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in the pale moonlight

Chapter Text

 

 

He rifled through the junk on the table-- little scraps of metal and gems and glowing things-- and clicked his tongue in frustration. It was here yesterday. He could've sworn he saw it. Maybe under the duranium? He got up to get his gloves, you shouldn't touch it bare-handed--

And heard laughter coming from the doorway. Chan. 

"You left it next to the hot pot when you made breakfast this morning," he said. He held the little crystal in between his thumb and forefinger. "I'm lucky you didn't drop it in. Refined lunaridium," he recited, "Poisonous if ingested."

"Shut up," Woojin growled. "Maybe if you could cook, you wouldn't have to worry about me dropping moon rocks in your food, huh?"

Chan's smile didn't waver. Woojin loved that about him. Nothing got him down. No matter what shit the universe threw at them (and it seemed like a lot, sometimes), Chan always smiled through it. 

Woojin stood up and made to take it from his hand, but Chan pulled it away. "Ah-ah," he teased. "Finder's fee."

Woojin gave a low hum, grinning. He wiped his hands on his pants, knowing it would do nothing against the layer of grit under his nails, and threaded his fingers into Chan's heavy curls, tugging slightly to expose his neck. He put his lips against the skin there, softer than he knew Chan was expecting. Chan shivered. 

"Fine, fine, before I drop it," Chan grumbled, thrusting the gem into Woojin's hand and rubbing his neck. Woojin smiled. You didn't live with a person for three years and not know how to get what you want. 

"Later, though," Chan said from halfway out the door. "You owe me."

Woojin looked up, ready to tell Chan exactly what he was planning to do to him later, but the man was already gone. That was Chan. Flitting from place to place, appearing out of nowhere and gone in an instant. Never sleeping. He got things done, though, and he got Woojin the materials they needed to make a living. Enough of one, anyway. And at the end of the day-- or at the end of several, at least-- Chan was there in their box-frame bed in their shitty apartment when the nightmares came, and that was what mattered. 

He slid his goggles down over his eyes and pulled on his gloves, holding back a sigh. Extracting the active compound from lunaridium took ages. He was in for a long night.

 


 

"Can't we go out for ramen?" Chan pleaded, tipping backwards in the metal frame chair. It screeched against the bare concrete floor. 

"We're broke," Woojin said. He leaned against the kitchen counter. 

Chan glared at him upside-down. "I know you're lying." He let the chair back down with a clang and spun around in it to face Woojin. "You just don't wanna go out in the rain."

"I don't like going out in acid rain, no."

"Acid rain is the only rain now."

"Yeah. Good job, humanity."

Chan rested his chin on his arms crossed over the chair and looked towards their single apartment window. It was small and dirty and had bars over it-- this used to be a prison building-- and overlooked a giant blinking, neon sign from the love hotel in the building next to them. Their kitchen was permanently washed in a faint alternating blue and hot pink glow. 

His gaze was far away and somehow... sad. Their whole stupid apartment was sad. Suddenly Woojin felt embarrassed about being here, about being too broke to take his partner out for ramen. 

"Fine," he said roughly. "Let's go."

Chan perked up. "Really?"

"I said so, didn't I?"

And Woojin would have sold the shirt off his back to make Chan smile like he did just then. The tired bags under his eyes disappeared and his dimple deepened, and Woojin knew he was just imagining it but their kitchen seemed to get just a little bit brighter. "Well, get your jacket, then," he nudged. "I'm buying you ramen, not new skin when it gets all acid burned."

Chan laughed and bounded to the hall closet. "That's just a myth. Worst case I'll just get a rash."

"Gross. I'm not kissing you with a rash."

"You would too and you know it."

Woojin plucked his keys from the single nail pounded into the wall by the door. They didn't need keys; the door locked with a DNA fingerpad. He just liked having them. "I would." He placed a single, solid smack on Chan's ass. "Are we leaving or not?"

Chan slipped on his oversized bomber jacket, pulling up the hood and covering his curly silver hair. Woojin wondered how he kept it so perfectly maintained-- he never bleached it at home, and the color was so perfect he half wondered if it was somehow natural-- but there was still a lot he didn't know about Chan, and for all the man's kindness and loving nature, he had a way of avoiding questions. So somewhere along the way, Woojin had just stopped asking. 

Woojin shrugged on his own jacket, an old worn leather thing he thought still looked good on him that Chan was begging him to throw away. He didn't need a hood. He slipped his keys in the pocket and held his arm out for his partner and they stepped out into the concrete jungle of New Seoul, stomachs growling.

 


 

"Get the fuck up, you rat."

Crack

"You think you can fuck me over like that, huh?" Crack. Crack. "You think I'm gonna let some wire-slut take me down?"

Woojin almost walked past them without turning his head. Those were his old instincts kicking in. His belly was full of salted broth and perfectly cooked noodles and marinated egg, and his mind was full of memories of Chan's happy face, slurping noodles from his chopsticks, flecks of broth landing on his cheek and glistening there until Woojin wiped them away--

But Chan would never. Woojin was only here, now, because Chan would never. Never walk past screams. Never walk past injustice. So of course Chan grabbed his hand and they stopped, listening.

"I should fucking scrap you for parts." Crack. Woojin couldn't see them yet, but it sounded sickeningly like metal on bone. "But that wouldn't be nearly enough suffering for a rat--" crack-- "like--" crack-- "you!"  

Chan had heard enough, apparently, and motioned for Woojin to follow him around the corner where the commotion was coming from. Woojin gritted his teeth and went after him, silently. 

He wasn't surprised by what he saw. A man was standing over a small, barely dressed figure, with a gun in his hands and a crazed look in his eyes. The figure was slumped to the ground and bleeding profusely, mainly from the back of its neck. 

Woojin didn't have to think. In fact, it was better if he didn't. He shut his mind down and let that part of him take over. The old part. The part Chan had saved him from.

He faded into the shadow of the building to the man's back and slinked against the wall. Quickly, quietly. He was at the man's side before the stranger even had a chance to look up.

Woojin grabbed the wrist holding the gun and wound his arm around the man's back, locking his other arm in place. Chan appeared in front of them. 

"We're going to take this one away," Chan said softly. "Let us go and we won't hurt you."

The man struggled in Woojin's grip. "Fuck you." He turned his head and spat at Woojin's face. "He's my property. You can't take him, that's illegal. I'll go to the police."

Woojin glanced down at the crumpled mess on the ground. Now that he was closer, he could see, underneath all the blood--- not flesh or bone, but smooth acrylic and clear strings of synthmuscle. And he'd called him 'wire-slut.' 

The thing on the ground was not a human. It was an android.

Woojin and Chan looked at each other. Technically the man was right. If it was an android, it was his property. Stupid, but still the law. The man could do whatever he wanted to it. Beat it, sell it. Even kill it. If he and Chan took it, they'd be breaking the law. He knew this.

He also knew that his Chan didn't give a fuck. 

Woojin tightened his grip on the man's wrist. For all appearances, it looked like a simple, harmless squeeze. But the man screamed and dropped his gun. 

"I just broke your wrist," Woojin mumbled into the man's ear. "I can break a lot more if you want me to. Do you want me to?"

"FUCK YOU!" the man screamed. 

Woojin shrugged. He interlocked his fingers with the man's and gave a tug on the man's pinky, eliciting another scream. "One finger broken. I did that one so it won't heal properly. If we keep going like this, you won't be able to hold a gun." He sighed. "I'm guessing that wouldn't be very good for your career, would it?"

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" the man panted. He was slipping in Woojin's grasp, weak from pain. "H-how did you....?"

"My friend has strong bones," Chan answered flatly. "Now I must insist. Let us go. It's the easiest way out for everyone."

The man sputtered weakly. Woojin could tell he was on the verge of passing out. "You're c-crazy," he wailed. "That thing is worth at l-least a t-thousand credits. You can't... just... take..." He collapsed for a moment in Woojin's arms, eyelids fluttering. Woojin used the opportunity to slip the gun from his fingers and crack it sharply and precisely against the base of the man's skull. He fell to a heap on the ground. If Woojin did it correctly, the man's memory of tonight should be fuzzy at best. But Woojin hadn't done anything like this in a long time. They couldn't count on it. 

He carefully dropped the gun in a pothole full of rainwater. He didn't have fingerprints, but any fibers or hairs should be washed away by the time someone examined it for evidence. If anyone cared. There was a lot of crime in New Seoul. Somehow Woojin didn't think anyone would spare a lot of time for a fuzzy-headed pimp who 'lost' his property.

When Woojin looked up, Chan was already gathering the broken pile of person into his arms. Rain soaked the blood into his jacket. The thing he held was nearly bare. They would draw attention to themselves like this, with Chan cradling it in his arms and blood running rivers down them both. 

Pressing his lips together in distaste, Woojin rolled the man he'd just knocked unconscious over. In seconds he stripped the long coat from the man's body, leaving him shivering in the rain. You'll wake up with a rash tomorrow, Woojin thought. He didn't feel bad about it.

He brought the coat over to Chan. Draped it around the figure's shoulders, arranged it to cover up the bareness of its smooth, synthetic skin. When he touched it, it shivered. 

"Do you think it's gonna--" he stopped, not knowing the words for what he was trying to ask. Live? There was a lot of blood. Androids didn't really need it-- most of them didn't have blood, only the ones who needed to appear as human as possible-- but Woojin thought he remembered something about blood replacing conductive fluid in certain newer models. 

There was a lot of blood.

Chan bit his lip and shifted the weight in his arms. "I don't know. Let's get back. Quickly."

As they hurried back to their apartment, Chan flicked his phone active. 

"Hello? Yeah, it's me. Hey. I need a favor." He paused, face unhappy, like he was getting an earful from whoever was on the other end of the call.

"Yeah, yeah, I know, okay? Just be at our place in ten. With your stuff. I- I really need you." At the end his voice was strangely soft, and Woojin pushed away the sour taste of jealously that threatened to rise in his chest. 

"Yeah. Okay."

Another pause.

"Thanks, Felix."

Chan clutched the android tighter to his chest and sped up, nearly breaking into a run. For a second, Woojin watched him go. There was a lot he didn't know about Chan. At first it had been okay. Mysterious. Sexy. Now it seemed like every day that black, empty hole grew wider. Like a rift. A rift where he was on one side, and Chan was on the other.

He shook his head. This wasn't the time. 

Woojin cracked his knuckles and followed them into the dark.

 

 

Chapter Text

Someone Woojin had never seen before was waiting for them when they finally reached the landing of their apartment, soaking wet and out of breath. He looked young-- younger than both of them-- and his features were delicate and pretty. The sharp white doctor's uniform looked good on him. Clean. Professional.


When he saw Chan he scowled, but then his eyes found the thing in Chan's arms and all emotion left his face, replaced by a blank mask. "Get us inside," the young man snapped.


Woojin fumbled stupidly with his key for a brief second before remembering the thumbpad, then slammed his finger against it.


One second. Two. Three.


Beep.


The door clicked. Woojin slammed it open, blood rushing in his ears so loud he couldn't hear anything else. Chan and the stranger shoved past him. He hardly noticed. His senses were overwhelming him. Heart pounding, the beat of it so strong it pulsed in the corners of his vision, his own breathing harsh and ragged and--


Breathe. It was Chan's voice, even though Chan wasn't here with him now. Just breathe. And Woojin listened. He leaned his head back against the wall, eyes closed, and focused on the breath filling up his lungs. It faded everything else away. He calmed, and went to join the others.


In the short sixty seconds it had taken for Woojin to catch up, their kitchen had been turned into a triage station. Their cheap plastic table (thankfully it was always bare, or he was sure all of their dishes would be in pieces on the floor right now) held the stretched-out, face-down body of the android, blood still running in little thin lines towards the edge of the white surface and pooling on the floor. How much blood does that thing have?


Felix-- Woojin guessed this sharp yet soft young man was the same Felix from the phone call in the streets-- had one hand rummaging in his bag and the other literally plunged inside the wound at the back of the android's neck. Chan was standing at the head of the table, holding the poor thing's head still. Woojin saw Chan's thumb gently caressing the android's ear, and his heart swelled again, the void from earlier forgotten. This was his Chan. Someone who cares, no matter who you are.


"You," Felix barked. Woojin immediately straightened, ready. The man's voice was commanding and sure, and Woojin's body had reacted automatically. "Get me towels. And scissors, if you have them." His hand was still rummaging around. "I can't-- find-- my fucking-- scissors!"


Woojin did as he was told, then faded into the background and watched the two of them work. They worked well together, Woojin observed. Little things, like Chan instinctively moving back when Felix came forward, or how they communicated in half sentences and single words dropped here and there.


"Can you--" started Felix, gesturing with his elbow towards a towel. His hand was still deep inside the android's skin.


"Yeah," Chan answered immediately, grabbing the towel and gently wiping the area around the wound. "Up," he said quietly, and Felix lifted his arm so Chan could wipe beneath it.


Woojin wondered how long they'd been together.


It took nearly an hour before Felix collapsed into a kitchen chair, groaning. Their kitchen-- and everyone in it-- was stained with the deep, crusty red of drying blood. 

The giant gaping wound was completely gone. Not a single trace of it could be seen on the android's tanned skin. Woojin had watched in awe as Felix had placed a piece of clear matrix over the area and ran a small adhesive gun over the edges, and right before his eyes the edges sealed and color seeped into the synthskin, obscuring what lay beneath it.


"That," Felix said, lifting a tired hand to point at the android's neck, "was done with a surgical knife. Someone slit him open. Probably trying to get his memory core."


"Did they?" Chan asked. "Get it, I mean."


Felix shook his head wearily. "It's still there. They cut too high." He sighed. "Severed a lot of his wiring, though. Important ones. I don't-- I don't know how he'll be when he wakes up."


A shadow passed over Chan's face. His brows knit together unhappily. "Can't you do something about it?"


Felix stared at him. "Are you serious? What the fuck do you think I've been doing for the last hour? Since you called me up out the blue and just demanded that I--" He stopped, sucking in a breath through pursed lips. "You know what, I don't want to get into this. I did what I could. I'm a doctor, not a programmer. And your patient is no longer dying." Felix stood up, brushing off his now-stained coat, and grabbed his bag. "I think I'm done here."


Chan closed his eyes, bringing a hand up to press against his temple. He was trying not to get angry, Woojin knew. Knew from all of their own arguments.


"You're right," he finally said, his voice carefully controlled. "Thank you, Felix."


The two men looked at each other for a moment. The room was completely silent, and Woojin didn't even dare to breathe. Then, without a word, Felix turned and stalked out of the kitchen. They heard the door slam shut a second later, and both of them let out the breath they had been holding.


"Who--" Woojin started, but he was cut off.


"Don't," Chan snapped. Then he sighed. "Just-- just don't. Not right now. Okay?"


Woojin reached out and slowly took hold of Chan's hand. He could tell Chan wanted to pull away, but Woojin's grip was steady. For a moment it was tense-- the tension ran between them like something electric and dangerous-- but then it was over and Chan melted into his touch and Woojin pulled him close, blood-stained clothes and acid-rain-soaked skin and all. He wrapped him up tight in his arms, pressing his nose into Chan's damp hair and breathing in the scent of him.


"You saved his life," Woojin mumbled. Just like you saved mine . He didn't say it out loud. "We're lucky to have you, Channie."


At the pet name Chan absolutely crumbled. He started shaking against Woojin's chest, breathing ragged and broken like it always was when he was trying not to cry.


Bang Chan was a good person. Woojin knew everything he was feeling right now: residual adrenaline from the alleyway making him jittery and sensitive and too alert; exhaustion from the tension and uncertainty of the past hour, wondering if the android would even make it; some kind of unknown stress from seeing this Felix person again-- and Chan's own personal affliction, one he'd explained to Woojin enough times for Woojin to understand, but one he'd never felt: an overwhelming sense of empathy. His heart was probably breaking for the thing on their table, even though he didn't know anything about it. Just the fact that it had suffered made Chan suffer, too.


It's not like Woojin didn't care. He felt bad for the android. But-- Woojin didn't know him. He felt nothing more than a vague sense of regret and sympathy.


After awhile Woojin pulled away. "I'll make up the bed for him," he said. "You can sleep on the couch. I'll take the floor."


When Chan's eyes met his they were sparkling. Actually sparkling. They were wet with held-back tears and they reflected the blinking neon glow from the sign, making his eyes shine with flickering blue and pink light. He looked ethereal. And happy, too-- he took Woojin's face in both of his hands and kissed him solidly on the lips.


"Thank you," he breathed. And he didn't have to say I love you . It was written all over his face. Woojin knew.


 The android was lighter than Woojin expected. He carried it to the bedroom with ease and laid it down gently on the bed. 

It was the first time Woojin had really looked at it. Chan had cleaned most of the blood and dirt from it, but it was still in bad shape. Felix said the bruises and other marks were just superficial and the synthskin would heal itself in a few days. So he didn't waste time removing them.


The body looked male. It was small but its muscles were toned, and soft, midnight-colored hair cut across its forehead in a sharp line.


Now, Woojin finally noticed what the android was wearing. Or... not wearing. A black leather harness was fitted over its chest, matching a smaller one strapped around its right thigh. A pair of black panties barely covered him. Woojin blushed and looked away.


Wire-slut , he heard in his head.


So... this was that kind of android. A sex bot. They were common enough, but Woojin had never gone looking for one. He had Chan. And before that, he didn't get to decide what he did. So he'd never seen anything so... so lewd .


Swallowing his sudden embarrassment, he set to work unbuckling the harnesses and tossing them to the floor. Probably not very comfortable to sleep in, he guessed. He left the underwear alone.


He dressed the thing in one of Chan's shirts and a pair of drawstring pajama bottoms that could be tied tight enough to barely stay up on the android's slender frame. Then he drew the covers up over it.


Its face was... unnerving. It was perfectly still. No twitches, no eye movement under the closed lids, nothing.


With one last uncertain look, Woojin quietly closed the bedroom door and left the android to its motionless slumber.


 "Is he all settled?" Chan asked. He was sitting on the couch, eyes tired and dark. When Woojin had walked in, his head had been down in his hands, but he quickly snapped up when he heard footsteps. 

"Yeah," Woojin said. "I changed him out of these ," he added, dangling the harnesses from two fingers like they were diseased.
Chan made a face and looked away. "Get rid of them." He sank back into the faded fabric of the couch. He looked so, so tired. The kind of tired that made Woojin actually hurt. He gravitated over to the other man, sinking down beside him, the two of them shifting easily into a comfortable and familiar position, intertwined.


Woojin stroked Chan's hair. "You should go to sleep," he mumbled.


Chan's response was automatic. "I can't."

Woojin wondered if he even knew he was saying it. It was a lie, anyway. Chan slept sometimes. Just... less than he should.


"He was so different."  Chan's voice was so quiet Woojin wasn't sure at first if he'd even heard anything.


"Who?"


"Felix."


Of course. "Oh. Yeah?" Woojin made his voice non-committal.


Chan pulled away from Woojin's arms. "Yeah. He used to be... so carefree. And kind of helpless. Like someone who needs help doing everything, you know?"


Woojin shrugged. "People grow up. How long ago did you--" know each other? Talk? Fuck? "--date?"


Chan started and looked over at him. "How did you know we dated?"


"You just looked like you were used to each other."


A little chuckle escaped from Chan's pink lips. It was nice to hear, after everything. "You don't miss anything, do you?"


"Not built to."


For a moment Chan's hand grasped his, then let go. "We'd just broken up a few months before I met you." He hesitated. "Not on the best terms..."


"Yeah, I could tell," Woojin said. "He was not happy."


Chan shifted uncomfortably. If Woojin had to guess, he still felt guilty about Felix, for one reason or another. But Woojin didn't pry.


"You should sleep," he said again instead.


"I said I can't," Chan replied, an unhappy little frown on his face.

Woojin ran a hand over Chan's shoulder, following it up his neck to brush the loose curls away from Chan's forehead. He leaned in and followed the same path with his lips, softly and with love. 

"Let me help you," he mumbled. Chan melted into his touch, and they sank down together on the old, worn couch. Chan didn't sleep much-- but when he did, Woojin was there. Holding him tight, safe in the darkness until the cold light of morning brought another day for them to face. Together.