One afternoon, as Exo-K takes a break from dance practice, Jongin takes a sip of water, glances across the room, has a realization as his gaze passes Joonmyun: something has changed about him. “Is it just me, or is Joonmyun hyung kind of... different lately?” he asks Baekhyun.
Baekhyun side-eyes him. “It’s just you,” he answers. “Joonmyun hyung literally never changes. It’s one of his strong points.”
“Oh,” Jongin says, furrowing his brow. “For some reason, I thought...”
“You’re just being weird, probably,” Baekhyun says, cutting in as Jongin’s train of thought winds away.
Before Jongin can retort, though, Joonmyun calls out, “Okay, you guys! Let’s get back to practice now!” and Jongin unconsciously finds himself straightening his posture in response.
Something has definitely changed, he thinks. He’ll get to the bottom of this eventually.
As with many things in life, though, Jongin forgets about it. He and Joonmyun have the sort of relationship that Jongin doesn’t think about very much or very hard, because he really doesn’t know what to make of it in the first place. Once, he remembers, he and Sehun had been flipping through possible interview questions when they had stopped on, “What do you think of Suho as your leader?” and not even knowing where to begin to answer.
“I thought you didn’t want to be friends with Joonmyun hyung for the longest time,” Sehun had told him once, in his usual flippant way. “But I suppose that’s changed.”
“I don’t really remember if I did or not,” Jongin had replied, genuinely confused. He vaguely recalls not thinking much of Joonmyun as a leader, let alone an idol - but when he thinks that if he were asked now, he would mostly have good things to say about Joonmyun. “But anyway, Joonmyun hyung is a good person, and a good leader,” he’d said, in a tone so decisive that it almost surprised himself a little.
- - -
A week or so later, Jongin and Joonmyun are chosen to get new hairstyles: Joonmyun’s hair will be dyed burgundy, and Jongin is horrified to hear that they plan on temporarily spray-dying his an icy light blue. Sehun laughs quite a bit at Jongin’s expense when the manager informs them about this over breakfast - “Now you know how I feel,” Sehun says, looking like he’s enjoying the schadenfreude a little bit too much. “It’s about time they found somebody else to inflict that agony on.”
“Don’t talk to me right now,” Jongin replies, sullenly ripping his slice of toast into two pieces.
“Hey, maybe it’ll come out looking kind of cool,” Chanyeol says, grinning in that way that tells Jongin that either Chanyeol has no comprehension of the atmosphere, or he is willfully ignoring it. “You might end up looking like T.O.P., wouldn’t that be great?”
Baekhyun laughs. “Jongin only wishes he could look like T.O.P. in his dreams,” he says.
Jongin opens his mouth to snap back, but then Joonmyun puts his chopsticks down with a clink that’s so loud everybody involuntarily turns to look. “Is everybody done eating? Let’s get ready for the day,” he says. For a few minutes, everybody is suitably distracted attempting to shovel the rest of their breakfast into their mouths before scattering off to their rooms.
“I’m sure it won’t be that bad,” Kyungsoo says as packs his things into his backpack. Jongin’s morning will be occupied with a company hairstylist, so he doesn’t have anything he needs to get ready, but he sits on his bed and sulks as he watches Kyungsoo grab his things so that he doesn’t have to be around anybody who might poke fun at him right now.
“Thanks, hyung,” Jongin replies, trying not to be as moody or bratty as he feels. He’s already texted Taemin and Moonkyu for pity (“getting my hair dyed icy blue, i hate everything”), which had gone about as well as expected (“haha sucks to be you” from Taemin; “sounds hot (cool?) ;)” from Moonkyu) - which is to say, he didn’t feel reassured by them in the least. “Some friends you guys are,” he grumbles, rolling over onto his side and resisting the urge to throw his cell phone across the floor. He doesn’t move from his spot until Joonmyun pokes his head through the door to come find him.
“Jongin?” Joonmyun asks, a tone of concern in his words. “Are you alright?”
He sighs. “I’m alright,” he says. “Are we leaving for the stylist now?”
Joonmyun nods, and Jongin drags himself off of his bed. They walk together from the dorms to the main company building - Joonmyun makes small talk and cracks light-hearted jokes along the way, and Jongin almost lets himself forget that he is walking to his hairstyling doom.
Before they separate, Joonmyun puts his hand over Jongin’s lightly, the left corner of his lips quirking up into a half-smile. “Don’t worry, Jongin,” he says. “If it really turns out that bad, I’ll let you stand next to me the next time we have to go out in public. They’ll be so distracted by my burgundy-colored hair that I’m sure they won’t even remember yours.”
Jongin can’t help but laugh a little at that. “Thanks, hyung,” he says. Somehow, Joonmyun’s easygoing reassurance is more comforting than anything else he’s heard all morning.
“I think this ranks up there with the terrible green hair I got that one time,” Sehun comments when Jongin returns back to the dorms.
“Please,” Jongin replies. “Don’t make me do something I’ll regret.”
But Joonmyun, he thinks, looks nice with the rich dark red tones in his hair.
“Joonmyun hyung really respects you, did you know that?” Jongdae tells him one afternoon over coffee.
“What, really?” Jongin replies, only half-listening as he adds sugar and milk to his drink.
“Mm,” Jongdae hums in confirmation, taking a sip of coffee before speaking again. “Because you’re everything he wishes that he could be, as an idol. You’re talented, and good-looking, and always try your best.” He grins widely - “So you should think of Joonmyun hyung well, okay?”
“I do already,” Jongin says. “Really, I do - everybody seems to think I don’t, for some reason, though.”
“I think you’re telling the truth,” Jongdae replies. “But sometimes, I think - Joonmyun hyung wonders about it. He’s a little insecure sometimes, you know?”
Jongin half-forgets the conversation by the next day, but somehow Jongdae’s words end up sticking in his brain anyway.
They’re on stage when he remembers that conversation - Joonmyun reaches over to pat him on the arm, smiling so that the corners of his eyes fold up like a paper fan. “Good work, Jongin,” he says, half-shouting to be heard over the surrounding noise of the concert, and without even thinking about it, Jongin reaches out and pulls him into a hug, putting his arms around Joonmyun’s shoulders tight.
For a split second, Joonmyun seems hesitant, but then he wraps his arms around Jongin’s waist. “Good work to you too, hyung,” Jongin replies, and even though he can’t see it, he can practically sense Joonmyun grinning. For a few moments, they just hold each other, spinning around slowly as if they’re in their own little world.
“This is very silly,” Joonmyun says into Jongin’s ear, but he sounds happy. After a few seconds, Joonmyun starts to let go - probably, Jongin thinks, because this hug is starting to get so long that it’s starting to pass the “just coworkers” stage - but it’s because of that same reason that he pulls Joonmyun back in again. Joonmyun lets him, though, and only when he gently reaches over to pat the low of Jongin’s back does Jongin finally let go. For a few minutes, though, as they listen to their sunbaes calling out to the crowd, they walk around the edge of the stage together, Jongin’s arm over Joonmyun’s shoulder.
“Hyung,” Jongin says, reaching over to grab Joonmyun’s arms, casually puppeteering him into waving at the crowd and clapping his hands together. “Hyung, I’m glad we could be here together.”
Joonmyun looks up and back. “I was wrong - you’re very silly,” he says, smiling despite himself. “But I’m glad to be here with you, too.”
Some days, Jongin thinks to himself, being an idol isn’t very much fun. It’s draining in every sense of the word, and sometimes when he goes to sleep at night, he wonders if he should have done something different. But today, he thinks - today feels warm and light and good.
fandom: exo - sukai
summary: written for the prompt "“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” ― Donald Miller". best read as a series of drabbles that are loosely connected rather than a coherent piece, tbh. the last part is in commemoration of the epic sukai hug that made me board the ship, haha.