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04 May 2016 @ 12:56 am
Ikon exchange!  
Title: Split The Difference
Fandom(s): iKON, Lee Hi, YG Family
Pairing(s): B.I/Lee Hi
Rating: PG
Word count: 3,763
Summary: Hanbin’s a mess of false confidence and insecurities. Hayi’s a clean slate. (Or: five times Hanbin embarrassed himself in front of Hayi and one time she embarrassed him)

Also on AO3

A/N: Written for midnightindomie for Ikon Exchange 2016! Fun fact - this is my fourth time trying to post this tonight but my computer keeps crashing and i'm fucking pissed :-)

The thing is Hanbin’s arrogant. Ok maybe not arrogant, wrong word, apologies, but when you’re marked out as the golden boy from the get go you have to have a certain confidence in yourself. The thing is that if you don’t have that confidence you’ve got to learn it. The thing is Hanbin wasn’t born with faith in his abilities. The thing is he has dreams bigger in scope than what he knows he’s capable of.

The thing is Hanbin knows that if confidence doesn’t come naturally, he’s going to have to fake it till it does. He knows this from the moment he steps out onto his first stage, far too young to put the confusing mixed emotions of reality falling short of expectations into words. At that age, there’s no time for second guessing oneself, it’s a do or do not situation.

Flash forward six years. Hanbin’s still faking confidence up front, and indulging his self-doubt and perfectionism when no one’s looking. He’ll be fine, probably. The point isn’t that Hanbin doesn’t know what to do with himself when he lets the mask drop, it’s that he doesn’t know how to handle himself when it’s on.

“Who are you?” he sneers at the girl sitting square in the middle of the practice room he knows he’s commandeered for the day.

Jinhwan’s tugging at his sleeve, muttering that they should just go. It’s already clear which one of them is the more perceptive and who has their head in the sand more often than is wise. Hanbin doesn’t appreciate intruders on his turf, and among trainees he is king. So he has no problems marching over to this girl with her unwelcome presence and her nose pressed up against the screen of her phone when she should be dancing and introducing her to the law of the land.

He peers down at her, “Go!”

The girl drags her attention away from her social media in slow motion. A pair of soulful brown eyes blink up at Hanbin, set within a face still round with puppy fat. Her plump lips are set in an unmoving line that makes her seem slow and disconnected.

She shrugs, “they said they’d meet me here.”

“I don’t give a shit. I booked the room, I’m working here,” and still she doesn’t move, “don’t you know who I am?”

Hanbin,” Jinhwan whines from the door.

He looks up just in time to see Yang Hyunsuk entering the room. All of a sudden, false confidence vanishes and Hanbin moves quickly to bow and grovel and shuffle carefully to the perimeter to wait to be spoken to.

The girl gets slowly to her feet, bows once and says nothing. Yang Hyuksuk grins at her.

“Lee Hayi,” he coos, “I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to be working with you.”

The girl – Lee Hayi – thanks him, says it’s a pleasure to be working with him too, but her listless expression still suggests that she has no idea where she’s standing.

Yang Hyunsuk looks up, and seems to notice Hanbin and Jinhwan for the first time, “what are you doing there? Scram, I’m working with Hayi here today.”

“That’s Lee Hi,” Jinwhwan informs Hanbin, as they’re scurrying away to find another practice room, “she was one of the finalists on that show Kpop Star. How have you not heard of her? She’s big news.”

Hanbin doesn’t know how he’s missed Lee Hayi, not when he should be keeping his finger on the pulse of the music scene he so hopes to enter into, not when he tries so hard to fill his role in the YG hierarchy without complaint. He hadn’t even heard that they’d gotten a new trainee, let alone that she was famous.

The thing is false confidence is hard to pitch. Not enough effort and it goes unnoticed, too much and it boils over into arrogance. Undermined false confidence? Now that can give you pause for thought. Undermined arrogance? Now that just makes you look silly.

Goo Junhoe is a very good dancer, as it turns out. Hanbin had been introduced to the boy in the midst of a singing lesson, his voice bold and powerful though it can’t have long dropped, and figured that that was the crucial factor that had seen him admitted to the YG basement. He’s a prickly little thing, withdrawn and sullen and waiting for puberty to grant him the growth spurt that will see him grow taller than all his peers, but Hanbin finds he likes him.

“Of course I practised yesterday,” Junhoe’s eyes practically role out of his head, “what do you take me for?”

He doesn’t bother with pleasantries or honourifics. Junhoe doesn’t care to underestimate himself. The thing is Goo Junhoe’s arrogance is the real deal, the boy will never learn how to fake.

Hanbin sits back with Jiwon and Jinhwan to watch Junhoe run through his routine. His limbs are just a little too long to be fully under his control, but he has flare. There’s so much personality in the way he moves that it’s clear even in a large group, he’s always going to be someone who stands out.

Junhoe finishes, graces his audience with a self-satisfied smirk, and when he bows it’s clear that he does it only for the benefit of his ego.

Jiwon claps, “that was great. You gotta show me that thing at the end, that shit was so cool!”

“Sure,” Junhoe shrugs like it’s nothing, but his smile hitches up another notch.

It’s not an easy move to learn. Junhoe’s footwork is faster than Hanbin had noted on first viewing and the balance involved in the final turn is tricky to pull off when your arms need to be so tightly drawn in.

Jiwon watches him very carefully, asks him to take it slow. In his eyes Hanbin sees the deadly flash of ambition, the desire to do things right the first time every time. Jiwon was born into it.

“Like this?” Jiwon imitates Junhoe perfectly.

A flash crosses Junhoe’s face, the familiar expression of a child who has suddenly learnt they are not the biggest kid in the playground. He’s good, but so is Jiwon, and if only for a moment, that rattles him, “exactly.”

And here comes the stare down, Junhoe’s smile shrunk into casual indifference and Jiwon grinning like a loon to cover the smug satisfaction he feels in victory. Hanbin will get used to this, arrogance facing off against ambition, for now he’s just irritated that he’s not the one grinning wicked at the new kid.

He stands up and marches over, “let me have a go, if Jiwon can manage it it can’t be all that hard.” He means it to come out playful, but when he glances in Jiwon’s direction he's met with worry.

“C’mon Hanbin, we’ve got shit to do.”

The thing is Hanbin will always be a better choreographer than he is dancer. But in that moment he wants everything, and the need to save face, to live up to his false confidence (which borders on arrogance) is profound. He laughs Jiwon off and dives right in, doesn’t ask Junhoe to demonstrate again, doesn’t take it slow.

Five minutes later, he will swear blind that it was the door opening that distracted him, or that Jiwon took up too much of his personal space, but he will not submit to being the architect of his own incompetence. The fact of the matter is, that the door does swing open, just as Hanbin steps forward to try his luck, and in walks Lee Hayi with her big eyes and chubby cheeks and unreadable lips.

Hanbin’s feet tangle in each other and he falls to the floor. He feels his chin bouncing on the sprung wood, the muscles in his right ankle screaming in protest at their continued existence in the wake of the angle he forced them in to. He feels his cheeks burning in the fire of Jiwon’s and Junhoe’s laughter, even Jinhwan allows himself a snigger.

Hanbin sits up very quickly, glaring daggers at them all as he reaches forward to massage his aching ankle. It does nothing to shut them up. His eyes settle on Hayi, standing just inside the door and staring at him with unblinking intensity. He thinks he sees her shoulders shake as she lets out a bark of laughter, but can’t be sure, and her casual indifference makes him feel small. If the act of falling were not enough, the fact he is all but inconsequential in her eyes does wonders to remind him that he is faking all of his confidence.

“I have this space booked,” Hayi tells them. They double check the rota and find that she’s right. At least she’s no longer above the system.

It’s five in the morning and Hanbin has a headache and he hasn’t slept in twenty four hours and doesn’t think he can physically accommodate any more coffee and Let It Go was a bad song decision.

“This isn’t gonna work,” he mumbles.

From the sofa across the room, Hayi’s surveys him with unreadable contempt, “It has to work, there’s no time to change it.”

He feels like a fool. Here Hayi is, up late having agreed to help him, when they both know she hates the song. And here he is, unable to make the music do what he wants it to. Hanbin stares blearily at the notes on the screen. They all seem to bleed into each other, till it looks like a discordant mess sung to familiar words. This was supposed to be a joke, but it’s gotten away from him.

“I wasn’t being serious when I suggested Let It Go,” Hanbin says miserably.

Hayi shrugs. Perhaps she’s judging him, perhaps she has no opinion, perhaps she’s just tired, “I know. But that's your problem.”

This is why he needs Jiwon. Jiwon will call his bluff so many times that backing out will never not be an option, and both Jinhwan and Junhoe have no problem telling him upfront when they don’t like his ideas. But Yunhyeong’s too nice and Donghyuk’s too polite and for now, Chanwoo, Hongsseok and Jinhyeong are too scared to tell him not to follow through on his more foolhardy ideas. He’d hoped Hayi might ground him, but it turns out she’s quite content to let him dig himself into his own messes.

So he pushes on, reworking and retweaking the track into something that, while not brilliant, almost works.

“Good job,” Hayi tells him without feeling. Her eyes are like two great wells of emotion threatening to suck Hanbin in. Through the haze of his tiredness, he almost tells her she’s pretty.

The thing is Hanbin’s always seen good dividends for his efforts in idoldom. Scouted aged eleven, popular on WIN, notable on Show Me The Money, a guaranteed member on Mix and Match, a whole single just for him and Jiwon. No matter how his self-doubt manifests, there have always been people there to pat him on the back and tell him that he’ll be fine. His forced self-confidence is for their benefit as much as for his, to show that he doesn’t intend to give up, to prove he will be fine.

Hayi had a rush of fame, and then she went dark. And despite seeing her with remarkable frequency around the YG building, flitting between practice rooms and studios, it takes Hanbin an awfully long time to realise that she’s angry. Dear lord, she is so angry.

“Listen to this,” She says, shoving an earbud into his hand. They’re up on the roof, overlooking Hapjeong and trying to pretend that their lives are always as peaceful as this balmy summer evening as they shirk responsibilities to revel in Hayi’s rage. He takes it and pushes it into his ear, then waits for her to press play.

It’s good. Of course it’s good. Hayi’s voice is deep and rich and clear and not for the first time does Hanbin think that she and Junhoe could make magic together if they ever deigned to duet. He soaks in the sound, all that emotion that she sings out, though she’s so adverse to demonstrating it in everyday life.

Hanbin takes out the earbud and hands it back to her, “it’s good. Is it gonna be on your next album?”

“Yes. I think. If there’s ever gonna be a next album, it’s gonna be on it,” Hayi sighs, exhausted. Hanbin bites his tongue against the urge to ask her what’s taking so long.

“Of course there’s gonna be a next album,” He grins at her, “Yang will squeeze it out of you one way or another. Just look at the profits on your last one.”

But Hayi has no interest in profit margins or popularity. She has been stuck in creative limbo for far too long, always sitting on her next great masterpiece. First she had been shifted around between groups and solo work, then she was allowed to debut, then she sat alone in the YG basement, working as hard as any of them but never allowed to see the pay off.

Hanbin watches her fingers twist into fists, lying on top of her knees. She blinks, her mouth twitches too fast for him to make sense of it, somewhere in the depths of her eyes her anger burns, “he’s always got an excuse. I can never just do anything.”

“But…you’ve got so much material. Surely you can do something with it?” Hanbin lets his naivety get the better of him. Maybe it’s willful ignorance, maybe it’s false confidence in the system. But after all this time, all these years of watching projects at this company be delayed and reshuffled and cancelled, he still can’t believe that Yang Hyunsuk would let someone fall into obscurity just because he can.

Hayi fixes him with her unchanging stare, only now he knows her well enough to pick emotions out of it, like he knows the soft line of her jaw, the neat swoop of her nose, the way she lets her hair fall across her face when she’s working. Sometimes he finds his treacherous little brain wondering what her bottom lip would feel like under the pad of his thumb, or whether she would pull away if he tried to kiss her.

But Hanbin doesn’t know what to do with those sorts of feelings. Feigning confidence in his talent is one thing, but confidence in flirtation is a step too far. Jiwon, Junhoe, hell even Chanwoo all know how to cock an eyebrow, flash a smile, and tell a pretty girl that they’re interested. He doesn’t even know how to tell a pretty girl she’s pretty.

“You’re his golden boy. You’ll never have to fight as hard as the rest of us for his attention.”

The thing is there’s something very uncomfortable about being told you are the bearer of a silver spoon. Looking on at those who are privileged enough to escape our struggles, it always seems that they should be content with their status, but to be reminded of your inherent advantages feels like cheating. Hanbin feels the blood rise to his cheeks, like it had done in a practice room a long time ago as he looked up from where he had fallen, nursing his twisted ankle, and he tries to stutter out denial.

“B-but, I mean, it’s not like…not like…”

Hayi shakes her head to silence him, “save it. It’s no big deal. I’m just saying, for most of us the material will never be enough.”

He has no idea how to respond to that. So Kim Hanbin sits in silence beside Lee Hayi, on top of their own little world, burning with embarrassment and trying not to think about the scant few inches between them.

First thing, they’re talking, the same as any other day. Hanbin’s told a joke and for once Hayi is laughing. Full bodied, head tipped back, eyes curving into cute little crescents. He’s so caught up in the way her shoulder shake and her lips part to reveal her teeth, glinting in the light of the Ikon kitchen. He can’t even remember what he said. But he’s glad he said it, just to see her laugh like that. He’s never thought himself particularly funny, but he’s been trying to fake the confidence to make up for that for years, perhaps the faking it has finally produced results.

Second thing, she’s calming down, catching her breath and settling. Her eyes are opening and her mouth is closing. Her shoulders still. Soon she will have returned to her neutral state, and Hanbin will be left with the memory of her laughter to remind himself that sometimes she is obvious with her emotions and sometimes he is funny. He will make that be enough.

Third thing, he is unable to look away from her, their eyes have locked onto each other and he can still see the mirth within them. He feels like he’s falling into her, past the long nights they’ve shared in solidarity over their misfortunes and lonely studio sessions, past her sharp tongue and perceptive wit, past his own ineptitude and false bravado. Hanbin takes a shaky breath and leans forward, and Hayi meets him in the middle.

It’s not as easy as they make it look on TV. They move too fast and their foreheads collide, then her hair is everywhere and needs to be brushed away, then she’s smiling again at their joint clumsiness and Hanbin feels his heart threaten to shudder to a halt at the sight. She is so very pretty, she’s radiant, and he wonders how he ever managed not to tell her before.

“You’re so pretty,” he mutters. And then her lips are on his.

The thing is first kisses rarely go well. Teeth always clash, finding the rhythm is always hard, and that’s to say nothing of having to work out where to put your hands. But Hanbin (poor, inexperienced, un-confident, faking-it-but-never-making-it Hanbin) doesn’t know this. He feels the press of her mouth, the puckering of her lips and for a moment in feels divine. He lets himself melt into it, closing his eyes and following her lead, but then she opens his mouth with her tongue and suddenly it doesn’t feel so easy.

He pulls back, alarmed, “sorry,” and he feels like a fool. She of all people, doesn’t need to waste her time with him, how dare he have the nerve to not know what to do with himself? Hanbin’s sure he must have spent forever imagining what he would do if she just gave him a chance, but he was always a better choreographer than dancer.

“S’fine,” Hayi mumbles, before throwing her arms around his neck and pulling him back in.

This time, when their teeth clash, she doesn’t let him go. Her lips press harder against his, moving slowly and with purpose. She leans forward so far she’s practically in his lap, and Hanbin lets his arm slide around her waist to steady her.

They keep going, and going. It’s wonderful. Sooner or later, they will be shaken out of their trance by Yunhyeong’s startled yelp at finding them together in his group kitchen. But for now Hanbin, thinks that this is worth a little embarrassment.

A knock on the studio door startles Hayi out of her work trance. She’s irritated with the intruder, but she’s been down here for hours - it’s so easy when there’s no natural light to break up your day - and she knows she could use a break.

“Come in!” She calls, temporarily forgetting the soundproof nature of recording studios, before hauling herself to her feet and going to open the door.

It’s Hanbin, bearing coffee. He smiles at her with a smile she hasn’t seen on him before, not nervous or self-deprecating or exaggerated, just a smile. Like he’s happy to see her and that’s all that matters.

Hayi can’t pretend she hasn’t been thinking about him. It’s been three days since she accidentally-on-purpose wound up kissing him in his dorm, but her hectic pre-comeback schedule has proven too much to allow cute boys who don’t know their own worth to come swanning into her life with the vague intention of sweeping her off her feet.

Hanbin nods at the two iced Americanos he’s holding, “thought you could use a boost.”

“I see two boosts,” Hayi cocks an eyebrow.

“Well I figured I could use a boost too.”

She doesn’t let herself smile at him as he enters, that would be too much too soon. But Hayi does lean up to peck Hanbin on the lips when she takes her coffee, it’s worth it to watch his face light up.

The thing is Hayi wasn’t sure she liked Hanbin till she was very sure. And now she knows she has to pace herself, she’s never been one to let her emotions get the better of her.

“How’s it going?” Hanbin seats himself on the second swivel chair and gestures to the track open on the studio computer.

“Good,” she flashes him the biggest smile she can conceal within her eyes, “wanna listen?”

He sits, he listens. He gives her constructive feedback and offers to get her another coffee when she’s done. He doesn’t trip over his tongue or his feet and he sneaks kisses when she’s least expecting it.

Hanbin seems at peace with himself, like for once in his life he switched off whatever part of his brain keeps him nervous enough to never stop looking over his shoulder, wondering when someone might come along and demand to know why he wasn’t making the most of every moment. It’s not that she doesn’t like his careful manner, his attention to detail, his pride in his work; but seeing him relaxed only stitches him a little further under her skin.

Hayi always knew Kim Hanbin was going to be a problem.

“Sooooooo…” he starts, waiting for her full attention, “I was wondering if I could buy you dinner tonight? We can go eat at the canteen and pretend it’s literally anywhere else but here.”

Oh boy if it isn’t hard to suppress a grin. “That sounds nice,” Hayi nods, “then maybe we can go back to mine and I’ll fix you some dessert.”

The blush that crawls across his cheeks is priceless. Hayi takes her time kissing it off him, laughing all the way.