Title: Cold and Damp
Pairing: Hanchul, Kyumin, Kangteuk
Summary: After Seoul becomes infested with the living dead and the government abandons them; it's only natural that they realise hidden feelings in the midst of disaster.intro
'Kyuhyun, I'm going to be sick again,' Sungmin grumbled, watching the laminate sky blur before his eyes from his up-side down position on Kyuhyun's shoulder.
'Wait a second, we're almost at the toilets.'
'Your shoulder's digging into my gut, though.' He fidgeted a little to get more comfortable, only making the sensation worse.
They went through a door, and Kyuhyun leaned down a little to gently slip Sungmin off his shoulder, barely catching the boy when he wobbled on his feet.
'It's only a few steps.' He said, flicking a switch to his left, illuminating the space.
It was a large room, the floor and walls covered in white tiles. There were toilet stalls on both sides of the room, a long line of sinks down the middle.
It was just a huge blur of white light to Sungmin, spinning and spiralling. Kyuhyun let go of him, and suddenly all he could feel was the coolness of the bathroom tiles against his cheek; the world turning on its side. 'Christ, Sungmin,' Kyuhyun groaned, rushing back over and hastily pulling him over to a toilet cubicle just in time.
Kyuhyun had never felt so guilty, he knew it was his fault Sungmin was so frail right then, too sick to even stand straight. If he hadn't have left their room that night, if he'd woken Sungmin up, then maybe things would have been different.
Sungmin looked fragile. Breakable, even. Kyuhyun hated it.
He rubbed gentle circles into the smaller boys back, holding his sweat-soaked strands of hair away from his face. He'd never had to do something like this before, and he felt uncomfortable and awkward, especially as he and Sungmin weren't even that close. He couldn't remember ever touching the older boy so casually – in fact, he couldn't remember ever touching the boy at all. He was drawn away from his thoughts when he realised Sungmin was trying to speak, gasping his name between heaves.
'Don't speak,' he chided, a little sharply, 'You have a head injury, not a virus. Try your best to resist vomiting as much as you can, you haven't eaten much, hardly anything at all, so you need to retain as much nutrition as possible.'
Sungmin was too busy trying to breathe to hear anything Kyuhyun was blabbing on about. He rested his head on the cool porcelain, not caring about hygiene, and tried to think of anything but vomit.
'Kyuhyun,' he whispered. His throat was raw and his mouth was dry – he'd kill for a toothbrush.
'What?' Kyuhyun leaned back on his heels as Sungmin sat up shakily, flushing the toilet and turning towards him.
'I think a shower would be nice,'
'I don't think there's any showers here, Sungmin. We're in a shopping mall... I think I heard that Chinese guy talking about fixing up one of the showroom showers so it would work or something, but you'll have to wait.'
'Fine, fine. Just... just get me away from this toilet, it's making me feel worse.'
'Can you manage it?' He pulled him gently to his feet, trying not to jolt him or take him off balance as they left the stall.
'I just need a change of clothes. Brushing my teeth would be a slice of heaven right now, too.' He reasoned. He just wanted to feel clean, his clothes felt hot and itchy and he hadn't washed in over three days, and his usually glossy, soft black hair looking greasy and knotty. He glanced down at his attire, feeling a small hint of confusion. He didn't remember getting dressed, and he was sure he was in his pyjamas when the accident happened. Had Kyuhyun changed his clothes? He blushed softly.
'I'm sorry for being a burden.' Sungmin whispered as they walked slowly out of the bathroom. His words were barely audible, but Kyuhyun heard them.
He'd never felt so awkward. He had no idea how to reply, he cleared his throat, resisting the urge to say something rude or sarcastic as he would usually do.
'You're not a burden.'
And he meant it. It was his own fault for leaving him in their room alone, if anything Sungmin should have been mad at him, because Kyuhyun was definitely mad at himself.
'Youngwoon?' Jungsu whispered softly, gently shaking the sleeping figure draped ungracefully over the small wooden bench. 'Youngwoon!' he tried again when he didn't stir. He flinched on instinct when the younger man rolled over and swatted his hand away aggressively.
'Get lost, I'm sleeping,' he growled, rolling back onto his stomach and scrunching his face up. He let out a screech – a sound he'd adamantly deny making – as he felt slender fingers dig into his side, shoving him off the bench and onto the cold laminate floor.
'Get up, we're having a meeting,' Jungsu laughed as Youngwoon lay sprawled in an ungainly heap on the floor. His chirpy, high-pitched giggle seemed to dissipate Youngwoon's earlier annoyance as he got to his knees, dusting off his clothes before accepting the hand Jungsu offered him and getting to his feet.
They boarded the elevator to the first floor, walking to the large restaurant and spotting Heechul, Hankyung and, to Jungsu's surprise, the two students who lived in the dorm next to his, Sungmin and Kyuhyun all seated at one of the many large, mahogany tables in the lavish seating area.
Jungsu missed the look of distaste on Youngwoon's face when he took the seat beside Hankyung, leaving the only seat available for him the one beside Heechul.
A moment of silence passed over the group before Hankyung cleared his throat and started to speak, looking at each person in turn.
'A lot has happened today, so it would be good to start off with some introductions. I don't know any of you, and you don't know me, so I'll start. My name is Hankyung, and I worked here as a security guard before all this happened, this place is completely safe, so don't worry about any of those things getting in. And just... I'd recommend that you avoid the basement.' Youngwoon would have asked why, but Hankyung had a look that told him to keep his questions to himself. The Chinese man turned to Heechul and nodded for him to speak.
'Everyone knows me.' Heechul shrugged, and they all nodded in agreement. Everybody knew Heechul.
'Okay, you.' Hankyung pointed at the lanky boy beside Youngwoon who sat looking bored out of his mind.
He didn't sit up from his slouched, lazy position in his seat, speaking lazily. 'Kyuhyun, nineteen. And this is Sungmin, twenty.' he motioned to the smaller boy leaning on his shoulder.
'What exactly is wrong with your friend?' Hankyung asked, regarding the small teens pale, drawn face and heavy eyelids. He looked ready to pass out at any given moment. He probably looked just as bad as him and Jungsu, Youngwoon reflected. In fact, he was still wearing his dirty clothes and he probably still stunk of parties and old sick.
'He has a concussion, it's not a bite.' Kyuhyun looked pointedly at Hankyung, the Chinese man visibly relaxing at the new information. Youngwoon wondered if he was missing something, because he honestly had no idea what he meant by 'bite'. Why would a bite be worrying?
'Bite?' Jungsu straightened in his seat, looking deeply intrigued and voicing out Youngwoon's thoughts.
'Maybe we should focus on what's going on outside rather than personal introductions.' Youngwoon suggested, and Kyuhyun took the lead, sitting up in his seat with a new-found vigour.
'On the way here, I picked up a few newspapers and magazines to see if I could find anything out. We'd all heard about China, right?' He paused momentarily, looking at Hankyung for a moment. Hankyung nodded, signalling him to carry on. 'Apparently there was a pandemic that broke out in a small village deep in the heart of China, anyone infected would die, be it within a few minutes or a few days – but they wouldn't stay dead.' He paused. Youngwoon felt there was no need for dramatic effect, wishing the boy would just get on with the damn story. 'They had no vital signs; their hearts stopped. The only sign of life was a small amount of brain activity – extremely small. The dead would lunge out at the closest person, trying to bite them. They don't stop feeding; the only function they know is the instinct to hunt, to spread the pathogen to a new host.'
'Zombies?' Jungsu laughed, shaking his head, 'that's ludicrous. That stuff only exists in bad fiction and cheap horror films.'
'It's true,' Hankyung said, 'I've watched from the rooftop. They rip people to pieces, but they leave enough of the victim that they can still... function. Like their arms and legs, so they can still walk around after they reanimate. The victim gets back up, be it after a minute or a day, even without a heart or lungs. Once I saw... I saw a head. Just a head, dragging itself along by the teeth.'
Youngwoon couldn’t fight the look of disgust that twitched at his face, but when he spared a glance, he saw that Jungsu obviously felt the same.
'They only die if you destroy the brain. That's what every film has taught us, and it's true, I've seen it. Remember those soldiers back at college? ' Kyuhyun paused, seeing Jungsu and Youngwoon nod before continuing, 'They aimed for the head every time.'
'What happened at college?' Hankyung asked, and Sungmin seemed to wake up a little at the question.
'Well, the-' Kyuhyun started, but Jungsu held up a hand to pause him.
'I was there when everything started,' he said, and drew a deep breath, relaying the events of that night to the group. He told them about the soldiers, the tent and the gunshots. 'Now that I think about it,' he breathed, 'the blood... the blood on the tent was congealed.'
'Congealed?' Heechul squinted. He'd been lost in the conversation since Kyuhyun started speaking. Not everyone knew big, long, technical words.
'If something congeals it goes thick and lumpy.' Jungsu explained, 'But blood coagulates only after you die.'
'So were they shooting at us or not?' Youngwoon asked. In all honesty, he could hardly remember what happened that night. He could only recall the panic, the soldiers and the wild rush to find Jungsu.
'They probably didn’t intend to. When they found someone carrying the virus, they must have been on orders to de-contaminate the area.' Kyuhyun answered.
'And by de-contaminate, you mean massacre.' Heechul chuckled humourlessly. 'We should get guns.'
And if there was anything Youngwoon was scared of, it was Heechul with a gun. Forget zombies.
'Where would you find a gun in South Korea, Heechul?' Jungsu sighed, 'This isn't a movie.'
'You'd be surprised...' Heechul mumbled, but Hankyung spoke over him.
'And besides,' started Hankyung, 'guns are loud and loud noises equal more zombies. It's best to use melee weapons.'
'They hear?' Youngwoon straightened a little in his seat, because things just got a little more interesting.
'They hear, they see, they smell. Anything the person they once were could do, so can they. If the person was blind, they'll be blind. It's the same for an injury or a disability; it's just that the zombie won't feel the pain of say a twisted ankle or a gunshot wound.' Hankyung explained, earning a hum of appreciation from Jungsu and a quiet smile from Heechul.
'Why do you know all this?' Heechul asked, resting his arm on the table and leaning towards the Chinese man, smirking. Youngwoon fought back the urge to spit.
Kyuhyun huffed, 'It's common knowledge,' he said, 'everyone knows this stuff, do you guys live under a rock?'
Youngwoon decided he didn't like this guys attitude.
'Drop the attitude, kid.' growled Heechul, eyes wide and commanding. He sure knew how to make people do as he said. The lanky boy crossed his arms sulkily, turning his attention to the boy asleep on his shoulder.
'You're a medical student, right?' Kyuhyun asked, looking at Jungsu. 'can you make sure he's okay?'
'Well, what exactly is wrong with him?' Jungsu got out of his seat and moved to kneel beside Sungmin. He’d closed his eyes a few minutes ago, and apparently he’d fallen asleep.
'The ceiling fell in on him, he's concussed. Vomiting, loss of balance, lethargy – he has the symptoms.'
'How long ago did it happen?'
'The night the soldiers came.'
'That long? Jeez, you're lucky he's still responsive.' Jungsu quickly stood up, pulling the sleeping teen up into a standing position before looping his arm over his shoulder and making to leave the restaurant. 'Hankyung, are there beds?'
'There's one made up just around the corner, but the sheets are dirty,' he glanced at Heechul briefly, ‘just throw them off.’
'That's fine, thank you.' and he turned a corner, out of sight. Kyuhyun looked as if he was experiencing some sort of mild physical pain.
'Chill out, he'll look after him.' assured Heechul, 'what's the deal with you two anyway?'
Kyuhyun fidgeted. 'What deal?'
'You're acting like you're married or something.' Heechul smirked, 'It's creepy.'
'Not everyone's gay, Heechul.' Youngwoon grumbled, not missing the look Hankyung threw his way.
'It's none of your business, anyway.' Kyuhyun snapped, a deep frown settling on his brow. 'There are more important things to talk about, for example; the fact that you've only boarded up the windows on the ground floor. And how long is the food downstairs going to last? How long it will take for the electricity to be shut off, and how are we going to get rescued.'
Youngwoon really didn't like his attitude – and apparently neither did anyone else; Heechul miming the word 'wow' and Hankyung rubbing his temples.
'I guess this would be a good time to mention the basement.' sighed Hankyung, 'Simply, don't go down there until we've checked it out. We heard noises down there.'
'You didn't even scope this place out?' hissed Kyuhyun, laying his palms on the table and leaning forward.
'I did, but I forgot all about the basement. This place is pretty big.'
'And you should really stop bitching at the guy who saved your life.' Warned Heechul.
‘Well, instead of bitching at each other, aren’t you going to see what’s down there?’ Youngwoon quirked his brow at the two opposite him, and grimaced when he felt Heechul’s heeled boot come into contact with his knee, but Kyuhyun was already nodding.
‘Since when was he in charge?’ Heechul grumbled under his breath, ‘fucking Youngwoon…’
‘Stop grumbling,’ Hankyung sighed, and looked at the crowbar Heechul was gripping in his dainty hands, ‘you look ridiculous holding that.'
‘I look fabulous,’
‘Sure you do.’ he laughed, and Heechul quirked a brow.
‘Nothing. Did you really get all the way from college alone? With those weak little arms?’ he poked Heechul in the arm and deftly dodged the weak punch aimed in his direction.
‘Watch your mouth or I might just show you how well these weak little arms can swing a crowbar.’
Hankyung raised his hands in a mock sign of surrender, before turning to the basement door, tapping it gently open and wincing as it screeched on its joints, slamming into the concrete wall of the stairwell and echoing along the damp walls.
‘If we die, it’s your fault.’ Heechul griped, once again clutching to Hankyung's shirt as they started to descend the concrete steps, the darkness growing thicker and thicker
‘Turn the flashlight on.’
‘Turn the damn flashlight on!’
‘I get panic attacks, you know. I could die.’
‘You’re a real drama queen, you know that?’ Hankyung sighed, flicking the switch on the floodlight in his hand – a replacement for the measly torch he’d brought earlier. He moved the light to-and-fro, illuminating the steps before him, but there was still a while to go before he’d actually see into the basement.
‘You shouldn’t have let those two in, you know. That Kyuhyun guy especially.’ Heechul griped, and his face was the perfect picture of disgust when that name passed his lips.
‘He’s just shy,’ Heechul looked at him incredulously, ‘he’s just building barriers, that's all.’
‘What are you, a psychologist? I'm the one who studied psychology, geez.’ Heechul sniggered, but he fell silent soon enough. The basement was much brighter with the floodlight, but it was still dark, and Heechul could feel his knuckles turning white with the death grip he had on the cloth of Hankyung’s shirt. ‘There must be a light switch or something,’ he whispered, straining his eyes as he looked up, trying to see any kind of light fissure on the high ceiling. He kept close as Hankyung moved further into the vast, damp space. There were racks everywhere, right to the ceiling, like a hardware store, and they couldn’t see anything apart from what was directly in front of them. Heechul almost tripped when Hankyung stopped abruptly, his large hand suddenly covering Heechul's mouth before he could yelp.
He was about to ask why they’d stopped, but he realised soon enough.
There was a thud, a clanking above them – different to the rhythmic clinking of the boilers. It sounded as if something was crawling, shuffling through the piping. Heechul’s hands suddenly felt clammy, and he released Hankyung’s shirt from his tight grip, moving to hold his arm instead, and the Chinese man pulled him close to his chest. Another time, maybe he would have had the decency to blush, but right then he was shit scared and just wanted to run, because it wasn’t enough that he was in the dark – this time he knew there were monsters.
He heard the Chinese man suck in a breath, and his eyes almost popped from his skull when he heard him give a shrill, high whistle, the sound ringing in his ears. The fuck was this guy doing?
‘The fuck are you doing?’ he hissed, hitting him in the stomach and looking around wildly, searching the dark for anything that might be coming.
‘If it comes to us, it saves looking for it.’ was his simple reply, and Heechul just wanted to punch that face. He wanted to wipe off that calm expression, because Heechul was far from calm.
He was ready to snap at the idiot, but he stopped. ‘Hankyung,’ he whispered, ‘there’s something behind me.’
‘Don’t move,’ he said, but Heechul wasn’t going to go anywhere fast, was he? ‘Be ready to use that,’ he motioned to the crowbar Heechul had forgotten he was holding – extremely tight, in fact, and only then did he notice how rusty it was, cutting into his skin. He held it ready, his other hand leaving Hankyung’s warm arm to hold the cold metal. It wasn’t a nice compromise.
‘On the count of three, we turn.’ and Heechul nodded, taking a breath. Hankyung counted down on his fingers, the other hand still shining the torch ahead of them and a frying pan held tight under his arm.
‘one,’ what if he died? What if his luck ran out and he died, forgotten by the world in this damp, dark basement with only his bones left to his name.
‘two,’ what if he got bitten? What if he turned into one of them and started chomping down on Hankyung? He was surprised how little he minded that idea.
‘One!’ Heechul yelled as he turned, ready to swing, the light quickly changing direction as Hankyung did the same, illuminating the monster that had been waiting in the dark.
‘You're shitting me, right?’ Heechul laughed, and Hankyung did the same, both letting out a sigh.
It was a cat.
‘We did all this over a cat?’ he turned to look at Hankyung – but his smile dropped abruptly. ‘Move. Move now. Move.’ he hissed, eyes wide. He’d expected him to ask him ‘why?’ or ‘what’s wrong?’ but apparently he wasn’t an idiot, and he span on his heel, the torch illuminating a pallid, drawn face; maggots in its empty eye-socket and bony, thin fingers reaching for Hankyung, for its meal.
There was a resounding ‘dong’ as the pan connected with its head, and an even louder crack as its skull shattered, the limp body falling to the ground. And in a sick way, Heechul was impressed. Well, until Hankyung turned to face him, covered in blood and gore. He turned on his heel and scooped the cat into his arms, making a bee-line for the steps. ‘Find the propane system thing,’ he called over his shoulder before he disappeared up the stairwell, leaving Hankyung alone in the dark with a dead body and a bent frying pan.