Chapter 1: Welcome to Bang Chan's Therapy Club!
He was a super senior in high school, and he wanted to make a difference. Therapy always made a difference, he thought. Right?
"Right," Woojin agreed. Chan listened to almost anything Woojin said--and it worked in the reverse, too. Chan and Woojin were the kind of bad influence neither one of them needed, but the good vibes they gave each other saved their lives from time to time, so they never split.
"Thanks for coming," Chan announced on Day One of Bang Chan's Therapy Club. Woojin was the only one in the audience.
"We could make this work just the two of us." Woojin tried to encourage. Chan rolled his eyes, amusement on his lips, "And-- what? Discuss the things we already know about each other?"
"Or we could order pizza." Woojin suggested. Chan shrugged, and actually pulled out his phone to do so. He and Woojin made themselves (as) comfortable (as they could) against the brick wall of the back of their school, as it was the only private place with which to hold a therapeutic session (and that wasn't even working out). The two added all the toppings they wanted and gathered all the money they had in their pockets. They were a few bills short.
"Should we cancel it?"
"We could charm our way into getting a discount."
"What if we get a pizza guy, not a pizza girl?"
"That doesn't work on guys."
Someone rounded the corner, at that moment -- a kid Chan had seen around. He stood still for a moment, as Chan and Woojin looked at him. Chan pointed him out, then, an idea coming to mind, "Do you want pizza with-- like-- every topping in the world on it?"
"Uh--? I thought this was a therapy thing. Am I in the wrong place?"
"Oh, no-- it's supposed to be a therapy group. But no one really showed up. Do you want pizza?"
"Is there anything spicy on it?"
"No. Woojin here would die."
"Okay. Then, uh-- sure."
"How much money do you have?"
"Uh--?" the kid reached into his pocket and pulled out a few bills, "Not much?"
"It's-- literally the perfect amount. Can we have it? For the pizza, of course."
"You, my friend, are incredible." Chan got up, took the bills from him, and gestured him to gather himself and sit with them. The kid did-- sat in front of them, with his legs crossed awkwardly, and his bag lazily piled next to him. Chan slid back against the wall, "It'll be here in twenty minutes. Until then-- what's your name?"
"Uh. I'm Changbin. Seo Changbin."
"I'm Bang Chan. This is Kim Woojin. To be honest, we don't have much planned for this therapy session." Chan said. Woojin spoke, too, "We were going to do introductions but there are only three of us and we can't really introduce ourselves for the next fifty minutes."
"Unless we want to talk about why we're here." Chan said. All three of them had an outward aversion to that, which had all three of them laughing, then; and Chan decided to switch it up, "Okay, okay. How about we talk, like... I don't know. What do you like, Changbin?"
"Music. My boyfriend, sometimes," Changbin laughed, "He should be coming, actually. He wanted to be emotional support for me, or something like that... but he's trying to drag his best friend along, too, 'cause he's got it pretty bad--"
A shout around the corner interrupted-- "Han Jisung I don't even speak Korean that well -- I am not joining Korean therapy!"
"That's them," Changbin laughed. Two boys rounded the corner-- first, one stumbled into sight (must have been pushed); then another followed. The first kid's face was tinted red-- angry for a moment, and embarrased in the next. The second kid got a firm hit to the chest as the first kid whirled around and stuck a palm to him.
"I hate you. Changbin, I hate your boyfriend," the angry kid turned to Woojin and Chan, and his demeanor changed entirely. He waved softly, showing that embarrassed part of his flushed face, "Hi. I-- I'm Lee Felix."
"I'm Han Jisung," the second kid said, rubbing his chest with one hand, and waving with the other.
"I'm Bang Chan. This is Kim Woojin. We ordered a pizza. It'll be here in fifteen minutes."
"Whoa, really? Can we have some?" Jisung asked, plopping down next to Changbin and leaning over against him. Changbin already had an arm out for him.
"Of course. But only if you make yourself comfortable and tell us why you're here. Or what you're into. Something introductory."
"I'm here for these two," Jisung said, gesturing between Changbin and a newly sitting Felix. Felix glared at Jisung for a brief moment, and turned to Chan and Woojin, and told them, "Jisung dragged me here."
"You know, you have to have some team spirit if you want pizza," Chan teased. Half of Felix's lips smiled, and he fired back, "I am severely messed up in the head and therefore I need therapy."
"That's more like it."
"I can already tell this is going to be a wild ride," Changbin said, kicking a leg over Jisung's, "Did you two start this group as, like, a joke or something?"
"Not really. But neither one of us has a serious bone in our body." Chan said. He looked at Woojin, who just nodded along. He told them, "We honestly want to help, but... we can't even help ourselves. We were hoping we'd rope in enough good spirits to kind of-- uh-- help us guide the group."
"We're not going to be able to do that." Changbin said. He gestured briefly at Jisung and Felix, "These two crackheads? No help at all. Me? Even worse."
"Then we're going to be the worst therapy group ever," Chan concluded; and they all laughed, their volume a little higher than Woojin's, "Hopefully we can figure out how to help each other, though."
By the time the pizza came, and Woojin had traveled all the way to the front of the school to get it, a new kid had come by the club. He was breathless and he bowed once for each person sitting around (so, four times), and he asked, "Is this the-- the therapy-- thing? Did I-- did I miss it?"
"No. You didn't miss pizza, either. Have a seat." Chan said, gesturing vaguely to the ground next to Changbin, Jisung, and Felix. The kid looked, and Chan thought he might be opposed to sitting on the ground. He shrugged off his hoodie, told the kid-- "Hey--" and tossed it to him when he had his attention. The kid quirked an eyebrow, and Chan gestured again, "So you don't have to sit on the ground."
"Oh. Oh, no, it's okay--"
"No, no, sit. It's alright."
The kid sat without sitting on Chan's jacket. He left it bunched up in his lap instead, both of his arms wrapped around it. Chan smiled; and he asked the kid, gently, "What's your name?"
"Are you a freshman?" Chan asked. Jeongin nodded, and Chan wanted to coo at him--but he didn't. Instead, he introduced himself, "I'm Bang Chan. This is Felix-- Lee Felix, right? Yeah. And Jisung. What's your last name again? Han. Han Jisung. And Seo Changbin. And the guy you're going to see carrying a pizza to us in a minute or two here is Kim Woojin."
"Nice to meet you," Jeongin said happily, looking at all four of them. He worked his bottom lip between his teeth. Chan tried to ease his nerves, asking, "Do you want to tell us why you're here? Or-- something about yourself?"
"I, uh-- I'm sorry I'm late. I-I had a writing club for the first half of lunch."
"So you haven't eaten, then?"
"Perfect. Pizza's coming."
And, in the next couple of seconds, pizza came. Woojin rounded the corner with the pizza in his hand. He was also carrying a 2-liter soda, which he explained when he was close enough, "We were lucky-- got a woman, and I charmed her into giving me a soda. You're welcome."
They gathered in a circle around the pizza. Chan opened up the box while Woojin opened up the soda. Chan was the first to snag some pizza-- Changbin and Jisung next. Felix hesitated, but Jisung picked one up for him; and Woojin finally got to it after taking a sip of the soda and offering some to Chan. It was in Chan's hand, and he had just gulped down a bit when he noticed Jeongin hadn't moved.
"Aren't you hungry, kid?"
"Huh? Oh, but I didn't pay for this."
"We did, though, and we want you to have some." Woojin said.
"Are-- are you sure?"
"Of course," Chan said, pushing the pizza box in his direction. Jeongin took a smaller slice, and slowly nibbled on it. None of them talked much. Actually, none of them really talked at all-- except Jisung asking if he could have some soda and Changbin laughing at him for spilling some down his front.
"Do you guys want to talk about anything?" Chan asked. Silence. "Or we could plan something for next time?"
"Let's plan for next time." Woojin said. No one had any ideas, though. They sat around and thought a bit. They all hesitated to reach for the last two pieces of pizza in the box. Chan offered them a piece individually, but they all told Woojin and Chan to take them--as they'd paid for most of it, anyway. Woojin did. Chan genuinely did not want that last piece of pizza. Jeongin refused to take it, and Felix didn't particularly like the pizza in the first place. Jisung was full. Changbin was on a diet. (Jesus Christ.)
"Hey!" Woojin said suddenly, and they all turned to him. He was pointing at a kid that was walking by. He was on his phone, and he stopped, startled, at the shout. Woojin gestured him over, "Come here. You want a piece of pizza?"
"Really? Sure," the kid said. Woojin held up the box, and he took the slice. Then, he sat, and he asked, "What's happening here?" as he took a bite.
"This is Bang Chan's Therapy Club. Welcome."
"Therapy Club? I didn't know our school had a Therapy Club," the kid said--through a mouthful of pizza. Chan shrugged, "I just started it today."
"Is it open to join?"
"Yeah. Only entry fee-- tell us your name."
And then they had seven. (Honestly, that was better than Bang Chan expected.)
"We're talking about what we should do next time," Changbin thought to say. His mouth was hidden behind his hand. Chan thought there might be something in his teeth, but he kept talking, "Because we didn't actually do anything today. Except eat pizza."
"We could eat pizza again next time. This is really good." Minho said. Chan liked him.
"We should talk about something, though." Chan said. He tapped his fingers against his lap, and had an idea, "Let's define depression next week."
"How mad would you be if I memorized the dictionary definition of depression and recited it next week?" Minho asked. Chan amused; he really liked Minho.
"Probably not very, because I don't know the dictionary definition and I don't think I would recognize it." Chan said. Minho shrugged; that was fair enough.
"Should we write it down? We could keep it anonymous."
"Yeah. That's a good idea," Chan said. Woojin always had good ideas.
"I'll bring some paper next week and we can define depression in our own ways. Then we can talk about it, I guess." Woojin said, looking at Chan, and everyone else. "Sound good?"
The vote was unanimous, "Sounds good."
Chapter 2: The Second Monday
tw talk about depression (personal definitions)
"Alright. Define depression."
There was a new kid sitting with them, by the name of Hwang Hyunjin. He was in dance club with Minho, the two explained, and he became interested in the therapy club after hearing about the pizza. Minho and Hyunjin weren't friends, really; but they only had each other when it came to breaks in dancing, so they talked briefly from time to time.
"I have no idea what the actual definition of depression is," Hyunjin said through a mouthful of pizza. Chan laughed, "Define what it means to you, I mean. What do you think depression is?"
Hyunjin nodded, snapping his fingers around his pencil. He leaned over and scribbled some words on the paper, and he folded it up and tossed it in Chan's direction. Then, he paused-- "Wait, are you reading them?"
"Yes." Chan said, and Hyunjin held up his thumb briefly. Chan finished writing his definition next. Changbin and Woojin tossed theirs up at the same time. Minho, then Jisung, then Felix, then Jeongin; and Chan gathered all the papers in his hand and began to shuffle them around. Chan opened up the first one and read it, "Depression is constant and severe dejection. It can also mean a decline in an economy or market-- Minho, you seriously memorized the definition?"
"I thought this was anonymous!" Minho said, his mouth dropping open in offense, a laugh falling out between words. Everyone else was cracking up, too-- save Hyunjin, who seemed to be contemplating. (He was an airhead, is what Chan had concluded; because he had that dumb kind of contemplative look where, with just a glance, it was so obvious he was thinking up something kind of stupid--and horribly hilarious, if he decided to share.)
"It's anonymous unless you tell us exactly what you're going to write," Chan said, and Minho rolled his eyes-- "Well, I guess. Honestly, though, depression doesn't mean anything to me. Depression is a piece of shit. We have a very unhealthy relationship, depression and I. She's got no meaning to me."
"Meaning doesn't have to be good," Woojin reminded.
"Meaning has some significance and effect on a person, though. Depression doesn't have shit on me."
That turned some smiles down, in a contemplative way. Hyunjin still had that dumb aspect to his expression; but Chan had a feeling he hadn't quite moved on from his first thought. He wondered, "Hyunjin. What's on your mind?"
"What does depression have to do with the economy? Like-- is depression that powerful? A whole economy can be depressed?"
Those smiles turned back up, and with them came volumes of laughter. Minho flopped onto his back, and smacked Hyunjin's arm a couple times as he laughed. Hyunjin laughed, too, but only because everyone else was laughing. (Chan liked Hyunjin.)
"Alright, alright, next one," Chan said, bringing everyone to a calm. He opened up the next slip, and read it out, "Depression is a part of me. I've always had it, and I think I always will. I think I might have even been born with it, because I never remember feeling different than I do now."
Chan cleared his throat, and thought, since he outed Minho, he might as well confess, "This one is mine."
"You let depression consume you like that?" Hyunjin asked. A fist hit his shoulder, and his head whipped around in that direction, with a frown and a "What was that for?" though it wasn't pointed at anyone, because he had no idea who hit him. (Chan didn't, either.)
Chan laughed, "I didn't really let it, it just did. I was too young to fight it off, and I haven't quite figured out, like... how to, yet."
No one else said anything. Chan moved on, reading out the brief, "Depression is an asshole.
"Well, I think we can all agree with that one;" Chan looked up, wondering if anyone would claim it, or comment on it. No one did, so he moved on, "I don't know depression well. To me, depression is a side effect of what I truly am-- which is anxious, and scared. Depression could define how I feel, but it doesn't. No doctor has ever put that label on me, so I don't want to, either."
Chan looked at the group, "Anyone want to claim this one? Talk about it?"
Suddenly, everyone seemed too shy to confess, or discuss. Chan moved on, "Depression is a drug;" and he frowned, "Huh. I'm curious about this one. Anyone?"
No one. Chan rephrased, "Anyone want to talk about it, then?"
"Like... an addiction? To depression? Why?" Minho wondered. No one seemed to be able to come up with anything. Chan looked around, and tried to read any faces -- but stopped after a moment, and decided that wasn't fair. It was anonymous. He shouldn't cheat and try to guess the owner of the words.
"Depression replaced my dad," Chan said, reading the next slip. He glanced briefly at Woojin, thinking that might be his. Woojin gave him a knowing look, but didn't confess to writing it.
"Wait, depression replaced someone's dad? Like-- was the dad an asshole like depression is, or...?" Hyunjin wondered. Chan glanced in Woojin's direction, and made a subtle suggestion, "Maybe it actually means -- uh -- depression came when... this guy's dad left?"
"Oh," Hyunjin said; and, again, contemplation fell over the group. Chan looked at Woojin again as he was tucking the paper away. Woojin smiled softly at him.
"Two more," Chan said, and picked one up, "Depression is a label that people use too often for other things. I don't think I'm depressed. I think I feel sad sometimes, maybe too often. But I'm doing alright."
Chan liked that. I'm doing alright. Hyunjin wondered, "What are you doing here, then?" and another fist went flying at his shoulder, except Chan saw that it was Minho this time. Hyunjin still didn't catch the culprit.
"Last one," Chan muttered, and opened it up, "Depression is constant sadness, mostly for no reason at all."
"That sounds pretty close to the actual definition," Jisung noted after a silent moment. Felix snickered. His cheeks had gone a little pink, and Chan wondered if he'd written it. When he leaned over to whisper something to Jisung, Chan was curious, but he didn't ask.
"That was it," Chan said, setting all the papers aside. He had nothing else planned, so he asked, "Any thoughts?"
"Are all of us depressed? Is that why we're here?" Hyunjin asked, looking around. The quiet hung around the group, and Chan confessed, again, "I'm depressed."
"I am, too. Mine's not clinical, but I got a diagnosis." Hyunjin said. He moved to lay on his stomach, elbows against the concrete, chin in palm, "Is anyone else depressed? I'm curious."
No one else confessed to depression. Hyunjin shrugged, "To each their own," and he sat up again. He looked at Chan, "What now, boss?"
Boss. Chan snickered at that one; Minho and Changbin did, too. Chan shrugged, because he didn't know. He wondered, "You guys want to talk about something else?"
"Something less depressing?" Changbin suggested, and Chan nodded, "I was thinking so."
They fell into talking about anything. Jeongin talked briefly about his math club; Changbin talked about art. Jisung bragged about how Changbin was so good at art, and Felix told him to shut up halfway through--and then they got into a little fight, which seemed to happen often, if Changbin's reaction was anything to go by (a roll of his eyes, and a move of his position so that he was between the two). They were laughing a moment later, though; and they must have had little fights like that all the time. They must have been playful; Chan just didn't know them well enough to detect their tension, yet.
Woojin and Chan told the others their story, briefly--about how they'd always been friends and they were troublemakers. They didn't reveal everything. Hyunjin talked about dancing, and drawing, and how he wasn't good but he wanted to be. He asked if Changbin would help him. Changbin asked why Hyunjin trusted his drawing skills if he'd never seen them. Hyunjin shrugged, "I've been wanting to trust someone for a while and I figured here was a good place to start."
Minho talked about dance, too, and told them he would dance around the neighborhood to avoid going home. He didn't tell anyone why, and no one asked him. They all seemed to hint at things through the rest of the hour--but nothing was too telling, and by the end of the day, there was no thought or comment that anyone had held onto.
Chapter 3: The Fifth Monday
tw more talk about depression
"We've talked a lot about depression so far, because that's all I personally know, but I know very few of us are here for depression specifically. Tell me why you're here. As long or as short as you want."
The eight of them began to scribble away immediately. Chan had five pieces of paper in front of him when a boy rounded the corner, and stopped next to the group. Chan looked at him, and told him, with a gentle smile, "I hope you're here for therapy, because we were too poor for pizza this week."
"Um? Uh. This-- this is the Therapy Club, right?"
"It is." Chan said. He gestured to the eight boys in front of him-- who, for the most part, were looking at this new kid, "And this is all of us. What's your name?"
"Seungmin," Chan repeated. He handed him a piece of paper, and let him use his pen, "Tell us why you're here."
Seungmin sat down, and began to write. He was the last one to hand Chan his paper. Chan shuffled up all the papers, and, as he did, explained to Seungmin, "We don't have much of a structure, honestly. And we're still trying to figure out how to help each other. We figured talking was good enough, because none of us are in any position to really help one another. So we share little bits of information anonymously and we talk about it, sometimes. Sometimes we don't. If you ever want to claim a statement as yours, just let me know."
Seungmin nodded along. Chan knew he'd catch on quick, if there was any part he didn't understand. He opened up the first paper, and read it, "I like you losers."
"What a way to welcome a new member," Woojin commented, laughing. Changbin shrugged, "It's true."
"Did you write it?" Chan asked, and Changbin pursed his lips for a moment, and confessed, "I did. Am I wrong?"
No one could disagree with him; they were all losers. Chan picked up the next paper, opened it up, and read it, "I use this group as a cry for help. I've always felt stranded on my own, and I really hope I can make at least one friend here. Maybe I'm desperate, and I hope I don't sound like I'm using any of you because I'm not. I'd love to help you just as much as I hope someone can help me. I already really like you guys, even though I haven't known any of you for very long. Thank you all for accepting me into this group."
"That's so sweet," Hyunjin said, faking like he was emotional and dramatically wiping a fake tear from his eye. Minho rolled his eyes hard enough to have everyone laughing; and Woojin made a comment, "We really are losers."
Chan picked up the next paper-- "I have a lot of fun here. It's the most fun I've ever had at school, and it makes the week tolerable."
"We made a good call on Mondays." Woojin said, with an I told you so undertone in his voice. Chan had originally wanted the group to be on Fridays, but-- "Do you know how many people leave at lunch on Fridays? Even we do that sometimes, Chan. Let's do Mondays."
The next one was Chan's-- "I'm a super senior. I was held back in my sophomore year because my best friend and I hated school, and never went. I wanted to improve myself, and be a good influence to people that have strong feelings like mine. I want to help some kids out--" and he confessed to it being his after he read it. He got some heartfelt noises, and Changbin muttered, "That's really sweet."
"I also want to make you guys comfortable. I hope we start getting some more confessions pretty soon," Chan teased. He eyes flitted over Jisung, and Felix, who had been pretty quiet in their meetings thus far. He didn't look at them for long, though; he respected their choice to fade into the background (hopefully, only for a short time).
"I came for the pizza," Chan read, and broke into laughter for a moment before he could continue, "--but I stayed because no one judges me for once in my life and I really appreciate that. I feel kind of free here."
"That's the goal." Woojin mentioned. No one confessed to that one. Chan had a feeling it was either Minho, or Hyunjin. (Probably Hyunjin. He didn't speculate further, though.)
"I was honestly just really curious," the next slip said. Hyunjin hummed, "I was too, actually. I was curious when Minho told me, because therapy in school sounded like it would either be really serious or-- something like this."
"Are you glad it was this?" Chan asked, and Hyunjin nodded, "Yes."
"If it was serious at all, I wouldn't even be here." Minho mentioned.
"I don't think any of us would," Chan laughed. He opened up the next slip, and laughed all the way through saying-- "Han Jisung made me."
"Felix!" Jisung said, kicking a leg out to hit Felix's hip with the heel of his foot. Felix yelped, and reached over to slap Jisung's thigh. Changbin separated the two before they could get any more childish hits in. Everyone laughed at the two, who were pointing accusingly at each other, bickering like always. Changbin hushed them both-- kissed Jisung once, and rubbed Felix's back.
"Animals," Hyunjin muttered playfully. Felix frowned, and reached over to slap his thigh, too. Hyunjin was left with a shocked expression about his face -- which everyone laughed at until Chan read the next card, "I'm here to support my best friend."
Chan didn't feel bad about pointing Woojin out-- with a wink and a finger gun, because the message wasn't personal to the point of needing anonymity, and anyone could have guessed it. Woojin winked back, and made a finger gun back, and Chan laughed as he was reading the next message, his laughter dying halfway through, "I wanted to find courage to share my secrets, because no one knows anything about me."
"No one knows anything--? That's kind of depressing." Hyunjin said. Minho scoffed, "We're kind of depressing, Hyunjin."
"Well-- yeah, I know, but--" Hyunjin gestured around, "There are so many people in the world, and no one knows him? How-- how do you even manage to hide yourself?"
"Sometimes people don't pay attention, hyung." Jeongin said softly, playing with his fingers, "Sometimes people fade into the background because they don't have enough courage to be themselves.... Maybe that's what that person meant."
"Was that you, baby?" Hyunjin asked. Jeongin shook his head, "No. But, I -- I can sympathize with them, a little bit."
Some silence fell over the group. That was the last paper, and Chan set it aside. He folded his hands in his lap, and asked, "Does anyone want to say anything else?"
"I hope that last person grows some balls and talks to us." Hyunjin said. Minho reached over and slapped his shoulder, and Hyunjin whipped his head around with offense written on his expression, "What was that for?"
"You're so rude!" Minho said, "Grow some balls is not a good synonym for gain some courage, you insensitive ass."
"Was that you or something?" Hyunjin asked. Minho shook his head, scoffing, "No, but you're going to scare him off."
"I'm sorry. If that was you, without the balls--" and Hyunjin laughed as he was hit again. Everyone else was laughing, too. Hyunjin reached over and pat Minho's knee, "Hey. I'm joking. I'm sorry. I'm just-- making him comfortable, you know?"
"You're still an ass." Minho said. Hyunjin shrugged. Chan grabbed the attention again, "Anything else? Maybe just a little nicer, this time."
"I like you guys." Jeongin said softly, a smile about his mouth, "I-- I really like to be here."
"We like you too, baby." Hyunjin said, nudging Jeongin's knee, "You're fun to have around. Our baby freshman."
"Anyone want to go get lunch?" Changbin asked, his watch in front of his face, "We've got about half an hour left and if we go fast, we could make it down the street."
"What's down the street?" Jeongin asked as Changbin was standing-- as Felix and Jisung followed. Changbin looked at Jisung for a moment, and back at everyone else, and shrugged, "You'll have to come along to find out."
The rest of them scampered to their feet and ran along, their only concern falling to money-- hoping there was a cheap menu that their little coins could cover.
Chapter 4: The Seventh Monday
tw talk about a few things that could land someone in therapy
"Paint me a picture."
Everyone had a piece of paper and various markers in front of them. Chan had managed to snag some clipboards from some of his friendly teachers so they each had a smooth surface to draw upon. Felix was absent-- "He has to make up a math test," Jisung let them know.
"A picture of what?"
"Show me -- why you're struggling, or why you're still holding on."
Chan gave them ten minutes, in which time he played some music and also drew his picture. He wasn't much of an artist-- hated to draw, actually, but for the sake of the group, he did. He had everyone fold their pictures up and pass them to him. He placed them on the ground and shuffled them around carefully, and picked one out when he felt they had been jumbled enough that no one knew which paper belonged to who.
"Okay," Chan unfolded the first paper, and looked at it for a moment, deciphering it. Then, he held it to the group. The stick figures were a mess, but it was hard to miss the way one had a fist raised, the way the other was cowering in fear.
"I didn't actually have much of a plan for discussion today," Chan realized. "Does anyone want to claim this picture? Tell us about it?"
No one said anything. Chan had another idea, "Or-- we could try to interpret it?"
"Does someone get beat up?" Hyunjin asked, pointing toward the picture, "Is that someone's dad? Someone gets beat up by their dad, I think."
"That was my first thought, too." Chan said, looking at the picture. The stick figure didn't resemble anyone-- had no identifying marks that could tie him to someone in the group. Chan turned to the boys again, "Does anyone want to claim this one?"
No one did. Chan set the picture aside, and picked up the next one. He turned it to the group; and they stared at the round head with a zipper over his mouth. They stared at the empty eyes and the stooped eyebrows. Minho said, "Someone doesn't have a voice."
"Or someone feels silenced. Repressed, maybe?" Chan speculated. He looked at the group, "Anyone?"
"It's, um--" Jeongin started quietly. He faltered when too many people looked at him, but Chan encouraged him, "It's okay, Jeongin. Go ahead."
"I-I don't get to talk to many people... about anything...." Jeongin turned his eyes down, and fiddled his fingers. He continued after a beat, "And-- I guess-- honestly, I'm not really-- um-- depressed--? I'm just... anxious. And scared. I feel like, uh, like no one loves me-- or cares...."
"You have us now." Hyunjin reminded. Jeongin laughed breathlessly, and looked at him for a moment, "And I'm-- really-- really grateful for that--"
No one missed the tear that fell from Jeongin's eye. Hyunjin laughed-- threw his arms around Jeongin with a loud, obnoxious cry of "Baby!" and wrestled him into a hug. Jeongin fell over with him, and the two of them laughed, especially at the exasperated noise Minho made after the two came close to falling against his lap. Chan set aside the drawing, and picked up another as Hyunjin and Jeongin were focusing in on the group again. He opened it, and thought to claim it right away-- "Ah. This one is mine."
Chan showed the group his attempt at drawing the human brain, as well as some colorful pills to make the picture a little clearer. They all speculated at it, and couldn't come up with an answer. Chan told them, "I'm clinically depressed."
"Really? I think you're the only one here." Hyunjin said, looking around the group. No one confessed to also being clinically depressed, but Chan wouldn't be surprised if someone else was. He wouldn't be surprised if they all were, and were just without a proper diagnosis.
Chan set aside his drawing and opened up the next one. He knew it was Woojin's right away, and smiled a soft, sad smile before turning it around to show the rest of the group. He wondered if Woojin would confess to drawing the little grave, but he didn't. He did give Chan a look though-- his own little sad smile. Chan knew it was for his dad that Woojin kept going--knew he still had his father's support even if he was gone.
The next drawing confused Chan. He stared at it for a moment before turning it to the group, with the confession that, "I don't understand this one at all."
It was just a dark blotch-- a scribble of black ink all over the paper. Hyungjin confessed to drawing it right away, telling the group, with hand movements and some struggle, "I didn't know what to draw, honestly. It's kind of--" and the hand movements began, grasping the air for the words, "--everything? All at once. Like... too much to decipher."
Chan nodded. Everyone nodded. They'd all experienced that-- the feeling of too much, all at once. Hyunjin just happened to feel it all the time.
There was a familiarity in the next picture. It was of a face-- a rushed face, but a face nonetheless. Chan stared at it for a moment longer than the others, which had Hyunjin curious, "What is it? What is it?" and Chan showed the group, "Is this-- Jisung?"
"It is." Changbin said, curling his fingers around Jisung's shoulders. Jisung looked at the drawing, and at Changbin, a huge smile breaking across his lips. Changbin, too, smiled, but he faced the group long enough to tell them, "He gets me through everything-- makes me feel like I can actually breathe for a damn second."
There was some awe'ing and some gagging-- some playful comments and some of genuine adoration for the couple. Chan threw in his own "awe" as he reached for the next picture. This one, too, he pondered for a moment. He knew what he was looking at, but his mind raced with who it could be. He turned it toward the group. Everyone stopped.
"Drugs?" Seungmin had been quiet until then, but the picture seemed to shock him. Chan nodded, "I-- I believe so. Is someone an addict?"
No one said a word. Chan reminded, "We won't judge," but, still, no one confessed to it.
"Alright," Chan muttered. He was curious about that one. He opened up the last picture and broke into a smile right away. He showed it to the group quickly, and read the comment he noticed on the back-- "Honestly, this group saved my life."
It was a drawing of the nine of them, sitting around with pencils and papers in front of them. They were made entirely of lines and circles, but it was obvious it was the nine of them -- by the purple of Seungmin's hair and the width of Felix's smile. Everyone cooed at the picture, but no one confessed to drawing it.
"Well," Chan concluded, setting the pictures aside and facing the group with his full attention, "What do you guys think?"
"How long's it been? Six weeks? Seven?" Hyunjin asked. Chan nodded, and Hyunjin grinned, "You guys are already the best family I've ever had."
Changbin and Minho protested loudly, groaning and playfully reprimanding Hyunjin for saying something so corny. Hyunjin laughed, and didn't bother to defend himself-- especially with all the gentle hits he got and the sounds of amusement. Chan liked Hyunjin. He liked Minho, and Changbin; and Jeongin, and Jisung, and Seungmin, and Felix; and he thought he might even love Woojin more, recently. (Hell, he liked this little group.)
Chapter 5: The Tenth Monday
tw talk about suicide
"How many times have you tried to kill yourself?"
"I'm going to need a trigger warning next time," Hyungjin chimed in, with a hand in the air. Chan laughed; and then everyone laughed, even Hyunjin. (It was clearly a joke.) Everyone silently wrote their number on the post-it notes Chan had passed out, and Chan collected them all in Changbin's hat. (Changbin groused about having messy hair, but he had a hood; and he happily shoved it over his head in his hat's place.)
"Alright, time to read them. If anyone wants to claim a number, feel free." Chan said. He pulled the post-its without stopping for discussion, "1... 3... 0... 0... 9... 2... 0... 0... 2," and silence took over when he was done.
Minho piped up after a silent moment, "Who the hell tried to kill themselves nine times?"
"Minho." Chan said, firmly (but he laughed).
"Does anyone want to claim a number?" Chan asked, gently placing all the papers back in Changbin's hat, "You can just tell us how many times you tried, or you can tell us why, or how, or why you survived -- or why you didn't try...."
No one said anything for a while. Chan decided to start off, "Well, I was the three. The first time I tried, I was caught halfway through by my baby sister. The second time, I just -- didn't do it right. The third time, I was revived at the hospital. All three attempts were within two years -- and that was before I met Woojin. We became partners in crime-- adrenaline junkies, and the rush we got from doing stupid shit made me feel alive in a way I wanted to, so I stopped trying to end my life."
Woojin was smiling at him, softly. Everyone else was, too, but each of them had their own initial reaction to his story. Felix looked sad; Jeongin, too. Jisung was nursing his bottom lip between his teeth. Changbin had gathered Jisung's waist in his arms. Seungmin was unreadable, like he always was. Hyunjin and Minho seemed to consider, and started to talk at the same time, "I--" and Hyunjin laughed, and let Minho go first.
"I was one of the two's." Minho said, and Hyunjin said-- "I was the other one," and the two reached over to high five each other, and Chan didn't think he'd ever see two people bond happily over a matching number of suicide attempts; but he'd seen quite a bit in this little group. No one was phased.
"Does anyone else want to claim a number?" Chan asked. No one said anything. Chan's eyebrows stooped, "None of the zeros want to claim their number? Or tell us why you've never tried before?"
"I feel kind of lame saying I've never tried because I was too numb to try." Changbin said. He was tense; he hated to admit these kinds of things. Chan was proud of him for doing it, though.
"I never wanted to end my life...." Felix said softly. Jeongin tapped his elbow gently, "I never wanted to either, 'Lix."
Chan knew who the other zero was. The last thing Woojin wanted to do was end his life. He was a fighter; he always had been, and he always would be. That was part of the reason Chan was still alive; his strength had rubbed off on Chan. He saved Chan's life.
Chan looked between Jisung and Seungmin-- subtle, as to not draw attention to them, because they clearly didn't want any of the attention. 1 and 9. Chan wouldn't have guessed Jisung had ever tried to kill himself; and he wondered why Seungmin had tried so many times. (Seungmin was one hell of a mystery.)
"I think that's pretty good, for us." Hyunjin said -- before Chan could even prompt for more discussion. "I don't remember all the things we've talked about but we've all been through it. And only five of us has ever tried to end it all? That's not bad."
"And we're all still here." Minho said, "That counts too, right?"
"I think that's the only thing that matters." Woojin said, "We're all still here."
And he was right. They moved on from the talk of suicide, because no one else wanted to share personal details or feelings. They finished eating their pizza and they talked about everything and anything again. Hyunjin told them he and Jeongin had started to hang out outside of school. Felix and Seungmin had finally noticed, sometime last week, that they had a class together -- though they sat on opposite sides of the room. Jisung and Changbin were in their own world. Minho seemed a little out of it, too. Hyunjin was as loud as he always was, pulling in all the attention. Something seemed off this week, though--just a bit. Chan didn't like that. (He made sure to leave the session on a good, uplifting note, because the last thing he wanted was for someone to be missing next week.)
Chapter 6: The Eleventh Monday
tw brief mention of suicide and anxiety
Chan almost had a heart attack when, twenty-five minutes into the meeting, there were still only eight of them present. Chan counted again and again, and it took him longer than he would like to admit to pinpoint who was gone-- a full two minutes until he realized Changbin's side was oddly empty, and Changbin was oddly quiet. He asked, as everyone else was munching on pizza, "Where's Jisung?" and Changbin tuned in, "Huh?" and shook his head, snapping himself back into reality, "Oh. He's sick today-- stayed home."
"You alright?" Chan asked. Changbin nodded at first, then he paused, and then he laughed, and shook his head, "I'm-- fuck, I've been so-- weird-- today."
(Changbin was so unstable without Jisung.)
"You want to talk a walk?" Chan asked. Changbin shrugged up his shoulders, and took a deep breath, and said, "Actually, uh -- yeah."
Chan got up, and he took Changbin around the building-- slowly. They took a five-minute walk around the science section of the school. They didn't talk for the first minute, and they walked a few inches apart with their hands in their pockets, and then Chan asked him, "You're not okay without Jisung, are you?"
"You noticed?" Changbin laughed. He looked away from Chan for a moment to breathe, a shaky laugh falling out of his lips among the exhale of his second deep breath. He wasn't okay; he wasn't okay at all. Chan wondered, "Do you have anxiety?"
"I'm a fucking mess." Changbin said, looking at Chan. He had started to tear up, and he had a nervous tick about his fingers as he pulled his hands from his pockets to wipe his tears away, "I can't-- exist without him. Isn't that so damn pathetic?"
Chan didn't think so. He wondered, "Has he always been around?"
"Yes." Changbin said, looking down at his fingers for a moment. He was shaking. He hid his hands in his pocket, and looked at Chan, and looked away, and laughed, "Our families were friends. We were the only two who stuck together when our families had a fallout.... They took him away for a while, you know? They uprooted him and they went to some goddamn country I don't even know the name of anymore. But I started having nightmares and panic attacks and finally they just sent him back, because they couldn't give two proper shits about him anyway--"
Changbin was animated. Chan had stopped walking, and Changbin had stopped with him. Changbin was crying these frustrated tears, and if anyone ate lunch around here he would be causing a scene, "He lives with his grandmother. And I'm always over there-- always. I go home to eat dinner on Sundays sometimes, that's it. And-- and it's always been him and I, always. And I just-- I hate thinking one day it might not be him and I."
Changbin finally stopped for a moment, and for that moment he didn't breathe. He just looked at Chan; and then he laughed, but it was a laugh twisted into a sob -- and back into a laugh just as quickly. Changbin fished his hood out from behind him and stuck it over his head, buried his face in his hoodie-clad palms. Chan didn't know what to do, but he had an idea. "How far away does he live?"
Changbin was quiet for a minute; then, "Twenty minutes?"
"Let's go." Chan said, gesturing for Changbin to follow along. Changbin did, though he told Chan, "You'll be late coming back."
Chan shrugged, "I'll meet Woojin back up here and we'll ditch the rest of the day. Who needs history anyway?"
Changbin amused, but he said nothing further. He led the way; and he didn't talk much, but he listened, because Chan was sure he would feel better if the two didn't walk in total silence, and he always had stories to tell. He made Changbin laugh once, when he was talking about Woojin. For the most part, the junior wasn't even tuned in, but Chan didn't mind. He knew very well that someone talking as background noise was all it took to ground someone, sometimes.
"He's here," Changbin said, stopping. Chan bumped into him-- just a touch of their shoulders, and stepped back. Changbin turned to Chan, and laughed a little, "I forgot my bag."
Chan hadn't even thought about that. He laughed a little bit, and shrugged up his shoulders, "I can bring it by when I go get Woojin right now."
"Thanks." Changbin said. He awkwardly smiled, and waved, and zoomed off into the house-- his walk quick and his head hung, his shoulders tense as he disappeared into the house. Chan hiked back up to the school without much in his head, except every conscious thought he did have was about Woojin. Changbin's tie to Jisung reminded him of his desperation for Woojin. Their relationship was intriguing -- because Chan thought about the way Woojin saved his life, and he wondered if Jisung did the same for Changbin... but Changbin didn't have any suicide attempts to his name; Jisung did... perhaps they were each other's anchors.
Chan pulled out his phone to call Woojin about five minutes before lunch would end-- ten minutes before he would be back at the school. He asked Woojin to meet him, to please ditch with him today, to bring Changbin's bag down, if he would. Chan saw Woojin eleven minutes later, and took two of the three bags out of Woojin's arms.
"Changbin okay?" Woojin asked, linking an arm through Chan's, tucking both of his hands comfortably in his pockets. Chan gripped the strap of Changbin's bag, and tucked his other hand into his pocket; and he shrugged, "Probably. Better now, I'm sure, since he has Jisung. How were the kids?"
"Animated. We listened to Hyunjin tell stories. Minho told a horror story, and Hyunjin dropped a book to clown around. Felix cried." Woojin laughed, "Hyunjin might be dead now. Jeongin wasn't happy with him."
"Was Felix okay?" Chan wondered, "Without Changbin and Jisung there, I mean."
"Actually, when he started to get really scared, Seungmin went over to him. They seem close." Woojin said. Chan smiled, "Good. I was worried about him. Both of them."
"I was, too." Woojin said. He looked down, and started to kick a rock down the street. He wondered, "Do you think it's going to work? Any of this, I mean. I know it has so far, but do you think it'll keep working when we're gone?"
"I think we met a lot of really strong kids who are starting to love each other," Chan said, "--so, yeah, I think it'll work."
When Chan and Woojin got to Changbin's place, and Changbin answered the door, he had Jisung attached to him. Jisung looked exhausted-- hood over his head, mask over his mouth, clinging onto Changbin with his eyes barely open. He did, however, manage to wave to Chan and Woojin, the sleeve of his hoodie flopping over his hand. Chan and Woojin waved back. Chan handed Changbin's bag off to him, and Changbin thanked him quietly. They said their goodbyes, and Chan and Woojin went back to Woojin's house-- sat outside to avoid getting questioned and reprimanded by Woojin's mother.
"I think so, too." Woojin said after they'd been sitting for a moment. Chan hummed, curious; and Woojin told him, "I think we did a really good thing, starting that club. I'm proud of us, Bang Chan. We actually made a difference."
We actually made a difference. Chan was starting to feel alive all over again.
Chapter 7: The Twelfth Monday
"I think we know each other enough to know about each other's insecurities... and struggles. I want you to write a note to someone-- without saying their name, so we can try to guess who it might be about, and tell them why you think their insecurities are valid, or why they shouldn't have them. Nicely."
When Chan went to write his, he had Woojin in mind. He knew what he wanted to say, but as soon as his pen hit the paper, he stopped; because he thought for a moment, about how much he talked to Woojin, and how much Woojin already knew about his own insecurities, so he switched it up, and wrote a message to someone else instead--someone who may not have any messages written to him.
Chan was the first to finish; his message was short and sweet. Changbin was next-- then Hyunjin, then Minho, and Jeongin, then Woojin, and Jisung, and Felix, and Seungmin. Chan gathered all the papers, shuffled them up, and picked out the first one, "To someone who's afraid of love, I want you to know that it's okay to find happiness in someone. It's okay for someone to be your world, as long as you're theirs, too-- and you are, Mr. Scared-Of-His-Own-Love. You and your annoying boyfriend are good for each other."
"Felix!" Jisung was yelling at Felix again (though it was hoarse, this time, because he was still recovering from whatever cold or fever he'd had last week); and he was cramming a foot into Felix's side again (though it was a weak hit). Felix didn't lash out against him, this time, instead holding his side and laughing and telling him, "Sorry, sorry."
"Did you write that about me?" Changbin asked Felix, and Felix nodded softly, "Because... nevermind."
"It's okay." Changbin said; though he held Jisung closer to him, like he was nervous. (Jisung really was his anchor, wasn't he? Chan thought.... He liked Jisung.)
"Well, uh... Changbin tells me... he-- he's scared, of Jisung being... his whole world, because... he feels...?" Felix grasped for the words. Changbin continued for him, quietly, his eyes only focused on various parts of Jisung-- "Pathetic. I feel pathetic because I depend on Jisung for so much--because I can't make myself happy."
"I don't think that's pathetic, personally." Woojin said after a moment. He pointed to Chan, "This guy right here? He's my everything, too. We may not be lovers, but-- without him? I wouldn't be graduating this year. And without me, he wouldn't be alive."
Chan nodded to agree. Hyunjin nudged Changbin, "Hey. I don't think you should feel pathetic either. I've only known you guys for-- hell-- what's it--? a handful of weeks, and I already think you changed my damn life. Like--I don't remember where I was before this group. Maybe I'd be dead, too. Maybe we would all be. Except for... whoever hasn't tried to kill themselves. Maybe even you. Jeongin might be dead-- oh my God."
"Wha--? Why me?" Jeongin asked weakly. Hyunjin had a tremble about his lips, and he leaned over to hug Jeongin, "Because you're my baby and I don't want you to die."
"I-- I'm not-- going to--" Jeongin laughed. Chan laughed, too, and shooed Hyunjin away, "Alright, alright. Next one--
"You're quiet. You fade into the background and that's okay-- you don't have to be up front all the time, or ever, but I hope you'll talk to us more. I hope you'll let us get to know you. I know I want to, and I'm sure everyone else does, too." Chan said. Before he could confess to writing it, Minho piped up, "Is that about Jisung?"; and he turned to Jisung, and nodded, "Because you are pretty quiet, back here."
Jisung's eyes were wide at the attention, and the confidence he always quietly maintained faltered--and he played with Changbin's fingers, and lay the boy's hands across his stomach as he muttered, "It's just... I don't really have anything to talk about, because--I mean, I'm only here for support, not-- anything. I'm sorry.... I'll stop eating the pizza."
"No--" Chan laughed at the last part; most of them did, too, save Changbin, who looked concerned; "Jisung, it's okay-- I love that you're here for support. Honestly, I think that's pretty awesome."
"Felix is quiet, too," Hyunjin piped up, nudging the boy next to him. Felix looked around nervously-- looked at Jisung twice, and said, with some calculated hesitation, "I can't... speak Korean very well. I-I get lost sometimes, too, because... understanding is-- sorry."
"Oh. I didn't know. Sorry." Hyunjin said. He tilted his head, "Wait, what's your native language, then?"
"I can speak-- a little-- English." Hyunjin spoke in said language for Felix-- and it was a little accented but his words were precise. Felix startled at that, nerves rolling off of his body with a laugh. Woojin pointed out Chan, "Chan can speak English too. He was born in Australia."
"No way," Felix said in English--and Chan would recognize that accent anywhere. He broke out into a smile, "You too?"
"I can speak English." Seungmin said softly. Jeongin looked nervous at all the English confessions, and Woojin reached for him, "It's okay, kid, I can't speak English, either."
"I'm with you." Changbin said. He pointed between Jisung and Felix, "These two speak English sometimes just to piss me off."
"Jisung can speak English?"
That was new. This was all new. Jeongin told them, "I can read it. I can write a little, too, but speaking English is... really hard."
"It's a tough language." Chan said, a laugh about his smile. He opened up the next letter, because he wanted to get through them before the hour was up, and they had a lot of talking to cram in these last few Mondays, "I want to say thank you. You started this group and you continue to lead it every week. You talk, sometimes, about how you don't like being so up front all the time, that you feel like you're taking over, but that's not what you're doing. You're guiding us. Thank you for doing that."
"That's about you, Bang Chan." Minho said, making large gestures toward him and laughing. Hyunjin started clapping; and then they all did, and Chan laughed. He kind of wanted to cry, too; but he didn't. Instead, he told everyone, "I-- I started this club... for you guys. I have all I need with this guy over here--" and Chan pointed out Woojin, "--but I wanted to help everyone else, too. I wanted to try."
"You succeeded." Hyunjin told him. Chan felt like crying just a bit more. Before he could, though, he picked up the next note, "I like you. You're kind of second-in-command here, even though you don't talk too much. You make everyone comfortable. I hope you'll tell us a little bit about yourself. Chan seems to be the only one who knows you."
Chan looked at Woojin, nodding, "I think that's about you."
"Sounds like it." Woojin laughed, "Second-in-command? I'm actually first in command. Chan's just better at talking."
They all laughed, at that. No one confessed to writing the letter, so Chan moved onto the next one, "I've gotten to know you well over these past few weeks. I wonder if anyone else has realized this: you're terrified. You hate being alone, and you're scared that no one likes you, but you're wrong. I like you. We all do. (I like you most, though. You helped me. You're important. Thank you.)"
Chan wondered. He started to piece together clues, but Jeongin was speaking before he could think; he was leaning over and tapping Hyunjin and telling him, quietly, "That's about you."
"You wrote that, baby?" Hyunjin asked. Jeongin nodded, smiling. Hyunjin's shoulders dropped, his usual smile falling into a smaller one. No one expected him to start crying; Chan was shocked when he did. He didn't cry a lot-- and most of his tears ended up on Jeongin's shoulder. Jeongin laughed as Hyunjin cried against him, as Hyunjin muttered about, "That's so sweet, baby. Thank you;" and when he sat up again, and let go of Jeongin, he laughed, "That was-- wow. What the fuck. Oh my God;" and he tilted his head back, and tried to stop crying.
"This is embarrassing." Hyunjin muttered, swatting softly at Jeongin's comforting hands, "Don't touch me-- you did this to me."
"I love you," Jeongin laughed, hugging at Hyunjin again. Hyunjin sniffled, and cleared his throat, "I love you, too-- Christ."
"You okay?" Changbin asked, nudging Hyunjin. Minho had a hand on his shoulder. Hyunjin shook his head, "No. Hell no. I'm terrified of being alone, and not leaving a mark, and not being important, and Jeongin just--"
Hyunjin laughed again, sobbed out the rest of his tears through his laughter, and looked up. He told everyone, "I'm fantastic."
Jeongin clung to Hyunjin through the rest of the hour-- as Chan opened up the next note, making sure, once again, that Hyunjin was okay; and he read it, "I'm writing this about myself because I know I put up a front. I know I laugh and pretend everything's alright. Everything's not alright, but I'll keep up my act because I know I'll be okay. I know, especially with this group, that I'll make it. When high school is gone, and my life actually starts, I'll be okay."
"I don't like that," Hyunjin said, "I don't like acting. Who was that?"
No one confessed. Hyunjin pouted about it, and everyone else laughed. Chan was curious about the letter's writer, too, but he didn't ask, and he moved on, "I have a feeling you won't get a letter because you fade into the background a bit. I have a feeling you want to tell us something, but you don't. I want to know you, so talk to us quick, okay? I don't want to graduate without knowing you a bit."
Chan knew the handwriting; but, for the sake of it, he asked, "Does anyone want to claim this?"
"Well, since someone outed me about being quiet--" Woojin started, and laughed, "I wrote that. I wrote it about, um...."
"It's alright. It's not too personal," Chan said; Woojin continued, "It's about Seungmin. He's just-- quiet, over there. Seems pretty shy. I just-- want to tell you that you don't have to be. We're all family here."
"Thank you," Seungmin said quietly. He tugged softly at his sleeves, "It's not... that I don't want to talk-- it's just.... I don't really have a lot to say. Yet. I still have three more weeks."
"And next year." Hyunjin said. He looked at Chan, "I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to take over the club next year. And you--" he started pointing around, "--had better show up. Whoever's young enough to. Especially you--" Hyunjin pointed at Jeongin, "You better show up."
"I will," Jeongin laughed, and promised, "I will, I will."
It was so good to hear Hyunjin say that he was going to take over. His heart was lifted at the thought. He didn't comment on it, though, because he really didn't want to cry today-- so he moved right on, and read the next letter, "You give me hope. If I'm reading you right, I'm thinking you don't have a voice and you want one. I'm like that, too. I think we'll make it, though. I think we'll start talking to each other, and everyone else here. I think our secrets will be easy to share."
Some silence fell over the group. Seungmin started, "I-- I didn't write that, and I don't think it's about me... but I relate to that, too."
"I think it might be about Jeongin," Hyunjin said, petting said boy's hair, "He drew the zipper mouth, remember?"
"That was so long ago." Jeongin said. Hyunjin shrugged, "But you drew one in your notebook, too."
"Personal!" Jeongin scolded, hitting Hyunjin's chest, "Personal, personal personal!"
"Sorry!" Hyunjin laughed, shielding himself from the hits, "I'm sorry! Baby-- sorry-- sorry--!"
"Stop," Minho laughed, breaking the two apart--though they clung to each other the moment Minho managed to stop them. Minho gestured to Chan, "We only have about ten minutes left, and Chan has one more letter."
Chan didn't want to leave Seungmin's words in the air, so he turned to Seungmin for a moment, and told him, "I hope you start talking to these two, as well," with a gesture toward the note, and Seungmin nodded, smiling. Chan opened up the last letter, "You hate it here. Not here in the group, but here in the country. I know you do. But Korea likes you. It's hard not to like you. You'll be fine here, especially with my annoying boyfriend and I."
"We wrote letters to each other," Felix said, nudging Changbin; and Changbin snorted, "How do you know Jisung didn't write it?"
"Because he doesn't call you annoying."
"And I'm offended that you did," Jisung squinted. Changbin held Jisung, laughing-- laughing as he massaged Jisung's stomach and shoulders, and left kisses over his cheeks to calm his playful anger. Chan set aside all the letters while Changbin did so, and asked, "Any thoughts?"
"I'm going to miss you guys," Minho said, shaking his head, "I'm graduating soon and-- hell. I'm going to miss you."
"We'll keep in touch." Woojin assured. Hyunjin pointed at him-- at Minho, and Chan, "We better keep in touch. I'm going to be mad if I never hear from you again."
"Don't worry," Chan told him, laughing, "We wouldn't leave you guys behind."
Chapter 8: The Fourteenth Monday
"So, I kept all the anonymous notes we wrote--or drew."
Chan had a little bag full of papers clipped together in individual piles, and he pulled them out and lay them out one by one. He explained, "I've been getting to know you guys bit by bit, and I gathered what I know about each of you individually, and I pinned together what I think was written by each of you. I hope you'll correct me if I was wrong."
Chan handed out the paperclipped bundles, and watched everyone go through them. He had his own next to him, and thought he might as well flip through it, too. He did, briefly, recalling the question he asked and why he wrote what he did. He looked up. Some of them were smiling-- most of them were. Minho was frowning, and he announced, "This one isn't mine."
"Which one?" Chan asked. Minho showed him. Chan tapped on the ground in front of him, "If any of the confessions aren't yours, put them up here. We can match them to their actual owner -- if you guys are comfortable with that."
Within the next couple minutes, he got some slips of paper here and there-- three from Seungmin, two from Felix, that one from Minho. He asked, "Is that all the ones I got wrong?" and everyone was quiet -- until Jisung reached forward, and dumped all of his papers in front of Chan.
"I got all of yours wrong?" Chan asked, incredulous. Jisung nodded silently, and curled back up against Changbin. Chan frowned, and gathered the papers in front of him. He went through Jisung's pile first, asking, "Okay, who tried to kill themselves once?"
Silence fell over the group for a moment, and Chan realized he was violating the anonymity of the group by announcing the number aloud, so he mentioned, "I can keep it for -- whoever it belongs to."
"It's okay," Seungmin said, holding his hand out, "It, uh -- it's mine."
Chan handed it to him. He asked, softly, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Actually...." Seungmin sighed. He tugged at his sleeves, and asked, "Can-- can I ask you a question first?"
"Of course you can." Chan said. Seungmin worried his bottom lip between his teeth for a long moment, and asked, "When, uh-- when was the last time... you tried? Any of you?"
Chan answered first, "Four years ago, for me. I was a freshman."
"Four months ago," Minho said. That would have been around the time the Therapy Club started-- a couple weeks before, actually. Chan lost his breath for a moment, but no one noticed the skip in his breath, especially with Hyunjin's-- "Mine was-- about a year ago? Something like that."
Seungmin looked at Minho, "Mine was recent, too. When I lived, and I ran into a poster about this club at school the next day, I-- I thought that might be a sign."
"You came to school the next day?" Minho startled. Seungmin nodded, and Minho laughed, surprised, "I didn't come to school for two weeks after I tried to kill myself this last time. Actually, the day I joined this club was my first day back."
It was almost scary to know Chan met two people who could have been dead days before he managed to reach out to them. He took a shaky breath, and didn't want to think about it. He read off the next paper he'd accidentally given to Jisung, "Depression is constant sadness, mostly for no reason at all.
"Oh. This is when I asked for the definition of depression," Chan recalled. He looked up, "Anyone?"
"I think I wrote that." Felix said. He picked up his papers, and counted them-- "How many are we supposed to have?"
"Five. But you were missing one week, right?" Chan recalled. Felix, nodded, so-- "Four, then."
"Okay, that one's mine."
Chan handed it to him. He read off the next one, "I was honestly just really curious.
"Uh.... I think that was regarding... why you chose to join?" Chan thought. Seungmin held a hand out, "Yes. That one is mine, too."
Chan handed it to him. He couldn't believe Jisung hadn't written these; he couldn't believe Seungmin had. Seungmin hadn't seemed so simple. . . . Chan read the next paper of Jisung's, "I want to say thank you. You started this group and you continue to lead it every week. You talk, sometimes, about how you don't like being so up front all the time, that you feel like you're taking over, but that's not what you're doing. You're guiding us. Thank you for doing that.
"Oh. This was two weeks ago," Chan said. Again, Seungmin held out his hand, and Chan gave him the paper. He picked up the remaining pages; there were six of them. He was oddly nervous to unveil anything about Jisung; but he breathed, and started, "Depression is a drug."
He looked up. It was quiet. Chan said, "I can hold onto it," and silence met him. He set it aside, and continued, "You give me hope. If I'm reading you right, I'm thinking you don't have a voice and you want one. I'm like that, too. I think we'll make it, though. I think we'll start talking to each other, and everyone else here. I think our secrets will be easy to share."
That was from two weeks ago, too. Silence hovered over the group, and Chan set it aside, and picked up the next one, "I'm writing this about myself because I know I put up a front--"
"That one's mine," Minho said before Chan could finish. Chan nodded, and handed it to him. He had three more papers in front of him-- two set off to the side. Chan gathered them, and looked at Jisung. Jisung had his hood up by now, and he was tucked deeply against Changbin. He wasn't looking at anyone; he was shaking like a leaf. Chan looked at Changbin. Changbin was holding Jisung, and he had his chin against Jisung's shoulder. Chan regretted the last twenty minutes. He shouldn't have read any of them, because the anonymity was up. Chan wasn't sure if everyone else connected the dots, but he was holding Jisung's secrets right in front of him, and he knew them all.
"Those are mine, right?" Jisung asked. His sudden movements made Felix and Jeongin jolt, as he had been quiet, and still. He stood up with his bag and moved to take the five papers from Chan. He looked at them, and nodded, "Thanks."
Chan watched him walk away-- watched him walk by a trash can and dump his papers in there. It took anyone a few seconds to react. Changbin was the first one to-- standing and gathering up his bag and running after Jisung. Chan watched them disappear around the corner, listened to the background noise of everyone else muttering and wondering, and felt like he'd messed everything up.
Chapter 9: The Last Monday
tw suicide, depression, anxiety, self harm, abuse, goodbyes
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Changbin and Jisung didn't show up. Chan didn't expect them to. He was glad, though, that Felix was the first to show this week--though he did have Seungmin in tow. Chan pulled Felix off to the side and asked if Changbin and Jisung were alright. Felix said he hadn't heard from them, either; he was worried, too.
Chan tried to make himself comfortable in front of the group, but he felt like he couldn't face them anymore. Hyunjin talked about Changbin and Jisung right away-- "They really didn't show up? They're really trying to give us a heart attack, aren't they?"
"They're okay," Jeongin told Hyunjin, rubbing his shoulder softly. Hyunjin calmed under his touch. Chan cleared his throat, and tried to talk, "I, uh... I thought we might--? want to read out everything we wrote, if we were comfortable, but... maybe that isn't a good idea...."
"Hey," Woojin reached over and touched Chan's elbow, bringing his attention up. Woojin was smiling; he told Chan, "Don't be sad. Jisung's with Changbin. You know those two are alright."
"Changbin wouldn't let anything happen to Jisung," Minho said, laughing, "He'd die if anything happened to Jisung-- and he doesn't want to die."
He doesn't want to die. Chan thought about that number nine-- those nine suicide attempts that belonged to Han Jisung, and he couldn't believe it. He thought about the drugs; he thought about depression is a drug. He thought about I want to share my secrets because no one really knows me, and he thought about I relate to you, Jeongin, because I've never said a word about myself either, and his head spun. He thought Jisung was so simple. He thought Jisung was only there for support. He thought Jisung was shy-- not hiding.
By the time Chan had gotten his head on straight again-- thanks to Woojin's gentle pat against his lower back-- Changbin and Jisung were rounding the corner. They were hand-in-hand. Jisung had his head down, hidden. Changbin looked like he hadn't slept. Chan shot to his feet as soon as he saw the two. Woojin stood with him, holding his wrist gently. Everyone else stay seated, but they all looked.
Changbin and Jisung stopped next to the group, and Changbin slowly smiled, "Sorry we're late."
Chan had no idea what to say. He gaped at the two of them, trying to find any words that were intelligent. Woojin saved him for a moment, "How are you two?"
"Same as always," Changbin shrugged. Jisung finally moved, giving Chan another minute or so to think-- except he didn't, because he looked up, and he pulled the mask from his mouth, clutching it in his fist as he said, "We're not. We're not the same as always."
"Jisung--" Changbin started, but Jisung stopped him. He wrestled his hand out of Changbin's and strode forward, and Chan didn't know what he expected. He almost expected to get hit, because Jisung was coming at him so quickly, and he had such a short temper about him-- so when Jisung threw his arms around Chan, Chan was frozen again.
It took a sob from Jisung for Chan to gain control of himself again-- to squeeze his arms around Jisung and hold him. Everyone else was a witness to their moment, all watching intently, curiously. Jisung cried for a few minutes, holding Chan like a lifeline--and that was strange, to Chan, because Changbin was a few feet away -- but he supposed it made sense, too; because if what Jisung said in his anonymous writing was true, Bang Chan was the first person to ever figure him out.
"I'm sorry." Jisung said after a moment-- and a moment was all it took for him to pull himself together again, to laugh a little bit, to reach back for Changbin. Changbin was glued to his back in a second, holding his waist, being his anchor. It made Chan happy, to see that Changbin was as much of an anchor for Jisung as Jisung was for him.
"I don't know what I thought would happen." Jisung said, wiping the last of his tears from his face, "I don't know why I thought-- we wouldn't get to know each other.... I always wanted to-- confess. I-I guess I just-- wasn't ready."
"If it makes you feel better," Chan said, gesturing weakly; and he doubted this would make Jisung feel better, but he was already going, "I was, uh-- for the last... meeting, here, I was going to see if anyone wanted to-- share-- what they've written. I-I'm going to lay my whole story out.... Woojin here was planning to, as well."
Jisung nodded. He was looking at the ground, and his bottom lip was between his teeth, and Chan thought he might have said the wrong thing again. What did Jisung care, if everyone else willingly shared their stories? Chan practically stole his secrets.
But Jisung looked up, and asked, "Can I go first?"
Chan gaped at him for one second-- but Woojin nudged his ankle impatiently, and Chan snapped out of it, "Of course! No, yeah, of course--"
Chan sat down. Jisung laughed shortly, nervously, and sat down, too. He was shaking. Changbin was with him. Jisung tucked his hands between his thighs and asked, "Chan? Can you help me a little?"
"How?" Chan asked. Should he sit by Jisung, too? Should he-- talk for Jisung? He didn't remember the details of Jisung's secrets--
"Can you just... give me the topics again? If you remember them."
"We started with defining depression," Woojin said when Chan froze up again. Jisung rolled his eyes up, thinking, "I... don't remember what I wrote. Um-- oh, a drug. I wrote that... depression is a drug."
It was quiet for a minute; then, Minho asked, softly, "Why?"
"Because I'm an addict." Jisung admitted, shrugging up his shoulders and laughing nervously. Changbin clung to his waist, and Jisung confessed, "I also drew-- the drugs, that week Chan had us draw. Because I'm addicted to drugs."
"Which ones?" Hyunjin asked after a silent beat. Jisung shook his head, laughing, "All of them. I've tried everything. I've also tried everything to stop, but-- addiction is addiction and... I should be with professionals."
"We're both-- going." Changbin said. His hand disappeared into his pocket for a minute, and he pulled out all of his papers-- set them out for the group to see, "That's me."
He was possibly the most okay; he was the one who said, in the definition of depression, that he was doing alright. He was the one that was here because he liked everyone; he was the only two who drew something positive. He had no suicide attempts; but, "I get to support, this time."
Jisung smiled gently. Hyunjin wondered, "How many times did you try to kill yourself, Jisung?"
"Nine." Jisung muttered softly, his hands disappearing between his legs again, "A couple were accidents. I overdosed, but I didn't do anything about it. My family had to drag me to the hospital."
"How many times did you have to?" Hyunjin asked, pointing in Changbin's direction. Jisung answered for him, "None. He didn't know. No one did. I-I wrote about-- wanting to share my secret? No one knew me? In my letter to Jeongin-- I told him I felt for him, because we both had something to share.... Yeah, I kept myself hidden."
Chan wondered how Jisung even found time to do drugs when he had Changbin attached to him all the time. Chan, though, decided it was better not to ask. Jisung was finished; that was obvious by the way he went quiet, and tucked himself into Changbin. Chan said, "Does anyone else want to share?"
"I-I will." Seungmin said after a quiet moment. He was shy with the attention on him, but he flipped through his papers, "I-I tried to kill myself once... I talked about that. I drew this--" and he showed the group, and everyone coo'ed at him. He held the picture of the nine of them; he was the one who said they were like family. Hyunjin reached over to shuffle his hand through Seungmin's hair. Seungmin faltered a bit, but easily transitioned into sharing his other secrets, "I said I was here just because I was curious-- which is... kind of a lie, but I didn't want to share anything too personal early on.... And I wrote to Chan, because I admire him, as a leader."
"I'm not really a leader," Chan said softly, "But thank you, Seungmin."
"You're absolutely our leader." Minho said. He nudged Chan, "Go on, leader. Tell us about yourself."
"I shared all of these," Chan said, laughing, but he shared them again-- how he was clinically depressed, and how depression was a part of him, and how he attempted suicide three times, and how his whole purpose of being there was to help everyone. He re-read his letter to Jisung, and thought to add, "I'm glad to know you, Jisung, and I'm really sorry I got to do that before you were ready."
"If it weren't for you I don't think I ever would have been." Jisung said softly. Chan smiled. (This was his goal. This was the club's purpose.... He almost couldn't believe he'd done it. He, and Woojin, and everyone else had really done it.)
"I'll go next," Woojin volunteered. Chan thought it was brave, for him to confess his severe depression after his dad died, and how it lingered, and how he fought it for his father's sake. He diminished the mystery of the other zero by admitting he'd never tried to kill himself, because he always fought--and fought--and fought. He was always fighting. He also re-read his letter, the one he'd written for Seungmin, and told him, "We should keep in touch."
"I'd love that." Seungmin smiled.
"Baby should go," Hyunjin said, nudging Jeongin. Jeongin's eyes went wide, "What-- I-- I don't want to!"
"Don't make him, Hyunjin." Minho said softly. Jeongin smiled; and Hyunjin frowned, "Well, I'm not going until baby goes."
"Then you're not going," Jeongin said. Hyunjin pouted, "Come on, baby, I want to be one of the final three. I want to be, like, final countdown, you know?"
Jeongin squinted at him. Hyunjin looked at Minho, and Minho shook his head. Then, all three of them were looking at Felix, and everyone else was, too, and Felix awkwardly cleared his throat, "I-- uh-- o--okay, I'll go--"
Felix lay his papers out like Changbin had. He told them he only knew how to define depression somewhat like the dictionary way, because he wasn't depressed; he had smaller problems-- too many, which came together and made him horribly awkward. He told them, again, he didn't want to kill himself, because he didn't want to die. He told them, again, that he was only here because Jisung made him-- and he said, "But I think... maybe... he wanted a support system, too."
Jisung's eyes were shiny, but he had a smile on his face, too. Felix re-read his letter to Changbin; and they watched as Changbin clung to Jisung-- more tender now than ever. Chan looked at them, and thought, they're going to be okay.
"Okay, Hyunjin, you can go." Jeongin said. Hyunjin squinted at him, and looked at Minho, "You go."
"I want to be the last," Minho smirked. Hyunjin whined. Jeongin poked at him, "If you share right now, I will."
"Okay, listen up," Hyunjin said, tossing his papers on the ground, "I came for the pizza and I stayed because I felt validated here. I tried to kill myself twice--told you guys about that. I think depression is a giant asshole-- and I wrote to Mister Woojin because he was quiet and I don't like quiet people."
He said it all on two breaths, and it took everyone a second to catch up. Woojin was the first to do so, and the first to react; because he dealt with Bang Chan for quite a few years now, and he was good at catching a lot of scattered details in a short amount of time, "Do you like me a little better now?"
"I love all of you."
"Good to know." Woojin smiled.
"Okay! Baby's turn!" Hyunjin said, nudging Jeongin. Jeongin sucked in a deep breath, and pulled his papers out slowly, "Okay.... I-I drew this--" and Jeongin showed them the face he'd drawn (not exactly resembling him, but he wasn't an artist), with the zipper over its mouth. Jeongin told them, "I-I drew it because... I never have anyone to talk to. But-- but depression isn't a label for me, either;" and he held up another paper that had similar words on it, "Because I'm not depressed. But-- but I'm anxious, and I have-- I have panic disorder, but it's not that bad anymore. Talking to people-- helps. Having a friend or two, or eight... helps."
Hyunjin was holding onto Jeongin, and Chan thought about them being anchors for each other, and he really felt like he'd done something good.
"I won't read my letter to Hyunjin again because I don't want him to cry," Jeongin said, and set the paper aside. Hyunjin nudged him, and Jeongin laughed, "And then-- I never tried to kill myself because I don't want to die.... I almost did once, though."
"What?" Hyunjin hissed out. Jeongin flinched, and Hyunjin was holding him tighter, "Baby, why?"
"I-I used to panic really bad." Jeongin said, "It was last year. But, luckily, I was panicking bad enough that I couldn't even turn on my bath."
"What were you going to do?" Hyunjin shrieked. Jeongin pressed a finger to his lips, "I'll tell you later, okay?"
Hyunjin was frowning with the most concern Chan had ever seen on his face; but he didn't get to say anything else, because Minho was starting-- scooting forward, putting himself more toward the center, "Alright, guys, are you ready for this shit show?"
"Show us what you got," Woojin said-- playful, but soft, and supportive (and it was that kind of attitude that saved Chan's life).
Hyunjin clung to Jeongin and Changbin clung to Jisung as Minho told them, "I tried to kill myself twice. I told you guys that. They were both recent. I actually tried to kill myself the second time in that two weeks I took off from school-- which is why it was two weeks. I, uh-- I'm sick of my dad."
Minho dropped his picture in front of them-- the stick figure with a hand raised to the other, "He beats me up for fun."
Minho dropped the other papers on the ground for a moment long enough to roll up his sleeves, "Cute, huh?"
Bruises littered his forearms-- "I block him from my face a lot. He's usually too drunk to tell the difference."
"Battle wounds," Hyunjin muttered, "That's pretty hardcore."
"I bet I'm not the only one with them." Minho said. He looked around. For a moment, no one moved; then, Jisung was scooting forward. He rolled up the sleeves of his jacket, and showed the marks around his elbows from shooting up. Seungmin came forward, too, and gently tugged his sleeve up his wrist so everyone could see the angry scars on his wrists.
"That's how I tried to kill myself," Seungmin said softly. Chan reached his arm forward, too, and showed them his faded ones, "I tried that method once, too."
Jeongin reached in, and showed the crescent moons lining his skin, "When I get too anxious, I hold myself-- and this happens."
Hyunjin had to roll his sleeve up to his elbow to show everyone the smileys on his arms, "I should stop-- doing this."
"How did that happen?" Felix asked, leaning over Hyunjin's shoulder to see. Hyunjin pulled a lighter out of his bag, and lit it for a moment; then he faced it toward his arm. Jeongin yelled, "Don't actually do it!" and knocked the lighter out of his hand with a loud slap! Hyunjin laughed, holding Jeongin's panicked shoulders, telling him, "I wasn't going to, I wasn't going to-- I'm sorry, baby."
"I hate you." Jeongin muttered. While the two were holding each other, Woojin showed the inside of his wrist to the group. There was a little tattooed cross in the center of his wrist, with a man's name across the base. He told them, "It's for my father."
"I doodle on myself sometimes," Changbin said lamely, pulled up his sleeve and showing them the details on the back of his wrist. Felix said, "Oh!" and scared the hell out of Hyunjin for a moment. He placed his wrist in the circle, too, "I have one! Changbin drew my name on me!"
They all laughed at him, amused. Hyunjin looked around, lingered on Changbin and Felix, and said, "We all have battle scars. That's pretty hot."
"You're disgusting," Minho said, but he was laughing; and then all the wrists were hidden away again. Chan would have never known about any of that-- save Woojin's-- if Minho hadn't initiated the reveal. He liked that he knew. He was glad Minho took that initiative.
"I still have this definition memorized," Minho said, referring to his answer defining depression. Chan still found that amusing.
"I said this club makes the week tolerable and I still stand by that," Minho said, and he laughed at his last paper, "And this stupid letter is no longer valid because I just opened up to eight people...."
Minho crumbled the letter, and shot it toward the trash can. He made it, and Hyunjin cheered, and Minho smiled, "It feels good. And I'm graduating in two days, and I am-- out of that nightmare house.... It feels really, really good."
Minho was the last one to share. Chan moved toward the front of the group; Changbin and Jisung moved off to the side-- went to join Felix in the back. Chan looked at everyone, and couldn't do anything except for smile for a minute.
"Stop doing that," Hyunjin said, pointing accusingly, "You look-- so stupid and sentimental right now and if you keep smiling at us I'm going to burst into tears."
Chan laughed a bit. Hyunjin-- burst into tears.
"I hate all of you."
"But you're taking over the club next year, right?" Minho asked, nudging Hyunjin with his knee. Hyunjin nodded, and Minho told him, "Good. Make more posters. Help some more lonely kids out. This goddamn school needs some messed up people like us to help them through it."
"I know, right?" Hyunjin laughed, and looked up. He looked right at Jeongin, and he smiled-- small, and sweet, "I'm going to help more babies like you next year."
"I'm not a baby." Jeongin said softly, but there was no force behind the words. Hyunjin shrugged, and draped an arm over him, "You're my baby."
"I'm going to miss you guys." Woojin said. Chan agreed. Hyunjin's tears were dry, but Felix's had just started-- and Jisung had started, too. Changbin's eyes were wet, and Jeongin was laughing at all three of them.
"Let's all make sure we have each other's numbers. We have to hang out. I might implode without you guys," Minho said; and so began the confusing journey of swapping phones and inputting any numbers they didn't already have. It took the whole rest of the hour and the lunch bell rang before Chan even had his phone back in his hand. They all lingered, checking their contacts and making a group chat and sending each other stupid messages. No one wanted to leave; and they were all going to be late for class today (but even Jeongin didn't care).
"We should do this once a week in the summer," Hyunjin suggested, "Like-- let's pick someone's house, and dedicate a day to going over and meeting up and talking about stupid stuff again, and sharing more stories, and opening up more."
"I live with my grandma and she's dying to meet all of my friends." Jisung said; and he nudged Changbin, "And this one is always over anyway."
"Jisung's house it is." Hyunjin said. He pointed at them, "And if any of you don't show up, I'm going to be really mad."
Everyone promised; then, Jeongin was tugging on Hyunjin, "Okay, okay, let's go-- we have to go."
"I'm being forced to class now," Hyunjin announced, and then he was off with Jeongin, holding his hand as Jeongin dragged him quickly, trying to avoid being too late. Jeongin called over his shoulder, "Bye! I love you guys!" and Hyunjin called, too, "I love you even more!"
They rounded the corner and they were gone. Seungmin said, "I should hurry, too."
"We both should." Felix said; and he gasped, "Ms. Lee will give us detention! Seungmin--!" and the two looked at each other, and gathered up their bags, and started to run, letting out less-than-manly screams as the second bell sounded. Minho rolled his eyes up, "I don't even want to go to class."
"Yeah. Woojin and I are out of here. Come with?" Chan wondered. Minho groaned happily, "I'm so down."
Chan looked at Changbin and Jisung. The two of them looked at each other, and then they declined, "We're going to hide out in the gym together-- too lazy to walk anywhere. Thanks, though. And we'll see you... probably whenever Hyunjin decides he wants to meet."
"Yeah, of course." Chan laughed. He watched the two walk away as Woojin and Minho began to talk behind him, and gather up their bags and phones. He was proud of himself, he thought. He brought people together-- in a way that the universe brought Woojin to him. . . . And, okay, maybe it wasn't all his doing, but he'd started this stupid little therapy club because he wanted to do something like this -- so he didn't feel too guilty for giving himself some credit.
thank you so much for reading! I started this story on a whim, so I'm pretty proud that it turned out the way it did ^^