Pairings: Hanchul, Kyumin, Kangteuk, (One Sided) 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 14 15 16
Hyukjae stood alone in the small kitchen, the sound of running water and the clattering of ceramic and steel the only sound as he scrubbed at the pots and pans he'd been tasked to clear away. The sun was lower now, Autumn rolling in lazily and blinding him as he stood looking through the window. He watched Donghae laughing as he broke a sweat kicking a tatty soccer ball around with some neighbourhood children, innocent glee painting his features in the afternoon light. He cracked open the window with a sud covered hand, letting in the cool air and the sounds of laughter and life. Silence was something he'd grown to despise, something that set him ill at ease and made him glance at every shape and shadow with suspicion.
The fear hadn't ebbed at all, even after nearly a month of being in this safe haven. There were a few other survivors here, he'd found, but he had no desire to meet with them - it was something he wanted to forget, and seeing their eyes when they passed him in the street would always remind him of how hollow he must look now, too; how haunted and lost being out there in the wasteland had left him. Sometimes he found himself tracing his fingers over the scar on his forehead, now barely a memory, wondering if his mind had been put right in the end or if things were still as confused as they'd been before.
Being in this place for so long, he'd sometimes reflect on how things were, how they could be if the virus hadn't spread. Things wouldn't be so fucked up, probably. He rarely let Donghae out of his sight, always keeping him in his peripheral as if he'd disappear the second he glanced away. With Kibum around, anxious thoughts of the younger boy getting his claws into him, poisoning him against Hyukjae with the truth he should have told his friend long ago, would always creep in and smother him. How the younger boy had survived was a mystery that he couldn't solve; he'd seen him fall, saw those things close in around him and claw at him feverishly. Honestly, it kept him up at night.
Considering the tension between the three of them now, it was hard to think back to their past together; the times they'd sit around playing video games and smoking pot late into the night, only essays and assignments to worry about. Looking deeper, though, there'd always been a distance there, an awkwardness they couldn't shake. The three of them had grown up in the same neighbourhood, visiting each others houses from a young age due to the closeness of their parents. Naturally, they stuck together like glue, attending the same schools and eventually choosing the same college. Kibum was the clever one, refined and intellectual; always besting Hyukjae when it came to confidence, better with girls, better at parties. He'd always had a twinge of resentment and jealousy and it was like a wound left to fester, gradually infecting him completely until he found himself subconsciously battling the younger boy, fruitlessly trying to step into his spotlight.
If none of this had happened, they'd be taking their finals now. He'd always wanted to be a dancer, always being praised for his style and fluidity and imagination. He and Donghae would stay up for hours, covered in sweat and exhausted but filled with excitement at completing a routine. That was something Kibum could never take from him, those hours he spent with Donghae alone - Kibum couldn't dance at all. Kibum's major was drama, as well as linguistics and philosophy, sharing classes with Donghae most of the time while Hyukjae only saw him in dance. Hyukjae only really went to college to be with his friend, finding no interest in academics as he had no nack for it. He could have easily made his way to success on his own or joined a dance academy, but where Donghae went, Hyukjae would always follow.
His thoughts were interrupted suddenly when the kitchen door creaked open, the only sign he'd been startled being the sharp sound of a plate smashing. A red line bloomed on his palm, quickly filling with blood, and he grit his teeth as lazy footsteps clicked against the tiled floor.
'Ah, you're here.'
'Were you looking for me?' Hyukjae bit out around the pain, grabbing a cloth and pressing it against the wound tightly. He didn't need to turn around to know it was Kibum, staring out of the window stiffly. He could see his smug, shit-eating grin without looking.
'No, I just thought you'd be with Donghae. The two of you are even more inseparable than before.' Even without being insulting, Kibum was insulting, and Hyukjae felt his shoulders tense at the underlying meaning in his words.
'Is there a problem with that? Am I in the way?'
Kibum huffed a soundless laugh, and Hyukjae could almost sense him rolling his eyes. 'Don't get me confused with yourself, Hyukjae - I have no designs on Donghae, I never did. You were always the jealous one.' Hyukjae didn't say a thing, willing himself to calm, the pain in his hand a welcome distraction. 'I do wonder, though, if Donghae would let you so close if he knew the truth about you, knew the sick things you thought about him-'
Hyukjae was known for having no patience, though. 'Stop fucking speaking.' He growled, balling his fists as the blood ran down his knuckles, puddling on the floor with soft taps. Kibum loved to get a rise out of him, and now was no different, his snarky tone continuing and making Hyukjae bristle.
'-If he woke up in the night and saw you lying there touching yourself to thoughts about him, thinking about him in the most perverted ways-'
He turned, then, eyes furious as he took a long step towards the younger boy, wounded fist flying out to connect with Kibum's face. The younger man recoiled, grunting at the impact as he fell to the floor. He pressed a palm to the injury, smirking up at Hyukjae even though he was obviously in pain. Hyukjae's chest heaved as he breathed heavily, anger rising with every second Kibum was in his presence. The pain of his hand was a distant thought, numb in the midst of his rage even as his blunt fingernails dug into his palm.
The two of them looked up when Donghae came bursting in, and Hyukjae felt caught. 'I heared raised voices, what happened?' He blurted, alarm evident on his readable, honest features. He looked between the two of them, piecing the situation together and Hyukjae could feel Kibum staring at him expectantly, waiting to see what kind of excuse he would come up with. It was a shame he wouldn't get the satisfaction of watching him fumble for false words, Hyukjae turning on his heel and walking away without a sound, blood smeared over his skin and frustration at the boiling point.
Sungmin towelled his hair off as his wet feet padded into the small bedroom the lady of the house had given them, stopping in the doorway to watch Kyuhyun's chest rise and fall from where he lay. He didn't know if the lady had given them a double mat intentionally or not, but either way it hadn't done much to bring them closer together. Nothing had developed since the shower incident, and things were awkward to say the least. They were constantly revolving around each other, never too close as if they'd comitted a crime together. He wasn't sure who was avoiding who, but it was happening quite obviously. At first he'd wondered if Kyuhyun had changed his mind, had been put off by Sungmin's inexperience in the way of sexual acts, or if he'd simply been disappointed after the mystery of touching a man was lost.
Kyuhyun would sleep with his back to him on the mat they shared, the space between them like an empty gulf in the night - a dark ocean too dangerous to cross. He'd tried not to overthink it, absorbing himself in house chores and getting closer to the girl he'd met that first night. It turned out she lived here too, and had arrived in much the same way. Her name was Amber, and she was intriguing; after a longer conversation, he'd noticed the gaps in pronunciation, the coming and going of her Seoul accent as the vowels left her lips with an odd twang. She'd confided in him that the Ahjussi wouldn't let her cut her hair, pulling at her long locks in distaste and grumbling at the feminine way she was being forced to dress.
He liked the way she sat casually, even in a dress, and the dirty jokes she'd whisper over dinner when the old woman couldn't hear. It was then that he'd catch Kyuhyun throwing sharp glances her way, and his heart would skip a beat at the evident jealousy - though Amber was of no interest to him in that way, it made him eager to test Kyuhyun, to see how much he could get him to react. He spent most of his day with the girl, finding her crazy and disarming at every turn (there wasn't anyone else to talk to, anyway, being as the old woman wouldnt let them leave the house for some bizarre reason) while Kyuhyun would wander around doing some chore or another but always watching them like a hawk. However, every night that week he still fell asleep to Kyuhyun's broad back and woke to an empty space.
He dropped the towel to rest around his shoulders, walking softly into the room after closing the door quietly behind him. The oil lamp on the floor cast golden shadows over the planes of Kyuhyun's bare back, still boyish and slender. Sungmin had been making a show of getting changed over the past few days, making sure he was stood in plain sight if Kyuhyun were to open his eyes so he could see his towel drop, see him bend to grab at his underwear - and he always slept in only that, even as the air began to cool as autumn deepened.
However, Kyuhyun hadn't stirred even once yet. Sadly, Sungmin couldn't say the same for himself; the images of their shower tryst had him moaning against the steamy tiles every night since, the only way he wouldn't accidentally stab Kyuhyun in the back during the night was by relieving the pressure in private, though he always woke to a stiffness between his legs anyway.
Clad in his briefs, he pulled back his side of the duvet, fidgeting as much as he could just to force some kind of response from the taller boy, but to no avail. It was almost too much not to sigh in frustration, and he rolled onto his side away from the other boy with a pout. He was right here, why wouldn't he touch him? If he'd thought he was sexually frustrated before, it was even worse after having the slightest taste of Kyuhyun. He was addicted and desperate for more.
He closed his eyes reluctantly, blocking out the soft glow of the lamp. He didn't feel safe in the dark even here, as if anything might come crawling from the shadows. As his body began to feel heavier, his skin grew cooler, goosebumps rising along his barfe flesh. Suddenly he felt the clamminess of cold fingers dragging up his legs, and he gasped, finding himself unable to move. His breath came in short puffs, his heart pounding in his ears as the hands climbed higher, clawing up his thighs and pulling and pinching at his skin hungrily. He opened his mouth to scream but his voice was gone, a mere breath, and his vision was black and thick. The scent of putrid flesh filled his nostrils, the sensation of someone breathing against his lips making his stomach turn before he heard the sound of teeth clicking, grinding, biting sharply into his throat.
He woke with a scream and a hand over his mouth, panicking for a moment as he thrashed wildly, but when he opened his eyes Kyuhyun came into view, holding him down and urging him to calm himself and look at him. He settled back onto the bed panting as Kyuhyun withdrew his hand from his lips with a worried frown, stroking his sweaty bangs from his face as he leaned over him. Sungmin's throat was dry, and he licked his lips as he regained his bearings.
'We're safe now,' Kyuhyun breathed groundingly, and Sungmin blinked back his tears shakily. He didn't want Kyuhyun to see him so shaken, moving to throw an arm over his face and hide his pitiful expression, but Kyuhyun pulled him to his chest tightly before he could, pressing his nose to the crown of his head and kissing his hair comfortingly. Sungmin relented to his embrace, feeling the terror subside slowly, and after his shaky breaths calmed, Kyuhyun pulled back, tilting his head to look at him. 'You okay?'
He nodded softly, embarrassed. 'Just a dream, sorry for waking you.' His voice was more rough than he thought it would be, and he cleared his throat softly. Kyuhyun simply shook his head dismissively.
'I wasn't asleep. i can't sleep.'
When Sungmin looked at him properly, he didn't miss the tiredness in his eyes, the bags beneath them. 'Why?'
Kyuhyun sighed, chewing his lip briefly before answering with reluctance. 'When I close my eyes I see myself as one of those things again, imagine myself ... feeding. I'm scared I might become like that again... I don't want to risk it with you so close to me.'
Sungmin frowned, hurt to see Kyuhyun had been feeling this way without telling him. Leaning in to kiss Kyuhyun's lips softly, he stroked at the taller boys neck soothingly. 'You won't become one of them, and you won't hurt me. I'd give my blood a thousand times over to keep you how you are now.'
Kyuhyun's eyes warmed at his words, but they quickly hardened again. 'Do you like her?' He asked abruptly, and Sungmin looked at him as if he was bizarre.
'What, Amber?' Sungmin huffed incredulously. 'She's nice, you should talk to her more; she thinks you're mute or something.'
'You know what I mean, Min.' Kyuhyun looks startlingly insecure, a strange thing to see in the taller boy.
'Did you forget what happened in the shower?' He raised an eyebrow suggestively, and Kyuhyun gave him a seething look. Sungmin almost thought he could see a flush rising to his pale cheeks.
'We were frustrated, it's not like you've had anyone else around to do that kind of thing with.'
Sungmin rolled his eyes, tired of this, and sat up. watching as Kyuhyun looked at him with confusion and slight fear, as if he imagined Sungmin was angry or upset. He threw a leg over Kyuhyun's hip as he rolled the older boy onto his back and straddled him, not hesitating to roll his hips down hard on his pajama clad crotch. Kyuhyun's head lolled back at the sudden pressure, pale throat exposed to Sungmin's hungry eyes long enough for him to lean down and suck hard at the flesh, peppering wanton kisses between words.
'I've wanted you since we first moved into the dorm.' He rolled his hips rythmically, feeling Kyuhyun stirring beneath him as his own erection awoke, sweet heat building in his nerves. He moved from Kyuhyun's throat to bite and nip at his jaw, his lips as the taller boy watched him with half lidded eyes, pupils blown as his hands tried to find purchase anywhere, settling on Sungmin's hips and stroking feverishly at his sides. 'Coming back at night to a sock on the door and knowing some girl was in there getting what I so desperately wanted - don't insult me with jealousy, you don't know what it is.' He punctuated the sentence with a rough kiss, and Kyuhyun reciprocated eagerly, fingers scraping across Sungmin's scalp and tugging at his hair.
Their breaths were noisy and the kiss was wet and messy, teeth clicking and tongues struggling against each other. Kyuhyun pushed against him and Sungmin relented, letting the taller boy switch their positions as he spread his legs to allow Kyuhyun to settle between them. The kiss ended abrupty with a wet noise, and Sungmin felt a jolt of warmth shoot through him at the sight of Kyuhyun's red, bruised lips before they're attached to his jaw, his throat, his collarbone. 'I never knew.' He breathed against his skin, and Sungmin shivered at the sensation, nipples hardening as Kyuhyun dragged his tongue over each one in turn.
'You never looked, not until you had nothing else to look at.'
Kyuhyun stopped abruptly, and Sungmin could have whined in disappointment, looking up at the taller boy petulantly. 'You actually think that?' Kyuhyun was looking down at him with an almost hurt expression, eyes penetrating. 'There were nights where I couldn't tear my eyes away from you, where I wondered what would happen if I climbed in beside you.'
Sungmin felt weak at the revelation, distraught that so much time had gone wasted between them, that it took the end of the world to finally place them in each other's arms even though they'd been in such short reach for years. 'I wish you had.' He breathed softly, and Kyuhyun's lips were upon him once again, no longer hungry, but still passionate, as if drinking Sungmin's very soul.
He tangled his fingers in Kyuhyun's hair and clinged to him like a man drowning, body pressing against his insistently, but he still wasn't close enough, could never be close enough. When Sungmin finally ran out of air, Kyuhyun broke away, resuming his path down Sungmin's bare skin. His abdomen dipped at the press of his warm lips, and he involuntarily bucked his hips, body eager to be touched after being starved for so long. Kyuhyun didn't make him wait, pulling his briefs off in a fluid motion, not even giving him time to feel self conscious before he was spreading his legs once again and kissing up his pale, trembling thighs.
Sungmin could only watch with parted lips and soft breaths as the taller boy worshipped him, taking him into his mouth as if taking communion; deep and slow as his long fingers teased at his hole. He reached up with his free hand, digits nudging at Sungmin's lips, and the smaller man took them into his mouth sinfully, not breaking eye contact with Kyuhyun for a moment as the taller boy watched him with dark eyes. He withdrew them with a soft pop, a trail of saliva following, and soon Sungmin was trembling at the sensation of them stretching him so completely. He'd touched himself like this before, but with someone else it was grounding, a feeling he couldn't distract himself from, shrinking the world down to the two of them in that moment.
When Kyuhyun withdrew his fingers, Sungmin bit his lip at the sensation, watching hungrily as Kyuhyun got to his knees before him, pulling his pajamas down and off. The gasp that left Sungmin's lips was embarrassing, especially as he'd seen Kyuhyun naked plenty of times, and erect only a few days prior, but this was different. His hole clenched in anticipation at the sight of his length, tall and elegant like the man himself. He didn't hesitate to sit up, crawling forward and clutching at Kyuhyun's hips - which must have taken Kyuhyun by surprise, because he jumped abruptly at the touch of his hand. Taking Kyuhyun into his mouth boldly, a guttural moan sounded from the taller boy as his hips rolled languidly. Sungmin loved the weight of it on his tongue, the sounds he could urge Kyuhyun to make, the control it gave him, but this wasn't what he wanted.
He slicked the taller boys cock with saliva as much as he could before pulling off, gasping, gripping the base as he pressed the tip to his lips teasingly. 'Fuck me,' he breathed against the sensitive flesh, and Kyuhyun let out a shaky breath, pushing Sungmin's shoulder back to lie him down once again. He was surprised when the younger man turned him onto his front, pulling his hips up and pressing his face into the pillows, but his thoughts flew out of the window at the heat between his cheeks, the wet head of Kyuhyun's cock suddenly prying him open. Biting down on the pillow through the sensation, he was startled to find himself enjoying the burn, precum dripping from his cock where it hung heavily between his legs.
Kyuhyun spread him open with one hand, the other smoothing up and down his back back comfortingly; he was going too slowly, too carefully, and Sungmin pushed back suddenly, drving him in to the hilt. With a shout of surprise, quick, sharp moans quickly poured from Kyuhyun's lips, his thighs shaking against the back of Sungmin's, and Sungmin blinked away the tears from the sudden pain. Clenching compulsively to adjust to the stretch, he focused on Kyuhyun as he pressed kisses to the back of his neck urgently, as if distracting himself from the tightness around his cock. Feeling a hand wrap around his aching cock, Sungmin jumped, unintentionally jostling Kyuhyun's length and causing a spark of pleasure to run through him, gasping into the pillow. Kyuhyun began to move then, and Sungmin wished he could see his expression, match the sounds he was making to the look on his face.
The delicious drag and pull, the sound of skin against skin and the way Kyuhyun breathed his name was making him see stars, but the taller boy pulled out suddenly and Sungmin whined at the sudden loss, every muscle spasming at the odd sensation of being empty. It was barely a second, though, before the taller boy was pushing him roughly onto his back and filling him once again, pulling his legs over his hips and spreading him so wide it would hurt if Sungmin wasn't so aroused. If it felt good before, it was ecstacy now, finally seeing how kyuhyun looked in the throes of pleasure. He'd thought Kyuhyun would have had his eyes closed, but they were fixed upon him, drinking in the sight of him.
Sungmin always imagined of himself that he'd be shy in the face of such attention, but he blossomed beneath it, the urge to give kyuhyun something to look at taking hold as he ran his tongue over his blushing lips slowly, eyebrows knitted in bliss. He stroked his hands up and down his own chest before wrapping one around his neglected cock, the other moving down to where Kyuhyun was fucking him, feeling the wetness and the heat as he stroked himself hard, head thrashing in ecstacy.
Kyuhyun had his lip caught between his teeth, hips snapping diligently in the perfect way, enough to make sungmin shift up the sheets with every thrust. He was too loud, too wanton, but he was caught in the moment and the pleasure was blinding. His cock was dripping, his hand coated in pre-cum, and the noise of their copulation was obscene, turning him on to the point of agony. 'Kyuhyun, fuck.' He almost cried, and the taller boy folded him almost in half as he leaned in to kiss him messily, filthily. Thrusting haphazardly as he bit at Sungmin's lips, Kyuhyun came hard, face contorted in pure ecstacy to the point it looked like pain, and Sungmin felt his own climax wash over him abruptly, clenching around Kyuhyun's throbbing cock and milking him slowly as they rocked against each other without rhythm, gasping nothing against each others mouths and gripping each other wildly.
All Sungmin could feel after that was utter numbness, bliss, limbs loose as Kyuhyun's lips pressed to his skin lazily. He let Kyuhyun readjust him, thighs burning when they returned to a natural position, and he felt himself sinking into the matress and away to a rich, deep sleep, missing the soft exhalation of words from the taller boy.
'I love you.'
Jungsu didn't take the news as badly as Heechul had thought he would, listening calmly rather than panicking. It was when Hankyung had finally reached the end of their long tale that he pulled Heechul into his thin arms, throwing Hankyung a look over Heechul's shoulder.
'You better fix him, I won't forgive you if you dont.'
It was later that Jungsu insisted they bring Youngwoon's body inside, and Hankyung relented, though he agreed with Heechul that he should be kept in the cellar, that the door couldn't be opened by anyone but himself. Heechul knew Hankyung didn't trust him not to kill the man, and they obviously couldn't trust Jungsu alone down there - it was too dangerous. Honestly, Heechul was against the idea of him coming inside at all, but Jungsu had sat beside the window all morning, insisting that he could see his chest rising and falling slightly. Hankyung had confirmed it, and Heechul had bit his lip for Jungsu's sake.
He didn't really understand what all the fuss was about, really. Even if Youngwoon was breathing, he was dead either way. However, if it gave Jungsu comfort, then he'd do anything.
That was how he ended up lugging Youngwoon's heavy body down to the cellar, Hankyung holding his feet while Heechul held him around the chest. Hankyung had reasoned that Heechul should be closer to the danger of his upper body, being as he was already infected and all. As smart as that sounded, Heechul still didn't want to be bitten, tying a cloth around Youngwoon's mouth to gag him anyway. The stench down emenating from the cellar was vile and thick, and Heechul gagged slightly, turning his head to press his nose into his shirt. Hankyung's face was screwed up sourly, too, as he choked on the air.
They threw Youngwoon down onto the creaky blood stained bed, and for a moment all they could do was look around in mute horror, taking in the scratches on the door, the blood from within the cupboard. There was a dead body, a girl, lying on the floor, and Heechul heaved dryly at the sight. Her skin was barely clinging to her bones, thin lips stretched over her teeth in an agonised grimace.
'I guess that's how Youngwoon got infected.' Hankyung stated calmly, and Heechul was baffled once again at how Hankyung took things in his stride so easily. 'We should take her outside and burn her; it's not good to have this polluting the air. I don't know how we didn't smell it upstairs.'
Heechul didn't even try and hide his reluctance, pulling an assortment of miserable faces, though he knew Hankyung was right. They lingered for a moment, though, as Hankyung sat down on the saturated mattress, looking over Youngwoon briefly. He pressed the back of his hand to Youngwoon's forehead, recoiling suddenly.
'He's hot- he's sweating.' Hankung actually seemed ruffled for a moment, going silent in thought. Heechul couldn't really see why it was so astounding.
'That's just the virus taking hold, right? He's taking a fucking long time to die, though.'
Hankyung doesn't reply, utterly still as his eyes flickered here and there, a pensive expression on his face before he fixed his eyes upon Heechul with a sudden intensity. 'I don't think he's dying, Heechul, I think he's fighting the virus.'
'What does that mean?'
'It means your cure might be lying right here.'
Zhoumi awoke to a rucus outside, the sound of raised voices and moving vehicles. Reaching out blearily for his glasses, he sat up, blinking a few times as his eyes adjusted to the dim light of the room. Stretching out with a groan, he got to his feet with a stumble. He and Henry had been dragged off without a parting word to Sungmin and Kyuhyun, and a whole week had passed since they'd been separated. The small family looking after them refused to let them leave, insisting they weren't well enough and that they needed food and rest. Zhoumi was thankful, as was Henry, but he also had the sneaking suspicion they just wanted some help around the house.
He hadn't had the heart to tell them what had happened to them, and he and Henry had quickly agreed to play the foreigner card, answering any difficult questions with stumbling Korean and insisting they didn't understand what they were being asked. It seemed many of the people here hadn't heard from their children or grandchildren since everything went wrong, and more and more people from the city had been turning up, apparently, over the past few months. Their stories were 'fanatical' and 'inane', the general consensus being that the city air was so bad that it was driving people crazy - another reason they were being kept inside, so they wouldn't be shocked and caught ill by the fresh air. Villiage people were... strange.
Henry was still asleep next to him on the mat they were sharing, face puffy with sleep. The kid was fattening up fast, though Zhoumi didnt blame him; being in the gas station hadn't been too bad, they had snacks and tinned foods to pick away at, but he knew if Kyuhyun hadnt come along they'd have starved by now.
Walking to the window, Zhoumi pulled the curtain aside and squinted at the brightness of the day. There were hundreds of people crowded in the narrow street outside; men in camoflague with combat boots and guns, tanks and vans and motorbikes crawling through the parting sea of people. The villiagers were staring in wonder and fear, and the soldiers looked battered and bruised as they shouted commands. Relief ran through him and left in a gust of a sigh, overjoyed to see some control and order, the fact the army still existed like a balm to his anxious soul.
Stumbling over to Henry, he shook him roughly. 'Wake up, wake up.' He hissed, and Henry grumbled sleepily, frowning up at him through barely open eyes. 'You need to see this.'
Donghae had watched the tension between Kibum and Hyukjae build over the past months; he wasn't blind, as he sometimes felt people thought him to be. Hyukjae didn't meet his eyes anymore, and though he was always somewhere nearby, he was rarely interacting with him. He wondered what happened between the two of them - Kibum and Hyuk - to cause such an atmosphere. Maybe it was something to do with the cut on Hyukjae's head from when he fell, if he was still wrong and messed up because of it.
He sat on the steps at the back door, feeling the warmth of the Autumn sun on his face while he stroked a shaggy neighbourhood dog. It lay at his feet lazily, eyes closed as it soaked up his attention.
'Hey.' He looked up as Kibum appeared beside him, perching to sit with him as he smiled easily.
'Hey.' The younger boy stretched his legs out, calling the dog over to him but it barely twitched an ear.
'It's funny isn't it, how these people are just going about life like nothings happened.' He said whistfully, watching some kids run past the house excitedly. Donghae nodded, sighing.
'They didn't believe us when we told them what happened.'
'Yeah they didn't listen to me either, said it was the city air fogging me up. I guess it's for the best, they have family out there... half of these kids parents work in the cities around here, too. I doubt they'll ever see them again.'
Donghae felt sad all of a sudden, wondering if things would ever go back to normal, if they ever could after so much loss. 'I wish I could just turn on the tv and watch the news, see if anywhere else has survived.' Kibum hummed in agreement, reaching over to scratch behind the dogs floppy ears. 'This might sound bizarre, but are you and Hyukjae ok?' Donghae asked bluntly, not missing the way Kibum looked at him quickly before averting his eyes.
'What do you mean?'
'I noticed it the day we got here, but it's hard to ignore now. You're never in the same room together, and he's... distant from me now.'
Kibum sighed deeply, seeming to think something over for a while before he spoke slowly. 'Donghae, I'm going to tell you something I've been keeping to myself for a while... it's... pretty strange, and Hyukjae can't find out.'
Donghae was puzzled, but nodded anyway. 'You can tell me anything, Kibum.' The younger boy nodded, shifting where he sat as if to get more comfortable in the wake of a long story.
'In the woods that night, Hyuk tripped me on purpose.' Donghae took a moment to digest the words coming from Kibum's mouth, unable to believe it.
'Why would he do that?' Kibum smirked, shaking his head.
'Who knows what's going through his head sometimes.' Donghae couldn't shift the frown from his face, still reeling from the information, but Kibum continued. 'It's more than that, though. I... I fell, my ankle was broken. There were so many of those things I couldn't even crawl away - I can still feel their teeth ripping at my skin.'
Donghae's eyes were wide in shock, finding it hard to absorb whatever Kibum was trying to tell him. 'There was gunfire, though, in the midst of the pain. The army was clearing out the woods, they must have thought I'd been shot, too, they ran right past me. It hurt so bad - not the bites, but whatever virus those things carry, like burning in my veins. I must have been lying there for hours, I couldn't even feel the cold, I couldn't feel anything but that fucking burning; it was like I was on fire. I just knew I had to push through it, go somewhere. I dragged myself through the woods, and the weirdest thing happened.'
He paused, and Donghae waited for whatever he would say next, gripped. Kibum had a way of speaking that drew you in and kept you captivated.
'There was a guy I knew from one of my classes going by, and I thought he was okay at first. Obviously I screamed out to him for help, but when he came closer I saw half of his neck was gone. I screamed my fucking lungs out but he just stopped and looked right through me... as if he couldnt see me. He just wandered off. I passed out after that, but when I woke up again I felt like I had a fever, like a really bad fever - but it still wasn't the burning I felt before, it was more managable. I managed to stand up but I was sweating like crazy and it took me so long to get out of there. I went from place to place limping, eventually made a crutch out of some wood and shit, I don't know... it was all a blur, but the fever subsided and it was just normal pain after that - the pain of my ankle. The bites stung, but they were healing. I followed the train tracks all the way up here and somebody fixed my ankle - still aches, though. Don't think we'll be playing football together any time soon.' He ended lightly with an empty chuckle, and Donghae stared back at him like he was mad.
'Are you joking?'
'I wish I was. I think there's something in me that resists the virus, look.' He pulled his shirt up, revealing scars covering his torso on both sides. 'They're completely healed, I'm not lying to you.' Donghae moved to speak, but his breath stopped short in his lungs when he saw Hyukjae standing behind them, wide eyed.
'Well, that changes things.'
Jungsu went lightheaded, feeling the soup he'd just eaten threatening to come back up. 'What do you mean he's getting better?'
Heechul looked guilty where he sat beside him at the table, and Hankyung cleared his throat. 'Youngwoon... he's fighting the virus. He's been unconscious this whole time but it looks like he's coming out of it. He said your name in his sleep when I visited him earlier.' Jungsu could barely believe what he was hearing, frowning at the two of them accusatorily.
'Why didnt you tell me?'
'If we were wrong, how would you feel?' Heechul snapped bluntly, but his eyes were pitiful, 'If we'd told you, you'd be down there all the time. We - I - needed you to eat, to be yourself again.'
Jungsu felt tears build and sting his eyes, frustrated even if Heechul was making sense. 'You're telling me that Youngwoon is down there in that dirty, mouldy pit and you're only just telling me?'
Hankyung's tone was calm and matter-of-fact. 'We're bringing him upstairs today. I needed to make sure he was improving rather than getting worse, you know we're not in the wrong here, Jungsu. This is a good thing - for you and Heechul. His blood could cure Heechul.' Jungsu was taken aback, eyes darting over to Heechul in wonder.
'How is that possible?'
'I'm still figuring it out, honestly... if we had the right equiptment I might be able to work on something, but not here. It's crucial Youngwoon recovers.'
Jungsu's mind was blown, but he nodded seriously. 'What do I need to do in the meantime?'
'Get your strength up, thats all.'
He flinched, offended. 'I'm not made of porcelain, I can be useful - I survived out there for months.'
Hankyung raised an eyebrow, and Jungsu felt patronised. 'You were with Youngwoon, and on the move. This house is as safe as it's gonna get, the street is empty, we have enough food for at least a month. There's nothing else we can do but wait and get ourselves back in the right state of mind.'
Jungsu wanted to fight against Hankyung's words but he knew he was right, instead sighing and shovelling his food into his mouth. The first week had been hard - eating again. Every bite had made him nauseous, but now his stomach could take it again; there was colour to his skin and Heechul had cut his hair in the style it used to be, short with swept bangs, no longer dark and greasy but the honey almond colour he was known for. Heechul sighed, rocking back and forth in his chair.
'There's something bizarrely boring about being safe, you know.' He grumbled, and Jungsu had known Heechul long enough to see how anxious he'd been growing, how restless he was becoming. His colour was draining more every day, his eyes no longer the deep brown of before but now almost grey. His short temper was even shorter, often snapping at Hankyung over the tiniest things. Time was running out. 'Though I can't imagine how boring it must have been travelling around with only Youngwoon for company.'
Jungsu rolled his eyes at Heechul's teasing. 'It wasn't just us, we met Hyukjae and Donghae on the way.' Heechul's chair returned to the ground with a slam as he leaned forward suddenly.
'They're still alive?'
'I don't know anymore, they left us one night and didn't come back.'
Heechul grimaced, leaning his head on his palm. 'I wonder who else is still alive. You know, I've only just wondered about my family, is that selfish?'
Hankyung set his chopsticks down softly, collected as always, before crossing his arms and leaning back thoughtfully. 'I've given up hoping my mother is alright... she's too far away for me to even try and find her.' Jungsu felt a surge of pity for the Chinese man - atleast he and Heechul had a chance of bumping into their families once more, but there was a sea seperating Hankyung and his mother.
'What was she like?' Jungsu asked softly, and Heechul gazed at Hankyung in anticipation, as if he couldn't wait to find out something about the quiet, reserved man. Jungsu wondered how much Heechul actually knew about Hankyung.
'She's... she was the kindest person you'd ever meet. She practically threw me out the house when I tried to put her before my studies and stay in China. Even without my dad she managed to save enough money to get me through for a short while, and my childhood was never impoverished or wanting.' Hankyung's face looked softer in reflection, and Jungsu could see why Heechul might have fallen for him - he wasn't always a robot.
'Maybe you'll see her again.' Hankyung only smiled briefly.
'Maybe.' He uttered before standing and collecting their plates, retreating to the kitchen and leaving Heechul and Jungsu alone. Heechul watched Hankyung leave until the man was out of sight, slowly turning to look at Jungsu.
'That's the most personal information I've gotten out of him since we were back at the mall.' Jungsu raised an eyebrow, and Heechul scowled. 'Don't look at me like that.'
'Like I'm an ass.'
'All I'm saying is that all I did was ask and he spoke, maybe you should try that approach.'
Heechul stood up and thwacked Jungsu softly round the back of the head as he passed him, grumbling. 'Thank you for your wisdom, I've been so lost without it.'
Kyuhyun was roused by a gentle knock at the door. Blurry from sleep he found his body was heavier than usual, and looked to see Sungmin wrapped around him like an octopus. He untangled his limbs as gently as he could, shuffling naked to the door. Cracking it open slightly, Amber looked back at him impatiently.
'Yeah?' He rasped, and Amber gave him an incredulous look.
'Have you seriously slept through all this noise?' She asked bluntly, and Kyuhyun frowned, rubbing at his eyes.
'What on Earth are you talking about?'
She clicked her tongue, rolling her eyes. 'Look outside then come downstairs - preferably wearing clothes.' She punctuated the demand with a quick look up and down and he realised the door was now a lot wider, revealing more flesh than he'd intended. She walked away and he slammed the door abruptly, flustered, and frowned, dragging his fingers through his messy hair as he wandered over to the window, pulling on his briefs on the way. Tugging back the curtain, he blinked at the brightness before his eyes focused on the rabble below, the heaving streets filled with various vehicles, army men, ambulances, wide eyed villiagers and hundreds of people carrying backpacks.
He took in the sight for a while, piecing things together. So, there was still some authority in place. That wasn't always a good thing. If things went under martial law, there'd be no freedom - many things could be excused under the idea of protection. If they found out Sungmin had the cure... they'd test on him endlessly. There was no comfort for Kyuhyun to find in this new addition to the community, only a new threat.
Jungsu danced the pads of his fingers over Youngwoon's sweaty forehead softly before dabbing at it with a wet cloth, his leathery, clammy hand clasped tightly in his own. He was upstairs now, in the single room he'd previously been staying in while Heechul and Hankyung took the double; the same room Youngwoon had held him lovingly, then roughly. Heechul had supervised his visits all week, keeping suspicious eyes trained on him incase Youngwoon awoke, but now he was trusted to be alone, Hankyung having confirmed he was definitely getting better rather than worse.
Youngwoon's eyes had opened a few times, blurry and unfocused, but he hadn't said anything, only mumbled nonsense before falling back into his almost comatose state. He looked different to how he'd been by the fireside, the veins and the pallid tone of his skin almost entirely faded from him and making him look like himself again. Hankyung was on the road, searching for a nearby hospital and scouting it out before they moved in. He'd left Heechul behind despite his bitching - Jungsu agreed and could see why.
His friend was weak, and seeing Hankyung's increased portion size at dinner and the scars on his neck that just didn't seem to be healing as fast as before, it seemed Heechul was needing more to sustain himself, and even then he was a ghost of who he was before; losing time and staring off into space. Jungsu couldn't look him in the eyes anymore, not with that disturbing blue staring back. He'd almost lost Youngwoon, he couldn't loose Heechul too - not after finally finding him again.
A floorboard creaked behind him, and he jumped, turning quickly to see Heechul leaning against the doorframe. He didn't look real, too still and sombre to be anything more than a doll.
'Have you had any sleep?' He croaked, and Jungsu shook his head guiltily. 'He won't die if you close your eyes, Jungsu. Your body needs to rest.'
'I could say the same for you - I can hear you walking around at night.'
'You know I get nightmares.' It was true, he'd always been plagued by them - night terrors that set him to stumbling around the dorms aimlessly and scaring the life out of anyone that might bump into him in the night. For some reason, Jungsu felt that whatever Heechul was going through now was a whole lot worse than whatever had been haunting him before.
'What do you see?' He asked softly, and Heechul reluctantly peeled himself away from the door frame, coming to sit on the window ledge as the warm air blew his hair around.
'I'm... one of those things. We're in the dorms and there's blood everywhere and it's because of me. I can't stop and you're screaming and Hankyung has a gun to my head.'
'Christ, Chul.' Jungsu breathed, hurt to see the pained expression on Heechul's face as he closed his eyes against the memory. He wished there was a way to take away his pain, to remove the virus from his veins. He'd wished the same thing a million times, long before Heechul was infected. There was always something eating at him, even back then, something Jungsu could do nothing about. 'Have you told Hankyung?'
'I don't want him to worry. He has enough shit to deal with.'
'That doesn't sound like you.'
Heechul cocked an eyebrow, 'Maybe I'm becoming more accomodating and caring as death consumes me.'
'I don't know what I'd do if you stopped being the sulky spoiled brat I've grown to love.' Jungsu smiled honestly, teasing in the way they always teased each other. Having Heechul around was a true comfort, a rock to hold on to when the current came too strong and tried to wash him away.
'You'd be lost without me.' Heechul snarked, but the smug smile left his lips quickly, and Jungsu could imagine what thoughts were running through his mind - that he had already been lost without him, so lost he'd nearly died.
'We'll be okay, Heechul.' He whispered earnestly, causing his friend to look at him searchingly, 'We'll be just fine.'
Heechul's eyes grew soft, shiny with tears, but they jumped away from him abruptly, growing wide and startled. Jungsu barely breathed a question before he understood his reaction, the large hand he'd been clasping suddenly twitching and closing around his fingers.