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Can't Live Like A Dog (When Born To Be A Tiger)

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The day the world ended, no one expected it.

 

When the apocalypse happened, there were no signs or symbols or anything that showed that it was coming.

 

All those apocalypse movies and television shows like Edge of Tomorrow, World War Z and the rest? They were all a lie.

 

A complete lie.

 

There wasn't even anything significant happening on the day for Nature to choose that particular day. It wasn't election day. It wasn't the President's birthday. It wasn't even the day that one of the many Kpop groups nowadays were putting up a concert.

 

It was just a dull Thursday afternoon in the middle of the summer break.

 

Jaebum had been in the middle of scratching his stomach lazily. He was inclining on the couch and flipping through shitty game shows and dramas to find a tolerable show to watch when it happened.

 

No one knew what exactly started the apocalypse. It wasn’t a zombie apocalypse where people could point fingers at all those nuclear scientists and whatever dodgy shit they were doing. It wasn’t like Pacific Rim where the Earth was under attack from gigantic alien monsters. Nor was it like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where they were overrun by some overly intelligent animal. It wasn't even anything like the Hunger Games where the government turned communist and started playing fucked up games.

 

The sky just went dark at 2.47pm in the afternoon (again, an insignificant time), and acid rain started pouring down, destroying everything in its path. Granted it didn’t happen in South Korea, but in a small town in some Southern state of America that Jaebum had never even heard of. It was still such a shocking phenomenon that all major news stations were reporting about it.

 

The video captured the dark rain eroding everything there. The scene reminded the university student of that one scene in the Hunger Games where the tributes were fighting for their life, and blood rain poured down from the sky, or dome, or whatever it was. Only that instead of blood and people gagging on it, they were being dissolved by acid.

 

Not that thatwas a better way to go.

 

And this time, there was no screwed up government that was controlling the elements. Nothing the humans could take down by starting a rebellion.

 

It was just them against Nature’s Fury.

 

 

In some twisted way, Jaebum didn't feel much sympathy towards humans. Yes, he was terrified, because what if it spreads to South Korea? Something told him that this wasn't going to be a one-time thing at all.

 

Oh no. Not at all.

 

But, he felt that humans deserved it. They had been destroying the environment for their own selfish needs. It only made sense of Nature to finally get fed up of it all and fight back, and take revenge or avenge its fellow trees or whatever righteous thought that Nature was following.

 

Jaebum would probably react the same way. Just that he wouldn’t wait for thousands of years to pass. He wasn’t that patient.

 

He simply didn't understand why hehad to be caught up in it all.

 

Im Jaebum was a good boy. He didn't waste food or water or any natural resources. Or at least, he tried his best not to. He did his recycling correctly. He always made sure to re-use his plastic bags and recycle whenever he could.

 

Except maybe that one time when he threw a plastic bottle into the paper recycling bin by accident. Yeah, that might be it.

 

But hey, he had been rushing for an exam on that day and had 2 papers due at the same time.

 

Man, Nature sure was petty.

 

Fortunately, for the sake of his own life, Jaebum was a lazy bastard and a college student.

 

Which meant that he didn’t do weekly grocery shopping and survived on takeaway, canned food, and the likes. Just not fresh ingredients because he was thatbad at cooking and had no time for it, being a college student and all.

 

Which also kind of meant that he was stocked up and all good and ready for the apocalypse. Since canned food could last for years anyway. He did have to cut down a bit on his daily diet, though. This way, he could probably just hole himself in his apartment and wait it out. However long it would take.

 

Hopefully not centuries. Because Jaebum definitely wouldn't be alive by then.

 

There was absolutely nothing to worry about at all.

 

 

Maybe except for his currently absent roommate.

 

Then again, he never did like that guy much. His roommate, safe to say, was a freeloader. He didn’t pay rent, steals food (and money) from him, and leaves his clothes all over the floor.

 

Jaebum had over and over again pondered why he didn’t kick the guy out. Oh right, the guy had nowhere else to go to. Probably.

 

But he wasn’t a cold hearted bastard, even though he might appear to be.

 

So he still worried for the asshole, even if he didn’t want to.

 

Though it did become quickly evident that after a few days with no sounds of knocking on his door, his roommate wasn't coming back.

 

That meant he either found somewhere safe for a shelter or fled the country. Or died, but that was a bit unlikely since South Korea had yet to be hit. As much as Jaebum didn’t like him, he hoped that it wasn’t the last option.

 

 

In all honesty, he didn’t think anyone even took the acid rain seriously. The severity of the entire situation didn’t sink in until the first wave hit. Well, at least that was the situation for him.

 

The first wave? Was he actually using Hunger Games terminology at a time like this? Though it did seem fitting for this particular situation, he supposed. Well, it was technically the second wave since the first wave was the acid rain. But that was kinda like a warning shot instead, so whatever.

 

Anyway, the first wave came a few weeks later (to be exactly precise, 2 weeks and 4 days later), in the form of earthquakes. The ground split apart and left huge crevasses as evidence. This time, it happened in Canada. It became apparent quickly that whatever the apocalypse was, it started out first in the West. Before slowly spreading to the opposite side of the world.

 

Although two disasters weren't exactly enough to pinpoint a trend (something about his secondary school teachers telling him that he needed 3 points for a trend,) no one was dumb enough to assume it was simply a coincidence. Their confirmation came precisely two weeks later when a heat wave hit the Northern parts of America and caused the lakes to dry up. A bit extreme, maybe, but it seemed like Nature was going all out.

 

Experts estimated that they had probably a few months (seven months, if they were lucky) before it finally hit South Korea. Usually, seven months would seem like a really long time, unless you're talking about exams. But in this case, it was really really reallyshort.

 

Seven months left until Doomsday.

 

Seven months left of his life.

 

Jaebum sincerely hoped that all those nuclear bombs that North Korea had been boasting of developing would work against the apocalypse.

 

Though he doubted so.

 

 

The first time he dared to peek out of the window to see what was actually happening outside his four walls was two months later, when the wave finally reached Germany.

 

Acid rain. Earthquakes. Heat waves. Volcanoes. Tsunamis.

 

Nature definitely wasn’t holding back at all.

 

There weren't any strict patterns on how and where the disasters were happening, unlike what experts had initially predicted. Nature had gone against exceptions, and an avalanche occurred in Osaka.

 

Though the general trend was that the disasters were still spreading from West to East. Other than the random unfortunate Asian city or town that happened to meet its doom earlier than expected. There would just be some small shockwaves like a small country or hailstorm or something little here or there. They were never as intense as major as the ones that would wipe out an entire nation.

 

Somehow, Jaebum got the feeling that it was as if Nature was teasing them.

 

Almost like they were in a game instead of an actual life or death situation.

 

It wasn't a particularly pleasant feeling.

 

Anyway, looking out of the window, the streets were bare. It wasn't exactly hard to understand why. Most of the people were gone from the city since it happened during the summer break. People would be all off on vacation, mainly in the western part of the world. Where the wave had first targeted. And they would be dead.

 

Those who were still alive were in hiding. Just like Jaebum.

 

The young male would have loved to hide away from reality for a while longer. Unfortunately, he had somehow underestimated his food stock, and it was running out.

 

It wasn’t like a zombie apocalypse where people were scared of going out in fear of being bitten. It was more of the fear that a disaster would strike while they were out there.

 

Not that Jaebum thought that there would be any difference in hiding at home and being out in the streets when it actually happened. The entire country would still get wiped out anyway. As shown by all those disasters that had already happened, there were rarely any survivors.

 

He was being a hypocrite though, seeing how Jaebum himself was in hiding. There was something more comforting about the false illusion of being safe when surrounded by four concrete walls.

 

But food.

 

Food.

 

 

It was with slight trepidation (read: a lot of trepidation) that Jaebum drudged up the courage to walk up to the front door. He froze when he placed his hand on the doorknob. He stared at it for an infinitely long time before taking a deep breath, steeling himself and gingerly turned the doorknob. Carefully, he stuck his head out.

 

The corridors were empty. There was no sign of any life.

 

He took one step out of the apartment and froze, wary of his surroundings, poised to run back into his apartment the moment there was a sign of any moment.

 

There was none.

 

You couldn't fault him for being so careful. After being locked in his room for two-plus months, he had no idea of the situation out there.

 

He had on his back a big bag pack and a long wooden stick that he had found in his roommate’s room in his hand. It never hurt to be cautious. One never knew what was out there. After all, how did that saying go?

 

‘Better safe than sorry.’

 

With both feet finally out of the apartment, there was no turning back.

 

Jaebum smartly chose to lock the door. He did not want to take the chance of someone sneaking into his house and emptying his supplies. Just when he was out to get more.

 

True. He was being a hypocrite once again since he was doing the exact same thing, but in this world, it was one man for himself.

 

The streets, like the view from his window, were still empty. Not that he was expecting a significant change between the few minutes it took for him to come down. It felt nice though, breathing in the fresh air in two months.

 

He took a deep breath, enjoying the feel of the air settling in his lungs. Free from pollution. It felt somewhat surreal. Strolling down the streets of Seoul without any noise or sound accompanying him. There used to be the sound of people talking, girls squealing, cars rushing by, music played by the shops.

 

But that was the past.

 

Now, it was silent. The occasional sound of the wind running through the blocks, rattling the windows that had been left open and dancing with the leaves on the ground.

 

And that was it.

 

It was a drastic change to experience.

 

 

Like what Jaebum had expected, the shops were all unmanned, given that half of Seoul’s population was already gone or mysteriously absent.

 

Well, most of them. There were a few small convenience shops that had their owners peering out of the glass windows at him suspiciously. That was probably where they had decided to hole themselves in. Smart idea.

 

The first time it had happened, Jaebum had given himself a heart attack, not really expecting to see anyone other than himself. He had initially thought it was a ghost, before second-guessing the entire situation. Maybe it was indeed a zombie attack?

 

He quickly learned to stroll past the shops without glancing at them, and by the time he passed the fourth one, he was used to it. The bigger supermarkets were generally emptier in human presence. But that applied to the food stock as well. It seemed as if he wasn’t the only who thought of coming out to loot for food. Just that, he was a lot later.

 

The seventh convenience store he passed was an empty one. And one that looked generally promising.

 

Jaebum entered the shop cautiously. Upon hearing nothing, he made his way to the closest aisle of canned food. Just as he was about to reach up to grab a can of tuna, something crashedto the ground behind him loudly.

 

He whirled around immediately. His fight or flight response kicked in, causing him to tense up, eyes alert.

 

He thought he was alone.

 

Evidently not.

 

Two boys around his age were staring at him with wide eyes. Jaebum was relatively sure that was what he looked like to them too. One of them was gripping onto a baseball bat tightly, while the other looked guilty at the pile of cans on the ground. Jaebum could somewhat remember the pile being a tower of cans when he came in. He had been careful to avoid knocking it down, but apparently, the boy in front of him didn’t have the same idea.

 

Jaebum’s eyes narrowed as he shifted into a defensive position himself when the boy’s hold on the bat tightened. Years of dancing B-boy had trained him into shape but weeks of not getting out of the house made him slightly rusty.

 

That didn’t mean he couldn’t hold his own against the two boys though. Hopefully.

 

He had no idea who the two boys were and whether they were friends or foe.

 

“Im Jaebum right?” The boy with the shockingly white blonde hair asked.

 

Oh. They knew who hewas. Well. That changes things.

 

Jaebum’s guard was immediately up. “How do you know who I am?” He asked defensively.

 

“Mark Tuan. We’re in the same economics lecture, just opposite sides of the hall.” Mark replied, gesturing to himself.

 

Jaebum did have somewhat of a slight inkling of seeing the guy somewhere on the campus before. That felt like a really long time ago.

 

"Oh." Well, that made enough sense. Since Jaebum had always sat in the front of the lecture hall, to make sure that he paid attention to the lecture.

 

“I’m Park Jinyoung. Sorry about scaring you.” Jaebum raised an eyebrow at the light brown-haired guy’s introduction. He glanced at him and the pile of cans scattered around on the ground. He was pretty sure that the male had knocked the cans over more from the shock of seeing another human being than the intent of scaring him.

 

Jinyoung blushed slightly when he saw Jaebum’s disbelieving gaze and kicked at the cans, sulking.

 

"Come on, let's get our stuff first, in case the owner comes back," Mark said, getting both of their attention as he glanced towards the store's entrance nervously.

 

As much as Jaebum wanted to ask them questions and get answers, and he was sure that there was some stuff that the other two would want to ask him too, Mark did certainly have a point.

 

It didn't take him long to fill his bag. As if by some unspoken rule, the two parties headed to different sections of the store. Jaebum didn't want to fight with his possible allies over food when there was more than enough for the three of them. He walked around his section and grabbed whichever can of food that looked appealing. He wasn't exactly picky about what type of food he got, as long as they were canned food. Couldn't be picky in an apocalypse after all.

 

They met outside the store. Three boys walking out calmly with heavy bags as if they hadn’t just been looting through the store’s products.

 

“So, which way are you heading?” Jinyoung asked, and Jaebum nodded his head in the direction he had come from.

 

"Really? Same!" Jinyoung grinned, and they set off in the same direction. Jaebum was slightly perplexed on how he had not noticed them at all. It shouldn't be that hard to spot two guys on an empty street.

 

He found out while walking that Jinyoung and Mark were roommates. And like him, they had decided to wait it out in their room smartly. However, unlike him, their first venture out into the new world had been a mere three weeks after the apocalypse began.

 

Courage much.

 

"There isn't much difference as compared to now," Mark told him. The streets were still bare. The ground was still cracked. Seoul was still encased by an eerie silence. And the sky was still an ugly color of dark red.

 

“I had a roommate too.” He said in a lull of silence.

 

“What happened to him?”

 

“Don’t know.”

 

They didn’t need to ask any more questions. It was quite easy to figure out what probably had happened to his roommate by then.

 

 

Jaebum didn’t really know where exactly the pair was heading towards, just the general direction, but his apartment was getting closer. Suddenly, something hard hit his shoulder, causing a stinging pain. Looking up, he winced and covered his eyes with his hands, leaving a small enough gap to peer at the sky.

 

Shit. It was starting to hail.

 

“Fuck. Our place is still far.” Jinyoung cursed out loud as he looked around for a shelter to take cover. Jaebum was curious to why then they had wandered such a far distance away from their base. His own apartment was considered relatively far enough to the stores. Or so he thought.

 

Apparently not.

 

Surely there were convenience stores closer to their shelter that they didn’t need to come all the way out here. Unless they had already finished using the supplies there. Still, now wasn’t exactly a good time to be asking questions, seeing how the rain had started to fall alongside with the hail. Jaebum wondered whether this was going to be the day that South Korea went under.

 

“Come on. My apartment is just right ahead.” He said, breaking into a run. The echoing footsteps against the concerted pavement behind him told him that the other two were following eagerly.

 

Jaebum wasn’t exactly sure what prompted him to offer his apartment as a shelter for them. True, he couldn’t just leave them standing there in the hailstorm when he had the means for them to be safe. But at the same time, he was leading them to his only safe place. What if they turned out to be bad guysin the end?

 

Maybe weeks of being alone made him long for companionship. At least Mark and Jinyoung had each other.

 

Together, they only managed to get into the building just in time to see the hailstorm getting larger. Jaebum led them up the staircase. He did not dare to use the lift in case something went horribly wrong, and they ended up being trapped inside with no one to save them.

 

Letting them into the apartment, he winced to himself as he glanced around, trying to see it from an outsider’s point of view. It was messy, definitely, with dirty plates still lying in the sink and clothes tossed absentmindedly on the sofa. But it was home.

 

“Nice.” Mark wolf-whistled as he looked around.

 

“Do you think this is it?” Jinyoung asked as he made his way to the window, staring at the outside world.

 

"Nah. Germany just got drowned by a tsunami two nights ago. It's way too close for Nature to decide to kill us off now." Jaebum replied with confidence that he didn't feel at all as he stocked up the shelves with the food in his bag. There was enough to last him for a few more months.

 

Turning, he saw Mark looking at him with an unknown emotion in his eyes. He chose to ignore it, too tired to try and figure out people’s emotions now.

 

“My clothes would probably fit you guys, though they might be a bit too big for Mark.” That guy was skinny! And good-looking, but that’s beside the point.

 

Jaebum grimaced slightly at the sight of the three of them dripping water onto his wooden floor, having been caught in the sudden downpour. His poor floor. It’s probably going to rot or something.

 

He turned to head into his bedroom to dig out some spare shirts. He was lucky enough to have doting parents who would send him clothes every winter, to ‘prevent my darling son from freezing to death during Seoul’s harsh winter!’. Even though he had grown up in Seoul.

 

Hadwould probably be a better word to use. He was lucky enough to haddoting parents. Jaebum’s heart clench at the thought that his last contact with his parents was weeks ago before they had set off on their vacation to America. They had promised to visit Jaebum once they came back.

 

Looked like that was another promise left unkept.

 

Steeling himself, he forced himself to focus on the task at hand. Now wasn’t the time to break down, especially when he had guests over. He would have time to mentally breakdown over the loss of his parents later when he’s alone.

 

It just hadn’t set in yet.

 

 

“You don’t have to do this for us,” Mark said softly. He reached out to take the clothes when Jaebum returned with a pile in hand.

 

“We survivors have to look out for each other, don’t we?” Jaebum shrugged it off. “I wanted to, anyway. Don’t worry about it.”

 

It felt slightly refreshing to have a change of routine, with actual human beings to talk to. Somehow, Jaebum had become accustomed to mumbling to himself and staring blankly at the television.

 

And something that felt like hope blooming in his chest.

 

“Bathroom is the first door to your right.” He nudged Mark slightly in the direction, signaling that it was alright for him to use it.

 

The blonde exchanged a long look with Jinyoung before disappearing into the bathroom without another word.

 

Being alone with Jinyoung was slightly awkward. Not that it was the other's fault. It was just that Jaebum couldn't recall seeing the other around the campus at all. Was he even a student at his university? But Mark and he were roommates, so maybe it was simply Jaebum being his usually unobservant self.

 

“I’m studying Medicine.” Jinyoung offered suddenly as he turned to look from the view outside the window to Jaebum, startling the dancer slightly.

 

How… did the other boy know what he was thinking? Was he secretly a mind reader?

 

“Your question was written all over your face.”

 

Oh. Well, Jaebum's parents had always told him that when he was out of his element, his poker face broke.

 

Jinyoung has a sweet smile, he thought absentmindedly before the front part of the answer finally registered.

 

Ah.

 

That was probably why. The department for Film, which was what Jaebum was majoring, and the Medical Department were on the complete opposite ends of the campus. It wasn’t rare for the humanities and liberal arts student to never meet any of the science students throughout their three or four years in the universities. Other than during societies. That was just how big their campus was.

 

Still, there was something slightly strange about this entire situation.

 

“You didn’t look as if you have never met me before though,” Jaebum replied carefully. He remembered clearly how Jinyoung had been looking at him in the store.

 

It was the same way that Mark had been looking at him. As if slowly recognizing him.

 

“Oh, I’ve seen you dancing in your studio before. Couple of times actually.” Jinyoung offered carelessly, waving a hand in the air.

 

It didn’t satisfy Jaebum’s curiosity. Instead, it had done the complete opposite, raising more questions for the medical student. Like why would Jinyoung just so happen to see him at the dance studio? Jaebum had never met the other at the dance studio before. Yet, seeing how Jinyoung had dropped the topic, he didn’t push.

 

“You hungry?” He asked as he padded into the kitchen, taking into stock what he could make for a quick male.

 

“Famished.” Came the answer behind him as Jinyoung followed him into the kitchen.

 

Jaebum watched quietly as he stepped aside to let Jinyoung pick out the ingredients. He didn’t really mind what he had for a meal. But seeing how hungrily Jinyoung had been eyeing the food back in the store, the two of them must not have had a proper meal for a long time.

 

Jinyoung frowned slightly at the selection of food when he opened the cupboard. “You’re not a picky eater, are you.” He commented, taking out canned tuna and some rice that Jaebum microwaved.

 

Microwaveable rice was a godsend.

 

“Not really. So why were you guys all the way here if your shelter is rather far away?” He asked in the end, unable to contain his curiosity.

 

Jinyoung paused in his actions of dishing out the tuna but continued with a sigh. “We were actually looking for one of our friends. His apartment was somewhere in this area.”

 

“And you decided to get food at the same time?”

 

“Killing two birds with one stone.” Jinyoung turned to smile at him as he passed him by to the dining table.

 

“I assumed you didn’t find him then?” Jaebum asked. It was a rather stupid question, honestly, seeing how it was just the two of them when he met them.

 

"Nah. Empty apartment. But I'm not particularly worried. Jackson's a smart guy. Hopefully."

 

Mark walked into the room with a towel around his neck, hair dripping wet and dirty clothes in one hand. That effectively halted any other questions that Jaebum had.

 

“Put them in that basket.” Jaebum directed him. It was an actual wonder that they still had running electricity and water to use. Without those, they would be dead way before the apocalypse even hit South Korea. But then again, South Korea had always been self-sufficient. Especially in the last few years. Unless the electric generators in their country died. But hopefully, it would take a long time since there was also backup generators, as Jaebum recalled reading in the news once. They would be fine.

 

“Oh brilliant. Food.” Mark’s eyes lit up as he saw the spread of food on the table, letting out a soft whine, as minimal as the menu might be.

 

They took their places around the small dining table, barely fitting in comfortably. It felt weird to have company again while eating when he had been eating meals alone for weeks.

 

Jaebum watched with silent knowing eyes as the two boys in front of him emptied their bowls in record time. He knew that they were hungry, but he certainly didnot expect them to be thishungry. Without a word, he simply spooned more food into their bowl. When whatever was left in the can was finished, he gave them food from his own bowl. He smiled at them gently when they turned to look at him questioningly. It was rather cute how their gazes kept flickering between Jaebum and the bowls in front of him, as if unsure how to react. A nod spurred them into action, and a soft smile graced his lips as he watched them gobbled up the food almost immediately.

 

The food was quickly emptied into three hungry stomachs. Well, most of them went into Mark’s and Jinyoung’s, but Jaebum didn’t mind. Not at all. They needed it more than he did. He cleared the plates on the table and carried them over to the kitchen sink to wash up. Jinyoung disappeared into the bathroom to take a shower of his own. That left him alone with Mark who volunteered to share dishwashing duty with him.

 

It felt weird to be doing anything with someone again. Especially the dishes. Jaebum had spent a long time doing it alone. Even when his roommate was here, since the other male never did any household chores, being a lazy ass that he was.

 

“Thanks.” He muttered as he handed the wet plates over to the boy standing next to him to dry.

 

“Don’t mention it.”

 

Their fingers brushed, Mark’s lingering on his hand a little longer than appropriate.

 

It felt nice.

 

 

After finishing up on washing and taking his own shower, the three of them spent the rest of the night lounging on the couch. At first, Jaebum had tried to leave the two of them alone together. But somehow, he found himself being pulled down by Jinyoung. And now, he was stuck between both of them, with the medical student leaning heavily into his right side and the blonde resting his head on his left shoulder.

 

“So who was it?” He asked after about of comfortable silence, remembering the reason why the two of them had been so far from their shelter.

 

“Hmm?” Jinyoung hummed lazily as he turned his face into Jaebum’s shoulder.

 

“You know, the person you guys were looking for.” He clarified.

 

“Oh. Jackson. Wang Jackson.”

 

“Wang Jackson? The new Hong Kong guy? With honey blonde hair?”

 

"That's right. He's in your dance studio, isn't he? Apparently, Mark and he used to be childhood friends a long time ago. That is until Mark moved away to America and Jackson went back to his home country. He recently transferred over to our university a few months ago, citing that he was tired of being in a different country from Mark. We became friends after Mark introduced us."

 

Right. Jaebum didn’t really want to know how the other knew that Jackson was in his dance studio.

 

But then again, his dance studio was rather famous on the campus, so it wasn't shocking news.

 

The Film major could faintly recall the dancers being slightly intrigued and disgruntled by the new overseas guy. He had transferred in the middle of their university term, which was rare enough, and joined their famous dance team. Those feelings quickly faded though when Jackson’s dancing and tricking skills awed them. Jaebum himself had never gotten a good chance to talk with the other properly though, aside from exchanged rushed greetings. Their dance schedules always somehow missed each other.

 

From what he had heard, Jackson was more of a mood maker kind of guy. Always with a smile on his face, and laughing. He seemed like a nice guy in general. Though Jaebum had an inkling that their personalities might clash. Just a tiny bit.

 

A slight puff of air on his left side of his neck had him turning his head, only to be met with Mark’s closed eyes, the other’s chest rising up and down gently.

 

He had fallen asleep.

 

Jinyoung peered over to look at his friend before giggling and letting out a yawn of his own as he returned to his previous position.

 

Jaebum was simply content to sit there in silence. Mark’s deep breathing and the pitter-pattering sound of the hailstorm and rain from outside kept him company. It sounded as if it was letting up. Just slightly though.

 

It unsettled him how quickly the other could fall asleep in an unfamiliar environment, especially with a stranger. But Jaebum supposed that he wasn’t a stranger anymore. And Mark seemed very tired anyway.

 

“How old are you?” He whispered, so as not to wake the sleeping boy up. He didn’t want to disturb his hard-earned rest.

 

“Me? I’m a 94-liner.”

 

“Oh? So am I.”

 

“Yeah. But you’re born in January, aren't you? I’m a September baby. Guess that makes you the hyung then.”

 

Jaebum didn’t even want to know how Jinyoung had gotten hold of the date of his birthday. They had never talked before this. There were some things he was better off not knowing.

 

“Mark’s a 93 liner. Which makes him the oldest amongst us.” The younger continued. Jaebum made a mental note of the information that Jinyoung had provided him with. He hadn’t heard Jinyoung addressing Mark as hyung though. Maybe the other wasn’t very strict on the Korean culture of addressing your elders with their respective titles since he was raised in America and all.

 

Western culture was a lot more relaxed, from what he knew.

 

Jaebum reminded himself to ask Mark tomorrow though. Just in case. He didn’t want to offend the first human contact he had in months.

 

“So. Are you like a stalker or something? Like you know random information about me, even though we were strangers before this.”

 

Curiosity killed the cat, in the end.

 

“We’re not strangers. Well, I mean you knew that Mark existed and we knew that you existed. Not strangers!”

 

“I didn’t know any of you well enough at all. Strangers.”

 

“Oh alright fine. Be that way. But I’m not a stalker! I swear!” Jinyoung raised his hands up in defense, proclaiming his innocence.

 

“Then?”

 

“Mark and I just had been really interested in you for a while now. That’s all.”

 

Well, that wasn’t anything he could say to that, was there?

 

 

It took a combined effort from both Jaebum and Jinyoung to finally successfully carry Mark into the bedroom. It wasn't that Mark was heavy or anything. The problem was that Jaebum was too tired to do it himself and had to enlist the help of the younger. The eldest was surprisingly a deep sleeper. He never once roused from the ruckus the two of them were made during the journey to the bedroom. They had almost knocked down a painting hanging on the wall by accident when trying to round the corner of the corridor. Jaebum never did like that ugly painting anyway, and so it wasn't an emotional shock to him. It had come with the apartment, and he had been too lazy to take it down.

 

Jinyoung kicked open the door gently. He made sure that it didn’t bang on the wall while shifting his hold on Mark and let out a soft whistle when he saw the bed.

 

“That is one gorgeous bed.” He whispered as they lowered Mark carefully onto the queen-sized bed.

 

Jaebum blushed at the younger’s awe of the bed. The first thing he had invested in immediately when moving into the university’s apartment, was to get a big and comfortable bed. While it drastically reduced the amount of walking space he had in the already ridiculously small room, he didn’t mind.

 

His motto since young had always been that if you want to do something well, or even get anything done at all, you have to have a proper bed. Which would then help you to get a night of good sleep, and thus good health, hence making you more productive. It was a good motto that got him so far in life.

 

He reached over to cover Mark with the blanket before turning towards Jinyoung with a soft smile.

 

"So yeah. I'll leave you to it then. Good night." He rubbed the back of his neck nervously and walked towards the door, only to find himself stopped by a firm grip on his wrist.

 

“And where did you think you were going?” Jinyoung asked, pinning the dancer with a glare.

 

"Umm? The couch? To sleep?" He would never admit it, but Jinyoung did have a rather effective glare.

 

Jaebum didn’t get why the younger was angry at him all of a sudden. What did he do wrong?

 

Jinyoung rolled his eyes as he dragged Jaebum back into the room. The younger mumbled “Don’t be an idiot,” under his breath as he manhandled Jaebum onto the bed. Jaebum was too much in shock to do anything other than following Jinyoung’s instructions obediently. As if sensing there was another presence on the bed, Mark immediately rolled over and swung a leg over his body.

 

Jaebum froze.

 

Jinyoung’s soft laughter echoed throughout the room. He reached over to hit the light switch, plunging the room into immediate darkness. The only light source was the ray of moonlight slipping between the cracks of the curtains.

 

“I guess that this is probably a good time to warn you that both of us like to cuddle in bed.” He chuckled as he climbed onto the bed, tightening an arm around Jaebum’s waist as he snuggled into the other. The dancer found himself in the same situation as before - being stuck in the middle.

 

How were these two so touchy-feely with a stranger that they had just met?

 

In the darkness, Jaebum wondered how did the two boys worm their way into his life within a night. And into his bed too.

 

 

Over the next few days, the three of them developed some sort of domestic routine as they waited for the storm to end.

 

They took turns doing household chores during the day and spent the night together on Jaebum’s bed after cuddling on the sofa.

 

The hailstorm and rain finally let up after four days. And like Jaebum predicted, South Korea was still left standing. Miraculously.

 

It was after a week from when Mark and Jinyoung had arrived in Jaebum’s house that Mark suggested heading out to continue their search for Jackson again. Jaebum felt his stomach drop at the thought of the two boys leaving.

 

He didn’t want them to.

 

He didn’t want to be alone again.

 

He wanted them to stay.

 

However, he couldn’t be selfish.

 

He had no right to them.

 

“Take whatever you need, and be careful.” He said, as he leaned against the wall and watched Mark and Jinyoung pack in the living room. “I do hope you find him this time.”

 

The younger heard him and looked up questioningly. “What are you talking about, hyung? We are coming back for you tonight, whether we find Jackson or not.” He said, reading Jaebum’s thoughts accurately.

 

The wording of the sentence took Jaebum by surprise. He wouldn't admit it, but it made him ridiculously happy knowing that they weren’t leaving him behind.

 

And that they were coming back to him.

 

He walked them out the door and waved them goodbye. Mark promised him that they would be back for dinner before sunset and Jinyoung told him to ‘stop thinking too much hyung. It hurts your brain’cheekily. Jaebum locked the door behind him once they were gone. Got to be safe.

 

He headed back into the living room and marveled at the emptiness that filled the space just minutes after the duo was gone. It felt so quiet without those two. Within a week, they had already carved themselves a perfect space into his life.

 

And his heart.

 

Chapter Text

There wasn’t much for Jaebum to do in the house now. There were no longer any new films or dramas showing since no one was in the mood to even act anymore. All that was playing were either rerun of dramas and music shows or occasionally the important news. Even that was also decreasing in frequency. Nothing particularly entertaining.

 

He just had to wash up the breakfast plates, do laundry and make dinner for the three of them before the pair came home. And dust the house. Jaebum felt like a housewife waiting for her husband to come home from work.

 

Or rather, in his case, his husbands.

 

Well, wasn’t that a funny thought.

 

 

True to their word, the two of them came back before sunset with more food.

 

But no Jackson.

 

Jaebum took one look at their faces and silently shepherded them towards the dining table where there were bowls of piping hot soup waiting for them. Unloading the backpacks and sorting out the food could come later. First, he had to feed them.

 

That night, he didn’t complain like he usually did when they clung onto him like a lifeline. Instead, he alternated between rubbing small circles into Jinyoung’s back and massaging Mark’s tense shoulders.

 

 

Their days passed in the same familiar routine. They would wake up for breakfast. Their alarm clock was the bright sunlight streaming through the windows. Every so often, they found that their limbs had all tangled together and would spend a good 10 minutes trying to untangle themselves.

 

After breakfast, Mark and Jinyoung would head out to scout the area, finding Jackson and more food at the same time.  Jaebum did the household chores, which were mainly just cooking, washing and laundry. And the occasional cleaning, reading or napping.

 

He really was starting to turn into a housewife.

 

 

While Jaebum enjoyed the familiarity and comfort that the routine gave him, the days were starting to blend together with no distinction between them. At this point, Jaebum was considering wearing a pink apron and greeting Mark and Jinyoung with a cute ‘welcome back~' just to amuse himself.

 

He then proceeded to bleach his brain furiously after that thought.

 

Aegyo wasn’t his thing.

 

No matter what the other two said.

 

 

It was in the eight days after they started to head out when Mark and Jinyoung finally appeared with an extra body.

 

A male with platinum blonde hair.

 

But he wasn’t Jackson.

 

Jaebum recognized him. He was one of the first years in the music production department. They helped out film students with soundtracks during some of their projects. Jaebum had visited the Music department a few times, and he remembered passing the boy along the corridors when he wasn't, you know, holed up in his studio or attending university lectures.

 

What was his name again?

 

“This is Choi Youngjae.”

 

Ah. That was it.

 

“We found him under one of the bridges over the Han River,” Jinyoung reported as he unloaded the cans of food from his backpack and glanced at Jaebum quickly. “The poor kid was freezing to death.”

 

The Han River? That was quite far away from his apartment. The pair had indeed traveled quite a distance today. The dancer had no idea how someone would be able to survive all this while only being under a bridge. Especially that last hailstorm.

 

He turned to look at Youngjae. The younger was standing there like a lost puppy. His eyes wandering around the room and when they met Jaebum’s by accident, they darted away immediately. Skittish was the word that came to his mind.

 

“So,” Mark said, looking at him. Jaebum read the silent question in the other's eyes. Like he said before - he wasn’t a heartless person. He sighed, turned and walked into his bedroom without a word. When he exited it, it was with a bundle of clothes in his hands and pushed Youngjae towards the bathroom, ignoring the twin relieved sighs he heard from behind him.

 

Did they really think that he would actually refuse and kick Youngjae out of the house? When had he taken in two strangers before? And especially in this kind of situation?

 

That thought hurt Jaebum.

 

Even though he knew that he had no reason to be upset.

 

Let it never be said that Jaebum was always a rational person though.

 

He spent the rest of the night being distant from them, nursing his bruised heart.

 

He wasn’t sulking though. Nope. Not at all.

 

Just…. slightly hurt.

 

Ok fine.

 

Maybe he was sulking.

 

But a tiny bit.

 

 

Mark finally caught him though, right before they headed to bed. The older male cornered him in the kitchen, Jinyoung, and Youngjae nowhere in sight.

 

“What's wrong with you?” He asked.

 

Ouch. Straightforward it was.

 

“Nothing,” Jaebum replied, eyes coming to rest on a spot on the wall behind Mark.

 

Or maybe not.

 

Mark shot him a long glance as if searching for clues in his face before his mouth dropped open into an ‘oh.’

 

Jaebum sighed.

 

The other had figured it out. Probably.

 

His expression softening, Mark pulled the younger into a hug. He ran his hands up and down Jaebum’s back in a reassuring manner. “Sorry. We didn’t mean to doubt you at all. It’s just that… we weren’t really sure how exactly you would react to someone new after it being just us three for a long time.”

 

Had it been that long since he invited the pair into his house?

 

It felt as if he had already known them for years, instead of a mere few weeks.

 

“It’s ok. I was being silly.” Jaebum laughed, pulling away from the hug to focus on doing the dishes properly.

 

“Your feelings are never silly,” was what followed him out of the kitchen.

 

 

Well, Mark technically hadn’t been wrong in his guess.

 

Jaebum was indeed initially afraid that whatever camaraderie he had established between Mark, Jinyoung, and he would be disrupted by this new arrival. But his fears were unfounded.

 

Youngjae fitted right in into their little group with his easy and unrestrained laughter and humbleness. The former sounded like a godsend in such a grim environment. It made Jaebum wonder how he could ever think about hating such an angel.

 

The only change was that he now had more mouths to feed, more dishes to wash, more laundry to do. And it was a tighter squeeze in bed at night. Youngjae had spent three nights on the couch before Jaebum quickly got tired of the younger’s longing gaze at the bedroom and dark circles under his eyes. He made sure to pull the other into the bed later that night. Mark and Jinyoung parted naturally to make more space for them.

 

Jaebum's roommate's single bed had been dragged into Jaebum's bedroom at some point. That reduced the walking space further. The spare room had now been turned into a conference room or rather, a place where they would sit in and decide on where to search next. At least, the searchers would. The walls were now covered with maps of Seoul.  Jaebum didn't even know he had them. Or that his parents had bought for him for no apparent reasons. Dots, circles, and lines filled the map.

 

Youngjae joined the search, much to Jaebum’s surprise. Apparently, he knew Jackson from one of the fencing clubs that he had joined recently. Such a small world indeed. Though he wasn’t that surprised. Jackson had seemed like a social butterfly. Jaebum was beginning to feel somewhat out of the loop with this Jackson guy. Maybe he should have made more of an effort to talk to him. Too late for regrets now though.

 

He felt as if he should join the search, not wanting to be the only one not doing anything. Yet, at the same time, perhaps he shouldn’t. After all, the other three knew Jackson and his habits, and thus where to look. Jaebum would only be trailing after them and slowing them down. Still, he felt useless sitting at home.

 

Jaebum voiced this out to Jinyoung one day when it was their turn to do the dishes together. He didn’t want to bother anyone with his insecurities, they had enough on their plate already. But he needed an answer to what he was actually even doing in the team. What was his position even?

 

“You give us a home to come back to.” That was Jinyoung’s answer, pinned with a serious stare.

 

 

It was yet another day that Mark, Jinyoung, and Youngjae trudged back into the apartment with blank faces when Jaebum suggested they try searching in other areas of Seoul. His suggestion was met with startled gazes and surprised expressions. Which Jaebum understood since he was kind of suggesting that they moved bases.

 

“I mean, it’s rather clear that he isn’t anywhere near Gangnam now. He might have moved to other parts of Seoul though.” It had, after all, been a few weeks since Youngjae came. Mark and Jinyoung had been searching for Jackson before that already.

 

“But hyung, your apartment…” Youngjae protested.

 

“Isn’t home without you guys.” He interrupted.

 

A year ago, Jaebum would never be caught dead saying such heartfelt words. But the apocalypse had taught him that if you have anything that you want to say, you better say it now. Since you would never know when you would get another chance to say it. Which unfortunately was a struggle for Jaebum at first since he was never one for voicing his true feelings. But he learned quickly. He had to, living with three boys around him who weren’t afraid to broadcast their affection for him to the entire world.

 

“Besides, we could always find a base easily.” He said, shrugging. There were probably lots of abandoned apartments around Seoul. The country was already half empty.

 

Silence resumed as the other three stared at him with wide eyes. Jaebum gulped nervously. It wasn’t that bad of a suggestion. Right?

 

He knew that while the other three had been contemplating this for a while, none of them wanted to leave Jaebum behind. They knew that Jaebum would disagree since it was hishouse that they were leaving behind. But what they didn't realize was that theywere much more important to Im Jaebum than a concrete floor with four walls. He had no idea when the three of them started to matter so much to him, but he was okay with that.

 

Suddenly, he found himself surrounded in a flurry of limbs. Trapped in the arms of Jinyoung, a back hug from Mark which Youngjae joined immediately, kisses pressed onto every inch of his skin.

 

In essence, his entire body.

 

Jaebum protested, of course. He wasn’t a touchy person by nature. Weeks with these guys had softened him a bit but not to this extent. Still, after struggling in vain for a few minutes and failing to get out of the tangle, he resigned himself to patting whoever’s back he could reach.

 

 

Surprisingly, packing didn't take as long as he had expected. Each of them had a backpack on their backs, stuffed full of whatever essentials they needed. Jinyoung's bag was filled with clothes. He was still carrying that baseball bat from when Jaebum first met the couple in the convenience store.

 

Youngjae’s was a mix between food and clothes and all those papers that contained whatever information they had jotted down. On Jackson’s possible location, predictions for the next wave, what places to avoid, etc.

 

Mark and Jaebum were placed in charge of looking after food. More specifically canned food. That was important. The elder had somehow managed to procure a set of knives and what Jaebum suspected were daggers from out of nowhere. He also suspected that the eldest probably raided an antique store during one of their outings. But they were good weapons, so he didn't mind.

 

Transportation, on the other hand, posed a bigger problem. Mark suggested on heading towards Yongsan. That was where he and Jackson had gone on a holiday with their parents when they were much younger. He recalled something about Jackson telling him that he wished to come back here again when he was older.

 

Jaebum didn’t know why the missing boy would ever want to return to a red-light district. Other than for the obvious reasons, of course. He didn’t exactly want to think about the implications of thatsentence.

 

He supposed that all those flashing lights and busy activities in front of Yongsan Station might have seemed appealing to the mind of a 7-year-old boy. Though it did raise some questions on Mark and Jackson’s parents’ parenting mindset for bringing two kids to such a place.

 

Despite its dodgy nightly activities though, Yongsan was a place full of cultural attractions, such as the National Museum of Korea. Jaebum knew this because he had to help check up what museums there were in Seoul to visit for a friend’s assignment. That might be why the parents had brought their children there.

 

In all honesty, Jaebum couldn't remember ever being attracted to places like museums at the age of 7. They were too boring for him. He would much rather be running around in the playground or an amusement park. Still, each to their own.

 

He had to admit that while he wasn’t bothered by the stereotype that came along with their destination, it was certainly interesting to see Jinyoung’s and Youngjae’s faces turning bright red upon hearing the destination. Particularly the latter who rushed out of the room while the other stood there with a slight blush. Jaebum had to explain the reason to a confused Mark, who was staring at the empty space that Youngjae had left behind. He then got to watch in amusement as the elder’s own face turned red too.

 

The Film student had just been glad that they now had a direction to focus on instead of wandering around Seoul aimlessly. That would probably have wasted a load of their time and be further away from this Jackson dude instead of going anywhere near him. And God knows how desperate the other three were to make sure that their friend was alright.

 

Gangnam to Yongsan was quite a far distance. A walkable, (despite how fit some of them looked, they were not walking there. Jaebum didn't think his legs could handle that long a distance) and with no taxis available, it seemed like the only option was to take the train.

 

That had been Jinyoung's suggestion. The younger male remembered something about the train still working when the three of them had been out on one of their hunts. Jaebum had learned quickly early in the apocalypse to not question anything in this situation. The best action was to accept everything as it is, like why there would still be workers maintaining the trains. They should be trying to save themselves or holing themselves up somewhere. But they were not. Going with the flow was now the safest idea and the one that required the least brain cells to think about.

 

Though, Jaebum was a curious kid by heart, so he wanted at least some resemblance of an answer to this question. It could be because most of the trains were automatic, and thus that was why they would still be functioning. However, the journey from Gangnam to Yongsan would not be an easy one, even traveling by train. They would have to transfer a few times between the two stations.

 

The idea was quickly met with agreement from the other members, and they set off on their journey. Jaebum had been the last one to leave his apartment. It was like some sort of action to symbolize the closing of this particular chapter of his life. He had stood in front of his door for a long while, unwilling and unable to bring his feet in the opposite direction.

 

This was the apartment he had lived in for a good two years. Two years of university, cooking for himself and stumbling back at 2 am in the morning either from the library. Or drunk. This was where he had learned to be independent, the first time being away from his parents. This was the place that signified an important part of his life. It felt somewhat surreal to know that he would be leaving his apartment forever. Jaebum had always known that such a day would come when he might have to go apartment hunting for a new house. But he had always envisioned such a thing happening after he had achieved his degree and graduated from university. Not during an apocalypse.

 

The other three were saints as they kept quiet, allowing Jaebum to take as long as he needed to come to terms with what was happening. It felt like hours before Jaebum could drag his eyes away from the door and drag his feet to where his friends were waiting for him. Their arms around his shoulder convinced him that he had made the right decision. No matter how hard it was to let go of some things.

 

The journey from Gangnam to Yongsan had felt strange. They met literally no other living beings, other than one or two stragglers. It was eerie, riding a completely empty train and walking through a completely empty station. When it wasn’t all that hard to picture the place bustling with people during peak hours. The entire experience was definitely not something Jaebum was eager to go through again.

 

“It feels almost as if we are the only ones left in the world. The last of humanity.” Young echoed the thought that they were all thinking.

 

That was a scary thought.

 

 

Stepping out into Yongsan Station lightened Jaebum’s heart. They had finally reached their destination and were ready to begin a new chapter of their journey. The usually noisy station was scarily quiet. The sound of their footsteps could be heard echoing throughout the place and around them. It was a relief when they finally stepped out of it.

 

As much as the other three wanted to start looking for Jackson right away, there were more important things to do.

 

Such as setting up a base. In other words - apartment hunting.

 

The four of them split up, wanting to spend as little time possible away from each other. There was strength in numbers, after all. They made sure to stay on the same floor though. None of them were particularly interested in wanting to attract unwanted attention to themselves by screaming at each other if they got separated.

 

Apartment hunting. Such a domestic word for a dire situation.

 

Jaebum liked the contrast.

 

 

Like what he had initially predicted, half of the apartments were empty. And also locked. Thankfully for them, Mark somehow knew how to pick locks. Where the elder ever got that skill from, Jaebum wasn’t exactly sure he wanted to know. Picking locks were shockingly easy. If you had a good teacher.

 

With many apartments at their disposal, they had the pick of the lot.

 

That would have been a good thing. And everything would have gone smoothly if it wasn’t for the fact that Jinyoung and Jaebum both had stubbornness listed under their character traits. Since they could choose whichever they wanted, they started stating their own preferences.

 

It wasn’t before long when the two of them ended up in an argument over whether the apartment should have a bathtub or not. In hindsight, it wasindeed quite a trivial thing to argue over. But at that time, the tension was running rather high.

 

Mark had disappeared to scout for more apartments, which left them alone with Youngjae. The poor younger was plastering himself against the wall in fear as the couple’s voices got louder and more aggressive. The possibility of the argument escalating into a physical fight was growing larger and larger with every passing second.

 

During a break in the argument when they stopped to catch their breaths, both panting, Jaebum finally realized how ridiculous the entire situation was. He instantly burst into laughter, earning him incredulous looks from the other two.

 

“Look at us.” He gasped, between giggles. “Fighting over a bathtub in an apocalypse.”

 

Mark returned to a scene of his boys rolling around on the floor in laughter. He simply stared at them blankly, and then sighed and shook his head. They were bound to go insane at some point. He was just surprised that they had lasted that long.

 

After a long search, the four of them finally found an apartment they are all happy with. And it took about two and a half hours, right before the sunset. An impressive feat given how picky and stubborn they were. Or more specifically, how picky Jinyoung and he was.

 

The single main rule that all of them had agreed on was that the apartment had to have a bed large enough to fit the four of them. Or rather five, plus Jackson whenever they finally found him. Jaebum had no idea when it started becoming the norm for the four of them to sleep together. It didn't feel right with even one person missing. Now, he could no longer imagine spending a night without any of them next to him.

 

The apartment they had settled on was much bigger than Jaebum’s university dorm. The selling point was that there was two queen sized bed side by side in the master bedroom. Weird, yes, but since it fitted their needs perfectly, they decided not to question it. The less they knew about the previous owners, the better. The bed was big enough to have enough space to roll around since the other three were major cuddlers. Not that Jaebum didn’t enjoy cuddling. But it was no longer unusual for him to wake up in the middle of the night because someone’s arm had landed heavily on his stomach. Or that he was sweating because two bodies had attached themselves firmly to him.

 

Youngjae found a set of keys on the living room table, which Mark took the initiative to try them out. It turned out that seven of them belonged to the main door (a slightly large number, but it worked out for them), one to the master bedroom, one to the study room. And the remaining two to their respective toilets.

 

The facilities were all in good conditions. There were even pots and pans for them to use if they wished to cook an actual proper meal. Given that they could find the ingredients. Not that Jaebum expected anything less from the apartment though. It was one of those high-class apartments that Jaebum, as a broke college student, could only dream of having and settling for looking up pictures online. There was no chance that he would ever own an apartment like this.

 

Except now. And Jaebum was determined to make full use of it. Why would anyone give such a beautiful apartment up, he had no idea. But hey, since it worked to his advantage, he wasn't complaining.

 

And there was also a bathtub, much to Jinyoung’s pleasure.

 

 

Jaebum soon discovered the downside of having a big bathtub though. They had spent an hour unpacking their stuff, before Youngjae's stomach protested and he decided to make something to eat. Jaebum had called the first shower, or rather first bath since he was feeling sticky and all grossed out. Jinyoung could only settle to wait. Mark had disappeared to the other shower, not minding whether it was a shower or a bath. He just wanted to get clean.

 

Having a bath certainly was relaxing. Jaebum was enjoying the way the warm water caressed and relaxed his muscles when the curtains suddenly flung open, and he came face to face with Jinyoung standing in front of him.

 

No matter what any witnesses say, he did notlet out a girly squeak.

 

Ok, he did, but that was because Jinyoung started stripping in front of him and entering the bathtub. With Jaebum inside it.

 

“W-what are you doing?” He stuttered, pressing himself against the side of the bathtub. His legs were tugged against his chest in a desperate attempt to protect his modesty.

 

And failing epically.

 

Jinyoung rolled his eyes at his hyung’s protests. He rearranged their positions so that Jaebum was settling between his legs and against his chest.

 

“I wanted to try out the bathtub.” He replied, hands mindless stroking Jaebum’s stomach.

 

“Couldn’t you wait for me to finish.” Jaebum retorted, trying to swat away the younger’s wandering hands but to no avail.

 

“Nah. Couldn’t be bothered.”

 

It took a long time for him to process this, but he finally came to a belated conclusion that Jinyoung really loved to manhandle him.

 

It was actually quite comfortable in that position though. Jaebum gave up any other resemblance of protest that he had and made himself comfortable.

 

After all, they had already slept in the same bed before and worn each other’s clothes. Even undergarments. Bathing together shouldn’t be such a big deal right?

 

Jaebum couldn’t deny that he felt his face growing warmer though. And that Jinyoung was really comfortable to lean against.

 

The couple laid in the tub quietly. Jinyoung leaned against the cool marble of the bathtub with Jaebum against his chest as they washed each other, rubbing soap against the other’s skin and rinsing it away gently.

 

“We should get out of the tub before Mark and Youngjae decide to come in and join us.” Jinyoung finally said.

 

“You don’t want them to?” Jaebum asked in disbelief, raising an eyebrow. This was coming from the guy who barged into hisbath.

 

“Oh. I don’t mind.” Jinyoung leered. “But there isn’t enough space in here for all four of us. Damn it. I knew we should have chosen an apartment with a bigger tub.”

 

“Don’t you start,” Jaebum warned him with a flick to the forehead. When they hadn’t been arguing during their apartment hunting, Jaebum had to sit through Jinyoung’s whining on why isn’t there a tub in this one. No, it’s too small. The design of it looks horrible.Youngjae had smartly decided to partner with Mark and left them alone, safely away from Jinyoung’s complaints. He wasn’t keen to listen to another again. “Besides, this was the biggest tub we’ve seen in all the apartments we’ve been to.”

 

Jinyoung pouted at him as he detached himself from Jaebum. The younger climbed out of the tub carefully, dripping water onto the floor. Jaebum reminded himself to mop the water up later. Or at least place a rug there, lest someone slipped because of the water and cracked their head on the floor. The most likely victim was Youngjae. They did not survive the apocalypse for so long just to die because of a slippery floor.

 

“How mean. I should leave you in here.” The younger said, as he grabbed a towel and dried himself off. “Without any towels or clothes.”

 

“You know fully well that I would walk out of here like that.” Modesty was quickly gone when you’re living with three other guys in a small apartment. Jaebum had no idea why he was even trying to make an attempt to preserve it now. He couldn’t even count the number of times when one of them had walked in on another person changing or being completely stark naked. It had gotten to the point where they no longer blinked or freaked out, but continued their routine like it was normal.

 

Jinyoung had once suggested to actually make walking around naked a thing on a daily basis since they were so used to it already. That idea was quickly put to a stop by Jaebum upon seeing Youngjae’s bright red face. And Mark’s teasing laughter.

 

"Oh? Go for it then." Jaebum sighed upon seeing the twinkle in the other's eyes. That probably had been the plan from the start. Ignoring Jinyoung's smirk, he accepted the hand that was given to him and was helped out of the tub gently. The dancer didn't actually need any help, but he had learned the hard way the one did not simply refuse Park Jinyoung's help when it was offered. Three days of Jinyoung acting hot and cold with him was more than he could bear. It was tiring trying to deal with the other's mood swings.

 

Before Jaebum could move to dry himself, he found his body engulfed in the embrace of a fluffy white towel.

 

Jinyoung was drying him.

 

“Hey. I can do it myself.” He protested, pride stung at being treated like a kid. Or a doll.

 

“I know. But I still want to do it for you.”

 

At such words and an accompanying gentle smile, what else was Jaebum supposed to do other than to stand there obediently and let Jinyoung do whatever he wanted?

 

Finally satisfied with the state of dryness that Jaebum’s skin was in, given the number of times Jinyoung had patted him down with the towel, albeit most of it being at his butt, the younger finally wrapped him up in a new towel. He dragged him out of the toilet, sending a smirk to Youngjae’s and Mark’s matching ones.

 

There was probably something going on that the other three knew about, but he didn’t.

 

And he wasn’t exactly sure whether he wanted to know it.

 

 

Their first dinner at their new base wasn't exactly much different from their last meal in Jaebum's university dorm. Just new surroundings, and new plates and utensils. And the underlying brimming excitement and hope. And maybe finally finallybeing able to find Jackson.

 

Jaebum had to admit. He was actually to looking forward finally meeting this Jackson guy and knowing him a little better too. Youngjae, Mark, and Jinyoung had indulged him with funny anecdotes of Jackson when they found out that Jaebum had never actually talked with him before. They had been so shocked when he told them.

 

That night, when they were all lumped together in bed, the space was no longer a tight fit yet all of them chose to huddle in the middle, Youngjae whispered softly into his ear.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Whatever for?”

 

“For giving up so much for us.”

 

Jaebum tilted his head to blink at the younger owlishly, before smiling. “Always.” He replied, squeezing Youngjae’s hand tightly before proceeding to bury his face against Mark’s neck.

 

It didn’t escape his notice that the arms around his waist tightened.

 

 

To no one’s surprise, they fell back into their old routine relatively quickly. The three of them headed out to search for Jackson and Jaebum stayed in the apartment. There came the rare occasion when he got tired of being stuck within concrete walls and tagged out along with them. He hadn’t been around Yongsan much since it was quite a distance away from his university. He was admittedly rather curious to see how the area was like.

 

Days passed by slowly with barely any sign of Jackson even appearing. The closest they had ever got was when Jinyoung's keen eyes spotted a snapback that Jackson apparently favored. It had been resting near one of the empty stores. Jaebum was somewhat skeptical about the possibility of the snapback actually belonging to Jackson since it was from a popular brand. Mark agreed with Jinyoung though. They insisted that this particular snapback was Jackson's. Jackson had once scratched the shiny gold letters on it and cried over it.

 

Jaebum was smart enough to keep his mouth shut. He did pray that it actually did belong to Jackson. Hopefully, it was an indication that the boy was somewhere in the vicinity. And safe.

 

It did hurt his heart to see his boys coming back home with drooping shoulders and sombre expressions. The dancer wasn't that worried though. Yongsan was huge, and they had only been here for barely a week. If the snapback indeed belonged to the missing boy, then Jackson was bound to be here.

 

Somewhere.

 

 

And he was right. When one day the boys were unusually late. Sure they usually would be back by dusk, and the occasional later but never ever thislate.

 

Except once, when they had been ambushed by another group. Jaebum hadn’t even been sure that there were other humans around other than them. They had stumbled back into the house, all bruised and limping. That had sent Jaebum into a fit of panic.

 

Which he was about to go into now. He hated the fact that none of them had any mobile phones on them. While every other technology in South Korea was working, the internet and mobile providers just had to be the ones to shut down. That left them isolated from each other the minute they were separated.

 

Like now.

 

He was about to stand up and leave to find them when shouts penetrated the usually quiet environment. If that wasn't a sign that something was seriously off, then Jaebum didn't know what else would be. His body tensed and he turned to face the door as the voices got closer, coming from the corridor.

 

“Jaebummie hyung!” Youngjae’s familiar voice came through the door, instantly causing all the tension in his body to leave. If the younger could sound this happy and cheerful, then everything was alright. Which only left one possibility…

 

Jaebum’s breath caught when the knob began to turn.

 

“We found him!”

 

Before the sentence was even finished, the door was flung open.

 

“And a few lost birds.” Youngjae finished. He drew Jaebum into a tight hug in his happiness as he gestured to the strangers standing behind him.

 

Jaebum returned the hug warmly, despite the feelings of worry and frustration at their late arrival. He tried to force them down, knowing that they didn’t deserve it. Not after they finally found the boy that they had been looking for all along. He knew how much this meant to them.

 

Which also meant that he could finally see what the big deal about this Jackson was all about.

 

Standing between Jinyoung and Mark were not one, but three boys. With varying hair colors and heights. The tallest one, probably even taller than Mark, had washed out lavender hair. The other two shorter ones had pinkish colored hair and honey blonde hair respectively. The latter had Jinyoung’s arm over his shoulders.

 

That was probably Jackson.

 

There was no time for proper introductions, not when they were all standing out in the open. That would have to come later. Jaebum stepped back from where he was standing in the hallway. He nodded for Jinyoung to usher their guests in, closing and locking the door behind them once the last one entered.

 

Slowly, he braced himself and turned to survey the six boys in front of him. Mark was hugging the one whom he thought might be Jackson warmly, while Jinyoung and Youngjae were talking the remaining two’s ears off. Jaebum was now glad that they had chosen a large apartment for if those three were going to stay with them, it would definitely be a really really really tight squeeze had they remained in his university’s dorm.

 

But then again, if they had stayed, they’ll never have met the three males. Which reminded him, he still wasn’t introduced to them.

 

The ex-Film major allowed their chatter and excited reunion to go on for a while more before being tired of being left out of the loop. He moved towards the sofa, suddenly feeling drained, and sat down on it. Worrying about them took way too much energy for his liking.

 

“So?” He asked, looking from one boy to another before his gaze finally settled on Mark.

 

“I’m Jackson.” The honey blonde haired guy answered instead, proving his suspicions right.

 

“Yeah. I gathered that much. So who are these other two? They weren’t exactly part of the deal.” Jaebum grimaced when his voice came out as strained. He ignored the concerned looks that Jinyoung and Youngjae were shooting him. Hopefully, Mark was too caught up in his new found happiness of finding his long lost friend to notice the strangeness in his voice.

 

“That’s Yugyeom, the taller one with lavender hair and that’s Bambam.” Mark introduced them finally. “They’re the two high school students that Jackson found.”

 

“And taken under his wing like a mother bird!” Youngjae piped in.

 

“Yah! What kind of analogy was that?” Jackson protested, sparking off banter between Youngjae and him. Amidst the chaos, Jaebum couldn’t help but notice Yugyeom and Bambam were standing close to each other. They looked a little too lost for his liking. The scene reminded him of how Youngjae looked like when he first arrived.

 

Unsure and wary of their surroundings. Cynical of the world in a way that teenagers their age shouldn’t be.

 

With a sigh, Jaebum pushed himself reluctantly off the comfortable couch and padded out of the living room, leaving the noises behind him. Well, they weren’t that different from how Youngjae was when he first came. So the same method should work as well, right?

 

Clothes for the new duo were a bit hard to find. They would either look too big on Bambam or too short on Yugyeom. After a long while, Jaebum finally managed to dig out some that he thought would be able to pass. For now. They would have to go out shopping for clothes tomorrow. Or rather, looting for clothes but technicalities no longer mattered at this point.

 

The scene in the living room was still the same as it was when he had exited. The only difference was that the rest of the hyung line had joined in on the silly argument that Jackson and Youngjae were having. Yugyeom and Bambam were still huddled in a corner looking lost.

 

"Come on. Bathroom is this way." Jaebum handed the clothes to each of them. He made sure that he gave them the right sizes respectively, and shepherded them towards the toilet. Whether they wanted to shower together or separately wasn't any of his concern, but he did leave two towels in the bathroom. Just in case.

 

It escaped his notice that he had four gazes following his retreating back out of the room.

 

 

(“So that’s the Im Jaebum you guys have been talking about way before this entire situation happened?”

 

“Oh shut up.”

 

"Well, I'm not complaining. After hearing you guys go on and on about him, it's finally nice to meet your ‘Adonis ' in person."

 

“So, your thoughts?”

 

“10 out of 10 would bang. Must be fate.”

 

“Definitely fate.”

 

“Don’t go around scaring him so fast, hyung. We’re getting there. Slowly.”

 

“A bit too slow, don’t you think?”

 

“Better than going fast and scaring him away for life.”

 

“What about the two kids?”

 

“Oh, I think you would find that they would have no problem with how things are going to turn out from now on.”)

 

 

Jaebum wasn't exactly sure how this entire system was going to work with the three new arrivals. Jackson, he could tell, would have absolutely no problem fitting in. The other two, on the other hand, were an entirely different question. He had never been good with little children. Which was what the youngest two were currently reminding him of now.

 

“There’s food in the kitchen for you when you’re done showering. Just ask one of the hyungs.” Jaebum instructed, finally leaving them alone to their shower. Like he expected, they had stuck together, even in the toilet.

 

Well, now he had done his job, to show the other three that he had accepted them.

 

There was nothing else he wanted to do other than to lie down on his bed. And sleep. And maybe pout over the fact that he had been worried as fuck for them. And it had been all for nothing.

 

Don’t get him wrong, he was more than ecstatic that they had finally found Jackson. But he was bummed over being left to worry like an idiot. What if they had been injured? Unable to get back? Or even worse… killed? Leaving him all alone in an unforgiving world.

 

He didn’t want to admit that the possible scenarios that had been running through his mind while he was waiting had almost driven him to a panic attack. And hence why he felt that he was indeed entitled to a little sulk.

 

In peace.

 

 

It was a little while later when a knocked sounded on the bedroom, and a head hesitatingly peeked in.

 

“Jaebum?” Mark asked, cautiously.

 

It was unusual, almost never, for any of the doors in the apartment to be closed. Except for the main door and the toilet of course. But the latter didn’t serve its intended purpose anymore given the number of times they have barged in on another doing his business or showering.

 

Which was why Youngjae, Jinyoung and himself had exchanged worried looks when Jaebum had shut the bedroom door quietly behind him.

 

“Hmm…?” The lump on the bed stirred slightly.

 

“Jaebummie?” Mark repeated the question.

 

"Hmmmmmm…." A groggy mumble came from the mattress. Jaebum turned his head tiredly, blinking at the streak of light entering the dark room from the open door. He hadn't planned on falling asleep, but he must have been much more exhausted than he thought he was.

 

“What is it?” He asked sleepily, adjusting himself to rest his head on his elbow as he peered at Mark.

 

“You okay?” The elder answered with a question of his own, closing the door gently behind him and moved towards the bed.

 

“Hmm. Yeah. Are they fitting in ok?” That was so like Im Jaebum - worrying about others before himself.

 

“Yeah, they’re fine. Jinyoung made them something to eat. What about you though? Are you alright? What’s wrong?” Mark nudged the younger to the side slightly, slipping in next to him.

 

“I’m fine. Just a bit tired.” Jaebum tilted his head to rest it on the elder’s shoulder, letting out a huge yawn.

 

Mark simply stared at the younger and kept quiet. He knew that Jaebum would continue talking.

 

Sure enough, the tired mumble came, muffled against the cloth. “It’s just that… you guys were late. And I was really worried and… yeah…”

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

Well. They were admittedly later than usual. But Mark had been too caught up in the happiness of finding Jackson and his two baby birds that he had forgotten about Jaebum.

 

The image of Jaebum’s worried face drifted into his mind, and a stab of guilt pierced his heart.

 

How could he had been so selfish?

 

“It’s ok though. You found him… and the two kids finally.”

 

That idiot. Always thinking of others before him.

 

“That doesn’t excuse us for causing you to worry though.” Mark protested, feeling even more guilty at how easily Jaebum forgave him.

 

“If you’re happy, then so am I. That’s what’s important.” The older peeked up at his shoulder, noting a tired but content smile setting over Jaebum’s face. Instantly, his chest felt a lot lighter, as if a weight that he hadn’t known he had been carrying was lifted.

 

Truthfully, the three of them were actually worried about how Jaebum would react once they found Jackson. It had been theirwish. Not his. While Jaebum didn't voice any protests at all, Mark didn't think that he was completely fine with it. After all, Jaebum and Jackson were strangers. Mark couldn't imagine how he would have felt if the people closest to him kept leaving him to find someone else. Someone that he didn't even know.

 

Jaebum was an angel. The mother fucking archangel.

 

“I’m alright. I really am.” It was his turn to be nudged, once Jaebum noticed that his friend had sunk into the deeper end of his thoughts. “But maybe I’ll get to know them better after I’m awake yeah?”

 

An unwilling yawn escaped from Jaebum again. He was more than tempted to just simply fall asleep against the warm shoulder. However, there was still a bigger issue to be addressed. A worry that was tingling at the back of his mind and wouldn’t leave him alone.

 

“Where are they sleeping?”

 

“Don’t worry about it. Jackson doesn’t want to leave Yugyeom and Bambam by themselves tonight since they’re in a completely new environment. So they’ll probably sleep in the living room together. Jinyoung, Youngjae and I will figure something out, don’t worry. Just rest.” Mark reassured him, running fingers through the younger’s hair.

 

As if he had been waiting for Mark’s permission all along, Jaebum fell asleep almost immediately. He barely stirred when he was laid gently back on the bed or when the door opened to let Jinyoung and Youngjae in. They snuck in quietly, having fed the other three and made sure they were comfortable, before retiring themselves.

 

He was so deeply asleep that not once did he wake when his limbs were rearranged as Youngjae, Mark and Jinyoung molded themselves to fit against his warm frame.

 

He was where he felt the safest - in their arms.

 

Chapter Text

Jaebum woke up to screaming.

 

Loud screaming, intense, very high pitched and a tinge of annoyance in it.

 

He jerked awake immediately, looking around in alarm. It wasn’t every day that he woke up to screaming.

 

Scratch that. He had neveronce woke up to screaming before. Not even before the apocalypse.

 

The bed was empty, but the rumpled sheets on it informed him that he hadn’t been alone at night. He scrambled to sit up, and looked around the room, trying to find anything that would clue him in on why there were screaming. This early in the morning. His heart was still racing when Youngjae strolled in.

 

“Hyung! You’re finally awake!” The younger shouted, grinning at him before poking his head out of the door to yell, “Jaebum hyung’s awake!”

 

“How could I not be? With all that screaming going around. What’s going on?” Jaebum grumbled half-heartedly as he got out of bed.

 

“Oh that. That was just Jackson scaring Bambam by jumping out from behind the couch.” Youngjae informed him. He pulled his hyung by the hand into the living room, going slowly to give Jaebum time to regain his bearings.

 

Jackson?

 

Bambam?

 

Jaebum was left in momentary confusion at the unfamiliar names before the memories from last night flooded in.

 

Oh.

 

Them.

 

The moment he entered the living room, he found himself immediately accosted by a warm body.

 

“Jaebum! Im Jaebum! I have been hearing so much about you! Since like ever coz Mark and Jinyoung could never shut up about you, you know. They kept talking about how good looking you are, and I gotta say, you certainly do live up to their standards! It’s not every day when you have those two dishing out compliments like that. They don’t even think that Song Joong Ki is good looking! Can you imagine that? The blasphemy! Youngjae mentioned you in the passing too! Quite a few times, actually. You’re really good at music and film, right? Also, B-boy King! Shame that we’ve never got a chance to actually meet each in the dance studio before. I’m Jackson, by the way, but you should already know that since I’ve introduced myself yesterday. But you seemed a bit out of it then. You feeling better now? We should choreograph a dance routine someday, consisting of B-boy and martial arts tricking. Can you imagine how lit that would be? Mark too. He’s really good at tricking. You should ask him to show it to you someday. Also, Yugyeom and Bambam are both amazing dancers. They were in their school street dance school team. We should have a dance off someday. Jaebum - can I call you Jaebum instead of Jaebum hyung? I mean it’s just a technicality since we’re like only two months apart - man, it’s finally good to actually meet you.”

 

Jaebum could only blink in surprise at the boy blabbering on and on in front of him before pushing him away slightly, still holding onto him though. Not too much that Jackson would get offended or hurt, but enough so that he could have space to breathe. And think.

 

There was a whole lot of information and questions in that speech to process. Jaebum decided to go for the one that was the easiest to answer.

 

“What? Slow down. Wait. I’m good, thank you. No, you still have to call me Jaebum hyung. What’s going on?” He ignored the younger’s pout as he made his way to the sofa and plopped down on it heavily, looking around. “What’s happening?”

 

Youngjae joined him on the sofa gleefully, stretching himself over Jaebum’s lap like a cat. Jinyoung answered the question for him.

 

“Well that’s Jackson, and that’s -“

 

“Yeah, yeah. I know. Yugyeom and Bambam right? Huh. The clothes fit better than I thought they would, but we still need to go out and find clothes that are your proper size." Jaebum interrupted with an impatient wave of his hands. He gave a once over of the two youngest, much to Jinyoung’s amusement. “I meant, what’s going on exactly? Like what’s your next plan now?”

 

The noisy group immediately fell silent in front of them.

 

“Huh. We… haven’t thought that far yet.” Mark answered sheepishly, scratching the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Well, I guess we could hang around here and see what happens next?”

 

“Seriously?” Jaebum wasn’t all that surprised though. They hadbeen hyped up about finding Jackson. He would have surprised if they didcome up with a plan. He himself hadn’t even thought that far either until a few minutes ago.

 

“Well, I guess first breakfast. Then clothes for the maknaes. And more food.” He said, eyes sweeping over the group of boys standing and sitting in front of him. He mentally calculating the amount of food they would have to plunder off from the supermarket.

 

6 other hungry mouths to feed, 7 including himself but probably more since Jinyoung and Mark ate a lot surprisingly. He suspected that Jackson might follow that trend too. And Youngjae, Yugyeom, and Bambam were still growing boys. It might be the apocalypse but for all Jaebum cared, he had a group of boys to feed. Properly.

 

“Right then, should we go?” He asked, gently rolling Youngjae off his lap, and onto the floor. And onto Bambam. He stood up, stretching his sore muscles.

 

“You? Going out?” Jinyoung asked in surprise.

 

“Why not?” Jaebum shrugged, feigning hurt at the underlying disbelief. “We can leave the maknaes at home for a change.”

 

He wasgetting sick of being cooped up within concrete walls. No matter how beautiful the apartment had been when they first arrived.

 

“But we need to get clothes for them,” Youngjae argued, ignoring the fact that he was now counted as one of the maknaes too.

 

“It’s fine. We can bring the entire shop back for them. No one else needs those clothes after all. It would be a waste to just leave nice clothes lying there with no one to try them on.”

 

“Why don’t Jackson, Bambam, and Yugyeom stay behind for today? You guys must be exhausted after all that running around for the past few days.” Mark reasoned, looking at Jaebum for approval for the idea.

 

He startled slightly when he realized he had all six heads turned in his direction. As if waiting for his decision. Was his decision was the final word?

 

Huh. Jaebu didn't know when he became the leader of their small group, but sure. If that was what they wanted.

 

He couldn’t deny that he felt honored that they trusted him that much.

 

"Yeah. That sounds good." He said, looking at Jackson. To his surprise, the usually energetic male simply nodded and dropped onto the sofa like a stone without any protests. They must be rmeally tired.

 

“After breakfast though.” Youngjae piped up with a grin when Jaebum’s stomach alerted them of its presence with a growl.

 

 

After pancakes and maple syrup, they could afford to spoil themselves every once in a while, they began to get ready for their journey out. The other three were used to it since they had been through the process every single day. But for Jaebum it was nerve-wracking. Since it was his firsttrip out. In a really long while. His last outing out probably was a week after they moved in.

 

It didn’t take that long to get ready. Everything was proceeding normally, only this time, they had to split into two teams - the food teams and the clothes teams. Somehow, there ended up being a small quarrel between who was to go with Jaebum. Jinyoung ended the argument by dragging the targeted male out of the door, silencing the protests behind them.

 

Mark and Youngjae set off to get the clothes since they knew Jackson’s size better than he did. And probably the other two as well since Jaebum fell asleep during their fitting of attire the day before. And well, he wasn’t worried about them getting out of hand. Like he had said before, they could just bring the entire store back and no one would mind.

 

Jinyoung was placed in charge of the food since he was usually the one who cooked and knew the ingredients well. Jaebum didn’t have a preference on who he ended up being paired up with or what he wanted to do. Though it did surprise him that it was a matter to be fought over with.

 

He just wanted to get outof the house.

 

“You need to take a stand more often, hyung.” Jinyoung chided gently. He happily swung their linked hands together as they walked down the empty street.

 

“I do.” He protested. “I just don’t really mind. For this, I mean.”

 

Jinyoung smiled at him and pressed a kiss against his cheek. His walk did not once falter as he continued to drag Jaebum down the road, ignoring his hyung’s bewildered gaze. “You indulge us way too much, hyung. One day, we won’t know when to stop.”

 

Well, if that didn’t sound foreboding, Jaebum didn’t know what else it sounded like.

 

He couldn’t deny the tingle that went up his back at Jinyoung’s slightly possessive and dark voice at that sentence.

 

 

The days soon faded into one another once again. It felt like normalcy had finally found its home in their lives. The trips were no longer daily since all the pieces of the puzzle had been found and there was no need to leave each other for long periods. On the rare occasion that they did head out for food or anything else that they needed, they always made sure to leave at least two people at home.

 

One, to look after the house, and two, to have someone to come home to.

 

Of course, nature outside dictated otherwise, but at this moment, even the changing and dramatic weather had become the norm. It was a miracle that South Korea was left standing for so long. Malaysia, the Philippines and parts of China had already been wiped out.

 

Jaebum knew that it wouldn’t stay that way for long though. But he couldn’t bring himself to carry it right now.

 

Each of them somehow found their own space in the group and with each other. For a group of boys, they were really physical when it came to showing their affections. Not that Jaebum minded though. He had enough time to get used to it when living with only Jinyoung, Mark and Youngjae back in his university dorm.

 

That felt like years ago.

 

It still did take him by surprise every now and then to be woken up between warm bodies, having a kiss pressed to his lips (something that seemed to be increasing in frequency and done by everyone,) and hands roaming everywhere.

 

But it felt like home so you wouldn't hear any complaints coming from him.

 

 

They were like a family. Jaebum was the dad, or the grandfather of the group, depending on what type of teasing mood the maknae line was in on that day. Jinyoung was the self-proclaimed mum, not that anyone disagreed with that sentiment. Mark was like the cousin and Jackson somehow ended up becoming the uncle from overseas. Youngjae was the kid next door who had been corrupted by Yugyeom and Bambam, the devil incarnate babies.

 

Family dynamics indeed.

 

Just that they were all in a relationship with one another. A sevensome, as some might call. Or a polygamous relationship.

 

Jaebum came to that realization one afternoon.

 

It might have been a Wednesday. Or maybe was it a Sunday? No one kept track of dates anymore. They were quite useless now. Anyway, it so happened to be one of those days between the waves, when it was more or less guaranteed to be a ‘safe' day. Indonesia just gotten wiped out the day before. Though that did serve as a grim reminder that the deadline for South Korea was getting closer and closer, Jaebum had learned early on to ignore facts like that. He learned to live each day as it comes.

 

Well, not exactly ignore but more like to take note of it and move on. There was no point in worrying about it and praying to God when the end was inevitable. They might as well as enjoy the last few days that they were alive.

 

But back to the topic at hand. It was one of those days when Jaebum could afford to wake up late since they had returned recently from a trip. There was no hurry to go out looting for food anytime soon. He woke up to an almost empty bed, with only Youngjae and Mark on it.

 

Initially, the boys had tried to remain all on the bed until everyone woke up. They soon discovered how impossible that would be, given how hard it was to wake certain members up (and that how violent some of them could get in protest to being woken up). The final decision was that it was okay if you wanted to get up early. Just that no one woke up alone. Which was what had led to this current situation of Jaebum waking up in Youngjae’s arms and his head on Mark’s lap.

 

Blearily, he squinted through his groggy vision at the teasing smile of the other before groaning and proceeding to bury his head further in the elder's lap in an attempt to return to the dark world. It was only until he was somewhat more or less awake did he mumble a ‘good morning,' kissing Mark's lips as he got up and squiggled his way out of Youngjae’s tight hold. A chuckle escaped him as he watched how the younger immediately latched onto Mark instead.

 

He had barely walked five steps out of the bedroom when he was accosted by Jackson. The male peppered his skin with kisses after finishing off with a passionate snog and ran off to presumably bother one of the maknaes. Well, the ones that were already awake. This had become such a regular occurrence that Jaebum no longer startled but continued with his morning routine without missing a beat, slipping into the kitchen once he had freshened up.

 

Plates of warm pancakes were waiting for him on the table, their smell answering to his stomach's growl. What would have been usually a typical breakfast before the apocalypse was now a luxury. They had to survive on canned food now, given that half the world was gone and the other was a barren wasteland. But that was alright, they could afford to indulge in luxuries. Death was coming anyway, so might as well make the most out of it.

 

Jaebum had turned to get a cup from the shelves when a warm body pressed against his back. Arms wrapped around his waist and a head resting on his shoulder.

 

“Morning.” He mumbled tiredly, brain still not fully awake. Caffeine wasn’t as rare as fresh food, but it was still used sparingly. Which meant that Jaebum went through the mornings like a zombie until he fully woke up, which was a few hours later.

 

“Hey,” Jinyoung whispered back. He enjoyed the feeling of a pliant Jaebum between him and the kitchen counter as he lavished the skin of the other’s neck with his tongue lovingly. Pulling away, he grinned at the slowly darkening color of the hickey that he had placed there.

 

Jaebum sighed and turned, kissing the medical student deeply before moving to eat his pancakes, where he found himself at the mercy of the two remaining males that he had yet to see.

 

It was only then did it struck him how domestic it was, and how they were almost acting like boyfriends. Of 6 other males.

 

It was complicated, sure. But it worked though. Somehow.

 

In a world where you could never be sure what the next minute was going to bring, you learn to appreciate things that you would never have thought you even agree to.

 

 

As much as perfect this type of lifestyle was, Jaebum was under no illusion that it would last. That ominous feeling was like a dark cloud hanging over their heads. But it was one that everyone tried to ignore.

 

Reality came crashing back down one day when they woke up to the news on the radio that the whole of Japan had been wiped out in a night. Jaebum had no idea why there would still be people working during an apocalypse. He was very thankful for their selfless efforts. Someone’s gotta update people on what was happening.

 

By now, the entire Western continent was gone, and South East Asia was slowly declining. South Korea, North Korea, some parts of China and India and other smaller countries were more or less the only areas with people still left alive in them.

 

It didn’t exactly matter which country came next on Nature’s hit list. They were all gonna die soon, anyway. Still, everyone has a gut feeling that South Korea was next. Either way, the doomsday's date that scientists had produced was a mere 20 days away.

 

20 days left to live.

 

Although Jaebum had been preparing himself for that day ever since the apocalypse started, it still came as a shock to him.

 

He had finally found a reason to laugh and smile every day. He didn’t want to let any of his boys go.

 

There wasn’t much to do now, except to wait around and entertain themselves in cases of boredom. Which was also how Yugyeom came up with the master plan of stealing a car and going on a road trip. Since it was going to be their fast few days on Earth, why not spend the time having fun and enjoying the shit out of life instead of moping around in an apartment.

 

Unsurprisingly, cheers and agreement met his suggestion immediately.

 

 

Finding a car wasn't the hard part, given the number of empty vehicles lying around on the streets. Petrol also wasn't exactly a problem. There was no one using them and so there were huge amounts of petrol still being stored in petrol stations. One didn't need much knowledge to know how to fill up a car. It was quite easy to figure out although the end result ended up being scratches around the car.

 

Getting the chosen car to start, however, was theproblem.

 

As it happened to be, Mark picked up on some dodgy skills, along with his lock-picking skills, while he had been in America. He ended up hot-wiring one. But no one was going to complain about the ‘illegal’ action since it got them what they wanted. They found a seven-seater car, packed it with everything they had and needed, and went on their way.

 

Saying goodbye to their large apartment wasn't that hard as it had been the first time for Jaebum. This time, he had everything he needed with him.

 

There wasn’t exactly a destination in mind, but it felt free. Speeding down an empty road aimlessly with the wind in your face.

 

Of course, it went without question the hyung line were the designated drivers. They were the only ones of legal age to obtain a driving license and learned how to drive. Or rather, more specifically Mark, Jinyoung and himself, since Jackson couldn’t be bothered. They took turns driving, stopping whenever they wished when something caught their attention.

 

Such as when Bambam wanted to stop the car and the hyungs obliged, only to watch the younger exit the car. He stood outside, gazing at a herd of cows grazing on the grass. Three days in, and they had driven into rural areas of the country. It was peace and quiet. Nothing different from what they had experienced, only that long yawning roads and empty plains seemed to fit the mood more.

 

“It must be nice,” Yugyeom commented quietly when they left the cows behind. “For them to live without a care in the world.”

 

No one said anything in response, but it was true that they were all thinking it. As much as they avoided talking about it, everyone knew that time was running out.

 

Jaebum, however, didn't think that he would have liked being a cow. He didn't want to spend his last days on Earth eating grass. Though it might be a lot easier to not know what was coming next, that wasn't his cup of tea.

 

He wanted this- to be in a car with a group of crazy guys that he just met a few weeks ago. Listening to Jackson belting his lungs out to whatever song that was on the radio, Marking doing random English ad-libs (more like screaming randomly), Jinyoung and Yugyeom arguing with one another, and Youngjae trying to tickle a dozing Bambam.

 

Thiswas what he wanted.

 

And he would take it over being a cow any day.

 

 

It was a week later on the road since they had started off when they came upon an empty house. Well, Jaebum loosely termed it a house. In actuality, it was more like one of those many big summer houses that millionaires had littered throughout the country. And maybe even the world. Jaebum was insanely jealous of them.

 

The house, or rather a mansion, was big, overlooking the beach and the sea on a small cliff. Somehow, after days of driving, they had ended up by the sea. Jaebum no longer knew which provenience they were in, (it might be Busan?), but he didn’t really care.

 

White and double-storied, it led out to its own private beach and had its own swimming pool. And seemed to have all facilities intact and working. It was as if they had stumbled into a fairytale, and the house was the castle.

 

Except that there was no princess to save. But who needed princesses when you had six other boys beside you trying to fight each other in getting into the house first.

 

They ditched the car a distance away and walked towards the house. Or rather, they climbed up a small trail on the hill. It was a contest on who could reach the top first. With the house being up on a cliff, it led the boys trying to trip each other over while stumbling over loose stones and crashing into shrubs together.

 

For such a majestic house, there weren't many alarms to disarm. Their only concern was the main one at the front door. Bambam dealt with that swiftly by simply pulling out all the wires. It was distressingly easy. Brings up questions about the security of the house.

 

It wasn’t like they were afraid of the alarm ringing, and alerting the police. No one cared anymore about such things now, much less in an abandoned place. There weren't enough people in the world left to care. It was just that Jaebum didn’t fancy the idea of hearing long ringing noises every time he walked around the house. Might as well disable them now. It wasn’t like there was anyone nearby who would come and rob them. There were better things to do at the end of the world.

 

 

The first place they headed to explore was, of course, the master bedroom. Cries of delight escaped from them when they came upon the largest bed that they ever had the pleasure to see. No doubt that the previous owner was definitely was wealthy magnate.

 

Yugyeom dashed to the balcony excitedly, throwing it open and gazing out into the sea. The sunlight sparkling off the surface of the sea painted a serene picture, coupled with the gentle yet salty sea breeze.

 

It was nice.

 

There was some sort of weird peace that knowing your days were numbered bought about. The boys were more open with their feelings and more generous with their affectionate touches. Even people like Jaebum, who had started off as being rather shy about this sort of thing. It wasn’t unusual to see two or more bodies stumbling into an empty room, hands roaming over bodies, clothes littered on the floor. On some days, even the living room became their nest.

 

“Look at us.” Jinyoung chuckled one night when they were resting on the carpeted floor, limbs all tangled as one. “The world is ending, and we just had a big orgy.”

 

“I can’t think of any other better way to go,” Youngjae replied cheekily, twisting his body to avoid a jab from his hyung.

 

 

The days passed as they all blended into one, melting into touches, kisses, singing, dancing, and laughter. It could have been months since they arrived at the manor, and they wouldn't have noticed. Jaebum had given up on counting the days the first night they had arrived. No use in trying to figure out when you’re going to die.

 

Jinyoung was the first to notice, though Jaebum couldn’t say that he was surprised. The younger had always been one of the more sensitive and observant ones in the group. They had woken up in the morning, as usual, trying to push each other off the bed when Jinyoung sat up suddenly, face alert and looked out of the window.

 

“It’s coming.” He said, eyes eerily calm.

 

A silent tension took over the room before Bambam broke it after minutes, with a hushed whimper. "I don't want to die."

 

Immediately, his hyungs were on the maknae line with kisses and hugs, trying to reassure them. Sometimes, Jaebum forgot how young they actually were. The eldest of them wasn’t even 25 years old. Not even a quarter of a century.

 

And they were going to die in a few hours.

 

 

They moved out of the house as one after breakfast, climbing onto the roof, helping each other, making sure that no one fell or was left behind.

 

There they sat, seven silhouettes against the skyline, hands linked with one another as they stared out into the sea and watched the clouds rolled in.

 

Death by the hurricane, so it seemed, as the wind around them began to pick up speed gradually.

 

Jaebum’s heart was thundering, as he glanced around him. Jinyoung’s hand was warm in his right, and Mark’s on his left. He was suddenly thrown back to a memory months ago, the meeting of three scared boys in an empty supermarket, trying to comfort each other. That meeting had sparked off everything. The beginning of the end, if you would, and this was where it had led him to today.

 

Without them, he would have given up on life and ran away. To escape reality, either by his own hand or by denial.

 

But after meeting them, he was given strength, taught how to hold on to life and how to be strong. If there was anything more insane than that, it was that he had managed to find home and love in six other boys at the end of the world.

 

Jaebum blew out a breath slowly and closed his eyes. He did not want his last moments alive to be filled with tears. Calming his thoughts, he opened them and looked at the six boys sitting next to him.

 

He was met with six pairs of soft eyes and loving smiles and knew instantly that there was no place he would rather be.

 

Maybe in another life, they would meet again and probably do something insane like forming a boy band and seduce girls from all around the world. Jaebum would be the leader. Mark, and Jackson, the rappers. Bambam and Yugyeom would be the dancers. Youngjae would be the main vocal and Jinyoung… Well, he was an allrounder. He could be anything. That certainly was possible. And maybe then, they would go on to dominate the music industry, and sweep awards left and right. They certainly did look the idol part, with all their different colored hairs.

 

But in another life.

 

Now, it’s just seven boys against the world.