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"Please do not break my heart, I think it's had enough pain to last the rest of my life." - 10am Gare du Nord by Keaton Henson 


 

November 2018

The room was bathed in darkness, only the flickering of a candle lit up the four walls—an eery and weak source of light, that one. Minhyuk sat by his desk, staring into the flames of the candle, a blanket over his shoulders (not because he necessarily needed it, he didn't feel the cold, but more because the old Minhyuk would have done that, the Minhyuk that had been once alive).

He thought back to his encounter with Hoseok earlier that day. Minhyuk didn't know how to proceed knowing that his once best and closest friend (and the love of his life) had looked at him with such unfriendly eyes.

Hoseok had stood by the frame of his apartment's door still wearing his pajama, kitchen cloth slipping out of his hand as he had locked eyes with Minhyuk, mouth agape and a million emotions running through his widened eyes until his expression had become stone cold and unreadable. Minhyuk had tried his best to smile and look friendly and excited but the more the silence had dragged on and the more the expression on Hoseok's face had turned dark and unwelcoming, his own facade had slipped until he was sure his fear and apprehension had been visible.

"H—Hoseok, hey," he had managed to stutter out, wringing his hands together in badly disguised and fearful nervousness and trying to keep his tone alight. "It's been a long time."

He had regretted the words the moment they had left his mouth, they had been stupid and like a new wound to be teared into their friendship. After all, the last time Hoseok had seen Minhyuk it had been over a year ago, when the latter had died at the hands of rotters, torn apart right in front of Hoseok's eyes. Minhyuk had gulped down any other words that threatened to spill out, waiting for his friend's reaction. Hoseok had turned his hands into fists, clenching and unclenching, shaking uncontrollably by his sides, and his face had paled, pressing his lips together into a thin line.

"You're not Minhyuk, you're a—a monster," Hoseok had said, his words stinging and hurting Minhyuk more than anything else ever had.

Even if he had gone through countless of experiments and doses of the cure that had not worked with him, his body convulsing and shaking as he had thrown it all up. None of that could compare to getting rejected by his (once) best friend. Minhyuk didn't know how he had managed to keep himself standing tall and strong because on the inside he had crumbled and fallen apart at those words.

He had just gulped down his pain and had forced out a blinding smile to hide how he truly had felt, nodding his head once before turning on his heels and fleeing down the corridor—trying his best at not making it visible that he was, in fact, fleeing—trying hard not to trip on his own feet. Hoseok's door had slammed shut louder than necessary as he had reached the staircase and it had echoed through his dead chest making something in it feel incredibly alive and painful.

Once Minhyuk had reached the streets he had broken down by the sidewalk, falling onto his knees and hiding his head in shame and distress behind his arms, wishing for his body to just give a human (living) reaction but there had been nothing so he had just sat there—immobile and dead. Thankfully no one had come up to him because he wasn't sure he could have handled that, a stranger seeing him in such a weak state.

When Minhyuk had gotten back home Hyunwoo had immediately come over to embrace him and ask him what was wrong but Minhyuk had just shaken his head and gone to his room, where still sat in, thinking about the encounter and spiraling further and further down dark and unwelcome thoughts and ideas.

He let out a sigh and stared into the heated flames of the candle, hoping that the tears he wanted so desperately to spill out of his eyes would come but he was dead, there were no tears he could cry anymore, and he hated that.

For the first time he wished to have stayed dead instead of rising again, a life without the most important person in it didn't seem as worthy.

"Minhyuk?" Came Hyunwoo's voice followed by a soft knock on the door and instantly Minhyuk felt guilty about his previous thought. He had Hyunwoo and Hyungwon at the very least and that should be enough, but he couldn't help himself getting sad over Hoseok rejecting him. "Can I come in?"

"Yes," he replied and looked up when the door slowly opened, Hyunwoo walking in with Hyungwon in tow, swallowed by a way too big hoodie that most certainly belonged to Hyunwoo.

"I brought you something," Hyunwoo commented reaching out his hand, he held a bottle of strawberry milk (the kind that was DNA mutated so that dead ones could drink it). There had been a rise of brands making synthetic products for the Partially Dead Syndrome sufferers, making them more welcomed into society again. Minhyuk felt his eyes sting.

"Thank you." He took the bottle, uncapping it to take a sip and he was surprised to find that he could savor it, he wasn't sure if it tasted like strawberry though as he had forgotten what food even tasted like anymore, but it was the thought that counted above anything else.

"How about we watch a movie down at the cinema?" Hyungwon suggested after a brief silence and he was met with two matching noises of agreement.


 

September 2016

Sweat slid down Minhyuk's neck, catching in the shirt he was wearing and making it cling to his skin. His arms were sore, his legs were sore, his breathing was labored and loud, but he still had half an hour of training to go. The room echoed with the smack of a fist or a leg colliding with a boxing sack, Minhyuk rolled his shoulders and positioned his legs on the floor, fighting stance ready, then he punched the sack in front of him in quick paced and calculated punches.

Half a year ago the thought that one day he would be holed up inside a small community, guarded 24/7 by soldiers, with curfews and regulated activities, being forced into combat training five hours a day, two of which involved guns... He wouldn't have thought such a thing to be impossible but there he was, alongside with everyone that survived the First Rising.

That was their life now. Caged in because outside of the circled community it was too dangerous, rotters walking around day and night, ready to strike and attack. Although the superiors were trying to find a way to stop the rotters, to find a way even to heal them (there wasn't an assurance that they would find a solution - and even if they would, there was no way anyone could tell when that cure would come out).

Minhyuk landed another punch on the boxing sack, clenching his jaw as the images of the past three months flooded his mind, like flashing pictures - the way the rotters looked with their pale skin and abnormal eyes, the way their mouths would be blood stained and their hands stretched out with dead blood under their nails, the way they would lash out at any living, like pirañas grouping up on one victim to tear it apart - he shuddered at the thoughts (at the memories) and kept punching and punching the sack until he felt drained - physically as much as emotionally.

The First Rising was taking a toll on everybody.

He relaxed his shoulders when a warm and steady hand came to rest on his neck, squeezing it lightly, and he turned around to face Hoseok, his best friend. Hoseok stood by his side, equally as sweaty and tired, his black hair was pushed away from his forehead and sticking up in different directions, and even in the state he was in (gross, sweaty, smelly) Minhyuk still felt his heart jump in his chest.

(Sometimes he wondered how he was able to love in such a dark time.)

"Come on, let's stop. I'm hungry," Hoseok said, handing Minhyuk a bottle of water and towel. "It's ten minutes before seven, anyway. Hyunwoo already left, too."

Minhyuk just nodded, taking the bottle to down half of it while, with his free hand, he passed the towel over his neck to dry the sweat. Hoseok just stared at him, waiting. His usually warm and soft and bright eyes were dull these days, not that Minhyuk could blame him, but there was still some of that warmth left whenever it was just the two of them. Maybe it was because they mutually reminded each other of the days before the tragedy, before the First Rising, before the days had turned gray and violent.

An hour later they were in the community dinner hall, waiting in queue together with Hyunwoo to receive their daily dinner. It was rationed so that each person would receive a meal at least three times a day, not more not less—it was hard finding food sources, the soldiers risking their lives every time they ventured out into the wild to find food. Soon Minhyuk, Hoseok, and Hyunwoo would be part of those patrols as well, going out of the encircled community to serve the people inside.

Somehow life had to carry on.

It had been strange to Minhyuk, back in June when the First Rising had happened, to realize that none of his life plans mattered anymore, that from then on his life would focus around surviving above anything else. His dreams to become a painter thrown away because the need to survive was in first place. It was unfair and he often lost sleep at night due to it, crying and hating his life because he no longer had control over his fate, but at the same time he knew how precious it was to be still alive.

And to have Hoseok by his side. Hoseok who would climb into Minhyuk's bed whenever the younger felt that panic and sadness overcome him, hugging him tightly and murmuring reassuring things to him until he fell asleep. Even if things were as horrible as they were, Minhyuk was eternally grateful that Hoseok was there with him, in his darkest time. Their shared darkest time.

He glanced over at Hoseok, taking in the way the other's features had hardened over the past three months, the way his jawline was sharper, his cheeks more hollow. The bags under his eyes deep and dark, his eyes tired. But he was still Hoseok, the same man Minhyuk had fallen in love with years ago when they had been in high school together. If anything his love only had grown over the years.

"What?" Hoseok asked, turning his head towards Minhyuk, his eyebrows rising in question.

"Nothing," he replied, smiling at him, the butterflies in his stomach were now close friends of his, just like the way his heart stuttered. He was so used to those feelings that they no longer overwhelmed him or made him shy.

Loving Hoseok came just as natural to him as breathing or living.

"Okay." Hoseok cocked his head, a faint smile on his lips.


 

November 2018

Compared to the aftermaths of the First Rising, rotters no longer had to repay their duty in the form of serving the living, helping out with different hard and tiring tasks (getting no pay or security). The Second Rising had been handled a lot easier and the death rate had been a lot lower. PDS sufferers were now free to live just as any living human.

It was a relief to Minhyuk because with this second chance granted to him, this second chance at living, he thought again about painting. He hadn't done it in two years and he was still scared to pick up a brush, his thoughts and mind filled with way too much darkness and he didn't want to turn painting into something dark and painful, so he wanted to wait before he pursued his dream again.

But in the mean time he could work as something else and there was nothing better and more soothing than to work with animals. He found himself in front of the animal shelter a week after visiting Hoseok, deciding that even if his past hurt now more than ever he needed to keep moving forward. But mostly he stood in front of the animal shelter because Hyunwoo had drove him there, saying that it'd help Minhyuk, being with animals (and Minhyuk agreed).

He readied himself, inhaling deeply and rolling his shoulders, and opened the door of the shelter, stepping inside. The bell above the door jingled and soon a young man around Minhyuk's age came into view, he smiled the brightest and most dimpled smile Minhyuk had ever seen, his eyes turning into crescents.

"Ah, you must be Lee Minhyuk?" he asked, reaching out his hand to take Minhyuk's, who took it apprehensively (when he had applied he had not mentioned to be a rotter, too scared to get turned down, but the young man would notice now, with how cold Minhyuk's hand would be). "It's okay, we're inclusive of Partially Dead Syndrome sufferers, no need to worry," he said as if sensing Minhyuk's worries, smiling again, warm and reassuring. "I'm Lee Jooheon, by the way, nice to meet you."

"Thank you and likewise."

After getting settled into work (Jooheon had showed him around the shelter, showed him what stray animals they were currently housing, and all the other works of the shelter) Minhyuk got started at his first task: feeding the kittens. Currently there were two of them, Jooheon had passingly called them Gucci and Yoshi, until they found a new home. Minhyuk entered the small space where they were kept and sat down, putting the dry food in the containers and looked as the two kittens ran (or more like waggled) over to where he was to eat.

He watched them with adoration and reached out his hand to stroke their fur softly, one of them (he believed it was Gucci) started purring loudly. He was interrupted though as he heard a bang coming from behind him and he turned around only to see someone walk away. That someone had jet black hair, broad shoulders, and was wearing a black bomber jacket, and although there could be millions of guys fitting that description, Minhyuk's thoughts went to Hoseok and he felt an inexplicable squeeze in his chest at the thought that it could have been Hoseok. (His heart was supposed to be dead so why—)

His thoughts got interrupted as one of the kittens meowed loudly and climbed into his lap to sleep. He let out a soft laugh, feeling overwhelmed because of the tiny feline, and he patted its head delicately.

After his first shift was over Jooheon gave him all papers necessary to sign up for the job and Minhyuk left the shelter feeling revitalized due to spending so much time with kittens and other animals. Hyunwoo had been right about Minhyuk needing to spent time with animals. Another thing that had lifted his mood was getting along with Jooheon, who had even invited him over to his place to hang out sometime.

Minhyuk walked over to the nearest grocery's shop to buy something nice to eat for Hyunwoo, but as the glass door slid open and he stepped inside he wished he would have gone to the one close to his and Hyunwoo's flat because there, inside the shop, looking at two different paprikas stood Hoseok, frowning at the vegetables.

Minhyuk didn't know what to do so he let out distressed noise in the back of his throat, about to turn around and leave but Hoseok looked up then and their eyes met. Hoseok dropped the paprikas, letting out a mumbled curse word, and bent down to pick them up again before his gaze returned towards Minhyuk.

"Hey," he said, shifting awkwardly.

"Hi," Minhyuk breathed out, finding the courage to walk up to his old friend. "Um, how are you?"

"Good. Fine," Hoseok replied, his eyes squinting at Minhyuk. "Why are you here? I thought you can't eat human food?" he inquired and then turned red, looking away. "Uh, sorry, that's—"

"It's fine. I'm here to buy something for Hyunwoo."

"Wait, Son Hyunwoo?" he asked, surprised, and looked up again. He tapped the paprikas awkwardly with his finger.

"Yes, we live together."

"Oh."

They stood there, awkwardly avoiding each other's eyes while also trying to meet each other's eyes, unsure and hesitant about how to proceed. Minhyuk, as impossible as it should be, felt his lungs constrict and his heart rattle in his chest. It had been a horrible idea coming here.

"I'll, uh, go, but it was nice meeting you... again," he told Hoseok, taking a step forward to walk past his old friend, but the other reached out his free hand to clasp it around Minhyuk's elbow.

"Wait," he said, putting the paprikas back, "do you want to grab a coffee and talk?" he asked and again his face turned red. "I mean, just talk while I... grab a coffee?"

Minhyuk let out a laugh, suddenly thrown back to when things weren't as complicated and messy, before the tragedy had struck, but he made the mistake to look down at Hoseok's jacket where a pin was attached to it of the group his old friend was part of, next to it an anti-rotters pin, and he sobered up, reminded that things were different now and they lived in different worlds. Two different poles.

"Sure," Minhyuk agreed to the offer, anyway.

They walked to a café nearby, silently, their clothed arms brushing against one another ever so occasionally and Minhyuk wanted to reach out his fingers and close the distance in between his hand and Hoseok's but things were different. They no longer shared that bond they once had had and it pained him so much that if he would still breathe it surely would hurt, if his heart would still beat it would feel heavy. Instead he felt a scary and scarring numbness.

Inside the café Minhyuk went to sit by the only free table in the back, waiting for Hoseok to order his drink. To his surprise ten minutes later the other came holding a tray with two mugs of steaming liquid, he placed it down on the table before taking his spot, shrugging off his jacket.

"They had rotters', I mean, um, PDS sufferers' friendly coffee so I—I thought maybe you'd like one. My treat," he explained, ducking his head in favor of taking his coffee, avoiding Minhyuk's eyes, but his ears grew red.

"Thank you." Minhyuk wanted to cry.

The silence that followed was pregnant and awkward, the both of them avoiding each other's eyes again, glancing around the place, words heavy on their tongues but fear was holding them back. Even if Minhyuk had died and regretted not having found the courage to say many things, he still couldn't fight that fear of saying them now, scared he'd say something wrong that would ruin his chances at having Hoseok back once and for all. He settled for grabbing his own coffee mug instead, it wasn't burning his hands like it should have, but he felt it to be warm, something that he wasn't really supposed to feel, but he didn't dwell on it, taking the cup to his lips to take a sip of the coffee.

He forgot for a moment all about the uncomfortable tension in between them, marveling at how good the coffee tasted, his eyes widening and a grin spreading over his face.

"I guess it tastes good?" Hoseok wondered, his eyes on Minhyuk then, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"Yeah, better than I expected," he replied truthfully. The awkward silence was threatening to come back, so he desperately clung onto the topic to have something to talk about. "I—I mean I don't know what I expected. I have no, uh, reference and I don't remember what coffee actually tastes like anymore but, er, whatever this is, it's good," he rambled, feeling stupid at the way Hoseok was staring at him, a look of puzzlement on his face.

(But at least there wasn't that hate in his eyes anymore. It has to count, Minhyuk thought.)

After his lame attempt at salvaging the situation, their conversation turned into one about food and drinks, nothing too interesting, nothing too personal. Nothing about what they really were supposed to talk about, but it was good. It was more than what Minhyuk could have hoped for, more than he could have asked for in that moment. If Hoseok was willing to let him back into his life, then Minhyuk was going to let it happen as slowly as Hoseok needed it to be.

He didn't mind, after all Minhyuk had all the time in the world.


 

March 2017

In all the months that they had started to go out of the community to roam the perimeters, trying to find food and other useful sources for those that survived, Minhyuk and the other soldiers had encountered numeral situations in which they had been close to death, too many rotters to count jumping on them, their claws tearing at them, their mouths torn open and ready to bite. But the one they were in at this moment was probably of the worst ones yet.

Minhyuk, Hoseok, and Hyunwoo were inside a supermarket, their bags heavy with useful supplies, and outside, standing guard, were two more soldiers (every group consisted of 5 to 6 soldiers each), and yet the rotters came out of nowhere, ambushing them. They must have gotten through some other entry because if they would have passed by the soldiers standing guard outside, there surely would have been gun shots going off.

Minhyuk grabbed his gun that had been lying on the floor and he ran to one of the aisles, hiding behind it, opposite of him was Hoseok hiding behind an aisle as well. Hyunwoo was somewhere by the front of the shop, next to the cash register. The rotters approached, gurgling and growling, their footsteps loud in the otherwise quiet grocery's shop.

He waited, counting the seconds that passed by, calming his breathing down so it wasn't too loud and a dead give away of his position to the rotters. The thing was that they could not exactly differentiate humans, just movement and noises. The silence stretched out, the first two rotters passing by Hoseok and Minhyuk's positions, their limbs hanging by the sides of their bodies like dead weight. The third rotter seemed to notice them somehow because it stopped by their opposite aisles, glancing around with its dead eyes focusing on Minhyuk's figure, then shifting to somewhere behind Minhyuk.

Hoseok let out a loud gasp then, the look in his eyes terrified.

"Minhyuk, behind you!" he warned him but Minhyuk couldn't bother to check behind him because the third rotter hurled at Hoseok.

And Minhyuk did not think through his action, taking a step forward to grabbed the rotter's arm and spin it backwards so he could throw it to the ground, then he pointed the gun directly at its head, shooting once directly at where the brain would be. The face of the zombie exploded. It was disgusting but Minhyuk had not time to let his stomach turn at that, bile raising, because all rotters around him were aware of his presence, launching at him.

Their arms were stretched out, their mouthes parted flashing their teeth at him, and then it was already too late, he knew that, he knew what the risk had been. Despite knowing that he still lunged around himself, fighting off the rotters that got too close, shooting them with the ammunition he had left in his gun, not even bothering to shoot directly at their heads, only to get them off of him so Hoseok could flee, but his friend stayed where he was, his own gun pointed and shooting at the rotters.

Hyunwoo appeared from where he had been hiding, his gun pointing at the rotters' heads and taking them out one by one, but it was still too late. Because soon the swarm of zombies was surrounding Minhyuk and there was no use in fighting anymore, the quantity was too overwhelming and they were too strong. They gravitated towards him, with force they knocked him to the floor and there went his gun, scattering across the floor to halt by one of the aisles. He felt one of them biting into his arm, the next one clawing at his face.

The pain was horrible and he fought against it, against the force in which they were destroying him, but it was useless, he felt weaker and weaker, the pain too strong and the dizziness that was overcoming him at the loss of blood too weakening.

He heard Hoseok scream and curse in the background, Hyunwoo's voice joining him, but they slowly faded away. Minhyuk tried to resist the heaviness of his eyelids but he couldn't, they fell shut and with that his body grew weaker and weaker, number and number, towards lifelessness.

In the midst of all the tragedy he felt the tearing cease until there were soft and gentle hands taking his face. He knew those hands, he knew who they belonged to, and the voice that was pleading at him to stay awake for a while longer, he knew it so well, but he couldn't comply to it. He was dying and Hoseok had to watch that happen, cradling Minhyuk in his arms, crying loudly—painfully and full of anger.

"Please, Minhyuk, please don't die, I'm begging you, don't go, not yet," Hoseok rambled, his body shaking, moving forward and backwards, his grip on Minhyuk's face tightening. His voice was a wreck.

Minhyuk started crying at the pain that then filled his chest, it was like nothing he had ever experienced. Nothing would ever compare to the feeling of dying in the arms of the love of his life.

He wanted to open his eyes to see Hoseok one last time but the idea of seeing him only would make him want to hold on to life all the more and he knew that was a luxury he no longer possessed, so he stayed with his eyelids firmly shut close, staring at the darkness.

"Hoseok, I—I," he tried to formulate some words, anything, but it wasn't possible anymore, he choked on blood and pain, convulsing in Hoseok's arms.

"Hoseok, he isn't going to make it," came Hyunwoo's voice, restricted and thin, almost as if he was crying as well.

"Shut up!" Hoseok yelled, furiously and desperate. "Shut up, he isn't—he isn't dead, yet. There's still hope."

Minhyuk clenched his jaw at the words, his whole body hurting, his soul hurting. Hope, oh how he wished he could still believe in that but he didn't have that luxury anymore. It was too late, it all was too late. He never got to tell Hoseok how much he loved him, he never got to see the ocean, he never got to fulfill his dream of being an artist. He never, ever, fully realized how lovely and precious life had been, even with all the tragedy in it, he had been at least alive.

"Minhyuk, darling. Please, hold on a bit more, yeah? We'll fix you. We will find a way to—


 

December 2018

Life was looking a lot brighter than it had just a month ago.

Minhyuk had settled into his job at the animal shelter, getting along surprisingly well with Jooheon. He had managed to go to the art's shop a couple of days ago, buying all sorts of art supplies, reminiscing in the way the shop had smelled like paint and canvas and everything he missed about his old life. He had bought some supplies, dead set on starting up his old hobby and passion again.

Minhyuk currently sat on the couch in Jooheon and Hoseok's apartment. It turned out the two of them were flatmates, despite their very contradicting views on PDS sufferers. It was mildly awkward for Minhyuk and Hyungwon to sit on that couch, Hoseok somewhere in the kitchenette, stealing glances at them as he spoke in a low voice with Jooheon. Hyunwoo sat across Minhyuk and Hyungwon, looking just as awkward, holding a cup of coca cola in his hands, letting his gaze flit across the flat in wonderment.

After Minhyuk's death both Hyunwoo and Hoseok had parted ways, not interacting with each other that much anymore, their views on the world and what had happened that day way too different. One was trying to fight for a world of peace through forgiveness and understanding, the other through hate and pain.

But the fact that Hoseok and Minhyuk had talked the previous month, sharing what each had missed from the other's life, seeing what differences they had, it hadn't been as disastrous. Maybe they could work towards a future together again.

"Not to be problematic but I kinda wish I would've stayed dead..." Hyungwon mumbled under his breath, rolling his eyes at the two men in the kitchen, whispering heatedly.

It wasn't exactly Jooheon's fault for the awkwardness that reigned. He had invited Minhyuk over—telling him he could bring Hyunwoo and Hyungwon if he wanted to—for a small get together, watch movies, play video games, chat, whatever they felt like, and Minhyuk had been eager to agree, not wanting to miss the chance to find a friend in Jooheon. But when Minhyuk and his friends had arrived half an hour ago, Jooheon had mentioned his flatmate was still home but would leave soon, except that when the door of the room that belonged to Jooheon's flatmate had opened and Hoseok had walked out, the air had filled with tension. Three people in particular exchanging awkward and startled glances.

Hoseok had pulled Jooheon towards their kitchenette to talk to him.

Minhyuk let out a laugh at Hyungwon's words, the tension breaking like when one swings a hammer at a block of ice, and he couldn't stop laughing. Hyungwon gave him a look but soon joined in with his own laughter. Hyunwoo pressed his lips together, debating whether he was allowed to laugh at the joke or not.

"Shut up, that was so bad," Minhyuk told Hyungwon in between gasps of laughter. "Fuck. I can't believe that after facing death I still am subjected to socially and otherwise awkward situations," he bemoaned, feeling lighter though.

Hyungwon snorted, his eyes coming up to meet Minhyuk's before they shifted over at Hyunwoo, and again the three of them bursted out into fits of giggles. It was one of those situations where one wasn't supposed to laugh, that wasn't really funny, the tension built up too much, but it was out of their control and sometimes the only answer was to let it out through laughing. The three of them bonding over the inexplicable hilariousness of the situation.

Jooheon and Hoseok stopped in their conversation to glance over at the trio, sharing a confused and surprised look, which only prompted Minhyuk and Hyungwon to laugh louder, slapping their respective knees. Hyunwoo tried to sober up but he couldn't hold the seriousness for long, laughing as well. Jooheon frowned but smiled then, looking over at Hoseok who didn't look as pressed anymore either, a familiar glint in them as he met Minhyuk's eyes. A glint he used to have before the tragedy had happened—when Minhyuk would tell a stupid joke, laughing all by himself, while Hoseok would try hard to resist the urge, rolling his eyes instead.

The painful familiarity sobered Minhyuk up a bit until he wasn't laughing anymore and the smile on his face was a bit more forced.

"Well, I—I'll be going then," Hoseok announced once everyone had calmed down. "Er, have fun, I guess," he said as he walked over to the door, grabbing his jacket and leaving the apartment.

He left them behind in brief silence.

"So, what do you guys say? A round of Super Smash Bros Brawl? Teams of two versus two?" Jooheon suggested, walking over into the living room and settling on sitting on the couch next to Hyungwon.

"Hell yeah," Minhyuk replied, rubbing his hands together greedily. It had been way too long since he last had played video games, he had missed them more than he realized.

 

It was around midnight when they decided to put an end to their little meet up. Hyunwoo helped Jooheon clean up the living room from all the plates and drinks they had shared, cleaning together with the owner of he flat, while Minhyuk and Hyungwon put the gaming console back in its place, turning off the device.

Hoseok had been back at around eleven, going straight for his room as to not disturb them. He had looked tired and conflicted, undoubtedly something had happened during his time out at the anti-rotters group meeting, and Minhyuk had wanted so desperately to ask him about it but he hadn't, knowing that they weren't like that anymore. They weren't close anymore, it wasn't his place.

(If it hadn't been for Jooheon telling him where Hoseok had gone, Minhyuk wouldn't even have known.)

Once the flat was back to its original state, maybe even a bit cleaner than before due to Hyunwoo's immaculateness when it came to cleaning, they said their goodbyes to Jooheon, hugging him before they left the flat. They had agreed to definitely repeat it again some time soon as they had gotten along well, making plans to meet up for New Year's Eve.

Hyungwon, Hyunwoo, and Minhyuk walked down the hallways of the apartment block, not sharing much of a conversation, only complaining about the fact that Jooheon had completely obliterated them in the video games they had played. Minhyuk claimed that the only reason he had lost so tremendously was because it had been way too long since he last had played and that surely with time he would be able to beat Jooheon, to which Hyungwon just snorted.

When they exited the building Hyungwon shivered at the coldness, pressing his beige coat tighter around his frame, sniffling against the icy breeze that was sweeping through the streets. The bus stop wasn't far, just across the road, and they made their way over to it. Minhyuk picked up the noise of the building's door opening behind them but he didn't turn around to look, assuming it was just a resident.

"Minhyuk, wait!" a familiar voice shouted.

The trio stopped in their tracks, turning around startled at the mention of Minhyuk's name, and watched as Hoseok ran out of the apartment block, wearing just some sweatpants and a hoodie. They shared a look and Minhyuk signalized at Hyungwon and Hyunwoo to go ahead already, telling them that he would catch up with them in a second.

"Are you sure?" Hyungwon asked, his eyes seizing up Hoseok with distrust. Minhyuk had shared with him all about their past encounters and Hyungwon wasn't the biggest fan of Hoseok, hating that he possessed the power to hurt Minhyuk this much.

"Yes, don't worry about it," Minhyuk replied and his friend mumbled out a quiet alright before he walked over to the bus stop with Hyunwoo.

"So, what do you need?" he asked Hoseok, crossing his arms in front of his chest as he waited for his ex best friend to talk.

Hoseok hesitated for a split second, worrying his bottom lip, thinking about how he could tackle the topic of conversation.

"Minhyuk, I resigned my position at the anti-rotters group. I don't—I can't be there anymore not with you here and—I just wanted you to know that," Hoseok said, his voice strained, the bag under his eyes deeper with the white light coming from above, making him look eerie. "I want to—to get to know you again, as who you are now. I'm—"

"It's okay, Hoseok, I understand," Minhyuk told him, interrupting his rant, and untangled his arms to reach up his hand, squeezing Hoseok's elbow lightly. "You had to do what you had to do. It's in the past."

"I feel guilty, though. I could've—fuck, I could've joined Hyunwoo, but instead I became part of such a—a hateful and horrible group. I never realized that you—that you guys have—That it's not just black or white, that's not just good or evil." He grimaced, trying to find the right words but failing. Above him a Christmas light turned on, making his face warmer with the red light, not the pale and sick look that he had had before, with just the white light from the street lamp.

"Hoseok," Minhyuk insisted, looking back at the bus station where Hyungwon and Hyunwoo waited for him, trying hard not to seem too obvious in the glances they stole in their direction. "It's okay, really. I know it must have been hard on you and we can talk about this. We have so much time to—to reconnect or whatever you're comfortable with."

"I—Thank you, Minhyuk," Hoseok said, looking at him with an incredible softness. Minhyuk's (dead) heart squeezed in his chest. There seemed to be a million words that Hoseok wanted to say in that moment, emotions running through his eyes too quick for Minhyuk to untangle and understand. "Will you come with us to celebrate the new year?" he asked instead.

"Yes, I will."

Hoseok smiled, unguarded and so much like he used to do in the past.

"Have a good night then, Minhyuk," he told him before he turned around, walking back to the apartment block's entrance door, turning around one last time to wave his hand at him.

"You too," Minhyuk shouted, waving back at him.

He turned around only when Hoseok was inside the building, walking over to his friends. They didn't ask any questions and Minhyuk appreciated that, unsure what he could've even told them in that moment. It was all still unknown and new territory for him and Hoseok, but with time they could bring back some of that familiarity again.

 


 

April 2018

Minhyuk's eyes flew open and around him was darkness, he felt disoriented and hungry, and he felt pain and something unnamed and unfamiliar that he had never felt before. And he reached out his arms scratching at the surface above him. He didn't know what exactly was going on or where he was but he knew he needed to get out of wherever he found himself in.

He convulsed once, twice, thrice, his legs shaking, his nails digging into the wooden material above him. He let out a groan that sounded a lot more animalistic than human, but it didn't worry him. Nothing seemed to worry him, he felt nothing like he used to, there were all these strange and unfamiliar emotions.

He kept hitting and hitting whatever was over him, caging him in, and weirdly enough he didn't grow tired, neither did he feel pain.

After a while it seemed that whatever was above him broke and soil fell through the holes he had made with his fists and nails, he used the opportunity to keep pushing and breaking it until it was big enough to reach up his hand and through the hole. He dug through layers and layers of soil until his hand was free. He realized then in this hazy and frantic state that he was in a casket, buried.

(Somewhere, in the back of his mind he felt brief panic and fear scream at him, but it felt muted and like gibberish, a language he no longer understood or spoke.)

He pushed all the soil around him aside in favor of making the hole above him bigger so he could stick his head through it, spitting out whatever soil had made its way into his mouth. Somewhere in between all those emotions and thoughts that didn't exactly feel like his own, he noticed that he wasn't breathing nor was his heart beating.

After a lot of digging, pushing, and breaking he finally crawled out of his grave, the sky was darkening and cloudy, and together with him on the cemetery were others rising out of their graves. There was fear somewhere in his mind but above all there was hunger and violence.

 

July 2018 

Minhyuk laid on his bed, staring up at the ceiling above him, his mind numb and peaceful for once, the cure the doctors had given him finally making itself visible. He no longer felt violent or out of control, he was slowly finding back to his true self, to his own emotions and feelings. The part of him that the Second Rising had made him lose, the part of his that had been suppressed when he had risen, the part that had been sacrificed in favor of giving him a second chance (or as much of a second chance it is to be Partially Dead Syndrome sufferer), was coming back.

He didn't know for how long exactly he had been at the facility getting treated with the cure, he didn't even know when he had risen, but he hoped that it wouldn't take long for him to get out of there. He wanted to see Hoseok, he needed the other to know that he was alive (or well, as alive as he really was, having died). He wanted to see Hyunwoo again, too.

He turned around in his bed and faced the other bed in the room, where his roommate laid, his eyes were closed and a blanket was pulled tightly around his body.

"Hyungwon?" he asked into the quietness.

Hyungwon's eyes flew open and he turned his head to look at Minhyuk.

"Yes?" His voice sounded tired and worn out.

Minhyuk knew that Hyungwon wasn't treated like the other Partially Dead, there seemed to be something special about him: he felt cold and warm, he even admitted to Minhyuk that sometimes he felt his heart beat.

"Is—is there someone you want to see once you're out of here?" he asked, hesitantly, because although they had talked about a lot of things while being inside that room, talking about their life before death, before the Second Rising, before arriving at the facility was not something they had done yet, specially not about those that they had left behind.

"No," Hyungwon replied, looking away again. "You?"

"Yes. I mean, unless he died, too."

"Maybe he is in here with us?" Hyungwon suggested, his voice going for a soothing tone as if to relax Minhyuk's worries, but Minhyuk shook his head.

"No, I asked around but there's no one with his name..." he explained. "What if he died and never came back?"

"Do you want me to ask the doctors?"

"Would you really do that?" Minhyuk wondered.

He knew they did all sorts of experiments on Hyungwon, with him being somewhat special, and asking for a favor definitely meant he was going to have to cross some limit for them, give something back.

"Yes." He nodded his head and then turned around to look at Minhyuk again, there was fear in his eyes. He hesitated before he spoke again. "But you have to promise me something."

"What is it?"

"If we—" he started but stopped himself, clearing his throat. "When," he corrected himself, accentuating the word, "we make it out of here, can I—can I live with you? I have nowhere—no one to go to and—"

"Of course," Minhyuk promised him, offering a smile, even if it hurt him to know that Hyungwon was all alone. Not anymore, he supposed.

"Thank you."

 

Two weeks later Hyungwon was brought back to their room, carried by two of the facility's nurses, tired and worn out again (at this point that was his usual state), and Minhyuk was quick to jump out of his bed to approach his friend and attend him. But Hyungwon swatted away his hand, claiming weakly that he was fine and just needed some sleep (an odd thing when one was dead but somehow the cure had brought that back, the need to rest their bodies).

"I'm fine," Hyungwon whispered, voice hoarse and very unlike him. "I made a deal with them a couple of days ago. There's no Shin Hoseok here. Neither does it seem that he was registered to have died, but then again there's still a long list of people that are missing and that have to be yet registered to be dead. But I think your friend is alive," he explained in between coughs.

Minhyuk let out a painful and heavy sigh, grateful at Hyungwon for doing this small favor for him and about the news that Hoseok was most likely alive, but it pained him to see his new friend in such pain because of him.

"Thank you, really, Hyungwon, it means a lot. If you ever need anything, just—just tell me, okay?" he told him, clasping Hyungwon's hand in his and squeezing it tightly.

"I already told you what I want in return. That's all I could ever want, need." Hyungwon squeezed back.

"Right, because we are best dead friends forever."

"Yes." Hyungwon smiled meekly and then his eyelashes fluttered close.

 

October 2018

Although breathing was not necessary to him anymore, when he stepped out of the facility for the first time after months of being locked up, Hyunwoo and Hyungwon in tow, the oldest leading them through the parking lot to his car, Minhyuk still took in a deep breath, momentarily enjoying the way the air smelled and felt, but then he began coughing as his lungs could not process the air anymore.

He doubled over and Hyungwon came up to rub his back soothingly. Hyunwoo looked alarmed but Hyungwon calmed him down, explaining the situation, to which the older just frowned worriedly but didn't say anything else, most likely because he wasn't even sure what he could have replied to that.

What words of comfort could a living one even offer someone that died and was back again as a walking corpse. Being partially alive was a curse because they could walk around again, see their loved ones, do all the things they hand't managed to do in their previous life, say all the words they hadn't had a chance to say before, but they couldn't enjoy any of those things that made someone alive. They couldn't enjoy the world in the same way anymore. Emotions were felt differently as well, there were no bodily reactions anymore, everything was just dead and numb—he still had feelings but they were just different. Almost as if they were locked away.

Minhyuk shook his head to dissipate his thoughts and walked up to Hyunwoo's car to take the passenger seat while Hyungwon climbed through the back door. The drive back to civilization was quiet and tense. Both Hyungwon and Minhyuk scared for what was about to come, about reintegrating themselves in their old lives that they had abandoned over a year ago.

Minhyuk worried the most about reencountering Hoseok, he had no idea how the other was doing—Hyunwoo had told him on a previous visit that Hoseok was still alive but when Minhyuk had asked about more details his friend had gone silent, visibly uncomfortable to discuss Hoseok's new life—and how he would react upon facing Minhyuk again, alive but gone through death and the rabid state. Minhyuk was scared Hoseok wouldn't want to let him back in, wouldn't want to talk to him again nor have him close. After all, the last picture he had of Minhyuk being alive was of him getting swarmed by a group of rotters, all jumping him and tearing him apart, biting his skin and digging their nails into his skin until Minhyuk had died.

Minhyuk couldn't imagine what it had been for Hoseok to see that image, to see Minhyuk's lifeless body lying on the ground, how it had been to bury him, standing by his grave and watching the casket getting lowered into the ground. The thought alone make Minhyuk want to throw up.

He wasn't one to get car sick but the now unfamiliar motion of the car plus his thoughts had him raise his hand at Hyunwoo, signalizing that he needed to throw up, and his friend pulled over quickly, parking the car by the side of the road so that Minhyuk could jump out. Hyungwon followed him to rub soothing circles into his back as emptied his dead and already empty stomach.

Minhyuk was grateful for his dead friend's presence as he was the only one who could truly understand anything Minhyuk had gone through and would go through in the future.


 

December 2018 / January 2019

The city lights were a soft yellow, red and white to accentuate the Christmas season still, even if it was already the 31st of December. The crowd was buzzing with excitement, everyone looking forward to the new year, only minutes away from the clock striking midnight. Some people were holding cups with champagne, kids were holding cups with soda or running around carelessly.

Minhyuk stood in the middle of the crowd with his friends, holding a cup himself of PDS sufferers' friendly champagne and although his body was dead he could feel the excitement buzz in his veins, his chest tingling. The new year was going to be good, he told himself so—it had to be. After everything he had been through, after all the work he put into having a structured life, how it used to be before all the tragedy two years ago, the future looked bright and life was going to be spectacular, as Hoseok had said.

Minhyuk was slowly getting used to reintegrating into society again, having a stable job at the shelter with Jooheon, having picked up painting again—still a bit hesitant in his brush strokes and his canvas still looking more blank than colorful, but he was getting somewhere—and most importantly he had Hoseok back in his life as his best friend.

He looked to his left where he stood, Hoseok's eyes bright and sparkling, much like they used to look before the First Rising. It had taken him some time in the past weeks to completely let go of the past's pain and mourning, and it probably would take some time still in the next year to leave it all behind himself, but he was getting there. He had renounced his position at the anti-rotters group, deciding that he no longer felt that way about PDS sufferers and that he wanted to work instead at a place that helped the partially dead to reintegrate into society better.

Hoseok had applied at the place Hyungwon worked at, an organization that researched the reason behind the risings and the reason why some PDS sufferers' organisms started to reject the cure. He wanted to help discover the reason behind it all so it could be easier to help those that needed help, to hopefully bring everyone back to be as humanly as possible again (if they wanted to).

A lot had changed in the past months, from when Minhyuk first had left the facility back in October to him first reaching out to Hoseok again.

The future looked better and better and Minhyuk had a hard time believing it still, but he needed to allow himself the believe that things could be much better than what he had faced in the past, than what he was going through this time around. Change was constant and he could turn it into something positive, if he wanted to.

He shook his head to dissipate all thoughts, there was no time to ponder and reflect about the past and future, he wanted to be present—in the moment—truthfully enjoy the new year after he had not been able to do so in the past two years. He wanted to allow himself to be again as human as possible, to feel it all as much as he could with his dead body.

"Two minutes," Jooheon announced, his voice a few octaves higher than usual, dimpled smile gracing his features. He held his plastic cup tightly in his hands, looking over at his friends, the champagne in the cup splashing over his hands.

"It'll be the best one so far," Hyunwoo said with conviction and Minhyuk wanted to believe his words.

It will be, he told himself, holding onto the cup a bit tighter, the liquid rising and he quickly let go again, not wanting for it to spill over.

"Yeah," Hoseok agreed to Hyunwoo's statement, glancing over at Minhyuk and smiling softly at him.

And Minhyuk? He got caught up in the moment, drawn to the way Hoseok looked in the light, his features soft and almost as if time hadn't passed. Looking almost like he had before the tragedy had struck, younger and softer. Minhyuk couldn't look away, not wanting to waste this moment in which he could feel some of that liveliness and warmth that he had forgotten, and it seemed as if Hoseok couldn't look away either, holding Minhyuk's stare, his smile had faded but his eyes still were youthful and soft, the corners crinkled.

It was as if they were in their own world now, their surroundings fading away until it all was just muffled and white noise, the background behind Hoseok was blurred out and Minhyuk could pretend they were alone in this moment. Just the two of them, always the two of them until the end of time - like it used to be before and after the First Rising, just Minhyuk and Hoseok against the world. But that wasn't quite right anymore, they had made friends, they had overcome so many hardships, and they were still together just like they used to but better (or so Minhyuk hoped, looking forward to the new year to mold it into something better)—like they used to but instead this time around the path ahead would be a lot more loving and peaceful.

Minhyuk didn't know what exactly over came him in that moment except for the incredible burst of love and adoration he had for Hoseok taking over his mind, body, soul, heart—his everything—and he reached forward, his hands coming up to cradle Hoseok's face, softly caressing the smaller man's cheeks. And he leaned down to press an ever so light kiss to Hoseok's lips, nothing forceful or needy, just a reflection of the fireworks that were going off now, the cheers of the people around them breaking through their bubble, but it was how Minhyuk's love for Hoseok felt in that moment. A new start, a cheer, something so full of possibilities.

And the best part was that Hoseok didn't pull away, he leaned in as well, his hands coming to rest at Minhyuk's waist, grabbing his coat to hold himself closer.

It was all Minhyuk had ever wanted. For his love to be returned, mirrored in Hoseok's actions and heart. And maybe it is, he thought as his eyes fluttered close and he kissed Hoseok again and again and again, all feathery light. 


 

June 2016

Minhyuk sat in basketball shorts in front of his computer—a bag of chips next to the technological device, bottle of coke opened, crumbles all over the desk—with his gaming headset pulled over his head, hair still damp from the shower. Pictures in frames were lined up on the desk, by the back, on them was Minhyuk with friends.

He jiggled his leg as he waited for the game screen to load. Outside it was raining heavily and dusk was breaking. Hoseok was still at college, having late classes that day, but Minhyuk did not worry as he would come home in an hour, until then Minhyuk could play some, an alarm set ten minutes before he knew Hoseok would be back (home) at their flat so that Minhyuk could dial up the pizza place they usually get their food from on Fridays—when both of them were tired from the week and looked forward to just chill on the couch and watch a movie.

The game finally loaded and Minhyuk immersed in it, readying himself to face a swarm of orcs together with his teammates.

When the alarm finally rang he had successfully finished a couple of quests and leveled up, so he logged out, removed the headset, and grabbed his phone to dial the pizza place. He frowned as the line went straight to the mailbox, the robotic voice of a woman announcing that the place he was trying to call had their phone disconnected. Minhyuk pulled his phone away to check the number, see if he had pressed the wrong contact but it was Yoo's Pizzas. He called again but just as previously he was sent to the mailbox.

He let out an annoyed sigh and texted Hoseok a quick message asking if there was anything else he would like to order, and as he waited he opened his internet browser to search up some other pizza place close by.

Twenty minutes later his search was interrupted by the infamous dinosaur that signalized the lack of an internet connection. Minhyuk rolled his eyes and got up from his chair to walk into their living room to check up on their router. Their internet and phone connection were gone and he was about to get annoyed but outside thunder cracked and he looked out of the window, realizing only then how strongly it was raining, lighting flashing in the air. Maybe their phone company was affected by the storm and thus the lack of connection.

He let out a sigh, turning around already to do something else when he stopped.

It wasn't the storm, though that made him walk closer to the window, it was the blue flashing lights that were reflecting off the buildings' windows outside. They lived in an apartment block, fourth floor, with a view on different streets, and Minhyuk noticed with horror that the streets were swarmed with police cars. He could slowly differentiate, away from the loud pouring of the rain, the sound of multiple sirens.

With shaky hands he slipped his phone out of his shorts' pocket, where he had previously left it, to open up Twitter and check up on the local news, but he only made it as far as to press the blue icon when his phone's screen lit up with his mother's name flashing on screen. His guts twisted, she never called, not unless there was an emergency. After all he wasn't on good terms with his family anymore, hadn't been for years.

He inhaled shakily before he picked up.

"Mom?" he asked, hesitantly, feeling scared and like a young teenager all over again, as it had been years since he last had spoken to her.

"Minhyuk? Oh, thank God, thank you, God. You're alive, Minhyuk," she rambled down the line, voice panicky and restrained. "He's alive," she said, her voice away from the speaker, most likely talking to someone else that was with her at that moment. "Listen to me, Minhyuk, please stay inside your house, no matter what, stay inside."

"What's going on?" he asked her, worried at her tone of voice, his eyes glued to the window and the scenery unfolding outside, rain pouring and lightning flashing, he could see down on the streets were people moving, police cars and ambulance driving around like crazy. The sound of what seemed to be guns going off. "Mom, what is happening?" he asked again, this time his voice going higher like it did when he got scared, shaking and his heart pounding in his chest.

Something was wrong, terribly wrong.

"We—We're not sure, no one is, but there seems to be someone—something out there attacking people," she explained, erratic and hesitantly. "Just don't go outside, Minhyuk, please. I know we have our—our differences but I don't want you to die." Even with the situation at hand Minhyuk felt anger course through his veins at those words, gripping the phone tightly but words were stuck in his throat. "I'm going to hang up now. Please listen to me, for once."

The line went dead but Minhyuk stayed like that for a couple of seconds more, phone pressed to his ear, staring at the scene outside but his eyes were glazed over, his mind somewhere else, in the past, years ago, when he had been kicked out of his home for being gay, his parents saying he was wrong.

Thunder cracked again and it was efficient in pulling him out of those darker days from the past.

When twenty minutes passed and Hoseok wasn't home yet Minhyuk started to stress (more than he had already with whatever the fuck was currently happening outside), he ran his hand through his hair and paced around in their flat, mumbling to himself that it was going to be alright. Maybe Hoseok had just been caught up in traffic or something, definitely not because of whatever apocalyptic shit was going on in the streets.

It wasn't just police sirens anymore that carried up to his flat, the rain had ceased and there were screams echoing through the slit of the window that was opened, more gun shots than before, helicopters flying around. It was chaotic and scary and the more time passed the more Minhyuk feared that he might never see Hoseok again, and he never had realized how utterly terrifying that thought was, but now he did.

The lights in his flat suddenly shut off and he let out a surprised and startled scream, looking around in the darkness, feeling vulnerable all of a sudden, and he turned to look out of the window again, lights shutting off one by one in the buildings around him.

Fuck, he thought, fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

He pulled out his phone and there was still no messages from Hoseok. He swallowed and pushed it back into his short's pocket, resuming his pacing as he tried to sort out his thoughts—as he tried to calm his heart down. Hoseok was fine, he had to be, there was no way Minhyuk could carry on with life without his other half. He couldn't. Tears welled up in his eyes, sliding down his cheeks, but he barely noticed them in the haze and panic throbbing through his body and mind.

He was jerked out of thoughts by a knock on the door, he jumped and turned to look at the door, he had gotten used to the darkness now, recognizing his surroundings better. He swallowed and waited, seconds passing by, then whoever it was on the other side of the door knocked again and again, repeatedly, as if in panic. Minhyuk didn't know what to do, he was scared, the sounds of the chaos unfolding outside playing behind him.

Then, there was a voice, muffled and panicked.

"Minhyuk, it's me, please open up," Hoseok pleaded, knocking again, and Minhyuk let out a relieved sigh. "Fuck, please tell me you're home."

Minhyuk didn't waste any more time and yanked the door open, Hoseok stumbled inside, nearly falling flat but Minhyuk held him up, immediately drawing him for a bone crashing hug. He was alive, holy shit, he was alive. 


 

January 2019

Minhyuk stood in the cold, shivering again even if it was not supposed to be like that—his body was supposed to be dead—but he had been having troubles these days comprehending what was happening to him anymore. From the way his body rejected the cure, to his skin becoming naturally more like it used to look like before he had died (tanned and alive), to his heart skipping beats randomly (mostly around Hoseok's presence).

But he ignored the cold, pulled his coat tighter around his frame, and leaned against the tree, scanning the dark and abandoned area in front of him.

Soon after a figure approached. A beanie was pulled over Hoseok's head and he was wearing his signature black bomber jacket (all anti-rotters pins were gone and Minhyuk felt another shiver pass through his body, for a different reason not related to the cold at all), his hands were stuffed inside the jacket's pockets. Once he stood in front of Minhyuk he gave him a soft smile, hesitant still but warm.

"Hey," Hoseok greeted him. "Thank you for meeting me even if it's late but this is really important."

"It's fine, I don't mind," Minhyuk told him, the I'd meet you anywhere, anytime got stuck in his throat. "So, what is it?" he asked.

"After—after you kissed me at New Year's Eve I've been thinking about—about us. About everything. And I'm sorry Minhyuk for the things I've said—I've done." Hoseok evaded his eyes, instead looking somewhere on the floor, and bit his bottom lip in a nervous manner. "I don't expect you to accept my apology or to even talk to me ever again but I—I really missed you so much, and I still can't believe that you are back and that it is really you," he said and looked up for a split second, gauging Minhyuk's reaction and expression.

But Minhyuk didn't know what to say or how to guard his heart and soul from the emotions that were about to spill out, so he wasn't sure what his face showed—what his eyes gave away—but Hoseok held his eyes, swallowing once before he took a step forward, his hands coming out of his pockets and moving towards Minhyuk's face, cradling it. Hoseok's thumb ever so delicately moved over Minhyuk's cheek, right under his eye, and only then did Minhyuk realize he was crying.

"I'm really sorry, Minhyuk, and I—" he took in a breath, licking his lips once, his eyes again wavering before they settled back to stare back into Minhyuk's. "I'm in love with you."

Minhyuk's heart skipped a beat, two, three, four, five, then it went silent again, but it was enough for Minhyuk to break. Crumbling at hands of Hoseok.

For the longest time that had been all he ever had wanted to hear, all he needed to hear, and he had been too scared to say those words himself. Back before the First Rising he had thought now or never but then destiny had cut him off and after that he had always thought that it wasn't the right time. On top of that he had died, almost as if the universe didn't want him to be together with Hoseok. But then he had gotten a second chance at life, at loving, but Hoseok had looked at him with disgust and fear and hate and so many other things that Minhyuk had never thought to be possible to come from Hoseok (even less towards him, of all people).

Minhyuk's love always had felt misplaced and at the wrong time. But to hear Hoseok say those words to him, those words that Minhyuk always, always had wanted to hear, that he had had at the tip of his tongue for far too long, far too many years to even remember when he first had almost spilled them out. He couldn't take it—his heart couldn't take it.

So he broke down, tears spilling out of his eyes, his knees growing weak, but Hoseok was there to catch him. His arms came around Minhyuk, holding him tight.

"I'm sorry," Hoseok told him, again. "I love you."

"I—I love you, too," he managed to mumble back, his words hidden in Hoseok's chest, right where his heart was. Minhyuk noticed then how fast it was beating and how his own dead heart was responding. "Hoseok, my—my heart it's—it's beating."

"What?" Hoseok pulled away softly to look at him, frowning in confusion. "But you're—" he didn't dare to say it, the words getting stuck in his throat.

"I know but I—I'm feeling alive these days. I can feel the cold again." Hoseok stared at him in wonder (and with an adoration beyond anything Minhyuk could have ever imagined) and reached up his hand again to ever so lightly press his fingertips to Minhyuk's face, who jerked at the coldness. "Your fingers, they're so cold."

"But you shouldn't be able to tell, to feel that."

"I know. But things are changing. And I'm not the only one," he admitted, thinking of Hyungwon's changes, too. "Something is changing us."

Hoseok stood in silence, staring at Minhyuk but his thoughts were elsewhere.

Out of the sky snowflakes started to fall and Minhyuk looked up, noticing their soft coldness on his cheeks. He hadn't seen the snow in so long; it reminded him of the time before the First and Second Risings, when Hoseok and him had been just young and poor college students trying to find jobs and a purpose in life.

"I love you," he whispered, looking back down at Hoseok who was already looking at him, in his eyes Minhyuk recognized his own feelings and so he leaned forward to softly press his lips against Hoseok's.

Against all odds his heart soared.