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Chan wasn’t one to anger easily, but if he heard one more pop of the bubble gum the receptionist was obnoxiously chewing as loud as humanly possible, he might just go off.

 

He’s never been in a therapist’s office before, but he can confirm the waiting room leaves...something to be desired. Barren walls, nothing to distract him (not even those magazine racks you see in movies), uncomfy seats, and the insistent chewing of the same piece of gum for the past 15 minutes from across the room.

 

He had signed in without much hassle, and he must admit the receptionist seemed easily excitable and Chan found it endearing, the way he had talked his ear off without a care in the world about the Tinder date he had that night. “Lee Minho” must be a lucky fellow, as long as he can keep up with someone who speaks a mile a minute and doesn’t tire from the consistent and unrelentless popping of gum.

 

Chan wouldn’t know what that felt like, to be numb to that. He sure hadn’t gotten any more used to the sound, and the longer he sat the more his nerves had built up.

 

His afternoon classes were let out early today, the excitement of Christmas break hitting the campus quicker than Chan could let it hit him. He had spoken with his mother over the phone about the sessions he’d be attending-every Thursday at 4-and had voiced that he found it silly, to go to therapy right before Christmas break and then have to wait those weeks right after getting a feel for what it was like. Sure, his home was only a few blocks away from the college, as well as the therapist’s office, but that still meant taking a bus route he wasn’t used to, which was uncomfortable, to say the least. She’d explained to him that therapists didn’t get a Christmas break like he did, that he couldn’t put off getting fixed for the holidays.

 

She’d called it “fixing.” As if Chan was broken, as if he was fragile.

 

He’d relayed this information to his roommate, that he found her words insulting, that he didn’t need therapy in the first place. Changbin responded almost instantaneously, countering that Chan had slept for 7 hours total that week and it hadn’t improved from last week, or the week before that, or even before that. Chan said he’d change that tonight, that Changbin was just worried for nothing.

 

Chan had gotten half an hour in before waking to his own heartbeat pounding in his chest.

 

So Chan, completely wrecked and in need of repair (according to everyone else, at least), sat there, staring with eyes that refused to shut for even a moment at the clock on the far wall, next to the receptionist’s head, and listened to the sound of chewing gum.

 

It would take some getting used to, talking to someone who was trying to figure him out. Chan liked ranting and raving about his problems as much as the next guy, but he wasn’t sure he was ready for someone that would actually listen to the grimy details of it all.

 

Not like his life was bad or anything.

 

He loved the friends he’d made in college so far, and his senior year was just around the corner, something to look forward to when he felt down on his luck. His major was an absolute blast, and he’d say Changbin had similar feelings, both of them working late nights to finish up production on a track or simply to talk about music in general, if you could call that working.

 

He couldn’t complain, especially, about the small, underground shows they would organize to make some extra cash. CB97 and SPEARB had turned heads around campus the more they got themselves out there, crowds quickly increasing from 10 or 20 to somewhere around 200 on a good night. It made Chan smile to himself despite his rather plain surroundings at the moment, thinking about the people that would greet him with a wave when they recognized him from the bar performances they did.

 

If his words could reach someone, anyone, those late nights of production were all worth it.

 

But even then, he couldn’t say college was all roses and sunshine. There were the occasional cunts he’d come across, people that simply made it their sole purpose to try and ruin his day. Sometimes they’d even be successful.

 

Sometimes had recently edged closer to frequently.

 

And it wasn’t like his family was much to be excited about. He didn’t exactly go back to the most welcoming household on breaks from school, but maybe that was a too personal thing to be thinking about moments before attempting not to spill his guts out to a complete stranger.

 

He wouldn’t, for the record. Spill his guts out. If he could help it, that is.

 

Chan had a habit of oversharing when he was nervous. Lack of sleep didn’t necessarily back this up well, either. He thought he might just doze off if he sat here any longer, but that was getting his hopes up.

 

A soft but firm voice put his vision back into focus, tightening the grip he had on the hem of his hoodie.

 

“Bang Chan?” the voice said, and Chan’s eyes drifted to the doorway of the back office, and oh.

 

Oh.

 

“That would be me,” Chan found himself saying, standing up and walking over to the stranger, following him into the office with an insistent pang in his chest. He closed the door behind himself, and the stranger gave him a kind smile, sitting down in a swivel chair behind a desk, neat stacks of paper almost covering it aside from a laptop. The man motioned for Chan to sit across from him, in a fairly comfortable-looking loveseat that he personally had no qualms about. In fact, the entire office looked rather comforting, but that was probably on purpose. It didn’t feel too small or constraining, didn’t give him an uneasiness like the waiting room did, and Chan felt impressed by the plaques displayed across the walls. The man himself even had some sort of aura about him that Chan couldn’t place, but it was definitely a good one.

 

He was also really fucking gorgeous, but Chan didn’t want to elaborate on that in particular.

 

“So. Bang Chan. Chan? Mr. Bang?” The therapist laughed, eyes crinkling at the corners, and that definitely did something to Chan. “From what I can gather, your mother set up this appointment, correct? Jisung—er, Mr. Han, the receptionist, mentioned to me only a couple minutes ago that you seemed pretty out of it in the waiting room. Uh. Over text. I see the confused look on your face, yeah that—I mean...not the most professional—uh. Yeah. Sorry.”

 

Chan cracked a grin. He couldn’t feel out of place in this guy’s presence, no matter what he had pictured him to be (maybe a scary old man? Chan knew that sounded ridiculous).

 

Not that he would have even known his therapist was a guy. His mom didn’t expand on too many details, only gave him an address and told him that this would be good for him.

 

“So!” The man clapped his hands together, a bright smile on his face that practically lit up the room. “I’m Mr. Kim, but you probably already knew that.” Chan didn’t. “How would you like me to refer to you?”

 

“Chan’s fine.”

 

Mr. Kim gaped at him. “I give you the chance to call yourself anything at all, and you choose your actual name?” He shook his head disappointedly, obviously trying to suppress a laugh. “How boring.”

 

It was Chan’s turn to gape at the stranger. “My first therapy session and you’re already insulting me,” he said in an accusatory manner, a teasing air about the two already. Chan was surprised at himself, the way he had just eased into a conversation like this. Sure, he was a loud and boisterous person most of the time, but with the shortage of rest he’s gotten lately, he had found it unlikely he would be bantering with his new therapist.

 

“Okay, Chan,” Mr. Kim said with emphasis, clearly feigning exasperation, “let’s get into it, shall we?”

 

Chan nodded, probably against his better judgment, but he was already here. It’s not like he was paying for it, and he didn’t have anything better to do.

 

It wouldn’t hurt to look at a hot guy for some 45 minutes.

 

“Alrighty. Sounds good,” Mr. Kim said, still beaming. “Your mother’s told me you’re in your junior year in college, 21 years old.” He looked up from his laptop, right into Chan’s eyes, and Chan was starting to think the feeling in his chest wasn’t necessarily all chalked up to a lack of sleep. “I remember how tough college was. Graduated last year, in fact. I’m 23 myself, just to assure you that I’m not some scary old man.”

 

Chan jumped up in his seat a bit, a giddy smile on his face. “That’s what I was just thinking about before I came in here!”

 

Mr. Kim laughed, and fuck, Chan couldn’t get tired of that sound no matter how hard he knew he would try.

 

His therapist continued. “You moved here from Australia when you were younger, and you’ve always wanted to major in music. That was my minor, actually, not to keep talking about myself,” Mr. Kim said, before furrowing his brow. “However, while talking to your mother over the phone, there was really only one reason she could give me when I asked why she wanted you to come to therapy in the first place.”

 

Chan nodded. “It could probably be any one of multiple things,” he started saying before he could stop himself. His face reddened, starting to find the floor incredibly interesting. God. Look at all those tiles, Chan.

 

The room went silent for a moment. “Chan,” he heard Mr. Kim whisper softly, and he couldn’t say that was helping with his embarrassment. He was being spoken to like a child.

 

Despite himself, Chan looked up at Mr. Kim again, taking a deep breath. “I didn’t mean when I said that that I’m, like, weird or something. I don’t have, like, a shitton of problems or—wait, am I allowed to curse in here?” Mr. Kim gave him a nod, the corners of his mouth quirking up, and Chan found that adorable. “I’m just, like. I don’t really know what reason my mother could have for sending me here. She’s only ever tried taking me to therapy once before, and that was because—”

 

Chan stopped himself. His heart skipped a couple beats. He didn’t know if he wanted to finish that sentence.

 

“Do you want to hear what she told me?” Mr. Kim asked, his voice careful and calm, eyes worried. Chan nodded.

 

“She explained to me that you have a condition? But when I asked her to expand on this, she refused to. Made it kind of hard to know how to go about this session, if I’m honest,” Mr. Kim said, tone trying to stay light.

 

Chan’s shoulders visually relaxed, releasing a breath he didn’t know he was holding in. “Oh, yeah. I have insomnia, and I probably haven’t dealt with it in the most healthy way. But I’m really trying, and maybe this will help me work out anything else further affecting that a bit? I also sometimes get panic attacks and ramble a lot, if she mentioned that, and, uh, why are you looking at me like that?” Chan asked, nervousness starting to build up again. While he was talking, Mr. Kim seemed to have gotten increasingly more confused, brows once again furrowing and eyes squinting a bit.

 

“Well, when I didn’t quite know what she meant, I listed off some reasons people often go to therapy. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, behavioral issues, things like that. Insomnia was something I explicitly mentioned, actually,” Mr. Kim explained, fingers absentmindedly tapping away at his desk while he spoke. “She said no to everything, said it was something she’s tried...curing before? I expressed to her that I’m no doctor, that I don’t ‘cure’ anything, and she told me that I’d understand what she meant once I asked you about it. And, well, do you understand? Because I sure as hell—I mean, I don’t.”

 

Chan sat there for a bit, biting away at his lip before diving straight in.

 

“She’s tried taking me to a therapist before. A different kind.” Chan gulped. “When I was a kid. Maybe she assumed they’re all the same.” They’re not. They’re not all the same.

 

Mr. Kim gave him a look, one he couldn’t describe even if he wanted to. “This seems like a sensitive subject, Chan. I hope you know that whatever reason she had for having you come to these sessions, it doesn’t matter, as long as you know why you should be here.”

 

Chan nodded. He kept nodding, he didn’t know why he was nodding. “Insomnia, probably. Overall stress. Maybe slight anxiety? I just know that I get really, really easily overwhelmed sometimes.” Like right now. He felt overwhelmed right here, right now and just a second ago he could have sworn he was fine.



Mr. Kim leaned forward in his seat, moving his laptop aside, the one Chan assumed told him what his mother had to say. There was concern written all over his face, and he looked like he was searching Chan’s expression for something, anything that could tell him what to ask at the moment.

 

The room was silent. Chan didn’t like it.

 

“How was your day?”

 

That certainly wasn’t what he was expecting.

 

“Do you not, uh. Want me to expand?” Chan asked confusedly, rubbing his neck. “I thought we were kind of on a roll,” although he didn’t like where it was headed. He wouldn’t say that out loud.

 

“You just told me that you’re easily overwhelmed, as well as shared very personal information within minutes of us meeting. I wouldn’t want you to expand on a topic you already seem worn out over. You’re stressed. So we’ll take a break, derail the conversation, and come back to the deep cuts later, yeah? You shouldn’t be forced into a vulnerable position for too long, only when you need it and only when it’s not too compromising.”

 

Mr. Kim thought for a second, before continuing. “Lots of people think therapy is entirely about vulnerability. But it’s also about listening to your patients. And I don’t mean having them spill their heart and soul for you to examine them, I mean listening to how they feel and reading the room to know when you’ve pushed too far and your patient is uncomfortable. Discomfort is important, and uncomfortable things need to be talked about to normalize how someone’s feeling and to make them realize that it’s okay, that how they feel is valid. But during your first session? I’d say we should lay off a bit.”

 

Chan sat in awe for a moment, not knowing what to say.

 

He ended up going with, “You’re fucking incredible.”

 

Mr. Kim laughed, something high pitched and airy and beautiful.

 

Chan couldn’t believe he had the privilege of hearing it.

 

When Mr. Kim had calmed himself down, Chan stuttered out the therapist’s name quietly. He gave a hum in response, indicating he was listening.

 

“Calling you Mr. Kim feels, like, really weird. Like you’re some man in your fifties or some shit. And I don’t know, it just doesn’t, like...fit you.”

 

“Are you asking me if you have permission to rename me?” Mr. Kim asked slowly, which sent Chan into a fit of giggles, Mr. Kim trying not to start laughing again himself.

 

“No, I mean, what’s your name? Or do you want me to keep calling you Mr. Kim? That’s fine if so, that might be like, therapist-patient status quo or something. I don’t really know how all this works.”

 

“Chan, it’s fine, I don’t mind. Especially if it makes you more comfortable speaking with me,” Mr. Kim assured, giving him a smile that could light up the sky holy fuck.

 

“My name’s Woojin. Kim Woojin.”

 

Chan liked that. He liked that a lot, actually.

 

“Alright, Woojin. Wanna hear about my incredibly interesting and not even slightly boring day?”

 

Woojin nodded, still grinning somehow. He did that so easily.

 

So Chan talked. He talked about how this was one of his last few days of school before Christmas break, and what his mother had said about therapists not getting Christmas breaks. He thought that was stupid. He said so, and Woojin agreed. And so he talked about what his mother had said about getting Chan “fixed,” about how this would be good for him and about how Changbin thought it’d be good too, and how Changbin’s his roommate and one of his best friends in the whole world. He talked about the dorm and the campus and how beautiful it was and how it was one of the brighter spots in Chan’s life, the place he found to be bustling with energy, constantly and unwaveringly, when Chan sometimes didn’t have the same excitement. He talked about the late nights he spent in the studios the music department provided, recording himself rapping and singing along with Changbin and some other friends of his, specifically Seungmin and Jeongin. He talked about the responsibility he felt for all of them, how he was so lucky to have them and what he’d do to keep them smiling for the rest of his life.

 

He talked about the amount of love he has for the people surrounding him, including his classmates. He describes his world and how everyone’s is different and how empathy and perspective and listening to others speak of themselves and what they’ve seen is so interesting and that he bets it’s pretty cool to be a therapist for that reason. And he might ramble on a bit too long about music and Woojin might just ask some questions that excite him into rambling even longer, about Changbin and him performing at bars and gathering up quite a crowd and creating some buzz around campus about an album or a mixtape or some professionally recorded music, which they’re definitely planning on getting worked out, by the way. And Chan’s almost done with most of the tracks, he just needs to add a couple things to some of them but he doesn’t necessarily know what and he thinks there’s some outside voice or presence they’re missing and sometimes it can be kind of lonely, just the two of them.

 

Chan talks about the receptionist (Jisung, he remembers Woojin calling him) and how he kept on chewing gum and how that was so fucking annoying and that made Woojin laugh like he hadn’t heard him laugh yet, some sort of cackle that Chan found so incredibly delightful that he could hardly explain it. He talks about how he noticed Jisung had a Day6 sticker on his phone case, a band Chan really liked and he started talking about them and said Jisung couldn’t be nearly as bad as he thought if he liked a group as good as them, and Woojin assured him he was a great guy.

 

And Chan kept talking. He talked a good 20 minutes, rattling off anything and everything he could and before he knew it he was out of breath. And at the same time, talking that much to someone he had just met felt like he was taking a deep breath for the first time in a long, long while. He shared some things about his insomnia he would never talk about to anyone other than Changbin, and he could hardly believe himself as words came pouring out of him before he could stop them.

 

And when he looked at Woojin, really looked instead of being lost in his own little universe, he saw a grin so wide it looked like it hurt. Chan was still gasping for air and his throat hurt a bit, just from that much vocalization, but he insisted on knowing why Woojin had that look about him like he had just won the lottery.

 

“Are you making fun of me?” Chan asked, pouting a bit and crossing his arms over his chest, heart rate slowing down only slightly.

 

“Not at all,” Woojin replied easily, and Chan realized he had been typing away at his laptop during their one-sided conversation, fingers flying across the keyboard. “I’m just amazed.”

 

“By what?” Chan asked. “I just talked away half of the session, and you’re amazed?”

 

Woojin’s eyes crinkled at the corners, and the small change in expression gave Chan butterflies in his stomach. “The way you speak, Chan…how should I put this,” Woojin pondered for a moment, before continuing. “It’s wonderful to listen to. It’s like...you have so much to say, so many stories and interesting bits and pieces of your life you aren’t afraid of sharing. I can tell you’re really fun to be around because of that; you just have such a spark.”

 

Chan blushed. He probably looked fucking stupid right now, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care.

 

“Do you talk like this with everybody? So animatedly?”

 

Chan thought for a moment. “It depends. Changbin? Definitely. Seungmin and Jeongin, too. Why?”

 

Woojin gave him a blank look. He took a breath, and something told Chan that what he was about to say would go back to the “deep cuts” Woojin spoke of avoiding earlier.

 

“Do you speak like this with your mother? Or your family in general?”

 

Chan felt a bit more prepared this time. It stung a little, but he was at therapy, after all. He couldn’t just talk about himself for hours; this was only the first session. Woojin was just letting him settle in before facing his actual issues.

 

Chan felt grateful for that.

 

“My family isn’t necessarily on very good terms with me. It’s hard to be happy around them, in a way,” Chan said. He might as well get it out of the way.

 

“Why do you think that is, Chan?” Woojin asked.

 

Chan didn’t need to think about that one.

 

“I’m not what they were expecting. I’m not the perfect son they’ve always wanted, I’m not a law student or a neurosurgeon or something fucking dumb like that. We’re only a happy, nuclear family when I’m out of the picture, when I’m not on break and not spending time at the house, which I try to avoid as much as possible.”

 

Woojin looked at him, and he felt like he needed to keep going, like Woojin was nudging him along.

 

“They’ll, uh. Sometimes,” Chan starts up, a joking tone already lacing his voice, “Sometimes they’ll show my picture to more distant family or friends and go, ‘Here’s little Channie, carefree and handsome and going to school to become an industrial engineer!’ They lie about everything, right down to the details, and they’re, they, uh, they’re ashamed of me. My mom and dad especially. Sometimes my siblings would feel bad for me, before my parents told them. About me. About my, uh, the ‘condition’ my mom probably wanted me to come to you for.”

 

Woojin’s hands were clenched into fists.

 

He had stopped typing long ago.

 

“And what would that condition be?” he asked, tone steady and quiet.

 

“Do you wanna hear how my father said it? How he ‘called it like it is’?” Chan asked. There was a hint of desperation in his voice, like he had relived it in his head a thousand times. He definitely had, and Woojin was probably close to assuming that.

 

The therapist’s expression had twisted into one of pain.

 

“I had...I had come home one night when I was 16, and I walked into my room and my dad was staring at my computer, at what he’d found on it. He looked at it for only a moment, and then he got up and walked over to me. He didn’t spare me a glance, he put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed hard, so hard it hurt and it continued to hurt for the rest of the night.”

 

“You can stop if you need to, Chan. There’s no pressure to tell me everything right away,” Woojin said hurriedly, eyes widening. Chan didn’t hear him.

 

“He stopped there and put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘This isn’t my son. You’re not my son. Until you’ve decided to stop being a dirty fucking sinner, you will not be my son.’”

 

Woojin stood up from his chair immediately, rounded the desk to kneel down in front of Chan, looking some mixture of hurt and angry. More than anything, he looked like he wanted to comfort Chan, in any way possible.

 

“It’s like…” Chan began, his chest beginning to heave. Tears were falling, but there was also some strange calm that had washed over him. Like he was numb to it at this point, which of course wasn’t true, but he could pretend for a second that he was. Maybe for Woojin’s benefit. “It’s like he was trying to convince himself, that he didn’t say he loved me every day before that, like he forgot who I was and didn’t want to remember. He forced himself to believe that a stranger was living in his home, and he made it clear to me every single time I saw him. He—”

 

“Chan—”

 

“—he hasn’t—”

 

“Chan, please, you’re hyperventilating—"

 

“My own father hasn’t looked me in the eye in over 5 years.”

 

Woojin grabbed at Chan’s hands, squeezed them tightly. Chan might’ve flushed if he wasn’t already anxious.

 

“Let me say this, Chan, not as a therapist, but as someone who’s just two years older than you, someone who’s hardly known you but feels like...we could be good friends.” Woojin gave him a strained smile, one Chan was grateful for and tried reciprocating through quick gasps of air. “I think we have a lot in common in regards to what you’re going through now, and I need you to listen to something I wish I would’ve been told a few years back. Can you do that for me?”

 

Chan nodded slowly, gasps turning into whimpers he couldn’t say he was proud of.

 

Woojin tightened his grip, and Chan suddenly became much less aware of the sobs rising in his throat, only focusing on the man in front of him and what he had to say, a practical stranger and yet the only person Chan could turn to right now.

 

“When people have an idea drilled into them as deeply as your parents seem to have, it’s hard for them to come back from that. If nothing’s changed in your relationship with your parents in the past 5 years, if no progress has been made, I honest to God believe there’s not a lot of salvaging that can be done. But that in no way means it’s impossible, and that definitely doesn’t mean you’re at fault for that.”

 

Woojin’s eyes softened, and Chan’s tears seemed to have stalled. “The best thing you can do right now is surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through, who support you indefinitely. They’re out there, hell, you’ve talked about some of them, and it seems like you’re in need of some helping hands right now. You aren’t different, you aren’t dirty, and you know that, I know you know that. So when you’re around people that know that just as well as you, it builds you up. Talk to them about how you feel, even if it’s a fleeting conversation that doesn’t go anywhere. Let them be there for you and love you and care for you, because I’m sure they do.”

 

Chan inhaled shakily, still coming down from his panic attack. “I don’t want to burden them with how I feel.”

 

Woojin gave him a careful look. “Do you think you feel like a burden when sharing your feelings because of how your parents react to them?”

 

Chan nodded. That definitely had something to do with it.

 

“Do you trust your friends with your emotions?”

 

Chan shook his head rapidly. “I barely trust myself with my emotions.” He thought for a moment, then gave Woojin a hopeful smile, trying not to let his voice break. “But I think I can work on that.”

 

Woojin returned the smile. “That’s all I could ever ask of you, Chan.”

 

The man stood up, leaving Chan sat on the loveseat in favor of the swivel chair behind the desk.

 

“I’m afraid time’s up, but I’m expecting you back next week, yeah?” Woojin asked.

 

“Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think...I think that was good for me,” Chan replied, rising and standing awkwardly in the middle of Woojin’s office.

 

Woojin nodded in agreement, giving him a small wave and a smile, teeth showing. “See you then, Chan.”



And so Chan left, gave Jisung a nod as he passed through the waiting room, and he thought long and hard on his ride back to the dorm. Thought about Changbin, about Seungmin and Jeongin, about his parents and about his new therapist.

 

He thought a lot about his new therapist.

 

Talking like that with someone he barely knew felt healthy, in a way. And while he was still just as tired as he had been before he got there, maybe even more so, he could mentally rest for a moment as he looked out the bus window.

 

He felt a bit at peace, thanks to Woojin. Like he had something to look forward to.

 

Next Thursday couldn’t come fast enough.

Chapter Text

Patient #16 - Session One Notes

 

Name: Bang Chan (Information provided by mother)

 

Preferred Name: Chan 

 

Age: 21 (Information provided by mother)

 

Occupation: Research assistant, patient is currently a junior in college majoring in industrial engineering (Information provided by mother) Patient is currently a junior in college and majors in music. Major was lied about by mother, as was the patient's occupation, presumably. Performs on the side with a friend, Changbin, presumably to make money. Will have to ask if patient has an occupation outside of bar shows.

 

Conditions and details of mental state to keep in mind: Unspecified condition (Information provided by mother). Will have to ask about this later. Insomnia, panic attacks along with possible anxiety, easily overwhelmed, stressed often. Patient, despite all of this, positively lights up the room when speaking of his passions and his interests seems to enjoy life outside of mental stressors.

 

Additional information: Moved from Australia at a young age. Always wanted to major in music, however the patient decided industrial engineering was the best path for him to take (Information provided by mother). Has been taken to therapy before by mother, however what kind of therapy and for how long has been unspecified. Has a sizable group of friends and produces music with them, specifically "Changbin." His eyes shine Patient rambles, as well as falls into conversation easily, when talking of life and what he loves. Family is unsupportive of patient's sexuality and endeavors. Will delve into this further in later sessions. Mother seems to be a fucking pathological liar has been found to have provided inaccurate answers about the patient over the phone.

 

Session Summary: Patient is easygoing during most of the session. Curses, jokes around, and has an attractive way about him electric personality. Smiles a lot, is easily flustered. Seems to enjoy avoiding conflict when conflict is presented. Presents a fairly positive exterior and doesn't want to seem "weird." Incredibly insecure when vulnerable, however this is a common trait of the general population. Thinks I'm incredible. His words, not mine Appreciates the therapeutic methods I've exhibited thus far. Will have to keep this in mind for future sessions. Finds comfort in referring to me by my first name. Friends seem to care about him monumentally, and patient cares for them just the same. Fucking astonishing Incredible passion for music. Relationship with family doesn't seem to be salvageable but I would love to tell him that there's still hope, like they told me. Patient's excuse of a father is an asshole that doesn't deserve the son he has shows aggression and seems to care not for his son's feelings. Seems in denial of son's sexuality.

 

Progress made: Patient is willing to improve understanding of his emotions, as well as opening up to his friends about them further. Had a breakdown during the session when family was brought up, but recovered quickly. As patient is kind-hearted, sociable, and absolutely stunning has a certain awareness of his mental health, as well as how to better it, I see a positive outcome stemming from our future therapy sessions.

 

Personal additions: Jesus Christ. Jesus fucking Christ. Holy shit holy shit holy shit None.

Chapter Text

Chan walked into the waiting room of one of his new favorite buildings, phone expertly balanced between the side of his face and his shoulder as he signed in at the receptionist's desk, giving Jisung a tired smile. His mother had been trying to get a hold of him for the better part of two hours and he had answered as soon as he started making his way to the bus stop. She hadn’t stopped bombarding him with questions since then, however, about how his first therapy session had went, and goddamn could she not have called him earlier in the week? Maybe before the one day he was actually busy?

 

He swears she has some personal vendetta against him.

 

And he just knows from the look on Jisung’s face right now, wide smile and raised eyebrows, that he has something to tell him. Maybe about that hot Tinder date he had been so incredibly excited about last week? Chan couldn’t tell, but whatever it was, he would rather listen to it leagues more than his mother, who seemed to be talking about…

 

Uh.

 

Chan hadn’t been paying much attention.

 

He pointed to his phone and mouthed a quick “we’ll be done soon” towards Jisung, who gave him two thumbs up before Chan made his way to one of the seats in the waiting room, looking just as stiff as he remembered them to be. He tuned back in to his mother’s rambling, and sighed audibly into the phone as he sat down.

 

“Mother, it’s been nice catching up, but I really do have to go soon. I’ll be called into Woojin’s office any minute now,” Chan reminded.

 

“You call your therapist by his first name?” his mother asked, surprise clear in her voice. “I thought you were more respectful than that, Channie!”

 

Chan rolled his eyes. “He says he’s fine with it as long as it makes me more comfortable.” He paused for a second, smiling softly to himself. “And it does, by the way. Make me more comfortable.”

 

His mother scoffed, which he was expecting. He could almost laugh at how ridiculous she acted at the smallest things he would say to her. “I don’t see how intimacy with your therapist helps anyone in this situation.”

 

Chan had to take a second to respond, not too keen on passive-aggressively cursing into his phone in a public place today.

 

He collected himself quickly. “His first name is not an intimate detail. We hardly know each other.”

 

A bitter laugh could be heard from his mother’s end, one that he had to grit his teeth at on pure instinct.

 

“‘Hardly know each other’?” his mother pressed, sounding fed up. “You’ve been raving about this man for half an hour, about how much he ‘understands you’ and that he ‘listens to you openly.’ Do you think I’m dumb, Christopher?”

 

Chan would prefer not to answer that one.

 

“A therapist is supposed to listen and understand, mother. Is it too much for me to tell you he’s good at his fucking job when you’re the one asking about it?”

 

“Bang Chan!” his mother shrieked through the phone, to the point where Chan had to hold it farther away from his face if he didn’t want to go deaf. “I’m absolutely appalled at your attitude today! When you come home for break, we’re talking about this immediately!”

 

“Not if I don’t come home,” Chan found himself mumbling before he could stop. His eyes widened once he realized his mistake, and he heard the line go incredibly quiet.

 

“Would you like to elaborate, Channie?” his mother asked, a silent threat behind every careful word.

 

Chan couldn’t believe they were having this discussion in the middle of the fucking waiting room.

 

He looked up and made accidental eye contact with Jisung, who was obviously trying to seem busy and not at all like he was eavesdropping. Then again, who could blame him.

 

Chan took a deep breath.

 

“Woojin-uh, my therapist, thinks it would be best for my mental health if I surrounded myself with supportive individuals. We both know that doesn’t include you, and it especially doesn’t include father.”

 

Silence.

 

Chan thought his phone might’ve broken for a moment, and he checked the screen only to find that he had been hung up on.

 

He couldn’t say he was surprised.

 

She couldn’t hold a conversation with him like a normal, mature adult. She had to make things all about her, to include herself in every aspect of Chan’s life, to ask about things Chan didn’t want to discuss with someone he related to on such a miniscule level. He had nothing to say to his mother these days, and she was simply balancing out the quiet on his end to make things less awkward. Except that didn’t work, she knew it would never work, and yet she kept on trying. Like she hadn’t been a prime source of his misery for years upon years.

 

“Alright over there?” he heard a small voice ask, one he knew belonged to a certain receptionist, and Chan found himself making his way back over to Jisung as he shoved his phone into his pocket, albeit slightly aggressively.

 

“Yeah, everything’s fine,” Chan said unconvincingly, hyper aware of the fact that Jisung had just heard his entire phone call.

 

Jisung gave Chan a sad smile, leaning over his desk and propping himself up on his elbows. “Don’t let whatever just happened ruin your day, alright? I’m sure ol’ Wooj can help you out.”

 

Chan snorted at that, but he just knew he had some dumb grin on his face, the thought of seeing a man as fucking ethereal as Woojin again making him giddy.

 

“And speaking of Woojin,” Jisung started, a sly smile forming. “You sure do look dressed to impress today, Chan. Anyone you got your eye on?” Jisung wiggled his eyebrows in quick succession, and whatever thoughts were going through his head at the moment, Chan really didn’t want to know.

 

“This is how I dress every day,” Chan insisted, although he knew that wasn’t true. His last session he had walked in wearing a hoodie that hadn’t been washed in weeks, luxuriously paired with sweatpants stained from spilled takeout. He surely swept Woojin off his feet with that look.

 

Today, he might have tried just a bit harder.

 

And by that, he means that Seungmin went through his clothing for almost an hour, throwing anything tattered or unpresentable into a pile Changbin had labelled incredibly inappropriately.

 

Anything that had been left in the closet after that massacre, Chan scoured through for almost the entirety of his morning, finally deciding on something that he felt looked acceptable. A white button up, leather jacket, and black jeans with converse didn’t necessarily scream “fancy,” but Jisung was right, it was a definite improvement from last week.

 

The receptionist gave him a confused look, inhaling before making a face. “Are you wearing perfume?”

 

Okay, so maybe Chan had tried really hard today.

 

He attempted to form a reasonable explanation in response to Jisung’s prodding, interrupted almost immediately by the opening of the office door from behind him. A gentle call of “Bang Chan” was heard, and Chan gave Jisung a smile before turning to see the cause of the butterflies beginning to rise in his stomach.

 

If Kim Woojin had looked good the last time Chan saw him, how could he even begin to describe him this time?

 

It seemed like the round glasses perched on the edge of the man’s nose were going to be the death of him for today.

 

Chan walked into the office, closing the door behind him and making himself comfortable in the loveseat as Woojin sat down across from him, giving him a warm smile.

 

And maybe it was just wishful thinking on his part, but Chan could have sworn Woojin’s eyes grazed over his outfit, making the hours he had spent that morning trying to find something that made him look like a functioning member of society all worth it.

 

“Welcome back, Chan,” Woojin said happily, grinning from ear to ear as he opened up his laptop. “I have to say that your sessions will probably end up being the highlight of my extremely dull weeks. You seem to brighten up the office.”

 

Chan would be lying if he said he didn’t blush.

 

“Now, before we get into it, can I just go ahead and ask a question I forgot to get to last week?” Woojin asked, looking sorry.

 

Chan nodded. “It’s all good, man. One question won’t take out tons of time from our session. Unless it’s, like, a really, really long question. That might, uh. Take a while. If it was long. You know.”

 

Chan wanted to bash his head into the desk.

 

Woojin laughed, and fuck if Chan hadn’t honest to god missed that sound. “I just wanted to know if you had an occupation outside of the gigs you do with Changbin. Your mother gave me an answer over the phone, but some of the other answers she gave me were...wildly inaccurate, so I can assume this was, too.”

 

Chan groaned. Leave it to her to lie to his goddamn therapist.

 

“Jesus Christ, I’m sorry about that. If I had known she wanted me to go to therapy before she literally signed me up without asking me, I would have called you myself.”

 

“You had no say in that, though,” Woojin said, a frown beginning to form on his face.

 

“I suppose I didn’t,” Chan replied, keeping a light tone of voice despite discussing his mother only minutes into their session. “And I do a couple jobs on the side, by the way, outside of performing. Bussing tables, mostly, but I also give vocal and production lessons to some music majors around campus.”

 

Woojin whistled. “That’s a lot to take on, Chan.” He thought for a second, looking up from his laptop. “Do you think a majority of the stress you feel on a day to day basis could be contributed to by this workload?”

 

Chan could almost laugh at the question, if it weren’t nearly as true as he knew it was. He would come home every night to the dorm, tired and sore from all the shit he put himself through just to make a living and be able to keep himself from starving. And even then, after a long day, he would work on his music.

 

The hours tended to blur together.

 

But what didn’t go by in a flash were the hours he spent staring up at his ceiling, wanting so desperately to fall asleep. And when he finally did, he’d wake up not long after and the process repeated itself. It’d been like that for almost 3 years now, and Chan didn’t see any end in sight.

 

Chan gave Woojin a sheepish smile. “On top of schoolwork, the jobs, and the time I spend in the studio, I hardly have any time to enjoy myself anymore. It’s like the life’s been sucked out of me since I got accepted into college.”

 

“But you enjoy the time you spend with Changbin, singing and rapping for people, right?” Woojin asked. “It’s practically all you could talk about last session.” Chan’s face fell a bit, and Woojin must’ve noticed, because he immediately looked apologetic. “Not that that’s bad or anything. I loved hearing you talk about your dreams and what you’re looking forward to when it comes to your music career. I’m sure you’ll be successful in all of your endeavors, Chan.”

 

And Chan’s heard that a lot, from people he’d meet in bars pushing past one in the morning, or even dates he’d opened up a bit too much to. But the genuine faith Woojin seemed to have in him, each word confident and clear, made Chan smile harder than he’d smiled in a long, long time.

 

Woojin’s eyes absolutely lit up, an indescribable sparkle that Chan could never possibly get bored of, and he couldn’t believe he was lucky enough to witness that.

 

“You respond so graciously to compliments,” Woojin observed, and Chan honestly hadn’t noticed that about himself up until this point.

 

“Well, when they’re coming from someone as fucking magnificent as you, I think my reactions are understandable.”

 

Woojin flushed at that, eyes glancing up from his laptop to Chan, back down at whatever he had been typing, and back up again. Chan found that more adorable than he could possibly even begin to describe, but he kept that to himself.

 

“But to answer your question, I enjoy performing a ton, yeah.”

 

‘A ton’ was barely scratching the surface, and as soon as the words left Chan’s mouth, he made this very clear.

 

“It’s like. God, I don’t even know how to explain it,” Chan started, taking a deep breath. “When I’m onstage, or even in some corner of a club, sharing what I’ve worked so damn hard on for literal years of my life, all those late nights just seem to...fade away somehow. Like all that work that’s had me stressed out of my mind suddenly becomes irrelevant, like it doesn’t even matter in that moment. Because I’m on some sort of high from just singing my heart out, or rapping with my best friend, and there’s some added punch of adrenaline to it all when they’re our lyrics, our beats, our melodies.” Chan looks Woojin in the eye, an infectious smile tugging at his lips as he speaks. “Sometimes the crowd will sing back to us. Sometimes they know the words. Holy shit, Woojin, when they fucking know the words.”

 

Woojin laughed at the excitement building up in Chan’s expression. It was like he had aged backwards, completely carefree and all worry left without a trace.

 

He was taken aback, however, when the expression solidified into something more serious. It was a complete 180 from what Chan had just felt, and it kind of gave him whiplash, to think about how Chan’s thoughts ran at a mile a minute.

 

“People can try taking shit away from me, you know,” Chan said quietly, still speaking to Woojin directly with conviction apparent in his voice. “They can hurt my pride and knock me down and take away some of the fondness I have for simply being alive. But the day someone takes away the love I have for music, the fucking contentment I find in it, that’ll be the day I have nothing left to offer.”

 

Woojin sat there for a moment, not knowing what to say.

 

“I think you’re selling yourself short,” Woojin said slowly, speaking with caution. “It’s clear to me that music means the world to you, that you rely on it a lot for comfort in your everyday life. But you’re not only worth what you create. Your sole purpose isn’t to work to the point of exhaustion each night, because while your work is important to you and you use it to connect with people, that doesn’t mean it has to drown out everything else life provides. You need free time, Chan, probably more than anyone I’ve ever met, and maybe the satisfaction you’d gain from this relaxation could help you understand how much more you are than just music.”

 

The gears were turning in Chan’s head, trying to think about how he could apply what Woojin said to improving himself and his mental health rather than being aware of the fact he was blushing at Woojin’s unfiltered and fucking natural kindness. While he was being logical and giving sound advice, Woojin also managed to somehow put his trust in Chan, put trust in the idea that Chan is more than what he thinks he is.

 

That did something to Chan in a way he couldn’t justify at the moment.

 

“So are you saying I should take a break, spend some time to find out who I am outside of my music?” Chan asked, wanting to be sure he was understanding correctly.

 

“It doesn’t have to be a long break or anything, but I think overall, taking some things off of your workload would be good for you.”

 

Chan nodded, beginning to warm up to the idea. “Yeah, I think I could do that. And you’re right,” Chan added, smiling. “I really do need it.”

 

Woojin smiled right back, and the endearing expression playing at his face along with the bright eyes looking at him through thinly-framed glasses made Chan’s heart do some funny thing he still wasn’t willing to look into.

 

“Speaking of you making progress and being incredibly impressive constantly,” Woojin began, and holy fuck he needed to stop praising him or Chan might implode on himself, “how have you been doing so far since last week when it comes to surrounding yourself with support? Has your situation improved?”

 

Chan thought back to the phone call he had with his mother right before this session, and in some odd way it made him want to jump for joy.

 

“I told her I wouldn’t come home over Christmas break, and I think I’m going through with it,” Chan stated confidently.

 

Spending the holidays with his best friends rather than those who couldn’t stand to even look at him sounded so fucking appealing right now.

 

And someone else currently appealed to Chan right now, too, as he gave him that dazzling smile that might as well have been the eighth wonder of the world, as far as Chan was concerned.

 

“I’m so proud of you for sticking up for yourself, Chan. You might be relaxing soon enough to avoid the stress you get from overworking yourself, but you’ll also be avoiding the stress of people who refuse to come to terms with who you are. It’s only been two weeks and you’ve already amazed me with how much effort you put into bettering yourself. It’s astonishing, really. You’re fucking astonishing”

 

Chan flushed for what must have been the hundredth time that day, but he couldn’t care enough to feel embarrassed. The pride Woojin felt in Chan, he in turn felt for himself, and he was so grateful for these sessions when they’ve barely even begun.

 

Chan had felt a weight lift off his shoulders both times he’d spoken to Woojin, and he didn’t think next week would be any different. The amount of comfort he had been given made him feel like he wasn’t alone, like the fight he fought every day could be lessened if only he could keep this feeling of serenity deep in his chest.

 

So he held that feeling there, as if it were tangible, as he thanked Woojin for the session and Woojin thanked him back, and he began to walk out of the office when he barely picked up his name being called, quiet and tender and completely Woojin.

 

Chan turned around, leaning against the doorframe and grinning uncontrollably at the man before him. “Yes?”

 

Woojin inhaled sharply, looking like he was mentally preparing himself to say something. He looked Chan up and down, finally glancing back up and holding eye contact. A small smile formed at his lips.

 

“You look really good today.”

 

Chan couldn’t really remember what happened from that point forward, only the concerned words Jisung shouted after him as he practically sprinted out of the building, trying not to beam from head to toe as he ran all the way to his bus stop, face more red than it had probably ever been.

 

And yet, he just knew he was going to be thanking Seungmin for the rest of the year for throwing out the godawful portion of his wardrobe.

 

God. He was so genuinely, utterly, indescribably fucked.

Chapter Text

Patient #16 - Session Two Notes

 

Name: Bang Chan

 

Occupation (Updated Information): Patient is currently a junior in college and majors in music. Busses tables and gives vocal and production lessons to other music majors. Performs on the side with a friend, Changbin, presumably to make money.

 

Session Summary: Patient seemed equally as eager to attend this second session as I was, noticeably more radiant happier and more lighthearted this session than he had been last week. This could be attributed to the discussion of less sensitive topics, of course. Still noticed the bags under his eyes. Can't help worrying about that. Updated information on patient's occupation after asking about it, and have subsequently learned his workload is almost terrifyingly intense. He just smiled so fucking brightly at me fuck fuck f Patient called me magnificent has stated performance is a true love of his, despite the stress his multiple jobs has put him under. The way he looks at me speaks of his passions makes it evident that he finds purpose in the music he creates, however he seems to have a problem with differentiating his music from who he is as a person. He's so much fucking more than that Patient definitely needs some time to himself, to reflect and discover himself more deeply than he already has. Seems to have rather fair self-awareness, but gets caught up in his creations to the point where he can't relax. He deserves some rest at this point, it's almost ridiculous how diligent he is. 

 

Progress made: Patient has taken my advice from last session on surrounding himself with people who are supportive of his decisions, as well as who he is. Told his mother he would be distancing himself over Christmas break. Patient seems secure in this choice, and I'm so goddamn proud of him glad to see this progression in how he copes with his dumbass discouraging family members. When I called him astonishing, I meant it. Patient has also decided to take a short break from music-related activities, to attempt self-discovery and a better understanding of himself. Such an exercise would also connect with a topic from last week's session, relating to a comprehension of one's own emotions and how to manage them. Patient seems to be good at everything he does in touch with how he feels and how to express himself often, especially through music, however sifting through one's thoughts deeply and initiating introspection is something the patient would definitely benefit from. 

 

Personal additions: Forgot to ask patient about advancement of trust in relationships he holds with his friends as I was slightly...distracted. Chan Patient looked absolutely fucking breathtaking today, and that's genuinely the only way I can describe it also seemed to be much more animated this session. Will have to bring up both topics next week if he doesn't wear a fucking leather jacket again and make me forget my own damn name. Patient scrambled to leave my office after complimenting him. Was kind of really, really cute was as likable and kind as the last time I saw him. God he's gorgeous and today he just looked so good I swear he did it on purpose fucking Christ No further personal additions. 

Chapter Text

Chan could practically feel Jisung’s eyes boring into him as he plopped down into a chair in the waiting room, letting out a sigh and slowly leaning back, head resting against the wall. He let his eyes flutter shut for a brief moment, taking in everything his day had offered him and trying not to break down only moments after walking in for therapy. He knew he would have to sign in soon, but he would give anything at this point to sit for just a moment longer. To collect himself and walk into Woojin’s office with confidence. That would be ideal.

 

Idealities couldn’t always be expected of a person, and that in no way excluded Bang Chan.

 

See, Chan had formed a plan in his head when he left therapy last week. The start of Christmas break sounded refreshing and exciting, especially after the shortened classes the campus had been blessed with in preparation. Spending the holidays with Changbin’s family was at the top of his list of priorities, along with relaxing for awhile and hanging with friends instead of focusing so immensely on their mixtape currently in the works. And with school out for the next month or so, he had even less to worry about. What could be better than that?

 

He was ready for a break nothing short of legendary, nothing short of late nights staying up watching movies with his best friend in the entire world, inviting Seungmin and Jeongin over for quick jam sessions before plopping down on Changbin’s leather sofa to binge some show they’d found on Netflix a couple days ago, nothing short of walks to the bowling alley, or a restaurant, or anywhere far enough away from his parents’ house to give Chan some peace of mind.

 

And then something had happened that Chan hadn’t been prepared for, an alternative that he hadn’t seen coming after two weeks of improvement, a new spark for being alive having ignited in him.

 

He became afraid.

 

He had called his mother during an anxiety attack the last day of classes before break, not wanting his friends to feel responsible or worried for him. After less than 24 hours of avoiding the recording studios and the keyboard in the corner of his and Changbin’s room, Chan had decided he felt utterly useless and explained this with pained cries threatening to come up from his throat, some place deep in his chest twisted with such anger at himself, that he couldn’t complete a task assigned by Woojin as simple as putting a pause on his avid working.

 

Mother picked him up from the dorm before he even thought to ask. He wanted to leave the moment he stepped into the house; he could see his father tensing up in front of the TV before Chan had even taken his shoes off.

 

He went back to his old room and slept for maybe an hour or so. He woke up and ignored the ten calls from Changbin and endless texts from all of his friends. He was supposed to be at the Seo household. He didn’t call anyone back, didn’t reply to a single person, just dragged himself out of bed with bloodshot eyes from all the crying and minimal sleep he had gotten and he stood in the middle of his childhood room, wondering how the hell he had gotten there when he knew he couldn’t bear to stay.

 

His mother would bring food in for him. He would stare at the ceiling, think about all the things he wanted to do over break and how he fucked them all up. He would leave the confines of the four walls, his own personal hell that he had trapped himself in, only to use the restroom before returning.

 

It was a fucking miracle that he somehow forced himself to hop on a bus and come to therapy today. He had no idea how he managed that.

 

Tears were spilling from Chan’s eyes even now, Jisung’s eyebrows furrowed into a worried expression from behind the receptionist desk. Chan wanted to get up and talk to him, tell him everything that had happened to him in the past week, tell him how life was this endless shithole of a cycle he couldn’t seem to break away from. But Jisung wasn’t his therapist, they barely knew each other, in fact, and as much as Chan hated that they hadn’t exchanged numbers yet and hung out outside of such a professional setting, he couldn’t stand up just yet. If he could only wallow in his own fucking self pity a second longer, if he could just ignore the phone that had been buzzing in his pocket since Friday night, maybe things would be okay. Maybe bottling everything up was the solution; it had been his solution until he met Kim Woojin.

 

Jesus fuck, Woojin was in for a rough session.

 

As Chan was unsuccessfully attempting to collect himself, a man he had never seen before walked into the waiting room, approaching Jisung with a warm smile and giving him a quick kiss on the lips. The stranger plopped a bag of fast food on his desk, and Jisung could have stolen the stars from the sky with how brightly his eyes lit up at the gesture. Chan tried not to stare, but he couldn’t help but hear words spoken a bit too loudly amidst their hushed conversation, both men glancing at Chan every so often before continuing. The visitor left not long afterwards, only staying for maybe five minutes, and as he did he gave Chan a warm and hopeful smile before walking out the door.

 

“We made it too obvious we were talking about you, didn’t we?” Chan heard a quiet voice from across the room, eyes leading him to the receptionist with still furrowed eyebrows, his cheeks puffed out a bit. Chan laughed weakly, and all of a sudden he found himself standing before Jisung, having finally walked to his desk in a split second decision.

 

“I mean, I can’t blame you for worrying about a patient having a meltdown in your waiting room,” Chan said sheepishly, voice cracking a tad. “I mean, I assume you were worrying.”

 

“Yeah, no shit, Chan,” Jisung said concernedly, reaching over the desk to wipe the wetness under Chan’s eyes with the corner of his sleeve. “What happened? Do you, like, want a hug or something?”

 

Chan tried to force a smile, but his lips betrayed him as they began to quiver again. His expression morphed into one of agony and he could feel his throat tightening up. Jisung immediately walked around the desk, wrapping one arm around Chan’s neck and another around his midsection, rubbing his back comfortingly as tears fell once more. They stood there in the waiting room, Chan trying to pull away and insist that he was fine, but Jisung only tightened his grip on the man he saw only once a week.

 

Jisung had a heart of gold, and Chan couldn’t be more thankful for him in this moment.

 

“Something really fucked you up, huh?”

 

All Chan could do was nod. They fucked him up so badly, to the point where he couldn’t be happy over one of the few breaks from school he would get during the year. Chan always found himself going back to them, no matter how much time he wanted to spend with Changbin and Jeongin and Seungmin and any of his other friends. He had no clue why he couldn't just...let himself be free of them, but he couldn't. He didn't. He wouldn't.

 

Jisung finally let go of his torso, immediately grabbing Chan’s hands in his own and squeezing them.

 

“You aren’t alone, Chan, you know that? You have a place here, among all of this. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.”

 

Jisung said every word with conviction, like he could do nothing but believe in Chan with everything he had.

 

“And I know,” Jisung started again, taking a deep breath. “I know I’m just some guy. I know we don’t know each other. But, uh.”

 

Jisung pulled his phone out of his pocket, messing with it momentarily before handing it to Chan, a blank contact pulled up for him to fill out.

 

“I’ve seen what you can do. I’ve see you perform around campus, you know,” Jisung said, a smile tugging at his lips. “I’m a sophomore, after all, and I just. I’d love to talk music with you sometime. Your passion is so apparent and amazing to watch and it makes me want to get to know you and befriend you and shit, if that’s alright with you?”

 

Chan laughed, genuinely laughed through all of the bullshit he was feeling at the moment, and typed his number into Jisung’s phone, handing it back to him. “God knows I could use a friend right about now.” Chan pulled out his own phone, letting Jisung put his number in as well.

 

“Christ, dude, so many people are texting you right now. Are you sure you need me?” Jisung joked, however there was clear worry in his voice.

 

Chan checked his phone, trying to ignore the ache in his heart as he saw over 400 texts and 30 missed calls. Most were from Changbin, and they ranged anywhere from “where are you asshole????” to “jesus fuck holy shit chan please come back you’ve been ghosting for a fucking week and i don’t know what to do i’m so fucking scared please i won’t be mad just let me know where you are and if you’re okay.”

 

Chan felt it all hit him again for what seemed to be the tenth time that day, and was going to fucking lose it if it weren’t for the creak of the office door, making Chan turn around as soon as he heard it.

 

He saw the familiar face and reassuring smile, always patient and beautiful and present when he needed it most.

 

He found himself walking forward, straight into the office without a single greeting, Woojin giving him a confused look and mouthing something to Jisung that Chan couldn’t quite make out as he practically collapsed onto the loveseat he had missed so fucking much.

 

Woojin shut the door gently behind him as he walked back into the office, sitting down in his desk chair. He was obviously trying to hide the stress clawing at his features, underneath the surface of his skin that Chan somehow just knew was there.

 

“Hello, Chan, it’s nice to-”

 

“Are you alright?”

 

The interruption was sudden, Chan wasn’t even thinking, and as soon as the words escaped his lips he regretted them. He waved his hands a bit, as if he were trying to deflect the embarrassment he felt, a blush creeping up his neck. “I didn’t mean to cut you off, sorry, it’s just been a long week and I don’t think I’m in any state to be in public, talking to people and shit. God. Sorry, fuck.” Chan closed his eyes for a moment to sigh, opening them once more to see Woojin grinning slightly.

 

He had missed the beautiful bastard.

 

“Chan, it’s quite alright,” Woojin said. “There’s no need to apologize in this office. I hope you haven’t forgotten that since our last session, yes?”

 

Chan nodded wordlessly. He didn’t want to keep sounding stupid.

 

“And, to answer your earlier question,” Woojin went on, “I think I’ll be doing much better after talking with you, if I’m being honest.”

 

Chan couldn’t help but giggle at that, slapping a hand over his mouth as soon as he caught himself.

 

He was doing it again.

 

Falling for people just as quickly as he had met them, that seemed to be the ongoing theme of Chan’s college experience. People just made him so fucking happy to be around, learning about others’ individual lives and expressing interest in them. He could say the same exact thing was happening here with Woojin, and pretty quickly by Chan’s standards, as much as he would like to forget that.

 

But it would practically kill him, wouldn’t it? To see his parents one more time in public by accident, hand in hand with whatever love interest he had found himself enticed in this time. To see the disappointment fall over their faces as they realized their son hadn’t grown out of his sexuality, hadn’t abandoned the “hobby” of loving who he can’t help but love.

 

It’s utter fucking shit. It’s shit and he shouldn’t have to deal with it.

 

“Chan? Chan, you’re zoning out.”

His eyes snapped forward, refocusing on Woojin. “Christ, I’m sorry, I’m so out of it right now. There’s so much going on and I don’t know if you’re gonna want to unload all of it.”

 

Woojin shook his head. “That’s my job, Chan. I’m a therapist, after all. No problem is too unnecessary or too miniscule to be mentioned in a session. Admitting how you’re feeling can more often than not lead to the source of those feelings. Does that sound doable for today?” He asked the question with such care, thought put into each and every word he spoke, and Chan couldn’t be more appreciative.

 

“Yeah. Yeah, I think I can manage that,” Chan said, breathing deeply, and trying to keep his eyes on the man in front of him rather than straying away, an underlying fear of letting go of everything hurting him at the moment. Hell, he would be letting go of everything that had been hurting him for a goddamn week .

 

But he trusted Woojin, and he wanted someone to listen. With all of the missed calls and texts eating away at him, he still needed someone right now.

 

That person just happened to be sitting across from him.

 

How he lucked out like that, he had no clue.

 

“Okay. So. I know you just said that I shouldn’t be apologizing to you, but I feel like I have to at this point with everything that I’ve fucking subjected myself to in the past week.”

 

Woojin would normally be typing away at this point, but his laptop was uncharacteristically shoved off to the side. Chan finally noticed it after beginning what would probably turn out to be a long and emotional rant, and he must have looked at it for a second too long, because Woojin let out a quiet chuckle, adjusting the glasses on the bridge of his nose that Chan had been trying not to stare at for however fucking long he had been in here so far because God fuck shit damn did he look good.

 

“I’ll type up our session notes after you’ve left for today, Chan. You’re more important.”

 

Chan wasn’t expecting that, Woojin to just state out in the open that Chan was important . It hurt Chan’s heart to recognize how much he needed that.

 

Chan took a deep breath, as he often had to during his therapy sessions before saying something that would lead him into a spiral of heavy emotions. He silently counted to ten, because knowing Woojin, that wouldn’t bother him one bit, and readied himself for the long overdue vent threatening to spill from his lips.

 

“I did something, Woojin, something sort of really fucked up,” Chan began, and he knew that was the wrong way to start because the way Woojin’s eyes widened was almost comical, eyebrows rising high above the frame of his glasses. Chan couldn’t help but smile at that, which made Woojin even more confused, and that was just really adorable and-

 

He should probably keep talking.

 

“Okay, whatever fucked up you’re thinking, it wasn’t that bad, just. Bad. Not...good? Yeah.”

 

Woojin nodded, a small smile also beginning to form on his face. “Yeah?”

 

Chan scratched at the back of his neck. “So basically, uh, I kind of ghosted my friends? For a whole week? And disregarded everything you said about avoiding my family for Christmas break and instead went to stay with them? And now. Now, I don’t know how to go back. To Changbin, who I was planning on spending my entire break with. And I’ve still got three weeks left, sure, and I can probably make things up in that time, but I’m so afraid, Woojin, I’m so fucking afraid. Of how our friendship will be affected, if he’ll even want to talk to me anymore after ignoring all his calls and texts, if my other friends will hate me just as fucking intensely? There’s so much. So, so much.”

 

Chan rambled for awhile, everything he had wanted Jisung to know when he saw the pain behind Chan’s eyes, everything he had wanted Changbin to know. Everything he had wanted to yell at his father in the fucking comatose way he went throughout life when it came to Chan, still and unwavering.

 

“I said his name, just a moment after walking in. I wanted to fucking try to make an attempt at communication. He was watching the TV and he didn’t respond, so I stood in front of it. He didn’t shout at me for getting in the way, he didn’t just avoid my gaze, he fucking closed his eyes . He would rather see nothing at all than spend even a second looking at me.” Chan spoke with clear horror, like he was reliving it, and the way Woojin opened his mouth to speak and then immediately shut it, eyes red and tears welling up, dug so fucking deeply into Chan’s heart. He didn’t know why Woojin would be crying right now, what reason he would have to be so utterly affected by Chan’s ranting that was just as common as any other patient’s, but he decided not to acknowledge it, something he was sure Woojin would appreciate.

 

He talked about his old room, about trapping himself in it and staring at the walls and eating the shitty sandwiches his mom would bring for him without a word, about how he didn’t know why he fucking went back .

 

“I was doing so good, Woojin, and then, then...I fucking did that .” Chan shook his head, like he didn’t want to believe the week he had was real. “I went right back to square one, no improvement, no anecdotes of character development. And here we are.”

 

Chan realized he hadn’t been paying much attention to Woojin during his endless recounts of the shit he had put himself through, and he forced himself to look into those warm eyes that he had been avoiding. They were examining, a calculated look that was hard to decipher.

 

Chan stuttered out a “so, yeah,” finality clear in his voice, and Woojin adjusted his glasses, leaning forward in his desk chair.

 

“We’re drawn to what’s familiar, Chan,” Woojin started up, and Chan found himself hanging on to every word. “Whether that’s good for us or bad for us, it can feel like the thing to go to in the heat of the moment. So,” he paused, expression gentle, “no one can blame you for calling your mother in a state of vulnerability and unfamiliarity. You aren’t used to not working constantly, and taking on even less than a day with no producing, getting ready to spend the holidays for the first time with someone other than your family, can be stressful. Please recognize that, Chan, that you didn’t do what you did out of selfishness or because you wanted to avoid your friends; we both know that’s not true.”

 

Chan let that sink in.

 

Woojin had some way of speaking that made you want to believe in yourself and your intentions. And Chan definitely wanted to believe in himself after hearing that.

 

He wished, for only a fleeting moment, that Woojin was around all the time, to remind him that he wasn’t nearly as bad as he made himself out to be.

 

“Now, if your friends have been calling and texting you constantly for a week now, I would advise to respond as soon as you can.” Chan began to tremble slightly at that, cursing himself in his mind for being so fucking weak at the slightest sign of confrontation. Woojin hesitated for a moment, looking conflicted before standing up at his desk and approaching the loveseat Chan was comfortable in. He immediately scooted over, making room for Woojin who sat down next to him and turned to face him.

 

“Is this okay?” Woojin asked quietly, and Chan felt his heart rate slowly arrive at a more normal pace, Woojin’s close presence calming him down.

 

“Yeah,” Chan breathed out. “That’s just...dandy.”

Woojin practically broke at that, cackling loudly, covering his mouth with a hand.

 

Chan cracked a smile, bright and growing with every laugh Woojin let escape him.

 

“Anyways,” Woojin began again, smiling right back. “Being back in that house, Chan, I’m sure it made you feel powerless, like you couldn’t go back to your friends after walking in, like you couldn’t go anywhere.”

 

And fuck, that’s exactly how it felt; like it had sucked the life out of him, like every other time he had walked in.

 

“But you’re here now, Chan, in my office. You’re not in your old house, you’re not in your old room, you’ve prevaled and let yourself breathe for a moment.”

 

Woojin placed a hand on one of Chan’s own, startling him but keeping him equally steady.

 

“Keep breathing. Don’t go back, not while you have so much time off, and spend it with the people you love and care for. Go to Changbin and Seungmin and Jeongin, hell, hang out with fucking Jisung, and forgive yourself for ghosting them. They’ll understand, I know they will, and everything will be okay. It’s alright to be set back sometimes, as long as you keep on picking yourself back up, yeah?”

 

Chan didn’t know how to respond, all he could do was keep smiling.

 

And maybe his heart rate sped back up, but this time it wasn’t because of his dissatisfaction for life.

 

It was because Kim Woojin cared so fucking much, and Chan didn’t know if he should even bother, if caring about Christopher Bang was such a good idea.

 

But Chan would let him care right now, and continue to let him care, because Chan couldn’t get over the way Woojin played with his fingers, the way he looked at him and paid so much close attention to how Chan felt and what he needed, whether Chan knew what that was or not. And Chan knew that was his fucking job, that his mother was paying for this shit, but for some reason it always felt so easy when it came to Woojin. It didn’t feel so professional. And maybe Chan would have been set off by this if Woojin’s methods weren’t so fucking effective, if they didn’t make him want to become a better person and improve himself until the end of his days.

 

And Woojin was so pretty. So undeniably pretty.

 

And maybe Chan let that one slip. Maybe he mumbled it to himself without thinking, face automatically heating up and when Woojin asked what he had said, to repeat himself, Chan denied having said anything in the first place and stood up, stumbling a bit over his own feet and making Woojin giggle.

 

And so Chan thanked him for his third session and gave Jisung a dorky fucking salute on his way out, and he started running as soon as he was out the door to the bus stop and beyond.

 

And as much as his mind hadn’t caught up with where the fuck he was taking himself, his legs wouldn’t let up for even a second as they led him to the only person he wanted to see after so much crying and smiling and laughing and tooth-rotting sweetness.

 

He knocked on the door, sweat rolling from his brow and limbs hurting like hell, and was immediately greeted with a tackle of a hug, Changbin’s grip tight and inescapable.

 

“Never, ever fucking do that again, you absolute clown,” Chan’s best friend had said, voice shaky.

 

Chan was just glad to be home.

 

Chapter Text

Patient #16 - Session Three Notes

 

Name: Bang Chan

 

Session Summary: Patient walked in looking just as tired as I've been lately, more so than usual. Patient was curious of how I felt as well, Chan seems to have more empathy than most recovering from a difficult week, in which he resorted to his family in a time of sensitivity. His friends were left ignored as he couldn't find the strength to respond to them. I can't say I blame him. I asked the patient to let what he's done go, as it was eating away at him. Patient seemed to understand, although it took some comforting, which is completely natural. He was smiling walking out of the office, stumbling all over himself which was so fucking cute which I would like to take to mean a successful session. A bit irregular in method and how we went about it, however that's how every session is when it comes to Chan I believe it was effective and I really got through to him. 

 

Progress made: Patient's been having a hard time. There's no rush for him to reach some big breakthrough for now. He naturally learns from his experiences; I simply home to nudge him along and encourage him through this process. I think he left feeling good about himself, and I hope that has something to do with me believe he'll be spending the rest of his break with people who actually fucking appreciate him rather than his stupid fucking godawful dumbass terrible disgustingly abominable family. I've been ignoring his mother's calls inquiring about his sessions. Patient confidentiality and all. Must be how her son has felt for years, shunned and shaken up. I'm not a generally angry person, but I hope she fucking feels that way.

 

Personal additions: Notes were typed up after the session rather than during, so accuracy may be hindered due to this. Patient needed a friend extra attention due to his current mental state which I was more than happy to give himCould have sworn he said I was pretty. Maybe just wishful thinking on my part. Can feel myself and the patient approaching a better relationship understanding of his feelings. I'm in too fucking deep. Jisung, if you're reading the version history for these notes which I hope to fucking God you aren't, know you were right. You're fucking right and I hate when you're right and please keep filing shit and don't bring this up. And stop looking at what I've erased you nosy prick. No further personal additions.

 

Love you though. If I'm extra emotional this week, please don't mind it.

Chapter Text

binnie 💫 | dec. 6 | 4:02 a.m.

fell asleep at the studio, omw home if ur still awake 💕

hope ur at least gettin a couple hours in, don’t forget you’ve got therapy later today!!!

 

channie 😚 | 4:04 a.m.

thank u for letting me know ur comin!! was getting worried :(

also seungmin came over this afternoon to help me pick out an outfit

or yesterday afternoon ig technically

he said to tell you hi

also outfit was picked for unspecified reasons. before u jump to conclusions

 

binnie 💫 | 4:05 a.m.

unspecified, non-woojin related reasons?

 

channie 😚 | 4:05 a.m.

shut up fool!!!!!

 

binnie 💫 | 4:06 a.m.

🤪🤪🤪

tell min i say hi back

 

——————

 

min 💗 | dec. 6 | 1:22 p.m.

so have u picked smth to wear yet orrrrr

i left you many good choices don't disappoint me

 

chan 🙄🙄🙄 | 1:23 p.m.

you left me two piles how the fuck do i sort through these

changbin said you named the trash pile "that pussy shit" is this true

 

min 💗 | 1:26 p.m.

HE named it that not me!!!!!!

i would never swear :((

 

chan 🙄🙄🙄 | 1:26 p.m.

uh huh

 

min 💗 | 1:27 p.m.

sarcasm???? do i sense sarcasm???????

after my hour-long hard work??????????? helping you impress your crush of the month??????????????????

 

chan 🙄🙄🙄 | 1:34 p.m.

. ok maybe. points have been made

 

min 💗 | 1:35 p.m.

uh huh

 

——————

 

jisung 🤡🤡 | dec. 6 | 4:08 p.m.

hey so u know abt the new patient i told u abt.

eyed my day6 sticker, listened to me talk abt our date we had planned, looked real annoyed at me for some reason waiting for his first session

which i still don't get btw

 

loml | 4:10 p.m.

maybe it's bc u chew gum like it's the last thing you'll ever taste

 

jisung 🤡🤡 | 4:10 p.m.

first of all, rude

second, ion think that was it???? he just seemed pissy ion know

i think it's just bc u know. therapy ain't the most fun part of someone's day yea

 

loml | 4:12 p.m.

yea

 

jisung 🤡🤡 | 4:13 p.m.

well. today i realized smth when he signed in

and u CANNOT tell ppl this im only telling u bc ur my boyfriend 👺

bang chan? his name?

 

loml | 4:14 p.m.

UHHHH JISUNG YOU FAILED TO MENTION LAST WEEK THAT HE WAS FUCKING CB97

 

jisung 🤡🤡 | 4:14 p.m.

well lix told me that's CB97's real name

YEA

is that just common knowledge

 

loml | 4:15 p.m.

we've been to 3 of his and SPEARB's concerts in the past week

and u didn't even know his real name

 

jisung 🤡🤡 | 4:15 p.m.

listen. ok . don't clown me

and also. mans sounded like he had a hard day

i hope everything's Alright w him

 

loml | 4:17 p.m.

he goes to therapy sungie why would everything b alright

 

jisung 🤡🤡 | 4:18 p.m.

don't call me sungie it makes me :(( 💕

but yea. u right.

 

——————

 

binnie 💫 | dec. 7 | 7:49 p.m.

last class for the night almost over!!!!

sorry i've been in classes all afternoon, haven't seen u at all today :(

i'll b back to our room soon, then we can pack, catch dinner & hopefully be @ my house by 9:30?

i'm so fucking excited for this break u have no idea

tell u what tomorrow morning we'll go to waffle house, just u me innie & minnie

that sound good channie?

 

binnie 💫 | 8:15 p.m.

got out of class late, sorry

know ur probably waiting for me, didn't mean to make u worry

i know its frustrating when i don't tell u where i am

 

binnie 💫 | 8:52 p.m.

hey haha don't mean to sound frantic or anything but where r u?

i didn't think much of it when i got back and just finished taking my shower

but ur not @ our room like u said u would be

it's not that big of a deal

i asked around our dorm and ppl said you left a couple hours ago

ur phone's probably dead or smth haha

i just overreact sometimes lol

let me know when u get this

 

——————

 

bin | dec. 7 | 8:56 p.m.

hey weird question, is chan with you?

or have you seen him in the past few hours?

he told me he'd be waiting for me in our room but he's not here

and he's not answering his phone either

 

min | 8:59 p.m.

he was in my morning class, but I haven't seen him since then no :(

innie's with me right now, he said he hasn't seen him either

maybe check with hyunjin?

 

bin | 9:00 p.m.

already asked

he said he left the dorm a few hours ago

 

min | 9:01 p.m.

i'll try texting and calling him, innie will too!

i'm sure his phone's probably just dead or something

maybe he's at the studio????

 

bin | 9:01 p.m.

yea you're probably right haha

thanks anyways min!

update me if you see him or he responds

 

——————

 

binnie 💫 | 9:25 p.m.

checked the studio. you're not there either

chan we're supposed to be at my house five minutes from now

are you already there or something???

but all your stuff's still in our room

so where are you asshole????

:(

i'll wait for you at the dorm tonight

if you're not here by tomorrow morning, i'm heading home

i'll take your stuff with me, pack for you and everything, yeah?

are you mad at me??????????????

. i don't know why you would be mad at me

please get here when you read this. i'm freaking the fuck out.

love you. stay safe.

 

——————

 

9:54 P.M.

Dec. 7

 

You have 30 messages from binnie 💫

You have 9 messages from min 💗

You have 5 messages from innie 💟 

 

You have 8 missed calls from binnie 💫

You have 2 missed calls from min 💗

You have 2 missed calls from innie 💟 

You have one missed call from 🌺 hyunjin 🌺

 

——————

 

binnie 💫 | dec. 8 | 6:02 a.m.

i couldn't sleep

let me know you're okay

i won't be angry, you don't even have to call me

just let me know everything's alright and that you're safe

if you're not here by 10 i'm packing our stuff and heading home

okay?

 

binnie 💫 | 10:46 a.m.

i'm home

meet me here, yeah?

or just let me know where you are

please

everyone's worried about you

 

——————

 

1:40 P.M.

Dec. 8

 

You have 41 messages from binnie 💫

You have 11 messages from min 💗

You have 8 messages from innie 💟 

You have 6 messages from 🌺 hyunjin 🌺

 

You have 20 missed calls from binnie 💫

You have 3 missed calls from min 💗

You have 3 missed calls from innie 💟

You have one missed call from 🌺 hyunjin 🌺

 

——————

 

🌺 hyunjin 🌺 | dec. 10 | 4:06 p.m.

we were gonna go bowling today :(

i hope everything's okay

i know you're usually extra stressed on mondays so i gave bin a book i think you'd like for if he sees you today

it's the one i told you about last week

i hope you read it when you get back!!!

wherever you are

bin, minnie, innie and i went to your parent's house yesterday because we thought you might be there

the blinds were closed but we saw lights on???

cars in the driveway and everything

we knocked and rang the door bell

stood there for like 20 minutes

and finally your dad opened the door

he said you weren't home before we could even ask anything

bin asked if he could see you

he fully bowed to your shitty father, cried out your name and everything

he slammed the door in bin's face

i fucking hate him chan. i fucking hate him and i hope they aren't keeping you there or something

like forcing you to stay away from us

i know how they were when you were younger

and i know you're probably afraid right now

we'll be here for you. you don't have to be alone right now. everything will be okay.

and i know i'm not as close to you as bin or minnie or innie are but

i know when you're hurting.

my door was open when you left the dorm on friday. i saw you shaking.

i called out for you but i don't think you heard me

i hope you can hear me now. i hope you come home.

love you. be safe.

 

——————

 

10:07 P.M.

Dec. 11

 

You have 106 messages from binnie 💫

You have 41 messages from min 💗

You have 50 messages from innie 💟 

You have 46 messages from 🌺 hyunjin 🌺

 

You have 73 missed calls from binnie 💫

You have 11 missed calls from min 💗

You have 8 missed calls from innie 💟

You have 6 missed call from 🌺 hyunjin 🌺

You have one missed call from DO NOT ANSWER CHAN YOU DUMBASS

 

——————

 

binnie 💫 | dec. 13 | 12:39 a.m.

i'm so afraid

i'm so fucking afraid

please tell me you're getting these

please tell me you're alive. please tell me you're okay please tell me you're living and breathing

i don't wanna file a fucking missing person report for you or some shit

it's only been a week and all and like i'm 90% sure you're at your parent's house

but god chan. i'm so scared

your phone wasn't in our room you've gotta have it on you right????????

you've gotta be getting these????????????

 

binnie 💫 | 5:06 a.m.

jesus fuck holy shit chan please come back you’ve been ghosting for a fucking week and i don’t know what to do i’m so fucking scared please i won’t be mad just let me know where you are and if you’re okay

 

——————

 

hyunjin calculus | dec. 13 | 4:13 p.m.

hey dude, i know we barely talk and all

but i've been asking around and just figured i'd ask everyone in my contacts so like

do you know bang chan?

blonde hair, bit shorter than me, australian?

and if so do you know where he is?

or have you seen him at all in the past week???

 

han jisung | 4:15 p.m.

well that explains a lot

 

hyunjin calculus | 4:15 p.m.

?????????

jisung have you seen him?????????

 

han jisung | 4:15 p.m.

yea, literally like less than 10 minutes ago

but he was crying a lot and needed a hug and everything

i figured something fucked's been going on

traded numbers with him n shit

 

hyunjin calculus | 4:16 p.m.

HOLY SHIT

JISUNG WHERE ARE YOU

QUICKLY PLEASE WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU

 

han jisung | 4:16 p.m. 

at work

therapy office on yanghwaro

 

hyunjin calculus | 4:17 p.m.

THANK YOU SO MUCH JESUS CHRIST

 

——————

 

binnie 💫 | dec. 13 | 4:23 p.m.

hyunjin told me where you are

i'm so glad you're okay

please come home. please.

everything will be okay chan

we can still have the perfect break, the one we've been planning for a month now

we can still go to all the restaurants you want, go to the arcade and the mall and everywhere else

no one's angry at you, i could never be angry at you

i just need you to come home, yeah?

can you do that for me?

and we'll have waffle house tomorrow morning, restart all of this

all your stuff's waiting for you too

we're just a bus ride away from the therapy office

come home. come home and we'll sort this all out, you me innie min and hyunjin

together, yeah?

like always.

love you, we all do.

to the moon and back

 

——————

 

6:02 P.M.

Dec. 13

 

You have 305 messages from binnie 💫

You have 107 messages from min 💗

You have 136 messages from innie 💟 

You have 72 messages from 🌺 hyunjin 🌺

 

You have 110 missed calls from binnie 💫

You have 32 missed calls from min 💗

You have 43 missed calls from innie 💟

You have 40 missed call from 🌺 hyunjin 🌺

You have one missed call from DO NOT ANSWER CHAN YOU DUMBASS

 

——————

 

binnie 💫 | dec. 13 | 8:01 p.m.

movie's ready downstairs whenever you are !! 💕💕

also hyunjin invited some guy named jisung over?????

he said he knows you

innie and min seem to be getting along with him just fine

anyways no rush, take your time unpacking!

 

channie 😚 | 8:03 p.m.

will do!

can't wait :^) !!!

Chapter Text

Chan’s walk into the familiar building he’d come to know and love in the past month or so started off much differently than every other session he’s experienced so far.

 

He wiped his shoes on the welcome mat inside, running his hands through his hair thoroughly. The weather had been a bit of a bitch lately, however it perfectly contrasted Chan’s mood as he shot Jisung a bright smile, fist-bumping him over the desk Jisung was sat at comfortably, feet up next to his desktop. They chatted away as if they’d known each other for years, recalling the godawful pizza place they’d been to last night with Seungmin, Hyunjin, Jeongin, and Changbin.

 

The six college students had been, for lack of a better phrase, completely attached at the hip since Chan had arrived at the Seo household last Thursday. Jisung had fallen into the rhythm of the group of friends mere minutes into hanging out with them, and no one was complaining at this new development.

 

They’d seen countless movies, some in theaters and some in Changbin’s living room, tried almost every goddamn restaurant they’ve ever even thought of trying, been bowling an unhealthy amount, to an extent that left a pain in Chan’s right arm that he couldn’t seem to shake, and more importantly, talked with one another about practically anything. Jokes were flying constantly, feelings were shared with ease, and everything just felt right.

 

That was Chan’s favorite part.

 

And day after day, whether they were home for dinner or it was long past midnight, Chan and Changbin would lay down in Changbin’s room and look up at the stars through the skylight. Sometimes snow would fall during their conversations, making them stop for a moment to take it all in, celestial bodies joined by drifting snowflakes against the dark of the night.

 

It was the perfect break Chan had been waiting for, not to mention the one he needed desperately.

 

And when Chan was ultimately the last one to fall asleep as it edged on 4 A.M. each early morning of his week, he found himself making his way through every voicemail he’d received during his breakdown.

 

The first ten or so were casual anxiousness, most from Changbin. Friends wondering where he was, humor masking a hint of worry.

 

They would gradually get more frantic, tearful one-sided conversations and repetitions of “you’re probably fine everything’s probably fine” ringing through Chan’s ears.

 

He didn’t know if he could ever forgive himself for the panic he put them through.

 

Especially Changbin.

 

Christ, he couldn’t get through some of those phone calls without locking himself in the bathroom, sobbing along with the recordings.

 

As great as the past seven days had been, they sure were long fucking days.

 

They gave him time to reflect, let him talk out everything on his mind with his friends, wondering where to go from here.

 

And really, where the fuck was he supposed to go from here?

 

He was excited for the weeks to come. Hell, he felt more free than he had been in years, but he was still struggling to overcome the guilt of it all, no matter how many times everyone told him things were okay.

 

He wanted to believe them so fucking badly.

 

And when things would get too heavy or he felt like he didn’t deserve to be there, to spend every waking hour with Changbin and their friend group, he would listen to one of the first voicemails he had received two weeks ago for as long as it took to calm down.

 

It was a shitty recording, Chan would be the first to admit, but he felt as if he could recite it from memory at this point. The rustling in the beginning as Changbin presumably propped up his phone near the desktop in their dorm room, the starting notes of the song fading in and out, Changbin’s soft and comforting singing voice that was starkly different from his rapping—every intimate detail of the audio put Chan at ease, as if he were under some spell. And when the words “I can’t sleep” would ring through Chan’s headphones, clear and beautiful, he felt as if Changbin had written the song just for him, for every night he’d spent awake and drowsy-eyed. He found himself wishing he would have checked his phone at his parents’ house; the lyrics alone would have been enough to send him back to their dorm.

 

“I hate to interrupt your daydreaming, Chan, but you still haven’t signed in,” Jisung said teasingly, snapping Chan out of his thoughts.

 

“Oh, yeah. That. I’ll do that. Right now,” Chan stuttered out, taken aback. Jisung laughed at his hesitance, prompting Chan to stick his tongue out at him.

 

“Not to fluster you even more, but it looks like you deadass just walked through a hurricane. It’s not even raining that hard, dude,” Jisung pointed out, gesturing at the window. Chan didn’t know what Jisung’s definition of “that hard” was, but when the sidewalk was practically underwater, Chan would have to disagree.

 

He grumbled in response, handing back Jisung’s clipboard that now showed Chan was indeed signed in. “Don’t know the bus route from Changbin’s house to here; don’t even know where it picks up and when. So I walked for half an hour, and now I’m all fucking wet, and it’s really uncomfortable, and Jisung stop laughing at me.”

 

Jisung was poorly attempting to muffle his giggles from behind his hand, breaking out into cackles at Chan’s annoyance. “Does Changbin not have a single goddamn umbrella in his house?”

 

Chan stood there for a moment, eyes widening with realization and horror.

 

“I didn’t even think to ask,” he whispered to himself in shame, hands tightening into fists at the discovery of his own foolishness.

 

That just sent Jisung into another fit of giggles, leaning back far in his chair and kicking his feet at the edge of the desk.

 

“God, you’re a dumbass,” Jisung said lightheartedly. He reached over the desk to feel the sleeves of Chan’s button-up, a pitiful smile painting his face. “This shit is literally clinging to you, like I can see your abs and everything.”

 

Chan’s face heated up at that comment, swatting away Jisung’s hands. “You don’t have to point it out,” he mumbled, however a grin was slowly forming on his face.

 

“God, Woojin’s gonna go fucking buck wild, you realize that?” Jisung said jokingly, before realizing completely what he had just said, eyes the size of saucers as he slapped a hand over his own mouth. He stood there for a moment, silent as Chan’s mouth opened slowly, no sound coming out. “I mean, uh,” Jisung dragged his words out, and Chan could practically hear how loudly he was thinking. “Who’s Woojin? I don’t. Know him.” Jisung sank lower in his seat, mouthing curse words to himself.

 

Chan didn’t know if it was possible to die from embarrassment, but he sure as hell felt like kicking the bucket every time Jisung said some dumb shit like that, things that played with his heart and brought his hopes up. Woojin wasn’t interested in Chan, it was obvious, and any relationship the two had was strictly professional, no matter the what-ifs that played through Chan’s mind practically every fucking night.

 

Chan didn’t want to think about that right now.

 

Jisung would joke every so often throughout the last week Chan had gotten to know him, about him and Woojin and how they “had the hots for each other” (which who the fuck even talks like that, Jisung?). It was already enough that Changbin knew every single detail of Woojin’s facial features and could probably draw a police sketch of him if need be from how much Chan would talk about the therapist.

 

But that was exclusive content only Changbin was allowed to hear. And as much as Seungmin could clown Chan for asking for fashion advice proceeding his second session, he isn’t nearly as loud and insistent as Jisung is about a meaningless crush that is not at all reciprocated, thank you very much.

 

“I’m sure Woojin is mature enough, unlike some people, to be able to withstand seeing the outline of my fucking torso,” Chan said in exasperation.

 

“Did I hear my name?” a joking voice came from the entrance of the office, Woojin leaning on the doorframe.

 

Chan wouldn’t be exaggerating even slightly if he were to say the breath was knocked out of his lungs at the sight of Woojin.

 

He was wearing a baby pink sweater, one that almost enveloped his form, with tight, white jeans and black converse.

 

It truly was a sight to behold.

 

Not that Chan was complaining, holy shit, how could he complain when he looked so fucking soft and ethereal and did he mention the jeans were tight? Maybe he forgot to mention the jeans were tight.

 

But god, they sure fucking were.

 

And Chan had come to realize he fell into this habit every week he came to therapy, being absolutely stunned by Woojin as soon as he emerged from his office.

 

Not that Woojin wasn’t looking right back at him with the same blissed-out look, gaze travelling from the water droplets dripping from Chan’s hair to the completely soaked shirt sticking to his chest.

 

“Uh—yes. The session. We can start, and. Come in, please,” Woojin said weakly, voice cracking at the end. Chan tried to fight the smile forming on his face as he walked into the office, sinking into the loveseat across from Woojin’s desk.

 

“So what’s the agenda for today, Mr. Kim?” Chan said in a sing-song voice. Woojin laughed, closing the office door and sitting in his desk chair, opening his laptop. He made a fake gagging noise, Chan giggling in response.

 

“I already hear that name enough as it is, Chan. Please continue to spare me,” Woojin said, a grin tugging at his lips. Chan only hummed in acknowledgment, running a hand through his hair that very much distracted the therapist from starting up his notes. Chan gave him a confused sort of look, Woojin’s hands poised at the keyboard but unmoving. His eyes snapped back down to his laptop screen once he was caught staring, cheeks tinted a pink similar to that of his sweater.

 

God, that was so adorable.

 

Woojin cleared his throat. “You seem happy today, Chan. Have the events we discussed during our last session been resolved?”

 

Chan nodded, speedily going through his week in his head once more. “I’m happier than I’ve been in a long fucking time,” he admitted without thinking, although he shouldn’t feel ashamed for blurting that out.

 

It was true, after all.

 

An absolutely gorgeous smile lit up Woojin’s face, one that made his eyes almost disappear with the curve of his mouth. Chan didn’t know if he could withstand looking at something so beautiful for months on end.

 

“I’m very glad to hear that. I hope you’ve had a nice stay at Changbin’s house as you had planned?”

 

Chan laughed breathily. “It’s been better than nice. It’s been,” he continued, trying to find the right word for how great he felt. “Magnificent. It’s been magnificent.”

 

Woojin nodded. “Tell me about your week,” he proposed with genuine curiosity. “What made it feel so special compared to the weeks leading up?”

 

Chan could list a thousand reasons and it still wouldn’t describe the joy filling his chest.

 

“Where do I even begin? God, I felt so loved, seeing my family—my real family—after our last session. I went to them immediately when we got done and I ran, as fast as my feet could take me, just to see them waiting for me in the living room.” The corners of his mouth twitched, expression slipping into something warm and elated. “Jeongin started balling as soon as he saw me.”

 

Woojin smiled. “He must have missed you; I’m sure they all did, yeah?”

 

Chan played with the hem of his button-up. “It’s weird. I felt a lot of things hit me since I’ve been back with them. After, you know,” he said, forced amusement seeping through his words, “I was in my own kind of purgatory.”

 

Woojin didn’t find that funny.

 

Chan didn’t either, but he wished he could forget it enough that he just about willed himself to find it funny.

 

“But the things I’ve felt—selfishness, guilt, self-deprecation, regret—that’s probably pretty normal after doing something as fucking awful as I did.”

 

“It wasn’t awful, Chan,” Woojin said patiently. “Worrying? Sure. But should you beat yourself up for it?”

 

“I know you want me to say no but—”

 

“And I’m sure it’s hard not to beat yourself up,” Woojin pressed, voice barely above a whisper. Chan had to lean forward a bit to hear him, but it was certainly soothing. “But you were in a dark place. I understand, your friends understand.” Woojin paused for a moment. “And how are you feeling, right now?”

 

Chan chewed on his lower lip, stopping suddenly. Something dawned on him.

 

“If...if there’s any correlation,” he spoke slowly, “although I’ve thought all those bad things about myself, not once since I’ve been staying at Changbin’s have I felt truly alone or like I couldn’t turn to someone to help me through my shit.”

 

Maybe he should have worked that out a lot sooner, but Chan had been too busy switching between hanging out with his friends and blubbering over a week of missed voicemails and texts to notice.

 

He didn’t know if that made him a bad friend or not. He just knew he was so caught up in the euphoria of being back that he didn’t notice the way Jeongin’s grip would tighten around his arm when they would walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon, the way Hyunjin would send him constant messages checking up on him whether they were within ten feet of each other or not, the way Seungmin made it his sole mission to find Chan something nice to wear every single morning, the way Jisung traced shapes into his hands so delicately and almost unnoticeably, the way Chan would catch Changbin looking at him with tears in his eyes during movies and Chan had just chalked it up to the sad endings.

 

They cared. They all cared, so fucking much, each and every one of them. And they were afraid to lose him again.

 

Chan didn't want to lose himself, either.

 

"I'm glad you find so much comfort in your support system, Chan." Woojin chuckled, resting his chin on his hands. "But I'm afraid I've got a pretty loaded question for you now, if that's alright."

 

Chan groaned loudly and over exaggeratedly at this, Woojin trying to fight off the smirk setting into his features. He failed miserably, and Chan loved that. He loved making Woojin smile.

 

Woojin blinked at him. He looked a tad bewildered, but the smirk grew and his eyes widened, tilting his head at Chan. "You love making me smile, huh?"

 

"Oh, fuck me, I said that out loud?" Chan pinched his brow and silently cursed to himself, before looking up to see a soft, teasing expression. And, God, Kim Woojin better fucking stop. "Forgive me, I'm just tired and you're cute. I mean. No. You're not. You're not cute. Not ugly! You're not ugly. But I do not have the personal opinion that you are cute, personally. I didn't say you're cute. I didn't mean you're cute, I was actually thinking about someone else. No. Fuck. I wasn't. Don't listen to me. What’s the question. Please.”

 

Woojin was holding back tears of laughter at this point, eventually cracking up and holding his sides. Chan’s face was beet red, he could fucking feel the embarrassment seeping through him, and he felt utterly defeated in his endeavors to seem put together around Woojin. No matter how hard he tried, he always let something slip. And, fuck, he couldn’t help but notice the sparkle in Woojin’s eyes when he spoke, the plushness of his lips, the steadiness of his voice. They were all hard to be anything but astonished by. Hell, Chan didn’t know how someone would go about being in the man’s presence without feeling blessed to breathe the same air as him.

 

Nevertheless, Chan persevered. He gave a shy smile, one that was returned easily.

 

When Woojin had calmed down, he sat up a bit in his chair, a more serious overtone to the way he held himself. “What’s next, Chan?” he asked rather quietly. “What do you want out of your sessions? We’ve become acquainted, I’ve enjoyed advising you as much as I can, but I want to make sure you’re getting the help you deserve. What do you need from me so that I can improve my efficiency in how I go about these?”

 

And, God, Chan could have answered that so many different ways, but the first thing that came to mind was that Woojin was doing perfectly as he was. The casual atmosphere of the office was always something Chan greeted with open arms, and this was the happiest he had been in weeks. Sure, he couldn’t ignore the overlooming problems of his life that he had yet to address—the trauma he faced as a child, his emotionally neglecting and manipulative family, the insomnia, the general uneasiness he felt day to day. But he had touched on those things with Woojin, actually talked about the topics that he had been bottling in and pushing down in his chest as far as they could go. That, for Chan, was already improvement he could credit to Woojin.

 

But as well as he had been doing, Chan just knew he had to go into more detail about his life if he wanted to truly get better. He couldn’t keep trying to dance around subjects that he dreaded. He had to face them head-on, and he knew he could accomplish that with the help of Woojin.

 

So Chan told him this, relayed the fact that he was doing a wonderful job but shouldn’t feel afraid of troubling Chan with more in-depth discussions.

 

“I’ll be sure to remember that.”

 

Chan just knew he would keep his word, the glorious motherfucker.

 

And while he thanked Woojin for the promise, the therapist seemed to zone out for a moment, before locking eyes with Chan once more.

 

Chan raised an eyebrow.

 

“Sorry,” Woojin said sheepishly, looking down at his hands. He looked back up, fidgeting in his seat. “It’s just that every time your head moves, water falls down your neck and really how the fuck did you get that wet when it’s just drizzling?”

 

Chan scoffed.

 

The absolute disrespect.

 

“Jisung said something similar when I walked in; do you two just share one collective brain cell or something? Because it’s practically storming outside right now, and I have every right to be undry.”

 

Woojin muffled a laugh. “Undry?”

 

“It’s a word. Look it up.”

 

“I highly doubt that.”

 

“Okay, go off.”



“Did you just tell me to go off? During a therapy session?”

 

“Were you suspiciously distracted by my fucking neck? During a therapy session?”

 

Woojin didn’t have any good defense for that, he simply choked on nothing while Chan sat there looking smug as all hell.

 

And as stupid as it was, Chan felt himself fall harder for Woojin that very moment than he had in the past month.

 

He couldn’t pinpoint the cause of his affections as much as he had thought it over. Maybe it was the way he looked so loving while Chan spoke, always ready to throw out a witty one-liner that took the edge off or some badly needed guidance in his darkest hours. Maybe it was just his looks: a handsome face that Chan liked ogling over. Maybe it was just situational; Chan was lonely and certainly desperate and hadn’t been on a date in a hot minute.

 

But this had all been building up for weeks now, so Chan just decided to throw it out there. Unconventionally, sure, but he had to let it be known at some point.

 

“I like the rain.”

 

Smart. Sensible. Chan sure was a real catch, everything that came out of his mouth intelligent, impressive, and philosophical. This was, of course, a perfect example.

 

Note the sarcasm.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

Woojin had an amused look on his face, one that told Chan he had buckled up for whatever wild rant he decided to throw him into this week.

 

Chan couldn’t be more pleased.

 

“I like the rain,” Chan insistently repeated, pointing at the window in Woojin’s office for emphasis.

 

“Care to expand?” Woojin asked, and maybe the question would’ve been insulting if he didn’t sound so sincere.

 

“It’s a constant in my life. Dependable,” Chan began slowly, accentuating every word. “I love the way it sounds. I love listening to it, soft and relaxing after a day of hard work or high emotions.”

 

Chan straightened up from the loveseat. Woojin looked interested, arms and legs crossed.

 

“It doesn’t rain every day, sure. But I know it will at some point, I can count on it, and I always look forward to seeing it.” He stood up, walking forward a few paces to Woojin’s desk, lazily leaning forward on it and propping himself up on his forearms. There was a playful glint to Woojin’s eyes, and something else Chan couldn’t quite decipher. Pain? Sadness? Frustration? He hadn’t a clue.

 

“We should be talking about you, Chan. This is a bit off topic,” Woojin reminded, and something about the way he said it told Chan he should keep going.

 

“Y—I mean, rain,” Chan corrected, continuing unwaveringly. “Rain is gorgeous. I could never tire from looking at something so captivating. Do you know what I mean?”

 

Chan gave him a look, one that said please understand. Please, Woojin, fucking understand.

 

“I wouldn’t say ‘captivating’ is the right word to describe rain, but alright,” Woojin said, tone neutral.

 

Chan was going to throw himself across the room.

 

He thought maybe he had the gusto to grab Woojin by the collar and kiss him right then and there, lean over the desk and run his fingers through his hair. That sounded like the most appealing option at the moment, although it had sounded appealing the moment Chan had met him.

 

“You sound like you need sleep,” and Woojin was right. Chan always needed more sleep.

 

“Maybe we should cut the session a couple minutes short?” Chan suggested, and he backed away from the desk as some sort of peace offering. What Chan was making peace with, he had no idea. His feelings, maybe? Who knows.

 

“Only if you promise you’ll try to rest up when you get home,” Woojin requested, and Chan nodded. Anything to take his mind off of the weird, self-assessing mood he was in, where he picked at every word he said to Woojin and every movement he made.

 

Before he could fall too deeply into this mindset, however, he took a good look at Woojin and sucked in some air, furrowing his brow a little before speaking.

 

“I called you pretty at the end of our last session.”

 

Woojin’s smile quickly fell from his face, replaced with a shocked expression, mouth in a little “o” shape. “Pardon?”

 

“I called you pretty, but I’m not quite sure you heard, so I figured you deserve to hear it again: you’re pretty. Especially in that sweater,” Chan added, and he wanted to be proud of himself at this display of confidence, but he couldn’t when his hands were shaking and he was covered in sweat and his voice cracked on almost every word and Woojin was looking at him in that way, like he was as special and wonderful as Woojin made him feel.

 

“I understand,” Woojin said suddenly. “I get it...what you said about liking the rain,” and Chan wasn’t certain that he actually got it when Woojin gushed right after, “I want someone to dance with me in the rain some day. It’s always been a little dream of mine.”

 

And Chan absolutely swore to himself that one day he would ask Woojin to dance in the rain with him, whether that was in a month or a year or a fucking decade, because Chan wanted Woojin to receive every single thing he could hope for, no matter how small. Chan wanted to do all he could to make Woojin happy, to keep him smiling and laughing and to watch him type away at his laptop while he pretended not to stare at Chan’s abs through his drenched shirt, to see the purity and heart in his eyes, to hear him call Chan’s name from the doorframe of the office like it was the name of his first love.

 

Chan didn’t want to acknowledge the way Woojin made him feel whole, like he could leave behind every worry and concern he ever had. He didn’t want to admit the way he wanted to flirt with Woojin like they were the only two people in the world.

 

So for now, he didn’t. He only danced with Woojin in the most private corners of his mind, someday far off in the future that Chan could almost picture like a premonition.

 

Maybe he was just a sap, poetic and touch-starved and angry that Jisung found a boyfriend before he did.

 

But he was sure of the fact that Kim Woojin played a big role in his life, and would continue to for as long as Chan would allow his fragile heart to take.

 

“I’m glad you see things from my perspective.”

 

And Chan told himself that he was lying the moment it slipped from his mouth and as he walked out of the office, bidding Jisung farewell, because he knew more than anything in the entire world that the sight of Woojin was more beautiful than anything the therapist would ever see for himself.

Chapter Text

Patient #16 - Session Four Notes

 

Name: Bang Chan

 

Session Summary: Abs Patient initiated abs a lot more banter than usual; seemed to be in a hell of a lot better mood than the last abs three sessions. Patient seemed to have been a tad belittling of himself for the events that transpired a couple weeks ago, however overall was glad to be surrounded by people that make him feel good about himself. His short stay with his best friend has already improved how he's feeling, however it is necessary to expand on fuck he loves making me smile???? Why'd he say that why the fuck did he say that who let him say that and now he thinks I'm cute and his family matters, more so than we already have, and how they've influenced him overtime. As much as he depends on his friends and they depend on him, it is imperative to learn how to stand on one's own sometimes. The patient agrees with this, and I must be he has abs sure to incorporate more "in-depth discussions," as he puts it. He answered so wholeheartedly and thoughtfully. It was extremely endearing. Even more interestingly, the patient went on a charming little tangent about the rain. I can't assume what he meant by it. I can't assume what I so fucking terribly want to assume. Could have been a coping mechanism after thinking about his headway and how to make these sessions more effective. Should possibly ask about this some other time.

 

Progress made: Session was slightly uneventful outside of the goddamn heart palpitations this man gives me, however patient has given me insight on how to make future sessions more productive. There was definite progress made between the last session and this one; most of which can be credited to the strength the patient gets from his close friends. I hope to see this blossom further and wish the best for Chan the patient in his endeavors. sklajflsakjdfls he said I'm pretty ???/ Me Pretty ?/?/????????????????? The Bang Chan thinks I"m pretty uh

 

Personal additions: Told him about the stupid romantic shit I've been wishing for since I was young. About dancing in the rain. Shouldn't have said that, he probably thinks I'm weird now. Recalled a personal fact of myself during the session to the patient, not as a comfort tool but because I wanted to. Next session, remember to focus on the patient and the patient alone, not on the same fucking dream I've been having for years now, about waltzing with a faceless stranger in the rain, except every night since I've met him he's not faceless and it's Chan and he smiles at me in the sweetest way and he kisses me like I've never been fucking kissed before and I wake up feeling like shit because I know he doesn't like me like that and I can't fucking help it, the way he makes me feel and the way he could never feel the same. And I know you've been reading the earlier drafts of these notes Jisung, I fucking caught you yesterday looking at the version history, so if you speak a goddamn word of this to your new friends I will tell everyone you met Minho while you were throwing up in a PetSmart bathroom and not Tinder because you told me that once while you were tired and don't think I forgot that shit making conversation.

Chapter Text

Through all the dumbassery floating through Chan's head at any particular moment, he knew one thing for certain walking into his fifth session: he had no idea what sort of embarrassment he would cause for himself today.

 

His third week of winter break was going off without a hitch for a while; everyone in his friend group was radiant and happy to be around each other, not to mention Chan and Changbin found they had more in common with Han Jisung than they originally thought. Unbeknownst to the duo until a few days ago, Jisung was currently minoring in music (Chan still didn't know his major somehow? He was really vague about it) and had a knack for production. They found Jisung crashed on Changbin's couch on multiple occasions over the weekend, a legal pad clutched in his arms with messily scrawled lyrics and chords written out all over the place. Jisung said he was inspired "by the likes of SPEARB and CB97" and wanted to try out something of his own.

 

To say Chan and Changbin were ecstatic would be an understatement.

 

They had been talking about the "missing piece of the puzzle" for months now, about some pizazz they needed to spice up their songs and make this upcoming mixtape one to remember. Hell, Jisung could very well be that added variable.

 

So maybe it was stupid of them, to drag him on stage last night during one of their concerts at a local bar and grill in front of over two hundred people shoved in front of the small stage in the corner of the building. Maybe it was slightly forward of them to ask him to freestyle along to the Runner's High instrumental on a whim.

 

And yet, Jisung was good.

 

Like, really fucking good.

 

So he plastered on a smile, restrained himself from choking the two rappers in front of him, and began to spit rhyme after rhyme, playing with his rhythm and tone. His voice was high and teasing one second, low and intimidating the next; Chan had no clue how he did it so freely, as if it was second nature to him. Sure, he stumbled over a few words and his voice might have cracked at the end of his verse, but if the whooping and hollering from Jeongin in the crowd was anything to go by, Jisung seemingly fit right in.

 

And he did fit right in. Everyone could see that.

 

Funnily enough, this "everyone" included one Kim Woojin, who Chan spotted talking to Jisung after he had retreated back into the sea of people around song five or six.

 

Or maybe it was the seventh. Chan had lost track.

 

He was a bit preoccupied, trying to remember his lines while his eyes followed the therapist as he laughed along to something Hyunjin just said. He didn't have to hear the laugh to know it sounded much lovelier than whatever bullshit was spilling from Changbin's mouth at the moment, repetitions of "wow, she's hot" echoing through the speakers. Seungmin had been cracking up periodically throughout the song; the premise was kind of hilarious coming from two gay men, but Chan supposed the audience didn't need to know that.

 

Chan didn’t think his friends would collide with Woojin this quickly and this easily, but there he was in that silk shirt with a few buttons undone (and holy shit did he look good), chatting everyone up like he had known them all his life. He mingled with the college students naturally, cheered just as loudly and obnoxiously as them, and every so often Chan would risk a glance at Woojin only to find him staring right back at him. And when they made eye contact, every single fucking time, Woojin would light up like the sun, mouth something encouraging enough to make Chan practically buckle at the knees. A simple “fuck it up!” or “you’re doing great” made the room feel fifty degrees warmer, made him stutter out the rest of his verse like a broken record.

 

And Chan would laugh it off, shrug his shoulders as the audience poked fun at him for his mistakes; he would say a quick “oopsy daisy” into the microphone and Jeongin would lose his shit. But Woojin would still be looking at him knowingly. He looked at Chan like he was the only person in the room, and Chan looked right back at him with the same sort of dazed giddiness.

 

It was Chan’s favorite concert they had had yet; they even got the chance to perform a new song from their mixtape currently in the works. The amount of love that one in particular received had Chan smiling for the rest of the night. And when they finished off with Tik Tok, Changbin lifted Chan high in the air and spun him around, grinning up at him as the crowd sang the last chorus in a drunken shout.

 

Chan had never felt better in his entire fucking life than at that moment.

 

The heavy bass ringing through his ears, his favorite person in the whole wide world holding him up so he could look over every beaming face in the mass of people, his friends bawling overdramatically as the show came to a close, and Woojin, everything about Woojin, his presence alone; Chan wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

And then Changbin had been stood up.

 

After the show, he was supposed to have met up with one of Jisung’s friends, one Chan had heard so much about that at this point, he knew more about Park Hyunseung than he knew about himself. Changbin hadn’t been on a date in quite some time (he was constantly complaining about this to Chan, begrudgingly, with a light blush tinting his cheeks) and yesterday was originally going to be special for him.

 

And really, what better first impression could there be than the overflowing confidence that came with Changbin’s stage persona? He would rap and shit, be congratulated by a hot guy, and then proceed to go out with said hot guy. It was literally Changbin’s ideal night (Chan’s, too, if anyone were ever to ask him).

 

So it was sort of fucked that Changbin ended up sniffling in Chan’s arms on the curb outside of the bar, leaning over his phone and staring at Hyunseung’s five-word text: “sorry lol. can’t make it.” It was sort of fucked that Changbin had to deal with that big of an asshole, someone who didn’t even call to raincheck or to arrange another date, someone who had flirted with him endlessly over the phone for the past 48 hours, even when he had no clue what Changbin even looked like.

 

Chan knew better than anybody that Changbin had a fragile heart; he remembered coming back to their dorm one evening to see tissues scattered across the floor, wet with tears, his roommate curled up against the wall after a notably bad breakup. He kept on telling Chan he was sorry the moment he walked in, apologies rushing from his lips in a panic that had Chan embracing him for the rest of the night.

 

It was fucked that both of them had a streak of broken hearts; Changbin just dealt with his differently.

 

And it was really fucked when Chan opened the door that Thursday morning after the concert, drained and shirtless, to find Hyunseung standing on the Seo household’s porch, brow raised and eyes trained on Chan’s torso.

 

“Shit, dude, you wanna go back to my place?”

 

Chan slammed the door as loudly and angrily as possible.

 

And after all of that, there he found himself, softly saying a “love you, Binnie” to his best friend as he dropped Chan off in his mom’s convertible, waiting in the therapy office parking lot for Chan’s session to be over so they could get pizza.

 

Changbin nodded with a small smile, mouthing a “love you” back, and then Chan was on his way inside. There was a nervousness in the pit of his stomach while entering the building. Whether it was from the thought of seeing Woojin again after he had witnessed Chan in his element, performing on stage, or from leaving Changbin for the next 45 minutes, he couldn’t say. And the nervousness certainly heightened at the sight Chan walked in on.

 

“Sight” meant “Woojin” in this case.

 

Rather than every session Chan’s attended thus far, in which Woojin would come out from his office when he was ready for him, Woojin was standing in the waiting room instead. He was behind Jisung’s desk, reading through papers in a crisp manila folder with impressive concentration as the receptionist chatted away about some band he’d discovered that morning.

 

“And their albums are so poetically intricate, fucking-” he rambled on, stumbling over his words as he began to notice Chan, bouncing on the balls of his feet on the welcome mat awkwardly with his hands clasped together behind his back. A smile began to form on Jisung’s face, and he stood up from his desk quickly, chair rolling back into Woojin and inducing a string of curses from him. It was attractive, Woojin cursing, in some weird way, but Chan still tried his hardest not to laugh anyways.

 

“Glad to see you, too, Jisung,” Chan joked, approaching the desk and leaning over it. He tried not to look at Woojin, who had his eyes trained on the patient. The usual warmth wasn’t there, strangely enough. It was more like uneasiness, but maybe Chan was just imagining it.

 

“So how did I do yesterday?” Jisung yelped, pride seeping into his expression. “I thought we did great, you, me, and Changbin. Don’t you think we make a good team?” His jaw dropped a bit, eyes widening. “I forgot! I even came up with a stage name to fit your guys’s!” He bent down to look through a drawer next to his desktop, giving each object a once-over.

 

Woojin was still staring at Chan, something almost unreadable about him, and Chan shifted his balance from one foot to the other, not knowing what to do or say. Woojin—beautiful, beautiful Woojin—was just looking at him like that, and Chan would have winked if he were a braver man.

 

Then Woojin did something rather peculiar, as Jisung cried out a “give me a moment! I swear it’s in here!” from his position, crouched on the floor. The therapist looked at Chan, looked down at the file in his hands, and then looked back up, as if the two were connected. Chan didn’t know what that meant; should he be worried? Did he do something wrong? Was Woojin looking through his criminal record or something? Chan knew he only had that one charge for public urination that one time last year when him and Seungmin decided to let Jeongin control their lives for a day for his birthday (which was a ridiculously bad decision in retrospect), but it was still a mortifying experience to be asked to relive, especially if Woojin knew about it.

 

“Ah! Found it!” Jisung exclaimed, jumping back up with a small pad of paper in his hand. “Introducing your new rapping colleague, JIDOG!” he declared overdramatically, flipping the pad around in his hands to show the word “JIDOG” written among other names that Jisung had crossed out vigorously.

 

Chan lost it at that.

 

“Jisung,” he breathed out, doubled over from the other side of the desk. “We make a great team and everything, but that will not be your stage name.”

 

Jisung pouted. “Minho liked it! He thought it sounded ‘debonair.’”

 

“Does Minho know what debonair means?”

 

Jisung didn’t respond.

 

A cough came from behind Jisung, and Woojin stepped forward a bit, file closed in his arms. “I hate to interrupt this conversation, as it is incredibly entertaining, but I believe we have a session to get to?” His tone was a bit urgent, like he was trying to tell Chan something.

 

“Oh, yeah, my bad,” the receptionist apologized. “Sometimes I forget Chan’s a patient; he’s more our friend than anything.”

 

Woojin nodded, and he had that look about him again, one Chan didn’t quite understand. “Yeah. He’s our friend for sure, Sungie.”

 

Chan didn’t like the way that sounded, coming from Woojin. They had been rather close in the past few weeks, and the majority of Chan’s brain wanted them to get even closer. But the rational part knew that wasn’t protocol in a professional setting, or whatever. So he just hummed in agreement and headed towards Woojin’s office, plopping down on the loveseat as always. Woojin closed the door behind them, setting the manila folder carefully on the desk beside his laptop before sitting in his chair.

 

“How’re you feeling, Chan?” Woojin asked, and there was nothing behind his words. No usual genuine interest, no hospitality, not even a smile. It kind of hurt, if Chan was being honest. It put him on edge.

 

“Look, I’m gonna be real with you,” Chan started, anxiousness bubbling in his chest. “If this whole file thing is about the public urination, it was a mistake and we thought nothing would come of it and we checked for police and didn’t see any and I don’t know why we assumed the side of the road was the best place to do it but it was after midnight and they don’t patrol around Mapo too often so I just figured Seungmin and I would—”

 

“Chan, holy shit,” Woojin said, face awestruck and the corners of his mouth quirking up for the first time today. God, he was so fucking lovely. “You have a public urination charge?”

 

Chan tensed. “Uh. No. That was all a lie. I just lied. To...to make you happy. Because you seem kind of down. None of that was true.”

 

Woojin had broken out into a full-faced smile, eyes like crescents and teeth showing. “Uh huh.” He looked down at the file in front of him, and his expression saddened slightly. “You’re right about me being a bit down, though. I’m sorry if I haven’t been as much, well, myself.”

 

Chan shook his head. “It’s all good, Woojin. You were just worrying me for a moment there. That folder’s kind of intimidating, truthfully.”

 

Woojin bit his lip, resting his chin on his hand in thought. “It’s been intimidating looking through it all, so I get that.” He opened the folder to neatly stacked pages, the front one reading “Patient #16 - Session Notes” in a bold font.

 

Chan was lost. “I’m patient 16, I presume?” Woojin nodded in affirmation. “So what’s to be so concerned about? These are just the notes you type up during the sessions, right? The ones you review to get a better understanding of me and shit?” Woojin nodded again, this time with a sigh. “Then we can get more into my insomnia or my fucked parents or something, I can cry in your impressively strong arms, and we’ll be on our merry way.”

 

Chan didn’t really mean to say the thing about his arms, but Woojin flushed scarlet all the same, so who was he to backtrack?

 

“Actually, I,” Woojin started, and he paused, brows knitted. “I think I found something, from our first session notes, and it made me remember something you’d said, and together they make it easy to...infer some things,” he finished, words drawn out and vague as he tried to find the right way to put things.

 

“Throw me a bone, Wooj, I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Chan requested, before realizing the absurd nickname he’d used. He felt his face heating up, and he silently cursed his mother for creating such a dumbass. “Woojin. I meant Woojin.”

 

Woojin grinned shyly, looking down at the file and flipping through the papers. “I like the way you say it,” he supplied. “It’s cute, your Australian accent.”

 

Chan didn’t know how to respond to that, so he thanked Woojin quietly as the heavenly motherfucker in question eventually found the section he was looking for.

 

“Here,” he suddenly blurted. He looked up at Chan, and his face fell. “Fuck.”

 

“What is it?” Chan asked carefully, starting to feel worried again.

 

“I don’t really know how to say this or ask this or go about this,” Woojin admitted, speaking quickly. “And I know I should because I’m a therapist, but it...it just hurts to think about. And I’ve gotta approach the topic at some point, because it doesn’t matter how much it hurts me; what matters is helping you through bettering your mental health and knowing how that’s developed because of, well. Particular events.” He glanced at the papers. “Like this.”

 

“Go ahead, Woojin. I’m sure I’ll be alright,” Chan promised, encouraging the man across from him. “Hell, you know about me pissing in public; what could be worse than that?”

 

Woojin breathed deeply. “You’re sure? Because if you need to step out at any time, if you ever need to reschedule a session or shorten one because you feel yourself uncontrollably reliving, uh, things in your past, then that’s quite alright, Chan.”

 

“I’m sure.”

 

Woojin scrunched up his face a bit, and it would have been almost charming if Chan didn’t know the look he gave so well, the look that said he was afraid. He leaned forward a bit in his seat, and he softened his voice for his next words, open and consoling. “What experiences have you had in therapy before this, before we met?”

 

Chan’s heart stopped. His features hardened, and his hands clenched into fists reflexively. “I have no idea what you’re referring to,” he said steadily, willing his voice not to crack.

 

Woojin looked pained; uneasy, as he had looked when Chan walked in. Now Chan knew why; his assumptions were correct, and Chan hated that. He hated that the therapist was so good at his job. “Chan, you told me yourself in our first session that your mother took you to therapy before. Do—”

 

“I must have misspoke,” Chan pronounced clearly, forcing himself to smile. It took a couple tries. He wanted to scratch at his face; he felt disgusting, just like he did all those years ago. “You know I do that sometimes, haha.” The laugh felt fake, even to his own ears.

 

“Chan. Please,” Woojin practically pleaded, eyes watery. It’s all Chan’s fucking fault. “I’m asking you what happened because I know how much you’re hurting. I know, Chan, more than anyone else, what it must have been like. So let me help you, and I’ll listen to all you have to say, because I know you’ve been holding it in. I kept it in, too, I, I-” Woojin stammered, losing composure. “I remember what you said so certainly, because it hit so fucking close to home, and...and you stopped yourself, stopped before you could tell me about it. You said it was a different kind of therapy, and—”

 

“Woojin.” The therapist wiped his eyes on his sweater, the same pink sweater he wore last week that Chan loved with all of his heart.

 

“I’m sorry, Chan,” he sputtered, shoulders shaking. “I’m the fucking therapist, I should be levelheaded right now.”

 

“Woojin, can you come here?” Chan asked quietly. Woojin got up without question, sitting down beside Chan and facing him on the loveseat. He sniffled, almost unnoticeably, and Chan scooted closer to him, tilting Woojin’s head with his thumb under his chin so he could wipe away his tears, touch light as a feather. Woojin smiled despite himself, closing his eyes for a moment to calm himself. Chan knew Woojin was the therapist, but he was a human first and foremost, and humans were messy. Humans had emotions that they sometimes couldn’t control, and Woojin was no exception.

 

“I was 16 when my parents found out I was gay,” Chan said slowly, tone almost fragile in a way. His voice, his hands, his limbs; everything was shaking. “That same year, not even a month later, I went to therapy for the first time. But, as you know,” he clarified, attempting a sad smile, “it wasn’t guided self-help, like what we’re doing right now.”

 

Chan gulped. He hated even fucking saying it, because that made it feel more real; that made it harder to ignore like he had been for the past five years of his life.

 

“Conversion therapy.”

 

Woojin flinched, and Chan grabbed his hands, as he had found himself doing on more than one occasion.

 

“I need to talk about it, Woojin; I’ve never told anyone in my entire fucking life.”

 

And Woojin held on tighter, the sincerity and trust in his eyes almost unbearable. “I’m here, Chan. I’m here for you, yeah?”

 

Chan didn’t even know he was crying until he felt it, streaming down his face and onto the collar of his shirt. He couldn’t find it in himself to care; he had to keep going, he had to.

 

“They make it sound like they’re really helping, you know?” and Woojin nodded at that, nodded like it was only yesterday, like he felt it all happen vividly. That’s how it was for Chan, anyway, every time he fucking thought about it.

 

“They try to justify your sexuality with anything they can fucking think of, outside of it just being your actual damn sexuality. Childhood trauma, insufficient parenting, lack of religion—they’ll find anything and say that’s ‘how your mental illness came about.’” Chan forced down a mouthful of bile, memories flooding back. “They make you feel sick, abnormal, like absolute scum. They take everything about yourself that you want to let shine, that makes you feel liberated, and they shit all over it.”

 

Chan shuddered as he spoke, words becoming more desperate. “They told me I’d chosen my path to hell, that it was my sin to bear, and that I had to be cured or I would let my mental illness affect my decisions and my rationality. They’d say I turned to homosexuality because of an aunt’s death when I was younger, one I was close to, to avoid mourning her loss. They’d read me every witness account of her death, describe her dead and disintegrating body, play recordings of gunshots through speakers, to force me to ‘accept it and move on.’ They watched me scream and cry and collapse on the floor and they did nothing.”

 

By now Woojin was sobbing, squeezing Chan’s hands hard to ground him.

 

Chan needed him so fucking badly.

 

“I don’t mourn my aunt anymore. I barely even remember her, Wooj,” he said, voice edging on hysteria. “I mourn who I used to be; I mourn the man that could look at another with affection or lust or fucking love and not feel a pang of guilt in his chest every single time.”

 

Woojin wrapped himself around Chan’s trembling form, pulling him in for a hug and running a hand through his hair soothingly, office silent aside from the quiet whimpers elicited from either of them. Chan felt more vulnerable than he had ever felt in his entire life, but with Woojin so close, he also felt like things might just be okay.

 

He knew deep down that he was more than objectively attracted to the therapist at this point. He knew Woojin was his safe space, that he was the kindest, most empathetic person Chan had ever met in his entire, pitiful life. He knew that he used to close his eyes and dream of demons dragging him across the earth, of repenting for being who he was, and now all he dreamt of was kissing Woojin in the pouring rain, Woojin who was so delightful to be around that it practically hurt.

 

He knew that one day, maybe even far in the future, Woojin would bare his soul to him like he had today, so intensely that Changbin had to ask Chan what was wrong the minute he got into the convertible parked outside. Chan had just laughed, told him that the session had gotten slightly emotional and not to worry.

 

Changbin knew that was bullshit; they had been friends long enough for him to know, but Chan had done so much for him last night and this morning that he figured he wouldn’t press the topic.

 

So they drove off together, radio blasting as Chan reclined his seat, looking up at the sky while Changbin lead them to their favorite pizza place, humming to himself.

 

Chan knew that Woojin was one of the best things to happen to him in a long, long time. He knew Woojin was everything he had ever wanted and more. He was more than anyone could ever ask for, was prettier and funnier and smarter and everything. Woojin was everything, Chan realized, and he deserved to be treated like he was everything.

 

Maybe Chan had a crush. Maybe Woojin wasn’t just “cute” or “slightly endearing” or any other excuse Chan had come up with so far; maybe he was someone Chan could let himself fall for without hurting himself, without feeling sorry.

 

It was hard to feel sorry around Woojin, truth be told.

 

So Chan let the day wash over him in greasy food and shitty suggestions for rap trio names (“Pussy Destroyers” is fucking dumb, Changbin). He laughed at his best friend’s stupid jokes, and jumped when he felt his phone buzz in his pocket.

 

jisung 💥 | 5:13 p.m.

woojin forgot to mention the concert was incredible !!

he also said to stop pissing in public

whatever that means lmao

 

Chan smiled, authentically smiled, and he swore, for a moment, he felt like he did all those years before he was sixteen. For a moment, he didn’t mourn his former self, because he felt him, seeping back into his mind, catching up on all the years he missed out on.

Chapter Text

Patient #16 - Session Five Notes

 

Name: Bang Chan

 

Session Summary: Spent some time looking through patient's session notes and was able to ask some more personal questions about his past, as we had decided last week that such a method would be best to move sessions forward. I didn't want to be right about my dumb fucking hunch. I really wished I wasn't right. Asked patient about past therapy sessions, and while he seemed hesitant and even denied prior experiences in therapy at first, he admitted to enduring conversion therapy before. Should have kept my dumb fucking mouth shut. I know how hard it is to talk about that shit. Hell, I lost my damn composure trying to bring it up. Was difficult to assess his situation and ask questions rationally like usual, as the subject matter of our discussion affected me deeply. Session was cut shorter than usual, however, it was a much needed conversation that helped Chan the patient open up to someone else who's been through the same thing and knows where he's coming from. Hopefully this will help him in opening up to me, as well as others, in the future. 

 

Progress made: Chan Patient had never spoken so fucking grievingly emotionally before about a topic; conversion therapy has obviously hurt him beyond my original comprehension. While it's clear he's gotten better over the years, he doesn't seem to have completely recovered from this pain he seems to have undergone alone. I know I haven't. While easier said than done, this session brings to light my sincere hope to help him come to the realization that he doesn't have to keep bottling up what he's been through. The patient did incredibly well in his vulnerable position today with speaking on his issues, and even if the session had to come to an early end, he still made an effort to communicate his suffering clearly and transparently. For this, I believe he's progressed very well in the past few weeks. I remember him agreeing during our first session that his relationship with his parents has made it harder for him to share how he feels with others, as well as processing his own emotions. Checking in on your own mental health is hard enough with a family like his, but going through conversion therapy must have added an extra layer of hell agony to it all. I hope he can continue to let me better understand his feelings and what in his life they're influenced by.

 

Personal additions: First thing this bitch told me about this session was some public urination charge so ??? I don't fucking know what to do with that information None.

Chapter Text

The last week of winter break—the one everyone was dreading—crept up on Chan, slowly, then all at once.

 

He couldn’t say he was excited for school to start back up. It gave him an unnecessary workload on top of the mixtape he was currently working a whole other person into, and while Jisung was a trooper for putting up with all of Chan and Changbin’s ridiculous requests in the studio, he wasn’t helping much with Chan’s stress.

 

Sure, he was quick when it came to writing lyrics, and he was such a bright and carefree energy that Chan really needed when it hit one or two in the morning. But there was some sort of ugly insecurity seeping into Chan, one that he felt only when Changbin laughed just a bit too hard at one of Jisung’s jokes or turned more towards the younger during a conversation. Chan knew it was stupid to be jealous; he was always Changbin’s number one, and Changbin knew that just as well as Chan did. They were best friends, and Chan didn’t have any reason to feel left out. Hell, they weren’t leaving him out.

 

So why did it feel like they were?

 

Chan knew better than to loathe Jisung for something as dumb as being charismatic and liked by everyone around him. Jisung had always been there when he needed him, both as the talkative receptionist that would hug him when he cried and as J.One (they had finally worked out Jisung’s stage name, thank the fucking lord), rapping genius and reliable friend.

 

And, Christ, he certainly had no reason to loathe Changbin, either. The guy had been fucking stood up last week, and Jisung was an infectious happiness that could cure any pain one could possibly feel. Of course Changbin would stick by him more often than not.

 

It wasn’t like Chan was helping matters, either. His stupid, envious ass that craved attention at all times was besting him, and it had his mental health declining significantly, enough to make him a little bit worried for his session today.

 

He was always worried, of course, walking into the building that had him reeling every time he sat down in that goddamn loveseat across from the man plaguing every corner of Chan’s mind.

 

And maybe he was especially worried, because last week he struck a nerve in Woojin, some sort of closed-off side of the therapist that Chan wasn’t supposed to know about.

 

But Chan could make assumptions just as well as Woojin had when he asked about conversion therapy. And Chan knew the signs, clear as day.

 

He’d experienced them himself; he was still exhibiting them, worrying if he looked too effeminate, worrying if his conversations edged on flirting with any man Chan deemed attractive. And while he tried to block out that part of his brain, ignore the voices of the “psychiatrists” who had told Chan he was some type of ill that he himself chose, it was always there, unavoidable, like someone you knew in public that you didn’t want to talk to at the moment but you spoke to nevertheless, greeting you like an old friend.

 

Chan had grown accustomed to the idea that he was fucked, and while he didn’t like it, while it wasn’t his own idea, it was buried so deeply within his subconscious that it was hard to let go.

 

He wouldn’t be surprised if Woojin was going through the same thing, on a day-to-day basis, sometimes momentarily relenting but never disappearing entirely.

 

It was hell. It was fucking hell, and sometimes Chan wished he was the perfectly polished straight guy he’d see in movies, the strong protagonist that got the girl at the end. They’d kiss under the stars, whisper confessions in the comfort of each other’s lips, not a single impurity in the way their bodies moved, synchronized and beautiful and everything Chan wanted to be.

 

But Woojin wasn’t perfect (although he was damn near close), and Chan sure as hell wasn’t perfect, either. And while Chan had contrastingly spilled much of his inner thoughts at the drop of a hat to Woojin, spoke his mind every session and rarely held back any trauma he’d faced throughout his life, Woojin had slowly been unraveling, too. Every week Chan felt like he was learning something new about the man, whether it was something he’d said or a mannerism he forgot to hold back in a patient’s presence.

 

Maybe that’s why they clicked so well, at least in Chan’s eyes. Maybe that’s why they fit just right, keeping each other up when they needed it and supporting each other, although the therapist had done a much better job at it than Chan thinks he has (he’s wrong, of course, but Woojin would get to that at a later date).

 

Others could see it, too, as if the crush was something tangible. Hyunjin had recently informed Chan that he needed to lay off the heart eyes a little; apparently he was incredibly obvious at the CB97 and SPEARB concert Woojin had attended.

 

And it’s not like he meant to be. Chan wasn’t purposefully faltering at the soft smile Woojin would shoot him at every encounter, the locks of hair that fell gorgeously over his forehead that Chan had to try desperately not to run his fingers through. It was natural, as natural as the concepts conversion therapy had instilled within him.

 

Falling for Woojin was just as easy as despising himself.

 

But opening up to him, making it through each session when he had a breakdown in almost every single one of them, was much more difficult. And that difficulty kept piling on the more he learned about Woojin.

 

Seeing so much of himself in someone else wasn’t something Chan experienced on the daily.

 

Or, you know, ever.

 

Chan didn’t know if anyone else knew, if anyone else had caught on to what he had been gradually concluding over the past month or so: that Woojin had been hurting just as much, that conversion therapy had fucked him up the same way it fucked up Chan, that maybe he needed more help than he was letting on.

 

And that had Chan questioning all kinds of things. Woojin was always the dependable one, the shoulder for people to cry on. Doesn’t he deserve something like that in return, someone to make him that ridiculously happy?

 

Maybe it was just Chan that was ridiculously happy whenever he saw Woojin; he’d bet, at least, that the other patients didn’t feel like that. He’d bet their breath didn’t catch in their throat every fucking time they saw their therapist—every fucking time, mark Chan’s words—and he’d bet they didn’t have to stop for a moment when they thought about speaking, just to admire the man before them before opening their mouths.

 

Chan liked Woojin. He liked Woojin a lot.

 

Maybe it was showing on his face, maybe he was beaming head to toe, to have Jisung walk up to him from behind his desk as Chan stood in the doorway of the building, unmoving. Chan felt someone lightly touch him, and he looked down to find Jisung’s hand hesitantly hitting his forearm.

 

“Bro. You’ve just been standing here, for like, a minute or two,” the receptionist said to him incredulously, eyes wide. “I thought you were just fucking with me at first, but your limbs whole ass stopped working, huh?” Jisung waved his hand in front of Chan’s face, forcing Chan to blink and step back a bit, slamming into the closed door behind him in the process.

 

“Just sign me in, Sungie,” Chan groaned, rubbing at his aching back as he walked up to the welcome desk. “I’m really going through it, man.”

 

Jisung followed Chan, plopping down in his chair and rolling forward to the computer. “Woojin got you feeling some typa way?”

 

Chan bit his lip, leaning over the desk and letting it support his weight. “You could say that.”

 

Jisung laughed at his friend’s misery, patting his head with some sort of sympathetic cooing sound that Chan refused to acknowledge. “Binnie mentioned that on the phone last night; said you spent a whole fucking hour talking about Woojin’s facial structure. I mean, what kind of weird fucking obsession…”

 

Jisung kept talking about Chan’s relentless crushing, about the night he’d had and about Minho insisting Jisung buy him another cat with “all the bank he’d be making from this whole mixtape thing,” but Chan couldn’t help but focus on the fact that Changbin had been on the phone with Jisung last night. They could’ve been working, could’ve been preparing for the new shit they’re releasing soon, but instead the two had been on the phone together.

 

Why did that bother him so much?

 

“I’m sorry, Ji, but I think I hear Woojin calling me from his office,” Chan quickly excused himself from the conversation, waving goodbye as he left Jisung, mid-sentence and confused. He stumbled a bit, walking the short distance towards the door, as Jisung mumbled an unsure “bye, then.”

 

Chan barged into Woojin’s office, hands shaking ever so slightly as he closed the door behind him and lowered himself into the loveseat. He felt Woojin’s eyes on him, evidently taken aback, a sentence on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t possibly meet his gaze when he already felt himself tearing up.

 

“Chan, you’re, uh, a bit early, and…” Woojin stopped himself, jaw falling slack as Chan sniffled, arms hugging his torso tightly. It was like he was trying to make himself smaller in the already less than spacious office. “Whoa, what’s going on?”

 

Chan’s breathing was labored, and even so, he smiled. “That’s your first question? Not, 'what the fuck?' Not, 'could you please get out of here, considering I haven’t told you to come in yet?'”

 

Woojin shook his head, although Chan couldn’t see him from his current position, facing the floor determinedly as he willed the tears to go away. “Why would I ask that of you when you’re clearly hurting?”

 

Chan didn’t answer.

 

Woojin cleared his throat, opening his laptop and drumming his fingers on his desk nervously, before finding his voice again. “Did something happen...in the waiting room? Because I could hear you and Jisung talking, albeit a bit muffled, and then it just, uh. Stopped.” Chan rubbed at his eyes, trying to find some semblance of calm in Woojin’s gentle words. “And then you came in here.”

 

“I’m unreasonably stressed, Wooj,” Chan blurted out. “And I cry almost every fucking session, and I’m sorry that that’s how this one started.” He paused for a moment, eyebrows furrowing. “Fuck, I don’t even know if we’ve started yet. I kind of, uh, just interrupted whatever you were doing. Before right now.”

 

Woojin closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose, nevertheless grinning from ear to ear. “I suppose we’ve started, now that you’re here, yeah?”

 

Chan sat up straighter, limbs scrambling a bit. “No, I mean, I can wait longer. I can just, sit here? While you finish up your work. Or go into the waiting room. It was impulsive to...to walk in like this, and I’m sorry.”

 

Woojin waved his hands and shook his head, conveying a “no” as he let out a spurt of giggles. “Bang Chan, when will you ever learn that you could never possibly upset me, no matter what it is that you’re doing?” he postulated, leaning back in his desk chair. “Lay it on me.”

 

Chan snorted at that. “Some professional you are. ‘Lay it on me’? Not even a ‘how’re you feeling’? ‘Why were you crying’?”

 

Woojin’s face fell ever so noticeably, and his smile tightened. “I apologize. Let me start over—”

 

“Wooj, I was joking,” Chan said quickly, before Woojin got the wrong idea entirely. “You’re alright; I like talking more casually, anyway.” Chan paused, wiggling his eyebrows playfully, which caused Woojin to gag. “And that includes poking fun at you, and vice versa.”

 

Woojin’s lips were quirked up once again, naturally, and they sat there in silence for a second as Woojin thought to himself.

 

“You keep calling me that, you know,” the therapist said quietly, cheeks tinted a light pink. Chan had no idea what he was talking about, until something clicked and he gasped.

 

“‘Wooj’? I’ve gotten used to it since our last session.” He smirked rather cockily, an intense contrast from the state in which he’d walked into the office only minutes ago. Chan was unpredictable like that, and he only hoped that it was just interesting enough for Woojin to keep him around, long after their sessions would come to an end. “Think I’ll stick with it, if that’s alright with you.”

 

“It’s adorable. You’re adorable,” Woojin breathed out, oblivious to how unfiltered he was speaking, beaming dizzily, and fuck, he looked exactly how Chan felt.

 

“You know, I don’t think you’ve ever said that to me before,” Chan supposed, eyes crinkling at their corners. “Wouldn’t mind hearing it again.”

 

Woojin shook his head defiantly, and the man across from him pouted. “I’m only allowed to compliment you once per session, Chan. It’s a governmentally mandated law.”

 

And Kim Woojin felt himself get just a little braver in that moment, felt himself fall just a little harder; it showed, especially, in what he said next, not waiting for a response from his patient as he continued. “Maybe I’ll call you beautiful. Maybe I’ll tell you your eyes shine when you speak. Maybe you’re even prettier than I always remember you. Who knows?”

 

Chan could only sit there after that. He felt some kind of electricity jolt through every part of his body as he listened to Woojin, and then they were simply left gawking at each other.

 

Woojin had never said something so bold, had never come on so strong, and yet Chan found it to be the most attractive thing he had ever witnessed. He was always surprising Chan in these little ways, gingerly and with a flourish that Chan’s shameless ass could never achieve. He didn’t know how he did it, but he knew he never wanted Woojin to stop staring at him, unabashedly, the way he was right now. And yet, of course, all good things come to an end (particularly during therapy sessions), and Woojin coughed, typing something on his laptop, before looking back up at Chan. His gaze was more serious, but there was a trace of eagerness in his expression that couldn’t go unnoticed, one Chan mirrored almost perfectly.

 

“Why don’t we get into it, then?” Woojin asked, fingers poised at his keyboard. “What’s been stressing you out lately, Chan?”

 

Chan grounded himself, stopped focusing so heavily on Woojin’s plush lips, his smooth skin, the curve of his nose, his jawline, the veins on his hands, his earrings, Woojin . He let himself think, running a hand through his hair (a bad habit that Hyunjin had pointed out a few days ago), and spoke his mind carefully. “I don’t know where to pinpoint it, exactly. I mean, I’m obviously pretty sensitive to have cried at the mention of Jisung simply fucking calling my best friend; I’ve never been a jealous person before, and I don’t know where it came from.” He met Woojin’s eyes, almost desperately. “He didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t know what it is that I’m letting get to me, but Changbin and I spend every waking minute together. So...so to see someone else, someone I don’t know nearly as well, join in on that dynamic…”

 

Woojin blinked. “Do you feel threatened by Jisung? Do you believe he’s putting your friendship with Changbin at risk?”

 

Chan’s eyes widened. “No, nothing like that at all! Changbin and I are still just as close, but now we’re getting close with Jisung, too, and it’s leaving me, uh? Feeling like a third wheel of sorts?” He shook his head rapidly, like he was trying to get the thought to leave his brain. “And yet there’s no reason to fucking feel like that. We include each other equally, we hang out both altogether and off in pairs, too. Jisung doesn’t have any ill intentions, and neither does Changbin, and neither do I.” He looked positively stumped. “So why do I feel this way?”

 

Woojin pursed his lips, looking down at his laptop screen. “I’d bet it’s just getting used to another person being part of your life. That must be difficult, considering how you and Changbin are practically attached at the hip.” He was lost in contemplation for a moment, tilting his head to the side. “Do you think Changbin feels like that when you’re the one with Jisung? Have you tried talking to him about it?”

 

“No, I...that didn’t even come to mind. I just figured I was going crazy over here. I’ve come to find Jisung like a younger brother in such a short amount of time, and somehow I still wonder how I play into either of their lives positively, both Changbin and Jisung.” Chan laughed to himself softly. “That’s stupid, right? It’s stupid of me to even think that.”

 

Woojin leaned forward behind his desk, typing as he talked. “It isn’t stupid, Chan. I would just suggest sitting down with the two and discussing this—getting it out in the open—to see if you’re not the only one going through this.” Woojin’s expression completely changed, and his mouth formed a small “o,” some realization hitting him that Chan was completely lost on. “Do, uh,” he started up, hands fidgeting. “Do you think there could be any other reasons? That you’re experiencing this?”

 

Chan didn’t see what he was getting at. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

 

Woojin chuckled, and it came out a bit strangled, like a physical pain had taken him over. “Like, uh, romantic reasons? Jealousy can often stem from...you know,” he gestured with his hand, taking a deep breath, “a romantic interest being befriended by someone new, especially someone you’re already acquainted with.”

 

Chan couldn’t believe Woojin was even asking him about this; he thought he’d been incredibly transparent about how he felt about the man sitting across from him.

 

“I would never, in a million years, want to proposition Changbin,” Chan clarified, laughing at the mere idea. “Our friendship is entirely platonic.”

 

Woojin looked more relieved than Chan had ever seen him, although maybe that was just his mind playing tricks on him. Maybe that was how Chan had wanted him to react.

 

“Plus,” Chan continued, the corners of his mouth turning up ever so slightly, “I already have my eyes set on someone else.”

 

Woojin’s face went blank, unreadable, as Chan looked for a sign of understanding, anything that told him Woojin was thinking the same exact thing he was.

 

“Is that so?” Woojin whispered. It was barely audible; his mouth was almost immobile, and it was a wonder that Chan heard him.

 

“Yeah, it is,” Chan replied.

 

Woojin slowly moved himself forward to close his laptop. He was hesitant, but decided to slide it to his left, among his many unorganized papers and folders.

 

“No more notes for today? Or are you ending the session early?” Chan asked out of curiosity.

 

“Wanted to get a better view of you,” Woojin said straightforwardly, and that knocked the air out of Chan’s lungs. He was stuttering a response, and he couldn’t find it, couldn’t find a way to describe what he was feeling, as he often could during therapy. “I’ll finish the notes later. Just tell me what else has been stressing you out. I have a feeling it’s not just Changbin and Jisung; the end of winter break’s approaching, right?”

 

Fucking hell, you’re stressing me out much more at the moment than the end of winter break ever could, Chan thought to himself, but he kept himself from saying it, and instead prayed his voice didn’t shake from this point forward (Woojin often had that effect on him).

 

“Yeah, school isn’t ever my favorite part of the year, which you could probably assume. But once January 7th hits, the university practically owns us again, and then we’re all stuck looking forward to May 24th.” Chan let his head fall in his hands, a silent, slightly panicked laugh making his shoulders shake. “God, and then senior year’ll be here after that. That’s fucking crazy.”

 

Woojin hummed, rationalizing Chan’s worries before speaking himself. “If I could give you any advice at all when it comes to school, it’d be to not let your future hit you so quickly. You have time; let it stretch out, and live freely in every hour and minute you’re experiencing right now. It’s not May yet, it’s not senior year yet, you haven’t graduated yet. And while that’s a scary thought—while you may be looking forward to it all the same—bask in today, and every day after this. Otherwise you’ll be left wondering what happened to it all, and how you let the year slip from your grasp, yeah?”

 

Chan nodded in recognition, head still in his hands. “I think I’ve been letting the years slip by, anyhow,” he said, words muffled.

 

“Maybe this year could be different.”

 

Chan looked up, and met Woojin’s smile with his own. “I think it already is, Wooj.”

 

Woojin let his chin sit in the palm of his hand. “Could therapy have anything to do with that? Do you find yourself benefiting from these sessions?”

 

“Yes,” Chan said, and it’s probably the surest he’s ever been of anything in his entire life. “I don’t, uh—” Chan stopped himself, trying to think of how to phrase what he was going to say next. He came up with nothing, so he let his mouth move, with honest gratitude in his heart, and hoped for the best. “I don’t know where I’d be right now, if it weren’t for you. Maybe, uh, dead, somewhere. Or something like that.”

 

Woojin looked empty, like someone had gutted him.

 

“I’m so glad you’re here, Chan,” Woojin said fiercely, like Chan was the only person he’d ever believed in, like he was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Chan certainly felt that way about Woojin, anyhow.

 

“And, if I could speak off record, like I often do,” Woojin proceeded, “the only good thing your mother has ever done for you is convinced you to come here to see me. I’m so deeply fucking grateful for that, Chan; you have no idea how much you truly mean to me.”

 

An interesting thought crossed Chan’s mind: maybe he really didn’t have any idea; maybe he was clueless, and maybe Woojin felt the same way, about the both of them.

 

Maybe Woojin wanted to kiss Chan just as badly as he wanted to kiss Woojin. Maybe there was an overwhelming, lurking emotion in Woojin’s chest, the same one that was in Chan’s, that neither of them knew what to make of.

 

But that was okay. They’d be okay, and if that were the case, they’d sort through it together, as they sort through everything else. And maybe one day they really would kiss, the sort of kiss Chan would dream about where it was pouring outside and Chan held an umbrella over their heads, protecting Woojin from anything the world could try and throw at him, and he’d dip him low, hold on tight, and press their lips together.

 

But until that day would come, he’d say goodbye to Woojin at the end of every session, a polite nod and a smile as he ran into the door, distracted by the therapist’s gaze, and Woojin would laugh every single fucking time. He’d give Jisung a fist bump on his walk out (however, this time the fist bump was replaced with an apology for interrupting Jisung earlier and a short explanation of ‘I really need to speak with you and Changbin about something that’s been on my mind lately’). He’d walk to the Seo household, let himself forget that he had to go back to the dorm in three days, and he’d let his mind wander.

 

God.

 

Kim Woojin was truly something else.

Chapter Text

Patient #16 - Session Six Notes

 

Name: Bang Chan

 

Session Summary: The session started quite peculiarly, Chan the patient bursting into my office before our set time. Kind of glad I got to talk to him longer I'll be sure such a thing won't happen again, but as the patient was incredibly distressed, I don't see any problems with this one instance. While the patient has been worried in the wake of school starting up again, the session had quite a playful? Flirty? Was he flirting with me? I was definitely flirting with him. Must've called him at least 20 words synonymous to "pretty," but, you know. There's not much new there. relaxed air about him; it was a nice change of pace. Besides the moment I had asked if he was in love with Changbin. Whoops. The only incredibly serious moment from today outside of the very beginning of the session was when the patient had stated rather casually that, without therapy, he might be "dead somewhere." I didn't know what to say to that. What the fuck do you say to that? How do you tell someone that they've saved you just as much as you've saved them?

 

Progress made: While the patient's casual observation of how therapy has benefited him seems to show progression, it could also clearly implicate suicidal thoughts. Might be something to touch on next session; it's a hard subject to approach without becoming emotional losing composure, especially with one of the few people that seem to keep me grounded a patient I'm more well acquainted with, but it was a topic we were most likely going to come across, anyways. However, we can not have a fucking repeat of session five. I broke down far too many times that day, and Chan needs someone strong to get him through these things. I can't do that if I'm blubbering like an idiot about one thing or another. Patient also seemed to be a lot brighter this session. He may still be stressed, and there are still things we need to work on, but the more he reveals about himself and gets out in the open, the more he looks at peace, I suppose. It gives the office some kind of serenity. And fuck you, Jisung, I'm leaving that in.

 

Personal additions: Got a lot braver this session. Need to stop doing that, because I make a fool out of myself every single time. And yet, how does someone just sit there and not comment on such a powerful and fucking unbelievable beauty? And, God, when I do comment on it, he calls me "Wooj," like we've known each other for years, and I swear, sometimes it feels like we have. But I crumble every time I hear it, and I melt at his every word, and I could say it time and time again and it'd always be just as true: Bang Chan is truly something else. None.

Chapter Text

Chan was plateauing.

 

He was stuck, he was stagnant; no matter how many ways he tried to phrase it, it didn’t sound any better in his head. And it certainly didn’t sound better when, last night, he had looked at Changbin and told him he was fucking afraid. He was afraid of never getting better, of never improving, and while Changbin reassured him time and time again, Chan didn’t know if it was enough. The week had been hell, and now he had to see Woojin after all of that, and he didn’t know if he was in any state adequate enough to present himself in public.

 

Sure, Woojin would have something wise to chime in with, something that got Chan thinking that maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be okay. And even then, as much as Chan wanted to believe him, he didn’t know if he could. Maybe Chan wasn’t meant to be okay. Maybe he would just always be like this; “broken,” as his mother would say.

 

But he was getting ahead of himself.

 

He would start from the beginning.

 

Chan’s last few days in the Seo household were just as surprisingly eventful and exciting as he had hoped. Jeongin practically demanded they hold a Triple Threat gig (the name was a work in progress, but it was a lot easier to say than “CB97, SPEARB, and J.ONE”), as well as an after party, to celebrate one of their last days on winter break. Chan didn’t really know what there was to celebrate—they were all going to be trapped in those stuffy lecture rooms soon enough—but he went along with it all the same, both as a good friend and as an up-and-coming musician.

 

And in the studio, on Friday morning, he was even able to talk to Changbin and Jisung about the recent jealousy he’d been experiencing within their friendship. It was a bit hard to articulate what he wanted to say, but by the end of his spiel, both of the rappers admitted they had been feeling the same way. Chan supposed all three of them were pretty sensitive, and they came to the conclusion that they should be more careful about including everyone in every conversation the group had together. Maybe it would sound ridiculous to anyone else, but to them, complete, equal love and trust was required in a bond that had been strengthening as rapidly as theirs.

 

Jisung already felt like home to Chan, already gave him the same sort of comfort that Changbin’s presence did, and he hadn't even been in his life for two months. He was sweet, he was cheerful, and he was everything Chan needed in a best friend (well, he had four other best friends, too, but whatever). He deserved to know he was appreciated that severely, rather than being told Chan was jealous of him.

 

Saturday night’s concert had come, and as Chan set up their microphones on the small restaurant stage, he decided to relay his thoughts to Jisung, mumbled to his side rather embarrassedly. Jisung had stopped fiddling with the bundle of mic cords and looked Chan in the eye to find some hint of mockery. When he was faced with honesty, and maybe a bit of shyness, Jisung simply laughed. “I feel like home, huh?”

 

All Chan could do was nod.

 

Jisung opened his mouth to speak again, but his eyes darted up suddenly to the door of the restaurant that Chan’s back was facing. He grinned, all sly and holier-than-thou, still focused on the front of the room.

 

“Uh...Jisung?” Chan said warily, waving a hand at him. “Hello? We were talking?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Chan, alright,” he said quickly, almost absentmindedly. “Quick question: if I feel like home, how does Woojin feel?”

 

Chan gulped. That couldn’t mean anything good.

 

All of a sudden Jisung was running past Chan, clipping his side with force and jumping off of the stage. He landed with a wildly explicit curse at the impact, before running towards whatever he had his sights set on.

 

Chan rubbed at the shoulder Jisung had slammed into in his hurry, and turned around slowly, bracing himself for whatever he was about to face, and—

 

Fucking of course.

 

Jisung approached the stage again, this time with Minho’s hand intertwined in his own.

 

And goddamn Kim Woojin was trailing close behind them.

 

“Don’t believe we’ve formally met,” Minho said with a smile, looking up at Chan, who was trying desperately not to look at the incredibly hot motherfucker standing in his line of sight. “I’m Lee Minho, and I can only assume you’re Bang Chan?”

 

“Sure am,” Chan said shortly, squatting down on the stage to shake Minho’s hand. “It’s a pleasure.”

 

“Says the famous rapper,” Minho replies with an eye roll. “If anything, it’s my pleasure. I’ve been to a few of your shows; gotta say I’m impressed. Even invited some friends along tonight.” He turned around to glance at Woojin, who was grinning from ear to ear. “Felix will be coming later, but this one,” Minho continued, gesturing to Woojin. “I believe you two are... very well acquainted, if Jisung’s word was anything to go by.”

 

Chan stared maliciously at Jisung, whose complexion had suddenly darkened a shade of red. “Oh, look at the time, babe!” the boy suddenly exclaimed, voice raised, as he looked down at his bare wrist. “Changbin will be looking for us, haha. You know how it is,” he said jokingly, tugging on Minho’s hand with fervor as he sprinted away.

 

“Fuck you, Han Jisung,” Chan muttered under his breath, and Woojin must have heard, because he chuckled to himself, walking forward.

 

“They’re certainly a pair.”

 

Chan dropped down to sit on the edge of the stage, trying not to lose his shit as Woojin stood only a foot away from him, hands in the pockets of his jeans. A white sweater draped over his collarbones beautifully, exposing one of his shoulders in the way it enveloped his form. Chan knew he was staring, but fucking hell, how could he not?

 

“So, uh. This was a good choice, huh?” Woojin asked suddenly, tugging on the hem of his sweater. He smiled, almost knowingly, and Chan blinked, feeling completely captivated. “It seems to have caught your eye, at least.”

 

Words. They were...a thing. Syllables. Forming sentences.

 

Any possible response was stuck in the back of his throat.

 

“Hm,” Chan ended up saying intelligently, drawing a laugh out of the other.

 

“I’ll take that as some form of agreement,” Woojin crooned, tilting his head up at Chan with bright eyes. “You can look for as long as you’d like; I’ll be standing in the front during the show, anyway.”

 

“I mean,” Chan spluttered, finally digesting what Woojin was implying. “I can, uh—I can look, uh, away, the. The. Um, yeah, I’m—I can...No, uh. Not. Distracted, or...anything. Like that. I’m. I’m all—all good.”

 

A light blush tinted Woojin’s cheeks, and Chan had no idea what he was embarrassed about when Chan just said what had to be the stupidest thing anyone has ever said, ever. It was a fucking wonder that Chan lost all of his articulate, outgoing, extroverted self whenever he was around Woojin.

 

“You seem distracted,” the therapist pointed out, leaning forward a bit. His face fell slightly, however, as some sort of realization hit him. “Well, I should probably let you get ready, as I’m sure you’re busy—”

 

“Or,” Chan interrupted, hopefulness in his tone, “you could stay and help us set up, like Minho’s doing.”

 

He didn’t know where he found the courage to say something other than “uh,” but it certainly made him feel prideful when the corners of Woojin’s lips quirked up once again. “You know what? That sounds great.”

 

So, with an extra set of hands, the stage was set up much quicker, Woojin making sure to follow Chan’s instructions closely when it came to the technology he wasn’t familiar with. Once the two were done, they found Minho, Jisung, Changbin, and Seungmin (Chan didn’t even remember seeing him walk through the restaurant’s entrance) fucking around in the stage-left supply closet, and Chan tried to move Woojin away from the chaos as quickly as possible to avoid any regret the other might have from coming to the concert tonight (which, by the way, miraculously started perfectly on time).

 

The crowd was bigger and louder and more intoxicated than ever before, which Chan knew from the sight of Jeongin and Hyunjin making their way through the mass of people with disgust as someone nearly threw up on them. Even so, the college students somehow reached Woojin, Minho, Seungmin, and...Phillip, was it? Chan swore his name was Phillip, but he really couldn’t remember.

 

Even through the drunken shouts, Chan could still make out words: words he wrote. It seemed as if almost every single person knew the songs by heart. Chan could feel himself practically tearing up as his “ID:a” verse was rapped with passion by the room full of people; he let the crowd sing the chorus of “The Dreamz,” impressively on pitch, and they somehow kept up with every line of “Runner’s High.”

 

And, Christ, he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t transfixed by Woojin the entire time, as he often was. At one point, he winked directly at Chan, and somehow managed to start a “CB97” chant directly after, the crowd shouting his stage name like their lives depended on it.

 

Near the end of the set list, during “Tik Tok,” Chan had built up enough confidence to flash his abs at the crowd, which was followed by deafening screaming. He could have sworn he heard Hyunjin yell “that’s my bitch!” amidst all of the noise, but he was trying with all of his might to not look in Woojin’s general direction, so he wouldn’t really know.

 

All in all, the show was a success, as many of their shows had been thus far. Things felt even more natural with Jisung up there, if Chan was being honest, and he knew Changbin felt the same way. Everyone was just as excited for the afterparty, too; it was their last Saturday night to spend completely and utterly recklessly before the school year began.

 

Once the equipment had been stowed away in the trunk of Jisung’s car, the rappers made their way back into the restaurant, still filled to the brim with people, and as they weaved through the tables, the three were showered with praises. Die-hard fans and completely new faces alike were high-fiving and fist-bumping them till their hands were sore.

 

They had finally made it to their little piece of peace in the corner of the room, sliding into their reserved booth and flaunting disgustingly sweaty tank tops and smiles so bright Seungmin swore they blinded him.

 

The group talked animatedly, the food was devoured in no time, and Chan quickly learned that Minho’s friend “Phillip” was actually “Felix,” so...whoops.

 

But the most entertaining parts of the entire night had to be whenever Woojin would blatantly hit on Chan from across the table and the other would stutter out some slew of words in the hopes that they didn’t show how flustered he was, liquid confidence dissipating rapidly. The therapist could say something as simple as “you did so well tonight,” and all he’d get in response would be “Ah...yes, uh—tch. Uh. Thank, um, y—of cou—I mean, uh, wow. Haha.”

 

Felix, confused as ever, would turn to his right every time with an uncertain stare. “Are you sure he’s okay?” he would ask, and Changbin would laugh.

 

“I’m telling you, he’s just like this.”

 

And so this went on for some time, and Chan went home feeling rather content with his Woojin-related interactions that day.

 

Sunday was just as easy-going, in fact, more so than past dorm returns had been. Seungmin helped him organize his closet for what had to be at least the 5th time that school year, and Changbin was rather lenient with how little he’d unpacked that day. Rather, Chan spent most of his time playing Smash Bros in the rec room with Jeongin, trying to ignore the fact that winter break was officially ending. He wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow, but he grit his teeth and tried his best to make it through any of the dread he was feeling.

 

It was sort of like the calm before the storm, like knowing something’s coming but you can’t quite pin it down. Chan was never content for long; the universe wouldn’t allow it, so he wasn’t unfamiliar with this suspicion of the cruel way his life tended to play out.

 

It could have just been being back in the dorms that made him feel this way.

 

It could have just been the end of one of the best winter breaks he’s had in a long, long time.

 

So this unsurety he felt pooling in his chest—maybe it was nothing. Speculation at best. It would be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then he’d see Woojin, and then he’d be alright. He wouldn’t be unexplainably apprehensive. Everything was going to be fine.

 

Chan had only been sleeping for a few hours before waking up to his loud and obnoxious ringtone. He picked up the phone from the bedside table, albeit hesitantly, not caring to look at the screen. Changbin probably forgot something on the way to one of his morning classes. Chan was already out of bed, looking around the room lethargically for his roommate’s music theory textbook.

 

“Hey, Binnie, I really am looking, but I’m not seeing it where you usually leave it. Just ask Professor Jung for—”

 

“Bang Chan? Excuse me, do I have the wrong number?” a voice rang loud and clear, and Chan dropped his phone as soon as he heard it, scrambling to pick it up with shaking hands.

 

“Sorry. Yes. Wrong number,” he said quickly, ending the call.

 

He thought the call must have been an accident when he’d seen the notification at his parent’s house a few weeks ago. He thought the “DO NOT ANSWER CHAN YOU DUMBASS” was something he dreamed up, some cruel joke someone must have played on him. He had gotten a new phone years ago, had his number changed, hoped and prayed that they didn’t have it. Put the contact name in as a warning; it’d tell him when he was truly fucked, when everything was wrong and he needed a sign to clarify things.

 

As fast as he could possibly force his fingers to catch up with his thoughts, he blocked the contact.

 

He hoped that would be the end. That had to be the end. It would be Tuesday, Wednesday, and then he’d see Woojin, and he’d be alright. Everything was going to be fine.

 

He went to his afternoon classes, tried to convince himself that he’d been hallucinating that morning, and came back to the dorm to a pacing Changbin. He looked nearly as anxious as Chan felt.

 

“Uh, what the hell are you doing?” Chan asked his roommate, and if he was being honest, he didn’t want to know the answer.

 

“What the fuck is going on?” Changbin asked, still walking back and forth. “Chan,” he said, looking up with wide eyes. He pulled out his phone, almost jitterily, and pointed at the screen. Notification after notification was rolling in—texts, calls, emails, anything and everything. “I...I need to know what’s happening. Why did my phone go off in the middle of my presentation to tell me that you’re in critical condition and need to see your ‘old therapist’? Who the fuck are these people? Because the same office has this shit ringing off the hook, and I’ve never heard of it, and you’ve never mentioned it, so what the fuck are you doing?” He approached Chan, grabbing his forearms with desperation. “Tell me what’s happening so we can fix this.”

 

His tone was frantic, like he’d been through hell.

 

Changbin was afraid, and of what, he didn’t even know.

 

So Chan told him. He told him everything he’d told Woojin weeks earlier, about how badly his youth and innocence was ruined by a gay porn his father found on his computer. He told him about everything he’d endured throughout conversion therapy: ice pressed against his skin when he said something that wasn’t oh so perfectly heterosexual, trauma after trauma thrown at him in the same four confining white walls, his mother’s words every time they’d make their way home (“You’re getting there, and I’m so, so proud of you. Soon enough you’ll be back to normal, Channie, just you wait. They’ll fix you, I know they will. Everything will be fine.”)

 

“Mother must have told them something,” Chan mumbled into his best friend’s shoulder, who was barely holding back tears. “She thinks I’m vulnerable enough to go back. She thinks I need help; she thinks conversion therapy would be better for me than Woojin. But it’s not, Binnie, it never will be, and I don’t wanna….I don’t wanna stop seeing him after only ten sessions. I need to show her that I’m, that. I’m okay. I’m okay, I can be normal, I have to be, so they can stop trying to get to me through my friends. They can’t do that,” he sobbed, grip on Changbin’s shirt tightening, and all the other could do was listen, some place in his heart numbing and hollowing out with every word Chan spoke. “They can’t blow up your phone...you have to block it all, please, don’t pay them any mind. I’ll get better, and they’ll stop—”

 

“They don’t want you to get better, Chan,” Changbin interrupted, staring icily ahead at nothing. “They don’t care about your wellbeing like Woojin does. They want you to be straight. That’s all they want, that’s all they do. They try to convince you that you—you did this to yourself.” Changbin wrapped his arms around Chan, whose hyperventilation was slowing to choked-up, staggered breaths. He turned to look at him, warmth radiating in his presence, though his expression was deadly serious. “But you didn’t. You know you didn’t. You were born this way, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There will never be anything wrong with that, with us, with anyone. We can love unapologetically, knowing we’re ourselves, not something someone else wants us to be. Does that make sense?”

 

Chan nodded.

 

He wanted to believe Changbin so badly that it hurt. He wished his past wasn’t out to get him, he wished he could grow and develop normally without all of the complications.

 

But he had to hold on. It’d be Tuesday, Wednesday, and then he’d see Woojin. Everything was going to be fine.

 

Even so, the next few days weren’t any easier, and Chan was getting less and less sleep. Seungmin, Jeongin, Hyunjin, Jisung—hell, even Minho, who he barely knew—all informed him that they were being contacted at a ridiculous rate. No one in the group could hang out for any period of time without someone’s phone ringing. They would forget to block the offhand number, account, or email; entirely new ones would show up that they’d never seen before, all relaying the same message: Chan needed to go back to conversion therapy, and he needed to go now.

 

It was a relief to everyone involved when Thursday afternoon came, and Chan was dropped off by Hyunjin at Woojin’s office building, flexing his fingers in anticipation before walking in.

 

Jisung was typing away absentmindedly at his computer, eyes flickering up as soon as he saw Chan. He stumbled as he got up from his chair, leaning over his desk to look at his friend with clear sympathy in his gaze. “How’re you holding up?”

 

Jisung covered his mouth with his hand as Chan walked closer, noticing how red and watery his eyes were. His outfit was strangely more crisp than usual, hair falling over his forehead to perfection. The contrast between the wavering smile that didn’t quite reach the rest of his face and the smooth silkiness of his perfectly ironed clothing was unsettling, and Jisung was struggling to question it properly as he sat back down to sign Chan in.

 

They were both quiet, each on either side of the desk, so close and yet so incredibly distant. Jisung was ready to break the built-up tension, but Chan beat him to it.

 

“I put in a lot of effort today,” he said, and it was clear that he was struggling to sound calm and collected. “Figured I’ve disappointed enough people in my life—my parents, for example—that I could at least keep Woojin impressed.”

 

Jisung, for once in his life, didn’t know what to say. He spent so much time as a receptionist, talking to people and getting to know the patients, and yet all of that had brought him to this very moment, where he stared blankly at his desktop screen. He was typing on pure memory, but it was slow. He didn’t want to miss a single word being said to him, as much as it hurt to hear.

 

“I didn’t want to get up today, Jisung. It took all that I have in me,” Chan said softly, eyes watering just a tad more than they had been when he arrived. “I want to be in control of my life. I don’t want someone else deciding how it plays out, I don’t want…don’t want someone trying to change me, my sexuality, who I like and love. I want to look like someone who can do that, be aware of himself. I want to look like I know what I’m doing, because then...maybe I will, at some point.” Chan breathed deep, and then he did it again, and again, and again, and again, until he was edging on hysteria. He tried to add something else to the end of his spiel, but his chest shook and he hung his head, looking at the ground as he tried to muffle his hiccuped cries.

 

Jisung stood up, ready to circle around the desk and comfort Chan, when his phone rang loudly in his pocket. He looked conflicted, and Chan rubbed at his eyes, a completely broken smile playing at his lips. “Are they still trying to call you?”

 

Jisung checked his phone, shaking his head. “It’s Minho, but…”

 

He looked at Chan, taking in everything he saw, and made a split-second decision. “You need someone right now—”

 

“Jisung, it’s okay.” He spoke so honestly, so clearly, as if he wasn’t digging his nails into his palms behind the desk, trying to ground himself. “Take the call; I’m not going anywhere, yeah? Just give me a moment and everything will be fine.”

 

Minho called him a second time, and at that, Jisung gave Chan an apologetic look, walking into the supply closet behind his desk to answer.

 

When he walked out again, back to his desk, Chan was nowhere to be seen in the waiting room.

 

He called his name in the men’s restroom.

 

No response.

 

Texted him. Called him.

 

Nothing.

 

Looked around in the parking lot, distraught and anxious, only to see Chan sitting on a park bench in the distance, across the street.

 

Chan had been sitting there for roughly fifteen minutes or so, head in his hands. He felt like shit—certainly too shitty to see Woojin—so it was quite a surprise when he felt someone plop down next to him, maybe an inch or two away.

 

He didn’t have the energy to look up and see who it was, so there he sat for a few more minutes, basking in the company of a complete stranger.

 

But it wasn’t a stranger, and Chan knew that, and the person sitting next to him knew it, too.

 

“Why aren’t you in your office? These are your working hours,” Chan mumbled, and the stranger chuckled (beautiful, as always).

 

“I could ask you the same question,” Woojin replied, carefully placing a hand on Chan’s back and rubbing small, slow circles. He waited for the other to speak, patient and tranquil.

 

Chan gulped. “I’m sorry, I’m wasting your time. You can go back in if you’d like; I’m not really feeling up to a session today.”

 

Woojin contemplated for a moment, looking thoughtfully at the man beside him. “You know, this doesn’t have to be a session,” Woojin proposed, voice comforting. “We can just talk, yeah? No notes, no desk between us. Just you and me.”

 

That scared Chan more than anything possibly could. He had already spoken to Woojin outside of a session just a couple of days ago at the concert, and he was sure he’d die on the spot if he had to do it again. He weighed his options, examined how he was feeling and how he’d felt in the past, before coming to a conclusion. He knew it might not make sense to anyone else, he knew all of his friends would give him shit for it, but he needed to go somewhere that made him feel less exposed.

 

“Yeah, I, uh, think I’m gonna call my mother. I can go home from here, and—”

 

He was reaching for his pocket, Woojin stopping him suddenly with a gentle tap to his hand. Chan looked up for the first time since he’d sat down, and he saw Woojin looking right back at him, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He looked good—he always did—but it was some kind of good that Chan thought he’d only ever see outside of the office. It was something about the way the sunlight hit him, the way his normally perfect hair was slightly rustled with the breeze. It made Chan want to go on walks with him, drive in a convertible with the roof pulled down.

 

“That didn’t go so well last time, Chan; are you sure you should do that again?” Woojin asked worriedly, and his eye’s searched Chan’s face for some recognition of what he was attempting to do.

 

Chan had a response in mind, but before he could say it, his phone buzzed.

 

That provoked something within him, set something off that had been building up all week, and before he knew it, tears were streaming down his face.

 

“Woojin, we shouldn’t fucking be here,” Chan gasped, pushing Woojin’s hand off of his back. “I’m messing everything up, and I feel like absolute shit for it. I cry to you every goddamn session, I stress you out and I worry you, and I know you’re my therapist and it’s your job, but…” Chan trailed off, tone hesitant. “It’s more than that, it’s always felt like more than that, and I...I don’t know how to explain it, but I just wish I wasn’t such a fucking burden all of the time. I just want to go one week—one week is all I fucking ask for—without making an ass of myself in front of you. And...and school is just as difficult as it’s always been, and I still can’t sleep, and I just want to make music, that’s literally all I’d ever want, but when this goddamn—this goddamn, fucking. Fucking conversion therapy office will not stop contacting me, and my friends, and everyone I fucking know, and I, it, it just fucking, makes things hard? I don’t. I don’t know how to fucking say it. It’s just like everything is coming together to try and make my life a living hell, and I need you so badly right now, but I don’t...don’t deserve that. And I should just. Be somewhere else.”

 

Woojin looked at him with pure sincerity and understanding behind his gaze. His eyes fluttered shut for a moment, and he inhaled deeply, before holding both of his hands out in front of him.

 

“Do you trust me?” Woojin asked softly, eyes opening slowly and lips quirking up into a sad grin.

 

Chan clasped his hands together with Woojin’s, unsure of where this was going, but sure of his answer: “Always. Of course.”

 

The therapist squeezed Chan’s hands, and to the other’s surprise, tears began to roll down his cheeks as well. “Wooj—”

 

“I need you to listen to me when I say this, Chan. Every word,” Woojin said with purpose, unfaltering, though his body was shaking with quiet sobs.

 

Chan nodded. “Okay. I’ll listen, I promise I will.”

 

Woojin swept his tears away with his sleeves, collecting himself for a moment, before giving Chan a small smile, still just as dazzling as the first day Chan had met him.

 

“When I...when I attended conversion therapy, years ago,” Woojin began, and Chan’s breath hitched at that. He rubbed his thumbs into Woojin’s palms, and the man in front of him was all he could focus on. “I didn’t know what to do with myself. I just felt like I was occupying space, like I wasn’t worth the life I was given. And I sure as hell wasn’t getting better—I was immobile, if that makes sense.”

 

“That’s exactly how I’m feeling,” Chan said incredulously, and Woojin laughed.

 

“It’s suffocating, isn’t it?” Woojin’s hands were trembling, and he heaved a shaky sigh. “I don’t want to go into detail. I don’t think I’m ready for that, but...if I could tell you anything that I learned, after that dark, dark period of my life, it’s that it wasn’t my fault, how I was feeling. It’s natural to cry, to feel like less than you really are, to belittle yourself and be convinced you don’t deserve the help you receive. It’s natural to want to be anywhere other than where you are right now, to leave and hide away and forget everything you’ve left behind, because sometimes it’s simpler than facing your emotions head-on.”

 

“And I know you do that, Chan; you close yourself off, and it comes so easily, because it’s how you fought for stability. Hell, it’s how I fought for stability, too. I think that keeping to myself will cure the worries of others, but all it does is leave this festering, ugly feeling that I can’t get rid of until I let myself go, until I expose myself to someone else.” Woojin tilted his head a little as he spoke, reflecting aloud. “I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone, but bottling up all of this pressure and anxiety, having so many things affect you at once and hoping that it’ll go away, while trusting that you aren’t good enough to lean on someone for support? It chips away at you, Chan. You need to depend on others just as equally as you depend on yourself.”

 

“And it may take time to believe that,” Woojin continued, looking Chan in the eye. He had stopped crying now, completely still. “There’s never any rush to find yourself—what you learn in life will come naturally, so I only hope to remind you: you are worthy of the love you’re given. You aren’t what you’ve endured. You aren’t the pain you’ve been through, you don’t force others to suffer as you’ve suffered. You are bright, you are compassionate, you are empathetic, and you are more human than anyone I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And I, for one,” he said, leaning in, voice dropping to a whisper, “am completely enamored with the person you’ve turned out to be.”

 

Chan felt the water droplets before he saw them, and what must have been a mist of sorts developed into a drizzle, and then it was pouring, and all he could do was look at Woojin, at everything he was and everything Chan could possibly hope to feel lucky for. And, God, he was lucky for so fucking much, more than Woojin would ever know.

 

Chan stood up, grip on Woojin’s hands still tight, and he looked up at the sky, feeling the cold rain on his skin and letting it wash away the week he’d withstood. All of the times he could have stayed shut inside his room, every single instance that he’d reached for his phone and thought about calling his mother, the days that he wanted to waste himself away and treat himself like shit, as he’d suspected he’d had coming. There were so many “what if”’s that he could have acted on, times where he truly wanted to cease to exist.

 

And yet, there he was.

 

He had lived to see his twenties. He had lived to find mild popularity in the music industry with his best friend in the entire world, Seo Changbin. He had lived for the unrivaled euphoria that came with knowing Kim Seungmin, Yang Jeongin, Hwang Hyunjin, and more recently, Han Jisung. He had lived with the intent of becoming someone to be proud of.

 

He had lived to experience something as cosmic and extraordinary as Kim Woojin.

 

“You know,” Chan said, smiling shyly. “I like the rain.”

 

“Oh, do you?” Woojin replied amusedly. “I think you’ve told me this, about a month ago.”

 

Chan pulled at Woojin’s hands, expression pleading for him to stand up. The therapist did so with an infatuated grin, both soaked from head to toe at this point, too invested in one another to care.

 

“I feel you’ve told me something like that a month or so ago, too,” Chan teased, swinging Woojin’s hands back and forth. “Dancing in the rain, huh?”

 

Woojin reddened at that. “It’s stupid,” he protested, but Chan was already placing one hand on the small of Woojin’s back, his right still interlocked with Woojin’s left.

 

It took a few minutes of tripping over each other’s feet to get it just right, but before long, they found themselves slow-dancing in the midst of a downpour, sun already beginning to set in the January afternoon. They would probably be sick the next morning, but Chan couldn’t find it in himself to care when his head was pressed against Woojin’s collarbone so perfectly, the other humming a tune he couldn’t quite recognize. Chan felt the vibrations of his voice ringing in his ears, and he looked up at Woojin with admiring eyes.

 

“You should sing to me someday,” Chan proposed, the therapist giggling at the idea.

 

“I’m sure no one wants to hear that, Chan,” Woojin assured him, looking down at the shorter of the two.

 

“Ten gazillion dollars says you’re lying.”

 

“How many zeroes are in a gazillion?”

 

“Stop changing the subject.”

 

They lost track of time like that, Chan apparently overstaying his welcome by half an hour or so. While the conversation was lively and their sort-of waltz was subpar at best, they eventually had to part ways, Jisung hitting Woojin over the head as he walked back into the office, and Chan finding a very annoyed Hyunjin picking him up from the parking lot.

 

And as much as their friends would poke fun at them, ask questions constantly, and physically threaten them for answers, the two wouldn’t have had (what was supposed to be) session seven any other way.

 

It was intimate, it was honest, and it felt like what Chan knew returning home should have felt like. It was everything either of them could want, and it distracted them temporarily from the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Woojin felt like the new normal. Woojin felt like safety. Woojin felt like comfort.

 

Woojin felt like a lot of things.

 

Chan supposed Woojin felt like love.

Chapter Text

 Unknown Number | jan. 7 | 3:42 p.m. 

Hello, is this Seo Changbin?

I'm contacting you on behalf of Saving Seoul, a therapy office in Yongsan, as well as the former therapy office of Bang Chan.

Would you happen to know of his critical condition and/or if he is willing to see Dr. Lee Sungho again for a re-introductory meeting?

I'm afraid he hasn't been returning our calls, and you've been listed as an emergency contact by his mother recently, who is just as worried about him.

Would you mind discussing this over the phone, or scheduling a time in which you're available to speak with us?

 

Seo Changbin | 3:47 p.m.

what?

i have literally no idea who you are or what you're talking about

i'd like to think i'm smart enough to know this is a scam

don't contact me again. i'm busy.

 

Unknown Number | 3:48 p.m.

This isn't a scam.

His mother is incredibly worried about him; she thinks you may be able to get through to him.

Once his current prepaid sessions are up, we're hoping to have him back.

 

Seo Changbin | 3:50 p.m.

"have him back?"

chan isn't a fucking item for you to trade around

not to mention, his therapist is helping him a great deal. he's improving daily.

that's not to say he's happy, that's not to say his mental health is perfect

but it's not your decision, it's not his mother's decision, where he goes

and there must have been a reason he stopped attending your sessions

so don't harass his close friends just because he doesn't want to talk to you

that's fucked.

 

Unknown Number | 3:56 p.m.

It's my job as an office representative.

I'm not "harassing" you, Mr. Seo.

I'm simply looking out for our former patient's best interest.

 

Seo Changbin | 3:57 p.m.

but he's not your patient anymore.

tell his mother she can go fuck herself.

tell her she's an abusive and manipulative shithead that should be talking to her son directly

rather than through someone she barely knows

 

Unknown Number | 3:57 p.m.

Mr. Seo.

 

Seo Changbin | 3:58 p.m.

and excuse my language, but i KNOW his mother.

i know the kind of person she is, i know what she's done to chan

how she's treated him over the years

 

Unknown Number | 3:59 p.m.

This conversation is incredibly unprofessional.

 

Seo Changbin | 4:01 p.m.

chan has a lot on his plate already outside of your bullshit.

we make music, we perform.

he has insomnia, panic attacks, a godawful family, and who knows what else?

he works his ass off. he has part-time jobs on the side, some of which i don't even know shit about

he doesn't want anyone worrying about him. he already has a hard enough time attending therapy.

but he has plenty of people that care about him, more than enough to make up for the shit his parents have pulled.

so he doesn't need you. let him fucking be.

 

Unknown Number | 4:05 p.m.

I'm sure we could come to a mutual understanding if you would only listen to what I have to say.

If you are even half as caring for your friend as you say you are, help us help him.

Talk to him about our office. His experience here was more than pleasant, I can promise you that.

We heal people. We cure people.

I promise we can do the same with Bang Chan.

 

[The recipient you are sending to has chosen not to receive messages.]

 

Unknown Number | 4:07 p.m.

Hello?

 

[Not Delivered]

 

——————

 

binnie 💫 | jan. 7 | 4:10 p.m. 

we need to talk when i get back to the dorm

 

——————

 

Unknown Number | jan. 8 | 11:18 a.m. 

Hello, is this Han Jisung?

 

Han Jisung | 11:18 a.m.

uh, yes?? lmao who is this

 

Unknown Number | 11:20 a.m.

I'm a representative from Saving Seoul, a therapy office in Yongsan.

Could I possibly speak with you over the phone about an issue concerning Bang Chan?

You two are close friends, correct?

Han Jisung | 11:21 a.m.

oh hell no

i know what you do

you're disgusting. you disgust me.

 

Unknown Number | 11:22 a.m.

Excuse me?

 

Han Jisung | 11:24 a.m.

chan told me all about this, but he didn't need to

i already fucking know. i know and i fucking hate you.

stay away from him.

stay away from minho, stay away from woojin.

stay away from our friends.

you can't change us. you can't change anyone.

you can't fucking BRAINWASH people into thinking they're something they're not.

you're traumatizing people, you and the office you work for.

do you really want that on your conscience?

 

Unknown Number | 11:26 a.m.

We don't traumatize people, Mr. Han.

 

Han Jisung | 11:26 a.m.

tell that to my fucking boyfriend. tell that to my best friend.

you fuck people up. you take advantage of people.

and you dehumanize them

you give them irreparable insecurities.

you've done the same to chan, stop talking out of your ass

 

Unknown Number | 11:29 a.m.

There's no need for vulgarity, Mr. Han.

I know you may have some mixed emotions regarding our office due to your friends' prior experiences.

But Lee Minho and Kim Woojin were special cases.

Our success rate working with patients over the past two decades has been a guaranteed 96%.

They're included in that minuscule 4%, stubborn and unwilling to seek help when they need it.

 

Han Jisung | 11:32 a.m.

but they DON'T need help

not from you, anyway

how they view their sexuality isn't something you can toy around with

those are people's lives, and you're fucking with them carelessly.

you don't know what it's like, waking up scared and isolated and alienated and ALONE.

that's how minho and woojin had to wake up every goddamn morning

after being told by everyone around them at an early age

including who SEEM to be professionals

that they're wired incorrectly, that something's wrong with them.

that STILL gets to them to this day. that still fucks with them.

but there's nothing professional about your work.

you have no empathy, no regard for human emotion.

let that sink in.

also, fuck you.

 

[The recipient you are sending to has chosen not to receive messages.]

 

——————

 

Unknown Number | jan. 8 | 1:09 p.m. 

Am I speaking to Kim Seungmin?

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:22 p.m.

depends

is this the saving seoul rep?

i've been informed to watch out for shady texts

 

Unknown Number | 1:23 p.m.

You've been terribly misinformed.

I am a representative of Saving Seoul, yes, however I'd much rather have this conversation over the phone.

Could you possibly list a set of times you are available over the next week?

I can contact you accordingly.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:25 p.m.

sorry my schedule is full from now until forever

afraid we can't talk :/ what a shame

 

Unknown Number | 1:28 p.m.

I'll be blunt, Mr. Kim.

Over the past 24 hours I've been attempting to reach those close to Bang Chan to no avail.

Due to, if I'm honest, complete immaturity and lack of respect.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:29 p.m.

you don't deserve maturity or respect

you're scum

 

Unknown Number | 1:34 p.m.

All I ask is you pass on my message to Bang Chan, who refuses to be spoken to directly.

Please. His mother is broken over this; us here at Saving Seoul are, too.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:38 p.m

you have no RIGHT

NO fucking RIGHT

TO BE BROKEN OVER THIS?????

chan has been suffering for YEARS, working to NO END

he does more in a single fucking day than you've done your entire CAREER

lives with constant weight on his shoulders

while YOU sit on your ass

nothing fucking better to do than text some college students!

so ENLIGHTEN me, "Representative of Saving Seoul"

FUCKING ENLIGHTEN ME.

what do you POSSIBLY have to be broken up over?

 

Unknown Number | 1:45 p.m.

There's no need to get hysterical, Mr. Kim.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:45 p.m.

HYSTERICAL

THAT'S FUCKING RICH!

 

Unknown Number | 1:45 p.m.

It pains us deeply when we lose a dearly beloved patient, one we've cared for as long as Bang Chan.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:46 p.m.

HOW COULD I NOT BE HYSTERICAL ????????

 

Unknown Number | 1:46 p.m.

We've kept Chan in our thoughts and prayers ever since he departed from our office.

We don't forget a patient, we don't forget a face.

We want to help. We want to provide clarity and peace to wandering souls, hence the name of our office.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:47 p.m.

fucking GO SOMEWHERE ! I COULDN'T CARE LESS !!!!

 

Unknown Number | 1:48 p.m.

We want to fix what we couldn't years ago.

We want to repair the damage that we were so terribly close to identifying.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:48 p.m.

you talk as if he's not even a fucking person

he's not yours to fix. he's no one's to fix.

 

Unknown Number | 1:50 p.m.

Mrs. Bang tells me differently.

Kim Woojin seems to have taken him under his wing, correct?

He runs a therapy office, too; how are our services any different?

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:51 p.m.

don't EVER fucking compare your office to woojin's

he's nothing like you.

 

Unknown Number | 1:51 p.m.

We want to help, just as he does.

However, it's unfortunate that his personal issues, as well as his interest in a certain patient, get in the way of his work. 

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:52 p.m.

you don't know a damn thing about him.

you don't know anything about EITHER of them.

and what the fuck do you mean, "personal issues" ???

 

Unknown Number | 1:54 p.m.

Chan's mother believes Woojin's homosexual tendencies are negatively affecting Chan.

We would rather all of the effort we've put into mending Chan's mental health, as well as his own tendencies, not go to waste.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:54 p.m.

you're revolting.

my homosexuality is not a fucking tendency, NO ONE'S sexuality is a tendency.

 

Unknown Number | 1:55 p.m.

Be reasonable.

 

Kim Seungmin | 1:57 p.m.

oh shut the fuck up already

 

Unknown Number | 1:58 p.m.

Have you ever considered that it's in your head?

That you've followed a deadly and unfounded path, that the only way to right the sins you've committed is by visiting an accepting and correcting space such as Saving Seoul?

Have I "enlightened" you yet? Could you please speak to Bang Chan so we can conclude this aggression and proceed with our respective lives?

 

Kim Seungmin | 2:01 p.m.

jesus christ haven't you taken enough

 

Unknown Number | 2:07 p.m.

Pardon?

 

Kim Seungmin | 2:09 p.m.

you've caused enough injury, dumbass

you've emptied him of his pride, milked him for all he's worth

he's been terrorized, beaten, abused, insulted, and that doesn't affect you even slightly?

do you not fucking get it?

 

Unknown Number | 2:10 p.m.

I'm afraid I don't get it, no.

 

Kim Seungmin | 2:11 p.m.

there's nothing left for you here.

we have nothing left to offer you.

let us be. let my fucking community be.

that's my advice. that's EVERYONE'S advice, including chan.

 

Unknown Number | 2:13 p.m.

Hm.

I'll bite my tongue, Mr. Kim.

I'd rather this not escalate further than it already has.

 

Kim Seungmin | 2:14 p.m.

say it.

say what you're thinking, you heartless cunt.

 

Unknown Number | 2:14 p.m.

Alright, if you want me to, I will:

I know better than to take advice from a bunch of queers.

 

[The recipient you are sending to has chosen not to receive messages.]

 

——————

 

Unknown Number | jan. 9 | 3:56 p.m.

Yang Jeongin?

 

Yang Jeongin | 3:58 p.m.

Delete Jeongin's number immediately, or I swear to fucking god I will contact the authorities. -Hwang Hyunjin

 

 

[The recipient you are sending to has chosen not to receive messages.]

 

——————

 

Unknown Number | jan. 9 | 5:52 p.m.

Han Jisung?

 

Han Jisung | 5:59 p.m.

is this saving seoul

 

Unknown Number | 6:05 p.m.

Yes.

However, this is a different representative.

Would you be available to speak over the phone?

 

[The recipient you are sending to has chosen not to receive messages.]

 

——————

 

Unknown Number | jan. 9 | 6:22 p.m.

Hwang Hyunjin?

 

Hwang Hyunjin | 6:54 p.m.

get a fucking life

it's been days, we're tired of your shit

our phones won't stop buzzing and it's goddamn annoying.

do something productive.

 

Unknown Number | jan. 10 | 9:07 a.m.

There's no need to be rude.

I'm sure you're aware I'm contacting you on behalf of Saving Seoul?

 

[The recipient you are sending to has chosen not to receive messages.]

 

——————

 

don't answer | jan. 10 | 12:44 p.m.

Lee Minho!

We haven't spoken in quite some time, but this is Minsoo from Saving Seoul.

Your favorite receptionist, if I remember correctly :)

I'm contacting you on behalf of the office; been working as a representative these days.

How are you?

 

Minho 😊  | 12:50 p.m.

oh my fucking god

i've formally met chan once in my entire life

i have no idea why you're trying to ask me to talk to him of all people??? i literally barely know the guy

 

don't answer | 12:51 p.m.

Oh haha

Yeah, I was going to touch on that eventually.

But I figured we could catch up a bit first?

We were friends back in the day, after all.

Until

You know

 

Minho 😊  | 12:52 p.m.

until i realized i have no control over being gay?

until i realized that it wasn't my fault?

until i stopped listening to the shit you and everyone else were feeding me?

 

don't answer | 12:54 p.m.

Um

I wasn't trying to make this about that.

I could be professional, if you'd like.

 

Minho 😊  | 12:54 p.m.

don't bother, i'm about to block you anyways

i was vulnerable back then, and you took advantage of my kindness

you lied to me, told me you weren't like your coworkers

but you wanted so badly to convince me that i was straight

hope you've learned by now that turning on someone and tormenting them

bullying them and beating them to a pulp

doesn't make you any less lonely

i still have fucking scars from when you literally clawed at my skin.

you're lucky i never called the cops.

 

[The recipient you are sending to has chosen not to receive messages.]

 

don't answer | 12:55 p.m.

We were just joking around, Minho. You fucking know that.

 

[Not Delivered]

 

don't answer | 12:56 p.m. 

Did you seriously block me?

 

[Not Delivered]

 

——————

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | jan. 11 | 11:08 a.m.

Kim Woojin?

I'm contacting you on behalf of Saving Seoul, a therapy office in Yongsan, as well as the former therapy office of Bang Chan.

I believe we've met before, actually; I've been told you attended sessions here, although I don't remember you very well.

Anyway, as his current therapist, would you happen to know of Bang Chan's critical condition and/or if he is willing to see Dr. Lee Sungho again?

I'm afraid he hasn't been returning our calls.

In fact, would you mind discussing this over the phone, or scheduling a time in which you're available to speak with us?

 

Kim Woojin | 11:12 a.m.

First of all, these are my working hours, so I don't have much time to talk.

Second of all, kindly fuck off. 

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:12 a.m.

I'm sorry?

I don't appreciate your language.

 

Kim Woojin | 11:13 a.m.

And I don't appreciate you, as well as the rest of your representative branch, harassing my patient and his friends.

If I had only one word to describe your organization, it would be "exhausting."

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:14 a.m.

I'm sorry to hear your experience with us hasn't been the best.

However, a personal infatuation should not get in the way of wanting the best for your patient.

WE want the best for your patient. It seems many of your acquaintances have failed to realize that.

 

Kim Woojin | 11:19 a.m.

I think YOU'VE failed to realize your superiority complex.

Your values are literally built on this idea that your way is the only right way.

That you can do no wrong, that anything you don't deem "normal" is unacceptable.

I can't even begin to break down why this behavior is unhealthy.

However, if you give me a couple days, I could make a helpful powerpoint presentation.

Not sure if you'd be able to read it, but I can sure as hell try!

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:21 a.m.

Is this a joke to you, Kim Woojin?

 

Kim Woojin | 11:22 a.m.

Your representatives tend to amuse me, yes.

But underneath all of this shitty humor is a very distressed, very homosexual soul that, yes, needs Saving.

Why, I hear you ask?

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:25 a.m.

I asked no such thing.

Please get back on topic.

 

Kim Woojin | 11:30 a.m.

Well, I'll tell you.

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:31 a.m.

You have time to belittle our cause, but you don't have time to act like an adult?

 

Kim Woojin | 11:32 a.m.

Twenty-three can barely be considered an adult, don't you think?

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:32 a.m.

You are legally an adult.

 

Kim Woojin | 11:34 a.m.

Not the point, oh dearest heterosexual comrade!

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:35 a.m.

Don't call me that.

 

Kim Woojin | 11:36 a.m.

Back to the subject at hand.

My soul needs Saving.

Why?

Because, Kyungmo...gosh, I don't know how to word this...

I think........

I might like.........

A BOY!

Oh, the humanity! Whatever will I do?

Tragic, isn't it?

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:37 a.m.

You're insufferable.

 

Kim Woojin | 11:40 a.m.

Nah, I'm just messing with you.

Want you to be annoyed with me enough to stop this little crusade of yours.

Hopefully it's working lmao.

Hey, Kyungmo, you know what's insufferable?

Living life in constant fear that the next day you'll be found dead somewhere.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:42 a.m.

That's not even slightly funny.

 

Kim Woojin | 11:43 a.m.

It's not.

That's why I'm bringing it up.

You're putting Chan in that situation, the same situation I was in, the same Minho was in.

You're imposing an addicting and often times irreversible self-hatred on these people.

Luckily, we came out on top.

Luckily, we moved past it.

But you have no fucking idea how hard I tried to forget everything that was done to me. You can't even begin to IMAGINE it.

No, you know what? Try. Try imagining it.

Try seeing yourself, for only a moment, shaking, huddled in on yourself, slowly sinking to the floor at the thought of having to face the same thing that's been haunting you for years.

Try falling asleep at night with a tightness in your throat that you can't get rid of, a feeling in your chest that edges on absolute dread.

Now take that, and make it a lifetime.

That's what you're doing to Chan. That's what you've done to me, to Minho, to every single fucking person your office has "treated."

But it's not treatment. It's pain, and psychological trauma, and something you can't escape no matter how hard you try, no matter how long it's been since you've been told you're not worthy of the life you've been given.

You almost had me believe it for a second.

I almost gave into it.

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:48 a.m. 

Stop.

 

Kim Woojin | 11:49 a.m.

That's why I'm a therapist, you know.

So I can offer relief and comfort to the people that are tired of your shit, tired of the shit life throws at them in general.

I don't fix people. I don't mend them, I don't repair them, I don't do whatever fucked up shit you've been up to these days.

I give them hope. I give them a shoulder to cry on. I give them an outside perspective.

I use my degree, I use my fucking head, instead of unjustifiable morals instilled in me by people of your caliber.

I offer therapy sessions; I don't try to force someone to be something they're not.

You should try it sometime.

It's a much better alternative than bigotry masked as salvation.

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:57 a.m.

Who the hell do you think you are, talking to me like that?

 

Kim Woojin | 11:58 a.m.

Oh, and that thing I said earlier, about liking a boy?

I know you'll be pretty devastated when you hear this, but it's true.

I like him very, very much.

Might even love him, if I'm honest. Not too sure yet.

But I can tell you one thing for certain:

You can keep all of that hatred stored deep, deep down within your heart, and you can refuse to let go of it.

But the world won't wait for you to catch up with it.

No matter how bitter you are, no matter how much it pains you to see people happily expressing their sexuality and gender identity, it won't stop me from falling just as hard and just as fast for Bang Chan.

It's funny.

I think you might've mentioned him earlier.

 

SS Rep (Kyungmo?) | 11:59 a.m.

Oh my fucking god.

 

Kim Woojin | 12:00 p.m.

Anyways, did you want to talk over the phone? My next patient told me they'd be a couple minutes late.

You know how it is.

 

[You've chosen not to receive messages from this number.] 

Chapter Text

Numbness; that was the only way to describe how Chan was feeling. 

 

He could barely understand it himself. Last Thursday with Woojin was nothing short of spectacular, and yet he woke up the next day feeling utterly exhausted.

 

His eyes fluttered open around nine in the morning, only after a few hours of tossing and turning. Changbin had to drag him out of bed by three in the afternoon, and Chan didn’t get that, how he could just lay there, so utterly confused and lifeless.

 

He had slow-danced with Woojin in a park in the fucking rain, one of the biggest cliches possible, and yet he felt undeserving. He felt like he dreamt up the whole thing, and session eight would finally bring him back down to earth. Someone would jump out from behind one of the plastic potted plants in the waiting room, tell him that the entire thing had been an elaborately planned social experiment.

 

Not only that, but Chan was disappointed by the outcome of it all. He wanted that one fantastic, out-of-this-world instance to magically fix everything. He had assumed the week between sessions seven and eight would be all sunshine and rainbows, and yet every day went pretty similar:

 

Chan stays in bed. Chan misses breakfast. Chan doesn’t attend his Tuesday and Wednesday morning classes. Changbin comes home to see Chan staring at the wall, blankly, head still resting on his pillow. Changbin gets him up. Chan makes himself slightly presentable. Chan reaches the point where he can’t bury himself in his work as a distraction anymore; he has too much to think about. So he sits, and he thinks, and Changbin reminds him that he has afternoon classes, and Chan goes, and he doesn’t absorb a single word the professors say. He sits, and he thinks, and he overthinks, and he barely makes it back to the dorm, and by the time he’s there, he’s shaking. He shakes, and Changbin tells him they don’t have to go to the studio today; it’ll be better tomorrow, it always is.

 

But it isn’t. And Chan gets nothing done for an entire week, and his friends try to invite him out, to come over and help him out of his funk, but he doesn’t feel deserving of that, either. His friends don’t need someone to drag them down, and yet he knows, logically, that refusing their offers to go out just make them feel worse. 

 

And it’s so fucked, too, because he left session seven so incredibly happy, just to return to how he’s always been.

 

It’s almost a cruel joke at this point. No matter how hard he tries, he doesn’t come out on top. He makes an ass out of himself, and he must look so incredibly lonely and depressing to be around, but he doesn’t feel worthy of their time.

 

And maybe that’s silly of him, because he knows they’d tell him different. Chan knows they’re here for him, no matter what, but he also knows his presence is draining when he gets like this. So he’ll stick it out, and he’ll be alright.

 

And yet, that’s what he’s been telling himself for years, waiting patiently for things to get better. It’s like his entire life has been spent on the backburner, a secondary thought; things will be fixed later, and later again, and later once more. His insomnia would resolve itself, he would come to love his insecurities, he would stop panicking at every sign of conflict or depleting mental health, he would fall in love with himself.

 

Eventually.

 

But when? 

 

When were things going to kick off? When would his big, revolutionary breakthrough occur?

 

He would feel better just to be let back down again. He’d have to rely on his support systems, and there’d be hope in the distance, and he’d have an incredible day—maybe even a week, if he was lucky enough—just for the cycle to repeat itself.

 

Maybe it was a sign.

 

That’s what it felt like, anyway. A punishment of sorts.

 

But what great sin did he have to repent for?

 

Chan stayed up a bit too late producing tracks. Sometimes his music theory explanations fell flat. He’s got a lot of baggage, but so does everyone else. He spams Changbin with meaningless texts during particularly boring classes. He once gave Seungmin and Jeongin five dollars each to lick the wall of the men’s restroom. He loses to Jisung and Hyunjin in Mario Kart every time they play.

 

He falls in love much too easily.

 

But why did it feel like the universe had it out for him? Why did it feel like old memories were attacking him, and new, even worse ones were being made, day by grueling day? What prevented him from happiness in his everyday life, as dull as it could sometimes be?

 

Why couldn’t he just let go?

 

Of course, he knew the short answer: it wasn’t that simple. Nothing ever was, especially when it involved feelings as complicated as his own. And the cold, disappointing reality of it all was that there was only one definite solution, an off switch, an end to everything. Sometimes, when he’d hit rock bottom and felt like the scum of the earth, he’d stare down that solution until it looked like the only good thing he could ever do with his pitiful life.

 

It wasn’t. There was so much more.

 

Chan was looking forward to when things would get better, clinging to the idea desperately. He wanted to live. He wanted to experience that pure, unadulterated happiness, the kind you saw in romantic comedies. It was just so painful sitting around waiting for it, more than words could describe.

 

Chan could only assume he was still waiting for it, walking into the therapy office building, looking like hell itself. It certainly hadn’t been the ideal Thursday morning, having Changbin throw fucking vegetables at Chan until he got up to take a shower for the first time in…awhile.

 

He didn’t think the onion would leave a bruise, but spoiler alert: it definitely did.

 

Chan had written his sign-in information on a slip of paper for Jisung, as the receptionist was absent from his usual laid-back position, sat in front of the computer with his feet propped up. Chan could almost make out his voice from the storage closet behind the desk (as well as Minho’s?), but he didn’t question it much, plopping down in a chair and closing his eyes.

 

He was only met with a few more minutes of relative quiet when Minho’s muffled voice raised from behind the closet door, something more clear and ridiculously hard for Chan to ignore.

 

“Minsoo, if you ever want to earn back even an ounce of my fucking respect, you’ll tell Kyungmo to shut the hell up. I’m not about to let your shitty excuse for a representative team get Woojin fired for something as natural as falling in love, especially with the shit he’s been dealing with lately, you know that man’s the only thing he looks forward to seeing right about now—”

 

Chan stopped listening, sinking lower in his seat.

 

He didn’t know what about Minho’s words gave him the throbbing pain in his chest, a physical discomfort that seemed to follow him wherever he went.

 

Maybe it was the way Minho cried out so suddenly, tone laced in disgust and desperation. Maybe it was the fact that Chan knew he was talking about Saving Seoul; Chan had brought that entire situation on Minho, and for that he felt fucking awful. Maybe it was the fact he had mentioned Woojin losing his job—his livelihood—because of something to do with the conversion therapy office? Did they really hate Chan to the point that they were attempting to get Woojin fired ? What kind of next-level fucked up was that? And for “being in love?” Why would he be fired for that? Was it one of his patients?

 

Was it Chan? 

 

It couldn’t be, right? Right?

 

Chan was now even more confused about how he felt than he was when he walked into the office.

 

“Bang Chan?” a voice spoke, one Chan knew quite well by now. His head snapped up instinctively, and there he was.

 

“M’coming,” he mumbled, sending Woojin a weak smile. The therapist looked as put together as always, glasses perched perfectly atop his nose, hair as smooth as silk. The sight made Chan look down at himself, feeling slightly bitter as he examined the stains on his shirt, the bagginess of his sweatpants. Would that feeling of disappointment ever go away?

 

“Whenever you’re ready,” Woojin said, leaning against the office door frame.

 

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

 

He walked in, sat carefully on the loveseat across from Woojin’s desk, and drank it all in for the eighth time. The office smelled incredible, and Chan’s eyes darted around to finally land on a bouquet of flowers in the corner of the room, a small, white card attached. Chan felt that chest pain again, a physical repulsion to something he didn’t even have the right to feel hurt by.

 

The facts were right in front of him, plain as day: Woojin was in love and someone had sent him flowers. 

 

Chan was fucking reeling. 

 

Was this just supposed to be a friendship? Had Chan been reading into things all wrong? He was probably making a total ass of himself at this point, dancing in the fucking rain with someone he had only met eight or so weeks ago when Woojin saw him as nothing more than a patient. Was he doing it out of pure kindness? Was Chan mistaking genuine humanity for something more? Was this all just a big mistake?

 

And how could it feel like a mistake—how could Chan be in the wrong here—when his heart did backflips every time Woojin so much as smiled in his direction? How could it be wrong when the two had such an unbreakable connection in such a short amount of time? Was Chan just seeing what he wanted to see? Did Woojin not have the same adoration in his eyes as Chan did for him?

 

And who was he to feel deserving of that love, anyways? Woojin had told him time and time again that he was deserving of the love he received, but it felt like the complete opposite, the way things were turning out. 

 

And here Chan was, losing his shit over some dark fucking crimson roses.

 

He must have been staring pretty intensely, because Woojin followed his line of sight, glancing at the roses for a moment before clasping his hands together, sitting down in his desk chair. “Right!” he said a bit too loudly, startling Chan and forcing him to focus back on the therapist. “How have we been lately? Anything interesting going on?”

 

The small talk felt forced, and Chan knew, in the back of his mind, that this is how therapy normally went. These were the types of questions he would be asked before relaxing into a more in-depth conversation.

 

But it felt off, and Chan had that feeling in his gut, like something horrible was coming. He didn’t want to ask, so he kept quiet, but he felt his hands clamming up the longer he looked at Woojin, and not in a “I have a huge crush on you” way. It was more like a “I know something’s incredibly wrong about this situation, but it’s not my place to get myself involved.”

 

Chan thought back to what he had heard Minho say over the phone: “Especially with the shit he’s been dealing with lately.”

 

Was it something to do with Saving Seoul? Was his job truly at risk?

 

What was Woojin going through?

 

“Life’s been kind of shit, if I’m honest,” Chan finally responded. “Hasn’t been the easiest to get out of bed lately. It’s like I’m sucked of all my inspiration.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Woojin said, his already-present frown deepening. “I was hoping things would ease up on you a little, especially after we—”

 

He stopped mid-sentence, face reddening, and his mouth shut itself. He sighed, running a hand through his hair, before opening his laptop. “I just hoped things would get better is all,” he mumbled to himself.

 

Chan laughed a bit awkwardly at that, crossing his legs on the loveseat. “I was hoping the dance would’ve made me feel better, too.” 

 

Woojin shook his head, blush deepening, and he tapped away at his computer impatiently, like he was trying to rush things. “It’s okay if you didn’t like it.”

 

“No!” Chan exclaimed immediately, waving his hands in front of him in denial. “I loved it, and I’d love to do it again, it’s just…” Chan trailed off, thinking to himself. “I was assuming that would just automatically make everything better, you know? Like I would wake up and my mental health wouldn’t even be an issue. But one great moment doesn’t really. Uh. Completely switch my brain around. Sadly. If that makes sense.”

 

Woojin nodded, a small, sad smile growing on his face. “I’m glad you still enjoyed it. It was my mistake to think it would fix things, for both of us, really. I know that’s not how the brain works.”

 

“I wish it worked like that,” Chan said, eyes glued to a plaque on the wall behind Woojin’s head. “I wish I could wake up and be happy. Instead I wake up and just...lay there, you know?”

 

Woojin nodded. “If you’re still mentally exhausted, even after you know you should get up, it’s hard to catch your body up to speed. The physical act of getting out of bed in the morning can be a difficult task.”

 

“It shouldn’t be,” Chan said. “It shouldn’t be difficult.” 

 

They sat in silence for a moment. 

 

The energy still felt off, to Chan, anyway.

 

Maybe it was just him.

 

He didn’t like silence, especially in this room. 

 

“Do you think I’ll always be like this?”

 

Woojin looked up at him, eyebrows furrowing at the question. “What do you mean?”

 

Chan fiddled with his hands, suddenly feeling more nervous than he already was. “I don’t know. Sad.”

 

Woojin didn’t respond for a moment. They just looked at each other, and Chan didn’t like that, either.

 

“I suppose sad is too general of a statement, huh?” Chan said, and he chuckled to himself. “I want to be...rid of the pain I feel. To the point where I, uh. Sometimes. I consider extreme solutions, you know? And I think—I think, uh, we all probably do that, subconsciously. Not like the forefront of what I’m thinking about or anything. I don’t want to die; at least, I don’t think I do? It just seems like I’m not. Doing much. Or when I try to, it’s like the world plots against me and wants to prevent me from doing anything I’m actually passionate about.”

 

Chan stopped for a moment to catch his breath. Woojin was still looking at him, fingers unmoving, hovering over the keyboard. His mouth was a straight line, eyes unreadable. 

 

Chan kept going.

 

“And I know that people say it’s worth it, to stick around. To find something, or someone, that makes you feel on top of the world, like nothing can hurt you. And that’s all I want, you know? That’s all I’m really looking forward to, but I’ve been looking forward for so goddamn long that it’s like? I’ve lost place of where I am, in the grand scheme of things. Where I play into things, when my ‘time will come’ or whatever. And maybe it never does, and all that ‘life is a journey, not a destination’ shit is true. And I don’t think I’m looking for a destination or something like that. I’m just looking for contentedness, in a way. But some people say contentedness is plateauing, that you should never be content and you should always be finding new ways to live, always be draining yourself of all the energy you have.”

 

“But I don’t think that’s true, either,” Chan continued. He didn’t know if he should stop. Woojin never interrupted him. He just kept fucking looking, and Chan was searching for some form of understanding in his expression, but there was nothing.

 

And it all felt wrong, but Chan wanted it to feel right so fucking badly, so he kept going.

 

“I feel drained of energy without finding new perspectives, without doing anything revolutionary, and I’m still plateauing all the same. So I want to be content, I want a fucking break, even if that means a ‘less exciting life.’ I’d go for contentedness over excitement any fucking day. I’m tired of excitement and I’m tired of every single problem I face slowly stacking up, to the point where it’s all just looming over me and I feel so incredibly overwhelmed that I never even know where to begin when you ask me how I’m doing. Because it’s just everything that I’m feeling right now. And I think you might just be feeling like that, too.”

 

The corner of Woojin’s lip twitched.

 

“You know you’re what makes me want to improve, and that these sessions help me more than anything else ever has, right?” Chan asked, and Woojin shook his head.

 

“I didn’t know that,” he muttered, and Chan smiled.

 

“Well, now you know.”

 

Woojin’s eyes were shining, tears threatening to spill from the corners.

 

“You don’t have to be okay just because you’re the therapist. You don’t have to keep a brave face for me.”

 

“I know,” he rasped, voice barely a whisper. 

 

“I overheard a conversation Minho was having as I was walking in,” Chan said softly, leaning forward in the loveseat, like lessening the distance between himself and Woojin a little would make the man across from him feel even slightly better. “Someone wants you fired? For loving someone?”

 

Woojin nodded, biting down on his lip. “I’m so stupid,” he said, voice cracking.

 

“Hey, no, you’re not stupid—”

 

“I am,” Woojin cut him off. “I let a professional relationship become something more, and I told someone that could use it against me, carelessly, like a fucking moron.” Tears fell down Woojin’s face, and Chan felt so much hurt for the therapist that he would have done anything for him in that moment, just to make things alright. “I fucked up, Chan, and I’ve gotta deal with the repercussions. It’s out of my control now.”



“Woojin, that’s so fucked, and I’m so sorry you’re being put through this,” Chan said, getting up from the loveseat to approach Woojin’s desk chair, kneeling down in front of him and looking up at him. Woojin wiped the tears from his face quickly, hands waving in front of his face with a chorus of “I’m okay”’s spilling from his lips.

 

Chan knew things weren’t okay. He had sensed it the minute he’d walked into the office.

 

“No one’s built to withstand everything life throws at them. Breaking down is how we heal, Woojin.”

 

Woojin looked at him. “That’s some really good advice, Chan. I hope you realize that’s just as applicable to your situation, too.”

 

“This doesn’t have to be about me, though.”

 

“These are your sessions, Chan,” Woojin reminded him, still wiping away his own tears. “There isn’t time for me to get emotional.”

 

“This is obviously really serious, Woojin,” Chan pressed, looking the therapist in the eye. “You have every right to be emotional.”

 

Woojin stopped crying for a moment, breathing calming down and becoming less sporadic. “You know that thing you said; feeling like the world’s plotting against you?”

 

Chan nodded. “That’s probably something like what you’re feeling right now, yeah?”

 

Woojin barked out a bitter laugh, and it was something Chan had never heard before, so filled with pain, and maybe even anger, that Chan didn’t know what to do.

 

“My career being jeopardized is only half of it, Chan; it’s so fucking bad right now, and I don’t know where to go from here.” He paused, hands clenched at his sides, expression contorting into something akin to disgust with himself. “Can I even be a fucking therapist if I don’t know how to deal with my own shit? I’m using up your time, Chan; we should just get back to it.”

 

“This is important, Woojin. Don’t hold back on my accord.”

 

Woojin let out that same laugh, broken and tired and forced. “You want to know what I’m holding back?”

 

Chan shook his head. “I want you to be comfortable. If you need a shoulder to cry on, I’m here.”

 

Woojin nodded at that, and the ghost of a smile crossed his face. “I should’ve known I couldn’t keep things in on today of all days.” He paused for a second, shutting his eyes and collecting himself. “I can always depend on you, can’t I?”

 

“Of course,” Chan said immediately. “And I can depend on you.”

 

Woojin tilted his head back, the crown of his head hitting the back of the desk chair. He looked like a mix of peacefulness and inner turmoil. And hell, that summed up practically everything Chan felt when he was with Woojin.

 

“You’ve been looking at those roses a lot,” Woojin pointed out, eyes still shut. “Do you know what it means? To give dark crimson roses to someone?”

 

“Not a clue. I assumed it—” Chan started, suddenly stopping himself in embarrassment. He rubbed the back of his neck, gaze drifting once again to the flowers in the corner of the room. “I thought it was some sort of...romantic gesture.”

 

Woojin smiled softly, but was otherwise still at the comment. “That would’ve been much nicer.”

 

His eyes fluttered open, and the smile fell from his face. He continued looking up, Chan still focused on the roses. “So, uh, what are they for?”

 

“My friend Felix—you met him not too long ago—he’s currently going to school for his associate’s degree in floral design. He’s always talking about flower language; what they mean, on what occasions certain bouquets are given, stuff like that.” 

 

Woojin leaned forward, looking down at Chan, who was still looking perplexedly at the flowers. He stared for a moment at the man before him, unbeknownst to Chan, and Woojin felt his eyes welling up once again. He breathed deeply, counted to ten, and let it out.

 

“Dark crimson roses are given to those mourning.”

 

Chan’s head swiveled back towards Woojin almost instantly, eyes widening. “What?”

 

Woojin nodded, tears trickling down his cheeks, and he felt his breath hitch for what had to be the hundredth time that day.

 

“The...the call woke me up, around three in the morning, on my home phone. I ignored it, ready to fall back asleep, when I got another call on my cell. And then I knew something had happened, that someone was trying to reach me and it wasn’t just a scam or some shit.”

 

Woojin looked down at his hands, twiddling his thumbs, and his bottom lip quivered. 

 

“I don’t talk about my parents much, you know. I try to keep that separate, because none of my patients need to know about my private life.” He laughed quietly. “And yet, here we are.”

 

“Only talk about them if you want to. Do whatever's best for you right now, and I'll listen."

 

“It’s just. They never really supported me, you know?” Woojin said, blinking away his tears. Chan nodded; he had a pretty good idea of what that felt like. “They sent me to conversion therapy because they couldn’t cope with their child being gay. They never listened when I tried talking to them. Literally anything else in the entire world could have been more important than I was.” He choked out a sob. “But it’s...it’s different when, when they. When they’re gone and. They’re your parents so it’s just. It’s all so fucking awful.”

 

Chan stood up from where he was kneeling, opening his arms and hugging around Woojin’s torso. It was awkward, but it was exactly what the therapist needed, and he returned the favor, arms wrapping around Chan’s midsection.

 

“They were driving home from a friend’s house, and it was late, and—they couldn’t have seen the headlights, they, they didn’t fucking know, and all of a sudden they were gone and, the truck just...just rammed into them, like they were nothing, and. Fuck.”

 

“Woojin, I’m so sorry, that’s terrible.” Chan tightened his grip, Woojin sniffling into his shoulder. “Fuck. I don’t even know what to say. I wish I could make things better.”

 

“I appreciate you being here; your presence is enough for me,” Woojin mumbled, voice muffled in the fabric of Chan’s shirt. “I didn’t want to come to work today; I could’ve gone on leave for a bit, but with my job on the line, I need to keep coming in so I’ll be able to pay rent if I’m fired.”

 

“That’s so fucked. I don’t know how I would’ve made it through the day.”

 

You’re what got me through the day,” Woojin said shakily, face pressed against the side of Chan’s neck. Chan lifted one of his hands from the small of Woojin’s back, holding the back of Woojin's head.

 

“Fuck. I just don’t know what to do. I want you to feel secure.”

 

“This is the most secure I’ve felt all day,” Woojin responded, holding onto Chan like he was about to fade from view, like he would lose him, too. “I try to stay strong for you, for all of my patients, but I don’t think any therapist could be completely numb to their own emotions. I think we all deal with our own shit, and there’s no avoiding that or running away from that. I just wish I was better at keeping it away from you, so you don’t have to worry about me. Because I know you, and I know you’ll worry.”

 

“How could I not?” Chan asked, leaning away from Woojin to look him in the eye. “That doesn’t make you a burden, I hope you know. I want to be here for you right now; you need someone, and I need someone, too. And I don’t know the extent of what you’re going through, but I’ll listen, and I’ll make sure you aren’t alone right now. Because you don’t deserve that, to suffer in silence. No one does.”

 

“You don’t, either,” Woojin reminded, skin shining with tear tracks left unattended. Chan carefully wiped them away with his thumbs, giving Woojin a reason to smile without forcing it. “Just because I’m hurting doesn’t mean I can’t help you.”

 

“Let me help you, for once, please,” Chan insisted, finding Woojin’s hands and holding on tightly. “We can forget about my shit, for a couple hours, at least.”

 

“The session ends soon, Chan; we don’t have a couple hours.”

 

“Do you have another session after this one? This is your last for the day, right?” Woojin nodded hesitantly, not seeing where Chan was going with this. “We could get some dinner to go, drive off somewhere quiet, and just...talk. About everything. You can take a break, clock out early, write your notes tomorrow or something, but you should at least give yourself a night to heal. You deserve that. And I don’t even have to be apart of it or anything, I just think you need to get out of this office for a bit.”

 

“I’d want you with me, if that’s okay,” Woojin said quickly, almost fearfully.

 

“I’m here. I’m not going anywhere, if that’s what you want right now,” and Woojin nodded at that. His eyes drifted to the door, behind Chan’s head, and he bit his lip.

 

“I shouldn’t leave Jisung here, should I? That’d be shitty of me.”

 

“You’re grieving, Wooj. He understands if you need time to work things out, especially if how you feel about all of this is somewhat conflicting.”

 

Woojin sighed, rubbing at his eyes. “You’re right. I need to sort my shit out with someone.” He stood up from his desk chair, Chan backing away a bit so they weren’t so close. “And who could possibly be a better shit-sorter than my favorite person?”

 

Chan gave him a weak smile. “I don’t know how good I’ll be at this, Woojin. I was barely able to get up this morning.”

 

Woojin bent down to mindfully pick up the roses in the corner of the room, standing back up to give Chan what was meant to be a reassuring grin, one that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “So I can help you sort your shit, too. This is a two-way street, you know.”

 

“I don’t want to be selfish. You’re suffering a lot more than I am right now.”

 

“It’s not a competition of who’s got it worse,” Woojin said firmly. “We both deserve recovery.”

 

Chan paused at that.

 

“It’ll take a while for me to grasp that,” he admitted.

 

“That’s alright,” Woojin said, and Chan didn’t know if he believed him. But he opened the office door anyways, and Woojin handed him the keys to his car as he explained to Jisung that he was clocking out early. Jisung whispered something to him from across the desk, and Woojin whispered something back, and then they were off. Chan started up Woojin’s car, Woojin gently placed the roses in the backseat, and they got fast-food before parking in a field a couple miles away, the sun setting on the horizon. 

 

They talked about anything other than their problems as they ate their fast food, momentarily forgetting what was troubling them. Chan made Woojin laugh so hard soda dribbled down his chin, and Woojin insisted on rolling down the windows for a more “scenic experience,” even though it was cold as shit outside.

 

They finished their meals, and before they knew it, they were laying back as far as they could in their seats, drinking in the night sky through Woojin’s sunroof, stars appearing before their eyes.

 

“Thank you for offering to do this,” Woojin spoke suddenly, turning to face Chan in his seat. “I know I’m not always the best therapist, and I don’t always offer the best advice, but I can promise I’ll be here, no matter what.”

 

“You’re an incredible therapist, don’t sell yourself short,” Chan remarked, and that made Woojin grin, genuinely. 

 

Chan could tell when it was genuine. 

 

He would do anything to keep Woojin smiling that brightly.

 

But they couldn’t ignore reality; they couldn’t forget what they were there for.

 

So they talked about it instead.

 

Chan told Woojin that happiness felt unattainable, that he wanted to smile for no damn reason and feel carefree in a world as shitty and unforgiving as the one they lived in. He wanted to wake up with purpose and create what he loved without forcing himself through the process, without making his music feel inauthentic. He wanted the pain of his past to dissipate, for him, Changbin, and Jisung to blow up so Chan could quit his part-time jobs.

 

But more than anything, Chan wanted to be able to forgive himself. He wanted to grant himself the freedom to feel like he was worth something, to love himself unapologetically and without fail. He wanted to be there for himself when he needed it so he didn’t have to depend so heavily on his friends. He wanted to be proud of everything he’d done at this point in his life—pursuing his passions, making his way through college, and working himself down to the bone just to get by. He needed to take care of himself, so that happiness didn’t seem so unattainable.

 

Woojin felt the same way.

 

He told Chan that he wanted to be vulnerable in front of the other without holding back. Woojin wanted to drive away the stigma that to be a therapist, you had to already have everything figured out already. Woojin told Chan that no one had everything figured out, that he couldn’t deprive himself of the grieving process, that Chan was right to say he deserved to heal.

 

Woojin wanted to help people more than he needed to help himself. He chose grueling work hours and minimal time off in favor of those around him. Even when he was faced with the deaths of two very influential people in his life, he couldn’t bring himself to take the day off, to contact his patients and be honest with his feelings.

 

Chan looked over to Woojin, then to the digital clock in the car. It was pushing midnight; they had been talking for hours, and yet they hadn’t even felt the time go by. It was like they were in their own little bubble, separate from the rest of the world. Chan wished it could stay that way forever.

 

Chan drove back to his dorm, stepping out of the car with Woojin to say goodbye so the therapist could return home. They hugged each other tightly, much longer than was usually socially acceptable among friends, before letting go, Woojin getting back in the car. 

 

Chan began to walk towards the building, before Woojin called out his name, making him turn around in the parking lot.

 

“We’ll be alright, you and I. I know these past few months have been difficult, but…” Woojin trailed off. “I’d like to think great times are coming.”

 

Chan felt a droplet of water against his skin.

 

He looked up, and it began to pour.

 

“Would you look at that,” he said disbelievingly, and he could hear Woojin laughing inside the car.

 

“It’s our good luck charm!” Woojin said with a smile. “Have a good night for me, yeah?”

 

Thunder boomed loudly, and Chan shrieked, forcing Woojin into a fit of giggles once again.

 

“You know what? I’ll take that as a yes.”

 

That night hadn't fixed everything for either of them. The moment Chan had entered his room he began crying, Changbin approaching him and wrapping his arms around him.

 

Woojin drove home with tears prickling at the corners of his eyes, and even as he listened to the soothing sound of rain hitting the roof of his car, he felt more anger at the world than ever before.

 

But they had healed a bit that evening, and it was so, so fucking needed, for the both of them.

 

And there Woojin found himself, fast food in hand, picking Chan up to go for a drive the next night.

Chapter Text

Patient #16 - Session Eight Notes

 

Name: Bang Chan

 

Session Summary: God, where do I start. It's one in the morning and I'm writing up these session notes after talking with Chan for almost half of my entire fucking day. And it just felt so...liberating? It was like getting things off of my chest that I didn't even know I was struggling with until he helped me confront them. It was everything I needed after the hell of a day I had, and it's still hell, and being alive right now feels like just about the worst thing I could do to myself. But Chan's still here for me, always, and I think I've come to accept that now. I should really just take my own advice and realize that I'm more than I give myself credit for, that I am worth being valued by others.

 

But that's not always easy to accept, especially with the events that transpired this morning. It's not like I'll wake up tomorrow and forget my parents are dead, and I couldn't do anything to prevent it, and the world will move on, but I don't think I will. I can't. And it's particularly difficult when they've been tormenting me for years, making me feel like complete and utter shit, and then when they're gone, I'm in the same mental state they left me in: empty and numb to my own emotions. 

 

Or, I suppose that's how I was before Chan, listening to others and helping them through their issues as my life's work, and then not granting myself the same treatment.

 

But I deserve that, don't I? To take some time to myself and think about everything, and maybe accept those reaching out to me with open arms.

 

I should probably be erasing all of this, or, you know, talking about the actual session, but Jisung and I are the only ones who use it for future reference, anyways, so what difference does it make? Not to mention, the conversation I had with Chan in the car felt like more of a therapy session than anything I've ever experienced in my entire life.

 

And I think I'm tired of hiding away from myself, of deleting every single fucking sentence in these notes that hints at any vague thoughts or opinions. I pretend I'm this perfect, put-together therapist when I've got shit of my own to be dealing with, and it's mentally draining, to write and rewrite and try to ignore how awful it is to wake up each and every day.

 

So, right now I'm hurting, and I won't keep trying to erase that. I'll stop trying to bury away my love and feelings and individuality, because my parents have done more than enough in harming those things. And as much as I want to hate them unconditionally, without complication, I can't erase that part of my past, either.

 

And I love that Chan understands that. I love that we can learn from each other and grow in the process, and fuck, if that's not some form of healing, I don't know what is.

 

I think that's also what makes me fall harder for Chan each and every time I see him, because I don't have to profess my love for him to know how much he means to me. I don't have to kiss him for him to understand me more deeply than anyone else ever has, because he knows, and he knows without me even having to tell him, and it's beautiful, and he's beautiful, and I'll never discover anything as truly monumental as what I have with him.

 

Progress made: More than I can explain. And knowing Chan's mother pays for his sessions—knowing we only have two left—makes getting to know him and throwing out the formality of therapy all the more worth it. Because he's come so incredibly far and I'm so damn proud of him, but along with treating him therapeutically, I've also sort of maybe possibly definitely come to love him over the past two months. And that alone is such a fucking victory.

 

Personal additions: I told him tonight that I'd like to think great times are coming, but Chan's the best of times that I've been waiting for my entire life. He makes me want to take myself by the shoulders, the person my parents have instilled so much self-loathing and despair in, and preserve everything they wanted to destroy. And no matter how ugly it is, no matter how long it takes, I'll stop pretending to care about myself, and start actually caring. I owe it to myself, for all the years I withstood every slur, every homophobic comment, every demeaning insult, unblinkingly. I owe it to myself for normalizing the abuse I received. I owe it to myself for continuing that cycle of abuse on myself, for treating myself with hatred and spite when I've done nothing to deserve it.

 

I hope to one day be as passionate about helping myself as I am about helping others.

 

And, in the meantime, I'll bask in the safe space Chan and I have created within those office walls, free to be ourselves without punishment. I'll be there for him, and he'll be there for me, and I'll love him, just as I do now.

Chapter Text

Minho was a bad driver.

 

Chan didn’t expect, while getting picked up for therapy by his friend’s boyfriend, that he would almost die at least five times, Minho swerving left and right across the road as if he had a blindfold on. No matter how many times he insisted they could switch seats, Minho would simply tut at him, claiming he could get the two “from point A to point B, and isn’t that all that matters in the end?”

 

“Not when you’ve almost hit two fucking pedestrians,” Chan retorted, holding onto the edge of his seat as the ‘95 Chevy Camaro skidded around a turn in a busy intersection.

 

Chan may have squealed. 

 

Multiple times.

 

As much as he enjoyed Minho’s company, particularly over the past week when he’d gotten to know both him and Felix much better, there was no denying how absolutely stubborn he was. Jisung loved him for it all the same, but Chan was finding it particularly difficult as they pushed almost eighty miles an hour in the Camaro, wheels squeaking ear-piercingly.

 

And even with those extra friendly faces that Chan began to get used to—even when he thought he had seen some stability in his life, right around the corner—things were still as hectic as ever.

 

For starters, he couldn’t recall a time in which his mood had been as completely all over the place as it had been in the past 7 days. 

 

Some mornings he woke up and got straight to work in the studio, Changbin and Jisung joining him groggily when they didn’t have classes. They would balance out their time as proactively as they could, which involved getting shit done, fucking around, and trying to come up with a better rap trio name than “Triple Threat” (“3RACHA” was the final consensus, thanks to Changbin).

 

Some mornings he sat there, gaze unbreakable, his roommate pleading with him determinedly to go to class before he flunked, before he couldn't catch up and had another worry added onto the pile of bullshit he dealt with. 

 

Pancakes for breakfast. Memories of a slur muttered under the breath of a psychologist. Board game nights, Jeongin’s victorious shouts. Coming home at five in the morning covered in grease stains from working part-time. Woojin takes him out for a drive to the field, fast food at the ready. Looking at the mirror in their dorm room with disgust. Woojin takes him out. Hyunjin finds him sobbing in a bathroom next to the lecture hall. Woojin takes him out. An old high school friend waves at him in public and Chan walks in the other direction, panic-stricken from seeing someone he knows.

 

Woojin takes him out.

 

Back and forth. Push and pull.

 

Chan can’t catch a fucking break.

 

But he’s alive, and so are his friends, and they do with that what they can. Chan takes it one moment at a time, and his week was fucked, and every week leading up to it was fucked, and it may continue to be fucked, but somehow it's better.

 

It's better when Woojin holds him, when Changbin tells him everything’s going to be alright, when Seungmin takes him thrifting on Wednesday and the first thing he tries on fits perfectly.

 

It's hard, so hard, and it's horrible, but it's better. 

 

What isn’t better is Minho’s tendency to run red lights, but hey, Chan isn't taking the bus to therapy, so can he really complain?

 

“Minho, you absolute bastard, I will literally jump out of my fucking window if you don’t slow down.”

 

Yes. Yes, he can and will complain.

 

“Relax, Chan. I have a most impressive streak of keeping my passengers alive, and I don't plan on breaking that any time soon.”

 

Chan looked at Minho suspiciously, but tried to keep his whining to a minimum nonetheless.

 

The familiar building came up on them quickly, and Chan hopped out of the car as soon as possible, rushing into the waiting room to fill Jisung in on his partner’s...driving skills.

 

Chan didn’t really want to call them “skills.” Because, well.



Minho was far from skillful in abiding by the rules of the road. 

 

Jisung raised a brow at Chan, looking out the window to see his boyfriend’s Camaro in the parking lot. His eyes immediately lit up, and he gave Chan such a genuine smile that it hurt his heart. “Did Minho give you a ride?”

 

Chan nodded, still out of breath from the experience. “I didn't even know it was possible to take a speed bump at 70 miles an hour.”

 

Jisung laughed, seemingly with a strange sense of pride. “Sounds like my Minnie.”

 

Chan made a gagging noise, Jisung reaching over his desk to slap at the other’s hand, pout already appearing on his lips.

 

“Oh, please, I’ve had an absolutely shit week; I don’t need you teasing me, too. And don’t give me that disgusted look, because if you were dating Woojin, you wouldn't shut up about it for even a second.”

 

Chan’s face reddened, and his hands found their way to his jean pockets, looking down at the floor. “Whatever.”

 

“Who’s dating Woojin?” someone asked from behind Chan, and he turned, and there he was, eyes alight, a button-up pressed against his frame ever so perfectly.

 

Chan had seen him just last night.

 

And the night before that, and the night before that, and so on.

 

Chan turned to Jisung, a smile playing at his lips, face somehow darkening an even deeper shade. He leaned in close, voice barely a whisper.

 

“Every day that passes, it feels like the first time I saw him.”

 

Jisung grinned at that, like he knew something Chan didn’t, shaking his head to himself. He got a dreamy sort of look on his face, and Chan heard Woojin clear his throat behind him, but Jisung’s expression practically bloomed with joy before Chan could turn to his therapist.

 

“That’s how I feel with Minho, you know,” Jisung breathed, and Chan had to strain himself just to hear him. “Insistent, hardworking, kind-hearted; he’s as perfect as the day we met.”

 

Chan raised an eyebrow at the other. “Didn’t Felix say when we went to that restaurant the other day that—”

 

No, Chan, Minho and I did not meet while I was throwing up in a PetSmart bathroom; Felix was just joking, dumbass,” Jisung said exasperatedly. 

 

Chan rolled his eyes, ready to say goodbye to Jisung before his session, when a thought crossed his mind. Jisung looked at him quizzically, and he must have made a conflicted face, because Jisung sighed heavily, leaning even closer so Woojin was certain not to hear either of them. “Well?”

 

Chan stared at Jisung, hands burying themselves deeper into the pockets of his jeans, and he blinked.

 

“Did...have you, uh. Minho…?”

 

Jisung gave Chan a soft smile. “Ah, yes. ‘Did have you, uh, Minho.’ Certainly.”

 

“I don’t want to upset you,” Chan said anxiously, and Jisung’s brow furrowed, gripping Chan’s shoulders comfortingly.

 

“What’s up, Channie? You know you can talk to me about anything, right?”

 

“Uh,” Woojin said from behind them awkwardly, and Chan squeezed his eyes shut tight, willing himself to say what was on his mind.

 

“Did Minho attend Saving Seoul, too?”

 

Jisung’s face fell.

 

Chan felt his heart pounding in his chest, like it was trying to escape his body, and he tried to get his explanation out as quickly as possible, mumbling like his life depended on it. “It’s just, I overheard you two talking about representatives last week, and Woojin, and some names of people I recognize, and, well, I just want him to know, if he needs to talk, if he’s hurting—”

 

“He’ll tell you when he’s ready,” Jisung said stiffly, hands falling from Chan’s shoulders. He took a step away from the desk, before turning right back around, facing Chan icily. “And he’s been saving your ass—Woojin’s, too—without you even fucking knowing it, getting that godawful excuse of a therapy office to get off your case.” Jisung’s voice sounded weak, like it was difficult to talk about it for even a moment. If Chan had looked closer, he would have seen the red in Jisung’s eyes, the bags underneath, the coffee cups lined up on his desk. 

 

Minho had the same eyes, the same bags, the same coffee cups stacking up in his ‘95 Chevy Camaro.

 

“He’s reaching out to people that made his life a living hell for you, and you have the audacity to ask something you don’t even have the right to know about my boyfriend, while he’s been spending over a damn week convincing them to let things be, to keep information withheld, to forget both of your dumbass fucking crushes that—”

 

His voice had raised as he continued, and before he knew it he was shouting in the waiting room, stopping himself with wide eyes to look up at Woojin, who seemed just as shocked.

 

Chan stepped away.

 

He had never seen Jisung like this before.

 

He didn’t know what to do.

 

“Jisung?” Woojin said slowly, and Jisung simply grabbed his coffee at that, standing up and walking over to the door of the building.

 

“Gonna go ahead and take my break now,” he said as he walked, stopping in front of the doors to look up at Chan.

 

“I’m...fuck,” Chan tried, but the words just wouldn’t come to him. “Jesus, I can’t even—I’m just, s-sorry, Jisung, so. So sorry. I had genuinely no idea, and—”

 

“Like I said,” Jisung said rigidly, cutting Chan off as he opened the door. “It’s been a shit week.”

 

The door swung shut behind him.

 

“God,” Chan said, running his hands through his hair. “I just keep messing things up, don't I?”

 

There was a beat of silence.

 

“Chan,” Woojin said carefully, and that was all it took for Chan to barrel past him, slipping into Woojin’s office and crashing onto the loveseat, curling in on himself, face buried in a cushion.

 

“And here I was thinking I was recovering,” Chan mumbled bitterly, eyes open just enough to see Woojin lower himself into his desk chair, looking worried.

 

“Recovery isn't always luxurious, I'm afraid,” Woojin said, cracking a sad smile as he opened his laptop, shoving stacks of paper aside. “And...well, I didn't hear the entire conversation, but I can only assume—”

 

“I asked if Minho had attended Saving Seoul,” Chan cut him off, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I crossed a boundary and it's not my business.”

 

“You had no malicious intention,” Woojin reasoned, folding his hands on his desk. “You wanted to be there for a friend who may be going through the same thing you’re going through.”

 

“But I barely know Minho,” Chan argued, sitting up on the loveseat. “I hung out with him and Felix a lot this week, sure, but I can't just...expect to be told something so personal.”

 

Woojin thought for a moment, sitting there as he typed, eyes on Chan all the same. Chan might’ve gotten flustered if the situation were different, but he was too worried about his current friendship status with Jisung to care.

 

“Do you think he’ll hate me forever, Wooj?”

 

The therapist tried to keep a straight face at that, but he couldn’t help but laugh at the concept of Jisung hating someone. He muffled his snickering behind his hand, and Chan pouted at him from the loveseat, which just made him laugh even harder.

 

“This isn’t funny.”

 

“I’m sorry, it’s just,” Woojin said, trying to catch his breath, smile still present on his face, “Jisung’s emotional, Chan. He raises his voice sometimes, he can be serious, he can cry and get angry, but there’s no room for hatred in that boy’s heart, unless someone truly deserves it. And you,” Woojin continued, gesturing to Chan. “You don’t deserve it.”

 

“I was out of line,” Chan insisted.

 

“But he could never hold a grudge against you for asking a question. If anything, he’ll apologize to you for raising his voice,” Woojin offered. “And it’s only human to want to find similarities between yourself and others.”

 

“But this isn’t one of those casual similarities, like Minho and I liking the same show, or having the same hobby,” Chan persisted. “We’ve both been through conversion therapy, how invigorating, c’est la vie!”

 

“Jokes aside,” Woojin said, raising an eyebrow. “This isn’t easy, dealing with what we’ve gone through. Discovering someone else has felt that same exact pain, that same fear and disgust? You want to look out for them, to comfort them. You didn’t mean to intrude.”

 

“But I did,” Chan groaned, flopping back down on the loveseat. “And now Jisung hates me, and I’ll never get to be friends with Minho, and—”

 

“Let me ask you something, Chan,” Woojin interrupted, rolling his chair around in front of the desk. “If Minho were to ask, say, Changbin, about your experiences in conversion therapy, would Changbin hate him?”

 

“No, Changbin doesn’t just...hate people like that,” Chan said slowly, a look of realization dawning on him. “So why would Jisung hate me?”

 

“Exactly,” Woojin said, a soft smile growing on his face. “It’s not your business to know, sure, but slipping up and asking something like that every so often doesn’t make us hateable people; it just makes us people, if that makes sense.”

 

“Yeah,” Chan responded, nodding to himself. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

 

“I’m glad to hear that, Chan,” Woojin said sincerely, a small grin making its way onto his face. “And I know I asked this yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before—”

 

“I get it, we’ve been eating a lot of fast food and having a lot of existential talks together lately,” Chan offered, making Woojin giggle in the process.

 

He would never get tired of that sound.

 

“Yes, well...although I’ve asked a lot this week, as your therapist, how have you been doing lately?” Woojin queried.

 

“I could ask you the same thing,” Chan dodged the question, an expression of genuine concern. “How's today been compared to the rest of the week?”

 

“I still need to know how you're doing,” Woojin reminded, leaning back in his chair. “But...well, things have been about the same for me. Conflicting, angering, upsetting, horrifying; you know, typical grief stuff.” There was a beat of silence, Woojin not quite meeting Chan’s gaze. “Don't think we’re having a funeral or anything, since my parents didn't have very many friends to begin with. And they wanted to be cremated, anyway, so...that's what we’re planning on, I guess.”

 

Chan sat there, still and quiet, a pained look about him. “I'll never be able to put it into words, Woojin, how incredibly sorry I am that you're going through this.”

 

Woojin gave him a sad smile, looking down at his hands. “Yeah, well, therapy’s a nice distraction, so tell me how you're doing.”

 

“You mean, outside of the sleepless nights, inner turmoil, part-time jobs, hopeless music career, and deteriorating mental health?” Chan joked. 

 

The ever-present concern on Woojin’s face made Chan find it less funny.

 

“Chan, it’s my job to ask these questions—”

 

“I know, I know, sorry,” he apologized sincerely, breathing deeply to himself. “It’s just...there must be something wrong with me, to have that much shit on my plate. It’s not—it shouldn’t be—normal, for ninety percent of my day to be filled with me trying to solve my own problems. And yet…” Chan trailed off, gaze falling to the floor.

 

Woojin gave him a curious look. “There’s nothing wrong with you, Chan. You’re not abnormal; you didn’t bring this onto yourself. I can’t imagine the workload you’re facing right now, and I’m so sorry you have to deal with so much inconsistency in your life. That being said,” he paused, inching his desk chair a bit closer to the loveseat, the noise prompting Chan to look up at him. “‘And yet’ what?”

 

Chan stared for a moment, taking in the man before him, memorizing and mapping out every feature; his face, his torso, his hands, his legs. He felt strangely serene, like he was spending his last few seconds on Earth before floating into orbit, into uncharted territory.



There were things Bang Chan didn’t like admitting about himself, things he kept close to his chest for no one to pry at. He confided in Changbin, in Seungmin, in Jeongin, in Hyunjin, in Jisung, and more recently, Minho and Felix. He had a group of kickass friends, a strong support system. He was luckier than most, to have an outlet, a place to vent.

 

But some things, naturally, wouldn’t be told. Some things he would bury in the deepest confines of his heart for as long as he possibly could.

 

This was one of those things.

 

He trusted Woojin with his heart full of secrets. He was ready to let one go.

 

Chan took in a couple of breaths, let his pulse steady as much as it was able to. 

 

Woojin looked at him with all of the care in the world, and Chan gave him a small smile, one he struggled to muster up.

 

“I don’t want you to hurt for me, to feel my pain. I want your advice, I want your help, and these sessions have benefited me so fucking much, to the point where it’s scared me, how much it’s helped. I don’t want you to pity me, to fall for the task of putting me back together, and yet…”

 

“And yet,” Woojin mumbled.

 

“I’m afraid you’ll lose interest if there’s nothing left to fix.”

 

Chan’s voice cracked, and he felt a lump in the back of his throat that he tried to ignore for the time being.

 

Woojin moved to the loveseat, pulling Chan’s forehead against his own, hands wrapped around the back of his neck. “Listen to me, Bang Chan, really listen, because I’m only saying this once,” Woojin whispered, and Chan felt his face heat up at the close proximity of it all. The tips of his fingers were tingling, and he didn’t know where to put his hands, so he settled for the other’s waist, touch as light as a feather.

 

Electricity. Sparks. Flying colors at every corner of his vision, and yet he somehow managed to hang on to every word of Woojin’s without pressing their lips together (it was difficult to resist, he must admit).

 

“Uh huh,” Chan let out breathily, and Woojin laughed, the same laugh Chan loved more and more each time he heard it.

 

“I’ll keep hurting for you and feeling your pain, because that’s literally called empathy, you dumbass.”

 

Chan hit his side lightly in offense. “Don’t make fun of me in my time of need!’

 

“I’m not finished,” Woojin shushed. “I’ll keep giving you advice, and helping you, and making these last two sessions your mother has paid for as pleasant and beneficial as possible.”

 

“Well, you’re certainly succeeding at the pleasant part,” Chan deadpanned, squeezing Woojin’s hips. Even with the feigned confidence, he felt himself perspiring at the the two’s nearness, and he was sure his face was still burning.

 

“Stop interrupting me,” Woojin chastised. “I know it’s easy to go back to old habits, to be fearful at the prospect of improving yourself. But even as you improve, as you start to relax more and ease yourself into the idea of waking up in the morning, I won’t be patting myself on the back for a job well done. You aren’t a job, Chan. You aren’t my task, my project. You’re a human being, and I cannot imagine a lifetime in which I lose interest in you for being more comfortable in your own skin. I only grow more and more proud of you every passing day, and that won't change any time soon. I’m falling for you, Chan, nothing else. Not for the state of your mental health, not for some charity case that you’re making yourself out to be. I’m falling for you, and don’t you forget it.”

 

Chan was beaming from ear to ear, and it was so easy to lean into Woojin like he was his everything (he was), like the purpose of their mere existence was held in his eyes (it was).

 

His eyes were beautiful. Woojin was beautiful; so, so beautiful.

 

“I'm sure you'll be happy to know the feeling’s mutual,” Chan spoke softly, and if he had moved even half a centimeter more, he would be kissing the man he loved. He could kiss Woojin, right here, right now, and it would make sense. Life would make sense, for the first time in years, and Chan would be content with that.

 

But life always seemed to have other plans, if Chan’s piercing ringtone was anything to go by. He winced at the sound; he really should have changed it after the Saving Seoul fiasco, but it must have slipped his mind.

 

“I, uh,” Chan stuttered, looking Woojin up and down, and Woojin took the hint, backing away from the other to sit back down in his desk chair. His hair was a bit messy after their foreheads touched, and Chan smiled at that. Woojin didn't often look flustered or messy, but when he did, Chan savored each and every second of it.

 

“You should get that,” Woojin said quickly, face flushing as Chan continued to stare at him, smile only growing wider. “You could answer outside of the office for privacy, if you'd like.”

 

Chan laughed at that. “I think we’re well past privacy, Wooj.”

 

He took the phone out of his pocket, looked at the screen, and immediately rolled his eyes.

 

“Ugh. Give me a moment,” Chan grumbled, raising the phone to his ear. “Yes?”

 

“A ‘hello’ would be nice, Channie; have you forgotten your manners in the weeks you've been away from home?”

 

“You aren't my home by any definition of the word, mother,” Chan said through gritted teeth, Woojin’s eyes widening as he realized who the other was speaking to. “Now, unless it's an emergency, I’d like to get back to my therapy session.”

 

She faked a laugh, shrill and unfeeling, one that made Chan sick to his stomach. “What's the rush, dear? Is your friend more important than your own mother?”

 

There was sarcasm dripping from her words, something so incredibly palpable and filled with fury that Chan was gripping onto the soft material of the loveseat underneath him, otherwise still with focus.

 

“What do you want?” he asked coldly.

 

His mother hummed to herself on the other end. “It’s almost funny in a way. You talk to me before one of your first sessions, telling me about how great and special and understanding your therapist is; there was something about that that felt off to me. Because, see, no matter how much you'd like to refuse it,” she said in an accusatory tone, volume rising the longer she went on, “I am still your mother, and I still know you for who you are; I know my Channie, and I know how you talk about...boys.” Mrs. Bang had to practically rip the word from her mouth, spitting it out like it was foul, like she could taste it.

 

“Yes, I'm gay. We've been over this. Any more questions, comments, concerns? Or can I continue working with a professional on what you should have concerned yourself with a long time ago?” Chan asked angrily, words sharp and unsympathetic.

 

“I did concern myself with your issues, Chan, but you refused my help!” she shouted exasperatedly. “Dr. Sungho was—”

 

“Don't. You. Dare,” Chan hissed. “Don’t you dare speak to me about concern when all you ever assume I’m struggling with is my sexuality.” He felt something tighten in his chest, and he must have looked pretty upset, because Woojin was there in the next few seconds, sitting himself down next to him, a steadying hand on his shoulder.

 

“What about my insomnia, mother?” Chan spoke again, quietly, as if all of the anger had been choked out of him. “What about my best nights involving three straight hours of sleep without waking up in the middle?”

 

For once, she was silent.

 

Woojin looked at him.

 

He continued.

 

“What about the long shifts at the diner, or the music majors that can't seem to understand mixolydian mode, so I have to explain it again, and again, and again and again until I'm thinking to myself that I’d rather be anywhere but two places: the library I tutor in, and wherever my parents are? What about the panic attacks? The breakdowns I have in the studio when nothing sounds right?”

 

Crackling. Quiet static. Heavy breathing on the other end, a sniffle here, a sob there. Chan drank it in, listened without much mercifulness left in his heart. 

 

“What about me, mom? Do you ever think of me?”

 

“When I think of you,” she managed to get out, albeit despairingly, “I think of moments like these, moments when you villainize your poor old mother and belittle her into a crying mess. I want what's best for you, Channie; when will you realize that these are all just temporary problems you're prolonging to make me absolutely miserable? When will you take a step back and realize you could live a better, happier life if you just made some positive changes?”

 

“I can't just fucking snap my fingers and make the bad feelings go away!” Chan shrieked, blood boiling. “And why would you think I'm intentionally prolonging shit that screws with my life? Why would you think that involves you in any way, shape, or form, and why do you keep trying to put me in harm’s way when all I've ever wanted is support?”

 

“Asking you to go back to the sessions at Saving Seoul isn't putting you in harm's way,” Mrs. Bang said defensively.

 

“But that's the thing: you didn’t ask! Both myself and my best friends were practically harassed by their representatives in their attempt to contact me!”

 

His mother huffed in response. “Maybe if you hadn't been so difficult, it wouldn't have come to that.”

 

“How are you condoning that kind of behavior?” Chan shouted into his phone, anger growing by the second. Woojin looked worried, but Chan couldn't register that at the moment; all he could think about was the woman that had played a major role in ruining him, possibly forever. “What do you think they could possibly do for me that Woojin hasn't already done?”

 

“They can cure you, Chan—”

 

“Being gay isn't a fucking disease!” 

 

“It's reversible, it’s confusion, it's abominable, and we can fight it, you and I,” she said urgently, sounding much less emotional than she had only minutes ago. Chan was starting to wonder if the crying had been a guilt tactic. “This can't last, Chan, this can't go on much longer, or it'll continue to eat at you from the inside. It's unhealthy, dear, and I'm sure being around Dr. Kim hasn't helped with that much by any means.”

 

“You don't know shit about Woojin,” Chan seethed.

 

“I know he attended Saving Seoul; when I mentioned your current therapist, they automatically knew the name. He was trouble, you know, always fighting against concepts as simple as a man loving a woman. Reminds me of a certain someone,” she mused. “If I had known he was just as vile as you, I would have never considered him to be your therapist.”

 

“Listen here, you motherfucker—”

 

“Chan,” Woojin cut him off, leaning forward in his desk chair to squeeze the other’s knee comfortingly. “Extract yourself from the situation. Let go. You don't need this, no one needs this, and—”

 

“First you call me, your own mother, an expletive, and then I’m greeted with the joy of listening to some pansy talk down on me! Perfect,” she said sarcastically, words venomous.

 

“You…” Chan started, but he couldn’t seem to find the words to express his anger. For a moment, Chan and Mrs. Bang sat, breathing unsteadily, waiting for the other to speak.

 

It was Chan that broke the silence first.

 

“You don’t get to call him that,” he said, tone pointed and filled to the brim with the frustration and resentment of living in a homophobic household for years on end, years of slurs and verbal abuse and ignorance and denial. “You don’t get to say shit like that, and I won’t grant you the fucking satisfaction of letting him hear you say it. I’m done granting you satisfaction for anything you do. I’m done playing along and pretending to care what you think of me when all I am is tired. I’m tired of you and your fake ass ‘I want you to get better’ spiel. I’m tired of calling, tired of speaking, tired of seeing you when I’m at my worst because I’m too weak to stay away from you, because me allowing your hatred to continue might just be a reflection on how I see myself. And I’m tired of being repulsed with myself, believe me, I am fucking tired. But you don’t get to be repulsed. You don’t deserve the pleasure of knowing you’re the reason I’m so distressed every single fucking day of my life.”

 

Chan looked up at Woojin.

 

The ghost of five words came tumbling out of the therapist’s mouth before he knew what he was saying, whispered so quietly that Chan barely believed he had heard him properly. Five words said by a man who had lost his parents only a week prior, who was still mourning despite the way he had been treated by them. 

 

Five words said tearfully, as Woojin realized to himself just how similar he was to the man he loved.

 

“You’ll be okay without them.”

 

Chan nodded, and the more he mulled over the words in his head, the better they sounded.

 

“I’ll be okay without you. I’ll be okay without father.” 

 

“Channie, you can’t just—”

 

“I’ll be okay,” he repeated, more sure of himself this time. “And you can’t take that away from me anymore. I won’t let you take that away from me anymore.”

 

Chan ended the call.

 

“Holy shit. I can’t believe I just did that.”

 

“Bang Chan,” Woojin murmured, standing up from his desk chair to tackle Chan in a hug so tight the other could barely breathe, “you are the bravest person I have ever met.”

 

“I can’t believe I just cut them out like that,” Chan said in awe, and yet he wrapped his hands around Woojin’s back all the same.

 

Woojin looked him in the eye, letting go of him and sitting down on the loveseat next to him. “So many people are obsessed with this idea that being related to someone by blood makes them your family. It’s instilled into us at such a young age, that we deserve any treatment given to us, no matter how cruel or toxic ‘because they’re family.’” Woojin shook his head to himself, looking down at his hands. “But family doesn’t hurt. Family doesn’t deprive you of all you’re worth. And those people are not your family, Chan.” Woojin’s hands turned to tight fists, knuckles whitening as self-realization emerged in his expression. “They weren’t my family.”

 

“But we’ve got our own families, yeah?” Chan said softly, placing his thumb under Woojin’s chin so he looked up at him, eyes wide and glossy, bottom lip quivering. “Changbin, Seungmin, Jeongin, Hyunjin, Jisung, Minho, and Felix; they’re our family. And even if you don’t know some of them that well yet—even if I don’t know some of them that well yet—they’re still more of a family than our parents have ever given us.”

 

Woojin cracked a smile, chuckling to himself with tears streaming down his face. “God, when did you get so good at this whole therapy thing?”

 

“I’ve learned from the best,” Chan replied cheekily, Woojin shoving his shoulder as they laughed with one another.

 

As the two calmed down, Woojin’s gaze drifted towards his watch. “I believe our time is up.”

 

“But our dinner date for tonight’s still on? Same field, same greasy fast food, same emotion-filled conversations about our dreams and aspirations?” Chan clarified, raising an eyebrow. Woojin reddened at that, standing up quickly and walking over to his desk to grab his things, typing up something on his laptop before shutting it. “What? Did I say something?”

 

“You…” Woojin trailed off. He visibly gulped, looking down at the floor, scratching the back of his neck. “You called it a date.”

 

Chan smiled. “Yeah. A date.”

 

“A date.”

 

“Yes. A date.”

 

“Date. D-a-t-e,” Woojin articulated, spelling the word out. Chan was convinced he was just teasing him at this point. 

 

“Superb literacy, Wooj.”

 

“Is that what we’ve been doing? Did I miss the memo, or?”

 

“I suppose so.” Chan walked over to him, interlocking their fingers together. “Is that okay with you?

 

Woojin tensed up under Chan’s touch. “Uh.”

 

“We danced in the rain together, you fucking clown!”

 

Woojin held up his unpreoccupied hand defensively. “I still get nervous sometimes, okay? I didn’t know...you considered this a thing, too.” He sighed a bit unevenly. “But, yeah. Yes. I am...more than okay. With dinner dates. And more dancing. And holding hands. And fields. And rain. And—”

 

“Just shut up and grab your wallet so we can leave.”

 

Woojin grinned, still holding onto Chan’s hand with a steel grip, finally pocketing his wallet before striding out of his office and into the waiting room. Jisung was sitting at his desk, visibly uncomfortable as soon as he locked eyes with Chan.

 

“Jisung,” Chan started apologetically, “I really am so incredibly sorry—”

 

“I believe you,” the receptionist said, leaning down to file something away in a drawer under the desk. When he came back up, he looked to Woojin. “I’ll lock up and head home once I’m finished with this,” he gestured to a pile of papers beside him, “before you ask. And you,” he looked to Chan once again, pursing his lips. “I expect coffee tomorrow at the studio.”

 

“Of course,” Chan said immediately.

 

Jisung couldn’t help but smile. “And I forgive you. You’re dumb, and you’re an invasive little bitch, but I forgive you.”

 

Chan smiled back thankfully as he walked out to the parking lot, still hand-in-hand with Woojin.

 

“You remember what I said last week when I dropped you off at your house?” Woojin asked, unlocking his car and opening the passenger door for Chan.

 

“‘I’d like to think great times are coming,’” Chan said mockingly, mimicking Woojin’s voice.

 

“Hey!” Woojin protested, shutting the car door and going around to the driver’s side, hopping in his own seat. “I do not sound like that. Immaturity doesn’t look good on you, Bang Chan, and—”

 

“I agree, you know.”

 

Woojin looked at him suspiciously. “That I don’t sound like that, or that immaturity doesn’t look good on you?”

 

Chan giggled.

 

“No, doofus, that great times are coming.”

 

Woojin shut his own car door, starting the engine. He glanced over at Chan, who, more lately than ever before, looked a lot like everything good in the world.

 

“I think they already have.”

Chapter Text

Patient #16 - Session Nine Notes 

 

Name: Bang Chan 

 

Session Summary: Session began pretty rockily. Jisung and Chan had an argument that I'm sure they'll figure out together soon (hopefully). Feel kind of bad after overhearing some of it, though; I didn't know Minho had been talking to the Saving Seoul reps to try and get them off my ass for having a more-than-friendly relationship with a patient.

 

Which, of course, is my fault. I knew what I was getting myself into on the first day I had met Chan, and yet I don't regret any of it. 

 

I don't regret holding his hand, or calling him cute, or watching him pout right now as I type, dead-set on the fact that Jisung will "hate him forever." I don't regret driving around with him, eating fast food in the car, or hugging him tight when either one of us cries—and fuck, we really do cry a lot, huh?

 

But back to therapy stuff. 

 

He keeps on apologizing for my loss, and while I appreciate his condolences, I hope he continues to focus on himself rather than what I'm going through.

 

And, God, how do I even begin to express how I feel about him wondering if I'm just falling for him to "fix him"?

 

Chan can hold his own. He isn't something that needs putting back together. He isn't fragile, he isn't someone I pity, he isn't a charity case. Chan is so much more than that, and he describes my view of him as this helpless creature who I've taken under my wing and am forever assigned to.

 

But that's not how I see him.

 

He is everything, whether I'd like to admit that to myself or not. He is the first thing I think of each morning, the person I look forward to seeing the most, the one who makes each day more interesting and exciting than the last. He's absolutely gorgeous, inside and out, and I'm completely in love with every single little thing about him. His laugh is extraordinary; he giggles, fucking giggles, and it's addicting—it makes you want to become the funniest person on the planet just so you can hear those high-pitched, airy little noises of amusement. He's sweet—sweeter than most—and he never fails to amaze me with these gentleman-like qualities that I thought only existed in the movies. He's that guy you'd like to show off to everyone and anyone you know. Something as common and as disgustingly horrifying as homophobia doesn't stop me from wanting to kiss him on a busy street corner someday.

 

I hope I can. I hope this is the home stretch for us, and by next week, at the end of session ten, we can close this chapter of our lives and start anew. Because this really is just the beginning for us, and I swear to fucking God every single person who's wished Chan and I and any of our friends ill won't know what hit them.

 

One of those people, of course, is Chan's mother.

 

I don't know how someone can be so incredibly insensitive to her own son's feelings, to care not about what he wants out of life, to have absolutely zero empathy for what he goes through. She doesn't deserve to be the mother of one of the most amazing people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing; hell, she isn't even a mother. She doesn't care about his mental health, doesn't care about his education or his career path or his dreams and aspirations. She just cares about setting him straight—pun intended. She wants the perfect poster child for heterosexuality that she'll never have, no matter how much she tries to delude herself into believing that someone else can screw around with her own son's mind to the point in which he's disgusted by the mere thought of loving another boy. She wants him to be revolted by his own sexuality, to hate a part of himself that determines something as impactful as his relationships.

 

I will never understand—I don't want to understand—how you could be content with ruining how someone sees themselves like that. She's already done it once; is that not enough for her?

 

When it comes to conversion therapy, no one who makes it out is unscathed. There will always be remnants of internalized homophobia and this clawing guilt deep down within us. I'll never be the person I was before Saving Seoul, and I don't think Chan will be, either.

 

Has she not done enough damage? Has she not caused him enough hurt? Is creating this fallacy of a man she raised to show off to distant relatives not enough for her?

 

Or will she never be fucking satisfied?

 

My parents never were.

 

Satisfied, that is.

 

I think telling Chan that he'll be okay without them caused a lot of past wounds of my own to resurface. My mom and dad haven't even been dead for more than a couple of weeks, but it isn't affecting me nearly as intensely as I had always imagined it would. And for that, for keeping some relative composure in one of the lowest moments of my life, for going to work and keeping my bills paid, for leaving no room to grieve, I think I've realized that they were never really there for me. They were absent in some of the most important parts of my life, and the only times they would speak to me, the conversation would revolve around what "other boys I've coerced into my alternative lifestyle."

 

They refused to listen when I tried to get them to understand, to repair the damage that I had created in our family. They left me alone without remorse. They never wanted me as much as I thought I desperately needed them.

 

So why should I grieve? Why should I allow myself to let their passing break me down as much as they broke me when they were alive?

 

Maybe that sounds harsh, but fuck, what else am I supposed to do? Mourn for my abusers, my tormenters, the people who would rather see my very being be stripped away by some asshole in a white coat with a shitty degree than be myself?

 

Fuck that. Fuck them, and fuck people who try to make themselves out to be your family when they've never done a single damn thing in your benefit.

 

I know who my real family is now, and I think Chan does, too. Him, Minho, Jisung, Felix—they're my family. And I'm sure Hyunjin, Seungmin, Jeongin, and Changbin will come to be my family, too.

 

Progress made: Chan cut the toxicity out of his life, and I am so, so fucking proud of him. He did what I never had the guts to do, did what I wish I had done. He continues to wake up and go about his life, as shitty as it may be to do so, and he lets his friends in when he needs them. He's been opening up more to me on those nights where we sit in my car and look up at the sky, and for that, I couldn't be more grateful.

 

I think things will be okay, for all of us. I think Minho, Chan and I will continue to recover from everything Saving Seoul put us through. I think Jisung, Chan, and Changbin have a real future in music, and I can't wait to support them at every chance I get ("3RACHA" sounds a whole lot better than all of the names they've been mulling over, by the way. I hope it's here to stay and they won't just change it in a week or two). I think Felix and Chan will turn out to be really good friends, the better they get to know each other. I think Hyunjin, Jeongin, and Seungmin are some of the most wonderful people I've ever met, and I hope to see them more often outside of greasy bars that the rap trio performs in. 

 

Yeah. I think we'll be okay.

 

Personal additions: I have a gift for Chan that I'm planning on giving to him at the end of our last session together. I think it'll be a good representation of how far we've come together, of how much we've helped each other and been there for each other in this strange period of both of our lives.

 

I hope he likes it, because it's been absolutely fucking nerve-racking thinking about it.

 

And Jisung, I know you're reading this, so I swear on my damn life if you tell Chan I have something planned for him, I will ensure all of your neatly filed papers under your desk end up mysteriously strewn across the floor. Can you imagine having to reorganize those? Oh, the horror!

 

(I hate how all of these threats I leave for you are so incredibly mediocre. Next time I should, like, commit arson or something.

 

Please don't forward this document to the Feds.)

Chapter Text

“Why would you agree to riding with him again?”

 

The question was posed by Felix, currently sitting in the passenger seat, looking completely baffled.

 

Chan had been hanging around both him and Minho much more often recently, particularly when he needed help on his graphic design project that had been taking up the better half of the week. Both were smart, sound college students: Felix a sophomore like Jisung, and Minho a senior, only a year younger than Woojin.

 

However, their intellect didn't get them very far outside of the classroom. They acted as if they had known each other their entire lives, which sometimes included irrational decisions, such as letting Minho drive them around.

 

Minho let out a laugh, shaking his head with his eyes closed blissfully, his car beginning to veer off the road for a few seconds.

 

Chan and Felix shrieked.

 

This had to be where they died; there was no doubt in Chan’s mind that Minho was going to kill him. Not with murderous intent, or absolute badassery, or even revenge. 

 

No, Minho was going to get Chan and Felix killed due to his general unawareness of road safety and traffic laws.

 

Minho opened his eyes, his pupils quickly dilating as he realized he was close to falling into a ditch. He yanked the wheel to the left, narrowly avoiding totaling his vehicle for what had to be the tenth time that day. 

 

“I have my fucking license, Minho,” Felix reminded his friend from beside him, an iron grip on the dashboard as he watched Minho knock over a traffic cone. “Park somewhere safe and switch me sides; you’re gonna make Chan late to his last session with your absolutely shit driving.”

 

God, it really was his last session, huh? 

 

Chan could hardly believe it.

 

“Of course the Australians are ganging up on me once again,” Minho groaned, pressing his foot down hard on the gas pedal. He must have been well over the speed limit by now, much to Chan’s dismay.

 

“I haven’t even said anything out of fear that I will become a further distraction from the road,” Chan said quickly, his forehead coming into contact with the back of Felix’s seat as Minho suddenly stopped at a red light. “Jesus!”

 

“You know, I’ve never gotten a ticket before,” Minho argued, fingers tapping at the steering wheel as he waited for the light to turn green. “I am more than capable. And you know what else? I think you're both just jealous that you don’t have a car. Well, let me make something perfectly clear,” Minho announced, turning his head to look at both Felix beside him and Chan in the backseat. “I will never let you drive my baby.”

 

Felix snorted at that, hitting Minho on the shoulder. “Look alive, dumbass; you’re holding up the cars behind you.” He pointed in front of them at the stoplight, which had very clearly been green for a few seconds. Multiple cars were honking behind them, and Minho’s face flushed as he began driving again, Chan laughing in the back.

 

“How have you never been pulled over?” Chan asked as Minho swerved into the parking lot of the therapy office.

 

Minho put the Camaro in reverse, looking behind him as he backed into a parking spot. “It’s not about getting pulled over, Chan, it’s about convincing the police officer of your innocence.” He batted his eyelashes and pouted his lips, which caused Chan to emit a gagging sound, Felix losing it in the passenger seat. “Just kidding. I would be scared shitless to talk myself out of a ticket.”

 

“God, I thought you were serious for a second,” Chan said incredulously as he unbuckled his seatbelt.

 

The three hopped out of the car, walking into the waiting room together.

 

“Chan!” Jisung said with a smile from behind his desk as he saw his friend. “I worked on that track we had almost finished last night, and I think it’s safe to say it’ll be the best song on the whole damn album once—”

 

Jisung saw Minho standing behind Chan, and his smile immediately grew, jumping out of his desk chair to run to his boyfriend excitedly. He gave him a quick kiss on the lips, and Felix elbowed Chan, leading him to two of the waiting room seats. “We’re third-wheeling,” he mumbled amusedly, plopping down in a chair. Chan followed suit.

 

He watched as Minho and Jisung talked, laughed, flirted with each other. They looked at one another in a way that Chan had only ever seen in movies. The world could never possibly be desolate with those two in it; their love for each other was stronger than that.

 

Chan could only hope he was beginning to go down that path, with every passing day. He could only hope Woojin felt that way about him.

 

Chan couldn’t wait to see him again.

 

They had been seeing each other all week, of course, barely ever found separate from one another. The only time Chan spent away from him was in the studio with Changbin and Jisung, which had recently been working out incredibly well. If they completed the last few songs that needed polishing, 3RACHA’s first album would be released by the end of the month.

 

That was something Chan never would have expected to come out of his junior year of college. Hell, it was something he never would have expected, period.

 

His parents had always reinforced this idea that he had to go into some sort of STEM career; they'd been lying to his extended family about his major for years now in fear of being looked down upon.

 

Finally catching a break in his career as a musician felt incredible.

 

In fact, this entire week had felt like catching a break. Besides the infrequent moments of panic or nights he could’ve gotten better sleep, he’d been fairly relaxed the past few days. Jeongin, Seungmin and Hyunjin had taken him on a surprise shopping spree around Seoul, much to Chan’s surprise. Changbin and Jisung were absolutely killing it on their verses in the new tracks, and Chan couldn’t possibly be more proud of how much their little rap trio had grown. Minho and Felix would take Chan off on little adventures periodically throughout the day, sometimes at ungodly hours (he should have told them about his terrible sleeping habits before letting them take him to a skateboarding park at four in the morning).

 

And of course Chan continued his tradition of grabbing some takeout and talking about life with Woojin.

 

Chan felt...happy.

 

Chan was happy.

 

A soft voice calling his name brought him out of his reverie.

 

Felix tapped him on the shoulder. “I think that’s you, buddy,” he said, and Chan looked towards the direction of the voice, and—

 

Eyes that twinkled like nothing else Chan had ever seen before. A kindness in the rise of his eyebrows, the fullness of his cheeks, the curve of his lips. Glasses perched atop his nose just so, looking as if they could fall off at any moment. Hair styled perfectly, and fuck, Chan wanted to run his fingers through it. A soft, baby blue sweater that enveloped his torso. Strong shoulders, a beautiful physique.

 

Kim Woojin.

 

“Our session’s begun,” he said simply, leaving Chan with a wide grin before disappearing back into his office.

 

Chan stood up immediately, saying a quick goodbye to Felix, Minho, and Jisung, who were all looking at him knowingly.

 

“Ah, young love,” Felix sighed overdramatically, and for that, Chan flipped him off as he walked into Woojin’s office, closing the door behind him.

 

“Take a seat,” Woojin said, his eyes crinkling at their corners as he smiled. “Funny, what Felix said.”

 

“You could hear that?” Chan asked nervously, lowering himself into the loveseat across from Woojin. “I’m sure he was—I mean, you know, just...jokes, among friends, and such. All of that. You know.”

 

Woojin kept smiling.

 

It was blinding.

 

“I’m glad to see you, him and Minho have been hanging out more recently. How has that been going?” he asked.

 

“It’s been sort of incredible,” Chan admitted, beginning to relax against the cushioned back of the loveseat as Woojin changed subjects from Felix’s “young love” comment. “They’re so helpful when it comes to school stuff, for starters. They’re funny, so funny, and kind and inclusive and just. Good people.” 

 

Chan would never tell them that; he’s sure they would ridicule him forever.

 

“It’s been so nice, seeing our friend groups merging together into this, uh,” Woojin gestured with his hands, trying to find a word that encapsulated the support system the nine of them had built together.

 

“Family?” Chan offered.

 

A beat of silence passed, and Woojin looked Chan in the eyes, a bit dumbfounded.

 

“Huh,” the therapist said. “I guess we really are a family.”

 

Chan played with his fingers, gaze drifting towards the ground. “Are you okay with that? Do you like being this close?”

 

Woojin sat there for a moment, thinking to himself.

 

“You guys are all that I’ve got left,” he finally spoke, and that made Chan’s head snap up to stare at the other man, worry seeping into his expression. “Without you...well, I wouldn’t be myself.”

 

Chan had a feeling he wasn’t talking about their entire group anymore.

 

“You make me whole, you know that?” Woojin said bluntly, scooting forward in his chair. “When we’re not together, it’s like a part of me is missing or something. I just end up waiting for the next time I see you.”

 

“Well, after today, you won’t have to wait any longer,” Chan reminded him, which made the corners of Woojin’s lips turn up slightly at the thought.

 

“I suppose you’re right,” Woojin acknowledged, resting his elbows on his knees as he leaned towards the desk, hands clasped together. “But in the meantime, we might as well get into it, shall we?”

 

“I thought we had already gotten into it, but yeah, I’m cool with that.”

 

Woojin just shook his head in amusement, opening his laptop and typing rapidly.

 

“I figured you wouldn’t be writing notes for today, it being our last session and all,” Chan said casually, although he could feel himself growing more nervous. The prospect of Woojin writing a ton of shit up about his mental health on a document that Jisung had to periodically print and file had always made him slightly anxious.

 

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m not writing notes for today,” Woojin reassured, looking up at Chan over the screen of his laptop. “I’m just pulling up all of the notes I’ve taken previously so we can review how you’ve progressed over the last couple months. We can discuss where you started before attending therapy, your growth over time, and what comes after therapy. Does that sound good to you?”

 

Chan nodded, although he felt slightly puzzled at “what comes after therapy.” He didn’t know what that entailed; was Woojin going to refer him to a different therapeutic service? Was there some regulatory post-therapy step that he didn’t know about?

 

“Good,” Woojin said, typing something on his laptop before sighing, once again looking up at Chan. “I might as well get the bad news out of the way before anything else. Or, uh, not really bad news—I guess I just don't know how you're gonna take this.”

 

Chan’s brows furrowed. “That's quite a terrifying way to introduce a new topic to the conversation, but okay, Wooj, what've you got for me?”

 

Woojin looked at him for a moment, unblinkingly, gnawing at his lower lip in thought.

 

“I'd like to recommend you to a sleep specialist—someone who can officially diagnose you with insomnia and prescribe you with medication. And it's not necessarily a solution, but it's a step in the right direction to getting you a better night’s rest than what you've been accustomed to.”

 

Chan’s eyes widened. “Uh, I mean, I-I’ve been sleeping better and all, since...seeing you, and…”

 

The lie was obvious; it wasn't enough.

 

“I've never been able to treat your insomnia, Chan; that's something I've been struggling to come to terms with this entire time, and the only alternative I see to struggling with this for the rest of your life is to see someone incredibly well-versed in sleeping disorders.”

 

Chan sighed.

 

“I...I guess I could try? I don't know, it just...I guess, what I had hoped—I mean, I know it was unrealistic, but—”

 

“You wanted to be done with your mental health once these sessions had ended?” Woojin proposed, voice quiet and unjudging. 

 

Chan nodded shamefully nonetheless.

 

“It's stupid, I know,” he replied simply, looking down at the floor. He felt so small, even while sitting in front of someone he trusted with his life. It was funny, how life would find new ways to weaken him.

 

He supposed he couldn't blame things on “life” anymore. It was just this fantasy he had created in his head, that once session ten was up, he’d live happily ever after.

 

No one could be blamed for that fantasy; no one but himself.

 

Woojin leaned forward in his chair, and a smile played at his lips despite himself. Chan knew it wasn’t mocking, nor was the therapist trying to be charming; he had just thought of something spectacular, as he often did, and Chan would sit in awe as the gears in his head turned at the prospect of living as carefree as Woojin did.

 

Well, he couldn’t necessarily say that. Woojin wasn’t carefree, and Chan couldn’t treat him like some end goal, or a definite cure to every single one of his problems. Woojin was just as human as him, which was an incredibly sobering thought to consider. He made just as many mistakes, had just as many regrets, had just as much anger, frustration, sadness, and baggage.

 

Woojin wasn’t perfect by every definition of the word, but he was perfect in Chan’s eyes, as cheesy as it sounds.

 

And Chan knew there would be times Woojin wouldn’t make him happy. There would be moments where he would slip up or break down, and Chan couldn’t always depend on him.

 

“It’s not stupid to love the idea of getting better,” Woojin said, and Chan liked that. 

 

He liked that a lot.

 

Chan couldn’t always depend on Woojin, but right now he could, and Woojin could do the same.

 

Because almost every single query or problem Chan had for Woojin to listen to and offer guidance with, Woojin had experienced himself.

 

He knew what it was like to be in that dark, dark place; some days he couldn’t get out of it.

 

Living had never been easy. Not for anyone, anywhere.

 

Woojin supposed that’s what he loved about the vague concept of self-improvement, of hitting your lowest low and coming back from it. He had done it so many times before, and yet here he was.

 

It was practically a miracle, and he savored every second of it. He savored life for what it gave him.

 

He savored his friends that had gotten him through Saving Seoul. He savored his job, helping people with what he had dealt with his entire life. He savored the few good memories he had of his parents, ones he could hang on to with every fiber of his being when he had nothing to look back on otherwise.

 

And he savored his time with Chan, more than anything in the world. He savored getting to know him for the absolutely remarkable person he was, someone who left him breathless with every interaction, someone that left his heart racing like there was no tomorrow.

 

Woojin’s eyes lit up as he thought of something, and Chan knew he was in for a ride.

 

“Okay, this is going to sound stupid, but just trust me when I ask you to do this,” Woojin began.

 

“Wooj, that is possibly the scariest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

 

“Oh my God, stop making fun of me for one second so I can work my magic.”

 

Chan raised a suggestive eyebrow. “Work your magic?”

 

“I will literally walk out of this office right now.”

 

Chan threw up his hands in surrender. “Alright, alright,” he gave in, holding back a laugh. “Ask away.”

 

Woojin laced his fingers together on top of his desk, lost in thought for a moment.

 

“I want you to think of something that’s worth staying alive for,” Woojin finally said, tone more serious than Chan had expected. “It doesn’t have to be anything exhilarating, just...something that makes you want to come to these sessions, to stick around for everything.”

 

Chan grinned, and he immediately spoke a chipper “Yep! I’ve got it!”

 

“Chan, I want you to really think about this,” Woojin said sincerely. “No jokes.”

 

“I’m not joking,” Chan said, and Woojin’s reaction only made him grin harder. “I don’t need to think about this; hell, this is the easiest answer I’ll ever give you.”

 

They stared at each other for a couple seconds, the office completely quiet aside from the faint sound of Minho and Jisung chatting with one another.

 

“Well?” Woojin said exasperatedly. “What is it?”

 

“Okay, you’re gonna have to bear with me here,” Chan said apologetically, and Woojin already had a feeling this was the beginning of another wisecrack. “It’s a guy; no big surprises there. I’m gay, after all.”

 

Woojin kept staring.

 

“Are you keeping up?” Chan asked impatiently.

 

The therapist just nodded.

 

“He’s a brunette, and fuck, the way he styles his hair always gets to me. It’s like, he’s cute when it’s fallen down over his forehead, but when it’s up? When I can see the forehead?” Chan let out an overdramatic sigh, clutching the fabric of his shirt against his chest as if he were love-stricken. “God, it’s over for me.”

 

“I told you not to joke about this,” Woojin said as sternly as he could, but he fell short as he watched Chan stay in character, still clutching his shirt and looking off into the distance like his husband had just returned from the war.

 

It was so, so endearing, and Woojin let him continue, although he couldn’t see where this was going.

 

“He has the prettiest eyes—more beautiful than any I’ve ever seen—and they’re always alight, like he knows something I don’t. And don’t even get me started on how smart he is,” Chan absolutely gushed, fluttering his eyelashes. “Oh, how I love Kim Woojin!”

 

Chan opened his mouth to continue, but he stopped himself, face going slack as what he had just uttered dawned upon him.

 

“Holy shit, no, wait, I didn’t mean it like that—fuck, I—I’m so sorry, Woojin, please don’t hate me, fuck, fuck, fuck—”



“Chan,” Woojin said, suppressing a giggle with his hand. “I get it; it was just a joke.”

 

Chan’s eyes widened. “Yes! A joke! I just got carried away with it, is—is all, y-you know how it is.”

 

“I understand,” Woojin reaffirmed, but there was a shake to his voice that was so subtle, Chan was wondering if he had imagined it.

 

He was mustering up the courage to ask about it when Woojin clasped his hands together with a bright smile. “Now, even if your example was...rather unexpected, see how quickly you thought of something that makes you happy enough to stay alive?” He lowered his voice a bit, genuine cheer seeping through his words. “That's wonderful, Chan; do you know how important that is?”

 

Chan hadn’t thought of that before, how lucky he was to be able to think of something that made it worth being alive so very quickly.

 

“I guess you’re right,” Chan said incredulously, although he was still stuck on the shaking of Woojin’s voice. “But I want you to know that, while I said it jokingly, you really are the first thing I think of when I think about what I’m here for. You make me happier than I can put into words, Woojin, and while I got carried away and everything, that doesn’t change the fact that  I am forever grateful for everything you do for me.”

 

“You don’t have to say that, Chan,” Woojin chided. “But, uh. Thank you. That means a lot.”

 

“Really, you’ve been such a great therapist, Woojin,” Chan said truthfully. “I can’t believe that this is almost over.”

 

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” Woojin said wistfully, putting on a melancholy expression, and Chan laughed at that.

 

“It hasn’t always been fun. We’ve been through some pretty rough shit.”

 

“And we’re still standing, aren’t we?”

 

Chan blinked. “Yeah. Yeah, we are.”

 

Woojin glanced at his laptop screen, wincing a little. “God, some of these notes are so hard to read.”

 

Chan didn’t know what that meant. “Like, the material of the sessions, or?”

 

Woojin shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose with a sigh. “I was so fucking whipped for you from the very beginning. It’s almost painful.”

 

Chan choked on his own spit.

 

“Jesus, Chan, are you okay?” Woojin said worriedly, standing up quickly and walking over to Chan to pat him on the back. “Are you dying? Should I call someone, or—”

 

“I’m all good,” Chan wheezed, coughing for a long while before speaking again. “Just. Caught off guard.”

 

Woojin smirked at that, walking back to his desk slowly, a small hop in his step. “Ah. I see.”

 

“You’re going to hold this against me, aren’t you?”

 

Woojin lowered himself into his chair, leaning back lazily. “Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will tell.”

 

“That is so fucking unfair, Kim; this is a professional environment, and I will not stand for anything less than excellence,” Chan complained loudly, folding his arms in front of his chest.

 

Woojin looked at Chan adoringly, and the therapist realized that this was his entire world sitting in front of him, pouting at him like he was the root of all evil.

 

“Alright, let’s get professional, then,” Woojin said suddenly, pulling a small, laminated card from his pocket. “This is the business card of the aforementioned sleep specialist I’d like to recommend you to.” He slid the card across the desk, and Chan saw genuine concern in his eyes, an almost pleading look about him. “Take it. Please.”

 

Chan took the card, reading the small print on the front: “Jung Hoseok, MD.” Underneath was an address, his work number, and his office hours.

 

“I’ll set up an appointment with him,” Chan decided, and Woojin smiled brightly at that, relief flooding his features.

 

“Thank you so much.”

 

“Now, something less-than-professional,” Chan proposed, standing from the loveseat. “Are we still on for our fast food date?”

 

Woojin jumped to his feet. “I thought you’d never ask.”

 

The two’s hands intertwined, and they were about to walk out of Woojin’s office when the therapist stopped in his tracks, turning to face Chan.

 

“It’s been a pleasure.”

 

Chan nodded. “Ditto.”

 

“‘Ditto?’ Who the fuck says ‘ditto’ to ‘it’s been a pleasure?’” Woojin retaliated.

 

“When will you ever stop bullying me?”

 

The two laughed as they walked out, incapable of feigning fake-anger for long. They said their goodbyes to Felix, Minho, and Jisung, who assured Woojin that they would be leaving “as soon as Felix fit fifty M&M’s in his mouth like he said he could, the fucking liar.”

 

Chan was slightly horrified at how few M&M’s were left in the cup on Jisung’s desk, but he decided not to comment on it.

 

They hopped in Woojin’s car and began to drive off, Chan looking back at the office building through his window.

 

He could hardly believe that was his last session.

 

“I have something I should tell you,” Chan said suddenly, and Woojin glanced at him as he drove, raising an eyebrow.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I wasn’t sure I believed you, at first.”

 

The car hummed softly.

 

“Believed what?” Woojin asked.

 

“You said,” Chan started, and then sucked in a breath nervously, letting it go shakily to attempt to calm his nerves. “You said, a couple weeks ago, something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.” Chan made air-quotes as he recited the words: “You are worthy of the love you’re given.

 

Woojin’s eyes stayed on the road, waiting for Chan to speak again.

 

“I don’t think I ever expected to believe that, really. I don’t think I saw it coming, the way you made me believe it. I just thought I’d always wallow in my own self-pity and disgrace, never able to...to fall for another man without hearing my mother’s voice ringing in my ears, or seeing my dad’s disappointed face, or feeling the scratching of my own nails against my skin within those white walls of Saving Seoul that I can never seem to escape.”

 

“But you taught me,” Chan continued, voice steadying out. “You taught me that I don’t have to live in fear anymore, that I can take control of who I am and take back who I used to be. You are the first therapist I have ever met that has told me my sexuality is not something to detach from myself, something to claw away at until there’s nothing left. You told me that it’s suffocating to hold back such an important part of myself, that anyone who says otherwise doesn’t deserve me, that...that I’ll be okay without them.”

 

“You make me feel free, Kim Woojin,” Chan said, enunciating every word with conviction. “You make me feel worthy of love, and I can never thank you enough for that.”

 

Woojin was at a loss.

 

“I also might actually be in love with you or whatever,” Chan said quickly, intending to sound almost joking, but the words came out as more of a croak, shaky and weighted with nerves.

 

Silence followed. Loud, imposing, terrible silence.

 

Embarrassed, Chan took a glance at Woojin, expecting to see some form of shock, or maybe even horror, evident on his face, but all that greeted him was this look of pure, unadulterated joy; if Chan were to guess, it was the happiest he’d ever seen him.

 

Suddenly, Woojin began to shake with laughter, beautiful little giggles escaping his lips, to Chan’s utter delight. 

 

He was just laughing—not mockingly, not with judgement or revulsion or discomfort. He was laughing the hardest Chan had heard him laugh in awhile, to the point where tears began to spill out of his eyes, rolling down his cheeks, the brightest smile still present in his expression.

 

The car jerked suddenly to the right, Woojin making a less-than-graceful turn into a deserted parking lot on the side of the road. As they parked, Woojin’s fit of laughter quieted down, leaving quiet, almost guttural sobs in its wake. He was crying, and while it wasn’t something Chan was new to seeing, it certainly felt different than all of the other times Chan had seen the man cry.

 

Something was different in the best way possible, and Chan could only ask one question in that moment to the therapist beside him:

 

“How are you feeling?”

 

Woojin turned to him, grinning like it was all he knew how to do. His eyes took the shape of crescent moons, his hair was uncharacteristically dishevelled, his face was shining with tears, his breathing was still heavy and uneven, and he was grinning. 

 

“I feel alive, Chan.”

 

Chan sat there for a moment, tuning into the crickets chirping outside of the parked car. The sunset wasn’t phenomenal, but there was a flicker of purple on the horizon that made him want to live the rest of his life feeling like this—alive. 

 

He was alive; he had made it. He had survived. Oxygen was circulating through his body. In and out. His heart was beating, his pulse was racing, he was blinking and moving and crying and smiling. He had been trying for so very long to keep going, and it all came to fruition with every second that passed: one, then two, then three, and so on. He wasn’t romanticizing about his sudden death, he wasn’t pondering his existence. For once, he didn’t have any questions pertaining to why he was here, what purpose he served.

 

His mind was quiet.

 

He was at peace, and he was alive.

 

A second passed.

 

Then two, then three.

 

Nothing changed. No monumental fuck-up or depressive episode.

 

He was still alive, and still trying and fighting for his place in the universe, and he wasn’t punished for it. Rather, he was gifted with someone as wonderful and tremendously remarkable as Kim Woojin.

 

He had been rewarded for simply waiting it out, for looking for help from the ones he loved, for accepting them and letting them accept him, as much as he had thought he didn’t deserve it. He had been rewarded for believing that he deserved better than what had been given to him.

 

It had been worth it, all twenty-one years of his life, just to meet the twenty-three-year-old in the driver’s seat next to him.

 

He could barely believe it.

 

“Anything else?” Chan asked quietly.

 

“I love you, too,” Woojin said, turning to face Chan, eyes as bright as stars.

 

He could barely fucking believe it.

 

“God, it would’ve been awkward if you didn’t, huh?” Chan replied, earning a light and half-hearted hit to the shoulder from Woojin, who only giggled in response.

 

They sat in comfortable silence for a moment, soaking it all in, before Woojin spoke up once more.

 

“I’ve actually got something I wanted to give you,” he confessed, leaning towards Chan with a hopeful look on his face. “Is that alright?”

 

Chan looked stupefied, vision focusing in and out on the curve of Woojin’s lips. “Uh, yes. More than alright. Certainly. Go right ahead...bro.”

 

Woojin squinted at him. “Did you just call me ‘bro’ right before our first kiss?”

 

“I’ve done no such thing.”

 

They looked at each other for a bit, neither of them moving.

 

“I hate you,” Woojin deadpanned, beginning to tilt his head away, when Chan wrapped his hands around his neck, pressing his lips against Woojin’s.

 

It was unceremonious. 

 

It didn’t even last ten seconds.

 

And yet, Chan would be lying if he said it wasn’t the best kiss of his entire life.

 

He felt that same electricity he had felt when he first saw Woojin, that spark of happiness and clarity that made everything make sense. He felt Woojin begin to smile against him, the other’s hands moving to run through his hair.

 

At that, Chan pulled away, and he could feel himself blushing profusely.

 

“Hey! You’re cheating me out of my kiss!” Woojin accused, attempting to pout, but he couldn’t force himself to do it when he was beaming from ear to ear. He laced his fingers in Chan’s, letting the other bask in his embarrassment for a few more seconds before kissing him with slow intensity.

 

Fireworks. 

 

Fireworks all over again, and Chan couldn’t help but think of every single moment he’d shared with Woojin. 

 

He remembered rambling in front of him freely during their very first session, and breaking down not long after. He remembered Woojin squeezing his hands, comforting him like no one else ever had.

 

He remembered receiving endless praise and compliments, remembered Woojin eyeing him like he was all that could possibly matter in the world. No one had ever looked at Chan like that before.

 

He remembered ghosting his friends for a week, remembered Woojin making him feel much less alone than he wanted to be. It was good for him, though, and it was what he needed to hear, and he could never be more grateful for it.

 

He remembered calling him pretty by accident, and then calling him pretty on purpose, which were both...interesting experiences, to say the least.

 

He remembered telling him he liked the rain.

 

He remembered Woojin attending their first official 3RACHA gig (back when they called themselves “Triple Threat,” fucking yikes ).

 

He remembered the whole Saving Seoul mess following not long after, all his years running from what used to haunt him finally catching up to him. He remembered wallowing in his own self-pity on a park bench when he was supposed to be at therapy. 

 

He remembered Woojin walking over to him and picking him back up from everything that was hurting him, even when he wanted to accept defeat, even when he wanted to give in to the bullshit of it all.

 

He remembered dancing.

 

God, did he remember dancing.

 

He remembered the close proximity, the heat of Woojin’s chest keeping him warm, how his fingers perfectly intertwined in his own. He remembered Woojin kept stepping on his feet, and vice versa, but that couldn’t possibly matter when either one of them would curse from the temporary pain, and the other would laugh, and no matter what, Chan could return right back to those deep, calming eyes that he knew so well.

 

He could have danced for an eternity, the chill of the rain and the water dripping down his face, his back, everywhere and anywhere. 

 

There was so much more after that, of course.

 

Not all of the memories were good ones.

 

He didn’t know how Woojin had been so strong since the death of his parents.

 

But Chan didn’t like to dwell on those ones, didn’t like to think too hard about the hardships either of them have gone through throughout their lives. There would be much more to come, and he would dwell on those when they reared their ugly heads.

 

But for now, in this moment—as Woojin kissed him harder than he had ever been kissed before, like kissing Chan would never be enough, like he couldn’t fully express just how much he loved him—Chan would recall their slow dance in the park, and he would grin for the umpteenth time against the other’s lips.

 

Woojin pulled away breathlessly, looking at Chan with absolute wonder, then blinked, like his spell of amazement had been brought to a halt.

 

“We’re gonna be late if we keep going like this,” Woojin said, although he didn’t look very upset at the thought of it.

 

“Late for what?” Chan asked as Woojin started the car, the two beginning to pull out of the parking lot.

 

Woojin said nothing, only looked directly ahead at the road before glancing in his rear-view mirror. Chan saw his eyes linger there for only a moment as he slowed the car down, letting another car that was coming up from behind them pass.

 

The car passing them began honking obnoxiously in short bursts, the sound making Chan jump in his seat. “ Jesus! What is wrong with people—”

 

And then Chan saw it, as Woojin honked back and waved through his side window at the other car excitedly.

 

Minho’s ‘95 Chevy Camaro.

 

Felix was screaming Chan’s name from the other car.

 

“Woojin! Where the fuck are we going?” Chan yelled over all of the noise as they passed the road that headed towards their usual fast food restaurant.

 

“You’ll see!”

 

Chan began to relax as Minho, ever the reckless driver, sped far ahead of them, distancing their own car from the Camaro’s wrath.

 

“Are we going to the same place as them?”

 

“Smart man, aren’t you?” Woojin teased. “I figured we’d have a little celebration to mark the end of our last session, as well as the beginning of the rest of our lives.”

 

“That’s so deep, bro.”

 

“Don’t think I forgot about your public urination charge,” Woojin huffed in response, which sent Chan into a fit of giggles.

 

“God, will I ever live that down?” Chan asked, as they turned into a residential area, Woojin parking not much later outside of a large, two-story house. 

 

Multiple cars were parked in front of him, both in the driveway and on the side of the road. Chan spotted Minho’s Camaro ahead of them, and...was that Mrs. Seo’s convertible? Hyunjin’s station wagon?

 

Chan’s eyes widened as he turned to get a better look at the house. There were balloons and streamers haphazardly strewn across the front porch, as if someone had thrown them around in a hurry. A few shadows could be seen looming inside from the front window of the house, and Chan had a feeling he knew who they were.

 

Woojin unbuckled his seatbelt, hopping out of the car quickly to open Chan’s door. He smiled down at him as Chan unbuckled his seatbelt confusedly, slowly getting out of the car and shutting his door.

 

Woojin gave him an uncharacteristically mischievous smirk, grabbing his hand and running off with him towards the house, the two jumping up the steps to the porch in a chorus of laughter and a rapidness that Chan didn’t quite understand yet.

 

He supposed it didn’t matter if he didn’t know what was happening; being with Woojin was enough.

 

He felt himself getting slightly giddy as Woojin knocked on the front door with one hand, his other squeezing Chan’s palm, and Chan would be damned if he could pinpoint the exact reason why he was so fucking gleeful. 

 

There were so many things to be thankful for at the moment, and all of those things multiplied before Chan’s very eyes as Changbin opened the door.

 

His best friend’s expression became a caricature of pure delight in a matter of seconds, pulling Chan inside the house with Woojin trailing behind.

 

They were in a cozy-looking living room with a sofa, loveseat, and recliner facing a flatscreen television opposite of the large window Chan had spotted earlier outside of the house. There was a fireplace to their right, Minho adding another log of wood to the flames as he crouched down next to it. Two urns sat atop the hearth on opposite ends of the fireplace. A bookshelf stood across from them, practically filled to the brim with literature, and propped against it was an acoustic guitar. One of their finished 3RACHA tracks was currently blasting from the television speakers; Jisung and Seungmin were singing along as they stood on the sofa, looking at one another as they overdramatically shouted “MAN, I’M LIVING THE DREAM!” along with Chan’s vocals at the beginning of Don Quixote.

 

Chan was awestruck.

 

“They’re here!” Changbin called out, shutting the front door before sitting himself down in the recliner. Minho stood up from the fireplace, Jisung and Seungmin collapsed onto the sofa in a roar of excitement as they greeted their friends, and Jeongin, Hyunjin and Felix came running into the room not long after, aprons tied tight around their waists, attacking both Chan and Woojin in a group hug.

 

“Sorry, we were finishing up dinner,” Hyunjin explained in a huff. “It should be done soon, but I make no promises.”

 

Chan could only nod, still incredibly bewildered at what was happening. He looked to Changbin for further clarification, raising an eyebrow.

 

“We wanted to throw a party to celebrate your final session, as well as the release of our upcoming mixtape,” he said. “I know we’re a bit early to celebrate the latter, but I’m sure we’ll want to be performing once it’s out instead of having a house party with just the nine of us. So…” Changbin trailed off, gesturing around them with a smile. “Now seems perfect.”

 

Chan didn’t know what to say other than the one question that had been bothering him since they arrived:

 

“Where are we?”

 

Realization hit him as soon as the words left his lips, finally noticing the wall art beside the fireplace that read “The Kims,” but Woojin answered anyways, squeezing his hand once again with a kind of reassurance that Chan never could have possibly expected to find within someone else.

 

“We’re home.”

 

Chan’s eyes scanned the people around him—his best friends, his partners in crime, the people he loved most in this world—until his gaze landed on Changbin, who was almost imperceptibly tearing up.

 

“You’re home,” he said, and Chan believed him.

 

He was home.