When Sunwoo woke up that morning, he instantly knew that today was not going to be a good day at all.
He was tired from their early broadcasts after the comeback showcase, and soon afterwards they had another one, meaning less sleep. He was grumpy, cranky, and definitely wanted to sleep some more. They had been in this situation many times, but for some reason today’s was one of the worst ones yet.
Sunwoo didn’t want to burden the team, making them deal with his grumpy attitude, so he kept it to himself. Tried to stay cheery and work hard. If you looked close enough, you could see that he wasn’t in the best mood, but who said that his groupmates were observant? Either that, or he was better at acting that he expected.
The Deobis at the broadcast recording were supportive and as amazing as ever, despite the early start, and it made his mood just a little better. Seeing them cheer and wave their lightsticks from the showcase filled his heart with happiness, and he was able to complete the recordings without any issues. As soon as they were backstage and in their dressing rooms, however, Sunwoo could feel the fatigue come back to him, and all he wanted to do was sleep again.
It felt like years before they arrived back in their dorms, but once they did, Sunwoo headed straight to his room. He briefly stopped to pet Peanut and Walnut on his way, otherwise not saying a word to anyone. The others let him be. They were all tired after all, so it wasn’t unusual for them to take naps.
Flopping onto his bed, Sunwoo sighed, staring at his school bag that was currently sitting on the floor. He had a bunch of work to catch up on and CSATs to prepare for, which meant a lot of stress for him. Plus, he was now learning more about composing and producing, as well as being given piano lessons from Kevin. It was just more work on top of the stuff he already had. He knew the others were probably feeling the stress and workload as well, but he couldn’t help but feel a bit… alone.
It wasn’t uncommon for Sunwoo to go into short bouts of reflection, just thinking about his life and what he had done. He’d something wonder if all this stress really was worth it, completely forgetting what it was like back in his trainee days, where it was much worse. Not to mention, there was this dread that dwelled deep within him, afraid on what could happen and how the future would turn out. His mental health was important to him, so he did his best to talk to someone whenever this happened. Today, it just looked like everyone was tired or busy, so he didn’t bother at all.
Just as he was about to close his eyes and nap away his problems, the door opened, someone silently stepping in. Sunwoo didn’t bother to open his eyes to see who it was, but when he felt a tongue on his nose, his eyelids flew open. He was greeted to the sight of Peanut held right against his face, her nose almost touching his cheek. Grimacing at her breath, he took the pup in his hands, holding her gently above him. A weight sat down on his bed, and he looked over to see Haknyeon, smiling lightly at him.
“Hyung.” Sunwoo muttered, sitting up to greet him. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
“You don’t mind if I join you, do you?” Haknyeon asked. “Y’know, with your nap.”
“You could have just slept in your bed.”
“Yeah, but it’s lonely.” With a sigh, Sunwoo nodded, and Haknyeon cheered. Setting Peanut on the ground, he trusted the little puppy to find her way back to the living room before lying down on his bed, Haknyeon with him. It was a bit uncomfortable, squishing the two of them in, but by resting his head on Haknyeon’s arm, Sunwoo was able to get into a relaxed position.
At first, they just sorta laid there, with the comfortable rise and fall of their breathing with each other’s presence and warmth. It was slowly lulling Sunwoo away into dreamland, and he fought the urge to close his eyelids. To be honest, he enjoyed looking at Haknyeon’s face. It brought much happiness and calmed his heart, as well as a few butterflies in his stomach.
Haknyeon opened his eyes a few moments later, surprising Sunwoo and making him jump. He didn’t seem to notice, luckily, letting him calm his beating heart. “Can’t sleep?” he asked. “You’ve been tired the entire day.”
“I’m surprised you noticed.” Sunwoo muttered, still a bit bitter that the others never caught on. Haknyeon frowned, before beginning to gently stroke Sunwoo’s hair.
“What’s up? Remember, we’re here for you. You can tell us anything, you don’t have to hold it in.” he coaxed, but Sunwoo just shook his head.
“It’s nothing serious. Just a bad day.” he explained, “Give me some time to stew over it, and I’ll be fine.” With a pout, Haknyeon stopped what he was doing, moving his hand to instead lightly slap Sunwoo in the face.
“It’s not good to keep things in. Is is something that you’ve talked about before? Can you at least tell me that?” Haknyeon pleaded, worried for Sunwoo’s health and wellbeing.
“...” Sunwoo stayed silent, instead opting to grab Haknyeon’s hand and play with his fingers. The bracelet they all received prior to debut was hanging on his wrist, the metal slowly becoming more and more worn out. In response, the latter laced his fingers with Sunwoo’s, squeezing it tight. As if to say, “It’s okay.”
“...Same as a few months ago.” Sunwoo finally answered, looking away from Haknyeon’s eyes, ashamed. “I’m really fine, I just need time to catch up, y’know? Let myself process everything again.” He didn’t seem to want to look up at Haknyeon, so he shuffled closer to him.
Bringing him in his arms, Haknyeon felt Sunwoo’s arms wrap around him, accepting the embrace. “Tell me everything.” he whispered, not noticing how intimate they were. “Explain how it feels. Let it out.”
Swallowing dryly, Sunwoo opened his mouth to speak. Nothing came out, only the croak of a word, and he shut his eyes, focusing. ‘You can do it.’ he told himself, clutching the fabric of Haknyeon’s shirt tightly.
“It hurts.” he finally spoke. “It’s dull and throbs. Makes it hard to breathe. It always feels like there’s something in my throat, but swallowing does nothing. After awhile it starts to hurt and nothing I do makes it go away. It feels I’m being crushed slowly and I can’t do anything to stop it. I just want to curl up into a ball and let it overtake me, but I know I can’t but it’s just so hard to keep on going and I-”
“Stop.” Haknyeon ordered, making Sunwoo freeze. “Breathe, Sunwoo. Slowly. Let it out.” he coaxed, and the younger hadn’t noticed that tears were trailing down his face, breathing irregular and his heart beating wildly. With a hiccup, he buried his head in Haknyeon’s chest, letting himself cry his worries away.
“I don’t know what to do, Hyung.” he sobbed, making Haknyeon’s heart ache at how small and fragile Sunwoo sounded. Though he usually was quite mature, much more so than his age, it was that same maturity that was taking its toll on him and giving him so much worry. Instead of having a normal high school life, he took on the courage to achieve his dreams, even if it meant his health.
“I know Sunwoo, I know.” Haknyeon whispered, slowly calming him down. “But now that I know, I can help you. I, no, we can help to ease your pain. There’s no need to hide it away anymore, if you need help, then don’t be afraid to ask for it. Even if we seem tired or busy, then come to me. I’ll do everything in my power to help. If you need to cry, then cry. If that makes you feel better, then go right ahead.”
Slowly and methodically, Haknyeon continued to stroke Sunwoo’s hair, not caring about how wet his shirt was getting. It took a while, but eventually, his sobs mellowed down into hiccups, his tears all gone. His grip on Haknyeon’s shirt had loosened significantly, and he looked down to see that the poor boy was fast asleep. He couldn’t blame Sunwoo, he must have been exhausted from sleep deprivation and all the stress that was going through him. His puffy face reminded him of the time when they had pranked him on his birthday and made him cry. It was a bit surreal to compare the two events, both similar yet different.
Haknyeon couldn’t help but pull him closer, burying his nose in Sunwoo’s hair. A protective sort of aura emanated from him, almost glaring at the wall in front of him. Seeing him so torn and broken, and just - so vulnerable, it hurt Haknyeon, and he wanted to help the poor guy. He now understood the protectiveness that Sangyeon and Jacob usually had when dealing with the group.
“It’ll be alright.” he whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of Sunwoo’s head. “I’ll make sure of it.”
‘Love makes you do crazy things, but I don’t regret it one single bit.’