When Kyuhyun enters the practice room for the first time, it isn’t a particularly loud affair.
The music coming from the CD player pushed off in a corner isn’t terribly loud—just enough for the people around it to hear while they try to show each other up with break dancing moves. Currently, Eunhyuk, Hankyung, Shindong, and Donghae are gathered around the CD player, and it’s Eunhyuk’s turn to dance in the middle. Donghae watches with glee as his friend pops and locks and spins around, clapping his hands to the beat of the music, Eunhyuk’s shoes squeaking loudly against the polished wooden floor while the other boys cheer him on.
Eunhyuk’s barely danced for five minutes when the door suddenly opens, and Donghae looks over expecting to see the choreographer, ready to start the day going. But instead of the average height and messy black hair he’s used to, a tall young man with thick black hair and long, spindly limbs walks in. He’s wearing a plain grey shirt with dark-blue sweatpants, and he’s carrying with him a green messenger bag, puffed out from its contents.
He stops for a moment and looks at everyone, who have stopped what they were doing to see the newcomer. Donghae especially, because he doesn’t notice Eunhyuk doing a final spin and he catches Donghae’s leg in a painful collision. Donghae collects himself and watches the young man bow, and with a deep, full voice, he says, “Hello. My name is Cho Kyuhyun and I’m the new member of Super Junior. I hope you treat me well.”
There’s a scattering of hello and welcome and confused looks amongst the members (“We’re getting a new member?” Donghae heard Kangin say), and Leeteuk, who was previously chatting with Heechul against the back wall, walks up to him with his hand outstretched, and Kyuhyun gingerly takes it, looking unsure of what to do.
“I’m Super Junior’s leader, Leeteuk,” Leeteuk says with a smile, his dimple poking itself into existence.
Kyuhyun grins back, perfect, white teeth gleaming, and when Leeteuk turns around saying, “be nice to Kyuhyun and get back to work,” Kyuhyun lets the grin last a little longer and he shifts his bag on his shoulder and looks around to see where he can put his things.
Donghae’s eyes follow him as he makes his way across the room and observes him. Everything about him is long—his hair, his arms, his legs, even his face—and he wonders if he’s been put through a taffy puller and stretched to his desired height. Donghae thinks about his own height and wonders where he can get his own personal taffy puller.
Kyuhyun finally notices where to put his things and it’s a cluttered mess—bags of different colors sit on top of each other and packages of chips and soda bottles (most of them empty) litter the space in between. Kyuhyun sets his bag against the wall apart from everything else and digs out a water bottle, but Donghae doesn’t see him take a sip because Eunhyuk’s snapping his fingers in front of his face, and he turns his attention back to his friend with an eyebrow raised.
“It’s your turn,” Eunhyuk says, wiping the sweat from his brow, and Donghae’s eyes flash back to Kyuhyun, who’s put the water bottle back and is now sitting cross-legged against the wall looking this way and that, trying to see what all the other members are doing. Donghae goes back to Eunhyuk and shakes his head.
“I think I’m going to say hello,” he says, and he tunes out his objections and walks over to Kyuhyun, busy looking down and picking at his nails. He doesn’t notice Donghae until he sits down a few inches from him and grabs his attention with a simple, “Hey.”
Kyuhyun starts and lifts his eyes to meet Donghae’s, dropping his hands and stretching his lips into a smile. “Hello.”
“Do you think I can get some water? I’ve already finished mine.”
Kyuhyun’s eyes widen for a second and he says, “Yeah, of course.” He goes back to his bag and pulls out his water bottle and hands it over to Donghae, who takes it with a smile and a thank you.
“I’m Donghae, by the way,” Donghae says after taking a sip, and when he hands the bottle back, he asks, “How are you feeling?”
Kyuhyun holds the bottle in the space between his legs and shrugs. “Just a little nervous. And scared.”
Donghae laughs and Kyuhyun turns back to him, confusion in his eyes. Donghae catches himself and clears his throat. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s natural to feel that way.”
Kyuhyun sighs and turns back to the other members. Shindong and Hankyung have initiated a dance-off with Eunhyuk as referee, and Leeteuk’s migrated over to Kibum and Ryeowook, showing them the right way to do the part of the choreography they were arguing about.
“I just don’t want to mess up. I’m not—I’m not the best at dancing.”
“And Heechul hyung’s not the best at singing,” Donghae says, pointing at Heechul singing lines with Yesung. “But makes do with what he has and he has fun doing it. And I think you should, too.”
“I don’t want to look like an idiot.”
Donghae laughs and pats Kyuhyun on the shoulder. “Everyone looks like an idiot their first day. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.”
For the first time since entering the practice room, Kyuhyun laughs. His laugh is as deep as his talking voice, like a low rumbling at first, and Donghae can feel the vibration on his skin and it’s infectious; before long, he’s laughing too. It takes them a few minutes to calm down and Donghae can’t remember the last time he’s laughed this freely with someone he’s just met, but he guesses because he’s been through the same experience, he can sympathize with him a little, knows how it feels like to be new and not know anyone. However, he was lucky to have trained with everyone in the group and got to know them for years, so he can’t completely comprehend how Kyuhyun must be feeling.
“I’ve never seen you in the company before,” Donghae says, stretching his arms in front of him, and he turns to Kyuhyun and asks, “Were you a top-secret trainee?”
Kyuhyun shakes his head with a chuckle.
“No, not really. A few weeks ago, I was transferred here from my company after financial troubles forced them to start letting members go. I started practicing for the song right after I was signed here, and manager hyung wanted me to start practicing with the group once I learned the basic steps and before we re-record the single.”
Donghae makes a cognizant sound. “So, that’s why we’re re-recording. I thought it was because we sounded like crap.”
Kyuhyun hides a laugh behind his hand and Donghae grins at him, amused at how easily he can make Kyuhyun laugh.
“No, I’ve heard the song and it sounds really good,” Kyuhyun says, brushing his fringe aside and looking at his outstretched feet. “I wonder how it’ll sound when my voice is added in.”
“I’m sure it’ll make it sound better. Actually, re-recording it in general will make it sound better.” He turns to Kyuhyun and adds, “So, do you have any special talents?”
“Special?” Kyuhyun asks, his brows knitted.
“You know,” Donghae starts, like the answer should be obvious, “singing, dancing, acting.”
“Oh, that,” Kyuhyun says with a chuckle, and he brings his legs in and wraps his arms around his knees. “I sing. I like to sing.”
“Yeah? Can I hear a sample?”
Kyuhyun looks at him and smiles, and he turns back to his feet with a nod and, after clearing his throat, he closes his eyes and begins to sing. A few words in and Donghae is speechless. Kyuhyun’s voice is full and rich, deeper than any of the members’ and Donghae can feel warmth washing over him, the hairs at the back of his head beginning to stand up. It has a refreshing quality to it, something to break the high pitched voices all the other members seem to possess, and he can feel a smile breaking when Kyuhyun effortlessly hits a high note.
The song ends too quickly for Donghae and he’s quiet when Kyuhyun opens his eyes and looks at him expectantly, like he’s supposed to say something. He clears his throat and flashes Kyuhyun a grin and a thumb’s up.
“You sound amazing,” he says, dropping his hand on his stomach and linking his fingers together. “I’m really jealous.”
Kyuhyun smiles and turns away. “Thanks, but you don’t have to say that. Your voice sounds good, too.”
Donghae shakes his head with a laugh and starts to get up. “Let me introduce you to the other members. Now’s a good time than any.”
Kyuhyun gets up and flashes Donghae a smile, and with a nod, he says, “Sure. Thank you.”
“I don’t think they like me very much.”
They’re sitting back down on the floor after taking Kyuhyun around the entire room to introduce him to everyone, and he’s in the process of finding a comfortable spot when the question hits his ears, and when he looks at Kyuhyun, he has his eyes focused back on his feet, downcast.
Kyuhyun presented himself respectfully, never forgetting to bow, a constant smile on his face, making small conversation, even laughing on cue when someone makes a joke. He even sang for some of them when they asked and thanked them on their compliments, so Donghae’s confused why he thinks they don’t like him.
“What are you talking about? They love you.”
Kyuhyun makes a face. “Heechul hyung doesn’t seem to like me.”
Donghae laughs. “Heechul hyung? Nah, that’s just his personality. You’ll get used to it. If he doesn’t like you, I’m sure you’ll know.”
Kyuhyun turns to him and smiles, and when he opens his mouth to say something, Eunhyuk suddenly appears in front of them and calls them to dance. Donghae looks over behind him and sees Shindong, Hankyung, Sungmin, and Kibum making hand gestures for them to come, and Donghae laughs and jumps to his feet. He looks over at Kyuhyun, who stays rooted to his spot, and holds out his hand.
“Come on. What better way to bond than dancing?”
“I told you, hyung,” Kyuhyun says, voice sounding like it’s withdrawing back in his chest. “I—don’t dance very well.”
“It’ll be fun, I promise,” Donghae says, motioning for him to come along, eager to get him to his feet.
Kyuhyun sighs and looks at Donghae for a few seconds before grabbing his hand, and Donghae hoists him up and all they both walk to the dance circle. Kyuhyun nearly breaks his back bending like a folder in a bow (Donghae can already tell he wants to fit in, wants to be liked) and the men wave their hands dismissively, saying he doesn’t have to bow to them every time they see each other. Kyuhyun laughs awkwardly and it’s quiet for a while, until Eunhyuk decides to break the silence by challenging Donghae to a dance-off. Donghae laughs and walks over to Eunhyuk until they’re almost nose to nose, looking at each other intently, and he looks over at Kyuhyun for a moment, tossing his head slightly with a smirk to nonverbally say “watch me kick his butt”, and the battle starts.
They’ve only been going at it for a few minutes before the door opens again, and this time, Donghae doesn’t have to look behind him to know it’s the choreographer because the music suddenly stops and the room becomes quiet. When Donghae finally turns around, he walks over to meet his group mates, who have already congregated in the middle, and motions for Kyuhyun to come with him. Together they bow their welcome, and the choreographer tells them to warm up for a few minutes before getting into formation.
“He looks scary,” Kyuhyun tells Donghae quietly after inching over to him warming up against the wall, and Donghae turns to him with a chuckle.
“Yeah, he looks very intimidating at first but you’ll get used to it. Just—try to hit all your marks, okay? He shouldn’t be too hard on you since it’s your first day practicing with the group.”
Kyuhyun nods and starts stretching, and when it’s time for them to get to their formations, he watches as Kyuhyun’s whisked away by Leeteuk to talk to the choreographer about his positions, Kyuhyun listening attentively and nodding in comprehension while the choreographer tells him where he’s going to be. After their talk, he claps his hand and tells them to get to their formations, and Donghae catches Kyuhyun’s nervous eyes for a few seconds before the music begins to play.