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it's nothing to cry about

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She pushes the door in and for a second the light from the open window catches in her eyes. Her heart stutters in her chest and she’s back in that busy hospital hallway, seeing Kim Dokja's too-still form on a hospital bed. Then, the second passes and her vision clears and Kim Dokja is sitting up on the thin cot and staring out of the window. He turns his head and smiles at them, curtains fluttering behind him, and Han Sooyoung feels her eyes burn.

“You,” she says.

Kim Dokja's smile widens. “Did you miss me?” he asks, as though he doesn’t know the answer to that, doesn’t know the lengths they all went to, the desperation to have him with them, the gaping hole this infuriating man had left in their lives.

“You rat bastard,” Han Sooyoung swears, and launches herself at him.

He’s warm, is her first thought, and way too thin. They’d kept the avatar going with story packs but it’s no real substitute for a good meal, even for a man that’s more Constellation than human, and with stories growing weaker they’d had to stretch them out. Her breath shudders out and her hands clench around the cotton fabric of the shirt hanging from his frame.

Kim Dokja doesn’t move. “Sooyoung-ah?” he asks carefully.

Han Sooyoung draws in a deep breath and slaps him hard on the back of the head.

"What-” Kim Dokja yelps. 

"Sooyoung-ssi," Lee Hyunsung shouts in alarm.

As if her hit had broken some kind of spell, the rest of them stumble in through the doorway.

“No,” Jung Heewon says, “she’s right, he deserves to be hit. If we do it enough times maybe he’ll learn his lesson for once.”

“Sooyoung-ssi,” Yoo Sangah interjects, “Dokja-ssi has just woken up. We should wait then hit him once he’s fully recovered.”

“You guys,” Kim Dokja laughs. “I’m finally back and this is how you treat me?”

“You didn’t need to leave in the first place,” Han Sooyoung snaps. “We could have figured something out. We would have figured something out if you’d just told us –”

Kim Dokja’s eyes are kind. “Someone had to do it,” he says.

“It didn’t have to be you!”

The room quiets.

Their eyes turn to the doorway where Shin Yoosung and Lee Gilyoung are still standing. Shin Yoosung's hands are balled up and her lip quivers but her eyes are narrowed even as her voice shakes. “Ahjussi, you told me you would make me the strongest incarnation in Seoul. You told me you chose me and that you believed in me. You made me your incarnation, didn’t you?”

Beside her, Kim Dokja’s eyes are wide as he looks at the shaking teen. “Yoosungie…?”

“Then why,” Shin Yoosung bursts out, “why did you leave me alone?” She spins her on heels and runs out of view.

Lee Gilyoung visibly hesitates, looking out into the hallway and back at the rest of them, still standing frozen. He bites his lip. “Hyung… welcome back.” He turns as well and leaves.

“Well,” Han Sooyoung finds herself saying dryly, “that could have gone worse.”

Yoo Sangah purses her lips. “I’ll go tell Sookyung-ssi that Dokja-ssi is awake,”  she says, then leaves as well.

Jung Heewon and Lee Hyunsung trade looks.

“It’s good to have you back,” Lee Hyunsung says, voice tight.

“Lie here and don’t move for a good month,” Jung Heewon warns, eyes narrowed, “or I’ll make you.” She touches Lee Hyunsung's elbow and they step out of the room.

Suddenly, it’s just Kim Dokja, Han Sooyoung, and Yoo Joonghyuk, who even now has yet to say a word. 

Kim Dokja's gaze travels somewhere down to the blanket in his lap. “That was some welcome.” He laughs softly, but there’s little humour in his voice. There’s a pause before he continues. “No, I’m glad to see them too.”

“Kim Dokja,” Yoo Joonghyuk uncrosses his arms and steps forward, brows furrowed. “Who are you speaking to?”

Kim Dokja lifts his head but even now his vision isn't focused on them, clearly distracted. “To the… Fourth Wall… ah right, you can’t hear him.”

“Hey,” Yoo Joonghyuk reaches forward and grabs Kim Dokja’s collar, yanking him up to look him in the eye. “You fucker, we're right in front of you. Don’t fucking go off into your head.”

Kim Dokja's eyes lock with Yoo Joonghyuk's. His lips part slightly. “You’re here,” he says.

“Kim Dokja.” Han Sooyoung finds herself stepping forward and placing her hands over his. The tears come unbidden and fall hot against her cheeks.

“Kim Dokja, you’re here with us. Don’t you dare go anywhere without us ever again.”

“I-” He begins then pauses, clearly at a loss. His throat bobs. One hand, the one Han Sooyoung isn’t holding, comes up to cover his face. “I won’t,” he says thickly.

Yoo Joonghyuk tugs the hand away and Kim Dokja stares at them, eyes red. He’s crying.

“You’re such an ugly crier,” Han Sooyoung snorts.

“Like either of you are any better,” Kim Dokja snips, but his lips crease up into a smile. 

Yoo Joonghyuk huffs out something that might be a laugh.

It’s a messy ending to their struggles, Han Sooyoung thinks, but maybe it’s also the beginning of something better.