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Chapter Text

"Just hold on dear! I know you can do it!"

The woman's voice echoed the gloomy hallway. Light bounced off the reflective surface of the white walls and the white gypsum ceiling panels and they seemed so clean. So, so clean, Mingyu thinks. It was dimly lit but the hallway was illuminated enough for him to figure out where he was.

Hospital? It smelt like the sanitizer owned by that one germophobic kid who was always sitting alone when everyone else was getting ready for the concerto back in his junior years, Jihoon? Mingyu’s thoughts were all over the place. It started drifting to a memory of his mother’s excited-waving rather indiscreetly during one of his recitals and getting shushed by the people around her. Mingyu wants to laugh but his head hurts, no, his throat? It felt like someone was choking him down-

Mingyu took his eyes off the ceiling, finding the faces of the people around him, trying to make out their voices. The woman on his right was holding one of his hands, squeezing them so hard he swore he could've almost been woken up from that alone. Her hair was long and curled at the ends. Her dress was a navy-blue sleeveless dress and if there's anything else he could pinpoint was that she smelled lovely, like a hint of lavender. Mingyu loved lavender, it reminded him of his mother.

The ceiling was moving, Mingyu thinks. Or wait, maybe it was him that was moving? Maybe? Everything was so confusing. There were two other men hovering above him? Beside him? Were they pushing him? No, they were pushing his bed. His bed? Has it always been this uncomfortable lying on his bed?

He searched for the faces again. The man on his left was wearing blue and so was the one beside his mother. The left one looked like he was going to pass out – not feeling much better than him then, Mingyu thinks – his eyes were red and tired, his brows were so creased Mingyu could slot a piece of paper between them and it would probably hold its place there; Mingyu wanted to worry for him more than how he was worrying for Mingyu. The other one seemed a little calmer, his hair was blonde. He was pretty. But he couldn’t see him that well, he was too far for him to search his features, but none of them seemed familiar to Mingyu anyway. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for; or maybe who he was hoping not to find.

"Mingyu?! Gyu, honey! Can you see me? Everything's going to be alright, okay?!" Mingyu heard the woman spoke again, cutting off his derailing train of thoughts. Or Mingyu guessed that's what she was saying, probably, from the way her mouth was moving. He hears her, a little... But the static in his ears were way louder, it was deafening and it reminded him of the pain currently searing through his body. The pain was sharp and it was moving around. It started from the farthest back of his throat, spreading to his lungs, his chest and all over his jaw. It slithered through his veins making its way to his head, so he shuts his eyes and holds his breath to try and make the pain go away. He's used to this, he thinks, it's what he always does when he feels such pain anyway.

"Kim Mingyu, 8 years-old. He suddenly collapsed during his recital and complained of pain in his throat. He's having trouble breathing and he's in a confusional state. Dr Hong's the only pediatrician on duty tonight and he’s in an emergency op!" the tired man on Mingyu’s left spurred, voice sounding out of breath as another stray pair of hands came along, holding his body down and preventing him from squirming around.

"Well why aren't you paging him already?" the man's hands began roaming around Mingyu's chest area feeling around, searching for something and when his fingers as slightly as grazed his throat Mingyu's eyes shot open. The pain multiplied by a tenfold when the man began inspecting his neck. He mustered all the strength he had left in an attempt to pull away from the grip of the men around him. Squirming and resisting... but they were so much stronger than him. It had hurt... Everything hurt.

His vision blurred from the tears pooling in his eyes. He tried blinking them away but it wouldn’t go away. The tears begun to sting and it was starting to hurt to keep his eyes open... but he needed to see. He needed to see where he was going, where he was taken to – so he could escape. That was always what he would do.

"Mrs Kim, I need you to call out to him" the man with his hand on Mingyu’s throat said, voice still somewhat sounding calm.

"Honey! It's your mother! Keep your eyes on me, please!"

Mother? Mingyu couldn't believe it... His mother?

"He's not here! Don't worry! He can't hurt you! Stay with me!" the woman’s – his mother’s? – voice sounded as if she was on the verge of a very loud wail of a cry.

Why would his mother be here? The warm hands almost crushing the bones in his right hand is his mother's? But his mother had left him 6 months ago to his father. His father... was he here too? Oh no, Mingyu thinks. He shuts his eyes again, tighter and bites his lips as hard as he could until he tastes the blood. He squirms and tries to fight off the hands holding him down again. He needs to move... he needed to hide.

"Stay with us dear! You'll be okay!" Mingyu's mother managed to say with a croak in her voice.

"Nurse Han, sedative?"

"Right here, Kwannie" another man with very light brown hair caught up and scurried along with them.

"Thank you, and don’t call me that."

"I’ve contacted the technician for a CT scan as well, Kwannie"

"Overachieving as always, Nurse Han"

"Has Dr. Hong responded?" the man that had his hands on Mingyu's neck finally pulled his hands away for what had felt like forever. Mingyu felt a little relieved but it was still so hard to breathe. The man returned his hands to the pockets of his white coat, taking out his phone. "It's inflamed. He's going to suffocate if we wait any longer. Minghao-sshi, I need you to prep the OR immediately and brief Dr Hong of the situation while I run his scans and biopsy. Hansol-sshi, bring the guardian to the consultation room. I'll run by in a bit after I get his scans"

"Yes doc!" "Understood, Dr Boo!"

Two of the men wearing blue beside Mingyu then moved away in opposite directions, one of them, the blonde one brought along his mother. Leaving only the supposed Dr. Boo and Nurse Han, both still holding down Mingyu’s arms while pushing the stretcher.

"Kim Mingyu. You're a strong boy. I need you to concentrate on my voice," Dr. Boo still has his grip on Mingyu's hands, not letting Mingyu grab his own throat, worried the boy might claw at himself again. "I know it's hard to breathe but you need to hold on just a little bit longer, okay little one? I'm going to help you feel better. I need you to calm down--"

 

That was the last thing he remembered before his vision completely blackened and his body numbed. He also vaguely remembered a sort of pinch on his left arm, which kind of stung – although nothing compared to the pain he felt in the back of his throat – but the feeling after, was like being engulfed in a sort of shivering coldness. Like when your leg has been dangling out of the covers during cold winter mornings; the rest of your body was supposed to be wrapped in warmth yet you're still awaken because the cold had managed to seep through your body, making you shiver from the inside.

Chapter Text

"We'll need to monitor his recovery and do a couple more test to be sure whether it is malignant or not so he'll be staying a little longer than what I'd previously mentioned--" a male's voice began echoing in his head. But Mingyu was still out of it. He couldn't catch much as the static ringing in his ears began again. He tried his best to focus on what the voice was saying.

"marks-- scars on his bodies. We won't be taking this matter into an authoritative level but we'll also be taking that point into consideration for--" the same voice was heard but he only caught some words as the rest continued to be drowned in static.

"Understood doctor. Thank you very much for everything, Dr Hong."

This time it was a female's voice and it sounded really familiar. And there's that hint of lavender lingering in the air again. The scent that reminds him of home. It's Mom, Mingyu thinks.

"He'll probably wake up within the next day and he'll need you to be there for him from now on, Mrs. Kim. Be strong for his sake" the man, Dr Hong said. Mingyu could hear footsteps fading into the background. Has the man left?

It was quiet for a while before Mingyu heard sniffles. Sobs and sighs here and there. Mingyu doesn't know his heart breaks just by listening to his mother cry. He wants to open his eyes but they feel like they're glued shut. He wants to hold his mother's hands and give her a hug and just tell her it isn't her fault, but his limbs won't listen to him and move either. Mingyu tries but eventually he runs out of strength and gave up, letting himself fall into slumber again. He thinks of himself as hopeless.

-----

Mingyu ended up spending more than just a couple of days in the hospital. As far as he knows he's been there for almost a week and that was not accounting for the days that he was blacked out.

Mingyu woke up a few hours ago when the sun decided to say hello and smack him in the face. The curtains were wide open and he thinks his mother probably forgot to close it up yesterday, again. Mingyu’s mother was very cheerful and she was also very clumsy.

He’s sitting up now after he’s finally decided it’s time for him to wash up. He’d spent the last hour basking in nothingness. He’d never had so much free time in his life before that it had felt so good doing nothing for once.

"Honey, how are you feeling today?" his mother was peeking her head into the room with a playful smile on her face, raising her brows animatedly.

But she’s also very funny, Mingyu thinks. He smiled a little as he opened his arms wide. He didn't have to say anything before his mother was already halfway to his bed. She’d carefully dropped the bags in the chair beside the bed before wrapping her arms around the small boy. His mom has always given the best hugs.

"I'm taking that cute little gesture as a 'I'm doing fine mom, no worries' sign, correct?" his mother gave that same playful smirk again as she moved away from Mingyu a little to look at his face.

Mingyu gave her the biggest smile he could muster, which probably wasn’t that much but his mother understood anyway. So she gave him a peck on the nose before moving away to grab the paper bag she’d brought along.

"Okay cutie. I brought you some pie!" his mother continued happily while rummaging through the huge bag. "Your favorite of my creations. Blackberry!"

She held the container in her hand and turned to Mingyu with a huge smile, showing off the container to the boy. She placed the container on the small over bed table and continued rummaging the bag for the forks she had brought before she realized Mingyu wasn't giving her any reaction.

"Ah!" his mom suddenly gasped. Mingyu was simply looking at his mother with a face that was ready to facepalm at any moment. "No solids! .... I forgot.... again......"

And so Mingyu did facepalm. But he hid a silent chuckle behind it.

His mother was so clumsy it was adorable - even to the 8-year-old. Mingyu was still on his diet restriction because his throat was still in not the best condition from the surgery and they needed to ensure he was prepped in case there was a need for a second surgery within the next few days. This was explained to both Mingyu and his mother three days ago but she kept forgetting. She’d bring in funky snacks she recognized as Mingyu’s favorites and drop a dramatic scene each time she remembers he’s not allowed to eat them.

His mother let out a loud overexaggerated sigh of disappointment before dropping both of her arms to her sides. "I'll just give this to the kids and nurses down at the ward then... again."

Mingyu just looked at his mother. She returned the look with a raised eyebrow for a few seconds before attacking the boy, pinching his arm and playfully tickling the boy, "Do you think Mommy's that silly? Huh?"

Mingyu laughed along with his mother but it was as if only his voice was on mute.

The whole thing that happened with his throat made him lose his voice. The doctor had mentioned his vocal cords were not damaged, they’d tell him it would probably go back to normal once he feels comfortable in his own skin again. Sometimes surgery does that apparently.

Whatever that is, one of the doctors had explained to him so vaguely he couldn’t understand anyway. But he had heard the word PTSD thrown into a lot of the sentences the doctor had spoken with his mother though. Mingyu decides to not care too much.

It was Dr Xu he thinks. The young one. Not Dr Hong. Mingyu thinks Dr Xu sounds a little more inexperienced and by-the-book, but one thing he knew for sure was that Dr Xu was there when they had brought him in, he remembers his voice, and so was Nurse Han.

Nurse Han is also in charge of Mingyu. He had been nice. He didn’t try too hard to make conversation whenever he dropped by to check on him. But Mingyu thinks he’s just being considerate because he knows more or less of whatever Mingyu’s going through. He’d seen the bruises and scars he has on his body. When their eyes accidentally meet, - despite Mingyu’s aggressive attempt to ensure it never happen – he’d give Mingyu a little assuring smile and doesn’t say anything else so Mingyu thinks Nurse Han isn’t too bad.

His attending physician wasn’t Dr Xu though, it was Dr Hong. Mingyu doesn’t know much about Dr Hong because he rarely sees him, although he did pay him a visit for an update on his diet instruction the other day, and also when he woke up after the surgery, he was there too – Mingyu remembers even though he was still drowsy at the time.

Dr Hong seemed young too but he’d appear more put together and busy. Very busy. He’d heard one of the nurses talking about how the hospital is running short of staff and the pediatrician ward was the ones receiving the massive blow. He guesses that’s why he doesn’t see his attending doctor as often. But Dr Xu takes care of him in his place and Dr Xu is nice too, just a little out of place here and there, but nice.

His mother was quiet for a little while. She was probably a little sad Mingyu lost his voice, but Mingyu didn’t mind that his voice wasn’t there anymore. He was sort of glad he lost his voice. Now his father won't come for him for it anymore.

His mother seemed to finally snap out of her thoughts as she ruffled Mingyu’s hair and let him go. "Okay I'll go ahead and give this to the other kids then. Your loss~" Mingyu's mother playfully pinched Mingyu's nose before picking up the container and returning it into the paper bag.

Just then a knock on the door was heard and a male in a white doctor gown opened the door slightly. Mingyu could see several smaller heads sticking out by the side of the door. Kids, around his age, some younger. Two of them were even holding on to the doctor's legs.

"I'm terribly sorry to interrupt, Mrs Kim, I don’t know if I have officially introduced myself but my name is Xu Minghao. I'm a 1st year resident here and I’m Kim Mingyu’s second attending physician. I’m here to check up on him... informally" the doctor spoke softly while bowing to Mingyu's mother.

Mingyu's mother gave the doctor a smile and nodded. But her attention quickly turned to the little ones crowding around Dr Xu instead, "Of course doctor. Wonderful to meet you, and I see you've brought some friends for Mingyu."

She walked over and opened the door for them. As soon as the door was slightly slid open, about ten children flooded into the room and excitedly went towards Mingyu's bed. Mingyu was beyond surprised, he was speechless and it wasn’t in the good way.

Dr Xu tried his best to calm the squealing kids and repeatedly bowed to Mingyu's mother, "I'm incredibly sorry. They are such huge fans. We listen to his songs every week in this ward so when they heard he was here they really wanted to meet him-"

Dr Xu’s conversation with his mother disappeared into the background as the crowd of kids around him began talking to him excitedly all at once. Mingyu froze and shrunk in his seat.

"I'm Seok! I'm Seok!!" one of the boys started jumping up and down beside his bed.

"Kim Mingyu! Are you our friend now? Yay!!"

"Not yet Junhui! We need him to shake our hands first only then are we friends!" this time it was a smaller boy, probably around 4 or 5.

"Oh okay! Shake my hand Kim Mingyu!!" the boy, Junhui started trying to climb onto the bed while sticking his hand out for Mingyu to take.

"Shut up Chan you're so childish! You are embarrassing us in front of Mingyu!" another girl around Mingyu's age tried to pull Junhui down from trying to climb onto the bed.

Mingyu turned his body away from Junhui who was trying to climb onto the bed only to be met with a pair of eyes. The boy hadn’t spoke yet but he was grinning widely at Mingyu.

"You're Kim Mingyu! My name's Jeon Wonwoo! They told me I'm older than you so you can call me hyung!" the older boy began to speak while pointing his index finger towards Mingyu, proudly declaring his seniority over the boy who further shrinking into the bed.

Mingyu wanted to raise an eyebrow but his mouth just dropped open at the overwhelming amount of excitedly jumping children surrounding him.

"Kim Mingyu I have all your CDs! We saw you on TV yesterday!" the boy spoke again, Jeon Wonwoo. "Kim Mingyu we're putting on a show during Christmas! Since you're here why don't you sing too! You’re such a great singer!"

"Yes! Kim Mingyu!" "Why don't you?!"
"He looks better in real life!" "His hair is funny!"

Mingyu was shivering. He felt sick. The static was beginning to sound again. His head was starting to hurt. The kids weren’t only noisy they were so active, jumping and pushing each other trying to get closer to Mingyu; and they keep talking about it... his voice. His voice is so good. His voice is nice. They could use a voice like his in their performance.

His voice.

Why must they remind him of his cursed voice?! Why are they so demanding of him? Why do they expect so much of him--

Mingyu covered his ears and eyes trying to drown their noises out. The static was growing louder in his ears and his head feels like it was going to explode.

Junhui had managed to climb onto the bed after successfully wriggling himself out of the other girl’s grip and he had managed to grab a hold at Mingyu's arms, “Kim Mingyu! Let’s be friends!”

Mingyu didn’t register much of what he did next. He thought he’d screamed while pushing the boy off the bed.

It turned out to be mute of course. But the effect was there nevertheless. The kids around him was startled and was a little stunned by the image of Junhui flopping down to the floor on his butt, pushed by none other than their idol Kim Mingyu.

"Oh Mingyu, honey" his mother gasped, shocked. Turning away from her conversation with the young resident.

Dr Xu was also startled by the loud thud of Junhui falling off the bed and was starting to feel guilty because it was his decision to bring the kids along into the room. He should've known Mingyu was not in a state to be surrounded by a bunch of loud over-excited children.

"Jun! Are you okay?" Jeon Wonwoo walked to the boy on the floor and helped him up. Junhui seemed fine. He was still smiling and patting his butt at Wonwoo even after being pushed off the bed so harshly.

Mingyu felt a little guilty. He put his head down and blamed himself for acting so rashly. It wasn’t like he wanted to be mean to the other kids, but he couldn’t help it, and they kept talking about his voice. Was his voice the only thing they cared about when they look at him?

Everything was quiet for a few seconds and Mingyu felt more nauseous as the static began again in his ears with the guilt starting to build up in the pit of his stomach and his irk towards his own voice filled his mind. But before he could fully drown in it again--

Smack!

Everyone was surprised by the noise and turned their heads to Junhui and Jeon Wonwoo.

Wonwoo had smacked Junhui in the back of his head.

"Why'd you go onto the bed you idiot? Of course he would push you off. Who'd want a creep trying to hug you all of a sudden-"

The other kids started laughing at Wonwoo playfully scolding Junhui who was also laughing while rubbing the back of his head. Wonwoo even forced Junhui to bow towards Mingyu using his own hands, “Say you’re sorry and you won’t do it again”

Junhui just followed along between his laughter. That eased the tension a little but Mingyu didn't miss the small curious glance from Wonwoo when he had his head up for a second. Mingyu felt a little intimidated by those eyes, he didn’t understand yet but he felt like it was no good to keep looking into them so he averted his gaze to the sheets on his bed.

His mother snapped her fingers and yelped, "That’s right I almost forgot! Okay! Who wants pie?!" realizing she was still holding on to the paper bag filled with her self-acclaimed ‘infamous blackberry pie’.

Mingyu suddenly felt thankful that his clumsy mommy decided to bring a pie to a ward full of sweets deprived children. The kids started jumping excitedly again while crowding around her as she led them out the door alongside a still apologetic Dr Xu who kept bowing his head to her repeatedly, apologizing for bringing a mob into his ward in the first place.

Wonwoo followed last behind all of them and before he’d closed the door to Mingyu’s room, he gave Mingyu a last look.

Mingyu could feel the pair of eyes on him so he slowly turned to face Wonwoo. Their eyes lock and Mingyu was terrified. What is that look in his eyes? Was Wonwoo going to declare war on him for pushing his friend or something? Was he in for a fight against the whole ward now? From the way they interacted it was somewhat visible to Mingyu that Jeon Wonwoo was the alpha of this territory somehow.

A 9-year-old alpha of a territory of warded sick children... was that supposed to sound as scary as it did to Mingyu. Maybe not but it was. Mingyu was a scaredy-cat anyway.

Mingyu was slowly picturing himself pulverizing away under Wonwoo's stare before Wonwoo's nonchalant look morphed into a soft smile.

Mingyu blinked and it was still there.

He could almost see a sort of endearment in the gaze Wonwoo was giving him. It wasn't sarcastic, it seemed sincere.

What?

Mingyu was confused. He wasn’t having any more of it so he was going to turn away when all of a sudden, Wonwoo's smile turned into a small chuckle instead, "You're like a puppy Kim Mingyu. You’re not a scaredy-cat. You're a scaredy-puppy!"

Did Jeon Wonwoo just... read his mind?

Or was it that obvious how terrified he was? Maybe the latter.

"See you!" Wonwoo stuck a tongue out to Mingyu before closing the door shut.

Mingyu let out the breath he didn't know he was holding the moment he sees the door shut and he could hear Wonwoo's slippers make a pit-a-pat sound as he runs off to join the rest.

Mingyu needed to get better soon and get out of there. Risking to meet Jeon Wonwoo again was not a game he'd like to play. That boy was weird. He was suspicious. It was as if Jeon Wonwoo could read him, like a book and Mingyu was definitely not having any of that.

-----

"Kim Mingyu do you have some tricks you can show me? I have a solo part! But everyone keeps saying I sound off-tune--"

Mingyu's plans of never meeting Jeon Wonwoo again backfired, real fast. Just the next day Jeon Wonwoo had decided to make Mingyu's room his private lounge. And not just the next day, Jeon Wonwoo have been casually waltzing into his room - like he belonged there - for the past week. Even making conversation with Mingyu's mom and becoming her friend? Best friend? They even have a best friend handshake now?

Mingyu was reminded of how his mother and Jeon Wonwoo walked into his room side by side one day, both having a smug look on their face as they began their handshake – clapping and high fiving – and then both turning to Mingyu with another smug look, only to be shocked to see Mingyu wasn’t even looking. He had turn back to his workbook halfway through their charades.

Mingyu's mother brought up the idea of best friend handshakes to make Mingyu jealous of their 'friendship' so Mingyu could at least lean into Wonwoo's effort of trying to befriend him. Mingyu could see through his mother, or rather she’d said it all in front of Mingyu. Mingyu may have turned mute but he wasn’t deaf.

Wonwoo didn’t mind, playing into her silly gesture willingly. He doesn’t understand what goes on in that head of Wonwoo’s and why he would go along with her, which then Wonwoo would look at Mingyu and say that he didn’t mind and that he liked Mingyu's mother; that she was funny and friendly.

Mingyu’s starting to think Wonwoo can really read his mind. Or not? No way. Right?

So Mingyu just rolled his eyes and turned back to his workbook.

But within the week the older had been around in him, before he even realized it himself, he had started allowing Wonwoo to invade his bubble. Sitting next to Wonwoo, finishing his workbook next to Wonwoo who's coloring in his own sketchbook, sharing his favorite banana milk and strawberry yogurt – that his mom snuck in - with Wonwoo, and even letting Wonwoo play with his hair which he would never allow, if he was awake.

Mingyu could've stopped Wonwoo from tugging and just tangling his fingers into his hair but he assumed the boy was probably just intrigued and it would be kind of mean to stop him. Mingyu's hair was long now. It has reached his shoulders. It's only been about a month since his last haircut but his hair had always grown fast.

Wonwoo probably can't grow out his own hair, Mingyu thinks. He had always worn a beanie. A dark red colored beanie, and Mingyu thinks it's because he has no hair. He'd seen some of the kids wear beanies and they had no hair. His mother had told him it was because of their medicine.

So if Mingyu pretending he was still asleep while Wonwoo tugged on his hair wasn’t enough for his mother to take him as ‘leaning into Wonwoo's effort’ already, he didn't know what else he could do.

Chapter Text

“Hey Jihoon-hyung, does this shirt make me look short?” Mingyu asked while trying out a couple of poses in front of the mirror.

Jihoon didn’t even need to turn to look at Mingyu to know that the shirt – as a matter of, very much in fact – did not make him look short. The guy was six-foot tall, for heaven’s sake. He was a lamp post. And even if it did make him look shorter, what would it reduce him to? Normal human size?

“Do you actually want to die?” Jihoon exhaled as he rolled his eyes, continuing to organize the papers scattered on his desk by the window into his clear file-case.

When he realized Mingyu wasn’t giving any of his usual sarcastic replies, Jihoon had actually thought Mingyu may have been serious. The kid can be mischievous when he wants to but he can be rather naïve when he’s not busy making the elder’s life miserable.

So Jihoon turned around to look at Mingyu’s reflection in the mirror. The black and white striped satin button up hung loosely on his broad shoulders, the ends falling just on his mid thighs. Jihoon thinks if he’d worn that shirt it would’ve reached below his knees. He sighs and looks up to see Mingyu’s face.

Mingyu was sporting his daily look, the resting-pout-face. He was eyeing himself in the mirror when his lips jutted out further, intensifying the pout he had earlier.

Jihoon notices Mingyu had lost weight again. Maybe due to his latest workout regime. He’s been trying to pump a little more muscle into his already fit body for an upcoming role, which could possibly be his biggest one so far. It was about time for him to reel up a role this big, he’s been infamous amongst producers for his talent of finishing up shoots in just one-take.

Mingyu brushes his bangs off his forehead.

His hair was a light brown – dyed specifically for the photo shoot happening today – almost looking golden whenever a sheen of light reflect off them. His skin a couple of tones darker than the normal ‘pale-fair’ beauty standards that was in-trend but nevertheless, he works it. He makes it his thing and the industry drools over him, so Jihoon carrying the manager role is more than glad that the one possible flaw – although it’s ridiculous to even be considered a flaw in the first place, but the expectations of the Korean beauty scene has been outright ridiculous for as long as he remembers anyway – does not kill Kim Mingyu’s confidence and actually becomes one of his strongest selling point. But overall, as a longtime friend, the older is more glad that Mingyu is unbothered by the comments on his skin tone and is more than comfortable living in his own skin.

“Were you actually serious?” Jihoon sounded a little apologetic.

Mingyu stopped eyeing himself and shifted his eyes to look at Jihoon through the reflection in the mirror. His pout then immediately turning into a sly smile. Mingyu let out an airy chuckle-

Okay, maybe Kim Mingyu’s got another flaw, and that is; being an absolute ass.

“Okay you drive yourself.”

“Hyung! Wait! Woozi-hyung! I’m sorry--” Mingyu turned around to try and catch his hyung but the older had sped out the door in a second, leaving Mingyu to scramble around searching for and grabbing his things. He hadn’t even put on his shoes yet! “Hyung!”

Mingyu managed to put his shoes on with record time before finally running out the door. He jogged out of the elevator and out their shared apartment lobby only to find his car still there, in his parking spot... and the car key left on the hood of the car.

“Is he for real?” Mingyu sighed.

Just then he heard his phone notification go off so he grabbed the key and scurried into the driver seat. He dug his phone out of his back pocket before hitting the ignition button. The text was from Jihoon.

 

Wooz

Yes, I wasn’t kidding. Diamond Hotel, 16-09-19 Street. 8am.

Minguy

Tis int funy hyng >:(

Wooz

Well we both know I’m not the one who cracks jokes in this relationship anyway.

Minguy

I rly dint mean 2 hurt u hyun :( GomenasAiE !!

Wooz

Can you like, type like a normal human being?

And I need to run by the agency first anyway, so you were going to have to drive yourself either way. Mr Lee just picked me up.

I was going to tell you but you had to be an ass this early in the morning.

When you get there, you’ll know what to do, I’ll ask the Mr Lee to drop me off there later so I can drive us home.

So just hang in there for a couple of hours and don’t burn any building down or something.

 

Mingyu smiled upon reading the long stream of text. He knew Jihoon wasn’t that sensitive after all, rather his manager was a feisty character. But still, tormenting the elder is a must on his daily agenda so Mingyu decided to fulfill his schedule like the good boy he is. He smirks before he fixes his navigation and drives off but not before replying to his favorite manager.

 

Minguy

Uwu so u arnt mad huyng :D

Wooz

No. Don’t be late.

Minguy

Oki u 2 hiyng i cnt b seen drivig me i hav imaj 2 uphld i ned my uji drver hyuyung :D

Wooz

Die

Minguy

Hyugnnnnn ;(

Wooz

You’re totally doing this on purpose, aren’t you?

Minguy

:D

 

Mingyu chuckles to himself. His Jihoon-hyung was always so fun to pester. He knows he shouldn’t be driving and texting but this was too good to not continue. There are days where Jihoon decides to just ignore his invitation to banter but apparently today was not one of those days so he isn’t letting this go without putting up a contender against Jihoon’s rage.

There aren’t much people that could put up with Kim Mingyu’s personality. The whole package that is, his narcissistic side, the talkative/rambling side and even the clingy adoring side of him. So he keeps the ones that can closest to him, afraid to let them go before he could fully appreciate them. Because only God knows he has let it happen before.

He was about to type up another reply with his left hand before he realizes the light had turned red.

“Oh shit!!” he shrieks as he hits the brakes.

But he was going a little too fast and he couldn’t stop his vehicle fast enough. He sees a pedestrian moving out in front of him, finally clear of the blind spot by the car that has already halted on the next lane. And so he steers himself to the right to avoid the man as much as he could but it was a little too late.

The man jumps upon hearing the screech of Mingyu’s tires and the sight of his matte-black Range Rover looming in closer to strike him the man’s scream is heard even from within the car as he falls back. Mingyu echoes the scream and braces himself for impact.

But it didn’t come.

Or maybe his car’s impact cushion is too good that he doesn’t feel it when he hits someone. Gosh.

Mingyu realizes he has finally stopped moving and he brings his head up from the wheel to find the man but he wasn’t in the view so Mingyu shifts to park and basically teleports outside his vehicle.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!” he chants as he walks out front his car to look for the man he just hit.

The man was not in front of his car but he was on his back, on the next lane.

“Oh my god! Are you dead?” Mingyu runs up to kneel by the man’s side before letting his hands awkwardly hover around the man, contemplating whether he should help the man move or not, “Please be not dead!”

The man’s brows furrow and he flinch as he moves to sit up. His lips trembles a little as he bites his bottom lip as if something is hurting him, “I’m okay, I think I just- my arm kind of hurt-AAHH!”

“AAAHHH!!” Mingyu turns to look at his arm too to see a tear at the sleeve at the man’s flannel and a large scrape running at the side of his elbow all the way down to his wrist.

“It’s bleedingAAAHH!”

“AAHHHH!!” Mingyu replies as his hands clamps at the man’s shoulder.

The man passes out.

“He’s out, he’s out! AAAHHH” Mingyu panics again.

At this point, people have started to dismount their vehicles and others on the side of the road were starting to gather.

This isn’t good for him. Jihoon will kill him.

Mingyu searches for the man’s wallet in the backpack thrown a little to his right, picked the guy up like he was a doll – thank the lord he has been working out – and hauled him into the front seat of his car. Mingyu runs around to the other side and jumped into the driver seat. He looked into the man’s wallet to find an ID or something when he took out a university ID pass.

The picture on the ID is probably an old picture. The man passed out in his seat looks a little more matured than in the picture. He’d grown out of the baby fat on his cheeks and his overall features were a little more defined. He wasn’t wearing glasses too.

He scans down to the name.

“Lee Seokmin!”

He turns to the man once more for some reason – maybe to be sure if the man was still breathing – before hitting the gas as soon as the light turned green. “Okay Lee Seokmin, you are NOT dying in my front seat!”

He punched in the navigation as he sped off to the nearest hospital as designated by his GPS, completely shoving the nostalgia the name calls to the very back coach of his train of thoughts.

 

Lee Seokmin was going to be fine, said the nurse as Mingyu basically whizzed through the emergency hallway, carrying the grown man bridal style in his arms screaming for help.

The nurse looked at him weirdly – he wondered why – but brought along a stretcher anyway as she inspected his injured arm, before telling Mingyu to calm down and have a seat while they bring Lee Seokmin in.

Roughly twenty minutes later the nurse was back out, telling him Lee Seokmin has been moved to a normal ward while they’re pending to process his scans for any sign of trauma so he can wait out in the outpatient wards instead. And so now he’s sitting on one of those metal benches right outside the ward Lee Seokmin was supposedly in, but he hasn’t dared to go in to check yet. He’s going to wait for Jihoon.

He was thinking of how he should relay this entire situation to Jihoon but he’s dead meat anyway, so he spared himself another moment of dreadful hesitance and just screamed into the receiver when he dialed the elder. He swore he was speaking hogwash but Jihoon understood anyway - being the professional that he is - and told him to stay put while he gets himself there. Mingyu swears he hears the elder curse before hanging up, “I fucking leave him for five minutes and he runs a person over, can you believe it-?!”

Mingyu has his face in his hands as his feet taps nervously, vigorously. He finally gives up and jumps off the seat, deciding to pace around the hallway instead. There were a few other people in the hallway, a few sitting at the benches waiting for their names to be called for checkups, and medical staffs passing through, and they all just looked at him funny. Maybe because this was an outpatient ward but he was looking like he was waiting for someone to come out of a life-threatening surgery.

Still, Mingyu disregarded them and walked round to the back row of the benches to read over the posters on the wall again. He’d read some of them when he arrived in the hallway a few minutes ago but there he was again.

The posters were in green and pink, writing about knowing your healthy diet plans and how important it is to avoid those weight-losing products. Mingyu thinks back to his diet plans and shrugs the concern off because he has an actual certified trainer helping him. Another poster talked about something else he doesn't do and warns on the dangers of drugs and smoking and there was a graphic image of an infected lung.

He swallows and turns away from the posters on this side of the wall and walks over to another wall instead, closer to the checkup rooms, this time finding a red and blue one. This one talked about birth control; THE MANY METHODS OF BIRTH CONTROL, Talk to an OB/GYN Consultant Today! and his face flushes a little as his eyes met with a nurse walking out the door right next to the poster, who turns to see what Mingyu was reading.

Mingyu clears his throat awkwardly and steps a little to the side to make way for the nurse to get past him. He turns to another glossy poster before the rattle of that sliding door sounded again and he immediately turns sideways to ensure the person coming out of the door doesn’t see the still lingering blush on his face.

The person coming out of the door was probably a little startled at the tall piece of Kim Mingyu looming in front of the door because he had paused in his tracks to look at the still unsettled Mingyu pretending to scan through the posters.

Mingyu noticed the halt in movement to his left so he turns to look at the man, and even if he only caught half of his face as the man turns to walk away, he notices. He catches it. The familiar features and that nostalgic gaze from his eyes.

Mingyu’s own trailed the man that had just walked out the check-up room. To his skinny frame wrapped in the grey oversize hoodie and matching sweatpants, all the way to that signature dark red beanie.

It couldn’t be...

Could it?

“H-hyung...” he whispers.

It’s been more than ten years. Maybe even twenty. He’s not sure the last time he’s met with those pair of eyes but however long it is, it has been too fucking long.

So he tells himself to work his courage. If it really is him, he shouldn’t – can’t – let him go again.

“W-Wonwoo... -hyung?” he voices out but he’s sure only the last syllable actually makes out loud enough to even be coherent to the human ears.

The man seems to catch it though because he’s looking around. So Mingyu decides to try again, maybe this is fate telling him it’s finally time for him to let that piece of memory along with that buried emotion sitting at the very front layer of his core, to be brought out front-and-center and rule over him again. Maybe this is his second chance. His second-take.

He clears his throat and manages a little clearer, “It’s good to see you again, hyung...”

The man whips his head around at the sound of Mingyu’s voice. The sight of his face knocks Mingyu’s breath away. The sharp cheekbone and strong jawline paired with his pale white skin. Dark brows framing his eyes. Those eyes. That intense gaze.

But Mingyu isn’t sure whether he’s breathless because of the ethereal features staring back at him or it’s the look in that face that’s causing him to panic.

The man’s face was blank and void of emotions, not even a curious one at that. It was just... blank.

The man moves his pales lips and he makes out the words.

“Do I know you?”

Mingyu hears his heart break.

Chapter Text

Mingyu was left to his father 6 months ago when his father divorced his mother. His mother had no choice but to allow his father to take him in because she would have no means of taking care of him since she had never worked since Mingyu was born.

His father on the other hand was a talented pianist and has had his share of fame years ago before he went stale and had since then resort to managing his son, promoting him as the prodigy soprano of his generation.

His mother knew Mingyu would be forced to lean into music ever since he was born, considering how seriously his father took his own career, but she never expected anything more than just the regular lessons and recitals. Ever since Mingyu's first birthday he was already exposed to all kinds of musical instruments, with his father hoping he would turn out exceling in any of it. Of course, his main hope was Mingyu would continue his legacy and studied piano. Which was why piano had remained in his scheduled lessons even if his major was already decided.

It was when Mingyu was four, that the music teacher hired by his father pointed out that Mingyu had massive potential as a classical vocalist instead, primarily as a soprano.  Considering his range as a child and the control he had on his vocal manipulation was incredibly mature for his age. So, his father took that chance and tested Mingyu out for classical vocal lessons instead.

And Mingyu turned out to be good. Too good at it. The music circle may be small but the classical vocal circle is much smaller. Word on Mingyu's talent reached all over South Korea and his recognition came fast. His father knew he had hit the lotto with his decision so he began seriously managing Mingyu as the prodigy soprano. Putting him out on television and organizing concerts. Mingyu was popular among kids for a couple of songs he'd done but even more popular among adults with appreciation for classical music.

Everything was going uphill, that is if you look at it from the outside. From an insider’s view, the Kim household was a mess. Mingyu's parents argued every single day. His mother begging to let Mingyu rest and his father's argument of not letting 'talent go to waste' and 'he's going to run out of time' almost as if he was talking about himself.

His father was so desperate to make himself known again before Mingyu's talent 'ran out', and this time maybe as the father of the prodigy.

Mingyu was flown all over the world. Making his name and leaving his mark. And it worked. But not without the endless hour of practice he was thrown into. Even after his lessons were done, his father would make him practice in front of him and mistakes were not a choice.

His father was smart. Before his mother had been forced to leave, his father never touched Mingyu in front of his mother. He knew she would fight for Mingyu over him and that would not help ease the future plans he has for Mingyu. But the moment she left, his father began his spartan way of giving Mingyu lessons.

Mingyu would have to endure hours of brutal practice, emotionally and physically. His father had begun to beat him, lock him up and starve him.

The thing is, Mingyu could've left. But he couldn't, he didn't. His father's favorite words would always leave him speechless and rendered him back to his dedication to music and his father.

 

 

"Your only worth is your voice"

××××

"Kim Mingyu you can sing but you can't talk? I've never heard you say a word. Is that some kind of disease? That's pretty neat- I mean it's kinda bad that you can't talk BUT you can sing when you need anything. When you're hungry you just sing Kimbap juseyo~~" Wonwoo sang while coloring the sky of the drawing on his sketchbook, occasionally scratching his scalp through his dark red beanie.

Wonwoo can be quiet. Really quiet. But he can be incredibly talkative and this was one of those days. He had been talking non-stop for the past hour and he would continue talking and talking even if Mingyu didn't reply. And Mingyu never replied.

Wonwoo was sitting at the end of Mingyu's bed using his over bed table finishing up his drawing. Mingyu was sitting up against the pillows while his legs were still under the covers. Mingyu was playing with the cables of his earphones that Wonwoo had pulled out from his ears earlier, giving him a whole lecture about how it's rude to not listen when people are talking. Mingyu was just looking at Wonwoo absentmindedly and the latter didn't even notice, still focusing on his masterpiece.

"So like you know the Christmas show we're putting up. It's like in 2 days and they're still making fun of my solo part. I mean I kind of tried my best but they're still laughing. They're so mean. I even caught Nurse Han cough out a chuckle, isn't he mean?! I mean come on I tried... And I mean even Chan was doing better than me---"

When Wonwoo was ranting he'd always start to pout making his speech come out a little slurred and his accent would start to show and his eyebrows move around a lot. They're wiggling now too--

"Why am I saying mean a lot... I mean it's not like my vocabulary is that small, is it? I mean, is it though? Is it, Kim Mingyu?"

 

Mingyu snapped out of his trance and realized Wonwoo was now staring back at him. He quickly looked away and dropped his head. His face was starting to heat up for some reason. He was never able to look straight into Wonwoo's eyes. It'll always feel like the elder could look through him. Through everything he was thinking about, everything he was feeling. Like he could get inside his head and make him do things he never thought of doing.

Like the other day, he was walking around the central kids ward with Wonwoo and the other kids started crowding around him. When he was starting to feel uncomfortable, Wonwoo would just need one look into his eye before shooing the other kids away saying it's his personal vocal training time so everyone should leave him alone with Mingyu.

Or when Wonwoo knew Mingyu hated to get his vitamin shots so he would be in the room with Mingyu when the nurse comes along, then he would distract the nurse so Mingyu could run away, which he did and then got caught anyway. Wonwoo had managed to convince Mingyu to do whatever he wanted with just a little glance and a smile.

They were inseparable within the weeks Mingyu was hospitalized. When Wonwoo invited Mingyu to join him visiting the other kids, (convincing him with how much the other kids love him so they would really be happy with just seeing the boy) Mingyu wouldn't say anything and just went along with him. Wonwoo was a little taller and would always walk a little faster so Mingyu would just follow him, a few steps behind.

 

Mingyu thought about how Wonwoo was always so patient with him. Even when he wouldn't talk and was almost always grumpy all the time, Wonwoo would continue on talking or doing whatever around Mingyu, and he'd never leave. Deep down, he knew he didn't want to be alone, and he thinks Wonwoo knows that, from the day they met. Wonwoo knew Mingyu just wanted – maybe needed – a friend. So he'd tried his best to be one for Mingyu despite the younger’s denial.

But the thing is, Mingyu just knew he wasn't doing it out of sympathy or he'd just wanted to stick around Mingyu for the name he carried, because Mingyu has had the same share of toleration for Wonwoo's charades. He would hit him at the back of his head like he did to Junhui and playfully pick on him as much as he'd pick on the other kids. That's how Mingyu knew he wasn't just being nice, but he'd already consider Mingyu as one of them.

Wonwoo said it countless of times, the word 'friends'. Mingyu thought about it sometimes, at night as he lied awake. What the weight of that word meant. The value of it?

For years he'd understood the value of family as repayment. A big word for a young child.

That he had to repay his father for bringing him into this world and bringing out his talent. That his value was to bring fortune to the family as repayment for his existence. That his value was for the benefit of others.

But his mother's face would always turn into an expression of lament whenever he expresses things like that. She'd cry and cry and apologize. So he tries to believe a little differently now.

She would tell him that he was wrong, very softly. That the value of family is love. It is the unconditional, unwavering feeling that you need to treasure and cherish a certain someone. That Mingyu may have felt that he needed to treat his father right and not make him sad, that was his way of loving his father.

She'd tell him that was also why she had allowed him to be taken care of by only his father. So that Mingyu could live his best life even if it was without her, and she apologizes for allowing him to betray that trust unknowingly. Mingyu understands a little more as his mother breaks it down into smaller words so he tells her she's not at fault and that he's glad she loves him as much as he does too.

So Mingyu now understood love. Unconditional and unwavering, cherishing and treasuring.

But friendship... Wonwoo had described being friends would mean they were partners in crime, trust. That they were two pages of the same book, inseparable, those were the words of his brothers, he'd say. Mingyu couldn't understand any of it at first. But he did understand the part when Wonwoo had said that it was believing that someone would be there for you. That someone would care about you. That someone would love you for you.

So by the end of his midnight contemplation of accepting Wonwoo's proposal of friendship, Mingyu had concluded that maybe yes, he would be there for Wonwoo, only because he knew Wonwoo would. Maybe yes, he would care about Wonwoo, and of course only because Wonwoo does too. And so, maybe yes, he does love Wonwoo as much as Wonwoo loves him too?

He wants to cherish Wonwoo as much as Wonwoo does and he knows it's unwavering because even when Wonwoo's being this annoying he'd still care about Wonwoo, and he knows it goes both ways. So, is he Wonwoo's friend now? That would mean he can trust Wonwoo like he trusts his mother, right? Should he tell him the truth? Should he?

Mingyu bites his lips. Wonwoo's still looking at him with that endearing look again.

"I..."

Mingyu began, very very softly.

 

Wonwoo's gaze remained neutral. He was being patient and somewhat careful with his expressions. He was trying hard not to look too surprised at Mingyu's attempt to speak.

But their hearts were hammering in their chests. So loud it was audible amidst the silence they were sharing. So Mingyu brought his hands to his chests and closed his eyes. Trying to stop his heart from beating too fast. He doesn't understand why he's so terrified of speaking out what he thinks. It’s probably already imprinted in him that his thoughts don’t matter. His breathing is uneven and he's starting to shiver.

A sudden gush of wind blew in through the slightly open window making the curtains sweep slowly against the white walls. The room is starting to feel cold and Mingyu was starting to tear up.

Then his hands on his chest were warm. So warm.

He opened his eyes to see a pair of hands on his own. They were holding his so gently but firm enough he could feel them trying their best to calm his heart too.

He looked up to see Wonwoo still in front of him, a little closer than before. But his eyes were somewhere else. He was smiling though. He doesn't understand why seeing Wonwoo smile makes him feel so warm on the inside. He has such a warm smile, Mingyu thinks.

It makes him think everything would be okay.

Mingyu was still breathing unevenly and Wonwoo's hands on his gripped a little tighter. Mingyu turned his gaze to the window too, where Wonwoo's was fixed at.

Mingyu gasped slightly and he bursts. Tears started to trickle down his cheeks and what they both saw reflected through the glass in his eyes. It was so beautiful and he wonders if he’s allowed to look at something so nice with nothing else to give back.

"It's okay, Mingyu," Wonwoo whispers so quietly Mingyu would've missed it if the silence and the beats of their hearts weren’t the only sound audible in the darkening room.

Wonwoo's eyes were still on the window but Mingyu could tell, his eyes weren't really looking at anything.

Of course, Wonwoo would. Of course, Wonwoo would've said that.

Of course, Wonwoo would answer every question he'd have in his mind. Wonwoo knew, Wonwoo understood. He always does.

Mingyu chokes up and the tears fall again, harder and heavier this time. They fall like the rain and they never end. He wants to wail a little so he pulls Wonwoo into a hug. He didn't even have to say anything and Wonwoo had already turned to look at him and wrap his arms around Mingyu's shoulders.

"I hate singing. It... It always brings me pain," Mingyu says between hiccups.

Wonwoo just keeps quiet and nods as Mingyu continued crying, wetting the fabric on his shoulder. He only held onto Mingyu as the latter continued speaking gibberish between sobs. He could only wrap his hands tighter around Mingyu, not knowing what to say.

The room was cold from the winter breeze and the boys fell asleep next to each other on the bed. When Mingyu's mother walked into the room, she paused halfway into the room. She smiled as she walked over to close the open window and pull up the covers on the two small boys.

"And here I was all excited about the first snowfall. You two boys sleeping on me, hmmph" his mother said softly with a smile before leaving the room, but not before taking a picture of the scene, remembering to tease Mingyu about this sometime later.