eunhyuk/ryeowook ; pg ; friendship, romance, slight-angst ; 4581w
When Hyukjae was ordered to deliver paper cranes to a sick boy he hardly knew, he never thought it would change his perspective on the world.
a/n: Written for zaboomafoo76 who wanted an EunWook, a pairing I don’t even write. Ah well. But my Super Junior muse came back so in a sudden stroke of inspiration, I wrote this. It isn’t as angsty as I promised it would be and it even has a happy ending! What the hell… -______-
It was a cold autumn day when Lee Hyukjae found a medium-sized box sitting on his desk, sealed with a Post-It note stuck to the top.
“What,” he started, staring at the box blankly. “Is this.”
The student representative council president, Cho Kyuhyun, looked up from the report he was reading and glanced briefly between Hyukjae and the box before going back to his papers. “I think you can read by yourself what it said on the note,” he said nonchalantly.
Hyukjae peeled the note off and bought it close to his face to read. It had the name Kim Ryeowook and the address of a hospital located in the southern part of the city and a room number written on it in messy handwriting. He stared at it uncertainly, not sure what to do. Hell, he doesn’t even know what it is, so he lifted the box and shook it gingerly. Something inside rustled, sounding like leaves moving against each other.
“They’re from his homeroom class,” Kyuhyun said, without even looking up. “They’re paper cranes.”
Hyukjae stared at the box some more. “And…?”
Kyuhyun glared at him, as if saying oh my God how could you be so thick headed. “Deliver them to him, idiot,” he spat.
Hyukjae’s eyebrow twitched. “Because…?”
“Because you’re the secretary and I’m the president and therefore I have the right to order you around,” he drawled, rolling his eyes. “Happy?”
Hyukjae sighed. He knew this was a lost cause when it comes to arguing with Kyuhyun. So he finished his jobs for the day and went on his way.
And that was how Lee Hyukjae found himself sitting inside the overcrowded subway later after school, the box of paper cranes on his lap and rustling rather loudly, heading towards the hospital mentioned on the post-it note. The ride was rather uneventful save for an old lady who eyed the box suspiciously and making Hyukjae squirm in his seat. He heaved a sigh of relief when he got off three stops later, just standing there for a while and looking around the area.
The hospital itself wasn’t too hard to find, looming across the market place, a tall dark building in the fading afternoon light. Hyukjae frowned. He was never a fan of hospitals, but then again, no one was. The sliding doors opened with a pleasant ding and he stepped inside, wrinkling his nose in distaste at the smell of anesthetics hanging in the air, and cursed Kyuhyun under his breath. The receptionist smiled at him and asked if there was anything she could do to help. He handed her the note stuck to the top of the box and she scanned it before nodding and pointing him to wards the right direction.
Hyukjae took the elevator at the end of the hall like she instructed, a little confused why this Kim Ryeowook (Hyukjae kind of remembered him as one of the orphans who won a scholarship to the school)would be kept in one of the long-term wards. Surely he isn’t that sick, isn’t he? Nevertheless, he got off on the fifth level and walked down the hallway towards room 513, feeling more nervous as he got closer. It was quiet, save for a few beeping noises and doctors talking quietly among themselves, and Hyukjae wiped his sweaty hands on his trousers, standing in front of the door with the metal plate bearing the number 513 uncertainly.
Just as he was about to knock, a nurse spotted him, and she hurried towards him with a medical mask in hand. He stared at the object in horror, was his condition really that bad? But the woman smiled and shook her head.
“Oh believe me, this is more for his sake than yours,” she said.
So Hyukjae took the mask and put it on, wondering why on earth he should be wearing this for Kim Ryeowook’s sake. The nurse smiled again and knocked gently on the door and opened it for him. Hyukjae shifted the box in his arms awkwardly.
“Ryeowook?” she called, ushering him in. “You have a visitor, a friend from school.”
Hyukjae almost snorted at the word friend. He doesn’t even know this Kim Ryeowook, and he’s sure this boy doesn’t know him either.
The room was bathed in a soft orange glow from the setting sun, streaming freely in from the window with the curtains pulled back as far as they can go. A boy sat on top of the blankets, knees pulled to his chest. He was staring at the window a little sadly, longingly, but his smile was bright when he saw Hyukjae standing there awkwardly.
“Uh…” Hyukjae started, not knowing what to say. His voice came out muffled from behind the medical mask. “Um, hi. I’m –“
“Lee Hyukjae, student representative council secretary, I know,” the boy nodded, smile still intact as he tilted his head to one side. “I’m Kim Ryeowook.”
Hyukjae raised his eyebrows, a little surprised, but then he cleared his throat and walked over to set the box of paper cranes on the end of Ryeowook’s bed. Ryeowook followed his every move, eyes wide and curious like a child’s, stopping to stare at the cardboard box in his bed.
“These are for you, from your homeroom class,” Hyukjae explained, taking a seat on the blue plastic chair for visitors. Ryeowook shuffled over and pulled the box to his lap, tearing open the sticky tapes keeping the box closed, and his eyes widened in delight at the sight.
He put his hand inside and pulled out a string of paper cranes, all in different colors, some large and some small, carefully folded into the paper birds Ryeowook’s crooning to at the moment.
“They’re beautiful,” he sighed, eyes bright as he set those down and pulled out another string. “Everyone must’ve worked so hard for these.”
“They, uh, hope you’ll get well soon,” Hyukjae said lamely, scratching the back of his head. If only he had Donghae here, his friend would always know what to say and do. But Ryeowook smiled at him appreciatively, and started twisting his head this way and that as if searching for something.
“Where to hang them…” he mumbled to himself, carefully getting off the bed and walking around the room, wincing a little when the IV in his hand allowed him limited movements. But then he spotted some hooks by the window and almost jumped in excitement. Hyukjae, feeling sorry, stood up and helped him over to the first hook, carrying the IV pouch high above his head as Ryeowook tiptoed to hang the paper cranes.
An hour or two later, after all the cranes are hung and the sky is dark, Ryeowook sat back on his bed, pleased with himself. Hyukjae watched him, and smiled at his bright eyes and even brighter personality, as if this hospital confinement was just a momentary stop in the winding road that is his life, and not the last one.
After that, not a day went by without Lee Hyukjae taking the subway after school and getting off three stops later, walked towards the hospital and into room 513, to visit Kim Ryeowook.
Apparently Ryeowook has been sick since last summer holiday, which was about a month ago. He wasn’t always, but his immune system suddenly dropped while he was on a trip to the beach, due to a rare illness that he caught during the vacation. He could even die just by catching a cold. Hyukjae’s mind wandered to Ryeowook’s pitiful condition as he completed his History homework from his seat at the blue plastic chair, contemplating about life and its unfairness when Ryeowook suddenly spoke to him.
“You know,” the boy mumbled, staring at the overcrowded streets of the market place below. “There’s a bakery down there not far from here. They sell the yummiest muffins you will ever taste.”
Hyukjae looked up from his homework, and saw Ryeowook with his face pressed to the window, eyes distant and detached. The Sunday morning light poured in and lit his entire form, and Hyukjae can’t help thinking how small and fragile Ryeowook looked at the moment, what with the hospital pajamas almost slipping off his shoulders. He frowned.
“I’d like to go there when I’m better,” he continued, not turning to check whether Hyukjae was listening or not. “And say that I want one of everything, wouldn’t that be awesome? Maybe then I’ll put a little weight,” he turned around, smiling gently. Ryeowook dragged the IV pole back with him to the bed and climbed up, laying back down with a sigh.
Sometimes Hyukjae gets the feeling that Ryeowook hates the hospital even more than he did, but he’s not sure, with the way Ryeowook’s always smiling. Unconsciously he checked the calendar hanging above the bedside table, where a date in January had been circled in red marker many times.
“Counting down?” Ryeowook asked, and when Hyukjae turned to him, Ryeowook was staring at him staring at the calendar, a strange smile on his face. Hyukjae scratched the back of his head and nodded sheepishly. The smile faded from Ryeowook’s face and he, too, turned to look at that date in January.
“Four months to my treatment,” he said, and that vague sadness returned to his eyes though he’s smiling. “And then I’ll be back at school again!”
Ryeowook grinned happily (it somehow wasn’t as bright as usual), and Hyukjae grinned back and ruffled his hair affectionately.
One summer morning, the doctors deemed Ryeowook well enough to walk around the hospital, and the boy was beside himself with excitement. That morning as Hyukjae helped Ryeowook change into a pair of giraffe printed pajamas, he nearly knocked over the vase on the table as he flailed his arms excitedly.
“You’ll have to wear a mask,” Hyukjae said, voice muffled by the one he’s wearing. Ryeowook waved his hand airily.
“Ah, it’s a small price to pay,” he said, frowning when his IV got caught in the sleeves. Hyukjae laughed at his expression and helped him right it. “Besides, I’ll be able to see your face!”
Hyukjae looked up and smiled at the joy in his face, even though Ryeowook couldn’t see it. How easy it was to make him happy. Hyukjae finished buttoning Ryeowook’s pajamas and the two finally set out on their simple adventure. The nurse waiting outside the door gave Ryeowook a mask with a smile while Hyukjae took his off. He inhaled deeply in relief as he could breathe without restriction once again, while what little of Ryeowook’s face he could see scrunched up in dislike.
“Ugh, these are so scratchy and horrible. Oh,” he exclaimed when he finally saw Hyukjae’s entire face, smile lighting up his own (he couldn’t see it, but Ryeowook’s eyes turned to pretty half moons, and Hyukjae’s heart flips in his chest). “Nice seeing your face again after a long time, Hyukkie!”
Hyukjae grinned, and took Ryeowook’s arm in his hands, dragging the IV pole with him. “Come on, let’s just go.”
Ryeowook smiled and nodded enthusiastically, and bowed to the nurse before walking down the hallway. Despite being confined in his room, Ryeowook seemed to know almost everyone. He waved and greeted the little girl in the room next to his whose leg was in a plaster, the cleaning service man who politely touched his cap and even the nurses and worker who beamed at him from their desks. Hyukjae took to listening to Ryeowook’s long explanations of each patient they meet and his rants, only nodding and answering when appropriate.
It was a while before Hyukjae noticed that Ryeowook’s staring at the vending machine in the corner of the hall longingly. Ryeowook looked up at him, eyes wide and sad.
“Do you think I’m allowed some chocolate bars?” he asked, biting his lips. “I haven’t had any since ages.”
Hyukjae had the sudden urge to gather Ryeowook in his arms and feed him as many chocolate bars as possible. He stared at Ryeowook, then to the nurses conversing quietly in the receptionist table, then back to Ryeowook. “Stay here,” he said, gently easing Ryeowook’s grip on his arm, before jogging to the hospital workers. They smiled at him politely as he approached, all kind faces and soothing voices.
“Excuse me,” he said, a little out of breath. “Is Kim Ryeowook allowed any chocolates?”
A nurse with glasses glanced at Ryeowook who was standing awkwardly in the middle of the hall, and checked Ryeowook’s data on her computer, before nodding and smiling.
“Yes, he is. But not too much, okay?” she said, patting his hand in a motherly fashion. Hyukjae sighed in relief and ran back to where Ryeowook was standing, but passed him.
“Hyukkie, where are you –“ he stopped once he saw where Hyukjae was heading. He stared incredulously as Hyukjae fished out some coins from his pocket and put them into the machine, and then choosing a medium-sized chocolate bar from the vending machine. He crouched down and took the sweet from the slot at the bottom and ran back to Ryeowook with a grin.
The sick boy received it with trembling hands, looking up at Hyukjae uncertainly. He nodded and urged him with another grin, and so Ryeowook tore the plastic wrapping open. He lifted his mask and took a small bite at first, rolling it around in his mouth, and Hyukjae watched him, curious. But then a huge smile lit up his face and his eyes disappeared, and something gets lodged in Hyukjae’s throat.
“Thank you,” Ryeowook whispered, and there are tears he refused to shed in his eyes, but Hyukjae sees them anyway.
Hyukjae thinks maybe he’s falling in love.
They went back to Ryeowook’s room after that, Ryeowook still munching happily on his candy bar the whole way. But Hyukjae stopped when they’re five meters away, and Ryeowook gets jerked back by his sudden movement.
“What – Hyukkie what’s wrong?” he asked, looking at Hyukjae quizzically. Hyukjae pointed to his room, the door ajar.
“Isn’t that your doctor?” Hyukjae pointed out. Ryeowook turned to where he was pointing and frowned.
“Mm… I wonder what’s up,” he mumbled and shuffled into his room. Hyukjae had a feeling this was something private, so he retraced his steps back to the vending machine and bought himself a box of strawberry milk.
Fifteen minutes later Hyukjae walked back to room 513, passing Ryeowook’s doctor on the way, who gave him a strained smile. His chest tightened slightly, sensing something wrong, and half-ran back to Ryeowook’s room. When he arrived he put on the medical mask and knocked twice before entering.
Ryeowook was sitting on the plastic chair he usually sat on by the window, staring out with the same expression he was wearing when Hyukjae first met him.
“What did the doctor say?” he asked, closing the door behind him. Ryeowook turned to him, unsmiling. His fingers traced one of the yellow giraffes on his pajamas, sighing softly.
“Nah, just my insurance being stupid,” he mumbled, his eyes downcast.
Hyukjae raised his eyebrows. “Your treatment got delayed?” he asked. Ryeowook nodded.
An awkward silence fell over them, and Hyukjae shuffled towards where Ryeowook sat, trying to imagine how someone like Ryeowook sees the world.
“I just don’t get it,” Ryeowook muttered, voice like broken glass and Hyukjae feels his heart break around the edges as tears lid down the boy’s cheek. “Why does money have to come first before anything? Am I – am I not important enough to save?”
Hyukjae’s hand on Ryeowook’s shoulder trembled but he tried to not show it, while Ryeowook hid his face in his hands and wept.
Three days later Ryeowook’s back to normal (not really, sometimes Hyukjae can still see the sadness lingering in Ryeowook’s eyes). The date in January has been crossed out, and a new one in June got circled in the red marker. Hyukjae also makes a countdown in his planner, and one day his best friend Donghae got nosy during lunch break and added nauseating pink heart stickers to the date when Hyukjae’s queuing for food.
“I won’t be able to come next week,” Hyukjae said as he taught Ryeowook now to fold paper cranes to add to the ones his classmates made. Ryeowook made a frustrated noise when the wings of his paper bird didn’t fold the way it was supposed to, frowning in utter concentration. He looked up when Hyukjae cleared his throat pointedly, confused.
“I said I won’t be able to come next week,” he repeated. “I’ll be busy with the school festival, and Kyuhyun would be running us all into the ground, so…”
Ryeowook blinked, then nodded and went back to his paper crane, tweaking its wings this way and that so it would fold properly. “Oh, okay.”
“You gonna be okay?” Hyukjae asked because he fells like he has to make sure. Ryeowook nodded again, but didn’t meet Hyukjae’s eyes, making the older boy frown. “Really?”
Ryeowook groaned and slumped to the pillows, puffing out air with a frown. “What would I do without you?”
Hyukjae grinned and took the origami from him, creasing it in the right direction before handing it back to Ryeowook. Ryeowook snatched it from his hands and stuck out his tongue at him.
Hyukjae sighed as he wiped sweat from his brow, before resuming painting this stupid prop for the drama his class is holding. All around him people were running around in panic, everyone preparing for the big day tomorrow when the school festival would be open for public. He has paint in his jacket, in his pants, in his face (thanks to Donghae), and his limbs are screaming in protest from all the heavy lifting he’s done before this, but he knew he can’t rest just yet. Kyuhyun would grill him on the spot. The president himself looked way beyond stressed, checking through papers and reports to make sure everything goes smoothly and at the same time helping his class for their own show.
Hyukjae’s mind wandered to room 513 and its occupant as he applied more green paint to the cardboard tree he’s painting. He wondered what Ryeowook would be doing right now. Maybe practicing on his origami folding skills, or sweet talking the nurses into buying him more candy bars. Hyukjae chuckled at the thought, only to stop with and squeal as a finger was thrust to his side. He whipped his head around in annoyance and found Donghae grinning beside him.
“What the fuck?” he grumbled, massaging his sore rib. “What was that for?”
Donghae grinned wider. “Why are you laughing by yourself?” he asked, sniggering, and Hyukjae kind of wanted to punch him in the face. “Could it be… Ryeowookie?”
Hyukjae splashed green paint to his hair and Donghae shouted, dashing off to find a mirror and check the damage Hyukjae’s done. He laughed evilly before turning back to his job, but before he could even lift the brush, his cell phone in his pocket buzzed. Hyukjae wiped his hands on a rag and fished it out, frowning at the unknown number. He flipped the phone open and pressed the receiver to his ear.
“Hello?” he said, and a woman’s unfamiliar voice answered at the other end. “Yes, this is me… what? But – how? I’m afraid I don’t know, I, yes. …Alright, I’ll call back as soon as possible.”
He ended the call and flipped the phone shut, heart thudding. Ryeowook was missing. Missing. How is it even possible? He couldn’t just stroll out the front door, could he? Hyukjae bit his lip, hesitant. There was still so much work to be done, and Kyuhyun would surely kill him if he ever found out, but…
Hyukjae dropped his brush and ran out as fast as his legs could carry him.
The sky outside was dark and thunder rolled across the heavens, signaling heavy rain. Why now, of all times? he cursed, running towards the subway. The ride seemed to be going much too slow for Hyukjae’s liking, his mind providing horrible possibilities of what could have happened to Ryeowook out here in this kind of weather. He could catch a flu, and then –
Hyukjae shook his head in frustration, ridding himself of the negative thoughts. No, he’ll just have to get there in time, and Ryeowook will be fine. But where could he be? Hyukjae racked his brains for possible places Ryeowook would visit, and in his mind’s eye he saw the market place from Ryeowook’s room window.
He made a mad dash for the door when the subway stopped at his destination, shoving and pushing people out of the way and then sprinting off out of the station. He turned his head this way and that in panic while rain started to fall, large droplets beginning to wet his uniform. Quickly, he ran towards the market place, where the crowd gathering in front of the shops and in the streets began to thin as the rain got heavier. Hyukjae’s heart raced wildly, tears of panic springing to his eyes but he held them back, gritting his teeth in determination as he passed by shop after shop.
He stopped after about ten minutes of frantic searching. Ahead of him, stood a boy in front of a music shop, staring inside longingly with his palm pressed to the glass. His wet hair was plastered to his face and his giraffe pajamas clung to his small form like a second skin, and even from the distance, Hyukjae could see him shivering under the rain. Hyukjae pushed back his own wet hair out of his eyes as he ran towards him. Relief flooded through him, replaced by worry, and then by anger.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” he yelled, grabbing Ryeowook’s wrist and spinning him round to face him. Ryeowook’s eyes widened, mouth falling open in surprise.
“Hyukjae? How – how did you know –“ he stuttered. Hyukjae shook his head, raindrops falling off his hair.
“Doesn’t matter, you have to go back now,” he said, and began to tug Ryeowook’s hand towards the hospital. But Ryeowook didn’t budge, and there’s no more surprise in his eyes, only defiant anger.
It was Hyukjae’s turn to stare at him in shock. “What do you mean, no? Ryeowook, you can die!”
“Then let me die here!” he yelled back. People were starting to stare at them from inside the shops, some even pausing to watch from under their umbrellas. “Let me die here where I’m free! I’ll die in there anyway, so what’s the difference?! I can’t stand another day in there, Hyukjae, where I can only wait for a treatment I’m never going to get! I – I’m sorry, but I just –“
Hyukjae suddenly gathered him into his arms and held him against his chest tightly, tears sliding down his cheeks and he’s somehow relieved that it’s raining so nobody can tell he’s crying. He held on even when Ryeowook struggled, hitting his tiny fists to his chest. He held on even when Ryeowook’s resistance stopped and he hugged him back just as tightly, body quivering in sobs.
“I know it’s hard,” Hyukjae said through gritted teeth, speaking to Ryeowook’s ear so he’ll hear him above the pounding of the heavy rain around them. “I know, Ryeowook. So I’ll wait with you, okay? We’ll wait together. I’ll come back, every day, and we’ll wait together, I promise.”
Ryeowook stiffened in his arms, and after a while nodded, fingers digging into Hyukjae’s back but he doesn’t mind. Hyukjae sighed in relief and gently let go of Ryeowook.
“Good. Now let’s go back to the hospital, okay?” he said, taking off his jacket and draping it across the boy’s thin shoulders. It’s just as wet as any other part of his body, but at least it’ll cover Ryeowook from the rain. Ryeowook’s eyes are hazy and unfocused as he nodded again, and panic settled in the pit of Hyukjae’s stomach. “Ryeowook, are you okay?”
The boy nodded but his steps are small and weak, and Hyukjae has to support him the whole way back. The frightening possibilities that he managed to push to the back of his head rushed back as he half carried, half dragged Ryeowook across the street.
They barely made it to the hospital before Ryeowook’s legs gave in and he collapsed into Hyukjae’s arms.
Hyukjae still came back to the hospital every day after school, until the nurses and workers know him and greet him with a friendly good afternoon upon his arrival. He still took the elevator at the end of the hallway, but instead of heading to level five, he pressed the button four, towards the Intensive Care Unit.
Hyukjae donned the medical mask before entering the room, a little disappointed when he saw Ryeowook’s still the same as when Hyukjae left him yesterday evening. Pale and small and thin with a dozen health monitors connected to his body and an oxygen mask strapped to his face. It’s been a week, and he rarely woke up. When he did, his eyes would wander to Hyukjae’s face in a blank sort of way for a few moments, before closing again and falling unconscious for days.
“Hey,” he greeted, sitting down on the chair beside his bed, shifting around until he found a comfortable position. “It’s been a week, Ryeowook. Wake up, will you?”
The boy stayed silent and still, chest rising and falling in shallow breaths. Hyukjae bit his lip, feeling tears prick his eyes.
Another week and a half later, Ryeowook woke up, for real this time. The oxygen mask had been removed, so when he opened his eyes and saw Hyukjae beside him, he smiled and said in raspy voice,
“Take off your mask.”
Hyukjae complied and threw it to the bedside table. He leaned down to kiss Ryeowook’s lips, and together, they waited.
“So, when Mr. Kim suggested that I should take Music class as well, I thought, why not?” Ryeowook chirped from beside him, shrugging and then taking a bite from his sandwich. The cafeteria is loud and full of noisy kids, but Hyukjae can hear Ryeowook’s voice the most. “I’ve always liked Music, and I can play a little piano.”
Hyukjae frowned at the boy munching happily on his lunch, still a little concerned. Sure he was well enough to go to school for three days in a week now (the other two days are reserved for his therapy), but sometimes Hyukjae still found him clutching a hand to his chest, or almost passing out due to exhaustion.
“Are you sure?” he asked, brushing some bread crumbs from the corner of his lips. Ryeowook pouted, swatting his hand away.
“Of course! Can’t you trust me?” he challenged, and Hyukjae grinned before dropping a kiss to Ryeowook’s lips. He squeaked and flailed, face turning red.
“Of course I trust you, I just get kind of paranoid sometimes,” he shrugged, and Ryeowook pursed his lips, ‘hmph’-ing a little before turning back to his food.
Hyukjae stared at Ryeowook, an affectionate smile on his face, the boy who used to be so weak and fragile he can’t even go out in the open without the risk of dying. The boy who used to mean nothing to him, but then became his everything, and Hyukjae thinks, the wait is worth it.
a/n: Oh my God lamest ending ever I swear ugh. This was because I watched news a few days ago and how absolutely horrible medical service to poor people in my country are. Title is from John Mayer’s song and I had no time to get this beta-ed since my computer’s going to be serviced tomorrow and I might not be able to see it for more than a week D: So sorry for any errors, I’ll fix them as I go along otl.
Anyone else here watches Shut Up! Flower Boy Band? :3