theme: o44. Rejection.
They were playing soccer in the school fields as they often were, as teenaged boys often did. They were childhood friends who were both a part of S.M. Entertainment as trainees. He could never quite keep up with his best friend, but he tried his best and that’s all his friend ever asked for. His friend shot another goal against him and he gave a mock yell of anger. His friend kicked up the ball into the air and caught it, laughing with that peculiar, raspy voice of his,
“Hyukjae, is it possible that you’ve gotten worse?” He laughed as he spun the ball in his hands,
Hyukjae dusted off his pants that were now covered in dust and dirt. He glanced up and scowled, “I’m just letting you off easy, Junsu.”
Junsu laughed again, “If you say so. How about we call it a day?”
“So you’re giving up?” Hyukjae concluded,
Junsu narrowed his eyes, whipping the soccer ball at his friend, “I’m saying this for your sake!” He turned on his heel and started walking off.
Hyukjae threw the ball at Junsu’s retreating back, catching it again when it ricocheted off. Junsu looked back at him angrily, “It slipped,” Hyukjae grinned.
“I’ll show you slipped!” Junsu made to run after him, but stepped on the hem of his pants by accident, causing him to slip backwards and land on the ground on his backside. Junsu cringed at the bolt of pain that shot through him, but no amount of pain could mute the laughter coming from his best friend.
Hyukjae collapsed to his knees, holding his stomach as he laughed, “Oh my, Junsu you should’ve seen your face!” His laughter continued until tears were forming in his eyes.
To make him stop, Junsu lunged at him from his spot on the ground, getting an arm around him. He got Hyukjae in a headlock, “Who’s laughing now Hyukjae!?” Junsu declared,
“Aish! Stop it!” Hyukjae insisted, pushing at Junsu’s locked arms, “Stop it, Junsu… it’s too… tight…”
Junsu was startled when Hyukjae’s eyes fluttered close and he fell limp in his arms. Junsu unwrapped his arms and laid Hyukjae on the ground, “Hyukjae! Wake up! Please!” Suddenly a ball came flying at his head; he had forgotten that Hyukjae still had a hold on the ball. When Junsu opened his eyes again, Hyukjae was standing over him laughing. Junsu jumped at him, catching his calves in his arms, pulling Hyukjae down to the ground.
The friends were wrestling on the ground when a voice interrupted their play, “I thought I’d find you two here,” they looked up to find another boy standing over them, a smile on his face with his fox-like eyes dancing.
“Sungmin! Help!” Hyukjae cried,
“Ah, both of you stop, we have to get down to S.M,” Sungmin stated, “They called all of us from the project group in - someone’s debuting!”
Junsu and Hyukjae’s eyes widened in surprise as they scrambled to their feet. They grabbed their bags and the ball and together with Sungmin, ran all the way to the S.M. Entertainment main building.
Two simple words became daggers in Hyukjae’s heart as he, Junsu, Sungmin and three other boys that were part of the project group stood before S.M. producers and managers. The three other boys stood together after being told they would form a group; not daring to look Hyukjae’s way. Junsu, who had been standing behind him, suddenly reached forward and grabbed his hand, but Hyukjae shook it off.
“The group that Junsu-sshi will be a part of will be a five-member group, and may have member-rotations; we’re not sure yet,” one of the producers explained, “Junsu-sshi is the first person in this group, we have our eye on two more that were supposed to be part of the group ‘Four Seasons’.”
All six boys’ ears perked up at the mention of the group. They all knew who was part of the group, and could only guess which two boys were selected for the group with Junsu.
“Who are the other two?” Sungmin asked, his arms crossed loosely, the smile and light from his eyes long gone when he was also told those two simple words.
“We’re still looking into it,” the producer answered, “We might even bring someone in from America.” He looked at Hyukjae and Sungmin, “I’m sorry boys. But it isn’t your time… next time.”
The boys were dismissed. Sungmin left immediately without a word. Hyukjae moved to leave, but Junsu grabbed his arm to stop him,
“I’m happy for you Junsu, I really am; but right now all I want to do is punch you in the face,” Hyukjae stated simply as he shook off Junsu’s hold and left the room.
Hyukjae left the main building and felt the need to clear his mind. He went to walk and ended back at the school soccer field. He slipped off his bag and took out the soccer ball again. Stuffing his fists into his pockets, he began to dribble the ball back and forth between his feet.
For years he had been training alongside Junsu. They were childhood friends who became trainees. He had worked just as hard as Junsu, perhaps even harder. Hyukjae kicked the ball violently into one of the nets, it veered to the left at the last moment, hitting the post and coming back to him. He cursed under his breath as he remembered all those late nights. He would stay up late with a flashlight, writing and writing and writing until his fingers felt numb.
He wrote poems, songs, sometimes just random sentences that popped into his head. He would write and then the next morning upon remembering them, would quietly think up melodies to them and rap them as he brushed his teeth in front of the mirror. He even taught Junsu how to be more poetic in his words, how to come up with melodies and helped him to rap. So why was he the one rejected?
He and Junsu both attended dance practices together and, although they were both good, Hyukjae had a natural ability for dancing while Junsu was originally very mediocre. So, it was Hyukjae who’d stay long after practice was done to help his friend. He taught Junsu how to isolate his body parts, make them flow as one, keep in time with the music; he taught Junsu, so why was he the one rejected?
Even when Junsu had lost his voice, it was Hyukjae who’d stayed with him in the night as he cried. It was Hyukjae who insisted every night for three years, that he’d get his voice back the next morning. It was Hyukjae who boiled ginger root so Junsu could drink it, or added lemon to Junsu’s water to help his throat. For three years, Hyukjae kept Junsu hopeful, so why was he the one rejected?
His leg jerked at the last moment, kicking the ball in a direction other than he had wanted; it got in the goal. Hyukjae cursed, why was it always Junsu that made victories. Even when he was the one kicking the ball, because of Junsu, it went in. Hyukjae immediately wiped away the stray tears with his sleeve before he turned to face Junsu who was sprinting towards him.
Junsu got to him and paused a moment to catch his breath. When he finally did, he began, “Hyukjae, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Hyukjae said quickly, going over to the net and getting the soccer ball,
“No, it’s not,” Junsu stated as he followed him, “We’ve been training together for so long and have gone through the same practices; it’s not right that I be placed in a group without you - that I debut without you.”
“Then why the hell didn’t you say anything?” Hyukjae questioned as he stood and faced him, the ball forgotten at their feet, “For someone who believes so strongly that we both should’ve been placed in this group - you kept pretty quiet Junsu!”
“Me saying something wouldn’t have changed anything, I’m just a trainee,” Junsu defended, eyes narrowing,
“You’re right, it wouldn’t have changed anything - but you still should’ve said something,” Hyukjae countered, crossing his arms loosely over his chest, “If it didn’t hurt your chances in debuting, you could’ve at least spoken for me.”
“Why didn’t YOU say something then!?” Junsu demanded, throwing his arms into the air in frustration,
“Because MY future is still precarious! Your’s is pretty much set in stone that you’ll debut; I’ve been training for years Junsu, I could end up training for even more!” Hyukjae argued, “YOU could’ve said something and will still debut within a year. Had it been ME to say something, I could’ve landed myself five more years of training!”
“Hyukjae, you know had things been my way, I would have either debuted with you or not at all,” Junsu grounded out, his fists clenched at his sides as he stopped from shaking with anger.
“Debut for all I care,” Hyukjae stated flatly as he picked up the ball and pushed it into Junsu’s hands, “Take your ball, I’m done.”
“You’re dead to me,” Hyukjae said quietly, sternly as he walked away, picking up his bag as he left the field and Kim Junsu.
Later that evening, Hyukjae was in his bedroom in the trainee dorms. His back pressed against the headboard, knees pulled to his chest as he curled his body, his head resting on his upraised knees. He wrapped his arms about his knees as he cried,
“He’s my best friend… and… and I said all of that to him.”
Sungmin sat on the edge of Hyukjae’s bed, one foot on the mattress as the lay on the ground. He leaned his chin on his upraised knee as one hand played with the fraying hem of his jeans, the other hand on Hyukjae’s arm in a comforting gesture. Since hearing the news of his own rejection, Sungmin had been quiet, discontent and the only person he felt comfortable around afterwards was the only other person who had been told the same thing in that room: Hyukjae. Sitting there with his body slightly angled towards Hyukjae, Sungmin remained quiet. He knew if he spoke, his voice would break and he didn’t want Hyukjae to realize that he, too, was crying.
“That’s why I couldn’t even get into the stupid group - look how I treat my best friend!” Hyukjae’s exclamation was muffled as he refused to raise his head.
The other trainees who lived at the dorm with them, celebrated with Junsu but kept quiet whenever Sungmin or Hyukjae was around. Everyone knew all three had been part of the same project group, and everyone had assumed the six members would debut together - with or without being in the same group.
Sungmin was startled when he saw the bedroom door open and Junsu enter. Sungmin quickly wiped away his tears to stop anyone from seeing them, but they were quickly replaced with a thousand more tears. Seeing the look in Junsu’s eyes, Sungmin left the room, hiding his tears from the other boys as he left.
Junsu stood beside the bed for a few silent moments that stretched into forever. Hyukjae was trembling as his body was wracked with stifled cries. His heart no longer able to take it, Junsu came over to stand beside Hyukjae and wrapped his arms around him.
Suddenly seeing who it was, Hyukjae immediately began to push at Junsu’s chest, trying to get the boy away from him. However, Junsu fought back, only holding onto him tighter until, finally, Hyukjae collapsed into his arms, crying into his shoulder.
“I’m sorry… I’m so… so… so sorry,” Hyukjae cried as he hugged Junsu back.
“I’m sorry too,” Junsu said quietly as his own tears began to fall.
He kept still as Hyukjae shook within his embrace and kept quiet as Hyukjae cried the tears and sobs he had held on for hours. Where was the friend who smiled so easily, laughed so loudly and was hard to bring to tears? Seeing Hyukjae in such a broken state tore at Junsu, killing him.
Hyukjae tightened his hold on Junsu, as if loosening his embrace meant breaking completely, “Why?” He demanded, “Why… why am I not good enough?”
Junsu felt his heart break when Hyukjae’s voice broke and had to strain to hear the last words. He put a knee on the bed to get closer to Hyukjae, pulling him flush into his arms. He held him more securely, protectively as Hyukjae continued to weep.
Junsu pressed his lips to the top of his head, “You’re good enough for me, Hyukjae.”