Summary: In EXO, there is Jongin, Sehun, Baekhyun, Chanyeol, and Kyungsoo. Then, there is Jongdae. (In which EXO is not composed of two sub-units, and Joonmyun doesn't quite make the cut.)
Author's Note: Teamcanons, the best and greatest enablers ever, thank you SO MUCH! To Cutest, thank you for the beta and for spotting my godawful mistakes. To E, the brainstorming session really helped. You are all amazing. I love you ♥
Prompt Used: SISTAR - Loving U
They say things happen for a reason. Chanyeol gets the most miserable haircut for debut, and Baekhyun gets pushed down to second lead vocal after duking it out with Kyungsoo in a vocal battle. Jongin unwittingly signs himself up for the busiest schedule, getting the most amount of teasers and the least amount of rest, and Sehun gets a kick out of it. And Joonmyun, after all his years of training and receiving the news that he is finally going to debut, gets advised by his doctor to take an extended break from idol work and possibly give up his singing career for the sake of his health.
"What do you mean I can't do strenuous activities anymore? I can't give this up. Not now. I mean—" He struggles for a while and his mother clears her throat. "I mean, I've been training for years and I finally made the cut and—"
"It's your singing career or your health, Joonmyun. You have to choose."
He wants to be selfish. He wants to risk his health and chase his dreams and just retire when the injury gets too bad. He doesn't give a flying fuck about his back ailment; he just wants to debut. Or maybe he just doesn't want to put seven years of training to waste.
"There's nothing to choose from," his mother replies. "He'll be receiving treatment. Right, Joonmyun?"
The doctor nods thoughtfully. "So, when do you want to start?"
Never, he wants to say, but his mother gives him a stern look — one that says, Don't be stupid, Joonmyun. I did not raise you to be stupid — and clears her throat one more time.
He really doesn't have a choice.
"As soon as possible."
"Tomorrow," his mother appends.
"Tomorrow it is," the doctor repeats, and Joonmyun begins to think of the best way to break the news to everyone.
"I've got a back injury and I have to quit."
The rehearsal in the showers sounded so much better. I have to take a break from training for a while, maybe forever was the revelation he was gunning for, but he's always been known for spontaneity and rehearsed scenarios never really work out in real life. "Oh," is the only reaction Kyungsoo can come up with. Baekhyun has his eyebrows furrowed and Chanyeol's mouth hangs agape. Sehun lips are pressed tightly in a frown.
"So we won't get to debut, too?" Jongin asks.
Joonmyun sees through the placid look on Jongin's face and offers a smile. "Nah. They'll just get a replacement for me. You'll still be debuting." After a while, he adds, "Besides, they can't take it back now that you've filmed all those teasers already."
Chanyeol snorts. "He can have his own subunit. EXO-K — it'll be perfect!"
Jongin gives Chanyeol a wry smile and says, "Thanks. I love you, too."
The somber mood soon lightens when the choreographers arrive and ask the group to run through the routine again. Joonmyun stays until lunch to watch the rest of the group practice, and bids only Kyungsoo goodbye. "Take care of the kids," he says, and Kyungsoo chuckles before giving him a hug.
"I will. I promise."
They finally find a replacement for Joonmyun. EXO debuts as planned. Jongin is the face of the group, the very reason they're even debuting. Kyungsoo and Baekhyun take care of the vocals. Chanyeol is the lead rapper, and Sehun is the jack of all trades, giving even Jongin a run for his money as the visual of the group.
"And oh, sorry, Jongdae's our main vocalist. He's, uh…"
"He's in charge of the high notes," Kyungsoo answers. Beside him, Baekhyun exhales and beams. "And basically everything amazing."
"Michael Jackson," Chanyeol quips from the other side of the stage, and Jongdae ends up bursting into laughter.
Joonmyun is in the first row. "Complimentary ticket," he remembers Kyungsoo saying over text. "Please come? :D" It's both a blessing and a curse, Joonmyun thinks as he watches Jongdae interact with the rest of the group so effortlessly, watches as Jongdae belts out and hits all the right notes perfectly. Often, he finds himself breathless during Jongdae's parts, and he tries to ignore the pain in his chest, the constricting feeling that says, that should have been me.
After the showcase, he meets the six backstage. They're a heap of tears and laughter and Jongdae approaches him, envelops him in a hug and whispers, "Thank you."
Getting chummy with Jongman now hmm HMMM?
He thanked me, Joonmyun types rather hastily, frowning as he does so, and contemplates on adding, Fucker, don't thank me for getting an injury!!! Then an image of Jongin laughing his ass off becomes all too clear in his head, and finds himself tapping the backspace button, saying, instead, HE THANKED ME GDI!!!
LOOOOOOOOL he's really nice tho, mb even better than u? Sorry hyung u'll hv to try harder
Wow thanks, Joonmyun replies. Jongin's reply comes not more than a second after — Jk hyung ilu
Kyungsoo has made it a point to invite him to their events. He's attended at least eighty percent of them, declining only on days when he can actually say no to Kyungsoo and ignore Baekhyun's attempts at making puppy-dog eyes at him. He always uses school as an escape route but he knows for a fact that, five out of ten times, he just doesn't want to see Jongdae's face or to hear Jongdae's voice.
He sinks in his seat as he texts Kyungsoo, Sorry, not tomorrow :( I'll make it up to you guys sometime? He's not sure which to be more worried about — his growing dislike for Jongdae, or the fact that seeing Jongdae perform with the rest of the group instead of himself feels so right.
He goes through his daily evening routine — checking his mail, going through the daily news — and stops when he chances upon an article about EXO. He watches the embedded video and shivers when Jongdae's part comes, when Jongdae nails that high note yet again. He clenches his fists.
Perhaps the part of not debuting that Joonmyun regrets the most is getting to travel out of the country for free. "Have a safe flight," he texts Kyungsoo. Then, to Baekhyun, "Please let the others sleep." To Sehun, he says, "Saw your performance yesterday. Good job! Keep it up! :D" and Sehun replies with a plethora of smileys.
What have u done to Oh Sehun hyung? WHAT HAVE U DONE??? Jongin texts.
Joonmyun laughs. >D
When they arrive at Anaheim, Jongdae texts him, "D'you want anything here?" and Joonmyun lays his phone face down on the table for a good ten minutes before replying, "Just give them a good performance :D"
A good performance turns out to be a tear-jerking one, according to most fans. Numerous fan-taken footages surface and Joonmyun goes through each and every one of them. Soon, he finds himself watching footages focused on Jongdae, and he holds his breath when Jongdae starts singing.
His phone beeps indiscreetly and he frowns a little, hitting the pause button as he does so.
Joonmyun unlocks his phone and a message from Jongdae welcomes him.Did you see our performance, hyung? it says, and despite the lack of smileys or tildes or anything remotely pointing to excitement, he can still see the underlying enthusiasm. Did I see it? Did I see it? I've been watching videos of it for a full hour already and— he's probably crazy because he's wasting time gouging his eyes out in front of his computer instead of replying to Jongdae's message. So he replies, without much thought, "Yup. Good job :)", and he lays his phone face down on the table, ignoring the beep, and then the next.
The number of open tabs on his browser catches his attention and he takes a deep breath.
He's got at least ten tabs about EXO open, and seven out of ten are of Jongdae singing the same song, each video taken from a different angle. There's something bottling up in his chest, threatening to explode, whenever he watches Jongdae. Often, he thinks it's envy or jealousy; one out of ten times, he thinks it's awe. So he doesn't pay much attention to it, until he signs up to be a member of a Jongdae fansite. And another. And another.
Since his nighttime activities — mostly involving following EXO closely online, making sure he's abreast with their latest activities and the like — are the last thing he'd want anyone in EXO to know, it's Lu Han — one of the people he has trained with — he approaches for queries related to online monitoring. "It's not stalking if they actually know you're keeping track of what they do," Lu Han tells him, exasperated, and he struggles with words for a while, trying to look for a better way to call his "activities".
"Watching, not stalking," he says, correcting Lu Han, then clears his throat. "So, you said there's a better way to keep track of them?"
"Mhmm." Lu Han nods and Yixing's waving at him in the background, but the video lags and suddenly there's an image of Lu Han with multiple arms emerging from his back. It's unsettling. "Why don't you just follow them around? It makes everything look less creepy."
"Again, watching, not stalking."
"I don't see the difference." Lu Han nods thoughtfully. "I say go follow them around, make sure what's his face doesn't screw up so you can have more fancams to get off to—"
"You think everything you see online is the truth? Hasn't it ever crossed your mind that some fans are just making idols look good?
"Will you let yourself be blinded?"
Joonmyun doesn't know how it happens — well, he has a pretty good idea of the sequence of events, but he still believes that Lu Han is to blame for everything — but he finds himself buying a ticket to the Dream Concert in Korea. Then he unearths his camera and combat boots, brushes up on his photography skills by making it a habit to appear in EXO's practices unannounced. "I just want to see how you guys are doing," he reasons out, and Jongin just nods but maintains the suspicious look he gives Joonmyun.
Jongdae peers over Joonmyun's shoulder as he goes through the pictures he's taken, and he freezes a little. "Yeah. I'm waiting for Jongin," he replies, shooting Jongin a look as he does so.
"Hey Sehun, I think I'll need help in that part near the chorus—"
Sehun sneers. "Should we change the choreo?"
Joonmyun shifts his attention back to his camera.
Practice stretches for another hour and a half because Jongin is a perfectionist and the biggest bully to surface the face of the earth, taking pleasure in seeing Joonmyun give monosyllabic, usually awkward replies to Jongdae who gives Joonmyun nothing but big smiles and toothy grins. Later, when Joonmyun finally decides to concede defeat, he invites everyone to dinner. "My treat," he adds, "so hurry up your lazy asses." Baekhyun erupts into an, awww, yeah!, and the fist pump Sehun does behind Chanyeol's towering figure is way too apparent.
Jongdae beams at him and rounds everyone up. "Come on, let's do this shit!"
Joonmyun walks beside Jongin who walks beside Sehun who is too busy indulging in Baekhyun and Chanyeol's jokes. Kyungsoo becomes quiet company when it's late. Jongdae, meanwhile, is still bursting with energy, eyes bright at the corners. "Was the choreo change really necessary," he asks, slinging an arm around Jongin's shoulder, catching up with the rest of the group.
"Yes, because if we retained the choreo then Joonmyun hyung won't be treating us to dinner," Jongin replies, all too eager.
"Fallacious," Kyungsoo quips, then laughs a little. "But yeah. I'm starving."
They finally arrive at the restaurant and everyone soon assumes their places as if appearing in a show, or doing an interview after a performance. He settles on the seat to Jongdae's left, texts Jongin — Tysm, best dongsaeng ever — and everything suddenly stops, and Chanyeol says, "Wow. This is weird."
Baekhyun nods. "Yeah. Weird. Like, pre-debut weird."
Jongdae shifts in his seat. Joonmyun laughs and shakes his head. "You're just hungry."
After dinner, on their way home, Joonmyun walks up to Jongdae and places a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, just ignore what they said earlier. I'm pretty sure they didn't mean it that way."
There's a small smile on Jongdae's lips. "They still talk about it, hyung. I mean, how things could have been if you were the one who debuted with them instead of me."
Joonmyun stops in his tracks, and Jongdae shortly follows suit. In the corner of Joonmyun's eye, he sees Jongin stopping for a while, then promptly pushing Sehun forward in an effort to not draw attention to them. "EXO would have sounded worse," he says after a while. "I mean, I can't do that—" He gesticulates with his hands, expressing something he'd otherwise put into words. "—that thing. You know, the high notes and all. Not within my range."
Jongdae chuckles. "My singing voice is pretty scratchy and whiny. It's annoying sometimes."
"Beats mine by a long mile. My voice cracks at the most awkward times. It's as if I'm still going through puberty."
Jongdae laughs — not the shy kind of laughter that Joonmyun normally earns from Jongdae when he makes lame jokes, but loud and shrill laughter, one that sounds a lot like his singing voice. It's annoying sometimes, he remembers Jongdae saying, and he wants to protest because it's annoying all the time because it sounds good despite sounding breathy and screechy.
"It's beautiful, though," Jongdae says after a while. "Your voice, I mean."
Joonmyun stares. He bites the inside of his cheek and he swears there's the biggest grin breaking across his features, so he silently thanks Jongin when Jongin calls out to them, saying, "Get your lazy asses moving!" He nods slowly and mumbles, "Thanks," when his footsteps fall in sync with Jongdae's as they catch up with the rest of the group.
Hyung, I think I'll need your help on this.
I mean stalking.
I'm still NOT STALKING them but, you know—
OH SCREW THIS—
you have much to learn, young padawan. (^.~)v
skype in 5 mins (^o^)b
Joonmyun watches as Lu Han's features come into focus, and he buries his hands in his face. He can't believe this is happening. He can't even believe that he's actually seeking help from Lu Han. This is probably the worst mistake he'll ever make, but it's better than asking Kris or Yixing for help. Or, worse, Chanyeol.
When the video becomes much clearer, Lu Han has Kris and Yixing sitting beside him, lips pressed tightly and eyes void of any emotion.
"I've decided to bring the council with me. It has been years since we've last seen potential in a human being."
Joonmyun scratches the back of his head. "Would've been more believable with the brown hoodie, you know."
Lu Han reaches behind him and pulls up a brown blanket. He whips it around his shoulder and Yixing nudges him in the side. "Master, your cape is in my face," Yixing says, and Lu Han mumbles, cursing.
"My apologies. As I was saying… Joonmyun, my child, I'm glad you've finally decided to join the Force."
Joonmyun nods. He bites the inside of his cheek to keep himself from laughing at Lu Han's silly idea, but he promptly remembers that Lu Han's actually doing him a favor. "I… gave it much thought, master, and I realized I needed the help of the Force to, uh, protect my planet."
"What is this planet that you speak of?"
"Exoplanet." Joonmyun sees Kris' features falter a little, until Lu Han looks at him sternly. "It is the planet I desire to protect."
"Very well." Lu Han nods thoughtfully. "Training shall commence today. You will need a camera — I see you already have one. You will also need patience and a lot of time. And the will to press on with your mission. Fan girls — I mean, there will be a lot of distractions and unwanted forces. You must be wary of those.
Do not lose focus, young padawan. We have faith in you."
Joonmyun clutches his camera close to his chest. "I won't. I promise."
"Very well. World Cup Stadium is where you'll want to be. Arrive there before sunrise, lest you lose the opportunity to watch Exoplanet from up close. And Joonmyun—"
Joonmyun looks up from fixing his things. "Yes?"
It's the first time that a smile has broken from Lu Han's features. Kris is smiling, too, and Yixing is holding up a sign that outlines Lu Han's instructions, with "Have fun" in big characters. He holds a thumb up and smiles, toothy, maybe even overly enthusiastic, and takes a deep breath.
"You bet, I will."
To say that Dream Concert was a blast is an understatement — it's the best thing that has happened to Joonmyun in years.
Arriving at four in the morning pays off; when the gates are finally opened, he is the first to get in, and he manages to get himself a comfortable spot on the right side of the stage, at a corner in the moshpit area. The fans he's with are surprisingly nice and aren't too unruly, but he realizes that he's spoken too soon when the crowd takes a different form when EXO is introduced. The intro music to MAMA blares in the speakers and Joonmyun feels a surge of energy run through his veins, and there's something in his chest that's threatening to break free.
Then Jongdae steps into the spotlight and starts singing.
It's not as if it's the first time he's seeing Jongdae perform or hearing Jongdae sing the same song, but it feels different this time, like a realization has just dawned upon him. There Jongdae is, blinding in his glittery outfit and with that impeccable voice of his, and there Joonmyun is, so many feet below him, unable to find his voice. It seems as if they are worlds apart, but Joonmyun has always thought Jongdae's on a league of his own, and that he would always pale in comparison.
He takes a deep breath.
He stays frozen throughout the performance, even more so when Jongdae spots him in the crowd and when Jongdae's eyes crinkle, smile, the way it's not supposed to while they're performing.
He makes a mental note to call out Jongdae on this later, preferrably through text, but he locks eyes with Jongdae again and he bites too hard on his lower lip.
Joonmyun clenches and unclenches his fist. He's got to get a grip on himself.
The rest of the concert is a scream-along, and Joonmyun sings every song that the artists perform, losing it completely when 2PM takes the stage and the dance music. Hands Up has always been his jam, especially while cleaning his room.
His phone vibrates in his pocket and he reaches for it grudingly while still bobbing his head, singing with the crowd.
Meet us backstage after the concert, hyung! :D Talk to the Snorlax-looking guy near the VIP entrance and tell them you're The Chosen One, kekeke :D
The music fades in the background and Joonmyun stops singing. He steadies his hands, bites the inside of his cheek to keep himself from grinning, and types a short reply.
Ok, gotcha (catch em all)! :D
"That is the lamest pick up line ever. Ever!"
Joonmyun watches as Lu Han scrunches his nose and flails his arms around, and Yixing mouths in the background, "Sorry, hyung. He's right."
"It wasn't a pick up line, okay," Joonmyun retorts, frowning. "And I wasn't trying to—"
"Trying to what? Catch 'em all? You've seen 649 Pokemon and caught only 67. Have you tried fishing?"
Fishing. Joonmyun clears his throat and tries to not let his emotions show when his mind goes back to what happened the previous night, backstage, when Jongdae asked him to meet the group after the concert. He remembers Jongdae welcoming him with a bright smile and, in a sing-song voice, telling him the others will be with them in a while. He remembers sharing a rather uncomfortable silence with Jongdae as he sits opposite him, keeping his eyes on the ground.
He remembers Jongdae saying, "I saw you in the crowd, hyung. You were staring," then pausing for a while to clear his throat before continuing, "at me."
"How long 'til I get a Super Rod?" he asks Lu Han, instead. Lu Han frowns at him.
"Come back when you've already caught a hundred Pokemon, Jongdae included. Then I'll give you a Super Rod."
With a Good Rod, the best reply to Jongdae's statement that he was able to come up with was, "Oh. Yeah. You were really good." Then Jongdae laughed at him silly before asking, "Why did you watch the concert?"
An ounce of self-preservation and control kept Joonmyun from saying, Because I wanted to see you perform. I wanted to hear you sing. A whole litre of stupidity made him blurt out, "Because I want to."
"That's cute, hyung," was Jongdae's reply. "Try harder."
He thanks the whole group for barging into the room in such a timely fashion, saving him from having to give Jongdae an answer, and thanks Kris for telling Lu Han that they have practice in an hour and that he should probably get his lazy ass moving. "Sorry Joonmyun, but it takes him thirty minutes to go through his pre-bathing routine," Kris tells him.
"Which would be?"
"Combing his hair, brushing his teeth, getting into a wrestling match with Yixing to fight for his right to pick the matching outfit that they'll be wearing today. But it takes him five minutes to shower so, yeah."
The video call ends with Lu Han reaching out to the screen and Kris pulling him by the collar, and Yixing laughing in the background. He misses tight timings and schedules, voice and dance lessons that never seem to end. He misses getting stressed over a single note and waging a mental war with Baekhyun on who can sustain a note the longest. He misses, more than anything else, Jongin, Sehun, Chanyeol, Baekhyun, and Kyungsoo.
He doesn't miss Jongdae. How could he when he watches videos of Jongdae on a daily basis? How could he when all he hears in the silence is Jongdae's voice, the long notes, the way Jongdae sings his lines in MAMA, when he closes his eyes and he sees Jongdae's face in perfect detail?
It's worse than seeing pictures in high-definition. It's like a single moment in his life plaguing his mind when he's idle.
He switches to his browser and starts to go through his tabs. He clicks on a video of Jongdae, one he has seen at least five times already. He takes an audio rip of the performance and loads it on his sound editing program to clean the noise in the background, the rumble, to reduce the clicks and pops.
He stops midway through editing the audio and stares at his screen for a good ten seconds.
What the actual fuck is he doing?
Lu Han, Yixing, and Kris become busy with practice for their upcoming debut — SM's first stab at an acoustic group — and Joonmyun realizes that their Skype conversations are more for the sake of his sanity than Lu Han just wanting to make fun of him. It's a daunting realization, because it soon hits him that he's now way in too deep into the grave he has dug for himself, and he has already signed up for way too many fansites — of Jongdae, no less. It freaks him out for a good five minutes, then sends him falling flat on his bed.
He grabs the pillow nearest to him and covers his face with it. If the world's supposed to eat him up alive, now is the perfect time to do so.
He bails out from attending EXO's events for the next few weeks. He ignores Kyungsoo's texts when school becomes much less of an excuse than an escape, shuts his phone down when a text from Jongdae comes in. Rinse and repeat, until Jongin somehow ends up at his doorstep, a cup of Starbucks coffee in both hands and an eyebrow raised.
"If you plan on disappearing from the world, at least get your mom to answer the door."
"Aren't you supposed to be going around the world, promoting MAMA or something?"
Jongin frowns. "Are you going to let me in or what?"
Joonmyun takes a step back to let Jongin worm his way inside the house, and mumbles a sound of gratitude when Jongin hands him one of the cups. "Tall, warm, non-fat Cappuccino, right?" Jongin asks, the look on his face now that of worry. "Your go-to coffee when you're stressed?"
Joonmyun laughs a little. "I'm not stressed," he says, then takes a sip of the cappuccino. Perfect. "But thanks. This is nice."
"You suck at bluffing, hyung." Jongin sticks out a tongue at him. "I thought I've already taught you well."
Joonmyun walks to the living room and flashes a v-sign at Jongin over his shoulder. He's not sure if Jongin has seen it, but years of knowing Jongin tells him that he probably has. Jongin settles on the bean bag and yelps a little when he sinks all too early.
"I was supposed to bring beer, but my mustache disguise didn't work so…" Jongin fiddles with the cover of his coffee, then looks up at Joonmyun, a small smile on his lips. "'Sup?"
Joonmyun's lips quiver for a moment.
See, this is the problem — Joonmyun's inability to hide his feelings completely. Years of training with SM has made him much better at deceiving people through his eyes or that bright, bright smile of his, but he's never been able to pull it off for too long. His eyes would twitch and his smile would falter. It only lasts for a few seconds, but Jongin is always quick enough to spot his weaknesses and take full advantage of them.
He stares at Jongin for a few more seconds until Jongin narrows his eyes. Joonmyun sighs, exasperated, and leans back into his chair.
"Screw this. I hate him."
Jongin leans back into the bean bag and regrets it not too long after, when he spills some of his coffee on his shirt. Joonmyun just stares — at Jongin's face, the unattractive brown dots on Jongin's shirt, his shaking hands. He takes a deep breath. He's never used the word hate before, not when talking about Jongdae, but it's so appropriate for the situation.
He's never been good at dealing with realizations, either, but it has never been this bad.
"I hate him." A hitch of the breath, then, "He tries to act cool and mysterious and he's annoying and he tries too hard to dance well and he sings too well and he annoys the fuck out of me! And it sucks. It sucks that he's obviously too good at what he does and he's really nice, and it's impossible to hate him, but I do.
It's so easy to like him. He's making it too easy for me to like him, and I hate that."
Joonmyun's breathing is ragged and heavy when he finishes. There's a tingling sensation playing at the tips of his fingers. Slowly, his heartbeat steadies and, when he looks up, Jongin has the silliest smile on his lips.
"So, I got the whole thing on video..."
Joonmyun narrows his eyes. "You're dead, Kim Jongin. Dead."
Jongin erupts into a peal of laughter and shakes his head, saying in between giggles, "Was-just-joking!" Soon enough, Joonmyun finds himself laughing with Jongin, laughing at the whole situation and Jongin's inability to stop laughing, at the cups of coffee resting on the floor, forgotten in favor of a well-told story and a clumsy confession.
Joonmyun demands more time from Lu Han than the usual, mostly because he needs a shock absorber, and partly because he needs to make sure that he's actually doing things right. This is how he ends up watching EXO's practices thrice a week, ends up going to every event they're in, even if Kyungsoo doesn't give him complimentary tickets or special passes. There's a drastic change in his "stalking behavior" — term still subject to debate — now that he puts very little effort into not getting noticed, and Lu Han applauds him for this, while Jongin tries to avoid his eyes like the plague for fear of bursting into laughter at his very sight.
Make sure he sees you enjoying the performance because he loves that. Every idol loves being watched, he remembers Lu Han saying. There's a conscious effort to not wear a silly grin for fear of having to answer Sehun's perennial question — "What's with the dreamy look, hyung?"
"Hyung!" Jongdae calls out, emerging from the doors, still dressed in his stage persona.
Without the stage lights, Jongdae looks much more unattractive, much more attainable. The eyeliner is unnecessary, but Joonmyun thinks Jongdae prefers not to argue with the stylists. His hair's donning a bit of hairspray, but only just, and Joonmyun smiles a little — at least Jongdae still gets to keep a piece of himself when he goes on stage.
Joonmyun nods. "Yeah. I'm here."
Jongdae stifles a laugh.
Awkward silences are a huge no-no, too, says Lu Han's voice in his head, so Joonmyun promptly makes small talk, saying, "Great performance." Jongdae grins, the corners of his eyes crinkling in the process. Joonmyun almost chokes on his follow-up. "The crowd went wild back there."
"Yeah, pretty wild." Jongdae scratches the back of his head. "I'll have to get used to that soon."
Joonmyun has made a checklist of the steps he should take to successfully let Jongdae know of his aversion to Jongdae's overall likeability. Step one, inflate Jongdae's ego by praising him all the fucking time. Step two, wait for Jongdae to agree, then promptly say something to burst the oversized bubble.
Crossed out twice, step three — take Jongdae out for lunch or dinner to make amends.
Joonmyun skips the second, not because he doesn't have the heart to rip that smile off Jongdae's lips, but because he has half the heart to execute his plan in front of Jongin. "Are you guys free after this? Let's grab something to eat!" Joonmyun says, and Sehun shakes his head, Jongin makes a passable-enough I'm sorry, I can't come to your engagement party face, and Kyungsoo runs through their schedule with his index finger.
"Baekhyun and I have a radio program in a while. Chanyeol has a hosting stint somewhere, and Jongin and Sehun have to clean their rooms."
"It's a mess."
"A fucking mess," Sehun appends. Beside him, Jongin nods in approval.
"Well, my next appointment is for tomorrow's morning program so I can still go with you," Jongdae replies, then rushes, "If you want, I mean. If that's okay with you."
There are at least ten scenarios playing out in his mind, but Joonmyun pays no heed to them, decides to go with spontaneity and lays careful planning to rest. He's got everything under control, after all; the worst that can happen is Jongdae forcing him to buy soju for the two of them and, consequently, getting drunk.
"Yeah, sure. Anytime you're ready," Joonmyun says, a small smile on his lips.
Behind Jongdae, Jongin's grinning. Joonmyun fishes for his phone from his pocket and sends Lu Han a text — I asked him out. Be proud of me. :D
liar, you asked everyone out but jongdae's the only one who didn't have plans (- . -)p
don't ask how i got info. i am ★ amazing ★
your very own adventure is about to unfold! \(^o^)/
Things do not exactly go as planned. They end up having too much for dinner, too much soju to drink. Alcohol tolerance is a foreign concept to Jongdae, so Jongdae finds himself throwing up on Joonmyun's shirt, and Joonmyun shudders, berates himself because this is not the confession he is gunning for.
"Fuck— Hyung, sorry—" Jongdae's breathing is heavy and ragged. He grips Joonmyun's wrists tight. "I—"
Jongdae passes out on Joonmyun's lap, and wakes up in Joonmyun's bed the following morning.
(To be completely honest, nothing happened. Joonmyun just carried Jongdae on his back and laid Jongdae on his bed and he took off his shirt to get a new one. Then Jongdae stirred, and Joonmyun walked closer to where Jongdae was, and Jongdae pulled him by the wrist.
There was barely an inch between them; Joonmyun didn't need Jongdae to call his name to know that.
Jongdae was a mess but when he snaked his arms around Joonmyun's waist, Joonmyun just let him. Never mind that they smelled of grilled food and soju and whatever Jongdae had for lunch and breakfast. Joonmyun's parents were away, and they were in the same room, sharing the same bed, and Jongdae's breathing was even and rhythmic against Joonmyun's chest, on Joonmyun's skin.
Joonmyun closed his eyes.)
Kyungsoo arrives at his place at three in the morning, two hours before Jongdae's call time and two hours after Joonmyun left Jongdae on his bed to sleep on the couch, instead. He has already taken a bath and is wearing a clean, new shirt by now, but he can still smell the scent of alcohol in his hair.
"Sorry for not picking him up earlier." Kyungsoo offers Joonmyun a small smile and bows a little. "And thanks for taking care of him."
Joonmyun laughs a little. He wouldn't call it taking care of Jongdae; it's more of him carefully unbuttoning Jongdae's shirt and slipping it off his body, wiping Jongdae's face, arms, chest with a wet towel. It's more of him dressing Jongdae up again and staying at least a feet away after, just watching the rhythmic rise and fall of Jongdae's chest.
It's more of him coming to terms with how he feels about Jongdae and his aversion for Jongdae reaching an all-time high, then plummeting hard. And fast.
"No problem," he says, returning the smile. He then ushers Kyungsoo to where Jongdae is and helps Kyungsoo bring Jongdae to the car.
It's a little past three in the morning, he's got an exam in roughly ten hours, and he's hardly touched the review material, but he just drops unceremoniously on the couch and stares at the ceiling. He closes his eyes and the image of Jongdae on his bed is still fresh in his memory.
He keeps his eyes closed and hums a small melody under his breath until he falls asleep.
They don't talk about it, mostly because Jongdae can hardly remember anything past his fifth shot of soju, and partly because Joonmyun makes all sorts of excuses to not appear in EXO's practices and events. Soon, EXO's schedule becomes packed with international shows and concerts. There's Indonesia and California and China and, in each country that they go to, Jongdae never fails to send a text, or a message in Line, or a plethora of smileys and emoticons. Joonmyun never sends a message back, until Jongdae sends a message void of smileys.
Hyung. I miss you.
Joonmyun grips his phone tight and types a reply.
Hey. We should talk. Soon.
I miss you, too.
The conversation takes place when EXO gets back to Korea, and Jongin and Lu Han decide to conspire against Joonmyun in an effort to put an end to the year-long game Joonmyun and Jongdae have been playing. Awards ceremonies are just around the corner and they're taking every chance to take a break, so Baekhyun organizes a party at EXO's dorm and invites the acoustic trio.
When Lu Han arrives, Yixing announces, "Let's get loud!"
Halfway through the second bottle of tequilla and three turns in Spin-the-Bottle-cum-7-Minutes-in-Heaven after, Joonmyun's tolerance for alcohol begins to dissipate and Jongdae sits too close to him. Convenient because, on the next turn, the bottle neck stops in front of Joonmyun and Jongin cackles.
"This is probably a bad idea," Joonmyun tells Jongin when Jongin shoves him inside a rather spacious closet. Lu Han then ushers Jongdae inside. "I've never played this before—"
"There's a first time for everything," Jongin replies. He tries to sound sympathetic but fails at it miserably. Joonmyun gulps down hard.
"I don't know how this works."
Lu Han's cheeks are flushed pink now. He slings an arm around Jongin's shoulder. "Fuck him senseless or until he gets down for you — that's how it works."
Joonmyun tries to argue, but Kris lunges forward and closes the doors even before Joonmyun can question Kyungsoo's high-pitched laughter and Baekhyun's giggling. Inside, Jongdae's chuckling, and Joonmyun soon realizes the lack of space between them, and that it's insanely hot inside the closet.
"Can't believe we're actually doing this," Jongdae comments.
Joonmyun just scoffs. He agrees wholeheartedly and wants to add, I can't believe we're letting them do this to us, but the lack of space is unsettling, and Jongdae's beginning to trace figures on the back of his hand.
"Are you really planning to fuck me senseless—"
"No," Joonmyun bites back quickly, then rushes, "I mean, it's a nice suggestion, but I won't do that here."
Joonmyun smiles a little. He snakes his arms around Jongdae's waist. The alcohol is beginning to take over him. "Your place or mine?"
Jongdae laughs. He laughs the way he did months back, when they were walking back to the SM building from having dinner after practice, laughs the way he does when he's unguarded. Joonmyun closes his eyes and rests his forehead on Jongdae's own, bringing their faces closer, and they stay there for the next few minutes, until Lu Han calls out, "Thirty seconds left!"
Joonmyun leans in for a kiss.
Jongdae kisses back.
It's EXO's first Christmas as a group. They don't win the newcomer awards but they celebrate, anyway. "Because we could have been worse if Joonmyun hyung was with us," Chanyeol says in all his drunken stupor.
"Not that you're any better right now," Joonmyun quips. Beside him, Jongdae cackles and shakes his head. It takes the rest a good five seconds to recover and to burst into laughter, and Chanyeol doubles over, ending up on the floor.
Later, they do a toast. Seven glasses are held up high, Kyungsoo's towering the rest. "To success," Kyungsoo says, staying true to the leader that he is and, from behind Kyungsoo, Sehun adds, "To getting that fucking rookie award next year!"
Joonmyun nods thoughtfully and Jongdae puts an arm around his shoulder. He looks at the sight before him — five boys who are slowly growing up, wearing toothy grins and eyes laden with drunkenness, and a boy right beside him, smiling at him.
They say things happen for a reason. He's been forced to retire from idol life even before he could debut so he could focus on his studies and ace every single exam there is. Jongdae was chosen as his replacement and now EXO is recognized more as a vocal group than a performing group. It's a win-win situation, if he looks at it closely. So he slips an arm around Jongdae's waist and takes a deep breath.
"To EXO," Joonmyun says, raising his glass higher. Kyungsoo smiles.
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