Also I have no idea who actually choreographed I'll Be Back, but I really don't like them.
Title: Pole Position
Length: ~4100 words
Ratings/warnings: PG-13 for language and references.
Notes: Thanks to nakchi and jeonggam for grammar assistance on the run, and achromaticscale for being my personal cheerleading team. ♥
Summary: “This isn’t a spectator sport!” Wooyoung snaps, getting to his feet with difficulty and hobbling back to the centre of the room.
Two weeks before they’re scheduled to film the I’ll Be Back MV, Namyong makes them come to the practice room at four-thirty in the morning.
The dance itself isn’t anything too crazy – it’s different in many ways, but the foundation is built on elements of the familiar. They break after three hours, and while Wooyoung’s nowhere near mastery, he’s getting the feel of the progression, the flow of each section to the next. Junsu’s sweating, frowning with concentration as he forces his leg to cooperate, and Junho’s fingers have already started doing that wiggling thing they do when extravagant hand motions are part of the choreo. Wooyoung doesn’t particularly think it fits with the concept this time (or ever) but refrains from commenting. He’s buoyed by the good feelings that come from testing himself on stage, from trying something new. He’s awake, finally, and it’s awesome.
Taec, on the other hand, is still half-dreaming, and he nearly sends Khun flying when he does a heavy stomp in the wrong direction. “Watch it!” Khun gasps, backpedalling dangerously.
Nothing escapes the eagle eyes of their choreographer, and when Taec slumps into a cross-legged position for his break, Namyong smacks him on the head. “Earth to Taecyeon! Is anyone alive in there?”
“No,” Wooyoung says, wandering over and resting a hand on Taec’s head, gazing sadly down at the ground. “He’s gone, forever. We’ll miss his bad jokes and worse cooking, the way he always leaves the bathroom steamy and slippery, the way his clothes always migrate to the hallway – hang on!”
“Go away,” Taec mumbles, and pokes Wooyoung in the belly.
“Make me,” Wooyoung replies, and sits on Taec’s shoulder, rocking back and forth just so he can watch Taec’s head loll from side to side.
“Mrrrr,” Taec says, and slaps weakly at Wooyoung’s legs.
Wooyoung lets out a delighted cackle and rocks harder, until Taec gives up and slumps over, sending both of them to the floor.
“Oomph,” says Wooyoung, landing with a thump on Taec’s chest, which might even be a better pillow than Chansung’s shoulder. He settles in. “Actually, this is good. I’ll just stay here.”
“There is no justice,” Taec mumbles, and smacks blindly at Wooyoung’s face.
Namyong crouches next to them and gives them both a quelling look. “Are we quite finished?”
“Yeshyung,” they chorus instantly, stumbling to their feet in record time. Wooyoung resists the urge to salute.
“Good.” Namyong smiles and the urge grows stronger. “Because I have a special move in mind for you two. I think it will be the pièce de résistance.”
“The what?” Chansung asks, coming over to lean his chin on Wooyoung’s shoulder.
“You’ll see,” Namyong promises.
This should be good, Wooyoung thinks.
“This is horrible!” Wooyoung screams, landing heavily on the ground for the fiftieth time. The pièce de résistance, the special move Namyong has devised, involves Taec swinging Wooyoung around his body like a fucking towel or something, and try as he might to clamber around Taec, they can’t seem to match their timing. As a result, Wooyoung keeps taking nosedives right into the floor.
Taec pants down at him, extending an arm to help him up. “I’m sorry, okay? It’s not easy for me either.”
“I don’t know about that,” Khun pipes up thoughtfully from the side, where the other four have gathered into a fucking peanut gallery to watch their failed attempts at pièce-de-résistancing. Chansung’s even pulled out a lunch box, like he’s at a soccer match, and Junsu’s filming with his cameraphone.
“This isn’t a spectator sport!” Wooyoung snaps, getting to his feet with difficulty and hobbling back to the centre of the room.
“You’re right,” Junho says agreeably, accepting a piece of kimbap from Chansung. “Because then it would be interesting.”
Taec rolls his shoulders and something pops. “I’m compelled to point out ‘oh, sweet burn’ in relation to that comment.”
Wooyoung places his hands on Taec’s arm and prepares to spring up. “I’m ignoring you.”
Khun snaps his fingers and points at them like he’s puzzled something out. “Strippers.”
Wooyoung gapes at him, then glances down at his perfectly respectable ensemble of sweatpants and a t-shirt. “Excuse me?”
“Strippers!” Khun repeats happily.
Chansung sidles closer to him. “Go on.”
Khun gestures at Wooyoung and Taec. “Don’t you see it? Wooyoung’s the stripper and Taec’s the pole.”
Junsu squints. “I...guess?”
“You’re taking me to Thailand next time,” Junho says, clasping one of Khun’s hands in his. “Promise me that.”
Taec looks despondently down at his body. “I’ve been called better things.”
Wooyoung strikes a pose, sliding a hand down his face and sucking on a finger. “Speak for yourself.”
Namyong claps his hands together in exasperation. “Come on, I want you to have this sorted by the end of the day.”
Sighing, Wooyoung wipes his hand on his pants and gets back into position. “Don’t drop me this time,” he tells Taec.
“I won’t,” Taec replies, resting his hand on Wooyoung’s hip.
After twelve hours in the training room, Namyong lets them go, flagging down Wooyoung and Taec before they can make their escape.
“You guys,” he says, looking between them and giving a slight shake of his head. “What was that?”
“Painful?” guesses Wooyoung, rubbing a particularly tender spot on his arm.
“To watch, yes,” agrees Namyong, crossing his arms and glaring at them. “You’re professionals, or at least you’re supposed to be. What went wrong?”
Stung, Wooyoung doesn’t answer, so Taec steps in. “I guess our timing...um...sucked?”
“Because it didn’t match!” Namyong snaps. “You’re both working independently of each other, when you should be moving as one instead.”
Wooyoung wants to point out that there’s no graceful way to clamber your way around another man’s torso, but he’s too sore to argue.
Taec bows. “Sorry.” Wooyoung follows suit.
Namyong doesn’t look appeased. “If you’re not better by tomorrow, I’m going to have to take drastic measures.” He spins on his heel and leaves, and after sharing a confused look at what that could possibly mean, they follow.
Unsurprisingly, they’re still shit the next day. Wooyoung slips free of Taec’s hold at a different point to yesterday and careens halfway across the room before thumping back to earth. He lands awkwardly on his hand, fingers bending in ways they really should not, and almost gives in to the tears of frustration that keep pricking at his eyes.
It doesn’t help that the others find his pain hilarious, even taking bets before each attempt to see how far he’ll fly (Khun won the last round, with a conservative guess at three metres; Wooyoung thinks it’s easily closer to five). Junsu is the only one to show any sort of concern for his wellbeing, sticking plasters to Wooyoung’s various aches and handing him a damp washcloth halfway through the torture session.
Even Taec is not as apologetic as he should be, and when Wooyoung calls him on it he just shrugs and says, “I’m the pole, man. It’s the stripper’s job to stay on.”
Wooyoung kind of hates Khun for that metaphor right now.
After a few more hours of being battered and bruised, Namyong lets the others go, retaining Taec and Wooyoung again for a ‘serious talk’. Taec seats himself comfortably while Wooyoung bends, then kneels, then flops with difficulty, every part of his body sore from the constant abuse.
He kind of hates Taec and Namyong, too.
“This isn’t working,” Namyong says, without preamble, once Wooyoung has battled his way into a sitting position. “I can’t believe you’re still so awful at this.”
“I can’t believe it either,” Taec murmurs, shooting Wooyoung a superior look.
Wooyoung would slap it off his face if he could lift his arm. “And? Are you swapping me for someone else?” He shrugs and regrets it. “I don’t see why you didn’t pick Junho in the first place, he’s clearly the obvious choice.”
Taec leans back and leers at his butt. “You’re more...aerodynamic.”
“Exactly,” Namyong agrees, clicking his fingers and demanding their attention. He goes on. “It needs to be you two, and you need to work this out. So, I’m putting you on an action plan. You’ll have to follow my instructions to the letter, and only then will you be able to sort this shit out.”
“Is it a diet?” Wooyoung asks. “Beans and rice, or something? Just kimchi?”
Namyong rolls his eyes. “No, it’s not a diet.”
Taec punches him on the shoulder and Wooyoung bites back a moan of pain. “Why would he make you eat beans?”
Wooyoung has no idea, actually, so he stares fixedly at the ceiling and pretends he didn’t hear him.
“Not a diet,” Namyong repeats. “Instead, I want you guys to spend every moment of the next week together. Awake, asleep, in the dorm, in the bathroom. You do everything together. Every single thing.”
They’re off to a good start, Wooyoung thinks, a little distantly, because he’s pretty sure their jaws drop at exactly the same time.
Yeah. That’s in unison too.
“Well,” says Khun later that evening, when they drop the bombshell over the dinner table. “That’s…different.”
Chansung’s shoulders are shaking with laughter and Junho has to keep biting back a smirk. Junsu tips back his chair and glances in the direction of his and Taec’s bedroom. “Do you want my bed?”
“Oh, no,” says Wooyoung sweetly, stabbing at his rice with a vicious hand. “Don’t trouble yourself on my account! You see, Namyong-hyung was kind enough to be extremely detailed with his requirements, and we’ll only be needing one bed. Thank you anyway~!”
"We're sharing," Taec translates helpfully. They all stare at Wooyoung as he chews bitterly on his rice.
“Oooookay,” says Junsu. “In that case I’ll leave you lovebirds alone and shack up with my bro Chan in the living room.”
“Represent,” says Chansung, and they high five across the table.
Khun takes a contemplative sip of his tea. “Together all the time?”
“All,” Wooyoung says, jabbing at the side dishes, “the fucking time.” He spears a piece of potato on the end of his chopsticks and tears at it with his teeth.
“I think it’s a good thing,” interjects Junho cheerfully, taking some potato with far more delicacy than Wooyoung had demonstrated. “It’s always nice to spend time with friends.”
“You sleep with Junsu, then,” Wooyoung snaps. “And go to the toilet with him. Maybe he’ll even let you braid his hair!”
“I won’t,” Junsu tells Junho. “You don’t make the neat braids like Khun does.”
“Two sisters,” Khun explains to no one in particular.
Wooyoung tosses his chopsticks down in disgust. “I’m going to the bathroom,” he announces.
Taec jumps up and offers him the crook of his elbow. “Shall we?”
“Argh!” Wooyoung screams, and stomps out of the room.
“You looked,” Wooyoung says irritably, dragging his pillow in from the living room and tagging into Taec and Junsu’s room just as Junsu tags out.
“I didn’t look,” Taec replies, smoothing out the blanket and stepping back from the bed, giving it a critical eye. “Will that do?”
Wooyung flops face-down on top of the blanket, legs hanging over onto the floor. “I don’t even care,” he says, voice muffled by the fabric. “Let’s just go to sleep and wake up in the morning so I can be tossed around the practice room like a shuttlecock again.”
“We can’t sleep yet!” Taec says, sounding scandalised.
Wooyoung just manages not to cry. “Why not.”
The bed dips under Taec’s weight. “We haven’t sorted out sides yet. Do you want the wall side, or the door side?”
“I don’t care.”
“You have to care!” Taec pokes him in the ribs and it hurts. “Wall or door? Wall or door? Wall or door? Wall or—“
“Door!” Wooyoung finally snaps, rolling away from Taec’s hands so fast he falls right off the bed. He hisses at the pain. “There, now can we just sleep?”
Looking pleased, Taec nods, getting up and stepping past him to turn out the light. “I like the wall the best. It feels safe.”
“Yes, I’ll protect you,” Wooyoung says dryly, waiting until Taec’s settled before crawling back onto the bed himself. It’s a bit of a squeeze with the two of them, but he’s lived through worse. Just a week, he chants to himself. Just a week.
Taec wriggles behind him and then a heavy arm drapes itself across his chest. “I’m the big spoon,” Taec informs him, and Wooyoung decides to just give in and cry.
There’s no visible improvement the next day, even though Taec sticks himself to Wooyoung like a big-eared shadow, following everywhere and showing a marked disregard for personal space. Wooyoung’s relatively touchy-feely, but Taec’s hands are everywhere, and really, it just doesn’t seem right.
He does the Toshio-face at anyone who’ll look at him, but they’re too busy practicing the actual choreography instead of taking on gravity and losing every time. Namyong sees his plaintive glances and points from his eyes to Wooyoung and back again.
I’ll be watching you, he mouths, a silent threat, and Wooyoung gulps and jumps on Taec’s back for attempt number 45903845.
On the third day Wooyoung manages a complete rotation, and he’s so surprised by this first indication of success that his muscles promptly lock into place and he falls off by himself.
Taec stares down at his sprawled form. “Dude. What was that?”
“That was better,” Namyong tells them, looking over as Khun spins backwards over one of his arms. “Now work on the other eighty percent of the move.”
Sourly, Wooyoung gets to his feet and does as he’s told. At least it’s a start.
The fourth day sees even greater improvement – Wooyoung sticks through the full rotation and Taec finally figures out where to put his hands without a) poking Wooyoung in the eye, or b) jabbing him in a sensitive area.
“I need those,” Wooyoung grits when Taec’s hands cup him again in all the wrong places.
“Not with your personality,” Taec replies cheerfully. “Be less of a pussy!”
Wooyoung makes sure to hold on with his fingernails next time.
They manage a second full rotation on the fifth day, but Namyong’s not impressed by their speed.
“You’re being too literal with the stripper analogy,” he says eventually, and Khun visibly deflates. “Wooyoung was the problem initially, but now that he’s moving, you have to move with him. Don’t just stand there and expect him to do all the work.”
“I am supporting his entire body weight,” Taec points out. “Have you seen him eat?”
“Better me than Chansung,” Wooyoung says, put out. He looks at Chansung, who’s polishing off an apple. “No offense.”
Namyong nods and holds his hands out placatingly. “Yes, okay, everyone’s fat. That doesn’t make my point any less valid – when he moves, move with him. Feel the flow.”
Behind Namyong, Junsu does a wavy motion with his hands, and Junho looks at Chansung and mouths drugs.
Taec looks dubious. “The flow. Okay.”
They get back into position. “Ready for me to flow all over you?” Wooyoung asks.
Taec coughs. “Would you get it if I made a Flo Rida joke right here?”
“No,” says Wooyoung, and jumps on his back.
On the sixth day Namyong cancels practice for the two of them, sending them off to spend some quality time together with strict instructions to have it perfect for the next day.
Wooyoung is both delighted and suspicious at having a free day, although his feelings lean harder towards delighted when the other four give them jealous looks.
“Laters,” he says, giving them a jaunty salute and mincing out the door. Taec follows him, of course, but Wooyoung barely registers his presence now – they’ve been in other’s pockets all week and the ‘extension of self’ thing is pretty much coming to pass.
“What should we do?” Taec wonders when they get outside, glancing up at the sky and shading his eyes with his hand.
Wooyoung shrugs – he hadn’t really thought about it beyond the whole day off and haha suckers side of things. “Go for a walk?”
“Best date ever,” Taec gushes, and Wooyoung bumps his hip in disgust. They set off towards the river, looking drab enough in practice clothes and baseball caps that no one even notices they’re there.
Before they’re even halfway to the river, Wooyoung gets a craving for coffee, and turns to tell Taec only to find him peering into the windows of a café.
“Coffee?” Taec asks, glancing over his shoulder. Creepy, Wooyoung thinks before shrugging and following him inside.
It happens twice more in the next couple of hours – Wooyoung’s mouth waters unexpectedly at the thought of ddukbokki just as Taec taps him on the shoulder and asks if he’s hungry, and then he really needs to go to the toilet, and Taec stops in his tracks and asks, low and urgent, if he knows where the bathroom is.
The final straw is when Wooyoung’s nose starts to tickle and he sucks in a breath for a sneeze just as Taec lets out an explosive achoo! of his own. Wiping their noses in unison, they turn to each other, synchronised down to the confused expressions, and suddenly everything clicks in Wooyoung’s head.
He grabs Taec’s hand. “We have to practice.” Taec looks to protest and Wooyoung squeezes. “Now.”
“We’re almost back at the dorm,” Taec says after a moment, shrugging and pointing down the street. “Or does it have to be at the practice room?”
Wooyoung shakes his head. “The dorm’s fine. Let’s go.” He drags Taec along the pavement, Taec following without comment, and only drops his hand once they’re in the living room, kicking Chansung’s blankets aside to make more space.
“I hope you’re sure,” Taec says doubtfully, squinting and measuring the distance to the TV with his eyes. “We’re going to make a huge mess if we fuck this up.”
“We won’t,” promises Wooyoung, although now the initial surge of confidence is fading, even he’s not so certain of their success. There’s no real choice; they only have one day left anyway until Namyong…well, Wooyoung’s not sure what he has planned, but the man is crafty and has friends in high places and maybe they’d have to perform their next single in chicken suits while the other guys wear tuxedos.
There are worse things than a little property damage. They might as well try it out.
Taec stands in the clear spot in the middle of the room and waits. Wooyoung steps up behind him, slightly to the side, and closes his eyes. He sifts through the sounds of the living room, passing over the buzz of the TV on standby, the hum of the airconditioner, until all he can hear is the sound of Taec’s breathing, and beyond that, the steady thud-thud of his heart.
He stands there for almost a minute, breathing in, thud-thud, and breathing out, thud-thud, and when their heartbeats are in sync he takes one more breath and jumps, on to Taec’s shoulders, around and up, around and down, around, and then he’s saluting like a smug mofo because finally they did it, and fuck yeah, and Wooyoung’s awesome, and Taec’s all right as well.
“Wow,” says Taec setting him down and grinning so hard his cheeks make his eyes disappear. “That felt awesome.”
“Was it as good for you as it was for me?” Wooyoung quips, before blinking and letting out a cheer. “Yes, my sense of humour came back!”
“Again,” Taec demands, and Wooyoung obliges.
They perform it in front of the others to a round of polite applause, and while Wooyoung thinks they were pretty fucking perfect, Namyong just says, “About time.”
At the break, Taec flops down next to Wooyoung and they share food without talking, Wooyoung poking the cucumber out of his kimbap before giving it to Taec, Taec passing him his can of drink. The others watch the exchange with varying degrees of fascination.
“You don’t have to share any more, right?” Khun asks, picking at his own kimbap. “Are you going to move back tonight?”
Wooyoung hadn’t thought about it; he’d kind of gotten used to Taec’s comforting bulk at his back, waking up to a long, hairy leg slung over his own. “Oh.”
“Don’t leave me, Little Spoon,” Taec cries, flopping onto Wooyoung’s shoulder. “However will I pass those lonely nights?”
“I’m sure you’ll manage, Big Spoon,” Wooyoung replies, snaking a hand out to steal Taec’s yoghurt.
Junsu makes a gagging noise. “Oh man, you’ve soiled the bedroom for me. I’m staying with Chansung.”
“Aight,” says Chansung, and returns Junsu’s fist bump.
Junho rolls his eyes at everyone and gives Wooyoung an incredulous look. “Are you seriously going to stay in Taec-hyung’s room?”
Wooyoung pretends to think about it. “Well, we release the single next week, and then we’ll do promotions for, what, two months, three?” He glances up at Taec. “If we’re not together—“
“—there’s the possibility of getting rusty,” Taec finishes, nodding thoughtfully. “You’re right. We should stick together until we’re done with that.”
“Oh!” Wooyoung smacks his fist to his palm. “And then Japan! We’ll be performing the dance in Japan. We should room together for that.”
Taec nods enthusiastically. “Great idea! We can look at changing things around when we come back from overseas.”
Junho sighs and jumps to his feet. “I hope you’re happy,” he calls to Namyong. “You’ve created monsters.”
Namyong glances over at them and shrugs. “I don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t fuck up my choreography. That clear?”
“As crystal,” says Taec.
“As glass,” adds Wooyoung.
“As cling wrap.”
“As a soap bubble.”
“Okay, we get it!” Junho snaps, exasperated. Taec and Wooyoung high five and do the move again, just because they can.
“Strippers,” Khun says, and sadly shakes his head.