Title: Cold and Damp
II [Dead Seoul]
Pairings: Hanchul, Kyumin, Kangteuk (minor eunhae)
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 - but where are Heechul and Sungmin? What happened to Hankyung? Did Youngwoon and Jungsu escape? And is Kyuhyun really
dead?prequel 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
When he’d asked the two Chinese men if there was any petrol left, they’d replied positively. There was a cellar beneath the gas station with a few emergency gas tanks, and they led the way down. ‘You speak better Korean than Hankyung.’ Kyuhyun said as the two chattered away as they descended the steps.
‘Who’s Hankyung?’ asked Henry. His voice echoed slightly. The electricity was out and even though Zhoumi had a small torch the cellar was still pitch black. It smelt damp and the air was moist and chilly.
‘I came with a group; there are three others.’
Henry’s tone of voice was tense and Kyuhyun could tell he wanted to talk to take his mind off the darkness, latching eagerly onto this new source of conversation. ‘Where are they?’ Zhoumi’s curiosity was piqued, also, as he asked: ‘Why did you come alone?’
‘I guess I’m just expendable.’ He shrugged, though he was at the back of the group so neither of them saw the motion. Zhoumi sighed.
‘You’re lucky to be with so many people.’
‘Why are you two here, anyway?’ The two didn’t look related, but they were too buddy-buddy to be strangers. Zhoumi flashed the torched around the cellar as they reached the bottom of the steps; damp, mossy walls an eerie green-grey under the light. The stone floor was very wet but it didn’t feel like water… something thicker, more viscous. As they walked further into the space, they saw overturned gas tanks, seemingly having spilled their contents a while ago. There were a few still upright, though.
‘Pass me that jug.’ Henry said, and Kyuhyun handed it to him. He put it beneath a crank jammed inside one of the tanks and started to fill it with effort. Zhoumi told him their story as the petrol dripped thick and slow into the container.
They’d worked at a convenience store a few streets away. When shit went down, they ran to the gas station. It seemed safe at a glance, but they’d nearly lost their heads when they burst through the door. A man had been hiding out there, shotgun held firmly in his shaking hands and his nervous finger a little too tight on the trigger. Luckily he’d missed. The three of them ended up holing up there for a few days before they realised the man had a wound. At the time they hadn’t known that it would turn him into one of those things, they’d just let it be. In the end, he turned. Zhoumi shot him when he’d tried to have Henry for supper, a few times in the chest before he got lucky and managed a headshot. A wandering undead had entered attracted by the noise, which explained the two dead bodies on the shop floor. They stayed in the flat upstairs since, peeking out of the window whenever they heard a noise and surviving off chocolate and soda and instant noodles.
The jug was too heavy for Henry to pick up when he’d filled it, but Kyuhyun lifted it with ease. Zhoumi’s story made him think of something discomforting, and as they left the clammy cellar behind, he couldn’t help but raise the issue.
‘When you shot me, it must’ve made a lot of noise. Your ears should still be ringing. You’d probably have heard it from a street away, right?’
Henry, ascending the narrow stairs ahead of him, gave a nod. ‘It’s likely.’
‘Then you’re probably not safe here anymore.’
They reached the shop floor and Zhoumi walked stiffly over to the checkout counter. ‘Woah, Woah! Don’t say something so ominous.’ His bright smile seemed a little dim this time. He turned to the blinds beside the counter and gently twisted one of the rungs, a slit of sunshine making him squint. He let out a sharp breath suddenly and Kyuhyun felt the hairs on his arms stand on edge.
‘What is it?’ asked Henry in a panic. He ran to Zhoumi’s side and pulled the blinds up completely, stepping back in shock as the scene outside was revealed. ‘Holy…’
…Shit he thought. His stomach dropped, dread filling his mind.
From the window they could see the next street, a crowd of undead roaming, seeming to spill out onto the main road. Sungmin was in that road, inside the van. Was he safe? Even if Hankyung had left him the keys, Sungmin couldn’t drive. The undead didn’t seem to be coming their way for the moment and he turned to Henry and Zhoumi, ready to take action, but something made him hesitate. He looked at them, together. An odd thought came into his mind, one that made him swallow thickly, and he thought for a second he felt tears sting his eyes.
Maybe they’d already left. Maybe Hankyung and Heechul and Sungmin were in the van right now, miles away, while he’d been here wasting time like an idiot. Maybe shit had hit the fan and they’d had no time to find him, so they’d simply given up. He was expendable, right?
He took a breath, shook it off. No. Hankyung had said he needed him. He put his faith in that, though he didn’t trust the man. Sungmin could still be out there, alone and in danger. He said his name under his breath in a cold, crisp voice, and Henry looked at him with wide, scared eyes. ‘Who’s Sungmin?’ he asked, his tone high pitched.
‘Someone important to me.’ He pointed down the street. ‘And he’s out there.’
Zhoumi looked at him, the jolly aura he’d given off since they’d met suddenly gone. ‘If we can help at all, just tell us. We’re not very useful, but we’ll try.’
‘I’ll be fine alone. You two should get out of here, they’ll notice you soon enough… somehow.’
‘Look…’ said Henry. He was staring out the window again. Kyuhyun asked what he wanted them to look at, and he pointed down the street at something. ‘They’re all crowding around that building.’
It must be Heechul and Hankyung he thought. He was relieved by that, cruel as it was. He cared little of what happened to them, as long as the attention was drawn away from Sungmin, he might have a better chance of getting to him before something else did.
‘Are you sure you don’t want our help?’ Zhoumi asked again. Kyuhyun nodded, and the Chinese man smiled sadly.
He turned and walked away, but as his hand touched the door handle he gave them one last look. ‘I’ll try and come back. Try and stay alive, if I don’t find you before the sun goes down then just go.’
‘Will you take us with you?’ Henry asked, his face full of hope and fear.
‘I’ll see what I can do. Hurry up and get somewhere safe.’
As the door rattled shut behind him the sound of soulless cries filled his ears from every direction. He had no weapon, only the jug of petrol in his hand. Maybe he could fight his way through bare handed? Would they even notice him?
In the midst of these thought his eyes fell upon the car he’d tried for gas before. He walked over to it and snapped off the exhaust pipe. It seemed brittle, but with his strength it might suffice long enough to get to Sungmin… if he even had to use it at all.
He looked back at the gas station and saw Zhoumi and Henry waving at him from the shop window. He smiled. He turned away. He wondered why he wanted to help them, anyway. He didn’t know these people, not to mention they’d shot him. Even before the whole zombie thing Kyuhyun was someone you’d consider insensitive, he was in his own world most of the time. They must’ve done a lot of strange things to me in the facility he thought. He knew he was lying to himself, but it made the discomfort fade away, if only a little. He’d lost every feeling he’d once possessed, but they were coming back fast and strong along with everything he’d suppressed – subconsciously or not.
He tightened his grip on the exhaust pipe, felt its coldness against his palm. He strode toward the gathering of undead, let his shoulders droop, made his legs stiffen, and he blended into the mass of stumbling, groaning corpses.
Jungsu awoke pleasantly, firmly pressed against Youngwoon’s chest. He smiled, yawned. The smell of Youngwoon was musty and foul, but he supposed he smelt somewhat the same. In an odd, gross way… it was almost comforting. He peeled himself away from the bear-like man and stretched out on the mattress. The inside of the truck was a honey gold colour, the light soft and full as it flooded through the windscreen behind him. When he finally resolved to get up, he sat in the passenger seat of the truck and felt the warm sun on his face. It seemed spring would be with them soon. He decided to put the radio on, but to his disappointment the signal was barely there and he was greeted only with the sound of static. It was a silly thought, he supposed, that someone would be there to DJ in the middle of the apocalypse. He opened the dashboard and rummaged through the CD’s stashed inside. He didn’t bother seeing what it was, and when he played it he wondered what kind of truck driver would listen to the Wonder Girls.
He relaxed for a while as Youngwoon snored to the rhythm of the music. After a while, though, he realised it was somehow too quiet. He checked the time on the trucks radio and frowned. Donghae should’ve woken them up hours ago, it was already midday. He stepped out of the truck, curious. The wind whipped his knotty hair this way and that as he stood there on the side of the road, brows furrowed. He looked around for Donghae’s car frantically, but it was gone. His stomach coiled, sweat beading on his brow.
They’d been left behind.
Donghae was lulled from his slumber by the hum of a car engine, the sound of fingers tapping against the steering wheel. A cocoon of warmth surrounded him, a scratchy woollen blanket draped over his body. He sat up, letting the material slump and fall in to his lap as he rubbed his sleepy eyes. The car was bright with yellow sunlight, and as he looked blearily out of the window at the blurring cityscape he suddenly sobered. Why were they moving? Had something happened? They must’ve been running away from something, something must have happened while he was sleeping. He wondered why Hyukjae hadn’t woken him up, but shrugged it off. Obviously Hyuk hadn’t had time, or maybe he’d wanted to give him some extra time to sleep.
He ran his fingers through his chocolaty locks groggily, let out a quiet yawn and leaned between the front seats to where Hyukjae was sat. He froze there a moment, his hand on the headrest of the passenger seat as he stared at Hyukjae’s face. It was strange, he couldn’t tell why, but it was. It made a chill tickle his skin, his mouth run dry.
Hyukjae’s eyes shifted, caught Donghae in the rear-view mirror, and his face changed. His big, bright gummy smile hung on his lips but Donghae didn’t feel any emotion behind it. ‘Good morning.’ The thick-lipped boy beamed at him, and Hae nodded back, climbing through the space between seats and slumping in the passenger seat, his head against the window.
‘Why are we driving?’ He asked. A moment passed without answer, he looked at Hyukjae. ‘Where’s Jungsu - and Youngwoon?’
Hyukjae’s smile seemed to falter slightly, stiffen on his face. Donghae wound down the window, staring hard at the side-mirror for any sign of the lorry, but the road behind them was clear.
‘Hey, Hyuk, stop the car, they must’ve fallen behind; they might have lost us or something.’ But Hyukjae continued to drive. In fact, Donghae thought they were going faster than before. ‘Why aren’t you stopping?’
That smile was back, the smile Donghae found more irritating by the second. Hyukjae always had the most infectious smile – when he smiled, everybody else started to smile too. But this wasn’t his smile. It was as if he wasn’t Hyukjae at all, at least not the Hyuk Donghae knew. This Hyuk was colder and harder, driven and determined and terrifying. He found himself shrinking back from that smile, his teeth grinding in his mouth in fear and irritation. ‘They’ll catch up eventually.’ He said; each word like cheap, brittle plastic. He felt the car speed up once again, saw Hyukjae’s knuckles turn bone-white from how tightly he was gripping the wheel.
‘Pull over.’ Donghae said firmly. Hyukjae ignored him. ‘Pull over.’ He repeated. Hyukjae was still ignorant, and he felt his temper rise, his heart race. He grabbed the wheel and Hyukjae yelled in surprise as he turned it sharply toward a lay-by. They slowed to a stop and Hyukjae looked at him blankly.
‘What’s your problem?’
‘What’s my problem? Do you see yourself?’ He yelled, exasperated. Hyukjae only looked back with that dumb, blank expression, and Donghae felt his hands twitch. The urge to punch him was unreal.
‘What do you mean?’
‘You’ve been acting differently since that night at college, since we left Kibum behind.’ He shook his head; feeling tears of frustration sting his eyes. ‘I’m not an idiot.’
Hyukjae’s eyes were glassy, as if he wasn’t seeing Donghae at all. ‘I’m just doing what I need to do,’ he said calmly, ‘to keep us alive.’
‘How can leaving them behind possibly help?’
‘They were a burden.’
Donghae felt his stomach turn at Hyukjae’s cold words. ‘Do you hear yourself? They’re our friends-‘
‘-No.’ He cut in sharply. ‘They’re dangerous.’
Donghae couldn’t control his temper anymore, the frustration boiling inside him. He reached out, clutching Hyukjae’s head and shaking him hard. ‘Wake up!’ He wailed. ‘What is wrong with you? What happened-‘
He felt something beneath his fingers, a bump, the hair covering it all matted and tangled. When he let go of Hyukjae, he came away with flakes of burnt copper on his fingertips. Dry blood. ‘What’s this?’
‘It’s something. What happened?’
Hyukjae rolled his eyes obnoxiously, let out a sigh. ‘When we were running that time… before we lost Kibum, I tripped. I bumped my head on something, it’s nothing important.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘It wasn’t important!’
‘We have to go back.’
Hyukjae scowled sourly. ‘Why?’
‘Jungsu might be able to help you!’
‘I don’t need help.’
Donghae wanted to hit him, punch his stupid face until it bled, but his body betrayed him and his fists stayed tightly clenched in his lap as a tear rolled down his cheek. ‘You do need help.’ He couldn’t look at him. ‘You’re not the same, not since we ran away from college. I want my best friend back.’
Hyukjae wasn’t moved by Donghae’s words, instead he bristled. The moment the words ‘best friend’ left Donghae’s lips his foot hit the pedal, and no matter how much Donghae yelled he wouldn’t stop. Donghae could only look at his best friend in fear and worry and wonder if Hyukjae would ever be the same as before.
Light flooded Youngwoon’s eyes as he awoke, making him groan and dive back beneath the duvet. ‘It’s late,’ said Jungsu softly, ‘you should get up.’ He let out another groan and rolled onto his back before sitting up, rubbing his temples as the cheerful beat of a pop song sped him along towards a headache. Damn it was bright; Donghae usually woke them up when the sun was still rising. He didn’t care much, though. The more sleep he got, the better.
Jungsu was in the driver’s seat, to his horror, but he swapped seats when he saw that Youngwoon was up. To which Youngwoon was thankful beyond expression. When he sat down he checked the time with a frown. ‘It’s late. Have you already had breakfast?’ Jungsu was silent, though, and when he looked at his face he saw the tension in his features, his downcast eyes.
He instinctively reached for the door handle, getting out of the truck and confirming his suspicions. He cursed as he clambered back into the truck, slamming the door with a bang and making the vehicle shake. If he’d looked, he would’ve noticed how Jungsu winced at the sound, how his body backed away by reflex. But he was too angry to think about anything other than punching Hyukjae in the face.
‘Where are they?’ He yelled. Jungsu shook his head softly.
‘I don’t know. I woke you up as soon as I realised they were gone. I don’t know when they left.’
Youngwoon cursed again. ‘We left everything in Donghae’s car.’ He thumped the driving wheel once, twice, before fixing a death glare on the windshield.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ said Jungsu, his eyes still focused on his lap, ‘we’re okay with just the two of us.’
Youngwoon nodded. ‘I knew I couldn’t trust Hyuk.’ He let out a sigh of frustration, shook his head. ‘He’s not the same guy I used to know.’
‘You can’t blame him for acting strangely after everything that’s happened. The fact that we haven’t cracked under these circumstances is far stranger than Hyukjae going crazy.’
There was silence between them after that, the two of them confused and frustrated and trying to get their heads around the situation. Youngwoon fidgeted in his seat. Something about this was awkward, now that it was just the two of them. Before they’d met up with Hyukjae and Donghae there’d been tension between them, but now that their feelings were clear it was a different kind of awkward.
Jungsu’s stomach growled, breaking the silence. ‘There was an exit a few miles back, we should get off the highway; try and find a store or an empty house to crash in. I’m sick of this truck.’ Jungsu looked out of the window, gave a soft nod. His mind was elsewhere. ‘You haven’t been eating, have you?’
‘I haven’t been hungry.’
Youngwoon bit his tongue to stop himself from yelling. He balled his fists and fixed Jungsu with a hard look. He was so unreasonable, it wasn’t as though they’d been short on food – they had enough junk food in Donghae’s car to last them a month, amongst the healthier snacks they’d grabbed – yet he’d been eating barely anything just to make it last a little longer. Youngwoon’s eyes raked over Jungsu’s appearance, his sharp jawline and jutting collarbones exposed by the low neckline of his sweat-stained shirt. His characteristically bright eyes were sunken and tired and his energy was drained. Yet he still didn’t complain or say he was tired or that he was hungry, he just smiled softly and shook his head and said he was fine. It pissed Youngwoon off. If Jungsu just told him he was feeling crappy he could pull his skinny body close and embrace him tightly, make him feel better, but he kept it all to himself and it felt as if he was pushing him away.
Youngwoon didn’t voice a single thought on the matter, though. He didn’t have the words; he didn’t know how to fix whatever was broken inside Jungsu. He just furrowed his brows and started up the truck, reversing and grumbling about his hatred for SNSD.
The silence between them was cold and awkward and unusual. Whenever they were together they could chatter on and on for hours, and for the past two weeks the car had been filled with laughter and conversation. Now it was just tension that filled the atmosphere.
As they drove the tension only thickened; the road was littered with debris and they passed by wreckage after wreckage, one car was still ablaze. Donghae was on edge, and Hyukjae was glaring hard at the road ahead.
Soon enough they saw something odd in the distance and at first Donghae thought it was a wall, but as they drove closer a huge fence came into view. The smell of sea salt filled Donghae’s nostrils through the open window, a seagull screaming as it flew overhead. He caught his lower lip between his teeth, chewed it anxiously. If they were by the sea maybe there’d be boats to escape on, or maybe even a camp of survivors. He just didn’t know whether he wanted to find this sanctuary with the man beside him anymore. The fence grew taller and taller as they drove nearer, and Hyukjae started to slow down. It hit him then, the awful smell. Pungent and strong, rotten… a familiar scent.
Trees rose from the base of the gate, and only then did the two of them realise how tall it really was. Had this always been here? No. But how had they built something this huge so fast? The metal links glistened in the sunlight as if in welcome, as if to tell them this was the way out - that this was the end. But his eyes fell lower and lower until he was looking straight ahead, and the small smile that had sneaked onto his face fell away.
Something was moving at the base of the fence, writhing and weaving, and as they drove closer and closer it grew and grew. In moments Donghae’s eyes were wide and Hyukjae’s hands were trembling. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people were at the gates, densely packed and pushing eachother against the metal. No, they weren’t pushing, they were crushing eachother. A fly buzzed in the car, landing on the steering wheel as Hyukjae and Donghae stared ahead in shock and terror. Bloody, gnarled fingers hooked through the iron links, pulling and pulling and pushing and pushing. Donghae had been curious as to where the undead had disappeared to, but now he’d found them.
Donghae turned to Hyukjae and asked what they should do, but he only gazed at the crowd with wet eyes and said softly. ‘I don’t know what to do.’
Hae stared at him, then, feeling a lump rise in his throat. This was Hyukjae’s face, the Hyuk he used to know. When he wasn’t all gummy smiles and laughter, this was the face he wore; simple and nervous and terrified… his best friend.
He hit the wheel in frustration. ‘I just don’t know.’ He sniffed. ‘I’m just trying my best.’
His tears made Donghae’s heart ache, and his arms reached for his best friend, but he stopped short. They could hear his crying. They were coming. At first it was one or two but then more and more and in a matter of seconds half the crowd knew of their presence. He wanted to comfort Hyukjae, but now wasn’t the time.
‘You don’t have to do anything, Hyuk.’ Donghae said softly. ‘I’m just happy we’re alive, you don’t have to look after me. Pull yourself together.’
Hyukjae detached himself from the steering wheel, snot running from his nose and his eyes a sore red from his tears. He wiped his face with his sleeve, blinked through his watery eyes, and cursed at what he saw through the windscreen. He didn’t look at Donghae, he just span the car around and sped back the way they’d came. Donghae could only look at his best friend with affection, and soon tears filled his eyes too.
Weak and childish with a gummy smile and a heart too big for his chest, the Hyukjae he treasured dearly, the Hyukjae he’d lost two weeks ago, had returned.
‘Stay here.’ Youngwoon said, his hand already gripping the door handle. ‘I’ll check inside.’
‘I’m sick of waiting around. I’m as much of use as you, what’s the point in leaving me behind all the time?’
Youngwoon could only stare dumbly at Jungsu as the door slammed behind him, and as he disappeared into the house a feeling of anxiety settled over him. The hairs on his neck stood to attention, his mouth ran dry. Was this how Jungsu felt when Youngwoon would leave him behind? He suddenly felt vulnerable and defenceless and his heart trembled in his chest for fear of the other man coming to harm.
It was terrifying.
Jungsu had been silent and brooding all afternoon, and the drive was a tense one. In fact, it was always tense in the truck, but this was worse. He felt as if Jungsu was angry at him for something, he just couldn’t figure out what. He’d replayed his words over and over in his head, every sentence he could remember speaking in the past few days, but there was nothing that could’ve brought on this behaviour. It was sudden, this mood. He’d been fine yesterday, still not as bright as he was known to be, but still… not like this. His lips were drawn in a tight line, his eyes downcast. When they spoke, which was rare, his words were soft and he’d look away, not once meeting Youngwoon’s eyes. It was frustrating. Youngwoon was never a bright guy in terms of intelligence and he was especially terrible when it came to understanding how other people felt, but he thought being alone with Jungsu would force them out of their awkwardness. He was wrong.
They passed houses and flats and the lure of soft beds and doors and four strong walls was simply too enticing for Youngwoon to ignore, so he’d parked the truck despite Jungsu’s mumbles of disapproval. There were no cars parked on this street, no signs of carnage. It looked safe enough, but he couldn’t quell the fear that made his stomach churn, made his knuckles turn white as he gripped the steering wheel with crushing force. He must’ve only waited a few minutes, but each second felt like a lifetime. The palms of his hands were sore against the leather wheel and his heart was pounding in his chest when he saw a shadow in the doorway. He thought the worst, his teeth clenched, but the shadow moved into the sunlight and revealed its identity and his shoulders sagged; a breath left his lips in relief. Jungsu nodded from the porch and returned inside, oblivious to how distressed Youngwoon had been only moments before.
That man would be the death of him.