Pairing(s) / character(s): Jiyong / Seunghyun, the rest of Big Bang
Word Count: 4341
Notes: I've always wanted to write a fic that told GD and TOP's whole story, from when they first met to present time. So here it finally is! Starting with pre-debut times, and hopefully to be followed by more chapters. I've tried to research as best as I could to get the general timeline and feel right. And I hope I've succeeded in somewhat doing their story justice! :)
Summary: Maybe it was meant to be from day one, they just took awhile to get there. The story of Jiyong and Seunghyun through the years.
Chapter 1: pre-debut
The first time Jiyong sees him he is scared because Seunghyun is older and taller and has eyes that seem to cut through anyone he stares at. But curiosity is his middle name so he observes him from a distance, as he walks home from school with a tired slump in his shoulders; as he sneakily eats red bean jelly in class (and Jiyong wrinkles his nose because out of all the candy bars one could choose!); as his fingers tap a rhythm on the table while listening to his mp3-player.
That is the part he is most curious about because he lives and breathes music by now (real music, he adds in his mind, not the generic kind you hear in shopping malls or on his mother's favourite radio station). He wonders if Seunghyun likes Wu-Tang Clan.
When he exits English class with the idea to spend his break outside, it being an unusually warm September day, he notices that Seunghyun has had the same idea. The other guy's sitting on a bench in the courtyard, not paying the beautiful weather any heed as he's absorbed in the music reaching him through his headphones. His head bobs up and down in a steady rhythm; and Jiyong can see he's mouthing words even though he's hunched over and his ubiquitous hoodie shadows his eyes.
Curiosity sparks once more. There are a lot of people in the courtyard but no-one's minding Seunghyun, who as ever gives off the impression of not wanting to be minded. Seunghyun does not attend all classes and while playing hookie is something that might make you popular in movies, in reality people start avoiding you because there's something vaguely intimidating or strange about the way that there's apparently more important matters in your life than eduction.
There are more important things in Jiyong's life than eduction but he wouldn't dream of skipping classes. That way it'd be bye-bye traineeship and dream of making it big; he's learnt to juggle responsibilities early on, will continue to do so, should look down on Seunghyun for taking allegedly the easy way out but merely feels strange fascination.
He watches Seunghyun and right then the other boy looks up. As their eyes meet Jiyong falters because he'd been staring and his brain is already racking for a plausible excuse or denial when his mouth decides to go the other way and opt for the truth.
“I was just wondering what music you were listening to,” he says in one go.
Seunghyun looks at him with surprise. Then he smiles.
Turns out Seunghyun is not scary at all but rather funny and easy and weird in a way that thrills Jiyong; makes him want to catalog and understand him like the songs they listen to together, but every time he thinks he has his new friend down Seunghyun does something unexpected and all the cards he just now held in his hands topple over.
Every day now they walk home from school. Seunghyun cracks jokes the entire way that have Jiyong either bend over from laughter or complain that they are too lame to be funny. (He laughs about those too). Sometimes Jiyong will comment that he feels like eating crisps or chocolate cookies because a day of classes and bad jokes has his brain starving. They then buy the items in a local store on the way and Seunghyun eats with a rare look of happiness on his face that Jiyong can't help stare at in wonder.
Seunghyun likes going home (turns out his reasons for skipping school are less adventure and more missing his mother's cooking) but now he sometimes also comes along with Jiyong. After introductions and tea with his mother, who takes an immediate liking to his new friend, they retreat to his room and talk about Jiyong's experiences at YG – somewhat reluctantly he admits that a lot of time is in fact spent scrubbing practice rooms – and also about Seunghyun's dream that coordinates surprisingly well with his; about the songs they listen and rap to together.
This is when Jiyong is happiest.
He wonders if it shows on his face too.
Seunghyun works in a clothing store during the weekends and on Thursday nights. It's a job that doesn't seem bad at all to Jiyong because already he can picture the textures, colours, accessories that he has been into lately.
“Well, it pays for my cd's,” Seunghyun says as Jiyong tells him as much, and he scoffs. Working for money has always seemed slightly redundant to him. He appreciates it's reality, but the starving artist has his sympathy.
The next Thursday night Jiyong visits the store Seunghyun works at. It's a small place, five subway stops away from him. Muted hip hop music reaches him through the speakers. In the store it's mostly hoodies, sneakers, hats; Jiyong recognises some of the things Seunghyun takes to wearing.
Seunghyun smiles as he approaches him. “What d'you think? See anything you like? I could probably get you a discount.”
“Hmm...” Jiyong looks about him, then eyes the bracelets displayed on the counter. They come in blue and black. He's been into that kind of thing lately.
“Maybe these ones?” He holds one out of either colour.
“Sure,” Seunghyun says, “just pay for the one.”
As Jiyong hands over the required amount of Won, Seunghyun says, “Why did you choose these then? You think that girl might like it?”
Jiyong feels his cheeks colour a little. A few days ago he'd told Seunghyun he fancied a girl at school – Lina was her name. She was a class higher than him and had a pony tail that switched back and forth as she strolled through the hallways.
“Ah,” Jiyong begins, “no. I mean, she probably won't even notice. No girl does.”
It sounds pathetic so he makes a face to distract from the fact that he wasn't lying.
But Seunghyun's expression is not mocking. “Oh, really?”
He sounds so genuinely surprised that Jiyong feels his embarrassment fade away and instead his ego boosted. Somehow the fact that Seunghyun thinks girls would like him a lot is almost as good as that fantasy itself.
“What about you?” he asks, needing a distraction from the obvious grin on his face.
“What about me?”
“Well,” Jiyong clarifies somewhat awkwardly, “do you like anyone?”
Seunghyun shrugs. “No. I mean, not right now.”
Jiyong also shrugs. “All right.”
He fumbles with the bracelets in his hand.
“You're so weird,” Jiyong remarks. They're sprawled out on his bed, pleasantly tired from singing along with Fin.K.L's songs on the top of their lungs and the breathless laughter as a result of Seunghyun's voice.
He pokes Seunghyun's arm in an accusing manner but his voice is gleeful.
“You're weird too,” Seunghyun replies and Jiyong thinks that maybe they both mean something else entirely.
Jiyong moves away a year later after third grade and in the busy activities of high school and traineeship his former friend is soon forgotten. Except not really, because someone like Seunghyun refuses to be. At random moments he'll remember his voice and his eyes and the way his brow would furrow as he tried to explain something, and then he'll open a new email and write a sentence (“high school has been boring, wish you could be here”) before backspacing and deleting the email altogether.
Besides, it's not like Seunghyun had replied to any of his first messages. Any resentment or doubt is easily smothered with hours of cleaning and errands and other unglamorous tasks that come with being a trainee.
It's two years later, right when Jiyong has moved up the ladder at YG from errands boy to soon-to-debut talent, right when he really has forgotten about Seunghyun, when he bumps into him.
Or rather: spots him at the other side of the club. He's with friends and already well on his way of being tipsy when their eyes meet across the room and all fuzziness is gone from his head immediately.
He doesn't know what to do. If he should go over, if he should say the things he wants to say, if Seunghyun will still recognise him. The questions that dance through his head at lightning speed are answered when a few seconds later he watches Seunghyun walk over to him. He's taller than most everyone he passes. Jiyong takes a quick swig from his rum-coke.
“Hey,” Seunghyun greets as he finally stops in front of him. In the alternating dimness and bright lights of the club he looks different, with dreads and a much bigger frame than he used to have, but it's unmistakably Seunghyun: his eyes are the same and the way he seems a little lost, as though he isn't entirely sure how to act in this situation.
The fact that Seunghyun is nervous allows him to pretend he isn't.
“Hey,” he replies, aiming for cool indifference and probably only succeeding half-way because acting never has been his forte.
There's an awkward silence then in which neither really knows what to say. Jiyong looks at the rum-coke in his hand rather than at Seunghyun, whose presence is too large in every sense of the word to tune out.
After a moment Jiyong thinks he should say something, or turn around (chapter closed, the easy way out) when Seunghyun fumbles, “I'm glad to run into you,” and it sounds so sincere any nasty responses Jiyong might have had are smothered.
Jiyong's heart clenches a little as he looks in the other boy's eyes and then he says, “Why didn't you contact me?” It sounds whiny even to his own ears.
“You didn't either.”
“I did,” Jiyong counters, because he had sent two or three emails before those started dying down too. Emails with basic stuff: 'the new neighbourhood is pretty good,' 'I listened to Missy Eliot's new song today,' ('I even miss your stupid jokes').
Jiyong feels a pang of righteous pleasure in seeing that Seunghyun looks guilty at that.
“I suck at keeping in touch,” he says mournfully, which is true but hardly an excuse. “And besides that I just... didn't think you'd be interested in hearing from me,”Seunghyun concludes somewhat awkwardly, and even in the dim lights of the club he can see the other guy's cheeks redden.
Jiyong blinks, taken aback.
“You were at YG after all,” Seunghyun explains, “and I was... well, not,” he finishes lamely, as though that explained everything.
Which to Seunghyun it probably did, but Jiyong frowns, once more experiencing the feeling that no matter how synchronised they sometimes are, their brains seem to go in different directions.
“I would be happy to have heard from you.”
There's a different kind of awkward silence now. Finally Jiyong says, “By the way, your hair looks terrible,” and they both laugh.
Seunghyun had told him about an upcoming gig he'd do (“underground kind of stuff, you'll like it”) and invited Jiyong to come see. He'd accepted because his curiosity for how far Seunghyun had come since they'd listened to Dr. Dre together, not to mention his curiosity about the scene Seunghyun had painted him in that shy-yet-proud kind of way, outweighed any plans he might have had.
Seeing as it is a Thursday, those plans don't really amount to more than lying on the couch and watching whatever there is on tv. No loss there.
As he arrives, the club is already crowded. It's a place he's never been to. And he's not sure club is the right word: there's a small stage and a bar on the other side of the room, with people standing in-between. It's dimmed and smoky and all sorts of thrilling to Jiyong. He doesn't see Seunghyun so he walks over to the bar and orders a beer. The bartender sizes him up and asks for id, at which Jiyong somewhat embarrassedly switches to coke. Perhaps if he could actually grow facial hair he'd seem legal.
But then any morose thoughts disappear from his mind as a solid beat appears and someone enters the stage. It's not Seunghyun but it's good, Jiyong's head nodding along to the guy's rap. He feels it in his veins.
A couple of songs, and another coke later, it is Seunghyun who takes the stage. Jiyong's head snaps up and he watches with anticipation, not sure what to expect. First Seunghyun starts beatboxing and he remembers they used to practice, but this is much better than anything they produced on rainy weekend days, locked inside with their music and silly ambition.
Not so silly now though.
Seunghyun's beat boxing melts into sold rapping and Jiyong blinks because it's good. It's raw and a little rough around the edges, but good. Jiyong can recognise that. Like a rough diamond, Jiyong thinks as he watches Seunghyun scrunch up his face in concentration, sweat colouring his face. At a place like YG his skills would be honed until they were so sharp you'd cut yourself touching it.
Sharp like the words spitting from his mouth.
Their eyes meet across the crowd then, and Seunghyun looks at him as he lets his words fill the smoky room.
When Seunghyun approaches Jiyong twenty minutes later, hair still sweaty but face wiped clean, there's the evident question in his eyes. Jiyong thinks of keeping him in suspense for a bit ('wouldn't be too much of a crime after two years of nothing,' a childish voice in his head says) but there's something about the sparkle in his eyes – or maybe just about Seunghyun – that makes it impossible to stay mad.
So he says, “You were good.”
Later he mentions YG and how he should try out for audition for this new group Yang Hyung Suk is planning because he's good and YG will make him better. He'll fit in.
Mostly, tacitly, he does not want to lose contact again.
They meet up at Seunghyun's place a couple of days later to record a demo. It's his old neighborhood and there are memories here though he refuses to be nostalgic when the future's right around the corner.
He's still thrilled when Seunghyun introduces him at home and his mother remembers him.
Once they arrive at his room – a random mixture of new furniture, old toys and a big Tupac poster gracing the wall – they set to recording. Seunghyun's voice is like before but gritter, deeper, richer. Jiyong listens to it before taking notice of the actual words. A rapper's voice, Jiyong thinks (an artist's voice because it carries meaning regardless of what's being said and sends a shiver down your spine – and listening to his own shrill voice he can't help feeling dissatisfied but oh well, he'll turn that too into an advantage).
It takes five hours and after that another three visits before they've produced something they're content with. Jiyong is critical, has never learned not to be, but Seunghyun is strong-willed and has ideas of his own and Jiyong likes that. He takes his ideas as much as he counters them. Still, ultimately it's he who has the connection at YG so when Seunghyun looks at him questioningly (hopefully) while they play the new cd, Jiyong nods.
It should get him an audition.
It does. Yang Hyung Suk likes his rapping but after a live visit says he ought to come back once he's lost twenty kilos. It was inevitable, Jiyong thinks, and at least he was impressed with his rapping; the most important part.
He says as much to Seunghyun but the other guy just shrugs. It's not indifference, far from – there's a range of emotions there, some of which Jiyong can only guess at because his friend's head is a maze only Seunghyun seems to know his way around, and then only sometimes.
As they sit on the steps of YG Entertainment's building Jiyong looks at Seunghyun and asks, “You'll do it, right?” and he means losing weight, get into YG, stay in contact with me.
Seunghyun is silent for three seconds but then nods. It's determined. Jiyong notes the hard look in his eyes and has no doubt he'll make it happen.
Whenever Jiyong sees Seunghyun over the next couple of months – and, truthfully, it's not that often because they're both busy – the other guy seems exhausted. Exercising and dieting are good things in themselves (he also reminds himself because he does not enjoy them as much as he should, hours on the treadmill seeming useless compared to song crafting despite what his disciplined mind says) but maybe too much of it proves unhealthy.
There's a waxen look to Seunghyun's skin, faint dark circles under his eyes, though the eyes themselves are more fired up than ever. Giving your everything for a goal does that to you, but perhaps his smaller frame contributes to the impression, making his eyes the unavoidable feature.
Today they're having lunch at a cheap place near YG, suitable for both their thin wallets. It's quiet because it's the hour between breakfast and lunch. It's just them at their corner table and a mother with her baby sitting near the window; two school girls in uniform seated a little further away. Jiyong looks out of the window at the traffic passing by and then up at the waitress as she stops near their table.
“Hwe dub bap for me please,” Seunghyun says, already having made up his mind.
Jiyong eyes the the pizza slices in the display. It smells good and Seunghyun must smell it too.
Part of him says 'order it' because he's had a tiresome week and craves calories and it's not like he's on a crash diet. You have to fight your own battles (reap your own rewards when given the chance) and if you can't do that life will slap you in the face.
Part of him is curious how Seunghyun will react if he eats in front of him (if he'll pass the test) and another strange part of him, one that he dislikes but can't switch off, might even find pleasure in indulging pizza at this very moment.
He looks at Seunghyun. Back to the middle-aged waitress lady.
“Same for me,” he says and it feels like a commitment.
Seunghyun gets in. They're both trainees now, eating, sleeping, living in the same place. It's crowded, together with the other trainees, and his skin crawls sometimes from the bodies around him and how no-one (except Youngbae) seems to conform to the standard set by him. If he hadn't this goal to work towards he'd go crazy, but maybe it's exactly this goal and the way it seems further removed day by day that makes his mind on edge and his mouth snap.
In the group dynamic he has the role of unapologetic leader. Wiping sweaty hair away from his forehead, critical glare, 'again, again,' – this is how the others must see him. (This is how he sees himself in the mirror of the practice room, except how else are they going to make it?)
Youngbae is the understanding figure. The mother hen. He is patient with big Seunghyun's antics and little Seunghyun's bravado in a way Jiyong could never be. He recognises it as both his flaw and his strength, but together the two of them can make it work; complement each other like they always have. This is not the part he's worried about.
Daesung with his outstanding vocals is kind and funny and Jiyong takes an immediate liking to him. Everyone does, Seunghyun especially, the two gravitating towards each other as opposite fruits of the same tree.
Little Seunghyun is brazen and talented and eager in a way that makes Jiyong confused or uncomfortable, not sure how to handle him except through criticism. (Because they're so alike yet Seungri seems so much younger).
Hyunseung is ambitious and hardworking but with an obvious soft heart that makes Jiyong sympathise.
Seunghyun is Seunghyun.
None of the four are sure whether they're gonna make it. How, when, if.
Seunghyun's rapping is good – it's what got him into YG – but his dancing is terrible. It's a problem if they're going to debut as a group.
He tries and tries but the unapologetic voice in Jiyong's mind says he doesn't try hard enough (trying won't get your anywhere in this world).
Seunghyun takes extra classes with master Hwang and Youngbae also helps run him through the routines. Jiyong would volunteer except that he's afraid (not afraid: knows) he'd snap at every misstep. Patience is not his forte when it comes to mistakes.
Plus there's something about Seunghyun that makes him react impulsively, irrationally, out of proportion. It's in the way that he sometimes finds his gaze linger at Seunghyun's profile rather than his dancing, narrow and handsome all of a sudden; in the way Seunghyun never seems quite as affected by Jiyong's criticism as the others – hurt, yes because he's sensitive, but he'll always be Jiyong to him.
Part of him likes it and part of him wants to shake Seunghyun to make him realise that I'm not (your) Jiyong in this practice room.
Still he knows that he could never stay mad with Seunghyun. Not knowing in the sense of understanding but of instinctively feeling, of things that cannot be changed and it makes him all the more irritable.
But when it's just the two of them it's just like before. When they hang out in their room and take two weird selcas for every normal one. When they're out and about for late night snack cravings, plundering the 24/7 store around the corner in their sweatpants and matching hoodies, bought on a whim when such clothing seemed necessary for their career as duo rappers. When Jiyong's mom is visiting with one of her home-made meals, pinching both their cheeks and asking if they're eating well, making Jiyong obviously embarrassed but Seunghyun happy if shy.
Seunghyun misses being home in a way that transcends the practical (having your dishes and laundry done for you) which is probably why during the summer, when they're having a few weeks off, he doesn't show his face at the dorms for some time. Jiyong only realises after a couple of days because he's busy regardless of break. After that he starts taking notice of the days of absence and after another week starts missing Seunghyun('s company).
When he's around for weeks on end he takes him for granted or gets irritable even, yet when he's gone he finds himself missing his weird antics and isn't that life's biggest inside joke?
That night when he's bored and alone in the dorms he scrolls through Seunghyun's cyworld account and writes: 'I'm starting to miss you a bit now, hyung. Your embarrassingness is slowly fading away in my mind, mang'.* He looks at his hyung's profile picture: hoodie pulled low over his head, expression purposely strange. Even like that he's more handsome than Jiyong could ever hope to be. It makes him envious except that Seunghyun does not quite seem to realise the effect he now has on people, or is strangely embarrassed or even derisive about it. Jokes about it. Handsome Choi turtle. It's more make-belief than reality. Like the transition from overweight to attractive went so fast his mind has not adjusted yet.
Somewhere outside strikes a clock. Midnight.
He feels oddly morose as he stares at his message, unanswered. Seventy black-on-white characters in internet space, no longer in his hands and not yet in Seunghyun's.
Turtle, he types out then; hits enter. Switches off his computer and falls back on bed.
It's only when he checks next morning that he sees Seunghyun has replied: hey. I'll be back this evening, shell. See you :)
They hang out in the kitchen when the others have long gone to sleep. He can't sleep lately and somehow everything seems better at night, less defined, Seunghyun's baritone voice the only sound in the house. Seunghyun takes a snack out of the fridge and Jiyong says mildly he should stick to the prescribed diet yet accepts half of the cold donut anyway. After that he lights a cigarette and here too Jiyong accepts; though his coughing threatens to wake up the entire house, followed by Seunghyun's almost hysterical laughter.
“You're an idiot,” Jiyong says sourly as he opens the window in an attempt to erase the evidence of their late night smoking. They should take it to the balcony next time.
“But still you like me,” Seunghyun answers, not so much question as statement.
Jiyong does not reply.
“When we're debuting you can't be like this,” he says instead, hearing YG's voice echo his own.
“Not in public you mean,” Seunghyun cheekily replies and Jiyong feels himself grin despite himself. Seunghyun has that effect on him.
“Okay,” he allows, “you can stay your turtle self behind closed doors.”
There's silence after that for a while. The house is quiet except for the ticking of the clock. Two a.m.
Jiyong thinks of the (near) future. There's excitement and there's fear but it's subdued by the laziness in his body, the languidness of his brain. Training will lead to hardship will lead to fame will lead to hardship (will lead to more fame). He'll be carried by the currents except in this case he needs to do all the peddling himself.
He slowly lets out a sigh, looks at Seunghyun. “What do you make of it?”
“You know. Fame.”
There's probably something in his voice that makes Seunghyun lose the joking mode and answer him seriously.
“I don't think it's about fame, really,” he say, suddenly an intense quality to his voice, “I think it's about staying true to your dream, living it, not losing sight of it. Make it come true.”
Jiyong nods. Looks at Seunghyun.
* this is a thing Jiyong actually wrote to Seunghyun: see these glorious messages.
To be continued?!