hanbin/bobby/jinhwan | pg-13 | 15 600 words
and bobby wants to say, no, not everyone. just the both of you.
warnings for innacuracies in canon.
and bobby wants to say, no, not everyone. just the both of you.
warnings for innacuracies in canon.
people i have to blame for this: team b, the producers of win, and the producers of mix and match. this began as a seven hundred word drabble and spiralled into this because of abstract ideas, some strange attempt at character study, and too much encouragement and tears. i poked at this for an entire month. i can't believe this.
anyway, yes. a huge big thank you to sasireun for all the mutual crying, and also karis who had to put up with my complaining about this fic for a month. i love golden trio so much, weeps.
there's also a mix i made for this (or, well, just music i listened to while writing this) if you're interested. crossposted in full to ao3.
there are second chances. and then there are simply the chances that never occur more than once; fleeting moments and glimpses of the future that scarce appear before the eyes, streaming through the fingers like fireflies through a frameless net. these are the lights that guide. these are the waves, the tide. these are the stories that he will confide, years from now.
there are these chances, and then there is bobby.
he pushes his hair out of his face, and grins, toothy-wide and sincere.
my family’s having a bit of a hard time. my—my mom and dad, both of them, they go to work, but—ah, my brother goes to work too, so... so, if i work hard and become a star, i’ll support my family.
oh, how admirable.
yep. and he smiles again, nodding. i would risk my life for this.
(this is that chance.)
maybe it’s the way they stay up late into the night, shoulders resting together as they huddle over one computer, and one keyboard. the moon has waxed across the darkest of night’s skies over the hours passed, and has been slowly waning since the new dawn. their energy is waning, too. it’s almost five in the morning and they have to be completely awake and ready in an hour.
jinhwan had passed out some time earlier, sprawled out across the sofa, waiting up for them a little too long. hanbin had thrown bobby’s jacket over jinhwan before returning to work, gaze flickering towards him every now and then. it’s a habit for both of them, really. watching the way jinhwan shifts about in his sleep, the way his expression changes, in between the soft conversation they make with each other.
the near-silence they work in is amicable. familiar. they need nothing else but this, really.
hanbin stifles a yawn with the back of his hand, tugs the collar of his hoodie up over his mouth, and mumbles through fabric, “needs some guitar. like—you know what i mean.”
bobby clicks through the selection, and presses a couple of random notes, fingers finding the right chords until hanbin makes a soft snuffling noise. different, compared to the usual sounds of agreement he makes during the day, but bobby has seen and heard enough of night-time hanbin to know that he means something with each grunt. “brighter?”
“brighter,” echoes hanbin, and he runs a thumb absently over the mouse, clicking across a selection on the screen. the tips of his nails are all chewed up from nights of worrying over lyrics. “we need to make sure crayon contrasts enough. also, don’t think i don’t know what you’re doing with those modifications,” he says, falling into his leader-voice, “i’ve been watching. we still need something that everyone can keep up with.”
bobby plays a dissonant-sounding d chord. hanbin’s nose crinkles. bobby does it again, just out of amusement, watching hanbin frown deeper. his face will get stuck like that if he keeps making that expression, his mother had said once, when they’d been video-calling over skype and hanbin had stuck his head into the frame. jinhwan had been right beside them too, shaking his head in quiet amusement. “we’re more than capable of dancing over jumpy rhythms. besides, it’s only, what—one verse to go, right?”
“yeah, well.” hanbin tugs the mouse over to his side of the desk, and deletes the layer that bobby’s just played over their still-building track. “what if it doesn’t work?”
“we’ll fix it. no big deal.”
“quite the optimist these days, aren’t you, hyung?” says hanbin in return, tucking his hands inside his sleeves and rubbing them together. it’s nights like these where the sleep unravels hanbin and makes him act the age he’s jumped ahead of, and makes him look the age he’s put past him. rare nights like these. bobby’s only a year older, but it makes all the difference in the world, sometimes.
“worried i’m going to steal your title?” bobby pushes hanbin’s hoodie back, and ruffles his hair lightly. hanbin just barely shoots him a glare, sleep logging him down too much to care. “don’t worry. you’ll always be the more optimistic of us all, anyway.”
“i think that title belongs to minho-hyung, these days.” hanbin hides another yawn behind a palm, and bobby feels bad for only getting six cans of red bull when they’d been on their way to the practice building. “guitar.”
“you already said that.” bobby runs his fingers along the keys. “there.”
“guitar,” repeats hanbin, as if the one word with more emphasis will make bobby understand, and he leans into bobby’s space to splay his fingers over the keys, playing a staccato rhythm, quick jumps from one chord to another. “think a little more electro-fusion and a little less of whatever the hell you’ve been listening to these days to have played that earlier... thing.”
the nerve of that kid—
“someone looks extremely offended,” comes jinhwan’s voice from the side, sleep logging itself down in each syllable.
hanbin just plays a sad progression of notes in reply.
jinhwan swings himself upright and stretches momentarily, before reaching to pull the last chair in the room towards him, and scooting closer to where they are, resting an arm across hanbin’s shoulders and peering at the screen as much as his tired eyes will allow. “good morning, kids.”
“hey,” says bobby indignantly. “and jinhwan-hyung is right. also, morning, sunshine.”
“hey, yourself.” hanbin’s head falls onto jinhwan’s shoulder. “i feel like i’m dying,” he says, “tell byul i love her.”
“tell her yourself.” jinhwan runs a hand through his hair lightly, resting a hand on his shoulder, fingers skimming along his collar. bobby’s eyes follow the motion before he can stop himself. “isn’t she coming with your mom tomorrow?”
reality television never works the way they think it does. they had overheard the staff informing hanbin that he should expect a visit during their practice tomorrow. pretend it’s a surprise, see, that’s the way television works.
bobby would give anything for a surprise like that.
“yeah.” hanbin straightens up, and stretches sleepily. “i don’t want her to see me tired.”
“that’s what make-up is for,” quips bobby. but hanbin knows that already. every morning he wakes up, and the layer of bb cream and concealer he rubs into his face is a layer thicker than the rest of the team’s. bobby knows hanbin has sleepless nights. they all do, sometimes. but expectations are a real bitch, especially when you’re the one everyone’s looking to. “don’t nod off. we have to go get the others in twenty.”
“twenty,” groans hanbin, “fuck. that’s way too soon.”
“yeah.” bobby spares a glance for the clock at the corner of the screen. “should we get going?”
“probably. we should pack up now. come on,” says jinhwan, tugging hanbin up by the sleeve, and nudging bobby in the shoulder. hanbin wobbles for a moment, as if his knees are going to give out. bobby reaches over to grab his wrist, steadying him.
(all-nighter after all-nighter. they will do whatever it takes to get where they want to go. bobby just doesn’t know if they’ll make it there intact.)
“hey,” comes hanbin’s voice, and bobby glances over to see hanbin’s gaze trained right on him, barely inches away. “you’re thinking too loud.”
“when am i ever not,” replies bobby. his hand is still clamped over hanbin’s wrist. there is nothing but air separating them both. and hanbin is looking at him as if he’s expecting bobby to do something, gaze sharp, that contemplative stare of what’s your next move, kim jiwon. maybe, if bobby just leans in—maybe, if he just leans in for a single second—
jinhwan coughs softly. “there’s a time and place for everything,” he says, and both hanbin and bobby jerk away as if burned. jinhwan’s gaze on the both of them is just a little too unreadable, tonight. today. this time.
hanbin clears his throat. “we should,” he starts, and perhaps that’s a tone of regret in his voice, but then again, it is past five in the morning, and bobby can’t tell what’s real and what’s not, “we should go get the others.”
“yeah.” bobby rubs the back of his neck, and leans over to grab his bag. “let’s go.”
the three of them say nothing to each other on the way down. there is nothing that needs to be said, anyway. and there is no way either of them can, with the multiple cameras that line the rooms and the corridors, now. even their dorm has cameras, and bobby regrets all the moves he could have made, all the steps he could have taken, when there hadn’t been any.
but he has no time for regret. not now. not ever. not when the days keep rolling in like this, exhausting and exciting all at once.
“wake up,” roars hanbin, when they reach the dorm, just in time to find everyone already half-straggling out of their beds. they’d been allowed an extra half hour in, today. it only means another two hours spent practicing tonight. “we’ll be late.”
“keep it down,” utters yunhyung, trudging past the two of them, en route to the bathroom. “did you get coffee?” he spots the plastic bag on the table. “good. we’re going to need it, today.”
“donghyuk play till too late, again?”
“worse.” jinhwan peeks into one of the rooms, “by the looks of it, junhwe, too.”
“i’ll kill them all,” announces hanbin, already reaching to hook a hand into donghyuk’s collar to pull him upright. “i told you all to sleep early.”
“what about you three, then?” yunhyung’s rubbing at his eyes, leaning against the bathroom door. “you haven’t even slept at all.”
“we’re used to it.” bobby slaps junhwe’s shoulder cheerfully. junhwe stumbles forward and nearly bumps into jinhwan. “come on. hurry along.”
the schedule is no surprise. they’ve had more than enough time to get used to sleeping late and waking up early. but it does become a challenge sometimes, when there are six people sharing a single bathroom. we’ve got, what, five rooms? yunhyung had muttered to jinhwan once, in the car, and there’s one tiny little cubicle for six people to share.
have you seen the other company trainee dorms? jinhwan had snorted. we’ve got it good, man. we can’t talk.
they bundle up for the cold morning, and head for practice.
it seems that hanbin’s a little more relaxed, today. it’s noticeable. he yells a little less—just a little—at the members while they’re running new choreography over the g-dragon track that they’d worked on cleaning up over the night, and only corrects them a few times. bobby figures it must be the anticipation, seeping through. he knows hanbin hasn’t seen his mom in a while. neither has he seen his little sister.
she’s cute, isn’t she? hanbin had smiled so widely the first time he’d shown bobby her picture, on his phone. they’d been in their second year of training. byul had just turned one. she’s gonna be a rockstar when she grows up, you hear me.
don’t think your mother will allow two rockstars in the family, bobby had replied. hanbin’s laugh had stayed with him the rest of the day. bright, echoing. hopeful.
but then, jinhwan had glanced over from where he’d been sitting propped up against the wall, just a little way off from them, and smiled, uncharacteristically wide. maybe it had been because of hanbin’s laugh, too. bobby still isn’t sure. nothing’s ever really sure, when it comes to them.
jinhwan’s smile had stayed with him even longer.
but bobby could never be as relaxed as hanbin, if his family ever visited. he envies that, in a way. both the ease in which hanbin carries himself on the knowledge that they are coming to see him, and the ease in which they can come see him, in its own.
but hanbin’s mother has always treated them all well, and byul is the most adorable kid he’s ever seen. she looks just like her mother. and she looks just like hanbin. and, well—there’s nothing he needs to say about hanbin, either.
“no presents?” hanbin shoves bobby playfully. “what kind of an older brother are you?”
“did you even get anything for her?” asks jinhwan, barely glancing up from his phone.
“i’m right here!” hanbin stretches his arms, and smiles, cocky. bobby pushes him back against the sofa, and hanbin topples beside jinhwan with a loud harrumph. “i was just kidding. you’ll see, later.”
bobby does see. he sees the way hanbin’s face lights up when he catches sight of them in the glass door. the way he heads straight for his mother’s arms but has barely let go of her when he calls hanbyul’s name, loud and gleeful. “byul-ah!” he all but shrieks, and it’s warming to see.
her hand is tiny, in hanbin’s. it’s even tinier in bobby’s, later when hanbin picks her up and twirls her around the room, stopping for her to pat her hand against bobby’s palm with a giggle. bobby can’t help the grin he lets spread across his face when her little grey cap tips over her forehead again, and he rearranges it, murmuring, “there you go, kiddo.”
hanbin catches his eye, from above her head, and smiles. and god, does bobby stop. just stop right there, because these smiles are rare, even rarer than the nights where they get more than five hours of sleep, because when has hanbin looked this bright in days, in weeks, even?
he’s glad for it.
and he still isn’t sure why it is, but it’s always jinhwan—jinhwan, and the smaller, slow-spreading smiles that are even fewer and farther between compared to hanbin’s. jinhwan, and the way he beams when hanbin gets his little sister to hi-five him with a loud giggle. she’s cute. they’re all cute. bobby doesn’t really understand the longing in his throat to capture the expression on jinhwan’s face and keep it for as long as he still has breath in his lungs—but he does. he does.
later, when hanbin goes off to the next room to talk to his mother alone for a moment, bobby sits against the mirrors, and wonders. he wonders when this had happened. when this had begun.
the soft, sloping arch of desire. the thundering rhythm in his chest that arises with barely a glance.
and bobby wonders why it had to be the both of them.
he wonders when their friendship had hit the border, the boundaries between what’s enough and what shouldn’t even be considered. because hanbin knows. jinhwan knows. hell, hanbin had been the one to set it off in the first place. nights staying up together, three of them slumped against each other. hanbin had been the one who’d jerked away one night too quickly, biting his lip as if he’d realised something that he hadn’t wanted to.
(but jinhwan had reached out, after a moment of silence. and hanbin had settled back against the both of them. cautious. a little too lost to know what he’d been settling into.)
and bobby, well. bobby doesn’t know if he even wants anything, to be honest. he knows what he already has wants for. he wants to make it big, he wants his family to live comfortably. he wants to do what he loves to do, and that is stand on stage, and let the world know whose voice this is.
but kim hanbin leans in too close, words biting, gaze challenging. and kim jinhwan leans in too close, tone soothing, glance trusting. and there’s no stepping down from this.
“jiwon-ah, you’ve grown so much since the last time i saw you!” hanbin’s mother hugs him briefly when she comes to greet the other members before leaving, and he smiles, thankful for the ease her presence brings. she’s always been nothing but warm to them all. like a mother should be. “you too, jinhwan-ah. remember to take care of them, okay? and take care of yourself too.”
“i will.” jinhwan nods, smiling, and bobby smiles too, wide and earnest. she’s always looking out for her son. hanbin is lucky to have her. “we’ll make sure.”
they wave goodbye to hanbin’s mother, some minutes later. “i’ll come home soon, byul-ah,” hanbin promises her, before bending down to poke a fingertip against hanbyul’s cheek playfully, murmuring, “be a good girl for mom, okay? and keep it safe.” his hand curls over hers, where she’s holding the keychain hanbin had placed in her palm. the keychain he’d gotten on their trip to jinhwan’s hometown, that one time. “promise oppa you will.”
“promise,” she whispers, and hanbin kisses her forehead, before straightening up to wave them off, smiling. he probably wishes they could have stayed longer. but there aren’t enough hours in a day as it is, and practice waits for no one. not even family.
hanbin jogs back over to the desktop, lets the cursor hover over the play button. “back to work.” bobby tugs his cap back on, shrugs the knot out of his neck, and gets into position, catching jinhwan’s gaze momentarily in the mirrors. there’s that quick flash, the trading of words that go without saying, the nod that passed between the two. but before anything true can happen, the speakers blare, and bobby pushes back into formation.
they practice until the familiar face of the moon has risen once more.
(or, maybe, just maybe—
rewind, reverse, replay.
—the year is twenty-twelve.)
maybe it’s the way they stay up late into the night, slumped against each other, breaths racing a mile ahead of them. the clock strikes eleven. the heave of their chests is reflected in the mirror-wall that stands opposite where they are seated. every drop of sweat visible to the eye. the room is small, and their group smaller, but it works for them.
just the three of them.
“we didn’t get that last bit right,” says jinhwan, breathless, the way he always does after a practice. hanbin makes a sound in agreement and motions for them to go again in a few minutes. until they get it right. just until they get it right. they have to.
“run it again,” murmurs hanbin. it’s not their choreography, but he’s the one who always manages to catch the mistakes they make, sharp eye following not only his own movements but theirs as well. meticulous. sometimes bobby feels inadequate, stocked up next to a kid who moves like he was built to do this. but he’s got his moments too. he’s not too bad.
compared to the fluid angles that hanbin possesses, jinhwan has a sharper style, that shows in the way he draws his arms back and spins into the formation of the chorus with each turn. they complement each other well. and bobby? bobby’s just here, floating. unpolished moves and steps just a little too heavy to be completely accurate.
but they make it work. they’re a good team.
when he’d first found out that they were being put together to practice, instead of joining the other group of trainees, he’d wondered about the two of them. hanbin already had a reputation amongst the trainees. brash, terrifying. they’d spoken in nothing but formalities for the entirety of two whole weeks, until bobby had finally caved and told him to quit being so uptight.
it had been a strange contrast, finding out who hanbin was under his default face.
(just shy, hanbin had said.)
and on the other hand, jinhwan hadn’t been much of a mystery at all.
much more passive than the rest of the trainees. friendly, though. bobby recalls the first time they’d met, in the cafeteria. they’d sat down across each other, and immediately started up conversation. chatting about family, about what they’d left behind, far distances separating them from those they miss. bobby had liked having someone to talk to about things like that.
how long has it been? jinhwan had asked, tone knowing. half a year, almost. bobby could have counted the days in his sleep, exact date on the back of his tongue. and jinhwan had just smiled, and nodded. me too.
the only difference had been the separation of land to sea.
but it hadn’t taken much for the three of them to fall together. only a few months, and look where they are now. bural chingu, jinhwan had called them jokingly one night at dinner. the other group of trainees they’d been eating with had almost believed them. bobby nearly had, too. childhood friends, they’d seemed like in the roughest sense, to the others who didn’t know them.
in the end, it simply does seem that way after all.
the comfort sweeps to all new heights, a year in and on. days together turn into nights together too, nights of practices, near-dawn convenience store runs, and falling asleep on too-hard floors, huddled close for the winter winds that roar up against the windows.
it might seem strange to people back home, figures bobby. the level of closeness between them seems a stretch to be simply called platonic, for those unused to the way they act around each other. but bobby sees nothing of it. bobby thinks nothing of it.
bobby just knows this, for now.
“cold,” mutters hanbin. if the temperature drops any lower, hanbin’s teeth could start chattering. it is only nine o’clock, but it is the middle of january, and the snow outside only lends store to the fact that the heater has broken down, unable to be repaired until the sun comes back up to knock on their door once more. “how the fuck are we going to sleep tonight?”
“fuck sleep.” bobby tucks his chin into the curve of jinhwan’s shoulder and rubs his palms together. they’re already curled up in as many blankets as possible, jackets included, but it’s not enough. but jinhwan doesn’t mind, does he, that bobby’s using him as his own personal furnace. jinhwan has always been warm (in body, in spirit). “come here,” says bobby, beckoning for hanbin to come closer. “you’ll freeze your toes off if you stay in the corner alone.”
hanbin narrows his eyes for a moment, but doesn’t argue. he shifts closer, rolling into their space until his front bumps against jinhwan’s back. bobby doesn’t shy away from tugging all three of them closer, and it’s awkward at first. three boys, snuggled up together under a pile of too-thin blankets. it definitely looks strange enough.
they lie there in silence, not sure of what to say.
“well,” says jinhwan, breaking the ice, “it’s definitely warmer now.”
“yeah,” says hanbin. his breath tickles the top of jinhwan’s hair. “i guess.”
“we’re only doing this out of desperation,” says bobby, and there are matching laughs from the other two, seemingly agreeing. because why else would they tangle closer, anyway. ankles knocking together, arms slung over each other. “goodnight. if we manage to sleep at all.”
bobby wakes up first, in the morning. their phones are yet to ring, alarms only set for the coming hour. he wakes up with his face pressed into the back of jinhwan’s neck. jinhwan will probably murder him for drooling on him, but bobby hopes he doesn’t notice. one arm is wrapped around jinhwan’s waist, hand resting on hanbin’s hip.
bobby doesn’t move.
jinhwan is snoring softly, nose squished against hanbin’s chest. hanbin in turn has managed to tangle his legs around all of theirs. bobby resists the urge to laugh, when hanbin shifts in his sleep, and nuzzles closer to jinhwan. it’s—if bobby could say—endearing, really.
it’s only when jinhwan’s alarm goes off first that he realises how long he’s just been lying there, staring at the two of them. and it’s five minutes of drowsily pulling apart and fixing the sheets before any of them are conscious enough to think about the night’s events.
the heater gets fixed the same day.
(but bobby still curls up next to jinhwan later that night, and says, it’s too cold.)
it doesn’t take long for these nights to become regular occurences. not at all.
(rewind, reverse, replay.)
back home, in america, he’d never had to visit the hospital much. or really, at all, for that matter. they could never afford it anyway. cold cures had been a heaping dose of epsom salts in a bathtub, flu cures had been a wild mix of honey, ibuprofen and the herbal chicken broth that their chinese neighbours would bring over occasionally, having heard the dry, hacking coughs that slipped past the thin walls at night, and knowing how it was like, having four children of their own.
his mother would always tuck him into bed whenever he’d felt ill, pulling the worn-out comforter up to his chin and telling him to just get plenty of rest. because, if you’re sick then i’ll be sick too, she’d said, worried sick over you, jiwon-ah, my baby. my son.
i’m not a baby, bobby had always complained, sniffling. he’d always make a face at the copious amounts of medicine he’d have to consume, or the way he would be barred from leaving his bed the entire day.
he misses that, now. the press of his mother’s lips to his forehead, cool against warm skin, as she’d whispered for him to feel better soon. the way she’d press a bowl into his hands and watch him eat the entire thing.
hospitals do not remind him of his mother in the slightest.
for they are much too cold for the soles that walk their floors.
but in the end, it’s not the place that does. it’s him, attempting to cheer up the others as they sit huddled together in the waiting room, biding their time until the doctor gets to them. “don’t worry,” he says smiling, despite the way his eyelids are threatening to pull shut with each passing second. “it won’t hurt. just a little, i guess. but it’ll be over soon.”
donghyuk has already fallen asleep, having leaned against jinhwan a little too comfortably, and having gone on less than five hours of sleep in the past three days. the others are close to it, too, but he guesses the atmosphere is keeping them up. either that, or the tense worry that runs through the room.
“yeah?” yunhyung shivers. “i’ve never liked needles.”
neither does bobby. but nobody needs to know that. besides, it is not a big deal in particular. he’s had shots before. this—perhaps, this just seems a little too disjointed in his mind, for now. he hadn’t figured that training and shooting the show would actually lead to something like this. dehydration, they’d said, on taking one look at the members after they’d mentioned feeling too ill to continue for the day, you’re going to need iv drips.
is that serious? hanbin had asked, gaze wavering. he’s probably the one who needs the drip the most, figures bobby. but of course, all hanbin had really meant was: how long will it take? will it mess with our timing? how long until we get to go back to practice?
a few hours. it’s never enough. but it’s better than anything else that could happen.
changing the song had taken up enough of their time. god knows how many late nights bobby and hanbin have stayed up these past few months alone, way past the point of recollection now. the others have been staying up with them too, as they’d adjusted and altered the song right on the spot, figuring out the lyrics as they’d worked through the clock.
he doesn’t know how much of this will go on camera. the staff hadn’t followed them to the hospital. but bobby hopes they hadn’t caught the way he’d whispered in frustration at the screen. the way jinhwan had shook his head, blinking hard, vision probably blurring from a lack of rest. the way junhwe had coughed until his throat strained. the way they’d all nearly toppled to their knees, a few too many practices in.
it’s fascinating, when it happens. the sting only happens slight, when the nurse taps his hand solidly, and inserts the catheter needle with well-familiarised fingers. bobby looks on as the liquid drips away slowly into the tube that runs from a bag. it is slow. it matches the movement of the second-hand on the clock. it feels like nothing, to be honest.
hanbin shuffles impatiently from where he’s sitting, and says, “this is going to take too long.”
“we don’t have a choice,” jinhwan patiently reminds him, and hanbin concedes, choosing to focus on other things instead. what had happened at dinner last night with the team a guys. the props they’re going to have onstage for the performance. what article had come out on gasaengi the other day and why yunhyung had been up until two a.m. scrolling through the comments on his phone even in bed.
that invokes a few light laughs, and yunhyung’s indignant outcries of evasion.
the minor cheer is welcome. a good distraction that keeps them going, until they have to return, until they have to get back to the reality of the competition, the battle, the onslaught.
it’s almost a terrifying contrast to how hanbin gets, right before their actual stage, some days later.
and he knows hanbin is disappointed. they all are.
why wouldn’t they be? messing up their lyrics on the day of the battle. bobby’s been beating himself up about it since the dry-run. heck, since the night before, even. he knows he should remember them by now. the anxiety that bottles itself up in his chest shakes the words free from his grasp and scatters them away into the lights that shine down heavy on the stage, heavy and looming and terrifying all in once.
hanbin won’t even look at them.
“come over here. don’t sit there alone,” he says, a coaxing attempt to get hanbin to talk to them. to smooth things back over. because they need him. he’s the leader, he can’t pull a stunt like not talking to them and just attempting to let things cool down themselves. not like this. he’s only going to make things worse, can’t he see that?
it’s when hanbin gets up and leaves the room that the others glance over at bobby and jinhwan hesitantly, not knowing what will happen now.
“was that because of us?” asks junhwe, almost disbelieving. it’s the first time hanbin’s ever gotten this angry at the team. jinhwan says nothing. bobby—well, bobby doesn’t even know himself. are they just being discarded? had it been what he’d said? had it just been the stress, totalling hanbin over?
he needs to know.
“you think he just needs a break?” asks bobby, when they’re on their way to find him some minutes later, quietly enough that the microphone attached to the camera following them does not catch the words.
jinhwan glances back, and says, “i think he just needs to realise some things.”
like what? bobby almost asks, but he knows better than to discord the look in jinhwan’s eyes. the expression that will probably mean something to hanbin, something that bobby can’t exactly pin-point yet. jinhwan and hanbin are more touch-oriented, more expression-aligned than bobby is with the both of them, with either of them.
bobby only has his words for now. but he will use them the way he knows how to.
he can see the stress that lines hanbin’s eyes, tugging his age down even as he looks older in his obvious fatigue. the make-up will never really be thick enough to cover all of that. bobby knows.
“hey,” he says, sitting down beside hanbin on the stone steps. jinhwan sits beside him, just a little way apart. the three of them, just there, even as the flow of people carries on around them.
(their places always change. the formation they find themselves in never stagnant. but it never matters. what does is the way they work themselves out.)
“but you’re still the leader,” emphasises bobby, and that’s what catches hanbin. “it’s as if you threw us away.”
he knows hanbin hadn’t meant to. but hanbin needs to remember who he is, even in times like these. despite how old the others are. despite how old he is. age matters in the industry, seniority just as much, but the leader will always carry a different sort of burden, no matter who they are.
hanbin doesn’t meet their eyes, even as the words begin to come, slow, unsteady. jinhwan has the most words to say, despite not often doing so, despite sitting the furthest from where hanbin is. and when those choke back in his throat, almost unexpectedly, it breaks. they break, again.
it seems, after three years together, what gets them the most is knowing how each of them respond to situations like these. when to back down when they need to. the one word or one motion that elicits all the next.
there are unsaid promises that go between them that carry the intention to bring this discussion back to the dorm, but for now? they have a show to make happen.
and, well. if hanbin’s hand on jinhwan’s shoulder—where he hadn’t wanted to touch anyone just minutes before—is enough to make bobby feel better, even the slightest bit, then he guesses they will be just fine.
“hey,” bobby says, a while later just before they’re about to go up on stage, “we’ll do our best, yeah?”
“yeah,” says hanbin, and he smiles. determined to show what they can do, even if it’s not completely satisfactory to them at the moment. they’ve got this. “we’ll do it.”
“that’s the spirit!” says donghyuk, clapping them both on the shoulder. right cheerful today, their youngest is. it gets the rest of them bumped back up into the energy they’d been missing previously. he’s glad for that. they’re going to need that energy if they want to give it all they’ve got, today. “it’s showtime.”
bobby checks his microphone a last time, before glancing out towards where the judges are waiting, peering curiously at them.
it’s showtime, alright.
(or, maybe, just maybe—
rewind, reverse, replay.
—we return: a few weeks ago.)
a rare chance to go on vacation, they’d been given. well, if they can even call it one, with the staff members following right behind, and the cameras constantly on them. a day’s trip to jeju-do, to jinhwan’s hometown, away from the city and the bright lights that never truly end at night.
jinhwan hadn’t wanted to show too much of his excitement at being able to go home, knowing how hanbin and bobby haven’t been able to do so in a long time, but bobby had just nudged him in the shoulder, grinning, and said, your home is our home too, yeah?
as much as it can be.
it keeps the three of them on their toes, knowing that they get a day off, jinhwan especially. they take off at eleven, bags in tow. bobby brings his guitar, knowing that they’re probably going to end up writing something along the way to commemorate the trip.
they’ve never gone anywhere together, just the three of them. bobby wants to remember this for the rest of his days: the quiet smile that creeps across jinhwan’s face when they reach their designated gate, the flash of the signboards above their heads marking out seoul to jeju-do, the way him and hanbin play around with the camera while they’re en route, in the skies.
taking the scenic route to jinhwan’s house is more of a director’s decision than anything else, but it gives them more time to talk, gives them a little more time to enjoy the air. jinhwan looks more relaxed, more at ease. it must be being home that does it.
jinhwan’s mother greets them with a wide smile and open arms. bobby feels a rush of longing when jinhwan hugs her for moments longer than she’d hugged him or hanbin, when she strokes jinhwan’s hair and smiles at him fondly and whispers that she’s glad he’s back home for now. it makes him think of the home he misses too. of the warm arms he misses as well.
he glances over, and there hanbin is, smiling faintly, probably feeling the same thing.
but jinhwan reaches back for them, and nothing will lack for them, tonight.
the fire that crackles later that night under the grill reminds him of snapdragons that go off in the air, little pops and whizzes. it’s been a long time since he’d had a proper home-cooked meal, and they eat with gusto, enjoying every single piece of meat that sizzles on their plates, on their palates.
conversation is free and easy, despite the camera that sits beside them, observing them eat with a glazed-over eye. bobby nearly chokes on his mouthful of ssam when when jinhwan casually mentions them being so close as to shower together, but jinhwan’s mother merely laughs it off, even when hanbin echoes it too, teasing. showers are strictly platonic things, but maybe bobby can’t help when his gaze wanders, occasionally.
he catches jinhwan’s eye, and knows he’s thinking the exact same thing.
the night is spent in a similar vein, talking and singing and thoughts setting free the rest of the words that need not be said, but go said anyway, for sake of the lens that’s trained on them, for sake of the ones who watch and wonder.
jinhwan’s old room is bare, now. a cupboard, curtains, and a single bed that all three of them squeeze onto with the excuse to his mother that it’s perfectly fine, it’s much bigger than the beds they’ve shared before in their past years of training together. the weather’s cool enough to strip down to their shorts, to just lie in bed with a single sheet tugged up over each of them.
bobby watches hanbin angle the camera towards him and jinhwan for a moment, waving goodnight to it, before turning it off and setting it on the floor. he’s glad tonight there are no cameras. no one watching. the house is silent already, at this time of the night.
he slides onto the bed, leans into their space, and just grins. “like old times.”
hanbin laughs. “except this time we’re not freezing our asses off.”
jinhwan laughs too. his hair is all mussed, still damp from the shower he’d taken. bobby wants to run his hands through it. “go to sleep,” he says, “if we wake up too late, the beach is going to be too crowded to enjoy.”
“goodnight, then,” says bobby. “someone turn the lights off later.”
darkness, spare the moon.
they don’t sleep just yet. not even after they’ve said goodnight, not even after their phones have all been discarded to the floor. bobby can tell none of them do, not for the next few minutes. he lies there, listening to their breathing, still uneven enough to tell that they’re awake.
but maybe it’s a split-second decision that he makes, when he shifts closer to hook his chin over hanbin’s shoulder, nose nuzzling against his neck. maybe it’s just the way the pieces fall together when hanbin leans back into him, feet tangling with jinhwan’s under the sheets. maybe it’s just the way that the old courage returns to them now that nobody is around to see them.
jinhwan lets out a breath, and turns to face the both of them. his expression goes unseen in the darkness, but his voice is clear, when he says, “two years.”
and bobby doesn’t understand what he means, until hanbin’s own voice comes quietly in the room, “two too, maybe.” and, oh. jinhwan is probably looking at him for an answer now, an answer to the question that has never dared been asked.
“three,” says bobby, and hanbin makes a soft sound in surprise. so does jinhwan. “what? i trip easy.”
“you trip easy for everything,” says jinhwan, but bobby can hear the undertone in his voice, you trip easy for everyone, and bobby wants to shake his head and say, no, not everyone—just the both of you. but he doesn’t.
he reaches over for jinhwan’s hand, fingers tangling loosely as his palm rests over hanbin’s hip, and bobby says, “just tonight.”
they will always be afraid. they have never outright spoken about this, but it’s there. it’s here. it’s here, and it’s the fear that runs deep in their bones, the fear that comes with each tightened grip of the hand and each careful stroke of the face, hands trembling.
nothing happens, tonight. nothing but the warmth that’s exuded between all three of them.
bobby wakes up in the morning, and it’s almost a replica of the nights they’ve spent together in the past. faces pressed together, limbs tangled together. hanbin’s head pillowed against his shoulder, jinhwan’s arm thrown lazily over the both of them. and just like those days, bobby watches and waits and wonders.
he doesn’t understand this in the slightest. not in the slightest bit. but what he does understand is the affection he feels when he reaches up to thumb over jinhwan’s cheek, over the little mark right under his eye, or when he presses his mouth against the nape of hanbin’s neck, a barely-there brush of lips against skin.
neither of them wake up for an hour or so. in that time, bobby still hasn’t figured out what it is that makes his heart beat twenty-times faster than it’s ever gone before, whenever he looks at them. peaceful sleep, he wants to keep them like this; counting sheep until the sunshine falls in heaps and loads, though never burning more than their own touches.
he considers all of these things.
hanbin shifts, and his tongue sounds thick in his mouth when he speaks, “you’re being a creep again, aren’t you?”
“what are you talking about,” replies bobby, not taking any mind of his waking up, still absentmindedly carding his fingers through hanbin’s hair. hanbin seems to like it, though, the way he doesn’t pull away. almost like a cat being pet. “i’m being me.”
hanbin turns to look at him, blinking, and a tiny smile cracks through. “gross,” he mumbles, “that look on your face.”
“matches yours,” says bobby lightly, “when you look at jinhwan-hyung.”
checkmate, he thinks, when hanbin’s skin flushes the slightest hint of red, and his eyes flit over to where jinhwan is, for the most miniscule of moments. but then again, the looks go threeway.
they have another half an hour until they need to get up. it’s okay to spend their time until then like this, isn’t it? just lying here, together. bobby runs his fingers through hanbin’s hair until hanbin’s eyes almost flutter shut, and he’s muttering, “stop, i’m going to fall asleep again.”
jinhwan wakes when bobby reaches over to blow air against his neck, his nose crinkling adorably when he glances up at both of them. “what have you two been doing?”
“nothing,” says hanbin immediately, at the exact same moment bobby goes, “cuddling.”
jinhwan just stares for a moment, before rubbing his hand over his eyes, shaking his head. “children,” he goes, and hanbin only has to glance over at bobby for a single second, before they’re tackling him playfully, “get off!”
“never,” says bobby smugly, and it’s a tussle that goes on, before jinhwan’s trapped between the two of them. he’s no match for both their sizes. their tiny hyung. all theirs. bobby nuzzles his face against jinhwan’s, and says, “let’s just stay here for the rest of the day.”
“if only,” says hanbin, on jinhwan’s other side.
jinhwan makes an amused noise, and says, “you both.”
bobby just tugs the two of them closer, and pretends they don’t have anywhere to go.
(but an hour later, they’re dipping their toes into the waves, laughing as they sing along to the guitar in bobby’s hands, running straight into the ocean with wild grins, and even wilder shouts.
rewind, reverse, replay.)
one | two