Hyunjin hummed happily to himself as he checked his phone one last time, sending Minho a text wishing him good luck with his MC job he had that day, not forgetting to complain about being left alone in the dance studio today, with Felix still recovering at home.
He smiled as he read Minho’s snarky reply telling him to ‘hurry up and get to the studio’ and that he needs as much practice as he could get if he wants to dance as well as him. Hyunjin just shook his head and continued to walk down the familiar hallways inside the JYP building heading towards the practice room reserved for Stray Kids.
His happy mood was shortly lived through as he heard familiar voices exit the practice room to his left, dread filling his chest as the faces of three people he really didn't want to see appear in front of him.
A sharp pain hit his shoulder as his back was thrust into the wall, he squeezed his eyes shut tightly to try and prevent himself from whining at the winded feeling in his lungs.
“Look who it is,” one voice said smugly.
“If it isn't Stray Kids very own pretty talentless Hwang Hyunjin,” another said.
“In his yellow uniform and everything,” the third voice mocked, punctuating his words with a hard kick to Hyunjin’s knee as he yelped out in pain.
“Oh that reminds me, did you like the little bruise we gave you last time, pretty boy?”
Hyunjin’s breath hitched as he remembered the painful kick to his ribs he’d gotten the last time he'd seen the trio, he'd had trouble trying to hide the large purple bruise from his Hyungs. Hyunjin shook his head, eyes still closed, head pressed against the wall as the three older boys surrounded him.
“Well that's just too bad, isn't it? Maybe if you didn't flaunt that you're a rich kid who got into a school for gifted kids, or maybe if you had even an ounce of talent that told everyone that you belong here instead of that pretty useless face of yours, then maybe we'd finally leave you alone. But that's not going to happen, is it Hyunjin?”
The other two boys laughed and high fived as a single tear fell from Hyunjin’s eye. He didn't want this.
“It's a shame that your looks are mediocre at best,” the first boy sighed, “dunno why Chan’s so fond of you, it seems like there are a hundred other people in this company better fitted to be in the group but he chose you,”
“It's not even like you are a nice person, maybe that's why I haven't seen any of the others with you this week,” he taunts.
Hyunjin scrunches his eyes closed as he tries to ignore their words, he knew they weren't true, that Chan and the others loved him and knew how hard he worked. He knew they were wrong so why did their words still cut him so deep?
Heavy footsteps could be heard from down the corridor and the boys quickly backed away when they saw that the figure approaching was their rap instructor, “alright boys, let's get going we've got a lot to cover today!” he says shooing them away from where Hyunjin stood.
Once the boys had disappeared into the practice room, each one sending a threatening glare his way telling them that they weren’t finished with him yet, the rap instructor approached him, “you okay, Hyunjin? They're not giving you any trouble are they?” he asks cautiously.
“No Hyung, it's okay, thank you,” Hyunjin says bowing politely, his eyes trained to the floor before walking away to get to his own practice room.
He slammed the door closed, purposely locking the door, ripping off his yellow blazer and throwing it to the floor before connecting his phone to the speakers, playing his music as loud as the speakers would go as he started to dance, not allowing the tears to spill from his eyes.
Hours later once Hyunjin’s playlist had long since finished he collapsed to the floor, chest heaving as he finally felt lighter, dancing always helped. He gathered up his things once he checked the time, 7:30 pm, he deemed it an acceptable time to return back to the dorm. He unplugged his phone, switched out the lights and pulled his yellow blazer back over his aching shoulders.
He left the building and walked down the streets of Seoul, it was a beautiful evening, the sky pink as the sun was setting over the horizon, workers bustling around him eager to go home. Hyunjin stumbled a little as the third worker pushed past him before deciding to take the quieter roads home, it only took 5 extra minutes and Hyunjin wanted to enjoy the fresh air.
As he started walking, he thought about his members, where were they, what were they doing? He missed them. He hoped they were all happy and not overworking themselves. A pang of guilt pulled at Hyunjin’s heart, he felt bad leaving the studio so early especially when his Hyungs were still working hard somewhere in the building, composing or practicing. That’s when those dreaded words echoed across his mind.
“it seems like there are a hundred other people in this company better fitted to be in the group...”
Hyunjin’s heart ached as he heard the words be repeated in his head, it never bothered him before, why Chan had chosen him, he just thought that he was lucky and hoped that Chan could see the effort he poured in each day to try and make his decision worthwhile. He smiled a little as he thought back to all his members, how hard they all worked, how they had all promised that they were going to give this everything they had, and if they didn't work out then it was okay because they'd given it their all, leaving nothing on the stage but broken dreams. But Hyunjin was confident, he knew they'd make it big, it was Chan’s first promise to all of them and he believed in Chan.
“What the hell is he doing out here, smiling to himself about?”
Hyunjin froze as he heard a familiar voice from behind him, his heart stuttering as he turned around to see the three boys once again.
“You thought that we’d just go home without finishing what we started earlier didn't you Hyunjinnie?”
Hyunjin’s heart ached as he heard the nickname, only his members called him ‘Hyunjinnie’ it was warm, soft and loving when they said it but now it was stone cold, and teasing. Hyunjin hated it.
“Can't you just leave me alone?” he sighs, to which the three burst out laughing, “please, just leave me alone, I don't want this,”
“Well, we don't want to be pushed to the curb by JYP but we can't always get what we want Jinnie, though you wouldn't know that, would you?” one said flickering his eyes over Hyunjin’s yellow uniform.
“I-I earned a scholarship though,” he stutters lowly, attempting to stand up for himself, his eyes trained on the road beneath him.
“We all know the truth Hyunjin, they'd never take someone like you,”
“Someone as useless as you,”
Hyunjin tried to answer back but his voice was stuck in his throat, breath hitching as the boys took a step closer.
“We checked out your schedule today,”
“You don't need to know, but we did find out that you've got a cute little fansign tomorrow, is that right?”
Hyunjin felt his heart drop to his stomach, “yes,”
“Yes Hyung,” the other corrected, reaching out and grabbing Hyunjin’s hair tightly in his fist.
“Y-yes, Hyung,” Hyunjin repeated shame filling his stomach.
“A fansign you say, well wouldn't that be a shame if your face didn't look as pretty as it does today. That would be sad, I wonder how many fans would leave you if you didn't look pretty anymore,”
“Most of them I bet,” another chimed in laughing.
“Why don't we find out hmm? It's quiet enough out here, no one's going to find us,” their leader suggested, gripping his fist tighter in Hyunjin’s hair so that his head was tilted back.
“P-p-please Hyung, don't!” he cried, finally breaking from the mix of fear and frustration at not being able to defend himself.
“It's a little late for begging Jinnie, don't you think?” he responded readying his fist aiming for Hyunjin’s lips.
Hyunjin squeezed his eyes shut tightly, heart thumping in his chest as he waited for the hit. Sure enough, it came, sending Hyunjin flying backward landing on the road hard, he felt warm liquid begin to rush out of his mouth and he could only cry out as he registered the flood of pain.
“Oh don't cry yet, princess, we’re just getting started,” the eldest said gripping Hyunjin’s chin in between his fingers, pinning him there. Hyunjin thought he was going to be sick when he offered him a wicked smile as he readied his other fist.
Changbin ran his hands over his face in defeat as he dragged his eyes away from his notebook, tuning back into the coffee shop around him, it was small and cute, nearly always quiet, perfect for writing lyrics and sparking inspiration. Changbin loved this coffee shop, so did the rest of 3racha, they often held meetings and workshops in here when the walls of the studio became claustrophobic and counterproductive. The sun was beginning to set Changbin noted, as he began to pack his notebook and pen back into his bag, he’d done enough for today. He checked the clock on the wall across from him it read 7:35 pm, his eyes widened a little in surprise, it was later than he'd hoped. He promised Felix that he'd be home earlier today to keep him company and help him cook dinner but in his defense, this was earlier than normal for him.
He thanked the waitresses as he left the cafe, shrugging his backpack on his shoulder as he decided to take the longer route home for today, the sunset was pretty and maybe it’d give him a chance to unwind a little before he got home and had to deal with an overly clingy Felix, don't get him wrong he loved Felix but that boy could cling, that's probably where he got his koala nickname from he guessed.
As he walked he became increasingly aware of some kids messing around a little way in front of him, one of them with a yellow blazer on, Changbin recognized it as the same one that Hyunjin and Jeongin wore every day. His heart swelled at the thought of the two younger members working so hard and battling with school work, it wasn't easy on them, Seungmin included. He shrugged his bag further up his shoulder thinking nothing of it. But when he got closer a sound caught this attention, it sounded familiar from somewhere but Changbin couldn't quite place where.
“P-p-please, don't, I-I can't. Stop!”
Something in his heart pulled as he heard the voice cry out, a choked wail following the strangers pleading. Changbin frowned for a moment turning his head in the direction of the kids, studying the situation he’d first ignored a little closer.
The boy in yellow was kneeling on the floor seemingly lost all of his strength to stand up, as three other boys dressed in black sweatpants stood over him, one of the boys propping him up as they taunted and threw kicks at him.
Everything about the picture in front of him screamed wrong, he placed his bag onto the floor beside him slowly edging towards where the boys were stood, his heart stuck in his throat. He didn't want to get involved, this wasn’t even his fight but there was something about the boy in yellow that he just couldn’t ignore.
As he got closer he heard the boys say something which made Changbin’s blood run cold.
“There there Hyunjinnie, this is what kids like you deserve,”
Changbin felt like he’d just been shot as he stole another glance to the boy collapsed on the floor, head hung low as bloody spit pooled out from his slack jaw and lips swollen. Changbin recognized the boy, that was Hyunjin, his Hyunjin, their baby. Stray Kids’ Hwang Hyunjinnie, sat on the floor holding a hand around his chest as he coughed and heaved whilst the boys in front of him laughed while he cried.
A switch inside Changbin turned off, all rational throught leaving him as he surged forwards fists clenched as they collided with a cheek, sending them to the ground.
“Get the fuck away from him! Do you hear me, get away from him right now!” he roared, lurching forwards to deck the eldest looking one, nose making a stomach-churning crunch as his head tilted backward taking his body with him as he hit the floor.
As Changbin waited for the third boy to make his move he gently pressed his palm to the top of Hyunjin’s head, who violently flinched against him, whispering, “Woah easy, easy. It’s okay baby, Hyung’s here now. Stay out of the way okay?”
Hyunjin managed to look up at him, eyes glazed over as Changbin tried not to cry at the state of the poor boys face, “Binnie-Hyung?” he slurs.
“That’s right, baby. Give me a moment and I’ll be right back,” he says as he presses a kiss to Hyunjin’s head before standing up and turning to the third boy who was trying to pull his semi-conscious friend from the floor, murderous glint in his eyes.
“So it’s you three, who’ve been giving him these bruises. You really didn't think we'd notice,” he says, taking a step towards the boy whose eyes widened as Changbin smiled, “I think it goes without saying but you guys fucked up messing with him,”
The boy nodded slightly visibly gulping as he finally managed to pull his friend up from the floor, the other one still out cold against the roadside, “we were telling him what he needed to hear, he’s deluded for thinking that you guys want him on your team,”
Changbin kissed his teeth and offered a tight smile as shook his head, readying his fists again as he met eyes with the two stood before him, “you're going to wish that you hadn't laid a finger on him,”
“...nie, Jinnie, are you still with me, baby?”
Hyunjin heard a voice call for him through the fog in his brain, he winced as he tried to breathe, pain blooming all over his body, he cringed as he felt something warm and thick drip from his chin.
“Hyunjinnie, can you look at me?” Hyunjin swayed a little, he didn't know where he was but his body hurt and he felt sick, the strong smell of iron making his stomach churn. He heard the voice calling out his name again but couldn’t find it in himself to answer, he felt like he was floating, his head felt heavy as he slowly heard the voice calling out to him fade away.
“Hyunjin? Look at me baby, Hyunjinnie!” Changbin says holding the younger’s face gently in his hands, his thumbs gently swiping over the bruised eyes, “no, no, no, don't do that! Stay with me baby, you can do it,”
Changbin sighed as he felt Hyunjin’s head fall heavy in his hands. He gently laid Hyunjin down, head resting in his lap, mindful to keep him away from the various patches of blood that now littered the road. He brushed Hyunjin’s fringe from his face, examining the bruising on his cheek, lips, and eyebrows.
“What a mess,” he sighed to himself, feeling his adrenaline begin to crash, the grazes on his fist and ache in his eyebrow now at the forefront of his mind.
The sun was lower in the sky now, the pretty pink being replaced with deep oranges and reds. It’d taken longer than he’d first anticipated but he’d finally seen the three boys off, each one looking pathetic as they limped and scrambled away. Though he couldn't find it in himself to be happy that he’d won the fight, nor was he proud of himself for doing so, losing wasn’t an option, not when Hyunjin was involved like this.
The younger boy stirred a little, catching Changbin’s attention as he immediately began to fuss over him, hands running through his blood-covered golden hair.
“Hey, Jinnie,” Changbin mumbled once Hyunjin had cracked his eyes open and blinked around confusedly.
Hyunjin’s eyes widened as he suddenly scrambled to stand up.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay baby, they aren't here,” Changbin told him, hands on his shoulders as he steadied him, “you’re safe, it's just me and you,”
“Y-you saw?” was all that Hyunjin could say, Changbin nodded, watching his lip wobble as tears fell down his cheeks mixing with the dried blood, “I’m sorry Hyung,”
“Let's get you home and safe, yeah?” Changbin says, wrapping his arm around Hyunjin’s waist being careful not to jostle the other too much, his other hand holding Hyunjin’s, as they slowly walked home a sad silence washing over them.