Yixing was used to strange things happening in his daily life. He realized at a fairly young age that he never got sick like his classmates, and if he fell and hurt himself the wound healed within seconds. He was quiet growing up, so it was easy to keep his abilities to himself. Even when he realized that by touching others who were wounded he could take their wounds upon himself and heal them, the wounds he had taken from them disappearing from his body as well. He helped when he could, healing bruises and cuts from his friends when he was sure they wouldn’t notice.
He wasn’t afraid to heal others or of the pain that came with it. No, he was afraid of being found out, of being taken by the Chinese government and experimented on until they knew why he could do what he did. So, he never told anyone, never let on how gifted he was, not even to his parents.
Until the day Yifan fell out of the sky.
Yixing was a senior in high school when it happened. He was running laps after school to condition for football, more focused on doing footwork drills to improve his dribbling than he was on his surroundings as he did lap after lap. It was long after everyone else had gone home for the day, which in retrospect was a blessing because he was the only one to see Yifan fall right out of the sky and land on the grass in the middle of the football field with a sickening thud.
Yixing rushed over to him and put his hands on the man’s barely moving chest. He had never met Yifan before, he hadn’t known his name when he fell from the sky. All he knew was that within seconds of placing his hands on his chest, he knew Yifan had five broken ribs, a broken arm, internal bleeding all over the place, a punctured lung, a dislocated shoulder, and fractures in both his hips.
Yixing looked around to make sure there wasn’t anyone around to witness what he was about to do. With the coast clear, he took a deep, bracing breath and slowly began to take the man’s injuries on as his own. He started with the lung and internal bleeding, relief coursing through him when the man began to breathe a bit easier. The broken ribs were next, and every breath he took for the ten long seconds it took his body to heal them sent stabbing aches through his chest.
By the time he got to the broken arm and the fractures in his hips, Yixing was short of breath and sweating, shaky from the intensity of the pain. He had never healed someone so extensively and it was more exhausting than he thought it would be. His one consolation was that with each injury he healed, the man under his hands grew more and more comfortable, relaxing and slowly becoming more conscious.
Yixing placed a shaking hand on the dislocated shoulder, and the moment it slotted back into place the man’s eyes fluttered open, looking right at Yixing.
“Hello,” he breathed, staring at Yixing curiously. “I’m Yifan.”
Zitao was lost.
He knew that he was eighteen right now, but that didn’t mean he was eighteen a few seconds ago. He knew he was in the same room he could remember being in the last time he was lucid, but he didn’t know how long he had been there. He knew that the face he kept seeing was someone in his future but he didn’t know when or how he’d meet him.
Zitao was lost in time and he didn’t know how to be found.
He had always been able to slip in and out of time. He first realized he was doing it when he was seven and he woke up two days in the future, only to blink and in the next second he was back to the present in his bed. When he had told his mom, she said it had probably been a dream.
But it kept happening.
Zitao started slipping in and out of the present with increasing regularity until by the time he was sixteen he wasn’t ever sure when he was. His parents insisted he was lucid dreaming, that he had an overactive imagination and that he couldn’t possibly be losing time like he thought.
And for a while he thought they were right.
Until he froze time for two minutes during an argument with his parents. Everything stopped: the clock on the mantle frozen at half six and forty seconds, his father halted mid-sentence, his mother’s small frown fixed on her face. In his panic, time resumed and the scene continued like it hadn’t been stopped for two minutes. His parents didn’t seem to know how to take their son suddenly collapsing on the floor and babbling about how time had stopped and they’d been frozen and they wouldn’t move or answer and he didn’t understand what was happening to him.
After that they believed he was crazy, but they didn’t believe him when he said they had also been frozen. He didn’t have enough control to keep time suspended while keeping them in the present.
A month later he was admitted to a long-term care facility for the mentally unstable in Shanghai—far enough away for his parents to forget they’d ever had a son.
He’d since gained a semblance of control over his power, but that was something that came much too late and in the silence of a cell that was his home now. But even with that fragile amount of control, he could never trust his own sense of time and he never knew when he was.
The solitude didn’t help, either.
When Zitao woke he wasn’t alone.
“Who are you,” he blurted out, startling the boy on the bed across from his. Since when have I had another bed in my room?
The boy looked back at him warily. He was pretty in a way that looked dangerous, his delicate features at odds with the hardness behind his eyes “I’m Luhan, your roommate.”
Okay, that was definitely new. “What day is it? What year?”
Luhan gave him a bewildered look. “It’s April eighteenth, two-thousand eighteen. Are you okay Tao?”
No, he wasn’t okay. The last time he could recall remembering what day it was had been in March. He’d missed almost a month of time. “How do you know my name?”
Luhan looked, if possible, more alarmed that he already was, his eyes wide as he backed slowly away until he was pressed up against the wall behind his bed.. “You told it to me? When they placed me as your roommate?”
Damn, so he had been lucid enough to carry on simple conversations. Those were the worst slips because he never knew what he’d said. “How long have we been roommates?”
“For like, two weeks now. Tao are you sure you’re okay?”
“I lost a month…” he trailed off. How much had he told to Luhan in his semi-lucid state? How crazy had he sounded? He looked up at Luhan nervously to find him studying him with a concerned expression.
“Tao, do you remember anything since I’ve moved in?”
Zitao thought quickly. He could fake it like he did every time he had a session with the in-house psychologist. Or, he could take a chance and tell Luhan the truth. And what the hell, if Luhan was in here, he was probably as crazy as everyone thought Zitao was, so what did he have to lose? Neither of them was going anywhere soon. “I don’t. I lose time a lot.” It wasn’t even a lie. He did lose time, or his hold on it.
Luhan shrugged. “Okay, and?”
Zitao blinked. “And I get lost in time?” What the hell, he thought, deciding to go all in. “I have control over time,” he explained hesitantly, glancing at the door to make sure it was completely closed. “I can theoretically stop, fast-forward, or rewind time, but I don’t have enough control over it so I usually end up spending days or weeks trapped in the past or future.”
Luhan looked at him blankly. “Oh, is that all?” He slumped back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. “I can move things with my mind.”
“Is that all? I tried to tell my parents and they—wait…what did you say?” he asked, finally registering the second part of Luhan’s response.
Instead of replying, Luhan stared intently at Zitao’s pillow and Zitao watched in shock as it lifted from the bed to hover in front of his face before thumping him gently over the head.
It took him a few moments of gaping stupidly at Luhan, who was starting to look apprehensive for the first time since this bizarre conversation started, before he could respond. When he finally found the words he said, “I’m not alone.”
Luhan huffed in relief. “I suppose not.”
Zitao’s only response to that was to lunge across the room and gather a very surprised Luhan up in his arms. “Thank you, for proving I wasn’t crazy.”
Luhan hesitantly hugged him back from where he was crushed underneath Zitao’s body on his bed. “You’re welcome.”
There was silence as a moment that felt like several seconds stretched into minutes before either of them spoke again. Zitao was far too content to bury his face in Luhan’s neck and relish the knowledge that he wasn’t the only one who was different. Luhan took a breath to speak, and his words had Zitao stiffening in surprise.
“So, how are we going to get the fuck outta here?”
Yixing slicked his hair away from his face and stood under the stream of hot water, letting it wash away the dirt and grime that had accumulated throughout the day. Work wasn’t awful, but there was something about Shanghai itself that made him feel dirty just by riding the transit into work every day. It was probably the pollution.
Meeting Yifan had changed everything for Yixing. The knowledge that he wasn’t the only unusual one, wasn’t the only person with talents shifted his entire world view. He had stuck to Yifan like glue ever since, and the moment he had graduated high school he moved to the city with Yifan and rented an apartment together. They’d changed cities every few months while they finished college through online classes, wary of being noticed by organizations that actively hunted people like them.
Now that they were both done with school it was easier to remain hidden under the mask of society, allowing them to work while secretly trying to find other people like them in the vast hoards of people along the Chinese coastline. So far, they hadn’t found anyone else, but they hadn’t stopped looking in the year since they’d been in Shanghai. Unfortunately Yixing couldn’t do much more than peruse the internet for news and keep a shrewd eye out, looking for odd news stories, videos, blogs, or anything else that could hint at hidden powers. He didn’t even have much use for his powers, besides occasionally healing Yifan when he got hurt trying to land on their tiny balcony, or after the one time he flew through an angry flock of birds.
Yifan was much better at flying now than when they had first met, at least.
Yixing scrubbed his body down with soap, washing his hair quickly before turning off the water. Yifan was cooking dinner and Yixing was starving after a ten-hour shift at the hospital.
He sluiced the water from his arms and legs before stepping out and grabbing a towel to tie around his waist. He walked over to the fogged-up mirror above the sink and wiped away the condensation, only to freeze when he saw his reflection. Or rather, the face in the mirror that should have been his, but wasn’t.
He yelled in shock.
Yifan came bursting into the bathroom, looking ready for a fight with flames flickering at his fingertips. Ever since a close call with a couple of scary men who had noticed they were different a few months ago, Yifan and Yixing had been on edge, ready to run in case they were in danger. When he saw that Yixing was staring at the mirror in shock, Yifan relaxed, chuckling.
“You see your own face all the time, is it just now hitting you how ugly you are?” The flames dancing along his knuckles disappeared with a small curl of smoke.
Yixing motioned for him to be quiet. “Come look in this mirror and tell me I haven’t gone crazy, please,” he said as calmly as he could manage.
Yifan sighed but stepped up next to him and looked in the mirror. “Holy shit.”
“Okay, so you see him too? I’m not crazy?”
“Either we’re having a shared delusion, or there’s a boy waving at you in the mirror.”
Said boy began to babble rapidly at Yixing. “Do you know what he’s saying?” Yixing asked Yifan. He was certain the language he was hearing wasn’t Chinese, but Yifan was better at languages and he was too tired to pick it apart right then.
“You can hear him?” Yifan looked confused, like maybe Yixing was finally getting him back for the Flour Incident. “I can see his mouth moving but there’s no sound.”
“That’s concerning,” Yixing said, frowning at the boy in his mirror. It was obvious that whoever this boy was, he was like them. Special. But what exactly his power was Yixing couldn’t say. In any case, he could clearly hear whatever it was he was saying while Yifan could not, implying that what was happening was for him specifically.
“What does it sound like?”
Yixing listened for a moment and then repeated the last thing the boy had said to Yifan, hesitating over the unfamiliar way his mouth twisted to shape the sounds. In the mirror, the boy got more animated, gesturing wildly between himself and Yixing and smiling.
“Oh shit,” Yifan muttered, peering more closely at the boy. “He’s speaking Korean.”
Well, that was a problem. “My Korean is…not great.” He moved aside, ignoring the panicked look on the boy’s face, and pulled Yifan in front of the mirror. “Can you figure out what he’s saying?”
In the mirror, the boy had gone still, eyeing Yifan nervously and shooting pleading looks at Yixing, who was still visible in the mirror, but only slightly. “I think he’s here for you, whoever he is,” Yifan concluded. “Try saying something to him in Korean.”
Yixing dug through his exhausted brain, trying to remember the limited words he’d picked up from school and Yifan. “Hello,” he finally said in Korean, softly. “My name is Yixing.” He took a moment to really look at the boy, noting the red streaks in his jet-black hair and the slightly-smudged eyeliner around his eyes.
The boy in the mirror beamed, smiling widely. “I’m Baekhyun,” the boy said slowly, evidently picking up that Yixing was not Korean and speaking slower than he had been initially.
Yixing turned to Yifan. “He says his name is Baekhyun,” he said in Chinese. “How do I ask him how he’s doing this?”
Yifan thought for a moment while Baekhyun waited patiently in the mirror, glancing between Yixing and Yifan curiously. Yifan slowly sounded out the words Yixing needed so that Yixing could repeat them to Baekhyun.
When he finished, Baekhyun hesitated before speaking again, chewing his bottom lip in thought. When he did reply, Yixing only caught a few of the words. “I have...trying to find...people...you have...only way...talk.”
Yixing groaned in frustration, tugging at his wet hair and turning to Yifan with a pleading look. “I don’t know what he’s saying.”
Yifan gave him a flat look in return. “I kept telling you to learn Korean. You should have studied harder.”
“Now is not the time to gloat, Yifan. Help me, gē.”
“I can’t hear him! And there is no way I’m going to be able to read his lips. Try asking him what he can do.” Yifan patiently sounded out the words for Yixing to repeat back to Baekhyun.
Instead of answering in words, Baekhyun began to gesture. First to himself, then to Yixing through the mirror, miming the act of looking at something. “Is he saying that finding people in mirrors is his power?” Yixing asked Yifan, who shrugged in response.
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
Baekhyun waved his hand to get their attention again. Once he had it, he began to shine.
Bright, pure light began radiating from him, matching his beaming smile and making Yixing and Yifan squint to keep looking at him.
“Okay, so he glows. Great.”
“I think it’s more than that, gē,” Yixing said, studying a now back to normal Baekhyun. He looked more tired than he did before he began to shine. “He found me in a mirror.”
“Ask him where he is,” Yifan suggested. “Maybe he’s somewhere close.”
“It’s like you don’t realize how big Shanghai is,” he muttered, before digging out the right words in Korean and asking Baekhyun where he was.
“Seoul,” he replied. “Where are you?”
“Shanghai,” Yixing said with a small frown.
Baekhyun looked devastated. “That’s…so far away.” He stared off in the distance for a moment.
Yixing studied him while he thought. He was cute in a sharp way, his eyes shrewd and his lips always tilted in a wry sort of smile. He looked a bit foxlike, and Yixing was helplessly drawn in by him.
“Where in Shanghai are you?” Baekhyun asked suddenly, those sharp eyes boring into Yixing through the mirror.
“What’s he saying?” Yifan whispered.
“He wants to know where in Shanghai we are.”
“Are you going to tell him?”
“Do you think we can trust him? We’re already keeping a low profile—what if he draws more attention to us or sells us out to some lab that will run endless tests and experiments on us?”
In the mirror, Baekhyun waved for their attention, pointing frantically at the back of his wrist when they both looked at him.
“I think he’s running out of time,” Yifan said. “You need to decide now.”
Yixing turned to Baekhyun as his image started to ripple like still water disturbed by a pebble. He rattled off their address before he could second guess his gut feeling, repeating it until Baekhyun disappeared from the mirror.
“Well,” Yifan began, dryly, “let’s hope he doesn’t get us killed.”
Yixing whacked him in the chest and stepped past him out of the bathroom, making for his room. “He won’t. I have a feeling this is supposed to happen.” And he did. He couldn’t explain it, but after the initial scare, meeting Baekhyun had felt…right, and he couldn’t help but trust his instincts. He’d stayed alive this long.
As he got dressed and Yifan went back to the kitchen, Yixing hoped he hadn’t just made a serious mistake.
Silence greeted him, and Minseok frowned. It was unusual not to be greeted as soon as he stepped through the front door. He set his keys in the bowl on the runner table in the entryway, slipping off his shoes and moving further into their house.
He reached the dining room, only to find it empty. The sun room was as well. Maybe Junmyeon was in the west wing? He’d had plans to fix some things in that wing for a while now. He went back to the foyer, just in front of the sweeping staircase that led to the second floor, and was about to look upstairs when arms wrapped around his waist from behind and a head pressed against the back of his neck.
“Welcome home,” Junmyeon said softly, ignoring the way Minseok’s skin went frigid with the surprise.
Minseok spun around to face Junmyeon, who looked sleepy and rumpled. Minseok smiled fondly at the sight. Junmyeon was normally so put together—he never set foot outside unless everything was perfect about his appearance—but at home when it was just the two of him he was more relaxed, and if you were to ask Minseok, this was the version of Junmyeon that he loved most. “Where were you? I was just about to head upstairs to look for you.”
Junmyeon yawned. “I was napping on the window seat in the parlor. The afternoon sun hits it just right.”
Of course, the parlor. Minseok should have checked there first. It was Junmyeon’s favorite room in this giant house they called home. When Junmyeon had inherited the estate from his great aunt he had taken an immediate liking to the parlor, renovating it with plush settees and rugs thick enough that you sunk up to your ankles when you walked on them. He had done everything in varying shades of blue, and Minseok always felt like he was stepping underwater whenever he walked into the room.
“How was your day?” Minseok asked, smoothing down a stray strand of Junmyeon’s deep blue hair.
Junmyeon shrugged. “I did some work to the east wing, cleared out a few more rooms and planned renovations for them. Fixed the loose floorboard that creaks in the west wing. Napped.” He pulled Minseok closer and rested his chin on his shoulder. “Missed you.”
Minseok hummed and returned the embrace, one hand threading through Junmyeon’s hair and the other wrapping around his waist. “Sounds like you were productive.”
“I was. How was work?”
Minseok shrugged. His work varied from day to day as a physician’s assistant, but today had been rather uneventful. “It was fine. None of Dr. Cha’s patients died and I got to assist him during a surgery. It was fine.” He yawned. “Tiring.”
Junmyeon lifted his head and pressed a gentle kiss to Minseok’s forehead. “Let’s make dinner and go to bed early then? Fall asleep to a movie? I’ll cook.”
Minseok kissed him slowly, savoring the warmth and softness of his lips. “Sounds great,” he said when they parted. “I’ll go change and join you in the kitchen.”
Junmyeon hummed in response and headed through the dining room to their right that would lead him to the kitchen in the east side of the house. Minseok watched him go before heading in the opposite direction toward the master suite in the north-west corner of the house.
The great room was just behind the stairs and connected to the ocean room—or the parlor Junmyeon had designed--off to the left. Once he was in the parlor he turned to his left and walked past the door leading to their room, shedding his scrubs as he moved through the attached bathroom and into their large walk-in closet. If Junmyeon hadn’t inherited this house from his super rich great-aunt and the fortune that came with it they wouldn’t have been able to afford something like this on their own, ever.
He grabbed his favorite pair of sweatpants and t-shirt, tutting over the mess Junmyeon had made of their closet sometime in the last ten-hours he’d been on shift, before walking back into the bathroom for a quick shower, desperate to scrub the feel of the hospital and the smell of disinfectant off him.
Technically he didn’t need to work. With the money Junmyeon had inherited, neither of them needed to work another day in their lives and they could live very comfortably. But he liked the distraction that came from being so busy he didn’t have time to think about anything else like the perpetual danger their lives were in. Plus, it kept him from being annoyed at the constant chill that he felt because of the ice in his veins. He was almost always too cold to ever feel truly warm, no matter how many blankets Junmyeon piled on top of him at night.
He turned the water as hot as it would go, it still only feeling lukewarm to him as he washed under the spray. By the time he was finished with his shower and changed into his sweatpants and shirt he was considerably warmer than he’d been all day.
“What’s for dinner?” he asked, once he’d made his way into the kitchen.
Junmyeon straightened from where he was bent over a steaming pot on the stove and flashed him a smile. “Kimchi jjigae. It’s supposed to storm tonight so I thought something warm and spicy would be good.”
Minseok hummed in appreciation, coming up behind Junmyeon to wrap his arms around his waist from behind, hooking his chin over his shoulder and watching as he idly stirred the soup by circling a finger over the pot.
“Want me to dry your hair for you?”
Minseok nodded and stepped away so that Junmyeon could turn around and lift the remaining water away from his hair and send it into the sink with a dismissive flick of his wrist. “Thanks, babe.”
“Anytime.” Junmyeon’s smile was as bright as a spring morning. “Now, let’s eat?”
A booming crash woke Minseok up in the dead of night.
He jolted awake, Junmyeon’s arm slipping away from his waist as he got out of bed to look out their bedroom windows overlooking the back lawn. What he saw in the bright flashes of light had him running back to bed to roughly shake Junmyeon awake. “Myeon, wake up.”
“Mmpf, wha’ is it?” he mumbled, sitting up and rubbing at his eyes. “Seok, it’s like three in the morning,” he moaned, looking at the bedside clock.
“You need to see this, get up!”
“Look,” Minseok said, pointing out across the back lawn just as lightning struck with a thunderous crash. In the flash of light, a figure could be seen, conducting the lightning like an orchestra of chaos.
“Holy shit,” Junmyeon breathed, squinting to see through the darkness and the rain.
Minseok yanked him out of their bedroom and into the parlor, where there were doors leading out onto the patio. The second they stepped outside they were pelted with sheets of rain, which didn’t bother either of them necessarily, but was still annoying and hard to see through.
“Babe, what are we doing out here?” Junmyeon yelled over the wind. “This is insane!”
Minseok ignored him and stared fixedly at the figure in the distance. They called the lightning down in bright flashes of light that temporarily blinded him and thunderous booms he could feel in his bones. It was beautiful to watch someone harness so much raw power, to conduct pure energy through themselves and into the earth, and Minseok wanted to get closer but knew that would be a Bad Idea with how conductive he and Junmyeon were with electricity.
He didn’t know how long they stood there getting drenched by the rain, watching this person who was like them, who was special, harness the raging force of this storm in one body, but looking back they probably saved his life when it all went wrong.
It was in the blink of an eye, but Minseok saw the man drop his arms, leaving him unprepared when the biggest bolt of lightning yet slammed into his defenseless body. It happened almost too fast for him to process, but once he replayed what he’d seen in his mind, he began sprinting across the lawn, up the hill, until he reached the man lying prone on the ground.
His hands were shaking as he rolled the man onto his back, gasping as he saw what had happened.
“Is he okay?” Junmyeon gasped, out of breath from their sprint across the lawn. “Oh, shit,” he said looking at the man.
Minseok felt his neck for a pulse. “His heart’s still beating,” he said in surprised relief. “We need to get him out of this storm fast.” Minseok lifted him carefully, trying not to put pressure on the livid red lines lacing across the visible patches of skin. “The last thing we need is to get hit like him.” Minseok looked back at the house. “Junmyeon, go on ahead and get me cold water, clean towels and if you can, whatever ointments or disinfectants you can find.”
“I’ll get them. Meet me in the parlor,” Junmyeon called out as he turned and ran back to the house.
Minseok followed him, albeit slower, and prayed that he wouldn’t get hit by the next bolt of lightning. The man in his arms was about his size, and while he wasn’t heavy, he wasn’t light, which had Minseok breathing heavily by the time he reached the patio and walked back into the house through the parlor doors, which Junmyeon had left open.
Junmyeon was ready for him with one of the couches covered in clean towels, along with buckets from the kitchen, some of which were full of water while others were empty. As soon as Minseok had laid the man on the couch, Junmyeon was pulling the water from his body and into the empty buckets by his side. Minseok moved around Junmyeon and gingerly unbuttoned the simple black shirt the man was wearing, unsurprised at what he saw, though it wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d anticipated.
“What are those?” Junmyeon gasped softly, his eyes wide.
“Lightning scars—or they will be, once they heal up.” Minseok pointed to some faded white lines on his chest. “Look, you can see some old scars. This isn’t the first time this has happened to him.”
The man’s chest was a mess of vivid red lines. There were several deep holes that looked like a hot poker had been shoved into his skin—the points where the lightning had entered his body. A large one on his left shoulder, another on his right collarbone, one on his ribs by his left elbow, another on his left hip. Smaller marks were on the side of his neck and his cheek. They were going to scar, but what really held Minseok’s attention were the intricate lines spreading from each point of impact—a visible map of how the lightning had spread through his body.
“Will he be okay?” Junmyeon asked, lightly tracing the line that arched over the bridge of his nose and curled to an end on his right cheek below his eye.
Minseok cooled his hands until his fingers were chilled at the tips and prepared to place his hands over the points of impact to soothe and cool the burned flesh. “I think so, as long as he doesn’t have any kind of brain damage from the sheer amount of electrical current he was conducting. This looks a lot worse that it is. He’ll be in pain from the burns, but nothing unbearable.” He studied the injuries in front of him with a critical eye. “Normally, with something like this, I’d expect third degree burns, but these look like they barely qualify as second degree.” He had barely touched two fingers to the burned patch of skin on his ribs when the man arched off the couch, his eyes snapping open as he shouted in pain.
“Woah! Easy, we’ve got you,” Junmyeon soothed, easing him back against the couch.
“Who…?” he croaked, looking between Junmyeon and Minseok in confusion before squinting his eyes shut and groaning in pain.
“I’m Junmyeon, and that’s Minseok,” Junmyeon replied, once the man had opened his eyes again. They were glassy with shock and pain. “We saw you in the storm, watched you control it, and saw you get hit.”
A look of panic flashed across his pained features.
“Don’t worry,” Minseok said, giving him a reassuring grin and wiggling the fingers of his other hand as he let them frost over. “We’re like you.”
“What’s your name?” Junmyeon asked while the man looked between the two of them warily.
“Jongdae,” he finally said, wincing as Minseok lifted his cold fingers away from his ribs and placed them to the burned skin of his hip. “I didn’t know anyone lived in this house.”
“Surprise,” Minseok said wryly. “Is there anyone we should call? Family, friends?”
Jongdae shook his head. “No, I’m on my own.”
Minseok nodded. “Okay, that’s fine, we’ve got you. Myeon, will you get him some painkillers? Some of the strong stuff from when I broke my ribs? He’ll need it.”
Junmyeon left the room without another word, while Jongdae groaned in pain. “How bad is it this time?”
Minseok chewed at his bottom lip. “Here, I’ll help you sit up.” He warmed his hands to room temperature and shuffled around Jongdae, placing one hand behind his neck and the other under his mostly uninjured right side to help lift him up and back so that he was leaning against the arm of the couch instead of fully reclined on the cushions.
Jongdae closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them and looking down at his bare torso. “Oh fuck,” he breathed shakily. “Ow.”
Minseok chuckled. “You’re lucky these aren’t worse, honestly.”
“I wasn’t sure which one you wanted,” Junmyeon said, walking back into the sun room, “so I grabbed everything we had.” He dropped a few bottles of pills on the floor by Minseok’s knees. “Feeling better, Jongdae?” he asked, smiling at Jongdae as he knelt by Minseok.
Jongdae grimaced. “My whole body hurts like hell and I feel like my internal organs have been rearranged.”
Minseok frowned, running through his internal catalogue of medical knowledge to figure out what he should check for. “Myeon, will you see if he’s got blood going anywhere it shouldn’t? Moving liquid is more your specialty than mine. You’re looking for excessive blood flow in the brain, heart, lungs or abdomen.”
“Are you a doctor?” Jongdae asked Minseok, as Junmyeon gently laid his hands on Jongdae’s torso, avoiding the burns as best he could, a small furrow appearing between his eyebrows as he concentrated.
“Physician’s assistant,” Minseok replied. “So yes, but also no.”
Junmyeon rolled his eyes. “He’s being modest. He’s smart enough to be a doctor but didn’t want to deal with the extra years of school. He’s as good as one, either way.” He lifted his hands off Jongdae’s body and turned to address Minseok. “He’s not bleeding anywhere he isn’t supposed to be.”
Minseok nodded in satisfaction. Looking at the pills Junmyeon had gathered and finding the bottle he wanted, he dumped out two and handed them to Jongdae. “Take these, they’ll help with your pain.” Junmyeon helpfully pulled some water from one of the buckets and formed it into an orb that hovered in front of Jongdae’s mouth.
“This is so weird,” Jongdae muttered, tossing the pills into his mouth and swallowing before opening his mouth again to let Junmyeon guide the water into his mouth. “Ugh,” he shuddered, “weird.”
“We should probably get you into a bed and let you sleep,” Minseok suggested. “Do you think you can walk or do you want me to carry you?”
“Nah, I’ve got this,” Jongdae said, waving off Minseok’s help. He slowly stood from the couch and took a step, only for his legs to give out from under him.
Minseok got an arm around him before he went down completely, making Jongdae hiss in pain as the arm he slung around Jongdae’s waist agitated his injuries. “Junmyeon, what room should we put him in?” Junmyeon knew which rooms in the house were ready for occupants better than Minseok did, since he was the one renovating everything.
Junmyeon came up to Jongdae’s other side, slipping his arm around Jongdae’s waist and helping Minseok support his weight. “The only rooms that are ready besides ours are on the second floor.”
Minseok huffed in frustration. “I don’t like the idea of him being so far away from us while he sleeps and stairs are going to be difficult for him right now.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “How do you feel about him sleeping in our room tonight?”
Jongdae sighed. “I really don’t want to deal with stairs right now. I guess I’ll take your room, if that’s okay.”
“I’d say we could all share our room, but Junmyeon is a cuddler,” Minseok supplied.
Jongdae made a sort of whimpering sound in the back of his throat. “Yeah...no, thanks. As tempting as that is,” he said sarcastically, “I’ll pass.”
Together they moved into the bedroom—also done in varying shades of blue, although lighter than the parlor—and got Jongdae settled in the bed.
Junmyeon disappeared in the direction of the bathroom.
“The pain meds should be kicking in soon, do you need anything else?” Minseok asked.
“Do you want to change into these?” Junmyeon asked before Jongdae could answer Minseok, sweats and a t-shirt in his hands. “These are Minseok’s so they should fit you; you’re about the same size.”
Jongdae sighed. “Yes, please.”
It only took watching Jongdae struggle to sit up on his own for a second before Minseok and Junmyeon were helping him out of his slightly charred clothes and into the clean ones Junmyeon had brought.
“Better?” Junmyeon asked as Jongdae relaxed back against the pillows with a sigh.
“Much.” He looked at both of them intently. “Thank you for saving me.”
“Of course, we were happy to.” Junmyeon brushed his fingers across Jongdae’s forehead as he spoke, and Minseok watched as Jongdae’s eyes fluttered and he slipped into deep sleep.
“You put him under?”
Junmyeon nodded. “Just helped him sleep faster. He was already well on his way.” He tangled his fingers with Minseok’s, tugging him toward the parlor. “Let’s go back to sleep, yeah?”
Minseok swayed, his exhaustion suddenly hitting him now that the danger was over and Jongdae was sleeping peacefully. He turned off the lights in the bedroom as he followed Junmyeon into the parlor.”Yeah, let’s.” He wouldn’t be surprised if Junmyeon was using the physical contact to coax more melatonin into his system, but he was too weary from his long day and the events of tonight to care.
He allowed Junmyeon to bundle him up into blankets, catching the parlor lights before joining him and curling around him, pulling Minseok flush to him on the settee. “Sleep, love,” he whispered, placing a soft kiss to the skin below Minseok’s ear.
Minseok slipped into sleep, warm and safe.
Minseok woke with electricity zipping under his skin and his hair standing on end. He startled, jolting in Junmyeon’s arms and snapping his eyes open to see Jongdae standing over them, his hand on Minseok’s shoulder.
It explained the electricity, at least.
“Jongdae,” he said, reaching up to pat at the uninjured side of Jongdae’s face. “What do you need?”
Jongdae whined in the back of his throat. “I’m hungry.”
“You’re zapping me.”
As soon as Jongdae registered his words, the current humming under his skin stopped. “Sorry,” Jongdae said sheepishly. “I’m usually alone so I don’t have to worry about things like this.”
“Why are you two talking this early,” Junmyeon groaned into Minseok’s neck, shifting behind him to press closer to his back. “Go back to sleep.”
Minseok could use a few more hours, and he felt his eyes drifting shut again with the warmth of Junmyeon lulling him back to sleep when Jongdae whined softly, “But I’m hungry.”
Junmyeon grumbled something into the skin of Minseok’s neck that sounded a lot like, “munfkn whiny-ass man lemme sleep,” but sat up anyway. He leaned over to place a soft, gentle kiss to Minseok’s lips, lingering far longer than was probably appropriate when there was a near-stranger watching them but Minseok was too pliant to resist the pull of Junmyeon.
“I’m right here,” Jongdae groaned, covering his eyes with his hands.
“You’re making us get up to make you food,” Junmyeon pointed out, “you can deal with me kissing my boyfriend good morning.”
Minseok chuckled dryly, gently pushing Junmyeon off him so he could sit up and stretch his limbs awake. “Come on, I don’t have to be to work until tonight and I don’t want to spend all day sleeping anyway.”
Junmyeon smirked. “Are you sure I can’t persuade you to stay in bed with me?”
“I’m still here, guys,” Jongdae huffed, dropping his hands to glare at them. “Are you two normally this gross, or is this just for my benefit?”
“He’s always like this,” Minseok replied. He leaned over and kissed Junmyeon briefly while he was hovering over him standing up.
“Judas,” Jongdae moaned, while Junmyeon winked at Minseok as he walked toward their room to head for the bathroom.
Once he was done in the bathroom, Minseok walked over to the sink to wash his hands and glanced up at himself in the mirror, except.
He looked back at the mirror and yelled, “Junmyeon?!”
“There’s a boy in the mirror,” Minseok shouted, trying not to panic.
“What?” came two voices shouting in tandem, followed by the sound of footsteps.
Minseok didn’t take his eyes off the boy in the mirror, who was waving at him cheerily. The boy opened his mouth and said, “Hi, I’m Baekhyun!” at the same moment Junmyeon and Jongdae walked into the room.
“Holy shit,” Jongdae said. “How in the hell is there a person in your mirror?”
The boy—Baekhyun—pouted at them. “I can hear what you’re saying. And to answer your question, scarred man, I’m scrying you.” He squinted at Jongdae, his face getting larger as he leaned forward to peer closer. “That looks like it hurt. What’d you do, walk into an electric fence?”
Jongdae made a choked sound.
“I’m sorry, you’re what?” Junmyeon asked, squinting at Baekhyun like he was crazy, and maybe he was.
Baekhyun looked momentarily surprised. “Oh! You can all hear me this time! I must be getting better.” He beamed happily for a moment at their stunned expressions, then said, “I’m Scrying. You know,” he waved his hands around his head, “trying to find people like me.”
“People like you?” Minseok felt like he was two steps behind what was happening. If this kid was looking for people like him, people like Minseok, then maybe he and Junmyeon weren’t as alone as they thought they were.
Baekhyun held up his hands and Minseok flinched back before he realized that Baekhyun was beginning to shine. Pools of light gathered and collected in his palms, pure and bright. “I’ve got powers, and I bet you do too.”
“Where are you,” Junmyeon asked, expression intense. “Are you safe?”
Baekhyun nodded. “I’m safe. I’m in my dorm at Seoul University.”
“You’re scrying in your dorm?” Junmyeon hissed, fisting his hands in his dark blue hair. “What if somebody walked in on you?”
“Relax,” Baekhyun said, waving away Junmyeon’s worries in a way that bespoke the casual carelessness of youth. “I’m perfectly safe.”
Minseok and Junmyeon traded a look. They both knew that Baekhyun wasn’t nearly as safe as he thought he was—but they’d clearly had a different experience than Baekhyun had and a far more dangerous one at that. It took a second, maybe two, for Minseok and Junmyeon to reach a silent agreement. After so many years together it came easily, knowing what the other was thinking.
“You need to come here, as soon as you can,” Junmyeon instructed. “We need to meet you, tell you what we know and what to avoid.”
Baekhyun’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “But…I have classes?”
“Skip them,” Jongdae said, moving closer to Junmyeon and Minseok so that Baekhyun could see him in the mirror. “You should get here as soon as you can.”
“But, I was going to use the upcoming term break to find the guys in China.”
“Baekhyun,” Minseok began softly, “are you saying you’ve contacted others besides us?”
Baekhyun nodded happily. “Yeah! They’re in China and I think they’re alone, so I was going to go and meet them.”
Minseok felt his hair frost over in terror. China was the last place Baekhyun should go, but telling him why might not be in their best interest right now.
“Come here first,” Junmyeon reasoned, “and once we explain things and figure some stuff out we will help you find the guys in China.”
Baekhyun chewed his lip in thought. “Fine, where are you guys?”
Junmyeon gave him their address, making sure he wrote it down before letting Baekhyun go.
“Oh, and Baekhyun,” Minseok called, and Baekhyun’s rippling form solidified once more. “Don’t scry anyone else until we can talk to you, please.”
Baekhyun narrowed his eyes but nodded anyway. He looked a bit drained—probably from the effort of scrying them for so long—and his image rippled until all they saw in the mirror were their own pale faces.
“What the fuck,” Jongdae whispered, looking like he might faint.
Minseok couldn’t help but agree.
“Okay, but what if he does get us killed?”
Yixing sighed and rolled over to find a nervous Yifan standing by his bed. “He’s Korean, who is he going to tell?” He tried to wake up faster. Yifan shaking him awake when he was upset or nervous wasn’t uncommon, but usually it happened at a more reasonable time of the morning. “Yifan it’s like,” he glanced at his phone, “five in the morning. I have to work today, can you let me sleep?”
Yifan grimaced. “My father isn’t even in China right now and yet his men still nearly managed to catch us. I’m too freaked out to sleep.”
Oh, it made sense now. In the few days since Baekhyun had appeared in their bathroom mirror Yifan had been getting progressively more uptight. Yixing hadn’t thought much of it until this moment, but he should have realized sooner.
“He doesn’t know where we are Yifan, we’re still safe.”
“But there was that brush with his men a few months ago. He knows we’re in this city.”
Yixing sighed. “We chose Shanghai for this reason. Even if he knows we’re here, there’s so many people he’ll never be able to narrow it down. Besides,” he said softly, “we should at least wait a month or so and see if Baekhyun finds us. I don’t want him to run into anyone from your dad’s company.”
Yifan blanched. “We shouldn’t have given him our address.” He sat down on the edge of Yixing’s bed. “What if we get him killed. Yixing, he probably has no idea! He’s just a kid.”
“Slow down,” Yixing said, sitting up and running a soothing hand up and down Yifan’s back. “It’s going to be fine. He doesn’t even speak the language, so I doubt he would come here alone.”
“Then we’ll have gotten several people killed.” He was panting now, his breathing coming in short gasps and his hands clenching in the fabric of his favorite sleep shorts as he stared blankly at the floor.
Yixing huffed in frustration and pulled Yifan’s face around to look him in the eye. “Breathe, Yifan, it’s going to be okay. Calm down. We’ll do what we always do.” He waited until Yifan had calmed somewhat before continuing. “We stay vigilant, under the radar as much as possible, and we keep an eye out for a lost-looking Korean kid and hope that he makes it here in one piece.”
“But my father—”
“There’s no point in worrying about that until we know that something is going to happen. Where would we start?” He ran a hand through Yifan’s hair—it was brown this month and getting long; they’ll have to get new haircuts and colors—trying to soothe him. “We have no way of contacting Baekhyun, so we have to wait and watch.”
“I hate this.”
Yixing pulled him closer, wrapping Yifan up in his arms. “I know. We’ll be okay, Yifan.”
Yifan wrapped his arms around Yixing’s waist, burying his face in his shoulder as slow tremors shook his large frame. Yixing wanted to take this pain away from Yifan, remove the heartbreak and betrayal so he could be whole again, but Yixing could only heal physical pain.
“So, how much do the two of you know about people like us?” Jongdae asked over the breakfast Junmyeon had made. He was looking much better this morning. The lines branching over his skin weren’t as red or vivid, the burns slightly less angry looking, and Jongdae hadn’t cried when he saw himself in the mirror earlier, which Minseok considered progress.
They’d been eating in silence so far, each of them too lost in their own thoughts after their conversation with Baekhyun to talk much.
Minseok and Junmyeon traded a glance.
“Quit doing that,” Jongdae groused, “I’m right here, geez.”
“We know that people like us have disappeared in the past without a trace, never to be found again,” Junmyeon said slowly.
“We also know,” Minseok continued, “that in China people like us are actively hunted. They’re in far more danger than we are here.”
“At least in Korea they don’t come for you unless you cause problems or draw attention to yourself,” Jongdae agreed, chewing slowly. “It’s not a coincidence that the two of you live out here, is it?”
“No,” Minseok answered, “it isn’t. Junmyeon inherited this house from his great-aunt, which was a blessing. Out here we don’t have to worry about someone accidently seeing us doing something unexplainable. The nearest town is like, fifteen minutes away by car, so—”
“You’re safe.” Jongdae smiled. “I get it. Oh, and before you ask, I was storm chasing.”
“That’s why you found me in your backyard. I was following storms to help increase my control and was lucky enough to be found by the two of you.”
Minseok chewed a mouthful of food before speaking again. “Where did you come from? We’re really far outside of Seoul.”
Junmyeon looked at Jongdae carefully.
“I’m from around Seongnam but live in Seoul.”
Minseok raised an eyebrow. Their house was in a forested area between Gwangju and Seongnam and not the easiest to find. It would be a miracle if Baekhyun didn’t somehow get lost on his way to them. “You are lucky we found you.”
Jongdae nodded and continued eating. “Hope the kid is safe. He can’t be very old.”
Junmyeon eyed him skeptically. “You don’t look that old yourself.”
Minseok tried not to laugh at Jongdae’s indignant tone. “Like he said, not very old.”
“Yeah, well, you don’t look much older than fifteen, chipmunk.”
Minseok froze Jongdae’s jjigae. “I’m twenty-eight, you punk.”
“And I’m twenty-seven,” Junmyeon supplied. “Be nice to your hyungs.”
Jongdae rolled his eyes before glaring at Minseok until he thawed his jjigae.
“For someone who is imposing on our hospitality, you sure have a lot of sass,” Junmyeon muttered.
“Oh please,” Jongdae griped. “You love having me here.”
Minseok opened his mouth to argue before he realized he couldn’t. There was something about Jongdae that made it seem like they’d been friends for years. Junmyeon’s hand found his knee under the table, squeezing gently to get his attention.
Minseok looked at him, and they came to a silent agreement.
“You’re right,” Junmyeon said.
“Of course I’m—wait, what?”
“We do like having you here. You can stay, in fact you probably should until your injuries heal. Do you have a job?”
“Uh, well, kinda?” Jongdae pushed the remains of his jjigae around his bowl. “I work at a convenience store.”
“Do you need to keep going?” Minseok asked. “You can carpool with me into the city, but you’ll probably have to adjust your schedule to mine, and I tend to work long hours at the hospital.”
“If you don’t want to work,” Junmyeon supplied helpfully, “you can stay home with me and help with renovations when you feel better.”
Jongdae thought about it for a moment. “Nah,” he said finally. “I hated that job anyway. I’ll stay here with you guys. Can you teach me how to control my power?”
“Uh,” Minseok blinked in surprise, “I could try.”
Jongdae nodded happily. “Cool. I’m excited! It’s gonna be just like summer camp!”
Junmyeon and Minseok looked at each other before groaning in unison. “We’re too young to have kids, dear,” Junmyeon said with a straight face.
Minseok fought the way his mouth twitched up in a smile. “Good thing we got a puppy instead.”
They both bolted from the table as Jongdae threatened to ‘zap those smug smiles off your faces’. Minseok couldn’t remember the last time he laughed so carelessly.
The door to their room opening woke Zitao from his light sleep. He was a light sleeper now that he was locked up in this place. He didn’t want to risk someone injecting him with something while he was asleep.
Zitao relaxed back against his pillow. It was just one of the nurses. “Yeah?” he mumbled as Luhan stirred awake. It was early still, and even though Zitao didn’t have a clock, when he was lucid he always knew what time it was.
“Time for your meds,” the nurse said, moving further into their room, the door remaining open enticingly behind him. “Mind if I turn on the lights?” he asked softly, conscious of their still sleepy states.
“S’fine,” Luhan yawned, sitting up with a stretch.
They were both used to this routine—being woken up first thing in the morning by one of the nurses, taking their meds, and then going back to sleep if they wanted—but it didn’t make waking up any easier.
The nurse flicked on the lights, and once Zitao’s vision cleared he saw that this morning it was his favorite nurse, the soft-spoken and gentle one. Of all the people in this place, Zitao liked him best.
“Who are you?” Luhan asked, blinking warily at the nurse.
Zitao quirked his head in curiosity. This nurse has worked here for a year or so—not as long as Zitao had been here but a while—it seemed weird that Luhan didn’t know who he was.
The nurse smiled, noting Zitao’s confusion. “Ah, I’ve been taking the evening shifts for a while and haven’t seen you since you came here, Luhan, we haven’t met yet.” He set their tray of meds down on the small table between their beds.
“My name is Yixing.”
There's a lot of inspiration that I drew from in writing this. One of the big things was some artwork on Tumblr that I found from this artist. That link will take you to her artwork for Jongdae, which directly relates to the events of this chapter. So much of her art inspired the events of this fic and I highly recommend checking out the rest of her artwork in this series. It's truly amazing.
I also drew from the MAMA, Lucky One, Monster, and Power MVs.
The house that junseok live in is very much a real house, although it's more like a small palace. You can find the floor plans here, which I would recommend looking at because a lot of this fic is going to happen in this house. There are some minor modifications that I've made to the main portion of the house (the wings are the same) but for the most part everything is by the floor plan.
So many other authors on ao3 have written fabulous MAMA fics. I've browsed so much of the tag and read a good portion of them as part of my research for writing this and it's fueled my creativity in ways I haven't been expecting.
Finally, a huge thank you to my friends and betas (specifically Cat, Han and Cinny, along with so many others) who have combed through this fic many times, helping me become a better writer and stay true to the characters I'm writing. I love you all very much. <3
Chapter 2: This familiar yet strange path
Somewhere in Seoul, the wind was whispering through the buildings, dancing along the streets, weaving between people as it told them the stories of all it had seen.
And somewhere in Seoul, a boy stopped to listen to what the wind had to say.
I finished chapter five so here you go.
Don't hate me ;-;
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Taemin flipped over the last card and felt his stomach drop.
That…wasn’t good. Each card he had turned over in this reading had gotten progressively more and more grim. Whenever he read for insight into future situations it usually wasn’t anything foreboding.
But this, this was bad.
“Taemin, babe, you home?”
Taemin called out an absent-minded response, still too busy looking at the cards and hoping he was wrong. With the cards in this order, they spoke of a brewing storm, one that would drastically change and affect the lives of so many people.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were doing a reading.”
“It’s okay,” Taemin replied faintly, feeling his boyfriend come and sit behind him, his arms winding around Taemin’s narrow waist. The familiar weight of a head thumped gently between his shoulders. “How was your day?”
“Good,” came the weary reply. “We were busy today and I burned my wrist on the steamer again.”
Taemin tutted absently, flipping over the next four cards in the deck to see if the next layer revealed anything else. It didn’t—it got worse with the next layer. He carefully placed them back in the deck. “Jongin,” he said, tapping the hands around his waist, “I have something to tell you.”
Taemin loosened his grip so that he could turn around and face him. “I think you’re in danger,” he said quietly, running his hands through the soft blond strands of Jongin’s hair. It was starting to grow out, his natural black just barely showing at the roots. “I think a lot of people are going to be in danger soon.”
Jongin frowned, his forehead crinkling in confusion. “Is that what your reading showed?”
Taemin nodded hesitantly. The cards weren’t set in stone, things could change very easily and quickly, but this reading… “It wasn’t good, Nini. It hints at a coming storm. The kind that will cause pain and harm to lots of people.” He paused, brushing a finger along Jongin’s cheekbone. “People like you.”
Jongin shifted and pulled Taemin into his arms. “I’ll keep us safe, Tae, don’t worry.”
Taemin wasn’t worried about himself. But he didn’t say that, only clung tighter to Jongin and hoped he was wrong.
Kyungsoo had always loved being out in nature. Even before he knew he could influence and control the earth, he’d loved the warmth of the sun on his skin and the feeling of cool soil beneath his toes. There was something about being in the hills, the sounds of the forest surrounding him, that made him feel a peace he couldn’t find anywhere else.
Trees and dirt couldn’t hurt you or make you feel small and afraid. They just were.
“Kyungsoo, keep up!”
Kyungsoo pulled his awareness out of the surrounding nature and back to the path he was walking with his mother. The pebbles he’d been circling over his hand dropped back to the ground as he rushed to catch up with his mother. It was starting to rain quite heavily, and while they were always prepared when they went out for day hikes, she was eager to get out of the worsening storm.
They hadn’t gone very far into the hills today—just a few miles—but it had been raining all day and Kyungsoo was muddied up to his ankles after trudging through the wilderness. They did this every weekend, he and his mother, and it was his favorite part of the week. Out here he didn’t have to hide who he was or what he could do. He could show his mother the new things he was learning about his powers and watch her face transform with awe and pride.
“My strong Soo,” she’d whisper every time, hugging him tightly and placing soft kisses into his hair. “You’re such a gift to me.”
It never failed to make him feel important, special, loved. They only had each other, and they’d never needed anyone else. Once he finished high school, he and his mother moved out into a forested area in Yangpyeong where he didn’t have to constantly worry about losing control and placing them in danger. And taking online classes for his degree was much easier when he could take breaks to wander through nature and recharge when homework became too much.
Their life was quiet and solitary, but it was perfect to Kyungsoo.
“Soo,” his mother said, walking ahead of him on the path. “What do you sense?”
This was a game they played often. His mother would ask and he would dial into the earth, sensing everything growing and living and tell her what was around. Occasionally he found something unique or fascinating. Often, she would challenge him to stretch his awareness, until he could sense wildlife and other hikers miles away.
He cast his awareness out as he walked. He could feel the vibrations of their footsteps as they continued walking down the mountain, the way the roots of the trees around them soaked up the moisture saturating the earth. “There’s a herd of deer two miles south of us,” he said softly.
His mother hummed softly. “What else, my little earth mage?”
He scrunched his nose in the way she always told him made his freckles stand out more but kept looking outward. “Hikers further down the mountain from us, the ranger station five miles away is being used. I can feel the electricity humming through the ground.”
Her laughter tinkled around them, weaving with the steadily falling rain. She turned to look at him over her shoulder, her eyes crinkling with mirth. “You’re so strong now, Kyungsoo.” She shook her head slightly in disbelief.
Kyungsoo felt warmth bloom in his chest at the compliment. “I love you, mom,” he said with a laugh. “It’s so easy to make you proud.”
She stopped walking, turning around to face him fully. “How could I not be proud of a son like you?” She reached out to pull him into a hug. “You’re so perfect.”
He hugged her tightly, tucking her head under his chin. “I’m only this strong because I have a strong mother to learn from.”
She smacked his back playfully. “Who taught you to be this cheesy, huh?” She laughed, sounding a bit choked up. “I love you, too, Kyungsoo.”
Kyungsoo basked in the peace of the moment, grateful for his simple, happy life.
Something tickled in the back of his awareness, the hair rising on the back of his neck and his arms beneath his raincoat. “Something’s wrong,” he said, untangling himself from his mother and stepping back, turning to look back up the mountain.
“What is it?”
He shook his head, casting his awareness back out and trying to figure out what it was. “I don’t know…something feels…unsettled?” He dug deeper, going into the earth to try and figure out what this unstable, shaky feeling was.
He didn’t realize until it was too late.
“Mom, run!” he yelled, turning and grabbing her arm as he launched into a sprint down the mountain.
“What?” she cried, confused but stumbling after him.
He didn’t know what he was running from, but the looming danger pressing on him was something he couldn’t ignore. “Danger,” he panted, dropping her arm when she tugged free of his grip to run beside him.
They rounded a corner, his mother on the outside edge of the path next to a drop-off, and they were running too fast for the wet ground. Her foot came down on a patch of ground that was too weak, and it gave way under her weight. Kyungsoo sensed it as it was happening, heard her shriek as the ground giving way sent her stumbling off the path and on a trajectory straight over the edge.
Kyungsoo reacted on instinct, reaching out and commanding the ground to firm under her feet, catching her before she fell off the edge.
“Are you okay?” he asked, reaching out to pull her away from the edge and steadying her back on the path.
She nodded, terror making her momentarily mute.
Relief crashed through him. That had been too close. Way too close.
A small rock dropped onto the ground by his feet, and that was strange because there wasn’t—
He inhaled sharply, his senses going haywire.
“Kyungsoo,” his mother said, sensing his alarm. “What’s wron—”
She never finished her sentence.
From behind him, higher on the mountain, a rock came hurtling down the slope like a bullet and collided with his mother’s head with a sickening thunk.
“No!” he yelled, and time seemed to stretch as her eyes slipped shut and her face went lax, her body slumping toward the ground. He reached out to catch her but didn’t get the chance as a wall of earth slammed into his back and his mouth filled with mud as the mountain came down around him.
His last conscious thought was that the earth had betrayed him.
Kyungsoo came to in slow, painful increments.
“He’s waking up!”
Ow. No, that hurt. Why were they talking so loud? He didn’t need to be awake yet, so why was someone waking him up?
“Kyungsoo, can you hear me?”
He moaned to get them to go away, but the sound of his own voice echoing through his skull made pain throb sharply in his head.
A gentle hand peeled his eyelid open and a light flashed in his eyes, sending pain stabbing through him.
“Ow, fuck,” he said, and hoped his mother wasn’t in the room because she hated it when he swore.
“Kyungsoo, I need you to open your eyes,” the voice from earlier said.
Kyungsoo didn’t open his eyes, but he did raise his hand in the general direction of the voice to flip it off.
“Well, he’s definitely awake. Page Dr. Cha. And tell Dr. Jung we’re going to need a neuro consult.”
Okay, so he definitely wasn’t home. Doctors meant hospitals, which meant he must have gotten hurt. Makes sense, he thought, what with the stabbing pain in my head. In fact, now that he took stock, he felt like he’d been tossed in an industrial dryer for an hour. Everything was sore and his body felt like one giant bruise.
Even his teeth hurt. Shit.
Maybe he should open his eyes. Taking a deep breath, Kyungsoo cracked his eyes open with what felt like monumental effort. The first thing he saw was light, dim but there, followed by bubblegum floating in front of his face.
Wait, no. That didn’t make sense.
He blinked, tried to get his eyes to focus more. There was a man standing by his bed wearing navy blue scrubs. His hair was bubblegum pink.
“What kind of nurse are you?” Kyungsoo croaked. Damn, his throat felt like he’d swallowed a handful of dirt.
Bubblegum laughed softly and grabbed the cup on the tray by his bed and raised it to Kyungsoo’s lips. “Here, drink this.”
Kyungsoo drank the water in the cup, draining it gratefully. His throat felt much better now, and he felt more awake. “You didn’t answer my question.”
One eyebrow arched. “I’m not a nurse. I’m a physician’s assistant. What do you remember?”
Remember? What was he forgetti—
Everything came back to him in a rush. His mother, saving her, the rock.
“Where’s my mom?” he asked, the heart rate monitor behind him spiking as he panicked. “Is she safe?”
Bubblegum opened his mouth but was interrupted by the arrival of two doctors in the room.
“Ah, you’re awake,” the first doctor said. He was tall, tan, and blindingly handsome. The second doctor was silent and straight faced behind him, his features distinctly feline. “I’m Dr. Cha, and this is Dr. Jung from Neurology,” he said, gesturing to the pale, cat-like doctor lurking behind him. “I see you’ve met my assistant, Minseok.” Dr. Cha placed a slender hand on Bubblegum’s shoulder.
Okay, fine, but that didn’t answer his question. “What happened? Where’s my mom?”
“What do you remember,” Dr. Jung asked in a soft, light voice as he came up to Kyungsoo’s bed and flashed a penlight in his eyes.
“I remember my mom slipping on the path—it was muddy—and I remember grabbing her and pulling her back onto the path. There was a rock that came down the hill and hit her.” He looked between the doctors around him. “Can I see her? Is she okay?”
“You were caught in a landslide,” Dr. Cha began, his voice calm and steady. “The park rangers found you in an air pocket a few hours into their search.”
Kyungsoo didn’t care how they’d found him. He cared about his mother. “What about my mother?” he grit out, patience fraying. If he’d managed to form an air pocket around himself he must have done the same for his mother. She’d been right next to him.
The expression on Minseok’s face told him everything.
“When they found your mother, it was too late,” Dr. Cha said softly, his eyes sympathetic. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Kyungsoo broke, his world crumbling around him.
The second time Yixing saw Baekhyun in the mirror he didn’t scream.
He was way too groggy to do anything other than grunt and say, “Is there a reason you’re in my bedroom mirror first thing in the morning?”
Baekhyun tilted his head and grimaced, and Yixing realized after a moment of confused staring that he’d said that in Chinese, so of course Baekhyun couldn’t understand him.
“Why so early?” he tried again, this time in Korean. He yelled for Yifan before Baekhyun could respond, already knowing he’d probably need him to translate again.
“Important news,” Baekhyun said simply, patiently waiting until Yifan was stumbling blearily into the room.
“This again?” Yifan groaned when he saw Baekhyun in the full-length mirror mounted to Yixing’s wall.
“He says he has important news,” Yixing said, catching Yifan up quickly. He sat back on his bed as Yifan and Baekhyun started talking back and forth in Korean too fast for him to follow this early in the morning. He watched Baekhyun curiously as they spoke, admiring the way his mouth moved when he talked, the way his slender hands came in and out of view to illustrate the points he was making. He was expressive, emotions flitting across the delicate features of his face as fast as words spilled from his lips in a stream of excitement.
Baekhyun, Yixing realized, was very pretty.
“He found people like us,” Yifan said, cutting through Yixing’s fixation on Baekhyun. “He says there are people in Korea who have powers like us. He found them through scrying.”
Yixing blinked in surprise, looking at Baekhyun who was beaming at him in satisfaction. “Well, that’s good?”
Yifan grimaced. “He told them about us.”
Yixing’s blood went cold. “He what now?”
“He hasn’t told anyone else, I already checked,” Yifan rushed to clarify, and Yixing relaxed in relief. “He says they want him to come to them so they can help him learn his powers.”
“Is he going to go?”
“I’m still here, guys,” Baekhyun shouted in badly accented Chinese. “Stop talking about me like I’m not.”
“You speak Chinese?” Yixing asked, turning to look at Baekhyun.
“A little,” Baekhyun replied, missing the tone completely but Yixing still gave him credit for trying.
“Can you trust these others you found?” Yifan asked Baekhyun in Korean, slowly enough that Yixing could pick out the question.
Baekhyun nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah! They seem cool.”
Yifan said something back too quickly for Yixing to pick up, and he remained lost in the conversation for the next few minutes as the discussion happening in front of him grew more heated.
“What’s going on?” he finally asked, fed up with being out of the loop.
“They want him to go see them, to meet them and stay with them for his safety. He doesn’t want to just yet. He has a semester to finish at SNU and he wants to find us first,” Yifan summarized neatly in Chinese.
“Did you tell him to go to them first?”
“No, I told him to stay put and keep his head down. He insists on coming here first.”
“Yifan, he can’t come here right now. He should go to them.”
Yifan looked skeptical but turned and relayed that back to Baekhyun.
“I want to find you,” Baekhyun said with a pout, looking directly at Yixing. “You’re…mine.”
Yixing tilted his head in confusion. His Korean definitely needed work because the last word Baekhyun said did not make any sense to him.
“Go,” he urged, “meet the others.” Baekhyun looked like he would rather not, but gave in surprisingly easily when Yixing looked at him seriously and said, “Please?”
“Okay,” Baekhyun replied. “Then I find you,” he said, determined.
Oh, and he was cute when he was determined. “Stay safe,” Yixing implored, reaching out to place his hand on the surface of the mirror. It was cool to the touch but warmed quickly when Baekhyun matched his hand with Yixing’s on the other side of the glass.
Baekhyun nodded once, smiled brightly, and melted away until Yixing saw only himself in the mirror.
“We could both hear him,” Yifan said suddenly.
“Last time only you could hear him,” Yifan explained. “this time both of us could hear him.” Yifan turned and looked Yixing in the eyes, very serious. “He’s getting more powerful, Xing. Let’s hope the others he found can help him learn control, or he’ll be dead the moment he steps foot in China.”
Yixing felt dread start to grow in his stomach.
The look on Yifan’s face was not comforting at all.
“How are you feeling today, Kyungsoo?”
Kyungsoo didn’t move, keeping his back to the door to his room as he lay curled on the uncomfortable hospital bed. It didn’t matter if he did or not since Minseok would check on him regardless of what he said.
The doctors had told him, once he’d calmed down enough to listen to them, that he had a few broken ribs, some cuts and scrapes, but was otherwise unharmed. They insisted he’d been very lucky, that the air pocket he’d been trapped in had saved his life.
Kyungsoo didn’t tell them that it was because of his powers that he was alive in the first place, that it was his fault his mother was dead.
He hadn’t been strong enough to save her. He wished he could trade his life for hers, but he couldn’t. She was already dead and he was here, alone.
He felt the perpetually cool hands of Minseok on his forehead, the fleeting touches he placed to Kyungsoo’s ribs checking the breaks and his breathing, making sure all his bandages were in place. “Your hands are cold,” he croaked. It was the first thing he’d said in days and his voice failed to support the words properly.
Minseok’s hands immediately lifted from his skin. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I have cold hands.”
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes. No shit, I just said that. Instead of replying, however, he simply rolled over and gave Minseok a flat stare. “When will you let me go home?”
Minseok looked at him with slightly wide eyes, tilting his head. “Dr. Cha says you can leave whenever you want. Besides your ribs, everything else is superficial and you’re clear to go home.”
Kyungsoo narrowed his eyes at Minseok. “Why did you wait until I asked to tell me this?”
Minseok glanced at him guiltily before turning to fiddle with the IV drip. “I…thought that you might want some time to figure out what you’ll do before we discharged you.”
“You mean because my mother is dead and I don’t have family to go home to anymore?”
Minseok flinched and whirled around to face him. “That’s not what I meant…” he hesitantly reached out and placed a cool hand on top of Kyungsoo’s on the bed. “Do you have somewhere to go, though?” Kyungsoo’s silence was answer enough for Minseok.
“I don’t have a home anymore,” he whispered, needing to say it out loud so that it was real. The police had come and talked to him a few days ago, informing him that the landslide had buried his house as well as killed his mother. The earth had taken everything from him. “Besides, home was my mother, and without her,” he shrugged, refusing to let the tears prickling the back of his throat to get any further than that. He looked up at Minseok’s wide-eyed sympathy and shrugged again, at a loss for words.
Minseok pursed his lips. “I might have a solution for you, if you’re interested.”
“Sure. I don’t have very many options.”
“Give me a day or two,” Minseok said, backing away from the bed and writing something on Kyungsoo’s chart. “I’ll be back to check on you in a few hours.”
Kyungsoo gave him a feeble wave before rolling back over, taking pressure off his injured ribs, and going back to sleep.
It was easier to sleep than to be awake right now.
Luhan threw a pillow at him from across the room, and with great effort Zitao managed to freeze it in midair, halting it between their two beds as he wrapped a bubble of frozen time around it.
“Good, Taozi,” Luhan said softly, careful not to break his concentration. They’d been practicing his control over the last few weeks in the abundant spare time they had. Since Luhan already had moderate control over his powers, he’d been teaching Zitao what he knew and pushing Zitao into more and more difficult things.
“How long should I hold it here?” Zitao asked, panting slightly. Even though his control was getting better, it was still incredibly draining to harness time so exactly when a while ago he’d still been slipping in and out of the present.
Luhan opened his mouth to reply the same instant the door to their room opened with a beep and Yixing walked into the room.
Zitao dropped the bubble of frozen time around the pillow, sputtering when it continued its arc and hit him in the face.
“Pillow fight?” Yixing laughed, shutting the door behind him with a nudge of his hip. “Aren’t you both a bit too old to be playing with pillows?”
Luhan and Zitao traded nervous glances. Had Yixing seen? Had he realized the pillow had been suspended in the air?
“We were bored,” Luhan supplied, drumming his fingers on his knee.
Yixing gave them both an amused look. “Well, don’t hurt yourselves. I’ll be back in a few hours with your evening meds. Try not to break anything, okay?” He left the room without any further teasing, his smile as warm and soft as it always was.
Zitao waved as he walked out, turning to Luhan once the door clicked shut behind Yixing. He threw the pillow back across the room. “Again.”
“No,” Junmyeon said when Minseok finally hunted him down in their mansion of a home.
“Jun,” Minseok said evenly. “He doesn’t have anything, anymore. He lost everything in the landslide.”
Junmyeon looked up from the baseboard he was finishing painting. He was working in the bedroom that was almost finished, making it livable for Jongdae so that they didn’t have to keep sleeping on the couches. “Seok, we would have to hide who we are with him here. I don’t know if that will be possible with Jongdae here now.”
“What’s not possible?” Jongdae asked, walking into the room. “Hey, the room looks great! I love this color,” he said gesturing to the walls that were painted a soothing buttercream yellow. “This is my room, right?”
“Minseok wants to bring home another stray,” Junmyeon said, standing up and resting his hands on his hips, flecks of white paint in his dark blue hair, a paintbrush in one hand. “But he’s not like us, so we would have to hide if he came to live with us. And yes, this is your room, I’m glad you like it.”
Jongdae gave Minseok a skeptical look. “You want to bring someone home?”
Minseok rubbed a hand down his face. “Listen, a landslide destroyed his home and killed his mother. He’s lucky to have survived, honestly. He doesn’t have anyone else and I feel bad.” He held up a hand to stop the protest he could see forming in Junmyeon’s eyes. “We have the room, and it’s not like we couldn’t afford it. It would only be until he got his life back under control and found another place to stay.”
Junmyeon pursed his lips.
“Please?” Minseok asked, stepping close and placing a gentle kiss to Junmyeon’s cheek. “He has nothing, Myeon.”
Junmyeon sighed and looked over at Jongdae, who was busy pretending like he was absorbed in admiring the furniture in the room. “What do you think, Jongdae?”
“Me?” Jongdae replied, pointing to himself. “Uh, this isn’t my house? It’s not my decision?”
Minseok turned to give him a flat look. “You have your own room now,” he said, gesturing to the room around him fully furnished with a bed and dresser, as well as a plush beanbag in one corner and lamps artfully arranged around the room. “You have as much say in decisions that will affect anyone in this house as we do.”
Jongdae looked surprised, and the lights in the room flickered. “Oh,” he thought for a moment, “well, if he needs somewhere safe to heal and like…I don’t know…grieve? You said he lost his mom, right?” Minseok nodded. “Then, this is as good of a place as any.”
Minseok pumped his fist in triumph. “I’ll bring him home in the next day or two.”
Junmyeon sighed. “I’ll hire a renovation team to get another room ready. Do you think he has a preference over what color I paint his room?”
Minseok beamed and kissed Junmyeon deeply. “You’re the best, darling.”
Jongdae made a retching noise and wrinkled his nose. “Gross. Get out of my room.”
“Alright,” Minseok laughed. “We’re going.” He helped Junmyeon gather up the last of his painting trays and brushes and headed for the door.
A faint ringing echoed through the house.
“Was that the doorbell?” Jongdae asked, his head tilting in confusion.
Minseok and Junmyeon traded a glance. “I don’t know,” Junmyeon said slowly. “I’ve never had someone ring the bell.”
They all stared at one another for a second longer before rushing out of Jongdae’s room and down the grand stairs to the door.
Minseok reached the doors first, heaving one of them open to reveal a slightly scrawny kid standing on their doorstep, his back to them.
“Can I help you?” Junmyeon asked, smiling his polite ‘I don’t know you, go away’ smile.
Minseok gasped when the kid stopped gaping at the grounds and turned to look at them instead. “Hey guys!” he said brightly, waving.
“It’s Baekhyun!” Minseok exclaimed, pointing at Baekhyun’s smiling face. “What—why?”
“What are you doing here?” Junmyeon asked, looking shocked.
Jongdae reached out and poked Baekhyun in the side of the cheek.
“Ouch!” Baekhyun jumped about a foot in the air when Jongdae touched him. “Did you just shock me?” He did a double take when he saw Jongdae. “Dude, what’s wrong with your face?”
Jongdae shrugged. “I had to make sure you were real and not an illusion. Also, I shock people when I get excited. Sue me. And it’s a long story,” Jongdae answered.
Baekhyun shrugged, taking another long look at Jongdae’s face and wincing slightly. Jongdae smiled blithely, unaffected by Baekhyun’s staring.
Junmyeon looked around nervously before ushering Baekhyun inside.
“You didn’t tell me you lived in a palace,” Baekhyun gasped, eyes wide as he spun slowly around the foyer. “This place is incredible.”
“And you didn’t tell us you were coming.” Junmyeon crossed his arms and leveled his best stern look at Baekhyun.
It was completely lost on Baekhyun, who, upon seeing the grand staircase in front of him, dropped his bag and ran for the stairs. “How many rooms does this place have? Where do the stairs go?”
Minseok and Junmyeon shared a look before rushing after Baekhyun, who was halfway up the stairs to the second floor already, Jongdae quick to follow them.
“Woah! Whose room is this?”
Minseok followed the sound of Baekhyun’s voice into Jongdae’s new room. Baekhyun was busy running around the room, exploring.
“This bathroom is bigger than my dorm!” He ran back into the bedroom. “I want this room.”
“Hold on just a minute,” Jongdae panted, out of breath from running up the stairs, “this is my room, brat.”
“Okay, so where is my room?” Baekhyun looked between Junmyeon and Minseok, his eyes wide and excited.
“Uh,” Junmyeon hesitated, looking quickly at Minseok who shrugged, “We can get another one ready? One of the rooms in the west wing is almost finished and wouldn’t take much more work if we all help.”
“The west wing?” Baekhyun shrieked. “What kind of place is this?”
Jongdae answered before either Minseok or Junmyeon could. “It’s unreal. I’ve been here for almost two weeks now and I still haven’t seen the whole house.”
Baekhyun glowed with excitement, literally, bursting into motion once again before anyone could so much as twitch.
Minseok sighed as Jongdae took off after Baekhyun, following at a more sedate pace as Baekhyun ran down the hallway of the west wing. He bypassed the bedrooms for the library at the end of the wing, the second floor forming a balcony that overlooked the first floor of the library.
“What are we going to do, Minseok?” Junmyeon asked softly, catching up to him and threading his fingers through Minseok’s. “He hasn’t calmed down enough yet to explain, but it seems like he’ll be staying with us for at least a few days, and if you bring home the other kid…that makes five people in this house.”
Minseok shrugged. “What can we do? Turn him away? We did tell Baekhyun to come here, and he obviously needs to gain some control over his powers. Plus, Kyungsoo needs somewhere to go.”
Junmyeon sighed and watched as Baekhyun raced past them again with a screech, Jongdae on his heels. The energetic pair sprinted down the west wing stairs, bypassing the main floor and going straight for the basement level. Minseok and Junmyeon hurried to follow.
“Do you think Baekhyun will be able to control himself around someone normal?”
They both watched Baekhyun as he explored the in-home theater, flopping onto one of the giant Lovesacs with a giggle.
“What if we put them in different wings?” Minseok suggested. “Didn’t you have a crew come in and refurbish the rooms in the east wing? We could put Kyungsoo there. He’ll probably appreciate the ability to grieve in private.”
Junmyeon pondered Minseok’s suggestion as Baekhyun raced past them yet again, yelling, “There’s a pool down here??”
“What the shit?” Jongdae cried, looking over Baekhyun’s shoulder into the pool room. “Why didn’t you guys tell me there was a pool?”
“It’s mine,” Junmyeon growled, dropping Minseok’s hand to march over and shut the door to the pool room. “Don’t ruin my happy place.” He pointed at Baekhyun and Jongdae in what he probably thought was a menacing manner. Minseok thought he looked cute, with an adorable crinkle between his eyebrows and his lips in a pout.
Baekhyun pouted right back at him. “But I like to swim.”
Instead of answering him, Junmyeon pulled a thin stream of water under the door to the pool room and whipped it directly into Baekhyun’s face.
“Junmyeon controls water,” Minseok explained to a now soggy Baekhyun. “The pool is his room.”
Baekhyun used the hem of his shirt to dry off his face. “Fine, but where is my room going to be?”
“So, you are staying,” Jongdae said, sounding triumphant.
Baekhyun looked between the three of them blankly. “Wasn’t it you three that insisted I come here? Did I somehow get that wrong?” He didn’t look all that concerned that he might have misunderstood.
“No, you got that right.” Junmyeon began herding Baekhyun and Jongdae up the main staircase. “But it would have been nice if you would have given us some warning.”
“Oh,” Baekhyun said, like the thought hadn’t even occurred to him. “I’ll do that next time.”
Minseok doubted that Baekhyun would do any such thing, but he kept that thought to himself. “Junmyeon should have a room finished for you in the west wing by tomorrow. Does the room by the library sound good?”
“Is that the one that had the sunroom on one side?” Baekhyun asked as they reached the main floor again. He skipped over to where his bag lay discarded in the main foyer, picking it back up and turning to face the three of them.
“Yes, that’s the one,” Junmyeon answered, sounding like he needed a nap.
“Why don’t I have a sunroom?” Jongdae whined.
“You have a balcony,” Minseok said, grabbing both Jongdae and Baekhyun and starting to drag them upstairs in the direction of Jongdae’s room. “You’re fine.” He let go of their wrists once they’d reached the threshold of Jongdae’s room. “Baekhyun, you’ll be rooming with Jongdae until Junmyeon finishes your room. We’ve already eaten tonight, but if you’re hungry Jongdae can show you where the kitchen is.”
“You’re welcome to explore the house if you’d like, but stay out of our room,” Minseok continued, cutting Baekhyun off before he could argue. “Jongdae can show you where our room is. I’d also advise you stay out of the east tower and the third floor, since we haven’t had a chance to get those renovated completely yet.”
“And for the love of water,” Junmyeon added, running a hand through his already disheveled dark blue hair, “please keep quiet. Minseok has an early shift at the hospital and I want to be asleep ten minutes ago. Understood?”
“Got it, dads,” Jongdae said, giving them a lazy salute. Baekhyun opened his mouth to say something else, but Jongdae slapped his hand over Baekhyun’s face. “We’ll be quiet.”
Minseok followed Junmyeon down the stairs and into their bedroom. Laughing lightly when Junmyeon collapsed face-down on their bed the second he was within range of it.
“Tired?” he asked, gently sitting next to Junmyeon’s prone figure and starting to run his fingers through Junmyeon’s hair.
Junmyeon groaned into the sheets in response, before slowly shuffling over to rest his head in Minseok’s lap. “Are you bringing Kyungsoo home tomorrow when you get off shift?”
“Yeah, will you have enough time to get a room ready for him and Baekhyun tomorrow?”
Junmyeon sighed, his eyelids fluttering as Minseok hit the spot behind his left ear that he loved getting scratched. “I’ll get it done.”
Minseok hummed, studying the relaxed planes of Junmyeon’s face as he kept lightly scratching his fingers against his scalp. With the flecks of paint scattered in his hair, his head looked like the night sky. If Minseok looked hard enough, he could probably find constellations, whole galaxies in the deep blue strands of Junmyeon’s hair.
He spent another moment admiring him, before shaking him gently. “I need to shower. Do you want to join, me? Maybe get some of this paint off you?”
Junmyeon blinked one eye open. “Only if you promise to take care of me.”
“Oh?” Minseok raised an eyebrow. “When have I not?”
Junmyeon didn’t answer. Instead he heaved himself up into a sitting position, groaning, and then got off the bed, dragging Minseok up with him. “Let’s go.”
Minseok placed a soft kiss against Junmyeon’s lips before throwing his arms around Junmyeon’s neck and sagging against him. “Carry me.”
Junmyeon wrapped his arms tightly around Minseok’s waist, lifting him slightly and waddling into the bathroom with him, both giggling the whole way.
Kyungsoo was listlessly clicking through channels on the TV mounted to his wall in his hospital room when the doctor came in, Minseok behind him.
“I’m discharging you today,” Dr. Cha said. “Let’s get you out of here, yeah?”
Kyungsoo shrugged. He didn’t have anywhere to go to, so getting discharged wasn’t really that exciting of an idea to him currently.
Dr. Cha frowned. “I know you’ve had a rough go of things, but getting out of here is a step forward, as scary of a step as it may seem right now.”
Kyungsoo raised an eyebrow. A step forward? How was he supposed to move forward when his entire life, everything he loved, was dead and buried?
“I’ll take care of everything, Dr. Cha,” Minseok said, jumping in helpfully when Kyungsoo remained silent. “Don’t worry.”
Dr. Cha turned and smiled at Minseok. “Alright.” He looked at Kyungsoo, his smile going soft and sincere around the edges. “Take care, Kyungsoo.”
Minseok waited until Dr. Cha was out of the room before he spoke to Kyungsoo. “I’ve got a place for you to stay, if you’d like. It’s quiet, you’ll have all the space and time to yourself you could want, and you can stay as long as you like.”
It sounded too good to be true. “Where?” he asked, not believing it for one second.
Minseok chewed his bottom lip. “It’s my house.” He went on hurriedly when Kyungsoo scowled. “It’s really big! There are tons of room and lots of space, like I said, and you won’t be bothered, I promise.” He fiddled with his hands anxiously, before reaching over to take out Kyungsoo’s IV.
Kyungsoo mulled it over while Minseok continued unhooking him from various machines. He did need somewhere to stay, and at this point he would take anything. The promise of quiet and time to himself was appealing as well, and he knew he was going to say yes before Minseok was finished filling out his discharge papers.
“When will we leave?” Kyungsoo asked into the quiet.
Minseok looked up from his clipboard, his eyes wide with surprise. “Oh, um, I’m done with my shift in an hour. We can leave then. I’ll make sure you get some real clothes in the meantime.”
Kyungsoo looked down at his hospital gown and grimaced. It hadn’t occurred to him to even think about clothes, but now it was hitting him that everything was gone. He didn’t have anything, not anymore, and he was glad when Minseok left the room a second later with a promise to be back soon so that he could take a minute to collect himself.
By the time Minseok returned, a clean pair of scrubs in his hands, Kyungsoo had composed himself and become content in his helplessness. There was nothing he could do for now except accept Minseok’s kindness.
“Ready?” Minseok asked after he’d changed into the scrubs.
Kyungsoo nodded, following Minseok out of the hospital and to his car. The ride to Minseok’s house was quiet, the radio playing softly on some oldies station that was playing the kind of trot music his mom used to sing while doing the dishes. Kyungsoo didn’t have the heart to ask Minseok to change it, the fragile reminder of his mother painful but also soothing.
The trip to Minseok’s house seemed endless, the journey taking them out of the city as the buildings blurred into long stretches of empty land before the road became surrounded by greenery. Trees and ferns enveloped the road until Kyungsoo had seen so many trees that he almost had forgotten what a house looked like. When the car came to a stop and Minseok turned off the engine, reaching into the backseat to get his bag, Kyungsoo stepped out of the car and gaped.
House was an understatement. Minseok lived in a mansion.
Minseok came around the car for him, chuckling softly when he saw the dazed look on Kyungsoo’s face, and gently took his wrist to lead him into the house.
“Your room is going to be on the second floor in the east wing,” Minseok said as they both took off their shoes in and placed them on a shoe rack in what Minseok called the east gallery—whatever that was. It just looked like a narrow hallway to Kyungsoo.
Minseok lead Kyungsoo into the foyer, quickly showing him around the main floor. “The kitchen is in the east corner, past the sunroom. You’re welcome to help yourself to anything you find in there. This,” he pointed to the massive room in front of them, behind the main staircase, “is the great room. It’s mostly empty right now because Junmyeon hasn’t been able to decide on what furniture he wants to put in it, but the fireplace does work, so I’m excited for when winter comes.” He pulled Kyungsoo after him as he continued down the hall to their left.
“This is the west corner, and it’s where Junmyeon and I sleep. If you need anything and can’t find us, we’re probably in here. If the door to our bedroom is shut…knock first.” He winked at Kyungsoo, laughing when Kyungsoo wrinkled his nose at him in response. “You’re always welcome to chill in our sitting room though. Junmyeon did it in all blues, and I find it’s very soothing.”
Kyungsoo peeked his head into the sitting room. It was very blue, but Minseok was right, it did seem calming, the natural light from the setting sun washing the room with a soft golden glow that made the room feel warm and dreamy.
Minseok pulled him around the corner, walking halfway down the hall before ducking through a doorway on their left. “This is the library on the main floor,” he said, walking through the room quickly until they were back at the main staircase. Kyungsoo got the brief impression of dark wood and the smell of books before he was being led up the stairs and on the second floor. Minseok pointed to their left. “Jongdae is in the room in the west corner, and down that way,” he turned, pointing down a hallway where Kyungsoo could see another set of stairs and beyond those, a hallway with doors to what he assumed were rooms, “is Baekhyun’s room. Neither of them will bother you. I’ve already told them to stay out of your wing.”
“How many people live here?” Kyungsoo asked. He couldn’t do anything about it—he was here on someone else’s charity—but he felt like Minseok kept listing people endlessly.
“That’s it. You’re the newest addition.” He led Kyungsoo around the stairs to the right and toward what Kyungsoo saw was the east wing. “The east wing is different than the others,” Minseok explained, leading Kyungsoo past what looked like a study and the stairs, reaching a hallway with open doors on either side that led to rooms. Past those rooms though, were two closed doors. “The east wing is more a suite of rooms, rather than just single rooms like the west wing has.” Minseok opened the left door, stepping through and gesturing for Kyungsoo to follow.
Beyond the doorway, the room opened into a small living room. There was a door just off to his left that he assumed opened into one of this the bedrooms they had already walked past. There was a wall to his right, cleanly dividing the room in half. On the end of the room furthest from where he was standing, there was a small kitchen area, with a small sink and a mini fridge.
It was about the same size as the tiny house he shared—used to share—with his mother, and a wave of grief hit him unexpectedly. It looked similar to his home, but no amount of familiarity would make it feel anything like the home he’d lost. Nothing could replace that kind of safety and love once it was gone.
“At the end of this room there’s another door that leads into your bedroom and bathroom. This whole suite is yours, if you want it.” Minseok smiled and stepped back, gesturing for Kyungsoo to look around.
Everything was immaculate. The rooms looked like they’d been professionally decorated. The living area he was standing in was done in soft creams and deep browns. The beige carpet beneath his feet was thick and soft, the three windows along the east wall were lined with sheer curtains that muted the light coming through. Everything about the room was warm and welcoming.
It reminded him of a warm spring morning, and he kind of hated it. Anything that reminded him of nature was painful right now, and maybe it always would be. Betrayals from the things you love always seemed to sting longer, the hurt lingering far more than anything else.
Kyungsoo moved through the kitchen, briefly admiring the grey granite of the countertops, the dark wood of the floor, before he was opening the door to the bedroom at the end of the wing. The bedroom was done in rich shades of green that were somehow still warm and soothing. The walls were a soft sage green, the carpet the same beige from the living room.
As he wandered further into the room, he saw the bed, dresser, and nightstand table were all made from a dark wood that matched the floors of the kitchen almost perfectly. In the far-right corner there was a circular room—no doubt one of the small tower-like peaks that were on each corner of the wings on the outside of the house. The space in the corner was lined with a padded seat all the way around, so that someone could sit and look out the windows that lined the curved space.
A few weeks ago, this would have been his dream room, something that reminded him of the earth he loved so much. Now it just felt like adding salt to his already stinging wounds.
The bedsheets and patterned bedspread were a deep forest green, a mixture of beige and green pillows completing the room. Kyungsoo turned around, looking at Minseok who was watching him from the doorway of his walk-in closet.
“This is too much,” he said, gesturing a bit helplessly to the room around him. “I can’t possibly stay here.” He didn’t know if he could stand being reminded of the very thing that had taken everything from him.
Minseok scoffed gently. “Of course you can. Junmyeon spent a lot of time designing this suite. Someone should get to appreciate it.”
Then again, he didn’t have any other options. He had nothing, nowhere to go, so he would have to accept this no matter how much it hurt. “Still, I need to repay you for this.”
Minseok studied him appraisingly. “Heal up, first,” Minseok said, walking over and gesturing to Kyungsoo’s still bandaged ribs and tapping a cool finger to Kyungsoo’s temple. “That’s what you can do for now. Once you’re feeling better we can find a way for you to help out around here.”
Kyungsoo swallowed past the lump in his throat. “Okay,” he said, somewhat weakly.
Minseok smiled gently. “I’ll let you get settled in. Tomorrow is my day off, so we’ll go into town and get you some new clothes and a few other things. The bathroom should be stocked with everything you need. If you’re feeling up to it, we usually eat dinner around eight. I can introduce you to everyone else.” He shrugged. “If not, your fridge up here has some food in it, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Kyungsoo nodded, watching as Minseok gave him one last look before walking out of the room and shutting the door behind him. Kyungsoo didn’t move until he heard the door to the living room close faintly, and then he rushed to the bed. Careful of his ribs, he crawled beneath the blankets and buried his face in the soft, plush pillows.
The room was perfect and terrible, and all at once a wave of heartbreak crashed into him—heartbreak he had been pushing aside, refusing to acknowledge, ever since he’d woken up. If he didn’t acknowledge the persistent ache between his ribs maybe it wouldn’t be real. Maybe he would wake up to the smell of his mother’s cooking and the sound of her voice as she sang trot songs brightly enough to rival the birds that sang him awake every morning.
But being here…he couldn’t ignore reality, and the realization that he’ll never hear her lilting voice welcoming him into wakefulness, never taste her tteokbokki or jajangmyeon again hit him harder than the landslide had. His ribs ached as he drew in a shuddering breath. He’ll never have her seaweed soup again, never feel her arms embracing him and making him feel safe, protected, loved.
A sob ripped itself free of the tightness in his throat, startling him, and tears began to soak the pillow under his head, but it was too late to push it back. The grief he’d been holding back for days washed over him until he felt like he was drowning beneath the weight of it.
At least up here, nobody could hear him cry.
Somewhere in Seoul, the wind was whispering through the buildings, dancing along the streets, weaving between people as it told them the stories of all it had seen.
And somewhere in Seoul, a boy stopped to listen to what the wind had to say.
I'm so sorry Kyungsoo ;-;
Chapter 3: come to me, hurry before the sun rise
They were nearly nose to nose, and Yixing found himself falling into the warm chocolate of Baekhyun’s eyes. There was a soft glow to him, his skin vibrant and rich, as if someone had turned up the saturation filter on him until he was steeped in color. He was drawn to Baekhyun in a way he couldn’t explain, the desire to touch and hold and never let him go nearly overwhelming
This is such a good chapter I love this one enjoy <3
There's some sexual content ahead, as a warning. Nothing warranting a rating change, but I thought I'd let you know <3
Jongdae couldn’t sleep.
There was a constant buzz of energy under his skin, begging for an outlet of some kind, and he was having a hard time falling asleep with nothing but the sound of his breathing filling up the room.
Giving up after another few restless minutes, Jongdae shoved the covers off and got out of bed. It was too cold to sit out on his balcony, so Jongdae decided to curl up in the sunroom that was down the hall from the kitchen. It was still an enclosed room, but it had a glass ceiling that he could lay beneath. Hopefully being able to see the night sky would help him sleep.
He padded quietly down the main stairs, the marble floor of the foyer cold on his bare feet. When he rounded the corner, passing by the great room that was a dark void, he saw lights on in the kitchen. It was late—after midnight at least—and he didn’t know who would be awake. Maybe it was Baekhyun? Sparks knows that boy had more energy than anyone Jongdae knew, including himself—which was a feat considering Jongdae literally had electricity coursing through his veins.
When he got closer, bare feet silent on the marble floor, Jongdae could see someone he didn’t recognize rifling through the cabinets for food. He was about to sneak up on the stranger and shock him into unconsciousness when he realized something. Hadn’t Minseok mentioned that he’d be bringing home someone else? What did he say his name was…
“Kyungsoo?” Jongdae asked, not sure if he’d gotten the name right.
The stranger jumped in surprised, his shoulders flinching up around his ears as he slowly turned around to face Jongdae. “Uh,” he said. “Yes?”
Jongdae gave Kyungsoo his most reassuring smile, hoping to put him at ease. “I didn’t know anyone would be up. I’m Jongdae. My room is in the west corner on the second floor.”
Kyungsoo blinked at him, expression blank.
“Umm,” Jongdae didn’t know what else to say, and the moment stretched into awkwardness the longer he stood there like an idiot. “What are you making?” he finally asked, desperate.
Kyungsoo looked pointedly at the stovetop where a pot of water was boiling, a packet of ramen sitting next to it on the counter. “Ramen.”
Jongdae felt like an idiot. “Well, I couldn’t sleep.” He bit his lip, not really knowing what to do. Hadn’t Minseok said something about Kyungsoo losing everything he had in some sort of natural disaster? Maybe he wouldn’t mind company. “I was going to lie on the couches in the sunroom and look at the stars until I fell asleep.” He gestured to where the sunroom was, down the east hallway from the kitchen. “You’re welcome to join me.”
Kyungsoo followed with his gaze where Jongdae was pointing, peering into the darkness as he tried to see past the lights of the kitchen and into the dark hallway beyond. Jongdae was a second away from bringing the lights to life with a snap of his fingers and a surge of electricity before he remembered just in time that Kyungsoo didn’t know about their powers.
Instead he stepped closer to Kyungsoo. He was about Jongdae’s height, skin a healthy golden bronze that spoke to hours out in the sun. There was the faintest smattering of freckles over the bridge of his nose. His short dark hair was a ruffled mess on top of his head, probably from sleep, and his mouth was fixed in a permanent semi-pout.
“What are you staring at?” Kyungsoo asked, raising a thick eyebrow.
“You,” Jongdae said as shamelessly as he knew how. Kyungsoo was cute, he wasn’t going to pretend otherwise.
It was Jongdae’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Uh, okay.” He shrugged it off. “I’ll be in there if you want to join me,” he said, pointing once more down the east hallway to the sunroom before moving slowly around the center island, past Kyungsoo, and out of the kitchen.
He didn’t bother turning on the lights in the sunroom. There was enough moonlight spilling in through the glass ceiling that he could make out the shapes of the couches. He picked up a throw blanket draped over an armchair—there were blankets all over this house because Minseok was always cold—and wrapped it around himself before flopping onto one of the plush couches. He wiggled around until he was comfortable, relaxing into the cushions as the stars came into focus.
He could hear the faint sounds of Kyungsoo in the kitchen, and he wondered if Kyungsoo would join him. It was clear that Kyungsoo was withdrawn and quiet, but Jongdae also thought that maybe he could use a friend.
If he’d lost everything in his life, he would need one.
The sounds from the kitchen faded, and Jongdae’s eyes began to grow heavy as he kept staring up at the stars. Something about being able to see the sky put him at ease in a way that very few other things did, the tranquility of the stars soothing his worries away. He was almost asleep when the sound of soft footsteps on the thick rugs in the room roused him.
Kyungsoo was curling up in the armchair by the couch Jongdae was stretched out on. He didn’t look in Jongdae’s direction, just arranged himself so that he could relax into the chair and look up comfortably. He’d found another blanket that he had draped around himself.
Jongdae watched him for a while through barely open eyes, wondering what he was thinking about, if he was okay. He wasn’t too surprised when he spotted the faint lines of wetness on Kyungsoo’s cheeks, barely visible in the hazy silver light cast from the moon.
He didn’t remember falling asleep, but when he woke up to bright morning light flooding into the room the armchair was empty, the blanket folded neatly across the back of the chair as if Kyungsoo had never been there at all.
When Minseok walked into the great room, the last thing he expected was to find it as bright as daylight.
“What…?” He looked around, shook his head to clear it. He had just gotten off a thirty-hour shift at the hospital and last he’d known it was the middle of the night, but in the great room it looked like midday. Was he hallucinating? Had the long hours and sleep deprivation finally gotten to him? All he wanted to do was curl up in bed with Junmyeon for the next twelve hours.
A voice interrupted his weary thoughts, and he spun around to find Baekhyun and Junmyeon walking into the room.
“You’re home,” Junmyeon said, walking up to Minseok and gathering him up in his arms. “How was work?” He placed a long, lingering kiss to Minseok’s lips that disoriented him enough that it took him a moment to respond.
“Exhausting,” he finally managed. “Why does it look like the middle of a summer day in here?” Minseok asked, waving a hand at the room in general as he leaned more of his weight into Junmyeon.
“That’s my doing!” Baekhyun said happily, and Minseok jumped slightly. He’d forgotten Baekhyun was there for a moment, which was odd because he had sworn Baekhyun was standing right in front of him so how…?
“Have you always been standing there?” Minseok blinked at Baekhyun in confusion. Baekhyun and Junmyeon shared a delighted look. “What is going on?”
“I’ve been helping Baekhyun gain more control over his powers,” Junmyeon explained, taking pity on Minseok. “We’ve been experimenting with what he can do. I’ve been making him maintain the illusion of light in this room as we wander further and further away from the room, expanding his reach and concentration.”
“I’m very powerful, at least Junmyeon thinks so.” Baekhyun smiled brighter than the room itself. “He also wanted me to try bending the light around my body, to see if I could make myself invisible.”
Something clicked into place in Minseok’s tired brain. “Is that why I forgot you were in the room? You actually disappeared?”
Baekhyun laughed in delight.
“You’re also very tired,” Junmyeon said. “I doubt it would work if you had been fully alert. He still needs a lot more practice.”
“He’s learned this much in two days?” Minseok felt overwhelmed. Baekhyun had only been with them for a few days, and already he had learned so much.
Junmyeon nodded. “He’s a very good student. I’ve been keeping his training at night though, to keep out of Kyungsoo’s notice.”
“How is he? Is he alright?” Minseok couldn’t help but feel worried. He wanted to check in on Kyungsoo, but it would have to wait until he had slept.
Junmyeon shrugged. “I haven’t seen him at all. Jongdae saw him once, but other than that he has kept to his rooms.”
Minseok bit his lip, concerned. He’d been hoping that Kyungsoo would come out of his rooms by now, but at least he’d met Jongdae.
“Come on,” Junmyeon urged, leading Minseok out of the room, Baekhyun trailing behind them. “You can check on him after you’ve slept, and we can spend tomorrow discussing our next steps. Baekhyun wants to leave at the end of this week for China.”
“What?” Minseok nearly tripped over his own feet in surprise. He looked back at Baekhyun. “Do you even speak Chinese?”
“Jongdae has been teaching me the basics!” Baekhyun looked far too pleased with himself. “Besides, I really need to meet Yixing in person. I think he’s…important to me? Or he could be.” Baekhyun shook his head like he didn’t know what he was trying to say, which made sense because Minseok had no idea what he was talking about. “It’s weird but like, I get the feeling that I need to meet Yixing. Something is pulling me to him.”
Junmyeon sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “It’s too late to deal with this. We’ll talk tomorrow morning.” He shooed Baekhyun toward the stairs before pulling Minseok into their bedroom.
Exhaustion was dogging every step Minseok took, and it was all he could do to make it to the bed before he collapsed.
“How’s your Chinese, babe?” Junmyeon gently began undressing Minseok, taking off his shoes and helping him out of his scrubs.
Minseok blinked blearily. “It’s fine I guess. Could be better. Why?” He lifted his arms so that Junmyeon could remove his shirt, shivering as the cold air hit his bare skin.
“Because,” Junmyeon’s voice was muffled as he walked into their closet, returning with a thick sweater that he quickly stuffed Minseok into. “I’m going to have Baekhyun scry them tomorrow, and I want you to talk to them. Maybe Jongdae too, since he knows some Chinese.”
Minseok struggled to get himself under the covers, shivering until Junmyeon flicked off the lights and crawled in next to him. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” He asked as he curled into Junmyeon, throwing an arm around his waist and tangling their legs.
Junmyeon hissed as Minseok pressed his icy toes against the skin of his shins. “I think we need to meet these people Baekhyun has been talking to. I don’t trust him to know who he can trust.”
Minseok yawned. “But they’re in China.”
“That doesn’t automatically make them dangerous, Minseok. They aren’t all going to be like Nailiang.” Junmyeon ran a soothing hand through Minseok’s hair, peppering soft kisses against his face as he did so. “We need to keep Baekhyun safe. He’s one of us, now.”
“We do seem to be collecting children these days.” Minseok rubbed his nose into Junmyeon’s collarbone before placing a gentle kiss to his bare skin. “I thought you said we weren’t ready for kids yet?”
Junmyeon tilted his chin up with a finger. “Go to sleep, Minseok.” He placed a lazy kiss against his mouth.
Minseok smiled against the feeling of Junmyeon’s lips on his and fell into a deep sleep.
Warm afternoon sunlight and the feeling of lips working down his neck drew Minseok slowly into consciousness.
He became aware of Junmyeon’s hand rubbing slow circles on his hip, his other hand trapped under Minseok’s neck, and the way Junmyeon lightly scraped his teeth down the column of Minseok’s neck.
This was, undisputedly, Minseok’s favorite way to wake up, and he sighed while he pressed himself back against Junmyeon, wiggling his hips as he did so.
The movement coaxed a low groan from Junmyeon, who bit down lightly at the juncture of Minseok’s neck and shoulder in retaliation. The gentle twinge of the bite made Minseok shiver, and he rolled his hips back into Junmyeon’s with more force, his teasing giving way under a sudden need and purposefulness.
Junmyeon put pressure on his hip, urging him to roll over, and Minseok complied just so he could see the want simmering in Junmyeon’s eyes. After so long together they didn’t need words, and Minseok pulled Junmyeon close and kissed him deeply.
Even just after waking up, Junmyeon tasted like a fresh spring creek, clean and cool and crisp as Minseok coaxed his mouth open with skillful flicks of his tongue until Junmyeon melted beneath him. The benefits of having a boyfriend who could manipulate water meant that morning breath was never an issue. Minseok had no reservations about using every dirty trick in his book to get Junmyeon shivering under him, tugging his bottom lip between his teeth before kissing him more and more deeply.
They did this often enough that actual conversation with words wasn’t needed, instead the communication happened through lips and tongues, hands on skin and the lazy roll of Minseok’s hips against Junmyeon’s to tell him that this afternoon, Junmyeon wanted him like this.
They made quick work of what little clothing they were wearing, and Junmyeon stretched for the lube they kept handy in the nightstand, shoving the bottle into Minseok’s hand as he gasped while Minseok lightly brushed kisses down his bare chest.
“Hurry up,” Junmyeon said, the edge of a whine seeping into his voice. “It’s been too long.”
Minseok snorted against Junmyeon’s hip. It had been since his last day off, but that was almost four days ago which was a dry spell for them. Instead of answering, Minseok opened the bottle in his hands and got to work.
It never took long to get Junmyeon ready. He was always pliant and willing under Minseok’s hands, as fluid as the water he controlled.
As often as they did this, Minseok never got tired of the way Junmyeon sighed every time he finally slid in, the way he would shiver and shake as Minseok made sure to get his most sensitive spots with each stroke. The ease of knowing each other for so long, the steady familiarity with each other’s bodies, the depth of emotion that swirled between them like gentle eddies in a deep, slow moving river; it made everything better.
Minseok was slow and steady, refusing to move faster no matter how much Junmyeon begged for it. It was better for them both when Junmyeon was stretched to his limits, body coiling tighter around Minseok as he came closer and closer to the edge, wrapping his legs around Minseok’s waist to pull him deeper, tighter.
Junmyeon scratched lines of red down Minseok’s back as he came, gasping against Minseok’s lips as their kisses turned sloppy and urgent, Minseok a few moments behind Junmyeon in finding his release.
Junmyeon was boneless beneath him, his hands running up and down Minseok’s sides in lazy strokes as Minseok lay on top of him, both recovering their breath between lazy kisses that didn’t have a purpose other than to feel good. They would have to clean up in a minute, get up and into a shower as they got ready to face the day, but not yet.
“Good morning,” Minseok said into the skin behind Junmyeon’s ear, feeling the soft down of his hair tickling his lips. “I love you.”
Junmyeon hummed, rolling them over onto their sides but keeping Minseok pinned against his chest. “I love you too.” He kissed Minseok deeply, slowly, with love. “So, so much.”
Yeah, this was definitely his favorite way to wake up.
When they finally stumbled into the kitchen to get some food, Jongdae was sitting at the island in the middle of the room eating lunch. He looked at the clock and then back at them with a judgmental look.
Minseok shot a glare in his direction, warning Jongdae off before he could start.
“Have you seen Baekhyun this morning?” Junmyeon asked, sifting through the fridge for a water bottle that he tossed to Minseok before pulling leftover gimbap out for lunch.
Jongdae raised an eyebrow. “You mean this afternoon?” he hummed into his ramen, and Minseok resisted the urge to freeze his ramen solid. “I haven’t seen him around yet.”
Junmyeon grabbed a pair of chopsticks from a drawer and began to eat, occasionally holding out pieces for Minseok.
Jongdae scrunched up his nose at the display, but another look from Minseok kept him quiet.
“Hey everyone!” Baekhyun shouted, running into the kitchen at top speed and skidding to a stop on socked feet. “Look what I can do!”
Minseok and Junmyeon shared a tired look and turned to face a very excited Baekhyun, who proceeded to wink at them before disappearing from sight.
“What the fuck?” Jongdae screeched, looking around in confusion. “How powerful is that kid?”
“‘m not a kid!” Baekhyun said indignantly, his mouth full of gimbap as he reappeared right next to Junmyeon. “I’m fully grown.”
“I’m glad you showed up, Baekhyun,” Junmyeon said, pulling the gimbap out of Baekhyun’s reach and placing a hand on his shoulder to keep him in one spot. “I’ve got a job for you.”
“More training?” Baekhyun looks at him eagerly, practically vibrating with excitement.
“Sort of. I want you to scry your friends in China. It’s time we talked with them.”
Baekhyun stilled and made a face. “I…don’t know if I’ll be able to project all of our images to them. You want me to try it, so they can see all four of us?”
Minseok shared a look with Jongdae, both eating slowly as they watched the conversation unfold.
Junmyeon nodded. “Minseok and Jongdae speak Chinese, so if we want to get anywhere productive we’ll all need to be able to talk and be seen. Do you think you can do it?”
Baekhyun chewed his bottom lip in thought. “I can try!”
“Good.” Junmyeon nodded decisively. “Let’s do it in the great room. Seok, can you get the large mirror from the library and meet us there?”
Minseok nodded and finished off the last of his water, popping in one last bite of gimbap before heading to the library for the mirror Junmyeon was talking about. It was a heavy thing, but he managed to get it off the wall and to the great room without much struggle, only panting slightly as he leaned it against the back of an armchair.
“What is that monstrosity?” Jongdae asked, looking at the mirror in disbelief. “It looks big enough to reflect an entire room.”
It was a large mirror, although not as big as Jongdae made it sound. Definitely large enough for the four of them to fit in the thick brown frame if they got cozy.
Junmyeon appeared with Baekhyun in tow. “Alright Baekhyun, here’s your mirror.”
Baekhyun approached, looking at the mirror before plopping down on the thick grey rug beneath him to sit in front of it. “Everyone sit by me, and make sure you’re touching me. I’m not sure how this is going to work, but I think it will be easier if you’re touching me.”
Minseok and Junmyeon looked at each other before sitting down next to Baekhyun. Jongdae, rather than sitting, laid himself out on the floor and rested his head in Baekhyun’s lap, closing his eyes. Junmyeon rolled his eyes at Jongdae before scooting slightly behind Baekhyun so that Minseok could sit on Baekhyun’s left. They linked hands and rested them on Baekhyun’s unoccupied thigh.
Baekhyun wiggled a bit, trying to get comfortable. “Everyone ready?”
Minseok and Junmyeon nodded at Baekhyun in the mirror while Jongdae grunted.
“Okay, nobody say anything,” Baekhyun instructed. Minseok watched in fascination as Baekhyun closed his eyes and began to emit a soft, warm glow.
In front of them, the mirror began to ripple like the still surface of a pond after a rock had been dropped in it. After a few moments of this rippling, Minseok’s reflection disappeared and in its place was the interior of a small room, a huddled mass on the bed that must be across from the mirror.
The walls of the room were a boring beige, devoid of any personality except for the bed itself, which was draped in deep blue linens that were currently cocooning someone.
Baekhyun opened his eyes, and Minseok tried not to gasp in alarm.
His eyes were a pure, milky white.
Minseok thought back to when he’d talked to Baekhyun in a mirror and no, he’d definitely had pupils like a normal person, so was this normal? He waved his free hand in front of Baekhyun’s eyes, only to have Baekhyun slap his hand away in annoyance.
“Minseok stop being annoying. We’ve got to wake Yixing up.”
Junmyeon squeezed his hand. “Minseok, can you try saying something in Chinese?”
Baekhyun waved them into silence. “No need.” He took a deep breath. “Yah! Yixing! Wake up!” he yelled it so loudly that Jongdae flinched in his lap.
The blankets on the bed exploded outwards in all directions as—who Minseok presumed was Yixing—sat bolt upright, looking around with a panicked expression before collapsing back onto his bed when he spotted them in the mirror.
Yixing swore violently in Chinese, rubbing his hands through his hair before sitting back up and facing the mirror. He blinked and squinted at the mirror, and Minseok could see him counting them in the mirror and shaking his head in confusion.
“Who are these people?”
Minseok sighed in relief when he could understand Yixing. It had been a few years since he’d needed to use the Chinese he’d learned in university and he’d worried that he’d lost it all.
“I’m Minseok,” he said, hoping he wasn’t butchering the tones too terribly, “and this is Junmyeon. We’re the ones he’s told you about.” On Baekhyun’s other side, Jongdae sat up slowly, careful to maintain physical contact with Baekhyun.
“I’m Jongdae,” he said, his Chinese sounding much more natural than Minseok’s.
Yixing scooted to the foot of his bed, getting larger in the mirror as he smiled a slow, sleepy smile. “Hello,” he said mildly. “I’m Yixing.”
“We have some things to talk about,” Minseok said. Yixing nodded seriously and settled in, gesturing for them to start.
It took a while, but they managed to explain everything that was going on with them: finding Jongdae, Baekhyun, and the relative safety of their current location. Junmyeon, through Minseok, tells them how he’s been training Baekhyun and helping him increase his control.
In exchange, Yixing introduced them to Yifan—who he dragged into the room after disappearing from the frame for a few long seconds—and tells them that they’re in a similar situation. It takes a while, primarily because Minseok and Jongdae have to keep pausing to translate their conversation into Korean for Baekhyun and Junmyeon, or Yifan to translate for Yixing when they switch to Korean by accident.
“Although,” Yifan explained, “there’s an organization here whose primary task is to find people like us and lock us up for the public’s safety.” He and Yixing shared a look that was heavy with something Minseok couldn’t interpret.
Baekhyun narrowed his eyes. “I don’t care how dangerous it is,” he said in Korean, Yifan hastily translating for Yixing, “I’m coming to see both of you next week.”
Minseok shot a look at Junmyeon. Baekhyun had talked about going to China ever since he came to stay with them, but he seemed determined to go, and Minseok got the feeling none of them would be able to stop him.
“You can’t stop me—I already bought my ticket.” Baekhyun turned slightly to face Minseok, his white eyes jarring. “Will you take me to the airport, by the way? My flight leaves two days from now.”
In the mirror, Yixing choked and Yifan made a pained expression. “I guess we’ll get our couch ready for you,” Yifan muttered in Chinese.
“Baekhyun what the fuck?” Jongdae asked, giving Baekhyun an incredulous look. “You can’t just go to China.”
Baekhyun shrugged. “Well, I am.” He gazed directly at Yixing. “I need to meet them.”
Minseok only saw it because he happened to be looking at Yixing when Baekhyun said it, but he saw the way Yixing shuddered and the goosebumps that broke out on his skin.
“What the hell is going on here?”
Minseok froze, before turning slowly and wincing as he saw Kyungsoo standing in the entry to the great room, staring at the mirror they were all looking into, and a quick glance at the mirror told him that no, Yixing and Yifan could not pass as any of them.
He heard Baekhyun audibly gulp next to him.
“Uh,” Jongdae said to the mirror, “guys we’ll talk to you later. We’ve had a situation come up that we need to take care of.”
“Are those people in the mirror?” Kyungsoo pointed to Yixing and Yifan. “Is he speaking Chinese?”
“I can explain,” Minseok said, feeling the ground fall out from under him. He held out his hands in a calming gesture, distantly hearing Junmyeon instruct Baekhyun to cut off the connection. “Don’t freak out.”
Yixing chewed his bottom lip nervously and watched the arrivals gate.
“What if he gets lost?” he asked an endlessly patient Yifan. “He’ll have trouble reading the signs.”
Yifan sighed for the tenth time since arriving at the airport. “He’s going to be fine, Xing. Calm down.” He placed a hand on Yixing’s shoulder to keep him from bouncing.
Yixing couldn’t explain his nerves. He was normally so unshakable, so calm, but for some reason the thought of having Baekhyun here, in person, was overwhelming and something he was achingly desperate for all at once.
“Oh, I see him,” Yifan said casually, his height making it easier for him to see over the crowd.
Yixing stretched up on his toes, desperate to catch sight of Baekhyun. Suddenly a black head of hair streaked with red bobbed in the oncoming crowd, and Yixing was moving before he was fully aware of what his body was doing.
“Baekhyun!” he called, just to watch Baekhyun’s head swivel in the direction of his voice. He stopped moving forward as the crowd around them parted and Baekhyun’s eyes met his, the full force of his smile driving the air from Yixing’s lungs. Time seemed to slow as they looked at one another for a suspended moment, people passing them by, while Yixing tried to remember what breathing felt like.
In the mirrors Baekhyun had always been bright, handsome and charming. In person, he was devastating. Baekhyun began to walk faster toward Yixing until he was almost jogging, and before Yixing could recover from the full force of Baekhyun’s smile, he had arms around his waist and Baekhyun’s face pressed to the skin of his neck.
Yixing felt something electric and hot shoot down his spine at the contact, a hum of energy spreading through him everywhere he was touching Baekhyun. He was a few inches taller than Baekhyun, just enough that Baekhyun could easily rest his head on Yixing’s shoulder.
“Hi,” Yixing said softly, pulling away slightly so he could speak quietly into Baekhyun’s ear over the dull hum of the airport. He felt Baekhyun shiver in his arms.
Baekhyun pulled back a bit further, so he could look into Yixing’s eyes. “Hi.”
They were nearly nose to nose, and Yixing found himself falling into the warm chocolate of Baekhyun’s eyes. There was a soft glow to him, his skin vibrant and rich, as if someone had turned up the saturation filter on him until he was steeped in color. He was drawn to Baekhyun in a way he couldn’t explain, the desire to touch and hold and never let him go nearly overwhelming.
Yixing reached up to cup Baekhyun’s cheek, relishing the way Baekhyun’s eyelashes fluttered shut and pressed his face into Yixing’s hand. “How was your flight?” Yixing asked in slow Korean, nearly choking as Baekhyun’s lips brushed against the palm of his hand when he nuzzled against it.
Baekhyun looked up at Yixing from under his lashes, and Yixing was so gone for this boy already. “Uneventful.”
Somewhere behind them, Yixing heard Yifan clear his throat. The world crashed in, and Yixing was suddenly aware that they were standing in the middle of arrivals at the airport and people were beginning to notice them. “Come on,” Yixing said, reaching around Baekhyun for his carry-on bag and wrapping an arm around Baekhyun’s waist. “Let’s get you back to our apartment before we talk anymore.”
“What?” Baekhyun asked, his nose scrunching slightly in confusion, and Yixing realized he’d said that in rapid Chinese, too fast for Baekhyun to pick apart.
Yixing shook his head in response, gesturing to where Yifan was waiting for them.
“Oh!” Baekhyun began moving toward Yifan, but never allowing a moment pass where he wasn’t touching Yixing somehow.
Apparently, this need to always be near Baekhyun—to touch, see, feel—wasn’t only something he felt. By all evidence, Baekhyun could feel it too; this inexplicable current pulling them together.
“Hello,” Yifan said politely in Korean, taking Baekhyun’s carry-on from Yixing. “Welcome to Shanghai.”
Baekhyun smiled brightly. “Nice to meet you in person, Yifan,” he said in slow Korean, no doubt for Yixing’s benefit.
He’d been studying more consistently with Yifan between shifts at the hospital ever since Baekhyun’s first appearance, but he wasn’t fully fluent. Still, he was more confident now in the language than he had been a month ago. He had a feeling he would need to know it. When they’d been talking to Minseok and Junmyeon last week they’d made it clear that they wanted Yixing and Yifan to come and join them as soon as they were able, since Korea was safer for people like them.
Yifan led them out of the airport and back to the car, loading Baekhyun’s bag in the trunk and graciously not rolling his eyes when Yixing crawled into the backseat next to Baekhyun. As Yifan began the drive home, Baekhyun’s eyes began to droop and he snuggled against Yixing, resting his head on his shoulder and playing with the fingers of Yixing’s left hand.
Yixing sighed into Baekhyun’s hair, letting his lips brush against the crown of Baekhyun’s head indulgently when he pressed closer. They didn’t talk anymore. Yixing wasn’t sure he could remember how words worked as Baekhyun slowly laced his fingers through Yixing’s and rested their entwined hands on Yixing’s thigh, humming something softly low in his throat.
Yixing met Yifan’s eyes in the rearview mirror, and Yifan didn’t have to say anything for his message to come across loud and clear. Be careful.
Explaining things to Kyungsoo was more difficult than Minseok thought it would be. Not because of his reaction, but because of his lack of a reaction.
Kyungsoo had listened to their explanation, calmly looking between the four of them. Once they were finished, he blinked once, twice, then said, “Okay then.”
Minseok hadn’t seen him since. Between his shifts at the hospital and Kyungsoo’s reclusive habits, Minseok hadn’t had a chance to check in on him.
Minseok took a deep breath and knocked on the door to Kyungsoo’s room. “Kyungsoo? Can we talk?” Minseok could make out the faint sounds of footsteps over carpet before the door swung open and Minseok came face to face with a carefully blank Kyungsoo.
Kyungsoo was completely devoid of emotion, and it worried Minseok because surely, he must feel something? “How are you doing?” he asked, not sure what else to say.
Kyungsoo’s eyes narrowed slightly. “About the loss of my mother? Or about your apparent powers?”
Minseok winced. In the fretting he’d done over Kyungsoo’s reaction over their revelations he’d completely pushed aside the fact that he was also in mourning. Now he looked like a self-absorbed dick. “Both,” he settled on. Better to be candid than have Kyungsoo see through his motives. “We dumped a lot on you the other day, I wanted to check up on you and make sure you were still doing okay. Nobody has seen you in a few days.”
Kyungsoo studied him for what felt like an eternity. Minseok bit his lip as Kyungsoo crossed his arms and settled his weight on one leg. “Listen,” he began, “obviously I’m incredibly grateful for what you’ve given me. I wouldn’t have anywhere to go if you hadn’t taken me in. That said, keep your weird magic shit away from me.”
Minseok opened his mouth to reply, but Kyungsoo cut him off before he could make a sound.
“I honestly don’t care. You can do whatever you want, I’ll stay out of your way. All I ask is that you leave me alone. I’m not ready to be around people right now.” He eyed Minseok. “Can you do that?”
“I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say.”
Kyungsoo shrugged. “I’ve had a few days to think about it.”
“Okay then,” Minseok nodded. If Kyungsoo wasn’t freaking out, then Minseok could breathe a little easier. “Do you need anything, while I’m up here?” he gestured back into the kitchenette. “Are you still good on food? What about clothes? If you need more than what we bought you last week I can have Junmyeon order you some things now that we know your sizes.”
Kyungsoo held up a hand to quiet him. “I’m fine on food. I’ll let Junmyeon know if I need more clothes. He’s the one with blue hair, right?” When Minseok nodded in answer Kyungsoo continued. “Let me know the next time you’re headed into town. I need to find some kind of job.”
“Of course. My next shift is two days from now.”
“How do I do laundry?” Kyungsoo asked after a moment of shared silence.
“Oh, uh, just give it to Junmyeon. He’s faster than a washing machine.” Kyungsoo scrunched up his nose in discomfort, and Minseok wanted to smack himself for making Kyungsoo more uncomfortable after he’d just asked to be left out of it. “Sorry,” he apologized, “but it’s the truth.”
Kyungsoo nodded. “Thank you, Minseok.” His shoulders slumped, and Minseok could almost see the energy drain out of him.
“I’ll leave you alone,” Minseok said, recognizing that Kyungsoo had probably maxed out his tolerance for social interaction for now. “You know where to find me, should you need anything.”
Kyungsoo nodded and quietly shut the door in Minseok’s face.
Minseok lingered for a moment, before turning and leaving the east wing. He would have to trust that Kyungsoo would heal with time.
Yixing loved his job, loved helping his patients, but today he hated every second he had to be at work. Not even Zitao’s sweet smile could brighten his day today because every moment he was at work he wasn’t with Baekhyun and he couldn’t stand it.
It was even more terrifying to feel that way. It didn’t make any sense, the way he gravitated to wherever Baekhyun was until he was close enough to feel the buzz under Baekhyun’s skin that woke something long-dormant within him. He didn’t know what this feeling was or why it was Baekhyun, but he had an idea of someone who might.
On his break, he took his phone from his pocket after finding a secluded bench in the gardens of the hospital to make a call. He entered the number from memory, absently noting as it rang that he’d need to get a new burner phone soon. He’d already had this one for a month.
Yixing felt something settle in his chest. “Hi, it’s me. Yixing.” It’d been a while since he’d last spoken to someone who knew him well, and it felt good.
A soft chuckle. “Hi Yixing. How are you? Safe?”
Yixing echoed her laugh. “I’m safe, Nǎinai. But something has happened and I wanted to ask you what you know about our family.”
“Oh? What’s going on?”
Yixing tried to figure out where to start. Unlike Yifan, Yixing’s family had held power for generations, and while Yixing was the strongest in his family for decades, the Zhang family was still rich in history. “Have you known anyone in our family who has been…drawn to someone else? In a way they can’t explain?”
His grandmother made a humming noise. “Is this happening to you?” she asked shrewdly. Yixing never could hide anything from her.
“Nǎinai, I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like I can’t help but want to be next to this person all the time. Like there’s a buzz beneath my skin that only quiets when I’m next to them.”
There was a rustle on the other end of the line, like his grandmother was rifling through papers. “Have I ever told you about your father?”
“Many times, Nǎinai. You said he was like me? But he could influence emotions instead of healing people?”
“There has always been power in the Zhang line. You know that. But when your father met your mother, I saw a new kind of power awaken in him.”
Yixing didn’t dare speak. He’d never heard this story before and he was eager to know more.
“He only explained it to me once,” his grandmother continued, “but the way he described the way he felt around your mother was just like what you said. A buzz under his skin whenever he was away from her.” She sighed, the sound staticky through the phone. “It was the same for her, according to what he told me. She also felt the pull toward your father.
“I don’t think I have to tell you about the red string of fate. It’s been a part of our mythology for centuries. And our family has always had power.” She paused, and Yixing finally said something.
“Nǎinai, are you saying that my parents were…soulmates?”
A soft chuckle. “That’s a strong way to put it. I would say that they were fated to meet. I think they decided to fall in love all on their own. Still, it’s clear that they were supposed to meet each other, and I got you out of it, so fate must have some idea what it’s doing.”
“Do you think that because of our power, fate acts more strongly in our lives?”
There was a sort of contemplative silence on the other end of the line. “I’ve never thought about it like that, but you could be right. There’s so much to our power that we don’t understand, even after all these generations, so who am I to definitively say one way or another?”
Yixing rubbed at the crease forming between his eyebrows. “This is both helpful and confusing all at once, Nǎinai.”
His grandmother laughed, full and bright. “Oh, my poor boy. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be of more help. I can tell you that from what you’ve told me, you absolutely should not let this person get away from you. It’s very likely that they’ll play an important role in your life. They’re someone that fate has decided you need in your life.”
Yixing sighed. He had more questions than answers, but at least now he knew that what he felt toward Baekhyun wasn’t just in his head. That something mystical was happening. “Thanks, Nǎinai. This was helpful, and I miss you.”
“I miss you too, my sweet sheep. Stay with Yifan and keep safe. Oh, and Yixing?” she said, just before he hung up.
“Next time, don’t wait so long between calls.”
Yixing promised, before hanging up. He had a lot to think about.
When he returned home, he’d been so consumed with thinking about fate and the way the universe influenced the lives of humans that he’d almost forgotten about the guest staying with him and Yifan until a body collided with his as he was taking his shoes off in the entry.
“You’re back!” Baekhyun said in garbled Chinese, his arms winding around Yixing’s neck as he pressed the entire length of his body against Yixing’s.
Yixing wrapped his arms around Baekhyun’s waist, the beat of his heart steadying as he pulled Baekhyun as close as possible, nosing into the side of Baekhyun’s neck and relishing the feeling of soft skin beneath his lips.
He pulled away, lifting one hand to cup Baekhyun’s face. “I missed you,” he said in careful Korean, studying Baekhyun’s eyes as he spoke. Baekhyun had only been with them for a day, but Yixing was already dreading the moment Baekhyun went back home. In these moments, when he could hold Baekhyun in his arms, he couldn’t imagine how he managed to live all those years without Baekhyun by his side.
It was absolutely insane to feel so connected to someone he barely knew, but when he looked into Baekhyun’s eyes he felt like everything he needed to know was right there for the taking.
Baekhyun bit his bottom lip. “I missed you, too,” Baekhyun said, slowly for Yixing. His fingers played with the hair at the back of Yixing’s neck, making him shiver. “How was work?”
Yixing maneuvered them further into the apartment without letting go of Baekhyun while he answered. “It was fine. I like my…charges? Patients.” He fumbled over his words as he settled on the couch in their living room. Baekhyun sat facing him, straddling his hips as he kept playing with Yixing’s hair. “It was a good day, but I wanted to be with you the whole time.”
A slow smile spread across Baekhyun’s face. “I felt the same.”
Yixing settled his hands on Baekhyun’s hips, fighting to keep from pulling Baekhyun closer and failing miserably, breathing deeply as Baekhyun relaxed against his chest, his head falling to Yixing’s shoulder. “How was your day?” he whispered as Baekhyun sighed into his neck. He fought down a shiver at the feeling of Baekhyun’s breath against his neck.
“Yifan took me to see a few things this morning before he left for work. Then I took a nap while I waited for you to come home.” Baekhyun squeezed his arms around Yixing’s neck. “I can’t stand to be away from you.”
Yixing tightened his grip on Baekhyun’s hips as Baekhyun started to pull away. “I feel the same,” Yixing said, repeating Baekhyun’s words back at him.
Baekhyun shifted slightly, looking up at Yixing from under his lashes. “Why do we feel this way?”
Yixing ran a hand up Baekhyun’s side, fingers lightly trailing up until he was tracing the edge of Baekhyun’s jaw. “I think fate tied us together.” It was the only thing he could think of to explain. He didn’t know if he believed in soulmates, but he did know what he felt around Baekhyun, and he didn’t fight it as Baekhyun closed the distance between them.
Baekhyun pressed his lips gently to Yixing’s, and the world came alive with the simple brush of lips. Color exploded behind his eyelids, and he gasped against Baekhyun’s mouth as warmth rushed down his spine. He used the hand on Baekhyun’s jaw to tilt his head so that he could deepen the kiss, sighing at the feeling of Baekhyun’s lips sliding against his.
Baekhyun’s fingers tightened in his hair as he deepened the kiss, moaning when Baekhyun opened under the brush of Yixing’s tongue against his bottom lip. Yixing got lost in the taste of Baekhyun, the feeling of him in his arms and the way Baekhyun sounded when Yixing tugged gently at his lip with his teeth.
It was easy to let his hands settle on Baekhyun’s waist, to encourage Baekhyun as he started to slowly circle his hips in Yixing’s lap, grinding slowly against him. Yixing slid his hands under Baekhyun’s shirt, shivering when his hands glided up the smooth skin of Baekhyun’s back. Baekhyun moaned against his mouth, melting under the insistent press of Yixing’s lips and tongue.
Baekhyun felt good. Everything about him was exactly what Yixing didn’t know he’d been looking for. Yixing pulled away from Baekhyun’s mouth to bite gently along his jaw, satisfaction curling in his stomach when Baekhyun moaned as he sucked the spot below his ear hard enough to leave a mark. He let his hands brush along Baekhyun’s ribs, feeling the way ridges formed as Baekhyun breathed in and out. He could feel the vitality in him, the way his body thrummed with energy beneath his fingertips, and Yixing had yet to meet a life force as strong as Baekhyun’s.
Baekhyun whined under his breath, pulling Yixing’s lips back to his own to kiss him hungrily. Yixing responded eagerly. There was so much about Baekhyun, so much for Yixing to feel with every touch and glance that he never wanted to stop, and if it weren’t for the sound of Baekhyun’s phone shattering the moment between them, Yixing wasn’t sure he would have stopped until Baekhyun was writhing beneath him.
With a groan, Baekhyun pulled away from Yixing and leaned back to get his phone out of his pocket.
“Hello?” he snapped in Korean.
As close as Yixing was, he could hear the other end of the conversation easily, especially when Baekhyun leaned forward and pressed himself fully against Yixing’s chest, one hand holding the phone to his ear while the other wrapped around Yixing’s back.
“Baekhyun, where the fuck. Are you.”
Baekhyun rolled his hips, getting more comfortable while also brushing against Yixing in a way that made it clear exactly how affected he was by Yixing. “I’m in China, Minseok. You drove me to the airport yourself.”
“Yeah, and nobody has heard from you since. You could have died and we wouldn’t have known.”
Yixing winced at the way Minseok so easily scolded Baekhyun.
“Okay dad, I’m sorry. I’ve been distracted.”
“With what? You know what,” a sigh, “I don’t want to know. I’m glad you’re safe. Is Yixing okay? Are you safe with him?”
Yixing chuckled softly as Baekhyun rolled his eyes. “I’m fine, Minseok. Yixing is great.” Baekhyun paused, and Yixing could feel his heartbeat pick up slightly. His abilities were unique that way, and by touching Baekhyun’s skin he could feel the quiet rush of blood, the speed of his heart.
“Yixing is…amazing,” Baekhyun said finally. “I’m really glad I came.”
“Good. When are you coming home? Junmyeon wants to know.”
Yixing couldn’t help the way his arms tightened reflexively around Baekhyun at the mention of him leaving. The last thing Yixing wanted to do was be separated from Baekhyun right now, and he didn’t know how he was going to manage being apart after this.
“My flight is at the end of the week.”
Yixing tried not to flinch. Four days. He only had four more days with Baekhyun before they were separated for who knew how long.
“Okay. I want regular texts to know you’re still doing okay. Make sure Yifan and Yixing are keeping you safe.”
“Alright, I will. Goodbye, Minseok.” And before Minseok could say anything else, Baekhyun hung up and tossed his phone aside. He settled back so that he could look Yixing in the face. “Now, where were we?”
Yixing only had a moment before Baekhyun’s mouth was back on his, eagerly teasing his lips apart until Baekhyun’s tongue was sweeping through his mouth. Yixing relaxed into the kiss, enjoying the feeling of Baekhyun in his arms and the way Baekhyun’s nails scratched lightly against his skin every time Yixing bit softly at the skin of his neck.
He was careful not to escalate the kiss, keeping it at a heated but comfortable place. As much as he wanted Baekhyun stretched out and moaning beneath him, he wanted more time to get to know him, to learn his quirks and how to make him happy, before things escalated any more.
Time stretched around them like warm taffy as they got lost in one another. After a while, Yixing could feel exhaustion beginning to creep up on Baekhyun. He hummed as Baekhyun sucked a mark into the skin of his clavicle. “Baekhyun, we need to sleep.”
Baekhyun whined against his skin. “I don’t want to sleep. That’s time I don’t have with you.”
Yixing shifted his grip on Baekhyun’s legs so that he was holding him securely to his body to stand up and lift Baekhyun with him. Baekhyun squeaked in surprise and wrapped his arms and legs around Yixing’s body. “Then I’ll just have to sleep with you,” Yixing reasoned. “My bed is better than the couch anyway.”
Baekhyun slapped his shoulder. “I’m not having sex with you right now.”
Yixing shouldered the door of his room open before lightly tossing Baekhyun onto the bed. “I wasn’t suggesting we should. I would rather hold you in my arms until we fall asleep.” He watched in pleasure as Baekhyun blushed a charming shade of rose across his cheeks.
Baekhyun mumbled something under his breath too quickly for Yixing’s limited Korean to catch before he got up and walked into the bathroom. He came out a few moments later wearing an oversized t-shirt for sleep and smelling of mint. He smiled shyly at Yixing before diving under the covers of the bed.
In a desperate act of self-preservation Yixing ducked into the bathroom to change for bed and brush his teeth. Baekhyun adorably sleepy in his bed was a sight he didn’t know would affect him as much as it did and the space to breathe was vital.
He crawled back into bed once he was done and ready for sleep, easily pulling Baekhyun against him and pressing gentle kisses to his face. Every second he spent with Baekhyun increased the energy flowing between them. As he closed his eyes and lost himself to the sensation of Baekhyun’s lips on his, Yixing could see the silver threads tying them together, watching them thrum with feelings and strengthen with every second he spent touching Baekhyun.
He could feel the warmth and affection that Baekhyun was emitting low in his stomach, different from his own feelings but no less real. He tangled their limbs, wove his fingers through Baekhyun’s hair, and fell asleep to the feeling of Baekhyun’s lips on his.
Now that Zitao was living primarily in the present with only occasional lapses of his grip on time, he was noticing something…missing.
It wasn’t the meds they made him take, and there wasn’t anything wrong with his powers, but it felt like there was something he needed, a missing piece to who he was. It was peculiar, and it was ever-present. Luhan’s increasingly intense training sessions in the safety of their room distracted him from dwelling on whatever was causing the dull ache between his ribs, but late at night…
Late at night Zitao lied awake and wondered—for perhaps the first time since being locked up in here—what he was missing out there in the real world. He wondered if it was something, or someone, that made him feel this way, and suddenly he needed to get free so he could figure out what this relentless thrum beneath his skin was about.
When he asked Luhan if he ever felt like a piece of him was missing Luhan gave him a blank look and asked him if he was losing his grip on time again. Whatever this feeling was, he needed to get out of here so that he could chase where it was tugging him to go.
“We need to get out of here,” he said, startling Luhan away from the book he was reading. “As soon as possible.”
Luhan closed his book and looked at Zitao seriously. “Okay.”
Leaving Yixing was the hardest thing Baekhyun had ever had to do in his life. Even now that he was back in Korea, on the subway back to his dorm, all Baekhyun could do was long for Yixing’s arms around him. He’d lingered in Yixing’s arms for as long as possible at the airport, nearly missing his flight home as he demanded ‘just one more’ kiss.
He had never felt this way about anyone, and when Yixing, through Yifan, had explained the concept of soulmates according to Chinese mythology Baekhyun thought he was crazy until he looked inside himself and saw the silver lines of energy connecting him to Yixing. The threads thrummed with energy, the pure light of his magic dancing and weaving through the bond as Yixing’s worry, concern, affection for him all settled into his stomach, separate from his own feelings but there nonetheless.
Even now, in separate countries, Baekhyun could feel Yixing’s longing for him, the way Yixing missed him already, the way their bond connected them to each other. It was a torture and a mercy all at once. Baekhyun could feel Yixing with him, but while Yixing constantly felt within his grasp Baekhyun could feel the distance separating them like it was a palpable thing.
The subway slowed at his stop, and Baekhyun gathered up his things and got off, wearily walking toward his dorm. He was tired. Every spare moment while he was in China was spent with Yixing, and he’d sacrificed a lot of sleep in favor of kissing Yixing, experimenting with the way Yixing’s skin felt beneath his own. But now that he was home…he wanted to sleep for a day and then maybe call Minseok and cry about how much he missed Yixing.
Affection settled warm in his gut as he fumbled his keys out of his backpack to open his room, dropping his carry-on as soon as he was through the door. He pulled his phone out of his pocket to text Minseok that he was safe and home, too preoccupied to notice that his door didn’t click shut behind him.
Hands grabbed at his shoulders and mouth, muffling any sound he could make as he was dragged back toward his door. Panic surged through him, hot and consuming, and his magic burst from him in response as he thrashed in the hold of whoever held him.
He could see the room growing brighter and brighter around him as he struggled and fought, and the last thing he remembered seeing was searing, burning white light.
Then, everything went black.
Chapter 4: pain is just a passing storm
Thank you for your patience while i did a lot of editing and struggled through some truly terrible writers block over the last two months. Here's chapter 4 a little early, even though 7 isn't quite done yet.
Yixing was preparing the medications for the patients in the hospital when he was hit with a sudden, violent rush of panic that wasn’t his own.
“Baekhyun,” he whispered, dread coiling tight in his stomach. He should have been back safe by now, but Yixing could tell that something was desperately, dangerously wrong for Baekhyun to panic so strongly.
He fumbled for his phone in the pocket of his scrubs with shaking hands and scrolled through his contacts, moving past Yifan who was working right now anyway and pressing Minseok’s name in his phone, helpfully added by Baekhyun before he left.
The line rang twice before Minseok picked up.
“Hello?” he asked in Korean.
“Minseok-gē,” Yixing rushed out, too panicked to speak in anything other than Chinese. “Where is Baekhyun, is he with you? Is he safe? What’s wrong?”
“Yixing?” Minseok asked, confusion in his voice. “Slow down,” he commanded in accented Chinese. “What?”
Yixing forced himself to take a deep, steadying breath. “Something is wrong with Baekhyun. He’s in danger. Do you know where he is?”
A sharp inhale. “I haven’t heard from him yet. He was supposed to text me when he got home. I haven’t—”
Yixing felt his own panic rise. “Minseok-gē, what—”
Minseok’s breathless voice came back on the line, his Chinese slightly garbled in his hurry. “Baekhyun is calling me right now, hold on, I’m going to patch him through.”
Yixing gathered his things in the silence as Minseok connected the calls, preparing to head back to his apartment with Yifan. Whatever was happening, he was going to be useless at work now.
“Baekhyun?” came Minseok’s voice suddenly on the phone, and Yixing paused in shrugging on his jacket to listen breathlessly for Baekhyun’s response. During his conversation with Minseok the panic he’d been feeling from Baekhyun had decreased in intensity, but he could still feel it lingering.
“H-hyung,” Baekhyun sobbed, and Yixing wanted to rip his hair out because Baekhyun was hurting, his soulmate was in danger, and he couldn’t do anything about it. “Hyung I’m hurt—I-I don’t know what…”
Baekhyun’s words continued to pour out between pained breaths, but they were too garbled for Yixing to understand, and asking for Minseok to translate right now wasn’t going to help an already chaotic situation. Instead, Yixing left the hospital without telling anyone as he listened to Minseok comforting Baekhyun as he figured out what was going on.
Yixing got into his car and sat, trying to calm his own panic and attempting to send warmth and affection through their bond to Baekhyun to help soothe him.
“I need Yixing,” Baekhyun choked out, the first thing Yixing could clearly understand as Baekhyun calmed slightly.
“I’m coming to you,” he growled, starting his car.
“Yi-Yixing?” Baekhyun gasped.
“No, you’re not,” Minseok commanded. “You’re going to stay in China until we know what happened. Baekhyun, you’re going to tell me where you are and I’m going to come and get you.”
Yixing wanted to argue, but Minseok was right. They needed more information before he did anything rash, and Baekhyun would be safe with Minseok and Junmyeon. He would have to trust that. Besides, there were things he needed to take care of here before he left, like the two boys in room 203.
“Okay,” Yixing said in response to Minseok. Then, to Baekhyun, he said, “hang in there Baekhyun. Stay safe.”
Baekhyun whimpered, and Yixing felt a piece of his heart rip. “Yixing it hurts.”
Yixing bit his cheek hard enough to bleed. “I know, baby. I’ll be there with you as soon as I can. I’ll make it better. I’ll fix it.”
Baekhyun choked on a sob, and beneath that Yixing could hear Minseok getting in a car and starting to drive, leaving the line open so he could talk to Baekhyun.
“I don’t know if you can fix this Yixing,” Baekhyun said after a moment of stuttered breathing. “It’s bad.”
Yixing fought the tears crawling up his throat and forced them aside. He had to be strong for Baekhyun right now. Later, he could fall apart, but right now Baekhyun needed him. He pushed aside his own emotions and focused on sending calm reassurance through their bond. “It’s going to be okay, Baekhyun.”
“Distract me, Yixing.”
Yixing talked about everything and nothing while Minseok drove, the whole time silently urging Minseok to hurry, to rush to Baekhyun’s location as Baekhyun fed him directions to his dorm between Yixing’s talking. He knew the moment Minseok found Baekhyun.
“Oh fuck,” came Minseok’s voice. There was a beep on the line as a call dropped, and Yixing pulled his phone away from his face in a panic, but he and Minseok were still connected. Baekhyun’s line had dropped from the call but Minseok’s was open.
Baekhyun’s voice sounded more distant but cleared up as Minseok walked closer. Yixing hated this, of hearing everything but not being able to do anything. “Minseok, give your phone to Baekhyun,” he demanded, sighing as Baekhyun’s voice came through again, just in time for him to hear the most terrifying thing yet.
“Hyung, where are you?” Baekhyun asked tearfully. “I can’t see you.”
“Baekhyun what do you mean, I’m right here?”
Yixing could make out a rustling sound, and then Minseok said, “Shit, fuck, shit, Baek, your eyes. Oh fuck. I’m taking you to a hospital.”
There was a crackling sound and then Minseok’s voice came through clear over the line. “Yixing I’m so sorry but I have to hang up now. I need to get Baekhyun to a hospital. Junmyeon and I will call you later tonight once Baekhyun is taken care of.”
And before Yixing could protest, the line clicked, dead.
“Junmyeon,” Minseok yelled, helping a stumbling Baekhyun into the house. Baekhyun had a death grip on Minseok’s arm, and he could feel his already cold fingers getting even colder as he lost circulation. “Junmyeon, I need you!”
“What’s wrong?” Jongdae came sliding across the tile of the foyer as he ran to Minseok from the west wing. “What happen—is that Baekhyun? Oh damn, what happened?” He hovered anxiously around Minseok and Baekhyun as he took in Baekhyun’s injuries.
Kyungsoo appeared in the foyer right behind Jongdae, although at a much slower pace, and if Minseok weren’t so busy trying to keep Baekhyun calm and the situation under control he might have raised an eyebrow at the way Kyungsoo hovered closely next to Jongdae.
“Minnie?” Junmyeon called, coming up the stairs from the basement, his hair wet and sticking to his forehead instead of swept away like it normally was. “What’s wrong—oh.” He rushed to Minseok’s side, quickly reaching out for Baekhyun.
“Wait!” Minseok called a second too late, quickly closing his eyes when bright light flashed through the room as Baekhyun flinched away from Junmyeon’s touch.
It was like a flash grenade going off in their foyer.
“Fuck, my eyes!” Jongdae yelped. “Baekhyun, what the fuck.”
“I’m sorry!” Baekhyun cried, tears starting to fall from his eyes. “I’m really on edge right now.”
“He was attacked,” Minseok explained quickly. “Almost as soon as he got back to his dorm he was attacked.”
Junmyeon went pale. “By who?”
Minseok shook his head minutely and understanding flickered across Junmyeon’s face.
“Okay, let’s get you to your room, Baekhyun.” Junmyeon moved to the other side of Baekhyun and helped Minseok lead him up the stairs to his room in the west wing, Kyungsoo and Jongdae following silently behind them.
Minseok and Junmyeon carefully tucked Baekhyun into his bed, stroking his hair soothingly until the pain meds the doctors had given him kicked in and he fell asleep.
Once he was sleeping soundly Minseok ushered everyone out of his room and into the sitting room directly outside. Junmyeon took a seat in one of the armchairs while Jongdae and Kyungsoo sat opposite him on the lounge bench along the windows. Instead of sitting in one of the other armchairs, Minseok crawled into Junmyeon’s lap and buried his face in Junmyeon’s neck, breathing in his clean scent and letting his emotions settle.
“Minseok,” Junmyeon said quietly, “what happened to Baekhyun?”
Minseok shook his head, remembering everything the doctors had told him at the hospital after tending to Baekhyun’s injuries. His hands began to shake, and Junmyeon wrapped his arms more tightly around Minseok’s waist and waited patiently.
“It was Yixing, who knew first,” Minseok began, recalling the way he’d answered his phone just after finishing his shift at the hospital. “He was panicking and saying something about Baekhyun, asking if I’d heard from him. While I was on the line with Yixing, Baekhyun called so I patched him through into a three-way call.
“It was bad. Baekhyun was crying, terrified, and clearly in pain. I made him give me his address and drove to him while Yixing did his best to soothe Baekhyun over the phone and keep him calm.” He paused, leaning away from Junmyeon’s chest to speak more clearly. “When I got there, Baekhyun was on the floor with several other men around him. All of them were unconscious, and it looked like they’d been out in the sun for hours. Their skin was so badly burned I could see it blistering.
“But Baekhyun,” he trailed off, not continuing until Junmyeon gently ran his hand up and down his back to bring him out of his memory. “Baekhyun was curled up on the floor, and his eyes were staring but I could already tell he couldn’t see.” Minseok shuddered. “On the way to the hospital I got him to tell me what had happened. He didn’t remember much, only that he’d been grabbed and he felt his power surge before everything went white, then black.” Minseok shrugged. “He also has a spiral fracture in his wrist—no doubt from when they grabbed him—and a concussion, some bruised ribs.”
“Fuck,” Jongdae said, once it was clear Minseok was finished.
Kyungsoo stood up without a word and walked down the hall towards the library, his shoulders hunched.
“I need to call Yixing,” Minseok said, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “I promised I would, and he must be going crazy.”
Junmyeon pulled his phone from his grasp. “You’re going to go to bed. I’ll call Yixing. You need some rest.”
Jongdae came over and helped Minseok off Junmyeon’s lap. “Come on, I’ll get you to your room.”
Minseok looped his arm around Jongdae’s shoulder and leaned heavily on him, the events of the last few hours catching up with him all at once. “Thanks, Dae. Come to bed soon, Junmyeon.”
Junmyeon gave him a tight smile and stood to drop a kiss to Minseok’s cheek. “I will.”
After Minseok had hung up on him Yixing had somehow managed to drive himself home, convincing himself not to worry when the steady stream of panic and fear from Baekhyun became muted and quiet, until all Yixing could feel from Baekhyun was a sort of sleepy calm that felt medicated. But by the time Yifan got home from work, Yixing had managed to work himself into such a state that all he could do was lie on the floor as small tremors of panic shook through his body.
Yifan was making them a dinner Yixing wasn’t hungry for when his phone rang. Yixing yelped and nearly dropped the device in his haste to answer it.
Yifan tilted his head in Yixing’s direction and Yixing put the phone on speaker so that Yifan could listen in more easily.
“Yixing?” It wasn’t Minseok, but someone else. “This is Jongdae and Junmyeon.”
“Where’s Minseok and Baekhyun? Are they okay?”
There was a sigh. “Slow down, Yixing,” Jongdae said. “My Chinese isn’t good enough to understand you when you’re talking that fast. Baekhyun and Minseok are both here now. Baekhyun is sleeping and I think Minseok is too. But Yixing,” Jongdae hesitated, and Yixing’s stomach sank through the floor as apprehension and dread rushed through him. “Baekhyun is hurt, badly.”
Yixing felt his legs give out from under him and Yifan scrambled to catch him. “What?”
Jongdae cleared his throat. “Baekhyun can’t see, and he has a few other injuries.”
“What happened?” Yifan demanded.
Jongdae, with occasional help from Junmyeon, recounted the story. With every word Yixing felt worse and worse, guilt and worry colliding in him violently. He was supposed to protect Baekhyun, keep him safe, and he’d failed.
Yifan shook him to get his attention. “Did you hear what Junmyeon said? He was attacked by a couple men in suits. Minseok saw them when he found Baekhyun.”
It was a good thing Yifan had a strong hold on him already because Yixing lost any remaining strength in his legs as he shared a terrified look with Yifan. “They knew he’d been with us. Yifan, they must have followed him out of China.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Jongdae asked, confusion in his voice.
“Yixing we need to get out of here. Are the two you’ve been watching safe to transfer yet?” Yifan asked, ignoring Jongdae completely.
“What two?” Jongdae asked, confused.
Through sheer force of will, Yixing forced himself to focus on the problem at hand and not on his failure to protect his newly found soulmate. He knew he shouldn’t have let Baekhyun leave. “I think I can get them out, if I’m careful. We’ll need papers to get them out of the country though,” he said, clinging to Yifan as he struggled to support his own weight.
Yifan nodded. “Jongdae,” he said into the phone, “I hope wherever you guys are, you can handle four more people by tomorrow night.”
“Tomorrow night?” Junmyeon screeched in the background of the call. “How on earth can you possibly be ready that quickly?”
Yifan tugged Yixing out of the kitchen and into his bedroom, helping Yixing to gather up his clothes as he switched into Korean to explain things to Junmyeon. “Yixing and I have always known we would need to be able to leave suddenly, with very little warning. We’ve been prepared for this day for years now.”
“Why?” Jongdae asked.
Yixing and Yifan shared a look as they shoved clothes into his bag. “We’ve been lying low in China,” Yifan explained, “because it’s dangerous for us to be out in the open. We’re always ready to run, and now that Yixing is sure he can get the two others like us out there’s no better time for us to leave.”
“You’re going to explain everything when you get here,” Junmyeon demanded, not waiting for Jongdae to translate, but Yixing could understand just fine.
“Jongdae, we need to go now,” Yixing said, trying to decide which of his belongings to take in the limited space he had. “We’ll call you again once we’re safe and at the gate. We have a lot to do before then.”
“Be safe,” was all Jongdae said before hanging up the phone.
Yixing turned to Yifan and they shared a long, desperate look before leaping into motion.
Zitao became aware that something was wrong slowly, and in increments, as he pulled himself from sleep.
It was early, earlier than anyone ever came into their room for any reason, and all at once Zitao was awake because there was somebody in their room.
Luhan was still asleep in the bed across the room, and Zitao held very, very still, afraid to move for some reason. The shadowy figure stepped further into the room, moving to Luhan’s bed first. Before Zitao could do anything, the person put a hand over Luhan’s mouth and gently shook him awake, holding Luhan still until he stopped panicking once he was awake.
“We have to leave, stay quiet,” the figure said, and Zitao sat up in bed because that sounded a lot like—
“Yixing?” he whispered.
Yixing turned around to look at him, raising a hand to his lips to signal quiet. “Both of you follow me. Act normal, and don’t speak.”
Zitao shared a panicked look with Luhan in the dim light of their room.
“Now,” Yixing commanded, tugging them both out of their beds. “We don’t have much time.”
Zitao reached out for Luhan, linking their fingers as Yixing opened the door to their room. They were both dressed in the white shirt and loose pants that the facility dressed them in, their feet bare, but neither of them took time to grab anything when Yixing was motioning for them to step outside of their room.
Zitao tightened his hand in Luhan’s as they stepped into the fluorescent light of the hallway, sticking close to Yixing as he walked calmly down the hall. It was early enough that the halls were empty, and Zitao was too nervous to notice the way Yixing was leading them into areas of the facility he’d never seen before.
They weren’t in the patient wing anymore, and before Zitao could think about why that was, Yixing was ushering them quickly through a door and suddenly Zitao could feel the chill air of early morning on his face as they stepped into a parking lot.
He was outside, without walls keeping him in, for the first time in years.
“Quickly, boys,” Yixing urged, pushing them toward an idling car.
Before Zitao could really register what was happening, he and Luhan were in a car, and he turned to watch the place that had been his prison for the last few years slip away in the cityscape of Shanghai.
“Who the fuck are you?” Luhan asked, curling up in the seat to make himself smaller as his gaze darted between Yixing in the passenger seat and the man driving the car.
Zitao snapped his attention back to what was happening and yeah, they’d just been kidnapped by Yixing, what the fuck?
“Luhan, I’m Yixing, you know who I am. This is Yifan, and we’re rescuing you and taking you out of China.”
“You’re what?” Luhan screeched, one of his hands reaching out to hold on to Zitao and pull him closer for comfort. “Where are we going? How?”
Yixing turned around in his seat to look at them while he calmly explained. “Yifan and I have new passports for the both of you, new identities to get you both safely out of China and away from danger. Our flight leaves in four hours, and we’re going to the airport now.” He gestured to the floor of the car at their feet, straining against his seatbelt. “There’s new clothes in the bag down there that should fit. Change now, before we get to the airport.”
Zitao’s breath caught in his throat. “We’re…free?”
Yixing gave him a gentle smile. “Yes, Taozi. I’ll do everything I can to make sure neither of you are ever locked up again.”
“Why should we trust you?” Luhan asked, suspicion thick in his voice. “You just kidnapped us.”
“You don’t have a choice,” said Yifan, speaking for the first time. He eyed them in the rearview mirror. “But I promise, we’ll keep you both safe. We know you aren’t crazy.”
Luhan and Zitao traded a wary glance.
“What do you mean?” Zitao asked hesitantly. “We were patients in a long-term facility for the mentally ill. Of course we’re crazy.”
Yixing gave him another gentle look. “We know you both have powers. That’s why we’re getting you out of China and to people like us.”
“Us?” Luhan raised an eyebrow. He was always faster on the uptake than Zitao.
Yifan chuckled softly. “Yixing can heal, while I can fly and control fire, if I’m really trying.”
Zitao’s jaw dropped.
“What?” Luhan choked.
“We promise that we’ll have plenty of time to talk once we get to the airport. But I need both of you to change, quickly please. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Luhan and Zitao exchanged an incredulous look, before doing exactly what Yixing said.
Minseok was woken by his phone ringing far too early for him to be okay with it.
“What,” he snapped, already grumpy.
“We’re at the airport,” Yixing said in Chinese, immediately jolting Minseok wide awake.
“Already?” He sat up in bed, dislodging Junmyeon’s arm from around his hips. “This early?” He struggled to switch to Chinese, his brain fighting through the fog of sleep.
“We wanted to get out as soon as possible and getting them out was easier than I expected. We’re waiting for our flight to board. Can you pick us up in four hours at Gimpo?”
“Uh,” Minseok paused, willing his brain to catch up with Yixing’s rapid-fire Chinese. “Text me your arrival time, but yeah. I can.”
“Great.” The low hum of noise from the airport rose to the foreground as Yixing paused, then, “How’s Baekhyun?”
Minseok sighed, flopping back on the bed and relaxing as Junmyeon pressed close to him, tugging Minseok snug to his chest. “He’s been asleep all night. I’ve been keeping him medicated so that he doesn’t wake up. It’s probably best for now until you’re here, and since you’ll be here in a few hours he’ll be fine.”
Yixing breathed out in relief, like he’d been holding his breath. “Thank you, Minseok. See you in a few hours.”
The line clicked off, and Minseok set an alarm for two hours later and set his phone back on the nightstand before rolling over to press his face to the warm skin of Junmyeon’s neck.
“Everything good?” Junmyeon mumbled, mostly asleep.
Minseok kissed him softly against the underside of his jaw. “Yeah, baby. Let’s go back to sleep.”
Junmyeon hummed and secured his arms around Minseok’s waist, tangling their legs as he shifted to get comfortable.
Minseok was asleep again within moments, the clean, fresh scent of Junmyeon lulling him under.
Baekhyun became conscious in slow increments, slowly wading his way up into wakefulness and shedding sleep layer by layer.
As he did, he became aware of several things at once. His body hurt, but not nearly as much as last night when he’d gone to sleep. There was an IV in his arm, he could feel it taped to his forearm, itchy against his skin. His power was swirling bright inside him, clear and pure and vibrant when he investigated the deep pool of it within himself.
There was something warm pressed against his back, a hand entwined with his somewhere in front of his face. His head was half on a plush, clean-smelling pillow, and half pressed to smooth silky skin. He must be laying on someone’s arm, but who?
Another look within himself showed the bond he’d discovered the moment his eyes locked with Yixing’s at the airport in China. The strong, silver threads reaching back to something behind him. But that couldn’t be right because Yixing was still in China, unless…
With a gasp, Baekhyun opened his eyes, only for the last detail to click into place as all he saw was darkness.
“Baekhyun? Are you awake?”
It was Yixing, Baekhyun knew it immediately. Everything within him brightened in joy, singing as he rolled over to face Yixing. “Yixing, how—why?”
Yixing raised his other hand to cup Baekhyun’s cheek gently, and Baekhyun fought away the flinch that came with the unexpected touch because this was his soulmate, Yixing. He leaned his face into Yixing’s palm in silent apology.
“I came as fast as I could, as soon as I heard.” A choked sound. “I’m so sorry that I wasn’t there to protect you. I should have been there.”
Baekhyun reached out, his fingers encountering the firm width of Yixing’s chest and working his way up the smooth column of his neck, his jaw, until his fingers were tracing over the planes of Yixing’s face, brushing away the wetness against his cheekbones. “You’re here now. That’s all that matters.” He wrapped an arm around Yixing’s waist, tugging him closer only to stop when Yixing whimpered in pain. “Are you hurt?”
“Just a little tender. I’m healing your ribs while we lie here.”
Hope fluttered between Baekhyun’s ribs, a yellow canary trapped in a cage at the bottom of a mine called despair. “Can…can you heal my eyes?”
Baekhyun couldn’t see the expression on Yixing’s face, but he didn’t have to. The silence said enough. Yixing’s helplessness swirled cold and bitter inside him, their bond letting him feel Yixing’s strongest emotions.
Yixing’s arms came around him, one hand cradling the back of his head while the other wrapped around his waist. “I’m so sorry, Baekhyun. I’m too late. Maybe—maybe with time and enough effort I can get something back but…” he trailed off, out of words. The canary between his ribs fell silent, no air left to sing with.
Baekhyun nodded. He could live without his sight. He had enough inner light to not feel like he was constantly in darkness, but he wasn’t sure he could live with never seeing Yixing’s face again. “Yixing, can you do something for me?”
Lips pressed against his forehead. “Anything.”
Baekhyun poured as much warmth and comfort into their bond, determined to soothe Yixing’s swirling emotions. “Kiss me. Help me memorize you before I forget.”
Yixing gently pressed his lips to Baekhyun’s, giving him time to adjust to the sensation of lips he couldn’t see coming. The second their lips came in contact though, Baekhyun could pretend that this was a kiss like any other, and as Yixing gently coaxed his lips apart Baekhyun could see him, his power reaching out and swirling around Yixing, seeking out Baekhyun’s other half.
As Yixing slowly traced over the back of Baekhyun’s teeth with his tongue, Baekhyun’s light surrounded Yixing, showing Baekhyun the shape of Yixing in his mind like a photograph taken in negative light, Yixing’s features softly glowing against the darkness of Baekhyun’s eyes.
Baekhyun gasped against Yixing’s lips, kissing him deeper, suddenly desperate for everything Yixing could give him, knotting his fingers into the strands of hair against Yixing’s neck that were just as soft as he remembered. The kiss was slow and deep, with no other purpose than re-learning each other like they’d been apart for weeks instead of just two days.
But what an eventful two days it had been.
After a while, Yixing slowly began to wind down the kiss until it was light and soft, the barest brush of their lips together. “Take it easy,” he said gently when Baekhyun whined against him, squirming to get closer. “You’ve been through a lot, and we have time.”
Baekhyun wanted to argue, wanted to pull Yixing on top of him and demand more, but another part of him recognized that he was still tired, and he probably needed to deal with the whole not-being-able-to-see thing.
Yeah, Yixing was right.
“Take care of me?” Baekhyun whispered, feeling pitiful.
Yixing tucked Baekhyun’s head beneath his chin, one hand around his hips and the other at the back of his head, cradling him against his chest. “Always, xiao yang.” He whispered something else against Baekhyun’s forehead in Chinese that he didn’t understand, but it sounded soft. He made a note to ask Yifan about it later, if he could remember it.
The was a knock on Baekhyun’s door, making him jump in Yixing’s hold in surprise, and a voice he recognized as Junmyeon asked, “How is he?”
“I’m fine, Junmyeon,” Baekhyun sighed into Yixing’s neck. “Sore and tired, but I’m okay.” His power pulsed within him, a small part of it reaching out for Junmyeon and outlining him so that Baekhyun could see the hazy lines of his body, like a lens out of focus.
His posture—what Baekhyun could see of it—was clearly worried.
“Stop frowning,” Baekhyun admonished, not moving his face from Yixing’s neck and taking a guess as to his expression. Having known Junmyeon these last few weeks, he felt like he could see the crease-lines on his face, even if he couldn’t. “You’ll get wrinkles.”
Junmyeon’s mouth dropped open in shock. “Baekhyun, can you see me?”
Baekhyun sighed and sat up, reluctantly pulling out of Yixing’s hold. “No,” he said slowly, like Junmyeon was very dumb. “I’m blind, remember?” He felt Yixing shift behind him, and a pair of arms wrapped around his waist from behind, drawing him back against Yixing’s chest.
Baekhyun shrugged. “My power? I think? It’s doing this thing where it sort of…outlines the things around me so that I can see them in my mind’s eye?” He shrugged. “It looks like a photo taken in negative, kinda. But more sparkly.”
“I’m going to talk to you more about this when you’re feeling better.” Junmyeon leaned against the doorframe, shoving his hands in his pockets. “But for now, do you want some food?”
Baekhyun sagged against Yixing. “Yes. I’m starving, actually.” He’d been ignoring it because kissing Yixing was way better than eating.
Junmyeon nodded. It was weird to see all these gestures and expressions in negative, but it was better than the eternal darkness Baekhyun would be stuck with otherwise. “Dinner’s ready in the kitchen.”
Baekhyun moved to the edge of the bed and waited for Yixing to remove the IV from his arm before carefully standing up, Yixing’s hands in his to steady him. He made it all of one step before his legs gave out on him, and before he could even make a sound Yixing was wrapping Baekhyun’s arms around his neck and lifting him off the ground. Baekhyun wound his legs around Yixing’s torso out of instinct, squeaking when Yixing brushed a kiss to the side of his head and wrapped his arms under Baekhyun’s thighs.
A snort of laughter came from somewhere around Junmyeon, but Baekhyun was too busy outlining every bit of Yixing in light so he could see him to care about what Junmyeon was doing. For some reason his light was drawn to Yixing, like it wanted to show Baekhyun every possible detail, and it made it easier for him to see Yixing.
As they moved through the house, Baekhyun’s power highlighted the biggest features of the house. The banister of the stairs as Yixing carried him down, the walls of the hallways they walked through, doorways into different rooms. It was fascinating and overwhelming all at once. Baekhyun reeled his power back until all he could see was Yixing and immediately felt better.
Soft voices reached his ears as they drew close to the kitchen. He could pick out Yifan’s even tones mixed with the bright laughter of Jongdae.
“Look who’s up,” Junmyeon said fondly, somewhere ahead of him and Yixing.
“Baekhyun!” Jongdae screeched, and Baekhyun could hear the scrape of a chair as it was pushed out, and then another pair of hands were on his back.
Baekhyun flinched into Yixing, taken by surprise.
“Oh, sorry Baekhyun,” Jongdae said quietly, a contrast to his excitement a second ago.
“It’s okay,” Baekhyun said, taking a deep, bracing breath and burying his face in Yixing’s neck as he let his power spread through the room.
The sudden influx of information was enough to make him shudder in Yixing’s grasp as the room took shape in his mind. He focused on keeping his breathing steady and even while he tried to process through everything he could now see.
“What’s he doing?” Minseok asked. He was hugging Junmyeon from behind, his head on Junmyeon’s shoulder as he watched Baekhyun with concern. “He’s glowing.”
Baekhyun could feel Yixing’s confused shrug. Whether he was confused over why Baekhyun was apparently glowing or what Minseok said he wasn’t sure, but Baekhyun clung tighter to him, needing the comfort.
Yixing slowly released Baekhyun’s legs in favor of wrapping his arms around Baekhyun’s back and rubbing soothing patterns up and down. Baekhyun slowly unwound his legs from Yixing’s waist until he was standing mostly on his own, his arms still around Yixing’s neck.
“He’s seeing,” Junmyeon finally whispered, answering Minseok’s question.
“You can see?” Jongdae asked, and Baekhyun could see him as he slowly moved behind Yixing to look at Baekhyun’s face. “Woah, your eyes are blue.”
“And you’re still scarred, but you don’t hear me saying it,” Baekhyun said just to be a brat, blinking at Jongdae. He hadn’t know that his eyes were blue now. It was a strange thought. Although he could be okay with blue eyes.
Jongdae blinked at him in shock before laughing. “Glad to see you’re still the same Baekhyun.”
“Of course I am,” Baekhyun said, finally dropping his arms from around Yixing’s neck and turning around to face the room. He saw someone sitting at the table that he didn’t recognize. Wait, make that two.
“Who’re they?” he asked, pointing directly at the men sitting on either side of Yifan. One was tiny in comparison to Yifan, and his eyes widened in surprise when Baekhyun pointed at him.
“Oh!” Minseok exclaimed. “Do you not remember Kyungsoo?”
Ah, so that was Kyungsoo. Baekhyun hummed in response, taking a moment to learn the shape of his face so that he’d recognize him next time. “Nice to meet you again, I guess. I’m Baekhyun, and if you haven’t already heard I blinded myself with my own power like an idiot.”
Yixing made a sort of tutting noise behind him and squeezed his arms around Baekhyun’s waist tighter, pressing a kiss behind his ear.
“You’re not an idiot, Baekhyun,” Minseok chided gently.
Kyungsoo shrugged at him nonchalantly. “It’s okay. I was too weak to save my mom three weeks ago and she died.”
Baekhyun choked on air, and the room went quiet enough that Baekhyun was fairly certain nobody was breathing. Yifan was looking at Kyungsoo like he’d grown a pair of horns and maybe a tail too.
“Wow, I did not know that,” Baekhyun finally managed. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Kyungsoo nodded but didn’t say anything else.
“This is Zitao,” Yifan said, drawing Baekhyun’s attention to the other person he didn’t know. “We brought him and Luhan with us from China, but Luhan is sleeping right now.”
“Nice to meet you,” Baekhyun said in Chinese, assuming Zitao’s Korean wasn’t the greatest. Zitao had the presence and carriage of a jungle cat, at least that was Baekhyun’s impression of him. His eyes were narrow and piercing, his features soft and angular with a barely-there layer of baby fat clinging to them still. He didn’t look a day over eighteen.
Zitao merely nodded at him before going back to his food, by all appearances checking out of the conversation.
“Someone get me some food,” Baekhyun said. “I’m starving.
Jongin woke slowly. He was warm and blissfully comfortable. Last night had been a long shift and he’d fallen into bed and fallen asleep the second his head hit his pillow.
But now he was waking. He could feel the warm weight of Taemin’s arm around his waist, the gentle rise and fall of his chest against Jongin’s back as he slept peacefully. Jongin stretched slowly, letting his limbs wake up.
Without opening his eyes, Jongin rolled over and snuggled closer to Taemin, pressing his lips to the hollow of Taemin’s throat, starting to suck gentle marks into the skin there. Taemin’s arm tightened around him, pulling him closer in his sleep, and Jongin bit down gently on the skin beneath his lips, intent on leaving a visible mark.
Taemin breathed deeply, coming out of sleep, and then suddenly went rigid under Jongin’s lips. Taemin yelled in surprise, and Jongin’s eyes flew open because that was not Taemin’s voice.
He looked up and the face in front of him was not Taemin’s. It was someone he’d never seen before. He swiftly glanced around. He didn’t recognize the room he was in, which meant he’d somehow managed to teleport in his sleep, what the fuck.
“I’m so sorry,” Jongin said, panicked, scooting back on the bed and putting some distance between himself and the stranger.
His apology was met with wide, confused eyes and a tilted head. The man said something in Chinese, a language Jongin could recognize but definitely couldn’t speak. Where was he?
Before the situation could get any worse, Jongin leapt out of the bed and sprinted for the door. He had to get back home. As he stepped through the doorway he focused on his bedroom, picturing it clearly in his mind and pushing himself there.
He blinked and found himself back in his bedroom. Taemin was asleep in their bed, the top of his silver head just visible under the mass of blankets wrapped around him. He stirred slightly at the crack from Jongin’s appearance and slowly sat up. He pushed the blankets away from himself and rubbed at his eyes, yawning.
“Babe?” he asked around a yawn. “What are you doing up?” He blinked blearily at the clock on their nightstand. “It’s seven in the morning. Come back to bed.”
Jongin dove for Taemin’s arms, gathering him up and clinging to him tightly as he pressed Taemin into the sheets beneath them.
“Woah,” Taemin said, his arms slowly coming around Jongin. “What’s wrong, Nini? Talk to me.”
Jongin shook his head, not knowing where to start, small tremors wracking him. Taemin ran his fingers soothingly through Jongin’s hair, waiting for him to calm down.
“I woke up somewhere else,” Jongin finally whispered, breathing in the familiar scent of Taemin’s skin, warm from sleep. “In someone else’s arms. And I don’t know how I got there.”
Taemin stiffened in his arms. “What?”
Jongin tried not to shake apart. “I don’t know. Somehow I teleported? In my sleep?” He clung to Taemin as tightly as he could. “I came back as soon as I woke up and realized.”
“Did they see you?” Taemin asked in a strained voice. Jongin loosened his grip on Taemin, letting him breathe easier.
Jongin nodded. “I don’t think they were Korean. They spoke Chinese to me.”
“You went to China?” Taemin pushed Jongin away so that he could stare at him in the face. Taemin looked incredulous.
Jongin bit his lip. “I guess?” He whined under his breath. “I really need you to kiss me,” he whispered. “For the first time I feel like I can’t trust my powers and it scares me.”
Taemin’s expression softened. “Come here, baby,” he soothed, pulling Jongin down and kissing him softly. He kept the kiss light, just calm reassurance, but it was exactly what Jongin needed. “I’ve got you. You’re okay,” Taemin said against his lips. He tucked Jongin’s head into the crook of his neck and shoulder, rolling them onto their sides.
“Sleep, Jongin,” he commanded gently. “I’ve got you.”
Jongin relaxed in Taemin’s arms and tried to forget the wide, doll-like eyes he’d looked into that morning.
Chapter 5: the quiet sound of the wind
twO UPDATES in the same month?? Boy it sure is nice not being blocked.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jongdae didn’t know how it was possible for a house so ridiculously large to feel full, but with the four new people from China living with them now, it had started to feel crowded very quickly.
Which was why he’d started taking refuge in the library at the end of the west wing, past Baekhyun’s room that he now shared with Yixing. He’d first discovered the library a week ago when he was looking for a quiet place to nap in the afternoon sun. Finding Kyungsoo reading on one of the armchairs on the lower level of the library had been a bonus.
It was a large room, taking up both floors of the west wing. The upper level was a narrow, shelf-filled balcony that overlooked the first floor of the library. Large windows were at the end of the room, letting long streaks of the dying afternoon light into the room, warming the leather armchairs and settees spread around the middle of the room. It was easy to see why Kyungsoo seemed to love it so much. Jongdae knew as soon as he discovered it that it would be one of his favorite rooms in the house.
And now it was a habit to spend his afternoons there. He would laze around in the sun while Kyungsoo read quietly, neither one of them saying much, simply resting in the quiet together. Today was no different.
Jongdae flopped down onto the other end of the settee Kyungsoo was reading on with a sigh, making Kyungsoo look up at him over the top of his book and raise an eyebrow.
“There’s a lot more people, now,” Jongdae explained.
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes and nodded in agreement. “It’s noisier, now.” A small pout. “The younger ones, Luhan and Zitao? They’re in the other half of my wing.” He sighed. “They talk a lot.”
Jongdae winced in sympathy. “The oldest one? Tall and scary looking? He’s in the room across the main stairs from mine.”
Jongdae snapped his fingers. “Yeah! He’s…intimidating.”
Kyungsoo closed his book, turning his full attention on Jongdae. “Maybe if you got to know him a little he wouldn’t be so scary.” Kyungsoo gave him a pointed look. “People aren’t always what they seem.”
It was almost…unnerving to have Kyungsoo’s full attention. While Kyungsoo had never protested Jongdae’s company, this was the first conversation they’ve had that’d lasted this long, and Jongdae selfishly wanted it to continue. “Come with me,” he blurted.
“What?” Kyungsoo asked, rearing back a little. Jongdae hadn’t realized he’d started to lean forward into Kyungsoo’s space until he moved away.
“Come with me while I introduce myself to Yifan.” Jongdae gave him a soft, pleading look, hoping to convince Kyungsoo to join him. “We can get to know him together.”
Kyungsoo squinted at him and remained silent for the longest moment. “Fine,” he relented, setting his book down onto the cushion next to him. “I’ll come with you.”
Jongdae let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He stood up, offering out a hand to help Kyungsoo off the settee. A current of electricity zinged through his fingers when Kyungsoo’s skin touched him, making Kyungsoo jump slightly.
“Sorry,” Jongdae said sheepishly. “One of the downfalls of controlling electricity is that it’s always flowing through me.”
Kyungsoo’s mouth twisted, but he didn’t seem to mind that much, dropping Jongdae’s hand once he was standing. “It’s fine,” he said, gesturing for Jongdae to lead the way out of the library.
Actually finding Yifan turned out to be the hardest part. They checked the east wing first, but he wasn’t with the two younger ones, who appeared to be having the world’s weirdest pillow fight in the living room between their two bedrooms. He also wasn’t with Yixing and Baekhyun, who were cuddled up together in the first-floor library, whispering to one another. Jongdae couldn’t really blame him for not wanting to be around them, honestly.
They found Yifan on the first floor in the sun room.
“Uh, excuse me?” Jongdae began awkwardly.
Yifan turned slowly to face Jongdae and Kyungsoo in the doorway, gesturing them into the sun room with him. Jongdae moved into the room, a hesitant Kyungsoo behind him.
“Hi,” Jongdae said, extending his hand for Yifan to shake. “I’m Jongdae, nice to meet you.”
Yifan nodded and reached out to take Jongdae’s hand. Jongdae was completely unprepared for the reaction he had when Yifan’s burning hot hand clasped around his. Electricity arced off him as burning energy from Yifan flooded through him.
Jongdae cried out, yanking his hand out of Yifan’s and cradling it to his chest. He could barely see through the sparks behind his eyes, but he was dimly aware of Minseok rushing into the room as he tried to reign in the energy surging through him. There were licks of flame crawling up Yifan’s arms.
“Jongdae!” Minseok yelled. “Pull yourself together. Get control, now.”
Easier said than done. The problem with electricity was that unless it was released, it had nowhere else to go, and his body could only hold so much. Whatever Yifan’s power was, it flooded Jongdae with so much energy that he had nowhere else for it to go except out. “Outside,” he panted out through gritted teeth. “Get me outside.”
It was Kyungsoo, not Minseok, who reached out to lead him outside. Before Jongdae could tell him not to touch him—there was no way he could keep himself from electrocuting Kyungsoo in his current state—Kyungsoo reached out and grabbed his wrist.
The relief was instant.
Jongdae blinked at Kyungsoo in shock as the excess energy coursing through his veins rushed into Kyungsoo before…dissipating harmlessly into the ground.
“What,” he gaped, and Kyungsoo must have taken all the electricity from his brain because his mind came to a full stop.
“How are you not dead?” Minseok asked, his frost-covered hands holding Yifan’s, sizzling where they touched as he cooled Yifan down. He was looking at Kyungsoo like he was an alien, which was hilarious considering a second ago Jongdae literally had lightening arcing off him and Yifan had flames licking up his arms.
Kyungsoo shrugged calmly. “Must be part of my power.”
“Excuse me?” Minseok shrieked, eyes wide with shock. “Your what?”
Kyungsoo sighed deeply, blinking slowly like he didn’t want to explain. “I’m connected to the earth. I can control it and apparently diffuse your excess energy into the earth as well.” He glanced at Jongdae from the corner of his eyes.
“How—what—huh?” Jongdae stuttered out, too overwhelmed by the feeling of the energy coursing through him and dissipating into the ground through Kyungsoo to form a coherent sentence. He looked at his hand in Kyungsoo’s in shock, and Kyungsoo quickly dropped his hand.
He tried not to feel disappointed by the loss of contact.
“Surprise,” Kyungsoo said dryly, waving his hands in a limp imitation of jazz hands.
“Why didn’t you mention this earlier?” Jongdae muttered, feeling the sting of betrayal. It wasn’t like Kyungsoo had to tell him all his secrets, but considering how much time they had been spending together lately, it would have been nice if Kyungsoo would have confided in him.
Kyungsoo gave a pointed look at Minseok and Yifan. “I’ll explain later,” he said softly.
“It’s nice to meet you, Jongdae,” Yifan said sheepishly, now that he was no longer flaming. “I wasn’t expecting a reaction quite like that.”
Jongdae laughed. “I don’t think either of us were.” He shrugged. “This house is going to be very exciting from now on, with all of us gifted kids living here.”
“Don’t remind me,” Minseok groaned, flicking the last bits of frost from his fingers. “I’m not ready to be a dad.”
Zitao woke to the sensation of Luhan crawling into his bed and snuggling up to his side.
“What are you doing?” Zitao groaned as Luhan moved his arms so that they were wrapped around him. It wasn’t that Zitao was opposed to Luhan wanting cuddles, it was that in all the time they had been together it was always Zitao who initiated physical affection.
“Someone was in my bed this morning,” Luhan whispered, and Zitao could feel the tremor that wracked his thin body.
“What?” Zitao asked, feeling more awake by the second. He tightened his arms around Luhan and pulled him closer.
“Some Korean guy was in my bed with me. He was cuddling and kissing me.” Luhan nuzzled his face into the skin of Zitao’s neck, seeking comfort and familiarity.
“What did you do?” Zitao said softly, running a soothing hand up and down Luhan’s back. “Who was it?”
“I don’t know.” Luhan shrugged. “He woke up and moved away from me. When I asked who he was he looked really confused, said something in Korean, and jumped out of the bed.”
Zitao leaned away from Luhan to look at his expression. “Is he still in the house? It wasn’t one of the people living here was it?”
“No, because when he got out of the bed he ran straight for the door and disappeared into thin air.”
“What?” Zitao could understand Luhan’s confusion. It was bizarre, and he made a mental note to ask Yifan if anyone in the house could disappear. He was fairly certain nobody had that power, but the thought that Luhan could have been hurt by a stranger made him pull Luhan even closer in a surge of protectiveness. “Are you okay?”
Luhan shuddered again in his arms. “I don’t like being touched by people I don’t know, but…”
“But?” Zitao prompted softly when Luhan didn’t continue.
Luhan audibly swallowed and whispered, “For a moment, before I became fully aware, I felt a sense of completeness that I’ve never felt before.”
Something clicked in the back of Zitao’s mind with Luhan’s words. Incomplete. That was what he had felt ever since gaining more control over his power. Now that he was living almost completely in the present he could sense the lack of something else. Something missing.
“Maybe we should talk to Yixing-gē, see if he knows anything about what you’re feeling,” Zitao suggested. Yixing and Yifan always seemed to know what was going on, and in the two days since they had broken Zitao and Luhan out of the hospital everything about Zitao’s life had gotten so much better. That, and knowing he was now surrounded by people like him made him feel safe in a way he hadn’t felt since before his powers manifested.
“I want to get out of this place,” Luhan said suddenly. “I feel suffocated.”
Zitao struggled to keep up with the change in subject. “What?”
Luhan huffed. “I want to get out of this house.”
Zitao scrunched up his face in thought. “Why?” he asked. In the few days since they had been there he’d felt fine. Sure, it was overwhelming to suddenly live with seven other people, most of which weren’t even Chinese, but he felt no need to leave the safety the house gave.
Plus, it was a fucking huge house.
Instead of answering him, Luhan reached for the phone charging on Zitao’s nightstand. One of the first things Yifan had done was get them a few changes of clothes and a smartphone, “In case you need to contact me or Yixing and you can’t find us,” he had said as he held the phones out to them.
“It says the most popular nightclub in Seoul is this one,” Luhan said, holding the phone in front of Zitao’s face.
Zitao squinted, trying to get his eyes to focus on the characters on the screen. “Why are you showing me a picture of a nightclub?”
“Because that’s where we’re going tonight,” Luhan said very slowly.
Instead of any kind of protest, Zitao simply said, “We don’t have anything to wear, and neither of us knows how to like, drive, or how to get into a club.”
Luhan blinked at him. “I forget that you were locked up before you could have any fun. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything. Find something sexy to wear.”
Sexy? Zitao had been locked up at age sixteen, and the last two years in a mental hospital had done nothing to teach him how to do anything other than try not to believe them when they said he was crazy.
“Are you sure about this Gēgē?”
Luhan smiled, and Zitao knew that his first impression about Luhan being pretty in a dangerous way was correct. “Completely. Trust me, Tao.”
The house was too quiet.
“It’s too quiet,” Yifan said suddenly, nudging Yixing to get his attention.
“What?” Yixing asked distractedly, tearing his gaze away from Baekhyun’s face for the first time in fifteen minutes.
They were sitting in the study around the corner from Yifan’s room. Yifan had been reading one of the books he found in the first-floor library—he’d been truly amazed by all the books in this house—while Baekhyun and Yixing had been talking quietly to one another on the other end of the couch.
Yifan made a face at Yixing but said, “When was the last time you saw Zitao or Luhan?”
Yixing squinted in thought. “I haven’t seen them since this morning. Why?”
Yifan frowned. Over the few days they’d been here, Zitao and Luhan had kept to themselves, but they’d still been around. Appearing in different rooms or tentatively exploring with each other. He made a point to check in on them at least once a day and made sure that they were coming to meals, but he hadn’t seen them at all today.
“I haven’t seen them all day.”
“I haven’t seen them either,” Baekhyun chimed in, not quite looking at Yifan.
Yifan scowled at him. “You’re not funny.” He turned to Yixing. “Can you sense them nearby?”
Yixing raised an eyebrow. “And how would I do that?”
“Can’t you like…sense their life forces or something?”
Yixing gave him a flat look. “Do you realize how big this house is? I can’t sense people that far away. All I can tell you is that Jongdae is in his room on this floor. That’s as far as my range can go.” He squinted into the distance for a moment. “I think Junmyeon is in the kitchen below us.”
“You can sense all of that?” Baekhyun asked, awe spreading across his features. He kissed Yixing on the cheek with a kind of accuracy that was startling for someone who was supposedly blind. “That’s so cool.”
“I’m going to go look for Zitao and Luhan,” Yifan said as Baekhyun and Yixing once again became absorbed with one another. His statement went unacknowledged.
He got up and checked their rooms first, since they were on the same floor and down the wing to his left.
“Luhan?” he called, peeking his head into the first room on the left side of the wing. It was empty, the white sheets of his bed unmade, and Yifan checked the suite between Luhan’s and Zitao’s room next. That room, as well as Zitao’s, was empty.
Frowning, he began to search the rest of the second floor. He didn’t bother checking Kyungsoo’s rooms. After the incident with Jongdae a few days ago Kyungsoo had been lying low—no doubt hiding from Minseok—and Yifan didn’t want to disturb him. When the rest of the second floor came up empty he moved downstairs, heading for the kitchen to ask Junmyeon if he’d seen the two of them.
“I haven’t. Are they missing?” Junmyeon asked in reply to Yifan’s question.
Yifan frowned for what felt like the fifth time in as many minutes. “I don’t know. I realized sometime after dinner that I hadn’t seen them all day and it made me worried.”
Junmyeon raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t seen them all day?”
“It’s probably nothing. They’re probably in the basement watching movies and I’m worried over nothing.”
Junmyeon shook his head. “I was in my pool earlier and there was nobody in the theater room. They’re not in the basement.”
Yifan pointedly moved past the pool comment, although he would revisit that later because who had their own pool. “Is Minseok home?”
“He’s on shift until midnight tonight.”
Suddenly it hit him. “They snuck out.”
Junmyeon blinked at him. “What?”
“Zitao and Luhan. They snuck out.”
“Why?” Junmyeon asked, confused. “They’re Chinese, barely speak any Korean, and they don’t have any way of getting around?”
Yifan pulled out his phone. If he was a kid who had been locked up and away from the world for the last few years, where would he go? “These are two kids who have been locked up through most of their teenage years. I don’t think they care about any of that and they want to have some fun.”
Junmyeon came around to peer at his phone, rising on his toes to see Yifan’s screen. “What are you doing?”
“I’m looking up nightclubs in Seoul. I don’t know them very well yet, but if I was a teenager that didn’t know what I was doing I would definitely go to a club to have fun. It’s probably the first thing they thought of.”
Junmyeon hummed in thought. “Do you want me to come with you? Help you look for them?” His expression morphed into one of concern. “They wouldn’t do something stupid like use their powers in public, would they? Korea is safer than China for people like us, but they’re still in danger. Baekhyun is proof of that.”
Yifan clicked on the first result of his search. It was a club in Hongdae. “They’re smart kids. Stupid, but smart. They should be okay until I can get to them.”
Junmyeon nodded. “Okay. Hurry, though. Take my car.”
Yifan took the keys Junmyeon dug out of his pocket before rushing back up to his room to throw his favorite black leather jacket on over the plain white t-shirt he was wearing before heading out the door.
Zitao and Luhan were in trouble as soon as he found them.
The moment he walked into the club, Yifan knew he’d found the right one. It was dark, loud, and full of young people dancing like they had no other purpose in life.
It also helped that he immediately spotted Zitao on the dance floor, his hands around the waist of a very pretty girl. He looked around for Luhan, spotting him a few feet away from Zitao in the crowded dance floor, dancing with a girl way too suggestively.
Yifan wrapped a tight leash around the anger simmering inside. Now was not the time to lose control and make a scene. Despite Junmyeon’s and Minseok’s confidence that they were relatively safe in Korea, Yifan had been too careful, for too long, to be lazy now.
He made his way through the crowded dance floor, moving in time to the music to keep from brushing against too many bodies. He danced up behind Zitao, tapping him on the shoulder and waiting until he turned around.
The speed at which Zitao’s face paled was comical. Yifan raised an eyebrow and grabbed Zitao’s wrist, dragging him toward where Luhan was dancing. Luhan’s resigned panic at the sight of Yifan made it easy for Yifan to direct them both off the dance floor and into a relatively quiet corner of the club.
“Explain,” Yifan began, caging both boys into the corner and crossing his arms as he waited for one of them to speak.
“I was bored,” Luhan said with a roll of his eyes. “I was tired of being stuck in that house. I didn’t trade one prison for another. I want to be able to do what I want.”
It was only because he had years of keeping a tight control on his emotions that he didn’t start yelling right then. “Do you realize how dangerous it is for people like us?” Yifan hissed, as quiet as he could while still being heard over the music.
Luhan bristled. “The others leave all the time. Why can’t we?”
“What would you have done if Zitao had gotten overwhelmed and lost control of his powers?” Yifan asked, placing a hand on Zitao’s shoulder. “He’s never been in a situation like this, and his control is tenuous at best.”
Zitao made a soft sound of protest. “I can control my powers now, Gēgē.” He snapped his mouth shut at the glare Yifan sent his way.
Luhan scowled. He knew Yifan had a good point. He wasn’t stupid—something Yifan knew all too well—but recklessness of this kind would get them all killed in no time. “If you were feeling restless you should have talked to me or Yixing. We could have…” he trailed off, the back of his neck prickling as the feeling of being watched spread through him.
Yifan whirled around, his senses on high alert. This was a terrible place for a fight—if it came to that—and he spread his arms in front of Luhan and Zitao protectively as he scanned the room.
“Gēgē, what’s wrong?” Zitao asked, his hands wrapping around Yifan’s bicep, seeking comfort and protection in equal measure. “Should I stop time, freeze everyone?”
“I don’t know,” Yifan murmured. “Not yet. I’ll let you know if you need to do that.” His eyes landed on a nearby figure; a man staring at them curiously. Yifan narrowed his eyes at him, hoping he would look away when he realized he’d been caught staring.
Instead, he started toward Yifan.
In the seconds it took for the stranger to walk to them, Yifan memorized everything he could about him in case this went bad and he needed to report who had tried to kill them to the others. He was tall, almost the same height as Yifan. His hair was black, slightly wavy and fluffy, shaggy enough to curl around his large ears and provide a curtain for dark, intense eyes to burn through.
“Hi,” the stranger said once he was in hearing range of Yifan. “Everything alright here?” he asked, peering around Yifan to look at Zitao and Luhan, like Yifan was some kind of predator or something.
“Fine.” Yifan snapped, his patience at its limit. The last thing he needed was some random guy deciding to be a white knight, no matter how incorrect his assumptions about the situation might be.
“Is this guy bothering you?” the man asked Zitao and Luhan, completely ignoring Yifan.
Yifan didn’t have to look to know that Luhan and Zitao were probably looking back at the man in confusion. They barely knew enough Korean to talk to Junmyeon and Baekhyun, never mind trying to manage a conversation in a loud club. “They don’t speak Korean,” Yifan explained, as patiently as he could manage. “We’re Chinese, and I’m about to take them home. They got away from me and it worried me.”
“Oh,” the man said, his eyes going large and round in surprise. “Your Korean is very good!” He smiled at Yifan, teeth white and even. “I’m glad they have someone to keep them safe. I’m Chanyeol,” he finished, holding out a hand for Yifan to shake.
Yifan sighed. He wanted to get out of here and back to the relative safety of the house. It would be his luck that he’d caught the attention of the friendliest guy in the club. “Kris,” he replied, reaching out to shake Chanyeol’s hand. He wasn’t about to give out his real name to a complete stranger.
Chanyeol’s hand wrapped around his, and fire exploded in his veins. Chanyeol was burning hot, and the second their palms brushed flames licked around their hands in a spiral, the fire tying their hands together briefly. A searing heat blazed up his forearm before cooling abruptly.
“What the fuck,” Yifan hissed, yanking his hand out of Chanyeol’s grip, sounds of surprise coming from behind him as Zitao and Luhan watched what was happening.
Chanyeol was staring at Yifan in shock, shaking his hand until the flames dissipated from his skin. “You’re like me,” he said, mouth gaping in awe. “You’re my missing half.”
Yifan was too busy looking around, hoping desperately that nobody else had seen their display. Nobody was screaming about fire, everyone was still dancing or drinking and by some miracle, hadn’t noticed. “We need to leave, now,” he commanded in Chinese, turning around to begin herding Zitao and Luhan out.
“Who is he?” Zitao asked, eyes wide. “He’s like you, Gē.”
Luhan remained silent, eyebrows furrowed slightly as he glanced between Yifan and Chanyeol.
“Wait,” Chanyeol said, grabbing Yifan around the wrist to stop him from walking away. “Don’t leave. You felt that too, right?”
Yifan shuddered, using all his control to push aside the way his body was demanding he gather Chanyeol into his arms. The urge to protect him, to make him his, was nearly overwhelming, but Yifan pushed it aside with an effort that felt monumental. “We have to go.”
“At least give me your number,” Chanyeol pleaded. “I’m so tired of being alone. Please.”
Yifan sighed, looking at Chanyeol for a long moment, ignoring the gentle tugs on his hand from Zitao as he and Luhan grew more panicked and desperate to leave. Chanyeol’s eyes were devastated, pleading, brimming with something that Yifan couldn’t ignore. “Fine. Give me your phone.”
Chanyeol exhaled sharply in relief, quickly pushing his phone into Yifan’s hands. Yifan quickly entered his number into Chanyeol’s phone, handing it back to him.
“We have to go.” Yifan turned and allowed Zitao and Luhan to tug him toward the exit of the club, fiercely ignoring the way his heart demanded he turn around and go back to Chanyeol. Every step away was difficult. He couldn’t help but look back, just once, something within him lurching painfully when he locked eyes with Chanyeol who was standing alone in a crowd of people, looking so forlorn.
Yifan walked out of the club, feeling like he’d left something important behind.
Taemin stopped Jongin in the kitchen, tilting his head slightly and staring fixedly at him. “I have something for you,” he said, his eyes going distant, “about your powers.”
He bit his lip nervously. Jongin hadn’t teleported since that morning a week ago when he’d woken up in a stranger’s bed. He was too afraid of his powers betraying him to let them loose, to use them to look for people like Taemin kept suggesting.
Still, when Taemin looked at him with that faraway look in his eyes and said, “Nini, baby, listen to any strange advice you might get today at work,” Jongin listened. He’d only ignored Taemin’s promptings once, and it had almost gotten him killed.
“Okay,” Jongin replied, leaning in to kiss the awareness back into Taemin’s eyes. “I’m leaving for work now. You taking any clients today?”
Taemin sighed and wrapped his arms around Jongin’s waist, leaning against him. “A few readings, but nothing too strenuous. I’ve been feeling wrung-out lately.”
Jongin gently cupped Taemin’s face in his hands, pressing gentle kisses to his cheeks, his forehead, his lips. “Take it easy babe. Remember what happened last time you overworked yourself?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Taemin sighed. “Get going, or you’ll be late for work,” he said, shooing Jongin out the door with a last, lingering kiss.
Work at a coffee shop always followed the same patterns, at least for Jongin. Taking orders, filling them, wiping down tables. It was all very routine and easy and generally something he didn’t have to think much about.
And on days like today, when it was quiet and slow, it was easy to let his mind wander to trivial things. Like how strange it had been to wake up in someone else’s bed and not sense anything wrong, to feel completely at ease.
Jongin was pulled away from that rather dangerous train of thought by a customer standing in front of him, and as he startled into awareness he wondered how long he’d been standing there. “Hi! Welcome, what can I get for you?”
The man squinted at the menu. He looked about the same age as Jongin, maybe slightly older, and like he had the weight of exams on his shoulders like most of the university students that had come into the café this week.
“I’ll have an iced Americano,” he settled on, his gaze flicking back down to pin Jongin to the ground with the intensity of his eyes.
Jongin scrawled the name on his cup before looking around and realizing that Joy must have gone on break. He quickly took Sehun’s payment before getting to work on his drink. It didn’t take him long—Americanos were popular enough that Jongin was sure he’d made them in his sleep at one point—and he was handing the drink to Sehun within a few minutes.
He couldn’t pin what it was about Sehun that stuck in his mind. He was handsome in an intimidating way, but that didn’t really matter. The only thing he could think was that Sehun had some sort of vibe around him, and he wished for Taemin’s insight more than ever. He would know exactly what it was about Sehun that was bothering him.
Taemin always seemed to know.
Sehun left after an hour or two, closing his laptop and leaving without any fanfare, and with him went Jongin’s fixation. He didn’t think about it again until he was walking home, and he could have sworn he heard Sehun’s voice whisper in his ear.
It wasn’t much, just a location and a time, but it was enough to have him picking up the pace and rushing home to Taemin, the warning about strange advice echoing in his head.
Chanyeol looked down at the hand Kris had shook, his eyes tracing the vivid red spiral across the back of his hand and up his wrist where the flames had burned into his skin. The lines were faint, pink like freshly healed scars, and if he looked closely he could see patterns of scales winding up his arm.
His own fire didn’t burn him, which meant that these burns were from Kris, that he could control fire just like Chanyeol could.
It meant Chanyeol wasn’t alone, that there was somebody like him.
Or there would be, if Kris would answer his texts, the most recent of which he sent off before his better judgement could stop him.
Did u just give me a fake number to get rid of me
I guess I can’t blame you
I’d get rid of me too tbh
It was pathetic and weak but Chanyeol had felt nothing but that since he finished college, working a job in finance that he didn’t even want.
But he’d just met someone like him, had felt something spark between them, and all he’d gotten was cold silence as none of his texts were answered. He wasn’t aware of how incredibly lonely he’d been until he realized there was someone else out there like him.
Someone, maybe, that could be something more than a stranger in time.
His phone buzzed on his desk and he was grateful he didn’t share a cubicle with anyone who could witness the way he dove for his phone like a madman.
I think we need to talk in person
That was it, followed by a dropped pin.
Chanyeol spent the rest of his work day debating how much of an idiot he would have to be to go to a location dropped to his phone by a near-stranger. By the end of the day, he’d concluded that he was far too curious to simply ignore the text.
Besides, something new inside him had woken up, and it was begging to see Kris again, to see if Kris could feel what he felt too.
He needed to know, and Chanyeol had always been curious.
Minseok loved Junmyeon’s pool. He loved the way the water glowed a soothing azure and the way it was lit from underwater lights in the walls of the pool. He was captivated by the way light rippled and danced across Junmyeon’s skin as it was reflected off the sloshing surface of the water they were in.
Most of all, he loved the way Junmyeon’s moans echoed around the room as he fucked him against the pool wall, their bodies half submerged in the warm water.
Junmyeon’s legs tightened around Minseok’s waist as Minseok rolled his hips slowly, careful not to hurt Junmyeon against the concrete behind him. He placed a hand between Junmyeon’s shoulder blades to provide a cushion and make sure he wasn’t hurting Junmyeon as he slowly increased his pace.
“Don’t worry-ah!-about the bruises,” Junmyeon gasped, wrapping his arms around Minseok’s shoulders and tangling one hand in the pink strands of his damp hair.
Minseok frowned, slowing the pace of his thrusts and using the hand he had against Junmyeon’s hip to change their position slightly until he found the right angle to thrust in at, Junmyeon’s whine as he hit his prostate echoing loudly around them. “I don’t want to hurt you, baby.”
Junmyeon buried his head against Minseok’s neck, panting heavily and biting lightly at Minseok’s skin. “I’ll just have Yixing heal them. Harder, please,” Junmyeon begged, and Minseok never could refuse him.
He held Junmyeon close and fucked into him harder, the water sloshing around them and providing a muted accompaniment to the symphony of Minseok’s growls and Junmyeon’s gasps and moans. He could feel Junmyeon shaking against him and the way Junmyeon clenched around his cock as his orgasm hit, his heels digging into Minseok’s ass as he urged him deeper, tighter.
It was enough to send Minseok over the edge right after him a few deep thrusts later.
Junmyeon relaxed against him, every inch of their bodies touching as his arms came around Minseok and they held each other close. Minseok ran a gentle hand up and down Junmyeon’s back in slow, soothing strokes, his other arm wrapped tightly around Junmyeon’s waist to keep him close. He was dimly aware of Junmyeon siphoning the cum out of the water and into the filters.
Eventually, Junmyeon lifted his head from the crook of Minseok’s shoulder, kissing Minseok slow and deep, his lips sliding against Minseok’s languidly. “Thank you,” he purred, his fingers scratching lightly at Minseok’s scalp.
Minseok chuckled softly and kissed the tip of Junmyeon’s nose. “For what, love?” He ran his hands lightly along the curve of Junmyeon’s hip before pulling out as gently as he could.
Junmyeon sighed at the loss and carefully unwound his legs from Minseok’s waist before standing. “For indulging me. Loving me. Adopting a houseful of kids with me.”
Minseok snorted. “They just keep appearing. What are we going to do?” He settled his arms back around Junmyeon’s waist, holding him close once again and rocking slightly side-to-side. “I love you.” He kissed Junmyeon’s cheek.
Junmyeon hugged him tightly for a long moment before pulling away. “Come on, let’s go get dinner ready.”
Minseok was walking up the stairs from the basement to the main foyer, his skin dewy with moisture Junmyeon hadn’t managed to lift away completely as they’d gotten dressed. Junmyeon hadn’t given him much warning when he pulled Minseok into the pool room, ambushing him and pinning him against the wall in a heated kiss.
With more and more people taking up residence in their home, the frequent bouts of alone time they’d previously enjoyed had shriveled up until it was difficult to find time to be with one another when they weren’t either exhausted or occupied with other things.
It made any time they could spend together all the more precious.
He reached the top of the stairs and stepped into the foyer just as a soft pop echoed through the space. It wasn’t a sound he’d ever heard before—kind of like the sensation he’d experienced when his ears popped mid-airplane flight and he could suddenly hear—a pressure change in the room around him.
He spun around to pinpoint the sound, stopping when he came face to face with a stranger who definitely hadn’t been there a second ago.
“Uh, who the fuck are you?” Minseok asked, shock and fear crashing through him as his brain registered danger.
The stranger stiffened, panic clear in his expression. “Who are you?”
Minseok narrowed his eyes. Whoever this person was, he was young, and had a chiseled face that made him seem more capable than he currently looked. “This is my house and I asked first.”
“Jongin,” he said after a moment of hesitation. The longer Minseok watched him the more afraid he seemed, which at least made it less likely that Jongin was here to kill all of them.
“I’m Minseok, and this—”
He was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell ringing.
“Babe?” Junmyeon called, coming up the stairs behind Minseok and wrapping his arms around his waist from behind. “You gonna get that? Someone’s—” he abruptly cut off as he noticed Jongin a few feet away. “Who is that?”
“I got it!” Jongdae called, running past the three of them in the foyer, appearing from the west wing with Kyungsoo on his heels as he headed for the door.
“Minseok, what’s going on?” Junmyeon clung tighter to him, the uncertainty of the situation seeming to catch up with him.
Minseok ran a soothing hand along Junmyeon’s forearm around his waist, listening as Jongdae answered the door without taking his eyes from Jongin.
“Hey, Junmyeon?” Jongdae called. “Do we have anyone here named Kris?”
Minseok looked away from Jongin for the first time since he’d caught sight of him. “Who?” he asked, turning to look at Jongdae across the foyer. There was a tall, uncertain looking man on the threshold of his home, and things were suddenly happening too fast.
“I think that’s for me,” Yifan said as he rushed down the stairs across from Minseok and Junmyeon, with Zitao and Luhan on his heels. Ever since Yifan had dragged them back after their attempt to run away for a night they’d been incredibly clingy, often not letting Yifan or each other out of their sight.
“How many people live here?” Jongin asked, his eyes wide as he took in the seemingly endless stream of people appearing by the second.
“Nine,” Minseok answered absently, preoccupied by the way Yifan quickly ushered the man at the door inside.
“Who is that?” Yixing asked softly, scaring Minseok and making both him and Junmyeon jump in surprise. He was glancing between the man Yifan was talking quietly to and Jongin, Baekhyun’s hand clasped tightly in his as Baekhyun also appeared to look around the room.
“Where—when—what is going on?” Minseok replied. Too many things were happening, and he no longer knew what to do.
“Everyone to the great room,” Yifan instructed, repeating himself in Chinese for Luhan and Zitao.
“Hey, who is that?” Jongdae asked as he and Kyungsoo walked past Minseok and Junmyeon on the way to the great room, Jongdae gesturing to Jongin.
“I’m Jongin, and I’m very confused as to why I’m here.”
“Why are you here?” Junmyeon questioned him, letting go of Minseok’s waist to lace their fingers instead as they followed Jongdae and Kyungsoo into the great room.
Jongin shook his head, stumbling slightly to keep up with everyone as Yifan herded them all along. “I was told to be here at this time, so I listened.”
Minseok frowned at that. He had several questions but didn’t voice them in favor of waiting until they were all in the same room.
He and Junmyeon sat on a loveseat in the circle of furniture arranged around the giant area rug in the middle of the large room. Junmyeon curled into his side, keeping their hands linked as they watched everyone else sit in different places in the circle. Minseok made a point to compliment Junmyeon on his interior decorating later, since the room was expertly furnished to allow large groups of people to converse easily.
Yixing sat in one corner of the large couch across from Minseok and Junmyeon, pulling Baekhyun into his lap and wrapping him up in his arms protectively. Luhan and Zitao did the same on the other side of the couch, and Minseok took note of the way Luhan’s face paled the moment he laid eyes on Jongin.
Luhan whispered something in Zitao’s ear, making the other boy turn sharply and narrow his eyes at Jongin while Luhan crawled behind Zitao to curl into the corner of the couch, hiding as much of himself from view as possible, Zitao moving forward on the cushion to make room for Luhan behind him as Jongdae flopped down in the remaining space between Zitao and Luhan and the mess of limbs that was Yixing and Baekhyun.
Jongin, oblivious to any of that happening, settled awkwardly on the settee that was placed between the couch and the loveseat, looking like he was ready to run from the room at any moment.
Kyungsoo sat on the floor at Jongdae’s feet while Yifan directed the stranger he seemed to know to the armchair on Minseok’s left before standing in front of the fireplace and facing them all. “Everyone,” he began, gesturing to the stranger to his left, “this is Chanyeol. He’s a fire user and I invited him here to explain he wasn’t alone. Chanyeol, everyone here is gifted.” He scanned the room, his eyebrows furrowing as his gaze landed on Jongin.
“Who are you?” he asked Jongin, before anyone could ask anything about Chanyeol.
Jongin swallowed nervously. “I’m Jongin, and I was told to be here at this time.”
Yifan squinted in suspicion. “By whom?”
“Okay,” Jongin began nervously, “I’m not crazy, but I think the wind told me?”
“That sounds pretty crazy to me,” Jongdae said wryly.
“The wind can’t talk,” Baekhyun pointed out helpfully.
Jongin sighed. “I know. But that’s what happened. And I ended up here.”
“But how did you get into the house?” Minseok asked. “One second you weren’t there, and the next you were in my foyer.”
Jongin’s expression closed off. “You must have missed me knocking.”
“He can teleport,” Zitao said quietly, in Chinese.
“He can what now?” Jongdae cried in the same moment Yifan raised an eyebrow at Zitao and said, “And you know this because…?”
Zitao coaxed Luhan out from behind him. “Because Luhan-gē woke up one morning with him in his bed,” Zitao explained, pointing to Jongin. “But as soon as he woke up, he ran out of the room and disappeared.”
“You’re just telling us this now?” Yixing said lowly, his voice still soft and calm but infinitely more dangerous sounding.
Everyone who understood what Zitao had said slowly turned to look at Jongin, who was looking at Luhan in wide-eyed shock.
“You,” Jongin exclaimed, pointing at Luhan, causing Luhan to shrink back behind Zitao again.
“Will someone please explain what’s going on?” Kyungsoo groaned. “Some of us don’t speak Chinese.”
Jongdae leaned down to whisper in Kyungsoo’s ear while Yixing did the same for Baekhyun.
“You can teleport?” Minseok asked Jongin in Korean, and Chanyeol and Junmyeon both looked at Jongin in shock.
“Who is he?” Jongin asked instead of answering, still pointing at Luhan.
“That’s Luhan,” Junmyeon answered cautiously. “He doesn’t speak Korean very well yet.”
“Wait,” Jongdae interrupted suddenly. “If Yifan knows Chanyeol and told him to come here, who told Jongin to come here tonight? It had to have been someone.”
The doors leading out to the patio blew open in a gust of wind. “I told him.” A young man stepped into the room from the patio, the surprise of the doors bursting open making Minseok jump to his feet, icicles forming at his fingertips, ready to hurl them at the intruder.
He wasn’t the only one to react.
Jongdae had sparks arcing through his fingers, while Yifan and Chanyeol both had flames pooling in their palms. Zitao and Yixing were both shielding Luhan and Baekhyun, and Jongin was standing, bouncing on the balls of his feet and looking at the man with something close to recognition while Kyungsoo crouched slightly.
“Woah,” the intruder said, raising his hands in surrender. “I’m not here to attack you guys.”
“Who the fuck are you?” Jongdae spat, while Baekhyun muttered, “I’m sick of new people just showing up right and left.”
“My name is Sehun,” he answered, smiling, “and I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here today.”
I can't promise that the next update will be in another two weeks, but I *am* currently writing like a monster, so maybe you'll be lucky. If not, please forgive the occasional long waits between updates. I'm heading into ch9 now, which is when things really get going, so I might get bogged down soon.
Thanks for your patience and understanding uwu <3
Comments are always appreciated pls praise me huhuhu
Chapter 6: protect the newly blossomed purity
I fondly refer to this as 'that one sex chapter' so like...enjoy ig
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jongdae’s first instinct was to send a bolt of electricity right into Sehun’s heart, but Kyungsoo kept a steady hand on his shoulder, simultaneously keeping him in place and curbing the wild energy flowing through him.
By the looks of things, Minseok, Chanyeol and Yifan were thinking the same thing he was.
“It’s very important,” Sehun continued, “that we all—”
He froze mid-sentence. His whole body just…stopped.
“What?” Junmyeon said, looking at Sehun in confusion. “Did he just…?”
“Gēgē,” Luhan said softly, drawing the attention of Yifan and Yixing. He gestured to Zitao when they both glanced at him, and Jongdae looked too.
Zitao was staring fixedly at Sehun, his hands out, and everything clicked. Couldn’t Zitao control time, or something? Jongdae hadn’t had much interaction with the kid yet, but he remembered Minseok talking about their powers one night at dinner.
“Good job, Taozi,” Yixing said softly, encouragingly. “How long can you hold him?”
“Two minutes, maybe three,” Zitao muttered, voice strained.
“We have two minutes to decide what to do,” Yifan announced in Korean.
“I know him,” Jongin said quietly, flinching into himself when everyone’s attention shifted to him.
“Explain,” Minseok demanded, shaking the ice from his hands and crossing his arms.
“He came in where I work earlier today to get some coffee. He was nice? He didn’t seem dangerous.”
“None of us seem dangerous at first glance,” Yixing murmured softly. “It’s why we’re all still alive.”
“Well, everyone except Yifan, maybe,” Baekhyun quipped. “He’s pretty scary looking.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be blind?” Chanyeol asked while Yifan glared at Baekhyun.
“Gē!” Zitao called out in warning. Sehun twitched slightly as Zitao briefly lost grip on the time bubble he had around Sehun.
“I say we listen to what he has to say,” Minseok reasoned, repeating himself in Chinese for Luhan and Zitao’s sake. “It’s eleven against one, if we need to fight we can take him, okay?”
Jongdae looked around the room as everyone slowly nodded in agreement.
“Zitao,” Yifan said, “let him go.”
“—work together,” Sehun finished. He blinked in confusion. “Wait, did a bunch of you just move?”
“We’ve decided to listen to what you have to say,” Minseok explained.
Sehun’s face scrunched up. “When?”
“Who sent you?” Junmyeon asked as everyone ignored Sehun’s question.
Sehun’s eyes narrowed even further. “Nobody sent me. I came here by myself.”
“How did you know where we were?” Yifan questioned, crossing his arms and looking threatening just by virtue of being tall and broad. He walked closer to Sehun and stared him down.
“I’ve been keeping tabs on all the gifted in the area.” Sehun looked at Yifan with a bored expression. “And when I heard whispers on the wind about you guys and your house full of gifted I figured it was time for all of us to meet.”
“How do we know you’re not a spy?” Yixing asked, waiting patiently for Yifan to translate his question into Korean.
Sehun scowled. “Um, because I’m not?” He huffed and crossed his arms. “Look, we can argue about this later. Right now, there’s more important things to talk about.”
“Why does that sound so ominous?” Minseok asked, lacing his fingers with Junmyeon’s and pulling him close.
Jongdae wondered if Kyungsoo would slap him if he reached for his hand and linked their fingers together.
“Because it is ominous,” Sehun replied, much calmer than the statement seemed to deserve. “I’ve heard from some of my normie friends that people are starting to ask questions. My main informant Heechul told me that he’d been approached by some intense looking men asking him if he knew anyone that could do strange things.”
“What’s a normie?” Jongdae asked.
“You know my boss?” Jongin cried, stepping forward like he was going to approach Sehun.
“A normie is what we call anyone without powers,” Minseok explained, drawing Jongdae’s attention to him. “At least, that’s what we call them in Korea.” He and Junmyeon sat back down on the couch, apparently deciding that they weren’t in any immediate danger any longer.
Jongdae watched with a pang of something that definitely wasn’t envy as Junmyeon tucked himself into Minseok’s side, burying his face into the curve of Minseok’s shoulder. Next to him, Kyungsoo also sat back down on the floor, and Jongdae watched as everyone slowly relaxed back into their seats.
Well, almost everyone. Zitao and Luhan had been sitting curled around each other for a while, completely checked out of the conversation as everyone talked too quickly in Korean. Yixing was only keeping up because Baekhyun had been whispering Chinese words when he didn’t catch the Korean ones.
Sehun cautiously moved into the middle of the room, slowly sitting on the large area rug in the middle of their circled seats, and Jongdae didn’t miss the way Zitao’s eyes followed his every movement. Sehun fixed his gaze on Jongin. “Nice to see you again, Jongin. Yes, I know your boss Heechul. He’s been keeping an eye on you for me until the time was right.”
“I’m glad you followed my directions, though,” Sehun continued while everyone else watched the conversation unfold in front of them. “I’m never sure if someone is going to listen when I use the wind to whisper something to them.”
Jongdae sat next to Kyungsoo on the floor instead of by Baekhyun. Kyungsoo slumped over and rested his head on Jongdae’s shoulder, letting his eyes close. Jongdae tried to pay attention to the conversation and not how his heart was doing backflips in his chest.
“I would have ignored you if my boyfriend hadn’t warned me to listen to any instructions I might get, no matter how odd,” Jongin muttered.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jongdae saw Luhan stir, sitting up in Zitao’s lap to stare fixedly at Jongin. Maybe he understood more than he let on.
“You have a boyfriend?” Baekhyun asked, peeking over Yixing’s shoulder to stare just past Jongin with his startlingly blue eyes.
“His boyfriend is a seer named Taemin,” Sehun explained, “and according to some of my contacts, he’s been trying to see into the immediate future to assess threats.”
“Your boyfriend can see the future??” Chanyeol interjected, saying something for the first time. “That’s dope.”
“Yeah, when can we meet him? Is he going to move in here with you?” Baekhyun was bouncing slightly with excitement.
“Yeah, he can, and—wait, move in?” Jongin looked around the room in confusion.
“Woah, wait hold on, I never agreed to more people moving in,” Junmyeon piped up, glaring at Yifan like it was his fault and not Baekhyun’s.
“Where’s my room?” Sehun asked, looking eagerly between Yifan and Junmyeon. “Is Chanyeol moving in too?”
Yifan opened his mouth, closed it, took a breath, then looked at Junmyeon pleadingly. “I mean, we have the room, right?”
“I don’t want a room,” Jongin insisted. “Taemin and I have an apartment, and I can be here in a split second if I’m needed.”
“Please,” Baekhyun snorted. “Nobody can get anywhere that quickly.”
If Jongdae hadn’t been watching Jongin, he wouldn’t have believed the way he disappeared from his spot on the couch and appeared next to Yifan by the fireplace in the next breath.
“What the fuck,” Chanyeol yelped, jumping out of his skin as Jongin was suddenly sitting on the arm of the armchair he was sat in.
“I can be here in seconds,” Jongin repeated. “There’s no need to for me to move in, right?” He bit his lip nervously, hands wringing in his lap.
Junmyeon threw up his hands. “Fine! What’s two more people in this house?”
“Everyone is expected to pitch in on food and cooking.” Minseok glared at each of them in turn. “Also, if you don’t clean up after yourselves, I’ll freeze your balls off. I like a clean house.”
Chanyeol raised his hand, waiting until Yifan nodded in his direction to speak. “Does this mean I can sell my apartment?”
Junmyeon sighed, but nodded. “You can take the room next to Jongdae’s on the second floor. It’s across from Yifan’s. Either one of them can show you.”
Behind Jongdae and Kyungsoo, Zitao leaned over and muttered something to Yixing too fast for Jongdae to catch.
“Zitao wants to show Sehun to his room, wherever that might be.”
Everyone turned to look at Sehun, who blinked at Zitao, his expression carefully blank. Jongdae thought he saw something spark in his eyes though.
“Sure,” Minseok drawled, looking between Sehun and Zitao. “Any of the rooms on Baekhyun’s floor is fine. Whichever one he wants.”
Yifan translated for Zitao, who nodded once before fixing his unblinking gaze on Sehun.
“Okay,” Sehun hummed. “Well, now that that’s settled, how are we going to stay safe?”
“Uh, not that I don’t care about staying safe,” Jongin interrupted, “but I should have been home an hour ago, and I don’t want Taemin to worry. Can I go?”
“It’s late,” Yifan said decisively. “We should all get some sleep and talk about this in the morning over breakfast. Agreed?” He looked at each of them until they gave him a nod or word of affirmation. “Okay, we’ll meet in the morning at nine.”
Baekhyun groaned at the time, but a pinch in the side from Yixing kept him quiet.
Jongin disappeared from the room with a soft pop, prompting everyone else into motion. Jongdae looked at Kyungsoo as the room emptied around them, but Kyungsoo didn’t show any sign of moving.
“Hey,” Jongdae whispered, shrugging his shoulder lightly to jostle Kyungsoo. Minseok gave him a questioning look at he and Junmyeon stood up to leave the room. Jongdae shooed him away with a wave of his hand. He could handle this.
Kyungsoo stirred slightly on his shoulder, yawning audibly as he sighed awake. “Did I miss anything important?” he mumbled, wrapping an arm around Jongdae’s waist and burrowing closer to him.
Jongdae’s brain froze. He was stunned for long enough by Kyungsoo’s actions that Kyungsoo looked up at him questioningly. “Jongdae?”
“Nothing much,” Jongdae replied, tentatively wrapping an arm around Kyungsoo’s waist. “We’re meeting again at nine in the morning to address possible threats to our safety.”
Kyungsoo nodded against his shoulder before sitting up. “Come on, we better get to bed.” He stood up and walked out of the room. Jongdae sighed, wondered briefly if Kyungsoo would ever spare him any conscious attention, before getting up and following after Kyungsoo.
At the top of the stairs they both froze as the sound of a body hitting a wall came through the closed door of Yifan’s room. Kyungsoo and Jongdae traded a look. Kyungsoo took a total of two steps toward his own room, around the stairs and past Yifan’s room, but a low growl and another thud from Yifan’s room had Kyungsoo turning around and scampering for Jongdae’s room with him.
“Can I sleep in your room tonight?” Kyungsoo asked as Jongdae shut his door behind him. “I’m starting to get lonely in mine at night and I’m not walking past Yifan’s room right now. I don’t want to get a fireball to the face or something.”
Jongdae looked at Kyungsoo in suspicion for a moment before shrugging. Kyungsoo’s excuse sounded so flimsy it was practically non-existent, but Jongdae wasn’t about to turn down a night of potential cuddles with Kyungsoo. “Sure. I don’t mind sharing the bed. It’s way too big for one person anyway.”
Kyungsoo narrowed his eyes at Jongdae, who simply smiled widely in return.
“I changed my mind,” he said flatly, turning to walk out of the room. Jongdae picked up a pillow off the bed and threw it at Kyungsoo, hitting him squarely in the back.
“Don’t be shy, Soo,” Jongdae cooed as Kyungsoo turned around slowly to glare at him. “I won’t bite.”
Kyungsoo picked up the pillow. “I don’t believe you.”
“I won’t bite…hard,” Jongdae amended, eyes widening at Kyungsoo rushed him with the pillow, shoving it into his face and wrestling him onto the bed as he laughed.
“You’re the worst,” Kyungsoo said, thumping Jongdae soundly in the head with the pillow before rolling off him and sprawling onto the bed.
“Ah, but you still like me,” Jongdae sighed. Kyungsoo didn’t say anything in response, which Jongdae took as confirmation.
He smiled up at the ceiling. Maybe he was getting somewhere, after all.
Chanyeol was striding after Yifan, following him out of the very impromptu meeting, and because he was nearly as tall as Yifan was he was catching up quickly.
Yifan made it to the door of his room before Chanyeol caught up to him, panting slightly after racing up the stairs after Yifan.
“What?” Yifan asked, crossing his arms as Chanyeol blocked his path.
“We need to talk,” Chanyeol said, catching his breath.
Yifan raised an eyebrow. “About?”
Chanyeol frowned and gestured between them emphatically. “Whatever…this is! This feeling between us.”
Yifan clenched his teeth. He knew he was going to regret asking Chanyeol to come over tonight, and this was it. Him regretting it. He knew exactly what Chanyeol was asking about, what he meant when he gestured between the two of them. He knew the second he touched Chanyeol that he’d have to face this particular aspect of his heritage—his mother had explained how he was special when he was a teenager—but that didn’t mean he wanted to be having this conversation with Chanyeol right now.
“What feeling?” Yifan asked, mostly just to be infuriating. But he also wanted to know exactly what Chanyeol was feeling. There were many things the bond could manifest as, and just because he’d always assumed it would mean love like Yixing and Baekhyun had apparently found, it didn’t mean his match would want the same thing.
Chanyeol looked at him for a long moment, chewing his bottom lip between his teeth. “I feel like I can’t breathe whenever I’m not around you,” he finally admitted, his voice soft and more unsure than Yifan had ever heard it. “I don’t know why, and I don’t know how I can feel this strongly when I don’t even know you.” He looked at Yifan from under his lashes, somehow, even though they were nearly eye to eye. “I want to figure out what this means.”
Yifan choked down his first response, the true one, and lied through his teeth. “It means nothing, Chanyeol. There’s nothing to talk about.” He shouldered past a stricken Chanyeol and into his room.
“Nothing…to talk about?” Chanyeol whispered in the doorway, his back to Yifan.
“Yes,” Yifan replied, turning away in hopes that ignoring Chanyeol would make him leave. Yifan’s self-control was thinning, a thread about to snap, and he needed Chanyeol to drop this and leave.
The door to his bedroom slammed shut, and he relaxed slightly. Chanyeol may never speak to him again, but he was safer this way. Yifan couldn’t have a bond with Chanyeol, not with his father actively looking for him. He couldn’t put someone in direct danger like that.
He jumped when a hand gripped his shoulder and spun him around.
“Say that again, to my face, Kris,” Chanyeol growled, literal sparks behind his eyes and his fingers singeing through the material of Yifan’s shirt.
Yifan gulped, his eyes drawn to the fierce set of Chanyeol’s jaw, the muscles jumping as he clenched his teeth in frustration. “I—there’s—” He struggled for words, to force the lie from his lips once again, this time in the face of Chanyeol’s fury.
“That’s what I thought.” Chanyeol’s fingers tightened around his shoulder before he slid his hand up to grasp the back of Yifan’s neck, pulling him in for a brutal, vicious kiss.
Chanyeol’s lips were searing against his mouth, his fingers sizzling where they gripped at Yifan’s jaw and neck as he held Yifan captive with the intensity of his kiss. Yifan tried to pull away in a last attempt at preserving what distance he could keep with Chanyeol, but Chanyeol’s hands tightened around his neck and kept him in place.
Yifan bit down on Chanyeol’s lower lip, hard, in retaliation, his blood thrumming through his veins at the low growl the pain coaxed from Chanyeol. That one sound was enough to snap the last tenuous hold Yifan had on his self-control.
He surged forward, his hands latching on to the narrow jut of Chanyeol’s hips, his thumbs digging into the hollow space of his pelvis as he deepened the kiss, his tongue dancing with Chanyeol’s like two competing flames. A distant part of his brain was screeching in alarm because Chanyeol was a weakness and things were dangerous enough without Yifan finding his Achilles heel in a boy with fire in his blood.
That distant, screeching part of his brain was drowned out by a sudden, overwhelming surge of feeling as the bond that had sparked between them when they first touched roared to bright, burning life within him.
Chanyeol whimpered around Yifan’s tongue, his hands slipping away from his neck and jaw to slide up and under Yifan’s shirt, fingers as hot as brands. Yifan hissed, leaving Chanyeol’s singed lips to kiss his way down Chanyeol’s jaw to his neck, practically breathing in the moans he coaxed from Chanyeol with each lick and scrape of teeth.
“Off,” Chanyeol panted, yanking Yifan’s shirt up and off before shoving Yifan against a wall, their lips meeting in another bruising kiss. His hands began to fumble at the button of Yifan’s pants, and he broke off the kiss to look down and see what he was doing, prompting Yifan to open his eyes and take in what was happening.
Heat was rolling off them in waves, the air shimmering in a mirage around and between their bodies. The room had to be stifling by now, but all Yifan felt was a deep, burning need to be as close to Chanyeol as he could get. He knocked Chanyeol’s hands away with a low growl, leaning forward to rid Chanyeol of his own shirt instead. His eyes caught on the spiral burn looping around Chanyeol’s right wrist from their first meeting, the pattern of Yifan’s fire imprinted into his skin like a brand.
Like Yifan’s power knew Chanyeol was meant to be his, and he Chanyeol’s.
Chanyeol tried to crowd him back against the wall as Yifan let the shirt in his hands drop. His hands went to the small of Chanyeol’s back, a faint sizzling sound filling the room as his hands met the damp skin there. Chanyeol reached up for Yifan’s face, to pull it back to his, but Yifan reared back, one hand coming up over his throat to grip beneath Chanyeol’s jaw, thumb and forefinger on either side of his neck as he forced Chanyeol to meet his gaze. His pulse beat erratically beneath his fingertips as Chanyeol’s mouth fell open under his grip.
Maintaining eye-contact, Yifan kept his grip on Chanyeol’s jaw tight while his other hand slid down to grasp Chanyeol’s ass firmly in the palm of his hand, squeezing and rocking Chanyeol’s hips against his. Chanyeol’s eyelids fluttered, a thready whine slipping from between his still-parted lips.
Emotions filtered to him through their bond from Chanyeol faster than he could process them; lust, desire, frustration, among others. Something hardened in Chanyeol’s gaze, and he shoved a knee between Yifan’s thighs, his hands falling to Yifan’s hips and encouraging the way he began to grind against his thigh.
Yifan smirked, releasing Chanyeol’s jaw so he could grip him around the waist with both hands, hooking one foot behind Chanyeol’s knees to make them bend. Chanyeol grunted and fell to his knees, his fingers snagging in the waist of Yifan’s pants. Before Chanyeol could get the wrong idea, Yifan fell to his knees and pulled Chanyeol in to a kiss, a hand tangling in the dark of Chanyeol’s curls to tug his head back, baring Chanyeol’s throat to Yifan’s lips.
Chanyeol’s fingers scrabbled to find purchase on Yifan’s skin, making him hiss when Chanyeol scratched burning lines of fire down his back as Yifan mouthed at his throat. Yifan pulled him back until Chanyeol was laying on the floor of Yifan’s bedroom, his chest heaving while he panted beneath Yifan, legs on either side of his waist as Yifan knelt between his legs.
“If you want to stop,” Yifan began between kisses that sizzled against Chanyeol’s collarbones, “then you need to tell me now.” There was a part of Yifan that rebelled against the consuming feeling of the bond solidifying, a part that reminded him that the only thing he knew about Chanyeol was that he was supposed to be Yifan’s other half. It was the part speaking now, giving Chanyeol a chance to back down.
The other part of him, the larger part, was listening to the demands of the magic forming between them, the urge to claim Chanyeol as his, completely and totally, clamoring loud and insistent in his ears.
Chanyeol’s hands went to his pants again, not fumbling this time as he deftly undid the button and fly. “I don’t want to stop,” he breathed as Yifan moved forward to kiss him softly between words, “I just want you.”
Yifan felt heat spike in his gut, his power coiling and burning with his arousal. He reached between them, making quick work of stripping Chanyeol of his pants and underwear before getting rid of his own. He leaned back down, his forearms on either side of Chanyeol’s head as he kissed him deeply, slowly, grinding their erections together with slow rolls of his hips.
Chanyeol’s legs hooked higher over his hips, squeezing and encouraging Yifan closer, his hands tugging at the strands of Yifan’s hair as he moaned into the kiss. Yifan moved a hand down Chanyeol’s side, around his hip until he could tease at his hole. Chanyeol gasped against his lips, his legs falling apart in reflex.
Yifan broke away from the kiss to locate his nightstand, pleased when it was only a few feet in front of him. He patted Chanyeol’s hip lightly before crawling forward over Chanyeol’s body to reach into the top drawer for the bottle of lube he had in there. He blessed his foresight when he’d thrown it into his bag before leaving China.
A wet heat enveloped his cock without warning, and he looked down between his arms to see Chanyeol had moved down so he could slowly swallow Yifan’s cock. Chanyeol’s mouth around him felt so good, but it wasn’t what he wanted right this moment and if Chanyeol didn’t stop this would be too quick for either of them. He moved back, shaking off Chanyeol’s loose grip on his hips and letting his cock slip free of Chanyeol’s mouth.
Chanyeol whined, his hands reaching out to stroke Yifan. Before he could, Yifan gathered up his hands in one of his own, pinning Chanyeol’s arms to the floor above his head. It was a bit of a struggle to get the lube open and spilling over his fingers with just one hand and his teeth, but it was worth it to have Chanyeol spread out beneath him as he slipped two fingers into him, rubbing slowly in and out to stretch him.
Chanyeol keened, his back arching off the floor slightly at the sensation. Yifan watched his face as he fingered him open, the expressions of pleasure dancing across his face whenever Yifan found a sensitive spot with his searching fingers. Tiny sparks danced between Chanyeol’s fingers, still trapped beneath his own hand, and the longer Yifan fingered him the louder Chanyeol got, his whines quickly rising with the heat in the room.
Yifan knew he’d found Chanyeol’s prostate when he cried out in pleasure, licks of flame dancing along Chanyeol’s hands and arms, and he added a third finger just to hear the way Chanyeol gasped beneath him, soothing him through the burn with a consuming kiss as he continued to brush against his prostate occasionally.
“I’m ready,” Chanyeol insisted, pulling against the hold Yifan had on his wrists. “Kris stop teasing—ah!—me.” Yifan didn’t hesitate, quickly slicking himself up so that he could sink into the searing heat of Chanyeol.
Chanyeol’s breathing hitched at the sensation as Yifan sank in slowly. He whimpered, and Yifan placed his other hand at Chanyeol’s hip, keeping him in place as fire danced between their bodies and Chanyeol writhed slightly under him. After their initial meeting where their fire had burned each other, Yifan was realizing that Chanyeol’s fire didn’t hurt him, like they’d each gotten an immunization shot for each other’s power.
The same didn’t apply, though, to the floor, and Yifan found himself letting go of Chanyeol’s hands so he could run his own soothingly up and down his sides as Chanyeol got increasingly worked up with each slow roll of Yifan’s hips. Chanyeol placed one burning hand, fire licking between his fingertips, against the floor to brace himself as he rolled his hips up to meet Yifan’s next thrust with a moan.
“Slow, baby,” Yifan soothed, stilling his hips and gently running his hands over Chanyeol’s body to ease the flames that flickered across his chest away. “You’re doing so well, xiao Yeol.” He absently snuffed out the flames burning on the floor from Chanyeol’s hand as he kissed him gently, teasing Chanyeol’s lips between his before slipping his tongue past them to lick at the back of Chanyeol’s teeth.
He captured both of Chanyeol’s hands in his, lacing their fingers together and placing them on either side of Chanyeol’s head as he resumed his slow thrusts, relishing every breathless moan and whimper he coaxed from Chanyeol.
It took what little remained of his control not to lose total grip on his power. It was overwhelming, to have sex with Chanyeol and feel himself burning up from the inside out as everything he felt was amplified through the bond they now shared.
Chanyeol clenched around him right before he came, and Yifan pulled back to catch Chanyeol’s gaze, holding it as he eased Chanyeol over the edge and he was coming between them, lashes fluttering at the pleasure coursing through him. It was enough to have Yifan following a few quick thrusts after, burying his face into the curve of Chanyeol’s shoulder as he shuddered through the aftershocks.
Chanyeol unlaced their fingers so he could run his hands slowly up and down Yifan’s back as their breathing returned to normal. “I told you we needed to talk,” he said after a long moment, their bodies cooling slightly in the still stifling room.
Yifan pulled back to look at Chanyeol in the face, smoothing his sweat-damp curls away from his forehead with one hand. “I’m not sure you can call that talking, exactly.”
Chanyeol smiled softly. “Sure, you can,” he replied, wiggling his hips slightly where Yifan was still in him, making them both grunt at the oversensitivity. “We talked through a lot.”
Yifan pulled out, kissing Chanyeol in apology when he winced at the feeling. “If by ‘talked through a lot’ you mean ‘didn’t talk through anything and fucked out our feelings instead’ then yeah, we totally did.”
Chanyeol snorted, laughing as Yifan got up to get a washcloth from his attached bathroom. He was grateful, in this moment, that the rooms in this house were more like mini apartments. He returned to Chanyeol, gently cleaning him up before helping him up and into Yifan’s bed. Once he slid in next to Chanyeol, he had an armful of him.
“Why did you fight against me so hard?” Chanyeol asked after a long moment of running their hands over each other, mapping the things they were each too busy to note earlier.
Yifan sighed. “Remember earlier, in that meeting of sorts, how I mentioned the threat in China?” He didn’t exactly want to be telling Chanyeol this, but he needed to explain himself somehow, so a portion of the truth would have to be enough for now. The rest would come later.
Chanyeol nodded, his thumbs tracing gingerly over Yifan’s cheekbones.
“That threat is directly focused on me. They want me more than almost anyone.” He bit his lip, looking into Chanyeol’s eyes and debating how much to tell. “I knew the second we touched in that club what we were, what we would be to each other.” He rolled onto his back, pulling Chanyeol half across his chest. “I’ve known for a long time that I had a soulmate—someone fate would place in my way—and that I’d likely form some kind of bond with them. I wasn’t expecting the intensity we experienced.
“But Chanyeol,” he warned, his hand cupping Chanyeol’s jaw to tilt his face up until they were looking each other in the eye. “Accepting this, allowing you close to me, greatly increases the chances that at some point you’ll be in great danger because of me. The people who want me, if they find out what you mean to me, will use you to hurt me.”
Chanyeol cocked his head to the side. “And what do I mean to you, Kris?”
“Everything, Chanyeol,” Yifan blurted, trying not to be alarmed when Chanyeol’s eyes widened slightly. “You’re brilliant, intensely bright, ardently pure.” He licked his lips. Chanyeol’s eyes followed the motion. “You’re my Canlie.”
Chanyeol’s gaze snapped back to meet Yifan’s. “What’s that?”
Yifan pulled him in for a gentle kiss, humming softly at the thrum of contentment that surged through their link. “Another name for you, in Chinese. It means all those things I just said.”
Chanyeol’s brow furrowed. “But, why? I’m none of those things. I’m weak and tired and always scared, Kris.” He cleared his throat, burying his face in Yifan’s chest. “Being around you is the first time I’ve ever felt safe. I’m none of those things without you.”
Yifan found Chanyeol’s hand beneath the sheets, lacing their fingers and kissing Chanyeol on the forehead. “It suits you, xiao Canlie, trust me.”
Chanyeol shifted against him but didn’t say anything.
“Sleep, Yeol,” Yifan said softly, holding Chanyeol close.
Allowing himself this, to have Chanyeol and grow something with him, was putting them both in incredible danger, but he couldn’t bring himself to fight it anymore. Not when Chanyeol’s happiness was radiating through their bond, warming Yifan from the core out.
No, he decided, it was worth the risk. If it would make him as happy as he felt right now, always, then it was definitely worth the risk.
He slipped into sleep with the weight of Chanyeol on his chest, their heartbeats echoing together.
“Wow, this place is huge,” Sehun remarked as Zitao lead him to the west wing stairs.
Or at least, that’s what Zitao thought he said. His grasp of the Korean language was tenuous at best, but Sehun didn’t seem to realize or care that Zitao didn’t appear to be listening to him. He just kept talking.
Zitao wished Luhan was with them. Luhan always knew what to do with people. But Luhan had bolted from the room the moment they were free to go. Not that Zitao could really blame him. He’d want to run too if the person who had appeared in his bed had showed up out of nowhere.
Still, he needed to do this. He couldn’t explain it, but somehow he knew that Sehun was important in some way.
They arrived at the first room in the west wing, and Zitao opened the door to the room, gesturing for Sehun to enter. Sehun said something way too fast for Zitao to even hope to understand, and Zitao gave him a confused look and shrugged his shoulders.
Sehun looked at him in confusion for a moment before realization dawned.
“What is your name?” he asked, slowly and clearly, enunciating his syllables.
Oh, well that was simple. “Zitao,” he replied.
Sehun said something else that sounded like a, “Nice to meet you,” and held out his hand for Zitao to shake.
Shrugging, Zitao reached out and clasped his hand.
Time froze, sealing them in a suspended moment, and wind suddenly swirled around them, whipping their hair around their faces.
Zitao locked gazes with Sehun, and everything clicked into place.
“Baek, baby, you got a text.”
Baekhyun turned toward the sound of Yixing’s voice, casting his power out to find Yixing in the darkness of his mind. “From?”
Yixing moved closer until he was sitting on the edge of the bed. This close, Baekhyun’s power could add detail to the features of Yixing’s figure. He watched as Yixing’s brow furrowed while he struggled to read the message in Korean. His spoken Korean was getting much better, but he still struggled to read it sometimes. As it was, when they were alone they mostly spoke in a cobbled together combination of both their languages.
His shoulders shifted slightly, and Baekhyun became aware of the fact that Yixing was shirtless, halfway through changing for bed before he noticed the text, probably. Baekhyun crawled across the bed until he could wind his arms around Yixing from behind, his hands tracing over the ridges of his abdomen and chest.
“He says he’s an old friend of yours? Taehyung?”
It took Baekhyun a moment to place the name before he remembered Taehyung’s smile—so like his own that they got teased for it in high school—and bounced in excitement. “Oh! He’s an old friend from high school. We lost touch after we graduated. I think he went to a school in Busan. What does he want?”
Yixing frowned at his phone again for another moment. “He wants…to get lunch? And catch up. Sometime in the next week.”
Baekhyun smiled at the thought. “Will you respond to him and ask him which day works next week? I want to meet up with him. You’ll come with me, right? I’ll need someone who can actually see to come with me.”
Yixing turned to frown at him. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, baby. We’re in a lot of danger right now—you especially, since you were almost captured once already.”
Baekhyun shrugged. “Then invite him to come here! That way I don’t have to leave, and everyone else will be here, so I’ll be safe if something bad happens.” Yixing blinked at him, unconvinced. “Babe, it’s Taehyung. He’s harmless. It’ll be fine.” He pouted. “Please?”
Yixing sighed, and Baekhyun knew that he’d just won. “Okay, fine. But we clear it with Yifan and Junmyeon before we set anything into stone.”
Baekhyun smiled. “Deal.” He waited patiently while Yixing responded, asking for a day and time, and then knocked his phone out of Yixing’s hands once the message was sent. “Now, come here and kiss me to sleep,” Baekhyun said, pulling Yixing further onto the bed and down over him, sinking his fingers into the soft hair at the back of Yixing’s neck.
“Anything, xiao Buoxian,” Yixing whispered, a second before their lips met.
Jongin teleported directly from the mansion into his and Taemin’s bedroom, desperate to have Taemin in his arms again.
Taemin was sitting up in bed, flipping through his tarot deck. He looked up at the sound of Jongin arriving in their room, immediately dropping his cards and jumping up to run to Jongin.
“Tae,” he whispered, cupping Taemin’s jaw and kissing him deeply, slowly, more to reassure himself that Taemin was there, real and solid in his arms.
“Baby?” Taemin asked, pulling back and running a hand through Jongin’s hair. “Nini what happened?”
“I went where the wind told me, I followed the advice you gave me…”
“And?” Taemin prompted when Jongin lost his words. Concern radiated from his eyes as he looked up at Jongin with worry.
“And I found a mansion full of people like me.” He swallowed, pulling Taemin against him and burying his face in the silver strands of his hair. “People with power.”
Taemin ran soothing hands up and down Jongin’s back. “Isn’t that a good thing?”
It was, truly. But… “He was there, Taemin.”
“Who?” Taemin stepped out of Jongin’s hold to gently start ridding him of his clothes. “Talk to me Nini.”
“The guy, the one I teleported into bed with?” He was spared seeing Taemin’s reaction to that statement as his shirt came off, momentarily blocking his line of sight.
“So, he wasn’t in China?” Taemin seemed unconcerned when Jongin could look at him again. “That’s a relief, at least you’re not teleporting all over the world in your sleep.”
“No,” Jongin said slowly, as Taemin yanked his pants down, urging him to step out of them before pulling him toward their bed in nothing but his boxers.
“What’s his name?” Taemin coaxed Jongin beneath the sheets, reaching over to click off their bedside lamp before curling into Jongin’s side.
“It’s Luhan. He’s Chinese, and he lives there with the rest of them.” He pulled Taemin onto his chest, his fingers grasping at the soft material of Taemin’s henley sleep-shirt. “They invited us to move in with them. They have room, apparently.”
“And what did you say?”
Jongin snorted. “I said no. I didn’t want to commit to anything without talking to you first.”
Taemin stretched up and kissed him, smiling against his lips. “I know.”
Of course, he knew. Taemin always knew. Sometimes it was frustrating having a seer for a boyfriend. Keeping his birthday presents a secret was downright impossible. “Oh, they also mentioned that you were working with Hechul? Somehow Sehun knew that?”
He felt Taemin shrug in the dark. “That’s fine. He’s well connected in the gifted community, for a normie. If Sehun knows the right people, it’s not unusual for him to know my name.”
“They also want to have another meeting at nine tomorrow. Will you come?”
Taemin hummed. “I think that would be good.”
“Okay,” Jongin sighed, something tight in his chest easing.
“Sleep now, Nini,” Taemin whispered, reaching up to run his fingers through Jongin’s hair, soothing him into sleep.
Kyungsoo traced the faded scar over the bridge of Jongdae’s nose lightly with one finger, hesitant to wake him but wanting to feel the softness of his skin despite the scaring.
It was early in the morning, light gradually filling the room as the sun rose above the horizon, a hazy purple-grey light suffusing the room as Kyungsoo watched Jongdae sleep. He’d woken not long ago, worry keeping him from sleeping as deeply as he would have liked, and he absently traced the lines of Jongdae’s scars as he lay next to him.
It seemed like more people kept filling the empty rooms of the house, and while it was certainly large enough to house all them, Kyungsoo was going to miss the quiet. Moments like this, when the world was quiet and still, were what he craved most. Time for him to sort through his feelings and emotions and examine what he really felt and thought.
He missed his mother.
That was at the forefront, his most pressing emotion still grief. He knew it would be for a while still, but the intensity of his grief had subsided to a dull ache that was constant but bearable, no longer all-consuming. And in the spaces where the grief had ebbed away was something new, a lighter feeling he associated with the man sleeping next to him.
Jongdae’s nose scrunched up in his sleep.
Kyungsoo’s fingers stilled on his neck, still absently tracing the pattern of scars that had faded to pale lines across the bronze of Jongdae’s skin, stark in the contrast. He thought about Jongdae’s quiet friendship, how gently he’d offered Kyungsoo comfort simply by being present. He never pushed Kyungsoo to talk or made him feel like he needed to offer Jongdae anything more than who he was.
Kyungsoo trailed his fingers lightly over the bump of Jongdae’s collarbone, smiling slightly when the scrunch of Jongdae’s nose eased away.
The sun slowly rose over the earth, purples and greys giving way to the golds of morning as Kyungsoo thought about everything he’d lost, and the few precious things he’d gained.
Jongdae yawned, waking, and Kyungsoo breathed.
Chanyeol was burning.
Altogether, not an unusual sensation to wake up to first thing in the morning (he’d once nearly burned his sheets after having a very…hot dream), but it was strange to wake up and have someone else be the cause.
He stretched, feeling muscles twinge in protest and taking note of a very warm, very heavy arm around his waist. The previous night came flooding back to him as memories of the hand twitching gently against his stomach pinning him to the floor made him squirm beneath the sheets. But Kris slept like the dead, apparently, since Chanyeol’s movements hadn’t woken him at all, so Chanyeol quietly traced his fingers over the marks winding up Kris’s forearm.
He remembered the night he gave those marks to Kris. Then, and last night, he’d been too focused on other things to pay much attention to what his fire had done to Kris, but now he had time to observe, and his breath caught in his throat as he realized what he was tracing over.
Burns shaped like feathers wound up his forearm, the lines a vivid red and gold that shimmered like glowing embers against his skin. He quickly held out his right arm in front of his eyes, gasping softly when he took in the pattern on his arm.
A dragon wound its way up his arm, the lines a shimmering match to the color of Kris’s burn. It was intricate, breathtaking, and definitely not what it had looked like before last night. It wasn’t the only thing that had changed since last night.
He knew when Kris was waking up—not because of a shift in his breathing, or a tightening of his arm around Chanyeol’s waist, although those both happened. No, he knew because emotions that weren’t his began to filter sleepily to him. He rolled over as Kris blinked awake.
“Good morning, Kris,” Chanyeol said softly, reaching up to run his thumb over the stern arch of his eyebrow.
Kris caught his wrist, placing a lingering kiss to Chanyeol’s palm. A rush of contentment warmed Chanyeol’s body, making his eyes widen in surprise. “Good morning, Canlie.”
“Are these feelings…from you?” Chanyeol asked, not quite understanding where the fuzzy warmth filling him up was coming from.
Kris hummed in response. “That’s the bond, the thing you kept talking about that was between us that you couldn’t explain? It solidified last night.” He kissed Chanyeol softly. “It lets us feel each other’s stronger emotions—a few weeks ago Baekhyun got seriously injured and Yixing knew the second it happened. It’s useful.”
“Baekhyun and Yixing are…”
“Like us, yes. Although their bond is no doubt different in what it can do. They don’t have these, for example,” Kris said, holding up their arms that had matching burns. “This is unique to us.” He frowned in thought. “It’s unique to bonds too, I think.”
“What do you mean?” Chanyeol shuffled closer, craving the feeling of Kris’s skin against his.
Kris looked at him thoughtfully. “After my mother told me about the bonds that can form between people like us—gifted, powerful—I researched what I could. While finding a partner is incredibly rare, bonds like ours are for life. It’s rare that people without gifts actually find theirs, but some do, although they don’t form a physical bond like ours.”
“Then how did we find each other?” Chanyeol asked. It was making sense now, why he felt so compelled to talk to Kris when he saw him in that club.
Kris shrugged, one of his thumbs stroking over Chanyeol’s cheek. “It’s much more likely that you’ll find your partner if you’re gifted, since it’s more often that you’re stronger together than apart. The magic pulls you together, I suppose.”
Chanyeol nodded slowly, absorbing everything. “But I’m in more danger now?” he asked, recalling what Kris had said last night.
Kris’s arms tightened around him, protectiveness surging through their bond. “Not if I can help it.”
Chanyeol smiled, moving in to kiss Kris deeply, winding his arms around his neck and rolling Kris onto his back so he could hover above him, shivering as Kris ran large hands over his skin.
“Hey Yifan, we want to talk to you before—what the fuck?”
Kris groaned while Chanyeol sat up off him and looked over his shoulder to see two people he recognized from last night frozen two feet into the room.
“Minseok, Junmyeon,” Kris said, sitting up slowly. “What can I help you with?”
The one with pink hair—Minseok, Chanyeol’s brain supplied—pointed between him and Kris. “What happened here?”
Kris raised an eyebrow, sending a pointed look at the vivid purple mark on Junmyeon’s neck. “What happened there?”
Junmyeon—the one with hair the color of the night sky—slapped a hand over the hickey below his ear.
“Point taken,” Minseok relented. “What do we need to go over at the meeting this morning?”
Kris huffed. “Everything. Safety, rules, general ways to—”
“Excuse me,” Junmyeon interjected, “but what the hell is that?” Chanyeol followed his outstretched finger to the scorch mark on the floor in the shape of Chanyeol’s hand. “Would you care to explain how you scorched my custom wood flooring?”
Chanyeol hid his face in his hands. Amusement from Kris crawled up his throat, making him giggle softly.
“Do you want me to spell it out for you, Junmyeon?” Kris asked.
“Yifan, please refrain from damaging my boyfriend’s house in the future,” Minseok said, sounding resigned. “Just…put some clothes on and get downstairs. You have ten minutes.”
Chanyeol didn’t lower his hands until he heard the door close behind them.
“Well, that went well,” Kris drawled, pulling Chanyeol close and kissing him on the side of his neck.
Chanyeol giggled again, leaning his head back onto Kris’s shoulder. “Hey,” he started after a moment, “should I call you Yifan? That’s your name, right?” At Kris’s silence he explained further. “You told me your name was Kris when we met, but then last night I learned your name was actually Yifan.”
Kris chuckled. “Call me either. When I lived in Canada during middle school that’s what I went by there.”
“Okay.” Chanyeol smiled. “You have a special name for me, so Kris is my special name for you, now.”
Kris hummed, warmth and happiness flooding through him—both Kris’s and his. They needed to get up, but surely they could spend a few more moments like this, warm in each other’s arms.
there were originally two sex scenes in this chapter but,,,the xiuho one felt like too much for one chapter, so I took it out. It'll be posted as another work in this series, so feel free to read it if you'd like, however you aren't missing much if you don't want to read it ^^
I'll see you once I finish chapter ten! <3
P.S. my dearest cinny drew art for this chapter. You can find it here.
Chapter 7: run into the starlight
Yixing pressed their foreheads together. “Are you sure, Baek?”
Baekhyun opened his eyes and looked directly where he knew Yixing’s would be, briefly allowing his power to illuminate Yixing to be certain he was looking him in the eye. Yixing shivered again at the direct eye contact even though he knew Baekhyun couldn’t see him. “I’m sure, Yixing. Please.”
I HAVE RETURNED.
and this time, I offer baekxing and like 13k worth of a chapter so hopefully that makes up for the wait <3
(tags have been updated)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jongin woke to Taemin shaking him awake.
“Mmpfh, Tae, what is it?” he muttered rolling over and blinking at Taemin, hovering about him in the cool light of pre-dawn.
Taemin ran a hand through Jongin’s hair, scratching lightly at his scalp. “Hey, baby, I need your help.”
Jongin yawned and looked over at the clock on their nightstand. “Tae, it’s six in the fucking morning, why?” He rubbed at his eyes.
Taemin pressed a gentle, lingering kiss to his lips. “I was thinking about how we’re going to a meeting where they’ll want to know what’s happening, right?”
Jongin hummed in response.
“I think I should channel power ahead of time, so that I can see more of what they want to know.”
Jongin was suddenly very much awake. “Oh?” He smirked, reaching up and running his hands down Taemin’s sides, unsurprised when he found Taemin wearing nothing. “Not to turn away morning sex, but I haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday. Can we make breakfast first?”
Taemin rolled his eyes and dropped his head onto Jongin’s chest. “Yeah, okay, let me find my clothes.”
“Hold on, I never said we had to be clothed to make breakfast,” Jongin said, pressing kisses into the soft silver of Taemin’s hair. He whined when Taemin moved to get off him, not ready to surrender the warmth of his body.
Tamein chuckled softly. “Good morning, Nini,” Taemin purred, rolling back onto Jongin’s chest as he kissed him. “I love you.”
Jongin brushed the tip of his nose against Taemin’s before pressing a kiss to it. “Love you too, baby.”
Taemin did end up putting on a loose pair of pajama pants to cook breakfast in but only, as he put it, “to keep all the important bits safe from hot butter.”
Jongin made coffee while Taemin fried eggs to go over their rice, the two of them moving easily around each other in their tiny kitchen in a morning routine they’d shared for several years.
Once their coffee was finished brewing, Jongin carried their mugs over to the table, setting them down by the bowls of rice he’d prepared. As he waited for the coffee to cool slightly, he wandered back over to Taemin and hooked his chin over his shoulder, wrapping his arms around Taemin’s waist.
Taemin was smaller than him, not by much, but enough that Jongin could lazily kiss his neck and ear without bending down.
“Quit that,” Taemin snapped without any heat, smacking Jongin’s hip with a spatula. “You wanted breakfast first, you don’t get to wind me up too.”
Jongin placed a last kiss against Taemin’s temple before pulling away, stepping aside as Taemin carried the frying pan over to the table and deposited two eggs each onto their bowls of rice, returning the pan to the stove before dragging Jongin to the table.
They ate together in comfortable silence. Jongin relished these moments together, when everything was quiet and simple and perfect. He rubbed a foot up and down one of Taemin’s legs under the table, smirking at him over his cup of coffee.
Taemin scowled at him and poked him in the arm with his chopsticks. His eyes flashing silver briefly before returning to their normal brown, something that only happened when he was about to channel power.
Jongin quickly finished eating and nursed the last few mouthfuls of his coffee slowly as Taemin finished his breakfast. It was these easy, love-saturated moments that made Jongin keep falling for Taemin each new morning. Everything was natural with Taemin. There was an ease, a warm contentment that filled his chest whenever Taemin was near that told him what they had was right.
Taemin stood up and took his dishes to the sink, running a hand through Jongin’s blond locks as he walked past him, sending a shiver up Jongin’s spine. Jongin turned to follow him with his eyes, tracking the sway of his hips as he made his way to the sink. “When you’re finished staring bring your dishes to the sink, please?”
Jongin swallowed the rest of his coffee down in one gulp and stood to do just that, walking up behind Taemin and reaching around him to place his bowl and mug in the basin of the sink. Instead of backing away, he placed his hands on Taemin’s hips and pressed into him from behind, nosing Taemin’s long hair away from his neck so he could litter his skin with increasingly insistent kisses.
When he rolled his hips slightly Taemin gasped and gripped the edge of the counter. “I’m trying to do the dishes, Nini.”
Jongin spun him around easily and hoisted him in his arms, shuffling over slightly to place Taemin on the counter next to the sink. “Forget them, I have a better idea.”
Taemin smiled slow and easy, his eyes flickering silver as he leaned down to meet Jongin in a deep, searing kiss.
Yifan was late to breakfast. It was mostly Chanyeol’s fault for looking so adorable, rumpled and naked between the sheets of Yifan’s bed. Chanyeol was dangerous. It was all too easy for Yifan to get lost in the kisses Chanyeol kept dragging him down for, to pull him closer and bask in the warmth of Chanyeol’s hands skimming lightly over his skin.
Chanyeol was clingy, Yifan realized, as they stumbled down the stairs and walked toward the kitchen where the low murmur of voices was reaching them through the halls. Chanyeol had his hand laced with Yifan’s, their mirroring marks glowing against their skin, and Yifan couldn’t resist pulling Chanyeol in for one last kiss before walking around the corner and into the kitchen.
Minseok looked at their linked hands as they walked in, his eyebrow lifting. Junmyeon scrunched up his nose, while everyone else slowly stopped talking. Yifan surveyed the room, mentally counting and wondering who was missing. Eleven, counting himself. Who was missing?
“Someone is missing,” he said, addressing the room at large. “Who is it?”
Zitao and Luhan were huddled together in a corner of the room, half-hiding behind Baekhyun and Yixing, but Yifan still heard Luhan when he whispered very softly, “Jongin.”
As soon as he spoke, there was a soft ‘pop’ next to Yifan, and Jongin was suddenly standing next to him, a silver-haired man in his arms and positively reeking of sex.
“That’s so fucking convenient,” Jongdae muttered. He was standing by the island in the center of the room, one hip leaning against the counter, while Kyungsoo was hovering close to him, just shy of touching.
Jongin grinned sheepishly. “Sorry we’re late. What did we miss?” Everyone stared at him, Yifan included, until Jongin twitched under the scrutiny. “What?” he asked, curling in on himself slightly.
The stranger turned around in Jongin’s arms, facing the room instead of Jongin’s chest, and said, “Hello, I’m Taemin.” He ran his hand through his hair, pulling his hair away from his face and quickly tying it into a knot at the back of his head.
“Ohhhh,” Baekhyun hummed. “The seer boyfriend.”
Taemin waved briefly, his smile tight.
Yifan felt Chanyeol’s curiosity humming through him. “A seer, as far as I know, can predict the near future with relative accuracy,” he explained to Chanyeol in a low voice that didn’t escape the notice of anyone.
“How did you know I was wondering?” Chanyeol asked, but before Yifan could answer understanding flooded his eyes. “Oh! That’s the bond, right?”
Again, everyone’s eyes settled on Chanyeol and Yifan, apart from Zitao and Luhan, both of whom were staring into space with a glazed expression—rapid Korean was still very difficult for them to parse easily.
Taemin turned an eerie, silver gaze onto Yifan and Chanyeol. “You’re bonded,” his gaze swept the room to land on Yixing and Baekhyun, “as are they.” His voice was airy and light, his eyes unfocused and yet alarmingly present. His gaze also flit briefly between Sehun and Zitao, then to Luhan, before settling back on Jongin.
Yifan would have to talk with Taemin, soon. A seer was a powerful asset.
“What’s a bond?” Sehun asked, his head tilted curiously. He was leaning against the far counter, arms crossed, silent until that moment.
Yixing and Yifan traded a quick glance before Yifan explained briefly. “It’s a part of ancient Chinese mythology. It’s also called the red string of fate.” Nods of comprehension from everyone. “Most people without powers or gifts don’t notice it and only find their other half by luck, but if you’re gifted like myself, Yixing, Luhan or Zitao it’s very likely you’ll find your other half.” He dropped Chanyeol’s hand only to wrap his arm around Chanyeol’s waist, pulling him close to his side. Chanyeol leaned into him, his head resting against Yifan’s shoulder.
“Each bond is different,” he continued, “but generally you’re stronger together than you are apart.” He held up his right arm. “Chanyeol and I have matching brands, and although we haven’t tried I would imagine that we can now share aspects of each other’s powers. Not to mention we could probably burn this house down in a matter of minutes if we really wanted to.”
Junmyeon’s face blanched, and Minseok pulled him into his arms with a glare at Yifan.
“Not that we would, obviously.” Chanyeol chuckled into his ear.
“Gēgē, how did you solidify the bond?” Yixing asked him in Chinese, and Yifan turned to him sharply, an eyebrow lifted.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Luhan and Zitao focus in on the conversation now that they could understand it.
“I accepted him,” Yifan replied, in Chinese. Yixing must have a reason for keeping this conversation relatively private. “I accepted the bond and allowed it to tie the two of us together.”
Yixing tilted his head, expression blank. “How?”
Yifan coughed slightly. “I uh,” he glanced at Zitao and Luhan clearly listening to everything, “slept with him. Don’t you already know how it works? Hasn’t your bond with Baekhyun solidified?”
In their corner, Zitao and Luhan snickered. Yifan saw Jongdae’s nose scrunch up in the corner of his eye. He didn’t dare glance at Minseok.
Yixing turned a spectacular shade of scarlet. “N-no, we haven’t,” he replied, while next to him Baekhyun tugged on his arm and whined in Korean, “What haven’t we done? I want to do whatever they did!” He pointed at Yifan and Chanyeol. “I want cool brands.”
“It’s unlikely that you’ll have brands like us,” Yifan replied, addressing Baekhyun in Korean. “Each bond is unique in what it can do, and it manifests differently in each pair.” He paused, thought for a moment. “At least, I assume that’s how it is.”
“Not that this isn’t thrilling,” Sehun interrupted, “but I believe we have more important things to discuss?”
Everyone in the room looked at him.
“Go on, then,” Minseok smirked when Sehun blinked back at all of them. “What are we here to discuss?”
Sehun looked between Yifan and Minseok before throwing his shoulders back and clearing his throat. “Okay, this is what we need to discuss today. First, the danger all of us—and anyone else like us—are in. Secondly, what exactly all of us can do, and our plan moving forward.”
Junmyeon furrowed his eyebrows. “Plan…moving forward?”
Sehun nodded. “According to my sources, people like us keep disappearing without a trace. As far as I can gather, they’re being taken by a group of people who aim to weaponize our powers for military or political gain.”
“We already know this,” Minseok pointed out, crossing his arms. “That’s why we’re out here in seclusion instead of in the cities.”
“Which is good,” Yifan interrupted, “and if we’re lucky, we’ll stay out of sight and away from their radar. However, back in China they’re actively hunting people down.” He glanced at Zitao and Luhan. “We were extremely lucky to get Luhan and Zitao out, but unfortunately the reason Baekhyun was attacked was probably because he stayed with us. We suspect that they somehow found him entering or leaving the country and tracked him back to Korea.”
Yixing nodded in agreement, tucking Baekhyun under his arm and holding him close. “That’s why we left as soon as he was attacked. We figured that if they’d found him, our safety was compromised. That’s when we broke Zitao and Luhan out and came here.”
“Wait, one second,” Chanyeol said from next to him, his fingers flexing at Yifan’s hip. “Who are they? Who is after us?”
Yifan was about to answer, when Minseok beat him to it. “There’s a corporation in China, part of the private sector, whose main objective is to understand what it is that makes us special and how to replicate it.”
Junmyeon nodded, his eyes hard. “They aim to weaponize the things we can do and sell it to the highest bidder. Imagine if countries could buy an army of Jongdaes to shoot lightning at their enemies. Or of Luhans, where every soldier can move things with their mind at will.”
“Oh,” Chanyeol said faintly. Yifan held him closer, sending waves of reassurance through their bond. Chanyeol was nearly a stranger to him, and yet his well-being was already at the forefront of his thoughts.
“But…who?” Jongdae asked, looking puzzled.
“We don’t know,” Minseok answered. He wrapped his arms tightly around Junmyeon and rested his chin on Junmyeon’s shoulder from behind. “They almost got Junmyeon, a few years ago, and after that we went into hiding, of sorts. We’ve been actively avoiding anything about them.”
“What?” Baekhyun yelped.
“I moved into this house—that my great-aunt left me when she died—changed the name on my trust and quit my job,” Junmyeon continued, picking up where Minseok left off. “I removed as much of myself from the world as possible in an effort to stay hidden.”
Minseok smiled thinly. “That’s why Junmyeon rarely leaves the house. We were betrayed once, and it nearly cost us dearly.” He placed a kiss to Junmyeon’s cheek. “Keeping each other safe—and now all of you—is our top priority.”
Everyone was silent for a moment, processing Minseok’s words.
“So, we need to take down an evil corporation, but have no idea who is behind it or how to track them? Great, can’t wait,” Kyungsoo snarked, his eyebrows pulling tight over his eyes. Jongdae ran a soothing hand across Kyungsoo’s shoulders, relaxing the tense set of them.
“I think Yifan has something to say about that,” Taemin said unexpectedly, pinning Yifan with a knowing look.
All eyes in the room swiveled to look at him. Chanyeol stroked a hand up and down his back, picking up on Yifan’s sudden unease.
“What do you know, Yifan?” Minseok asked, his eyes narrowing.
Yifan cleared his throat. “They’re a top-secret facility hidden in the Huangshan mountains called Evolve.” A flood of calm rushed through him from Chanyeol, and he relaxed his shoulders. “Anyone they get their hands on is rarely seen again.”
“How do you know all this?” Jongdae questioned, his eyes narrowing.
“Because the CEO of Evolve is my father,” he replied, closing his eyes as everyone in the room except for Yixing, Chanyeol and Taemin started talking at once.
“How are you not being held captive?” Baekhyun finally asked, breaking through the chaos.
Yifan sighed, settling in to explain everything. “Because when I was ten my mother moved me to Canada. My powers had begun to manifest by then and she knew my father would use me as a test subject if he knew. We lived there until I could control them, and then she brought me back. We managed to keep my powers hidden from my father until I graduated high school.
“But two months after I graduated, my mother was killed in a car accident, and the grief made me unstable again. My father saw a few stray sparks dance through my fingers one night and he asked me how long I’d been able to control fire. My mom never told me what he did, only told me it was important to keep my powers secret from him. I found out what he really did not long after, when my own father tried to tranquilize me and bring me into Evolve for testing.” He ran his free hand down his face. “I ran away that same night. I launched myself into the sky and flew until morning.”
He smiled tightly at Yixing. “I flew until I lost consciousness and fell out of the sky, right in front of Yixing.”
“You can fly too?” Jongdae exclaimed, looking at Yifan in shock. “Fire and flight?”
Yixing nodded at Jongdae, then returned Yifan’s smile. “After I managed to heal him, I hid him with my grandmother. Once I finished high school we started moving around China, trying to stay under the radar while I got my CNA, and after that we moved around every few months.” He gestured to Luhan and Zitao. “When I found Zitao in a mental hospital it was enough to make us stay somewhere for longer than a year, and when Luhan also got admitted there I couldn’t believe our luck.”
“We were always looking out for others like us,” Yifan continued, “hoping to get them out of the country before they got caught. We were lucky to find those two when we did.”
There was a long silence as everyone absorbed the new information. Yifan watched Luhan and Zitao, knowing they were only picking up pieces of the conversation. Zitao was staring fixedly at Sehun, eyes narrow and his head tilted.
Luhan was alternating between frowning at Jongin, glaring at Taemin, and staring at the floor.
Yifan made a mental note to talk to them before the day was done. After he spoke with the seer, that was. He needed to have a lot of conversations today.
Jongdae raised his hand. “I’m still confused about where we go from here. Like, no offense, but I’m only here because Minseok and Junmyeon probably saved my life. I’m not sure I want to fight Evolve when there’s a high chance they’ll never find us out here.”
“And if you have no other choice except to fight?” Taemin’s soft voice cut through the room.
“What do you know?” Minseok asked, narrowing his eyes at Taemin.
Taemin stared back at him calmly. “I know many things,” he said cryptically, “but the most important thing I can tell you right now is that while you’re safe for now, you might not always be.”
Yifan looked first at Taemin, then at Jongin. “Is he always this vague?” he asked Jongin.
Jongin snorted and nodded. “Be more specific, babe,” he said, nudging Taemin in his side. “Don’t waste all our hard work this morning.”
Taemin rolled his eyes and said, “Get ready. Be prepared and ready to fight. I can’t say for sure what the future holds—it’s far too fluid—but from what I could see, it would be better if you’re ready for the worst.”
“Well,” Kyungsoo drawled, “that’s encouraging.”
“He’s right though,” Sehun chimed in. “The more prepared we are the better. We should learn about each other’s powers, our strengths and weaknesses, so that if we ever do get caught out we have a better chance at getting away.”
“We can’t just…put our lives on hold to form some sort of super-team,” Jongdae scoffed. “Some of us have jobs, places to be.”
Next to Yifan, Chanyeol hummed in agreement. “I have a regular nine to five. I can’t skip out on work for supernatural boot-camp.”
“I don’t think anyone is asking you to,” Yixing said, glancing around to make sure nobody disagreed with him. “For now, as long as everyone is safe I think that should be enough, right?”
“All we’ve ever cared about,” Minseok added, “is that people like us were safe and had somewhere they could stay that way.” He looked around at everyone. “If that means you’d all like to move in here and keep each other safe, excellent. We’re happy to have you.”
“You’ll need to pitch in for groceries, though,” Junmyeon said, leaning back against Minseok. “And you’re expected to help keep the house clean.”
“I would like to add,” Yifan began, “that I think nobody should leave this house alone if it can be helped. We need to be watching out for each other, if we’re going to stay free. Those of us who are working should have someone take them to and from work, things like that.” He dug his phone out of his pocket. “We should also be able to contact everyone. Agreed?”
He looked around the kitchen, making sure he saw everyone nod.
“I’m happy to help get people around,” Jongin supplied. “I’m good at getting places quickly.”
“Thank you, Jongin,” Yixing said, smiling softly. “It will be very convenient to have a teleporter among us.”
“Anything else we need to discuss?” Minseok asked, looking around the room.
Sehun opened his mouth, but he was cut off before he could speak.
“Can we eat now?” Baekhyun whined. “I’m starving.”
Taemin wasn’t expecting anyone to talk to him after breakfast. He had already spent much of the meal answering questions from all sides—something he was used to, since seers were quite rare—but with their curiosity about his talents sated he wasn’t expecting anyone other than Jongin to pay him any attention.
Near the end of the meal he excused himself to go to the bathroom, not expecting to be ambushed on his way back. He was rounding the corner, planning on cutting through the foyer back to the dining room, when someone stepped directly in his path, bringing him up short.
Taemin blinked up at the pretty one—at least that’s what he’d called him in his head. He’d never been properly introduced to everyone, but from what he’d picked up so far, he was fairly certain this was Luhan, one of the ones from China.
“Can I help you?” Taemin had an inkling he knew what this was about, but it would be easier if Luhan confirmed first.
Luhan stared back at him. “You’re Taemin, right?” he asked in slow Korean. His lips pinched into a thin line.
“Yes, that’s correct.”
Luhan’s eyebrows furrowed. “You’re Jongin’s…partner?”
Ah, so his suspicions were correct. “I’m his boyfriend, yes.”
Luhan took a moment to process his words, then nodded slowly, his expression going curiously blank. “Okay, thank you.” He gave a small bow of his head. “Goodbye.”
“Luhan, wait,” Taemin said, grabbing hold of Luhan’s wrist to keep him from turning and walking away. His hand met Luhan’s skin and flashes of information rushed through him, fleeting impressions of feelings and events related to Luhan.
He couldn’t always see that much when he touched another’s skin, but power was still clinging to him from when he’d channeled this morning with Jongin and he saw. With that single touch, Taemin saw enough to know exactly what he needed to say in this moment.
“Jongin is your soulmate, isn’t he?” Taemin asked quietly. Luhan’s wide, frightened eyes confirmed what he already knew. “Don’t be afraid, I’m not upset.”
Luhan’s shoulders relaxed, minutely, but he remained wary. “I didn’t know.”
“I know,” Taemin said calmly. “You couldn’t have known.” He waited a moment, smiling up at Luhan patiently until he relaxed further. “I’m not upset.”
Luhan worried his bottom lip between his teeth. “What should I do?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Luhan paused, struggling for words, “there’s this…need? No, pull, to Jongin and I don’t know if he feels it too.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I want to be near him, but he has you and wouldn’t want me.”
Taemin held back a sigh, and said, “Then be near him.” He ignored Luhan’s look of surprise. “At the very least you should be friends. Allow your bond to grow. Yifan and Yixing can tell you more I’m sure, but soul bonds don’t have to be romantic.” He gave Luhan a warm smile that was slightly tight around the edges. “Jongin has a big heart. There’s room for you too.”
“O-okay,” Luhan replied breathlessly. He sniffed suspiciously and blinked a few times in rapid succession. “Thank you, Taemin.” He gave a quick bow and turned to walk back into the dining room.
Taemin waited another moment, took several deep breaths, and schooled his expression into serene calm before walking back into the dining room and sitting next to Jongin.
“You okay?” Jongin whispered, his hand squeezing Taemin’s gently under the table. “You look upset.”
Taemin shook his head. “It’s nothing. I’ll explain when we’re home.”
Jongin nodded once, then went back to the conversation he was having with Sehun and Jongdae. He didn’t move his hand from Taemin’s knee.
Jongdae went looking for Kyungsoo shortly after breakfast ended. Kyungsoo had been quieter than he usually was at breakfast, only talking when spoken to and barely eating anything. Jongdae was worried about him after everything he’d been through.
Over the last month of living together in the same house, Jongdae had learned several things about Kyungsoo since the night they met. Jongdae was a talker. Always had been, and he liked talking to people, enjoyed laughing and being around others. Kyungsoo was…not. He talked, certainly, but Jongdae had a suspicion that before Kyungsoo lost his mother he spoke a lot more, was much freer with his smiles and affections. He could see the way Kyungsoo held himself apart from others, withdrew into himself when the world around him became too much.
His reluctance to be around people for extended periods of time was half the reason Jongdae spent so much time in the library with him, despite not really enjoying reading. If he wanted to spend any amount of time with Kyungsoo he’d have to do it on Kyungsoo’s terms, so afternoons in the library it was.
It was where he found Kyungsoo late that morning.
“Kyungsoo?” Jongdae asked softly as he worked his way through the shelves to the plush armchairs and thick carpets in the middle of the room.
Silence greeted him, and Jongdae frowned as he looked around the room.
“Up here, Dae,” Kyungsoo called softly, and Jongdae’s eyes were drawn up to the balcony on the second floor where Kyungsoo was curled up in a patch of sunlight, back against the floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the far side of the room.
Jongdae slowly climbed the spiral staircase in the corner. It was a simple, wrought-iron spiral built for function rather than aesthetics, but it fit the room in an understated way. “Are you okay?” he asked as he sat next to Kyungsoo against the windows. “You seemed off at breakfast, and you disappeared so quickly afterwards.”
Kyungsoo shrugged and wrapped his arms around his knees, pulling them up to his chest. Jongdae didn’t miss the tremor in his hands that he couldn’t quite hide. “I’m scared,” he whispered after a long silence.
“About?” Jongdae prodded.
Kyungsoo took a shuddery breath. “Being found, not being able to protect myself and others from this Evolve group.” He glanced at Jongdae from the corner of his eye, biting his lip before saying, “Not being able to protect you.”
“Kyungsoo, nobody expects you to protect everyone,” Jongdae reasoned. “We’re not placing that expectation solely on you. It’s a group effort to keep everyone safe.”
Kyungsoo shook his head, tremors shaking his frame and his breathing coming in quick pants. Jongdae frowned and scooted closer. Kyungsoo had always been steady. Even though Jongdae knew what had happened with his mother, Kyungsoo remained calm in the face of his quiet grief. Jongdae always felt safer around him.
Kyungsoo was grounded, unflappable, and to see him like this made Jongdae’s heart twist in his chest.
“Kyungsoo, listen to me,” Jongdae said, kneeling in front of Kyungsoo and holding his gaze. “What happened with your mom doesn’t make you weak. You’re so strong, so steady and reliable.” Jongdae softened his voice. “I rely on you, Kyungsoo. You mean so much to me.”
Kyungsoo shook his head. “I don’t feel strong. I don’t feel like I’m any of those things.”
“Kyungsoo, you’re exactly what I need when I’m feeling overwhelmed with the energy in my veins.” He paused, letting that sink in. “Why do you think I’m so touchy at times? You ground me in a way nothing and nobody else ever has. Not only because touching you relieves some of the energy that makes me feel like I’m going to shatter apart, but because you’re so easy to be around.
“I don’t know how you’ve come to mean so much to me so quickly, but I can’t imagine not knowing you.” Jongdae smiled as Kyungsoo looked at him with a cautiously hopeful expression.
Kyungsoo nodded, then took a deep breath. “Thank you, Jongdae. I needed to hear that, I think.”
Jongdae smiled again, bigger this time, and placed his hand on Kyungsoo’s shoulder. The current constantly humming through him rushed into Kyungsoo to dissipate harmlessly into the floor.
“Sorry,” Jongdae said, not sorry at all. “I had too much energy.”
If Kyungsoo could tell he was lying, he didn’t let on. Instead he leaned closer and wrapped his arms around Jongdae’s waist. Energy flowed from Jongdae and into Kyungsoo, where he channeled it safely away. Here, next to Kyungsoo, Jongdae felt warm and sheltered.
“Kyungsoo, you’re enough,” Jongdae whispered, relaxing into Kyungsoo’s hold and burying his face into the crook of Kyungsoo’s neck. “You’re strong enough to handle this, and you’re not alone in this. I’m here, I always will be. We’ll protect each other.”
Kyungsoo held Jongdae tighter, relaxing against him as the tension bled from his body. “Thank you, Jongdae.”
Jongdae hummed and lifted his head to press a gentle kiss to Kyungsoo’s forehead. “I’ll always be here with you,” he murmured against Kyungsoo’s skin. “I promise.”
Kyungsoo nodded and shuffled closer. Jongdae held him and watched the golden patches of sunlight grow and lengthen along the floor, until Kyungsoo was no longer shaking, his breathing deep and even.
He didn’t remember drifting off until Kyungsoo was shaking him awake, pulling him off the floor to go in search of food.
Later that day, after Baekhyun fell asleep in his arms despite claiming that he didn’t need an afternoon nap, Yixing went looking for Yifan. He promised Baekhyun he would ask about inviting his old friend over for lunch so that Baekhyun could catch up with him. Besides, he had been missing his best friend.
Ever since they’d arrived in Korea his attention had been fixated on Baekhyun, making sure he was healing and safe, leaving Yifan to his own devices. It took a moment to hunt him down in the house, but Yixing eventually found Yifan stretched out on the floor of the morning room, Chanyeol sprawled across his chest, both appearing to be asleep in the Saturday afternoon sun.
Yixing walked into the room quietly, not wanting to wake Chanyeol if he could avoid it. He knew from the years they’d spent together that Yifan was a light sleeper, so he padded lightly across the plush carpeting to kneel next to Yifan, tapping him gently on the shoulder.
Yifan breathed deeply, tightened his arms around Chanyeol, and blinked awake. “Yixing?” he whispered, his eyes focusing on Yixing’s face after a moment. He made an aborted movement to get up until he apparently remembered he had Chanyeol on top of him. “What’s wrong, did something happen?”
Yixing shook his head, resting his hand on Yifan’s shoulder to keep him from getting up. “Nothing is wrong. I had a question—” He cut himself off. Through the contact he had with Yifan he could feel Yifan’s life-force, a bright, burning red behind Yixing’s eyes. But he’d felt that countless times, that wasn’t what made him pause. It was the golden, shimmering threads he could sense stretching from Yifan to Chanyeol. He could see them, nearly as vividly as he could see his own silver threads linking himself to Baekhyun. “Oh.”
“Oh?” Yixing opened his eyes to see Yifan with a quirked eyebrow, waiting for Yixing to finish his thought.
Yixing took his hand off Yifan’s shoulder and his ability to see their bond went with it. “I can see your bond,” he whispered, gesturing between Yifan and Chanyeol. “It’s beautiful. I didn’t know I could see other people’s bonds.”
Yifan smiled softly and brushed a knuckle across Chanyeol’s cheek. Chanyeol wrinkled his nose slightly in his sleep. “I think we’re all learning things about our powers.”
Yixing hummed. It certainly seemed that being around others like them was changing the way everyone viewed their abilities and bringing new aspects of their abilities to the surface. “Anyway, I have a question,” Yixing continued, shifting so he was sitting cross-legged beside Yifan’s trapped form. “Baekhyun has a friend that wants to meet and catch up.”
Yifan frowned lightly. “Okay? Thanks for telling me?”
“I don’t want Baekhyun leaving the house or meeting his friend alone when he’s so vulnerable, so I want his friend to come here.”
Understanding flashed behind Yifan’s eyes. “Ah, I see.” His frown deepened. “I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that’s a bad idea.”
“Please,” Yixing pleaded. “Baekhyun needs this. He needs something other than me to be happy, and I think connecting with the outside world would be good for him.”
“Yixing, the last time Baekhyun was out in the world he got attacked. I’m not so sure meeting up with this friend is something he should risk. Not to mention bringing him here would endanger everyone else that lives here. How does he know this friend won’t betray him?”
Yixing sighed. Yifan had good points, but he couldn’t feel the restlessness that plagued Baekhyun. His need to do something was nearly overwhelming Yixing through their bond; it could only be worse for Baekhyun. “What if we meet his friend at a coffee shop nearby? That way he won’t be putting anyone else at risk.”
“I still don’t like it. Could he handle being in a place with so much going on?”
Yixing thought for a moment. “If I was with him I think he could. I could use our bond to keep him calm and boost his powers a bit to help him see.”
Yifan’s frown shifted into a smirk. “Has your bond solidified, then?”
“Yes, it happened naturally over time,” Yixing said with a roll of his eyes. “Unlike some people I know, I didn’t have to jump my soulmate immediately to solidify our bond.”
Yifan’s eyes twinkled with humor. “Yes, but jumping Chanyeol was so much fun,” he purred. Chanyeol shifted in his sleep, snuffling into Yifan’s chest. Yixing watched as Yifan’s hand ran soothingly up and down Chanyeol’s back. “You’re missing out.” He winked at Yixing. “With the bond it’s like an endless feedback loop of pleasure.”
“I think we’re getting a bit off topic.”
Yifan sighed, his expression turning serious once again. “I don’t know. Talk to Junmyeon and Minseok, see what they think. I suppose if you’re careful and on guard it will work.”
“I’m always careful. I kept us from being found in China all those years, didn’t I?”
Yifan hummed softly as Chanyeol shifted again, his fingers twitching against the material of Yifan’s shirt. “Be careful, Yixing,” Yifan repeated. “I don’t want anything to happen to you or Baekhyun.”
“Neither do I,” Yixing said, quietly standing up.
“Let me know how it goes with Mom and Dad,” Yifan mumbled, his eyes slipping shut.
Yixing rolled his eyes and silently left the room.
Jongin popped back home for the second time that day smelling like coffee and exhausted. He’d needed to stop in at work for a few hours after they’d gotten home from breakfast at the house with the others. When he’d left, Taemin had mentioned something about consulting his tarot deck while he was still brimming with energy.
He absently picked at a coffee stain on his t-shirt as he walked into their living room. It had been a long day, and between getting up early, talking with everyone at Junmyeon’s house and having to cover for the last half of a co-worker’s shift last minute, he was exhausted. “Taemin, I’m home!” he called, rounding the corner from the entry into the living room.
Jongin, when he looked up, found Taemin staring blankly into a trash can, his face lit with a flickering orange glow.
“Taemin,” Jongin began, very patiently. “What are you burning?”
“My tarot deck.”
“Again? Why? You just bought that deck a month ago.”
Taemin turned to face him, his face devoid of emotion. “They asked for it.”
Jongin opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again and finally managed to eek out his questions. “What happened? What did you see?”
“Oh, nothing worth mentioning,” Taemin said, nonchalant. He glared at the trash can. “This deck was too grim. Kept telling me everyone was going to die.”
Jongin chuckled low under his breath, walking over to gather Taemin up in his arms. “Aren’t you supposed to pay attention when the cards tell you things like that?”
Taemin snorted and pressed his forehead into Jongin’s neck. “If this deck were a person, I probably would have killed them with my own hands. These cards were a mess.” Jongin felt him shrug. “Besides, I’ve got a new deck I’ve been meaning to break in.”
Jongin pulled away from Taemin slightly, just enough to lean down and capture his mouth in a light kiss. “You’ve got to stop burning them, babe. Our apartment smells like a campfire.”
Taemin scrunched his nose cutely. “I’d stop burning my decks if they’d start cooperating.” He rested his head back on Jongin’s shoulder and looked down at the trashcan by their feet and watching as the last of the flames flickered out.
“Come on, little witch,” Jongin said, lifting Taemin off the floor. “I want to help you chase away all the grim things your cards told you today.”
Taemin giggled and wound his arms around Jongin’s neck, his feet dangling as Jongin carried him back into their room. “I can’t wait.”
Jongin breathed in Taemin’s smile, swallowed the sound of his giggles as he kissed him back into the sheets, and basked in the fresh pine scent lingering around him.
It was good to be home.
Junmyeon was not used to having Minseok around for a whole weekend. He almost always had a shift at the hospital over weekends, so having him home was a pleasant change.
“Junmyeonnie I can’t breathe,” Minseok gasped from beneath him, wriggling as he tried to get free.
Junmyeon hummed and leaned up on his elbows. “Better?” he asked, kissing Minseok lightly on the nose. They were cuddled up on a push settee in their private parlor, mid-morning sunlight streaming into the room as they lay together under a fleece blanket.
“Not really.” Minseok frowned. “I need to get up and clean.”
Junmyeon settled his weight more firmly across Minseok’s torso, their legs slotting together, and the blanket wound tight around their hips. “You don’t need to clean. It’s your day off. Cuddle me.”
“There are so many more people though now,” Minseok groaned. “I need to make sure breakfast has been cleaned up and that the dining room table has been wiped down, and—”
Junmyeon shut Minseok up with a kiss, one hand cupping Minseok’s jaw to keep him from pulling away. Junmyeon kissed him until Minseok was responding eagerly, his lips hungrily meeting Junmyeon’s, all thoughts of cleaning hopefully forgotten.
“You’re so demanding,” Minseok whined as Junmyeon kissed a slow path along his jaw. He hummed low in his throat as Junmyeon teased the spot below his ear lightly with his teeth.
“I want to make sure you love me more than you love a clean house,” Junmyeon whispered against the shell of Minseok’s ear. Minseok shuddered beneath him, and because they were pressed so closely together, he could feel the way Minseok hardened slightly against his hip.
Junmyeon cocked his head at the reaction, pausing against the skin of Minseok’s neck. He nibbled lightly at the skin beneath his lips, thinking. Experimentally, he moved back up and whispered, “You do love me, right?” against Minseok’s ear.
Minseok’s answer was a breathy ‘yes’ as his hands wrapped tighter around Junmyeon’s waist, pulling him closer, but nothing else.
Junmyeon smirked and nibbled at Minseok’s earlobe, flicking his tongue along the outer shell of his ear, earning a pleased hum from Minseok. He leaned in and whispered, “Let’s clean later,” as seductively as he could into Minseok’s ear. He barely managed to keep from laughing, but it was worth it for Minseok’s reaction.
He shuddered beneath Junmyeon, his dick twitching against Junmyeon’s hip. “I hate you,” Minseok groaned, icy fingers digging into the small of Junmyeon’s back.
Junmyeon giggled into his shoulder. “I can’t believe cleaning turns you on more than I do. I should be offended.”
“I really want to clean, Junmyeon,” Minseok replied, making to shove Junmyeon onto the floor.
Junmyeon laughed harder, clinging to Minseok to stay on the couch. “Okay, I’m sorry,” he gasped between giggles, “it’s just so ridiculous.”
Minseok took a breath, presumably to reply, when a knock sounded on the closed door of their parlor. “Minseok, Junmyeon?” Yixing called through the closed door. “Can I talk to you both for a minute?”
Junmyeon lifted his head, his own confusion reflected at him through Minseok’s expression. “Sure,” Minseok called. “The door is open.”
Yixing walked into the room, looking around for a moment before locating them on the settee along the far wall. His eyebrow quirked as he beheld the position they were in, but he didn’t say anything about it. “I have a quick question for you both,” he began, walking over to where they were and sitting on the floor by their heads.
“Okay,” Junmyeon said, resting his chin on Minseok’s chest.
“An old friend of Baekhyun’s reached out to him the other day. He wants to catch up. Baekhyun wants to see him, so I thought I’d take him to a coffee shop nearby so that he could meet up with his friend. Are you both okay with that?”
Junmyeon traded a quick glance with Minseok.
“Of course, Yixing,” Minseok answered. “You don’t have to have our permission to leave the house.”
“I know, but I was talking to Yifan about it and he mentioned that it might not be safe, especially since Baekhyun has almost been captured once before.” Yixing shrugged. “He thought I should run it past the two of you.”
“That’s a good point,” Junmyeon said. He thought for a moment. “Doesn’t Jongin work at a coffee shop? You could hold the meet-up wherever he works, that way you’d have an extra set of eyes looking out for you.”
“Good idea babe.” Minseok ran a hand through Junmyeon’s hair. “Let us know the time and place, Yixing, so that we know where you are.” He shrugged as much as he could while laying down. “As long as you’re careful, and I know you are, I don’t see why not.”
Yixing beamed at them. “Thanks. I really think getting out of the house will do Baekhyun some good, too. I think he’s beginning to feel restless.”
Junmyeon nodded, and Minseok flicked him on the ear as the motion made his chin dig into Minseok’s chest. “I think a few people are feeling that way. I’ve noticed Luhan and Zitao are practically running laps around the house. We need to start doing something to help develop their powers like we did with Baekhyun anyway.”
Yixing hummed in agreement. “It might be good for them to start practicing Korean, too, so that we’re not constantly translating for them.”
“I’ll work up a schedule for them, as well as everyone else, tomorrow morning to help with teaching them the language and greater control over their powers,” Junmyeon offered, his mind already spinning as he started shuffling and arranging the schedules of those in the house.
“Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?” Minseok asked as Yixing stood up.
“Nope, I’ll leave the two of you to…whatever it was you were doing.” Yixing turned with a wave and walked from the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.
“Where were we?” Minseok asked, guiding Junmyeon’s face closer to his again.
Junmyeon hummed and laughed softly against Minseok’s lips. “Right about here,” he whispered as he closed the distance between their lips, happily sinking into an afternoon in the arms of the man he loved.
Baekhyun was slowly growing used to the darkness of the world around him. It was easier to bear, now that his powers were filling in some of the gaps, allowing him to see the people around him and, in some moments, the outlines of the rooms he was in.
But allowing his power to suffuse the darkness behind his eyes with shape and form was exhausting. Most nights it was all he could do to crawl into bed, Yixing’s arms around him as he fell into sleep. Yixing insisted that he was still healing, at least mentally, but Baekhyun was beginning to get tired of doing nothing but, ironically, sleeping and eating all day.
“Good news,” Yixing said, walking into the room.
Baekhyun jumped, too absorbed in his thoughts to have heard Yixing coming. “Yeah?” He stretched out his power enough to sense where Yixing was in the room, although even that was enough to have a headache starting behind his eyes.
Yixing sat on the edge of the bed close to where Baekhyun was, a hand coming to rest gently on his ankle. Baekhyun managed to keep from flinching in surprise—he’d been too focused on trying to make out the details of Yixing’s face to notice what his hands were doing.
“I found a way for you to meet up with Taehyung. We’ll do it at the coffee shop Jongin works at, that way we’re not inviting him here, but you can still meet up with him and have more than myself watching your back.”
“Really?” Excitement rose quickly enough that he was sure Yixing could feel it, even through the fog of sleepiness blanketing his emotions. He opened his arms in invitation, humming when Yixing slid between his legs and wrapped his arms around Baekhyun’s waist, cuddling close.
“It might be difficult for you, with so many people around and the way your power works now, but I thought you’d be glad for the chance to get out of this house.” Yixing pressed his cheek into the side of Baekhyun’s neck, his breath ghosting over Baekhyun’s skin as he lay there.
“Thank you for setting this up, Yixing. I really appreciate it.” Baekhyun closed his eyes and cut off his power, the world going dark as he lay beneath Yixing. He could feel his heartbeat against his chest, the expansion of Yixing’s ribs under his hands with every breath. Yixing hummed in response to his thanks.
It was a long, quiet moment, and Baekhyun felt himself slipping into a deeper, more tranquil state of being. Yixing was warm and solid above him, a comforting weight that grounded Baekhyun and made him feel safe and protected, if not a little squished.
Yixing shifted, some of his weight lifting off Baekhyun as he probably shifted up to his elbows. The soft kisses landing on his cheeks, eyelids, nose and lips placed Yixing hovering above Baekhyun, full contact between their bodies returning when Yixing rested more solidly against Baekhyun once more as he lingered at his lips, drawing out the kiss.
Ever since they’d met, Baekhyun had wanted to touch Yixing, run his hands through his hair and along his skin, get lost in him until he didn’t know what it felt like to be apart from him. Now that their bond had settled into place everything he’d wanted was coming true.
Yixing kissed him like they had forever with each other, slow and deep, thorough enough that Baekhyun was certain he knew the exact shape of his lips and teeth by heart. Yixing kissed him like there was nothing else he wanted to do, and Baekhyun melted under the attention every time. He sighed when Yixing tugged at his bottom lip, rolling it lightly between his teeth before moving back in to sweep a possessive tongue along the back of his teeth.
He wound his hands around Yixing’s neck to card his fingers through the soft strands of his hair. It was long enough now for Baekhyun to tug gently, earning an appreciative hum from Yixing that vibrated against his lips.
They continued like that for a while, kissing lazily and without urgency, until Yixing slowly began to wind the kiss down, like he did every night. But Baekhyun didn’t want him to slow down. He didn’t want Yixing to treat him like he was still injured and healing. He wasn’t. He was healthy and strong and much too impatient to put up with another night of Yixing treating him like porcelain.
Baekhyun pulled Yixing closer instead of letting him up, swallowing down the sound of surprise Yixing made as Baekhyun swept into Yixing’s mouth, urging the kiss deeper and coaxing Yixing into responding until Yixing was controlling the kiss. His hand was cradling Baekhyun’s face, holding him still as he delved deeper into his mouth until Yixing was filling all his senses.
“Baek,” Yixing moaned against the skin of his neck, sucking and nipping along the length of his jaw. Baekhyun rolled his hips up against Yixing’s in encouragement, using his grip in Yixing’s hair to keep him against his neck when he tried to move back to his lips. It felt good to have Yixing’s warm mouth against his neck, no doubt leaving several marks there as he worked the skin between his teeth and tongue.
“Don’t stop,” Baekhyun pleaded as Yixing slowed the kisses against his neck. Hesitancy from Yixing zipped along their bond, brief, but there nonetheless. “Yixing,” Baekhyun said, sliding his hands from Yixing’s hair to cup his face between his palms. He released all his pent-up desire for Yixing, all his want and need for him, and let it flood the bond. Yixing shivered and hardened against him as Baekhyun’s emotions momentarily took over their bond. “Please.”
Yixing pressed their foreheads together. “Are you sure, Baek?”
Baekhyun opened his eyes and looked directly where he knew Yixing’s would be, briefly allowing his power to illuminate Yixing to be certain he was looking him in the eye. Yixing shivered again at the direct eye contact even though he knew Baekhyun couldn’t see him. “I’m sure, Yixing. Please.”
Yixing moved off Baekhyun. He mourned the loss of heat and let his eyes slip back shut as he listened to Yixing moving around the room. He flinched slightly when one of Yixing’s hands slipped beneath the hem of his shirt, followed by the other as he helped Baekhyun out of it. He reached out blindly for Yixing, muffling a squeak of surprise when one of Yixing’s hands wrapped around his wrist and guided it to his chest. Baekhyun’s fingertips slid over warm, smooth skin, and he quickly pressed his palms up and over Yixing’s collarbones, splaying his hands over the supple skin of his shoulder blades as he pulled Yixing down to him.
Yixing captured his mouth in another kiss, this one immediately more heated and intense than the last one they’d shared. Baekhyun kissed him for a moment, relishing the feeling of Yixing’s skin against his as Yixing trailed his hands down Baekhyun’s ribs.
Baekhyun gasped as Yixing dipped his fingers under the waistband of his sweats, pulling away from the kiss to hide his blush in Yixing’s neck.
“Relax, baby,” Yixing urged, speaking lowly into Baekhyun’s ear. “I’ve got you.”
Baekhyun sighed against his neck, a spike of pleasure zipping through the bond when he did, and Baekhyun smirked in realization before he began kissing Yixing’s neck. Yixing shuddered above him at the attention, gasping and rolling his hips firmly against Baekhyun’s when he bit down on the skin below Yixing’s ear.
Yixing’s fingers dipped further below his waistband, digging into Baekhyun’s hip with his fingertips before pulling his hands away completely, moving just slightly away from Baekhyun so that he was close enough for Baekhyun to feel hovering above him, but out of reach once more. Baekhyun flinched as Yixing’s warm breath ghosted along his skin, leaving warm trails down his ribs, over his nipples, along his collarbones.
Baekhyun’s body tingled with the sensation, his skin warming and cooling rapidly as Yixing continued to do nothing more than breathe on him. It was confusing and arousing and Baekhyun didn’t know what was going on anymore. He started to reach out tentative threads of his power, only to get a sense of where Yixing was and what he was doing, only to have Yixing lace the fingers of one of their hands together and squeeze.
“Stop that. You’re straining your powers too much. Shut if off or I’m stopping right now and we’re going to sleep.”
Baekhyun opened his mouth to protest before shutting it again. He didn’t want to stop, especially not when he was already hard in his sweatpants from Yixing’s teasing. With a sigh, he released his hold on his power, surrendering once more to the darkness. He squeezed Yixing’s hand when it felt like he might pull his fingers away, needing the grounding feeling that came with that touch. The darkness was vast and somewhat scary, and he felt constantly adrift in a sea of his own thoughts. Having Yixing’s hand in his made it much easier to remember which way was up and reminded him to keep breathing, even though Yixing’s breath ghosting lower down his torso made his speed up.
He didn’t know what Yixing was going to do next, and his entire body felt vulnerable as a result, a buzzing under his skin that zipped from their entwined fingers to his core, then down to his toes. Yixing pressed his lips to Baekhyun’s hipbone and he gasped with the pleasure that hummed through him at the contact, his head going light at the sensation.
“Yixing,” he sighed, as Yixing’s tongue traced up from his hip, barely touching his skin, all the way up to his chest. He whined low in the back of his throat as Yixing hummed in response, placing a lingering, wet kiss to his nipple.
Baekhyun lost track of time as Yixing continued to map out the exposed planes of Baekhyun’s body with his mouth, his nerves humming in anticipation as he waited for each kiss, each slow drag of Yixing’s tongue along his ribs, each puff of warm air as he cooled the wet trails he’d left along Baekhyun’s skin. He felt like a string wound tighter and tighter, ready to snap at the first hard tug.
He became aware of the low whines that were hovering in the back of his throat, vibrating against the back of his teeth as he tried to keep from whining loudly every time Yixing did anything. It was a battle he was quickly losing.
“Yixing, please,” he pleaded, shivering as Yixing licked a path up the side of his neck.
“You look so perfect,” Yixing hummed against the shell of his ear, nibbling his way down to the lobe before lifting away. Baekhyun flinched when Yixing’s mouth landed back at one of his nipples, teasing lightly with his teeth. “I could do this forever. I want to kiss every inch of your skin.”
Baekhyun moaned quietly as Yixing sucked hard at the skin of his hip, teeth tracing the curve of the bone fleetingly.
“This is what you deserve, baby.” Yixing used his free hand to run it up Baekhyun’s side, then back down again to rest at the waistband of Baekhyun’s sweats.
“Please Yixing—I’m—my whole body feels like its o-on fire. Please touch me.” He was hard and straining in his briefs, so worked up from Yixing’s worship of his body that he couldn’t think past anything but the desire coursing through him.
Yixing tapped lightly at his hip, untangling their hands to help Baekhyun lift his hips and slide his sweats and underwear off. Baekhyun shivered as Yixing’s hands slid back up his torso, one hand finding his own against the sheets to tangle their fingers together once more. It was an anchoring hold, something for Baekhyun to stay tethered to as Yixing began kissing and exploring his newly exposed skin.
Baekhyun gasped when Yixing nipped at his inner thigh, the sensation surprising him as Yixing soothed away the brief sting with wet, warm kisses. He squirmed against the sheets as Yixing focused on a particular spot, just below where his hip met his thigh, and sucked a mark into his skin. Satisfaction bloomed through their bond when Yixing lifted away from his skin.
“You look gorgeous like this,” Yixing murmured in their strange blend of languages. His hand stroked down the inside of Baekhyun’s thigh, and Baekhyun spread them slightly, wanting Yixing closer.
“More, Yixing,” Baekhyun sighed, squeezing Yixing’s hand to urge him on. “I want to feel you.”
Yixing hummed low in his throat, his free hand working with his lips as he kept up a constant barrage of kisses and touches that were everywhere except where Baekhyun wanted it most. He was aching to be touched, hard enough that all he could think about was Yixing’s hand around him, satisfying him the way he wanted.
Yixing was relentless, teasing Baekhyun as he grew more and more frustrated, desperation for relief slowly starting to taint the buzz of pleasure coursing through their bond. “Yixing, please,” Baekhyun begged, his hand tracing the line of Yixing’s arm up until he could grasp the hair at his nape, tugging harshly. “Touch me.”
Yixing muttered something in Chinese that Baekhyun interpreted loosely into “fuck.” His hand brushed lightly over Baekhyun’s cock, barely contacting the skin but Baekhyun was enough on edge that he arched up into the touch with a broken moan. Instead of keeping it there, however, Yixing trailed his fingers down to tease lightly at Baekhyun’s rim. His fingers were gone as quickly as they came, and then Yixing wasn’t touching him at all, and Baekhyun was adrift in the darkness once more.
He could sense Yixing shifting on the bed, moving around him, but he focused more on slowing his breathing and calming down while he had the chance. Without Yixing touching him he was more aware of himself, and the whining he’d been doing in the back of his throat. He could feel Yixing’s anticipation humming through him, the simmering excitement between them both that made it difficult to relax. It was a lot of sensation all at once, and Baekhyun took a few steadying breaths to keep himself relaxed and as calm as possible.
Without warning, Yixing licked up the length of his cock in the same moment he slipped a finger inside him, making Baekhyun cry out in surprise and pleasure as he finally got attention where he wanted it most.
Yixing was relentless as he prepped Baekhyun. His mouth never stopped working over Baekhyun’s cock as he worked one, two, three fingers inside him. Every time Baekhyun would fist his hands into Yixing’s hair in warning, Yixing would let his cock slip free from his mouth and his fingers slow inside Baekhyun until he was away from the edge of release before diving back in.
“Yixing, I—I’m—oh my—I—I can’t, hnngh it’s so—” Baekhyun didn’t even know what he was trying to say. It was all he could do to force the garbled words past his lips as he panted and writhed under Yixing.
His mouth came off in an instant. “Too much?”
Baekhyun took a breath, then another. He wanted to say yes because Yixing’s mouth on him felt like being slowly pulled apart like warm taffy, his limbs already limp and exhausted as Yixing wrung sensation and pleasure from his body. But if he said yes, Yixing wouldn’t put his mouth back on him, wouldn’t keep rubbing slow circles into that one spot inside Baekhyun that made his hips buck with every brush against it, and it would be a shame to be without that pleasure. “No,” he finally said, the word more of a whine than anything else.
It was also a lie, but Yixing didn’t need to know that.
Yixing leaned up and kissed Baekhyun on the lips once, softly. “Hey,” he said against Baekhyun’s mouth, “you have to be honest with me babe, let me know if it’s too much, okay? I don’t want to overwhelm you.”
Warmth spread through Baekhyun underneath his arousal, and he sent gratitude skittering down the bond before pulling Yixing back down for a kiss. “It’s…a lot,” Baekhyun whispered into Yixing’s neck, gasping as Yixing rubbed his fingers against Baekhyun’s walls. “I’m—I’ve never—this is new for me.”
Yixing stilled above him. “Another night, then,” he said after a moment, letting his fingers slip free of Baekhyun. “We’ll work up to that.”
Baekhyun whined at the loss, suddenly feeling empty and not enjoying the feeling. “Don’t stop, please,” Baekhyun pleaded, wrapping both arms around Yixing’s neck and keeping him from pulling away. “I want you, I just, I’m not sure how—” He cut off, inadequacy welling within as he struggled to articulate what he was thinking. It was difficult to think through the haze of pleasure Yixing had woven around and through Baekhyun, but he could feel the fear of letting Yixing down rising steadily as tears pricked behind his eyes.
“It’s okay, Baek,” Yixing soothed, shifting until Baekhyun’s legs were together instead of around his waist. Waves of reassurance and calm radiated through their bond from Yixing, easing away his fear. “We’ll do it like this.” A hand slid between Baekhyun’s closed legs, slicking up his thighs with lube. “Roll onto your side for me, baby.”
Baekhyun did as Yixing asked, a sound of surprise slipping free as Yixing shifted to spoon him from behind before snapping his hips forward, his cock sliding easily between Baekhyun’s legs. Yixing had one hand on Baekhyun’s hip, holding him firmly in place, the other slipped under his neck to wrap around to his chest from behind, keeping him pinned. Still, Baekhyun arched as Yixing’s cock slipped between his thighs and rubbed along his own with every thrust.
“You feel unbelievable,” Yixing groaned, mouthing against the skin of Baekhyun’s shoulder.
Baekhyun squeezed his thighs tighter together, Yixing grunting praise against the nape of his neck when his cock caught briefly against Baekhyun’s rim before sliding past. “Nnngghh, shit,” Baekhyun gasped as arousal spiked through him.
Next time, they were going to be doing this differently.
The friction of Yixing’s cock against his rim and balls was just enough to have the coil of pleasure winding tighter through Baekhyun, his hands fisting in the sheets as Yixing rolled his hips faster. “You’re amazing,” He panted into the skin of Baekhyun’s neck and shoulder, their heavy breathing one of the only sounds in the room besides the soft moans slipping from Baekhyun.
Yixing relinquished his hold on Baekhyun’s hip in favor of fisting his cock. “Ah!” Baekhyun gasped, clenching around Yixing between his legs.
Two strokes later and Baekhyun was coming apart, Yixing holding him steady and anchoring him physically as Baekhyun was swept away in waves of pleasure. Yixing came not long after, just as Baekhyun was coming back to the present, and the burst of pleasure through their bond had Baekhyun’s cock twitching as he experienced Yixing’s orgasm second-hand.
“Okay?” Yixing asked, after a long moment of nothing but their gradually slowing breathing breaking the silence. “That was incredible, baby,” he whispered against the nape of Baekhyun’s neck. “You’re stunning.”
Every part of Baekhyun was humming in pleasure, contentment coursing through him. Yixing’s arms tightened around him, keeping him close despite the sticky mess between his thighs and over their hands.
Instead of replying, Baekhyun squirmed in Yixing’s hold until he could reach Yixing’s neck with his lips, slowly working his way up his jaw until he could kiss him deep and slow. It was there, on the tip of his tongue, a three-word confession he could whisper against Yixing’s lips. It was soon but Baekhyun couldn’t help how he felt even if he wouldn’t voice those feelings, not yet.
Warmth and fondness and something very close to love flooded into him from Yixing, and that told him everything he needed to know right now.
They had time, and he would tell Yixing he loved him when he was certain.
He had time.
The morning after the meeting found Jongin back at the house with Taemin in his arms. He had gotten a text from Yifan late last night asking if he could come by the house early the next morning, instructing him to bring Taemin if he was available.
“Where do you think they’ll be?” Taemin asked softly, looking around the empty foyer. It was the only room in the house that Jongin felt he could teleport to with confidence.
“I’m not sure,” Jongin replied, tightening his arms around Taemin’s waist to keep him anchored in place. Yifan’s text had seemed…ominous at best, and Jongin didn’t want to lose sight of Taemin. He didn’t think they were in any real danger, but he didn’t quite trust everyone yet. It was a little too soon for that.
“Should we look around?” Taemin grinned at him. “I’m curious as to what is in this house. It’s huge! I bet if we look we could find a secret passage or two.”
Jongin was tempted, and about to cave under Taemin’s enthusiasm when Yifan appeared around the back of the stairs and stepped into the foyer. “Oh, excellent. You’re both here.” He gestured for them to follow him through the dining room to their right. “The sun room is wonderful this time of day, so we’ll meet in there.”
Jongin and Taemin traded a look and linked their hands before following Yifan through the dining room, across the hall, and into an oval shaped room with a glass ceiling. Dark wood floors were mostly obscured by thick patterned rugs that Jongin’s feet sunk into pleasantly, and there were several small tables and armchairs that matched the wood and complemented the rugs nicely.
“Oh, wow,” Taemin whispered, slightly awestruck as he gazed up at the honest-to-fuck tower looming above them, visible through the glass ceiling.
“What is this place?” Jongin asked, still staring at the tower. It had to have at least three stories in addition to the second floor where it started. “Some kind of castle?”
Yifan followed their gazes and snorted in amusement. “I think so. I’ve never seen anything like this place. I’m half convinced we’re in an alternate reality or something.”
Jongin cocked an eyebrow. “Or something.” He wound his way around the furniture to sit in an armchair, Taemin following him to sit in an adjacent one. “What did you want to talk to us about?”
Yifan took a seat across from them. “I wanted to talk primarily with Taemin, actually.”
Taemin glanced quickly at Jongin before addressing Yifan. “About what?”
Yifan looked uncertain for a split-second before settling into a more determined expression. “I want to know what you know.”
“That’s pretty vague,” Jongin hedged. He wasn’t sure what Yifan was looking for, or why he wanted to know. Taemin was powerful, and while he trusted Yifan to keep them safe, probably, he didn’t trust Yifan enough to tell him exactly what Taemin could do.
“I know a lot of things,” Taemin supplied, reaching out to lace his fingers with Jongin’s. “You’re going to have to be more specific.”
Yifan rubbed a hand through his hair and sighed. “How much of the future can you see? How much foresight do you have?”
Taemin quirked an eyebrow. “How do you know so much about seers?”
“I don’t know much.” Yifan shrugged and chewed at his lip for a moment before continuing. “Yixing’s grandmother is a seer, although not nearly as powerful as you seem to be. She could only ever tell us when something bad was coming, or if we were in immediate danger.”
Taemin nodded slowly before leveling Jongin with a look that said, “How much do we trust him?”
Jongin shrugged. Honestly? He had no idea. He nodded at Taemin, a gesture that meant, “Tell him whatever you want.”
Taemin faced Yifan and took a deep breath before launching into an explanation. “I can do a lot of things. I’m most powerful when I’m seeing through other mediums, like tarot cards or the few times I’ve used simple rituals to channel power.
“In an ordinary day, when I don’t intentionally seek out any foresight, I’ll get impressions of things that my loved ones should or shouldn’t do, little things to help my days go smoother. I’ll know which routes to take to avoid subway delays or tell Jongin to be careful not to trip. Little things like that. If I’m intentionally looking for future knowledge I can see outcomes to my days or weeks.”
“Are your gifts only in relation to yourself and those around you?” Yifan interrupted, elbows resting on his knees and he leaned forward to listen to Taemin.
“No.” Taemin shook his head. “However, the broader I’m trying to see, the more power it takes. Looking forward into the state of the world around me is something I can’t do without using another medium. I’ll habitually do a tarot reading on the gifted community at large about once a month as a way of keeping tabs.” He shot another look Jongin’s way. “Which is how I knew we were going to be in danger soon, Jongin specifically.”
Yifan raised an eyebrow. “Danger? What kind?”
Taemin pursed his lips. “I don’t know. But that reading, along with the channeling Jongin and I did yesterday, was enough to tell me that a storm is coming. A big one. You’ll need to fight, and things will get worse before they get better.” He tucked his hair behind his ear. “I never look for specifics because the future is too fluid to predict with any degree of accuracy, but the sense of danger remained constant.”
“Normally, his readings aren’t this grim.” Jongin rubbed a soothing hand in circles between Taemin’s shoulders. “But lately everything he sees has been progressively darker.”
Yifan steepled his hands in front of his mouth, brows furrowed in thought. “Well, this is not exactly what I was hoping to hear.”
Taemin and Jongin shrugged in tandem.
“Anything else?” Yifan asked.
Jongin looked to Taemin and saw, so brief he wasn’t sure, a flash of uncertainty that told him Taemin knew something else. He didn’t say anything about it. He was used to Taemin knowing more than he let on. He would tell Jongin if it became necessary. Until then…
“No, nothing else,” Taemin replied, smiling gently.
Yifan nodded and began to say something, halting when Yixing walked into the room.
“Jongin! I’m glad I caught you while you’re here.” Yixing made his way over to where they were and folded himself neatly onto the floor in front of them, legs crossed. “I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Uh, okay?” Jongin blinked, a bit startled by Yixing’s straightforward nature. “What is it?”
“Would you be able to take Baekhyun and I to work with you tomorrow?”
Jongin’s eyebrows lifted. “I mean, yeah I guess.”
“Why?” Taemin inquired because he was the smarter one between the two of them, clearly.
“An old friend of Baekhyun’s wanted to meet up, and I want us to be safe, so I thought that if you teleported us to your work it would be the best option. I’d be there, and you as well for backup.”
Jongin bit his lip, looked at Taemin.
“Up to you, babe,” Taemin supplied, unhelpfully. His tone was light, but Jongin could see a tightness to his eyes the betrayed his concern.
Or his dread over something else he knew about.
He was frustratingly difficult to read sometimes.
Jongin turned back to Yixing. “Okay, sure. What time is your meeting? I’ll pop by and get you during a break at work.”
Yixing beamed, standing back up. “Great! We agreed to meet his friend at eleven, so a few minutes before would be fine.”
“I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Luhan was laying on his bed, reading a book he’d found in one of the libraries, when it happened.
His ears popped like he was on an airplane, and Jongin appeared at the foot of his bed.
This time, instead of screaming in surprise at Jongin’s presence in his room, Luhan closed his book and sat up, calmly looking at a confused Jongin.
“I’m sorry,” he said, slowly enough for Luhan to piece the language together. “I meant to appear in the kitchen, not your room.”
Luhan should be mad, or upset, or something. Instead all he felt was calm. Jongin wasn’t available to him, he was with Taemin. But Luhan couldn’t help the pull he felt toward Jongin. It was something that had awoken in him the moment Jongin touched him for the first time last week, and now that he knew what it was he couldn’t ignore it.
He got up and walked around to where Jongin was standing at the foot of his bed, stopping once he was close enough to touch, but not quite encroaching on Jongin’s personal space. They were about the same height, so it was easy for Luhan to catch and hold Jongin’s gaze.
Luhan tentatively pressed his hand against Jongin’s chest, right by his heart. “You feel what I feel?” he asked, trying to be as clear as possible with him limited knowledge of the language. “Here?” He tapped between Jongin’s ribs with a finger to emphasize his point.
Jongin shivered beneath his touch, understanding flaring in his eyes. “What is this?”
Luhan shrugged. He knew what Taemin had confirmed for him, but he didn’t have the words to explain that to Jongin if he didn’t already know.
Jongin’s phone began to ring, and he pulled it from a pocket and answered it, his eyes never leaving Luhan’s. “Yes? Yeah, I know.” A pause as whoever was on the other line said something. “Be right there.” He hung up the phone and pocketed it, still looking at Luhan.
Luhan gazed calmly back, Jongin’s heartbeat under his palm rapid and quick. “I have to go,” Jongin said, right before he vanished with a soft pop, Luhan’s hand resting against empty air.
Luhan’s fingers closed around nothing but air, his grasp empty, and while he’d never been able to go to college he was pretty sure that was a metaphor for something.
This time, when Luhan showed up in Zitao’s room looking like he’d just watched a puppy die, Zitao cut him off at the pass.
“I’m not sneaking out with you…again.” He paused in his sketching to glance at Luhan, pencil stilling on the paper.
Luhan scowled, slinking over to the bean bag in the far corner of Zitao’s room and flopping onto it face first. “I wasn’t going to sneak out.” He sighed into the bean bag, his voice muffled. “I need something to distract me.”
Zitao hummed in understanding. “Did you have another moment with Jongin?”
Luhan rolled over and sat up, narrowing his eyes at Zitao. “What are you talking about?”
“That thing Yixing-gē and Yifan-gē were talking about a few days ago? The bond thing? That’s what Jongin is to you, right?” Zitao set aside the sketchbook Junmyeon-gē had given him a few days ago when he’d found out Zitao liked to draw.
“How do you know that, about Jongin?” Luhan frowned.
Zitao shrugged. “Because when I met Sehun-gē it was the same with him. What you have with Jongin is the same as what I have with Sehun-gē. Well, it’s close, anyway.”
“Except Sehun-gē isn’t happy with someone else.”
“No,” Zitao replied slowly. “I suppose that would be more difficult.”
Luhan folded his arms. “I don’t want to talk about this. Want to watch a movie with me?”
Which was how Zitao found himself in the basement, working up the courage to interrupt whatever Junmyeon was watching to ask if he and Luhan could watch a movie.
“Uh, Junmyeon-gē?” Zitao asked hesitantly, walking around the plush couch so he could talk with Junmyeon directly. Luhan was close behind him, his fist balled in the back of Zitao’s shirt.
Junmyeon looked away from the screen that took up the entire far wall. A brief glance at the screen showed some white guy lining up a putt on the green. “Hey, you two,” he said with an easy smile. “What are you guys up to?”
Zitao bit his lip. “Would it be okay if Luhan and I watched a movie down here?” Zitao stumbled over a few of the words, but it looked like Junmyeon understood him well enough.
He smiled up at them both. “Of course, if I can join you? I’ll show you where we keep the movies.” He stood up and led them over to racks of DVDs in the back corner of the room. “Pick whatever you like, I’ll get blankets and some popcorn.”
Luhan was already picking through the different cases, so Zitao gave Junmyeon a nod and turned to look with Luhan as Junmyeon left the room. There were a lot of options, and nothing that either of them had seen. They looked like a combination of Korean and American movies. They were finally able to settle on something that they were both interested in, that happened to have Chinese subtitles.
“I hope you don’t mind, I picked up some company on my way back down here.” Junmyeon’s voice had them both turning around to find Yifan, Kyungsoo, Jongdae, and Sehun with Junmyeon.
Luhan handed the movie they’d chosen to Junmyeon before grabbing a blanket from Kyungsoo and wrapping himself up in a corner of the couch.
Yifan settled into the opposite corner from Luhan while Kyungsoo and Jongdae curled up together in a lovesac off to the side of the couch. Zitao sat next to Luhan and huddled close to him, giving comfort the only way he knew Luhan would accept it. To his surprise, Sehun sat next to him, squishing closer when Junmyeon sat between him and Yifan and started the movie.
As the movie began, Luhan shrugged Zitao’s head off his shoulder, nudging him closer to Sehun instead of himself.
A quick glance at Sehun showed him focused on the screen, and Zitao spent the next few minutes of the movie slowly curling his legs up onto the couch, tilting them slowly until they rested on Sehun’s thigh. Sehun’s attention didn’t shift from the screen, but one of his hands drifted over to rest lightly on Zitao’s knee, his thumb brushing over his kneecap through his jeans and making something spark between them.
Slowly, Zitao tilted his head in increments to rest it on Sehun’s shoulder. It was weird, the feeling of wanting to be closer while also knowing that he knew next to nothing about Sehun. Despite that, he still craved being closer.
Sehun shifted next to him, sitting up straighter on the couch, startling Zitao slightly as his shoulder brushed the side of his head. Zitao shifted down, curling in more toward Sehun and allowing his head to rest fully on Sehun’s shoulder. A glance up at Sehun showed the hint of a smile, and warmth fluttered through him as Sehun squeezed his knee.
Content, Zitao turned his attention back to the movie, basking in the comfort of the moment.
I was right. Chapter ten took me a while. But I finished it today!! I'd expect a similar wait time between the next few chapters, depending on how life/ideas go. Some chapters are easier than others.
thank you for the lovely comments and support!! I appreciate the love, please continue to let me know how i'm doing <3
Chapter 8: overpowering and shadowing
comments and kudos are much appreciated!! We're starting to get into the real stuff now, so enjoy and let me know what you think! <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I never want to do that again,” Yixing muttered, his voice low in Baekhyun’s ear.
“Is it always like that?” Baekhyun asked Jongin, feeling a little unsteady on his feet.
“Like what?” Jongin replied, sounding far too smug in Baekhyun’s opinion.
“Like I was split apart into a thousand pieces and then put back together, not necessarily in the right order,” Yixing griped. He laced his fingers with Baekhyun’s as he complained, giving him something to latch onto.
According to Jongin, he’d teleported them into the alley by the shop he worked at. It was hot, the pavement beneath his feet radiating the heat from late summer, and the taste of rain was on the air, a sure sign that a storm was going to hit sometime soon. Baekhyun wasn’t using his power to see, half afraid that he’d be overwhelmed with so much around him.
“You’ll get used to it,” Jongin said in reply to Yixing, drawing Baekhyun’s attention back to the conversation. “Anyway, I’m going to be late, let’s get inside.”
Yixing dropped Baekhyun’s hand in favor of looping his arm around Baekhyun’s, making it easier for Baekhyun to follow Yixing’s lead. “You’re the one who wasted time talking to Luhan,” Baekhyun retorted. “If you’re late to work it’s your own fault. We were ready on time.”
Jongin snorted, and Baekhyun wished he could stretch out his power to see what his face was doing.
“Step up,” Yixing instructed softly, guiding Baekhyun into the café. A chilled gust of air caressed his skin as he walked into the café, and he could hear Taehyung’s excited screech a second later. “Incoming,” Yixing muttered a second before another body crashed into Baekhyun.
“Baek! It’s been so long!” Taehyung half-shouted directly into Baekhyun’s ear. He was slightly taller that Baekhyun now.
“I know! How are you, Tae?”
“I’m good! Come on, let’s sit and catch up. Who’s your friend? I have a table right over here.”
Baekhyun laughed as he was quickly reacquainted with Taehyung’s stream of chatter. “This is my boyfriend Yixing.”
There was a sound that was suspiciously like Taehyung tripping and catching himself on a table. “Your what?”
Yixing patiently guided Baekhyun into a chair before sitting next to him, keeping a hand on his knee, amusement beginning to seep into their bond.
“My boyfriend. He’s Chinese,” Baekhyun supplied, curtailing the questions he knew Taehyung would have. “His Korean isn’t great yet, so don’t throw a ton of complex language at him.”
“Nice to meet you, Taehyung,” Yixing said, his Korean barely accented at all.
“Cool. So, what’s up with your eyes?” Taehyung breezed from one topic to the next, just like he’d always done when they were younger.
Baekhyun started bouncing his knee under the table, unsettled by the lack of any sort of visual stimulation. Being totally dark like this was incredibly difficult, and his brain wanted something to latch onto. He pulled a thin stream of light and wove it around Taehyung’s hand on the table.
“There was an accident,” Baekhyun said easily. He’d run this story by Yixing last night, settling on a story that was close enough to the truth that it was easy to remember. “I had an injury to my head, and I lost my sight.”
He watched, transfixed, as Taehyung’s fingers started to tap a rhythm on the table, the movement of light mesmerizing.
“I’m sorry,” Taehyung said, his voice rich with sympathy. “But…why are they blue now? I thought that didn’t happen?”
Shit. Baekhyun didn’t know how to answer that. Taehyung was right, blind people didn’t have blue eyes unless they were born with blue eyes.
“He’s wearing…lenses?” Yixing said, the words awkward in his mouth.
“You mean contacts?” Taehyung suggested.
“Yeah, that’s what he meant,” Baekhyun jumped in, running with Yixing’s explanation. It was better than he would have come up with. He found Yixing’s hand on his knee and gave it a small squeeze in thanks.
“Cool. Well, what’s new with you?” Taehyung asked, his hand wrapping around whatever drink he’d ordered and lifted it to his mouth to drink. “Other than the whole blind thing, of course.”
Baekhyun shrugged, his eyes tracking the movement of Taehyung’s hand. “Nothing much. I had to drop out of college because of the whole blind thing, which sucks.”
“What did your parents say about that?”
Taehyung brushed overgrown hair behind his ear. Baekhyun frowned slightly. Taehyung was never one to have unkempt hair. He used to say it was annoying and got in his way. But people change. “They didn’t say anything. I haven’t spoken to them since high school.”
“Really?” Taehyung sounded surprised, like he hadn’t been around when everything happened.
“You were there, you don’t remember?”
Curiosity infused Baekhyun from Yixing.
“I remember, I didn’t think they’d still be holding that against you.” A sound that could have been a huff of laughter, or maybe a sigh. “I’m sorry Baekhyun.”
Taehyung’s fingers were tapping the table again. “It’s okay. In their defense, I could have chosen a better way to come out to them.”
“Yeah, anything would have been better than getting caught with your hand down Minho’s pants.”
“Well, if you’re not living on campus, where are you at these days?” A casual gesture between Baekhyun and Yixing. “You crashing at his place?”
“No, nothing like that.” Baekhyun waved off his question. “I’ve got these hyungs who have a really nice house outside the city,” Yixing’s hand squeezed around his knee, “and I’m staying with them while I figure out my next steps.” A thread of concern flavored their bond.
“I’m glad you’re somewhere safe.” Baekhyun had a feeling Taehyung was beaming at him. “You are safe, right?”
Baekhyun nodded, smiling in Taehyung’s general direction. “Yeah, I’m plenty safe.” He tapped more of his power, increasing what he could see as Yixing’s concern flared up stronger. He let enough out that Taehyung was lightly outlined, the movement of his face now visible enough to see general shifts in expression. He kept it tightly restricted to that, though.
It was nearing lunch time, and the café was filling with noise as more people sat at tables around them. The noise around him was already overwhelming enough, no need to add a headache from overstimulation to the mix.
“What about you?” Baekhyun asked, curious as to what Taehyung had been up to.
“Me? Oh, nothing much.” Taehyung laughed, and it sounded a little forced to Baekhyun’s ears. Then again, it had been a few years since he’d last talked to Taehyung. “I’ve been in school mostly. I was dating this girl, but it didn’t end up working out for some reason—she said something about me having too much energy and being hard to keep up with—but my roommates are pretty cool! Kookie did something the other day that had Seokjin laughing for ages, we were sure he was going to die of laughter.”
“Tae, breathe,” Baekhyun reminded, laughing at Taehyung’s exuberance. That certainly hadn’t changed in the last few years.
Taehyung’s shoulders twitched up toward his ears before relaxing. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I still talk a lot when I’m excited.” Another strained laugh.
Yixing’s concern spiked again.
“You guys hungry?”
“No,” Yixing said, just as Baekhyun replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
Baekhyun grinned at Taehyung as he stood up. “I’m going to go order some fries. What do you want?”
Baekhyun rattled off an order to Taehyung before sitting back in his seat and turning to Yixing. “Are you okay? I keep feeling concern from you.” He switched into their hybrid language, hoping to give Yixing’s brain a short rest from the bombardment of Korean around them right now.
Yixing rubbed his hand up and down Baekhyun’s thigh. “I think I’m just being paranoid. I’ve spent too long being suspicious of everybody and I have to keep reminding myself that he’s your friend, not an enemy.” He sighed, placing a quick kiss to the side of Baekhyun’s face. “He’s a bit twitchy and jumpy, and I can’t help but read that as concerning behavior.”
Baekhyun laughed. “No, that’s just Taehyung. He’s always been a bit twitchy and jumpy. You have nothing to worry about.”
“Okay, you know him best.” Yixing rested his forehead against Baekhyun’s neck, doing nothing more than synching their breathing as they both took a brief rest from the noise around them.
“You wouldn’t believe what Hoseok’s boyfriend did the other day,” Taehyung began, his voice reaching Baekhyun before he could register Taehyung sitting back down. There was a series of sounds that must have been plates of food being placed on the table. “He’s my roommate right? Or one of them, I guess. Anyway, Yoongi and Jeongguk have been having this prank war, right, which has been hell on the rest of us, and—”
“Your food is right in front of you,” Yixing said softly as Taehyung kept rambling on about the pranks his roommates were playing on each other. He allowed Yixing to guide his hand to his utensils, smiling as Yixing moved his food around to places he could easily reach. He sent affection coursing down their connection, humming along with Taehyung’s story and letting the soothing presence of an old friend wash over him.
“Rise and shine boys!”
Yifan’s loud call had Zitao jolting awake, throwing off his covers and jumping out of bed, convinced they were under attack, or something. When nothing happened immediately after, Zitao ran a hand through his hair and walked out of his room into the living room between his and Luhan’s room.
Yifan was waiting there for them, Junmyeon at his side.
“What’s going on?” mumbled a barely-awake Luhan as he stumbled out of his own room. “Why is there yelling?”
“Get changed,” Yifan instructed, “training starts in ten minutes.”
“Training?” Zitao squeaked.
Junmyeon smiled, and it was the most disconcerting thing Zitao had ever seen.
That first day, Zitao learned that he didn’t know nearly as much about what he could do as he thought. Junmyeon, through Yifan, taught him so much about control, how to tap into his power, and how to utilize the skills he already had and refine them into something better.
Judging by the way Yifan subtly tested the things Junmyeon was teaching them behind Junmyeon’s back, he was learning a few new things too.
It was exhausting, the exercises Junmyeon put them through, and Zitao collapsed after Junmyeon made him hold the running fountain in the backyard still for a full minute. Or maybe Zitao was weak, but judging by the way Luhan also collapsed after lifting a giant flowerpot right off the back patio and holding it in the air for a full minute, Junmyeon was probably just unnecessarily hard on them.
Sehun appeared in the backyard sometime while Junmyeon had Zitao and Luhan working together to use their powers, and Zitao only caught a few words of what Sehun said, too busy concentrating on freezing the river rock Luhan had lifted from the fountain to send hurtling at his head.
“Good, Taozi,” Yifan translated for Junmyeon. “Can you rewind Luhan’s actions and get the stone back in the fountain?”
Sweat broke out on Zitao’s forehead as he focused on Luhan, isolating the time around him and running it back. Sehun said something as he did so, the stone slowly moving backwards in the air as Zitao turned back time. He almost had the stone back in the water when his control finally snapped, and all his work came undone, time unspooling faster than he’d wound it back. It was all he could do to duck as the stone followed its original path and came hurtling toward him.
There was a yelp, and Zitao whirled around just in time to see Sehun use the wind to redirect the path of the stone, sending it shooting harmlessly past himself and Junmyeon.
“Whoops?” Zitao said sheepishly as Junmyeon scowled at him.
“Let’s stop for today,” Yifan suggested. “I think Luhan and Zitao are too exhausted to make much more progress.”
Junmyeon sighed and nodded. “Let’s break for breakfast, and then start language study.”
Luhan and Zitao groaned in unison once Yifan had translated.
By the end of the third day, Zitao’s brain felt like ground meat. Their mornings so far had been filled with exhausting exercises and techniques to increase their control and abilities that left both himself and Luhan shaky and sapped by the time lunch came. After lunch they spent a few hours learning Korean, Junmyeon enlisting the help of Jongdae to teach them grammar and vocabulary.
At night it was all Zitao could do to crawl into bed, in no way ready to get up and do it again, and yet that’s exactly what he did every time.
By the fifth day Junmyeon had him and Luhan consistently sparring with other members of the house, learning how to use their powers against everyone else’s. Junmyeon had started allowing others to help with their training on day three, which had accelerated their skills more than anything else. Every morning, and now the evenings too depending on when people were free, they were out on the vast back lawn sparing and practicing.
There was nothing like having Chanyeol launch a fireball at his head to motivate him to get faster at freezing things in place while he got out of the way. Or like having Minseok freeze Zitao’s feet in place so he couldn’t dodge the icicles he shot at his chest, fuming when Luhan had to step in and shift them away for him.
Jongin popped in after his shift at work with Taemin in tow, and Junmyeon wasted no time in having Zitao spar with Jongin. It was the most frustrating challenge he’d faced so far, simply because Jongin refused to stay in one spot.
“Stay still,” Zitao growled, trying to freeze Jongin in place so that he could do something, but instead had to endure jab after jab as Jongin teleported all over the place, poking him in the side only to pop out of reach a split-second later with an infuriating smirk.
“Zitao,” Junmyeon called, watching from the fountain where he was standing in the water and working with Chanyeol to help him learn how to fight his biggest weakness, “if you can’t get him pinned on your own, get help.”
“Want a hand?” Sehun’s voice whispered in his ear.
Zitao startled, but Sehun wasn’t behind him—he was across the lawn engaged in a rapid exchange of ice and wind with Minseok.
Jongin popped behind him and smacked him upside the head before disappearing once more to appear next to Taemin across the patio, kissing him quickly and interrupting the conversation he was having with Kyungsoo before calmly walking back over to Zitao. “Ready for more?” he asked with a smirk.
“Help me,” Zitao asked to the empty air, assuming Sehun was listening. To Jongin he said: “Let’s do this.”
Zitao crouched slightly, watching Jongin and bracing for him to appear literally anywhere around him. He saw the twitch of Jongin’s lips the second before he vanished.
“Your left, eight o’clock,” Sehun’s voice whispered.
Zitao lashed out with a hand chop, the side of his hand catching Jongin in the ribs right as he appeared. The shock of the hit landing had Jongin blinking at him in surprise. Zitao pressed his advantage, freezing time around Jongin to keep him in place long enough to get him in a chokehold. “Yield,” he said, dropping the time bubble around Jongin as he spoke, and Jongin twitched in his hold as he suddenly found himself trapped.
Instead of replying Jongin teleported, taking Zitao with him to the other side of the yard. It was the most unpleasant sensation Zitao had ever experienced in his life. He shoved Jongin away from him, stumbling backwards into a shrub in his haste to get away from Jongin and the way his insides felt rearranged.
“You okay kid?” Jongdae smirked down at him, having run over from where he’d been half asleep with is head in Kyungsoo’s lap to help pull him out of the shrub. “You were doing well until the end there.”
“Thanks,” Zitao replied, accepting Jongdae’s help and following him back up the lawn. Jongin had already flashed back to Taemin’s side, his limbs wound around Taemin from behind, making it clear he was done for the day.
Zitao looked around the yard, noticing that everyone else was wrapping up for the night. Luhan and Yifan were walking towards him, although Luhan was concentrating more on Jongin’s arms around Taemin that he was on where he was going.
“You’ve both improved so much already,” Yifan remarked as he joined their group on the patio. He was talking to them in Chinese, meaning these words were for them more than anyone else. “I’m really proud of you both.”
Even though he’d only known Yifan for a few weeks, his praise made satisfaction bloom in Zitao’s chest. Yifan was quickly becoming something of a big brother to him. “Thanks, Yifan-gē.”
Chanyeol came up behind Yifan and wrapped his arms around his waist, resting his head between Yifan’s shoulder blades as Yifan patted Luhan on the shoulder. “You’re both doing very well.”
Luhan offered Yifan a tight smile before looking at the ground, biting his bottom lip.
Zitao frowned but was distracted from whatever was wrong with Luhan by Sehun approaching him. “Thanks for your help,” Zitao said softly, Korean still sitting oddly on his tongue, even though he could speak it marginally better now.
Sehun winked at him. “Happy to. We make a good team.”
Zitao couldn’t think of a response to that, hoping that he wasn’t blushing as something warm and gooey took up residence where his stomach should be. He looked away from Sehun only to catch Taemin watching them with a knowing look.
The doors that led into the great room burst open, Baekhyun walking through them and out onto the patio as he yelled that dinner was ready, ushering them all inside for the night.
On the seventh day, Zitao realized that Junmyeon was not nearly as nice as he first thought he was, probably because Zitao’s grasp of Korean was much better now and he could, subsequently, understand the things Junmyeon was actually saying.
“Luhan, you’re slow.” Junmyeon was whipping tendrils of water at Luhan like some sort of vengeful octopus god on a rampage. “You’ve got to be quicker.”
Even though Zitao had his hands busy with Jongdae and the thin bolts of electricity he kept trying to shock Zitao with—nothing strong enough to do real damage, just enough to zap him unpleasantly—he could still see the tension in Luhan’s shoulders as Junmyeon pushed him harder.
Jongdae landed another hit to Zitao, making him hiss in annoyance. “Don’t lose focus,” Jongdae teased.
“Enough!” Luhan shrieked, throwing up his hands and walking away from Junmyeon, who sent the water he was working with back into the fountain.
Zitao and Jongdae paused, and Zitao was about to go after Luhan—who was storming across the lawn toward the trees at the edge of the property—when Taemin’s hand on his shoulder stopped him in place as Jongin ran past him after Luhan.
“He’s got this one,” Taemin whispered.
“Hey Zitao,” Sehun called, pulling Zitao’s attention away from Jongin and Luhan talking at the tree line. “Wanna team up against Yifan and Chanyeol?”
It was a Sunday, and consequently everyone was there today for what Junmyeon called ‘training’ and Zitao called ‘hell’. Even Minseok was there, although he was currently dozing in one of the patio chairs. He’d worked a double yesterday and everyone could see the pale purple circles under his eyes.
Zitao nodded in answer to Sehun’s question as Chanyeol’s outraged, “Hey, that’s hyung to you. We’re older than you, Sehun.”
Sehun took his place next to Zitao and smirked at Chanyeol, squaring up opposite them with Yifan at his side. “Bring it on, hyungs.”
“Uh, are you sure we can take them?” Zitao asked quietly as Chanyeol and Yifan brought fire to the surface of their skin, flames licking up to their elbows as they pooled fire in their palms. It was mesmerizing to watch.
“Relax,” Sehun reassured. “We’re just as powerful as they are.”
Zitao looked at Sehun and raised an eyebrow, then looked pointedly to where fire was sparking and dancing between Yifan and Chanyeol. “I’m not convinced.”
“Can’t you feel it?” Sehun asked with a curious tilt of his head.
Sehun smiled smugly. “Us.” He pressed a hand to Zitao’s chest, right where the simmering something that had been growing ever since he’d touched Sehun for the first time was. “Don’t you feel it?”
Zitao nodded dumbly, too shocked by Sehun’s casual mention of whatever this was between them because it kind of freaked him out, so he couldn’t really understand how Sehun was so calm about it.
“Like I said,” Sehun continued, dropping his hand. Zitao immediately missed the sensation of Sehun’s touch. “We’re going to be fine.”
“You ready yet, kids?” Chanyeol shouted across the distance between them, right as he launched a wave of fire at them.
Sehun jumped into action, punching a gust of wind right through the wave, splitting it up and forcing it to dissipate into the air around them.
Somewhere closer to the house Jongdae and Baekhyun whooped in excitement while Junmyeon remained close to the fountain, no doubt ready to douse Yifan and Chanyeol in case things got too out of control. Zitao became aware that except for Luhan and Jongin, everyone else was watching him and Sehun face off against Chanyeol and Yifan.
But no pressure, or anything.
Yifan released a coil of flame, whipping it against the ground at Zitao’s feet and making him jump back and focus in completely on the spar. Watching Chanyeol and Yifan work together was incredible. Despite Chanyeol’s tendency to trip over his own feet, they were never once in each other’s way, dancing around one another so perfectly it was like they were two halves of a single unit, rotating their shots to keep up a never-ending barrage of fire toward Zitao and Sehun.
“Let them split us up a little,” Sehun’s voice whispered in Zitao’s ear. A quick glance at him and Zitao could hardly tell he was speaking, his mouth was barely moving. “Wait for my signal, you’ll know what to do.”
Zitao doubted he would know what to do, but Sehun was already moving away from him, and Minseok had told them repeatedly in these training sessions that confidence was key. So Zitao kept freezing the fire coming his way in place until he could move out of the way and hoped that whatever Sehun’s plan was it would work.
As they moved further apart, Chanyeol and Yifan shifted so that their backs were to one another, facing Zitao and Sehun respectively as they pressed their advantage enough to have Zitao worried.
There was a large wall of wind that rushed for Chanyeol and Yifan from Sehun’s side, designed to blow out their flames like candles on a cake. Zitao felt the remnants of the wind on his face right before it came.
“Now, Tao,” Sehun’s whisper came, “freeze them.”
Zitao pushed his power out to wrap it around Chanyeol and Yifan, winding frozen time around them in a tight bubble and holding it as they stilled in place. It took a lot of effort to hold two people frozen, and his outstretched hands started to shake the longer he kept them in stasis.
Sehun jogged over to him, nimbly moving around their frozen opponents and coming up next to Zitao. “Good job, Tao,” he praised. “Can you keep them there and move away from them at the same time?”
“I don’t know,” Zitao gasped, trying to walk backwards while keeping such a huge bubble in place. Chanyeol and Yifan weren’t exactly small, and it was taking everything he had and then some to maintain it.
“Careful, Taozi,” Jongdae called from somewhere behind him. “Don’t drain yourself.”
“Nice and slow,” Sehun urged, placing a hand on Zitao’s elbow as he eased him back, step by step.
Zitao’s vision began to blur at the edges, the world dimming slightly as he strained to keep his focus. Black spots swam in front of his eyes, things going patchy and fuzzy as he fought to hold on to the freeze. He could feel himself going under, his body giving up before he was ready for it, and he grasped at everything within him to keep from losing it, including the bright threads of white light that had been growing recently.
He yanked on everything within, forcing his body to give him every ounce of power he had. Next to him, Sehun gasped and staggered, his grip around Zitao’s elbow tightening like a vise.
His vision was suddenly filled with Junmyeon’s concerned face, breaking his concentration. Chanyeol and Yifan moved back into action, stuttering slightly through half-aborted motions when Zitao’s hold on them vanished.
He swayed in place, trying to stay conscious as he took a deep breath. His vision began to clear slowly, and he became aware of nearly everyone gathered around him and Sehun, who was looking a bit pale.
“What did you guys just do?” Junmyeon asked, looking between Sehun and Zitao, his expression somewhere between concern and disapproval.
“Took us by surprised, that’s for sure,” Chanyeol laughed, coming closer to their group, his hand entwined with Yifan’s. “You two make almost as good of a team as we do.”
“Thanks,” Sehun panted, his hands braced on his knees. “Apparently Zitao can pull power from me which was unpleasant to suddenly experience.”
“I can what?” Zitao wasn’t sure he heard that right, since his Korean was still sketchy at best. “What did I do?”
Sehun looked up at him, an eyebrow raised. “You mean you didn’t do that on purpose?”
“You pulled power from Sehun through your bond,” Taemin said softly from the edge of the circle of people around Zitao.
“Our bond?” Sehun asked, his features scrunching in confusion.
Zitao remained silent. He knew Taemin already knew about what he could feel taking root inside him, but he didn’t have the words or the courage to say something.
“So, they also have a weird soulmate thing like Baekhyun and Yixing do?” Jongdae asked, crossing his arms and looking doubtful. “How many of us are going to end up with a freaky bond thing?”
“Not you,” Taemin replied blandly.
“Oh.” Sehun looked a bit pale again but not…surprised. “I didn’t realize you could see that?”
Taemin looked between Sehun and Zitao, then dryly remarked, “I see most things.”
Zitao glanced across the lawn to where Luhan and Jongin were still talking quietly, a small smile visible on Luhan’s face as Jongin laughed at something he must have said. He wondered if Taemin saw as much as he thought he did.
“I think that’s enough training for today,” Yifan interrupted, already headed for the house with Chanyeol in tow.
“Luhan,” Junmyeon called, “come inside, it’s time for language lessons.” He snagged Zitao by the shirt when he tried to make a run for it. “You too, Zitao.”
Luhan was making his way toward the house, Jongin at his side, and Zitao wondered if everyone else could see what he could between them.
Luhan wrapped himself up in his duvet, feeling small and overwhelmed by the emotions that were choking him from the inside.
It was harder than he would ever say to watch Jongin. To want more with him than the tentative friendship they already had while watching as Taemin was everything for Jongin in a way Luhan would never get the chance to be. Luhan could only watch as the one that was made for him was happy with someone else. Someone who seemed perfect for Jongin where he was not.
He struggled to keep his longing from showing in every returned smile, every reactionary laugh to Jongin’s own bright chuckle. He wished Jongin hadn’t come after him when he’d stormed off after his spar with Junmyeon. Having Jongin offer him soft words of encouragement and praise his progress so far had felt like being stabbed with a butter knife. Jongin was trying to help, had been trying to offer Luhan comfort, but every kind word was edged with bitterness on Luhan’s part because Jongin would never be everything Luhan needed him to be.
Not when Jongin had Taemin.
He believed Taemin when he said there was enough room in Jongin’s heart for Luhan. But he didn’t believe there was enough of Jongin’s love to be split between two people. All Jongin could offer him was friendship.
It was enough, but it wasn’t what he wanted.
Here, alone in his room, Luhan let his longing overwhelm him. Here, he could let the emotions he’d been spending every waking moment pushing aside for fear of Jongin feeling them through the beginnings of their bond well to the surface and overwhelm him. He was so pathetic, so ugly for wanting someone that wasn’t his. For wanting someone who was perfectly happy without him. For wanting more than the friendship Jongin offered him.
Luhan curled on his side, feeling the first tear leak from the corner of his eye and knowing he wasn’t going to stop leaking anytime soon. He cried for a lot of things. The way he treasured every smile Jongin sent his way, every brief touch. The morning when they’d first met, before they knew who the other was, and how Jongin had nuzzled right into Luhan’s neck. The only kiss they’d ever shared, that morning when Jongin had peppered the line of his jaw with soft, sleepy kisses.
Luhan cried for the emptiness he felt with every breath he took. All he craved was the feeling of Jongin’s arms around him as he slept, the only comfort he wanted was Jongin’s gentle smile as he gathered Luhan close to him. But Jongin had Taemin, was happy with Taemin, and Luhan would have to settle for friendship.
He stiffened, pulling the duvet over his head as Yixing walked into his room. He felt the shift of his bed as Yixing sat next to him.
“Luhan,” Yixing said so, so softly as he gently pulled the duvet away from Luhan’s teary face. “Oh, xiao Lu.”
Luhan burst into sobs, overwhelmed by the gentle look in Yixing’s eyes. Yixing lifted the duvet, crawling close to Luhan and pulling him against his chest. Luhan cried as Yixing cradled his head against the crook of his neck and ran his fingers through Luhan’s hair.
“I can sense it,” Yixing said after a while, once Luhan’s sobs had faded to sniffles and shuddery exhales. “The bond.”
“What?” Luhan asked, tired all the sudden.
“It wasn’t until I found Baekhyun that I realized what it was. You, me, Yifan and Zitao all have it.” Yixing tightened his arms around Luhan, keeping him close.
“Have what?” Luhan shifted away slightly so he could see Yixing’s expression.
“A soulmate bond.” Yixing made a face. “At least, that’s the easiest way to describe it. It lies dormant until you meet your other half. The person who was made to complete you. Once you meet them it wakes, connecting the two of you and tying your fates.”
Luhan pondered this. He’d already known about it thanks to Taemin, but Yixing had a slightly different grasp of the situation. It seemed obvious that there was something special between Yixing and Baekhyun. Yifan and Chanyeol, too, although they were very different. “What if the person you’re connected with is in love with someone else?” Luhan choked out, his throat thick with unshed tears.
Yixing sighed. “Then you be happy for them. No bond or connection in the world can take away someone else’s agency.”
Luhan choked on a sob. “It’s so hard, to be happy for him, when I’m hurting so much.”
“I’m so sorry,” Yixing consoled, pulling him close again. “There isn’t much I can say, except that it will get easier with time.”
Luhan closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around Yixing, hugging him tightly. He hoped it would get easier.
He didn’t have much hope for that though.
“I never want to move again,” Chanyeol groaned, flopping face-first onto Kris’s bed.
“Tired?” Kris asked, the bed sinking next to Chanyeol as he sat next to his prone figure. “That match against Zitao and Sehun took more out of me than I expected.”
“Oh, that too,” Chanyeol said into the duvet. “I was talking about my week though.” He rolled onto his back to look up at Kris and pout.
Kris hummed low in his throat and bent down, kissing Chanyeol lightly. “How was work?”
Chanyeol sighed as he thought about his week. It had been long, lots of things to do at work each day and then driving out to the house to help with training and get help with his own powers. Minseok and Junmyeon knew what they were talking about, and even though they both had water-based powers, the advice they had for him about control was helpful. “Work was fine. The best parts of my week were the nights I spent here, though.”
Kris laid down on his side next to Chanyeol, his head propped up by one hand while the other rubbed Chanyeol’s stomach gently. “I liked having you here. I miss you when you’re not around.”
“That’s nice to hear.” Chanyeol couldn’t remember the last time he had someone who missed him. Now that he had Kris in his life, it was easy to see how empty it had been before. “I miss you too, when I’m not with you.” He smiled up at Kris, reaching up and stroking his cheek with his fingertips. “I’m glad I met you.”
Kris chuckled and turned his face to kiss Chanyeol’s palm before he could lower his hand from Kris’s cheek. “Me too. Are you planning to stay the whole weekend?”
Chanyeol yawned, his jaw popping with the force of it. “Yeah. I want to spend more time with you.” He smiled shyly over at Kris. “There’s still so much I don’t know. About you.” He licked his lips, pleased when Kris’s eyes tracked the movement. “I want to know everything.”
Kris’s eyes softened, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiled when Chanyeol yawned again. “We have time for that,” Kris promised. “But I think you’re too tired for us to get into our life stories.”
Chanyeol whined and rolled into Kris, throwing and arm across his waist as he nuzzled into his chest. “Fine. But let the record show that I want to get to know you.”
Kris pulled him closer, kissing the top of Chanyeol’s head. “I know. You’re wonderful like that, my Canlie.” He hummed into Chanyeol’s hair. “But for tonight, movie night?”
“With popcorn?” Chanyeol peeked up at Kris through his lashes.
Kris chuckled, leaning away slightly so he could kiss Chanyeol properly. “Of course,” he said against Chanyeol’s lips. “Anything for you.”
Jongdae flopped into the lovesac that Sehun and Zitao weren’t cuddled up in, mildly surprised when Kyungsoo settled next to him. Yifan and Chanyeol had gathered up everyone interested in a movie night and herded them into the basement, which meant all thirteen of them tonight. Seating was a bit cramped, even though there were two lovesacs and two plush leather couches gathered around the projected screen of the home theater system.
“I never thought I’d see the day when this room was full,” Junmyeon remarked, cozied up in a corner of one of the couches with Minseok. They had Yixing and Baekhyun taking up the rest of that couch with them.
“Did you ever imagine this many people living in this house with you?” Yifan asked. He was propped against the other couch and several pillows, his back resting against it while Chanyeol was nestled between his legs.
“No,” Minseok answered. “I don’t think any of us were prepared for this.”
“I was,” Taemin said softly. He was on one end of the second couch, Yifan sitting on the floor in front of him while Jongin was in the middle of the couch, Luhan curled in the opposite corner from Taemin.
Jongdae, Sehun and Zitao all booed Taemin at once, throwing popcorn at him as he laughed under the onslaught.
Kyungsoo grabbed a handful of popcorn and shoved it into Jongdae’s mouth as Junmyeon quieted the room and started the movie. Jongdae squawked indignantly at Kyungsoo, giving him a betrayed look.
“What?” Kyungsoo shrugged. “You were being loud.”
Jongdae snorted, popcorn spewing from his mouth. “I’m always loud.”
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes. “I’m aware.”
“Jongdae, could you get the lights?” Minseok asked as the movie began to play.
“You like it,” Jongdae said smugly to Kyungsoo, as he shut the lights off with a snap of his fingers.
He wasn’t expecting Kyungsoo to respond, so when a soft, “Maybe,” was whispered into his ear in the sudden darkness he couldn’t help the surprised gasp that slipped from his lips.
Kyungsoo reached over and resettled the popcorn bowl in Jongdae’s lap, shifting closer and slipping his hand into Jongdae’s without any ceremony.
Jongdae’s veins lit on fire. It was like he’d just touched Yifan or Chanyeol again with explosive results, and if he wasn’t looking at his own hand in Kyungsoo’s he wouldn’t believe it.
Kyungsoo was holding his hand.
Kyungsoo was cuddling up to him, occasionally reaching for popcorn with his free hand. “Want some?” he asked softly, holding a few pieces up to Jongdae’s lips.
Numbly and at a loss for what to do, Jongdae opened his mouth, shivering as Kyungsoo’s fingers brushed against his lips. He chewed automatically, his brain still struggling to reboot after Kyungsoo short-circuited his entire system.
He squeezed Kyungsoo’s hand slightly, his heart flipping in his chest when Kyungsoo returned the pressure. Relaxing, Jongdae sank further into the lovesac and glanced quickly around the room. Nobody was paying attention to them, mostly because everyone else was too busy with their own partners to care.
Sehun and Zitao were looking very cozy in their lovesac—then again, they’d been close ever since they’d wiped the back lawn with Yifan and Chanyeol—while Jongin had stretched out on the couch with his head in Luhan’s lap and his feet in Taemin’s.
Jongdae did a double take as he saw Luhan’s fingers feather through Jongin’s hair, Taemin smiling warmly at the sight.
Jongdae was confused but pushed that aside as Kyungsoo rested his head on Jongdae’s shoulder. Contentment warming him from the inside out, Jongdae leaned his own head against Kyungsoo’s and focused on the movie, everyone around him relaxed and happy.
“What can you see out here?” Yixing asked.
He and Baekhyun were walking along the far side of the lawn, just inside the line of trees that edged the property. It was shady and cool, the heat from the day finally abating as the sun slowly sank below the horizon.
Baekhyun shrugged in response, dropping Yixing’s hand in favor of looping his arm through Yixing’s and resting his head on his shoulder. “I’m not letting a lot in right now. As much as I love seeing what’s around me, when it’s the open air like this there’s too much to process. I’m only lighting up the ground in front of me so that I don’t trip over a branch or something.”
Jongdae’s cackle reached them, faint as it floated across the lawn from the patio. A glance in that direction showed Junmyeon and Minseok engaged in a water fight of sorts, everyone within a ten meter radius a casualty as they all scrambled to defend themselves from whatever free-for-all was happening.
“I’d never let you trip,” Yixing replied, halting them behind a tree that hid them from view of the patio. He gently spun Baekhyun until his back was pressed against the trunk, caging him in. “Don’t you trust me to keep you safe?”
Baekhyun laughed softly, tilting his head up to Yixing and smiling, his eyes slightly unfocused. “Yeah, I do,” he answered.
Yixing cupped Baekhyun’s face and pulled him in, kissing him softly as warmth and something akin to love saturated their bond. Baekhyun tugged at his bottom lip gently before licking into his mouth, deepening the kiss and narrowing Yixing’s focus to the feel of Baekhyun’s lips and the emotions flowing between them.
Yixing giggled in surprise and affection when Baekhyun looped his arms around Yixing’s neck and tugged him closer, their kiss turning playful.
“Jagiya~” Baekhyun teased against his lips, “I have something to tell you, Xing.”
Yixing snorted at the endearment and pulled away, peeking around the tree to make sure they weren’t missed by the others yet before he said, “Oh, what’s that?”
Baekhyun opened his mouth to say something, but Yixing hissed as something sharp pricked the back of his neck, distracting him and halting Baekhyun’s words. He reached back and felt something embedded into his skin, and he yanked it out, wincing at the pinch.
“Yixing?” Baekhyun asked, concern lacing his tone. “What’s wrong?”
Fear, unlike anything he’d ever known, welled up in Yixing as he looked down at the slender dart in the palm of his hand. He recognized it, to his horror. The silver body, the stylized E engraved into the metal of the dart, the black fletching on the end.
His vision started to fade around the edges, his limbs losing their strength as the drugs kicked in. He’d only seen a dart like this once, a few years back when Yifan had almost been taken. “Baekhyun,” he rasped, his voice breathy and faint to his own ears. “Run.”
“What?” Baekhyun glanced around, beginning to glow slightly as he summoned light to him as he tried to figure out what was going on. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
Yixing forced his limbs to cooperate as he struggled to turn around and investigate the forest behind them, his vision getting spotty. Several figures dressed in black from head to toe, silver Es standing out on their chests, rushed toward them. Panic and fear choked Yixing as he stumbled back into Baekhyun, his limbs uncoordinated and weak from the drugs flooding his system.
“Baekhyun, run!” he yelled, as loudly as possible. He heard more than saw Baekhyun start to fumble his way around the tree, trying to run for the house.
“Yixing?” Yifan’s voice called, from somewhere back toward the house. “Baekhyun!”
Yixing tried to force movement from his limbs, to run from the trees and toward the house. Jongin was there, he could get them if he could see where they were. Yixing managed to turn, just as Baekhyun reached the edge of the tree line.
Baekhyun tripped over a root in his haste to run, and the last thing Yixing saw before the drugs pulled him under were two figures grabbing Baekhyun under the arms and dragging him back into the dark of the forest around them.
The last thing he felt, before he went completely under, was unadulterated terror surging through his bond with Baekhyun.
see you next year! \0/
Chapter 9: the devil's deal, it comes around
Chanyeol took the plastic gloves off his hands and set them aside, pulling Kris closer until he was standing between Chanyeol’s legs. “Hey,” he soothed, placing one hand on Kris’s jaw to look him in the eye. “I’m right here. I’ll protect you, just like I know you’ll keep me safe, and together we’ll look out for everyone else.” He paused, his thumb caressing Kris’s cheek, and placed a tender kiss against his lips. “We’re in this together,” he insisted, sending encouragement through their bond when he pulled away. “You’re not alone. None of us are, anymore.”
Please take note of the happy ending tag and keep that in mind as you read this chapter
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Yixing’s yell made everyone turn and look out across the lawn, searching for the source. Junmyeon pulled the water he was using as whips back to him, pooling it into a floating orb of water at his side.
“Yixing?” Yifan called, beginning to walk across the lawn toward the sound of Yixing’s voice. “Baekhyun!”
When Baekhyun stumbled into view, just inside the tree line, everyone launched into motion, running for him, but it was a large lawn. “Jongin!” Junmyeon shouted desperately, urgency moving his limbs as fast as possible.
Jongin popped right to the edge of the forest before running right in, heedless of the danger. Yifan was next, launching into the air and flying ahead, his arms already crawling with fire as he landed and ran after Jongin.
Minseok made it to the trees next, the fastest of everyone, Junmyeon and Sehun on his heels. Jongin rushed out to meet them, panic on his features.
“I can’t find them.”
“What?” Minseok panted, shoving past Jongin only to walk right into Yifan as he emerged from the trees.
He looked murderous. “They’re gone,” Yifan confirmed, his hands clenching into fists at his side.
“What do you mean ‘gone’?” Jongdae asked nervously, trying to catch his breath after their sprint across the lawn.
“I mean there’s not a trace of them, except for this.” Yifan held out a clenched hand and uncurled his fist to show them the simple silver dart resting in his palm, a stylized E visible along the body of it.
Junmyeon’s breath left him in a whoosh and he swayed on the spot, memories assaulting him in rapid succession. Water splashed around him as he lost control of his hold on it and his world narrowed to his shaking hands as he tried to keep his breathing under control.
Minseok’s face came into view, and Junmyeon became aware of Minseok’s cool hands on either side of his face, making him look directly at Minseok. Slowly, he began processing what was happening around him.
“—breathe, listen to me, Jun, you’re okay.” Junmyeon focused on Minseok’s mouth as he spoke, watching his lips form words he was only barely hearing.
“—what’s wrong with Junmyeon? Why is he freaking out?”
“Is Junmyeon okay?”
“What are we going to do?”
Zitao’s terrified whisper was what finally snapped Junmyeon out of it. “We’re not going to panic,” he said, forcibly pushing aside his own fear and focusing on keeping everyone else calm. Minseok moved to stand by him, one arm wrapped firmly around his waist.
“Where are Baekhyun and Yixing?” Kyungsoo asked, brows furrowed in confusion and fear. “They were right there.”
Junmyeon looked at Yifan, who looked back at him with helplessness in his eyes. He knew Yixing’s loss was going to hit Yifan hard, so he summoned what strength he could to take charge when Yifan couldn’t. “They’ve been taken.”
“By who? How?” Zitao asked, looking close to tears.
Before Junmyeon could answer Zitao, Yifan rounded on Taemin who was hovering at the back of the group. “Did you know?” he growled, pushing past Sehun and Luhan to tower over Taemin.
“Did I know what?” Taemin replied, looking up at Yifan’s scowling face with confusion.
“Did you know they were going to be taken! Did you have any idea this might happen?” Yifan was quickly approaching a roar.
“Hey!” Jongin snapped, running to stand between Yifan and Taemin. “He didn’t have any idea! He would have said something if he’d known. Back off, Yifan.”
“I didn’t know,” Taemin said, somewhat shaken under the intensity of Yifan’s gaze, his jaw tight. “I told you, I don’t see specific things!”
“You’re telling me,” Yifan began, his voice deceptively calm, “that you had absolutely no idea this was going to happen?”
Chanyeol pushed through the group and gently placed a hand on Yifan’s shoulder. Junmyeon watched as the stiffness in his shoulders eased slightly under Chanyeol’s touch.
“I don’t know!” Taemin cried, breaking under the pressure as everyone watched the confrontation between him and Yifan. Jongin turned around and gathered Taemin in his arms, glaring at Yifan over his shoulder. “I had a bad feeling a few minutes ago, but there’s no way I could have foreseen this!”
“Either way,” Minseok interrupted, “we need to get inside. It’s clear Baekhyun and Yixing aren’t in the area anymore, and whoever took them—”
“Evolve,” Junmyeon interjected. “It was Evolve.”
Minseok looked at him with concern. “Are you sure, Junmyeon?”
Junmyeon nodded slowly. “The E, on the dart,” he pointed to Yifan’s closed fist. “It’s the same as the one from three years ago. I’d never forget what it looked like.”
“Fuck,” said Minseok, biting his lip. “If it was Evolve then they’re long gone. Everybody inside, now.”
Jongin vanished with Taemin immediately, while Yifan yanked Chanyeol into his arms and shot into the sky.
“Where is Yifan-gē going?” Luhan asked, jogging after Junmyeon and the rest of the group as they rushed back to the house.
“Hopefully to cool down before he yells at anyone else,” Kyungsoo muttered. Junmyeon pulled a small orb of water out of the fountain as they jogged past it and threw it into Kyungsoo’s face.
“Hey, he just lost his best friend to an evil corporation,” Junmyeon admonished. “Cut him a little slack.”
“We’re going to get them back, right?” Zitao queried quietly as they all filed back into the house.
“Of course,” Sehun said, putting his arm around Zitao’s shoulders and pulling him close. “We’ll bring them home.”
Junmyeon wished he had as much confidence as Sehun did.
Minseok had finally gotten Junmyeon completely calmed down when Yifan burst into their parlor, Chanyeol, Jongdae, Sehun, Zitao and Kyungsoo on his heels. Junmyeon had done an admirable job of holding himself together around everyone else, but Minseok knew him, and all it had taken was a gentle, “Myeon, baby,” once they were alone before Junmyeon fell apart.
Minseok watched again as Junmyeon visibly yanked his composure back into place.
“We need to talk,” Yifan demanded before Minseok could say anything. If he noticed Junmyeon’s red-rimmed and watery eyes, he didn’t comment on it. “What do you know?”
The tremor returned to Junmyeon’s hands as he curled them around his knees. Minseok rounded on Yifan, standing in front of where Junmyeon was curled up on the settee. “First, Yifan, you need to calm the fuck down.”
“I know that losing Yixing and Baekhyun is killing you,” Minseok continued, talking over Yifan’s interruption. “But yelling at us isn’t going to get you anywhere faster.” He pointed to the various seats around them. “Sit,” he commanded, voice unyielding.
Once everyone was sitting, on furniture or the floor, Minseok leveled a stern look at Yifan. “Now, what did you want to know?”
“Why did Junmyeon-gē freak out?” Zitao asked, a guileless expression on his face.
Minseok looked at Junmyeon, asking his permission with his eyes before giving them an explanation to that question. Junmyeon nodded, very slightly, before leaning against Minseok and hiding his face in Minseok’s neck.
“Several years ago, we had a friend. Junmyeon mentioned this briefly back in one of our meetings, and when Nailiang found out about his powers by accident, he eventually turned Junmyeon in to Evolve for money. Of course, we didn’t know who they were until Yifan told us a few weeks ago.
“Evolve cornered Junmyeon one day after work, and it was luck that I was going to surprise him and walk him home from work that day, but I managed to help him fight them off before they could take him. They weren’t expecting me to be there, and they weren’t nearly as organized or well-funded as I assume they are now. They didn’t have the manpower to fight off two gifted when they’d planned on only dealing with one.”
“Holy shit,” Jongdae muttered. “I didn’t realize it was that close.”
“So that’s why you freaked out when you saw the dart,” Sehun concluded. “That makes a lot of sense.”
“One of the only things I remembered clearly from that encounter was that E on the dart that Minseok pulled out of my shoulder,” Junmyeon said softly, his voice muffled against Minseok’s neck.
“I’m sorry,” Yifan said. His head was in his hands, and Chanyeol was rubbing slow circles into his back. “I shouldn’t have snapped. I’m worried about Yixing and Baekhyun.”
“We all are,” Kyungsoo murmured. Jongdae glanced over at Kyungsoo’s morose expression and placed a hand on his knee.
A heavy silence fell over their group that lingered until the sharp sound of Yifan’s cell phone ringing shattered it like a rock through a glass window.
Yifan pulled his phone from his pocket, forehead creasing in confusion as he looked at the screen. “Hello?” he answered. Whoever was on the other end, it clearly wasn’t who Yifan was expecting. His face paled as he whispered, “Dad?”
Minseok started, snapping his fingers in Sehun’s direction to get his attention. Sehun looked at him, and Minseok gestured to Yifan’s phone, hoping Sehun could do something to help them hear. Zitao had told him how cool it was that Sehun could talk to him from far away like he was whispering in his ear.
Sehun’s eyes widened in understanding, and Minseok watched as he focused on Yifan’s phone, his eyes narrowing in concentration.
“—sure by now you know that it was one of my acquisition teams that took your friends today.” Minseok felt Junmyeon jump next to him as the sound of Yifan’s father’s voice filled their ears as clearly as if they were holding the phone themselves.
Next to Zitao, Sehun smirked while keeping his eyes trained on Yifan, giving a thumbs up to Minseok.
“Dad, what are you doing.” Yifan’s voice was strained, and Minseok watched as he spoke through clenched teeth. “Why did you—”
“You have two choices,” his father interrupted. “You can run, and leave these two behind with me—because we both know there’s no way you’ll be able to get them back from me once they’re in China—or you and all your other friends can turn yourselves in.”
“Why would we do that?” Yifan asked, far calmer than Minseok could have managed.
“Because if you turn yourselves in, we’ll let you all go after two years of testing.”
“What?” Yifan lost his composure, outrage leaking into his voice.
Minseok pulled Junmyeon half into his lap, seeking the comfort that having Junmyeon close always brought him.
“It’s a fair deal, I suggest you take it. Two years of testing in exchange for freedom without having to live on the run like you have been for the last ten years.”
“And if I refuse? If we say no?”
“We know where you are. And if we have to come and get you, I can’t guarantee you’ll be free again.” His father sighed. “Take the deal, son. You have a week to decide.”
The line clicked, dead.
“Fuck,” Jongdae said into the stunned silence that followed.
Luhan was wandering around the west wing on the first floor, making his way toward the library at the end of the wing. He was avoiding everyone else in the house right now. He’d already been snapped at by a stressed Yifan, and with tensions running so high after the phone call and Baekhyun and Yixing being taken, he felt it was best if he remained out of sight.
He’d made it through the two mostly empty large rooms that were directly under Baekhyun’s and Sehun’s rooms—it looked like Junmyeon was using the large rooms to store stray pieces of furniture he hadn’t found a place for yet—and was about to walk through the short narrow hallway that led into the open library when muttered voices caught his attention.
“—really didn’t know?”
Luhan turned to his right and moved closer to a closed door. If he remembered correctly, this was a small office that was rarely used except for when Junmyeon holed up there to work on the budget. But that wasn’t Junmyeon’s voice.
It was Jongin’s.
“I don’t know!” That was Taemin, sounding upset.
“Tae, are you really going to tell me that you had absolutely no idea something was going to happen?” A pause. “I know you, and you’ve always had at least a feeling when something bad was going to happen, especially if it was going to happen around me.”
Luhan pressed closer to the door, catching what could have been a sigh from Taemin. “I mean, I kind of did?”
“I didn’t know what it was going to be! I haven’t channeled or done a reading in a while, and my sight isn’t as strong as it could be. I had a really bad feeling about today though.”
There was long silence.
“Why didn’t you tell me, Taemin?” Jongin sounded…so upset. Luhan hadn’t spent enough time talking to Jongin yet to know what every emotion sounded like in his voice, but he sounded like he was disappointed. “We could have prevented this from happening, if you’d just told me.”
“I don’t…I’m not sure why I didn’t, Nini,” Taemin whispered, almost too softly for Luhan to hear. “I should have.”
“Yeah, you should have.” Jongin’s voice got slightly louder, then further away, like he was moving while he spoke. “I thought we agreed to always talk to each other? Do you not feel like you can trust me anymore?”
“Of course, I trust you. That’s not what happened. I got scared, Nini. I don’t know what’s happening anymore, and I’m afraid to look closer.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“There’s a storm coming, Jongin. And when it hits, it’s going to be bad.” Taemin’s voice sounded muffled now. Maybe he was hugging Jongin? “I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t,” Jongin assured. “Talk to me, Tae. Don’t shut me out because you’re afraid of what might happen to me or the others. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I know,” Taemin replied, but he sounded unconvinced even to Luhan’s ears.
“Come on,” Jongin said after another long silence. “Let’s go back and be with the others. We’ve got to figure out a way to get Baekhyun and Yixing back.”
“You go ahead. I’m going to stay here for a bit and channel, see if I can get any more insight into the situation.”
Luhan realized, quite suddenly, that he was about to be discovered. He scurried for the library, wincing when he heard the door click shut behind Jongin right as he ducked through the doorway into the library.
He almost thought he’d gotten away with it until Jongin appeared right in front of him, making him yelp in surprise.
“How much did you hear?” Jongin asked, his expression blank.
“Uh,” Luhan swallowed. “Most of it, I think?”
Jongin nodded, unsurprised. “How much did you understand?”
Luhan bristled. “My Korean was fine now, thank you. I understood plenty.”
Jongin raised an eyebrow. “Sure, okay. I mean, you used the wrong tense just now but, yeah, okay.” He reached over and patted Luhan’s shoulder. “Would you mind not sharing anything you heard?”
“I won’t,” Luhan assured, trying not to overthink Jongin’s touch and leaving out that he’d probably do just about anything Jongin asked of him.
“Thanks.” Jongin rocked back on his heels, his bottom lip caught between his teeth. “We don’t often fight, me and Tae.”
“Okay.” Luhan couldn’t care less, honestly, however there was something he’d been wondering about. “Did you tell Taemin-gē what we talked about the other day?”
Jongin cocked his head, eyebrows creasing slightly in question. “You mean when I came and talked to you on the lawn?”
Luhan nodded, folding his arms across his chest. Jongin had said some really nice things to him, had made him feel special and important, and he wondered if Jongin really told Taemin everything.
Jongin shrugged. “I told him I’d helped cheer you back up, yeah. Why?”
Luhan bit the inside of his cheek. “He didn’t mind?”
Jongin looked even more confused. “No? Why would he?”
“What about the other night, when you put your head in my lap during the movie?”
Jongin’s eyes widened slightly. “Did I make you uncomfortable?”
Luhan wanted to laugh. Jongin couldn’t be further from the truth. “No, but it didn’t bother Taemin?”
Jongin waved a hand in the air dismissively. “Nah, he’s not the jealous type. Besides, he knows we’re friends.”
“Friends?” Luhan smiled, but internally he felt like dying. He wanted so much more, even if he knew friendship was all Jongin had to give.
“Are we not?” Jongin asked, a teasing glint in his eyes. “I kinda thought that we were, what with the whole stroking my hair thing during the movie.”
Luhan flushed. “Y-yeah, of course, we are.”
“Cute.” Jongin winked, then laughed when Luhan flushed even more. He looped an arm around Luhan’s neck. “Come on, let’s go find the others. We’ve got plans to make.”
Luhan stumbled alongside Jongin, smiling even though it was the last thing he felt like doing with Jongin pressed up against him.
It hurt, wanting what he knew he’d never have.
Baekhyun woke as he was thrown unceremoniously against an unforgiving surface, his body lighting up in pain as he collapsed to the ground. He reached for his power, the light always swirling inside him, only to find an empty blackness where his power was supposed to be, the well empty.
The last thing he remembered was hearing Yixing telling him to run before unfamiliar hands grabbed him and dragged him away, then nothing.
“What did you do to me?” he screamed, unsure if there were still people around of if he was alone. He was disoriented, blind, and terrified. Fury rose sharp and acidic on his tongue as he crawled around the space he was in, trying to figure out the dimensions of the room he was in without hurting his various aches from being manhandled. “Where am I?”
“Welcome, subject zero four,” a cold, unsympathetic voice answered.
Baekhyun turned his head toward the sound of the voice and crawled until his fingers met the cool surface of what felt like glass. He stood slowly, one hand above his head to make sure he didn’t hit it on anything.
“It took us a long time to catch you,” the voice continued. “You were surprisingly difficult.”
Good, Baekhyun thought murderously. “You won’t get away with this,” he said, the glass warming beneath his hands as he pressed his palms to the surface. “You can’t just kidnap people and keep them locked up for no reason.”
“You’re right.” The voice, whoever it was, sounded male. The quick agreement surprised Baekhyun.
He wished, more than ever, that he could access his power. Not being able to see expressions was frustrating, and he hadn’t realized exactly how reliant he’d been on his powers until he couldn’t use them anymore.
Which was another thing: what had happened to his power?
“But we’re not abducting anyone. We’re taking monsters off the street, mistakes like you are dangerous to others and we are doing what is necessary to protect those who are normal.” The speaker, whomever they were, sounded cold and imperious as they spoke.
“I’m not a monster,” Baekhyun cried, outraged. “I’m a human being.”
“You’re an anomaly at best, and we’re going to figure out exactly how you became the way you are, and then once we can replicate it and neutralize you, you’ll be free to go.”
There were far too many things for Baekhyun to process in that last sentence, and instead of a retort he banged his fists against the glass, helpless and angry and scared. “Why?” he managed, his voice sounding tight with panic to his own ears.
He didn’t get an answer. He got a warning: “Do what we tell you, comply, and we won’t hurt the healer we brought in with you.”
Baekhyun’s strength left his legs along with the air in his lungs, and he sank to the floor in horror. He didn’t know they’d also gotten Yixing. He could handle if it was just him that was trapped here, but Yixing?
Frantically, and with dawning horror, Baekhyun reached for their bond, searching for that bright line of silver that brought him so much security and peace.
Instead, he found a single, shimmering thread, as thin as spider-silk. He tugged at it gently, desperate to feel something, anything, but breaking apart when he felt nothing.
“I think I found a solution!” Sehun shouted, bursting into the kitchen like a particularly lanky tornado two days after the call from Yifan’s dad, oversized black trench coat billowing around him.
Zitao looked up from his rice, eyes wide with surprised. A breeze ruffled his hair in a greeting he was beginning to anticipate whenever Sehun entered a room. “I’m the only one in here, hyung.”
Sehun frowned. “Not that I don’t always want to see you, Taozi, but I need to talk to everyone right now.”
Zitao smiled as he stood up, walking over to Sehun and looping his arms around his neck, hugging him tight. “I know. I’m still happy to see you though.”
“Do you know where everyone is?” Sehun asked, squeezing Zitao around the waist.
Zitao shook his head and hooked his chin on Sehun’s shoulder, relishing the feeling of completeness that rushed through him at Sehun’s presence. He’d been scarcely around since Baekhyun and Yixing got taken, out doing important things, he’d said when Zitao had asked. “Why don’t you use your cool wind-speak to gather them?”
“Good idea.” Zitao hummed happily as Sehun pulled away. “What have you been up to the last few days?”
While Zitao searched for the words to answer Sehun, he heard him whispering a message to meet in the great room for a meeting in fifteen minutes, sending it along breezes to reach everyone scattered around the house.
Zitao pulled away, abandoning his rice at the table to instead tow Sehun in the direction of the great room. Tingles ran up his arm as Sehun’s fingers brushed his. “I’ve been bored,” he answered. “Everyone is really sad about what happened, and what Yifan’s dad said, so they’ve been staying in their rooms.”
Sehun tugged Zitao down next to him as they reached one of the couches in the great room. “Yeah, it’s a shitty situation. I’m hoping that my solution will work.”
Zitao leaned against Sehun’s side, probing gently at the vivid red threads connecting them, glowing softly next to the well of his power inside him. It was clearly their bond, and it had been growing quickly over the last few days, getting thick enough for Zitao to notice.
“Luhan is sad, too,” Zitao whispered.
Sehun tentatively laid his hand on Zitao’s knee. “About Yixing? I mean, that makes sense. He was like an older brother to the two of you.”
“Well, yeah,” Zitao agreed, trying to string the right words together. “But he’s also sad about Jongin.”
“Ah,” Sehun said, nodding knowingly. “I heard something on a stray breeze the other day, are they also bonded?”
Zitao sighed and let his head loll against the back of the couch. “Yeah, they are. I’m not sure if Jongin realizes it yet, and Luhan knows he’s in love with Taemin so he won’t say anything.”
“Is it just me,” Sehun began, “or is everything suddenly getting twice as complicated?”
“It’s not just you,” Jongdae answered, walking into the room with Kyungsoo. “Everything’s fucked.”
Jongdae and Sehun continued to chat as everyone else slowly filed into the room. Zitao tuned them out in favor of watching everyone else.
Zitao had noticed how affected everyone was by what had happened to Yixing and Baekhyun. Even if they tried to hide it behind glazed eyes, they were all still deeply unsettled. Jongdae jumped at every loud noise he heard; Chanyeol and Minseok were one step away from flinging projectiles at shadows that moved too quickly; Yifan's footprints were seared into the lawn from hours of pacing, and most jarring of all was the fact that Junmyeon didn’t have the energy to yell at him for ruining the landscaping.
Junmyeon looked pale still, two days after the fact, and Minseok hadn’t let him out of his sight and rarely out of his touch. Even now, Minseok was curled up in a corner of the couch opposite Zitao and Sehun, a blanket wrapped tightly around them both as he held Junmyeon close.
Yifan wasn’t much better.
He had an added layer of quiet to him, his movements muted somehow, like he was underwater. Chanyeol wound himself around Yifan from behind when Yifan sat in front of him on the floor, Chanyeol’s limbs tangling with Yifan’s until Zitao wasn’t sure whose leg was whose.
Luhan came over and cuddled next to him, looping his arm through Zitao’s and tucking his knees up toward his chest as he leaned against him, pushing him further into Sehun’s side. “Hey,” he greeted quietly.
“How are you?” Zitao asked, even though he’d last seen Luhan an hour ago.
“Fine,” Luhan said quietly, pulling the sleeves of his cream sweater over his knuckles. It was too big on him, which meant he probably stole it from Yifan’s closet. He jumped slightly as Jongin popped into the room, Taemin wrapped in his arms.
They looked sleepy and cozy, both in too-big sweatshirts and jeans that looked soft from too many washes. Rather than sitting in armchairs, they both flopped to the ground, Jongin lying on his back while Taemin stretched out across his chest and, by all appearances, they fell asleep.
“Tired, Jongin?” Kyungsoo snorted, nudging Jongin’s arm with his foot from where he was sitting on the couch.
“I had to work a double yesterday, and Tae has been trying to find a way around our current situation that doesn’t end in all of us dying,” Jongin moaned, running a hand through his hair. His roots were showing now, his natural black a stark contrast to the blond. “Cut us some slack.”
“Well pay attention,” Sehun demanded, “because I think I’ve found a solution.”
“We’re all ears, Sehun,” Minseok said. “Explain.”
“I’ve got a friend who knows a bunch of people like us,” Sehun began, launching into his explanation. “And so I asked him to put out feelers to see if there would be anyone willing to help us break a few people out of Evolve.”
“Can we trust him, this friend of yours?” Yifan asked, eyes narrowed.
“Heechul? Totally.” Sehun waved a hand in the air, sending an errant breeze zipping through the room. “Anyway, that’s not the point. He put me in contact with a Kim Namjoon, who has agreed to meet us with his team.”
“What’s the catch?” Kyungsoo questioned.
“Yeah, it feels too easy,” Chanyeol agreed, skepticism evident on his face.
Sehun bit his lip. “The catch is that I haven’t actually talked to Namjoon in person, just through texts. Apparently, they also have someone who was taken by Evolve. So, they’ll help us get our guys out if we help them get theirs out. It could be a trap, but Heechul is never wrong, and he says Namjoon is clean.” He squeezed Zitao’s leg, a foreign nervousness sitting heavy in the pit of Zitao’s stomach as Sehun’s feelings trickled to him. “We’d also have to meet them in a neutral location, at a warehouse in Incheon.”
“Okay, assuming that this Namjoon is good for it and everything, how the hell are we supposed to all get to Incheon?” Jongdae inquired, eyebrow raised. “It’s not like Jongin could take all of us that far.”
“Could you, Jongin?” Minseok asked, curiosity coloring his tone.
Kyungsoo nudged Jongin awake when he didn’t answer.
“What?” he slurred, sleepy.
“Could you take all of us to Incheon in a jump or two?” Yifan repeated Minseok’s question, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees as they all waited for his answer.
Jongin squinted, rubbing at his eyes as he thought. “All of you, at once? Probably not. I could do it in two or three trips, though.” He yawned, his jaw popping audibly. “Why?”
“They’re going to meet up with another group of gifted people to try and break Baekhyun and Yixing out of Evolve,” Taemin explained, his voice muffled by Jongin’s chest. “It’s a good plan.”
“It is?” Minseok sounded as surprised as they all looked at Taemin’s words.
Taemin yawned as well, stretching against Jongin as he blinked hazily. Zitao noticed for the first time that his irises were lined in silver. “Yeah, it is. I’ve been channeling and doing readings the last few days to try and figure out what you guys should do, and this is the path that leads to your freedom,” he said with his usual cryptic flair.
“Well then,” Yifan said, rubbing his hands together slowly while Chanyeol hooked his chin on Yifan’s shoulder. “Are we all agreed to try Sehun’s plan?”
“What do we have left to lose?” Kyungsoo remarked dryly. “It’s not like anyone else has another plan, anyway.”
“When is the meeting?” Minseok asked Sehun.
“I can arrange it for tomorrow afternoon, is that enough time?”
“Set it up,” Junmyeon piped up, sounding more decisive than Zitao would have expected.
“Let’s get them back,” Jongdae said, grinning. “I’ve always wanted to be part of a prison break.”
Nobody objected when Luhan sent a pillow flying into Jongdae’s face without lifting a finger.
“Hey, what are you thinking?” Chanyeol asked, working his hands through Kris’s hair and watching his mahogany locks darken to black as he kneaded the dye in. Kris had insisted, and Chanyeol had obligingly offered to do it for him, even if it meant mourning the loss of the color he currently had.
It was probably best if they blended in as much as possible, now.
“A lot of things,” Kris replied, leaning over the sink in his bathroom while Chanyeol sat on the counter next to him. “I’m thinking about all the ways in which this could go terribly wrong. I’m thinking about you, and the others, and how to keep everyone safe while we try and get Yixing and Baekhyun back. I’m wondering what they’ve had to go through already in the two days they’ve been gone.
“I’m worried that the people we’re going to meet up with will turn on us, or that they won’t want to help us.” He sighed. “But mostly, what I’m thinking is that I’m scared, Chanyeol. I’m so afraid.”
Chanyeol took the plastic gloves off his hands and set them aside, pulling Kris closer until he was standing between Chanyeol’s legs. “Hey,” he soothed, placing one hand on Kris’s jaw to look him in the eye. “I’m right here. I’ll protect you, just like I know you’ll keep me safe, and together we’ll look out for everyone else.” He paused, his thumb caressing Kris’s cheek, and placed a tender kiss against his lips. “We’re in this together,” he insisted, sending encouragement through their bond when he pulled away. “You’re not alone. None of us are, anymore.”
Kris moved closer, his arms coming around Chanyeol’s waist as he rested his forehead against Chanyeol’s. “Thank you, Canlie,” he murmured. “I’m still worried, but that helped.”
Chanyeol beamed, Kris’s gratitude warming him from the inside out. “Even though things are much scarier now, I’m really glad I have you. It would be so much worse if I was facing something like this on my own.”
“Hey, Yifan? Chanyeol?”
Jongdae’s voice echoed through Kris’s room, and Chanyeol pushed Kris away gently by the hips, instructing him to rinse out the dye before he hopped off the counter and walked out into the bedroom.
Jongdae and Kyungsoo were both standing just inside the door, Minseok and Junmyeon behind them.
“Hey guys,” Chanyeol greeted. “Is something wrong?”
“No, nothing is wrong,” Minseok assured. “We just…” he trailed off.
“We don’t want to be alone,” Kyungsoo finished.
“We’ve all been more or less alone for the last few days, and it sucks,” Jongdae said bluntly.
“Where are the others?” Kris asked, walking out of the bathroom and rubbing a towel through his hair to dry it. “If you all feel this way, I’m sure everyone else does too.”
“Luhan and Jongin are working together to move pillows and blankets and futons into the family room in the basement,” Junmyeon explained quietly. “It’s a carpeted room, but I haven’t gotten around to decorating it yet.”
“You wouldn’t believe how quickly a teleporter and a telekinetic can move things when they work together,” Jongdae added with a wry grin.
“So…a slumber party?” Chanyeol confirmed, quirking an eyebrow.
Kyungsoo’s lips twitched upward before he schooled his expression back into its usual blankness.
“We’re doing a big thing tomorrow,” Minseok said, his arm around Junmyeon’s waist, “and we’re all scared. I think the last thing we need is more time to ourselves. So, we’re all sleeping in the same room tonight.”
Well, who was Chanyeol to contradict a hyung? Not that he wanted to. It sounded nice, actually. Really nice. Kris wound his arms around Chanyeol’s waist from behind. He felt questioning coming through the bond from Kris, and Chanyeol sent back his agreement.
“Let us change and get ready for bed, then we’ll be down,” Kris said for them.
“See you in a few,” Junmyeon whispered as they left them alone again, Jongdae shutting their bedroom door behind them.
Silence resounded in the wake of their leaving.
Kris hummed into Chanyeol’s neck, and they both moved into separate actions but remained perfectly in sync.
“Wow, this is the best slumber party I’ve ever been to,” Chanyeol said, when he and Kris made it down to the family room in the basement, his mouth still minty from brushing his teeth. They’d both changed into tank tops and basketball shorts to sleep in, despite the chilliness of the basement.
Zitao, Luhan and Jongin all looked up at him, smiles on their faces. The room—a simple square room that was, nonetheless, huge like every room in this palace—was carpeted with dozens of blankets, the soft foam of futon pads underneath them cushioning every step Chanyeol took into the room. As he and Kris moved to an open spot amongst the pillows and bodies already in the room, Luhan floated a few more pillows into various spots.
There didn’t seem to be a specific arrangement, but in some sort of unspoken agreement everyone was gravitating toward the center of the room.
Junmyeon was curled into Minseok’s chest, both bundled up in thick sweaters and sweatpants, Minseok’s hand up the back of Junmyeon’s sweater and their legs entwined.
“Cold?” Chanyeol asked, catching Minseok’s eye and gesturing to their sweaters.
“I’m always cold,” Minseok said slowly, like it should have been obvious. Chanyeol thought about the ice he’d seen Minseok coat his hands and body with when they’d sparred and figured that maybe it was obvious, and he was just oblivious. “So, we sleep in sweaters, so that we don’t wake up with frostbite.”
Chanyeol looked at Kris, seeing his thoughts mirrored in Kris’s eyes. “Lucky for you,” Chanyeol began, “We happen to run very warm.”
Minseok’s eyes watched him warily over the top of Junmyeon’s head. “Junmyeon is already asleep, I’m not moving closer to you.”
Chanyeol shrugged and looked around the room as everyone else settled down. Sehun was next to Junmyeon, with Zitao worming his way closer as they settled down. Luhan was next to Zitao, but facing away from him, instead looking at Jongin who was curled around Taemin and looked asleep already. Kyungsoo had his back to Jongin on the other side, facing Jongdae, their hands barely brushing between their bodies, talking quietly to each other and generally pretending nobody else was in the room.
“It’s okay,” Chanyeol told Minseok. “I’ll come to you.”
Minseok looked like he was going to protest, but Chanyeol was faster, spooning Minseok from behind and draping his arm around both him and Junmyeon.
Minseok shuddered against him, making Junmyeon stir sleepily. “You’re so warm,” he nearly moaned. “I can’t remember the last time I was this warm.”
“Anytime you need a space heater, let me know,” Chanyeol said, watching Luhan scoot closer to Taemin and wondering how that was going to work out. “I love cuddles.”
Kris’s arm wound around his waist, slipping between his stomach and Minseok’s back. “Is everyone settled? Everyone warm enough?” he asked the room.
A chorus of sleepy agreement resounding back to him.
Chanyeol—still watching Luhan, Taemin and Jongin over Minseok’s head—watched as Taemin blinked his eyes open and looked directly at Luhan with a knowing gaze. Luhan’s shoulders tightened, and he started to move away while Taemin reached out and patted Luhan’s arm, smiling sympathetically.
“What?” Kris whispered softly into Chanyeol’s ear, picking up on the curiosity he must have been radiating. Instead of answering, Chanyeol subtly pointed with the hand around Minseok at Luhan.
Kris hummed in understanding, and they both watched as Luhan rolled over and threw his arm around Zitao’s waist. Jongin blinked awake briefly as Zitao hummed happily and wiggled back against Luhan, while Taemin gazed at Luhan’s back with concern stretched across his features.
Jongin’s eyes drooped shut, and the room fell quiet.
“Jongdae, will you get the lights?” Sehun asked, surprising Chanyeol. He’d thought Sehun was already asleep.
“If Baekhyun was here he could probably illuminate the room with little orbs of light,” Jongdae sighed wistfully, a little sad, as he snapped his fingers and the room plunged into darkness. “All I can do is turn the lights off and on.”
“When we get them back, we’ll do this again,” Minseok promised.
“We will.” Chanyeol felt the strength of Kris’s determination as he backed up Minseok’s promise.
He drifted into sleep, sure that tomorrow would be a better day.
Minseok felt that teleporting with Jongin had to be the most unpleasant feeling he’d ever experienced.
“I feel terrible,” Jongdae moaned, clutching his stomach as he stumbled away from Jongin.
“You’ll be fine,” Jongin assured, before he disappeared to get the next group.
Minseok caught his bearings and turned to Junmyeon. “Are you okay?” he asked quietly. Junmyeon looked a bit pale, but steadier than Kyungsoo, who was swaying on the spot.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he meekly answered. Minseok reeled him in, hugging him tightly. “Are we sure about this?” Junmyeon whispered into his shoulder.
Minseok’s reply was cut off by Jongin’s reappearance, this time with Zitao, Yifan, Chanyeol and Sehun in tow. “Holy shit,” Chanyeol yelped, collapsing onto Yifan as they let go of Jongin. “That sucks ass.”
“And now everyone knows we’re here,” Kyungsoo said dryly, frowning at Chanyeol. “Keep it down, you’re too loud.”
“Maybe some of us should have stayed behind,” Sehun remarked with a frown. “We probably didn’t need everyone to come.”
“It’s a little late for that now,” Yifan replied as Jongin reappeared, with an arm around Taemin and Luhan each.
Zitao jumped when they popped in right next to him, flinching before gathering himself and reaching out to steady Luhan.
“Where is the meeting?” Minseok asked Sehun, prompting him to look around.
“Right there,” Sehun directed, pointing his finger to a building not far from where they were gathered. “Come on, let’s go, we’re going to be late.”
Minseok followed after Sehun, keeping ahold of Junmyeon as they entered a nearby warehouse. It was dim inside, Minseok’s eyes struggling to adjust from the brightness outside. “Jongdae, can you do something about the lights?”
“Maybe, one moment.” Jongdae walked over to the nearest wall and put his hand against it. Sparks of electricity jumped between his palm and the wall, before large overhead lights flickered to life above them, illuminating the room.
Across from them, six figures were waiting in the shadows still clinging to the edge of the room.
Yifan stepped further in, closing the distance between them, the rest of them following warily. “Which one of you is Kim Namjoon?” he asked, voice firm and authoritative.
“I am,” one of the figures said, stepping forward. “You’re not Sehun.” He was tall, his eyes narrow and almond-shaped, and his hair an ice blond.
Minseok watched as Yifan raised an eyebrow in surprise. “And how would you know if I was? We’ve never met in person.”
Namjoon inclined his head slightly. “Because that’s Sehun.” He gestured to where Sehun was standing to Yifan’s right, slightly in front of Zitao. Namjoon tapped his finger against his temple at their shocked expressions. “Telepath.”
“That’s so fucking cool,” Jongdae muttered, looking taken aback when everyone in the room looked at him. Minseok caught his eye and shook his head slightly, silently commanding him not to speak.
“This is my team,” Namjoon said after a moment, motioning to the five behind him. “Hoseok, Jeongguk, Jimin, Yoongi and Seokjin.” He pointed to each of them in turn as he introduced them. “Our last member was taken by Evolve three months ago.”
Yifan glanced quickly at Minseok, and he nodded at him. May as well tell them as much as they needed to know if they were going to work together. “As you know, I’m Yifan, and this is our group. Evolve got two of us three days ago, a healer and a light wielder. If you’re willing to work with us, it’s worth a shot to try and get them out.”
Namjoon nodded slowly. “We’ve been trying to find a way in to Evolve for a while now, with no success. Do you have anything that—oh,” he cut himself off, smiling at Yifan. “You do have a way in.”
“What is it, Joon?” One of the others asked. He had a light, airy voice, and Minseok thought he remembered his name as Jimin.
“His father is the director of Evolve,” Namjoon stated.
“It must be impossible to keep secrets around you,” Sehun remarked, crossing his arms over his chest and shifting his weight to one hip.
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” another said. He was scowling at Namjoon’s back.
“Not now, Yoongi,” Namjoon replied without turning, addressing Yifan still. “It’s okay, we don’t hold that against you. Obviously if you’re here you’re not working for him.”
“We don’t know that.” Minseok was pretty sure that came from the one named Jeongguk.
“Enough,” Minseok said, just loud enough to silence the room. “Yifan isn’t working with his father and neither are we. All we want are our friends back. Are you willing to help us?”
Namjoon looked at his team, taking the time to look each of them briefly in the eye before turning back to them. “We want Taehyung back too. We’re in.”
“Great,” Sehun said, while Yifan replied with, “So, what are we working with? What can you guys do?”
Namjoon pointed to each of his members in turn. “Yoongi is an empath and can influence emotions. Hoseok is an alchemist and can transmute things. Jeongguk is strong, Jimin has a siren voice, and Seokjin can camouflage himself.” He looked back at their group. “You?”
“With the exception of four of us, everyone has element-based powers,” Minseok replied.
“Like?” Hoseok asked, blinking at Minseok curiously.
“Well—” Kris began, only to stop when a noise drew their attention to the far side of the room.
They all turned their heads at the sound of the warehouse door scraping open, a sheepish looking guy walking into the room.
“Tae?” Jeongguk screeched, rushing for him and scooping him up in his arms, hugging him tightly.
“Jeongguk, put him down!” Namjoon barked, his expression worried. “He shouldn’t be here.”
“Fuckin’ shit,” Yoongi muttered, going pale.
Jeongguk pouted but did as Namjoon said, backing away from him.
“Wait, is this Taehyung?” Yifan asked, his voice edged with panic. “The one you said Evolve had?”
Taehyung suddenly looked incredibly guilty. “I’m so, so sorry,” he whispered, his voice breaking.
“Oh, Tae,” Yoongi groaned, looking heartbroken, “baby, what have you done?”
Taehyung didn’t have to answer, as the large bay doors behind him scraped wide open, dozens of figures in black flooding into the room.
It was chaos, immediately.
Within seconds, Minseok registered darts appearing in the necks of Taehyung, Jimin, Hoseok and Seokjin, while Yifan and Chanyeol burst into flame and began throwing it at anyone in black.
“Jongin!” Minseok yelled, getting his attention as he dragged Junmyeon backward and away from the fight. Unlike Namjoon’s crew, they hadn’t been flanked and their backline was safer. Jongin ran up to them, panic in his eyes and Taemin sticking close to his side.
“Jongin, get him out of here,” Minseok commanded, thrusting Junmyeon forward into Jongin’s reach.
“What? No!” Junmyeon protested, turning back to face Minseok. “I’m staying with you.”
Minseok pulled him in and kissed him fiercely, conveying as much love as he could in a single kiss, whispering, “I’m sorry,” against his lips as he pulled back and pushed Junmyeon into Jongin’s arms, who vanished immediately.
Minseok felt his heart fracture, hoping that Junmyeon would understand and forgive him. “Taemin, stick close to me,” Minseok said, moving to protect Taemin and coating his hands in ice.
With Junmyeon safe, Minseok focused in on the chaos unfolding around him.
Several voices were all yelling at once as they tried to coordinate attacks. Yifan, Chanyeol, Jongdae, Zitao and Sehun were all holding their front line, doing their best to protect a limping Namjoon and a furious looking Yoongi, while Jeongguk ran around and ruthlessly threw attackers against walls as Zitao froze them in place.
Minseok sent a few icicles flying right into an oncoming attacker’s chest, not quite managing to pierce through the body armor they were wearing but making him stumble back into a second person. At a glance, it seemed like all they were using were dart guns, intent on taking everyone alive, although he could see holstered handguns at the hips of some of them. He couldn’t even see the others they’d already gotten—they must have dragged them out already.
He heard Yoongi yell, “Joon, your right!” just as a dart sprouted from Namjoon’s shoulder. Namjoon swayed in place for a moment before crumpling. Kyungsoo dashed forward and caught him as he fell, softening his impact with the concrete before returning to where he was with Luhan, both attacking from behind the front line.
Minseok saw Jongin reappear in the corner of his eye, just as Sehun was nailed with a dart to the neck, the small tornados he’d been carefully moving through the ranks of attackers unraveling and dissipating as he swayed in place.
“Jongin, grab him!” Minseok shouted, taking a second to point at Sehun before he went back to flinging ice, trying not to get it crossed with Yifan’s or Chanyeol’s fire.
Jongin sent an agonized look at Taemin, as he caught Sehun and dragged him back so that Yifan and Chanyeol could close the gap.
“Go!” Taemin called. “Minseok’s got me.”
With a stiff nod, Jongin and Sehun disappeared.
On the other side of Chanyeol, Zitao screamed and froze three people at once, halting their movement. Jeongguk jumped to attack them, his energy not seeming to fade in the slightest. Minseok figured that he must have some sort of enhanced strength, what with the way he managed to shove all three stilled men out the open doors like rag dolls.
Minseok was too late to warn Jeongguk about the two figures flanking him until he had several darts in his back, falling to his knees with a thud before falling forward onto the ground.
It got worse, without Jeongguk running around and distracting the attackers up close. Minseok could see Luhan attempting to divert the darts in the air and turn them harmlessly aside, but he was only one person and his control wasn’t yet good enough to catch so many projectiles and control them.
Jongin reappeared right as Yifan took a dart in his bicep, Chanyeol’s cry of rage echoing through the warehouse as Yifan’s flames snuffed out and his own dimmed. Minseok redoubled his efforts as Jongin vanished with Yifan before he could topple.
Minseok could make out more of what they were saying, now that they were approaching, instead of shouted incoherency. He spared a glance at Yoongi, standing as close to Chanyeol as he could for cover while intently focusing on one figure at a time, each collapsing in apparent terror or fear as they twitched and shook on the ground.
“They’re getting away!”
“Use force if necessary!”
Jongdae screamed at that, the lights above them flickering as Jongdae pulled heavily from the power grid to send electricity shooting through a group of five. Energy sparked from him, and he was crackling with blue light as he sent bolt after bolt at them, making them scatter away each time.
“Get the lightning one!” someone yelled.
Luhan was doing his best to keep darts away from Jongdae, but he couldn’t get all of them and still protect Chanyeol, Zitao and Kyungsoo.
“Somebody do something about that telekinetic!” one of the attackers yelled.
Jongdae went down, Kyungsoo not far behind as he caught a dart in the chest, and Minseok began to truly panic.
“Luhan, Zitao!” Taemin’s shout from behind him startled Minseok—he had forgot Taemin was still in the room—and to his horror he saw Taemin rush for Luhan as an attacker dropped his dart gun and unholstered his handgun.
Jongin reappeared, and several things happened so slowly that if Zitao wasn’t busy, Minseok would have thought he’d slowed time.
The man with the handgun leveled it at Luhan’s chest, Taemin reached Luhan, and Jongin screamed as Taemin shoved Luhan aside right as the gun went off with a deafening crack.
Taemin crumpled to the floor, terrifyingly still, and Minseok felt a curious pinch in his arm as Jongin ran to Taemin’s side, collapsing on the ground next to him. “No, no, no, no,” Jongin cried, pressing his hands down on Taemin’s chest, blood seeping between his fingers. “Tae, stay with me, please.”
Minseok looked down at his arm—distantly registering both Chanyeol and Yoongi going down as Jongin sprouted several darts from his neck and chest—to find a slender, silver dart embedded in his forearm.
The last thing he saw as the ground rushed up to meet him was Taemin, in a pool of blood, unmoving.
Please, trust me.
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Chapter 10: carve me deeper
This time when the doorbell rang, they were all in the kitchen.
“I’ll get it,” Sehun volunteered, running off to answer the door.
Yifan turned to Junmyeon once he was gone, holding him by the shoulders. They were all worried, but Junmyeon most of all. “We’ll be okay,” Yifan assured, pulling Junmyeon against his chest for the comfort they both needed.
“It’s a package for you, Yifan,” Sehun said, walking back into the kitchen. “A messenger dropped it off.” He set it on the counter in front of Yifan. It was small, unassuming.
Hello, I am here to deliver more pain
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jongin didn’t come back after dropping Sehun and Yifan back at the house with him.
Junmyeon had snagged Jongin’s wrist before he could disappear, after he’d come back the last time with Yifan, and looked him in the eye. “Bring them back, Jongin,” he instructed, his voice steady and serious. “All of them.”
Jongin’s harried expression had evened out into one of determination, and he nodded once at Junmyeon before vanishing with a soft pop.
It had been ten minutes since then, and Junmyeon was beginning to panic, realizing that something was wrong. Yifan and Sehun were out cold at his feet, unmoving where Jongin had dropped them on the large rug in the great room. His throat felt tight. Jongin should have been back by now.
Instead of giving in to his mounting panic, Junmyeon set to work dragging Sehun and Yifan into more comfortable positions, grabbing throw pillows to put under their heads. He didn’t know how long they would be under, so he fretfully paced between them as he waited for something to happen. He itched to get into his car and drive to that warehouse. But doing so might mean he missed them when they came back, and even if he did go back, what could he do?
Nothing, he could do nothing.
When a full hour had passed, Junmyeon collapsed on the ground between Yifan and Sehun and curled into a ball as he gave into his fear and panic. If Jongin was going to bring anyone else back, he would have been back ages ago.
They weren’t coming back.
The room Minseok woke up in was warm.
White walls, white floor. A bedframe bolted to the floor, white sheets, white everything. There was a sink and toilet against the wall across from the bed he was on, an opaque glass wall opposite him. His clothes were white as well, loose linen pants and a sleeveless shirt that was soft and light against his skin.
A red E embroidered on the left breast.
He slowly stood, crossing the room in a few strides to press his hand against the glass. The white marble was warm under his bare feet, the glass just slightly cooler than his hand, and Minseok knocked tentatively on the glass.
A bead of sweat rolled down the center of his back, which struck him as odd because he hadn’t been hot enough to sweat in years. He reached for the icy pool of his power to cool himself back down, only to find nothing.
His hands curled into fists against the glass and he banged them against the surface, hoping to get some reaction, a clue that somebody knew he was in there. Empty silence was all that answered him, and the room grew imperceptibly warmer.
He walked back to the bed, his fingernails cutting into the skin of his palms. Where were the others? Were they locked in rooms like him? Were they okay? Was Taemin alive?
What had happened to his power?
There was nothing, no answers to his questions, and his mind spun in circles as he sat facing the glass, waiting for something to happen.
Minseok blinked awake some time later, surprised he’d been able to sleep at all. The room felt like an oven.
At first the heat had been nice—something he’d rarely felt—but the longer he’d been trapped in this room, the worse it had gotten. The walls, the floor, everything was radiating heat that was slowly but surely cooking him alive.
The sink, when he’d gotten up to desperately drink down water, had spouted nothing but hot water. It would keep him hydrated, sure, but there was no relief from the heat.
He didn’t know how long he’d been in the room, or how much longer it would be until someone came for him, and it was too hot to do anything other than sweat.
What must have been a day passed, although Minseok had no real way to track the time other than what it felt like.
He couldn’t remember ever being so hot in his life.
He wanted to scream, cry, pound his fists against the glass until somebody let him out, but he couldn’t muster the energy to move. All he could do was lie there and sweat, tears leaking from his eyes periodically. He was dimly aware of the food that had appeared sometime in the last few hours, but he was too hot to get up off the bed and eat. It would take too much energy, and it was already so hard to move, to breathe, with the heat pressing down on him from all sides
His one consolation, his only comfort, was that Jongin had gotten Junmyeon to safety before they’d all gotten taken and he wasn’t experiencing something like this.
Yixing had sat in his cell for the last four days, fuming.
There wasn’t anyone who had talked to him, even though men and women dressed in white from head to toe had been consistently delivering meals to him, the opaque glass of the wall across from his bed going translucent each time they arrived to provide him with more food.
But they never spoke to him, didn’t even acknowledge him if he spoke to them. They merely placed his food on the floor, sliding it through the glass as a small section of the wall slid down into the floor, before turning and walking back the way they’d come, the glass going opaque once more.
It was maddening.
Yixing knew where he was—or, he knew who was holding him even if he didn’t know exactly where that was. After years of running and hiding, Evolve had finally caught him.
He just wished they hadn’t gotten Baekhyun too.
In the four days he’d been there he’d gone through nearly every emotion possible. He’d spent a day pounding on the glass, trying to get someone’s attention to just talk to him, to no avail and only to come away with bruised hands. He’d cried, dug frustratingly through his mind for traces of his power, of his bond with Baekhyun, anything, only to come up empty. He spent a full day not eating out of protest, before realizing it was stupid to deny himself the strength when he would need to run the second he got the chance.
And now he was angry.
He could feel his power finally, after days of being cut off. The food they’d been giving him had been laced with something, or maybe it was in the water he drank from the sink in his cell, but he didn’t have any other choice but to eat it to keep his strength. He couldn’t access his power, but he could feel it, see it again. He could feel his power trying to heal him, work around whatever drug they were using to keep his powers dormant, and every day it got easier to see the glowing threads he shared with Baekhyun.
Every day his power got closer to healing him from the dampeners they were feeding him, his power naturally striving to keep Yixing’s body in perfect condition.
On the fifth day, the glass wall of his cell went translucent, and stayed that way.
He rushed to the wall, eager to see something other than the blank white of his cell. There was a hallway, blank grey concrete that stretched out of his line of vision in either direction, with opaque glass walls on either side as far as he could see. It was like a cell block of a prison, if not a startlingly high-tech prison.
Yixing slumped slightly, frustrated again with the small amount of information he’d been able to glean. As he continued to stare blankly through the glass at the opaque wall across the hall opposite his cell, it suddenly turned translucent.
Baekhyun was in the cell across from his. He was sitting curled on the bed, his back to Yixing, but he knew the shape of his body, the red streaks in his hair giving him away.
“Baekhyun!” Yixing yelled, slapping a hand against the glass. “Baekhyun, turn around!”
Baekhyun didn’t move. Yixing pounded the glass with his hand a few more times, wincing as he aggravated bruises that hadn’t healed from the last time he’d fruitlessly beat against the walls, before he realized that their cells must be soundproofed.
He felt dumb for not coming to that conclusion sooner.
Yixing watched with a sinking heart as Baekhyun remained where he was. He could tell that Baekhyun’s knees were drawn up close to his chest, his arms curling around himself and his fingers digging into the flesh of his ribs. He was rocking slowly back and forth, and Yixing felt tears of helplessness sting at the corners of his eyes.
If Baekhyun had the same dampeners running through his body that Yixing did, then Baekhyun was completely blind, trapped in darkness and completely alone in his head. Desperation crawled up Yixing’s throat, his fingers curling into fists against the glass as he yearned to go to Baekhyun. He recalled a conversation they’d had once, when Baekhyun was adjusting to his powers after he’d lost his vision.
“It’s difficult to find the right balance,” Baekhyun had said, his fingers working between Yixing’s own as they laid in bed one night. He was glowing faintly, Yixing’s personal night light he could cuddle.
“Balance between what?” Yixing had hummed softly, running his free hand through Baekhyun’s hair.
“I didn’t realize how much my brain craved the ability to see things. Now that I can’t see, my brain constantly wants to find light and images to process, like it doesn’t have enough stimulation or something. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain, I guess. But I crave the vision my power can give me. I feel restless if I go too long without letting the light outline something for me to see.” He’d moved closer to Yixing, cuddling nearer as he spoke, his voice quiet. “At the same time though, if I let my power outline too much or rely on it for long periods of time, I feel drained and end up with a headache. So I have to walk the balance between enough vision to keep myself from going crazy—”
“And using it too much and giving yourself a headache,” Yixing had finished, pressing a kiss to Baekhyun’s forehead. “I’m sorry it’s so hard, but I’m really proud of how well you’re handling this.” He still felt guilty that he couldn’t restore Baekhyun’s sight with his powers but hearing Baekhyun talk about it like this helped ease that from his mind.
“It would be so much harder if I didn’t have you. My power is drawn to you, and when you’re around me it’s so easy to let my light outline you, to let it show me your face, your hands, your smile.” He reached up and poked at Yixing’s cheek, right where his dimple was. “Your cute dimple. You give me something I want to see, and it makes everything so much easier.”
Yixing felt tears spill over and run down his cheeks as he helplessly watched Baekhyun rock back and forth. He needed to go to him, to touch him and assure him that he wasn’t alone in the darkness, to give Baekhyun something to focus on other than the emptiness he was certain he was feeling.
But all he could do was stand there and watch, a new kind of torture he didn’t know how to deal with in the slightest.
Jongin was warm, safe, and comfortable. He could feel a heavy arm around his waist, soft breath against the nape of his neck, and he slowly surfaced from unconsciousness with a smile tugging at his lips.
He rolled over and buried his face into Taemin’s shirt, nuzzling at his collarbones and humming softly. Taemin squeezed him closer, lips brushing against his forehead in a kiss as he too woke up.
“Good morning, Nini,” Taemin whispered, rubbing his hand up and down Jongin’s back.
Jongin blinked his eyes open, Taemin slightly blurry as his eyes struggled to focus so early in the morning. Their room was still soft and grey, the room saturated in shades of blue light as the sky lightened. “Morning, baby.”
“Mmmm.” Taemin brushed his lips down Jongin’s cheek, mouthing over to his ear to whisper, “What do you want to do today?’
“Stay in bed.”
“Oh? Am I staying in bed with you, then?”
Jongin giggled as Taemin licked and sucked at his neck. “If there isn’t anything you’d rather do…”
Taemin nipped lightly at his jaw. “I’d like to do you.”
He pulled Taemin on top of him, licking into the kisses Taemin pressed against his lips and sighing as Taemin kissed him deep and slow, lazy in the pre-dawn.
Taemin pulled away slightly, hovering above Jongin. He blinked in the hazy light, Taemin’s form soft around the edges. He narrowed his eyes slightly. There was something…off about this, but he couldn’t place it. Everything was right, exactly the way it was supposed to be.
“I love the way you look in the morning,” Taemin whispered, his lips teasing down his chest as his fingers trailed over Jongin’s ribs. He wasn’t wearing clothes, and he couldn’t remember if he’d gone to bed with clothes on or not.
He didn’t remember going to bed at all.
Unease pooled in his stomach as Taemin sucked marks into the skin beneath his belly-button. Something was wrong. He struggled to realize what was so wrong about it because Taemin’s lips teasing over the arch of his hipbone felt so right, so natural that it couldn’t be wrong, right?
Taemin’s hands skimmed up the outside of Jongin’s thighs, his mouth tugging upwards in a playful smile as he looked up at Jongin from under his lashes. “I wanna make you feel good, baby,” Taemin purred, his fingers slipping beneath the sheet pooled around his waist.
This wasn’t right.
“Tae, wait,” Jongin whispered, leaning up on his elbows to look at him more directly. “Something is wrong.”
Taemin tilted his head curiously, leaning back on his knees and sitting up slightly. “What’s wrong, baby?”
Jongin’s stomach dropped to the floor as he noticed the growing red stain on Taemin’s chest, right over his heart. “Tae, you’re bleeding!” He sat up and reached frantically for Taemin, trying to stop the blood from spreading.
Taemin laughed, carefree. “Oh, don’t worry about that Nini baby. It’s not like it’s your fault I got hurt, right?” His eyes crinkled under the force of his smile. “What could you have done to stop it? Oh,” his smile dropped, his expression suddenly growing serious, “I guess you could have…taken me back with Junmyeon.”
Jongin gasped, tears welling in his eyes.
“I don’t blame you for not taking me back, though. I was able to save Luhan, at least.” Taemin shrugged, standing up from the bed to look down at Jongin, who was devastated. “Then again, maybe if you’d taken me back I would still be alive.”
Jongin woke from the dream, screaming.
Everything was dark.
Baekhyun didn’t know how long he’d been there, in his cell? Room? Whatever it was he was being held in. He had no concept of time passing, no indication that there was anyone around him.
At his best guess, he thought that he’d been there for maybe a week now.
He felt like he was going crazy.
It had been a few days since he’d last spoken. At first, he’d done anything to keep his mind engaged, so he’d sung songs he’d thought he forgot long ago, talked to himself for hours, told himself stories and created worlds just to alleviate the crushing silence.
Some days he counted until he got lost in the numbers.
On the bad days, he’d talk to Yixing, even though he knew the chances of being with Yixing anytime soon were slim, if he ever saw him again.
Sometime around day four, he stopped eating the food they shoved into his cell at regular times. He could hear the plastic tray scraping across the marble floor, could smell the food, but it was so much effort to move. He felt stuck, frozen inside his own mind.
Without his powers, he was helpless.
Two days after he stopped eating, Baekhyun started to feel something different. He could sense something, just beyond his reach. It was like there were thick stone walls around his mind, and on the other side he knew something was banging on it, trying to be let in, but he couldn’t figure out how to break the walls down.
He’d figured out around day three that whatever was blocking his powers and bond to Yixing was being fed to him in the food, and probably the water too. He was so thirsty, but if after two days of not eating or drinking it yielded no results then he would resume eating. But now, now he might have a chance at getting his power back.
He could almost see it, the tantalizing pool of his power so close but so inaccessible. When he stretched out his mental grasp, he could just barely reach his bond with Yixing, invisible fingers just barely brushing against the silver threads.
He would wait one more day.
Thoughts came to him suddenly, or not at all, but one thought kept circling around in his head. Was Taehyung involved? After replaying it in his mind over and over, he realized now that Taehyung had been acting strange when they’d met up, but he wasn’t sure why. The Taehyung he knew wouldn’t betray a friend, no matter how far they’d drifted in recent years. He was loyal to a fault.
But the thought wouldn’t leave him alone. It was the only variable. The only thing in his life that had varied from routine since Yixing had come to him after he’d lost his sight. It couldn’t be a coincidence.
He couldn’t figure it out, and eventually sleep took him.
When he woke with a dry mouth and a growling stomach he almost staggered around the room toward the sink, he was so desperate for water, but he reached for his power out of habit, just to check first.
The room burst into shape in his mind, his power weak but accessible enough to faintly outline the frame of the bed he was on, the walls, the sink. Baekhyun gasped in relief, tears springing to his eyes because he could finally see something in the dark of his mind.
He collapsed back on his bed and sobbed, too overcome with joy to do anything else for a moment, until he remembered…Yixing.
Frantically he reached for their bond, feeling it hum warmly as he mentally tugged, desperate for any hint of life from the other end. The faintest twitch echoed back at him.
Yixing was alive. Okay. It was more than he’d been certain of before, and Baekhyun felt like he could breathe for the first time in however long since he’d been in this hell. Tentatively he pushed the tiniest urge of reassurance down the fragile connection.
He didn’t get anything back other than a slight twitch, but it was enough. Maybe he’d finally cracked and gone mad, and everything was in his mind. But he didn’t think so. He hoped not.
Yixing was alive. Yixing was there.
His ears picked up the rapid beat of footsteps approaching, and he moved to the sound, getting off the bed and carefully making his way to the front of his cell.
The first words he heard in days were words condemning him.
“Start with subject four—the blind one. He’s ready.”
Baekhyun was too weak, to listless to fight as rough hands grabbed him and dragged him from his cell, into the cold unknown.
Yixing watched Baekhyun for a full day and waited for his power to work around the dampeners in his system. It was maddening.
But toward the end of the day, Baekhyun jolted up from his bed, seemingly from a dead sleep, and blinked around the room with wide eyes. Yixing stood slowly, his joints stiff from sitting on the hard marble for so long. “Baek,” he whispered, pressing his hand to the glass.
Baekhyun’s gaze moved around his cell with focus, and Yixing couldn’t believe, couldn’t dare to hope that somehow Baekhyun had worked around whatever they had in their systems. He watched Baekhyun fall back on his bed, shoulders shaking with sobs, and despaired. And then, it came.
The faintest tug on his bond with Baekhyun. He could feel Baekhyun tugging at it, but he still couldn’t access it, his system hadn’t healed whatever the dampeners were doing to him. He strained, exerting all his energy and focus into yanking back on the bond he could see but couldn’t touch.
He thought that maybe, just maybe, he’d gotten it to twitch in response. He waited breathlessly, watching Baekhyun as closely as he possibly could, fixated on his face to catch the slightest shift in his expression.
Tears were streaking from Baekhyun’s eyes, his lips twitching up in the first hint of a smile Yixing had seen from him yet. The tiniest whisper of reassurance floated to Yixing through the bond from Baekhyun, and he broke down in tears because Baekhyun was trying to comfort him, despite everything.
His sweet, precious Baekhyun, worried about Yixing before himself. He didn’t deserve Baekhyun.
The click of footsteps reached Yixing’s ears, and he watched Baekhyun’s head turn at the sound. Yixing gasped as Baekhyun walked up to the glass of his cell, barely a meter separating them, and Yixing strained to touch him, to reach out for him.
But figures quickly blocked his vision, and what he heard chilled his blood as it was directed for Baekhyun to be taken away. Yixing screamed, beat against the glass, but it was all for nothing.
The guards didn’t so much as glance his way, and he could do nothing but watch as a limp and clearly weak Baekhyun was dragged away.
Chanyeol glared at the man on the other side of the glass. “I’m going to get out,” he growled at the man, “and when I do, I’ll burn this whole building to the ground.”
The man smiled, a thin, insincere thing, and tapped the glass right between Chanyeol’s eyes. “I would love to see you try. But the only way you’re getting out of here is in an urn once you’re no longer of use to us.”
Chanyeol felt angry enough that he thought he could summon flames despite the blockers that were clearly running through his blood. The ghostly sensation of flames licked along the back of his hands, up his wrists, and he flexed his hands to dispel the feeling. It had been a rude awakening, coming-to in a cell and powerless, separated from anyone he knew and shivering because his cell was freezing.
He’d been awake for a day, and he was furious.
“You won’t get away with this,” Chanyeol seethed, too angry to care that he was resorting to clichés.
The man tilted his head, clasped his hands behind his back. “Don’t you realize? Nobody is looking for you, subject sixty-one. So get comfortable.”
“He’ll come for me,” Chanyeol said, before the man could walk away. He knew it was Kris’s dad he was talking to right now, and he couldn’t help but try and get a reaction.
“Oh, I’m counting on it.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “I can think of a few things, however, that could speed him up.” He turned on his heels and walked away, not even flinching when Chanyeol slammed his fists against the glass of his cell.
“Start with subject sixty-one, too,” he commanded as he walked away.
“Yes, Director Wu.”
Chanyeol backed up to the far wall of his cell until his back collided with the cold, white marble, and he sank to the concrete floor. Kris would come for him. He had to.
Something about the cell, or maybe the blockers in his system that kept him from using his powers, was making it hard to feel Kris. Surrounded by icy white marble and faced with endless rows of cells just like his, Chanyeol felt a kind of loneliness he hadn’t felt since he touched Kris for the first time. He hadn’t realized just how lonely he’d been until he could feel another person’s emotions secondhand, and now that he was without them, the silence in his head was overwhelming.
When guards in black and red uniforms came for him, he wasn’t even surprised, letting them drag him from the cell.
Kris would come.
When Sehun had first woken up it was to a visibly anxious Junmyeon hovering over him, biting at his fingernails with red-rimmed and swollen eyes.
“What happened?” He’d asked, once he’d gotten his mouth wet enough to speak.
He took, from the way Junmyeon immediately started crying, that it wasn’t good. Junmyeon caught him up, told him about Jongin dropping him and Yifan back and then just…not coming back, and how they’d both been out for a solid twelve hours before waking. Yifan had been furious, then devastated, and now, a day later, they were all mostly numb.
Sehun had wandered to his own room in the house after choking down some ramen and making sure Junmyeon and Yifan were going to be okay without him.
He felt so guilty.
And it was too quiet in the house. Sehun hadn’t been there as long as some of the others, but he felt their absence so acutely. Baekhyun’s giggles weren’t filling up the west wing, Zitao and Luhan weren’t chasing each other up and down the stairs in a pillow fight that ranged across the whole house. The library at the end of the wing was devoid of Kyungsoo’s quiet laughter, Jongdae’s whine as Kyungsoo teased him.
Junmyeon was still curled up on a couch in the family room behind the kitchen, but Minseok wasn’t beside him with five blankets wrapped around him.
Yifan was wandering aimlessly through the house, running his hands through his hair and periodically stopping to stare into the middle distance, his hand rubbing over his heart absently as if it was causing him pain.
Sehun missed them, ached for a way to fix everything but knowing that he couldn’t, at least not on his own. But there was nobody left to contact, to team up with. Even if Namjoon’s group had made it out, there was no way they’d be willing to resurface to meet with them again. Not after that debacle.
So Sehun kept to his room, only wandering out for food or water, trying to keep out of Yifan’s way. Late in the evening, though, as he was getting water from the kitchen, he saw Junmyeon curled up on a couch in the family room, tear tracks glistening on his cheeks, and Sehun couldn’t leave him there alone.
Not when Sehun was also in need of the comfort of another person.
He finished his water and moved into the room with Junmyeon, wordlessly sitting next to him and reaching over to gently pull Junmyeon into his arms. Junmyeon choked on a sob, hiding his face in Sehun’s chest and clinging tightly to his sweater. Sehun only held him closer, rearranging the blanket around Junmyeon’s shoulders to cover them both and reclining slightly in the corner of the couch, rubbing soothing circles into Junmyeon’s back.
“I don’t know what to do,” Junmyeon whispered after he’d calmed down, sniffling into the blanket.
Sehun opened his mouth to reply when Yifan burst into the room, his eyes full of fury.
“Did you have something to do with this?” Yifan growled, rounding on Sehun.
“What?” Sehun scoffed. “Yifan what are you talking about?” Junmyeon stirred in his arms, blinking up at Yifan blearily.
“The ambush.” Yifan’s eyebrows drew together tightly. “You were the one who suggested we go and meet up with that other team. Not to mention, we know nothing about you. You just showed up one day out of the blue and none of us questioned your intentions.” His eyes widened at the realization. “We were so stupid to trust you.”
“Are you working for Evolve?” Junmyeon asked in a soft, fragile voice. His eyes were shining with moisture as he looked up at Sehun steadily, unflinching.
Yifan’s hands curled into fists at his side.
Sehun reared back, trying not to look defensive in any way because it wasn’t true. He wasn’t working for Evolve. But he didn’t need to be condemned before he could explain. “No,” he stated, as emphatically as he could. “I’m not. I swear.”
“Convince me.” Yifan’s face was grim, unforgiving, and Sehun struggled to figure out where to start as Yifan sat in an armchair opposite their couch.
“I’m not working for Evolve, but I did know more than I let on,” he began, begging with his eyes for them to stay calm and let him talk. Junmyeon shifted against him so he could comfortably watch Sehun’s face. “When I said that I knew where you guys were because the wind told me, that was true. Ever since I figured out how to use my powers, I’ve been listening to the wind, to conversations that float to me from different places, focusing on things that I thought could lead me to more people like me. I’ve been looking for others like us for a while.
“And then, one day, I heard Baekhyun get attacked.” He took a deep breath, settling in now that it didn’t look like Yifan was going to shoot a fireball at his head any second. “I didn’t know it was Baekhyun, obviously, but I heard Minseok’s name, and then his voice as he came for Baekhyun. I listened for Minseok’s voice more, after that, and figured out where all of you were staying.” He ran a hand through his hair because this next part…he knew they weren’t going to like it.
“I also,” he paused, biting his lip.
“You also?” Junmyeon lifted an eyebrow, urging Sehun to continue with a gesture.
“I heard Evolve, whisperings from employees that they were going to try and grab all of you. That they had an idea of where you were holed up.”
“What?” Junmyeon practically screeched, sitting up in his surprise, while Yifan looked ready to roast Sehun alive on the spot.
“That’s why I came!” Sehun explained in a rush. “That’s why I orchestrated everyone to be in the same place at the same time and urged us all to band together. I figured the more of us there were the better chance we’d have at fighting them off.” He gestured to Junmyeon and Yifan. “And then the two of you started training Tao and Luhan how to use their powers more, and I knew that was exactly what would save us—how important it was that we knew how to fight together as a team.” He slumped over, resting his face in his hands. “I didn’t expect them to find us so soon. I thought we’d have more time, but they took Baekhyun and Yixing and then things were moving so fast.”
“And the ambush?” Yifan questioned evenly, his mouth set in a hard line. “Did you hear about that in advance? Did you screw us over?”
“I didn’t. I swear I had no idea,” Sehun whispered, guilt welling and choking the air from his lungs. “I wish I’d known, that I’d thought to listen to the chatter filtering to me, but I pushed it aside in favor of trying to get Baekhyun and Yixing back.”
Silence filled the room for a moment until Junmyeon spoke softly. “Sehun, where are you from? Do you have family around?”
“We don’t even know if you have a job,” Yifan added, his voice much less gruff that it had been. “Or where you’re from.”
Sehun shrugged. “My parents are gone. They died when I was young. I was raised by my aunt, but she had her own kids and didn’t have much time for me, so as soon as I could I moved out.” He rubbed at his eyes—they were starting to sting with exhaustion. “I put myself through school for two years before I had to drop out to save more money. I’ve been working at a restaurant, but I quit as soon as I found all of you.”
“Why?” Junmyeon asked.
“This seemed more important, I guess.”
Junmyeon tutted and wormed his way back in Sehun’s arms. “It’s okay. We’re going to figure out a way out of this.”
Sehun took a deep, shaky breath.
Yifan’s phone rang in the silence, startling them all. He pulled it from his pocket, his face blanching as he looked at the screen. “It’s my dad.”
“Put it on speaker,” Junmyeon whispered, his hands fisting in the blanket. Sehun squeezed him tight as Yifan answered the phone.
“I’m sure by now you realize that we have your friends.”
His father’s voice filled the room, making them all shiver at the cold tone, the lack of emotion or feeling.
“Where did you take them? Why are you—”
“I have something for you,” he said, cutting Yifan off. “A small gift to show you how serious I am, and that you should have taken the deal. You can still turn yourselves in, it’s not too late.”
“Rot in hell,” Yifan spat, before hanging up the phone. “I’m not playing his games,” he explained to a stunned Junmyeon and Sehun. “I’m going to figure out a way to get them out, and it’s not going to be by turning ourselves in.”
Sehun and Junmyeon traded a look.
“Okay, so, do you have a plan or…?” Sehun prodded gently.
It was clear by the look on Yifan’s face that he didn’t have a plan.
“We’ll think of something,” Junmyeon said with an unconvincing amount of optimism. “We will.”
They all fell into a morose silence, Sehun comforting Junmyeon while Yifan thought. The more time passed, the heavier the mood got, until Junmyeon was sniffling quietly into Sehun’s sweater again.
The ringing of the doorbell shattered the silence, and Sehun looked between the unmoving forms of Junmyeon and Yifan before untangling himself from Junmyeon and getting up.
He would answer the door, since Junmyeon and Yifan were both too distraught to get off the couch.
“Can I help you?” he asked, the two men on the doorstep eyeing him curiously.
On second thought, it was probably stupid to answer the door when people were actively hunting them.
“Is Minseok here?” The taller of the two asked in a soft, lilting voice. He was delicately featured, his eyes narrow and cat-like.
If they were asking for Minseok, then they probably didn’t know what had happened, which meant that they probably weren’t going to try and harm them.
“Who’s asking?” He crossed his arms over his chest, blocking their view into the house. It couldn’t hurt to be cautious.
“We work with him,” the shorter of the two explained. He was all handsome features and smooth tawny skin, and even though he was the smaller one he was still nearly as tall as I. “He hasn’t shown up to work the last two shifts with no warning, which is very unlike him.”
“We’re concerned and thought we’d stop by,” finished the taller, his voice soft and airy.
“I? Who is it? Why did you answer the door?” Junmyeon’s worried voice floated to him from across the foyer.
“They say they work with Minseok. They’re looking for him.” I shifted aside slightly as Junmyeon approached, making room for Junmyeon to peer at them over his shoulder.
“Dr. Cha? Dr. Jung?” He looked between the two men in confusion. “How did you know where Minseok lives?”
That was a good fucking question that he hadn’t thought to ask.
“We checked his employee file, it was listed there. Is he okay?”
Junmyeon stepped around him, his eyes narrow. “He’s missing. If you could give him a leave of absence until further notice I’d really appreciate it.” His voice was cold, harsher that Sehun could remember hearing it.
“Junmyeon, are you okay? What’s going on? What happened to Minseok?”
Junmyeon held up a hand, halting the stream of questions. “Not now, Hakyeon.”
“We will do as you asked, Junmyeon.” The other one tugged on Hakyeon’s arm, pulling him away. “Have a nice day.”
Junmyeon shut the door before they could say anything else. He turned to walk away, but Sehun stopped him with a hand around his upper arm.
“Wait…give me a second.” He closed his eyes and focused, making a triumphant noise as he carried their voices to them on a breeze, urging Junmyeon closer so they could listen in.
“—have to do something! Taekwoon, you have to admit something is going on.”
For a moment, all they could hear was the gravel of the drive crunching as they walked, then: “We can’t force him to accept our help.”
“But Hongbin said—”
“I know what he said, I was there too Hakyeon, but they don’t trust us. We can’t help them until they do.”
“So, we wait.”
Taekwoon’s quiet hum was lost in the distance as they got into a car and drove off. Sehun released Junmyeon’s arm. “What did we just hear? Could they know about Evolve somehow?”
Junmyeon’s brow was furrowed, his mouth twisted in thought. “I don’t know. I suppose time will tell.” He tapped a finger against his jaw in thought. “We should tell Yifan, see what he thinks.”
“We need to get them out.”
“We will. Somehow.”
When the guards came for Luhan, he wasn’t expecting it.
He and Zitao had woken up in a cell together, eerily reminiscent of their time together in the institution, to the point where they’d nearly both been convinced that everything with Yixing and Yifan had been a dream.
But the clothes they were wearing, the way they couldn’t access their powers, the strange women in white and the guards in red and black, the fact that nobody would talk to them at all. It was all too strange and terrifying to be anything other than reality.
Perhaps what was most terrifying of all, for Luhan at least, was the memory he had from right before he lost consciousness of a gun being leveled at his chest, only for Taemin to shove him aside right before the trigger was pulled. He could remember it in vivid detail, his mind replaying it on loop behind his eyes. The way Taemin’s body had jerked with the force of it, the blood that had spurted from his chest, Jongin’s scream echoing in Luhan’s ears as Taemin went down, blood pooling quickly around his body. He couldn’t get it out of his mind.
Zitao said he remembered what happened after, but he wouldn’t talk about it when Luhan pressed him for details. For a day after they’d woken up, neither of them said much, too absorbed in the horrors of their memories to do anything other than numbly eat the meals that were brought to them and curl up on their beds, exhausted and sad.
Luhan wanted to know if Taemin was okay. Was he here with them? Where was Jongin? Was he okay?
The worst part was not knowing, and Luhan fretted until sleep took him once more.
The guards came for him the second day.
He woke up to them wrestling him off the bed, Zitao crying as guards held him in place to keep him from helping Luhan.
“Where are you taking him?” Zitao cried, trying to reach for Luhan.
“Taozi, it’ll be okay,” Luhan reassured, intent on being braver than he felt.
“Don’t leave me here! Don’t take him from me!” Zitao was fighting harder now, tears falling from his eyes as he fought to get to Luhan.
“Tranq him,” one of the guards holding Luhan said. “We don’t have time for this.”
“No!” Zitao screamed, struggling as a woman in white rushed into their cell and jabbed a syringe into his neck.
“It’ll be okay, Tao,” Luhan soothed as he was dragged away, locking eyes with Zitao even though they were slipping shut already. It was difficult to talk past the emotion choking his throat. Zitao had been his only comfort in this place, and he didn’t want to be separated from him any more than Zitao did. “You’ll be okay,” he promised, trying to comfort Zitao as much as he could as he was taken away.
Zitao’s eyes slipped shut, and Luhan allowed himself to be taken from the cell.
“Where are you taking me?” he asked as they marched him down a long hallway of glass. He caught brief glances of shapes behind frosted glass, and even a few cells where the glass was translucent.
The guards didn’t answer him. He looked more closely at the cells he was passing. If they weren’t going to tell him anything he was going to learn as much as he could while he was out of his cell.
It was brief, but he could have sworn that he locked eyes with Jongdae as he was marched past a cell, and he also knew he’d caught a glimpse of Yixing and Kyungsoo. It only confirmed his fear that most of them had been taken. He knew Jongin had gotten Yifan and Sehun out, but he didn’t have much hope that anyone else had gotten away.
He was pulled from his thoughts as they stopped in front of a cell with frosted glass. “Are you moving me to a cell of my own?”
Instead of answering him, one of the guards held his wrist against a glowing red panel set in the wall by the cell, tapping a pattern into the surface of it too quickly for Luhan to follow, and the glass faded to translucent before a panel of it slid away, allowing the guards to shove him into the cell.
It wasn’t empty.
“Jongin,” he gasped, rushing over to the figure curled on the bed, guards and Zitao forgotten because Jongin was alive and okay and here with Luhan now. He sat on the bed, rubbing his hand over Jongin’s back gently.
He was asleep, curled facing the wall, his back to Luhan.
“Jongin,” he whispered, rousing him from sleep. “Wake up.”
“Mmmpf, Tae?” Jongin blinked awake, licking his lips and clearing his throat before smiling slightly. “I’m glad you’re here—” He cut off as he rolled, looking up at Luhan. The smile slipped from his face, his expression turning heartbreakingly sad for a moment before settling on something like distraught fury. “Get away from me.”
“W-what?” Luhan pulled his hand away, recoiling from the way Jongin was looking at him. “Jongin, do you know where we are? They took me away from Tao and brought me here. Are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?”
Jongin sat up, pushing Luhan off the bed. “I don’t care!” He shouted, wrapping his arms around himself. “Just get away from me!”
Luhan backed up slowly. “Jongin, what’s wrong?” He didn’t understand. It was hard knowing Zitao was alone now, but he was with Jongin and it would be okay. “I wasn’t sure if you were alive. I can’t access our bond, I thought you might be—”
“Dead? Yeah, I wish.” He spat, “Instead, I’m here and Tae probably bled out, all alone on the floor of that warehouse.” He sniffed, his eyes watery and red-rimmed.
Luhan gasped, his eyes stinging with tears of sympathy. “You can’t blame yourself for that Jongin. You can’t. You didn’t—”
“Blame myself?” He laughed divisively, wiping at his face with his sleeve. “No, I definitely don’t blame myself.” He glared up at Luhan with fire in his eyes, his gaze so accusing, so full of blame, that it burned Luhan from the inside out with guilt.
Luhan dimly felt his back hit the far wall. He must have kept backing away from Jongin, although he didn’t remember doing so consciously. He slumped to the ground as a sob worked its way through his chest. It wasn’t fair, what Jongin had said, and despite what Jongin had accused, Luhan never wanted Taemin to die. He knew how much Jongin loved Taemin, and the last thing he wanted was to get in the way of that. He doesn’t mean it, he thought, trying to convince himself that Jongin was just lashing out in his grief.
It was hard to believe himself, though, when he suddenly felt like it was his fault Taemin was dead.
Luhan cried, wishing he was anywhere but where he was.
This time when the doorbell rang, they were all in the kitchen.
“I’ll get it,” Sehun volunteered, running off to answer the door.
Yifan turned to Junmyeon once he was gone, holding him by the shoulders. They were all worried, but Junmyeon most of all. “We’ll be okay,” Yifan assured, pulling Junmyeon against his chest for the comfort they both needed.
“It’s a package for you, Yifan,” Sehun said, walking back into the kitchen. “A messenger dropped it off.” He set it on the counter in front of Yifan. It was small, unassuming.
Yifan’s stomach dropped through the ground. Nobody was supposed to know where he was which meant this could only be from his father, and after their last conversation, it was unlikely to be pleasant.
“What is it? Yifan?” Junmyeon’s voice was strained.
Yifan opened the package with shaking hands, his father’s words ringing in his ears. A small gift to show you how serious I am, and that you should have taken the deal. You can still turn yourself in, it’s not too late.
Inside the box was another, smaller box, and it fit snugly in his palm. It looked like a ring box, which was absurd because—
He opened the box and gasped, bile rising up his throat as he looked at the contents of the box. His free hand clapped over his mouth, trying to keep from throwing up.
“Yifan,” Junmyeon said again, coming around behind him to look over his shoulder, “what is—” he cut off with a choked scream.
Yifan could only stare in shock, too horrified to do anything else. There, nestled in the box, was an eye he knew all too well.
An eye he’d looked into and found his soul reflected back at him.
“Fuck,” Sehun whispered quietly over the sound of Junmyeon retching.
Yifan set down the box that held one of Chanyeol’s beautiful brown eyes, turned around to face the sink, and was violently sick.
comments and kudos much appreciated ^^