Everyone giggled as they gathered ‘round in a circle, smiling and panting altogether as they made up for lost oxygen by taking in deeper breaths through their mouths. A good amount of hands outstretched themselves to the center of their makeshift circle, one on top of the other.
Joohyun was right beside Seulgi, who furtively placed — or tried to, at least — her hand atop the woman’s smaller one. She glanced upward to find that she’d been caught by a few of the other girls, unfazed by the teasing smirks on their sweaty, flushed faces. She side-eyed Joohyun, but the latter was too occupied with fanning herself with a hand as she waited for everyone else to settle around.
Being the attentive partner she was, Seulgi gathered Joohyun’s hair from her nape up and hoisted the bunch into the air with her free hand, to help cool the woman off. Joohyun then looked her way, flashing her that smile that never failed to melt Seulgi’s heart. A tired smile, but still, a happy one.
Their debut was in less than two weeks time, which meant practices had become longer and more intense. It wasn’t like the company was pushing them to the verge of exhaustion, but it would be foolish of one to expect anything less when you’d put two perfectionists into the same subunit. The whole process was an anxious one for the couple, yet Joohyun and Seulgi loved that even after six years, they could still show their fans a side of themselves that they’d never been able to in the past.
The giggles that had subsided reemerged as Hyunyi, one of their backup dancers, cleared and pulled off a fake stoic facial expression that the rest of the girls knew was far from actually being serious.
“Alright, alright, let’s wrap things up now,” another woman, their dance teacher, chuckled. “Seulki-ssi looks like she might pass out anytime soon.”
“Yah!” the said dancer responded with a playful glare towards the former.
The whole group shared another few seconds of unrestrained laughter before their dance teacher spoke again, placing her hand above everyone else’s, and switching to a more earnest demeanor.
“Everyone did a terrific job today, I’m very proud of all of you. I know that everything from this point on will only become more pressuring, and as much as we all want to do well, I hate to see you girls beating yourselves over the head for every mistake you make.”
The woman’s eyes flitted towards Joohyun for a moment, who promptly blinked away from her gaze.
“No matter how many times you go over those tapes or watch yourself through that mirror, I guarantee all of you — you will make a mistake — and that’s okay. Learn from your mistakes, and give yourselves a pat on the back. And if it ever becomes too much, don’t think twice about resting. I don’t want any of you punishing yourselves — know where to draw the line.”
The dance teacher’s speech didn’t remain so serious for long, ending her talk with praise and light-hearted banter with the girls.
“Okay,” the woman gestured to their hands, “on three—“
“Wait, I wanna do it this time!” Hyunyi interjected, laughter erupting from the rest of the group as she did.
The dance teacher rolled her eyes. “Fine,” she laughed.
Hyunyi cleared as she tried to ignore the others’ giggles, biting back her own. She let out a breath and as flatly as she could, said, “Ah, seriously…”
After a time, the other girls replied with a just as lifeless “Fighting” and lazily threw their hands into the air. It wasn’t until a few more seconds after they’d disengaged from their circle, that Seulgi was the first to break into laughter, soon followed by everyone else.
The girls bid each other goodbye, and left the practice room one-by-one. After a while, it was just Seulgi, Joohyun, and their dance teacher. The eldest woman fit a cap on her head and walked towards the doorway. “I’ll go on ahead now, Seulgi, Joohyun. Great job today. See you girls next week!” she said, waving.
Seulgi bowed and waved to their teacher. “Thank you, unnie! Have a safe trip home!”
The teacher’s eyes travelled to Joohyun and nodded her head, as if signalling Seulgi. The leader of one of South Korea’s biggest idol groups paced in front of the mirror, looking completely out of it. She’d been quieter than usual the whole day.
Seulgi looked over to her bandmate, then to her teacher, giving the woman a reassuring smile and silently telling her not to worry. The next minute, their teacher was gone, and it was only them. Seulgi and Joohyun.
Seulgi picked up her bag from the floor and slowly walked towards Joohyun. “Hey, unnie.”
Joohyun stopped pacing, facing the younger woman. “Seul,” she looked around the room and noticed that it was just the two of them, “Everyone’s left already.”
“Yeah.” Seulgi fiddled with her bag strap. Joohyun’s was at the opposite side of the room. The woman sighed inwardly upon the realization. “It’s almost midnight. Don’t you wanna head back to the dorm, unnie?”
Joohyun turned around to the mirror behind them to tear away from the younger’s burning gaze, knowing where this conversation was headed. “I…I’ll stay a bit longer.”
“I just need to get this right—“
“Hyunnie.” Seulgi sighed, standing in front of the mirror where Joohyun couldn’t avoid her eyes. “Were you not listening to what unnie was saying earlier?
“I was listening, Seul,” Joohyun said, finally looking at the latter through her reflection. “It’s just…I don’t want to be the one making mistakes when everyone’s working so hard for this. I don’t want to disappoint you guys. Neither do I want to disappoint you—“
Joohyun was cut short when Seulgi pulled her into a hug. “I know, Hyun. I don’t want to disappoint you either. But give yourself some credit, hm? You’ve been doing so well. Do you have any idea how proud of you I am?” Seulgi asked, rubbing Joohyun’s back up and down. She pulled away from the girl and cupped her face. Joohyun shook her head just to humor the younger, to which Seulgi grinned.
“Beyond words,” Seulgi stated before she pressed against Joohyun’s with a smile. It felt like it was the first kiss they shared throughout the whole day, and Joohyun wondered how she could’ve possibly lasted for that long when Seulgi made her feel this warm, and this loved. Her hands rested idly on the taller woman’s hips as she kissed back, hoping that Seulgi could feel Joohyun’s appreciation through the kiss.
The air filled with a soft, smacking sound as Seulgi peeled away. “I think you need some rest from all of this pressure. Let’s go home?”
Joohyun hit her shoulder with a laugh. “You think you can convince me with some hugs and kisses, Seul?”
“Maybe I should?” Seulgi replied in jest, pecking her cheek. “C’mon…please?”
Joohyun sighed, rubbing Seulgi’s shoulders before pulling away. “…I can’t,” she said remorsefully. “You should go home first, Seul. I really want to practice for a bit more.” Joohyun turned away and walked towards the stereo system — not wanting to risk the chance if Seulgi was actually serious about kissing her way back home. She wasn't sure if she'd have it in her to resist Seulgi's affection.
The door behind her clicked shut seconds later as Joohyun set up the music, and couldn’t help but feel her heart sink slightly. She sighed.
As soon as Joohyun turned around, she jumped back against the stereo in surprise. “Seulgi-yah!”
The said woman was stretching in the middle of the room, sporting a big, cheesy smile. “You really thought that I’d leave you behind, Hyun? I’m offended,” she pouted cutely.
Joohyun’s heart soared, her gaze filled with love and rapture as she looked at the woman. “Seul…”
Seulgi dragged her to the middle of the room. “Just a few runs then we’ll go home?”
Joohyun got into position, crouching in front of Seulgi as they waited for the song to loop. “Yeah.”
The song ended, and started all over again for the sixth time already, as Seulgi stood up from her final pose, hoping it was going to be the last. When she turned around to face Joohyun, though, Seulgi saw the look on the woman’s face telling her otherwise.
“One more, Seul, one more,” Joohyun panted, a hand on her hip.
Seulgi could no longer hold in her groan. “Unnie, you’ve said that twice already,” she said softly through gritted teeth, not wanting to raise her voice too much. She was the one who offered to stay, after all. But she could see themselves through the mirror each time they danced, and couldn’t understand what Joohyun wasn’t satisfied with — they were nearly perfect!
“I’m sorry, Seulgi-yah…I promise, just one more. I just want to get this last part down correctly.”
Seulgi took a good look at her girlfriend, who looked completely worn out. She felt guilty for not being more patient. “Alright,” she started gently, “just one last time?”
In the background, their song’s first chorus began to play. “We’ll wait for the last chorus and start from there, okay?”
Joohyun practically threw herself into Seulgi’s arms — instantly relaxing into the touch — like she could just sleep right then and there. She buried her face into the woman’s neck. “Mm, you smell nice,” she hummed.
Seulgi chuckled. “I smell like sweat, Hyun,” she said, half-heartedly prying her away.
Joohyun made a childish whine, shaking her head. “Let’s stay like this until the last chorus,” she mumbled.
She really is tired, Seulgi thought, knowing how especially cute her girlfriend would act whenever she was exhausted. Seulgi simply hummed in agreement and hugged the woman tight.
Later, Joohyun’s voice in the bridge echoed in the room, bringing Seulgi back to her senses. “Almost there, unnie,” she said.
Joohyun sighed, but pulled back anyways. They got into position, with Seulgi crouching in front of Joohyun, and the latter’s hands hanging over Seulgi’s shoulders. Seulgi could also feel Joohyun leaning her head onto her back, and smiled to herself. Someone needs some sleep.
The last chorus finished and the outro began playing. Seulgi shifted her weight onto one foot, waiting for Joohyun to do the same before she completely lifted the other, but the weight on her shoulders remained the same — no, it felt heavier.
Seulgi looked over her shoulders, and noticed that Joohyun's hands weren't even held open anymore and instead had fallen slack. Listening to the sound of the woman's breathing, Seulgi knew that Joohyun had also fallen asleep...despite her complicated posture.
Seulgi wanted to laugh out loud, but didn't want to jostle her girlfriend too much. She delicately held onto Joohyun's wrists and pulled the older woman forward so that she was pressed onto her back, as Seulgi simultaneously straightened her legs, and caught Joohyun by the back of her knees.
Joohyun made a tiny whimper, and adjusted herself on Seulgi's back as the younger walked towards the sound system to shut off the loud music. One hand secured around both of Joohyun's wrists, Seulgi bent down and grabbed their belongings from the ground, extra careful of the bunny on top of her.
Seulgi took one last look around the practice room, making sure nothing was left behind. Just as she switched off the lights, Seulgi heard Joohyun's muffled voice in the hollow of her neck.
Half-asleep, Joohyun raised her chin just enough to be heard properly. "Thank you for staying with me, Seulgi-yah," she muttered.
"Of course, Hyunnie. Always." Seulgi replied, turning her head to kiss the side of Joohyun's face.
Joohyun's response was muffled once again, but Seulgi understood her perfectly nevertheless.
"I love you too, Hyun."
You are the one for me
Wanna be with you, always
Stay with me always
Cause you’re the only
Yeah you’re the only
- the only (raiden ft. irene)