I awoke that night shivering for the first time since I'd joined the team. I guess it was only to be expected. We were well into autumn now, and I was still sleeping on the floor with two thin blankets between me and the floor. I got myself up from that tiny little space and sat up. What was I supposed to do?
I got up from the floor with the blankets still around my shoulders, opened the door and walked out of Yesung's room. I was still half-asleep and unsure of where exactly I was going or what my solution to the chilliness was going to be, but anything would be better than doing nothing at all, I was sure.
I opened the closet to see if there were any more extra blankets; there weren't. Annoyed, and perhaps not fully awake, or knowing exactly what I was doing, I wandered into the manager hyung's room.
The managers were still awake, and they were going through heaps of papers that I assumed had to do with us. When I opened the door, the manager hyung looked surprised.
"What's up, Kyuhyun?" he asked, then he frowned. "I said you should be in your room all - "
"Hyung, it's really cold on the floor."
The manager hyung stared at me for a second, then he gave me an apologetic smile. "I really am sorry that I can't get you a bed. You can use my bed tonight."
"How about you?" I slurred, rubbing my eyes.
"It's okay. If you can sleep with the lights on, go ahead and sleep on my bed," he said.
I smiled with happiness as the manager hyung laughed at how happy I was. I was about to lie down in his bed when I heard Yesung's faint, "What - where's - " and then there was a loud, "Cho Kyuhyun!"
I ignored him and continued getting into the manager hyung's bed when Yesung shouted my name again. The manager hyung looked somewhat perplexed, then I looked at the manager hyung.
"Hyung, Yesung hyung's really weird," I complained. "He wouldn't let me leave him alone in the room."
"Then maybe you should go back to your room," said the manager hyung. I groaned.
"But - "
"Take my blankets with you," he said, then he rolled up the blankets on his bed and put them in my arms.
I took them from him, but then I shook my head. "But hyung, then you're going to be cold tonight," I said with a sigh.
As we hesitated, Yesung shouted from his room again. "Cho Kyuhyun, if you don't come here right now, I'm going to beat you until you can't walk!"
I sighed and looked at the manager hyung. "I'm telling you, he's really weird," I whispered, then I placed the blankets back on the manager hyung's bed and left his room again.
I walked back into Yesung's room just as Yesung was walking out of it to look for me.
"Sorry," I said tiredly.
"Cho Kyuhyun, you're just - " he muttered, shaking his head.
"Sorry. I'm really sorry."
I laid down on the floor and tried to curl up in a ball to get warmer, but there wasn't enough space. I sighed and was wrapping my blankets tighter around myself when the door opened and the manager hyung appeared at the doorway with one of his blankets.
"Here," he said, then he threw it over me. I smiled a tiny bit with appreciation.
"Thanks," I said, pulling it closer.
"And put this on," he said, then he threw something else on me. I pulled it towards me, and realized that it was a scarf. I goggled at the manager hyung.
"Yes. The last thing I want is for you to catch a cold or lose your voice," said the manager hyung, then after making sure that I had put the scarf around my neck, he made to close the door when Yesung spoke.
"Hyung, how come I don't get one?" asked Yesung. I looked up at him with a smile, expecting him to be joking, but Yesung had sat up in bed and was looking at the manager hyung seriously. I looked at him in disbelief. Would he rather be the one to sleep on the floor? However, the manager hyung wasn't surprised.
He just simply looked exasperated, then he said, "Just go to sleep," and he closed the door.
The next morning, I awoke tiredly to Ryeowook's urging again like every other day. The first thing I did was take the scarf away from my neck. When I went out of the room for breakfast, the manager hyung was just coming out of his room, too. I bowed to him a tiny bit as he ruffled my hair.
"Were you all right last night?" he asked.
I nodded wordlessly, but the manager hyung didn't sound as convinced.
"Let's hear you speak," he said worriedly.
I cleared my throat a little. "I'm fine," I said, and the manager hyung finally nodded.
"Sounds good. I want you to have hot tea every morning and night, okay? Practice is important, but taking care of yourself is even more important. All of the practicing you're doing is going to go to waste if you don't take care of yourself."
I nodded with a tiny sigh. These lectures came wherever, whenever, apparently. "Yes, sir."
The manager hyung looked pleased enough as he looked at me up and down again. "Are you ready for school today?"
I nodded to that as well; I had miraculously caught up on all of the schoolwork over the week and was where I wanted to be, and had actually been looking forward to finally being able to follow the lessons at the right pace.
"Good. I'm proud of you," said the manager hyung with a smile, then he left the dorm like he always did to take care of what he needed to at the office before we started the day while I shuffled into the kitchen to make the tea for myself.
When I brought the mug of it into the living room and I saw a small frown from Kangin, I realized my mistake right away. I'd only made the tea for myself without offering to make it for anyone else. I almost made a half-step backwards when Kangin finally expressed his discontent.
"Hey, Kyuhyun, did you actually make just one mug of tea for yourself?"
I opened my mouth to somehow defend myself with maybe an apology, but to my shock, Kangin gave a laugh. I wasn't sure whether it was a laugh of disbelief at my rudeness or a laugh of affection, but I had a feeling that Kangin intended for it to be indecipherable.
"Cho Kyuhyun, so disrespectful," he said, then he beckoned me towards him. I hesitated before walking towards him, but then he held out his hand. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, and even when I gave him the mug of tea that I was holding, I was't sure if that was what he meant. However, he put his stern expression back on and the laugh was gone as he took the tea from me.
"I'm really sor - "
"Go make more," he said, then he started drinking the tea. Still unsure of whether I was going to be punished or scolded more, I took one awkward step towards the kitchen again, then took a half step back again. Seeing this, Kangin roared with laughter again, and there was scattered laughter around the living room again, but it wasn't like everyone was watching; everyone was having their own conversations, and Kangin and I were just having one of our own.
"God, he's like that annoying puppy that never knows to do what he's told," he said to himself. I was still extremely confused; I wasn't sure if he was joking - he was laughing after all - but he also seemed serious about this in some ways. As I hesitated again, he roared with laughter and then slapped the seat of my pants hard with his hand.
"Get to it. How many times do I have to tell you to do it?" he said, his face serious again.
Flustered and convinced that he wasn't joking and just glad that he didn't beat me, I bowed a tiny bit and rushed to the kitchen when I heard Kangin speak again.
"Kyuhyun, have you been faking your disasters in the kitchen?"
I turned around to look at Kangin again, flustered. "No, hyung, of course n - "
Then Kangin smiled. "Lies. I bet you pretended to be bad at cooking so you don't have to cook for us. I bet you're an awesome cook when you cook just for yourself."
This put me in another turmoil and I stared at him when he squinted at me, almost... playfully?
"Like this tea," he said suspiciously. "It's too good to have been made by you that we know. It's only good because you made it for yourself, isn't it?"
"Um - " I wasn't sure how to respond. I stood there blankly for a few seconds and was about to tell him that it's difficult to mess up boiling water, even for me, but then Kangin laughed again.
"Cho Kyuhyun!" he yelled, and I rushed back into the kitchen, still extremely confused at the mixed message that Kangin was sending me.
I went to school before work that morning, and when I confided the incident in the manager hyung as he drove me to school, the manager hyung laughed out loud.
"What's so funny?" I asked shaking my head. "This was serious. I don't know if I'm supposed to think of him as a hyung or not."
"No, he likes you," said the manager hyung, the laughter still on his lips. "I think he's just giving you subtle warnings. You know. Just because he's accepted you doesn't mean that you get to treat them with any less respect than before." As I stayed silent, thinking over the incident in my head, the manager hyung glanced at me. "Does that make sense?"
"Sure," I said uncertainly.
The manager hyung laughed again as he pulled up in front of the school.
"Have a good day. I'll be here just before lunch," he said.
"Okay. Thanks, hyung," I said, then I bowed a little before making my way to class.
I bowed to the teacher and with an apology and a smile at the door, then I sat down at my desk. I took my books out and was just about to begin taking notes when there was a soft thump beside me. I looked to my side and saw my friend who was sitting next to me put his head down and fall asleep. I sighed. We'd been such good friends before I debuted, but after debut, things drifted apart so quickly. I guessed it was my fault. I was always too busy to respond to their texts, then suddenly, everyone who had been close to me before had become cold towards me. I don't know if that was because they felt that I had become arrogant or whether they were hurt that I never communicated with them anymore, but I somewhat missed the friendship. Seeing them reminded me of the easy times when I had almost no worries at all and I had time to go out with my friends. I sighed, then I started poking him awake.
"You fell asleep," I whispered as quietly as possible as not to disturb the lesson.
"Oh," he said, a bit louder than I had been. He rubbed his eyes while the teacher gave us a tiny look of annoyance.
I quickly picked up my pencil and started taking notes when he shifted in his seat. "God, I'm so tired."
Sure. But probably not as tired as I am.
He shook his head and rubbed his eyes again. "I'm actually only getting four hours of sleep every night," he whispered. "I'm so stressed out about those entrance exams."
I opened my mouth to tell him how tired I was as well, but then I realized that he was actually sleeping just as little as I was.
I suddenly felt my chest tighten with nervousness. I had thought that I was at the same level of preparedness for those exams as everyone else by studying when they were sleeping - but that clearly wasn't true. They weren't sleeping either. They were studying while I was studying - as well as when I was working.
Feeling the stress multiply, I finally realized that I was sleeping too much. I sighed with my hands on my head for a brief moment to stop the headache of stress from arriving, then focused on the lesson again.
I totally forgot what the manager hyung told me about taking care of myself. The manager hyung noticed that the awkwardness between Yesung and me had decreased drastically and had us move into our old rooms again that night, which also meant that I was allowed to study on the kitchen table again. I reduced my sleeping hours from four to two, and I implemented all tricks that I could possibly think of to keep myself awake. I tried studying while standing, I tried taking cold showers whenever I felt sleepy, I tried slapping myself awake, and I certainly didn't drink the hot tea that the manager hyung told me to drink every night.
A week into doing this, I started skipping dinners because I noticed that dinner made me more tired and sleepier. In another two weeks, which also marked one month before the new unit promotions would begin and a month and a few weeks before my entrance exams, and the beginnings of winter, I started eating ice cubes and to start studying with my feet in ice-cold water to wake myself up.
I don't know how the manager hyung didn't realize that I was doing this to myself for so long, and why he didn't stop me earlier. I guessed it was because he would return to the dorm, see me studying at the kitchen table without any of those stunts, and assuming everything was fine, go to his room to work everything out. It wasn't until the end of the third week that he saw me doing what I was doing. I had my feet in cold water again and feeling myself fall asleep, I had dried off my feet and had walked to the fridge to pop some ice cubes into my mouth. I closed the door to the freezer with my mouth full with ice cubes and as soon as I did, I saw the manager hyung standing at the entrance of the kitchen, his face full of disbelief.
I was frozen in place; I knew I was doing something he told me not to, but I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do in this situation. He saw my mouth filled with the ice cubes, my pants rolled up and my red feet. I saw his gaze move to the kitchen table and the bucket of water sitting there. I still didn't move as the manager hyung wordlessly took the bucket out from under the table and dip his hand into the water. Then realizing that it was ice-cold, the manager hyung looked at me with a face that he'd never made before.
He was red in the face, breathing faster, and had clearly lost all control he ever had. I thought I saw sparks fly out of his eyes because of how angry he was. I spat out the ice cubes and held them in my hand, however, I flustered and dropped them as the manager hyung took large, angry steps towards me.
Terrified, I opened my mouth apologize, but before I could, the manager hyung took me by the front of my shirt and slapped me across the face harder than anyone had ever slapped me before.
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