Ryeowook didn't like Shindong that much. He didn't actually hate the other though, but there was always this scary feeling that would creep up inside of him, starting from his toes and unto the deepest pit of his stomach. Like he was scared that if he disrespected or stood up or treated the other indifferently, there was this 50-50 chance that he'd be eaten or gobbled up. Shindong did remind him of the big, slimy, green monster in the Ghost Busters reruns that he had watched with Yesung the other night around.
He saw Shindong as a bull; a person who had a tough attitude and a sense of authority upon him, like the bully who had stolen his Pokemon cards when he was in the fifth grade. The kind who'd pick up fights and beat you up for no apparent reason, which was hard for Ryeowook, who hated fighting.
And so he kept his distance, not minding or even bothering Shindong once. But all that changed when an infectious disease spread-- or in both their cases,a fortunate happening.
Ee Teuk walked towards the studio, flashing everyone he saw that winning smile of his. People he'd pass in the hallway, however, looked back at him with a pitiful, worried look etched all over their faces, the kind of look his mother gave him when he got infected with the chicken pox when he was a three-year-old.
The leader continued walking though, not paying any mind to the concerned looks of the people.
"Good- ah-ah-ah-choo! - morning, everyone!" Ee teuk greeted his members as he reached the studio.
"Good morning, hyung," Ryeowook greeted warmly.
"Morning, Teukie," Siwon replied, flashing the elder his big-watt smile.
And yet this expression changed when Ee teuk sat beside Siwon, the younger seeing their leader's face up close.
"Are you ill, Teukie?" Siwon asked, concerned, tucking a strand of the leader's hair behind hi sear.
"No, I'm not. I just feel a little lightheaded."
The rest of the members looked unconvincingly at Ee teuk.
"I'm fine," he replied, waving his hand, a sign to drop the matter, which the other members didn't actually get.
"You're a bit hot," Siwon told him, feeling the older's forehead.
"I guess, cough, so."
Heechul then moved towards Ee Teuk. "I think you have the heepapajibeez."
"The heepapa-what?" Siwon asked, raising his eyebrows in confusion.
"The heepapajibeez. It's a disease accompanied by cough, sneezing, fever and muscle pain," he replied in a matter-of-fact tone, like he was the smartest person in the world and was talking to a bunch of mongoloids.
"You mean the flu?"
"No, no, no. The heepapajibeez. My mother taught me that word when I was seven," he told them proudly.
"It's the flu," Siwon told the rest of the members amusingly.
Kangin chuckled at his friends' antics then turned to look at Ee teuk. "You think you can work today, Ee Teuk?"
"Well, if you insist. And 4, 3, 2, 1. Today's radio show is now starting..."
The staff was kind enough to give them a break before starting another round of talking, broadcasting, and singing.
Ee Teuk strode along the building to pass the time-- since Siwon had wanted to stay and laugh at Eunhyuk and Heechul's antics instead of being with him-- when he passes Ryeowook on the hallway.
"Hello, ah-choo!, Wookie."
"Are you all right, hyung?" the younger asked, concern and worry etched all over his face.
Ee Teuk chuckled. "I've just about had it with those looks. I'm fine. It's just the hippopotamus."
"I mean, the heepapabubba. No, that's not the word...the heeholajubus? No, that's not the word, either," the leader started, racking his brains for the right word.
"Um, I think it's the heepapa-- ah-ah-AH-CHOO!!!" he sneezed, the full force of the sneeze sending him jump one space back, and sending some partciles of the beef kebab he had eaten at lunch fly towards Ryeowook.
"Ohhhh." Ryeowook groaned, looking at his newly-bought, white shirt, now stained with mucus and phlegm and beef kebab.
"Sorry." Ee Teuk apologized, smiling that innocent smile which could make him get away with even the fugliest of all fugly crimes.
It was midinght and Ryeowook couldn't fall asleep. He turned and tossed in bed, his whole body aching exremely. He had tried everything; drinking milk, surfing the internet, listening to their records, and probably everything there was to do in the house. He didn't wake any of his fellow members though, not wanting to be of any disturbance to them.
And so after he had done everything, he simply lay down on his bed, staring at the ceiling, waiting for time to pass.
"I'm not feeling well."
"What do you mean?" Yesung asked, turning to look at the other. They were in their studio, practicing their Don't Don dance steps for the upcoming Korean expo next week.
"I feel a little ill. I didn't sleep all night. My body hurts so much."
"Why didn't you tell me?" the older replied, reaching out for Ryeowook's hand. "I could've stayed up with you."
"I didn't want to disturb any of you," he replied meekly.
"Do you thnik you can hadnle this?" Yesung asked, eyes full of worry.
"I--I think so." And then he hoped and prayed inside of him that he still had the muscle and body strength to go on through the day.
And 5, 6, 7, 8!" The music blared loudly from the speakers.
Their voices from the Don't Don record began playing. Kangin, Donghae and Siwon were up fornt, dancing to the beat so that everyone could follow them.
"Don't! Don! Modeun ge don sesang, won ane gadhin nuh, what is your mind. And 5,6,7, is everyone following?" Kangin asked, turning to look at the other members.
Ryeowook simply stood there, trying to follow the sequence of the dance steps, yet failing every time. His mind wasn't working. His whole body ached so much that he didn't want to move. Every simple thing like jumping had to be done with all his strength, making him feel more tired. He tried dancing and following everyone's steps but that only resulted in bumping Kyuhyun and the people in the back.
"I'm sorry," he would repeatedly apologize. Ryeowook sighed eeply. He couldn't go on with this. His head was spinning and he couldn't see straight.
Kangin suddenly stopped the music, and then Siwon walked towards one of the youngest members. "Are you all right, Ryeowook?" he asked, concern written all over his face. He stepped forward, not giving Ryeowook a chance to reply, and then placed his palm on the other's forehead. "God, Ryeowook, you're burning hot!"
"You prolly got infected with Ee Teuk's heepapajibeez," Heechul told him.
"I--I'm sorry," he said, lowering his eyes to the ground.
Siwon chuckled. "There's nothing wrong in getting infected with the flu, Ryeowook. You don't have to apologize. But one thing is for sure, though. You won't be joining practice today."
"But--but...," the younger protested.
"No buts. We don't want you to feel any more worse, Wookie."
The other sighed and looked at the rest of the members' worried faces. "All right. But I'll stay here and watch you guys rehearse."
And so he sat in a corner, Indian-style, trying and memorizing the steps in his head.
After an hour though, he decided to leave the room for a little while, since his head was already splitting into two, and he felt like he could throw up because his head was spinning and he couldn't see nor think straight, what with all the loud, blaring music and the fast movements.
And with that, Ryeowook walked out of the room, covering his mouth to prevent vomiting in the hallways.
Now everyone had taken a break for a little while and Shindong exited the room, looking for something to eat. His stomach grumbled and complained for the ongoing hours of practice with no food on his stomach.
"Don't worry, tummy. We're going to get some food soon," he said, patting his own stomach.
He was about to turn around a corner when he lifted his head and saw a young man was leaning on the wall at the top of the staircase, alone and staring out into space. Shindong recognized it as Ryeowook.
"Wookie?" he called out gently.
The younger man instinctively turned, but he was slow to respond. Shindong took in the other's glassy eyed appearance as the other squinted and tried to focus.
“Who....” Ryeowook drifted off and his eyes momentarily rolled back. The older’s senses were blaring in warning. Before he knew it, his body responded; rushing forward up the stairs for Ryeowook’s rapidly collapsing body.
He managed to get a hold of the other just before his body could hit the floor and Shindong’s foothold slipped down a few steps down the stairs. He could hear his own heartbeat thudding so loudly in his ears; he thought he might be going deaf. His muscles felt like they were on fire struggling with the dead weight, perched at the odd and precarious angle. His left knee throbbed in pain from when his knee banged the stairs.
He had never been in a situation like this before, and he was racking his mind on what to do. Why did he always had to be stuck in situations like this?
"Oh, God, help," he mumbled.
Suddenly, the crazy idea of bringing Ryeowook home without telling the others appeared in the mind of Shindong, and without permission from the others, he rushed, carrying Ryeowook in his arms.
The elder looked at Ryeowook's vibrant face affectionately at the other who was comfortably sleeping and softly breathing. Shindong had just given the other a lukewarm, sponge bath while the other was unconscious. The younger's temperature had finally lowered down which was a good sign. Now all he was waiting for was for the other to wake up.
Darkness. Everything was pitch black. He didn't want to open his eyes. Not yet.
He couldn't remember anything that happened earlier, except for him losing consciousness and fainting, but then someone had caught him. And he owed that someone a big favor.
Suddenly, he felt someone feel his forehead and give a relieved sigh.
"Unnh," he groaned, trying to say real words, but was having a hard time.
"Don't worry. I'm here," a deep male voice said.
He tried opening his eyes, but all that came was a blurred face of a man, watching over him.
"Thank you," he heard himself whisper, eyes half open. And with that, he drifted back to sleep.
Ryeowook walked into the dining room of their dorm the next morning, feeling oh-so-refreshed and good, thanks to that one person who had taken car of him yesterday.
"Good morning, everyone!" he greeted.
"Morning, Wookie! How are you feeling?" Eunhyuk asked, a smile pasted on his face.
"I'm pretty fine," he replied.
"That's pretty obvious," Kangin commented, taking a sip of his coffee.
Ryeowook sat with the rest of the members when he noticed that someone was missing."Where's Shindong?"
"He's still in bed." Kibum replied bluntly.
"At this time?" the other asked, looking at the wall clock, seeing that it was already 9:00 in the morning.
"He got infected by the flu while taking care of you yesterday," Siwon informed the younger.
"What do you mean 'Shindong got infected by the flu because he looked after me'?"
"Don't you remember anything that happened yesterday? You collapsed. Shindong caught you, brought you home, and took care of you."
"You--you mean it was Shindong was the one who watched over me yesterday?"
The others nodded.
"Shindong? Shindong? Big and fat, Shindong???"
"Shindong's not fat. He's just...round," Heechul replied.
Oh, Lord, help, Ryeowook thought to himself, why him of all people?
"Why don't you go over there, thank him, and bring him some of my chicken soup?" Hankyung suggested.
"Because you at least owe it to him, Ryeowook."
"I...I guess I do."
And with that, the other walked off, Hankyung's special chicken soup in hand.
"Are you still asleep?"
The other grunted in reply.
Ryeowook slowly made his way towards the side of Shindong's bed and knelt down.
"I brought you some of Hankyung's chicken soup."
Shindong turned his head to face the man who was bothering him, but then smiled gently when he realized that the man was Ryeowook.
"Thank you," he said politely.
"No! I mean, it should be me who should be thanking you. It's my fault you're feeling like this, and I never had a chance to thank you yesterday."
The elder smiled at Ryeowook's honesty. "That was nothing."
"No!" the other protested. "That meant a lot to me. So, thank you."
The other closed his eyes, a soft smile on his lips.
Ryeowook watched the older, and then he smiled to himself and thought that maybe, Shindong wasn't that bad after all.
And it all started with Teukie's "ah-ah-ah-choo!"
Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.