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by your side

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“Sorry again! My bad. Can we take it from the top?”

The group was in the practice room. Chan was practicing with the hip hop unit for the special pre-release song they were planning on releasing, with the others on the sidelines either practicing for their own stages or watching them.

Chan was making more mistakes than usual, and it was starting to show on the other members’ faces, particularly Wonwoo. No matter how hard he tried, Chan didn’t seem to be able to concentrate properly. He kept stumbling over his feet and forgetting important details of the dance routine.

The five of them started the song again, the youngest trying to focus on the rhythm as much as possible. Just as he was starting to lose himself in the performance, he tripped over his feet and was forced to jump out of formation in order to keep his balance. He had messed up once again. His irritation from earlier having built into full-on anger, Wonwoo snapped.

“Chan, why do you keep messing things up for the rest of us?”

Chan was stunned. Out of all the things that could’ve made their way out of his elder’s mouth, it was those words. He already felt sorry that he kept making mistakes, but Wonwoo pointing it out made him beyond guilty.

He looked down in shame, “I’m sorry Wonwoo-hyung-”

“Can you get your goddamn shit together? You’re slowing things down for those of us who actually wanna get things done,” Wonwoo cut him off.

Well, that was uncalled for. Chan looked up to survey the reactions of the other members, but everyone either looked as if the floor was suddenly the most interesting thing that was in the room or was just watching on as if they agreed with what Wonwoo had said. Even Soonyoung, who Chan had thought would take his side, was just staring down at him from the far end of the room and whispering in Jihoon’s ear while glaring at the maknae. It hurt him, to say the least.

“I’m really sorry, hyung. I promise I’ll do better this time. Just give me one more chance,” Chan pleaded at last.

Wonwoo just muttered unintelligibly under his breath and the five of them started the dance one more time, although there was a stiff feeling behind each of their movements. Chan was doing all he could to get the moves right, and in his tunnel-visioned flurry, he bumped into Vernon.

Fuck.

Wonwoo signaled to cut the music off, and with the only sounds filling up the silent room being the five members’ uneven breaths his tirade could be heard loud and clear.

“What the fuck are you even good for? If you can’t even get one song correct how the hell are we supposed to prepare a whole album. I get we can all make mistakes sometimes but this is going overboard. You’re making me wonder how you even made it this far,” Wonwoo rambled on with a fiery look in his eyes, uttering that last sentence quietly but it was still enough for Chan and everyone else to hear what he wanted to say.

Everyone stayed still, almost holding their breaths to listen to what the maknae would reply with but otherwise not making a move to stop Wonwoo.

Chan felt his eyes blur. “I really am sorry, Wonwoo-hyung. I don’t know what came over me either. I’m so, so sorry. Fuck, what else do you want me to say? I feel horrible too. I feel like the only thing I can say is sorry and it won’t even fix anything.” He made a strained effort to look down at the ground. It seemed the only place he was worthy of looking at.

“Then don’t say anything at all. If you know sorry won’t do anything, then what’s the point. Ugh, fuck this. I don’t wanna deal with this shit right now,” Wonwoo immediately shot back. He turned away from Chan and to the youngest’s horror, started walking towards the entrance of the practice room.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit I’m so screwed I messed up hard how do I stop this someone please help, Chan thought helplessly.

He looked around frantically at everyone in the room and they all avoided looking back at him. Not even Seungcheol made an effort to comfort Chan, or stop Wonwoo, or anything. They all looked like statues frozen in place.

“No, no, no! Wonwoo-hyung! I’m so sorry, please come back! Wonwoo-hyung!” Chan screeched out desperately in an effort to make Wonwoo stay. By this point tears were flowing freely down his cheeks with eyes bloodshot and he found himself thinking it was a look he deserved. 

“Chan? Chan!” A voice called from somewhere, and yet everywhere. It was as if the voice was enveloping his whole being. Chan looked around and was only met with the disappointed faces of his members and Wonwoo’s back getting farther away from him.

“WONWOO-HYUNG!!” Chan called out as loudly as he could as if his hyung would come back if he yelled loud enough.

“Chan!” The voice was there again. It sounded so alarmed as if Chan really was needed at that moment. It gave him a sudden empty feeling of being needed. Everything was white around him. Where had his members gone?

Chan felt himself falling. Falling, falling down an endless void. Maybe if he fell down low enough he would be able to find the urgent voice that seemed to need him so gravely. He closed his eyes, wanting to find peace. Then the hard shove came.

Chan sat up wide awake, gasping for air, gulping in copious amounts of oxygen at a time. He felt hot tears running down his face and a sharp ache in his heart. He was on the verge of hyperventilating, but he felt a warm hand on his shoulder that he was feeling pain in. Someone must’ve shoved his shoulder awake.

“Oh, thank fuck you’re awake. Chan?” The same voice from earlier called his name. It sounded so sweet and worried. 

Facing forward, Chan was met with Junhui’s concerned face. However, still in a trance from his terrifying nightmare, the boy started shaking his head frantically and grabbed onto the elder’s forearms with a death grip.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I promise I’ll do better. Please don’t leave me, Wonwoo-hyung already left me. You can’t leave me too,” he spat out in a rush. He wasn’t aware of exactly who he was talking to with his vision blurred from the tears.

“Woah, woah. Calm down, Chan. It’s gonna be okay. Look at me, alright? You can do this. Breathe with me. Ready?” Jun said, in a soft voice that Chan would have melted in had he not been in the middle of a panic attack.

Still not fully aware of his surroundings and the only logical part of his brain telling him to follow the figure in front of him who looked so dependable, he nodded swiftly. 

Junhui ordered Chan to breathe in and out deeply, following the exercises with him. While he got his breathing to even out he muttered sweet nothings such as, “You’re doing so well. I’m so proud of you,” and, “I’m never going to leave you. I’m right here by your side.”

When Chan was finally breathing normally and his tears had reduced to small sniffles, he was able to get a better look at the Chinese member’s face.

“Jun-hyung?” he asked incredulously.

Junhui’s eyebrows that were creased from fret flattened out and his face was instead occupied with a tiny, relieved smile.

“That’s me,” he joked.

“Wha- what? What are you-” Chan stopped himself. Looking around, he saw that he was laying down on their dorm couch and Junhui was beside him sitting on the ground leaning against the furniture. He remembered now. The group didn’t have practice until later in the afternoon, so Chan was laying down scrolling through comments until he eventually dozed off. Everyone else was left to their own devices and Chan had ended up being the only one at home. However, Junhui had now joined him and it was just the two of them.

Seeming to remember why he was there in the first place, Junhui looked down next to him and brought up a bag against his face. Grinning, he said, “I promised I would get you a new phone, didn’t I? A new model came out recently, too. So now you have the best phone out of all of us.”

Chan paused. If he wasn’t already so embarrassed that he had a panic attack in front of his hyung, he would’ve broken down then and there. Instead, his eyes watered up slightly and his face contorted into what he assumed was an expression of keeping his tears from falling. He let out a small whimper, overwhelmed with so many emotions at once. He turned over and leaned his head against Junhui’s shoulder, hiding his face from view.

Even though it was an awkward position to hold, Junhui simply let out a hearty laugh and stroked the maknae’s hair. They stayed in that position for a bit, until Junhui pulled away reluctantly.

Chan looked up at him curiously, and Junhui’s expression of adoration was quickly replaced with awkwardness. His mouth opened and closed repeatedly without a single sound coming out as if he was contemplating what to say.

“Um, so. What was that nightmare about? You were calling out for Wonwoo a lot,” he settled for at last.

“Oh. That,” Chan responded flatly. He had hoped Junhui wouldn’t ask. But of course, for the stability of the team and well-being of the group members, he would. Junhui was responsible like that. 

Instead of letting his hyung in on his insecurities, Chan said, “I, uh, had a dream about um. Wonwoo-hyung wasn’t there.” He mumbled it softly, but Junhui was able to catch it. He understood immediately and cooed at the younger. 

“Oh, Chan,” Junhui softened and held onto him. What he didn’t know was that Chan was in pain for a different reason.

The day went on with Chan setting up his new phone and Junhui who helped him until practice. The Chinese member’s friendly banter was welcomed and helped take Chan’s mind off what was really bothering him.

Everyone gathered for practice and Vernon quickly attached himself next to Chan as if he was his personal bodyguard as soon as he entered the room. Jeonghan and Seungkwan periodically looked Chan’s way and Soonyoung gave him a pat on the shoulder each time they passed one another. If Wonwoo noticed how Chan was a bit jumpy towards him, skirting around as to not offend him, he didn’t say a word. Practice went on like that until Chan made a mistake in the group dance.

It wasn’t a major misstep, but it was enough to make Soonyoung’s eyes squint and make a motion to pause the song.

“Sorry, Wonwoo-hyung!” Chan exclaimed as soon as the music stopped, a tad bit too loud and body way too stiff. Like clockwork, as if they had practiced it without him there, twelve pairs of eyes were on him. The one that weighed on him the most belonged to a very confused and slightly concerned Wonwoo, who just looked at him puzzled.

“Uh. It’s alright?” he answered, although it sounded more like a question than anything.

Everything was frozen. No one said anything nor made any movements, and Chan would’ve mistaken the current situation to be a re-enactment of his nightmare if he wasn’t so stuck in his own thoughts. It was all too similar to his dream. Any time now Wonwoo would walk out on him and he would never see his other members again.

The only one who was vaguely aware of what was going on, Jun yelled out, “Alright, let’s get moving again. It’s okay, it was just one mistake. We’ll go over it again!” and made shooing movements towards those who stood still. He pushed Wonwoo who was still staring at Chan back to his position and motioned for the music to start again.

Just like the wind, the fleeting moment went by like that. Practice went on like usual, although Chan was now actively avoiding Wonwoo and the latter was very much aware of his efforts not to talk to him.

Vernon just shuffled alongside Chan everywhere he went, and at one point during break sent a meaningful glance at the younger. It conveyed everything he and the other members were worried about. “Are you okay? What’s going on? Will you tell us, will you tell me?” it said.

Chan just looked down and shook his head in defeat.