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it begins and ends with death (and inbetween, we found love)

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it was hard to breath, both with the low mattress practically suffocating him and his stuffed nose. it didn’t help that the floorboards smelled wet and stale when he breathed in through his only currently working nostril, when the mucus thinned to be able to snort up and swallow. recalling what his brother had told him this morning, he was sick, and at the worst time and wrong place.

jaemin couldn't even remember the last time he was sick, maybe because the last time he had, disgusting human like creatures hadn't evaded his home and stolen his cough syrup. or that was what Yuta had told him anyway when the six year old boy had complained about his itchy throat. apparently, the nasty looking people took it all, and took mommy and daddy with them.

if jaemin had to be totally honest (he usually wasn't, not because he liked lying, but because Yuta would worry too much if he told the truth), he didn't really understand much of any of this. he didn't understand where the nasty people had come from, because he knows they weren't there before. doesn’t understand why they'd broke into the house some days ago and looked really angry (or were they sad? jaemin couldn't tell) and moaning, until yuta had picked him up in his arms and had ran out, heavy bag on his shoulder. jaemin wants to know why the humany things somehow had taken the cough syrup that he needed now (were they sick too?) and made him unable to ever see his parents again, as Yuta says.

what he does understand, however, is why he's under a random bed in a random house. knows that they were being chased by the ugly, horrible people, and how his hyung had ordered him to hide, quickly so they wouldn't see him. hurry and hide nana, under the bed. but do not come out, not until i come get you.
the sounds of clashing and grunts and moans is all he can hear from downstairs, and it sounds really scary, so jaemin hopes yuta is hiding too. there were tons of places to hide in the house, small enough places where his brother might fit. like the low cupboard he'd seen as they ran through the kitchen or the bathtub, that was big enough. he new the bathtub was good for something, but jaemin really couldn't put his mind on what.

not when the clashing from downstairs seemed to be getting louder.

jaemin wanted to scream, to get out of beneath the mattress he was under and take his hyung by the hand and run out. he wanted to be anywhere but there, anywhere. he wanted to be at the park with jeno, teasing him about his big boy crush on renjun, the kid in there first grade class who always drew moomin. wanted to eat ice cream cones of a million flavors at the park while yuta pushed him on the swings, wanted to give jeno a big ‘you did it’ high five for the hundredth time after renjun kissed jeno’s cheek on the slide.

jaemin wanted to be coloring pictures of him and Yuta and mommy and daddy, just to be put on the fridge to admire during dinner. but no, jaemin had to be stuck under this bed for whoever knows how long, until yuta came back to come get him and take him somewhere safe.

~~~

when yuta was the youngest he could remember, he'd always thought that the scariest thing he would encounter would be a bug in his room. that a huge bug with large antennas would crawl up on his wall and be unable to reach or kill, and that he would have to be subject to staring at it until his daddy came home, just to make sure it wouldn't go anywhere.

when yuta was a bit older, he'd thought the scariest thing he would encounter would be abandonment, and that he would be forgotten. that as a 12 year old single child, the new baby that would soon come would make both mommy and daddy forget about him completely. it didn’t happen though, because when baby jaemin was born mommy and daddy cared for both of them equally, even though yuta felt that he had started loving the baby more than he loved his parents.

when yuta turned fifteen, his greatest fear was coming out to his parents, because yes, the thought of kissing a boy was far more appealing than kissing a girl in his mind. he thought that once he's told them, they'd kick him out, with protests of ‘not our son’ and ‘that's not how you were raised’. once again, his fears proved to be false advertisement and they welcomed the change with open arms, asking him if he had a boyfriend yet. later on, yuta began to fear that ‘what if jaemin's not okay with it’, but quickly dispelled the thought when the three year old boy clinged to hansol, and let the tall boy hold him for the whole night, despite the toddler only being comfortable in their mother's arms.

now, at eighteen, yuta knows his worst fear is not being able to protect jaemin, and he guesses that it's the only rational fear he's had. with his parents dead and the world falling apart, jaemin is literally what he lives for. lives for the boys laugh and smile, lives for his questions and his innocence. yuta lives so jaemin can, too, so jaemin can grow up into a hopefully much brighter future.

which is why yuta, not at all gracefully, uses a crusty frying pan to slam the oncoming zombie in the face.

they're coming inside from out the door rapidly, maybe three at a time, and it's way more than yuta’s ever fought. it's a slice of pie with one or two, quick timing with five or so, and a math equation with ten plus. but, as of now, there are about 15 to 20 inside the house, and a large crowd forming outside, with maybe more than thirty. all yuta currently has is this frying pan he'd found on the old countertop and his pistol, barrel on its way to empty.

yuta definitely can't kill all of the zombies, and he doesn't fucking know what to do.

he knows jaemin is upstairs, hiding in one of the rooms, but the zombies probably smell him anyway and are just too preoccupied with eating yuta’s brains to actually go find him. it would be too much of a risk to call jaemin out for a chance to run, and the prospect of leaving jaemin has yuta wanting to bash his own head in with the pan.

the only choice as of now is to save jaemin, or die trying, and the latter is well on its way to winning the popularity vote.

the zombies head makes a wet squelch noise as yita brings his arm down, spilling white pus and blood onto the counter. the zombie next to him reaches for his right arm and before yuta can bring him opposite arm to slam down on it, his left arm is grabbed too. the zombies mouths are way too close to his arms as he struggles, knocking both zombies of balance and using that time to yank his hands out, old frying pan slamming down on one head, then on two.

yuta’s backing up the whole time through this, so when he hits a wall his mind registers it all too late, and his misses a zombie scratching down his arm with sharp nails. it hurts and his eyes water as blood rushes down his arms and makes the rest of the zombies more restless, jaws snapping in his direction and gazes locked. yuta at this moment knows he's going to die, not from the scratch (scratches aren't infectious) but from being a meal to multiple dead humans.

until someone in the distance screams to duck (which he does) and the zombie closest to him crumples to the floor.

there are several more gunshots and throughout, yuta stays grounded, watching as the bodies of the zombies fall, lifeless once again. he knows they're not all gone, because the swarm outside are still trying to come in, but there is someone at his side, peering down at him with worry and urgency in his eyes.

“my name is jaehyun, and i need you to come with me quickly,” the boy says, and his voice is smooth like honey and the dimple in his face shows with every one of his mouth movements. “we need to go, now.”

yuta nods his head and gets up, ready to go before more zombies come pouring in but he halts, turning wide eyes in jaehyun’s direction and turning to run upstairs. he's caught by jaehyun’s arm a step later, grip harsh but not bruising.

“what are you doing? we need to go.” the boy says, pulling yuta to the exit while zombies constantly fall, bullets in their heads. yuta guesses jaehyun has more friends outside.

the Japanese boy pulls his arm from jaehyuns grasp, looking frantically in the direction of the stairs. “my brother's up there, i need to go get him.” jaehyun lets his arm go but doesn't let him go up, turning behind him and watching the door as the gunshots stop.

“you need to get out of here and into that blue car in front of the house, don't stop to look back. i’ll go get your brother.” yuta shakes his head frantically, gripping his arm to the blood from the scratch stops running. “no, i need him with me. i need him to be safe.”

jaehyun rolls his eyes but smiles, hoping that it looks friendly and trusting. “don’t worry, I'll get him and make sure he's safe. plus the car wouldn't leave without me, so he's gonna be with you, okay?”

yuta seems and looks hesitant, eyes pulled up in worry and fear. he looks down at his arm, blood pouring from his fingertips and onto the ground, still live zombies outside growling at it. he then looks at jaehyun, who’s nodding and already making his way up stairs. “first room on your right,” yuta calls, then rushes out the door and into the car, zombies following and crumpling with every bullet to their skulls.

~~~

after the boy was safely in the car, jaehyun works his way upstairs, wincing at the creakiness of the floorboards as he goes up the steps. the first room on his right is a plain room, with torn curtains and a bed that looks soiled and too old for use. the floor smells wretched and when jaehyun checks the closet, it's filled with nothing but torn clothes and broken hangers.

was this really the first room on the right side, or had he gone left? because really, it seemed that no form of life was in the room. until he heard a loud, snot filled sniffle from under the bed.

when jaehyun crouches down to look under the bed, he sees not what he was expecting. in his mind, he’d thought of a teen boy, hiding out upstairs to avoid doing the dirty work of killing the zombies. not what looked like a five year old boy with a snot filled nose and watery eyes, eyes that looked absolutely terrified of jaehyun.

“hey, my name's jaehyun, okay? I'm gonna take you to your brother, but you have to come with me.” jaehyun starts out soft, approaching the topic gently in fear of scaring the boy. the boy nods along, but doesn't make any move to remove himself from underneath the bed. “what's your name?” jaehyun tries to ask.

the boy sniffles again and coughs, and by the signs, he's obviously caught a cold. the small boy slowly makes his way out from under the bed, cautious to not make much noise. “yuta told you to get me?” he asks.

now that the boy is in the natural light of the room, jaehyun can sees the boy's features. he has big, brown eyes with long eyelashes, a flat button nose and soft pink lips, and a soft facial shape. he's short, and would probably come to jaehyun’s thigh when standing, and is really skinny. he does, however, look similar to the boy he found almost dying in the kitchen.

jaehyun nods his head to the boys question, standing up and putting out a hand to help the boy up. yuta was the boy in the kitchen, apparently, but jaehyun still didn't have a name for the little one. “what's your name, kiddo?”

“jaemin,” the boy mumbles as he takes his hand, a small palm in jaehyun’s relatively large one. “are the nasty people gone now?”

jaehyun chuckles internally, because really, nasty people? he guesses that that is what they are in a child's mindset, and it's better than actively explaining what zombies are to a five year old. which actually brings jaehyun to his next question, bringing the boy in his arms to carry him.

“yeah, they are. but we might see them again, but you have me and a lot of other people that will protect you now, so you and your brother are gonna be okay. how old are you jaemin?” jaemin feels too light in jaehyun’s arms, the little boy's face nestled in the crook of his neck and legs wrapped around his chest, bum and back against jaehyun’s hands.

“I'm six, but i’ll be seven next month.” jaemin says, smiling against jaehyuns neck at the thought of his birthday. it was cute, jaehyun thought. especially that someone could get happy about a birthday when everyone seemed to forget theirs at a time and situation like this.

the trip down the stairs was quick, and as soon as jaehyun opened the door the gunshots stopped, replaced with the sound of an engine roaring. the blue van in front of them had been their go to escape unit for months now, and it had been doing them beyond well.

avoiding the various corpses around him, jaehyun navigated his way to the car, jaemin in hand. reaching the car, the backseat side door opened, and jaehyun climbed in, watching both his head and jaemin’s as the car started up and started driving as soon and the door was closed behind him.

Chapter Text

yuta doesn't know why the hell he left jaemin alone with a stranger.

 

of course the situation had been bad , and if not for the nice looking and demanding stranger, jaehyun his name was, then he was sure that his dead body would still be in that kitchen. with dozens of zombies scratching his skin out and tearing his limbs apart, eating him. and jaemin would still be stuck under the bed in that same room, with a cold, until the zombies eventually finished dining on yuta’s body and smelled jaemin’s scent from upstairs.

 

but the thought of leaving his little brother alone with jaehyun, someone he'd barely just met and talked to for less than five minutes, didn't sit well with him. but he let it happen and now he's clutching his arm in the backseat of a blue minivan, with four boys surrounding him and looking at him with curious eyes.

the trip to the van was easy enough, and all yuta had to do was walk straight towards it. the zombies that lunged at him were shot dead immediately so their bodies fell lifelessly next to him, making the dirt unsettle and float up then settle once again. the car was scratched on the outside of its blue exterior beyond repair, and before yuta got in, he could see the sinking rubber of a flat tire on the back right wheel.

 

yuta is in the backseat as it was the only spot available, in the middle, and there is a tall, skinny looking boy on his left, looking at him with surprised eyes. yuta clears his throat and the boy startles, yet doesn't stop staring. he doesn't look like he wants to do yuta any harm, but his stare is creepy with how intently he's gazing at him. yuta is beyond uncomfortable.

 

“your arm is bleeding.” the boy is not really that perceptive, or at least yuta thinks he isn't, because anyone with the ability to see could tell that yuta was bleeding. the gash on his arm was big enough to see even from behind his hand gripping it, and the blood spilling from the wound and soaking into the material of his clothes just made it more noticeable.

 

“i am,” yuta says. “you gonna do something about it?”

 

his voice is harsh and hurting and yuta knows that he really needs to calm down, but he can't. not when jaemin is still in that house with whoever jaehyun is and is still at risk of getting his brains eaten from the zombies that are still trying to evade the house. yuta doesn’t know what he'll do if anything ever happened to jaemin, and the fact that he's already remotely safe in this car with boys (who still have not said a word) makes his arm itch and his stomach pain with anxiety.

 

“your brother will be fine,” the one in the driver seat says. “jaehyun wouldn't let anything happen to him.”

 

yuta scoffs and flinches as the boy on his left side ties a tight strip of gauze around the gash in his arm, hindering the bleeding. the boy in the shotgun seat has said nothing, but keeps his eye out for zombies that are invading the home, pistol out and ready.

 

“and how would you know? he might be trying to

save himself in that house while leaving my brother there as bait,” yuta is this close to getting out of the damn minivan and getting jaemin out of the house himself.

 

“well, he's right there, with what i’m assuming is your brother,” the boy smirks, smug, leaning back over yuta and opening the car door. jaehyun bends down and shuffles inside, jaemin in his arms and face pressed against his neck. he looks tired and his little nose is running and red. yuta wishes that he were back at home, so he would just pull out his mini pack of tissues from his bag and wipe jaemin’s little nose clean.

 

his bag is stuck in the house full of zombies, and his tissues had ran out awhile ago.

 

“hey, jaeminnie. you okay?” yuta reaches an arm out and guides jaemin from jaehyun’s arms into his, wincing as the small boy clutches his neck a little too tight in desperation. “i’m okay, hyung,” jaemin mumbles against his neck, and then the boy is fast asleep, breathing hoarsly through his mouth. yuta is beyond tired, too, but he doesn't know the people he's with and doesn't yet trust them, even if they had saved both he and his brother from immediate death.

 

jaehyun harshly snaps him out of his thoughts with a loud ‘drive!’ to the boy in the front seat, and the boy hastily presses his foot against the petal and gets the car going. the boy makes a very harsh u-turn and the whole car swerves, with all boys in the vehicle leaning to their right sides. jaemin is still asleep, but yuta is now more awake.

 

“where are we going?” yuta asks, breathing harshly from the scare of the car and into the silence. pistol boy from the front seat finally speaks, and as he talks it comes to yuta that he looks very vaguely familiar, but he can't put any names to it. the hairstyle and overall look of the boy reminds him of highschool, when there was one, and the instant imagery and sound of laughter in a classroom full of sweaty teens just coming back from physical education fills his mind. he still has no idea who pistol boy is.

 

“we have a camp,” pistol boy says, flipping his head and brushing his too long hair back from his face, only to have it come back in the same position, and it's way too familiar the way he sighs in exasperation lightly. “it's back north and a little bit of a drive, so you're actually very lucky we found you two.”

 

“you can't just expect me to go back with you,” yuta clutches jaemin closer to his body, hoping to himself that the boys uneven breathing becomes normal soon. “i don’t know any of you.”

 

jaehyun rolls his eyes, much like he did in the house, and points to each boy in the van. “that's sicheng,” he points to the boy on yuta’s left, and the boy smiles cutely and innocently. his hair is a bit longer on one side and is a dark black, and when he smiled, yuta caught glimpse of a slight snaggletooth. sicheng’s smiley attitude was like a sudden refresher for yuta, because besides jaemin, yuta hadn't seen anyone smile like that in a while.

 

“that's taeyong,” jaehyun continues, and the boy in the driver seat has no expression and does nothing as his name is called out. yuta already doesn't like him. his eyes are wide and piercing and his expression is stone cold, yet it looks like its his natural resting face. yuta doesn't even get himseld started at most of taeyongs appearance, because his hair is a faded pink, and the black brown roots of his natural hair are beginning to show. his face shows his displeasure in having yuta or jaemin or literally anyone extra in the car, and even though yuta isn't looking, he can sometimes feel taeyongs imperative and calculating stare, as if he wants to pry yuta open like a book with his eyes.

 

“you know me, kind of, and that's johnny.” johnny is the pistol boy with long hair, and his face looks serious but boredly so. yuta swears he knows that name, and that face, but its so distant and the thought is so small in his mind that he considers it as his mind playing tricks on him, forcing him to believe that he knows this man so he can feel a little less alone. johnny raises his hand and smiles dully when jaehyun introduces him, and the ever so growing thought in yuta’s mind supplies that he's seen that dull smile before, only brighter and better. the thought isn't comforting.

 

they've all been introduced, but yuta feels as though jaehyun hasn't, because stating your name and what you're doing while trying to save yourself and two other from a hoard of zombies really throws off the whole ‘i’m so and so, nice to meet you’ gesture. the dimple smiled boy is seated on yuta’s right doesn't look like he's almost died from a raging pack of mutated cannibals. instead, he looks barely mournful or scared, and the look reminds yuta of when the principle had come to yuta’s junior year class and told him that his least favorite teacher would be on rest because she was sick with lung cancer.

 

(it seems harsh, yes, but yuta identities the look as one of slightly uncaring and slight accusation. ‘ i don't care that my teacher is gone, i didn't like her and she didn't teach me shit. plus, she's the one who'd gone off and got herself some cancer. i mean, who smokes three packs of cigarettes a day?’ maybe jaehyun feels like that, bit with a bit more sympathy for yuta’s situation.)

 

jaehyun is handsome, they all are, but he looks so uncaring about the whole thing. yuta is uptight about everything, and from the moment he’d found out jaemin didn't feel well, he thought it was the end of both of them. jaehyun seems careless, almost, and he leans back in his seat and begins humming some tune that yuta had long forgotten of.

 

yuta is kind of stunned by jaehyuns uncaring attitude, and he takes his time to fully digest the state the interior of the car is in before he continues. the seats are scratched in a way that looks unfortunately similar to his arm and they're stained with what looks like blood and the dye from grass. there are no seatbelts in the car, and it's most likely that the had been pulled and ripped out for something of better use, or they had just not been there when the boys had found the van.

 

“and so you want me to go back with you?” yuta asks, finished gazing at the car's seats and  removing his attention from a closed eyed jaehyun to the rest of the three, locking gazes with taeyong through the rear view mirror. his eyes don't falter, bit neither do yuta’s, and they have a little mini staring contest that  seems to last a while. it only stops when taeyong realizes that in order to drive, you have to look at the road, rather than yutas eyes. the japanese boy calls it a victory, though, until taeyong opens his mouth and starts speaking.

 

“you don't have to, of course. it's just advised so you and your brother don't die immediately.” he says, nonchalant. driving and turning the wheel smoothly to navigate from street to street. yuta doesn’t even know where they are, but he spots old and run down  supermarkets and convenience stores that look like those in the korean movies their mother had once insisted them watching.

 

“we won't die immediately,” yuta protests. he tries to remember what he did the first day of outbreak and comes out blank.

 

“but you will,” taeyong says, eyes focused on the road but tempting to look back into the rear view mirror and catch yuta’s eyes.

 

“we won’t,” the boy starts again, only to be cut off by taeyongs insistence that without them, yuta and jaemin would literally be a clean stack of bones right now.

 

“you will, because last time i recalled, we saved you from almost getting eaten to death by over two dozen zombies.” taeyong says it so smugly that yuta wants to slap him and tell him off. yell at him that it's hard enough to keep yourself alive and sane at a time like this, especially when you've got someone so much younger to care for along with it.

 

yuta might already hate taeyong. the boy doesn't know how long or how hard yuta has tried to survive and save jaemin. the whole apocalypse thing hadn't happened so long ago, but yuta thinks he should be commended on saving himself and his brother singlehandedly, because everyone who ever tried to help somehow didn't make it. like the old ahjumma who hid safely in her house the time the outbreak happened, only opening the door once to let jaemin and yuta inside once she'd seen them through her old window. when yuta had woken up the next day, there were zombies in the kitchen trying and succeeding in ripping her to shreds, and yuta let it happen while he gathered jaemin in his arms and booked it for the front door, trying as hard as he could to block the sound of the woman's screaming from his mind.

 

johnny snickers at their conversation from his seat and leans back, similar to jaehyun, long neck bared as he glances out the window, looking at the white clouds that contrast with the blue of the sky. it looks like he wants to trace the clouds with his fingers, and he almost does, but the car is moving too face to get to do anything. he looks disappointed, at least a little bit, and he settles for just watching the leaves fall of the trees and scatter in the wind from the window.

 

yuta follows his gaze and wonders, idly, why any higher up out there in the clouds would let this happen. why they made humans turn on other humans in the worst way possible, and how everyone that was alive now wished to be dead. yuta wonders why the human race had fallen apart, yet the earth around them looks normal, as if nothing had ever happened.

 

everything looks normal, besides the zombies, of course. because the trees still sway in the wind and the flowers are still blooming, because if yuta cared, he would know that it's the middle of spring. the scenery is horrifyingly beautiful, because even through the cherry blossoms and rose bushes, yuta can see bloodied corpses resting on the floor with flies buzzing around them. infected creatures ripping open limbs with sharp nails and licking blood of their fingers.

 

its disgustingly beautiful and bittersweet, and it makes yuta strangely sleepy, and he falls asleep thinking of pushing jaemin on the swing at the park, cherry blossom petals flying around in the air and tangling themselves in the boys hair. begging yuta to go higher and higher.

 

~~~

 

“yuta hyung, push me!” jaemin screams, and the four year old boy is so demanding for such a small person. he's running towards the swing and almost trips in the sand as he gets there, but he manages to right himself before he falls. the toddler is smiling brightly with all teeth, even though he's missing two, and he looks so happy. yuta never wants to see that happiness disappear, so he jogs up from his place on the bench and pushes jaemin from his back until he's high up in the air, screaming at yuta playfully.

 

“higher! lower! higher! lower!”

 

“high or low, nana? i can't do both.” and the little boy giggles and lets go of the chains momentarily, and yuta slips his hands around the small boys torso so he doesn't fall.

 

“swing with me,” jaemin says. “please?”

 

yuta can never resist jaemin’s puppy eyes, so he says yes, and picks up jaemin so he can take his spot on the swing. he sits down with jaemin on his lap, facing forward, his small arms in the air as yuta kicks off.

 

“higher! higher!” jaemin screams, and he's laughing and kicking his own legs against yutas as if that will make the swing go higher. “fine, nana, we’ll go higher,” and he kicks his legs up so the swing flings itself higher up in the air, until the wind licks their cheeks and their hair starts whipping around on their faces.

 

“happy now, nana?” yuta asks jokingly to jaemin, who’s still giggling and is launching his fingers into yuta’s hair.

 

“i’m happy,” he says. “thank you, hyung.”



when yuta wakes up, they're parked outside what looks to be an empty department store, and jaemin is now breathing evenly through his nose and he sleeps comfortably on yuta’s lap.

 

~~~

 

jaehyun didn't want to wake them up. well, he did and he didn't, because the boys looked like they hadn't got sleep in days, and the way yuta was smiling slightly made it obvious that he was dreaming of something happy. it happened all the time to jaehyun himself, and he personally hated when taeil or johnny or even mark woke him up for whatever. it just destroyed the peacefulness he had made for himself in his head, and made him face reality again.

 

but taeyong was looking at him with a pointed look, one that said ‘i’m not going to fucking wake them up so you better’, so now it was jaehyun’s job to do what he hated the most, which was waking up.

 

jaehyun reached his hand out and softly shook yuta by the shoulder, sighing in relief when the boy woke up immediately, without jaehyun having to get extra physical with him. the boy looked around at where they were and jaehyun could see disappointment in his eyes, the key detail to know that he wanted to be anywhere but here. in his old home, with his parents, at school, in his dream. wherever that wasn't where they were, because anywhere but there on that earth was probably happier.

 

jaehyun pitied yuta and his brother, and also himself, but this was their new reality, and it was either face it and deal with it, or die. and based on his first encounter with the boy, he guessed that yuta would rather deal with it.

 

he watches as yuta rubs his eyes with one hand, other arm still down from the scratch and jaemin covering half of his torso. the boy was evenly breathing, and it seemed that one of his nostrils had cleared up enough to breath through. jaehyun makes a move to grab the small boy but yuta stops and glares, stopping his rubbing and putting a protective hand on the back of jaemin’s neck. the boy is still sleeping.

 

“you're not gonna be able to carry him with your arm like that,” jaehyun says, trying to convince yuta to give jaehyun the small boy in his arms. “plus he's sleeping, i doubt you want to wake him up.”

 

yuta leaves out the part that it's more likely for jaemin to wake up for even moving him while sleeping, so he just rolls his eyes and huffs, letting go of jaemin and watching as jaehyun pulls him into his toned arms. the dimpled boy accommodating him as jaemin sleepily wraps his arms around the older boys neck.

 

yuta climbs out of the car, wincing as he brushes his arm on the door and closes it, looking ahead. it really is an empty department store, and jaehyun leads him inside once he realizes that johnny and taeyong are staying behind to get materials out of the trunk of the minivan. the outside of the store looks the same as it used to be before all of this, although the glass is a bit dirty and the large posters of korea’s skincare models are fraying and are slowly falling off by their corners. yuta doesn't see anything different besides that, and he's surprised at the fact that there are no zombies in the area and no blood stains anywhere. he doesn't bring it up, though.

 

“he said he was six.” jaehyun tries to start conversation. he’s gesturing to jaemin in his arms and looks down as the small boy sniffles sleepily and miserably against his collarbone. yuta looks at him questioningly, but nods nonetheless, smiling slightly when jaehyun opens the dirtied glass door of the store out for him. they walk inside and yuta cringes, because the inside is definitely worse than the outside, and the dried blood on the walls near the broken elevator makes up for the amount missing outside.

 

“he is,” yuta states. “why are you asking?” he tears his gaze away from the blood and follows jaehyun to the escalators, which of course aren't working, and wonders if all the blood inside means that zombies have found another way to come in that is not breaking the door open with their combined weight pressing against the glass.

 

jaehyun shrugs his shoulders as much as he can with the child in his arms, leading yuta to the broken and run down escalators and walking them up as if they were stairs. “he's small for a six year old.” he says, and almost trips on his seventh step up but catches himself and holds on to the black side railing. clutching jaemin tightly with his other arm to make sure jaemin doesn't fall.

 

yuta’s never seen it. there are always times when he thinks jaemin is small, because the boy has got to be with yuta and their twelve year age difference. but he's never noticed it in anything else. the kids that were in his first grade class were a little bigger than him, but he knows that he and that renjun boy were the same size, and jeno not too far over, so he's never thought of it. but now, trying to compare jaemin to other six year olds he remembers seeing, and himself as a six year old, maybe jaemin is a little small for his age.

 

“i mean, i guess he is, but I've never noticed it.” jaehyun takes him and jaemin to one of the rooms in the mall that looks like a furniture store, and yuta can hear faint screaming. when he looks at jaehyun about to question it, the boy looks like he doesn't even hear it, or that he's used to it, so yuta forces himself to pay it no mind. “how old are you , anyway?”

 

jaehyun chuckles and as they're walking, and the screaming gets louder and louder until yuta realizes that they aren't agonizing screams. it sounds like scolding, and he can hear the laughter of little kids and a sigh of exasperation as they get closer. it's probably people that jaehyun know, who are part of their “camp”, and while yuta wonders how many of them there actually is, he almost doesn't hear jaehyun answer his question.

 

“i’m sixteen,” he says. “i won't turn seventeen until next year, whenever that is.” yuta tries not to comment on the fact that jaehyun may not know when the year ends anymore, because frankly, he doesn't either. he only remembers it being late autumn when the outbreak occurred, and it's been too busy to try and keep track of the days when you're keeping track of how much food you need to eat a day to still have leftovers without going scavenging.

 

“wait, you're sixteen?” the boy is two years younger than he is, yet he presents himself like he's so much older. “i’m eighteen.” yuta states. he doesn't remember what day is it, so he just classifies himself as turning nineteen ‘soon’.

 

jaehyun laughs again. “like taeyong and-” but jaehyun is interrupted by a loud discipline filled scream, with laughter following. the sound wakes jaemin up, and the little boy's eyes are blurry and there is snot coming from his nose again, which jaemin wipes on the sleeve of his sweater.

 

“LEE DONGHYUK, APOLOGIZE TO JISUNG. NOW!”

 

and then there is loud complaints about how ‘he called me ugly first!’ and more laughing and giggling until jaehyun walks over, then the sound stops and yuta can hear jaemin’s nasally and questioning voice from his place outside the room. “jeno?”

 

and then the screaming and laughing starts once again and yuta is pretty sure he can hear a little bit of crying.



Chapter Text

before the nasty looking men and women had came, jaemin’s favorite thing to do was play house with yuta.

both of their parents had said it was one of the most girlish games alive, and that only girls could play house and pretend to have kids and cook and clean and things alike. they'd told jaemin multiple times to maybe find a new game that he’d like to play, and they showed him so many new toys that jaemin wasn't able to count them all.

 

jaemin’s mother constantly leaded him away from colors such as pink or lighter, more ‘girly’ colors, and practically paraded him around the city in royal and dark blue, with these weirdly shaped light up shoes that looked like monsters on his feet compared to the pink, converse looking ones he'd seen at the shop. his father brought home ‘boy’ toy after ‘boy’ toy everyday after work, which he'd stuff into jaemin’s arms and tell him to play with it.

 

jaemin had multitudes of dinosaur plushies stuck in his closet and at the side of his bed, but he had eventually resigned to putting all of them in his closet neatly and carefully, sitting each of them upright and hoping they weren't mad at him in any way they could be. he just didn't like them, and it didn’t help that they'd scare him at night when he reached out to drink some water from his bedside table. his toy chest was full with action figures from comics he had never read, and never wanted to read (mostly because jaemin thought all the words we're too big, and it was confusing to see who was speaking in the dialogue).

 

but most of all, jaemin hated his bed. it was a superhero from a movie that mommy and daddy had taken him to one day, and although the movie was super cool with its action scenes, jaemin was not delighted to see that his plain, light blue sheets had been replaced with ironman ones and a matching comforter.

 

and don't get him wrong, jaemin was always so grateful to his mommy and daddy for getting him these things, but they were things that he didn't want, and he knew that his parents knew that he didn't want them also. they'd ignore him and keep walking down the impossibly long aisle while jaemin perched himself on the bottom shelf of a rack and pleaded his mommy to get him a princess doll. and on his birthday, when jaemin asked if he could get a little pots and pans set to help him play house, his mother had smiled and said that she'd found something better and pointed at a kids beginning construction set, with plastic hammers and screwdrivers and all.

 

jaemin ended up going home with it, and had secretly cried at his stupid and useless present the night before his birthday ended.

 

the whole situation was one of the sole reasons jaemin had started to be so close to yuta at such a young age. when his parents bought jaemin dinosaurs and action figures, yuta secretly bought him teddy bears and barbie dolls. when their parents had totally replaced jaemins sheets with whoever it was , yuta helped him customize the rest of his room with fairy lights on the pink curtains and little trinkets of bunnies on his desk. and when jaemin asked yuta to play house with him, his older brother never told him that it was a girl game or that jaemin should play something more manly. instead, yuta smiled, and sat down in the small chair that jaemin provided him (jaemin’s favorite chair, which no one could sit in, except for yuta who was his favorite) and accepted the little plastic meals that jaemin gave him gratefully, not even commenting on how jaemin called himself the ‘mommy’ of the little pretend home.

 

the only other person who even dared to come across jaemin and actually play with him was jeno. and jeno soon became jaemins best friend.

 

jeno was a little boy with a kind of weird looking eye smile in his kindergarten class, and jaemin didn't exactly like the boy at first. he was quiet but also bubbly, and answered almost every question the teacher had asked the class. ‘what color is this?’, ‘what is this called?’, ‘can you count up to twenty on only your hands?’. jeno hand was raised for every single one of them. so jaemin started to dislike him, because his mommy had told him to never ever hate someone.

 

and even though at that time jaemin greatly disliked jeno, they became friends fast after jeno had wanted to play with him. jaemin had been so used to playing house either by himself or with the girls in his class, so when jeno had willingly come up and asked jeno if he could play the uncle was like a little wish come true. and then, after that day, they spent all the time together.

 

jeno hung out with jaemin at school and back from school, at the park, at jaemin’s house, at jeno’s house, anywhere. because at that time, jaemin never really cared where he saw jeno, as long as he was hanging out with him and in his company. jeno never minded that jaemin liked the color pink, or that he liked to play house, or that the plushie they were allowed to sleep with during naptime was a blue, rainbow care bear plushie, who he'd also switch out from time to time with his giant pororo. jeno even stuck up for him when the bigger and meaner kids from first grade picked on him, and even held his hand while he cried despite half the whole school thinking they were dating. they had both laughed so hard at that after jaemin’s tears stopped, because dating jeno was yucky and dating in general was even yuckier.

 

now, jaemins favorite thing to do was sleep and tell yuta whatever stories he made up in his mind whenever yuta seemed too sad, and the yuckiest thing now was watching his brother hit the nasty human looking thing with a baseball bat (that his brother had lost a while ago, and on that night, jaemin told yuta a story of a little butterfly who wanted to turn back into a caterpillar).

 

jaemin doesn't really know where he is right now, despite being in yuta’s arms. the last thing he remembers is jaehyun, that was the mans name, telling him that yuta was waiting for him in the car and that they needed to go quickly. jaehyun seemed super nice, and he had a dimple and an eye smile that reminded jaemin of jeno’s, so he immediately complied and let the boy carry him out of the house. his nose was still runny and his throat was aching, and before jaemin falls asleep, he wonders if yuta had got the cough syrup that he had came here for, or if the nasty looking people refused to give it back.

 

~~~

 

when jaemin wakes up, it's to a loud sound that hurts his little ears. it sounds like a man yelling, and it reminds jaemin of his daddy yelling at him to clean up his toys when he scattered them across the floor. his nose is almost dripping snot all over the back of whoever is carrying him, so jaemin wipes his nose on the back of his sleeve because his mommy isn't there to tell him off for it.

 

yuta says that she's joined the nasty looking people now, but jaemin doesn't believe it, because his mommy had always been beautiful and pretty, and she just wouldn't fit in.

 

jaemins vision is blurry and he can almost see a big ‘Target’ sign in the background, and he really wants to question where he is and who’s carrying him. rubbing his tired eyes with the fists of his little hands, jaemin meets eyes with yuta and then is walked into the room where the loud screaming is.

 

when jaemin turns his neck around, its jaehyun carrying him, and jaemin wants to plant his face in jaehyuns neck because its warm and could really be the perfect sleeping place. he almost does, but his eyes catch on a familiar looking smiles and jaemin starts screaming, much like the little kid on jaehyuns left.

 

“jeno?!” it is jeno and he glances up with the most surprised smile on his face. it reminds jaemin of when he gave jeno his most prised possession on the older boys birthday: his apeach plushie. jaemin wants to hug him, and before he knows it, he's let down onto the ground and jeno is hugging him, full force and tight grip on jaemins red hoodie.

 

“jaeminnie!” he yells, straight into jaemins ear. “i missed you so much!” he sounds like he's crying and even if he isn't, it makes jaemin cry, so there are large fat tears running down his little face and falling of his chin. jeno wipes them away with his pointer finger like he did the first day in first grade when someone commented negatively on his glittery pink binder, and smiles his eye smile. jaemin has to get on his tippy toes to touch the little crow feet creases next to jeno’s eye, and the boy starts to tease jaemin about how much he didn't grow.

 

“nana, you're so short,” he says giggling. “hyungie says we're supposed to be growing now.” jaemin stops crying and gets back on his feet, throwing jeno a mean look because yuta hyung had said that jaemin was normal for his age a while ago, and yuta hyung never lies.

 

“it’s not that i’m short, nono,” jaemin says, and his eyes glance around at the other boys in the room. there are several large ones sitting on a couch in the back, and another one looking at jaemin in a way that makes him a little scared. why were they all looking at him? did he look weird, or were they just listening to his talk with jeno? “you're just growing abnomaly.”

 

“abnormally, jaemin. you have to pronounce your ‘r’s.” and there yuta hyung is, correcting jaemin again for his many mistakes. jaemin wants to whine to yuta that he was close to getting it right, but his hyung looks so tired and sad, so jaemin instead starts thinking of a story to tell him tonight. maybe one of him and jeno counting up their toys when they had them.

 

when jaemin turns his head back to face jeno, he sees renjun. and really, injun is here too? had they all been having a little party without him while he and yuta had been trying to get the nasty people to give back their medicine?

 

jaemin has never really known renjun, or not as much as jeno had. he was the boy in their class that was the best drawer, and jaemin really had only ever talked to him when he wanted the older boy to draw him a circle for some project, but everyone did that. other than that, jaemin only knew renjun because jeno had the biggest big boy crush on renjun that a big boy could have, and he would have to force jeno out of playing house to go accompany renjun on the slides.

 

yuta had told jaemin that a big boy crush felt horrible, and that you would only think of that person all the time. jaemin was glad that he didn't have any, because it seemed very stressful to only think of one person. jaemin had the whole world to think about, like yuta and mommy and daddy and even grandma, and that's a lot of people in jaemin’s opinion. and jaemin didn't want to feel horrible at all, especially not with his cold that he’s having. hyung had said that a cold came from when you were in the cold too long, so jaemin hopes that now he's in somewhere relatively warm, the aching in his throat and nose will go away.

 

~~~

 

taeil wonders what the hell he did to deserve this.

 

no, he's not talking about the whole apocalypse situation, because nobody deserved that, no matter if they had killed a million people or spared even a gnat's life. no, taeil is talking about being left alone on duty to take care of these demon children while taeyong, jaehyun, and sicheng go out to look for more supplies.

 

it's not like it's anything relatively new. everyone in their little survival group has taken care of the kids, but taeil has always had someone else to do it with him. it's either doyoung or jaehyun or taeyong (never ten, because the boy plays with the kids too much to be actually looking after them) but doyoung is back at the camp and jaehyun and taeyong are off scavenging, which means taeil is left alone here with these kids.

 

taeil is not good with kids.

 

he’s never been in his previous life either, because before the whole zombie commotion went down, taeil was a college student and an only child who didn't even know what kids meant. now, taeil has to take care of three of the six at the same time, by himself, and realises that kids mean a lot of screaming, stress, time, and the rate of their supplies decreasing more and more.

 

if taeil has to say something good about the situation, who would say that the kids weren't bad kids. they didn't break things or call taeil names or kick and hurt each other like taeil had seen kids act in old movies. but, the kids weren't perfect little angel children either. they all fought with each other like annoyed siblings, and it was daunting and tiring because once they started, they wouldn't stop or listen to anyone around them, save for who they we're arguing with. similar to taeils previous situation of jisung and donghyuk yelling at each other relentlessly over who got to sit on the damn couch , when it was easily big enough for both of them plus one.  

 

taeil wished he could get paid for this, because it is, essentially, babysitting, except they were basically his kids now, and any form of currency out there was now pointless.

 

maybe taeil could get paid in having a full night's sleep for once, but the idea is way too far fetched to even voice aloud.

 

and finally, finally when the little fight had quieted down and the two boys noticed that they could share the couch it was quiet. but of course, not for long, because maybe god thought taeil was handling this whole zombie situation too easily and wanted to make it a little more challenging for him.

 

so the group made taeil care for the kids while they went hunting for really whatever doyoung needed, and when they came back, they were nearly empty handed, and taeil would have preferred that. but instead, they came with another child , and someone older, but the little child that ran up to jeno screaming and crying really made taeil want to quit his job.

 

taeil is not against the new child, not at all, but against the fact that the new child means more to take care of and way more screaming that taeil is not going to be able to handle. really, god must really think that taeil must need a little push in the direction of pain and suffering, so he adds multiple little children to the mix. a multiple that started with two, then had slowly become six, that was now seven. taeil hopes that seven is the lucky last number.

 

“I never will understand how you constantly go out to find some important material that we need and come back with a kid,” taeil hisses to jaehyun, who’s just watching with intent amusement as the little boys in front of them hug each other and start to cry. “really, it amazes me.”

 

jaehyun shrugs his shoulders as johnny and taeyong walk in, and johnny’s hands are full while taeyong’s are bare and empty. “it's just what i do,” he says. “and every person that comes along happens to have a little child attached to them.”

 

taeil snorts, because yeah, everyone. not everyone is a father or a sibling or a whatever, so everyone doesn't need to have a child with them at all times. and really, the man jaehyun found is so young, and taeil is mentally judging him for getting some girl pregnant at an even younger age. the child looks to be about five years old, and the boy/man maybe twenty, so taeil assumes that the boy had his child at age fifteen.

 

wow. some people sure do move quick.

 

taeil is so convinced that the new boy and the child are father and son that when the boy, jaemin he hears jeno call him, calls the older boy hyung, he just thinks that maybe their relationship seems to close to be father and son.

 

“can you believe we have a teen father in the group now?” taeik whispers over to jaehyun to gossip lightly, tapping him on his arm to get his attention. “i, like, always wanted one of those.”

 

“teen what? hyung, what is in your head? they're brothers.”

 

right, taeil thinks. that makes way too much sense.

 

~~~

taeyong is literally carrying nothing. johnny had grabbed all the shit out of the car before taeyong even had the chance to grab a small box if batteries, which johnny had took and stacked over his still growing pile.

 

“so, you're not gonna let me carry anything?” taeyong shuts the car trunk with his hand, stuffing the keys in his pocket because there was really no reason to even lock the car.

 

johnny snorts and waits for taeyong to start walking besides him, making there way up the elevators after they walk inside the mall building.

 

“with those noodle arms? nah, i’m pretty sure i can carry everything by myself.”

 

taeyong huffs and really wants to shove johnny, and watch him tumble off the steps of the escalator as his arm full of supplies falls on his head. he pushes the thought down, but lets it linger in the back of his mind. it would teach him some kind of lesson, whether it's to stop disrespecting everyone younger than him or teach him that yes, it's okay to beat taeyong’s ass.

 

well, excuse me ‘mr. i-survived-the-start-of-the-apocalypse-by-hiding-in-my-basement-where-there-is-food’, really, i didn't know my noodle arms would upset you so much.” he scoffs, and eyes the vix of shotgun bullets that are sliding off from the top of the pile in johnny’s hands.

 

“i’ll try to work better on not starving myself.”

 

the box of bullets eventually fall on the linoleum floor of the mall, and it echos throughout the whole building. johnny sighs and bends down, which looks impossibly hard with his height and the bulk of his pants and the weight in his hands, so taeyong waves him aside with a bony hand and does it for him.

 

the box is heavy in his hand as taeyong reaches down to grab for it, and out of the corner of his left eye, taeyong can see the outline of a dark and bloodied figure crowding against the glass door of the front entrance. he almost sighs in relief to see that it's only one zombie, but the feeling quickly goes away when he sees the multitudes of creatures following.

 

“what the actually fuck,” johnny whispers as he follows taeyong’s gaze to the door. “they're not even all human.”

 

the more taeyong looks, he sees that they are not, and realizes that the plague is now starting to effect everywhere. there are zombies of humans, dogs and cats, wild animals and even birds outside the door, and it looks horrid. the dogs are beaten beyond belief and the human zombies, like always, have some part of their body disgustingly disfigured. in this case, they have bullet holes in their chests and some jaws dislocated, hanging off from the rest of their face by a string of bloody, stretched skin. one of them has a clear gash in his or her throat, and the blood that had once spilled from it is now dry and curdled in their torn clothes.

 

“how did they even find us?” taeyong gets up and immediately rushes to the aaron’s the rest of the boys are in, johnny hot on his heels following behind him. “and they have animals now too? fucking fantastic.”

 

taeyong can see the startled faces of the boys in the room as he barges in, but he doesn't think they have time for an explanation. all he can really say is “zombies are here, gather the kids and let’s go,” before they hear the loud sound of glass shattering and the moans and screeches of zombies flooding into their once peaceful hideout. taeyong can vaguely hear the steps of dogs running and it triggers him to launch four bullets in the general direction of the zombies.

 

“i don't think that's a good idea, taeyong,” taeil is grabbing the kid's one by one and is quickly hauling their coats and jackets on, ignoring donghyuk’s cries of how he's being too harsh. jisung complies and he and renjun are lifted into taeil’s arms while jaehyun grabs jeno and donghyuk, and yuta grabs his brother and pulls him up into his arms while shushing him. the little boy looks scared.

 

“where the fuck is sicheng?” johnny yells because they cannot go looking for him at a time like this. they already have to go down to the first floor to get to the backroom of the mall where the exit is, and having rabid zombies and animals that are fucking running after them do not help one bit. if they don't find sicheng, the only option they have is to leave without him.

 

taeil’s eyes widen and he looks stricken, lost, and he doesn't know what to do. “he went to the bathroom,” taeil says. “about two minutes ago, before you guys came.”

 

jaehyun looks at the rest of the group, analysing their expressions and emotions on the current situation. “depending on the number of creatures down there,” jaehyun starts, in which taeyong cuts of with a small ‘a lot.’ “then, i don't think we can save sicheng.”

 

yuta has been quiet throughout the whole exchange, but he can hear the rapid sound of paws gliding across the floor and loud screeches and neck snaps from downstairs. these don't sound like normal zombies at all, and even though yuta knows that zombies come in classes, he's only ever battled and killed class a zombies. what these are could only be class b, the runners with sharp teeth, who really only looked like long bodies of skin and bone.

 

he tunes back into the conversation the rest of the boys are having and doesn't agree one bit. yes, they are in a currently bad situation, when are they not? but they are so willing to leave sicheng down there, at least that's what it looks like in yuta’s mind, that it's almost scary. the had looked so innocent in the car, and had smiled at jaemin and yuta so innocently that yuta feels the need to save him, much like jaehyun had done back in the house. so yuta makes a split decision and puts jaemin down, ignoring his whines and grabby hands.

 

“i’ll get him,” yuta says. “as long as we meet up back outside wherever, and you take jaemin with you.”

 

everyone turns quiet at that, except for jaemin, who is yelling at yuta that he has to take him with him. nobody pays him any mind, but looks at yuta like he's gone crazy. maybe he has, because Yuta doesn't know why it feels like he has to do this.

 

“you are not going down there. the place is filled, and i doubt you can handle half the zombies down there on your own.”

 

taeyong really makes yuta’s blood boil with the way he looks at him like he's weak. sure, he ran into a big problem for the first time in his days by himself. and yes, he needed help and he's glad for it, but the fact that the rest of the boys who had saved him from that damn house look at him as if he's a damsel in distress with a little kid in his hands makes yuta want to beat them within every inch of their life with the baseball bat he lost a few weeks ago.

 

“do you really think that i would die down there?” yuta questions, and he knows it's not the time to get angry, but he's really fed up with the boy implying that yuta is weak.

 

“listen, i don't fucking know about you, but i can take care of myself and my brother damn well. maybe you and the others have been together in this stupid support group or whatever the fuck it's supposed to be, but i have been on my own for as long as i could remember, even before the damn zombies. i’m not some bitch who landed themselves in a bad situation and has been getting my ass handed to me. i work my damn ass of out there to not be eaten so i can save my little brother, because he deserves everything, and i refuse to let you, you out of all people, treat me like i’ve been in hiding the whole time and don't know how the real world is like.”

 

then yuta grabs  jaemin, who is now crying silently with tears running down his face and snot bubbling from his nose, and lifts him in his arms. the next thing he does is grab a pack of bullets from johnny's pile and leaves the room with both jaemin and the bullets in hand, reloading his pistol that's been hidden in the front pocket of his jeans from outside the small store. if the rest of the group is too damn scared to save sicheng, yuta is determined to, despite not knowing the boy at all. yuta is going to save that boy off his small smile and innocent eyes.

 

~~~

 

when yuta finishes reloading his gun, he immediately grabs jaemin and hauls him up his back, telling the small boy to stay low and rest his head on yuta’s broad shoulders. yuta can see the zombies and how there long legs bound up and down the floor, trying to smell for some sign of blood to signal their next meal. it's a good thing that most of them are blind, and solely just rely on scent and sound to find their prey, but that means that yuta has to be extremely quiet. he hopes that their hearing is not good enough to hear his soft footsteps, or the sound of jaemin’s snot filled breathing through his nose.

 

from what yuta remembers when he was younger, the bathroom in the mall is a little bit after the point where you walk in, to the left. the door to the bathroom is nonexistent, and it's like a little corridor that leads to a nice looking room with sinks and stalls. they're probably old and dirty looking now, and maybe the material of the toilets are starting to decay without proper cleaning, bit yuta feels the least bit accomplished with the fact that he remembers where the bathroom was.

 

it requires a bit of strategy to get to the bathroom, and it could be proven to be useless if sicheng is not even in there. there is a zombie that keeps snapping its neck and barring it's chipped teeth and swollen gums towards the door, but everytime it does, it pauses and waits, then leaves again. yuta is guessing that it's sicheng making some kind of sound that's triggering the creature, and knows that he has to be quiet to actually make it alive. yuta wonders if the boy has a feeling that the group left without him.

 

“hyung,” jaemin whispers (thank god) against his neck and clings tighter to him. “i’m scared,...and I have to sneeze.”

 

“hold it,” yuta says automatically after, still searching for a way to get the zombies distracted. one small movement and the zombies would be coming after him, or after sicheng, and neither option was good.

 

“plus, i’m here, nana. i’ll protect you.”

 

yuta feels jaemin nod his okay against his neck and goes back to scouting the area, wishing he had a silencer to just shoot all of them without sound and be done with it. really, the only way to get sicheng out now is to shoot the zombie closest to the bathroom and make a run for it, and hope that class b zombies aren't as fast as yuta thinks they are.

 

so that's exactly what he does.

 

when yuta pulls out his pistol and before he shoots, he does a quick little prayer apologizing to whatever higher up there is for what he said previously, and begs them to not let him die. because really, if yuta dies, then jaemin most likely will die, and yuta can't have that. then he takes his aim and the tall zombies head and shoots, watching as the zombie crumples down in a weird looking heap as the shot sound echos throughout the whole entire building, notifying all zombies. the human ones snap their necks all around and screech loudly, long fingers clawing at their own skin. the animals that are there don't really do anything, but most of them are still outside, like the birds and the cats that are still dying.

 

and then, unsurprisingly, the zombies make a mad dash for the sound that has yuta running towards the bathroom, tripping over the steps down the escalator and shooting wildly at the dogs that try to stop him. there is one that he misses, but before it clamps down on his leg he kicks it in its muzzle, mentally hoping that jaemin isn't watching as he stomps down on its head and sees blood and mush pour and gush out from under his shoe.

 

he keeps running and shoots zombies when they look to be too close to his general vicinity. he doesn't have the best aim, and most of the bullets lodge themselves in the soft decayed flesh of the zombies chest or goes through the bone in their arms, slowing them down but not at all stopping them. it's so much more than a miracle when he reaches the bathroom and a hand that doesn't have dead skin and sharp nails pulls him into the bathroom and slams the door behind him. he's panting and jaemin is whimpering against his neck, and yuta curses when he sees that jaemin has a small gash in his arm, no doubt caused by the zombies lunging at him.

 

“you actually came to get me?”

 

it's sicheng, and he sounds so heartbrokenly scared that yuta’s stomach lurches painfully. he has no weapons on his person but a pistol similar to yuta’s, but it's empty, so yuta grabs what's left of the box of bullets and tosses them to the taller boy, he fumbles with them and loads his gun with shaky hands.

 

“they said that it would be best to leave you,” yuta explains, and he rips a thin strip of his long shirt off to cover jaemin’s injury. the boy isn't crying or whimpering, but he just looks scared and tired, and yita wishes that he had a stuffed toy to give him and calm him down. for now, he just settles on bringing the small boy in his arms and kissing his temple repeatedly. “i thought it was a stupid thing to do, so here i am.”

 

sicheng chuckles and takes the cloth strip from yuta’s hands and wraps it around jaemin’s arm carefully, smiling small when jaemin glances at him with watery eyes and tear stained cheeks. “it's not really stupid, just something we agreed on,” he says.

 

“it's better to leave one behind then sacrifice the whole group. i just never thought it’d be me.”

 

“that whole concept is stupid,” yuta states, trying to relax as much as he can with the sounds of zombies screeching in the background. “eventually, with that strategy, there will be no more group left. it's better to save everyone or save no one, rather than leave someone out.”

 

sicheng looks like he's thinking about it, and his pondering face is really something that yuta might like looking at. his straight eyebrows are scrunched together and his dark eyes don't look as troubled as before. his pink lips are pursed and he just looks, overall, really pretty. it's weird to think about, especially with the amount of zombies outside ready to feast on their bodies, but yuta can't stop himself from looking at the boy.

 

“i guess,” sicheng finally says. “maybe the whole thing is really stupid, but we were doing it for the sake of the kids.”

 

yuta hums because he understands that perfectly. he does everything for jaemin’s sake, but he knows that he's also doing it for himself. he would rather have jaemin live than himself, but it would be perfect if they both could survive.

 

“so, how do we get out of here?” from what yuta hears, the bathroom isn't blocked off, but now the zombies are restless and are roaming everywhere. it's a suicide mission going back out, yuta knows this, but it seems like there is no other way.

 

“through the window,” sicheng says and crouches so he's on his feet but in a crow position, knees not touching the ground. he lightly gestures for jaemin to come into his arms, and to yuta’s surprise, he does, and let's sicheng coddle him the most he can. yuta feels like he's looking at two babies.

 

there is a window, albeit a tiny one, and the only way to get out would be to climb up on each other to reach it. it's close to the ceiling and has a railing that looks easy to take off, so the only step would be to smash the glass of the window into little pieces.

 

“you have to go first though,” sicheng stands up with Jaemin in his arms, and the boy actually nods his head to the taller’s statement. “it's the only way. jaemin can't go out first and you're not tall enough to get all of us through.”

 

okay then, yuta has to go first.

 

“okay, let's get out of here and hope there's not more outside.” they walk to the window and sicheng lets jaemin down, cupping his hands together for yuta to place his foot. the moment he does, he launched into the air and has to take the railing of the window for balance, before pulling it off and dropping it. it makes a clattering sound and the creatures from outside the bathroom are no doubt screeching, and the three boys in the room hear their loud thumping footsteps running to the door of the bathroom.

 

yuta grabs his pistol and slams it down onto the window, wincing at the sound of glass breaking and watching as sicheng nudges jaemin away with his leg so the glass doesn't fall on him. the zombies from outside the door start pounding on it, and it sounds like their bodies are slumping against the wooden door, trying to break it off it's hinges.

 

clearing the remaining class from the pane, yuta looks down through the window and sees no signs of zombies, so he crawls his way out and tumbles to the ground and on the prickly dead grass. he can't see what’s going on inside, but he hears the slight sound of wood breaking and he knows they have to speed this up.

 

“c’mon!” he yells, then he sees jaemin’s little body against the window. “jump, nana,” and he holds his arms out wide and looks at jaemin reassuringly. “i’ll catch you.”

 

jaemin looks hesitant, but he hears something from the bathroom that makes him whine and falls forward and down into yuta’s arms. yuta can see sicheng’s fingers gripping the window frame and patiently waits for the boy to haul himself up. he does, a few seconds later, and at the same time the door to the bathroom breaks, and sicheng falls from the window a second before a zombie's long hand is swiping for him, and the wretched thing screeches out the window, body too long and deformed to come after them.

 

“do you think they're still here?” yuta’s talking about the rest of the group, and sicheng nods his head yes and points to the car in the parking lot patiently waiting. they don't look surprised to see them, but relieved, and yuta, jaemin, and sicheng take their places in the truck's back area, with johnny and jisung. yuta can see taeyong’s face from the clear window from the back to the front, and he looks impressed and angry, which is exactly what yuta wanted.

 

they quickly reverse the car and drive off onto the road, going north. the zombies see them but don't chase after, instead eating each other and the animals from outside. gnawing on their own skin. the rest of the kids are in the older boys’ laps, looking tired or talking or looking out the window. yuta is tired, and when he glances over, sicheng is looking at him intently, similar to the way he did back in the car after the house incident.

 

“what?” yuta asks, and he whispers it because johnny isn't sleeping, but it looks like he's getting there. he has dark bags under his eyes and looks absolutely gigantic compared to jisung snuggled up to his chest, but it looks kind of cute.

 

“nothing,” sicheng says. he waits a while before continuing, “thank you.”

 

yuta shrugs his shoulders and turns to his side, eyeing a sleeping jaemin fondly. “nobody needs to die like that, especially just because the situation is bad.”

 

sicheng nods and yuta has the overwhelming feeling to peck him on the forehead. he does, but when he does it, it isn't awkward, and sicheng just colors and looks content. he falls asleep some moments later. after this, yuta can't help but look at the darkening sky, still filled with clouds of various shapes and the breeze making them move in one direction slowly, then faster.

 

it’s weird to not see any planes in the sky.

 

~~~

 

“hey, nana?” yuta whispers in the darkness, and he knows jaemin is awake because the small boy is silently toying with a loose string at the end of yuta’s shirt. they're side by side next to each other, and jaemin is curled securely in the dip of yuta’s torso and his head is under yuta’s chin. they can feel each other breathing.

 

“yeah, hyung?” jaemin asks, and looks up at yuta with his big brown eyes, ones that yuta knows match his. he had gotten it so much, when the world was okay and not in ruins, that jaemin was like a little copy if himself. they'd had the same blinding smile with perfect teeth and the same smile line, along with similar noses and the same big, brown eyes that they had inherited from their mother. “you can't sleep?”

 

yuta hums no and shakes his head a little, not trying to disturb jaemin’s positioning. he curls his arm around jaemin’s waist and pulls him closer to his chest. “could you tell me another story?” yuta asks, and he can feel jaemin breathe in tired excitement.

 

“of course, hyung. I've got plenty up in here,” jaemin says, and brings his hand up to his head and taps his temple. “let me think a little first.”

 

yuta stops him though and brings the thin sheet turned blanket they'd found on the floor of the truck closer around them. “could you tell me the story of the butterfly who wanted to be a caterpillar again? it's my favorite,” yuta whispers into the darkness, careful not to wake up any of the other boys.

 

jaemin nods but says nothing about how yuta says that all his stories are his favorite, because he knows yuta actually means it this time, rather than just exaggeratingly telling jaemin that he liked his story. “okay, hyung.” and jaemin pretends to clear his throat and tells the story, and at times like this, yuta forgets that jaemin is only six (seven in august), and that he still is so young when he acts so mature for his age.

 

“do i start at ‘once apon a time’ or…?” jaemin asks, unsure, and yuta laughs silently to himself at jaemin’s choice of words. “use whatever feels right, jaeminnie. start where you feel like you should start.”

“okay,” he whispers.

 

“there was once a little caterpillar, and even as a caterpillar, he loved his life. he loved crawling up and down trees and eating grass and leaves and making friends. the caterpillar was always happy, even when all his other caterpillar friends turned into beautiful big butterflies with large wings.

 

but soon it grew tired of being a caterpillar. the leaves didn't taste as sweet and the grass was bitter. he was tired of climbing the same trees and wanted to be on new ones. he wanted to taste the feeling of the air like all his other friends did. but he still was somewhat happy doing his daily routine.

 

and soon, it was the caterpillars on turn to be a butterfly, but when he came out from his cocoon, his wings were small and wrinkled,  and were a hideous color. when he tried to fly he soared for a short time, and then began to fall. he couldn't climb trees as easy as he used to and could no longer feed on the grass and leaves.

 

and even though everyone told him he was better off being a butterfly, the insect still felt like a caterpillar at heart, so one day, he twisted his body until he'd ripped off his wings. he could no longer fly, but he was no longer weighed down, and he spent the rest of his life crawling in the grass, content with the small breeze that came from time to time.”

 

“...i think i messed up the story,” jaemin confessed, looking at yuta a little bit embarrassed. “it sounded a lot more smarter last time.”

 

maybe it did, but yuta knows that the meaning is still there. he doesn't know when he'd started taking jaemin’s stories to heart, but now that he does, he realizes that jaemin has way too much unnoticed wisdom for a six year old.

 

“it's fine, nana. i loved it.” and jaemin smiles and thanks yuta for listening to the story, like he always does, yet yuta feels like he should be thanking jaemin. the boy doesn't know it yet and might not ever, but yuta considers the boy to be one of the smartest ever. sure, there was einstein and others who were beyond intellectually smart, but jaemin was words smart. he had a weird way of words for such a young age, and if jaemin wanted, yuta was pretty sure that he could bring a whole crowd to tears and back just from his words and beautiful stories.

 

“can i tell you a story tomorrow, hyung?” jaemins voice is sleepy and tired and it's most likely that the boy will fall asleep any second now. he does, and his head is pillowed by yuta’s arm as he breathes quietly. yuta can't stretch his neck enough to give him a kiss of his forehead, but he kisses two of his fingers and brings them down on jaemins temple, hoping that it's enough.


“you can tell me a story tomorrow, nana,” yuta whispers, and he falls asleep to the dull sounds of johnny’s snoring and the ongoing sound of the revving engine and the tires moving against gravel. it's

Chapter Text

mark didn't like the way the camp looked at night.

 

the whole barn became eerily quiet, and even the creeks in the woods didn't occur, because no one was awake to walk across the floor to get something or other. mostly extra blankets for when the cold filtered in through the wooden cracks of the barn or when it snowed, but it was summer now, so even the nights were scorching hot. it was hot breeze flowing throughout the whole area, and every night since summer had started, the boys found themselves kicking their blankets to the side and opting to rest of the damn hard wood floor.

 

mark was indeed awake, blanket not yet kicked off but getting there. too afraid to get up to even have a drink of water for his dry mouth. for some unknowns reason, it felt as if the whole area was just...open. like any creature, whether good or bad, could just waltz in and take its place wherever.

 

he knew the whole place was barricaded by both a metal fence and a wooden fence, but the whole idea of zombies being able to come into the whole farm scared mark beyond belief. and yeah, usually he had donghyuk to stay up and keep him company, but he had gone with the hyungs and the other kids and now mark was left alone with doyoung and ten hyung, and chenle. they were all sleeping though, because they knew that this place was the safest place to be.

 

mark felt far from safe.

 

he guessed that maybe it was because it was too quiet. he wasn't used to it and most likely never would be. even though mark was a quiet being, he was used to loud spaces and loud people, who'd fill and area with their words and noises. whether it be in the day or night, there was someone always able to distract him from the lingering quietness with their presence. whether it was chenle’s and donghyuk’s loud screaming and laughing in the early morning or the sound of johnny hyungs loud snoring at night.

 

with all the honesty mark could have at a time like this, he guessed that he just wasn't used to being alone. and sure, he wasn't exactly alone now, but it sure as hell felt like it. there was no one he could cuddle with or talk to or laugh with, and all the people that were once important in his life had somehow disappeared.

 

mark had a feeling in the back of his mind that maybe all of them will disappear someday. it's not a good feeling, and mark hates it.

 

the whole cold atmosphere if the barn remind him of his mother's house when he was home alone and taeyong was in his room paying him no mind. it's the same silence, the same boredom, the same loneliness. except this time, there is no t.v. to aid in the silent background audio, only crickets chirping from their place in the grass outside and the whistle of the wind against the surfaces of buildings far away.

he wants to be somewhere else besides here, but he doesn't know where to go. he remembers the school he went to and even where his mother's house is, but taeyong hyung has always told him that it would be stupid to go there. taeyong hyung wouldn't be there to protect him from the zombies, and that mark should listen to his every word to avoid trouble. always.

 

mark isn't a little kid, at least he doesn't feel like one, but taeyong insists that he is, and that he needs to follow directions. mark is a full eight years old, but he knows that he must go if taeyong tells him to go, and that he must stop if taeyong tells him to stop. his hyung says that it's the only way to be as safe as possible, but johnny hyung just tells him that his hyung is being paranoid. tells him that if mark feels like he should run, then he should, regardless of what taeyong says.

 

they make it way too confusing, and mark doesn't know who to listen to, if he should listen at all.

 

mark knows that he can't go anywhere at all regardless of who he's with and what they say, but mark has a dying need to go to the park, just for one last time. before the whole situation broke out, the park had been the place where it was never quiet. in the early morning, there was the music coming from the speakers of the walkers who did some laps around the track. in the afternoon through evening it was kids laughing and screaming from being pushed down slides or who were playing tag with their friends. in the night, there were celebrations of birthday parties until the park closed, and even though mark has never been at the park that long, he knows that after all the party goers leave, the sounds of animals humming and the sound of the midnight sprinklers prevented the area from going quiet.

 

even though mark knows that this is stupid and unrealistic, mark wants to go to the park for the boy he'd seen countless times. he obviously wouldn't be at the park now, and might not even be alive now, but he was the reasoning for mark going to the area everyday before the zombies had showed up.

 

mark had never talked to him, but he knows the boy had caught him staring multiple times. he couldn't help it, not even when taeyong had pointed it out and teased him for it. the boy was just really pretty, and even though he never paid attention to mark, mark knows that the boy knows that he was there. just watching him while doing second grade homework, smiling as the pretty boy whined to his friend and pushed him off to go see another boy by the slides.

 

mark wanted to be that boys friend. wants, because he still does want, but the boy is gone now. mark can barely even remember what he looks like, besides the boy having big brown eyes with lashes as long as his mother's and a smile as bright as the sun.

 

the sun isn’t out now, and hasn't been for a few days, so mark sees this as a bad sign.

 

the wooden floor creaks as mark shifts, pulling the blanket around his body as he gets into a seating position. there's no way he’ll be able to sleep now, because his mind is on his mother's house and the pretty boy from the once inhabited park that got his brother to push him on the swings.

 

mark has no idea when he falls asleep, maybe to the lull of repetitive memories he was making for himself, but he'd woken up to the sound of tires rolling against grass. there is no light filtering through the thin slivers of gapped wood planks from the ceiling, only black, and the whole barn still has the feeling of night. he guesses that it's not even nearing morning, and he really wished he could tell what time it was. all he really needed was a clock, even the big confusing ones with the longhand and shorthand that were so difficult to read. he could read one if they hand one, he'd been practicing before all of this, but only johnny had a watch, tightly wrapped around his right wrist.

 

johnny was probably here right now, too, with taeyong and jaehyun and sicheng. he hoped they found a lot of things, because ten hyung had said they needed ammo, because they had guns, because they needed to hunt, because they needed to get food, because they were running out. mark knew it too, and he was getting tired of drinking applesauce from squeeze pouches and regular dry roasted peanuts, because donghyuk always stole all the cashews.

 

it's not long before johnny comes lumberjacking in like always, thick boots making loud steps in the barn that somehow don’t wake up the ones actually sleeping. the rest of the boys follow through, albeit much quieter, and mark is about to say a little greeting to them and hope he doesn't get scolded for not being asleep when two other boys walk in. one is as tall as taeyong or maybe taller, and he looks vaguely familiar. his black hair is longer in the front than in the back, and it hangs at the sides of his face in a middle part. his eyes are what everyone besides mark would call sharp, but mark thinks of them as lost, because the bot generally looks clueless. his shoulders are broad and he's wearing a sleeveless shirt for some reason, toned arms out but no goosebumps rising on his arms. he was lucky, because mark got goosebumps from the smallest chill.

 

the other boy, however, was the boy from the park, in all his once giggly and smiley glory.

 

mark knows it's a sign, because one does not simply get what they want without faith or trust in a higher power. or at least that's what his dad used to say, going on and on at the dinner table of god and gods and deities and people they should worship to have the most balanced, fulfilling life. his mother had listened, too, and she'd started taking them to church early. mark never enjoyed it, he knows taeyong didn't either, because the old ladies after the ceremony always came up to pinch his cheeks and gawk at how well he was growing. of course he was growing, kids grow , mark wished he could have asked the old ladies why they seemed to stop growing, but his mother told him that’d just be plain rude.

 

mark’s not really problematic with being rude or plain, so he kept with it and just silently asked these questions in his head. why do the ladies always pinch my cheeks? why can't they pinch taeyong hyungs? why does mother let them touch me? why are they so old? why do they smell like pumpkins? the questions were ongoing, and mark never seemed to get an answer.

 

he’s never really believed his father's sayings, or at least wasn't too invested in it such as his mother, but he'd listen to his father's lectures and read some of the books his father gave him. he knew about God, and he knows about The Gods, but that doesn't mean he thinks its real. it could just be fake, like the characters in his books or the tv or like every single thing his mother told him. it could all be false advertisement to the wrong person. but really, this feeling now seems like mark was supposed to see this boy again.

 

the boy has changed, they all have, but not nearly as much as one would think. the boys eyes are still incredibly big, his nose is still flat button like, his lips are still thin and pink, and his face is still smooth and pale and chubby. even under the frown of tiredness etched on his face, mark knows that his smile is still the same too.



“and why are you still awake, minhyung?” great, now he was going to get in trouble for daydreaming.

 

it was too late now to lay himself back on the makeshift bed and pull the covers over his head, feigning sleep. it was way too late now to even say that they had woken him up with their heavy footsteps on the wood. taeyong was glaring down at him disapprovingly while johnny and jaehyun giggled and smirked at his misfortune. sicheng had already dropped all the supplies he was holding and immediately cuddled up next to doyoung in his pile of blankets, and the older boy had sleepily thrown an arm over his waist.

 

the two other boys looked lost, one face passive and the other kind of scared.

 

“i was thinking,” he said. it was no use lying with a generic ‘i couldn't sleep’, especially with how well taeyong knew him. mark could always sleep, anytime, anywhere, and the only reason he was still up was because he was thinking. and because he was scared, but he wouldn't dare admit that.  

 

“and of what, exactly? you should be in bed,” taeyong was trying to use his affirmative voice, and he sounded way too much like his mother. she was always trying to get him to do something using that voice, and frankly, mark had hated it. he’d thought that he wouldn't have to deal with it anymore until taeyong had started using it when the zombies started roaming.



“just things,” he said. “old things.”

 

johnny snorted, and the boys began putting the supplies away as if it was a normal time. as if mark was asleep like he should've been, and like the new boys in the room weren't there. one of them spoke up.

“so this is your camp,” he said looking around. there wasn't much to look at in the barn, but there was lots of land outside that he could enjoy the scenery of. the barn was just wood on top of wood, piled on by more wood into a structure. nothing special. “it's way better than what we've been living in.”

 

“so i’m guessing you guys lived in trash? most places are like that now.” why was taeyong being so mean? mark never remembered his brother being rude to any of the boys when they had first came, why be mean to the man standing there? the man noticed the harshness of his tone, too, and he narrowed his eyes in taeyongs direction.

 

“and what is that supposed to mean, exactly? just a warning, but you don't fucking know me.”

 

“i don't know you, but I know that you were so easy to get put into danger. I don't know how the hell you've managed to survive, let alone save your brother also.”

 

the atmosphere was getting thick with tension. johnny looked like he was constantly stopping himself from butting in, and the little boy behind his brother's leg didn't know whether to stay there or take cover. he'd only left his brother's side when jaehyun had gestured him over, and the little boy clung to his legs while jaehyun put a hand over the younger boys head of chocolate locks.

 

“i really thought we would be done with this conversation when i fucking saved sicheng for you! I can't even believe that you were so quick to let him die there.”

 

mark knew this about taeyong already. he didn't exactly know if taeyong did it for himself ir for others, but he was so willing to leave someone behind to save everyone else. it hurt on both sides, yet taeyong never seemed to show any remorse. not for practically betraying whoever it was he was leaving, or forcing the rest of the group to leave without them without even trying to save them. he'd always said that it was better to lose one than lose ten.

 

mark thought it was better to save one to save ten, or lose one and lose ten. it was a metaphor, of course, because they had so many other people in their group, but mark felt they should at least try to save them. it was heartless to leave them to die while the rest escaped, especially when they loved and cared for you, and expected you to care for them.

 

not leave them to die when taeyong felt that the situation was too tight.

 

and yes, it's happened before, but mark feels like he's way too young to get used to his brother letting people die. no matter how many times taeyong told him that he was saving everyone, mark had always viewed it as taeyong killing someone. it hadn't occurred in a while, and really, they'd all thought that taeyong maybe had changed his way of going about things, but he guesses not. he just never knew it would happen to sicheng, and the fact that it seems taeyong doesn't care about it makes the situation worse. sicheng probably hates him, mark thinks, then he remembers that the only reason why sicheng hyung is alive is because this new guy saved him.

 

“you saved sicheng hyung?” mark almost can't believe it. everyone was forced to listen to taeyong when he'd declare that someone was going to get left behind, because when someone had protested, he’d yell at them to go save them. in truth, everyone wanted to save whomever that was in the position, but the fact that they would most likely lose their lives overpowered that thought. in those times, it was like their whole group had turned into man against man. only the strongest could win. or, in this case, the one who wasn't selfless enough to go die for someone else.

 

the boy turned to look at mark and his eyes softened, not much, but slightly. he huffed and turned to look at sicheng cuddled up to doyoung, but mark knew that the older chinese boy wasn't asleep. he was probably hearing everything, maybe still in his thought how mark had been earlier. but instead of thinking of the park and his mother, he was thinking of how he'd almost been sacrificed to death and how this boy had saved him.

 

“I did,” he said, and he looked weirdly heartbroken over what he said next. “because no one deserves to die for everyone else, not if no one else put in any effort to try and save themselves.”

 

he seemed to be speaking from experience. ten had gotten that heartbroken look in his eyes too many times.

 

mark heard taeyong scoff from next to him, and he looked up to see his brother with the most irritated and angry expression he'd seen on him in a while. “that's hypocrisy, didn't you just say that you would die for jaemin?”

 

was that the park boys name? jaemin? he watched the boy look up at taeyong and concluded that yes, the pretty boy that he'd first saw at the park was named jaemin. it was a nice name, maybe even nicer than donghyuk’s name, but mark wouldn't ever tell him that.

 

“stop twisting my damn words, taeyong. i don't want to die, but i’d die for jaemin, it's my choice. stop making it the same thing as your sacrificing. I try to save myself and jaemin, i don't immediately put someone up so the rest of you can carry on like nothing has happened.”

 

the boy was panting lightly and looked very angry, and mark didn't know if it was for sicheng or himself. before the argument had progressed even more, jaehyun started to but in. “you guys should calm down and rest for now. it's been a long day, and at the rate you're going, we’ll probably wake up the guys sleeping in here and even taeil and the kids in the car.”

 

the boy huffed and nodded his okay, while taeyong just silently walked over to the end of the barn and started to fix up his mussed sheets. everyone deemed it as conversation over.

 

“yuta, i guess you can sleep with me and johnny, we have queen sized sheets. the kids and taeil are sleeping in the car since it's warmer, but i’m guessing jaemin wants to sleep in the same place as you.” jaehyun said, watching as johnny spread out the layers of sheets on the barn floor with ease. “maybe jaemin could sleep with mark?”

 

what? mark's brain almost froze.

 

the boy, yuta, mark now guesses, nods his head and gestures to jaemin to come over to him. the small boy does, and yuta leans over to whisper some things in his ear and then kisses him on the temple. mark vaguely remembers taeyong kissing him on his temple back when he was very little, when taeyong was nicer and when mark was scared of the dark, rather than scared of the quiet.

 

and before he knew it, jaemin was in front of mark with his pretty eyes staring into mark’s own.

 

“Hi,” he mumbled lowly, and then looked up, trying to overcome his shyness. jaemin looked surprised that he had spoken first, but quickly smiled and said his own greeting. “hi, i’m jaemin.”

 

“i’m mark, or minhyung,” he'd said, and started whispering when the hyungs had told them to quiet down and go to sleep. “i’m both, but everyone just calls me mark.”

 

jaemin blinked sleepily, and mark scooted over and tapped the space next to him for jaemin to lie down. he did quickly, and there wasn't much room for the two of them, but neither of them minded being so close together. it helped mark hear the boys breathing and jaemin feel his warmth throughout the night. “can I call you minhyung, then?”

 

mark nodded his head, and he really wanted to talk to the boy alot. to get to know him and be his best friend, or his boyfriend, because mark remembers taeyong bringing those home. the boy smiled, with his teeth, and it was so pretty that mark couldn't help but smile with his teeth, too. he was pretty sure that all the hyungs were sleeping by now, but he couldn't just yet. it seemed like something was missing or off, and mark's mind was weirdly empty.

 

“hey,” jaemin whispered into the darkness again, head close to laying on mark’s arm. mark hummed to indicate that he'd hears him, and jaemin continued.

 

“can I tell you a story?”

 

mark smiled and nodded, and the younger boy quickly dived into a soft spoken story, one that kept mark interested and dreaming of until the morning after they'd fallen asleep.

 

maybe this is what he's been missing.

 

Chapter Text

really, mornings to ten were a blessing.

 

it didn't matter how loud the maknaes were (ten was usually just as loud, he’d learned that countering their noise level was the only way to get them quieter and himself heard), and no matter how angry or irritable taeyong and doyoung were, the mornings were just nice.

 

no, no one woke up to fresh plates of hot, steaming pancakes with thick maple syrup covered in strawberries and blueberries with a glass of orange juice on the side...but it's that thought that encourages ten to wake up in the first place, even if he knows disappointment is waiting for him. there will be no pancakes or table or fruits or anything, just dried nuts and granola and the occasional drink of flavored liquid they could somehow find. it wasn't as depressing as one would think, or at least ten felt that it wasn't, because he was so used getting disappointed by his stupid dreams that when he woke up, it wasn't even anything to get disappointed over in the first place.

 

the mornings were routine and it's what they would always be waking up to, so now, ten thinks that his dream of waking up to hot pancakes is like the equivalent to winning the lottery. if the lottery was still a thing. if the people that would even give ten the money for winning the lottery were even alive. if the money gained from winning the lottery and receiving the lottery money had any use.

 

waking up to pancakes in the morning feels like that now, unexpected, unrealistic, and totally useless in their current state. pancakes were just for taste, and even though ten is almost a million percent sure his tastebuds are probably dry and broken as of now, he would still like to stick with unsalted mixed nuts and dried apricots. he couldn't taste them very well, didn't want to, but at least they provided more nutrients to his body than a damn plate of fluffy diabetes.

 

okay, so maybe mornings were something a little less than a blessing, but ten swears that this morning in particular was the best in a while. the rest of the boys were all still asleep at the time ten had woken up, and ten wouldn't dare try to dish out their breakfast in fear of being yelled at once again by taeyong for spilling and wasting supplies. so the boy opted for just doing what he always did when he was bored and had just woken up, eyes still blurry and mouth tasting if fuzz.

 

he made fun of the members sleeping in his head.

 

it seems like a dumb thing to do, and it is, ten knows this already. but it's one of the only ways he can even try to reach his full sanity again, to make him believe that all of this was real and that it wasn't just ten mentally falling apart and hallucinating this whole thing. it helps, a little bit, because it makes ten realize that if it was his hallucination, he really would have picked some uglier people. just so he could be the best looking one, of course, but things like that don't ever seem to be important anymore. nothing small and trivial ever seemed to be important anymore, but ten still liked to believe they were, and because they wanted at least some normalcy in what their lives were, the rest if the boys believed it too.

 

ten’s hazy eyes scanned over the boys, curled up against one another and stuck between blankets and sheets. he supposed he could start with doyoung, who was literally right across from him, face almost pressed into tens shoulder. he didn't look particularly swollen in the face today as he were in other mornings, but it's probably due to the fact that they all had been getting more water in recently. jaehyun had stumbled across a little stream up the hill, one that had gratefully not been full of blood and bacteria from the deaths that surrounded it.

 

doyoung looks pretty peaceful, his eyes fluttering every two minutes or so, blocking out the light that is starting to filter out through the barn cracks. his hair is way too long for his face as of now, but ten thinks it looks really cute, even if doyoung himself hates it. there is a bruise that's slowly fading on his cheek from a previous zombie attack when johnny had accidentally elbowed the younger boy in the face, and his lips are chapped because the boy never feels the need to use the chapstick that they had saved, no matter how much ten wills him to. really, kissing a boy with chapped lips wasn't the most amazing feeling, but ten and the others force themselves to make do.

 

the rest of the boys in the barn are still sleeping, and ten is too far away to analyze any of their looks. jaehyun is drooling on an arm and johnny’s long limbs are curled up around another's, and when ten puts two and two together, he realizes that it's not just jaehyun and johnny in the bed together like usual.

 

it's a forgotten and very missed ‘ what the fuck ?’ moment. ten wants to bask in it and be confused for a little, so he leaves it at that. only for now, of course, because when the boys wake up, it'll be a different story.

 

taeil isn't in the room in the corner where he usually is, so he's probably taken up the car space with jeno, donghyuk, jisung, and renjun, because they are absent too. sicheng is curled up opposite of doyoung (ten doesn't know how he didn't notice before) and mark is in his little sleeping bag, with someone's face pressed into his little neck.

 

with someone's face pressed into his neck.

 

again, ten relishes in this ‘what the hell is going on?’ moment, because surprisingly, it doesn't happen often.

 

mark and the mysterious whoever is closer to ten than jaehyun, johnny and the other mysterious whoever, so ten really tries to find out somethings. based on the body size ten can see from inside the sleeping bag, the boy must be small, and ten mentally screams with joy. it's another baby. a child really, but he can never help himself when it comes to the kids. he loves them and can tolerate them much more than taeil can, and having another one may be hard, but ten is really all for it.

 

they have nothing to lose anyway, besides having two less cashews than usual and their water supply depleting a little quicker. nothing too drastic, but ten knows that taeyong is going to have a hissy fit and that taeil will be secretly sulking over the small depletion in his breakfast.

 

“why are you staring at mark so hard? you're practically glaring, ten,” the thai boy hadn't even heard doyoung wake up, let alone feel the boy's warm cheek remove itself from his shoulder. now that he notices, though, his shoulder feels empty and cold, a feeling that even throwing a blanket over won't fix.

 

“did mark do something wrong? what the hell, ten, why are you glaring at him? the boy isn't even awake-” and for heaven's sake, why is doyoung so loud and talkative this early in the morning? how were voice boxes capable of making sound right after waking up?

 

“hyung, shut up. you're too damn loud.”

 

“and you're too damn rude. what the hell is going on?”

 

ten sighs and sits up, kind of upset that he can't really play his game of critiquing the boys physical features. “look at mark, closely,” ten says, pointing to marks sleeping bag. “now, look at the boy next to him.”

 

the forming of doyoung’s own “ what the actual fuck? ” face is actually really satisfying. ten doesn't know how, but it is. doyoung’s face is priceless.

 

“i thought that was donghyuk at first,” doyoung says, mouth hanging open partially in shock. he rubs his eyes with his fists than opens them again, and he sighs in disbelief. “did jaehyun really find another damn kid?”

 

“nah,” ten says, throwing the blanket off of his body and making sure not to wake sicheng, who is still asleep through doyoung’s loud comments. “he actually found two.”

 

ten points to the boy snuggled up in the middle of jaehyun and johnny, and it's weird but somehow natural to see the unknown boy there. jaehyun and johnny had always been some sort of weird package deal, and even if they were all together now, it still seemed as if they were closer to each other than the rest of the boys were closer to them. maybe this new guy could change some things.

 

“two, huh?” doyoung gets up with ten, making his way to the barn entrance and opening the double doors. doyoung always liked when the light streamed inside in big beams, and it was the perfect morning for that, with the sun out shining thick waves of ray down from the sky.

 

“jaehyun really outdid himself this time. i value his talent of being able to notice others.”

 

ten snorts and pushes doyoung lightly by the shoulder. “why are you acting like you've never saved anyone before? you saved me,” ten sees taeil awake in the car, but he doesn't see them from his position. he's running his hands through donghyuk’s hair and looks to be singing lightly, and ten wishes he could hear him. taeil had a beautiful voice, and from what he remembers, the older boy used to be a ballad singer before the whole outbreak happened.

 

“i did save you, but that doesn't really count, does it?” doyoung says. he goes to walk up to the car and probably knock on the window, but ten stops him with a hand on his arm, gesturing for them to go back inside. taeil always acted like he hated the kids, or at least that he was always tired and annoyed with them, but ten knows that the older boy treasures them dearly. it's the only reason he takes care of them, whether by himself or with someone else, and is always by their side defending them.

 

taeil was so much braver than ten was, yet the boy still doesn't know. he can see it clearly though, as if he were looking through prescription glasses. as if he were looking straight through drinking water. taeil will always be so much braver than ten is.

 

ten is weak where taeil is inexperienced, which is wrongly classified as weakness. yes, ten knew what to do in a bad situation and how to do it, but that didn't mean that he did it well without any fuckups. hell, if taeil was experienced, he’d probably be protecting the whole entire group.



ten really loves taeil, looks up to him. loves everyone, actually, but taeil is different and loves the kids and everyone else way too much. maybe that's what it is. maybe ten is just appreciating taeil’s way of loving them.

 

ten really doesn't know what he's doing though. not now with taeil and the kids, not when the zombie outbreak happened, and definitely not when he first moved to korea all those years ago. he has literally no fucking idea what he's doing or why he's doing it, how it's turning out and when the results will play into action, if they ever.

 

ten doesn't even know how he got this deep into his mind in the span of three minutes. it’s all too complex and way over his head, everything is, but he keeps a smile on his face because he is fine. he's not falling apart at all and he's not breaking, but he doesn't know why it feels like he is when he starts thinking all the way back to before all of this happened.

 

he's glad everyone stands by him even when he gets like this, though, he can see doyoung staring at him sympathetically from the corner of his eye. he's letting ten sort of his feelings, his thoughts.

 

and that's when ten realizes that he's grateful. of course he loves all the boys and appreciates them all for taking care of and tolerating him, and he still is confused by so much, but ten is grateful.

 

ten is grateful to taeil for taking care of his babies for him. for being there for mark and donghyuk and jeno and renjun and jisung and chenle and for whoever that little boy is, ten is grateful that taeil will continue to take care of them in tens place when he is deemed useless.

 

this all sounds depressing, ten knows, but this is the morning. mornings are for sentimental feelings and doubts and insecurities. for realizations and for thoughts and new ideas. mornings are for stacked pancakes with fruits and orange juice on a dining table.

 

mornings are for disappointment and serene silence, for realizing who and what you're grateful for and why.

 

( it's not thanksgiving , ten thinks to himself, why the hell do I feel grateful?)

 

when ten snaps out if his thoughts, doyoung is there, leaning against the barn wall and smirking, devious and teasing eyes out. “done thinking about your man?”

 

ten scoffs. “he's more your man than he is mine, if i’m being honest. he's everyone's man. he's just that loveable.”

 

doyoung thinks over that a bit, and as he does, he kicks his right leg onto the wood of the barn wall a few times, making repeated thumps. ten is a little worried that the sound might wake some of the boys inside up, but ten lets it pass once he realizes that they should be up by now anyway.

 

“taeil is really loveable,” doyoung says, and he eyes the older boy in the car and catches gazes with a very blurry eyed and a ‘ i just woke up’ looking jeno. the boy has the nerve to stick out his tongue at doyoung, and for a second ten thinks that maybe doyoung will march up to the car and scold jeno himself, but doyoung just sticks the tongue right back at him. jeno looks weirdly satisfied.

 

“but we're all really loveable, to each other at least. you're very loveable as well, ten.”

 

and shit, make a boy cry, why don't you?

 

ten nods and smiles to doyoung, who knows exactly what he's trying to say. he nods back, you're welcome, and smiles back too, i love you more.

 

----

 

ten remembers every single detail from the day that he was saved by a hoard of zombies by doyoung. and hell, doyoung had been alone . no taeyong or jaehyun or johnny to help him. it's almost weird and concerning to think about.

 

ten had been in a bad place, is always in a bad place if he's being honest, and was acting so fucking stupid that one would question why he wasn't the first to die in this situation. really, ten admits himself that he was stupid, because who, who would hide under a damn bridge for refuge. it wasn't likely that he would be safe at all, and because of the freeways and cars left out on the road, the place was crowded but still accessible to zombies.

 

but the bridge was fucking nice if ten had to defend himself.

 

it shaded him from the constant sun and did its job as a bridge, carried him back and forth over the water so he would have to attempt to swim and die by drowning. it was aesthetically nice to look at, too, if ten wanted to get really descriptive. it didn't light up at night anymore of course, since there was literally no one to do the damn job, but during the day it stood tall and looming. it almost looked as if it was the last standing monument that hadn't decayed yet.

 

it was like a symbol of home for ten, something familiar throughout the still silence of the whole town. he remembered coming there over and over with lisa, looking down at the view of the river while light glittered on the water. both him and lisa would come there every weekend after a hard day at work or school, minds tired and bodies aching, just to stare down at the water.

 

it was an act of calming for lisa, ten remembers. just listening to the gentle pattern of the water flowing across rocks, the sound of splashes and the wind echoing from the sturdy bricks of the brides edge. lisa had even jumped in the water once, and ten was so scared that day. scared that lisa wouldn't come out of the water, that she would come out hurt, that he would never find her again.

 

she swam out, though. her blonde and black hair was wet and drooping down the side of her face and her bangs were longer than usual, which made her look kind of funny. she smiled her chubby cheek smile at him and beckoned him in the water, but ten had refused because he'd rather not go home wet and on the verge of a cold.

 

○••○

“oh come on, ten. it's nice in here.”

 

ten snorted from his place on the grass, settling for the land and watching as suicide patrol made their way up and down the river, casting  at the top of the building in search for anyone who would jump.

 

it was scary that they even needed suicide patrol, that was what ten thought when he had first come to korea, but he guessed it was necessary. school was way harder than he thought it would be, and if you weren't doing good in it, it was no doubt that you'd get depressed thinking about how your life would turn out.

 

“i’m good, lalisa, you can swim more if you want to, though,” he told her gently, watching as her eyes fell a little in mock disappointment before they brightened again. “hey,” she said. “do you think getting on the river is better than looking down at it?”

 

ten thought about it for a moment. when looking down at the river, you could see what was inside. the rocks at the corners of the river walls and the grass at the side. the creatures swimming inside the water. you could see the beauty of it all. getting in, however, made you feel everything. you could experience the temperature of the water, whether hot or cold, and touch the life that actually inhabited the area. run your fingers down the wet rocks surfaces and feel the gentle waves of the water pushing you back lightly.

 

but ten felt that maybe looking was just as good as touching, if not better. if it's weird to think that way, ten doesn’t really care. it's one thing to admire and appreciate something beautiful, but once you get close to it, it either loses its beauty or gains more. ten didn't want to take the chance.

 

“i think-- i think that looking is better. i don't know..i just-- feel as though you appreciate it more that way.”

 

lisa hummed and perched her arms on the grass next to ten, droplets of water dripping from her chin onto tens jeans. he grimaced and pushed her away a little, and she smiled into his hand on her face.

 

“i understand what you mean,” she said. “but maybe you should open your mind a bit more to all possibilities.”

 

ten snorted. “what possibilities? this is just my perception of what you asked me.”

 

“well maybe your perception is wrong.”

 

well okay then, maybe ten’s perception of the whole thing was wrong. and looking back out into the river, ten tried to find some part of his mind that wanted to go into the river and see the goodness in it. it was there, but very faint, and the more ten looked for it, the more the feeling went away.

 

“i still don't want to get in,” ten said. “maybe next time.”

lisa rolled her eyes and sighed, starting to get out of the water herself. “fine by me,” she started. “your loss.”

 

ten nodded his head and helped her out of the river with a hand, on their way to heading home. “yeah, my loss.”

 

(ten doesn't say anything when lisa refuses to go to the bridge one night after school. she says that the lights that glimmer off the water are dimmer now.)

 

○•••○

 

doyoung had saved ten exactly two days and fourteen hours after the whole outbreak had happened. the whole virus making men and women cannibalistic and crazy had already spread rapidly. so rapidly that it was more likely for total korean domination of the horrid creatures than anyone surviving.

 

ten was under his bridge, and stupidly and carelessly, scratched a little gash into his elbow by leaning on the cement if the bridge. back then ten didn't think he’d have any consequences for it besides a bruised and hurting elbow, but was quickly proven wrong when hoards of jaw snapping zombies came running.

 

it was the scariest moment of tens life, still is, because he can still remember the looks on the creatures faces. they looked rabid and sick, desperate for anything. it was a scary look that ten couldn't place on what, but it looked far from natural. and to have tons of them looking at him like that was too much than what he could take.

 

zombies were crowding the whole perimeter of the bridge, and ten remembers being ready for death to come. fuck, back then that's what he was waiting for. just to be eaten quickly so he wouldn't have to struggle to not be eaten later. the bloody creatures had stalked up to him on skinny and flesh ridden legs, and one even had the chance of scraping its teeth along ten’s shoulder before doyoung had butted in.

 

when doyoung came, it was like a breath of fresh air from being trapped in a room where you would have suffocated to death. the skinny boy had came in with his gun literally full to the brim with bullets, knocking zombies down left and right until none was left. and truthfully, it was much more serious than how ten ever puts it, but he doesn't want to ever feel like he's experiencing it again, so he never tries to go into detail.

 

but yeah, ten is grateful. to taeil for saving his kids, and to doyoung for saving his life.

 

----

 

“so, how do we wake them up?”

 

doyoung is really looking at ten like he expects him to do the job, although he knows that's not happening. ten’s specialty is to watch the members sleep, not wake them up. that was jaehyun’s job, remember?

 

“how about you wake them up? i bet they'd love to see your face first thing in the morning for once.” ten suggests, making the tone of his voice more convincing and conniving. “not gonna happen,” doyoung says, but it was only a matter of time before the older boy said no. doyoung hated waking up the members as much as everyone else did.  

 

then the new baby comes into mind, and all of a sudden ten is all for waking them up. he’ll get to investigate with his eyes more, see if the new baby was cuter than chenle. because no one was cuter than chenle, the boy's cheeks we're just too chubby and his smile too innocent.

 

“you know what? i’ll just go wake them up.”

 

doyoung shrugs and heads his way to the car to finally bother taeil and ten goes directly to mark and his unknown companion, watching them sleep. if someone who didn't know ten was watching, they'd call it outright creepy, but in truth it was just ten staring too hard in hopes to find out something.

 

the boy mark is curled up with is impossibly small and skinny, with pale skin that has bruises blotching random areas. there's a bruise at the side of his neck and one on his hand, but they seem to be steadily healing, so ten doesn't question it as much. his hair is a bit long over his head but it frames his chubby face well, dark chestnut brown complementing mark’s black.

 

the small boy is dressed in an oversized hoodie, probably twice or thrice his original size, and his jeans look like they we're once purposefully ripped but we're now just destroyed from the horrid living conditions. mark looked more comfortable than he had looked in a while with anybody besides donghyuk, and as far as ten knows, it has only been a day. kids really do move fast these days.

 

as he's staring, he doesn't even notice the boy opening his eyes and staring right back at ten, critiquing him as well. only when their eyes meet does ten realize that the boy might have been awake this whole time, watching ten look over him like he was his next meal. ten doesn't know if he should say something or let it be, but he really wants the boy to like and find comfort in him, so he opens his mouth first and some words tumble out.

 

“you are so fucking cute.”

 

not at all what he wanted to say, but a good start. he would have mentioned it sooner or later, but his mouth and brain just didn't have the chance to update each other on what it should and should not be saying at this point in time.

 

“thank you..” the boy mutters. he voice is a raspy pitch and sort of low, but not low enough for ten to question his age. he asks anyways, though, because this is how you start conversation.

 

“how old are you? what's your name?” the boy holds up seven fingers (seven fingers!! this boy was seven years old?) and smiles a little, faintly. “i’m six, but i’ll be turning seven in a week or two. my name is jaemin.”

 

ten had always admired how easy it was for young kids to open up about themselves and say anything they want without any consequences. there wasn't any consequences for them, they were so young that even temptation hadn't kicked in besides wanting more cookies or more toys. they didn't have to be cautious of anything they said, because they didn't know what they were saying.



not that the boy, jaemin, didn't know what he was saying. ten was just stuck in his thoughts again.

 

“well, jaemin, you're really snuggled up with mark now, aren't you?” jaemin merely shrugged, not really caring that he was sharing a bed with another boy. mark was practically holding him in place, too, so it wasn't as if he could get out of the embrace if he wanted to.

 

“he's warm,” the small boy said. “he reminds me of my hyung. i haven't seen him for a long time, though. yuta hyung says i shouldn't worry.”

 

“and who’s yuta?” ten asked, brushing past the fact that jaemin actually liked cuddling with mark. donghyuk had said that the boy was too clingy and too bony and always drooled on his shoulder, but jaemin looked to be perfectly fine with it. to him, mark was warm, comforting, and definitely not drooling.

 

jaemin points to the boy in between johnny and jaehyun, and as he does this a loud cough ripples through his throat. it's the painful one, the one that feels like your throat is being ripped to pieces and is bleeding and has you hating swallowing. it brings tears to jaemin’s eyes and wakes mark up, too. it heartwarming how the first thing the boy does is pat jaemin on his back.

 

“hey, you okay?” ten asks. reaching for the boy and patting his back as well. he shakes his head no and his eyes water a bit more, and ten gestures to mark to go wake the others up. might as well get the whole story now, when taeil, doyoung and the kids are awake and the new boy is coughing his small lungs out.



when they are all up and running (not literally, ten couldn't and frankly, wouldn't run for his life if the chance came. he was way too unfit despite the situation) and seated in a medium sized circle, snacking on mixed nuts and saltine crackers does the story finally come out. jaehyun found them, no surprise there, when he'd seen a group of zombies forcing their way into a small house. the story was simple enough, and the boys he found we're brothers, but what really had ten intrigued was the relationship the older boy had, yuta his name was, with taeyong. apparently, there was some trouble in paradise and sicheng almost died, and taeyong got his sorry ass showed to by yuta.

 

wow. “so i’m guessing you guys had an interesting night?”

 

was this instigating or just teasing? ten doesn't really know, because in response he gets jaehyun’s melodious chuckle and taeyong’s glare.

 

----

 

the day was a lazy day, filled with johnny practicing his aim (as he did everyday) and taeyong lazily on watch. taeil and doyoung were with the kids, getting to know the new little one and making sure he wasn't uncomfortable. though they did find out that he was a little worse for wear, with his extreme coughing and the new headache that had started to occur, the boy seemed to be adjusting just fine. sicheng was reading some old korean books doyoung had saved from the last home he was in. the chinese boy hadn't spoken all day, just had gave everyone meaningful eye contact. he hasn't looked or interacted with taeyong all day, and he was clearly hurting, but taeyong looked to be indifferent.

 

ten was used to taeyong’s behavior, so he wasn't fazed, but yuta, sitting down in a secluded corner, looked like he wanted to beat taeyong within every inch of his life.

 

“hey,” yuta looked up, eyes softening but still stern nonetheless. the japanese boy seemed tense and uncomfortable, and his gaze constantly switched between burning eyes if fury at taeyong and a scared worry for jaemin. the little boy was not at all faring well, and was now asleep between mark and donghyuk, the boys who had immediately started coddling him. mark was already surprisingly attached to him by the hip since they had woken up, and since mark came with donghyuk, the younger boy soon followed. they had been bugging jaemin with compliments and making the boy do aegyo all day, and now that he was feeling worse, all they had done was watch over him.

 

“what do you want?” it didn't sound rude, and ten knows that yuta doesn't want to be, but it did sound angry. like he was letting all his emotion out into one question, but leaving out the screaming and crying and just sticking with the attitude. ten couldn't blame him though, since the whole thing had been pretty bad.

 

“to talk to you. maybe about taeyong, maybe not.”

 

“what's there to talk about? he's an indirect murderer who doesn't fucking care about his actions.”

 

ten really wants to go “and that's ten points to slytherin for blatantly and angrily stating the painfully obvious!” because harry potter used to be the shit and ten used to be a slut for Hogwarts houses. yuta was definitely slytherin with the way he described taeyong, but it was no doubt a true statement.

 

“okay, so maybe he is. but he thinks that he's doing the right thing, so i don't think we should hate him for that.”

 

yuta shakes his head and scoffs. “ he thinks. if he was fucking doing the right thing than everyone in this damn group would either be dead besides him, because i don't see him sacrificing his life to save someone else's. why does his life suddenly matter more?”

 

ten really hates how this kid has a point.

 

“i know that he is really sorry to sicheng, though. he didn't want to leave him behind.” he says, and hopes that it is the truth. taeyong is sorry, ten knows this, but it's contradicting when taeyong doesn't even go out of his way to say sorry for almost killing a person.

 

“well if he's sorry, he should take his sorry as and apoligize to sicheng for being so quick to leave him behind,” fuck, this is not going well for ten. “no one deserves to get left behind like that. especially just to die to “save someone else”. it's complete and utter bullshit, and i’ll say it as much as I have to.”

 

“he’ll change, I know he will. once he realizes that he's not being the hero he wants to be, he’ll change.” yuta doesn't look as satisfied with that as ten wants him to be, but he does look a little better about it. “i won't let him do it anymore,” the japanese boy says, and ten really gets a chance to look at him. he has sparkly chocolate brown eyes and a tall nose, with thin lips that look like they'll part into a beautiful smile. his hair is the same color as his brothers, a dark chestnut, maybe a bit lighter, with a defined jaw and long lashes. “not while i’m here.” he finishes.

 

“you're beautiful.” ten should really pay attention and keep his mouth shut, or at least learn to make his brain and mouth on the same page. they are causing him way too much shit.

 

“thanks,” yuta says, and he smiles to show a beautiful smile that really makes ten feel calm. a healing smike. “you're not bad yourself.”

 

“just not bad? so what, am i just not ugly?” ten laughs, and he doesn't know how they got from criticizing taeyong to talking about each other's looks, but it's a nice change. yuta looks way better smiling than glaring.

 

“no, you're beautiful, too.” he nudges tens shoulder with his and smirks. “everyone here is. even mr. murderer.” he honestly shouldn't have laughed at that, but he did, and it was great. he's hitting yuta repeatedly on the arm before he calms down.

 

“and you're brother is adorable, him, mark, and donghyuk are gonna have such lovely babies when they're older.”

 

yuta snorts and shakes his head. “if they get older,” he starts. “if men can get pregnant and have kids,” he continues. “if you could get pregnant by two people and have that baby look like all three people.”

 

“hey, anything can happen,” ten says, though most things now are unlikely. they are unlikely to survive, unlikely to be happy, unlikely to be here together. but here they are, doing the unlikely. it's not impossible, and ten hopes that it never will get to the point where it is.

 

“yeah,” yuta says. “anything can happen.”


it's a refreshing and scary thought.