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The Space Between Us (Isn't Far Enough)

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Space is terrifying in its beauty. For all its depth, without the stars—brilliant even as they die—it’s a vacuum with neither sound nor color of its own. Jongdae used to wonder why his parents would chose to live in space rather than on a planet, beneath a safe atmosphere, but he thinks he gets it.

Sitting in a diminutive single-seat asteroid pod, he’s safe. Yet, if he shuttles too fast or is struck with space debris just right, the body of the little pod may crack, oxygen will leak into space, and he’ll be asphyxiated, if he doesn’t freeze first. It’s a certainty. Especially since he modified the asteroid pod to be as light and nimble as possible, so there’s no emergency helmet or suit that can save him should the need arise.

In lawless space, he knows what to expect. It’s planet-side, or on stations, like where his family once called home, that is wild and unpredictable. Anything can happen.

Sure danger aside, there is nowhere more peaceful. Jongdae slouches in his seat and watches the distant stars seem to twinkle. Another craft flies across his wide field of vision, a long ways away and heading a certain direction.

It makes Jongdae a little jealous.

“You’re being awfully quiet, Captain. It’s unsettling.”

Jongdae sits up and claps his gauntlets together, waking them up. “Aw, Baek, are you feeling lonely?” The arms on his pod clank together, following his movements. “Should I sing for you?”

“I’m incapable of such feeling, but a song sounds lovely.” The on-board computer is an A.I. Jongdae modified when he bought the ship. Baekhyun is probably Jongdae’s closest friend, literally and figuratively speaking. He has the ability to learn and can transmit from the main ship, Thunderstruck, to the pod and to a computer fashioned into the gauntlets Jongdae always wears that control his ship. Lately, Baekhyun’s hacked into Jongdae’s TransComm device and alters the instantaneous translation program. It’s funny, most of the time, except there have been those handful of times where being lost in translation nearly made him lose his ship. Or worse.

Jongdae sings something he heard in one of the bars as he manipulates the pod’s arms with his gauntlets, pushing forward to reach for a large piece of space junk. A shuttle must have collided with something or been blasted by an unfriendly ship. There are no visible numbers or identification, and Jongdae’s fine with that; he’s the first to get out and collect it all for scrap. The fewer questions asked about how he came about the shattered treasure, the better.

Once he finishes his song, Baekhyun asks, “Are you about ready to return?”

Finally closing his hands, Jongdae secures a piece of space junk and draws it back to his pod. “Take it easy, Baek, or I’ll ruin your paint.” He rescans the piece for any signs of life. “I’d rather not bring in any space vermin... Remember the star bats.” They like to chew things carrying electrical current.

The A.I. seems to sigh. Jongdae programmed Baekhyun with as real a personality as he could, and the computer is sometimes sassier than Jongdae cares to deal with. He’s also the whiniest computer Jongdae’s ever worked with, but he’s fun. “You have a point.”

“Thank you. I’m coming back, now, so be ready.” He settles the junk among the rest of the cargo and pilots back to the empty spot at the front of his ship, letting Baekhyun take over the controls to draw the pod back in and secure it.

Baekhyun closes the pod bay doors and stabilizes the atmosphere before Jongdae climbs out of the pilot pod and stretches a little. Baekhyun’s voice follows him. “Finally. I’m tired of space. I’m glad you enjoy your job so much, Captain, but it is so dull out here my processor is static.”

“Alright, alright. Ignore that I do this job to get you those upgrades that cannot be liberated by mind or hand alone.” He ignores the computer’s rant that he’s perfect as he is; upgrades may improve his function but don’t complete him. Jongdae drops onto his chair in the cockpit and brings up coordinates for Baekhyun to follow. “Let’s go home.”

Home is an artificial planet just in the deeper part of middle-space. It has no official name and was mockingly labelled back when it was first built as X-0, which stuck. Ex-oh. EXO Planet, where everything’s made up and nothing matters. A place built out of necessity, when neighboring systems were unwilling to accept refugees.

It’s not a pretty place. Those unfamiliar with it probably mistake it for piles of trash that got caught and pulled in by gravity. To be fair, most of the foundations are burned and scarred from rocketing to the surface, but most of the stuff on top is brought in by junkers and scrappers like Jongdae. There are good, salvageable pieces that people pay good money for, and when custom pieces come in, from larger space cruisers or galaxy ships, with their specialty engines, the lucky junker makes enough money to buy a small moon.

“Should I contact Jin?”

“Please. I dunno what I’ve got, but he’s the most trustworthy among the rest of those pirates.” Jin is a sweet, pink-skinned alien who looks more suited for some fancy bar on some fancy planet but can kick considerable ass when he needs to. Somehow, he built up a profitable junk yard and manages it with the stray aliens he looks after.

“He’s off-planet," Baekhyun informs, "but one of his employees will evaluate the cargo.”

“Which kid?”

“Jimin.” Jimin’s worked for Jin for at least as long as Jongdae’s selling to him, but he’s only been going off-planet to assess and evaluate product on his own for a couple of years.

Jongdae laughs. “Still not letting the new kid work on his own? Jin’s so protective.” The new kid is another human who woke up from a cryogenic pod; he’s still adjusting to the brilliant future. Nice but naive. Jongdae honestly wouldn’t let him work alone yet, either.

“Coming into the docking bay, Captain.”

Jongdae checks his sensors and slaps the auto-dock, spinning in his pilot chair. Protocols like ship numbers and declaring cargo just aren’t something they do on EXO Planet, so it’s kind of like a free-for-all. Taking off is dangerous for pilots while landing is dangerous for the ground crew.

“Oops. I’ve landed on a Gransih.” Baekhyun doesn’t sound at all sorry. Gransih are a squishy sort of species, anyway, kind of rubbery and can bounce right back from being squashed beneath a hull or two. It’s not like Jongdae’s ship is even that large, and it’s not the first time the Thunderstruck has had such intimate contact with one.

Any landing walked away from is a good one.

“Don’t worry about it. Stay with the ship and wait for Jimin, okay?” The dock worker shouts slurs and creative insults. Being called a literal unlettered sandwich board just doesn’t sound as bad as the worker’s tone implies. Jongdae points to his translator device and shrugs with a serene grin. Sorry, buddy. I don’t understand.

“Yes, sir.”

Jongdae grabs his cloak and belts it at his waist as he trots down the ship’s ramp. Small pouches carry pocket change coated in a fine powder that burns whatever flesh it touches to deter pickpockets. He carries a handheld communicator in a larger pouch at his back between a pair of old plasma blasters, just in case his gauntlet fails.

He dodges harried dock workers and slides his mask over his mouth and nose, merging with the crowds of aliens that never disperse, so it gives an illusion of nobody really going anywhere.

EXO is a planet that never seems to sleep. The light is false; there is no sun or smaller star close enough to warm and illuminate it to imply night and day, so it’s a perpetual twilight blanketed in smog from production factories. Crowds are always clogging the streets. Driving is pretty pointless; even air travel is slower than walking, unless some lucky—or connected—alien has a hoverbike.

Jongdae does not, not anymore—he’d sold it to buy new synthetic flesh for his hands—so he hoofs it to his usual bar. It’s like a tradition more than a habit. A habit applies to an individual or small group; a tradition is shared among many, and Jongdae recognizes a lot of the regular crowd. Very few of the residents ever leave EXO; being off-planet is either a distant dream or recurring nightmare, and two things make dealing with them easier: Booze and getting laid.

Between two needlessly tall buildings is a squatter, deeper building that has two faded crescent moons painted on either side of the door and carved stairs leading down into it. If Jongdae was taller, he’d have to duck inside. Thankfully, it’s ceilings inside are higher.

Two Moons is probably the cleanest dive on EXO, although considering the planet is pretty much the most wretched hive of scum and villainy made of space junk and grease, it’s not the greatest compliment.

Jongup and Byuli, the two unrelated Moons the bar is named for, nod when Jongdae walks inside. They send a glass of dimly glowing yellow booze with Chanyeol, a long-legged alien with two pairs of lean arms and an unsettling number of teeth in his wide smile.

“You just get back?” His voice is so deep it’s more felt than heard. “You haven’t been here in awhile.”

“Yeah.” Jongdae finds an empty table to lean on and braces himself for the first freezing gulp of his drink. He’s pretty sure it’s something mixed with rocket fuel. Whatever it is, it always makes his eyes water and glow a little. “I was working on the other side of the planet, then collected some things off-planet. Baek was whining about being bored in space, so...” He pulls his mask down and swallows a gulp of booze. It burns his nose, but he’s used to it.

Chanyeol laughs. “He’s a computer. How bored can he be?”

A small crowd around a holoscreen cheers as Jia’er Wang throws a fist at Lay Zhang and catches a curved horn to the shoulder. It’s a sport without a name. Rounds are just called fights. Anything goes. And like everything else on EXO, it’s not fair.

Jongdae turns his head to point to his translation device. “Bored enough to reset my TransComm. Joke’s on him, though, because I took the time to fix it before coming back, so he had to wait even longer.”

“Poor guy. Maybe he needs another computer friend. One of the guys a few days ago was talking about selling his flight computer, something special he’d made and supposedly the fastest computer off market. I think he called it Soo.” Byuli motions Chanyeol back; he nods.

“If he comes back, let me know. Baekhyun’s not a flight computer; if I could get one, he could just come with me. I could build an android for him, then.”

“Sure thing.” Chanyeol moves as carefully as he can through the crowded bar, retrieving platters of drinks and food for other patrons. Jongdae finishes his drink and shudders, scanning the crowd for the solo souls or couples with wandering eyes. If no one strikes his fancy, he knows some people casually who’re usually up for some after-work activities, but there’s an alien near the end of the bar about Jongdae’s size, hairless and pale green, working through their own rocket fuel booze.

"Excuse me, but you dropped something."

"Oh?” The alien looks at his feet and around his chair, two pairs of large eyes blinking as though it’ll help him see. Jongdae thinks it’s cute; he likes the gullible ones. “What is it?"

"Your standards. My name is Jongdae."

Someone bumps into his back, which he ignores, because he's used to the alien features and appendages that their owners may or may not have total control over. No biggie. This particular appendage is persistent on his arm, however, and Jongdae faces a very handsome, tall, dark-eyed humanoid. Half of his head is shaved; the rest of his hair is worn long and tied back in a series of buns.

The hand on his arm is starting to hurt, and Jongdae puts his palms together, turning his hands in opposite directions to create a charge. Blue electricity jumps between his fingers, but before he can even touch the stranger, his wrists are seized, his arms pulled up and crossed, and he’s spun around with them across himself. If he doesn’t stop the charge, he’ll electrocute himself.

“You’ve got my attention. What do you want?” He doesn’t like being public entertainment—some of the holoscreen crowd are watching them, now—and he likes being made a fool of even less.

"I saw your light; you're meant to be with me."

"Excuse me? Does that line ever actually work on anyone?" Jongdae's heard better, but he's also heard worse, and it’s actually not the first time he’s been grabbed and restrained in some fashion by a stranger. In his vast, inter-species experience, though, starting off with a greeting can carry a conversation between strangers pretty far—at least to a name—and can even end pleasurably.

He takes pity on the guy, who doesn't look all that old and probably hasn't had a lot of practice in the delicate art of picking up little guys in little gay bars. “Tell you what, my name is Jongdae. Let me go, and we can talk.”

Jongdae is released and has half a mind to zap the guy just because, but their hands seem readied to grab him again, so he gestures for them to walk towards the far wall, where they had less of an audience. He gets a better look at the alien; they’re tall and muscular and have numerous studs and rings in both of their ears. Black eyes carry dark luggage, and even an expressionless face draws the corners of their lips up in a permanent almost-smile. “Now what’s this about a light?”

The stranger’s head tilts to a shoulder. A condescending motion, like he’s talking to a moron. Jongdae’s not the smartest, but he’s no professor of intergalactic culture, either. "That was a proposal of union."

"Excuse me?" A proposal of union. “You mean marriage?” Jongdae holds up a hand, half-grinning, and reaches up to his ear with the other hand. "Just hold on, bud. I think something's hosed up with my translator..." He removes the earpiece and blows on it, rubbing it on his shirt and smacking it once for good measure before re-inserting it. There's a bit of a click when it reattaches to the thin reader wrapped around his head from his ear to left temple. "Could you repeat that, please?"

"That was a proposal of union. I see your light, and that means we’re meant to be together. You're meant to be with me."

"Last time I checked, I wasn't a walking lighthouse."

"Lighthouse?" They tilt their head towards the other shoulder, frowning, and it’s actually rather adorable.

"Nevermind.”

The stranger grabs his wrist with a giddy smile. It's cute, kind of childish, and breaks the mask of entitled indifference. "Come, I have to introduce you to the king and queen."

"Who?" From what he knows, this planet doesn't even have a royal family. It's a semi-democracy; semi meaning whatever happens happens and takes its course unless an enforcer is around and in a bad mood.

"My mother and father. Come!"

"Whoa whoa whoa; hang on! We just met, and you're taking me to meet your parents?! What about my parents?" What about the guy’s name? "Don't you think you should ask for my hand, first, before just taking me? That's kidnapping, you know. That's against the law." The law which, again, is only really followed if there's an enforcer with a law book up their butt.

The strange prince releases him as though burned. "I'm sorry. I'm not used to local customs or manners." They cautiously reach for Jongdae's hand. "May I take your hand and meet your parents?"

Jongdae feels a throb in his temples beneath his language reader. It seems easiest to just go with it until he finds a way out, because talking is getting him nowhere. He holds out his hand limply, rolling his eyes as he's escorted through the crowded bar. Chanyeol watches with wider-than-usual eyes and slackened jaw, probably not sure if he should help or not. Jongdae salutes, trips over someone's tail, and walks off the heat in his ears when the stranger catches him and sets him upright.

Byuli has the sort of frown that says she wants to at least say something, but the stranger tosses enough units to buy out the bar for a week. Jongdae bitterly feels he’s worth more and covers his scowl with his mask.

The sky is unusually clear, allowing for a clearer look at all the traffic congesting the tollways and ship bays built high above the actual planet. Anyone with money lives above the planet's surface, but it's not so bad on the ground. Dusty and grimy but honest. One can earn money to pay their way off the planet in a reasonably short amount of time, if they can avoid word getting out about their accumulated wealth.

Personally, Jongdae never talks finances. He sings in the night clubs some nights, gets paid, and goes to a guy he knows who converts physical cash into intergalactic units and transfers it all into Jongdae's account. Virtual money is harder to steal, especially with a security guard like Baekhyun.

He recognizes an enforcer leaning over their hoverbike, idly watching the citizens while playing a game that looks suspiciously like Pong on their bike computer. "Minseok!" Their pupils constrict into slits before rounding out again when they recognize Jongdae. "Please help me; you’re my only hope, and this guy won't leave me alone. Tried picking me up at the bar by proposing to me."

“A prisoner of love, Jongdae?”

“Just help me, jackass.”

Minseok rises to their full height, which isn't impressive but is misleading—Jongdae's seen them throw brutes four times his size through windows—and faces the stranger. "ID, please."

They faces the officer willingly, not looking at all concerned or amused, just a little confused.

Minseok scans the stranger's face and body, electronically analyzing the build and face and comparing it to the intergalactic database. If someone isn't in the database, then questions are asked. Being so far out in space, the database isn’t updated so often; questions don’t go much farther than Who are you, and what is your business? Both of which are easy to lie about.

He is in the database, though. Jongdae manages to read a portion of what seems to just be a rather long title backwards before Minseok closes the reader. "Congratulations, Highness."

"Thank you, Officer."

Jongdae feels betrayed. He'd say as much, but he's already being escorted away with a hand on his lower back. "Can I at least know your name? I seem to have missed that when you first grabbed me."

They have the decency to duck their head a little. “I’m sorry. I was just excited. I’m the Royal Highness, Heir of the Eleven Planets and Their Moons, and Ambassador of the Peoples, Prince Zitao Huang."

That's a mouthful. "Gotta nickname?" At the confused head tilt, Jongdae sighs. "What do your friends call you? Or what can I call you? If I go through with this—which I'm not making any promises except to resist every step of the way; don't go thinking I'm easy—what would you have your...husband?...call you? I'm down for a simple hey, you." He looks around for a means of escape; there has to be some way to get this prince off his game.

"Close friends call me Zitao. Or just Tao."

"Okay, Taozi.” They’re at an intersection that leads down to ship bays, back to businesses, and branches out to residential buildings. Taking a right would lead them towards home. “Before we go wherever you’re kidnapping me to, let's go see Mother." He lives in the heart of the sector with the family he’s made since coming to EXO; it’s big enough to live comfortably, although there are computer parts and various other things hoarded throughout the rooms, so it’s been feeling increasingly cramped.

Zitao seems happy with the idea and lets himself be lead, keeping a hand on Jongdae’s back and guiding him through the crowd without bumping into anyone, which is a god-like feat.

Jongdae enters a code beside the door, leaving the prince when it slides open. Within, he hears Joonmyun call his name.

"Mother, dear," Jongdae sings sweetly, stepping lightly in a sort of delighted dance. "Someone to see you."

Joonmyun, not old enough to be Jongdae's parent and lacking a certain something to be his mother, untangles himself from his knitting with a frown and looks out of their living room. Jongdae and gestures to the prince, who bows. "This," he introduces grandly, "is the man who wants to marry me. We just met at a bar. I don't even know his social, but he does have money."

The curiosity slips from Joonmyun's features, replaced with straight brows and lips, the exact look Jongdae hoped for. While Joonmyun isn't his biological anything, they are very good friends and have known one another for a long time, long enough for Jongdae to look up to him as a sort of older brother figure. He raised Jongdae as a kindred displaced spirit in an alien city on an alien planet within an alien galaxy.

Which is why Jongdae has to scrape his jaw off the floor when Joonmyun's expression slowly morphs from closed-off momma bear to unmasked adoration and trust. He's been zoned out, imaging all the ways Joonmyun could metaphorically drop-kick the stranger out on his face, but the exact opposite is happening, and he can't think enough to return the sudden teary embrace he's wrapped in.

"Take good care of my boy, Zitao," Joonmyun sniffles. There are actual tears in his eyes and a smile barely lifting his lips. This sappy little shit.

The front door slides open, and a hoverboard knocks against the wall, falling when a pair of boots smack into it. Barefoot, beautiful blond Jongin ignores their little meeting in favor of raiding the refrigeration unit. He can pass as human, if no one looks too closely at his vantablack eyes and ignores that his stomach is a literal endless pit; sometimes Jongdae wonders what the kid actually thinks, because it's so hard to tell. Jongdae's near emotional crisis, and Jongin has half a sand chicken in his mouth like it's any other day.

"Jongin! Jongin, c'mere.” Jongdae drags him from his snack and points at Zitao. “This guy wants to marry me, and you'll probably never see me again."

"Congratulations." Jongin looks the stranger up and down. "Condolences."

Jongdae steps on his foot, a little vindictive and pleased to see some kind of real emotion when the young alien whines.

“It wouldn’t be forever, Jongdae.” Joonmyun finds the little bit of brightness in Jongdae’s dark future. “He could visit, right, Zitao?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t keep your son from you.”

Son?” Jongin shrieks a little when Jongdae steps on him again, limping away to his room with his snack to eat in peace and comfort.

Jongdae scowls after the brat for a beat before looking back to Joonmyun. “Are you actually okay with this?” Maybe he’s been more of a nuisance than he thought.

Joonmyun drags him into a tight hug and murmurs in his ear, “Think about it, Jongdae. When will you have another opportunity to leave?” Jongdae’s never been off-planet that he can remember. Once he settled on EXO, he stayed.

Interplanetary travel is expensive, and his ship can’t travel very far on its relatively small fuel tanks. Trying to use a door to jump across the galaxy would probably tear it apart. No amount of calculations could change that.

Jongdae clings to his surrogate brother, a tinge of fear making his hands shake. “I don’t know.” The prince is in the database as a registered royal, at least, so Zitao isn’t lying about who he is. He could be lying about his intentions, though. There’s no knowing what a union on his planet actually entails.

But the bigger issue is getting off of EXO. He could leave, something he’s been aiming for since being dropped off. Maybe he could find his biological brother. The pros are pretty even with the odds, and odds are more something Baekhyun deals with, anyway.

They leave with some tears and a swift kick at Jongin’s door, heading towards the ship bays. Jongdae looks longingly in the direction where Baekhyun is waiting, probably re-configuring the ship’s controls to work opposite what they should.

Zitao walks close beside him, no longer holding him but wearing an expression like Jongdae abuses small animals. "Are you really so opposed to me?"

"Okay, listen. It's been fun, and you're very cute, but this," he waves between them, "isn't going to work. I'm human; you're not. You're royal! I'm not. You're tall; that's a pain and burns my ego. Your muscles have muscles; that's not a pain, but it also burns my ego. I also can't stand anyone being cuter than me, so we have a real problem there." He can tell everything is just going in one ear and out the other, translator be damned; this prince is not listening and is mesmerized by his lips moving.

"Red is pretty on you," they say dumbly.

Jongdae ignores them. "Also..." He wipes an invisible tear from his eye. "I can never have children."

"We can adopt!" they assures earnestly. Jongdae hides his face in his hand. There’s just no getting through to his kid. They're persistent.

"Are you ignoring everything I've been saying, you galactic moron?"

The prince turns swiftly, and Jongdae's heart poops itself. They really are tall, and muscular, and walking so fast to Jongdae it makes him nervous, like his face is about to be rearranged. "It's no use being upset about it; you've not let me get a word in edge-wise, and—"

He's kissed. Pairs of things are made to complement and match each other; the prince's lips complement and match Jongdae's. His foot nearly pops, but they part before his body does anything so embarrassing.

His brain does a hard reset. "What was that for?"

"Your mother said if you talk too much to give you 'a swift kiss on the mouth.'"

Jongdae's pretty sure that's not what Joonmyun meant, but he'll let this misinterpretation slide. It's the first time he's grateful for cultural barriers, but he also wonders what else Joonmyun told Zitao. That traitor.

The prince smiles, looking pleased and stupidly fond. "Your light's changed."

"What color am I?"

"Like a late sunset." Pink, Jongdae remembers. That’s kind of offensive; Jongdae feels like he’s being taken in, and that just won’t do.

He purposely doesn’t look at the prince, turning to scowl through the large windows at the piled chaos of his home. The prince’s reflection is right beside his, pouting with moon eyes. Joonmyun probably told him to look at Jongdae like that, the traitor. He knows Jongdae's Type™: tall, pretty, and sweet. “Don't look at me like that,” he whines. Zitao has that look again like Jongdae abuses animals. “It’s not you, Taozi; I’m kinda against anyone who takes me against my will. Buy me a drink, first, and I’m pretty much up for anything, but flip me around and say we’re getting married? Wow.” Technically, the prince did buy his drink, but he also covered the entire bar’s patrons; they’ll need a wide aisle.

Zitao apologizes with their head bowed. It seems humbling for a prince. “I got ahead of your time. We are meant to be together, though,” they insist. “I’ve seen it.”

“You see the future?”

“Probabilities, but yes. The past is easier to see. It’s how we see someone’s light, as well. My people have an understanding of time that allows us some control.”

"So why can't I see any colorful lights around you? Because I really don't. Loophole: maybe I'm meant for you, but you're not for me." He pouts and whines, "Do you want me to be miserable for the rest of my life?"

"Of course not!" He touches Jongdae's face beneath his mask. Their skin is very soft; Jongdae's a bit jealous. He develops calluses quickly and has been meaning to see his guy about new transplants again. "You'll be able to see my light, too," Zitao ducks their head a little, the damn tall fool, "but you have to be open to it."

"I'm open to anything!" Jongdae insists. "I'll try anything once." And only once, because there was that one guy with the teeth in strange places whose number he's glad to have misplaced.

"So why not try me?" They are an opportunity for escape. If it was anybody else, he may jump at the offer, but the strings attached to this give him pause, and the prince himself just feels...earnest. They're doing their best to convince Jongdae they’re soulmates or destined lovers or something, if there really is such a thing, and Jongdae can entertain a delusion or discover a new reality.

Because I said so, doesn't sound all that mature, but screw maturity. "I just don't wanna." He’s bitter. He doesn't know this person; he has not been given any good reason to want to get to know this person. It's not difficult to understand. It's logic.

The computer on his wrist chirps. His account just received a sizable transfer; his scrap must’ve been pretty valuable.

Zitao gently holds his arm with both of their hands, apparently doing his best to beg his way into Jongdae’s good graces. “Won’t you please just visit my home? If not as my husband, then as my guest.”

“If you’re trying to bribe me, you’ll need to do more than just take me for a ride.” He doesn’t even know the prince’s home and subtly types a search for Baekhyun to do a deep dive into the database. EXO has no royalty he’s aware of, and nobody seems to recognize him.

“It’s very beautiful, a couple of systems away from here. The sky is blue, and the water is clear as glass. Open fields and hills with lots of free animals. You’d be treated very well.”

“You’re from a planet with water?” Jongdae’s never seen water in person. EXO provides a synthetic alternative that is infused with necessary minerals they can’t naturally get through their usual diets.

“Most of my home planet is water. My home rests on a lake on a small mountain.” That’s more tempting.

This could be his chance to leave X-0. It’s certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Jongdae hasn’t done a lot in his lifetime thus far, so there’s not much to lose.

He raises his arm and speaks to his computer. “Baekhyun.”

“About time, Captain.” Zitao pulls his hands away sharply, looking at Jongdae’s wrist with round eyes. “I’ve completed the search, and—”

“Fantastic. Stop whining, lock down Thunderstruck, and come here. Jimin’s done with the cargo, right?”

“Has been for a while.” Sitting idle for too long makes Baekhyun sassy.

“Then hurry up and come here. We’re going on holiday, and I don’t want to lose you.“

“Aw, Captain, I didn’t know you cared.”

“I can still leave you behind.”

“Thunderstruck locking down, now.” The computers beeps shortly, and Baekhyun announces his arrival on Jongdae’s local computer with a rude image. With the ship totally shut down, it’ll take a lot to try and steal it, although considering its size, any smart alien would just pack it up in a larger ship. Jongdae’s relying on the inherent stupidity of his neighbors.

“Well, Prince Taozi,” he says, crossing his arms with a smile. “When do we leave?” The prince grins giddily and gestures grandly with their arms once the doors to a private bay slide open.

“We can leave immediately.”