Jaemin is busy staring at his microwave and telepathically willing his instant ramen to heat up faster when his apartment suddenly goes dark.
It’s not that unusual, really; he’s a college student in a shoddy little studio apartment, and he does indeed get what he pays for. He sighs, accepting defeat, and pulls his half-warm noodles out of the microwave to set them on the counter. Or in the general vicinity of the counter, anyway. It’s pitch black, and his dinner may or may not end up in the sink. As long as it doesn’t spill, Jaemin doesn’t care all that much.
He wipes his hands on the denim covering his thighs, fumbling around in the dark till he finds the couch to use as a guide toward the front door. He runs a hand over the back cushions as he crosses the room, and then he’s throwing the door open to politely ask his landlord to deal with whatever happened this time. (Lately, the excuses have been getting good―he wants to hear what she comes up with tonight. Mostly because he has an ongoing bet with Mark and Johnny on the third floor, but he’s confident that his proposed “a pigeon died in the breaker box” is coming any day now.)
When he swings the door nearly off its hinges, the figure standing on his front step is decidedly not his unpleasant middle-aged landlord. It’s a boy about his age, with a round face and long legs and the most piercing eyes Jaemin has ever seen; if he didn’t know better, he’d swear he saw a spark behind those irises. As it is, though, the guy just takes another step toward the door jamb, droplets of water raining down onto the welcome mat Jaemin’s best friend Jeno bought him as an apartment-warming gift, and says, “You have to let me hide here,” in a voice like honey edged with something sharp.
Jaemin is a breath away from telling the boy that he has to do no such thing, but then he gets a good look at the visitor on his doorstep and has second thoughts. He’s beautiful, sure, in the way gracefully striking cobras and brightly coloured plants are beautiful―only as captivating as they are dangerous. More than that, though, he’s filthy. He’s soaked, and the sleeves of his grey hoodie are torn to shreds, and his hands are covered in something black and chalky, like ash, but more substantial. His silver hair shines with the moisture, and even without the help of artificial lighting the strands seem to glow in the night. He reaches out to Jaemin, probably to grab the door handle and let himself in since Jaemin has been silent for several long moments now, and it’s then Jaemin notices that the boy’s sleeves aren’t torn; they’re burnt.
“Come in,” he says, because the guy clearly needs help and a nice, warm shower. There’s a pause, only half a heartbeat, as the boy looks over his shoulder, then he’s crossing into Jaemin’s living room and Jaemin is shutting the door behind him.
Of course, Jaemin realizes a second later that he’d forgotten about the power outage. “Where’s your circuit breaker?” the guy asks without preamble.
Jaemin opts to take his hand and lead him through the dark rather than blindly explain it, and something thrums in his veins at the touch but he ignores it. Once they’ve crammed themselves into Jaemin’s laundry room, the boy tells Jaemin to close his eyes. It seems a little asinine, and definitely unnecessary, considering it’s still pitch black around them. Jaemin listens, anyway.
There’s a flash behind his eyelids, then a brief flicker of darkness before the lights turn on. “Open them,” the boy says, and Jaemin does. He considers asking how the boy managed to do that, but he thinks better of it.
“Wanna shower?” he asks instead, and the boy nods. Jaemin shows him to the bathroom, demonstrates how the shower works, and lays out a towel. Then he looks down at the guy’s clothes and grimaces. “I’ll get you something to change into.”
He rushes to his room, grabbing a random pair of sweatpants and a hoodie with his school’s logo on it before walking back to the bathroom to find the boy already in the shower. He sets the clothes on the counter and turns on his heel to get out as soon as possible, but a burst of light stops him in his tracks. He turns, slowly, quietly, and the boy doesn’t seem to notice his presence so he holds his breath and waits. He doesn’t even come up for air before another deluge of light flares up from inside the shower. It looks like fireworks.
Jaemin promptly flees the scene, shutting the door quietly behind him and busying himself with throwing out the congealed ramen that he’d abandoned in the sink earlier. It only takes a minute to clean the dishes, and then he’s left standing there looking awkward in his own kitchen because he can’t process what he’s just seen. He plops down on the couch in a poor attempt to look casual, flicking on the TV to find something to pretend to watch. He scrolls through several sports channels, cartoon reruns, and a lot of reality TV he can’t even bring himself to act interested in. Finally, he lands on the news, because he likes to be up to date with the world anyway, so he might as well be semi-productive while he tries to decipher what his new housemate is up to.
As it turns out, he gets his answer from an unexpected source. He’s nearly dozing off to the weather when the broadcast cuts to the main story: the assassination of the president. That’s enough to jolt him awake on its own, but then the announcer goes on to describe the suspects, and right there on Jaemin’s shitty little flatscreen is the face of the boy currently occupying his shower.
Donghyuck Lee, it says under a pixelated approximation of his sharp features, right next to another boy with bright orange hair who is apparently Chenle Zhong, accomplice. According to the news anchor, Chenle was taken down on site, so he’s probably off somewhere getting interrogated by the FBI or the CIA or whoever else deals with the incredibly niche event of a presidential assassination. As for Donghyuck, there’s a number scrolling across the bottom of the screen with an outrageous monetary offer for any information on his whereabouts.
Naturally, Jaemin texts his best friend. “jen i think i have a murderer in my apt,” is probably not the ideal way to start a conversation, but Jaemin figures in this case it’s best to be direct.
All he gets in reply is a confused, “what,” which is fair.
“look at the news,” Jaemin prompts. “donghyuck is in my shower rn.”
“oh shit,” is all Jeno can say before the bathroom door is swinging open. Jaemin looks at the little dots that bounce as Jeno types, sighing as he locks his phone and slides it into his pocket to turn his attention to the TV once again.
That proves to be a mistake, which maybe Jaemin should’ve seen coming. Donghyuck looks at Jaemin, follows his line of sight to the TV screen, and back to Jaemin before narrowing his eyes. Jaemin expects Donghyuck to accuse him, or demand to know what he saw, but he doesn’t say anything. He just stares into Jaemin’s soul, and the sparks dancing in his eyes are a lot more terrifying now that Jaemin knows they’re real.
Jaemin opens his mouth like he’s going to say something, but Donghyuck cuts him off, which is probably for the better, considering Jaemin’s currently feeling very out of his depth. “Why are you looking at me like that?” he asks, which Jaemin thinks is a little unfair because Donghyuck is eyeing him up like he’s half a second away from frying him to death. Maybe he is.
“You’re, uh. You’re on TV,” Jaemin replies lamely, because he knows Donghyuck knows and there’s no point in denying it. Even if he’d thought to change the channel, the news is probably everywhere, anyway, in one of those little emergency banners at the bottom of the screen. The president being found dead by electrocution is not a story that can be avoided simply by watching cringy late night TV.
Donghyuck doesn’t look mad, which is possibly more horrifying than if he’d gone into a fit of rage. He just says, “Again?” like it’s a mild inconvenience and sticks a hand out in the direction of the TV. He spreads his hand out, fingertips stretching toward the flatscreen. Jaemin doesn’t even have time to react before literal lightning is striking his TV and sending sparks flying around the living room. Jaemin covers his head with his arms, and it only stings a little when little pinpricks of electricity land on his skin.
Jaemin looks up after a moment, staring at his half-melted TV, and Donghyuck lowers his hand and turns to Jaemin. They lock eyes, and neither one of them move until they hear a knock on the door and Jaemin jumps a solid foot off the couch.
“Are they here for you?” he blurts in his panic, and immediately wishes he hadn’t.
Donghyuck just shrugs. “They wouldn’t know I’m here unless you told them,” he shoots back with a pointed look at the demolished flatscreen. “But I’ll handle this.” Jaemin doesn’t know what that means, but he nods anyway. Donghyuck moves toward the door, pausing to tilt Jaemin’s chin up with a gentle finger. “Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to you.” That’s not exactly Jaemin’s biggest concern at the moment―being an accessory to the assassination of the president is slightly higher up the list―but he lets Donghyuck go.
He instantly regrets it when he hears Jeno’s sweet voice say, “Nana?” through the crack Donghyuck has opened the door. Jaemin whips his head around, eyes meeting his best friend’s over Donghyuck’s shoulder. “Are you―”
He’s cut off by a sizzling sound, flashes of light dancing between his chest and Donghyuck’s open palm. Jaemin shoots up from the couch, closing the distance between them in a few long strides. He moves to grab onto Donghyuck and pull his arm away, but Donghyuck shakes his head and drops his arm, electricity fizzling out on his fingertips. “Don’t touch me when I’m using my powers,” he says as Jeno falls to the ground. “You’ll get electrocuted.”
Normally, Jaemin would point out how obvious that statement is, and clearly that isn’t the issue at hand, but he’s too busy pushing past Donghyuck to crouch down and cradle Jeno’s limp body to pay much attention to anything else. There’s a smattering of black across his chest, just like Donghyuck had on his hands when he showed up just hours ago, and Jaemin belatedly realizes it’s a scorch mark. He only realizes he's crying when he feels the tears streaming down his cheeks, but he makes no move to wipe them away as he turns to glare up at Donghyuck.
“Why did you do it?” he demands as well as he can with his stuttered breath. He feels like he's suffocating; his throat burns.
Donghyuck just blinks at him. “You told him. He was a liability.” He says it like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and maybe to him, it is.
Jaemin scowls at him, angry tears dripping onto Jeno’s still chest. “Not Jeno,” he says, and his best friend’s name is only two syllables but he chokes on it all the same. He can't bear to hear Donghyuck speak so clinically about murdering his best friend in cold blood, so he deflects. “Why did you kill the president?” It's not his most pressing question, but he thinks it will produce the most telling answer.
Donghyuck tilts his head, like he’s considering his response, then kneels so he’s eye level with Jaemin. “I was playing a prank with my best friend.”
“Chenle?” Jaemin cuts in. He runs a hand through Jeno's hair as a tear drips right onto his best friend's cheekbone, snaking its way down his face. Jeno is paling fast, colour washing out of his skin with every tear Jaemin sheds.
Donghyuck nods. “Yeah, Chenle. He dared me to shut down the White House’s security for a day―said I couldn’t do it. But I did.” He smiles, and Jaemin cries harder. “Anyway, they caught us on the way out. We’re a good team, and we fought a lot of them off. Chenle’s hydrokinetic. Water and electricity are pretty deadly, y’know? But they got him. I dunno who, but somebody shot him. Probably a lot of them, actually.” Donghyuck does look livid now, and the raw energy ignited behind his eyes is the most terrifying thing Jaemin has ever seen. “So I killed the president. Eye for an eye, right?” He says it so offhandedly, Jaemin nearly expects him to wave it off altogether.
Jaemin doesn’t think assassinating the leader of the country is really something to be so flippant about, but he’s also starting to get the sense that Donghyuck isn’t easily reasoned with, if at all. “So why did you kill my best friend?” he asks instead, because he feels like he deserves an answer, as much as he doesn't want one. The middle of his chest is already hollowing out, a massive cavity left where his heart once sat. “You know how much it hurts, and he didn’t do anything to you.”
Donghyuck shrugs a shoulder. “He knew. I’m not going to prison before I take out every single one of those fuckers who killed Chenle. Couldn’t risk it.”
If he thought about it logistically, Jaemin would know Donghyuck is right, on some level; loose ends aren’t an option when you’re on the run from the national government. But holding his best friend’s cooling body in his arms doesn’t make Jaemin very inclined to think analytically. He chokes on another sob. Donghyuck cradles Jaemin’s jaw in his hands, guiding him to meet his eyes. “C’mon, we need to get out of the doorway. Can you stand?”
Jaemin suddenly realizes they’ve been sitting in broad daylight all this time, and if he wasn’t so preoccupied with grief, he’d wonder why it took Donghyuck so long to care about that significant detail. As it is, Donghyuck just helps him to his feet and slings one of Jeno’s arms over his shoulders, dragging him into the living room and shutting the door behind him. Jaemin's mind statics out, like it's finally had enough and refuses to process anything else. “I got him,” Donghyuck says with a nod toward the couch. “You just relax.”
Jaemin does as he’s told, because he doesn’t know what else to do. He has a wanted murderer and threat to national security milling around in his apartment, which makes him an accessory to said crimes, and he’s just lost the person he loves most in this world. He stares blankly at his annihilated TV and thinks yeah, this is it. This is how he dies, and no one will ever know. Someone will find him (and Jeno) weeks from now after his professors report he hasn’t been showing up to class and maybe they’ll figure out it was Donghyuck but he’ll be long gone by then, probably off to cook every Secret Service member he can get his hands on.
Jaemin has nearly accepted his impending fate when Donghyuck walks back into the room and plants himself in front of Jaemin’s outstretched legs. “Nana?” he asks, prodding at Jaemin’s shin with his foot.
Jaemin doesn’t answer for a small eternity. It feels so wrong, hearing the childhood nickname reserved only for Jeno coming from someone else’s mouth. Especially someone like Donghyuck. Jaemin feels bile rise in his throat, but he swallows it back down. “My name is Jaemin,” he says, because he can’t bear the thought of Donghyuck addressing him like that again, even if he doesn’t have much longer to live, anyway.
“Okay, Jaemin,” Donghyuck repeats. He moves forward, as if to touch Jaemin, and Jaemin flinches. Donghyuck must notice, because he straightens back up and frowns. “You don’t have to be scared of me.”
Jaemin would laugh, if this whole situation wasn’t so fucked. “You killed the president, and most of his security team, and my best friend. I’m not scared of you.” Donghyuck tilts his head, like he wasn’t expecting that. Jaemin finally meets his eyes. “I fucking hate you.” You’ve ended my life, whether you kill me or not, he doesn’t say. Whether he gets caught or killed or stuck with Donghyuck, Jaemin’s life is over. There is no good option here, and anger is Jaemin's only defense.
Donghyuck seems to disagree. He steps forward between Jaemin’s legs, bending down so he’s at Jaemin’s eye level. “Aw, baby, don’t you see?” He slides a hand onto Jaemin’s throat, thumb brushing across his jaw. Jaemin's whole body buzzes. “I’m not the bad guy here. I’m gonna protect you.”
Jaemin shoots him a glare. “Who will protect me from you, then?”
Donghyuck just smiles, thumb still stroking gentle circles across Jaemin’s jawbone. “I told you I won’t let anything happen to you, didn’t I?” It’s not an answer, and they both know it. Jaemin doesn’t care anymore. He nods, just so Donghyuck will drop it. “Good boy,” is all Donghyuck says before he leans in, pressing their lips together.
Jaemin sees sparks fly, feels fire in his veins, and then the world goes dark.