Hanbin is ignoring Bobby.
It’s not as uncommon as the forgiving magic of Mnet editing would have one believe, and Hanbin has gotten so good at it over the years—at ignoring Bobby, especially—that it’s unnoticeable to all but Jinhwan, who is more than happy to let Bobby deal with it so long as he makes sure it stays between them. As if Hanbin hasn't been compartmentalizing his feelings since an age when most boys were just discovering they exist.
So, the fact remains. Hanbin is ignoring Bobby, even if he is doing it in the most unobtrusive way possible.
Thursday starts off inauspicious enough. Bobby oversleeps his alarm by two minutes, chasing down the last moments of a favorite dream. When he finally rouses himself, the shower is already running, Hanbin inside it humming loudly and poorly, audible even over the spray. Around this time they’re usually jostling for sink space as they step on each other’s feet, but Bobby brushes his teeth with a luxurious amount of elbow room, only realizing after he's already spit that he had been using Hanbin's toothbrush.
Breakfast is always a chaotic affair, even more so now that they have actual schedules. Their managers make it through the ordeal of getting everyone fed just enough that they won’t faint but not enough to bloat at the shoot they have this morning, and then it’s off to the van. Bobby catches at the bend of Hanbin’s elbow, wanting to secure his favorite shoulder headrest for the long ride to the studios, but Hanbin steps away in one deft move, nudging Yunhyung next to Bobby instead. Weird. But in the end, a shoulder’s a shoulder, and Yunhyung’s is as good as any, if not as good as Hanbin’s.
A fifteen-minute nap and Bobby feels alive again. He stretches wide, reaching across the aisle. He grins when he accidentally-on-purpose knocks Donghyuk’s glasses off, making him jump. Next to him, Chanwoo’s chin slips off his hand, his forehead hitting the glass of the window with a resounding smack. Bobby turns around to catch Hanbin’s eye for a laugh, but Hanbin is already laughing with Junhwe about something, teeth a flash of white in the shadow of the back seat. A quick glance, a twist of the mouth, and Bobby knows they were laughing at him, not Chanwoo.
Bobby turns back around, sudden irritation flaring through him. He knows this game.
When they get to the studio fifteen minutes later, he pretends he’s lost his ring in between the car seats, dropping to his knees to pat at the sticky carpeted floor. He waves away Yunhyung’s offer to help, ducking his head to let him step around him. When Hanbin emerges from the back behind Junhwe, Bobby is ready, arm shooting out to push him down.
Hanbin sits back down with a hard thump, scowling. Before he can get up again, though, Bobby braces an arm across his thighs.
“Are you ignoring me?” he demands. Preemptive, maybe, Bobby doesn’t believe in letting things fester.
“Yeah,” Hanbin says. He meets Bobby’s eyes as he says it, his mouth tucking down into more of a frown than usual.
Despite the confirmation, Bobby is relieved. It’s easier when he knows, and Hanbin could easily let him suffer. That he owned up to it so readily means it’s salvageable.
“Why?” Bobby gets up, dusting his knees of crumbs of whatever gross shit Chanwoo and Yunhyung are always eating. His ring, like he’d ever lose it in a car, falls out of his shirt when he leans forward, dangling on its chain in the space between him and Hanbin.
“You know why,” Hanbin says, still frowning. He jumps up now that Bobby’s no longer bearing down on his lap, ignores the hand Bobby offers, and tumbles out the door.
Hanbin keeps it up all the way through the morning shoot, lunch, and drive back to practice. A placid, steadfast campaign of ignoring Bobby, dividing the time he would've spent with Bobby amongst everyone else instead. Junhwe won't think anything of the extra two minutes he gets with Hanbin, but Bobby definitely notices the sudden vacuum of Hanbin's companionship.
It's strange to adjust to at first, and Bobby finds himself putting his hand out more than once to lean on a shoulder that’s instead halfway across the room, knocking against Donghyuk's. The third time Bobby finds himself turning to Hanbin to finish a joke only to find him next to Jinhwan twenty meters away, Bobby decides he might as well have fun with it, see if he can't get Hanbin to crack.
At lunch he hams it up, stealing food from Jinhwan's tray to feed to Chanwoo and from Junhwe's tray to feed to himself. As they get back in the van, he almost manages to maneuver Hanbin into the backseat with him, though Hanbin notices in time and pulls Jinhwan in between them. So Bobby lies across Jinhwan's lap, pulling his hoodie tight around his face and wriggling like a worm. From his vantage point, Bobby can see Hanbin muffling a smile against his palm, trying to keep his expression stony. Bobby grins, rubbing against Jinhwan’s stomach. He's winning, he thinks.
At dance practice, Bobby fucks up an easy step on purpose, exaggerating the mistake. Up front, Bobby watches as the set of Hanbin's jaw grows even tenser. Still, he doesn't say anything, and Bobby takes a grim satisfaction in Hanbin's pointed avoidance.
"Hyung, you keep miscounting on the chorus buildup," Donghyuk scolds, his mock-stern tone imbued with some of the authority left over from his school president days. He karate chops the junction of Bobby’s shoulder and neck, tsking. They're on break, usually Bobby's cue to pull out Hanbin's left earphone so he can listen to what Hanbin's been working on, sometimes to offer an opinion Hanbin doesn't always ask for, sometimes just to admire the efficiency of Hanbin's talent.
"Did I?" Bobby asks innocently. "Isn't it—?” he asks, pushing against his body's protest into the mistake.
"Nah," Donghyuk says, form precise as he demonstrates. “The emphasis is on the first beat, you’ve almost got it though.”
"Ah," Bobby says, nodding. "Thanks for catching that, Donghyuk."
Donghyuk, a glutton for approval, beams. "No problem, hyung!" He drops his voice to a conspiratorial hush. "You're lucky Hanbin-hyung didn't notice." He glances over his shoulder at Hanbin behind them, hunched over a notebook in the corner with Chanwoo, talking, ostensibly, about line distribution. It's an obvious ploy. As if hawk-eyed Hanbin would miss such an obvious misstep.
"Yeah, I’m lucky," Bobby says. He reaches out to ruffle Donghyuk's hair, grinning at the sweat that flies everywhere. "Good thing I have you. I don't even need Hanbin anymore."
Donghyuk giggles, checking to see if Hanbin's listening even as he puffs out his chest. Of course Hanbin's listening. As if anything in the studio, his domain, could ever escape his notice. In the mirror, Bobby watches the tap of Hanbin's pen on the page pause, then start up again with renewed vigor, underlining a lyric so hard Bobby can almost hear the paper tear from across the room. Poor Chanwoo.
Poor him, Bobby thinks when Hanbin restarts practice. Donghyuk had gotten a pat on the butt and a light shove for his trouble. Bobby had gotten a wide, icy berth, as if he's an invisible obstacle Hanbin has acknowledged he must work around. They all take their positions again except for Hanbin, who crouches next to the camera to watch them. He sweeps a critical eye over all of them, checking beginning positions. Bobby feels Hanbin's indifferent gaze as it slides over him as acutely as he would have Hanbin’s approval, and suddenly it's not fun anymore.
He hates it when Hanbin’s mad at him.
The first time Bobby was subject to the full extent of Hanbin’s anger was a few days after their third evaluation as a team with Jinhwan, almost half a year into a friendship that Bobby knew and was pretty sure Hanbin also knew they were lucky to have found. It would've been difficult not to get along, considering their circumstances. But like every trainee, Bobby quickly learned the difference between closeness by choice and closeness by necessity.
It was a disastrous evaluation, somehow even worse than their first one together because three months meant there were expectations now, even if the truth of the matter was that they were still learning to work around each other. Jinhwan, self-confidence shaken by a series of failed auditions at other agencies, had a hard time reconciling the feeling that he should be taking care of Hanbin and Bobby and his desperation to prove himself worthy of this opportunity. Bobby, having just given up everything at fifteen on the bet of his own possibility, trusted Hanbin enough to subject himself to his direction but would never have it in his nature to dwell on anything with Hanbin's obsessive intensity. And Hanbin, a fourteen-year-old who'd barely had any time to adjust to being a teenage boy himself, didn't yet have any of the tact necessary to handle teenage boy egos, including his own.
They'd stood, eyes downcast, as the vocal trainer and dance teacher took turns playing good cop and bad cop, reading from a sheet of notes Yang-CEO had sent after reviewing their videotape. It was a pretty terrible tape, and even then it’d been the best of their attempts. They’d all winced on cue as their dance teacher started off the evaluation with a comment on their apparent lack of teamwork, scathing even filtered through someone else’s mouth. This was the incubation period for them still, when Yang-CEO on the seventh floor of official HQ was nothing more than a faraway, easily-invoked specter they'd only met a handful of times, as unlikely a figure to them as G-Dragon.
Trainees learned quickly that neither Yang-CEO’s favor nor the lack of it mattered much, at least not at this early point in their anonymity. Being a favorite was easier in some ways, but harder in a lot of ways. Hanbin, for example, always got chewed out almost twice as much at evaluations as Bobby did, and there was a limit to how constructive even Yang-CEO’s criticism could be. Sometimes it tread the line into just plain mean, Yang-CEO’s words biting into the softest parts of Hanbin's ego, targeting the faults Hanbin at fourteen—anyone at fourteen—couldn’t help. And knowing Hanbin, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t already thought all those things about himself, and then some.
“After reviewing your tape, I believe Bobby should be leader for the next evaluation,” their vocal trainer finishes. Whether it’s on purpose or not, Wonsuk always sounds stricter when he’s reading Yang-CEO’s comments.
It takes a minute for the words to process. Then Bobby looks up, mouth swinging open. He doesn’t need to see Jinhwan or Hanbin’s faces to picture the surprise and hurt that have to be there. “Me?” he asks, confused. “But—Hanbin’s leader.”
Wonsuk shrugs, looking uncomfortable. “It’s just for a month, to see how it works out. Besides, you know these kinds of things—leader, whatever—aren’t set anyway. It could be Jinhwan next time.”
It could be, but Hanbin’s leader. He just is. That’s indisputable. Hanbin is good at being leader, enjoys it for whatever reason, is constantly thinking about and noticing things neither he nor Jinhwan would.
“It’s only for the month,” Wonsuk repeats, cutting off Bobby’s protests. He starts putting his papers back in order, looking down. When he looks back up it’s with his usual sideways smile, though even that doesn’t do much to take the edge off his words. “Just do better at your next evaluation, kids.”
They can’t argue with that. Still, the minute Wonsuk leaves the room, Bobby turns to Hanbin. "I'm sorry," he says, reaching out a hand.
Hanbin scrunches his face at him, looking an awful lot like he's trying not to cry. "It's fine," he says, shrugging jerkily and taking a step backwards. "Yang-CEO’s right, I should've done better."
It takes an hour of tense practice the next day for Bobby to figure out that it’s not fine, that Hanbin is mad, and not in the way he was when Bobby ate the last of the practice room candy stash. At fifteen, he’s not much more adept than Hanbin is at reading emotions, but the storm of Hanbin’s face is slowly approaching national disaster level and Jinhwan’s eyebrows have been sending progressively more panicked rescue signals at him through the mirror.
Fifteen minutes of Hanbin's prickly silence later, Bobby stops practice, clicking off the music. The silence is broken only by the squeak of Bobby’s shoes against the hardwood floor as he leans against the computer console.
“Hanbin,” Bobby says, and the line of Hanbin’s shoulders straightens as if Bobby had shouted his name. “Are you—angry? With me?”
Vulnerability shutters in and out of Hanbin’s face before it closes down completely, his eyes going blank. “Nope,” he says, spinning the baseball cap on his head so the bill faces forward. “Can we get back to practice?”
To his left, Jinhwan lets out a shaky, wet exhale. Bobby feels a familiar tightening in his throat, and he has to raise his chin to combat the instinct. “Something’s wrong,” he says, trying for playful and ending up somewhere around uncertain. “Come on, Hanbin. Let’s talk it out.”
Hanbin's fists clench. "There's nothing to talk about," he says sharply. "Let's just get on with it."
Jinhwan is looking at the floor, blinking rapidly. Bobby feels himself skating on the thin edge of his own patience. He pushes away from the computer and goes to collect his stuff. "Fine," he says, shoving things into his backpack at random. "Then we're done with practice for the day. There's no point working like this."
Hanbin actually looks at him then. "What do you mean we're done?"
Bobby slings the backpack on over his shoulder. "We're done," he repeats. "I've got some homework to finish anyway. Go home, Jinhwan-hyung. Hanbin." He pauses at the door, giving Hanbin one last chance to say something. Nothing. The last thing he sees before he pushes the door open is Jinhwan, looking miserable, swiping an arm across his eyes as he packs up, and Hanbin, cap low over his face, getting into the opening position of their last evaluation routine, the song blaring tinny and weak from his phone.
"Hi," Hanbin says the next day. He's sitting down outside their practice room, hoodie zipped all the way up to his chin. His tone is neutral, an undercurrent of shame running beneath it.
"Hi," Bobby responds. He slides down the wall until he's next to Hanbin, not close enough to touch knees like he would usually, but close enough to feel the heat emanating from Hanbin's body. "Why are you out here?"
"Waiting for you and Jinhwan-hyung," Hanbin says.
"Okay," Bobby says. He pulls his beanie a little further down over his eyes, leaning back. He'd gone on a long walk yesterday instead of actually doing homework, ending up in a neighborhood he'd never been before. 7-11s were the same everywhere though, so he'd taken his time eating a cupful of his favorite ramen and pretending the stinging in his nose was just a result of the spice.
Jinhwan shows up three minutes later, color high in his cheeks. "Sorry I’m late," he says, then stops when he catches sight of them. "Are we locked out?"
"No," Hanbin says, getting up. "Uh, listen, do you guys want to get snacks? My treat."
Bobby and Jinhwan exchange a look. This was the year before Hanbin’s growth spurt, and he was still a little shorter than both of them, eyeline falling somewhere around Bobby’s upper lip. Usually Hanbin looked up and out when speaking to people to make up for it, but this time he kept his gaze at half-mast, looking at Bobby's face but not meeting his eyes. "It's okay, I'll treat," Jinhwan finally says. "I'm the hyung."
Bobby laughs a little, shrugs. "As long as I’m not paying." He rolls his ankles before he gets up, waiting for the satisfactory crack. Hanbin doesn't offer to help pull him up, but he does make an awkward, aborted movement like he's about to. It's a start.
By the time they sit down with their food (Hanbin and Jinhwan had split the cost after a staring match during which Bobby grabbed an extra packet of Pepero), Jinhwan's eyes have grown misty. He keeps swallowing and squinting into the rising steam of his coffee. Hanbin is mechanically shoving chips in his mouth, looking a little red around the eyes himself. The kimbap in Bobby's mouth is dry and thick. They all look like shit, nothing like a team with a capable leader should look, and it shames him. Bobby will never be as thorough or as observant or, okay, as pathologically controlling as Hanbin, but he knows there are some qualities he has—an unerring sense of cheer, the self-confidence to own up to his own faults—that he only wishes wouldn't desert him when he needs them most. He swallows, opening his mouth.
Hanbin beats him to it. "I'm sorry," he says, quiet and miserable. He bows his head, the curve of his neck so honest Bobby feels the tears well up too. "I was mad at myself, not you guys. I shouldn't have taken it out on you."
Bobby hooks a chopstick on the lip of his tray, drags it until it bumps into Hanbin's. "I'm sorry too," he says. "I should've stayed and talked it out. I overreacted."
Hanbin's shoulders slump, the tension leaving him in one long breath, and Bobby realizes that Hanbin had been truly worried he might not be forgiven. That’s when the tears come. He brings a hand to his face, pretending he’s adjusting his glasses, reaching out with the other one to shove Hanbin.
Jinhwan lets out a hiccuping laugh. When they look over, he's got his face in his hands, elbow dangerously close to knocking over his coffee. "You two are such kids," he says through a stuffy nose.
Bobby catches Hanbin's eye; Hanbin grins back, wobbly but wide. They scoot closer together until they've pinned Jinhwan in between them, the metal of the chair legs tangling together in an awful racket.
"Hey, who’s the one crying?" Hanbin says, throwing an arm around the back of Jinhwan's chair.
"Yeah, I think you’re the real kid here, hyung," Bobby chimes in, reaching around him. Behind Jinhwan's head, he runs his hand up Hanbin’s arm until he finds the soft cotton collar of his t-shirt. Bobby pushes the fabric aside, digging his fingers into the muscle he finds there. Over Jinhwan’s bent head, Hanbin is smiling at him, at Jinhwan, at the entire situation, looking happy like he can’t help it.
It's a little after midnight when Hanbin decides they've practiced to a more or less satisfactory level. It's later than practice usually runs, but not by enough that anyone reacts other than some under the breath grumbling and eye rolling, mostly courtesy of Junhwe.
There's an exuberance in the air, the last burst of energy that accompanies the end of practice. Bobby sits against the bench, his bag by his side and a pile of towels between his legs, trying to figure out via sniff test which of them are clean and which are on the cusp of molding, when he hears Jinhwan talking to Hanbin a few meters away.
"You coming back with us now?" Jinhwan, his voice muffled around the fabric of his towel.
"Ah, not yet. Got a song I want to work on." Bobby doesn't even need to glance up to see Hanbin look down, left hand reaching around to scratch just above his right elbow. A tell, even if Hanbin would never admit to it. "Don't worry, I won't be too late."
"Okay. Hanbin, don't work too hard." A pause, and then, softer, "You know you can talk to me or Bobby if anything's up, right? We’ll listen."
Thank you, Jinhwan-hyung, Bobby thinks, fingers scraping the nylon bottom of his backpack, lint collecting under his nails. That's as good of an intervention as he can hope to get.
"I'm not a kid, hyung," Hanbin snaps. "I can take care of myself." It's barely a second before the guilt kicks in. Just because they all like to tease Jinhwan and Jinhwan doesn't mind taking it doesn't mean they don't know when they've crossed the line. "Sorry. Look, don’t worry about it, okay?"
Jinhwan sighs and Bobby chances a look up in time to see Jinhwan lean forward to rest his head on Hanbin’s shoulder. He says something in Hanbin’s ear that Bobby can’t catch, but whatever it is has an immediate effect on Hanbin.
Bobby watches the smile split Hanbin’s face like a shared watermelon in high summer and he can feel the corners of his own mouth tug up in automatic response. He ducks his head to hide it, rummaging around in his bag with new resolve. He pulls out the towels he was going to take home, arranging them with the moldy ones in an artful mess on the bench. He’ll wash them all tomorrow. Besides, Jinhwan won’t mind, probably, if just Bobby uses his towel tonight. And if not, he’s pretty sure Chanwoo’s mom had sent over the contents of an entire linen closet in a suitcase, largely wasted on Chanwoo who could be coerced into accompanying anyone to do laundry and thus somehow ended up the cleanest one of them all. Once the towels are piled haphazardly enough, he takes his iPod out of his pocket, shoving it underneath the heap.
Just in time, too, as Jinhwan comes over to collect him. “Ready?” Jinhwan asks, zipping up his bag. “You got everything?”
Bobby makes a show of patting down. “Yep,” he says. “Hanbin not coming with us?”
“He wants to finish a song.” Jinhwan glances at him. “Hey, give him some space, alright? He’ll come around, you know he will.”
It’s childish, but Bobby still crosses his fingers in his pocket as he nods. He knows that Hanbin will—of course he will, they’ve both invested too much time and energy and mutual affection into this friendship for one of them not to come around after a fight or one-sided annoyance, whatever. Still. Just because Bobby knows the trajectory of any argument between him and Hanbin trends towards reconciliation doesn’t mean he won’t try to speed up the process.
They’re two blocks away from their dorm when Bobby stops dead in his tracks.
Chanwoo, bringing up the rear with Yunhyung, walks right into him. “Ow. What gives, hyung?”
“I left my iPod in the studio,” Bobby says, eyes widening. He sounds like a cartoon character, even to himself. Silly me! Now, how’d that happen? At least it’s not a lie. He smacks a hand against his temple, knowing the moment his palm makes contact that it’s overkill. The roll of Jinhwan’s eyes is so exaggerated that all Bobby sees for a second is the white of his eyes. He beams apologetically. “I need to run back and get it. Anyone wanna come with?”
It has the effect he intended. Junhwe and Donghyuk immediately cross their arms in an X before breaking out in a mad sprint towards their dorm. Chanwoo actually looks torn for a second, bless his little heart, but Yunhyung tugs him to follow, muttering something about Bobby sleeping in the bed he’s made.
Jinhwan just shakes his head at him, looking exasperated. “Don’t pick a fight, okay?”
Bobby raises his right hand in a salute, his left in a boy scout sign of honor, as if that would mean anything to Jinhwan. Then he turns and runs back to the studios.
It’s a running joke that Hanbin has clocked enough time in the studio that Yang-CEO should start charging him rent. Bobby is a close second, but even then the difference in hours between him and Hanbin could fill days, more likely weeks. They've all spent more time inside the practice building than outside in the last two years, but Hanbin has nurtured a knack for excavating every second of free time and putting it to use. Talent might be near-impossible to quantify, but diligence is another matter.
But even if Bobby has only spent half the time Hanbin has in the studio, the time he has spent there has almost always been with Hanbin. In the four years since they first met, how many months has Bobby spent with Hanbin in this ten by ten meter box, even the hunch of their shoulders over the keyboard an echo of each other? How many nights have they taken turns napping, one spending the half hour they had trying to pad the bare bones of a song into full-bodied completion? There are a lot of faces Hanbin wears that Bobby adores, admittedly some less than others. But he will likely never feel as tender as he does the Hanbin of the late night recording studio, cross-eyed with sleeplessness but still energetic enough to laugh when Bobby spends an hour working on a melody line that in the end turns out to be lifted directly from the hook of an EXO b-side.
That’s where they’d been the night before Hanbin’s self-declared cold war on Bobby. Hanbin had two halves of a composition he didn’t know how to connect properly, notebook open over his face as he lay on the bench. Bobby had taken over at the monitor, though he wasn’t making much progress either.
“Maybe we should just give up,” Bobby had finally said. “We could always come back to it in a few weeks.”
Hanbin hadn’t answered. His notebook slipped past his glasses, tilted on the slope of his nose.
“Yah, Kim Hanbin,” Bobby said, sliding off the chair to kneel on the floor next to Hanbin. He rested his head on his arms as he looked at Hanbin looking at the ceiling. He could almost hear the whirr of Hanbin’s brain as it went into overtime thinking of a way to salvage this song he liked. “Are you listening to me?” He poked at the furrow of Hanbin’s brow.
Hanbin’s eyes had cut over to meet his. “Be helpful or be scarce, hyung,” he said tartly, lifting his notebook from his mouth.
Bobby snorted, taking the notebook from Hanbin. He looked at the chords and unfinished verses Hanbin had written on the page. There was a bucktoothed stick figure in the middle he was pretty sure was supposed to be him, the damp imprint where Hanbin had been mouth-breathing onto the page superimposed over the scribble. Actually, it was pretty good. With a surge of affection, Bobby noted that Hanbin had even gotten the print of his glasses right.
“Hey, this isn’t bad,” Bobby finally said, closing the notebook and tapping the tip of Hanbin’s nose with the edge. “Especially this bit here. It’s a good start.”
Hanbin just grunted in response, reaching up to catch Bobby’s wrist.
Bobby laughed, dropping the book and leaning up and over until he was in Hanbin’s direct line of vision. He stared down into Hanbin’s face just half a meter from his. This close, he could see the pores on Hanbin’s nose, the few blackheads hiding behind the flare of his nostrils, a pimple just shy of swelling beneath his lower lip. The closeness, as unflattering for Hanbin and himself as it was, nonetheless managed to slap Bobby upside the head with the physical truth of his affection: a clench in his chest and a hot flare through his body, leaving him warm in a way that had nothing to do with the weather or their proximity. A familiar feeling, and the postpubescent iteration of the attraction that had weighed down his belly all throughout his relationship with his first and only girlfriend.
There are some things you can only learn about yourself and your best friend once you subtract all the space in between. That close, there was only one direction he could’ve gone, gravity pushing down Bobby’s suddenly heavy head as much as the force of his realization.
So, okay, maybe Bobby does know why Hanbin is mad at him. But it’s always easier to claim ignorance than responsibility and besides, it’s not like Hanbin didn’t kiss back. Yes, there had been the stuttered breath, then half a minute of Hanbin almost hacking up a lung because he’d choked on his own spit. But then he’d leaned up on his elbow and looked Bobby in his reddening face, the purse of his mouth just a touch bashful. Apparently placated by whatever it was he found there, he’d leaned forward, one hand sliding across Bobby’s cheek to cup the back of his head.
Maybe Hanbin is mad because the making out was admittedly not Bobby’s best performance. Shellshocked by the realization that he wants to suck face with his best friend who, apparently, didn’t mind sucking face back, Bobby had been both overeager and too cautious. Too much nose and not enough tongue.
Hanbin is in their corner booth when Bobby arrives, pink in the face and a little sweaty from running most of the way there. He looks up from the computer with a start when Bobby bangs the door open, giant headphones slipping down around his neck. He stares as Bobby bends forward and lets out a whine, hands on his knees.
“What is wrong with you?” Hanbin asks, the most he’s said to Bobby at once in the past eighteen hours.
“Cramp,” Bobby says with a groan. He moves to the bench behind Hanbin, dropping down onto it and resting his head on the wall to cool down. “I ran here.”
Hanbin pushes away from the desk, wheels squeaking as he swivels around to face Bobby. “Why?”
Bobby turns to him, meeting his eyes before slowly, deliberately, dropping his gaze to Hanbin’s slightly open mouth. “Come on, Hanbin. You know why.”
Hanbin snaps his mouth shut in response, face starting to settle into his usual blank default, as if he just remembered he’s still supposed to be mad at Bobby. But Bobby is tired of playing this game. Experimentally, he reaches for one of Hanbin’s hands before it can disappear into his armpit. Hanbin’s palm is clammy with cold sweat, but he lets Bobby take it anyway. The pads of their fingertips touch briefly before Bobby links their hands together, trying to convey both apology and explanation in the press of his skin against Hanbin’s.
Hanbin looks at their joined hands, a little wild-eyed. Use your words, Bobby scolds himself. Out loud, he says, “I’m sorry. If I crossed a line last night. Please don’t be mad at me anymore.”
Hanbin’s hand, if possible, sweats even more. He slides down in his chair until his knees touch Bobby’s. “Um,” he says slowly. “No. I don’t think I’m mad anymore. I was just—embarrassed. Taken aback.” He looks back up at Bobby, his expression resigned and frank. “I didn’t know.”
“Ah, I didn’t know either,” Bobby says, nodding. “Before, anyway. But it seemed right at the time.”
Hanbin snorts. When he pulls away, Bobby lets him. He reaches his arms behind his head in a stretch. His waist angles away from the back of his chair, and Bobby can hear the cracks as they travel down Hanbin’s spine. When the pops have run their course, Hanbin sits back, boneless, as if the tension of the day was all that had been holding up the structure of his posture. He sighs. “I wanted to stay mad until tomorrow, at least.” He sounds disappointed, as if not being able to stay mad at Bobby is a personal failing.
Bobby is exhausted too, but the euphoria of finally speaking to Hanbin is making him feel wired, body buzzing with adrenaline. Bobby feels out of his mind with the relief of having his best friend back, of not fucking up a precious friendship with impulsiveness. Give him a cliff and open water, and he’ll jump. He settles for leaning forward and balancing his elbows on the surface of Hanbin’s thighs. He gets close enough to rest his cheek against Hanbin’s, though not as close as the night before. He’s been here, just a breath away from Hanbin, hundreds of times in the past. It’s a safe, familiar distance. Hanbin leans his head back against his, lets out a hum in the back of his throat that travels through Bobby, and it’s more than enough. Bobby is ambitious, not selfish.
They’ll figure out the rest in the morning.