Title: raise your weary wings against the rain
Word count: 3,397
Summary: Dongwoo takes care of everyone, but who’s going to take care of Dongwoo?
From: Your Secret Santa
If Woohyun had been paying attention, he’d have noticed that last night Myungsoo had red eyes when he’d gone into his bedroom when Dongwoo was the only one there and had emerged an hour later with a smile. Noticed that Sunggyu had abandoned his leader position in the front passenger seat of the van this morning and had dragged Dongwoo into the back where the two of them talked quietly with their heads together the entire way to the studio. Noticed that earlier this evening Hoya had looked more than bit sullen when he and Dongwoo headed off to the practice room to get some Infinite H rehearsals in but had been his normal calm self when they’d returned. If Woohyun had been paying attention, he’d have noticed that after all these encounters, Dongwoo looked a little more tired and ragged around the edges, his smile just a smidge less bright, that the smudges of shadow under his eyes have been growing over the past week or two—they’re usually covered up by carefully-applied bb cream so anyone who isn’t a member would never notice, but Woohyun sees him in the morning when his eyes are blinky from sleep and his hair is a mess, sees him at night when his face is scrubbed clean and so much younger-looking (Woohyun doesn’t have an excuse). If Woohyun had been paying attention, he’d have added up all the hints and he never would have knocked on Dongwoo’s door at all, instead just setting all the junk he’s been carrying around in his mind aside for a few days until a better time.
But Woohyun hasn’t been paying attention, too caught up in his own tangle of worries and weariness to note even that Dongwoo has been oddly still when they’re in the van or sprawled in front of the TV at night. So he waits until Myungsoo and Sungyeol have made a just-before-bedtime coffee run (only Sungyeol could possibly want caffeine right before he goes to sleep) and then he raps a knock on the half-cracked door of the room they share with Dongwoo.
Dongwoo is on his bed, headphones on and backpack open in front of him, going through the contents—probably not taking anything out, only putting more endearingly unnecessary items in—but he tugs the wire of the headphones when he catches a glimpse of Woohyun, letting them slip off his ears and down around his neck. His hair is still damp from his shower and he clearly toweled it dry, so it’ll probably be a fuzzball tomorrow that the stylist noonas will despair over. But Woohyun kind of loves fuzzball-head Dongwoo, so he just grins and shifts his shoulders; the muscles are screwed up tight, and he’ll have to see if he can somehow con Sungyeol into a massage later—Sungyeol actually gives the best massages, but he’s a total miser with them, never offering and only agreeing to a request when he’s practically blackmailed into it. It would be so nice to sprawl facedown on someone’s bed and have Sungyeol’s big hands knead all of his tension away. But first he’s got to exorcise the source of most of that tension.
“What’s up, Nam-goon?” Dongwoo asks, and he really does look so much younger without any makeup on, his eyes softer and less unnerving without the definition makeup lends.
“Have you got a minute to talk?”
It’s such a little tell—only the slightest tightening at the edges of Dongwoo’s eyes, but Woohyun is paying attention this time to those eyes, so he catches it, sucking in a breath and biting his lip at the sight. Fuck, is it that bad? How had he not noticed?
But that’s only a split second, because then Dongwoo is grinning wide and welcoming, and that’s how Woohyun managed not to notice—Dongwoo is so, so good at hiding it. “Sure, Woohyunnie. Come over here and tell me all about it.”
Dongwoo’s damp head is already bent as he shoves all his stuff back into his backpack and tosses it aside, scooting his back against the wall to make room for Woohyun. But Woohyun has seen what he saw, so he’s already come to a decision. He sits down anyway, and he keeps his eyes locked on Dongwoo’s face as he speaks. “No, it’s really nothing,” Woohyun says, carefully casual, “I just wanted to ask you if you have any tips for making that new move Dongmin-hyung taught us earlier any easier.”
And again, Woohyun is paying attention (this time, he berates himself, because he should have been paying attention all along), so he sees it: the tiniest flash of relief in Dongwoo’s eyes, the slightest slump of his shoulders, and this time when he smiles, his smile isn’t tired at all. He starts chattering on excitedly, eyes glowing the way they only do when he’s talking about dancing—or thinking about dancing, or actually dancing—but Woohyun isn’t paying much attention to the words, only to the way Dongwoo’s fresh-scrubbed face is so very expressive when he talks.
This isn’t why Woohyun had sought him out, not at all. He’d been wanting to talk about how messed up his head is lately—about how he knows he’s bad at acting and how he sort of feels guilty to even be doing it when Sungyeol is so much better and wanted it so much more, about how he feels like Sunggyu doesn’t really need him anymore and that makes him feel dispensable, about how he’s scared that Sunggyu’s upcoming solo debut is just another sign that his hyung is leaving him behind, about how he knows there’s something fucked up about his eating habits but he just can’t seem to do anything about it. All of that shit’s been churning around in his head for the past few weeks, and he’s been dying to lay his head in Dongwoo’s lap and just talk all of it out, Dongwoo’s fingers firm but gentle in his hair, his eyes concerned and listening, everything about him so reassuring and right. Dongwoo gives off comfort like it’s a superpower, and Woohyun has been craving it lately, the way Dongwoo will let him voice everything—every single tiny ugly feeling Woohyun keeps stowed in the darkest parts of him—and how Dongwoo will never, ever judge and will somehow know just the right words to say to make him feel better.
But Woohyun can’t do that, not when he’s caught a glimpse of how Dongwoo is right now. So he keeps the conversation light and silly, his arm pressed warm against Dongwoo’s, and maybe it’s not what he wanted when he pushed open the door tonight, but it’s the next best thing.
When Sungyeol and Myungsoo come trooping back in later and Sungyeol throws a shoe at Woohyun’s head accompanied by a command to get his sad ass out so they can all sleep damn it, Woohyun gives Dongwoo a hug on impulse. Maybe Dongwoo’s arms cling just a little too tight, a little too long before he releases Woohyun, but Woohyun doesn’t say anything.
There really isn’t anything to say.
But Woohyun keeps paying attention after that. A couple of days later when he sees Sungyeol head towards Dongwoo with a half-brooding half-determined expression on his face, Woohyun intercepts him, grabbing him by his arm and dragging him off, ignoring Sungyeol’s screeched protests and flailing limbs. He only calms down when Woohyun says he’ll treat him for coffee (Sungyeol ends up spilling all his issues over his Americano and Woohyun wonders when they became this close that Sungyeol would trust him with this, but he’s really, really glad they are. Woohyun also wonders how Dongwoo can do this with everyone when Woohyun is emotionally exhausted after just Sungyeol, but he doesn’t arrive at any answers). He’s away filming his drama later so he doesn’t manage to stop Sunggyu the next time, but when he gets home he’s informed by Sungjong (bless Sungjong, he’s the only one who doesn’t dump all his problems on Dongwoo—he always goes to Hoya if he goes to anyone at all, which he mostly doesn’t, choosing to keep most of his thoughts to himself: sometimes Woohyun thinks the maknae is the strongest and most mature of all of them. But then he remembers Dongwoo) that Sunggyu and Dongwoo are in Sunggyu’s room. Woohyun doesn’t waste any time barging in and interrupting, demanding Sunggyu’s attention in the most obnoxious way possible and putting a stop to the quiet conversation he’d interrupted (and Woohyun is paying attention, and he sees the relief again, and it feels like someone just pierced his heart with a long needle).
He makes sure to keep an eye on other things, too, making sure Dongwoo always has clean laundry and cooking all of Dongwoo’s favorite meals (when they have the time to cook anything at all). He lets Dongwoo sleep on his shoulder in the van and keeps an eye on his schedules, and he knows things have gotten really bad when Dongwoo barely seems to notice any of it: normally Dongwoo would be appreciative and demonstrative in response.
So Woohyun knows he’s doing the right thing, but the thing is, he still kind of needs someone to talk to, even if he knows he can’t burden Dongwoo with any of it right now. So he pulls a few strings and manipulates Sunggyu just a bit (okay, a lot) and manages to buy himself an hour at Shinee’s dorm when he knows Dongwoo is in the practice room. Kibum’s responses to Woohyun’s ‘emotional vomit’ (as Kibum calls it) are mostly snarky and sharp-edged. But Woohyun knows Kibum better than just about anyone, so he hears the genuine concern masked by the sarcasm, and even if Kibum’s answers are blunter than most people would like, there’s enough good advice in them Woohyun feels a lot better when he leaves.
Kibum walks him to the door and leans against the wall, arms crossed, as Woohyun pulls on his shoes. “You don’t usually come to me with this shit,” Kibum says. “Don’t you usually go to Dongwoo?”
“Yeah.” There’s a bit of bitterness aimed at himself when Woohyun answers, and from the way Kibum’s eyebrows raise just a little, he knows it’s audible. “We all go to Dongwoo. We go to him and dump all our baggage on him and he just takes it and he never complains, not ever. We load him down with all our shit so we don’t have to bear it, but nobody ever stops to notice how heavy it must be for him. Fuck.” His shoelaces are all knotted up and he has to spend a minute picking the knot out.
“So what are you going to do about that?” Kibum asks, voice deceptively mild, and Woohyun yanks the laces a little too tight before he stands.
“I’m going to help him carry it.”
This time Woohyun doesn’t knock. He can’t, actually, because Dongwoo has been sleeping on the couch in the living room again, so there’s no door to knock on. Woohyun doesn’t understand why Dongwoo seems to have mostly abandoned the room he shares with Sungyeol and Myungsoo and whichever manager stays the night; Sungyeol’s snoring is pretty awful, but Dongwoo sleeps like the dead, so there’s no way that’s keeping him up. Probably if Woohyun asked him, Dongwoo wouldn’t quite know what the answer is either; Dongwoo has always acted more on instinct, especially when it comes to his own feelings. But maybe Dongwoo just needs to get as close to alone as he possibly can—even if it’s not very close when the members are always coming out at two in the morning for a drink or to watch the TV with the volume turned down when they can’t sleep.
No one else is out there now, though, not when Woohyun shuts the door to his and Sunggyu’s room very quietly behind him and makes his way over to the couch. By the bit of light coming through the window, he can see that Dongwoo isn’t sleeping: he’s lying flat on his back, his eyes open and staring at the ceiling, and Woohyun’s heart clenches.
He doesn’t say anything as he gently shoves Dongwoo over so that he can stretch out beside him—there’s barely enough room on the couch for both of them even if they’re on the smallish side, but that’s okay because it gives Woohyun an excuse to wrap his arms around Dongwoo.
Dongwoo is surprised, tensing for a moment in his arms and looking around startled and big-eyed—Woohyun knows he was probably so immersed in his thoughts that he didn’t hear Woohyun approach at all. He keeps his arms strong but not too tight around Dongwoo and says quietly, “It’s okay, hyung.” He doesn’t call Dongwoo hyung; they’re same-age friends, they have been from the beginning. But at the sound of the word, Dongwoo goes limp in Woohyun’s arms and that’s when he starts to cry.
Woohyun has seen Dongwoo cry a lot—probably even more than Dongwoo has seen Woohyun cry, which is saying something. (Woohyun swears that he wasn’t a crier before Infinite, but no one ever seems to believe him.) Dongwoo is always so honest with his emotions—except when he thinks that they might hurt someone, and then he keeps them bundled up so close to him that it’s only when Woohyun watches him with microscope-eyes that he can even see them at all. Dongwoo cries over wins and goodbyes to puppies, over pranks and other people’s pain, over movies and sometimes just from being physically exhausted. But he never, ever cries for himself, at least not where anyone can see, and the thought of that is enough to break Woohyun’s heart.
Dongwoo cries now. He sobs, so very hard that he’s shaking in Woohyun’s arms, but he’s almost silent in his pain, and that makes Woohyun want to kiss him or kill someone or something, because even now Dongwoo is trying not to disturb anyone else. Woohyun has never wanted something as badly as he wants to be able to tell Dongwoo to just let go, to forget about disturbing anyone else (because if they miss a half hour of sleep, well, it’s the least they can do for the one who keeps them all afloat)—to tell Dongwoo that he can let it all out and to have Dongwoo listen to him. But he knows Dongwoo so well, knows Dongwoo wouldn’t let himself go even if he had permission from Woohyun, so Woohyun just wraps as much of himself as he can around Dongwoo and presses kisses to Dongwoo’s tear-stained cheeks.
He’s closer, physically, to Dongwoo than he ever has been to anyone, easy with Dongwoo’s body in a way he’d never thought of being with anyone else. With Dongwoo it’s so easy to reach out (because nearly every time he does he finds Dongwoo is already reaching back), to touch simply because he wants (or needs) to, to touch without having to pause to think about what a touch means. Dongwoo will accept any touch anyone gives him, accepts it like it gives him joy, like it gives him energy, like it’s his power source (and maybe it is). Dongwoo makes physical affection second nature, and Woohyun thinks nothing anymore of grabbing his hand or sliding an arm around his waist or resting his chin on his shoulder.
But he’s never done this before, not even with Dongwoo, never kissed him this way, his lips finding each teardrop, his tongue memorizing the taste. And yet he does it now, one of his hands sliding up to cup Dongwoo’s head, the other still wrapped around him, wishing helplessly that somehow his body pressed up against Dongwoo’s can absorb some of what Dongwoo carries, that through osmosis some of Dongwoo’s pain and weariness can bleed right into Woohyun. Woohyun will accept all of it, if it’s coming from Dongwoo.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers against Dongwoo’s wet cheeks. “I’m sorry I didn’t notice. I’ll pay more attention from now on, I promise.”
Dongwoo sobs more and more helplessly, his body vibrating from it, and when his lips find Woohyun’s, Woohyun feels something flow out of him and something else take its place, and he couldn’t name either one, but he knows they’re big, wider and deeper than the ocean and its tides. Dongwoo is crying too hard to kiss with much finesse, and Woohyun knows there’s as much snot streaking Dongwoo’s face as tears, and this is never something Woohyun (allowed himself any) thought about, but it doesn’t matter: it’s Dongwoo, so it’s right. He lets Dongwoo set the pace of the kissing, determine each new shift of intimacy, just kissing back enough that Dongwoo knows he’s there and that this is okay with Woohyun. He’s not passive; he’s just accepting (he has to be, because Dongwoo is always the accepting one).
When Dongwoo starts squirming in his arms, whining into Woohyun’s mouth, Woohyun somehow knows that that means that Dongwoo wants him to touch him in a different way than he already is, and Woohyun does, because he knows at this moment that there’s nothing he wouldn’t give Dongwoo. Anything Dongwoo wants—even the things he won’t allow himself to ask for—Woohyun will find a way to give him (how could he not? This is Dongwoo).
Woohyun is a light sleeper, so he wakes up when he hears Sungyeol moving around in the other room, but he doesn’t move, doesn’t loosen his arms around Dongwoo, not even when Sungyeol stumbles out with his hair looking like he just survived a tornado. Sungyeol starts on his every-morning beeline to his coffee maker, but he jerks to a stop, swaying a bit, as he takes in the sight of Woohyun and Dongwoo tangled up on the couch together, Dongwoo drooling on Woohyun’s chest and Woohyun’s arms protectively around Dongwoo. Sungyeol’s half-eyebrows rise, but Woohyun meets his gaze almost defiantly, and Sungyeol just shrugs and turns back to the kitchen (and that’s one of the things Woohyun likes most about Sungyeol: he isn’t judgmental about things because he just doesn’t think they’re his business unless they affect him).
Woohyun wants to let Dongwoo sleep forever, till the skin under his eyes loses all trace of darkness, till all the emotions he carries are melt away to the simple-hearted happiness that makes everyone love him (that makes Woohyun love him). But as Sungyeol heads back into his room, Woohyun shakes Dongwoo awake anyway, watching his face as he blinks blearily, loosening his arms (but not letting go) so Dongwoo can stretch himself awake, and when he’s finally aware of the world around him (it takes an endearingly long time) he looks up into Woohyun’s face and blushes, eyes dropping.
Woohyun kisses him to reassure him (that last night was okay, that Woohyun still thinks he’s wonderful even after—especially after—seeing his weaker side, that they’re going to be like this from now on) but mostly just because he wants to, and the little sigh Dongwoo releases against his lips does things to Woohyun that he can’t begin to understand (but he accepts them: this is Dongwoo).
(Woohyun finds it very easy to pay attention after that.)