They’ve been practicing for hours. Mingyu has heard Soonyoung say “Again!” for over two hundred times today and honestly he was getting sick of it but he understood that this was for the award shows they have soon and that he had to work hard to make carats happy. All thirteen of them were covered in sweat given that it was one of the hottest days of the year, the heat seeping through their practice room.
When Soonyoung called for a break, almost immediately everyone went on their knees or lied down while some went to grab water from the back. Soonyoung, on the other hand, went straight to their stereo and started playing music from other artists - a habit the group established even during pre-debut days.
“It’s so hot.” Their leader, Seungcheol said as he sat down against the mirror, his water tumbler on hand.
“Why is the air conditioning even off?” Mingyu asked with a huff, clearly annoyed by his shirt clinging to him, making it hard for him to breathe. He has already removed all his layers - his flannel discarded somewhere on the couch, even his necklace and watch were gone because the heat made everything suffocating. He sat further away from everyone, avoiding the body heat they were producing.
“It’s broken, remember?” Jihoon said from where he was sprawled out in the mats at the back of the practice room. “We weren’t supposed to practice today since it was supposed to be fixed but the radio show we have next week got moved, meaning our practice days got adjusted as well.” Mingyu knew this - he overheard their manager explaining it to their leader earlier in the day but that doesn’t mean Mingyu is less annoyed. He was tired of the many hours of practice and annoyed because of the scalding heat. He just wants to go back to the dorms and lie down on his bed.
“Do we not have any more fans or those portable aircon units? I am melting.” Seungkwan said with a whine.
“I think they have the portable ones in the storage room over there,” Wonwoo said, his gaze lingering on the door across his side of the room. Mingyu, being the one nearest said door, stood up to check if there was. Pulling the door open, he turned on the light, seeing two units of the air conditioning at the back of the small room.
“Oh, they’re here,” Mingyu said going further in the room. He got one of the units and went to bring it back outside… or at least he was supposed to. He grabbed the handle and tried to get out but the door won’t budge. Panic bubbled in Mingyu’s chest. He’s trapped. He can’t be trapped. He twisted the handle again, hard this time and still it wouldn’t open.
“Ya, whoever’s blocking the door, it’s not funny. Let me out.” He said banging against the door. With each second passing, his breathing became more and more unstable. Hearing no response from outside the door, he hit his fist on it harder. “Ya! I’m not kidding. Open this door.” He screamed, knocking even faster. He couldn’t breathe properly anymore. Long, dragging inhales and exhales becoming short, rapid intakes of air. Honestly speaking, Mingyu felt like he was about to die and he didn’t want to go out this way.
Outside the storage room, Seungkwan was getting restless waiting for his source of escape from the heat. He was getting impatient by the minute because Mingyu was taking so long. “Kim Mingyu!” He called out from his spot on the floor. When he got no response, he stood up and went to the storage room, ready to barge in the door. However, as he got closer, he heard constant knocking against the door. “Mingyu?” Seungkwan said as he opened the door - well, tried to. He couldn’t. The door wouldn’t budge. Seungkwan knocked on the door. “Yah, Mingyu. Open the door.” He said as he leaned his ear on the door while still attempting to open it.
“Seungkwan.” A muffled voice said from the inside. “Get me out of here. I can’t-” An inhale. “I can’t breathe.”
His cleithrophobia. Seungkwan thought with alarm. Mingyu’s cleithrophobia was no secret to the rest of the members. They learned about it first during their pre-debut days. The first incident being the day when Mingyu was dared to wear one of Samuel’s shirts. When he was about to change, he couldn’t get the shirt past over his head and he got stuck. He had a full-blown panic attack and he couldn’t breathe properly. When they got the shirt off of him, Mingyu explained that he was cleithrophobic which was the fear of being trapped. It could happen with the most mundane things, like a necklace being too tight or a ring not being able to slip out of his finger. He couldn’t bear himself, or anyone for the matter being trapped or stuck in any way. The rest of the group understood and made sure that things that’ll trigger his phobia won’t happen or if they do, they’ll be able to resolve it quickly and help him get through it.
“Hyung, stop the music. Something’s wrong with the door.” Seungkwan addressed no one specifically, voiced laced with panic and urgency, loud enough to be heard by everyone in the room, as he further fumbled with the handle in attempts to open it. The music stopped, silence engulfing them and Seungkwan heard shuffling coming from behind him and not a second later, Seungcheol was beside Seungkwan, softly pushing him away. He tried the handle and just like Seungkwan he was still met with no luck in opening the door.
“Mingyu,” Seungcheol said, knocking thrice against the door. “Mingyu, can you hear me?” He said, knocking again. There was no answer, making fear bubble inside of him. “Mingyu?” He tried again.
“Yes,” Mingyu replied with a raw voice. He heard whimpering after that and irregular intakes of breath, meaning Mingyu was crying and on the verge, or maybe even having a panic attack. The pain could be heard through the door and it made Seungcheol’s heart hurt.
“Hey, buddy,” Seungcheol said, leaning against the door. He used his soft leader voice - the voice he uses when the members are crying or hurt. Seungkwan knew it was because he wanted to calm Mingyu down. After all, if they didn’t, he might pass out inside and who knows what’ll happen once he does. “You’re okay. Don’t worry we’re gonna get you out, okay?”
Wonwoo took over looking for an escape for Mingyu, analyzing each centimeter of the door, looking for any wedges or blockage that prevent the door from opening. Seungcheol continued to speak to Mingyu, making sure he was still conscious. We’re going to get you out, Mingyu. Seungkwan thought. Hang in there.
Mingyu was almost out of it. The world around him was swirling, he couldn’t feel his body, he couldn’t think straight and most especially, he couldn’t breathe. The intakes of his breaths were irregular and he could feel pins and needles in his legs. He doesn’t know how long it’s been. All he knows is that he’s on the floor, leaning against the door, his vision swimming and his breaths shallow.
“Mingyu.” Someone called out from outside the door. It was muffled, the throbbing in his brain making it harder for him to distinguish who it was. He couldn’t address whoever it was properly because his head was all fuzzy but he tried his best to answer with a “Yes.” He heard the same voice talking again but he couldn’t understand, no matter how hard he tried. It was all too much. He wanted to breathe properly, he wanted to respond to whoever was at the door and most importantly, he wanted to get out. But dealing with all of those things all at once is making his situation even harder. He couldn’t think straight anymore but one thing was for sure, if he can’t get his shit together, he’s for sure going to pass out.
“He’s not answering,” Seungcheol said, frustration and panic all over him. He doesn’t have control of the situation they’re in and that frustrates him the most. He can’t deny that he too was panicking and his thoughts were getting clouded. His main priority right now is to get Mingyu out of there and it seems like he wasn’t the only one thinking that.
“Okay, listen up,” Jeonghan said, finally taking action and moving away from where he was standing. “Seungcheol, Wonwoo, figure out how we’re gonna get Mingyu out fast. Woozi, find manager-hyung or anyone help and tell them the situation. Anyone, find someone who has the key to this damn door. Seungkwan, stay with me in case Mingyu wants to talk to someone else. The rest of you, help where you can.” Jeonghan ordered around as he sat in front of the door and pressed his ear against it.
“Hey there, Mingyu. It’s Jeonghan-hyung.” Jeonghan said in the attempts of calming Mingyu down.
The rest of SEVENTEEN began to move and do their thing. Jihoon, along with Seokmin and Jun, went to find where their managers went while Soonyoung and Hansol went to find that maintenance or the key to the door. Minghao and Chan went up to Seungcheol and Wonwoo to further discuss what happened to the door and how to get Mingyu out. Joshua approached Seungkwan with caution, understanding that he was overwhelmed with what was happening.
“Hey, he’ll be okay,” Joshua assured Seungkwan. “We’ll get him out.”
“Hey there, Mingyu. It’s Jeonghan-hyung.” A different voice seeped through the door this time, calmer, softer and his Jeonghan-hyung.
“Jeonghan-hyung,” Mingyu said with a shaky breath. He still couldn’t breathe properly and his head was all over the place.
“Hi, Mingyu. We’ll get you out okay? You don’t have to worry about that anymore. We just need you to breathe properly again. Remember what we did with Channie last time?” Jeonghan’s voice was still muffled because of the door but Mingyu was thankful that he was still at least able to understand his hyung’s voice.
“I,” A sharp inhale. “Hyung, I can’t.” A shaky exhale.
“I know it’s hard but can you at least try? We just want you to be okay.” Jeonghan’s voice was like honey, smooth and laced with love and care. “Inhale, then hold for four seconds and exhale. You’re our best boy, you can do that right? Follow my lead, okay, baby?”
It was hard and it took a while but Mingyu managed to inhale enough air and hold it for at least four seconds. His exhale was still shaky but at least there was an improvement. Jeonghan kept repeating the instructions over and over again and Mingyu could feel the circulation in his body and his mind slowly cleared. Little by little, he becomes once again aware of the situation he’s in. Fear is still running through his veins but at least he wasn’t panicking anymore.
“Hyung, I think… I think I’m okay now.” Mingyu said with a big exhale, the circulation once lost is still new to him.
“That’s great. Welcome back, baby. How are you feeling?” Jeonghan said and Mingyu could feel his hyung’s smile even though he can’t see it.
“Tired,” Mingyu said almost immediately. “And scared, please get me out of here.” His voice became shaky again, he was about to cry again. He's still terrified. What if he never gets out? What if he dies in there? What if-
“We’re almost there, Mingyu. Just hang in there, baby. We promise we’ll get you out.”
“Why don’t you just kick the door?” Chan suggested frustratingly. They were getting nowhere with solutions on how to open the door.
“You can’t. The door only opens on our part so it won’t open even if all of us kicked simultaneously. The only one who can kick it will be Mingyu.” Wonwoo said.
“But he can’t. And we won’t let him. Now next.” Seungcheol said. “Where is that goddamn key?” He added, looking for the other members. As if on cue, Jihoon, Seokmin, and Jun went in with their manager not far behind.
“Is he okay?” Their manager said, approaching the door to knock but Jeonghan stopped him before he even could.
“He’s okay. Shua and Kwannie are keeping him distracted to make sure he doesn't pass out.” He said from his spot on the floor. Guiding Mingyu to calm him down took a toll on him and now he was drained. The manager understood and nodded and proceeded to the rest of the boys that were having a debate over Mingyu’s escape.
“Manager-hyung.” Seungcheol addressed. “Why did no one tell us that the door was broken?” He asked, keeping his attitude and tone in check.
“Because it was always kept locked. The handle has been broken for a while now and we’ve already reported it to the company but apparently, it hasn’t been fixed yet. You can’t open the door from the inside or outside without the key.” Their manager answered.
“Then how did Mingyu get in?” Minghao asked.
"Maybe the staff didn't close the door properly after they got something out," Dokyeom suggested.
"Yeah, that's most likely. They got some tables from there earlier today, I think." Their manager replied, eyes far as if recalling what happened. "I'll go look for the key."
"No, you don't have to-" Jihoon began.
"WE HAVE THE KEY!" Soonyoung yelled as he went inside the room, Vernon tolling behind him closely.
"Yeah, that." Jihoon finished by just pointing at the newly arrived pair. Vernon, who was holding the key, gave it to their manager, who in turn quickly opened the door.
When Jeonghan got Mingyu breathing properly again, Joshua and Seungkwan took over, telling him stories that happened earlier in the day that he wasn’t able to witness. The stories weren’t being told to make him feel better, it was meant to distract him from panicking again and distracted he was. His mind was analyzing the stories that the pair was telling him, wondering how on Earth Hansol managed to lose his shoe that he was wearing in the car. It wasn’t that long when the talking stopped and Mingyu felt so much weight come off his shoulders. The door was finally open and he latched himself onto the nearest member, which was Seungkwan.
“Hey there, you big baby,” Seungkwan said with a laugh, something he’s finally able to do knowing that Mingyu was already okay. “How are you feeling?” He asked the boy wrapped around him while playing with said boy’s hair.
“Tired,” Mingyu replied, eyes closed, head on Seungkwan’s shoulder.
“Here, drink this,” Junhui said as he gave Mingyu a bottle of his favorite sports drink. Rule number one after Mingyu’s attacks, give him something to drink. Mingyu, with Seungkwan’s assistance, was able to drink about a quarter of the bottle, which made the rest of the members proud of Mingyu.
“Hyung, do you wanna go outside?” Vernon asked, knowing that it was something that Mingyu preferred doing after his phobia attacks. Mingyu paused for a while, the gears in his head spinning.
“Yes, please,” Mingyu answered after analysis of how he was. “Hoshi-hyung, everyone, sorry for ruining-” Mingyu attempted to apologize but was cut off by Soonyoung replying, “Nonsense! It’s okay, Gyu. You’re more important than practice.” Soonyoung replied. He neared Mingyu, a knowing look in his eyes - to which Mingyu replied with a nod and after, he was met with an arm full of Soonyoung. This was rule number two to Mingyu’s aftercare. No holding Mingyu without consent.
“How about the two of you head outside and we’ll pack up here?” Seungcheol suggested and the two were happy to comply. “Bring Seokmin with you,” Seungcheol added as he started packing his things. Soonyoung remained latched on to Mingyu as the trio went outside, Seokmin’s voice dragging on through the echo resonating their hallways.
“What if we go to the park two blocks down? Mingyu will be able to breathe there and we all get to have fun because there’s a playground there.” Jeonghan suggested.
“Sounds like a plan,” Seungcheol said.
Sitting on the swing, Mingyu could see all his members either playing around or eating ice cream. He was lucky that he was placed in a bunch that had so much harmony between them. Every day he thanked his lucky stars for that.
“What are you thinking about?” The person beside him on the other swing said.
“Woozi-Hyung, do you ever just feel thankful for our members?” Mingyu asked.
“Of course I do,” Jihoon said, looking straight ahead, but Mingyu knew that he was looking at the members fondly. “What made you ask that?”
“No reason,” Mingyu said, taking another bite from his ice cream sandwich.
He might be scared of being trapped and not being able to leave, but one thing is for sure, this is something he’ll never even think about escaping.