Johnny straightened his shirt collar and readjusted his rolled up sleeves. There was a stray strand of hair drooping down in front of his eyes, but he had given up on pushing it back several minutes ago. He sniffed, looking up from his shirt to watch the other members get ready.
The boys of NCT 127 had been ripped from their dreams and soft beds at five in the morning by their manager. It seemed that all of them had forgotten about an interview that was scheduled early in the day, almost sleeping through the entire thing. The interview was with a well known korean news magazine or something similar. They had probably visited the company before, but Johnny couldn’t remember it at all. He just hoped the interviewer didn’t ask them about their last visit, if that was the case.
Suddenly, there was a hand placed delicately on his shoulder. Johnny turned to meet Taeyong’s tired gaze.
“Your turn,” he said, gesturing towards the open door back in the corner of the room. As soon as the group had arrived, the staff had been swiping the members one at a time to meet behind the door. First was Taeil, who came out claiming that they only wanted to place the mics on their clothes. Why it had to be done individually, they didn’t say, and Johnny didn’t ask. He was too sleepy to really care.
The Chicago native made his way towards the door, his long strides getting him there in a few steps. He peeked inside, and a kindly woman with headphones waved him in. Once the door shut behind him, Johnny turned back to face the woman. He expected the tiny mic that was clipped to his shirt collar, but he didn’t understand why there was a large camera set up to face him where he stood. The woman finished with his mic and stepped back behind the camera’s line of view.
“Mic check. Can you please state your name?”
Johnny nodded. “Seo Johnny.”
The woman tapped her headphones, ultimately pleased with how the mic sounded. She then slid the headphones down to her neck and pulled out a neatly folded paper.
“Seo Johnny, out of all the members, you were selected to complete a mission during the filming of today’s interview.” The woman smiled brightly and handed him the paper. As he glanced it over, she continued, “The mission is to pull off a prank on your other members.”
Johnny lifted an eyebrow. The paper had only restated what she was saying, but the offer sounded interesting enough. Johnny wasn’t usually one for pranks because he knew what it was like to be on the receiving end. However, the drowsiness had started to wear off, and Johnny was feeling particularly playful.
“I’m interested. Tell me more,” he asked, smirking at the woman. The action seemed to fluster her a bit because she blushed and stuttered in her explanation.
“W-Well, the i-interviewer will be your partner in crime today. He is going to act as if he’s ignoring you or disregarding your presence while asking questions. Our goal is to find out if your members will notice or not. All you have to do is play the victim.”
Johnny hummed, staring intently at the words on the page. The prank seemed harmless enough. As long as the interviewer didn’t take it too far, there was nothing to be concerned about. Unless, of course, his members were feeling especially violent today.
Half an hour later, all of the members were clipped with a mic and ready to start, already seated in front of the cameras. The interviewer had yet to show up, and Johnny was excited to meet him. Would it be too obvious to give him a subtle wink? Would he even acknowledge his fellow prankster? Or would he be in character as soon as he walks out, acting as if Johnny didn't exist?
The thought was thrown from his head a moment after. The interviewer, a shorter korean man with shapely features, entered the room. He bowed to them all, allowed them to return the gesture, then sat in his seat. He didn’t let his gaze linger on any of the members and barely even looked at Johnny. He must already be settled into his role, Johnny decided.
The man introduced himself as Jung Taemyeon and turned towards the members, giving them an opportunity to introduce themselves. They didn't try to come up with anything special, just stating their name and saying something cute for the nctzens.
In a matter of a minute or two, it was Johnny's turn. He aimed a charming smile at the camera. "Hello, my name is Seo Johnny, the vis--."
Taemyeon cleared his throat, effectively cutting Johnny off. He didn't even glance Johnny's way before launching into a spiel about his plans for the interview.
Johnny almost laughed. This guy was good. Some of the other members had already noticed his blatant rudeness, but the rest were too busy goofing off with each other. Taeyong caught Johnny's eye and furrowed his brows in concern. Doyoung watched him intently. Johnny just smiled softly and waved a hand through the air, telling them to brush it off. The prank was just getting started, and if he acted too upset, his members would stop the interview then and there.
Taeyong and Doyoung nodded, hesitantly looking back towards the cameras. He knew they wanted to reassure him, but since he acted fine, they didn't want to push it. God, Johnny loved his members.
From that point on, Taemyeon only got worse. He asked a couple generic questions, stuff they all had answered many times. Taeyong spoke up as well as Mark. Haechan answered a few, and Jaehyun piped in occasionally. But, everytime Johnny attempted to speak, he was either cut off or completely ignored. If he wasn't in on the prank, he would've been pissed. But, he knew what was happening, so he put on a performance. His members kept trying to get his attention, to ask if he was okay, but he would just nod and smile. As the interview went on and Taemyeon became bolder, Johnny fidgeted more and let his smiles look a little more forced. After a while, he stopped trying to speak altogether.
At this point, all of his members had noticed, and they were furious. Jungwoo, who was sitting beside him, slipped his hand into Johnny's, giving little reassuring squeezes every now and then. Jaehyun was clenching his jaw so tight it made Johnny worry for his teeth. Haechan was staring Taemyeon down, probably contemplating where to hide his body. The only thing holding him back was Mark, who had a firm hand on his shoulder despite the pissed off glare of his own that he shot Taemyeon's direction every now and then. Taeil had his arms crossed over his chest, his face devoid of emotion. Johnny knew him well enough to know that he may look calm, but on the inside, he was raging. Beside him sat Yuta, who scoffed and chuckled at everything Taemyeon said. Taemyeon kept glancing at him, most likely annoyed, and Yuta met his glare head on. He smiled and waved, which only served to anger him further. Yuta had a passive aggressive way of dealing with people he didn't like, and Taemyeon was no exception. Taeyong's fists were clenched tight, and his face was starting to turn red, but he was more worried about Johnny seated behind him. He kept peeking over his shoulder to give Johnny a quick smile. Even though Johnny wasn't even upset to begin with, Taeyong's concern helped him relax. As for Doyoung, the man was livid. He was tracking Taemyeon's every move with a look that could kill. Even Taemyeon was starting to fidget under his gaze. Johnny wanted to touch him and help him calm down, for Taemyeon's sake. But he couldn't. He had to act as if he was a victim.
It all came to a head when Taemyeon asked the members about their time in America.
"What did you do while you were there? What sights did you see? Was there anything you wished you could bring over to Korea, if given the chance?" Taemyeon caught Jungwoo's eye, knowing he was one of the only members that hadn't really spoken yet. Jungwoo opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. He turned to Johnny.
"My favorite part of America was meeting your family, hyung. Why don't you talk about them?"
Johnny was seriously ready to tear up. His members were all so caring and protective, it made his little heart sing.
He couldn't help the grin that took over his face. He also couldn't help the way it dropped completely when Taemyeon butted in.
"Actually, why don't we hear what Taeil-ssi has to say? Did you enjoy something else about America?"
Taeil lifted an eyebrow and shook his head. Taemyeon spluttered for a moment, thrown off by Taeil's lack of interest. He turned to Mark, trying to find someone that wasn't outright glaring at him to answer his question. Mark just shrugged. Taemyeon bit his lip, unsure of what to do.
Luckily, Taeyong had an idea.
"Since we all enjoyed the visit to Johnny's hometown, I think we should let him talk about it a bit. He knows the area better than anyone."
Taemyeon immediately frowned. He glanced at Johnny briefly, a plead for help in his expression. Johnny couldn't do much other than a sympathetic smile and a mouthed apology. Taemyeon cleared his throat, nervous.
"I don't think that's necessary--."
"Excuse me," Doyoung interrupted, eyes blazing with anger. Taemyeon gulped. "Do you have a problem with our Johnny? Did he steal your girlfriend or, perhaps, kill you in a past life?"
"What? No. I just--," the poor man stuttered. Doyoung scoffed, standing up and taking a step towards the interviewer.
"Then what the hell is your problem?"
Taeyong pulled Doyoung back into his seat, trying to defuse the situation. "Doyoung, watch it."
Doyoung ignored his leader's warning.
“No, Taeyong, I won't. He's treating Johnny like dirt." He turned back to Taemyeon. "You haven't even looked at him since you walked in this room. Every time he tried to talk, you shut him down! What is your deal?!"
Taemyeon stood from his seat and started backing towards the cameras, away from Doyoung. Meanwhile, Taeyong and Yuta had to hold him back from attacking the poor guy.
The entire time, Johnny had just been watching the drama go down, eyes wide and hand still clasped with Jungwoo's. Now, he realized he had to step in before it got any uglier. Pulling his hand from Jungwoo's grasp, he stepped out in between NCT 127 and Taemyeon. He faced his members, holding his arms out as if he could stop them all from launching across the room.
"Everyone, just calm down, please. I'm okay, seriously. There's no need to tear his face off."
Doyoung was still fuming, his breaths coming out in short puffs, but he was definitely surprised by Johnny's intervention. "What do you mean? He's been treating you like crap ever since the interview started!"
Johnny shrugged. "I know he has, but it's not what you think." The Chicago native glanced over his shoulder, searching for someone in particular. The woman from before, whom Johnny had never gotten a name from, was tucked behind the cameras. Her eyes were wide, and she seemed shocked by Doyoung's outburst. When she met Johnny's eye, she nodded once. Johnny faced his members again. "I was given a mission to prank you guys during the interview. Taemyeon-ssi here was helping me do just that. So if you want to punch anyone, punch me."
Johnny bit the inside of his cheek. He knew his members wouldn't be happy with the interviewer, but he didn't expect them to get borderline violent on his behalf. It warmed his heart that they cared so deeply about him and his feelings, but the prank had gone slightly too far, and Johnny blamed himself. He should've known better than to go along with it.
He watched as a range of emotions swirled in the eyes of his members. They were all still angry for a moment, but once his words had sunk in, confusion took over. Doyoung and Taeyong understood a little quicker, leaving them in disbelief while the rest of the members were still processing.
"So, you knew he was going to treat you like that? And you wanted to see how we would react?" Taeyong wondered aloud, scrunching his nose. Doyoung blinked.
"Yes. I didn't think you guys would get so upset. I should've called it off. I'm sorry," Johnny apologized, bowing his head in shame.
There was a scurry of movement, and suddenly Johnny felt arms wrap around his torso, squeezing him tight. He got a mouthful of hair, which helped him identify the little leech attached to his body.
"Hyuckie, what---?" He protested, only to be cut off by the younger's whines.
"Hyung, don't apologize! We were only mad because we thought you were upset. As long as you're okay, we're happy. I'm glad it was just a prank." Haechan's voice was muffled due to his face being tucked into Johnny's shirt, but the elder heard him all the same.
He grinned, doing his best to hug Haechan back with his arms pinned to his sides.
“Hey!” Yuta shouted, his expression showing mock hurt. “I want a Johnny hug!" He was joined by a chorus of agreement from the other members.
"Johnny hyung, hug me!"
"Move Haechan-ah! Let me get in there."
"Haechannie, you're hogging him!"
Johnny let out a loud laugh, his shoulders shaking. The members quieted down long enough for him to get a word in.
"There's enough Johnny hugs for everyone. Come on in!"
They didn't need to be told twice. In a matter of moments, Johnny was surrounded by eight other clingy boys, their arms tightly interlocked around each other. Johnny towered over the others, making him easy to spot, and easy to latch onto.
"You're suffocating me!" He giggled.
"Good!" Someone replied, probably Mark.
The members laughed and argued within their little group hug. Elbows knocked into ribcages, and wayward hands smacked into faces, but they were able to brush it all off. They were too busy celebrating the fact that their Johnny was perfectly fine. Seeing Johnny sad or hurt was, without a doubt, the worst thing that any of them had ever seen. They tried to avoid it as much as possible, but sometimes it was inevitable. Luckily, this wasn’t one of those times.
A voice sounded out over their chatter, firmly telling them they still had an interview to finish. Reluctantly, they all broke apart, but not before Jungwoo landed a big kiss on Johnny’s cheek. As the Chicago native blushed from head to toe, the other members tuned in to the magazine staff.
“Alright, alright! Back into your seats please. We want to film your thoughts on the prank first, and then you are free to go, okay?” the woman with the headphones suggested, her efforts at holding in a smile failing miserably.
It took a minute or two to corral certain members, but eventually NCT 127 was seated in front of the cameras once again. This time, however, Johnny didn’t have to pretend to be anything other than himself. It was a good thing too, because Johnny’s acting skills had all but maxed out.
Slowly, Taemyeon came into view. He sat in his chair off to the side, fidgeting with his cards. He was definitely nervous to be back out here, in front of the group he had pissed off.
In an attempt to restore peace, Doyoung reached out towards Taemyeon. Once he was sure he had his attention, the vocalist bowed deeply, folding himself at the waist.
“I’m sorry for my behavior. I was angry, but I should’ve been able to control myself better,” he spoke, his words clear and sincere. Taeyong copied the action and apologized on the group’s behalf. As the members all bowed one by one, Taemyeon’s eyes widened and he stared in disbelief. Johnny chuckled.
“Really, there’s no need--,” he tried to protest. Johnny held up a hand, a snort escaping him.
“Just accept it, Taemyeon-ssi. They won’t take no as an answer.”
The interviewer nodded, as if on autopilot. He thanked them all for the kind gesture, and the interview resumed as if it had never paused. This time, Taemyeon made sure that Johnny was able to give his input on every question, knowing that he missed out on all the others. The other members piped in occasionally, sharing their mixed reactions to the prank and complimenting the staff for pulling it off. Overall, the rest of their time with the magazine was enjoyable. They concluded the interview with a little spotlight on Johnny, giving him the chance to promote their upcoming album. He took advantage of the opportunity to display his well-loved self-confidence and charming smiles, his members hyping him the entire time.
With the conclusion of the interview came the goodbyes and promises to visit again soon. Johnny shook Taemyeon’s hand, glad that the man could brush the entire situation aside. He hugged the woman, still unsure as to what her name was, and waved to them both as he joined his members in the car.
He settled in his seat, clicking the seatbelt into place. It was silent for a moment or two, until Johnny decided to speak up.
“Well, that was fun!”
The other members gave him mock glares and a few even reached over their seats to smack him, the taller man giggling like a child the entire time. As he dodged a few well-placed hits, Johnny found himself thanking fate for bringing them all together. He didn’t know how he ever lived without his strange little family.