Pedestal - Chapter 1 - NeverOneWithoutTheOther (2024)

Chapter Text

Even the next-generation advanced ANC headset isn’t enough to deafen the elated roar that the Chase Center arena erupts into when the blue nexus finally shatters.

Deft wrenches himself free of it soon enough anyways, his body moving before his awareness catches up to the reality of the situation, his eardrums almost exploding from the cheering before he fully understands who they are cheering for.

A sea of flashing lights bright enough to make the sun blind.

An odd sort of blue snow falling from the sky– except it isn’t really cold, and it’s made of little cardboard-smelling pieces of paper.

“DRX, DRX, DRX, DR–” clamor thousands of voices in unison, almost like a strange cult meeting of which they are the leaders, for once.

Geonwoo hurls himself into Deft’s arms first, then Changhyun, blabbering some ecstatic gibberish about Hecarim jungle pathing and Bard last pick.

What is happening now or how it has come to happen is the least of his concerns.

There is just one simple thought.


“I’m finally… free.”

And the music abruptly stops.

Wait, what music?

The 20 000 seat stadium goes dead silent.

Did he miss something? Surely Geonhee knows what’s going on.

He always does, somehow.

It’s not a learned skill, BeryL does practically nothing but play games all day. And save the socially awkward nerds of the squad from having to figure out how real life works.

So Deft turns to him for guidance, only to realize that where his teammate’s eyes and mouth used to be there are only gaping holes of patchwork-like skin, staring at him without seeing a thing.

It’s not just Geonhee– there isn’t a single person in the crowd who still has a face.

No eyes to see him lift the trophy. No mouth to cheer him on. Or scream for help.

One by one they start standing up, as if controlled by some sort of omniscient puppeteer.

What used to be his teammates are now circling him, the faceless body of Changhyun grabbing onto Deft’s arm, the rest of them patiently awaiting his next move.

He wonders if that is what happens to you when you win a world championship. If it will be his turn soon.

It should be the loser’s fate, not his, not this time.

But life is not fair now is it?

On the other end of the stage, the defated team, in the red and black uniform, seems unfazed by the unfolding of events.

Or rather, they are in their own little bubble of despair, unable to see anything but the loss, and like some sort of spell barrier, it has kept their faces steady on their heads.

Sorrow: the most potent glue in the world?

The one with the round glasses and the broad, wise face, holds onto his composure solemnly, looking over the small-framed one, whose composure leaves a lot to be desired. His hands are holding his face, as if it is going to fall off anytime soon, and he seems unable to control the shaking of his body. And yet, the wise looking one seems almost proud.

Deft, from his side of the stadium, is completely entranced by the scene, no longer concerned with whatever stupid thing it was he was worrying about.

Until the crying boy, parting his hands away from his body, unearths his red, teary face and shoots a piercing gaze directly at him. Hyeokgyu jolts up in his bed, covered in sweat and Changyun’s heavy arm wrapped around his torso.

One of those two things seems strange.

What on Earth is his friend doing in his bed— and why does his snoring sound exactly like an ultimate tractor sounds compilation?

Hyeokgyu is considering whether to shine his phone flashlight onto the unsuspecting KT jungler’s face when he remembers, he did this to himself.

Earlier, after they’d finished watching the T1- GenG finals with the rest of the team, he’d asked Changhyun to sleep with him that night, and the poorly worded question had been the perfect excuse for the younger one to start unleashing the Pyosik special.

(What? Wait so you’re really , like, gay? I thought you were joking about you and that Rekkles guy and it turns out you were MARRIED with FIVE KIDS? Let it be known that I won’t let you use me to forget your divorce– okay but now really what do you mean sleep with you– no offense but you’re not my type at all, first off you’d have to wear cute clothes (you always wear the same musty shirt ew) and be a girl, and—)

So Hyeokgyu had to hastily explain to a snickering Changhyun that he didn’t mean it that way— that he was having a terrible nightmare streak and would rather not sleep at all than wake up alone, at least not that night, knowing everyone was leaving for the holidays and he’d eventually have to deal with it on his own–

Before long, Changyun was gleefully agreeing to deprive Hyeokgyu of personal space for the rest of the foreseeable future.

They talked and talked about the new patch, about how sh*t they were against DK, about the thousand regrets they’d accumulated during spring split, and when their tired gamer brain was empty of sorrow they played stupid “would you rather” games until they could barely keep their eyes open.

The pains that had been tormenting him, turned, for just a moment, into a pool of endless warmth, and the headaches of playoffs turned into Changhyun induced headaches instead– but the nightmare still came.

Every night, like clockwork.

Inevitable. Kind of like Dae Sanghyeok.

At least this time there was no floating alpaca head berating him for his shortcomings, trying to explain something that escaped his mind every time he woke up.

He has Changhyun’s obnoxiously loud snoring to thank for waking him up before that.

Is it really that simple?

He would never regret asking for an individual bedroom– privacy is a luxury many other pro players struggle to afford, and Hyeokgyu gets cold sweats just thinking of that season 3 Samsung dorm. He's lucky.

And still, something about all this is making his chest feel tight and heavy, like he's come back from a vacation in the countryside and has just now taken his first fresh breath of Seoul's petrol-smelling air.

Company has its perks.

Sharing a room with Meiko meant never having to worry about sleeping through his alarm, or about feeling completely alone after the toughest of losses. And tough they were.

Next year I will be on a better team. I will win worlds. Everything will fall into place.

But after EDG, Hyeokgyu hardly found peace of mind, not on KT at least. Mata was a good player, better than Deft even, but that wasn’t the problem.

Mata’s after-scrims speeches, Wonseok’s existential ramblings during smoke breaks– he’s never come to miss them the same way he missed Meiko’s absentminded hand weaving invisible braids in Hyukkyu’s hair as the ADC would inevitably fall asleep despite the infinitely cycling montage of correctable mistakes that the theatre of his mind insisted on playing.

"Damnit, I forgot my charger in Meiko's room" No one in that 2017 KT roster believed him for a second. But what was Hyeokgyu supposed to say? That he missed Meiko? That he hadn't felt so terribly lonely since...

Did it really matter? It didn't, in the support player's skilled and welcoming arms. Those hands were capable of the nastiest mechanical outplays known to man, and letting the solid, precise machine that was his body rest in them, feeling so warm in the process— it almost felt possible, to be human without being fragile. To bridge the mental rift between Deft and Hyeokgyu.

If only for however long he allowed himself that weakness.

It would not happen again. Surely.

Sharing a room with Minseok–

“You see a f*cking ghost or what?” – Changhyun’s sleepy voice yanks his train of thought away from memory lane. "Shut up Pyosik" lane seems more appropriate at the moment.

“Umm, right, I have to piss” – Hyeokgyu lies.

“Staring at the wall isn’t gonna unload your balls- or whatever the hell you store piss in” — his friend expertly answers, trying to nudge him back to sleep with his arm.Fair Enough. Changhyun is actually kind of strong, for a guy who spends twelve hours a day playing LoL.

He’s about to apologize to him for disturbing his slumber when the tractor starts revving its engine once again.

Deft has many things to think about, but perhaps now is not the moment. Perhaps none of those things matter at all. Sleeping, however, matters a whole lot more.

Pedestal - Chapter 1 - NeverOneWithoutTheOther (2024)
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