Fandom: Super Junior
Word Count: 700
Summary: He learns their names and faces over time, and they smile at him – polite, obligatory smiles – and even if he practices and eats and shares the dorm with them, he’s not part of them.
Notes: I told myself I wasn't going to write fic for Super Junior. And then I picked up a pen, and look what happened. >:| This is Hangeng-POV from when he first went to Korea, and ended up involving more angst than I'd originally anticipated. You can thank waveless for this ending up posted instead of in the trash can.
The syllables taste bitter on his tongue – low and foreign and harsh - and he's tired, tired because he can't seem to remember the proper honorifics in the spur of the moment no matter how well he'd memorized them the day before. His world is made up of half-formed sentences and broken phrases and incomprehensible questions tossed in his face.
He learns their names and faces over time, and they smile at him – polite, obligatory smiles – and even if he practices and eats and shares the dorm with them, he’s not part of them. Their words are too quick for him to understand, and he’s always on the outside looking in, wishing that he knew how to bridge that impossibly big gap. (because if he doesn’t do it quickly, he’s going to tumble into that chasm sooner or later, and personally, he thinks it’ll be sooner)
He knows that they try. They try to be inclusive and friendly and welcoming. (it’s too bad they never quite manage)
Time passes, and he does what he does best and survives. His Korean improves significantly, and it’s far from perfect, but it’s at least functional now(he hangs on to that). Hangeng keeps his phrases simple, limits his sentences to the ones he knows to be grammatically correct, and he discovers that the other trainees are infinitely more inclusive when he keeps up the pretense. It’s as if the subtly exclusive air of the previous few weeks never was.
But like everything he works for, it doesn’t last. (only fools are hopeful)
He makes a mistake during dinner one day, asking someone to pass the salt. It’s a simple pronunciation error (one he never would’ve made if only he’d concentrated on what was coming out of his mouth, but he’d gotten too comfortable, too careless, too deluded, too). The words die in his throat, and there’s a sudden silence before it starts, the dreaded cold of the last few months.
(hushed whispers; curious stares)
Their chattering is friendly, cheerful, normal, but all he can hear is what they're not saying.
Foreigner, their eyes accuse him.
(and the walls come crashing down again)
"Hankyung!" (he doesn't know who they're talking to any more)
They call after him as he flees down the hallway to his room, as if they give a damn about him or where he goes. (That's not my name, he wants to scream at them. My name is Hangeng.) The door slams shut behind him and locks with a click, but he still can’t get away from their prying eyes and rapid Korean because their faces are always there, imprinted on the back of his eyelids.
It takes him an hour to calm down, but that's still an hour too long. He's not a child anymore - he can't afford to burst into hysterics every time something happens. (they don't understand - they can't understand - but if management kicks him out, it'll all be over)
You'll be okay, he tells himself. You'll be fine.
(because he can't be anything less)
He leaves the room with a smile on his face and an apology on his lips, and they're inquisitive and concerned, of course, but before long, conversation moves forward and their attention turns to someone else.
It's really not a difficult task to smile, Hangeng discovers. A slight curve of the lips is all it takes for the others to look over him, convinced that he's doing fine. (and it's true - really, he is. he loves it here.)
(he doesn't even think of China these days.)
He gets up in the mornings for early practice. Lunch is spent with the other trainees, joking and laughing about something or another. There's more training afterwards, and by the time evening rolls around, everyone's dead on their feet. On days when they can find the energy though, they'd go out for dinner or a drink together.
Life is good, Hangeng tells himself.
And if, occasionally, he feels like he might choke from the taste of bitter homesickness in the back of his throat, he just tells himself that everything's fine. (and fights to keep that smile on for one day longer)
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