"Are you still awake?"
"Mhm," Seonghwa hummed absently as he scrolled through his phone, "this is the third time you're asking in the past five minutes. What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong." Hongjoong answered.
Seonghwa frowned letting the phone drop onto his pillow. They were both in their respective bunks of their shared bed; Hongjoong above Seonghwa. The lights were off and the only light came from the dim streetlights creeping in from the window. It was nearly midnight and after a long day with a full schedule they were finally winding down and preparing to sleep.
While it typically took Seonghwa some time to settle for bed, Hongjoong could fall asleep the second his head hit the pillow-- or at least, he usually could. The fact that he hadn't was enough of a sign that something was off.
"Do you want to come down and talk about it?" Seonghwa offered.
There was a long stretch of silence as though Hongjoong was seriously contemplating the offer. Accepting it would basically be admitting something was bugging him and Hongjoong wasn't typically one to openly express when he was going through hardship. For that reason Seonghwa thought it was more probable that he wouldn't agree, but the younger finally replied.
"If it won't bother you..." Hongjoong murmured tentatively.
His voice sounded like it was on the verge of cracking.
"I'd be more bothered by being asked the same question another six times." Seonghwa answered, feigning nonchalance for the sake of not making Hongjoong uncomfortable by fussing too much.
Seonghwa wasn't sure what he had expected when Hongjoong came down from his bunk, but to see him with his eyes glossy with tears was not it. His eyebrows were furrowed and his lips set in a firm line as though he was fighting with every fiber of his being to not let them fall. For a moment Seonghwa thought the poor lighting was playing tricks on him because Hongjoong wasn't much of a crier. It took a lot to make the leader emotional enough to shed tears so seeing him so close to it increased Seonghwa's concern a tenfold.
He looked uneasy, frail even. Like he would break at any moment. It was so unlike the loud leader with an even louder personality that radiated confidence in front of the masses.
"Shit, you look horrible..." Seonghwa commented quietly as he sat up, his voice wavering despite his own attempts to remain calm.
Hongjoong laughed-- or well, attempted to laugh but it turned into a choked sob that made Seonghwa wince. The overwhelming emotions Hongjoong was feeling made his body start to tremble uncontrollably and he knew what was coming, yet he couldn't repress it anymore.
"Hey, stop it... you're hyperventilating." Seonghwa mumbled, failing to hide the concern in his voice.
Because just telling me to stop will make it stop, Hongjoong thought sarcastically, wanting to laugh again because what a Seonghwa thing to say. Hongjoong wasn't sure when Seonghwa got up because he could barely see past the tears blurring his vision, but he felt himself being pulled into an embrace. The sheer exhaustion in addition to the crying was quickly making his head start to throb with a headache yet Hongjoong felt his tension ease from the comforting touch.
He sunk into Seonghwa's warmth, immensely appreciative of the simple gesture. He felt safe and secure. Seonghwa was someone who knew how to comfort others without even opening his mouth. His presence in itself was calming; an unspoken reassurance of support. In that moment it felt like everything was okay.
Hongjoong wasn't sure how long it took him to calm down and part of him felt so stupid because why was he crying anyway? He hadn't even realized when or how he'd reached that state of being so overwhelmed with negative emotions so no part of it made sense to him.
"Nothing's wrong." Seonghwa mimicked Hongjoong's earlier statement after some long minutes had passed and Hongjoong's sobs had begun to quiet and his breathing became steady.
Hongjoong let out a breathy chuckle, sounding drained. "Shut up." he muttered, his voice hoarse.
"Did you actually want to talk about it?" Seonghwa asked, pulling back only enough to try and see Hongjoong's face in the dim light.
Seonghwa's dark eyes that searched Hongjoong's were filled with a gentle kind of concern that demanded the feelings that were tormenting Hongjoong to cower; overpowering them with warmth.
"No, I just..." Hongjoong tried, only to stop himself and shake his head, "I don't even know."
Seonghwa nodded thoughtfully.
"That's fine. We can talk about it when you've collected your thoughts. Do you want to try to sleep now? We have another early morning tomorrow." he replied before teasingly adding, "I'd rather not hear you complain about being sleepy all day."
Hongjoong's chest filled with more relief at Seonghwa's demonstration of patience. Hongjoong couldn't begin to try and express what he was feeling if he wanted to. It was a lot and he just wanted it to go away. His mind was absolutely shredded. He wouldn't-- no, he couldn't think-- but in Seonghwa's arms that was perfectly okay. He was grateful the older wasn't one to push for answers, but still made it clear that when Hongjoong was ready they would work through it together.
"Yeah, we probably should." Hongjoong relented with a slow nod, reluctantly removing himself from Seonghwa's arms.
Hongjoong hesitated to return to his bunk, a question stuck in his throat. He began to feel uncertain as he wondered just how much of his wallowing Seonghwa would put up with. When he gave up trying to say it and moved to climb back to his bunk he was interrupted by Seonghwa speaking up.
"Can you stay down here? I want to make sure you sleep." he said as though having read Hongjoong's inner debate from his expression alone.
Seonghwa made it seem as though the request was for his own sake, but they both know it wasn't. Seonghwa was simply very aware that Hongjoong was someone who had a particularly difficult time asking for help or affection without a prompt. Still, all of that remained unspoken.
Even though the cause of Hongjoong's tension was still unresolved, how much Seonghwa cared was enough of a solution for the time being. Sure, it was possible and extremely likely that the overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety would return in the morning, but even the briefest moment of release from the scrutiny of his mind was a miracle. An entire night of release would be heavenly.
Hongjoong let himself be temporarily comforted by the calm that Seonghwa's support filled him with.