Also 1.6k words, whaaaat? Must be a record for me tbh.
Deep sigh. Breathe in, breathe out. “Alright, let’s do it one more time,” Hakyeon says.
Tonight’s practice has really got him exhausted, all of them; he’s used to practicing tough choreographies for hours on end with little rest in between, but sometimes the mood wears him thin more than other times. Everyone can get cranky when spending so much time together, and it rubs off on the others easily, and it’s all Hakyeon can do to not just get out of the practice room and go back to the dorm, to his bed. On these days, the practice goes slower, which in turn leaves them all with less sleep, so they should really try to be more effective - but they already know that. Hakyeon doesn’t need to tell them.
“Come on, gang, one more run,” Jaehwan says loudly, an eager repetition of Hakyeon, clapping them into positions. Wonshik smiles a little fondly despite being tired. Hakyeon just feels more tired from the noise, more annoyed than anything, even though it’s obvious that Jaehwan is trying to lighten the mood. He doesn’t say anything, though, just lets it be.
The choreography is almost ingrained in him by now and he goes through it with few problems, while thinking about his bed and how soft it is and how much he’d like to be there now. As such, his mind wanders while he dances, not really noticing the others making errors. So when Jaehwan stumbles into him, he yelps in surprise, startled out of his automatic movement, and soon they’re all unfocused again.
“Sorry, sorry,” Jaehwan says and holds his hands up. The music stops abruptly, leaving them in a heavy silence, and when Hakyeon looks to the sound system, Taekwoon has paused the song. “My mistake.”
“Damn right it is,” Hakyeon huffs. “Let’s do it from the top, and focus this time. I want to sleep tonight. Taekwoon?”
The song starts over from the beginning, and Hakyeon takes another breath as they get back into position.
It’s Jaehwan again who makes a mistake, slipping off beat and crashing into Sanghyuk close to the end of the song, toppling them both over. Hakyeon stands with his hands on his hips as the pair snicker and start clambering to their feet, quieting when they see how tired of their shit he is.
“Are you serious?” he deadpans, feeling pressure building in his throat - he just wants to fucking sleep. “We have another schedule in seven hours and we still haven’t gotten one perfect run of this song today, because you can’t focus.” He stares accusingly at Jaehwan. “We’re all trying here. Can you please try to actually do your job instead of messing around like a kid, so we can finish up?”
At first Jaehwan looked actually apologetic for messing up, but as Hakyeon went on, his expression hardened, and it’s going to be a long night like this. The others are all silent, probably not wanting to meddle. Jaehwan is so known for being energetic and happy, that he’s frankly kind of scary when he’s mad. Not that Hakyeon is going to back down. “I’m not trying?” Jaehwan says. “Excuse me for not living up to your standards and being perfect, but I’m working just as hard as you. You don’t think I want to go to sleep? Because I would love to. But I’m still here, letting you pick on every little mistake, so if I’m not trying, I don’t know what this is.”
“Just being here isn’t enough, Jaehwan! You have to put everything into this and actually try to improve what you’re doing wrong. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but it’s not making progress. It has to be perfect.” Hakyeon doesn’t mean to shout, but there he is, anger building up inside him, mirrored on Jaehwan, who scoffs in reply.
“We have a whole month of day-long practice left to fix my shitty mistakes. I’ll practice plenty on my own, too, so the only reason we’re all here now is to please your perfectionist ass, while you’re thinking the exact same thing as us! Why are you making it take longer for us all?”
Hakyeon steps up into Jaehwan’s face, ignoring Wonshik’s quiet call of “hyung” as he does so - he’s had enough. “Don’t try to make everyone gang up on me, like I’m the bad guy,” he mutters, glowering as hard as he can to get his point across. Jaehwan stares back in equal anger. “We have the same goal. I’m just trying harder to reach it.”
“Fine,” Jaehwan says. “Have it your way. Be the perfect one.” He turns around and walks out of the room without another word, slamming the door after him. The silence hangs heavy after he leaves.
Feeling strangely empty as the fight leaves him, Hakyeon wanders to the bench where his things are and picks up his water bottle. “Practice is over, guys,” he says to the remaining members, who are still standing around awkwardly. He takes a gulp of water. “Go home. Get some sleep for tomorrow.”
“What about you?” Hongbin asks.
“You heard Jaehwan; I’m a perfectionist. I’m still not happy with some of my parts, so I’ll stay a while longer,” he says, and tries a reassuring smile. He sees it in the mirror, clearly fake. “Don’t worry about me. See you in the morning.”
They all seem to hesitate, but they pack up anyway, knowing that it’s time to leave Hakyeon alone. Taekwoon rests his hand on Hakyeon’s shoulder for a moment before he leaves, and Sanghyuk gives him a little smile and a “good luck”. Wonshik tells him not to stay too long, and Hongbin quips in his agreement.
And then it’s silent.
Hakyeon stares at his reflection for a long while, takes in how exhausted he looks. He’s still tired and he’d like nothing more than sleep, but he just said that he would practice, and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t do as he says. With a frustrated shout, he kicks at the bench in front of him, yelping when pain shoots up his leg. It only lasts for a moment, though, and then he goes back to the sound system and starts the song. “From the top,” he mumbles to himself.
After about half an hour of dancing, or trying to dance, Hakyeon slumps onto a bench, unable to focus anymore. His mind kept drifting back to Jaehwan and his words, and the words that they threw at each other, and the fact that he never wanted Jaehwan to look at him with anger in his eyes. Now that he’s had time to cool down, he feels regret seeping in, more so than the pang he felt when Jaehwan slammed the door. Jaehwan was right, of course; Hakyeon knows he was actually trying, he always does. Even when he jokes in every sentence, he’s still desperately trying to do well. Hakyeon had simply lashed out at him out of frustration, and it’s too easy to target the one who acts the most carefree, who makes the most visible mistakes. This was his own mistake.
He groans and lays down, pillowing his head on his bag, which is snug next to Jaehwan’s bag. That’s right, he remembers, Jaehwan left empty-handed in his anger. Somehow that makes Hakyeon feel worse. Slapping the light switch on the wall, he embraces the darkness as he closes his eyes and tries not to think, slowly drifting off to sleep. He doesn’t particularly feel like going home.
The sound of the door opening only barely registers in his mind as he dozes, but then there’s a hand on his shoulder, gently shaking him awake. “Hyung.” Jaehwan’s voice is unmistakable. Hakyeon squints when he opens his eyes to find the light turned back on, and sure enough, Jaehwan is standing in front of him, worrying his lower lip. “You’re still here,” Jaehwan says.
Sitting up with a yawn, Hakyeon looks at his feet. “I could have brought you your bag. You didn’t need to come back.”
“I couldn’t really sleep,” says Jaehwan and sits down next to him. “Thought I might as well.”
They sit in silence for a few long moments, not looking at each other, Jaehwan’s shoes toeing the floor. It’s somewhat awkward, but in a good way, if that’s possible. It feels relieving just to have Jaehwan there; not angry, just tired like him. Hakyeon supposes they both got to cool down a little.
“Let’s go home,” Jaehwan says. “It’s late. No point in spending the rest of the night here.”
Hakyeon lets out a long sigh, and nods. He hands Jaehwan his bag, then grabs his own, and gets to his feet. The moment Jaehwan stands, his arms are around Hakyeon in a warm embrace. He didn’t expect it, but it’s certainly welcome, and he wraps his arms around Jaehwan’s waist. “I didn’t mean to make you feel like we’re all against you,” Jaehwan mumbles into his shoulder. “You were right to be annoyed with me. I’m sorry.”
He almost sounds choked up, though that could just be Hakyeon’s own feelings confusing him. He tightens his hold on Jaehwan. “You were right, too,” he says quietly. “I’m sorry for yelling at you.” In lieu of replying, Jaehwan simply nods, pulling away from him. Relief washes over Hakyeon when he even sees a small smile on his lips. They’re okay.
Their fingers interlace naturally as they walk closely together, out of the practice room and on their way home. When they come home, they cuddle together in Hakyeon’s bed and talk in hushed voices, until they fall asleep in each other’s arms, a familiar and homely warmth.