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and have been cold a long time

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When it gets cold, Jihoon's leg stings. The pain, he knows, is psychosomatic, but it slows him down all the same.

"So you picked up winter hiking," Mooyul grunts as they crunch through frost-dried grasses. "Smart," and Jihoon has learned from Mireu that this is when he's supposed to smack Mooyul on the head, so he does.

Hiking, like everything else, is forbidden, but since returning from Christmas, Mooyul hasn't cared about the rules. Jihoon never did. They stand on a makeshift ledge of snow, peering down. "Humans are so heavy," Jihoon murmurs. Thinks of bodies, lighter than breath, falling.

*

"You photograph well when you're not posing."

"Is this how you ask for a favor?" Eunsung snaps. She dusts the powder snow off the handrail before leaning against it. When Kangmo swoops in for a closeup, she resists the urge to smack his camera away.

"You don't have to force yourself." Kangmo's voice, muffled behind the camera, is impersonal and light, but you don't spend eight days under gunpoint and not learn the difference.

"I'm not," she tells him. When his shutter clicks, her wrist itches. That's how the photo catches her: perfectly exposed, touching her wrist, face turned away.

*

Stealing Yoonsu's guitar is enough penalty points for an expulsion. Still, Mireu's not worried. The last thing Susin would want is for one of their eight heroes to be a dropout.

Burning, smashing, laying it by the statute as a memorial — Mireu considers all his options. Eventually he chooses the most obvious one and appropriates the speakers too. "You can play?" Mooyul asks innocently as Mireu blows on his fingers.

"Not at all," he admits, strumming a broken chord.

"Maybe don't start with busking then," Mooyul says, and ducks the wad of snow Mireu scoops up with the headstock.

*

For Youngjae's birthday, they throw him a surprise party in his room. Mooyul and Eunsung bake a cake. Mireu plays a terrible math rock song Jihoon composed. Jaekyu offers Youngjae a pair of earplugs during it. "Present," he says seriously.

"You're all just mocking me," Youngjae grumbles. His fingers quiver over Jaekyu's neatly wrapped package.

"Aish, some people are never happy," Mireu says, and smashes cake into Youngjae's face.

After the food fight, the frosting is everywhere, including in Kangmo's ear piece. "Snowball fight?" his advisor asks later, peering at his negatives. Then, "Kangmo? Is it cold in this room?"

*

The new P.E. teacher has no judo experience. "Almost an Olympic swimmer though." She smiles apologetically as Jaekyu helps her put away basketballs. He hesitates, nods.

Learning from books and videos is sloppy, but Jaekyu doesn't care. Mostly he just likes the dojo. It's close enough to the exterior that he can hear the woods outside. Once he fell asleep, and dreamed he was being buried by snow, each flake knife sharp in his hand. He woke to the sound of ice melting.

"First day of spring," Jihoon remarks the next day.

"Like a fever breaking," Jaekyu said.

Jihoon understands.