Pairing(s) / character(s): Jiyong / Seunghyun, the rest of Big Bang
Word count: 3485
Notes: see notes at the end of the story! Must be cautious not to include too much though, for this to stay a fic and not an archive, haha. Hope you enjoy the update.
Summary: Maybe it was meant to be from day one, they just took a while to get there. The story of Jiyong and Seunghyun through the years.
Chapter 2: rookies
And then debut is upon them. Six have become four have become five, have become Big Bang, have become Jiyong's dream.
Or are supposed to be.
We belong together Jiyong had written in his notebook, thinking of an ideal girl with an ideal romance or perhaps any of his old crushes that hadn't worked out. Fantasy and reality tend to jumble together when songwriting.
We belong together Park Bom noona sang in the recording mike, face scrunched up in rare concentration and pronunciation infinitely more fluent than his and Seunghyun's. Jiyong liked her voice; gave her the thumbs-up as she exited the recording boot with her usual energy.
We belong together it now sounds over their first video set. The cameras are directed at their every expression and move and it still feels foreign, though he'd like to pretend otherwise. He thinks of the tips Se7en hyung gave him earlier ('feel the song, act as though you're looking at the audience rather than the camera') but decides that in the end he'll have to figure it out for himself.
This is the end product, he thinks, watching Youngbae and Daesung dance in front of the camera. No: this is the beginning.
After a day of filming Seunghyun and he monitor the video screen, their scenes having been the last to be recorded. Underneath the obvious dissatisfaction about things that could have been better, he feels proud. Like there's a well of possibilities that has only just been tapped. And of course it should have been him and Youngbae on their first single – it feels odd, without him (there might be some guilt) but somehow it seems right nonetheless.
In a way that's almost typical, Jiyong thinks as he watches Seunghyun stare into the camera. He can't figure it out.
“Not bad, right?” says his hyung next to him. On the small screen Seunghyun pretends to drive a cabriolet, somehow making it seem candid.
Jiyong snorts, but then amends. “Not bad,” he allows with a small smile.
They're hanging in front of the television in a rare moment of leisure, the three of them. Youngbae zaps through all the channels while Seunghyun comments on everything. Jiyong half-snorts every other second.
A show with a girl group performance comes on. He doesn't know them but they look cute enough, pink skirts and matching headbands.
“You see anyone you like?” he says as he points to the screen, question directed at Youngbae.
“The one with the long hair,” Seunghyun answers instead.
Jiyong laughs. “I meant Youngbae-ah. And what are you talking about? The four of them have long hair.”
Youngbae seems conflicted between ignoring the conversation or joining in as he laughs unsurely, eyes crinkled up. The fans seem to like that, have dubbed it the “eye-smile”. (Of course the rest of the group had immediately requested if he could please eye-smile at them too when they found out – hey, it was as much a compliment as it was teasing).
“Maybe if you like one of them, the company could set up a meeting,” Jiyong says.
“You think so?” Youngbae asks.
“Probably,” Jiyong answers even though he isn't really sure. “Maybe I should make inquiries. Can't have a band member who's never dated, it's embarrassing.”
He's only forty per cent serious but he still looks at Seunghyun, who helpfully confirms: “Worse than embarrassing, it's a disgrace.”
Jiyong cackles. He knows Seunghyun's only saying it because he enjoys the joke, anyhow.
“Well, if you're keen on getting dates why don't you try it for yourself?” Youngbae suggests innocently and Jiyong is reminded why he should never provoke his best friend for too long.
“We're too busy,” Jiyong grumbles. “Finally I can date pretty girls, yet there's no time.”
It'd been a while since his last girlfriend. They'd broken up over something stupid, but now Jiyong starts regretting it a little: starts missing her hair, her smile as he hugged her from behind.
'Romanticising things' Youngbae calls that. Whatever. It's not like he has any right of speaking in that area.
Seunghyun had had a girlfriend until a little while into their traineeship – he didn't know much about her, had only seen her maybe twice. Auburn shoulder-length hair and an open smile. Of course he'd inquired with Seunghyun, about the stuff you do with all your mates (“what base, eh?”) but Seunghyun was strangely private about her.
Youngbae changes the channel and Jiyong's mind jumps from girls to food as a cooking program comes on.
“Can we get take-out later on?” Seunghyun immediately says.
“If you'll join me in the gym afterwards,” Youngbae cheerfully replies and Jiyong grins at the predictable groan that follows.
People already recognised them from their survival show and after their debut single lands – peaks at number five in the Korean hit list – that only increases. The packages with rice cakes, medicine and accessories (those are the ones he looks forward to most) increase, though usually he is too busy to accept them personally. They all are.
The training period had been hard, they agree – though in his case that almost feels foolish to say because the training period encompasses half of his life, if not more, and what does that say about him? Yet the point is: training had been hard, but it didn't end there. There is no relaxing now debut is on them and it requires effort from all of them.
They are fueled with the knowledge, though, of finally having it made out there. They are Big Bang, they've done it (they are going to do it).
So it doesn't matter that still there is no sleep or rest, and spare time is something that only exists in past or future tense.
Yet the real test is yet to come. A month after their single release they make their debut on Music Bank, a nerve-wrecking afternoon that transforms into five minutes of neatly recorded television. Jiyong feels nerves skitter down his throat as he waits to climb the stage, but he doesn't show. If the leader doesn't exert control, who will?
He sees Youngbae's and Daesung's heads bowed down in quiet prayer and thinks he'd also like some mental support, except his head is buzzing with all the things they need to think of. Lyrics-choreography-camera directions-stage presence-and
Right then Seunghyun catches his eye and gives him a small smile
(one that's just for him)
and Jiyong thinks of training sessions and everything he's wanted since he was seven and somehow everything falls into place suddenly.
He takes a deep breath.
“Let's go,” he says.
(During the stage he feels the adrenaline course through his body, the fans with their handmade fan signs and chants a blur he will remember later when lying in bed, dissecting every angle and misstep, but right now it doesn't matter that he'll frown at the recording in dissatisfaction – right now the moment is his.
Are you ready or not, he raps at Seunghyun as it's just the two of them on stage for the intro, faces close – and right now, the moment is theirs).**
Training has been fine, usually. Youngbae and Seungri are the quickest to master the dance routines, and Daesung catches on soon enough. Seunghyun eventually does too, in one way or another, though somewhere along the line it has been decided that it doesn't really matter that the oldest rapper can't dance. One of life's merits for being handsome and having a voice one does not forget, Jiyong thinks with wry amusement. At least it isn't their hyung's fault when netizens accuse the group of being ugly.
The last couple of training sessions something odd has been going on, though. It's small, but noticeable: more reluctance than usual on Seunghyun's part about the dance moves, and in particular about the La La La choreography. Out of the corner of his eye Jiyong notices Seunghyun lifting his shirt lower and lower until it hardly lifts at all.
He doesn't say anything at first as he somehow senses that this is sensitive.
After the fourth dance practice, though, he at last corners Seunghyun. The other guy is busy drinking from his water bottle, face sweaty. He doesn't directly acknowledge Jiyong as he continues to take large gulps.
“Is something wrong?” Jiyong finally asks. He's yet to learn how to approach things the subtle way.
Seunghyun looks at him and shrugs. “No,” he says and it sounds like the lie it is.
Jiyong frowns and bites back the answer that comes to mind first (don't bullshit me). He teeters between concern over his friend and annoyance about a slacking member and is not sure yet which direction he'll go. Or which one he wants to go.
“I see you don't stick to the choreography anymore,” he finally says. No reason to beat around the bush.
Seunghyun looks at him for several seconds and Jiyong thinks he can count the sweatdrops on his face if he stares long enough.
“It's nothing,” Seunghyun finally says and heads towards the door of the practice room.
Jiyong tsks, balling his fingers in a fist.
“What's up with Seunghyun?” Jiyong asks Daesung the next afternoon as the other guy cooks rice -in lieu of the real maknae- in their cramped kitchen.
Seunghyun always tells Daesung everything.
The other guy looks up in surprise and seems about to shrug before detecting something in Jiyong that makes him change his mind – perhaps it's concern, even though Jiyong tries to hide it under layers of leader; hyung; I don't care.
“Well, you know, the online comments,” Daesung offers. He lifts the lid of the rice cooker to peek at the contents.
And of course Jiyong knows: he's seen the comments too, reading them at night after exhausting practices: this group is too ugly to be idols, they'll never make it, what a joke!
It hurt as much as it spurred him on to continue. In the morning light it was only the latter that mattered, anyway.
“Thanks,” Jiyong says sincerely, “cook a good meal now,” and claps Daesung on the shoulder as he retreats to his room.
“It's the online comments,” Jiyong states later that night, as everyone has retreated to their rooms and he steps into the oldest' one. A room for himself: privilege of the hyung.
Seunghyun's dressed comfortably in sweatpants and hoodie, but his expression as he looks up is guarded, like he's not prepared to give anything away. After seconds of staring he seems to make a mental switch though, and stands up from his chair, pointing at the computer.
“It's on there,” he says as Jiyong tentatively makes his way over, “just search for my name.”
Jiyong does. And it's there.
Rows of comments next to a screenshot of Seunghyun's exposed stomach – and Jiyong wants to stop reading after the third one, feels a little nauseated and a lot indignant in a way that makes him want to lash out or curl up.
He is very aware of Seunghyun standing right behind him – embarrassed, no doubt – and clicks the screen away.
“Hyung,” he begins, but Seunghyun overrides whatever comment Jiyong was going to make to make it better, to rationalise things (to trail off in silence).
“I should have expected it,” Seunghyun says, “who am I even kidding – you know what I looked like just ten months ago.”
There's a biting tone to his voice, as though he wants Jiyong to confirm and say, 'yes, you did look hideous.'
Jiyong says nothing. He stares at the screen, at one of their first photoshoots that Seunghyun has set as his deskop background. Black suits and still somewhat clumsy posing.
His mouth tastes foul.
“I don't have a six pack and never will,” Seunghyun continues, “honestly, I'm not cut out to be an idol star. We both know it.”
Jiyong swivels his chair around then. Suddenly he feels angry – the sympathy faded to the background. “You think that's the only qualification for being an idol? For being a rapper?” He spits the words as he looks up at Seunghyun, hard. “You know what, fuck that.”
And it's both for Seunghyun's victim playing and for the idiots who made him feel that way in the first place.
He stands up then and heaves a few deep breaths, trying to regain his composure. It's the only sound in the room for a while as they look at each other.
Seunghyun's eyes have widened a little. Jiyong feels a strange tension in his body.
“You're good at what you do,” he finally says, and it's a summary of everything that should be said and maybe shouldn't. “There's a reason you're standing where you are.”
“How do you handle it?” Seunghyun asks finally, sidestepping the question that looms over it all.
“I remind myself that I'm here and they're there,” he answers. The here being: eight-hour dance practices, their song on the radio, ten years worth of training, name enough well-known to attract hateful comments in the first place. “Use it as ammunition,” Jiyong suggests and he sees Seunghyun frown; file it away for further deliberation. Thought sessions that will no doubt lead to less sleep, again.
There's silence once more. Jiyong looks at a nondescript corner of Seunghyun's room. There's old clothes there – there are old clothes and doodled papers everywhere, room messy in a way that gets at Jiyong, makes him want to organise even though it isn't his.
Organised room, organised mind. Caps in their designated place, shirts ironed and folded, ready to go.
Seunghyun shifts and Jiyong directs his attention back to the matter at hand.
“All right,” he says, “so you'll be okay now?”
(And this could be leader GD, concerned over the group, for if one member is not all right none of them are – it is safer than the alternative anyway.)
“I'll try,” Seunghyun says with disarming honesty. “Thanks.”
“Sure,” Jiyong replies, and takes a step in the direction of the door; then stops again. Mulls something over in his head.
“You know I – there's a reason I asked you to try out at YG, all right?” He feels awkward suddenly as the safety of his leader role is abandoned. He skips eighty percent of the speech that plays top speed in his mind, and ends instead with, “You've always seemed cool to me, even back then.” It's embarrassing but then it's also completely candid.
Seunghyun's eyes widen again. “Oh,” he just says.
“Don't make this worse, it's already awkward,” he accuses.
“Yeah,” Seunghyun agrees and Jiyong huffs. Is aware his cheeks have become slightly red.
“All right, good night,” he says and turns around.
“Jiyong,” Seunghyun says. Jiyong stays still, hand on the doorknob.
“You know. Thanks. Again.”
“Yeah,” Jiyong answers, pushing the door open and not looking back as he closes it with a neat click.
They're on their way to a radio show. The five of them packed together in the van at six in the morning, and though Jiyong won't complain he doesn't think he'll ever get used to the time. His eyes are glued with sleep and no-one needs to make the wrong comment now or he'll lose it.
“What story am I supposed to tell when they ask me?” Youngbae says over at the other side of the window, still worried about this kind of aspect of fame. Near-fame. Whatever.
“Just make something up, you'll be fine,” Jiyong grunts, not sure if he believes it but then it's too early to go into detail.
Seungri shifts in his sleep as he leans on Jiyong's shoulder. Somewhere along the line that has become his designated spot. Jiyong's not sure how he feels about that – still not entirely used to the youngest' sharp mind and boldness – but then he must admit that he's pleased Seungri prefers his shoulder above anyone else's.
“Shall I tell the story about the ice cream?”Seunghyun says.
“No,” Jiyong immediately responds.
“Maybe we'll need to do the skit again,” Seunghyun says and Jiyong thinks this is payback for his curt answer because Seunghyun knows just how to get under his skin.**
“That shit is stupid,” Jiyong says dismissively as he shifts in his seat.
“'I can't do this without you,'” Seunghyun begins.
“Stop it,” Jiyong says.
“'I don't know, I always think you'll be there when I open my eyes,'” he continues.
He can feel Youngbae eyeing him as Jiyong shifts again. Daesung is smiling in his seat, as attuned to Seunghyun's humour fits as ever.
“'I love you,'” Seungyun finishes and Jiyong snaps – it's too early for this.
“Okay, I get it,” he snarls.
“What do you get?” Daesung asks innocently.
“Just get some sleep so we can be at our best at the recording,” Jiyong answers instead and closes his eyes demonstratively.
The year is concluded with their first concert. The Real. Any nerves he might have felt before pale in comparison to the ones now, in the months and weeks before the concert – because this is bigger, grander, their opportunity to leave a mark and reward all the fans for their loyalty.
The logistics tumble around in Jiyong's head, late at night when his eyes threaten to fall shut and everything becomes such a disorganised blur he can only rub his head in response.
It's not his responsibility, strictly speaking – there are people taking care of it the way he takes care of the musical component, but he can't find peace unless he has an overview of everything, unless he can approve of everything.
One night when he's shuffling through papers with a deep frown on his brow, the maknae walks up to him.
“Maybe you should trust other people to do well,” he suggests. After almost a year Jiyong still thinks: some nerves, but it's concern that colours the other boy's voice.
“We need to be great,” Jiyong states flatly.
“We will be great,” Seungri replies with such unwavering confidence that Jiyong smiles for the first time that day.
We Belong Together. V.I.P. La-La-La. This Love. Their songs fill the venue, voices blending with the screams of thousands of fans who have gathered in Seoul's Olympic Park Stadium.
When it isn't Jiyong's turn to sing, there's a semi-permanent gummy smile on his face. It's hard to keep it off, really. The five of them on stage, performing their own songs, in front of their own fans – nothing compares to it.
These people are on our side, Jiyong realises as he looks around the venue hall, at the women and girls waving their lightsticks and singing along. These are their fans, their supporters, the people who'll stay by their side even when the concert has ended.
Jiyong has the feeling he's going to choke up. It's a lot, is all.
They dress up as girls for their SES parody. The stylist noonas laugh when they see him, but as he studies himself in the mirror and adjusts his wig he says flippantly, “At least I don't look as ridiculous as TOP-hyung.”**
It's the truth, anyway.
During an interlude their sketch plays on the big screen. They'd recorded it a few days ago, Seunghyun and he, childishly excited over the chance of some acting. Inevitably the day had included a lot of ad-libs (Seunghyun) and a lot of takes because of the consequent laughter (Jiyong, without fail).
“Omo, I like this pose,” his character purrs on screen, fondling TOP's butt like the script told him to – much to his initial surprise – and the concert hall breaks into screams. As if on cue, Jiyong's face falls apart as well.**
He's not sure if it's out of embarrassment or from being pleased, but then it might be both.
“Shut up,” he says to Youngbae and Seungri, who haven't said anything but break into laughter as they monitor the screen from the side-lines.
“Ah, you do make a pretty lady,” Daesung concedes as he joins in.
Jiyong doesn't contradict him. He'd been thinking the same thing.
“I'm not too bad at this acting thing, am I?” Seunghyun says next to him as he admires himself on the big screen.
“Don't let it get to your head,” Jiyong warns, nudging his shoulder.
Seunghyun offers a mischievous smile, one that's just for him, and his chest gets a little warm.
They're doing well but they're not doing great, and it itches at Jiyong. Right underneath his skin.
The thing is that he knows they can do more; knows he can do more; and he almost wants to shout it, to all the naysayers, to all the critics, say: you haven't seen anything yet. Instead he swallows up every disbelieving gaze and uses it as ammunition.
Just you wait and see.
Geojitmal, Jiyong writes in his notebook.
* 1. isn't it kind of beautifully symbolic that GD and TOP opened Big Bang's debut stage together?!
* 2. I can't find the subbed version anymore, but those are actual lines said by GD and TOP on a radio show they did. It's from when they performed Forever With You, see towards the end.
* 3. If you want to see for yourself how GD and TOP look, see this performance.
* 4. yes, that happened.