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by your side

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“Thanks for your hard work!” The words tumbled out of thirteen mouths easily, with just the same amount of sincerity as the first time they were uttered. The group bowed endlessly towards the staff, having just finished a long shoot for a promotional video specially made for Carats where they danced a medley of their biggest hits.

They had made a comeback just a few days ago, and with comeback season came extremely tight schedules. Keeping the next job on the list in mind, Chan shuffled behind Hansol briskly to leave the set.

It was going to be a long day—he knew it. From the moment Junhui had to shake his shoulder vigorously to wake him up, he’d been feeling off. He barely got ready on time to get to the vans, (even later than Mingyu, who had somehow fallen back asleep against the kitchen counter upright and gotten ready before him) and kept tripping over his feet when walking to the set of their first shoot. Fast forward to the evening, he kept his eyes trailed to the ground eager to get the last schedule done with and find respite in his dorm bed. Luckily the only thing left for them to do was attend a radio broadcasting, so he resolved to be less involved and try to rely on Seungkwan or Soonyoung to do most of the talking.

The rest of the day dragged on almost comically slow, with his prediction of Seungkwan and Soonyoung talking the most being right on the dot. He gave reactions when deemed appropriate, and laughed when everyone else was laughing.

He managed to get through the broadcast without having to say many comments and succeeded in not raising suspicion from his hyungs. When it was time for ending ments and Jeonghan called on him to say a few words, he was able to not make it too obvious that he was in a trance and covered up quickly.

“...cut! We’ve finished!” Chan heard someone say, and everyone started clapping. They all bow, thank the staff, the usual, before someone tugged on his sleeve and he turned to see Jeonghan’s face—he’d been too distracted trying to keep himself awake to notice that the elder was shooting him strange looks in the latter half of the broadcasting.

No words needed to be exchanged, just a nod by the head and Chan knew that Jeonghan would be wanting to talk to him later.

Walking to their vans, Chan saw Jeonghan whispering something to Seungcheol and he knew it was about him. Seungcheol glanced back at him, a quizzical expression on his face. He looked back at Jeonghan, said a few words that Chan couldn't read from his lips, pat Jeonghan’s shoulder, and moved to one of the vans.
Chan then heard Jeonghan say, "Guys, I'm riding with Channie today!" The elder moved to him and shook his arm for dramatic effect, even though both of them knew that everyone was too tired to really pay them any mind. Sounds of acknowledgment came from a few members, and just like that Chan prepared himself for an interrogation in the car.

They got to their vans, Jeonghan never leaving his side and making sure to sit next to him when they got inside. Minghao didn't seem to question the action, as he simply closed his eyes the moment he sat down and waited for sleep to capture him. A few moments passed where all Jeonghan did was drum his fingers against Chan’s knee, and he found himself slowly being dragged into a slumber. The elder must’ve waited for Minghao to fall asleep though, as the moment the Chinese member’s head dropped to the side he stopped his hand and turned to face the maknae.

“Hey, are you alright?” Jeonghan asked, in a low whisper.

Chan made a noncommittal noise, humming while facing forward. “Yeah, hyung, I’m just fine.” He inwardly cringed at how unbelievable the words sound, even for him.

“Chan, face me,” he heard, Jeonghan’s voice resolute. He knew he was serious whenever he called him by his real name. “I want to see your face when you say it.”

He turned to the side, plastering a small smile on his face. “I’m okay. You don’t need to worry about anything. I was just a bit tired today, is all.” And really, that was all today was. It was an off day, something anyone can have. Jeonghan was just overreacting, Chan thought.

His hyung scrutinized him for a few seconds, his furrowed eyebrows just barely showing under the dim lights of night. Seemingly satisfied, he turned back forward.

“Alright, if you say so. But if this continues, you know I’ll do something about it.”

Chan faced forward again and replied with a, “Of course. I’m alright, just having a bad day.”

He took Jeonghan’s words to heart and decided that he would have to be more discreet in hiding his exhaustion. He hated seeing his hyungs worried for him and looking at him with pity in their eyes. He wouldn’t be the reason Seventeen will get dragged down. No matter what comes his way, he’d get through it—after all, he was an adult who could take care of himself. He’d make sure of it.