word count: 3.1k
a/n: cRIES written because they are qts and this famous scene and yeah. for joce because she isn't even in the fandom and somehow managed to drag me into this ship.
Jiwon likes it when he gets to sprawl out on the dance studio floor.
He likes it best when they’re sweaty and gross and feel like they’re about to boil over and evaporate at any moment from four hours straight of practice, and the dance studio floor transforms into the perfect place to become one with your inner liquid state as you recover from inhumane bouts of repetitive choreography.
Hence Jiwon is indeed found sprawled out on said dance studio floor when Hanbin wraps up practice for the night, rolling around and absorbing all the coolness like a delighted squid. This carries on until Chanwoo whines, because Jiwon is leaving sweaty tracks everywhere and effectively imprisoning him on the side of the studio where he can’t get to his water bottle.
Here, Jinhwan takes pity on the maknae and tosses his bottle over, except Jinhwan tosses water bottles as accurately as he plays foot volleyball, so the water bottle hits something that is noticeably not Chanwoo’s hand, and the something lets out a dignified squawk.
Jiwon lifts his head and guffaws as he sees Donghyuk crumple sideways onto the floor from where he’d probably been resting and minding his own business until Chanwoo’s water bottle became a homing missile targeting his forehead. Chanwoo and Hongseok are rushing over and bubbling out are you okays and oh gosh I am so sorrys though neither of them had anything to do with the (excellent) throw, and Yunhyung is literally rolling on the floor laughing, safely on the other side of the sweaty trail dividing the room.
“You should thank hyung,” Junhoe snickers over at Donghyuk derisively, taking a swig from his own bottle. “Blunt force trauma might actually improve your visuals.”
Donghyuk extends an arm between Hongseok’s and Chanwoo’s concerned shapes to give Junhoe the finger. Jinhyung lets out a sharp laugh, immediately clamping a hand over his mouth and flashing Junhoe an apologetic and fearful look, but Yunhyung claps loudly and encourages him to yeah tell it to him Jinhyungie.
This leads Junhoe to put down his water bottle and go over to start dragging the reputed cute hyung out of the room, amidst loud protests of stop no I’m sorry really and this is manhandling I’m reporting you to Manager, and desperate pleas for Hanbin to save him which the leader completely ignores. Jiwon watches lazily as the ecstatic shrieking fades into the distance outside when Junhoe successfully drags Yunhyung to the underworld, probably where all his evil maknae colleagues gather regularly and swap tips on how to make their hyungs’ lives miserable.
“Dinner,” Hanbin mumbles to the group, his snapback on inside out and shoelaces untied and eyes unfocused, looking so worn out that Jiwon would get up and pat him on the back if all his muscles hadn’t already started undergoing various states of atrophy, so he reduces himself to shouting out a get some rest, you idiot as Jinhwan carefully guides him out of the room, probably chastising him for overworking himself again as he does so.
Jiwon attempts bravely to drag himself up as Chanwoo and Hongseok gingerly cross the now drying sweat tracks to join Jinhyung to pack and leave. He’s successfully managed to get one foot flat on the ground and is coaxing the other to get to work, when Donghyuk calls out faintly from behind.
“Tricking,” he says, still sounding exhausted, and Jiwon flops back down like an overcooked noodle.
It’s been just over a week since Donghyuk had volunteered (and Hanbin had approved for him) to do the final tricking manoeuvre to end off their dance routine at the final battle, and since then he’s been staying back after usual practice or coming early to work on it. And Jiwon would be all great and fine with this if Donghyuk didn’t need a spotting partner- something Jinhwan had shoved onto him because Hanbin’s the leader and how about you take care of nine people and try shouldering another burden (Jinhwan’s totally biased when it comes to Hanbin, he swears). Getting any of the other five to do it either had been out of the question as well, because they’ve got enough on their plates worrying about debut as it is, so Jiwon just sort of (grudgingly) accepts his fate as human cushion for the next few weeks.
Besides, out of the three competing members of Team B, there’s something calming about spending time with Donghyuk, Jiwon reasons. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t get verbally pissed on 24/7 like he would with the actual maknae, or cornered into killing his wallet treating snacks and drinks like he would with Yunhyung. With Donghyuk, Jiwon feels needed- rather than fitting in as an equal with Jinhwan and Hanbin, with Donghyuk, he feels like a hyung.
And it’s nice to feel like a hyung sometimes.
“Take out the mats,” Jiwon orders, face down on the floor, and he can hear the nasal rumble of dissent travelling across the room as Donghyuk grumpily obliges. Jiwon grins. Yep, feeling like a hyung is pretty swell sometimes.
Jiwon only gets up when a sufficient area of the floor is covered in blue gym mats, and unsteadily sways onto them towards Donghyuk, the surface of the mats firm but springy under his bare feet.
“You should take a break first,” he remarks, noting the unevenness to Donghyuk’s breaths, and rolls his eyes when the younger boy shakes his head resolutely.
“Let’s just get this over with,” Donghyuk is already bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet, rolling his shoulders back to loosen his joints (as if the four hours of practice hadn’t already turned their bodies to jelly), and Jiwon snorts.
“How about,” Jiwon grabs Donghyuk unceremoniously by the back of the shirt and half-falls back down onto the mats, dragging the squalling boy down with him. “No. Before you end up slipping and telescoping your spine and going into palliative care for life.”
Donghyuk is screeching about how sweaty Jiwon is and how sweaty he is and how much sweatier they’d both be together, but Jiwon’s very happily lying on the mat, revelling in some much needed quality horizontal time with his favourite dongsaeng.
“Stop yapping,” Jiwon advises wisely, pulling Donghyuk closer. “Or Hanbin will give you less lines in our future songs.”
“If I get in at all,” Donghyuk mutters, and Jiwon immediately slaps him on the hip. He ends up almost fracturing all the bones in his hand on the knobbly point of Donghyuk’s hip, and hisses in annoyance.
“Bad child,” he scolds, nursing his injured hand. “Of course you’ll get in, stop talking nonsense.”
Donghyuk snorts. “Sure you’ll say that, confirmed member. Now leave us peasants to our woes, hyung.”
Jiwon frowns, tugging Donghyuk up a little further, so he’s almost half smothered under the other boy, and he rubs the fake maknae’s back with his other hand. “Yah, I mean it, though. You know you don’t have to worry about anything, right? Not with the fans and the other members seeing you through this? We wouldn’t leave you behind even if YG told us it was the only way to debut, you know that, right?”
Donghyuk laughs, short and sharp and bitter. “I’ll always worry, hyung. Even if I pull off this flip, even if I pass this stupid competition and get into the group, even if iKon becomes the biggest hit of 2015 and sweeps every chart on this planet- I’m always going to be worried, hyung,” he turns, so he’s looking at Jiwon, and though his eyes are open, Jiwon feels like he’s staring into a wall. “You know that, right?” he says it a little mockingly, a little bitterly, a little guiltily, and Jiwon doesn’t know what to say to that.
So he pulls Donghyuk close, changes the fond, circular motions on the small of the younger boy’s back to smoothen the invisible points between his shoulder blades in long, soothing strokes instead, and lets himself laugh, because unlike most idols, Jiwon uses laughter to build bridges instead of walls.
Hanbin had once described in a fatigue-induced stupor that Jiwon’s laughter was like a boat- rounded and reliable and possessing the astonishing ability to keep anyone afloat even in the deepest oceans of their lives. It was most unfortunate that Jiwon had pretty much been in a vegetative state due to exhaustion too, and it hadn’t dawned on him to record that and keep it as blackmail for future use. But it serves its purpose now- Jiwon feels Donghyuk relax imperceptibly in his arms, and the thought of being able to calm him down makes him inexplicably happy.
“You shouldn’t be worried,” Jiwon announces to the ceiling, and Donghyuk laughs, his narrow shoulders digging into Jiwon’s diaphragm. The laughter stills when Jiwon continues. “Not in this company or in this show or with your experience,” Jiwon gives Donghyuk’s bicep a soft tug. “Not with us.”
Donghyuk turns around then, to look at Jiwon, half confused and half amused.
“I’m in a survival show, hyung. under a tyrannical CEO with a penchant for recreating the Hunger Games with his trainees, competing with two brothers and three strangers who are as good, if not better than me, and my fate rests in the hands of a fangirl population fed only with the produce of the biased group of editors controlling the contents of aforementioned show. Don’t you think you’re being a little unfair saying I don’t have the right to be worried, hyung?”
Jiwon snorts, shaking Donghyuk gently by his shoulders and wincing when the edge of Donghyuk’s elbow nearly causes internal bleeding in his spleen. “Yah, I didn’t say you didn’t have the right to be worried, I said you shouldn’t be.”
Donghyuk lets out a sarcastic chuckle that sounds more like a tired exhale. “Aren’t word games supposed to be my thing, hyung?” he rolls over, propping his chin on Jiwon’s chest, pretending to blink innocently up at the older boy. “So are you going to tell me the difference between the two or do I have to ask?”
“You’re a trainee who’s already been in two shows,” Jiwon emphasises those words, ignoring the mocking tone to Donghyuk’s voice. Speaking so much makes him uncomfortable- Jiwon prefers to show support through actions rather than motivational speeches (the latter are more of Jinhwan’s thing, really) but desperate times call for desperate measures, he guesses. “Most trainees don’t get to see the light of day under the camera until they’re well into their debut. Isn’t that already something?
“You’re under the CEO with a solid track record in promoting his artists’ music, with a loyal fanbase who’ve promised to keep the six of us together, competing with three kids who are so much more disadvantaged compared to you in terms of experience and favour with the audience. And this isn’t including the fact that there are loads of hopefuls in other companies out there crying into their pillows because they’re working so hard and won’t get half the opportunity for fame that you do,” Jiwon cranes his neck a little to look Donghyuk in the eye. “Yeah, sure, you’ve got every right to be worried, because this is the opportunity of a lifetime and you’re in a dumb survival competition fighting for it, but when you think about it,” he reaches up to smooth the hair away from Donghyuk’s face. “You’ve really got nothing to worry about. Not when so many other people out there have so much more to be worried about than you do.”
Donghyuk laughs softly, and compared to the chuckle from before, it sounds calmer, more thoughtful. Jiwon wonders if he should be satisfied, and eventually decides that he’ll have to be- he knows more goes on in their baby’s head than they can ever comprehend, every thought branching further and sinking deeper than it would for them. He can see the cogs turning in Donghyuk’s mind every time a new situation crops up- picking up new concepts and turning them around and inside out to explore them fully when the rest of them would just nonchalantly accept it as truth.
But Jiwon also knows that the way Donghyuk’s mind works is so structured, so deep, crafting every unit of knowledge into a complex network, organised and logical and precise, that it doesn’t often leave space for the fantastical fabrics of hopes and dreams that exist in the gaps between cold hard facts. So this is where Jiwon, a wreckage of trains of thought bound by tangled threads of wonder, a loom weaving dreams that are both invincible and crystal clear, comes in, to jumble up the order of Donghyuk’s thoughts, so that maybe, if the younger boy lets him, he can fit faith and hope somewhere in the web of science as well.
“We’re going to be okay,” Jiwon grins sleepily, patting the back of Donghyuk’s head, taking the opportunity to run his fingers through the younger boy’s hair before debut, when it’ll turn frizzy and dry from dye and treatment. “All of us.”
“Sure,” Donghyuk isn’t quite believing that yet, but he isn’t refusing it either, and Jiwon feels oddly accomplished. “If you’re quite done being mushy, hyung, let’s practice so we can go home and sleep.”
“Brat,” Jiwon slaps him again, this time on the back, and Donghyuk wiggles away, grinning, getting up on his feet.
They fall back into a usual routine, Jiwon standing at the ready when Donghyuk cartwheels over, reacting with lightning reflexes to guide Donghyuk’s final flip in the air before the younger boy lands on his feet. He notes proudly that he’s having to do it less and less- Donghyuk gets into the groove of it faster and almost completes all the tricks independently.
It’s only when Donghyuk fumbles on his landing- ankle wobbling dangerously on the mat when he lands, hissing sharply in pain, that Jiwon starts, eyes wide.
“Can you stand? Does it hurt?” Jiwon asks, but Donghyuk waves off his concerns, standing unsteadily. Jiwon frowns, before helping him up and guiding him off the mat. “That’s it for tonight, we’re going back.”
“Remember! Less yapping! More lines!” Jiwon makes a zipping motion along his mouth with his fingers, and Donghyuk rolls his eyes. Jiwon seriously ought to get paid more to put up with this.
Jiwon even ends up keeping all the mats and packing up (he really needs to get paid more for this) and Donghyuk’s grinning as they pick up their bags, even daring to sling a convivial arm over Jiwon’s shoulder as they leave for the canteen for a quick dinner before heading home. Something’s nagging at Jiwon, though, and unlike Donghyuk, unlike Hanbin, he voices his concerns right then and there.
“You know you won’t have the mats on the day itself- will your ankle be able to take it?” Jiwon tries not to sound too worried as he reaches over to turn off the lights.
“It’ll be fine,” Donghyuk says carelessly, before turning to Jiwon with a sly smile. “Besides, I have every right to be worried, but I shouldn’t, right? Because I’ve got you guys.”
Jiwon scoffs. “Yeah, if only that applied to foot ligaments.”
“Yeah, with debut and a future as an idol in this company at stake, who’s got the time to worry about feet?” Donghyuk tests his injured foot gingerly, before hobbling out the door, complaining about how the practice studio doors should open outwards instead of inwards for poor injured liabilities like him.
Jiwon watches him for a moment, and he wonders, for a painful moment, how this boy’s managed to fit himself so neatly into their lives so they almost don’t notice he’s there. He realises that if Donghyuk did indeed disappear from YG, from iKon, (from Jiwon), it’d be like losing a brick in the foundation of a grand building. Unnoticeable for the first few minutes, weeks, years, maybe, until that building weathered, eroded, before finally crumbling in on itself and being reduced to dust, because the core of it was long gone.
“Hyung?” Donghyuk’s clumsily trying to balance on one foot and hold open the door and look back at the same time, and Jiwon starts, hurrying forward to pull the door.
“What do you think they’ll have at the canteen tonight?” He attempts to change the subject as they start on a steady pace down the corridor, Donghyuk walking easier now.
“Pork,” Donghyuk declares, all promises about diets apparently forgotten, and Jiwon laughs softly. If Hanbin or Junhoe or even Jinhwan were here, they might have something to say about it, but unluckily (or luckily, depending on how you look at it), it’s Jiwon who’s here with Donghyuk now, and Jiwon doesn’t care (or he does, also depending on how you look at it).
“I sure hope so,” Jiwon says absently, bumping lightly into Donghyuk’s shoulder as he presses the elevator button.
There’s a few seconds of comfortable silence as they wait for the elevator to come, and Jiwon’s surprised when he suddenly feels the brush of skin against his arm. It’s Donghyuk, leaning onto him, chin nudging his shoulder, and in that split second he realises the younger boy probably already knows what’s on his mind.
Jiwon feels a warmth, then, spreading from his stomach to the tips of his fingers and toes, and smiles at their reflection in the frosted surface of the elevator door. He reaches up behind Donghyuk’s knapsack, plucking the snapback clipped to the handle of his bag and cramming it backwards onto the younger boy’s head, grinning when he whines and tries to straighten his hair.
“You’re right,” Jiwon says, clapping Donghyuk on the back, and he looks up in surprise. “About what you said earlier, that you don’t have the time to worry. That’s why we’re here, to worry for you.”
Donghyuk laughs, the sound bouncing off the walls of the tiny lift lobby, as the elevator signals its arrival with a ding, and they pile in.
“I’ll just worry for you too, so it cancels out,” Donghyuk replies, carelessly punching the button that goes to the company canteen.
“Feels nicer, though, doesn’t it?” Jiwon slides an arm around Donghyuk’s shoulders, insistently pulling him closer, and though the younger boy squirms in his grip, Jiwon can see the smile on his face.
Somehow, that alone manages to assure him that everything will turn out alright, and they’ll make it out of this together and alive. Somehow, that alone tells Jiwon that Donghyuk's here with him just as much as he's here with the younger boy, just as tangible and aware and bound to the rest of them as he is. Just as bound to Jiwon as Jiwon is to him.
Somehow, that’s just enough to tell Jiwon he needn’t worry anymore.
“Yeah,” Donghyuk nods, tucked close to Jiwon’s side, as the elevator door opens when they reach their level. “It does.”
Somehow Jiwon realises that the ripples they leave in their wake are hidden as deep as the invisible bond that's fused and solidified between them, but he decides it isn't something he particularly minds. They're pieces of different puzzles that have happened to fall together and click. The dissonant clash of a piano melody and an electric guitar riff that somehow managed to produce something beautiful.
For them, chaos meets order and makes a home for the two of them in their hearts. Somehow, they always manage to find each other in the eye of the storm and hold on tight, and somehow, Jiwon knows that that's all they'll ever need.
a/n: what am i even doing with my life