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The Marks That Define Us

Chapter Text

Jihoon is used to living with six boys. He is used to living with boys who wield abilities. Abilities which make them special, and especially annoying to deal with. Because of that, he is not really surprised to come back home to a total chaos.

He was at work the whole day, his boss being a little piece of shit, and he comes home to the maknae pinned on the ceiling with the culprit sitting on the couch smirking up at the kid.

What did I do to deserve this?

"Hao put him down." In response the boys turn to look at him, just now noticing his presence. Chan's features lite up like a Christmas tree while Minghao pouts in his direction. Jihoon would be lying if he said that the small gesture did nothing to his heart.

"But hyung he was being a brat." Jihoon sighs and makes his way into the living room, plopping on the couch next to Minghao. He gives the boy to him a look before switching his gaze over to the ceiling.

"Chan what did you do?" The maknae keeps his mouth shut and looks away, instead choosing to focus on pushing against the air currents currently keeping him captive against the ceiling.

"Chan don't make me ask twice or I'll leave you there." Jihoon is tired and stressed, he really doesn't have the energy to deal with his roommates' drama.

The threat in Jihoon's tone makes Chan look down at them and with a surrendering sigh he rambles out.

"Minghao-hyung didn't let me leave with Wonwoo-hyung and Mingyu-hyung to go for an errand run and I tried to sneak out." His confession really makes Jihoon want to slam his own head into a wall. You would think that after years of living together the maknae would know to listen to Seungcheol and stay at home during errand runs.

"Kid you got yourself into this. I honestly don't know what you were expecting from Hao. To just let you go?" The tone of Jihoon's voice makes Chan look at the floor guiltily and Jihoon almost feels bad. Almost.

"I know hyung but I'm old enough to help. I don't want to be a freeloader anymore." The sadness Jihoon and Minghao hear in Chan's voice makes the Chinese boy float the youngest back to the couch. Chan plops down next to them and leans onto Minghao's shoulder. Jihoon's heart twists at the sight and he sighs before carding his hand through Chan's hair.

"We don't think of you as a freeloader kid. You're fifteen, we don't want you on the streets yet unless absolutely necessary. Mingyu and Wonwoo started because at that time the situation was really bad and they continued because they were good at it." His words carried over to Chan and the youngest felt his heart swell.

He looked up from Minghao's shoulder to look into the shorter boy's eyes and a small smile broke out on his face.

"I know that hyung. Do you promise not to hesitate to send me out if the situation gets bad?" The kid like innocence in Chan's eyes and voice makes Minghao and Jihoon curse inwardly because damn it he still is a kid. They all were. Instead of voicing any of his thoughts Minghao answers for the both of them.

"We promise Chan, as long as you promise not to try and sneak out again." There's a teasing note mixed in and the three chuckle before Chan reluctantly nods his head.

It was at that moment that the front door opened again and Mingyu and Wonwoo stepped in, panting. There's grins on their faces so the three in the room are not worried, and as the boys hold up two big bags of groceries the three jump up and run to them. It was kind of sad to be honest, but the food was hard to get by.

"Dino please make sure you don't inhale everything, it's suppose to last us." Mingyu says with a fond smile as the maknae takes the bag out of his hands and heads for the kitchen to sort out the groceries, not even replying, Minghao trailing behind him with Wonwoo's bag.

"Hyung we're gonna go and shower, be back in a few." Wonwoo takes the opportunity while Mingyu is talking to sprint up the stairs.

"I'm using the big bathroom!" Mingyu snaps into action just as quick.

"Not fair Hyung I called it first!" Jihoon shakes his head at the kids. It really is interesting to live with a bunch of overgrown children. He goes and settles back on the couch waiting for them to come back.

As soon as the two enter the living room freshly showered Jihoon pulls them to sit on either side of him. Mingyu automatically buries his head in Jihoon's neck while Wonwoo, forever trying to be 'tougher' than the rest, lays his head on the shorter's shoulder. Jihoon shakes his head lightly and grabs their hands, lightly massaging the back of their palms with his thumbs.

"You did good. Don't stress over it." Jihoon knows. He knows how hard it is and how guilty they feel about stealing, taking someone's hard earned money. But it's the only way that they're able to survive, and with Wonwoo and Mingyu having non obvious abilities made it easier for them to slip past the Guards.

"Hyung I do this for the younger ones so that they don't have to, and so that we can all have full stomachs but it still makes me feel like shit." Mingyu's voice is small and tired. Jihoon just shushes him and resumes his caressing.

"Gyu you can stop any time you want baby, nobody is forcing you into it." Mingyu actually snorts at Wonwoo's aloof words and Jihoon swears he can feel him rolling his eyes behind closed eyelids against his neck.

"Stop trying to be a badass Woo, you're not fooling anyone." And yap, that's a slap to the arm. Mingyu yanks back with a small laugh bubbling past his lips and Jihoon chuckles as Wonwoo glares jokingly at the tall boy.

"Okay kids no fighting now." The look the taller boys share should've warned Jihoon but he really wasn't paying attention. So he maybe, kind of, perhaps, let out an overly girly scream as he was lifted up over Mingyu's head as if he weighted nothing.

"Jihoon I'm older than you in case you forgot." Wonwoo's words register and Jihoon kicks weakly at Mingyu's arms, not really wanting to hurt the boy.

"But I'm older than this guy and I demand respect." Jihoon hears Mingyu let out a laugh and he mentally sighs in relief knowing that the boys are back to their old selves.

"You might be older hyung but I am way taller." Wonwoo saw Jihoon's eyebrows twitch and he honestly felt bad for Mingyu even though he had it coming.

"Kim Mingyu put me down this instant."

"Nope."

"Chan you have permission to teleport  him wherever you want!" The maknae appears along with Minghao at the sound of his nme being called and they stand st the doorway just watching the scene unfold. I mean how many times are they going to be able to se Jihoon- hyung being held up like a baby? Okay almost every day because their house was anything but normal.

"Hao hold my juice."

The maknae makes his way towards the three and Wonwoo steps away with his hand up in surrender, barely containing his laughter. Mingyu almost look scared of the maknae for a second before flashing him his smile, canines and all.

"Not again! Hyung please I've been here already." Minghao leans against the wall for support as laughter echoes around the room. Jihoon despite his predicament can't help but laugh too while Mingyu and Wonwoo stand confused.

"What did we miss?" It's a question not really aimed at a particular person and Chan throws a glare In Mingyu's direction.

"Hyung put me down, Hao-hyung glued me to the ceiling already can you not, please?" Jihoon chuckles and finally wiggles out of Mingyu's grasp and the tall boy doesn't offer much resistance. He knows it's kind of a dirty move considering Mingyu has to focus to use telekinesis but hey, life's not fair.

"Gyu let the poor kid down, otherwise he might throw a tantrum." Wonwoo says as he tries to calm down his laughter. Minghao sits on the couch pulling the older with him while Jihoon stands next to Mingyu as they look up at the maknae in amusement.

"Hyungs I am not a kid." Chan lets out and bangs his fist against the ceiling, the only parts of his body that he can actually move.

"You know Dino, doing that really doesn't help your case." Chan shoots Mingyu a dirty look and the older chuckles before slowly lowering him back on the ground. As soon as Chan's feet are firmly planted on the carpet he doesn't waste time. He disappears and a milisecond later he's clinging onto Mingyu's back like a koala, the latter stumbling backwards trying to regain his balance.

"Who's laughing now hyung?" To tell you the truth Jihoon would've expected them all to be exhausted by now, considering it's almost midnight and these kids are hyperactive during the day, but no. Here they are wrestling and laughing, himself along with them. He turns to look at Wonwoo and Minghao who by now mostly lost interest, all of this is old new by now.

Jihoon still notices the small smile gracing Wonwoo's lips so he sits next to him and nudges him with his elbow. Wonwoo turns to him and raises an eyebrow in question and Jihoon nods his head in the direction of the still wrestling boys on the living room floor.

"How are they looking?" Wonwoo smiled fondly and that already tells Jihoon all that he has to know.

"Chan is just plain happy. Mingyu is a little faint from the errand but his aura is shining with joy. They're looking good." They settle into a comfortable silence then, leaning onto each other, the only noise coming from the boys with tangled limbs on the plush carpet.

"Dino get your dirty socks out of my face!" The makne in response chuckles like a maniac and for a second it snaps Minghao out of his daze. The Chinese boy takes that chance and lays down on the couch, bringing his legs to rest over the older boys' laps and neither of them complains. He settles down and a few seconds later he's out like a light.

One down and two to go.

The noise from the floor settled down and he turns around to see Mingyu and Chan laying on their backs side by side panting with big grins plastered on their faces.

Wonwoo is already nodding of on his shoulder and Jihoon feels sorry to wake him up but he doesn't really have much choice. He puts a hand on Wonwoo's shoulder and shakes him gently. Wonwoo's head snaps up and he blinks tiredly before taking one look at Jihoon and understanding the situation right away.

Wonwoo gently removes Minghao's feet from his lap and gets up. He nudges Mingyu's leg with his foot as he approaches and the tan boy looks up at him from his place on the floor with a big grin.

"Come on Gyu, we should go and shower and head to bed, Seunghcheol hyung and Hoshi will probably have some stuff for us to do when they get back in the morning. Plus, Chan is already out." And true to his words that maknae is asleep in a starfish position in the middle of the floor.

Mingyu grins before reaching a hand up and Wonwoo pulls him with little effort to his feet. The former casts a look at Jihoon and Minghao laying on the couch and smiles.

"Hyung aren't you going to bed too?" Jihoon is snapped put of his thoughts and Mingyu chuckles softly noticing that the other is distracted.

"Wait five more minutes, Hyung and Hoshi are back." Mingyu and Wonwoo are slightly shocked with the news as the others shouldn't have been back untill tomorrow. Not a second later the lock on the front door turns and two hunched over figures enter. Wonwoo is the first to walk to them and wrap Hoshi up in a hug, Mingyu right behind him wrapping his arms around their leader's frame.

"Welcome back hyung." It's a whisper almost and as they switch, with Hoshi now standing in Mingyu's arms the smaller boy leans into him and sighs happily.

"It's good to be back. Even though it's been a day." Mingyu nods and tightens his arms around Hoshi's shoulders.

"I didn't really know If you would make it back safely this time." Mingyu's words make Hoshi gather up some strength and wrap his arms around his waist.

"There's never a guarantee Gyu. But we always do. We always will." Hoshi's words help calm the storm in Mingyu's mind and heart.

"Why exactly is Chan sleeping on the floor?" Seungcheol's exclamation makes them pull back, Mingyu with a small laugh and Hoshi with a look of confusion. They walk back into the living room and Seungcheol kneeling next to Chan, who somehow succeeded in latching onto one of Seungcheol's thighs and is now using it as a pillow.

"Hi hyung." Hoshi greets Jihoon with a small smile and the latter nods tiredly in aknowledgement. Hoshi walks past them and throws himself face first on the other couch in the room, Mingyu plopping down next to his legs, before peeking out on the side and grinning at their leader.

"He's dreaming of using smores as pillows hyung." The rest breaks out into quiet laughter and Seungcheol shoots him a playful glare.

"You could've lied about what you saw in his dream smart ass." Hoshi in response sticks out his tongue and turns to lay on his back, tugging at Mingyu's hand so the tall boy is nestled between his legs with his head on Hoshi's chest. Mingyu settles down with a sigh and closes his eyes, falling asleep immediately.

"Hyung don't try to be a macho man we all know you're just as soft as the smores." Wonwoo appears in the room holding a pile of blankets and pillows.

"If you weren't carrying those things I would've burned you." The threat is as real as one coming from a puppy. Wonwoo has the audacity to roll his eyes before passing out the blankets and pillows. He covers Minghao and Jihoon with one and props Jihoon's head with a pillow, sleeping sitting up can't be comfortable.

He passes another two blankets and pillows to Seungcheol who resigned himself to his fate of sleeping on the floor with the maknae. The leader not so gently removed Chan's head from his thigh and shoved a pillow under Chan's head before covering him with a blanket before doing the same with himself.

Finally, Wonwoo approached the other couch and automatically Hoshi wiggled upwards along with Mingyu to make space for the third person. Wonwoo laid a blanket over Mingyu's back and traced the boy's cheek lightly with his hand.

"I want some attention too you know." Hoshi, the mood maker. Wonwoo rolls his eyes playfully and presses a kiss to Hoshi's forehead and the latter sighs happily. He settles at the bottom of the couch, somehow maneuvering himself so his head is resting on Hoshi's thigh and he pulls the final blanket over himself.

"Good night Woo."

"Night Hoshi."

 

It's safe to say that living with six boys with abilities makes for some interesting stories. Neither of the seven knew though, what the future is ready to throw at them.

         

Chapter Text

"Come on Mingyu it's time to go." Seungcheol's voice carries through the house and a moment later Mingyu appears at the top of the stairs, hair ruffled from sleep and eyes dazed. Seungcheol gives him a sympathetic smile as the younger makes his way down.

"Did you sleep well?" In response to Seungcheol's question Mingyu shuffles closer and drops his head on the leader's shoulder.

"Nightmare." It's muffled by Seungcheol's shirt but he still makes out the word and sighs, carding one hand through Mingyu's hair lightly.

"How about you go to bed when we get back? I'm sure that by then Wonwoo and Hoshi will be here." Mingyu hums and lifts his head up giving Seungcheol a grateful smile. The latter pats him on the back lightly then pulls him along outside.

The forest air is clear and it's still early enough that the ground is covered with a layer of dew. The boys pull their jackets tighter around themselves as the cold morning air nips at their skin. Mingyu takes a moment to close his eyes and take a deep breath. It's these small moments that represent their freedom. Small moments when they are able to forget the cruel world that they live In. The world that they have to fight to live in.

A hand on his arm snaps him out of his thoughts and he opens his eyes to find Seungcheol looking at him with amusement dancing in his eyes.

"Gyu I never took you for a nature lover." Mingyu rolls his eyes and continues walking down the barely visible path. It's an hour long walk just to reach the outskirts of the city so they settle on a comfortable pace.

"Hyung we're going to be dead tired when we get back." There is a suggestive note hiding in the somber way the words left his mouth and Seungcheol actually snorts.

"We're still not getting a car Mingyu." Mingyu makes a show of snapping his fingers before letting out a small laugh. It was a topic that had been brought up a lot in the recent months. But Mingyu understood the whys. The most obvious one is that they can't afford one, not even if they cut down on the money they spend on food, and they can't do that. The second being that it's too dangerous.

Cars are a luxury in the current world. If you have one you either are a part of The Guard or you stole it, there is no in between. Driving one automatically makes you a target for investigation and Seungcheol can't have that happen. They've lived in that forest for the past eight years, if they were found out now, all that they have been working so hard for and fighting for would've been in vain.

Dino would get caught.

That's what pained Mingyu the most. Chan is still a kid, born with a Mark sure, but to some extent he was still oblivious to the dangers that plague the streets. The Guards were brutal and if you get caught and thrown into one of their Facilities- Mingyu shudders at the thought. No, that certainly can't happen.

The Marks...are a curse, Mingyu was sure of that. If they weren't one, why would Carats be hunted? Mingyu unconsciously tugs at the sleeve of his jacket, riding it up, and glances down. There it was, The Mark. As a kid, Mingyu had been fascinated with it, tracing the interesting pattern etched in the skin on the inside of his left wrist. It appeared just before his fourth birthday and he used to hide it from his parents, as if it was something wrong to have. He learned the hard way that he was right in doing so.

"Gyu?" Seungcheol's voice makes Mingyu come back to reality and he takes note of the city looming before them. They're almost there.

"You spaced out when we got going, and for the past twenty minutes you've been rubbing at your Mark, everything okay?" Mingyu glances at the older before moving his gaze down to the pattern.

"I thought it looked like a heartbeat as a kid, now it looks... like a triangle?" Mingyu's words make Seungcheol rub at the spot under his collarbone, where his Mark is.

"It does, maybe the triangle represents life?" Mingyu looks at him dubiously and tugs the sleeve of his jacket back down before throwing on a grin and linking his arms behind his head. He trails a bit behind the leader, eyes sweeping over the sky peeking through the leaves and branches.

"To me it looks a bit like a number." It's more of a thought to himself but Seungcheol hears him anyways and throws him a backwards glance furrowing his eyebrows.

"Yeah? Which number?" Mingyu looks back down at the older and shrugs.

"Seventeen." Seungcheol rolls his eyes and tugs at Mingyu's hand so they're walking side by side.

"You really are something else Gyu."

"And proud of it." Laughter echoes through the forest and the boys find a momentary escape in it. The relaxed atmosphere doesn't last long though, ten minutes later they're at the end of their road. The gates of the city ahead of them.

It's interesting, how a city that once stood tall is now barely holding on to a thread. The two boys crouch down behind some trees and observe the Guards at the Gate. They walk like lifeless robots, their movements are like clockwork and it's creepy to think that those are actual humans. Seungcheol throws Mingyu a glance and the latter nods in understanding. They practically crawl a few meters to the right, untill they're facing the wodden part of the wall. The planks are sturdy and hard, and there is no way to break them without making noise, but they don't need to break them. The Guards switch positions and three steps later..

"Three...two....one...Go!" They take of at a sprint, heading for a patch of planks in the middle of the wall. As they reach the tall structure, Mingyu can hear Seungcheol counting under his breath but he shuts it out and instead focuses on the task at hand. He takes a deep breath and a moment later the two big planks in front of him shudder and creak as they're moved towards the inside. As soon as the space in between is big enough Seungcheol squeezes his way through, Mingyu a second behind him. When they're both through Mingyu relaxes and the planks go back to their original positions.

"You've gotten faster at that." Seungcheol pats Mingyu on the back and the younger smiles and shakes his head to clear the dizzy spell that overtook him.

"You're still getting those?" There's worry clearly written all over the oldest's face and Mingyu grins, not liking the look on the other's face.

"Don't worry hyung, they're getting rarer." Seungcheol throws him a doubtful look but chooses to accept it.

They look around and thankfully the spot is as deserted as it has been for the past eight years. The two don't hesitate anymore and weave between fallen and abandoned buildings, avoiding the urban areas as long as they can.

Seoul. Once a great city is now sitting in shambles. The buildings are barely even that anymore, people live on the streets, and those who don't are in constant danger of being robbed. The War from over twenty years ago and the economic crisis took a big toll on every city in the world. There is not one known country that has a stable government and functional living spaces. Most cities are just like Seoul, with The Guard on top and people on the bottom. People doesn't include all people, Carats are shot down at sight since the day The War started and to this day no one knows the real reason.

If you have a Mark you run and you don't look back. Mingyu knows that each and every one of his friends are at the place where they are because they were either thrown out like trash or they ran away on their own. The tall boy glances at the leader as they run over fallen walls and roofs. Seungcheol is the one they have to thank for being all together. Mingyu has to thank him for giving him a place to call home and people to call a family when his own made his life a hell.

"We're almost at the place." Mingyu looks ahead and sure enough, the black roof with a single metal plate is glinting in the distance.

"What do they have for us?" The people who are desperate enough to employ Carats to do their dirty work usually pay with food or clothes so Mingyu was hoping for a new hoodie. A kid can hope.

"Cash." Mingyu almost lands on his face were it not for Seungcheol's hand to steady him.

"Cash?!" That never happened before. The people are either loaded or stupid. Mingyu was willing to bet it was the latter.

"Yeah, apparently the word is out that there are some secrets in the old facility towards Daegu and they want someone to search it." Mingyu looks at him with shock clearly written on his face.

"Hyung we can't leave Seoul!" Seungcheol throws him a sly smirk and picks up the pace.

"We aren't going to. But they don't have to know that." Mingyu can only wonder how they all exactly survived up untill this point.

"So what? We're just going to go home and come back here in a few days to say we found nothing?" Mingyu thought it was a stupid plan honestly, but he trusts their leader with everything he has.

"It does sound pretty dumb but tru-" Seungcheol's words cut off as he halts his movement completely, Mingyu automatically mimicking him confused but instantly on alert. He opens his mouth to ask but Seungcheol raises a hand to stay quiet so he does.

"Heat." That one word is enough for Mingyu to understand. Heat signatures mean people and people mean trouble. Mingyu doesn't raise his voice more than a whisper.

"Hyung maybe we shou-" before he can finish Seungcheol grabs his hand and tugs him so they're crouched behind some fallen concrete. A few moments later they can hear the pounding of footsteps as they approach and a moment more they see the sources. Mingyu is puzzled when he sees two boys, probably around his age sprinting and coming to a stop not ten steps in front of them.

"Coups should we-" but the leader shushes him. He turns back and watches as the two boys try to catch their breath and keep looking behind their backs. They're so close that they can actually hear what they're saying. Now, Mingyu was taught not to eavesdrop but honestly he's done things which were worse. So he listens.

"Hyung if we don't leave now they'll catch us we need to go!" The slightly shorter boy practically hissed at the apparently older one with panic practically oozing off of him. The other looks around before grabbing the shorter by the shoulders.

"Seungkwan, i need you to hide. Don't talk and listen. I need you to hide. We've been running for far too long and they've caught up. I can't keep them back too long but it should be enough for you to hide and then run." The words leave the boy in one breath and Mingyu and Seungcheol share a look. That can't be good.

The younger boy, Seungkwan shakes his head vehemently and tugs at the hands on his shoulders.

"Seokmin you might be my hyung but right now you're being an idiot. I'm not leaving and that's that." The panic is still present in his voice but there's also a strong determination to stay close and protect one another. Seungcheol knows that feeling all too well.

"Maybe we should help them." It leaves his lips unauthorized and Mingyu whips his head around not believing his ears. Seungcheol never proposes such risky actions. If they helped these boys now they could risk exposure. Before he could even respond there's loud shouts from the other side of the wall and he peeks back out to see three Guards approaching.

Seokmin and Seungkwan seem rooted to their spots. Mingyu actually feels bad, but they're humans, they probably stole something and The Guards are after them. Turns out he was wrong.

"Seungkwan." There's a warning in that one word and the one it was aimed at understood right away. Before Seungcheol's and Mingyu's eyes the boy shimmers out of sight. Where once stood a boy was now only clear air.

"Hyung they're Carats." Mingyu can practically feel Seungcheol's protective streak appearing as the older slowly stands up. He starts to follow but Seungcheol stops him with a hand on his shoulder.

"Stay here." Before Mingyu can protest be continues.

"I'm going to need back up Gyu and for you to work safely you need to stay here." With a heavy heart Mingyu nods and watches as the other creeps behind wreckage to find a suitable position. On the other hand, Seokmin is now suspended three feet in the air.

"Surrender now brat and make this easier for all of us." The Guard sounds like he's constipated and Mingyu almost lets out a laugh. He sees Seungcheol crouch behind some rubble on the opposite side of the street so he focuses on the area to look for the other boy. He knows he's still there, he just knows.

Mingyu's eyes scan the narrow street and surrounding buildings. He almost gives up, thinking that the boy might've actually left when he spots a shimmer in the air right next to Seokmin.

Well that is stupid.

He planned to get him away from the street but with him being so close to the current center of attention, Seokmin, it's too risky.

The Guards are looking amused as Seokmin glares at them. It's almost scary. Mingyu watches as one Guard starts approaching the levitating kid and immediately he notices the rise in the temperature around them. Seungcheol is getting busy.

"Kid people like you don't scare us. We keep them in cages and watch them like zoo animals. Give it up." Mingyu almost lets out an actual growl at the Guard's words. It's true what he said though, to them, Carats are nothing but animals. The Guard raises the hand holding the electric baton, points it at Seokmin. All Hell breaks loose. Even Mingyu didn't notice the fireball approaching untill it hit the Guard straight in his ugly face.

Bullseye.

Seokmin backs away a few feet with wide eyes, looking around to find the person responsible. The Guards, excluding the one rolling on the ground in pain, are immediately on alert, weapons drawn and fight ready.

Mingyu takes that as his cue and turns his attention to the shimmering air, which he is pretty sure is trembling in fear right now. He can see but, well, not see the person he's supposed to move so it takes him a moment to grasp onto the kid. The second he feels the Mark pulling he focuses and tugs. He swears he hears a small scream resonate from thin air as the boy moves. The battle started next to them, there's fire flying in from everywhere, Seokmin has a sweet set of combat skills as he kicks and punches at the Guard who manages to pass through the actual fire. Mingyu sets his attention back to his task.

There's already a steady throb behind his eyes as the pressure builds up. The shimmering mass reaches the space next to him and he relaxes, closing his eyes and taking a few breaths to steady himself. There is just something about moving living beings that makes it just that much harder to do. He hears a small thud as the invisible boy lands so he opens his eyes and looks up, towards the area where his head should be.

"I'm standing and you're looking at my crotch." Mingyu snorts.

Chapter Text

"As much as I would like to comment on the view I can't really see what I'm lookin at." Mingyu comments before he can stop himself. Seungkwan lets out a chuckle and crouches next to the tall guy who pulled him out. A moment later Mingyu's eyes are focused on the smaller now visible boy on level with him. He can see the wary look Seungkwan is regarding him with and the way his body is tensed and ready to run at any time. He shoots a look at the ongoing battle next to them, and seeing that the two other boys are doing well he turns back to the cautious boy beside him.

"I'm Mingyu." The tall boy outstretches his hand and watches slightly amused as the younger eyes it warily before shaking it.

"Seungkwan." The moment his name leaves his lips a fire ball flies over their heads. They duck down and Mingyu rolls his eyes at his hyung's aim. He locks gazes with Seungkwan on the ground next to him and the latter nods. Mingyu rises up and sees the third Guard being an annoying little piece of shit as he dodges and throws some punches and kicks of his own. His eyes catch on to Seungcheol and the older nods to his left. Mingyu follows his line of sights and immediately catches on.

Now, throwing people in cages is not necessarily a favorite activity of his, but oh well. How convenient it is that the jail cells are still made like cages. No, really, how convenient. The metal rattles and shakes as Mingyu tries to get a firm grasp on it. Seungkwan watches as the tall boy, Mingyu, grits his teeth as he concentrates on the metal cage. Seungkwan look to his left where Seokmin is landing punches and avoiding some, his gaze trails over the now even more wrecked street and land on another boy standing right across from where Mingyu and him are.

How had he not noticed him before?

Seungkwan doesn't really ponder much and watches, eyes full of awe, as the other boy forms fire in the palm of his hand from nthing but thin air. His eyes follow the blazing ball as is flies through the air and hits the Guard on his right side. The Guard lets out a yell and stumbles back. The next second the cell is dropped from the sky right on top of the fallen Guard. Seungkwan is amazed by the teamwork of the two strangers and wonders briefly how many times have they had to do this to defend themselves.

Mingyu sighs in relief as he drops the heavy cell. His vision is starting to blur so he makes quick work of grabbing the boy next to him, who is still gaping at the Guard trapped in the cell, and runs out in the street. Mingyu scarcely notices the angry look on the other boy's face as he yells at him but it doesn't really reach his ears. Seungkwan, seeing the unfocused eyes of the older, tugs at his sleeve to gain his attention. Seokmin is being a pushover towards one of the guys who helped them and the younger sure as hell didn't appreciate it. Mingyu turns his head to the side as the tunnel vision starts to go away and the voices are becoming clearer. He is aware of Seungcheol's presence as the older wraps an arm around his shoulder and pulls him along, the two other boys trailing after them.

Seungcheol knows it was too much. It was too much for him to ask of Mingyu to use telekinesis so much when the boy is still trying to learn how to use it without passing out. The moment Mingyu steps out with the other of the two boys Seungcheol moves towards them. He can hear the older, Seokmin, shout at Mingyu and he can see Seungkwan hesitantly call out to him.

He reaches the trio and wordlessly pushes Mingyu forward to walk, and motions for the other two to follow. They do, of course they do, they don't know what else to do and these two strangers, they helped them. Seungcheol keeps glancing at the boy sagging against him and he can't help but curse under his breath.

"Why did you help us?" The question surprises him, he glances back and sees Seokmin with a protective arm around Seungkwan, the younger's eyes also curious. Seungcheol looks back ahead and ponders for a moment.

Why?

"Because we know what it's like." Seungcheol doesn't elaborate, instead he tightens his hold on his dongsaeng. The fog in Mingyu's mind finally lifts and he becomes aware of what's happening. The arm around his waist tightens and he knows there is something bothering the boy guiding him. He doesn't like the lash back of telekinesis. The feeling of being there but being detached and not able to function properly always left a sour taste.

"Hyung i'm okay now." Seungcheol glances up surprised the other is back already and hesitantly unlatches himself from him. Mingyu looks behind and smiles as Seungkwan meets his eyes. The current youngest speed up and falls into step next to Mingyu, Seokmin following suit.

"Where are we going?" Seokmin is cautious, and Seungcheol and Mingyu don't really blame him. The oldest thinks for a second before he stops in his tracks. The other three do the same, each one confused.

"Hyung?" Mingyu knows Seungcheol is a particular type of person. The type always wanting to help and take care of people. So he can't really say he's surprised with Seungcheol's next set of question.

"Are there more of you?" Seungcheol's eyes are serious and focused. His intuition is never, ever wrong. Mingyu watches, slightly amazed as the two other boys' faces morph into ones of surprise. Seokmin narrows his eyes right after, hostility for the possible danger putting him instantly on alert.

"What's it to you?" Seungcheol keeps himself calm and offers a gentle smile.

"Because if there is I want to meet them. I want to help." Yap, Seungcheol is definitely out of his mind. Seungkwan seems to think the same because he walks closer to his hyung and latches on to his arm, Seokmin automatically standing in front of him.

"Why would you do more than this?" The repressed hope Mingyu can clearly see in Seungkwan's eyes is enough to almost take him back to the day when Seungcheol found him and took him in. The scared boy which is perfectly reflected in Seungkwon's current state.

"Because we've all been there. Alone and scared and running. Plus, hyung has this habit of picking up strays." The last part makes Seungcheol chuckle and Mingyu smirks before he turns his attention back to the two lost boys.

Seokmin seems to be fighting with his own mind, thinking of all the possible ways things could go wrong if he says yes, and all the possible chances the rest of his friends might pass up on if he says no. Seungkwan stands next to him, hopeful and eager to hear his hyung's answer. He has a feeling about the two strangers who helped them. Seungcheol and Mingyu. In this world right now, being strangers doesn't mean a thing, because even the closest of friends could betray you at any chance they got. He knows that, they all know that.

Seokmin lets out a frustrated breath and walks up to Seungcheol, Mingyu instinctively steps in front of him and Seokmin's eyes widen slightly and he stops. The two seem to be having a stare down before Seokmin scoffs and throws his hands in the air.

"For fricks sake I'm not going to hurt him." There's an almost flabbergasted tone, as if Mingyu thinking that is apsurd. Mingyu regards him with amused eyes and he can practically see the smile on Seungcheol's face even though the other is behind him.

"Maybe, but you were about to threaten him with pain if we hurt your friends. And that would've made you a bit of a hypocrite, don't you think?" Seokmin narrows his eyes at Mingyu and all but pouts before storming off down the street.

"Follow me." Mingyu grins and hears the chuckle as it leaves Seungcheol, even Seungkwan has a smile on his face as the three sprint right behind Seokmin. They reach the more urban area and Seokmin glances at them before he goes to the left, entering an alleyway. Mingyu looks around, he can feel the hairs at the back of his neck stand and it's making him paranoid. He feels like they're being watched. Brushing it off he follows the others as they climb up the fire escape and onto the roof of one of the few buildings left standing. The metal groans under their weight and clanks under their feet, for a moment Mingyu thinks it's all going to come apart. He finally reaches the top and pulls himself up, dropping on the roof to catch his breath. The other three are pretty much the same, all sitting on the dirty concrete roof and trying to get their breathing back to normal.

Mingyu allows himself a moment of peace and closes his eyes. The autumn wind brushes against his skin and he is thankful for the jacket he has on, credits to Hoshi and his little treasure hunt a few months ago. After a few moments, when the heavy breathing around him settles, he opens his eyes and meets Seokmin's piercing ones. The other boy seems to be looking at him with something akin to curiosity and wariness. Mingyu raises a brow, Seokmin catches himself and looks away. They don't speak for a good ten minutes, just preparing themselves for the next round of running. That's all they do lately. Run, run and run.

"We're almost there." Seungkwan breaks the silence and Seokmin nods. They get up with little effort and Mingyu and Seungcheol follow the other two as they break off into a run. They reach the end of the roof and Mingyu wonders if they-

Yap, they jumped. 

They don't stop though, some crazy part of their minds trusts the two equally crazy boys and Mingyu and Seungcheol leap off of the building. There's a brief moment of silence as the air rushes and adrenaline pumps through their veins. Then their feet meet the stable surface of the roof of the neighbouring  building and Mingyu gives a slight thanks to the sky anyways.

Their legs burn as they run and run, leaping to and from buildings untill they finally run out. Seokmin then guides them down the fire escapes of the last building they reached. Mingyu thanks everything there is for the small break at the bottom of the stairs. Seungcheol is next to him on the verge of cardiac arrest and Mingyu chuckles, karma is obviously a bitch because he finds himself coughing while trying to get the much needed air back into his lungs.

"This way." Seungkwan follows wordlessly after the older boy and Mingyu groans as he pushes off of the wall he was leaning on.

Seokmin sure likes giving out orders.

The tall boy makes sure to check if his leader is alive as he passes him by and Seungcheol shoots him a glare.

Surprisingly, Mingyu doesn't recognise this part of the city. He realizes that by using the roofs they spared a lot of time and crossed a lot of districts, all the while avoiding possible danger. The streets are completely abandoned here, the stores wrecked, windows broken and walls caved in. It's almost suffocating.

They reach an abandoned music store and Mingyu subconsciously latches onto Seungcheol's sleeve, as much as it is not to lose him in the dark, it's also for his personal comfort. Sue him. They follow as Seokmin pushes the battered door open and steps in. Seungkwan makes a beeline for the wooden door next to the cash register and Mingyu and Seungcheol stand there almost awkwardly, stared down by Seokmin. They are sure that Seokmin is trying to look intimidating then, standing in front of the wooden door, his shoulders wide as already broken glass crunches beneath his feet. To them he still just looks like a puppy.

"Mark my words, you hurt any one of them I will hunt you down." Okay Mingyu has to admit, he shat his pants a bit.

The door behind Seokmin opens and it's a flurry of bodies as they all pile out of the basement, Seungcheol guesses. He almost laughs though, because it's like a mirrored picture of his own family. 

Mingyu and Seungcheol take in the scene in front of them. The boys that were hiding line up, and it's almost by height, Mingyu for some reason notices. The tattered clothes, the wary looks, the protective stance the older seem to take in front of the younger ones, it's all too familiar. It's all too identical.

A guy with long hair catches Seungcheol's attention, he seems to be responsible for the group as he takes one step forward and crosses his arms, almost as If he is challenging them. Seungcheol is about to step forward too, to introduce himself and get this over with, when a trembling voice calls out.

"Jeonghan-hyung?" Seungcheol turns to his left.

Mingyu.

Chapter Text

"Jeonghan-hyung?"

The name, the question, hangs In the air. The tension that was in the room somehow quadruples and Seungcheol can practically see the danger rising, as each of the boys present takes a step forwards as to shield their leader.

Jeonghan on the other hand, swivels around and stares wide eyed at the tall boy. He hadn't noticed him before, his focus had solely been on the shorter guy.  He can see it, the familiar face, the puppy eyes and the damn hopeful voice. It's the same as back then, he thinks. The kid was always so full of hope. His voice is barely above a whisper as he cautiously calls out for the once lost boy.

"Mingyu-ah?" The pain that appears on Mingyu's face as the voice carries across the room makes Jeonghan want to cry. He doesn't know what to expect and maybe he should've seen it coming, but he was not prepared for the blur that passes him and slams itself right into Mingyu.

Hansol.

He wants to say he's surprised, but it's Hansol. A kid. Impulsive and scared and a bit thickheaded if he does say so himself.

Jeonghan swears he hears wood shatter as Mingyu's back slams against it. Hansol has him pressed up against the far wall of the music store, holding him by the collar. Mingyu winces at the impact, he didn't even see the kid coming.

Seungcheol is immediately ready to strike as balls of fire form in a circle around him, the air sizzling and drying out fast.

The rest of the boys are shocked still, maybe from the fact that one of the two knew their hyung or the fact that they weren't alone in this city. Probably a bit of both.

Jeonghan is caught off guard when the fire appears, Seungkwan didn't tell them anything about the boys who helped them having Marks. He throws him a glance and Seungkwan ignores him in favour of running ahead and putting his body in the way between Seungcheol and Hansol's back.

"Waitwaitwait! Stop! There is no need for any of this. Hansol put him down, Seungcheol-hyung please turn off the stove."

Seungcheol is one hundred percent too baffled by the words that came out of the younger's mouth thaf he just agrees, fire disappearing as he lets out a breath he hadn't realized he's been holding. The fire might be out, but Seungcheol is nowhere near calm.

"Kid, if you don't get your hands off of him i will make you. Seungkwan won't be able to help you then." The dark promise is clear in his voice, and Seungkwan can see it in his eyes, if any of them even tried to lay a hand on Mingyu, Seungcheol wouldn't hesitate. He turns to the two behind him, Hansol is glaring daggers at Mingyu, but the latter is almost limp as his eyes just stare blankly at their leader.

"I'm not letting him go untill he tells me how does he know hyung's name." Seungcheol is about ready to strangle the kid, to hell with the morals. Luckily he doesn't have to.

"Hansol back away."

Hansol's eyes go comically wide as Jeonghan lays a hand on his shoulder. He looks at him with disbelief but the oldest just smiles at him gently and he feels the tension melting away.

"It's okay, he won't hurt me." Those words seem to trigger something inside Hansol because he is right back where he started, pure anger coursing through him as his hands tighten against Mingyu's shirt. He pulls him away from the wall just to slam him back on and Mingyu winces as pain shoots up his spine.

"How can you say that so easily after last time?!" Hansol is not even looking at Mingyu anymore, it seems as if the taller is there just for hin to vent his pent up anger, his words are directed at Jeonghan.

Jeonghan's eyes harden immediately, his lips pressed in a thin line and voice cold.

"Don't go there now Hansol. Let him down." But Hansol is a stubborn kid, so stubborn. He slams Mingyu against the wall again just to spite Jeonghan.

Mingyu still doesn't react. He was too shocked the first time to even try, but now, he just wants to see where this goes. He has so many questions, there is so many thoughts and emotions swirling inside of him that he almost feels lightheaded.

What is Jeonghan doing here? Why is he here? Where had he been all this time? Is this even real?

Mingyu thinks passing out might actually be easier. He doesn't know what he is supposed to be feeling. He could get out of Hansol's grip easily enough, but he doesn't want a fight to break out, the kid is obviously trying to protect his hyung. He makes eye contact with Seungcheol, who is being held back by Seungkwan and Seokmin, only people currently brave enough to do so.

"Kid i freaking warned you."

There is fire in Seungcheol's eyes, not in the literal way of course, but in the way that makes your blood run cold. Seungkwan said it before, there is no need for a fight, and he listened to him because honestly he likes the kid. Now, seeing Mingyu being slammed againt the wall twice in the span of thirty seconds, the no fight thing? Yeah, doesn't do it for him anymore. He's ready to sucker punch both boys in order to get to his dongsaeng, but the look in Mingyu's eyes stops him. The determination and trust in those brown orbs remind him of all the stories Mingyu told him and the admiration he has for the kid grows even more.

He stops tugging at the hands holding him and stands back, watching. Seungkwan and Seokmin are hesitant to pull away, so they settle on having a hand on Seungcheol's shoulder each. The two share a look but turn to observe the discussion between Jeonghan and Hansol, Mingyu caught in the center.

Hansol has had it up to here with the aloof way Jeonghan lives, as if his life has no importance. He understands that all he wants is to protect the five of them, but they aren't complete as five, it's the six of them that survived together. Now he's doing it again, trusting a guy who practically just happened to appear out of nowhere, not to hurt him.

"How am i not supposed to mention it when the last time you told us that you won't get hurt you almost died?!" Hansol is yelling by the second half of his sentence, too worked up by the bottom line stupid way his hyung trusts people, he doesn't notice Mingyu tensing under hands.

Jeonghan adores their maknae, no really he does. The kid just doesn't know when to put a sock in it. He takes a deep breath to compose himself as Hansol's words bring back memories he would rather not think about now.

Mingyu observes carefully at the way Jeonghan's face contorts slightly at the younger's words before his expression goes back to slightly to maybe highly pissed off Jeonghan. Mingyu's heart clenches at the pain etched in those few milliseconds.

What happened after I left hyung?

There is so many questions and Mingyu is getting impatient to get his answers. The thought alone almost makes him chuckle. He wants answers and yet he hadn't even addressed his hyung, save for the shocked greeting.

"Hansol, I'm asking you, not telling you, one last time to put him down." Mingyu can almost feel the anger radiating off of the kid, he gets it though. It's not anger, it's fear, pain, sadness, nerves... all mixed up together and Hansol's mind can't process it so it takes the easy way and channels it into anger. Mingyu wants to say something, anything, to actually ease the situation a bit, but he is really not in the best position to do so.

"Or what? You're going to use your Mark against me like you did against those guards back at the facility?" Mingyu doesn't really know what it was that set him off. Maybe it was the mention of Jeonghan's Mark, maybe it was the guards, it definitely was the facility. It was definitely all of it.

The words leave Hansol's mouth and not a moment later he is launched across the room, pinned to the exact opposite wall of where he had Mingyu before. Even Seungcheol is shocked by Mingyu's outburst, he had never seen him react so impulsively and harshly for the past eight years of knowing him. Jeonghan and rest are just as startled, if not even more. They don't know how to react, it was Mingyu protecting their leader from one of their own. Whose side should they pick? They don't know.

Jeonghan is a little apprehensive about the raw emotion in Mingyu's eyes. He knows the facility was not the happiest period of their lives but he never thought that just the mere word would set the younger boy off. He takes a cautious step forward, standing in the line of Mingyu's glare. Jeonghan takes the chance as Mingyu looks away from Hansol to look at him, to actually scan the younger.

Mingyu hasn't changed a lot, puberty hit him hard that much was obvious, and Jeonghan smiles sadlyas he remembers the little eight year old clinging to his arm and pouting up at him. He is not a small boy anymore. Mingyu on the other hand, stares at him with blank eyes. But Jeonghan knows him well enough that it's all just a mask.

Mingyu knows Jeonghan knows him. Nine years might've passed since they last saw each other but Mingyu's mindset is still the same. The pain that hit him square in the chest after the first second of eye contact with the older boy almost has Mingyu's eyes filling with tears, he pushes the burning sensation away though.

Jeonghan takes another step towards him and his concentration slips, he is vaguely aware that someone walked past them to Hansol who is now sitting on the floor. Another step and his breath hitches.

No. No.

Another step and a small smile. Mingyu's chest burns.

He can't take this.

Another step and his vision blurs.
Jeonghan is only two feet away.

Too close. Too far.

Another step and he is right in front of him.

He is really here.
Tears fall.

"H-hyung.." It's an awkward position, but Jeonghan wraps his arms tight around the now trembling boy as his own emotions take over.

The rest are completely silent. Seungcheol is fighting against himself and his will to go and protect the younger in distress. It is far obvious that the bond the two share is slowly being rebuilt right in front of them as they soak up each other's warmth and comfort.

Hansol, Seokmin, Seungkwan and the rest of their group are in awe of the scene in front of them. They feel as if they shouldn't be witnessing it, it seems so raw and intimate to be in the presence of it. The sheer emotions practically drifting through the air as the two boys are wrapped in each other's arms are enough to make them want to go and make everything better, for the both of them. They know they can't though. Seungcheol shares a look with Seokmin and he knows they're on the same page here. They all gather on the other side of the room just behind the cash register, they don't leave though, the six of them merely crouches down to give the two an apparition of privacy. As much as either Seungcheol or the others have been reassured by the interaction between the two, it's just not safe.

Muffled mumbles and sobs reach their ears, it seems that the two crying boys are ready to topple over. Jeonghan can feel Mingyu falter on his feet so he eases them down on the floor, situates them so that he has his arms wrapped around the younger's middle. Mingyu buries his head in Jeonghan's neck as the tears just won't stop falling.

The salty droplets leave hot trails down their cheeks as they try and calm each other down. It would be comical if it were another situation.

"Mingyu-ah, you've grown taller than me." Mingyu lets out a breathy chuckle despite himself and nuzzles closer.

"Your hair is longer than mine." Jeonghan smiles and presses a kiss to the top of Mingyu's head. In response the younger shuffles even closer if possible and grabs one of Jeonghan's hands, intertwining their fingers together.

It's interesting how the nine years spent apart had no effect on the way the younger curled against Jeonghan's chest, making himself as small as possible, which was now slightly harder. Jeonghan cards a hand through Mingyu's hair and lets out a content sigh.

For a moment, he wishes time would stand still, just like this.

 

        

Chapter Text

Joshua eyed the boy sitting with them behind the counter. The look the other had in his eyes tells him right away that he cares for the tall boy currently sitting in Jeonghan's embrace. He was hoping for a calm day, he certainly didn't see Seokmin and Seungkwan bringing two strangers back.

He had never seen his hyung react the way he did to the tall boy. He was shocked still, and from the few words exchanged, Joshua had an idea on who the boy was.

Back to their current situation, he nudges Junhui with his foot and gestures towards the door behind them. Jun nods and nudges the rest, Seungkwan tugging at Seungcheol's sleeve and pulling when the older just looks at him with confusion. 

Joshua goes first, opening the door and carefully making his way down the metal stairs, the rest trail behind him and Seungkwan and Seungcheol bring up the rear. Seungcheol hesitates for a moment, glancing back over his shoulder all the way over the counter. He sees Mingyu tucked into Jeonghan's chest as the older murmurs something to him, making the younger nod. Their eyes meet briefly over Mingyu's shoulder and Jeonghan nods reassuringly, Seungcheol doesn't know why but he puts his trust in the boy.

Letting out a sigh he turns back around and makes his way down the stairs, Seungkwan waiting for him midway. There is something innocent to the younger that makes Seungcheol smile but he lets it fall before the other can see.
Seungkwan puts a hand on his shoulder and smiles kindly as they continue on their way towards the basement.

"Don't worry, Jeonghan-hyung will take care of him." Seungcheol doesn't say anything, just nods and follows. They reach the bottom of the stairs and Seungcheol for the first time actually looks around.

The room is dimly lit, cold and feels extremely uncomfortable to be In. Seungcheol wraps the jacket tighter around himself and sits on a couch with a suspicious red stain on it. He tries not to think too much about it though, and turns to the five boys currently spectating him.

"This is where you've been living?" Seokmin and Vernon scoff as if Seungcheol offended them while Joshua nods.

"You could at least introduce yourself." Seungcheol is surprised that It's the guy sitting next to Seungkwan who speaks up. He sighs and nods.

"You're right, sorry." It's been a while since he introduced himself properly to anyone, and even then he used S.Coups. He outstretches his hand for Joshua to shake and the younger grasps it gently but firmly.

"I'm Seungcheol, the guy with me is Mingyu." Joshua pauses for a second almost as if committing the names to his memory, before he lets go of Seungcheol's hand and nods towards the rest.

"Well you've already met Seokmin and Seungkwan, the one with the temper is Vernon, the snappy one is Junhui or Jun for short and I'm Joshua." Seungcheol nods along with the names and raises a brow as Vernon's and Joshua's come up. The younger chuckles and sits back down on the tattered chair, the rest flopping on every piece of furniture available.

"Vernon or Hansol, Joshua or Jisoo. Your choice." Realization dawns on Seungcheol and he nods once again. Joshua fidgets under his stare and the tension in the room grows. Seungcheol's mind wanders as he takes in the sight in front of him.

These boys, It's like they showed up out of nowhere. He was sure the city was clear of Carats save for his boys and now they stumble upon a whole group? The kid, Vernon, mentioned a facility before. Does that mean they all came from one place? The facility Mingyu was in? Seungcheol takes a deep breath. He couldn't just fire the questions at them, there were too many and it was obvious that they wouldn't just answer him, they're too cautious. He just has to wait for Jeonghan to-

"I can see the gears in your head turning from all the way over here, shoot." Seungcheol whips around, startled from his thoughts, and sees Jeonghan at the bottom of the staircase, Mingyu towering behind him. If anyone notices the puffy eyes and tear tracks, they don't mention it. Seungcheol blinks a few times and gets himself collected as Jeonghan sits on a couch across from him and Mingyu plops down next to Seungcheol. Instinctively, Seungcheol's arm wraps around the younger's waist and tugs him closer.

Finally, he meets the eyes of Jeonghan. The long-haired boy regards him with a blank, guarded expression, a fleeting gaze to the arm around Mingyu's waist. Seungcheol watches as various emotions battle it out on the other's face, and It's almost eerie how familiar that is. Once again he is brought back to reality by the guy himself.

"So, the questions." The boys in the room tense up immediately, and he doesn't miss the way Mingyu does too. He ponders for a moment, he is not stupid he knows not to dig too deep right now, but he also needs at least some answers.

"When did you get here?" It was obvious that that wasn't the question Jeonghan was expecting. With a raised brow the younger seemed to be calculating if Seungcheol was messing with him or of he were serious. Finding nothing Jeonghan gestures vaguely around the cramped room as if it would help with his explanation.

"About a month ago. For a while we managed to stay hidden in Incheon but there was an all out rampage and we had to flee." Seungcheol perked up at that. Hidden? What were they hiding from?

Jeonghan sensed the confusion, he throws Mingyu a look, almost as if he's asking him for permission. Seungcheol looks up at the younger plastered to his side and feels grateful when Mingyu nods. Jeonghan on the other hand straightens up and almost nervously wipes his hands on the fabric of his jeans. Taking a deep breath he begins.

"I think by now you've guessed that we all ran from the same place and are still trying not to get caught." Seungcheol nods and squeezes Mingyu's hand when the younger latches on. He knows where they ran away from, if it's the same place Mingyu was held in as he suspects, it was an awful place. Jeonghan takes that as his age to continue.

"We managed to trick the Guards and slip past the gates. We ran for what seemed days on end. There were a few close calls but we succeeded in getting over the city border. That was four years ago." There's a harsh intake of breath from the couch Mingyu and Seungcheol are sitting on.

Mingyu's head is about ready to explode. Four years. His hyung and his friends have been out of the hell-hole for the past four years and he couldn't do anything to help them. He takes comfort in the thumb making soothing circles on the back of his hand. Mingyu already knows what is going to happen next. He doesn't need his visions to make sure, he doesn't have to ask.

"Hyung?" Both Jeonghan and Seungcheol turn to look at him and a small smile sneaks past his lips, his full attention is focused solely on Jeonghan though.

"We're you by any chance thinking about staying here?" None of them miss the hopeful tone and Seungcheol looks at Jeonghan, pleading with his eyes that the other will say yes. He doesn't even want to think about what it would do to Mingyu if Jeonghan said no. He doesn't know the other, or any of the boys actually, but he could already see that Mingyu greatly looked up to the older, the others looked up to him as well.

On the other side of the room, the five look to the guy who saved them all, waiting for his decision. Just like Seungcheol, they had no idea who Mingyu was, well save for Joshua, but they had faith in their leader. Jeonghan to his credit is not thinking at all, the second Mingyu asked the question he knew the answer, how could he not? He saw the look Seungcheol sent his way and the hope Mingyu had. He can't leave him, can't lose him again. Not after everything that they've been through. A small smirk plays on his lips as he looks Mingyu straight in the eyes.

"What kid? Did you think I would just leave you with people I don't know? First things first I need to make sure you've been living with go-" Jeonghan would've continued but when a tall kid pounces on you it is kind of hard to talk. That doesn't stop the laugh from leaving him as he wrestles the younger into a hug.

"Hyung can you not? I'm jealous." Joshua says with a fond smile. He knows from the things that Jeonghan told him, Mingyu is a very precious little brother to him. The two stop with the wrestling, Jeonghan sitting on top of Mingyu's stomach, and look up at Joshua. An almost shy smile makes Mingyu want to hide while Jeonghan... well Jeonghan gives zero shits.

"I spoiled you too much. Go and get attention from Junhui or someone." Junhui and Joshua alike make a show of being offended, with a dramatic gasp.

Back on the couch Seungcheol is watching all of this play out. He never really saw Mingyu smile with so much ease and he wanted it to continue. He wants to find a way for them to be-

"Crap." The room is put into shocked silence. Mingyu regards him with a questioning look, while the rest might be thinking he is out of his mind. Seungcheol on the other hand is mentally berating himself that it took him so long to figure it out. He pins Jeonghan down with a stare, a serious one at that. The next words that leave his mouth will be the best and worst decision he made in his life, and they will lead to many things. Life-changing things.0

"Come and live with us."

Chapter Text

Mingyu took a deep breath. It's now or never. The boards shifted and creaked as the tension seeped through  his body. As the wooden planks moved back towards them Mingyu took a step back as well. The others sprinted past him, slipping through the tight space and to the outside of the wall. As soon as Hansol disappeared behind the wood he let up on the pressure. He never held something up for so long and it was starting to haze his mind. A hand clamped itself around his elbow, Jeonghan supporting him. He gives a tired smile and nods towards the opening in the wall. The older pushes him forward before him and the boards snap back together just a second after the both of them are out. They don't linger in one place, taking off towards the trees as the guards shift their positions. The two burst through the tree line and run deeper in the woods. They only slow down when Mingyu notices the outlines of six other figures crouching and waiting on them. As soon as they approach Seungcheol is making his way towards him and Mingyu is immensely grateful for the supporting arm around his waist. He knows he looks worse for wear, he's also not really surprised. For the seventeen years of his life Mingyu never once used his Mark's ability multiple times in a day.

The haze is back and his mind feels detached from his body. He won't be of any help to them for a while so he leans further into Seungcheol, his left hand blindly searching for Jeoghan. Mingyu faintly remembers that the older was behind him a few seconds ago. His memory served him right as a hand with slender fingers wraps itself around his, the relief almost immediate. The arm around his waist tightens and Seungcheol nudges him gently to start walking.

Jeonghan follows and looks worriedly to Seungcheol. He doesn't like the faraway look in Mingyu's eyes, the boy hasn't said a thing since they reached the wall and it was slightly worrying. Seungcheol notices and explains.

"He overdid it. His mind partly shuts down if he uses his Mark more than he is capable of normally." They trudge through the forest avoiding a couple of low branches. The sun is still high but the wind and the atmosphere of everything that happened in the span of only a few hours make the eight boys curl just a tad bit around themselves to keep warm.

Jeonghan doesn't prod, he can see it in the way Seungcheol rubs at his face with his free hand that the oldest is blaming himself for the situation. He doesn't try and comment, it isn't his place. Not yet at least. Instead he squeezes Mingyu's hand in his tighter and his shoulders sag in relief when the boy squeezes back.

Casting a look to the side, Jeonghan sees Joshua and Junhui walking side by side talking in whispers, Joshua calm but Junhui appeared agitated. Their Chinese friend is gesturing wildly with his hands, probably ranting about Jeonghan's stupid desicion to accept Seungcheol's offer. He sighs and shifts his gaze to the three younger ones. Hansol has been ignoring him since they stepped out of the music store, merely half an hour after he discussed everything with Seungcheol and talked it out with the rest. The majority won.

Seungcheol noticed that Junhui and Hansol weren't thrilled with the decision and promised them that they wouldn't regret it. His pomises fell on deaf ears as they set out and none of them spoke. They weaved through the abandoned streets and buildings untill they reached the outskirts.

Now they're here.

"Hyung how far is it?" Seungcheol looks to where Seokmin, Seungkwan and Hansol are walking.

"An hour walk from here." The three youngsters groan and Seungcheol could have sworn he heard a groan or two coming from Junhui and Joshua. He pondered on the idea when they set out. Was it the right thing to do? Bringing six strangers to their safe house? To their home? There is no use thinking now, they were already on their way.

He wonders briefly how are his boys going to take it... yeah It's going to be a hell of a day. They will come around eventually though, he was sure of that part. Especially knowing that Jeonghan is an important person in Mingyu's life.

Jeonghan on the other hand keeps casting glances at his long lost dongsaeng. There is so many things they still haven't talked about. So many things he is curious about. The trust Mingyu has in Seungcheol is impressive and Jeonghan is glad that the younger found someone to turn to.

The rays that managed to sneak past the thick leaves of the tall foresg trees cast a mellow glow on the eight boys moving silently through its territory. Slight prickles of the warm light are the first sign for Mingyu to realize his mind is getting back on track. His limbs finally feel liks his own and the movement becomes less mechanical.

Seungcheol is the first to notice the change. Of course he is, Mingyu notes,  he is the one who's been supporting him for the past... how long has it been?

"You back with us?" Seungcheol's voice is one of the few things that ground him, remind him that he is indeed back. Mingyu eases up on the pressure he put on his leader, carrying most of his weight on his own two feet.

"I think so. How much do we have left?" How long was i out, is what Mingyu is asking but Seungcheol decides not to correct him.

"We left half an hour ago so... a half hour." Mingyu sighs and startles when the hand he didn't even notice holding his tightens. Jeonghan. Right.
Warmth coils in Mingyu's chest at the adoring look the other gives him. It takes him way back to when they were still considered normal kids. When their Marks were non-existent. Those times, although not many, were one of the best memories Mingyu treasured. Jeonghan smiles and pulls him closer untill Mingyu is practically glued to his side, he doesn't protest though. They walk in silence once again, Mingyu feeling more than seeing glances the others are giving him. It makes him uncomfortable.

Just a few more steps.

"Just a heads up, we're entering the borders of Jihoon's barrier. Which means he will be able to tell that there is more people with us." The tension rises again and Seungcheol sends a silent prayer that they all make it out alive. Jihoon is so going to be pissed.

                                     ***

"Shouldn't they be back by now?" Hoshi was getting restless. Mingyu and Seungcheol left some time this morning while he and Wonwoo were still on their night patrol. It's past noon now but they still aren't back. Hoshi was getting worried. He knows he shouldn't be but he can't help it. Seungcheol can take care of himself, he can take care of Mingyu, heck Mingyu can take care of himself. Still doesn't make it any easier.

Wonwoo is pacing the room, agitated and nervous, his movements almost enough to make Hoshi dizzy. Jihoon is sat up straight on a chair at the kitchen table, his eyes closed and a frown etched on his face. He's trying to reach out past the limits of his barrier to see if he he could sense the two. That's the problem. His barrier is already stretched as far as it can go, his Mark can reach as far as two kilometres in radius. He can feel every living being that passes the border which means that if Mingyu and Seungcheol are anywhere near home then he will know. There is no such luck yet though, he can't expand the barrier. A frustrated sigh leaves him as he opens his eyes, there is nothing he can do to help, or find out anything really. A hand appears on his shoulder, the familiar feel and weight grounds him as he takes a breath and turns into the chest of their Chinese resident.

"Take a breather hyung, there is no use in stressing." Minghao's soft voice rings through his head as he practically melts into his side. The two migrate to the living room where the other three are. Hoshi is still restless his nervousnes basically radiating from his body. Wonwoo stopped pacing and instead settled himself next to Chan on the couch.

"If they're not back in an hour we're going out." Chan himself knows how stupid his words are. But the thought of two of his hyungs not being by his side leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.

"You know we can't do that. Especially you amd Hao. It would be suicide." Chan and Minghao nod dejectedly at Wonwoo's words even as the older himself looks a minute away from bolting out of the house.

Something is nudging at the back of Jihoon's mind. Multiple pulsating dots. The pressure is not enough for him to make the connection. Just a few more moments.

Eight.

There is eight pulses beating at his mind. Two he knows. The six are unknown. Dangerous.

Jihoon is on his feet and out the door before anyone can fully register what's happening.

'Hyung where are you going?' Hoshi's words tug at their mental bond and he feels the others joining in as he sprints through the trees towards the pulses. There is a feeling gnawing at his insides, something unsettling but not exactly bad. Just weird.

The trees and the ground are a blur as  he gets closer to the pulses.

"Hyung!" Minghao and Hoshi fall into step with him and what the hell is Minghao doing here?

"Hao go home i mean it." He doesn't see it as they run but he is one hundred percent sure Minghao rolled his eyes at him.

"Don't worry hyung i just want to help." It doesn't sit right with Jihoon, it's bad enough that Mingyu goes out. He keeps quiet. They're almost there.

"Hyung!" Mingyu. The relief that flows through them when the younger's voice echoes through the woods around them is immense. They stop and they wait. Eight silhouettes appear at the far end of their trail, Jihoon makes out Mingyu's gentle smile as they approach. When the three are sure that both Mingyu and Seungcheol are unharmed and walking on their own without any restraints, they scan the six unfamiliar... boys. The first thing Hoshi notices that rubs him in the wrong way is a boy with long hair. Holding one of Mingyu's hands. Just who is he?

As soon as they are five feet away Mingyu and Seungcheol unlatch themselves from one another and Jeonghan. Hoshi opens his arms for the tall boy to step in and breathes out in relief. They're here. They're safe. Seungcheol has his arms wrapped around Jihoon, the latter relaxing in his hold. They pull apart too soon and before any of them can say anything Seungcheol beats them to it.

"I know you all have questions but first let's get home. There is a lot to talk about and i want all of us to there." Jihoon looked like he wanted to protest but thought better of it, choosing to take Minghao's hand in his own and tug the silent boy along. Something was bothering him, he didn't even turn to look in Mingyu's direction, the tall boy looking at him like a kicked puppy. 

Hoshi latches himself onto Mingyu and Seungcheol motions for the strangers to follow after them. They head home.

Jeonghan and the rest keep up with the fast pace they set, Joshua speeding up to walk next to him.

"You know," there is humour dancing in Joshua's eyes as he speaks, his voice as soft as ever, "i think that even if this arrangement doesn't work out, it sure will be interesting." Jeonghan nods and smiles. He hopes that it will work out. He doesn't think he could handle loosing Mingyu again.

Junhui, Seungkwan, Seokmin and Hansol, although somewhat begrudgingly, fall into step with them.
A medium two story house comes into view as they walk, two boys standing at the door, one looking at them with cold eyes while the other, smaller one, cowered slightly behind him.

Jeonghan watches as the cold eyes travel over Mingyu's body assessing him for any injuries, the other running up to them and into Seungcheol.

"Hyung! Where were you?! We were so worried! Jihoon-hyung tried reaching out but he couldn't feel you, Hoshi-hyung said you were out of range and Wonwoo-"

"Hey hey Chan it's okay we're both okay." At that the younger deflates a little. A startled yelp leaves Chan as his eyes catch onto the six new-comers. An unauthorized chuckle leaves Hansol and even Jeonghan turns to look at him with a smug face.

You're not going to be stubborn for long Vernon.

"Easy." Mingyu's voice is calming to Chan as the younger sends them wary looks. Honestly Jeonghan is getting a little sick of the looks.

"Let's go inside and we'll talk." Seungcheol's tone gives no space for arguments and they trickle in the house one by one. Jeonghan takes note of the fact that the boy with cold eyes disappeared from the front door.

A weight lifted from Mingyu's chest the moment he set foot in their house. There is something incredibly calming about being back, the familiar smell and warmth encompassing him. Before he can even register what's happening there's arms wrapping around his waist. Wonwoo.

"Hey hyung." The older buries his head in his neck and hums in acknowledgement. The rest enter after him and they all settle around the living room, most of the older boys stay standing, their protective instincts kicking in.

Jeonghan takes a deep breath. Somehow this whole situation seems harder on him than on Seungcheol, even though he knows that's not entirely true. His eyes travel around the room, taking in each of the boys who played a great role in Mingyu's life. They're a tight knit group that's for sure. Jeonghan feels the hair on the back of his meck stand and he turns to see the boy with cold eyes staring daggers at him. The boy also has a protective arm wrapped around Mingyu.

He doesn't exactly know how to start. Seungcheol has never felt so small in front of his boys. He made a big decision without consulting them and by the way Hoshi seems to be punching him with his eyes, the mind-reader already knows what happened. Seungcheol clears his throat, he can't really escape it.

"Umm... i know you have questions. A lot of them actually but i think it would be best to just introduce yourselves." Mingyu has never seen their leader look so insecure about something, he felt slightly guilty. He feels eyes on him and look to his left where Minghao is sitting on the love seat, the other turns away as Mingyu's eyes meet his. The action brings a frown to Mingyu's face, he hasn't done anything wrong, has he?

"I guess that's a good place to start." Joshua's mellow voice rocks him back into their current situation.

"I'm Jisoo, but you can call me Joshua if you'd like." The neutral and guarded expressions don't waiver and Joshua seems a little bit discouraged as his smile dulls, eyes fleeting across their faces before finally settling on a spot on the floor. Mingyu felt bad.

"I'm Seokmin and this is Seungkwan, sorry for intruding." The two do a ninety degrees bow. Mingyu thinks he sees a small smile on Chan's face as Seungkwan almost face plants with how far out he went. It's progress at least.

"I'm Junhui and don't worry i want to be here as much as you all want us here." Okay never mind.

"I just want to get out of here." A hand smacks him on the head.

"Jun and Hansol! Be nice." Couldn't the boy be quiet just a little longer? Mingyu feels the arm around his waist tighten, Wonwoo's sight is acting up. Which means Hansol is agitated. Which means this is probably not going to end well.

Hansol feels the awful coils of anger burning in the pit of his stomach again. Why is his hyung so damn stubborn and intent on staying here? Mingyu feels the tension rise to its max the moment Hansol jumps up from his spot on the couch and turns on Jeonghan. Again.

"I didn't want to come here in the first place! Why do i have to be nice to people i don't know who just happened to oh-so-magically stumble upon our hide-out just because that tall tree is someone you knew years ago?!" Well ouch. Rude.

The way everyone in the room stilled should've scared Mingyu, but he was almost expecting it. Minghao is on his feet immediately. There is honestly no reason to even question who was Hansol taling about. Minghao has been keeping his temper in check for the past few hours. Mingyu and Seungcheol had been missing, then they brought woth them six complete strangers and one of them even had the audacity to touch Mingyu. It doesn't matter it was just holding his hand. No one touches Mingyu in any way save for them. The doors and the windows slammed open as tge wind whipped around them.

Mingyu is wondering if there is a way to get Hansol alive out of this. The agitated boy doesn't even seem to notice the small storm around them, too immersed in glaring at his leader to pay attention to anything else. What Minghao didn't expect is the cold voice of the long-haired guy reverberating through the room.

"Do not question my desicions without valid reason ever again Hansol. And don't you ever, and i mean ever, talk about things you don't know about in any way." Even Mingyu was shocked still. Hansol deflated considerably, he talks big but deep down he holds huge respect for his hyungs. They are the ones who took care of him all this time after all. The wind around them dims a fraction as the change in Jeonghan's pitch registered.

A Siren.

Aweso-freaking-great. Just what they needed, a siren. Minghao is so done with this shit.

"And just who are you?" Minghao's tone is clipped and sharp as he eyes the strangers. His gaze settles on Jeonghan, who is starting to give him more and more reasons to dislike him. The six flinch back and Mingyu leaps from the couch, Wonwoo unwillingly unlatching his arm from around him, and steps in front of Minghao, obscuring his view. The slightly younger boy looks at Mingyu for the first time since they came back and his heart clenches. There is unmasked pain swirling in Mingyu's brown orbs and Minghao wants to punch himself so bad. Calming hands settle on Minghao's shoulders. The wind quiets down immediately, not leaving even a small draft in its wake. Eleven boys visibly relax, Hansol dejectedly sitting back down on his spot as the other four stay alert. Mingyu's voice in nothing above a whisper and Minghao hold onto every word.

"Hao, calm down. Nothing bad is going to happen to us i promise. Don't get agitated over Hansol, he's just a kid as lost as us, don't hold it against him." Minghao struggles to believe him. He just doesn't think Mingyu would let things go like this. The other sees the hesitation and the thoughts practically written on his forehead.

"You remember.. do you remember when i told you about the facility i was in?" God, Minghao hates the way Mingyu's voice strains at the end of his sentence. He feels the air get knocked out of his chest. The stories Mingyu had told him, they hurt him even more than if he were the one going through all those things. He nods somewhat reluctantly, not liking where this is going but also curious beyomg belief as to what does that damned facility have to do with any of this. The others who jave been quiet this whole time listen in, it's not exactly a private conversation. Besides, they need answers and they're willing to wait for them.

Mingyu casts a quick glance over his shoulder, catching Jeonghan's gaze searching for any kind of reassurance. The older sends him a small smile and that's all he needs.

"Do you remember the boy i always talked about? Jeonghan-hyung?" The pieces immediately fall into place. How could Minghao not remember? The boy who kept Mingy safe, who protected him to the best of his ability, Mingyu's words not his, the boy who Mingyu held in such high regard and close to his heart. Jeonghan.

Minghao, no not just Minghao. All the boys gathered turn to look at the boy in question. Looks of shock and something akin to awe adorning their faces.

So, this is Jeonghan.

Chapter Text

  "So, how do we make this less awkward?"

"You've just made it worse."

"Shut it, both of you." Seungcheol could feel a headache forming in his temples and he was ready to just get this over with.

"Would you all just sit down for a second?" The boys sat down, although some with more hesitation than others.

Mingyu and Minghao ended up sitting next to each other, the latter still staring at Jeonghan in awe. It was almost adorable and Jeonghan himself would've cooed if it wasn't for the glares he received from three other inhabitants. 

Seungcheol throws Mingyu a worrying look and at the younger's reassuring smile he somewhat relaxes. He tells the boys about how they stumbled upon Seokmin and Seungkwan getting chased by the Guards and how the two led them to the rest. All up to how they ended up where they are now, with thirteen of them in one place.

"So you're telling us that they are going to be staying with us from now on?" Jihoon blinks in shock. He didn't see this coming.

"All six of them?" Chan is just as baffled as the rest of them. Mingyu is suddenly feeling uncomfortable as all of his friends turn their attention to him. What if maybe this wasn't such a good idea? What if the others don't accept Jeonghan and the rest living with them? What if Jeonghan has to leave again? He can't handle that. He can't lose him again, not now when he finally found him after all these years. They wouldn't make him go through that, right? Of course they wouldn't what is he thinking.

'Exactly. What are you thinking? Relax Mingyu, you know we wouldn't do anything to hurt you.' The words ring through his mind and he knows the words are only being projected to him. Mingyu almost lets out a sob of relief as his anxiety lets off and if it weren't for the situation they were currently in he would've hugged the hell out of Hoshi for helping him snap out of it.

"Yeah..." His voice cracks and he looks to the floor not really wanting to see the reactions.

"If that's okay with all of you of course." Jeonghan's soft voice brings calming waves and Mingyu is aware that the other is doing it for his benefit. Jeonghan can see the wheels turning as six pairs of eyes asses him and his boys. It should be uncomfortable and to some extent it is. Makes him feel like he is back behind the glass walls being watched like a wild animal in a zoo but he bears with it. He sees the moment the shortest one of them lowers his defenses just a bit, his eyes softening as they fall on Jeonghan. The boy in question wonders what made him do that.

"I'm not exactly a hundred percent sure how any of this is smart but i also don't think how it could be bad." The guy with cold eyes from earlier throws him a doubtful look and he backtracks

"Okay i do but there is more positive things than negative. That is," it's as if th temperature in the room suddenly dropped because Jihoon's eyes hardened again and the threat that lay there was almost palpable, "If we can all get along well. Meaning no funny business. As long as none of you lay a finger on any of them i have nothing against you being here."

It was almost like a chain reaction from there. The boys giving their consents, all but Wonwoo that is.

"I don't trust you." The words cut through Mingyu like a knife. In their household majority wins rule applied to certain things, but if Wonwoo doesn't agree on something Mingyu related then the younger feels as if everything is wrong.

He looks pleadingly at Wonwoo, mouth open in slight shock. Wonwoo meets his with his own that at that moment held such cold that Mingyu almost didn't recognize them. The eyss that always looked at him with affection.

"Hyung..." Wonwoo's jaw clenches at the tone Mingyu is using. He hates the tremble and fear in his voice. He hates that he is the cause of that pain in the first place. But he has to keep it together.

"Mingyu i'm not saying no. I'm just saying that they shouldn't expect any hospitality from me." Wonwoo notices the way Mingyu struggles to swallow past the lump in his throat as he nods hastily. He really wants to punch himself now.

Jeonghan clears his throat after a few of silence filled minutes to gain everyone's attention.

"I thank you for giving us a chance. I promise we won't be any trouble to you guys and we'll try and help around as much as we can. All of us."

Junhui and Hansol snort.

        ***
The house is of moderate size, having five bedrooms and two beds in each. The seven residents all could've had their own beds but they preffered sticking together so only two of the rooms were used. Now, it was cleaning time. Even with all thirtheen of them working together they finished well into the night, each and every one of them ready to drop at any second. The atmosphere was pleasantly more relaxed than earlier.

Chan, being a sweet kid to almost everyone had been the first to break the ice and strike up a conversation with Seungkwan and Seokmin, as the two seemed the most approachable while they were making the beds in one of the rooms.

"Mingyu hyung told me you can float." Seokmin chocked on air with laughter and it was an easy way up from there. For the duration of the day conversations were started here and there. It was really a matter of time since all of them were just kind but scared boys living in an unforgiving world. Junhui and Hansol were being stubborn for a while but Junhui caved after Minghao pestered him with questions about everything and anything. The rest was somewhat easy. Each of the boys slipped into some kind of a conversation, even Wonwoo spared them a few words.

Now, after finally finishing most of the cleaning and setting up, they each plopped down in the living room.

"What was that?! Why do you have so many rooms i have never cleaned so much in my entire life." Seungkwan's inner diva is coming out to play, Jeonghan thinks amused.

"I made food." Mingyu enters the living room with a wooden spoon in his hand and a black apron tied around his waist. It's then that the smell hits them and hunger starts clawing at their stomachs.

"When did you manage to do that?" Junhui's baffled voice makes Mingyu chuckle. As they each pass him by to enter the kitchen Hoshi pats his shoulder and answers Junhui who is still confused.

"Get used to it buddy Mingyu can do literally everything." Junhui just shakes his head and mutters something along the lines of what-a-bunch-of-weirdoes.

As the last boy enters the kitchen, which is now even more cramped than before, Mingyu takes the apron off and goes to the only place available. He stands next to Wonwoo.

The older hasn't uttered a word to him in hours and it made him feel anxious and unusual. Wonwoo is his rock. He is the first person Mingyu opened up to. Being so near him but feeling so far away was not okay.

"Hyung?" Wonwoo looks up from his plate to meet his eyes. They are still so cold and distant and Mingyu doesn't know why.

"Yes?" The younger's face falls at the tone and Wonwoo reprimands himself. It isn't Mingyu that is the danger here.

"We'll talk later." Mingyu nods, seemingly satisfied with Wonwoo's words. They spend the meal in relative silence, only noise being the sounds of forks hitting the plates and occasional spouts of random questions between the two groups. The sink ends up burried under the dishes but they're all too tired to care.

As they all go back to the living room the somewhat awkward silence comes back. They can't exactly spill their life stories to each other. After a few mintes Wonwo clears his throat and stands up, tugging at Mingyu's hand as he passes him by.

"We're going to bed and i think the rest of you should too. We're all tired and still very much confused about all of this. Sleep will do all of us good." With that the two head up, stairs creaking under their weight. Wonwoo doesn't let go of Mingyu's hand untill they enter their room amd shut the door.

"Go to bed i'll be there in a second." Mingyu obeys without a word, too tired at the moment to do anything else but crawl beneath the covers and snuggle into a pillow. True to his word not even a minute later Wonwoo is back. He gets under the covers and lays on his back but says nothing. Mingyu looks at him through half lidded eyes, a silent question in them.

"Come here." The words alone are enough for Mingyu to drag his tired body forward and lay his head on the older's shoulder, burying his face in the crook of his neck. Mingyu sighs in relief, breathing in the scent of pines. Wonwoo tugs him back a little but he refuses to open his eyes, too relaxed.

His breath catches as something cold makes contact with his forehead and he shudders involuntarily.

"Don't overdo it again." Mingyu should've known Wonwoo is going to notice his aura is dim.

"Why didn't you tell Seungcheol?" Why is Wonwoo making him talk? He just wants sleep. He forces his consciousness to come back to him, fevered eyes making contact with cold ones. What a clash.

"Didn't want to worry him. It'll pass." Wonwoo grunts in annoyance, not liking the answer. Instead of saying anything he replaces the cold pack with a new one and tugs Mingyu's head back to his neck, a shiver passing through him as the pack touches his skin.

"Gyu?" The younger hums tiredly and Wonwoo is not sure if he is even conscious anymore.

"I'll always stand by your side you know that right?" Wonwoo is afraid. He is scared that Jeonghan is going to take Mingyu away from them and there would be nothing he can do about if.

"I know." The answer is simple and short but it's everything Wonwoo needs to settle his thoughts. As soon as the words slip Mingyu's breathing evens out. Asleep.

It is at that moment that the door opens and in enter Minghao and Soonyoung. They make a beeline to their own bed, immediately cuddling up to one another. Minghao is out like a light a second his head is down on Soonyoung's chest while the latter turns to the other two.

"You okay?" Wonwoo smiles at him and tightens his hold on Mingyu. Soonyoung considers that an answer enough.

Chapter Text

"Hansol no running in the house!" Jeonghan is on the verge of a mental breakdown. They've been living with Seungcheol for three weeks and he feels like a mother of eleven. So far it's been a smooth transition with a few bumps along the road. Junhui and Hansol got into arguements with Minghao and Soonyoung but the situation has gotten better.

Jeonghan couldn't help but notice that over these weeks he has gotten closer to all of the boys except one. Wonwoo. He was expecting as much, considering the boy bluntly told them not to expect any hospitality from him. It also made him feel a bit down. Wonwoo is Mingy's special someone and being at odds with him just didn't sit right with him.

So he did the only logical thing.

"Wonwoo?" The younger glares at him from his place at the dining table where he is currently reading a novel.

"Can we talk for a moment? It's kind of important." He adds as an afterthought. Wonwoo sighs and closes his book. He was hoping to finish it today but at the pace the day has started it's definitely not going to happen. Jeonghan takes a seat across from him. The house is fairly quiet, Seungcheol made Hansol and Chan go out front to run around and the others are launging in their rooms.

"Look i'll just go straight to the point. I am fully aware that you don't trust us. That you don't trust me. But i would never do anything to harm any of you, especially Mingyu." Wonwoo can see that the older is being honest, heck he had seen it on day one. His aura is pure. Yet there is a nagging feeling telling him that trouble looms around the corner, and that these boys have everything to do with it.

"I am aware of that. It's just hard i guess. All of a sudden there is six new people, strangers to all but Mingyu. And you have to understand that that detail just made it worse." Jeonghan is a little confused by Wonwoo's words. He had a slight idea about why Wonwoo is so cautious around them but, i mean they're strangers. It's the Mingyu part that confuses him.

"Even though Mingyu is definitely not the youngest we've all taken up the duty of taking care of him. Considering the fact that you were a big part of his shitty childhood, it keeps me on edge." Jeonghan nods along. He knows where Wonwoo is coming from, he understands what he means.

"You're saying that even if meeting him again is a good thing it could also bring some things back?" It's honestly not a question. Wonwoo takes a breath and runs a hand through his hair. It's stressful. The way his stupid fear gets in the way of connecting with people who are a huge part of his life.

"Pretty much." Jeonghan resists the urge to groan. Leave it to Wonwoo to be blunt. The older looks him in the eyes, he sees the emotions and thoughts clashing and he want them to settle. So he offers his hand.

"I promise to you, i will never let anything bad happen to any of you." Wonwoo stares at the hand in front of him for a few moments, should he trully trust this guy? He hasn't given him any reason not to, but at the same time he can not for the life of him get rid of the nagging feeling. It's like an annoying itch, not going away. He scratches it off instead, and clasps Jeonghan's hand.

"I'll take your word for it." Jeonghan graces him with that angelic smile of his and Wonwoo can't help but smile back. There is a feeling of peace spreading through him and he has a slight suspicion it has something to do with the melody Jeonghan starts humming as soon as they let go.

Their peace is short-lived of course, as two minutes later a pissed off looking Hansol enters the kitchen, an equally pissed off Mingyu trailing behind him.

"What the hell is your problem?!" Hanols spins on Mingyu, throwing his arms in agitation. The taller is clenching his jaw, obviously trying to control himself.

"The one with a problem here is you. I was just trying to help. Maybe you should try and be thankful for once." Wonwoo and Jeonghan observe from the sidelines, worried looks on both of them.

"Well i didn't need help. Most of all i didn't need your help." It's been three weeks and Hansol still couldn't get close to Mingyu. Well he wasn't really trying, Mingyu was.

"You almost slammed face first into a tree Hansol, was i supposed to just stay still?" Mingyu is getting more agitated by the second. His movementa are becoming jerky and his voice is rising in volume. Wonwoo knows that it takes a lot to rile Mingyu up, so the reason for this fight is either a good one or a stupid one.

"I would rather slam into a tree than get help from you!"

"What do you have against me exactly?!" It was obvious that neither of the two haven't noticed the presence of the older ones in the kitchen and Jeonghan is getting a bit worried.

"A lot actually-"

"That's enough Hansol." Seungcheol's voice ih hard as he enters the kitchen and observes the scene in front of him. Hansol scowles but stays quiet.

"You too Mingyu." The younger almost shrinks at the tone, it's not one that he likes. Seungcheol makes his way to the table and sits on the other side of Wonwoo. It's when the youngers' eyes follow him that they notice the other two. Hansol kicks himself mentally for not paying attention, he'll get an earful now. Seungcheol grounds them with a hard stare.

"What seems to be the problem?..Again." The two bickering constantly is slowly starting to get on his nerves. How come the rest are able to get along or at least tolerate each other and Hanso and Mingyu just couldn't?

Hansol lets out a frustrated breath amd sits at the table facing the three. Mingyu looks away with a scoff and leans against the wall, arms crossed. Wonwoo raises a brow in his direction. He sees Mingyu's aura, glowing with a lavender tint to it, dim at the attention of the others.

"It's nothing. It's stupid." Hansol sounds almost defeated, just wanting to get this all over with. Mingyu nods along.

Looks like the first thing they agree on.

Seungcheol regards them a little longer, an unreadable expression on hia face and Jeonghan wonders what goes through the oldest boy's mind. It seems as if Seungcheol finally accepted that as an answer and nods his head. Hansol's eyes light up with hope that he's free to go but it's quickly squashed when the leader opens his mouth to speak.

"Well if it's nothing i have something for you two to do." Mingyu's stomach coils and Hansol almost looks offended.

"There is still some of your things left at your old hide out Hansol. I need you two to go and get them." Hansol wants to protest but bites his tongue. Mingyu looks at Wonwoo like a kicked puppy asking him to get him out of this situation but the older just shrugs apologetically. He decides to try Seungcheol.

"But hyung can at least someone else come with me?" He clamps his mouth shut at the look Seungcheol sends him.

"This is not up for discussion. You're leaving in an hour." With that he up and leaves. Leaving behind two confused and two frustrated boys.
                                  ....

"I can't believe i got talked into doing this." Mingyu rolls his eyes at Hansol's constant whining. The guy just won't quit. They left the house an hour ago and are nearing the outskirts of the city walls.

There is a light breeze ruffling their clothes as they walk and the Sun beath down on them from above. It's midday, meaning that by the time they get back it will most likely be night time.

"Stop complaining and follow me, we only have one shot at this." Hansol trudges behind him silently, never thinking that he would willingly go back to a city crawling with Guards.

Mingyu raises a hand and they halt in their steps. The Guards are still there marching but there seems to be some kind of a buzz going around. It makes Mingyu's nerves tingle. He turns towards Hansol and nods his head in the direction of the boards. They crouch low and move. Hansol is almost amazed by the way Mingyu can tell exactly when and where is each Guard going to be. It comforts him in a way, the fact that at least one of them knows what they're doing.

"When i say run you run. When i say stop you stop. Got it?" Hansol nods begrudgingly. They reach the spot and take off at Mingyu's signal. He moves the boards while Hansol counts as per his request. Only when they are safely inside the walls do they allow themselves to breathe. Mingyu blinks a couple of times and Hansol watches him with a calculating gaze. He has seen the state Mingyu was when they were escaping the city, using his Mark takes a big toll on him.

So you're not all that perfect, huh?

Hansil immediately scowls at his own thoughts. He doesn't like the guy but he doesn't wish him pain. It's another minute before Mingyu is all ready to go and they take their leave. Mingyu is positive he can navigate the city with his eyes closed. The parts of it he's been to that is. It's effortless, the way they duck into every alley that helps them avoid being seen. Hansol takes the lead after they reach the fire escape the climbed last time. Mingyu's memory isn't that good. He observes Hansol as the younger runs ahead of him. The boy is scared, angry at the world but all of that still doesn't give Mingyu a reason enough for Hansol to dislike him like that.

"I can almost hear you thinking." Mingyu almost trips on his feet when Hansol breaks the silence. He doesn't turn around to look at him, but he acknowledged Mingyu first for the, well, first time. Usually it's Mingyu who starts a conversation, more like tries to, or who does something that usually ends in them shouting at each other.

"Why don't you like me?" He rethinks his choice of words and adds.
"I mean you don't have to. I just want a reason as to why not." His words come out chopped as he runs and tries to breathe and talk at the same time.

"I have my reasons." Mingyu lets out a scoff at Hansol's words. Who knew the kid was such a pain in the ass. Oh wait.

He decides to end the conversation there for the time being. It's obvious he won't be getting anything out of it. Mingyu considers this conversation a success. They haven't tried to push each other off of a building so it's a start. Baby steps.

They keep running and Mingyu recognizes the houses and buildings as they near the music store. Hansol drops down the fire escape and Mingyu follows. Leaning with his hands on his knees, Mingyu tries to catch his breath and looks at Hansol who seems unfazed.

He can run at the speed of sound dumbass, this is nothing for him. Damn it must be awesome to almost never get tired.

He straightens up and trails behind Hansol. It isn't untill they're right in front of the music store that a shiver passes through him and the hair on the back of his neck stands. Mingyu looks around, trying to identify the reason he feels like they're being watched. There is no one in the surrounding buildings, at least no one he can see from his spot on the ground. A tap on the shoulder startles him and he turns back around to find Hansol looking at him with a weird expression on his face.

"Come on dude. We don't have all day." Mingyu shakes his head to get rid of the feeling.

"Yeah sorry. I just thought i felt something." Hansol raises a brow but doesn't comment, instead he pushes the door to the music store and enters. The bell above the door jingles after them and the smell of stail air hits them full force. The instruments are still on the floor, ripped apart, unusable and Mingyu feels bad. Looking to his right he sees the dent in the far wall where Hansol slammed him on and winces as if the memory hurts. He makes a bee-line for the counter and the door behind it, Hansol already waiting for him with a bit of a scowl.

"Seriously, how many times do your thoughts freaking wander?" The younger doesn't wait for an answer as he rattles the door knob a bit and pushes inside. The stairs are dark and Mingyu has to trail one hand against the wall not to loose his balance in case he misses a step. When they reach the landing Hansol blindly searches for a switch on the wall and flips it. The blink and squint as the light pierces their eyes through the darkness. When they finally succeed Mingyu lets his eyes actually scan the room for the first time. It's cold and gray, mattresses strewn around the floor acting as beds, couches looking half bitten through by a rabid animal. There are a few shelves lined against the walls, very few items decorating them, and one that catches Mingyu's attention. He sneaks a look at Hansol who's busy throwing some things into a backpack with an almost sad look in his eyes. When he sees the younger is not paying any attention to him he makes his way to a shelf on the left wall a rectangular object glinting on the third upper shelf. A photo frame.

It's Jeonghan, Hansol and the rest. They all have arms wrapped around each other with massive grins on their faces. Jeonghan's hair i shorter so Mingyu thinks this was a few years back. He picks up the photo frame and smiles at the happiness radiating off it.

"What did you find?" Hansol startles him, again, and he almost looses his grip on the photo. He turns around with a small scowl and Hansol raises a brow in question, unfazed. He lifts the frame to show him and Hansol's eyes light up with glee. Mingyu never thought he would see the day. The younger takes the frame from him and with utmost care wraps it in an old shirt and settles it in the pack. He looks at Mingyu with a smile on his face for the first time in his life and Mingyu tentatively smiles back.

"Did you get everything you need?" Hansol nods and turns around towards the stairs.

"Yup. Let's go." As soon as the words leave his lips a slam sounds from upstairs. The doors are shut. Hansol turns to him with wide panicked eyes, they were stuck. Mingyu's mind reels as he pulls Hansol by the arm to stick close to him. The feeling of being watched is back and he eyes the room, trying to figure out the place where the intruder is. The air in the basement shifts and the temperature drops considerably, a shiver passing through the boys' bodies.

A ripple in the wall catches Mingyu's attention and he pulls Hansol behind him as a figure steps out the wall, dark smoke spreading around his feet. The figure is tall, broad shouldered and dressed in black ragged clothes. When it steps out of the shadown Mingyu cathes sight of his face and a feeling of dread settles deep in his chest. The figure, man , has a cruel grin on his face, cheeks hollowed with prominemt cheekbones, a gray tint to his skin. But it's the eyes that make Mingyu step back, pushing Hansol with him in the process. The man's eyes are a crimson colour, veins prominent around his eyes an emotionless, empty look aimed at the two boys.

A Drifter.

"What do you want?" Hansol's voice shakes and Mingyu nudges him with his hand to keep quiet. These people, no, creatures, are not capable of comprehending speech, emotions or any other human characteristic.

The Drifter tilts his head in confusion, Hansol's words unfamiliar to it's ears. It seems that it decides it doesn't really matter, because in the next second it streches it's right hand back and then there is a sharp metal object flying in their direction. Mingyu pushes Hansol and himself to the side, the dagger like thing barely missing them. The boys are on high alert, breathing picking up and heartbeats thundering. They need to get out.

"Hansol i need you to run to the door." Mingyu's voice trembles, he can't let anything happen to the younger. Hansol is confused by Mingyu's request. He can't leave him down here, he'll get himself killed.

"I'm not leaving you here you idiot." He wanted to say more but couldn't in favour of dodging another dagger.

"I'll be right behind you. I just need to not worry about you." Mingyu rolls on the floor, barely escaping a barage of daggers. Hansol grunts when his back hits the wall, he has nowhere to go. The Drifter is standing right at the landing of the stairs, he can't get to the door if the creature doesn't move. As if his thoughts were heard, the Drifter is yanked to the side by nothing and crashes into a shelf, the wood splintering and falling on too of it. Hansol turns to his left where Mingyu is leaning against a wall and he knows they have to hurry before the older passes out.

"Now Hansol!" He feels the blood rush as his muscles strain at the initial release, a boom echoing where he stood a milisecond ago. The world slows down for Hansol. It doesn't stop, it doesn't stop for anyone, but for Hansol it slows down. He sees things happening in slow motion. How the Drifter picks itself up, how Mingyu is instantly on high alert. He sees the dangerous metal glint and he knows he won't be able to stop and warn Mingyu, not when his momentum is immediate. But the dagger is not aimed at Mingyu. It's aimed at the door. Meaning it will hit him straight on when he reaches and he can't stop.

Shit.

Chapter Text

A flick of a wrist, a metal glint, a shout and a thud. They all happen in a second and Mingyu doesn't have time to fully process it because the only thing that he registers in his current state is that Hansol is hurt. He needs to get him out of here and he needs to do it fast. His eyes shift to where the Drifter responsible is standing with a satisfied smirk and his blood boils. If there is one thing Mingyu won't stand for it's someone hurting his friends. So he pushes his Mark.

The Drifter shudders where he stands a painfull grimace etched on his face as his skin ripples and he lets out a shreak as he is propelled through the air. The Drifter's body slams into the brick wall and straight through, the wall crumbling under the force. He doesn't get up.

Mingyu doesn't have the stomach or the strenght to go and look at the damage. Instead he runs up the stairs to the door, Hansol's slumped body waiting for him at the top. The boy is barely awake, leaning against the wooden door, a hand pressed to his side. Mingyu curses under his breath and crouches next to him.

"Hansol?" The younger lift his head weakly and looks at him with hooded eyes.

"Hyung.." Mingyu's heart breaks, this isn't the cocky kid he knows, it's a boy, a hurt boy. He reaches out and pushes Hansol's hand away from his side to inspect the damage. There's a clean slash on his side, just under his ribcage, it looks like he managed to twist himself in time to avoid a full stab. That doesn't comfort Mingyu a lot because the wound is still bleeding profusely, the red staining Hansol's shirt and Mingyu's hands as he applies pressure. The younger hisses in pain and Mingyu feels bad but he has to do something.

He removes his hands and returns Hansol's own to the wound telling him to keep pressure as he proceeds to rip the hem of his shirt to use as a bandage. It's messy and dirty but Mingyu manages to at least wrap the wound tight. Hansol is at this point completely out, laboured breaths leaving his still form. The bleeding slowed so Mingyu allows himself a second of reprieve. He slumps against the stair railing and takes in several breaths. He is starting to fade and they still have to get back, he can't allow himself that. With one last breath he gets up and leans down to gather Hansol in his arms. He settles him on his back and wraps his hands around his legs. The younger even though slipping in and out of consciousness manages to wrap his arms around Mingyu's neck for purchase. Their journey is slow as they duck into allies to avoid being seen. They get to the building where the fire escape is and Mingyu realizes there is no way he can climb with Hansol on his back. That leaves him with two options. Either go around on ground and risk the Guard catching them or he really pushes it to the max. He quickly chooses the latter knowing he can't defend both of them in their current states.

He gently lowers Hansol's body against the building wall and uses a few seconds to strech his back and breathe. Looking up towards the top of the building Mingyu estimates how long it would take him to lift Hansol up. He can't mess this up. Crouching down to the injured boy he shakes his shoulder to rouse him from slumber. Hansol blinks tiredly up at him and looks around confused.

"What's going on?" His voice is rough and throat parched, Mingyu wishes he had a bottle of water. Instead he looks Hansol seriously in the eyes and grips his shoulders tight.

"Do you trust me?" Mingyu's voice is hard, eyes determined and Hansol wonders what exactly is happening. He doesn't voice it, he just nods. Mingyu seems relieved as he lets out a sigh and stands up again.

"I'm going to lift you up to the top and i need you not to move. Okay?" Mingyu feels nervousness creeping in and he shakes out his hands to get rid of it. He can't allow himself to get scared now, it could cost Hansol his life.

Mingyu closes his eyes, cutting his vision of Hansol, the gray alley and crumbling buildings around them. His head is pulsing, has been since the Drifter, but he pushes past it. He'll worry about it when they're home, safe. Hansol's presence is bright behind his eyelids and he reaches out with his Mark. The invisible strings wrap tight around Hansol's frame and Mingyu pulls.

Hansol's eyes widen in panic as he feels himself being lifted by thin air, only to find Mingyu's blurry figure below him.

Oh. This is what he meant.

He stills his trembling limbs as to not make the job harder on Mingyu. The older's brows are pinched in concentration, beads of sweat forming on his forehead as Hansol goes higher and higher.

When the injured boy reaches the edges of the roof he twists his body, wincing as the movement tugs at the wound, and grabs onto the building. With one last, small push he pulls himself over the edge and plops on the hard cement. A painful groan leaves him and he clutches at his side, just now noting the makeshift bandage, the blood soaking through.

Mingyu must've wrapped it.

Hansol peers over the edge of the building and his heart sinks when he catches sight of Mingyu. The older is leaning heavily against the wall of the building across breaths coming out in harsh pants. He never went this far.

There was a heavy throb behind Mingyu's eyes and he could feel his consciousness slipping. They're not even remotely close. Pushing past the pain he gets his bearings and grabs onto the fire escape. With each step he tightens his hold on the metal bars. Slipping from any hight wouldn't do him any good. Especially ten stories high.

Mingyu stops multiple times during his ascend to gather some semblance of control over his mind and body. Perched on the edge, Hansol watches as the older climbs slowly, his grip on the bar so hard his knuckles turned white. When he's an arm reach away, Hansol props his torso on the ledge and extends his arm for Mingyu to grab. The action tugs at his wound but he grits his teeth and bears it. Hooking his left arm around a bar for purchase Mingyu reaches out with his right and wraps it arouns Hansol's. The younger uses the small wall as leverage to pull and with pained groans and throbbing arms Mingyu is pulled onto the roof.

The older collapses on his back on the hard material. His chest is heaving with exertion and eyes shut tight in pain.

"Hyung?" Hansol's own shaky voice reaches Mingyu's ears and he opens his eyes, squinting as the light pierces. Hansol approaches him and wraps hia arms around his torso to heave him up. By the time they're settled and sitting next to each other both are ready to drop unconscious.  But they're both also too stubborn for their own good. So they stand up and Hansol is back on Mingyu's back, despite the younger's protests that he can walk by himself. It's all a blur then. How they travel across the buildings, go down and manage to reach the wall still conscious is a mistery to both. The adrenaline of the day still pumping through their veins keeping them somewhat on alert. It's also the sole reason Mingyu doesn't drop after moving the boards.

Sprinting with a weight on your back is not an easy feat, as soon as they get a bit further into the forest on the outside Mingyu's knees buckle and Hansol drops from his back to keep him steady.

"Hyung i think we should rest for a bit." Hansol's own voice is strained but the bleeding slowed and he can wait. Mingyu leans harder against him and shakes his head.

"No... you're hurt. We need to get home." Putting both of his hands on the older's shoulders Hansol pushes him down to sit against a tree. The younger's stomach flips with pain but he switches his attention to the way Mingyu's legs folded on him and he sat down without resistance. Hansol takes a seat next to him leaning back against the tree trunk, closing his eyes.

A breeze makes him shiver, the loss of blood making the cold seem that much worse. There is a floating feeling in his mind, which is probably not a good sign. A warm hand wraps itself around his on the ground and he opens his eyes with effort. Mingyu is looking at him his face pinched with pain and concern but he looks just a bit better after sitting down. That is he doesn't look like death warmed over.

At the concern swimming in Mingyu's eyes, Hansol gives him a watery smile and squeezes his hand. It is at that action that Mingyu's eyes harden and then he is once again unsteadily getting on his feet.

"Come on. We're almost there." Hansol grabs onto the hand the other lends him and pulls himself up. Almost immediately the world tilts around him and he stumbles forward. The only reason he didn't faceplant right then and there is Mingyu holding him up by his arms.

"Shit. You lost a lot of blood." The older's voice echoes and sounds so so far away. For the nth time in the last few hours he is being lifted into Mingyu's arms and on his back. Now that his head is swimming and he can't focus on anything else, the pain hits him full force. The stab wound might not be that big, but it bled for a long time and it still hurts. With every step Mingyu makes his body is jarred and he almost whimpers, tightening his arms around Mingyu's neck. Just how much longer do they have to go?

The Sun had set a while ago, while they were still in the city and a dark forest wasn't an ideal travel route. Mingyu has to be aware of everything  around them, and it's hard when he can't see . Staying alert proves to be even more challenging when his legs are about to give out.

Just a bit more. Come on Mingyu. Don't fuck it up now, Hansol needs to get home.

Mingyu's own vision starts to go blurry, the tall looming trees of the forest becoming dark smudges in front of him. His steps have become slower during the past hour of stumbling along the path but they're so damn close.

He feels the mental barrier as he steps towards it. In the very moment he passes through the message is out and he's on the ground.

                               ◇◇◇

"They're within the barrier!" Soonyoung's voice rings through the house and all eleven boys swarm the living room. Jihoon is already reaching out to pinpoint their exact location and the weak pulses startle him. He opens his eyes, panic reflected in them.

"They're not moving." There's a cold feeling settling in their spines. Seungcheol curses under his breath, they have to go and get them. But if they're not moving maybe they don't have much time. In the middle of panic an idea makes Seungcheol stop in his pacing. He knows it's too risky but it would take too long otherwise. After a moment of further consideration he makes up his mind.

"Chan." The maknae jumps at the sound of his name being called.

"I need you to take Jihoon and teleport them here." Chan starts shaking his head no but rethinks it. If that's the fastest way to get them home safely then he'll do it. He still bites his lip as the nervousness rides his mind.

"Are you sure about this?" A calming wave washes over him at the sound of Jeonghan's voice and the youngest is aware of Jeonghan's Mark. Before Seungcheol can answer it's Chan himself who steps forward.

"I'll do it." The kid is proud that his voice held steady. Seungcheol nods and walks over to him putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. His eyes soften and he feels so sorry that this is the world Chan lives in. That any of them live in.

"Soonyoung, Jihoon, show him." The boys steps next to Chan and give him  reassuring smiles which the youngest returns. Each grabbing one of his hands, Chan's mind is being tugged back and forth. Pictures appear in front of him. A blurry outline of a muddy forest floor and all trees encompased in darkness. There's a sound of heavy breathing and Chan makes a startling realization that he is looking at what either Mingyu or Hansol are seeing. He is pulled back then, and a projection of Jihoon's map appears before him. The position of the two weak, unmoving pulses along with a rough picture of the place, gives Chan an idea on where his hyungs are.

Releasing Soonyoung's and Jihoon's hands from his grasp he focuses on the holes. The holes in space visible only to him. Each having a different place inside of them, it's easy to miss the right one, but having practised for a long time he managed to figure out the way they work. He spots the right one, a white tint surrounding the edges. Motioning for Jihoon to follow him, the older grasps onto the back of Chan's shirt. Taking a cautious step forwards they step through a hole right next to Seungkwan, the latter gaping at the empty spot where the two stood just a mere second ago.

On the other side of the hole Chan and Jihoon stumble out into the dark forest. The air is chilly, the moon up high the only source of light. It takes time for their vision to adjust and when it finally does their eyes sweep the area around them in hopes of catching sight of the two.

"Hyung?" Jihoon's head whips around so fast he almost gets whiplash. The voice belongs to Mingyu. Jihoon thinks he has never moved so fast in his entire life. He reaches the tall boy just in time to steady him as Mingyu leans forwards from the added weight of Hansol on his back. Chan is right there after him, going behind Mingyu and taking Hansol off of him. They don't talk, just move as fast as possible back to the hole and a second later the familiar sight of their living room graces their eyes. It's a blur of movements then, nine awaiting boys raising panicked voices and trying to come closer.

"Stay back." Jihoon's cold voice passes over them as they move back to give them space. The smallest of the bunch releases his hold on Mingyu's waist and is about to pass him over to Wonwoo when Mingyu speaks up.

"Hansol first. He's bleeding." Jihoon grits his teeth and Seungcheol and Jeonghan take Hansol from Chan's back and along with Joshua they leave for the makeshift infirmary in of the rooms. Jihoon's blood goes cold at the blood stains left on the back of Chan's shirt. The youngest is shaking like a leaf, wide eyes looking at the blood smeared on his hands. Jun, Seungkwan and Seokmin fret over Chan, taking him by the trembling hand to the bathroom to calm him down and get him to change.

"Hyung... i have to sit." Mingyu's weak voice snaps Jihoon out of his thoughts and he just now notices the trembling in the younger's limbs, the heavy pants, how unnaturally hot he is and the glazed over eyes. Wonwoo steps forward and wraps his arms around Mingyu's waist, the tall boy falling heavily onto his chest, tucking his head in Wonwoo's neck. Wonwoo tightens him arms at the trembling before falling back to sit on the couch behind him. Mingyu promptly curles himself on Wonwoo's lap, muffling his pants against the other's shirt. Wonwoo's brows furrow at the almost non existent aura around the boy in his lap, the vivid lavender dulled down to a sad gray.

"Hyung what happened?" Mingyu's eyes flutter open and he resists the urge to tell Minghao not to call him hyung. The Chinese took a seat next to them and is now looking at Mingyu with eyes filled with concern. Wonwoo's hand is making comforting circles along his back and Mingyu uses that to ground himself.

"There was a Drifter at the music store." His words are slow and choppy but the others are patient. The hand on his back falters and he hears gasps from the few left in the living room. He feels a nudge against his mind and he whimpers, eyes shutting in pain.

"Shit Mingyu i'm sorry." Soonyoung's trembling voice soothes the ache and he reaches for the older. A hand clasps his and there is a dip in the couch behind him, then the arms are around his waist and Mingyu for the first time today feels at ease.

"I just wanted to see what happened." Mingyu can't help the throb in his chest at how small Soonyoung's voice sounds. So he lets him. Opening his over sensitive mind, he feels the prods of Soonyoung's mind threads as they weave and search through his memories. They don't stray and look where they're not supposed to, that's the promise Soonyoung made to all of them when they formed the bond. The threads are gone just as quick as they appeared and the only sounds in the room are Mingyu's heavy breathing and Soonyoung's gasps as the pictures fleet through his own mind.

"Wonwoo give him a cold shower. Now. Minghao and Jihoon gather some cool packs and arrange the bed in our room." Soonyoung sighs and places a kiss on Mingyu's head before he exits the room. He has to talk to Seungcheol. Mingyu whimpers when his sore body is moved from Wonwoo's lap. The older shushes him as they head upstairs. When they reach the bathroom Wonwoo sets Mingyu down on the counter next to the sink and he leans back against the cold tiled wall. Wonwoo grabs some loose shorts and a t-shirt from the small cupboard and turns the water on. While the hot water spray cools he comes to stand in front of Mingyu's slumped form.

"Let's get you out of these clothes Gyu." Mingyu latches onto the sleeve of his shirt and leans forward, laying his hot forehead against Wonwoo's collarbone.

"Hyung i'm cold." As if his body wants to show it, the trembling increases and he curls in on himself. Wonwoo rubs along his arms to spread warmth and places a kiss to the crown of his head.

"You pushed way to far Mingyu. Your body isn't used to it and it's coping with the over-exertion in the worst way possible. Your aura is almost gone. You're going to sleep as soon as we finish up here." The deep timbre voice of the older makes Mingyu go limp against him. Wonwoo makes quick work of helping Mingyu with showering and dressing back up.

When they enter their room there is a nest make of pillows and blankets waiting for them on their bed. Mingyu burries himself under the covers, teeth chattering at the low body heat. Wonwoo feels bad put he pulls the covers back even as Mingyu lets out a whimper. Taking a few of the cold packs set on the bed-side table, he lays next to Mingyu who tries to curl against his chest.

"Mingyu, baby i need you to listen to me." Mingyu's eyes are glazed over and Wonwoo knows he is too far gone with the fever and the fading but he has to try and explain.

"I need you to stay away from me untill your body cools down. If your fever rises any higher it could be dangerous." Wonwoo searches for any kind of sign that Mingyu understood him but he finds none. There is only teary eyes looking blankly at him. He sighs and before he can chicken out, he places the cold packs all over Mingyu's overheated body. The younger tries to squirm away from the biting cold but he has no energy to manage anything else but a small shrug of shoulders.

"Hyung... it hurts." Deciding to take the risk, Wonwoo moves forwards on the bed and wraps himself around Mingyu's limp form, the cold packs pressed in between them. It hurts him to see the pain on Mingyu's face as the trembling increases and his own eyes starts stinging as tears trail down Mingyu's cheeks. Soon enough his body is being wracked in sobs from the pain, cold and exhaustion and Wonwoo just holds him tighter. There is nothing else he can do.

                             ◇◇◇

In the infirmary the metallic smell of blood flows in the air. The scent bitter in the boys' minds as they wait for Joshua to finish patching Hansol up. The youngest of the three sighs wearily and wipes the sweat on his forehead with the back of his hand before getting up from the chair next to the bed.

"He'll be okay. The wound wasn't that deep but the blood loss made him weak. A few days of rest will do him good." Jeoghan sags in relief and takes the chair Joshua previously occupied. He doesn't say anything and just holds one of Hansol's hands. It was too close. The fear was too much like the fear from back at the facility.

Seungcheol lingers back. He has to go and check on Mingyu but he just feels so damn guilty. If he wasn't so adamant on sending Mingyu and Hansol out there alone they wouldn't be hurt and in pain. He was such an idiot. Joshua pats him on the back as he exits the room, leaving the two oldest alone with Hansol.

"Jeonghan i'm-" He can't get the words past his lips. He should've thought better before making a rash desicion like that. He put two people he was responsible for in danger, one who he sees as a younger brother.

"Don't beat yourself up. It's not your fault." Seungcheol wants to believe him, he does, but it doesn't seem right. Jeonghan's voice is shaking and so are his shoulders. He's crying, Seungcheol realizes and it hits him too hard. Before he can apologize properly there is a light knock on the door and a sheepish Soonyoung peeks in. Jeonghan wipes at his eyes with his sleeves and motions him in with a small smile. Thr look the younger has makes something uncomfortable shift in their stomachs. Seungcheol's first thought is that something happened to Mingyu and his heart thunders in his chest. Soonyoung shakes his head gently and it eases his mind. He clears his throat and the two pieces of information he delivers gives Jeonghan and Seungcheol both relief and fear.

"Mingyu is going to be okay. He pushed it too far, he faded and his fever is raging but Wonwoo is taking care of him." It eases their hearts a little but they know there is more.

"A Drifter attacked them." Their blood runs cold.

Chapter Text

The first thing that Hansol takes note of as his consciousness comes back, is the dull pain in his side and the stifling heat. He cracks his eyes open and takes in his surroundings. The lights in the room are dim but there is a smell of antiseptics and the constant beep of a heart monitor.

Oh.. an infirmary.

An infirmary?

The memories come flashing back then, the small stunt with Mingyu, Seungcheol sending them off to the city, the music store, the Drifter .

Shit, Mingyu.

The older barely managed to get them back to the forest, where is he?

"Hyung!" Hansol's voice is hoarse and he winces as his ribs move but he immediately hears multiple pairs of footsteps bounding up the stairs. The door swings open and a breathless Joshua comes bounding in, Jeonghan and Seungcheol on his heels. Hansol squints at the sudden invasion of light from the hallway and closes his eyes completely to adjust as Joshua flips the light switch inside the room, the infirmary becoming a blinding white mass.

"Hansol! You're finally awake. How a-"

"Where's Mingyu-hyung?" Hansol cuts off Jeonghan's worried rambling and the oldest shoots him a dirty look. Seungcheol gives him a small smile as he approaches the bed Hansol is lying in.

"He woke up about half an hour ago, Minghao is with him. Do you want me to get him for you?" Hansol opted for a nod as heat spread through his cheeks. He expected that Seungcheol would be at least a bit bitter, it was his fault that the both of them ended up in this position after all. The second oldest leaves the room after saying he'll be back soon and then it's just Hansol and his hyungs.

The two older boys settle in the wooden chairs next to the bed, Jeonghan taking his left hand in his.

"The two of you gave us quite a scare when you came back." Joshua nods along to Jeonghan's words.

"It definitely wasn't a pretty sight. You lost a lot of blood but I managed to patch you up." Hansol bites his lip as he thinks back to then, his memory is fuzzy he doesn't really remember what exactly happened after they made it to the woods.

"And Mingyu?" He doesn't know why, but the thought of not seeing the older now makes him anxious. Jeonghan runs his thumb in comforting circles and for a second Hansol is worried, but then remembers what Seungcheol said.

"You both slept through the last three days Sol. Your bodies needed time to recover, your wound to heal and Mingyu to gain his strength back." So he was asleep for three whole days? Damn.

"Do you remember everything that happened?" Hansol nods and shudders as the memories pop up.

"There was a Drifter there hyung. Why would there be a Drifter in Seoul? I though we lost them after we passed the border." Jeonghan sighs and bites his lip, obviously not knowing how to answer so instead he just shakes his head.

"I don't know Sol. Right now all that matters is that the two of you are okay again." Hansol agrees but still something doesn't sit okay with him. There is this nagging feeling in the back of his head that this was only the start of something bigger and more dangerous than anything they've faced before. Any further exchanges are stopped by the door creaking open. Seungcheol trails in, a small smile on his face, and Mingyu is right behind him with an arm around Seungcheol's shoulders for support.

"Hey brat, welcome back to the land of living." Hansol scoffs and rolls his eyes as the two approach his bed, Joshua getting up and pulling up another chair for Mingyu to sit in. The tallest smiles gratefully and sinks into the seat with a relieved sigh. Hansol keeps track of the fact that while Mingyu seems okay on the first look, there is unusual palor to his skin the natural bronze glow absent.

"How are you doing Hansol?" Hansol has to fight the urge to squirm under all the attention. All of the hyungs are still there watching the two of them interact.

"I'm okay, or I will be at least. How are you holding up?" Mingyu gives him a wide grin, canines showing, and Hansol thinks about how young Mingyu actually is, only around a year older than Hansol himself.

"I'll be okay with a couple of more hours of rest." There is more Mingyu wants to say, it's obvious and the others must pick up on it as well because the next second the three oldest are up on their feet and are making their way towards the exit with the excuse of checking up on the others. As soon as the door closes behind them though, Mingyu's wide smile drops to a more timid one.

"I can leave if you want me to." Hansol has to blink a few times to understand what the older boy was trying to say. When the words finally made it to his brain though he started stuttering out random words in the rush to speak, almost making himself fall of the bed in the process. He reaches out and grabs onto Mingyu's shirt just to keep him from going. As soon as the tall one pauses he brings his hands back to his lap quickly.

"No hyung! Why would I want you to leave? I asked for you in the first place." With that Mingyu settles and once again there is a small smile playing on his lips. The smile grows at Hansol's confused face.

"That's the second time since we met that you called me hyung." And what exactly can Hansol say to that? He keeps his eyes on his fingers fumbling in his lap as he thinks about when the first time was.

The basement.

"I don't remember much of what happened." He begins, hands gripping at the sheets covering him. He chooses to ignore the way Mingyu scoots his chair closer to the bed, a subconscious reaction to reach out to comfort Hansol realizes.

" I remember the way there, the D-Drifter appearing and trying to make a run for the door. After that it's all a blur of pain and cold and fatigue. God hyung I've never felt so scared." He doesn't notice his hands are shaking until Mingyu's own large one encompasses both of his smaller ones. The older's grip is barely there but it's warm and it's all Hansol needs to ground himself. He wets his lips with his tongue, mouth suddenly dry as the words he is planning to say to Mingyu pass though his head. He looks up at him, those warm brown orbs meeting his own and suddenly Hansol is not afraid anymore.

"I'm sorry." He puts his hand up to stop the words of protest Mingyu was about to utter. "I've been a dick to you since the start Mingyu and for that I'm sorry. I know it doesn't make it okay but I was just scared. We were living okay by ourselves back there and then you guys show up and you actually know Jeonghan and then there is suddenly thirteen people living in a house and it was all too much. I'm sorry for being an ass and taking my frustrations out on you. You're a good guy and I'm sorry it took us almost dying to figure it out. I also wanted to thank you for taking care of me and getting us back home. You put my welfare before yours and while I'm not happy about that particular detail I am grateful. So.. thank you." By the time he rushes all of that out he's out of breath so he takes a deep one before hesitantly raising his head to meet Mingyu's eyes again. The older's face is blank and he seems a bit flustered if the constant fiddling of his fingers is anything to go by. He opens his mouth multiple times only to close them again when no words come out. Heaving a sigh Mingyu finally manages to collect his thoughts.

"I never held it against you Hansol. I know what it's like to be lost and scared. To suddenly have your world crash around you time and time again. But if it's something that you need to hear, then I forgive you." the sigh of relief that leaves Hansol almost makes Mingyu chuckle. "And you don't have to thank me for something like that. The safety of my friends will always be my number one priority." He can hear the comment before the younger makes it. The slight raise of one eyebrow and the tiny cocky smirk on Hansol's face is enough to have him scoff.

"Oh so we're friends now?"

"Shut up brat."

""""""""""""""""""""""''""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

"You think they'll be okay?" Seungcheol asks as soon as the wooden door clicks shut behind the three. Jeonghan sighs in exasperation. Seungcheol worried too much sometimes. The trio make their way down the hall, passing various rooms along the way. Oust of them are silent meaning that either their occupants are asleep or absent.

"They'll be just fine Coups. Hansol's wound is almost completely healed and Mingyu's fever broke yesterday evening. With just a bit more rest they'll be as good as new." Joshua says trying to ease his mind. Seungcheol takes on a small smile as they make their way down the stairs, the wood creaking dangerously under their combined weight.

"I was actually thinking about whether or not they're going to be able not to murder each other while alone." Jeonghan just chuckles before throwing an arm around Seungcheol's shoulders.

"I don't think we have to worry about that anymore."

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

Downstairs, the rest of the boys are scattered all over the rooms. Seungkwan, Seokmin, Chan and Jun are in the living room playing a game of Twister, the old ripped version of it anyways, it's the only game they actually owned that didn't require additional charging and fees. Minghao and Jihoon went out on a scouting run, the former was hard to convince that Hansol well won't hurt Mingyu in any way and it's okay for him to leave with Jihoon. The three oldest make a beeline towards the kitchen to start on the dinner, there they find Wonwoo hunched over a book, Soonyoung peering over his back. Both look up at their entrance and wave in greeting. Wonwoo figures enough is enough because he closes the book and threatens to smack Soonyoung with it if he doesn't stop breathing down his neck. The blonde dances away to the living room with laughter flowing out of him. Once he's out of the kitchen the aura reader turns back to the three.

"I'm guessing they haven't tried to kill each other yet?" He nods at the satisfied smiles he recieves as answers.

"Has either of the two said anything that could help us?"

"I'm not sure if they would be willing to speak yet. We've basically already seen what happened through Soonyoung's Sight." Joshua answers, the softspoken boy sitting down at the table with a bowl of cereal in hand. Wonwoo mulls things over as the other two go around the kitchen banging with pans and other cutlery, trying to make something edable. Wonwoo honeslty doesn't know how they survived without Mingyu's cooking the past few days.

"But what if we missed something?" The low timbre of Wonwoo's voice once again carried through the kitchen. The oldest trio pauses in their tasks and turns to look at him. The younger almost feels uncomfortable. Seungcheol heaves a sigh and Wonwoo feels bad for adding to his stress.

"In that case they'll come to us when they're ready." Wonwoo nods feeling defeated and tired all of a sudden. He chooses that moment to get up and head towards the living room with the excuse of checking on the rest of the troublemakers, Joshua following behind after realizing he can do absolutely nothing to help with the food.

Jeonghan slumps in one of the wooden chairs as soon as the other two leave. Seungcheol eyes him for a second before throwing the rag back on the counter and sitting on a chair opposite Jeonghan.

"Alright, spit it out. Don't look at me like that i know something's been bothering you ever since the boys came back." Jeonghan actually feels shocked for a moment.

"You're quite good at reading people." Seungcheol nods comically and wrings his hands together.

"In part. Also Wonwoo read your aura and said you suck the fun out of the room." Jeonghan's eyes widen and he sputters before scoffing and simply shaking his head.

"Well okay then. He's not exactly wrong." Seungcheol nods in a show of understanding and motions for Jeonghan to go on. The barely younger male takes a breath and leans forward in his chair.

"These... Drifters. We thought that when we left.. when we left the facility we left them behind as well. That obviously isn't the case considering." He makes a vague motion in the air with his hand at a loss of words to use.

"We've had a few run ins with them over the years but nothing this major. It seems that they were waiting for them to come to them. I'm not sure how I feel about that. What if we've led them right back to Mingyu? To you guys? I could never live with myself if something happened to any of you because of us." Seungcheol gets up from his chair and crouches next to a distressed Jeonghan, putting his hands on the other's.

"Hey hey hey... there is no way for us to know where the Drifter came from. For all we know there could be a whole group of them just randomly passing by. Even if that weren't the case and they really are here for you guys, we would never let them get to you. Okay?" He watches with a gentle smile as many emotions clash over Jeonghan's face. Finally settling for a small smile that looked more like a grimace but gratitude and trust in his eyes. Jeonghan thanks him with a small smile and takes his hands in his own. Seungcheol tries to ignore the way his heart jumps at the returned contact. Just when the comfortable silence settled in and Seungcheol was ready to get up because his knees were starting to hurt a distressed looking Mingyu swooped into the kitchen. The boy is breathing heavily and there is obvious fear in his eyes as he approaches the two. Seungcheol doesn't even get the chance to ask him what's wrong and to help because the taller is grabbing onto Jeonghan's hands with his trembling ones.

"Hyung, I saw a diamond on him."

Chapter Text

The whole room quiets down as Jeonghan clears his throat, twelve boys sitting back and looking attentively at one of their oldest. Jeonghan feels a bit uncomfortable under the attention.

"Okay, so far the only thing we know for sure is that the Drifter that attacked Hansol and Mingyu is in fact from... Opal. The Diamond mark on his face proved that." The two mentioned boys shrunk a bit into themselves at the mention of their names. They were all healed up now, it's been a couple of days since they woke up and all thirteen of them have been avoiding talking about what had happened. Jeonghan can't shake the image of a trembling Mingyu telling him about the Diamond mark. He knew that mark, all of his boys know about it. Every employee at the facility they... grew up in, had one tattooed on some part of their body.

We led them right to Mingyu and the rest.

"We have to lay low for a while, they probably already noticed that one of theirs is missing and they will try to find out what happened." The uneasiness Jeonghan felt as he said those words was reflected in the rest of the group as well.

"We don't know for sure why that thing was there in the first place. Could it be a coincidence?" Oh how everyone wanted to confirm Chan's doubts and soothe the worry.

"I doubt it. It was like he.. it was waiting for us. As soon as we entered the basement it was just there."
Mingyu puts a hand on Hansol's shoulder as the younger talks and Jeonghan tries to see that as one positive in this whole thing.

"That could only mean that someone sent it there, someone knew you were coming." No one misses the accusation in Wonwoo's voice. Jeonghan and his boys straighten up and Mingyu visibly stiffens and clenches his teeth.

"Hyung don't start." Wonwoo shoots him a look but says nothing to him otherwise.

"You can't tell me it's a coincidence that a few weeks after we accidentally met these guys, a Drifter, from Mingyu's old facility mind you, attacks exactly where they lived for a while." The tension is high once again and Jeonghan sends Seungcheol a look but the other is not looking at him but at the situation unfolding. Mingyu is obviously getting sick of Wonwoo's constant jabs at the expense of the others.

"In case you haven't noticed Hansol almost died and if he was willing to go through that just for the sake of an act I would personally commend him." Hansol leans back trying to shrink into the couch not to get attention to himself. Chan puts a hand at the small of Mingyu's back, silently telling him to calm down.

"Mingyu this has nothing to do with you and I don't want to argue with you, it's just something that had to be said." Wonwoo's voice is calm but the rest can see the exact moment his eyes fill with pain.

"How can you say that hyung? Of course it has to do with me, it has everything to do with me. We've been over this before as well, why do you have to bring it up again? Is it really that hard to believe there is someone else other than you that I care about and cares about me?"
It's at that moment that Seungcheol cuts in.

"Let's take a break shall we? You two go clear your heads I don't need you fighting every ten minutes. No Mingyu u do not want to hear it now. Out." The two make their way out in separate directions while the others shuffle around the house, most of them going to take a snack in the kitchen. The two oldest stay put in the living room.

Jeonghan sits down on a beat down chair with a heavy sigh and Seungcheol puts a hand on his shoulder.

"This is all our fault."

"We've been over this already Jeonghan. It is in no way your fault. You couldn't have known something like this would happen." Jeonghan tries to believe him he really does but images of Hansol bleeding out and Mingyu's body seizing from the fever won't leave him alone.

If only we ran. If only I hadn't let my emotions get the best of me. Maybe Mingyu and his family would've been better off without us.
                                  *
Soonyoung, Jihoon, Jun and Seokmin are in the kitchen munching on some chips while the tension clears throughout the house.

"I've been thinking." Soonyoung speaks up suddenly, hand halfway to the chips filled bowl.

"That's new." Jihoon comments dryly but Soonyoung only rolls his eyes at the remark.

"What if.. what If I extended the bond?" Jihoon pauses to look at him, worry flashing over his eyes, while Seokmin and Jun sit there confused.

"What bond hyung?" Soonyoung turns to Seokmin and thinks about how to explain it to the younger.

"My Mark allows me to gain access to people's minds if you will, at least to some extent. I can do it with or without consent but I very much prefer the former thank you very much." The tension that seeped in at the start of his explanation faded out of the two newer members and they relaxed.

"So you can read minds and stuff like that? Can you take control?" Soonyoung shakes his head at the control part and Jun nods.

"I can read your thoughts, see your dreams, look into your deepest darkest secrets although I don't like getting my hands and my head dirty." Jihoon is eyeing the two as Soonyoung is explaining. He sees the uncomfortable twitches and side glances. Can't say he blames them. He remembers when they took Soonyoung in, the boy was too scared of his own Mark and before he got the hang of it they had quite a few accidents.

"I do want to let you know that i would never invade your privacy or make you feel uncomfortable on purpose." Jihoon feels bad, he knows Soonyoung never really got over the guilt of those first few months they've spent together.

"It's okay Soon we trust you on that." Soonyoung offers Jun a smile and Jihoon watches fondly as the mind reader relaxes.

"Ok so about the bond. All of us here, excluding you guys that is, made a link together. Best way to explain it would be that I formed a special type of 'channel' where we can speak to each other through our minds. It also gives me the ability to know if they are in a certain radius, also being able to see what they see if allowed." Realization dawns on the two and they nod with open mouth.

"By extending it I mean forming a bond with you guys as well. If you are willing to let me that is. That way I would be able to keep tabs on you to some point if something goes wrong."

Seokmin pops a chip in his mouth chewing obnoxiously while Jun gives him a stink eye and goes to answer.

"Well i can't speak for the rest but personally I don't see a problem with it. Especially since it gives us a sort of extra protection."

Soonyoung nods and decides to talk to Seungcheol and Jeonghan about it later. He rewinds Jun's words though.

A sense of protection huh? Didn't work out that well last time.

Soonyoung sometimes wonders If Jihoon is actually the mind reader because as those words float through his head a comforting hand settles itself on his shoulder and squeezes.

                                *

Minghao trudges through the treeline, heading south towards a pine tree with a small nook in it's bark. He knows that a certain giant puppy likes to go there to clear his head. Everyone does it's not exactly secret. Seungcheol still lets him off the hook though because it's fairly close to the house.

His suspicions are confirmed when he spots dark jeans peeking out, painfully standing out against the brown and the green of the grass.

"Are you done hiding?" Minghao crouches down next to the opening and peeks his head in. Mingyu's downcast eyes lift to meet his own and Minghao's entire face softens. Mingyu shakes his head as if to answer and the Chinese coos inwardly before squeezing his way in next to his age-mate. The inside of the tree bark is rough and digs into his back as he settles against it but he ignores It in favour of worming his way behind Mingyu, making the other settle his back against his chest.

He feels the tension seep away from Mingyu and he brings a hand up to card through the taller's hair, a pleased hum leaving his chest. Minghao's other hand wraps around his waist to tug him closer. They sit there like that not talking, only the sound of forest creatures filling the silence.

"We'll be okay Gyu."

*

Later that day when most of the tension cleared out, all thirteen are gathered back in the living room again. Wonwoo and Mingyu are still avoiding eye contact but Wonwoo still stands by his words and Mingyu is too stubborn to ease up and apologize for his own. The rest are trying to ignore that detail and after having a conversation with Seungcheol and Jeonghan, Soonyoung is now explaining the Bond to the rest. Wonwoo is obviously not happy with the prospect of them sharing such an almost intimate thing with the new arrivals but his vote is overruled by the majority.

So that's how they found themselves in their current position, Soonyoung sitting on the floor in the middle of the room with the rest gathered around, holding hands to form a circle. To someone else it would look as if they were doing some kind of a satanic ritual. Mingyu snorts at the thought but keeps his eyes closed and mind focused. For this to work they need to give Soonyoung full access and trust him not to go where he shouldn't.

His 'mind threads' as he calls them, he can see them reaching out, intertwining with the familiar ones and cautiously approaching the unknown. The new ones pull back at first, obviously apprehensive but one of them, Jeonghan's he notes, reaches forward and soon the others follow. He takes in a sharp breath at the sudden invasion of scattered thoughts and memories that he tries to keep away from. He connects the thoughts and the two groups meet each other halfway, intertwining and locking. Before he knows it, the Bond is set in place. They're all connected.

Chapter Text

He's in a dark room. Cold room. Not a window in sight. The only thing that's different from the cold cement walls was the steel door in the wall opposite of him.

Where was he?

He goes to stand up but everything looks so big. He looks down at himself and sees a hospital like gown barely hanging on to his skinny figure. He's too skinny, too small. Like a child.

The heavy door opens then and three huge men walk in wearing headphones. He has no time to question them, they reach him in no time and the next thing he knows are his muffled shouts as he gets thrown into a sack.

The next time he opens his eyes he's in a room similar to the other one, only this one is bigger. A tug at his hand makes him turn and he comes face to face with another boy, smaller boy.

"Hyung. They're going to take me away again."

For some reason those words make his whole chest clench. What is going on?

He sees his hand, that's not really his, reach out to pat the younger boy on the head. A small smile as well, just to try and comfort.

"I'll get you out of here Mingyu. I promise.

Wait, Mingyu?!

****
          Soonyoung's chest heaves as he sits up in bed. His skin covered in goosebumps and he tries to shake his head to make the remnants of the dream go away.

Those weren't dreams though.

He knows what they were. Memories. Jeonghan's memories.

This wasn't supposed to happen.

He promised them all that he wouldn't invade. He didn't do it on purpose but It still bothered him. Sighing he looks at the boy sleeping peacefully next to him. Mingyu is a deep sleeper luckily so he isn't worried about waking him up when something like this happens. He is worried about the other pair in the room though-

"Soonie are you okay?"

Called it.

He makes eye contact with Wonwoo and Minghao, their eyes heavy with sleep but still there enough to know something is wrong.

"Yeah, just a bad dream. Go back to sleep I'll be okay." The two looks unsure and Minghao looks like he wants to argue but Wonwoo pulls him to lie back down. Soonyoung sighs. While it isn't uncommon for them to mix up their sleeping arrangements it still rarely happens because of an arguement. Mingyu insisted to sleep with him tonight and who is Soonyoung to say no to his puppy eyes?

The mind reader lays back down trying to calm his still racing heart and turns on his side so he's facing Mingyu. The younger is in a deep sleep but there is a frown on his face and Soonyoung wants it to go away. He also wants to know more. The snippets he accidentally recieved were Jeonghan's memories, not Mingyu's. The only person who knows about every single thing that happened to him is Seungcheol. When Soonyoung asked though, just to tell him something, anything, the oldest was firm in his stand not to say a word.

Soonyoung brings a hand up to card through Mingyu's hair and the frown on his face slowly morphs into a more relaxed state. Happy with the result, Soonyoung goes back to sleep with a fond smile.

***

The past week has been one of the most strained ones ever. Wonwoo and Jeonghan's boys are avoiding each other, not that Seungcheol can blame them. Wonwoo and Mingyu have been walking around on eggshells, avoiding any form of contact unless absolutely necessary. Seungcheol knows Mingyu's words hurt Wonwoo at some point, he also knows Wonwoo's stubbornness is what brought them to this. He understands though, Mingyu means a lot to Wonwoo and he's trying to protect him but there is only so much he can do.

Another thing that was bothering the oldest is the rapidly decreasing amount of food. A lot of food is neccessary to feed thirteen boys three times a day, they already had to cut one meal out a week earlier. It's not healthy.

"Hyung, can I go on the next run?" Seungcheol doesn't even turn to look at Chan.

"Not a single chance." He hears their youngest whine and he shakes his head fondly.

"But hyung I can be of use. I can get us out if any trouble arises without a problem and it would be less tasking." Seungcheol sighs and rubs tiredly at his eyes. He finally turns around to look at Chan and the sheer innocence in his eyes breaks something in him.

Too young.

"Channie, while that does make sense you have to understand that it's not that simple. The last time you were anywhere near Seoul was three years ago, a lot of things have changed. Besides that we have no way of knowing just how far your Mark can go. It could go wrong in so many ways. What if your body can't take the strain? What if you miscalculate and a body part ends up in Hawaii?" Ok he might've overreacted a bit on that last part. Chan's sceptic face shows it.

"Hyung I want to help. There's so many of us and the new guys haven't been here long enough to know how it works. Hansol's been out but I doubt he would go again soon after what happened. I know for a fact that you won't let Mingyu out yet, Soonyoung and Wonwoo can come with me. They'll keep me safe."

Why is he making it so hard for him to say no.

"You promised you would ask for help if needed. You need it hyung."

Seungcheol is about to open his mouth to protest but Wonwoo, who had been listening to their conversation, beats him to it.

"We'll keep him safe hyung. As much as I hate to say it he needs to start getting ready." Seungcheol holds his gaze and glances towards Chan, determination set in his face. In the end the oldest let's out a heavy sigh and nods. Chan's face lights up but Seungcheol lifts a hand to calm him down.

"But," the youngest deflates a little,"you do everything your hyungs tell you to do, no questions asked. Understand?" At the maknae's nod he turns to Wonwoo.

"You and Soonyoung take care of him. There is one more thing you need to take care of Wonwoo. Don't let it slip your mind." Wonwoo's eyes flick to the floor and back but he still nods showing he understands.

"Go pack up, be back by sundown."

***

"Gyu." The younger looks up from the book he's reading. Seungcheol motions for him to follow and Mingyu does, not before letting out a sigh though. He knows what the conversation is going to be about.

They trudge up the stairs and make a bee-line for Seungcheol's office. When they enter Mingyu takes note of the mess on the table, city layouts, maps of sewers etc. There isn't much that the room contains though, a bookshelf here, a desk there a lamp in the corner and a few chairs. Seungcheol sits in his chair behind the desk and Mingyu takes a seat across from him.

"Mingyu you and Wonwoo need to settle this. It's affecting the whole group. I can't just sit by and let everyone be uncomfortable because the two of you can't meet in the middle." Mingyu looks at him sharply and Seungcheol could have sworn there was a flash of hurt in his eyes.

"But hyung, it's not my fault. He's blaming it all on the others without even trying to see their side, my side." Mingyu sounds upset and Seungcheol guesses he has a right to be. Doesn't stop him from being firm with him though.

"You're not exactly faultless either. Don't give me that look I'm never going to take sides and you know that. You need to apologize and try to get him to understand. I already tried talking to him but I don't think he will listen to anyone but you." Mingyu's eyes are downcast and the older can see him biting his lip.

"He means well Gyu. You know that. He loves you very much and just doesn't want to see anything bad happen to you." The younger is nodding slightly along and he smiles a little.

"Now shoo. I have some work to do." Mingyu manages a roll of his eyes and a small snort before getting up and leaving the room. Seungcheol sighs.

Let's hope for the best.

***

The portal door opens in the middle of the living room, startling Seungkwan and Jun who have been playing a board game. Chan, Wonwoo and Soonyoung appear through it. Out of breath and tired but otherwise looking fine.

"We're back!" Chan's excited shout immediately has the rest of the house on their feet and they're all piled in the living room withing seconds. The wellbeing of the three, especially the youngest, is assessed, and when Jisoo made sure nothing is wrong they're welcomed with warm smiles. The bags they shouldered were filled with goods they got from either trading or.. well.. stealing.

Chan is happy, his first errand run went without a hitch, everything turned out great. He was just about to relax, let the portal close. Of course something had to happen. The portal started closing, almost gone, when a piece of paper passed through it. No one paid it much attention save for Chan, who physically felt the passing.

The youngest wriggled out of Seungcheol's hug to find the things that passed through.

"Chan?" He ignores the calls in favour of picking up the paper that wasn't supposed to be there. He unfolds it and reads what's written. The confusion must show on his face because the others crowd around him trying to see what's wrong.

"What Is that?" Chan shakes his head in answer.

"I don't know it passed right after us." Jeonghan walks towards him slowly, the rest is tow.

"What does it say?" Chan clears his throat awkwardly not knowing what to make of the sentence written on the paper.

"Scattered diamonds don't shine as bright."

You could hear a pin drop in the silence of the room. It wasn't until Minghao's worried voice carried over that they snapped back.

"Mingyu? Jeonghan-hyung?" The Chinese was standing in between the two when Chan read the message so he was the first to notice the trembling of their limbs and the way their breathing picked up when the words left Chan's lips. It wasn't just them two though.

Hansol, Joshua, Seungkwan, Jun and Seokmin all seemed to be on the verge of a panic attack. Seungcheol didn't know what to do. The first thing he did was burn the paper in Chan's hands. Minghao was still trying to calm the two nearest to him down, the rest trying their best with the others.

"Gyu can you tell me what's wrong?" Mingyu's panicked eyes meet his own and Minghao swears he's never seen Mingyu that afraid in the years he's known him. Jeonghan answers him though, voice shaking and hands trembling.

"It's him, they sent him."

Chapter Text

"Who are you talking about? Who is he?" Seungcheol can feel the panic setting in and he sees it in the way Wonwoo pulled back into a corner to stay away from the unstable auras. He'll check on him later, right now there are others who need his full attention. Minghao's panicked question as he tries to settle Jeonghan and Mingyu on the couch is not helping keep the calm.

"Ok nobody panic, we won't achieve anything that way. Jihoon and Chan get them all a glass of water and then we'll talk." The two listen to Seungcheol without a word and hurry over to the kitchen. While they're doing that Seungcheol goes to sit between Joshua and Jun, putting a comforting hand on their lower backs. Jihoon and Chan come back in and after each of the boys had a glass of water and their nerves settled a bit, Mingyu managed to gather himself.

"He is Tian." Seungcheol and Minghao let out silent curses at the name while the rest stay quiet. This wasn't good. The two had heard the stories about the man from Mingyu when they finally managed to get him to open up. The result of it wasn't pretty though and it resulted in Mingyu keeping to himself in his room for the next week. After that he changed, he came out of his shell and started trusting them all a lot more. The way Jeonghan flinched was a sure sign who Mingyu was talking about. Hansol had a dark scowl on his face, hands gripping tightly onto Seungkwan's shaking ones. Joshua, Jun and Seokmin weren't faring any better either. It seems that the name didn't pose a problem to only Mingyu and Jeonghan, but all the others as well.

"While I was still in the facility he was the one to.... he was the one making sure I knew my place. That we knew our places." Mingyu's breath faltered and it took all of Wonwoo's willpower not to just go wrap him up in his arms and take him away from all the stares and all the pain. But he couldn't not now. For the first time in eight years the boys he has been living with, except for Minghao and Seungcheol, are getting a glimpse into Mingyu's life before Seoul. Wonwoo would be lying if he said he never asked Mingyu about it but the one time he did was enough to tell him the younger had no intentions of sharing that any time soon.

"He often played these so called games of his with us. 'Diamonds' is what he called one of them. He would gather all the Carats kept in the facility out into the back forest and tell us to run and he would chase us and-"

and then he's seven years old again. Short legs stumbling through the woods, avoiding trees and getting scraped and cuts from the bushes he runs through, his vision blurry with unshed tears. He knows that if he gets caught, no not if, when he gets caught it's going to hurt and he deosn't know where Jeonghan is or if he's even still in the game or out. He's tired, the only thing keeping him going is pure fear. He knows his time is up when the wind picks up around him and he stops in his tracks. There is no point in running anymore when the person he's trying to run away from is right there. He squeezes his eyes shut and lets out one last pitiful sob into the empty night before a rumble shakes the ground under his feet and he hears his voice. It's over.

"Hello Min-"

"-gyu. Mingyu!" He snaps out of it and realizes that something must've gone wrong while he was inside his head because nearly everyone was on their feet faces pinched with worry. He's about to ask what happened but then realizes he can't catch his breath and then Minghao is in front of him, his hands cupping Mingyu's face and his mouth moving but no sound reaches Mingyu's ears, only high pitched ringing that's making him wince. His vision is getting blurrier too.

"Gyu, breathe!" The sudden intake of air as Minghao's voice finally slams through almost makes him choke. He's trying to get his breathing under control and he registers Jeonghan's hand on his back rubbing in comforting circles.

"There you go." Once his breathing is back to normal Mingyu leans further into the warmth of Minghao's palm on his cheek. The slightly younger boy gives him a worried smile before getting up from the floor and for a minute Mingyu thinks the younger is going to go away but then he settles back in his spot next to him and wraps his arms around the taller so he finally relaxes.

"Are you okay now?" The question is barely a whisper next to his ear, the soft accent in Minghao's voice feels familiar and warm so Mingyu let's himself nod.

"It's okay Mingyu you don't have to push yourself to tell us when it's obviously upsetting you." Mingyu gives Soonyoung a grateful smile before looking at the others in the room. He notices the way they shrunk in on themselves and decides that it's probably better for them and for himself not to continue with further explanation. The message was clear about who Tian was anyway. Most of them still seemed worried about him as well, especially Wonwoo, who Mingyu knew can see his aura right now and wasn't buying his okay act at all. Mingyu didn't want them to worry about him, he can get through this by himself... he hopes.

"What do we do now? We don't even know if the guy is aware of where we are. Because if he is then we're just sitting ducks." Mingyu sends a silent thanks to Chan for getting all the attention off of him and the youngest shoots him a smile. He thinks about Chan's words though, the youngest is right but there is no way to make sure of anything.

"Hyung we have to stop him." Jeonghan worries his bottom lip at that. He knows Mingyu is scared that the past is going to repeat itself and he himself is as well but at the same time-

Oh.

"I think there might be a way to get more information on all of this." His words seem to catch everyone's attention, although even Mingyu seems confused.

"How?"

"Prior." Jeonghan sees the recognition flash over Mingyu's face but alongside it comes a wave of panic and insistent shaking of his head.

"No way hyung. Are you insane?!" Mingyu's voice got higher as he spoke, the urgency to change Jeonghan's mind palpable.

"Mingyu they moved from that place years before you left. There is nothing there anymore that could possibly harm any of us. And you and I know for a fact that they left the vault with the files sealed because the whole building is veiled. The only ones who can find it are us." The older knows Mingyu is not keen on going back there neither is he but they have to do this if they want to solve their problems.

"Hey." Seungcheol's calming voice cuts them off before Mingyu can form a reply.

"Let's go to bed for tonight. It's late and we're all tired. There is no need to make this decision now, sleep on it and then we'll see." The toll all of the recent events have been taking on their oldest is obvious in the dark circles under his eyes and the tired way he speaks and carries himself. Mingyu looks down, guilt once again eating up at him. Jeonghan takes note of the way Minghao has a hand o Mingyu's shoulder and the tears the taller is fighting back. He feels bad for bringing up that place, it's where it all started. He nods anyways, knowing Seungcheol is right. Eleven more heads nod and they all disperse to get ready for bed.

****

"Are you okay?" Mingyu startles slightly and drops the shirt he had been folding. He hadn't expected that Wonwoo would approach him first. He turns towards the door where the older is standing, awkwardly shifting from foot to foot. He missed the Wonwoo a lot in these days they spent walking on eggshells. Mingyu sits on his bed and pats the spot next to him and Wonwoo sits after a second of hesitation where his eyes danced towards the hallway as if making sure his route for escape is clear if needed.

"Not really, I'm scared. There's so much going on and we don't know anything while the ones who are after us seem to know everything. And instead of getting answers we're just getting more questions." Wonwoo hesitates for a moment before he loops his arm around Mingyu's shoulder, drawing him into comfort.

"At least now we know where the Drifter came from." He feels Mingyu tense and thinks that maybe that wasn't the best thing to say but then the younger sighs and relaxes.

"This conversation is long overdue hyung." Wonwoo winces at the comment, he knows Mingyu is right. But Wonwoo was also stubborn and right now very,very sorry. And he tells him so.

"Mingyu I'm sorry. I thought I already got it all figured out but then you got attacked and we didn't know where you guys were, I've never been so scared in my life. I couldn't be there to protect you but I know I wouldn't even be of any use anyways and the-"

"Hyung! It's okay." Their positions somehow switched and now Wonwoo is the one being held while Mingyu runs his hand through the older's hair. Even the thought of Mingyu being out there hurt and alone sends a shiver down Wonwoo's back. That can never happen.

"I forgive you. And I'm sorry too. I said things that I didn't mean and I didn't try to look at you point of view." A weight Wonwoo didn't even know was pressing on his shoulders lifted and he breathes a little easier.

He squeezes the hand he's holding in response.

"It's okay." The younger shifts so they're sitting side by side leaning against the headboard of the bed.

"Are we good now?" Wonwoo's voice sounds small even to himself and Mingyu can't stop a smile from forming on his face.

"Yes we are." Wonwoo notices the teasing tilt in Mingyu's voice and gives out a loud snort to which the other chuckles. He hears the strain in it though, he knows Mingyu is under pressure of many different memories and emotions. He wants the younger to know he can come to him but he doesn't want to push him away. So he just slips one of his hands into Mingyu's and interlocks their fingers for now.

"Brat."

They're okay.

****

Seungcheol's bedroom slash office is filled with a sense of trepidation and anxiety. The oldest trio along with Jihoon and Soonyoung are gathered around the wooden desk, various papers scattered on and around it.

"Let's go over the plan once more before we brief in the boys tomorrow. Jihoon." The boy in question looks up, gaze sharp and focused.

"You stay here. Keep the boundaries out and if anything as much as touches them bring the barriers up and veil the house. Reach out to Hoshi." At the recieving nod Seungcheol moves on, this time talking to Joshua.

"You stay here as well, we can't have out only healer out on the field. Be ready at any time for Chan to sweep you up and to our side." The healer nods although not too happy to not be able to be present at all times.

"Hoshi I'm going to need you to cut the connection almost completely with the rest and keep it only with Jihoon. That way you can put all of your focus on one person and keep it long range. The moment he senses anything against the bounds you'll sense it too and we'll have you send a visual to Chan so he can come get us if needed." The usually bubbly boy nods solemnly, showing he is taking this very seriously.

"Jeonghan, well,,, let's put that beautiful voice of yours to good use." The long-haired male nods with a small smirk playing on his lips.

"So everything clear?" The oldest's voice is cold for the first time in a while, gaze focused and calculating every written out section of their plan.

"Crystal, but hyung, we have to go over detail for what will you do once you get there." Jihoon's voice is soft and incredibly soothing Seungcheol thinks through his tired mind.

"Don't worry about that. We'll discuss it tomorrow morning with the rest of the boys. We have to see if they all agree and if there are any changes that need to be made." The other occupants of the room nod in agreement and Soonyoung watches with worried eyes as their oldest rubs at his eyes, eyebrows pinched in concern and black circles telling about the recent sleepless nights.

"We should head to bed too. It's already early morning and we have a long few days ahead of us." They file out of the room, leaving only Seungcheol who migrated over to his own bed. The oldest flops on his back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, a tired sigh leaving him. He looks to his right where on his bedside table a photo of his boys is sitting. Seungcheol smiles at the happiness radiating on their faces. He wants to keep it that way, he also wants to add their new family members as well. He wants them to keep smiling for a long time.

They can't mess this up.

Chapter Text

“I take it you all know what to do?” Seungcheol’s question evokes a series of reluctant nods, most of the boys nervously tapping their feet or playing with their hands. They were scared. This wasn’t the first time Seungcheol’s boys are going on a mission with no apparent order of action, far from it. But it is the first time their own are involved, not to mention Seungcheol is putting their new members in danger, his own choice or not. The oldest knows that what they find at that place, what did Mingyu call it, Prior, could either make them or break them and unfortunately his intuition is leading him more towards the latter.
“Hyung we’re counting on you to keep us posted.” The boy nods and wraps a loose arm around Minghao’s shoulders, the younger was not happy about being left behind and wanted to make sure he was up to date with what is going on.
“One last check and then we’re off.” With those words the boys disperse to check their gear and make sure everything is as it should be.
Mingyu pats his pockets, checking if everything is in its place. Once he is satisfied, he approaches a nervous looking Minghao sitting next to the also very nervous Hansol. The Chinese gives him an exasperated look when he notices him, quickly getting up from his seat and wrapping his arms around Mingyu’s frame.
“Whatever you find there or encounter along the way, just know it’s going to be okay. You’ll always have us by your side.” The taller is slightly shocked by his best friend’s words, he was not expecting them, but he appreciated them none the less.
“Thank you, Hao. Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. We’ll all be okay.” Something about his own words bothers Mingyu, an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“Please be careful, don’t get distracted. A quick in and out, don’t linger anywhere longer than you should.” Jihoon seems to materialize next to him and despite himself Mingyu startles a little.
Damn I need to calm down.
“We’ll be careful, promise.” Jihoon gives Mingyu’s hand a squeeze at that before going to sit next to Chan and Joshua. With a quick look around the room Mingyu notices that almost everyone is in the living room except for Seungcheol, who he knows is in his office doing a final check, and Wonwoo.
Where is he?
As if on cue the boy in question appears in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen, silently gesturing for Mingyu to follow him. Mingyu is slightly confused but makes his way into the next room, brushing off Minghao’s questioning glance.
When Mingyu enters the kitchen, Wonwoo is sitting on the counter and even though he is only a few inches shorter than Mingyu, the younger still towers over him when he comes to stand in front of him. Wonwoo is silent at first and Mingyu doesn’t know what to expect. He surely doesn’t expect Wonwoo’s cold hand to reach up and cup his face. The older’s eyes take Mingyu off guard. Wonwoo always looked at him with warmth, but this time there was something different about his eyes. Mingyu didn’t have Wonwoo’s mark. He couldn’t read other people’s emotions and state, but he always knew how to read the older, this time though he came out empty.
“You’re faint Mingyu.”
“Lack of sleep and worrying does that to you hyung. I’m fine though.” Mingyu’s tone is light but Wonwoo knows better than to believe him. The usually vibrant lavender colour dimmed down to an almost greyish tone.
“Have you been having nightmares again? I don’t hear you get up during the night but you’re never there when I wake up.” Mingyu’s face falls a bit and Wonwoo knows his guess was right.
“Can we talk about that after we come back, please?” Mingyu’s voice sounds small and there is pain in his eyes, Wonwoo did not need his mark to know the boy was not doing okay. So, with a small sigh he nods and pulls the younger in to wrap his arms around his middle.
“Come back safe and sound, please.”
///////////////////////////////////////////
The only thing giving the boys any idea that they’re on the right track is muscle memory. The forest is dark, not a speck of light anywhere in sight, which is to be expected for the middle of the night. The boys huddle close as they walk, arms wrapped around themselves for warmth against the cold night air. The usual prosperous forest life is deadly silent during the night, the only sounds that reach their ears is the crunching of leaves under their shoes, their heavy breathing and an occasional animal cry. Mingyu feels a shudder run down his spine as some type of animal makes their presence known with a call akin to a howl. He’s not usually scared of forest creatures, they’re all more than capable to defend themselves against any rabid and wild animal out there. But there is something about not being able to see it and yet knowing that it is able to see you, on its own territory. Shaking his head against the thoughts Mingyu shuffles just a little closer to Soonyoung, who to someone who doesn’t know him would look almost content with their current predicament. But Mingyu knows better, he sees the older’s eyes as they scan their surroundings in a hurry, trying to catch on to any brain waves that might seem out of place. Their current destination is a type of a Guard base camp, or at least, it used to be one. Now the only thing the base camp holds are vehicles and that’s exactly what the boys need to get to the place where Prior is located, which is quite a bit outside of Seoul. That says a lot considering their house is an hour walk away from the city. They move in some sort of a formation, with Seungcheol and Jun in the front with Mingyu and Soonyoung bringing up the rear, Jeonghan and Seungkwan in the middle. Mingyu still didn’t know the full extent of their new members’ abilities, but he had a vague idea about the stuff his once long lost hyung is capable of and that gave him some sort of reassurance. Seungkwan’s ability to turn invisible plays a major role in their current mission so Mingyu has to believe that Seungcheol and Jeonghan wouldn’t have given him such a responsibility if they didn’t think he could handle it. As for Jun though, all Mingyu knew about the older’s Mark is that it involved his affinity to nature.
He brings himself back to reality after he almost faceplants across a fallen branch that he failed to see while stuck in his thoughts. A quick glance at a clump of smaller trees right next to the makeshift trail, Mingyu has no idea what they are and honestly doesn’t care, tells him that they’re half way to the base camp. Well, the red shirt that Wonwoo and Minghao tied around one of the branches as a marker a few months back tells him that.
“Heads up.” Jun’s urgent whisper immediately has them going in defensive stances. He looks around warily along with the rest but ends up with his face pinched in confusion when he comes up empty of anything being out of place. The only things surrounding them is the seemingly endless expanse of tall, looming trees which instead of a relaxing effect, now had a sense of foreboding and negativity.
“What’s wrong hyung? I don’t see anything.” Jun raises a hand as if to shush Mingyu and if the older wasn’t as tense as then he would’ve gotten a snark comment in return.
“The trees are telling me that a threat is nearby.” Mingyu raises a brow and turns to Seungcheol who just shrugs before scanning their surroundings once again. He opens his mouth to protest again when a faint rumble of a car engine reaches their ears. Seungcheol is the first to react.
“The trees, now.” None of them needs to be told twice. For someone who’s pretty tall, Mingyu wasn’t exactly graced with elegant or either very coordinated movements. His climbing skills suck as well so the climb up the tall pine tree was pretty unstable. The tree trunk cut his palm and by the time he made it up the safe distance from the ground and out of sight he was also out of breath. Finding a branch sturdy enough to hold his weight was no small task either, so when he did he gave himself a minute to lean back against the trunk and get his breathing under control.
A quick look around tells him that he has a perfect view of all of his friends who found their hiding spots up in the surrounding trees. His eyes catch those of Seungcheol and the older lifts his pointer finger to his mouth clearly telling him to stay quiet.
I am not that noisy.
The engine sound is getting louder by the second and soon they’re able to hear the forcefully made gravel path crunch under the tires of the obviously military commissioned vehicle.
It’s a Hummer. And a big one at that. The headlights make the boys squint and pull further into the shadows of the branches. The dust cloud being picked up almost makes them cough so they bring up their shirts to cover the lower halves of their faces. The hummer slows down to a stop and Mingyu’s heart drops to his stomach.
Why are they stopping? Do they know we’re here? But how would they? It doesn’t make any sense. There haven’t been any deliveries scheduled for tonight and tomorrow.
It seems as if the time slowed as the heavy shotgun seat door opens and a Guard steps out, clad in the all black uniform and, of course, a taser baton on his waist.
Pricks.
A gruff voice calls out to the man who exited the car, who Mingyu assumes must be the driver because he can’t see through the tinted windows.
“Hurry up Jimin we don’t have time to mess around.” The man whose name is apparently Jimin, rolls his eyes before slamming the door shut and leaning to look through the window.
“Don’t get your panties in a twist Yoongi I just have to take a piss.” With that he pushes away from the car and makes his way a bit deeper into the forest, right into the batch of trees the boys are hiding in more precisely.
“You couldn’t have done that while we were still in the camp now could you?” The words fall on deaf ears though as the other scoffs before stopping right under the tree Mingyu is hiding in.
Mingyu’s throat clogs up with worry and he glances up to the other two three trees which hold his friends. Seungcheol makes a “calm down” motion with his hands but Mingyu honestly doubts he can do that. It only takes one glance from the man at the bottom towards the sky and they would be in some deep shit. It seems Seungcheol realized that as well because the next second his pointer finger is making a line across his throat.
Very descriptive hyung. Mingyu things dryly.
He makes sure that the man can’t be seen from the Hummer by his comrade, it wouldn’t benefit them if the other guy saw his colleague flying through the air with his pants down to his knees. Honestly the sound the man lets out when he starts doing his business makes Mingyu a bit uncomfortable. He doesn’t have the time to dwell on the discomfort though, because as expected, in the middle of the man’s relief he throws his head back on his shoulder and gazes up at the sky. Only the sight he gets is not one he expected. Jimin’s eyes widen almost comically when he spots the tall boy crouching on one of the branches staring holes right at him.
“What the-? Yoon-!” He doesn’t get the chance to finish though because in the next second he’s being flung across the small clearing and slammed into a tree trunk. He slumps where he fell, unconscious with, and Mingyu almost feels bad, his pants still down. The sound that the trunk gave out when his body slammed into it must’ve been louder than they thought because his comrade opens the car door.
“Jimin? Are you giving birth or something? Come on brat we don’t have all night.” The white haired man says as he approaches the clearing. Mingyu sees how his his eyebrows twitch when he spots Jimin’s booted leg sticking out from behind the tree.
“Are you seriously resting now? Come on I don’t get paid enough for this shit. Get up Jin radioed in, he cooked us a buffet for an early breakfast and I don’t want to miss it.” He approaches the tree, Mingyu is sure he can almost fully see the other now.
“Why the fuck do you have your pants down?! Jimin? Jim-“ He doesn’t get to finish either, this time because a branch from the same tree Jimin is slumped down on swings by itself and lands home when it hits the man at the back of his head, who then slump down next to his comrade.
Mingyu just sits there in shock for a second. Did that branch really move on its own? He knows he sure as hell wasn’t the one who moved it.
“Well damn Jun okay then.” Jeonghan’s words turn Mingyu’s attention to the Chinese man in question who just shrugs in answer before jumping down from the high branch and landing softly on the grass floor.
“I’m getting hungry and he mentioned a buffet, it would’ve been unfair to keep listening to him.
The others follow his lead and carefully make their way down to the ground where they all gather in the middle.
“Unfair to who?” Asks an exasperated but highly amused Soonyoung.
“To me.” The rest just shake their heads in disbelief but they’re thankful for Jun’s sometimes absurd way of thinking anyways for letting them breathe a little easier. Seungcheol claps his hands to get their attention and they all turn to their leader.
“We wasted enough time on these two and who knows when they’re going to wake up. It’s better if we’re long gone by then.” The group nods and they start walking again, back on track when Mingyu notices Seungkwan isn’t in step with them. He turns around and finds the younger looking at the now turned off Hummer. He looks at the group that is ahead of him now and catches Mingyu’s eye.
“What are the odds that they left the keys in ignition?”
//////////////////////////////////////////////

Chapter Text

The odds, as it turns out, were very much in their favor. As Soonyoung wrenches the door to the hummer open, the metal ring of the keychain glints back at him from the ignition.

Score.

He grins like a Cheshire cat as he snatches the keys and dangles them over his head, showing them off to the rest like some kind of a trophy.

“Sweet. I’m driving.” Says Seungcheol as he approaches and rips the keys out of Soonyoung’s hand. The younger pouts slightly but lets him off as they all file into the hummer. The fit Is tight even though the vehicle is quite large. It’s obvious that the interior had been modified because there are seats missing where there should’ve been some and instead the space is probably used for cargo transport. They manage somehow, squeezed together with Mingyu opting to sit on the floor leaning against Soonyoung’s legs. Seungcheol puts the keys back into ignition and turns on the engine. The hummer shudders and grumbles as is comes to life and Mingyu has half a mind to wrap an arm around one of Soonyoung’s calves to keep steady. He overlooked the small detail that he hasn’t been in a car for about ten years. Jeonghan, who was sitting in the front seat next to Seungcheol, turns to look over his shoulder at the rest of the boys huddled together. His eyes linger a bit longer on Mingyu to give him some reassurance and the younger greatly appreciates that. The hummer lurches as Seungcheol puts it in gear and the next thing they know the trees are passing them by in blurs. Mingyu always wondered how Seungcheol and Soonyoung managed to learn how to drive considering that he’s never seen either of them anywhere near a motor vehicle since first meeting them.

He busies himself with looking out the window over Jun’s head, the older snoozing happily with his head on Seungkwan’s shoulder. The scenery passes them by fairly quickly considering the not-so-great speed the car is going. Mingyu squints occasionally whenever a stray ray of the rising sun sneaks through the windows and assaults his vision and the sight of it makes Soonyoung chuckle.

“Zip it hyung.” It seems as if Soonyoung is about to refute when his eyes go out of focus and he stops short. Mingyu knows that look. Jihoon is linking him.

“Coups.” That word alone is enough for Seungcheol’s attention to immediately stray from Jeonghan who has been giving him directions and to Mingyu, catching his eye in the rearview mirror. Before Mingyu can even explain Soonyoung’s eyes seem to focus back on the here . The rest already dread the words that are going to come out of his mouth. His expression is set and eyes grim, it can’t be good. Mingyu’s arm automatically tightens around Soonyoung’s leg, to both ground him and himself.

“They’ve got trouble.”

Damn it.

======================

1 hour earlier

“I’m in my room if someone needs me.” Wonwoo’s voice carries over the quiet living room, a mere two hours after half of their friends left. Minghao watches as the older saunters up the stairs with his shoulders hunched. Wonwoo’s entire demeanor screamed something is wrong for the past few days and Minghao has given him enough time to come to him and Mingyu. It obviously wasn’t happening so the Chinese youth decided to take matters into his own hands. He gets up from the old rackety couch and up the creaky stairs. The door to their room is closed when he approaches and the hinges let out pathetic sounds as he pushes it open. He finds Wonwoo curled up on his and Mingyu’s bed, only the crown of his head sticking out of the comforter to show a mop of dark brown hair. Minghao sighs silently, but otherwise doesn’t make his presence known as he closes the door behind him and approaches the lump on the bed. Tearing the comforter away, Minghao squeezes his way to curl around Wonwoo, the latter sighing contendingly at the added heat.

“So, are you finally going to tell me what’s been bothering you for the past few days or do I have to pry it out of you somehow?” Wonwoo hesitates for a second before he turns around in Minghao’s arms to look the younger in the eye. Minghao sees something in them that he wishes he never had to see in any of his friends’ eyes. Hurt and guilt. Need for reassurance.

“You knew about Tian, didn’t you?” Minghao doesn’t like the look in Wonwoo’s eyes, the tinge of disappointment as he nods his head. He licks his lips as yet another sigh finds its way out of his mouth.

“Hyung, it doesn’t mean anything. You know Mingyu, you know how he is. And heck, it took two years after Seungcheol, Soonyoung and I picked him up that he opened up to me and Cheol hyung. And even when he did, it… it wasn’t pretty.” Wonwoo’s eyes came alight with curiosity and if the story was of a lighter tone Minghao would’ve chuckled at the childlike attitude of the older. Sometimes Minghao forgot that Wonwoo had been the last to join their happy bunch, just four years ago, contrary to the rest who by then had already found each other and had had company for six to four years. By default, there had been lots of things Wonwoo missed and they all knew it sometimes made him feel out of the loop. Like right now, Mingyu was the person Wonwoo had first became comfortable with. He always had a special spot for the tall puppy, everyone knew that. They quickly became close and they kept no secrets from one another. Minghao guesses that the no-secrets rule didn’t extend back to Mingyu’s life before them.
“Was is… was It really that bad?” Minghao wishes he could just say no, that it wasn’t. That it hasn’t left his best friend scarred for life, with frequent night terrors and a tad less frequent panic attacks in the first few years he had been out. But he couldn’t lie to his hyung’s face.

“He’ll tell you the full story when he’s ready and when he thinks it’s necessary. I’m afraid that if the way the things are progressing now is anything to go by, he just might be forced to come to terms with it sooner than he’d like.” Wonwoo nods and Minghao can tell by his expression that he accepted it, respected it, that he respected Mingyu and his wishes.

“And on the how it exactly went… it didn’t happen all at once. It took lots of trial and error, night terrors and tears. But he managed, we managed. The memories didn’t disappear, they never will. But he’s gotten better with dealing with them, just like every one of us manage to deal with our own. The point is, don’t hold it against him. It’s not a you problem and it’s not exactly a him problem, it’s just hisproblem.” Minghao didn’t know what else to say, but the way the older was looking down biting on his lower lip told him that he got the message. They spend the next then minutes in silence. Wonwoo processing Minghao’s words and the younger letting him do just that.

“I know.” Wonwoo’s voice is barely above a whisper, raspy and deep and Minghao would’ve shivered if the situation was different. There is also a thickness to it and Minghao hopes Wonwoo doesn’t start crying now, that is one of the few things he couldn’t stomach.

“I’ve always known that but god the sheer panic I felt flare through him when he read the note, the pain right after and the terror Hao… it wasn’t even fear it was pure terror. And I had no idea what caused it. I had no way to know what to do to help him. And don’t even get me started on the other boys from the facility.” Minghao pulls the older just a little closer, holds him just a little tighter.

“It’s okay if you’re not okay all the time hyung. I can’t imagine having to deal with other people’s emotions on top of my own. And you’re constantly surrounded by twelve other people. Sure, you can block us out but it’s impossible for it to be foolproof with the amount of people around all the time. Wonu, you can’t make yourself responsible for everyone else and their problems. No one will blame you if you can’t always break your back and help because you can’t.”

“Thank you, Hao. Believe it or not it helps a lot.” The younger smiles softly before putting on his cocky smirk.

“I’m a genius with my words, of course you’re welcome.” Wonwoo rolls his eyes at the retort.

As much as Minghao and Mingyu were different from one another they were also so alike in many ways. Being brats is one of them.

The two stay quiet for a while, watching as the sun slowly rises over the hills. The slow morning would be perfect if Wonwoo wasn’t already emotionally exhausted and they weren’t missing half of their friends. Their moment of reprieve however, was cut short by the sound of smashing glass and thundering footsteps going up the stairs mere seconds later. Seokmin stumbling through the door right after, a panting mess barely able to get the words out from his panic.

“There is something trying to break through Jihoon hyung’s barrier!”

The two share one panicked look that carries one sentiment.

Well shit.

===============================

Chan, Hansol and Seokmin were in the living room playing some generic board game to pass the time when the sound of glass shattering came from the kitchen and had them immediately on alert. The boys looked between one another, they knew Wonwoo and Minghao were upstairs and Joshua was in the infirmary cooking up some stuff in case of an emergency. That only left Jihoon. Barrier. No sooner had the realization come that they scrambled to their feet, Hansol and Chan going to the kitchen while Seokmin rushed up the stairs to alert the others.

Chan and Hansol almost trip over their own feet in their rush to reach the ward weaver. When Jihoon comes in the view, his small frame is hunched over the counter, hands holding on tight as to not topple over. Chan rushes over with a panicked “Hyung!” while Hansol carefully steps over the broken glass on the floor to reach for a new one and get Jihoon some water. While Hansol busied himself with that, Chan had taken Jihoon by the elbow and guided him to the nearest chair to sit. By the time Hansol appeared in front of them with a new glass of water Jihoon had already pushed past the discomfort and the others appeared through the doorway.

“Thanks.” Handing the glass to Seokmin who was closest to him, Jihoon composed himself. Joshua was already by his side if he needed anything but the younger waved him off and instead his focus snapped back to the task at hand.

“Chan, you’ll get there the fastest, I’ll link you the layout of the barrier. Go to the spot with the disturbance but under no circumstances are you to engage or god forbid cross to the other side, it’s too dangerous.” Chan took a shaky breath but nodded nonetheless, ready to pull his weight.

“Hao go with him. Keep him safe and an eye out for his adventurous streak.” Jihoon ignored the gasped out “Hey!” in favor of making sure Minghao got the message loud and clear.

“I’ll link Soonyoung about what’s going on while you do that. Go, be quick and be careful.” The two boys nod before Chan takes Minghao by the hand and after a few steps they disappear from the kitchen through one of Chan’s portal doors. Jihoon slumped back into the chair, the constant banging on the surface of his barrier making it feel as if someone has taken a hammer to his head. In spite of that he knew he needed to alert Soonyoung and the others of the situation, he could get Joshua to take care of his, soon to be, migraine later.

“Hoshi? We have a problem over here.”

It takes less than a second for Soonyoung’s voice to echo inside his mind.

“How?! We literally left like three hours ago! What is it?”

Leave it to Soonyoung to be dramatic.

“I don’t know yet, I sent out Chan and Hao to scout it out a minute ago. All I know Is that there is something trying to get through the barrier. And whatever it is, it’s very desperate to do so.”

“Alright, link me when you learn something Jihoonie. Stay safe and make sure no one does anything stupid.”

“You too Hosh, keep me posted. With that Jihoon’s eyes once again focus in on the kitchen and the other boys, minus Chan and Hansol, who re watching him with worried eyes. Jihoon doesn’t know why the looks are there but then the world tilts dangerously and he is made aware of the lack of the constant pounding against the barrier but the migraine came back with a vengeance. Arms lock around his shoulders and he is brought in to Joshua’s frame for support.

“Thanks Josh.” The older healer smiles at him and a second later he is being scooped up and deposited on one of the couches in the living room.

Migraines suck ass.

“Hey Josh?” Joshua stops from where he turned to leave the room and looks at Jihoon with a questioning glance.

“You think you can do a little something about this hammer pounding into my skull?” Despite Jihoon’s pained grimace Joshua finds it in himself to snort at the younger’s words. He lays his palm against the warder’s forehead and Jihoon sighs when a soothing cold spreads over him, the pain quickly disappearing and being replaced with a cotton like trance. Jihoon doesn’t notice when the pain induced haze turned into a deep sleep but Joshua doesn’t mind being left hanging in this situation. Joshua also isn’t worried about the other being asleep when there is danger lurking everywhere and he is the one in charge of keeping them posted. Jihoon told him that even if he was out of commission, not dead just out of commission, they will know if something goes wrong. The healer steps away from the couch and goes back to the kitchen where the rest of the boys had gathered.

“Is he asleep?” Wonwoo asks as soon as Joshua appears over the threshold. He has a reassuring arm around Seokmin’s shoulders where they’re both leaning against the counter. Hansol found himself a spot on one of the chairs and was anxiously looking at the spot Chan and Minghao disappeared from. Joshua nods as an answer and Wonwoo’s stance becomes just a tad bit more relaxed. Joshua was a rather quiet guy, but what he lacked in words he made up with his observation skills. Wonwoo had been one of the biggest doubts he had when this whole ordeal of living together came to life. The younger empath was extremely protective of his friends, especially Mingyu, and he didn’t take too well to a bunch of strangers swarming into their house. But Wonwoo is also a kind and loyal friend. He warmed up to them eventually, some more than others and no one wants to acknowledge it, but Seungkwan and Seokmin managed to snag themselves up a soft spot each.

“Any sign of Channie and Minghao yet?” He receives somewhat dejected shakes of heads and a “nope” but he isn’t too worried.

“Go and relax for a few minutes if you’re up to it. I’m sure Chan and Hao will be back soon.”

It’s been barely five minutes since they teleported and Jihoon didn’t mention whether the presence was still there or not, he would’ve known If they ended up in trouble as long as they didn’t pass the perimeter.

I really hope they don’t cross the perimeter.

=================================

Chan and Minghao step through the portal, appearing out of thin air in the middle of the forest. The “coordinates” that Jihoon linked him led them to the far western border of the barrier, the area shrouded in darkness even with the sun slowly making its appearance. The thick flora around and over them stopped any light from coming through. Minghao realizes that he never stepped foot in this part of the forest before, even though the barrier kept them safe. He just started scanning the bushes to his left when a tug on his sleeve takes his attention to the maknae. Chan isn’t even looking at him and instead is staring with barely concealed fear at something to their right. Minghao follows his line of vision and his blood chills in his veins. He doesn’t know who the person behind the barrier is, or what the hell is the four-legged creature next to it that’s constantly banging against the surface of the only thing separating them, but Minghao is terrified.

The man is looking at them with a cold smirk on his face, freakishly crimson eyes that tell the tales of blood spilt bore holes into the boys’ very souls and the long scar going from his left temple across his face all the way to his right ear. He seems relaxed, arms crossed over his chest, dressed in a suit that did not suit his sickly pale and almost see-through skin. He doesn’t look old, mid-thirties maybe, but he carries himself as if he has all the knowledge of the world. Minghao shivers and takes a step to stand in front of Chan, the younger not having moved or said a word since they caught sight of the intruder. The creature next to the man, the…the.. Minghao didn’t even know what to call it, just kept ramming itself head on into the barrier, pulses of Jihoon’s power radiating and remedying whatever damage has been done after each hit. Its head looks distorted, fur here, mouth where its eyes are supposed to be, skin there, nose… heck Minghao had no idea where the thing’s nose was.

“Nice of you to join us gentlemen.” The man’s voice is equally terrifying for the sole fact it sounds completely normal. He puts his arms to his sides, rocking back and front on the soles of his feet, almost pouting and Minghao has half a mind not to gag because this is too freaky.

“To be honest I was hoping to have a chat with... someone else.” Minghao almost bristled, he had a slight idea of who the man, if he can even call him that, was referring to and he had never been so glad that Mingyu wasn’t home. However, Chan beat him to the comment.

“Tough luck creep. What you see is what you get. Take it or leave it. What do you want?”

Well damn maknae.

Minghao has to bite his tongue not to smile with pride. They taught him well. The man seems just a bit taken aback at Chan’s attitude. From the boy’s initial reaction, he must’ve thought he can just be overlooked. No one, and Minghao means no one, can overlook Chan and his spirit and strength. The boy doesn’t let it happen; he knows his worth.

“Ooh I see the little teleporter has quite a bit of snark to him after all.” The boys frown. How does the man know that Chan is the one who teleported them in?

The man notices the slight shock even though they tried to conceal it and throws them another smirk.

“Don’t act so surprised. Did you think I would come here with no information? Oh boys, boys... you have a lot to learn.” Minghao was seriously getting fed up with the guy’s attitude. If he didn’t know he would probably be walking right into his death, he would’ve marched over there and shut the guy up.

“Stop beating around the bush old man and just tell us what the hell do you want. Also tell that thing to stop the ramming it’s not going to get anywhere and we got the message.” Minghao swears he sees the guy’s eye twitch when he calls him old man but puts it away for now.

“Liora go back to the shadows.” The creature halts its ministrations, stands at attention for half a second, just enough to send a wave of fear through Chan and Minghao before disappearing into smoke.

A shadow weaver. Not good.

Minghao never dealt with one before but theoretically, they’re a pain in the ass.

“There, happy? Now, first of all I am not old, I am thirty-six thank you very much.” Chan almost rolls his eyes.

No one asked.

“Second of all, the name is Tian airbender, do well to remember it.”

No. There is absolutely no way in hell. Minghao hears Chan’s small gasp from next to him but that is all that reaches his ears because suddenly the only thing he hears is his own thundering heartbeat and quick breathing. He couldn’t believe it. The man who caused Mingyu and the others so much pain was right therein front of them and they weren’t allowed to do anything.

 

“From your reactions I would assume you have heard of me so I will skip over the history lesson. I am here for one thing only. Well…” The two did not appreciate the shit-eating grin that once again adorned the man’s, Tian’s, ugly face.

“Seven things to be exact.” Minghao’s vision goes red. He doesn’t know what came over him but the next thing he knows there is a burst of wind flinging itself towards and through the barrier. The man stumbles a little. More from surprise than anything but still Minghao takes it as a win in his book. Tian rights himself and brushes away the dirt from his suit looking almost amused.

“Don’t play a game you can’t win boy.”

It’s then that the shadows move around them. Inside the barrier where they are, the movements are not much, the shadows around barely shiver. It’s enough however for the two boys to take a few steps back as their own shadows start shifting left and right. Where their shadows go, so do their bodies and they have no control over their own actions. It’s when they raise their heads to look at Tian however, when the real fear kicks in. The area they are in is dark in the first place but now almost no light shone through. The front of the barrier they’re facing is pitch black, the shadows reach up and above they couldn’t see the sky. The darkness flares all around and the air has them feeling cold and suffocating, the boys having trouble breathing. Just when Chan is about to grab onto Minghao and get them the hell out of there it all stopped. The sky came clear again, the shadows start to pull back and they can breathe again. Tian is standing on the other side, posture still relaxed if somewhat annoyed.

“Say hi to Mingyu for me. I’ve missed him especially for these past few years.” And with that he disappears into the shadows. Minghao doesn’t know when is it that he started trembling but a look at the younger tells him of the same reaction. If it weren’t for the barrier… Minghao doesn’t even want to think about what could’ve been. Chan looks like he wants to cry and Minghao curses silently. The boy, the child, has witnessed a lot more in the recent weeks than anyone should in a lifetime. The thing worse than that though, is the fact that Minghao knows this isn’t the worst thing Chan has been through.

Say hi to Mingyu for me? Fuck you creep.

The disgust they feel when the man’s last words finally register in their minds almost makes them hurl.

How dare he?

Minghao will be damned If he lets anything bad happen to Mingyu at the hands of the scum of earth. He takes a few breaths to calm his trembling limbs before latching on to Chan’s own trembling one.

“Let’s go home Channie.”

=================================================

Back in the hummer the atmosphere has been tense ever since Jihoon first contacted them. That was half an hour ago. Mingyu couldn’t keep still with nerves, bouncing his leg and squeezing and releasing Soonyoung’s hand, which snaked in to wrap around his own at one point during the ride. As for the ride, they progressed quite a bit but it would take another hour or so to reach the veil, if Mingyu’s memory serves him right. He’s pretty sure it does, he could never forget that place and everything that happened there. To distract himself from the haunting thoughts of one place he chooses to stress about the other one.

“Anything yet hyung?” He doesn’t raise his voice above a whisper, the others, except for Seungcheol and Jeonghan who are occasionally checking up on them, are all asleep. Mingyu envies them and their ability to be able to relax in their current predicament. It would be stupid of him to think that they were fully asleep, the occasional twitch and sigh of frustration are enough of a tell.

When Soonyoung doesn’t give him a verbal answer Mingyu cranes his neck to look up behind himself. Soonyoung has a frown on his face and once again his eyes are hazed over. Which probably means the boys are finally home. Mingyu hopes that’s the case, he doesn’t like the thought of their youngest and his best friend being out there alone to face an unknown threat. It’s when Soonyoung comes back to them when the worry sets in. The mind-reader is frowning yet again and something akin to dread sets itself in the pit of Mingyu’s stomach.

“Hyung?” He tries again. This time Soonyoung looks down to meet his eyes and Mingyu’s throat dries up at the pain in them.

“Are Channie and Hao okay? They’re not hurt, right?” Soonyoung quickly shakes his head no to reassure him.

“No no no, they’re okay. They got back and they’re fine. Nothing broke through the barrier.” Mingyu’s shoulders hunch in relief and he leans back to rest his head against Soonyoung’s knee. It doesn’t put him at ease completely though. Just because nothing broke through doesn’t mean that there was nothing there.

“So, what did Jihoon-hyung say? What was it?” Mingyu takes note of the way Soonyoung’s eyes flit around for a few beats, looking almost panicked. Mingyu frowns in confusion, it wasn’t anything too bad if they got home safe and sound. Right?

“It’s nothing to worry about Gyu, just a stray.”

“A stray?” Soonyoung nods hastily despite the incredulous tone of Mingyu’s voice and the eyebrow raised. Seungcheol clears his throat from the driver’s seat and the boys’ attention shifts over to them.

“They’re safe, then?” Soonyoung hesitates a bit, going as far to cough to bide his time.

“Yeah, they’re safe.” The “for now” remains unsaid.

Mingyu accepts the answers even though he knows they’re either half-truths or complete lies. He lays his head back against Soonyoung’s legs, deciding to try and get some shut eye before they arrive. He doesn’t comment of the hand that’s suddenly there running through his hair, or the one holding his own in a tight grip. Mingyu knows the gestures are there in place of an apology but he doesn’t know what to do with that information. What is Soonyoung apologizing for?

What are you not telling me hyung?

Mingyu’s thoughts drift from there and he manages to slip into a state of semi-consciousness, completely missing the heated conversation between the three awake. Seungcheol and Soonyoung’s exchange of words and Jeonghan’s trembling form as Tian’s name and the earlier incident come to light into the interior of the hummer.

Chapter Text

Mingyu wakes up to the sound of someone calling his name and the rocking of the hummer. He blinks his eyes open and is met with Soonyoung's gentle smile as the older boy rouses him from sleep.

"We're almost there Gyu. It's time to wake up."

He nods his head absentmindedly, rubbing at his eyes to wake himself up. Taking a glance at the front of the vehicle he sees Jeonghan giving out the last of the directions to a focused Seungcheol. Jeonghan's voice trembles as he points towards the last turn before the straight shot. Mingyu frowns, there is a certain tension between the two oldest and Soonyoung that wasn't there before he fell asleep.

They're hiding something.

He sighs as he decides not to think about that now. They have more important business to attend to. Jun and Seungkwan are also rousing from their sleep, sleep filled eyes scanning around and trying to figure out their surroundings. Soonyoung taps him on the shoulder and gets up motioning for him to take his place on the seat.

Mingyu does so, groaning as his joints pop and creak after sitting in the same position for so long. Soonyoung goes over to the front, crouching down between Seungcheol and Jeonghan and the three exchange some words that Mingyu is too unfocused on to care about.

"Mingyu-hyung?" The boy lifts his head and meets Seungkwan's wide eyes. Even though the other is younger than him by just a year, Mingyu can't help but see the lingering innocence in him.

"Do you think we will find something?" Mingyu thinks about it for a moment. There's a big possibility for this whole thing to go either way.

"If... if everything stayed the way it used to be back then... Then the files should be in the same place. If things changed... well.. I guess we'll see when we get there." He gives him a what he hopes to be a smile and Seungkwan nods with a grim expression.

Guess his smile wasn't that convincing.

It isn't until ten minutes later that the hummer comes to a stop. The boys stay silent, trying to gather what's left of their nerves to get out of the car and into the lion den of the past.

"Come on. The sooner we go, the sooner we finish." Jeonghan doesn't wait for the others to answer as he opens the door and hops out. Mingyu takes a breath to calm himself, watching as he other boys file out of the car. There's only Seungcheol in the front seat and him left then. He looks at his leader, the older is already keeping an eye on him through the rearview mirror.

"Hyung. No."

Seungcheol turns around completely in his seat and meets Mingyu's eyes dead on.

"Okay okay, but hear me out please. You know you don't have to go if you don't want to, right? I didn't want to take you in the first place. Jeonghan can lead us, he knows where the vault is."

Mingyu appreciates Seungcheol's worry. He does. But the older shields him too much, he sometimes forgets that these are all the things he already went through.

"I can deal with it hyung. Don't worry about me."

When they finally get out of the car they find Soonyoung, Jun and Seungkwan huddled around a bush, poking at it, while Jeonghan stares off into the thick woods at the side.

Mingyu goes over to the trio by the bushes. He peers over their shoulders as he hears them coo over something. He's met with a bushy brown tail and dark eyes boring into him.

"A squirrel? You managed to befriend a squirrel in ten seconds?" Jun throws him a cocky smile at the disbelief in his voice.

"I'll have you know that my affinity to nature is not limited to just flora but fauna as well." Mingyu's mouth open in realization.

"That makes sense."

Soonyoung's squeal bring their attention back to the squirrel and they see the tiny rodent rubbing it's head against the palm of Soonyoung's hand. The mind-reader's smile is huge and infectious, his eyes disappearing into slits.

"I'm keeping him I don't care what anyone says. I'm naming him Whiskers and taking him back with us. Don't tell Seungcheol."

"Don't tell Seungcheol what?" Mingyu snickers as Soonyoung yells In surprise to Seungcheol's voice by his ear, the tiny rodent scrambling away and into the trees in the process.

"Hyung! You scared Whiskers away!" Seungcheol looks at the younger with confusion plastered all over his face.

"Who the hell is Whiskers?" Soonyoung just chuckles and the oldest shakes his head.

"Anyways, let's move. Jeonghan is waiting for us."

That's enough to sober Mingyu up and bring him back to reality. He sighs as he follows behind the others to the edge of the woods. Jeonghan is there, eyes far away as the looming trees send shivers through the group.

Mingyu shudders for a different reason though. He knows these woods like the back of his hand. There is nothing that poses danger to them in the woods. It's what's veiled under that's dangerous. He approaches Jeonghan and takes him by the arm, the older looking up at him with barely concealed fear.

"Do you remember where it is?" Jeonghan's voice is shaky as the words get out.

"I could never forget, hyung." Mingyu honestly thought he was ready for this. But as the group finally steps into the woods and the atmosphere becomes tense, he thinks he might've overestimated himself. He ignores it, pushes it to the back of his mind, the lingering memories and the fears.

It's a short walk, but it stretches out as the other members of the group start to feel the anxiousness of the leading two.

"Hyung, I'll go to the other trigger you get this one." Jeonghan nods and the others watch as he crouches down next to a tree that's right beside them. Soonyoung cringes as the second oldest plunges his hand into the rotting trunk, searching around until his face lights up as his hand finally encloses around something.

"Got it!" He calls out and the rest look around, noticing that Mingyu is no longer beside them but some twenty meters away, his own hand inside another tree.

"At a count of three, okay?" Mingyu gives an ok sign and as the countdown ends the rest look on in rapt attention as the very ground they stand on trembles. The air ripples and breaks, holes seemingly appearing in thin air. Seungcheol vaguely wonders if this is what Chan sees every time he wants to teleport.

There is something there though. As the air continues to break and tear, the groups catches glimpses of a construction, a building. The breaking comes to an end and the boys stand there, open mouthed and wide eyed as they take in the whole sight. The giant white building is barely there, in ruins and vines intertwining everywhere. The name is still standing, bold letter plastered above the main entrance.

PRIOR Seoul Carat Research Facility

Seungcheol lets out a breath. They made it. Mingyu passes him and he follows as the younger determinedly marches forward. The oldest can't help but worry. He knows how Mingyu is. He knows when he's trying to put on a facade. Like right now.

He approaches him from behind and curls their fingers together. He hears Mingyu force in a breath and the grip around his hand tightens. They pass what once used to be white sterile walls and bulletproof windows. Each part of the facility holds a memory for Mingyu. It's where it all started, not where it ended, but still started.

Mingyu has to remind himself to keep going and keep breathing. The grip he has on Seungcheol's hand tightens even more when the CRF emblem starts making an appearance at every corner.

A single diamond.

That one small sign is almost enough to make Mingyu turn around and hightail out of there. The pinpricks of phantom pain dance all over his skin, his scars feel as if they're burning as each memory awakens once again.

Each step he takes feels like another needle being plunged into his skin. Each intake of the air feels like yet another lash against his skin. Everything just screams at him to get out of there, get away from the pain.

He unconsciously tightens his grip even more, loosening up only when he hears Seungcheol hiss in pain at his side. That's enough to snap him back to the present at the moment.

"Sorry hyung."

"It's okay Gyu." It's not. He is aware of the fact that Seungcheol knows. He knows the weight this place carries for Mingyu. The younger appreciates it greatly when Seungcheol doesn't push him on it, choosing to change the subject instead.

"How far away are we?" Mingyu looks around, searching his brain for the memories while juggling the experiences just on the precipice.

"Just around the corner and down the stairs."

The stairs are barely there when they reach them and for a moment Mingyu is worried he would have to take the others over the gap but they manage to descend with cautious steps. Once they reach the giant metal enforced doors Mingyu stops.

"The security system inside is still running. Which means the cameras are rolling. If they catch sight of us..." He trails off, the others know very well what could happen if they get caught.

"Leave that to me hyungs." Seungkwan steps forward then, cracking his neck and shaking the tension out.

"Let's hope I still know how to do this." They watch as the youngest approaches the door and places his palms against the cold metal. Seungkwan's Mark goes beyond turning himself and others invisible. It gives him the ability to veil, to trick, to cause an illusion. In this case make the door and the room behind it appear as normal as possible.

Mingyu reaches out to steady him when Seungkwan stumbles away from the door with a sigh of relief.

"I don't know what's inside but that room is huge. I'm not even sure if I managed to cover everything." He sounds a bit dejected so Mingyu gives him a one armed hug.

"It's okay, you did your best. We'll worry about that if it comes to it."

He turns to Jeonghan then, the older has his hands clutching at the hem of his shirt lower lip almost bleeding with the way he's gnawing at it.

"Hannie-hyung?" Jeonghan snaps out of whatever trance he put himself into and nods, already knowing what Mingyu needed him to do. Be there.

Be there as Mingyu reaches out to the door, the metal groaning and snapping. Bending and cracking. Mingyu grits his teeth as the dull throb appears once again. The giant "hazard" vault door isn't designed to keep normal humans from breaking out. It's designed to keep Carats from breaking in. Which means it's definitely not easy to break down.

Mingyu gasps as vines appear, slithering in the small gaps and breaking the mechanism from the inside. The hinges are glowing in red, heat melting and making Mingyu's job much easier. He almost falls forward once the door blasts of its hinges and into a wall on the inside of the vault.

After catching and giving himself a few seconds to breathe and let the pain fade away, he shoots a thankful smile to Jun and Seungcheol who return it with cocky smirks and winks. He almost laughs. Jeonghan is by his side then, clutching at his hand more for his comfort than Mingyu's. What they find beyond those doors could and will change everything.

*

"What exactly are we looking for again?" Soonyoung asks, for the fifth time in the last hour, as he rummages through yet another file cabinet for anything that could seem useful. Mingyu rolls his eyes as he flips through another binder.

"Any mention of that bastard, the Facility in general... stuff like that."

"I know Gyu but it's been literally five hours. I would know, I have a watch. We went over maybe half of the room and that's after we split up." Soonyoung can't sit still, and the fact that they've been stuck in this room for so long is starting to rub him in a wrong way. He hears Mingyu sigh, obviously frustrated himself, and Soonyoung feels bad. The younger has been ignoring his own inner turmoil for the sake of this whole mission and Soonyoung is here complaining on and on. The others aren't much better off though. Especially Seungkwan. The younger's energy has been rapidly depleting since he was still trying to hold the veil over the room up. If they didn't find anything soon they would either have to risk it or just leave and come back. Neither sounds like a good option. At all.

Stupid Guard and stupid facilities. He thinks bitterly as he somewhat forcefully pushes over another batch of papers. However that causes some of the boxes next to him to clutter to the floor, their contents making a mess.

"Can anything go right today? Please??" He hears snickers around him as the others laugh at his misfortune.

Traitors.

He crouches down to pick up some of the cluttered papers, throwing them all into one somewhat neat pile, until one particular sheet catches his eye.

"Guys! I spoke it into existence, bow down to me." Seungcheol gives him a gentle hit up side the head and snatches the sheet out of his hand. He looks at the paper in his hand as the rest gather in their corner of the room.

Jeon Tian;
Age》9;
Mark》 Shadow Manipulation; Placement》Nape;

The subject has shown great potential. Its ability to control the Mark is off the charts for one of such young age. It is having some trouble following orders but it is nothing that can not be fixed in due time with disciplinary measures.

The child has been insistent on seeing its parents which shows that he still has some emotional triggers attached. That could hinder its progress and should be addressed as soon as possible. Further info will be presented in the next log.

C.R.F. Lead Researcher
Kim Yerim

Seungcheol frowns at the paper as he finishes with the reading.

"It's sad that the fact they're addressing a child with an 'it' doesn't phase me that much." Seungkwan's comment has the others nodding along.

"Considering all the other things they're capable of this really doesn't phase at all." Jun adds, a look of hatred crossing over his expression. Makes Seungcheol wonder just what exactly he and his boys don't know about the others.

He looks around at the rest of the papers trying to see if anything catches his eye.

"This can't be it. Look around boys there has to be other logs as well." As the others disperse around the room, he walks towards the piles and piles of papers, going through them as fast as possible while still trying to carefully read the names, hoping there actually is something useful.

Meanwhile Soonyoung is in another corner hurriedly going over the files until he stops on two particular binders, the names written on each one make his breath catch in his throat.

Kim Mingyu
Yoon Jeonghan

He gnaws at his bottom lip as he contemplates his next move. Should he take the files? Who knows what kind of information those hold. Things that Soonyoung shouldn't know. At least not yet. Not until they share themselves.

But it wouldn't hurt to have them. Right?

He startles as Seungkwan shouts in excitement, announcing that he found the rest of the logs for Tian and Jun adds his find about C.R.F. Refusing to think further about it, Soonyoung snatches the binders and drops them into his bag. He also sends a silent apology to the two. He isn't going to read what's in them though, not if it isn't necessary.

Seungcheol calls them to gather, they pack up and make a hasty exit. Seungkwan exhales in relief as the veil on the room drops, his shoulders sagging in exhaustion but he has a satisfied smile gracing his features. Mingyu aids him as they walk away from the room, each step towards the exit makes his chest feel lighter and lighter.

The telekinetic tried to keep his cool while they were down there but he was so close to losing it a few times. He couldn't help it, the only thing this place is for Mingyu is a pain-filled memory. He has the scars to prove it. Now he just wanted to go home and feel safe for a while.

As soon as the group exits into the now pitch black forest the air starts mending back, recreating the barrier and soon in the place where the ruins once stood, stands a perfect illusion of the forest. A weight lifts of their shoulders, they did it. They're out.

****

Jihoon is resting on the couch while the rest, save for Chan who is trying his best not to fall asleep, are already dead to the world when the tendrils of Soonyoung's call brush against his own. The connection establishes itself almost by default.

"Hoonie?"

Jihoon can't help the shaky exhale of relief as Soonyoung's voice echoes in his head.

"I'm here Hoshi. Are you guys alright?"

"We're done. We found everything we could. All we want now Is to crash so if Channie would be so kind."

"I'm sending him your way in a minute. Just map me.

"I hate that expression so much Jihoon you have no idea."

Jihoon snickers as he shakes the half asleep teen back to the land of living. The youngest immediately understands what he is to do when he meets Jihoon's eyes.

"Bring them home kiddo."

***

The group doesn't wander much, they go back to the car and Soonyoung contacts Jihoon. Mingyu leans back against the car door, he feels kind of bad they can't just take it with them but it would be a waste anyways since they don't have any resources to get the gas. Something scurries across the small clearing towards him and he smiles as he sees the bushy tail and giant eyes.

"Hey Whiskers." The squirrel approaches him cautiously, inching its way towards him as he crouches down and extends his hand forward, hoping it won't run away. The soft fur tickles his palm as the squirrel nuzzles into it and Mingyu's lips stretch into a full grin. The moment is ruined by the sound of air shifting and breaking. Mingyu yelps as the rodent jumps on his arm and climbs up disappearing somewhere in his hoodie. He squirms a little trying to figure out if the squirrel went away or not but gives up as he sees Chan step out of nowhere and into the clearing.

"Channie!" Soonyoung tackles the younger to the ground and the latter laughs trying to push him off with little success.

"Hey hyung. Maybe get off of me so i can get you home and tomorrow we can go over everything?" Soonyoung grudgingly gets up and helps him off the forest floor. The rest are quick to crowd around him and exchange greetings even though they've been apart for just one day. The way the youngest clutches onto Mingyu's jacket just a tad bit longer and tighter is not lost on Mingyu, neither is the distress that Chan has been trying to hide. He has an inkling of doubt that it all has to do with whatever the others are hiding from him but as always he pushes it away for now, they have had enough fear for one day.

Chan makes them all latch onto one another and Mingyu almost laughs because they look like a bunch of overgrown kinder-gardeners holding hands. He feels Seungkwan and Jeonghan squeeze onto his hands as Chan walks ahead and disappears into thin air, dragging the rest of them towards the same spot. He realizes they never traveled with Chan so he gives them both a comforting smile as they walk ahead and disappear as well, leaving the cold forest and the lone figure perches on a nearby tree. Its crimson eyes glinting dangerously in the moonlight.

=====

Their welcoming party consists of a half-asleep Jihoon sitting perched on the edge of their sofa in the living room. His eyes snap open at the thudding of multiple footsteps and the relief that fills his eyes makes Mingyu's heart warm.

"I'm so glad nothing went wrong." Jihoon says as he wraps his arms as much as he can around Mingyu's taller frame. Mingyu smiles and grimaces at the same time.

"Well we had an... encounter but nothing we couldn't handle hyung."

"Did you get what we needed?" Mingyu nods and gestures towards Seungcheol who throws the heavy, paper-filled backpack on the wooden table. They all collectively wince at the loud thud and listen carefully to see if any of the boys asleep have woken up. Seungcheol mutters a small sorry before going on.

"Well we found something. I don't know if it's enough but it will have to do, we are not going back there." No one argues with him on that.

Mingyu notices how Jihoon's barely opened eyes are glinting with curiosity as he eyes the backpack full of information so he steers him away quickly into Seungcheol's arms.

"No hyung. Not tonight. We all need to rest. We'll go over everything together tomorrow."

And you can tell me what is it you guys are hiding from me.

He leaves that part unsaid though, he's trying to get them all into bed and not raise panic.

Jihoon nods along with the rest and they make their way upstairs. Mingyu's stomach grumbles, they hadn't eaten anything save for a few power bars over the whole day, but he's too tired to do anything except shower and pass out on the bed.

The others let him and Seungkwan use the bathrooms first. He tiredly shuffles in and takes off his jacket, he's about to take off his hoodie too but something wiggles inside his hood and he almost screams. He stares in shock at the mirror as a bushy tail peeks out from the old dark material, he thinks he's about to pass out.

"Whiskers?" It almost seems as if the squirrel understands his shocked whisper because it completely gets out and runs down his arm to stand on the counter next to the sink in front of him. He has no idea what to do except proceed with his shower while throwing wary looks at the little rodent. It's just staring at him in an unnerving way.

Mingyu looks away from the mirror when he starts tugging the hoodie off. He doesn't like looking at the marks marring his entire upper half, hasn't looked into the mirror while shirtless since he was eight, doesn't plan to do it any time soon either. The squirrel lets out a, whatever sound squirrels are capable of making, and he looks at it to see its eyes judging him.

"They're ugly, trust me i know." It tilts its head and Mingyu scoffs at himself.

What am i doing, talking to a squirrel? Get a hold of yourself Kim Mingyu, you're not that fucked up in the head. Yet.

He makes quick work of his shower, finding the rodent creepily in the same place he left it. Finding the spare clothes they keep in the cabinet he dresses up and scoops Whiskers up, the squirrel happily curling up in his palms. A wobbly Seungcheol is in front of the bathroom door and he mumbles something that sounds like Soonyoung already finished but Mingyu just says a good night as he passes him and goes to his room.

The room is dimly lit by a desk lamp that Soonyoung must've turned on when he entered. The boy in question is just settling under the covers when Mingyu enters, his eyes instantly zeroing in on the ball of fur in his arms.

"Whiskers!" Mingyu hurries to shush the overexcited yell as the older scrambles out of bed, almost waking up Minghao who's next to him, and snatches it out of Mingyu's arms, the latter all too happy to give it to him.

"Take care of your new creepy friend hyung. If Coups doesn't end up throwing it out tomorrow."

They both know Seungcheol is way too kind to do that.

"Will do."

He watches as Soonyoung cuddles the animal close to his chest as he goes to bed, talking to it in a baby voice and shakes his head.

Oh hyung.

Not having the energy to do anything else he stumbles his way into his own bed, pulling the covers up to his chin ans shuffling as close to Wonwoo as possible without waking the older up. It seems it's a lost cause though, because the older is already looking at him through sleep filled eyes once he settles down.

"Welcome home Gyu." He winds his arms around his waist then and Mingyu sighs happily once he settles his face into the crook of Wonwoo's neck.

"It's good to be back." No more words are exchanged as they both wobble on the edge of sleep. As the dark sneaks up on him, Mingyu only hopes it doesn't get turned into yet another nightmare by the flurry of memories just waiting to bust out. He's been holding them back all day and he's only human after all.