“Channie… truth or dare?”
“Yah… why do we even bother to ask any more, Soonyoung-ah?” Junhui asked. “We all know that he’s going to say dare…”
Chan couldn’t help raising an eyebrow at the eldest of his Chinese hyungs. “Am I really that predictable, hyung?”
“You haven’t done anything but dares the whole game,” Minghao pointed out, taking a sip from his beer. The whole performance unit had decided to have a “team bonding” night, which had somehow turned into the four of them in Junhui and Chan’s room with alcohol and a game of truth or dare while Soonyoung borrowed Minghao’s room for the night. It was nice, being able to relax and just hang out. The members hadn’t really had much time for that in the past few months - there had been promotions and performances, and then beginning to prepare for a new album almost immediately after the last set of promotions ended. They had all been stressed, to the point that the leaders had gone to the company as a group and demanded at least a couple of days off so that they could all relax and rest, before the insanity started all over again. Chan was just thankful that his team leader had chosen the very first night of their three day break to have their bonding time, because it meant that they could drink as much as they wanted and not have to worry about it affecting practice the next day.
Chan sighed, shaking his head. “Fine, then… truth.”
“Oooh… okay, okay. Who was your first celebrity crush?” Soonyoung asked. Chan could hear Junhui and Minghao snorting at the ridiculousness of the question; Chan knew that they were likely expecting something much juicier, given the fact that Chan almost never actually agreed to answer a question over doing a dare. To the Chinese members, it probably didn’t seem like that big of a deal. But to Chan, the question sent his head spinning.
It should have been an easy question to answer; perhaps if Chan had been living somewhere else, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal to just blurt out a name and be done with it. But living in South Korea meant that the actual truth would likely be shocking to the other members of his team.
Chan distinctly remembered the first time that he’d realized that he was attracted to boys. He’d still been a kid, watching Boys Over Flowers with his mother and realizing that he was far more interested in Kim Hyun-Joong than the female lead. It had taken Chan a while to come to terms with the fact that he was gay, and he still hadn’t worked up the nerve to actually tell anyone else. It had been a burden, hiding that part of his identity for half of his life. And Chan couldn’t help feeling confused and uncertain, because he knew that his hyungs would look at him differently if they found out.
“Earth to Channie…” Chan looked up as Junhui waved a hand in front of his face, looking concerned. “I think maybe you’ve had enough, aegi…” The elder Chinese man went to take the beer bottle from Chan, but Chan shook his head.
“Pretty sure I haven’t had enough to answer that question…” Chan replied, taking another sip from his beer. “Can I get a new question, please? Is that a thing?”
Soonyoung chuckled. “Yah… is it really that embarrassing?”
“I’m not answering,” Chan replied, shaking his head. “I’ll do two dares, but I won’t answer that question.”
There was a prolonged silence as Chan took another drink from his beer. “Channie… why are you so upset about the question?” Soonyoung asked softly, reaching out and putting a hand on Chan’s knee. Chan shook his head, refusing to look at the other men in the room. “Okay… you don’t have to answer.”
“Yah, Junhui-hyung, truth or dare?” Minghao asked, pulling the attention away from Chan for a moment.
Chan stood up before Junhui could answer the question. “I’m going to get some air…” Chan didn’t wait for the others to respond, taking his bottle of beer and walking out towards the apartment’s small balcony.
It took Chan a moment to realize that he wasn’t alone out in the cool breeze of the early autumn night. “Channie? Is something wrong, aegi?” Jeonghan’s voice asked as Chan sat down in one of the empty chairs they kept outside so that they could enjoy the fresh air when they had the chance. It was strange to Chan how easily Jeonghan could tell that there was something going on in his head.
“I’m okay,” Chan replied, draining the last of his beer and setting the bottle down on the floor next to him.
“The fact that you’re skipping out on team bonding time says otherwise,” Jeonghan replied. Chan didn’t look at the older man as he moved to sit in the chair right next to Chan. “Come on, aegi. Tell me what’s wrong.”
Chan shook his head. “I can’t, hyung,” Chan replied, reaching up to wipe the tears out of his eyes before they could actually fall down his face. “It would change everything.”
There was a prolonged silence, before Jeonghan moved to put an arm around Chan’s shoulders and pull him into a side-hug. “Whatever it is that has you this upset, you shouldn’t hold it in. You know that we won’t judge you, whatever’s going on…”
“How can you say that, when you don’t know what’s happening?” Chan asked softly.
“Because I’ve known you for six years, and there is literally nothing you could say that would change the way I feel about you, aegi. You’re my little brother…” Jeonghan replied.
Chan bit down on his bottom lip, closing his eyes. “Even if I told you I’d been keeping something a secret the whole time we’ve known each other? Longer, even?”
“Is it something I need to be worried about, aegi?” Jeonghan asked softly.
“Not if it never comes out,” Chan replied softly.
Jeonghan sighed. “That isn’t reassuring me, Chan,” the eldest vocalist commented softly. “Are you feeling depressed?”
“I’m…” Chan began, before stopping himself. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes. “I’m gay.”
Chan was surprised at how quickly he felt Jeonghan’s body relax at his words. “Oh, thank God…” the elder man mumbled, pulling Chan close and pressing a kiss against his temple. “You had me scared there for a minute, aegi…”
Chan pulled back from Jeonghan, confused. “What…?”
“The way you were talking… I was afraid that you were doing something to hurt yourself, and that we’d missed it somehow,” Jeonghan replied.
“You… you aren’t freaked out by it?” Chan asked, still unsure of what was actually happening. He’d imagined coming out to one of his hyungs plenty of times, but this wasn’t what he’d expected to happen. “It’s… it’s okay?”
Jeonghan sighed, stroking a hand through Chan’s hair. “It’s kind of a surprise, I have to admit… if I was going to suspect that anyone around here wasn’t straight, you would be one of the last,” Jeonghan replied. “But like I said, aegi, it doesn’t change the way I feel about you. You’re my aegi. My little brother.”
Chan couldn’t stop the tears as they began streaming down his face, letting his head rest against the older man’s shoulder as Jeonghan stroked a hand through his hair. “I don’t… I didn’t expect anyone to take it so well…” Chan began.
“Yah… did you really doubt how much I love my aegi?” Jeonghan asked, sitting up and pretending to be shocked by Chan’s confession for a moment before he turned serious again. “I know that society sucks sometimes. But my room is always going to be your safe place, okay? Whenever you need to talk about it, my door is open, aegi. And when you’re ready to come out to the rest of the guys, I’ve got your back.”
Chan nodded, smiling at the older man. “Thank you, hyung,” Chan replied.
“What happened in there, anyway? You looked pretty upset…” Jeonghan began.
“It was stupid…” Chan replied, shaking his head.
“It isn’t stupid if it upsets you,” Jeonghan replied, squeezing his shoulders. “Just talk to me, aegi. I can’t help you if I don’t know why you’re upset.”
Chan took a deep breath, closing his eyes. “We were playing truth or dare… the hyungs just wanted to hang out and do something low-stress. It’s kind of childish, but it works for us…” Chan began. “They were teasing me because I never pick truth, so I did just to prove them wrong. Soonyoung-hyung asked me who my first celebrity crush was, and I just sort of panicked… I was afraid…”
“Aish… my poor aegi…” Jeonghan replied, pulling him close and pressing a kiss against his temple again. “I think it would probably go over better than you realize, if you did tell the others. But I understand why you’re afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” a voice asked. Chan turned, just enough to see Soonyoung standing in the doorway that lead outside. “Channie? Are you okay?”
Chan took a breath, closing his eyes. “I don’t think I can say it yet, hyung,” Chan replied, shaking his head.
”It’s okay, aegi. You can take your time,” Jeonghan reassured. “He isn’t in any danger or anything like that, Soonyoung-ah. It’s personal… don’t push him, okay?”
The dancer nodded quickly. “Yeah, okay… as long as Channie’s safe,” Soonyoung replied. Chan could see that the older man was still concerned, but he at least looked somewhat less panicked. “We didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, Channie. I’m not sure why my question upset you, but I’m sorry that it did.”
“You didn’t know, hyung,” Chan replied, shaking his head. “I just… I don’t want to talk about it yet, okay?”
“Okay,” Soonyoung replied. “Jun-hyung suggested that we should watch a movie, if you want to come join us…”
Chan shook his head slowly. “I’m kind of tired,” he replied.
“Come on, aegi, you can sleep in my room tonight,” Jeonghan commented, stroking a hand through Chan’s hair. “Let’s go lay down, okay?”
Chan could tell that his hyungs were treating him as if he was fragile over the next few days, choosing their words carefully whenever they spoke with him about anything. It wasn’t just limited to his fellow performance team members, either; it was clear that Soonyoung had mentioned to the other members that something wasn’t right with their youngest, and while Jeonghan knew what was going on neither of them was telling.
“Let’s take five, yeah?” Soonyoung suggested, after their tenth straight run of their new title track. Chan let himself collapse on the floor where he stood, closing his eyes and reaching up to wipe away the sweat from his face with the sleeve of his shirt, before it could drip down into his eyes.
“Drink, Channie…” Jeonghan commented, nudging his arm with a bottle of water. “How are you doing?”
Chan sat up, sighing. “Everyone is walking on eggshells around me…” he began.
“They’re worried… the rest of performance team got kind of freaked out by what happened the other night,” Jeonghan replied softly. “They keep asking me what’s going on… they just want to know that you’re okay.”
Chan sighed, closing his eyes. “What if it changes things?” Chan asked.
“What if it doesn’t?” Jeonghan asked. “Some of the guys might need time to get used to the idea. But you’re going to have me, no matter what happens, right?”
Chan nodded, taking a sip from his bottle of water. “I just…I’m scared…”
“I know you are, aegi. But I promise you, it’s going to be okay. If anyone messes with you, they’re going to have me to deal with,” Jeonghan replied. “Whose aegi are you?”
Chan smiled. “Jeonghanie-hyung’s…” he replied, letting the older man pull him into a hug. “Thank you, hyung. I appreciate you still being here.”
“I’m to going anywhere… you’re my aegi, remember?” Jeonghan asked.
Chan took a deep breath, nodding. “I think I need to just do this, before I lose my nerve,” he replied.
“You’re sure?” Jeonghan asked. Chan nodded. “Okay… guys, we need to talk for a minute before we go back to rehearsal.” Chan could feel his stomach churning as the rest of the group moved closer and sat down in a circle around them. “Channie has something he wants to tell you guys.”
Chan took a breath, suddenly feeling as though he would crawl out of his skin as the rest of the group watched him and waited for whatever he was going to say. He took a sip from his water bottle, as Jeonghan rubbed a small circle on his lower back and he tried his best to calm himself down. “I’m nervous…” he began.
“Take your time, aegi,” Jeonghan whispered.
“I don’t want you guys to look at me differently, but I know that you’re probably going to,” Chan began, reaching up to run a hand through his hair. “The other night, Soonyoung-hyung asked me a question while we were playing truth or dare. I was afraid to answer it then, but I think… I think I’m ready now.”
“Channie…” Soonyoung began. “You don’t have to do this. It’s not a big deal.”
Chan shook his head. “My first celebrity crush was Kim Hyun-Joong. I was watching Boys Over Flowers with my mom, and he was all I could think about…” Chan trailed off for a moment, not looking at the other men in the room, even as Jeonghan put an arm around his shoulders. “I’m gay… I figured that out when I was like ten.”
“That’s what you were afraid to tell us?” Minghao asked. Chan nodded.
“Wait… so that’s what all of the weirdness this week has been about?” Jihoon asked. “Were you really afraid that we would abandon you, Channie?”
Chan took a deep breath. “I wasn’t sure how any of you would react,” he replied. “I was scared… I don’t want you guys to see me differently. I’m still the same person, it’s just that now you know that I’m not really attracted to women.”
“Aish… I’m sorry, Channie,” Joshua commented. Chan was surprised when he felt the older man moving to wrap him in a hug. “I’m sorry that you weren’t comfortable enough to come to us before now… that we didn’t do more to make sure that you trusted us. We love you, aegi, exactly the way you are.”
“Shua-hyung is right,” Vernon added. “We care about you. I’m sorry if there’s anything I did that made you feel like you couldn’t tell us the truth.”
Chan shook his head quickly. “It wasn’t anything that any of you did. I just… I was so afraid of what you might think of me,” he replied. It took Chan a moment to realize that he was crying, and he buried his face in his hands as Joshua held him.
“It’s okay, aegi,” Jeonghan replied softly.
“I don’t think anyone here is going to think any differently about you, Channie,” Joshua replied softly.
“We’re surprised, of course, but you’re still our maknae. That doesn’t change,” Seungcheol replied, finally getting his voice back. “Nothing has to change, unless you feel like there’s something that would help you feel more comfortable…”
Chan shook his head, wiping the tears away. “I don’t want things to change…”
“I mean, there are a few things that will have to change…” Jeonghan commented. “We aren’t exactly going to be able to avoid teasing you about who you might have a crush on, once we figure it out…”
Chan groaned at the idea, burying his face in his hands. “Please don’t, hyungs…”
“Yeah, sorry… we’re brothers,” Seungkwan commented. “Teasing is how we show our love.”
“And you’re just as guilty of teasing other members as the rest of us,” Wonwoo added. “Sorry, but the teasing isn’t going to stop… we’re just going to change what we tease you about.”