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Darkest Before the Dawn

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It's half past two when Kihyun's eyes flutter open. He's not sure what woke him, until something squeezes his hand. A low groan sounds from above him.

"Kyun-ah!" He sits up to see the younger rubbing his nose. "You're awake!" 

Changkyun turns to him with dazed eyes. Suddenly, they widen. "K-Kihyun hyung?" He pulls his hands back to his own chest. 

A quiet sniffle makes Changkyun’s gaze whip toward the other side of his bed.

"Kyunnie!" Minhyuk jumps toward him with open arms. 

Changkyun ducks his head, pushing at Minhyuk's chest. 

Kihyun frowns. In the second he'd met Changkyun's gaze, he'd seen a flicker of emotions cross his face. Pain. Surprise. Fear.

I can understand pain and surprise, but fear? What is he afraid of?

Changkyun tries to sit up. His arms flop back down on the bed. He hisses when his left arm gets trapped under him.

"Let me help," Jooheon mutters, sliding his hand under the younger's back.

Kihyun winces at Changkyun's abrupt reaction. The maknae had jolted away from the touch, giving his fellow rapper a nervous look. 

"Kyun-ah, do you want some water?" Hyungwon asks, holding a cup towards Changkyun. It seems like everyone had woken up from Minhyuk's outburst. 

Changkyun shakes his head, pulling the blanket over his mouth. He curls his arms over his face, like he's trying to hide from them. 

Kihyun gasps. He's scared of us. His thought is confirmed when Changkyun stares warily at Hyunwoo's offered snack. 

"Changkyun," he whispers, ignoring his member's confused looks. He hasn't called the younger by his full name in years. 

Changkyun’s head lolls over to face him.

"What year is it?" Kihyun asks, grabbing the edge of the bed. 

Changkyun mumbles into his pillow. "Twen- teen." 

Minhyuk gasps. 

"Did he say twenty-fifteen?" Hyungwon whispers, rubbing his face. Hyunwoo gently grabs his wrists to prevent him from rubbing makeup in his eye. 

"Shit," Jooheon mutters, biting his lip. "Do you remember what we did yesterday?" 

Changkyun narrows his eyes in thought. "Um... Dance practice? I think?" He whispers, expression still closed off. After his initial bout of fear, he’d switched to a neutral poker face. 

"Which song?" Hyunwoo asks, meeting Kihyun's gaze. He can see the worry reflected in it.

Changkyun scrunches his nose. "Our debut song?" He seems confused as to why their leader would ask such a simple question. 

"You don't remember anything else?" Minhyuk sounds close to tears as he searches Changkyun's face. 

"I... am I supposed to?" Changkyun plays with the sleeve of his hospital gown. "Shit, did I get injured during practice? I'm sorry."

"No, you're fine. Or, not fine fine, but you haven't done anything wrong. Just-" Minhyuk rambles, reaching for the maknae's cheek. He stops when the younger visibly flinches. He blinks away tears. 

"Kyu- Changkyun. Is there anything you want us to get for you? Food? Drinks? More blankets? Manager-nim is on his way with a change of clothes," Hyunwoo asks. Kihyun's grateful for their leader's calm presence. 

"I'm okay, hyung. Thank you for the offer." Changkyun mutters, pulling the blanket over his head.

Kihyun wants to cry. He wants to turn back time- to convince the producers to not be so cruel- to slap himself for being such an asshole. Changkyun doesn't deserve this. He didn't deserve it then, and he definitely shouldn't have to suffer through it again.

"Kukkungie!" The doors slide open to reveal a breathless Hoseok. 

Changkyun perks up at the familiar voice. "Hoseokie hyung!" Hoseok rushes in and allows Changkyun to melt into his embrace. 

Something painful shoots through Kihyun's chest. He's not sure if it's restrained relief or jealousy. Or both? He sees the other members with similar scrunched up expressions. 

"Why are you all just standing there?" Hoseok mutters, using one hand to beckon them closer. 

No one moves. He's never heard them be so silent before.

"Should I not have come...?" Hoseok starts to pull away, but Changkyun tightens his arms around his neck. 

"Hyung, please stay." He nuzzles his nose against the older's neck. Hoseok relaxes further into their embrace. 

"He doesn't remember us," Minhyuk mutters, tugging at his hoodie strings. 

"But why does he remember you?" Kihyun didn't mean to sound so accusatory. 

Hoseok gives them a confused frown. "What?" 

"He thinks it's 2015," Hyungwon whispers, leaning against Hyunwoo's side. The older wraps an arm around his waist. "He doesn't remember our debut." 

Changkyun pulls back from Hoseok's chest. "We debuted?" 

Jooheon shakes his head. "Nope, this is not happening right now. We already went through this once. We aren’t going through this again." He crouches down so he's level with Changkyun's gaze. "Kyun-ah, you're in the hospital. I know you probably don't remember why, so I'm going to tell you a few things. First, it's 2021 and we're nearing our sixth debut anniversary. Second, all seven of us-" he sweeps his arm around the room, "are da-"

Kihyun covers his mouth. "We're friends. Bandmates." The main vocalist fakes a smile. 

Changkyun doesn't look convinced. "Really?" 

"Yeah!" Minhyuk lowers his voice at Changkyun's grimace. "We're best friends! We even take showers together." 

Kihyun glares at him. 

Changkyun narrows his eyes at them. "Sure." 

"I'm serious! We also have weekly cuddle-" 

"It sounds like my patient has finally woken." 

They all turn to see Changkyun's doctor standing in the doorway. They bow politely as she makes her way toward the maknae. 

"How are you feeling?" 

Changkyun lets Hoseok help him sit up. Kihyun doesn't miss Jooheon's pout. 

"I feel like someone ran me over with a truck." 

She chuckles. "Well, that isn't too far from the truth. You have a concussion, broken rib, and fractured ankle. You should take it easy for another 6 weeks." 

"Six weeks," Changkyun whispers in disbelief. "But our debut-" 

"Is not as important as your health," Kihyun cuts him off. He immediately regrets it when the younger shrinks away. Hoseok's hand had never left Changkyun's back and it smooths up his spine to rub his neck. 

"Stop acting like you care," Changkyun mutters under his breath. 

Minhyuk lays his palms on the bed. "But we do." 

Changkyun lets out a sigh. "Mmm right." 

His doctor seems to read the tense atmosphere. She taps her clipboard with a pen. "It's normal for head trauma patients to have retrograde amnesia. I can't say for sure that he'll get his memories back, but most patients are fully healed within a few weeks." She smiles reassuringly. "He's only been out for a few hours, so it will be best not to push him too hard. Stress is never good for recovery." 

"Is there anything we can do?" Hyungwon asks. He finally seems to have realized the full extent of their situation. 

"Keep him stress-free, warm, and comfortable. Make sure he takes his medication, stays hydrated, and is well fed. Again, he should be healed after 2 months." 

"You said six weeks," Changkyun mutters. 

"Don't talk back to your doctor," Kihyun scolds lightly. He blanches when Changkyun averts his gaze with a nervous pout. 

She smiles. "Please let me know if you have any other questions. I'd like to keep him here for one more night to make sure he doesn't have any adverse reactions to the medication, but he can return home once he's cleared." 

They bow as she strides out the door. 

Uncertainty fills the room. The constant beeping from beside the maknae only spikes Kihyun's anxiety. The heightened tension makes Changkyun curl further into himself. "I'm sorry," he whispers, tightening his grip on the sheets. 

"It's not your fault," Hyunwoo mutters, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder. Changkyun unconsciously leans into the familiar touch, before pulling away with an anxious frown. Kihyun's never seen their leader look so devastated. 

"Get some rest," Hoseok mutters, helping Changkyun lay down. He fluffs up his pillow and catches his hand, intertwining their fingers. "We'll be here when you wake up." He glances back at the others, unsure of how to greet them. He'd rushed over when he'd heard Changkyun was in the hospital. His manager hadn't been happy, but he'd canceled his schedules for the next few days, knowing Hoseok wouldn't be able to focus with his former bandmate- his boyfriend - in the hospital. What he hadn't expected was for his other five boyfriends to be standing around him in a state of despair. 

"Okay," Changkyun breathes out, eyes already closed. Hoseok soothes his fingers over the younger's forehead. He smiles when Hyungwon leans his head on his shoulder, reaching over to rub his thumb against Changkyun's cheek. 

The maknae mutters something, then catches Hyungwon's hand, pulling it closer to his chest. 

Even without his memories, he still recognizes your warmth.

Hoseok kisses Hyungwon's cheek. It's gonna be okay. He smiles as Hyunwoo hugs him from behind. He feels another arm slide around his shoulder. A hand grips his elbow tightly. 

We're gonna make it through. He smiles back at Minhyuk, raising one hand to wipe away his tears. Together, like always.