[in sum]: wooyoung wonders how to cheer nichkhun up.
note(s): been a while :) wrote this after hearing about nichkhun's accident (i heard about it relatively late). and now i'm posting it way way late. it's not been edited and apologies for the lapslock.
the practice room is humid with sweat and hot with the kinetics of bodies moving to the beat of a new dance choreo. the atmosphere is relatively relaxed because this is a dance practice; it's a choreo to file away in memory just in case one of them need to break out in dance on some new variety show that wants novel talent showcasing.
it takes three hours for wooyoung to get a little bored and a little tired of the same music buzzing in his ear. their instructor doesn't give wooyoung the glare when wooyoung slouches to the floor in the corner, reaching for his water bottle. wooyoung's got the steps down and then some. as wooyoung sits on the hardwood floor, legs making triangles with the floor, he watches nichkhun. there is an intense concentration in nichkhun's eyes that hasn't broken for three hours straight and counting. wooyoung pays attention to his breathing; ragged from his body being desperate for oxygen and then slowly regaining consistency. his breath becomes shallower and shallower, as if he's relaxing enough for the both of them.
"more water?" asks chansung, who has also broken from the practice formation to rehydrate.
wooyoung nods, eyes leaving nichkhun's movements for a second, and reaches for the new bottle.
"it's like he never can turn it off now, huh?" says chansung. "not even at home."
wooyoung shrugs, but understands what chansung means. there remains a layer of anxiety that you can almost feel like a film across nichkhun's demeanor. it used to be there like a bubble, constantly popping and reforming. but now, it's like a secluding shell, thicker than ever. things didn't used to be like this and wooyoung can almost feel the tension tightening just a little more; it's been taut since the beginning but not enough to notice until jaebum hyung left. now, wooyoung can feel that if he plucked it, it would be enough to produce a low note - ominous and foreboding.
wooyoung shakes his head. he doesn't like thinking this way, but lately he's been a little pessimistic. when wooyoung turns back to chansung, chansung has already drifted away to chat with taecyeon as he lifts his weights on one side of the room.
it's at the fourth hour of practice when junsu hyung walks in from the recording studio. he immediately notices junho and nichkhun perspiring heavily, moving to the music. junsu cackles and loudly cheers the two on until junsu's laughter and cheering distract the instructor and practice breaks up. nichkhun walks over to wooyoung. wooyoung sees him coming from the corner of his eye because wooyoung is focused on peeling the wrapping on his water bottle right now, just perfectly, no rips...
wooyoung hears nichkhun reach for a water bottle. he hears the snap of the cap opening. he hears the pour of water down nichkhun's throat and wooyoung can't stop the chill that travels down from the nape of his neck.
"hey" says nichkhun, sliding down to sit next to wooyoung.
wooyoung's water wrapper rips at the edge.
"good workout huh?"
"you know" wooyoung shrugs. he feels awkward because he's just been thinking of nichkhun.
"i'm so tired. i'm ready for my shower and sleep now. you?" asks nichkhun, bumping shoulders with wooyoung.
wooyoung feels the moisture of nichkhun's bare shoulder on his own bare shoulder.
if nichkhun notices wooyoung's sudden shyness, he doesn't say. nichkhun gets up first and stretches a hand for wooyoung. there's only a split second of hesitation that wooyoung knows nichkhun doesn't notice before wooyoung takes nichkhun's hand.
there's not much to say on the drive home. one of their managers drive them back. taecyeon has other plans for the night. junho wants to hear junsu hyung's new composition and stays behind. chansung is the only one that follows them back and the three of them end up sitting in a row in the van.
nichkhun looks out the window for the whole ride, silent. chansung's head lolls around as he loses to a battle with sleep. and wooyoung tries not to sigh the whole time while sneaking looks at the side of nichkhun's face. it's a kind of self-loathing that wooyoung feels for the ride back home. should he pretend not to notice? should he just act like nothing had ever happened? they'd already discussed the accident many times in many contexts. there was no question that no one wanted to bring it up again. wooyoung finds himself hating that he has all these questions, that he's so hesitant and indecisive.
'man up, man' wooyoung thinks to himself.
but he can't and all that happens is a finger-twitch when nichkhun's hand comes close to his by accident.
"we're here, chansung" says the nichkhun when the van stops. "get up."
nichkhun softly pats chansung on the knee and exits the van. wooyoung can only stare after him because he has to jostle chansung to get out of the vehicle.
as wooyoung showers, he decides that he should be as kind to nichkhun as possible. not critical, but not patronizing. just kind and a little gentle.
wooyoung finds nichkhun in the kitchen, standing with his hand on an empty mug. it almost seems as if nichkhun's eyes are milky, glazed over, not really seeing.
"tea?" asks wooyoung. "want me to boil water?"
there's a soft but sharp intake of breath that let's wooyoung know that nichkhun hadn't been aware of wooyoung's presence. wooyoung pretends he doesn't notice.
"tea?" wooyoung asks again.
and this time, nichkhun nods vaguely, letting go of the mug in his hand. nichkhun goes to sit on the breakfast bar stool while wooyoung fills the electronic kettle with water. when the water boils in a matter of a minute, wooyoung fills nichkhun's cup. it steams nicely with the green tea bag floating. not wanting to sustain an awkward silence, wooyoung walks around nichkhun.
"want a shoulder massage?" asks wooyoung.
it's the first thing that pops into his head because, honestly, wooyoung himself could use one right now after dance practice. but nichkhun shakes his head, patting away wooyoung's hand on nichkhun's shoulder.
"nah" says nichkhun. "what i need is to sleep."
"... so why aren't you?" asks wooyoung.
he doesn't mean it to sound accusatory, but nichkhun sharply glances up at wooyoung warily.
"i mean" sighs wooyoung, "if there's anything i can help with, you know i'm here."
nichkhun nods slowly, returning to his semi-catatonic state of lethargy.
"yeah" nichkhun says. "sure."
but wooyoung knows nichkhun is speaking in filler. not knowing how else to help, wooyoung slowly drifts toward the direction of his own room. when he's at the brink of rounding the corner, wooyoung opens his mouth.
"i just... you know,... worry" wooyoung blurts out.
wooyoung peeks at nichkhun, but he's just sitting there, unmoving. nichkhun's head isn't even turned in wooyoung's direction. wooyoung sighs and turns into the hallway; it's dark.
"what do you have then?" comes nichkhun's tired voice.
wooyoung stops walking. nichkhun's voice sounds scaly and hoarse, like he's been screaming for hours. it's not the smooth voice he normally uses. wooyoung turns back. the air feels different in the kitchen now.
nichkhun's head is turned toward wooyoung.
"what do you have to give me then?" nichkhun asks again.
wooyoung smiles. it feels rickety, like his facial muscles have long since forgotten how to arrange themselves in such a way.
"anything you want" wooyoung tells nichkhun. "i'll give you anything i have to give."
nichkhun falls asleep in wooyoung's room after a few hours of talking into the night. wooyoung wakes with snippets of memory in his grogginess. nichkhun telling wooyoung that he has nightmares he can't handle, panic attacks he feels he needs to fight on his own. nichkhun tells him he can pretend he doesn't remember, pretend he doesn't notice, but that it all comes back in waves somehow, at some point in the day.
later that day, nichkhun teases wooyoung in front of the others.
"give me your new ear phones" demands nichkhun. "you said anything."
"what i meant was..."
"i'll buy them off you for twenty bucks" yells taecyeon to nichkhun.
"sold" nichkhun says. "and now, i want your sneakers you bought last week."
"ooo ooo, can i have those?" whines junho, hanging off nichkhun's arm.
"alright" nichkhun says appraisingly. "but you owe me."
it goes on and on until each member has been given verbal ownership of everything wooyoung's bought in the last month.
"oh whatever" wooyoung says in the end, giving up.
taecyeon and chansung whoop and junsu cackles into junho's neck.
"what i have to give?" wooyoung tries in english.
"you mean 'what have i got to lose'" corrects nichkhun.
but wooyoung shakes his head.
"give" insists wooyoung in english. "to you."
wooyoung smiles again. this time it feels a little more natural. and he's happy to see nichkhun gives one back, an unadulterated and truly nichkhun-like smile.