Youngbae slumps down loudly into the rolling chair beside BigBang's leader, and drops two water bottles, dripping in condensation, onto the desk before them. They're in the YG recording studio, but it doesn't look like Jiyong even knows he's back. "Ji. Here," Youngbae says and pushes a bottle towards leader Jiyong's hand, which is frozen on the computer mouse.
Jiyong finally spares him a glance. "Ah. No thank you." His smile looks worn and forced, and his eyes return to the track he's working on almost immediately. Perhaps it's no wonder he's dead to the world, as he's been staring at the screen and flipping through beats and half-finished songs for over twelve hours straight.
"You asked for water though." The words hold a tone showing Youngbae is a bit miffed to have gone through the work of getting up and walking to the other end of the hallway for drinks Jiyong doesn't even want. He's been in the studio with him for half the time, so it's not like he's overflowing with expendable energy either.
Jiyong sighs and finally pushes away his work. "Did I?" His head lands in his palms and then flops backwards over the chair as if he were a rag-doll. He looks more than worn out. He's particularly thin these days, on top of being overworked. He's trying to finish a new album. A full one. But it doesn't seem do-able within the deadline he's set for himself.
Youngbae's expression softens. "Listen, why don't you go home? You're pretty out of it today." The number of drumbeats that have pounded their heads today is almost enough for Youngbae to call it quits also.
Jiyong sighs again. "I know." He breathes heavily and rubs at his nose. "I'm trying to work through it." He looks frail with that expression on his face. Youngbae knows it well. He's seen it before and it lead to hospitalization-worthy exhaustion last time he ignored it.
"Seriously. Go home. Let me take a stab at this and blast some beats. I was feeling a melody earlier."
"That thing? Ugh. It was trash." Jiyong almost snarls. He knows what melody. And he knows all the songs and parts and lyrics he's made lately have been garbage not worthy even of passing on to lesser idols. It was a losing battle trying to polish any of them.
"C'mon now," Youngbae encourages. "Don't be so tough." He might be cajoling, but they both know the truth: Jiyong needs a break. Needs some inspiration. So he changes the subject in hopes of persuading him to try something different. Or at least to go sleep for a few hours. "Get out of here and try something new." Jiyong makes a sour face at the pep-talk. "You know I just saw Seunghyun in the locker earlier? He's been here for hours according to the time-sheet."
This news seems to spark Jiyong's attention. "Tabi is dancing? In the dance studio?"
"Yeah, he's there right now. I just passed by him."
Jiyong's eyebrow raises. "What on Earth is he doing?"
"No, but seriously." They both chuckle at the obvious joke. The group's lead rapper hasn't taken dance practice seriously for half a decade.
"No idea," Youngbae answers the question hanging in the air. At least the mood is brighter now. "Go see for yourself," he shrugs. "Maybe take him out of there before he throws his back out, and go home. Both of you."
Jiyong smirks, gets up, and stretches, with a smile that looks more authentic. "Fine. I'll go." He grabs his phone and with a last, "See you tomorrow," he's out the door. Just a few doors down from the shop, is what they call the locker. There's a glass door on both the soundproofed rooms; so you can see in but you can't hear what's going on inside.
Jiyong can see Seunghyun alone inside. He's wearing a white button-down shirt that's drenched in sweat, and one more button than usual seems to be undone. The extra two inches of skin on display make Jiyong want to go in and tease his elder for being scandalous. He smiles and lets himself in. The dance studio door clicks shut softly as Jiyong takes a seat on the floor. Seunghyun doesn't stop moving, but he does look his way briefly, acknowledging Jiyong's presence. Probably more surprising than the fact that Seunghyun is dancing what looks to be real choreography—and not the silly Michael Jackson 101 he usually does—is that he's dancing without music. The room is silent other than for the eldest member's audible breaths and footsteps here and there.
Jiyong isn't here to interrupt, even if he came in on a whim. He lays on the ground watching his groupmate in the mirror. He watches and his mind gladly drifts away from his own work to whatever Seunghyun is doing. He's trying to follow the choreography in his mind but Seunghyun seems to do it a little different every time. Plus, there's no music. Finally, curiosity gets the better of him and he asks, "Bro. What are you practicing?"
The rapper finishes off a segment of moves before he replies. "I'm trying to choreograph something." He doesn't spare any actual details and it only piques Jiyong's interest more.
"What's the music?"
"It's in my head. I haven't recorded it yet."
"New song?" Jiyong is suddenly all ears. Too bad Seunghyun is doing his best to continue on past the distraction. Their eyes meet in the mirror and Jiyong smiles. He sits back against the wall and finds a travel mug nearby. He shakes it to find liquid inside. It's halfway to his lips before he asks, "This yours?"
Jiyong takes big gulps of the drink. He forgot that he actually did want water, but this isn't water. This is wine. In a travel mug.
He gives the rapper an accusing look but Seunghyun isn't looking back this time. So he drinks more of it, slumps back down onto his belly, and continues to watch his friend comfortably.
Jiyong isn't sure when he finished the mug of wine, or when he dozed off, but when he opens his eyes, Seunghyun is above him shaking his shoulder vigorously.
"Woah! Woah! I'm up. What's wrong?"
He receives an odd look in return. It feels like Seunghyun swallows a few words before he replies, "You were a bit difficult to wake up."
"I'm leaving. Are you coming or what?"
Jiyong looks around at the empty dance studio and finally remembers why he's here. Right, he's dead tired and he drank TOP's wine on an empty stomach. "Do you want food? We should eat." He stands up but makes an unsteady step which Seunghyun doesn't miss. Without saying a word, the elder has him held steady from one armpit before Jiyong can go careening into this chest.
"Yeah. Food sounds like a good idea," Seunghyun nods. He wouldn't have eaten but considering what Jiyong looks like right now, he suddenly wants to keep an eye on him. It's unusual that Seunghyun should be the one worrying about Jiyong's well-being, but this seems like a good day—or night—bloody hell, he isn't sure—to put aside his own internal melodrama and be supportive to the leader.
They pack up and before Jiyong fully registers where food is, they're on Seunghyun's doorstep, and the elder is tapping his ankle to take off his shoe for him. Jiyong lifts his feet off the ground one by one, as his boots are replaced with slippers. He's off in his own world right now, so as soon as he's free, he starts parading in happy twirls down the long hallway to the main living area, instead of saying the thank you Seunghyun was looking for. It's not lost on the rapper that this is an obvious sign that something is off with Jiyong; but also with himself for having actually created his situation. Jiyong might be a tired mess, but Seunghyun didn't have to take him home and ply off the man's coat and shoes. He disregards this part. He knows he's lonely. He must just want company. Before Jiyong can get out of his sight, he hurries after him and leads into the kitchen.
Jiyong has found it acceptable to sit on the floor again instead of in a chair or at the table. As if Seunghyun was short of chairs. They stare at walls during the time it takes for water to boil. Seunghyun might be a good cook but right now the only food he has energy for is ramen: noodles + water + MSG. When it's ready, Seunghyun sits down next to Jiyong and hands him a pair of chopsticks as he holds the large bowl between them to share.
Jiyong hogs the food and Seunghyun doesn't bother to take it back from him. He's had a handful of bites. It's enough. So after Jiyong slurps the last of the sauce, Seunghyun throws a towel at him and dutifully puts the bowl in the sink before sitting back down at his side.
They don't talk for a while and Seunghyun wonders if Jiyong is asleep again. That's what happens when you don't look at people. He's reminded of his own bad habit and chooses to break it this time. Jiyong isn't a stranger after all. Jiyong is one of his best friends, and they both feel like shit, no matter how they try to conceal it. Seunghyun watches his friend for a few moments, but Jiyong is staring blankly ahead, so he puts an arm around him and sighs. In return, Jiyong's head rests on his shoulder.
If it's ambiguous who said what, that's because it doesn't matter. Seunghyun pulls Jiyong tighter to him and kisses his hair. "I'm glad you came home with me." Jiyong looks up in response, and now that he's caught Seunghyun's eye, Seunghyun breaks that contact. "You wanna go nap somewhere? I need a shower," he asks, as a distraction. He's pushing away again. He makes to get up, but Jiyong has his arm trapped and it would be rude to push any harder, so he looks back at him.
Jiyong comes closer; close enough that Seunghyun can't look away without it being more awkward than looking at each other. His eyes are searching all over Seunghyun's face. "What are you thinking? What's in your head right now?"
Was he looking for inspiration? Was he trying to work out their internal dilemmas? Seunghyun doesn't know. He's looking back into Jiyong's eyes and his thoughts seem to be wiped clean from his head. At least he isn't lonely right now.
It might seem like an awkward thing to say, but Seunghyun is an awkward person, so it's not uncharacteristically strange for him to answer, "You."
Jiyong smiles and gets closer. He's practically crawled into Seunghyun's lap but Seunghyun hasn't moved away. "Do you want company?"
This might be a step too far. Seunghyun finally cracks a smile. "Excuse me?"
Jiyong's gaze flicks to Seunghyun's lips and back to his eyes. That's what he means. And before the rapper has fully processed what's going on, Jiyong is kissing him.
It's nothing forceful. It's comforting instead, and Seunghyun is a creature of comfort and emotion. He doesn't think too deeply. He likely won't think too deeply about this afterwards either. He just pulls his friend closer to him, so he's fully in his arms, and Jiyong wraps his entire body around Seunghyun. This is a welcome change from the girls he's been with. Never the right one. Always making him feel like a fool after he kicks them out. What makes him give in so easily? Why was he always making the same mistake? Jiyong is different. He's not true love, but he's not a mistake either. So Seunghyun can kiss back and feel ok with it. He wants that closeness and it's come at the perfect time.
Jiyong has one hand down the back of Seunghyun's shirt, right on his skin. He's not thinking, but the touch is giving Seunghyun goosebumps. When he tries to say something—express half-formed thoughts of either protest or encouragement—Jiyong moves his lips to his jaw, and even though Seunghyun's free to say something now, the words get trapped in his throat.
"I want to write about something real," Jiyong whispers in his ear.
Seunghyun trembles at the words, but he knows what his friend means. He chuckles an admonishment—"Reckless little shit." Nevertheless, in this moment, he's interested in the proposition. Willing to see how far Jiyong will go. He recaptures Jiyong's lips, delving a hand into his already messy hair. Surprisingly, Jiyong moans and parts his lips, swiping a tongue out. It's a bit more cavalier than Seunghyun bargained for, but he goes with the flow, inviting that tongue to meet his own. He doesn't kiss like this often. He feels sluggish, like a child kissing. And just when he thinks he's found the rhythm, Jiyong stops.
Their eyes meet and Jiyong has a sappy, I'm sorry kind of look on his face. It's no use being angry at him. Seunghyun is too tired for that. Like reading minds, Seunghyun drags them both to the bedroom. All they want to do is sleep. Jiyong sheds almost all his clothing instantly, flopping onto the middle of Seunghyun's bed like a starfish, in just his underwear. Seunghyun lets him. The leader probably fell asleep the moment he hit the sheets. It only takes a few moments in the bathroom for Seunghyun to change into pajamas and splash some water on his face. He's determined not to think right now. Just go sleep.
He prys the covers out from under Jiyong, who in his sleep helpfully rolls around to accommodate this, and gets underneath with him. The leader instantly clings to Seunghyun's side, nuzzling himself under the other man's arm. For a few seconds Jiyong's eyes open and it feels like he's about to say something, but he doesn't. Seunghyun pulls the covers around them, and gladly keeps the younger close to him. It's times like these he's thankful for friends. He doesn't mind the fact he's touching skin and bones that aren't his own. Doesn't mind that he's still sweaty from dancing. Doesn't mind that the mop of hair resting on his silk pajamas doesn't belong to his one true love. Jiyong is still someone he loves, and that's rare in his world. This makes him remember that he's not alone, even when he feels like it. He can still crawl into this man's arms and find acceptance.
They sleep. Or, more like Seunghyun rests with the comfort of a friend's body pressed to his—curls himself around Jiyong while the leader sleeps soundly. Puffs of breath heat Seunghyun's skin even if they're not in direct contact; even this is unwelcome to him normally, but tonight, it's ok. In his head, he's still composing lyrics. His fingers link with the thin hand resting on his chest. He studies it; the two fingernails of chipped nailpolish; the stupid little tattoos Seunghyun hates; the direction the veins run. A kind of modern art. He slips into sleep eventually.
Too soon, an alarm goes off. Jiyong groans and it wakes Seunghyun also. He feels better this morning; not good, but better. Only minutes later, there's beeping again. Jiyong throws the covers off, and like a zombie crawls to find his phone. The noise is coming from the pants pocket of the clothes he discarded all over Seunghyun's bedroom last night (earlier this morning). Now there's some sun on the horizon.
Seunghyun watches his friend sleepily tug on his pants and run a hand through his unruly hair; it doesn't help that whenever he touches it, he never makes it neater, only messier. If Seunghyun didn't know who this person was, he'd think Jiyong was an anemic mental patient. Jiyong still doesn't handle mornings very well, and through his own tired eyes Seunghyun watches because it reminds him of the old days. He can see straight into the bathroom where Jiyong is making a pool of water around the sink washing his face, neck, and underarms over the porcelain bowl. Seems he has no time for a proper shower. Jiyong declares also that, "I'm using your toothbrush," and Seunghyun doesn't stop him, because no one cares.
Seunghyun pads out of bed to join him moments later, takes the same toothbrush right after him and uses it also. Jiyong finally puts a shirt on now. He looks like a luxury hobo.
As Jiyong is about to leave, Seunghyun can't help but say, "Sleep more." It's for your own good.
Jiyong smiles genuinely. "And you. Better show me the song that's in your head soon. Ok?" Because I can see you working and struggling alone.
Seunghyun doesn't agree, not yet, but he doesn't want to say it aloud either. His plans are barely started. He has the temptation to kiss Jiyong on the cheek, hug him again, thank him for the concern, but he doesn't do this either. Instead, he throws him a pullover he was going to wear for himself. "Here. It's going to be colder out today." As if the YG shop was outdoors. This also doesn't get mentioned. Instead, Jiyong hops down the steps from Seunghyun's house with a friendly wave, and disappears into a black car waiting for him.