Jongdae, eyes languidly glazed over with utter boredom as he stared dully at the television, couldn’t help but suddenly twitch in surprise and excitement as he heard that voice. Actually, the voices of those he hadn’t seen in days, or was it a week already? He didn’t know; time seemed to pass in such an odd manner while he was in the hospital, but the sound of some of his closest friends and family seemed to give him life. The thought of not having to watch boring old daytime TV or disgusting hospital food made him quite excited to see his friends, even if he still couldn’t talk to them just yet.
First in the door had been EXO-M’s almost teary-eyed maknae, who was actually dabbing at the corner of his eye before his gaze had landed on Jongdae, silently taking in the older boy’s state, before he had rushed over to beam at Jongdae so hard that for a moment, the singer couldn’t help but think that the younger male should have just broke down right there and then with the way the boy forced a smile across his face to keep himself from crying. The maknae had obviously been quite worried about him with the way he looked as he seemed a bit more tired and sadder than Jongdae was used to seeing that he couldn’t help but want to comfort the other boy. So with a light comforting pat to Tao’s hand and a small smile that said ‘I’m okay, no need to worry,’ he found himself leaning over to grab the box of tissues near his bed to hand over to Tao so that he could use them. Gratefully taking the box and grabbing a tissue from it, the rest of EXO-M had arrived with Yixing bringing up the rear. EXO-K was nowhere in sight, but knowing how busy EXO had been these past couple of weeks, Jongdae knew it had to be due to them having schedules that M didn’t.
Seeing the rest of the members wear matching smiles that lit up their expressions with hope, so much so that it almost blinded Jongdae for the second time that day with how much joy and happiness their smiles were holding for him, Jongdae felt a bit overwhelmed with the presence of them, only to feel even more so when they started unloading the things they had in their arms onto the bed around him. The amount of items that were now sitting on his bed made Jongdae think that they had robbed a store or something, because looking at all the stuffed animals, food, and other miscellaneous items, he had no idea how he was going to take all of that home with him when the time had come.
However, knowing that the boys had just been worried and were just bringing him ‘get well soon’ items so that he didn’t feel bored and lonely in the hospital when they or his family weren’t there, Jongdae could only give them a small smile in gratitude.
Minseok was the first to speak of the six and the first to present his gift to Jongdae with Luhan beaming contently next to him (most likely glad that he had gotten to help the boy pick it out or that Minseok had even allowed him to shop with him while they had picked the item up for him), “Jongdae-yah, we know your throat is still a bit weak and that hospital food isn’t always that tasty, so we thought that you might like some oranges to eat instead.”
Not knowing if he could eat them because he was on a pretty bland diet for the moment, but not wanting them to know that he might not get to eat them at all, Jongdae just smiled at the oldest for the present, glad that his hyung was so thoughtful to bring something like that.
While Minseok’s words instantly elicited a soft giggle from Luhan, who was still smiling a bit like a fool, as he moved to place the basket of the cute little mandarin oranges on the table next to the few greeting cards that Jongdae had accumulated from family. Only to pick up from where Minseok had left off a second later, “It matches you very well, sweet with a bit of tang! And also, here’s a cat hat that we found yesterday when we went shopping at that usual district we go to.”
Liking the hat right away and how fuzzy it seemed to be, something he was sure that Minseok had helped pick out since Luhan’s wardrobe choices could almost be as bad as Kris’, Jongdae could only hope that his thankfulness could be read by the pair as Minseok had the honor of gently placing the admittedly quite soft and warm beanie onto Jongdae’s head. The singer was unaware of how their gazes dimmed slightly in sadness by the paleness of his skin that seemed even more obvious against the snow white of the cheerful cat face of the hat, the saying ‘paler than a ghost’ had never seemed as true as it did now.
Before anyone else could formally admit to be the next one, Kris was already stepping forward with what looked like a slightly panicked look in his eyes, the older nervous about something that would most likely make him seem less like the cool and strong leader that he was. The past couple of weeks had done quite a number on the older boy with how he had appeared to the public, interviews and appearances doing nothing but stripping some of that cool leader ‘swag’ he supposedly had away, making him seem a bit less scary than he used to be. But knowing that Kris was still the type of person that could easily just stand there and do nothing as he waited for you to spill your secrets or just comfort you with a knowing look, Jongdae still respected the older boy a lot, even if his street credibility was ruined and people like Yixing and Luhan loved to make fun of how dorky Kris could actually be and throw him under a bus whenever they could. As soon as Yixing and Luhan were together, the two turned into little devils that Jongdae didn’t wish upon anyone.
If he could though, Jongdae would have chuckled at the tall Chinese member’s expression, but Yixing quickly substituted for him as he reached around Kris to tug out the two plushies that the leader had been hiding as soon as he had arrived into the room with them.
Not even noticing the sputters of protest, ignoring them actually, from Kris, Yixing tugged the plushies away from him before flashing his signature dimpled and gentle smile in triumph before placing the two equally fluffy plushies down into Jongdae’s lap.
“I thought he was going to keep them for his collection,” Yixing smiled wider as Kris made a rumbling growl sound from out beside him which he and the rest of the room dutifully ignored, “But he got them for you instead. I admit, the sheep that he chose for you is cute. And the tabby cat that Tao picked matches you perfectly too, Jongdae. But I would still watch out for them when Kris leaves, he may decide to steal them anyway.”
Glaring at the other, Yixing could only chuckle in response, glee showing up across his face at how easy it was to make fun of Kris.
While Jongdae just felt touched at the thought, warmth from the plushies gathered up against him and the hat that was warming his head, he didn’t even find it ridiculous that the items and care the members were giving him was warming his heart as well.
These were his friends, some of his best friends and as much as he had cared for each of them in the past, now they each seemed to care for him much more in return. His heart feeling quite warm at the thought of how close they had gotten and how much they seemed to care about him and the rest of the group, their bond having gotten stronger within the last couple of weeks that Jongdae couldn’t help but feel happy and glad that these boys were a part of his life.
And amid the random mumbling that Kris was doing, still trying to protest in his defense about who he had actually gotten the plushies for, and the sniggering chuckles of Luhan that he was hiding behind his hand, Tao had taken the opportunity to clasp Jongdae’s hand in his as tears started to fall from his eyes.
The poor boy was really crying and it was for him, too.
“J-Jongdae… Jongdae-g-ge…” he sobbed and sniffed out, making Jongdae almost want to laugh at the situation if he could because it was just so surreal and almost uncomfortable that Tao was crying for him, especially since everything was going to be okay now and that there wasn’t anything to worry about. He was healing and it was just a matter of time until he was speaking and singing again, that there really was no point for anyone to be crying for him like Tao was doing.
But a little voice still couldn’t help but cause him to doubt that, making him wonder if the surgery had actually worked and that he was in fact fine and would get back to his former glory days with therapy and practice. The thought of everything that he had gone through was actually nothing compared to what could easily be his fate as his dreams were ripped out from under him. The thought of never being able to sing again still plagued him, he knew that he had to do his best to be positive, knowing that his friends were praying for him and supporting him through this difficult time. But even when he did, those vicious and soiled thoughts always returned whenever no one was around to keep his mind off of things.
The younger boy was really too cute for his own good, and the singer could only take the other’s hand to comfort him, hoping that the small gesture was comforting enough to calm the other boy down. He wasn’t exactly sure if Tao was crying out of joy and relief at finally being able to see him and know that he was healing, or out of sadness and all the pent-up negative emotions that the boy had developed when he had been in the no-visitor recovery center, but whatever had caused it, he was glad that Tao, as one of their most expressive members, had the opportunity to let it all out now. Even if it hurt and made him feel a bit awkward to see the younger crying like this for him.
However, as he slightly rubbed his thumb over the back of the boy’s hand, the gesture didn’t seem to stem the crying at all, actually it seemed to make it even worse. Noticing that, Minseok quickly responded by gently pressing tissues into Tao’s hand and quietly pulling him back to dry his tears, making the boy focus on him instead of Jongdae who seemed to be fueling the tears. Letting Minseok calm him down and get his crying under control, Tao couldn’t help but look embarrassed enough for breaking down like that, he found himself softly thanking their eldest member before giving Jongdae a sheepish and apologetic smile before slinking back over to where Kris was still hovering perhaps a bit stiffly and awkwardly next to Jongdae’s bedside.
Amid all the fuss that Tao had just created, Yixing continued to smile serenely, used to the mood swings that Tao sometimes had that it didn’t waver his smile in the slightest. In fact it only widened as he held out an elegantly hand-bound book out to the now curious and slightly more comfortable Jongdae to take from his outstretched hands and go through to see what Yixing had gotten him. Only to open the present up and be met with the sharp smell of new paper that quickly wafted up to his nose while his eyes were met with the sight of lines, barlines to be exact.
“It’s a song book,” Yixing explained softly, the other members continuing to hold gentle expressions on their faces as they watched the now fascinated singer flip through the book with a childish contentment around him, “For any time you feel the music. Just let it flow through you and onto the book. I would like to say it’s all mine, but it’s mostly the idea of getting you one is mine, and it’s Kris-ge’s money that actually bought it… He insisted really since he was quite worried about you, as were all of us, but he had wanted to make sure you had things that would comfort you while you were here.”
Surprised by Yixing’s words, especially after the boy had tried to out him about his stuffed animal collection earlier, Kris let out a surprised grunt, not having expected for Yixing to mention that. But almost as quickly as the feeling had passed, his pride puffed up as much as his smile and he nodded decisively. “Yes, all of this is our gift to you, Jongdae-yah. You are our friend, our brother… And as lame as this sounds,” the leader coughed, noticeably embarrassed as Minseok laughed cheerfully on the other side of Jongdae and continued for their tallest member.
“Never forget, Jongdae-yah. We are one. Whatever happens, bad or good, we will always be there for you. Always.”
Giving a grateful and warm smile at their words and the gifts he had gotten, he quickly grabbed the notebook that was still placed on the bedside table and wrote ‘Thank you’ before showing the paper to them.
Jongdae would have been happy to just spend time with them, but instantly then without another warning, his older brother had barged into the room with a “Hey, Jongdae-yah, I brought your favorite stuffed animal from back home, I know how much you miss this thing.”
Simply said, it ruined the moment between the six of them, Jongdeok with the stuffed animal in his hand as he was beaming from cheek to cheek at his younger brother. It was his favorite stuffed animal that he had gotten when he was about four or five too, and it looked quite sad compared to the stuffed animals that Kris and Tao had just gotten him because of how old the thing was. Enough so that Jongdae just wanted to sigh at what his brother had just done.
Beckoning his brother over to grab the small plushie with the the messy, yet curly hair it had from the few washes it had gone through, Jongdae put the bear in between the cat and sheep, blushing a bit in embarrassment at how awkward it looked between the two nicer stuffed animals. All it needed now was his brother to make the whole situation even more embarrassing, which he promptly did with his ever growing grin, “And look, Mr. Snuggles even has friends, would you look at that?”
Jongdae almost glared at his brother at the snort that seemed to fall from Luhan’s lips before he had pressed his hand against his mouth to cover it before it truly sounded out. Minseok, shaking his head and sigh, gave Luhan a pointed gaze at how stupid and immature he was being, that Luhan did his best to stop the laughter and calm himself down.
While Jongdeok on the other hand just laughed and played with the ears on Jongdae’s hat before turning to the other boys and engaging them in conversation, genuinely wanting to get to know them better. Which actually meant more of him sharing awkward and embarrassing stories of Jongdae as a child with his friends.
Seeing the smiles that were now spread across his friends’ faces, and all because of his brother too, Jongdae let out a silent groan at what was happening, knowing that he was never going to live any of this down. Before he could be the victim to his brother’s sadistic teasing, the singer hid into his hands at the laughter that was coming from his friends and the deep, soothing voice of his brother, none of them had a clue for what the future actually had in store for Jongdae.
“Okay, okay. That's very good Jongdae, very good.”
Jongdae heard his speech therapist, Miss Kim, say in a voice that was calm and soothing to his ears as she naturally elongated her words. It was comforting to him that while her entire disposition was that of something entirely professional, it still bore a hint of motherly care as she guided him through each exercise to strengthen his throat muscles and eventually get him to produce some sound.
He knew that each exercise was useful to him as they would slowly repair the damage that had been done to his slowly recovering throat and vocal folds, as well as strengthening them enough until he was okay to speak and eventually sing again. However, neither of them had seemed to do that just yet and within the past couple of weeks of going to therapy, Jongdae couldn't help but feel discouraged and down about it. Especially since the exercises made his throat hurt more than it usually did and the painkillers he had been given only worked so much, but Miss Kim had insisted that some slight pain wasn't anything to worry about and that his body would do what it needed to do when it was ready.
But so far his body hadn't been ready, even if Jongdae had absolutely wanted it to be; the young man wanting it to be over and done with, voice recovered and the ability to sing within his grasp again.
However, ever since he had started going to therapy, scheduled right after he had gotten out of the hospital and forced to see the speech therapist every other day for his throat for the last couple of weeks, Jongdae couldn't help but expect something to happen during that time, only to experience nothing over and over again. Because while he had been able to do the exercises, going through them, and feeling them work his throat, he was still unable to produce any sound as he did them. This cold and bitter fact was something that made him feel even more than terrible and depressed whenever he had been instructed to do the same exercises repeatedly, only to have his throat become tender and sore while the production of air was the only thing to make its way out of his mouth.
Those were two things that had made him feel as if something was still quite wrong with him, almost as if he was broken, unfixable, and that he would never recover, no matter how much he had wanted to. And even then, the fear of never being able to recover to his previous state of skill and talent made him feel woozy and a bit sick. But being able to produce some type of sound, anything really, was more important than being able to sing just yet, even if that was quite maddening in on itself. But the fear of not being able to speak ever again still plagued Jongdae; and even though Miss Kim constantly told him that these types of things took time and that he couldn’t rush them, as if he was expecting miracles out of thin air, it still didn’t make him feel any better.
Especially since one would at least expect something to happen by now, even if it was just as small and as stupid sounding as a nonsensical groan, but he didn’t even get that.
Instead, all he got was silence, some tenderness in his throat, and these ridiculous thoughts that produced so much fear in his heart that it almost made it hard to breathe. These thoughts literally immobilizing him with the emotion, easily causing these terrible and terrifying night terrors that left him sweaty and almost scared of his own shadow whenever he would wake up in a silent scream.
His group mates were none the wiser of what was actually going on, not realizing how much of his sleep was being affected and how therapy just seemed to make everything worse. Jongdae felt no need to tell them what was going on, not wanting to bother them since their schedules had picked up again. Even if it was beyond horrible to deal with such things, especially when the nightmares and thoughts didn’t decrease with time but increased with every disappointing and painful appointment, it wasn’t fair to worry them either.
And pairing that with the pain he would feel in his throat and the way his pain meds didn’t always seem to work, Jongdae slowly but steadily felt unable to believe in anything that Miss Kim would say to him. Her words had now gone from being supportive, motherly, and kind to something darker all together… Almost as if her words were taunting him, giving him false hope on getting something back that wouldn’t come.
But knowing that he had to do as she said and that it was just his mind playing tricks on him, Jongdae continued to do the exercises she had provided, letting her guide him through them. But then, all it took was for him to strain his neck too much, unknowingly pulling against the healing wounds that still lined his throat, and his eyes widened at the sudden increase of pain that was much worse than the agony that he had gotten used to within the last couple of weeks.
Coughing a bit into his hand with eyes watering and throat feeling as if it was trying to set itself on fire, Jongdae didn’t realize how bad everything was until he felt as if he had coughed up a lung into his hand, tears threatening to fall from his eyes. His shoulders were from the effort of trying to keep it together and stop coughing, unable to do anything but reach out for Miss Kim, relieved for her to a glass of water into his hands before helping him drink it.
He gulped down the water until the need to cough had went away before pushing the glass away from him, unable to help but notice some slimy redness on his palm. Suddenly, Jongdae could feel his heart beating a bit faster than before and his mind almost seeming to blank at the sight of the substance only to realize that it was blood a moment later, and with a silent shout, he found himself grabbing Miss Kim’s attention to point out to her what had just happened.
While Miss Kim could only frown at the substance that was lining Jongdae’s palm, being a bit worried that Jongdae had accidentally pulled out some stitches or accidentally did something worse to his throat. The former was actually highly unlikely since the surgeon had used absorbable sutures and that they were most likely mostly dissolved by now, but knowing that there had been cases where stitches could stay unabsorbed for weeks, Miss Kim couldn’t rule it out just yet. But she couldn’t just rule out the feeling that it was probably more of the latter that the former, even if Jongdae had did his best to follow her instructions to a T. Accidents still happened and it was better to fix it before it became any worse in the long run.
Squeezing Jongdae’s shoulder and softly telling him that she was going to call the doctor and have him check out his throat, just in case they had missed something or if he had accidentally hurt himself by overdoing the exercises, the singer could only nod with a small tremble of anxiety. Everything he had ever feared about his throat starting to come true with the appearance of blood and the onslaught of agony that was taking over his throat, almost as if he was now swallowing shards of glass. Even the glass of water that Miss Kim had sat down next to him was doing nothing to help the pain.
He could only sit quietly as he heard Miss Kim on the line, setting up an impromptu appointment for him to have his throat checked out as a part of his nightmare seemed to be coming true.
Jongdae did his best to try not to cry when his manager and Joonmyun came into the room, ready to take him to the hospital once again.
“You see the damage of the left nerve right there?” The doctor calmly asked the room, a frown tugging at the corners of his lips as he went through a few of the new scans that he had just taken of Jongdae’s throat and larynx, pointing out some new developments that hadn’t been there last time. The man going through both, comparing the new scans with the old scans of Jongdae's throat before surgery as he went, showing some trouble areas that not only had him worried but had also caused the rest of the occupants’ expressions in the room to darken.
Gone were the troubling nodes that were in the boy’s previous scans, but in its place stood a few healing scars and a problematic but healing deep gash that lined the left side of the recurrent laryngeal nerve. The gash looked to be quite deep and inflamed still, even after weeks of healing, making it a wonder that Jongdae hadn’t been hurting any worse than he had been or at least asking for a better prescription of painkillers to use than the over the counter meds he had been taking for the pain.
The meds, Joonmyun thought as he gazed intently at the black and white scans, seemed quite inadequate compared to the wounds that were situated along the boy’s throat. This much was already apparent to the room that while most of the wounds from the nodes were healing, one of them was still quite problematic and painful.
Nerve damage was most likely the main reason to why Jongdae was unable to speak, and was having trouble with the therapy he was doing. It was even written in dawning realization across Jongdae's pale and terror-stricken face.
The doctor continued on with a grave expression carved into his suddenly aged face. It had been revealed that the surgeon who had operated on Jongdae a few weeks ago must have accidentally cut into the boy’s recurrent laryngeal nerve on accident and didn’t realize how deep he had cut. Considering that the surgeon who was supposed to perform the operation had become sick, the terrible combination of relative inexperience on the substitute surgeon's hands and the always tricky procedures of neck surgery now left Jongdae the painful victim of the mistake. Because looking at the placement of the nodes in the previous scans, the chance of cutting into that nerve had been rather high, but seeing how deep and inflamed the wound was as well, barely healing as it was, the whole thing wasn’t looking good for the young singer.
Surgery could probably be avoided if they were careful, but a fresh round of antibiotics and painkillers were a must.
However, that wasn’t what worried everyone in the room, sans the SM representative that was just there to gain enough information for the CEO about Jongdae’s prognosis, continued to listen intently to what the doctor had to say. And as the minutes began to drag on even longer, the news that they had all dreaded to happen in the beginning had began to slowly surface, almost as if a terrible dark nightmare that they were all trying to hide from was finally coming true.
While the doctor could only continue on, highlighting how important the nerve was and how damaged it seemed to be, explaining that the nerve was essentially Jongdae’s bread and butter when it came to producing his voice. All it did was make it even more painfully obvious to them that nothing good was going to come out of this meeting.
Which was only to be proven right a second later when Joonmyun had finally asked, voice clear and strong despite what he was feeling, “What does that mean sir...?"
“With the way things are looking and how damaged that nerve seems to be, it’s highly unlikely that Jongdae will ever speak again,” the doctor could only give them a forlorn look as he shook his head.
The EXO leader spluttered in shock at the doctor’s words, hands balling themselves into fists as he shakily tried to press on, desperation now coloring his words with splotches of stutters, “What do you mean s-sir? You can’t mean t-that! I mean… Jongdae was supposed to be okay after the surgery! W-why isn’t he?”
Unknowingly tuning out the leader’s flabbergasted and angry words on his behalf of what was going on, Jongdae couldn’t help but feel entirely different than what the others in the room were feeling as his face froze in the same terrified expression. Because as the doctor’s words reverberated in his head, he felt his insides go cold with this type of immobilizing dread that made him feel as if dying was better than having to hear news such as this, of having to learn that everything he had ever dreamed of was being broken into tiny little pieces. The thought of something like singing to be taken away from him, to be ripped away like this, Jongdae felt like he was suffocating now.
He felt sick to his stomach as well as light-headed, almost as if he had been er punched by someone, while his lungs were slowly starting to feel as if someone was taking them in their hands and squeezing them until they nothing more than some shredded balloons. The need to breathe becoming more and more apparent by the second as his lungs felt as if they were a second away from collapsing. Now, his body was so tense that it made him feel as if he was one soft push away from breaking apart and being broken into two while his shredded balloon lungs and crumpled up heart found themselves spilled all over the floor with his ice cold insides.
His heart was so black and blue from being stepped on, almost unrecognizable to everyone around him and even himself, Jongdae couldn’t help but want to cry. But with the way he felt as if he was stuck together with super glue through all this time, it easily kept him from bawling his eyes out, the need to breath being far too great for him to do such a thing.
His pain was so encompassing, was so great and powerful, he didn’t even feel Joonmyun’s hands on his face until the older boy had turned their faces to look at each other, his face filled with unshed tears and worry. The other was mumbling something to him as Joonmyun slightly shook his head to get his attention, most likely asking what was wrong, but Jongdae didn’t exactly know what was wrong or even what to say.
He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t breathe. He definitely felt as if he was dying.
The sudden onslaught of emotions and depression made Jongdae feel as if he was literally one person against the world, losing in a battle he had never thought he was going to fight in the first place. A battle that he had thought was something that could have been avoided, but after getting sick and getting surgery, and now this. It was as if he was meant to lose everything he had ever loved after all. And he didn’t know how he could explain something like that and not sound as if he was giving up or was crazy, even if he felt as if the former would be so appropriate to do right now. Because to him, he couldn’t exactly explain to Joonmyun or anyone else for that matter how a couple of words had made him feel as if the world had been taken out from under him and was trying to leave him stranded until he did actually die.
He had never thought that he would ever lose his voice, that he would ever become so sick that he would develop vocal nodes, and that he would eventually end up in this room to hear something like this.
His dreams were literally falling through his fingertips.
He couldn’t breathe…
Feeling panic suddenly strike through him at the thought of not being able to breathe, of possibly dying right there in the hospital room, Jongdae couldn’t stop the fear, pain, and panic from trying to consume him, almost as if someone had taken a blanket and was trying to suffocate him. The raw emotions were so intense that he found himself gripping onto Joonmyun’s arms and squeezing them until he was sure there was going to be bruises, but he didn’t dare stop holding onto the older boy as the panic attack tore through his body. His lungs simply felt as if they were on fire and a scatter plot of dark spots was dancing along his vision, making Joonmyun’s face blurry and fuzzy around the edges.
The stress on his throat from trying to breathe and catch his breath was doing nothing but causing the pain meds that he had been given a couple of hours before to finally wear off. The meds had never done much in the first place, but now they were useless against the pain that was being caused from the panic attack, his throat feeling as if someone had taken sandpaper against it and was trying to pour salt in his wounds, intending for it to hurt as much as possible. It was more than uncomfortable and it ached something fierce, his throat feeling much worse than it had hours ago.
The pain that he had felt after the hospital had literally been nothing compared to what was happening now. It was even worse than the pain he felt during therapy, especially since he could not breathe now.
Mouthing ‘Joonmyun’ and squeezing the other boy’s arms even harder, silently telling the leader to help him out, to help him make the pain and hurt stop, to let him breathe again, to make everything that happened that day disappear, Jongdae tried his best to focus on what Joonmyun was telling him. But with the way his body was screaming at him and how it felt as if he had been submerged under water, unable to hear anything clearly because it felt as if his ears were clogged with water, Jongdae couldn’t hear the way the panicked leader was trying to tell him to breathe, to calm down, and stop panicking. He couldn’t hear anything but this somewhat muted mumbling that made absolutely no sense to him and it just made him panic much harder, fear causing his heart rate to skyrocket.
He was so confused and scared and had absolutely no idea what was going on, leading for questions to easily starting to plague his mind.
What were they talking about?
Where was the doctor?
Why was he going through this pain?
Why was this happening to him?
The questions didn’t cease and neither did the pain stop, and when it did, it was even worse than before. Because as soon as he felt as if he was going to pass out from being unable to breathe, of feeling as if he was going to die, he felt Joonmyun’s hands suddenly leave his face and his grip go slack along his arms. His heart almost stopped at the thought of his anchor leaving him, because there was never a time than right now when he needed Joonmyun more.
But before he could even react, Jongdae felt someone painfully slap him against the face. His head snapped to the side from the force of the blow, red hot tenderness blossoming along his left cheek as the jolt of pain made a soundless gasp escape from his opened mouth.
Painfully knocked out from the immobilizing panic that had essentially taken him over just a few seconds ago, Jongdae could finally hear Joonmyun’s voice, only to be taken aback by how angry it sounded. The anger was so tangible and almost terrifying that it felt as if he was being pierced by sharp steel daggers that he almost wanted to cry at the thought of it being directed at him. He was so confused, sore, terrified and his emotions so shot from the panic attack that the thought of just being on the receiving end of an emotion like that just made him want to shrink in on himself and curl into a ball - it was all just too much at the moment.
He didn’t even feel the tears start falling from his eyes when Joonmyun started yelling at the representative, the leader’s normally soft spoken voice now harsh with anger and spite. Especially when Jongdae was most likely coming off medication that was making him a bit confused and loopy and just the thought of someone slapping him a couple of weeks after a major surgery… Even just slapping someone after the short procedure that Jongdae had just went through made Joonmyun see red.
It wasn’t often that Joonmyun got angry, like ‘in-your-face-I-want-to-punch-you’ angry, but he just could not control himself at the moment, not when one of s was hurt, someone who he cared of just as much as his family. It was so tangible, so filled with pent-up rage that most would say that they never wanted to be on the receiving end of it if they could, because while Joonmyun was gentle, sweet, caring, and somewhat of a mother hen, his anger was seriously something to be reckoned with.
So yelling at the representative for being so stupid and for the doctor for letting Jongdae’s panic attack get as bad as it did while the manager had been pretty useless as well, Joonmyun couldn’t stop himself from wondering why he, the second youngest in the room, was the most responsible one of the group. Especially when the doctor had a degree and should have known what to do as soon as Jongdae had started turning pale at the news, but no, that obviously didn’t happen. It was so angering to see Jongdae literally hold onto him as if he was his only support, most likely wondering if he was dying made Joonmyun even more mad. And with the way the representative had slapped Jongdae didn’t make anything better and if he was any angrier and less respectful than he was, Joonmyun would have punched the representative’s lights out for doing what he did, for endangering Jongdae like that.
It was one thing to help him calm the younger boy down and get him breathing regularly again, but it was an entirely different manner to try and slap someone out of a panic attack, the man obviously being annoyed by how long the appointment was taking and unable to understand why Jongdae had taken the news as he did. The man was just unable to be sympathetic to the boy’s plight or understand why the news had shaken Jongdae so much, not realizing how much the singer loved singing and how all his dreams were based upon being a performer.
But when he turned his body just so, trying to look even more intimidating than he already did, his stomach bottomed out at the sight of Jongdae crying into his knees, shoulders shaking so hard, and still barely able to breathe. Screw the men, the most important person right now was Jongdae; Joonmyun turned his attention back to his group member with worry written across his face. Quickly closing the gap between them and softly pushing Jongdae’s knees down so that he could hug the boy, he could only frown at the flinch Jongdae had given him. The singer was still so confused by everything that was going on, even as Joonmyun gently tilted their heads together to gaze at one another. Letting his soothing and soft voice wash over the younger boy, it barely took a minute before Jongdae stopped crying enough to latch onto him and sob into his shoulder instead.
Wrapping his arms around Jongdae, Joonmyun softly pulled him to his chest so that his ear was rested against his heart, while one of his hands caressed Jongdae’s hair in a soothing manner, never once stopping the ‘Shh’s’ and ‘It’s going to be alright’ leave his mouth. He didn’t stop, couldn’t stop even when the doctor stopped looking lost and turned back to his normal self, quietly telling Joonmyun, the manager, and the representative about what would need to be done.
He had no choice but to continue listening intently for the next twenty minutes about what needed to be done, but as soon as they could leave, Joonmyun ended up excusing himself and Jongdae from the room as soon as the doctor was done speaking to them and had given his contact information for them later, to help Jongdae get dressed. Helping him into his jeans and shirt after washing the boy’s face off, Jongdae was obviously tired, sore, and depressed by the news. All the former sharp energy that the singer used to have seemed to have disappeared away as if they had never existed in the first place, and Joonmyun could only find himself giving the boy these sad smiles that made Jongdae feel even worse as their manager moved them along to be finally situated in the car, on their way back to the dorm.
Only when he felt Jongdae pass out against his shoulder did Joonmyun let his tears about the new begin to fall.
Why did this have to happen to someone like Jongdae?
Jongdae had never felt so alone than right now.
Barely a day had passed from his diagnosis before he was standing in front of the CEO’s office, in the long white-lit and empty stretch of hallway that led solely to his office. It was every idol’s, trainee’s, and employee’s worst nightmare or greatest dream to be able to get that close to the man’s doors. To have the CEO personally talk to one person was either an honor that easily led to one’s dreams coming true, or it could be the most crushing moments of one’s life instead. It was a fifty-fifty chance and for Jongdae who had only seen the CEO a few times had always been on the side that led him on a path to happiness and glory.
So Jongdae could only assume for the worst when it came to this visit; he was sure nothing but heartbreak and tears were going to come out of it, being the only one that would be crushed from whatever news the older man would have to tell him.
What else could he think of?
He was unable to sing and was weaker than a young child or even a ninety-year old man. In his current state, he was of no use to EXO and even a burden as they promoted without him; Baekhyun, Kyungsoo, Luhan, or even Yixing or Joonmyun could easily be able to take his place.
But how could he know for sure? He couldn’t. All of his dreams, hopes, ambitions could be terminated within the next five minutes, and there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it if the were.
Bleakly realizing that, Jongdae entertained the thought of running away for a moment with a wry smile that appeared on the reflective walls around him that casted back a gaunt and tired face, but what would that accomplish?
Nothing, and it would just make sure that he would be really kicked out of SM Entertainment permanently, not to mention making tabloids explode with a thousand stories about a ‘runaway sick idol.’ Or worse, the rumors and lies that would start, smearing his name so that he would never be able to do anything with any other entertainment companies again. The idea of being a mime for some poor, small entertainment company was shot down so fast that Jongdae couldn’t help but grimace at the thought of him doing something as absurd as that.
No, what he had to do now was to face his fears and not cringe away from anything. Jongdae knew that he had to have that in him at the very least; making sure he was never to be afraid of anything ever again after his brother had scared him with the concept of death all those years ago, teasing him like most big brothers did. While to his group mates and his fans, he had to be confident and fearless, never backing down when the going got tough.
But where was that confidence now?
All he was left with was anxiety, a panic attack away from making him crumple right outside the doors that would hold his fate, taking his breath away and making him appear even more weak than he already was. But again, Jongdae could not and would not allow himself to fall to that level, even if he so desperately wanted to. Because in some odd, last desperation sort of way, Jongdae had to dispel his fears and show a person that was worthy to have been in EXO, to possibly stay in EXO, even if he couldn’t sing.
He had to stay strong; for his brothers, for his fans, for his family and most importantly, for himself. For if he did not have faith in himself, then there was no reason for anyone else to do so either. Especially when distress and misery were so close to consuming him that if he didn’t gather his strength now, then there would be no point, no reason, for him to go in there and learn what would happen to him. His end would already be finalized without him even stepping through those doors, of him hearing the CEO's final decision.
So with a polite smile slashing a grim curve onto his warped reflections of the mirrors, Jongdae finally opened the CEO’s doors.
the writers' words
XiuMini: So hello everyone! We're finally, finally back after many broken promises to update and a long, long hiatus. But be ensured, we will finish this story and make everyone want to
murder us love us. And holy shizzles, our dream of this story being featured came true! Thank you to all and a million kisses to everyone who upvoted this story! We wish we could reply to every single comment, but thank you, thank you, and thank you! <3
conchobar: Sorry for the long hiatus everyone, school and life aren't being that conducive to our updating schedule, but hopefully we're not AWOL for future updates like this last one. Thanks for being so understanding and thanks for all the support you've given us. And thank you for getting this story featured, like really, thank you. :) And please, please, do not kill us with pitch forks for this update. But please do comment and tell us what you think.
< a tori creation >