Cover Art: Saphire ♥ @jinwoolf
Pairing: Seungyoon/Taehyun (Kangnam); more Taehyun-centric.
Word Count: 3592
Genre: Realistic Fiction; Friendship; Character Study; Angst; Fluff(y ending).
Summary: Admist the screams and shouts of the rapper line and the ensuing explosions of laughter from the oldest hyung, he was always able to find silent comfort in Seungyoon, and comfortable silence was always a sign of closeness...right? (In which Taehyun reflects on his relationship with Seungyoon while waiting for the flight to take off, and realizes just how much he means to him.)
Disclaimer: Since this fic is very much grounded in reality, I feel like it's necessary for me to say that I do not own any of these characters, nor do I know how accurately I portray them; I have no idea what Taehyun's family life is like, and these are all figments of my imagination that I've used as a means to communicate and support my thoughts on Taehyun, on his personality, and on the relationship between Kangnam! Hope you enjoy, and don't mind its lengthiness, and how rambling it can get sometimes.
November 19, 2013;
Nam Taehyun was never particularly good with spoken conversation. He wished he were – it would have made friendship and socializing and bonding and basically everything that Team A lacked in their earlier days so much easier to obtain – but of course, it wasn’t that simple for him. Sometimes, he blamed himself for the problems that arose between the members, especially during the months of WIN. He knew that he could come off as a bit cold, and that it could make the other four slightly uncomfortable sometimes. Nevertheless, Taehyun found it irritating and shallow that people judged the closeness of a relationship by the amount of visible interactions that took place between the individuals. He didn’t understand why he had to blatantly flaunt his relationship with Seungyoon to prove that it was strong.
Why had Mino thought that he was awkward with Seungyoon? If anything, the maknae savored every moment alone with the leader that he could get; admist the screams and shouts of the rapper line and the ensuing explosions of laughter from the oldest hyung, he was always able to find silent comfort in Seungyoon, and comfortable silence was always a sign of closeness…right?
It was early morning when the five boys boarded a plane that would take them back to Korea, after the surreal experiences that had taken place over the past few days in Japan. As the three oldest hyungs had another animated conversation about their amusement park adventures from last night, Taehyun sat calmly next to the window, pretending to read a book while in reality contemplating the dynamic of his relationship with Seungyoon. What better way to spend his time while waiting for the delayed flight to start?
Seungyoon, on the other hand, had already fallen fast asleep, and was snoring lightly when his head suddenly landed onto Taehyun’s shoulder. Taehyun let out a sigh, and continued to stare blankly at the book sitting on his lap. Seungyoon’s head was unusually heavy, but Taehyun guessed it was sort of a given, considering his 140 IQ. Damn him.
“Throw up your worries…to the sky…blow up……”
Taehyun snapped out of his thoughts and looked up from his book to find Seungyoon murmuring the lyrics of Go Up. He chuckled softly and shook his head, finding it funny and endearing that Seungyoon was so immersed in his music and his performance, even in his sleep. Almost by reflex, he started to harmonize with the leader. “Yeah we’ll go up, up up up up…”
Any words that were exchanged between Taehyun and Seungyoon rarely came unaccompanied by a melody and a harmony. The first day that Nam Taehyun had met Kang Seungyoon, the sweaty YG trainee who was supposed to be a celebrity, they were paired up in the same trainee group. Over the course of a few months, they established their positions as two of the strongest vocal contenders, a power duo – and since then, the dynamic of their entire relationship was set, just by that quality: singing. Some trainees would have thought they were inseparable, because during the free hours and breaks between practice at the YG training center, one could hardly walk through the practice rooms or hallways without hearing these two voices together, supporting each other in harmony.
The more Taehyun thought about it, the more he realized how much his relationship with Seungyoon was centered around performance. Sometimes, he felt like a greater part of their communication was through singing – through making music – than through actually having conversation about their real lives. To Seungyoon and Taehyun, singing was instinctive. But how much time did they ever spend communicating in words, getting to know each other for who they really were, outside of the singing and the practicing, and beyond the label of “YG Trainee” that had been placed upon them?
“I don’t know you,
but I want you,
all the more for that.”
Seungyoon had started to sing again, still asleep. This time, it was “Falling Slowly”, one of his favorite songs to sing with Taehyun; the first song that they had performed on the day they had spent busking in Shibuya.
Of course, Taehyun harmonized accordingly.
“Words fall through me,
and always fool me,
and I can’t react.”
Nam Taehyun remembered the first time he laid eyes and ears on Kang Seungyoon, through the TV screen that was broadcasting a re-run of SuperStar K2. It was a Saturday evening, and Taehyun was spending the night with his family after a long day of dance practice – his YG audition was coming up in a month.
“Oh, he’s my favorite!” his mother exclaimed excitedly, as Kang Seungyoon belted out the final note of “Instinctively”, his most famous performance.
“He’s the same age as Taehyunnie, but doesn’t his voice already sound so mature? I wish he hadn’t gotten eliminated. You know, whenever I see him, I always think of your hyung,” she said to Donghyun, who quietly nodded. “They seem to have so much in common.”
Taehyun scoffed. “Please. I would never even think of wearing that ridiculous hat.”
(Nor do I have the vocal power to do those vibrations that he always pulls off so well, he thought to himself.)
His mother laughed. “Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be standing there on the exact same stage as him, wearing outfits and makeup just as excessive. Isn’t that what you’ve been training for all this time?”
“Yeah, if I actually manage to get myself into YG Entertainment,” Taehyun muttered. Although Taehyun was confident in his abilities, practice was never enough. He knew that he had more to prove than what he already had at hand.
If there was one thing that Taehyun feared, it was incompetence. Between living with a busy mother who ran a small restaurant that guaranteed only a fluctuating income, a timid little brother who struggled with social anxiety problems, and a negligent father who was constantly occupied by his day-job (or so he said) and barely left any time to come back to his family, Taehyun lived in a constant state of ambition, always feeling like he needed to push himself to uphold his pride. That was part of the reason why he had so many talents and abilities: singing, dancing, boxing, martial arts, writing, composing tracks – you name it, all the while being a straight A student. Occupying himself with extra-curricular activities every second of the day was not only a great way to detach himself from his shitty reality, which took place in the form of a school filled with boring classes and boring people who all wanted the same things, but also to take his mind off of how fucked up his family life had been for the past few years.
Nothing was ever merely “enough” for Nam Taehyun, there was always “better”, “improved”, or “more refined”. Everything he did had to be perfect, whether he liked what he was doing or not. Sometimes he put so much pressure on himself that his mother worried about his mental well-being, though she never talked to him about it because she knew that her rebellious son wouldn’t listen. Taehyun was never satisfied with himself.
“Just be patient, son. The day will come sooner than you know, just like it did for Kang Seungyoon. Isn’t he training at YG now, too? Everything will work out, but you must always have hope.”
"Games that never amount
to more than they're meant
will play themselves out."
Seungyoon, whose head was still on Taehyun's shoulder, sang his verse, and Taehyun prepared himself for the chorus.
“Mom, it’s dinnertime. Where’s dad?” Taehyun said, turning down the volume of the TV.
The smile that was previously on his mother’s face faded slowly. “I don’t know where he is, Taehyunnie. Haven’t you gotten a bit tired of asking that question, if I always give you the same answer?”
Taehyun didn’t respond.
(After all, he knew his dad had been gone since a long time ago – now as good as a stranger to the family – but sometimes he still tried to convince himself otherwise.)
“Take this sinking boat,
And point it home,
We’ve still got time.”
These past few months have been very harsh on all of them, but Taehyun knew that Seungyoon had it the hardest. After the leader switch, Seungyoon had been pushing himself much more than before: always making sure the team was on schedule and organized, writing songs and composing tracks into the crack of dawn, even going as far as doubling his dance practice time when Seunghoon subtly jabbed at his lack of dance talent. He did a fantastic job of hiding his exhaustion with all sorts of things, ranging from his stoic nature and natural sense of leadership to his weird humor and his bizarre laughter, but Taehyun could see that he was burning out. He just didn’t understand how he contained himself so well.
Seungyoon had always been such a paradox to Taehyun. Beyond his childlike innocence and pure demeanor, he possessed a maturity far beyond their age, and a range a talent so wide and so thorough, and yet, those weren’t even the qualities that Taehyun was most envious over.
Seungyoon-hyung always kept his composure, no matter the circumstance. He never cracked under pressure, and he never cried – he didn’t know the meaning of tears. Some people thought that Seungyoon’s image was a bit too sentimental for an entertainment company dominated by a “cool” and “elitist” reputation, and yet, nobody bothered noticing how in reality, Seungyoon was so good at detaching from his emotions. He never let any of his feelings get to him – positive feelings never stopped him from being humble, and negative feelings never stopped him from focusing on the task at hand, and creating something beautiful and meaningful. Nobody was under more pressure than Seungyoon, and yet nobody handled it better than he did.
No matter how much Taehyun tried to be the strong maknae, he was always known as “the sensitive one”, because as much as he hated it, he could be really transparent sometimes. Seungyoon-hyung was much more opaque. He never vocalized his pain, never complained, and when the members screwed up, he almost never got angry or scolded them – he was constantly reminding them that they could bounce back, that they could improve, that things would get better, that they should just appreciate every chance of performance that they got, that they would go up. He never needed cheering up, because it was always him that was doing the cheering up for everyone else, but sometimes Taehyun wondered if Seungyoon had days when he just wanted to scream and explode in front the other members, like the way Taehyun felt sometimes.
Seungyoon had built a wall for himself - separating his personal emotions and worries from those of the rest of his teammates - and always prioritized what was on the other side of the wall over his own side. He never let his guard down, and maybe that was the reason why Taehyun had never tried to connect with him on a more personal level.
“Raise your hopeful voice,
You have a choice,
You’ll make it now.”
“What role are you in charge of in the team?”
The words of the CEO had hit Taehyun like a train, and echoed endlessly through his head, as he sobbed uncontrollably into the palms of his hands.
“You don’t stand out. Your high notes are nothing special.”
“Debut, or the army? Your choice.”
“I’d like to see you be able to defeat Team B, even just once.”
It was all his fault. It would be his fault if Team A lost to Team B. It would be his fault if his hyungs went off to the army. It’s his fault that he was so uncooperative, so insignificant and incompetent – what was his role in the team?
“May I get a tissue, please?” Seungyoon had said to the staff, as he took one from the camera man and gave it to the maknae. He willed himself not to cry along with the maknae, which was a hard task, because he understood.
Eyes that know me.
And I can’t go back.
Moods that take me,
And erase me,
And I’m painted black.”
Perhaps the part that hurt the most, in Seungyoon's mind, was that the viewers of the current scene would interpret Taehyun's tears as merely another natural, emotional reaction to being criticized, but Seungyoon knew that it was much more than that. Seungyoon could see through it all: the tears of a boy who hated the life that he was doomed to, who wanted nothing more than to break away from whatever he had left of his family and his friends and the cruelties of the ones who had hurt him – a boy who wanted nothing more than to make his mother proud. A boy who would do anything and everything and go above and beyond all things imaginable, just to prove himself worthy, just to convince himself that he wasn’t as pathetic; that he fulfilled a purpose, unlike everyone around him.
Even without Taehyun speaking a single word, Seungyoon understood – how could he not? He had been through all of this before.
And yet, he never wanted to talk about it with Taehyun, because he always wanted to be the strong, hyung figure for the maknae, who lacked a father figure in his life, just like he had.
But in that moment, Seungyoon finally realized that maybe remaining silent and refraining from expressing his feelings wasn’t always the best way to solve problems. How ironic, that he was always the one trying so hard to get them to be more cooperative, more like a team... and yet, maybe he also played a part in the lack of teamwork between the members of Team A.
“You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself;
It’s time that you won.”
“Hyung, how do you do it?” was what Taehyun had once asked him. “How do you manage to keep your life together?”
“Our boss basically threw you into a sudden slew of solo promotions in the midst of our already intense competition, but you still manage to contribute so much to every aspect of the team. How do you manage to even physically function?” Taehyun had said once, the time when Seungyoon forced himself to participate in dance practice, even though he had a cast on his neck.
“How do you even manage to get by in Team A, when you probably know that you deserve the title of ‘leader’?”
“You work so hard on every part of our performances, how have you not burned out yet?”
“How do you function under the pressure of being in your second survival program, knowing that your efforts and sweat and blood and tears are being sold to the public as some sort of game that determines the rest of our lives?”
These were all actual questions that Taehyun had asked him, as an attempt to break the wall that shielded Seungyoon’s emotions. Seungyoon knew what he was trying to do, and yet, every time he asked a question like this, Seungyoon couldn’t help but feel hurt – not for himself – but for his maknae. Taehyun was so sensitive, so fragile and so desperate – Seungyoon feared that he would break soon, from all the pressure he put himself under.
So he would respond with his usual, “I’m okay.” “Let’s get back to work.” “Hey, do you think we should sing this song?”
The truth was, Seungyoon didn’t really know how he dealt with it all. (Nor was he always okay.)
But when the night after the second evaluation came, where Team A had lost to Team B again, Seungyoon felt like he could ignore those questions no longer.
“I’m sorry. I should be more cooperative in the future, just like hyung is. I should have just worked with the song and made the best out of it instead of complaining about how it didn’t suit me. I’m sorry for being selfish, I promise I will improve from now on.”
Seungyoon was taken aback. “Taehyun, you sounded fine today, I’m not here to scold you if that’s what you meant. I just…do you remember those questions that you would always ask me? About how to deal with pressure?”
The worried expression on Taehyun’s face fell slowly, as he took a deep breath, and listened attentively.
“Well, I mean, I guess it is a lot of pressure, being in WIN and having to do a solo and everything in between, but it makes it easier if I convince myself that I have nothing to prove.”
“What do you mean you have nothing to prove? You’re so talented, and you're the closest thing to a YG artist amongst all eleven of us. Shouldn’t you have the most to prove?”
Seungyoon sighed. He never understood how Taehyun managed to flatter him and worry him all at once.
“Out of everyone here, I understand you the most, Taehyun. You know that, right?” Seungyoon paused for a second, cautious of how to choose his next words.
“I know that you feel like you have a lot to prove. I know exactly how you feel, and WIN is the second time that I am going through that. But once you let that go – once you stop convincing yourself that you need to prove yourself, and just do what you have to do…then everything just comes naturally, I guess.”
Taehyun stood there in silence, shocked at his response, as everything started to begin making sense. This was the closest he had come to breaking the wall; closest he had come to fully understanding his Seungyoon hyung.
“We are all here battling to prove ourselves, but the only thing certain at this moment is that we’re all here, and we all deserve to be here. Stop convincing yourself that you have to prove yourself, because even if you don’t believe it, you are enough. You are more than enough, Nam Taehyun; you are one of the most talented people I have ever met, and the only thing that’s preventing you from showcasing all your talents is the extra pressure that you put on yourself. It’s suppressing you, and you can’t let that happen.”
“It’s getting late, we should go to bed. Have confidence in yourself, Taehyun. You have nothing to prove, and everything to show.”
Seungyoon walked out of Taehyun’s room, turning off the lights and closing the door.
"Sleep tight, hyung," said Taehyun, who was glad that Seungyoon had turned off the lights, because then he wouldn't be able to see the tears that were filling up Taehyun's eyes.
"Sleep tight, Taehyunnie."
And for the first night in a month, Taehyun was able to.
Taehyun watched Seungyoon – the hyung who had always known his heart, who always understood him, despite never saying it aloud – as he continued to sing in his sleep. He watched the leader – who left so many of his worries unspoken – as he finally entered a state of peace.
It was then that Taehyun realized how proud and thankful he was to have met the boy who sang in that ridiculous hat on that audition program from years ago.
Sing your melody,
I’ll sing it now.”
As the song came to a close, Taehyun heard a giggle. He looked down to find Seungyoon, whose eyes turned out to be open. He lifted his head off of Taehyun’s shoulder and looked at him, his expression filled with mirth.
"As expected, the maknae always sings with me.”
Taehyun started laughing, too. “You were pretending to be asleep all this time?”
“Yeah, I just wanted to test you.” Seungyoon chuckled, as Taehyun rolled his eyes. Sometimes, he forgot how playful the serious leader could be.
Seungyoon paused for a second. “How do you feel right now?”
“Tired, just like you.”
“No, I mean beyond that. I was wondering how you felt, after these past few days in Japan. Have you regained your hope? You always used to talk about proving yourself, and I haven't heard words like that for a while. And look at us now, we just finished our first performances as Winner. So now, are you finally satisfied with yourself?”
Taehyun smiled. As usual, he felt as if his hyung had been reading his mind the whole time.
“You’re ridiculous, hyung. Of course I’m satisfied. Much more than that, actually.”
Seungyoon grinned back sleepily, looking more childlike than Taehyun had ever seen him. “Well, that’s all I wanted to hear,” he said as he wrapped his arms around his precious maknae, who returned the gesture and tightened the embrace. "I'm glad."
“Omo omo omo! Quick, take a picture of it with your phone!” he heard Mino whisper loudly in the background, probably to Seunghoon.
“Wow, this is a moment to remember! Our maknaes are so cute~” From the seats next to him, Taehyun heard the stupid hyungs fawning over Seungyoon and himself in a mock-aegyo tone, but he didn’t care.
After all, he knew that his relationship with Seungyoon needed no explanation or justification; it was instinctive.
The seatbelt signs turned on, and Seungyoon once again laid his head on Taehyun’s shoulder. “I’m actually going to go to sleep now, this time. I’m so tired.”
Taehyun giggled lightly. “Alright,” he whispered, as he rested his head on top of Seungyoon’s, his own eyelids slowly falling closed.
"Sleep tight, hyung."
"Sleep tight, Taehyunnie."
The flight took off. They were going up.
“You’ve made it now.”