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there are second chances. and then there are simply the chances that never occur more than once; fleeting moments and glimpses of the future that scarce appear before the eyes, streaming through the fingers like fireflies through a frameless net. these are the lights that guide. these are the waves, the tide. these are the stories that he will confide, years from now.

there are these chances, and then there is bobby.

he pushes his hair out of his face, and grins, toothy-wide and sincere.

my family’s having a bit of a hard time. my—my mom and dad, both of them, they go to work, but—ah, my brother goes to work too, so... so, if i work hard and become a star, i’ll support my family.

oh, how admirable.

yep. and he smiles again, nodding. i would risk my life for this.

(this is that chance.)

maybe it’s the way they stay up late into the night, shoulders resting together as they huddle over one computer, and one keyboard. the moon has waxed across the darkest of night’s skies over the hours passed, and has been slowly waning since the new dawn. their energy is waning, too. it’s almost five in the morning and they have to be completely awake and ready in an hour.

jinhwan had passed out some time earlier, sprawled out across the sofa, waiting up for them a little too long. hanbin had thrown bobby’s jacket over jinhwan before returning to work, gaze flickering towards him every now and then. it’s a habit for both of them, really. watching the way jinhwan shifts about in his sleep, the way his expression changes, in between the soft conversation they make with each other.

the near-silence they work in is amicable. familiar. they need nothing else but this, really.

hanbin stifles a yawn with the back of his hand, tugs the collar of his hoodie up over his mouth, and mumbles through fabric, “needs some guitar. like—you know what i mean.”

bobby clicks through the selection, and presses a couple of random notes, fingers finding the right chords until hanbin makes a soft snuffling noise. different, compared to the usual sounds of agreement he makes during the day, but bobby has seen and heard enough of night-time hanbin to know that he means something with each grunt. “brighter?”

“brighter,” echoes hanbin, and he runs a thumb absently over the mouse, clicking across a selection on the screen. the tips of his nails are all chewed up from nights of worrying over lyrics. “we need to make sure crayon contrasts enough. also, don’t think i don’t know what you’re doing with those modifications,” he says, falling into his leader-voice, “i’ve been watching. we still need something that everyone can keep up with.”

bobby plays a dissonant-sounding d chord. hanbin’s nose crinkles. bobby does it again, just out of amusement, watching hanbin frown deeper. his face will get stuck like that if he keeps making that expression, his mother had said once, when they’d been video-calling over skype and hanbin had stuck his head into the frame. jinhwan had been right beside them too, shaking his head in quiet amusement. “we’re more than capable of dancing over jumpy rhythms. besides, it’s only, what—one verse to go, right?”

“yeah, well.” hanbin tugs the mouse over to his side of the desk, and deletes the layer that bobby’s just played over their still-building track. “what if it doesn’t work?”

“we’ll fix it. no big deal.”

“quite the optimist these days, aren’t you, hyung?” says hanbin in return, tucking his hands inside his sleeves and rubbing them together. it’s nights like these where the sleep unravels hanbin and makes him act the age he’s jumped ahead of, and makes him look the age he’s put past him. rare nights like these. bobby’s only a year older, but it makes all the difference in the world, sometimes.

“worried i’m going to steal your title?” bobby pushes hanbin’s hoodie back, and ruffles his hair lightly. hanbin just barely shoots him a glare, sleep logging him down too much to care. “don’t worry. you’ll always be the more optimistic of us all, anyway.”

“i think that title belongs to minho-hyung, these days.” hanbin hides another yawn behind a palm, and bobby feels bad for only getting six cans of red bull when they’d been on their way to the practice building. “guitar.”

“you already said that.” bobby runs his fingers along the keys. “there.”

guitar,” repeats hanbin, as if the one word with more emphasis will make bobby understand, and he leans into bobby’s space to splay his fingers over the keys, playing a staccato rhythm, quick jumps from one chord to another. “think a little more electro-fusion and a little less of whatever the hell you’ve been listening to these days to have played that earlier... thing.”

the nerve of that kid—

“someone looks extremely offended,” comes jinhwan’s voice from the side, sleep logging itself down in each syllable.

hanbin just plays a sad progression of notes in reply.

jinhwan swings himself upright and stretches momentarily, before reaching to pull the last chair in the room towards him, and scooting closer to where they are, resting an arm across hanbin’s shoulders and peering at the screen as much as his tired eyes will allow. “good morning, kids.”

hey,” says bobby indignantly. “and jinhwan-hyung is right. also, morning, sunshine.”

“hey, yourself.” hanbin’s head falls onto jinhwan’s shoulder. “i feel like i’m dying,” he says, “tell byul i love her.”

“tell her yourself.” jinhwan runs a hand through his hair lightly, resting a hand on his shoulder, fingers skimming along his collar. bobby’s eyes follow the motion before he can stop himself. “isn’t she coming with your mom tomorrow?”

reality television never works the way they think it does. they had overheard the staff informing hanbin that he should expect a visit during their practice tomorrow. pretend it’s a surprise, see, that’s the way television works.

bobby would give anything for a surprise like that.

“yeah.” hanbin straightens up, and stretches sleepily. “i don’t want her to see me tired.”

“that’s what make-up is for,” quips bobby. but hanbin knows that already. every morning he wakes up, and the layer of bb cream and concealer he rubs into his face is a layer thicker than the rest of the team’s. bobby knows hanbin has sleepless nights. they all do, sometimes. but expectations are a real bitch, especially when you’re the one everyone’s looking to. “don’t nod off. we have to go get the others in twenty.”

“twenty,” groans hanbin, “fuck. that’s way too soon.”

“yeah.” bobby spares a glance for the clock at the corner of the screen. “should we get going?”

“probably. we should pack up now. come on,” says jinhwan, tugging hanbin up by the sleeve, and nudging bobby in the shoulder. hanbin wobbles for a moment, as if his knees are going to give out. bobby reaches over to grab his wrist, steadying him.

(all-nighter after all-nighter. they will do whatever it takes to get where they want to go. bobby just doesn’t know if they’ll make it there intact.)

“hey,” comes hanbin’s voice, and bobby glances over to see hanbin’s gaze trained right on him, barely inches away. “you’re thinking too loud.”

“when am i ever not,” replies bobby. his hand is still clamped over hanbin’s wrist. there is nothing but air separating them both. and hanbin is looking at him as if he’s expecting bobby to do something, gaze sharp, that contemplative stare of what’s your next move, kim jiwon. maybe, if bobby just leans in—maybe, if he just leans in for a single second—

jinhwan coughs softly. “there’s a time and place for everything,” he says, and both hanbin and bobby jerk away as if burned. jinhwan’s gaze on the both of them is just a little too unreadable, tonight. today. this time.

hanbin clears his throat. “we should,” he starts, and perhaps that’s a tone of regret in his voice, but then again, it is past five in the morning, and bobby can’t tell what’s real and what’s not, “we should go get the others.”

“yeah.” bobby rubs the back of his neck, and leans over to grab his bag. “let’s go.”

the three of them say nothing to each other on the way down. there is nothing that needs to be said, anyway. and there is no way either of them can, with the multiple cameras that line the rooms and the corridors, now. even their dorm has cameras, and bobby regrets all the moves he could have made, all the steps he could have taken, when there hadn’t been any.

but he has no time for regret. not now. not ever. not when the days keep rolling in like this, exhausting and exciting all at once.

“wake up,” roars hanbin, when they reach the dorm, just in time to find everyone already half-straggling out of their beds. they’d been allowed an extra half hour in, today. it only means another two hours spent practicing tonight. “we’ll be late.”

“keep it down,” utters yunhyung, trudging past the two of them, en route to the bathroom. “did you get coffee?” he spots the plastic bag on the table. “good. we’re going to need it, today.”

“donghyuk play till too late, again?”

“worse.” jinhwan peeks into one of the rooms, “by the looks of it, junhwe, too.”

“i’ll kill them all,” announces hanbin, already reaching to hook a hand into donghyuk’s collar to pull him upright. “i told you all to sleep early.”

“what about you three, then?” yunhyung’s rubbing at his eyes, leaning against the bathroom door. “you haven’t even slept at all.”

“we’re used to it.” bobby slaps junhwe’s shoulder cheerfully. junhwe stumbles forward and nearly bumps into jinhwan. “come on. hurry along.”

the schedule is no surprise. they’ve had more than enough time to get used to sleeping late and waking up early. but it does become a challenge sometimes, when there are six people sharing a single bathroom. we’ve got, what, five rooms? yunhyung had muttered to jinhwan once, in the car, and there’s one tiny little cubicle for six people to share.

have you seen the other company trainee dorms? jinhwan had snorted. we’ve got it good, man. we can’t talk.

they bundle up for the cold morning, and head for practice.

it seems that hanbin’s a little more relaxed, today. it’s noticeable. he yells a little less—just a little—at the members while they’re running new choreography over the g-dragon track that they’d worked on cleaning up over the night, and only corrects them a few times. bobby figures it must be the anticipation, seeping through. he knows hanbin hasn’t seen his mom in a while. neither has he seen his little sister.

she’s cute, isn’t she? hanbin had smiled so widely the first time he’d shown bobby her picture, on his phone. they’d been in their second year of training. byul had just turned one. she’s gonna be a rockstar when she grows up, you hear me.

don’t think your mother will allow two rockstars in the family, bobby had replied. hanbin’s laugh had stayed with him the rest of the day. bright, echoing. hopeful.

but then, jinhwan had glanced over from where he’d been sitting propped up against the wall, just a little way off from them, and smiled, uncharacteristically wide. maybe it had been because of hanbin’s laugh, too. bobby still isn’t sure. nothing’s ever really sure, when it comes to them.

jinhwan’s smile had stayed with him even longer.

but bobby could never be as relaxed as hanbin, if his family ever visited. he envies that, in a way. both the ease in which hanbin carries himself on the knowledge that they are coming to see him, and the ease in which they can come see him, in its own.

but hanbin’s mother has always treated them all well, and byul is the most adorable kid he’s ever seen. she looks just like her mother. and she looks just like hanbin. and, well—there’s nothing he needs to say about hanbin, either.

“no presents?” hanbin shoves bobby playfully. “what kind of an older brother are you?”

“did you even get anything for her?” asks jinhwan, barely glancing up from his phone.

“i’m right here!” hanbin stretches his arms, and smiles, cocky. bobby pushes him back against the sofa, and hanbin topples beside jinhwan with a loud harrumph. “i was just kidding. you’ll see, later.”

bobby does see. he sees the way hanbin’s face lights up when he catches sight of them in the glass door. the way he heads straight for his mother’s arms but has barely let go of her when he calls hanbyul’s name, loud and gleeful. “byul-ah!” he all but shrieks, and it’s warming to see.

her hand is tiny, in hanbin’s. it’s even tinier in bobby’s, later when hanbin picks her up and twirls her around the room, stopping for her to pat her hand against bobby’s palm with a giggle. bobby can’t help the grin he lets spread across his face when her little grey cap tips over her forehead again, and he rearranges it, murmuring, “there you go, kiddo.”

hanbin catches his eye, from above her head, and smiles. and god, does bobby stop. just stop right there, because these smiles are rare, even rarer than the nights where they get more than five hours of sleep, because when has hanbin looked this bright in days, in weeks, even?

he’s glad for it.

and he still isn’t sure why it is, but it’s always jinhwan—jinhwan, and the smaller, slow-spreading smiles that are even fewer and farther between compared to hanbin’s. jinhwan, and the way he beams when hanbin gets his little sister to hi-five him with a loud giggle. she’s cute. they’re all cute. bobby doesn’t really understand the longing in his throat to capture the expression on jinhwan’s face and keep it for as long as he still has breath in his lungs—but he does. he does.

later, when hanbin goes off to the next room to talk to his mother alone for a moment, bobby sits against the mirrors, and wonders. he wonders when this had happened. when this had begun.

the soft, sloping arch of desire. the thundering rhythm in his chest that arises with barely a glance.

and bobby wonders why it had to be the both of them.

he wonders when their friendship had hit the border, the boundaries between what’s enough and what shouldn’t even be considered. because hanbin knows. jinhwan knows. hell, hanbin had been the one to set it off in the first place. nights staying up together, three of them slumped against each other. hanbin had been the one who’d jerked away one night too quickly, biting his lip as if he’d realised something that he hadn’t wanted to.

(but jinhwan had reached out, after a moment of silence. and hanbin had settled back against the both of them. cautious. a little too lost to know what he’d been settling into.)

and bobby, well. bobby doesn’t know if he even wants anything, to be honest. he knows what he already has wants for. he wants to make it big, he wants his family to live comfortably. he wants to do what he loves to do, and that is stand on stage, and let the world know whose voice this is.

but kim hanbin leans in too close, words biting, gaze challenging. and kim jinhwan leans in too close, tone soothing, glance trusting. and there’s no stepping down from this.

“jiwon-ah, you’ve grown so much since the last time i saw you!” hanbin’s mother hugs him briefly when she comes to greet the other members before leaving, and he smiles, thankful for the ease her presence brings. she’s always been nothing but warm to them all. like a mother should be. “you too, jinhwan-ah. remember to take care of them, okay? and take care of yourself too.”

“i will.” jinhwan nods, smiling, and bobby smiles too, wide and earnest. she’s always looking out for her son. hanbin is lucky to have her. “we’ll make sure.”

they wave goodbye to hanbin’s mother, some minutes later. “i’ll come home soon, byul-ah,” hanbin promises her, before bending down to poke a fingertip against hanbyul’s cheek playfully, murmuring, “be a good girl for mom, okay? and keep it safe.” his hand curls over hers, where she’s holding the keychain hanbin had placed in her palm. the keychain he’d gotten on their trip to jinhwan’s hometown, that one time. “promise oppa you will.”

“promise,” she whispers, and hanbin kisses her forehead, before straightening up to wave them off, smiling. he probably wishes they could have stayed longer. but there aren’t enough hours in a day as it is, and practice waits for no one. not even family.

hanbin jogs back over to the desktop, lets the cursor hover over the play button. “back to work.” bobby tugs his cap back on, shrugs the knot out of his neck, and gets into position, catching jinhwan’s gaze momentarily in the mirrors. there’s that quick flash, the trading of words that go without saying, the nod that passed between the two. but before anything true can happen, the speakers blare, and bobby pushes back into formation.

they practice until the familiar face of the moon has risen once more.

(or, maybe, just maybe—

rewind, reverse, replay.

—the year is twenty-twelve.)

maybe it’s the way they stay up late into the night, slumped against each other, breaths racing a mile ahead of them. the clock strikes eleven. the heave of their chests is reflected in the mirror-wall that stands opposite where they are seated. every drop of sweat visible to the eye. the room is small, and their group smaller, but it works for them.

just the three of them.

“we didn’t get that last bit right,” says jinhwan, breathless, the way he always does after a practice. hanbin makes a sound in agreement and motions for them to go again in a few minutes. until they get it right. just until they get it right. they have to.

“run it again,” murmurs hanbin. it’s not their choreography, but he’s the one who always manages to catch the mistakes they make, sharp eye following not only his own movements but theirs as well. meticulous. sometimes bobby feels inadequate, stocked up next to a kid who moves like he was built to do this. but he’s got his moments too. he’s not too bad.

compared to the fluid angles that hanbin possesses, jinhwan has a sharper style, that shows in the way he draws his arms back and spins into the formation of the chorus with each turn. they complement each other well. and bobby? bobby’s just here, floating. unpolished moves and steps just a little too heavy to be completely accurate.

but they make it work. they’re a good team.

when he’d first found out that they were being put together to practice, instead of joining the other group of trainees, he’d wondered about the two of them. hanbin already had a reputation amongst the trainees. brash, terrifying. they’d spoken in nothing but formalities for the entirety of two whole weeks, until bobby had finally caved and told him to quit being so uptight.

it had been a strange contrast, finding out who hanbin was under his default face.

(just shy, hanbin had said.)

and on the other hand, jinhwan hadn’t been much of a mystery at all.

much more passive than the rest of the trainees. friendly, though. bobby recalls the first time they’d met, in the cafeteria. they’d sat down across each other, and immediately started up conversation. chatting about family, about what they’d left behind, far distances separating them from those they miss. bobby had liked having someone to talk to about things like that.

how long has it been? jinhwan had asked, tone knowing. half a year, almost. bobby could have counted the days in his sleep, exact date on the back of his tongue. and jinhwan had just smiled, and nodded. me too.

the only difference had been the separation of land to sea.

but it hadn’t taken much for the three of them to fall together. only a few months, and look where they are now. bural chingu, jinhwan had called them jokingly one night at dinner. the other group of trainees they’d been eating with had almost believed them. bobby nearly had, too. childhood friends, they’d seemed like in the roughest sense, to the others who didn’t know them.

in the end, it simply does seem that way after all.

the comfort sweeps to all new heights, a year in and on. days together turn into nights together too, nights of practices, near-dawn convenience store runs, and falling asleep on too-hard floors, huddled close for the winter winds that roar up against the windows.

it might seem strange to people back home, figures bobby. the level of closeness between them seems a stretch to be simply called platonic, for those unused to the way they act around each other. but bobby sees nothing of it. bobby thinks nothing of it.

bobby just knows this, for now.

“cold,” mutters hanbin. if the temperature drops any lower, hanbin’s teeth could start chattering. it is only nine o’clock, but it is the middle of january, and the snow outside only lends store to the fact that the heater has broken down, unable to be repaired until the sun comes back up to knock on their door once more. “how the fuck are we going to sleep tonight?”

“fuck sleep.” bobby tucks his chin into the curve of jinhwan’s shoulder and rubs his palms together. they’re already curled up in as many blankets as possible, jackets included, but it’s not enough. but jinhwan doesn’t mind, does he, that bobby’s using him as his own personal furnace. jinhwan has always been warm (in body, in spirit). “come here,” says bobby, beckoning for hanbin to come closer. “you’ll freeze your toes off if you stay in the corner alone.”

hanbin narrows his eyes for a moment, but doesn’t argue. he shifts closer, rolling into their space until his front bumps against jinhwan’s back. bobby doesn’t shy away from tugging all three of them closer, and it’s awkward at first. three boys, snuggled up together under a pile of too-thin blankets. it definitely looks strange enough.

they lie there in silence, not sure of what to say.

“well,” says jinhwan, breaking the ice, “it’s definitely warmer now.”

“yeah,” says hanbin. his breath tickles the top of jinhwan’s hair. “i guess.”

“we’re only doing this out of desperation,” says bobby, and there are matching laughs from the other two, seemingly agreeing. because why else would they tangle closer, anyway. ankles knocking together, arms slung over each other. “goodnight. if we manage to sleep at all.”

they do.

bobby wakes up first, in the morning. their phones are yet to ring, alarms only set for the coming hour. he wakes up with his face pressed into the back of jinhwan’s neck. jinhwan will probably murder him for drooling on him, but bobby hopes he doesn’t notice. one arm is wrapped around jinhwan’s waist, hand resting on hanbin’s hip.

bobby doesn’t move.

jinhwan is snoring softly, nose squished against hanbin’s chest. hanbin in turn has managed to tangle his legs around all of theirs. bobby resists the urge to laugh, when hanbin shifts in his sleep, and nuzzles closer to jinhwan. it’s—if bobby could say—endearing, really.

it’s only when jinhwan’s alarm goes off first that he realises how long he’s just been lying there, staring at the two of them. and it’s five minutes of drowsily pulling apart and fixing the sheets before any of them are conscious enough to think about the night’s events.

the heater gets fixed the same day.

(but bobby still curls up next to jinhwan later that night, and says, it’s too cold.)

it doesn’t take long for these nights to become regular occurences. not at all.

(rewind, reverse, replay.)

back home, in america, he’d never had to visit the hospital much. or really, at all, for that matter. they could never afford it anyway. cold cures had been a heaping dose of epsom salts in a bathtub, flu cures had been a wild mix of honey, ibuprofen and the herbal chicken broth that their chinese neighbours would bring over occasionally, having heard the dry, hacking coughs that slipped past the thin walls at night, and knowing how it was like, having four children of their own.

his mother would always tuck him into bed whenever he’d felt ill, pulling the worn-out comforter up to his chin and telling him to just get plenty of rest. because, if you’re sick then i’ll be sick too, she’d said, worried sick over you, jiwon-ah, my baby. my son.

i’m not a baby, bobby had always complained, sniffling. he’d always make a face at the copious amounts of medicine he’d have to consume, or the way he would be barred from leaving his bed the entire day.

he misses that, now. the press of his mother’s lips to his forehead, cool against warm skin, as she’d whispered for him to feel better soon. the way she’d press a bowl into his hands and watch him eat the entire thing.

hospitals do not remind him of his mother in the slightest.

for they are much too cold for the soles that walk their floors.

but in the end, it’s not the place that does. it’s him, attempting to cheer up the others as they sit huddled together in the waiting room, biding their time until the doctor gets to them. “don’t worry,” he says smiling, despite the way his eyelids are threatening to pull shut with each passing second. “it won’t hurt. just a little, i guess. but it’ll be over soon.”

donghyuk has already fallen asleep, having leaned against jinhwan a little too comfortably, and having gone on less than five hours of sleep in the past three days. the others are close to it, too, but he guesses the atmosphere is keeping them up. either that, or the tense worry that runs through the room.

“yeah?” yunhyung shivers. “i’ve never liked needles.”

neither does bobby. but nobody needs to know that. besides, it is not a big deal in particular. he’s had shots before. this—perhaps, this just seems a little too disjointed in his mind, for now. he hadn’t figured that training and shooting the show would actually lead to something like this.dehydration, they’d said, on taking one look at the members after they’d mentioned feeling too ill to continue for the day, you’re going to need iv drips.

is that serious? hanbin had asked, gaze wavering. he’s probably the one who needs the drip the most, figures bobby. but of course, all hanbin had really meant was: how long will it take? will it mess with our timing? how long until we get to go back to practice?

a few hours. it’s never enough. but it’s better than anything else that could happen.

changing the song had taken up enough of their time. god knows how many late nights bobby and hanbin have stayed up these past few months alone, way past the point of recollection now. the others have been staying up with them too, as they’d adjusted and altered the song right on the spot, figuring out the lyrics as they’d worked through the clock.

he doesn’t know how much of this will go on camera. the staff hadn’t followed them to the hospital. but bobby hopes they hadn’t caught the way he’d whispered in frustration at the screen. the way jinhwan had shook his head, blinking hard, vision probably blurring from a lack of rest. the way junhwe had coughed until his throat strained. the way they’d all nearly toppled to their knees, a few too many practices in.

it’s fascinating, when it happens. the sting only happens slight, when the nurse taps his hand solidly, and inserts the catheter needle with well-familiarised fingers. bobby looks on as the liquid drips away slowly into the tube that runs from a bag. it is slow. it matches the movement of the second-hand on the clock. it feels like nothing, to be honest.

hanbin shuffles impatiently from where he’s sitting, and says, “this is going to take too long.”

“we don’t have a choice,” jinhwan patiently reminds him, and hanbin concedes, choosing to focus on other things instead. what had happened at dinner last night with the team a guys. the props they’re going to have onstage for the performance. what article had come out on gasaengi the other day and why yunhyung had been up until two a.m. scrolling through the comments on his phone even in bed.

that invokes a few light laughs, and yunhyung’s indignant outcries of evasion.

the minor cheer is welcome. a good distraction that keeps them going, until they have to return, until they have to get back to the reality of the competition, the battle, the onslaught.

it’s almost a terrifying contrast to how hanbin gets, right before their actual stage, some days later.

and he knows hanbin is disappointed. they all are.

why wouldn’t they be? messing up their lyrics on the day of the battle. bobby’s been beating himself up about it since the dry-run. heck, since the night before, even. he knows he should remember them by now. the anxiety that bottles itself up in his chest shakes the words free from his grasp and scatters them away into the lights that shine down heavy on the stage, heavy and looming and terrifying all in once.

hanbin won’t even look at them.

“come over here. don’t sit there alone,” he says, a coaxing attempt to get hanbin to talk to them. to smooth things back over. because they need him. he’s the leader, he can’t pull a stunt like not talking to them and just attempting to let things cool down themselves. not like this. he’s only going to make things worse, can’t he see that?

it’s when hanbin gets up and leaves the room that the others glance over at bobby and jinhwan hesitantly, not knowing what will happen now.

“was that because of us?” asks junhwe, almost disbelieving. it’s the first time hanbin’s ever gotten this angry at the team. jinhwan says nothing. bobby—well, bobby doesn’t even know himself. are they just being discarded? had it been what he’d said? had it just been the stress, totalling hanbin over?

he needs to know.

“you think he just needs a break?” asks bobby, when they’re on their way to find him some minutes later, quietly enough that the microphone attached to the camera following them does not catch the words.

jinhwan glances back, and says, “i think he just needs to realise some things.”

like what? bobby almost asks, but he knows better than to discord the look in jinhwan’s eyes. the expression that will probably mean something to hanbin, something that bobby can’t exactly pin-point yet. jinhwan and hanbin are more touch-oriented, more expression-aligned than bobby is with the both of them, with either of them.

bobby only has his words for now. but he will use them the way he knows how to.

he can see the stress that lines hanbin’s eyes, tugging his age down even as he looks older in his obvious fatigue. the make-up will never really be thick enough to cover all of that. bobby knows.

“hey,” he says, sitting down beside hanbin on the stone steps. jinhwan sits beside him, just a little way apart. the three of them, just there, even as the flow of people carries on around them.

(their places always change. the formation they find themselves in never stagnant. but it never matters. what does is the way they work themselves out.)

“but you’re still the leader,” emphasises bobby, and that’s what catches hanbin. “it’s as if you threw us away.”

he knows hanbin hadn’t meant to. but hanbin needs to remember who he is, even in times like these. despite how old the others are. despite how old he is. age matters in the industry, seniority just as much, but the leader will always carry a different sort of burden, no matter who they are.

hanbin doesn’t meet their eyes, even as the words begin to come, slow, unsteady. jinhwan has the most words to say, despite not often doing so, despite sitting the furthest from where hanbin is. and when those choke back in his throat, almost unexpectedly, it breaks. they break, again.

it seems, after three years together, what gets them the most is knowing how each of them respond to situations like these. when to back down when they need to. the one word or one motion that elicits all the next.

there are unsaid promises that go between them that carry the intention to bring this discussion back to the dorm, but for now? they have a show to make happen.

and, well. if hanbin’s hand on jinhwan’s shoulder—where he hadn’t wanted to touch anyone just minutes before—is enough to make bobby feel better, even the slightest bit, then he guesses they will be just fine.

“hey,” bobby says, a while later just before they’re about to go up on stage, “we’ll do our best, yeah?”

“yeah,” says hanbin, and he smiles. determined to show what they can do, even if it’s not completely satisfactory to them at the moment. they’ve got this. “we’ll do it.”

“that’s the spirit!” says donghyuk, clapping them both on the shoulder. right cheerful today, their youngest is. it gets the rest of them bumped back up into the energy they’d been missing previously. he’s glad for that. they’re going to need that energy if they want to give it all they’ve got, today. “it’s showtime.”

bobby checks his microphone a last time, before glancing out towards where the judges are waiting, peering curiously at them.

it’s showtime, alright.

(or, maybe, just maybe—

rewind, reverse, replay.

—we return: a few weeks ago.)

a rare chance to go on vacation, they’d been given. well, if they can even call it one, with the staff members following right behind, and the cameras constantly on them. a day’s trip to jeju-do, to jinhwan’s hometown, away from the city and the bright lights that never truly end at night.

jinhwan hadn’t wanted to show too much of his excitement at being able to go home, knowing how hanbin and bobby haven’t been able to do so in a long time, but bobby had just nudged him in the shoulder, grinning, and said, your home is our home too, yeah?

as much as it can be.

it keeps the three of them on their toes, knowing that they get a day off, jinhwan especially. they take off at eleven, bags in tow. bobby brings his guitar, knowing that they’re probably going to end up writing something along the way to commemorate the trip.

(they do.)

they’ve never gone anywhere together, just the three of them. bobby wants to remember this for the rest of his days: the quiet smile that creeps across jinhwan’s face when they reach their designated gate, the flash of the signboards above their heads marking out seoul to jeju-do, the way him and hanbin play around with the camera while they’re en route, in the skies.

taking the scenic route to jinhwan’s house is more of a director’s decision than anything else, but it gives them more time to talk, gives them a little more time to enjoy the air. jinhwan looks more relaxed, more at ease. it must be being home that does it.

jinhwan’s mother greets them with a wide smile and open arms. bobby feels a rush of longing when jinhwan hugs her for moments longer than she’d hugged him or hanbin, when she strokes jinhwan’s hair and smiles at him fondly and whispers that she’s glad he’s back home for now. it makes him think of the home he misses too. of the warm arms he misses as well.

he glances over, and there hanbin is, smiling faintly, probably feeling the same thing.

but jinhwan reaches back for them, and nothing will lack for them, tonight.

the fire that crackles later that night under the grill reminds him of snapdragons that go off in the air, little pops and whizzes. it’s been a long time since he’d had a proper home-cooked meal, and they eat with gusto, enjoying every single piece of meat that sizzles on their plates, on their palates.

conversation is free and easy, despite the camera that sits beside them, observing them eat with a glazed-over eye. bobby nearly chokes on his mouthful of ssam when when jinhwan casually mentions them being so close as to shower together, but jinhwan’s mother merely laughs it off, even when hanbin echoes it too, teasing. showers are strictly platonic things, but maybe bobby can’t help when his gaze wanders, occasionally.

he catches jinhwan’s eye, and knows he’s thinking the exact same thing.

the night is spent in a similar vein, talking and singing and thoughts setting free the rest of the words that need not be said, but go said anyway, for sake of the lens that’s trained on them, for sake of the ones who watch and wonder.

jinhwan’s old room is bare, now. a cupboard, curtains, and a single bed that all three of them squeeze onto with the excuse to his mother that it’s perfectly fine, it’s much bigger than the beds they’ve shared before in their past years of training together. the weather’s cool enough to strip down to their shorts, to just lie in bed with a single sheet tugged up over each of them.

bobby watches hanbin angle the camera towards him and jinhwan for a moment, waving goodnight to it, before turning it off and setting it on the floor. he’s glad tonight there are no cameras. no one watching. the house is silent already, at this time of the night.

he slides onto the bed, leans into their space, and just grins. “like old times.”

hanbin laughs. “except this time we’re not freezing our asses off.”

jinhwan laughs too. his hair is all mussed, still damp from the shower he’d taken. bobby wants to run his hands through it. “go to sleep,” he says, “if we wake up too late, the beach is going to be too crowded to enjoy.”

“goodnight, then,” says bobby. “someone turn the lights off later.”

darkness, spare the moon.

they don’t sleep just yet. not even after they’ve said goodnight, not even after their phones have all been discarded to the floor. bobby can tell none of them do, not for the next few minutes. he lies there, listening to their breathing, still uneven enough to tell that they’re awake.

but maybe it’s a split-second decision that he makes, when he shifts closer to hook his chin over hanbin’s shoulder, nose nuzzling against his neck. maybe it’s just the way the pieces fall together when hanbin leans back into him, feet tangling with jinhwan’s under the sheets. maybe it’s just the way that the old courage returns to them now that nobody is around to see them.

jinhwan lets out a breath, and turns to face the both of them. his expression goes unseen in the darkness, but his voice is clear, when he says, “two years.”

and bobby doesn’t understand what he means, until hanbin’s own voice comes quietly in the room, “two too, maybe.” and, oh. jinhwan is probably looking at him for an answer now, an answer to the question that has never dared been asked.

“three,” says bobby, and hanbin makes a soft sound in surprise. so does jinhwan. “what? i trip easy.”

“you trip easy for everything,” says jinhwan, but bobby can hear the undertone in his voice, you trip easy for everyone, and bobby wants to shake his head and say, no, not everyone—just the both of you. but he doesn’t.

he reaches over for jinhwan’s hand, fingers tangling loosely as his palm rests over hanbin’s hip, and bobby says, “just tonight.”

they will always be afraid. they have never outright spoken about this, but it’s there. it’s here. it’s here, and it’s the fear that runs deep in their bones, the fear that comes with each tightened grip of the hand and each careful stroke of the face, hands trembling.

nothing happens, tonight. nothing but the warmth that’s exuded between all three of them.

bobby wakes up in the morning, and it’s almost a replica of the nights they’ve spent together in the past. faces pressed together, limbs tangled together. hanbin’s head pillowed against his shoulder, jinhwan’s arm thrown lazily over the both of them. and just like those days, bobby watches and waits and wonders.

he doesn’t understand this in the slightest. not in the slightest bit. but what he does understand is the affection he feels when he reaches up to thumb over jinhwan’s cheek, over the little mark right under his eye, or when he presses his mouth against the nape of hanbin’s neck, a barely-there brush of lips against skin.

neither of them wake up for an hour or so. in that time, bobby still hasn’t figured out what it is that makes his heart beat twenty-times faster than it’s ever gone before, whenever he looks at them. peaceful sleep, he wants to keep them like this; counting sheep until the sunshine falls in heaps and loads, though never burning more than their own touches.

he considers all of these things.

hanbin shifts, and his tongue sounds thick in his mouth when he speaks, “you’re being a creep again, aren’t you?”

“what are you talking about,” replies bobby, not taking any mind of his waking up, still absentmindedly carding his fingers through hanbin’s hair. hanbin seems to like it, though, the way he doesn’t pull away. almost like a cat being pet. “i’m being me.”

hanbin turns to look at him, blinking, and a tiny smile cracks through. “gross,” he mumbles, “that look on your face.”

“matches yours,” says bobby lightly, “when you look at jinhwan-hyung.”

checkmate, he thinks, when hanbin’s skin flushes the slightest hint of red, and his eyes flit over to where jinhwan is, for the most miniscule of moments. but then again, the looks go threeway.

they have another half an hour until they need to get up. it’s okay to spend their time until then like this, isn’t it? just lying here, together. bobby runs his fingers through hanbin’s hair until hanbin’s eyes almost flutter shut, and he’s muttering, “stop, i’m going to fall asleep again.”

jinhwan wakes when bobby reaches over to blow air against his neck, his nose crinkling adorably when he glances up at both of them. “what have you two been doing?”

“nothing,” says hanbin immediately, at the exact same moment bobby goes, “cuddling.”

jinhwan just stares for a moment, before rubbing his hand over his eyes, shaking his head. “children,” he goes, and hanbin only has to glance over at bobby for a single second, before they’re tackling him playfully, “get off!”

“never,” says bobby smugly, and it’s a tussle that goes on, before jinhwan’s trapped between the two of them. he’s no match for both their sizes. their tiny hyung. all theirs. bobby nuzzles his face against jinhwan’s, and says, “let’s just stay here for the rest of the day.”

“if only,” says hanbin, on jinhwan’s other side.

jinhwan makes an amused noise, and says, “you both.”

bobby just tugs the two of them closer, and pretends they don’t have anywhere to go.

(but an hour later, they’re dipping their toes into the waves, laughing as they sing along to the guitar in bobby’s hands, running straight into the ocean with wild grins, and even wilder shouts.

rewind, reverse, replay.)




it looms closer.

(what does?)

the end.

in a sense, bobby still hasn’t had it come crashing down upon him, yet. he guesses he’s lucky, in a way. it still doesn’t feel like reality. the fact that three years of work is finally going to pay off. the impact hasn’t borne itself down upon him just yet. it still doesn’t feel like reality, the fact that there are now a dozen cameras surrounding him during the day, and even more to come in the future, once the smoke clears, once the fog fades.

just the other night, donghyuk had shot up straight in bed, breath racing and voice coming in hasty, self-realising whispers, we’re almost there, so close, we’re actually doing this.

and they are. they’re inches away from what they’ve all been striving for, now.

bobby had always wondered how it’d be, if it had just been the three of them. just like it had been in the start. just the three of them. hanbin, jinhwan, bobby. the unbeatable trio, bobby used to joke during dinner, back in the day. rap, dance, vocals. they’ve got it covered.

jinhwan had given him that trademark look, and had just said, big dreams for a little kid.

you’re one to talk, hanbin had commented offhandedly.

man, had he gotten it from jinhwan, that day.

but, now?

now, bobby can’t imagine taking the stage without the others. without all six of them, right up there on stage. the other five, right next to him. team b. but not as team b. winner, maybe. yeah. winner. the syllables feel awkward in his mouth, but he shrugs the feeling off. they’ve got this.

they’ll be winner. all six of them. they haven’t done all this for nothing.

bobby leans back in his chair, glances over at where hanbin is lying down, spread out across the couch, snapback tilted at an angle over his face, and says, “hey.”

“mm,” answers hanbin.

bobby nudges his foot. “hey,” he repeats, and hanbin tugs the cap down, looks up at him, eyes half-lidded, the sleep evident in the lines of his face. “go home. i’ll take over until tomorrow.” they still have some work to do on the original song. they still haven’t tracked vocals over teddy’s song, either. hanbin’s been worrying himself to pieces over their schedule, and all bobby wants to do is shove him back into a bed and make him stay there for the next year or so. but he’s a little too realistic to afford those thoughts. those thoughts go stuffed into a corner of his mind, tucked away along with all the other hanbin-thoughts that he doesn’t allow himself to ponder on for too long.

“then you’ll just be alone.” hanbin tugs himself back up, and lets out a monstrous yawn, stretching till his joints pop. “working alone is boring as fuck. i’d know.”

“yeah, yeah.” bobby reaches out with a hand. “come here.”

hanbin considers this for a moment, before getting up to drop into the chair beside bobby, scooting closer until bobby’s arm rests easily along the line of his shoulders. “you gonna ease me out?” asks hanbin teasingly. the double-meaning isn’t hard to catch. bobby flicks his temple and snorts. cheeky kid. thinking he can bypass surveilance with thinly-veiled remarks and sharp comments.

“keep dreaming.” bobby lets their heads fall together, even as they observe their work on the screen. comfortable. easy. they’re only missing one piece of the puzzle. but working like this has always been a hanbin-and-bobby thing. the same way those fleeting touches and everchanging expressions are a jinhwan-and-hanbin thing. the same way the too-honest conversations at odd hours of the night are a bobby-and-jinhwan thing.

the puzzle comes together several ways. but in the end, all the pieces are needed to complete it.

in the same way, bobby is content to let hanbin rest his head along the dip of his neck, just until the sun comes up. just until he can sink his attention into the curve of jinhwan’s smile when he opens the door to find them here, just until he can settle back into the comfort of jinhwan’s hand on the small of his back during dance practices, just until he can find the same old wishful thinking.

(he’s the one who keeps dreaming, really.)

junhwe is the one who comes up with hanbin’s birthday surprise. he comes up with most of the surprises, here. past birthdays, little events with the other trainees. he’d been the one to orchestrate the prank on jinhwan, too. excitable thing, he is, whenever it comes to things like these.

“track over it,” he tells bobby, grinning widely. “he won’t know what’s coming.”

“you guys are awful,” comments donghyuk, shaking his head. “who’s paying for the cake?”

“not it,” goes half the room immediately.

it’s almost amusing to see the blood drain out of hanbin’s face, later, when he’s told by one of the staff members that he’s going to have to rework the entire song. bobby can only imagine how he’s feeling. he nearly cackles when hanbin returns and sits slumped in a chair, only moving to run the song once more to see what he can switch about.

“well, at least we’ll be up all night on your birthday,” says bobby sombrely, and hanbin just presses his face against the desk in frustration.

and it’s an even better feeling when hanbin glances up in utter confusion at the horrifying voice singing happy birthday over the track. bobby holds up their hastily-scribbled homemade birthday card (happy birthday, you fool!) for the cameras as the others grin madly at hanbin’s reaction. hanbin threatens to hit them all, but the smile on his face is wider than anything bobby’s seen in the past few days. it’s beautiful.

and the party hats were totally yunhyung’s idea.

“happy birthday, hanbin-ah,” says jinhwan fondly, patting his shoulder, and hanbin beams back, halfway through a packet of fries. the staff had treated them to a round of mcdonalds. pre-battle days have never tasted sweeter than the big mac in bobby’s hands. “sorry we didn’t get you anything proper.”

“you don’t need to,” says hanbin, and it’s honest, the words are. everything about hanbin is honest. sincere. believable. “i have all of you here already.”

“isn’t that line from a movie?” comments yunhyung playfully, and bobby guffaws. “you’re losing touch with your originality, hanbin.”

“hush,” says hanbin, “or i’ll reduce your lines.”


later at night, bobby makes up for their lack of a present for hanbin by snatching him away to the kitchen, and sitting him down in front of jinhwan and bobby for a shared bowl of ramyun with a little happy birthday placard sticking out of a fishball. and it’s totally a present. bobby doesn’t just cook for anyone in particular.

“cute,” comments hanbin, smiling up at them as he spoons soup into his mouth. “i’m surprised you let bobby-hyung near the stove at all, jinhwan-hyung.”

“he had adult supervision,” says jinhwan mildly, waving away bobby’s indignance.

“do you want me to bring the party hats out again?”

hanbin taps bobby’s nose with the end of his chopsticks. “that’ll be the end of you.”

“brat,” says bobby, but it’s too affectionate to be anything other than a pet name, and hanbin makes a face at the word.

“well,” says jinhwan, “we would have given you something other than the noodles, but i don’t think it’d be fit for broadcast.”

the words send hanbin spluttering, and bobby laughing soundlessly.

jinhwan smiles. a mischievous thing when he wants to be. “relax,” he says, reaching over to thump hanbin on the back. hanbin swallows his mouthful of noodles, and levels a glare in their direction. “just kidding.”

“yeah, well.” hanbin clears his throat. “i wasn’t kidding, you know. i mean. i really am just satisfied with everyone here.” he adds, voice quieter now, “with the both of you, here.”

the room is silent, minus the sound of their breathing, utensils clacking, and the whir of fans.

“good,” says jinhwan, finally, “because you’re not getting rid of us that easily.”

hanbin smiles, slow-spreading. “good,” he replies. “i’m glad.”

bobby reaches over and ruffles his hair. “happy birthday,” he says again, and lets his hand linger on hanbin’s cheek just a second too long, and he repeats, softer, “happy birthday, hanbin.”

“yeah,” comes hanbin’s voice, and it’s a bare whisper now, though his smile is still present. “thanks, guys.”

they still have time to figure this out. there’s a time and place for everything.

all they need for now is the understanding that runs between them, and the smiles that match in coherent silence.

(they eat amidst easy conversation until three in the morning. bobby likes it like this. conversation that flows without a rock in its way to cease its steady streaming. when hanbin and bobby are put at the same table, the words never stop. but when jinhwan joins them, the words take a turn for quality, instead of quantity.

jinhwan watches bobby and hanbin battle for the final fishball for about five minutes, before he picks it straight out of the bowl and pops it into his mouth. bobby and hanbin stare at each other for a good five seconds before jinhwan waves cheerfully, and slips away to his room with a last greeting of goodnight.

“knew it,” comments hanbin, dropping his chopsticks into the bowl, and bobby shakes his head.)

this is all they need.

the final stage is not nearly as wide as the stage he sees in his dreams, not by a mile, but it’s getting closer. this is as close as it gets, for now. and he’ll take it with arms outstretched.

it’s a rush of moments, of crowds of people and hurried staff members, of hastily plastered-over in-ear tape and last minute whispered reruns of lyrics and pats on the back all around, of their team getting ready to go up there and do what they were meant to do. do what they were brought together for. and that’s to take the crowd by storm.

to show everyone who the winner really is.

towards the end is where it gets tougher to sit still. team a is out there, performing their song, and even though bobby’s eyes are trained on the screen backstage, where the rest of them are monitoring the onstage performance, he can’t help but wonder what it’ll be like when they’re out there one last time. one last stage. one last performance.

his limbs are aching (their limbs are aching) but the adrenaline that runs through him (that runs through them) is enough to keep him (keep them) going for days.

this is their time.

two seats away, donghyuk is absently rubbing at his shoulder, still a little sore from the tumbling, and on one side, hanbin’s gaze is completely still, focused on the monitor before them. the other has jinhwan quietly observing the screen as well. behind, yunhyung is mouthing lyrics to himself quietly, and junhwe has fallen back into his nervous knee-jiggling habit.

there are bare minutes left before it’s their turn again. a skeleton frame of time that encloses the air around them, that squeezes tight and reminds them that it’s almost them, it’s almost them, it’s almost them.

bobby can barely wait.

seeing his mother’s face on the screen, just a few moments prior—that had been enough to threaten to set off the waterworks, almost. but bobby is stronger than that. bobby—he can’t let himself cry. not now. not yet. there’s a time and place for everything, rings a familiar voice in his head.

she’d seemed so proud, though. so had his brother. bobby recalls their smiles, the looks on their faces. he hopes he can live up to those expectations. he just hopes.

“hey,” comes hanbin’s voice from beside him, and bobby turns to see him, just looking at bobby, that same old contemplative expression on his face. “you’re thinking too loud.”

the words are familiar. bobby takes comfort in them, and lets his lips twist into a smile. “and when do i ever not?” he replies. easy banter. hanbin knows these returns as well as he does. and bobby knows that hanbin does. “and you,” adds bobby, “both of you.” hanbin shifts, close enough that their shoulders brush. jinhwan leans in out of familiarity. “you’re both thinking too quietly. i can’t hear you guys.”

“what did you want to hear?” jinhwan’s eyes curve when he smiles, this time. bobby hopes the final stage won’t take away too much of that smile. “how terrified we are about the performance?”

“not that.” the side of bobby’s hand grazes gently against hanbin’s, and then jinhwan’s. it’s a risk. it is the roll of a dice with a prayer that none of the faces show up. it is bobby letting his hands creep closer, until his palms are half over the top of hanbin’s hand and the curve of jinhwan’s thumb, warmth emanating, skin against skin. hanbin lets out a barely-there breath, but doesn’t pull away. jinhwan just looks down at their hands, all three sets of hands, quietly. “you know,” says bobby. soft, teasing. “how glad you are that i’m here right next to you two.”

to his credit, hanbin only lets out a tiny little bark of a laugh, shaking his head. “you think way too highly of yourself,” he says, but he lets his hand turn over. palm to palm. bobby’s fingers thread between his, light and unexpecting. “but i am,” continues hanbin, not meeting bobby’s gaze. “i’m glad.”

“me too,” says jinhwan, and their hands slip together too. more warmth. more assuagement. if they had been standing, it would have been close enough for hanbin to curl his fingers around jinhwan’s too. “i just,” says jinhwan, “i’m glad it’s the both of you.”

and, oh. bobby wonders if this is the adrenaline now, that’s making his heart race this fast—or is it just the way hanbin and jinhwan’s grips on bobby’s hands tighten when team a finishes their performance onscreen, falling into the interval period between their stages? perhaps both. and maybe, it’s just tinged by the fear that never seems to depart, the fear that always arises in his chest. but there is no time for fear now, not in these moments.

“we have to stand-by, now,” says hanbin, and their hands pull apart. “come on.” hanbin raises his voice just enough for the rest of the members’ attention to be hooked, and he says, “showtime, guys.”

bobby breathes in; anticipation. and he breathes out; alacrity.

the remaining footsteps will come to him. they will. he’ll meet them running.

what’s the limit, anyway?

(there is none.)

he hears his name amidst the scrambled shouts and screams syllable-bare; he hears his name and the names of the others too. he hears bobby junhwe donghyuk hanbin yunhyung jinhwan and he hears the echo of their exhilaration falling back onto them, from the animated audience to the slow-setting lights that shine down upon them now.

the stage is doused in a dim blue-grey, but every sound that pierces the air comes in technicolour.

he catches donghyuk’s light smile as the opening piano intro floats through the air, an almost comical moment where donghyuk falters just a couple seconds behind the recording, before he lifts his microphone, words nearly staggering in his throat. but he dares to push forward. he dares, and he does.

and the words are true. she had appeared in his dreams, last night. she’d looked older. it had scared him so much. but her words had come gentle. like the earnest wind that blows across the shore on a spring-born march evening. honest. true. much like the words he lets the world know of, now.

i’ll pick you up, my earnest person.

and he sees the tears. he looks out to the audience and they’ve gotten it, they’ve taken each and every word he’s let spill forth, every rhyme he’s let flow, and they understand, don’t they? they know, now, just how much he would give for this. just how much he has in for this.

the voices of the other members soar from behind him.

he nearly forgets to keep in time when hanbin steps into his verse, walking down the main stage to the enclave portion. they’d had the rehearsal, and bobby had seen the way the stage had been planned out during hanbin’s lines, but it still hadn’t prepared him completely for it.

the lights slam on, ablaze. and god, the words hit hard. and seeing hanbin under those lights hits equally as hard. the words in his throat are hoarse when he screams hanbin’s name, when he shouts for hanbin to tell them, tell the entire world just what this means to all of them.

it takes all of his breath, it leaves him with none left.

(and maybe?)

bobby thinks maybe, just maybe, if he reaches out far enough, he could touch the sky.

just maybe.

the tears do end up coming, in the end.

they flood his messsage to his mother, and he guesses it’s his fault that the rest of the team start to cry too. overwhelming emotions in the heat of the moment. it’s almost something out of a movie. but he’s here, living it, and living it with them, and he wouldn’t be anywhere else for anything in the world.

funnily enough, it is minho who cries the most out of all of them, later when they’re backstage again. bobby drapes himself across minho and shares his tears, and shares the fears that they both know are present. they find solace in each other, they do, and it is always fascinating how infectious the waterworks are. never stopping. only continuing the second another person fumbles and begins.

bobby almost laughs when he sees hanbin standing awkwardly next to minho some time later, patting his shoulder. their ages all differ, but hanbin has never been nervous around those older than him. it’s the thought of letting more tears fall that keeps hanbin at bay, perhaps. wanting to show some strength for the members who just can’t, not at this point in time. wanting to show that he’s still capable of reigning it in.

he doesn’t have to. but he does, anyway.

jinhwan wanders near the stage entrance. not daring to step too close. not daring to show too much of himself. he lets seunghoon wrap an arm around his shoulder, but that’s all he does. never too much else, not in the moments like these. too fragile, too easily fracturable. bobby wants to press him close and tell him that it’s okay to not hold back. but jinhwan won’t hear him.

bobby glances over, catches hanbin’s attention, and it’s enough for him to know everything that bobby wants to say to him. thank you. and it is just that.

and hanbin smiles, a barely noticeable, infinitesimal smile.

jinhwan finally trudges closer, and bobby doesn’t say a word. neither does hanbin. jinhwan lets himself float back towards them, searching, wanting, but still not daring at the same time. bobby reaches out, reaches towards him, reaches for him, and tugs him into a hug, the briefest one he can. hanbin just says, voice a low quaver, “we know.”

there’s a nod in reply. his hands are shaking, the microphone along with them. bobby wants to hold them, wants to hold them so tight that it’s impossible to ever let go, wants to tell him the exact same words that he couldn’t even bring himself to voice to hanbin. thank you. but jinhwan knows.

and jinhwan tugs away. but it’s obvious. they know each other better than they know themselves.

the words that go unsaid; the hands that meet instead.

there are no regrets, really. he stands on that stage again, one last time, and there are no regrets at all. even as the emcees’ voices ring out clear across the auditorium, he has no such qualms. besides. they’ve already sang the words. as sincere as the spotlight that shines down upon all eleven of them, now.

and now: who is next? who is next? who is next?

bobby holds his breath.

win, baby.

the trip back to the trainee’s building is long.

it’s even longer than usual.

and it is commendable, really, how they all manage to hold it in, despite there being no more cameras, and no more staff following them around. it’s only until they reach the room that hanbin slams the door a little too hard, and donghyuk chokes back a sob that’s been holding in his chest for hours now, and yunhyung sits down on the floor looking like he’s without another care left in the world, having left all his tears on the stage.

“fuck,” mutters junhwe, dropping his bag into a chair. he looks like he’s considering kicking it for a moment. in the end, he just slumps back against the wall, head in his hands. “fuck,” he repeats, for lack of a better word.

the room is quiet.

“we won’t know what’s next until they decide,” comes jinhwan’s voice quietly, from a corner. “got a text.”

“christ,” whispers hanbin, shoving his own phone back into his bag, “we’re never gonna catch a fucking break, are we.” he sounds like he’s about to shatter into pieces. bobby—god, bobby’s still lost in the moment of the stage. it feels almost surreal. they’ve—they’ve really lost? they’re done? that’s all they have to say for themselves, now?

“are we going to be split up?” asks donghyuk, voice trembling. attempting to pull himself back from careening off the edge, verging on tears. bobby crouches down beside where he’s sitting and ruffles his hair. attempting to make some comfort of the situation. it only causes donghyuk to hiccough quietly, rubbing at his face with his palms. “i hope we don’t.”

“well, it’s not like we’ll even have a choice.” hanbin slams his fist against the cupboard, a sharp, loud motion that resounds through the near-silent room, that takes everyone aback. bobby only manages to take a single step forward before hanbin’s uttering, “i’m sorry, guys. fuck, i’m sorry.”

“don’t blame yourself,” says jinhwan. even his voice sounds strained, now. bobby doesn’t even want to know what he’ll sound like if he opens his mouth. hell, bobby doesn’t even want to know what the look on his face is, right now, resolutely refusing to face the rest and choosing to fix his eyes on the floor before him instead. “you did your best. we all did our best. it just—it wasn’t enough.”

“it’s never going to be enough,” says yunhyung despondently. “they’re debuting. what’s going to happen to the rest of us?”

“more practice. more training.” junhwe doesn’t look up. “another survival show. god knows. that’s if they even keep us.”

“they wouldn’t.” jinhwan’s voice contains almost enough shivering hope to save them all. almost. and almost is still not enough. “and we could stay together. we will stay together. we’re a damn good team, okay? they wouldn’t split us up.”

“we don’t know that.” hanbin runs his hands through his hair in frustration, shaking his head. “we don’t know anything. fuck.” he stands up, and heads straight for the door. jinhwan is already on his feet, and bobby is always a step right behind. the other three don’t even need to say a word when hanbin wrenches the door open and walks out. the looks on their faces tell that they know who’s going to follow right after him immediately.

they end up trailing hanbin a couple of rooms down, both jinhwan and him. it’s with a pang bobby realises that hanbin’s retreated to their little room within the practice room, with the computer and the keyboard, their recording room that holds every trace of night-them. and maybe it says something that hanbin chooses to flee here, to the most familiar place in the building. but then again, maybe it doesn’t.

“hanbin,” calls jinhwan, and the door locks behind them before jinhwan continues, softer. “don’t.”

“don’t what?” hanbin can’t even look at them. “don’t be upset? don’t get mad? don’t care about the fact that we might not even get a chance after this?”

bobby finally finds his voice. “don’t run,” he says, and the words come out stilted, uneven, but it catches hanbin. it catches him and forces him to glance up, to meet their eyes, to see just how equally affected jinhwan and bobby are. and christ. what a leash they make. all three of them. it’s almost fascinating how, after all these years, their personalities have seemed to meld together in the strangest way. they know each other better than they know themselves, almost.

hanbin considers him for a moment. his fingers are distractedly toying with the hem of his jacket. a telltale sign that he’s more frustrated than anything. “i won’t,” he says, finally. “god, i’m—i’m sorry. i keep doing this. the last time too, fuck—i keep leaving you guys and i just—”

“it’s not just you,” says jinhwan, and bobby can hear the tears in his voice, despite how hard he’s trying to hold them back. jinhwan’s always had the mildest temperament of the three of them. it’s obvious hanbin can hear them too, with the way he shifts closer to them, torn between hanging back and placing a hand on jinhwan’s shoulder. “don’t blame yourself, okay? you’ve led the team well. so don’t beat yourself up for it too much.”

“but, hyung.” hanbin looks at them like he’s looking for a lifeline. for one of them to tell him that things are going to be okay. but their future is uncertain, and bobby doesn’t even know if he has the words to tell hanbin that things will be alright, no matter what happens. he doesn’t even have the words to tell that to himself. “we,” starts hanbin, biting his lip, “we tried so hard.”

“i know,” says jinhwan, and that’s all he can say. “i know,” he repeats, and hanbin moves forward, steps no longer hesitant. bobby is already ahead of him, drawing the both of them into his arms, and jinhwan sucks in a faint breath, saying, “if they even dare break us apart—”

“they won’t.” hanbin’s voice is determined. that haughty tone bobby’s missed. “i’ll fight for it.”

“you and whose army?” mutters bobby, and hanbin laughs noiselessly, knuckling a fist against bobby’s temple. “don’t you remember what jinhwan-hyung said? all of us will get fired even if one person goes to beg for it, anyway.”

jinhwan snorts, amused by his own words. “don’t jinx it,” he says.

they remain like that, for a moment. “we should go back to them,” says jinhwan. but they don’t separate. they don’t seem to be able to pull apart from each other. instead, jinhwan’s hold around the both of them only steadies, and the tiniest of breaths pulls itself from hanbin’s throat. “we should,” repeats jinhwan, but his actions contradict his words.

and there isn’t enough to describe exactly how bobby is feeling. there aren’t enough words in the world to mimic the thoughts that spark, that come, that fall. “jinhwan-hyung,” whispers hanbin, and bobby knows exactly what he means with those words. “i don’t know what this is.”

“this?” the corner of jinhwan’s mouth quirks up. “neither do i.”

“maybe we should figure it out, then,” says bobby, but jinhwan’s expression changes the second the words come out of his mouth. changes to something complicated, untelling. bobby can’t read him, for once. and he wonders if jinhwan is thinking the same about them. both of them.

this strange dance that the three of them are involved in.

one-step, two-step, three-step; repeat.

“yeah?” hanbin steps back. jinhwan is the first to step forward, and they fall back into place. lone pawns on a chessboard smaller than they know. “go on,” says hanbin boldly. but he takes another step back, and another, and jinhwan echoes those steps in reverse, until hanbin’s back is touching the wall, and jinhwan has overestimated his step, moving too close to pass this off as any other moment but this one.

in the process of backing up, hanbin’s cap has fallen off. bobby doesn’t know what he’s trying to do when he steps closer and reaches up to card his fingers through hanbin’s hair, messy and unkempt. hanbin doesn’t stop looking at either of them, though.

it’s the strangest thing, when bobby lets his hand trail down the back of hanbin’s hair, stopping at the nape of his neck, his other hand coming down to cup his chin. “it’s going,” murmurs bobby, and jinhwan matches the motion too, even as bobby’s hand falls to hanbin’s shoulder, even as jinhwan lifts a palm to hanbin’s face.

jinhwan’s thumb grazes over hanbin’s bottom lip. the breath that hanbin lets out is enough to make him feel the anticipation that hums in the space between the three of them.

“don’t do it if you’ll just regret it,” whispers hanbin, eyes flickering between bobby’s gaze and jinhwan’s mouth, and it’s obvious, the hesitance in hanbin’s voice, despite the biting challenge in his words. he’s never—hasn’t ever—hanbin’s never even kissed anyone before, and bobby is just here, floating.

but it’s when hanbin’s fingers, barely noticeable in their motion, find purchase in the hem of bobby’s shirt, just the slightest little tug, that’s when bobby forgets himself. he forgets everything about anything surrounding them, and closes the gap between them, the few inches that stand.

hanbin’s mouth is warm. soft. bobby leaves only the lightest brush of lips against his, but hanbin’s hand curls tighter into his shirt. “jiwon-hyung,” he says. it’s the tremble in his voice that catches him. bobby kisses him again, and it only comes with a tighter feeling in his chest.

the soft sound that hanbin makes when jinhwan gently kisses hanbin’s neck, right under his ear, is accompanied by the motion of hanbin’s free hand sliding up into jinhwan’s hair, curling hesitantly. it is new. it is terrifying. it is the three of them figuring everything out for the first time, all over again.

it is the look in hanbin’s eyes when bobby pulls away to let jinhwan kiss him instead. it is the look in jinhwan’s eyes when bobby tugs him over and knocks their foreheads together faintly. it is the way bobby kisses jinhwan like there’s nothing else in the world that could sate the thirst that runs bone-dry.

“hey, hey,” comes hanbin’s voice from beside them, just barely teasing, “i’m still here.”

“patience is a virtue,” says jinhwan, and he falls quiet when hanbin drapes himself across both of them again, arms around their shoulders, even as bobby pulls back to just take in what’s happened. the moment catching in his chest, even as hanbin’s fingers stroke along the nape of his neck.

it is surprising. almost like something out of a movie, really. three of them, falling together. falling for each other. not that bobby would go so far as to use the word—but it’s close. it’s damn close. it’s getting too close to be called anything else, and bobby doesn’t know what he’s more scared of: what, or who.

“okay?” asks bobby quietly, against jinhwan’s mouth, in between the breaths that unfurl in the air-conditioned air, “is this okay?”

a shudder. a pause. jinhwan’s words come out as if there is sleep in his throat, logging the words down. “yeah,” he gets out, and his eyes fall shut, for a brief moment. “it’s more than okay.”

“even if it isn’t,” says hanbin, “it’ll be—it’ll be okay. it will.”

“yeah?” says bobby, but his pulse is thundering murderously in his throat, for all that he sounds calm. or perhaps, he just thinks he sounds calm. maybe, he sounds just as breathless as hanbin does, even though they’ve done nothing but trade barely eight, half-second each kisses, within the span of two minutes. “okay then,” says bobby, swallowing hard. “we’re figuring this out.”

“we are,” echoes jinhwan. and his hands are trembling again, aren’t they? one in bobby’s hair, and the other fisted into hanbin’s shirt, but the tremors are obvious, and the fear is obvious, and bobby’s hands find their way to hanbin’s, and then to jinhwan’s. their fingers thread together, and their hands fall between them. a complete link. jinhwan’s gaze doesn’t shift the entire time. “if anyone—” begins jinhwan, voice softer than it’s ever been before, and bobby shakes his head.

“no one will find out.” bobby absently bites the inside of his cheek. “no one.” but that’s unpredictable, isn’t it? no one can know if there might be a camera hidden in the corner, or a staff member walking past, or even someone they know, turning the knob to the door and stumbling upon something that should never released to public domain.

“you can’t promise that.” and even hanbin sounds like he wants to tear himself away and walk straight to the door, but all he does is lean back into both their reaches, as if it’s all he wants to do for the rest of the night—and it probably is.

it’s what bobby wants to do, too.

time is a commodity, and privacy the one thing they can never be spared, though. this moment is rare enough. who says they will even get any more like this one, right here? “you can’t promise that,” echoes jinhwan, sounding more confused that anything.

“i know.” their fingers are all still entwined. bobby doesn’t think he wants to ever let go.

and they are young. this could—this could destroy them. destroy all of them. forget the notions of care. the notion that the unnatural occurs behind closed doors in this very building, behind these very doors, is enough to completely destroy all chances of them even letting their names surface in the rippling industry ocean. they are both so young.

but the comfort that spreads with each second means so much more than all of that.

they tug away with all the restraint they possess in their limbs. bobby straightens out his shirt, pats his hair back down, and watches jinhwan do the same, hanbin as well. the clock-hands resume their regular scheduled activity. time flashes back to the present; no time like the present. bobby watches the way jinhwan swipes the pads of his fingers over his mouth subconsciously, as if gauging what had just happened, before letting his gaze fall.

“i have to go see the company executives in the morning,” comes hanbin’s voice, rough around the edges. “they’re going to see what will happen to the rest of us.”

bobby pretends that the words don’t strike fear in his chest just as much as the thought of letting hanbin go alone does. jinhwan just says, “you think they’ll disband us?”

hanbin’s laugh is unassuming. “that’s if we’re even a band anymore, at this point.”

it stings. the reality of that statement stings. but bobby sucks the air back into his lungs and nods. the idea of having to go back to where he’d came from, with nothing to show for it, scares him more than anything else. the idea of having nothing to show after four years of being seas away from the people he cares about the most.

the people he cares about the most. he wonders, now, about that category. does—does jinhwan—and does hanbin, now—

“hey.” hanbin nudges him in the shoulder. “it’ll be fine.” his voice is firm. steady. the way it is on the nights where no one can bring themself to believe anymore. the way it is when bobby finds himself slumped against the desktop, head in his hands. the way it just is. “we’ll be just fucking fine.”

and bobby wants to believe that. god, does he want to.

“we?” bobby settles for asking, just before jinhwan’s hand closes around the doorknob, “or us?”

hanbin lets out an exhale. “both,” he answers, and he beckons ahead with his chin. “come on. we should check on the others.”

“yeah.” bobby steps out after him and jinhwan, and can’t help himself when he asks again, “do you think this is worth it?”

jinhwan’s voice comes mildly. “do you?”

bobby already knows the answer to that.

they call it a holiday. in reality, all it is for them is a safeguard. in reality, all it is for him is a return, in turn.

he takes the earliest flight, five in the morning, bags in tow, bearing his excitement in the same manner the others had worn theirs: filled to the brim with cheer. the old kick back in the heels of his kicks. there is nothing better than going home, he thinks.

nothing better.

they'd given him a handheld for the week. document your trip, they'd said. that had been all they'd said. no notion of a why. but he knows better than to question the way anything happens, these days. he'll take it as it is.

“have fun,” hanbin had said, clapping him on the shoulder, beaming. “take lots of photos for us. don’t forget to tell your mom we said hi.”

the camera nearly runs out of battery even before he’s halfway across the ocean.

the air really isn’t different. it’s been three years, three going on four, but everything is the same. and yet, nothing is the same at all. the gravel crunches beneath his feet as he makes his way across the tarmac and through the gates, pulse thrumming with excitement.

he’s finally home.

his brother catches him in a tight one-armed hug. he’s still as tall as bobby remembers. but bobby’s gotten taller now, too. “hey,” says his brother, smiling, and bobby smiles right back at him, and god, it’s almost like looking in a mirror. he’s missed this so much. “took you long enough.”

“yeah, well,” says bobby, adjusting the handheld camera in his palm and pulling his cap back. the old habit. “you’d rather i swam here?”

“please,” laughs his brother. bobby can’t help the laugh that bubbles out of his own chest.

there aren’t any words for this. none at all.

they drive straight to church. it’s a sunday morning, and bobby’s far from wearing his sunday best, but his brother waves it off and says that everyone’s waiting for him there, anyway. “besides,” he adds, voice softer, “mom’s been waiting.”

and maybe bobby’s afraid. he knows—they video-call, they talk over kakaotalk, they send stickers back and forth sometimes, on the nights bobby can’t seem to fall asleep on his own—but still. it has been four years. they haven’t seen each other in person for so long. so many things could have changed.

they have. she’s smaller than he remembers. maybe it’s his height. maybe it’s her age, bearing her bones down in the winters that lapse. maybe it’s the shoes he’s wearing, kicks a little too flashy for a simple sunday morning service like the one he’s just traipsed into. everyone looks on and smiles and coos. all bobby can hear is her voice, and her joyful call of, “jiwon.”

“mom,” he says, and it’s all her can say, it’s all the words that will come, even as he wraps his arms around her (and hopes to never have to let go). she tears up, and bobby jokes his own tears away, but everyone knows, anyway.

the week seems to speed past too fast.

he manages to catch up with those he’d left behind. a couple of friends, here and there. they make friendly fun of his hair and his piercings and ask him if everything they’d seen on win had been scripted or kept real. they laugh at his stories about the other trainees, and thump his back when he mentions a few good things, here and there. it’s not the same as before. but it’s just as good. he’ll settle for this, just as well.

“you cried so much on that show,” says his brother, patting his cheek fondly over dinner one evening, and bobby shoots him a look. “never knew you were that kind of kid.”

“hey,” says bobby indignantly, “you would have done the exact same thing if you were in that position.”

his brother just smiles. “probably would have been worse.” there’s a pause. “you know,” he adds, “you’ve always been stronger than i am.”

bobby blinks. “huh?”

“you know.” his brother shrugs. “i could have never done all of that. leave here. train the way you do. work so hard that it becomes all you think about.”

“it’s not all i think about,” says bobby, but the dry feeling in the back of his throat says the opposite. “but—”

“really.” his brother spoons more rice onto bobby’s plate while he’s talking. “i’m proud of you, jiwon.”

bobby glances down at his plate for a moment, before looking back up, and smiling slightly. “thanks, hyung.”

his brother just reaches over to ruffle his hair lightly. “wish you could stay longer,” he says, and there’s that tone of regret in his voice. bobby knows it well. he hears it in his own voice, most times. “i’m going to miss you, kid.”

“just wait,” says bobby, pointing his fork at him. “i’m going to bring all of you home with me, one day. just wait.”

“we’ll wait.” his brother shakes his head in amusement. “don’t worry about that.”

and there it goes. one week. just like that.

“mom,” he says, on the last night, flopping down onto the bed right next to her. he feels like he’s thirteen all over again. the way she turns to smile at him. the way their heads are bumping slightly as he scoots closer, holding the camera in the air. part of him says it’s just for the staff to have whatever footage they want. the other part of him says it’s to remember this night for as long as he can. as long as it’s possible to do so. “my mom,” he says, like they’re the last words he’ll ever say.

“my son,” she says in return, voice scratchy with sleep. but her tone is as bright as ever. “mm. i love this.”

“you do?” her arm is warm around him. bobby wants to fall asleep like this. him and his mom. age slips away when things like these come to play. “me too.”

there’s nothing better at all.

he steps foot back in the dorms a day later. the others crowd him, ask him about his trip. all bobby wants to do is sleep away the high that he’s coming down from. all bobby wants to do is lie down and not think about the people he’s left behind for the second time, now.

jinhwan sits on the edge of his bunk, later that same night, and strokes behind his ear, little soothing motions that he knows will always undo bobby. “did you have fun?” he asks, simply. jinhwan is such a simple creature. bobby envies this, sometimes. how casually jinhwan handles everything. from the unending practices to being away from home for so long.

“yeah,” answers bobby, and jinhwan makes a sound that could mean, good.

“sleep, now.” there’s a movement. bobby turns to see jinhwan, bending over him, just hesitating. maybe about to press a kiss to his forehead. possibly leaning over to brush the hair back off his face. instead, jinhwan breathes in, and kisses bobby in full. the soft, tender brush of lips to lips. bobby likes jinhwan’s kisses so much. they seem to contrast so well, jinhwan and hanbin do, when it comes to the way they handle bobby. sleepy-warm, to fire-bright. “goodnight,” murmurs jinhwan, tucking a hand under his chin, thumbing over his lip.

“goodnight,” replies bobby, and he watches jinhwan slide off the bed, watches him pad over to the door, and flick the light off, before shutting the door behind him. he’s still rooming with donghyuk, but donghyuk is still indulging in a late-night television show with yunhyung in the living room, and probably won’t come in until bobby’s long-past the point of sleep.

the darkness seems to reflect his mind.

it’s probably the third, the fourth, the tenth, the fiftieth time he’s wondered now: how did he get here? how has all of this fallen into place the way it has? how have things worked up to where they are now?

and he guesses—just guesses. maybe it’s because of that one word. that word called—

the door opens. donghyuk stumbles in and nearly knocks his foot against the cupboard by the door, biting back a swear. “goodnight, hyung,” he mumbles, making his way to his bed, before promptly passing out on top of the sheets.

bobby just laughs quietly.

and, well. that word doesn’t have to be said now, does it? he’s got the rest of his life to figure that out. or, more like they’ve got the rest of their lives to figure out. together. for now, all that matters is the slick slide of the stage beneath their soles, and the burning lights that shine upon them from above. that’s all that matters, really.

bobby tugs the blanket up, presses his face against the warmth of his pillow, and lets himself pretend that it’s the winter of twenty-twelve all over again.

maybe it’s the way they stay up late into the night, and there the progression runs again. the same old melody that they’ve always known. the harmony that comes together when all three sit slumped along worn-in chairs and worn-out desks. the calluses on the tips of bobby’s fingers match the weariness under hanbin’s eyes. but the soft cheer that jinhwan brings matches the hope that sits in bobby’s palms as well.

maybe it’s the way the scene repeats itself so many times that bobby can’t keep track of the time anymore.

“the song needs to be good,” murmurs hanbin, eyes scanning the screen of the computer before him. “i overheard the staff saying it’s going to be for the new show.”

bobby sits up straight. “what new show?”

hanbin shrugs. “dunno,” he answers, “maybe some kind of reality thing. like win tv or something. following the lives of six yg trainees? who knows.”

“whatever it is,” says jinhwan, “as long as something good comes out of it, in the end.”

“something will.” hanbin makes a series of clicks with the mouse. “i know something will.”

too hopeful, maybe. hanbin has been a curious mix of too-hopeful and too-jaded, ever since win had ended. but who hasn’t been the same, really? everyone is hoping for the same thing. everyone has had near-similar experiences. they’re all growing into the new year with little left to spare, and too much given away.

but there is so much more to go before any of their candles burn out.

“you think yunhyung can take this part?”

“yeah.” jinhwan leans into hanbin’s space, chin resting on his shoulder easily. “he’s been sounding less strained with his high notes recently.”

“mm.” hanbin scribbles a note down, passes it to bobby.

they work in silence, as they usually do. the quiet nights that always follow through. in all reality, they have weeks before the song is due. but hanbin and bobby will always insist on working until it no longer feels new, until the song is steeped in their bones and ringing in the aches in their wrists after days of palms resting across keyboards and keyboards, writing cue after cue.

ending early is a godsend. they lock up behind them, bags slung over their shoulders, before they return. making a detour to the convenience store nearby is second nature. they get ramyun and soda and discuss in hushed voices which sudoku book to get for seunghoon’s birthday.

“he doesn’t even like sudoku,” says hanbin.

“exactly,” says bobby, a giggle catching on the back of his teeth. hanbin smacks the back of his head. jinhwan just sighs, and fishes one of the books off the magazine rack.

the streetlights are dim, the sidewalks bare.

bobby tugs them closer as they walk, arms slung around both of them. it takes a moment, though, the old hesitant moment, before the tense angle of their shoulders lowers. bobby presses his face against the top of jinhwan’s head, curls his fingers into hanbin’s jacket collar, and says, “this is nice.”

“sap,” says hanbin, but he leans in anyway. “hey,” he says, as they reach their block, “this won’t last, will it?”

“will what?”

“you know.” this. us. the group? team b. the three of us? what we have going right now. all of this. the dream. the work. the passion. the way your hands feel in mine. “this.”

none of them know how to answer that.

but it’s okay.

(or, maybe, just maybe—

reverse, rewind, replay.

the year is twenty-eleven.)

bobby traces the outline of his name on the signed form with the pads of his fingers.

he doesn’t know when he’ll come home.

but all he knows is that he’s going to go there, and build a home.

“you can do this,” he whispers to himself. “you’ve got this.”

the way his name seems to shine back at him, written in hasty blue ballpoint pen ink, kim jiwon, bobby, it makes him believe that yeah. maybe he does have this. maybe he can do this. he will do this. he will.

he will.

there are these chances, and then there is bobby.

(reverse, rewind, replay.

back to the beginning.