Dongmin’s mother had always done her best to teach him to be humble, to work hard and assume he would have no favors or easy paths in life. But he also knew he’d been blessed with good looks and a good memory and a sharp intellect and a strong, athletic body. Many things came naturally to him, and most things that didn’t come naturally to him he could work at until he excelled at them.
Dancing was not one of those things. Singing he could do all right and he was getting better at it. But dancing was hard. Thanks to years of basketball and soccer he could figure out the basics of choreography. Knowing where to be and when was like learning basketball and soccer plays. Getting his hands and feet in the right place was a bit trickier. Looking good, though.
That was nearly impossible.
Always, he heard the same complaints from the instructors.
Dongmin, you’re too stiff. Dongmin, you’re a fraction of a beat off. Dongmin, your angles are wrong. Dongmin, you’re not feeling the music.
Dongmin was a talented pianist. He could keep a beat just fine, had practiced diligently with a metronome and everything.
Dongmin had to admit to himself that despite all his mother’s careful teaching, her occasional, Hey ugly, don’t get too full of yourself, he’d become complacent with his own competence. He was used to getting things on the first or second try, or getting things enough that he had the confidence that a few more practice rounds on his own would get him the competence he needed, and honing his skills from there would give him the excellence he wanted.
Now Dongmin would have to swallow his pride and ask for help. Not from an instructor - they were just as tired of him as he was of them. No, he’d ask one of the other trainees. As a student, he’d never been derisive of students who came to him for help, always praised them for reaching out. He’d never considered things from the other side of the equation, how hard it was to ask.
But here he was, standing in the doorway of the practice room watching Park Minhyuk breeze his way through choreography Dongmin wouldn’t dream of even attempting. Dongmin could have asked Bin, but if things didn’t go well, he’d have to see Bin all day at school. Minhyuk was a couple of grades below them, and he’d be easier to avoid.
The song ended, and Minhyuk shook himself out, then went to shut the music off.
Dongmin cleared his throat.
“Ah, hyung.” Minhyuk glanced over. “What’s up?”
“I was wondering,” Dongmin said. “If you could help me. With the choreo we’ve been learning. In regular training.”
Minhyuk got dance the way Dongmin got, well, everything academic. Dongmin could see it in his eyes, the way he took in the instructors, and also in the way he moved. Minhyuk understood all the things the instructors didn’t say about how to do a turn, how to hold his arms for a pose.
“Sure,” Minhyuk easily, no hesitation. “Which part?”
“Ah - all of it.”
“Okay.” Minhyuk beckoned, and then he went to his phone to queue up the music. “You warmed up?”
“Let’s do a run-through just so I can see what you’ve got, and we’ll go into detail work from there. How much time do you have?”
“Till curfew,” Dongmin said.
“Me too.” Minhyuk flashed him a brief grin.
He had dimples. He smiled so rarely that Dongmin forgot how bright his smile could be.
Minhyuk started up the music, and Dongmin moved to stand beside him.
“Away from the mirror,” Minhyuk said. “In front of me, so I can see you.”
Dongmin bit his lip but nodded. Without the mirror, he wouldn’t be able to see Minhyuk if he lost track of the choreography, but he thought he had it memorized pretty well.
Even though Dongmin had had the sole scrutiny of the instructors on him before, having Minhyuk watch him felt different. Maybe because it was just the two of them in the practice room? Dongmin only stumbled a few times, made it to the end of the song all right.
Minhyuk said, “You’re not a bad dancer. BTS choreo is hard. Your problem is that you’re -”
“Stiff, I know.” Dongmin sighed.
“You’re too worried about losing control,” Minhyuk said.
Dongmin turned to him. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve memorized the choreo pretty well, and you memorize choreo pretty fast, all things considered,” Minhyuk said.
“Not as fast as you,” Dongmin said.
Minhyuk made a dismissive gesture. “I’ve been dancing since I was four. Don’t compare yourself to me. You’ve only been dancing for a few months. I’ve seen a lot of trainees come and go. You’re doing really well. Your problem is that you’re worried about being in control all the time. But dancing is about letting go and feeling the music.”
Dongmin stared at him. “But the instructors are always talking about your impressive body control.”
Minhyuk sighed. “Mostly they mean my body does what I want when I want. But I’m not over-thinking about it like you are. When you’re walking, do you think I bend my knee, I lift my foot, I slide my foot forward, I put my foot down, I straighten my knee? You don’t.”
“I don’t think that when I dance either,” Dongmin said.
“But you’re thinking part of it. You’re counting in your head, one two three turn, five six seven step,” Minhyuk said.
“How can you tell?”
“I can see it in your face. Also sometimes you move your lips.”
Dongmin scrubbed a hand over his face. “But I can’t let go. I can’t -”
“Have you ever kissed anyone?” Minhyuk asked.
Dongmin recoiled. “What? No. What does that have to do with anything?”
Trainees weren’t supposed to date.
“Kissing is really complicated if you think about it. Which way do you turn your head? When do you open your mouth and use your tongue? What do you do with your hands? But you don’t think about it. You just do it. You just give up control and go with the feeling,” Minhyuk said. “Dancing is like that.”
Dongmin stared at him. “Have you kissed anyone?”
“Sure. Kissing’s fun.” Then Minhyuk narrowed his eyes. “Wait, you’ve never kissed anyone? But you’re so handsome. Surely -”
Dongmin blushed and looked away. “I was always busy with school.”
“Whoa. Ugly old me has kissed but beautiful you never has? This world isn’t right.” Minhyuk looked both amused and shocked.
“You’re not ugly,” Dongmin said.
Minhyuk tossed his head. “Compared to you, all of us are ugly. But - come on. Let me turn on some different music, and I need you to just move. Feel the music. You can close your eyes and not look at me. Pretend I’m not here. Move how the music makes you feel.” He started for his phone.
Dongmin caught his wrist and tugged him back around so they were face to face. He said, “Will you kiss me?”
It occurred to him, too late, that Minhyuk probably only kissed girls.
Minhyuk said, “Don’t you want your first kiss to be from someone you like?”
Dongmin said, “Make me lose control.”
Minhyuk looked at him for a long moment. He said, “Your first kiss should be from someone you like. Let me turn on some music, and let’s dance, all right?”
Dongmin said, “I think you’re handsome, and a good singer, and you dance better than I could ever hope to dance.”
Minhyuk turned and faced him fully. “I’m sorry I laughed earlier. It’s all right if you haven’t kissed anyone yet. Your first kiss should be from someone you like. Don’t have regrets because it’s from someone you don’t like. Now come on. Let’s dance.”
He extricated himself from Dongmin’s grip gently and went to turn on some music.
Dongmin did his best to do as Minhyuk instructed, closed his eyes and just moved to the music.
When he opened his eyes, Minhyuk was still swaying to the final notes of the song. When the music finally ended, Minhyuk opened his eyes and grinned at him like nothing awkward had happened.
“Now, come on, let’s turn on the song you’re doing the choreo to, and we’ll free dance to that, and then we’ll work on the choreo, okay?”
It worked. Dongmin wasn’t amazingly better, but he could hear things in the music he hadn’t heard before, was hitting the beats better, and he liked the music more, because it made him feel, and he could loosen up a bit while he was dancing to it, and at his next evaluation, the instructors were pleased at his progress.
So every time he had to learn a new song, he’d find a moment to himself, turn on the music, and just move to it.
Minhyuk never mentioned Dongmin’s awkward request for a kiss, and he never asked whether Dongmin had kissed anyone, and Dongmin was fiercely glad that no one else asked, and then there was iTeen Rising Star and To Be Continued and debut and comeback and no time for kissing at all.
Through it all, Dongmin watched Minhyuk, watched him work hard in school and work hard as an idol. Minhyuk was an amazing performer - a stellar dancer, a much better singer than anyone gave him credit for, now that he was the team’s lead rapper. He was also a cheat at games, and easily offended and sulky, and incredibly possessive of his banana milk. But he was also fiercely protective of his teammates, always knew when Myungjun needed comforting, was ready to stay up all night and help Dongmin learn choreography for a dozen popular songs for a variety show he’d been signed up for, was willing to sing a guide track for a song Jinwoo was writing.
Their second year they hit the ground running. The lack of a music video for their fourth album was a bit of a stumbling block, but they carried on with Baby, and then onto Crazy Sexy Cool, and then -
Then there was nothing.
Minhyuk graduated from high school but wasn’t even able to attend the ceremony.
Dongmin signed on to film a major drama, his first leading role. He hoped it would save the team; if it didn’t, it’d look like he was trying to save himself while the others went down with a sinking ship.
The company managed to scrape together material and money for a special album for fans. There would be a music video but no formal promotions.
It was better than nothing.
Minhyuk’s coming of age day passed with little fanfare. His parents sent him a bottle of cologne and some money (his last red envelope now that he was an adult) and a bouquet of flowers. They were delivered to Minhyuk at the company while he worked on choreography for their special single.
Back at the dorm, Dongmin found Minhyuk.
“Congratulations,” he said. “It’s your coming-of-age day.”
“Thank you.” Minhyuk smiled tiredly and curled up on the couch.
Dongmin sat beside him. “I know you’ve received gifts from your family, but - I thought I’d offer you one last gift.”
Minhyuk shook his head. “Hyung, no, you don’t have to.”
Dongmin leaned in and said, quietly, “Make me lose control.”
Minhyuk’s eyes widened. “You - I thought you’d forgotten all about that.”
“You said I should have my first kiss from someone I like. I like you. Make me lose control.”
“Your first kiss?” Minhyuk echoed, sitting up straighter.
“Don’t let my first kiss be for this drama.”
Minhyuk searched Dongmin’s gaze. Then he said, “All right,” and pulled Dongmin in close.
Dongmin couldn’t really describe what happened after that, other than that it felt so good, and Minhyuk was an amazing kisser.
And Myungjun’s scream could have shattered glass when he walked in on them.