Title: Social Experiment
Pairing: Kaisoo, slight!Baekyeol
Genre: High school/College AU, Romance
Summary: Do Kyungsoo doesn't think that Kim Jongin has ever noticed him, and guesses that he probably never will. All Kyungsoo wants is to be proven wrong. This story is inspired by BIGBANG's Last Farewell MV.
A/N: This is the product of my boredom over the summer so far, LOL. I hope you find it entertaining!
If you would like to subscribe to this story on AFF, my username there is also baeknim :)
"I can't believe I let you two talk me into this," Kyungsoo says as the line they're standing in outside the club creeps forward. "Is it too late to back out?"
"I can't believe you think I would even grace that question with a response," his friend, Baekhyun, shoots back, even though he's smiling. "You are gonna go in there and you are gonna have fun, Kyungsoo. Whether you like it or not."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I don't like it, wouldn't that contrast slightly with the definition of fu--"
Kyungsoo stops talking abruptly when a long arm lands heavily on his shoulder. "Don't think so much," Chanyeol, the third member of their party, says. "I'd like to point out that you have an advantage here because you, unlike the average person who comes to a club to dance, can actually dance."
Kyungsoo feels the need to protest like it's a reflex. "I'm not that good…"
"Save it. We're going in."
Baekhyun and Chanyeol practically have to shove him through the door, but the three of them make it inside and the bass pounds through Kyungsoo's body, blasting from the speakers at a level he suspects puts them in the high risk zone for hearing loss with prolonged exposure. A group of girls who all look way too young to be there rushes by in front of them, giggling madly as their drinks slosh around wildly in their glasses. Kyungsoo leaps back before any can splash onto him and he ends up colliding with Chanyeol. "Sorry," he says at what he thinks is an audible volume, realizing that he pathetically miscalculated when he can't even hear himself say it. Rather than trying to talk, Baekhyun gestures toward an area across the room closer to the bar that looks emptier and starts elbowing his way through the crowd. Kyungsoo follows with Chanyeol still gripping his shoulder.
Communication becomes a little easier once they're a reasonable distance away from the nearest speaker, if not by much. "I don't think I can do this!" Kyungsoo practically shouts. "It's claustrophobic, and the floor is sticky." He lifts each of his feet in turn as if for emphasis, feeling the slight resistance and he cringes in disgust.
"Let's dance," says Baekhyun as if he hadn't heard him, dragging Chanyeol nearer to the center of the floor and they meld gracefully into the movement of the crowd. They make an interesting duo to watch. Baekhyun has always been a sharp dancer, moves executed neatly and looking self-assured. Chanyeol is all arms and legs, but he holds his own, standing out anywhere he goes as he is usually a head taller than almost everyone else. Kyungsoo bites his lips in hesitation but ultimately he doesn't want to be left standing by himself in a corner of the club so he shrugs off his inhibitions and joins the pair. The tight jeans Baekhyun let him borrow for the night hug his legs as they carry him over the floor, heightening his awareness of the tension in his muscles when he dances. The song currently blaring through the club isn't exactly what he would have chosen to play if he had been alone in his basement practicing, but he lets the beat flow through him anyway, deconstructing it into the series of rhythms that all music is made up of and allowing that to direct his body.
"Look over there," Baekhyun says suddenly, staring in the direction of a small crowd forming near the DJ booth. Kyungsoo blinks as if coming out of a daydream. He realizes how hard he's breathing, lifting his cap briefly from his sweaty forehead before pulling it back down.
He follows Baekhyun's line of sight. "What am I supposed to be looking at, exactly?"
"That guy dancing…he's really good," Chanyeol supplies, eyebrows scrunching together. Kyungsoo's eyes flit over the crowd again and this time he immediately notices a slim body moving seamlessly with the knock of the bassline, dark hair flopping onto a tan forehead with every well-timed jerk of his muscles. The clamor all around sounds strangely hollow and echoey as he simply watches. He scarcely notices that he's following his friends closer to the small mob until someone bumps into him and he stumbles into the thick of the crowd. His eyes widen gradually as he looks around and doesn't see Baekhyun or Chanyeol anywhere.
"Hey, kid!" he hears someone shout nearby and he has a prickling feeling that it was directed at him, but his better judgment says to ignore it. He straightens up and starts walking in a random direction as if he has a purpose, but before he can get very far, a hand grips his upper arm, stopping him. Kyungsoo freezes so suddenly that he almost loses his balance a second time.
"Are you sure this is Kai's pick for tonight?" A new voice asks. "He looks…uncoordinated."
Thoroughly bewildered, Kyungsoo turns around and has to tilt his head up to even get a glimpse of the man holding his arm. He has golden hair that falls over prominent brows and an almost intimidatingly handsome face, but maybe he can tell that Kyungsoo is rather terrified at the moment because his expression softens a little and he relinquishes his grip on Kyungsoo's tricep. "He fits the description," he tells the other man next to him with the gentler-looking features between the two. His hair is dyed a deep red.
"You must have me confused with someone else," Kyungsoo finds his voice in time to say. "I don't know anyone named…Kai, was it?"
The two share a brief glance before looking back at Kyungsoo. "Ah, okay," the redhead says, leading him aside and bending down to talk right into Kyungsoo's ear. "That's Kai." He points to the dancer Kyungsoo (along with seemingly everyone else) had been watching earlier. "On the first Saturday night of every month he scans the club for the best dancer here and challenges him or her to a dance battle. Tonight, apparently, that's you."
Kyungsoo looks at Redhead straight on, his mouth open slightly as he tries to comprehend what he just said. Maybe he hadn't heard him correctly. It is loud in here, after all. "Me?" he repeats. "Are you sure there's not some mistake, um…?" The inflection of his sentence comes out awkwardly when he realizes he doesn't know how to address Redhead.
"Oh, sorry, my name's Taemin. Kris says--that's Kris--" he points to the blonde guy before continuing, "Kris says you fit the description Kai gave him and he's never gotten the wrong person before so at this point I'm pretty sure, yeah." Kyungsoo thinks he still sounds a bit dubious. He partially wants to be offended but at the same time, he can't blame him. He wrecked any chance he would have had to make a first impression as some kind of poised master of the art of dance when he tripped over himself twice in a period of about five seconds. Also, Kyungsoo's luck would have it that the one time Kris picks out the wrong person would be tonight and it would be him. Could this Kai really have noticed Kyungsoo, out of everyone else there? And thought he was the best? Kyungsoo's inner skeptic warns that it could just be a plot to make Kai seem even better by picking out mediocre dancers to pit himself against and building up everyone's expectations.
"Can we talk outside for a minute?" Taemin asks, bringing Kyungsoo's train of thought to a screeching halt. "I have just a couple more things to explain."
Kyungsoo chews the inside of his cheek, unsure if he wants to trust him. Taemin looks harmless enough, but the paranoid portion of his brain warns that this could also be a ploy to lull newcomers into a false sense of security before they get mugged or worse. But he has to admit he's curious, so he justifies it with the fact that there's security outside who would hopefully come to his aid if needed. "Yeah, okay." He gives the dance floor one more sweeping glance--where the hell are Chanyeol and Baekhyun?--before following Taemin outside.
"So here's how this is gonna work," Taemin says once they're standing by the club's entrance and the headache-inducing volume of the music is a little less intense. "The dance battle starts at midnight and it only lasts for one song. It's not all that complicated but I'll just tell you that what typically happens is this: Kai will start off with a solo at the beginning of the song, for maybe 30 seconds or so, and then when Kris gives you the signal, you jump in. Kai will stand off to the side and you'll dance by yourself. Then Kris will give another signal for Kai to come back and you'll both dance at the same time. There are no rules beyond that, really. Just freestyle until the song ends."
Kyungsoo considers this. "How do you determine who wins?" he wonders out loud.
"Um." Kyungsoo clears his throat. "Since it's a dance battle, how do you know who wins?"
"Oh, there's no real winner," Taemin explains. "It's just for fun. Entertainment value. Attracts a lot of attention."
Kyungsoo's chest constricts just imagining all those eyes on him, including Kai's. "Is this mandatory?"
Taemin looks vaguely surprised at the question, as if no one's ever asked that before. Maybe no one has. "Well…no. But it's a great chance to show what you can do. Since Kai's been coming here and attracting people with actual dance ability, reps from local agencies even come here undercover sometimes to scout for new talent." Taemin eyes him warily, like he really is starting to suspect that Kris got the wrong guy or that Kai is just plain losing his touch. "Are you signed with a company or anything?"
Kyungsoo blinks. "No, I just kind of, you know…dance…usually in my basement. This, tonight, like…coming here, was sort of a one-time thing that my friends who like to go clubbing and all that stuff convinced me to try because they think I study too much and…um…yeah." Kyungsoo stops when he notices he's been going on for much longer than was necessary to answer the question.
Taemin is looking at him like he doesn't quite know what to make of him. "I'm impressed. It's not every day that Kai chooses someone who's never had formal training. You must be talented. But look, um, it's almost midnight so…are you in?"
"I…" Kyungsoo stutters. This is all happening way too fast for him to process. He uses that, along with maybe the vibrations from the bass having knocked his brain around a bit, to explain why he says the next words that come out of his mouth. "Yeah, I'm in."
The look of vague surprise is back on Taemin's face but it's only there for a second before it's gone and replaced with a smile. "Awesome. Follow me." Taemin ducks back inside after flashing a stamp on his hand to the bouncer and Kyungsoo trails after him. The reality of what he's about to do doesn't quite hit him until he's standing in between Kris and Taemin behind the DJ booth and its colossal speakers, with a massive conglomerate of clubgoers in front of them.
It's 5 minutes to midnight and Kyungsoo pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to get his breathing under control. Why did he agree to this again? He probably isn't even the one Kai really meant to choose and he's about to embarrass himself in front of a room full of strangers…well, it wouldn't be the first time Kyungsoo's done that, but he still has no particularly strong desire to repeat the experience in a new setting. He switches to wringing his hands instead and he turns to look at Taemin next to him, who's watching the people on the dance floor with a calm expression. His red hair is styled neatly and several piercings adorn his ear. He's handsome, Kyungsoo notices, with a sharp jawline and pillowy lips, both similar to Kai's, from what he had been able to see. He doesn't know why he's thinking about this in the midst of his nervous breakdown and he looks away quickly when Taemin catches him staring. If he notices Kyungsoo's embarrassment, he hides it well.
"Me and Kai have been dancing together since we were kids," he says casually, even though he almost has to yell again to be heard over the speakers. "We dated for a while, but it didn't work out. We're too much like brothers. Some people say we even look alike."
Kyungsoo isn't sure why he's sharing this, but he laughs with him anyway, somewhat grateful for the distraction from his nerves.
"So, you're clear on what to do? Just watch Kris," Taemin says after a while. "He'll tell you when…"
He nods and takes a shaky breath, adjusting the hem of his shirt for the tenth time in the last minute. Kris finishes whatever conversation he was having with the DJ and turns to Kyungsoo. "Are you okay?" he asks, the concern in his low voice actually helping to calm him a little.
Kyungsoo nods again even though "okay" is pretty far down the list of adjectives he'd use to describe how he feels at the moment. "Just…um, are you positive that you have the right person?"
"Yes," Kris says without hesitation. "I confirmed with Kai himself, just in case."
Kyungsoo wants to ask how exactly he did that, but he doesn't have the capacity to worry about it because they're announcing the start of the dance battle and Kai is sauntering across the floor of the club like he owns it. If possible, the music gets even louder as Kai begins his solo dance. Somewhere in the back of his mind Kyungsoo knows he probably only has a maximum of 30 seconds before he's the one out there dancing in front of everyone, but the panicked thoughts seemed muted while he gets a good look at Kai for the first time. He takes in the tan skin, the balanced features, and the dark eyes shining expressively even from a distance, which is when he realizes with a jolt that this isn't really the first time he's gotten a good look at Kai. This isn't the first time he's gotten a good look at Kai because his real name isn't Kai, it's Kim Jongin and he sees him almost every day in their high school's hallways. Kyungsoo feels like someone just reached inside his chest and wrung the air from his lungs. He doesn't think he's spoken a word to Jongin in his life and isn't completely sure he was even aware of Kyungsoo's existence before tonight, but he wasn't quite as nervous when he still believed he was about to humiliate himself in front of people he doesn't know and would likely never see again.
Kyungsoo swallows hard as Jongin, or Kai, as he evidently wants to be known as here, finishes a particularly impressive sequence of steps and turns. Kris, who Kyungsoo had momentarily forgotten he was supposed to be watching, touches his elbow and asks if he's ready. Kyungsoo somehow nods in affirmation again and it's as if his body hasn't quite caught up to obeying his brain's instructions because he knows he shouldn't be doing this. He should be refusing, making some excuse, tracking down Baekhyun and Chanyeol and going home where he had originally planned to stay tonight. He's about to open his mouth to apologize before he turns on the spot and leaves, but then Jongin locks eyes with him from where he's standing on the floor and Kyungsoo is sure he looks as petrified as he feels but Kris is sort of pushing him forward and he thinks fleetingly that he might look the least pathetic if he just starts dancing.
He's surprised that he manages to control his limbs as much as he does since Kyungsoo still can't really think or breathe properly, but muscle memory is an incredible thing. The tempo of the music seems slower in comparison with his racing heart and Kyungsoo's mind goes blank except to identify the way he wants to hit each beat. It seems like Kyungsoo only just started when Jongin returns to the floor and dances alongside him, all confidence and seductive moves. It's not really Kyungsoo's style, but he tries to mirror everything that Jongin does with some sort of adjustment so it's not exactly the same, dancing out some of his own ideas while he watches the other boy and prepares to answer Kai's moves with his own. It's a blur of nerves and adrenaline and Kyungsoo doesn't feel like he quite keeps up with Jongin, but he doubts whether anyone in the room could even hold a candle to this guy. The song ends abruptly and Jongin bows to him. Kyungsoo scrambles clumsily to do to the same, and before he can even think about what to do next, Jongin's fingers are encircling his wrist and leading him behind the DJ booth again.
"What's your name?" Jongin yells over the pulsing beat of the next song that just began. Kyungsoo doesn't reply right away or even look at him, instead choosing to feel his pockets and make sure his phone is still there. It thankfully is and he unlocks it to the home screen, finding about ten frantic calls and text messages from both Chanyeol and Baekhyun.
"I'm sorry, I have to go, my friends are waiting. Thanks for…everything!" he shouts back and turns to go but Jongin steps around him.
Kyungsoo looks up at him this time from under the brim of his cap. Jongin's hair is splayed across his forehead, plastered to the skin with sweat and his expression is bright, curious. Kyungsoo sucks in a breath, uncomfortable with the eye contact. "I've never seen you before…" Jongin muses. "Do you live around here?"
Kyungsoo nods haltingly. He's faintly disappointed that Jongin has never noticed him around school while Kyungsoo has noticed him quite a bit, but it's not all that hard to believe. Kyungsoo is good at being unnoticeable. Jongin isn't. He'd guess that if Chanyeol and Baekhyun hadn't dragged him here tonight, Jongin would probably graduate high school never having given Kyungsoo so much as a second glance.
"Can you be here again next Saturday? Midnight?" Jongin asks, an almost pleading note in his voice that Kyungsoo wouldn't have expected.
"Yeah...I'll be here," he hears himself agree. The words have left his mouth seemingly without his conscious decision to say them, and he freezes, mildly horrified at what he just agreed to. "I really do have to go now, I'm sorry." He turns his attention back to his phone to type out a reply to Chanyeol as he heads for the exit.
"Can I at least get your name?" Jongin shouts after Kyungsoo is already several paces away.
Kyungsoo pauses midstep as he realizes that as much as the night's events were thrust onto him against his will, tonight he hadn't been his quiet, studious self. Jongin's eyes have probably passed over Kyungsoo a thousand times before at school, never once having focused on him for very long. Kyungsoo turns back around, realizing that Jongin is still waiting for an answer. He wonders fleetingly why he has a stage name, Kai. When he's dancing, does he feel like a different person the way Kyungsoo does? He pictures the spelling of his own name in his mind's eye and wracks his brain for some kind of creative nickname or anagram he could make out of it. Coming up with nothing, he defaults to his knowledge of the English alphabet, which he considers to be fairly decent. "Call me D.O.," he shouts back before he leaves for real this time.
He could swear that a few pairs of eyes linger on him for longer than usual as he makes his way to the door, but he doesn't look back at any of them, his only concern being to reunite with his friends, the original reasons for how this whole night turned out. It's not until he's outside and leaning against the solid wall of the building, the noise stifled once the doors close behind him, that he realizes how unsteady he feels on his feet and how surreal this all has been. The doors open again not much later when Baekhyun and Chanyeol come bursting out of them, both chattering at the same time and Kyungsoo only catches small bits of what each of them are saying.
"There you are..."
"I can't believe..."
"…were looking everywhere…"
"I know," Kyungsoo tries to say loudly enough for them to hear. His voice ends up cracking a little but they stop talking and just stare at him disbelievingly instead. Kyungsoo finds himself out of breath again, as if he's physically reliving every moment as he recounts the night's events for them from his point of view. Baekhyun and Chanyeol both have a habit of interrupting him whenever he's telling a story, but this time they listen silently.
"Why didn't you just tell him your real name?" Baekhyun asks when he finishes. "You're not gonna let this go to your head, are you? Fashioning yourself a stage name after one dance battle, I mean…tch…" he jokes.
Kyungsoo suddenly finds it uncomfortable to look him in the eye, unable to explain to Baekhyun why he had made up the name. He pauses almost indiscernibly before offering a sly smile. "Well, I'll try to keep it real enough not to forget about you guys, but I can't make any promises."
Baekhyun just shakes his head in amusement, checking his phone screen.
"Dee Oh," Chanyeol says, testing how the syllables feel in his mouth. "That's sort of catchy."
Kyungsoo smiles. "Thanks."
"Well, it's late," Baekhyun says as he pockets his cell phone again. "You can stay at our place tonight if you want, Kyungsoo."
"Thanks," Kyungsoo accepts. "That's where my mom thinks I am, anyway." They laugh as they all picture how Kyungsoo's mother would respond if she knew that her bookish son was in a dance battle at an out of control club.
"I'll drive," Baekhyun declares when they reach Chanyeol's car on the street.
"Why? I didn't have anything to drink because I remembered that we took my car here!" Chanyeol protests.
"I know, Chanyeol-ah, but our friend Kyungsoo has just had a stressful evening and I think we would all feel safer if someone drove who hasn't gotten two speeding tickets in the last three months."
"One of those was nullified, but fine," Chanyeol concedes, walking back around to the passenger side.
"I'll make it up to you," Baekhyun promises as he climbs into the car, adjusting the seat and the mirrors to accommodate his smaller size and Chanyeol grumbles about having to change them back later. Kyungsoo chuckles in the back seat.
They’re still bickering about random things by the time Baekhyun unlocks the door to his and Chanyeol’s apartment. Kyungsoo is on auto-pilot as he makes his way to the couch in the small living room and expertly arranges the cushions the way he likes to sleep. “Do you want another blanket or anything?” Baekhyun offers like he always does.
“Nope, it’s fine,” he replies, predicting after the night he had that he’ll fall asleep as soon as he lies down, the number of blankets completely unimportant.
“Okay, sleep well.”
“When you said you’d make it up to me…” he hears Chanyeol saying as he flicks the lights off.
“Get a room, this one's mine!” Kyungsoo chucks one of the couch pillows at the two of them but he assumes it misses its target when he hears it land somewhere near the kitchen, followed by laughter.
Kyungsoo awakens when the first strands of sunlight poke their way through the spaces between the blinds on the window. He washes up and makes his way to the kitchen to fix himself a cup of coffee before making breakfast for his still sleeping friends, another long-standing tradition of theirs. Memories from the night before replay themselves in his mind while he searches for ingredients in the cabinet. The surreal feeling is still there, but it's been dulled a little by the prospect of seeing Jongin again.
Kyungsoo looks up as his friends amble into the room, showered and dressed but still looking tired. "Good morning," he says cheerfully, setting cups of coffee down for them.
"Please explain how and why you wake up so freaking early, even on Sunday," Chanyeol says, sinking into a chair and accepting his coffee with gratitude.
Kyungsoo shrugs, returning to the stovetop. "I don't need that much sleep, I guess."
"Don't question it, just enjoy it," says Baekhyun as he plucks a strawberry from the bowl Kyungsoo had set aside. "I will say, though, I could have slept a little more myself because I was awake for a long time wondering why, with all the times me and Chanyeol have gone to that club, we haven't seen this Kai kid before, or even heard of him."
Kyungsoo takes a sip of his coffee, feeling a jolt of energy that he doesn't think has anything to do with the caffeine when Baekhyun says Kai's name. "I don't think he's there very often," he says. "The first Saturday of every month, and maybe some random other times. At least that's what it sounded like. So if you haven't happened to be there at those times, I guess you wouldn't have seen him. It makes sense now why he's so well-known around school, though. I thought it was just because…" Kyungsoo's ears feel hot and he sets plates of food down on the table. "I mean, I don't live under a rock. I knew he could dance, but not like…" Kyungsoo trails off again as he registers that his friends are staring at him uncomprehendingly. "Oh right…I…guess I left that part out but when I saw Kai up close I realized…I've seen him before. His real name is Kim Jongin. He's actually in my year, too, but he just transferred this semester from a different high school."
"He goes to your school? You mean you know him?"
"And you waited until now to tell us this?"
"No, uh, we don't know each other," Kyungsoo tries to rationalize. "Or well, I know who he is, obviously…everyone sort of does, but I don't think he recognized me at all so…I don't know."
"Ah, so usually you just admire him from afar, I see," Chanyeol says with an annoying smirk and Kyungsoo blushes as he starts in on his food. Baekhyun and Chanyeol look at each other.
There's a long silence while they eat, broken only when Kyungsoo says, "I better get going. I haven't even started my homework yet."
There's a hesitation like one of them is going to ask more questions, but Baekhyun simply offers him a ride home. Kyungsoo declines, dragging out his complaints about his calculus assignment a while longer as he pulls on his pair of black converse. He promises to catch up with them later in the week before he lets himself out. It's not a long walk to the subway from where Chanyeol and Baekhyun live near their college campus and it's a fairly quick ride to the stop closest to his house, but today it seems to take longer than usual as his nervousness mounts, anticipating the next time he'll meet Kim Jongin.
Go to Part 2 >>