When the end of the world came, Kim Dokja’s life didn’t change much at all.
It started as little more than a rumour. It felt like 2012 all over again: kids sniggering behind their hands and cult leaders parading the salvation their gods would give them. Supermarkets were cleared of their stock for a little while until eventually people stopped bothering.
The world continued to spin, Kim Dokja kept waking up in the morning for work, and the sun continued to rise in the west and set in the east.
Strangely, no one really noticed the change at first. It was only when some random tweet on the internet pointed it out did everyone suddenly seem to realise that the Earth was spinning in the wrong direction.
Things escalated pretty quickly after that.
Kim Dokja rifles through the collapsed shelving, digging back as far as his skinny arms can reach. He’d never had much in the way of muscle, and the apocalypse certainly hasn’t helped him in that regard.
His efforts are rewarded with a few unopened cans of soup, wedged between broken planks of wood. A cursory glance tells him there’s no one watching him so he carelessly tosses the food into his fraying backpack. Not that Kim Dokja would’ve been able to do anything different, even if he hadn’t been alone.
He pulls himself off the floor and dusts off his clothing. It does nothing to change his dirt caked appearance. It’s more of an instinctive action now, rather than something with any practical meaning.
He steps out of the abandoned supermarket and ducks into the neighbouring diner instead. A couple minutes later, after pulling out a chair from the rubble and using a rusty knife to pry open a can, Kim Dokja eats his dinner.
Or at least he thinks it’s dinner. It’s difficult to tell now that there’s a constant red haze that coats the horizon.
Kim Dokja watches the sunset from through the dusty windows, or what remains of them, at least. It’s a stunning view, as always. Kim Dokja doesn’t remember the last time he saw the stars.
Overhead, the comet looms ever closer.
* * *
Kim Dokja really doesn’t know how he’s managed to survive this long.
He’s always been weak, and it’s not as though he’s ever had a strong sense of self-preservation.
Nevertheless, he’d holed himself up in his apartment for the worst of the beginning, surviving off canned food, instant noodles and water from the kitchen sink.
When his supplies ran out and the water ran dry and Kim Dokja finally stepped out into a ruined world, everyone had already lost their wills to fight. The end was coming, and it was inevitable.
And so Kim Dokja had wandered from one place to the next. Some people offered him shelter and food with the little kindness they had remaining while some chased him out with knives. Guns were useless without bullets, after all.
Kim Dokja peaks in through the crack in the door. Surprisingly, the flat is in a decent condition, likely abandoned early on. The place is filthy and there’s a sickening stench that fills the murky air, but the walls don’t look on the verge of collapse and there’s a bed.
Kim Dokja decides it’s good enough and turns in for the night.
The apocalypse has been surprisingly mundane so far—a constant cycle of waking up, finding food and water, eating (if he can) and then sleeping.
It’s not the worst way to go, he supposes.
Kim Dokja is always alone in his travels. It’s always been that way and he relishes it. The world may have gone to shit, but at the very least it’s given him some peace and quiet. A permanent break from the hustle and bustle that had been his life before.
It’s not as though he hasn’t met anyone along the way though. He remembers being shocked to bump into an old coworker. She had been with another woman at the time, who seemed to get a kick out of mocking him. His coworker had offered to travel together with him to which Kim Dokja politely declined.
He wonders how they’re doing now. Or if they’re even still alive.
He thinks about them from time to time—the people he’s bumped into over the years. The couple who could lift him like he was a bunch of grapes, the pair of kids he found scavenging through the trash, even the middle-aged man who almost had him killed by his underlings.
No one ever travels alone, because it’s suicide.
(Maybe that’s been his goal all along).
* * *
Kim Dokja is rudely awoken one night, after being flung onto the floor by a stranger.
Annoyance courses through him for a single, groggy second before he realises that this is probably the moment he breathes his last.
Acceptance follows pretty easily after that.
A man glares down at him. A bandana covers his face, likely to keep out the thick plumes of dust and he’s donned from head to toe in black clothing. His eyes shine gold in the sky’s warm glow. Kim Dokja simply stares back.
Kim Dokja gets up and does as he’s told.
It’s not until he’s halfway out the door that he realises his backpack is still sitting in a corner by the bed so he stops in his tracks.
The man sends another glare in his direction.
Kim Dokja smiles.
“Can I at least get my stuff?”
* * *
Kim Dokja gets his stuff back.
It’s not an uncommon occurrence to have your shelter raided suddenly like that. It’s why Kim Dokja never sticks around in one place for too long. He’s lost count of the number of times he’s come back to a trashed place and missing supplies.
This is the first time he’s been let off scot free though, with nothing more than a scraped elbow. Not a single hair is missing from his backpack.
Kim Dokja thinks the man must be an idiot, shrugs his shoulders and watches as the building slowly disappears from view behind him.
He hopes the man rots in the baking sun.
* * *
Kim Dokja wonders if it’s pure luck that’s gotten him this far.
He always manages to find shelter that isn’t hostile. Food always turns up in places that seem like they’ve already been raided to hell and back. And the few times he’s bumped into aggressive survivors he’s always managed to get away without any critical injuries or supply losses he can’t make up for later.
He starts to wonder if there really is some all powerful, omniscient being watching over him as he looks down at the man rotting under the baking sun.
Or maybe rotting is a bit of a harsh word, seeing as the man is still clearly alive and breathing. Though the knitted brows and beading sweat trickling down the man’s masked face seems to suggest he won’t be for too much longer.
It’s practically impossible to bump into the same survivor twice. People tend to move away from where they think other people are. You never know when someone will try to slit your throat in the middle of the night after all. Cannibalism isn’t common, but it’s not rare either. So the fact that Kim Dokja has bumped into the same person twice in such a short space of time is strange, to say the least.
Kim Dokja feels guilty for a good few seconds before he decides that’s a waste of effort. He waves his hand in front of the man’s face and gets a grunt and an icy glare in response. It seems that’s all the man has the energy to muster up.
Kim Dokja glances at the man’s hip. There’s a large knife strapped to his belt and Kim Dokja swiftly removes it before the man can try anything funny. Also because it’s a sweet knife—much sharper than the scrap of metal he already owns.
The man seems visibly agitated, like he’s expecting Kim Dokja to take revenge for their previous transgression and Kim Dokja admits he’s a little tempted. But he’s never aimed his knife at a person and he’s not about to start now.
Instead, a weird sense of responsibility washes over him as he watches this man dying in the middle of nowhere. Kim Dokja has never done anything useful in his life, but maybe he can save someone, just this once.
It’s a ridiculous aspiration and possibly wasted on someone who’s already wronged him once, but he entertains the thought anyway as he drags the man under the shade beneath a small overhang outside a rundown shop. At worst it would be just a few hours of wasted time and a dead man at his feet.
He rolls up the man’s trouser legs and as expected, finds a small snake bite just above his left ankle. It’s swollen and red and looks like it’s been around for a while. It’s not a pretty sight, but it means that it’s a weaker poison at least.
Kim Dokja fishes out a water bottle, a small tub and some random herbs from his bag. He rinses off the wound and applies a generous amount of ointment from the tub. It was given to him by a passing doctor who had also taught him how to differentiate useful medicinal herbs from potentially poisonous ones. Kim Dokja hopes she’s still doing well.
Finally, Kim Dokja pulls down the man’s mask and shoves a few of the herbs into his mouth. Surprisingly, he obediently begins chewing on them. The man is surprisingly good looking, and Kim Dokja can’t help but follow the movement of the man’s perfect jaw. Up close, he can also tell that he’s incredibly well built and could probably snap Kim Dokja in half with his bare hands.
It’s only then Kim Dokja realises the stare trained on him. The man looks at him strangely from underneath his matted, sweat-slicked hair and Kim Dokja can’t really blame him. No survivor in their right mind would bother expending resources and energy on someone hostile. It’s certainly better than the murderous intent he felt before though, so he doesn’t complain.
The next few hours are spent tending to the man, of which Kim Dokja still doesn’t know the name of. The man slips in and out of consciousness and Kim Dokja wets a cloth to put over his forehead in an attempt to bring down his temperature.
Water runs out quickly, and by the time Kim Dokja has returned from replenishing his supplies, the man is already gone.
Ungrateful bastard, Kim Dokja thinks to himself.
But he knows this means the man’s recovered enough to be moving around, though he wishes that the man had left behind his nice knife at least. At least his bag is still here, the same way he’d left it.
Kim Dokja smiles to himself and lets himself celebrate the small good deed he’s done, even if he’s gotten nothing in return from it. Finally the fatigue begins to settle into his bones. He closes his eyes and falls asleep against the shop wall.
* * *
Kim Dokja wakes to the sound of a crackling fire and the scent of food wafting through the air. It’s a combination more reminiscent of times that he struggles to remember—of times when he still had a home to return to.
There’s something soft wrapped around him, like fresh duvet covers after laundry day and Kim Dokja fights the urge to close his eyes again.
Instead, he cracks a weary eye open and sees the man seated opposite him, preparing what looks like the remains of a pigeon. A shaggy blanket is wrapped over his shoulders.
“Uh,” Kim Dokja says, because he’s not sure how else to respond to this situation.
The man furrows his brow at the noise and Kim Dokja decides he should just shut up and take it. A pot sits over the fire and the man carefully lowers the pigeon meat into what looks like a half-cooked stew. A few cracks of salt and pepper and some additional herbs are thrown in as well.
Kim Dokja is starting to wonder where the hell this man got all these ingredients from until he sees that all the contents of his bag have been tipped out and there are empty cans strewn about the floor.
Kim Dokja would get angry, if the smell of an actual cooked meal didn’t make him so hungry. He watches the mysterious man work his magic, as though he hadn’t been on the cusp of death mere hours ago.
It’s a comfortable silence, and though it no longer ever gets dark, Kim Dokja imagines this might be what a camping trip would’ve been like back before everything went to shit.
The man holds a bowl and a bent plastic spoon in front of his face, probably also fished out of Kim Dokja’s bag. He wordlessly takes it and stares at the pieces of meat and canned veg floating around in the broth. The bowl is warm.
Calling this situation bizarre would be a gross understatement. Then again, it’s been a while since anything has been ‘normal’.
The man is watching him again with the same strange expression as before. Kim Dokja scoops up a bit of stew and blows on it gently before lifting it to his mouth. The flavor spreads on his tongue in an instant, and the stew that hadn’t quite cooled enough burns its way through his throat all the way to the pit of his stomach.
Kim Dokja lowers the spoon and the man raises an eyebrow, gauging his reaction.
His chest feels tight all of a sudden. Even before the apocalypse began, Kim Dokja hadn’t been much of a cook. There had never been any time to learn and there had been no one around to teach him. His diet consisted mostly of ready-made meals and instant noodles and he rarely had enough money to eat out.
So really, here he is, eating his first real meal in maybe a decade, provided to him by a complete stranger in the middle of the apocalypse. Kim Dokja isn’t anything of a culinary expert, but he wouldn’t have traded it for anything else in the world.
Suddenly his cheeks feel hot and his eyes feel wet. He drops his head so he doesn’t have to see the man’s reaction and picks up the spoon again.
“Thank you,” he mumbles.
The man doesn’t say anything in response.
* * *
By some strange twist of fate, the two of them become companions in the middle of this apocalypse. The man—Yoo Joonghyuk—is surprisingly good company despite being a man of so few words. He’s easy to rile up, and makes for an entertaining pastime.
Not to mention he has all the survival skills Kim Dokja lacks.
Kim Dokja isn’t really sure why Yoo Joonghyuk sticks around. They’re both perfectly capable of surviving on their own (lack of snake bites permitting) and if anything, Kim Dokja is the liability. He’s useless in a fight and doesn’t know how to hunt. He can’t start a fire nor cook a decent meal.
After being saved for the nth time and being lectured by a very cross Yoo Joonghyuk yet again, Kim Dokja can only assume it’s out of obligation.
Stranger still, Kim Dokja doesn’t know why he lets the man stay, not that he believes he could force him to leave. But Kim Dokja has never even told him to go and he doesn’t particularly want to, either.
For someone who’s preferred travelling alone all this while, Kim Dokja thinks he must be finally getting lonely. Maybe it’s because they’re strangers or because Kim Dokja also feels a sense of responsibility after saving Yoo Joonghyuk’s life. Or maybe it’s simply because he’s finally lost it. Going insane in the middle of an apocalypse isn’t such an odd occurrence after all.
He doesn’t let himself get attached though, since it’s only a matter of time until the man feels that the favor has been repaid and leaves. The thought settles uncomfortably in between his ribs, but Kim Dokja doesn’t let it show on his face.
And just like that, six weeks pass in the blink of an eye, and the world feels just a little less dreary than before.
* * *
“What are the chances of finding a working car in the middle of nowhere?”
The mechanical thrum of an engine echoes through the abandoned car park. Kim Dokja hears a resounding thunk as something is dropped into the boot of the beaten pickup truck.
“Spare fuel,” Yoo Joonghyuk says as he gets into the passenger seat beside him.
“Spare fuel as well? May as well have won the lottery.”
Kim Dokja fumbles with the radio as he searches for any channel that isn’t an ear-grating static. After a few minutes of no luck, his hand is slapped away by Yoo Joonghyuk, who’s clearly decided that Kim Dokja is far too incompetent for the job.
A few more minutes after that, Kim Dokja has a triumphant grin on his face when they both realise that clearly, Yoo Joonghyuk is equally as incompetent. His grin only grows wider after finding out that he’s also a better driver, having been through army training before.
Yoo Joonghyuk seethes as Kim Dokja continues to tease him about it for the rest of their journey.
They drive on without any real sense of direction. They’d managed to fish out a dusty road map from the glove box and at the very least, Yoo Joonghyuk’s sense of direction is leaps and bounds ahead of Kim Dokja’s. They stop over wherever it looks like there might be food, water, fuel or shelter and avoid anywhere that has signs of human life.
It’s definitely a lot more convenient having the car around and it seems that quite a few petrol stations still have a little juice remaining in them. They’re able to take blankets around with them and can sleep in the car if they can’t find decent shelter during the day, and having two of them around means one can always keep watch.
Today’s rest point is an abandoned warehouse. Obviously, there’s no bed, but they’ve got a couple of mats and blankets in the boot so it’s nothing they can’t handle for a night.
There’s a hole in the roof which means the weird red haze still manages to somewhat illuminate the empty room, but the light doesn’t quite reach the farthest corners, which is good for sleep. It almost looks a bit like a spotlight in the center; an abandoned stage of sorts.
Kim Dokja is fiddling around with the radio once again while Yoo Joonghyuk sets up their makeshift beds.
“How many times have you tried that today?”
Kim Dokja doesn’t even bother looking up. “You never know.”
Yoo Joonghyuk grunts, and Kim Dokja just knows that he’s rolling his eyes. He suddenly feels a bit more motivated to get the damn thing to work since he’s petty like that.
After turning the same knob for the millionth time, to his own surprise, the radio suddenly crackles to life. There’s still a lot of static, so it’s hard to make out the contents of the broadcast, but the sound of something else beneath it is unmistakable.
“Yoo Joonghyuk! The radio!”
“The radio you sunfish bastard! It’s working!”
Finally, that seems to get Yoo Joonghyuk’s attention, and before Kim Dokja can even blink Yoo Joonghyuk is already back inside the car, leaning over from the passenger seat. He starts fiddling with the various knobs and buttons as well in an attempt to get the sound clearer, and before long, they’re both knocking elbows trying to get a closer look.
Eventually, one of them manages to do something right and the static clears enough for them to actually hear the radio.
“...It’s just classical music.”
The disappointment in Yoo Joonghyuk’s voice is almost palpable. Kim Dokja can’t deny being a little disappointed himself, but he’s still happy that they’ve managed to get something out of the old thing.
Suddenly, an idea pops into his head.
“Yoo Joonghyuk, how good are you at dancing?”
“That’s not an answer to my question.”
The crinkle in Yoo Joonghyuk’s forehead grows deeper. “No,” he repeats, but Kim Dokja is already turning the music up, rolling the windows down and pulling on Yoo Joonghyuk’s arm.
Truthfully, Kim Dokja isn’t expecting much out of the stone-faced man, especially since in the grand scheme of things, two months of knowing each other doesn’t really mean anything. He’s mainly just saying this to tease the man and see his reaction. Surprisingly though, Yoo Joonghyuk huffs and lets himself be dragged out of the car.
The problem now is that Kim Dokja has never danced in his entire life, but he’s not willing to back out now that he’s come this far, so they both make their way over to the small patch of light in the center of the room.
It’s a little awkward at first, since clearly neither of them know what they’re doing and they both seem to have two left feet. They keep tripping over each other and it’s difficult to find a sense of rhythm. Yoo Joonghyuk keeps clicking his tongue each time Kim Dokja trips over, and Kim Dokja yelps more than once when his foot ends up crushed under Yoo Joonghyuk’s.
Eventually, they manage to settle into some clunky version of a waltz, or at least that’s what Kim Dokja thinks is playing right now. It must be an odd scene—two grown men dancing to bad quality classical music played by a beaten-up car radio in the middle of an abandoned warehouse—and the thought of it makes Kim Dokja laugh out loud.
It’s cut short though, when Yoo Joonghyuk stomps on his foot, turning his laugh more into a shriek.
“Was that really necessary?” Kim Dokja whines, as he lets Yoo Joonghyuk pull him along, hoping that all the bones in his toes are still intact.
“Concentrate,” Yoo Joonghyuk orders, but there’s the smallest of smiles on his lips.
Kim Dokja can’t help but stare up at him. The red glow from the hole in the roof only seems to further accentuate Yoo Joonghyuk’s already handsome features, and it’s not everyday that the man doesn’t have his typical resting bitch face.
Kim Dokja suddenly feels keenly aware of the larger, calloused hand wrapped around his own and the other hand at his waist. Was Yoo Joonghyuk always this tall?
Lost in his thoughts, he trips over for the nth time that night and braces for impact. A pair of arms catch him before he falls though, and he comes face-to-face with Yoo Joonghyuk.
Time almost seems to stop as neither one of them breaks away from the other. Their faces are so close, Kim Dokja can feel Yoo Joonghyuk’s breath on his lips, making them tingle. If he simply tilted his head upward, their lips would—
Kim Dokja pushes Yoo Joonghyuk away.
“I think that’s enough for tonight!” Kim Dokja laughs nervously. “Thanks for humouring me Yoo Joonghyuk.”
Yoo Joonghyuk doesn’t say anything, instead his eyes flicker slightly downward from underneath his mussed-up bangs. Kim Dokja bites his lip and Yoo Joonghyuk’s eyes narrow at the movement.
Finally Yoo Joonghyuk turns away, and goes back to setting up their beds for the night.
Not another word is exchanged between the two.
* * *
Many more weeks pass by and that night is never brought up again. Despite that, things never feel awkward between the two of them.
Kim Dokja has never considered himself a sociable person, and Yoo Joonghyuk even less so. Nonetheless, they naturally gravitate toward one another, exchanging words when Kim Dokja starts a conversation and sitting in comfortable silence when he doesn’t.
They end up doing things that Kim Dokja has never had the chance to do before. They go swimming in rivers, catching fish from streams and climbing trees many times their own height.
The world is ending, but now that Kim Dokja is away from all the judging eyes he’s grown used to, he feels like he’s become a child again. Yoo Joonghyuk grumbles every time he’s dragged into one of Kim Dokja’s new ideas, but he never says no.
It makes Kim Dokja’s chest feel full.
Tonight they’re camping outside, near a stream where they caught their dinner. Kim Dokja pokes at the fire while Yoo Joonghyuk prepares the fish they caught. The night is quiet, with nothing but the crackling of the fire to keep them company.
“Hey Yoo Joonghyuk.”
“What were you doing before this?”
Yoo Joonghyuk stops what he’s doing and looks up. Kim Dokja's eyes meet his own, and he sees the warm glow of the fire reflected in those dark irises.
Kim Dokja shrugs and goes back to prodding the fire with a stick for lack of anything better to do. He supposes it’s too early to be asking about this sort of thing. Being someone with a penchant for interesting stories, he’s been curious about Yoo Joonghyuk’s story for a while now. Maybe it wouldn’t be anything interesting, like Kim Dokja’s own, but somehow Kim Dokja gets the feeling that Yoo Joonghyuk would’ve been a character greater than that. Like a protagonist of sorts.
“Never mind,” Kim Dokja sighs. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
Soon enough, the sound of a knife returns as Yoo Joonghyuk goes back to the task at hand and Kim Dokja assumes that’s the end of the conversation. He watches the flames lick at the air and wonders how the heat might feel dancing against his skin. He reaches his hand forward, getting as close as he dares.
“I was in e-sports.”
Kim Dokja is startled out of his stupor and he turns back to look at Yoo Joonghyuk. He’s still busying himself with descaling and gutting the fish with his usual impressive deftness.
“Really? I worked in quality assurance at Minosoft. Maybe we’ve met before.”
“We’ve never collabed with them before.”
There’s another awkward silence. Neither of them have spoken about their pasts before, and Kim Dokja feels like he’s on the edge of toeing an invisible line between them. If he stops now, they can stay as comfortable strangers on the same journey toward the end. Or he can push through and enter unknown territory.
The choice seems obvious. He’s not someone who does well with the unknown so really, he should quit while he’s ahead. It feels like a waste though, to stop here.
“I played WoS.” Surprisingly, it’s Yoo Joonghyuk who breaks the silence. “For the team .”
Kim Dokja’s eyes widen at that. Working in the gaming industry means that he’s fairly in the loop with the latest news and there’s no one who hasn’t heard of the legendary team  led by the world’s most mysterious man—the Supreme King.
The captain of the team is the only one who’s never made a public appearance, which led to many rumours around his hideous appearance, or the fact that he had stage fright or didn’t actually exist, merely an AI built by the game developers.
And now this living legend is sitting in front of him. Of course, Yoo Joonghyuk could easily be lying through his teeth and Kim Dokja would have no way of verifying it, but somehow Kim Dokja feels like Yoo Joonghyuk isn’t that kind of a person.
“I can’t believe you really called yourself ‘Supreme King’.”
Yoo Joonghyuk scowls. “It was my coach’s idea.”
Kim Dokja laughs. “Your life certainly sounds a lot more interesting than mine.”
“In what way?”
Kim Dokja pauses at that, and it takes him a while to realise that Yoo Joonghyuk is now asking him about his own life. He isn’t so sure if he’s quite ready to open that can of worms just yet.
“Oh you know, I was just your average QA guy being pushed around by his boss.”
“That can’t be the only thing you did.”
“I guess I read a lot of webnovels?”
Yoo Joonghyuk is looking at him now with a complicated expression on his face. It seems to say ‘why did you ask about my life if you were going to be so tight-lipped about yours?’
Kim Dokja somewhat regrets bringing their pasts up now. Yoo Joonghyuk on the other hand, doesn’t want to drop the topic just yet.
“I don’t have any memory of my parents.”
Yoo Joonghyuk continues. “To be more accurate, I don’t have any memories of my childhood. The earliest memory I have is waking up in an empty apartment to the sound of my younger sister that I’d never seen before knocking on my door.”
“You have a younger sister?”
The weight of Yoo Joonghyuk’s words sits heavy between the two of them. The meaning behind them is clear. It’s a lot to take in at once, but Yoo Joonghyuk doesn’t give Kim Dokja a chance to rest.
“I spent the next few years trying to find out who my parents were, and who I was. But I couldn’t find anything, as if I never existed.”
“I’m… sorry.” Kim Dokja knows it’s such an insensitive, inadequate response, but he doesn’t know what else to say. Yoo Joonghyuk doesn’t seem particularly bothered about it, though.
“It’s fine. It’s old news now.”
Kim Dokja lowers his head. He feels stupid for being so nosy now. Was it really worth it?
“What about you?”
Kim Dokja flinches. Yoo Joonghyuk has laid himself bare before Kim Dokja, it seems unfair that he doesn’t do the same. It’s only then that Kim Dokja realises that’s why Yoo Joonghyuk said so much in the first place. He’s not sure if he’s grateful or bitter about it.
“...My mother murdered my father.”
Yoo Joonghyuk doesn’t say anything in response to that. He just watches Kim Dokja, waiting for him to continue. It takes Kim Dokja some time before he’s gathered his thoughts, but when he next opens his mouth, everything comes spilling out like a dam that’s burst.
He talks about everything and anything. The abuse, the bullying, his attempted suicide and the novel that saved him from it all. The same novel that was adapted into the game Yoo Joonghyuk played; the same novel with the main character that shared Yoo Joonghyuk’s name.
When Kim Dokja finally comes back to his senses, sweat running down his skin and heaving for air, he realises that at some point Yoo Joonghyuk has moved in front of him. Larger hands encase his own, gently unfurling the fingers that have dug angry red grooves in his palms.
Yoo Joonghyuk is still silent, but somehow it makes Kim Dokja feel better. He doesn’t really know what he wants to hear, and maybe he doesn’t really want to hear anything at all. Instead, he leans his head forward and rests it on Yoo Joonghyuk’s shoulder.
Neither of them move for a while.
It’s warm, he notes.
* * *
Something changes between them after that.
Kim Dokja can’t deny that they were close even before, but it feels different now. Maybe it’s because they’ve both learned each other’s deepest secrets, but he feels like there’s nothing left for him to hide.
Sometimes when the nights feel longer than usual, they crawl into each other’s beds even when there’s hardly enough space for the both of them. Kim Dokja tosses and turns a lot in his sleep while Yoo Joonghyuk is like an immovable object.
They always end up fighting over the sheets, yet each time without fail they’ll crawl back into the same bed and remind each other that they’re not alone.
Time marches on and the silhouette of the comet in the sky grows with each passing day.
* * *
Kim Dokja yawns and stretches his arms, his back cracking several times in the process. Sleeping in a car is definitely more comfortable than sleeping outside, but that doesn’t mean his body doesn’t yearn for an actual bed.
The door is open and a gentle breeze ruffles through Kim Dokja’s already messy hair. Yoo Joonghyuk is standing over him and Kim Dokja lets the man pull his sleep-addled body up and out of the vehicle.
“Today’s the day,” Yoo Joonghyuk says. He speaks in the same, indifferent baritone as always, but to Kim Dokja, he reads like an open book. The uncertainty hidden beneath is obvious.
“Today’s the day,” Kim Dokja repeats.
Neither of them finish the sentence because there’s no need to state the obvious. When the car radio had suddenly come to life after getting nothing but static previously, both Kim Dokja and Yoo Joonghyuk had been shocked.
They’d been expecting classical music again, like the last time they’d managed to get the thing to work. Instead, they’d gotten the announcement of the final date for the end of the world.
The day the comet would hit.
When Kim Dokja steps out, there’s already a small fire going and judging from the contents of the pot sitting over the fire, it looks like dinner is pigeon stew. It brings back fond memories of the first meal they shared together.
Kim Dokja looks out toward the horizon. They’re far, far away from any remnants of civilisation here and they’re surrounded by nothing but dust and dirt. It looks nothing like an ideal location to be but even still, at least their view is uninterrupted and he can see the land stretch all the way to infinity.
It’s a freeing feeling.
“I had a nice dream,” Kim Dokja says suddenly.
The sound of movement stops as Yoo Joonghyuk pauses his cooking to look up at him.
Kim Dokja continues, without waiting for a response.
“I still can’t believe you threw me when you first met me,” he laughs. “Then I had to save your sorry ass right after.”
Yoo Joonghyuk grunts, and even though he doesn’t show it, Kim Dokja knows he’s feeling embarrassed.
“Do you remember that time I made you dance with me in that abandoned building?”
“You really sucked.”
“I’m trying to have a moment here!”
There’s a small smile on Yoo Joonghyuk’s face and of course, Kim Dokja could never stay mad at that.
“And remember all those times we had to squeeze onto a single bed and you’d practically suffocate me to death?”
“Only because you kept stealing the sheets.”
Kim Dokja grins.
“And the time we had to escape from that crazy group of assholes and you almost died. And you would spit out my food because you were a picky eater even when I was trying to nurse you back to health. And that time we spent hours just laying in that massive field to watch the clouds. And the time when we found that freshwater lake and ate so much fish we were sick of it.”
Kim Dokja is rambling now and Yoo Joonghyuk doesn’t stop him.
“And then there were the days I couldn’t get out of bed, because everything just seemed so futile. And the days you would have nightmares and I would hold you until you fell asleep. All the times where we thought we couldn’t take another step, yet here we are, standing at the edge of the epilogue.”
Kim Dokja turns to look at Yoo Joonghyuk.
“Joonghyuk-ah, I dreamt of us.”
For a moment, there is nothing but the sound of the gentle breeze and the crackling of the fire. The silence is comforting but there’s also an unspoken tension in the air as the reality of their circumstances settle into the pits of their guts.
All those moments they shared were all to lead them up to this point, to lead them to a better tomorrow.
But now, there is no more tomorrow.
“Kim Dokja.” Yoo Joonghyuk is standing next to him now and takes Kim Dokja’s hand in his own. He brings it up to his lips and presses a kiss into a knuckle.
Yoo Joonghyuk knows it is impossible, but he wishes he never had to let go.
“Joonghyuk-ah.” Kim Dokja’s voice is shaking now.
“I don’t want to die.”
Kim Dokja lets himself be pulled into Yoo Joonghyuk’s warm embrace. He buries his face into his chest, so that he can pretend that there are no tears streaming down his face. Yoo Joonghyuk is a presence that grounds him, but Kim Dokja can feel him trembling as well.
And if Kim Dokja can feel the wet patches on his shoulder where Yoo Joonghyuk is resting his forehead, he says nothing about it.
They don’t part until an ominous shadow begins to loom overhead. They both know their time is limited.
“What a shame, we didn’t even get to eat dinner,” Kim Dokja says mournfully. “I was really looking forward to it too.” His cheeks are still wet, but there’s a wobbly smile on his face.
“I can always make it again.”
Kim Dokja laughs at that, and Yoo Joonghyuk burns the image into his memory. He almost doesn’t catch it as the roaring of the approaching comet begins to ring in his ears. He resists the urge to cover his ears, and instead keeps his grip firmly on Kim Dokja.
Kim Dokja is yelling at him now, with the same infuriating smile he’s always had, but Yoo Joonghyuk can no longer hear what he’s saying. Even then, the words are unmistakable.
Joonghyuk-ah, I’m glad I met you.
Yoo Joonghyuk responds by pulling Kim Dokja in and locking their lips together for their first and final time.
Kim Dokja tastes sweet, and Yoo Joonghyuk isn’t sure if the hint of salt is from his or Kim Dokja’s tears. He wishes that they’d met sooner, that their time together hadn’t been so cruelly cut short. He wishes that he could watch Kim Dokja dance under the stars and have him wake up in his arms just one more time; or lay in the fields counting the clouds in the sky and share a meal together under the moonlight.
There are so many things Yoo Joonghyuk wishes for but at the very least, in his final moments he knows he is happy.
The smile he feels against his lips tells him that Kim Dokja feels the same.
And then finally, everything goes white.