysterious, a talented rapper with an addictive growl in his voice, but can also sing.

LIX - Maknae. Looks like a sunshine but has the deepest voice Minho's ever heard. Austraian, still learning Korean, freckles, main dancer but 3RACHA doesn't focus heavily on dance unlike most groups. Affectionate with both members but mainly with Chan. Can do almost everything and works very hard. Reserved with most people.

 

So far, Minho was really liking the group. In fact, he had listened to the 2 albums (Placebo and RECOVERY) for a solid 3 hours and was begging for more. 

But Hyunjin had told them not to listen to their older songs...

Why?

Minho thought about it. Then thought some more. And some more. Then he gave in.

 

The album before the ones he was listening to was called Horizon. The cover intrigued Minho and the track list only made his temptation worse - this was where Placebo started, the song that was apparently remastered into Mixtape #1 and held the title of the latest album. Minho eyed the track list with burning curiosity: 

 

Album: Horizon

1) Matryoshka

2) Hoodie Season

3) P.A.C.E

4) Broken Compass

5) Placebo

6) Scene Stealers

7) For You 

8) Double Knot

 

Ah, there it was. 

Minho tapped on Placebo, but to his mistake Broken Compass began playing instead. It was an ungodly hour in the morning, so it was likely that Minho's fingers were slowing down, especially after listening to music. He was going to tap on Placebo but hesitated, drawn in by the intro of Broken Compass. The track had already made Minho its bitch by the first verse.

By the second verse, Minho realised something. 

He thought that Changbin's voice in the first verse was different because these were older songs, but then he started rapping in his normal voice in the second verse. He continued to listen to the song.

...

Oh?

No Felix?

Maybe he sat this song out.

...

And the next.

And the next.

This isn't right.

Minho switched back to his laptop for lyric videos, going straight back to Broken Compass, which was now his all-time favourite 3RACHA song. 

He could already see the name and picture: J.One.

As it turns out, he had been the one doing the first verse, he even sang parts of the chorus.

Why wouldn't Hyunjin want him to see this? This was a masterpiece, even if Felix wasn't present in this particular album. He put the song on repeat, too tired to find out more about 'J.One' and completely out of time. He had to wake up in four hours.

He fell asleep with J.One's light and free-flowing vocals filling his ears.

 

-

 

Minho somehow woke up on time (thanks to his annoying alarm) and got out of bed almost immediately. 

He untangled his neck and torso from his headphones, had a quick shower and let his coffee brew in the meantime, and within the hour he was off.

Today he would meet 3RACHA.

 

Chapter Text

Minho was guided by a staff member to 3RACHA's studio on the third floor. He had briefly been shown around too - Hyunjin had also told him about the building's interior.

"The first floor is mainly offices and meeting rooms, but that's also on the fifth floor, except the rooms are more for hanging out and doing VLIVEs. That's what you'd usually see in the background of most broadcasts. The second floor is the gyms and other things, the third floor is the studios for recording and producing, above that are the practise rooms, where we'll be spending most of our time. The fifth floor is just smaller rooms for the artists to chill in and to do broadcasts. Toilets and vending machines are literally on every single floor so we just get a load of cola after practise. There's a separate building for filming and shooting music videos and stuff like that but don't be surprised if you see a few cameras around the building. You'll get used to them."

Minho wasn't sure how long it would take for him to adjust.

The elevator reached the third floor quickly and Minho stepped out, following the staff member like a lost puppy and taking in his surroundings. There was six composing studios altogether, the staff member stopped in front of the door closest to them on the left. A old yet still bold label read "3RACHA". Minho thanked the staff member and they parted ways. Minho knocked twice on the door. "Come in!" That was Chan's voice, Minho recognised.

He was right.

Chan was sitting in the main chair in the corner at his computer, his chair twisted to face Minho as he walked in. Felix was sitting on the couched with his legs curled up and shoes off, taking out his earphones once he saw Minho. Changbin, sitting on the far side of the couch, glanced only once, then retired from scrolling through his phone. All three greeted Minho politely, bowing and such, Minho returning the gesture.

Chan offered Minho to take a seat at an empty black couch to the left of where he walked in. Chan rolled his chair over to the opposite side of the coffee table, once again facing Minho (more like towering him) whereas the remaining two returned to their seats, Changbin not off to the side this time and involving himself in the now-started meeting.

They wasn't too different to pictures Minho had seen of them - Chan was soft-looking, like a marshmallow, complete with silver curly locks and approachable demeanour, Felix was taller than he imagined and his freckles were way more visible and defined against surprisingly golden skin (he was also very cute and looked very young but Minho swept that thought away), Changbin was shorter than he had predicted but his dark clothes and seemingly 'cold' attitude made up for it. He looked very tired.

The studio was also quite messy - three desks with computers, one desk (the one Chan had been sitting at) was very tidy save for a bottle of water and a notepad, another scattered with post-it notes and the final was very plain and only bore a notebook with no writing. In a way, the blank pages were menacing. Minho assumed that was Changbin's desk while the post-it note desk was Felix's. It even had a few plushies. The room was small but cosy, complete with two leather couches, a fan in the corner, a coffee table and a few bookshelves with knick-knacks, books, filled and empty notepads, albums... There was even a large houseplant in the corner. Artificial, of course, Lord knows how Chan can get engrossed in his work and forget to take care of it.

"Shall we start?"

"Okay, sure."

"Great!" Chan shuffled forward slightly, "Please introduce yourself."

"My name is Lee Minho, I was born on the 25th of October 1998," he glanced at Chan, "Which makes you my hyung. My friend suggested the job to me here after a dancer quit - his name is Hwang Hyunjin and we'll be working together. I studied dance with him and I used to be a backup dancer for BTS on tours." This caught their attention, it always did when Minho talked about it. Chan made a "woah" noise to show he was impressed, Felix piped up a bit and looked a little less... grey, while Changbin only showed he was intrigued by his curious cat-like eyes.

"So what made you want a different job?" Chan asked. "I wanted a change of scenery. I also wanted to participate more in choreographies since the BTS members made the dances mostly by themselves. Head of choreography seems like a good opportunity and may even help me improve my dancing and teamwork."

"That's great! Well we can get started with it after we introduce ourselves." Chan straightened up. "I'm Bang Chan, but you can just call me Channie-hyung, I'm quite comfortable with nicknames so don't worry about being too formal. I'm the leader, head composer, head of vocals and a rapper." Chan looked to Felix, who caught on and started introducing himself.

"Hi, I'm Lee Felix. I'm in charge of dance but I can also rap and sing. My Korean isn't the best so I'm sorry! I can also be kinda shy too..." His deep voice was barely noticeable due to his cheerful yet shy tone and small smile.

He seemed to have realised something for he opened his mouth again, "By the way," Minho was shocked by the change of tone, the once cheery voice now deep and threatening, "Chan and I are dating, so if you have a problem with that you can leave." His eyes were narrowed. Changbin was looking to the side as if he was bored, almost expecting Minho to leap from his chair and leave.

Of course he didn't.

Minho relaxed his shoulders, which were tensed by Felix's voice alone, and let a lazy grin fall onto his lips, amusement filling his voice as he spoke, "It's totally fine. I like guys too, Hyunjin's the same so if I was homophobic I wouldn't even be here." Felix's grin returned and Chan chuckled as Changbin held a brief look of a mixture of amazement and shock on his face. "Wonderful, we'll get along great then!" A now happy Felix sitting on his hands out of his building excitement turned to Changbin, who looked Minho dead in the face.

"I'm not good and dancing but I'm not terrible either, we've all danced before but still be patient with us. I'm Seo Changbin, the main rapper, rarely a vocal, and assistant composer." Chan sighed and shook his head to himself.

"Binnie's right. We've all danced before and we're actually pretty good," Chan told Minho while side-glaring Changbin. "We'll catch on quickly." He smiled, to which Minho replied with a smile himself and a nodding head. "Right then, let's get started."

 

-

 

The meeting was going well. All three members were focused on the conversation and they were being productive. Chan unsurprisingly did most of the talking while Felix, who was very quiet, started joining in when they started getting in-depth with dance ideas. Minho learned that he tends to talk more when it comes to things he's passionate about - Chan had told him after Minho was taken aback after Felix rambled on for a good 30 seconds about a song he had already started choreographing. Changbin was silent but nodded and hummed to show his understanding. Minho had grown comfortable with the three already.

 

"So we're performing all the songs from 'Placebo'?"

"All of them. A few songs will be without dancing so we can all get a break in-between," Chan replied.

"Sounds good. Are we including songs from the previous album too?"

"Maybe two or three, but yes, definitely."

"Okay. What about your older songs?"

 

The members froze and stared at Minho in near-shock, Felix almost choking on his cola.

 

"I'm sorry?" Chan had asked him in a neutral tone, his face matching his voice.

"I asked if you wanted to include songs from older albums, most artists do that to get the audience-"

"We won't." Came a curt reply.

"I see. I'm sorry if that was rude..." Minho was confused at this point. What had he said wrong? Is this why Hyunjin warned him not to listen to their old music?

"Oh no it's fine!" Happy Chan was back, now looking apologetic and had a sad smile on his lips. "We don't really like our old music," Chan explained.

"Really? I think the album 'Horizon' was amazing. I'm surprised you're not performing it." Minho's tone was light and complimenting towards the group's previous album.

It was Changbin who spoke when Chan's smile fell, "Maybe you should stop talking now." It wasn't friendly, but neither a threat. A warning. Minho also noticed Felix was on his computer, back turned to the group. Changbin followed Minho's gaze and saw this as an opportunity to change the subject. "Oh, Felix, have you been working on the intro for the tour?" He asked.

"Mm." Came a deep hum from Felix.

"Can we hear it?" it was Chan who spoke this time, voice coaxing and gentle.

'Yeah."

Felix played a track called "NOT!" - it was only an instrumental for now but it sounded complete already.

Chan complimented him, saying they could even use it in the new album. Felix was silent.

Chan gave Changbin a look and signalled with a quick twitch of his head towards Minho. He then spoke, "We should get to the practise room upstairs. The other dancers will arrive soon and I know Hyunjinnie and Seungminnie like to get here early." Minho nodded, slightly awed by Chan's use of nicknames. "Changbin will guide you there, we'll be with you in a minute."

Changbin led him out of the studio and upstairs, not bothering to wait for the lift. Eventually they entered a large dance studio with two bodies stretching on the floor - Chan had been right.

"Oh - Minho!" Hyunjin exclaimed from his place on the floor. Minho strolled over with a lopsided smirk.

 

-

 

"Felix"

"..."

"Are you okay?"

"I don't..." Felix struggled to reply in English. Chan sighed and knelt down.

"It's gonna be okay Lixxie. M'kay? You're alright. Just take deep breaths like I taught you," Chan soothed.

Felix sniffed and nodded, breathing slowly.

"Better?"

"Mhm," the freckled boy nodded again.

"Okay. You wanna start dancing?"

"Mh-hm." Felix's nodding was more enthusiastic now and the sunshine in his eyes replaced the sadness.

Chan placed a kiss on his forehead and the two peacefully walked to the dance studio, pinkies linked.

Felix was gonna be okay.

 

-

 

Minho's first day at the company was going really well - Hyunjin had already taught him some simple moves from stages they've performed in the past, for comeback stages and such, and when the other dancers showed up they all practised together, Minho learning each choreography skilfully quick and impressing everyone except for Hyunjin and Seungmin, of course. Minho was surprise that there wasn't many dancers in the unit - only six of them. Minho was used to this number in some BTS tour stages but most performances were carried out by a number much bigger.

It was easier to work with, though. He learned their names and faces quite easily, and took a liking to a certain Yang Jeongin, the youngest dancer and a dance student in his creative arts school. A staff member gave him his company lanyard and there was a brief moment of celebration, but most of the day was dancing and discussions in-between. By 8pm, Minho had worked out choreography drafts with Felix for three songs, one of them was near-finished.

Felix was easy to talk to when it came to dance because he was enthusiastic about it, but with other things he was shallow and almost dismissive. Minho didn't mind. Chan was in every way a leader, he even bought cola for everyone and helped in a few areas with making the choreography. Mostly, he sat at the front and monitored everyone, pointing out flaws or things that may need to change, but mostly compliments. Minho was going well. Changbin... just didn't speak. At all. 

But what he said earlier was right: all three were skilled dancers, especially Felix - who made everyone else look bad. When Minho said this to him, he laughed and blushed at the compliment. He and Felix got along well - but that wasn't even the highlight.

Chan apparently does this every time they dance or need to take a break. He called it comic relief, or de-stressing time. It was a few songs that were bouncy and fun and everyone would just joke around or dance weirdly. Chan would always do the latter, succeeding to make Felix laugh even more. But then again, Chan goofing around with a silly facial expression like that? Minho was crying from laughter, Hyunjin clutching his stomach next to him.

The day was amazing, and everyone worked hard. Minho felt like he was glowing.

 

-

 

The dancers and 3RACHA left at the same time, Hyunjin waited for Minho but the latter waved him away, saying he had to finish something. It was the choreography for 4419, simple and on the very edge of being completed. Minho opened the camera on his phone, which he hadn't picked up since a small break during the day, and leaned it against the mirror, hit record and started the music up again on the still-open laptop. The choreography didn't require the backup dancers but that didn't change the fact Minho didn't have to work on it - it was his job, after all. There was only one part of the song that had no dance towards the end, so Minho only stood still when that part came on.

When the song ended and restarted again, Minho sat on one of the chairs used in the dance and thought about the blank space in the choreography. He made some experimental movements with his arms, and, when that part of the song came on again, he tried to apply said movements, then he had an idea.

He rewinded the song and tried something different. And again. And again. Then he got it.

Minho stopped the recording on his phone and started a new one. The song started again and this time Minho danced all of it, firstly as Chan and then as the group ensemble in the second half of the song. When he was done, he smiled, satisfied with his work. He ran over to his phone, picked it up, and stopped recording. He would show this to 3RACHA in the morning, or he could send it to them as they had exchanged numbers at some point.

Luckily enough, he didn't need to.

Minho had just turned off the music when Felix entered the dance studio.

"Oh? Minho-hyung, what are you still doing here?" He asked, walking over to the laptop.

"I was just finishing one of the choreographies, what about you?" Minho answered, eyes following Felix across the room.

"I forgot my charger," as he said this, he unplugged a USB from the side of the laptop and put it in his pocket for later. "I was about to start working on more tracks until I realised I left it in here." He turned to Minho, "Can I see what you were working on? I'm not getting anywhere with producing and dancing sounds way better."

Minho smiled, "Sure," and showed him what he had just recorded.

 

-

 

When Felix finished watching it, he expressed a 'woah' and grinned at Minho, his freckled cheeks lifting into his chocolate eyes.

"Teach me?" he asked simply.

Minho thought for a moment, humming briefly. Felix seemed to realise something, and made the same expression he did that morning, "I know it's late, but honestly I love dancing in the night hours and if you're tired we can just practise in the morning, you've worked hard." Felix seemed to ramble, Minho needed a second to make sense of what he said.

When he processed it, his face lit up: "You like night-dancing too?!"

Felix nodded enthusiastically and Minho held a hand up for a high-five, which Felix slapped hard enough for their hands to sting. "I used to stay up until 2am practising our routines or just free-styling. Chan would always scold me in the morning." Felix's smile was as bright as the studio lights and filled with purity and innocence, a little troublemaker.

Much like Minho himself, Felix learned dances quickly. Felix had suggested a few minor changes that Minho happily agreed with - there was always room for improvement. They were done within an hour, both boys recording the routine as Minho did before.

"Yah! Stop dancing better than me!" Minho teased him. Felix chuckled, but Minho didn't see the sad memory behind his grin.

Eventually Minho left to go home, hungry and tired, but the endorphins flowing through his veins made it bearable. He told Felix to get some sleep, at that Felix only told him to go home, eat and rest. Minho likes to think that behind how shy he can be, Felix is truthfully an angel.

 

With that, they parted ways, one boy satisfied and the other back to being his uncharacteristically reserved self.

Chapter Text

That night, Minho suddenly couldn't sleep.

Was it because I ate dinner too late? he briefly wondered.

He found himself listening to 3RACHA's old album again - Horizon. He liked this album the best, the newer ones had more melancholic lyrics and sad melodies whereas this album seemed to have its own energy, something that made Minho want to jump around, dance or fight in some kind of way. Horizon's songs had both joyous and meaningful lyrics and a diss track or two that made Minho so hyped up he had a hard time containing himself. The rush of emotions was enough to make him sleepy.

That, and J.One's voice.

Even if Chan was the main vocal, Minho loved J.One's voice. It was addicting, like that one line in Double Knot, or the foreign words in Matryoshka that fit perfectly into the song, or the growl in Changbin's rap, or Felix's deep voice, or Chan's soft accent that made him want to laugh and cry at the same time, depending on the lyric's meaning.

Yes, he looked up all the lyrics.

He still hadn't looked up J.One though.

He wondered if he should ask Hyunjin. 

Maybe tomorrow, he thought. He stuck Broken Compass on repeat, imagining himself dancing to it there and then, but decided to use it for his warm-up tomorrow. He would be there early in the morning by himself as it would be just him and 3RACHA to choreograph the routines together. Once again, he let the song soothe him to sleep.

 

-

 

When Felix finally came back to the studio about an hour later, Chan had questions. Felix had gone to get his charger, which was in his hand, along with his phone, eyes engrossed in the screen.

"Felix, what took you so long?"

"Huh?" The younger snapped his head up, his phone obviously seeming very interesting to him at the moment.

"It doesn't take an hour to get a USB charger Felix, did something happen?"

Felix's face contorted into realisation, then he passed his phone to Chan.

"Watch" he simply said.

Chan gave him a look, then pressed play on the video displayed on Felix's phone screen. 

The video itself was Minho and Felix dancing the now-complete 4419 choreography. Chan watched carefully at the new movements and his face showed he was impressed. Felix was quick to cut in, "He's like how I was, practising late into the night and not stopping 'till it gets done."

Chan hummed thoughtfully. "He's a good addition to the crew. We'll learn the rest of it in the morning," he concluded.

Felix beamed.

 

-

 

The following morning Minho was at the studio by 7:30am. He woke up at six, feeling tempted to go back to sleep but decided against it because today was important. He had a filling breakfast to give him lots of energy for today; non-stop dancing and discussions, even more hard work.

He warmed up with an older dance - BTS's Fire, which he danced to often since he stopped touring with them; he missed the energy it brought him.

He then went to change the song to a 3RACHA song he had been begging himself to dance to since last night. Of course, it was Broken Compass. The beats would mean his movements were sharp, almost slow yet powerful and heavy with emotion. He wanted to record it in case he wanted to dance it again, which he knew he would do.

He didn't know he'd feel this good when he finally expressed himself through his movements. He was indulging himself into the song, letting his body carry him almost without thinking, the moves he repeatedly thought about poured themselves out and Minho felt like he was on a high.

This is what he loved about dancing; the pleasure.

It was like... telling someone a secret. Letting out all your feelings. An outburst, the heat anger can bring and the cooling wave of relief, reassurance and trust, alcohol and sex, pain and pleasure, mind and body.

Minho was losing himself.

He hadn't even noticed Chan was in the studio, watching him the entire time, until the song finished and he had already stopped recording on his phone.

He was watching him with an unreadable expression, eyes boring into him with... What was that? Sadness? Disappointment? Fondness? Minho could hardly tell.

The music had switched to another song in the album, and Minho quickly turned it off, remembering that the members didn't like their old music.

Minho walked over to where Chan was, leaning on the back wall and keeping eye contact. He didn't look mad but he wasn't exactly happy either.

He looked exhausted.

As Minho closed the long distance between them, he realised Chan reeked of coffee. His eyes were lifeless and there were large bags under them, he was pale and still wearing the same clothes as yesterday.

Minho looked at him apologetically and with sympathy. He asked softly, "Did you sleep?"

Chan shook his head, too tired to speak.

"Did you even go home?"

Chan shook his head again.

"Were you working all night?"

Chan nodded, much like a baby. Minho's lips curled into a small smile momentarily.

"So you haven't eaten?"

Chan shook his head for the third time.

"Are you hungry?"

"Chris is hungry."

Minho chuckled at that. He knew it was a thing he said when he was hungry, thanks to the internet. The wonderful internet also taught him that Chan loved food.

"Wanna go out for breakfast?"

Chan shook his head, "Felix is bringing food."

"Ah," Minho nodded, "Go and freshen up then, hyung. It'll be a long day but you can nap if you want later. It'll be mostly me and Felix today."

Chan nodded, eyes now fully closed and balance swaying. Minho was getting worried.

"Aish, hyung. Let me help you." Minho started to drag Chan out of the studio, letting Chan grab his home-away bag with his toothbrush and other things on the way to the bathrooms. 

On the way, Minho wanted to get the guilt off his shoulders. 

"Sorry for playing your old songs."

"It's fine. It's not your fault you like them, but just try not to mention it to us or play them too much." Minho wanted to ask why that was but Chan continued before he could, "You're a really good dancer by the way. You were so engrossed in dancing that you didn't even notice me walk in."

Minho smiled to himself, "It's my favourite song."

Chan hummed. "Do you like J.One?"

Minho was taken aback by the question. "I really like his voice, but I know nothing about him. Figured you wouldn't want me too. Who was he?"

"An ex-member." Chan replied simply but his voice was shaking a bit, his tone drew suspicion.

"Oh. Is that why you don't talk about him?"

"Yes. He was the glue that held us together but he was ironically the one that nearly tore us apart."

"Oh." Minho felt an odd feeling of hatred all of a sudden. "Sorry for bringing it up. It won't happen again."

"...Thank you." Chan whispered.

 

-

 

"I really like his voice."

That simple sentence was enough to break Chan's heart all over again. As he cleaned himself up in the bathroom and changed his clothes in the stall he tried hard not to dwell on Minho's words. His eyes watered a bit and he felt like sobbing all over again but he had to keep it in. It's already been so long since he left the group. Get over it, he told himself.

But he never could.

When Chan told Minho he almost broke the group up he noticed the "Oh" that followed it was laced in icy hatred.

He didn't want Minho to feel like that towards him but it was better if he didn't understand what Chan truly meant.

It was always better that way.

When Chan emerged from the bathroom Minho thought he looked even worse than before. His naturally curly hair was still a mess, his skin looked even paler despite Chan's skin being extremely light, just like a vampire, and his eyes looked even worse. They were red now too.

"You okay?" Minho asked, concern empowering his tone.

Chan only replied with an emotionless "Fine."

And with that, the pair made their way back to the dance studio.

 

-

 

Chan was happily munching on his food beside Felix on the dance floor. BTS's new album was playing in the background. Minho was stretching (again) and Changbin had just arrived in his usual all-black clothing. Why he would practise in completely blacks clothes Minho doesn't know but he doesn't question it either, slightly intimidated by Changbin but he would never admit it. Even so, he still admired all three group members for their talents so the intimidation was barely there.

The morning was spent learning the completed choreography Minho and Felix had been working on late last night, which didn't take long with two people who already knew it. The second half of the morning was making and discussing the dance for 'Spiral', and a point dance, along with a rough draft of the transitions between verses, had been decided. Minho's music library was on same-artist shuffle so when he took Spiral off repeat another 3RACHA song started playing.

Minho recognised it instantly, it was Double Knot. Minho was on the couch in the middle of taking off his jacket (they were taking a quick break) so he was in an awkward position, but he still struggled to make his way over to the laptop on the opposite side of the room. Chan had already warned him about this happening, and Minho promised him.

To his surprise, Chan started dancing to it in the goofiest way possible, just like the de-stressing dances he did. Felix giggled lightly, and then Chan started screaming the lyrics in a weird voice.

"DOUBLE KNOT ON MY YEEZYS" 

It was enough to have Felix on the floor in a laughing fit and Changbin leaning forward, trying to contain his laughter but failing to do so greatly. Minho wanted to laugh too but he wondered if it was okay. All three looked happy, faces red from joy and Chan didn't seem to be angry at all that an older song was playing He decided to just turn it off, making Chan dramatically freeze in place, still dancing. His face portrayed fake shock and he slowly looked to Minho, making him look like a silly cartoon character, once again speaking the lyrics in a now intentionally shyer/less enthusiastic and quieter tone, his voice breaking a bit, but his hands were still in the air so he knew Chan was still joking, and with that, Chan let out:

"Like maaAAaate," Chan's voice purposefully cracked and Felix was already rolling on the floor again, "stop procrastinating." Changbin was also chuckling at 3RACHA's silly leader while Minho cautiously smiled before looking for a different song, he settled with 'Red Favour' by Red Velvet.

"Ahhh Chris is hungry" Chan whined when he heard the song, the mention of food making him realise how hungry he was.

"You ate just a few hours ago!" Felix smiled, now off the floor and dusting down his sweatpants. Chan only groaned and toddled over to the couch, sulking like a baby.

By now the song's chorus was about to start Minho couldn't help himself. He loved girl group dances (not because he's a literate rainbow, he just think's they're fun and easier).

He wasn't that surprised when Felix joined him in the centre of the room to dance with him. The pair happily danced the chorus together, Felix even danced a bit more even when Minho stopped. Minho also noticed Chan doing some of the hand movements from his place on the couch. It made him grin has he danced, Felix did the same.

The day was going well.

-

By the time the day was over, the choreographies for Spiral, Claws and S_TALKER were completed and polished, all three members of 3RACHA perfectly dancing to them. The last few hours were spent working on muscle memory, though at some point in the late afternoon Minho had a few questions.

 

"I thought you said you was going to perform all the songs?" He asked Chan.

"We are? We can't dance to all the songs, we need to catch our breath. Or do you mean something else?" Said curly-haired man replied, asking for elaboration.

"Aren't you performing Recollection? I mean, if you're using Mixtape as the outro for the tour then what happens to Recollection?"

"We all agreed that it would mess up the flow of the entire performance as the track is very different to the rest in the album," Chan explained. "We're performing solo songs instead, Changbin performing IF, Felix and I performing What Went Down part one and two. They won't have dances unless Felix wants to do something with his..."

"I thought about dancing to it rather than singing, I have a lot of ideas for the choreography. Only if it's okay with you though," Felix broke in.

"Yeah it's fine. We also won't be dancing too much for intro: NOT so we can show off charisma in the beginning, you know?" Chan continued, the last part of his sentence in a well-known English phrase.

Minho nodded, fascination in his eyes. Chan knew that he really did understand, he was looking between the Australians throughout their exchange and practically stared at Chan the entire time he was speaking. Chan was mostly thankful Minho didn't ask any further about Recollection as it was a more personal song to the members.

Okay, it was very personal.

But even if he did have questions they were cut off by Minho's phone ringing on the couch a small distance away.

Minho glanced between his phone and Chan until the oldest nodded at him in approval.

-

Minho answered his phone with a cheerful "Sungie?"

Chan shared a glance with his fellow members. He knew what they were all thinking, he was thinking the same thing too. He mouth a "Seungmin" to them as Minho continued his conversation, the two younger men showing their realisation.

They should've known, Chan thought.

Jisung wasn't coming back. There was no way that was him.

Clearly they must've thought the same thing, Changbin watching Chan with subtle sadness and Felix pressing or tracing his right hand over his left ribcage out of developed habit. Chan sighed.

-

Minho said his goodbyes to Seungmin and Hyunjin (who was listening to their conversation) in the background. Seungmin was merely checking on him. He turned back to the members, Chan already looking at him with dark, serious eyes.

Before Minho could open his mouth Chan asked with strained politeness, "Minho, can you please call Seungmin 'Minnie' rather than... Sungie, if you would be so polite." The nickname was like venom on his tongue.

Minho nodded obediently, "Sure."

Minho could tell that it was for something specific. He didn't want to pry any further, scared to break their trust or make them angry. One wrong step and he could be in trouble with them; he knew very well. Maybe it was the tone of Chan's voice, neutral and grey, or the sad-puppy look in Felix's eyes that were staring into space, or it could've been the cold stare in Changbin's. Either which one, Minho knew.

Whoever 'Sungie' was, the members didn't seem to like him. 

 

Minho thought for a split second that it was J.One, who had apparently tore them apart, or tried to. He brushed off the thought like a speck of dust on his shoulder.

It's none of my business.

 

-

 

Despite that thought, Minho stilled asked about it. 

Not to the members, of course.

He was sitting across the table to Hyunjin at a cheap restaurant that evening for dinner. Seungmin had accompanied them and left to go to the bathroom. It was just Hyunjin and Minho.

"So," Minho began. "What exactly did J.One do?"

Hyunjin choked on his cola for a second before straightening up, "What?"

"The members won't let me call Seungmin 'Sungie' anymore. I have to call him 'Minnie'."

"But only I call him that!" Hyunjin was getting jealous now.

"I know. So I figured since Chan got really scary when I called Seungmin by his nickname he was talking about or referring to J.One. He doesn't seem to like him at all. In fact, they all seem to hate him. Every time I bring it up, unintentionally of course, it's like a trigger for them, like a form of PTSD. I just don't get it." Minho was rambling at this point.

It was only a nickname, why are they so rude? Minho thought to himself in growing anger.

Hyunjin looked sympathetic now. "Minho-hyung, no... You have it all wrong."

"Why?"

"It's not like that at all." Hyunjin's voice was the same as his face, sad and regretting.

"Tell me what happened then!" Minho was starting to feel red burning under his skin.

"I can't..." Hyunjin looked submissive, almost.

"Well what if I want to know?!" Minho raised his voice in irritation, not loud enough to disturb the people around them, but not quiet either to show his anger.

"What's the matter?" It was Seungmin who spoke.

"Nothing, Minnie." Hyunjin was a mixture of tense muscles, body language that showed sadness and dismissive speech that was unsteady. It wasn't 'nothing'.

Seungmin was confused, but only sat down in his seat next to Hyunjin. He did not question either of them.

Unbeknownst to Minho, Seungmin was drawing circles on Hyunjin's thighs to calm him, switching hands to eat.

Minho was in a bad mood for the rest of the evening.

 

-

 

Minho let the cold water wash away his fury. He hated not knowing things. As he stood under the shower, he wondered if Seungmin or Jeongin would enlighten him.

Ten minutes later, he texted an apology to Hyunjin.

 

Minho: I'm sorry about dinner earlier. It wasn't my place to get angry at you for protecting someone else's privacy. It was really rude of me.

Hyunjin: It's fine, hyung. Go to sleep

Minho: Are you sure

Hyunjin: HYUNG. Go to sleep. We have practise tomorrow.

Minho: Fine. Ily ;)

Hyunjin: Ok

Minho: :(

Hyunjin: Mine, asshat -Seungmin

Minho: Goodnight Seungminnie~

Read.

 

Minho sighed, but he was aware Seungmin was only teasing. He then turned on his music and settled for bed. 

Instead of the old 3RACHA songs, he played their newer songs, the same songs he had listened to for hours on repeat when he first got into their music. 

 

When he checked his phone a while later, time seemed to have sped up, for it was 1am.

Minho grumbled to himself as he searched for the solo songs 3RACHA was going to perform. He was trying to find IF, Changbin's solo, and when he couldn't, he tutted to himself.

Maybe it's in an older album.

Minho knew he shouldn't have, but it was on the track list for the tour, so...

Minho had a 'fuck it' mindset at the late hour, so he searched through the only two albums he hadn't listened to yet; 3DAYS and Mixtape.

Finding the track in 3DAYS, Minho tapped his phone and patiently waited, listening with a curiosity he had grown familiar with, also pulling up the lyrics to read along. Said lyrics were like a scared child or adolescent fearing for the future or drowning in anxiety. 

Well, it was written a few years ago, Changbin would've been about 18 or 19 at this time, Minho observed.

In a way, it seemed fitting. Such a feeling comforted Minho, and he blanketed himself in the song, sticking it on repeat and basked in the familiarity of the emotions any 3RACHA song could bring him.

...

He noticed J.One had also wrote a solo, but didn't dare play it, even if he felt a rush of joy in his heart when his favourite 3RACHA voice had a track all to itself.

 

After about 5 repeats, Minho turned off his music and let the dark send him into slumber.

 

-

 

"That's not it at all!" Jeongin exclaimed to him. 

It was just the two of them, 7am, in the practise room, stretching their legs on the floor.

"What do you mean?" Minho asked, any caution that was present at the start of their conversation now gone.

"Chan doesn't hate Sungie. Its not like that! No-one hates Sungie for what he did. We all understand why he had to leave." Jeongin was a bit saddened when talking, but mostly annoyed nobody bothered to explain anything to Minho. Of course he was going to have questions!

"Why did he leave?" Minho pried.

Oh. Well. Jeongin's head spun a little. 

"Uh..." Jeongin looked like he was just caught by his teacher for talking during class. "Reasons. But that part doesn't matter!" He quickly added.

"Jeongin-ah," A new voice said from the doorway.

Crap.

-

"Jeongin-ah," Minho recognised Chan's voice instantly, "What were you saying about Han?"

Han?

"N-nothing. I wasn't saying much." Jeongin hated being scolded, especially by Chan, therefore his head was low and his voice reduced into a much quieter and shyer version of himself.

"You know you're not allowed to talk about him."

It won't happen again, Minho remembered. Perhaps that was a broken promise now.

"It was my fault!" Minho butted in, clearly feeling guilty at Jeongin being scolded.

Chan raised an eyebrow at him. Minho took this as a sign to continue, "I was just curious, so please don't be mad at Jeonginnie."

Chan stared at him a little longer, then sat down beside the two boys on the floor, chin resting on his hand. His eyes bore into Minho's with that neutral expression Minho hated seeing on the goofy, usually-cheerful leader's face. His face and gaze was grey, just like the thin darkish-grey jumper he was wearing.

Minho felt like he was waiting for him to talk more. So he opened up, being honest with the older.

"I just don't understand why you hate him so much..."

Chan raised both eyebrows a little, in surprise maybe."We don't hate him, just..." He glanced to Jeongin very briefly, "We dislike him, you could say."

Jeongin's head went down. That isn't true, he wanted to say. But the glance from Chan was like a warning not to say anything more.

"May I ask why?"

 

Chan thought for about two seconds, before replying:

"Because he left."

 

Oh.

Why didn't Minho think that earlier?

He was about to open his mouth, despite having no words to speak, when Chan got up and left.

Jeongin looked at him in a way Minho could only describe as shy, before resuming his stretches. He was much quieter that morning, only until later when Felix encouraged him to cheer up, dancing playfully with the youngest and making him laugh like a six-year-old, the laugh everyone loved.

 

-

 

When Chan got up to leave the practise room that morning he could only remember the panic and rush of thoughts in those two seconds before he replied,

"Because he left."

It was the truth, but not the whole truth.

He was going to say, "Because he left us" but that sounded a bit solemn and had multiple meanings, something Minho was sure to misunderstand, so he kept it short and sweet.

In this case, is wasn't sweet at all.

The way he missed Jisung made him feel bitter.

He couldn't even call him Jisung.

He felt like a coward for using his last name instead, but the effect of Jisung's name on Chan could've been worse than it was now.

He was already sobbing almost silently, all alone.

 

But he was never truly alone.

Chapter Text

For the next two days, Minho poured his blood, sweat and tears into choreographing the routines. Felix stayed up until 3am practising and modifying and monitoring, the pair having almost passed out if not for Chan. Minho was eternally grateful for the leader, even if he had been out of line with him before. Chan had let them sleep in the studio, knowing it was unlikely either could get home safely. When they woke up the next morning, Chan had passed out when writing lyrics. Changbin came in at some point and offered to drive everyone home, Minho being the first. They would have a day off today, Changbin let the other dancers know.

Before that, however, Chan had spoken to Minho.

It was before Changbin came, at about quarter to seven or something like that. He looked to Minho before turning his chair round to face Minho completely where he had fallen asleep on one of the couches. Felix was still deeply sleeping on the other after Chan had pried Minho out from his sleepy embrace. Felix was starting to be way more comfortable with Minho.

"I was thinking about it a lot last night," Chan began, "And I decided you should see this..." he got up from his chair and crouched in front of the couch where Minho was still laying down and leaned so he was parallel to the floor, fishing something from under the couch. When he found what he was looking for, he pulled it out and sat upright, crossed-legged and put the item in his lap. Minho watched curiously.

"It's most of the stuff... But I'm going to take out a few things for the sake of privacy."

Minho understood.

"He didn't both to tell us what to do with it, so we just kinda..." Chan trailed off momentarily before piping up again with lack of enthusiasm. "Oh, and don't tell anyone you have this. At all. No matter what."

Minho nodded slowly and Chan slowly passed it on to him.

 

Whichever way you want to interpret that, metaphorically or physically, is up to you. 

 

-

 

Changbin was usually a calm person. When Jisung left he had become way more emotional until he nullified it all, blocking it all out. He tried not to think about him too much because of how angry and upset it made him, but he couldn't help but wonder how things would've turned out if things had been done differently. Sometimes he would cringe at the thought, sometimes he would cry. But generally, he was a calm person.

Until now, when he wasn't calm.

He burst into the dance studio where Chan, Felix and Minho were talking and Hyunjin, Seungmin and Jeongin were stretching; waiting for the other dancers to arrive. 

Chan knew instantly: Changbin was pissed.

"Where is it?!" Changbin's voice was raised, but he wasn't shouting. His raspy voice used this way was terrifying.

"Where's what?" Chan asked honestly.

"The box, Chan, where is it?!" Changbin was radiating with red rage and darkening impatience.

"What box..?" Chan knew exactly which one. There was only one box, after all.

"The box, Chan!" Changbin shouted. Changbin wanted to look at Felix and scream ask if he took it, but one thing he absolutely could not do was hurt Felix. Not like last time.

Chan hesitated before answering, "I took it home to use for lyrics. It's safe and I'll bring it back when I'm done."

Changbin could only sigh and storm off, still burning with rage.

Felix glanced at Chan like he had questions, but said nothing. Chan stared back blankly.

 

-

 

"Chan," Felix started while getting off the floor, "The box is gone."

Chan froze and no words were spoken. Then he simply said, "I know."

Felix's gaze burned into the back of his head. "What did you do with it?"

Chan paused again, and then, "It's safe. Don't worry. It'll turn up again soon." 

Felix was skeptical, but he trusted Chan. He believed him when he said that.

-

He did not, however, believe the lie he told Changbin, because he knew very well that Chan didn't have the box at their shared home.

-

 

Minho was slightly intimidated by how angry Changbin was that the box was not in its place under the couch in their studio. Actually, Chan had him put it in his backpack before Changbin arrived that day and drove them home. It was safe, at his house, in his room, on his desk. Right we had left it. They didn't see Changbin for the rest of the day and Chan told him not to worry about it, stopping Felix before he could go after the rapper.

Minho stared at it from his place on his bed.

The box was metal, like those lunchboxes he had as a kid, was sort-of heavy and not too big or too small. The box had a label in the centre and read "Jisung" in English, written in a black felt-tip marker.

"It's all of J.One's stuff before he left. His journal is in there too, but none of us have read it yet because he was touchy about other people reading it. But I think you should be the first person to read it... You'll see why." Chan had told him, and Minho didn't miss how his voice wavered with uncertainity.

Minho wasn't sure what to do.

He could open the box, which he was itching to do the moment Chan had given it to him. Or he could just return it to Chan the next morning because he didn't really like Jisung after what Chan told him about tearing the group apart. He wishes he knew what happened, but remembered what Jeongin told him.

"Channie-hyung doesn't hate him, none of us do"

"We understand why he had to leave"

Maybe this was the answer to his questions.

He brought the box over to his bed, carefully placed in down and sat cross-legged, thumbs lingering on where the box opened.

Fuck it, he thought, and opened the silver container.

 

-

 

Chan relied mostly on his gut.

No, that sounds foul.

Chan relied mostly on his instincts.

That, and his hectic thoughts during the night when he came to this decision.

He knew his hands were quivering, they always would with Jisung.

The cold metal of the box felt like ice in his hands, as though it had been neglected. That may have been true, for Chan (or anyone, really) hadn't opened it in what, two months? He was aware Changbin opened it the most out of the three, like. ritual. Maybe once every two or three weeks? Chan wouldn't know, it's not like Changbin would tell them. He wasn't the type to voice his worries anymore.

Chan had opened it those two months ago for help with lyrics in Jisung's messy notebooks. Even if Jisung wasn't around to-

Nope, that's not right.

Even if Jisung wasn't here anymore-

Ah, shit. 

Even if Jisung wasn't a part of 3RACHA anymore, he could still help them in what chaos he had left behind. A sharp pain struck the curly-haired boy's chest as he recalled how Jisung had tore himself away from the group, leaving them drowning and overwhelmed and confused and-

Chan sighed as he brought the box to his desk, taking out a few things that he wasn't quite ready to show Minho yet. Chan began to feel ropes of regret tie themselves around his wrists and his hands struggled to grasp the objects. He took a deep breath and placed the things in his desk drawer quickly, the storm in his chest calming as he turned back to the box. The storm was then replaced with a melancholic tsunami. Gentle fingertips ran their touch on the edge of the silver container, barely there but still feeling. He grazed those same fingertips over a soft material near the base of the box, then pulled away before something new could overcome him. Chan's slightly trembling hands closed the box, pushing it down twice to make sure the lid had clicked into place properly. He picked up the box and turned to face Minho, waiting eagerly with impatience but also with caution of how fragile the situation was.

The shakiness of the Australian's hands had decreased over the years, meaning Minho wouldn't notice, but Chan would. He held the box towards Minho and placed it in his outstretched hands. The coldness of the box had made Chan subconciously hold on tighter, his fingertips and nail beds turning white from the pressure he couldn't rid himself of but wouldn't let go of it anyway. He didn't know how.

As Chan placed the box in a new pair of hands, dry and more tanned than Chan's own, he passed on a part of himself.

He passed on the shock, the anger, the tears of sadness and anger and frustration and guilt, the coffee-infused all-nighters and restless hours of work he buried himself in to distract his attention from the rest of the world. He passed on the pills he didn't take for his worsening insomnia and the mental breakdowns he had at 2am when Felix was sleeping right next to him and the existential crisis' that would randomly infiltrate his head when working on lyrics in the studio. He passed on the loneliness he, to this day, still felt when there was only three and not four, he passed on the lies he had told the reporters and interviewers and the guilt that came with it but also the feeling of I need to do this when JYP told him this was the best thing to do. He passed on the ripples of hatred he felt during that meaning and the unsaid threats to leave the company but never voiced because he was so afraid. he passed that on, too. From the last tour stage to the new company building, them the numbness.

Jisung had ruined him. And Chan still loved him for it.

He loved that he was who he was now, even after what that idiot did. But despite the senseless things that happened, what Jisung did always brought a smile to his lips.

Needless to say, it wasn't because he was happy. No, what Jisung did was so fucked up even if Chan understood why he did it.

But without all of that happening, Chan wouldn't be Chan. He wouldn't be Chris. Such a thought scared him, because right now he was secure and recovered (on the most part) and he was stable. And that was enough.

 

Had it been any other way...

 

Chan hated thinking about it.

So he passed on those thoughts, too, and he passed on the acceptance he felt and the bittersweetness he would only taste in his coffee. He passed it on, all to Minho.

He realised, as his hands dropped to his sides again, that he was passing on even more than that to the younger.

He was passing on them, too. He was passing on the countless scenarios Changbin had run through in his head, Felix's nightmares and panic attacks and all the times he had woken up to the freckled boy's screaming and crying and self-blame, he passed on Changbin's overwhelming guilt and all the two weeks he spent cooped up in his house. He passed on the three's shared trauma and the red haze they all experienced that day, Felix more than others. He passed on the dark thoughts, the ones that would need a trigger warning plastered onto them. All the thoughts of dying, of hurting outside more than inside just to balance it out, all of Felix's therapy sessions and the days where Changbin didn't speak a word. He passed on the struggle to return to normality, and the hours wasted on trying to escape reality. The alcohol and daydreams and the realisation, that this wasn't how to cope. He passed on the pain, the experience, the trauma, and the finish line. 

Chan suddenly felt exposed. His instincts that he so heavily relied on begged him to snatch the box back but a calming voice broke through the haze. It's okay. It's going to be okay.

You see, Chan wasn't just passing on the fragments of himself and his fellow members. No, that was just a tiny part of the package. He was passing on Jisung. The unfinished lyrics, the mess he had made and the memories he had locked up safely in the remnants of what was once his, Changbin and Chan's studio. The good things. 

The good old days.

Chan felt at ease, letting his shoulders relax and his head clearing. He was ready to open up. He could trust Minho, even just a little.

 

He wondered what Jisung was doing, and how he was doing.

 

-

 

Minho opened the box suddenly, his mindset telling him that he needed to just get this done and over with otherwise it would haunt him forever.

The first thing he notice was that the contents were organised neatly, thanks to Chan maybe. The second thing he noticed were the contents itself. The smaller objects stood out first - a seashell, a cracked mirror, a deck of cards in a clear container and, now that Minho took a second glance, a necklace. He picked up the necklace first, lacing the silver chain in his fingers. He peered closely at what was on it - a compass. A very small, yet very detailed compass. Minho turned on his desk lamp to get a better view of it. Upon doing this, he could see the the compass had a crack in it.

Broken Compass.

-

Jisung often fiddled with things.

When he was biting his nails or attacking his sleeve cuffs he was twirling his pen or drumming his fingers, especially when he made music, or bouncing his foot. It wasn't ADHD, more of a coping mechanism or nervous habit when he needed it. Some were just pure habit like fiddling with his sleeves.

Jisung, however, was doing something different today. 

Chan watched as Jisung fiddled with a silver chain in his left hand, his right hand clicked away on his computer mouse as he worked. Jisung pushed the chain in between his uneven nails, some were bitten, some weren't, wrapped it around his index and middle finger, tangled it around his hand and let it tickle the hairs on his wrist. He wasn't wearing it, but rather just tightened it around it fingers when he needed to use his left hand. Chan wondered if he knew his fingertips were turning white. 

Suddenly Jisung sighed and got up, making his way over to the couch opposite Chan and laid down, the bare necklace still in place around his left hand. Chan didn't ask questions, he understood Jisung had been struggling with writer's - or musician's - block for a while and he found this album to be a challenge. He understood when Jisung closed his eyes and the fiddling stopped; he just wanted to rest and recharge and come back better than ever. 

It was a few days later that Chan bought him a charm of sorts for Jisung's necklace, his hands almost always smelling of metal when they wasn't clammy. Chan had presented Jisung a compass, broken in silver and having a deep meaning only Chan knew how to put into words. Jisung had been pleased with it, much to Chan's relief. Jisung threaded the chain through and stared at it for a while, lost in his own, extraordinary world. 

The lyricist started to wear it on his neck but still plays with it occasionally, like he needed it. Chan wondered when Jisung had started swiping his left thumbnail across his index finger instead. It was one of those days again with just Chan and Jisung at the studio, Changbin had gone to get them lunch after an intense game of rock paper scissors. Jisung had taken his necklace off and was laying on the couch opposite Chan as they had done only days before. The necklace swung from left to right in a hypnotising manner; catching Jisung in a haze of messy, frantic thoughts and sluggish pessimism and worn spirit. Chan watched with a spaced out expression, tired and almost bored.

Jisung stopped the charm from dizzying him and tangled it around his right hand, looking closer at it.

Chan heard him make a noise of realisation (music to his ears, honestly) and watched as he shot up to retrieved his abandoned dark blue notebook. After about five minutes of rapid scribbling Jisung revealed it to Chan, who read over the small portion of powerful lyrics and nodded.

 

The few mile of divided road always leaves me with
Unanswered questions of infinite possibilities
I wonder if it’ll be different with others, looking watchfully
If the path I’m on is wrong, I’ll get flustered for no reason
I’m worrying for so many things that my head is spinning again
I’m left to rely on a broken compass
To swim in an open sea
I’m heading towards a mysterious goal
Without going to the right direction

 

 

"This is really good," he said more to himself than the other boy. Jisung grinned brightly at the praise, which Chan returned with a smile.

Handing the notebook back to Jisung, he asked, "What are you going to call it?"

Jisung placed his notebook next to him and held up the hand the necklace was tangled around. He let the charm fall, bounce slightly and swing slowly as he replied with a knowing smirk and a twinkle in his eye Chan knew all too well that meant good things were coming.

"Broken Compass."

 -

Minho set it dow on his desk, moving onto the next item - the seashell. Minho found it childish in an endearing way, almost innocent. He held the shell in his right hand and fiddled with it slightly, turning it around in his fingertips and running his thumb over the shape of it, letting his sense of touch explore the ripples and bumps and tiny details. The shell itself was one of those common curly ones and had four tiers, colours consisting off white, dark oranges and light-brownish shades, covering the shell like cake icing. Minho brought the shell to his hear and closed his eyes, remembering how he would do this as a child.

There was no sound.

Minho looked at the seashell again, inspecting It for any holes he may have missed, but there were none, the shell was rather strong and thick, it wasn't easily broken or fragile. Minho turned the shell over so he could see the inside of it.

That's odd, he thought as he saw another shell inside the one he was holding. It was lodged very well in there and Minho was suddenly interested and rather entertained by it. Maybe that's why he had it. Minho smiled to himself.

-

Felix was in the dance studio by himself, taking a break on the worn black leather couch as he scrolled through his phone, seemingly bored and almost limp in terms of mind while body was resting. 

Suddenly the door burst open and Felix looked up, startled that his peaceful trance was broken. A figure wearing dark colours (it was raining that day) equipped with a beanie and innocent-looking eyes rushed over to the couch where Felix sat.

It was Jisung.

Jisung was Felix's best friend next to Chan, who he had grown up with. Jisung was very friendly and warm towards the younger when he arrived in Korea and the pair clicked instantly. Having been born a day apart, the two were like soulmates, being so comfortable with each other that they'd sleep in the same bed three days after Felix landed.

Jisung had that look in his eye, a twinkle that sparked playful feeling in Felix and the day-older's bright grin was enough to confirm it. He had arrived back from the beach bordering the East Sea only yesterday and was completely whacked out. This was the first time the two had spoke since Jisung returned.

"What?" Felix asked, a grin dancing on his face.

Jisung shoved something in the freckled boy's face, "Look what I found!" came the excited reply.

Felix took the small object from his hand and inspected it slowly. It was a shell, a standard one but also very pretty.

"It's nice," Felix commented, handing it back to Jisung.

The brown-haired boy took it and turned it over, "Look at this, look at this," he spoke quickly.

Felix saw another smaller shell in the shell, which he had never seen before. "Woah, that's amazing, how'd you find this?"

Jisung giggled and explained how he always collected shells when he went to the beach, even in Malaysia. He continued to say how this particular shell was a lucky find yesterday when he was paddling in the shallow waves.

"It's a soulmate shell!" He exclaimed.

Felix chuckled, fascinated by the small item.

Jisung and Felix could be like children sometimes. It was endearing and meant that the hyungs would baby them at times, but mainly Felix, who had a deep heart and needed to be taken care of and protected by Chan at all costs. Jisung could be more on the awkward side and was more mature than Felix (most of the time) but that never stopped him becoming fascinated by wondrous things, like this shell.

 

It was something Felix missed, and a part of him that had been taken away, and this tiny shell was the only scrap of it he had left.

 -

The mirror is cracked, so why hang on to it? Minho wondered. He also wondered if Jisung found this types of things interesting and worthy of hanging onto, like knick-knacks and whatnot. Minho stared at it, lost. His broken reflection stared back, each tiny shard reflecting the same image of his eye as he held the small item on the palm of his hand. He briefly wondered if it wasn't supposed to be broken until he realised that all the shards were glued(?) in place, as if someone had already tried to fix it, or if if as made that way or if Jisung wanted it to be broken so he tried to keep it like that before any of the pieces fell out of place. Minho had so many questions. He rotated the small mirror in his hands and kept staring at his distorted face. He turned the mirror over, expecting to find nothing, but there was always something. 

On the back, written in tiny handwriting with a thin pen - maybe a biro - was a single sentence.

A mirror for myself.

-

Changbin opened the box, his shaking finger ghosting over it's contents.

It had been three moths.

Three months, and he was still like this. He was fucking weak for still feeling like this. Felix, surprisingly, seemed to be managing and Chan was okay. It was just him.

Changbin was unstable and emotional. He was furious and apologetic and depressed and so fucking sorry for how this mess turned out. 

Changbin sighed, closing his eyes as he felt the tears start to surface. A part of him hated Jisung still even though he had tried to deal with that along with the res of his internal problems for those first two weeks. He was better now, but only a little. If if were a physical scar it would only have a cloth on it to stop the bleeding and antiseptic sprayed so that it hurt even more, inside his skin and on the outer layers. He wasn't ready for the bandages yet, maybe in a few moths.

He picked up the mirror, holding it delicately in his dry hands, as if it were a baby bird.

And he just stared.

He stared at his own pathetic reflection, at his glassy eyes and the dark bags under them. He stared, and resented.

 

It was my fault.

If I wasn't so damn selfish.

If we didn't have that fucking fight.

If we didn't put our own desires first.

If I wasn't so stupid.

If I hadn't done that to him.

If Jisung-

Fucking Jisung-

You're weak.

You're blaming others because you can't take the guilt.

Fucking take it.

Take it all,

And live with it for the rest of your fucking life.

You're whining because you want to be loved.

He never loved you.

And he never fucking will.

Look at yourself.

It's you.

How can anyone love you.

After all the shit you've done.

After what you did to him.

All of them.

They hate you.

 

No wonder he left.

 

Changbin threw the mirror across the room, disgusted, and screamed in agony.

The agony was internal, of course. But Changbin could always make it external, too.

Oh, how he would love to.

His therapist wouldn't like that though.

He crawled over to the shattered mirror. Only a few pieces had fallen out, the rest were shockingly still in place.

Changbin picked up one of the tiny shards from the small mirror.

His caught his reflection again a few times, and decided that he wasn't his reflection's image.

They were two different people.

I'm not me, he decided.

And brought the shard closer to his skin.

 

The door opened.

 -

Minho would've overlooked the card deck if not for what he had learned with each object already - each one was special for a reason and there was always something to look for. All the cards were in order - hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades. Except the ace of spades was missing. Turns out, it was at the bottom fo the pile, facing down. The second thing Minho noticed was that some of the cards had writing on them, the same handwriting as the one on the back of the mirror. It must be Jisung's, he thought.

You're learning, a voice in Minho's head said. He felt a small rush of pride to be able to learn about Jisung like this - the mystery behind it had him hooked. Jisung seemed like a smart person, or at least someone he'd like to know better.

Minho separated the card decks into separate piles so he could look through all of them individually. He started with diamonds.

Ace - Dance

2 - Felix's card

3 - 3RACHA

4 - 4RACHA(?)

Minho pondered this card for a bit. 4RACHA? As in, Felix, Jisung, Chan and Changbin? The four of them? Minho had a hypothesis that Jisung didn't want that, which is why he left. That would be a stupid reason to leave, Minho decided, and Jisung didn't seem like he would leave just for the sake of another member being added, even if the new group name didn't have a nice ring to it. Is that why there's a question mark? Because they were still thinking of a group name? Perhaps Jisung didn't mind a fourth member at all.

5 - Changbin's card

8 - Relax~

Minho had more questions. Did all the members have a card? He moved onto clubs.

Ace - Music

5 - Jisung's card

Minho made sure to engrave that card in his memory.

9 - Felix and Jisung. Soulmates.

The names were written on the top two symbols while the word "soulmates" was written above the only club in the middle of the card. Minho guessed the two were close, as the card suggested. Minho realised how hurt Felix must have been after he left the group.

10 - Chan's card

Minho picked up the spades, continuing his search.

3 - Jeongin's card

Minho was pleasantly surprised to see Jeongin's name. He assumed only the members had their own cards but apparently not as the youngest dancer's name had appeared. He wondered if they were close, too.

7 - Hyunjin's card

This was another pleasant surprise, too. Was Seungmin's name here too?

10 - Which way do I go?

This was rather different. The short yet sad question was written in the space in the middle of the symbols, the black spades surrounding it. Maybe this was relevant to why Jisung left? Or maybe it was a lyric?  The boy also noticed that this card's appearance was different - old and worn, in a way. The edges looked like they had been fiddled with, being a little tackier and almost split on one end. Jisung must have fiddled with this card like he had with his sleeves.

Minho looked for the Ace, which had been placed on the bottom of the deck. He expected it to be some sort of creative art like the other Aces, but he was stunned when he read the writing on top of the large ace symbol, this card having a more detailed than the other cards, making it the odd one out.

Ace - Goodbye!

Well, shit.

Minho had too many questions and at this point he was getting frustrated. Was this to mock the members when he left? What did it mean? Was it sarcastic? Was it his way of leaving the group?

Jisung was a complicated person and Minho hadn't even met him yet.

The other end of the card had writing too, but Minho could see that it had been rubbed out. Nevertheless, he could still read it: Jisung's card.

Minho snorted, wondering if the pun was intentional. Then he wondered why he had changed it to 5 of clubs. This card was probably the most important out of the entire deck, which is why it was placed at the very bottom. Minho hummed in thought.

He moved onto the final suit - hearts.

This suit, unlike the others, was shuffled slightly. Maybe someone had been reading all the cards before him and put all the ones with writing on them at the bottom of the pile.

6 - Seungmin's card

Ah, there it was.

King - JYP

Minho may or may not have giggled at that.

7 - Jeongin, Jisung, Hyunjin Seungmin, Felix, Changbin, Chan.

So, they were all friends, Minho concluded. That was why they all had their own card. Jeongin and Jisung were written on the top two hearts, those two being separated from the other five, which were a little closer together. Hyunjin and Seungmin's names were next to each other on top of two hearts. Typical, Minho thought. He wondered when they had started dating, if Jisung was still in the group when they had started-

Wait.

Fuck.

That can't be right.

-

Minho's phone rang, much to his annoyance.

It wasn't that he was rude and anti-social, he just wanted to spend the night to himself. He had been so tired from practising at BigHit lately and he just wanted a break from the world.

He was tired. In more ways than one.

Regardless, he got up from his couch and answered his phone, pleased that it was Hyunjin who had called him and not anyone from work.

"Hyunjinnie?"

"Hyung, guess what," Hyunjin's reply came quickly, and he seemed to be excited about something.

"You got promoted? You got a pay raise? You're performing in the next showcase?" Minho listed things off sarcastically, his mood the opposite of Hyunjin's.

"No! Guess again," the younger replied cheerfully.

Minho sighed and went to sit back down. "I don't know, I give up."

Hyunjin finally told him, "I'm dating Seungmin!"

Minho would've choked if he was eating or sipping his favourite tea; he felt his energy come back to him and he felt warm colours of excitement light up. his feature and a smile grew on his lips.

"Finally!" He yelled in triumph. Hyunjin had been pining on Seungmin since he passed the audition and joined the company as a dancer. When he met Seungmin he gave Minho an earful that night about how amazing he was and oh my god Minho I'm in love. Like Minho himself, Hyunjin was as gay as they come and he was proud to be, though he avoided telling others until he fully trusted them. Hyunjin tended to be over-trusting which made him vulnerable to harsh comments and regular and various forms of bullying until Minho came into his life and dear god, both were thankful for the other.

Seungmin had been introduced to Minho a while back and all three knew each other well at this point. Honestly, Minho knew most of the dancers at JYP through Hyunjin.

"So you finally told him?" Minho asked, calming down a bit.

"Actually, no, we were set up," Hyunjin chuckled nervously.

Minho cocked his head to the side, "Set up? Really? By who?"

"Well, ah... He's one of the artists I dance for. We're all pretty close, but I don't think I've told you about them. And I can't exactly tell you who I dance for because y'know... rules and shit."

Minho voiced his understanding and asked, "So did Seungmin take it well?"

"Very well, actually. Turns out I transformed him into a gay with my gorgeous face," Hyunjin laughed along with Minho. Hyunjin was seriously very attractive, no lie, but the older dancer wouldn't date him. "I think you might actually like the guy who set us up, he's one of the biggest and most panicked gays I've ever met. You'd love him, he's a cutie."

"Oh really?" Minho asked, almost interested, "But you know I'm really busy lately right? It's tiring and I don't think I can handle a relationship at the moment."

Minho was being honest, but a part of him really wasn't into love and relationships at the moment.

"If you say so, but I swear you'll love him. You're perfect for each other already, I could tell. If you want his number just let me know, okay?" Hyunjin offered, but Minho declined.

They were about to hang up, having talked more about the set-up itself and how successful it was and how whipped Hyunjin is until Minho quickly remembered something.

"The guy who set you up, what's his name?"

"Jisung."

-

"Han Jisung, you sly fucking genius." Minho said aloud before laughing to himself. His laughter died when he realised he could've met Jisung earlier, about a year ago, if only he wasn't so ignorant. Maybe he could've prevented him from leaving. Bittersweetness spread through his body before he shook himself out of it. He could probably still meet him, if someone would give him contact details. Maybe he would ask Hyunjin about it later if he could figure out how to ask something like that without making it sound absurd.

For now he'll just settle with going through the rest of these cards.

Ace - You.

Well. Minho felt a bit self-conscious now. What's Jisung trying to say through this? Who was it directed to at the time? He looked at the next card.

2 - Felix, ?

No, really, there was an actual question mark above the second heart. Minho started thinking of more... personal questions before he saw the next card.

3 of Hearts.

-

It was on of those days again. The damn argument between the three boys was still fresh in the air and the tension was still thick enough that glares would still be sent between the trio. Changbin and Chan hadn't even shown up today. It was just Jisung and Felix in the dance studio, sitting opposite each other, playing Go Fish with Jisung's card deck. Jisung was rather quiet today. Felix tried not to take his anger out on him, but at this point he wasn't even angry. He had just cried all night, laying with Jisung until the squirrel-looking boy sent him to sleep with cuddles, petting and other forms of comfort. Felix needed it in a situation like this, it was just unfair on him and Jisung was on his side because if it were him he would want guidance and support, especially from his best friend. So that was exactly what he was going to give him.

"Do you have any threes?" Felix asked, eyeing his three of spades; Jeongin's card. Felix found it cute that Jisung wrote on his cards. It was symbolic to him and Felix found that unique about him.

Jisung gave him a look - it wasn't a glare, but it was dark, as if Jisung was telling him something silently. He glanced down and passed him the three of hearts, frowning slightly. Felix took it happily but his victory was short-lived when he saw that Jisung had wrote on the card. He frowned at what the card read.

The first heart pointed down, Changbin's name resting on top of it. The other two pointed up, the second/middle heart being Felix's and the final being Chan's.

Felix looked up to Jisung.

"You need to fix this." the older told him. Felix glanced from him to the card, then put the rest of his cards down, leaning back in his chair and sighing as Jisung stood up, releasing Felix from his cold scrutiny.

Jisung dropped the two of hearts in front of him before he walked off. Felix picked it up and eyed it, then threw it back on the table. He closed his eyes and tilted his head so it was parallel to the ceiling, knowing that yes, he had to fix this, but he really didn't want to.

-

Minho packed away the cards exactly how he got them out, including the ace of spades in it's original place, even if it bothered him by not being in the right place. Of course, that wasn't the only thing that bothered him about that card. He didn't like how ominous it was despite it having a cheery message. He still felt shivers down his spine and was vulnerable to the many ideas he had about what had happened to Jisung. The curiosity burned more than ever, so he moved onto the journal. Perhaps that would give him some answers.

-

Chan liked to tease the others.

It was amusing to him and he could easily get away with it because he was the oldest, though Felix had given him some fierce looks before. Maybe he had felt slightly intimidated.

Today was no different as Chan had found his newest victim. They were having a slow day, consisting mostly of song-writing and such. Jisung had been in one of the rooms with pianos in, probably practising singing, but when Chan got there Jisung wasn't doing anything of the sort. He had his headphones in and was writing something in an A5 notebook Jisung sometimes had on him, but mostly kept it at home.

Chan leaned over his shoulder, being a little nosey, and was surprised that Jisung had started planning out a page for a journal entry. Not like a diary, it was like those fancy bullet journals that looked like they required a lot of creative effort. Truly, Jisung seemed to never run out of that.

Jisung must have felt his presence or something because he pulled an earphone out and whipped round to face Chan, who equally startled.

"What are you doing?" Jisung asked, embarrassed as told by his blushing face.

Chan smirked. Jisung would be his victim for today.

"Are you writing a diary?" Chan asked, ignoring Jisung's question, his voice light and playful.

"N-No! It's just... It's a thing, got it? And it's for my eyes only!" Jisung stuttered out, flustered and not very convincing. Chan smiled endearingly and threatened to tell the other if Jisung didn't pay for lunch, which was the whole reason Chan came to get the younger.

Jisung rejected the offer immediately, which resulted in everyone teasing him the rest of the day and him hiding his journal in a "very safe top-secret place". Chan still payed for lunch though, so that was a plus. 

From then on, Jisung kept his journal out of everyone's eyes but they never forgot about it. Chan would still tease him and chase after him when Jisung would try to run away, but all had promised not to read it, even Felix.

The only time Chan saw it again was the last time, and none had even had the nerve to open the first page. They wasn't even curious.

 -

Minho glanced at the notebooks, wondering what secrets they held from him, if any at all. There were three of them, one black, one dark blue, the final dark red. Upon opening the first one, Minho discovered that these were lyric books. All three had pages full of lyrics and mind maps and ideas and themes and-

Well, they were messy.

Some paragraphs had green ticks next to them - this showed, Minho learned, that the lyrics had been used. He recognised lyrics from Horizon's album, but did not recognise others because he hadn't listened to the older albums. Yet.

Minho flipped through the pages, seeing Jisung's creativity through the words that spilled over the pages and the little, or sometimes large, doodles on the side or bottom of the pages. Minho found himself smiling at the cartoonish drawings and recognised some 3RACHA member's faces. Maybe Minho let a fond chuckle escape him.

-

"What are you drawing?"

Jisung looked up from his lyric book, being pulled out of his deep concentration. Changbin was eyeing his notebook page with curiosity - Jisung had been doodling Changbin's face out of boredom because he couldn't think of what to do for the last line of his verse and he sort of just... got really into it.

"Nothing?" Jisung tried but Changbin wasn't having it.

"Nu-uh. Show me," Changbin tried to get closer, reaching out for the notebook, but Jisung swiped it away before the older rapper had the chance.

"Please Jisungie?" Changbin pouted, putting his natural aegyo to good use. Jisung cringed and handed it over with a disgusted expression before he even knew what he was doing. Changbin smirked in victory but his face turned confused quickly. He held the notebook up next to his face.

"Yah!" Jisung was already laughing, "Does this look like me?" 

The drawing heavily exaggerated his chin, but everything else looked pretty similar, in Jisung's opinion. It was a cartoon style, of course it was supposed to be over-the-top. Still though, Jisung couldn't help but start to laugh his big laugh.

Changbin, unimpressed, look over to Chan. "Yah! Channie-hyung! Does this look like- oh no he's sleeping." He turned back to Jisung. "Yah!"

Jisung was about to go into a laughing fit when Changbin stood up. He was short and therefore not very intimidating.

That is, until he started coming closer to Jisung, making his way around the small table. He started mercilessly tickling Jisung's sides, making Jisung squirm until he got away from his hyung's evil grip. But it didn't end there, for Changbin began chasing the youngest member who was squealing with glee despite the scary hyung who was breathing down his neck this point. Changbin tackled Jisung to the floor, maybe they knocked something over, but it didn't matter when they were having fun and playing together.

Chan, who had fallen asleep with his notebook on his face, smiled softly at the pair wriggling on the floor and grabbed his pen from the coffee table, having been inspired by his teammates, his brothers.

Cause later when I become addicted to life...

-

When Minho took the notebooks out of the box he noticed there was material - a blanket of sorts? He took a closer look. Blankets didn't have buttons. Minho took the material out and unfolded it - revealing a shirt. It was a long-sleeved yellow flannel, crinkled slightly from where it was folded for so long in the cramped box. This must've been his, then. Why hang onto it? Is it too small for him now?  Did he leave it on purpose? Minho only had more questions for Jisung. He just wanted to talk to him, honestly. Sit down and talk to him over coffee. Even if he didn't know his face. Get him to come back to the company. See everyone again. Make amends. Fix everything. Maybe become his friend. Or maybe even-

Oh?

Minho looked at the sleeves of the yellow flannel. They were frayed slightly, as if a creature of habit had abused them in some way. He brought the sleeves closer to his face to observe them more, then it hit him.

Minho held his breath. He couldn't believe it - surely after being in the metal box, it would have faded, surely-

Minho's lungs were burning, so he exhaled quickly, shakily, then breathed in again. He thought he was mistaken, but now he was sure.

And with that, he felt addicted to this. To him. To Jisung. He was wrapped around his finger and Jisung didn't even know it. Minho didn't even know his face, yet he was begging to meet him. He felt as thought he was going to die if he didn't. Minho lay his conflicting head on his wooden desk, still holding onto the shirt, letting it intoxicate him. Minho was sure,

Jisung's shirt still smelt like him.

It was barely there, but there altogether, weak but strong and infiltrating, addictive and sweet like vanilla but as dangerous as alcohol.

And Minho wanted it to lull him to sleep, but he didn't want it to lose its scent so he (eventually) put it back in the box along with everything else, except for the journal, and close the box, his hand lingering slightly, before he turned to turn off the light. 

And all was dark.

 -

Chan was the first person to enter the studio after everything had happened. 

The lights were off, just as they always left it. Chan wanted to let the dark engulf him, but he had done enough of that already. He turned on the light and almost regretted it.

It was exactly how they left it.

Maybe he wanted it to stay that way, but it couldn't now. Not after this. Jisung had made himself very clear.

Chan's gaze landed on Jisung's desk.

He sighed.

His legs slowly made his way over but the rest of his body was refusing. Jisung's favourite yellow flannel was still hanging on the back of the chair like it always did when he wasn't wearing it. Chan wondered, with great pain while doing so, how Jisung could bare to leave it behind. Hell, how could he leave any of it behind.

He picked up the shirt lifelessly, held it to his chest, and lowered his head, almost as if he were hugging him again.

Then it hit him.

Jisung's shirt still smelt like him.

It was barely there, but there altogether, weak but strong and infiltrating, addictive and sweet like vanilla but as dangerous as alcohol.

Chan wanted to cry, but no tears came out, as if he had cried them all already. Something about that made him feel bitter.

He wondered what he was going to do with all Jisung's stuff.

 

It took a while, but Chan found a small metal box.

He gently folded the shirt and put it in first, right at the bottom, as if it were a cushion for the rest of the items.

Jisung had so many empty notebooks. He had a drawer full of them, his own little collection, whereas only three had been filled. Chan decided Felix would have the rest. He placed the notebooks in first, followed by Jisung's journal, which he had surprisingly left on his desk, out in the open. Even touching it felt wrong to Chan. The necklace was next also being on the desk. Jisung was usually very messy, so he must have cleaned before he left. Chan thought it was eerie, but then he realised that that very thought was ambiguous, as in the thought of Jisung cleaning made him scared because he left or because it was very uncharacteristic of him, so it was a bit weird when he did. The latter though made him chuckle. Then the seashell, which Jisung would look at for hours. The card deck was kept in the top drawer. When Chan fished it out he almost dropped it in shock when he saw the card the clear packaging displayed. 

Jisung had put the ace of spades at the top of the pile.

Very clever, Jisung, Chan immediately thought. He read the goodbye Jisung left on the card and he wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Lastly, the mirror. What Jisung had wrote on the back seemed cryptic to Chan, but interested him nevertheless. He placed gently into the box, and closed it. A clicked made itself known, signalling the box was definitely closed. Chan looked for a label, there should be some in his desk...

He stuck the label on the box, a little crooked but he didn't care. He grabbed the first pen he could find, a thick back sharpie, and wrote 'Jisung' in English. 

That's when he noticed his own tears.

He quickly wiped them away and pushed the box under the couch by the door, as if trying to escape it, and before exiting the studio he turned of the light, the studio almost exactly as he left it the time before, except someone was missing from the team now. That being said, Chan turned off the light.

And all was dark.

 -

A worn flannel shirt, a journal, three used notebooks, a deck of cards, a seashell, a necklace, and a broken mirror.

Han Jisung, what happened to you?

Chapter Text

Felix thought about Jisung often.

It wasn't that he wanted to, it's just that was only natural considering what Jisung had left behind. It's not like he could escape it, but when it happened he wanted to invert his body so all his organs fell out and blood poured like a waterfall.

Of course, that wasn't the case now, but he had a dream like that once. Felix called them dreams because they wasn't the same as nightmares. Nightmares, to Felix, are the things that made him struggle to breathe, that woke him up in the middle of the night drenched in cold sweat and left him sobbing in Chan's arms. They were different now, as if they had no effect on him. So when he woke up every morning, the haunting images of the night before didn't leave him suffocating and with sobs clogged his throat, instead it just felt like a listless haze, as if it were a normal dream. Felix had gotten used to it after the first few months, although there was always one dream- nightmare, that had a lasting effect on him.

But we won't talk about that today.

 

-

 

Minho woke up at about 7, but didn't need to be at the studio until 10. He knew Chan would already be there, maybe Felix. Hyunjin and Seungmin liked to get there early because Seungmin was a morning person and Hyunjin was impossible to wake up so it took them a while. Minho liked routine, he liked an early start and he wanted to do a little bit of reading.

By reading, he meant Jisung's journal.

After freshening up a bit in his bathroom, Minho sat on his bed with the leather book in hand. It was huge in terms of content - colours were visible from the side of the pages and a few things peeked out a bit, cheekily drawing Minho in.

The journal was plain brown leather, tattered and worn like the shirt in the box, and only had a name on the front - the owner, Han Jisung. Minho pulled the strap that was over the front cover off and opened the first page. Immediately, Minho saw a warning.

No, really, it was in red writing too.

Warning!

This journal is for the eyes of Han Jisung only. If you're reading this, please leave, unless you found it somewhere, in which case, return it to my friend Felix, this is his number: XXXXX-XXXXXX because I'm not stupid enough to put my own number down. Sorry Felix! But yes, if you are reading this, this journal is mine, so begone or so help me I WILL find you and when I do my friend...

Minho was laughing despite the 'warning'. There were little doodles of bright red signs and warning signs in every language. Minho also noticed that Felix's number was still the same as back then, however long ago this was, because he had gotten it off the freckled dancer when they met.

Minho turned to the first double page, surprised the ink of the felt pens on the previous pages didn't bleed through; maybe the pages were stuck together before the owner started a new entry. The first double page was an introduction to the owner.

 

Name: Han Jisung

Birthday: 14th September 2000

 

Damn, he's young. Minho was born in 1998.

 

Zodiac: Virgo

Day started: 23rd April 2015

Day completed: 9th September 2017

 

Two years?! No wonder the journal's huge! I wonder if he started new one...

 

The rest was dreams (music), likes and dislikes, and other little facts like how Jisung had trypophobia, how he chose his stage name (Minho could believe it was a pun) and that he studied in Malaysia, so he could speak English. He even wrote a 'Hello!'.

The page was decorated in Jisung's favourite colour, red. Many shades of red pen and pencil. Other writing was in black, of course. There were pictures of Jisung, too, in a Polaroid style. Minho could see his face - short, brown hair, adorable chubby cheeks like a squirrel, full, pink and pouty lips and dark brown eyes that were actually kinda small. Minho took a second look and decided no, they weren't that small. Jisung was actually kinda cute, if only he could see him a little clearer because the photos had a white haze in the middle so he couldn't see him that well. Besides, this was two years ago, he probably looked much different now.

The next page was decorated in yellow and black and a bit of grey. JYP: First Impressions VS Now. 

There were pictures of 2015 Changbin, Chan, the company itself, Jeongin and- was that Seungmin? And another person Minho didn't recognise named Woojin. Felix wasn't here? Maybe he joined later... Hyunjin also wasn't here. Hyunjin didn't become a trainee until 2016, Minho remembered. 

It was a lot of writing, and Minho didn't have long. He had an idea: disguise the journal as a regular book. It might take a while and he had to keep the journal as it was, lord knows what Chan would do to him, so he began his quest.

Eventually, he got something down and he made it work. Minho was sure he could fool even Chan, the only person who knew he had this.

He took a peek at the next page, just a sneak peak, and it was decorated in blue. Minho grinned and started getting ready, and for the first time in his life, eager to read a book. (But Fifty Shades of Grey is an exception.)

 

-

 

Chris and Felix communicated silently.

They had their own language which had developed ever since they were little, only childhood friends when they didn't need words to communicate with each other.

Felix and Chan had been neighbours, living on a safe and quiet street and enjoying their peaceful life. It started with Felix peaking out his bedroom window when Chan played in the garden with his siblings back in Australia. Little Felix's eyes curiously watched little Chris playing and having fun, just a normal day in his childhood. Felix was a shy kids, the polar opposite of Chris who was a social butterfly. At some point they had started talking to each other, both boys standing on whatever they could to see over the fence. This became a regular thing, Felix keeping a stool by the fence at all times, his mom hanging washing on the line further away and telling him to be careful when he elevated to his tip-toes. He would laugh and talk with Chris for a good hour until his legs were tired and they just sat and talked through a growing hole in the fence. This continued for a week and a half before Felix's parents offered for Chris to come over. Naturally, the parents became good friends too, as they were already on friendly terms. This meant that Chris was round Felix's house almost everyday or the other way around, but Felix claimed Chris' house was more fun and there was more things to do.

Over time Chris had been able to read Felix - his facial expressions, his speech patterns and common phrases he used (other than the Aussie slang they shared), how his eyes voiced words he kept hidden. Felix had started being able to understand Chris, how he could be bone-crushingly affectionate and silent at times, his cute sound effects and his different moods depending on how much he spoke. They had developed a form of almost-telepathy, both silently agreeing to meet outside their houses for a maccas run because they were both hungry. It surprised them at first, both texting or calling each other at the same time or whenever one knocked on the other's door but it was already being opened. They could communicate just by looking at each other, using only their eyes - Felix's stares, each meaning something different, or Chris' soft expressions and subtle yet still noticeable smiles. They were joint at the hip.

When the older boy had told Felix about his audition at thirteen years old Felix was very supportive of him. He felt pained because he was leaving his best friend in Australia but Felix told himself that Chris would be doing what he wanted, he was going to literally be living his dreams. Felix still didn't know what he wanted to do, so he had felt a bit lost. When he discovered his love for dancing, he felt as if something he was missing all his life had been found. When he told Chris, now Chan, the older immediately suggested auditioning for JYP as he had done. They had still kept in contact after all these years, not once getting into a fight and skyping whenever possible. This turned into FaceTime, while they had each other on all social media platforms. Felix may or may not have turned on Chan's post notifications. He recalls when his voice started to break, Chan laughing at how deep it was becoming and saying that it didn't suit his face. When Felix spoke with Aussie slang or heavier accent it make him laugh even more, which Felix found beautiful. He was aware how much he depended on Chan and how fond he grew of the older boy, but he would deny it if he wondered if it was a crush. Felix was aware he wasn't entirely straight, maybe a bit bi, but he didn't see his lifelong friend like that. The time came when Felix got his audition results and he had facetimed Chan before he read them, the older eagerly awaiting the results as well. Felix was sure his ears split when both he and Chan screamed in victory at the successful pass, alerting everyone else in the house while doing so. Chan had wanted to give Felix a hug many times for varying reasons but now he was desperate to just pick him up and spin him around. The commotion had an effect on Chan's end, too, his fellow dorm mates telling him to quiet down and one of them came over to see what the big softie was so excited about. Chan talked with the other person in Korean briefly before he left, Felix picking up most of the words. 

"Who was that?" He had asked in English.

Chan smirked, "You'll see."

-

When Felix arrived in South Korea's busy airport the first face he spotted was Chan - his facial features had grown a little sharper but regardless he still glowed with warmth and softness because grew fond of. His skin was still pale, living up to his nickname of Vampire Chan. He was taller now and had a nice build, he had matured nicely. Felix felt nothing but joy when he saw him rushing towards him. Felix held his arms out, to which Chan enveloped him in a hug that made Felix feel protected and safe and warm and his heart swelled so damn much. He felt as if he could cry from happiness of seeing his best friend after such a long time despite talking almost every day. Of course, there was Christmas and New year when Chan visited, but those days were short and rushed. 

They talked the entire way back to Chan's, and the other trainees', dorms, Chan having stayed there for the longest, back before GOT7 had debuted. Chan had told Felix all about them, especially BamBam, and Felix followed their progress from debut to now (as well as other groups, eventually becoming the biggest Twice fanboy), where they were making it big with their flight log trilogy. Felix had started leaning Korean a year or so ago, Chan also teaching him few things and helping him with what he was struggling with. Felix was grateful for his constant help, even though he was still a bit rusty. A company member had also accompanied them, driving them to Felix's new home.

When Felix entered he felt oddly comfortable. Maybe it's because Chan had told him a lot about the dorm and a little about the members in said dorm or the fact that Chan was still holding his hand or because the apartment seemed cozy to the freckled boy. There was someone sitting on the couch, waiting for them like a loyal puppy. Felix learned that that was the perfect way to describe him. When the boy greeted them, Felix recognised his voice as the same one Chan was talking to when he was screaming about Felix's results. He bowed at him and introduced himself to the stranger and said stranger greeted him back.

"Nice to meet you, my name is Han Jisung."

 

-

 

Minho looked up from his reading in Jisung's journal, still reading the pages where he talked about his first impressions on the company and other trainees. Chan was sitting opposite him, working on his laptop. Minho's legs were crossed and he was leaning back comfortably on one of the chairs in the dance studio. The dance studio had a small seating area by where the laptop connected to the speakers, making it a resting area for the trainees and idols alike. He glanced back to the journal, then back at Chan, wondering if he should just leave questions for another time.

"Channie-hyung?" Minho asked cautiously. 

Chan looked up from his screen, his soft voice replying in a hum. Minho took this as a signal to continue, "What was Jisung like?"

It was an honest question. Minho actually had no idea who Jisung was apart from a former member of 3RACHA, he was a rapper who could also sing and he wasn't really talked about in the best way. Oh, and his real name was Han Jisung. Minho had no idea what he looked like without blurry-ish pictures (so far) or his personality, just his birthday and his likes and dislikes. It was still so vague. He only knew what his voice sounded like and he loved it.

Chan knew this, of course. He hummed again, this time in thought, his facial expression changing to also show this. Chan seemed to be in a good mood, because he had no negative reaction to Minho's curiosity and the greyness around him that usually presented itself with this topic didn't show. Chan looked up, still thinking, then a grin slowly made it's way onto Chan's face before he let out a light chuckle. Minho was surprised at this, taken aback by the leader's positivity in this situation.

"Well," Chan started, making eye contact with the dancer again, "He was an amazing person." Minho noticed his use of past tense and he panicked. He still didn't know what had happened to him. Chan noticed this immediately and corrected himself. "Is. Is an amazing person, to this day. He was reckless, though. Always rushing into things.' Chan smiled again, the good memories coming back to him. "He was very hard-working and dedicated to music, he loved what he did. But he was also lazy; he spent most rest days living on his bed. He-" Chan started gesturing with his hands, "-Had a shelf next to his bed where he put his laptop, and the charger lead was long enough to be used on the floor. It drove Jeongin nuts! He only got out of bed for food or the bathroom, and he brought the food to his bed, he was so messy!" Chan was smiling brightly now while Minho was laughing, his happiness being built up as Chan was recalling a memory or the younger boy. Felix had walked over, taking a break from practising and had come over to get his water bottle from his bag. It was just the three of them in the dance studio, Felix and Minho practising while Chan was doing whatever a stereotypical group leader does. Minho wasn't very interested.

Felix's presence didn't stop Chan from talking freely, which he was, yet again, surprised of.

"Jeongin was in the bunk underneath him and he was so bothered by Jisung. He wasn't just messy, he also used to tease him like Seungmin does. He even kissed his to piss him off - and trust me, it worked." Felix choked on his water, trying to swallow it through his fit of giggles. "He could fall asleep literally anywhere. I was so shocked because it was so noisy most of the time, but seriously, as long as he was laying down or comfortable he could just doze off."

"One time he fell asleep at an award show after we performed. We didn't notice until we stood up to applause for another group and he didn't." Felix joined in, sitting next to Chan now. He too, seemed to be in a good mood. "He was also really affectionate. I thought it was just because he was comfortable with me because we really close in age, as in we were born literally a day apart," Minho made a "woah" noise at this, "But he's just a really touchy guy in general. It was to the point where I was wondering if he was straight."

Minho raised his eyebrows, "Well?"

"Pure rainbows." Came Chan's reply. Felix burst into laughter, Minho following while Chan tried to hide his smirk- or was it a grin? Minho couldn't tell. "But he was also really stupid. He wasn't just reckless, he was just plain dumb. When he grew his hair out and died it blonde he said he was going to become the next Rapunzel and live on the company roof. The worst part is that Felix cried from laughter." Minho snorted, Felix didn't react in any way.

"What did he look like?" Minho asked after he felt a strange drop in the mood he didn't understand - maybe it was the awkward silence.

Felix piped at the question. "When I first met him he hand brown hair and chubby cheeks like a squirrel, but honestly he really looks like Young K-sunbaenim, from Day6, but sorta younger?" He clarified. "He was like a loyal puppy... He was one of the bestest friends I've ever had."

"Bestest isn't a word, Felix. How long have you been speaking Korean?" Chan joked.

"His eyes were large and round, they were dark brown but had a nice tint of orange in the sunlight and he had a really young look to him. He looked really innocent at first glance, and he was actually really nice and friendly. He was a little taller than me, he had this weird love for cheesecake and food in general. But mostly cheesecake. The amount of times I caught him on his messy bed watching rom-coms while stuffing his face with cheesecake..." Felix shook his head to himself. "His favourite colour was red, but his clothes were all colours. he liked to wear flannel shirts a lot." Minho remembered the yellow flannel in the box and understood the small, sad smile on Felix's face. He glanced at Chan, who nodded, immediately reading Minho's silent realisation by his widened eyes. "I wore his clothes a lot and stole his oversized hoodies. He always preferred comfort over looks." Felix finished. Minho nodded, having been intrigued the whole time.

"He did weird things that we didn't react to and he'd get mad at us for it, like aegyo or bad jokes." Chan added. "Shall we get back to it?" He changed the subject.

Minho nodded again and put the book in his bag.

 

-

 

Changbin joined them a little while later, practising for the tour like everyone else. The practise had many flaws in the beginning, as expected, but it ran relatively smoothly. The next hours were spent repairing the cracks in their routines and making small changes where necessary.

Changbin was quiet, as usual, Felix only spoke a few times and Chan was being the leader he was, doing most of the talking and directing. Minho had to work hard because he was both a choreographer/director and a back-up dancer for the tour, just like old times. He felt energy bursting inside him when he thought about touring with Hyunjin - a goal the two had for a very long time - and the other dancers he's met and grown close with.

Speaking of bonds, Minho liked to watch Chan and Felix communicate. It's like they knew each other better than themselves (which, they did) or they communicated through telepathy, not even making eye contact and Chan threw Felix a water bottle and Felix started massaging Chan's right shoulder. Minho watched the boyfriends on the floor with a feeling he couldn't exactly pinpoint, it was like longing and jealously and pride like a mother's.

"Australia," Changbin told him when he noticed Minho had been staring. Minho turned to him.

"What do you mean?"

"They've known each other all their lives. They can read each other without looking." Changbin explained, not even looking at Minho, but at the pair sitting on the floor. Minho was amazed when Chan spun round to face Felix and they both went in for a hug, like a planned routine. Maybe they did this often.

"It's kinda freaky, to be honest," Changbin added. Minho assumed he was feeling more talkative today or just had a lot to say about Chan and Felix.

"It's cute," Minho stated. "It's making me a bit envious. I wished I had someone who knew what I needed more than I knew myself. Being able to understand each other like that, I find it amazing." Minho found himself thinking of Jisung when he said that first part. He wanted to properly understand him, every little thing, every crucial detail Felix had told him.

Minho looked to Changbin, who had been silent, and found that the younger was staring blankly at the couple, spaced out. He looked a little sad, in Minho's opinion.

He wanted to ask if he was okay, but was a little afraid to.

"What's wrong?" Minho tried. Changbin glanced at him, traces of surprise quickly disappearing from his face.

"A lot of things." He said solemnly. Minho was taken aback, but Changbin continued, "The first being that I'm tired and want to go home soon. Let's finish up." And with that, Changbin started to get up, but Minho didn't miss the glance he gave Felix as he got up from his place in Chan's arms and lap.

Minho was curious, but said nothing.

-

"Are you staying late?" Minho asked Felix.

"Yeah, we have a day off tomorrow so I want to put in a lot of effort for the last few hours." Felix answered distractedly, going through a tricky part of the Spiral choreography in slow motion.

"Want to practise together?" Minho asked, knowing Felix was already tired and needed support so his brain wouldn't fry.

Felix answered, "I won't be long, you can go ahead."

Minho heard Chan sigh from the doorway. 

"Chan, can you translate?" Minho asked, testing out a theory.

"He said he wants to practise alone until 5am and sleep in the studio, then he'll come home." The older answered, knowing his boyfriend all too well.

"You were going to be in the studio too, Channie, don't lie. We were going to go home together." Felix called Chan out, as if he could see the future.

Minho sighed deeply and dragged Felix by his hood to the doorway. "We're going home, all three of us, right now, and we're resting." 

Chan chuckled at Minho's bossiness and Felix grabbed his bag on the way out. Chan made them all double-check their bags before they left, Felix telling the older dancer that they'll drop him off. Minho thanked the pair gratefully. 

He was starting to get the hang of them, knowing how they worked and when they overworked, and how they could predict each other's actions, like how they took turns holding doors for the other and Minho too. They didn't need words.

Minho thought it was beautiful, but in a sad way. He couldn't help the tug on his heartstrings, even if he wasn't sure why it happened in the first place.

Minho just had too many questions.

 

-

 

The cafe was small, quiet but not silent due to the music and the typical coffee shop vibes it bought. Minho loved music like that, the kind where you could make a playlist with and play at a specific location. This was a pleasant way to spend the day off.

It was the three of them, Minho, Seungmin and Hyunjin. Minho was reading Jisung's journal still, disguised as a regular book. Minho had read about awkward experiences Jisung had, and could honestly relate, he read about how everyone called him a squirrel and how Seungmin definitely was a closet gay and Jeongin had asked him about liking boys. It made sense, Minho thought, because Jeongin was bisexual now. He turned over the page, decorated in pink. Minho knew why - The new kids at our dorms, Lee Felix. Minho snorted.

Seungmin gave him a weird look from across the table; Hyunjin was getting himself another milkshake because he always drinks them too fast and has a second glass because he loves them that much. Minho decided he would read a little later.

"Seungminnie, can you tell me a bit about Jisung?" Minho asked out of the blue, playing with his straw.

Seungmin looked at him in shock, as if Minho had grown a beaver head and a pair of wings and started squawking like a parrot, "I'm sorry, what?"

"I still don't know what happened to him... I'm curious." Minho took a sip of his drink.

"It's not for you to know." Seungmin simply stated.

Minho narrowed his eyes, "I meant I don't know what happened to him, I want to know what he was like."

Seungmin looked up, equally exasperated, "He was just weird. Complete and total weirdo." Seungmin sipped his tea.

Minho still looked at him expectantly. 

"Urgh, fine," Seungmin groaned, "He was weird, but not as weird as you. But still really weird. He was also a really good friend to everyone, I guess."

"Didn't he set you up?" Minho pried, "Hyunjin told me."

"Yeah." Seungmin smiled at his drink with that look on his face that he'd only give Hyunjin, sometimes Jeongin when he teased him. He frowned, "I wished I thanked him more," he mumbled, but Minho still caught it.

This may be his only shot at getting contact details.

"Then why don't you?"

"I do, everyday."

"No, I mean, physically tell him. Call him."

Seungmin looked at him. "It's not like that. We can't talk to him."

"Are you not allowed?"

Hyunjin came over at that moment and sat down, another strawberry milkshake in hand, a satisfied and childish grin on his face. 

Seungmin watched Hyunjin endearingly as he sipped at the milkshake happily, legs swinging back and forth excitedly, occasionally scraping the floor and his shoulders raised in delight, eyes closed and head bopping to the music. The perfect skin, curly black locks and the beauty spot under his eye wasn't helping.

Seungmin cooed at his boyfriend and Minho let a whine escape him, "Why are you so pretty..." But he meant it in a friend way, he wouldn't date Hyunjin. That role was taken anyway by the brunette opposite him trying not to bust a massive uwu to the beautiful boy next to him.

"Hyunjin, babe, can you dial it down please you're killing me," Seungmin asked, weak with his head on the table.

Hyunjin giggled sweetly, "Am I cute?"

Seungmin lost it.

 

-

 

"Okay! Let's take a break," Chan told the ensemble of dancers. Jeongin sighed in relief, the 17-year old walking over to the couch immediately. Hyunjin leaned over, hands on his knees, while Seungmin dragged himself over to where Jeongin was now slumped on the black leather, probably to torment him as he does. Felix was on the floor, Chan was by the laptop, Changbin on the seat, Felix collapsed on the floor breathing heavily and Minho wasn't sitting too far away from him. 

Suddenly Twice's 'What is Love?' started blasting through the speakers. Chan's doing, of course. suddenly Felix rose from the dead, Hyunjin's energy's magically replenished, Changbin's hat was thrown... wherever he threw it, Minho was screaming "TWICE" and Jeongin was shrieking, although that might've been Seungmin's fault. At the pre-chorus, everyone was arguing of who should stand where, eventually the order was, from left to right, Changbin, Chan, Minho, Felix, Seungmin, Hyunjin, Jeongin. Felix insisted on being the centre, and well... Felix owns this song. Minho admits he is the hidden Twice member. He'd even put money on it. All seven boys danced near-perfectly, in sync and with feminine movements. It was hilarious.

"That was amazing!" Chan beamed, running over to pick up his phone, which had been recording them the entire time during the chorus dance. Changbin went to retrieve his hat while the younger dancers started dying of laughter. "3RACHA, come over here real quick. Minho, hold my phone and show the kids the video," Chan called with soft authority.

Minho took his phone obediently and the other three dancers watched the video over as 3RACHA had a quick chat. Minho was surprised to se Changbin have so much emotion as he danced to the girl group song, his smiles enough to make Minho laugh abruptly. The others pointed out little things they missed the first time as Minho rewinded it. The song changed to EXO's 'The Eve' and Minho's "Inner Hoe" was released, as he heard Felix say in English to Chan once. "He's definitely hiding in there" the golden-haired boy had said. He and Hyunjin danced the chorus, at least the first hip thrust until Hyunjin got shy when Jeongin screamed in an incredibly high pitch, laughing it off, but Minho continued, using his knowledge of American dance to freestyle the rest.

Minho was rather daring. Dance was a way of communicating with others, so it was natural of him to dance with, or in this case on others. Minho, after some very suggestive floor-grinding, moved closer to Hyunjin, as he had done several times before, and did few things that didn't make Seungmin happy. Hyunjin was a switch, but Minho was a solid top, so he manoeuvred Hyunjin so he was in-front of him, and the two swayed simultaneously as they had done several times when they went clubbing, and Seungmin pulled Hyunjin away before Minho could do anything else. "Absolutely not, you little pest. Lee Minho, I will deck you." Hyunjin laughed into Seungmin's shoulder as his boyfriend's protective side showed. All this time, Jeongin was watching, not screaming anymore, but just... watching. Like he was after something. He was only drawn back into reality when Chan called again.

"Dance unit, get over here!" He yelled.

Minho turned off the music as they went, snapping into serious mode. Chan sat them down and explained how there was a small part where they took a break to change for the second half and it took a bit too long due to the stylists, so the dance unit would have to fill in for them doing a short, or long, dance. It was required to be the same theme as the albums, powerful and almost dark, nothing silly or comedic, just impressive. Minho was puzzled because they usually had VCRs playing at this point, but Chan explained that the concert didn't for whatever reason.

So, this was up to the dance unit. Felix offered to help where he could, be it with dancing or song choice, but Chan gently told him not to and let Minho (and maybe the others) handle this one. Chan would give them a newly produced track the next day.

Practise resumed, this time Chan monitored the group as well as the dancers. Everyone was important as there was a small amount of dancers and they would easily be noticed. Chan counted the beats aloud as they wasn't using music yet. After only 16 counts, Chan stopped. Minho was confused, what was going wrong? Chan sighed, "Again."

They ran through another 8 counts until Chan stopped them again. Minho looked to Felix to see if he knew what Chan had spotted or what he was thinking, but the younger's face was blank from what Minho could see. "Jeongin," Chan began, his grey face on, the face Minho learned to hate, "Do it alone."

Everyone walked to the side except for Jeongin who remained frozen in place.

 

Jeongin hated being scolded, especially by Chan. Jeongin hated Chan's scary side from the moment he saw it; it was so uncharacteristic of him. It reminded him of the dark days. Jeongin didn't like the dark days where everyone was shouting and crying and Felix almost-

"Let's go again. From the top." Chan told him, his voice not cold, but held nothing in particular.

Chan counted to 8, then stopped him. "What are you doing wrong?" He quizzed.

Jeongin honestly didn't know. He looked helpless as he remained silent. He could already feel his shoulders tensing and his body shrinking in on himself. "Jeongin-ah, relax. What's the matter?" Chan asked, his voice softer.

Jeongin shook his head. There wasn't anything wrong, he felt fine.

"Try again, we'll go slower." Chan counted slower, Jeongin felt eyes slowly burn into him.

At Chan's third sigh, Minho stepped in, having seeing the problem.

"On the sixth count, try moving like this. Also, you're..." Minho talked him through it, correcting his mistakes and restoring Chan's patience, much to the eldest's relief.

They regrouped and practised once more, again only making it to 16 counts before Chan ordered curtly, "Let's take five."

"Channie-hyung, I can monitor if you want," Minho offered. It was his job, after all.

"No, I think Jeongin needs a little more time to clear his head. We're taking five."

"Chan-"

"We're taking five and that's final, Minho."

Minho was stunned for a moment at the bite in the leader's voice. He walked off; Minho looked to Felix out of instinct as if to say 'Go talk to him' but Felix was already following the older as he trudged away.

 

Jeongin could hear them talking.

"Just calm down, okay? You didn't have to put him on the spot like that."

"Clearly, I needed too."

"Just let him rest a bit, he's probably tired."

"If he can't manage this, he's going to have to-"

A pair of beautiful brown eyes brought him back to awareness, "Jeongin-ah?"

Startled, Jeongin jumped back. It was Minho.

"Oh, hyung..." Jeongin was lost for words.

"What's the matter?" Minho asked, seeing as nobody else was making a move to talk to the youngest.

"It's nothing, hyung. I'm okay."

"You know I don't believe you, right?"

Jeongin was silent.

Minho sighed, "Come on, let's go." He took Jeongin's wrist and led him out the studio, calling out to the others, "Practise without us, I'll help him later!" And the door closed.

-

Minho led him to a vending machine and bought them both cola cans. He sat down on the chair next to Jeongin and faced him, bringing up his right leg and sitting on it while his right elbow leaned against the spine, his left hand holding the cola can by the top riskily. "What's going on You're distracted."

"I'm having a bad day, Hyung. We all do." Jeongin replied, holding his can with two hands wrapped around it. 

"We sure do. So what's the matter?" Minho said, as if the first part was just a random fact.

Jeongin sighed, bringing his walls up. "I don't know. And if I did know I wouldn't tell you."

Minho was used to this. Hyunjin was like this when they first met; the endless bullying gave him serious trust issues and Minho was afraid to even touch him in case he scared him off. "Would you tell Hyunjin?"

Jeongin's face increased in pink-red colour, "No! He would be the last person I would tell in all of this!" His voice raised and his grip tightened on the unopened can, making fingertip-sized dents in the aluminium can.

"So it's a big and ongoing problem, got it. What else?" Minho deciphered, continuing to question Jeongin.

Jeongin looked like he was going to explode in rage, even bringing his hands up in clenched fists, but he suddenly went rigid and fell back into the seat. He placed the can on the floor slowly, very calmly, as if he were trying not to move too much or he'll explode. He placed his head in his hands and leaned forward, hiding from a now even more concerned Minho. Minho thought he would start talking until Jeongin shot up and ran away, leaving Minho confused as he put his open can on the floor and ran after him. Jeongin had sprinted away, however, so he was hard to keep up with, especially since Minho wasn't completely familiar with the halls of the company yet. Minho decided to look for the nearest bathroom and see if the maknae was there.

He wasn't.

After wandering for a little while, calling out for Jeongin, Minho returned to the practise room to find that Jeongin had been there the whole time. "That took a while. How many cans of coke did you have?" Chan joked. Jeongin must've told them some false story already and just like that they all resumed practise. Minho looked at Jeongin with a puzzled expression; he seemed completely fine, cheerful as ever. Minho tried to catch Hyunjin's eye from where he was still standing at the doorway, but Hyunjin was turned away from him. Felix caught his eye and watched expressionlessly as Minho signalled at Jeongin using his eyes only. Felix looked to see what he meant and understood, beginning to walk over to Minho.

"What happened?" He asked quietly, despite being far away from the others, his deep voice going even deeper.

"He ran off all of a sudden looking all upset and I tried looking for him and he's here. I still don't know what's wrong. Is it because of Chan?" replied the older, equally as quiet. He remembered the time he was sad until Felix cheered him up because Chan told hi not to talk about Han- now Jisung, Minho knew.

"No, he seemed pretty distracted even before that..." Felix answered.

Jeongin called them both over to resume practise. He ran over to Minho and started to drag him.

"Jeonginnie, do you remember what Chan said when he called us over before going back to practise?" Minho asked, testing out a theory inspired by what Felix said.

Jeongin looked panicked for about two seconds before smiling and shaking his head.

"It was about the final song, remember?" Felix propped, playing along with Minho.

"Oh yeah! That's right!" Jeongin said, grinning. He kept trying to tug them both back to the group, most likely to escape confrontation.

The Lees shared a look. "That's not what it was, Jeongin-ah."

Jeongin looked like a deer in headlights before he ran back to the group, getting into place in the formation. 

"You should talk to him after."

"Why not you? He trusts you more." Minho suggested.

Felix shook his head, "He wouldn't talk to me again. He's afraid of burdening me. It's just an effect of something that happened in the past." Felix scratched his ribcage over his white shirt, readjusted his beanie and walked back to the group at a faster pace.

Minho had so many questions.

 

-

 

Jeongin danced without flaws the rest of the day, having snapped back into it. That didn't stop Minho from being concerned and him keeping one eye on his when he could. He was glad that he did, because Jeongin didn't seem very happy. He was frowning lots. Minho was sure if they were practising with mirrors Chan would notice and tell him off for being unfocused or something.

The end of the day rolled around and Minho had him trapped before he could make a break for it.

Which leads us here: Jeongin sitting on one side of the table, Minho sitting on the other, in Chan's usual seat. For extra measures, Felix was outside. He had locked them both in the room and would only open the door when Minho knocked on the door a certain way. Chan thought they were all practising (he was in the studio working on the dance unit track) so he wouldn't be a problem. Not that Chan getting involved was a problem, it just might be easier for Jeongin.

 

Jeongin looked like he wanted to fight.

Minho sighed. This was gonna be a long night. 

"Jeongin, just tell me what happened. If it was really nothing then you wouldn't of reacted the way you did. You know you can talk to me. I'm right here."

Jeongin folded his arms, ever the child.

'You won't talk to Felix, you can't tell Hyunjin, you would've told Chan already, Seungmin would tell Hyunjin, and honestly Changbin scares me too."

"Binnie-hyung isn't scary."

He speaks!

But 'Binnie-hyung?'

"He's not scary at all, he's just misunderstood. You wouldn't get it." Jeongin shook his head at the appropriate time to emphasise this.

"Would you tell him?" Minho queried. 

"He doesn't handle that sort of stuff well..."

"What stuff?"

"Just romance in general-" Jeongin's hands flew to his mouth.

"Romance? Jeongin are you- Are you crushing on someone?" Minho put the pieces together, "Is it Hyunjin?"

Jeongin, like many times that day, remained silent.

"Oh, Jeongin..." Minho began apologetically.

Jeongin stood up and walked away from the table, away from Minho, away from his problems, and sat on the cold floor, alone and unloved, just liked he had been since nine and a half months ago.

Even before Jisung, the hyung he always talked to, left, he was still all alone and unloved.

Jisung.

Fucking Jisung.

Chapter Text

Minho wanted to immediately follow Jeongin to where he sat on the cold dance floor, hiding in the dark, but he felt like it was wrong. That if he left him there he would eventually feel better and come back as cheerful as he always was. However Minho learned earlier that day that the positivity was forced and dark cloud remained over the younger's drooping head.

So Minho approached, sitting down on his left, crossing his legs as Jeongin brought his knees to his chest protectively.

Minho wanted to prompt him again, but felt like he had already gone far enough, so he sat in silence, waiting for the maknae to say something. He did hear something a minute later, but it wasn't words. Jeongin's breathing became unsteady and he sniffled, rocking slightly. Minho, guided by his "hyung" instincts that kicked in when he first met Hyunjin, shuffled closer to the troubled child and wrapped his arms around him, letting Jeongin be surrounded in warmth of another body. Jeongin's strangled cries and subtle sniffles became louder sobs, escaping his throat freely and echoing against the walls, his body shaking as he tried to hold them back.

"Let it all out, Jeongin-ah." Minho told him, but Jeongin's brain registered them as Jisung's words.

His walls crumbled down.

Minho felt Jeongin's hold on him tighten desperately, nails digging in occasionally as he wept. Minho pulled his closer, into his lap so neither were uncomfortable. He tried to calm him, shushing him softly and rubbing or drawing circles on his back. Minho's mind wandered back to Hyunjin - he had cried so much in the past that Minho had developed a dreadful feeling in his gut before he would search for Hyunjin, and every time he would be upset or beaten up, mostly both. The nostalgic feeling made Minho a bit nauseous as he cradled Jeongin like a baby. It seemed to help, as Jeongin started to quieten down. Minho thought he was better before a new wave of sobs swept through the practise room.

"Oh, Jeongin..." was all the older could tell him, "Shhh... It's gonna be okay. Just breathe or you'll hurt yourself." Minho recalled the times where Hyunjin cried and screamed so much that he couldn't breathed and started choking, breathing or panting disorderly to try to regain his breath. Minho didn't want Jeongin in that state. He attempted to sooth the younger by humming a tune. The first one he thought of was Broken Compass, which didn't surprise Minho because hell he loved that song so much. It seemed to have an instantaneous effect on Jeongin, for his crying hushed and he tried to breathe, if not for himself then for the sake of Jisung. The black-haired boy knew he wouldn't want him to cry. "Don't cry" he would tell the youngest.

The first thing Jeongin said in his broken voice was "You are too much like Jisung."

Minho wasn't expecting that at all, so he couldn't think of anything to say.

It was Jeongin who spoke next, "I'm sorry hyung, for running away earlier. It was immature of me..."

"Oh, no! it was my fault for cornering you and pressuring you... like I am now. I'm sorry."

"You're just worried hyung, I can't blame you for being worried, I would be the same."

Minho nodded. "Are you ready to talk now?"

Jeongin thought for a moment. Then nodded, "I am."

"I like Hyunjin. I've known for a while but he's dating Seungmin-and I think I like him too but I really don't know and I'm so confused and afraid and I don't know what to do and I just-" Jeongin choked and a strangled cry sounded from his lips. Minho hushed him again, carding his finger through the younger's black hair.

"It's okay, baby. Just take deep breaths. You'll figure it out." Minho's calming voice soothed. "How do you feel about them?"

"I r-really like Hyunjin. I know that for sure, b-but I'm not sure about Seungmin. I like it when he teases me and makes me laugh and- and I feel safe when I'm with both of them. Even if it's just one of them. When they're together doing couple things I get so jealous and I want to be with them, hyung. So bad. I want them to cuddle me and play with my hair and poke my cheeks and give me kisses an-' Jeongin inhaled sharply.

Minho nodded slowy, "It sounds like you love both of them."

"Yeah," Jeongin confirmed, "I really do. But it doesn't matter hyung, they're dating each other and they would think awful things about me. What if they hate me forever?" Jeongin tightened his grip again suddenly, making Minho wince.

"Jeonginnie, don't say that. They won't hate you for liking them, it's not their fault you love them. The heart wants what it wants, we can't control it." Minho briefly saw Jisung's blurred face flash through his mind, but focused back on the current situation. "If anything, they should be flattered that you love them so much. I would if someone loved me like that." Minho smiled as Jeongin let out a sad chuckle. There was a pause before Jeongin spoke.

"I wish Jisung was here." 

It was such a short sentence, yet it held so much power. It hit Minho like a wall had been thrown at him. It was making his insides churn and tumble like a rap verse that was too fast to keep up with and just left him confused. Why wasn't Jisung here now? He remembered how much he talked about JYP was a dream and how pressured he felt because his parents told him he had to pass an audition in a year or he would go back to Malaysia to study and he worked so hard to pass and he was so happy so why would he leave unless he got kicked out or something like that but what would he do that was bad enough for that was he on drugs or something or was there a scandal but that didn't make sense because of what Jeongin said about Chan understanding why he had to leave did he go back to Malaysia after all what about that ace of spades how long was he planning to leave was there a fight why doesn't anyone like to play the older songs is it because of Jisung but they don't hate him they just "dislike" him but why why why-

"He would know what to do." Jeongin finished. Minho snapped back to reality and realised he had to be there for his junior. Minho thought for a moment, wondering what he himself would do in this situation. He thought it over before telling Jeongin.

"I think you should tell them."

"No way!" the maknae instantly yelled. "What if they hate me or avoid me and it gets really awkward and they stop speaking to me?!" Jeongin worried.

"They wouldn't. Hyunjin could never hate anyone; the only people he hates is his bullies, but he doesn't have to deal with them anymore. Hyunjin is an emotional person, he has a big heart. I'm sure Seungmin wouldn't react badly either with how much attention he gives you. All three of you are close and I'm certain if they were really your friend then they wouldn't think of you as whatever bad things you're thinking. They would accept you and understand that's how you feel. I'll even be there if you want me to so if the worst does happen, which most likely won't, I'll be there to whoop their asses."

"Hyung..." Jeongin looked at him for the first time, "Thank you." he said, hugging Minho and squeezing him to show his gratitude.

"You'll be there, won't you?" The younger timidly asked.

"Of course, we'll tell them tomorrow. I can watch from afar if you want or I can be there next to you, whatever you want." he replied truthfully.

"Will you watch over me?" the small voice asked.

"Of course I will, Jeongin-ah. Up you get, it's late." He patted Jeongin's back twice, signalling for him to get up. Jeongin responded obediently, letting Minho get up too. They both grabbed their stuff, Jeongin thanking him again, and Minho knocked on the door in a special pattern hoping Felix hadn't fallen asleep.

The Australian dancer opened the door. "Better?" He asked. Both Minho and Jeongin nodded.

The day ended there.

 

-

 

Minho fell asleep after reading six more pages of the journal.

He found no answers, but he had expected that, but instead he found himself becoming more intrigued with Han Jisung. Everything about him - his opinions, the things he talked about, how he ranted on paper as if it came straight out of his head and the beautifully decorated pages - it captivated Minho and he had to force himself to stop reading after he said 'just one more page' to himself for the third time that night. Han's journal was messy (Minho thinks it would be a bit personal to call him Jisung, so he's sticking with Han for the time being) but it was the good kind of messy. What was it called, organised chaos?

He found himself agreeing with Han's opinions and learned that they were both really indecisive people. Yet Han was almost predictable, as if Minho was starting to understand him already, like they were becoming friends. Besides the really bad jokes and puns, Han seemed alright. Not to mention, he was a total cutie both in looks (at least Minho thought he was, those polaroids were pretty damn blurry) and in personality.

Minho stopped thinking that chuckling to himself as he read was weird the sixth time he did it.

 

-

 

"Now would be a good time to tell them."

Practise was officially over but everyone was still in the studio after one or two hours; a regular happening. 3RACHA were sitting at the seating area (Chan sitting in his usual seat, Felix on his right and Changbin on his left) having a quiet yet casual discussion while Hyunjin and Seungmin were on the far end of the room talking and playing, Seungmin ruffling Hyunjin's hair teasingly and the latter trying to escape his boyfriend's good-natured antics. Meanwhile Minho had been resting on the sofa by the wall, Jeongin had just come over from where Minho was watching him practise alone, occasionally correcting him where he needed it. The atmosphere was peaceful, as it usually was at times like this.

"I'm scared, hyung. What if they get mad at me? What if they think I'm disgusting? What if they hate me? I was up all night thinking it through and I think I should just not tell them. I've gone this long already so I can just wait until it goes away right?"

Minho put his hands on Jeongin's shoulders reassuringly. "No. You're doing this now. If you don't it'll just get worse like it did yesterday, besides a crush like this won't be going away for a very long time."

"How do you know?"

"I don't." Minho grinned.

"Jeonginnie! Are you okay?" Hyunjin called across the room. 

Minho beckoned for Jeongin to go, reassuring that he'll be watching when Jeongin glanced back at him uncertainly. Jeongin walked over unsteadily to the pair of boys. Jeongin looked like he has started crying as he explained himself to them both. Hyunjin pulled him into a hug and looked at Seungmin. Seungmin joined the hug, only pulling back when Hyunjin grabbed Jeongin's face gently and wiped away his tears, telling him something. Jeongin nodded as Hyunjin and Seungmin left the room and Jeongin ran back to Minho, the older immediately pulling him into a hug.

"What'd they say?" Minho asked. 3RACHA had started watching/listening too.

"They said they would talk about it." Jeongin managed. Minho nodded and sat Jeongin down on the couch with him.

"Are you okay Jeonginnie?" A new voice spoke from the seating area. It was Felix. The other two boys looking expectantly at him too.

Jeongin, who for his own reasons didn't want to burden Felix, gave him his best fake smile and nodded, even humming in confirmation to top it off.

Felix didn't look too impressed.

 

-

 

Hyunjin looked at Seungmin nervously, his head mostly down as if he were a child being scolded. He didn't know what to tell Seungmin.

Seungmin honestly didn't mind dating Jeongin as well as Hyunjin, they all acted like they were anyway so there was practically no difference. Hyunjin, however, didn't know this, so if he told Seungmin the truth he was afraid of how he'd react. They'd been together for two years now, he didn't want their relationship to end because of sweet little Jeongin.

"Hyunjin," Seungmin began, and Hyunjin winced unintentionally, "I need you to be honest with me. Do you want to date both me and Jeongin?"

Hyunjin shifted on his feet and continued playing with his fingers, which Seungmin only just noticed, a blush across his cheeks out of his own nervousness more than Jeongin's confession. Seungmin's 'Hyunjin' alarm was going off, unsettled by how the older boy was barely looking at him. "Hyunjinnie, love, look at me please."

Hyunjin obeyed, mixed emotions swirling around his insides. He was so happy that Jeongin confessed to them but so afraid of what Seungmin would think of him. The pessimistic thoughts of he and his boyfriend breaking up made him shudder and want to curl up and cry but he also felt like he was choosing between Jeongin and Seungmin, like he had to choose between which one he would save if both were hanging from a cliff and he knew he wouldn't be able to choose because Hyunjin loves them both so fucking much-

"You know I won't be mad if you say yes, don't you?"

Hyunjin's mind went blank for a moment as Seungmin continued, "As long as you want to, we can date Jeongin too, I know I'd love to but if you don't want to that's okay too-"

His words were cut off by Hyunjin embracing him, and the alarm ringing in the back of his mind died. Hyunjin was on the verge of crying from happiness because thank heavens.

"I was so scared that you wouldn't want to," Hyunjin whispered and Seungmin chuckled.

"Poor baby," he cooed at Hyunjin, rubbing his back to get the emotional boy to calm down. He pulled back after ten seconds to find tears slowly falling down Hyunjin's ethereal face. "Awe, don't cry!" Seungmin encouraged lovingly and wiped away the tears with his thumbs, holding his face in his hands like the other had done with Jeongin. "Shall we go tell him?" He asked softly. When Hyunjin nodded, still calming down, Seungmin placed a kiss on his forehead and held the small of his back, guiding him back to the studio.

Seungmin could practically hear Jisung fanboying, just wait until he hears about this.

 

-

 

DAY6 - Still

 

The door opened suddenly and Jeongin's head snapped around, Minho wincing at how alert Jeongin was. He must be nervous, I know I would be.

Everyone watched, anticipating the results. Neither one of the pair said anything, just stood there after Seungmin closed the door.

Turns out they didn't need words, Minho realised, as Hyunjin opened his arms wide and flicked his fingers closed repeatedly, beckoning Jeongin over. Jeongin practically flew across the room and was in Hyunjin's embrace like a magnet. "We love you so much," Hyunjin whispered to the youngest, only being heard by Seungmin and Jeongin due to how far away they were to everyone else. Jeongin started crying again when he felt Seungmin join them, placing a kiss on Jeongin's head and nuzzling Hyunjin's neck, tickling the oldest and making him giggle. 

Minho watched fondly, soft music playing form the speakers when someone put it on shuffle after practise, only looking away when he heard a cooing(?) noise. Judging from the way Chan was tugging the other two boys towards him in a messy hug and squeezing and shaking them with the brightest grin on his face, Minho assumed Chan was the one who made the noise. Changbin wriggled his way out of the leader's deadly grip while Felix whined in protest, but put up with the affection. It was a 'Chan' thing.

Minho pushed away how lonely he suddenly felt, like a chill that shot through him and the world seemed a bit duller. He watched the two groups of three with a sad smile until it turned into fear when five boys suddenly dived onto him but it felt like six even without Changbin. Changbin rolled his eyes at the pile of happy boys but if you looked close enough you could see his lips upturned the tiniest bit.

After that... mess, Chan told them to go home and rest because they were performing in-front of an audience tomorrow for the very first time. Minho perked up a bit; this was a surprise.

"Who's the audience?" Jeongin asked.

"Woojin-hyung," Chan answered with another very bright grin. Said grin grew impossibly bigger when Hyunjin squealed in excitement and Jeongin yelled out an enthusiastic 'YAY!'. Seungmin sighed in relief and brought his hands together in a prayer, "Chan-hyung..." he began, turning his hands so his fingertips faced Chan, "I could kiss you."

Chan laughed, "I don't think either of our boyfriends would like that, but thanks!"

Felix came over, "I'll kiss him for you!"

Seungmin was met with a pouting Hyunjin with his arms folded, looking as adorable as ever. Seungmin chuckled and kiss him lightly, Hyunjin hummed in satisfaction. Jeongin whined about not getting any, "I don't know... Thinks he's ready, Jinnie?" and eventually, after some harmless teasing, Jeongin's face was being peppered in kisses, making him giggle like a baby.

While this was happening, Minho strolled over to Changbin. "Oh god, you didn't come to kiss me, did you?" the shorter male asked in dread.

Minho laughed, sounding like a hyena. "God, no. But why do you sound do disgusted? Am I that ugly?" He asked, feigning hurt.

"Yah." Changbin warned, but his height wasn't really helping in seeming intimidating. "Watch it, pretty boy."

"I'm kidding. I just came to ask who 'Woojin-hyung' is." Minho replied, revealing his true intentions.

"Trainee," Changbin answered, "Specialises in vocals. Good friend of Chan's. Maknaes adore him. Nice guy."

Minho nodded, usually getting names off of Hyunjin. "I think Hyunjinnie told me about him once or twice."

Changbin hummed, ending their conversation. His eyes wandered, Minho's doing the same, content but a bit awkward. That was going to change, he decided.

 

"You think I'm pretty?"

"You're alright I guess."

"What do you mean 'alright'? Yah! Shorty!"

"Who are you calling short?!"

"You, ya mosquito!"

"I said you're alright, but I wouldn't date you."

"Anyone would date me!"

"My heart belongs to someone else, pretty boy. And they're way prettier than you."

Minho noticed how Changbin's gaze wandered to Felix (and Chan) the hundredth time that day.

 

-

 

"We're going to visit Jisung tonight," Seungmin told Jeongin as they and Hyunjin walked out the company, Changbin now a small dot in the distance where he'd left first. "And then I was thinking we should all go out for dinner, I'll pay."

"Really?" Hyunjin asked, to which Seungmin nodded and smiled.

"Can I come with you to see Jisung? I want to be the one to tell him!" Jeongin asked with his usual enthusiasm.

Hyunjin chuckled at his new boyfriend, "Of course you can baby. We're going straight there then going home to change. What should we wear?"

"Something fancy, let's impress Jeonginnie." Seungmin answered smugly.

"Hey! I'm going to impress you too! Just you see..."

 

True to his word, he really did.

 

-

 

It was just Chan and Minho left, Felix had gone back to the studio to finish up and Chan told him he'd be there soon.

They were standing close together, about the same distance when Chan first gave Minho the box.

Which is why they were here now.

"I should give this back to you..." Minho carefully handed the box to Chan, "Everything's exactly how I received it, except for the journal... I still have it." He finished, a bit disappointed that he had to give it back to quickly. He was going to miss the flannel shirt the most, he reckoned. It was the closest he got to Jisung so far and Christ, he had to meet him.

Chan nodded, opening the box and, true to Minho's word, everything was exactly the same. It's as if it were never touched.

Minho had sifted through everything one last time late that night and early that morning, scared to let (almost) everything go already, but he understood Changbin's anxiety. He took photos of some of the interesting things like the shell and some of the cards that confused him, he would find out more about them later. He'll try to, at least. Maybe Chan would finally give him some answers - not today, though. But soon, he felt.

"Do you understand why I let you keep the journal yet?" Chan asked him, his eyes serious.

Minho shook his head, but his curiosity rose. Chan smiled, not the grins he wore earlier, but something gentler. "You'll know when you see it. No skipping pages!" He told the younger.

"Channie-hyung, I would never." Minho returned the gentle smile.

Honestly, how could he?

 -

The box was back, safe in Chan's arms. 

Which is exactly why Felix could trust Chan, he knew that he wouldn't let anything happen to something so precious.

And soon, maybe, Minho would understand.

Felix left his spot from the tiny crack in the door, disappearing down the hallway before the boys saw him.

 -

Chan left after that, claiming it was date night and that Felix would be suspicious if he didn't get a move on. Minho left too, hungry and willing to curl up on his couch and bask in his blankets.

When he did, he felt that pang of loneliness again. He was one of the only two people in the group who weren't in a relationship and he couldn't help but feel jealous. But mostly lonely. He thought of Han again.

Though, he did appreciate that cuddle pile.

Minho smiled to himself and relaxed into his ocean of fluffy blankets, though only after he got up and retrieved Han's journal.

This was the best way to spend his days.

 

-

 

Minho wasn't sure what he was expecting.

Hyunjin did tell him a little bit about Kim Woojin, over text because he was out on a date with his boyfriends.

"Woojinnie-hyung is the best! He's like our second dad or second in command when Chan isn't around. He hasn't been around as much because of vocal training and more intense classes but he's a really talented singer! He gives really nice hugs like a teddy bear and oh my gosh Hyung you just HAVE to meet him. Gtg!"

It was brief, but it was enough.

Like all people, Minho made an assumption: Kim Woojin was a complete softy and had a cute appearance despite being the oldest out of all the trainees/performers Minho has worked with. Probably small with a baby face.

Just wait, a voice said with a smirk, He'll be the complete opposite. Giant muscles and taller than Hyunjin.

Okay, so Minho had two assumptions.

Both were completely wrong.

-

Minho was in the middle of a run-through with the rest of the group, 3RACHA included. They were about halfway through Changbin's verse in the song when the studio door opening caught Minho's eye. A head poked into the room and the others noticed - Chan shutting off the music, Changbin readjusting his hat and everyone else going haywire.

Hyunjin was immediately calling dibs on hugs, jumping on the figure that barely had enough time to turn around from closing the door when mentioned dancer jumped up and wrapped his legs around the person's waist, Jeongin tried tugging the clinging boy off to get his turn while Seungmin waited patiently for his boyfriends to finish crowding the poor man. Meanwhile Felix was jumping around the new arrival like a puppy, eventually glueing his arms to them and not letting go until he walked to the centre of the room to greet Minho (which took about a full minute with all the cuddles that were offered upon his arrival).

"You must be Lee Minho?" He asked. When Minho nodded and bowed the other smiled, a cute yet dopey sort of smile full of soft pillows and sweet ice cream vibes, "Hello, I am Kim Woojin. It's nice to meet you."

Woojin was nothing like Minho had imagined: He wasn't that tall, but had a strong build and a near-symmertrical face that had its own charm Minho liked. His eyes were honey brown and his voices light and melodic, which only meant good things when he sang. His chin and jawline were strong - like a mix of Changbin and Felix's; his nose was large but oddly cute and Minho was pleasantly surprised. Woojin wore a dark hoodie and jeans, no hat so his dirty-blonde yet fuzzy hair was on show. Minho took a liking to him already, as if the way the maknaes had reacted to him wasn't enough already.

"Great, the whole gang's here!" Chan called as he walked over to Woojin, greeting his old friend.

"Not everyone..." Changbin muttered bitterly. Chan gave him a warning glare, though it was more of a barely-there sour look and had the same greyness that Minho learned to dislike. It made Chan seem paler. Next to Chan, Woojin looked warm like a fireplace and snuggly like a teddybear, just like Hyunjin described him as.

Minho felt oddly relaxed around Woojin, like he was a huge source of healing energy, and the two quickly started speaking comfortably. Minho learned that Woojin loved chicken, was a vocalist, about half a year older than Chan, plays the guitar, likes horror, action and mellow films, is mostly called "Bear" (Minho understands why), looks out the kids the same way Chan does, has a resemblance to Shrek he likes to joke about and trained at previous companies before joining JYP about two or three years ago.

Minho learns all this when he and Woojin sit on the floor together while Felix still clings to the elder's back and Hyunjin rests his head on Woojin's thigh, said pillow running his large hands through Hyunjin's hair calmingly. About 15 minutes later everyone is sat in a circle chatting - Changbin sits alone as always, Jeongin is held tightly in Seungmin's lap, Felix has moved to lay on Chan the way Hyunjin now fallen asleep on Woojin, but the young Australian moved to lay on Minho now, but he didn't mind at all. He simply scratched his scalp lightly while listening to Woojin talk (which was very satisfying) and wasn't surprise when Felix hummed contently and a soft chuckle followed straight after.

Moments like these seemed perfect.

 

Except Minho couldn't help but wonder why Changbin was always alone. He voiced these thoughts not through words but by glances to the younger rapper, but when he took a longer look he found Changbin had a small smile graced on his lips, his shoulders were relaxed for once and he didn't look uncomfortable like he always seemed (even if he wasn't), and Minho really was content in that moment.

It turned to laughter as Hyunjin started speaking in his sleep. Minho had heard it so many times before but it still cracked him up, therefore he let his hyena laugh bounce of the walls until Hyunjin was woken up to show Woojin their performance.

Judging by Woojin's large bear hands applauding the now quiet room, save for the collective heavy breathing, and the bright goofy grin on his face, the performance went well.

(Woojin brought chicken for them all after that.)

 

Chapter Text

You really must understand, life is very difficult for Changbin.

 

Waking up in the morning is sometimes difficult because of his insomnia but it's better on him if he doesn't sleep at all. Even if it has become way better for him he still struggles through the dark, crying himself to sleep most nights and waking up with still sore eyes. Sometimes he cries in his sleep.

Changbin has more dreams than nightmares, but the dreams are worse. They're so realistic and pleasant to experience, filled with wide smiles and bright colours and wonderful feelings like being on stage or eating together a four (or eight) and light, carefree laughter. Chan didn't have dark circles under his eyes and Felix's freckles sparkled like glitter and his eyes like diamonds. Jisung was there too, happy as always, coloured skin and full of aegyo and cringe. 

Changbin didn't deserve those dreams.

He welcomed the nightmares that were blood splatter and tears in an empty space, endless darkness surrounding him, making him lost and confused and terrified until he would turn around and find himself staring at his own body, begging for him to stop, stop it. You'll regret it.

Changbin remembers a very vivid dream he had: Felix was in a hospital room, but for a different reason he was all those months ago, and when he came out there was relieved sighs. 

Jisung was there, too.

All three waited for him as he made a few more hospital trips and everything was finally back to normal, except it wasn't because it was a dream. But that kind of normal was beautiful. Changbin would visit the dorm and eat dinner with Jisung, Felix, Jeongin and Chan or they'd come to his house for a huge home-cooked meal made by his mother. The four would be in the recording studio making music and releasing top-selling albums and dyeing their hair weird colours and performing on music shows and accepting awards as four.

They had only received awards when there was three.

And that dream was too much, too bright, too realistic and way to good to be true. 

That's when Changbin realised, mid-dream, that this would never be.

Then Jisung turned to look at him from in front of him as they were all walking to the stage to perform, the night's tranquility making the group glow with endorphins and smile like there was no tomorrow (there wasn't).

His hair was blonde, the colour suited him well and he was wearing an outfit that all women would swoon over. He looked stunning as ever, like the music industry belonged to him, to all four of them. The dream glitched and he was back in the darkness he had always been afraid of, Jisung still there watching him. The blonde turned to face him fulling, pivoting on his heel.

"What's the matter?" he asked, as if everything around them wasn't as dark as the depression Changbin was suffering through.

"Why couldn't it have been like that?" Changbin asked, "Why did things turn out the way they did? Why did we turn a blind eye to Felix's problems, why did I start that fight-" Changbin's voice betrayed him as tears leaked from his tired eyes, "Why am I dreaming about this?" he finished, bitter and conflicted. Emphasise on the bitter because goddammit why couldn't he have this?! 

Changbin began sobbing.

Everything was so messed up.

 

He wanted to scream when Jisung wrapped his arms around him, still the same height so that the older was crying into his shoulder, but his throat was swollen and no sound escaped. He had cried so many tears for this one person in his arms.

He was so warm, it seems like he never left.

Han Jisung, who up and left them at their worse point in their friendship but at the peak of their career.

He still smelled the same, like the smell of home after a long day, like freshly was he bedsheets and a tiny flame on a scented candle.

Han Jisung, who left his job as such a talented rapper, singer, songwriter, composer, even dancer.

His hair was so fluffy still, and he could even recall the brands he used. He could remember so much.

Han Jisung, who had the audacity to tell them to go on without him as three before there was even officially four.

He seemed so real.

Fucking Jisung.

Han fucking Jisung.

 

Changbin pushed him away, even if he had come back.

"Get away from me!" he shouted brokenly, shoving the younger away.

Said person looked hurt, but asked, "Do you hate me, Changbin?"

It was a simple question but it sounded so evil, sarcastic and jeering.

"Yes, I hate you, I hate you!" It was a lie.

"You're lying, hyung."

Hyung.

"I- I'm not-" Changbin broke down.

"Hyung, it's okay if you hate me. I don't mind."

"Just- just get out of my dreams..." Changbin was desperate.

"You want me to leave? Forever?" Jisung's tone was childish by how hurt he sounded, like he was the innocent child Changbin had met all those years ago.

"I need to move on." Changbin said firmly, recovering from his emotional breakdown.

"You need to forgive yourself." Jisung told him softly.

But it was too difficult.

 

When Changbin woke up that morning, tear tracks were on his face.

 

-

 

You really must understand, life is difficult for Changbin.

Getting out of bed is the worse part of the day. Changbin has to leave all his existential thoughts on his pillows, blankets and small collection of stuffed animals. He has to drag his tired body out of the comfort of his bed, which he has an unhealthy relationship with, into the cold world even when it's summer and put his legs on autopilot. He washes his face and stares at his reflection in the mirror which he had promised himself not to smash and he has to deal with what he sees every single morning, every moment during practise, when he walks past a puddle, when he opens a glass door. 

Changbin might skip breakfast because his self-esteem is non-existant unlike it was about a year ago- has it already been a year? Changbin shakes his head in disbelief, it was almost a year.

He walks all the way to the company if he doesn't sleep, but other days he'll drive. When he walks he keeps his head down, basking in his pathetic misery and when he reaches the damn company he feels like he'll throw up, especially if he didn't eat. Lack of sleep and lack of food were the worse combination that had Changbin experiencing stomach cramps so painful only a women could understand.

But most days, he did drive, but considered crashing a few times the first three months. He's not that stupid now, but he's stupid enough to not call in sick when he needs it, or eat, or give the knife a second glance.

All of this happens within the first two hours of Changbin's day.

 

-

You really must understand, life is difficult for Changbin.

When he arrives at the company the first people he interacts with are his fellow group members, rarely the dancers.

Chan and Felix.

Oh, the shit they've been through together.

 

He and Chan weren't awkward around each other even after the argument, far too much happened during that time to even care about the argument but there was a silent agreement between the two. This involved Felix, the maknae of 3RACHA. 

Ah, Felix.

You make life so difficult.

You really must understand, Changbin adores Felix. He would die for him.

Felix is gorgeous - strong, sharp jawline that could cut like a razor, eyes that sparkled like Jisung's, freckles that made him look so special, so unique, like the stars in the sky that Changbin could spend hours looking at. He could spend hours looking at Felix, too. Maybe he has. Felix has beautiful golden skin and tiny baby hands that were so soft and short nails bitten down by shining white teeth out of habit. His smile is contagious and so bright, brighter than the sun itself, his laugh so pure and it tugged on Changbin's heartstrings. His face is small and delicate like a girl's would be, and Felix is more feminine than he seems, but his skin is crystal clear and smooth like his hands. His neck is slightly long and any accessories somehow look fitting on him. His build is strong despite his body being adorably small; equipped with abs that made Changbin scream when he first saw. 

There's many things Changbin loves and hates about Felix.

His facial expressions when he dances, specifically his eyes - they look so dominant and they make Felix so powerful. Felix's love for girl group dances. The way he dances; so fluently like a language only born dancers could speak, so mesmerising like a movie painting that could captivate the world. Felix's full, pink lips. How soft his hair looks and how well-kept it is, like a cat's pelt. Felix's sense of humour. How effortlessly beautiful he is. His energy, his positivity. His impression of a mosquito that Changbin really should be sick of by now but isn't. How perfect he is.

Changbin really hates Felix.

He hates his perfect smile and his rosy lips and his numerous freckles and his smooth skin and his adorable hands. He hates his face when he performs and how skilfully he dances and his accidental tummy flashes when they practise and the confidence that radiates off him that Changbin once had. He hates his deep voice that dripped with power despite his face being the complete opposite but it somehow suits him and it makes Changbin so angry.

He hates that Felix isn't his.

Changbin hates how bitter he gets - he hates the dumb jokes that reminded him of awful puns and awkward silence and playful shouting and huge laughter and chubby cheeks and chestnut brown hair and gentle yet passionate eyes and giant smiles and heart-wrenching singing and powerful lyrics and the perfect flow of rapping that Changbin was amazed with and crisp packets all over the floor and soft snores on the couch in the practise room and he hates the way Felix touches his ribcage when he spaces out.

Changbin hates how he can't have both.

And every morning Changbin is greeted by a deep-ish voice and a slim figure but with a strong build and crystal-clear skin and diamond eyes and a jawline like a razor and he has to hold himself back. Especially when Felix shows any kind of affection - so Changbin just goes limp and lets Felix have his ways, and each time he does he's bottling up all the feelings he's saved over the years and it's too much and he feels like he'll burst. But there's nothing he can do.

 

Life? Life is impossible.

 

-

 

Chan watched Felix snuggling up to Hyunjin on one end of the couch as Minho sat on the other. Both boys were laying down, Felix's small body fitting almost perfectly against Hyunjin's as the two slept, worn out from today's practise. Changbin was still no-where to be found, Jeongin and Seungmin were sat against the mirrors, Seungmin fast asleep against Jeongin and Chan managed to catch Jeongin just dozing off. He and Minho were the only ones awake.

But he could only focus on Hyunjin and Felix. Chan had an unsettling feeling at the bottom of his stomach as he watched them.

That used to be Jisung, Chan thought to himself. Felix fit almost perfectly with Hyunjin, only reaching perfection when he was with his platonic soulmate, born only a day apart, joint at the hip at almost every hour.

If only...

Chan's phone beeped, signalling that Changbin had finally answered one of his texts.

And the response?

Oh, sweet Jesus.

If only.

 

-

 

Minho was disturbed from where he was resting, and waiting, on the couch when Chan suddenly shot up from where he had been sitting at the desk.

Chan kept his phone on ringer so Minho could hear just how many times the leader had texted someone, undeniably Changbin, and Minho was faintly aware that Chan got a text notification before he suddenly took off. 

Nobody else was awake and Minho could never deny his curiosity.

He got up, not knowing if anyone was a light sleeper, making his way cautiously yet swiftly to the table to where Chan had dropped his phone.

The screen was still unlocked, the messages app open and a conversation displayed on the screen:

 

Chan: Binnie, where are you?

Chan: Are you okay?

Chan: Felix told me you went to the bathroom, are you sick?

Chan: Binnie please answer me

Chan: I'm worried

 

Changbin: :).

 

Minho was confused.

 

-

 

Chan let his legs carry him as fast as he could, his sprinting like speeds of a kangaroo as adrenaline rushed through him.

Nononononononono-

He drew closer to the bathrooms.

Please no-

He was almost there.

Not again-

 

He burst in, and the worst was barely avoided, but the sight before him was still just as bad, even if this isn't the first time Chan has seen like Changbin like this; with blood dripping down his now pale arms, making the muscles easily forgettable because the rapper looked so small and skinny and so vulnerable in this state, and he was. Only for him.

 

Fucking Jisung.

 

Han. Fucking. Jisung.

 

Why did you do this to him?

 

-

 

You really must understand, life is difficult for Changbin.

Sometimes, he doesn't want to live at all.

But Jisung wouldn't want that.

 

A sick part of Changbin doesn't believe that.

One-

An ill part of Changbin likes to think that he deserves to die.

That Jisung would want him to die after how he behaved towards Felix, after how immature he was that day, and the days after that.

Two-

A hurt part of Changbin feels so guilty, even after all the time has passed.

The guilt swamps him, plain red and muddles his insides like a whirlpool. It's warm, but an unpleasant warm, like drinking lukewarm or any type of warm water.

Three-

It's disgusting.

Four, five-

Yet it's all he feels.

Six, Seven-

He can hear a voice calling out.

"Changbin, stop!"

It's a voice Changbin knows. It's a funny-sounding voice, like they could make anything they say humorous. It's chestnut brown and smooth yet has a deep hum in the undertone, a voice to layered and beautiful and Changbin hasn't heard it in months. 

Eight-

Will we meet again soon?

Nine-

But it's not the voice he was thinking and longing of, to his dismay.

"Changbin, please!" Chan is in front of him now, unsure of what to do with his hands. And Changbin looks up from where the razor was splitting his arm, beautiful red lines now spotting his left arm in a manor Changbin has come to appreciate these last 10 months. Beauty hurts, he discovered one day during an eerily long shower.

-

It's not the first time it happened, but when Chan takes the sight in it feels like the first time all over again. Chan would always be frantic, and emotional, and confused and panicked, but ultimately so disappointed in himself.

 

Ah, Jisung.

 

Do I even have to say it?

 

-

 

Minho returned to sit on the floor again, leaning against the chair as he pondered the conversation on the screen. He had left the phon where it was and dragged his legs to where his originally was  Jeongin had woken up and moved away from Seungmin, instead crawling over to Minho and resting his head on the choreographer's thigh (maybe this was his silent way of saying thank you), earphones in and soft music playing as he fell into slumber with the help of Minho's fingers moving through his hair. Chan returned with Changbin about twenty minutes later, just as Minho was about to fall asleep like everyone else had done. Minho blinked a few times, the studio lights brighter than he remembered.

"Get up, time to go home now." Chan told him before explaining, "Binnie fell and hurt his arm, he won't be able to practise for a while. You can stay home tomorrow." He said as he walked over to Felix. 

Felix had become a light sleeper over the years, much like Chan had (sometimes) been, and awoke immediately when he felt Chan's arms around him and lifting him up, the younger wrapping his legs around his boyfriend's waist. Minho smiled endearingly at the pair.

Seungmin must have woken up at some point because Minho saw him walking towards the couch out of the corner of his eye. Like Chan had with Felix, Seungmin attempted to drag Hyunjin off the couch. Unluckily for him, Hyunjin was a really heavy sleeper. In the end, he managed to somehow get Hyunjin hoisted on his back while Minho woke up Jeongin and picked him up easily with Jeongin's cooperation. Seungmin glared at him as if to say 'Why do you get an easier job than me?' and Minho simply stuck out his tongue. Minho carried the 'baby' to where they had all left their bags and put him down gently. Minho had nothing to pack, so he just watched everyone else while he was waiting.

His eyes wandered to Changbin and the way he moved his arm around experimentally. Perhaps he sprained it, Minho thought.

A voice in his head disagreed. When Minho asked it why, the voice explained.

He's the traitor. He lies.

 

Minho let his eyes linger a bit more before he glanced at Chan. Changbin hadn't said anything, but rather the leader had provided an explanation for him.

He's a soldier.

 

Minho turned to look at Felix subconsciously rubbing his ribcage through his shirt yet again. He lifted his backpack to his shoulders while doing so.

"What about him?"

 

He's a victim, he took the bullet while holding a white flag.

 

Minho wondered what that meant.

More importantly, he wondered the same thing from since he first noticed the voice wasn't his own, but felt like his. A side to him he never discovered.

 

"Then who are you?"

 

Me? 

 

 

I'm the one who fired the gun.

Chapter Text

It's dark.

It's pitch black, and he's afraid.

It's not a nightmare, but he's still afraid. 

He know's it's a dream and not what he sees when he closes his eyes because he looks down and he's kneeling, sitting on his heels. He's in his pyjamas, comfortable, but he's afraid.

Everything is so dark, but it's not cold. It's warm.

There are footsteps, but he can't turn his head (is it sleep paralysis? he wonders), instead his head is fixed on the nothingness before him. The footsteps echo loudly and they move closer to his back, and then they stop, a few feet behind him. He's terrified. 

There's shuffling and a metal click, then there's something on the back of his head. It's cold and small, and he recognised the sound to be a gun, perhaps a pistol.

Ah, that's right, he fell asleep while watching that horror movie. He expects the dream to morph into ghosts and blood but the muzzle is still firmly pressed against his skull.

The safety is now off, evident by another clicking sound. "Do you trust me?" a voice asks.

His head had been pounding, his heart rate accelerating and his breathing hitched. His expression was displaying terror and his hands shook while his shoulders tensed, but when the voice spoke he relaxed. He knew this voice, even if he had never heard it when it wasn't singing or rapping. This was the first time it spoke to him, in its' own sound instead of the words of his conscience. He relaxed because he knew this person - this was the same person with adorable cheeks and deep brown eyes, the person who loved cheesecake and loves winter and draws cute cartoons in his lyric books. Despite this...

 

Han Jisung had a gun to his head.

 

Despite this, he closed his eyes, even if it were pointless, and leaned back into the weapon as much as he could (he still couldn't move) to show his answer. He wasn't afraid of Jisung.

He trusted him, even if they had never met, even if there was so much he still didn't know.

"I trust you," he confirms through a whisper.

The gun fires, and a flash of dark red. But there was no pain, at least not in his head. There was a stabbing feeling in his right side before he woke up, and it wasn't dark anymore.

-

Minho wakes up like this, with a pain still in his side. He realises he not only fell asleep watching a horror movie but also with his earphones on. He was laying on one and the other was close by just chilling on his mattress. He sat up, still a bit confused, but instantly checking his earphones hadn't broken like they always did when he slept with them on. They were still intact, but he was worried about the wires and audio, so he grabbed his phone from the nightstand and plugged them in. He opened his music library - greeted with 3RACHA albums. The best way to wake up, he thought, and tapped on 'For You', the only song to feature all four voices of a three-member group.

 

Thankfully, the earphones still worked.

 

-

 

The dancer decided to spend his day relaxing and resting, recharging but also being slightly productive. He did all the house chores and other boring adult things until he finally sat down.

About five minutes later he found himself wrapped up in a blanket with a mug of tea and a tattered journal. He opened it, picking up where he left off.

I've made my whole bed into a home of sorts. There's a shelf to put all my stuff on, a plug socket and extension lead near the bottom bunk for my chargers, a fan and plenty of blankets and pillows to sleep on. All I need now is a mini-fridge and a cuddle buddy. Maybe Jeongin wouldn't mind?

Minho wouldn't mind.

Felix has been so busy with his Korean studies lately and I barely get to see him. I feel like even Changbin gets to see him more!

Changbin? Why would he see Felix more than Jisung did - his best friend AND roommate. 

I've been feeling kinda homesick lately. I miss Malaysia, only a little. Maybe I should call my parents? I also wanna get a dog...

Jisung with a dog? Sign Minho the fuck up. Maybe Jisung was in Malaysia now? Maybe he wanted to go back and study something different after all?

No, would Jisung really give up music that easily? After Minho read rant after rant about Jisung's intense love for it?

I've been feeling more tired lately. I've been busy - there's a lot going at the company at the moment cause we're preparing for debut in a few months. We still need to finish up some songs before we can start doing anything else and it's taking longer than expected. Unlike me, Chan's barely slept.

Nothing's changed, Minho thought.

I'm exhausted and fall asleep as early as 9-10pm nowadays but Chan only takes a short rest at probably 3am. I hope he's okay.

But he should be, after all, he has Felix.

And so do I.

 

-

 

I think the most exciting part about debut is the fans. It's not just about putting your thoughts and feelings out there, there are people who actually support your creation. After years of disapproval from your parents or judging looks from your... 'friends', people actually stand up and support you.

Minho wished he could relate. His parents were... okay, but they could be so much better. Nicer. Minho was their broken doll in the dollhouse.

I'm still really nervous. But I'm just so tired that I have no energy to fuel my anxiety and I'm worried I'll end up like Chan. He's suffering badly nowadays, the insomnia's gotten so much worse. He passed out twice during practice and more times I can count in the studio. We have supplies for him to spend the night if he needs and he even brought an overnight bag.

Oh! The studio! It looks so good. Plus, the chairs are really comfy. I love taking naps on them. Felix likes to cuddle on them with us when he's around, but he mostly just goes to Chan's room to make him sleep. I got pictures of them~!

Surely enough, there were pictures on the next page of two sleeping figures with dark hair - one curly, one straight and shiny sleek but both boys asleep and Australian. They were two peas in a pod and Minho couldn't help but smile endearingly and feel his heart go all mushy at the couple in the photo. He assumed they were dating at that point.

The dancer also noticed that Jisung spoke informally and didn't use honourifics when he wrote. It was cheeky - and yet charming in its own way. Han Jisung was a bratty maknae but Minho loved every second of it. He thought of what Jisung would call him, "Minnie-hyung", "Weird hyung", then eventually, just plain old Minho.

They should just date already.

Wait... Chan and Felix weren't dating back then? When did they start dating?

But with the whole Changbin situation going on, I'm really sure. I don't even know if they know about it. Even if they did, they would still be the same. Anyways, our debut! The promotions were so much fun, God I cant wait for the next album to be released already. All three of us are working hard all the time - it's tiring, but it's what we love. At least we still get Saturdays off to gather at the dorm and cuddle and watch movies or something in our pyjamas and cuddle. I love cuddling Felix the most, but he usually cuddles with Chan like they always did back in Australia, as Felix has rambled about before so many times that I swear I might just cut my ears off.

Scratch that, I really need them.

Minho chuckles.

But I like when Jeongin cuddles me - he's so squishy and I'm just??? So soft?? My heart?? I love him so much in the least-gayest way possible.

But I still prefer being the one who's cuddled. :(

The reader's eyes glowed with emotion - warmth, fondness. Longing.

 

-

 

Adronitis - Frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone.

 

Minho takes a break from reading to make himself a sandwich for lunch. As he's halfway through, there's a pin! from his phone.

 

Seungmin: Have you heard from Hyunjin? Jeongin and I can't get ahold of him 

Minho: Probably slept in. You know how bad he is when he sleeps, not even an earthquake can wake that boy. He's hibernating.

Seungmin: True. Thanks Hyung. We were going to go out for ice cream but he isn't answering... We'll just go without him I guess. Should we get him anything just in case? What if he gets jealous?

Minho: Seungmin, you're overthinking. All three of you have one of the strongest relationships I've ever seen. Like Felix and Channie-hyung, Channie and food, everyone and the floor, etc.

Jisung and his music, he wants to type, but knows it would backlash on him instead.

Minho: Just go have fun, yeah?

Seungmin: Okay... Thanks Hyung!

Minho: Yep

 

The dancer finishes making his sandwich and eats it on the spot as he listens to BTS on artist shuffle. Serendipity plays and he smiles as it is one of his favourites. As it plays, he thinks of Jisung and the distance between them yet Minho has learned so much about him. Regardless, it felt as though he still barely knew him. Despite how much he rambled and how his entries often strayed from what the younger originally wanted to write about, no matter how much detail he put into it, they were both still strangers to each other. 

That made Minho feel bad. He wasn't hungry anymore but still finished the last few bites of his sandwich and changed the music. IU's voice filled the downstairs rooms through the speaker as the dancer wrapped himself back up and resumed his reading, already engrossed.

 

-

 

Binnie-hyung has been clingy lately. Our baby Changbin is so cute~ 

We're on break before we go into the hardcore preparing phase to recharge and summon our talent and energy. Except I don't need to, I just naturally have it.

Minho laughs out loud, Jisung's started to get cockier in his entries. It's almost adorable.

Still taller than him, though. He never grows. Felix told me a new trainee would be joining soon and he was REALLY tall. Maybe even taller than Chan! Wait, no, Chan isn't that tall. Woojin? Urgh, it's 2am, I can't remember. I can't sleep because Chan and Felix won't shut up in the other room - they're watching some English programme or a film or something and they're laughing really loud and talking in English and I can understand what's going on but I JUST WANT TO SLEEP URGH. Stupid hyung and day-younger soulmate. If they were kissing they might shut up.

... EW NO.

Minho laughs again, just because he knew what Jisung was thinking. Minho enjoys reading from Jisung's perspective, but he wishes he knew a little more about what was currently happening. There were no dates so he had to guess or use small bits of information Jisung supplied here and there to piece together what point in time it was. This entry must've been a month, maybe two, before 3DAYS was released. Maybe... March? April? Well, it was 2016. That's all Minho knew. It must have been the first half of the year seeing as 3DAYS was released in June.

It's getting warmer and I hate it.

That's right - Jisung's favourite season is Winter. Of course he wouldn't like Summer. Or Spring.

I wish it would rain more :/ Hyunjin and I have started to hang out more! He so sweet and absolutely gorgeous. I would date him but he's not my type. I don't think he's weird enough either. We'll see.

Suddenly, Minho was pleased that he was so odd.

I swear he has a thing for Seungmin. He would never admit it, but the blushes I swEAR, THIS MAN IS GAY AND IN LOVE.

Minho smirked. If only he knew. Maybe he does? After all, he did get them together. Minho helped. Kinda. but still, if only Jisung could see them now. If only he would visit.

I swear I'm about to go full cupid on their gay and closeted-gay asses because watching them is like watching Chan mulling over Felix or Changbin checking out Felix when he isn't looking. I see you, shortie, you're not sneaky. Maybe Changbin could date Hyunjin!

Yeah, no, Minho thinks. 

But Jisung had other plans.

This, unbeknownst to either of them, would turn out horribly in the future.

Minho felt his stomach twist and he finally put the journal down and checked his phone for any messages from the maknaes, minus Felix.

Nothing.

Minho decided to text Seungmin, just because the feeling became worse.

 

Minho: You okay?

Seungmin: Yep! We're enjoying our date. Jeongin's being soooo cute. Did something happen, Hyung?

Minho: No, just checking on you. Still nothing from Hyunjin?

Seungmin: No, but it's okay. Jeongin told me how Hyunjin stays up on Netflix and twitter until the cursed Chan hours and sleeps until the afternoon, so we're not fussed. It's actually quite peaceful, but we still miss him. Jeongin said hi btw.

Minho: Hi Innie, what's the cursed Chan hours?

Seungmin: The hours Channie-hyung finally decides to go to sleep, if at all, like 3-5am or something like that! -Jeongin

Minho: Thanks angel. Have fun you guys!

Seungmin: *gays. We will!

 

Minho sighs, half-relieved and half-unsatisfied, but drops the matter. He should enjoy his day too. He puts the journal away safely and turns the tv on, planning to take a long, peaceful nap. He dreams of a beautiful place where winds are soft and skies are clear and he can hear cheerful laughter and even recognises faces and voices of his teammates, buts it's all a jumble of fiction and fantasy. This is how Minho likes to spend his days off- completely ignoring the world.

Yet there's an anomaly in his dream he cannot quite pinpoint - a person, maybe. Minho doesn't remember when he wakes up later that evening, groggy and heavy-headed, only trying to focus on turning his oven on and digging through the cold freezer to find the fish fingers.

Minho's day was close to perfect, but it's days like this, all domestic and hazy, where he would want to spend them with someone special.

 

-

 

.

.

.

.

.

The beach is warm today, Jisung thinks.

Chapter Text

 It's all a blur.

He can hear voices - people he knows - shouting and screaming, it echoes off his ears and shakes in his bones like the bass at a concert and it's so loud.

"Felix!"

"You need to fix this."

"He won't make it unless-"

"Plea-Please Chan, let me die-"

"What are we going to do?"

"I love you."

"J-Jisung?"

"Neither of them would want this, Changbin..."

"He's not c-coming back-"

"Hyung?" a small voice called softly to him. He recognised it- yet it was still blurry-

And it was dark. And he tried to turn around but-

A high pitched ringing- someone falling to the floor- phone dials- come on why won't they answer?- sirens- shouting and screaming and oh god- crying- silence- a flatline- wait no that was just the ringing- and there were flashes and distorted images- blood, streams of blood on arms, on torsos- bright hospital lights- more ringing-

All while he couldn't breathe.

It was so loud. And it hurt so much. It was like his head was being crushed and his skin was too tight and his lungs were useless-

 

Minho woke up in a cold sweat, struggling to breathe. His inhales and exhales were shaky and shallow as he came back to the world.

It was dark; about 6am, maybe? The blankets were strewn over the bed and strangling his waist. It was too warm and suffocating.

Minho got up a little too quickly, his body not keeping up with his mind, and stumbled before jumping in the shower to wash the thick blanket of panic cocooned around his thin body. Nightmares were becoming more common for him these days.

It was so, so tiring.

But at the same time, he welcomed the demons, because he felt as though he knew them.

 

-

 

"Felix, let's go!" Chris shook Felix's tired body, the younger still asleep. Felix whined but slowly started to wake up anyway. Chris grinned at his lover and placed a soft kiss on his forehead, making said lover smile more to himself than to Chris.

Felix eventually rolled out of bed and showered while Chris went to make them breakfast. Felix loved days like this - when Chris would actually sleep at night with him in their house and not alone in the studio; that is, if he ever slept. On these days, they would cuddle until they feel asleep (music would play very quietly from the speaker, they even had a whole playlist dedicated to these times) and neither would move until Chris woke up. He wakes up the same way the pair feel asleep, and maybe he has a pain in his shoulder from the odd way he was laying but waking up to Felix's gorgeous face made it all worth it. Chris always wakes up first and when he does he spends at least 10 minutes watching the boy with the freckles sleep soundly. Peacefully. No nightmares that make him twitch or cry out or cling to Chris desperately and the latter panicking and ending up staying awake the rest of the night watching over his angel. 

Chris takes in every little detail of Felix's face like he did when they were younger, before Chris moved, from the way Felix's cheeks had slimmed after loosing the baby fat from his cheeks to counting every single freckle on the younger's face. Each morning he woke up like this Chris felt so happy, but also missed Felix even if he was in his arms. He missed the Felix from his childhood, the Felix from before the accident, and the Felix from yesterday, and the Felix from right now, right here, safe and warm.

Chris peppers kisses on Felix's face and nuzzles his fluffy hair and Felix would stir and hum in acknowledgement, and Chris knew that it meant 'I love you too' but was sometimes 'I love you but please let me rest a teensy bit more'. And Chris would let him while he took the first shower, never taking too long but always making sure to let the warm water run down his back to sooth his tired muscles. He'd brush his teeth after getting changed into something short, usually a t-shirt and shorts or even just underwear (Felix seemed to like it) because the steam would cloud up the bathroom. Since the bathroom was connected to the bedroom, Chris would open the door while he scrubbed his pearly whites and check up on Felix. Felix would be sleeping soundly still, even though Chris had taken a shower in the room right next door. When he was done he would wake Felix up, and Felix would turn up the music that still played on the speakers from last night so he could hear it while he showered. Meanwhile, Chris would make breakfast in the kitchen, listening to the music or Felix's singing (or both). Sometimes, he'd join in o the singing, resulting in some very interesting duets. Chris' favourite - well, one of his favourites - thing about Felix was his genuine singing voice. He rarely used it, even in 3RACHA songs (Felix has a different singing voice for 3RACHA), only when they went to karaoke and times like this. It was a special thing only the team knew about.

After his show, Felix joins Chris in the kitchen and they eat together, but not before sharing a slow, sweet kiss. It was purely innocent, yet a powerful declaration of love. Both boys had just brushed their teeth, so there was no unpleasant morning breath, just the taste of the same brand of toothpaste they used. They'd eat together, the music still playing and creating a nice atmosphere in their home. The sunlight flittered through the silky curtains and onto the wooden/Lino floors, spots of sunshine dancing on the floorboards like a toe-tipped ballerina, gentle and mesmerising. Felix loved mornings like these. They were so rare, so welcome, and so missed. He wants to wake up to Chris' calls every morning - not phone calls from the studio but actual voiced questions holding Felix's name only. He wanted Chris to hold him close and protect him like he used to even if he (mostly) didn't need it anymore. He wanted this every morning, or maybe even just one out of three days.

Shame we can't have everything we want, right Felix?

 

-

 

Minho knows something's wrong when he hears shouting coming from the dance studio. He had arrived earlier than he anticipated, so he assumed nobody was going to be around fro another hour or so. 

He was wrong.

There was voices, loud voices like the ones in his nightmare that morning, but these voices were clear unlike the scrambled mess he slept through. He recognised Hyunjin's distressed shouts and another, more angrier, gravelly voice. Minho recognised Changbin as the second person.

"You can't keep doing this, I have a relationship now. With two people!"

"Oh, so it's suddenly okay to just leave me in this state? You seemed perfectly fine with it last night! I thought you were there for me!"

Minho didn't want to intrude, so he stepped away from the door as to not make himself known. The shouting continued, escalating into screams (that would be bad for the rapper's throat) until Minho heard loud footsteps approaching the door. The dancer hid quickly, and not very well, but regardless Hyunjin had walked straight past him, looking absolutely furious. Minho ignored the fact that Hyunjin looked hot when he was angry and peeked through the door of the practise room - just in time to see (and hear) Changbin scream and throw his black cap on the floor, making a resounding clap sound. The short, supposedly 'dark' rapper sat on the floor, head in his hands, and cried. The sound was agonising to hear and it pained Minho that he was doing nothing about it. Something was pushing him to comfort the younger male, so he let his legs take him inside, dropping his bag to the floor and cautiously walking to Changbin, sitting next to him. Changbin didn't even flinch.

Minho wanted to comfort him like he did all those times with Hyunjin when he had a bad day at school or when everything became too much for him, but he didn't know how to as he always used physical contact. Changbin was different, he had to be approached a different way, and Minho wasn't sure how. He thought about it for a few seconds, then carefully placed his right hand on Changbin's left knee, a silent message of saying I'm here.

Changbin took a few shuddering breaths but the tears weren't letting up. Minho felt deja vu from when he talked to Jeongin just days before. Changbin looked up, but still locked his eyes on the floor, refusing to look at the dancer on his left. Minho really wasn't sure what to do, Changbin seemed to have calmed significantly but he was still in distress. Minho decided to just go for it and moved his hand to Changbin's spine, the rapper tensed but relaxed in seconds, as if he hadn't the energy to care anymore. Minho rubbed his back like he would with Hyunjin, and after a few seconds he asked Changbin if he wanted to go home. Changbin barely made out a 'no' and his fingers fidgeted. 

"What's happened? Is everything okay?" Minho asked soothingly.

"Nothing's okay anymore. I'm so done." came Changbin's reply.

"Is there anything I can do?" Minho asked. A long silence followed before either spoke again.

It was Changbin who spoke, "Can you love me?"

"I- What?"

"I need someone to love me. Please." Minho had no idea how to respond to this. He knew that untruthful commitment to love was unhealthy, he had something like that once and it was the most miserable time of his life and the fake love did not help. Loving someone was complicated, gradual, uncontrollable. Minho loved someone, but not Changbin.

Changbin was a broken being on his last hopes and in need of some serious help. He did go to therapy and music helped him so much, even when he was growing up, but love was not what this man needed. He needed time.

"...You know I can't do that, Binnie-hyung..." Minho mumbled sadly. He could feel something shattering inside him. He felt helpless. Changbin simply sighed and lowered his head. He seemed to lose all strength in his body. A hollow husk.

Minho was still trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

 

-

 

Tension was high in the practise room.

Minho still had no idea what was happening between Hyunjin and Changbin but they seemed to forget each other's existence, trying to ignore whatever they were arguing over but not in the best way. Seungmin seemed to catch on or maybe Hyunjin had spoken to him, but he stuck by Jeongin protectively and glared daggers at his lover. Minho knew that Hyunjin didn't like getting angry and rarely did, but when something like this happened in the past Minho would be tiptoeing around him all day and he'd be fine the next day, but getting anywhere close to him at this point would mean walking on thin fucking ice.

In his own way, Hyunjin was intimidating.

No, terrifying. 

Chan and Felix seemed to cling to each other more than usual, which Changbin took attention to, Minho noticed. The younger rapper seemed unhappy by it, probably making him feel worse. Minho wanted to shout at everyone to sort them all out but he was certain that even mentioning it so openly would result in some kind of war. He hadn't known these people that long (save for Hyunjin) yet he seemed to know exactly what to do.

He approached Seungmin and Jeongin first. The dancer shared some worried glances with Jeongin earlier, the maknae seemed to have no idea what was happening but it was obvious to him that his two lovers were upset with each other. Minho walked over to where they sat at the couch, Jeongin crossing his legs on the seat and Seungmin downing his water in great gulps. Jeongin greeted him happily, "hyung!" as if it were the first time seeing each other that day. Minho smiled at the maknae uncontrollably, his presence making him feel a little better. He held a palm out so Jeongin could intertwine their fingers and shake their hands (a very adorable thing he does) before releasing it as Minho turned to a very monochromatic Seungmin. Monochromatic, as in emotionally, because Seungmin didn't like bringing the mood down.

"Is everything okay?" the oldest of the three asks gently.

"No." Seungmin answered curtly. At least he was being honest.

Minho decided to be honest. "I heard Changbin and Hyunjinnie arguing this morning. It was odd because one: their conversation and two: Hyunjin never gets here this early."

Seungmin spoke up before Minho could say anything else - "That's because Hyunjin slept round Changbin-hyung's house last night."

Minho was shocked. Changbin lived alone and Hyunjin was roommates with Seungmin (but often went home to visit family), Seungmin hadn't heard from him even when he went out with Jeongin and he didn't even call him Jinnie. He even used honorific with Changbin! If that wasn't enough of a warning sign...

Needless to say, Minho was a very concerned hyung at the moment.

"Is that why you guys are mad at each other?" Jeongin's puppy voice asked. It was small and sad. Like a sad puppy. And there were the eyes. Oh no.

"Yeah... I'm sorry I didn't tell you, angel. I'm just trying to contain my anger and it's very difficult at the moment but I feel better after dancing." Seungmin reassured. Jeongin held his arms open for a hug, cautious yet stable, and Seungmin lunged forward to embrace him. Minho let a small smile grace his face, they were okay.

"Should I go talk to Hyunjinnie?" Minho offered. Hyunjin seemed to have calmed down a lot since this morning, but was still quiet. he was learning against the mirror with his eyes closed and head raised. he was either tired or sad, going by how well Minho knew him. Seungmin nodded and smiled gratefully, Jeongin now calling out because he couldn't breathe - "Hyung!! Too tight!" - but giggling regardless.

Minho sat down cross-legged in front of Hyunjin, who distanced himself from the rest of the group. The younger dancer opened one eye and seemed relieved it was Minho, his favourite hyung, but closed his eye again. Minho was direct with Hyunjin, not wanting to waste anymore time from their short break.

"Wanna explain to me what I heard this morning when you were fighting with Changbin?"

Hyunjin was alert, but skilfully kept it subtle and tucked away with all the other emotions he suppressed over the years. He opened both eyes now and lowered his head to stare right back at Minho's sharp, schooled face. He couldn't hide his shock, however, evident by his widened eyes. The older dancer looked at Hyunjin's eye mole while he waited for an answer.

"You shouldn't meddle, Hyung." Hyunjin's serious and cold voice was quiet enough for only the two of them to hear. It was now Minho that was shocked with Hyunjin's attitude; he was always open about problems even in these kinds of moods.

Minho straightened up and leaned forward slightly, his hands pressing against his own slightly bruised knees, "When they concern my friends - many of my friends, I think that if nobody will sort their shit out, then I guess I have to be the adult and step the fuck up. Do you understand, Jinnie?"

He never took this tone with Hyunjin. He never ever swore, especially at his closest friend. But desperate time called for desperate measures. Luckily, it seemed to work, because Hyunjin let his sadness and internal conflict show. He lowered his head like a disobedient dog and also leaned forward. They continued to speak in hushed voices.

 "Changbinnie-hyung gets lonely. Not as in he wants someone to talk to, he wants to love someone. And he wants that love to be returned." Hyunjin paused as realisation seemed to wash over Minho's face, "And we've had history in that area. Things happened and he'd randomly call me, mostly at night, and I'd go running to him because I feel so guilty."

"Guilty?"

"It's hard to explain. But in those situations, I'm the only one who can help him. I let him kiss me and cuddle me and we'd have sleepovers but we never did anything past that. If it would ever happen I'd up and leave."

"What about Seungmin?" Minho wondered out loud.

"That's why we're sorta fighting. He knows about it but he's asked me to stop- quite a while ago now- but I can't bring myself to and he's accepted that. We both agreed that I wouldn't see Changbin-hyung now that we're dating Jeongin but I think it made it worse for him. And last night I just..."

"You know you can say 'no', right? Tell him it's not healthy?" Minho was starting to lose his cool. Not because of Hyunjin, but because of Changbin.

"I did a few times. Each time I did... You haven't seen what neglecting him does to him. How it effects him. It's awful. And I just want him to be happy."

"But what about your boyfriends?" Minho repeated. "They're not happy."

Hyunjin brought his knees to his chest. "I know."

"That's not good enough!" Minho's voice grew both in volume and in anger. "You need to be there for them- you're one of the most loyal people I have ever met but something like this gets in your way?!" Everyone could hear him now, even Changbin. He didn't care. "You need to fix this."

His last sentence was quiet. Cold. Serious. But it was heard by all. He heard a small gasp, then hurried footsteps, then a door close. He whipped his head round to see Chan following the figure who had bolted out the room-

And Changbin was still in the studio.

Minho was confused. He thought Changbin would've been the one to leave- but they didn't know what he was talking about- so he wouldn't have known- why did Felix leave?

Minho became even angrier.

Hyunjin sighed, diverting the older's attention away from the rapper as he stood up. "Your right, hyung. Thank you..."

Hyunjin walked to where Seungmin and Jeongin had been sitting on the couch, Seungmin now standing. Hyunjin seemed like he was being pulled over like a magnet. His apology was quiet, but even Minho heard it.

"I'm so sorry. And I promise you, this will never, ever happen again. I swear this time. You're the only two boys I love, okay? Nothing will ever change that."

Seungmin slowly stepped forward, not breaking eye contact once. He stared deeply into Hyunjin's eyes and Minho realised he had been holding his breath in anticipation. Just like that, Seungmin stepped forward again, this time into Hyunjin's embrace. The two shared a deep, meaningful kiss that was slow and had no erotic undertones. Just two pairs of lips, you'd think, but the bond they shared was the only thing that could tell what emotions were passing between them. It was something Minho had grown to envy over the last week or so. Pure love.

"I trust you. Don't let us down okay?" Seungmin told the eldest of the three when they broke apart, now in a warm embrace, then added: "I love you."

Jeongin seemed hesitant to join them, as if he wasn't apart of their relationship, but suddenly the youngest wrapped his arms around them both, securing them in his embrace; soon all three had manoeuvred enough that they were all hugging, arms laid across shoulders and foreheads pressed together, the gentle swaying of their bodies in perfect harmony.

Minho felt his heart ache so much, he didn't even notice a third person leave the studio.

 

-

 

Later in the day, Minho found himself thinking back to what was written in Jisung's journal about hooking Changbin and Hyunjin up. He wondered if that was why Changbin depended on Hyunjin for love; then he remembered what Changbin had asked of him this morning. His anger and newly-forming hate turned into pity.

Changbin was desperate.

Just like Minho was slowly becoming-

 

For love.

Chapter Text

 

Everything between the maknaes seems fine now. They're all laying on each other on the dance floor while they take their break, Chan popped in earlier to say that he would be working in the studio (he said Binnie wouldn't be back for a while too) while Felix re-joined them in dance practise.

Minho was sitting lazily next to Felix, who seemed relaxed going by his laid-back posture. Minho wanted to ask why he left earlier but figured it wasn't the best time. Felix had never looked this care-free. Not happy, but relaxed. It was a concept Minho was content with, so he let Felix be, instead watching the other three dancers roll around, dismembering their cuddle pile and starting a tickle fight. Minho would deny the fond look on his face if you asked him but it was still there.

Surprisingly, it was Felix who spoke: "They remind me of myself back in the day." He turned to Minho with a small yet genuine smile, his eyes expectant. Felix was never the one to start a conversation - he was very quiet and reserved, not so much as Changbin but he seemed far more at ease in Chan's presence. He barely spoke, especially to Minho, so the latter was perplexed when Felix spoke. It's not that he was avoiding Minho, in fact it was often that they sat near each other during breaks (except for Chan, of course) and played together, but they rarely used words. It wasn't like how Felix and Chan interacted, they didn't need words.

Of course, Minho would continue the neatly presented conversation in a gentle prompt, "What were those days like?"

"Stressful, but very fun. We spent lots of time together, even when I wasn't around they were still having fun but often came looking for me so I could join them. It wasn't just during breaks though. We were like that during work too, talking while writing lyrics, cracking jokes in the practise room, messing about in the dance studio. It was still productive and we- they got things done but they did it in their own way. I didn't see them all the time but they were joint at the hip and their chemistry was amazing. It was something I wanted to be apart of..."

Felix had never spoken so much before in the time Minho knew the other Lee. A small frown replaced his smile now.

"Felix..?" Minho was cautious. Felix looked spaced out but teary-eyed at the same time.

The smile returned, but it wasn't genuine. "And I'm included in it now." He finished bitterly.

Bitterly.

"Someone's missing though, right?" Minho didn't register the words until they left his mouth. He regretted them instantly, but Felix's response made him think otherwise.

"Yeah... It's just not the same without Jisungie. It's not that fun anymore... He worked hard. 3RACHA worked all day, everyday whenever they could. It was worser for Chan because he produced the most out of all three while Jisung and Changbin-hyung wrote more. Chan wrote just as much as them and he would be in front of that screen for hours. Sometimes it was painful to watch. Jisung and I were the ones who'd coax him out of it..."

Hearing Felix say Jisung's name felt foreign and new, but it was so fascinated by it. He felt like a hungry dog being fed mere scraps.

"Tell me more about Jisung." Minho asked, but it sounded more like a demand. Felix seemed hesitant and almost panicked until he broke the gaze with Minho's hungry eyes. 

"We should g-get back to practise..." Felix's sad yet hurried voice announced.

Minho physically deflated. All hope had been shattered.

Felix glanced at Minho, "You should ask Chan instead about that. It's not a good thing to talk about here."

'That'? Was Jisung some kind of object? Was he that disgusting to them? What did he do?!!

Minho buried his annoyance and stood up, turning on his heel towards the door. Fine, maybe Chan will have answers.

-

 

Today we have a free day, so I'm going to take some time to reflect.

I remember back to when I first auditioned with my friend. My number was 82 and he was 83. I remember feeling nerves and excitement when the called me to audition again the next week and trying not to scream when they said I passed.

I remember how arrogant and full of myself I used to be, until Changbin-hyung joined the company. He made me realise my flaws and he inspired me to fix them and become a better person and performer. Heck, I remember when I first saw him I thought I was more handsome than him.

Wait, no, I still do. I may not be as big-headed as before but I'm still confident in my face and my fluffy hair that Felix loves very much. Speaking of-

The bedroom door opens and Jisung is snapped out of his daze. He closes his journal slowly, making it seem like it was just a regular book, but tucked his pen in the page so he wouldn't lose his place. Looking down from his bunkbed, Felix was pouting at him. The freckled dancer toddled over and started climbing up. Jisung, alarmed, hid his journal under his pillow and repeated the simple question, "Why, why, why".

Felix said nothing, even when he reached the top and snuggled into his soulmate's side, head on his chest and listening to his steady heartbeat. It calmed him. Jisung on the other side of the bed, decided to humour Felix and rubbed his back soothingly. "What's the matter?" He asked.

"Chan went to the studio even though it's our day off," Felix huffed, "I'm lonely."

"What about Changbin? I'm sure he'll meet up with you if you wanted." Jisung suggested, but didn't like the idea of those two alone. It might ruin his plans!

Felix glanced up at his birthday twin, "Does that mean he's not into Hyunjin anymore?"

Jisung laughed, bright smile gleaming and gums exposed, "They never liked each other. Just a mistake Jisung the matchmaker made. Besides, Hyunjin's smitten for someone else."

"The new kid?" Felix wondered aloud.

"Yup," was Jisung's confirmation, "I wonder if they'll hit it off. Apparently new kid is straight."

"Not for much longer." Felix smirked evilly. Jisung looked down at him to see his mischievous eyes gazing right back.

"What are you planning?" Jisung asked knowingly.

Felix grinned this time, then squirmed out of Jisung's grip and scrambled out the room. Jisung watched his back fade out of sight. In the meantime, he retrieved his journal (thankfully, it wasn't crushed) and quickly signed off.

Speaking of-

I think Felix might have a plan to get Seungmin to fall for Hyunjinnie. This is going to be great! I'm already excited. Got to go before he comes back~!

P.S. I wonder what's going on with Felix and whoever... I'll ask later. Bye!

 

-

 

Minho tried not to pound on the 3RACHA studio door but that's exactly what he did out of anger. At least he didn't break it down. Chan answered half-heartedly and Minho practically lunged in.

"Oh. Hi Minho. What happened to practise?" Chan said, but his voice suggested that he really didn't care. He looked so tired, like he was about to fall asleep right then and there. Or maybe he was sad. Or both. His dark circles would never go away even after a good night's sleep and his hair was in a curly mess, like he had messed it up out of a stressful habit. Yet he still managed to look stunning in his silver hair and signature jewellery.

"Nothing. I just wanted to talk." Minho replied curtly, closing the door behind him and walking to sit on on of the couches. Chan spun 180 degrees to face him after clicking a few things on his monitor.

"What about?" Chan sounded a little more awake now and seemed to wear a friendlier demeanour. 

Minho suddenly felt sick. He stalled, "What are you working on?"

"Ah," Chan perked up, glancing behind him, "Just a side project. I don't think it'll be used."

"What's it about?" Minho continued, still avoiding the intended topic he came to talk about.

"It's like a vent track, you could say. It's called the Ace of Spades Project for now, only Felix knows about it, besides you, now." Chan answered honestly. Something caught Minho's attention.

"Ace of Spades? Isn't that one of..." Minho suddenly found himself at a loss for words.

Chan encouraged him to continue.

"...One of Jisung's cards?" Minho's voice was shaky.

Chan's eyes widened slightly before his features quickly schooled themselves into a neutral expression. he answered calmly, "It is. Sometimes I need to release all of my anger and sadness and pent-up emotions and this is where I put them all. It's all jumbled and a complete mess of sounds, but it's perfect for me."

Minho nodded in understanding. "Can I listen?" He ventured.

It was a risky question, he knew, but had asked anyway. "A little." It was enough. This way, Minho might get answers.

Chan fiddled with the device until he finally pressed play. The sounds that played sounded like murmuring, reversed music, footsteps, then a door open (or close) and then it went silent. The silence remained for a few seconds and Minho thought it was over until-

Christ, it was awful. There was shouting and it echoed and there was an unbearably high-pitched ringing, like the one in his dream but worse. It was like the calm before the storm, then the storm. There were glitchy noises too, like something was struggling or something wasn't quite there when it should've been. It hurt the dancer's ears and he almost threw the headphones across the room.

The other male smiled apologetically, "I should've stopped it before that part, sorry." His smile turned sad as he returned with his tapping and clicking.

Minho told him it was okay, but could only think about his dream that morning- or night. The high-pitched ringing was still there, but it was different. The one in his dream was robotic and apathetic, almost. Like it had no purpose. Chan's ringing was disorientating, confusing and so painful. "What does it mean?"

"It signifies confusion and sudden panic." Came the simple reply. Minho hummed in acknowledgement. "Was there something else?" The leader asked.

Minho didn't want to ask him anymore but he wanted to know everything. The only thing that kept him from begging for answers that day was the nausea in his stomach and the pounding in his head as a result of the sickening audio Chan had produced as a creative outlet of all his negative emotions he kept locked deep inside him for him and exclusively him to burden.

Or so Minho thought, at the time.

Instead, he responded with a tiny lie.

"I was just worried about Changbin... I wanted to ask Felix but he seemed a bit tired and I didn't wanna make him feel bad or anything so I figured since you're the only one who knows him well enough you might know..." It sounded believable.

Enough to fool Chan, at least, as he answered, "I already said he'll be gone for a while," he sighed, "But I honestly don't know when he'll be back. He's done this before. He'll hide somewhere in the company for a few hours and come back looking tired but he just needs it. There's just a lot going on for him right now. I'm sorry this is delaying group practise, Minho, but on the bright side at least the other dancers get to practise, Felix too." The leader finished on a high note, Minho was... unsatisfied with his answer.

"I hate to say this, but we really need him. Our deadline is approaching and we need to put as much time and effort into this so we stop making small mistakes that pull us down. He needs to be here for his team. He can't keep ditching practise just because he has problems. If he wants to go through with this, we need him at every practise, all of us. We can't do this without working as a team." Minho was surprised he didn't blow up then and there.

Chan sighed, saying nothing for a while. Then,

"I know. I'll talk to him, okay? Thank you for coming to talk to me. I'll rejoin you in the dance studio in half an hour, tops."

"Got it. Thanks." He turned to leave, bidding his see-you-laters.

He still didn't have the answers he was looking for.

 

-

 

So here's our plan: Ask Hyunjin to meet me in the studio to work on some extra stuff (I have a whole playlist of... interesting songs prepared for him choose from) and later on I will ask Seungmin to meet me, but not tell him that Hyunjin's with me. We'll be dancing to the new choreography by the time he gets there. Felix will follow him (sneaky, of course. We have codenames too!) and see if he reacts in any way or tries to run off or makes some excuse not to come by. It seems foolproof now thanks to Felix's help, but I also wanted to record our choreography when we've mastered it.

WAIT WAIT WAIT NEW PLAN

I'll ask Seungmin to come and record it! That way he'll focus directly on Hyunjin. I could even ask Felix to record me too! Individually, of course, so Seungmin will finally wake up. Man I am so smart. Seriously.

We could even do both! We can merge the plans together. Holy heck. I should be qualified in matchmaking. Nothing can go wrong from here, I'm sure of it! Well I mean, Felix could end up falling for me because I'm so handsome but with the way things are now, it seems like he only has eyes for a certain hyung. More on that later! Gotta focus on Operation: Seungjin. Agent Squirrel, over and out~!

 

-

 

Minho felt empty. Like the answers to Jisung's 'disappearance' as he was now calling it was a part of him that he had yet to find. He didn't even care about where he was or why he disappeared at this point, he just wanted to know Jisung. Sure, he knew his favourite food, colour, his likes and dislikes, but he wanted to get to know him for himself. Not like this. He wanted to get to know him for himself, from the very beginning. He wanted to know about his flaws he never wrote about in his journal and the way he practised, the little habits he wasn't self-aware of and how he looked when he was warming up for practise. His sense of humour, the way he made his hyungs laugh, how he behaved towards the younger members, the way he could look at someone, with love and with hatred, burning passion in his eyes for the things he loved. He wanted to see Jisung in everyday life, ordering coffee, writing music, resting in the shared dorms, cuddled up with his members on the couch watching a movie, dyeing his hair, preparing for a stage, warming up his vocal cords, what he wold talk about on the drive home, interacting with is fans, humming to the music in his headphones. He wanted to capture it all and store it in a treasure box selfishly and hide the key from the world. It was more than being curious about a friendly dongsaeng, it was a desire to meet a person he didn't even know. Like meeting an idol.

Perhaps that was why Chan hid the remains of Han Jisung, J.ONE in a silver metallic boxing slid it under the couch in the group's personal studio. Sitting there collecting dust, time turning it cold as stone, but open to all, as there was no key. Only a story that told the tale of why Han Jisung left his group, his closest friends, his career and his dream behind, and what for.

Chapter Text

 

Hyunjin wasn't fond of change.

He liked the routine he had at the dance school, the routine he had with Minho (the best hyung he could ask for), he liked life the way it was now.

Even if it meant occasionally being picked on by this one hyper-masculine dickhead in his class that had some stick right up his-

Anyway.

Hyunjin knows when to keep his mouth shut. He knows when he shouldn't voice an opinion, when to seem respectful, he knows to obey the adults and to ignore slurs that may or may not be targeted specifically at him.

At least it wasn't as bad as his treatment in SOPA. 

Hyunjin knew when to keep quiet and accept criticism even when he felt frustration and confusion rush through him - he knows that his instructors and teachers know better - and he knows to simply smile and nod or bow when he was praised. He wasn't a boy of few words, but rather a boy of many words but has learned to express few. Hyunjin learned the hard way and taught and trained himself not to speak unless spoken to and to ignore any... unwelcome interactions.

Regardless, meeting Lee Minho taught him that sometimes, it was okay to voice your feelings. It was okay to express your thoughts because free will and tastes in certain areas were what made him human. 

It was nice. He could say whatever ridiculous nonsense he wanted to around Minho and his hyung would listen to all of it, even making a few comments to agree or disagree. Truthfully, Hyunjin was good at making conversation, he was just deprived of it. Minho wouldn't judge him or hate him if he thought this or that. Instead, Minho would teach Hyunjin what was morally acceptable to think or say about people and to be considerate of what people went through to do such stupid things or say such pointless stuff, no matter how annoying it was. Minho brought the best out of Hyunjin, and Minho came out of his shell more and more. 

Over the time Hyunjin spent at the school with Minho, the latter's dancing and fashion style improved significantly, going from choppy dark bangs and glasses to cat-like eyes, high-cheekbones revealed and forehead on show most days. Minho began to think that beanies weren't so bad after all because of Hyunjin and okay this shirt does look really good on him. Both were each other's support and role model in different areas, each shaping the other boy to grow into handsome, kind, talented individuals. Like brothers. Hyunjin never saw Minho as a love interest (he teased him way too much) but Minho was incredibly handsome.

Their peers thought otherwise, calling them a disgusting couple because they were both fags so they must want to date each other, right? 

Despite the hardships and many days spent in Minho's room crying and eating ice cream both Hyunjin and Minho grew into fine young men.

Emphasis on young, because Hyunjin was only 16 when he was told he was offered a place at JYP Entertainment as a dancer and as a trainee, Minho having being scouted by BigHit Entertainment the very same day. The bullies in the school were not happy about that. But what could they say?

Lee Minho and Hwang Hyunjin were known to be the best dancers in the school.

 

-

 

Hyunjin was given a run-down in a meeting along with other recently-scouted young men and women. The company was scarier than he thought it would be and despite being ecstatic, he was also terrified. Hyunjin specifically would be working as a back-up dancer for a new group set to debut that year, compiled of three talented trainees that had been working so hard and were eventually recognised by JYP himself.

There were only a few who would be working with that group, many others were simply trainees. Despite this, Hyunjin still had to take classes. Hyunjin wasn't fond of change, but he had grown to hate dancing without his favourite human in this cold, dark world. He really missed Minho.

He was pulled from his thoughts when someone suddenly sat down on the dance practise room floor on his right. Hyunjin had been in the company's walls for only an hour and already he had things to do. The boy that sat next to him was on of the people from the debut group he would be working with in the near future. He looked very young, younger than Hyunjin himself, wore bright yellow shirt that stuck out like a sore thumb with a camouflaged-patterned jacket over the top, but more noticeably his hair was fluffy as it ruled his head in streaks of brown that glowed lighter under the shine of the practise room's ugly lighting. His eyes were dark, large and round and his cheeks were puffy and looked almost impossible to not squeeze them, like a chipmunk. His voice was friendly as he spoke,

"Hello! My name is Han Jisung, it's nice to meet you!"

 

 

Ah, Jisung. How kind you were to approach me that day.

 

-

 

Hyunjin later learned that Jisung was only six months younger than him but seemed to be wise for someone so young. He was funny, too, but only because Hyunjin laughed at almost everything and had an easy sense of humour. Changbin never laughed at his jokes though, only groaned in annoyance and rolled his eyes. Hyunjin on the other hand just couldn't stop giggling and let down his walls very quickly around Jisung.

Changbin looked somewhat scary at first glance, so Hyunjin tried to stay out of his way and not annoy him. He dressed as dark as his hair (black) which was covered with a cap, owned a razor-sharp jawline, wore chains wherever he could and his voice was a deep growl. Jisung was a tiny bit taller than him while Hyunjin was a tiny bit taller than Jisung, at least back then. Changbin seemed powerful, but not in the same way Chan was.

Bang Chan carried himself in a way that radiated knowledge and experience. He seemed to be aware of everything around him and knew when and where to go, like a god of sorts. All while focusing on the person he was talking to and working - it was like he had endless amounts of focus and was always on his toes, always doing something, even when he 'rested'. Chan was very friendly, being close to everyone in the room and making an effort with Hyunjin too, and seemed to read Hyunjin because he knew when the younger was getting uncomfortable or overwhelmed. His caring nature and obvious responsibility he carried not only for his team but also for the other dancers (Hyunjin wasn't interested in talking with them right now.), which gave the overall impression of a father. Chan had grown up too quickly, burned out too quickly, felt for the many, many people around him and still worked his hardest. Even if it meant putting himself at risk.

Hyunjin decided he liked Chan. Looked up to him even. A role model of sorts.

 

-

 

When faced with drastic change in his life, Hyunjin has always looked to others to help him. When his family moved to Las Vegas for six months, he cried on his first day of school and was unable to make many friends during his stay there. In that time, he had his parents. He had his mother to hold him when he ran into her arms sobbing and his father to rub his back and tell him he was being very brave. When he first entered high school, he had Kkami to comfort him and when he was bullied, causing him to eventually leave, Eric would always stand up for him and support him. When Hyunjin faced the same kind of discrimination in the dance academy, he had Minho-hyung to lean on and to bring him out of the fortress he built around him.

Now, Hyunjin lives away from his parents, away from his beloved family dog, no siblings, no friends, and worst of all, no Minho-hyung. In these cases, Hyunjin braces himself and reassures himself everything will be okay, that some people don't like change and Hyunjin was just one of those people. It was normal to be anxious, especially since this was JYP. The expectations were high.

Hyunjin felt pressured.

Not just that, but scared, nervous, alone, abandoned, terrified, overwhelmed... It was just a lot to deal with. What if he was treated badly like in the other places? What if they thought he had no talent? That he was useless? Why wasn't hyung here to help him? His face was red and his throat was too tight, he couldn't form any words and hot tears streamed uncontrollably down his face. He had to pull himself together. There was no need to cry. How childish of him, he was 16 already!

That just made him feel worse; Hyunjin cried harder and sobs managed to escape his throat. He sat alone in the dark, wishing to disappear into the shadows. 

The light suddenly turned on, burning his eyes. He covered them with the heel of his palms, pushing them slightly to stop the tears but only making the pain worse, giving him a headache.

"Why, why, why, what's the matter Hyunjinnie?" A low voice said worriedly. Hyung?

It was not Minho (obviously), though rather Jisung that found Hyunjin in the tiny room on the floor in this state. Hyunjin, who was using his hour of free time, wanted to be alone to process everything that had happened already on his first day, but ended up crying. Like he always did.

He could only respond to Jisung with a hoarse, "Ah..." until he could breathe again. In the meantime, Jisung crouched in front of the elder and helped to wipe his tears away with his sleeve, all while murmuring 'It's okay's and 'Don't cry's.

Jisung stayed with him awhile and offered to help Hyunjin get settled, which the latter was very grateful for. From that point onwards, Hyunjin spent most of the his time at the company with Jisung, getting to know him, learning about the group and the other dancers. Jisung learned that Hyunjin, when you got to know him, was a huge cuddle bug, much like himself. This discovery made Hyunjin and Jisung closer than ever, and Hyunjin was comfortable with the younger. He became good friends with the others too, and he felt safe with them, despite this one small thing that seemed to distract him since his second day at JYP.

-

When Hyunjin met Jisung at the entrance on his second day, Jisung said it would be good if Hyunjin got to know the other dancers, as they would be spending more time together than with 3RACHA, to Hyunjin's dismay. When they reached the practise room a few flights of stairs later, Jisung grinned at him before opening the door-

"HELLOOOOOOOOOOOO-"

"SHUT UP!"

It was Chan who yelled at Jisung to be quiet, to which Jisung grinned (again) brightly and ran over to probably annoy him some more. Jisung was loud. But a happy virus kind of loud.

"Ah, hyung, please tell me you're putting Bucket List in the album, it's been stuck in my head all day!" Jisung was trying to make everything as normal as possible, and yes, this was indeed their kind of 'normal'. It was grounding, in it's own way.

"Get off me and I'll consider it-" Chan commanded in a stern voice but with a fond smile on his face.

Hyunjin peeled his eyes from Chan and the 3RACHA maknae and walked over to where two of the dancers were helping each other stretch, but it looked like one of them was just tormenting the other. Hyunjin thought the younger-looking one was adorable and seemed easy to approach, and he was as he notice Hyunjin and immediately smiled tremendously wide, revealing braces on his polished teeth. He said hello to Hyunjin enthusiastically and tried to bow while still in the other boy's death grip. Hyunjin replied with his own greetings politely, bowing a second time after the other boy released the 'cute kid' (as Hyunjin quickly dubbed him) and said hello sweetly as if he wasn't about to commit murder.

"We didn't really get a chance to talk yesterday, my name is Hwang Hyunjin." Hyunjin smiled shyly. He noticed the cute kid had eyes that reminded him of a fox and very prominent cheekbones (like Minho) and the other guy looked like Day6's Wonpil, but younger and softer and squishier. He had a mole on the side of his face and gentle eyes - Hyunjin would have to name him the cute one instead. Or maybe handsome?

"It's nice to finally meet you, my name is Yang Jeongin, this is my hyung-"

"Kim Seungmin." the other finished.

"'Hyung?' How old are you both?" 

"Jeongin was born in 2001," Seungmin supplied, amused at Hyunjin's reaction to how young he was, "I was born in 2000."

Hyunjin's face seemed to light up, which Seungmin found himself liking, "Me too! Can we speak comfortably, then?"

"Of course," Seungmin replied.

-

Jisung glanced over to see how Hyunjin was doing and was pleased to see him laughing with Seungmin and Jeongin. Chan was talking to Changbin now, so it wouldn't hurt to go and talk to them, right?

He made his quick escape and practically leapt on Jeongin, almost making the younger fall over, "Having fun without me?"

The four maknaes settled into a joke-filled chatter, Hyunjin being included too. The four of them continued together until the door opened again, revealing a small boy with Minho's build, swishy black hair and plump lips, and were those freckles?

"Felix!" Jisung cheered, and the newcomer, supposedly 'Felix' grinned at him.

"Hi~" he greeted as he walked over. "Who's this?"

Hyunjin and Felix introduced themselves to each other with a little nudge from Jisung. Felix, too, was a dancer and a close friend of Chan's from Australia (he didn't know Chan was Australian) and was literally a day younger than Jisung. Hyunjin, ever the romance lover, decided fate had brought them together, and when he accidentally voiced this out loud, the birthday twins agreed and declared they were soulmates, but Felix was quick to assure him it was only platonic love. He would never date Jisung because "Jisung's not my type. He's dirty too!" and proceeded to rant about the dorm (for trainees who had come from overseas) (Hyunjin didn't know Jisung lived there) always being messy because of the older. Jisung, on the other hand, disagreed and said it wasn't all his fault even if he was the messiest out of the four (Hyunjin also learned Jeongin was the fourth person when he started agreeing with Felix) (He may or may not have spoken with a Busan dialect).

Hyunjin observed Felix while they bickered. He was bony, yes, but had some baby fat(?) on his cheeks that looked like Jisung's which was absolutely adorable. He had freckles all over his face, which Hyunjin had never seen in person before and was very tempted to poke and count each one of them. His hair was a dark, glossy black and it made him look so very young (again, like Jisung) and had large, puppy-like eyes that had Hyunjin being reminded of Seungmin, despite only having met a few minutes ago at most. It took a while to register, but when it did-

"WOAH," Hyunjin startled the three boys out of bickering, "YOUR VOICE!"

Felix seemed to already know he was being referred to and smiled bashfully and glanced at his crossed legs as he spoke, "It doesn't suit me does it?" he seemed self-conscious of it. Very much so.

"It doesn't, and I think that's really cool!" Hyunjin told the younger enthusiastically, "You could be a rapper if you wanted, with a voice like that everyone will be at your feet..." Hyunjin rambled on, something he only did in front of Minho. He didn't realise until Jisung started to agree with him and his hand flew to his mouth to prevent any more words jumbling out. He felt eyes on him (since a while ago actually) and thought it was the two older members of 3RACHA, but upon glancing around the circle of dancers sitting on the floor with him, he found that it was Seungmin who was gazing at him softly with a warm smile.

Hyunjin knew that he would be okay, and suddenly he wasn't afraid of this new change to his life anymore. He felt safe.

"Alright! Let's start practise!" The leader called, and everyone was on their feet at once.

 

-

 

Hyunjin found that a week could pass by in what felt like seconds as he danced endlessly. He practised hard and played hard with the others and when he came home he was knackered. It would be shower, food, sleep straight away, but he always checked the group chat made for the back-up dancers.

danceracha

Jeongin: hyunjinnie-hyung sorry I forgot to give your beanie back!!

Hyunjin: it's okay, you can hang on to it and give it back tomorrow

Seungmin: Wasn't he wearing that while sweating? Gross Jeongin-ah

Hyunjin: shut,, leaving the baby alone >:(

Felix: can y'all maybe be quiet I'm trying cuddle with channie-hyung but my phone keEPS BUZZING

Jeongin: this is my way of getting you to get off the couch

Felix: I'm muting you :)

Seungmin: Felix, don't you like Channie-hyung?

Felix: ? he's my childhood friend of course I like him

Hyunjin: I think he meant as in love

Felix: uhh...

Jeongin: Lix-hyung loves everyone, have you met him?

Hyunjin: I mean he is really cuddly

Seungmin: Makes sense I guess

Jeongin: Hyunjinnie-hyung, do you like anyone?

Hyunjin: wdym?

Felix: do we have to re-name the chat to rainbow boys

Seungmin: I'm straight

Felix: irrelevant :p

Seungmin: Oi

Hyunjin: I,, I'm gay

 

Even if he trusted these people and they were kind to him, Hyunjin immediately regretted pressing send.

 

Jeongin: sweet! I'm bi

 

Wait, what?

 

Felix: I'm a walking rainbow

 

They're not making fun of him?

 

Hyunjin: I thought you would be mad?

Felix: that would by hypocritical

Jeongin: oh hyung!! that was a difficult word

Hyunjin: Seungminnie, are you okay with this?

Seungmin: Sure, why wouldn't I be

 

Hyunjin let out a sigh of relief and almost sunk into his mattress.

In another situation, it could have been so incredibly worse. He could've gotten hurt again.

 

Jeongin: I think he has a crush on someone, I'm not convinced he's a het

Seungmin: Nah

Jeongin: :/

Felix: okay I gtg, Channie fell asleep and I don't wanna wake him

Hyunjin: night lix

Jeongin: night hyung!

Seungmin: I'm going to sleep too, night you two

Jeongin: bye!

Hyunjin: goodnight Minnie, goodnight Innie

Jeongin: <3

Hyunjin fell asleep almost instantly.

-

Seungmin reminded Hyunjin of a puppy. He wasn't as smiley as Jeongin (who smiled literally all the time) (he said it was because he looked scary when he didn't) (Hyunjin said that wasn't true) but when he smiled and made those strange noises when he was excited (which Hyunjin found adorable) it always made him laugh. Seungmin had a pretty face (like everyone else, Hyunjin didn't find him anymore handsome than the others) (except maybe Jisung) (don't tell him) even when he didn't wear make-up; he had droopy, gentle eyes that were calming to Hyunjin and soft-looking skin and a mole on his left cheek. Seungmin seemed to be in a world of his own when he wasn't talking to the others and Hyunjin saw that part of himself in him.

They were taking a break from practise, 3RACHA's debut being only a few days away now. Chan was nervous as ever, working himself up into a panic as he tried to perfect everything and when he started getting the tiniest bit aggressive about the smallest mistake or imperfection Felix was by his side in an instant, calming him down. Hyunjin and Felix were in charge of dance, but Chan was the one who watched back videos, monitoring them, discussing with Felix (and sometimes Hyunjin) how they could improve the stage further. Hyunjin was amazed how Felix could reassure him so easily, like Chan's entire world wasn't ending. He wasn't sure just how close they were to each other - sure they were childhood friends but Hyunjin saw something bigger than that. Chan couldn't look at Felix like that and call him his best friend, Hyunjin knew.

Hyunjin let his mind wander to the darker places while he sat with Jisung and Seungmin, poking Seungmin's cheek and then his mole. Seungmin let him, paying him no mind. Jisung began discussing who had the chubbiest cheeks (Seungmin and Felix were also candidates) and Hyunjin heard none of it. He was too busy remembering. 

Jisung noticed.

Hyunjin was torn from his thoughts when he felt a stubby finger poke under his cheeks, close to the mole under his eye. He blinked, startled, then faced a bright-faced Jisung, smiling genuinely. "What do you think, Hyunjinnie? Who has the chubbiest cheeks?"

"Huh? Well..." he looked to Seungmin, who was watching with the same gentle brown eyes, forehead covered with his soft brown hair. He studied his smooth skin and turned to Jisung , who puffed his cheeks out for emphasis. "You definitely look like a squirrel, I'll give you that." Hyunjin giggled.

"Yah!" Jisung exclaimed, Seungmin had joined in Hyunjin's laughing. "Aish, well, at least I win!"

"It's not a competition," Seungmin said, "You just have a lot of baby fat."

Felix plopped down next to them, "Me too, but I like it. It's cute, right Channie-hyung?"

"Yes~!" the leader called from where he was typing at his laptop, Changbin close by.

"See?" Felix grinned. He also made a point to squish Jisung's cheeks, earning protests and small noises of pain from the older.

Hyunjin smiled, but felt the same gentle eyes on him. He glanced at Seungmin, who was, as always, already watching. They shared their beautiful smiles with each other and the rest of the day seemed to blur away.

  

-

 

Seungmin was straight, but that didn't mean he couldn't find men attractive.

...Right?

"I mean, have you seen Hyunjin?" he ranted to Felix one afternoon at their usual meet-up spot in a homely cafe. Felix hummed in agreement, Hyunjin could be a model at JYP if he wasn't already a dancer. Heck, he could be both. "His face must've been sculpted by the gods or something. His skin is flawless, his hair is silky smooth and smells- don't look at me like that, you literally wear all of Chan's hoodies because you said and I quote 'They smell nice' - but anyway Hyunjin's eyes are so deep and dreamy and his jawline is perfect, not to mention his cute little eye mole and his boop-able nose, I just wanna squish his cheeks, oh my god."

Felix gives him this look that Seungmin knew said something but he really didn't want to decipher it.

Jisung sat down with yet another milkshake in his hands, this one was a vanilla one. He had apparently heard Seungmin's mini rant - yes, this was a 'mini' one (pun not intended)- and fed them his input, "Now, now, my September brothers. It seems that our baby Seungminnie is having a gay panic!" a gummy smile appeared.

"No, no, absolutely not, I'm just appreciating beauty." Seungmin protested against the ringleader of the trio.

Jisung gave Seungmin the exact same look Felix did and the supposed 'twins' (as everyone liked to call them) shared an unconvinced glance, eyebrows raised and eyes narrowed as if they were bored.

"Oh, come on, tell me he isn't at least a little bit pretty. Go on!" Seungmin justified himself.

Felix seemed to hum once again in agreement and Jisung shrugged and nodded, "Good point."

Seungmin wasn't sure why he was so relieved. 

-

("What do you think about this?"

"Let's just see how things play out. We need to sort you out first!"

"Sungie..."

"Don't pout at me, I know what I'm doing.")

-

 

"Hyunjin, you've been here long enough to know us all," Jisung begins out of the blue. It's just the two of them out for lunch on a training day, eating salad at a nearby food place. Hyunjin hums, telling him to continue, as he munches on a piece of lettuce. "Who do you find most attractive?"

Hyunjin stops chewing and swallows slowly, "Did I tell you I liked guys?"

"You just did."

Hyunjin might have face-palmed himself in public. Loudly.

"It's fine, though. The hyungs are okay with it too, heck have you seen Chan and Felix?"

Hyunjin speaks with a puzzled tone, "I know they're good friends and all but... Doesn't Felix like Changbin? Or is it at least the other way around?"

"Nope!" Jisung says brightly, eye glittering with mischief. "That mean's Changbin's single."

"Oh." is all Hyunjin says.

"So? You didn't answer my question." Jisung nudges him (not literally) (they're sitting opposite each other).

"I.. may like someone. A little." Hyunjin manage to say, feeling like the words that left his mouth were filthy. 

Jisung looked like he would explode, "Yes?" he leaned close to Hyunjin, probably invading personal space.

"But.. I might like someone a little bit more than them." Jisung gasped in surprise.

"Tell me!!" Suddenly Jisung was an excited puppy.

Hyunjin was obviously uncomfortable.

 

"Changbin."

 

-

 

Wait.

"Changbin?"

So here's the deal.

Seungmin is straight, there's no way he would return Hyunjin's feelings. Hyunjin himself figured out his crush on the gentle-eyed trainee when he caught himself staring at him with a fond smile and heated cheeks. That's when he knew. Since then he's tried to distance himself from Seungmin but could never shake the feeling of eyes burning into his turned back or head occasionally. 

"Why Changbin?"

Why, indeed? Hyunjin doesn't know. He's not lying, he genuinely does feel something for the dark rapper with the drastically different behaviour and aegyo, but it's colder than what he feels for Seungmin. Hyunjin has the idea that Jisung wasn't expecting him to say that and is just making it up. Like this is his way of burying his feelings for Seungmin. Heck, maybe he is.

"Sorry, was you expecting me to say you?" Hyunjin teases, trying to change the topic.

"No, I wasn't, but Hyunjin. Do you really like Changbin?" Jisung said seriously.

"Maybe... Why?" Hyunjin felt like he was being attacked. He's only human. He can help who he-

"I think he likes you too."

"...Oh." is all Hyunjin can say.

-

The set-up wasn't agreed upon but happened anyway. Felix seemed to give Jisung and Hyunjin- or maybe it was Changbin- looks that looked like a mix of worry, hurt and disappointment. Hyunjin didn't really feel right about it either, but he somehow enjoyed himself.

He enjoyed the light feeling on his shoulders, the playful teasing, quiet giggling, shared smiles and glances, soft eyes watching him, making fun of the older's height and getting away with it, pouting when he wants something and easily getting it, spending breaks cuddling, being taught how to wrap and celebrating together when he finally gets it, piggy backs and being openly clingy, having someone to lay close to when he naps. Changbin is actually a very soft and sweet person, and maybe Hyunjin was really falling for him. Fast.

However, Hyunjin didn't like the way Felix deeply sighed so often, how disinterested Chan looked at everything other than work all of a sudden (he just.. looked grey.), when Jeongin became one of the only three people who spoke to Jisung anymore, how much harder it was to focus on everything because his relationship was distracting, that awful feeling of guilt in his chest when he snuggled close to Changbin, the hushed gossip in the group and the obvious tension rising, the sight of Felix's red eyes.

Worst of all, Hyunjin really didn't like the way Seungmin looked at him. It wasn't with warm eyes, a soft smile, a gentle aura like a deer. It was stone cold like Chan was being, it was with hazelnut eyes that were disapproving, disappointed (Hyunjin hated nothing more than disappointing the people he cared about). Eventually, Seungmin wouldn't even look at him and they rarely spoke. Even thought they had been speaking way less when Hyunjin discovered his crush, Seungmin only answered with hums or one-word sentences. And it hurt Hyunjin more than anything, hurt him to the point 

After hours of crying and organising his jumbled thoughts, feeling all alone while Minho-hyung was busy and unable to talk to him for a few weeks, Hyunjin managed to understand. He was in love with the idea of being in love, but not with Changbin. With Seungmin, however...

 

Hyunjin split things off the next day, explaining that it was difficult to work and that their relationship was hurting the people around them (even if it had only been a week). Changbin understood completely and wanted to talk to him about it the very same day. They happily agreed to stick to being friends, as it was better that way and they were behaving like close friends anyway (except the time Changbin played with his lips, but didn't kiss them) (Thank God). With that, they announced it to the group in the studio that morning, and the reactions were way better than Hyunjin was expecting. Felix sighed in relief as his shoulders relaxed, Jeongin looked confused but not angry or anything or the kind, Chan looked less... grey and even smiled a little with tired eyes, Jisung smiled a little too brightly (he must have really been worried about messing up). Seungmin didn't really react at first, but when his eyes met Hyunjin's he nodded; his eyes and smile was warm as they usually were, a silent message of sorts. Everything seemed to return to normal. (Hyunjin knew they tried not to disapprove of the relationship, but the silent hurting was too loud and Hyunjin understood how they felt.)

"Okay, let's practise!"

Hyunjin finally felt safe again.

 

-

Jisung caught Hyunjin and Changbin later that evening as they were leaving. Changbin explained the now former couple never liked each other romantically and that they were just confused. Changbin warned Jisung to never set anyone up like this again, especially when others already liked them, and Jisung knew Changbin's threat to ruin his social life wasn't empty. Hyunjin agreed that it was a bad idea and that making two people with their own crushes date each other to get over them wasn't healthy. Jisung nodded solemnly and the trio walked down the street-lit road before separating, tiny yet tired smiles on their faces.

 

-

  

The bedroom door opens and Jisung is snapped out of his daze. Looking down from his bunkbed, Felix was pouting at him. The freckled dancer toddled over and started climbing up. Jisung was puzzled but this wasn't the first time this happened, "Why, why, why".

Felix said nothing, even when he reached the top and snuggled into his soulmate's side, head on his chest and listening to his steady heartbeat. It calmed him. Jisung on the other side of the bed, decided to humour Felix and rubbed his back soothingly. "What's the matter?" He asked.

"Chan went to the studio even though it's our day off," Felix huffed, "I'm lonely."

"What about Changbin? I'm sure he'll meet up with you if you wanted." Jisung suggested.

Felix glanced up at his birthday twin, "Does that mean he's not into Hyunjin anymore?"

Jisung laughed, bright smile gleaming and gums exposed, "They never liked each other. Just a mistake 'Jisung the matchmaker' made. Besides, Hyunjin's smitten for someone else."

"Minnie?" Felix wondered aloud.

"Yup," was Jisung's confirmation, "I wonder if they'll hit it off. Apparently Seungmin is still straight."

"Not for much longer." Felix smirked evilly. Jisung looked down at him to see his mischievous eyes gazing right back.

"What are you planning?" Jisung asked knowingly.

Felix grinned this time, then squirmed out of Jisung's grip and scrambled out the room. Jisung watched his back fade out of sight and after hiding a certain book, eagerly awaited his best friend's return. When he returned, Felix was holding his phone, music library open. He brought Jisung's MacBook up with him from where it sat on the desk, handing it to Jisung before he climbed up. They must've sat there for hours plotting how this would go; talking about all the possibilities of the situation's outcome, because Chan had to come find them for dinner. They didn't even notice Woojin had arrived at the dorm and hour ago and were all over him before they had to separate for dinner.

-

So here's our plan: Ask Hyunjin to meet me in the studio to work on some extra stuff (I have a whole playlist of... interesting songs prepared for him choose from) and later on I will ask Seungmin to meet me, but not tell him that Hyunjin's with me. We'll be dancing to the new choreography by the time he gets there. Felix will follow him (sneaky, of course. We have codenames too!) and see if he reacts in any way or tries to run off or makes some excuse not to come by. It seems foolproof now thanks to Felix's help, but I also wanted to record our choreography when we've mastered it.

WAIT WAIT WAIT NEW PLAN

I'll ask Seungmin to come and record it! That way he'll focus directly on Hyunjin. I could even ask Felix to record me too! Individually, of course, so Seungmin will finally wake up. Man I am so smart. Seriously.

We could even do both! We can merge the plans together. Holy heck. I should be qualified in matchmaking. Nothing can go wrong from here, I'm sure of it! Well I mean, Felix could end up falling for me because I'm so handsome but with the way things are now, it seems like he only has eyes for a certain hyung. More on that later! Gotta focus on Operation: Seungjin. Agent Squirrel, over and out~!

  

-

 

("Are you sure this will work? He was very sure of himself when I asked if he was still straight..."

"Trust me, Lix! You don't see the way he looks at Hyunjin, it's like he's already in love but he doesn't even realise. It's like you and-"

"Shush! This is our focus now. We can talk about that later."

"Okay, he's on his way, get out of here!")

A week has passed since the Changbin 'incident' as Hyunjin was now calling his mistake, and everything was normal. And yes, Jeongin and Jisung having a screaming battle and Felix dancing to girl group songs with Chan and Changbin white Seungmin laughed at their 'stupidity' and Hyunjin at his side giggling his lungs away was what they considered as 'normal'.

Hyunjin doesn't question when Jisung asks him to come by the studio during the late afternoon to help him with something. In fact, he was actually quite excited; Jisung said it was a fun side project to work on that was exploring themes of dance they weren't going to be covering any time soon with 3RACHA. The tone of his voice was suggestive and Hyunjin practically squealed at the opportunity. He had taken part in a workshop in the past with Minho that involved American dance and... 'other' things, it was one of Hyunjin's best memories from the dance academy. 

Even when they were sweating and on the floor, they still looked "hella good" (Jisung's words). Better, even. Hyunjin had been told his hair looked better when it was a little drenched. Hyunjin was warm enough to consider taking his shirt off (he would never) (he didn't), but Jisung suggested changing into other clothes he had brought that were in his bag. Hyunjin's shirt was soaked in sweat, so he leapt at the offer. He loved to dance but he hated getting tired from it, some days he wished he could dance forever. Jisung passed him a black button-up (it was probably one of Chan's) (Jisung insisted it was too small for the leader so he gave it to Jisung) (Hyunjin believed him) that was a little big for him, exposing some skin (that was the whole point apparently, Jisung told him as he unbuttoned the top buttons for him) but overall making him look hot.

Jisung wore an oversized white shirt (again, it looked like one of Chan's) and both boys were already wearing black jeans. When they were satisfied, Jisung sent a quick text to someone and explained that Seungmin and Felix would be coming over to record them dancing. Hyunjin didn't mind, in fact he wanted to perform what they had just choreographed in front of an audience, especially if it was Seungmin. Hyunjin wanted to impress him.

-

It was just like Jisung had predicted, Felix thought when he saw Seungmin nearing the door. Felix couldn't tell whether or not he was just walking really slowly or hesitating to go in. He hoped he didn't think that Jisung was pulling a prank on him - Jisung loved practical jokes, he was head-to-head with Felix in a prank war for months until Chan had enough and made them truce. Now, they just work as partners in crime. Exhibit A: Seungmin and Hyunjin.

Felix decided he had to appear at some point, so he called out to Seungmin, startling the younger trainee. "Seungmin-ah! You got called here too?"

"Uh... yeah? What is he up to?" Seungmin was cautious. The last time he was in a situation like this he ended up having to wash slime off his back in the company bathrooms, Chan yelled at the birthday twins and they were punished by cleaning out the dorms for a week. Jisung was annoyed for that whole week, but that doesn't mean Seungmin didn't suffer in some way.

"He said he and someone else were working on a side choreography project and they wanted someone to film them, guess he called you to help too huh?" Felix said casually, passing him to open the door. Seungmin was somewhat convinced, but suspicious about the "someone else".

Felix opened the door and yelled a "Helloooo!" in greeting just as Jisung would any other morning. The music was loud and the two were finalising the choreography, but stopped when the other pair joined them. Seungmin closed the door behind him after he followed Felix inside, and was frozen in that area when he saw the dancers. Jisung, despite not usually looking too pretty (in Seungmin's opinion) Hyunjin seemed to glow with beauty under the studio lights, dark skin glittering with recently-wiped away sweat to show he had been dancing minutes earlier. His eyes burned with passion and with breathing heavy, he was fierce, but seemed to melt when he greeted Seungmin. His duality was perplexing, but admirable. 

Seungmin liked to admire beautiful things: flowers, music, the Han river in Spring, performers, the words in the books he'd read, and now he was admiring Hyunjin. But that was all, he'd simply watch. He found him beautiful, everyone did, so he thought nothing of it when he felt his breath hitch when Hyunjin's eyes met his. Hyunjin smiled and told him to make sure he would catch him on camera, Seungmin said of course he would (he's a good photographer) and Hyunjin seemed to gain confidence as he said to Seungmin:

"Good, wouldn't want you getting distracted." and he winked. Winked.

Seungmin denied whatever the heat on his face was and turned to sit near Felix, Hyunjin's white phone in hand, the case lined with diamonds. It seemed to suit Hyunjin, Seungmin thought.

"Jinnie, how could anyone take their eyes off you while you look like that? Same for you Jisungie, you look amazing, darling." Felix teased, wiggling his eyebrows and tossing in an English word Seungmin didn't know. He changed the topic by asking Felix to translate until Jisung said they were ready.

Camera on Hyunjin, Seungmin pressed record a second before the studio was filled with a suggestive, catchy beat. The dancers' bodies moved gracefully like water, muscles gliding skilfully. Hyunjin's movements were sharp and aggressive yet somehow weightless and...

Inviting.

Seungmin knew he was looking at the camera, but by doing so he was looking at Seungmin. The looks he gave him were daring, powerful, and his smirk at some points of the dance were enough to make Seungmin's heart race. He was intimidating. He had a sort of control over Seungmin the boy himself couldn't understand. It didn't make him feel bad about himself, rather it made him feel less than. As if one look of those green contacts in his eyes would turn him to stone- That was Hyunjin's power. The power that he only had while dancing, the power that vanished when he smiled and giggled those sweet little giggles, the power he had earned through exhaustion and hard work. Seungmin didn't want that power, rather he wanted a taste of it from someone else. He didn't want to steal it, he wanted to learn.

This was just appreciating beauty, right? The blush on his cheeks and racing heart meant nothing, right? The urge to get closer to Hyunjin wasn't real, right? It was just the dance. The choreography was toxic.

It was a good look for Hyunjin, though.

-

Hyunjin felt like a god when he danced. It was the only thing that hadn't been taken from him that was originally his - they could take his books and steal his school equipment, but they couldn't take away the talent he earned through years of practise, they couldn't extinguish the fire in his eyes when he moved his hips to the rhythm and licked his finger when his hand ran down his face - the movement matched the lyrics perfectly - and they couldn't break his ankles when he strutted like that. They couldn't break the bond he formed with Jisung, strong in the way their coloured-contact lensed eyes met, both burning brightly as they circled each other closely, pretending to check each other out as a joke but it only made Hyunjin feel more energised, his body fuelled with bright red, scorching power over everyone he was wronged by, it was more than enough to get him through the twisting of his body as he danced each move, hoping to please the eyes of his audience, kneeling next to Jisung for the next move; now on his left rather than where he had begun on his right. He stared at Seungmin dead in the eye, almost glaring while his arms lifted and fingers moved, delicate and precise even if his head was a mess. He felt fucking ethereal.

He was.

And Seungmin was staring right back, entranced, watching him with wide eyes and parted lips, seemingly not breathing in his shock. He was watching with the same soft brown doe-eyes, yet in a different way. Hyunjin was the vicious predator, Seungmin was the dainty prey.

And he had just caught Seungmin.

-

Seungmin's hands were shaking when he gave Hyunjin's phone back.

He wanted to run out of there in case Hyunjin suddenly turned into a wolf and bit his arm off. It was absurd of course, but that was the vibe Hyunjin had been radiating only moments before. Despite the fire in his eyes dimming to match the lights in the room and his dimples appearing on his face when his brilliant smile returned, he was still...

Powerful. Beautiful. Stunning. Mesmerising. He still glowed.

But he wasn't dancing anymore.

Why is he still... Seungmin's thoughts wandered, lost in a forest that looked the same in every direction.

"That was... intense. Damn." Felix told Jisung when he had turned the music.

"Thanks! The contacts you gave us earlier really helped~" Jisung told him cheerfully as if he wasn't grinding on the floor thirty seconds ago. He began to take them out expertly - he wore glasses, he knew how they worked - while making light conversation. Meanwhile, Hyunjin was struggling with his own green contact lenses. He knew Seungmin wore contacts, so...

"Seungminnie, can you help me with these please?" he politely asked, nicknames and all. Seungmin was an internal mess, his hands were shaking but how could he say no?

"Sure," came the curt answer, moving his hands to Hyunjin's eyes, "Sorry if I poke you..."

Hyunjin giggled, "It's okay" was his gentle reply, still breathing heavily from dancing.

It took a while, but the contacts were free from Hyunjin's eyes. His brown orbs were back, warm and staring into Seungmin's as he thanked the latter. Hyunjin's beauty didn't disappear with the contacts, rather it was amplified with his smile.

"Was I good?" Hyunjin ventured.

Good? You were perfect. You are perfect. You were absolutely stunning.

"I- I'm speechless." 

Hyunjin giggled again, but didn't stop thinking about it.

-

Seungmin tried to forget it, but that night came to haunt him when his mind was blank. 

Okay, yes, Hyunjin was beautiful, but this was getting ridiculous. 

He would just ignore it for now.

 

-

 

Hyunjin wasn't sure why he was so nervous to go on stage, he was merely a back-up dancer. When he voiced these thoughts to Changbin and Felix (who seemed to sorta be fixing things) they agreed, but said that they were more excited. Jisung joined them, holding his shaking hands and squeezing them. Jisung told Hyunjin that being nervous was good because it meant you want to do well, therefore declaring he was terrified, but seemed to laugh about it. Hyunjin felt a bit better, but Jisung knew what he needed.

"Hey, new kid! Come here for a second." Jisung called to Seungmin.

"Please stop calling me that, Hyunjin joined after me, he should be the rookie."

"The only rookies here are 3RACHA, Min-ah, deal with it." Changbin told him pridefully.

Seungmin continued to protest, "You always make me go for store runs and vending machine runs because I'm the 'new kid'. I joined the company way before Hyunjin did! I don't see why-"

The usual bickering seemed to bring Hyunjin into a sense of normalcy. Hyunjin liked normal, he didn't like change, Jisung learned, anodised this knowledge to his advantage. Over the many weeks they spent working together, he learned how the dancers worked and how to avoid conflict with them. He was just good at that. Jisung's hands stopped shaking at some point during their lively chatter and he felt surrounded by all his favourite things. Every seemed to be calmer too. After a few words of encouragement from Chan and their manager, everyone was set to go.

In summary, Hyunjin believes they killed it. 3RACHA's vocals were stable, rap on fire, choreography perfect, charisma overflowing. When the dancers came out to do their bit with the star trio, they danced as vigorously and as powerfully as they had been taught to, maybe even better now that the adrenaline kicked in, and the audience loved it. Hyunjin felt as thought 3RACHA looked complete with them, more powerful, stronger, untouchable even. As they ran off-stage (timed perfectly thanks to rehearsals), 3RACHA took there last position, looking like badasses, Hyunjin admired Chan. He looked fierce, but was a huge softie. He had been waiting so long for this moment, and he had held in his emotions until after the performance - Hyunjin could never do that, he was much too emotional - then proceeded to bring his members into a hug and tried not to cry happily as they were congratulated by each other and some staff members. After that, Jisung went to watch the play-back with Changbin and Chan went to squeeze the life out of Felix. Hyunjin sat with Seungmin and Jeongin, who had just changed back into his normal clothes, and watched as Felix cried out happily as his childhood friend spun him around, making Felix look tiny. Hyunjin smiled fondly and leaned back on the seat, content in that moment. The other two dancers were sat either side of him and despite being quiet, Hyunjin knew they were happy too.

"You danced really well, Hyunjinnie." Seungmin said, turning to watch him with those gorgeous brown eyes.

Hyunjin smiled a small smile, but he was ecstatic. He was finally being complimented for his dancing and not his 'handsome' face people only seemed to like about him. "Thank you Minnie, both of you did great too. I don't know how you managed to dance so well even if we were all so nervous. 3RACHA were amazing too and Felix was perfect from what I could see." Both boys beamed at him and the pair of Aussies did too, seeming to have heard him.

"Shall we go out to celebrate? Woojin-hyung's treating us-"

"YAY!"

"What?!"

"Really?!!"

"Hell yes!"

"WHOOO-"

"JISUNG, SHUT UP!"

"That's J.One to you, CB97."

-

Woojin was a great hyung. They met him at the company a few hours later, Chan told them to dress up nice since it was a fancy restaurant (it was evening by the time they met too) so Hyunjin wore a nice black dress-shirt with a patterned undershirt underneath both unbuttoned to reveal his collarbone as if he were challenging someone, a ruby necklace and a choker, hair styled handsomely, silver cross earrings and hoops in his his and black ripped jeans with a decent pair of shoes. He felt overdressed until he saw everyone else, then he seemed to fell like he fit right in.

Chan and Changbin mostly wore black, however Chan wore a white shirt (also unbuttoned the same as Hyunjin's) that Hyunjin recognised as the one Jisung let him borrow all those nights ago in the dance studio as well as a silver chain Felix got him yesterday to celebrate their debut, silver hair curled and unstyled. Changbin was decked silver rings and his hair was swept to the side, revealing his forehead. Jisung was in a turtleneck and seemed to match with Felix (as always) with a long silver necklace and a nice jacket. Felix also wore a necklace with a black turtleneck, but no jacket. Jeongin had his black t-shirt in a French tuck and dark blue jeans were without a belt but he still looked smart, especially for his age.

Seungmin on the other hand, damn. Hyunjin had never seen him wearing anything other than his 'dandy' style so this was a completely new experience for him. He wore a black see-through undershirt with a long-sleeved shirt that was only supported by his shoulders with black jeans and black trainers, complete with a French tuck and small belt, silver studs in his ears (since when did he pierce them?) and finally, a silver necklace that looked like one of Jisung or Chan's. It wasn't anything as extravagant as his own, daring like Chan's, neat and proper like the twins or simple like Jeongin or Changbin's. it was simply his own, and it seemed perfect for him. Hyunjin decided Seungmin looked the best, even when Woojin showed up looking like a snack in his long white t-shirt, ripped grey jeans and leather jacket.

"Hyung, is that my jacket?" Chan greeted Woojin, surprising Hyunjin that Woojin was older.

"I haven't had a chance to returned it, Chan-ah," Woojin seemed to tease before bringing his same-aged friend into a warm bear-hug, "Congratulations!"

"Thank you." Chan escaped before everyone else piled on Woojin, almost toppling their 'favourite' (Chan didn't seem too hurt) hyung over.

Chan glanced to Hyunjin, who had never met this stranger before, even through all the time he had already spent at the company. Almost a month (28 days, actually) and not a single mention of this teddybear hyung. Chan took it upon himself to explain, "This is Kim Woojin, he's a trainee at the company and a close friend of mine as well as the favourite hyung," Chan seemed to put emphasis on the fact he wasn't the favourite hyung, but seemed to be joking as he smiled, "He's the best. We can talk to him about anything and he'll know what to do- oh! and he's a great cuddler. You'll love him."

Hyunjin watched Woojin interact with everyone with a newfound interest - he had a broad build, strong arms wrapped around Felix, Jeongin and Seungmin while he smiled with Changbin as they talked. He was tall, but not abnormally so, more like the perfect height. His face was symmetrical in a weird sort of way Hyunjin appreciated and his jawline was as sharp as Changbin's, but his eyes were warm and his voice gentle, soothing like a lullaby. It was a unique voice. Woojin's skin was a little darker than Jisung's, clear and rid of facial fair, he looked young. He skillfully multitasked the kids in his hands as Felix wrapped his legs around him like the koala he was and Seungmin was playing with his styled hair, Jeongin poking at his chest all while hugging him, but still kept a very focused conversation with Changbin. He was strong, stable, brother-like or even dad-like, but in a different way Chan was. He sort of reminded Hyunjin of-

"A rock!" Hyunjin exclaimed. Chan burst out laughing, almost falling over and crying by the time he calmed down.

-

Hyunjin found himself speaking comfortably with Woojin. He was very easy to talk to and open up to, like he wouldn't judge you no matter what you said. Hyunjin found that, much like himself, Woojin valued honesty. They walked side-by-side down the pavement, learning about the other. Hyunjin learned that Woojin was a vocal specialist that had been at many companies before, struggling with his training before coming to JYP and finding a home in the people he met, Chan and Jisung being the first followed by Changbin and Jeongin, and so on. Woojin learned Hyunjin was affectionate, loved to dance, had overcome a lot of difficulties like he himself had, and they found a similarity with struggling with identity. It wasn't a sad talk, more reflective, and their conversation topics changed easily, the flow never breaking. Other boys were able to have an input and the atmosphere was comfortable, Woojin commenting that he liked Hyunjin's laugh and declaring to make him laugh lots, earning an embarrassed giggle from the boy.

The eight boys continued their walk to the restaurant, turning heads and earning giggles from many young ladies out with their friends and mesmerised stares, none of them seemed to notice though. They were all enjoying the night in the city and each other's company.

-

At some point, though, Seungmin caught Chan holding Felix's hand, making the younger's hand look impossibly small. 

Seungmin's hand suddenly felt very empty.

-

Hyunjin was listening to Woojin tell a story about a ghost on the 3rd floor at the company when he felt Seungmin's hand brush his. It was cold, but it sent heat to Hyunjin's face, and he wasn't sure if he should move his hand away, or put it in his pocket, or bring their hands closer-

Hyunjin felt a shy finger latch on to his pinky; he curled it around the finger immediately hit of instinct but also out of reflex. He wanted to curl up and scream because he felt so nervous and embarrassed but he simply sucked it up and continued nodding along to Woojin's story. He heard Jisung laugh suddenly behind him, and felt Seungmin try to pull his finger away quickly but Hyunjin wasn't planning on letting go anytime soon so he firmly kept it there.

Then, suddenly, he felt Seungmin moved to take his whole hand in his own. 

And he complied, holding tightly but not too tight, neither attempting to make eye contact with the other boy, both faces bright red.

Young love really is something, Jisung thought as he watched, saying nothing to Changbin or Jeongin who were walking with him. He glanced elsewhere.

-

Hyunjin didn't let go of Seungmin's hand until they were inside the restaurant. His hand was warm now, Seungmin's too, and they waited patiently as the employee and Woojin talked, Woojin informing him of the reservation he made. In that time, Hyunjin wasn't sure if he should say something to Hyunjin. Over the years, Hyunjin went from a confident gay to an... inactive gay. He was shy, all the hate and torment from his peers beaten him down into a quiet, reserved boy who preferred to just get lost in his own daydreams. He hadn't ever had a relationship, nothing proper like this, not since he was 13. And straight. Even then, the girl barely spoke to him, only using him for his status and handsome face, making a scene only when they were in public to make others jealous.

Hyunjin had been disgusted.

Now, this was different. It was new, a change. It was exciting, thrilling, secret, special to them. There was a line they crossed that meant  'yeah that could've been a friend thing but also could've had romantic intentions'. It gave Hyunjin a sense of hope, in short. He hoped it was a romantic thing. 

Neither boy had said anything in the end, and the group of eight were already being seated in two four-seater booths next to each other. Jisung sat next to Hyunjin, Woojin sat next to Seungmin, Seungmin sat opposite Hyunjin and Woojin opposite Jisung. In the other booth, Chan sat next to Felix, still holding his hand, Changbin sat next to Jeongin, invested in a conversation about a new game, Jeongin opposite Chan and Felix opposite Changbin. Hyunjin was thankful he wasn't sitting near Changbin but felt a bit bad for Felix. But then again, it could always be worse.

However, Hyunjin was more focused on his long legs touching Seungmin's under the table. They made eye contact, then both smiled a small, shy smiled and they tapped each other's shoes, their silent, hidden interaction only interrupted when a waiter came to take their orders for drinks, then for food. Obviously, Chan ordered the most, earning a playful glare from Woojin, who would be broke by the end of the evening. When they were done, most ordering a salad and main dish (save for Chan and Jisung who ordered a tad bit more) Woojin told them that he wasn't paying for dessert. Some whined, some understood, but Chan flat out asked if they should go out for ice cream after. Jeongin suggested crepes, to which everyone agreed. Hyunjin continued to listen, smiling when Chan's face contorted in horror as he realised he would be paying for dessert later because "You suggested it, hyung!" ("Jisung, you little-" "Not in front of the children!" "Hyung, I'm not a baby" "How did you know he was talking about you?" "..." "Ha!"). Hyunjin continued to giggle at his friends' antics.

Seungmin was quiet, but Hyunjin felt his beautiful brown eyes on him from time to time. He felt content.

-

Seungmin listened and participated in most conversation, his drink untouched. He did, however, focus on Hyunjin when he could, his eyes lingering on his dimples that only appeared when he smiled, watched as his eyes crinkled at the edges when he laughed or giggled. Hyunjin was a beauty, true, but he did all these little things that Seungmin loved.

Seungmin remembers when Jisung had told him the difference between falling in love and a crush, but he still wasn't certain. For now, he would push away that doubt for the night and enjoy himself after the debut of 3RACHA. It was well-deserved, after all!

-

Jisung catches Seungmin's eye before turned and whispering in Hyunjin's ear, "Seungmin hasn't even touched his drink yet because he can't stop looking at you."

Hyunjin giggles shyly and his cheeks tint a little, looking at everyone's half-empty glasses then at Seungmin's completely full one. He doesn't notice that Seungmin was jealous, because he never let it show, nor did he look at Seungmin, but gave his foot a little tap under the table.

Jisung whispered in his ear again, breath warm despite the cold drinks, "You do look really good tonight," Hyunjin smiles to himself, "I think he may even ask you out. He looks like he wants to kiss you and cling to you like a guardian angel." Hyunjin's smile disappears, Seungmin notices. He was getting worried that Jisung was saying... things that made the dancer uncomfortable.

Hyunjin turns to Jisung this time, his voice small and somewhat sad, "I don't think he'll do either, Sungie. I don't think he likes me like that."

Jisung leaned back and narrowed his eyes in confusion at the older. Then he goes back to whisper, "That's ridiculous Hyunjinnie. You don't know that for sure."

"And you do?"

"I know a lot of things, including that you like him. If you think he won't do anything, then just make the first move-"

"I don't know if I can..."

Jisung sighs. Hyunjin gives him a small, sympathetic smile, "We'll see how things turn out, I don't want to ruin anything. Besides Sungie, you're my guardian angel!" He whispered, referring to what Jisung had said mere moments ago, but also to all the times Jisung had helped him. He would forever be thankful. Jisung's gummy smile appeared, making Hyunjin feel happier instantly. Jisung pouted exaggeratedly and teasingly moved closer (a common occurrence with Jisung), Hyunjin cried out in protest, not too loud because this was a restaurant, and turned Jisung's head away, laughing with glee. He felt two taps from Seungmin and looked him straight in the eye, seeing his confused face. His smile never left his face and he used both his feet to wrap around one of Seungmin's ankles, giving it a reassuring squeeze and relaxed their legs, but still kept close to his ankles. Seungmin glanced at Jisung; who gestured with his eyes at Hyunjin, sending a silent message of 'Talk to him'. The self-claimed dandy boy smiled at Hyunjin, then started a conversation that was originally small talk (Jisung wanted to slap Seungmin because he was so awkward) but eventually blossomed into a comfortable talk about all their favourite foods, the pair playing close attention to remember them all, and Seungmin finally started sipping his drink.

-

In other words, the dinner went wonderfully for everyone. Woojin paid for them all and let Chan lead them to the dessert place. Hyunjin and Seungmin continued to talk, but didn't hold hands this time. Felix and Chan did. Jisung linked his arm with Changbin's as they talked with Jeongin and Woojin. Hyunjin and Seungmin seemed to be in their own world, almost. It was peaceful and surprising how short the walk was. The dessert parlour was closing in an hour, so they were the only ones there. Some boys did get crepes, Felix, Jeongin and Jisung taking forever to decide. Changbin and Woojin tried a new cake that turned out to be amazing, so they ended up sharing most of it. Chan decided on a cone of strawberry ice cream, Felix nipping a few bites (a sin, honestly, Hyunjin doesn't understand how people can bite ice cream. Minho does it too. He saw Jisung doing the same once and he cringed so much.). Seungmin and Hyunjin settled on a small cup of a few scoops of different ice cream, making it their mission to find the best one.

"The mint's pretty good, but I still don't think it outranks vanilla." Seungmin said from opposite him.

"Lemme try?" Hyunjin asks, but it sounds more like a command. Seungmin fed him a bit, waiting as Hyunjin decided. The older hummed and eventually nodded, "Vanilla's better."

"Strawberry outsold, sorry. Can't deny the best." Chan tells them a few seats away on another table for two where he sits with Felix, the latter playing with Chan's fingers on the the hand that isn't holding the nearly-devoured cone.

"Hyung, you literally said the green tea flavour was better than the caramel chocolate chip, your opinion isn't valid anymore." Seungmin told him savagely, Hyunjin laughing and Felix almost choking on his crepe.

"Just because I appreciate the things you don't..." Chan grumbles, but his smile is fond and his eyes sparkling.

Hyunjin and Seungmin kept feeding each other ice cream and discussing what they liked, both agreeing than the cookies and cream one was the best our of the eight flavours the picked between them. They sung quietly to the music that played on the speakers in the shop, the others joining in. Hyunjin and Seungmin even attempted rapping, surprising their friends (mostly Chan) but laughing about it after. It was still early 2016, songs like 'Cheer up', 'Fire' and 'The 7th Sense' had been released, many of which Hyunjin knew the dances to. Felix danced to 'Cheer up' with him, making the boys laugh. It really didn't fit their outfits either, but they didn't care. Everyone was having such a good time.

-

The boys ended up leaving half an hour before the dessert shop was supposed to close, leaving time for the employees to clean up. Hyunjin left them a sneaky tip on his way out that he was thanked for and the eight boys were to part ways. Woojin lived in the same direction as Changbin, so they left first to catch a bus. Felix, Chan, Jisung and Jeongin all lived in the same dorm so they all left together, leaving Hyunjin and Seungmin to walk together. Their homes weren't far from where they were currently, Seungmin's being a little further away from Hyunjin's. Hyunjin lived alone now, he would be all alone when Seungmin would eventually go. He didn't want Seungmin to leave yet, they were having a great night, so Hyunjin decided to enjoy the last of it. 

The boys each bid their goodbyes, Woojin giving Chan's leather jacket back (he insisted that he wasn't cold even though he was only in a t-shirt) and giving his dongsaengs warm hugs (he wasn't cold at all) before leaving. Hyunjin felt like he had known Woojin longer than just a few hours and trusted him a great deal already - usually a flaw of his, but with these people, he felt safe. Protected. Like family.

Eventually, he and Seungmin were on their way home. It was quiet, but not the bad quiet. The nice kind of quiet where they could just enjoy the world around them.

It was Hyunjin who broke the silence, "I love the city at night." he commented, glancing around at market stalls, the pretty lights in shop windows and on signs, cars moving slowly as if they too, were tired after a long day.

Seungmin hummed and agreement, "It's beautiful. I love walking through Seoul."

"I like walking in general." Hyunjin added on, "It's easy to get lost in your own world and clear your head when things get too much." A cold wind blew. "The cold is nice, too. I love Autumn."

"Me too, it's my favourite season. Everything is prettier in those times."

"And here I thought you liked it because your birthday's in Autumn." Hyunjin smirked.

"That, too." They shared a chuckle, "You remembered?"

"Of course I did." Hyunjin turned to him, smiling with warm eyes. All Seungmin can feel for him in that moment is pure, innocent, his face flushing when those dark, glistening eyes stared into his own. He was thankful for the cold. In the end, Seungmin returned the smile and they continued walking slowly, trying to make the journey longer. Seungmin pulled his phone out at some point and shuffled his DAY6 playlist, 'I Wait' being the first song that played. He didn't let it play too loud but the volume was high enough for them to be able to clearly hear every word. Seungmin tucked it into his back pocket and let the sounds of the instruments flow with the wind.

"This is the perfect song for times like this" Hyunjin grinned, Seungmin humming in agreement.

They talked more as the music kept playing, Hyunjin listening as Seungmin sung an entire DAY6 song. Even when Hyunjin watched him, he didn't shy away from singing softly. Seungmin's voice was beautiful: calming like Woojin's and melodical like Chan's. Maybe he was perfect.

"You are such a MyDay." Hyunjin teased as the song finished.

"And you're such an ahgase." Seungmin countered playfully.

Hyunjin giggled that perfect giggle and Seungmin found himself smiling once again.

"What made you became a fan?" Hyunjin asked.

Seungmin hummed, "Hmm..." and looked thoughtful as he reflected, "There was a time in my life where I was really struggling and music really helped me. It inspired me to audition at JYP and I got in, DAY6 was on of the artists that influenced me most. Plus I really like their music, they literally have no bad songs."

Hyunjin could relate with music helping him in dark times - dancing was an outlet for all his pent-up emotions. Yet he simply nodded and agreed with the final statement.

Seungmin caught on when Hyunjin looked a little saddened and decided lighten the mood.

"So uh.. when I was 13 a helicopter crashed into my apartment while I was brushing my teeth."

"WHAT?" the older exclaimed.

"I didn't get hurt or anything, I just went to school after. It was a really crazy Tuesday." To his joy, Hyunjin laughed, astonished at Seungmin's ability to ignore the world so easily like that, It was a quality Hyunjin aspired to possess and desperately tried to work on growing up, but failed. Hyunjin decided that between his oddness and his diligence, he admired Seungmin.

The two of them shared stories and told jokes for the rest of the night, reaching Hyunjin's house all too soon. It was small and cosy, yet lonely. Sometimes Hyunjin would be afraid or hesitant about going in, but today he didn't mind it. He liked being alone to reflect on the long day and tuck himself into bed.

"You live alone?" Seungmin asks as they stop walking. He turns his music off.

"Mhm," Hyunjin confirms, "Are you sure you'll be okay alone?"

Seungmin is somewhat glad that the older is concerned for his wellbeing. "I'll be fine, Jinnie." he smiles.

Hyunjin decides he likes the nickname. "Thank you for walking me home, Minnie." the nickname makes Seungmin's smile bigger and he can't help but feel so in love. Hyunjin remembers what Jisung whispered to him at dinner earlier that night, and decided that this was right.

"And thank you for tonight, I really enjoyed it." Before Seungmin could even register it, Hyunjin had moved closer, standing on his tip-toes slightly, and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead.

Seungmin is starstruck as Hyunjin grins at him, cheeks as red as his lips, eyes twinkling. He turns, "Goodnight, Minnie."

Seungmin is at lost for words, he has so much to say in that moment, but the only thing that he can get out of his mouth is: "Goodnight, Jinnie."

Hyunjin looked over his shoulder, smiling one more time before unlocking his door with slightly shaking hands.

-

As soon as the door closes, he collapses against it, sliding down to the floor.

ohmygodohmygodohmygod-

He. had kissed. Seungmin.

On the forehead of course, he was too shy for on the lips and he didn't even know if Seungmin liked him back but-

He. had just kissed. Kim Seungmin.

Holy crap.

...Should he tell someone?

Minho? Jisung? Felix? Woojin? (they had exchanged numbers that night.)

Who??? Should he tell??

Hyunjin's head was reeling with so many thoughts he was positive his head would explode. He caught his breath and started by taking his shoes off, before moving to put the kettle on. While the water boiled, Hyunjin stripped himself of his fancy clothing and dressed himself in the comfortable clothes he loved. Honestly, Hyunjin didn't even wear sweatpants some days despite them being one of his favourite clothing items. Chan was similar, wearing shorts and t-shirts even when it was cold outside. Today was one of those days - or, nights - for Hyunjin. He dressed himself in a simple pyjama shirt and boxers, finishing with fluffy socks and quickly washing his hair, not bothering for a full shower so he settled with leaning over the shower to get the product out of it. A hair towel rested around his shoulders as he stirred his tea, grabbing his phone and lighting a few candles in the living room. 

Minho was probably busy at the moment. He only texted his hyung (most recently this morning when they performed but the reply was sent an hour later) and unfortunately they rarely called anymore but Minho sent him texts of encouragement and love when he could, complete with hearts and kisses. Jisung and Felix may make a big deal about it - no doubt they told each other most things, especially when it came to gossip. Hyunjin considered Chan, but guessed that he was either asleep for once or cuddling with Felix (he wouldn't be surprised). Jeongin, Hyunjin felt, wasn't exactly included in the situation, much like Changbin. Oh, Changbin was definitely out of the question. (Despite their agreement, things were awkward. There was... something else, but that's not important).

He settled for Woojin.

Hyunjin puts the phone on speaker, then places it on the table, sipping his tea as he waited. The dials echoed the plain room.

"Hyunjin-ah? Calling so soon?" Woojin teased as he answered.

"I kissed Seungmin," Hyunjin blurted, "On the forehead."

There was a tense silence and Hyunjin felt like screaming out of embarrassment.

"Is that a... good thing?" Woojin asked, tone uncertain.

"I... think so? I just wanted to tell someone and I wasn't sure who in case it got passed around and I got teased or made fun of- oh god you won't tell anyone right?" Hyunjin immediately remembered a situation he was in before at one the his previous schools. 

"Of course not. You can talk to me, Hyunjinnie. I'll listen." Woojin assured him softly. Hyunjin sighed in relief; he was safe. Of course he was safe. Woojin was his friend now.

"Okay, I just... I need to get it out of my system. I mean, I do like Seungmin... But what if he doesn't like me back? What if he feels disgusted now? I mean I know most of the group is LGBT but what if I just ruined everything? What if-"

"Okay, stop, stop, stop. You're overthinking this. When you kissed him, how did he react?"

"Well... He looks surprised. He was sorta just... frozen?"

"Did he run off?"

"No."

"Did he shout at you or show any distaste?"

"No."

"Did he he look happy?"

"No..."

"But did he look 'disgusted'?"

"...No."

"Did he say anything?"

"After I kissed him I said goodnight, and he said it back."

"I think that's pretty good. You probably made him speechless because he was so surprised. He could be nervous, or happy, or confused with his own feelings. You should talk to him tomorrow and talk things out." Woojin sounded so good to believe, easier than listening to Hyunjin's own anxieties.

"I'll take that. Thank you, hyung. Did you get home safe?" Hyunjin asked.

Woojin voiced his gratitude for the younger's concern, and they spoke for a few minutes. Woojin had gotten back safe, Changbin had texted him as soon as he got home. Hyunjin thanked him once again for dinner and eventually it was time for them to go to bed.

"Thank you again, hyung. I feel better after talking to someone."

"That's alright Hyunjin-ah, just make sure you talk to him tomorrow okay?"

Hyunjin chuckled nervously, "No promises." 

-

Seungmin barely sleeps that night, too busy trying to figure out his feelings. He's aware of his feelings for Hyunjin - he likes him, more than a friend. He knows that much, at least.

But does he love him?

To be in love from someone's different from a crush. A crush is immediate and feels rushed. A crush is only caring about looks or one particular thing about that person, but you don't love them.

Seungmin understands this.

To be in love is different. When you love someone, you fall in love. It's progressive and involuntary, yet so fond and wishful. When you fall in love with someone, you hurt. When you see them with someone else, your heart aches, you feel jealous, or maybe you just feel sad. Love is pain. But it is also happiness; love is going to bad places just to see them, love is making each other laugh and smile so easily, love is being their favourite person without even knowing it. Love was eternal, emotional, pure. When you love someone, you're hyperaware of them. Like you're their protector and friend, but you'd give your life so they would live another day. You notice the little things they do: habits, speech, routine. And you fall in love with them too. Loving someone is loving all of them, not just their flaws. It is built on sneaky glances and trust, from ash and from dirt - love is found in the strangest places but in the most beautiful and tragic ways. 

Seungmin, upon first seeing him, though Hyunjin was good-looking, but didn't find him attractive until he got to knew him a bit more. He was simply a new person in his life, a co-worker, then a friend. Over time, Seungmin began to notice small tings Hyunjin did - the way he sat when he was tired and when he wasn't, the look in his eyes when he was thinking or learning a dance move, the passion that seeped from him when he danced and the way his body moved. The sound of his laugh and his adorable little giggles, the way his cheeks tinted, when he looked annoyed, frustrated, happy, tired. Seungmin had an instinct to protect but he wanted Hyunjin to do the same for him. He wanted it to be two-sided, for his feelings to be reciprocated. His voice. His smile. His consideration, his wisdom, the distant look in his eyes when he was left alone. He wanted to know Hyunjin, to understand him and help him through his hardships. He wish they had been closer earlier.

Seungmin came to the conclusion that he was in love with Hwang Hyunjin.

 

-

 

Hyunjin made an effort to at least stop crying and get out of bed. He didn't get nightmares as often anymore but when he did he either woke up with a sore throat and wet cheeks or in a cold sweat or in a panic attack. Luckily, today he woke up with tears and too many bad memories. He hated the panic attacks. Minho had him stay in his bed with him for 4 days after the first one and he wasn't allowed to sleep by himself until Minho wasn't being a stressed mom.

He missed Minho. He missed his parents. He missed living with Minho for that short amount of time.

He felt homesick, but he had found a home within the people he had met at the company and for his love of dancing. With a newfound motivation, Hyunjin took a quick shower and set off for the dance studio.

-

Seungmin was an early bird, he loved the mornings. He remembers Hyunjin telling him that it took him forever to get out of bed and he was a very heavy sleeper, so when he saw him at the dance studio before Seungmin himself, he knew something was up. Hyunjin was sitting against the couch but not on it, head leaned back and bucket hat discarded on one of the seats. He appeared to not be awake, soft ambient music filled the room at a quiet volume. Seungmin set his bag down in the usual place in the corner and approached Hyunjin with silent footsteps, only making a few sounds (his clothes' fault) when he sat down in front of Hyunjin, inches away from the tip of his feet (his legs were outstretched).

Hyunjin was, in fact, awake; he slowly lifted his head back up to face the new person, seemingly not surprised to see morning-fresh, sleep-puffed doe-eyes watching him curiously. Seungmin's face mask covered the rest of his features, only exposing his innocent gaze (he looked so young) and a grey hoodie pulled over his head, only the tips of his brown bangs visible. Hyunjin smiled weakly, eyes droopy from the sleep he was trying to catch up on (he woke up two hours earlier than normal) (he didn't like it).

Seungmin's eyes lifted in returned, indicating his lips lifted too. Maybe they didn't need words, but Seungmin's gentle "Hello" reached Hyunjin's ears anyway.

"Hey Minnie, how are you?"

"I should be asking you that, but I'm okay, thanks. What's the matter?" Seungmin blinked at him.

Hyunjin thought up a good excuse in record time: "Couldn't sleep. Ended up coming here early to see if I could wear myself out enough to take a nap or something."

Seungmin seemed to buy it - his croaky throat could be explained by it being morning voice and red eyes from lack of sleep - so he scooted over so he was leaning against the couch too, on Hyunjin's right.

What Hyunjin didn't know is that Seungmin was smart. Seungmin was friends with homesick children and young adults who didn't know when to slow down, he was friends with the boy who overworked himself to the point where he was taken to hospital and his pair of music-obsessed insomniac friends. He knew the difference between sleep-deprived and crying.

"You don't have to tell me the real reason if you don't want to, but if you don't want to others knowing you should wash your face and get some sleep. Your eyes are still glassy, Jinnie." Seungmin wouldn't look at him, but shifted closer, bodies almost touching. "I'm always here if you need to talk, we all love you and wouldn't want to see you like this."

Hyunjin wasn't sure what to say, so he said nothing. He was too tired to get up again.

"At least sleep for now. I'll stay with you if you want... or I can leave if you want space?" It came out as a question in the end. Seungmin waited, watched, for an answer in Hyunjin's conflicted eyes and was just considering leaving him be for a while until Hyunjin leaned right, his head on Seungmin's sturdy shoulder. He didn't need to say anything for Seungmin to understand, because 'don't leave' has too many ways of being said.

And for three quarters of an hour, Hyunjin slept, Seungmin joining him after admiring Hyunjin's sleeping face for a few minutes. He heard him murmur while he slept, but simply held his hand to ease him. Maybe, in a way, they needed each other.

 

-

 

It was cold, but not the bad kind of cold. It was the kind of cold that made your eyes feel like they sparkled with starlight and skin look pale and flawless in the moonlight. It was the type of tranquility you feel when it's just you and the stars, except there was two people sitting on the hill, blades of grass shining silver. The city lights illuminated their views and they could hear the pleasant sound of cars, but they couldn't smell the pollution.

This is Hyunjin's favourite type of night, where he feels like he's floating, where he feels connected to the world around him. Seungmin sits on his right again, just like that morning, admiring the city in the distance and the stars burning in the sky. The crescent moon seems to smile at them.

"You wanted to talk to me?" Seungmin breaks the comfortable silence. They hadn't said a word since Seungmin greeted him on the hill and since then they just enjoyed each other's company for a few minutes, comfortable in the night's eye.

"I did. It's about what happened this morning." The day had been normal, only Seungmin knew what had happened. Not even Jisung noticed. Hyunjin secretly wished he did, but ultimately he was grateful he didn't. Telling this story more than once was already too difficult to imagine, but here he is, and he can trust Seungmin.

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, I get it. But if you do I'll listen and support you. I don't like seeing the people I'm close to cry, even if some of them are annoying." Seungmin chuckles. Hyunjin decides he's defiantly ready.

"I want to." Hyunjin shifts so he can face the other boy clearly. "I'm ready to tell someone. I've only told Minho-hyung about this; I want you to know how important this is."

Seungmin readjusts so he's facing Hyunjin too, messy brown hair shining and gentle, trusting eyes sparkling in the moonlight. "Okay, I'm listening."

Hyunjin looks at his hands as he tells his story. It isn't easy as he imagined, even though he's been preparing for this, but Seungmin's presence alone reassures him he's okay.

"When I was 15 - going onto 16 - I attended SOPA. I assuming you know about it. A prestigious academy for those with a creative passion and gifted with talents in the performing arts. It was the school of my dreams growing up. I had always loved to dance. Not even six months in everything turned... things got bad. Really bad. The school may be great, but the students are just as horrible as they are in any school. When I found out I was gay, I opened up to my friends. It didn't go well."

-

Hyunjin sits at his usual spot on their table. He's been thinking about the best way to go about this, he's thought all the worse things, he knows he can't tell his parents, at least not yet (they're Christian, Hyunjin still is despite his sexuality. He believes in benevolence and universalism - to an extent.) but he at least has to tell someone. His friends are kind to him, Hyunjin trusts them, despite only knowing them for about half a year. They're like his brothers, the siblings he doesn't have (Hyunjin's an only child, unless you count Kkami as his brother) and Hyunjin feels safe with them. He considers them as his family. So when they're all sat down, he gets their attention, and with false confidence tells them:

"I'm gay."

The reactions were pulled straight from a nightmare. One of them stood up and left with their tray in hand, another followed. One laughed menacingly, three looked at him in disgust and the seventh boy spoke.

"You're what?"

"Gay. Homosexual." Hyunjin's voice was still steady - he wasn't crying yet.

"He's a fag!" the one that laughed - his name means nothing to Hyunjin now - exclaimed, as if the situation was priceless. "A dirty little fag!"

"I'm leaving. Don't talk to me ever again, piece of shit." one of the three left, the other two on his heels. It was just the two that had actually spoken to Hyunjin and Hyunjin himself left at their table.

"Hyunjinnie, you dirty little boy. How did you find out? You watch gay porn?" One of them mocked him.

"No, I-"

"Girls not good enough? Even with-" he said vulgar things about women that Hyunjin was glad not to remember. The girls that Hyunjin knew in the school were so kind and lovely to him, and this... monster spoke about them as if they were sex objects. They were only sixteen.

"Dear little Jinnie, is there someone you like? Was it one of us? Bet it was!" 

"I don't like anyone-" Hyunjin began to protest.

"YAH, EVERYONE, HWANG HYUNJIN'S A DIRTY LITTLE FAG" the other yelled out to the cafeteria.

Being a freshman, a popular one that everyone had noticed due to his looks, wasn't easy to begin with, but this just makes things way worse. He was humiliated, he wanted to deny it but he couldn't because it was true, he wanted to punch the boys he considered as family and he wanted to scream but his voice was gone and everyone was staring and this was all his fault and now they're whispering oh god oh god-

When faced with something he can't handle, Hyunjin runs and hides from his problems. He knows it's not good but what else was he supposed to do? He would look pathetic if he tried to 'own it' and he'd look unconvincing if he tried to deny it (he was a bad liar). So Hyunjin runs and hides in the bathroom, which is the first mistake of many. Maybe he's predictable or maybe he was followed but either way, they found him.

Hyunjin explains to the nurse that he was sleep deprived, so he's been very clumsy lately. Firstly, he fell down the stair this morning and landed on his face, which is why he has bruises on his arm and legs and a split lip (the beat him up). Then a door slammed in his face, which is why his nose is bleeding and slightly bent (they punched and kicked when he tried to escape or fight back). Then he misstepped and tripped in dance class, which is why he's limping (his ankle feels twisted). Lastly, he slipped on some water on the bathroom floor just now, which is why he's concussed and bleeding from the right side of his head (his head was shoved into one of the mirrors) and he's crying because his head is pounding (that's only one of the reasons). He's dizzy because he hasn't eaten yet (he ate this morning, everything has been hazy since the mirror incident) and was about to- that's when he collapsed. The nurse asked him, when he woke up an hour later, if there was a fight, and Hyunjin tells a lie. The nurse doesn't looked convinced but doesn't pry, just tells him to get more sleep and to be careful on the way home.

From that day onwards, Hyunjin's life is hell. The girls that were usually nice to him and spoke with him often shunned and ignored him, some screaming in his face why he didn't find them pretty, some asking if he wants to 'be absolutely certain' and most whispered and stared as he passed them. His seven friends betrayed him and two or three of them pick on his often, stealing his school supplies, shoving him into lockers whenever they can, starting rumours that made his classmates uncomfortable and eventually getting him in trouble with the hard-headed principle that threatened him to kicked out of the school he'd wanted to go to since he was in middle school. Worst of all, everyone else just watches. Some even join in, trapping him in rooms or lockers, throwing things at him when the teacher's back is turned, mocking him and making fun of him when they're supposed to be doing group work, pushing and roughhousing him in dance class because "he's doing it wrong" and "he's such a bad dancer, can we work without him?" even though Hyunjin was top of the class. Despite this, Hyunjin's grades dropped faster than his love for dancing.

"Hating something you used to love is the worst possible thing that could happen to you. You have no idea how empty it makes you feel." Hyunjin tells Seungmin, eyes glassy for the second time that day.

At the two month mark, things got manageable. Bearable.

In all this chaos, he had met Eric and Sunwoo, Eric being brave enough to stand up for him when he could without getting himself into too much trouble - Hyunjin insisted; one time Eric almost socked a guy in the jaw in the middle of class. Sunwoo helped patch him up because Hyunjin was anxious about going back to the nurse after the first time. He appreciated both their help and company, Sunwoo saying that he really doesn't care even if Hyunjin has an attraction to sock puppets because it doesn't effect him at all and Eric growing up in a word where LGBT is understood and accepted, for the most part. Hyunjin cant help but feel like a burden sometimes, even when Eric is the only one who smiles at him anymore and when Sunwoo makes him laugh with his sarcastic sense of humour and dry comedy. They stabilise him, but Hyunjin is scared they'll be targeted too, so he distances himself as much as he can, pretending to be busy trying to get his grades up again and whatnot. Eric always reminds him that they're here for him and Sunwoo gives him some of his food because he knows Hyunjin can't eat lunch anymore because his wallet has been completely drained by his bullies. Even when Sunwoo doesn't see Hyunjin around, Eric always makes sure to give Hyunjin and orange of apple at some point of that day. Hyunjin is so grateful for even the tiniest scrap that he could die. He's good at fooling his parents and only breaks down in-front of Kkami. 

At the three month mark, things got really bad.

Sometimes he'd come home drenched, covered in chalk powder, drawn on, covered in bruises, tears, blood, but only Kkami would see. His parents work late. Hyunjin tries to keep his uniform as clean as he can - it's all he has left, it's his pride. His reason to keep going to that goddamn school. He wasn't in the position to tell teachers, to tell his parents. He couldn't risk it, not after how his friends betrayed him. What if they disown him? Kick him out?

So he just keeps going, until that day comes.

This, by far, is the worst possible thing.

He hides in an empty bathroom stall, like most days. Unlike most days, they actually came looking for him. They found him at the stall on the very end that sometimes had an 'out of order' sign and instead of dragging him out, one very large boy barged in, locking them in. Over time, Hyunjin came to hate the sound of doors locking. He was terrified of what they would do to him. Make him 'do' something? Take advantage of him? Before he could scream his hair was being pulled and his head shoved down the toilet. Hyunjin tried holding his breath but screamed when the person hit him with something - a bat? No, a- a metal bat? That's new, he thought briefly before his mind began panicking as his lungs begged for air. He was literally drowning and could've literally died in that pathetic way if the muscular boy hadn't pulled him out and dragged him out of the stall, throwing him to the dirty tiled floor.

Hwang Hyunjin, sixteen years old. This is his life.

They rough him up a little - a regular occurrence - aiming for the ribs, unfortunately for his gasping lungs. They only slapped his face, so he wouldn't have to worry about covering-ups or excuses. Two minutes later, he still wasn't breathing properly, felt nauseous, and was pinned to the ground as a metal bat was hovering over his legs. He was being touched too much, too tightly, he was in the middle of a panic attack, nose feeling weird and disgusting, head soaked in fucking toilet water of all things (at least it was clean) and he was terrified of what they would do next. The tiled floor and water was cold but the heat from his panic was forming sweat, pulse too fast-

"You're disgusting, Hwang. A filthy little bitch that doesn't deserve to be here. You know what we're gonna do to you? We're gonna break your ankles. Shatter every bones in your ugly, fat jelly legs and make it so you never dance again. You'll never watch the other boys dance, never dance yourself and never come back to school ever again. Wouldn't that be nice for everyone?" His voice echoed loud and deep in the bathroom, everyone else cackled in agreement while the pair of boys watching the door smirked in satisfaction and amusement. Hyunjin could barely see - everything was blurry, too heavy, too slow. He had to get out.

"Shall we count down, like a celebration?" The batter suggested. Maybe he was insane. Nevermind that, Hyunjin had to escape. "On three!" They were too strong, their grips impossibly tighter on him as he wiggled. Hyunjin could have wet himself out of fear. 

"One!" Hyunjin tried to scream but no words came out, only a pathetic, wet, gurgle sound. He wished Eric, Sunwoo, ANYONE would find him.

"Two!" His body couldn't even move, the effect of fears too strong. Had to get out NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW-

"Three!"

"Luckily, the adrenaline kicked into my- my legs in time and I managed t-to dodge and kick him in the balls b-but getting the others off me was harder. They k-kept dragging me back down an-and they almost broke my ribs but they missed-" Hyunjin's voice shook, tears appearing again.

"Shhh, it's okay, you're okay. You're safe here now, you're with me, far from that place, far from anyone but me. I've got you Jinnie." Seungmin pulls him close and rocks him.

"I-I managed to get out-"

"You don't have to keep going if it's too hard." He soothes.

"I can- I can do it..."

"At least take a breather. You're making me worried, Jinnie. just breathe first."

Hyunjin ran- or, stumbled out of the bathroom, searching for his discarded blazer from the scuffle earlier. To his utter despair, it was ripped to shreds (probably from scissors) , barely a clothing item anymore, but he had no time to start crying again. He had to get home. Far, far away from this place. He wasn't safe here, he was never safe here.

His parents were home early for once and Hyunjin was so glad. He collapsed into his mother's arms and ignored his dad's questions and Kkami's barking. He just needed to be safe. He cried and screamed, barely able to breathe, in so much pain both physically and emotionally. He hated all. He only wanted to dance, he didn't want this. He begged and screamed to transfer schools, he didn't care if he couldn't dance. They almost broke him. He'd never dance either way. He just needs to be free. If all that was only three months, the most exhausting three months of his life, what would the next three years there be like? They wanted him out so he should just leave, right?

Hyunjin always loved the honey-yellow uniform with the pretty stars on it, bigger than the stars in his own eyes. He burned it out of anger and spite, only sparing the crinkled, kinked tie as he sobbed. His dream was crushed, shattered like his ankles should have been. He shouldn't have escaped that day.

"Don't say that..." Seungmin tells him. Hyunjin's calmed down significantly now, his voice isn't shaky, just croaky and wet, tired. But he can't rest just yet... The story isn't over.

Hyunjin wasn't fond of change, but he was so glad when he transferred to Seoul's top Dance Academy for those under 19 aspiring to become skilled in the art of dance. Hyunjin didn't like how the classes were all dance and nothing else like Science, English, Maths, Korean Literature and such. But he like having no uniform, it made him feel more comfortable.

He didn't explain the story to his parents, he didn't want to, and he didn't need to, they had seen enough when their son came home looking like a wreck and didn't discuss anything with the school when their only child begged them not to. They had a good idea of what was happening when they were told over the phone their child didn't have any belongings to collect, not even from his locker. Since then, they provided Hyunjin with whatever he needed. Cuddles? Anytime. Food? Should be in the cupboards. Live alone? Make sure you call or text often. We'll send money and no, you can't bring Kkami, but you can always come visit whenever you want. We love you.

Hyunjin loves his parents, but he doesn't want to come out to them. If they disown him or throw him out or call him a failure after all the trust he's built with them and after all they've given him now then... he wouldn't know what to feel.

He makes and agreement to get settled with school first before moving out. Hyunjin is shy in the academy, speaks only when spoken to, keeps his mouth shut and makes an effort to fit in. Everyone gets used to him and leaves him be, except for one person.

Lee Minho.

Minho, while annoying at times, is the best thing that's ever happened to Hyunjin. He spends time getting to know Hyunjin, but also gives him space. When they pass in the halls Minho gives him a cat-like smile and when they have classes together Minho always goes to him first. At first, Hyunjin simply respects Minho as an upperclassman but later they become close. By his third day Hyunjin is attached to Minho and by the second week Minho is helping Hyunjin get Minho settled into his home, having suggested they become roommates. Minho's home is cosy and big enough for them both. A day later Hyunjin learns Minho is also gay and opens up to him, explaining his experiences at SOPA and venting his fears. Minho explains there's about eight or nine homosexuals in the academy, about twelve to fifteen bisexuals and other LGBT people in the school as it is a place for creative young minds, it is normal to meet people like that. Hyunjin has never felt so happy. He's hesitant when Minho explains that there are some 'idiots that can't mind their own business' but that these occurrences are rare and not very severe. If they do ever get seriously mean, Minho simply sprays his Febreeze and carries on with his day, unbothered (Minho's words). Minho sticks up for him when there's a minor scuffle and the one and only (thankfully it's only one) bully leaves Hyunjin alone for the most part. 

Hyunjin and Minho become lifelong friends within weeks. They start becoming like each other, Minho's style improving from Hyunjin's own and Hyunjin becoming more confident with himself, becoming openly weird and comfortable around Minho as he had been unable to for a very long time, even in-front of Eric. It's wasn't exactly PTSD, but there were... triggers that took Hyunjin back to horrible times; like the sound of a door looking, his name being said in a certain way, slurs and name-calling even if it wasn't directed at him, loud noises like a lock slamming and the sound of scraping against metal. Minho sits with Hyunjin though his panic attacks and pulls him from the dark places in his mind, nightmares or daydreams; and often gives him fruit like Sunwoo did (he doesn't tell Minho that) and Hyunjin is there to listen to Minho rant for hours and yell and non-living objects when he's annoyed, angry or stressed. It's a mutualism relationship and the two became like brothers. Hyunjin is glad to only have one friend this time round and is even more glad that it's Minho. Minho is different to the others, he's strange and peculiar and funny but his chaos is calming. Hyunjin feels safe not in the academy, but with Minho; anywhere with Minho, in their shared home.

Time passes and eventually scouting/recruiting season comes around. This is when a dance show is performed for companies and civilians to see. Hyunjin and Minho worked, played and rested hard and the work payed off. Minho is scouted to be a back-up dancer for BTS's upcoming tour at BigHit Entertainment while Hyunjin is offered a place at JYP Entertainment both as a back-up dancer and as a trainee to eventually debut. They both agree to take the offer, Hyunjin moving closer to the company at the heart of Seoul and Minho telling him to keep in contact even when Minho's busy on tour because he'll "Miss my favourite human!". Hyunjin moves out and Minho wonders how Hyunjin will cook for himself. They part ways, but still keep in contact as much as they can.

And now Hwang Hyunjin, sixteen, sits here, a back-up dancer for a group that debuted yesterday, and he's sure he's the happiest he's ever been.

He's okay. He's safe.

-

By the time he's done, Hyunjin's shaking hands are held in Seungmin's and he's been pulled even closer to the younger. They stay there for a while, Hyunjin trying not to cry from old, dug-up emotions and raw, new ones. Meanwhile, Seungmin is trying to process everything and trying to find the words to say. In the end"

"You know how glad I am that you got out of there? Met Minho-hyung? Continued dancing? That we were able to meet you?"

Hyunjin sniffles and giggles weakly, "No. But I am very happy to have met you, Kim Seungmin. Everyone."

"You know how much I care about you right?" Seungmin says sincerely. Hyunjin looks him dead in the eyes-

Dandy, light brown, gentle as a doe and soft as cotton, sparkling in the night's natural light and filled with warmth and-

Love.

"Kim Seungmin, I might have feelings for you. And I'm so sorry, but I care about you if a way you could never understand. It's different to how you care about me... I want to protect you, you to protect me, spend my evenings and nights like this with you, wake up in the mornings with you and stay close to you. I want to squish you cheeks and cuddle you and stare at you all day because inside and out, Seungmin, you are so beautiful." Hyunjin lets the words flow, not caring if Seungmin is surprised, because in that moment he was going to explode from his feelings.

He was also going to explode because Seungmin leaned forward slightly and, very gently, kissed him. On the lips.

"I think you're absolutely ethereal, when you laugh, when you dance, when you sing in English, when you look at me and smile... I know I'm in love with you. Very much. Not just your face-" he strokes his thumb over Hyunjin's red cheek, "But with all of you. You're the most stunning person I've ever met." Seungmin can only smile shyly when Hyunjin grins.

They head back, Seungmin walking Hyunjin back and even dragging his sleepy head into his own home and tucking him in with plenty of kisses before leaving, promising to talk again in the morning.

It's a messy end to the night, but at some point, they indeed established that they were definitely dating and no, they didn't have to tell anyone yet.

Well, save for one.

"Hyunjinnie?" Minho's voice sounded in Hyunjin's ear.

"Hyung, guess what," Hyunjin replied excitedly.

"You got promoted? You got a pay raise? You're performing in the next showcase?" Minho listed things off sarcastically, his mood the opposite of Hyunjin's.

"No! Guess again," the younger replied cheerfully despite it being so early in the morning.

Minho sighed. "I don't know, I give up."

Hyunjin finally told him, "I'm dating Seungmin!" He felt a burst of excitement all over again. 

"Finally!" Minho yelled in triumph. Obviously, Hyunjin had told Minho stories of the people he had met. "So you finally told him?" Minho asked, calmer.

"Actually, no, we were set up," Hyunjin chuckled nervously. Technically, Jisung gave them the push they needed. They owed it to him.

"Set up? Really? By who?"

"Well, ah... He's one of the artists I dance for. We're all pretty close, but I don't think I've told you about them. And I can't exactly tell you who I dance for because y'know... rules and shit."

Minho voiced his understanding and asked, "So did Seungmin take it well?"

"Very well, actually. Turns out I transformed him into a gay with my gorgeous face," Hyunjin laughed along with Minho.

Hyunjin had an idea he had been trying to figure out for a while, and he was sure this was it.

"I think you might actually like the guy who set us up, he's one of the biggest and most panicked gays I've ever met. You'd love him, he's a cutie."

"Oh really?" Minho asked, almost interested, "But you know I'm really busy lately right? It's tiring and I don't think I can handle a relationship at the moment."

Hyunjin was slightly disappointed at this, "If you say so, but I swear you'll love him. You're perfect for each other already, I could tell. If you want his number just let me know, okay?" Hyunjin offered, but Minho declined.

They were about to hang up, having talked more about the set-up itself and how successful it was and how whipped Hyunjin is until Minho quickly asked something.

"The guy who set you up, what's his name?"

"Jisung."

 

-

 

Hyunjin hates onions.

He's emotional and empathetic - he cries at sad stories and happy endings, he loves praise and compliments - especially for his dancing.

He massages his thigh when he's nervous, he stretches his arms when he gets shy, he giggle when he talks, his eyes crinkle when he laughs and he has a dimple, he loves squishy everyone's cheeks including his own, he loves food but doesn't eat a lot, he likes sweet things, he likes coke and has a habit of gulping down drinking, he loves rice and meat, he eats with a pout on his face, he's shy but gets along with everyone and can hold a conversation, he is very good at English but isn't confident with it and his voice sounds so small when he does, he can sing in English too, when someone is hesitant Hyunjin encourages them, he would cry in Seungmin's embrace when he becomes overwhelmed, he like attention but never asked for it, he loves cuddles and hugs, he love Kkami like his own sibling and threw a party for his first birthday and even has a whole folder dedicated to him on his phone, he used to hate his eye mole but love it now because seungmin does, his voice becomes higher when he's happy or excited, he likes to use emojis in text messages, he like to use hand gestures to express himself, he uses a lot of facial expressions both in speech and in performance, he fell in love with dancing ever since he tried it and has worked his whole life to improve his skills, he used to like hip-hop but now he likes soft, chill songs, he appreciates his opportunities even if they may not have been very kind to him, he respects his hyungs and seniors at the company, learns all their dances, and loves his fellow dancers and co-workers very much because they are his "family".

And Seungmin. Kim Seungmin is so, so in love with him.

 

-

 

Time passes. 

The last performance of the tour was their best. Jisung especially 'popped off' and gave the fans an unforgettable show they would never forget. Hyunjin himself wanted to go beyond his given role as a masked back-up dancer and bounce around on stage with them, like he was one of the stars of the show, but he knew there could only be three and that the centre of the stage would not welcome him, so he put all his energy into dancing and he strongly believes he fucking killed it. By the end of the night, Hyunjin felt amazing, like he was glowing, trapped in a euphoric state that had made him fall in love with dancing. He still felt like he could run around the entire perimeter of the stadium, but as song as he got back to the green room he flopped onto the cool floor, earning a chuckle from Seungmin and some company from Felix who also collapsed next to him. In that moment, everything for Hyunjin was perfect.

Seungmin had promised him that he would move in after the tour, and he did - with parent's permission of course. Seungmin still attended school and Hyunjin woke up as early as he could to see his boyfriend in the mornings before heading to the company to improve himself so he could debut. And hopefully, the others would too.

 

Hyunjin hadn't known that it would be Jisung's last on-stage performance. But with the way Jisung danced so powerfully, rapped at the speed of light, and sang so heavenly, maybe Jisung himself knew that their final stage in Seoul would be his final stage too.

 -

 

In the end, many things did change, but a few stayed the same. Felix still spoke with Chan in their own language, getting him to come over to him with a simple head tilt. Changbin wasn't always involved in the conversation but still listened from wherever he was in the room. Jeongin was still cute and smiled practically all the time, Minho was still a good hyung to him and Seungmin still watched Hyunjin with those gentle brown eyes, except this time they would sparkle, too.

And maybe, just maybe, Jisung was still causing trouble.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chan is minding his own business in the 3RACHA studio when it is barged into abruptly-

"HYUNG!" the company's newest trainee, also known as 3RACHA's choreography director, also known as Lee Minho, yelled shamelessly. Chan wasn't surprised.

"Hmm?" he innocently responded, turning around in his chair almost evil, hands together.

"Please tell me I'm not hallucinating..." Minho approached, book in hand. The elder knew what was actually inside that false sleeve.

Minho presented him - more like he shoved it in his face - a double page spread of delicate yet enthusiastic handwriting in black gel pen as well as a large cut-out printed picture margining the end on the right page, smaller squares on the right page. The colour was minimal but the design and font was cutesy and resembled that of a high school girl crushing on someone. It was innocent really, but it made the result of the owner much worse.

Chan could only smile, dimples on show, fondly in response; eyes not leaving the pages.

 

-

 

Let's backtrack slightly, shall we?

It was break time for the small group consisting of Felix, Seungmin, Hyunjin and Minho. Chan was in his studio (like most days, even when they would be promoting this album very soon) and Changbin had a vocal session to check in with the coaches. Jeongin was at school for an exam and Woojin hadn't visited since last week, but made an effort to see the others when he could at the cafeteria and participating in the groupchat of eight boys created not long ago. Minho had to keep silencing his phone.

The group was messing around as usual: Seungmin protested against Hyunjin pulling his cheeks like a grandma while the offender giggled loudly, Felix talking with the same volume and laughing with the spirit of a child playing in the sun. The freckled dancer had gradually become louder (a personal goal, Minho wasn't aware of) over the last coupe of months Minho had known him and he was beginning to see Felix as a close friend, much like the others. Even Changbin seemed to be warming up to him. Minho on the other hand sat immersed in his 'book' (totally not Jisung's journal).

"Hyung, you read so much lately. I've seen you read that so many times before but I've never seen you read before that." Hyunjin said incredulously.

Minho merely hummed in response.

"We've lost him. We've lost him to the world of paper and words. He's a philosopher now. A nerd." Felix mocked the sadness in his voice.

"Yah!" Seungmin hit him playfully, offended. His love of books had been attacked.

"Awww, it's okay Seungminnie, you're my nerd!" Hyunjin teased, and Minho drowned out the noise from there. He was entranced.

It's so easy to write lyrics lately, it's like they're pouring straight out of me. Changbin-hyung always complains that I write too good too quick and that he always has to sit and really think about what he writes, and it's true. One time I saw him struggle over an 8-bar rap for hours even though it was only one verse, poor Binnie-hyung... He's super annoyed because I'm writing even quicker now hehe.

I'm glad we're finally integrating Felix into the group! I've written the most for him but he's improved so much on his own I'm afraid I'll end up jobless soon. Guess I'm going back to learning girl group dances, BlackPink looks like they have a few gems... We'll see!

The entry ends there and Minho turns the page, subconsciously aware he's extremely close to the end.

His face drops. He freezes.

No. No. This can't be happening. This isn't real. Suddenly, he can't read. His heart swells with how emotionally overwhelmed feels by this. This. This.

Maybe he's imagining it. It's probably the dieting. He blinks, nope, still there.

Right. Okay. 

...

Nope.

 

-

 

Jisung hums to himself as he writes, earphones in and head bouncing along with his foot tapping. As he scribbles in his journal, he doesn't notice the figure creeping up behind him.

Not until the earphone is replaced with a much louder, "BOO!".

Jisung screams with increased volume, his fingertips going numb from shock. The other boy, Chan himself, laughs heartily, worn down from lack of sleep and overwork but his crescent eyes and dimples hid it well. Jisung doesn't have the mind to try and cover what he's writing, but exclaims: "Hyung! That scared the life out of me, jeez!" he pouted in anger when Chan just kept laughing. 

"What's this?" Chan asks, not paying attention to the younger's anger.

"HYUNG! What have I told you about reading my journal-"

"It's not like I told anyone-"

"Hey!"

"Oh?" Chan blinks at the header of the double page and glances at the stream of words that follows. "Lee Minho?"

"He's just a dancer I saw on Youtube..."

"Seems like he's your new idol!" Chan teased. "Is he any good then?" He asked, both trying to make Jisung feel better and genuinely interested.

"Really good." Jisung replied, "He dances for BTS at the moment but he does covers and choreographies. Plus he's really good-looking, like seriously."

Chan hummed. "Maybe he could audition for JYP if he wasn't with BigHit then. Oh, well! We have Hyunjin anyway. He's a real treasure. Felix, too."

"You're just saying that cause you're whipped."

"Won't even deny it."

"Ask him."

"...We'll see" the voice was small and hesitant. 

 

-

 

So Minho was here now. Exploded into the studio. Forcing a journal into Chan's face.

"HE KNEW WHO I WAS?" Minho could only exclaim in his rush.

"He never spoke about about you, but yes. If he did I imagine Hyunjin would try to introduce you." Chan sounded apologetic. "I wish you could've met him sooner..."

Minho sat down, despair washing over him like a cold shower. "I almost did... Hyunjin mentioned him once when he got together with Seungmin. He wanted to introduce us but I was too stubborn and busy with touring... I was never a people person." Minho's words held truth, he was always shy but forced himself past it and usually tired or busy dancing in the shadows. But he felt like he was making excuses for himself. "I wish it were different." He stared holes into the floor.

"Me too." Chan replies.

Neither know what to say.

It's Minho who breaks the heavy silence.

"Can I meet him?"

Chan looks up, "What?"

"Will I ever be able to meet him? You don't have to tell me why, I just want to know if."

 

It's funny, really. Chan feels like breaking down. He feels like his face will scrunch up and his eyes will water and his lip will tremble-

He has to jerk his head to stop the tears coming. There's so much he doesn't understand.

He takes a deep breath.

"That won't be possible. But I can offer you an explanation."

For the first time, Minho looks up with sparkles of hope in his eyes. He had only been fed scraps, bits and pieces of a complex puzzle that he hadn't the knowledge to solve.

"Not yet, though." And Minho sinks again. This was so... frustrating. But he has to be patient. It might be difficult to talk about for them.

"I'll let you know when, okay? It's not something we talk about often, nor in a nice way. It takes a lot of build up, you know? I'm sorry-"

"Don't apologise. You don't need to do this." But Minho would very much like him to.

"I have to. You'll understand in time. Give me a week... I'll discuss it with the others."

Why can't you just tell me? Minho wanted to scream, but he learned the hard way when to keep his mouth shut.

Chan looked upset. but thoughtful, and Minho wasn't sure if he should feel sorry or glad he was finally getting answers. He felt so selfish. He felt like he never should have come here. To Chan in the studio, to JYP, he should've stayed. Dancing in the shadows as always, boy made of nothing. Silhouette without skin. No. Not anymore. Anything's better than that. Even if it meant this.

In his scrambled thoughts, he remembers he has to get back to practice. As he gets up to leave, he bows formally, a silent apology for his trouble. He's a burden, really.

"Thank you." and he clicks the door shut.

-

As he trudges back to the dance studio, all he can wonder is what things would be like if they were different.

Stop thinking that, he tells himself. But he can't. 

"What if we had met?" he mumbles to empty air as he walks.

Then it would've been worse, something tells him.

 

 

.

.

.

.

 

The beach is colder today, Jisung frowns.

Chapter Text

Despite Felix being glued to Chris the majority of their days, the two had to part to work with their own things. Felix mostly being in the studio or at lessons, Chris chained to his desk and laptop never leaving his clutches. He carried it everywhere like a life source.

So, Chris was alone. 

And, as Chris would, he was overthinking.

He had to tell Minho soon. Had to make him understand, even if he had to hurt him. This was getting too out of hand, beyond the reach of his veiny hands, beyond his control. And he didn't like that.

He didn't want to 'discuss' it with his members either, fear of disappointing them because he had told someone about Han. Sure, Minho discovered his existence on his own, but he was the one who promised to tell him. Chris never broke a promise, just ask Jisung. He sighed and ran his fingers through his grey, messy curls. What did he get himself into?

When he first met Minho - knowing he was special - Chris couldn't shake this uncertain feeling. It was like traces of someone had been left on him, like he could see a sneering boy shadowing Minho, yet it was comforting. Maybe Chris was masochistic. There was so much of the younger that Chris saw in Minho and it made him want to scream and cry and claw his skin until it bled. On one occasion, way before now, he almost did. But he promised not too, so he couldn't.

He's pathetic, really. He's the leader. He should know better than to expose a deadly secret like that, to hand something so precious and intimate to a near-stranger. Why did he do that? Why, in that moment, did he give Minho the box? Why did he let him keep the journal that he himself had only seen twice in his life? Why hadn't he the guts to open it and trace his fingers around the borders and check the date of the last entry long before now? Where had his stores of courage gone? He was the leader. He wasn't brave. He was pathetic.

You're only human, something told him. That little something, over the time it whispered to him, was what Chris called his Excuses. Him being too soft on himself, thinking he could stop worrying about his two remaining members for even a second, hoping he could rest today, wishing he could cry when exposed to certain triggers and begging someone to see past his acts when the times came he had to pretend to be okay. He was selfish, so selfish; he wanted to sleep, wanted to eat, wanted to cry, wanted to stop and take a minute, wanted time to recharge and spend time relaxing, wanted to turn back time and make the September child see a doctor as early as possible, wanted to be vulnerable, wanted Changbin to stop relying on him, wanted Jisung to come back, wanted to go home to Australia and see his family, wanted to be alone, wanted to turn his back on everyone and wanted to be loved.

But he can't. He's too afraid Changbin will cut too deep and he won't be there because he purposely ignored him, he's too scared Felix will get his hands on another bottle of pills or collapse again, too ashamed of what the others would think of him, but ultimately terrified Jisung will hate him.

Chris didn't hate Jisung. There's... many things he wants to tell him. There's so much. To ask, to scream, to thank, to... he doesn't even know. It doesn't matter now. Nothing matters. Chris doesn't matter. 

 

He wished he did.

No. NO. That's not true! He didn't deserve that, not after what he did. He's awful. Terrible. Disgusting. Pathetic. He wanted to carve it into his wrists, write it all over his legs, engrave it on his bones, wear it on his clothes like a brand name. Let the whole world that Christopher Bang was a fucking PATHETIC mess that destroyed a work of art and contradicted his own message through his music. He was a hypocritical liar who only wanted to care about himself but couldn't because there were lives in his hands that were important, FAR more important than his own and he's too weak to be responsible for them. Let the whole fucking world know how Chris was a guilty, back-stabbing, heartless monster and how he was oh-so sorry he let something so delicate find itself in small, obsessed hands intentionally because he trusted his fucking gut. Let them rip out his gut and wave it around in front of his face, taunting him that this was apparently so important in his meaningless decision making, let him know he was a fucking wimp that had fucking nightmares of a fucking heart rate monitor. Most importantly, let the world know how much Christopher Bang HATES himself-

You can hate me all you want, just please don't hate yourself.

Chris was so tired.

It's not your fault.

He just sat in his desk chair, sobbing hysterically, loudly like a child.

I'm just an idiot.

He wanted Woojin to find him and comfort him. He was the only one Chris would allow himself to cry in front of. Not even Felix, especially with how much he depended on him.

But I'm your favourite idiot. ♡

He just wanted to sleep. He wanted this horrible place to vanish. He wanted to wake up from whatever nightmare he locked himself in and fall asleep in a blissful dream, one without blood and tears and grief.

Chris gripped his locks harshly and sobbed, droplets of hot water spilling from his heavy eyes like a waterfall. Each tear held a memory, a reason for this tragedy, a wish for things to be like they were before. 4 instead of 3. Smiles instead of blank stares. Dimples instead of grey expressions. Knowledge instead of mystery. Truth instead of lies.

He had to tell Minho.

Wow. Okay. He promised to tell Minho.

Jesus.

How would he break this to others?

How was he supposed to tell them? He hated lying to them. He felt so guilty when he saw them watching Minho read his 'book' and even more guilty when they asked about it, even when Minho provided them with a really good lie. Why had he given Minho the journal in the first place? Why did Felix only blink at him when he knew Chris gave him the box? Heck, why was Chris sharing so much about Jisung in the first place?

He didn't know why (maybe he did) (truthfully, he knew exactly why). He didn't want to know anything anymore. He felt so broken.

Chris simply sat in his chair, his walls crumbled into tiny minerals, vulnerability clear as his glossy eyes, tired, heavy, and so very grey. Like rainwater on glass, like tears on pale skin, a dripping faucet in a sink.

He closed his eyes...

 

-

 

Hyunjin gets a text from Chan later that day. The others went out for lunch. Seungmin and Jeongin watch over his shoulders; Hyunjin lets them, quiet as he tried to talk Chan out of what he was going to do.

 

Hyunjin: so... you're finally letting him know?

Chan: Yep.

Hyunjin: this is going to break his heart. forget that, talking about it is going to put you all in a slump for days, even weeks. when you told me and the other dancers you guys were depressed for months! I can always do it if you want

Chan: No, I promised him. Besides, the more we talk about it the better we get, right? It's just part of the healing process or something

Hyunjin: no, hyung. it hurts you. all of you. Felix looked so upset when Minho-hyung brought him up once. none of you are gonna be okay, no matter how much you've healed. you're just ripping open old wounds

Chan: This might help though. Talking about things helps, right? Besides, we can't be mopey forever. Jisung didn't want us to even if what he did made it impossible

Hyunjin: it's okay not to tell him. he'll understand

Chan: He won't understand until we tell him

Hyunjin: hyung

Chan: Hyunjin.

Hyunjin: please. promise me you won't tell him if you don't want to, then I'll fix it

Chan: I can't do that.

Hyunjin: ...

Chan: But can you promise me you'll be there for us when it's over?

Hyunjin: of course, you big softie. me, Seungminnie, Jeonginnie, Woojinnie-hyung and even Minho-hyung will all be there for you. all three of you.

Chan: Thank you

Hyunjin: but, hyung, you need it the most

Chan: Not me, Lix does, but not me

Hyunjin: you're not as strong as you think, Channie-hyung. you've been so sad lately and it's breaking our hearts

Hyunjin: you need to be sad too, hyung. for there to be a rainbow, you need the rain

Hyunjin: it's not healthy keeping it bottled up, you taught me that

Chan: Where are you

Hyunjin: practise room 2b. it's just me, seungminnie and innie

Chan: Ok

 

Hyunjin glances at the two figures behind him questioningly, but they shrug, just as puzzled. Hyunjin secretly knows what's going to happen, he just couldn't believe it was happening now after all these months.

Chan opens - and closes - the door cautiously, bottom lip trying not to tremble as he looks at the trio: Hyunjin sat on the floor, Seungmin on his left on the black leather couch and Jeongin on his right. The eldest of the trio instantly noticed how the leader of 3RACHA looked like he was going to explode with despair, so he held his arms wide open, to which Chan rushed over and kneeled, holding Hyunjin close and trying not to cry like a baby, only gasping for air and sniffling. Hyunjin stroked his hair soothingly, rocking him slowly while the other two boys latched themselves onto Chan also, silently giving the oldest his support.

Hyunjin wondered if his one of his boyfriends texted Woojin at some point or if he coincidentally showed up a minute later, but it didn't matter when Woojin joined them, wrapping the four of them in a bear hug and rubbing Chan's back, drawing circles too. Hyunjin felt his throat tighten and didn't realise that he was crying too until he felt Seungmin's familiar hands pry him away from Chan, pulling him to lean into his chest and rested his chin on Hyunjin's ebony hair while shushing him softly, rubbing a hand up and down his arm as he did many times in the past. Hyunjin held a hand out for Jeongin who took it gently, rubbing his thumb across his knuckles, kissing the back of his hand and eventually moving closer to join them. Hyunjin swore he saw him tear up to, but his vision was too blurry to confirm it.

Meanwhile Chan had buried himself in Woojin's shoulder, his sobbing quieter but more painful, his body almost limp as he let himself weep, fulling trusting his only emotional support person. He was too worn to scream, too exhausted to move. The oldest hyung moved them so they sat leaning against the couch like Hyunjin had been previously, closer to the trio to calm them with his presence. Woojin was like gravity for them.

"My poor little babies," he sighed, "The world just doesn't let you rest." 

Chan choked, Woojin's words cutting him deeper. Seungmin took a deep breath, fighting to keep himself together for his two weeping loves. Said pair of boys were trembling as they tried not to let the gates flood, holding each other together, quite literally. Woojin simply continued, "Let it all out," with glazed eyes and a faraway look in his eyes.

Han fucking Jisung.

We miss you.

 

-

 

Chan is the leader, he's supposed to be strong.

Yet he hurts most of all.

Chapter Text

He stands on the beach, observing the rain somewhat bitterly. It was light now, but soon it would storm like hell. 

Jisung would welcome it, because after every storm there's sunshine.

.

.

.

 

Chan said a week.

He promised Minho a week. It was Thursday now. It had been four days.

The first day, he tried not to think about it. The second day was the same, but it was more difficult. On Wednesday he was overthinking and now he's just desperate. It's like making a child be quiet for a really long time with the promise of cake. Except the cake was a person.

Okay, putting it that way sounded odd.

However in Minho's case, it was accurate. He was bouncing his leg rapidly, struggling to focus with his lessons, in a daze during breaks and on autopilot when practicing. He kept glancing at Chan frequently, even to the point when Felix asked what was going on. Minho shrugged it off but the younger Lee let it slide for now. He would ask Chan later.

Meanwhile, Minho had been burning through the pages of Jisung's journal like calories on a full day of choreography practise. He was listening to older 3RACHA songs in his spare time almost unhealthily, Broken Compass on repeat for hours at a time. He was nearing the last six pages and he wanted to whine like a bratty child but he kept himself together. Minho was never a curious person, if anything he had resolved to ignoring the world around him as he grew up but this... With everything that was left behind: the songs, the box, from the scribbled cards to the shattered mirror to the flannel shirt, Jisung's bond to music, to the fact that he had known Minho (not even fully, but knew of his existence and admired him) was too intriguing for Minho. It was almost painful; the fear of knowing what really happened and the excitement that bubbled as he pondered deeply of the idea of seeing Jisung. Said squirrel boy mentioned wanting to meet Minho once casually and Minho was gone. If he wasn't already in love with J.One, he undeniably was now. The feeling of wanting to meet was more than mutual.

Hyunjin would give him a look that reminded Minho of a time where Minho was at his lowest back at the dance academy, and he would wonder if he was overreacting. Okay, sure, a bit but he couldn't help him. Plus, he's weird. When presented with the opportunity to learn more about his soulmate, who could stop him bouncing like a puppy? He was almost pitiful, he realised when he noticed the others giving him a look.

If only he knew they were looking past him, at Chan.

-

Chan wasn't planning on telling his members yet.

He wanted to warn them but he didn't want to be the one to break it to them, just like back then. He hated to do this to them.

So he didn't. Yet.

But that didn't change the fact he had to tell them, he promised Minho he would, and this was important. Chan had put himself in this place as soon as he handed over the box to Minho, this was his fault.

It's sad, really.

Chan sees so much of Jisung in Minho and it breaks him. Even the little things like giggles and strange sound effects or cringe jokes, and the big things like enthusiasm for food and work and neglect for rest, neither knew when to stop. If they had ever met Chan could envision how close they would be, naturally in sync with each other, plotting shenanigans against the others and driving the hyungs up the wall. It's sad, because Chan knew they wanted to meet each other, to say hello and to bond, to play and laugh, to shout and smile, to live and to love one another just as they love the others.

Life without Jisung just... isn't the same.

It's sad, really, for life seemed so beautiful, but now seems impossible.

-

 

Finally, Minho caught Chan in the hallway.

This was the last day before their rest day and Chan promised, yet it seemed like he was avoiding Minho lately. It hurt him a bit, but there must've been a reason.

Before Minho could even say anything:

"Go away. We'll talk another day." He said coldly, not even looking at Minho. Secretly, he was just trying to keep himself together. He had to get out.

"You can't just give me his journal and promise to tell me what happened to him however long ago it was, then keep me in the dark for days! That's not fair, hyung-"

Not fair?

Not fair?

What's not fair? A fuse exploded.

Chan told many lies in his life, but this was by far the worst.

"Maybe we just don't want to talk about him, Minho, and there's a reason for that! What he did was horrible and I wish I never met him! I hate him!"

Minho could only stare in shock and horror.

"I don't understand, he talked about you all like you were his universe and he just isn't here anymore?! What in the world could have possibly happened that made him leave you? Leave them? His passion, his dream, his career, leave all of us behind? What could have possibly happened for him to leave it all behind and never speak to you again?!" He screamed, tears taking shape. "He left me! Before I could even meet him... And I could've. I was so close. So why can't I ever know him now?" His voice was so raw and painful, his greed overpowering him, making him feel small. His voice died in volume at the end.

"You really want to know why he left? Why he suddenly abandoned us all out of seemingly nowhere?" Chan roared back, unable to hold back his flaming anger. The fire grew, being fuelled by gasoline tears that had been poured in with the damage dating back almost years ago. "Why he twisted us into the wreck we are now?! What he did that god-awful day?!" Minho is taken aback, tears almost spilling over at how loud Chan was shouting. He was terrifying.

Yet Chan had no remorse (so far), simply dragging Minho by his wrist a little too harshly towards the practise room. He called out to two of the only four people in the room, "Felix! Changbin! Come to the studio now." Minho felt the older's grip on him tighten, yet his voice reduced in anger and grew in coldness. Both were already packing up their things, grabbing their bags and practically fleeing towards the studio after Chan and the imprisoned dancer. Minho didn't even have time to see who the other two dancers were, but he assumed it was Hyunjin and Seungmin.

"Hyung, what's happening?" Felix asked, beating Changbin to the question. In fact, the younger had a very good idea of what was happening, but he begged for it not to be true. He hated doing this. He glanced at Changbin when Chan didn't respond (he let Minho go at some point, much to said person's relief) and saw that his fears were reflected in Changbin's own facial expression. Chan never got like this. Felix had only seen him genuinely angry, or frustrated, overworked - whichever word you may use for it, only a handful of times, the majority of these being when they were little and still lived next to each other in Sydney.

Those days were over and something much darker had happened since then. And it hurt all of them bad. And they were about to relive it again; Changbin had been doing so well these last few weeks, clean from new scars and rid of life-threatening thoughts, Felix had felt more like his old self than ever before since the incident and was evening beginning to forget and forgive it, accepting what Jisung had done to him. Chan... he had been the same as always. Barely sleeping, loved eating, caring for his members and overworking himself to the brink. 

Then it occurred to Felix: How long had Chan known this was coming?

Guilt washed over him in dark-purple and black waves, shivering his freckled skin with goosebumps. He should've known. He should've been there for him and talked through it with him, should've told Minho himself, it was his fault, explain to him why Jisung wasn't coming back. This wasn't supposed to be Chan's burden to bear, he was their leader. His best friend. He was too important.

Felix feels a familiar pain in his chest and clutches his ribcage, his backpack suddenly feeling like the weight of another body. Changbin silently watches, always on alert if something were to happen. 

Again.

-

 

Jeongin turns to Hyunjin as soon as the other two are whisked away by Bang Chan, confused and mildly afraid, though he was unsure of what. "What's going to happen?" he asked, sounding like a lost child.

Hyunjin's eyes speak volume of emotions, but in a split second he hides it all away with a small smile, expression soft but in some places, he looked... tired. "Hyungs are going to chat with Minho-hyung for a bit, but I don't know if they'll fight. Either way, we should go." He pulls out his phone. "I'm texting Seungmin now to meet us at the entrance when his lesson finishes, he should be done in about five, ten minutes. Are you hungry?" He looks up from the illuminated screen.

Jeongin isn't feeling quite hungry, but he could go for a happy snack, "Can we go to the ice cream place? I need some comfort food." Hyunjin laughs brightly (genuinely) at his suggestion, nodding and agreeing. Hyunjin feels the big black-blue stain in his heart ease and he doesn't feel so heavy anymore.

Seungmin meets them exactly eight minutes later, and the three get lost in their own world, worries dissipated in the fresh air.

 

-

 

It's a shame, really. 

 

Felix hadn't had an anxiety attack in three weeks, the longest he's ever gone, he had felt so proud of himself until he woke up that very morning. Starting the morning struggling to get oxygen in his- well, his lungs and crying uncontrollably screaming apologies and calling for him. Chan, a light sleeper since the accident, woke up as soon as he felt Felix jolt beside him and cradled him to his bare chest instantly. It was one of the worser ones this time, where the hyperventilating immediately followed a nightmare - these were usually full of violent images and... less than pleasant memories - that would ensure Felix wouldn't go back to sleep for another half hour at the earliest. It was around 4am (as always.) when it started and the pair of Aussies didn't fall back into peaceful slumber until 5am, waking up a few hours later. 

He had been doing so well, too. Felix didn't take any medication for this, mind you. His therapist said it was psychological and had to be overcome the hard way.

Felix hated the hard way. He was so tired.

But as the recovery period began, he slowly got better, inch by inch, and Chan was so pleased. He was glad Felix wasn't being haunted with images of-

Well, it's nothing specific, just the whole event, really. Despite this, every challenge was overcome with the support of his boyfriend and friends, even stuff pitching in to help recognise when Felix would get an attack. It was rather simple, honestly: just don't mention Han Jisung.

Han fucking Jisung.

When Chan drags him and Changbin to presumably their studio, Felix knows why. And it's because of that very reason that he feels his hands start to shake and his throat close, but it's not bad. Maybe later, it would turn into a storm, but for now, he was better.

Maybe, Jisung will be nice this time.

-

It's funny, really.

 

Changbin had been clean from slitting his skin open since the time Chan found him in the bathroom a while back.

He was getting better, so, so much better; he switched back to his rubber bands and lately he doesn't even need to use them, so he's been hoping (there's a first) that he'll able to take them off completely. Finally, he would be free of his memory.

Apparently not, he thinks as he follows Chan to 3RACHA's studio. It's funny, really; he still reads their group name in Jisung's voice, the tone accented and full of joy, as if he were joking in English with Chan using his limited vocabulary like the good old days. How bitter.

Changbin had guessed what was about to happen but he begged the universe not now, not when he was so close to the paradise of recovery.

Talking about it helps, right? He won't want to do it again, right?

It wasn't his fault, right?

-

Felix wasn't tired; at least that wasn't the word he would use. It's a word that doesn't exist yet we all know what it means, beyond tired but not exactly emotional, not numb either. Nor empty, nor exhausted. He felt tired of doing this, he knew Chan wasn't in the right state of mind to do this, he knew both he and Changbin might slip back into the clutches of their demons. But at the same time, with realised sadness, he knew this had to be done. Minho deserves that much. Then they wouldn't have to talk about it for a long time, hopefully.

Emphasis on 'hopefully', for this was such a difficult thing to do. They had only done this twice, Chan had to do it three times so Woojin knew what was going on (and it was good that he did because Woojin was a great help to the trio), and it never got easier. Thinking about it never got easier, venting about it felt like a crime. Maybe this time, it would be different, it won't be so bad. Felix took a deep breath, both mentally and physically preparing himself for what's to come, because they really hated doing this. With a passion.

They were giving Minho 'the Jisung talk'.

Chapter Text

When Jisung opens the white, wooden door, it's practically flung open the rest of the way by the wind. The storm was finally here; plaguing the sky like a stain, clouds dark and rain thrashing in all directions. Thunder roared frequently and lightning split the sky in blinding lines, patterned like spilled blood down an arm. As the tempest raged, the usually calm waves crashed against the shore violently, closer to Jisung than they'd usually be. His newly-dyed hair was ruffled and his eyes narrowed, tears fighting the particles dragged through the wind into his eyes as a chemical barrier against bacteria and dirt. He brought a hand to his face, shielding the icy gale.

This was the worst possible part of the storm, he knew; and he was also, quite literally, in the middle of it.

 

-

 

There's a heavy atmosphere in the room that doesn't sit well with Minho. He assumes it doesn't sit well with the other three boys in the room either. Chan was still fuming, the others could practically see the steam rolling off him in puffs. Changbin was quiet, as always. Felix looked anxious; he took a deep breath. He seemed to recognise the situation, steeling himself for the storm to come.

Minho was sat on the couch, unable to make eye contact. Each 3RACHA member sat in their respective chairs: Chan in the centre, Felix on his right (Minho's left) and Changbin on his left (Minho's right). Their body language communicated discomfort and confrontation. Chan leaned forward moments later, having calmed down. "Let's begin, shall we?"

Minho slowly met his eye as he spoke.

"The main point of the stories so you can understand why 3RACHA could only ever have three members, not four. By doing that, we're going to tell you what Jisung did that got him... that made him leave. It's not a nice story, so we're only going to tell you once. Please listen closely. We don't repeat this story to anyone, nor have we told many people at all. Most importantly, don't tell anyone. This is me, us, putting our trust in you. Do you understand?"

Chan's voice softened towards the end, anger vanishing, replaced with grey numbness that Minho hated seeing on him. The dancer simply nodded, feeling as if his voice was left in the hallway from the outburst before.

"One more thing. You cannot blame anyone, and I mean anyone for what happened. With that, we'll start at the very beginning, where all disasters start."

 

-

Felix and I had known each other forever. He didn't know about my feelings for him; I had loved him for a very long time and I could never pinpoint when feelings of friendship turned into something more.  

-

The time came when Felix got his audition results and he had facetimed Chan before he read them, the older eagerly awaiting the results as well. Felix was sure his ears split when both he and Chan screamed in victory at the successful pass, alerting everyone else in the house while doing so. Chan had wanted to give Felix a hug many times for varying reasons but now he was desperate to just pick him up and spin him around. The commotion had an effect on Chan's end, too, his fellow dorm mates telling him to quiet down and one of them came over to see what the big softie was so excited about. Chan talked with the other person in Korean briefly before he left, Felix picking up most of the words. 

"Who was that?" He had asked in English.

Chan smirked, "You'll see."

-

When Felix arrived in South Korea's busy airport the first face he spotted was Chan - his facial features had grown a little sharper but regardless he still glowed with warmth and softness because grew fond of. His skin was still pale, living up to his nickname of Vampire Chan. He was taller now and had a nice build, he had matured nicely. Felix felt nothing but joy when he saw him rushing towards him. Felix held his arms out, to which Chan enveloped him in a hug that made Felix feel protected and safe and warm and his heart swelled so damn much. He felt as if he could cry from happiness of seeing his best friend after such a long time despite talking almost every day. Of course, there was Christmas and New year when Chan visited, but those days were short and rushed. 

They talked the entire way back to Chan's, and the other trainees', dorms, Chan having stayed there for the longest, back before GOT7 had debuted. Chan had told Felix all about them, especially BamBam, and Felix followed their progress from debut to now (as well as other groups, eventually becoming the biggest Twice fanboy), where they were making it big with their flight log trilogy. Felix had started leaning Korean a year or so ago, Chan also teaching him few things and helping him with what he was struggling with. Felix was grateful for his constant help, even though he was still a bit rusty. A company member had also accompanied them, driving them to Felix's new home.

When Felix entered he felt oddly comfortable. Maybe it's because Chan had told him a lot about the dorm and a little about the members in said dorm or the fact that Chan was still holding his hand or because the apartment seemed cozy to the freckled boy. There was someone sitting on the couch, waiting for them like a loyal puppy. Felix learned that that was the perfect way to describe him. When the boy greeted them, Felix recognised his voice as the same one Chan was talking to when he was screaming about Felix's results. He bowed at him and introduced himself to the stranger and said stranger greeted him back.

"Nice to meet you, my name is Han Jisung."

-

Needless to say, Felix and Jisung became close scarily quickly. Chan was perplexed to find them cuddled up to each other one slow morning, as if they'd been friends for more than a couple of days, on their brown leather couch mere inches away and under the same blanket. The oldest was beginning to wonder if the birthday twins (upon learning, they squealed like schoolgirls despite being around midnight) meeting was a good idea.

Exhibit A: Pranks.

Chan knew Jisung liked to play jokes, but it seems Felix had kept that side concealed from him as he discovered when he found all their eggs gone from the fridge and hidden around their dorm. Felix and Jisung had apparently woken up at 5am to hide them all because "hyung, it's easter!".

It was the middle of November.

In conclusion, Jeongin was unhappy to find a crushed egg under his pillow. Jokes on them, the troublemaker twins had to clear it up.

This was a regular occurrence, to the point that there was a silent rule of "if you make a mess of your pranks, clean them up".

Exhibit B: They liked to mess around.

During practice, when they set the table, when Jeongin's trying to sleep, during breaks... Don't misunderstand, Chan loves to see the pair of sunshines happy, but he'd rather not be scolding them after. He loved them anyway.

But when he thought about the times where they needed each other...

Exhibit C: When Chan isn't around when they need him to be, they find each other.

When Felix is struggling with a word in Korean, Jisung switches to English and helps him out.

When Jisung can't work anymore, Felix drags him away from his desk and takes him out for food, or comforts him with affection.

When Felix overworks his mind and body both in language and in dance, Jisung tells him that he's doing well and that he needs to rest, too.

When Jisung breaks down crying in the middle of the night and Chan isn't home yet, Felix sits with him until he falls asleep, or until Chan comes home to cuddle them both to sleep.

When Felix has an anxiety attack, Jisung tells him to take a deep breath.

When Chris isn't there for either of them when he needs to be, they help each other.

And then he knows - having them meet each other was the best idea.

 

And the worst.

 

-

 

It's important that you understand how we changed before Jisung... left. I'm still the same as I was in most aspects but I'm a bit more emotional and mature. Believe it or not I was more of a goofball back then than I am now.

Felix was like the sun. It was rare to see him not happy and he talked a lot, he was friendly, outgoing, full of energy. He wasn't closed off like he is now and trusted people easily.

Changbin still wore a lot of black but his personality was way different. He was an optimist, affectionate, open to others and was generally more happy than now. His clothes were brighter back then too. Heck, he even wore Hawaiian shirts. 

But most of all, we were all young and stupid. We did a lot of stupid stuff that won't make sense now, but we were immature and still growing up. It's not an excuse, it's just the way it was back then.

Long story short, all four of us made some really stupid choices.

 

-

Despite their differences, Changbin and Felix were close. Changbin, try as he might to be 'dark and scary', had a soft, cute side the bright boy brought about. They were like fire and fire, burning brightly and fuelling each other, raising each other up to the same temperature; Felix helped Changbin with dance, Changbin help Felix with rap. It was a complimentary cycle, yet it clashed a little.

Changbin is naturally close to Felix at all times, like earth orbiting the sun. Except, Chan was Felix's sun, his compass, his rock, his safety blanket. Even if they didn't have as much physical contact as Changbin and Felix, the Aussies were closer than anything Jisung's seen, seemingly able to communicate telepathically and be in sync with each other, agreeing with almost everything, habits and small gestures mirrored in each other, despite how different they were and the (small) age gap. It was actually kinda funny sometimes, like when they both sigh and roll their eyes at Changbin's antics, or how they both laugh with bright grins and tilt their heads back. It was like they were one person.

If Jisung was Felix's platonic soulmate, Chris was his real soulmate.

Jisung wished he could have someone like that one day.

-

The day Hyunjin walks in is the day Jisung sees Changbin pay attention to someone more than Felix - 3RACHA doesn't count.

Over time, he sees Changbin fall in love with Hyunjin while still keeping Felix as close as Chan and Jisung let him.

He wonders who Changbin likes more.

-

"Where did you used to live? If you didn't live with your parents..." Jisung ponders over a vanilla milkshake and a slice of cheesecake. Hyunjin's only been here a few days, yet Jisung had taken an interest in him - by interest, it was more of an attachment. Like, a do-not-touch-he-is-mine-and-i-shall-protect-this-squishy-boy attachment.

Said boy swallowed a mouthful of strawberry milkshake, "I lived with my hyung, Minho. He's touring with BTS at the moment as a back-up dancer. Come to think of it, he reminds me of you a little."

'Ooh's and 'Ah's are heard from the squirrel boy as Hyunjin speaks, "Is he handsome? Is that why?" he asks suggestively.

Hyunjin giggles, "Very handsome."

The older millennial talks about his hyung (the most Jisung's heard him say at once so far) and Jisung makes a connection to a certain dancer on YouTube he likes.

"This 'Minho' wouldn't happen to be a Lee Minho who likes to wear crop tops and posts dance covers online, would he?"

They leave the cafe with a promise for Hyunjin to talk to Minho soon when they got the chance.

In conclusion, Jisung was in a good mood for the rest of the day.

 

-

 

Chris looked dreadful.

He had pulled 3 all-nighters in a row, without drinking coffee because "caffeine is bad" for him (ever the sweetheart he is), he eyes we bloodshot and the usual bags under his eyes were not jet-black suitcases. He probably doesn't even realise he's fading in and out of sleep while he works, or that he's trembling, every exhale hunching him closer to the desk. it would've been a nice feeling had he not been so worried and stressed. Most of all, he's lonely. Chris just wants someone here with him to ease the pain.

Luckily for him, a certain Lee was just around the corner, storming towards the studio with concern.

Chris hadn't come home last night. Again.

When Felix jolted awake at 2am after a hazy nightmare to find that his life support wasn't with him, he almost had a panic attack. Luckily, Jisung was still awake, browsing the internet, and hopped down from his bunk bed as soon as he heard Felix's struggling breaths. He stayed with Felix, coaxing him to take deep breath and follow the breathing pattern Chris taught him. Felix was always a nervous kid, never acted out, never spoke.

Clearly, he's grown a lot.

Chris is half-asleep when Felix twists the door open, clicking it shut behind him. "Chris," his firm voice summons.

The older was still hunched over his self-destructive work.

Felix tried again, louder, "Chris!"

He jolts awake, sitting up slightly, confused. Did I fall asleep? Dammit.

The curly-haired boy looked up, surprised to see Felix standing with his arms crossed disapprovingly. It was like a mother scolding their child.

"Good morning..." Chris greeted, despite having no clue what the time was. There was no windows in the studio, time was only told by his laptop and the broken clock behind him.

Felix wasted no time. "Come here." He ordered his hyung, sitting on the dark, leather couch.

Chris followed, too tired to think. He slumped down opposite Felix, blinking his eyes open to stay awake, but he was so sleepy. He wanted to sleep, but he needed to work-

"Channie-hyung, you know we love you?" Felix suddenly said, any anger being replaced by sadness at seeing his life-long friend this way.

Chan can say nothing, but in his overworked state he feels too much. The words hit him like a sack of bricks followed by a terribly tuned piano, and he knows he wants to cry. He simply nods.

Felix doesn't need to lecture him. They both know Chan needs to rest, so Felix held his small arms out for him to crawl into. Chan almost seemed vulnerable, like he couldn't be leader. In this state, he could barely even stand.

Chan's voice of reason, also known as his best friend Lee Felix, told him that rest was the only thing he needed now. He was at his limit.

As he felt his body fall into slumber, eyes drooping, he registered Felix moving them to lay together; the presence of a small, honey-skinned hand playing with his curly grey locks.

He faded into a deep, much-needed sleep, Felix himself napping for a few hours. Neither noticed when Jisung walked in and snapped a few pictures with a fond smile, leaving as quickly as he arrived.

Felix was Chris' lighthouse on the foggiest days, his beacon of light, his voice of reason, his morality.

Above everything else, he was eternally grateful for him in his life.

-

 

I think the most exciting part about debut is the fans. It's not just about putting your thoughts and feelings out there, there are people who actually support your creation. After years of disapproval from your parents or judging looks from your... 'friends', people actually stand up and support you.

I'm still really nervous. But I'm just so tired that I have no energy to fuel my anxiety and I'm worried I'll end up like Chan. He's suffering badly nowadays, the insomnia's gotten so much worse. He passed out twice during practice and more times I can count in the studio. We have supplies for him to spend the night if he needs and he even brought an overnight bag.

Oh! The studio! It looks so good. Plus, the chairs are really comfy. I love taking naps on them. Felix likes to cuddle on them with us when he's around, but he mostly just goes to Chan's room to make him sleep. I got pictures of them~!

They should just date already.

But with the whole Changbin situation going on, I'm really sure. I don't even know if they know about it. Even if they did, they would still be the same. Anyways, our debut! The promotions were so much fun, God I cant wait for the next album to be released already. All three of us are working hard all the time - it's tiring, but it's what we love. At least we still get Saturdays off to gather at the dorm and cuddle and watch movies or something in our pyjamas and cuddle. I love cuddling Felix the most, but he usually cuddles with Chan like they always did back in Australia, as Felix has rambled about before so many times that I swear I might just cut my ears off.

Scratch that, I really need them.

But I like when Jeongin cuddles me - he's so squishy and I'm just??? So soft?? My heart?? I love him so much in the least-gayest way possible.

But I still prefer being the one who's cuddled. :(

-

"Jisungie-ah, what are you smiling at?" a raspy voice asks one chilly morning after a sleepless night.

"Just pictures of Chan and Felix cuddling, that's all." the maknae answered Changbin, showing the evidence to him. His hyung hummed in acknowledgement as he squinted at the pair; Jisung put his red-cased phone back in it's place in his front pocket.

"Cute, aren't they?" Jisung tries.

"I guess." Changbin murmurs.

The younger boy smirks to himself: Changbin was jealous. Jisung had been aware for a while now that Changbin had a crush on a certain freckle-faced boy.

"I'm glad they're there for each other, in all seriousness." the younger rapper mused. "They're the only ones that fully understand each other." Jisung was secretly trying to soften him up, sweeten the idea of the pair of Australians together, making the blow less painful if they ever decided to date.

Changbin only hummed again.

-

Binnie-hyung has been clingy lately. Our baby Changbin is so cute~ 

We're on break before we go into the hardcore preparing phase to recharge and summon our talent and energy. Except I don't need to, I just naturally have it.

Still taller than him, though. He never grows. Hyunjin does though, now he's REALLY tall. Maybe even taller than Chan! Wait, no, Chan isn't that tall. Woojin? Urgh, it's 2am, I can't remember. I can't sleep because Chan and Felix won't shut up in the other room - they're watching some English programme or a film or something and they're laughing really loud and talking in English and I can understand what's going on but I JUST WANT TO SLEEP URGH. Stupid hyung and day-younger soulmate. If they were kissing they might shut up.

... EW NO.

It's getting warmer and I hate it.

I wish it would rain more :/ Hyunjin and I have started to hang out more! He so sweet and absolutely gorgeous. I would date him but he's not my type. I don't think he's weird enough either. We'll see.

I swear he has a thing for Seungmin. He would never admit it, but the blushes I swEAR, THIS MAN IS GAY AND IN LOVE.

I swear I'm about to go full cupid on their gay and closeted-gay asses because watching them is like watching Chan mulling over Felix or Changbin checking out Felix when he isn't looking. I see you, shortie, you're not sneaky.

Maybe Changbin could date Hyunjin!

-

Jisung isn't cruel.

Felix knows this already, but feels a need to remind himself when Jisung proposes the idea of Changbin and Hyunjin being set up.

He's not entirely sure why, but he has a bitter taste in the back of his throat.

Jisung notices, but he says nothing.

Jisung isn't cruel.

"Why them?" Felix asks with fake nonchalance.

Jisung answers, "I wouldn't suggest them unless Changbin wasn't ogling Hyunjin at some point of practice. He's too awkward and needs a push, I'm just helping him out." Felix's silence is a beacon for Jisung's concern. "Hey, look at me." He says calmly.

Felix gives him a glare that says 'what.'

"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't have good reason, so trust me. Hyunjin has a small crush on Seungmin that will surely escalate into full-on pining and later heartbreak unless he finds someone else to distract him. Changbin's getting clingy with everyone, some more than others, to the point where it can't be considered friendly anymore-"

Felix jumped to his defence, "What's wrong with that? You're clingy but nobody ever mentions it."

"He's lonely. He kept pouting at you for a kiss yesterday while you were cuddling but luckily you didn't understand the gesture. That would've cause even more problems." Jisung provided.

"What do you mean?" Felix questions, any signs of aggression now vanished.

"He wants a relationship, dumbass."

"I meant the last past, dumbass." And why not set me up with him?

Jisung sighs. "Nevermind it now. Let's just focus on those two first before I sort out you and kangaroo-hyung."

"Huh?" a perplexed Felix exclaims.

"Are you saying you don't love him?" the older challenges.

Felix licks his bottom lip nervously.

"Just... don't think about it. I'll handle Changjin, you can sit this one out."

Jisung isn't cruel.

Felix knows.

But it still hurt.

-

Above everything, Jisung valued love and friendship.

Sexuality and attraction applies to this, which is why he would never set up Seungmin with Hyunjin, especially since double-checking Seungmin was straight and felt apparently no attraction to Hyunjin.

Hence why he started finding more opportunities for Changjin (as he calls them) to spend time together, before they started going to each other naturally.

If Felix was hurt, he always had Chan or Jeongin or Seungmin to go to, since he seemed to be avoiding Jisung after what he said. He must've come to the realisation that he did, in fact, love his childhood friend, because he started avoiding Chan, too.

This didn't go unnoticed.

"Why are you avoiding me?" Chan calls to the younger Aussie, speeding down the hallway.

Felix wanted to walk faster, run away. But he couldn't, never from Chris.

"I'm not?" Felix clued innocently, "I'm just tired is all. Just want some space from people." It's a decent lie, but an overused one. Chan spots it immediately.

"The only people you ever talk to anymore is Seungmin and Jeongin. Sometimes you just go hours without talking at all. I'm worried." His voice is tranquil, almost upset.

Felix shakes his head, "Just leave it." He turns to walk away again.

"Lix..." Chan tries to reach for his hand, but it slips from his grasp. He doesn't give up, not on Felix. "Felix!"

It hurts, but he keeps walking. Leaving his longest, most loyal friend in his dust, forgotten for years in the bare halls, the sound of his voice already fading from memory. The first thing you forget about a person after they leave is their voice. Two weeks after he left Australia, Felix forgot what Chris' laugh sounded like. During a three-month gap where they hadn't spoke, Felix forgot what his voice sounded like when he sung. During exam season when Chris was cramming and overworking himself to the brink of collapsing at 1pm in broad daylight, Felix forgot what his voice sounded like after it broke. Just thinking about it made him want to sob, he could even feel it in his eyes, stinging like bleach.

He almost breaks until he feels a familiar pair of strong, reliable arms wrap themselves around his waist, binding his arms to his sides, the taller Australian boy's chin on his right shoulder. Then, and only them, does he crumble, in the embrace of the only boy he loves.

Eventually they've moved to Chris' studio where prying eyes won't judge, silent questions bombarded. The two hold each other tightly, as if letting go would mean seeing the other in a computer screen again. Felix can only cry, Chris can only hold him; whisper reassurances, "Shhh... You're okay. Just take a deep breath, you're okay."

Felix knows he is, he's just confused. He's in love with Chan. But he also has some... feelings for Changbin. They're not as strong, but they're still there, and Felix is so conflicted. It should be obvious, shouldn't it? But he can't choose between them. Wait, why is he choosing? It's not like either likes him back.

Though, as he slowly drifts off in Chan's arms, now on the black leather couch, a large, pale hand rubbing his back soothingly, he wonders if he already knew the whole time.

 

-

There's no official 'We dating!' announcement, but the others just know.

They can tell with the way Changbin clings to Hyunjin like a magnet, how Hyunjin looks at the rapper, the small, giddy glances in the mirror with those equally small but sweet, soft smiles. They can tell by listening to how their speech and tones change, the teasing, the overwhelming amount of physical contact that wasn't there yesterday. Most of all, they can tell by the smug look on Jisung's face as he snaps pictures of them asleep on the couch.

Jisung isn't cruel, so when he notices Seungmin eyeing hyunjin and Changbin with a faraway look in his eye, and Felix with a hurt yet puzzled glaze in his dark orbs, he knows.

-

It hurts, Felix decides. It hurts, but as he leans back into Chan's sturdy shoulder, he knows he's okay. He's not broken, nor is he fixed, but he's okay. He knows Jisung is right, he knows Jisung isn't cruel, he wouldn't do this if he pretended Felix wasn't pining over his best friend.

With that, he decides he's grateful.

 

But those feelings for Changbin never went anywhere.

-

Nobody knows why only a few weeks (if that) later the two raven-haired boys are back to normal, if a little awkward, yet nobody openly questioned it. Maybe it was just a phase.

Either way, there are multiple silent sighs of relief.

-

"Why did you set us up, just out of curiosity?" Hyunjin starts the conversation this time, except he's the one with a vanilla milkshake this time. Jisung has the banana one today.

"Are you upset?" Jisung frowns. He felt bad.

Hyunjin quickly dismisses the idea, "No! Of course not. I think I know why, but I just wanted to know..." he trails off, unsure.

"Well," the younger begins, "Firstly, I knew you had a small crush on Seungmin, but Seungmin couldn't return those feelings. And I know it would escalate and you would be miserable, and I know how hard unrequited love can be, so I tried to give you something else, even if it was only a distraction, even if it was a mistake. I also knew Changbin's feelings for Felix would cause a problem for him and Chan and that he also had some feelings for you. So I tried killing two birds with one stone, and I think it worked pretty well." Jisung's body language suggested he was proud, but his voice betrayed him.

"Mm, I understand." Hyunjin nodded. "It worked out well pretty okay, except you forgot something."

Jisung tilted his head like a puppy, eyes narrowed.

"Changbin still loves me. And Felix."

Ah. Right.

Shit.

 

On the bright side, Jisung is entirely confident Hyunjin converted Seungmin into a mildly panicked gay.

-

 

So here's our plan: Ask Hyunjin to meet me in the studio to work on some extra stuff (I have a whole playlist of... interesting songs prepared for him choose from) and later on I will ask Seungmin to meet me, but not tell him that Hyunjin's with me. We'll be dancing to the new choreography by the time he gets there. Felix will follow him (sneaky, of course. We have codenames too!) and see if he reacts in any way or tries to run off or makes some excuse not to come by. It seems foolproof now thanks to Felix's help, but I also wanted to record our choreography when we've mastered it.

WAIT WAIT WAIT NEW PLAN

I'll ask Seungmin to come and record it! That way he'll focus directly on Hyunjin. I could even ask Felix to record me too! Individually, of course, so Seungmin will finally wake up. Man I am so smart. Seriously.

We could even do both! We can merge the plans together. Holy heck. I should be qualified in matchmaking. Nothing can go wrong from here, I'm sure of it! Well I mean, Felix could end up falling for me because I'm so handsome but with the way things are now, it seems like he only has eyes for a certain hyung. More on that later! Gotta focus on Operation: Seungjin. Agent Squirrel, over and out~!

-

"They're adorable, aren't they?" Felix spoke dreamily. Chan followed his gaze to see Seungmin and Hyunjin sitting together, speaking softly between themselves.

He smiled fondly at the kids, "They are. I'm surprised with how gentle Seungmin is, usually he's a savage or the spawn of satan but with Hyunjin he's like..."  Chan trails off, hands waving about in search of the right word.

"A lamb?" Felix asks in English, having not learned the word in his second language.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah! That's right." Chan alternates between the languages comfortably, Felix understanding how it helped him to express himself. He would only show that side to Felix despite Seungmin and Jisung being near-fluent. Next to him, Felix sighs.

"I wish I had someone special like that." He murmurs. Chan glances, sipping his water.

"You will, one day." He smiles.

 

-

 

 

At this point we started growing popular and more stages were being requested. About five months later we released Horizon and our popularity skyrocketed, PD-nim was so proud of us he suggested a mini-tour. It was only around the main cities of Korea but it was such a big deal for us. All of our tracks were going to be performed. We were ecstatic. This is where Felix came into the picture. We needed dancers for the tour and Felix had just finished his studies and had nothing to do so I suggested that he come on tour with us. He accepted, of course, and he had already met JYP and our manager when he was featured on one of our tracks. They watched him dance and gave him the okay and just like that he became part of our crew. At the time it was just the four of us along with Hyunjin, Seungmin and the rookie Jeongin, so we had our main four dancers, they were the most important. The rest of the dancers were still being recruited and they were a much bigger number so we started working right away. Felix was head of choreography, which is most likely why he helps you out a lot. That, and his love of dancing.

 

While we was preparing for tour, we were also working on another album on the side. This time Felix was featured in multiple tracks and it sounded much better than our previous albums. We planned to release it when the tour had finished. The tour itself went really well, the only problem we had was that my voice was growing weaker towards the end so I avoided dancing during one show and even modified the tracks in advance just in case I lost it completely. The only time I had to use those tracks was for Matryoshka during the second half of our tour. It was modified so that only Jisung and Changbin were performing and it sounded even better than the original so we kept it that way. The tour was over that autumn and it was the best thing 3RACHA had ever done. Then things started going wrong.

 

As I said before, Felix didn't know how I felt about him, neither did he know about Changbin's feelings for him too. Felix doesn't like Changbin romantically, but he felt the same way towards me. When I asked him out on the final day of our tour and he said yes Changbin was furious. Not just furious, he was livid at me and hurt because of Felix. Changbin was so angry he threatened to disband. This caused a huge argument between the three of us and we didn't even consider how Jisung felt.

-

"Hyung, you knew I liked him! I-"

"No, I didn't! If I did I wouldn't have asked him!" Chan lied.

"Well I made it perfectly obvious, hyung. Do you know how I feel right now? How upset and angry I am?" Changbin screamed, rage turning his knuckles white.

Chan grit his teeth, "You sound like a spoilt child. Grow up and accept you can't have everything!"

"Felix is my everything! The reason I smile everyday, my first laugh of the day, the sun, my happiness! He was one of the closest friends I've ever had-"

"And he still is! I'm not stealing him, Changbin, I'm just dating him. It's not the end of the world." Chan tried to reason.

Changbin stares at him, hard.It's almost a glare, almost a snarl when he speaks, "I loved him. I love him. I wanted to tell him."

Chan debates apologising for some reason, then he wonders what he should be sorry for. Loving Felix? Confessing? Finally getting to be with him?

"Well... what do you expect me to do? Break up with him? Break his heart? Make him cry? Cause that's a great idea!" The leader's facetious voice raises again.

Changbin is silent for a moment, debating his next words.

"You're selfish, hyung."

"For loving someone and confessing my feelings to them? Sure." he scoffed in returned.

The younger clenched his teeth, shouting, "I hate you!"

"Well, thanks! After everything we've been through, you're getting mad because of a boy I've loved since childhood. I didn't start this team an dork to get Felix to eventually join it just for this." his voice is vile, like snake venom.

Changbin mutters a curse before slamming the door behind him, unaware of the multiple pairs of eyes scrutinising him. Even if he knew, he didn't care.

He hated them all.

-

 

The pair of boys walk in-step with each other, carrying the cans of cola stacked carefully in hands and under chins. There's a tension everywhere, even with the boys who weren't involved. Hyunjin hates not being able to find his words to talk to Jisung more. He misses him.

It's Jisung who breaks the silence.

"Did you talk to that Hyung of yours?"

It's a simple question, yet Hyunjin's muscles tense, knuckles fading a light yellow to titanium white. He could lie and say he forgot, but he already told Jisung he genuinely forgot the other day (it was the truth, he's forgetful) so saying he forgot again would be suspicious, yet this is only a tiny thought compared to the bigger, much darker memory that found its way to his mind. The last time he lied to someone, he lost all his friends, faced what felt like years of abuse and had to transfer schools after mentioned 'friends' attempted to break his ankles. As a result, Hyunjin was always afraid to lie, but telling the truth was probably more painful for Jisung's feelings.

He took a mental deep breath, "I'm sorry sungie, but he's too occupied with touring at the moment. But if he ever changes his mind, I promise I'll tell you as soon as possible, okay?" He tried to be optimistic.

"Ah, no worries. Being a dancer for BTS must be stressful. Thank you though, for talking to him for me." Jisung hides whatever emotion he feels under a carefree facade.

Hyunjin knows he just kicked a puppy, and is disappointed he couldn't do more. He knows it's not his fault, but he really did wish Minho could meet Jisung.

He misses Minho.

 

-

 

It was on of those days again. The damn argument between the three boys was still fresh in the air and the tension was still thick enough that glares would still be sent between the trio. Changbin and Chan hadn't even shown up today. It was just Jisung and Felix in the dance studio, sitting opposite each other, playing Go Fish with Jisung's card deck. Jisung was rather quiet today. Felix tried not to take his anger out on him, but at this point he wasn't even angry. He had just cried all night, laying with Jisung until the squirrel-looking boy sent him to sleep with cuddles, petting and other forms of comfort. Felix needed it in a situation like this, it was just unfair on him and Jisung was on his side because if it were him he would want guidance and support, especially from his best friend. So that was exactly what he was going to give him.

"Do you have any threes?" Felix asked, eyeing his three of spades; Jeongin's card. Felix found it cute that Jisung wrote on his cards. It was symbolic to him and Felix found that unique about him.

Jisung gave him a look - it wasn't a glare, but it was dark, as if Jisung was telling him something silently. He glanced down and passed him the three of hearts, frowning slightly. Felix took it happily but his victory was short-lived when he saw that Jisung had wrote on the card. He frowned at what the card read.

The first heart pointed down, Changbin's name resting on top of it. The other two pointed up, the second/middle heart being Felix's and the final being Chan's.

Felix looked up to Jisung.

"You need to fix this." the older told him. Felix glanced from him to the card, then put the rest of his cards down, leaning back in his chair and sighing as Jisung stood up, releasing Felix from his cold scrutiny.

Jisung dropped the two of hearts in front of him before he walked off. Felix picked it up and eyed it, then threw it back on the table. He closed his eyes and tilted his head so it was parallel to the ceiling, knowing that yes, he had to fix this, but he really didn't want to.

Just before Jisung left, Felix called out to him. The boy in question turned around, and Felix realised just by looking that Jisung was so... tired. Emotionally tired. Felix was too.

"In another reality, I would've fallen in love with you."

Felix says, sadly. Jisung's eyes depict his surprise before glossing over. 

Jisung bolts before Felix can see him cry, touched and devastated by his soulmate's words.

 

-

 

The tension in the room is suffocating. It's all the trio of boys can feel since that day. There had been no attempts to resolve the fight, in fact nobody had done anything.

Until now.

Chan was just packing his laptop away and stood to leave, but to his surprise (and alarm), Jisung had quickly ran and locked the door. The leader sighed, "Jisung, I'm not in the mood for your games. Unlock it."

"No," the youngest replied firmly. "You're not going anywhere until you two talk this out."

Chan felt his eye twitch. He heard Changbin scoff from his desk.

"Jisung-ah, don't make me ask again." Chan's annoyed voice breaks through the pin-drop silence.

Jisung doesn't move, looking into his tired friend's eyes with desperation a hint of something else Chan can't identify.

"Han Jisung!" Chan screams, causing the poor maknae to flinch. He immediately felt bad. "I'm sorry for shouting-"

"You know, this is all Jisung's fault." Changbin states darkly.

Jisung can't speak, so Chan does, "Excuse me?"

"He's been causing all sorts of havoc, forcing people together, splitting them up like it's some sort of game! People have feelings, you know!" Changbin's voice grew like a lion's roar.

Jisung still can't speak, not daring to look anywhere but his feet. There's so much he wants to say, but he'll just takes things worse. He always makes things worse.

Chan still defends him, the angel he is, "You have no right to drag him into this, he did nothing wrong! You shouldn't even blame me, or even Felix for this! You're making such an issue out of this just because you're not being the pampered princess your parents brought you up to be..."

They continue for what feels like hours. In the midst of their shouting, which Jisung had tuned out at this point (he's somehow used to it), he unlocked the door and left.

He leaves Changbin's empty threats of "I want to leave this fucking group!" in the studio, but they seem to follow him.

-

"Changbinnie-hyung, can I talk to you?" a deep voice asks after dance practice. The sun sets from outside the window.

Ah, great. Changbin thinks. Jisung must've told him what happened earlier.

"Sure Felix, what's up?" he begins innocently.

"Can you please stop?" Felix is rather straightforward.

"What do you mean?" Changbin keeps up the act.

"I've seen how you glare at the others. It's not their fault. Just let them be happy, please? I didn't realise then but I know now how you felt- or, feel towards me and while I respect those feelings you need to respect mine. I love Chan-"

That hurt.

"-But that doesn't give you a right to bash us about. I'm sorry I didn't notice any of this earlier and I'm sorry I love Chan, but I'm happy. And I need you to let me be happy, please." Felix struggles with the Korean, stumbling or slurring the words here and there to get them out, finishing with a rather formal bow.

Changbin, taken aback by the action, tells him to stand straight. He thinks about it for a while, a pregnant silence filling the room.

He can't have Hyunjin. He can't have Felix.

He shouldn't even be dating anyway. They'll get in trouble.

But... If Felix's happiness depends on him, on 3RACHA, on their music and on Chan...

"Okay... Just for you. But it'll take a while to get used to it-"

Felix cuts him off with a tight hug, "Thank you. Thank you so much hyung. It means a lot. Really." Is Felix crying?

If he is, he doesn't let it show as they pack up their things and walk out the studio.

Changbin is halfway home when he realises that no, Jisung didn't tell Felix that he shouted at the younger. Nobody did.

"Han Jisung, the friend I don't deserve..."

-

Jisung was just watching it all happen and he tried to help but we just ended up in an even worse state than before and we all just wanted time away from each other.

A week later it was only me, Felix and Jisung at the studio. Felix was practising by himself and Jisung and I settled down for a chat while we worked. We both knew Changbin would come back around.

-

Jisung observed Felix as he moved with sharp, knife-like movements, each move filled with energy. His platonic soulmate looked like he was going beyond his limit. Jisung shook his head. On the other hand, Chan messed with a new track on his laptop. He hadn't come back to the dorms yesterday.

"Hyung... you should rest. Come home with us later." Jisung pouted.

"Mhm." Chan bluntly answered. Jisung felt annoyed. He resumed watching Felix as he spoke. "You need to talk to Changbin soon. I don't care what about, just talk to him. I'm really scared, hyung. What if we really do disband?!"

"That's veeeeery unlikely Jisung..." Chan never looked up, not even once. Jisung decided not to bother.

-

It was Jisung who noticed when Felix was struggling to breathe.

-

"Hyung... Don't you think-"

-

I thought he was just tired, but Jisung saw past it.

-

"He's just trying to improve his stamina so he can rap and dance at the same time. He's been doing that a lot lately." Chan replied, distracted by his laptop.

-

If there's anyone who knew exhaustion well, it was Jisung. Felix wasn't just tired.

-

"No, hyung, he's- SHIT!"

-

Then Felix just... collapsed.

-

It's all a blur.

-

He just blacked out but Jisung was there to catch him. We got him to hospital by a company car and he was put into intensive care.

-

Jisung rushes over, faster than he's ever run in his life. It was like everything was in slow-motion.

Chan is frozen for a few heartbeats as he  watches one of his best friends hold his motionless love. He's wheezing, if that. It's like a really bad panic attack.

Except, Felix is unable to take a deep breath, like he usually would.

Chan almost falls over his own feet as he runs to the two boys. This reminds him of the time Jisung collapsed a while ago and only their teacher was with him, having rushed him to the hospital. Felix must've pushed himself too far.

"Hyung... he's barely breathing..." Jisung's voice shakes.

Chan says nothing, checking for a fever, for any injuries.

"We need to call an ambulance." Jisung tries not to sob.

"He's gonna be okay..."

"Only if we call an ambulance, quick!" Jisung panics.

"I'll go find a staff member, they'll know what to do." Chan seems out of it.

"CHRISTOPHER BANG!" Jisung screams, "Call an ambulance, now!"

-

Jisung went with Felix in the ambulance, while Chan had a staff member drive him to the hospital. He didn't arrive until much later.

Even then, after all that time to calm down, it's all a blur.

"He's been put in intensive care-"

"Won't make it unless-"

"May take a few days-"

"Not sure how long-"

The words float in and out his ears, but he's having trouble processing everything. He hadn't had a decent amount of sleeping so long and he didn't even go home last night, the stress he felt here was unreal and it made him dizzy. He wanted to rest, but he was petrified at the thought of something happening to Felix while he was resting. Luckily, Jisung vowed to stay by Felix's side the whole time, suggesting they could take turns as long as the hospital would let them, both boys praying they would understand they were Felix's only family in this big, scary place.

Chan sat next to Jisung, who patiently guarded Felix like a puppy (truly, the best way to describe him) and called his other best friend, despite the chaos between them.

At this point, Felix is all that mattered.

-

As it turns out, Felix's lungs were collapsing.

I don't remember what the doctor told us or what it meant but the bottom line was Felix needed a transplant or he was going to die. This was difficult because Felix's blood type was AB, which meant it could take time to find a donor but Felix didn't have time. He had days, hours even. Changbin came to the hospital as soon as Jisung called him and told him what happened and the fight we had was completely forgotten.

-

In the hospital room, there were only three sounds.

A heart rate monitor.

Felix's broken breathing.

Changbin's foot tapping impatiently against the floor.

The last sound was stilled by Chan placing his pale hand on Changbin's thigh - a gesture he used often to comfort the others. He heard the younger attempt to take a deep breath but he broke down crying halfway through it. Chan felt himself tear up too, face grimacing as he willed the tears away, shaking his head to stop them leaking from his eyes. He had to be strong for them. He was their leader.

He pulled Changbin closer, hugging his small frame to his chest, rocking him slowly as he wept. Chan, despite his efforts, began to cry silently. Through his tear tracks and wobbling voice, he spoke, "Hyung is sorry."

Changbin cried harder, then sniffled, "Why is hyung sorry? I should be sorry... We were fighting over him but now look..." Changbin turned to look over his shoulder at the small, 'sleeping' boy but immediately whipped his head back upon meeting the sight of a dying Lee Felix.

"I should've been there for you as leader... and as a friend. I've been- been so terrible at both. It's all m-my fault Binnie... I should've taken better care of him, told him to stop, but I didn't and I-"

"Hyung, you don't know what 'stop' means." Changbin's wet voice cuts through the leader's weeping. "We were both bad friends, forcing him into this state-"

"Neither of us did this to him." Chan's voice was solid as rock, pulling away to look Changbin in the eye. "There is something physically wrong with his body that we cannot control. There''s nothing we could've done except for bring him here-"

"Then why do you blame yourself, hyung?"

It hit him like a truck. He wants to argue, he wants to cry again, but he can't. He just feels... numb. He stares through Changbin. Said boy brings his best friend closer in another embrace, understanding the conflict in his head. "I'm sorry for fighting with you, hyung, but all we can do about Felix is wait and hope for the best. This isn't about loving him anymore, our feelings aren't more important than his life. In the meantime, we'll have each other to lean on. Is that okay?"

Chan squeezes him close, "You're right. I'm sorry too Binnie."

"It's gonna be okay."

-

We just sat there with him, everything felt like a nightmare, like it wasn't real. We stayed there for a long time, nothing else mattered. All three of us were in a really dark place and we were so scared.

Then things got better and worse in the most extreme ways and I didn't know how to feel. None of us did. The doctors found a donor the next day and it felt too good to be true. Jisung had gone home to rest after staying with Felix for hours while Changbin and I stayed in the hospital overnight. We made sure to never leave Felix alone, guarding him like angels.

-

It felt like drowning.

He was trapped underwater, black waves surrounding him. He  wasn't cold, instead he was warm.

Right, he was practicing. Then what..?

He heard someone talking faintly, but he didn't know who. He was terrified, it hurt so much. It felt like sandpaper.

He tried to take a deep breath, it might just be a really bad panic attack. What would he be panicking over now? Was it the guys again? He hoped not.

It smells funny. Where is he? He's afraid.

The voice came closer. Who's there? He knows that voice.

Chris?

No. that's Jisung. He remembers seeing him before he was plunged into the ocean. He even remembers falling. He's happy to hear him again, he feels safe.

What's he saying? Is everything okay? He still can't breathe very well. He's scared.

His lungs and throat burned, he was running out of air, he had to get to the surface.

Just a bit further. He has to make it, for his friends, for himself, for Chris. He had to see them all again.

Jisung is still nearby. He follows the sound of his voice.

He feels a kiss on his forehead, it's relaxing. He almost lets himself sink for a bit. He feels safe in the darkness.

No, can't stay. Have to keep going, just a little more. He can do it, even if it burns like a million fires.

He feels lost, Jisung stopped talking. Where did he go? Come back! I'm nearly there!

He sees the light.

He reaches the surface.

He can breathe again.

-

For a split second, he thought he saw a blinding gummy smile and chubby squirrel cheeks; a hand reaching for him under the deep waters.

If he ever did, he doesn't remember when he wakes up.

-

While the surgery took place the pair of us went back to our homes to get changed and eat, we texted and called Jisung but he wasn't picking up. He was probably exhausted, he watched over Felix the longest. We met at the hospital, by this time Felix's transplant surgery was done and he was resting. He was going to live. We was overjoyed. When we entered Felix's room he wasn't exactly feeling the same.

He was screaming, crying and he looked horrible. The sounds were even worse. I was so confused so I just sat with him and tried to calm him down, Changbin sat down and...

 

-

 

Chan couldn't continue, his voice only sounding in sobs, veiny hands covered his face in attempt to hide his tears. Changbin glared at the floor, still silent, yet tears glistened in his eyes.

It was Felix who continued, to Minho's surprise. As if they weren't just talking about how he almost died. Minho didn't have time to feel astonished at how unfazed they looked as if it didn't scare them, as Felix began speaking in a deep, miserable voice.

 

-

 

Jisung left us letters before he left.

They were letters to us about what he wanted to happen. He said he wanted me to take his place in 3RACHA, he wanted me to continue dancing, he wanted Chan to be the strong leader he is and he wanted Changbin to be happy. He wanted us to understand. He loved all three of us and-

 

-

 

Felix voice was trembling, having rambled the last few words in slurred Korean. He took a deep breath, with lungs that didn't belong to him.

 

-

 

My lungs. The transplant. These lungs... They're Jisung's.

 

All I see is red, the panic sets in, I try to count to three but I get stuck at one, when I collapsed in your arms you were my saviour but when I woke up you were gone, you became a part of me.

You became a part of me.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chan was the first person to enter the studio after everything had happened. 

The lights were off, just as they always left it. Chan wanted to let the dark engulf him, but he had done enough of that already. He turned on the light and almost regretted it.

It was exactly how they left it.

Maybe he wanted it to stay that way, but it couldn't now. Not after this. Jisung had made himself very clear.

Chan's gaze landed on Jisung's desk.

He sighed.

His legs slowly made his way over but the rest of his body was refusing. Jisung's favourite yellow flannel was still hanging on the back of the chair like it always did when he wasn't wearing it. Chan wondered, with great pain while doing so, how Jisung could bare to leave it behind. Hell, how could he leave any of it behind.

He picked up the shirt lifelessly, held it to his chest, and lowered his head, almost as if he were hugging him again.

Then it hit him.

Jisung's shirt still smelt like him.

It was barely there, but there altogether, weak but strong and infiltrating, addictive and sweet like vanilla but as dangerous as alcohol.

Chan wanted to cry, but no tears came out, as if he had cried them all already. Something about that made him feel bitter.

He wondered what he was going to do with all Jisung's stuff.

 

It took a while, but Chan found a small metal box.

He gently folded the shirt and put it in first, right at the bottom, as if it were a cushion for the rest of the items.

Jisung had so many empty notebooks. He had a drawer full of them, his own little collection, whereas only three had been filled. So many empty pages yet to be filled with untold thoughts and brilliant ideas.  Chan decided Felix would have the rest, but he knew it wasn't he who had already made that decision. He placed the notebooks in first, followed by Jisung's journal, which he had surprisingly left sitting on his desk, out in the open. Even touching it felt wrong to Chan. The necklace was next - also being on the desk. Jisung was usually very messy, so he must have cleaned before he left. Chan thought it was eerie, but then he realised that that very thought was ambiguous, as in the thought of Jisung cleaning made him scared because he left or because it was very uncharacteristic of him, so it was a bit weird when he did. The latter though made him chuckle sadly, no smile rising from his lips and voice shattered. Then the seashell, which Jisung would look at for hours. The card deck was kept in the top drawer. When Chan fished it out he almost dropped it in shock when he saw the card the clear packaging displayed. 

Jisung had put the ace of spades at the top of the pile.

Very clever, Jisung, Chan immediately thought. He read the goodbye Jisung left on the card and he wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Lastly, the mirror. What Jisung had wrote on the back seemed cryptic to Chan, but interested him nevertheless. He placed gently into the box, and closed it. A clicked made itself known, signalling the box was definitely closed. Chan looked for a label, there should be some in his desk...

He stuck the label on the box, a little crooked but he didn't care. He grabbed the first pen he could find, a thick back sharpie, and wrote 'Jisung' in English. 

That's when he noticed his own tears.

He quickly wiped them away and pushed the box under the couch by the door, as if trying to bury it and his feelings with it, and before exiting the studio he turned of the light, the studio almost exactly as he left it the time before, except someone was missing from the team now. That being said, Chan turned off the light.

And all was dark.

-

Nobody heard from Changbin since the hospital.

Chan knew this is how he dealt with things: he locked himself away, then Chan would find him and talk to him for an hour or however long it took for things to get better. Except he didn't do that when they got into the argument, and Chan felt like he couldn't now. There was a rift now, despite Jisung's dead pleas for them to stay together, both during the argument and in the letter. Even though the argument was long forgotten now, Chan was worried Changbin might still be upset...

Three days passed when Chan decided to text Changbin. Felix was still in the hospital, having to stay until he healed from the surgery. They set him up with a therapist too, lord knows he needed it.

 

Chan: Changbin?

Changbin: Hi Hyung.

Chan: Are you okay? Do you wanna meet up? Want me to come over?

Changbin: I'm fine hyung :).

Chan: I don't think you are. Have you been eating? Sleeping? You should go back to your parents' house for a while, we have three weeks recovery.

Changbin: I just need to be left alone hyung

Changbin: I'm tired

Changbin: Really tired.

Changbin: I've been talking to Hyunjin and the others, they've been checking up on me, so don't worry

Changbin: Take care of Felix

Chan: Okay... But you know I love you Bin? So please take care of yourself

Changbin: I know. I love you too hyung

 

Time passed. Chan texted Changbin some more, even Felix called to make sure he was okay. The dark rapper was quiet and barely typed more than a sentence. He never answered the calls, always texting instead. Hyunjin said Changbin was very quiet and vague from the start and that he was worried.

More time passed.

It's been two weeks.

Chan had enough.

-

Changbin wasn't fine. He was the polar opposite of fine. If "I'm fine, hyung :)." was sent over text the reality of the situation was horribly worse.

Chan didn't know.

Felix didn't know.

Hyunjin didn't know.

Nobody knew.

...Jisung probably knew.

 

The reality was, Changbin spent the majority of those two weeks torturing himself. His guilt rarely let him sleep; he barely ate. He didn't answer his phone because he knew he sounded like shit. He texted because it was always easier to lie like that. He still had the decency to brush his teeth, dress and shower most days. When he did, he'd stand in a freezing cold shower, dragging his razor along his arms, red spots covering the thin red lines he inflicted on himself. He favoured his thighs, though, where he could paint his sorrows away and etch his rage into his skin and never have it seen. He tore and bleed and screamed and cried, a mixture of emotions exploding. He wasn't sure if he felt better or worse after he slit himself open, he just felt numb, and that was enough. If the stinging of the cuts and the rinse of blood could fade from feeling, then surely this discordant blend of emotions would vanish too, right?

It got so bad that he unintentionally scraped a tiny chunk of skin from his leg after a rapid, firm drag of the blade. He bled like crazy and even panicked at the idea of having to cut the hanging flesh off, but when he did with a pair of nail scissors it didn't hurt at all - it wasn't connected to the rest of his skin. It wasn't him. He was slowly breaking bit by bit and this was just another small piece, just not from his heart or from the shrinking of his stomach or of the light in his eyes.

It had been two weeks. Felix's birthday had passed by now but nobody celebrated it, not even Felix. Changbin forgot, honestly. Jisung was dead. It was Changbin's fault for causing that stupid fight. For making everyone stressed. For not noticing something was wrong. For being petty and selfish. Stupid fucking Changbin can't even do his job without his feelings getting in his way-

There's so many voices.

Changbin doesn't notice when his front door opens, or that he left it unlocked those few weeks ago. He lay flat on his bed, staring soullessly into his ceiling, limbs stretched out, t-shirt and boxers as his coverage as he lays on his blanket. He didn't sleep the night before, hadn't eaten in a while (he doesn't keep track) and his arms and legs ache from the damage he inflicted on himself. His work is exposed, out in the open but nobody's here to see, until he registers Chan, who stands frozen in shock, still in his jacket, Hyunjin and Woojin not far behind. Changbin's eye roll to the side to look at Chan. Oh. When did he get there?

He doesn't know what they're saying, but he's being lifted up at some point, then everything goes black.

Chan remembers it so clearly: one of his best friends and colleague laying on his bed lifelessly, staring into nothing. Lips chapped and faded, skin pale and body skinnier than usual, scars littering his arms and thighs, overlapping in some areas. Some still fresh and bleeding, dried into the menacing white sheets liked crusted jewels. The house wasn't as messy, just dirty dishes and laundry piles. Chan found the razor in his bathroom and threw it away, thankful it was the last in the packet. They called the manager, who called the hospital, and Changbin was set to see a therapist once, sometimes twice a week. His scars started to heal and fade, but he still looked so numb. So devastated. Lost. It was unsettling.

 

After that day, whenever Chan saw a smiley with a full stop after his breath would hitch and he'd panic until he found Changbin and made sure he was okay.

Obviously, this happened many times.

 

-

 

Changbin opened the box, his shaking finger ghosting over it's contents.

It had been three months.

Three months, and he was still like this. He was fucking weak for still feeling like this. Felix, surprisingly, seemed to be managing and Chan was okay. It was just him.

Changbin was unstable and emotional. He was furious and apologetic and depressed and so fucking sorry for how this mess turned out. 

Changbin sighed, closing his eyes as he felt the tears start to surface. A part of him hated Jisung still even though he had tried to deal with that along with the rest of his internal problems for those first two weeks. He was better now, but only a little. If if were a physical scar it would only have a cloth on it to stop the bleeding and antiseptic spray so that it hurt even more, inside his skin and on the outer layers. He wasn't ready for the bandages yet, maybe in a few months.

He picked up the mirror, holding it delicately in his dry hands, as if it were a baby bird.

And he just stared.

He stared at his own pathetic reflection, at his glassy eyes and the dark bags under them. He stared, and resented.

 

It was my fault.

If I wasn't so damn selfish.

If we didn't have that fucking fight.

If we didn't put our own desires first.

If I wasn't so stupid.

If I hadn't done that to him.

If Jisung-

Fucking Jisung-

You're weak.

You're blaming others because you can't take the guilt.

Fucking take it.

Take it all,

And live with it for the rest of your fucking life.

You're whining because you want to be loved.

He never loved you.

And he never fucking will.

Look at yourself.

It's you.

How can anyone love you.

After all the shit you've done.

After what you did to him.

All of them.

They hate you.

 

No wonder he left.

 

Changbin threw the mirror across the room, disgusted, and screamed in agony.

The agony was internal, of course. But Changbin could always make it external, too.

Oh, how he would love to.

His therapist wouldn't like that though.

He crawled over to the shattered mirror. Only a few pieces had fallen out, the rest were shockingly still in place.

Changbin picked up one of the tiny shards from the small mirror.

His caught his reflection again a few times, and decided that he wasn't his reflection's image.

They were two different people.

I'm not me, he decided.

And brought the shard closer to his skin.

 

The door opened.

 

"Binnie?" a marble-smooth voice called from the doorway, light pouring in in the scandalous form of false hope and exposition, a bright shadow imprinted onto it.

"Hyung..." Changbin whispered, all strength lost to his anger.

Chan frowned, brown eyes blinking with concern, but his face was blank. He looked like that a lot nowadays. Like a blank page, a grey cloud, a thick piece of glass. He walked over to where Changbin was kneeled on the floor, at the mercy of his own thoughts.

Changbin avoided him so much before and after the fight. During the tour it was going down to eat at different times and ignoring him in hotel rooms, taking strolls in the shadows a little too late at night and keeping a minimum distance at the airport, mask yanked up and cap bowed down. After the fight it was crying in his room at two in the afternoon and avoiding his phone - and going to the company - like the plague; laying motionless on his wooden floors and wailing at the walls, sleeping the hurt away the best he could.

After Jisung fucking killed himself, he was screaming at the mirror and crying in the shower pained by the splits in his skin and his own guilt eating him up. Pathetically sobbing as it tore through his limbs and pounced on his back, a weight that will remain for years; clawing at his scalp.

Oh wait, that was his own nails.

That was within those two weeks though, this was three months later.

Right now, he's slowly and painfully healing, the warmth of his hyung's embrace now looking to be a bit more appealing than the idea of a razor on his thinning arms. Three months later and it's not any better but he'll get there, Chan told him, his therapist told him, Felix said nothing, maybe he should start listening.

"Hyung, at first one the reasons I did this because I know you would miss Felix more than me. Then I stopped and thought and realised that you're not like that, even when you find me annoying. You're such a caring person, Binnie-hyung, and you would know what's best in this situation for everyone. I hope you know what's best for you too: Don't blame yourself, Hyungie, none of this was your fault. Even if you were here there's nothing you could do- or Channie-hyung, or Lixeu, or the doctors. When I caught the glimpse of an opportunity to save him, I leapt for it, and it's my choice. I'm doing this for Felix, hyung. I hope you understand. So please, don't hate yourself, or Channie, or Felix, or the staff. Hate me all you want, but please don't hate yourself, because I don't hate you, Changbin."

Maybe, one day, he'll listen to Jisung too.

-

 

 

His eyes held nothing but unwept tears, evident by their grey glossiness. They were red, pink-rimmed and heavy with the monsters of his dreams, the poltergeist never let him sleep. His was afraid of the world now - afraid to blink, to move, to eat or sleep, to even so much as breathe because these lungs aren't his-

He retched into the toilet again, whimpering as his stomach exploded. Hyung wasn't here. He was probably at the studio, he mentioned going back to clean up some things to get things back together again...

It doesn't matter. He'll suffer alone. With Jisung. Because a part of Jisung is here, inside his body, and he's just using them like a tool in this vessel he calls a body to function each day and Jisung isn't here-

Screams. He just screams and sobs at this point. Whoever thought putting his best friend's lungs in him without his agreement was sick. Maybe Jisung was sick for even volunteering such a preposterous thing. Maybe he wanted to die.

Die.

Die...

Felix should've died.

Not Han Jisung, Lee Felix should've died.

He's too afraid to live now. He's terrified of waking up everyday - so he never sleeps. He's petrified when he realises he took a deep breath, or sighed, or blowed on his food or whistled or even yawned because that's not him doing that, it's Jisung, it's all Jisung, it's not even him anymore. Who is he? Is he still Felix? He can't be Felix now, not like this.

Lee Felix should have died that day, September 4th, 2017. He didn't feel alive...

Die...

Felix should just die.

-

Chris returned from the studio, cleaning up a little more and finding some lyric sheets and rummaging through his drawers for a while. He dropped is findings on the coffee table as soon as he came home, having forgotten to bring a backpack. He called out for Felix; the older had told his boyfriend where he was going before Felix asked him to stay until he fell asleep and promising to be quick. Chris doesn't break his promises.

He assumes Felix is still sleeping - it was about 7pm when he left. He should try and rest too.

"...Felix?" he's startled now. He regrets ever leaving. Where did he go? He feels a strain around his throat, anxiety coursing through his body, blood cold as snow.

Bathroom, he thinks. That's reasonable, calm down Chris. 

He pads to the bathroom: the light is off and the door slightly ajar, but he can hear shaky breathing from inside. Just stay calm, he tells himself. Felix is probably feeling sick again.

He definitely wasn't calm when he burst through the door.

"FELIX NO!" He lunged forward, heart racing a mile a minute, shock making his eyes water. A clang and rattle ricochetted against the innocent white tiles of the room, almost mocking him as they bared witness to all the suffering that hung in this room.

A small container hit the floor, no bigger than Felix's palms, the contents spilling everywhere. The pills surrounded them like a minefield, an ocean of suffering coated in the same devilish white against the chilly tiles. It was enough, more than enough to put him to sleep, too much needed to kill him. Felix erupted into a fountain of tears, Chris instantly holding him both for comfort of both boys but also to cling to Felix for dear life. He almost just lost his childhood friend, best friend and lover forever, right before his eyes, again.

He already lost  Jisung, not Felix too. Not Him.

Chris almost yelled in his urgency, "Did you swallow any? Felix did you swallow any?!" the sickly-looking boy shook his head furiously, still crying and screaming from what Chris saw. What he could've seen. He felt so rotten immediately, what was he thinking? After so much to keep him alive only for him to force himself into the same fate as Jisung?

Chris believed him, he didn't see any of the- the poisons tip into his mouth, luckily he was fast enough. He let out the breath he was holding and rubbed Felix's back, veiny hands gliding across his shirt. After a while, Felix's cries reduced but not yet over, Chris picked Felix up gently, like he was the most fragile thing in the world and carried them to their shared bed in the next room. Felix wrapped himself around his protector like a koala and held tightly, even when they were sat on the end of the bed he wouldn't move, still fearful. He just had to be held together, for he was so, so broken.

After what felt like hours Chris carefully pried him away, the younger much calmer. "Is there anything I can do to help you?"

"Just stay." Felix's voice is so broken and almost jumbled.

"Why did you do that, sweetheart?" Chris asks, but it almost seems rhetorical.

Felix feels it all coming back to him, "I-It's not fair. It should've been me-"

"Don't say that-"

"IT SHOULD'VE BEEN ME!" Felix gripped his arms tightly, voice burning as it tore from his throat. He didn't mean to shout at Chris. Mumbling an apology, he bowed his heavy head into Chris' sturdy shoulder. Tears fall again, broad shoulders catch them. The hand on his back returned. "His lungs are inside me, Chris. Do you have any idea how disgusting it is? I want to rip them out. I'd rather be dead than living with Jisung's lungs. He could've lived the rest of his life but he wasted it on me. Why, Chris? It's just not fair. I never wanted this."

Chris is silent. He knows there something more.

"...But I can't bring myself to hate him. I love him and I miss him so much, Channie, it's not fair. I never got to-" he choked on his grief, took a shuddering breath, "I never got a say. Never got to tell him what I wanted to happened, or say goodbye, and while it's all sentimental and a part of him is still alive it's my fault shit got so fucked up. Fuck."

Chris hummed, still stroking his back like a cat. "You didn't know. None of us did, we didn't know he'd do that either. It's not anyone's fault and we both know that. Just please understand, even if you don't feel lucky to be alive," he guided Felix back to look at him, "You are."

That seemed to be the last push, because Felix wasn't screaming or wailing anymore, rather he cried silently, breathing shakily.

"I'm scared to breathe-" he barely managed.

"I'll help you. Just follow me, okay? Copy how I breathe."

Within only 3 minutes, Felix could finally breathe again.

"Whenever you need help, always find me, yeah? Cause when you're struggling like this I'm not gonna leave you behind. I promise I'll help you so it never gets this bad again, but you have to come to me or talk to your therapist okay?"

 

Felix nodded against his torso, once again clinging to Chan.

Chan kissed his forehead as he dozed off, exhausted from sleep deprivation and the evening's outburst.

"Don't be afraid, angel, Hyungie's got you."

-

It was a long road to recovery.

Chan had seen so much in the last few weeks he wish he could've prevented. He felt like a bad leader, friend, boyfriend. He didn't want a therapist. He didn't want help, he wanted his friends, his family to be helped. And Chan could help them. But who would help Chan?

Woojin and Chan became close during the recovery period, having depended on each other. Woojin helped return the normalcy of everyday life and Chan talked to Woojin when things got too much, Woojin offered advice and Chan had been doing much better than he initially was. As the two oldest of the friend group, they seemed to complement each other well. Chan wasn't the type to show his feelings, even before the "incident" (as they called it) and wanted to show strength for the others to bring them hope. Woojin was by his side the whole time, encouraging him and assisting in the smaller things like venting without the others knowing, except Felix of course. The freckled boy made sure to show his appreciation to Woojin as much as he could. Chan has a grey look to him when Jisung is mentioned, like he fully isn't over what happened, but nobody is and may never will be for a long time, and that's okay. If there is a shadow, there must be a light.

Felix was far better now, he wasn't throwing up anymore but he struggled to breathe at the mention of Jisung and neither did he sleep very much. Then again, none of them did so at least Felix  wasn't alone, but he still had the gore-filled nightmares. He was much quieter, not really his bubbly self but he was improving in physical and mental health. With big changes like this, it was expected that Felix would change, or 'mature'. His cheeks were gone now, but if you looked close enough he has a shimmer of hope in his eyes and a slight eye smile. He's okay.

Changbin was past the antiseptic spray phase and now putting the bandages on, but sometimes the bandage would rip and he'd have to go back a step. But two steps forward, one step back right? He thought as he stood before the camera, waiting for the cue. There wasn't four as they once hoped, only three. Always three. Felix stood with them now as the third member and maknae of 3RACHA. A staff member gave them the cue. He shifted a bit, nervous to be back on the screens again. 

"Hello, we are 3RACHA!"

He wondered if he would ever get used to hearing Felix's deep voice instead of Jisung's high one as Chan began to introduce their newest album:

RECØVERY.

Chapter Text

Tense, torn and silent. This was the room as they had left it, air heavy and almost hazy. The studio is unmoving, Felix still sniffling, Changbin looking elsewhere, desiring to say something or leave, Minho with his head bowed, ashamed and full of a mixture of unwelcome emotions. He can faintly hear the sound of Changbin's watch ticking in the void of sound. As for Chan-

"Do you understand now?" Chan asks with steel-cold patience and a shattered voice.

Minho nods solemnly.

"No, but do you understand?" Minho looks up, confused. "Do you understand how hard he fought through depression and suicidal thoughts to get where he was? How many times he questioned his existence and came to me sobbing his heart out because he was so alone and terrified of the future?! How he always hid his frowns and tears with a hug because you could never see his face?! How tormented he was by so many, including himself, to the point where he overworked himself into the hospital and recovered, better for so many months only to give his life to his best friend without any warning to anyone just like that?! Do you have the single most profound idea, how that must've felt for any of us?! His parents?! Felix, Changbin, Me?! Do you know how the others felt either? Did you watch as they slowly fell apart over time until we almost just broke everything off we've spent our entire lives working for just like that? Because of what he did?! And did you, Lee Minho, have a clue how many things he wanted to do and all the people he wanted to meet, including you?! Huh?! Do you understand why we never talk about what he did?! Why we shoved his memory in a box and shoved it under that fucking couch, why we couldn't tell our loyal fans what really happened that day?! The impact it had on our career? Why the name, 'Han Jisung' is taboo in this company? Why we never wanted to tell you anything and how much it hurt to see you talk about him like he was the brightest star in the sky and how curious you were when all along the boy- not even 18, was dead?! Do you understand how that felt?! Do you have the slightest fucking idea how the guilt and the grief can drive you so mad but you can't show it to anyone because they need you to be strong and you just want to explode?! Do you?! Aye?!"

Chan was standing, face red as blood and eyes shining with tears like racing rivers, towering over Minho with pale fists clenched, teeth gritted and blood smearing his lips from where he had bitten it so many times. He was steaming like a shrieking kettle, his voice escalating in volume as he poured out everything from his heart. All those bottled up feeling bursting and breaking the glass which it was captured and suppressed in - so fragile and thin, now in a million pieces and scattered around the music studio. His chest heaved as he contained his destructive rage; a wild look in those tired eyes. He appeared as if he wanted to throw something or even hit Minho, but in Chan's eyes, he only saw himself within those confused and frightened eyes as if it were that day in the hospital where the atrocity of what his passed teammate had done was revealed for the first time. Denial was the first stage, then instead of the usual stage of grief that followed for the leader it was bargaining, then the emotional stages that he only showed so rarely to Woojin and Woojin only. It's not like he needed therapy: he wasn't the owner of his dead best friend's lungs and he wasn't ripping his body to shreds with a razor. He was the leader. He was meant to be strong. Strong strong strong.

Now, he was anything but that.

Rather than throwing or punching something, his rage quickly snapped into sadness and he wailed so loudly, crouching to the floor and hiding his pained face in those cold hands of his, letting it all go. He was so tired. Not as in sleepy-tired, tired as in emotionally. Socially. In every possible way of 'tired' you get. There isn't even a word for this, not in the two languages he's fluent in.

His two group mates once watched with wide eyes: Chan never shouts, only once has he shouted before and it was when Jisung was alive and they were far younger, not counting the argument he had with Changbin over Felix. This was full-out yelling, when his emotions suffocated him to the point he vented it out violently.

They were glad he never shouted, because he was beyond petrifying. Daunting. Spine-chilling. They wouldn't dare to look at him until he sunk in his misery and began drowning in tears. Felix snapped out of his fearfulness and instantly kneeled next to Chan, who clung so tight as if he were afraid of losing anyone else. Changbin narrowed his eyes at the sight of Chan crying. It was like watching a parent or grandparent cry, something so unthinkable that nobody wants to see. Instead of that image being engrained in his head, he turned his head to Minho, who looked like he wanted to throw up. He looked so remorseful for his behaviour over the recent weeks while wanting to fade away after what he was told.

Minho blinked a few times. Maybe out of habit, maybe out of shock. Definitely both. Then, he held his eyelids shut.

The world was better than this.

The world was better with Jisung.

"Minho-hyung, do you understand everything we've told you?" Changbin asked softly, taking charge of the heavy situation, a sign of his growth. Minho swallowed. Then nodded slowly.

Changbin continued, "Every song we wrote in the Recovery and Placebo focused on what we felt. Mixtape one was Placebo remastered, and how Jisung wanted to be replaced so easily but it took time. What Went Down part one and two focused on a metaphor for what happened, telling a similar story but with youthful elements. Spiral, Claws and Stalker were what we felt, our feelings and regrets, coping with the process of grieving for Sungie..." Minho was surprised he used a nickname. "4419 was our bittersweet feelings, it's Felix's song for thanking Jisung for everything. Us, too. We owe Sungie a lot, even now." He had a small, sad smile. Minho rarely saw him smile. "Outro: Recollection was much heavier, more rap, darker sounds and rapid beats. It's the closest we get to telling anyone what truly happened, again through symbolism and metaphors. I'm surprised JYP even let it be in the album... But nobody would ever catch on to what happened without extra information - like the journal Chan gave you, the box and what we just told you." He finished. His eyes were bloodshot red but he wasn't crying more. He was getting better, steadily and carefully, only the occasional bump in the road.

Changbin wanted to say more bout them. How they'd changed. How Felix was so skinny that you wouldn't even begin to imagine that he ever had the same chubby, squish-able cheeks as Jisung but lost them when he started eating less as he had grown sick of the idea of eating. How there was honestly a time when Chan's eyebags were lighter and he was full of colour, still pale, but not so grey as he is now. How Felix laughed loudly and shamelessly, stumbled a bit with the language even if he was near-fluent before he came to Korea; how Chan would use more English with him then and the times he corrected his fellow Aussie. How they played more and focused more on enjoying their career and worrying over silly little things that made their world so simple back then. Changbin was different too, he wouldn't even recognise himself. He had more pride and self-confidence back then and hated feeling pain or fighting with his friends, he still does but bad then he was more prone to it. He's not as loud and aggressive now, not as involved as he was and he rarely ever expresses happiness.

Now, though, it's not so bad. In a way, he feels a little bit better lately. Maybe it's because he's opening up more...

Regardless, he doesn't tell Minho anything else. He doesn't need to know about them; he's already got enough on his mind as shown by the way the dancer slumped back in his seat, looking lost.

He continues to stare at nothing even after Chan finally calmed down and sat back in his chair, Felix closer than before in his own swivel chair while Changbin was maybe an inch nearer to the centrepiece of the group. Chan's about to say something when Minho cuts in.

"I'm so sorry."

Felix sighs, "Minho-"

"Really, I am." The older's voice trembles. "I should've just shut up about it. Never looked into your old songs, listened to Hyunjin. Should've just done my job instead of making friends and getting people hurt. You didn't need to tolerate me. Should've just fired me for harassing you, taught me a lesson-" he chuckles soullessly, trying not to cry. "You put up with so much and you were probably getting better, and then I came in and made it all worse. I'm really sorry for everything and I hope you deal with me whichever way you see fit-" He stands and bows deeply, almost past the 90 degree angle his waist is twisted at.

The room stood silent. Chan, despite being leader, had no idea how to handle this. Felix and Changbin were surprised, especially at the sudden formality. Minho was trembling as he contained his emotions. It's only until Chan sees a tear drop fall and smash the ground he speaks, "We don't want that. None of want that, especially Hyunjin. You've been doing your job incredibly, and while you curiosity may be a trait that propels you in life you just wasn't thinking of others. Or maybe you knew, but just didn't care- it doesn't matter now. Nothing matters now that you know. You don't deserve to be fired for something like this, I don't blame you for any of this." He continues as Minho slowly starts to rise, "In a way, I think this had to happen in order for us to move forward." The leader holds Minho's gaze, seeing all the trapped feelings and tears. "You should go home and rest. Let it process. I know you cared- care about Ji- Han and you need to let yourself feel if you wanna get anywhere. We learned that the hard way..."

Felix smiles a little at the dancer. Changbin speaks softly, "Go home and rest, Minho-hyung. We'll be in touch if you ever wanna talk." Minho nods, a few tears escaping as he did. Sniffling, he turned, red in the face and eyes shining like marbles. He wanted to scream. Cry. Collapse to the ground and curl into a ball until his cats came over and sniffed him- he missed his cats. He missed Jisung. Can you miss someone you never knew? It's a weird feeling and Minho isn't sure if he should welcome it or deny that Han Jisung had ever died. For now, he ignores it.

So he packs up his stuff, zips his bag and leave the building without a sound.

-

Minho texted Hyunjin as he walked down the busy street, the sun beginning to set. The sky was beautiful. Was Jisung up there? Is there really an afterlife?

Minho: They told me what happened.

Hyunjin: ?

Minho: To Jisung.

Hyunjin: Oh.

Minho: Yeah.

Minho: I feel like shit now

Minho: I could've even met him! But no. I'm so ignorant of others around me.

Sighing, he turns on his music, hoping to settle the pain. He plays a favourite of his, Broken Compass; a song exploring feeling lost or alone. He's always loved this song the most.

Hyunjin: You're not... It was hard on all of us and we all felt responsible in a way, but we know there was nothing we could've done in the end, so we just tried to accept it and then things slowly started getting better. We visit his gravestone sometimes, it's quite nice actually. 

Hyunjin: Where are you? Do you need me?

Minho: They told me to go home for a while, rest and stuff.

Hyunjin: I think that's exactly what you need. I'm always here if you need me.

Minho: Me too, thanks Jinnie.

Hyunjin: :) Love you Hyung! <3

Minho: <3

He lets the music take over now, pocketing his phone. It merges with his spiralling thoughts, taking him deeper into crisis.

-

It's time.

Jisung has to go now, he's been preparing for this the entire time he's been stuck here and this is the only opportunity he has to go back there. 

He walks towards that stark white door, this time with courage and nervous excitement jittering through his body, hands shaking as he reaches for the door handle. He almost chuckles at his own fear of going back, but he's had almost a year to tame his feelings, so it's no excuse. His hands are sweaty, but when he opens the door, the cool air balances his worries. 

And off he goes.

-

Did Jisung leave a note? He left them for 3RACHA so surely he must've left one to the company or his parents- why hadn't he heard of the son social media before? What did the company say? Were the fans upset? Did some leave? If they did, that's awful. Minho walked faster in his sudden anger, adrenaline stemming from his slurred emotions, weaving in and out of each other.

Jisung walked slowly, taking deep breaths. How ironic.

His volume was so high, he couldn't ear anything over the pounding headache in his ears or the pulses of the song. He could hear Jisung's voice clearer than anything. 

It was beautiful, had this lasting effect he couldn't explain. Like holding a conker or an acorn, smooth and defined and somehow scratchy, easily manipulated. Difficult to break.

Jisung weaved around crowds, noticing they didn't seem to care he was in a rush. Could you blame him? He hadn't been here in so long. He could never bring himself to. 

MInho's thoughts grew like a shadowed monster with a hushed back and gleaming eyes. It plagued his worry and whispered questions to him over the music, it was so painful to listen to, he couldn't think. He didn't want to think! He just wished it would all stop.

Instead, he just walked faster.

But now, he has a reason.

He never realised he wandered into the road until he was sprawled on the ground, the pale silver car hovering over him slightly. He didn't know anymore. He was blacking out, not hearing the screams around him. He couldn't feel anything.

The only thing he registered in his mind was the lyrics of his favourite song through his earphones, somehow not broken, different parts fading in and out and emphasised by an unknown force:

Hold it tight till we go

Hold it even stronger when a raging storm hits

Don’t panic when you first encounter the tides, but follow it

It seems to be correct

Now I can drift without worries

This is right way to refute, stay calm

 

It was okay.

He was gonna be okay.

And all was dark.

 

"You're okay, you're okay. I got you." Jisung says as he carefully picks up the body, smiling at Minho's sleeping face. He wasted no time, despite wanting to stay in the familiar area longer (but he could see Chan in the distance and he knew it'd get messy soon), bringing the boy to safety.

With him.

 

Chapter Text

When Minho opened his eyes, there were only two things he acknowledged.

1) It was extremely bright.

2) Someone was humming.

Minho struggled to blink his eyes fully open, when he did, he wasn't expecting this sight at all.

He was in a bedroom(?) with very bright white walls, bright enough to glow slightly. Almost everything was a heavenly white; the bedsheets, the ceiling, the walls, but it was complemented nicely with a soft light-oak colour for the furniture, as well as a smooth, shiny Lino floor. There was a wardrobe, a cabinet at the foot of the bed (also about 30cm higher from the bed) placed against the wall and a cute houseplant. Finally, sitting on the cabinet was a person blocking the houseplant's view.

This person had long, pink-ish orange hair, wore a large grey sweater with black ripped jeans, a silver earring dangled from his only visible earlobe, he had chubby cheeks like a squirrel and large, curious brown eyes. The young man was humming and and shaking his left foot quickly and impatiently, while his right knee was bent, right arm draped over it lazily. This person looked calm but also impatient, like a ball of energy about to explode. Scratch that, he looked like an angel.

Minho slowly tried sit sit up, weight on his elbows. He was still in his clothes but they felt like they were washed, in fact his entire body felt cleaner, lighter.

The humming person noticed his movements and his head snapped to face him, eyes wide and expecting - the soft, melodic humming coming to a sudden halt. His eyes lit up with a happiness Minho had never seen before and he greeted Minho in a basic English phrase, "Welcome!", his arms flew to the side in a celebratory manner. The greeting was loud and echoed throughout the whole room, making Minho jump slightly. He could only stare at the being before him, observing the heart-shaped smile and kind eyes until it clicked.

 

"J-Jisung?" Minho stuttered.

The figure nodded eagerly.

"How...?" Minho began, but couldn't quite finish his question, mainly because more had begun to flood into his mind. Jisung tilted his head in a cute way, like a puppy, in question.

Image result for han jisung

Minho held his gaze, mouth gaping as he struggled to find the words. Eventually, "Am I dead?"

Jisung laughed at that, throwing his head back and then leaning forward before hopping off the oak furniture, a smile still occupying his face, highlighting his beautiful features. His reply was filled with amusement, "No, not quite. You're in limbo," Jisung explained as he made his way over to the bed, sitting on the edge and facing Minho.

Up close, Minho couldn't believe that Jisung looked even more breath-taking than he already did at now only a small distance away.

"You're not dead, but you're in pretty rough shape and your body is recovering. Until then, you're stuck with me!" Jisung looked ecstatic, fidgeting slightly in his excitement. Minho briefly thought that Jisung must've been here alone, since... Nevermind.

A much bigger question loomed over him.

"How long will I be here?"

"Not too long, but longer than you think." Jisung's answer was like a riddle. Minho must've pulled a face, because Jisung chuckled at him softly, brilliant white teeth making themselves known. "Be as comfortable as you want, take your time to relax until you have to go back." 

Minho didn't want to go back.

Not with Jisung here.

-

"How did I get here?" Minho asks as he looks around the room with a more watchful eye, looking at the shelf with small yet meaningful objects - a keychain, a few framed photos, a glass angel ornament, a lava lamp. Minho smiled to himself.

"You're in a coma. You were hit by a car," Jisung tutted four times and shook his head to himself, "Silly Minho."

"Were you watching me?" Minho turned to him.

"I was watching over all of you." Jisung smiled sadly. Minho's face expressed unmasked shock and confusion. Jisung chuckled, pearly whites making another appearance. He beckoned Minho to follow him.

Jisung climbed up to the wide window-seat, sitting down on it with his legs on his left side, right shoulder leaning against the wall. He was obviously quite comfortable, shoulder relaxed as he watched, waited, for Minho to join him on his left.

When he did, Jisung turned to the window, placed his hand on the white glass (there seemed to be nothing behind it) and after a couple seconds, the white changed to a realistic motion picture of Minho in his hospital bed, sound asleep. Chan was sat in the chair at his bedside, rocking an emotionally tired Felix in his lap. Felix looked like a koala, clinging helplessly to Chan. Minho didn't blame him, he was scared too.

He was watching himself in his own coma.

He inhaled sharply, surprised to see how bad he looked. Jisung noticed.

Minho (the real Minho) has a bandaged arm, what he guessed was a broken rib (covered in more bandages), a grazed head (thankfully it wasn't bleeding and the worst he could have was a concussion, it was hard to believe he was in a coma from such a small bump) and a bruise on his sharp cheekbones one the same side of his grazed head where he had fallen and hit the solid concrete road. He didn't feel any pain from what he could remember before he slipped away, hell he couldn't even remember the accident! What was happening-

Minho felt a warm hand on his, soothing and relaxing. Minho calmed and flustered at the same time when Jisung squeezed his hand softly; Minho squeezed back.

I'm okay. I'm safe.

He took a deep breath.

I'll be okay.

-

Jisung loved sentimental songs, Minho learned. He sat against the wall on the cabinet (the same place he sat when Minho woke up) and hummed a slow song quietly to himself, eyes closed and head swaying slowly. Minho listened intently, recognising the tune as Outro: Recollection. Minho wanted to join in but he wasn't exactly the best singer, so he tapped the chair he was sitting (backwards) on, the wooden spine touching his chest, and watched Jisung continue to hum, this time a fond smile on his lips as Minho tapped the basic beat. They had routines like this. Jisung would rap, sing, even dance to a song that played on his MacBook, whilst Minho would tap the closest surface, dance, harmonise with Jisung (which both boys loved) or even rap (or sing) along with him. It made Minho's heart swell with what he could only call fondness and never failed to bring a grin to his lips, no matter how small or big.

He loved Jisung's voice.

They were on the windowsill. A park was showing in the window. It's as if they were sitting on a park bench, watching the lake, the trees, the people, the animals.

Jisung was humming softly, leaning mostly on his hand as Minho's head lay on his thighs. Jisung played with Minho's soft hair, watching the beautiful green through the window. Minho was relaxed, eyes closed, only registering the addictive humming from Jisung's throat and the way his perfect hands stroked his hair, fingers threading through his hair and short, bitten nails occasionally scratching his scalp.

Minho decided this was his favourite drug, not that he had ever done drugs, but if Jisung was one, he'd overdose almost instantly.

-

"Who do you watch the most?" The older asked at one point. He wasn't sure what time it was or if time was even a thing here.

"Hmm... for a long time it was the members, mainly Chan. He stays up too late for his own good and I can't help but worry. I guess it's my fault too, giving him too many song and lyric ideas his poor brain can barely keep up."

Minho questioned that, Jisung answered:

"I can't really explain it. It's like he can hear me, like I'm his conscience talking him through the song. But I'm not always there."

Minho understood. He felt that way too sometimes, like Jisung had spoken to him - giving him little hints here and there.

Jisung continued, "But I started to watch Felix more too, since he was taking it the hardest. I know it's sudden, waking up with your best friend's lungs in your body, but you need to understand I had no other choice. I'm glad it was me and not him." Jisung's eyes were dark and full of passion.

"I know." Minho's voice was unsteady with grief, the hurt taking over him in waves, progressively worsening until Minho's eyes pricked. He usually never cried.

"I think Changbin suffered just as much though, with the argument they had just before Felix collapsed. He probably felt so guilty." Jisung paused. 

"I should've stopped it from happening instead of letting it happen... I think that's one one my only regrets."

"Mmm." Minho sniffed, the tears burning, threatening to spill over, but luckily retreating back to wherever they came from. Jisung noticed.

"But it's okay now." Jisung smiled at him. Minho smiled back.

"I know."

 

Truthfully, it wasn't, but Minho didn't want to think about that now.

-

"You know, for someone so bright your room is quite dull."

"Hah?!" Minho didn't expect Jisung to get offended, yet he carried on teasing.

Minho got up and paced the room, waving his arms around wilding, "Yeah, I mean, everything is either white or brown. I was honestly expecting something red- at least the bed covers, heck even a pointless candle! Yet it's so plain, completely unlike you. At least paint the walls!" a pointed finger accused the beige and white walls.

"Okay," Jisung giggled and Minho felt his heart flutter, "What colour do you suggest then?"

"Mint green." Minho replied dead serious, not missing a beat.

Jisung burst out laughing, hitting his head on the window and laughing even louder; Minho chuckling at his idiocy.

"And-" the dancer giggled between his words, "Neon pink- Yah! I'm being serious!" He practically yelled as Jisung laughed uncontrollably, even louder than before. Obviously, Minho was not being serious, thank you very much. If he wasn't teasing, he'd recommend blue stripes, of course. "Mint green is my favourite colour you gremlin-"

"GREMLIN!" Jisung fell into a third laughing fit, struggling to get his words out: "You- you look like a witch!"

A very handsome witch.

Minho made an exaggerated, offended noise and pounced for the kill, tickling Jisung until he cried, writhing around and twisting on his bed to escape the evil fingers. "Give! I give!"

Satisfied, the dancer fell on top of the rapper, squishing him and earning a cry from the latter. "Hyung, you're heavy but I still like you."

"Gee, thanks. I like you too you gremlin." Minho replied fondly as Jisung started patting his back.

Neither moved for a while until Minho finally rolled off the younger, yet even then they simply lay, enjoying each other's warmth and company.

For a dead person, Jisung was very warm.

-

"What time is it?"

Jisung blinked at him, "Umm..." He placed his hand on the window, showing the famous Han River shimmering in the rays of the setting sun. "About six I'd say. It's getting darker quicker so it might not be accurate."

"Don't you have a clock in here?"

"Nope." The younger replied, popping the 'p'.

Minho still had so many questions: "Where is 'here'? Who put you here? Why aren't you in heaven?"

Jisung looked overwhelmed, as if he had pondered these same questions ever since. Minho winced in guilt.

"I don't know, but I don't mind it. I like it here. However, if I had to guess..." Jisung looked to the ceiling as the gears ticked in his head, "I think it's because not all of me is dead. My lungs are still alive in Felix's body- or something. That made me think about how many there people are like me, and at first it made me think that it's a punishment for giving my life away like that, maybe God- or, whoever it was who put me here, didn't like that. Then that showed up one day and I realised it's not a punishment, this is my duty. A second chance for me to still live, just not in my own body."

He had gestured to the glass angel ornament, standing humbly on its shelf, wings spread broadly. Each detail, every glass feather of its wings seemed to shine from the light of the window, reflecting little specks of light on the walls and ceiling like a mirror.

Minho still had questions, but when he saw something broken in Jisung's eyes he decided he was content knowing this much. He took Jisung's hand (like Jisung had done for him) and squeezed it gently in an attempt of comfort for the younger (he wished he could do more).

Jisung squeezed back, eyes locked on the angel.

For Minho, he realised it'd be enough.

-

"Would you like to go somewhere?"

Minho thought the question was weird, they had been in the same room the entire time so far. Where would they go?

"Anywhere you want, as long as it isn't a real place."

Minho had asked that out loud, great.

"What does that mean?" his eyes narrowed.

"We can't go to a place on earth or in the universe, because I'm not alive. I imagine a place and that door-" Jisung pointed to a barren door in the corner of his bedroom, "-takes me there. It can be a landscape, another room, an empty city, or a really weird place where nothing makes sense! So, what'll it be?"

The older remained speechless for a moment.

"Um... I'm not too sure. You can choose." Minho looked to Jisung expectantly.

Jisung grinned and pulled Minho up from where he was sitting on the bed. He dragged him, holding his wrist, to the white door that had been untouched since Minho arrived.

The younger swung the door open, his enthusiasm making itself known. On the other side of the door: a beach.

A very beautiful beach.

Light-coloured, fluffy sand like jewels, no stones, crystal-clear waters and calm waves, the smell of salt and a gentle breeze, but most beautifully, a sunset. Oranges, yellows, reds and pinks tainted the pale blue sky like watercolours. Minho once heard a saying: When an artist dies, God lets them paint the sky. He wondered, in that moment, if it was true.

The air was slightly chilly but warm nonetheless. Minho still made himself smaller, snuggling into the purple hoodie Jisung leant him. It was warm and the scent comforted him, centred him, completely relaxing him. Jisung took his hand, releasing Minho of his trance, and led him towards the water. Jisung beckoned him towards the water when Minho became hesitant of the crystal waves and encouraged him to take his shoes off. Two pairs of shoes and socks rested side-by-side on a large, tall rock that resembled a table or a nice place to sit and gaze into the horizon. But for now, the two pairs of shoes sat and watched as two boys played in the shallow water. 

The water was cold at first, but Minho got used to it as he paddled contently; soon enough the water became warm and it felt amazing. Jisung looked happy too, watching the sand explode beneath his feet at he walked through the transparency of the beach. Eventually there was a bit of teasing, then yells of protest and large smiles until someone splashed the other and it escalated into splashing each other with liquidised sea salt. Jisung rolled up his pants to his knees so he could go further into the sea, but both boys were soaked anyway from splashing each other and running around carelessly in the ocean. The two of them laughed and screamed as they played like children under the setting sun.

It was bordering dusk now - the large ball of light in the sky touching the tips of the water's edge. Minho and Jisung sat together on the stone that their shoes rested on and watched as the last traces of light slowly disappeared. The day was coming to an unfortunate end. Minho believed that today had been one of the best in his entire life. Jisung knew that it was his new favourite day in his death, in which those days didn't come by often. But spending even one day with Minho was everything to him. They had been waiting for what felt like years to finally meet and yes, Jisung knew Minho would get here eventually, but he was so pained by knowing something bad would happen and so relieved that they would finally meet. It reminded him of the Felix situation with the pills - how he had felt so conflicted to leave or stay.

But he didn't think about that, instead leaning into Minho's side as they watched the last light leave them. Tranquil and worn out from the day's fun, Jisung closed his eyes. He felt Minho wrap an arm around him and pull him close, sharing his warmth. Jisung was about to drift off when Minho placed a light kiss on his head, his lips brushing the strands of the younger's hair. Jisung woke up a little - turning his head to look at Minho, who smiled warmly yet shyly. Jisung returned the smile brightly, feeling giddy and warm in his cheeks. 

"Why are they so red, hmm?" Minho teased, squishing Jisung's squirrel cheeks. Jisung whined in protest and slid off the rock, grabbing his shoes. Minho did the same.

"I'm tired. Lets go back." Jisung mumbled sleepily. Minho chuckled and the two walked back, arms linked.

-

The door had been there the whole time on the beach, waiting for them. When both boys were back in Jisung's room, Jisung took off his soaked trousers and changed into comfy grey sweatpants, leaving out a pair for Minho to change into too. After that Jisung climbed into bed and snuggled into the warm blankets, beckoning Minho to join him. The older slid in next to him and Jisung latched onto him quicker than a magnet. Minho wrapped his arms around him protectively and held him there securely. Nothing could hurt him. The pair of boys smelled of sea salt and the beach and their hair would be a little messy from the way the ocean winds had swept it. Mostly, they were exhausted. Both fell into slumber quite quickly and both slept better that night than they had in years.

-

Minho was the first to wake. Neither person had moved all night and had woken exactly how they had fallen asleep.

Minho felt tears prick his eyes.

Jisung looked so small. He look so small and young and precious and he was dead. He had given his life to Felix and he was so young and he must have been so scared but he looked so beautiful and ethereal and oh god. He was right here and he was okay but he wasn't. 

He had died.

Minho didn't understand the feeling that accompanied his tears. He could only cuddled Jisung and cry in that moment. Why did it have to be like this? Why did it hurt so much? 

"Minho-hyung?" Jisung stirred, "Are you crying?"

Minho let a broken sob escape him and he turned his back on Jisung so he wouldn't have to see him in such an ugly state.

"Why, why, why?"  Jisung chuckled, his addictive morning voice soothing Minho but making the whole feeling worse. 

Minho couldn't speak due to the inverted vice trapping his throat. So he didn't. Jisung rubbed his back soothingly in the meantime.

The dancer calmed down, his breathing shaky but stable. "Are you afraid?" The younger asks.

Minho shakes his head, "Jisungie... You're dead." He felt the tiny drops of grief escape his eyes..

"Shhh, it's okay. Sometimes I forget I'm dead too." A chuckle. "But don't cry okay? It'll make me cry and we won't be able to spend our time together well." Jisung cuddles into Minho's back, spooning him. He buried his head in the older's shoulder and the two remained there for about a minute until Jisung piped up, "I have an idea!" and moved to get up, not before leaving a quick kiss on Minho's cheek. The young, and dead, rapper grabbed some clothes from his wardrobe and hurried into the bathroom. Minho waited patiently, moving to sit by the blank window, still wrapped in blankets.

He touched the spot on his cheek Jisung had kissed him and smiled to himself.

-

"Blonde?" Minho asks as Jisung emerges from the bathroom, a small towel around his clothed shoulders. He was wearing a red and black striped long-sleeved shirt with another black shirt over it. Or maybe it was just one shirt, Minho didn't know. His hair was blonde - Minho's favourite colour on Jisung (besides black because Jesus Christ)- freshly bleached and he looked stunning (as always), the colour making his brown eyes stand out. Jisung grinned and Minho swore he saw the sun. Jisung was blinding both in beauty and just how he was. Simply put, Jisung was so... Jisung. It was one of the reasons why Minho loved him.

"Do you like it?" Jisung asked.

Minho smirks, "I think you already know the answer to that." Jisung giggles and tell him to shower and get dressed.

"Maybe you should dye you hair too someday." The younger suggests.

"One day, but for now I like the brown."

Jisung agrees. "But you could always be adventurous! I think you'd look like some kind of magical creature with silver hair, like Channie-hyung's."

"What, are you saying I'm not a magical creature?" Minho faked his hurt, hand clutching his heart.

Jisung laughed loudly, his big laugh rather than his giggles in-between his speech. It was contagious.

 

MInho didn't realise it until later, but when he clutched his heart, he felt no heartbeat.

-

Jisung slid over to where Minho sat quietly on the mattress, engulfed in a book Jisung had written in, like a second journal, except it was more drawings than writing: about places he's walked through beyond his door. Drawings and descriptions of everlasting sunsets and snow-covered forests, frozen seas and azure waterfalls, worlds of grey with glowing boxes hanging from dead trees holding memories and songs, cosy living rooms with an unhealthy amount of scented candles, cafes that had invisible workers and floating coffee cups and cheesecake and iced americanos, empty theatres with the curtain mysteriously raised and cities engulfed in biological weathering and overgrown vines, gigantic mountains with friendly lions that guided him through the caves - growling slightly to make the cave paintings move and whispers of unknown creatures in the shadows, cabins that blazed in purple fires, a field of silver grass whose blades shone as they danced in the moonlight's breeze while sea rays and dolphins swam through a starry sky and nebulas appearing as shooting stars would pass. It was like he was getting lost in these worlds, yet he had never set foot in them. That's just how it was with Jisung; a feeling so magical that it was palpable.

Jisung lifted his head for his chin to perch on Minho's arm and his cheek to squish his shirt sleeve.

Minho slowly met his sparkling eyes, tearing his eyes away a rather interesting page about riding a giant scorpion through a ravine with frozen, red water that would change colour as they walked over the ice.

An abrupt: "Hi." Jisung smiled.

Minho erupted into giggles, trying not to move too much for Jisung's sake. The younger loved making Minho laugh. If it was a song, it would be his ultimate favourite, and Jisung never picked favourites when it came to music.

Meanwhile, Jisung was so random and unpredictable, more than Minho himself, that it never failed to make the older both surprised and happy. Jisung was unreal. This whole situation was unreal and it baffled him but he was so, so happy that words couldn't describe the feeling in his chest.

"Hello, Sungie." he replied.

"Sungie..?" Jisung lit up in a shade of red sunshine. "I like that. Then, you'll be Minnie!"

"That's Minnie-hyung to you, brat." Jisung was tackled suddenly, feeling the tickling fingers before he could register anything else.

"Hyung, stooooop!" The younger whined through his wide grin. It reminded him of Chan, almost painfully so. Chan would call the twins brats all the time and tickle them until they were crying of laughter, then they would run off and hide from Chan whilst plotting their next prank. It was sad, really. They were so young and playful, now-

"What's the matter?" Minho brought him back, the bitter smile washing away from his face as he blinked.

Ji shook his head, "Nothing, just thought of something." Minho had his usual soulless expression on his face and the normalcy of seeing it when he watched it from his window. He gazed into deep brown eyes and smiled softly, his cheeks like cherries once again. "Hyung, when are you most happy?"

MInho readjusted his seating position nest to the younger who was still laying down from the tickle attack. He hummed in thought.

"Is it when you're with me?" Jisung teased yet secretly curious.

Minho stared at him for a moment, apparently unamused, until he leaned over and squished Jisung again, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek. Minho seemed to like doing that and Jisung was equally as pleased with doing the same. It wasn't ever talked about, but they didn't really need to. It was just one of those understood things.

"Hmm, when I wake up before my alarm goes off. Little things like that I suppose." Minho answered as he snuggled into Jisung's neck like it were his home. "But I'm very happy right now. Maybe you're right, my little squirrel." Jisung giggled as Minho blindly raised his hand and searched for Jisung's cheek with his hand by patting around his face (he almost poked Jisung in the eye, phew.) and pinched it when he had found the target.

Truthfully, both felt the happiest at times like this, but it didn't need to be voiced to be understood, because that's the type of dynamic they've already developed over the past day and a half.

-

Minho would never have thought he'd be laying in a field with a small group of tigers in a land similar to a rich savannah, but here he was.

Jisung was sitting up a little ways to his right, smothering a gorgeous tigress with ear scratches and eskimo kisses. Apparently, all five of the tigers had names - even their own very defined personalities - and the younger boy was giving "Saturn" his affection. Minho, at first, was completely bewildered by the usually wild and ferocious hunters to be so friendly and welcoming. After seeing the way the all bounded over to Jisung he was convinced they were safe to be around, he even wondered if they were like the guards of an enchanted place like the giant scorpion and cave-lion from Jisung's other adventures.

Minho watched Saturn and Jisung with a small smile, something more broken creeping inside him as he watched them play together. 

His train of thought was halted by the sound of steady paw steps and happy chuffs. As he sat up, into his view came a majestic white tiger; a special dark blue stone hung around her neck and its' heavy tail was split into sections and disconnected like a skeleton, making of ancient rock with symbols read on each section. Her ears fluttered as she sat before Minho, continuing to chuff until the dancer ran his hand through her striped face fur, his right thumb gliding under her eye. Upon closer scrutiny, her eyes were the same dark blue as the stone she bore, except rather than pupils her entire eyeballs were like galaxies themselves. The tigress purred into his hand and Minho continued to pet her gently.

"Chia seems to like you! She's very sweet, but she's also their leader." Jisung quipped from where he was after rolling in the grass with Saturn - who was simply a regular tiger, as were the rest.

"She's beautiful," he replied, fascinated by the fact he was literally petting a tiger without it biting his head off. "She's unreal."

She truly was, he realised.

Completely unreal.

He turned to look at Jisung once again, the rapper laying down surrounded by the striped beasts as he basked in the savannah's heat.

It wasn't real.

-

"Wait, so, did you die at 16 and stay that way, or do you age in here?" Minho stares at the high ceiling.

"I mean... Do I look 16 to you?" Jisung joked, then shook his head, "No, I age in here. It's like another way of living, like I told you." 

The elder hums.

"Jisung."

"Hm? What's the matter hyung?"

"You said I had to go back. What does that mean?" The issue had been bothering him since the words were spoken into existence.

Jisung seemed to stare at nothing, frozen. Then he sighed, sitting up as motion returned to his limbs. "You're not dying, thankfully. You have to go back to your life soon-"

"What if I don't want to? What if I want to stay here, with you?" The older protested.

Jisung sighed again, "Hyung... I'll still be with you, all of you! I promise! Like a guardian angel!" The younger smiled.

Minho wasn't having it. He didn't see the dead rapper's sad puppy eyes when Minho ignored him.

 

A timid sound broke the tension, softer than cat fur and gentle as a butterfly.

"...Can you hear that?" Minho asks, curiously looking around to identify the noise.

"No? What is it?" Jisung follows his searching gaze.

"It's like I can hear music..." Minho closed his eyes, focusing on the sweet hum. He hears Jisung move to his window- or portal, as Minho likes to call it ("It's not a portal, hyung!" "But it's magic right?" "Not exactly-").

Jisung watched with a smile as the image of the hospital came back, this time all of 3RACHA were present. Felix sat closest to the bed, while a song on his phone played from its place on the bedside table to Minho's - sleeping Minho's - left, the soothing sounds moving in waves through the somber room. Minho joined Jisung at the window yet again, listening as the music became clearer. Jisung could hear it too.

"Ah... This was one of my favourite songs." he mused.

"Is. It still is." Minho corrected him. It was Coldplay's 'Fix You'.

Jisung pursed his lips, almost bitterly. As if he was overwhelmed from emotion that he was going to burst into tears.

Minho was nervous. Beyond that, he was terrified of the truth. He was so, so afraid of what he was about to ask.

"You said I was in a coma right?" The older began, voice shaking a little. He daren't look at Jisung. Nor did he see him nod, so he continued: "That means I'm asleep, right? Which means I'm just dreaming, right?" His voice shook more. Maybe even with anger.

"Which means none of this is real, right?"

Minho looked straight at Jisung, dead in the eye.

"Which means you're not real, right?"

The way he stared was so cold. It was like an icy demand, jaw set and gaze dark; the wrath of Lee Minho. He was almost shaking. He wasn't angry at Jisung. 

Only at himself.

Jisung took a deep breath and arose from where he sat, holding his hand out to the other. Minho look it soullessly and dragged himself up limply.

The dead boy pulled him to the centre of the room, making sure it was clear. "Dance with me."

Minho let the surprise and the fuzzy feeling in his chest wash away his negative feelings, only the confusion lingered. Jisung guided his hands so they were in a traditional dancing position, the kind in ballroom dancing, except they held each other's waist.

 

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

 

"Jisung, I-"

"I'm right here."

"I know, but-"

"Look at me."

Jisung grabbed his face, forcing him to make eye contact.

"I'm here. You can see me, you can feel my cold hands on your cheeks and you can hear me. Tell me why I'm not."

His hands were cold. So, so cold.

And dead.

 

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

 

Minho rarely cries, but Jisung and this whole situation was really testing him.

He even debated if crying was worth it. This was probably some messed up dream. But at the same time, it felt so real - sleeping, temperatures, the wind from the sea, the feeling of the book pages between his fingers, and the claws that were shredding his heart up.

And him.

Minho rarely cries, usually it's for the things he loves.

"Don't cry hyungie, you'll be all better soon, and I'll be there every step of the way." 

 

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
And I

 

It just wasn't fair, he thought. He finally meets this mystery and truly falls for him for his person and his physical traits rather than the stories he read in his journal and the anecdotes from other people - only to lose him again. He came so close once and now he's used his second chance, not wasted but used and he loved every second regardless of the mess he's been feeling. Jisung was like fire: constantly changing, dangerous, ambitious and the embodiment of passion, a flaming light that mesmerised those who saw it yet cast a shadow on those who didn't, he was warm yet so, so cold. He was no dying flicker.

He was already dead.

And that hurt. That hurt Minho so much and it burned and stung and it was so unfair but Minho didn't care.

He was here, dancing slowly with him as he felt himself be emptied of everything.

However, he was with Jisung - and that was more than okay, more than what he needed and exactly what he wanted.

 

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

 

"Time to go, hyung."

"I can't... I don't-"

"It's okay." That damn smile. "I don't want this either, I get so lonely. But I think you know how important it is to accept things in life that we really don't want to."

A shaky sigh. "I know."

"There ya go. You'll be okay, I'll keep an eye on you." A grin, now. A cheeky wink.

Minho chuckles, "Thanks. I'll miss you so much. More than you know."

"Me too, Minnie-hyung." Jisung looks at their hands, twined together perfectly. He loved Minho's adorable hands, he wished he could've held them more.

"Oh, and Jisung?" The smaller pair of hands tightened.

"Yes hyung?"

"I love you."

Jisung failed to hide his stunning smile, crooking teeth gleaming and eyes shining like the stars. "I love you too, Hyungie." They share a long embrace this time, warm and bittersweet, yet Minho doesn't cry; he's already cried enough. He's never cried much but his feelings are scattered around the room like missing socks. Eventually, he collects his lost feelings and thoughts and they both pull away in unison, albeit hesitantly.

Minho holds Jisung's cheeks in his hands, thumbs running over the rosy blush. Jisung holds them, then guides then away. "Time to go."

Minho nods, a new wave of distraught creeping closer. Saying goodbye was so difficult, but Chan, Felix, Changbin and the others never got a proper goodbye. "Goodbye, Sungie." It's painful, excruciating even, but he manages.

"Goodbye, Lee Minho."

Minho lets go.

 

And all was dark.

 

-

 

I guess this is my last entry, huh?

I didn't want it to end like this, but it feels wrong to end on the last entry where I was happy and everything wasn't a complete mess. I know I said to never ever read this but something tells me nostalgia will force you to, and you'll end up here. Welcome, I suppose, if you're reading. This is my last journal entry. I never wanted my parents or siblings to read this and I want it to stay that way, so hello friend! How are you? Good, I hope. I'm actually quite terrified... I never admitted it but I am. I'm petrified. I'm giving my life away for the greater good and it's just as hard as I thought it'd be. Guess my heart can't be used now either, haha.

Sorry. Just trying to make myself feel better, I suck. But bad jokes ave always been my thing, right Channie-hyung? I hope you're reading. I hope Felix, Changbin, Hyunjin, Woojin, Seungmin, Innie, ANYONE finds this and reads it. I left it for that exact purpose. I'm more scared of being forgotten than dying. God, I'm so selfish. Speaking of God, I wonder if he's real? Where am I going after this? I don't know, but I'm going to find out. I bet it'll be big! I've always been curious about the afterlife... Guess I'm finally gonna know. I hope there's cheesecake. Damn, I'll really miss cheesecake. And music. And my time with you all. But I know that this is right. If you disagree I swear my ghost will haunt you. Haha!

But seriously, I get many of you might be angry, or upset, but this is want I want. And I'm selfish, so I ALWAYS get what I want. Felix, if you're reading this, after you're done go out there and live your life to the fullest because that is all I want for you and I'm the only one on this day who can give that to you. And I mean it, you're my soulmate and I love you platonically, no matter what you think of me. I don't mind if you, or the others, hate me for it. Please do. Just remember, this is my decision and therefore my fault, so don't blame yourself or that nasty condition in your lungs. I don't want anyone to watch you suffocate to death and if you're feeling yourself dying... Well, I wouldn't wish that on anyone. 

I have to make this short, I'm afraid. My time's running out and there's still some things for me to do.

Before I go, I want to make it crystal clear that I want Felix to become a member of 3RACHA just as we always planned. I know this is a sick way to do it but I'm not rushing you, I understand this must be difficult for you all. Take your time, I love you all. I know you'll do great!

Just... take care of my lungs, Felix. Don't overwork yourself. Remember to breathe, that's what I'm there for, to help you. You can do this. Fighting!

Oh and Channie-hyung (or whoever is reading!), say hi to that cute dancer friend of Hyunjinnie's, since I won't get to tell him myself~

Yours Truly, the one and only most amazing and fabulous and talented

One last thing: I'll always be with you all, maybe not physically, but spiritually, in your hearts.

Lots of love guys,

Han Jisung.

 

-

 

 

When Minho finally blinked his eyes open on the third day of his coma, he realised that for some reason, he was crying.

 

Chapter Text

September 4th, 2018.

 

It's still blasphemously sunny, with the season of autumn barely arriving in Seoul. To Minho's disappointment, he can't hear leaves crunching under his feet just yet. The air is slightly crisp but it isn't enough to satisfy those who waited several months for the endless heatwaves and sunburn to cease. Regardless, he brings a hoodie with him outside, opting to tie it around his waist when he doesn't wear it properly. Today, it's a red and black flannel shirt tied around his slim figure and draping over his grey jeans, a loose black shirt hangs on his shoulders and his worn converses make audible sounds as he strides across the concrete. He feels the breeze pick up as he turns left.

He doesn't bring flowers. He thinks it's too much and rather pointless, they'll wither and die just like the bodies buried six feet under the grass he was on. Instead, Minho brings with him songs of happiness and tales of tomfoolery that the gravestone's name may have already witnessed, but it's fun for both parties to remember these events. Jeongin, however, always brings powers when he visits. This time they're pink, purple and a lovely sky blue. The roses are blue, the lilies that accent them are purple and a flower Minho doesn't know the name of sports a bright pink, deep and almost dark. They were already presented to the grave, laying peacefully as Jeongin, Seungmin, Hyunjin, Felix and Chan stood in a semi-circle. Minho was still far away and he wasn't rushing, so he couldn't tell if they were talking or silently speaking to their old friend. He's not sure if it was intentional, planned, or  lucky coincidence, but all members of the party seemed to be wearing some form of flannel fabric - shirts, bandanna tied around wrists (or in Jeongin's case, necks) and tucked into pockets.

To his right, footsteps pounded up to him from the path he'd just walked. A new figure, also dressed in red flannel, speaks:

"Good to see you, hyung. How was the journey?"

"Binnie, you only saw me two days ago. Do you miss me that much?" the older teased. Changbin sticks his tongue out. "It was alright, got a bus and walked the rest of the way. It's honestly a nice route, the scenery's nice. How about you?" came Minho's sincere answer.

The rapper stuck his thumb over his shoulder, "Woojin drove me after we picked up a few things. He's not far behind us." Sure enough, Woojin wasn't far at all, having sped up his walking pace since Changbin jogged to catch up with Minho. The dancer could see his orange flannel shirt that hugged his body comfortably, his broad shoulders and arms working to carry a convenient store bag in his large left hand. Min was unable to tell what was in it; he slowed his pace slightly so Woojin could catch up to him before the three of them joined the other five. Or, six.

Woojin greeted him warmly when he eventually caught up to them just a few metres away from their destination. The three made small talk until five new voices said their hellos, hugs were exchanged by many, such as the current 3RACHA members, Woojin and Chan, Hyunjin and Minho, Changbin and Hyunjin, and Minho and Jeongin. Other affectionate gestures such as hair ruffles were also passed around before they settled, sitting in their tight semi-circle. Minho had only been here once previously, all alone. Only Jeongin and Hyunjin knew due to him asking where Jisung was buried - Minho didn't think they would tell the rest of the group, he trusted them. 

It was melancholic, when he visited for the first time. It was a gloomy day, not long after he was discharged from the hospital. Minho just stared at the gravestone for a long time until his resolve ripped to tiny pieces and he cried his grief out as it started to pour. He caught a cold after, but that didn't matter.

However, this time he feels a sense of peace. It's not happy, nor is it sad - almost bittersweet, but not as heart-twisting and heavy as bittersweetness is. It's lighter, and fuzzier, like very dull joy or a falling feather. This time, it's easier.

This time, he wasn't alone.

 

Now that they were seated, MInho could properly see everyone's own flannels - Changbin's was red, navy blue and black, Seungmin's was blue, Hyunjin's was green, Woojin's was orange with some yellow stripes, Felix's was purple, Jeongin's was a pink bandanna tied around his neck as well as a small red and white one tied around his wrist, Chan's was a zip-up monochrome flannel with a small red one hanging from his pocket. Felix and Seungmin also had a secondary one tied in the loop of their belt strings; grey and red respectively. Minho had once thought that they would feel empty with only two of three September children now, but quickly shook it out of his head as soon as he thought of it at the time.

It seemed most had some red - even Hyunjin's green shirt had red and white stripes - to commemorate Jisung's favourite colour. Minho, in all his mixed emotions, though that it was sweet. It was definitely what Jisung deserved.

After some chatter - to Jisung and amongst themselves - Woojin pulled out multiple small bottles of chocolate milk from the bag he was carrying and passed them around to the group. Minho gawked at the drink, wondering why.

"It's tradition," Chan explained, "we make a toast." he chuckled, Minho grinning too.

Chan raised his now opened bottle, the others following. "Tour's starting really soon, so we'll do our best to work hard and to keep doing what we love and pursue our dreams." He glances at Woojin, who is still training and is fulfilling many personal goals. They share a small smile briefly before the leader begins to speak again, "And when tour's over, we'll finally get to plan Stray Kids' activity. We'll get there and we'll do it right, we'll continue to support each other no matter how hard things get for us and we'll come out of it stronger, we'll keep growing and we'll live life to the fullest, because we know that's all you'd want from us." A glance at Jisung's grave has the leader's eyes covered in something Minho can't decipher before it vanishes again. "For Jisung."

The others repeat it in unison, their plastic bottles tapping together as a chorus of silent promises float through the air, only one pair of ghostly ears able to hear.

"For Jisung."

 

As the party walks back, Chan falls into step with Minho. Felix walks behind them, listening as they speak.

"When you were asleep, what else was there?" the leader questioned curiously. They had spoken about what Minho experienced as soon as he woke up, Chan and Felix seemed to believe him while the others were skeptical. Nobody was angry or sad, just confused and slightly fascinated. Chan seemed intrigued at the idea of the afterlife and how it was different for Jisung, but debated with some of the others if it was real or not - Minho knew it was real - but it was argued that Minho's heart didn't stop; he didn't actually die so he didn't really go to the afterlife, therefore what he saw was not real. There was no big fight or argument over this, it was just dropped.

"You mean, behind the door?" the shorter replied. Chan nodded. He had told them many tales of the adventures he'd read, what he and Jisung spoke about and what he looked like. Minho's eyes lit up as he recounted the adventures from Jisung's diary.

"One that I haven't talked about before is the tigers. We went to a field where a pack of tigers were, the leader was a white tiger with space eyes and a pretty stone necklace. They had funny names too, that one was named 'Chia' and another normal tiger was called 'Saturn'. She seemed to like Jisung lots - they were practically attached. It was so strange to be able to pet tigers like a normal cat. But I guess that's a magical portal door for ya."

("It's not a portal, hyung!" "But it's magic right?" "Not exactly-")

Minho was almost bewildered when he looked up to see Chan with a strange expression on his face - puzzled eyes but a fond smile. He actually looked like he was going to cry. "What is it?" he asked, concerned.

"No, it's just-" a wet laugh tumbled from his lips.

Felix finished his sentence for him, "Jisung had a cat called Saturn that passed away."

Minho almost stopped walking.

"When he was living in Malaysia, he had a tabby called Saturn that died from cancer. Only us two and Changbin knew." Chan told him, completing his initial thought.

This time, Minho really did stop walking. Felix bumped into his shoulder with an 'oof'.

"So... It really was real..?" His voice was small. Yes, he knew it was real, he could feel it, but this was solid proof. Minho didn't know Saturn was actually a real striped cat Jisung owned and had named one of the mythical tigers after. Not even Jisung told him why Saturn was named 'Saturn', he assumed they all had their own names and the squirrel-cheeked boy just knew them. He feels a bit stupid now.

Chan couldn't think of what exactly to say, there was too much he wanted to say - so he replied with a smile and continued walking. Felix followed, fiddling with his purple flannel's collar before linking hands with his lover. Minho stared at their backs, feeling a pang of emptiness before he also began walking again. The large group split in half, piling into Woojin and Chan's cars.

Just before Minho slid into Chan's backseat next to Changbin, he glanced far out to Jisung's gravestone, the beautiful flowers now specks of colour in the distance. It was a short glance, so he decided not to overthink if he saw a figure with bleached-blonde hair wearing an old yellow flannel in the distance. Even if he did, he knew who it was, and he knew they'd be okay.

After all, Jisung was their guardian angel now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Han Jisung

 

14.09.2000 - 04.09.2017

 

"This too, shall pass."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Felix dances in the centre of the room, recalling the last few steps of the choreography. Changbin and Seungmin sit next to each other on the couch, Jeongin joins them before trying to immediately escape Seungmin's clinging grasp.

Chan sits with Jisung, Woojin and Hyunjin. Minho's here too, after his lessons. It's the nine of them, safe and happy. Minho sighs as he watches the others in their own circles, a world he was blissfully unaware of. He was content, happy.

He doesn't notice a pair of hazel eyes staring at Felix as they always have; silently watching, protecting. He only notices mere seconds before Jisung suddenly bolts from his spot on the floor in the middle of the group of 5, that's when he notices Felix descending.

His blood is ice; his breath caught in his throat. Thankfully, Jisung, the angel he is, caught the younger before his ankle twisted, preventing a whole string of doctor's appointments and missed performances.

"Gotcha," the oldest September child whispers, faces inches away from Felix's. The latter's face splits into a huge smile, simply giggling as his bad luck. Minho, who couldn't feel his fingertips, heard Chan sigh in relief, scolding his boyfriend lightly.

The atmosphere is tense, like a glass has shattered, but only Minho could hear it. This isn't right. Something was screaming at him, something was wrong! So, horribly wrong! His face is frozen, eyes locked on the twins.

Oh.