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It happened so gradually at first, Chan himself didn’t even notice it.

They were in the heyday of their promotional period, the excitement of getting to promote on stage mixing with their exhaustion that had been building up the past few days.

They just finished their last schedule of the day, filing in a long line to get into their vans.

Chan was feeling a lot better than the day when he talked to Jeonghan, fully convinced it really was just an unlucky day. It appeared Jeonghan was thinking the same, as he was talking vibrantly with Joshua paying Chan no mind.

The thirteen of them made it home safely in their respective groups, with Chan who clung onto Junhui and Mingyu trailing behind them to head to the dorm. 

After they all washed up and ate a late dinner, everyone dispersed out to their respective areas: Jihoon to his studio, Seokmin and Seungkwan to the living room, Mingyu to his room to sleep. Chan also headed to his room, choosing to lay down and use his phone.

Having time to spare, he searched up the medley dance video the group had recorded days ago that had just been released. Opening his focus cam, he monitored his every move to make sure he didn't make any mistakes. He made a mental note to put more power into certain moves and work on the fluidity of some actions, but otherwise, he was satisfied.

Out of pure, spontaneous curiosity, he decided to look at the comments. On a normal day, he wouldn't have even spared a glance at the section he knew so many compliments from fans lay, but today he wanted to feel selfish for once and bask in the kind words he knew he'd be described with.

Scrolling down, he saw loads of comments about his dancing that he took pride in and his looks which he never felt he stood out much in, but was grateful for nonetheless. As he continued looking at the endless flattering words from fans and non-fans alike, he allowed himself to feel pleased and acknowledge that all the extra hours he put in the practice room paid off.

Maybe it was because he was on edge lately due to Jeonghan’s eagle eyes always watching him, but he felt himself digging through the comments nonstop. He supposed he wanted reassurance that he was still doing good.

His eyes caught on one particular comment that had many replies. 

Holy shit he’s so bad at dancing… imagine stanning this man and going after other people’s favs. Worry about yourselves, please.

It was so, so blatantly obvious it was just a troll who decided to piss some people off by sending hate. It was right in front of Chan’s eyes he could grab it and tear at it. He knew the replies were fans defending him and telling the hater to go away. He knew it wasn't a big deal, and that it shouldn’t bother him too much. He knew hate like that came with the job, and that he would have to deal with it for as long as he was a public figure. He knew it, so why did it bring him down so much?

Deciding he didn’t want to continue souring his mood, he turned off his phone and the room light and laid back down in his bed to try and sleep. Staring up blankly at the ceiling with the voices of his hyungs outside filling in the silence, his thoughts went reeling back to that one comment. 

One side of his head thought to himself, Was the comment right? I know they were just hating on me but what if there’s some truth to it? To be fair, I have been going to the practice room by myself less lately.

Shut up, you know they’re wrong. You’re so hardworking and everyone around you can see it. Lee Chan, don’t let a single comment like that get to you. You’re so much more than that, the other side replied.

The two sides continued warring in his head, his thoughts overwhelming his need to sleep and blurring out all sound. He was conflicted, he had never let such trivial hate like this get to him before. There was a time, just after their debut, where he was taken over by all the pointless hate headed their way but Seungkwan was easily able to reel him back and teach him how to block out the hate. From then on he rarely had problems with what other people said. The only enemy that never changed within the past 5 years was himself.

Before he knew it, the bright phone screen he turned on flashed 2 a.m., and the rest of the dorm was dead silent. 

As quietly as he could, he made his way out of his room, making sure not to forget his coat and phone. He walked out the door, successful in not waking any of the members up.

He was currently tunnel-visioned, he knew it. With only six hours in his arsenal that was used to keep him energetic throughout the hectic day and emotions running rampant, he was well aware it was quite possibly the worst time to be sneaking out of the dorms. 

However, the only thought Chan had in his mind was practice, practice, practice. He’d deal with the consequences later, whatever they were to be.

He walked briskly to the company building, silently praising whoever decided to have them move so close to their workplace. 

Making his way into the building, a few quizzical glances were shot his way, but no one said anything except a few words of greeting. His steps took him to the familiar practice room they always used and didn't hesitate to plug his phone into the speaker right away. Playing whatever song comes on shuffle in his playlist, he danced his heart out in an attempt to clear his head.

After every song, he felt his breathing quicken and the aching in his head get more profound and painful. Still, he kept going.

Welcome to the panic room

Where all your darkest fears are gonna come for you, come for you

Chan refused to think about even the possibility that the reason he came to practice was because of that singular hate comment. Ridiculous, really, to get so caught up over some silly thing someone said. 

Welcome to the panic room

You’ll know I wasn’t joking when you see them too, see them too

He was simply here to practice, he had been lacking individual practice lately anyway. He didn’t have time due to their busy schedules as it was comeback season, but now he was here to make the most out of the time he had. He had to continue working hard, he couldn’t bear to fall behind. He needed to keep up.

Hell raising, hair raising

I’m ready for the worst

As the last notes of the song echoed in the air, the only sound bouncing through the walls of the practice room were Chan’s heaving breaths. He stared at himself in the mirror, refusing to blink. 

Almost as if breaking away would count as a loss, he held his pose for a solid minute, watching his chest rise and fall while steadying his breathing.

Once he finally looked away, his legs gave up and he let out a yelp of surprise. Laying down in a starfish position he absentmindedly recalled that he was in this same position in his bed just over an hour ago trying to chase sleep. This time sleep was the one going after him, it seemed.

Too exhausted to even try to get up and turn off the lights, he closed his eyes and let his fatigue claim him.

I’m doing this for myself.

This was the last thought he had before he finally fell into a slumber.

It was too bright and way too quiet. These were the first two things that came to mind when Chan woke up. 

Taking in his surroundings as he shielded his eyes from the light, he realized he was in the company practice building. He slowly remembered the memories of before, and how he ended up falling asleep after dancing his heart out.

Suddenly aware of the time, he jumped up and reached for his phone. He let out a whine as he saw that it was the next day and was the time he and the members normally got up for their schedules.

He was wide awake now, collecting his coat and dashing out the door not forgetting to turn off the light. He kept his head down as he exited the building, a fast walk to the dorm turning into a light jog. While he made his way back home he turned the cogs in his head to think of a believable excuse to tell his elders. 

Jun-hyung must be waking everyone up by now, Chan thought as he checked his phone one more time. 

Ignoring the aching in his legs screaming for help, he managed to make it back to the dorms in almost record time. He took a few moments right outside the door to catch his breath before knocking on it.

“I’ll get it!” he heard a voice inside call.

The door opened and he was met with Seokmin’s surprised face that quickly morphed into relief.

Before Chan could say anything, Seokmin yelled, “Dino, where were you? Everyone was so worried! You didn’t even leave a note either.”

He heard another voice, “Dokyeom, is that Chan?”

“Yeah hyung! He just came back!” 

Before he knew it, Chan was being shooed inside the house and 12 pairs of eyes were on him. 

“Chan, where the hell were you? Junhui was so worried when he didn’t see you in your room this morning,” Seungcheol came forward to scold him. 

“Hey Coups-hyung, let’s hear him out, yeah?” Soonyoung defended, looking at Chan expectantly.

“Sorry I worried you guys, I woke up early and I couldn’t fall back asleep so I went out to practice for a bit. I was so in a hurry that I forgot to leave a note and I lost track of time while I was dancing so I wasn't able to come back home on time,” he lied sheepishly, hoping everyone else would believe him. 

Looking around, a few nods of understanding could be seen, and that was enough for Chan to think that he was off the hook. 

“...Alright, but don’t let it happen again. We were really scared, you know that?” Seungcheol said, face contorting to worry.

Chan nodded in affirmation, a wave of guilt washing through him for having made them so concerned.

“Anyway, I’m just glad he’s back!” Mingyu said as he slapped him lightly on the back.

Everyone else nodded, with Seungkwan and Wonwoo teasing him about how his passion knew no rest. 

The audience dispersed, everyone leaving to get ready with a lighthearted feeling of reassurance knowing Chan was safe and sound. 

Chan himself moved to his room to get ready, but not before he saw Jeonghan and Soonyoung exchange a few whispers to one another. He continued looking at them before Jeonghan made his exit and Soonyoung faced his direction.

The two made eye contact, staring at one another. Neither of them backed down, almost a silent challenge as if they were beckoning the other to come out with the truth. Chan finally relented, looking down and shuffling silently to his room.

Soonyoung watched his back disappear completely into his room before moving.