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Whatever Happened in Ukraine?

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      “I can’t believe we are going to Ukraine!” Jungwoo says as all the NCT U members, minus Ten, stand in line to board the plane. Jungwoo continues to babble in excitement as it was going to be his first plane ride ever. He was the only one anywhere near awake in the group. It was in the middle of the night and the rest of the members had either woken up very grumpy, or pulled an all-nighter in order to make the flight.

     “Can you lower your voice maybe an octave?” Doyoung requests, eyes still closed.

     “Sorry, hyung,” Jungwoo apologizes in his quiet voice and looks down. Lucas pats Jungwoo’s shoulder after seeing his good friend upset by everyone’s crankiness.

     “Does everyone have everything?” Taeyong asks the group seriously.

     “Yes, Taeyong hyung,” everyone replies in unison. He had been asking the same question every ten minutes and the members were getting tired of his nagging.

     The flight attendant finally announces that it was time for them to board the plane and all the tired people in line arrange their things. Jungwoo is still bouncing nervously in anticipation for the journey ahead. Too many minutes later everyone is seated and the plane is about to take off. The rest of the members start to get a little more excited after finally being on the plane. Lucas pulls out his camera and starts filming them all for some footage that will be posted later.

     “Where are we going?” Lucas asks as he pans over Winwin, Doyoung, Jaehyun, and Mark who were all waving at the lens.

     “Ukraine!” Mark responds to Lucas’ interview style questions with Jaehyun agreeing next to him. “Xuxi you need to be in the shot too.” Mark says and pushes the camera toward Lucas. Lucas introduces himself and passes the camera to Winwin and Doyoung to do the same. Winwin then takes the camera to interview Lucas.

     “Our newest member, are you confident?” Winwin asks to Lucas.

     “Yes,” Lucas responds through his mask. Winwin turns his attention to Doyoung who has pulled out a book.

     “What book is this?” Winwin asks and shifts the camera to Doyoung’s book for closer inspection. “Doyoung hyung is reading a comic book.” He says, answering his own question. Winwin continues asking Doyoung about his inflight entertainment before Lucas takes the camera and points it toward the airplane window.

     “We’re taking off now.” Lucas states before the lights shut off. “Oh look, Jaehyung hyung is sleeping.” He whispers and sneakily points the camera to the seats behind him where Jaehyun has rested his head on Mark’s shoulder sound asleep. Taeyong and Jungwoo had to sit in another section with the managers and were quietly listening to music. Jungwoo had his eyes glued to the window as they took off.

     The plane ride was long and boring, they were about three hours in when Taeyong woke up from a nap. His legs were stiff from sitting down for too long, so he decided to get up and walk around for a few minutes. Maybe it would be fun to see what the other members are up to, he thought. He unbuckled his seatbelt and walked down the narrow aisle to the rows with the rest of the members. Jaehyun and Mark were knocked out, but Doyoung was reading his book and Lucas and Winwin were chatting. They look up when they see Taeyong walking toward them.

     “What’s up Taeyong hyung?” Lucas asks him with a bright smile on his face. “How is Jungwoo hyung doing? Holding up alright?” He adds on curiously. The two newest members had become close friends and Lucas always felt the need to check up on the older.

     “I’m doing alright. Just got up from a nap and had to walk around to get my blood circulating again.” Taeyong responds while leaning on the headrest and glancing out the window. “Jungwoo couldn’t take his eyes off the window for the first hour. It’s amusing to see how fascinated he is with everything.” He continues with a slight smile on his face.

     “Aw, that sounds so cute!” Lucas says with bright eyes.

     “How have you guys been?” Taeyong asks the members who are awake.

     “Pretty boring,” says Winwin. “Jaehyun hyung and Mark have been asleep the entire ride. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m sure they’ll regret it when we have to rest before our shoot tomorrow.” Winwin says with a smirk. Taeyong chuckles at that before being asked to return to his seat by the flight attendant.

     “I’ll see you when we land.” He says quickly before going back to Jungwoo and the managers. Taeyong was looking forward to exploring over the next few days. He rarely got the opportunity to travel to a place like Ukraine and even less so have time to actually be a tourist. He knew that they would be busy with filming everything, but the managers had told him that they would get a couple days off in between shoots. There was a lot of time left to kill on the plane, so he gets out a notebook and starts working on some songs he was in the middle of. After lots of cycling between working, sleeping, eating, and goofing off the pilot finally announced the decent into Ukraine.

     Once they land, Taeyong checks his phone and notices that he has a message from Ten that was sent while they were in the air.

          Hope you got to Ukraine okay! Everything has been really quiet since you left.

          I can’t wait to meet you guys over there in a few days!

     Taeyong smiled at the message while he was waiting to get off the plane.

     “What is it?” Jungwoo asks Taeyong standing up next to him.

     “Oh, its just Ten. He sent a message asking how the flight went.” Taeyong responds before stowing his phone in his pocket and making his way to the exit. The skyway was quite cold and Taeyong had wished he had put on his jacket before exiting the plane, but luckily the airport itself was nice and warm. The group went to get their suitcases from the baggage claim and walked outside to the cars waiting to take them to their hotel.

     “We’re here guys! It’s really happening!” Lucas says in his unusually loud voice. They all pile into the car together and stare out the window at the scene laid before them as they drive away. It was still dark outside and very early in the morning. Ukraine was six hours behind Korea and this day was already feeling long. The plan was to check into the hotel and sleep till lunch before heading out for a photoshoot and food.

     The hotel was nice. There was an element of classic charm mixed with modern amenities. All the members walked around the lobby in awe while the managers checked them in.

     “This is so cool hyung!” Jaehyun says, nudging Taeyong out of his daze.

     “Yeah it is. I’ve never been someplace this interesting.” Taeyong responds to Jaehyun before quieting down when he sees the managers walk towards them.

     “Okay so here are the room arrangements. Lucas with Jungwoo, Doyoung with Winwin, Jaehyun with Mark, and Taeyong you have a room to yourself. When Ten comes later he’ll stay with you.” The manager says as he passes out the keys. “Please get lots of rest as we have work to do this afternoon and we can’t have you looking tired.” He adds, giving all the members the eye. Everyone nods before heading up the stairs to the floor where they had their block of rooms.

      Taeyong was very glad that he had a room to himself. The other members were always so messy in hotel rooms and it drove him nuts. He didn’t understand what was so hard about making the bed and keeping water from pooling on the bathroom floor. He quickly put his stuff down and headed to the shower. It was impossible for him to fall asleep without first getting cleaned. The water was hot and the pressure nice. Taeyong had difficulty leaving the warm cocoon created by the steam but his tiredness forced him to turn off the water and get dressed before climbing into bed. He sighed into the mattress and closed his eyes for a minute. At that moment he realized that he should probably charge his phone and grumpily pulled his charger out from his bag and plugged the phone in.

      Once he was settled back in between the covers he remembered that he had never responded to Ten. He decides to quickly type out a response before sleeping.

          We all arrived in one piece.

          I’m in the hotel now getting a rest before we have to do a photo shoot this afternoon.

          Looking forward to seeing you too!

     Ten was in the practice room working on the choreography for “Baby Don’t Stop” when he heard his phone buzz on its resting place on top of the stereo. He walked over to check who had sent him a text. He saw Taeyong’s name and smiled. The message was short and to the point, often how Taeyong’s messages were.

     “I’m glad that everything is going well. Keep me updated on what’s happening over there. Good luck on the photoshoot this afternoon. I’m sure you will do great.” Ten put his phone down after replying and continued dancing.

     Taeyong felt his phone buzz in his hand just as he was about to drift to sleep. He should have put his phone on silent, but the damage was already done, and he decided to check the notification. It was probably Ten responding to his message anyways. Looking at the screen he confirms his thought and reads what Ten sent before putting his phone on Do Not Disturb and falling back to sleep.

     A few hours later he was disrupted from his sleep by the alarm going off. He groaned and sat up to check the time. It was time for him to get up and head to the stylists’ room to get into his outfit for the photoshoot before heading to location. Taeyong silently got up and heard his stomach rumble.

     “I hope there is food over there too.” He says to himself before grabbing his key and walking out of his room. As he exited his own room, Doyoung was leaving as well. “How did you sleep?” Taeyong asks Doyoung while they walk together.

     “Not too well. It’s hard to fall asleep after waking up to see Winwin’s glazed over eyes staring at you.” Doyoung says in a half joking, half irritated kind of way. Winwin had a habit of sleeping with his eyes open and it was unsettling to say the least.

     “We should make him start wearing a mask one of these days.” Taeyong laughs out.

     “I don’t understand why this hotel doesn’t have two beds in the room either. Is it really that hard to just put two in there?” Doyoung continues complaining.

     “I think it’s because the hotel is older. A lot of older hotels don’t have space to put in a second bed.” Taeyong explains to the sour member next to him before knocking on the room where the stylists were. The next hour is spent getting the members ready and devouring what snacks they could find. It was the start of a very long few days of photo shoots and filming that made all the members fall straight to sleep each night despite the time difference.

*

     Ten boarded the plane with his manager following closely behind him. He was about to embark on a nine-hour journey to Ukraine to film their music video for “Baby Don’t Stop.” The rest of the NCT U members were already there to film the “Boss” music video, but he wasn’t in that, so the company decided to fly him in later. It had been a quiet few days in the dorm with so many of the members abroad.

     Ten had felt strange without the constant presence of his friends. While he was quiet a lot of the time, he still liked being around people and not being involved in “Boss” made him feel kind of left out. But at least he got to work with Taeyong on the duet Ten mused as he got settled in his seat and put his headphones on. Their styles matched well together, and it was fun to experiment with choreography and concepts. While he and Taeyong were already good friends, it had also allowed him to get closer to the other member. He hoped that wouldn’t change once they were done promoting “Baby Don’t Stop.”