Genre: Realistic Fiction; Angst; Friendship.
Summary: Four times in which Seunghoon cries. The third time, only because Seungyoon allows him to.
Author's Note: This chapter takes place two nights before the Second Battle. Seunghoon is disappointed with his lyrics, as well as everything about himself. So he makes some changes.
September 24, 2013. YG Entertainment Training Center, Practice Room 4.
“Seunghoon hyung. I know you can hear me.”
Seungyoon stood at the door of the practice room, staring inside at an exhausted-looking Seunghoon. He was sitting against the wall, a huge hood covering his head, arms wrapped around his bent knees, body curled up and head buried in his arms, making him look even more depressing than he already always was.
He didn’t even try to acknowledge the presence of the other boy.
“Seunghoon hyung!" Seungyoon couldn't believe his hyung was being this irritating." Can you please respond to me?”
“What.” Seunghoon muttered, not even looking up.
“What do you mean, ‘what’?” snapped Seungyoon, incredulously. “How about you tell me what you're doing here right now?”
“Working. What else can I be doing in a practice room.”
Seungyoon could feel the blood boiling in his veins, as he watched in frustration at his hyung, who continued to respond dryly, still sitting there with his head buried, still avoiding his gaze.
“Hyung, are you serious?”
“Do I look serious right now?” Still, he wasn't looking up.
“Hyung, I'm actually gonna punch you.”
“Please do it. Do it now. Maybe you’ll knock some fucking inspiration into my head.”
“Do you have any idea how worried you had us? You can’t just leave us in the middle of the night like that without telling us!”
“Well, looks like I just did, didn’t I.”
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” Seungyoon practically screamed, finally stepping foot into the room and slamming the door shut. “The only reason I didn’t follow you out was because I thought you would have been back soon! You’ve been out here for the past two hours! What the hell have you been doing?”
“Nobody forced you to come here. You can go back and sleep if you want.”
“How are we supposed to sleep, when we have no idea where you're going, or what you are getting yourself into? Mino was especially worried. When you opened the door to leave, you woke him up from one of his bad dreams, and he was on the verge of tears.”
At the mention of Mino, Seunghoon finally lifted his head out of his arms, took off his hood, and looked up at Seungyoon.
Seungyoon almost gasped in shock when he saw the state of his hyung. Seunghoon’s hair was disheveled, looking like a ruffled mop that hadn’t been cleaned for ages. His eyes were bloodshot, reflecting the lack of sleep he had been experiencing ever since the end of the First Battle, and his eyebags seemed as if they had grown exponentially in size.
“Was it another dream about sajangnim?” He said hoarsely, a soulless smile plastered to his face, as if he were mocking Seungyoon.
Seungyoon felt his face freezing up. He never knew Mino had been having bad dreams about their CEO.
“Did sajangnim take away his role as main rapper this time, too?” Seunghoon continued monotonously, as his mirthless grin continued tugging at the edges of his mouth. “Did he appoint me as the main rapper, because Mino sprained an elbow or something? Did we lose the battle because of my rapping?”
All of Seungyoon’s anger dissipated, as a wave of guilt washed over him. Mino was always such a bright and positive guy, it scared Seungyoon to think of the fact that he could have been crying during his sleep for the past ten days.
“I…I don’t know. I never asked Mino about his bad dreams.”
What kind of leader was he.
Seunghoon laughed dryly. Scarily.
“How about you go back to the dorm, and tell Mino I’m fine. Tell him I didn’t run away or get kidnapped or anything. I’m just here to work.”
“Hyung, can you please just come with me? Let’s go back to the dorms.”
Seunghoon sighed, and raised his voice irritably. “If you’re here to nag at me more, then please leave and get some sleep for your own sake, kid. Oh, I’m sorry. ‘Leader’.”
Seungyoon let out a deep sigh, as he walked across the practice room to where the light switch was, and flicked it on. He walked to where Seunghoon was, and sat beside him, crossing his legs.
In the harsh, fluorescent light that now flooded the room, Seungyoon could see more clearly the sweat that lined Seunghoon’s forehead.
Seunghoon still wouldn’t look at him.
“Hyung, please don’t be like this,” he whispered.
Seungyoon looked around the room, taking notice of the atmosphere of the environment. It was a small practice room, with old and dirty wooden floors, instruments scattered around the area – some piled up in the corner and others propped along the lengths of the walls – and an airtight atmosphere. A tiny, condensed, soundproof, viewproof, emotionproof room with walls that felt as if they were closing up on you, suffocating you – especially at 4:30 in the morning, 2 days before the second battle.
It was a familiar suffocation.
They had lost. Three times, in fact. Not a single win.
Turns out there were worse options than fourth place.
Seunghoon continued to stare blankly at the wall opposite. He could see the shadows created by the crumples of notebook paper – failure after failure – as the desk lamp shone its images onto the wall, projecting the images even larger.
This was it. His life was just failure after huge failure, wasn’t it.
“Hyung, what could you be working on though?” Seungyoon said, a bit softer this time, trying to break the awkward silence. “I thought we had finalized our performance material yesterday.”
Seunghoon responded with a soft sigh, as he sniffled, and leaned his head back on the wall, closing his eyes.
Seungyoon couldn’t muster up the energy to say anything more, as he normally would have. Instead, he continued to watch his hyung’s facial expression – cold, emotionless, dead.
Seungyoon had unfortunately been there to witness the entirety of Lee Seunghoon’s slow and painful death, week by week throughout the unfinished 100 days, and minute by minute on the 40 minute “WIN” episodes. The show that changed their lives and stole their souls and ruined their friendships and pride and whatever was left of their self-esteem or their ability to be taken seriously as a performing group. Lee Seunghoon was no longer Lee Seunghoon the crazy eccentric “KpopStar”, no longer the creative mastermind he used to be, no longer the "Seunghoonie-hyung” that Seungyoon would follow around and make funny impromptu dances with.
He was just Seunghoon, a trainee that belonged to Team A. The “other rapper”, the one with the weird Busan accent.
The accent that they shared.
He was a loser. They all were.
They knew that they didn’t have the potential to be a group, and they were constantly reminded that by Team B, by the CEO, and apparently now, by the whole YG Family, after the first battle results. They were never best friends, never really had the close-knit relationships that the other team had. They were just five random kids, with decent skills, thrown together into the vortex of reality TV, left to be devoured.
Seunghoon finally turned his head to face Seungyoon. The small, lifeless smile was still plastered to his face, the smile that he always forced whenever he was around people.
“Seungyoonie-ah. You told us to write lyrics about our past, right? Lyrics about reminiscence.”
“Yeah, yeah I did,” Seungyoon said cautiously. “And I’m sorry for getting mad at you hyung…about staying up late. I mean, I had came up with the concept of “Officially Missing You” at 4 AM in the morning, so I really shouldn’t be here nagging at you.”
“It’s okay, kid,” Seunghoon chuckled sadly, as he put his head down again. “I'm not mad at you. I just thought that staying up late would help me gain inspiration, too. Just like you did, with Officially Missing You.”
“Did it work, hyung? Did you get inspiration?”
(It did work, Seungyoon-ah. But it isn’t enough.
It's never enough, yet it's always too much.)
“Yes, and no.” Seunghoon continued, a grave expression on his face as he looked into Seungyoon’s eyes. “Do you remember the lyrics I came up with from before? The ones that I showed to you yesterday.”
Seungyoon did remember. The lyrics were about Seunghoon moving from Busan to Seoul, struggling with money, dancing, audition programs - life. They were great lyrics.
“Well, I scrapped them all.”
“YOU DID WHAT?”
“I threw all those lyrics away, when I realized how unsatisfying they were.”
“Hyung, you can't just change your lyrics two days before we perform! And what's wrong with your lyrics? They’re the best ones you’ve written so far!”
“I never said they weren’t good. I said they were unsatisfying.” Seunghoon raised his voice, his anger visibly rising.
“Seungyoon-ah, how am I supposed to write these lyrics? How am I supposed to fit all of my struggles and fears and losses and hardships into a single rap verse within a smooth R&B song like “Officially Missing You”, without sounding angry? Without wanting to scream and yell or set the stage on fire or something? How am I supposed to go on that stage, and spit some generic shit about how I struggled in the past when everyone on this show is fucking struggling? How is any of this fair?” Seunghoon screamed, kicking his legs in frustration.
Seungyoon didn’t say anything.
“How am I supposed to write lyrics about the past when I am living in the present, and nothing is getting better? How am I supposed to rap without mentioning my present, which would be this show – this stupid TV show – without blaming it for ruining our lives? Because god damn it Kang Seungyoon that is all I want to do. All I want to do is go on stage and scream about how unfair this whole situation is, and about how all 11 of us are merely TV characters – a friday night entertainment fiasco – nothing but wild animals locked in a stadium while everybody watches us eat each other alive for their fucking entertainment while they place bets on us, with some stupid coin that has A stamped on one side and B on the other. About how all our years of work and blood and tears and music are being sold for some cheap entertainment value as our friendships are strained and destroyed and torn apart and…and about how fucking ashamed I am to play an active part of this.”
Seunghoon paused, looking like he was on the verge of tears, taking deep breaths while staring at Seungyoon, as if daring him to respond, or to nag at him. To tell him to deal with the music at hand.
But Seungyoon was speechless, as he bit his lip to hold back his own tears.
“Seungyoon-ah…” Seunghoon uttered weakly, voice cracking. “Don’t you see? I don’t want to rap about my past. Because all I feel is shame. I’m so fucking ashamed of everything I have ever done. Of being a loser, of being an incompetent performer; of being just another pawn in this game of death. I have nothing to be proud about, because everything that I have done up until this point has in one way or another been a complete failure. So I rewrote my lyrics, to write about the present, and the future. To write about real life. Or at least, how I feel about it.”
And at this, Seunghoon finally mustered up the energy to pull himself up from the ground, and drag himself to the desk, where the recording studio was.
He clicked the play button on the recording device, and the MR of “Officially Missing You” blared through the speakers.
And he began, rapping in a voice full of frustration, so loud and passionate and earth-shattering - Seungyoon swore he felt the ground shake.
Sometimes, it’s meaningless.
It’s different from the life that I wanted.
Should we divide the dream into two and go together?
Everyone's the same."
Seungyoon closed his eyes, taking in all of the heart and soul that Seunghoon had put into these new lyrics.
“For years and years,
We have been walking on a desert, so we are thirsty.
Brother, today it came again without exception.
I bet you prepared a spear and a shield."
Seunghoon rapped fiercely into his microphone, his words filling the suffocating air, all his pent-up emotions now completely transparent.
We become a clock that cannot run, because the cogwheel is missing. Somebody please fast-forward the tape,
I'll be there."
The rap was finished. The room was trembling.
Heart pounding and head vibrating, Seunghoon saw out of the corner of his eye the digital clock that sat at the end of the desk. It was 4:40 AM.
He pressed the off-button, his breath still shaky and anxious. Then, he looked at Seungyoon in the eyes, his expression defiant.
“I hope these lyrics are acceptable…” he paused. “Because this is what I’m going to be rapping the day after tomorrow.”
Seungyoon’s mind was still in a haze, not even registering that were coming out of Seunghoon's mouth at the moment, as the lyrics continued to echo and race through his head.
“Hyung…of course they’re acceptable, they’re really, really good, hyung...really, really good…” Seungyoon repeated his words, the way he always did when he was dazed.
“Good.” Seunghoon walked back to the wall - beside Seungyoon - and slumped back down onto the ground, back slouching and legs apart.
“You can go home and sleep now if you want, Seungyoon-ah. Everything that is to be heard has already been heard. I’m sorry for worrying you guys.”
There was a long silence. Neither of them spoke a word.
“Hyung?” Seungyoon muttered.
Seunghoon turned his head to face Seungyoon. This time, Seungyoon was the one avoiding eye contact.
“You know,” Seungyoon whispered hoarsely, as he furrowed his brow harshly. “Hyung…it’s okay to cry.”
Seunghoon didn’t respond.
“I used to cry all the time when I failed all my dance evaluations,” Seungyoon’s voice crackled, as he tried to fake a laugh to hide his pain. “Seriously hyung, it’s really alright.”
Seungyoon felt himself losing his voice. He was still trying to keep a smile on his face, still trying to smile for his Seunghoon hyung, who had suffered so much...but at this point, his smile probably looked like a painful grimace.
“It’s really alright if you cry, hyung… just please, stop holding in your emotions every day, like your life depends on it. It...it just really scares all of us, hyung.” Seungyoon’s voice cracked again.
Seunghoon felt his whole body begin to tremble, his face reddening and his self-restraint completely gone by this point.
“Sometimes….” Seungyoon glanced at the digital clock, his vision blurred by the tears that started to form. It was 4:44 AM.
“Sometimes, you really just have to let it all out. You have been so strong for so long, Seunghoon-hyung, please…please just let yourself cry once.”
And so he finally listened to the leader, and did what he was told.