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it must be l-o-v-e

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Like most of Junhwe’s problems, he can blame this one on Bobby.

One day, Bobby gets called into YG’s office to talk, and an hour later he comes back screaming about girls while Hanbin mopes and Jinhwan pats both of their heads and Bobby blasts his new unit plans over a communal pot of ramyeon.

“I’m working with Hayi and Soohyun!” Bobby exclaims, throwing his hands in the air – one of which is still holding his chopsticks, and from which drops of soup splash onto Junhwe’s face. “It’s gonna be great.”

“Great,” Hanbin echoes, voice drained of all potential enthusiasm.

Bobby grins (it’s that grin that means he’s up to absolutely no good). “Did I mention that since I’ll be spending a lot of time with them, I can put in a good word for you? Y’know, if you’re interested.”

Hanbin’s head jerks up so fast that it’s a miracle he doesn’t snap something. He doesn’t say anything, but everyone starts laughing at him anyways. It’s painfully obvious that he’s got a huge thing for Hayi, and Junhwe’s pretty sure she’s just stringing him along for the hell of it.

Junhwe, on the other hand, keeps his expression passive, transferring some ramyeon out of the pot and into his bowl. He slurps his noodles slowly, seriously considering asking Bobby for what would be his first (and only – his pride couldn’t possibly take a second) favor.

No one else knows, but he’s harbored a crush on Soohyun for a while. He first noticed her out of jealousy, when he was hate-watching K-Pop Star 2 to see who he could make fun of, only to notice the brother and sister duo who were clearly miles ahead of the competition. Akdong Musician, they called themselves, but their lack of deviousness could have fooled Junhwe – he could probably take the brother out in ten seconds, and the sister seemed the epitome of innocence. They won praise for the judges straight off, and Junhwe glowered at the screen, at the judges who’d eliminated him, and shoved another handful of chips in his mouth.

Eventually, his rage shifted to Bang Yedam, and he found himself skipping over the rest of the performances just to watch Akdong Musician. More specifically, he watched Soohyun – her twinkling eyes and adorable smile were enough to melt away any stress or tension from his body.

(Of course, it would all come barreling back five seconds after the performance ended when someone, usually Bobby, started screaming, but he took what he could get.)

He’s listened to their songs an embarrassing number of times, and on his downtime, he surfs the internet for pictures of her, which he saves in a deeply buried and password-protected file on his iPad. He’s fully aware that he’s probably engaging in some borderline creepy behavior, but he doesn’t think any of them can judge – it’s common knowledge that Hanbin does exactly the same thing with Hayi. Even though they were all trainees together, Junhwe’d never talked to a single girl, save for a few greetings and apologies if they bumped into each other.

When he’d first found about their co-ed mission in Mix & Match, he was thrilled – until he found out that Soohyun apparently liked Jinhwan, and he ended up working with Jang Hanna instead (the fact that he got Bobby too didn’t make things any better.)

“Stop staring,” Bobby had teased while Soohyun’s group was performing, “we all know you like Jinhwan-hyung, calm down.”

“Oh, please,” Junhwe muttered, “for the last time, I do not have a crush on Jinhwan.”

“Well there’s no other explanation for why you like him and not me!”

(Junhwe almost pushed Bobby off his chair, but decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea to look like a complete asshole in front of Soohyun, so he grit his teeth and stared at the floor.)

He hasn’t seen Soohyun since filming for Mix & Match ended, when she wished them luck before their final stage and sent Junhwe’s heart pounding so hard it had been a miracle he could hear anything at all. There hasn’t really been time to miss her, since they’d all been practicing for their upcoming debut (whenever the hell that’s going to be), but Bobby suddenly getting to be alone with them for who knows how long ignites a low-burning flame of jealousy in his stomach.

He stands up abruptly and puts his bowl in the sink before retreating to his room, climbing up the ladder to the bunk and crawling underneath the blanket. He lies on his stomach, chin resting on his pillow, and sighs.

He’s doomed.

*

They’re all in one of the dance practice rooms when it happens for the first time.

Hanbin’s sitting on the floor in front of the mirror as usual, watching as they attempt some kind of ridiculous dance routine that he’d found and adapted off the internet, when suddenly there’s a knock on the door.

Visitors to the practice rooms are far and few between, and usually fairly important. Yunhyeong shuts off the music, and they all fix their hair and attempt to wipe the sweat off their faces.

The door opens, and two heads poke out from behind it – Hayi and Soohyun. Junhwe’s stomach starts fluttering weirdly, and he takes off his snapback so he’ll have something to do with his hands instead of just standing there.

“Is Bobby-oppa here?” Soohyun asks, giggling as if it’s some sort of joke.

(Bobby’s existence is kind of a joke, in Junhwe’s opinion, but anyways.)

Bobby grins, eyes disappearing into crescents. “That’s me.”

“We have to practice the stage directions and music video planning,” Hayi says, her voice decidedly more businesslike than Soohyun’s, but her eyes are amused. “Hanbin-ah, we’ll borrow him for a couple of hours.”

“Huh?” Hanbin snaps to, blinking owlishly at her while the others poorly stifle their laughter. “Oh, yeah, sure. Bye, Kimbab!”

Bobby aims a kick at Hanbin as he jogs to the door, and he slings an arm casually around Soohyun’s shoulders when he gets close enough, cueing Junhwe’s burning jealousy.

“Bye, oppas!” Soohyun calls as she leaves, fingers curling in a little wave. Unconsciously, Junhwe brings his own up as well, hoping he’s managed at least a half-decent smile.

Donghyuk throws his beanie at Junhwe before the door even closes all the way. “Oh my god, Junhwe, what was that?”

“What was what?”

“Don’t play dumb,” Hanbin says, lips curling up in a smirk as he realizes he can actually pick on someone now, “you totally like her!”

“I do not!” he protests, feeling his ears turn hot. “I was just—”

“Just waving to a girl,” Yunhyeong chortles, “and smiling like a complete loser.”

Junhwe glares at the floor, praying for a giant hole to swallow him up. He feels someone pat him on the shoulder – the position tells him it’s Jinhwan. “Our Junhwe’s all grown up. I never thought I’d see the day.”

“Hyung!” he moans, the only person he thought he could trust completely abandoning him.

He turns towards Chanwoo, his last line of defense, only to find the youngest with a pensive expression on.

“Even I have more game than that,” Chanwoo says, more to himself than anything, but Yunhyeong lets out a loud yell, and soon enough everyone’s in various stages of disarray, rolling around on the floor and laughing.

“You-you’re so hopeless, Koo Junhwe!” Hanbin cackles, wiping at the corners of his eyes.

“You shut up,” Junhwe says, “or I’m gonna tell Hayi all about your file of photos on your phone!”

“As if you can talk,” Donghyuk gasps from the floor, “you’ve got a ton on your iPad!”

Junhwe’d really like that hole right about now. “H-how do you know about that?”

Donghyuk pushes himself up into a sitting position and rolls his eyes. “Come on, the password is SoohyunSaranghae. Could you at least try to hide your shit?”

It seems like nothing’s going to come save Junhwe anytime soon, so he settles for grabbing his jacket and running out of the room.

Once he’s outside, he exhales loudly, running a hand through his hair and pacing in a circle, bemoaning his terrible luck. Damn Soohyun and her cute little smile.

“AGH!” he yells, whipping his jacket in the air and scaring off a few pigeons loitering in the front of the YG building. “Why?”

“Junhwe-yah!”

Fuck. Junhwe turns around slowly, the heat creeping up his neck becoming an unsettlingly familiar feeling.

There, not even ten feet away from him, are Soohyun, Hayi, and Bobby, who’re all looking at Junhwe with varying levels of amusement.

“Junhwe!” Bobby calls again, waving. “Wanna come with us to the convenience store? I’m treating!”

Junhwe’s brain short-circuits, because Soohyun just saw him being a complete nutcase, and Bobby is probably trying to lure him to his death.

This is bad.

Junhwe weighs the pros and cons (Soohyun vs. Bobby) for a moment, before he finally decides to throw all caution to the wind and jog over, willing his face to return to its normal color. Bobby slings an arm around his shoulders, and Junhwe gives him a dirty look, but lets him keep it there – since Bobby’s actually doing something nice for him for once, he figure he can let one of Bobby’s misguided bids for friendship pass.

“This is a first,” Bobby teases, smiling with his eyes, “Junhwe’s actually willing to go with me somewhere.”

“Can it,” Junhwe mutters, biting down his preferred retort of fuck off, lest Soohyun view him as a complete asshole.

“Can’t say I’m surprised,” Hayi says mildly, a trace of a mocking smirk on her lips, “why would anyone want to go anywhere with you, Bobby-oppa?”

Bobby huffs indignantly, taking his arm off Junhwe’s shoulder to fix his hair (Junhwe breathes a sign of relief, because he’d had to hunch over for Bobby’s arm to fit properly). “I’m great to go places with! Better than that stick-in-the-mud Hanbin.”

Hayi mutters a few indecipherable things, and Soohyun laughs, music to Junhwe’s ears.

“Don’t worry, Hayi-unnie! I’m sure Hanbin-oppa is a perfectly nice guy.”

“Sure,” Junhwe scoffs under his breath, “if you like a complete moper.”

“What was that?” Soohyun asks, turning towards him, and Junhwe’s stomach does a flip-flop because wow Soohyun is actually looking right at him, and she’s so small even in her platform sneakers and he really wants to tuck her under his chin.

“Uh,” he says, and Bobby laughs, raising his eyebrows at Junhwe.

“Hanbin’s a special boy,” Bobby says, “and it takes someone very special to handle him.”

Hayi hums noncommittally as they walk through the automatic doors of the convenience store, heading for the chips.

“Unnie,” Soohyun pouts, tugging at Hayi’s wrist, “come with me to look at the samgak-kimbap.”

“Why don’t you go with the actual kimbap,” she suggests, nudging Bobby in the ribs.

“I have a better idea. You go with her, Junhwe,” Bobby says, gesturing with his chin, “I know you like those, too.”

Junhwe’s about to protest, because how could he possibly spend time alone with Soohyun he’s just going to fuck it up, but Bobby’s already dragged Hayi away.

Damn that kimbap, I am going to end him.

“—ppa, Junhwe-oppa?”

“Huh?” He blinks stupidly, looking down at Soohyun.

“Are you alright?” she asks, waving a hand in front of his face.

“Um, yeah. I’m great? Yeah.”

The moment the words are out of his mouth, he wishes he could take them back, because wow he sounds really stupid, but she just laughs, turning and beckoning for Junhwe to follow as she grabs a basket and walks over to the racks where they display the rice balls.

“What kind do you like?” she asks, bending over a little to look more closely at labels. “They have a lot here.”

Junhwe shrugs. He doesn’t have much of a preference, really – he’s a growing boy and is prone to shoving random foods in his mouth more often than not, especially when it’s the middle of the night and seven boys have got to make do with anything they can find in the fridge.

She turns and raises an eyebrow at him. “You’ve got to like one the best, at least!”

He swallows thickly, leaning over to look at the options, stomach tensed so that he doesn’t actually end up touching her, nerves on fire.

“The spicy beef ones,” he says, taking the basket from her and putting a few in. “Those are good.”

“You like spicy food?” she asks, putting a couple of tuna-mayo ones in the basket. “I like those, too.”

“Oh,” is all Junhwe can say, but his heart feels irrationally happy, knowing that they have something vaguely in common, at least.

“Is there anything else you want to get?” she asks, giving the kimchi ones an appraising look before placing a few in. “I’m supposed to be on a diet, but if you get something and offer me some, it’s rude to refuse!”

She winks conspiratorially at him, and his mouth goes dry.

“Um,” he says, and she laughs, hooking her arm through his. Junhwe does his best not to turn bright red and start screaming or faint because she is touching him god is real.

“You don’t talk much, do you, Junhwe-oppa?” she hums, pulling him along to the cookie section. “The tall, silent type?”

That’s about as far from the truth as one can get – Junhwe’s known for running his mouth almost incessantly, but he figures it’s a blessing that he’s reverted to monosyllables instead of vomiting words.

“Junhwe, silent?” comes the absolute last voice Junhwe wants to hear, “that’s a joke if I ever heard one.” Junhwe stares resolutely at a box of koala-shaped cookies so he doesn’t have to look at Bobby’s face (which he is absolutely certain is shaped into one of the world’s most disgusting expressions.)

“This is why he doesn’t like you,” Hayi chides, “because you’re always teasing him.”

Junhwe has never been so grateful for girls in his life – one on his arm and one actually understanding his feelings. This is a massive step up from pulling hair and stealing shoes in middle school.

“You don’t hate me, do you Junhwe?” Bobby whines, and Junhwe is forced to look up just so he can shoot the older a disparaging look.

“I do,” he says, and Soohyun and Hayi laugh to Bobby’s despondent groan.

“Someday, Junhwe, I’ll break through that heart of yours,” Bobby cries, with extra dramatic flair, eyes flicking between Junhwe’s face and Soohyun attached to his arm, his face suddenly morphing into an all-knowing expression.

That face worries Junhwe more than Bobby’s normal shit-eating grins, and he shoves the box of cookies into the basket.

“Are you done?” Hayi asks, “We should probably get back. We’ve been here for a while.”

Soohyun shrugs, looking up at Junhwe. “I don’t want anything else. Junhwe-oppa?”

Junhwe doesn’t trust his voice, so he shakes his head.

“That settles that, then,” Bobby says, looking at all of their items and attempting to mentally calculate them all as he takes out his wallet. “I think we may be getting too much.”

Soohyun’s face falls a bit as she looks at their basket, and Junhwe’s heart constricts painfully in his chest. Even though it’s an incredibly small matter, seeing her sad is one of the worst feelings in the world.

Cursing himself, because he’s just making Bobby thrilled today, isn’t he, he pulls out his wallet. “I’ve got mine.”

“Excellent!” Bobby yells, grabbing Junhwe’s wallet out of his hand and shoving his basket into Junhwe’s now-empty hand. “Let’s go!”

“The hell,” Junhwe grumbles, “you have perfectly functioning hands, use them.”

“I’ll help you, oppa,” Soohyun offers, unhooking her arm and reaching for one. Junhwe’s torn between mourning for the loss of contact and appreciating the consideration.

“It’s fine,” he says, “I’ll just… carry them. It’s only what, twenty feet?”

Soohyun smiles, moving behind Junhwe and pushing on the small of his back with her hands. “Get moving, then!”

Junhwe can’t help the smile from forming on his face, but seeing Bobby taking what may very well be his entire life savings out of his wallet drops it right off.

“Hey, you said you were treating!” Junhwe protests, dropping the baskets on the counter, “you can’t possibly be that broke!”

“I only brought fifteen thousand won,” Bobby says, as the cashier starts scanning all their purchases. “You probably doubled that, Junhwe, you and your bottomless pit of a stomach.”

Junhwe would have complained more, if not for the fact that about seventy-five percent of the stuff is his basket is actually Soohyun’s, and she probably doesn’t want or need any attention drawn to it.

Let the world note that Junhwe is not, as people may suspect, an inconsiderate asshole.

Bobby pays (Junhwe weeps for his money), and the four of them leave, Junhwe the designated pack horse laden with plastic bags. He eyes the chips Bobby’s holding with jealousy, his stomach letting out a traitorous growl – he hasn’t eaten since that morning, and it’s nearing one in the afternoon.

“Junhwe-oppa,” Soohyun says, holding up a cracker, “do you want one?”

Junhwe’s eyes widen, and Bobby looks pointedly at him.

“Open your mouth,” he mouths, and Junhwe does as he says, still mildly confused. Soohyun reaches up and puts a cracker in his mouth – it takes all of his self-control to chew normally, swallow, and not choke and turn bright red.

“Thanks,” he manages to mumble out after swallowing, and Soohyun simply smiles with her eyes and pops a cracker in her mouth.

They arrive back at the building faster than Junhwe realizes, and his heart sinks a little – he doesn’t want to leave Soohyun, and he definitely doesn’t want to go back to the practice room, where he’ll definitely be assaulted by a group of rowdy teenage boys.

Bobby narrows his eyes. “Soohyun, Hayi, you two go on ahead, I’ll catch up in a couple of minutes.”

“Make it quick,” Hayi says, rolling her eyes and grabbing Soohyun’s hand. “Let’s go.”

“Bye Junhwe-oppa!” Soohyun waves with her free hand as Hayi tugs her along at a brisk pace. Junhwe would wave back, if not for the fact that his hands were weighed down by bags, so he settles for smiling (in a way that he hopes is not ridiculously awkward.)

“You like Soohyun, don’t you.”

Bobby phrases it as a statement, not a question, and Junhwe just raises an eyebrow at him.

“Oookay, that settles that,” Bobby laughs. “That’s cute, you know?”

“I don’t recall asking for your opinion,” Junhwe mutters. He really wants this conversation to be over. Like right now would be nice.

“Hey, hey,” Bobby says, grinning. “Lemme help you out, ‘kay? I can hook you up. She thinks you’re cute.”

“And you know this how?”

“Girls don’t just hook arms and feed everyone, you know.”

Yep, there’s the blood rushing to his face again. “Well—she’s—you know—really friendly! And cheerful!”

Bobby gives him an extremely parental face (one that Junhwe thinks has no place belonging on a guy barely a year older than him). “If you want to be a pessimist, sure. If you actually want to do something, instead of being a thirsty hoe like Hanbin, let me help you.”

Junhwe hesitates. On one hand, this could be the opportunity of a lifetime.

On the other, it’s, well, Bobby. Junhwe has not spent the past two and a half years building up a defensive wall against the older for it to be brought down by a girl.

Junhwe frowns, and Bobby shrugs, taking the bags from him. “The offer stands, if you want it.”

Bobby’s almost passed through the doors when Junhwe decides just to hell with it and calls out.

“Help me.”

Bobby grins, and Junhwe’s stomach lurches.

*

This is how Junhwe ends up awake at six in the morning, bundled from head to toe in a down jacket and standing on a music video set next to an extremely terrifying-looking teenage boy with thick-framed glasses and dyed brown hair.

“So,” the boy says, pushing up his glasses and glaring up at Junhwe, “I hear you like my sister.”

Junhwe swallows dryly. “U-uh, no, Chanhyuk-sunbaenim, why do you ask?” He chuckles awkwardly, stuffing his face into the collar of the jacket and praying for a black hole underneath him.

“Then why are you here?”

“To, um, support my hyung, Bobby?”

Chanhyuk raises an eyebrow. “Why does that sound like a question?”

“B-because…”

He leans in, and Junhwe takes a few involuntary steps back. “Let me ask this again. You like my sister, don’t you?”

“Y-yes, Chanhyuk-sunbaenim…”

Junhwe might have a good twenty centimeters on Chanhyuk, but he may as well be an ant by the way he’s cowering in terror.

“Why,” he says, voice coolly polite, “do you think I should allow this?”

Junhwe is struck with the sudden desire to want to call him sir. “Well, I, uh…”

Chanhyuk’s eyes narrow. “Well, you’re a liar, first and foremost.”

“I am not!” Junhwe protests hotly. He may be many things, but dishonest he is not – in fact, his honesty has gotten him into a lot of trouble (for example, that time he told Hanbin that snapbacks looked awful on him. He’d had to hide behind Jinhwan for a week.)

“You are! You just lied to me!”

“Did not!”

“Did too!”

“Chanhyuk-oppa? What’s going on?”

Junhwe has never been so happy to hear Soohyun’s voice.

“Oh, nothing,” Chanhyuk says, patting Soohyun on the head – in heels, she’s taller than he is. “Just having a nice little talk with… this guy.”

“Oh, Junhwe-oppa?” Soohyun shoots him a smile, and Junhwe feels his face heat up while Chanhyuk glowers.

“Hey, how’s my favorite kid doing?” Junhwe hears from behind him, a heavy arm settling across his shoulders. “Having fun?”

Junhwe gives Bobby a side-eyed glare. “It’s freezing.”

Bobby pats him on the shoulder, ever-present grin spreading even wider. “You’ll warm up soon enough.”

And warm up he does, as the filming moves to outside a bus stop and Soohyun falls into Bobby’s arms.

Over.

And over.

And over.

Junhwe seethes, flapping the collar of the jacket around to try and cool off his face because Bobby is touching Soohyun that should be him.

At least he’s not alone in his hatred of the rapper this time – next to him, Chanhyuk’s eyes glare daggers into Bobby, and Junhwe could swear he’s muttering something about “bastards touching his sister” under his breath.

It’s not a total drag, though. Sometimes he catches Soohyun looking over his way, and most times he tries to catch her attention with a smile or wave, which she returns without fail. Each time, it nearly sends him into a weird euphoric fit, which he tries very hard to contain until she looks in another direction.

(Chanhyuk is still watching and judging him, but what else is new, really. Junhwe just tries his best to ignore him, which isn’t too hard considering that most of his conscious thought has become SoohyunSoohyunSoohyun.)

Eventually, they start shooting the scene where Soohyun falls and Bobby walks on by. Junhwe isn’t sure which is more painful to watch – Soohyun falling into the arms of the likes of Bobby, or Soohyun falling into the cold embrace of the sidewalk.

The rest of iKON show up around noon, laden with hot packs and snacks. Naturally, they zoom straight for Bobby (Junhwe is amused to see that Hanbin wavers very slightly between the rapper and Hayi), yelling at him about hanging out with girls and acting like a big shot now that he’s in a music video, how does it feel now that he’s debuted?

Bobby takes it all in stride, grinning madly as he grabs Hanbin around the shoulders and tells him that he kissed Hayi. Junhwe doesn’t even feel bad when Hanbin pinches Bobby’s nipple and yells about traitors and the bro code, attracting Hayi’s attention – she seems amused, at any rate.

Of course, they soon bore of yelling at Bobby, and turn their sights to Junhwe himself. Belatedly, he realizes that he probably ought to hide himself, but he’s no match for a flying Donghyuk on a mission, who leaps onto his back.

“Koo Junhwe! Our second man in love!”

“Get off me, you oaf,” Junhwe grunts, straightening up and forcing Donghyuk to slide off. Donghyuk may be small, but his muscles weigh more than they look.

“Tell us everything,” Yunhyeong says, sitting down on one of the chairs scattered about and pushing up a pair of imaginary glasses. “How does it feel, Junhwe, knowing you’ve fallen to the same level as Kim Hanbin?”

“Awful,” Junhwe deadpans, “considering you’d even think to lower me to his level.”

Hanbin protests weakly, but is ignored, considering that he shuts up entirely when Hayi and Soohyun decide to saunter on over.

“Jinhwan-oppa!” Soohyun calls, and the oldest pats her on the head when she approaches his side.

“It’s nice to see you, Soohyun-ah,” he says, “how’s filming?”

Soohyun tilts her head, playing with the hem of her skirt. “It’s kind of tiring, but thanks to all the oppas, it’s fun!”

“Oppas, plural?” Jinhwan teases, “is it us?”

“You guys just came five minutes ago,” Hayi drawls, and everyone laughs.

“Bobby-oppa is good at keeping the mood up,” Soohyun says, “it’s nice since we’ve been out here for a while.”

As if on cue, everyone’s eyes turn to Bobby a few meters away, who’s being handed a drink by Chanhyuk.

“Oh, thanks, sunbaenim,” Bobby replies, only to be waved off.

“The sunbae is the one with more popularity,” Chanhyuk mumbles, waving him away as he wanders off somewhere else, leaving all of them amused, save for Junhwe (because in what universe does Bobby actually get more respect than he does? It just doesn’t make sense.)

“…Chanhyuk-oppa’s weird,” Soohyun sighs, “he keeps glaring at Bobby-oppa and Junhwe-oppa.”

“Junhwe-hyung?” Chanwoo asks, “Why?”

Yunhyeong pats him on the back. “You have much to learn, young one.”

Junhwe aims a kick at him; Soohyun appears to be oblivious to the situation, instead following Hayi’s field of view toward the director.

“We have to go now,” Hayi says, pulling at Soohyun’s arm, “we’ll be filming for a while before our next break.”

“Work hard,” Jinhwan says, and there’s a flurry of awkward bowing and ‘fighting!’s before the girls run off.

Fingers snap in front of Junhwe’s face. “Hello? Are you there?”

“Shut up, Dong,” he grumbles, pushing Donghyuk’s hand away.

“Dude, you were totally staring,” Hanbin says, adopting a faraway gaze that Junhwe supposes is supposed to be an imitation of him.

Fine. Two can play at this game. “Says the one who couldn’t say a single word when Hayi showed up!”

“Ooooh!” Donghyuk and Yunhyeong chorus, and Hanbin coughs awkwardly and turns away.

“Is there something I’m missing?” Chanwoo asks, ever-lost.

Yunhyeong claps a hand on the maknae’s shoulder, eyes closed in mock solemnity. “These idiotic hyungs of yours,” he says, gesturing at Junhwe and Hanbin in turn, “have… crushes.

“So you do like Soohyun-sunbaenim?” Chanwoo’s eyes widen as he turns to Junhwe, who once again bemoans the state of his life.

“Why don’t we all talk about Hanbin,” Junhwe mutters, wrapping himself up in his jacket. “At least Soohyun smiles at me. Hayi doesn’t even acknowledge your existence.”

Hanbin sucks a deep breath in, ready to unleash an empty tirade, but Jinhwan holds up a hand.

“While I’m sure we’d all love to hear a spirited debate between the two of you,” he says, “we’ve really got to get going. We have dance practice.”

“And Junhwe is exempt why?” Donghyuk asks, but it’s rhetorical – Junhwe put in extra hours the night before to make up for his day playing hooky.

“Because I’m better than you,” Junhwe laughs, punching him in the shoulder. Donghyuk grabs it exaggeratedly and staggers back, eliciting an amused eye-roll from Jinhwan.

“Come on, kids, let’s go. See ya later, Junhwe.”

The rest of them say their goodbyes, along with some more good-natured jabs thrown in, until it’s just Jinhwan left.

“Don’t worry, Junhwe-yah,” Jinhwan says, rubbing his arm. “Everything will work out just fine.”

“How do you know that,” Junhwe whines, but Jinhwan simply gives one of his all-knowing smiles and jogs away to join the rest of the group.

Junhwe collapses onto a chair and sighs.

It’s going to be a long day.

*

Junhwe opens his eyes to a dark sky and something poking his cheek.

“Oppa?”

Junhwe makes an undignified grunting noise, rubbing his eyes with one hand. His back is sore, and there’s a weird taste in his mouth.

“Oppa,” the voice comes again, and Junhwe turns, only to be met with a face full of Soohyun.

“Guh,” he says, involuntarily jerking back. “Um. Yes?”

“We’re moving to the final set now,” she says. “You fell asleep.”

“Oh.” That explains a lot.

Soohyun stands up and holds out her hand. Junhwe stares at it blankly, and she sighs, reaching down and pulling him up.

“You’re really tall,” she remarks, as he straightens to his full height. She doesn’t even clear his shoulder – Junhwe finds this far too adorable.

Junhwe shrugs. “Yeah. Always have been, pretty much.”

“How tall are you?” she asks, staring up at him.

Junhwe hasn’t actually been properly measured in a while, so he doesn’t know for sure. He tells Soohyun this, but tacks on “I’m at least 180 centimeters, though” for good measure.

Soohyun hums, nodding in approval. “Tall guys are cool. I think that’s why Chanhyuk-oppa doesn’t like you.” She stands on her tiptoes and leans in, as if sharing some kind of clandestine secret. “I don’t think he’s going to grow any more, and I’m probably going to get taller than him.”

That may very well be an aspect of Chanhyuk’s apparent distaste for him, but Soohyun certainly doesn’t know the half of it, Junhwe thinks, as he sees a flash of movement from the corner of his eye. He sidesteps deftly, sending Bobby staggering to the side of him.

“Aw, Junhwe, you’re no fun,” Bobby pouts, shoving his hands in his pockets. “C’mon, we need to go. The faster we finish, the sooner we can go home.”

The prospect of returning to the dorm is incredibly appealing to Junhwe, who’s rather hungry and isn’t fond of his face freezing off. However, there’s still the matter of—

“Are you two holding hands?” Bobby asks, eyes widening as he looks down, where Junhwe and Soohyun’s hands are still linked.

“Oh!” Junhwe drops his hold, wiping his hand on his pants. His palm is tingling. “She, uh, helped me up earlier, that’s all.”

Bobby says nothing, but hooks one arm through Junhwe’s and the other through Soohyun’s.

“Come, children! Let us finish!”

‘Finishing’ involves Junhwe mindlessly eating popcorn as he watches Bobby and the girls on various amusement park rides, taking great pleasure in watching Bobby get rammed into over and over again on the bumper cars. He would have liked to have been an extra or something, but he technically isn’t supposed to be here, so he’s stuck on the sidelines.

It’s not a complete loss, at least – he’s free to shamelessly stare at Soohyun, and since everyone else is immersed in the scene, no one’s the wiser.

So Junhwe thinks, until the director calls a wrap and Bobby comes sidling up to him.

“You have no game,” he says, prodding Junhwe in the ribs. Junhwe sighs, eyes narrowed as he looks down at Bobby.

“Did I ask you for your opinion,” Junhwe mutters, and Bobby just grins.

“Be nice, without me you would never have gotten this prime opportunity!”

That’s true, but Junhwe’s not going to give the rapper the benefit of the upper hand.

Not if he can help it.

“Junhwe-oppa!” Soohyun waves at them as she and Hayi walk up. “What do you think?”

“Y-you did really good,” Junhwe says weakly, tongue feeling too thick in his mouth. For good measure, he gives her a thumbs-up, and she smiles.

“That’s good! I hope it turns out well,” she sighs in relief. “Unnie, what do you think?”

“Awkward,” Hayi deadpans, and they all laugh. It’s no secret that Hayi isn’t known for her acting.

Bobby pulls them both into a hug. “You did good,” he says, and Junhwe glares – he wishes he could be as free with his skinship as Bobby is, but he’s just so awkward around people that that’s all but impossible.

“Guess we’ll know in a week,” Hayi says, “that’s when the music video is coming out, after all.”

“Oh yeah,” Soohyun remarks, “we start live performances pretty soon after that, too.”

Bobby nods. “My music show debut! How magical.”

“You’re disgusting.” Junhwe grimaces. “How dare you debut before the rest of us?”

“Not my fault.” Bobby shrugs. “Guess I’m just more famous.”

“If you want to get technical, Chanwoo has us all beat in terms of firsts,” Junhwe says, “but between the two of us, I have you flattened.”

“You’re kidding,” Bobby groans, and Junhwe smirks.

“Star King, age thirteen. What were you doing then? Hanging out with Hanbin in a basement?”

Bobby waves him off, knowing a lost battle when he sees one. “Whatever.”

“Junhwe-oppa, you’ll come watch our stages, right?” Soohyun asks, voice edged with aegyo.

“He can’t come to your debut,” Bobby sighs exaggeratedly, “because we’ll be in Japan. But he can watch mine!”

“You’re disgusting,” Junhwe repeats, but the thought is not entirely unappealing.

(Watching Soohyun and Hayi, of course – he couldn’t care less about Bobby.)

“I’ll be there.” The words spill out of Junhwe’s mouth before he can take them back, but Soohyun’s smile makes it all worth it.

He hopes.

*

Not for the first time in his life, Junhwe feels completely and utterly out of place.

He’s standing amidst a crowd of middle and high school-aged girls, many of whom are still in uniform, and a small group of ardent fanboys decked out in pink banners, with a black mask on his face and a snapback pulled down low to cover his eyes. He sorely wishes he could be standing at the front of the pack, but anonymity must be retained.

He’s tall, at least, so that’s something.

“Everyone, we’ll start the recording in five minutes, so please get ready,” the PD announces. Junhwe takes his iPad out from underneath his arm, pulls up the app for his LED ticker and gets ready to hold it up. His heart races – he’s not even doing anything, really, but he’s been anticipating this for weeks. When he wasn’t practicing or sleeping, it was almost consistently on his mind, to the point where Donghyuk took great pleasure in sending pictures in their group Kakao chat of Junhwe’s dazed face.

But nothing else mattered, now. Now, he cheers with everyone as Soohyun, Hayi, and Bobby walk out, letting out one “Soohyun!” from his lips before he decides that it’s best to shut up, lest someone recognize him.

“Thank you all for coming!” Soohyun says, after introductions are said and done. “We’ll do our best to put on a good performance for you.”

The three of them assume their positions, and the backup dancers file in as the stage goes dark.

“Take one,” the PD calls out. Junhwe cues up his ‘Soohyun, Fighting!’ ticker, and holds his iPad over his head, waiting for the music to start.

Junhwe has seen Soohyun on stage plenty of times onscreen, but never in real life – it’s adorable and entirely enthralling, from her thickly-lined eyes curving up when she smiles to the way her nose wrinkles when she play-bickers with Hayi. He swears she winks at him at least twice, and each time makes his heart skip a beat.

When Bobby comes out, though, he feels like the spell is broken; he has the distinct feeling that Bobby is laughing at him, for some inexplicable reason.

Whatever. He’ll get to the bottom of it later.

They go through two takes – Junhwe puts his iPad away, because his arms are starting to hurt (he has no idea how those girls at their fanmeets and Big Bang’s concerts do it, honestly), but he remains transfixed nonetheless.

When they’re finished, the three of them thank the audience for coming, and Junhwe slips away to the backstage, lowering his mask in front of the security guard, who waves him through.

Junhwe finds the right waiting room, where the other members and Chanhyuk have been staying, and Donghyuk whoops loudly when Junhwe walks through the door.

“Thank you, thank you,” Junhwe says, bowing exaggeratedly.

“Oh, please!” Yunhyeong laughs, grabbing Hanbin’s beanie from off his head and throwing it at Junhwe, who catches it with one hand.

Junhwe raises an eyebrow. “Really? You thought this would faze me?”

“No, but what happens next might.”

Junhwe’s about to ask just what Yunhyeong means by that, when Soohyun, Hayi, and Bobby enter. They all break into applause, congratulating the girls on a job well done and teasing Bobby for being such a sleaze.

“Junhwe-oppa!” Soohyun says, her voice sounding happier than Junhwe’s ever heard, “yes!”

For once in his life, Junhwe is speechless. “What?”

The room is silent.

“Yes? I’ll, um, date you?” Soohyun suddenly looks much more unsure of herself, and Junhwe feels his face matching the same shade of pink hers is turning.

Junhwe closes his eyes, counts to three, and turns to face Donghyuk. “Is there something I should be aware of?”

Suddenly, the iKON members break into raucous laughter, Donghyuk pointing weakly at Junhwe’s iPad.

“Look—at—message!” Donghyuk wheezes out, gesturing feebly as he clutches his ribs. “Ooh, boy, that’s a good one.”

Junhwe feels a vein throb in his temple as he pulls up the app and plays his ticker message.

There, running across his screen, is not his painstakingly typed message in the neat default green font, but ‘Soohyun I like you please go out with me.’

In pink sparkles.

“Does that mean you don’t?” Soohyun asks, voice barely above a whisper, sounding close to tears. Chanhyuk half-rises from his chair, ready to run at a moment’s notice and rip Junhwe’s head off.

“N-no! It’s not that at all!” Junhwe stammers, swallowing loudly. “I, uh, really like you. And… yeah.”

The room is silent, before ear-splitting cheering breaks out – Junhwe can make out a steady chant of ‘KISS! KISS! KISS!’ from Hanbin and Bobby yelling about Junhwe finally becoming a real human.

A slipper flies from across the room and nails Hanbin squarely in the chest.

“Do not,” Chanhyuk says, voice laced in deadly calm, “encourage the defilation of my baby sister.”

Hanbin nods meekly, and Chanhyuk rounds on Junhwe next.

“If you hurt her, you are dead.”

Junhwe is certain that he will make good on that threat.

“Oppa!” Soohyun whines, punching her brother on the arm, “stop scaring everyone! I can take care of myself!”

“Someone’s gotta have a plan B,” Chanhyuk mutters, taking off his jacket. Junhwe’s heart seizes as Chanhyuk rolls up his sleeves. He could take Chanhyuk in a fight, easily, but he’s still terrified.

“Koo Junhwe!” Chanhyuk declares, drawing himself up to his full height and pointing straight at said man. “I challenge you to a dance battle!”

“Oppa, no!” Soohyun shrieks, grabbing his arm and trying to pull it down. “No dancing!”

As the two siblings bicker over the relative merits of allowing the dance battle to happen, Junhwe breathes a sigh of relief, letting himself take in the actuality of the situation.

He really did it.

He’s actually dating.

Dating Soohyun.

He feels warm fingers against his own, interlocking. He blinks, Soohyun by his side. Neither of them say a word, but Junhwe’s happy, and that’s all that matters, really.

*

(There’s still one question on Junhwe’s mind, though.

“Which one of you changed the message?” Junhwe asks, keeping his voice as neutral as possible. Everyone points to Donghyuk, who yelps indignantly.

“Hey! I thought we agreed no one would tell!”

“You’re on your own, man,” Yunhyeong says, “none of us want to die.”

Donghyuk smiles sheepishly before bolting out of the room. Junhwe sprints after him, screaming bloody murder until they get told off by one of the guards.)