Chapter 1: I Need A Hand To Hold
Title taken from Trauma by Seventeen
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Alright, we have the money?" Taeyong starts his routine checklist. Forgetting Boss' money one too many times has made him cautious. He doesn't want to end up like that boy.
"Check." Mark responds, patting the backpack at his feet.
"Check." Yuta mumbles, casually cleaning his with the sleeve of his shirt.
"What about Doyoung's will to live?" Jaehyun buts in, sending most of the car into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Doyoung sighs from his seat right next to Jaehyun and pulls out his own gun, pressing it right against Jaehyun's temple.
"Jokes on you, I lost that years ago. Keep making jokes like that I'll shoot next time." He ends with another sigh and puts his gun away when he sees he's scared Jaehyun enough.
"Jesus Christ, what the hell is wrong with you man? It was a joke!" Jaehyun breathes out, grabbing his chest above his heart.
"Maybe next time you should just keep your mouth shut then." Yuta says, not looking up from his gun.
"Fine, got it, leave the freaks alone." Jaehyun sighs.
Taeil continues driving to the designated meeting place. Taeyong sits in the passenger seat next to him as he runs over the checklist again in his head. He eventually grabs the bag from between Mark's legs and takes the money out to count it himself. He trusts Mark, he's known Mark since he was a kid, but he just needs to make sure. Better to be safe than sorry with the Boss.
He remembers what Boss said happened to a boy who disobeyed him and cheated him out of money. Taeyong doesn't believe it fully because Boss doesn't have evidence to back it up, but Taeyong knows that every lie Boss tells has some truth to it. He remembers every little detail Boss told him, how he tortured the boy for days, weeks, before getting bored and gutting him like a fish. Taeyong felt like he was going to vomit when Boss said he laughed when he saw the boy slumped over in the chair with his guts spilling into his lap, how he let out a relieved sigh when the boy finally stopped screaming. It made Taeyong sick, he never wanted to upset Boss even if what he said was made up. He didn't wanna risk it.
You won't make me do that to you or your boys, will you Taeyong? You'll be good and follow the rules, right?
Taeyong was aware that he was being manipulated. Played like a fiddle. He didn't care though. He had one objective and that was to keep himself and those boys safe. So if dealing drugs and dropping off money to that uptight Japanese man on the street corner in broad daylight was the way to do it, he would. A million times over with no hesitation.
When Taeil pulls over to the sidewalk and parks, Taeyong hands the bag of money to Yuta and motions with a flick of his wrist for Yuta to follow. Yuta slings the seemingly normal backpack over his shoulder and climbs out of the back of the van to meet Taeyong around the front.
The man they meet every other week is perched where he always is; leaning against the brick wall of the building. He's wearing a nice suit, probably tailored specifically for him, it's obvious he has money and he likes to flaunt it (if the watch around his wrist is anything to go by). His hair is slicked back and flawless and they notice that he's gone a little light with his eyeliner today.
"Bag please." He says as he pushes himself off the wall, straightening his suit jacket and dusting dirt off it to appear uninterested. Taeyong nods to Yuta who tosses it at his feet.
"You know, I think you actually look more shady than we do, and we drive around in a black van with tinted windows." Yuta says, Taeyong grunts a warning. The man chuckles and bends down to pick the bag up.
"You see, I don't give a damn about what you think." The man says directly to Yuta, staring him in the eye as he speaks Japanese, cutting Taeyong out of the conversation. "And neither does Boss. He pays you for one thing and one thing only, don't delude yourself into thinking Boss pays you to think. He pays for you to press the barrel of your gun to someone's forehead and pull the damn trigger." He says, making a gun shape with his fingers and pressing them to Yuta's forehead.
Taeyong can practically see the steam bellowing out of Yuta's ears. He rests a hand on Yuta's shoulder when their eye contact still doesn't break.
"We'll be on our way, nice to see you as always." Taeyong smiles politely at the man who takes a step back from Yuta. He shares a small smile with Taeyong and slings the bag over his shoulder before turning around to be on his way.
Taeyong and Yuta watch as a sleek white car pulls up to the man several feet down the sidewalk. The roof of the car is down, allowing them to see the man that comes to pick him up. The man is wearing all white, apposed to the Japanese man's all black, he has warm brown hair and a stoic expression, not giving off any emotions. The Japanese man throws the bag of money into the back seat and hops into the car, not even bothering to open the door. They drive in the opposite direction of Taeyong and Yuta.
Taeyong and Yuta return to the car, Yuta crawling into the back of the van with the rest of the boys. Taeyong hears Yuta cursing in Japanese as he slams his fist against the walls of the van. This startles the rest of the boys, Sicheng flinches at the sudden noise, causing Jaehyun to start his mouth up again.
"Yah! What are you doing? Sit down, God forbid a cop walks by or something and Bruce Banner over here is punching the car. That's a little suspicious, don't you think?" Jaehyun huffs out. Yuta turns to look at him with a menacing glare.
"Taeil, take us to Minseok's instead of going home." Yuta says, his glare fixed on Jaehyun. Jaehyun fiddles with the pencil behind his ear, pulling it down to bite on the warn down eraser.
"Minseok's? Why Minseok's?" Taeil asks in confusion as he starts the car again. Yuta pulls the pencil out of Jaehyun's mouth and in one swift motion brings it down quickly, stabbing Jaehyun in the thigh. It takes a minute for Jaehyun to register the pain, but when he does, he screams.
"Take us to Minseok's because Jaehyun has somehow managed to get a pencil lodged in his thigh." Yuta answers with grace as he flicks his hair out of his eyes. He sits down silently and buckles himself in as Taeil begins to ride quickly to Minseok's to get Jaehyun treated.
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Chapter 2: Just Pass Me By
Title taken from Just by Zion T and Crush
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jaehyun screams the entirety of the ride to Kim Minseok's apartment. Doyoung doesn't think there was a sound he hated more than Jaehyun's speaking voice, turns out he was wrong, Jaehyun's screams are worse. Taeil has tried numerous times to get Jaehyun to stop screaming, saying any comforting thing he can think of to calm him down but it doesn't work. Eventually, Johnny steps in, telling Jaehyun to squeeze his hand and take deep breaths. This works until Taeil can park and rush into Minseok's apartment.
"Okay, Taeil is going to tell Minseok what happened so he's prepared when we get in there. Johnny, can you carry him inside?" Taeyong asks, unbuckling his seat belt and turning around to observe the scene.
The younger ones, Mark and Sicheng, look more frightened than anything else; Yuta and Doyoung look equally uninterested, Yuta fiddling with his phone and Doyoung tapping his foot in impatience. Johnny carefully picks Jaehyun up, Mark and Sicheng opening the back doors for him.
Taeil comes racing back out of the building just as Johnny steps down onto the sidewalk. The rest of the boys file out and Taeyong shuts the doors behind them, leading them all into Minseok's building.
When they reach the top floor, Taeyong knocks on the door repeatedly until Minseok opens it. He looks frazzled, one half of his hair is gelled down, the other is sticking up in all directions like he's run his hand through it one too many times. Blood is smeared on his cheeks and it soaks his once pristine white shirt. His hands are covered in white surgical gloves and blood.
"Is this an emergency?" Minseok asks, leaving them at the door as he rushes back inside the apartment. Taeyong steps into the apartment hesitantly, Johnny right behind him, and looks around.
"Uh, kind of, not really. There's a pencil in Jaehyun's thigh, but...we can see you're busy. We can just go to Seokjin hyung-" Taeyong starts, but pauses when he see the man lying on Minseok's couch. The couch is drenched in this man's blood and out of the corner of his eye Taeyong can see Taeil gently push Sicheng and Mark back out into the hall.
"No. You stay right here. Lay him on the other couch." Minseok says, already moving to the next room. He comes back with a roll of bandages and a bottle of antiseptic. Johnny sets Jaehyun down on the other couch as Minseok instructed. Minseok tosses the bandages and bottle at Doyoung.
"You, you have a steady hand, apply the antiseptic and then bandage it. You'll have to be gentle when pulling the pencil out, he's gonna bleed a bit. Make sure you wrap the bandages tight enough that it applies pressure, but don't make it tight enough that it stops his blood flow." Minseok says, kneeling down beside the couch with the stranger on it, going back to work.
The man's shirt is torn open, exposing his toned chest and stomach. Taeyong sees the blood more than anything else. He'd love to sit there and ogle over the man's gorgeous physique, but he's worrying about Jaehyun and now this man who is absolutely covered in blood.
"It looks a lot worse than it is, I'll be fine. Don't stress, beautiful." The man chuckles. Taeyong's eyes widen at the compliment and the fact that he was caught.
"Hey, I said no talking until I can get this bleeding under control." Minseok grumbles, working diligently on the man's wounds.
"What happened to you?" Taeyong asks.
"What do you think, Doc? Like, five or six shallow stab wounds and a grazing GSW?" He asks, looking down at Minseok. Minseok doesn't even look away from his work as he rolls his neck with a sigh.
"That's exactly what it is because I told you that almost verbatim ten minutes before they got here. And it's six, by the way. Now shut up and sit still."
The man listens to Minseok this time, only letting out small winces of pain, but staying quiet otherwise. Taeyong returns his attention back to Jaehyun. Doyoung has since pulled the pencil out of Jaehyun's thigh and is almost finished bandaging him up. When he's finished, he throws the bottle of remaining antiseptic at Yuta's head, nailing him in the forehead.
"I won't make it a habit to clean up your messes. Don't stab him next time maybe, and if you absolutely have to, aim to kill. I'm sick of you dancing around the subject of possibly killing one of us, we all know it's gonna happen, just do us a favor and make it Jaehyun." Doyoung knocks into Yuta's shoulder as he marches his way out of Minseok's apartment.
"You were the one that put the pencil in his leg?" The injured man asks, his laughter quickly turning into troubling coughs.
"He got on my nerves." Yuta shrugs, looking back down at his phone.
"He just got pissed off that the other Japanese guy ripped him a new one and took it out on me." Jaehyun winces as he sits up. Taeyong turns to look at Jaehyun curiously.
"How did you know what he said to Yuta?" Taeyong asks, his brows furrowed. Jaehyun beckons Yuta forward and once Yuta is in front of him, he pulls one side of Yuta's hoodie away from his body and takes off the little device he attached to the zipper.
"You fucking bugged me?" Yuta asks in anger, the red color once again returning to his face.
"Technically it's called a wire." Jaehyun smirks.
"Technically I'll beat your ass if you ever pull some shit like that again." Yuta says, reeling his fist back to take a swing but Taeyong stops him.
"That doesn't explain how you knew what he said, he said it in Japanese."
"Ever heard of Google Translate? It's not the most accurate but I got the general idea." Jaehyun shrugs. Taeyong lets Yuta go when he's sure Yuta won't punch Jaehyun.
"I guess we'll get out of your hair hyung, thank you for your time. How much do we owe you?" Taeyong asks, looking back at Minseok. Minseok bandages another one of the man's stab wounds.
"If you kids leave right now, this time it's free of charge." Minseok says.
"Done and done. Thank you hyung." Jaehyun smiles, leaning against Johnny as he stands to leave.
"See you next time, beautiful." The man from the couch calls as Taeyong walks out. He blushes furiously and laughs when he hears Minseok scold him.
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Chapter 3: You Were My Everything Until Yesterday
Title taken from Yesterday by Suki
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Johnny is startled from his dream by Taeyong shaking his shoulder. Once Taeyong is sure Johnny is awake, he shuffles off to wake the others. Johnny sits up slowly, the memory of his vivid dream still pressing him into the mattress and begging him for just a while longer. Just a few more minutes of quiet bliss to make him forget about waking up, make him forget about having to go out there and help Taeyong, make him forget about how Ten is missing and no one is doing anything to find him. He never wanted this. He curses his younger self for the trouble he's in now because it doesn't seem he'll ever be set free.
He gets dressed in the dark. He doesn't have a roommate anymore so it's not like it bothers them. He keeps his outfit simple, plain t-shirt and jeans. Johnny wants to blend in. He doesn't want to be noticed like Jaehyun. He keeps his wardrobe simple and his personality plain. He wants to be able to slip through the busy, populated streets of Seoul without anyone seeing him. He wants to find Ten. Or at least his body. It's been six months and no one can locate or even contact him. Johnny just wants closure.
He sneaks out as Taeil is making breakfast for the younger kids. Jaehyun is bothering him, begging for Taeil to make something for him, even trying to bribe the younger ones with money, while Taeil insists that he's old enough to make his own. Johnny doesn't stay for the rest of the conversation, although he doesn't feel he needs to. Jaehyun becomes predictable after a while, there are times where he surprises them, like the other day with the wire, but for the most part Jaehyun's antics play on a loop.
Johnny checks all the places he can think of, but comes up empty. He knows he has to reel it in for the day, go back home and maybe ask Taeyong to do him a solid and talk to Boss. Put in a good word and request a couple men to work on locating Ten. He misses him so much. The six months with no contact has left him not only confused, but also hurt. Was it something he said? Something he did? He didn't tell anyone about their relationship like Ten requested so that can't be what this is about. Johnny can't even entertain the possibility that Ten somehow got out of this life, that isn't how it worked. Once you're in, you're in for life. Johnny learned that the hard way back in Chicago.
When he makes it back to the home they share, it's late. Like late enough for Taeyong to be waiting up to lecture him about where he's been. Johnny isn't really in the mood for Taeyong to mother hen him right now, so he simply brushes past him. Sure, Taeyong is a great guy, but he's a bit of a pushover when it comes down to it. He hates confrontation and cries when he's yelled at, it's pretty easy to get out of trouble if Taeyong is the one who caught you. Johnny assumed that this time would be like any other, that he could blow right past Taeyong and he wouldn't try to continue, or start, the conversation.
For once, Johnny was wrong.
"Hey, where have you been? It's late, I put the kids to bed like three hours ago." Taeyong says, hands on his hips like a disappointed parent.
"I'm not one of your kids, so don't worry about it, alright? I made it back in one piece, so just don't worry about it." Johnny sighs, stopping in his tracks but not turning around to face Taeyong.
"It's actually not alright." Taeyong huffs in return.
"And why isn't it this time? You let everyone else off with a chuckle but as soon as I'm the one turning up late at night, it's a problem. I was out looking for Ten, as if it's any of your business. More than I can say for you, huh? I'm busting my ass, looking for my friend out there while you and the boys play ring around the rosie with those kids Boss dropped on our doorstep two months ago. You're all buddy buddy with him aren't you? Why don't you ask him where Ten is for me the next time you drop by to have tea and talk sports with the guy?"
"It's not like that Johnny. I have been asking people if they've seen him, I don't know what to tell y-"
"Don't give me that bullshit right now, Taeyong. If you gave even half a fuck about Ten, you'd go to Boss. He has the resources, the man power, to find Ten. If not Ten himself, than his remains. If he's dead, I just want to know. I want him back, Taeyong. You and the others are doing absolutely nothing to help." Johnny finishes and marches back to the comfort of his cold, dark room.
He'll just have to find Ten on his own, do his own research. There's always the possibility that Ten ran. Bought a plane ticket and went back to Thailand, flew out to visit the states, he could've gone to Antarctica and Johnny would be none the wiser. But Johnny promised. He promised Ten and he promised himself. He won't let Ten go without knowing what happened to him. Johnny won't let Ten go without closure. Johnny will go harass Boss himself if he needs to. He's not giving up.
Johnny just wants his boyfriend back, damnit.
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Chapter 4: Running Home From the Sunset
Title taken from Die Alone by Hyukoh
This is where the character death comes in. This is basically the story Yixing told Taeyong, but I decided to use Ten's name instead of referring to him as "the boy" or "a boy" like I did in previous chapters becuase Taeyong knows that Ten is the boy in the story.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He...he couldn't remember what happened . Why couldn't he remember what happened ? He recalls being in the taxi on the way to the airport and the flash of light and then...nothing.
He opens his eyes but everything is dark. Oh God, is he blind? Was he in an accident? Ten's breathing picks up as he tries to get onto his knees but quickly realizes that his hands are bound. He feels his own hot breath ghost over his face and reaches his hands up to feel a dark velvet fabric encasing his face.
A hand smacks his own out of the way and rips the velvet cover from his head. He blinks to adjust his eyes to the light and looks up and sees Yixing. This can't be good. Yixing is kneeling down so he's right within Ten's eyesight. His skin is flawless, paired with a sharp jaw and a toned body Ten can see even though the man is wearing a three piece suit.
Ten stares at him in silence, he's been in enough situations like this one to know to be quiet until they ask him something. Speak when spoken to and not a moment before. The corner of Yixing's mouth quirks up into a half smile when he sees Ten is choosing to stay quiet instead of demanding a response.
"Do you know why you're here?" He asks, threading his fingers in Ten's hair and yanking it back. Ten winces and his face scrunches up in discomfort.
"N-no." He stutters in responce. The man pulls his hair harder.
"You should. You've been cheating me out of my money, Ten, I'm not stupid. Did you think I wasn't gonna find out?" Yixing demands.
"Y-your money? What-what do you mean?" Ten's brows furrow in confusion.
"You mean you haven't figured it out yet? Come on Ten, I thought you were smarter than this. Smart enough to know that even if you leave the country, I was gonna find you. I count my money as soon as I get it, it wasn't hard to decipher that the transporter was the one scamming me." Yixing sighs.
"I-I really haven't done anything, I don't know what you're talking about." Ten says, his face twisted up in pain. Yixing just tugs harder, throwing Ten onto the ground and standing.
"Last chance. I've decided to leave your family alone, but if you keep lying to me your mother will have one less child running around." Yixing says, motioning for the two men standing in the back of the room- Ten didn't even see them- to step forward.
Both men are tall. Taller than Ten and even Yixing. Each man grabs one of Ten's arms and hoists him up onto a wooden chair in the center of the room. The taller of the two cuts the zip-tie holding his hands together, then he grabs one hand, retying it to the chair while the other man works on tying his ankles to the legs.
"I don't know what you're talking about! I didn't steal anything! I swear, please, don't do this!" Ten pleads as a last resort. He knows Yixing won't believe him, but he has to try.
He doesn't want to die, honest, he doesn't. He just needed the money. It's not like his family can pay for everything on their own. With his father's medical bills and his mother's minimum wage job with two extra mouthes to feed, they don't stand a chance. Even though Nichkhun sends more than half of his bimonthly paychecks back home, they still don't make enough money. Even with Ten and Nichkhun in different countries entirely, Ten still has to worry. He hasn't spoken to his parents in months- Bambam, Sorn, and Nichkhun even longer.
"Fine." Yixing says, his hand extended for the shorter of the two minions to hand Yixing a small, but sharp, knife. Ten starts thrashing in the seat, trying to get out of the ties that bind him. When Yixing starts walking toward him with the knife in his hand, Ten starts bawling. Tears leaking out of his eyes before he even feels them stinging.
"Please! Please, please don't do this! Alright, fine, I took a couple bucks each month! I needed it to send back home, please don't!" He screams, sobs tearing themselves from his lips in fear.
"I told you, Ten. That was your last chance and you lied to me again. I don't tolerate scammers or liars. You know this." Yixing sighs, violently slashing a cut on Ten's cheek. Despite his fast and aggressive attack, his arm moved gracefully. Far too gracefully for someone who was about to torture someone.
Ten cries out in pain as the blood seeps from the wound, falling down his cheek like warm tears. His actual tears mix with the dark red, leaving pink trails on his white cheek as they fall. He grips the arms of the chairs, turning his head away from Yixing. Yixing grips Ten's chin harshly, making Ten face him.
"I really don't tolerate liars, Ten. What would Johnny say if he found out? Found out that you're a good for nothing, lying, thief." Yixing says, slicing through Ten's upper arm with the knife like his arm was made of butter. Ten cries out in pain again.
Yixing takes his time, each cut hurts as much as the last, all blending together to form one unit of throbbing, horrible pain. He doesn't stop at the cuts. Yixing has always been about inflicting maximum pain to those who betray him. By the end of the day Ten's nose is broken, there's at least two to three dozen cuts littering his body and Yixing has cut off two of his fingers.
Ten feels dizzy, it gets harder to keep his eyes open each time they close and his limbs feel too heavy. He braces himself for another cut but when it doesn't come, Ten looks up at Yixing. His vision is blurry, only allowing him to see a couple blobs of color to indicate that Yixing and his two minions are still in the room.
"Get Minseok in here, I don't want him patching anything up but I don't want him bleeding out before I've had my fun." Yixing says, turned to look at the two boys. They quickly leave to follow Yixing's orders as he turns back to face Ten. Yixing cracks his knuckles and grits his teeth before he punches Ten square in the jaw, knocking him out.
Ten doesn't know how long he's been here. Its had to have been weeks, but he has no way of knowing. Yixing keeps him just that much out of his mind so he can't tell. The cuts don't stop coming, nor do the punches. Ten is sure that if he ever makes it out of this alive that he will have permanent bruises in the shape of Yixing's fists on his abdomen. Ten doesn't remember the last time he ate, Yixing allows him a few sips of water every once in a while but so far no food.
He doesn't even flinch when the doors open again and Yixing walks back in. His white shirt sleeves are rolled up to his elbows and the same two men from the first day are flanking him once again. When Yixing notices that Ten is awake, he smiles.
"Ah, Ten, it looks like today is your lucky day." He chuckles. The tallest of the three men comes to stand behind the chair, lifting it off the ground entirely as the shorter one places a white tarp on the ground. The tallest sets him down again in the center of it. Ten gets the same sinking feeling he had when Yixing removed the velvet bag from his head the first day he ended up here.
Ten knows he's going to die.
"You won't have to endure this any more." Yixing says, pulling out the knife he's been using on Ten for the past couple of weeks.
Ten mentally says goodbye to his family. Apologizes to his mother for not being a bigger help, saying he'll miss his father, thinks of Bambam and Sorn and Nichkhun and their smiling faces one last time. Ten takes a deep breath and nods. He's accepted it now.
"Just...tell Johnny I love him." Ten says in one big rush of breath. Yixing laughs.
"Will do." He says before stabbing Ten in the abdomen. Ten screams, constant and loud. Then, he pulls the knife out and does it again. He keeps doing it until Ten's blood covers the tarp, Ten's lap, and his own arm. Yixing can see Ten's intestines spilling out of the gaping hole there. Ten's screaming finally stops with one puff of air leaving his lungs. Yixing sighs in relief, rubbing his temple. He was starting to get a headache.
He throws the knife onto the tarp and turns around to face Sehun and Chanyeol. Sehun had always had a weak stomach, he never did well with the torture aspect of his job, Sehun's back is to Yixing and Ten. The weariness has long since been beaten out of Chanyeol and he stands still, his hands clasped behind his back.
"Sehun honey, you can leave." Sehun doesn't wait a second, rushing out of the room with a hand pressed to his mouth. "Chanyeol, speak with Junmyeon and Kyungsoo, tell them to get rid of him." Chanyeol nods and leaves to do as he was directed.
Yixing pulls out the rag that was hanging from the back pocket of his pants. He wipes as much of Ten's blood off his hands as he can before throwing the rag at Ten's lifeless body and leaving just as Sehun and Chanyeol did.
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Chapter 5: No One Remains With Me
Title taken from Who Is This Song For? by South Club
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Have you ever been to Japan, Taeyong?" Yixing asks with a smile, carefully pouring Taeyong a cup of tea. The question is a little random and Taeyong isn't sure what to make of it.
"No, I haven't, Sir." Taeyong responds respectfully, bowing in thanks for the tea.
"Oh cut that out. I asked you to call me hyung, did I not? Anyway, Japan. Beautiful place, prettiest people you'll ever meet." Yixing sighs wistfully. Taeyong takes a sip of his tea quietly, keeping his eyes on the table instead of looking at Yixing.
"Would you like to go Taeyong? To Japan, I mean." Yixing smiles, taking his tea and standing from the table, startling Taeyong. He finally pries his eyes off of the table to look at Yixing. Yixing has his back to Taeyong, looking out the window.
"What do you mean, Sir?" Taeyong asks.
"I mean exactly what I said Taeyong. I hate repeating myself, you know this. Would you like to go to Japan? Take Yuta with you as well?" Yixing asks, finishing he tea and sitting back down across from Taeyong.
"That'd be very nice, Sir, is there a specific reason?" He questions, slightly resistant.
"Don't worry about that. I just want Yuta to visit his hometown, you know? I know how terrible homesickness is. Take him, will you? Maybe Takuya as well." Yixing smiles. Taeyong thinks it's a joke. Yixing has never offered him a vacation without a catch, something Taeyong has to do for him in exchange.
"Now. I'll call Takuya and tell him the good news. You go home and pack with Yuta." Yixing smiles and waves Taeyong away. Taeyong rests for a minute too long before standing, leaving his barely touched cup of tea, and walking out the door, shrinking back from the tall man guarding the door as he does so.
Taeyong makes his way back to the house quietly. It's starting to get a little colder and he zips his jacket up just a little bit more so it covers his red nose. He sniffles, eyes shifting across the streets as he quickly ducks around buildings to make it home. Taeyong isn't too sure he even wants to go there though. He isn't sure he wants to see Johnny or Yuta or Doyoung or any of them really. Taeyong loves the younger kids, he really does, but he thinks he'll lose it if he sees them right now.
He reroutes his path and finds himself pushing open the door to this old restaurant at the end of a busy street. The place itself isn't as busy as the rest of the stores and restaurants around it, but it makes do. It's an American themed diner named Tiffany's, the walls are covered in old art reminiscent of the 1950's in America. The woman who runs it is Korean, opposing the foreign homeland of the food she sells. A short woman with long white hair. Taeyong hasn't ever spoken to her besides placing his order a few times, but she's nice enough. Lets Taeyong stay well past closing when he's stressed, gives him coffee on the house when he's spilling himself out on paperwork.
He picks the first booth on the right as soon as he walks in. He can see out of the window and it's dark. Taeyong hadn't realized how late it was when Yixing called him over, or how late it was when he left. The sun is missing and stars decorate the cold, dark sky. Taeyong stares out of the window without speaking, even when Tiffany stops by to ask for his order. He's too in his own head right now to care about responding to people. Speaking with Yixing always drains him, he always feels like Yixing is pulling the rug out from under him when they're speaking.
Tiffany brings him a cup of coffee, just the way he likes it.
Hours pass, Taeyong's sure, but he doesn't move. Leaves the cup of coffee just as full as he left the tea at Yixing's. He watches the people outside walk past. There's a couple that walks past; a man and a woman, holding hands. Then there's a woman walking quickly, probably on her way home, Taeyong guesses. And then, the most peculiar, there's a young boy that keeps circling around back to the restaurant.
He looks resigned almost, like he's looking for something but doesn't expect to find it any time soon. Eventually the boy walks into the restaurant and marches up to Tiffany who's standing behind the counter. He looks a little sheepish as he pulls an old photo out of his back pocket. Taeyong stands in curiosity, making his way over the counter as well to see what's going on.
"Would you please take a look at this photo and tell me if you've seen this boy. It's an old photo, I know, but I'd appreciate it if you'd look anyway." He smiles at Tiffany and hands it to her. She looks at it for a minute before glancing over at Taeyong who's a few steps away from the boy in front of her.
"I'm afraid I haven't seen him. Taeyong, take a look at this photo, will you? Tell this boy if you've seen the other kid in the photo." Tiffany says, handing it over to Taeyong. He takes it with a look of confusion on his face, the younger boy turning to look at Taeyong hopefully. Taeyong thinks briefly, a passing thought really, that the kid can't be much older than Mark.
And then Taeyong looks down at the photo and sees Mark. Taeyong wouldn't be able to mistake it, the obvious joy behind the smile he and the rest of the boys rarely see. He can tell it's Mark. Mark Lee. Without a question, without any doubt. But Yixing said no one was supposed to know about Mark. That anyone looking for Mark had surely quit by now.
"I'm sorry, I don't think I've seen him." Taeyong says, locking eyes with Tiffany briefly before handing the photo back to the boy. He can see the boy's face fall in disappointment.
"Thank you both for looking anyway. It means a lot." He says with a sad smile, turning to leave.
"Wait!" Taeyong says, catching the boy's arm. He stops and turns to look at Taeyong again.
"Who is he? Why're you looking for him?" Taeyong asks.
"He's my best friend. We haven't seen each other in eight years. He suddenly disappeared when we were younger, everyone thought he ran away, but I know he didn't. He was ten, what ten year old just up and decides to run away without having anywhere to go. He didn't have any other family in Canada besides his parents so I thought I'd see if he stopped by his grandparents' house." The boy says.
"They live here? You came all the way from Canada?" Taeyong asks in surprise. The boy nods.
"I haven't found him yet, though. His parents' think he's dead, they stopped looking a few months after he went missing. I don't think he ran away though, there's no way."
"What do you think happened to him, then?" Tiffany asks, speaking up for the first time in a while.
"Kidnapped. That's the only answer that makes sense." He shrugs.
The boy leaves not long after their conversation. Taeyong bought him a meal to go and sent him on his way. He feels bad after hearing the boy's story, but there isn't much he can do. Yixing would have his head if he told anyone about Mark. Taeyong was the only one Yixing told about how he acquired Mark.
He feels bad, but he'd feel worse after the beating Yixing would make him endure.
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Chapter 6: Your Words Are Like Broken Subtitles
Title taken from Love Is A Dog From Hell by Mad Clown and Suran
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Taeyong finally leaves the restaurant and makes his way back to the house in the cold. He thinks about Yixing and Mark and that other boy the whole way home. Taeyong wishes he could tell that boy about Mark, take him back to the house, bring Mark outside, and tell them to get the hell out of the country. Taeyong wishes he could help them, he really does. Taeyong just hopes that boy won't accidentally find Yixing or anything, because if he asks Yixing about Mark, that kid is as good as dead.
So Taeyong settles for going home and upon entering, walking straight to his room. He ignores Taeil asking him if he'd like dinner (even though it's 12:30 and dinner was hours ago), ignores Jaehyun asking him where he was and why he came back so late, ignores Johnny's glare (they haven't made up yet), ignores the fact that Jisung is still awake playing a game on someone's phone when he should've been asleep hours ago.
He knows Taeil is hot on his heels, throwing open the door before it swings shut behind Taeyong. Taeyong ignores him again, peeling his shirt off and reaching for one to sleep in. He keeps his back to Taeil while he changes, not because he's uncomfortable changing in front of him, because he doesn't want to look at him.
"Taeyong, what's wrong? Where were you?" Taeil asks, closing the door behind him.
"Nothing is wrong. I was with Boss and then I went to Typhanie's. Can you tell Yuta I need to talk to him?" Taeyong asks, changing his pants.
"Privately." Taeyong cuts him off.
Taeil huffs in annoyance as he turns to leave. Taeyong knows that Yuta isn't even home right now, he knows all about the job Yixing has him out on, so really he just wanted Taeil to leave. He wants Taeil to try, in vain, to call Yuta for three hours before he gives up and waits for Yuta to home home to tell him. Because Taeyong knows that is exactly what Taeil will do.
When Yuta does come home, he enters Taeyong's room before even going to the bathroom to wash the blood from his face.
"You wanted me?" Yuta asks as he observes Taeyong laying down on his bed in the dark.
"Boss wants us in Japan soon. Me, you, and Takuya." Taeyong sighs. He can see the minute Yuta's face morphs into utter agitation. Yuta and Takuya's feud seemingly sprung out out nowhere but it's been going strong since their first meeting.
"Why do we need to bring him? Why can't you and I do it?" Yuta asks, eyes narrowed in anger.
"Don't know. Boss said something about homesickness and whatever. We've leaving soon I think, he told me to come home and get you to start packing." Taeyong mumbles, head half buried in his pillow. Taeyong would pack with him, but he doesn't need to. He keeps a bag packed full of clothes in the back of his and Taeil's closet for trips like these.
Yuta nods wordlessly and exits the room, shutting the door in the process. The lights are off and once again, in the darkness of his room, he thinks of the boy again. Taeyong knows that he's done the wrong thing. He knows he should've told the boy that he's seen Mark, that he knows who and where he is. But Yixing. Yixing stops that train of thought every time he has it. Yixing would kill him. Kill him just like that boy he told Taeyong about before.
Taeil enters again. He comes in and gets ready for bed in silence. He plugs his phone in and slips into bed, resting on his side to face Taeyong who's on his own bed, lying on his stomach, facing Taeil's bed.
"What happened Taeyongie? You can tell hyung, you know it'll stay just between us." Taeil breaks the silence.
Taeil is more sneaky and conniving than he appears. He plays to everyone's weaknesses and Taeyong is the only one who realizes it. Taeyong has tried to pick up on everyone's soft spots, but he's always marveled at how easily Taeil can accomplish what he can't. Taeyong can kind of tell with the younger kids, make educated guesses and let the blanks be filled in by the kids themselves, but Taeil seems to always know, with everyone. He knows that Taeyong has too much on his shoulders and he needs someone to care, he needs an outlet.
And as much as Taeyong wants to turn away from Taeil, to feign sleep, he can't. Taeil's words and his tone reel Taeyong in too much. Taeyong knows what he's doing, but he still can't stop himself from letting out a shaky breath and speaking.
"Yuta and I are going to Japan with Takuya soon and I don't know what Boss' intentions are, what he wants us to do. He said it's just so Takuya and Yuta can visit home, but I can never tell with Boss." Taeyong doesn't mention the kid who asked about Mark. Taeil doesn't know about where Mark came from and Taeyong isn't about to tell him.
"Oh baby, you don't have to worry about that," Taeil laughs softly. "Even if Boss wants you to do more than visit Japan just for fun, it'll be okay. He wouldn't give you something he didn't think you could handle." Taeil stands up from his bed and sits on the edge of Taeyong's. "That's not all that's worrying you, is it? It seems like there's more. You don't have to handle everything alone, tell hyung baby."
Taeyong tries, but he breaks.
"How much do you know about where Mark came from?" Taeyong asks after taking in a shaky breath.
"Surprisingly I don't know much about that, actually." Taeil laughs, resting a hand on Taeyong's back.
"Mark is from Canada. Boss...I guess you could say recruited him from there on a business trip. Mark was ten." Taeyong rolls onto his side to look up at Taeil and see his confused face.
"Mark was ten? A ten year old boy from Canada joined a gang ran by a Chinese guy based in South Korea?" Taeil asks.
"Kind of. I wouldn't say Mark joined, joined implies it was willing." Taeil's face is unreadable, Taeyong expected so much more of a reaction. Taeil treats everyone here like they're his actual children so the lack of reaction is kind of startling to Taeyong. "Boss more or less...kidnapped him. He told me when I joined, he didn't tell anyone else, at least to my knowledge. After I met with him today I stopped at Typhanie's and this boy came in. He was young, Mark's age, and he was asking Typhanie if she had seen this boy in this photograph he had. I took a look at it too because I was curious and it was Mark in the photo. Apparently Mark's parents had given up on ever finding him, but this kid, Mark's best friend, was still looking for him. And I had to watch the way that boy's face broke as I told him I had never seen Mark before."
"I...see..." Taeil trails off, gently petting Taeyong's back. "Well. You get some sleep, okay, babe? You'll feel better in the morning." Taeil smiles, sickeningly sweet.
Taeyong nods and watches as Taeil gets up from his bed and makes his way back over to his own, now laying on the side so his back is to Taeyong. Does this mean Taeil is mad at him? He doesn't want Taeil to be mad at him. Taeil never gets mad at anyone, even if they treat him poorly when they're in a bad mood. Taeyong has to appologize for the way he acted earlier.
Taeyong gets up from his own bed and gently gets into Taeil's. He wraps an arm around Taeil's waist and presses his forehead to Taeil's back.
"I'm sorry for how I was earlier, hyung. I shouldn't have taken it out on you." Taeyong mumbles into Taeil's shirt. Taeil hums in response, seemingly already half asleep. Taeyong can't get the idea that Taeil is mad at him out of his head.
He falls asleep with the terrible feeling of letting Taeil down crushing his heart.
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Chapter 7: More Than Friends But Not Lovers
Title taken from Blurred Lines by Cheetah and Hanhae
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The flight from Seoul to Osaka with Yuta and Takuya was uneventful. They all sat pressed together in one row even though the plane belonged to Yixing and there was no one else on it. Taeyong sat in the middle, Takuya sat by the window, and Yuta insisted on the aisle seat. Yuta sat upright, observing and alert. Taeyong took to reading a book while Takuya passed out five minutes after the plane took off, his head lolling onto Taeyong's shoulder.
Yixing had gotten them two really nice rooms at an expensive hotel his friend owned. They stayed on the top floor in the rooms with the best view. Taeyong and Yuta were to share a room and Takuya got his own. Yuta argued with this valiantly, but lost eventually.
After they got settled, they didn't see Takuya until later that night. Yuta and Taeyong had been out all day sight-seeing, revisiting some of the things Yuta had mentioned to Taeyong. Yuta was being a little bit more open with Taeyong than he usually was, but he still wasn't getting anywhere. All the younger kids, Mark and Sicheng included, opened up to him, even some of the boys older than Taeyong went to him with their problems, but Yuta had never done so. He never told Taeyong about Osaka or his childhood.
And perhaps the biggest mystery of all was Takuya himself. Taeyong always had mixed feelings about Takuya. Takuya had never done anything to Taeyong personally to make him upset or afraid of Takuya, but for some reason Yuta seemed a little perturbed by him. Yuta insisted Taeyong sit in the middle of them on the plane when Takuya said they all should sit together and had even down right refused to be alone with the man, hence the reason Taeyong went with Yuta when they dropped the money off with him.
Now that they all sat together in Taeyong and Yuta's hotel room Taeyong was picking up on more of their weird behavior. Yuta was pressed against Taeyong's side as Takuya sat across the table from them, this in itself was weird considering the fact Yuta tried to stay as far away from skinship as possible. Taeyong noticed how he seemed to be the only one replying to anything Takuya said and how Yuta refrained from looking at Takuya, choosing the floor or the wall over his face.
Takuya ordered expensive wine for them all to share, pouring glasses for Taeyong and Yuta as well. Yuta took his hesitantly and Taeyong, for the life of him, can't figure out what is up with these two. Takuya is acting like he normally does, while Yuta is almost too skittish to be considered the same Yuta Taeyong lives with.
Several drinks in and everyone's cheeks are rosy and their eyes hazy. Taeyong had used his phone to play some music so the room wasn't silent in between his and Takuya's conversation, Yuta is running his silence campaign. Takuya was humming along quietly to the song as he poured everyone more drinks.
Surprisingly, for the first time since Takuya stepped into their room, Yuta spoke, thanking Takuya as he handed Yuta his drink. Takuya himself looked a little surprised by the action, but just nodded his head once and brushed it off.
After his initial comment, Yuta loosened up. He was having more fun, begging Taeyong to put on more upbeat music. Taeyong and Takuya remained sitting and speaking as the songs got more cheerful and fun as they went on, prompting Yuta to at one point get up and start dancing by himself. Taeyong and Takuya only spent him a glance, both not as excited drunks as Yuta is apparently.
When Yuta was starting to get louder and more, what one could classify as, annoying, he could see the look in Takuya's eyes change. They narrowed when they glanced over at Yuta and when Yuta didn't get the message, he tried glaring. Yuta was having too much fun, giggling and laughing so hard he could barely stand, and didn't seem to notice Takuya's looks.
"Yuta, why don't you come sit down? I think I may have given you too much to drink." Takuya says, standing to help Yuta into a seat. Yuta, however, fights back, pushing Takuya away. When Takuya continues to try and make him sit down, Yuta, in all his drunken glory, punches Takuya.
Everything quiets. The song playing ends, the playlist Taeyong had on does as well, launching the room into stunned silence. Taeyong remains sitting, too dizzy to stand up and too afraid to break the silence. Takuya, who suspiciously hadn't even seemed drunk the whole night, is steady on his feet as he raises a hand to wipe the blood from his bleeding lip. His eyes flit from his blood covered hand up to Yuta's face and Taeyong's eyes follow.
"You little punk." Takuya mutters.
Yuta looks scared, he looks more terrified than Taeyong has ever seen one person look in his entire life. Yuta brings his hand up to cover his shocked mouth, like he's surprised he punched Takuya hard enough to make something bleed. Takuya laughs humorlessly and grabs Yuta by his hair and begins dragging him to the en suite bathroom.
Taeyong is slow to react, the alcohol in his blood weighing him down. He tries to run after them, suddenly very afraid of what Takuya could do to Yuta, but he stumbles, tripping on his own feet, granting Takuya the amount of time he needs to finally drag Yuta into the bathroom and lock the door. Taeyong gets up as quickly as he can but he's still a lot slower than he would like to be.
He settles for pounding on the door, yelling for Takuya to let Yuta out, that they can talk about it, but that doesn't seem to be helping. Nothing Taeyong is saying seems to convince Takuya to let Yuta go.
Taeyong freezes when he hears Yuta's terrified cries. He's screaming so loud Taeyong is afraid someone in the next room over is going to call the cops. Taeyong can't make out what he's saying, most of it being in Japanese, but Taeyong can tell that Takuya is hurting Yuta. Yuta continues screaming until Taeyong hears the sharp sound of Yuta being back handed. Yuta's screaming stops, making everything eerily silent, until Taeyong can hear the pitiful sniffles and whimpers of someone who's obviously crying.
Taeyong pounds on the door, begging, for what seems like hours, but realistically he knows its only been minutes. Yuta continues to cry the entire time and he can hear Takuya's threatening voice speaking to Yuta (once again, in Japanese, so Taeyong is lost). He hates the powerless feeling he has. He's the leader, he's supposed to protect them, to guide them, instead he's letting Takuya hurt Yuta.
Eventually, after Taeyong has long given up on trying to get Takuya to stop whatever he was doing, he hears the sound of the lock being turned. He backs away from the door and opens it a crack when he realizes no one is opening the door and the sound of the faucet running graces his ears.
He opens it fully and is not only extremely confused, but also extremely afraid. Takuya is whistling as he washes his hands in the sink, looking at Taeyong through the mirror as Taeyong steps inside, looking for Yuta.
The bathroom is spacious and incredibly clean and Taeyong isn't sure what he was expecting after all the screaming, but it wasn't a clean bathroom. Taeyong steps closer to Takuya and peers over his shoulder and nearly faints. Takuya isn't just washing his hands, he's also washing a small knife, a knife that has blood on it, turning the water pink as he cleans it. Takuya notices Taeyong's panic and tries not to smile.
Taeyong looks around for Yuta and his eyes widen when he sees a bloody hand print on the side of the tub. He rushes over and kneels down beside it, looking in to see Yuta laying on his stomach, shirt ripped open. Takuya carved some kind of symbol into Yuta's back, to large 'x's that connect.
Takuya shuts off the faucet, turning around to cross his arms and lean on it. Taeyong turns back to Yuta when he hears Yuta crying quietly. Taeyong isn't sure what to do. He's never been in a situation like this before and Yuta's always been a strong person, the kind who takes care of himself, so Taeyong isn't sure how to help him.
"Well," Takuya starts, pushing himself off the sink when he sees Taeyong struggle for a few short moments. "Now that I've taught your little brat here some manners, you should probably patch him up and get him to bed, don't you think?" He smiles.
Taeyong stands to gently help Yuta out of the tub as Takuya turns to leave, pausing before he does to say something to Yuta in Japanese. Yuta looks caught off guard when Takuya calls for him but he begins to cry with more intensity when Takuya says his piece and leaves.
Taeyong helps Yuta out of the bathroom and to his bed. He lays Yuta down on his stomach, grabbing a towel from the bathroom to press against the wounds to slow the bleeding as best he can. Yuta continues to cry, worrying Taeyong even more. Taeyong finally takes in the state Yuta is in. He's covered in blood, some all over his hands and arms. There's a bloody cut on Yuta's cheek as well and Taeyong panics even more. He tries to stay calm, knowing that if he panics, it'll only make Yuta more afraid.
So, in a moment of desperation, Taeyong does the only thing he can think to do, and calls Taeil.
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Chapter 8: There's Poison In That Bright Red Apple
Title taken from Black or White by Cross Gene
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Yuta wishes he wasn't a cliche. He wishes his life was simple and easy and he wishes he was loved. Sure Taeyong and Taeil like to masquerade themselves as the parents all the boys never had, but there are things out of their control. Things that they don't know about, or things they do but can't change. Not everyone can be saved, of this, Yuta is sure.
Sometimes Yuta feels like he isn't actually there. Like physically, yes, Yuta is present, but it feels like he's watching from outside his body. Like he moves and responds the way he's supposed to, but he doesn't think about it. And he has everyone fooled. Taeil is blissfully ignorant, Johnny is too wrapped up looking for Ten, Jaehyun and Doyoung are preoccupied with the game of cat and mouse they're playing, Mark and Sicheng are too young to comprehend what's going on with Yuta, and Taeyong....Taeyong knows everything now.
Taeyong knows about Takuya. Takuya was one of his secrets, something he kept hidden from everyone else. It's not like he paraded around announcing his business all the time, but it was something no one knew about. And Yuta isn't sure why he was chasing something so unhealthy and unstable, why he wanted another secret to keep from everyone when the most they knew about him was his name and where he was from. They didn't know details, they didn't know specifics, they didn't know how Yuta felt on a day to day basis and now that he thinks about it, Yuta doesn't even know how he feels about things.
Yuta tries not to think about this as he cries into the pillow. He tries not to think of how Taeyong will want answers, about how confused Taeyong is, how disappointed he will be. He tries not to think of Takuya. How Takuya is angry at him, about how Takuya is disappointed in him, about how Wonho will be disappointed when Takuya tells him. He's going to be absolutely crushed when he gets back and Wonho is angry with him, pissing Takuya off is scary, but pissing Wonho off tugs at something deep inside Yuta that makes him feel like a child who disappointed their parent.
Yuta whimpers as Taeyong tends to the open wounds on his back, he flinches slightly even though Taeyong is being extremely careful. Yuta never wanted to show this side to the others; this vulnerable, pathetic son of a bitch he keeps locked away and buried under layers of sarcastic comments and intimidating silence. And sure, this isn't the first time Takuya's done something like this, but this is the first time he's done it out of genuine anger, the first time he's done it with someone other than Wonho present and Yuta would be lying if he were to say he wasn't scared of what would happen the next time the saw Takuya.
When it came down to it, Takuya was a truly frightening man. Takuya is beautiful and he knows how to use that to his advantage, lure unsuspecting people to their doom like a siren. The face of a model, the heart of the devil. Takuya is cold and unforgiving and evil, but Yuta knows that's not all true. He's seen Takuya smile, genuinely, he's seen Takuya love, he's seen Takuya cry tears of joy, of pleasure. Yuta knows Takuya isn't just a diabolical creature sent to make his life worse than it already was. Yuta knows Takuya can love.
Yuta just wishes he could feel it, be on the receiving end of Takuya's love, because he knows it's there. He's seen it, he's seen it every time Takuya looks at Wonho; the look in his eyes, the way he smiles. He saw it back before Takuya even met Wonho, when he and Takuya were in the same small gang in Osaka years before and Takuya fell in love a tourist named Joonjae. Yuta has seen how fiercely and strongly Takuya loves and he just wishes that one day he'll be able to have all of that directed at him. To have Takuya's heart in his hands, the way Takuya has his.
"Yuta, can we talk about this?" Taeyong asks hesitantly. He's bandaging Yuta's wounds as he speaks, taping gauze he had in his backpack to Yuta's back. Yuta wipes his eyes and nods, turning his head sideways to look at Taeyong.
"Now I don't really know what exactly is going on with you and Takuya, but it should stop. Whatever it is, it's not worth this. I'll talk to Boss and have Johnny start dropping off the cash instead." Taeyong says, putting the medical tape back in his bag so he can avoid looking at Yuta's tear stained face.
"What? No. N-no- I- you don't even know what's going on- you can't just-" Yuta starts in a panic, attempting to sit up.
"Woah woah woah, hey, calm down. Lay back down, you'll start bleeding again." Taeyong soothes, gently pushing Yuta back down onto the bed. "Takuya...he's dangerous, clearly. I know you don't like asking for help, I know you don't like seeming weak or whatever, but I don't want you hurt like this again. Yuta, you're crying. I can count the amount of times I've seen you cry on one hand. Once, it's happened once, right now." Taeyong concludes.
"You don't- you don't get it, y-you wouldn't understand." Yuta stutters, sitting up again in anger.
"Try me, Yuta. Talk to me, that's what I'm here for. Explain things to me if I don't understand them. I want to know you better, but I won't be able to if you don't talk to me, I want to help." Taeyong pleads, trying to get Yuta to lay down again. Yuta fights back this time, pushing Taeyong off of him.
"Stay out of it! Just because you're older than me by a few months doesn't mean you have to act like this all the time. You're not Taeil hyung so fucking stay out of it and mind your damn business." Yuta growls, standing up and grabbing a shirt from his bag to wrap around his shoulders.
"Yuta stop, come back to bed. Where are you gonna go like that?" Taeyong asks, getting up as well to walk over to him. Yuta only gets angrier, pulling his gun from his bag and pointing it at Taeyong.
"Stay the fuck away from me. I'm serious, I'll fucking shoot you." Taeyong can't tell if Yuta's bluffing. He doesn't know Yuta well enough to know all of his tells. It's strange to see Yuta like this, shaking hands, wild eyes.
Yuta knows he looks crazy. A gun has never wavered in his hands before, although Yuta supposes there's a first time for everything. He can see his hand shaking as he points the gun at Taeyong and he knows he won't shoot him. He can't. That's never happened either, he's never been unsure when it came to wielding his weapon. He's never aimed his gun at someone he didn't intend to kill.
Yuta has never felt this feeling before; desperation. He's never wanted to get away from someone as badly as he wants to get away from Taeyong. Not even Takuya, not even when Takuya had thrown him into the tub and made him beg for Takuya to carve that symbol into his back, even when he was so afraid, he still wanted to be close to Takuya, to feel his hands on his body. He doesn't want Taeyong anywhere near him, he wants to get away, but he knows Taeyong is right. He can't go anywhere like this; barefoot, a flannel shirt not even fully on, resting from his shoulders, completely unbuttoned while the cuts on his back reopen, bleeding through the gauze.
"Yuta, put the gun down please," Taeyong says, keeping his tone even as he raises his arms in a sign of surrender. Yuta's vision blurs as tears well in his eyes, his hand shaking even more, making him bring the other one up to steady it some.
"Stay the fuck away from me." Yuta says through the pressure in his throat making it difficult to speak. He starts backing up, gun still trained at Taeyong as he reaches a hand back to open the door once he makes it close enough.
When he exits the hotel room he tucks the gun into his waistband and threads his hands in his hair as he struggles to breathe, working his way through what seems to be the beginning of a panic attack. Yuta can't do that, not now, not this exposed. He needs to calm down. He needs someone, he needs Takuya, as afraid as he is right now, he needs him.
He doesn't feel as afraid knocking on Takuya's door as he thought he would. He thought it would make it harder to breathe, but he can tell that he was already heading in that direction before he knocked, that this isn't a product of his fear for Takuya. Yuta thinks- knows, Yuta knows- the love he has for Takuya will trump any fear that man strikes in his heart.
The door opens and he throws his arms around Takuya the second he sees him, sobbing into his neck. The shirt falls off his shoulders and Takuya lets out a surprised huff, but wraps his arms around Yuta anyway. And Yuta can tell that Takuya isn't as angry with him as he was before by the way Takuya doesn't push him off, by the gentle hands placed on his back to avoid the wounds.
"I-I'm so sorry, please, I can't- I'm sorry-" Yuta cries. He can't stop; broken half apologies falling from his lips as he lapses into Japanese. Takuya shushes him gently, ushering him inside and breaking the hug to pick Yuta's shirt up, then shutting and locking the door.
When Takuya turns around after locking the door, Yuta was already on the floor, heads above his head, head touching the floor as he bowed. He had taken the gun from his waistband and set it to his side so Takuya wouldn't think he had ill intentions should he have found it later. He's choking on his sobs as they claw their way out from his irritated throat, his hands gripping so tightly on to the carpet he wouldn't be shocked if he pulled some out.
Yuta doesn't look up, keeping his eyes shut tightly trying to stop the tears, but he can hear Takuya kneeling down in front of him. Takuya sighs and sets Yuta's shirt on the floor, reaching out to run his fingers through Yuta's hair gently. It makes Yuta sob harder, the gentle touch shocking him more than anything and making him feel relieved. He thought Takuya would still be mad, that he would need to throw Yuta around some more before he would forgive Yuta.
"It's okay. Why are you on the floor, hmm? What's wrong?" Takuya asks, softly maneuvering Yuta so he's sitting up and looking at him. Yuta wipes his red eyes with the back of hand, looking down at the floor instead of at Takuya's face.
"I- Taeyong wanted me to stop- to stop seeing you, he was gonna ask Boss to have Johnny do my job and I- he can't, he can't do that, I don't wanna stop seeing you." Yuta cries, fingers curling into the holes at the knees of his jeans so he doesn't reach out for Takuya. Yuta shakes his head as another wave of tears stubbornly push their way from his eyes.
"Don't worry, I won't let that happen, okay? Nothing's gonna change, everything's okay." Takuya says, petting Yuta's head like he would a scared animal; lightly, his hand barely there, more like a ghost of the feeling than anything.
"Y-you promise? You won't let him, right?" Yuta looks up with desperate eyes, finally meeting Takuya's. Takuya brings the hand petting Yuta's hair down to his cheek, cupping it gently. Yuta's eyes are wide as they look up at him, nuzzling into Takuya's hand almost desperately.
"Of course not, baby, don't worry about any of that." Takuya guides Yuta's face closer to his to kiss him slowly. He pulls Yuta in for a hug when they finish, holding him tightly. "Why don't you go take a nap while I call Wonho, okay? I need to talk to him for a bit." Takuya says as he pulls away, wide beautiful smile plastered on his face.
Yuta does as he's told, Takuya phrased it as a question, but he knows it was an order, but he doesn't mind. It kills Yuta when he has to pretend he's indifferent to Takuya around the boys, he wants nothing more than to be able to love Takuya with everything in him, but he can't let anyone know he loves Takuya. Love is a weakness in the business they're in. Lovers become targets, become leverage an enemy can hold over you.
The only thing he hates more than having to pretend he isn't in love with Takuya is when Takuya is angry with him. He hates disappointing Takuya, making him mad, it's worse than the fear he had for the Boss. But Yuta loves him, has loved him for years, and there isn't really anything Takuya could do, nothing so damning, that it could make Yuta stop loving him.
Yuta loves Takuya, loves him with his whole heart, and nothing, no one, can take that feeling away from him.
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Chapter 9: Make Sure You Eat Well, Because It'll All Pass
Title taken from Ending Scene by IU
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Through the crack in Taeil and Taeyong's room door Doyoung sees him on the phone. Taeil sounds a little frantic, racing around, throwing clothes in a bag. Doyoung watches for as long as he cares before he gets bored and makes his way back to his room that he shares with Jaehyun. What could Taeil be doing? Who was he talking to, where is he going?
When he enters the room, he spares a sideways glance at Jaehyun before averting his eyes, going to lay on his own bed. Jaehyun is lounging on his bed, back propped up on the headboard as he reads a comic. He's wearing a white sleeveless shirt with some bright design on it, orange around the arm holes to match the atrocious orange sweatpants he's wearing. A cigarette loosely hangs from his mouth and Doyoung would usually yell at him for making the room smell, but he's tired. Jaehyun looks like something out of an old American movie, beautiful and unobtainable, and Doyoung wishes he wouldn't notice things like this, wishes he wouldn't see Jaehyun in this rose-tinted light he's become so accustomed to. He just wants to lay down and clear his mind.
As expected, as soon as Doyoung lays down and gets comfortable, his phone rings. Doyoung sighs and picks his phone up quickly.
"Yes?" He answers, already knowing who's on the other line.
"We have a job for you, meet Heechul in twenty."
"Yes hyung." Doyoung answers and hears Park Leeteuk hang up the phone.
Doyoung throws his phone on the bed as he gets up to get changed. He's stopped caring about getting changed in front of Jaehyun, it seems to make Jaehyun a little flustered for some reason, but Doyoung is about efficiency and convenience and getting changed in their room instead of walking down the hall to the bathroom is quicker. Doyoung goes to the closet and pulls out black slacks and a white button up.
"You calling someone hyung? Unheard of. Who was that?" Jaehyun laughs, putting his comic down.
"None of your business." Doyoung says, turning his back to Jaehyun and taking his shirt off. Doyoung tries not to think about Jaehyun, about how Jaehyun sees him, about how he looks. Because he knows what he looks like, he knows that Jaehyun stares at the scars when he takes his shirt off, he knows he isn't as handsome as he used to be.
"Come on, I'm just curious. Who was it?" Jaehyun whines. Doyoung sighs as he pulls the shirt on, buttoning it up, shoving his pants down quickly to finish getting changed faster. He pulls his pants on and grabs a pair of black dress shoes.
"I said, it's none of your business." Doyoung walks over to Jaehyun and takes the cigarette from his mouth, taking a drag as he exits the room. He walks down the hall, keeping his facial expression neutral to show he's not interested in what anyone might have to say.
As he makes it out to the living room he sees the younger kids taking turns trying to beat Johnny in a video game he's just bought for them; Sicheng sits on a couch beside them reading some book that Taeyong thought would help Sicheng improve his Korean; Mark is sitting next to Sicheng listening to music with his eyes shut and head tilted back. This is all Doyoung is able to take in as he keeps walking before having his shoulder slammed in to, almost making him drop Jaehyun's cigarette.
He turns to look at his offender and finds Taeil, coat half on, bag around his uncovered shoulder as he runs down the hall to get his shoes.
"No smoking in the house! Go outside, the kids are here!" Taeil shouts in passing as he pulls his shoes on, making his way out of the house without another look at Doyoung. Why was Taeil going to reprimand him if he was just going to leave anyway, it's not like he'd know if Doyoung actually listened or not.
Doyoung finishes the cigarette as he pulls his shoes on. He throws it on the ground outside as he makes his way to the black car he has parked on the side of the house. None of the other members are allowed to use this car, they all share the van, but this car is Doyoung's baby. He saved up and bought it with money he got from taking jobs and it's his pride and joy.
He parks his car in Heechul's spacious garage and makes his way to the front door with his hands in his pockets. He knocks sharply and waits, shoulders squared, for Heechul to answer the door. Heechul answers the door in a white bathrobe with sleep still lingering on his features, clutching onto him like a child to its blanket.
"What're you doing here? It's seven am on a Saturday." Heechul groans. Doyoung looks down at his watch to confirm the time before looking back up at him.
"Apologies hyung, Leeteuk hyung said to meet with you about a job." Doyoung bows slightly.
"Right," Heechul sighs, stepping back to allow Doyoung into his house, mumbling under his breath. "God damn Leeteuk. Always when Kyunghoon's sleeping, too."
"You can just text me the details of the job if you'd prefer and I can finish it." Doyoung suggests, standing in the small space behind Heechul's door before it leads into his extravagant house.
"No, you need some stuff only I have. Follow me and keep quiet, Kyunghoon is sleeping."
Doyoung follows after Heechul, his footsteps as silent as they always are. Heechul leads him to a wine rack in his kitchen. Doyoung has never been inside Heechul's house before so he wan't really sure what he was expecting, but he knows it wasn't for Heechul to tug a bottle like was going to pull it off the shelf only for it to lock back into place and for the wine rack to slide open like this was some bad spy movie.
Inside the secret room were things Doyoung's only seen in movies. The walls were decorated with immaculately decorated axes, hatchets, knives, and guns. On the wall directly across from the secret door looked what appeared to be a shadow box hung on the wall. It had two double-action revolvers in it and when Doyoung looked closer he could just make out the designs on the grip of the gun; one had a beautifully drawn 'K' on it and the other had an 'H' in the same font. It didn't take a genius to figure out what they meant and who they belonged to (if the matching cursive 'K' that was tattooed on the back of Heechul's neck was anything to go by).
"Alright," Heechul pulls Doyoung out of his thoughts. "So, you'll be taking this briefcase and I'll even let you borrow one of my guns to ensure your safety. Leeteuk needs you to take this to Takuya in Japan. I'll text you the address of the hotel and such once you get off at the Kansai airport in Osaka. Be careful, Taeyong and Yuta are there with him and Leeteuk doesn't want you spotted by them, none of your members should know you're in Japan. Precious cargo too, so don't lose or damage it, got it?"
"Yes hyung." Doyoung takes the briefcase and the semi-automatic pistol Heechul offers him with a deep bow. Heechul waved him off, leading him back out of the room, the wine rack sliding closed behind them. Doyoung was tucking the gun into the back of his waistband when he froze, seeing Heechul's boyfriend sitting at the breakfast bar reading the paper and eating cereal with tired eyes.
"Kyunghoonie, this is Doyoung. Doyoung, this is my boyfriend, Kyunghoon." Heechul introduces quickly, making his way over to the fridge to pull out a carton of orange juice and take a few sips.
"Nice to meet you Kyunghoon-ssi, nice speaking to you Heechul hyung, I'll be out of your hair now." Doyoung says with a friendly smile, bowing before taking his leave.
He gets in to his car, placing the gun and the briefcase on the passenger seat before beginning the drive back to the house he shares with the boys. He calls Leeteuk using the Bluetooth in the car.
"Did Heechul give you everything?" Leeteuk asks.
"Yes hyung, he said he'd give me the address once I've landed."
"Very good. Well, you'll be taking one of my flights then, I wish you safe travels and do not disappoint me Doyoung."
"Yes hyung." Doyoung answers and can't help the broken record feelings he gives himself.
Leeteuk hangs up and Doyoung returns to the house just as he left it; mildly agitated and smoking a cigarette. Taeil doesn't seem to be home so Doyoung doesn't have any second thoughts about continuing to smoke as he makes himself something to eat. Just as he's finishing, a kid who he guesses is Jeno bounds into the kitchen and stops short when he seeing Doyoung.
Doyoung doesn't spend much time with the kids so he's really just guessing at this point. He knows their names, of course, Taeyong and Taeil never shut up about them, how could he not, but he never actually took the time to formally meet them all. And why should he? Doyoung was a traitor and those kids are young, Doyoung probably won't live long enough to develop an emotional attachment so it's just better to keep a comfortable distance.
"Taeil hyung isn't home." The kid says. Doyoung looks around the kitchen, searching to see if anyone else is there this kid could be talking to, but comes up with nothing.
"Taeil hyung told you not to smoke in here before he left." So the kid has a mouth on him. Funny. Doyoung, quickly losing his patience, curses and raises his hand to threaten a slap, but the kid doesn't even flinch.
"You just said he isn't here and what he doesn't know won't give me a headache later on. What do you want?"
"Make me food."
"Aren't you like 17? You don't know how to make your own ramen?"
"Which one are you? Aren't you Jeno?" The kid rolls his eyes and sits down at the table they all share meals at.
"I'm Jisung. Jeno hyung is 17, I'm 15."
"15 is old enough to know how to make ramen."
"Well I don't so can you do it for me, please?" Doyoung rolls his head around to stretch his neck with a sigh.
"Fine. Don't say I never did anything for you." A bright smile stretches across the boy's face as Doyoung works on making more.
The kid hums unrecognizable melodies as Doyoung cooks and the domestic visual makes him sick. He doesn't particularly have anything against the kids, he just doesn't agree with how young some of them are. This Jisung kid just said he was 15, didn't Boss think the hand he was placing that gun in was a little too small?
Doyoung tells himself to stop worrying about things he can't control. Doyoung has his own things to think about, like getting whatever is in that briefcase to Takuya without being spotted by Yuta or Taeyong, like making sure he doesn't get on Leeteuk's bad side, like making sure Jaehyun stays as ignorant to his betrayal as he is now.
"Here. Eat." Doyoung says as he brings the pot to the table with two sets of chopsticks, handing one to Jisung.
For most of the meal they eat in silence until Jisung gets curious.
"So, where'd you go earlier?" Jisung asks, slurping a large portion of noodles into his mouth, getting broth all over his chin. Doyoung sighs with an eye roll and gets up to get a few napkins, wiping the broth away before answering with a smile.
"None of your business."
"Do you know where Taeyong hyung and Yuta hyung are?"
"Is Taeil hyung going to visit them?"
"How should I know? I barely talk to the guy, eat your damn noodles in silence, okay?" Doyoung says. "You're making me lose my appetite."
"Sorry hyung." And oh, that was new. None of the others called him hyung, they all thought he was too rude and blunt, or so he overheard. He didn't mind actually, calling someone hyung meant respect and friendship. And as odd and nosy as Jisung was Doyoung doesn't think he minds him. The conversation, however short and uninteresting it would be to an observer, was refreshing to Doyoung.
He never really minded about the absence of respect from the younger boys, he wasn't close with any of them so the lack of title never bothered him. Doyoung thinks that might be the first time someone's respected him enough to call him hyung and this might be the first time Doyoung's looked back at one of these boys with a smile.
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Chapter 10: Looks Like There's No Fairytale-like Happy Ending
Title taken from Where Do We Go From Here by G. Soul
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Takuya wakes to the sharp knocking of someone's knuckles against the hotel room door. He has the Do Not Disturb sign placed around the handle so it's not hotel staff; thus, narrowing it down to Taeyong, Doyoung, or an enemy. Takuya is placing bets that it's Doyoung, who he's expecting, but grabs his gun anyway. Better to be safe than sorry.
He approaches the door in just his sleep pants, gun in his hand, walking heel-to-toe to ensure he's as quiet as he can be. He looks through the peephole in the door and is greeted by Doyoung's dashing imagine. He tucks the gun into his pants and opens the door. Doyoung is dressed in a fine three piece black suit, briefcase in hand. His orange hair brushed back, styled off his face.
"Morning, slick." Takuya smiles, resting his arm in the doorway to lean on it.
"Morning, I have instructions for you from Heechul hyung." Doyoung takes out his phone to glance over them one last time and passes the briefcase to Takuya. "I'll forward them to you, probably best not to read them aloud with your bed guest a few feet away."
Takuya stops to wonder how Doyoung knows about Yuta. He supposes it could make sense, Boss does have Doyoung working on mostly intell and spy missions. Leeteuk has Doyoung sneaking around and he's always found out more than what he's lead others to believe.
"Don't mention that to anyone." Takuya says, a slightly threatening lift in his voice.
"Not my business. Get your job done." Doyoung straightens his suit with the lift of an eyebrow and is already making his way back down the hall. Takuya shuts the door after him, quiet enough not to wake Yuta.
He takes his phone from the nightstand when it vibrates, signaling the message Doyoung said he's send. He takes it over to the small coffee table and places the briefcase on top. He pulls the chair around the other side so he's facing Yuta and turns the briefcase accordingly, so if Yuta wakes up all he'll see is the sleek black of the briefcase in front of him.
Takuya decides to open the briefcase before checking the text, he figures he should know what it is before he does anything with it. He unlocks it, pushing it up to reveal three syringes with a clear yellow substance inside them. He runs his fingers along the velvet encasing them and becomes increasingly more curious. He looks down at his phone, unlocking it to reveal the instructions.
Yuta begins to stir and Takuya quickly, but calmly, shuts the briefcase and locks his phone. He gets up to sit on the edge of the bed, ready for when Yuta opens his eyes. Takuya sees his eyes flutter, fighting off the sleep he cried himself into last night. He threads his fingers in Yuta's hair and gently combs through Yuta's hair as he finally cracks his eyes open with a yawn.
"I should probably change those bandages." Takuya sighs, taking his hand out of Yuta's hair. "You have bandages in your bag? I don't." He says as he stands.
"I don't, Taeyong does." Yuta answers, quietly.
Takuya nods, getting up to get dressed. He keeps it simple, black jeans, white shirt. He makes his way over to Taeyong's room and knocks, leaning against the wall for Taeyong to answer. When he does, he looks tired- until he spots Takuya, that is. Takuya smiles and brushes past him, looking around the room for Yuta's bag and Taeyong's.
"So, I'll be taking Yuta's bag with me when I leave, but I also need some bandages. Yuta opened up some of the cuts when he threw himself in my arms last night and I'd like to get him out of the dirty ones." Takuya smiles. Taeyong snaps out of his shock and walks over to Takuya, a look of anger on his face.
"You stay the fuck away from him, you sick bastard." Taeyong spits and Takuya's eyes glisten with a look of interest, a giddy smile crossing his face.
"Ooh, feisty in the morning? Intriguing, unfortunately I can't play though, like I said I have a guest who needs medical attention. May I borrow some bandages to do so, or would you rather he stay in the old ones?" Takuya asks. Taeyong growls and Takuya can feel it in his chest, the rumbling fire of excitement that rushes to his head when he sees he's getting under Taeyong's perfect skin.
"He wouldn't need the bandages at all if you had kept your filthy hands off of him." Taeyong roars and swings a fist towards Takuya's face. Takuya laughs as he dodges it, staring at Taeyong in amusement.
"Didn't take you for a fighter, but I like this side of you. What's done is done Taeyongie, we can't change the past, only work for a better future." Takuya says sarcastically.
"The only way Yuta will have a better future is if it's far away from you, you scumbag."
"These insults really aren't all that creative," Takuya sighs in boredom as he looks for the bags again, finding them on the other side of one of the beds. "Besides, I think he liked it a bit, didn't you?"
"Liked it? Liked it? You truly are insane, aren't you? What part of Yuta screaming, crying, covered in his own blood makes you think he liked it?" Taeyong hisses, moving quickly towards Takuya, presumably to hit him again.
Takuya stands quickly, turning around in time to block all of Taeyong's would-be-well placed punches and jabs. The next punch he throws, Takuya grabs his fist, twisting his arm behind his back in a painful position, bringing Taeyong in close so his lips are right by Taeyong's ear. Taeyong struggles in his grasp, wanting to get away, but Takuya twists it tighter, making Taeyong yelp in pain.
"I forgot, you don't know much Japanese, do you?" Takuya laughs. "He asked for it, he was begging, that's what he was saying in Japanese. Begging for what I did to him. So yeah, I think he liked it."
Takuya pushes Taeyong away as if disgusted with him, turning around to pick up the identical bags and go through both. He grabs the bandages from Taeyong's bag before zipping it up and placing it back where he found it, slinging Yuta's over his shoulder after pulling something out of it. Takuya looks at Taeyong as he pulls his gun from his waistband, screwing the silencer on it. He aims it for Taeyong's forehead and smiles at the small prick of fear in Taeyong's eyes. He lowers it and aims for Taeyong's shoulder before shooting.
Taeyong crumbles to the floor, clutching his shoulder tightly as he grunts through the pain. Takuya walks over, kicking Taeyong's hand away and stepping on the wound.
"Do not ever try to come between me and Yuta, okay? I take good care of him, I was the one that took care of him when we were younger, the one that looked out for him. He doesn't need you." He presses his weight down on the wound and smirks when Taeyong writhes in pain. "Am I clear Taeyong?"
Taeyong nods, if only to stop the searing pain. Takuya takes his foot off of the wound, wiping the blood from his shoe on Taeyong's shirt. He whistles as he makes his way out of the room, making sure to shut the door behind him as he walks back into his own room.
Yuta's fallen asleep again, resting on the bed. Takuya chuckles as he mirrors what he did earlier before he went to Taeyong's room. He sits on the bed, taking time to detach the silencer and slip it back into Yuta's bag and putting it on the floor. Takuya gently shakes Yuta awake and smiles when Yuta finally looks up at him.
"I'm gonna change your bandages now, okay?"
"Everything went okay with Taeyong?" Yuta asks, rubbing his eyes and sitting up.
"Yeah, everything went okay with Taeyong. Don't worry about what he said before, I think I got it all worked out." Takuya says, watching as a smile blossoms over Yuta's face.
A smile of his own tears his face in two when Yuta throws his arms around Takuya and holds on to him tightly. Takuya likes him best like this, obedient and soft. Yuta's more fun to have around when he listens, does as he's told.
okay so i just wanna apologize for being gone so long. i dont wanna talk about it in depth bc itll make ppl sad all over again but i was planning to update something, anything, sooner but then kjh happened and i just fell apart for a while and i had to take a break from writing kpop things for a hot minute. im back tho and shits all good for now so hope you enjoyed this ig
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Chapter 11: The White Flowers of Laughter Have Withered
Title taken from Evanesce by Super Junior
To say Taeil was worried would be an understatement. The call he received from Taeyong left him shocked and confused, he didn't even get the whole story out of Taeyong. That, coupled with the fact his text to Taeyong has gone unanswered, it hasn't even been read, is stressing Taeil out. He's told each and every one of them to leave their phones on, always make sure they're charged, and you at least have it set on vibrate, never silent. Turning off your phone was like signing your death warrant.
He was worried for both Taeyong and Yuta, but right now his attention is being captivated by someone else.
Yongseok had texted him and asked him to stop over early that morning. It was nothing major, just something that was delivered to them instead of Taeil. He had accepted the package with a smile and a quick, playful peck to Yongseok's lips and he was off.
He spent the rest of the day running errands; going to the grocery store, washing everyone's clothes, cooking the kids dinner. It was mundane. It was routine.
Until he received a frightening call from Yongseok. Or who his caller ID displayed as Yongseok. It had, instead, been an erratic Seyoung telling Taeil to meet them at Seokjin's.
This is strange for two reasons:
1. The fact that they were going to Seokjin's instead of Minseok's.
2. Seyoung calling him from Yongseok's phone.
Seyoung has his number, they all do, so Taeil assumes it would have been easier to just call Taeil from his own phone. He realizes he's wasting time being puzzled and drops the curiosity. He can't help that it'll eat away at him on his way to Seokjin's, but he needs to focus on driving.
Taeil's only a little embarrassed he almost broke Seokjin's door down. He would have half the mind to be more bashful is he didn't see the rest of the men Yongseok's friends with waiting around in Seokjin's living room in various stages of worry.
He pauses, frozen, stuck to his spot. He catches Wonho's eyes for a short second before he attempts to rush past them all. He's been to Seokjin's before, he can figure out which room he's in by process of elimination. Before he can even make it past Wonho, Sangmin is catching him, holding him back. Taeil can't help but struggle in Sangmin's arms, trying to break free.
"I know you wanna go see him, so do we, but if we go in there right now and mess Seokjin up, Yongseok could get hurt worse than he already is, okay?" Sangmin says, his voice level for the most part, but shaking slightly with the effort of holding Taeil back.
"What the hell happened, Seyoung didn't even tell me what happened." Taeil forces out as he calms down, going limp in Sangmin's strong hold.
"Some bastards jumped him earlier. In broad daylight too." Casper nearly shouts, only keeping his voice in check from the look Wonho shoots him.
"But I just...I just saw him. Like two hours ago. It hasn't even been that long. I was- was doing laundry while Yongseok was out there-" Taeil's working himself back up, getting lost in the idea of someone hurting Yongseok.
"Hey, he'll be okay. Seokjin's working on him right now and that's why we have to stay out here, so Seokjin can do his best to help Yongseok." Sangmin speaks, voice quiet to help Taeil calm down again. Taeil is still limp in Sangmin's hold, strong arms wrapped around him to keep him from falling to his knees.
"Can you sit on the couch with Seyoung? Don't try to run again, okay?" Sangmin says slowly and lets Taeil go when he nods.
Seyoung is resting on the couch, but just. He's on the edge of the couch, his head in his hands. Taeil can tell he's taking this just as bad as he is. Sure Wonho is their self elected leader, but Seyoung is older, has seen more things than Wonho. He doesn't want to let Yongseok slip through his fingers like he's had to let so many others go before.
Unsurprisingly, Taeil doesn't know much about Seyoung. Taeil wouldn't be shocked if the others were as clueless as he was. He's asked around, used favors and asked friends, looking for any bit of information that would be useful. Where Seyoung's from, what his family life was like, who he is in general. Taeil knows nothing.
Taeil gets lost thinking about Seyoung. The man is a fucking mystery. Not that he knows the rest of them all that well, but he knows a bit. He knows that Casper was born in China and that's not his real name (although he isn't quite sure why they call him Casper), he knows that Takuya and Yuta have known each other for years and share a past beyond any of their comprehension (which is telling enough even if he doesn't know what that past is), he knows that Wonho and Takuya are in love and have been since they first met, he knows that Sangmin used to be important (he didn't get the full story, but it was something along the lines of some important person's personal body guard or whatever).
He knows the most about Yonseok. His Kim Yongseok.
And up until now he's been too preoccupied with prying into his ideas of the others that he's completely forgotten where they are and why they're there. He's forgotten that Yongseok is probably bleeding out beneath Seokjin, that he's in so much unbelievable pain that Taeil can't even compare it to anything he's ever experienced, he's forgotten all the blood he saw on Casper's shirt when he first got there.
Not long after Taeil breaks himself out of his terrible train of thought, Seokjin walks back into the room, his arms stained a dark red up to his elbows. Taeil is the first one out of his seat, beating Seyoung by a split second. He doesn't rush over to Seokjin, doesn't crowd him, just stands anxiously and waits for the verdict. It feels like all the breath in Taeil's lungs has crawled its way out of his throat, like he can't possibly take anymore in until Seokjin speaks.
"Well," Seokjin sighs, using a clean towel to try and rub all the red off his arms, "He's...stable."
"Why'd you hesitate? Why'd you say it like that?" Taeil asks, voiced strained from the lack of breathing. Seokjin looks over, shocked, as if just noticing Taeil was in the room. Which isn't a terrible assumption considering Taeil arrived only after Seokjin began to work on Yongseok.
"I didn't mean to alarm you, he is fine, really. For now at least. He was touch-and-go, critical, for a while, but he's stabilized as of right now." Seokjin clarifies, if only.
"What were the extent of his injuries, what're we looking at for recovery time?" Wonho asks, voice and head level, even in a dire situation. Taeil can see why they picked Wonho as their informal leader. Seokjin casts a hesitant glance over to Taeil but answers when Wonho just nods.
"The beating he took was...bad. And that's putting it mildly. Lots of internal bleeding, stab wounds, possible head trauma. Broken left wrist, sprained right ankle, tore a couple muscles. Whoever did this to him was obviously trying to kill him, I'm shocked he came back when he did." Seokjin shakes his head.
"'Came back'?" Taeil parrots, lost in confusion.
"He crashed a few times. I tried to help him as best as I could, but there was only so much CPR I could do before I figured it was useless, doing more harm than help, but as soon as I stopped, he just...started breathing again." Casper explains.
Taeil can't help but fall to his knees. What they were telling him was that for a short amount of time Yonseok was actually dead. Like for a few agonizing minutes, Yongseok was no longer breathing, no longer with them. Taeil can't hear anything, voices going muffled and feet moving but not making sound on the hard wood of Seokjin's living room. His visions whites out around the edges, images blurring together as he can see someone kneeling in front of him.
Taeil can feel his breathing pick up, a hand clutching his chest as he struggles to breathe properly. He closes his eyes tightly, hoping to rest for a minute and calm down, but all he can see in the ocean of blackness behind his eyelids is Yongseok. Yongseok broken and bloodied and dead.
He can feel Seokjin's hand resting on his own, another on his arm attempting to ground him, to bring him back. Taeil knows it won't work, he's too fired up. And in this moment Taeil thinks it would be better for him to just pass out, he can't deal with all the information they just unloaded on to him and if he passes out at least he won't have to deal with it until he wakes up again. And Seokjin's a doctor so he's already in good hands. Taeil can only see the positives here.
So, he lets go and collapses into Seokjin's arms, hopefully to find peace for a moment.
shit man ik this isn't that good okay i just wanted to update this story
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Chapter 12: I Keep Blaming Myself
Title taken from Self Hatred by Urban Zakapa
Sicheng always had a weird talent for attracting coincidences. He could be humming a song as they got into the car and it would start playing on the radio, he could think about someone and they would text him not a minute later, small things like that. Nothing big, nothing noteworthy, nothing that would make Sicheng question himself.
So when he saw Lucas, his Lucas, standing in front of him, well he wasn't surprised, but he sure as hell wasn't expecting it.
He and Lucas haven't seen each other for what's got to be going on three years now, and Sicheng forgot just how much he cared for Lucas. Lucas was with Sicheng when he was at his lowest, when he was treated his worst, and Lucas never looked down on him. Not once.
But now, as he sees Lucas out on the street, with his arms wrapped around another man's, his head is down. And maybe he's not looking down on Sicheng specifically, but he feels just as terrible as if he was. Lucas was always loud and abrasive, even when it got him in trouble, he never backed down, never kept quiet, and something about this situation feels wrong. Lucas should have his head held high, like how it was three years ago.
He just looks small, wrapped around this man, like he shouldn't be there.
And then, they're gone. Round a corner and out of Sicheng's sight. He could've called out to Lucas, could've spoken to him, but he froze. And now he's lost Lucas again, like he did three years ago. Sicheng won't let Lucas get away so easily this time again.
He runs after them, leaving Jaehyun in the comic shop behind him. He swings around the corner like they, following after them until they reach a black car. A very familiar black car, one that he knows he's seen before. Doyoung steps out of the driver's side and makes his way closer to greet the man Lucas is hanging off of. Sicheng hides himself as best he can, getting just a bit closer so he can hear the conversation.
"I left the briefcase with Takuya. And all due respect hyung, but you might want to do something about Takuya, he's gone a little power crazy." Doyoung says seriously, hands in his pockets.
"What did that crazy bastard do now?" The man sighs, yanking his arm free of Lucas' grip to pinch the bridge of his nose in irritation.
"He shot Taeyong. Not anywhere life threatening, but it will be if Taeyong doesn't get it treated properly. Knowing Taeyong he'll just try to stitch it up himself."
"Call Yesung, have him on the next flight to Osaka, have him bring Takuya home with him as discreetly as possible. I knew it was a bad idea to send that bastard without any supervision." He shakes his head in disappointment. Doyoung nods and gets back in his car, leaving.
Sicheng freezes, heart picking up. Takuya shot Taeyong, Doyoung said it wasn't life threatening, but still. He worried. Who was that man? Why was Lucas with him? How does he know Doyoung and his did Doyoung know that Takuya shot Taeyong?
Before he can think about it,he's walking over to the pair after Doyoung drives off. They begin to walk in the direction of another expensive looking black car and Sicheng can't let them get away. Sicheng crosses the street quickly and then he's right behind them, following wordlessly. He isn't sure what to say, he doesn't have to think about that for long because before he can come up with a proper plan, he's already calling out for Lucas.
"Lucas? Lucas!" The man stops short, Lucas' grip on his tightening as they turn to see who it is. Sicheng had a feeling it was Lucas before, but seeing his face like this, looking at him, Sicheng has no question and his heart aches, burns. Lucas has aged, not by much, still keeping a bit of his baby fat resulting in soft features, but Sicheng can tell Lucas' story didn't end as happily as his own did.
"Winwin?" Lucas' eyes are wide, mouth dropped open like he can't believe it- and maybe he can't. Sicheng has spent so many nights dreaming of seeing Lucas again that all of this almost seems like an illusion. Lucas drops his grip on the man's arm and runs to Sicheng. Sicheng watches the man's face scrunch up in frustration as he reaches a hand out to grab the hood of the jacket Lucas is wearing to pull him back, but just misses him.
Lucas' tall body collides with Sicheng's and it's like no time has passed, like Lucas never left the comfort and safety of Sicheng's arms. Sicheng holds him tightly, he let Lucas go once and didn't see him again for three years, so this time he will hold on tight. He will not let Lucas be pulled away from him again.
"Lucas, we have somewhere to be. Come on." The man orders, a hand stretched out to beckon him back into his side. Lucas wavers, like he might do it, but Sicheng catches him before he takes a step. The man's eyes narrow in irritation when he notices and steps closer, Lucas nearly ducking behind Sicheng.
"I'm one of Lucas' old friends." Sicheng spits suspiciously in clumsy Korean. He doesn't offer a hand to shake, doesn't bow, stares the man right in the eyes and demands, "Who are you?"
"None of your business, Lucas and I have somewhere to be, I'm glad he got to see his friend, but this meeting is important. Lucas. Come now." The man's tone is intimidating and hard to fight against, Sicheng knows that tone, it's one that kicks you down and keeps you there. The deja vu that tone brings on is too much, reminds him of China, of a place that was once his home that he never wants to return to.
Sicheng hears the tiny noise of fear Lucas lets out behind him and it's the last straw for him.
"I'll ask again: who are you?" Sicheng says again, frown present now more than ever, hand gripping Lucas'. The man sighs and looks at his watch.
"I don't have time for this. I'm leaving, Eunhyuk will pick you up later. Do not argue with him." The man storms off, getting into the expensive black car and slamming the door shut before it drives off.
Sicheng hears Lucas sigh in relief and that's all it takes for him to turn around and envelope Lucas into a tight hug, holding his head to Sicheng's shoulder. Lucas' breathing is ragged, yet he is not crying. Yet, Sicheng fears. Lucas' arms tighten around Sicheng's body and Sicheng wants to take him away from here, wants to make sure Lucas is happy and healthy.
"Let's go get something to eat, okay? On me." Sicheng tries, gently petting the back of Lucas' head.
Lucas agrees easily and Sicheng takes his hand, leading him down the streets to Typhanie's. Sicheng isn't really sure where to take him and that seems like as good a place as any. Typhanie usually gives them a discount when Taeyong takes them all there and he just hope she'll extent the same kindness even though Taeyong isn't there. Sicheng wants to worry for Taeyong, wants to cry for him, but right now he can't. He has to worry about Lucas right now, Taeyong is his hyung and he can take care of himself.
They sit at the table usually reserved for Taeyong and Typhanie smiles when she comes to take their order. Sicheng orders for Lucas, getting him a large amount of food Sicheng knows Lucas won't finish, but he's too skinny to be healthy and Sicheng will spend his last dime on making sure Lucas is eating healthily.
"Who was that guy?" Sicheng asks in Cantonese, hoping to keep their conversation private. Typhanie smiles as she places their drinks down in front of them and Sicheng rests a hand on Lucas' when he freezes at the question.
"His name is Leeteuk, I think? At least, that's what they call him." Lucas admits, head down.
"Who is he, Lucas? How'd you get out of China?"
"Uh, he- he got me out."
"Lucas, stop avoiding my questions." Sicheng says, not in a voice like the Leeteuk man used, but one that's stern. One that tells Lucas that he's serious.
"He got me out but, not like I'm guessing you're out," He laughs humorlessly with distant eyes as they stare at his lap. "I just got out of China, I didn't stop entertaining."
And now Sicheng understands. Lucas got out of the dirty, dark room they locked himself and Lucas into in China, but he's still trapped. Still forced to do the things that still give Sicheng nightmares, even three years later.
"He bought me a little over a year ago, I'm his now." Lucas says, resigned, like he's already come to accept this fact.
"No." Sicheng says and his tone is so final sounding that it makes Lucas look at him for the first time since Sicheng spotted him on the street. "That's not how it works anymore. You're not his."
"Sicheng." Sicheng interrupts. Sicheng doesn't work for them anymore and he will not go by the name they gave him. Lucas gives him a curious look and cocks his head to the side.
"My real name is Sicheng, call me that." Lucas nods, but doesn't doesn't ask about it again, doesn't give Sicheng his real name either.
"Sicheng," Lucas starts after a moment of reflection, "He bought me, that's how stuff like this works. He pays for me and I do what he tells me."
Sicheng shakes his head, anger for this man already boiling inside him. How dare he take Lucas and break him so badly he thinks he's reduced to nothing more than a business transaction, a thing. Even back when they were in China, dancing for the politicians and wealthy business men, doing things they shouldn't have been forced to do, Lucas was never like this. He never gave up.
"No," Sicheng says again. "I have people who can keep you safe. The people I'm staying with they'll protect you. They won't hurt you, won't make you do whatever that man is forcing you to. Trust me."
Later, after Sicheng had gotten Lucas to eat until he hurt, he takes him home. Back to the house he shares with the others. Taeil still isn't home, Jeno has gone home to the place he lives, Yuta and Taeyong are missing as well but at least Sicheng knows why they're gone and where they are. No one has any clue where Taeil is, the kids are getting antsy. Almost everyone is huddled together in the living room, watching a movie or reading or playing on their phones. They're content to just be around each other.
"Guys," Sicheng calls, getting their attention. Jaehyun pauses the movie and they all look from Sicheng to the stranger behind him. "This is my friend Lucas, he can stay, right?"
Lucas is my sweet little baby and I love him
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Chapter 13: Sometimes Life Doesn't Go the Way I Want
Title taken from Smile by Sechskies
For a minute, everyone is silent. They take Lucas in, looking him up and down, sending curious glances to each other in question. Jaehyun stands and moves closer to the pair, a friendly smile placed on his face. Sicheng thinks it might be genuine, but everyone in this house can be deceitful when they want to be.
"Lucas," Jaehyun's sweet smile turns to him, "why don't you sit down and get to know everyone or continue the movie? I need to speak with Sicheng for a short moment."
Sicheng worries for only a second. Jaehyun, like everyone else here, is dangerous. He could hurt Sicheng if he wanted, kill him even, but SIcheng knows he won't. Jaehyun has a lot of patience and a soft spot for the younger kids (although he doesn't like to admit it), all of them, including Sicheng. Jaehyun would like Lucas.
Sicheng follows Jaehyun into the room he shares with Doyoung. Doyoung, one of the two missing from the living room, is lounging on his bed, nearly asleep. Surprisingly, Jisung is in the bed next to him, reading one of the comics from under Jaehyun's bed. Jaehyun allows a soft smile, he's very protective of his comics, but the sight is just too surprisingly cute.
"I need to speak to Sicheng about something, it won't take long and you can stay if you'd like." Jaehyun smiles, speaking to Jisung. Jisung looks up in surprise, the lollipop in his mouth making his cheek extend. He looks young, like he should, like this life hasn't affected him and it's something Jaehyun will treasure for the future. For the future when this world rips the happiness right out of Jisung. Jisung takes a second but nods in response.
"Hyung started to nod off like ten minutes ago, I'm trying to be quiet so he can sleep. You don't mind if I read these, right?" Jisung asks, holding the book up in question. Jaehyun waves it off, assuring Jisung it's fine, as he turns to Sicheng.
"Lucas can stay, right? That's why you told him to get to know everyone? You wouldn't have done that if you were gonna tell him to leave." Sicheng says in a rush. Jaehyun can't really blame him, he can see he's nervous.
"Lucas can stay, don't worry. I just wanted to talk," Jaehyun laughs, "Is that what happened earlier? You saw him and wanted to catch up?" Sicheng nods, feeling guilty. He probably should've told Jaehyun where he was going before just taking off like that.
"Yeah, sorry I took off. It's just- Lucas was- and I couldn't just-" Sicheng struggles to get something out, there's so much he wants to say all at once and it's hard to sort it into a format Jaehyun will understand.
"Take your time. Talk to me." Jaehyun encourages as he moves to sit on the bed, patting the spot next to him for Sicheng to sit down as well. Sicheng puts his head in his hands when he's finally sitting and takes a second to gather his thoughts.
"Before I came to Korea I was working back home in China," he starts, voice unsure, heart rate practically tachycardic now, "It wasn't...enjoyable, it wasn't safe, it wasn't really consensual either. I met Lucas there and we got close. He's so different now hyung, back then he was so confrontational and he spoke his mind any chance he got, but now he's beaten down. I don't know what happened to him after Boss got me out. I should've stayed, I should've helped him."
"Hey, it's okay, breathe," Jaehyun says, resting a hand on Sicheng's back. "You can't blame yourself for wanting to get out of a bad situation, and Lucas is here now, so it's fine."
"No, no it's not. He only got out of China because someone else bought him. That's how Boss did it with me and now Lucas is living pressed under the thumb of this asshole Leeteuk- Lucas doesn't deserve to live like that hyung, he deserves to be happy. Leeteuk said he was sending someone for Lucas later, but he can't go back. I can't let him go back. Please don't make him leave." Sicheng pleads, wide eyes staring up at Jaehyun.
Jaehyun isn't sure what to make of all this information. His heart bleeds for Lucas, even though he's never met the kid before. If Sicheng is this close to crying just talking about him and everything that went on in China, Jaehyun has to think closely before he says or does anything. He wants to get Lucas out of this situation, he wants to help him. He feels lost trying to decide all of this on his own, he's almost never the one left in charge, but Taeil, Taeyong, and Yuta are all missing so he has to step up.
"Here's what we'll do," Jaehyun speaks, he puts confidence behind every word he says even if he's still unsure about most of them, "Lucas is staying with us, I won't let him go back to whoever that guy is, okay? If we have to buy him out or kill that guy, whatever. Lucas is staying. I'll deal with whoever shows up for Lucas, you just make sure he's safe, alright?"
Sicheng's eyes water and his lip quivers. He throws himself at Jaehyun, pulling him in for a tight hug. Jaehyun's more friendly with the others than Doyoung is, but he's still new to the whole affection thing. He's never really had anyone tripping over themselves to hug him before and it feels oddly nice.
When Sicheng pulls away there's a little wet stain on Jaehyun's flannel shirt. Jaehyun pats him on the back once more before sending him out to the living room to sit with Lucas. He looks over to Doyoung's bed and sees both Doyoung and Jisung asleep. He takes the comic from Jisung's limp grasp and puts it back under his bed before reaching for his phone.
For the first time in a week, Taeil answers his phone.
"Hyung, listen," Jaehyun sighs, "We might have trouble. Sicheng brought a friend home, someone from before he was with us. I decided he's staying." Taeil is quiet for a moment.
"Alright...Is Taeyong home yet, have you spoken with him?"
"No, he's still not back- which, neither are you, by the way. Where the hell are you?" Taeil sighs on the other line.
"Taking care of something important, I might be another two days at least. Take care of the kids. I have faith you can handle the situation with Sicheng's friend. If you need help call me or Shin. You have his number, right?"
"Well, yeah, but I've never-"
"Good, good. Like I said, call us if you need help. Listen, I gotta go. If Taeyong comes home, tell him I need to speak with him. Make sure the kids are eating well!"
And Taeil is gone before Jaehyun can even say anything. Everything is a mess. Jaehyun never asked to run the show around here, there were so many people more suited for the job, and yet here he is, stuck making decisions and worrying about things he shouldn't be. Maybe he could ask Johnny to do it. Johnny would make a good leader, he's smart, driven.
Jaehyun tosses his phone down on the nightstand next to his bed and lays down. Maybe if he sleeps he won't have to deal with any of this. It's not like he asked for it anyway. And Johnny can totally handle it. Johnny's a better man for the job anyway. Maybe if Taeyong or Taeil came home already, he wouldn't be having this debate with himself. The trip to Japan was only supposed to be a few days and Taeil just took off without telling anyone.
Jaehyun reaches under his bed, pulling out a box of lollipops he keeps hidden (from everyone except Jisung now apparently), unwrapping a cherry flavored one before reaching, again, for his phone along with some earbuds. He grabs a comic and turns the music up as loud as he can get it without waking up either Doyoung or Jisung.
Maybe if he ignores the problem he won't have to deal with it.
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Chapter 14: Why Is Everything Getting Harder Again?
Title taken from Sorry by The Rose
The kids have really taken a liking to Lucas in the two hours that he's been sitting in the living room with them. He knows how to put on a brave face for children, so they believe everything is okay. Chenle, the young boy who speaks to him in Mandarin, laughs at every joke he's told (even the unfunny ones) and Renjun, the quiet one, has graced Lucas with a laugh or two of his own. He bides his time making jokes and asking them to help him perfect his Korean until Sicheng and Jaehyun step back out of the room they left him for. They're smiling so it can't be that bad.
"Let me show Lucas to his room, will you? Stop smothering him." Sicheng lightly scolds the younger kids. Lucas looks over at Sicheng and the older man next to him in shock. His room? His? Why would they give him a room?
Lucas does as he's told, following Sicheng to a room with two bunk beds pressed against the two walls, a desk placed between them, resting on the wall. The carpet is a warm blue, the walls a light gray. The room feels cozy, like Lucas could fall asleep here.
"You get the bottom bunk by the window. I'm sure Chenle will be delighted to share a bunk bed with you. You seem to have already captured his attention." The older man says from behind both him and Sicheng. Lucas didn't even realize he followed them.
"Renjun and Jisung share the other bunk bed. It's the only bed we have left. Sorry about sticking you with the kids. You can always share a bed with me if you want, though." Sicheng smiles. Lucas thinks he wouldn't mind sharing with Sicheng, but just as he'd captured Chenle's affection, the kids have his heart as well already.
"This'll be fine, thank you," Lucas smiles at both Sicheng and Jaehyun before bowing deeply to the both of them in gratitude. Jaehyun and Sicheng share a surprised look, no one has ever been this formal with either of them before.
"Why don't you give me a few minutes with Lucas?" Jaehyun smiles at Sicheng before turning back to Lucas. Lucas has straightened himself out, shoulders squared, head down, not looking Jaehyun in the eyes. Just like how Sicheng used to stand when addressed.
"Sicheng mentioned that someone was being sent to get you later. From my understanding, you don't want to go back with him, is that right?" Jaehyun asks, voice soft. Lucas hesitates and makes a face as if he's just ate a lemon, like the answer tastes sour in his mouth.
"I...Do you promise not to tell?" Lucas asks quietly. Jaehyun is reminded of Jisung when he was first dropped off on their doorstep.
"I promise. It stays between just you and me. Not even Sicheng has to know." Jaehyun sticks his pinky out with a smile, laughing quietly when Lucas happily accepts it.
"I-I don't want to go back with him, but I have to. If it's not me, it's someone else and I don't want him to take someone else. I-It'll be someone younger or someone who cries more and he'll hurt them. If I disobey him, he'll hurt someone because of me. So I have to go back. I don't know how Sicheng got out like he did, but after our last Master I was tossed around to a lot of different people, I don't want that to happen to anyone else. He hurts people when they don't listen, I've seen him kill someone." Lucas' voice trails off at the end, turning into a sad whisper. Jaehyun isn't really sure what to do now. He had planned to tell the man that came to pick Lucas up that that was no longer an option, but now that doesn't seem likely.
"What if I bought you from him?" If it was possible for a light bulb to be above Jaehyun's head, there would've been.
"You...You can try, but I don't know if he'll go for it. He likes me, so he might not want to sell me." Lucas frowns, looking down at his lap.
"I'll get the money from Boss. However much he demands, I can come up with it to get you out. Don't worry about it. You have his phone number, right?" Jaehyun smiles, gently patting Lucas' back. Lucas nods. "Great. Give it to me and I'll call. You don't have to worry about anything besides how you're going to get Chenle to leave you alone once he knows that you're staying."
Jaehyun goes to his room, repeating the numbers of this guy's phone number in his head to remember them, leaving Lucas in his new bedroom alone. Jaehyun shoots a text over to Taeyong, telling him of the situation, although it goes unanswered. Jaehyun dials the number Lucas gave to him and is surprised when a man with a pinched voice answers the phone.
"Who is this and how did you get this number?" He says immediately. Jaehyun would be lying if he said he didn't suspect this. You learn to be cautious in this business.
"Lucas. How much for him?" Jaehyun doesn't bother with pleasantries or meaningless questions.
"Lucas? Why would you want him?" The man's voice comes out a little confused, as if he honestly can't believe why someone would want Lucas.
"My friend is an old friend of his. He's interesting." Jaehyun isn't really good at bluffing like this. He knows that is he truly lets on how much he wants Lucas, the man won't ever let him go, or will try to get an excessive amount of money from him.
"You know what? He's nothing but trouble; annoying, doesn't listen. I'll text you an address, meet me there tomorrow at 2 and you can have him. $500. Cash." The man demands and hangs up.
This seems too easy. Lucas seems like a pleasant person to be around, well mannered, so Jaehyun isn't sure why he's willing to settle for just $500 when they both know he can get so much more for Lucas when he looks the way he does. Jaehyun hopes that this isn't a trap. Despite not wanting to a parent figure in the boys' lives, he does want them to be happy and he does want to help them any way he can. They've all been dealt a shitty hand, he just wants to make sure they're doing the best they can with what they have.
Jaehyun leaves his room and tells the good news to Sicheng and Lucas (who both immediately start crying).
Then he leaves. He keeps all the money he's saved up over the years separate from the boys. It's not that he distrusts all of them - only a few. He knows that Boss has trained a few of the younger boys to steal, to pick pockets without the person knowing they're being robbed and Jaehyun doesn't want that to happen to him.
He won't have to ask Boss for anything. He has enough to pay for Lucas a hundred times over and then some. He'll make sure Lucas and Sicheng are safe and happy and together.
Sorry this sucks lol, I just wanted to update this so I didn't feel like I was neglecting it
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Chapter 15: In That Short Moment, Everything Stopped For You and Me
Title taken from One of These Nights by Red Velvet
Dope update... Congratz!!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"We have a problem..."
"Taeyong isn't here."
Taeyong drags himself up off the floor of the hotel room with great difficulty. He's been fucked up on this job - punched, cut, stabbed - you name it, Taeyong's had it. But he's never been shot. Not until now, that is. And this searing pain emanating from his shoulder hurts like nothing Taeyong has ever imagined before. Even if he tries, really tries, Taeyong doesn't think he'd be able to imagine a pain worse than the one he's feeling right now.
He grabs a robe from the bathroom and removes the sash from around the waist. He ties it around his shoulder to slow the blood flow. Taeyong isn't all that good with medical practices. That's why they have Minseok, or on the rare occasion, Seokjin. Taeyong knows that he isn't supposed to take the bullet out without at least some kind of medical education, but he needs to get this stitched. Just thinking about it sends another shock wave of agony through Taeyong's body that rocks him to the core.
He gathers up everything from the room and starts cleaning. It's gonna take some time with only one arm to help, but he doesn't want anyone to know he was here or what transpired in the dark shadows of last night's moon.
He scrubs as much of his blood out of the carpet as he can, his fingertips stinging with chemical burns. He straightens out the covers on the bed, stuffs his clothes in his book bag, organizes the pads of paper and the pens on the desk just so. Then, he walks to the bedside table.
He digs through it, discarding the remote control for the TV, placing the pocket Bible on the top of the nightstand, before finally grabbing the small emergency sewing kit tucked underneath it all. He carefully takes it with him back into the bathroom and places it on the counter next to the sink. Taeyong washes his hands meticulously and then pulls the needle and some black thread from the sewing kit. Taeyong is aware that fabric thread and surgical thread are different, but he's doing the best with what he has.
He opens the mirror hanging above the sink and fishes out a pair of tweezers. He grabs the bottle of alcohol from his bag and two cups from the kitchen. He dumps a good amount of alcohol in each cup before putting the tweezers and sewing needle each in one cup. As he waits for those to soak, he grabs his phone and begins looking at a map of Japan. He doesn't want to go back to Korea right now. He's too angry at Takuya and Yuta and he doesn't need to take that out on the kids. He'll have to call Boss at some point, let him know he's taking a few days leave, but by then he'll already be gone.
A quick glance around the map and he's made up his mind. He tucks his phone away in his pocket and pulls a hand towel from the rack near the sink. He folds it into a thick strip, thick enough to fill his mouth. He sets it between his teeth and bites hard. He carefully sticks the tweezers into the wound and rummages around for the bullet.
"Well where the hell is he?"
"I don't know hyung. It looks like he hasn't been here in a while."
"You can't fall for that shit. He's one of Yixing's boys. You know how he raises them."
"I'll ask around, keep an eye out."
"Good boy, Yesung."
Each drag of the needle and thread trough Taeyong's split skin makes him grit his teeth in between the fabric of the towel. Taeyong ties a knot in the thread a few times over once he's fully closed the wound. He sighs and tips his head back in relief. He cleans the tweezers and the needle again before putting them both in the emergency sewing kit. He then stuffs the sewing kit into his bag.
He takes the leftover gauze that Takuya didn't take from his bag and the medical tape and bandages his wound. He returns the scraps of bandages he has as well as the tape. He tugs on a black and white flannel and buttons it up. He tucks it in and tugs on his shoes, swinging his bag over his shoulder. He does a once over of the room, making sure he didn't leave anything. His eyes catch the Bible he left on the nightstand. He sighs and sticks the Bible in the pocket of his flannel.
Taeyong's never really been religious, much less a Christian, but he needs someone in his corner right now. Yuta has run off with Takuya, he knows that Taeil has someone outside of the gang although he's unsure who it is, the kids haven't taken well to him really (they listen but only just, only because he's the leader and Yixing raised them on loyalty).
He makes his way out of the hotel room and into the hallway, cap and sunglasses on. He passes through the streets of Osaka surprisingly easy. He expected to be stopped or spotted for some reason, and yet no one waits for him beyond the walls of the hotel.
He stops by a small restaurant to get something in his body to help himself heal faster and takes this time to figure out his plans. He knows that Takuya has taken Yuta somewhere unknown to him, he heard Takuya rushing Yuta out of the building some time ago. After Taeyong got shot, time slowed a bit for him. The shot rang in his ears and it felt like he was moving through honey. He didn't really go back to normal until he could finally will himself off the floor to clean himself up.
He has enough money for a plane ticket to the island of Okinawa and one back to Korea when he feels like it. It shouldn't be hard to find some off the books busy work he can do on the island for quick cash to eat. It's the Japanese that's the problem. Taeyong knows very minimal Japanese, as Takuya had pointed out to him, he really only knows how to say hello and thank you, which won't get him too far.
He can pick something up at a book store on his way. The airport might even have something.
"I found him. He's boarding a flight to Okinawa."
"Good job, Yesung."
"Has anyone heard from Takuya or Yuta?"
"Takuya's still ghosted. He took Yuta with him so we can assume we won't be hearing from either of them for a while."
"I'll call Doyoung."
Okinawa is pleasant, the smell of the sea warming Taeyong like he thought impossible. The brim of his hat just barely covers his face and the glasses shroud his eyes from the harsh rays of the sun. Taeyong doesn't think he minds, though. The sun is warm and the sea welcoming.
The airport did in fact have a book on learning Japanese, something Taeyong has to take up if he's planning on staying for a bit. Taeyong walks around for a few hours, enjoying the sun. He finds this stupid, almost fond, smile plastered on his face as he takes in the comforting atmosphere.
Okinawa is a place untainted by the evils that stain the insides of Taeyong's eyelids when he closes them. This place is bright and youthful and makes Taeyong feel like a child again. Salt from the water tickles the inside of his nose and he scrunches it up with a laugh to himself.
Admittedly, the flight wasn't that long, but Taeyong feels a little tired. He's thirsty and needs a good, home cooked meal. There's about thirty restaurants on every corner he turns and for that, he's thankful. He could eat anything right now, which prompts him to turn in to the little tea shop closest to him.
The place isn't exactly dead, but it isn't bustling with customers either. Taeyong does a once over of the menu, looking for anything he can read (and looking in his book when he can't decipher the characters in front of him). He supposes the lack of customers might be because the little tea shop only serves warm beverages and it's currently 80 degrees outside. Taeyong is thankful for the short line.
Taeyong doesn't look up at the man taking his order until the last moment. His nose was buried so deep in his book, trying so hard to get the pronunciation right, that he didn't notice the handsome, tall man behind the counter. When Taeyong does see him, the fond smile returns.
The boy reminds him of the weather. His skin is tanned from the sun, Taeyong can tell, and his voice is deep like the sea. He could be imagining it, but Taeyong swears, as he stands not two feet from the man, that he smells just like sea salt. He's wearing a blue t-shirt and cut off jean shorts with a white apron tied around his waist.
He smiles at Taeyong as he places the order and Taeyong swears if he ever had a home, it was in this boy's smile.
Any guesses on who the cute waiter boy is??
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Chapter 16: As Time Goes By, You're Becoming More Like Me
Title taken from Black by G-Dragon ft. Sky Ferreria
Hahaha I didn't proof read any of this elslgahtrfgh
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jaehyun's ringing phone wakes him from his drama in induced coma. Chenle insisted Jaehyun watch this Chinese drama with him and Lucas and Jaehyun couldn't tell him no. Lucas had passed out twenty minutes before he did. Chenle was still intently watching the television, enthralled as he clutched a pillow. Jaehyun picks his phone up after clearing his throat.
"Hello?" Jaehyun asks as he steps out of the living room and into the kitchen, the caller ID said the number was blocked and very few people have this phone number.
"Yes, hello, Jaehyun." A voice hasn't ever heard before is speaking to him and the mysteries continue to pile. But, considering Jaehyun has nine other people under his care right now, he can't afford mysteries.
"Who is this? This number is private."
"Yes, Jaehyun, I'm aware. I gave it to you." The voice sighs. Realization dawns on Jaehyun. The voice on the other end of the phone is Yixing, their tech and weapons dealer. He gets the boys everything they need for runs from guns to phones to building access codes - if you need it, Yixing has it.
"Oh! Yixing hyung, sorry. I didn't recognize your voice, it's been a while." Jaehyun's cheeks bloom a red flower of embarrassment.
"Precisely why I'm calling. You have another job, but I can't seem to get in touch with Taeyong, Taeil, or Yuta. Have you seen them?" It's Jaehyun's turn to sigh in frustration.
"No. Taeyong still isn't back from the mission Boss sent him on in Japan with Yuta and Takuya so I can only assume they're still there and Taeil just ran out of the house like a week ago. Last time I talked to him was maybe two days ago."
"They're not in Japan." Yixing says, his voice ice cold. It makes Jaehyun shiver.
"How are you sure? Where are they then?"
"I'm sure because I sent them on that mission two weeks ago, it was supposed to be a small vacation and I haven't heard from any of them. I told them to check in every night. I haven't received a call."
"Wait- you sent them on the mission? I thought Boss called the shots in that department?" Yixing sighs on the other end again.
"I am your Boss. And I don't have time for you to freak out and ask questions. Take this at face value because with or without those three, you have something you need to do. A week from now. Someone is already on their way with the information and necessary accessories. He'll tell you everything." Yixing hangs up the phone and sure he sounded like someone used to giving orders like that, but how was Jaehyun to know if Yixing was telling the truth.
Yixing has never lied to them before, but there's a first time for everything. Jaehyun has never doubted actions he's taken under his Boss' order, but he has to now. Yixing claiming to be their Boss is shocking and doesn't make sense. The Yixing Jaehyun knows is soft spoken, still unsure about his Korean even though he's been living here for over a decade, he's always given the kids a smile, but Jaehyun could not hear one from the man on the phone.
True to Yixing's words, there is a knock on their door not a half hour later. The knock wakes Lucas and actually pulls Chenle from his drama.
"Time to go to bed, okay? Taeyong doesn't let you watch TV this late and if he knows I let you, I'm a dead man." Jaehyun smiles with a wink and Chenle leads a stumbling Lucas by the wrist to their bedroom.
Jaehyun checks the gun in the back of his waistband, resting a hand there in case this person is hostile. He opens the door and surprisingly finds the cutest man he's ever seen. He's short and small in every way possible, he's not that much shorter than Jaehyun to be honest, but he looks like he should be. His cheeks are rounded a little, red with either excitement or from the cold, Jaehyun can't tell. He's skinny, with dainty hands and clothes that hang off his frame, as if they were someone else's. His jacket is puffy, made to keep heat in, and it falls over his tiny hands. The backpack he has on his back looks like it weighs as much as he does.
"Hi! Xing sent me over! Can I come in, it's cold." He laughs a little, eyes shut and lips spread wide, arms crossed as he shivers in his too-large-to-be-his jacket. Jaehyun steps back to allow the man inside and he makes his way to the kitchen table as if he's been here before.
"Yixing hyung didn't really tell me what was going on..." Jaehyun trails off as he sits across from the man. He's taken to opening some manila folders and spreading documents out in front of Jaehyun.
"First things first, gun on the table," he smiles with a knowing look. Jaehyun complies and the man shoots him a wink. "Second, I don't usually brief at the house, but seeing as Taeyong isn't anywhere to be found - neither are his backups - I have to make a house call. Now, the meat. Much like I am right now, you'll be paying someone a home visit. They owe Xing some money, not to mention they double crossed him a few years back, scheduled to hit it a week from now. On any given day there's no less than five people in the house. I'll leave these papers with you, it's all the information you'll need. My bag has all of Xing's new tech and guns."
"W-Who are you, again? I didn't catch your name." Jaehyun asks, overwhelmed. Jaehyun hears soft padded footsteps down the hall, but no one enters the kitchen.
"I didn't throw it. You can just call me hyung, although I wouldn't tell too many people you know me. My name tends to bring bad tidings." He laughs again, his shoulders bounce and his nose scrunches. All things considered, he's pretty cute. "Rumor has it you're little Winwin brought home a stray?"
"He actually, uh, doesn't go by that at all anymore, his name is Sicheng. He saw one of his friends with some guy. A friend from China. I talked the guy into letting me buy him so I could keep him safe for Sicheng." Jaehyun sighs, sparing a glance past the man and locks eyes with the kid spying on their conversation. Renjun's eyes widen and he ducks behind the wall.
"Well. I'll have to tell Xing about him if you haven't already. Did you get the man's name? Description? Was he with anyone else? Did he have a car? If so, did you get the plates?" The man grills, hands folded over the table as he stares at Jaehyun.
"I didn't get a name or anything. I didn't see the guy at all, it was Sicheng who found the kid. I have his phone number, but that's it. I'll talk to the two of them and see if I can get anything else that might be helpful. Leave me your number, I'll text anything I find to you."
"Great. Make sure to look over these documents and keep the guns away from the kids until next week, got it?"
"Yeah, got it."
"Good. I have somewhere to be so I'll take my leave now. Nice to officially meet you, Jaehyun. Oh! One more thing! I'll be visiting Shin and his boys as well, they're to help you with this assignment. Tell the kid in the hallway I said goodbye as well. Which one is he? The one with the red hair?" He asks with a laugh and Jaehyun can't help but be impressed, Renjun barely made any sound.
"That one's Renjun." Jaehyun answers as Renjun steps into the kitchen, finally giving up his spot. The man walks closer to Renjun with a smile and pulls a piece of candy from his coat pocket.
"Hope you like caramel, he only keeps those grandpa candies in his coat," he gives the candy to Renjun and ruffles his hair. "I almost didn't hear you, your footsteps were so light. More practice and you'll be perfect."
The man smiles as he walks out of the front door, shutting it behind him, leaving both Jaehyun and Renjun standing in confusion.
"Hyung, who was that?" Renjun asks.
"Uh, not quite sure. One of Boss' guys, the candy's probably safe." Jaehyun shrugs.
"Where are the other hyungs? And what is Shin hyung helping us with?" The kids have only met Shin and his friends a few times, they don't interact all that often and Jaehyun has a feeling Taeyong would like to keep it that way.
"I'm not sure where they are. I'll tell everyone about it tomorrow, okay? So just finish the candy and head to bed. Chenle won't be happy if he wakes up and finds out you have candy and he doesn't." Renjun unwraps the candy and pops it in his mouth, making his way back to his room.
Jaehyun stays up late into the night pouring over the folders the man had left with him. He has to lead them this time and he doesn't want to mess this up for Boss or it'll be his head rolling. And, a plus for Jaehyun, their job is a debt this time. He only has to get what Boss' notes say. If some of the bills wind up in his back pocket when the other boys are loading up the van...no one has to know.
Who's the new guy lmao
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Chapter 17: I Felt That You Were Resembling Me and Time Was Passing
Me, back after like two months? It's more likely than you think.
Title taken from Violet by Pentagon
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Taeyong has been in Okinawa for a week and he cannot keep himself out of that tea shop. He would love to lie and say it's because the tea is too delicious (which, it is), but it's truly because of the man behind the counter and Taeyong wishes it wasn't.
The man is all soft, tan skin and long legs trapped by those awful jean shorts, but he's perfect. Taeyong doesn't think he's ever seen a man this beautiful before (and he lives with several beautiful men).
Taeyong decides he isn't real. To keep his sanity intact, Taeyong pretends the guy is someone his lonely mind made up to ease his transition from South Korean gang life to easy island living in Okinawa. His features are drawn on, skin and hair painted to perfection, flaws seemingly airbrushed away - as if he had any to begin with. It all just seems too good to be true. How this man's jawline is sharp enough to prick a finger and yet he's still all smiles is beyond Taeyong. He isn't sure how much longer he can go on like this.
But still, everyday like clockwork, Taeyong arrives in the shop and hour after opening and orders the same mildly bitter tea because it's the only thing on the menu he can read or pronounce well enough for the cute man to understand. He stays well into the evening, notebook on the table in front of him as Taeyong writes down all the contacts he's been forced to memorize all these years and he writes down all his secrets. Things he hasn't told the boys, things he's been forced to keep from even Taeil for everyone's safety.
He plans to mail it, he decides. He's getting out of this once and for all and for as much as he wants to bring the others with him, even just the kids, he knows he can't and that eventually Boss will pick someone to replace him. Probably Johnny or Jaehyun, maybe even Doyoung, but it doesn't really matter who it is, Taeyong is sure they'll do a great job of leading.
He'll fill the entire notebook, cover to cover, and he'll mail it back to the house in Korea and he'll stay on the island and day dream about waking up next to the cashier. He doesn't want to think about that until he knows he's safe, he doesn't want the man wrapped up in anything Taeyong is involved (soon to be formerly involved) with, even if it's an accident. He doesn't deserve that. He deserves soft kisses and waffles in the morning and nothing but warm smiles.
He's broken the contacts up into sections, so it'll be easier to find who you're looking for: doctors, dealers, allies. He's just finished writing down the four different phone numbers their number one drug supplier Hakyeon uses when the chair across from him screeches against the floor as it's pulled out. Taeyong slams the notebook shut as fast as his swift hands can and whips his neck up so fast the pain that shoots through it mimics whiplash.
The cashier, the man behind the counter himself, sits down across from him and it's only now Taeyong realizes how ill dressed he is to be talking to Aphrodite. Badly ripped jeans, a worn red shirt and his bangs pulled away from his face by a white hair-tie, with a useless black keychain around his neck. He tucks the pen behind his ear and folds his hands over the notebook, uselessly staring at the man.
"Why do you look like you've just seen a ghost?" He asks and Taeyong once again finds himself melting at the tall man's low and beautiful voice. It's so rich and it's full of an untapped sexual energy Taeyong doesn't even want to think about in public right now.
And it takes Taeyong a second to realize the man has asked the question in nearly perfect Korean. So this man knows Korean and he still allowed Taeyong to stutter through a pitiful attempt at Japanese for what's been a week now? Taeyong sighs in both disbelief and relief.
"No- no reason," He smiles, "You know Korean. Why didn't you say anything before?" The man blushes and brushes his hair off of his forehead.
"I didn't want to assume anything. I have a Korean pen pal, so I figured I would just try Korean and if that didn't work I'd learn another language." He laughs, looking more at the table than at Taeyong.
"You don't have a name tag. What can I call you?" Taeyong asks, wide smile still present. Taeyong figures it's just because it's a small family shop that doesn't have any employees other than the man in the back that makes the tea and the young man in front of him that's usually behind the counter.
"Yuto, my name's Yuto. And you?"
"Taeyong," He admits with a small laugh, there's just something about this man that puts Taeyong in such a nice mood and truth be told, he wouldn't mind leaving everything behind to get lost in Yuto's eyes.
Taeyong knows that his observations of Yuto are turning into sappy, long descriptions befitting of a romance novel or a K-drama lead's inner monologue, but he can't think of any other way to describe Yuto. Fluffy brown hair falling in curls over his eyes, terrible jean shorts with a jacket to match paired over a plain white t-shirt - it all sends Taeyong reeling. He's never felt like this before. Not even about Taeil.
"What were you writing? A story?" Yuto asks, a long, slender finger tapping on the red cover of his notebook. Taeyong presses his hands over, just to ensure Yuto can't pull it out from under him (although, Yuto could definitely yank it from Taeyong's grasp if he used even a bit of force).
"Not exactly, but you could call it that I guess," Taeyong lies, if worst comes to worst Taeyong will just have to write a short story should Yuto ask to read it. He doesn't want Yuto mixed up in his life back in Korea.
Yuto opens his mouth to say something, smile still present, but he gets cut off by a shout from the man in the kitchen who makes the tea. He can hear the man shout Yuto's name and then something in rushed Japanese Taeyong doesn't have even a chance of trying to translate. They have a short back and forth which ends with Yuto huffing out a small exasperated sigh, yet still with a smile.
"Would you be interested in maybe accompanying me to the market? My friend needs some things and I would appreciate the company." Taeyong would have to be insane to say no to an offer like that.
So he walks with Yuto out in the sun to the marketplace a few streets over. It's definitely more crowded than the tea shop and it makes Taeyong a little anxious, but he's overcoming it. He's been in Okinawa for a week and things are already so much more calming than they are in Korea. He doesn't have to look over his shoulder in fear of someone getting the jump on him, he doesn't have to lead, he doesn't have to fight tooth and nail for what he has. Because all he has is his seat in the tea shop and his red notebook and Yuto. He kinda has Yuto now.
He watches as Yuto floats from booth to booth, stopping in a few tents and finding exactly what he needs every time. He listens when Yuto speaks, tries to memorize everything he says and repeats it quietly to himself, trying to get the accent just right. If Yuto notices, he doesn't say anything, allowing Taeyong to observe and repeat in his own way.
They reach a lull in the shopping trip, both of their hands full, as they walks down a calmer stretch of the street. Taeyong has his notebook stashed in one of the bags he's carrying and he's now grateful for the dorky hairstyle he's sporting as the hot summer sun beats on his back.
"Tell me more about your Korean pen pal, if that wasn't a joke," Taeyong laughs, feeling a little silly for asking. He feels less silly when Yuto's face lights up.
"Oh, he's the best! He's so funny!" Yuto laughs heartily, "He's starting to learn Japanese, it's kind of a mess and his handwriting was already atrocious, but he's learning. At least he's trying, you know? He puts in a lot more effort than most of my friends did." Taeyong can tell how happy this guy makes Yuto.
"Do you know what he looks like?" Taeyong asks, swaying the bags a little.
"Kinda? I know he's tall, taller than me by like two inches, but he loves to shove it in my face." Yuto laughs.
"So he's a literal pen pal? The last time I heard of someone having a pen pal was when I was maybe ten. How'd you even get to know each other?"
"Well, it started in school, each kid in my class got paired with a different kid from around the world. It was supposed to help with language development and all of that stuff, but Wooseok and I really liked each other and we kept talking even after we left high school. His Japanese was too hard to read so we just stuck to Korean." Yuto laughs.
Taeyong thinks it's sweet. Meeting someone in more than undesirable circumstances but leaving with the best friend you've ever had. Taeyong would love to find someone like that, a platonic soulmate. Someone who's just there for you and fills you in where you lack. He loves the boys and the kids, but they can never be that for him. They aren't the kind of people that Taeyong can depend on outside of a purely occupational setting.
They enter a more populated part of the market again to walk around. There's less food and more tourist-y things like hats and t-shirts. There are even more people in this area than the area with the food, streets flooded with tourists from around the globe. Taeyong gravitates even closer to Yuto without noticing it.
Then fear licks white hot down his spine and Taeyong drops the bags. In the crowd he sees Doyoung, which would be odd enough if he were alone, but he isn't. He's accompanied by Yesung. If there was one man Taeyong feared more than their Boss, it was Yesung. The things he's heard, the evidence that man has left behind for them to clean up...
It makes Taeyong sick just thinking about it.
He takes a few steps back, nearly crouching behind Yuto in fear, hoping they don't notice him. He hears Yuto talking to him, but he can't make out the words. He sprints in the direction they came from, hoping to make it back before they could spot him. He can hear the rustling of plastic as Yuto picks up the bags and runs after him, but he runs straight for his hotel.
He can't go back. He won't.
So, the cute boy behind the counter was Yuto, so if you guessed Yuta, you were kinda close. Just one letter off. Anyway, hoped you enjoyed this piece of shit, sorry I was gone for so long :)
Chapter 18: I'm Getting Used To This Misery, I Live Like A Shadow
Title taken from Be the Light by Block B
Also, there's a lot of blood mention and graphic depictions of violence, be warned and read with caution.
The Okinawa sun pestered Doyoung like nothing hes felt before. Sure, it got hot in Korea, but this place felt like it was just a few steps up from the gates of Hell. He couldn't really help feeling a little scared too, keeping it hidden behind a poker face that made actual card players jealous.
Yixing has pull nearly all over the world, but its not secret he anchors down in Korea and spends the time he isn't there in China. Most of Asia sits comfy in Yixing's deep pockets. But, Japan was relatively untouched territory. He got two for the price of one when he bought Yuta and Takuya, but that was his only business deal in Japan. So, Doyoung should perhaps feel the safest in Japan, and yet he still looked over his shoulder.
Standing next to Yesung was frightening in its own right as well. Doyoung has seen first hand the kind of white hot pain Yesung can inflict, the way he disects a living body, the mind games he can play to get someone in the palm of his hand.
Leeteuk had Yesung train him when he joined their side. Doyoung was their first man on the inside, having already been a part of them when he was scouted by Yixing's men. Yesung had Doyoung all to himself for six uears before Takuya entered the picture. Doyoung was good, but he wasn't as good as Yesung and if Leeteuk was sending out Yesung, he wanted someone dead.
He and Yseung touched down in Okinawa not too long ago, heading straight to the small town Yesung had tracked Taeyong to. They passed by clothing stores and food vendors and crossed through a sea of people looking for Taeyong.
He's walking through the crowd with another young man. They're holding grocery bags and they're both laughing as the taller one stumbles through a story Doyoung isn't close enough to hear.
And Doyoung wanted to say something to Yesung, tug on his shirt sleeve like a child and say, "Look hyung! He's right there!" But he couldnt. Taeyong looked... happy. Something Doyoung hasn't ever truly seen on Taeyong's face as he smiled at the taller boy next to him. A smile like no other gracing his features.
And if Doyoung didn't know what Yesung was gonna do to him, he would've told him. He would've sold Taeyong out in a second because he knows where his loyalties lie and he's just that scared of both Yesung and Leeteuk to blindly obey every order.
But he was not going to be the reason that smile was cut off of Taeyong's face.
Because that's what Yesung will do to Taeyong if Doyoung sells him out. Doyoung knows exactly how Yesung will carve Taeyong out until he gets exactly what he wants from Taeyong and then he'll play with him for a little, finding new ways to make people squirm and scream, before finally killing Taeyong.
Doyoung has seen it first hand.
Doyoung has had to do it before.
So Doyoung keeps his mouth shut and shrugs when Yesung asks why they haven't found Taeyong yet.
Then, Doyoung and Taeyong make eye contact. Taeyong's eyes go comically wide and he drops the bags he's holding. He's frozen for a moment before he turns and breaks into a sprint. The tall man with him grabs the bags and runs after him in confusion.
It causes a small commotion. People turn to look, a woman yells as she's almost knocked over and Doyoung swears mentally at how stupid Taeyong is. He just hopes Yesung doesn't want to go inspect it.
After a few more hours of fruitless searching, Yesung swears and suggests they call it a night. Doyoung is all too happy to bunker down in a cheap hotel with Yesung to give Taeyong some time.
Doyoung hopes that Taeyong will flee. That he'll hop on the first plan out of here and maybe change his name while he's at it. He knows that Taeyong has the number of someone who can help him disappear, he's the one who helped Jaehyun become Jaehyun.
That night, as he lay in a bed with his back to Yesung (which is always a bad move), Doyoung dreams of blood. Hot, thick, red blood on his hands. He can't tell if it's his, but he can hear screaming around him and Yesung's laughter behind him.
The room is big and dark, he can see the walls around him, but they're dirty and gray. Doyoung attempts to leave the room he's in, but finds his feet unable to move. It feels as if his feet are glued to the ground beneath him. He looks down and there is nothing but blood beneath him.
When he finally manages to move after much struggling, he makes a break fir the double doors on the far side of the room. He throws them open, breath leaves him in angry heaves.
The hallway way is wide, but it's covered in blood. It's sprayed on the walls in most places, in others it's dragged across the walls as if someone dipped their hands in paint and ran it over the walls.
His friends lay all around him in various states of dismemberment. Some are propped up against the walls while others lay helplessly on the floor at his feet. At the other end of the hallway Doyoung can see a door void of any dirt or grime, a bright blinding light emanating from under it. Doyoung knows that's the exit, he isn't sure how, but he just knows it is.
He begins his way down the corridor, chin up and eyes locked ahead of him so he doesn't have to look at any of the men he's betrayed.
The first he comes across is Taeyong. Doyoung has to stop for a second and hold back bile. Taeyong lays on his stomach, missing both his legs below the knee. Blood drags in two sickening lines behind him as if he crawled to the spot where he now lays. He steps over Taeyong, mumbling his apologies as he does so, his one track mind set on getting out of here.
Taeyong grabs onto Doyoung's ankle and he shrieks in surprise. Taeyong lifts his head with a groan and gurgles something to Doyoung, choking on the blood pouring from his lips.
Doyoung shakes free his leg free and starts running down the hallway, turning a blind eye to Yuta with his back pressed to the wall with his guts in his lap, looking away from the pile of pieces of what's left of the kids. He's crying, wiping his tears just as fast as they fall.
He reaches the door, but there's a body at the foot of it he didn't see before.
Jaehyun lays there, eyes carved out of his skull. He's still alive, unlike most of the men he's just left behind, but only just. There's a hole in his chest, where his heart should be. He coughs and blood spills out of his mouth, trailing down his lips.
Doyoung falls to his knees and reaches a shaky hand out to take one of Jaehyun's. Jaehyun takes it and squeezes back, reaching out blindly (literally) for Doyoung with his other. Doyoung takes it right as a shadow comes to rest behind him.
It's Yesung. He's covered in blood and he's holding a knife. And Doyoung begs, with everything in him he asks Yesung to just spare Jaehyun. He steps around Doyoung to kneel beside the two and smiles politely as he listens to Doyoung beg. He reaches up to wipe a tear from Doyoung's cheek.
Jaehyun calls his name and Yesung pries Jaehyun's mouth open and grabs his tongue and cuts it clean out of Jaehyun's mouth.
Doyoung cries. He screams. But Yesung pets his head and walks back down the hallway, past all the bodies he's maimed.
Doyoung wakes before even the sun and sits with a pit of emptiness in his stomach. He doesn't have to ponder the dream, he knows what it means, he's had it before.
He grabs his wallet and leaves the hotel room to find a bar.
Chapter 19: Even After the Curtains Close, I Won't Be Alone and Lonely
Title taken from Curtain by Suho and Song Youngjoo
They need to get out of Japan, that's all Takuya could think about. He had gathered all their things while Yuta had still been asleep, before shaking Yuta awake in the early hours in the morning. He had let Yuta sleep for a few hours, he knew Yuta needed it if he were to function at his best later on. Of course, Yuta had been trained to be able to operate with little to no sleep, but Takuya wasn't in such a hurry he couldn't let Yuta have a few hours.
Leeteuk or Yixing would be hearing about Taeyong's injury soon, he was sure of that, so he wanted to get out of Japan as quickly as he could. Yixing would have his head for not getting along with Taeyong and Leeteuk would skin him for not following the plan. Leeteuk wasn't very good at improvising and he told Takuya pretty early on that he wasn't to kill Taeyong before he was ready, so Takuya had stuck to shooting him in the shoulder. Not that it was going to make Leeteuk any less mad, but if he couldn't find him, he couldn't kill him.
They slip out onto the Osaka streets, bags on their backs, sunglasses over their eyes. Takuya takes their phones and throws them into a garbage can as they pass it. The closest Yesung will get to them tracking their phones will be a block away from the hotel. He drags Yuta around behind him as he goes to purchase a replacement phone for himself and find a salon where they can get their hair dyed.
Takuya rushes them around all day, seemingly having them walking all over the city, before he finally takes them to the airport.
"Where are we going? We're not going back, right?" Yuta asks quietly, pressed close to Takuya in hopes that no one will overhear their conversation.
"No, we aren't."
"What about Wonho?" Yuta asks, a crease in his brow.
Takuya tenses for a second. He hates to admit that he forgot about Wonho. He isn't sure how he did that, considering Wonho was on his mind most of the time and he had spoken to him not that long ago. Takuya knows that if they go back to Korea it's likely that Yixing will find them and Takuya doesn't want to think about the punishment that will follow if he finds out that Takuya not only shot Taeyong, but also betrayed him. If they stay in Japan for too long, Yesung will surely find them. He's even scarier than Yixing. He needs to get them somewhere neither Leeteuk or Yixing have any kind of power and then talk to Wonho.
"I'll call him after the plane lands." Takuya decides. It's a safe answer for now, they have a a four and a half hour plane ride for Takuya to figure it all out. Yuta nods and doesn't ask anymore questions as they board the plane, allowing Takuya the quiet he needs to think about this.
An hour in and Yuta has fallen asleep on his shoulder, clutching the sleeve of his light jacket. Takuya goes over the phone call he's going to have to have with Wonho for the entire flight, thinking of how he's going to tell Wonho that he and Yuta will have to be away for a while and how a while might mean years. And Wonho has a team to lead in Korea, it would be not only suspicious, but also stupid for Wonho to leave. The ties Wonho has formed with those boys runs deeper than their loyalty to Yixing. If Wonho leaves Korea, so will Sangmin, Seyoung, Casper, and Yongseok. And that wouldn't be good for any of them. They can't be seen with either he or Yuta and they can't gather like that, it's too obvious.
The plane lands and Takuya shrugs Yuta off his shoulder, waking him up. He picks his bag up off the floor between his feet and waits for Yuta to do the same. Yuta clutches to the back of his jacket as they walk down the aisle and out of the plane. His grip stays tight as they make their way through the airport, pressed as close as they can to make sure they don't lose each other in the large crowds of people.
"Are we in China? What are we doing here." Yuta mumbles quietly. Takuya wraps an arm around his waist to steer him as they stand side by side.
"I have a buddy here, he said if I ever needed a place to stay that I could crash at his house." Takuya answers, hailing a cab outside the airport. He opens the door to the back seat and lets Yuta get in first before sliding into the seat next to him. He tells the address to the driver and sits back in the seat, looking out the window at the scenery as they pass by it.
"I didn't know you knew Mandarin." Yuta says, pulling Takuya from his thoughts of Wonho.
"I know a lot of languages," Takuya laughs, "Need to in this business." He looks back out the window, hand resting on the seat between he and Yuta. Yuta nods and looks out his own window as they remain in silence, the driver not trying to communicate with them at all. Takuya is thankful for it.
Half way through the drive, Takuya feels a warm hand cover his own and glances over to see Yuta's hand on top of his, his eyes still looking out the window. Takuya sighs, but holds his hand back. He can allow Yuta this at the very least.
The cab pulls up to the apartment building and Takuya pays the cab driver with the little but of money he had exchanged at the airport in Osaka before they left, thanking him as they get out of the car with their backpacks. Yuta reaches for his hand again and Takuya holds his back, guiding him up to the intercom on the outside.
"Zhoumi, open the door," Takuya says into the intercom, buzzing to be let in.
"Who is it?" Takuya hears the confusion in Zhoumi's voice through the intercom.
"It's Takuya, from Osaka? You said if I ever needed help I could swing by?" Takuya tries, hoping that Zhoumi remembers him, they didn't exactly know each other long and Takuya couldn't exactly call him to RSVP.
"Oh! Takuya! Of course, come right up." Zhoumi says, a smile in his voice, as the door is buzzed open for Yuta and he to climb the stairs to Zhoumi's apartment on the third floor. Yuta stays behind Takuya the whole time he knocks on the door and waits for the door to open. When it does, a man almost as tall as Takuya with a large smile appears. He pulls Takuya in for a tight hug, shocking Yuta. The only people he's ever seen hug Takuya were Joonjae and Wonho.
"Takuya, it's good to see you! I'm glad you're okay! Who's the kid?" Zhoumi smiles as he looks over to Yuta.
"This is my boyfriend, Yuta." Takuya introduces, watching as Yuta's eyes flicker anxiously.
"Nice to meet you! I'm Zhoumi, my girlfriend is inside, please come in!" Zhoumi ushers them inside, taking Takuya's bag when Takuya nods. He takes Yuta's as well with another nod from Takuya, carrying them into a room they can't see. There's a small woman on the couch, she looks a little apprehensive at the two strangers in her home, but she still puts on a smile and stands to introduce herself.
"I'm Jia, nice to meet you," She smiles as she shakes both of their hands. Zhoumi always gave Takuya a nice vibe, someone always there to help you no matter with what, he gets that vibe from his girlfriend as well. "Are you friends of Zhoumi's?"
"I am, I've known him for a few years, Yuta just met him." Takuya smiles, gesturing to Yuta who smiles nervously at Jia.
"Well, no matter, Zhoumi is setting up your room right now. Stay as long as you need to."
Chapter 20: If I Had Hugged You Once More, Would It Be Different Now?
Title taken from Nonfiction by K. Will
Jisung isn't sure what had happened. He was out with Mark and Jeno, sticking to the back alleys of the city to remain unseen. Mark was teaching Jeno and he how to pick locks on some old abandoned buildings, when they heard the sirens. They hadn't thought much of it, they were young kids just hanging out together, but the sirens only got louder and then suddenly they were close.
They ran, Mark clasping Jeno's hand and the back of Jisung's hoodie to pull them along. When they thought they had a little bit of a lead, Mark let them go, leaving them to keep up by themselves. Jisung had fallen behind, Mark and Jeno were still running, not having noticed that he wasn't. Just when he had started to pick up speed, to attempt to cross the street and keep running like Jeno and Mark, the mouth to the alleyway had been closed off by a cop car. He tried to backtrack, find another way out, but he knew there wasn't one.
They had thrown him into the back of the squad car and drove him to the station. He beat himself up about it the entire ride over. Taeyong, if he ever hears about it, if he cares, is gonna chew him out for it. If Boss hears... he doesn't want to think about that.
The taller officer is the one to yank him out of the car, laughing at something the shorter officer had said to him as he did so. The cuffs irritate his wrists as he's lead into the station, one officer on each arm. They take his picture, fingerprint him, throw him in a holding cell. Jisung isn't sure how it happened so fast.
Jisung's back straightens, but he doesn't turn to look at the other man.
"Kid, I know you heard me."
Jisung looks from the tall officer that has since fallen asleep in his chair to the shorter officer that is busy reading the newspaper and taking periodic sips from his cup of coffee and back. They probably won't yell at him if he talks to the other guy.
"What?" Jisung asks quietly, flicking his eyes over to him.
"What's your name?" Jisung looks over to him, eyebrows drawn together in confusion. The man is leaning, back against the wall, with a smirk.
"What's it to you, old man?"
"I may be calling you kid, but you're not that much younger than me. What's your name? Humor me."
"I'm Jungwoo. How old are you? Like 15?"
"16 now. Why?" Jisung frowns. Taeyong had taught him not to show all his cards right away, to be weary of people he didn't know. He didn't know who they rolled with. Could be the enemy for all he knew. And this guy gave him an odd vibe.
"Officer Jang has a nephew your age. Officer Song hates kids so he won't help you. Can you cry on command? Jang will probably let you hang out at his desk, maybe even order you some food, let you go home early if you cry." Jungwoo smiles, kicking himself off the wall to move closer to Jisung.
"I can cry," Jisung says, looking at the two officers again. "Why are you helping? What's in it for you?"
"I've seen you and those other kids around town before, you're not harming anyone, you don't deserve to be in here."
"And you do?" Jisung asks quietly, looking Jungwoo in the eyes. Jungwoo chuckles, that smirk still on his face.
"Let's just say you owe me one kid. Now get to crying." He winks and goes back to lean against the wall.
Jisung gives himself a few minutes to work himself up, feels the tingle in his nose and lets the tears fall, rolling down his cheeks. He curls up in the corner of the cell, knees pulled to his chin. He makes his sniffles extra loud and doesn't start wiping the tears away until he's sure he has more to replace them. He lets out half hushed, pained gasps. He hears one of the officers shuffling, but doesn't look up from his spot on the floor until he approaches the cell. Jisung wipes his tears, pretending to be ashamed that the cop saw him crying.
"Why're you crying?" He says with a frown as he kneels down to be eye level with Jisung, "Did he say something to you?"
"N-no, it-it wasn't him." Jisung stutters, sniffling.
"What's up?" Jisung lets out a humorless laugh.
"I was just-just hanging out with some friends, but you guys dragged me here and- oh god. My hyung is gonna kill me." Jisung's face crumples up as he starts crying harder. He hears the officer sigh and leave, grabbing something from his desk before coming back to unlock the cell.
"Come on kid. I told him you were way too young to be in here," He sighs to himself, "You can use my phone to call your brother. I'll go get you a bag of chips and a pop from the vending machine."
He guides Jisung to his desk, pulling over a chair for him to sit in and unlocking his cellphone for Jisung to use. He ruffles Jisung's hair as he makes his way to the break room, leaving Jisung with his phone. The home screen is a picture of him and a short girl with his arm around her. Jisung assumes it's his girlfriend. He pulls up the phone up and types in the first number that comes to mind.
"Hyung!" Jisung gasps when he picks up, just as the officer returns with what he promises.
"Jisung? It's fucking one in the morning. Mark came home ages ago, where the fuck are you?" Doyoung questions. It's nice to know he's worried.
"I... I got arrested hyung."
"You did what?" Doyoung practically shouts it. Jisung recoils, pulling the phone away from his ear for a second with a pained expression. The officer smiles at him and gestures for the phone.
"The cop wants to talk to you, hyung." Jisung says and quickly hands the phone to officer Jang.
"This is officer Jang Yijeong, we picked up your younger brother not too long ago. We picked him up for attempting to break and enter and trespassing on private property, but... he's a kid. He was just messing around I'm sure. You can come pick him up if you'd like."
They speak for a little, Jisung tunes them out and pulls the soda and bag of chips closer to begin working on them. Jisung is half way through the bag when he spares a look over at Jungwoo and sees him in the same place he left him, leaning against the wall. He's watching Jisung, careful and unbothered by the fact that Jisung has caught him. He's snapped out of the trance Jungwoo has him in when the officer hangs up the phone and gets his attention.
"Your brother said he'll be by to get you in a few, sit tight." He smiles and Jisung gives him one back.
He doesn't look at Jungwoo for the rest of the time he sits and waits for Doyoung to come pick him up. He doesn't look at Jungwoo as Doyoung arrives nearly five minutes later, surely having run every red light and stop sign between here and the house. He doesn't look at Jungwoo as Doyoung leads him out of the station and opens the passenger door of his expensive car.
Jungwoo had scared him just a little too much. His smirk was too unsettling, it was like he knew something Jisung didn't and he always hated being the last one to know things. Jungwoo just rubbed him the wrong way.
He stays quiet as Doyoung drives them home, picking at his jeans and looking out the window.
"What happened?" Doyoung asks, not looking away from the road in front of him.
"Mark and Jeno ran a little faster than I did." Jisung shrugs.
"Well what were you three doing that warranted the cops being called on you?"
"Nothing! Mark hyung was showing me how to pick locks and stuff. We didn't think anyone saw us."
"Well someone did or the cops wouldn't have shown up!"
"Don't yell at me!"
Doyoung huffs out an angry sigh, but doesn't respond. Doyoung doesn't speak for the rest of the drive, leaving Jisung to sit in silence. He is sorry he had to drag Doyoung out at this hour to come get him, but if Doyoung was going to yell at him and act like the father he never asked for, he wasn't going to apologize. Doyoung had barely ever spoken to him before Jisung initiated anything so to have him acting so entitled and brotherly is annoying and uncalled for.
They pull up to the house and Jisung gets out of the car, slamming the door behind him and making his way to his shared room, ignoring Doyoung just like he had Jungwoo.
Chapter 21: I Hope Our Memories Are Like the Sunset, Short and Beautiful
Title taken from Apology by Ikon
After splitting up with Mark in the alley when they heard the cops, Jeno went home. He knew Mark would be heading back to the group home and that Jisung would surely follow, so he didn't have to worry. Jeno has had run ins with the local cops before and he didn't wish to make their acquaintance again. The chief of police really wasn't a fan of his.
Jeno had picked up the backpack Mark had brought with them when they ran and it was beginning to weigh on his back. Jeno wasn't entirely sure what was in it, but he was closest to it and he knew Mark counted on him to have his back, and Jeno did. There isn't much he wouldn't do for Mark Lee. But, it was starting to feel heavy on him as he made his way through the dark streets in the early hours of the morning. It had begun to rain some time into his walk and it was making the fabric of his hoodie stick to him in an uncomfortable way. The dropping temperature wasn't doing him any favors either.
When he started his walk down his street and could see their house, his heart lifted a little. Some of the fatigue had shaken itself off upon the thought of spending the rest of the night in his bed, huddled under the blankets. His aching feet could bare it for a few more feet to the front door. He took off the necklace that held his house key and a small charm as he walked up the steps to the front door to unlock it.
He takes the bag off his shoulders as he steps in the house, toeing his shoes off at the door so he doesn't get scolded for tracking rain water all over the hard wood again. He takes Mark's bag with him to the kitchen to grab a drink and then to the bedroom. The lights are on and the door is open as he approaches so he won't have to wake him from his sleep to tell him he's home, which is always good. Jeno hates having to wake him up, he rarely gets sleep as it is and Jeno hates disturbing that, but he made Jeno promise to always tell him when he got home, asleep or not.
"I'm home," Jeno calls with a smile, placing the bag down at the foot of the bed and making his way to the desk to wrap his arms around his shoulders. "How was school?"
"School was boring and long, the usual. My Lit class wasn't that bad today surprisingly." Jaemin chuckles, gently holding one of Jeno's hands.
"Why's that? I thought we didn't Lit class." Jeno laughs, resting his chin on the top of Jaemin's head.
"We don't. It was canceled today." Jaemin and Jeno break out into laughter, Jeno wrapping his arms tighter around Jaemin.
"Save what you're working on, I've had a long night, I wanna sleep." Jeno says, looking at the light Jaemin's laptop emits. Jaemin removes his hand from Jeno's to save the progress he made on an essay and to turn it off, turning around in Jeno's hold to look at him.
"You're soaking wet, you know that? You're gonna get sick." Jaemin hums in disapproval, flicking Jeno's ear. Jeno recoils and rubs his abused ear with a frown.
"That was mean and uncalled for, I was gonna get changed obviously, no sane person sleeps in jeans." Jeno pouts at him. Jaemin smiles at him, but loses it when he looks past Jeno and sees the black backpack at the foot of their bed.
"That's not your's is it? I didn't see you leave with one." He asks, Jeno looks from the bag back to Jaemin.
"Nah, it's not mine, it's Mark's. You remember Mark? Yeah, he left it and I picked it up from him, didn't want it to get stolen or anything." Jeno laughs, hoping his semi-lie was enough to fool Jaemin. He didn't like lying, but it was the safest for Jaemin if he did. If Jaemin was ignorant to what he was doing then he wouldn't become a target, he didn't want Jaemin to get because of him.
"Where did he leave it? How do you just forget your whole bookbag?" Jaemin laughs, "Maybe one of his notebooks or something has his address on it, we can swing by real quick and drop it off."
"Ahh, Mark's asleep already I'm sure. Don't worry about it, I'll drop it off tomorrow or something. I'm gonna go take a shower, get the smell of rain off me, then we can hit the sack, alright?" He smiles at Jaemin, leaning down for a kiss. Jaemin gives him an eye roll and a lopsided smile before pecking him on the cheek.
"You clean up, you smell." He says, gently pushing Jeno away. Jeno blows a kiss at him as he grabs a fresh pair of pajamas from their drawers and heads to the bathroom to take a shower.
He takes a short shower, washing away the grime the streets and the rain have brought on him, washing the sweat from his hair. He wants to just crash into bed with Jaemin and sleep the rest of the night away. He's so tired he might even just take the day off tomorrow, text Jaehyun and tell him he isn't feeling well and stay home with Jaemin. He didn't have classes tomorrow and Jeno took any chance he got to stay at home with Jaemin.
When he dries himself off and changes into the pajamas, he makes his way back to their shared room, ruffling his hair with a towel that rests around his neck to dry his hair. He lets it rest around his neck as he checks his phone, debating texting Jaehyun now, when he actually walks back into the room.
He isn't expecting the sight he sees when he looks up.
Nothing seems to be going in Jeno's favor it appears.
Mark's black bookbag is upturned on their shared bed, the contents of which are spread out to be seen by anyone. Jeno hadn't known what was in that bag and now he kinda did because he would've kept it out of Jaemin's reach if he knew what was in it, he probably wouldn't have taken it home in the first place to be honest. But this is what he gets for not betraying Mark's trust.
There's stacks of cash, more than Mark should've had on him, some loose bills here and there, there's two handguns, a few bags of small white powder he could've only gotten from Kim Kai, and what looks like a few manila folders full of papers Jaemin has opened to read. Jeno doesn't know what to do. Jaemin is sanding a few feet from the bed, looking down at it with a frown, biting his nails.
"Jaem," Jeno calls apprehensively. Jaemin looks up at him, but quickly looks down at the bed, removing his finger from his mouth to point at the bed.
"What is this shit Jeno? What the fuck is this?" Jeno's frozen, mouth hung open as he moves closer to fully look at the things Jaemin spread out on the bed. He gulps as he picks up one of the folders, flipping through the pages to read them quickly.
"This is... It's Mark's stuff Jaemin, I'm not really sure." Jeno settles on as a reply.
"It's Mark's stuff? That's what we're sticking with? Sure it's Mark's stuff, but you aren't hanging out with a guy with guns in his bag and not knowing about it." Jaemin scoffs. "Can you just please tell me what the fuck is going on? I'm not gonna go anywhere Jeno, just be honest with me."
"You promise you wont' go if I tell you the truth?" Jeno asks after a moment to collect his thoughts.
"Of course Jeno," Jaemin sighs, walking around the bed to be closer to him, "I just need you to be real with me Jeno. I've stuck around this long, I don't think I'm going anywhere, okay? Just tell me what's going on."
"Promise?" Jeno asks again, sticking out his pinky.
Jaemin smiles at him and takes it, pressing their thumbs together and leaning down to kiss their thumbs.
"Mark and I are in a gang. We don't do much, just run cash and stuff. I promise we don't do anything crazy, that's the hyungs' jobs, okay? I'm not in danger or anything." Jeno sighs, holding tightly onto Jaemin's hand, hoping he doesn't shove him away.
He hears the deep breath Jaemin takes through his nose, waits for Jaemin to take it in. He doesn't say anything, lets Jaemin stare into his eyes, lets Jaemin look over at the stuff on the bed, lets Jaemin look down at Jaemin's unoccupied hand. He let's go of Jaemin's hand, dropping his pinky, to take both of his hands in Jaemin's own. They stand in silence for a while.
"Okay then," Jaemin sighs, "Well. Now I'm a little curious, who's this Zhang Lay guy?"
Jeno's brow furrows in confusion at the name, having never heard it before. Jaemin can sense the confusion and drops Jeno's hands to clear things off the bed just enough to sit down and riffle through the papers in one of the manila folders. He beckons Jeno over to show him.
"Right here, look, Zhang Lay. This is like. His life story it looks like," Jaemin says, handing a few papers to Jeno as he looks through some more, "This looks like biographies on some of the people that work for him? Although, most of these don't sound like real names," Jaemin laughs.
"Read some of them to me," Jeno says with a frown, "Wanna see if I know any of them."
"Xiumin, Suho, Park Yeol, this guy's name is just listed as D.O, like literally that's it? Ringing any bells?"
"None." Jeno frowns.
"Well, do you know Lay? It said he was like a leader or something, right? Who do you report to?" Jaemin asks.
"I've never heard the name Lay before. I report to Taeyong hyung but he's... missing right now, we don't know where he is. So I kinda report to Jaehyun hyung right now. Things are kinda hectic."
"I didn't expect gang life to not be hectic." Jaemin laughs, handing another file to Jeno to reach for another untouched one.
They stay up late looking over the files, Jeno pressed to Jaemin's side, Jaemin's arm around his shoulders. He's surprised Jaemin accepted him so easily, then again, Jaemin has been easily accepting all of Jeno's flaws for years. He was scared Jaemin was going to leave him when he looked through Mark's bag and found all the stuff. He shouldn't have been, Jaemin has been in some trouble of his own, but Jeno's always been a little scared that Jaemin would leave him.
The next morning when they wake, Jeno is resting his head on Jaemin's chest. He basks in the warmth of Jaemin's embrace until he realizes what had woken him up. His cellphone. It sits all the way across the room on Jaemin's desk and he'll have to get up to answer the call he's getting or else it'll wake Jaemin as well and he deserves to sleep in.
He gently extracts himself from Jaemin's comfortable hold and tip toes to the desk, picking up his phone and answering it as he leaves the room. He makes his way to their backyard, taking the call out there where it wake Jaemin. There's no one out in their own backyards so Jeno thinks he's safe to talk freely.
"Hello?" He answers, not having expected a call this early.
"Where are you?" Renjun asks. Jeno makes a face, not having expected that. Everyone knows he doesn't live at the group house, they think he lives on his own, he would like to keep it that way.
"I'm at my place, why?"
"Jisung got into some shit last night, Doyoung hyung left really late and came home with him, they had a fight. Jisung was slamming doors and yelling, woke everyone up. Doyoung hyung was chewing Mark out too. So wherever you are, I suggest you stay there for a while. Doyoung hyung is on the war path and he'll probably yell at you if he sees you. I'd give it a few days, just until he and Jisung make up." Jeno wasn't expecting Renjun to be looking out for him. They never really talk to each other outside of jobs and training. To be quite honest, he thought Renjun hated him.
"Oh, uh, thanks." Jeno stutters, it's clear that he wasn't expecting a call like this.
"We have that job next week so you should probably be back for that if you wanna get paid, but hyungs said we were gonna work with Shin and his guys so if you can't make it back, we should be okay." Renjun finishes awkwardly, he sounds like he wants to say more, but can't find anything to talk about with Jeno.
"Alright, thank." Jeno says curtly, he isn't sure what to say, he wants to continue, but with what? He didn't expect for Renjun to offer this small olive branch, but now that he has, Jeno doesn't want to let it go to waste. Maybe opening up a little will bring him and Renjun closer together and their conversations outside of work won't be as awkward. "Have you guys heard anything from Taeyong, Yuta, or Taeil hyungs? I'm worried about them."
"Jaehyun said he called Taeil and actually got a hold of him the other day. He said that if we needed help with anything to call either him or Shin hyung so I assume they're together, but there's no word on Taeyong or Yuta," Renjun sighs. "I'm worried too. What if they're hurt?"
"We can only hope they get home soon. Has Jaehyun tried calling either of them? Maybe he can actually get a hold of them?"
"I think he's tried, but he hasn't said anything so I think that means he hasn't gotten any word back."
"Maybe Jaehyun can send one of you guys out to trail Shin and the boys? You're really quiet, hard to spot, he could send you. Maybe just spy on Shin for a while, see if Taeil's around? It wouldn't be such a bad-" Jeno starts but gets cut off by Jaemin making his way outside.
"Jeno? What're you doing up?"
"Is someone with you Jeno?" Renjun asks after Jaemin speaks. None of them were supposed to know about Jaemin. Jeno swears.
"Please don't tell anyone about this Renjun, I have to go, I'll call you back later." Jeno finishes quickly and hangs up the phone. "Sorry about that Jaem, I didn't wanna wake you up."
"What was that, some secret gang business?" Jaemin laughs as he wraps his arms around Jeno.
"Well, not so secret anymore." Jeno chuckles.
"What's going on?"
"Remember how I told you the guy I report to, Taeyong, was missing? He went on a trip with another one of the hyungs, Yuta, and he's missing too. So is another hyung, Taeil, he kinda just ran out one day and no one's seen him since. I was just asking if they've heard from any of them."
"Sounds troubling." Jaemin frowns. Jeno gives him a lopsided, unhappy smile and runs a thumb over the frown lines on Jaemin's face.
"Don't worry about it, everything will be fine, I'm sure."
Chapter 22: I'm Afraid of People Looking At Me, I'm Afraid of What They Say About Me
Title taken from Pretend by Suzy
Sometimes, Chenle feels like he gets lost in the commotion. Their lives are a constant battle for attention, so many things are going on, but you c as n only delegate so much of your precious time to thinking about them and Chenle understands. Johnny misses his boyfriend, Taeil is dealing with an emergency, Taeyong is missing, Sicheng is finally reunited with his friends Lucas, Yuta is in love.
So it makes sense that no one cares about him.
Jaehyun never asked to be in charge, so when he screams at Chenle, tells him to get it right, Chenle knows its because he's stressed and under a lot of pressure. Taeyong never yelled at him before, but Taeyong isn't here. Taeyong is gone, dealing with something more important than Chenle.
He shares a room with Renjun, Jisung, and Sicheng's friend Lucas. He likes Lucas, he's tall and fun and he doesn't make mean faces at Chenle when he thinks Chenle isn't paying attention. When they have dinner, Lucas always makes his plate for him, he's still a little afraid to do things without asking, but now that Sicheng has caught on, he assures Lucas quickly and quietly that he can do whatever he wants. And he wants to make Chenle's plate.
It makes Chenle feel warm, like Lucas is taking care of him like his own older brother refused to do. He knows Lucas is just trying to be kind, but it feels nice and Chenle lets himself think of the action selfishly as long as he's alone. When he's with the others, he assures himself it has nothing to do with Chenle personally, he's just being nice.
So many people live in this house together, it's suffocating sometimes. He sleeps beside three other people every night, Jisung and Renjun across from him and Lucas below him, it stresses him out. He feels like he doesn't have any room to breathe, that the air is being sucked out of his lungs by the eleven other people he lives with even when not all of them are home.
This is where he retreats into himself, nods his head instead of speaks, shakes his head when Lucas offers him seconds, hugs his own arms tighter around himself so he feels like he's being held together, like all his pieces won't break apart.
When he was younger and he was first brought to the house, he was scared of everyone. All these big, tall, older men hardened from years of trouble had worried his little heart. He constantly wondered if he was actually supposed to survive this or if he was thrown to the wolves with the intention of having his bones picked apart.
It was a troubling image for Chenle when he was younger, he viewed the hyungs as some sort of great Herculean monster hell bent on using his bones as toothpicks, but he's older now. He was supposed to be over this by now. For reason, he wasn't, he still cowered away from Johnny when he walked past him in the hallway, he still refused to speak to Yuta, still refused to look Doyoung in the eyes.
They were monsters in human skin to him, plaguing his nightmares and even his day dreams. But that doesn't matter, because Chenle doesn't matter. Johnny doesn't spare him glances as they pass, He doubts either Yuta or Doyoung even know his name, he doesn't mind. He's becomes accustomed to having to remind people of his presence. Taeyong never forgot him, when he was addressing everyone, he always made sure to include Chenle, hold eye contact, flash a smile if appropriate. He didn't want Chenle to fade into the background, but with him gone, it's like all of his efforts have been reversed.
Chenle wants to feel safe. He wants to be by himself where he can breathe his own air and not have it stolen from him by the other boys he lives with. He pushes them from his mind, wiping their faces and forgetting their names like they do to him as he makes his way to the room he shares with three others. Luckily, there's no one in the room when he gets there, it would be hard to explain what he's about to do.
He just needs space, he needs time to be alone and forget about everything. He gets changed into a t-shirt and some sweatpants someone left in the room and throws his dirty clothes in the hamper. He still feels strangled, even in comfortable clothes, everything is too tight. Chenle feels uncomfortable, he always does.
Except for when he does this, when he stuffs himself in the closet he shares with the others and pulls the door shut behind him. They don't have a walk in closet or anything, it's big enough to hold three and a half wardrobes, but small enough that Chenle can tuck himself in the corner, between one of Jisung's big winter coats and some of his sweaters, and block everything out.
When he's in the closet he doesn't have to impress anyone, doesn't have to listen to anyone, doesn't have to wear the mask he usually does. In the closet things are dark and Chenle can't see much, he doesn't mind, he doesn't want to be able to see, he wants to relax and forget where he is. The closet is like a machine that can take him through time and space, transport him a place that isn't where he really is.
The only bad thing about the machine is that sometimes it takes Chenle back to a time he wants to forget even more than the one he currently lives in. He doesn't like to think about what came before Taeyong found him. Doesn't like to think about the orphanage or China or Xiaojun. HE wants to be left alone, for once, he wants to be able to breathe easily.
He fights it off for so long, longer than he'd like to think about. Most days, he can lock himself in the closet and be blissfully numb, but there are some days, like today where ghosts from the past just won't leave him alone. And when they remain ghosts, that's okay, Chenle can deal with that. A manifestation of something that is long dead can be chased away, but when it manifests into a monster, a wild beast that wants nothing but blood a tears, that scares Chenle.
And he feels like a kid. Like he's six years old in the orphanage again, but Xiaojun isn't around to protect him, can't bust the ghosts, defeat the monsters. Chenle hopes they can't find him in here, in the dark, hidden in a closet they wouldn't think to check. On days when he stayed back from school and didn't tell Xiaojun, he would hide in lots of little places so no one would find him. Closets, cabinets, the dumbwaiter. It was a long game of hide and seek.
He isn't sure how long he's been in here, but he can hear muffled voices, like someone is speaking, but they're far away, but Chenle knows they must be in the room with him. The lights remain off, but through the slats in the closet door he can see socked feet silhouetted in the light provided from the hallway before the door is shut again. The person is talking to someone on the phone Chenle realizes. He knows he shouldn't really eavesdrop, but he can't help it. He isn't ready to leave the closet yet.
"I'm alone now hyung," Doyoung says quietly to whomever is on the phone with him, "I left Okinawa three days ago, Yesung hyung just told me to come back. We weren't getting anywhere looking for Taeyong and I think he wanted to do some searching on his own. He said he had contacts in Japan that could help track him down, but he wanted me back in Korea. Not to mention Yixing has us running a job in two days. It would seem suspicious if I weren't here."
There's silence for a long stretch of time before Doyoung continues.
"I'll let you know if I hear anything about Takuya or Yuta. Other than those two I don't think we have to worry about anyone. Jaehyun has absolutely no clue what he's doing as acting leader and Johnny is still heartbroken and hopeful. Ten is the only thing on his mind right now. Everyone else can be taken care of or left alone."
Another stretch of silence and then Doyoung says goodbye to the person on the phone. He hears Doyoung sigh as he leaves. Chenle isn't sure how to process what he heard. He doesn't know who Doyoung was talking to, but what he was saying didn't sound too good. At least Chenle knows where Taeyong is now. If he plays his cards right he could handle the job, maybe even skip it, and then try to find Taeyong in Japan. Doyoung said Okinawa, that kinda narrows it down a little.
The next person to come in the room doesn't come for at least another twenty minutes, but that's lost to Chenle who is only thinking of being reunited with Taeyong. He hears more muffled voices when he tunes back in and he figures there's two people in the room, although he isn't sure who, besides Renjun, is there.
"-e's in the closet again. Can you get him out, you're stronger." Renjun sighs. Chenle hates being an inconvenience and a nuisance, but he doesn't think he could get out himself right now.
The closet door is pulled open and Chenle doesn't chance a look up. He doesn't want to know who Renjun summoned to yank him out of the closet. Everyone but Taeyong is still a monster in boy's skin to him. They kneel in front of him and Chenle snaps his eyes shut. The lights are on and he doesn't want to see them.
"Chenle? Why're you in the closet?" Johnny asks. Chenle takes in a shaky breathe and scoots back, hoping to somehow phase through the wall and away from Johnny's large frame.
"I told you, he does this sometimes." Renjun says for Chenle.
"Renjun, can you give me and Chenle a minute?" Chenle hears Renjun leave the room and then it's just him and Johnny, him and his monster. "Can you tell me why you're in the closet Chenle?"
"Needed some quiet." Chenle shrugs. Johnny gives him a look he can't decipher.
"I know we aren't super close, but... you know you can talk to me if you need it, right?"
Chenle didn't know that, but he nods nonetheless. Anything to get Johnny to leave him alone quicker. He wants to be left alone in his closet in his dark with his ghosts. It is their time right now. he will gladly give his sanity to the ghosts if it means his monster will go away. Johnny gives Chenle a smile, ruffles his hair, and closes the closet door again. He turns the light off on the way out and he hears Renjun raise his voice a little as they talk in the hallway, but Chenle has already started tuning them out.
Chapter 23: I Will Keep Walking No Matter How Harsh The Road Gets
Title taken from Our Page by Shinee
Jaehyun zips up his leather jacket and fixes the collar of his shirt around it, moving the gold chain around his neck so it's almost hidden. He tugs on his matching black leather gloves and picks up the dufflebag from his feet and gives himself one last once over in the mirror before smirking, he can't help but admit he looks good.
He exists the bathroom fully dressed, hair slicked back. He makes his way to the room he shares with Doyoung to retrieve just a little bit of jewelry that makes him look just that bit more expensive. Appearances are important after all. He adds a Rolex and some earrings with real stones, the metal made of pure sterling silver. He looks over his shoulder at Doyoung, who lies in his own bed (which for once is void of Jisung), and winks as he finishes fastening the earring.
Doyoung scoffs and looks down at his phone.
"Who you getting all dressed up for?" Doyoung asks, his visual disinterest betrayed by the lift in his voice. Could that be jealousy Jaehyun hears?
"Lucas' sugar daddy, want him to think I'm a worthy competitor" Jaehyun says, straightening his tie, "You wanna come with? Safety in numbers and all that."
"As if, and you know it doesn't work like that, Sicheng would kick your ass if he heard you talking like that." Doyoung says, laughing because Sicheng really would tear Jaehyun a new one if he heard that.
"You think I'm scared of Sicheng?" Jaehyun chuckles all his own.
"You should be." Doyoung drops ominously and leaves the room. Jaehyun rolls his eyes, Doyoung is always dramatic and vague. Scary Sicheng is like an oxymoron.
Jaehyun checks his appearance for the last time before leaving the house, grabbing his keys on the way out, avoiding the curious looks Renjun sends him and the wails of Chenle asking where he's going. He throws himself into the drivers seat of his bright red car and tosses the dufflebag onto the passengers seat.
He drives without much care. He's been doing it for so long it's become second nature to Jaehyun. When he was younger, few years younger than when Boss (should he refer to him as Yixing now?) found him, he would drag race at night with people who had been driving for years before Jaehyun had even been born, but he still won. There was something about being behind that seat, going so many miles above the speed limit that gave Jaehyun a jolt. He loved it, the wind that bit at his nose so harshly when the windows were down brought something to Jaehyun that he had never felt before. He loved the rush, sometimes he feels like he'd give up anything for that kick of adrenaline again.
He makes it to the place Leeteuk had asked to meet a little before they were set to meet. Gives him time to scope out the place and it's always best to be the first on the scene, better to be early rather than late. The place seems to be an abandoned market, empty shells that used to house Jaehyun doesn't even know what, street food carts line a few of the maze like halls. He isn't sure how he never came across this place, he used to go to traditional markets all the time. He hasn't had the time recently.
He finds a lone chair, pressed against a wall. Usually things left by themselves tend to be bad omens, but Jaehyun doesn't believe in those. Lonely chairs, abandoned cars, lost bags and books never bothered him. He guesses it's because in a way, he connects with them. He's been on his own before. He's been the lone chair pressed against a dirty wall, the car with the dead battery, the unfinished story and the empty bag. So he understands them, they aren't a sign or an omen, they're just alone. And some of them prefer to stay like that.
Approaching footsteps launch Jaehyun out his seat, settling into a comfortable stance, hands in his pockets. He needs to maintain the upper hand, he needs to stay in control of the situation, of himself. He doesn't know who he's dealing with and he doesn't want this to get ugly. He strains his hearing, trying to count the shuffling steps to get an idea of how many men the guy has brought as backup.
Not that it matters.
The man looks equally as expensive as Jaehyun feels, although he's wearing lighter colors than Jaehyun. He's surprised the man would let his expensive business shoes touch the dirty floor of the dilapidated market. He's flanked by two men, one on each side, but just because Jaehyun counts three doesn't mean there aren't more of them. The smiling man in the center has on a bright blue pinstripe suit, a white burgundy-edged handkerchief in his pocket. Jaehyun almost snickers.
"Pleasure to meet you, the man I spoke to on the phone I presume?" He says loudly, arms spread wide in an inviting gesture. Jaehyun nods with a small lift of the corners of his mouth. "Nice to meet you, can I have your name?"
"Jaehyun, and yours?" Jaehyun says, sticking his gloved hand out for the man to shake, which he takes enthusiastically.
"Leeteuk. Nice to meet you Jaehyun, you bring my money?" Straight to business then. Jaehyun can admire that. Another nod and Jaehyun gently kicks the bag at his feet.
"Before I hand it over, I will need the assurance that you won't come looking for Lucas ever again. I like to keep a low profile and having people chasing broken toys they've thrown away is only a nuisance, you understand." Jaehyun doesn't mean it, but there's a certain way people like Leeteuk talk and Jaehyun is good at nothing if he isn't good at reading a person. Leeteuk laughs heartily, a hand on his stomach.
"I understand completely Jaehyun. Don't worry, I assure you that I will not be wanting Lucas back. I'm glad you offered to take him off my hands, if it wasn't for you he was probably just going back to China and I honestly didn't wanna waste a trip just for that." He laughs again. Jaehyun lets out a soft chuckle to appear like he agrees. Jaehyun picks up the dufflebag and passes it over to the man on Leeteuk's left who steps forward to collect it.
"I hope he proves to be more useful to you than he was to me," Leeteuk says, "He couldn't do much right, but I imagine that can be fixed."
"Of course." Jaehyun agrees. He can read a person very well he likes to think, but the mimicking part is something he still has to get down. He knows that both Taeil and Doyoung are very good at that and he's considered on more than one occasion asking for their help.
Leeteuk seems to sense a shift. One Jaehyun wasn't even aware he was making until he saw Leeteuk's eyes look a little more guarded and suspicious.
"You know, I never asked how Lucas came to be in your sights, Jaehyun." Leeteuk says, eyes narrowed as he steps forward. And shit. Jaehyun doesn't really have an answer for that. He knows he's been caught when he feels the cold press of a gun to the back of his head. He was right, there were more than three people.
"I thought this was going to be a simple business transaction, but now I see that you had other plans. How old are you, Jaehyun?" Jaehyun hears the person behind him click the safety off of their gun. The gun is at an angle, angled up higher, so the person behind him has to be shorter than him and from what he can tell, quite a bit shorter.
"I'm 23." Jaehyun answers, teeth gritted. Leeteuk chuckles.
"If I pretend to be immature, please be fooled roughly," Leeteuk sings lightly as he steps closer to Jaehyun. Jaehyun watches as Leeteuk gets closer, singing a little more of the song under his breath quietly. He holds eye contact, he isn't scared of Leeteuk or the gun to his head, so he can't make it look like he is. "Twenty-three. A good age to be. I couldn't even begin to tell you what I was doing at 23, it was dreadfully boring. But you, at 23 you're already makes longer strides than I was. Would you mind telling me who pulls your strings Jaehyunnie?"
"I'm the boss." Jaehyun snarls, causing Leeteuk to laugh.
"An overgrown pup like you can't be the boss, someone's above you. I'll find out who even if you don't tell me." Jaehyun doesn't respond, turning his chin up at Leeteuk, feeling the metal of the gun press into his skin harshly. The person behind him kicks his knees out from under him and he falls to the ground, kneeling in front of Leeteuk.
"I'll find out Jaehyunnie," Leeteuk smiles pitifully down at him.
A shot rings out around them and everyone is still for several seconds. A second shot sounds and Leeteuk snaps into action, running past Jaehyun to get to the person behind Jaehyun to pull them out of the line of fire. The two shots they had heard landed dead center between the eyes of men that stood next to Leeteuk which means the shooter is behind Jaehyun, he scrambles to his feet quickly, grabbing the dufflebag and diving behind one of the abandoned food carts and peers over, looking for the shooter.
He sees Leeteuk and a woman running away to an expensive car. Jaehyun sees no one else around so he assumes the woman was the one who had a gun to his head. He has his arms around her, shielding her from any passing bullets that would try to pierce her. Her hair is short, chopped off at the shoulder and she wears mostly causal clothes. A white blouse, blue jeans, black flats. From behind, she looks like someone Jaehyun would see in the city, a late woman running to catch her bus.
But another shot breaks that.
Unlike the two previous shots, it doesn't lad dead on. The bullet embeds itself in the shoulder of the woman running beside Leeteuk. She lets out an angry cry of pain, falling to one knee, hand clapping over the wound. She gets herself to her feet with little help from Leeteuk and continues running Leeteuk chasing behind her. She throws herself in the drivers seat, much like how Jaehyun had done earlier, and starts the car, pulling away as soon as Leeteuk is safely inside.
Jaehyun waits patiently, he doesn't want to get himself shot. But after three minutes of no more shots, Jaehyun figures it's safe and leaves his cover to hopefully catch a glimpse of the shooter. He looks around, above, across the street and nothing. He runs through the floors of the market, listening for footsteps that echo in his own.
He sees a tall figure turn around a corner, rifle slung over their shoulder and he chases. He's always a little bit too slow it seems, every time he rounds a corner and thinks he has them, they're gone again. Until they both round a corner and come to a long stretch of hallway. From behind Jaehyun is sure he knows who it is.
"Johnny? Johnny!" Jaehyun calls and the figure stops running.
He's the right height, the right build, he has the right hair style and color, but when he turns to face Jaehyun, he is not Johnny. He's a man Jaehyun has never seen and he's armed and just killed two, almost three people.
This is where the fear he hid from Leeteuk kicks in.
Chapter 24: I Lived Just To Know You
Title taken from Restless by Melody Day
Takuya and Yuta have been in China for a few days, hiding out in Zhoumi and Jia's guest room, Yuta more so than Takuya. Takuya comes and goes as he pleases, leaving with one bag and coming home with another. Sometimes he doesn't come home at all and that's frighting. Even more so than before, Yuta can't live without Takuya. If Takuya decided to just not come back to Zhoumi's one night, Yuta would be so incredibly screwed. Yuta doesn't Chinese and he suspects that it takes a long time to learn, Yuta wouldn't have that kind of time.
Unfortunately, Yuta has a habit of thinking of the worst case scenario. He likes to image that Takuya would never leave him, likes to bask in the illusion that Takuya needs him just as much, that their years together actually mean something to him. But he understands the situation he's in. He understands how deep the love Takuya has for Wonho runs, the a cold river beginning and ending in Wonho and Takuya's hearts. He knows it's reciprocated. He knows that Takuya would be well taken care of and loved, should Yuta find himself no longer by his side.
He thinks about it for longer than he should, drowning in the cold sea of possibilities that he could exist without Takuya. That he could be a separate entity entirely. He could move somewhere new, where no one's ever seen his face before, and he could be himself without Takuya attached. And it's a funny little idea, that one day he won't be Takuya's and he won't be Yuta's. Yuta thinks about the day that he will wake up and his heart will not reach for Takuya's.
It's another night where Takuya isn't coming home, he can tell. When the skies fades to black and Takuya still isn't home, Yuta knows he won't be returning until the night bleeds into day, this is how it used to always be when they were younger. Yuta would stay awake and count the hours until Takuya would sneak back through their window, smelling like a cologne like his own.
Yuta wants to leave, at least go on a walk, if he can. He wants to see what the stars look like from China, if somehow they're different than the ones that greet him in Japan or the ones he smiles up at in Korea. He isn't sure if he's allowed to leave though, Takuya never said he could, but he never said he couldn't. Takuya takes that to mean that he should be fine to leave, but he feels like maybe he should ask Zhoumi or Jia for permission, just in case.
He gets dressed, black turtleneck, orange sweatpants which seem to actually be Jaehyun's, with black sneakers and a cap to match. He clips a necklace around his neck and tucks it into his turtleneck for safe keeping. He creeps out of the guest room quietly, if they were already asleep he could probably avoid asking or having to explain himself, but unfortunately he can hear the television playing what sounds like a drama of some sort.
Yuta stands in the corner of the living room, hoping someone will notice him so he doesn't have to announce himself, but as time ticks on and neither Zhoumi or Jia seem to see him, he thinks he should speak up. Just as he's about to say something, Jia gets up from the couch with an empty beer bottle in hand. She yelps when she turns and sees Yuta standing partially in the shadows, dropping the bottle. Luckily, Zhoumi catches it before it can break on the hard wood, but it was close.
"Sorry, sorry!" Yuta announces, his English heavily accented. He doesn't speak Chinese and he isn't sure what all Zhoumi speaks so he takes a shot in the dark with English.
"It's no worries," Zhoumi smiles, bottle in hand. "I caught it. And as you can see, I speak Korean, so we can just talk in that. Unless you prefer Japanese, then you'll have to talk to Jia because I am not fluent in that." He chuckles.
"What's up, do you need something? Takuya said he won't be back until morning if you're looking for him." Jia says, smiling as she passes him on her way to the kitchen.
"I was wondering if you'd mind if I stepped out for a few?" Yuta asks, looking at Jia's retreating figure and then to Zhoumi. Zhoumi looks a little confused and laughs.
"Of course you're allowed to go out Yuta, Jia and I aren't gonna tell you what you can and can't do, just please don't wreck our house." He finishes. Yuta nods, an odd smile on his face and thanks Zhoumi before tugging his sneakers on and leaving the house.
He wanders the streets of the neighborhood for a while, venturing into the more populated part of town, looking for a local hotpot or at least a bar or something. He doesn't want to just get a soda from the corner store, but he might have to seeing as he probably couldn't even ask the bartender for the drink he likes.
So, he settles for the corner store. Takuya gave him a wad of Chinese bills early in the morning yesterday and told him to use it as he pleased, so he's choosing to spend some of it on soda and junk food right now. The shop is small and easy to navigate, looks for familiar packaging or anything interesting. He grabs a basket.
He's half way through clearing a shelf of lime potato chips into his basket when the bell above the door jingles and a man stumbles in. Both Yuta and the tired young man behind the counter look at each other, then to the man with scarlet red hair and a split lip. He stumbles through the aisles, obviously looking for something. The cashier and Yuta both watch with rapt attention as he clings to the shelves, his other arm over his stomach, occasionally knocking things off the shelves.
The cashier asks the man something, but he mutters something and waves him off. He finally makes it to the aisle he was looking for, grabbing a few bottles of antiseptic and bandages, swearing when he drops a box. Yuta makes the trip one aisle over fairly quickly, picking them up before the man can bend down too far. He does, however, get far enough to cause himself discomfort, swearing under his breath in Korean. A light bulb goes over Yuta's head.
He hands the bandages back to the man, who grabs it with a skeptical look. Yuta smiles sheepishly and jostles the basket in his own hand. The man has a lot more damage than Yuta initially took in. Along with the busted lip he has a cut on the bridge of his nose, there's blood dripping out of one nostril, a cut above his eyebrow, and a shallow cut on his neck that's bleeding a lot. Yuta also notices that the man is dressed very expensively. He can tell by the suit he's wearing, same brand Takuya likes.
Yuta makes a split second decision to be his own person, make his own choices.
"Can I bandage that up for you? I'm really good, I promise." Yuta says in Korean, smiling at him. The man raises an eyebrow, gives Yuta a once over, then glances down to his shopping basket. Yuta shuffles nervously and the man smiles a him when he looks back up at him, throwing the stuff he grabbed in Yuta's basket and takes it from him, up to the counter.
The man pays, Yuta following close behind him, trying to protest. The man pays him no mind and waves at the cashier on his way out. Yuta follows nervously after a second. The man is pulling a cigarette out of his inside pocket, placing it between his lips before looking at Yuta.
"Got a light, kid?"
Chapter 25: What Use Is It To Hold Onto Something That Is Scattering?
Title taken from The Day Before by Nell
Mark had bid Jeno goodbye when they reached a safe resting point, a park nearly halfway between Jeno's place and the group home. They both figured that Jisung was hiding and would make his way back when the sirens had faded into the night. With a quick fist bump and a salute, Mark waited until Jeno was out of his line of sight to make his way down a small side street, farther away from the group home.
He likes it there, it's a warm place where he knows he'll be well fed and sheltered, but Mark needs to get out of his head every now and then and being in that house kept too much of the thoughts he so desperately tried to outrun right on his tail. Some times he wishes he lived on his own like Jeno, living with so many other people was so stressful, there's no room to breathe, no space that is only Mark's. But, Mark supposes, this was far easier for Boss to keep track of. Having only one other home for this faction kept things simple.
Mark feels heat on his back, heavy breathing in his ear. A growl behind his back and he's being chased again, a giant wolf of a beast with blood dripping from his fangs, eyes set on Mark for his next meal. He's standing still, struck frozen by fear, lets his breathing pick up before he's running like a bat out of hell. He takes every back street, every alleyway, every cracked sidewalk to lose it. He runs at a speed faster than light itself, anything to lose the wolf, to confuse it. If it can't catch Mark, it can't swallow him whole.
He doesn't even feel like he's breathing anymore, like this basic body function is on the back burner until he's safe. Mark feels like he'll be forever chasing the feeling of safety, even when he was a kids, all he felt was cold and alone, his first memory being pushed into a room with a man who felt larger than life telling him what to do. Mark was so young and scared, but this man promised a bed to sleep in and food to eat as long as he did what he was told. Mark could do that, he thought, he thought he could just live like this. Happy and eager to do whatever he was told just for some false heaven.
But with the wolf on his tail now, he feels the gates shut and lock behind him as he runs farther and farther away from it.
He runs so fast and unknowingly that he plows down an oncoming boy on his phone. Apparently neither of them could see the other, the boy staring down at something on his phone and Mark trying to outrun the wolf. They both fall, Mark on top of the boy, already trying to push himself up, but struggling to do so. In his haste to get back up, he continuously presses onto the boy's stomach, causing the boy to moan out in pain.
Eventually, after many, many attempts of getting up, the boy shoves Mark off of him, groaning and reaching for his phone as he sits up. He sighs in frustration as he takes in the spiderweb of cracks that now decorate his phone's screen. He turns to the guy that knocked him over, about to chew him out and demand reparations for his broken phone, when he sees the state of the boy laying pitifully on the ground.
Mark's hyperventilating, clawing at the ground in an attempt to crawl away, but failing miserably. Tears cloud his vision, obscuring the scenery around him as the only thought on his mind is escape. It runs laps around him in his head, taunting him as another thing he will never truly have. He hears the distant growling of the wolf and cries louder, his chest constricting as he struggles to breathe.
"Hey, hey, can you hear me?" Mark closes his eyes tight and nods his head as he hears the boy speak to him. His words are fuzzy, almost like they're underwater. Mark sure feels like it with the way he can't breathe. "Good, just listen to me, okay? Can you try to breathe for me?"
It takes Mark awhile to get his breath back, the boy has to talk him through it under Mark is finally doing it on his own. They're both still sitting on the sidewalk from when they fell, the boy with a tentative hand reached out like he wants to rub Mark's back in comfort as Mark remains face down in the asphalt. Mark's still crying, cannot seem to stop, the heavy warm droplets trailing down his cheeks one after the other.
"You feeling any better, dude?" The boy asks, eyes full of worry.
All Mark can think of is getting back up and running away at full speed, he needs to keep running or the wolf will catch up to him, it'll rip him apart, it'll ruin him. He struggles to his knees, hands scraping even more on the harsh grounds, tearing the small wounds open making them bigger. The blood that Mark feels on his palms, his knees, his chin, serves as a reminder of what will paint the streets if he lets it get him, the growling of the beast settling in as a low hum, a sort of white noise for Mark.
Mark stumbles to his feet, the boy jumping up to his to catch Mark as he almost falls back over. Mark flinches hard, recoiling in on himself, he pushes the boy away as fast as he can, wrapping his arms around himself. Mark feels the blood from his wounds drip down warm like his tears and he wipes his face instinctively. This boy has already seen Mark so weak, he can't let him see anymore.
He doesn't even think of apologizing for knocking the boy over, just starts to walk away, going as fast as he can with what feels like a twisted ankle. He didn't realize how hard he had hit the boy and subsequently the sidewalk until now, now that he's trying to get away again. How had the wolf not caught up to him yet?
"Dude, hey," the boy calls again, not touching Mark, but getting close enough to, "You don't seem like you should be alone right now, is there someone I can call to come get yo-"
"No. I don't have anyone," Mark says, and it's not entirely a lie. He knows people, people who would come if Mark did call them, but he doesn't want them to. He doesn't want them to know where he is, what he's doing. This is the first time in months that Mark hasn't had someone with eyes on him at all times. Mark takes his wallet out with shaky hands and shoves a couple bills in the guy's hand, speeding up his stumbling pace and calls over his shoulder, "Just- just leave me alone okay, sorry about your phone."
The guy sighs and shakes his head as he chases after Mark.
"What's going on? You sure as hell aren't alright with the way you were running fast enough to knock me clean off my feet. Is someone chasing you?" Mark feels fear spike hot in his heart, his breath speeding up just a bit at the mention of it. "Listen, you don't seem like a bad guy so, if you need a place to crash, my couch is free."
Mark's eyes light up as his mind races. A place devoid of danger and as many people as he's living with currently? This guy could live in the shittiest part of town and Mark would still be thankful, his couch could be the most uncomfortable thing in the would but Mark would still be grateful. He nods his head eagerly.
"Yeah please- can we go back to yours, please?" Mark asks, almost desperately. The boy gives Mark a soft smile.
"Yeah, we can go back to my place, it's not that far. Can you make it?" He asks, a slow gentle hand rests on his back and Mark tenses, but doesn't flinch away. Mark nods, leaning into the hand a little.
He lets the man guide him down the sidewalk back to his house. Mark notices the small dots of blood on the guy's shirt from when he pushed him away not too long ago. Mark feels a wash of guilt rush over him; for ruining the guy's shirt, for breaking his phone, for staining his night with this unfortunate event. Mark feels like he was made to ruin things, spoiling everything he touches. He just hopes he won't sour the boy's helpful and kind spirit with his undesirable personality.
"What's your name? If we're gonna be bunkies I figure we should get to know each other a little." The boy laughs. He has a nice smile, Mark hopes he gets to keep it.
"Mark, you?" He answers quietly.
"Kunhang, but my friends call me Hendery."
As they finally reach the door to Hendery's apartment, it crosses Mark's mind that he hasn't heard the wolf in some time. Maybe Hendery scared it off, chased it away without nothing but his shining smile. Maybe Hendery can keep Mark safe, safer than he kept himself, safer than Taeyong kept him. Maybe this place is warmer than his home, warmer than he could ever hope it to be.
Maybe Mark will be safe and warm with Hendery.
Chapter 26: I'm Still The Same, Even If I Look Different After Time Passes
Title taken from Angel by Chancellor ft. Taeyeon
Jeno has been sitting on the top floor of this abandoned building for hours, looking out the viewfinder of his rifle. He doesn't mind much, he was trained for this. He was taught how to sit still for hours on end, without food, without water, focusing on one task entirely.
He barely moves, flexing his fingers every now and then, keeping his eyes - and his gun - trained on the bottom floor of the hotel across the street. It's late at night, actually probably more into the early hours of the next morning, but Jeno doesn't let himself get distracted enough to check his watch.
A few more seconds tick by, Jeno can hear it in his head, the ticking of his internal clock scratching by. Thankfully, he doesn't have to wait much longer as the door cracks open and his mark, a tall, built man in a suit, walks out boldly with a laugh. There's a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, a woman under his arm. Jeno doesn't get too excited, he lets the man take a few slightly uneven steps, lets the woman swing a little bit more out of his crosshairs, before he gets ready to squeeze the trigger.
Deep breath in. Aim dead center at his heart.
Before Jeno can pull the trigger and kill the man he was ordered to, a strong arm wraps itself around his throat and cuts off his airflow. Jeno scolds himself for not hearing the intruder sooner.
Jeno struggles for breath, but doesn't let that take his mind off escape. He can tell that his attacker is a little taller than him, but a lot stronger. Jeno works out, but this guy feels like pure muscle. He's strong so that means Jeno will have to outsmart him or outrun him. Jeno isn't sure he can do either.
The grip gets tighter, and the air continues to escape Jeno. He grips the arms pressing against his throat, trying fruitlessly to tear them away, only succeeding in wearing himself out quicker. Logically, he knows he should be conserving energy and thinking about how to get out of this, was trained to think like that, but now he's panicking.
Before Jeno can help himself in any way, his vision fades to black and Jeno is lost in his own unconsciousness.
Jeno wakes tied to a chair. He takes a deep breath and tests the ties as he takes in the room. It's dark, even with the overhead light on, limiting Jeno's observation to only things just barely illuminated by this shitty light. The room is just as shitty as the light, it's big, but it's a dump. Dirty floors and walls to match, bare of any furniture except the metal chair he's sat on.
He lets his muscles relax as he wiggles in his bonds, attempting to free himself. The door in front of him opens before he can get too far. His mark, known only to Jeno as a dead man walking, enters the room followed by a statuesque man in all black.
The dead man is wearing a different suit, this one a classy pinstripe in contrast to the classic black he sported the last time Jeno saw him. Jeno takes him in now that he has a front row seat. His right hand is covered in tattoos that Jeno assume crawl up his arm under the suit. There's another tattoo on the left side of his neck, which Jeno quickly spots a dupe of on the right side of the other man's neck. Jeno doesn't have long to ponder the significance of that before he speaks.
"Hey, kid, eyes over here. Listening ears on, okay?" Jeno drags his eyes lazily up to the man's face with a raised eyebrow. The man bends down at the waist to look Jeno in the eyes, "Can you tell me what exactly you thought you were doing last night?"
Jeno doesn't answer, fixing his eyes straight ahead instead of looking at the dead man. He can see the man getting irritated out of the corner of his eye, never a good thing to upset your captor but Jeno knows he can take the punishment pushing him will ensure. He can take it, he thinks as he grits his teeth.
"Yah! I'm talking to you brat!" He shouts as he smacks the back of Jeno's head. Jeno doesn't let it affect him, bouncing right back into his previous position and fixating on the wall ahead of him to take himself out of the situation.
The man snarls as he takes a handful of Jeno's hair and yanks his head back, seeming to inspect his face and the little bit of his neck his turtleneck allows. Jeno doesn't know what he's looking for, doesn't care to ponder it either.
"Do me a favor and tell me who sent you, kid. You're lucky I'm one of the good ones, I don't exactly like killing children. I can make an exception, should it come to that, though." He lets Jeno's hair go, smacking the back of his head again for good measure.
Jeno almost slips, wanting to tell the man that he is not a kid, that he hasn't been a kid for a long long time, but he lets the petty comments die in his throat. The man steps back a few paces, still right in front of Jeno, but father away. The other man, who Jeno forgot was even in the room, moves closer instead, his black clad figure hiding the dead man.
"One chance kid, that's all I'm giving you. You tell me here and now, while I'm nice, who sent you, or I leave and Max gets to have his fun with you. If I leave, I won't stop him, I want you to think about that. Whatever he chooses to do, I won't stop."
He waits for a few beats, hoping for an answer from Jeno, he assumes. Jeno, however, does not answer. He won't give in to threats, Jeno can take the pain if he were to follow through.
The man sighs and Jeno hears his retreating footsteps, then the door closes. And then Jeno is alone with the man made to be a monster. Jeno knows exactly what this guy is like, strong and silent, kills without hesitation, loyal to a fault, follows every order. He's Doyoung. He's Yuta. He's human. And Jeno can wait a human out.
A human gets tired, gets hungry. A human has to stop, break. Jeno can outlast that. He has to. He won't let this man break him. For all Jeno knows, this could all be a test orchestrated to test his loyalty, his usefulness. He's of no use if he breaks at the first threat of harm.
The man crouches down so he can get a better look at Jeno. He looks him over and smiles with a small chuckle. Jeno knows that's never a good sign, but pushes it away. Jeno can survive this. Jeno can outlive this. Jeno will overcome this.
Jeno is durable, built to last.