Chapter 1: Prologue
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
His gaze flickers back and forth in rapidly growing panic, surveying the battlefield in front of him. The enemy is almost outnumbered one to two, and yet they appear to have the upper hand; despite fighting approximately two each, the enemy doesn’t seem anywhere close to losing, and Zitao worries his lower lip as he watches those he has come to call friends bravely take on the enemy, hands clenching nervously at his sides.
The first scream of the night rips through the air and chills Zitao to the bone, and he spins around, seeking the voice’s – the familiar voice’s – owner. His eyes wide in horror when he finds Baekhyun on his knees, a hand pressed to his stomach, and oh God, there’s blood, seeping between his fingers, his pale face a canvas of emotions ranging from shock to pain. And Zitao wants to move, wants to run when he sees the enemy that struck down Baekhyun lunge at him again, but he can’t move a muscle. The terror has him paralysed.
“Baek!” a tall man – Chanyeol – cries, voice tight with fear as his eyes lock with Baekhyun’s, but’s held back by an opponent, attacks being thrown at him viciously to keep him at bay. “Baekhyun!”
Another man then materialises out of thin air beside Baekhyun and reaches out for him just as a second man steps in between Baekhyun and the enemy. The weapon flies out of the enemy’s hand, but he pays it no mind, instead opting to just throw himself bodily against the other male.
They both tumble to the ground, and for a second Zitao dares not breathe, eyes locked on the form trapped under the weight of the enemy, body unmoving even when the enemy stands, a twisted sneer on his face as he kicks the fallen.
Zitao can’t even begin to tell the screams apart. His sole focus is on Luhan, on the knife embedded in his chest, on the blood slowly forming a puddle under him, on the eyes staring emptily up at the night sky just visible through the tree tops. It tells Zitao everything he doesn’t want to know and the tears slowly start falling from his eyes, a hand flying up to muffle the sobs.
One of them is dead. Killed.
What went wrong?
Jongin, having taken Baekhyun away from the midst of the battle, quickly turns back to the fighting and with a loud cry of despair at having lost one of their own, he lunges at the first enemy he sees. What he doesn’t see in his rage, however, is the enemy appearing behind him. They throw a fisted hand right at Jongin’s back, going straight through tissue and flesh, the hand emerging from out of Jongin’s chest. Hauling the arm back, Jongin’s dead before his body hits the ground.
Zitao sobs and screams, yet not having it in him to move from his spot behind trees and bushes. “Oh God…” he utters in a choked whimper, tearing his eyes away from his fallen friend.
He’s afraid. He’s so, so afraid.
The losses of two of their own clearly show in the rests’ fighting style: Their actions turn drastic, desperate, and the rage everyone feels easily carries over to their powers, becoming less controlled, more erratic, and cries and screams carries through the air to Zitao.
The enemy is stronger than they had anticipated. Much stronger – and what’s worse, they seem to have known about everything they’d planned.
Junmyeon’s the next to die by the enemy’s hand. He saves Baekhyun, who’s out cold against a tree where Jongin left him, but perishes in his stead. Then Yifan is there, and he glances at Junmyeon before he has to look away, instead grabbing Baekhyun to get away before the enemy can end them, too. He must find Yixing so that their healer can save their wounded friend.
The rapid drop of temperature alerts Zitao of Minseok’s presence. “Tao, do something!” the older yells at him and Zitao turns around and finds a sweating Minseok. He’s heaving and the ground underneath his feet is covered in a thin layer of ice. His powers are spinning out of control because he’s upset and beginning to tire out. It’s alarming.
“I – I can’t,” Zitao chokes out, shaking his head. “I can’t control it. I’ll just mess everything up!”
“Tao, please!” Minseok pleads. “At least try! We’re all going to die if this continues and you know it! But you can – watch out!”
Minseok lunges forward, pushing Zitao out of harm’s way and taking on the enemy alone. Icicles form in the air, shooting straight at the enemy, and Minseok chances a glance back at Zitao, meets his eyes, and yells, “Zitao! We believe in you!”
But Zitao doesn’t believe in himself, doesn’t trust the power he commands. He’ll just mess everything up because he isn’t strong enough, because he lacks control. He knows, and he’s too afraid to try, so he backs away from Minseok and the enemy, shaking his head and saying the words I’m sorry over and over again in his head like a mantra.
Another scream tears through the air right then and his eyes automatically seek out the voice’s owner, finding his body on the forest floor, eyes closed. There’s a huge gash in his chest, blood oozing out. By his side lies another body covered in blood. Even from this distance, Zitao can see that there’s no way they could have survived.
“Kyungsoo…” he whimpers. “Chanyeol…”
Watching his friends fall around him is too much. He can’t process it, can’t believe that almost half of them have died. It’s too sudden. Everything’s happening too quickly.
They weren’t supposed to lose. They weren’t supposed to die.
Sehun doesn’t even get a chance to scream before the enemy gets him and rips out his heart. Zitao has to look away, seeking out his other friends to see how they’re faring.
When he sees one of the enemies on the ground, he almost smiles through his tears because thank God, maybe, just maybe, they’ll make it. Maybe they still have a chance.
Following the cracking of lightning, he quickly finds Jongdae standing firm against two attackers. He’s giving his all, but Zitao spots the tell-tale signs of exhaustion, and not much time passes before Jongdae is overpowered and Zitao must look away to avoid the sight of his friend being destroyed.
Yixing’s voice reaches him and he spins around to find the healer running towards him. There are scratches on his face, but besides that, he seems mostly unharmed. Yifan, carrying Baekhyun in his arms, appears when Yixing reaches Zitao, and he quickly lays him on the ground.
“Quick, Yixing,” Yifan says, his voice tight with supressed emotions, and Yixing nods. “His condition is critical and he’s lost too much blood. He’ll die soon, if…”
“I understand,” Yixing says. He crouches by Baekhyun’s side, moving his hands to hover over Baekhyun’s wound. Yifan merely glances at Zitao before he takes off and Zitao, knowing he can’t assist Yixing, turns back to the fight, searching for his friends.
Then Yifan’s voice sounds from somewhere above them, crying out in fright. “Minseok!” Seconds later, a wretched scream cuts through the air. Zitao can’t bring himself to look for Minseok, knowing the sight will make him sick to his stomach.
“Tao.” Yixing’s voice is soft, trembling just a bit but otherwise firm, and Zitao moves his gaze to him. “Please. You can stop this. Why aren’t you doing anything?”
Zitao looks away. He can’t meet Yixing’s eyes. “I… I can’t. I just can’t. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Zitao,” Yixing insists, but a voice cuts him off.
“Yixing, how is he?” Yifan asks, having returned. He’s pale and visibly shaken, but he’s willing himself not to break under the stress, under the grief of the deaths of their own. Yixing steals another glance at Zitao before nodding at Yifan, beads of sweat slowly forming on his forehead.
Yifan nods and turns to face Zitao. He opens his mouth to speak, however, out comes not words, but blood.
Zitao watches in mortified disbelief as one of the enemies appears behind Yifan, a bloody dagger in his hand, and then Zitao’s gaze flickers back to Yifan and he cries out, reaching forward to grab Yifan when he sways. His weight takes Zitao down with him when he collapses and Zitao blinks the tears away, putting his hands on Yifan’s cheeks and shaking his head, mumbling to himself.
“No, no, no,” he sobs, his tears falling to land on Yifan’s face as he watches the light slowly fade from Yifan’s eyes. “No! It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this! This can’t be!”
Someone drags him away from Yifan’s body and he quickly looks up in the hopes of finding Yixing alive, but he is on the ground beside Baekhyun, both unmoving. Zitao chokes on a scream and fights his restraints, crying and yelling and screaming. “No! Stop! This can’t be happening! Let me go! This isn’t how it was supposed to end!”
He has to do something. It can’t end like this, it can’t. This was not supposed to happen. None of them were supposed to die, but now he’s the only one left, and the thought has him screaming.
He has to try, he realises with a sharp intake of breath. He has to.
Zitao looks up just as one of the enemies steps in before him, a sick smile on his lips, and Zitao freezes, shaking his head at the sight of the blade in the enemy’s hand, and he whimpers, voice gradually rising to that of a scream. “Stop… Stop! Stop!”
And everything does. His body shakes together with the breath he releases, and he looks at the man in front of him, for a second taken aback by the menacing gleam in his eyes. Then he shakes it off and closes his eyes tightly.
This has to work. He has to stop this from becoming true. He must turn back time and prevent this from happening. He can’t accept the deaths of his friends.
With that thought in mind, that he must save everyone, he pleads for time to turn back, as far as he possibly can, and then just a bit more to be safe.
When he opens his eyes next, he finds himself on the middle of a sidewalk in a city, cars rushing by and lights illuminating the streets and buildings and signs in the dark night.
And Zitao lets out a sob of relief because he did it, he’s back, and then he promptly collapses, exhausted and in pain.
For a moment he’s hit by panic, afraid of the darkness clouding his mind and unwilling to fall into it, but then he slowly relaxes and, eventually, he lets it wrap around him in a soft blanket, soothing him, as he drifts out of consciousness.
When he comes to, he’s met by the dim light from a lamp. He clamps his eyes shut again, preferring the darkness from before because it, unlike the light, doesn’t hurt.
With his eyes closed, he slowly becomes aware of is the softness underneath him; he’s in a bed and it’s comfortable. He stays still for a while, basking in the warmth and comfort, but then the need to know where he is gets too strong and he dares to open his eyes again, squinting against the light.
He doesn’t recognise the room he’s in, and he wonders where he is and why he’s here. Then the memories flood back, accompanied by a splitting headache, and he groans softly, hands coming up to massage his temples. He feels weak and tired and the headache appears to have come with the intent of staying.
Then he blinks his eyes open and he hisses at the pain, but he has to make sure he really did succeed and turned back time. He has to know if everyone is alive and well. Carefully, he slings his legs out over the edge of the bed, feeling the ground underneath his feet before he slowly stands up. This quickly proves to be a stupid move as the headache flares up and he’s hit by a wave of vertigo and nausea, and he sways, reaching for something to steady himself with as his vision blackens.
The door opens then and he hears a surprised “Oh” before there are suddenly hands on him, gently guiding him back down on the bed.
“Hey, don’t worry,” a soothing voice – Zitao is able to identify it as being that of a male – says. He frowns. The voice is startlingly familiar, yet he can’t pinpoint it and his eyes are closed shut because he’s feeling nauseas and dizzy and he doesn’t want to open them, fearing it’ll just make him feel even worse.
“You shouldn’t move around already,” the voice, the man, says gently. “Just stay down for a while, okay? You’re okay now.” At this, Zitao manages a nod, but keeps his eyes shut. “Do you remember your name?”
“Hua-“ He cuts himself off with a cough because his mouth is about as dry as a desert. He clears his throat before he continues, voice rough and hoarse. “Huang Z-Zitao.”
“Alright. Here, wait a bit, I’ll be right back with some water,” the man says and Zitao feels the other’s presence leave.
Stopping by the door, he looks back at Zitao and frowns. “Don’t move. It’ll only be a moment.”
While the man is gone, the dizziness slowly disappears and Zitao lets out a relieved sigh, now wishing for the headache to follow suit. He frowns as he thinks about the man. He seems friendly and Zitao feels safe in his presence – no doubt because he recognises the voice. But who does it belong to? It’s so familiar, so why can’t he..?
It’s just when the door opens that he remembers and his eyes shoot open, meeting the gaze of a pink-haired Luhan smiling at him.
“I thought you’d appreciate some painkillers,” he says, sitting on the edge of the bed and handing Zitao a glass of water and the pills. “Here.”
Zitao quickly downs the pills with the water and then he stares at Luhan, tears slowly forming in his eyes because he’s alive. He did it. He turned back time.
“Hey, hey, you’re alright,” Luhan quickly soothes, alarmed at the tears, but he nevertheless places a hand on Zitao’s shoulder and squeezes lightly. “You’re fine. Breathe.”
“Luhan gege…” he whimpers and this time Luhan blinks back in confusion. “I… I thought… But you’re here, it worked…”
“You know me?” Luhan asks slowly, his eyes wide in surprise.
That’s when Zitao realises.
Luhan doesn’t remember him, doesn’t know who he is, which means he’s gone further back than he thought.
Zitao has, in theory, yet to meet any of them.
AN for Prologue:
Yes. Yes, I just killed pretty much everyone in the prologue of my very first fanfic. Sue me.
This AN will be a bit long. Future ANs won't be nearly this long, I promise. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the prologue. I wrote it a few weeks ago, edited it, had a minor break-down because it was being impossible, re-wrote it, edited it, compared the two versions, added things here and there, deleted the original, edited, edited and edited and this is what I ended up with.
If you spot even the smallest typo, mistake, etc, or if you think something's off about the characters, I'll love you if you notify me. Feedback is deeply loved, especially seeing as 1) English is not my first language, 2) I still consider myself new in the EXO fandom and 3) I can't think of a third reason, but everyone loves feedback, no?
And now - updates. I have Chapter 1 written, but it still needs editing. I don't think a re-write is necessary, but who knows. Anyway, it shouldn't be too long before I upload it. What with this being my first EXO fic and all, I'll appreciate each and every comment, kudo and subscriber! Also, I will always answer comments - and I love to chat, so feel free strike up a conversation with me :D Anyhow, aside from Chapter 1, Chapter 2 is planned and so is most of Chapter 3, however, updates might be slow from time to time. I hope you'll stick with me until the end.
I... think that's it. Sorry for this long AN - but kudos to you if you read it! I really, really hope you enjoyed reading.
Until next chapter!
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
When Zitao first met Luhan, his hair was brown. Besides, he met Luhan through Junmyeon, not because Luhan had found him passed out on the street and, from the kindness of his heart, brought him to his apartment to take care of him.
“You had a fever,” Luhan explained when he saw the frown on Zitao’s forehead. “It worried me because it was really high and you were shaking and mumbling incoherently in your sleep. You were in pain, too. On the second day I actually almost called for an ambulance because it seemed really serious, but then the fever gradually began to reducebefore it eventually broke on the fourth day.”
“Wait.” Zitao held up his hands and blinked. “For how long have I been out? What day is it today?”
Luhan did a quick calculation in his head. “Five nights. This is the sixth day after I found you. Today is March twelfth.”
“Oh,” was all Zitao had to say.
Currently, Zitao's sitting up on the bed with a pillow between his back and the wall that he's leaning against. His hands are folded on top of the sheets covering his waist and down and he’s carefully avoiding Luhan’s gaze. Luhan is seated on a chair beside the bed. He seems perfectly comfortable, at ease, but Zitao has known Luhan for more than a month, has been around him every day, and has come to learn what to watch out for, like the pull at lips when he’s apprehensive and alert or the way he fidgets with his hands when he’s nervous.
But Luhan’s willing to listen and Zitao has to gain Luhan’s trust, so he knows he’s going to have to tell Luhan everything.
“So,” Luhan says, tilting his head and frowning at Zitao, “how come you know my name?”
Zitao worries his lower lip, looking down on his hands while he contemplates his answer. Having to remember everything is painful and he’d much rather forget, but he knows he can’t ever do that. He must remember or else he can’t hope to save them from the future he witnessed.
“I’ve known you for almost two months,” Zitao begins slowly, glancing up to see Luhan blink disbelievingly at him. “I can prove it.” He makes a hesitant motion with his hand, gesturing at Luhan. “I know about your… ability.”
Luhan eyes him warily. He doesn’t quite believe the stranger in front of him, but then, no one’s supposed to know about his powers. Not even his parents.
“Telekinesis,” Zitao clarifies, and Luhan stiffens.
“H-how do you –?” Luhan breathes, and Zitao smiles weakly.
“Two months,” he reminds. “Uhm… Some weeks from now, I think, someone will contact you. His name is Kim Junmyeon. He will tell you about himself, of his own power, and he will take you with him to meet others with unique powers. It’s thanks to him I met you – and everyone else.”
Luhan seems guarded, but he chooses to humour Zitao and asks, “What is your power?”
Zitao frowns a bit, teeth pulling at his lower lip. “I control time.”
Luhan realises something then. “So, you… You’re from the future? Does that make sense? You turned back time.” He blinks. “Why?”
At this, Zitao looks down and starts gnawing at his lip again. “Something…” He cuts himself off and inhales deeply. “Something went wrong. You see, not everyone thinks highly of people like… us. People with powers. They will either kill us or try to use the powers for whatever menacing schemes they have in mind. In the future… We fought against the enemy, but we weren’t prepared for their strength. We weren’t prepared for anything. So…”
He sniffles a bit and keeps his gaze on his hands, not wanting to think about what happened, but knowing that he must in order for Luhan to believe in him. “You were killed right in front of my, our, eyes, and immediately after, the others fell, too, one by one. I was the last one and… I was so afraid, but I had to do something, so I turned back time and… Here we are. I have to prevent that future from happening. I have to warn all of you and make sure we’re better prepared.”
Zitao closes his eyes, fisting the sheets as he fights the tears. He’s cried enough already and it makes him remember all the times they playfully called him a cry-baby. It makes his heart hurt. “I don’t want to go through all that again. You have no idea how horrifying it was to watch you all –” He cuts himself off. “It… It was horrible.”
Luhan studies him for a long moment, contemplating his words.
If he is to believe this stranger’s words, he will – might – die in some not-so-distant future if they don’t do anything. This information has Luhan swallowing dryly, gaze flickering forth and back from Zitao’s face to anywhere else in the room. This man watched him die… And Luhan sees no reason not to believe him. Zitao is clearly marked from what he witnessed.
And Luhan can move stuff without touching it, so why shouldn’t he believe the words of this man who seems to know him so well?
“What else can you tell me?” he asks quietly and Zitao looks at him, a weak smile replacing the frown.
“Your hair was brown the first time I saw you. Your name is Lu Han, but you specifically requested of us to just call you Luhan. You’re weird like that. You are 24 years o- no, wait, 23, it’s not April yet.”
He pauses, remembering their time together, the memories bringing a soft smile to his lips for once. “Jongin once brought you to the roof, just for fun, and that’s how we found out about your fear of heights. We often tease you because you keep insisting you’re manly –”
“I am manly!”
“- and you’ve lived here in Korea for three years, hence your Korean is pretty good. Unlike Yixing gege, you say if there’s anything bothering you or if you’re pissed – Yixing gege takes you by surprise when he suddenly explodes because he’s so difficult to read. It has only happened once, though. Generally, you’re kind to everyone and easy to be around. Oh, and you can solve the Rubik’s Cube. I think your record is around thirty seconds.”
Another pause, and then he grins cheekily. “You’ve dated women before, but you prefer men.”
Luhan blinks again. “Oh.”
Zitao could say a lot about his relationship with everyone, but he doesn’t want to influence too many things. He figures there are things Luhan will learn in due time and there are people he will meet and Zitao doesn’t want to interfere more than necessarily with that. He’d love to tell Luhan everything about everyone, but it probably wouldn’t be for the best.
Zitao shifts a bit and glances at Luhan, suddenly feeling uneasiness settle in again. He knows it’s a lot to take in for Luhan. Had he been in Luhan’s place, he’d be apprehensive, too, so he understands. Having a stranger tell him about the – potential – future, about himself, must be weird and greatly unsettling.
“You’re Chinese, too?” Luhan suddenly inquires and Zitao blinks, focusing on Luhan again. He had expected a lot of questions, but not that. It only occurs to him then that they’ve been conversing in Mandarin. When did they go from Korean to Chinese?
“Yes,” he answers. “I came to Korea two years ago – or, one and a half in this time.”
“Tell me more about yourself.” Luhan smiles faintly. “You obviously know a lot about me – but I know pretty much nothing about you. I mean… At least, this me… doesn’t. Whoah, this is confusing.”
Zitao smiles dryly. “Yeah… Uhm. I’m 20. I grew up in Qingdao.”
“I grew up in Beijing,” Luhan smiles. Zitao knows that, but doesn’t comment on it. “What about hobbies?”
“Music,” Zitao replies. “I’ve been practising wushu since I was six.”
Luhan’s eyes brighten. “Wushu? That’s awesome! What did you do before this Kim… Kim Junmyeon found you? School?”
“Work,” Zitao clarifies. “I’d been working to save up money.”
It feels weird telling Luhan all these things about himself that he, back in the future, already knew. He has to remind himself that this Luhan isn’t the Luhan he knows – knew. This isn’t his Lu ge. It’s a realisation that makes him wistful, but he knows this Luhan isn’t truly all that different – he just doesn’t know Zitao. He’s still the friendly Luhan he knows and cares about.
“Tell me about the others,” Luhan says, tilting his head in curiosity. “How many are you? Uh… we?”
“Twelve,” Zitao answers. “Junmyeon was the one who decided to search for others like us. Zhang Yixing joined him first, then…”
He falls silent, frowning. He hasn’t had much time to think about Yifan since he woke up, and he still doesn’t want to. It’s too painful and the thought of going through the next months one more time… It’ll be like torture, much worse than the first time, because now he knows himself better. However, he can never hate Junmyeon or Yifan.
He shakes himself out of his thoughts, and continues, “Then Wu Yifan. Shortly after joining them, Yifan became Junmyeon’s second hand – and an unofficial second leader. Junmyeon approached most of us, but Yifan found some, too. A few were found by some of the others.”
Zitao stops again, resulting in a frowning Luhan. He smiles slightly and continues, trying to remember when the others were found. Many were found much earlier than him, after all. “You joined after Yifan and following you was Do Kyungsoo, then Kim Minseok and Kim Jongdae. Oh Sehun was next, shortly before Kim Jongin, and then Park Chanyeol. Byun Baekhyun joined a few weeks before me. I was the last to join.”
He turns grim at the thought of locating the others. “You need to know that… not all had it easy before Junmyeon or one of the others found them.”
He furrows his brows and fiddles with the hem of his tank top that he suddenly realises is his only clothing besides underwear. Where did the rest of his clothes go? “Some of them were distrustful at first because someone got to them before Junmyeon did. Others feared their powers and their fear only made their power that much more unruly and dangerous, and when that happens… Death is usually the outcome.” Zitao swallows. “That’s why Junmyeon did his best to locate those ones first. Once, he was almost too late.”
Luhan observes Zitao quietly for a moment, noticing the distant look in his eyes. “You were one of them, weren’t you?”
At this Zitao manages a small smile. “No, fortunately. I didn’t have much control of my power, still don’t, but it isn’t worth too much concern. It’s the destructive powers that are to be feared.”
“And… those are?” Luhan softly asks.
“The elemental forces, lightning and frost are considered more destructive than the others. On the contrary, healing is anything but, and in-between these powers are your power, mine, teleportation, flight and light. Destructive powers aren’t necessarily evil, though, nor are non-destructive powers necessarily good. It depends on the individual. Junmyeon controls water and he’s a kind and gentle person.”
“Who controls what?”
“Yifan can fly. Chanyeol commands fire; Minseok frost. Other elemental wielders are Sehun and Kyungsoo, controlling respectively wind and earth. Yixing heals and Jongdae commands lightning. You know the others.”
Luhan nods slowly to himself, mulling over his words before suddenly leaping from the chair, startling Zitao. “I totally forgot! You haven’t eaten for days – you must be starving! And don’t you want a shower? I’m afraid I don’t have any clothes that fit you, but the clothes you wore when I found you are washed, so you can use them for the time being. Uuh.” He runs a hand through his hair and smiles sheepishly. “I… kind of decided to get you out of your clothes after I’d gotten you in bed. I didn’t know when you’d wake up and I thought it’d be uncomfortable for you to sleep in dirty clothes. I’m sorry if I overstepped some boundaries.”
Zitao finds himself smiling softly at the pink-haired man. “Thanks, Luhan gege.”
“I’ll show you to the bathroom,” Luhan says. “There are towels and I’ll bring you your clothes. I’ll cook something while you shower and then you probably ought to rest. You look exhausted. Is the illness a result from your… time travelling, you think?”
Zitao nods slightly. “Yeah. Probably is.” His voice still sounds too rough to his ears, and while the water he drank a while ago helped, all the talking he’d done for the past thirty minutes didn’t. And Luhan’s right – he is tired. He almost tells Luhan not to bother with food, that he’ll just go to sleep right away, but the thought of a hot shower tempts him and he’d be lying if he said he weren’t hungry. So he just nods at Luhan and tries to stand from the bed, more careful this time around, seeing that last time he tried almost resulted in him getting acquainted with the floor.
Luhan, noticing the faint trembling of Zitao’s legs and hands, and his pale face, quickly closes the distance between them and reaches out to steady him. The younger Chinese sends him a grateful smile, one Luhan returns, and then he guides him to the bathroom.
“Will you be alright?” Luhan asks, slowly releasing Zitao.
Zitao nods. “I’ll be fine. I can handle a quick shower, don’t worry.”
Luhan frowns but eventually gestures into the bathroom. “Towels are in the cabinet closest to the shower. Soap’s on the floor. Call if you need anything.”
“Thanks, Lu ge,” Zitao repeats, smiling before disappearing inside the bathroom and closing the door behind him. Luhan leaves to get Zitao’s clothes and then puts them outside the door to the bathroom as promised. He can hear the sound of running water, so he proceeds to the kitchen to prepare a meal. He never will be a great chef, but cooking something light and quick but nourishing shouldn’t prove too difficult. After all, he has been living alone for quite a while by now.
A quick look in the fridge leaves him with the decision to make congee from the leftover rice from yesterday and some eggs.
Zitao’s words have left him pensive. He doesn’t doubt Zitao and his reasons for being here, but he still finds it difficult to take in. Zitao treats him like a friend whereas he has never, in this time, met Zitao before. Being called Lu ge by someone he doesn’t really know feels weird and the urge to correct Zitao is there, but he doesn’t. The younger Chinese has been through a lot and he knows they’re going to be closer in the future, and he doesn’t really mind that thought. He likes the younger and can see himself befriending the younger in little time.
The future Zitao speaks of, however, is unsettling and a cause of great concern. Knowing he died in Zitao’s time, knowing that everyone he’ll come to meet and probably befriend… He can only imagine how Zitao felt – feels. He doesn’t want that future.
And he’ll help Zitao changing it.
Footsteps alert him of Zitao’s presence, and he looks up from the steaming pot and meets Zitao’s tired but friendly eyes. He’s dressed in pants but appears to have decided to forego his pullover, opting for just the tank top.
“It’s ready in a minute,” Luhan says with a soft smile. “Take a seat.”
Zitao sits down at the table on one of the two chairs, taking his time to look around. He’s never been in Luhan’s apartment before, so it’s interesting seeing it. The kitchen walls are white and the floor is covered in tiles. The furnishing is simple, yet with a distinct touch of Luhan.
Luhan’s voice brings him back to the present and he turns to face him, softly thanking him for the food being placed on the table in front of him.
“It’s not much,” Luhan says, “but I thought you’d appreciate something simple. I’m not sure whether you can eat normally or not yet.”
“It’s great, thank you,” Zitao says. He’s not sure how the use of his power affects his stomach, so it’s probably a good thing to take precautions. He’s very grateful to Luhan for being understanding and kind; for being Luhan.
Luhan’s probably the best person aside from Junmyeon to end up with. Luhan takes everything in strides, lets Zitao explain himself and doesn’t freak out. It’s an unbelievable stroke of luck, really, that he was found by Luhan – by someone he knows. Of all the people in Seoul, it was Luhan.
The meal is consumed in silence. Zitao feels Luhan’s gaze on him, but it doesn’t bother him. He figures Luhan must have a thousand of questions and inquires about the future, about everything, but not a word is said. It’s probably because Zitao looks like someone who’s ready to collapse at any given moment. And true enough, as soon as Zitao has finished eating and thanked for the meal, Luhan helps him back to the guest room and watches him get back into bed.
“Now sleep,” Luhan orders with a slight smile. “We’ll talk some more tomorrow. Don’t worry about anything. We’ll find a way, okay? Goodnight.”
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Junmyeon watches Minseok as the other male sits down at the table in front of him with a cup of coffee, courtesy of Luhan, in his hands. His sleeves are drawn up to protect him from the hot liquid in the mug – or maybe to protect the hot liquid from him. Luhan, seated at Junmyeon’s left, is nursing his own cup of coffee, looking comfortable and at ease, much unlike their newest addition.
“Are you alright?” Junmyeon eventually breaks the silence between them, and Minseok looks up from the steaming drink to meet Junmyeon’s kind eyes. Minseok hesitates with his answer, but after a moment or two, he slowly nods.
“I’m fine,” he says and his lips tug upwards in a tentative smile. His gaze moves back to the mug and Junmyeon watches as his eyebrows furrow and he removes his hands, instead placing them in his lap.
“Don’t be afraid,” Junmyeon says gently, nodding at the coffee when Minseok’s eyes snap up to his. “It’s only because of your fear. We’ll help you, alright? We’re here for you, all of us. There’s no reason to fear it.”
“I could hurt you,” Minseok blurts out, then looks like he’s regretting saying it and bites his lower lip, slowly reaching for the mug again to take a sip. “You saw yourself what –”
“And I could hurt you,” Junmyeon cuts him off evenly. “But I won’t, because I don’t fear my power. I know I’m the one in control, so my water won’t hurt anyone. You’ll learn, too. Just be patient.”
There’s a trace of a smile on Minseok’s lips. “I wish I could be as confident as you.”
“I was like you,” Luhan says, watching Minseok over the mug’s rim. “I stayed in my room for a week out of fear before my parents managed to drag me out. They didn’t know about my ability then and still don’t, but it’s partially because of them I decided to stop being afraid. I realised that the only way I could prevent my abilities from hurting someone I hold dear was if I learned to control it. So I stopped being afraid.”
“We have all been there, once, remember that.” Junmyeon props himself up on his elbows and leans forward, continuing, “I didn’t know how to control it either and I, too, feared it would hurt one of my loved ones. However, slowly that fear was replaced by curiosity and the will to learn how to control it, and here I am.”
Minseok’s quiet for a while. Then he suddenly gestures to the mug and says with a soft voice, “Look. I made iced coffee.”
Luhan’s new flatmate was often on his mind the following days. He’d learned a bit more since their first talk, after which Zitao had been out as a light for a total of twenty hours. It seemed his little stunt had really taken quite a toll on him.
Luhan has also caught Zitao on more than one occasion with a distant look in his eyes that spoke of things that Luhan will never be able to understand. Or, at least, he hopes so, because he can clearly make out the pain in those dark orbs, the pain of loss, of death, and that’s only oneof the emotions he sees in the younger Chinese’s eyes. There are many more. Sometimes Zitao’s gaze will go blank and will relay no emotions; other times, there are just too many and it almost makes Luhan dizzy to meet Zitao’s eyes.
Zitao has been through a lot, of that there’s no doubt. If what he spoke of hadn’t made Luhan realise this, then his eyes, his appearance, everything about him would. The younger looks haggard, tired, and despite the hope he also recognises in the other’s gaze, there’s too much pain and sorrow.
To think the cause of Zitao’s current state is the future, the possible future that awaits them ahead. Even after a couple of days, Luhan still has a hard time facing the truth that what fate has in store for them won’t be anywhere near easy.
But Zitao knows, Luhan knows, and once their group comes together, they’ll all know, whereas the enemy won’t. Zitao will be able to warn them of times that have not yet passed, of things that will happen, of things they must avoid at all cost.
They’ll have the upper hand of knowledge.
The thought of leaving Zitao to himself, of leaving the country, of going home and never looking back, never crosses Luhan’s mind. It’s not an option. He can’t leave, not now. He just can’t.
Zitao’s condition is improving day by day, which pleases Luhan. On the other hand, a healthy Zitao is a restless Zitao, a Zitao who wants to leave his sickbed before he’s fully recovered.
“Gege, I can’t stay in bed,” Zitao stresses – whines, and Luhan inwardly chuckles – throwing up his arms in frustration. “I’m perfectly fine and wasting time. Precious time I could use to find the others. Some of them are distressed and I can’t just sit here when I know they’re hurting!”
“The future won’t happen as we speak,” Luhan argues. “The future you witnessed takes place months from now. For the time being, your biggest concern should be your health. When Kim Junmyeon contacts me, we can start talking about what we’re going to do, but don’t stress. No one will die just because you take your time regaining your energy and recover from your time travelling.”
Luhan knows Zitao knows he’s right, but still the younger tries to argue with him, to no avail. Luhan can be rather stubborn when the situation calls for it, and so Zitao eventually gives up, quite reluctantly so.
He doesn’t speak a word for a few hours, but then he cools down and Luhan returns to the room with food.
“Are you still tired?” he asks, handing Zitao the tray with soup, rice and a few additional side dishes. He ate an hour ago, when Zitao was still sulking, so he just sits back and relaxes.
“A bit,” Zitao admits, “but it isn’t nearly as bad as when I woke up a few days ago.”
“That’s good.” Luhan waits for a few minutes before he asks, “Do you live nearby?”
“I live an hour away.”
He hums in answer. “Once I deem you well enough to leave this apartment, we’re heading straight for yours so that you can get some clothes and toiletries and what else you might need. You didn’t have a phone with you when I found you. You do have one, don’t you?”
Zitao falls quiet, eyes on the food and a barely visibly frown forming on his forehead. “Shoot. I forgot.”
“My phone. My job. They’re going to fire me.”
“Oh.” Luhan makes a face. “I see. Right, you’ve been here for a week by now and haven’t been in contact with anyone… What about your parents? Friends? What if someone has noticed your absence and the police are currently looking for you?”
“There shouldn’t be reason to worry,” Zitao says, although he doesn’t sound too sure himself. “Going a week without contacting my family has happened before, and friends… I have none, really. No one who’s close enough to worry about my absence, anyway. I don’t even think my workplace thinks much of it. I’ll probably just find a voice message on my phone telling me I don’t have to come to work.”
“I’m sorry,” Luhan says. “I should have thought of that.”
“It isn’t your fault,” Zitao shrugs. “I never really liked that job. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have to go back there. Besides… In the future, or past, I quit a few weeks before…” He goes silent for a moment, then sags and runs a hand through his hair. “Before that happened.”
Silence befalls them then, and Zitao eats slowly while Luhan considers everything Zitao has told him so far.
“What do you think will happen if you use your power now?” he asks once Zitao has finished his meal. At Zitao’s questioning look, Luhan elaborates, “I’d like to see it. I’m still having a hard time getting around the idea that – wait, how, what?”
One moment, Zitao is sitting on the bed right in front of him, and the next he’s right behind him, poking his cheek with a slender finger. Luhan blinks in astonishment.
“I stopped time,” Zitao explains, smiling faintly. “Seven seconds. Enough for me to get up from the bed and behind you.”
“Oh.” Luhan takes a close look at Zitao and then stands up, reaching for the younger’s elbow to guide him back to the bed. “You’re pale. Did it tire you out?”
Zitao sighs as he makes himself comfortable under the covers. “It did. My head hurts.” He frowns in frustration and huffs. “Stopping time doesn’t usually have this effect, but…”
“It must be some aftereffect from your time travelling,” Luhan muses. “You probably shouldn’t use your power until you’re fully recovered and then some.”
A short smile appears on Zitao’s lips. “I shouldn’t, right?”
“Get some rest,” Luhan says, picking up the tray and moving to the door. “Goodnight, Zitao.”
The answer is hesitant and Luhan almost doesn’t hear it because he’s already closed the door. “Goodnight, Xiao Lu ge.”
It has almost been a week when Zitao finally escapes Luhan’s apartment. It had taken a lot of convincing and Luhan had still been quite reluctant in letting Zitao out of the bed and outside.
“You still look like shit,” he had said, eyeing the bags under Zitao’s eyes.
Zitao snorted when he realised what Luhan was referring to. “Those have been there since childhood.”
“You can’t possibly look like this all the time,” Luhan said.
The younger relented. “It isn’t usually this bad, but really. I’m not near death, gege. It’s Saturday, so can’t we please go out for just a couple of hours?” At Luhan’s stare, he resorted to other methods that used to get him what he wanted. “Pleease, ge? Please?”
Watching the younger walk in front of him, carrying a bag with stuff from his own apartment, Luhan has to agree. Some fresh air will probably do good for Zitao’s health. Besides, he has recovered remarkably since Luhan had first found him and brought him to his apartment.
Luhan agreed to make a quick stop at a café, so that’s where they are heading now. Luhan isn’t often at this area because it’s a bit far away from his apartment, but it’s where they ended up and although he may not know the place like the back of his hand, he has been there before.
Zitao’s bag is stuffed with toiletries, some clothes, his currently dead phone and other things he might need during his stay at Luhan’s. Zitao thinks of himself as well enough to return to his own apartment without babysitting, but Luhan doesn’t seem to agree, so he merely told Zitao to get his things. Zitao didn’t bother with arguing.
Luhan has work, but Zitao’s been sleeping a lot since Luhan found him, so he’s usually home before Zitao is awake, and even if he isn’t, Zitao is comfortable enough staying alone in the apartment.
“You said a couple of weeks, right?” Luhan asks and Zitao looks over his shoulder to raise a questioning brow at him. “A couple of weeks until I meet Kim Junmyeon.”
“Ah.” Zitao nods and slows down to walk by his side. “Yes. I don’t remember the exact date; I just remember the month and it was towards the end, so it must be soon.”
Luhan has been thinking about what would happen if this Kim Junmyeon never did appear. He has decided that whether Kim Junmyeon contacts him or not will be the final evidence that will prove to him that Zitao is really speaking the truth about the future. He does believe, kind of, but only Kim Junmyeon’s appearance will make him realise just what he’s going to experience.
“Today is March twenty fourth,” Luhan muses.
Zitao moves a little closer to Luhan to avoid colliding with another person. “Therefore you probably ought to expect –”
He cuts himself off abruptly when he feels a sudden icy air near his arm that’s gone a second later. He spins around, eyes wide, but he only manages to catch a glimpse of the hooded figure that ran past him before they’re gone from sight.
“What’s wrong?” Luhan asks, eyebrows drawing close when he notices the apprehensive gaze in Zitao’s eyes.
“Minseok,” the younger breathes, eyes narrowing. “I think that was Minseok.”
“What? Who?” Luhan blinks.
Zitao glances at him. “Kim Minseok. Frost. Someone just ran past me and my arm felt cold. I remember that sensation. I’m sure it was him.”
“Really?” Luhan wonders. “Should we search for him?”
Zitao looks thoughtful for a moment before slowly shaking his head. “No… I think I need to tell Junmyeon gege first. Besides, Minseok gege is long gone and I don’t know where he lives. I don’t think we’ll find him if he doesn’t want to be found.”
Luhan’s bemused, but Zitao starts walking again, so Luhan follows and doesn’t question Zitao’s words. He knows the younger is thinking deeply, however. His eyes have become distant again and there’s a faint frown on his forehead.
Luhan wonders, not for the first time, about the things Zitao doesn’t say.
Two days later, Luhan looks up from the work he’s poring over because there’s someone knocking on the door. It can’t be Zitao, because the younger would just enter, and even if the door were locked, he has the spare key. Therefore, Luhan stands up and walks to the door, opening it to see who’s outside.
On the doorstep is a man around his height and with dark brown hair arranged in an ordered mess on the top of his head. He’s dressed in a dark red sweater with a dress shirt visible around the cuffs and neck and fitted black jeans.
The stranger’s eyes are kind as he smiles at Luhan. “I apologise for my late visit. I am –”
“Kim Junmyeon,” Luhan interrupts, staring at the man in front of him in wonder. The man’s eyebrows shoot up and he blinks.
“You know me? Have we met before?”
“No, no, it’s…” Luhan steps aside, inviting Junmyeon inside. “I know why you’re here.”
Junmyeon hesitantly steps into the apartment, seeming taken aback by Luhan’s knowledge. Luhan manages a faint smile and leads Junmyeon to the small living room. “Please, sit down,” he says, gesturing to the sofa. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
“Just water, please,” Junmyeon answers, smiling gently at Luhan once he’s sat down. Luhan almost smiles at the irony; of course the water bender wants water. He nods and walks to the kitchen, quickly fishing out his phone to text Zitao, who, a few hours ago, managed to convince Luhan that he’d be alright going out alone for a while.
Come home. Kim Junmyeon has shown up.
His phone goes off when Zitao answers just when he’s poured water into a glass to Junmyeon.
I’ll be right there, gege!
Luhan puts his phone back in his pocket and returns to the living room. He hands the glass to Junmyeon, who thanks him, before sitting down in front of the other man.
“How do you know my name?” Junmyeon asks and Luhan smiles, because this reminds him of when Zitao woke up the first time. It seems Zitao really was right. Junmyeon’s appearance is enough proof for Luhan.
“It’s complicated,” Luhan starts. “I just sent word for my roommate. He should be here soon. I think it would be best if he does the explaining.” A short pause. “He controls time.”
Junmyeon’s left brow raises and he tilts his head, watching Luhan with disbelief written on his face. “Really? Then you probably know about your own power, too.”
“And yours,” Luhan admits with a small smile. “I know a lot, but Zitao knows more.”
“I see,” Junmyeon muses quietly, sipping to his water. “Am I correct in assuming that this has something to do with your flatmate?”
“Yes,” Luhan replies easily. “However, while we wait for him to appear, please tell me more. Zitao has told me bits and pieces of you and the rest.”
Junmyeon leans forward, eyes running over Luhan’s face in slight thought. “This is interesting. Well.” He sits back and smiles. “You are a telekinetic, aren’t you?” At Luhan’s affirmative, he continues, “I control water, but it appears you already knew that.”
“Can I see?” Luhan asks, curious about other powers. He’s seen Zitao use his once, but it isn’t like Junmyeon’s.
Junmyeon holds out his hand and slowly a small sphere of water forms in the air in front of Luhan.
“How much do you know about your power?” Junmyeon asks, letting the water dissipate into the air again. Luhan blinks, focusing his gaze back on Junmyeon, and purses his lips.
“I know it’s neither destructive nor non-destructive. It’s in-between. Besides that… I’m not really sure. Is there anything specific I ought to know?”
“You have come to terms that your power isn’t something to fear, right?” Junmyeon inquires. “You appear at ease, so that’s my guess, at least. I want to help you learn to control your power. I’ll tell you what I know, even if you don’t want my help. I do ask of you to consider it carefully, because you need to be in full control of your power lest you want it to suddenly turn against you.”
“Yes, I know,” Luhan murmurs. He then hears the front door open and smiles. “Ah. It seems Zitao has finally arrived.”
They both look up when Zitao enters in a hurry. The younger’s eyes meet Luhan’s for a split second before landing on Junmyeon, and a small smile appears on his face. “Junmyeon hyung! It really is you. What a relief.”
“So he knows my name, too,” Junmyeon says slowly and Zitao clears his throat, coming to stand beside Luhan.
“I’m Huang Zitao,” he introduces himself. “Time is my power and five months from now, I turned it back.”
“I did suspect something like that happened,” Junmyeon says, a troubled frown on his face. “Why did you turn back time?” He almost looks regretful for asking when Zitao’s face falls.
“Something bad happened,” Luhan quickly cuts in, trying to spare Zitao the pain of remembering. “According to Zitao, we were fighting with the enemy and they… overpowered us, so Zitao turned back time to try and prevent that future from happening.”
Junmyeon worries his lower lip. “The enemy?”
Zitao is hesitant with his answer. “You know them.”
Junmyeon’s pensive stare slowly turns to one of understanding. “Oh.”
Luhan frowns at this new information and twists around to look up at Zitao. “He knows them?”
“I work for them,” Junmyeon says gently, causing Luhan to rapidly turn his attention back to him. “That’s how I found you. They have information about people like us. I decided to get to their targets before they do when I realised what they are doing.”
“And… what do they do?”
“They capture people like us,” Zitao answers for Junmyeon. “They kill us if they can’t use our power and use us if they can. I told you.” He suddenly tenses up and turns to face Junmyeon. “Hyung, it’s essential that we find the others.”
“I know,” Junmyeon says, nodding. “We –”
“No, no, hyung, you don’t understand,” Zitao insists, sounding distressed. “Some of them are in danger. In my time, we almost lost Kim Minseok.”
“What do you mean?”
“He almost died.”
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
“No, no no, no more, stop, please – stop! Stop, stop, please –” Yixing pleads, thrashing in a futile attempt at escaping from his captors. “P-please, stop! Someone – Jun –”
“No one will come.”
Yixing cries and lashes out, but his arm is caught and held back as he gasps for air. “Please –”
“Guys, let him breathe.”
The three sets of hands holding Yixing captive withdraw and he drops to the floor, staying down as he tries to regain his breath. “I… I hate you all.”
Junmyeon, standing by the door leading to the kitchen next to an amused Yifan, surveys the scene before him with a raised eyebrow. “What is going on?” he asks the ones not currently sprawled on the floor.
Luhan shrugs, grinning down at Yixing’s form. “We discovered Yixing’s weakness.”
“Oh.” A moment of silence. Then Junmyeon raises a hand to his mouth, trying to appear casual in his attempt to hide the laugh that is about to escape him. He doesn’t succeed, and Yixing looks up with a betrayed glare.
“This is torture,” Yixing says. “You’re all –”
He cuts himself off with a squeak when Luhan lunges at him. Yixing scrambles to get away, but Zitao reaches for his legs and drags him back before he can escape and Minseok grabs his arms while Luhan sits askew on him, leaning down to breathe on his neck.
Yixing lets out a strangled sound, a mix between a laugh and a sob.
“Well,” Yifan shrugs, throwing an arm around Junmyeon’s shoulder and dragging him closer, resting his head on the top of the younger’s head, and Junmyeon frowns at being used as a pillow,but doesn’t complain aloud. “It was bound to happen, Yixing. They had to find out sooner or later.”
“Guys,” Junmyeon chides gently and Yixing is released again. This time he quickly scrambles away from the three devils, getting back on his feet once they’re at a safe distance, chest heaving as he takes in deep breaths.
“You’re safe for now, Xing,” Luhan snickers, draping himself over Minseok, eyes dancing with mirth. Minseok is smiling amusedly, too, and Zitao by their side is laughing that characteristic high pitched laugh of his.
“I’m sorry, hyung,” Zitao manages to say through his laughter. “It’s just too good.”
Yixing flops down on the couch, throws an arm over his eyes, and says, with no real heat in his words, “I hate you. All of you.”
Two pairs of eyes are staring at Zitao and he shuffles his feet, eventually sighing and closing his eyes. “Minseok hyung… feared his power. When you found him, he’d locked himself inside his apartment.” Zitao lets out another soft sigh as he recalls what he knows. “His powers had spurred out of control because of his fear, freezing everything in the apartment and, in particular, his room in which he’d hidden away and in which you found him. When you arrived, his fear increased tenfold and his powers unleashed for real, so you risked your own lives to get closer and calm him down.”
Zitao pauses in his retelling and frowns. “He may have the ability to command ice, but it doesn’t mean he’s completely unaffected by cold. Chanyeol, too, can’t set himself on fire and expect to survive it. They are just more resistant to their element and can endure more than us. On the other hand, Minseok is more sensitive to heat, Chanyeol to cold.” He shrugs. “I guess it’s the cons of being an elemental, especially frost and fire.
“Back to Minseok. Sorry. To get to the point – with no control over the ice he commanded, it had turned against him. Luckily, you managed to calm him, but not without suffering a few injuries. Minseok collapsed from exhaustion, and you brought him to your home, Junmyeon hyung, to nurse him back to health and help him. When he woke up a few days later, he accepted your offer to help him learn control.”
He goes quiet for a while before he adds, softly, “Hyung, you told me that had the smallest thing gone wrong, had you appeared a few hours later, Minseok’s powers would have taken his life.”
“I see,” Junmyeon says thoughtfully after a beat or two. Luhan is quiet, also lost in thoughts. “Alright, Huang Zitao-ssi, I think I need you to tell me everything you’ve told Lu Han-ssi. If it gets too painful, just say so, and you may stop.”
Zitao nods, having known from the moment he saw Luhan’s text that he’d have to recount the happenings once again sooner or later. He’s had time enough to steel himself. “I understand. Now, where to start…”
Junmyeon lets Zitao speak without interrupting him, sensing the younger male’s slight reluctance to explain what happened in his time. Junmyeon catches onto certain information, in particular Yixing being in danger in the future, but he forces himself to focus on other things because Yixing’s case isn’t relevant just yet.
Hence, he pulls himself away from that slice of information, saves it in the back of his head together with many other small bits of information, and pays attention to other things, like the possibility of a mole being in their inner circle. They’ll have to be alert, maybe even elude telling anyone else about what Zitao knows. Junmyeon imagines he’ll tell Yifan and Yixing and no more, and he informs Zitao and Luhan about his plans once Zitao has gone quiet.
“That’d probably be for the best,” Luhan says with a slight nod. “The fewer, the better. We can’t risk having them find out about Zitao.”
Zitao, too, agrees. “However, if it really is a mole’s doing, the enemy will still find out about everything else unless we find the mole, so we have to keep our eyes open.”
“Right.” Junmyeon glances at Zitao and frowns slightly.
“I think it’s about time I take my leave. It’s getting late and I wouldn’t want to intrude more than I already have. I will tell Yifan and Yixing when I get home and then I’ll contact you tomorrow, alright? Tomorrow we will begin our search for Kim Minseok.” He smiles and stands from his seat when the two others nod.
“However… Before I leave, I’d like a word with you, Huang Zitao-ssi. Alone, if you please.”
Zitao and Luhan share a look before Luhan stands up and nods in understanding. Once he’s out of the room, Zitao approaches Junmyeon and lifts an inquiring brow at him.
“What is it, Junmyeon hyung?”
“It’s about your powers, Zitao-ssi,” he says slowly, making sure he has Zitao’s undivided attention before clarifying, “While it was brave of you to reverse time, you’re lucky to be standing in front of me right now, alive and well. Turning back time like that is risky and could, in a worst case scenario, ruin the world if even the smallest thing goes wrong. It could have killed you.”
Junmyeon stopped talking to let out a soft breath, before fixing his gaze back on Zitao. “I am truly glad you’ve given us a chance to change the future, but it was very dangerous, Zitao-ssi. Don’t ever do such a drastic thing again – and should you, for some reason, see yourself forced to do it again, despite my warnings, it should, preferably, be a matter of seconds. And never make time go faster. Stick with stopping time because then you’ll be safest. It could cost your life if you try again, even if it’s only a few minutes. Heed my words, please. No one wants to lose you.”
Zitao avoids looking at Junmyeon, worrying his lower lip as he opts to stare at the floor. He knows. He knew it had been dangerous, but their lives had been at stake. At that time, it hadn’t been a hard decision. Hell, he hadn’t even had time to consider the possible consequences. However, should something ever happen, he’ll do the same, even at the risk of his life. He just wants his loved ones to live.
“I know,” he eventually says, raising his gaze to meet Junmyeon’s concerned one. “I was aware of the risks, but I don’t regret what I did.”
“I know that,” Junmyeon says softly, “and I’m not saying you should. Just don’t do it again, alright? To be blunt, I’m surprised it didn’t kill you. Going almost half a year back in time… Gods, I can’t imagine how much power that must have required. You must understand the dangers of playing with time, Zitao-ssi. Stopping time for a few minutes isn’t at all as risky, but going back and forth in time… And half a year.”
He exhales heavily sigh and runs a hand through his hair. “Promise me. My past – or future – self would have said the same to you.”
“Alright, hyung,” Zitao murmurs. “I promise.”
They both know it’s a lie, that Zitao will risk his life if it’s to save someone he holds dear, but Junmyeon nods, placated for now, and walks to the front door. Luhan is standing outside, and they nod at each other.
“We have the upper hand this time around,” Junmyeon speaks as he puts on his shoes. He lays a hand on the door handle, turning slightly to face them. “I promise to do my best to protect all of us.”
Zitao half-smiles. “As will I. I don’t… I don’t want anything to happen to any of you.”
“And nothing will,” Luhan assures. “As Junmyeon-ssi says, we have the upper hand. They won’t get any of us.”
They exchange phone numbers after that and then Junmyeon bids his farewell. Luhan turns to Zitao the moment the door closes after the brunet and frowns. “Are you alright? What did he want with you earlier?”
Zitao shrugs, moving to the kitchen with Luhan following close behind. “I’m fine. He just warned me about using my powers like that again.”
“Because it’s dangerous,” Luhan hums and Zitao nods. “You’ll die if you do it, right?”
Zitao smiles slightly. “Most likely.”
“How come your hair is pink?” Zitao asks the following day. It’s late afternoon and they’re on their way to Junmyeon’s house, having arranged with said person to meet up there and discuss their next course of action. They’ll meet Yifan and Yixing, too, and Zitao doesn’t know if he’s ready to face Junmyeon and Yifan at the same time. On the other hand, he knows there’s nothing he can do about it.
It just hurts.
Luhan throws him an amused look. “You ask now? You’ve had weeks to ask, but only now does it occur to you that my hair colour is unusual?”
“Gege,” Zitao whines and Luhan laughs.
“I lost a bet with some colleagues,” the older male explains, shrugging as he takes a left turn. “Had to colour my hair pink for at least two months. Luckily, time’s up soon and I can return to my natural colour.”
Zitao snorts. “Really? A bet?”
Zitao never has been good at listening to his geges, and when he does just what Luhan asked him not to, Luhan sends him a sideways scowl.
They drive in peaceful silence for a while, watching the road in front of them or the people or the shops lining the streets.
“Are you sure it’s the right address?” Luhan eventually asks.
“Positive,” Zitao answers. “I often stayed overnight, so we’re definitely going in the right direction.”
“I see,” Luhan murmurs, stealing curious glances at their surroundings.
“You don’t know much about Junmyeon gege,” Zitao sing-songs. He grins at Luhan when the other throws him a questioning look. “You’ll see soon enough.”
Soon is ten minutes later, when they find themselves standing in front of Junmyeon’s home.
“I didn’t know he was rich,” Luhan mutters, surveying the house in front of them.
“His parents,” Zitao corrects. “His income is pretty stable, but it’s his parents’ jobs that allow them to live in Gangnam.”
“Will his parents be home?” Luhan asks as they walk to the door. “Do they know?”
“No and no.” Zitao pauses and then corrects himself, “Or… They don’t know about our powers, so I don’t think they’re home. Not with today’s schedule.”
“I guess we’ll find out,” Luhan muses and rings the doorbell. They hear footsteps from inside and then the door’s opened by a man who isn’t Junmyeon.
“Hello,” he says, a dimple appearing on his right cheek when he smiles at them. “You must be Lu Han-ssi and Huang Zitao-ssi. Junmyeon’s inside together with Yifan, so come in!”
He continues smiling at them when they enter and Zitao closes the door behind them. “I’m Zhang Yixing. Pleasure to meet you.”
They’re led to the living room that doesn’t look any different from Zitao’s last visit in his time, and it makes him slightly wistful. Luhan is busy casting curious glances around, taking note of the furnishing and décor.
“Ah, there you are!”
The two look towards the voice and find Junmyeon sitting comfortably in a couch with another male by his side. There’s no doubt about the man’s identity.
“Wu Yifan,” the tall male introduces himself, throwing them a slight smile. “You’re free to call me Kris, too.”
“No one ever does, though,” Yixing comments offhandedly as he plops down on a couch on the other side of the table, opposite of Junmyeon and Yifan. Yifan throws him a glare that the younger ignores and Junmyeon chuckles.
“Sit down,” Junmyeon tells Zitao and Luhan. “Can I get you something to drink? Maybe a bite of food?”
“Just water, please,” Luhan says and sits down next to Yixing, Zitao gesturing at Luhan to convey that he’ll have the same. He sits beside Luhan when Junmyeon leaves together with Yifan, who states he’ll help Junmyeon carry the drinks.
“You’re the one with healing, right?” Luhan asks Yixing after a moment of silence. Yixing smiles, nodding.
“I am, and I’m very grateful for it.”
Luhan, ever the curious one when it concerns the other powers he’s heard of, tilts his head and furrows his brows. “Is it somehow possible to show me?”
Yixing purses his lips, eyes running over Luhan’s face. “Where did you get the scar under your left eye?”
Luhan chuckles and runs a hand through his hair sheepishly. “One of the first times I used my telekinesis willingly. I tried lifting a glass from the table, but I lost focus and it crashed against the wall. A shard came close enough to cut my cheek.”
Yixing chuckles quietly and moves a hand to the scar. “Yet another reason for me to feel grateful about the power I was granted. It’s caused me no physical harm, only extreme exhaustion. Ah, here, it’s gone.” He removes his hand, the dimpled smile once again pulling at his lips.
Luhan blinks and Zitao is amused. “It really is gone, hyung,” he assures and Luhan blinks again before he smiles brightly.
“That’s a nice power to have,” he comments and Yixing nods, turning to look at Zitao, now with a curious gaze.
“You control time? Junmyeon told us about… pretty much everything today. It’s… Wow. I had a hard time believing it, but… It’s your power, after all.”
Zitao smiles softly. “Yes… Luhan hyung had difficulties swallowing it, too.”
“Oh, it really is gone,” Luhan mutters to himself, having found his phone to check the scar. “Awesome.”
It’s their laughter that meets the two others when they return, carrying trays with drinks and snacks. Setting his tray on the table, Junmyeon raises a brow at the three and smiles. “Nice to see you getting along.”
Yifan and Junmyeon get comfortable on the other couch and after sipping their respective drinks and munching on some snack, the light chatter turns more serious.
“We have to find out about Kim Minseok’s whereabouts as soon as possible,” Junmyeon says, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and a frown on his face. “How much do you know, Zitao-ssi?”
“Not much.” Zitao shakes his head and worries his lower lip, looking at them all. “He’s a barista, he told us, and lives somewhere in Seoul, but he didn’t tell us much else. Or, he didn’t tell me more, nor have I heard more from the others.” He shrugs. “It wasn’t too important then. We always met here or in one of your apartments,” he says and gestures to Junmyeon and Yifan.
“You have an apartment?” Luhan asks, blinking, and Junmyeon coughs into his hand.
“Eh, yes… It’s nothing grand.” A shy smile. “I prefer gathering here because there’s more space. My apartment isn’t big enough to house everyone. My parents also like it when they know someone’s home. Anyway.”
He turns back to Zitao. “It’s not much, but we’ll figure something out. If we found him in your time, we will find him again now.” He purses his lips. “Perhaps I can get access to their computers and see if they have more information…”
“You have to be careful,” Yifan voices slowly, arms folded over his chest as he looks at Junmyeon. “If they find out about you going behind their backs…”
“Am I not always?” Junmyeon says with a bright smile. “I’ll remember. You know that.”
Zitao doesn’t know when the two became a couple. He just knows that in his time, when he joined the group, they already were. Now he sees the signs and it hurts, but he plasters a smile on his face because it isn’t in his right to feel jealous. It’s about time he gets over his crush anyway. Yifan only has eyes for Junmyeon and Zitao should be happy that he is happy.
Time heals all wounds, as the saying goes, but despite commanding time itself, Zitao isn’t convinced.
He chooses not to linger on the thoughts of Junmyeon and Yifan, instead rejoicing the sight of the people he’s come to love being in this room with him, alive and well. He won’t feel completely at ease until they’re all together, but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s all he can ask for.
“Maybe we can find out the name of the café he works at,” Yifan thinks aloud, and Zitao returns to the present and their current problem at hand: Minseok and where to find him. “If he works in a café, of course. Do you know, Zitao-ssi?”
Zitao swallows before he shakes his head. “I’m not sure, but I’d think so. Or a coffee shop. Finding out where he works would be a great advantage in our search for him.”
Yifan nods. “Exactly. Do you think you can find information about his workplace, Junmyeon?”
Said male frowns, but then nods his head thoughtfully. “It’s possible. It depends on how much they’ve gathered. Yixing, could you go through a search for his name on the web? Maybe we’re lucky.”
Yixing smiles kindly. “Will do, Junmyeon.”
“Can we do anything?” Luhan asks, gesturing between him and Zitao.
Junmyeon shakes his head after a pause. “If Zitao-ssi remembers something of importance, you must contact me straightaway. Aside from that, I cannot think of anything you can do. Just be on standby. The moment we find him, we should make a move.”
Zitao nods as he drinks from his glass. “Understood.”
It won’t be long, he’s sure. Soon Minseok will join them, and then it’s only a question about time until the others do, too. Zitao finds himself smiling at the thought as he observes the four others in the room discuss their options when they find Minseok. Soon they’ll all be together, and Zitao will die before he watches them fall again.
Chapter 5: Notice
Notice (17th of July 2015): After much thought, I have decided to put this fic on a hiatus. Note that it is only temporary.
I did try to get a new chapter written for this, I really did, but every time I opened the document and/or my notes, I felt upset, because I know what I will end up writing will hardly be worth your time because of poor planning and writing on my side. I want to give you the best, and currently, that I cannot do.
Thus, I have decided to put this on hiatus, temporary, while I map out a more thorough plot. That means this will be rewritten from start with major edits. It will still be Zitao turning back time to save everyone from dying (because I’m terrible like that).
It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to be writing this, as I am familiar with the pain of reading a story I like only for it to be put on hiatus, and the fear that it will never be finished (which has happened, too). But do not worry; once I upload something, I will finish it, even if it takes a while.
I am still to be found writing on other fics and my collab(s) with MegLee06.
Until the improved version of this fic! I will keep you updated. I hope you will stick with me, dear readers, even if it may take a while.