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Hansol takes off his headphones.

The light in his studio is low, spiked with neon. Even without his headphones, the whole room feels vacuum-sealed. The windows are double-paneled or something—the leasing agent said something about that when he toured the space. The company said he had space in their building if he wanted it, but. It was time to have a space that was his, where he could make stuff that was his.

His phone lights up—probably had been lit up while he worked, because there are so many notifications that it stopped counting. He scrolls through most of them, then taps on a missed call from Hangyul and brings the phone to his ear.

“Wassap,” he says.

“Hi,” she replies. “I was gonna ask if you wanted to eat, but I ate like four hours ago.”

“Oh,” he nods. He leans back in the ergonomic chair that Jihoon bought for him when he signed the lease. “I was working on your thing.”

“Oh wow,” she says, kind of sarcastic, but with an edge of excitement that reminds him of when she was much younger. “Really?”

“It’s good, I think,” Hansol says, rubbing at his shoulder. He tilts his head to look out the lone window, city lights sparkling. “I need more time with it.”

“No rush,” she says, breezily.

Something about her tone makes his eyebrows draw together. “I’ll probably send you a rough cut by next week.”

“Oppa, seriously, no rush,” she assures him. “It’s okay.”

He pauses. “Do you still want to meet up?”

“It’s late,” she hedges. He waits. Then, she finally loses the weird, delicate tone. “Are you sure?”

“I’m the one who asked,” he reminds her.

He can hear the scrunch of her expression in her voice. “I asked first.”

“Wow,” he says, teasing. “I didn’t know we were competing. What is this? We’re keeping score?”

No!” she laughs. “You know. I just don’t want to like. Make you do stuff.”

“You aren’t,” Hansol says. He doesn’t like that she’s worried about that. Free—he’s free. He used to answer questions like that, back when he had to do interviews. What do you hope for yourself in five years? I hope that I’m a free man.

He has that, surely. He spent the first six months after his service doing exactly what he wanted. A few months in LA with Tobi, a few months in Florida with his mom and grandparents. It felt like an exhale after too much of his life under other people’s thumbs, direction, schedule. Of course he dreamed of being free. And now he is.

But tonight, it leaves a film in his mouth, uncomfortable and tacky.

“I know. You do what you want,” Hangyul says. Her voice is full of affection and for some reason, it makes him sad. “Buy me hotteok, then.”

“I’m unemployed,” he says. “Maybe you should buy me hotteok.”

“Oh, shut up,” she laughs, and it loosens up the heaviness in his chest enough that he can set it aside. “Hey, were you listening to Seungkwan-oppa’s radio show? It just ended.”

“Oh shit,” he says. Then, stops there. That means it’s Seungkwan’s birthday, too.

He doesn’t need to say anything else, because Hangyul drawls, in English, “Okayyyy. Awk.”

“It’s not,” he says. And it’s not. “I just forgot.”

“He mentioned you,” she says simply, but Hansol can hear the expectation in her voice.

Hansol sighs. Seungkwan has been over-compensating for their breakup for three years and counting. Like if he pretended nothing changed, he wouldn’t have to admit that they’d fucked things up. “I’ll listen to it. You at home? I’ll meet you.”

He stands up, patting the pockets of his backpack to make sure he has his phone, wallet, and keys. He clicks off the monitor and the bright blue light cedes to the purple neon haze from the lights lining the room.

“It wasn’t weird,” Hangyul insists. “He was talking about a song.”

“Seungkwan isn’t weird,” Hansol replies without fight, slinging his over-ear headphones around his neck. “I’ll be there in 10.”

The door clicks shut behind him, the call clicks off, and he slides his headphones on, shutting out any other noise that might try to filter in.

Hansol keys his way into his apartment. The entryway is lit from the floor, recessed lighting underneath the step leading into the main area. He steps out of his shoes and makes his way through the dark, dropping his wallet down onto the kitchen island and heading straight for the bedroom.

He’s only been back in Seoul for about a month, so he’s still getting used to living alone. When he was serving, he tried to imagine what it would be like. An apartment in Seoul, maybe one in LA, too. He thought he’d like something more like his family apartment in Hongdae, cluttered and wood-paneled, rather than the slick high-rise luxury apartments that Seventeen dormed in.

His apartment is somewhere in the middle. Walnut floors, white cabinets, some cool spotlight fixtures that Hyunggu and Jamie helped him install when he moved in. Artwork by Minghao and his mom on the walls. Random stuff he likes on the simple shelves in the living room: these freaky little porcelain babies that he got on a trip to Chengdu, his Seventeen ring boxes, crystals from Sofia’s brief study abroad in university. It would be more charming if he kept it cleaner, but he’s already lost that battle.

He flops onto his bed and brings his phone to his face. 03:45. He changes to the next song, and then taps into his messages.

maknae hyung: Congratulations to our Seungkwan hyung! Finally, you’re getting paid to talk instead of doing it for free! We’re all cheering for you always. And I’ll be listening, so please think twice before revealing anything about me. Happy birthday, hyung! With love, Lee Chan

leada coupz: Go go go Seungkwan-ah! Your hyungs are going to take a shot whenever you mention Wonder Girls

There are more, but he skims them until he sees Seungkwan’s replies.

boo seungkwan: What did I do to deserve our special members, huh? Oh god, you guys can’t listen all the time, really. But when you’re free, please come on the show as guests. I’ll be waiting! Thank you to Chan for getting too annoyed with me and saying that I should just be on radio if I want to hear myself talk so bad. You are my least favorite dongsaeng. Now go to bed. It’s too late. You’re going to age too quickly if you stay up all the time, and we’re already old men now. I love you all, let’s be together for a long time still!

Hansol realizes his mistake now that he’s opened the messages. He could reply in the chat, or he could message Seungkwan separately, but he can’t ignore it without Seungkwan holding it against him later.

He thumbs into his chat with Seungkwan. The messages preceding this one are Seungkwan’s messages welcoming him back from his trip and saying that they should revive their dinners with Chan soon. Hansol had said, thx seungkwan! Good to be back~ Yea, of course. :)

hbd booooooo, he types. It’s is a big one. I’ll catch up to you soon. Congrats on the show. Hangyul said it was good.

He presses send before he can think too much about it. Seungkwan should be asleep by now, but Hansol’s heart rate picks up when the message turns to read as he reviews what he sent. Seungkwan starts typing, and stops.

Hansol can’t do this. He locks his phone.

Then, he unlocks it again. He opens up his browser and searches Seungkwan’s name in Naver, clicking into the network’s radio page. The episode is already up for replay and when he clicks the link, his music cuts out and Seungkwan’s voice cuts in.

Everyone, thanks for coming to our first meeting. My anticipation to convene our new members is probably shaking the radio waves. You can feel it, right?

Then, Seungkwan’s message drops down at the top of his screen. Thank you, Hansol!! Ah yes, Hangyul messaged me too 􏰀... and the preview cuts off.

All at once, Hansol gets really tired. He clears the notification off the screen and stops Seungkwan before he can say anything more. He reaches over to his bedside table and plugs in his phone and sets it down with the screen face down. He has a few aborted thoughts about Seungkwan turning 30. About what the rest of Seungkwan’s message might have said. An echo of a worry that he’s said the wrong thing, again. But he doesn’t want to go there. It’s 4 am and he’s had a long enough day.

Hansol pushes off his jeans and socks, letting them fall off the bed and pool in a pile on the floor for later. When he pulls off his hoodie, it gets caught on the headphones he forgot he was still wearing. Annoying. He sighs and pulls the headphones off too and tosses it all to the other side of his bed, leaving him free to squirm underneath his unmade duvet, aligning his hips and shoulders and neck until finally, he can close his eyes. The silence of his apartment asks no questions and expects no answers; a welcome, selfish comfort.

Everyone, thanks for coming to our first meeting. My anticipation to convene our new members is probably shaking the radio waves. You can feel it, right? Ah, yes, yes. Hi, I am Boo Seungkwan. And this is Seung-Ja-Mo. That’s short for Sleeping Meeting at Seungkwan Time. Since our program starts so late, I thought it’s close enough to my birth time that we should make something of it. So we’ll talk and listen to music, and then at 1:16, it will be time for all of us to go to sleep. It’s clever, right? Of course, I didn’t come up with that. Cheers, Seventeen’s Dino. See, I told you hyung would credit you.

I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to host my own radio show for a long time. All of my friends have been telling me to go on radio—tell the truth, is it because I talk too much? But since I’m supposed to be putting you to sleep, that just means I’m perfect for the job. And what better day to start Seung-Ja-Mo but on the eve of my birthday? Happy birthday to me~

As for the show concept... do you know the conversation that happens right before you fall asleep, like when you’re in bed with someone? Yah, my manager is giving me a dirty look. Noona, I’m thirty one now. We can be frank about these things. Even just a sleepover between friends. Those silly things, or deep thoughts, or confessions. It can be anything, as long as it has that just before sleep quality to it. Would you call it pillow talk? Really, I just wanted to be able to talk about whatever I wanted, but it’s a pretty concept, right?

A relaxed concept like this is new for me. Carats who have been following Seventeen for a long time, you know by now that I can feel a lot of pressure to prepare things. But don’t worry, members. I’ve been working harder to give myself a break, these days. My friends, Chan and Hansol and I wrote a song a long time ago called Do Re Mi. It came out a while ago, but honestly, I still think of it often. The lyrics go like, think of it easily like do-re-mi, because thinking of something as difficult makes it difficult. Life goes on, so keep going. I think of things like that instead of worrying so much.

Well, I’m trying to do that. Sometimes my worries get the best of me. But that’s okay, too, no? It’s okay to have worries sometimes, members. Maybe together, we can thank our worries for trying to keep us safe and then set them aside for just this hour and sixteen minutes. I hope that’s what we can do at Seung-Ja-Mo.

Ah, I’ve gone on long enough already. Members, here is your first song. It’s the one I mentioned. I hope it brings you comfort like it’s brought me. Here’s Do Re Mi by Seventeen.