In space, no one can hear you scream.
Yifan woke up when he felt a hand play with the skin on his hip, fingers searching for the hem of a shirt - or a boxer - to play with. He chuckled when he felt Minseok go tense, remembering that they had slept naked, his husband curling around the taller man, hiding his face between the pillow and Yifan's head as he hugged him tighter. Neither said anything, but Yifan caught the blanket that had slipped off of his body that night in favor of covering Minseok, and brought it up until it hid half of his face. He relaxed, enjoying the warmth of the other man spooning him, feeling every bit content and warm.
"I know what you're trying to do," Minseok mumbled in the crook of his shoulder, lips gently pressing a kiss on the other's shoulder. Yifan hummed innocently, a smile on his face before turning around, grabbing his husband’s arm resting on his chest and using it to pull him closer. Minseok was still sleepy, from the way his movements were so lax, heavy, or the way his eyes were still closed, pink skin hiding the deep blue of his irises. "We're not going back to sleep."
Yifan thought it was ironic he was the one saying that, considering he was the one with eyes closed.
He wound his arms around Minseok, resting one hand on the small of his back, and slowly sliding the other one to grab one of Minseok’s - naked - buttcheek. He leaned down, pressing a kiss on each eyelid - chuckling at the way his husband whined. "Really ?" Butterfly kisses on the side of his left cheek prepared Minseok for the teeth playing with his skin - Yifan aimed for a sensible patch of skin just under his jaw, one that had been marked the night before - as well as one hand descending lower between his legs, teasing his inner thighs and threatening to approach even more private parts.
"Fan," he warned. "We had sex last night." He pulled away, opening his eyes to see the younger man pout. "You came three times."
With an air of finality, Minseok slipped out of the bed, laughing when he heard Yifan groan and roll around, no doubt burying himself under the soft blanket. He was always so desperately horny in the mornings, waking up beside the man he had decided to share the rest of his life with. And sometimes - often - Minseok was willing to go along, tracing fingers alongside old and new marks he had left, results of the nights spent into each other arms, or scars, the many stretch marks on his hips, tattoos. But not today.
Instead, Minseok decided to stretch in front of his husband, and Yifan, even with the blanket shielding him from seeing most of the room, watched the other man change.
Before meeting him, Yifan never would have thought a man could be so beautiful. Minseok - as well as another one of his brothers - was part of a race of Beings called Shuijings. Their skin ranked from greyish, pale pinks to very dark purples, depending on where they and their ancestors lived, but Minseok's skin was a bright, yet somehow muted pastel, a soft and beautiful color Yifan couldn't seem to get enough of. He had always looked so ethereal, so weirdly out of this world to Yifan, and maybe the fact that he could morph his body into crystal was a part of this. Rare were the species of beings capable of changing their body in such an extreme way, and usually they were either feared or seeked as object of collection by rich people or smugglers.
Yifan did not care about all of this, because he could get lost in Minseok's blue eyes any day, those same irises reminding him of precious gems he sure wanted to keep for himself.
The smaller man bent down, ass on full display, obviously teasing his husband - who silently admired the show - to grab boxers and a shirt - Yifan's. It was too big on him, obviously, seeing as Minseok was more than a head smaller than him, and he thought it was both adorable and fucking hot. And Minseok knew. That little fucker.
The Shuijing lifted the blanket up when he walked back toward the bed, finding his husband's face before kissing him, a hand taming his hair.
"Don't fall asleep again, I'm gonna make breakfast."
"Good morning Minseok."
He hummed at the sound of the ship's artificial intelligence's voice. Model 99-00TAN, or as the married couple liked to call him, Tan. It was common in ships, from the small ones just like the one they were in - a spaceship that they had asked Zitao to name, year ago - to the biggest ones from the galactic army. They were taking care of the ship, watching over every possible problem anyone could encounter. A few years ago, the option of adding a personality to an AI was offered, and Yifan and Minseok took it. They were used to a crew bigger than the two of them, and regardless of the fact that they were a couple, they feared loneliness. It was good to have ‘someone else’, too.
"Good morning Tan. What's up,” Minseok asked.
He opened the cupboards, grabbing bread and fig jam, the kind Baekhyun got them addicted to in their old ship, as well as some fruits for himself, knowing what Yifan usually took for breakfast. He laid them on the table, listening to the AI's report on the ship's activities of the previous night, as he sat on a chair and started cutting slices of bread. "We crossed a meteor field when we went through the She'oth moons area. No damages were reported. At 2.13 AM Zitao called. He left a message stating, quote "Sorry I just remembered your current timezone, but call me whenever, I'm kind of really stressed out." End quote."
Minseok chuckled. It was not unusual for Tao to completely miss the time when he was calling them. He made a mental note to not forget and actually tell Yifan this time. There was an incident in which Minseok had been too sleepy to actually remember, but Tao had been left waiting for a call from his parents for a full week before calling again, this time catching them awake. Yifan had been pouty all day, sad that he had missed an opportunity to talk to his baby.
"Got it. Did we deviate from our trajectory ?" He shaped his right index finger into a knife, the crystal cutting through the skin of the peach he was currently peeling.
"I corrected it. We did not get delayed."
"Okay. Thanks Tan."
Minseok was eating the last remaining quarter of a peach when Yifan entered the kitchen, with his dark hair tousled and strands falling on his brown skin. He brushed it away, forcing it out of his eyes before sitting next to Minseok, their arms brushing comfortably. He was barely dressed - but at least wearing boxers. Just because they were married didn’t mean Minseok wanted to see him walking around naked all day.
"Tao messed up the timezones again," Minseok started. "We should call him back in a few or he's going to be mad."
Yifan hummed, slowly munching on his piece of bread - that had carefully been covered in jam by Minseok earlier.
If Minseok was a weirdly enchanting being, what with his entrancing deep eyes and pink skin, his fairy like appearance, the way light would sometimes catch on his whole being, blinding anyone who was looking at him, Yifan was part of a more concrete, robust, one could even say primal race of beings. They were called Oznakians, and you didn’t need to spare more than a second to realise both Yifan and Minseok's species could be filed under the adjectives diametrical opposites.
Where Shuijings tended to be on the smaller side, Oznakians were often tall. Shuijings relied on speed and surprise when fighting - which happened more than you would think, in a universe that was supposed to be at peace - Oznakians were all about upfront attacks and sheer strength - both characteristics reflecting in their bedrooms activities, as Yifan once noticed. Shuijings were a striking, to say the least, category of beings. They were colorful in every aspect : skin, eyes, hair, eye-catching from their morphing abilities and weirdly bright appearance caused by the crystalline texture. The pure definition of stunning in most people’s dictionary. And, of course, Oznakians were made to disappear in the crowd - or more precisely in their own environment. Oznaki was one of these planets where it was more night than day, and most beings had, for survival, evolved into darker versions of themselves. And Yifan was not an exception, dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes. Looked every bit harsh and violent, and it wasn’t helped with the amount of tattoos littering Yifan’s skin - though oznakians were some of the few Beings who weren’t in conflict within their owns. The only spots on Yifan that could be considered light were the scars littered everywhere on his skin, from the dumb cuts he caused while cooking to that one time he ran away from an Izgaryan - fire breathers, tricky mother fuckers, no offense Chanyeol - with a passed out Lu-han in his arms.
Yifan frowned at the memory. This one had been a long mission, and he was pretty sure his friend still had bad nightmares because of it.
Minseok and Yifan’s appearance opposed them in every way, yet it never affected them. They have been married for the past ten years, had adopted Zitao two years before the wedding and were happily living together on the same 2-person crew ship since five years, going back and forth between planets, sometimes delivering shipments, other times as mercenaries. They still kept in touch with their old crew, part of them being family - what with Minseok's brothers composing half of the old crew and Baekhyun being married to one - and the other part people they both grew with and cared for much more than usual crews did.
Another thing that linked them all together was Zitao. From the moment they got him on the ship, he got himself a new family, a crowd of beings that were much more different than him, from Lu-Han who could disappear to Jongdae and Jongin with their completely black eyes and acute relation to their environment. Yifan was glad to know that Zitao had so many different people he could look up to, growing up, so many people to love him - not that Minseok and Yifan's love wasn't enough. But, as he took a big enthusiast bite out of his bread, he decided that Zitao deserved the best, and all the love he could get. Because in the current universe, being a Terran wasn't easy as they were only a handful and very prone to being smuggled. Which actually happened once and no one, no one in their right mind would take Zitao again if they didn’t want to face the wrath of not only very angry, very protective Oznakian and Shuijing dads, but also eight other beings who you should most certainly Not Fuck With™.
They settled on the main deck, the big screen taking up half of the room. It was usually filled with a lot of data, a good dozen of different maps with different informations such as radioactive fields, heat sensors, path map or again, life detection map. But all were closed when Zitao's face filled the screen, a fond smile on both their faces when they heard him slip out an enthusiastic and eager hi.
And they listened warmly as Zitao, the now eighteen years old boy, told them about how his exams had gone, how much he was stressed out about the results, how many possibilities of him failing and having to fucking retake his year-
(“Language, Tao, don’t take your dad’s bad habits-”
“Minseok you really got nothing to say on that matter you’re the one who keeps swearing like a madman when working on something-”)
And then when Zitao calmed down, asked about them, how they were doing, how Tan was doing-
(“He’s an android Tao-” had started Yifan before taking Minseok’s elbow in his rib cage, Minseok who at some point had climbed on his lap, leaning on his husband’s chest.)
“You know, Baekhyun called the night before my exams,” Zitao added, a nervous laugh bubbling in his throat. “I didn’t think he would remember, what with uncle Junmyeon- Yeah. I mean.” His shoulders collapsed, a sad sigh leaving him. “I’m glad he called though. I miss him.”
Yifan glanced down at Minseok, but saw no visible reaction to that particular conversation, no sad eyes, no clue indicating a mood shift. He however sunk a bit more into Yifan before answering their son.
“It’s been eight years Tao. Baekhyun is a grown adult, he’s getting by. He can’t not live because of Junmyeon’s state.” Zitao hummed. It was quiet, but Yifan heard the strain in his voice. “But we should visit them when we finish this mission. After all we’re gonna have to celebrate our baby getting into the piloting school he wanted-”
Minseok grinned when Zitao huffed, embarrassed by his dad’s words, the badly hidden praise and the high trust in his abilities. Yifan stopped focusing on the conversation, deciding instead to rub a soothing circle on his husband’s hip with his thumb, feeling the distress the name of his younger brother brought in him. Minseok and him often talked about it, about him, about Junmyeon, and he knew the smaller man had lost hope a long time ago. He was resigned about his brother’s fate. Or so, that was what he was telling Yifan, because with the way he would stiffen a bit when he was mentioned, the way he would always call Baekhyun to check up on him, check up on his brother, Yifan knew better.
When the call disconnected, they sat there in silence. Minseok pretending it wasn’t affecting him, and Yifan acting as if he was blind to the obvious pain in his heart.
The Shuijing knew perfectly well he wasn’t fooling anyone, but as he had just told his son, it was no use worrying about things that hadn’t changed in years. He concentrated on the warm arms around him, thoughts going back to the earlier night, sighing when he shuffled on Yifan’s lap, straddling him. By the way his husband was looking at him, Minseok knew he knew he needed a distraction. He leaned down, a powerful and needy kiss, hands caught in the taller being’s hair. They hummed in unison, pleasure invading them as Minseok kept grinding down.
And Minseok let himself drown in the touches, Yifan catching him, always here when he needs him, when he wants to forget everything he needs to.
Junmyeon was humming a low tune when Minseok got in the room late at night - or what they considered night, which was when most of the loud crew was asleep - Chanyeol, Jongdae, Baekhyun, Luhan- even Tao. The boy was loud for a kid that was supposedly traumatized. But no one would complain, they wanted him happy, and if it meant for him to whine every minute he was awake, they'd take it.
Minseok sat down on one of the very comfortable chairs beside his younger brother, warm from a shower - shared with Yifan, and Junmyeon guessed they'd gone a bit steamy, because he was glowing. The older Being watched silently as Junmyeon looked over papers on his tablet, biting his lips in concentration, reading files after files. Then, he stopped.
"What's up," Minseok asked, "found us a job ?"
Junmyeon silently handed the tablet to his brother, and with the way his face suddenly got grim, Minseok knew to sober up and get serious. And he frowned right alongside Junmyeon when he understood what this was all about.
Their crew and ship was known to people who looked into it, as mercenaries, either getting precious shipment from one point to another, or dealing with criminals, with a good amount of money into the bargain. However, it happened, sometimes, for them to get their nose into things that were none of their business - Zitao was proof of that. When he joined the crew, Kyungsoo had managed to break into the black market’s network, and it happened that Junmyeon - or any other members, honestly - stumbled upon deeply wrong shit and felt like they needed to fuck it up. Beings trafficking was one thing they'd meddled with several times, some of their crew members having even been part of it - part of the goods. Baekhyun included. But another thing was the illegal facilities where doctors or scientists would experiment.
On alive, unwilling beings.
The exchange Minseok was reading were between a trafficking network and one of their client. It was easy to guess the later were those kind of people.
He handed the tablet back to Junmyeon, nodding. They'd talk to the rest of the crew about if on the next shift.
There was not a day in Minseok’s life where he wouldn’t think about his brothers. The four of them were obviously separated in appearance, their parents not being from the same race of Beings. Minseok and Junmyeon shared the crystalline, pink skin of their father, thought Junmyeon’s was of a lighter color than his big brother, pale skin a characteristic he took from their mother. Jongdae and Jongin, the two youngest, were not Shuijings, but M’nyas, a race of Beings known for being unsettling to most. One of their particularity was their constant awareness of the movements around them, almost as if they could view the world at a slower pace, which surprised a lot of persons unaware of this - Zitao made it his mission, when he first got on the ship, to surprise Jongdae or Jongin. He never managed, but would still try on days they’d see each other, an eternal challenge he gave himself.
What was the most troubling upon meeting a M’nya, was their eyes, two black orbs contrasting on their fair skin - a shade so close to white a lot of their veins were visibles - entrancing in a way that you had to be physically shaken to look away. It usually took a few days to get used to, but they had encountered beings who did not care and who would just act scared, or worse, repulsed. Some believed they were Beings born from black holes, here to bring pain and bad luck. Which was totally stupid since their planet was as normal as any other.
There was not a day where he didn’t think about them, from how they were doing to did Jongdae tell mom about Chanyeol ? or is Jongin still crushing on that Taemin guy ? as well as many concerns toward their safety and emotional health. It wasn’t rare for one of them to tell Minseok about a sly racist comment they caught.
There was not a day where Minseok didn’t feel the urge to call them, just to hear their voice and know they were okay. He used to do that a lot, the entire year after Junmyeon’s accident, actually. He couldn’t bear not being near them, because he was scared, nightmares plaguing his mind at night and leaving him restless all day.
If something had happened to Junmyeon- and him- it could happen to them too, right ?
He used to have Junmyeon to joke about it, about Minseok having kind of a brother complex, wanting to protect them when they were fully capable of doing so. But since the day he saw Junmyeon come too close to death, he couldn’t help it.
Should have been you, a voice whispers in his ears. He ignores it.
He could remember evenings spent in the ship, while they were docked in Raesh’a, a planet too small to interest any dealers, too common. The three of them would huddle together on this couch in the living room they all knew was too small, falling asleep and waking up after bad dreams, relaxing only when realising that it was only their imagination.
At that time they didn’t know if Junmyeon was going to survive. Baekhyun was basically living at the hospital. Yifan had to drag Minseok up to force him to eat, force him to take meds and rest. Minseok had been the most affected by it. He still was, eight years after. He couldn’t stop blaming himself.
No one had come out of this last mission the same as before.
Minseok opened his eyes slowly, puffy and wet. The lights were all off, and he knew it was the middle of what they called “night”, their sleep shift. It was hard to tell, in space. Once the lights inside the ship were shut, beside from the emergency ones in the corridors, everything was dark, except maybe the distant stars you could see from the windows. Remnant of familiar faces and screams engraved in his memories were starting to fade away, and he just felt so cold. He tried to ignore it all, ignore the guilt blooming in his chest like every time he dreamt of Junmyeon. The muscles in his arms all ached when he turned around to face his husband. Yifan was fast asleep, features relaxed and mouth slightly open, and Minseok just observed him, in the dark. It wasn’t rare for him to wake up in the middle of the night, and it either took him a long time to get back to sleep or he had to get up and do something. But one of his favorite activities, in the middle of the night, was watching Yifan sleep.
Their relationship hadn’t been a surprise to most of their old crew, some - like Baekhyun or Jongdae - even playing matchmakers. Yifan and Minseok were both men of few words, but they had reached ways to understand each other beyond words. His husband had the talent to reassure him and comfort him when he needed to be, and so did Minseok. They had fallen in love trying to soothe each other’s scars, and along the way they were here to heal new ones. And Minseok had never felt safer than beside him.
He leaned forward carefully, grazing his husband’s cheeks with his lips, following the the path of the black line crossing Yifan's face - an old tattoo. Oznakians marked events in one's life on their skin. Affection rushed through Minseok’s body, chest suddenly so warm. He laid back down, sneaking an arm around Yifan, face pressed under his jaw, closed his eyes again, trying to think about dark skin pressed against his, fingers tracing the lighter paths littering his chest and thighs, avoiding at all cost the remains of dead eyes and dull crystal-
“Dreamt of him again ?”
Startled, Minseok opened his eyes, stared in the dark. A quiet “yes” was heard in the room. Yifan sighed softly, sleep numbing his movements. He rested his hand on Minseok’s neck, tracing soothing patterns tingling on his skin.
“Are you gonna be able to sleep again ?”
He halted in his movement, nodded before remembering Yifan couldn’t see him. “Yeah. Don’t worry about me, ‘Fan.”
Yifan’s hands climbed up, from his neck to his ear, stroking his exposed cheek before getting tangled in his smooth hair. Minseok smiled when he felt lips pressing against his head, affection flooding his in chest. He hugged Yifan closer, relaxing in the embrace. He could feel him succumb to sleep once again, hand lax in his hair, chest rising and falling slowly. Minseok blinked, a movement in the dark suddenly catching his attention.
He stared at a point in darkest corner of the chamber, sure the movement was coming from here, but soon sleep caught up to him, almost like a drug, and it’s only when his lids closed for the last time that he noticed, in the darkness of the room, two eyes, watching.
"I'm not sure letting you both go head first in this hell hole is the best course of action."
Junmyeon shrugged at Chanyeol's words, eyes meeting Minseok’s owns before answering slowly.
"You know how this kind of people work. There is no use breaking in violently and unprepared. We have to be sneaky about it. We don't know if they have sensors for Lu-Han either, so he can't sneak in. They would probably be happy to get a couple of rare beings, anyway, and it would be useless if it were Jongdae and Jongin-"
They both nodded in unison. Getting a M'nyas to submit, or capture one was almost unheard of and close to impossible. It was a fact well known in the galaxy. If either of them were to get in, they'd be watched much more closely than others.
"Our goal is to..." his eyes shifted to Baekhyun slightly, who seemed much more nervous than for their usual pre job mindstorming. Who wouldn't be, Minseok thought, when the man you loved, a rare and very visible, very mysterious to the science Being was about to walk in a mad scientist shit show.
Minseok's gaze shifted to Yifan, his own husband. He didn't seem as nervous as Baekhyun, but then again, Baekhyun had a tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve. Yifan was a total opposite. Minseok snuggled his head against Yifan's shoulder, lacing their fingers.
(Maybe Minseok was the one who was worried).
"... to get the patients out," Junmyeon continued, as if his sentence hadn't died down earlier in favor of having a silent conversation with his husband. "I know no one likes this, but you all also know I won't back down from this job either." And once again his eyes drifted toward Baekhyun, but he managed to stop himself. He wasn't doing this for Baekhyun. He was doing this because it wasn't right.
("And also because Baekhyun's gone through this, and he doesn't want this kind of shit to make him upset," Minseok whispered with a sad smile to Jongdae, later that day.)
Chanyeol exhaled loudly, dark smoke coming out of his mouth in sign of annoyance. But he did not add anything, instead folding his hands together, glaring at the floor. Minseok couldn't blame him. It was a dangerous, and one slip up could end terribly wrong. But it wasn't the first time they did operations like this, and who knows, maybe it wouldn't be the last.
"So," Kyungsoo started, "to sum it all up. Minseok and Junmyeon, acting as Yifan's marchandise, he delivers them against some money, act like sedated patients-"
He stopped there, not sure how to word what was next, or just because he did not need to state the obvious. But, as Minseok's hold on Yifan's hand tightened, he leaned back up, watching his crew mates one after the other, determined.
"And then, we strike."
Junmyeon's eyes were the last one he met, dark, and ready.
“There are records of the system having been breached.”
Yifan’s train of thought broke when Tan’s voice resonated in the ship, alerted by his statement. “Breached ? When ?”
He could feel the wires heating in the system, Tan’s answer slower than usual. “Two shifts ago. I-” The AI’s voice broke, with lack of other word, becoming clearly digitized, a rupture from the illusion of him being alive. Yifan frowned, pivoting the pilot’s chair to face the screen. Nothing looked wrong. “Tan ?”
“Yes, Yifan ?” The AI sounded back to normal.
“When was that breach you told me about ?”
“There was no breach recorded in the system.” Yifan frowned. He pressed some keys, opened the digitized historic of the system before asking again, even though he shouldn’t have to. AI’s were rational beings - if you could call them beings, after all, where to trace the line when engineers were giving AI’s personalities - basing their conversations on facts and datas. He should not have to ask again.
“You told me about the system being breached, Tan. What about it ?”
“There was no breach recorded in the system.”
He frowned, but going through the historic manually, there indeed was nothing recorded. They might have to upgrade him, or maybe something went wrong in the machine’s room. A simple short circuit. He leaned back on the chair, ready to call Minseok - who was much more of an engineer than he was - to take a look at it when two arms draped over his shoulders, Minseok tucking his head on his husband’s right shoulder with a lazy smile.
“Hey babe, what’s up ?” Yifan squirmed when the smaller being dropped a kiss on the side of his neck. “I heard you talk with Tan.”
Yifan turned the chair around, facing Minseok and tugging him closer, on his lap. If there was one thing he should be thankful for when it came to living with only Minseok - and Tan but Tan didn’t have any concept of what was decent or not - it was that he could be grossly affectionate with his husband at any moment. He dropped a kiss on his collarbone, then another, higher, trailing more against his neck, chuckling when Minseok squirmed, half assedly attempting to push him away. He knew if he really wanted to get away, he’d morph, sharp crystal always ready to pinch and cut when needed.
However Yifan stopped when he reached his husband’s ear, leaving a light bite before tucking his head against his shoulder. “I think Tan is malfunctioning. He said there was a breach and when I asked him about it he said there were none.” Minseok hummed.
“Maybe a short circuit, I’ll check it out.” Yifan leaned back on the chair, Minseok staying upright, knees straddling Yifan, ready to get up and walk in the room Tan’s core was placed in. Something caught Yifan’s attention before the Shuijing got up. He tugged his husband forward, eyeing the strange, dark patch of skin he was sure he hadn’t touched last time they got frisky.
“Did you-” He reached out, smoothing a thumb over it. “Did you hurt your neck ?” Minseok scoffed.
“What, did you reach the age where you start losing your memory ? I’m older than you but i sure do remember where I left hickeys,” he responded, fingers pressing against a faint bruise on Yifan’s collarbone. The latter slapped his thighs, grumbling something about where the respect had gone before inspecting what looked like a mean bruise closer.
“No I’m sure I didn’t-”
“Pretty sure you did. You got rather playful with those teeth this morning.” Minseok leaned down, pecking Yifan’s lips before sliding out of his grip. “If you’re that worried about a hickey you should stop sucking so hard, babe,” and with those last words he left the cockpit, heading to Tan’s core.
Tan’s core was situated at the center of the ship, in the same room as the nuclear motor. It wasn’t the smartest idea, Minseok would always say, because if one were to go wrong, the other would probably be affected too. The fact that Tan’s system had seemed damaged was a bit worrisome already, they'd usually prefer to deactivate him entirely if the damages where a more than a short circuit, the risk too big with their motor in the same room. Without Tan, they would have to fly that ship by themselves, which meant they’d have to rotate.
It was pretty annoying for a married couple.
It would also mean they’d have to fly to the closest planet and get him fixed, which would get them late in their current mission's schedule. It’s not that they needed the money badly, but it was a question of reputation - and pride, on Yifan’s side.
However, by the time Minseok had gotten his tools back in their case, he had found nothing. No weirdly shaped cable, no data cube out of place and nothing to indicate a short circuit either.
It did bug him, but he didn't dwell on it. It happened.
“He’s clear,” Minseok declared in the communication device both he and Yifan wore.
”Nothing, really ?”
“Nope,” the last syllable popping out of Minseok’s mouth. “I’m going back up.”
He did not hear Yifan’s answer through the device, but he didn’t notice, too busy picking up his stuff. He grabbed the metal case, the tools rattling loudly inside it, absently checking the system’s activity on his portable screen - it’s not that he didn’t trust Yifan to spot a breach, but it was better to double check.
The lights flickered. He raised his eyes to the ceiling, an eyebrow cocked. He let a few seconds pass, somewhat suspicious, before getting back to the blocks of digital data he had to go through. When the light flickered a second time, he frowned, noticing that power drop wasn’t getting added to the data on his screen. It was supposed to record every little shift in power, in devices efficacy through the ship. The third time, it was more than the ceiling lights whose energy seemed disturbed. Minseok’s portable screen shut off. He glanced back up, eyes wide and conscious of what that could mean.
White noise started building in his ears, and for some reasons he couldn't find it in himself to move his feet- could feel his arms shift, sharp blades ready to attack, his body reacting by itself to his stress signals-
The lights kept on flickering and I knew- i knew- I couldn't see properly but I knew-
Then lights turned on again, not leaving him any time to panic. His hands were back to normal, not even feeling them morph back, the white noise has disappeared, the only thing he could hear was the familiar rumble of the engines - and his own rapid breath.
“Tan ?” His voice was so small, so vulnerable, and he felt as much when he called for the AI.
“Yes, Minseok ?” Relief washed over him when he heard the familiar voice. No static. No white noise. No volume fall.
“What was that ?”
The AI pause for a second. “What are you talking about ?”
Minseok frowned, “The lights shut off,” he continued, a hand gesturing toward the ceiling knowing perfectly well Tan wouldn’t care for the gesture.
“I have no record of that, Minseok-”
“Not even on cameras ?”
“No-” Minseok looked around frantically, not sure anymore if he had actually lived that or just dreamt awake. He shivered, suddenly very cold. “However your vital signals have been slowly dropping recently. They show no sign of illness but you might want to lie down for a bit.”
He absently nodded, Yeah, that must be it, he thinks. He picks up his tools again, digital screen - which was now normally lit - tucked under his arm as he walked toward the door, standing in front of it for a second. His eyes scanned the room another time, and even if he found nothing again, he couldn’t help but feel like there had been something standing in the dark, watching him.
Yifan knew it was never going to be a good idea, but he had long since passed the point of trying to argue with Junmyeon when he had a plan set. The suspicious eyes of the short being in a white coat who had greeted them had been enough to set his alarms on, but he knew he had to keep up with the plan. Stay focused on the money. Getting the good end of the bargain. Act like you don't care, you just want to get rich. And that's what he did, thought Yifan had never been the best at bargaining and lying, but he couldn't make a mistake.
He didn't even flinch when they ripped Minseok's clothes apart, to check if he really was uninjured, the scientist (?) said. But fuck, if he didn't have Junmyeon's words echoing in his mind, something about keeping calm and in character, he would have pounced, tearing his throat apart. Fuck he hated this salacious laugh bubbling out of the guy's mouth.
"You thought we wouldn't check ?" He pointed one of Minseok's scars, the most visible, old, a dull purple and reaching across his chest. "That's going to get you a big malus, friend."
Yifan bit his lower lip, acting the part, yet so aware of the uncomfortable whimper Minseok - his fucking husband - let out when the scientist spread his palm across the most prominent scar on his chest. He did not ask any question about it though, just checking how recent it was, before exploring the Shuijing's body, reaching for patches of naturally crystallized skin, more scars on his hips, and he didn't even show any shame when he reached to squeeze Minseok's ass.
When all of this will be over, Yifan was going to kill that guy. There's going to be a lot of blood.
The scientist finally stepped back, smug and eyebrows raised. Yifan raised an eyebrow. The short man nodded to something behind him. And before he managed to turn around, Yifan felt a needle settling in the back of his neck, just late enough to hear both Minseok and Junmyeon exhale sharp cries, falling the the ground, now defenseless.
Waking up was never the best feeling, Minseok thought, but he just felt bad, this time. He was awake, he knew it, he just had such a hard time getting his eyes to open. He somehow was too exhausted to get past that point, but managed to open his eyes slightly a few minutes after he turned aware of that. There was a sharp pain on his neck, probably from sleeping in a bad position, and most of his limbs felt numb, and he was so, so cold, despite the blanket covering his shoulders. However, there was one good thing, and it was Yifan sitting next to him on one of those super comfortable chair they had bought for the living room, concentrating on a book he had borrowed from Yixing last time they saw him, a few months ago. Yifan usually didn’t have a hard time reading - was actually more at ease with learning, reading, than most people Minseok knew, including himself - but the little folds between his eyebrows told him that that book was more difficult than Yifan had first thought.
Yixing used to be the one in charge of medical care, in their old ship. It wouldn’t surprise him if that book was related for some reasons. Neither Minseok or him were doctors, if something was wrong with his husband, Yifan would do as much as he could to help him recover.
Except Minseok didn’t think he was sick. There were no way to prove it, but he didn’t feel sick. Just… weird. Like a stomach bug or something. He sighed in the pillow, slowly curling up on himself. Yifan chuckled, closing his book to wholly focus on Minseok, a hand softly stroking strands of dark hair.
“Hello, love,” he breathed out, deep voice echoing in warm waves in a way only he managed to do. “How do you feel ?”
Minseok hummed, his husband’s warm fingers on a spot Yifan knew he liked. “You don’t have to do that, ‘Fan.”
“Do what ?” he asked, his hand now descending to Minseok’s neck, thumb on the precious stone decorating his ear. “Take care of you ? I signed up for it, I’m your husband,” he crooned, smiling when he saw Minseok’s hand twitch to grab the necklace attached dangling from Yifan’s neck.
Marriage wasn’t an easy affair, nowadays, what with all sort of cultures having different sorts of celebrations. Both of their species were by tradition fond of long banquet, linking two - or more - persons together a grand event where friends and family would meet again. Another thing were the long days of honeymoon - which often meant fucking in peace, which was something they were both very excited for at the time since living on a ship with eight other persons wasn’t the most private thing.
Some species didn’t have ways to show they were committed to another person. Humans as well as a generous amount of other species shared the ring. On Yifan’s side, they would offer a pair of earrings, carved into a precious mineral present on Oznakia. Polished and of bright colors, it contrasted with its inhabitants skin, a clear sign that the person was taken. Minseok never took them off, the stone a rich blue he found mesmerizing.
Shuijings, however, took the symbolism a notch deeper, taking the ”I’m offering you a part of me” in their vow on the literal side. When a Shuijing wanted to propose, it took time and effort. When shifting, they would produce a more important amount of crystal than their body. The whole ritual was to break off a piece of it, and shape it days after days into a pendant that was now resting on Yifan’s chest.
Minseok smiled softly.
“Okay,” he said, eyes entranced by Yifan’s gaze.
The ship was filled with soft music under Yifan's demand when he walked back to their room, Minseok already fast asleep, still exhausted. Tan hadn't caught any sign of illness, only that his health was deteriorating. Once his husband had fallen asleep again, Yifan had tried calling Yixing, after all he would know better. Minseok had only fallen ill a few times since they've known each other, and all those times Yixing had been the one taking care of him. He knew how his body worked, what kind of stuff Yifan could do without the medications necessary. Or, in the worst case, what to do if he needed immediate medical care.
"It's not even a fever, it's just-" Yifan sighed, gathering his thoughts once again as his friends waited patiently on the other side of the universe. "He's been kind of tired lately, and now he's just- exhausted. Tan said, I quote, that his vital signs have been dropping."
Yixing hummed, half of a smile spreading on his face. "Nothing else ?"
For a second, he stared in the void, thinking about it. "There is that weird mark on his neck."
"Weird mark ?" Yifan nodded. "How weird ?"
"Well, for once, it's not like, the usual color of his bruises. It's not usually that. That dark. It's weird."
Yixing chuckled. "It might be nothing. I mean, it's well known what you two spend your time doing, wouldn't surprise me if it was a hickey gone bad. And, you know, exhaustion due to-"
Yifan answered by hanging up on him.
He hummed softly to the music - a terran one. Upon adopting Tao, the couple had researched stuff they could show him to link him to his culture. It had been kind of hard, the planet being now nothing more than a (junkyard), but music had gone through centuries, generations and planet. It was greatly appreciated in the current universe, and their old crew wasn't an exception. Without having to ask, the music faded until there was no sound anymore, only the soft breathing of his husband in bed, small hands peeking under the blanket.
He startled, his eyes catching a shadow moving in the corner of his eyes. He turned around, swift in his movement despite the sleepiness, but there was nothing. Just a trick of the light, he thought.
But the uneasiness didn't leave, even when he slipped under the blanket, even when he closed his eyes, tried to find a comfortable position, before settling on laying on his back, eyes on Minseok. And just as he finally managed to slip into unconsciousness, and he saw the figure standing on Minseok's side of the bed, shapeless eyes watching him, and noticed that he couldn't hear his husband breathe.
Today, as it occurred on many days, Minseok woke up first. The ship was silent, but he was used to it. No one ever woke up before him unless their sleep had been disturbed. He turned around on the bed, facing Yifan's back, who was fast asleep. He had no idea of what time it was, when the other man had gone to bed, how long he would have to wait for him to wake up. However, he was hungry. He slipped out of the bed, grabbing on his way out one of Yifan’s big shirts and some sleeping shorts, and headed out for the kitchen, appreciating on his way the sound of his feet on the metal floor.
He jumped when he saw another person in the kitchen already, humming a tune Minseok was convinced he'd heard very recently but couldn’t place where nor when. He smiled at the sight of his brother, seated at the table with his dark hair falling on his eyes, absently sipping on a cup of what seemed to be coffee - one of the few berries present on several planets - and a book on the other hand.
"You're up early, Junmyeon," Minseok said before reaching for a box full of fruits at the center of the table.
"So are you." The younger of the two brothers closed his book - some sort of sappy romance novel Minseok had seen him read and re read multiple times.
"Yeah, but it's the usual for me. What got you up ?" Junmyeon shrugged.
"I don't know, I just, didn't sleep much." Minseok nodded, munching on his breakfast. He knew not to insist when Junmyeon was avoiding the subject.
"Anyway-" Minseok didn't like that mischievous grin on his brother's face. "When are you gonna get that broom out of your ass and propose-" Junmyeon stood up, avoiding easily the fruit thrown his way, their little fights a habit since they were kids. Junmyeon was always the one fooling everyone, looking like the perfect gentleman when he was, in fact, the fucking worst.
"Seok. You made the necklace like, months ago. You’ve been dating for years. You’re the definition of domestic.” Minseok’s teeth grazed his lower lip, finding it hard to refute Junmyeon’s accusations. “You have a kid, god !”
"And you and Jongdae probably have a bet on who's going to propose first-" Junmyeon raised his hands in defense, a bit too quickly to be innocent, "- don't think I don't know about it. So I guess your money's on me ?"
The younger of the two brothers smiled sheepishly, and for a second, Minseok frowned, hand going to his left ear-
He didn't know why, he was sure there was something there.
He smiled, but it felt wrong, foreign and distant. The sight in front of him felt like looking into a cracked glass window, static blurring his vision, blurring Junmyeon- And for a second all Minseok could see was this bluish blood leaking out of his brothers mouth, as he called out for him, are you okay ? I was joking you know- take your time with Yifan-
He blinked, and everything seemed clearer, finally, the walls of the ship so much duller, the silence taking over the static in his mind, the polished rocks on his ears and-
No Junmyeon. Gone, his voice still resonating, a distant memory tucked in a corner of his brain.
He snapped, whipping his head to the right, his husband’s voice worried and so loud, only realizing now how muffled every sound had been, how it all had been so distant. Yifan was so clear, so grounding, and the feeling how his own chest rise and falling at a rapid pace caught up to him. Minseok inspired, fingers hooking around Yifan’s sleeve tightly, and his eyes drifted to the spot Junmyeon had been earlier.
Nothing. No one. Of course.
And it hurt. It hurt so much. Warm tears started spilling over his cheeks, the void his younger brother left in his heart so empty-
He brought a hand to his forehead, movement slow. He felt Yifan shift, tucking him against his chest, knowing Minseok needed something - someone - to lean on. They sat on the floor, both quiet as Minseok let the sadness and guilt fill him, feelings he hadn’t felt as intensely since eight years ago, unable to stop it. It hurt so, so much, and he had no idea why it had came back to him. Slowly he snuggled in Yifan’s embrace, sobs shaking his body, feeling smaller than he ever had.
Yifan was worried. Of course, he was. From the way Tan kept malfunctioning, bits of sentences getting cut off or error messages that seemed to come out of nowhere, or even the bits of blanks. The moment where he was not responding at all. This oppressing feelings that he was constantly being watched, that there was something in the ship beside him and his husband. And then to how Minseok’s health kept decreasing. He had no fever - even felt a bit colder than usual - but always was so exhausted, and Tan couldn’t detect anything. And even if he had, Yifan wouldn’t be sure he could trust him. Then there were the visions. It had been obvious that morning that Minseok had been talking with Junmyeon. Yifan had only caught a minute of the scene, wondering why the smaller man had been talking by himself, until he realised what was wrong. He was hallucinating.
Since then, it had happened three more times, each with Junmyeon. The first one had been as Minseok walked in the cockpit, so sure it was his brother piloting. The second one was in one of the empty rooms Tao would crash in when he’d travel with them, sitting on the bed, talking about Baekhyun. It was a conversation Yifan remembered, because years ago, he had caught it too. Junmyeon had just needed the courage to propose to the other male, and Minseok’s calm, gentle words gave him that.
And then, the third time had been in their room, in the middle of the night.
Yifan had not gotten much sleep since the first hallucination, always worried Minseok might break while he wasn’t looking - break how ? He wasn’t sure, but he just wanted to be sure his husband was okay. So when he felt the blanket around his torso move, cold air slipping in the bed, he started to stir. It took him a few seconds to open his eyes, only to see his husband sitting up, hands digging in the sheets, knuckles turning white. His lips were moving but at first Yifan couldn’t hear, eyes wide and staring in the dark - the dark, it was always the dark, alluring yet so twisted and terrifying.
He wouldn’t say he was expecting it, but it wasn’t a surprise when he realised Minseok was not really there. That he wasn’t reacting to his touches, his calls, that he was just staring in fear. Yifan could only hold his hand and whispers words of encouragement, cradling him in his arms-
He was in so much pain. He’d been reliving so many important moments in his and Junmyeon’s life, was missing his brother more than he ever had. Maybe it was a stage of loss Yifan didn’t know about, Minseok had gone through them all already. Maybe, he thought, maybe Minseok had never gotten past the denial phase. Maybe he was still clinging on hope that Junmyeon would wake up as fresh as new. Maybe something was fucking with Minseok’s brain, maybe his night terrors were back, maybe they’d crossed a line where he needed to get through all those moments again.
Yifan didn’t know. Yifan knew nothing, couldn’t do anything, and he was tired, he was exhausted and worried-
Minseok went limp in his arms, falling back asleep against his chest like he’d never been awake to begin with. Yifan exhaled, relieved to some extent as he laid his husband back against the mattress, head comfortable against the pillow. And he was beautiful, so peaceful like this, unconcerned by the world, resting to his heart’s content-
And then Yifan noticed. The bruises. If before they were only bruises on his neck, they had grown so much bigger, dark blue staining below his collarbone now, reaching for his heart.
Yifan knew nothing, couldn’t help except in the form of emotional support and carrying Minseok if needed. But as he looked back to the darkness in fear, he swore he saw a distorted face, looking back.
“Having two means that one is dispensable,” the disturbingly sugary sweet voice stated, nudging Junmyeon out of his drug induced slumber.
His body was buzzing in an uncomfortable way, one he knew unnatural, his mouth left dehydrated and sensible to breathing. He stayed unmoving, way too aware of the situation they had put themselves in, and silently punching himself mentally. Out of all the possible wrong outcomes, this one was not among the worst. The rest of their crew was still out there ready to get them out, he knew it. He knew them. They must have heard it through their com devices. Kyungsoo was probably ordering them around by now, natural leader when Junmyeon wasn't here. He could see Lu-Han mapping the facility around for more escape plans and more ways to sneak in. Jongdae and Jongin already armed, Chanyeol probably ranting about how he had warned them-
There was a hand on his cheek, soft yet repulsing him more than anything he had ever touched. Junmyeon opened his eyes, quickly adjusting to the light only to reveal the scientist from earlier, a sick grin on his face.
Junmyeon jerked away from the touch, only to realise he was immobilized on the metal tray, and that he could not shift. He needed to find Minseok-- but he couldn't get up, couldn't get away to find his brother. One of them was dispensable to the scientist. One of them was going to die-
Even after trying to get the further away from the unwanted touch, the scientist pressed a hand on the side of Junmyeon's face, pinning him against the tray. "What’s with that reaction," he asked, merry from the sudden rush of power. "Not happy to see me ? Would you have rather woken up to your two friends ?"
The scientist was lucky he was blocking Junmyeon's jaw. He was a biter, and the being seemed to have noticed, from how tightly he was pressing the Shuijing down.
"We made some researches on you- your face is a wanted face in our… area, you know ? You and your brother. As well as the other big guy-" He released him, retreating his hand quickly. "I don't know how you managed to come all the way here, Junmyeon, and from the list of things you and your crew managed to do, I'm pretty sure you went here with the noble intention to get my patients out-"
Junmyeon quickly looked around, barely listening to the other guy's rant- there wasn't much he could work with, machines, lot of machines, trays of what looked like surgery tools he didn't dare think about too much, each tool being too out of range for him, a glass wall through which he could see another room- very much empty so far-
"Are you looking for your big brother ?" A hand slammed down against the tray, right beside his ear- white noise filling his head once again. Junmyeon hissed, his senses way too sensitive at the moment, but refused to pay attention to his abductor. "He's gonna be here soon. Last thing I heard he was putting a bit of a fight, it seems like he's more resistant to our drug than you are."
Of fucking course he is- Junmyeon huffed. He didn't have time to relax, couldn't stop to think about his brother, had to find a way out. He saw the other being - what was he anyway ? Junmyeon was sure he had seen some beings of his species before, but he couldn't place a finger on them, scaly face and sharp nails - retreat toward the area some tools were placed on. He couldn't see which ones, could only hear the metal clinging together, the scientist humming a very upsetting melody as he stored some objects in his green coat, and Junmyeon couldn't feel any of his shifting ability coming back, nor his strength.
A noise made him raise his head as much as he could. In the room in front of him, through the glass window, Junmyeon saw the door in the back open-
A bitter taste filled his mouth when he saw Minseok come through it, held up by two other beings. He clearly had difficulties walking and breathing, blue blood dripping from so many areas of his face, nose, mouth, clear lines falling from his lips- and dark bruises. Even from where he was, tied down, Junmyeon could see the all the black spots marring his brother's skin-
"Ah !" Junmyeon's eyes didn't leave Minseok, anger boiling in his veins. "I see our spectator is here. Honestly I didn't know which one to choose from the two of you. One is stronger and would resist longer, the other would be more affected by our products. But oh, well. We can't keep you both. The boss won't like it-"
They sat Minseok on a chair, facing Junmyeon, and the later saw when Minseok understood what was going to happen-
He saw before Junmyeon did, when the scientist turned around, a syringe in one hand, a hammer in the other.
Minseok woke up with a whimper on his lips and the taste of blood on his tongue, panicking for a brief second before it left. He blinked, realising he wasn't in his and Yifan's bedroom anymore, distress coming back rushing through his body as he had no memories of moving from their room since last night.
Actually the only memories he had seemed distant and foreign, echoes of crying in Yifan's arms being the clearer ones - maybe the most recent ones. He sat up, finally recognizing their infirmary - a small, white room, light currently dimmed down. He whimpered again at the numb pain in his chest, like an old wound. He was wearing one of Yifan's shirt - obvious by it's size and the discernable scent soaking it - but the sleeves weren't long enough to hide the bluish bruises peeking around his forearms. When did he get these ? He dragged a finger across them, hissing at the pain.
Waiting for an answer, Minseok reached for the bottom of the shirt, removing it in one swift - yet slow movement as he soon realized his shoulders were sore too. But the skin under the fabric blocked his train of thought. He was covered in bruises. Patches of usually bright pink skin now turning purple, blue, and at some place, shades way too close to black to be shallow. He felt a tilt in his vision, similar to all those movies where the protagonist started loosing step on reality. And it was exactly it. He couldn't remember how he got those, couldn't remember how he'd got there, Tan wasn't responding, Yifan was not by his side-
He scrambled up, barely getting the time to catch himself on the wall when his legs skipped a beat. He grabbed Yifan's shirt, putting it back on as he rushed out of the infirmary.
He didn't know why he was running, there was nothing explicit that was telling him Yifan wasn't okay, but he was just, panicking, couldn't stop seeing all these colors that were just wrong on his skin, couldn't help but keeping Tan's silence in mind, couldn't stop watching as the world tilted, swayed-
He stopped at a corner - the hallway that went from the cockpit to the living room. The lights were flickering, and for a second he was taken back to that moment - hours ? days ? weeks ago ? He didn't even know - when he had gone and checked on Tan's wiring. He took a step back. Everything was so silent- It wasn't unusual, in their ship, in their home. But he had no idea where Yifan was- and Minseok could only think about how he could have already lost him.
To what, he didn't know. He was just scared.
A little voice in his head was whispering, this is a familiar fear, you know what this is all about, but Minseok couldn’t hear it. At the end of the hallway - just in front of their room, where Minseok thought Yifan might have been - the lights shut down. And the next one, and the next one, filling the corridor with an unnatural darkness that kept on getting closer and closer-
And Minseok ran.
Even though the world had grown into something full of possibilities and new technologies, ways to hurt and torture people had not changed much. Of course it depended on beings since a huge range of species had been discovered by now. Some beings were able to read minds, and the worst torture was a crowded room. Another example would be Chanyeol. The worst thing for him would be to expose him to cold temperatures. It would cut the link between him and the fire spirit he cohabits with, and it would only take a few hours for him to lose sight of what’s real or not. What’s good or not. He’d lose his mind.
But most of the time, torture was based upon pain. Pain was rather easy to trigger, easy to build up, and feared by all. Pain was a parameter adjusted differently in each beings, and one some loved to take their sweet time discovering. In depth.
Junmyeon wasn't sure how his pain resistance was. Pretty good, he would say, except he did not have his crystal layer to protect him right now. He was raw and as sensible as the first day he was born. And he was scared.
There was a certain silence in the room - or was it Junmyeon feeling suddenly deaf ? He watched the being walk slowly toward him, green coat enveloping him in a sort of majestic way, savouring the fear that Junmyeon couldn't help but feel, and from the corner of his eyes he could see Minseok screaming- but his voice never reached past the glass door, never got to Junmyeon's ears, Junmyeon who looked as the scientist observed his body without really seeing-
Silence reached its peak a second before when the scientist plunged the needle in Junmyeon's neck, the Shuijing exhaling loudly. And he realized, he was finally getting the uncomfortable numbing buzzing out of his body- and his heart raced when he understood how much of a bad omen it was-
The scientist slammed the hammer down on his right foot. Junmyeon screamed.
He could hear the being giggle, amused by his pain, and it quickly reminded him that it was only the beginning. He tried to repress the pain- it wasn't supposed to hurt that much-
"How does it feel to experience pain without your thick crystal skin ?"
"Suddenly you don't feel oh so powerful, do you ?" The being leaned on the metal table, one hand supporting his head, the other holding what looked like a very thin blade. "I wonder how long I'll have to wait before you cry."
Minseok was still screaming behind the glass door, unable to do anything. Junmyeon refused to watch as the scientist slowly pierced through his previously injured foot with the blade, right under his third and fourth toe. He could feel the edge of the blade cutting and cutting, so painfully slow before it finally hit the metal. His lips was bleeding from how hard he was biting on it. He would not give him the satisfaction to hear him whimper. They were coming. His crew was coming. They were going to get him- get them out of here-
"You know," the scientist continued, grabbing a plier from the tray. At the same time, he quickly got the blade out, like an afterthought. "I'd hope for you and your friends that your crew doesn't come here barging. We have some pretty heavy defense-" With the pliers, he reached for Junmyeon's toenail. Tore them off one by one, leaving drops of navy blue splattered everywhere. "I wonder who we'd start with, on your crew. We have plenty of cybords, we can get rid of yours- probably the same way we're getting rid of you right now."
The only thing Junmyeon could do was clench his fists, stubbornly avoiding thinking about Yixing, in the same position as he was. The scientist grabbed a scalpel, cut through the skin on his left knee - he had to spread the pain, right ? Couldn't just work on one side.
"Oh ! I forgot, we have the Oznakian too. Pretty big. Pretty rough. Would be good research material. Marking on his skin do show he's been through a lot already, didn't he ? I bet he would last long-"
Junmyeon tried- he really did- tried to ignore the words, tried to ignore the pain, but as he felt the blade of the scalpel cut through his flesh, reaching his kneecap, scrapping like nails on a blackboard, he whimpered- had to concentrate so much not to jerk and cause more pain. The scientist laughed. "I was right, you must be the weakest of the two. It didn't take me long to make you sing- So weak- How are you Captain-"
And Junmyeon felt him press on his knee with the hammer, ready to slam it again, break it, break him-
Minseok had been restrained again, pinned against the glass window, forced to watch what the being would call a show. There was blood spread on the surface, and Junmyeon thought, Minseok is going to be okay, he has fight in him, even after the drugs and the beating him he can still trash in their hold. He hadn't seen his big brother cry a lot, he could count the few times with one hand. He closed his eyes, doing so in his mind. The hammer didn’t fall on his knee, he could hear the being rummage through his pockets first.
One finger. When their first pet had died. She had been an old and fat shen, a little animal who used to spend her times lounging in the sun, blue fur as shiny as their planet’s inhabitants. Junmyeon could remember. It was their first encounter with death.
He didn’t need to open his eyes to know the scientist had found what he wanted. He hummed enthusiastically, placing his find on the Shuijing’s kneecap. It was pointed. Two fingers. When Junmyeon got married. Minseok had tried to hide it, immediately brushing his tears away when Junmyeon had spotted him, denying that it had ever happened. Junmyeon tried to cling to these memories, to distract himself, because there was nothing he could do.
The scientist slammed the hammer on his knee- He stopped breathing- he was in so much pain-
It was a nail in his knee. Of course it was. The scientist kept on humming this disturbing little lullaby of his.
Junmyeon ignored the tear rolling down his temple, and kept counting.
Three fingers. When Tao first called him dad. The whole crew had adopted Tao as their own, but Minseok and Yifan were his official parents. The being prepared his knee for another nail, this time higher- between his kneecap and his femur. Junmyeon was in the room when Tao had done it-
-he was just looking for Minseok, just wanted help on a puzzle game they had gotten him, he had seen Junmyeon in the room first, where’s dad he had asked-
-deep breath, please Junmyeon just breathe-
He couldn’t breathe- couldn’t stay calm- but he tried so hard-
He slammed the hammer down, again, with a laugh. Piercing Junmyeon to his content, enjoying his pain.
Junmyeon couldn’t count anymore- couldn’t remember the last time Minseok had cried. Couldn’t focus. Couldn’t only feel the pain and how aware of his lower body he was, how weak he actually was, how little time it took for him to feel more pain than he ever had-
And it went on and on, the being cutting open and breaking, breaking and breaking, reaching deeper than anything ever had, leaving out all the organs not to let him die too fast, telling him all about the things he would do to his crew, about how he was probably the weakest one, least interesting one, worthless, worthless, worthless, wasn't good for anything. Junmyeon knew his brother was calling his name, his throat raw. He could hear him, in the distance. He had never stopped screaming, but Junmyeon couldn’t hear. He didn't dare a glance toward him, scared he would break down for good. Scared his mind would finally give up-
"Which one is your husband again ? Ha, yeah, of course we know about that kind of things. If you know about us, we know about you. It's all question of who to pay." The scientist leaned back up, thinking. The was blood everywhere. Junmyeon hadn’t realised he had lost that much. "Baekhyun, was it ? The whore."
Junmyeon clenched his fists, weakly. The scientist snorted smugly, before going back to skinning his right arm, slower than ever. "Pretty uninteresting, if you ask me. Not much to do. Small and weak, boring species. I guess he could make a good toy, he has experience in the field. My current one was getting annoying anyway-"
And he kept going on and on, about how he'd touch Baekhyun, how he's crush him and make him desperate for anything, and Junmyeon clenched his teeth, unable to move anything else- unable to do anything as this monster kept on describing the horrible things he’d do to his husband- and where were they ? how long had it been ? were they even coming-
And Junmyeon stayed still, stoic through it all, baring through the pain. He couldn’t be numb. Something they had given him, probably, made him so aware of his body. But he couldn’t give the scientist was he wanted. Couldn’t scream or cry or whimper. A mute puppet for a freak, who along the way became bored.
The scientist sighed, disappointed. Junmyeon gaze didn't follow to see what he was doing. He just wanted it to end.
He could hear Minseok scream harder. The end was near.
He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t stop. Couldn’t close his eyes. Couldn’t move his hands, block his ears. For the first time he realized it, it was not real, but it was so, so much worse. Minseok could only watch, stuck in his own, old body, could only watch as the being reached for a long needle with a sigh, disappointed eyes over Junmyeon-
”I thought you would have been less boring.”
He tried to breathe in. it’s not fucking real, Minseok, but he felt a scream rip off his throat, the same scream he had yelled out all those years ago. Quiet Minseok being the loudest he had ever been. And he knew it was just a memory, but it felt so real and present- and he tried to get imaginary hands off of him, tried to get away, break the glass, shift, destroy everything, just wanted the drug to wear off- he couldn’t see this another time- not when he had seen it once. Not when it had plagued his nights for years- Not when he knew he’d be too late-
(“It’s going to be fine,” Junmyeon told him, confident. Minseok could remember his younger brother patting him on the shoulder, ready to face it all. “They can reach us pretty fast if anything goes wrong, anyway.”
And he had left the room with a reassuring smile, and Minseok couldn’t help but be afraid. And he just didn’t know why.)
Minseok knew it all beforehand. Knew how it was going to play. He knew, by now, this sick joke, sick show’s conclusion. Knew that it was no use, that the only thing he’d be able to do was kill more than save-
The being slapped Junmyeon’s cheeks, hey, you still there, got no answers. The world went still. The world went quiet. Minseok couldn’t even hear his own pleas anymore, pleas for this to end- but maybe I deserve the nightmare after all. The scientist placed the needle in front of Junmyeon’s forehead, ready. Hammer - why being subtle, he wasn’t trying to keep him alive - ready to hit.
And he did.
Slammed his hammer down on Junmyeon for the last time.
There was something beautiful about seeing Minseok kneeling on the ground, limbs distorted and piercing the grey walls, rose crystal reflecting any kind of light as it shifted under his eyes. If you were to only look, you would see a web, a pattern littered by morning dew, trying to break out and reach further and further away. And Yifan would have stopped to contemplate it, the art that was Minseok, contemplate just how strong out of this world his power was, how rare and beautiful. But there were only painful memories linked to this kind of outburst, memories where he could hear his husband cry.
It was such a familiar scene, despite how long it had been since it had last happened, despite how much they both had tried to forget. Yifan had been looking for Minseok. So sure he might have already lost him, in the short amount of time he had left him. He had expected to find him in a certain form of disarray, distress. Had expected to face another crisis. Had thought about the worst.
Yifan kneeled behind him. Observed the way his shoulder blades were tense, linking to what used to be his arms, only precious gems in uncontrolled branches now. Yifan didn’t need to face him to know that Minseok wasn’t here. Minseok wasn’t listening to Yifan. Couldn’t see Yifan. Lost in hallucinations of his brother and the torture he had to see all these years ago.
He counted. It was the seventh time Minseok had had a vision violent enough for him to trigger his body memory. His shifting, using all his strength like he had done to overrule the poison.
(The web had one particular victim in mind. Minseok had one particular victim in mind. And it reached for it. For him. And if, for the past hour, the only color of blood Minseok had seen had been this dark blue he was so familiar with, seeing this vivid red wasn’t a relief at all.
Because he knew.
He was too late.)
Yifan knew Minseok’s body as much as Minseok knew his. He knew that he needed to be gentle about it, fingers slipping over his eyes, covering with a black veil what Minseok could see-
(it’s not real it’s not real it’s not real-)
His heart squeezed when he felt how wet his lover’s eyes were. How many tears were still falling from his lids, and how broken his most silent whimper sounded. It was familiar. He knew these sensations and sounds, knew these reactions. Knew it would be over soon.
The tears stopped, and Yifan retracted his hands. He’s okay, he told himself. He’s back.
The lights above them flickered. Yifan paid it no attention. He observed silently as the crystal retracted back, Minseok taking his original shape.
The lights flickered more and more and more-
And as Minseok turned around, eyes fully dark and lost, the lights gave out.
Yifan’s heart stopped. He was used to the dark, could see when the lights gave out, could see the struggle Minseok was facing. And this time, Yifan understood. He understood, because among the dark shadows, his husband’s eyes that kept flickering from total darkness to their usual blue pupils, the blood flowing down his nose rapidly, he saw it. The eyes from nights ago. What had been watching them as they slept, what used to be a shapeless figure with two bright eyes now a shadow of Minseok-
He slammed his fist against the nearest wall, a cry of anger falling past his lips- startling both Yifan and the shadow.
And he did it again, and again, and again- screaming louder and louder, and Yifan could feel a rage he had never known was inside Minseok, and he could only stay hovering and helpless as Minseok’s right arm formed a long sharp end through his fist. Blood was pouring down his nose, couldn’t seem to stop, and he had closed his eyes, seemingly concentrating- and he kept on banging the wall- until he stabbed his thigh with the sharp crystal end.
The lights flickered back on. The shadow fled, and Yifan was half sure he heard it scream.
“Baby-” Yifan held Minseok's face between his hands, brushing some blood away. "Hey- Minseok can you hear me ?" He lowered his voice, gentle whisper calling for his lover.
He was still standing, uncontrolled breathing, taking deep then shallow breaths, one after the other- He was exhausted.
Yifan gathered him in his arms. “Breathe with me- Come on, love.” Minseok melted in his arms, a stray tear rolling down his cheek, as he tried to follow Yifan’s rhythm. “You’re safe.” A lie. “As long as I’m here you’re safe.” Another lie. Minseok knew. But he needed to hear that. Needed to hear that it was okay. That Yifan was here.
Neither knew how many minutes had passed, Minseok in Yifan’s arms, Yifan whispering sweet reassurances in his husband’s ear. And Minseok’s legs were shaking, had been since he had hurt himself, but he couldn’t seem to let go and sit, couldn’t seem to be able to detach himself from Yifan. As if, maybe, the lack of contact would make them lose each other. They didn’t know how much time they had. Didn't know if Minseok was going to be forced into watching more terrible memories, or if something was going to come back and hurt them.
And as he held Minseok close, Yifan’s mind drifted to the shadow and it’s awful resemblance to his husband.
Minseok raised an eyebrow, looking back to his husband. “Oh, really ? I really don’t know what makes you think that, babe,” he snapped. He immediately regretted it when Yifan looked away like a kicked puppy. He sighed. “Sorry. I’m-”
“On edge, yeah. It’s okay.” Minseok silently reached for Yifan’s hand, apologetic, his other one busy dabbing away the blood from his nose with some tissue.
They decided to move back to the infirmary when Minseok’s legs had given out, earlier, exhausted from whatever he had went through his hallucinations. Yifan had carefully carried him back in his arms, cautious of his wounds. Minseok’s thigh wasn’t as bad as it looked, he could still move pretty easily, but Yifan still took the time to bandage it carefully. He didn’t need to lose more blood. Yifan squeezed his husbands fingers, rubbing his thumb over his palm. Minseok looked so tired, like he had spent a lifetime away since the first time he’d left this room, earlier, and Yifan didn’t need to ask to confirm what he thought Minseok had seen. The smaller being let out a sigh, resting his forehead against his husband’s chest. It had felt like a lifetime.
“Earlier,” he started. Yifan let his free hand roam through Minseok’s hair, soothing him. “Earlier there was- I mean-” He exhaled, looking down as the small drops of blood that had fallen from his nose on his thighs. “Usually when I. When I see this kind of memory. The moment I realise it’s not real, that it’s a memory, I can. You know. Escape it.”
“This time you didn’t ?”
“I couldn’t. I knew it wasn’t real. But it just-” His vision went blurry. He was past trying to stop the tears. “I had to go through it all all over again Yifan- and it’s- it’s not the first time, okay, but it just never gets easier. And I have no idea what’s going on-” He leaned back up, looking Yifan straight in the eyes- “But i’m pretty sure there is something in this fucking ship that’s making me lose my mind. And either we need to get the fuck out, or we find it and kill it. I know I might sound crazy or something- I know I’m the one who’s been fucked up lately but-”
He stopped at the soft voice, stark contrast with how louder his own had gotten. He was breathless, hands shaking. He could taste blood in his mouth. Yifan reached for another tissue, whipping what had fallen from his nose to his mouth delicately. The flow was way slower by now, thanks god, but it was still something to be worried about.
“I think you’re right, there is something in our ship. I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s been here for a while, now. I just-” He frowned. “I’ve seen it. But I always thought it was, I don’t know. That I was tired, or something. But then-”
The picture of the shadow standing behind Minseok came back to him. Then he thought about that time it had been standing near their bed, or all these times he thought he was being watched, or that something had moved, or eyes in the dark-
“But what ?”
“Earlier. When you were hallucinating, you started screaming and hitting the wall, and the light flickered and, at first I didn’t pay attention, but then you stabbed yourself and they shut off, just like that. And then I saw-”
They both jumped when the lights flickered again.
“This can’t be good.” Minseok quickly slid off of the bed, catching himself on Yifan, legs still unsteady. “What did you see, earlier ?”
“The shadow that’s been fucking living with us for the past weeks. Except this time it was your exact shape, standing behind you and I’m pretty sure it’s what was making you see all these memories-”
Minseok grabbed Yifan’s wrist, looking around the room. If the lights were to shut off again, Yifan would be able to move them around. Minseok absently sniffed, blood clogging his nose. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to shift again.
There was a familiar buzzing in his fingertips. Reminiscence of the scientist’s drug came to mind. Then it means-
“Fan- I think it’s coming.”
And so, the lights shut off.
It was here. Yifan had shivers running down his spine, familiar feeling of being watched, observed like a fucking pray rigging in his bones.
At first, they didn’t move, he taking a few seconds to adjust to the darkness. There was no whirring from any machines, no beeping from anywhere, and the glass window overlooking space and it’s multitude of stars and planet was blocked off with a black veil, absorbing any ray of light. Complete darkness wasn’t as scary for Yifan as it was for Minseok, Minseok who had grown up in colorful places, where lamps were always lit and stars revered. He clung to his lover like a lifeline, and to be honest, Yifan was probably the only thing able to keep him alive and sane at the moment. The only thing he could hear was his husband’s shallow breathing, all his other senses muffled and disoriented in complete darkness-
“It’s here,” Yifan whispered in his ear when he finally managed to spot it.
Unmoving, and watching. Always watching. Its two eyes the only thing seeming to shine through, even though only Yifan could see them. His brain kept telling him it was Minseok standing here in the dark, but even if it had his exact shape, Yifan couldn’t help but notice how shallow it looked, how static and buzzing. How it wasn’t breathing.
He took a step back, it followed, and so did Minseok, clumsily. And Yifan knew the creature wasn’t done, that it wanted something, he had his own theories raging in his brain, but when it took another step forward, hand reaching for Minseok, Yifan couldn’t help but shout, tugging Minseok back against his chest-
The shadow growled.
Yifan didn’t wait another second to pick up Minseok, the later immediately flinging his arms around Yifan’s neck, knowing perfectly well there was no way they’d be able to run correctly with one of them completely blind, and he kicked the door open, running out of the room.
They did not stop to wonder why the red emergency lights were flashing out of the infirmary, and Yifan hoped it was Tan struggling to fight against whatever being had took control of him these past days. And with this afterthought he ran, and ran and ran, his only goal in mind being to put enough distance between them and the shadow for it to never be able to touch Minseok again. He couldn’t- because this time he was sure he would lose his husband for good. And he couldn’t lose him, wouldn’t survive this-
He took another, unfamiliar turn, ignored the fact that he couldn’t recognize his own ship, that the corridors seemed endless, ignored his own ragged respiration, ignored the growing static budding in his ears-
He stopped in the middle of his run, startled by Minseok’s voice. “Stop running.”
Yifan frowned, confused. “What ? Why ?!”
“This is not our ship, we’ve been running in circles since we left the infirmary.” He slid down his husband’s hold, feet careful when touching the metal ground. His legs had recovered enough for him to be able to walk, and his nose had stopped bleeding by now, but he still felt so damn dizzy and weak. Yifan finally looked up, seeing for the first time those grey walls he thought unfamiliar. The red light was their only source of light, turning off and on in a steady rhythm. It changed the shape of everything, and sure Yifan couldn’t recognize this current corridor. But maybe it was just a trick of light, he told himself.
Except that they had made enough turns that they would have passed by a room, by now. But he had seen none.
Of course, he thought. Of course that thing would try to confuse them.
Yifan was not one to panic, everyone knew that, Minseok knew that, but every breath he took was shallow and rapid, irregular, and his hands were shaking. The shuijing was in now way in a better shape, didn’t have the power to reassure him that it was going to be okay, but if there was one thing he could do, it was to ground him. Ground them. He linked their fingers together, squeezing his hand, silently.
“I saw it,” Minseok started when Yifan found a rhythm again. “It was really disturbing. Looked exactly like me,” Minseok snorted humorlessly, “evil doppelganger,” he added.
He pressed his free palm against his eyes. He was tired. He dragged Yifan against the nearest wall, sitting down together. Minseok dropped his head against Yifan’s shoulder. It was not the time to be affectionate, but it helped him think.
“So,” he started, getting his husband’s attention. “What do we do, now ? We have no idea what that thing is, and even less how to fucking kill it.” He felt Yifan nod. “It’s a shadow ! Does it even has a tangible body ?”
He tried to think. Steady his mind and ignore the regular flickering of the lights, bathing his visions in reds. He noticed the lack of sound. It wasn’t something he hated, but a ship was alive. A ship was a huge amount of devices running it, beeping and groaning and creaking. A ship was the noisiest place ever, but this ship was home. And home was never silent. Minseok was feeling the unnerving anxiety creeping up again - had it even gone away ?
“I- I have a theory.” Yifan’s voice was almost inaudible, even through the silence.
“This thing- It’s been stuck to you since the first time it appeared, right ? You, and the ship. Disabling Tan. As far as i can remember, I’ve only since it when you were there. You’ve been seeing stuff. You got weaker, Tan couldn’t explain why. Random bruises started appearing, and those were serious-”
“What’s your point, ‘Fan ?” I can handle it, he wanted to say. But his voice was stuck in his throat, palms wet and nervously clenched. I can handle it.
“It used to be shapeless and distant, but now it’s giving you the worst hallucinations possible and it’s trying to keep you trapped in them, and now, when it appears, it reaches out for you.” Yifan twisted toward him, eyeing Minseok’s nose, the bruises peeking from under his shirt. “It’s affecting your body. It’s weakening you and trying to get into
you. My theory is that these past weeks, it’s been preparing you-”
For what he nearly asked. He didn’t need to. He knew.
It wants a body.
That was Yifan’s theory. It did not have a body, and Minseok was its choice. He was strong but there were so many things- so many memories to break him. He almost laughed at how simple it all was.
“If we follow your reasoning, we have no way to kill or restrain it the way it is, right ?” Yifan nodded. “We also have no way to know if it’s going to follow us if we leave the ship. Hell-” he scoffed, “look around. We don’t even know where we are on our own ship. Our only option is to destroy it. We can’t risk having it reaching a planet full of beings.”
“But,” Minseok continued, cutting Yifan off, “it has no tangible body. Not yet.”
Yifan froze. He did not like what Minseok was implying. “No.”
“No.” He dragged a hand across his face. “Don’t you dare.”
Yifan’s voice broke. The emergency lights started to lose their rhythm. “It’s our only way. Right now.” Minseok’s eyes followed as Yifan got up, pacing back and forth avoiding looking at his husband at all cost.
“No it’s not. We’re- We’re probably missing something-”
The smaller being got up, “Yifan,” he tried.
“Do you think I’m going to let you fucking die because of that thing inside of you ? Do you think I’m going to let that happen ?”
And he was so ready to cry, break and beg, so ready to lose what he had left of calm and control. “Do you seriously think I’ll let you kill yourself ? Don’t you think I’ve had enough of losing you ?” He grabbed Minseok by the shoulder, finally seeing for the first time how tired he looked. Tired, in pain, sad. Like he-
“Fucking no, I don’t wanna hear it, Seok, do you hear me ? I don’t want you to fucking say one more word. I don’t want you to admit that you’ve given up. Against this, against life. I don’t want you to tell me that it will be okay, because it won’t-” A stray tear rolled down his cheek. And another one. And another one. They all had a name, sadness, anger, frustration, and so much more- “Minseok, you fought it all these years ago. You’re stronger than this. You’re alive. I can’t see you give up on life again- Please- And how do you know it’s not this shitty monster speaking in your mind-”
Yifan was whispering, by now. He couldn’t do shit. Minseok violently shoved him away, before grabbing the collar of his shirt, tugging him down.
“Don’t you think I have a say in this ? Don’t you think if i wanna fucking sacrifice myself so no one i know and love gets fucking hurt again ? I should have fucking died years ago, you fucking know it, no need for a shadow to remind me, ‘Fan, I should have been the one on this fucking table, instead of Junmyeon-”
“It’s not about this, Min-”
“Oh hell it’s not !! Why do you fucking think i’ve been seeing all those fucking things, uh ?! You know why ! You know what i think !! What I’ve always been thinking ! You were there when i fucking tried to end my fucking life, you’re the one who asked me to live even though all i could think about was my brother’s body, and now that i can die to actually save you, you refuse me this ? If you asked me to live for you, for Tao, for Junmyeon and Baekhyun, why can’t I fucking die for them too ?!” His hold on Yifan’s shirt weakened, shaking. He could hear water drops falling on the ground, only realising now that he was crying. “Why won’t you let me be selfish, for once-”
Yifan slammed his fist against the wall, a few inches beside Minseok’s face, distorted by rage and grief. “No.”
A second passed, silent. “We are going to find another solution.” He grabbed his lover’s wrist, started to walk. “We’re going to find our way out of this fucking maze. We’re going to find the fucking emergency shuttle and we’re going to be fine.”
Minseok wanted to protest. Wanted to stay and get rid of this thing plaguing his mind and body. Wanted to get Yifan somewhere safe, save the only thing he wanted to live for.
(Wanted to save someone like he should have saved Junmyeon)
But he stayed silent, only sniffling here and there, brushing angry, pitiful, tired tears away. He followed silently, limp. Yifan was walking too fast for his shorter, exhausted legs, but he felt stuck, couldn’t bring himself to say anything. So he stayed silent, licking his own wounds in silence. Knew that Yifan was probably doing the same. They were not a couple who fought often, didn’t usually know how to react after a fight. But this, this was more than a fight. This was a whole mess of bottled up feelings, a conflict they had never defeated. Couldn’t break. A battle they decided to ignore as long as it didn’t get worse. And they tried. And it was okay. They were okay. But this, now, was the breaking point, the shadow bringing it all out, piercing their skin and hearts, threatening to break a fragile equilibre that stood delicately.
Yifan took a sharp turn, and Minseok winced. “‘Fan, you’re hurting me.”
His husband stopped in his tracks, loosening his hold around Minseok’s hand. He turned around, slowly engulfing his smaller husband in a hug. Minseok wanted to stay something, we need to move, we don’t have time for this, it could come back any minutes now-
But he felt tears. His. Yifan’s. Felt him crumble and break in his arms, weeping quietly. And he held him, forgetting the fear to enjoy what could be one of their last moment together.
( “I’m sorry,” was the first thing he said, in his deep raspy voice. “I don’t want you to die.”
I know it’s been hard on you. I know sometimes you can’t get up because you keep thinking about it. I know you struggle and I haven’t been enough anymore for a long time.
“I know. I’m sorry too.”
Thank you. For being here. For not letting me die. For giving me a reason to live. For loving me each days. For taking care of me.
“I love you,” he whispered against Yifan’s chest. He leaned back, eyes meeting Yifan’s gaze, his hands sliding down his arms until he reached his husband’s palms, again.
“I love you too,” Yifan whispered. He squeezed Minseok’s hands.
“Let’s go.” )
And then, something changed.
Still holding hands, they took a random turn only to finally end up in their own room, window overlooking the stars, red emergency lights only a memory as soft, white ones lit up the room. They both exhaled in relief, Yifan immediately reaching for the bottle of water he always left on the bedside. It was half empty, but it was still better than nothing. He threw it to Minseok, who was busy collecting himself against a wall. He caught it easily in mid air, relieved to see that he couldn’t feel any weird buzzing anywhere.
“What about you ?”
“You lost like, half your blood, babe,” Yifan stated like it was the most obvious thing ever. It kind of was, at the moment, Minseok had to admit. “I’m okay.”
He drank half of it, giving the rest to a reluctant Yifan who kept insisting he drank more. Minseok rolled his eyes, but still complied, sitting on Yifan’s lap at the same time. He grabbed his husband’s arm, index finger tracing invisible patterns on his skin. A map of the ship, Yifan understood soon enough.
“To be honest,” he started, “it seems too easy. We only have one corridor and two flights of stairs to go through until we reach the emergency shuttle.”
Yifan shrugged. “The fact that we even managed to get out of the maze seems too easy, in my opinion. We have no way to know when it will come back.”
Something’s not right. They knew nothing about the creature, didn’t know where it was, how it moved, or if it had been hiding inside Minseok since the beginning, ready to strike. Didn’t know if they had managed to find their way around by pure luck, exhaustion or if it had retracted its hold on their mind. Didn’t know if it had other ways to strike, other ways to ruin them. They were blind in this situation, knew nothing about their enemy. Minseok looked up, absently searching for Yifan’s eyes.
When his husband looked back, Minseok jerked his head toward the room’s door. It’s time. Yifan nodded, stiffly.
He couldn’t stop thinking about how the worst case scenario would end.
Honestly, when they left the room, neither of them had much hope that their journey, albeit short, would go smoothly. The first sign of presence was the static. That’s all Yifan could hear. Heavy, grainy static, getting louder and louder as they ran to the first flight of stairs, loud enough for him to feel it in his bones, getting worse each time the phaser gun he had fastened around his hip earlier would hit in leg while running. It was here and not ready to let them flee without a fight, it seemed. Yifa’s eardrum were vibrating, and it didn’t take too long for him to feel blood trickling from his ear down his neck. It used to only get to Minseok, but now it was coming for him too.
It’s when they reached the first steps that Yifan realised how much of his balance he had lost, static screeching and ringing and affecting him way too much- He slipped, fell through his descent on the stairs, and would have rolled down if it weren't for Minseok catching him by the shoulder. He managed to sit down, helping himself up against the wall while being guided by his husband. Yifan could see his lips move, trying to tell him something, but there was no way he’d hear him over all this noise-
“Can’t you- Can’t you hear this,” Yifan screamed over the static. Minseok stared at him, confused for a second- until he reached for the line of blood, wet and shiny over Yifan’s skin. He didn’t notice it, at first, Yifan had a line tattoo here already. He scooped some up with his fingers. Yifan’s earring was muffled, now, pain reaching deep on each sides of his head.
Minseok scowled, angry when he realised what was happening, helped Yifan down the stairs, an arm thrown over his back. He was slowing them down, couldn’t hear, couldn’t walk straight- it was doing anything it could to keep them from leaving. Next flight of stairs. They were so close-
The lights- of fucking course the lights started to flicker, quick rhythm disorienting them even more, contrast between bright and dark messing up their vision. They managed to reach the bottom, surprisingly, Yifan finding his footing again.
And that’s what ticked him off. When he managed to stand up without Minseok’s help, when he didn’t have to block the static out, when he realised everything felt disturbingly still and slow. He blinked, breathing heavily. The lights were dim and steady. His limbs were numb, but his heart was still racing. Distress was running through his spine, shivering even though it was far from cold. All his sense were telling him to run, to do something, but when he glanced on his left, Minseok was not here.
(“The moment I realise it’s not real, that it’s a memory, I can. You know. Escape it.”
“This time you didn’t ?”
He knew that if he were to look up, he should be able to see the door for the emergency shuttle. But he didn’t. He recognized this place, thought. Familiar hallway, familiar colors, and familiar music lulling them all. Six room on the right side, five on the left. Thought, after some times, some ended up unused.
The first one on the right was Yixing’s. He was probably upstairs, at that time of the shift, thought. First one on the left. Junmyeon’s. Used to be Junmyeon’s. It’s been a month since the last time he had stepped in. If Baekhyun wasn’t in the hospital, beside him, he was there, clinging to what still smelled faintly like him. Second on the left. Lu-Han. Asleep. Second on the right. Minseok and his. He remembered moving his stuff from his old room - fourth on the right - to what was at the time his boyfriend’s room, a huge change in their relationship, learning to cohabit in the same room. Zitao had taken over his old room. He could see it open, a bit further down the hallway. Yifan pushed his and Minseok’s door open-
No no- not again-
When his fingers made contact with the cold surface of the door, his vision swayed- this felt too familiar. Flashes of scenes rushed through his mind, but he couldn’t stop, knew what he would see behind the door, but his body moved on his own, he couldn’t control anything-
(“-it’s not real-”)
Out of all memories- Of course-
Yifan softly called out for Minseok, knowing that if he wasn’t in the observation room with Jongin and Jongdae, he was here. Should be here. He got no answers, walked further into their cabin, the lights were on-
He looked asleep, that’s why Yifan did not panic for the first second. He seemed asleep. Was actually asleep. But Minseok was laying on the floor, curled up around himself, wearing one of Yifan’s big sweater, so, so silent. Yifan knew the sounds his husband made when sleeping, knew the rhythm of his breathing and the soft whistle snores that usually lulls him to sleep. He rushes on his knees beside him when it finally hits him that he can’t hear anything.
It all goes very fast, just as he remembered. Every little details, the exact type of medication Minseok had taken and how empty its container was, on the shelf, hidden between other products. The way his skin seemed so dull, crystal shine painfully extinguished, the drops of dark blue blood staining his lips, his fingers- Yifan remembering how Minseok had a tendency to draw blood, biting too hard, digging his nails in his palm too deep, little gestures he’d had since forever, according to his brothers, but that were so much more present and painful since Junmyeon.
He doesn’t exactly realises at first, it doesn’t hit him, because Minseok looks so damn small and he shouldn’t be surprised because he is, and the last few weeks have shown that. Minseok who usually holds himself with an authority that would challenge anyone, Minseok who’s always so mature and reliable- That Minseok crumbled in their arms, the most quiet he’s ever been, can’t sleep, stop the fears- But he’s so silent, even when Yifan tries to shake him out of it - it might be the first time he’d fallen asleep in days but- he’s just so scared-
And it hits him. No- No no- n-
He reaches for Minseok’s neck, searching for a heartbeat, even a very faint one- no- please- and there it is, a very, very faint pulse, but it’s here-
And even before it happens, Yifan turns his head toward the entrance, where Tao - Tao who’s not even fucking ten years old - walks in, question on his lips but stuck in his throat- Who doesn’t understand what’s happening, why his dad is on the floor and the other one shaking over him- Yifan can hear himself ask for Yixing to rush here, voice broken that probably hints the urgency of the situation to the cyborg. He can see him running inside their room, past Tao who’s just standing there in shock, Minseok’s head rolling lifelessly when Yixing gathers him in his arms, the stray tear falling from his right eye-
And he knows- it’s not fucking real. He has seen it all before. Knows they manage to keep Minseok alive. Can clearly remembers the days of silence before Minseok feels ready to even talk.
And he fucking snaps, because of course it’s a fucking memory, of course, he’s aware, and he can’t get out of it, if he concentrated he could probably hear his actual husband call his name, but he’s just panicking like he had at this precise moment-
A sharp pain pierced through his leg. The scene before him swayed, the last thing he sees being Tao’s eyes, confused and full of tears-
Reopening his eyes felt like finally reaching air after hours underwater, vision spinning, spots of whites blocking his eyes- and then Minseok, rose skin, trying to get him to fucking answer. Yifan could feel his warm hand on his thigh, just over the part he had injured to bring him back to reality, red blood pouring between his fingers. The lights were still obviously going on and off, irregularly, and Yifan was sure he had seen a weird shape, when they were left a second in the dark-
He looked back at Minseok, eyes wide and worried, and nodded, i’m okay, standing up, putting his recent experience back where it belonged, eight years ago. He could see the emergency shuttle’s door- they were so fucking close. He ran, Minseok following close. The whole ship was so eerily silent once again, and it was downright terrifying.
“You okay ?”
“Yeah,” he breathed out, just as he reached for the door handle. One door to open. And they were in.
The lights gave out. “Fuck-”
The handle. Was not moving. Refused to fucking open their way to escape.
There was no sound. Yifan turned around, looking for Minseok in the dark.
He was standing a few meters away, motionless. Staring. At Yifan. Minseok was supposed to be completely blind in the dark. No. He tilted his head, movement so unnatural, devoid of any sparkle of life. Mechanical. He raised his hands in front of him, as if inspecting them, discovering a body it had never been in. A sob escaped Yifan, breaking the silence. Minseok - Minseok ? - looked at him.
Yifan simultaneously felt the weight of despair fall on him and a sprinkle of hope light his world when Minseok’s fingers started to fidget, forcing a movement, trying to gain control- or so Yifan hoped. It could just be the shadow. Minseok. Could be dead. Could have disappeared from this world. His - its ? - mouth moved, silently, at first, then trying sounds out.
“I- Fa.” It tilted its head again, the other side this time, and it just felt so unnatural coming from Minseok’s body, so stiff. It took a step toward Yifan.
Yifan, him, refused to run from Minseok. He never had. Never will.
“Yi- Fa. Fan.” It was struggling, the concept of voice probably something new for it, but it was Minseok’s voice saying Yifan’s name-
And maybe it would be the last time.
“Minseok ?” A whisper. His hands reached for his phaser gun, poorly hidden under his oversized shirt. Minseok did not answer. “Please, babe-”
Yifan’s voice broke, fuck fuck fuck-, he could feel big fat tears rolling down his cheeks. He needed to hurt him, do something- the last times, that’s how the shadow had left Minseok’s body- he just hoped it would work again. He ran toward the creature, ready to slam the the weapon against his lover’s head - something quick and efficient. He expected the creature to move, to do something, but it just, stood there, following Yifan with it’s dead, completely black eyes, and when it came, took the hit calmly.
It didn’t move from its spot.
Yifan took a step back, eyes wide when he saw the dark blue blood trickle from his husband’s head, but no other fucking reaction.
He pointed the gun toward Minseok. “Get the fuck out of him.”
It took a step forward just when Yifan stepped back. And then, fucking smiled. And it wasn’t the cute gummy grin Minseok would throw his way playfully, or the predatory one he’d have before marking Yifan’s neck. It wasn’t the small one he used to reassure him when he was feeling kind of sad, or the polite one he had when he was trying to escape awkward conversation. It wasn’t the bright one he had when he was simply happy. This one was full of menacing teeth, pulling at the skin of his face in a way that was surely uncomfortable. It was menacing. It was no smile of Minseok. It was not Minseok.
Minseok was gone.
Yifan pulled the trigger, touching the creature right in the chest. It screamed, hands coming naturally to cover the burn. But it was not enough. Yifan had angered it, and, with a half hearted laugh, he shoot it again, and again and again. He didn’t care anymore. Didn’t know what was left for him if Minseok was gone. Wouldn’t know how to move on. He didn’t care when the creature started shifting, getting control over the Shuijing’s natural ability, didn’t care when it ran toward him, crystal forming a shield against the burning lasers.
It ran into Yifan, slamming him against the emergency shuttle’s door-
I don’t want you to admit that you’ve given up.
He groaned, his own words echoing in his mind-
”If you asked me to live for you, for Tao, for Junmyeon and Baekhyun-
It kept on pressing, making it difficult for Yifan to breath-
“Why won’t you let me be selfish, for once-”
He screamed. Pushed back with every muscle in his body, punching the creature off of him, breaking the crystal that was trapping him. If Minseok wasn’t here anymore, Yifan would live for him. Live for what he had fought his silent battle against himself for.
The shadow was on the ground, trying to get up. Yifan sat on it, blocking both legs, a hand on its neck. Minseok’s neck.
He would live for Junmyeon, who was still alive, who still had a chance to wake up.
Yifan punched the creature, scratching away the fact the it was Minseok’s face in front of him, Minseok’s blood he was spilling. It wasn’t his anymore.
He would live for Baekhyun, who had held on silently. Who needed the support. Who needed him.
The creature screamed when Yifan picked up a sharp shard of broken crystal, its two hands around Yifan’s wrist, trying to get him off.
He would live for Zitao. For their son.
And Yifan pierced through the shadow’s chest, where he had burnt the skin before, and thumped its flesh with his makeshift weapon, again and again, ignoring the screams, ignoring Minseok’s voice, couldn’t see past the dark blood pooling under him, didn’t stop even after the creature lost its voice- He needed this to be done. Needed it dead. Needed Minseok to be freed, needed his memory to be at peace. Didn’t want to have anything to regret. Didn’t want to have the same nightmares Minseok had been plagued with, nightmares of regrets and things that could have been. Couldn’t let it escape, couldn’t let it live when Minseok was dead.
A drop of blood reached his face, and he stopped.
He looked down, without really seeing. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t dare face his actions. The lights were back. There was a hole in its chest. Both of Yifan’s arms had splatters of blood reaching beyond his elbow.
He stayed unmoving. Listening to the throbbing of the engines.
His mind was stuck, but his body moved on his own, reaching for Minseok’s earrings. They did not belong with his body. Did not belong on someone that had nothing of him anymore. He stood up, walked to the emergency shuttle. It was all so simple, really. They could have made it. Minseok could be still here, with him, they could have been holding hand right now, talking about their spat from earlier. Could have been plotting on where to go next, could have been together. But they weren’t. He tried not to think about that. Tried not to think about how, even if Minseok was a silent person, the fact that he wasn’t standing right beside him made the lack of sound deafening.
Tan’s automatic voice resonated in the shuttle, warnings about the gravity change in the capsule, and how the shuttle would automatically land on the closest planet recorded.
He didn’t care.
Yifan laid down, on the floor, curling up on himself. In his hands, blood stained earrings and his own wedding necklace.
He wanted to go home.