Fic: Insight

Title: Insight
Author: seafogs
Pairing: Xiumin/Jongdae, past!Xiumin/Luhan, past!Suho/Chen
Rating: R
Word Count: 12000+
Summary: Sometimes it takes more than just the eyes to see the truth.
Author's Note: Conversations in italics happened in the past.
Warnings: Character Death, Vision Impairment

After four days of being under a coma, Minseok slowly regained consciousness. The next thing he heard were nurses rushing in and a familiar voice beside him, "He's awake! Thank goodness."

He knows who this person is; the voice seems distant but familiar. He just can't put a finger on his name and why he's in the same room as he is.

A while after the nurses surrounding Minseok relieved him of the tubes and the breathing paraphernalia that's been keeping him alive ever since the accident, he's left alone with the man and the familiar voice.

"You've been out for four days. How does it feel?" Minseok feels the bed sinking to one side, and it's probably because the man's sitting right beside him, taking a good look closer now that the tubes have been removed and the only tube supplying dextrose to his body remains attached.

"Something akin to a deeper kind of sleep." His voice comes out hoarse; the other man senses the weakness judging by the tone. He feels a strip of clean cotton wrapped around his eyes and Minseok has this pooling feeling in his stomach that this isn't a good sign at all.

Minseok slowly sits up from his supine position. The man helps him gently sit up and as their fingers slowly touch, Minseok tries to recall the sensation and who the person just might be. No proper introduction was even considered so Minseok's left guessing for himself.

"I was informed by the doctor that I can remove the bandages around your eyes after at least an hour. Although I guess you probably know what had happened to them."

Does he know? Is it obvious? Silence fills the room.

"Take them off," There's an inch of demand in his silent tone.

"But the doctor said--" The weight on the bed shifts slowly; the man had probably stood up or was close to acquiescing to Minseok's demand.

"If you won't then I will," Minseok's tone grows louder but retains the same amount of demand, with his hands slowly reaching for an easy spot at the back of his head to untie the bandages.

The man removed the bandages slowly as Minseok returns his arms to his sides, careful not to hit the elder’s face while his arms are slowly encircling him like a ring. The feeling of being relieved from bandages might seem refreshing; although combine that with the mind-set that someone had just lost their sense of sight seems oddly disturbing. Ironic, even.

Light slowly appears before Minseok. The abrupt change that he experiences after getting slowly used to the darkness and the changes into bright white light brings pain to his eyes. He squints several times until he feels relieved. Then again, his suspicions have been confirmed; he's gone blind from the accident.

"Living is easy with eyes closed, I hear," The other person tells him, and Minseok has half the mind to punch him for the insulting quotation.

"My eyes aren’t closed. Besides, it'd really help if you told me who you were," Minseok looks over to the other person, the blurry silhouette not helping him get any closer to figuring out who he is.

"Jongdae. We used to be friends back when we were kids?" Minseok thinks he felt Jongdae's breath on his neck for a while there. It leaves him breathless. When was the last time the two of them talked, even? Minseok could barely even remember the last time they've even had a decent conversation - one that had probably lasted more than a minute, besides asking how he was and what he's been up to. "Minseok, where has the time gone?"

“I’d like to thank you all for coming; Luhan would’ve been more than grateful to see you all today.”

Sometimes it can seem so ironic that simple insignias such as signatures, symbols, and the like always outlive the ones who are being symbolized. The same can be said for Luhan. His funeral knows no difference.

It became a nationwide phenomenon: A famous personality in the journalism industry, Luhan, dying in a car crash. Rumours have included a passenger by the name of Minseok -- also involved in the accident -- who is currently recuperating in the hospital, with a slight chance that his sight might have been permanently taken from this accident that has left his partner in shambles.

The guests attending Luhan’s funeral were nothing if not famous. Prominent names in the same industry, most of whom have been under Luhan’s wing. Only a handful of major news networks have been given the exclusive opportunity of airing live footage from the funeral, as well as getting the chance to interview some of the guests while they still had time on their hands.

“Luhan was a genius in his craft. Without him, I wouldn’t be in this position today.”

“His work was like appreciating fine wine; everyone can be exposed to his talent, but not all can understand how his mind works.”

“He will always be remembered. He will forever be an icon of hard work and service to the public.”

Mayors have proclaimed special holidays for him. There have been talks of a monument in the works. There is a slight chance his name might be used to open a school, or even a charity fund just to allow underprivileged children to study; to have the same opportunity as he did.

Even up to his deathbed, Luhan’s life has always been under the spotlight, surrounded by people who bear witness to his talent and fame.

Where has the time gone? Minseok asks himself. He thinks it's been forever ever since he started working with Luhan in the Vancouver Sun. It was a dream Minseok never thought would come true; the fact that he was working as a press in such a prestigious company, and eventually to walk side by side with one of the most famous writers in their team, Luhan.

It started with Minseok applying for the position of Associate Editor on the Vancouver Sun. His only experience was being part of the publication team in his university. During his senior year, he fondly remembers being elected as editor-in-chief. That was probably his proudest moment, and one that he wishes he could continue until he retires.

He briefly remembers himself reading books all about journalism during his spare time. He wasn't quite the nerd that others had seen him to be; they were all just misunderstood. Minseok knew how his talent would work to his own advantage, that's why he was able to set a clear plan for his own towards his future.

His parents, however, they weren't too keen on the idea of going public and putting his life on the line for the sake of delivering the truth to the people. Nonetheless, Minseok tried his best to reassure them that he wouldn't be involving himself in situations that would definitely mean detrimental to his life; that wasn't part of his original goal.

His parents were prominent members of the academe. His father in a state university; his mother, in a private high school. Although they might have never been practical whenever it came to the things that Minseok needed in order to fulfil his dream of becoming a famous journalist, they never gave up in supporting Minseok because the two of them shared in the belief that their son was always headstrong and he'd never let anything get in his way, especially when it came to his dream. Even while in their deathbed, they've always maintained an image of public service and perseverance in Minseok’s life.

A few years later and a high school diploma in his hands, Minseok knew which course was proper for him and his future occupation. He sought to improve his writing further in university; taking part in various debates which had involved particularly with social beliefs and the role of man in the nation. As much as possible, he swerved away from topics involving politics. It reminds him immediately of his grandparents and other relatives who were known to be prominent figures in the government. When he was a child, his parents have passed him stories about frequent death threats because several people in the nation never like the changes they placed in their lives; they wanted these political powers out of their lives and remain conservative to the beliefs that they've grown to love and cherish all their lives.

If there was a complete opposite to show the extremity of it all, Luhan's probably a prime example.

In the middle of Luhan’s career, his fame had been so hyped that agents used to call his office so often to send him offers on publishing an official biography. A book on his life. A book on how he rose to fame, for everyone to read and to be enthralled by.

The published biography came out thick. The pages were as fragrant as a newly-printed magazine. Glossy pages ran through photos of Luhan’s childhood, his graduation photos and photos of himself working both on the Straight Magazine and finally, his well-deserved spot on the Vancouver Sun publishing team.

There had to be tricks pulled for this to be published the way it is today. Prices for the book have unexpectedly doubled -- even tripled -- after Luhan’s sudden accident which had caused him his life. People have been very well exposed to his work. For the publishers, it was about time the world knew about his entire life in general - to pay tribute to a life that had been taken so suddenly.

One section was twenty pages long, and it was all about Luhan’s childhood. Critics often acclaimed the work as “well-depicted”. Like a mother would retell the life of their child perfectly down to the last detail. Then again, Luhan’s parents had been long gone, and Luhan never had the work ethic to tell others about his past. His life had been very well kept under lock and key; yet no one has ever bothered to ask about the credibility of the publisher’s sources.

Luhan grew up under the solitary notion that he didn’t have to do anything for himself; everything had been arranged for him to follow under strict orders. Like a soldier preparing for war, he was being prepared for his future. Everything down to the last minute, his life had been laid out on daily planners that determined what he was supposed to do for the rest of his life.

April 10 - 3:42 PM - Luhan should be clearing his desk because he has to meet with famous ophthalmologist, Kim Junmyeon.

Luhan died on April 8.

Upon entering school, his name became instantly famous without even having to move an inch within his seat. Girls were falling for him everywhere he went; boys would remain hesitant in approaching him, knowing that a few meters away there are bodyguards at his beck and call if in case one of them decides to beat the hell out of him for being too arrogant.

Truth is, no one has ever bothered warning him about his bouts of impudence here and there. Partly because everyone knew they’d be given hell once they did; intimidation was a factor that can only be erased by creating personal connections between one another. That was never the case for Luhan; all his actions were tolerated for all the wrong reasons.

Effortlessly, Luhan breezed through his studies until he landed himself in a prestigious university. It wasn’t the state university, but he acquiesced nonetheless - anything to land him a good job after graduation was necessary for him.

Four years. That was the amount of time it took for Luhan to create a foundation for himself. Through the process of creating a name that would outlive the one being named, he would be heralded - a prominent journalist who sought nothing else but perfection in his craft. Like a sculptor who believed the process of creating a perfect sculpture from a stone slab would take nothing more than time on his hands, besides maybe his tools.

The value of hard work never came to Luhan as easily as any other working person would. The first time he stepped into the bustling office of Straight Magazine, he wanted to check whether he was still in the same country or not. Staff incessantly passed each other sheets of paper filled with countless revisions, comments on how to improve effectivity in their work and just plain criticism on how some people should be focusing on improving their work rather than spending time with other things.

Priorities. The word seemed so foreign to Luhan.

He had plenty to learn in the industry, and he didn't know where to begin.

Luhan worked with Straight Magazine for a total of two years. The first year felt like forever to him as he had to deal with adjusting to a different working environment; one that was easily quelled by paper bills snuck beneath article drafts that haven’t been proofread at all. He admits that his officemates were easily bribed; whether it be money or free dinners, Luhan had his way in the bitter end. Luhan had nearly the entire publishing team in his hands, running under their editor-in-chief’s nose, without even having to move to the nearest printer or print shop to have his errands done for him in a snap. The second year had him smooth sailing until he found himself handing a well-written resignation letter to their leader.

Well-wishes were exchanged, and a deal on writing up a good reference for the Vancouver Sun was in the works as the entire Straight Magazine editing team had a brief moment of relief; they had one less problem to worry about now that terminating their work contract was out of the issue.

As Luhan stepped out of Straight Magazine’s office building and into Vancouver Sun’s, he knew his chosen path would lead him straight to fame.

Working with the esteemed Vancouver Sun was no different; drafting, editing, proofreading, publication. Rinse. Repeat. The entire cycle led Luhan from an Associate Editor to part of the Editorial Board in his first year alone. After his second year in Vancouver Sun, Luhan was promoted to Editor-in-Chief. In his third year, Minseok entered Vancouver Sun as Associate Editor.

From then on, Luhan swore he saw something in Minseok that made him personally choose the latter as his protégé.

It was the night of April 8. Luhan and Minseok were on their way back to the office after a successful gathering in a famous restaurant to celebrate the Vancouver Sun’s 25th Anniversary. After a few drinks and plenty of sumptuous food, Luhan opted to drive back to the office to pick up some things he’s forgotten to take with him for the weekend.

“You’re drunk, Luhan;” Minseok tells him in concern. The elder’s hands are tightly gripped on his thighs in fear of an accident that might cost them their lives, “you shouldn’t drive.”

“Since when have you been my keeper?” Last time I checked, you took me under your wing, you asshole. Both men in the car remain silent. Of course, try as Minseok might, Luhan would never allow him to drive his car, for fear of getting it scratched. He’s said this to Minseok nearly a billion times he swears he’s memorized it under his breath.

My car; my rules. I don’t want you to get this scratched; this costs more than a year’s salary for you.

As if driving drunk will make the car less susceptible to damage. Minseok scoffs to himself; Luhan spares him a glare that comes off more as a dreamy, drunken stare. Then again, Minseok doesn’t waste his time telling Luhan his tactics aren’t working.

For early April, the seasons were surely never kind to them; snow had been falling ever since the day began. Countless traffic advisories reminded everyone to drive carefully and to wear proper footwear to protect them from snow entering their shoes. Public transportation had been delayed for so long both men can see people queuing beside bus stops along residential areas.

Minseok’s partly thankful Luhan’s car has its roof up tonight. The winds outside must be relentless; judging by the amount of cars on the road, the Associate Editor thinks something must not be right.

“If you’re going to insist on driving whilst inebriated,” Minseok keeps his eyes planted on the road, eyeing the partly-frozen streets to see whether they’re treading beneath thin ice, “you might want to slow down.”

Little by little, like a chain reaction, cracks slowly formed along the neatly frozen street. It didn’t help that they were in the middle of a bridge and had nowhere to stop. “If we want to make it past getting caught, you might want to shut up.” Luhan’s state of mind wasn’t much of help either, at this point.

To make things worse, Luhan’s feet found it slow at registering the fact that he can’t control his brakes anymore. Not that he had control on them to begin with, Minseok practically felt his shoes were about to burst from the nerves he’s feeling. It’s as if he fears at any minute Luhan would commit a mistake he would never be able to repair. Like a rollercoaster moving too fast for comfort, he feels a hand’s going to whisk him away and all he’ll feel will be nothing but pain - both physically and emotionally.

At that moment, Luhan loses his grip on the brakes. The car begins to skid sideways from the thin ice, and from the momentum of the car, it spins. Minseok feels the car slowly spinning in mid-air - just like a clip moving from one frame to another - for a second there, he thought he was close to being carsick.

But then he hears the windows breaking, a haphazard mix of debris and glass come into contact with Minseok’s eyes. His eyes register nothing but pain and white light, while his exposed arms are mostly covered with broken glass shards. He doesn’t see Luhan’s upper body resting on the wheel with his head heavily injured. His arms are covered with large gashes, mostly from the damage sustained from covering his face from the impact of the car’s fall.

Around the area, a handful of eyewitnesses immediately approached the tragic scene. Phone calls to 911 were made; others began to carry Luhan and Minseok away from the dilapidated vehicle; while others took the liberty of covering their bodies with their jackets and other thick-layered clothing to prevent their injuries from getting any worse.

Minseok registers all the movements done by the eyewitnesses; at least until a white light flashes before his eyes as he heard the sirens of an incoming ambulance. The next thing he knows, he wakes up in an empty room with a cloth wrapped around his eyes; he has no idea he’s been in a coma for four days.

Immediately, He recalls that he wasn’t able to ask the paramedics about Luhan.

Just like a radio slowly losing its power from a battery, Jongdae's voice sounded so distant from Minseok all of a sudden.

The man on the bed drifts back to reality with a jolt and momentary willingness to punch Jongdae, but he misses terribly so. "You've been thinking of something else quite deeply; deems like you haven't moved on from previous events."

It's true; everything came back to Minseok in precise detail: his life, his work, his success and then his immediate downfall. It's as if it had been showed in one page of a book for everyone to read quickly and briefly. Minseok's life had been summed up in three words, and now he feels he has to start from scratch.

With the turn of the doorknob, Jongdae stands at attention and sees Minseok's doctor-in-charge, Kim Junmyeon at the doorway.

"I see you're awake, quite ahead of what I had in mind," Junmyeon speaks plainly, Jongdae's quick to react by slapping Minseok lightly on the shoulders. Minseok replies with a click of his tongue and a stare that doesn't quite reach Jongdae. He's still adjusting to his new disability.

"He insisted, otherwise he would've removed the bandages on his own accord," Jongdae begins to defend himself. Minseok clearly remembers how his companion had the very same attitude when they were children. No surprise there. Old habits die hard, so it seemed.

"Enough excuses, he seems alright with it anyways," Junmyeon takes another spare chair on the other side of the bare room. At some point, Minseok thinks this is all happening too fast and he needs a quick briefing on what he should be doing now that his vision has been impaired from the accident. How will he return to his old job? Will he still have the passion to write? Rather, how the hell will he be able to write now that - next to his hand - the other most important instrument he needs to work is broken? "Besides, he'll need all the practice he can get in order to adjust to them fully."

There's a brief silence that fills the room, the air is stale and smells like medicine used on so many patients it has left a permanent stain on the scent of the room for years on end. Minseok thinks he's going to suffocate while on the bed since he can't seem to do anything to defend himself. He doesn't get to see the view outside his hospital room, for the sky is dark and it looks like rain is about to fall, just like Minseok's emotions are at a disarray. He's become so volatile over a short span of time anything can happen at his vulnerable state.

"How are you feeling, Minseok?" There is a soft touch to Junmyeon's voice, but Minseok doesn't feel even a bit of it. The blind man remains silent on the bed, afraid that his emotions might pour out all of a sudden, leaving the two men seated beside him unable to staunch the outpour of his depression.

"I hope this doesn't shock you for the most part," Junmyeon begins; Minseok thinks he has to face something that would allow him to adjust easily to his disability; but to what extent? He thinks it'll be a waste of his time if he acquiesces to what Junmyeon wants even though at the back of his mind, he knows it won't benefit him at all. "I have taken the liberty of signing you up for the BRP - blindness rehabilitation program."

The BRP, as Junmyeon explains, is a renowned program that deals with helping people who have vision deficiency be able to adjust to whatever difficulty they're having. There are plenty of finer details within the program itself, Junmyeon says. According to Minseok's prognosis, he will definitely need this program to be able to improve on his ability to read despite his impairment and to relieve himself of the stress he's received from the accident. Therefore allowing himself to focus further on whatever he wants to gain for himself even though Minseok is blind.

Minseok continues to remain silent. "I'll give you time to think about this, of course." Junmyeon calmly explains, Minseok roughly hears a chair being pulled around. He thinks its Junmyeon standing up while his legs give way to more room for himself to walk on, thus the chair being pushed back. "Jongdae has also taken the liberty of taking care of you as you cope with your disability. I understand that you two are acquaintances, and I do certainly hope you'll get along."

As Junmyeon slowly opens the door, he acknowledges Jongdae's presence with a nod.

"How many sessions?"

Junmyeon stops in his tracks. "Pardon?"

"How many sessions does the program have?" Minseok's voice remains stoic; Jongdae is reminded of their earlier conversion, before Minseok blocked out all the noise he hears in the room as he thought deeply about something that might have disturbed him, judging by the cringing of his face and the repeated motion of scratching the head and rubbing of the arms.

"Five. You can be assured you'll be able to cope easily after all five sessions; if you attend, that is." Minseok replies with a scoff, and doesn't notice Jongdae trying to shoo Junmyeon off with a flick of his wrist.

Junmyeon leaves the room; both Minseok and Jongdae return to an uneasy feeling of solitude.

The day before Minseok's first BRP session, Junmyeon signed all of his papers for discharge. It seemed odd for Minseok to just leave the hospital without hearing a word about Luhan. Then again, it seemed that the topic was too heavy for any of them to bear; if the air carried bad news in the area, Minseok was more than sure he wouldn't be the first one to hear about it.

It wasn't that he wanted to know everything the doctors had to say about Luhan. Of course not, he did not take a course that involved anything medical. He would be staring into space at the same time if he had been informed of every medical procedure his good friend had to undertake.

Jongdae accompanied Minseok to the former's car; seating him at the back seemed proper for the time being. Minseok was silent the entire ride back to Jongdae's place. Tension ran between both men, fearing something forbidden might be spoken if they didn't control themselves.

Simple and ordinary were overused terms to describe Jongdae's place. A small apartment covered everything the man had and it was more than enough for Jongdae, let alone accommodating Minseok. The rooms were not divided into smaller compartments; everything was in one large room and Jongdae figured this would be easier for Minseok to roam around in instead of having to adjust to countless doors and walls that he might collide with accidentally.

A large bed occupied one side of the room, the other side a large table that is used for eating or studying. Jongdae was the type who didn't need anything too special for him to take extra care of. The walls were coloured a pale shade of grey, one that no one would consider as striking for their taste, but a colour that would match a variety of colours for the furniture.

As soon as the two men arrived at Jongdae's place, he had Minseok settle himself on the table, while Jongdae did the honour of setting aside all of Minseok's clothes. He vaguely remembers Junmyeon telling him before they left that Minseok's sight isn't too much of a problem; he can see shapes and large fixtures around him. The only difficult part he might need help with is reading and overall navigation of the room. He reminded Jongdae to have Minseok memorize the layout of his apartment before anything else. Other skills would eventually be developed in the BRP.

"I'll help you with your clothes; you have a BRP session in the next hour and we can't be late," Jongdae eases himself off the bed, with Minseok beside him still struggling to return to deep sleep. Minseok's eyes aren't good enough to see the view outside; the windows overlook the vast expanse of Downtown Vancouver; a bustling city filled with a variety of people. A melting pot right outside Jongdae's apartment; it's disappointing for Minseok to think that he cannot see this all for himself.

Jongdae helps Minseok sit up and hands him his articles of clothing one by one, starting from the undergarments to the shirt and his jeans. "I'm not a kid; I can do this on my own," the once-sleepy man groggily tells Jongdae. "You're not and you can't," Jongdae replies calmly; he knows he shouldn't try to anger Minseok. After all, the result of his anger obviously stems itself even before the accident had taken place. On the other hand, Jongdae wasn't there, so naturally he didn't know what Minseok felt at that very critical time.

Twenty minutes later, and the two men are inside Jongdae's car again. As they drove to the hospital, only one question fills Minseok's mind, "Am I ready to face a community who also has the same problem as I do? Will they accept me?" The last thing he wants to think about is if they will recognize him as the Assistant Editor who sat right beside Luhan just before his untimely death, just like the newspapers said so. For now, all he wishes he could do is to open the car door and immediately run as far as he could, far away from where Jongdae can ever catch up to him. Minseok knows this won't do him any good, but at the same time he can't do anything on his own as long as he insists on thinking he's better off without the rehabilitation program.

Minseok wants to run away, but he can’t. It’s not his feet that are stopping him from moving, but the wave of depression he feels upon realization that Jongdae seems to be helping him more than he should.

As soon as the two of them arrive at the rehabilitation centre, Minseok immediately senses Junmyeon welcoming him and taking him by both hands, slowly allowing the blind man to ease into his grasp and gradually be introduced to the people he'll be with for the next five sessions.

He feels Jongdae slowly setting himself aside, probably back to his car where he saunters himself home or somewhere else where he can wait for Minseok. At the same time, he feels Junmyeon slowly guiding his hands until he's held by someone else. As he hears Junmyeon talk incessantly away, giving brief introductions on people he's with, Minseok's thoughts slowly begin to fade to somewhere else.

At the back of his mind, Minseok hears Junmyeon talking about Hyukjae, the first hand he shakes with. His grip is tight and Minseok thinks for a moment that this man has the capability of crushing his bones without a second thought; the fact that Hyukjae is blind is just one large disadvantage. Hyukjae first came to the rehabilitation centre with his partner, Kyuhyun. The two of them became blind as a result of a failed experiment. A few months after they have settled in, Kyuhyun passed away due to the after effects of radiation in his body. Up to this day, Hyukjae proudly tells Minseok that he's moved on at least two years after Kyuhyun has passed; knowing that his partner is in a better place where he has no problem seeing.

It's sweet, Minseok thinks on reflex; it's bittersweet; it's the word he comes up as he reflects on this later on.

The second hand Minseok comes into contact with is much softer, and one that seems too familiar with her surroundings. Jung Sooyeon, the name floats off the girl's tongue like a chant. I'm not blind, she says, as a short introduction. She originally visited the rehabilitation centre in hopes of aiding her with writing her thesis paper on the development of modern rehabilitation techniques for blind people. Although her paper's on its finishing stages, she continued to visit once she felt she has made personal connections with the patients here, Junmyeon says.

Junmyeon leads him to a chair where he doesn't realize two people are just in front of him. The first one speaks; his tone reminds Minseok of a lively youthful man, which is precisely what Baekhyun is, as he introduced himself as. The person beside Baekhyun talks with a more mature tone, a deeper voice that makes Minseok thinks this guy is older than Baekhyun. Junmyeon receives a glare from Minseok the minute he tells the latter that they're of the same age. ("You're lying," Minseok eyes Junmyeon, the glassy eyes trying to take in Junmyeon's reaction, "I'm not," the doctor replies calmly.) Baekhyun came to the rehabilitation centre at a surprising young age, Chanyeol tells. There's a tone in his voice that's trying to tell Minseok that he's told this story far too many times, a story that should've followed Luhan to his funeral, never to resurface ever again. Baekhyun experienced macular degeneration at an alarming young age. Although his parents tried to remedy this with surgery and a multitude of medicines, they found the illness too late to remedy. It was only when the doctor's tricks stopped working that his recovery severely slowed down enough for him to end up here, Chanyeol explains with a sigh.

It takes Minseok and Jongdae at least an hour and a half to get to know all the patients, each giving their own stories for Minseok to hear. Was it for him to empathize with them? Was it a silly excuse to waste his time, probably? Whatever the motivation was, Minseok wanted to tell each one of them that they all have unique stories, and someone had a plan to bring them all together to help each other out.

As Junmyeon accompanies Minseok back where the latter was welcomed with open arms, the two found themselves seated just near the entrance. The walls are halved with white on top and blue underneath. There is a flat-screen television running on mute somewhere in the distance, as Minseok recognizes on his peripheral vision as the colours change consistently, but no words come out from the speakers. "Junmyeon, how is Luhan?" The hall around them is empty. Minseok knows he has all the freedom he needs to talk loudly in the area, yet his throat chokes up instinctively at the thought of Luhan. Is he still alive? He fears he won't be able to ask Junmyeon this question. Not because he doesn't want to hear the answer, but because he can't bear to hear himself say the words that are repeated along newspaper headlines, on gossip magazines, on tabloids that circulate every second around hushed whispers, text messages and signals that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

At that point, Junmyeon cracks. "He's still in intensive care. Only a handful of people are allowed to see him; we fear that a possible infection might make his condition worse. I hope you understand."

Of course Minseok would understand; he needs to take in all the information about Luhan that he can get.

Before Minseok can even ask another question, Jongdae arrives shortly after Junmyeon explains Luhan's condition and assists Minseok into his car once again.

As the doors close on Junmyeon, he feels a sharp pain in his heart that reminds him that he's struggling to hide the truth.

Minseok's second session began a few days just after the first. However, Junmyeon had insisted that Minseok try to get to know the other patients just so he wouldn't feel alone. For the doctor, the best way for Minseok to be able to accept his current condition is to be inspired from others who are going through the same, if not worse.

"Your second session is anything but stressful," Junmyeon began with clearing his throat, the introduction brought Minseok nothing but fear from not knowing what to expect from his doctor, "You'll be given exercises on intense meditation in order to steer your mind away from the trauma after the accident."

It's partly true, as much as Minseok would hate to admit it. He thinks Jongdae has no idea how the blind man's hands would perspire profusely in the car; his mind giving him mental images of the car spinning slowly in mid-air. There are moments where Jongdae is in a hurry to arrive in the rehabilitation center on time just so he could pick up Minseok's medicines before the pharmacy closed for the day. The car switches lanes too swiftly before Minseok even gets a chance to remind Jongdae that sooner or later, he'll be arrested for frequent overtaking.

"Since when was that against the law?" Jongdae's voice comes out stern, or maybe even a tad bit too apathetic to take into consideration Minseok's apparent trauma that's obvious by the trembling of his upper lip and the hesitation in his choice of words.

"Do you even think there will be a law against instinctively inflicting harm against someone in terms of speeding and changing lanes -- especially after going through a major accident that has made me blind? Would you like to wait for a law against that before you're motivated to stop?"

Jongdae was left silent from Minseok's harsh words; it was insensitive of him to even think none of this is affecting the latter's state of mind for quite a while. "You're right," Jongdae replies weakly, he admits he came out too sure of himself on this one, not knowing Minseok would readily disagree on his temperament and disposition, “I should've thought about what you were feeling."

"Forget it," Minseok instinctively drops the issue just as if nothing happened in the last five minutes, "I just hope the pharmacy's still open once we get there."

As Minseok waits for Jongdae to come out from the automatic doors, his mind was nothing short of questions, "Why did he even decide to leave so late knowing he had my medicines to pick up, still?" "Does he actually think this will decrease the trauma I earned from the accident?" "Do I still have a chance to move on from this traumatic experience?"

There are some answers to the questions he's asked himself; others have yet to be understood and answered to; others will only be given the proper answer if Minseok wills himself to. In the end, this boils down to how he wants to treat himself after this accident. He's sure neither Jongdae nor Junmyeon would be able to persuade him to do otherwise, if it came to a point.

He hopes the meditation works out well, just as Junmyeon had assured him.

After spending more than half a day on his second session, Minseok leaves the rehabilitation centre with Jongdae feeling like a new man. Perhaps not in the sense that he can see; rather a heavy burden has left his chest. He leaves with a heightened sense of hope thinking that he has a chance of getting over his trauma.

"Any new updates on Luhan's condition? I should hate to hear not being able to visit him at a crucial time like this." Minseok's voice is shaky; as if the meditation never seemed to improve the topic of Luhan between him and Junmyeon. The blind young man's hands have stopped shaking as a result of Jongdae's impudent driving skills. However this moment seems no different from his fear from fast cars and walking on thin ice; he feels his hands have been wrapped in frozen gloves. Momentarily he feels the lack of blood surging through his veins as a veil of numbness surrounds his fingers and leaves bouts of nostagia and pain in his heart.

"I'm really sorry, Minseok." The other man hears the apologetic tone in Junmyeon's voice and for a second he thinks he's lost it all.

"Junmyeon, you can't be---"

"No! Not in that way; he's still in a critical condition; please don't misunderstand. I didn't mean to scare you." The cup of coffee on the doctor's hands begins to tremble; the paper cup slowly crumpling from the way Junmyeon releases his nerves on the scalding hot drink.

The moment Jongdae and Minseok arrive home, the aspect of time changed from something unnoticed in the background to an essential element in Minseok's state of mind. The meditation became a source of relief for him, besides the rare bouts of drafts for his newspaper column; Jongdae has noticed Minseok becoming more isolated and introverted. He doesn't question Junmyeon's tactics to relieve Minseok of his trauma. However, a part of Jongdae remains worried. Worried because he feels he's become a secondary character to Minseok; a person merely behind the scenes at an event; a product of bystander apathy if someone runs into an accident right in front of him.

'Distance makes the heart grow fonder,' some people used to say. If this was one way to make the two of them closer to one another; Jongdae must believe he's wasting his time because nothing seems to be improving between the two of them ever since he's taken Minseok into his care, at least until he gets over his trauma and his current disability.

Nonetheless, time seems to be running too quickly for Jongdae to even realize he's losing Minseok as each hour passes without the two of them rekindling old relationships.

part 2