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ice-cold pressure

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There's a feeling. It's indescribable but lingering, wanting Felix's attention. He doesn't know what it needs, but it doesn't seem to be leaving any time soon without being paid attention.

When you're sad, you know. When you're angry, you know. Felix has no idea what's going on in his brain, but it clings and refuses to leave.

Eventually, it has to explode.

Chan talks about him at the dinner table. He says something like, "Felix looked really handsome, he was-", but the rest of it goes unheard. Felix breaks, splits open, and feels that itching scream louder than ever.

"No!" He hisses, tears welling up. Everyone turns to stare at him, which only makes things worse. Felix feels like a specimen waiting for their approval. Open and exposed, he sobs and buries his head in his arms.

His chest aches, and his heart palpitates. Fuck this, he thinks. What kind of normal person gets worked up over something so small? He can't breathe, can't be, can't see. "Felix," someone says, but he barely hears, "just try to breathe, okay? In for four, hold for seven, out for eight." Their voice shakes a little, as if nervous, but Felix can't process it.

He can't process anything but the ache in his chest, that same one that swells up every time someone says 'he' or 'handsome'. It makes him ashamed, the need to hide greater than ever. Felix burrows his head in his knees and tries to get back to breathing normally. 

It doesn't work, the shriveling sensation just makes him sob harder, wishing he didn't feel so weird, so not him. And Felix clutches at his arms, chest caving in, heart not beating. Something cold enters his mouth, and he pauses.

It's an ice cube, he can tell that much, but the reason why is lost on him. He lets it rest on his tongue and takes some deep, hitching breaths. For a while, he lets his hiccups wear out and his tears slow. The cube melts on his tongue as he finally looks up at his friends, who he's just now realizing have been there the whole time.

Everyone's made space, with the exception of Changbin, who's kneeled just a little bit in front of him. He has another ice cube in his fist, which Felix figures would've also been put in his mouth had he not calmed down. Changbin smiles, relieved. 

"You okay, mate?" Chan asks from behind Changbin, looking guilty. It makes Felix remember the reason he panicked. Nodding sheepishly, he looks at his feet and feels his face heat up slowly. He worried his friends over being called a boy- how stupid is that?

"Felix?" Someone calls, making him look up hesitantly. It's Minho, eyebrows furrowed and an arm around a fiddling Jisung. "What made you freak out?" It ups his embarassment again, making his eyes dart out of making contact.

Chan takes a deep breath and asks, "Can you guys go sit in the living room? We'll be right there." They file out obediently- everyone knows not to argue when he's in leader mode. Chan turns to Felix and softens his gaze. 

"You okay, bro?" He scoots a little closer and sits on the tile floor. Felix clasps his hands together worriedly, clenching his teeth at the nickname. He's sure Chan will think he's weird. The possibility of him even kicking him out of the group flits through his head. So, Felix nods, although he feels like he got run over by a truck.

Chan frowns and shifts, his hand brushing through his hair. "Did what I say make you uncomfortable; the whole calling you 'handsome' thing?" Felix covers his eyes with his hands.

"Hyung, how could I be uncomfortable with that when I'm a boy?" He whispers, voice breaking as a few more tears slip out. Felix has no idea how he's still able to cry, but his body finds a way. Chan reaches forward and pulls away his hands, clutching both between one of his own.

"Listen to me, Lix," he says, staring into his eyes, "you can be whatever you want and use whatever pronouns you want. If you want to be a girl, that's okay, and if you want to be something in between, that's okay, too." His words make Felix's lip tremble, and he lunges into Chan's arms.

The older boy wraps his arms around his waist and strokes his thumb across the small of his back. "You're not weird, Felix," Chan states, as though it's the simplest thing in the world. Although the words are short, they make Felix smile a little.

"Don't think I'm a boy or girl," he (?) mutters, feeling dirty at the admission. Chan smiles and pulls away, cupping his face in his palms.

"That's okay, Felix" -he gives him a glance- "can I call you that?" At the responding nod, he continues, "And I'll use they/them pronouns?" Felix blinks and thinks about that.

Does he want to use they/them? Do they want to use they/them? Their chest lights up, and before Felix can help it, they're tearing up again. "Yes," they mutter, burying their head in Chan's chest, overwhelmingly happy.

Chan coos and pats their head. "You wanna tell the others, then?" Felix freezes, but he keeps talking. "I promise they won't say anything bad, and if they do, I'll kick their asses all the way to Australia." Felix laughs a little, feeling anxiety swell up.

They grab Chan's hand nonetheless, and let him lead them to the living room. The whole way there, they're filled with thoughts of how Korea is a different, broadly anti-LGBT country. They wonder if their friends will hate them. They take a deep breath and tell themself they don't want friends who would react like that, anyways.

The two of them enter the living room, and everyone is on edge. They snap their heads to look at them, and Felix flinches. Chan carries on towards the couches and sits next to Seungmin, patting the available seat next to him. Felix rushes over to take it.

"Felix has something to tell you," Chan prompts, looking at them. Everyone else follows suit, and Felix fidgets, feeling their throat constrict. The words won't come out, it feels like they're about to pick the wrong dialogue option in a video game.

Felix swallows. "Uh, can you tell them?" They ask quietly, looking up at Chan. Being the person he is, he nods quickly and takes over.

"So," Chan says, scanning the room, "do you guys know what it means to be nonbinary?" Confused glances are thrown. Felix feels their stomach twist, because there's no way they'll be accepted if everyone doesn't know what they are. But, Seungmin and Jisung raise their hands confidently.

"It's like, using they and them and not being a boy or a girl, right?" Felix desperately tries to read his face for an opinion, but finds none. Seungmin is blank, as if he's talking about something ordinary and not so weird. I need to stop thinking like that.

Chan grins and the rest of them look a little less lost. "Yeah! But you don't have to use they and them, there are a lot of different pronouns. Felix here is nonbinary. They do use those pronouns, though."

Hyunjin pouts in thought. "So, he- sorry, they- aren't a boy or a girl?" Chan nods. "Well, I didn't know that was a thing, but I support them!" He shouts, eyes glinting. Felix melts a little, ignoring the sting that came from misgendering. It was lesser than usual, considering Hyunjin corrected himself immediately.

Jeongin hums in agreement, looking contemplative. "Does that mean I don't have to call them hyung?" Everyone laughs a little at his eagerness.

"You don't, Innie," Felix beams, relieved and tired. They look around at their friends and see no one's faces puckered up in disgust, no one angry at them. They feel their heart swell up.

Changbin clears his throat. "We can't address them like that in public, though, right?" It's a shock back to reality. The fact that they're idols and not everyone will support them gets to Felix a little, but they try to ignore it. After all, their friends don't hate them! Their heart flutters at the thought, again.

"I'm used to it, but I'd appreciate it if you'd try to avoid using my pronouns as much as possible in public," Felix says softly, feeling awkward at being so open. Minho looks them over.

"I call Lix cuddles." He states, deadpan. Felix laughs the loudest they have that day as their friends argue over cuddle rights.

And as they end up in the middle of a massive cuddle pile, they couldn't find anything else to worry about. Even if there's a knee bruising their lung, and an elbow digging into their ribs. They like it that way. Surrounded by friends who accept them wholeheartedly, society be damned.