His shoulders ache as he once again goes through the same rigorous routine. His fatigue is apparent in every part of his body; in his tense shoulders, in his stumbling steps, and his bleary eyes. Hours and hours of going through the same routine, carefully carrying out the precise steps that make up the intricate dance, have worn him out. One would assume that after such harsh training, the steps would be forever imprinted in Jisung’s mind. But no, he still struggles to memorize the various complicated steps, and there’s one person who won’t let him forget that.
“Han Jisung,” the voice rings out, sharp and clear, slightly tinged with annoyance. “I’ve already told you. You’re supposed to bring up both hands, not one.”
Jisung’s face flushes red. If it was anyone else, Jisung would begrudgingly accept the criticism. Depending on who, he might even thank them for pointing it out. But with Hwang Hyunjin, it’s a different story. Just the sound of his voice grates on Jisung's nerves, and his stupid handsome face seems to forever taunt him and his insecurities. He ponders for a moment whether he should just accept the criticism, but his ego immediately shot down the idea.
“Maybe ,” he starts. “If you didn’t pay this much attention to me, you wouldn’t bothered.”
A smirk rises to his face. You got him good, Jisungie.
“How can I not pay attention when you’re always messing up?” His smirk falls as Hyunjin continues. “Learn to dance better, and then we’ll talk.”
Learn to dance better? Learn to dance better? Red clouds his vision. “Maybe learn to rap better before pointing out my mistakes!”
“It was Hannie’s part originally,” Forgetting all the cameras, Jisung focuses on Hyunjin’s voice, which is becoming smaller and smaller as he continues. “I kept thinking about how he would have rapped it.”
Jisung thinks of Hyunjin performing on stage. He sees the exhilaration on Hyunjin’s face, a product of his genuine passion for his craft. He feels the sweat dripping down Hyunjin’s body as he puts his sweat and tears into every performance. He hears the crowd go crazy for Hyunjin’s voice, perfectly punctuating every syllable of the rap. With this in mind, he speaks.
“You did it in your own style,” A soft smile envelopes Jisung’s face. “There is nothing I regret.
“Who memorizes dance the fastest?” Hyunjin recites again from his card. Various names are shouted out by the members as they state their own opinions. Midst these voices, one voice calms the chaos.
“Hannie,” Hyunjin says, resting his hand on Jisung’s back. Jisung expects Hyunjin’s vote to be drowned out with the rest of the voices, but Hyunjin speaks again firmly. “Hannie learns the choreo pretty quickly.” He says, raising his voice slightly.
Jisung is taken aback but quickly gives his verbal agreement. As he hears the rest of the members chime in about his memory, he looks up at Hyunjin. Gentle eyes meet his, and he cannot help but let both the warmth and smile overcome his face.
The trainees stand in a line, their heads hung low, but despite their tucked heads, Jisung can feel their glares penetrating through his skull. He supposes its fair. After all, it is his and Hyunjin’s fight that caused their teacher to line them up, though he’s more inclined to put the blame squarely on Hyunjin.
Their dancer teacher gazes at the trainees with a firm look on his face. As his eyes gloss over Jisung’s, they seem almost sympathetic and understanding, but that image is crushed as soon as he opens his mouth. “As humans, we all make mistakes we regret, that we wish we could go back in time to fix. It’s normal to act in the spur of the moment and end up doing something you’ll heavily regret later. Right now, I’m going to give you a chance to leave your regrets behind. If you have something to say, come up and speak.”
Jisung is no fool. He knows that this isn’t really an exercise for all the trainees to relieve their burdens, but the teacher’s way of forcing him and Hyunjin to apologize without directly calling them out. But Jisung decides that not even the teacher can make him apologize today. Today’s fight wasn’t like their normal bickering, all bark and no bite. No, this was Hyunjin purposely poking him where he knew it hurts the most, and he was definitely not sorry for retaliating. It seems that Jisung isn’t the only one who understands the not-so-subtle gesture from their teacher, as Hyunjin steps up to the front of the room, pulling his baseball hat even further down his face as if to hide all evidence of shame.
“I’m sorry,” Hyunjin mumbles. “I crossed my boundaries and made unnecessary comments.” It's a short statement, but the teacher nods in approval as Hyunjin trudges back to his spot. Now, the spotlight is on Jisung. He knows he has to do something, say something, and for a while he even considers apologizing. After all, Hyunjin did, so he could too, right? But as his feet drag him to the front of the room against his will, it seems as if his mouth is out of his control as well. The ugly feeling of vengeance speaks up before Jisung has the chance to and harsh words tumble out of his mouth.
“I’m sorry that there’s this kid who won’t stop bothering me. I wish he would just leave me alone.”
There’s pin drop silence as the room registers what Jisung just said. There’s no doubt as to who Jisung is referring to, and Jisung even sees some jaws drop at his blatancy. He whips his head to see Hyunjin’s reaction, but the older boy is already storming out of the room in anger. Suddenly, it seems as if Jisung understands what his teacher meant about regret. It hits him like sudden gust of cold air, and he’s left shivering in its wake, wondering why he ever let himself be exposed to it in the first place. A magnet pulls at Jisung, prompting him to go after Hyunjin, apologize, tell him he didn’t mean it. But Jisung knows that his presence would be anything but comforting to Hyunjin.
Jisung hasn’t fully registered it yet. The ruckus of backstage pounds in his ears and hinders him from his focusing on thoughts of their victory. His initial shock still overwhelms him and he just can’t bring himself to believe that his team just won one of Korea’s most prestigious awards.
We won. We won, we won, we won. The repetitive chant in his head could almost be considered a tongue twister. We’re MAMA’s Rookies of the Year.
Glancing over at his team, Jisung can tell that some are just as shell-shocked as him. The mood rests somewhere between reflective and elated, a somber energy taking root around them. A tug pulls at Jisung’s heartstrings as he glances at Hyunjin, whose vulnerability shines through his emotional state. Some people are built like dams, Jisung thinks, they break suddenly and let out all emotion. That was Jisung. When Jisung felt, he felt deeply and purely and intensely. That’s why he, along with Hyunjin, was considered one of the more emotional members. Hyunjin’s sentimentality, however, contrasted with his own. Hyunjin’s emotions were like a tangled ball of yarn, slowly released as the yarn unravelled. It would take a gentle touch to loosen the thread, and luckily, Jisung was an expert at disentangling.
Jisung surges towards Hyunjin, his arms spread and welcoming. He feels Hyunjin’s familiar, strong grip around him as their bodies press against each other. The two detach just as quickly they had converged, but Jisung separates with a sense of accomplishment, pride overcoming him at the thought of providing his friend with even the slightest of comfort.
At the prompting of the teacher, Jisung goes after Hyunjin. He sees Hyunjin head into the washroom, slamming the door behind him. Jisung winces as he slowly moves after him, his reluctant steps echoing in the silence of the hall. He hesitantly opens the door to washroom and steps in awkwardly. Hyunjin is hunched over by the wall, having not noticed Jisung’s presence. Cautiously, he calls out Hyunjin’s name.
“Hey Hyunjin,” he says, awkwardly fingering the sleeves of his sweater. Hyunjin’s wary gaze rises up to Jisung as he replies monotonously.
“What is it now, Jisung? I thought you wanted me to leave you alone.” Okay, ouch. Jisung didn’t expect a positive response from Hyunjin, but he certainly didn’t expect him to act so coldly either. Well, two could play at that game.
“The teacher made me go after you,” Jisung says, letting go of his sleeves and straightening his back. “Why’d you have to make such a big deal of it anyway? Now he’s not gonna let up until we both get along.”
Hyunjin snorts. “Yeah, maybe when pigs fly, we’ll get along. I have no idea how Changbin puts up with your obnoxiousness.” Excuse you? Changbin was Jisung’s friend first! Jisung has no idea how Changbin could ever put up ‘Mr. Perfect’, much less get along with him.
“He seems to have no problem at all putting up with me, so maybe it's not me who’s the problem, okay?” Jisung continues, “He keeps bothering me to just make up with you, like one day we’ll both just forget everything and be the best of buds. It’s not that easy to overlook your cinderblock of a personality.”
A fire lights up in Hyunjin’s eyes and Jisung feels as if he’s gone to far. In fact, he knows, he knew just as the words were leaving his mouth, and perhaps even before that, but somehow Jisung loses all ability of conscious action when he’s around Hyunjin. Hyunjin takes in a deep breath before he begins to speak.
“You’re tired of people bothering you to be friends with me, right? Here’s an idea. We’ll both avoid each other and keep out of each other’s way as much as possible. On the chance, we do have to interact, we’ll pretend we get along fine so that no one bothers us about our relationship.” Hyunjin pauses, then gives a slight smile. “After all, pretending would be a lot easier than being friends anyways.”
Jisung fumbles with his pen as he fills out his questionnaire. He reads out the next question.
“What is Hyunjin to you?”
The cold crept along Jisung’s body as another gust of wind comes their way. Jisung tries to hold back sniffles, having caught a nasty cold earlier, made worse by the horrible weather. As he struggles with the cold, he sees a flicker of movement from the corner of his eye. He turns to see Hyunjin aggressively punching the air in an attempt to fight off the cold. He laughs as he shrugs off his coat, poking Hyunjin slightly to make him aware of his offer of a jacket. Hyunjin hesitantly takes the jacket, as he asks to make sure if it's really okay for him to take it. With a confident nod, Jisung waves it off. The shy smile on Hyunjin’s face as he puts on the jacket is enough to keep Jisung warm.
Jisung bounds down the stage, feeling limitless with the exhilaration of a cheering audience. Adrenaline pumps through his veins as takes in the sight of diverse, supportive faces while leisurely walking along the stage. His number one fan and biggest source of support stands on the same stage as him, living through the same dreamlike reality. As he sees Hyunjin’s face, happiness overcomes him like a tidal wave would on a night of a full moon. Jisung spreads out arms, encouraging Hyunjin to give him an embrace. Hyunjin indulges, but at the last moment, a laughing Jisung side steps, causing them both to go to tumbling to the side. Jisung swears that his feet left the ground as he swung around in Hyunjin’s arms, but it's not something new. He’s always flying when he’s with Hyunjin.
Jisung feels elated as he wraps his arms around Woojin and Seungmin to bring them closer to his body. “You guys are the best,” he says. He really means it. To really prove his genuinity, he leans in towards Woojin and plants a fat smooch on his cheek. An exclamation of disgust leaves Woojin’s mouth, though his lips are upturned. Jisung turns around and heads for his next target, Seungmin, who tries to maneuver out of it, but Jisung can’t be stopped. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Hyunjin lean towards him and jut out his cheek. Jisung indulges Hyunjin in his unspoken wish while smiling.
Jisung stops fiddling with the pen and puts it down on paper. With memories surging through his mind, he writes ‘a true friend’.
Hyunjin and Jisung lounge lazily on the bed, Jisung’s head in Hyunjin’s lap as they silently relive their past. Hyunjin’s slow, relaxed stroking of Jisung’s hair comes to a stop as he begins to speak.
“I’m glad,” he says simply, leaving Jisung pondering.
“I’m glad it was all with you,” Hyunjin looks down at Jisung, wearing the same gentle smile he always does when he looks at Jisung. That stupidly beautiful, unbelievably gentle, heart fluttering smile that never failed to make Jisung’s blood rush to his head - whether in a good way, or bad. He intertwines his hands with Hyunjin’s signalling that he understood. He rubs his hands across Hyunjin’s knobby knuckles, the familiar texture soothing him. He revels in the soft touch of Hyunjin’s skin, the softness he so often felt along his own skin. He felt it on his jaw as a sweet caress, he felt it faintly brushed across his lips, and he felt it gently digging into his hip bones. It was beautiful, his touch. Hyunjin was beautiful in every aspect, in mind, body, and soul. But, Hyunjin hadn't always been beautiful. No, there were times when his gaze seemed to have been crafted from ice, when the only plausible way Jisung thought he’d feel his softness was when Jisung’s fist collided with his fa-
Jisung vibrates as the body underneath him rumbles with laughter. Had he said that aloud? One look at Hyunjin’s violently trembling figure tells him that is definitely the case. He shakes his head fondly as he leans in towards Hyunjin’s face, encapturing him in another memory.