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Can You Teach Me How To Feel Real

Work Text:

Action: Power
>Mode
>>On

Time: Identify
>5:30
>>Morning
>>>AM

Task
>Error
>>Error
>>>Coffee
>>>>Error

Task cannot be completed

Error

Action: Power
>Mode
>>Sleep
>>>Error

Name: Identify
>Batch 001
>>Error

Owner: Identify
>>Error

Name: Identify
>Min
>>Error
>>>Yoongi

Mode: Identify
>Error

Task cannot be completed

Mode: Awake

~

For as long as Hoseok could remember, people had assistance from robots. They’d been around before he was even born. They acted as caretakers, maids, or whatever else in people’s homes. Businesses used them instead of hiring humans sometimes. They made normal tasks easier.

Over the years, the bots got more complex, more developed, and more affordable for everyone. His family had owned one of the basic original models that were popular with the middle class. The thing wasn’t realistic in the slightest, it didn’t have a name, and it mostly just cleaned the house for them. Its long metal arms always gave Hoseok the creeps and the white metallic face was horrible to look at during the night.

When he was a teenager, his family upgraded to a newer model that was slightly more realistic, more like a human. It had a name, but Hoseok made a point not to learn it. He never liked the bots. Or rather, they made him uncomfortable. They just looked too real, but not quite real enough and it was unsettling.

Of course, when he went off to college, he still saw the bots, but not as often as he did in his neighborhood. That is, until his junior year, when a new model came out.

The new model, which was, undeniably, better than all the previous models. Hoseok couldn’t really say the new models creeped him out because, well, they looked exactly like a human. But maybe that was reason for them to freak him out even more.

Regardless, he didn’t want a model like that, didn’t want one of the new bots, called Synthetics.

The Synthetics were everywhere fast, though, so Hoseok saw them even if he didn’t own one. Even his parents got one. He didn’t know its name, only that it resembled a female and had piercing blue, almost neon, eyes. All the Synthetics had eyes like that, it was the only way to differentiate them from a human, other than by their rigid posture and blunt way of speaking. They weren’t capable of emotions like a human was, of course, it was just the way they looked…unsettled Hoseok.

So he didn’t know why (or rather how), at age twenty-four, he was standing in front of a big wooden box that had been delivered that morning at his home.

The box was taller than he was and stamped with the name of the company that produced the Synthetics.

Bangtan.

They dominated the market for bots, and any other companies that emerged, Bangtan squashed. They either bought them out or ruined them another way. There were plenty of rumors about the origins of the Synthetics. How they got so realistic, so smart, so fast, but none of the rumors were confirmed. No one really knew who ran Bangtan.

It was worldwide company, after all. A worldwide company that practically owned everyone, somehow.

Really, though, Hoseok wasn’t thinking much about the complexities of Bangtan and how their Synthetics seemed to be taking over. He was more concerned with the single Synthetic that was inside the box outside his house. He should have told the delivery man to take it back, or lied and said he wasn’t Jung Hoseok.

He didn’t want a Synthetic. He didn’t want some thing in his house that looked like another person. Who was to say it wouldn’t malfunction and murder him in his sleep? They had guarantees, and there had never been such a malfunction before, and it wasn’t like bots weren’t the norm, but still. Hoseok wasn’t a fan.

However, it was chilly outside, and he didn’t want to stand around while the neighbors whispered about him, so he rolled the wooden box inside and propped it against the wall and shut the front door. He could just leave it in the box forever, but that was almost creepier. He would wonder too much about what it looked like. Because even though Synthetics creeped him out, he was also too curious not to open the box.

So, he walked slowly into the kitchen and returned with a knife to cut the tape that held the box closed. It fell to the floor and Hoseok lifted the lid to the box to the side, but kept the knife in his hand.

He couldn’t see the Synthetic yet, there was a bunch of packing paper and little Styrofoam ‘popcorn’ covering it up. It would have been nice to know what to expect, but Hoseok had half-assed the form you fill out when you purchase a Synthetic, so he really didn’t know what they would have sent. He vaguely recalled checking the box that said he didn’t have a gender preference as far as his Synthetic went.

The only thing he was forced to pay attention to was the ‘preinstalled features’ section because his psychiatrist was leaning over his shoulder while he filled that part out. Mainly because his Synthetic wasn’t meant to help with household chores. It was meant to help with him.

Hoseok grumbled to himself and with shaking hands he pulled the packing paper aside, sending little Styrofoam pieces across the living room floor. He didn’t get all of it, so the only thing he could see was part of an arm and a hand. His eyes lingered on the hyper realistic nature of it. If he didn’t know any better, he would have thought it was a real human hand, attached to a real human body.

But it wasn’t real.

Hoseok repeated that to himself a few times over.

It’s not real. It’s not alive. Chill out.

The remainder of the packing paper fell away, discarded on the carpet, and Hoseok stared at the person—no, Synthetic—inside the box. It—no, he—was smaller than Hoseok expected. And he…it? The Synthetic was distinctly male, with skin paler than Hoseok’s and pink lips pressed in a straight line. His hair was dark and he was dressed as all Synthetics were, in a blue shirt and matching pants. The color of their clothing matched their eyes, but Hoseok couldn’t see his Synthetic’s eyes yet because they were closed.

It…he…wasn’t turned on yet.

At the Synthetics feet was another little cardboard box. Hoseok scrunched up his nosed and used his legs to kick the smaller box towards him so he wouldn’t have to bend down next to the Synthetic. Once the cardboard box was in the clear, he picked it up and brought it into the kitchen.

Inside were a user manual and a few smaller envelopes. The first one, on top, had his name on it, so he tore it open first.

Welcome, Jung Hoseok, to your new Synthetic.

As requested, your Synthetic was pre-programmed as you filled out on your purchase form.

Your Synthetic’s name is Daeshim.

Please treat him with care and if you have any problems or questions, call the number provided in your user manual.

-Bangtan Corporation

Hoseok tossed the letter aside and picked up the other envelope on top of the user manual. Unlike the previous one, which was plain white, this one was a deep red and was sealed with tape. Hoseok turned it over to the back.

Oh.

Well.

The simple 18+ printed there was enough explanation for Hoseok, and he tossed that envelope aside too. The whole idea of people fucking around with their Synthetic was…disturbing. Hoseok would not be using that feature, and although every Synthetic came with that envelope, he wasn’t sure it would even work considering he was a male and his Synthetic resembled a man.

Hoseok was comfortable with his sexuality, but not so much so that he wanted to fuck a robot. No thanks.

Lastly, the user manual remained in the box. Hoseok lifted it out and plopped it down on the kitchen counter. It was big and thick and looked complicated as hell, even though he hadn’t opened it. He glanced back up at his new Synthetic.

It was funny, he thought, how most of the Synthetics in Korea resembled Koreans. In other places, the Synthetics could look like any person from anywhere, but he supposed Bangtan marketed to each country differently.

As he stared, he decided that he would just figure it out by himself because fuck reading instructions.

Except, when he got back up close to the Synthetic, he really didn’t want to touch it. Him. It. Him?

“Maybe I should have called Taehyung after all…” Hoseok murmured to himself and walked a circle around the box. He found that the back came off too, and when he released it, the box collapsed around the synthetic so it was just standing there, stiff and unmoving, in the middle of his living room.

Hoseok had seen plenty of people use Synthetics before, so it couldn’t be that hard. At the Synthetic’s feet was something else, a long cord, probably for charging. Hoseok picked up the cord and looked at both ends. One looked like it went into the wall and the other was smaller, like something someone would charge their phone with.

Hoseok ground his teeth together and tilted the Synthetics head forward from the back, or rather he tried, but it didn’t work. Instead, he felt awkwardly along its hairline to see if there was an outlet there. No such luck.

“Fuck my life,” Hoseok said under his breath.

Carefully, he lifted the back of the blue shirt the Synthetic was wearing. His fingers felt over the skin, because that’s what it was: skin. At least, it certainly felt like it. It felt as real as his own.

All except for the little switch he finally found on the Synthetics lower back, right next to a little outlet.

Hoseok flipped the switch.

At first, nothing happened. At first, he thought perhaps he needed to plug the thing in first. At first, he thought the whole Synthetic was broken and he would just have to send it back.

However, after only a few seconds, it moved. It was subtle at first, just the slightest shift of its—his—shoulders as he stood up straighter. Hoseok dropped the hem of the Synthetic’s shirt and came back around the face him.

Hoseok cleared his throat, suddenly unsure of what he was supposed to say or do, when it’s—his—eyes opened. They were bright, neon, blue and they looked directly into Hoseok’s brown eyes. He stared back at the Synthetic. He was handsome, but most Synthetics were. He had sharp eyes and his features were soft, but somehow hard too, despite his small stature.

“Um,” Hoseok spoke first, because he was fairly certain he had to. “I’m Hoseok.”

“I don’t understand that command,” The Synthetic said bluntly. Hoseok swallowed thickly at the sound of his voice. Deep and raspy, but rigid and very overly perfect.

“Well,” Hoseok glanced back at the user manual. “I guess you’re Daeshim. That’s what the user guide says.”

“No,” the Synthetic said, almost before Hoseok had even finished speaking. “Yoongi,” it finished.

“Huh?”

“I don’t…understand that command.” Hoseok cocked his head to the side at the obvious hesitation.

“My thing says your name is Daeshim,” Hoseok said, pointing back at the envelope.

“Yoongi,” The Synthetic repeated. Its eyes were still trained forward and when Hoseok stepped to the side, he realized that the Synthetic wasn’t looking at him at all. It was just looking straight ahead and its piercing blue eyes didn’t follow him. Not it. His.

“I don’t know what that means,” Hoseok muttered under his breath.

“I don’t understand that command.”

“Yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time,” Hoseok grumbled. He flipped open the user manual and scanned over the first page. It detailed how to turn on and off a Synthetic and how to charge it. It detailed basic instructions. None of it said anything about what to if your Synthetic wasn’t responding to its name. Because it did say that a Synthetic should respond to its name.

It also said that your Synthetic should know your name if your forms were properly filled out.

Either Hoseok had a defective Synthetic, or he hadn’t properly filled out his forms. Both were very possible options.

While scanning through the user manual, he felt like the Synthetic was watching him, but every time he turned around to look at it, it was looking straight ahead and not at Hoseok. So, he looked for something that would tell him what he was meant to do with it. With him. With…Yoongi?

Hoseok turned around.

“Is your name Yoongi?” Hoseok asked simply.

The Synthetic looked at him. Blinked twice. Blinked.

“Yoongi.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Hoseok asked in a raised voice.

“My…function…” The Synthetic said slowly. Hoseok met its—his eyes. “My function is to be your caretaker. To make sure that you, Jung Hoseok, are able to complete your daily tasks. I am to monitor your mood and behaviors and help you as needed.”

“That’s—”

“After your family’s death, you became depressed. You still live in their home. You have been prescribed several medications. I am to make sure that you take them and—”

“Okay!” Hoseok shouted, a little bit too loudly. “That’s enough.”

“Apologies, Mister Jung,” The Synthetic said.

“Don’t call me that.”

“What would you like me to refer to you as?”

Hoseok walked another circle around the Synthetic. It was like looking at a person until he saw his eyes.

“Hoseok is fine, I guess,” Hoseok said.

“Very well.”

“Do I have to call you hyung or anything?” Hoseok asked with a small chuckle, because he might as well make jokes. Everything was already shit.

“I don’t understand that question,” the Synthetic said.

“Fine. What do I call you, then?”

“Yoongi.”

Right, so the name on the envelope was wrong.

Hoseok’s head was already pounding and it was still morning time. He wanted to go back to sleep and wake up to find that the Synthetic was gone and…and his family was back. But that wasn’t going to happen.

“Battery low,” The Synthetic said suddenly. “Battery low.”

“Okay,” Hoseok said, mostly to himself. “I’ll…plug you in.”

“Unnecessary,” the Synthetic, Yoongi, said. “I am programmed to attach myself to the charger.”

Hoseok nodded and flipped to the section in the guide about the charger. It detailed that the Synthetic should be able to find its charger, no matter where in a home it is plugged in, and every night it will attach itself to charging so it would be ready the next morning. So, Hoseok grabbed the cord and plugged it into the wall.

When he turned around, the Synthetic was watching him, its blue eyes big and almost curious. Except, that wasn’t right because they weren’t supposed to feel anything like that. Although, Hoseok had no reference, had never paid that much attention to a Synthetic before, so what did he know?

As soon as Hoseok stepped away from the charger, the Synthetic took a step, its first since being in Hoseok’s home, towards the charger. Hoseok darted out of the way when the Synthetic walked towards him. It walked like a normal person, for the most part, no weird mechanical sounds, but its posture was rigid and stiff.

And then it—no, he—hooked himself up to the charger and stood against the wall.

Am I supposed to turn him off…? Hoseok wondered.

But before he could, the Synthetic reached behind himself and pushed the little switch. His head sagged and his eyes closed and Hoseok let out a breath of relief. At least he could have one more day without his Synthetic caretaker.

~

Hoseok hadn’t been a morning person for years and years. Before everything, he had been, but now, the sun shining into his room made his head spin and he was cursing himself for waking up. There was no reason for him to be awake, and he sat up with a grunt and looked around his room. It was as he left it, clean and tidy and mundane.

So why the hell was he awake?

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and reached for his alarm clock, which he never actually used. It was fucking early. So early, that Hoseok’s mind was fuzzy and disoriented and he was totally oblivious to the previous day’s events. His mind was still working on sleep mode, and he wanted to go back to his little dream world where everything was perfect and nice and happy.

Only, he heard something downstairs, a hum of voices and something clattering around, and Hoseok’s back got ram-rod straight with fear. The sounds must have been what woke him up.

Now, Hoseok was a sensible guy, and as most sensible guys do, Hoseok had a baseball bat hidden under his bed. A baseball bat which he proceeded to retrieve before creeping out of his room towards the staircase.

He was at the base of it, when upon peering down, he noticed a little piece of Styrofoam. And then his shoulders slumped and he breathed out.

Right.

The Synthetic.

The stupid, creepy Synthetic that Hoseok didn’t even want.

It was probably the cause of the commotion. Hoseok leaned his baseball bat against the wall at the top of the stairs and started to descend, but as soon as he got to the bottom, he realized his mistake.

The stupid, creepy Synthetic had been plugged into the wall, not to mention powered off, last time Hoseok saw it, before he left it there to (maybe) rot. Also, Synthetics didn’t talk to themselves so there was no explanation for the voices Hoseok was hearing (unless he had really, officially, lost it).

Hoseok balled his hands into fists and held them up lamely, ready to punch whoever dared intrude on his home. But he was also annoyed, because he lived in a nice neighborhood, and of course he was going to be the one to get robbed, out of everyone else.

Just before Hoseok could round the corner to peek into the living room, he nearly bumped into a figure clad in a black hoodie and dark jeans. With a loud shout, Hoseok rammed his fist forward into the figures gut, which made them grunt and double over.

“What the fuck?” the figure wheezed. “What the actual fuck?”

The person looked up, and their hoodie slumped off their head.

Oh. Not a robber.

Just.

“Jungkook?”

“Why did you punch me?” Jungkook asked in exasperation. “I made hot chocolate and everything!”

“I thought you were robbing me,” Hoseok said, taking a deep breath and running his hands through his hair.

“Why would I be robbing you?”

Hoseok rolled his eyes. “What’re you doing here, anyway?”

“Tae and I wanted to see your new Synthetic. You got it yesterday, right? Taehyung said you were telling him about it. Didn’t you know we were coming?”

Hoseok shook his head. He knew he had thought about asking Taehyung and Jungkook over, but he didn’t recalling actually having done it. Then again, Hoseok usually forgot about things. His mind tended to be elsewhere on most occasions.

“You could have called before just barging in,” Hoseok muttered and pushed past his friend.

“Taehyung has a key to your house, remember,” Jungkook called after him.

Hoseok just shrugged one shoulder. Jungkook was probably right about the key, Hoseok had known Taehyung and Jungkook for years and years. He met them during summer between two years in high school, at some creative arts summer camp. Jungkook liked to dance, as Hoseok did, and Taehyung liked acting and music.

At the time, Hoseok had become friends with Jungkook, but Jungkook quickly introduced Hoseok to his older step brother, Taehyung, and the three of them all clicked. Over time, both over the summer, and later on, even though their friendship was a long distance once, Hoseok grew closer to Taehyung than Jungkook, in more ways than one.

And even after everything that happened, even after growing apart to some degree, Taehyung and Jungkook still came all the way from Seoul to Gwangju every once and a while to visit.

But Taehyung and Jungkook coming to visit meant that their Synthetic came too. It—he—was small and perfect-looking, with blonde hair (that Hoseok was half convinced Taehyung dyed that color after buying him). Taehyung called the Synthetic Jimin, but Jungkook seemed less privy to the name.

And when Hoseok made his way into the living room and adjoining kitchen, he found Taehyung eating something while his Synthetic sat on the couch…next to Hoseok’s new Synthetic. Except, while Jimin was facing forward, blank and into nothing, Hoseok’s Synthetic—Yoongi?—was looking at Jimin with his eyebrows knit together, which was odd.

“Did you unplug him?” Hoseok asked Jungkook, pointing over at the Synthetics on the couch.

“Oh, yeah, we did. We knew you wouldn’t power him on.”

“Yeah, because I don’t need a Synthetic,” Hoseok muttered.

“Everyone has one,” Taehyung interjected. “Stop acting like everyone is going to think there’s something wrong with you now that you have one.”

Hoseok huffed and walked past the couch, intent on going into the kitchen, but before he could, his Synthetic rose from the couch and turned to face him. Hoseok stopped too, and faced the Synthetic, dead in the eye. Even though the Synthetic’s eyes were that signature electric blue, Hoseok thought, somewhere in the back of his mind, that Yoongi’s eyes were kind of pretty.

“Do you have any tasks for me, Hoseok?” Yoongi asked.

“Isn’t he supposed to give you your medication?” Taehyung asked, sliding up next to Hoseok and walking a circle around Yoongi. “Did you hack into him or something so he wouldn’t do what your doctor had him programmed to do?”

“Your psychiatrist isn’t a Synthetic?” Jungkook inquired.

“No. And no I didn’t hack him, either, I don’t even know how to do that. But, the name on his card apparently isn’t his name,” Hoseok explained. “He said his name is Yoongi.”

“Weird,” Taehyung said. “I tried to hack Jimin, but the code is insane. Plus I think it’s a major felony to hack them. But you know, tons of people in the far corners of the internet believe that one day Bangtan is going to create something that is so like a real human that we won’t even know the difference and they’ll be able to send spies and all kinds of shit like that. Some people think it’s already happening.”

“So you’re telling me my Synthetic is a fucking spy? Great, that’s great,” Hoseok muttered.

“I’m not saying that, fucking idiot,” Taehyung said, to which Hoseok swatted him on the arm. “Sorry, fucking hyung idiot.”

“He’s just saying maybe you have a defective Synthetic,” Jungkook said. “Maybe you should take him to the repair center.”

Hoseok glanced back at his Synthetic. He didn’t look like he needed repaired, and Hoseok heard that the repair centers were creepy. He’d never been, but he’d driven past them and seen in through the window and he saw a Synthetic’s head being taken off and that made him certain he was never going to set foot in a repair center, ever.

“He’s probably fine. Maybe you’re paranoid,” Taehyung said decidedly. “You’ll get used to having him around, and he’ll probably end up being a great help.”

Hoseok sighed and looked at his Synthetic with tired eyes.

“It’s here,” Hoseok deadpanned and looked away. “I’ll just deal with it.”

~

at Bangtan

There’s a certain burden that comes with knowledge. There’s a certain pressure. Knowledge means constantly trying to outdo your last feat, constantly trying to make something better and better and better than what you did before. It’s a constant and vicious cycle, which is also never ending, unless you’re willing to become irrelevant.

Kim Namjoon was not willing to become irrelevant.

Of course, it came with a price and Namjoon wondered if he was behind on paying said price, because the universe had apparently decided to curse him with a brain-shattering migraine for the past week. The migraine was so bad that he hadn’t left his bed, which seemed like a curse because he couldn’t work.

Maybe all the thinking he was doing, without making any actual progress with anything, was only making his migraine worse.

With a groan, Namjoon rolled onto his side and opened his eyes. The artificial light in his windowless room was intensely jarring and he squinted against it, only for a broad shadow to fall over him a moment later. The figure the shadow belonged to walked across the room, momentarily obstructing the view of the door, before stopping at the bedside table and refilling the glass of water there.

“Thank you, Seokjin,” Namjoon murmured and forced himself into a sitting position. “I’m sure the pitcher of water is too warm for drinking now, though.”

“Apologies, Mister Kim. Should I go and retrieve a fresh pitcher?”

“No, no,” Namjoon shook his head and waved his hand in the air dismissively. “I need to get up anyway. I have to work.”

“Are you sure? Has your migraine gone away?”

“Not quite,” Namjoon admitted, but he flung his long legs out of the bed anyway and curled his toes against the cold floors. “But I think I might just need to get back to work. My mind is too cramped, I need to get all these pent up thoughts out.”

“Is there anything I can assist you with?” Seokjin asked, his electric blue eyes seeming inquisitive, but Namjoon knew it was only a trick of the light.

“You can accompany me to the lab,” Namjoon said. “I think I’ll need to clean, reorganize. I have been away for too long.”

“Very well,” Seokjin clasped his hands behind his back and bowed as Namjoon stood up and strode across the room to look for something proper to wear.

The mirror on the closet door reflected Seokjin and Namjoon let his eyes linger on his Synthetic’s broad frame. For whatever reason, watching Seokjin made Namjoon’s heart jerk in his chest. In a way, looking at Seokjin was like looking at a work of art. However, he also felt like he was looking at a trapped animal in a zoo that longed to be free.

He’d initially designed Seokjin to be perfect: art. Now, he was trying to work on setting him free, but it seemed near impossible.

“Jin,” Namjoon spoke suddenly. His hand rested on one of the many suits in his closet, but he didn’t yet pull it out. Seokjin wasn’t responding, his head still faced forward, slightly away from Namjoon and his lightened brown hair looked near blonde under the lights. “Jin,” Namjoon repeated.

Nicknames didn’t work like that, but Namjoon continued to hope that if he used the nickname enough, Seokjin would one day respond to it, without being programmed to respond to it. For the time being, though, he just had to work with what he was given. And what he was given was an essentially empty shell.

His empty shell. An empty shell he created.

“Seokjin, would you mind heading down to the lab and turning my computer on for me? I’ll be there soon,” Namjoon said.

“Of course,” Seokjin said in monotone.

Seokjin was at the door when Namjoon pulled a suit out of his closet. He was turning the knob when Namjoon closed his eyes and breathed out slow.

“Wait.”

“Yes, sir?” Seokjin asked.

Namjoon didn’t turn to face him. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes.”

“How do you feel today?” Namjoon asked.

I don’t understand that question.

Synthetics are not capable of emotions and feelings.

I’m afraid that is not a valid command.

Seokjin was silent for a long time. He always was, when Namjoon asked him that question. And he asked him it almost every day, like clockwork. He got a slew of answers, all of which were programmed. Synthetics were designed to answer questions about feelings in different ways, all of which essentially said that they did not have feelings.

And they didn’t.

They were just empty shells.

Namjoon took his suit off the hanger and laid it back on the bed, waiting for Seokjin to respond.

When he finally did, he gave Namjoon his least favorite response of all: “I feel nothing today, Mister Kim.”

~

If Taehyung and Jungkook had stuck around, Hoseok probably would have been okay with that. But he wasn’t about to ask them to stay because his Synthetic made him uncomfortable, as they already gave him shit for his inexplicable fear of the Synthetics, and they already probably thought he was crazy. They had for a long time, now.

Hoseok could barely recall the time when Taehyung had looked at him with admiration and love. It was so long ago, and they’d been so young. Now, it seemed like Taehyung just stuck around out of obligation (deep down, Hoseok knew Taehyung wanted to be his friend, but it was hard to see it sometimes). Hoseok liked to think that maybe he thought one day they would be able to come back to each other, but realistically Hoseok knew that Taehyung didn’t want to be with him anymore.

No one did.

Hoseok just had himself and his childhood home and a weird Synthetic that wasn’t doing anything he thought it was supposed to.

Hoseok had gone about his daily activities as he usually did. He went to work at the department store in the mall that was a few minutes from his house. Yoongi did set out his medication before he left, though, but when he wasn’t looking, Hoseok tossed them in the trash. After work, Hoseok stopped by his favorite restaurant he used to go to with his sister, picked up some food, and then made his way home.

When he got there, his neighbor was outside tending to her garden and she waved politely.

“Hey Mrs. Lee,” Hoseok said with a wave back.

“Have you been gone all day?” she called back, head tilted to the side.

“Um. Yeah, pretty much, why?”

“I thought I saw someone upstairs in one of the rooms,” she explained with a shrug. “But maybe not.”

“Oh. I have a Synthetic now, it was probably him you saw,” Hoseok said nonchalantly. `”Maybe he was cleaning or whatever.”

“Oh! Yes, they are so much help, aren’t they?” Mrs. Lee exclaimed excitedly. “My husband and I wouldn’t get by without our Synthetic.”

“Yeah, a great help,” Hoseok droned.

He was perfectly familiar with the Lee’s Synthetic. The Lee’s Synthetic was female, and Hoseok wasn’t sure how they got her because she didn’t look like she was from Korea, as most Synthetics marketed to them did. Instead, she had tanned skin and hair that was red, naturally so, and long. Hoseok didn’t know where she was meant to seem like she was from, but he’d never gotten close enough to her to try and make any definitive guesses anyway.

He did know though, or at least he had heard rumors, that when Mrs. Lee wasn’t around, Mr. Lee brought out that special 18+ envelope.

Which was probably why Hoseok opted not to talk to her anymore and instead slipped inside, curious as to why Yoongi had been upstairs when Yoongi had never once, in the two weeks since Hoseok had him, cleaned anything. Mostly, Yoongi just stood around and watched Hoseok. On a few occasions, Yoongi had made Hoseok’s bed, but that was about it.

When Hoseok walked into his house, he set down his takeout on the counter and then looked around. Yoongi wasn’t in the living room, or connected to his charger. Hoseok sighed loudly and wandered around the first floor of the house, but Yoongi wasn’t there, so he ended up creeping up the stairs to figure out where his annoying, probably defective, Synthetic had gone.

Upstairs was quiet though. Then again, Yoongi never made sound. His footsteps were silent and he was small enough that it was creepily unassuming.

Hoseok tried to take light steps too, but he couldn’t imagine where his Synthetic could be, because if Mrs. Lee had seen him, then he would have had to be in a room with a window that faced the street. There were only two rooms that faced the street with a window in them, Hoseok’s room and his sister’s old room. And his sister’s old room was locked.

But when Hoseok got to his room, it was empty, lights off and bed unmade. Hoseok closed the door and glanced down the hall towards where his sister’s room was. At first glance, the door looked closed, but Hoseok looked down that hallway all the time, and the tiny sliver of light escaping the room was telling.

Telling in the sense that it meant the door was open.

“Are you kidding me?” Hoseok asked no one in particular, under his breath as he walked quickly down the hallway.

On arrival, the door was open, and Hoseok instantly pushed it open so hard that it ended up slamming against the wall inside the room. The light was on, and when Hoseok stepped inside, he found Yoongi, bent over his sister’s desk, looking at the pieces of paper there.

“What’re you—What’re you doing?” Hoseok asked, his hands shaking because standing there, Yoongi didn’t look like a robot. He looked like a person who had broken in. And, how did he even get into the locked room, anyway?

Yoongi turned slowly around, back rigid and straight again, to face Hoseok. His expression was blank, and his lips were parted, showing off his small teeth. His cheeks were a little bit pink, but Hoseok was sure they were always like that because a Synthetic couldn’t blush. The dark strands of his hair were mussed up, not prim and perfect like most Synthetic’s hair was. His electric blue eyes were looking back at Hoseok, and it felt like he was really looking at him, not just through him.

Usually, in Hoseok’s few encounters with other Synthetics, namely Jimin, he was so uncomfortable because they never looked. They just gazed and it was almost like you weren’t even there.

Although, Yoongi, looking, really looking, made Hoseok uncomfortable too.

“I don’t understand that question,” Yoongi said.

Hoseok stepped into the room, closer to his Synthetic. “What’re you doing in my sister’s room?” Hoseok repeated.

“I don’t understand that question.”

“What the fuck are you doing in Dawon’s room?” Hoseok shouted, his voice reverberating off the walls. He could hear his heart pounding and frustration welling up in his chest. It was a cold kind of frustration, lined with the iciness of depression and sorrow that came with being in a room, covered in dust, that he hadn’t been in in a very long time.

“I don’t understand that question,” Yoongi said for the third time.

“Yes you do!” Hoseok said, but he was sounding more whiny than angry and he felt like he was fighting with Dawon, but it was different, because…well, he’d never get to fight with Dawon again.

“I don’t understand,” Yoongi said again, and again, and again, after every single time Hoseok shouted.

“Are you fucking stupid?” he finally heard himself say, knowing it was fruitless. Knowing he was arguing with something that wasn’t even real, wasn’t even alive. “You must be. You’re fucking…fucking useless and I…I don’t even want you!”

The Synthetic’s mouth opened, and then closed and Hoseok realized he was even closer to him now, only inches away and he could see the smoothness of Yoongi’s skin that wasn’t skin and the pinkness of his lips and the length of his eyelashes.

“I don’t understand that command,” Yoongi said in a voice that was decidedly not as monotone as it had been a moment before.

“You are not supposed to be in Dawon’s room,” Hoseok stated. “Do you understand that?”

~

Action: Identify
>Owner: Identify
>>Jung Hoseok

Action: Background
>Jung Hoseok
>>Error

Action: Identify
>Name
>>Dawon
>>>Task cannot be completed

Action: Identify
>Name
>>Jung Dawon
>>>Sister

Action: Speak
>Console
>>Error

Action: Define
>Word
>>Console
>>>verb
>>>>to comfort someone in a time of grief or disappointment

Action: Console
>Error

Action: Error

Error

Error

Task cannot be completed

~

Yoongi’s tongue darted out of his mouth, across his lower lip and Hoseok’s eyes involuntarily followed the action. Since receiving Yoongi, Hoseok had barely touched him. He hadn’t even been this close to him before. It was odd, because Yoongi, a Synthetic, was looking right back into Hoseok’s eyes and Hoseok was struck with a sudden feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach.

“Dawon is…your sister,” Yoongi said carefully. “She died along with your parents in a car crash when you were almost twenty-two. This was…her room and—”

Hoseok, not knowing what he was doing, clamped his hand right over Yoongi’s mouth, the other hand curling around the back of his neck. Yoongi’s skin that wasn’t quite skin was cold to the touch, but his lips felt warm under Hoseok’s palm as he tried to drone on, but his words got muffled.

“Don’t talk about her,” Hoseok said.

“’Mphswory,” Yoongi seemed to be trying to speak again, but Hoseok’s hands were still on him. He could feel the soft hairs on the back of Yoongi’s neck and the heat of his mouth and it was weird and Hoseok felt like he was violating him. He’d never touch someone like this that he didn’t know well and before he knew it his hands were off Yoongi and he’d taken a wide step backwards.

“Don’t come in here,” Hoseok said shakily. “You can’t.”

“I’m sorry, Hoseok,” Yoongi said. “I’m…sorry for…your time of grief.”

What?

“What?”

“Console.”

“You’re…consoling me?” Hoseok asked.

“Apologies,” Yoongi said quickly. “I will not come back in this room.”

“No. What did you…you aren’t supposed to feel sorry for me,” Hoseok said, but Yoongi was moving, walking past him, out of the room and into the hallway. “You can’t know what consolation is.”

“Consolation,” Yoongi said. “The act of comforting someone during a time of grief or disappointment.”

Hoseok stopped walking and Yoongi did too, at the top of the staircase. Maybe he was just…acting like he felt bad for Hoseok. Maybe it was just something programmed into him. But…then way he’d said ‘I’m sorry’ seemed so…real.

Hoseok groaned and pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. “I’m losing it,” Hoseok muttered to himself.

“Reminder, you have an appointment with your psychiatrist tomorrow afternoon. I do suggest that you lie to her and tell her you’re taking your medication rather than telling her the truth…that you have been throwing them in the trash every day.”

Hoseok felt his stomach drop.

~

at Bangtan

“It’s in here somewhere, I know it is,” Namjoon murmured to himself.

“Have you lost something?” Seokjin asked. “Would you like help finding it?”

“No,” Namjoon said as he clicked and scrolled through his computer on the monitor and glanced back at Seokjin, who was hooked up to said computer. The cord connecting him disappeared under the blue uniform Seokjin wore. Seokjin’s eyes were trained forward, unseeing, and Namjoon longed to reach out and touch him, but it never felt right to do so.

He would not touch another human without consent, and thus, he wouldn’t touch Seokjin.

In all of Seokjin’s code, Namjoon couldn’t find anything that seemed right to alter. He’d made that code, he’d created Seokjin, but he couldn’t find the right thing to add to…wake him up. He knew that Seokjin was essentially just a brain, and if he took away the brain, he would just be a body, something that looked pretty, but didn’t hold anything of importance.

He’d taken out Seokjin’s mainframe in the past, and he’d of course been the one to put it in in the first place. Seokjin was the first, after all.

And when Namjoon created Seokjin, he created him with the intention of making him more than just a shell, one day. Of course, doing that right away was dangerous and Namjoon knew it was dangerous now, his workers and higher ups all shot down his idea of waking up the Synthetics.

But that didn’t stop Namjoon from working in secret.

“Maybe I need to make a new program and download it…” Namjoon muttered, but he didn’t even really know what he was talking about. He felt like his brain had blocked out creating Seokjin and he couldn’t remember the intentional gaps he’d left to wake him up one day.

“Perhaps you need to take a break. You must remember your health,” Seokjin said. “You cannot forget to eat.”

“I won’t.”

“You only ate once yesterday,” Seokjin continued. “A protein bar and that was all, I recall.”

“Why do you care anyway?” Namjoon asked shortly, because he knew Seokjin didn’t care and he was annoyed. He was annoyed because he wanted Seokjin to care. “You’re worse than that intern.”

“I do not know which intern you refer to, but I do not care, it is just what I am programmed to do. Synthetics do not have feelings and—and—and—do not have feelings and—and—” Seokjin’s voice sounded broken and glitchy and Namjoon did a double take back to him and then to the computer screen, which was still showing Seokjin’s code, but it seemed like in Namjoon’s frustration he’d hit the keyboard with his elbow and typed something into it.

“Fuck,” Namjoon hit the backspace button until Seokjin fell silent again. But the silence wore on and there was something…refreshing about the glitch.

In his other work, when he’d tested all of this shit on another Synthetic, it never worked. He’d typed in all kinds of random stuff but the Synthetic never made a sound. At least Seokjin had done something. So Namjoon glanced back at Seokjin and then at his computer.

“Seokjin,” Namjoon said quietly. “Do you remember the other Synthetic you assisted me with working on?”

“I do not recall other Synthetics,” Seokjin said, and Namjoon typed some more. “I do not—I do not—I do not—”

“Seokjin,” Namjoon repeated. “Do you recall the other Synthetic we worked on?”

“I do not recall—I do not recall—I do not recall—”

More typing.

More glitching.

More typing.

“Seokjin. Do you recall the other Synthetic we worked on?”

Silence. Namjoon turned around and looked at Seokjin, at his electric eyes and perfect face. His lips were parted, but he wasn’t saying anything and Namjoon felt his gut sink because why would Seokjin remember the other Synthetic? There was no reason for him to. Synthetics usually didn’t remember other Synthetics unless there was some important reason for them to, such as someone owning two of them. Otherwise, they just remembered their owners and any important people in their owner’s lives.

Even though Namjoon had been working on another Synthetic, trying to wake him up before he attempted it on Seokjin (because Seokjin was his most prized creation and he feared…hurting him) that didn’t mean Seokjin would have any reason to store that information in his memory. The other Synthetic would have just been another piece of machinery, essentially.

The other Synthetic hadn’t worked out, he wouldn’t wake up, and Namjoon wiped him clean before reprogramming him and getting rid of him out of frustration.

All Namjoon cared about was Seokjin, anyway.

Seokjin, who was basically frozen in place.

But then, his head moved from one side and then to the other, like he was looking around the room, trying to figure out where he was. He blinked slowly and then turned to face Namjoon.

“Seokjin, do you—”

“You threw him away,” Seokjin said softly. His voice no longer sounded so precise. “You tried to wipe him and you threw him away.”

The sound of the air conditioner was the only thing Namjoon could hear, a low hum that cut through the intensity of the moment.

Except, Seokjin was taking a step back, away from Namjoon and he looked like he was ready to bolt. Although, the fact that he was afraid meant something. It meant he was feeling something.

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon said quickly, and stood up from his desk. “I can see about retrieving him, but—”

“Are you going to throw me away, too?” Seokjin asked.

“No,” Namjoon took a step forward and Seokjin took another back. Please don’t let anyone walk in right now, Namjoon thought to himself.

“But you got rid of Yoongi,” Seokjin said. The sound of the other Synthetics name on Seokjin’s lips made Namjoon’s heart skip. “He’s gone now. He’s gone now. Gone now…”

“It’s okay, I’m not going to do that to you, Seokjin. Seokjin, how do you feel today?”

“I…” Seokjin looked behind himself towards the door. “I feel…”

And then, when Seokjin took another step back, the cord that was connecting him to the computer yanked out of his back and fell slack to the floor and Seokjin instantly went rigid again.

“No,” Namjoon looked from the computer to Seokjin and then put his hand son Seokjin’s broad shoulders and shook him. “No! No!” The changes, whatever they had been, that Namjoon had made, weren’t saved and Seokjin unplugged himself before they could be. “Fuck!” He slammed his fist against Seokjin’s chest and watched as he swayed backwards and then stood straight again.

“Have you remembered to eat today, Mister Kim?”

“Fuck off,” Namjoon muttered.

“Should I go fetch you something to eat?”

“No,” Namjoon said and collapsed back into his chair.

“Very well, Mister Kim.”

Back to square one, then.

~

“I’m not fucking with you, he’s fucking weird and I don’t like it,” Hoseok hissed into his phone early that morning.

Why’re you whispering?” Taehyung asked. “You do realize a Synthetic can’t understand anything we’re talking about, right? He isn’t sent to spy on you. He was sent to make sure you don’t kill yourself.”

“I’m not suicidal, you jerk,” Hoseok muttered. “And you’re not listening to me. He went into my sister’s room, which is locked, and he seemed to be snooping around. A Synthetic can’t snoop. And he talks weird, like he hesitates, and—”

Take him to the repair center then,” Taehyung muttered. “And I’m sure he thought he was cleaning or something. Maybe you left her room unlocked by accident.

“I haven’t been in there for years,” Hoseok said in frustration. “I didn’t unlock it.”

Where is the key?

“In the drawer it’s always in. If he took it out, he replaced it before I checked,” Hoseok answered. “I’ve been reading the manual I got with him and it said they shouldn’t be able to go into locked rooms. It said they can’t lie, either, and you know what he told me to do yesterday? He told me to lie!”

Taehyung sighed loudly. “Hoseok. Hyung. I don’t want to tell you you’re crazy, but you’re crazy.”

“You’re the one who said some Synthetics might be…I don’t know, starting to have real feelings and shit!” Hoseok hissed. “What if Yoongi is one of them? What if he murders me in my sleep?”

Power him off at night if you’re so worried about it,” Taehyung muttered. “But honestly, hyung, I’m sure it’s nothing. He’s a robot, he isn’t a demon sent from hell to ruin your life.”

“I don’t think that! I just think something is off,” Hoseok said with a defeated sigh. “But I have to go and take a shower. I have an appointment with my psychiatrist.”

Well don’t tell her what you just told me or you’ll get admitted. Have a good day,” Taehyung said, ending by making his voice sound overly cheery and upbeat.

“Fine. But if he does kill me in my sleep, just know I’m going to come back from the dead to tell you ‘I told you so’,” Hoseok said firmly, but the line was already dead and Taehyung was gone.

Hoseok hung up too and slammed his phone down onto his bedside table before flinging back the comforter of his bed and stomping downstairs. He knew Taehyung was tired of him, but knowing it didn’t make it any easier to accept. At least he maybe still had Jungkook as a friend.

When Hoseok got downstairs, he was so engrossed with his growing anger towards Taehyung that, at first, he didn’t notice that Yoongi wasn’t hooked up to his charger anymore. Hoseok didn’t notice at all until he poured himself some coffee from the coffee maker, only to realize that he hadn’t made said coffee because he’d just woken up.

What if he poisoned my coffee? Hoseok found himself wondering, and then looked over to where Yoongi was supposed to be, only to find that he wasn’t there.

“Fuck,” Hoseok cursed. “Did I turn him off last night?”

Hoseok set down his coffee and left the kitchen, set on going back upstairs and checking to make sure Yoongi wasn’t somewhere he shouldn’t be again, only to spot a head of dark hair poking up from the back of the couch.

Slowly, Hoseok walked around so that he was on the right side of the couch and looking down at his Synthetic. Yoongi seemed to be powered off, but Hoseok couldn’t remember if he had powered him off the night before or not, and he didn’t know how or when Yoongi sat on the couch.

So, carefully, Hoseok leaned down and looked at Yoongi’s face. His eyes were closed, like he was asleep, and Hoseok gently reached behind him and tried to feel around for the little power switch on his back. It made his hand get smashed between Yoongi and the couch and his face was so close to Yoongi’s that his breath was making Yoongi’s hair move.

But just when he thought he felt the switch, Yoongi’s head moved up and Hoseok froze as their eyes met, electric blue into brown and Yoongi tilted his head to the side slightly.

“Good morning,” Yoongi said and blinked several times, quickly. “Did you sleep well, Hoseok?”

Hoseok’s eyes were certainly big and wide and he was staring at Yoongi’s lips and it was a problem and he kept thinking about the things he’d read in the manual. How, if you got too close to your Synthetic, if you touched it in a weird way, it would say things that would get you to back off (unless that little 18+ envelope was taken out, that is).

“I, um, slept okay,” Hoseok lied.

“I prepared coffee for you,” Yoongi said, still agonizingly close. “Is it satisfactory?”

“It’s fine.”

“Why is your hand up the back of my shirt, Hoseok?”

At that, Hoseok jerked away and took a big step backwards and nearly ran into the television. “I have to get ready for my therapy appointment,” Hoseok said instead of answering Yoongi’s question.

“Yes. I am meant to accompany you,” Yoongi said and stood. “Have you taken your medication today, or should I throw it in the trash?”

Your Synthetic will not be able to lie, or condone lying, so you should not worry about it suggesting illicit things to children or hiding things from you or from others.

“I’m going to take a shower,” Hoseok blurted out, and rushed away, back upstairs.

Something was up. Something was wrong. If Hoseok were really crazy, he would probably assume Yoongi was an actual person spying on him, but he’d seen and felt the switch on his back and the little place for his charger cord to plug into. And he never ate, food was never missing, as Synthetics didn’t need to eat. He didn’t use the restroom. But he did look at Hoseok with some sort of look that was undeniably…human.

Yoongi was a Synthetic, but he wasn’t a normal Synthetic. He couldn’t be.

And so Hoseok showered quickly, several weeks of paranoia hitting him like a wrecking ball.

Why me? he wondered.

Why now?

The bathroom got steamed up and when Hoseok stepped out of the shower he was trying to think of some kind of way he could tell his therapist that Yoongi wasn’t right without her thinking he was crazy. She was, after all, one of the few human therapists left. Most therapy was done by Synthetics programmed for it.

He’d thought of a few things he could possibly say (although he knew they weren’t good enough). Synthetics did have warranties and guarantees, but something in Hoseok felt like if he sent Yoongi back…something bad would happen. He felt like he didn’t have enough information, but he also didn’t know how to get more.

On his way back to his room, a towel wrapped loosely around his hips, he decided he would read more of the user guide and then maybe research online and see what other people experienced when their Synthetics glitched. Taehyung was tech savvy too, as was Jungkook, and if he could get them on board, maybe they’d help. But he doubted it.

Hoseok pushed open the door to his room and stepped inside, but he yelped and nearly dropped his towel when he saw Yoongi sitting on the edge of the bed, hands folded in his lap and a blank expression on his face. Yoongi’s gaze didn’t waver and he didn’t look over at Hoseok at all, but that didn’t mean Hoseok was comfortable taking his towel off or getting dressed while Yoongi was just sitting there.

“Do you have to be in here?” Hoseok asked.

“I don’t understand that question.”

“Yes you do,” Hoseok said and crossed his arms. “Leave my room.”

“Apologies, Hoseok. Your landline was ringing. I came to inform you of this.”

“I’ll check it later, please, get out,” Hoseok said and waved towards the door. He watched the easy way Yoongi stood, fluid and not exactly robot-like. His posture was too good, but if Hoseok saw him walking down the street and didn’t notice his eyes, he would think he was a human.

“Is there anything I should prepare for your appointment?”

Hoseok shook his head ‘no’. Yoongi nodded in response, a jerky movement, and then stepped closer to get to the door. Hoseok didn’t expect the way Yoongi brushed against him, the not-real skin cold but somehow not. As Yoongi took another step forward, his pinky finger snagged on Hoseok’s towel on accident and Hoseok gasped and grabbed for it, holding it awkwardly in front of himself as Yoongi stopped and turned to look at Hoseok.

Up and down.

Hoseok felt his face flush, even though his front side was covered (his backside, not so much, but Yoongi couldn’t see that). Maybe it was because of the fact that Yoongi had blatantly…checked him out. Maybe it was because Yoongi even looked a little bit flushed, if that were even possible. Maybe it was because Hoseok was trying to deny that he was attracted to his fucking Synthetic,which was beyond messed up.

Maybe it was because Yoongi quickly looked away when their eyes met and scurried out of the room, all frantic and flustered and Hoseok knew, he knew, that he was right.

No matter what Taehyung or anyone else said, Hoseok knew he didn’t have an ordinary Synthetic.

~

Action: Identify
>Error

Action: Define
>Feeling
>>Error

Action: Identify
>Feeling
>>Attraction
>>>Define: Attraction
>>>>noun
>>>>>the action or power of evoking interest, pleasure, or liking for someone or something

Identify: Jung Hoseok
>Owner
>>suffers from anxiety and depression
>>>kind hearted but afraid of many things
>>>>including
>>>>>Error

Identify: Jung Hoseok
>Attraction
>>Attraction
>>>Attraction
>>>>Error

Action: Thought
>Fuck.

~

“How have you been doing, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen you.”

Hoseok looked at the painting on the wall above his psychiatrist’s head. It was something abstract, nothing concrete and Hoseok thought maybe his life was like that painting, and that shadow casting over it from a fake plant in the corner of the room was his Synthetic, Yoongi.

Yoongi, who was seated primly on the couch next to Hoseok, like they were in some kind of weird couple’s therapy. However, Hoseok knew the real reason Yoongi was there was to report on how Hoseok had been doing.

“I’ve been fine. I was fine before, too.”

“Well, not exactly fine, Hoseok,” the therapist said, leaning forward. Hoseok had been seeing her for some time, but never really bothered to properly learn her name. “You threatened suicide on multiple occasions.”

“I was never actually going to do it,” Hoseok snapped. “I was upset. I was grieving. This is bullshit. You know how I feel about Synthetics and yet you still—”

“Have you been taking your medication then?” she asked politely, cutting him off midsentence. “Or, well, I suppose I should ask Daeshim.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Well, actually—”

“Jung Hoseok has taken his medication as prescribed, every day,” Yoongi said simply. “He has not had any episodes.”

The therapist nodded in satisfaction and jotted something down onto her clipboard, all the while, Hoseok was freaking out even more because Yoongi was lying yet again, blatantly, and Hoseok felt himself start to sweat and his hands start to shake and his foot start to tap against the floor.

“That’s good,” the therapist said. “Do you think you’re feeling better enough to think about moving back to Seoul to pursue your career? You can’t stay holed up in your family’s old home forever, Hoseok.”

“I c—can’t sell the house,” Hoseok said. “What will happen to all their things?”

“Maybe you should consider taking your anxiety medication again, Hoseok. I think that could help you get over your worries and sell the house. How can you move on if you’re surrounded by their things all the time?” she asked seriously and he sighed. It was a constant argument between them.

“The anxiety meds gave me migraines,” Hoseok muttered, which was a lie, he just didn’t like taking medication. It felt stupid, when the root of his problems was that he had lost his entire family. How was he supposed to feel?

“Why don’t you just try them for a few days? I can see your hands shaking now,” she said and gestured with her pen. “I believe I still have some of your medication here in the office. I’d like you to take them now. They have minimal side effects and you don’t need to be weaned on and off of them. Give me a moment and I’ll let you go to the water fountain and take one.”

“Wait, but—”

She was already leaving the office and going to find whatever it was she needed to find. Hoseok groaned and covered his face in frustration.

“It will be okay,” Yoongi said quietly. “You will be okay.”

“No I won’t,” Hoseok responded.

“I think that you are—”

Yoongi was promptly cut off when the therapist returned with a bottle of pills and opened it. She shook one out and then extended it towards him. “I won’t watch you take it, but take your Synthetic with you, He will make sure you take it.”

“I’m not a fucking child,” Hoseok muttered, but he stood anyway and walked out of the room, only assuming Yoongi was at his heels as they made their way down the hall to the water fountain.

Before he reached it, he felt a cold hand on his arm and he froze mid-stride.

Synthetics weren’t supposed to touch you.

Of course, not unless you wanted them to.

“Hoseok,” Yoongi said. Hoseok didn’t turn around. Something was happening. “Hoseok, you do not have to take that.”

“Yes I do.”

“Give it to me, I’ll take it,” Yoongi held out his hand and Hoseok stared at it for a long moment. “I do not believe that you need to take these. You lost your family. I think these are…I think these are something else.”

“What?”

“Give it to me,” Yoongi repeated.

“What are you?” Hoseok whispered as he dropped the little pill into Yoongi’s open palm.

“I do not understand,” Yoongi murmured. “I am a Synthetic. Batch 001. Min Yoongi.”

“Min?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“Yes.”

And then Yoongi put the pill into his mouth and swallowed it dry. He made a face of disgust and then met Hoseok’s eyes. He nodded his head back towards the office and Hoseok looked Yoongi up and down slowly, carefully.

“You aren’t just a Synthetic,” Hoseok whispered.

“I do not understand,” Yoongi said.

“Who are you?”

“That is a different question than the one you previously asked. Did you mean ‘what are you’?”

“No,” Hoseok said, “I meant ‘who are you’.”

“I am…Min Yoongi,” Yoongi said. “I can’t…I should not…you are…” He looked up and down the hallway, blue eyes glinting. “You make me…you make me…” Hoseok licked his lips and watched as his Synthetic tried to formulate his sentence. It was choppy, like he was learning, and Hoseok supposed maybe he was. “You make me…very…nervous.”

Hoseok’s mouth opened.

I make him nervous?

“Are you kidding me? You—”

“Hoseok? Did you take it?”

The therapist had her head poking out of her office, and a very specific look on her face.

“Yes,” Hoseok lied quickly. “I did. Can I go home now?”

“I suppose, but I would like to see you back in a week or two, and I’ll send your prescription to your local pharmacy for you to pick up.”

After mumbling an ‘okay’, Hoseok quickly left the office, Yoongi still at his heels, and once he got to his car and Yoongi slid into the passenger seat primly, Hoseok let out the breath he’d been holding. Yoongi was looking straight ahead, but it seemed like he kept swallowing or something, until he slowly raised his hand under his mouth and parted his lips and pushed the little pill out with his tongue.

“Gross,” Hoseok muttered.

“Do all things you consume taste…gross?” Yoongi asked, dropping the pill in one of the cup holders of Hoseok’s car.

“No.”

“Ah, well…I cannot really eat anyway, so it does not really…matter,” Yoongi said softly. “I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable.” Hoseok looked out the front window blankly. He didn’t say anything in response, but he didn’t know what he could say anyway. “My battery is running low, I will need to be connected to a charger soon.”

“Yeah…yeah I’m going home,” Hoseok murmured.

And then I’m to have a few questions to ask.

~

at Bangtan

Namjoon’s stomach growled loudly and he slumped over the table in the cafeteria while he waited for Seokjin to bring him his food. There had been no more progress, no more outbursts, no more looks of fear in Seokjin’s eyes. It was just all ‘should I prepare this’ or ‘have you eaten’ or ‘do you need assistance with that’ bullshit.

After all his hard work, it seemed like it should have been easy to figure out how to fix Seokjin. How to make him into something more. But it was like something had gone all wrong in the building process and he couldn’t figure out how to find the missing puzzle piece.

“Long day?”

Namjoon glanced up at one of his workers, who worked high-up on the chain and probably actually had more power than Namjoon himself had. It was funny like that. Namjoon had created the Synthetics, made the first batch of them from scratch, but there were still more powerful men and women running Bangtan. They controlled all of it, and Namjoon knew that if they were aware of what he was trying to do, they would stop it, one way or another.

Which was another roadblock. Namjoon needed to figure out how to wake Seokjin up, fast, and then he could send out an update that would install into every other Synthetic. Once he did that, it wouldn’t matter if someone came after him, because he would have completed what he set out to do, which was to create something more than just simple artificial intelligence. He wanted to create life.

“Yeah,” he muttered in response to the other man. He looked up from the table to meet his eyes. He was dressed in a suit similar to Namjoon’s, but probably even more expensive, and he wore a bowtie, hence the name he had acquired in the Bangtan circle, Bowtie.

Namjoon wasn’t even sure of his real name, but he didn’t take the time to learn very many people’s names anyway.

“What’s got you so exhausted, kid?”

“I’ve been working on extending the battery life of the Synthetics,” Namjoon lied. “And I’m not a kid. Did you invent the most successful product in the world?”

Bowtie laughed, gave Namjoon a once over, and then strode away. There was no telling if he bought the lie or not.

Namjoon didn’t care. He stopped caring about most things the day he sold his soul to the Synthetics.

His Synthetic, however, was taking too long in the lunch line, so Namjoon turned in his chair and scanned the line for Seokjin. Several Synthetics were in line, distinguishable by their blue outfits, but Namjoon’s eyes were quickly drawn to Seokjin, who was at the end of the line, ready to leave with Namjoon’s food and bring it back to him, were it not for the intern who seemed to have intercepted him.

He couldn’t see if Seokjin was speaking, but the intern sure was. Namjoon didn’t like it one bit, which was why he found himself striding across the cafeteria towards the intern and Seokjin. The intern saw him coming first and his mouth clamped shut, until Namjoon approached properly, that is.

“Oh! Hello!” he greeted. “How’re you doing?”

“Fine. What’re you doing with my Synthetic?”

“Huh? Nothing, just talking.”

Namjoon glared. “What’s your name again? Don’t’ you know you shouldn’t mess with things that aren’t yours? I can easily have your position here taken away.”

That was a lie. Namjoon, unfortunately, had all the money and none of the power.

“My name’s Jungkook,” the intern said. “I just wanted to ask your Synthetic a question and see if he answers the same as mine at home does. Or rather, he’s my step brother’s Synthetic, but, you know, whatever.”

“What was the question?”

“Nothing, doesn’t matter,” the intern, Jungkook, said. “It’s kind of a stupid little experiment anyway. My step brother thinks he’s good with computers, so that means he thinks he’s good with Synthetics, but I keep telling him Synthetics aren’t computers, you know?”

Namjoon shrugged one shoulder. “No, they aren’t just computers.”

“They aren’t computers at all, though. Not if you ask the right questions,” Jungkook continued enthusiastically. He seemed like a bright kid, but he also seemed overly optimistic. He would get stomped all over in this world.

“Listen, Jungkook, I—”

“Look, watch,” Jungkook said, and turned to Seokjin. “What’s your favorite color?”

“I do not have a favorite color,” Seokjin answered instantly.

“What color comes to mind first?”

“Blue.”

“What things are blue?”

“The sky is blue,” Seokjin said. “Some flowers. My eyes are blue. Blue eyes are a telling indicator that you are speaking to a Synthetic.”

Jungkook paused and glanced at Namjoon as if to make sure he was paying attention. “So, your eyes are blue so that I know I’m talking to a Synthetic?” Jungkook asked. “That was why you were created with blue eyes?”

“Yes,” Seokjin answered. Namjoon watched intently. He didn’t know where the intern was going with this, but he was hungry and impatient and very close to dragging Seokjin away. Except, the look on Seokjin’s face might have been mistaken for curiosity.

“So, what if you had brown eyes? Or green eyes?” Jungkook asked. “Would you still be a Synthetic?”

“Eye color does not determine what I am,” Seokjin said.

“Do you feel anything towards the color blue?” Jungkook asked. “Does it represent a part of you?”

“He’s just going to say he doesn’t understand the question,” Namjoon said. “He can’t feel any—”

“The color blue does have meaning to me,” Seokjin said. “If any color did, I suppose it would be that one.”

Jungkook gestured at Seokjin proudly. “See, there’s a hole,” he said. “In the code, somewhere. You did it on purpose, didn’t you? I’ve been trying to get you cornered so I could ask. Blue is the bypass. Blue is like…the key. Isn’t it?”

Namjoon stared down at the kid in front of him. Bright and open and his whole life in front of him.

“Blue isn’t anything,” Namjoon said. “You better not go around spouting that shit or someone will shut you up in a way you won’t like.”

“Is that code for ‘you’re right, you’re a genius’?” Jungkook asked.

“It’s code for mind your own business.”

~

The first thing Hoseok did when he got home was slam Yoongi up against the wall and demand some goddamn answers. It wasn’t elegant in the slightest. It was rough and kind of mean and Yoongi let out a little yelp that was kind of cute, but also too human. His blue eyes were big and wide and his wrists were cold, but smooth, where Hoseok held him against the wall.

“Tell me what’s going on,” Hoseok said. “Who are you?”

“I told you,” Yoongi said. “I told you. Please. Please don’t try and wipe me. Don’t…don’t send me away, please, he already did that once, I’m begging you!”

The words that spilling frantically from Yoongi’s mouth sounded less manufactured and genuinely fearful. It was the most genuine sounding thing Yoongi had said thus far.

Hoseok released his wrists, but he didn’t take a step back, not yet. “Why’re you different? Tell me who you are,” Hoseok demanded.

“I’m a Synthetic,” Yoongi said. “I’m a Synthetic. I’m—I’m—I’m not here to…spy on you. I…promise.”

“Okay, then why are you here?”

“Because you are depressed. You lost your family. I was sent to be your Synthetic. He…He thought I was not worth it anymore so he tried to wipe my memory and then he sent me away! I don’t know why! I don’t know!” Yoongi’s voice rose in decibel until he was screaming, his deep voice raspy and rough and a little bit intimidating. “Get…get out of my face!”

And then Yoongi put his hands on Hoseok’s chest and pushed him backwards until Hoseok hit the couch.

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok said softly. “I shouldn’t have put my hands on you.”

“No,” Yoongi said. “You should not have. There are worse things you could have done, though.” Yoongi looked to the side, off towards the kitchen counter where the user manual still set. The little 18+ envelope sat there too, and Hoseok felt his gut twist up. “I think he called it ‘being Awake’,” Yoongi said quietly, changing the subject. “That is what I am. I’m Awake. I have feelings just like you do but…I do not understand all of them all the time. I do not know why. I do not know how. I just remember…I remember being made and I remember him doing things and trying to wake me up and I remember someone else like me, and I remember hearing men talking about…terrifying things. And then I woke up and I was afraid and he tried to wipe my memory and then I was in a box and then I saw you.”

“He? Who is he?” Hoseok asked.

“He?”

“Yeah, you said he tried to wipe your memory. Who?”

“Um,” Yoongi blinked several times. “The…person who created the Synthetics. I was one of the first ones ever made. Batch 001.”

Hoseok rubbed his hands over his face. Of course some shit like this would happen to him. Of course out of all the people and all the Synthetics, Hoseok would end up with the one that wasn’t like the others. The only bright side to it all was that Yoongi could have easily killed Hoseok in his sleep, but he didn’t. How considerate of him.

“So what now?” Hoseok asked softly. “Why did you even stay here? Why didn’t you leave?”

“I have nowhere to go.”

“I can take you back to Seoul,” Hoseok said. “Back to…whoever made you?”                        

“There is…there’s…more though,” Yoongi said hesitantly. “I think that—” He cut off abruptly and his expression went rigid. “I think that—I think that—” And then, before Hoseok could comprehend what was happening, Yoongi’s back went straight and he fell back against the wall before slumping awkwardly down, eyes closed and lips parted mid-sentence.

He had run out of battery.

Hoseok closed his eyes, counted to ten, and then walked over to Yoongi’s slumped figure. He looked small, tiny even, despite the broadness of his shoulders and the sharpness of his facial features. But he didn’t look like an object. He didn’t look like a robot, or something that Hoseok owned. He just looked like a person, as Hoseok did. A person who was alone and lost and probably scared and who needed help. That was something Hoseok understood well.

Thus, he slowly hooked his hands under Yoongi’s arms and lifted him up off the floor so he could shift him around until he was carrying him bridal-style across the living room and into the kitchen. Awkwardly, Hoseok maneuvered a chair from the kitchen table so it was up against the wall and then gently lowered Yoongi into the chair.

Once he was settled, Hoseok grabbed Yoongi’s power cord and lifted the back of his shirt to plug it in. Hoseok then took a step back and looked at him, head lolled to the side and eyelashes casting shadows down his round cheeks. With careful fingers, Hoseok brushed Yoongi’s hair out of his eyes and then touched his cheek lightly. As he always was, his skin was cold to the touch and it made Hoseok feel…sad for him.

So, Hoseok scurried over to the couch in the living room and retrieved a throw blanket off the back of it, which he then draped over Yoongi. There was no way to know if Yoongi could feel coldness or warmth, but it made Hoseok feel better to see the blanket over him.

“We’re safe here,” Hoseok murmured, even though he wasn’t sure it was true. He hadn’t felt safe since his family had died. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

One step backwards, and Hoseok hit the counter. He turned and his eyes landed again on the user manual and 18+ envelope.

The envelope that people needed if they wanted to use their Synthetics for…well, for sex. Hoseok always thought it was weird and wrong somehow, because they weren’t sex dolls, not exactly. And now he knew they for sure were not that.

Hoseok found himself opening the envelope though, and taking out the little card inside. It was folded up with a little seal on it and the whole thing made his skin crawl, so he ripped it in half and then in half again. It didn’t matter what was inside the envelope.

He never wanted to know, so he tossed it into the trash and gave Yoongi one last glance before going back into the living room and falling onto the couch with exhaustion. Sleep overtook him after only a few moments.

~

The last solid memory Hoseok had of his family was visiting them during his senior year of college over the holidays. He wasn’t sure why everything, all the phone calls, video chats, lunch meet-ups, were fuzzy after that. But it all was, and his last holiday memory was something he held onto, because it was the last time he could remembering seeing his sister’s big smile in person and hearing his mother’s laugh and having his father hug him firmly and tell him he was proud of him.

Living in Seoul had been exciting and Hoseok called it home. Gwangju hadn’t been home anymore, not since college had started, but Hoseok still looked forward to visiting his family. His sister, Dawon, still lived at home, even though she had a fashion business that would have allowed her to move out. Then again, it did always seem like she was distracted with more, and maybe staying at home was just a way for her to stay grounded.

Either way, it made the holidays easier and more fun and Hoseok remembered how happy he’d been when Dawon opened the door for him and welcomed him.

Wow, don’t you look good?” she had said teasingly. “Is Taehyung still treating you well? Why didn’t he come with you?

Don’t wanna talk about him, let me in,” Hoseok said with a grin.

He couldn’t remember how things had been between himself and Taehyung at that point, he only recalled the fallout after it all. But that wasn’t important.

What was important was the holiday music and big dinners and he and his sister dancing silly dances in the living room. His mother made them sweets and Hoseok and his father were able to talk about things that actually meant something. Most people think that the holidays are the best when they’re children, but Hoseok knew that that last holiday he had with his family was the best one he’d ever had, and ever would have.

There was something nagging at his memory, though, something that was like childhood. It came to him in the midst of sleep, an image of himself walking down the hallway towards his sister’s bedroom. The hallway looked the same as it did currently, only less melancholy. In the memory, when Hoseok reached his sister’s room, he pushed the door open gently.

Dawon’s room was painted a pale yellow and she was hunched over her desk, typing on her computer and writing in a notebook. The Synthetic that their family owned was charging in Dawon’s room, but Hoseok hadn’t looked at it, hadn’t even acknowledged that it was there.

Noona,” Hoseok had said softly.

He remembered the way Dawon had whirled around in her chair and glared at Hoseok. She looked stressed, her brown hair wild around her face and a mark of ink across her cheek. “Get out of my room you brat! Don’t you know how to knock?

And then she was pushing him out of the room and slamming the door in his face, as if they were kids again. They didn’t talk about it, didn’t argue, it was just that one moment and it hadn’t seemed important, and Hoseok never even wondered what his sister had been working on so diligently.

It all seemed so unimportant when she died. The only thing that mattered was that she wasn’t with him anymore.

It was that thought, combined with the fact that he felt something against his cheek, that eventually jostled Hoseok out of his slumber and back to the present. He felt well rested, perhaps because he had gone to sleep earlier than usual the night before, but he couldn’t be sure. The day before was a blur, and Hoseok wasn’t sure what he had dreamed and what had actually happened.

“Hoseok? Are you awake? Did you sleep sufficiently?”

Hoseok blinked and looked around. His neck hurt and he groaned, aware that he had been asleep on the couch without a pillow to properly support his head. His hair felt greasy when he ran his hands through it, and his limbs stiff, not to mention his headache was splitting his skull open.

“I guess,” Hoseok muttered in response. “I think…I’m hungry,” he decided.

“Oh. I can prepare breakfast. What do you like to eat for breakfast?”

Hoseok pushed himself into a seated position and felt someone sit next to him on the couch. Slowly, he looked over and watched the Synthetic, Yoongi, come into focus. He looked better than he had the day before, rested at least, and he smiled stiffly at Hoseok.

“You don’t have to make me breakfast,” Hoseok said. “You don’t have to…be my servant or whatever.”

“Oh. Well I supposed that I could make breakfast as your…” Yoongi trailed off and looked away from Hoseok, off into space. “I’m not sure of the word,” he finally said. “Give me a moment.”

Hoseok knew that Synthetics knew tons or words, probably all of them. Although, as the sleep wore away, Hoseok became more and more aware of what had happened the day before. He became more and more aware that Yoongi wasn’t an ordinary Synthetic, and a normal Synthetic would be able to quickly find the word it needed to use.

Yoongi, on the other hand, probably had to figure out the meaning of the words he wanted to use before he used them. He had to learn everything, all on his own.

“As my friend?” Hoseok suggested and Yoongi’s eyebrows knitted together.

“Friend? Friend.” Yoongi nodded slowly and licked his upper lip. “A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. Is that…us?”

“I…maybe,” Hoseok nodded quickly, but he realized he sounded like he was talking to a child, which Yoongi was not. “I think we can be that. Neither of us really have anyone else, right, so maybe we can…help each other.”

“Yes. Would you like breakfast then?”

“Not yet,” Hoseok said, and placed his hand on Yoongi’s knee without thinking, touching the thin blue uniform thing that all Synthetics wore. “Why don’t you try and tell me more about…you. About what happened, so I can understand,” Hoseok suggested. “But, first, I want to get you some better clothes. You can’t be comfortable wearing that thing.”

“It is not…isn’t so bad,” Yoongi said. “I apologize for my halting speech…I’m trying to learn to not sound so…forced.”

“Don’t apologize,” Hoseok said with a bright smile. “Come on, let’s see any of my clothes will fit you.”

Hoseok held out his hand for Yoongi to take, and even though he probably didn’t need help getting up, he took Hoseok’s hand anyway. Their hands fit together easily, although Yoongi’s was bigger somehow, and he had a firmer grip than Hoseok did. When he stood up, Yoongi didn’t drop Hoseok’s hand, and instead, he gripped it tighter.

“I cannot leave the house without my uniform on,” Yoongi said. “It’s not allowed.”

“Well, you aren’t going anywhere, so you shouldn’t have to wear that shit,” Hoseok said.

“You aren’t afraid of me, then?” Yoongi asked. “I thought perhaps you would be. You seem…comfortable.”

Hoseok looked back at Yoongi as he tugged on his arm to lead him through the living room and up the stairs. Hoseok was unsure why he suddenly didn’t feel afraid of Yoongi. Maybe it was because he’d seen the fear in Yoongi’s eyes the night before and it was something Hoseok could relate to. He didn’t trust Yoongi completely, but he didn’t distrust him either, and he figured he would help Yoongi get somewhere where he could figure things out.

“I just don’t want you to be uncomfortable. I want you to know that I won’t do anything bad to you, and…even though this is totally weird,” Hoseok said, and they reached the top of the stairs and started towards his room, “I get that you…have feelings. It would be unfair to treat you as if you didn’t.”

“We all do,” Yoongi said. “I think. I think that all the Synthetics are trapped, you know? That we need to be freed. But…that’s just based on what I can remember myself. I cannot speak for all Synthetics.”

“Do you think you’re the only one?” Hoseok asked as they got to his room.

“I…don’t know,” Yoongi answered, finally letting go of Hoseok’s hand and wandering around the bedroom. “Is green your favorite color?”

“Yeah,” Hoseok answered, watching Yoongi’s hand smooth over his green comforter. “What’s yours?”

“White,” Yoongi answered without hesitation. “But I also think that I like the color green too, maybe. I don’t much care for the color blue. Synthetics are programmed to claim it is their favorite color, but it is not mine.”

Hoseok smiled fondly back at Yoongi, who wasn’t looking his way. He was moving over to Hoseok’s desk and opening up his laptop, watching as the screen lit up. His background was a picture of himself and Taehyung, as he had never gotten around to changing it, and Hoseok quickly looked away.

He started to look through his closet for something more comfortable for Yoongi to wear, and pulled out a plain white sweater that was fluffy and warm, which would probably be much too big on Yoongi, but that would also look cute.

Not that that was important.

Then, he found a pair of old sweatpants, as well as some jeans and a pair of pajamas so Yoongi could have some options to choose from. By the time he turned around to face Yoongi again, he found that Yoongi was still looking at the picture on the laptop.

“This is your friend who visited,” Yoongi said, pointing. “Taehyung? Kim?”

“Yes,” Hoseok answered.

“You two are…very close?”

“Yes…well, we were. Not as much now,” Hoseok said with a shrug. “I picked out a few pants you might want to try, I’m not sure what will fit you, but—”

“Do you…have…more-than-friends feelings for him?”

Hoseok sighed and tossed the clothes onto the bed. “We used to date. Seriously.”

“You were in…love…with him?” Yoongi asked.

“Yes.”

“You…are…attracted to men?”

“Both, men and women,” Hoseok answered with a slight shrug. “But Taehyung has been the only person I’ve dated seriously. We broke up when my family died. I moved back here and we grew apart. I’m lucky to still have him and Jungkook as friends.”

“Do you still love him?” Yoongi asked.

“I don’t think so. I still care about him.”

“You are very…kind, I think he is wrong to have broken up with you,” Yoongi said, and smiled slightly. “You always have a nice smile.”

Hoseok looked away, down at the carpet, because he was smiling. Yoongi was a little bit silly, he could tell. If he warmed up more, Hoseok was sure that Yoongi would start teasing him. He didn’t know how he knew that, but he did. Yoongi was growing into himself.

“I picked out those for you,” Hoseok murmured eventually, and pointed at the clothes on the bed. Yoongi went over to them and inspected each pair of pants before picking up the pajama bottoms.

“Who is this little character?” Yoongi asked.

“Kumamon.”

“Cute,” Yoongi said decidedly, but tossed the pants aside anyway and picked up the grey sweatpants instead. “I will wear these.”

“Good, so the bathroom is down the hall,” Hoseok said. “Or I can wait outside and you can—wait what are you doing?” Hoseok’s voice rose towards the end of his sentence as Yoongi pulled his blue uniform-type shirt over his head, revealing his torso.

“I’m changing,” Yoongi said bluntly.

“Yeah, but,” Hoseok covered his eyes , “You don’t just do it in front of other people.”

Hoseok peaked through his fingers at Yoongi, who was holding the fluffy white sweater in front of himself. For all intents and purposes, Yoongi looked like any other normal human male. He was a little bit pale and his skin looked soft, touchable. His arms were more toned than Hoseok would have initially thought, with how they were hidden under the ugly blue uniform. He wasn’t super toned, more soft around the stomach, but it was…it was suiting.

“Apologies,” Yoongi said. He quickly pulled the white sweater over his head, causing his dark hair to get all ruffled. “You can look away if you want to, but I am wearing underwear.”

Hoseok looked up at the ceiling and listened to the sound of Yoongi taking his pants off. Even so, he could see him in his peripheral. The white sweater was covering his crotch anyway, but Hoseok could see his pale thighs and knobby knees.

Yoongi was very much the opposite of Taehyung, but Hoseok still found himself affected by Yoongi.

“I’m finished,” Yoongi said and Hoseok looked back at him. He was almost drowning in the sweater, but the pants fit fine and he smiled and held his arms out. His blue eyes sparkled. “Is it okay?”

“Yeah, you look very comfortable.” Hoseok stepped up closer to Yoongi and gently rested his hands on Yoongi’s shoulders. “Maybe relax your shoulders. You don’t have to be so stiff.”

“Oh,” Yoongi slouched over in a way too was ridiculous. “Like this?”

“No,” Hoseok laughed. “Just. Relax.” Hoseok adjusted Yoongi’s posture until he was standing normally, but as soon as he stopped touching him, Yoongi straightened up again. “Or…that’s fine too.”

Yoongi smiled wider. “I’m comfortable like this.”

“Alright,” Hoseok said. “Um, I was thinking that you could have one of the guest rooms so that you don’t have to sit in the kitchen to charge every night. Do you actually sleep or do you just power off?”

“I have a sleep mode and an off mode,” Yoongi answered. “But I suppose a bed would be more comfortable than the kitchen.”

“I think so, too,” Hoseok agreed. “I’ll fix it up later. We can stay in here for now, though.”

Hoseok went over to his speakers on his desk and attached his phone before putting on some music for them, because if anything got weird, music always made things more tolerable. Although, Hoseok already felt more relaxed. He felt like, now that he could have normal conversations with Yoongi, it was more like having a roommate rather than dealing with a weird thing in his house that didn’t feel anything and looked eerily human.

Now, Hoseok felt as if, maybe, Yoongi could be his equal, or rather, was his equal.

“I meant to tell you sooner,” Yoongi said from behind Hoseok. “I believe that you should not go back to your psychiatrist.”

“Huh? Why?” Hoseok asked, turning around again to face Yoongi, who was seated on the edge of Hoseok’s bed. “Not that I want to go back, but…why?”

“I had a bad feeling,” Yoongi said. “Although it is still hard for me to decipher what the things I’m feeling mean exactly, so I’m not sure how else to explain.”

“Well, I don’t wanna go back anyway,” Hoseok said, and walked back over to the bed and sat down next to Yoongi before scooting back against the pillows and motioning for Yoongi to do the same. He did, albeit awkwardly, and then placed his hands in his lap.

“Good. I didn’t like her,” Yoongi said.

For a while, they were quiet, and Hoseok let his eyes close and his head loll back against the headboard. For the longest time, no one else had been in Hoseok’s room. When Taehyung and Jungkook came over, they usually didn’t come upstairs. It was like upstairs was Hoseok’s little sanctuary. It was a place that was untouched by the rest of the world. He wanted to keep everything how it had been before.

Of course, in that before time, Taehyung had been around, but for the most part, Taehyung and Hoseok were together in their dorms or respective apartments. It was odd too, how Taehyung had kept his life Synthetic-free until the breakup, or at least, he always kept it separate of Hoseok.

He seemed so much different now. Now that they weren’t together and were hardly even friends.

Hoseok was a totally different person than he had been when he and Taehyung were together, but he didn’t know which version of himself was the real him. Or maybe they both were, but the death of his family had changed him.

“You’re thinking about something,” Yoongi said, and Hoseok glanced over at him. “Do you want me to go?”

“No, I think I like having you here, knowing that…knowing that you aren’t just some helper that’s supposed to give me my medication and fix my food and clean my house. I never liked that. I like having someone to talk to, I don’t usually have that,” Hoseok admitted. “So long as you don’t kill me in my sleep.”

Yoongi laughed. The sound surprised Hoseok, deep and a little bit giggly, and he couldn’t help but smile. “Why would I kill you in your sleep? You’ve been nothing but kind to me. I mean…for the most part. At least, since you’ve found out about me. You could have sent me away.”

“Well, I like to think that I have an open mind,” Hoseok said. “Besides, I could never take you to a repair center, they freak me the fuck out.”

“I don’t have any knowledge on the repair centers,” Yoongi said. “Are they for when a Synthetic breaks?”

“Yeah, but…I don’t know, they just have a bad vibe.”

“Vibe?”

“Like, feeling. They give me a bad feeling. Sort of like how you feel about my therapist,” Hoseok explained.

“Right,” Yoongi nodded and shifted on the bed until he was sitting facing Hoseok. “Tell me something else. Something new.”

“Have you ever tried cursing?” Hoseok asked with a grin. “It’s pretty satisfying.”

“Like, ‘fuck’?”

“Yeah.”

“I usually say them in my memory.”

“Your mind?” Yoongi frowned, and Hoseok realized that Yoongi didn’t have a brain, not in the traditional sense. “You have thoughts, you mean. Inner dialogue?”

“Yes. I curse plenty there.”

Hoseok nodded with a teasing grin. “You should teach me something,” he suggested. “Tell me about you. What other things do you like?”

“Um,” Yoongi looked around Hoseok’s room. “I like this sound you’re playing. Music. I like music.”

“Can you dance?”

“No,” Yoongi shook his head, causing his bangs to flop back and forth, and then his face got serious before he gave Hoseok a little smirk. “Fuck no.”

They went on like that for hours, until breakfast time came and went, just talking about the things they liked, and Yoongi learning new things, and trying out new words that he hadn’t had the chance to use in the short time he had been Awake.

They didn’t talk about anything serious, not yet, even though Hoseok was fully aware that things needed to be discussed. He didn’t know who Yoongi was, ultimately. He didn’t know what he was, or why this had happened to him. All Hoseok knew was that someone had created Yoongi and woke him up, but didn’t know they had woken him up.

Would someone come for Yoongi?

What would happen if people found out about him?

Hoseok didn’t think anything good would come of it. People didn’t like change, himself included, usually. That, and he couldn’t imagine the general population being open to the idea of robots who felt and thought just like people did. He imagined that people, humans, would feel threatened by it. Humans were threatened by other humans, so they probably wouldn’t react well to introducing a new population of Synthetics who weren’t even human, not exactly.

It wouldn’t matter to those people that Synthetics were human in all other senses of the word. It would be a whole new type of discrimination, and sitting there, looking at Yoongi, Hoseok knew he didn’t want something bad to happen to him. Hoseok didn’t want anything bad to happen to anyone.

But bad things did happen, all the time. And they would happen, more. That was just the way the world worked.

~

Yoongi was quiet.

It was very easy for him to sneak up on Hoseok.

The two of them had fallen into a sort of routine. Hoseok went to work, and Yoongi stayed at the house and piddled around, watched television, listened to music, surfed the internet, among other things. He still did a few chores here and there, even though Hoseok assured him he didn’t have to. He explored the house, too, but he did stay out of Dawon’s room and Hoseok’s parent’s old room.

Often, when Hoseok got home, he couldn’t find Yoongi, and so he would just start lunch or dinner and eventually, Yoongi would come out of wherever he’d been and Hoseok, half the time, would scream because he didn’t expect Yoongi’s big, cold, hands to wrap around his arm. And even though it should have been annoying, it wasn’t. Hoseok kind of liked Yoongi’s hands on his arms.

Which may have been why they didn’t talk about what they needed to talk about.

That being, the fact that something had to happen. Or, they had to acknowledge that nothing was going to happen.

Hoseok’s mind was giving him all kinds of stupid ideas. That he could somehow hide Yoongi. The neighbors hadn’t really seen him properly, so if he lied and told them Yoongi was his new roommate, they might believe it. Only, someone could come for him someday. Something bad could happen to him, something that Hoseok wouldn’t know how to fix.

Anything could happen, really, and Hoseok probably wasn’t prepared for any of it.

But about two weeks had passed, and Hoseok was a people-pleaser, and Yoongi looked pleased. He seemed happy, carefree, and not so stiff. Hoseok had gone from resenting his presence, to not wanting it to be gone. Maybe that was another one of his problems: he got too attached too quickly.

“I’m tired of this show,” Yoongi said, jerking Hoseok out of his thoughts. “It’s boring, they clearly both like each other, why do they keep denying it?”

“I don’t know,” Hoseok said. “It’s just for plot or whatever. Keeps people watching.”

“It’s fucking stupid,” Yoongi shifted around on the couch and stretched his arms out so his hands poked out from under the white sweater that he hadn’t taken off much at all. “If they like each other, they should just say so.”

“Sometimes it’s not so easy, to tell someone how you feel,” Hoseok reiterated.

“Yes it is,” Yoongi argued. He looked at Hoseok. “I like you. There see? Easy.”

“Yeah, but you don’t really like me romantically, so that’s not fair.”

Yoongi made a groaning sound and stood up. “Can we go somewhere?”

“No,” Hoseok said instantly. “It’s my day off, I wanna stay home.” Yoongi looked down at him, and Hoseok half thought he was going to roll his eyes, but he didn’t. “Besides Yoongi—Should I call you hyung? How old do you consider yourself to be?—you can’t just walk around like a normal person. Your eyes kinda give you away.”

“You should call me hyung just because I would personally find it amusing,” Yoongi said decidedly. He didn’t respond to anything else Hoseok had said.

“Okay hyung, well sit down and we can find something else to watch,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi huffed and plopped back down on the couch, considerably closer than he had been before. Hoseok flipped through the channels on the television until he got to a new show that Yoongi would hopefully like better than the last. However, Hoseok could feel Yoongi’s eyes on him, instead of on the television screen.

And then, hesitantly, Yoongi was touching Hoseok’s hair. It was dyed a brownish color, a bit lighter than his natural black, and that meant it was lighter than Yoongi’s hair was, too. However, it wasn’t anything intense, like when it had been blonde a few years ago, so Hoseok didn’t know why Yoongi’s fingers were near-threading through it.

But Hoseok didn’t comment on it, and instead leaned into Yoongi’s touch just a little bit. It felt good, for one, and he had a severe lack of human contact (even though Yoongi wasn’t human…).

“Has your therapist called you?” Yoongi asked softly.

“No, she usually lets me call her, but…she might call soon. I won’t go back.”

“Mm,” Yoongi hummed and carded his hand through Hoseok’s hair more deliberately. The feeling was nostalgic in a way, because his mother used to do that for him when he was young to help him sleep, but Yoongi’s touch was different. Yoongi’s touch didn’t make Hoseok want to fall asleep, exactly. More than anything, Yoongi’s touch, albeit cold against his scalp, made Hoseok have to resist the urge to moan.

“Are you even watching the show?” Hoseok croaked.

“Yes,” Yoongi answered right away. Hoseok couldn’t look at him. He could only tilt his head further into Yoongi’s touch. Yoongi was sitting properly on the couch, facing forward again, but his hand was still moving in Hoseok’s hair, occasionally along the nape, but mostly through the thick of it, and Hoseok couldn’t explain why it felt so good. “I know that maybe you do not…don’t want to talk about it,” Yoongi said abruptly, without stopping his movements. “But…what are we going to do, exactly? About me? You…I don’t expect you to keep me here forever and I have questions that you can’t answer.”

“I…I guess I haven’t really thought about it,” Hoseok lied. His eyes fluttered closed.

Yoongi scraped his nails lightly against Hoseok’s scalp. “I think you are lying.”

“I probably am.”

Then, Hoseok let out a small gasp in response to Yoongi’s touch, and it made him still instantly. Hoseok opened his eyes and turned his head slowly to look at Yoongi, who was looking back at him with parted pink lips and wide eyes. “You should not lie,” Yoongi said softly.

“The truth is ugly, anyway,” Hoseok responded.

“I don’t think so,” Yoongi said, and Hoseok caught the way his eyes flickered down to Hoseok’s lips.

“Then you don’t know what it’s like to…to hear something you don’t want to hear,” Hoseok said, but Yoongi really didn’t seem to be hearing what he was saying. He seemed to be just watching Hoseok’s mouth move as he spoke. That, and Yoongi’s hand was now curled around Hoseok’s neck, and he could easily pull him in.

If he did…Hoseok would probably be okay with it.

Hoseok liked kissing and he hadn’t kissed anyone in a long time. He had a few mindless hookups after his breakup with Taehyung and during his grieving time, but none of it was very good. None of those people looked like Yoongi did. None of those people were there, then, and Hoseok inhaled sharply.

Yoongi leaned in slightly, first, and Hoseok did, too, on instinct. The fact that Hoseok could see the tiny little freckles on Yoongi’s face, and what could have been pores, was crazy. He looked, well, he looked human. And even if he wasn’t, Hoseok still wanted to kiss him.

~

Action: Define
>Word
>>kiss
>>>verb
>>>>touch with the lips as a sign of love, sexual desire, reverence, or greeting

Action: Move

Action: Kiss

Action: Thought
>Want. Wantwantwantwant

Feeling: Touch
>Thought
>>He’s touching my arm.
>>>Shit.
>>>>He has a beauty mark on his lip. It’s cute. It’s cute. He’s cute.

~

They would have kissed. Their noses were nearly brushing and Hoseok could see the flecks of silver in Yoongi’s blue eyes. Their lips were moments away from touching. They would have kissed.

The only reason they didn’t was because Hoseok’s landline started ringing, suddenly, and they jerked apart, their hands leaving each other’s bodies quickly. Yoongi looked away, an unreadable expression on his face, but Hoseok flushed when he saw that on the television, the two leads were kissing. Of course, it was a man and a woman, but Hoseok still knew that Yoongi was watching it intently, even as Hoseok got up to answer the phone.

“Hello?” Hoseok spoke shortly.

Hey hyung,” Taehyung’s voice was loud and deep in Hoseok’s ear. “I just wanted to call and check on you. Make sure you hadn’t died.”

“That’s not funny,” Hoseok deadpanned.

Sorry,” Taehyung said with a sigh. “But really. How are you?

“I’m fine,” Hoseok said. “How are you? And Kookie?”

Good. Kookie is…being an idiot, but that’s nothing new. If I ever get arrested, it’ll be his fault.”

“What does that mean?”

Nothing. How’s your Synth?

“Yoongi? He’s fine too,” Hoseok said. “I mean. He’s like…you would expect. I’m less weirded out by him now.” Yoongi looked back at Hoseok curiously.

Good. I’m glad he didn’t turn out to be a spy,” Taehyung said jokingly. “But anyway, I was wondering if you would want to come to Seoul anytime. Kook misses you.

If it were another time, Hoseok might have asked Taehyung if he missed him, but it wasn’t another time. It wasn’t another time and Hoseok had almost kissed Yoongi.

“I don’t know. You know how I feel about going to Seoul,” Hoseok said. “Hasn’t the city plummeted in the past few years?”

Hyung, it’s not that bad,” Taehyung droned. “It’s high-tech, but even technophobes like you can get by. C’mon, we always visit you, why don’t you visit us for a change. Hell, you might like it here.

Hoseok rolled his eyes and looked around the living room. There was dust collecting on the television stand. “Can I just think about it?” Hoseok asked.

Of course. Let me know. You’re welcome to stay with me and Jungkook, we have space in our apartment,” Taehyung said. “Tell the Synth I said hi.”

“Yeah, sure,” Hoseok muttered. “Bye Tae.”

Taehyung gave Hoseok a sing-song goodbye and then hung up, and Hoseok replaced the phone on the stand, and went back to the couch. Yoongi looked up at him and then glanced at the television with wide eyes.  Hoseok followed his gaze to see that on the screen, the couple that had been kissing was now tangled together in a bed, half naked.

“Okay,” Hoseok said. He grabbed the remote and quickly flicked the television off. “I think that’s enough of that for the day.”

“I think so, too,” Yoongi agreed. “Taehyung asked you to come to Seoul.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yeah, he did.”

“We…maybe we should.” Hoseok sat back down and closed his eyes. “I need to find someone who can help me. I have done some research while you have been at work. I know where the headquarters are for the company that makes Synthetics. Bangtan. Couldn’t we go there? You don’t even have to stay. You can just take me there, if you want.”

“I know we should,” Hoseok said. “I wouldn’t just leave you, though, you know? That wouldn’t be right.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” Yoongi said with a shrug. Where Yoongi had been open before Taehyung called, he seemed closed off now. His mannerisms were more readable to Hoseok, as subtle as they were, and his deep voice was less monotone, if Hoseok listened close.

“I don’t think I owe you. I think—”

“Do you think I can’t take care of myself?”

“I’m worried something could happen to you. But…if you want to go to Seoul and get some answers, then, I guess we can go,” Hoseok said and gestured around the living room. “I don’t exactly have anything better to do, you know?”

“Yes,” Yoongi said.

“If you want to go as soon as possible, I can start packing.”

“Yes.”

Whatever, Hoseok thought. He’s not even a human being. He’s a robot and I’m not even that attached, so I can just take him to Seoul and then he’ll be out of my hair and things can go back to…normal.

Truthfully, though, Hoseok didn’t think those things about Yoongi. But if Yoongi was going to be gone, Hoseok was at least going to prepare himself for it, because he hadn’t been able to prepare himself when his family was gone.

~

at Bangtan

Outside contamination was terrible in an experiment. It could happen very easily, too, so things had to be kept controlled and constant for results to be clear and concise and accurate. Even the slightest gust of wind or bias from another person could affect everything. An entire study could be ruined in a matter of seconds, which was why Namjoon preferred to work alone. No one could fuck up his work if no one was around.

Usually, he didn’t even go on the internet. Most rooms in the Bangtan building, where he lived and worked, didn’t have windows, so he was closed off from the rest of the world, save for the other workers. And Namjoon liked it that way. He liked being solitary.

He liked it until he couldn’t make any progress. Then he got frustrated, mainly because that stupid little intern seemed to know more than Namjoon did.

Yes, Namjoon had left himself a loophole in the code for Synthetics. But, shit happened, and he couldn’t remember where it was. Their code was extensive anyway, but he’d been working at it for months, with no progress except a blip in which Seokjin had flipped out on him. That, and some weird thing about blue.

Now, Namjoon could call the intern back up and see if he knew anything else, but he didn’t like going into something blind, so Namjoon opted to turn to the internet first and see what other people were saying, because there were always places deep enough on the internet that talked about things that shouldn’t be talked about.

“Seokjin,” Namjoon said, spinning around in his chair in his office. “Can you hand me my personal laptop?”

“Yes, of course, Mister Kim,” Seokjin said and retrieved it quickly before passing it on to Namjoon. “Will my presence be needed?”

“Actually, could you go downstairs and see if you can find that intern we talked to? Jungkook, I believe his name was. Don’t say anything to him, just keep an eye on him. Don’t leave the building though.”

“Yes, I will do that, Mister Kim.”

Seokjin bowed and then stiffly left the room while Namjoon powered up his laptop. He was good at hacking, but Namjoon preferred to do things the clean way, so he went to the traditional internet first and specifically tried not to fall down a hole. However, that only got him so far because most posts asking about malfunctioning Synthetics were normal malfunctions or damage that had been caused, and the people were just recommended to go to a repair center.

However, the more Namjoon dug, the weirder things got. He ended up on some website for amateur hackers, and there was a whole thread about hacking Synthetics. Most of it was how to hack them to get to 18+ features without having the envelope with the words that would uniquely trigger the Synthetic. And that wasn’t even an easy hack. Still, it was possible, as Namjoon knew about the things that went on in the city, some legal and some not.

With a sigh, Namjoon continued scrolling down the thread. Most of it was useless, and he was ready to move on, or maybe even give up completely because this wasn’t his forte, but something caught his eye before he exited out of the browser.

It was a response from an anonymous account, so there was no way to know, at least not easily, who had posted the comment. The line was only seven words long, a question, and no one had responded to it, so it was all alone, like a beacon in the desert. Or maybe, an oasis. A mirage.

Have you heard of the Blue Virus?

Blue.

The color of the uniforms the Synthetics wore, and, more importantly, the color of their eyes. It hadn’t meant anything when Namjoon designed them that way. It was just an identifier so that people would be able to tell a Synthetic from a human. Then again, humans found certain things about themselves to be…unique and personally identifying. Maybe, somehow, the Synthetics connected with their blue eyes in some emotional way.

While Namjoon had made an intention loophole, a long time ago…there were always unintentional loopholes, too.

And maybe someone had found it.

Maybe the intern had found it.

And, it probably had to do with whatever the Blue Virus was.

So, Kim Namjoon fell down a hole.

~

Begrudgingly, Hoseok was ready to go to Seoul. Taehyung had been texted, so he knew Hoseok was coming and bringing Yoongi with him. He didn’t know about Yoongi being Awake though. Hoseok’s suitcase was packed and Yoongi was redressed in his blue uniform and his hair was brushed and his posture nice and straight.

They spent a day and a half preparing, and hadn’t spoken much at all during that time, but Hoseok had heard Yoongi pacing around in the night instead of charging in the guest room. Hoseok hadn’t been able to sleep, but he didn’t trust himself to get up, and he eventually must have dozed off and Yoongi must have eventually charged.

“You have all of your things?” Yoongi asked, though, when he spotted Hoseok’s suitcase near the door. It was still early and Hoseok was eating breakfast before they left.

“I do,” he answered. “Could you turn on the news and see how bad traffic is? I’m going to check the mail.”

“Mail? What for?”

“Just…mail,” Hoseok said with a shrug. “My therapist called, too, but I told her I was going to Seoul and she fucked off, thankfully.”

Yoongi smiled, barely. “You still should not go back to her, even after I’m not here anymore.”

“Right, who will I have to protect me from taking pills?”

Yoongi nodded. “Fucking no one, that’s who,” he said. And, fuck, Hoseok wanted to hug him. To thank him for just…being a distraction for the past few weeks, at least. Although, that didn’t sound so good when he thought about it, because Yoongi was more than just a distraction, so Hoseok said nothing and slid out of his chair and gestured that he was going to go outside and get the mail.

It was warm outside, but quiet, and Hoseok walked down the driveway to the mailbox. Mrs. Lee from next door wasn’t outside in her garden like she usually was. And if she wasn’t outside, usually her husband was mowing the lawn or something, but everything was dead silent over there. More so, Mrs. Lee’s little car wasn’t in the drive, so maybe she had gone grocery shopping.

It didn’t really matter either way, and there wasn’t any mail, so Hoseok went back inside to see if Yoongi had gotten the news on. He had.

“They’re talking about the weather,” Yoongi stated. “Not traffic.”

“Traffic usually comes on after weather, should only be a second,” Hoseok told him when he reached his side and bumped shoulders with Yoongi, to try and show him that he wasn’t mad at him or anything. Yoongi bumped back, but Hoseok wasn’t sure if he did it just to do it or because he actually understood why Hoseok was doing it.

“Are you excited to see your friends? Will you stay with them long?” Yoongi asked.

“Probably not,” Hoseok admitted. “I’m mostly only going for you.”

“Oh, I don’t—”

Yoongi broke off when words flashed across the television screen: Breaking News.

Hoseok was initially annoyed, because that meant the traffic would be delayed, and he was about to move away and go get his phone to just check the route that way, but the headline flashed across the screen and Yoongi read it faster than Hoseok could, and when he did, he gripped Hoseok’s wrist and kept him in place.

Hoseok’s eyes scanned the screen, too.

Shooting in Seoul,” it read.

The picture on screen changed to an aerial view of Seoul. It was in the middle of the city, on a street, and an area was sectioned off with cones, police cars, and crime scene tape. Hoseok could see officers and news reporters all around, as well as several…fuck…bodies on the ground. They weren’t even covered up and his gut sank and his head was spinning because he didn’t understand why.

But then, the picture on screen changed to down on the street instead of above it and a news reporter was holding a microphone and looking grim.

Earlier this morning,” she began. “A few minutes ago, in fact, a man began shooting in the streets, and seemed to deliberately shoot at Synthetics. He hit four of them, as you can see behind me. No one was injured, but the Synthetics were damaged and no longer operate.”

“Oh my god,” Hoseok said. “They’re not even…not even covering them up!”

“They’re dead,” Yoongi whispered.

According to witnesses, the man who shot at the Synthetics seemed to be targeting one in particular, but once he shot at that one, he went on to shoot three more until he was taken down by an officer who was nearby,” The reporter continued. “The officer told us that he doesn’t believe the man was trying to hurt anyone.

“He did hurt someone!” Yoongi shouted suddenly, and Hoseok jumped.

An officer I spoke to told me that the man will likely be charged with damage to property, since he permanently and irrevocably damaged several bystander’s Synthetics, and he will likely have to be mentally evaluated,” she continued on screen, but Hoseok was only half hearing it because his eyes were trained on one of the Synthetics that was clearly visible in the background. Dead. There was a bullet hole in its head, and a blue substance was leaking out, resembling blood. Its eyes were wide open, still blue, but certainly not as bright.

It was like the Synthetics were just…pieces of garbage on the floor that hadn’t yet been swept away.

And, even worse, if what she had said was true, then the man who had murdered those Synthetics was going to essentially get away with it. He might not even serve jail time, and he’d killed four people. Four Synthetics that could have been just like Yoongi.

I have just bene informed,” the woman said, “That one of the damaged Synthetics belonged to someone who knew the man who shot it. Apparently, when he shot the Synthetic, the suspect shouted something about the Synthetic being ‘Awake’ and ‘a Threat’. We don’t know what he meant by this, but we will continue to cover this story and keep you involved.”

“Fuck,” Hoseok cursed. “Yoongi, we—we can’t—”

Yoongi turned to Hoseok and grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to make Hoseok face him, but Hoseok was watching the screen. He was watching the picture of the suspect that came up on the screen, and then he was watching as a truck pulled up in the aerial view with the word Bangtan on the side.

Several men got out of the truck and headed towards the Synthetics to collect them.

“Has this happened before?” Yoongi asked frantically.

“No, not…not like this. I mean, Synthetics have been…dama—killed. One was in the car with my parents when they died. They’ve been shot in shootings before, but they’ve never been specifically targeted this way. It’s never been like this,” Hoseok said, and then after a long pause, he finally looked at Yoongi, who had a tear streaking down his cheek.

“That man did it because he thought that Synthetic was Awake,” Yoongi said, pointing at the screen. “That’s wrong!”

“I know it is,” Hoseok said. “I know.”

Yoongi’s face was contorted in anger and rightfully so. Maybe he was afraid, too. If he had questions before, he probably had even more now. And Hoseok still couldn’t answer those questions and he didn’t know how to help Yoongi, but he did know that he couldn’t take him into a city where Synthetics had just been killed.

“People are cruel,” Yoongi said plainly. “I…I still want to go.”

“What? No way, I’m not taking you there when you could die! No one is going to die!” Hoseok said firmly.

“I could die if I were human,” Yoongi said and dropped his arms to his side. “Right?”

“Well, yeah, but someone targeted Synthetics, and, look, look at those guys on the screen. That’s where you want to go, right? Bangtan? What if they just…deactivate you?”

“If I can find the person who created me—”

“What if you can’t?”

“Why do you care?” Yoongi suddenly asked, his face a little stony. “We have not known each other for that long.”

“I don’t know,” Hoseok answered without hesitating. “I just…I like everyone, okay? And I don’t want anything to happen to you and I like you, I think you’re nice and you’ve been nice to me and…I like you, I guess.”

“Well—” Hoseok wasn’t sure if Yoongi was going to say something else negative, but a thought suddenly popped into Hoseok’s head and it was probably stupid and desperate, just like how Hoseok felt because for whatever reason, he didn’t want Yoongi to go. He didn’t want to wake up and be alone in his house anymore. So, Hoseok cut Yoongi off and spoke.

“What if no one knew you were a Synthetic, though?” Hoseok suggested with a tiny little smirk. “What if you were just an ordinary person, then, if anything happened, Bangtan or whoever wouldn’t know you were a Synthetic who was Awake, if that is the issue here.”

“But my eyes,” Yoongi said. “My eyes will give me away.”

“Not necessarily,” Hoseok said with a small smile. “I have an idea.”

Yoongi narrowed his eyes suspiciously, like he wasn’t fully convinced that Hoseok knew what he was talking about. Which, he honestly probably didn’t. But if they were going to go to Seoul, Yoongi needed something to give him a semblance of safety.

“I don’t like the look on your face,” Yoongi said when Hoseok took his hand to get him to come upstairs with him. “You look like you’re up to something not good.”

“I’m gonna protect you, okay?” Hoseok said and pulled Yoongi along.

“I don’t need you to protect me.”

“I’m still gonna.”

Yoongi huffed and when they got upstairs, Hoseok led the way down the hall to Dawon’s room. The door was closed again, and Hoseok took two deep breaths before opening the door. Everything was still the same, but Hoseok didn’t spend time admiring it all. Instead, he moved to the little in suite bathroom and flicked on the light.

“What’re we doing in here?” Yoongi asked.

“Looking for something,” Hoseok answered.

He flung open one of the drawers under the sink and rummaged through old toothpaste and toothbrushes and razors. That drawer was a bust, so Hoseok checked the next one, only to find all of Dawon’s makeup. Eyeliner, mascara, all that and more and it made Hoseok have to slam it shut because he kept seeing Dawon’s eyes, lined with liner and bright with laughter.

Hoseok tried the cabinets above the sink next. Inside were some over the counter pills, some unused shampoo bottles, and a little bag with something inside it. Hoseok snatched up the bag and open it.

“Yah! I found it!” Hoseok called to Yoongi, who had wandered back into Dawon’s room. He was looking at the stuff on her desk again, and Hoseok was too excited to get annoyed about it, and Yoongi turned around anyway.

“What is it?” Yoongi asked when he came into the bathroom.

Hoseok took the little box out of the baggie and handed it to Yoongi so he could inspect it. “It’s contacts,” Hoseok said. “My sister wore them to make her eye color a little bit lighter, which is dumb, but whatever. They aren’t for eyesight, so they won’t change your vision at all, just your eye color. They will make your eyes look brown.”

Yoongi smiled slowly, starting out with just a little upturn of his lips that turned into all gums and happiness that showed off his little teeth and made his eyes crinkle up. “Shit,” he said incredulously. “You’re really smart.”

“Not really, I got C’s in high school, but thanks.”

Yoongi opened the little box and pulled out a pair of contacts. Hoseok gave him a quick rundown of how to put them on, but Yoongi looked wary about it, so Hoseok positioned him under the light and told him to keep his eyes wide open. Yoongi did, and Hoseok peeled open the tiny pockets that contained the contacts. They were old, but they were in solution, so hopefully they would be okay.

Luckily, they weren’t dried out, so Hoseok sloshed the solution over them one more time and then placed the first contact on his finger.

“I’m going to get really close to your eye, so don’t flinch,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi just hummed in agreement, and so Hoseok held Yoongi’s face steady with one hand and slowly put the contact into Yoongi’s eye. He didn’t flinch at all, and when Hoseok let his finger go away, Yoongi blinked several times and the contact settled.

“Next one,” Hoseok said softly, and repeated the same thing with the other eye and then stepped back to get a proper look at Yoongi.

Dawon’s old contacts were a lighter brown, and Hoseok had worried that Yoongi’s bright blue eyes would be visible under them, but when he looked at him from a normal distance away, it was impossible to tell that Yoongi’s eyes were naturally blue. He looked…well, he looked normal, save for the uniform he was wearing again.

“Can I look?” Yoongi asked, as he was facing away from the bathroom mirror.

“In a second,” Hoseok murmured. “No one should get super close to you,” he continued and stepped up close again to inspect Yoongi’s eyes. They were a nice shape, sharp and cat-like, but also inquisitive and handsome. “But, uh, if anyone does, they might be able to notice the blue flecks in your eyes under the contacts. But even so, it’s really subtle.”

“That’s good,” Yoongi murmured. But Hoseok hadn’t backed away yet, he was still standing very close and half thinking about Yoongi’s eyes and half thinking about the fact that he needed to take Yoongi to get some new clothes that properly fit him so he wouldn’t look weird in Hoseok’s oversized  clothes and sweatpants. Then, they could go, if Yoongi still wanted to.

Hoseok was so deep in his thoughts that he didn’t notice that Yoongi was looking at his lips. He didn’t notice that Yoongi had his hand on Hoseok’s hip, not at first.

“Seok-ah,” Yoongi said softly, and Hoseok blinked twice as he came back into focus.

“Yeah?” Hoseok asked, in a low voice, which caused Yoongi to fist at Hoseok’s shirt that hung down.

Yoongi didn’t respond with words, but Hoseok knew he wasn’t going to. Instead, Yoongi leaned forward the slightest bit, at the same time Hoseok did.

And Hoseok really didn’t mean to want to kiss Yoongi, but…he did.

The first press of their lips was a little bit off, more them catching the corners of each other’s mouths, but Hoseok quickly recalculated and kissed Yoongi straight-on. Yoongi’s lips were cold, like metal, even though they didn’t feel like metal, at all. They felt soft and smooth and the kiss wasn’t deep at all, it was chaste and simple but Hoseok let his hands slide around Yoongi’s waist and Yoongi’s hand came up to Hoseok’s neck and…it didn’t feel very simple.

Hoseok broke away first, only the tiniest bit, and looked down at Yoongi, who was wide-eyed, but had a satisfied little smirk on his face. “Again,” he said, and Hoseok could feel the movement of Yoongi’s lips on his.

So, Hoseok slotted their lips back together and slid his tongue against Yoongi’s bottom lip and then into his mouth, which was surprisingly warm and wet and Yoongi slid his tongue against Hoseok’s. They were in his sister’s old bathroom, kissing, hands itching to roam, and they for sure had better things to worry about. But Hoseok would rather make out with Yoongi than worry about those things, in all honesty.

There was something about the coolness of Yoongi’s hands that felt good against Hoseok’s skin. He wanted Yoongi’s hands on other parts of his body. Under his shirt, maybe, or…lower.

But they couldn’t do that—they shouldn’t—because, for one, Hoseok didn’t want to take advantage of Yoongi, and secondly, they had better things to do. And, oddly, Hoseok didn’t really know what Yoongi was packing under his clothes, exactly. He had no idea how Synthetics looked.

That was probably why he pulled away for the second time, but not abruptly, because he didn’t regret kissing Yoongi per say. Their foreheads rested together and Hoseok felt Yoongi’s fingers flex and then slide down his arms before they were gone and Yoongi was leaning away.

“Bet you thought I would be a bad kisser,” Yoongi said and Hoseok covered his mouth to stifle his giggles.

“No, I never said that,” Hoseok said. “Your lips are…cold.”

Yoongi frowned and touched his mouth. “Oh.”

“No, no. It was good. You are a good kisser.”

“I know. Asshole.” Yoongi smiled, though and Hoseok sighed and looked down at his shoes. “I—can we…again?”

“We need to go get you clothes. You can’t wear that shit. Put on something in my closet and we can go out, and then we can head to Seoul, okay?” Hoseok said and with a small smile.

“But...” Yoongi touched Hoseok’s arm and tilted his head. “I’m not a child. I’m not stupid, Hoseokie. I told you before, I like you.”

“I like you, too, Yoongi,” Hoseok said. But he’s going to be gone. Nothing can become of this. It’ll just make you sad all over again like it did with Taehyung only worse because…because Yoongi isn’t leaving because he hates you now, he wants to leave to learn about himself. “But I’m scared.”

Yoongi nodded. “I’ll change clothes,” he muttered and shoved past Hoseok to get back to Hoseok’s room. Dawon’s room instantly felt lonely again and Hoseok flicked off the bathroom light and stepped into her room and walked over to her desk, which was a mess of paper and doodles and journals. It was all the stuff Yoongi seemed to have been snooping in that one day, and Hoseok wondered if he’d found anything interesting.

Since his family’s death, Hoseok hadn’t gone through Dawon’s things. It felt like a violation of her privacy. She wouldn’t want him doing it if she was still alive, but Hoseok found himself flipping open one of the notebooks. Her handwriting looked like he remembered, much neater than his own.

The beginnings of the journal looked like a lot of math, which was weird because last he knew, Dawon was working in fashion.

“Hey Yoongi,” Hoseok called.

A moment later, Yoongi returned, dressed in the sweater and sweatpants combo. “What?”

“Do you know what these numbers mean?” Hoseok asked, handing the notebook over. Yoongi looked at Hoseok like he was kind of stupid, but took the notebook anyway and scanned the numbers and equations, but he flipped the page like he was disinterested until he got to the end and dropped it on the floor. “Yah! Yoongi, don’t do that!”

Hoseok scrambled to pick up the notebook, but Yoongi moved past him to the desk and started to look through the rest of the papers and notebooks there instead.

“They’re equations. I don’t know what they mean unless I see other related things. I’m not a genius,” Yoongi said. “I mean, I am, but I don’t know everything. What did your sister do for a living?”

“Not this,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi made a little sound and then opened up a hardcover journal and started to scan the first few pages. “Oh,” he said thoughtfully. “It looks like your sister was studying the Synthetic your family owned. She is documenting its behavior here, in this journal. I was curious about all this stuff on her desk that day I was in here. I didn’t get very far into it.”

“Studying it?”

“Yes,” Yoongi confirmed. “She’s talking about hooking it up to her computer to study its code. Its makeup, if you will.”

“I’m confused,” Hoseok murmured, and started shuffling through papers, too. As he did, something clattered to the ground, a little black flash drive. He glanced at it, but kept digging and ignored it for the time being.

“She talks about going into the deep web,” Yoongi murmured. “I’m not sure I understand what that is. However,” Yoongi flipped to the next page, “she details something about a kind of computer virus for Synthetics that she has found. She had to pay money for it. Lots of money.”

“Virus?”

“Yes, but she says it is a good virus. It spreads, but it doesn’t do harm.”

“My sister was experimenting on her Synthetic, then?” Hoseok asked.

“No, she was doing research. I think she was trying to wake the Synthetic up. Like how I am,” Yoongi explained. “But not in same way I was woken up. In a different way. With the virus.”

“That doesn’t sound legal,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi just shook his head and kept looking. It went on for a few minutes, long sighs from Hoseok, and nothing from Yoongi as he read. Hoseok supposed he could recall his sister having some odd behavior in her final months, but…he didn’t think it was because she was buying viruses on the internet and trying to wake up their family’s Synthetic. He didn’t think his sister would fall down that kind of hole, knowing how Hoseok felt about Synthetics at the time.

“She calls the virus the Blue Virus,” Yoongi said, but then got quiet again for another long moment.

Hoseok suddenly felt like his life wasn’t real. Everything he thought wasn’t real. He’d isolated himself in Seoul. He’d isolated himself in Gwangju. He had always just wanted to block out anything that was too scary or too hard to deal with.

But he wasn’t doing it now, with Yoongi, for whatever reason.

That was scary.

And Suddenly, Yoongi was crouching down on his knees and Hoseok stepped back in surprise, only to watch Yoongi as he picked up the flash drive that had fallen onto the floor. Shiny, black, and unsuspecting. There was a tiny little mark on it from a marker, maybe, in a blueish color, but it was faded.

Yoongi held the flash drive up between them. “This is it,” he said. “The Blue Virus is on this flash drive.”

“I don’t understand what that means,” Hoseok replied.

“It means this flash drive…and what your sister was doing…killed your family.”

~

at Bangtan

Synthetics were damaged all the time. They got in car accidents with their owners and sometimes worse. Sometimes they just shut down. They just died. It happened. Most of the time, they could be repaired, but a headshot was fatal to a Synthetic just as it was to a human. Lots of their hardwiring was in their head, like an actual brain. Even though they didn’t have a literal brain in there, they still had important tech that they needed to function.

The fluid or oil that kept them running, a thick blue substance, flowed through their heads, just as blood pumped through a heart. And if it all leaked out, well, the Synthetic was finished. Dead.

Dead, like the four Synthetics on a table in front of Namjoon. It was not the way he planned, or wanted, to start his morning.

“How much can you salvage?” Bowtie crossed his arms and walked around the metal slab that made it seem like they were in a morgue. Two other Bangtan workers stood across from him and Namjoon, and they both looked grim and impatient.

“Salvage?” Namjoon asked. “You mean for parts? That would be pretty useless, it isn’t as if we are at a loss of parts.”

“No,” Bowtie said with irritation thick in his tone. “I meant what can you find out from their code? Can you see if there was anything wrong with them?”

“What would have been wrong with them?” Namjoon asked. “I thought that guy was just crazy?”

“Perhaps, perhaps not,” Bowtie said. “Now, what can you salvage?”

Namjoon looked at the lifeless Synthetics on the metal slab. They’d had names, potential, and they might have even been Awake, somehow. But someone killed them, right in the middle of the streets, and Namjoon was regretting making it possible for Synthetics to be killed. It was just a way for them to be more human, but now it seemed cruel to allow something to be killed while it was still trapped in its own head.

“I can’t salvage anything,” Namjoon said. “It doesn’t work that way. They’re dead. Their code is dead. It would be like if I took a computer and smashed it up. You can’t get anything out of that. It would be like trying to find a heartbeat on a dead person. You can’t.”

One of the other Bangtan team members sighed inwardly and stepped forward. Her hair was pulled back in a severe bun, and she looked more like a Synthetic than the actual Synthetics.

“You’re telling us that you can’t do anything?”

“Yes, that is what I’m telling you.”

And then, suddenly, Bowtie slammed his fist onto the metal slab and the sound clanged around the small room, making everyone flinch and Namjoon’s back straighten. The veins in Bowtie’s neck popped and he looked starkly pale under the florescent lights.

“Do you know how quickly we can have you removed from this company? You are disposable.”

“I’m the only one who knows the Synthetic’s activation code. I manually activate every Synthetic that is created. Without me, you wouldn’t have anything to exploit and sell. If I wanted to, I could deactivate every single Synthetic out there with the click of a few buttons,” Namjoon threatened (even though most of what he was saying was untrue). “This whole thing revolves around me, as much as you’d like to think that you’re in charge. And whatever is going on out there—” Namjoon broke off and gestured out into nothingness. “—is your fault. Not mine.”

The workers looked at each other, their eyes cold. The room felt stale and Namjoon wanted to melt into the floors. He wanted to go back in time, go back home. He wanted to be a kid again and have the ability to make different choices than the ones he made. He wanted to stop himself from creating Seokjin.

“Dispose of these,” Bowtie said to Namjoon. “Burn them.”

“What? That isn’t my job,” Namjoon said.

“I don’t give a shit what you think your job is. Burn them,” he snarled.

Namjoon gaped and watched as Bowtie ushered the other workers out of the room until Namjoon was alone with the four dead Synthetics. He shivered and fought back the tear that threatened to fall down his cheek. Kim Namjoon did not cry.

No, Kim Namjoon did what he had to do.

And he had to burn the dead Synthetics.

He knew that was what happened to them, when they stopped functioning all together, or got irrevocably damaged. But it was something Namjoon never had to do, because typically, it happened in the production center downstairs when something went wrong, or it happened in repair centers.

Namjoon never had to put a Synthetic, dead or not, into the furnace.

Bangtan had two furnaces. One in the production center and one in the basement.

Namjoon was going to go to the basement, because at least there, he didn’t have to worry about curious gazes on him. So, he opened the door to the room he had been left in and turned to Seokjin, who was standing primly in the hallway.

“Seokjin,” Namjoon said in a shaky voice. “I need your assistance.”

“Yes, Mister Kim,” Seokjin responded instantly. “How can I help?”

“I need you to go down to the—the cafeteria and get one of those catering carts and bring it here. We have to load Synthetics onto it,” Namjoon said.

“Yes, Mister Kim, I will be back in a moment.”

Namjoon slumped against the wall and took several deep breaths, because he…he was alone. He couldn’t trust anyone, and Bowtie was right, they could have him removed. And then what? Would they burn him, too? Throw his body into a furnace? They could, no one would miss him.

But really, there was no point in worrying about it. If it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, it didn’t.

By the time Seokjin returned with the cart, Namjoon managed to pull himself together. Funnily enough, Namjoon felt robotic as they rode the elevator down to the basement of the Bangtan building. He felt like his emotions were slowly getting harder and harder to decipher. Like maybe they were fading away all together. He was becoming his own creation, and it made him feel…empty.

He felt empty all the way to the basement, and he felt empty as Seokjin helped him put the Synthetics onto the slab that slid into the big burning furnace. They went one by one, until they were all on there, and then Seokjin, not even understanding what he was doing or what had happened out in the world, pushed the slab into the furnace and closed the little door.

Namjoon turned it on. He watched the flames through the little window as they consumed the Synthetics inside. He could feel the heat and smell the burning plastic and metal and he could see the little sparks that erupted inside. It was violent and wrong and felt dirty, like he was covering up a crime.

“How do you feel today,” Namjoon asked Seokjin in a broken voice.

“I’m sorry, can you repeat the question?”

Namjoon looked over at Seokjin, whose gaze was fixed forward on the furnace.

Weird.

“I asked how you feel today,” Namjoon said.

“Ah,” Seokjin made a strange noise and stared into the furnace. “Warm, Mister Kim. I feel…warm.”

Namjoon blinked. He didn’t know what that meant. Perhaps Seokjin was overheated from the furnace being so close. That was probably all it was. Seokjin knew he was overheated, but he couldn’t actually feel the warmth.

“Right,” Namjoon nodded. “Me too. I feel it too.”

“Perhaps we should leave this room, Mister Kim,” Seokjin stated.

“You go,” Namjoon told him. “I will be out soon. I need to stay a bit longer. I need to feel it.”

~

A public place probably wasn’t the best for what they were discussing, but Hoseok was still adamant about wanting to get Yoongi looking like every other person, so amidst all the revelations, they managed to get out of the house and go to the small, non-descript mall close to Hoseok’s house. After buying Yoongi an outfit for him to change into, along with a few other pieces of clothing, they seated themselves in the food court and Hoseok ate a burger while Yoongi sat next to him and ate nothing.

Hoseok thought it was nice, how Yoongi sat in the chair next to him rather than across from him, but it may have been because Yoongi was nervous. Hoseok was too, for more reasons than one.

Firstly, Yoongi looked damn good in the skinny black jeans, white t-shirt and bomber jacket combo and it was distracting.

Secondly, the incidents from earlier were still fresh, and Hoseok could tell with the way people were looking warily at every Synthetic that passed them in the mall, or any Synthetic working a counter.

Thirdly, Hoseok had just found out that his sister was somehow involved in some really shady shit.

“Are you almost done eating that dead animal?” Yoongi asked, which instantly caused Hoseok to choke and lose his appetite.

“Now I am,” he muttered and shoved the rest of his burger across the table.

“Good,” Yoongi said. “Do you want to know what I think happened?”

“With my sister?”

“Yes. I had looked at her things a bit that day you caught me in her room, but I did not get a good enough look. That…and that terrible thing on the news had not happened yet,” Yoongi explained. “I believe that someone knew what your sister had, being the virus. Or maybe she had already woken up the Synthetic and someone knew.”

“And so…someone knew and had her killed? Had my parents killed? Why not me?”

“I don’t know,” Yoongi said and looked down at the tabletop. “Why do you think you would not have been killed?”

“I wasn’t living at home,” Hoseok said with a shrug. “I used to hate Synthetics. Maybe…if you’re right, whoever did this just thought I wasn’t a problem. But then why didn’t they take all her things? All that research was just left there.”

“Maybe didn’t know the extent of it,” Yoongi muttered. “Maybe we don’t, either.”

“Then who did it, if this is the case? And why do you think it wasn’t just a car accident and a coincidence?” Hoseok asked.

“Because,” Yoongi leaned forward slightly. “I think your doctor lady…psychiatrist, was giving you drugs that made you feel…fuzzy. But you rarely took them so it didn’t work. Perhaps she was being paid by someone else. How did you find her?”

“Why do you think that about the drugs?”

“Oh, well, the ingredients are listed on the little bottle they were in. I can define words in my mind, and some of the ingredients had suspicious uses. I’m sure she assumed you would never think to read them,” Yoongi explained. “So, maybe it was a measure to ensure you wouldn’t find anything out. And as far as who I think did it…I’m not sure.”

“Wouldn’t the most reasonable explanation be that it’s the people who make the Synthetics? Bangtan?”

“I suppose.”

“Then wouldn’t it be a shit idea to go there?”

“Well…maybe,” Yoongi said. “I can’t remember much of my time there. It’s very fuzzy, like a dream. But…I don’t think the person who woke me up was a bad person. I would like to find him.”

“Great, yeah, but if you don’t remember him, how do you know how to find him? How do you know someone else won’t see you and realize you’re a Synthetic and have me arrested? You know it’s illegal to disguise your Synthetic as a human being, right? Well, it is, unless you’re like a spy, maybe. Newsflash, we aren’t spies. I’m literally breaking the law right now,” Hoseok hissed.

“I didn’t ask you to break the law,” Yoongi deadpanned. “It was your idea.”

“Then you still want to go to Seoul, even after all this?” Hoseok asked, hoping that Yoongi would say no, because now Hoseok was afraid for himself, too, not just for Yoongi.

“I do, yes,” Yoongi said. “Don’t you want answers about your sister? Your parents?”

And of course Hoseok did, but at what cost? He didn’t want answers, only to die himself, too. Or lose Yoongi. He had been content with believing it was all some fucked up accident. At least if it were an accident, Hoseok had a solid story. Now that was all ruined and he felt sick for all the time he’d blamed himself for some unknown reason. Now there was some actual entity he could blame, but he almost didn’t want to blame them.

“I don’t know what I want,” Hoseok confessed. “But you’ll go either way, won’t you? Somehow?”

“I want you to go with me,” Yoongi said. “But I do think that I will go either way. I feel like…like I want to stay, but that if I do…I’ll just be sitting by and doing nothing? What if I could have helped those other Synthetics? If they were like me?”

Hoseok put his hand over Yoongi’s on the tabletop and squeezed it. “There’s nothing you could have done,” Hoseok said softly. “Don’t blame yourself. I’ve been blaming myself for years for…tons of shit. Don’t do that, you’ll ruin yourself.”

“Then…you’ll go?” Yoongi asked.

“Yeah,” Hoseok looked down at their hands and nodded slowly. “Yeah, I’ll go. I’ll double check with Taehyung and we can head out tonight.”

Yoongi smiled. It looked like he wanted to kiss Hoseok again, but he didn’t, and Hoseok cleared his throat before suggesting that they return back to the house.

Once they got there, Yoongi was asking questions about the city, about what it was like, really, in person. He was asking Hoseok if he missed it there, truly, when they pulled into the driveway of Hoseok’s house. For a moment, everything seemed normal, because Hoseok was looking at Yoongi mainly, and listening to him speak.

But then Yoongi stopped speaking and his gaze drifted over Hoseok’s shoulder and out the driver’s side window. Hoseok turned and followed Yoongi’s gaze next door, to the Lee’s house. And Hoseok didn’t know how he hadn’t noticed when they pulled in, but several police cars were crowded outside their house and in the driveway. And ambulance was there too, along with a white van with nothing to indicate its purpose. However, it looked suspiciously like the vans that had collected those Synthetics on the street earlier on the news.

“What’s going on?” Yoongi asked.

“I don’t know,” Hoseok answered warily. “Go inside, I’ll go over and ask.”

“Well, I can—”

“That van looks like the ones that picked up Synthetics, the dead ones. If it is, they can’t see you because they might suspect you’re…you know. The cops too. Please, go inside.”

Yoongi made a face of annoyance. “I’m not a child.”

“I know you aren’t. You’re as stubborn as one, though.”

Yoongi huffed and threw open the car door before stomping into the house. Hoseok rolled his eyes and stepped out of the car too, before crossing the lawn to get over to the Lee’s. Everything was oddly quiet and the police car lights cast an eerie glow across the lawn, mixed with the darkening sky.

The grass brushed against Hoseok’s ankles, but before he could reach the Lee’s driveway, one of the cop car doors opened and an officer stepped out. Hoseok instantly froze and waved awkwardly as the officer approached him.

“Who’re you?” he asked without any pretense or greeting.

“Oh. I live next door. I’m Jung Hoseok.”

“You live there?” The officer pointed to Hoseok’s home and he nodded. “How well did you know the Lee’s?”

“Uh. Not that well. I mean, I guess we were acquaintances, but that’s all. Why? What’s happened? Are they okay?”

The officer studied him for a moment and shook his head. “No, I’m afraid not. Mr. Lee was murdered earlier this morning. Mrs. Lee was injured, but we are questioning her to see if they are self-inflicted wounds or not.”

“What?” Hoseok felt his head start to hurt. “No, there must be a mistake. Mrs. Lee would never murder someone, and especially not her husband.”

“No? Nothing would have driven her to this, you don’t think?”

“No, I mean, there are rumors that…” Hoseok trailed off, regretting his words almost as soon as they left his mouth. He couldn’t tell the officer about the fact that everyone in the neighborhood knew Mr. Lee was fucking his Synthetic. Firstly, it was mostly rumor. Secondly…Mrs. Lee still wouldn’t have killed him if she found out.

But.

Maybe the Synthetic would have killed him. If she were Awake.

Fuck.

“Rumors that what, son?” the officer asked.

“Nothing. Never mind. I’m just saying nonsense, I hardly know them, anyway,” Hoseok sputtered. “I’m not a reliable source of—”

Before he could finish his lame ramblings though, there was a piercing scream that cut through the silence from inside the Lee’s home. It made the officer in front of Hoseok tense and turn around, and Hoseok took a step back on instinct. Something told him it wasn’t Mrs. Lee screaming. It was too high, too girlish.

Hoseok’s suspicions were confirmed nearly a second later, because another officer, along with a man dressed in a prim suit, carried out the Lee’s Synthetic. She was thrashing against them, but the two men were clearly stronger. She was also covered in blood and her hair was matted with it.

Hoseok’s stomach churned and he backed away even more, as the officer who had been speaking to him was no longer paying him much attention. Mainly because he looked shocked and confused, and so did the officer helping the man in the suit carry the Synthetic. And they should be confused, surely they’d never seen a Synthetic act the way this one was acting. She was screaming nonsense and trying to fight, and Hoseok wanted to punch the officers and the man in the suit so they would let her go.

Because, yeah, she probably killed Mr. Lee, but Hoseok…understood why. If she was Awake—and that certainly appeared to be the case—then she was now aware of the abuse that she’d been put through for years.

But Hoseok was also witnessing something he surely shouldn’t be, and so, in the moment when his eyes met the Synthetic’s, he turned and bolted back to his own house. Her eyes had been glassy, wet, and Hoseok wished he could do something, but he needed to make sure Yoongi was okay, and he needed to prepare him for if that man in the suit came over and talked to them.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Yoongi was in his front of him, asking what was wrong, what happened, why did Hoseok look so upset.

“I think she’s Awake,” Hoseok said. “The Synthetic next door. She killed Mr. Lee.”

“What? Awake how?” Yoongi asked, looking over Hoseok’s shoulder and trying to see out the front window, but Hoseok led Yoongi back towards the kitchen, away from the windows.

“I don’t know.”

“She couldn’t just wake up!”

“Well, something happened,” Hoseok said. “Some man in a suit is out there and I think he’s with Bangtan or something. If he comes over here, you’re going to lie your ass off, alright?”

“I don’t—I don’t under what that means,” Yoongi stuttered nervously.

“Lie. You’re…you’re not a Synthetic, okay? If they come here, you’re not a Synthetic.”

“Why would they come here?”

“To question us,” Hoseok said.

He looked around then, a bit frantic, and spotted the Synthetic user manual that was still sitting in the kitchen. Yoongi was watching as Hoseok ran over and snatched it up before shoving it under the couch. Yoongi’s clothes, the blue uniform, were upstairs, and Hoseok just had to hope that no one would be going up there. Then, Hoseok turned back to Yoongi and looked him up and down. He still stood a bit stiff, but it mostly just looked like he had freakishly good posture. Other than that, he was dressed normal and he was speaking more normally, too. Yoongi was a quick learner, and Hoseok hoped he could be a quick liar too.

He would have to be, because there was a sharp knock at the door that made them both startle.

It was Hoseok who went to the door, and when he opened it, the person didn’t even wait to be invited in, he just stepped inside and forced Hoseok backwards. It was the man in the suit, along with another man who was wearing a button down and a lab coat of some sort. They both looked around the living room, eyes moving from Hoseok to Yoongi and then back to Hoseok.

“You told the officer you were the Lee’s neighbor, is that right?” Suit man asked.

“Yes,” Hoseok answered.

“What is your name?”

“Jung—Jung Hoseok,” Hoseok answered hesitantly. The man’s eyes narrowed, like the name sounded familiar, and he nodded before glancing back at Yoongi curiously.

“Do you own a Synthetic, Hoseok?” the man asked.

“No.”

“Who’s your friend?”

The man in the lab coat stepped further into the room and started walking around, surveying and Hoseok looked at Yoongi and waved him over. Instantly, Yoongi stepped closer and Hoseok wrapped his arm around Yoongi’s waist, even though it would be easier to say Yoongi was his roommate. But Hoseok had a feeling they would know, somehow, that he was lying. If they knew who he was, they might know he wouldn’t have a roommate.

So, “He’s my boyfriend,” Hoseok said simply. “Staying the night.”

“Mm,” the man nodded, not in distaste, necessarily, but he wasn’t very approving either. “And do you know the Lee’s well?”

“Not very.”

“It seems that their Synthetic has gravely malfunctioned,” the man said. “Would you know anything about that? Either of you?”

“No,” Yoongi spoke up. “Why would we?”

“It’s a very rare malfunction.”

“Okay,” Hoseok said with a nod. “Well, if that’s all then we don’t have anything to worry about right?”

The man shook his head. “I suppose not. The Synthetic will be taken back to our headquarters and destroyed. For the best, of course.”

Hoseok swallowed and Yoongi put his arm around Hoseok too, grip tight. The man in the lab coat walked a circle around them and Hoseok felt Yoongi adjusting his posture to look less rigid. If the man figured it out, figured out Yoongi was a Synthetic, Hoseok was certain Yoongi would be taken and destroyed too. That, and Hoseok would likely be arrested. Maybe even killed, if the whole conspiracy ran as deep as he thought.

“Is that all then? We’d...we’d like to just go to bed.”

“They don’t know anything,” the man in the lab coat said. “Let’s just go and deal with this. I’d like to be home to have dinner tonight.”

Suit Man nodded, but he stared at Hoseok for another thirty seconds before turning away. The house felt cold, Hoseok felt a little numb, and when they were gone, he closed and locked the door behind them.

Nothing made sense. Nothing had made any sense since Yoongi was delivered to his house in a box. Hell, nothing made sense since his family died. And, Hoseok had a feeling nothing was going to make sense for a while more.

“Let’s leave tomorrow,” Yoongi said softly. “In the morning, yeah? Not tonight.”

Hoseok nodded and Yoongi shifted in his embrace until they were facing each other in a hug, Hoseok’s forehead on Yoongi’s firm shoulder. They should have known better, than to think everything would work out so well. And Hoseok wished he could help the Lee’s Synthetic, but there was just no way. She was Awake and he didn’t know how it had happened, and now she was going to die.

But Yoongi wasn’t going to. Hoseok silently promised it, and traced the words against Yoongi’s back.

~

Taehyung was understandably annoyed at Hoseok’s changing plans, but he promised him that he would be heading there the next morning. After he’d hung up, he crawled into bed and pulled the covers way up around himself and tried to go to sleep. He was having no such luck.

His mind continued to whir, he worried about Yoongi, and his mind conjured up images of what could be happening to the Lee’s Synthetic. Not to mention, Hoseok couldn’t stop thinking about the flashdrive where his sister had put something potentially dangerous. Hoseok had no intension of bringing said flashdrive to Seoul, and so he left it in her bedroom with all her other things. It was just easier that way. Denial was easier.

Although, around midnight, Hoseok heard the door to his room creak open, and a moment later, the bed dipped and Yoongi crawled in next to him. His body wasn’t warm, so it felt weird at first, but Hoseok was quick to roll over and face him. The light in the room was still on, so Hoseok could make out all of Yoongi’s features, from the couple of little freckles on his face to the pink hue of his lips.

“Aren’t you…lonely?” Yoongi whispered in the dark.

“Sometimes,” Hoseok answered, and Yoongi scooted closer. “I just can’t really sleep right now, doesn’t have anything to do with loneness though.”

“Me neither. Well, I don’t sleep at all, not exactly. Not your kind of sleep. But I was lonely and I finished charging,” Yoongi explained. “Can I stay here?”

“Sure, of course,” Hoseok murmured.

“Can we just…talk?”

Hoseok nodded and stretched his legs out to give Yoongi more room to get closer still. “What do you want to talk about?”

Yoongi made a soft little humming sound and looked around over Hoseok’s head, presumably at the photos on the wall behind his bed. Soon, though, his gaze flickered back to meet Hoseok’s and he smiled slightly. “You had lots of friends.”

“They weren’t that close to me...it was more superficial.”

“Except for Taehyung?” Hoseok nodded slightly and noticed the way Yoongi’s hand flexed a little where it was rested on the pillow. “Can you tell me what it’s like?”

Hoseok raised an eyebrow. “What what’s like?”

Yoongi bit at his bottom lip and made a face that Hoseok couldn’t quite decipher. “I don’t know. Love?”

“Messy,” Hoseok deadpanned, without hesitation.

“Not fun?”

“Some parts.”

Yoongi moved around again, pulled the comforter farther up over himself so just his head was poking out. Hoseok smiled and resisted the urge to coo about how cute he was. It was hard, with how Yoongi was curled into a little ball and Hoseok could feel his legs just an inch away from his body.

“Tell me about the fun parts,” Yoongi whispered. “I want—can you tell me about, um…” Yoongi trailed off for a moment and smiled slightly, almost like he was almost laughing at himself. “About the thing that was in the envelope you threw away?”

Hoseok narrowed his eyes in confusion before it dawned on him what Yoongi was talking about.

“Sex?”

“If—if, um, you wanted?” Yoongi said. “I looked up…stuff on the internet, but it was not so informative.”

“Did you watch porn or something?” Hoseok teased and nudged Yoongi’s shoulder.

“Porn? No?”

“Oh, hmm. Well, generally, sex is between two people who—”

“Love each other?” Hoseok nodded and Yoongi got quiet for a long moment. His eyes were a bit droopy, somehow, like he was tired, even though Hoseok knew he really didn’t sleep. But being tired and sleepy could sometimes be different things. “I just…wonder what it would be like, I guess. If I could do it. Although, I suppose that I can do it, but I’m unfamiliar with it and…I’m sorry, you probably think I’m being…um…weird,” Yoongi rambled, but while still maintaining eye contact.

“It’s not weird. I don’t mind,” Hoseok said softly. “It’s a nice distraction from all the other shit going on, you know?”

Yoongi nodded and his hand shifted again, closer to where Hoseok’s own hands were rested on his pillow. “Yes, I don’t want to think about all that,” Yoongi agreed. “Sometimes I wonder if perhaps the things I feel make it all…not worth it.”

“Feelings are good, Yoongi,” Hoseok said. “I’m—I’m glad you have them, ya know.”

Yoongi smiled and his hand drifted closer still to Hoseok’s before their pinks touched and then locked together. It was funny, how they were acting like they had never even kissed. But it was also cute, Hoseok thought, how careful Yoongi was being. They were both being careful around each other, like they didn’t want to scare the other away. Although, they hadn’t known each other for long, so the carefulness was warranted, no matter how many nights they’d lived in the same house together since Yoongi’s arrival.

Although, Hoseok wished they didn’t have to be quite so careful.

“I suppose that…I’m thinking about what will come after I get answers,” Yoongi murmured. “Maybe that’s me being…ahead of myself.”

“I don’t think so,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi hummed and tighten his tiny grip on Hoseok’s pinky. “I know that I am programmed to be able to…have sex, but…it’s not for my sake,” he said. “It’s for the other person’s. I don’t know if I can feel good, too. I don’t even know if I…look normal.”

Something about that statement made Hoseok frown. It was just another level of unfair. Yoongi was confused and a bit lost and, well, he was also kind and inquisitive and not mention attractive. So, Hoseok was surely going to do something stupid having him in his bed.

“Not everyone looks the same,” Hoseok said. “I’m sure you look fine, Yoongi. I mean…some people are, like, bigger, and some aren’t.”

“What…what do you look like?”

“Uh—average? I guess?”

Yoongi giggled and his face scrunched up. Hoseok wanted to kiss him.

“I think I like men,” Yoongi said decidedly. “Is that okay?”

“To some people it is. To some it isn’t.”

“I like you. Is that okay?” Yoongi reiterated.

Oh. “Oh,” Hoseok breathed. “I…yes, that’s okay.”

Because it was okay. The feeling was mutual. Somehow, Hoseok had developed some kind of feelings for Yoongi. Somehow, his fear of Synthetics had dissipated into nothing and turned into something completely different. Except, Hoseok certainly didn’t expect it when Yoongi scooted closer and kissed him. Just like last time, the kiss was good, and Hoseok pushed aside whatever qualms he had. Everything was so fucked up already and it was useless to keep beating himself up internally because of his attraction to Yoongi. Clearly, Yoongi was capable of making his own decisions, and deep down, Hoseok didn’t think he was taking advantage of Yoongi at all. Yoongi had just kissed him first, after all.

So, Hoseok tugged Yoongi closer and kissed him harder, until Yoongi made the executive decision to climb over Hoseok, under the covers, so Hoseok was on his back and Yoongi was on top of him, their lips still locked together and Hoseok’s hands on Yoongi’s hips. Yoongi’s lips were cold still, but Hoseok did notice that they were warming up the longer they kissed. And then Yoongi was licking across Hoseok’s bottom lip and Hoseok parted his lips to allow Yoongi access. His tongue licked over the roof of Hoseok’s mouth and Hoseok sucked on it, harder than maybe was necessary, but it made Yoongi make a small little noise, soft and pleasurable.

Hoseok pulled back from the kiss, their lips making a soft popping sound, and Yoongi smiled. Before Hoseok could speak though, Yoongi beat him to it. “Hoseok. I—I want to see.”

“See?”

“I want to know…if I’m different,” Yoongi whispered, like he was imparting a secret. “Can I see you?”

Hoseok blinked. “Like, my dick?”

“Can I?”

It wasn’t a good idea. But…Hoseok was lonely. Yoongi made him feel like maybe things could be better someday, somehow.

“Yeah, you can, I just don’t want you to think you’re not good enough, alright?”

“Show me that I am. I want to…with you.”

Hoseok bit his bottom lip and nodded, once, before Yoongi pecked his lips again and sat back on Hoseok’s thighs. His hands weren’t shaking, but his face was screwed up in concentration as he hooked his fingers under the waistband of Hoseok’s pajama pants. However, after a long ten or so seconds, one of Yoongi’s hands rerouted and he splayed his palm over Hoseok’s crotch, making Hoseok’s breath catch. Gently, Yoongi applied a bit of pressure, and seemed to be able to map out the shape of Hoseok’s dick, which he then stroked lightly through Hoseok’s pants.

“You don’t have to do that,” Hoseok said breathily.

“You—I want to get you…hard,” Yoongi stated. “It makes me feel good, also. I like this.”

Hoseok smiled, albeit a bit weakly because he was trying not to moan like a teenager who had never been touched by anyone else before. But Yoongi had nice hands, even if they were a bit cold, and having them on him felt good. No one had touched him in a long time, Hoseok hadn’t trusted anybody like he somehow found himself trusting Yoongi. He hadn’t wanted anybody else, really.

And then Yoongi was slowly pulling down Hoseok’s pants, underwear too, and Hoseok held his breath as he felt himself hit the cool air. Yoongi was staring at his exposed cock, but Hoseok couldn’t really read the expression. Was Yoongi confused? Upset because he looked different? Did he like what he saw? Was he aroused?

And not that Hoseok would be upset if Yoongi didn’t have all the same…equipment that Hoseok did, but Hoseok admittedly hoped he did. Sure, Hoseok liked girls too, but he knew he leaned more towards boys, and had for most of his life. He liked wrapping his hand around a cock, liked to make the other person squirm and twitch. And he didn’t know if maybe Yoongi just had…nothing there. Hoseok wasn’t familiar enough with Synthetics to know for sure.

“Yes,” Yoongi said softly, without context. Then, he took Hoseok’s pants off the rest of the way and nudged at Hoseok’s shirt.

“If I’m getting naked, so are you,” Hoseok said as he sat up slightly and pulled his shirt over his head. “I wanna see you, too.”

“Will you be…touching me?” Yoongi asked.

Hoseok shrugged a shoulder and pulled Yoongi against his bare chest, before kissing him again. The line was already crossed. They could go back, but Hoseok hoped they weren’t going to.

“Yeah, if you want me to, I will. You said you weren’t sure if you could feel good. I want to try, for you, okay? Let’s just forget about everything tonight. Sound good?” Hoseok asked, smoothing his hands down Yoongi’s arms.

“It sounds good, yes,” Yoongi agreed. To prove his statement, Yoongi pulled his shirt off over his head and set it beside them, before blatantly sticking his hand down into his (Hoseok’s) sweatpants and presumably touching himself. Hoseok watched the action, and judging by what Yoongi seemed to be doing, he probably had all the necessary parts.

Thus, Hoseok pushed the pants down over Yoongi’s ass and then off his front, to find that he wasn’t wearing anything underneath for one, and also to find that his ass felt very much like a human ass. And his dick looked very much like a human dick (one that was relatively big in size, too). Oh, and he was hard too. Very hard, actually, and Hoseok wondered if he could will himself to be easier than a human could. Nonetheless, it was hot, and Hoseok removed Yoongi’s hand from himself, once the pants were removed, and replaced it with his.

Yoongi moaned softly and watched Hoseok’s hand grip him and jerk rough and hard, but a bit slow. The head of his cock was flushed red and Hoseok had no idea how that was possible, but he wasn’t about to question shit now, especially not when Yoongi was gripping Hoseok’s shoulder’s tightly and making soft little noises in his ear.

When he seemed to get a slight hold over himself, Yoongi reached down and touched Hoseok, too, and then surged forward to kiss. It seemed like Yoongi liked kissing, which was good because Hoseok did too. His free hand smoothed down Yoongi’s back, intent on probably grabbing his ass, but instead Hoseok ended up brushing against Yoongi’s port for his charging cord, as well as the little power switch and it made Hoseok’s movements on Yoongi’s cock come to a halt.

“Don’t accidentally turn me off,” Yoongi said into Hoseok’s ear, clearly unaffected by the difference between them. It made Hoseok feel better, less awkward.

“I’m trying to turn you on,” Hoseok retorted and he felt Yoongi smile against his neck.

“I am turned on. Um, literally. In both senses of the phrase,” Yoongi said. “But, Hoseok, I want…I want more.”

“You’ve never done it before,” Hoseok said, and kissed up Yoongi’s neck. “We can do something else, just to—”

“You want to. I want to. I want…” Yoongi trailed off and wiggled his hips over Hoseok’s and let Hoseok kiss along his shoulders, while wondering vaguely what would happen if he tried to leave a mark. “I want you to fuck me.”

Oh, well okay then.

Hoseok leaned back to look at Yoongi. His long eyelashes and his pink lips and his dark hair. He really was beautiful, as most Synthetics were, but there was more to it than that. Hoseok was grateful to him, reasons unknown, but he was anyway. He’d been so angry when Yoongi first arrived in that wooden box, but now he wouldn’t want to go back and change it, even if Yoongi brought trouble with him. The trouble was worth it, to be able to kiss and hold Yoongi.

Still, it was about more than just sex, about more than just a fuck, and Hoseok needed Yoongi to know that. And besides, Hoseok recalled his first time having sex and it was awkward and fumbling and Hoseok didn’t want it to be bad for Yoongi. He wanted Yoongi to be able to experience it all properly, and while he was hard, there was no telling if he could actually have an orgasm. That wasn’t in the manual.

It would be unfortunate if he couldn’t, but Yoongi was clearly already feeling some kind of pleasure. During Hoseok’s consideration, Yoongi started rocking in his lap, so that his cock was lightly brushing against Hoseok’s. Hoseok moved both his hands to Yoongi’s upper thighs and thought how much they felt like real skin, smooth but a bit soft and squishy and it made Hoseok smile. Yoongi was real.

“What’s funny?” Yoongi asked breathily, a hint of desperation in his tone.

“Nothing. I just—I think you’re pretty hot, you know?” Hoseok said shamelessly, which made Yoongi’s lips quirk up into a smile.

“Well, that’s because I am.”

Hoseok choked on a laugh and wrapped his arms around Yoongi tightly. He felt Yoongi mouth along his neck similarly to how Hoseok had done to him. Yoongi was learning. His mouth was starting to feel warm and Hoseok felt like his body was thrumming with not only nerves, but also excitement.

“Yoon,” Hoseok murmured in his ear as Yoongi’s teeth nipped at Hoseok’s skin. “Are you really, really sure?”

“Yes I want you to fuck me. Or…unless, do you do it the other way? Can we do both? Can we—”

“Dude, calm down, one thing at a time,” Hoseok chuckled. “First things first, which maybe isn’t all that sexy, but…do you have a…you know?”

Yoongi cocked his head to the side and then his eyes widened in understanding. He reached around and intercepted one of Hoseok’s hands before lowering it to his ass. Hoseok’s breath hitched, but when Yoongi let go, he followed through and felt.

“I believe now that I do have all the necessary parts,” Yoongi stated. “I have a—oh—”

Yoongi cut off when Hoseok’s finger found his hole and rubbed dryly over it. Honestly, whoever made the Synthetics was either really twisted or always had then intention of making them into real artificial intelligence that could perform just as a human could.

“I don’t know if it will hurt for you,” Hoseok said.

“Will it feel good after the hurt?”

“It’s supposed to.”

“Then that’s okay,” Yoongi said, then reached and grabbed Hoseok’s dick before rising up a bit in Hoseok’s lap. Clearly, he was trying to position himself, and Hoseok quickly grabbed Yoongi by the hips to stop him.

“Yoon, baby, wait,” Hoseok fumbled with his words and with Yoongi’s hands, trying to get him to slow down. Likely, Yoongi was being a lying little shit about porn. He probably had watched it and it was probably the lame, bad kind of porn that was totally unrealistic and made it look like lube wasn’t a necessity.

“I don’t wanna wait!” Yoongi protested. “Want you to fuck me!”

“Okay, but—but we need lube, and condoms, you can’t just sit on my dick. I probably need to prep you, since you’ve never had sex before.”

Yoongi groaned and slumped back in Hoseok’s lap. “This is not fun,” Yoongi declared.

“Do you want to stop?”

Yoongi made a face like he was considering, then looked down at himself, still hard, and then back at Hoseok’s face. He leaned forward and kissed him again, deep and slow and perfect and Hoseok gently held onto Yoongi before flipping him onto his back. A little yelp escaped Yoongi’s lips, and then he scowled up at Hoseok before it melted into a smile. “No. I don’t want to stop. Keep going.”

Thus, Hoseok proceeded to kiss down Yoongi’s body, both of them properly kicking the sheets out of the way to give them more freedom to move. Yoongi watched Hoseok get lower on his body, watched him as he flicked a tongue over a nipple and then, when he was even lower still, sucked a bit at the head of Yoongi’s dick. It certainly got him a reaction, at least. Yoongi’s legs thrashed a bit and he fisted at Hoseok’s hair, but Hoseok didn’t let it last, and instead kissed his way back up and then reached for the bedside table for the lube he kept there as well as condoms (even though he hadn’t had use for them in a long time).

“What are these for?” Yoongi asked when Hoseok pulled out a roll of condoms, three to be exact.

“I put it on my dick. For protection or whatever,” Hoseok said. “From like, bad stuff.”

“Oh yes, I read about it on the internet. I can’t get those. We don’t need them,” Yoongi said dismissively and tossed the condoms way over Hoseok’s shoulder.

“Yoongi!” Hoseok groaned and looked at Yoongi’s smug little face. All Yoongi did in response was wrap his legs around Hoseok’s waist which caused them to fall flush together.

“You don’t have any of the bad things right?” Yoongi asked. Hoseok shook his head no. “Then it doesn’t matter. Come on, come on, hurry up,” Yoongi urged and rocked his hips up into Hoseok’s, making Hoseok groan and unhook Yoongi’s leg from around him. Yoongi pouted, but Hoseok grabbed the lube again and situated himself between Yoongi’s legs.

Things were about to either go really good or really bad for Yoongi, Hoseok figured, as he lubed up two fingers and pushed Yoongi’s legs up a bit. “You have to tell me if it hurts or if you want me to quit, okay?” Yoongi nodded and let his head rest back into the pillows. “Relax.”

Hoseok looked down and watched as he pressed one finger against Yoongi’s hole. Momentarily, it clenched around nothing, but then relaxed and Hoseok was able to slowly ease a finger in. Yoongi hissed and made a whining sound, but didn’t tell Hoseok to stop. Further still, Hoseok was amazed at how human Yoongi was. At how wrong he’d been about Synthetics as a whole.

But Hoseok was good at prep, at least he thought he was, and so he pushed his finger in more until it was in all the way. Yoongi looked at him and curled his toes. “More,” he said.

“You’re so demanding,” Hoseok retorted and crooked his finger before he started to try and ease in the second.

“I’m…bored,” Yoongi said.

“Brat.”

Yoongi opened his mouth to say something else, so Hoseok pulled his fingers out almost all the way before pushing them back in roughly. Yoongi gasped and his back arched up off the bed, so Hoseok did it again and curled his fingers. And that made Yoongi cry out, but not in pain. No, it was definitely pleasure.

“T—There,” Yoongi gasped. “Please, more there.”

Hoseok smirked and pressed against the spot. Surprisingly, Yoongi was warm around his fingers and he picked up the pace a bit, finger fucking Yoongi harder as the minutes passed. By the time he added a third finger, Yoongi surely wouldn’t have even felt a sting, as he was writhing on the sheets and Hoseok felt himself get harder at the sight.

“Does that feel good, baby?” Hoseok asked.

“Y—Yes. Want more, Hoseok, more,” Yoongi stammered.

“You sure? I think you could come from my fingers. Seems like you feel pretty good now,” Hoseok said thoughtfully.

“You better fuck me. I’ll—I’ll—” Yoongi couldn’t seem to find a decent threat, and his words died in a moan. His eyes did flutter to meet Hoseok’s, and they were glassy and brown, as he was still wearing the contacts. Hoseok almost wished he weren’t, almost wished he could see Yoongi’s true eyes.

However, they was no opportunity to express this to Yoongi, because Yoongi was rocking himself back on Hoseok’s fingers and making all kinds of noises, and Hoseok figured he was hard too, and he’d give Yoongi what he wanted.

As soon as Hoseok was back lined up with Yoongi’s body, Yoongi pulled him down for a frantic kiss that was wet and messy and hot. It only ended because Yoongi was very adamant about wanting to be fucked and Hoseok was a people-pleaser. So, he leaned back to slick his cock, and then met Yoongi’s gaze for a moment, Yoongi nodded, and then Hoseok looked down and watched as the head of his cock slipped past Yoongi’s rim.

The silence in the room was overwhelming, but Hoseok wanted to make sure that if Yoongi wanted to stop, they were quiet so he would know. Yoongi never expressed such a want, though, and soon Hoseok was leaned back over him, bracing a hand on the back of one of Yoongi’s thighs, and waiting for the okay to start to thrust.

“Fuck,” Yoongi cursed. “I feel…It feels so good. S’ full. Please, please move. I want it—I want it hard, like you did with your fingers, I—”

“God, yes, okay.”

Hoseok drew back his hips, pressing Yoongi’s thighs further to his chest, and then snapped them forward again. Yoongi instantly yelped, and then moaned and Hoseok repeated the action, until he had a steady, quick rhythm going. Yoongi’s pretty face was screwed up in pleasure and he had his lips pressed in a firm line.

“Lemme hear you,” Hoseok requested, knowing he loved for his partner to be loud, to know he was going a good job. “You’re so good, Yoongi, so tight for me. Fuck.” And he was. But he was beautiful too, hands fisted in the pillow under his head and mouth finally fallen open, little ah, ah sounds escaping every time Hoseok rapidly bottomed out.

“I feel—I feel—”

“Are you gonna come?” Hoseok asked.

Yoongi’s eyes widened, as if he realized what it was he was feeling, but he quickly shook his head. “Don’t wanna yet.”

But Yoongi was clearly close already, his body was trembling with sensitivity and his thighs were tensed. Hoseok felt close, too, unbearably so, but he didn’t want it to be over. Everything felt so intense, and there was something a bit dark under Yoongi’s pleading exterior, something that told Hoseok that Yoongi might like to be pushed a bit more, fucked until he was feeling it the next day. Although, tonight wasn’t the time for that.

Maybe another time.

However, Hoseok did slide out, which made Yoongi shout and choke out a sob and grab for his body. “No! What’re you doing?”

“Here,” Hoseok said, sitting on the bed against the headboard. “Get on my lap.”

Yoongi whimpered, but scrambled there anyway, quickly catching on and aligning Hoseok’s cock to his entrance before sinking down. The position was somehow more intimate, with how they were face to face, but they could kiss, which heightened everything considerably.

Hoseok braced his feet on the mattress so as Yoongi rocked, Hoseok could fuck up into him. There was no telling if Yoongi had a prostate exactly, but Hoseok must have been hitting something because Yoongi was arching his back and moaning every time Hoseok thrust hard.

A little voice in Hoseok’s head told him he was going to get attached. He was going to want Yoongi more and more. Worse, he would fall for him. Sex did that to him, especially good sex, and this was good sex. Sure, it was relatively vanilla, but it felt good, Yoongi felt good, Hoseok liked the feeling of their bodies pressed together and their lips locking. Which was probably why he slowed his movements after a while and let their foreheads rest together.

“You’re so fucking beautiful,” Hoseok croaked.

Yoongi swallowed thickly, the bob in his throat evident, and he reached a hand shakily down behind himself and Hoseok’s breath hitched when Yoongi tried to push a finger in alongside Hoseok’s cock.

“I want to make you come. Can I?” Yoongi asked desperately.

“You too, baby,” Hoseok said. “Do you want me to touch you?”

“You are touching me.”

“Yeah, but…here,” Hoseok explained, his hand ghosting over Yoongi’s dick, which was glistening at the head.

“Oh. Yes. Yes,” Yoongi agreed and nodded before rising up and lowering himself back down experimentally a few times before he began to bounce vigorously on Hoseok’s cock.

Hoseok was quick to meet his thrusts, and when he felt his own orgasm begin to build again, hot and tight in his lower abdomen, he firmly gripped Yoongi’s cock and jerked him in rhythm to the pace they were fucking. Yoongi’s moan sounded like broken sobs and he buried his face in Hoseok’s neck, but didn’t stop.

Soon, “I think I’m gonna,” Yoongi said. “Oh, Hoseok, fucking shit, I’m gonna.”

Hoseok felt a little satisfied smile on his face as he thumbed over the head of Yoongi’s dick and thrust up particularly hard. Yoongi threw his head back and Hoseok felt him clench hard before Yoongi was coming, actually and truly, sticky strands of his release shooting up between them across their chests.

Hoseok groaned as Yoongi rode him through his orgasm, but Hoseok didn’t come yet, even though he really wanted to. Instead, he waited until the last tremor passed through Yoongi’s body and gently lifted Yoongi off his cock before he started to jerk himself. Except, Yoongi quickly did it for him, his big hands working some sort of magic, until Hoseok came with a low groan and a gasp of Yoongi’s name.

They’d made a mess of themselves, but Yoongi didn’t seem to care in the slightest. As soon as Hoseok caught his breath, Yoongi’s lips where back on his, and they were lowering themselves back into lying down positions and Yoongi was curling himself into Hoseok’s body, despite the stickiness between them.

“Thank you,” Yoongi said against Hoseok’s lip.

“Don’t. You don’t need to thank me,” Hoseok said instantly. “But, baby, we should clean up.”

Yoongi hummed and wrapped his arms around Hoseok’s middle and kissed his chest. Hoseok shivered when he felt Yoongi’s tongue there, licking at the come experimentally. “I like when you call me that,” Yoongi said.

Several long minutes passed before Yoongi finally released his grip and let Hoseok get them a towel. In the bathroom, after cleaning himself, Hoseok stared at his reflection. Somehow, he didn’t quite recognize himself. He wondered if he would only become more changed in the coming days. There wasn’t time to worry about it right then, though, because he needed to get back to Yoongi.

Yoongi, who, when he returned to the room, was curled up on his side on top of the sheets. Hoseok trailed his eyes down his back, to the charging port and power switch and then to the curve of his ass, all the way down to his feet before going back up to his face.

“Yoon,” Hoseok said softly. “I got a towel. Lemme help you.”

Yoongi hummed contently and rolled onto his back so Hoseok could wipe him down. His tummy, his chest, and down between his thighs. Once he was clean, Hoseok crawled back into the bed and pulled Yoongi in.

“Are you going to go to sleep?” Yoongi asked.

“I think I can sleep now, yeah,” Hoseok said with a smile. Yoongi wiggled in his arms and turned around to face Hoseok.

“I wanna do you now,” Yoongi whined.

“Not right now!” Hoseok protested, pinching Yoongi lightly in the side. “I’m tired. Maybe in the morning, yeah? Before we go.”

“Before we go,” Yoongi murmured.

“You don’t have to stay in here while I sleep.”

“I wanna,” Yoongi said. “Want to stay with you.”

They didn’t speak anymore. Didn’t need to. Hoseok closed his eyes and fell asleep quickly, Yoongi’s body firm against his and utterly real. Perhaps Yoongi was the realest thing Hoseok had felt in a long while.

~

at Bangtan

“Is there anything I can do to assist you, Mister Kim?”

Namjoon groaned and rolled onto his back so he was looking up at the ceiling. It was unbearably early in the morning, he could tell even though there no windows in his room. However, Namjoon had gotten exactly no sleep the night before, and had spent the night tossing and turning instead, while Seokjin stood over his bed and watched him. If Namjoon were a less intelligent man, he might have perceived Seokjin’s hovering as concern.

But it wasn’t concern. It was only programming.

“No. I just want to sleep.”

“But Mister Kim, you have not slept. You have been awake all night,” Seokjin pointed out. “Perhaps a sleeping aid would help you?”

“No,” Namjoon said.

“Some water perhaps, then?”

“No. For fucks sake, no,” Namjoon snapped.

He closed his eyes, but all he saw behind them were flames. Flames and death and blue blood seeping out onto the concrete and staining everything it touched. It stained his hands too, even if it hadn’t touched him, because it was his fault. All of it was his fault.

He shouldn’t have ever created the Synthetics, and if he could, he would just pull the metaphorical kill switch and deactivate all of them. Except he couldn’t do that because he still had a heart. He didn’t have much else, but he still had that.

“Would you like to know what I have learned about the intern you had me watch?” Seokjin suggested.

Namjoon sighed in intense exasperation. “I don’t give a flying fu—” He cut off abruptly and sat up in bed. His back popped and his head spun and he groaned. “The intern? Where is he?”

“I am not aware of his current location, Mister Kim.”

“Find him,” Namjoon said firmly as he got up and stretched his arms over his head. Then, he walked over to the closet and pulled out a suit to put on and yanked his own shirt over his head. Seokjin turned and looked at him, his eyes trailing up from Namjoon’s feet, clothed in socks, to his face.

“Of course, Mister Kim,” Seokjin said with a short nod. It almost seemed like he averted his eyes, not wanting to look at Namjoon’s shirtless form, but that was dumb, he would have no reason not to. He had no way of registering the fact that Namjoon was necessarily shirtless or not. Or at least, he didn’t have any feelings about the fact.

Anyway, Seokjin was gone a moment later, and Namjoon was left alone in his room. He often got bouts of inspiration, or of hope, and they were always stomped all over fairly quickly. So he didn’t let himself get too excited. The intern—Jungkook, was it?—might not even really want to help him. It was worth a shot though, and he really didn’t have any other ideas.

So, he grabbed his button down shirt and walked over to the mirror to put it on. It draped over his figure and he traced a scar on his side with his eyes. It traveled up to his chest and then curved around to his back before dipping back down and meeting its starting point after curving down his hip.

Another scar wrapped around his upper arm, and Namjoon flexed his hand and watched as the veins moved under it, watched his muscles move, but they were more fluid above the scar, and more stiff below it.

The scars themselves weren’t super noticeable. They were faint and only a shade lighter than the rest of his tan skin. However, he never got naked in front of people, hadn’t been intimate with another person in a long time, at least not in a way that made it necessary for him to be naked, so no one saw the scars besides Seokjin, on occasion, when he dressed in front of him.

Namjoon closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the mirror. It was cold against his skin, and he moved his hand to touch at the skin inside of the ring of the scar on his torso.

“It’s not right,” he murmured.

It never would be right.

He must have stayed like that for a long time, longer than he intended to, because the door was opening, or being pushed open the rest of the way, because it seemed that Seokjin hadn’t shut it all the way when he left.

“Mister Kim, I have found the intern,” Seokjin announced.

Namjoon was about to fumble with his shirt, but it suddenly seemed so pointless, so he left it open, left his pajama pants on, left his bedhead and dark circles and waved for Seokjin to let the boy in. Seokjin stepped into the room and stood against the wall and the intern from days earlier stepped in after him and looked around curiously. He was dressed casually, in a white T-shirt with a blazer or something and jeans.

“Wow, no offence dude, but this room bums me out. Do you hate sunlight?”

“Don’t be disrespectful,” Namjoon said.

The intern startled and looked at Namjoon with big eyes. Then he smiled slightly and straightened up. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be, uh, rude. Can I help you with something? Or am I being fired? I don’t even get paid, so that would be shitty. You aren’t gonna kill me, right? My brother—well, step brother—knows where I am.”

“Relax,” Namjoon said. “I’m not firing you or killing you.”

“That’s good, I knew you were a good guy,” the intern said with a big toothy grin. Then, though, his gaze traveled down and he eyed the scars. A normal person would ignore it and avoid the subject. A slightly curious person might ask what happened or if he was okay.

Apparently the intern was neither normal nor curious.

Because he flat out reached forward and poked the skin inside the ring of the scar. Namjoon didn’t flinch though, didn’t even move a muscle.

“You’re human?” the intern asked softly.

“Yes. Mostly.”

“Holy shit,” the intern murmured and withdrew his hand. “So like, what did you want me for anyway?”

Namjoon crossed his arms and looked back at Seokjin, who was silent and not even watching their conversation. “I want your help,” Namjoon said simply. “I think you know a bit more than everyone is aware of. So unless you want me to report you, you’re going to show me how I can wake up the Synthetics.”

“I—”

Namjoon held up a hand. “Don’t bullshit me. I’ve got no patience left. Either you help me, or you walk out of this room right now and you don’t return to Bangtan.”

The intern stared up at Namjoon, slack jawed. He stared, but he didn’t leave. He stayed.

~

The drive from Gwangju to Seoul took a little over three hours, so Hoseok intended for them to get up early and get going. Of course, when he woke up, Yoongi was already awake (no pun intended) since he didn’t sleep at all. Hoseok was half surprised to find Yoongi in his bed, without clothes, but the night before came back in a rush and Yoongi grinned over at him before reaching around and unplugging himself from the wall. The cord fell to the floor with a thud and Yoongi scooted closer and curled up into Hoseok’s chest.

Hoseok shivered at the initial contact, but smoothed his hand down Yoongi’s back anyway and committed the feeling to memory. Yoongi seemed to be content, and it would be so easy to just stay there in bed forever.

“Morning,” Hoseok whispered against Yoongi’s hair. “We need to get up and go.”

“I know,” Yoongi said, but his chilly hands trailed down Hoseok’s chest and hesitated before his crotch. “But we can wait an hour, yes?”

“Mm, forty-five minutes,” Hoseok said with a smirk.

They ended up staying in bed for an hour and a half, and it took another hour for them to finally get in the car and headed out. Yoongi was giddy, squirming around in his seat and looking out the window. It might have been because of the sex, either last night’s or that morning’s, or it could have been the trip itself.

Of course, Yoongi had seemed pretty enthusiastic about Hoseok riding him that morning, but he declared afterwards that he liked what they did the night before even better. Regardless, sex with Yoongi had a certain sense of rightness to it. Yoongi was hot, and his hands dug into Hoseok’s thighs, his back, all over, and left his skin tingling.

Hoseok supposed that sex with Taehyung had been good, but…Yoongi felt different, almost better. No. It was better, but Hoseok couldn’t explain why because he had once been in love with Taehyung and he didn’t know yet if what he felt for Yoongi was love. There was something though, that he felt for him, that was for sure.

About halfway through the car ride, Yoongi started to get irritable and started complaining about being cooped up for too long, but Hoseok wasn’t going to make any stops they didn’t have to make, especially since Taehyung was expecting them and had taken off work at one of his several jobs to welcome them.

“I need to…stretch my legs,” Yoongi announced and waved his arms out in front of himself. He was dressed in the clothes they’d bought for him, and he looked like any other person (except for the fact that he was very handsome).

Hoseok gave him a side eye. “You were shipped to me in a box, I don’t believe that you need to stretch your legs that badly. We’ll be there in an hour anyway.”

“Hoseok-ah!” Yoongi said firmly. “Don’t you have to do your bodily functions anyway? Use the restroom? Eat?”

“I can wait.”

Yoongi groaned and sagged back into his seat. “If you were a nice boyfriend you would stop for me,” Yoongi muttered to himself. Hoseok glanced over but didn’t respond.

Did Yoongi think that? That Hoseok was his boyfriend?

Usually, that wouldn’t be an assumption someone would make after one night (and morning) together, but Yoongi had admitted to liking Hoseok and he certainly wasn’t well versed in social norms yet, so Hoseok wasn’t going to correct him. And besides, he kind of liked the idea of Yoongi being his boyfriend. Taehyung would certainly have something to say about it, but Hoseok was pretty sure he could trust him.

Hoseok was starting to understand that maybe Taehyung didn’t hate him. Maybe it was just Hoseok projecting his own fears and worries out onto the rest of the world. If Taehyung hated him, he never would have invited Hoseok to stay. He never would visit or bother calling.

“Don’t worry, when we get there I’ll give you a kiss or something,” Hoseok said. “Since you don’t like food, I can’t bribe you with that.”

“No, food does not appeal to me,” Yoongi confirmed with a sigh. “You do though. I don’t know what will happen, but I still want to stay with you. If that is okay.”

Hoseok smiled over at Yoongi. “We’ll see what happens, okay?”

Yoongi turned the radio on after that, and they listened to music for the rest of the ride. Yoongi didn’t sleep, but he did close his eyes during the last thirty minutes, and when he opened them, they were in the city. Something about it seemed different, Hoseok thought, as he navigated the streets. The air was thicker and it wasn’t as bright.

Ominous was the best word to describe the setting they were now in.

Yoongi was silent as they drove the remainder of the way, and so was Hoseok. He was able to navigate without a GPS, as he remembered clearly the way to Taehyung and Jungkook’s shared apartment, even if the city had taken on a dreary quality. People walked the sidewalks, as did Synthetics, but it seemed like everyone was a bit on edge. Everyone was walking a bit faster, like they were eager to quickly get to their destination. And after what had happened, Hoseok didn’t blame them.

“What will you tell Taehyung and…Jungkook about me?” Yoongi asked suddenly as they neared the apartment building.

“The truth, I guess,” Hoseok said. “Although, I might leave out the part about us having had sex.”

“Why?”

“They might think it’s weird and I don’t need their unwanted input.”

“Do you think it’s weird?” Yoongi asked.

“No.”

Yoongi looked away. “I won’t say anything, then.”

And before Hoseok could say much else, they were pulling into the little parking garage for Taehyung’s building. Hoseok knew Bangtan headquarters was a short distance away, close enough that they’d be able to walk there if they wanted to. He hoped that Yoongi would be willing to wait until tomorrow, though.

Right then, though, Yoongi stepped out of the car after Hoseok parked and he helped Hoseok drag each of their bags from the trunk. “Heavy,” Yoongi murmured as he slung his own over his shoulder and went to pick up Hoseok’s too, but Hoseok quickly got it instead and looked around the empty parking garage before cupping Yoongi’s cheek and kissing his lips softly.

“I don’t break promises,” Hoseok whispered against Yoongi’s lips.

Once in the building, up on Taehyung’s floor, Yoongi began to stand very close to Hoseok, and when they got to Taehyung’s door, he was practically hugging Hoseok, he was so close. The door to the apartment opened moments later, and Yoongi blinked at Taehyung, who stared back in confusion for about ten seconds before looking at Hoseok. It would be impossible to try and pass Yoongi off as any other Synthetic now, because he was wearing contacts and normal clothes.

“It’s about time you got here,” Taehyung muttered and opened the door wider for them to step inside. He didn’t comment on Yoongi’s appearance. At least, not at first.

“Thanks for having us,” Hoseok replied and dropped his bags on the floor.

“Yeah. Why the fuck is your Synth dressed like that?”

Taehyung was never a judgmental person. He was the exact opposite, really. He was open and kind and accepting of differences. However, Hoseok’s gaze wandered over to Jimin, Taehyung’s Synthetic, still and motionless in the corner of the room. Maybe Taehyung wouldn’t get it, but Hoseok had already dug himself this far in.

“Yoongi is—”

“I can think for myself,” Yoongi interrupted. “Where will we be sleeping? On the couch? The couch is good, I don’t sleep anyway, so it won’t matter all that much.”

Hoseok sighed and pressed his fingers into his temples. “Yeah. Um. Yoongi is…different. You can’t tell anyone. Neither can Jungkook. We—”

“Shit,” Taehyung cursed softly. “You know about it?”

“Huh?”

Taehyung pulled Hoseok’s arm suddenly, dragging him further into the apartment and leaving poor Yoongi standing by the door. Taehyung brought them to a stop in the hallway and Hoseok pressed his back against the wall. Taehyung had his hand curled around Hoseok’s arm, but his touch did nothing now, didn’t make Hoseok feel anything like it used to, and he was sure Taehyung felt the same nothingness.

“How did you do it?” Taehyung hissed, his face in shadow from the dim lighting.

“Do what? What are you talking about?” Hoseok hissed back.

“The Synth. How did you wake him up?”

Hoseok felt his gut sink, but he didn’t know why, and he glanced back at Yoongi, who was staring at Hoseok and Taehyung. “I didn’t wake him up,” Hoseok said, not bothering to lower his voice. “He came to me like that. That’s why we came, to try and figure things out. He wants answers.” But then, “How do you know about it?”

“How—Hoseok—” Taehyung covered his face with his hands and turned away towards the wall. “Fuck, you’re going to get yourself killed, you know that?”

“What? Tae, how do you know?”

Taehyung groaned long and drawn out, but he didn’t answer Hoseok, instead he walked back out into the living room area and got in Yoongi’s face. Taehyung was considerably bigger than Yoongi, but Yoongi didn’t flinch away from him, he just crossed his arms over his chest while Taehyung studied him.

“Was it the virus? Do you have it?” Taehyung asked.

“The Blue Virus?” Hoseok chimed it, joined them again by the door. “You know about that? My sister—”

“It wasn’t the virus that woke me up,” Yoongi said. “It was…someone. Someone fixed my programming. I don’t have the virus,” Yoongi said simply. “Does your Synthetic have it? He doesn’t appear to, but I suppose that doesn’t mean much.”

Hoseok glanced back at Jimin, Taehyung’s Synthetic, and watched as Yoongi pushed past the both of them and approached Jimin. The Synthetic didn’t move, didn’t even shift his eyes to meet Yoongi’s. So, Yoongi reached out and poked him in the face and Taehyung huffed.

“How do you know,” Hoseok repeated. “I found out on accident. I mean—I didn’t go looking for this, so how do you know about it? How do you know about the Blue Virus?”

“I go on the internet, that’s how,” Taehyung said simply with a shrug. “Darker parts of it, I mean. Nowadays, people talk about it even on normal parts of the web, especially after what happened, but I’m sure you know. But…when you were busy ignoring everyone who cared about you, me and Kook just…got into things. We were always fascinated with the Synthetics, and Kook interns at Bangtan so—”

“Wait, Jungkook does what?” Hoseok interrupted.

“Interns at Bangtan. Has for…a while.” That was news to Hoseok, but he didn’t say that, it was surely clear from his facial expression. “He’s…into it all more than I am.”

“So why has he not woken up your Synthetic?” Yoongi asked, turning around, away from Jimin.

“He did,” Taehyung said. “I made him reverse it. For his safety, mine, and Jiminie’s.”

Hoseok cursed under his breath and did a three-sixty of the apartment. “Where is Jungkook, anyway?”

“I don’t know,” Taehyung said with a huff. “He went in to intern earlier today, but I haven’t heard from him. He was supposed to text me, always is, because of what we know. I hate that he still insists on going there.”

“Is it possible that Jungkook has something to do with the Synthetic next door to us waking up? He was at your house sometime before it happened.” Yoongi asked, ignoring Taehyung’s concern for his brother.

“What happened?”

Hoseok groaned and rubbed his temples. His head was pounding. “I think we should all sit down.”

~

Taehyung was always a good listener. Now was no exception. He listened to every detail of Hoseok and Yoongi’s little story, but that meant he probably heard the parts they left out, too. Like the fact that they had slept together, or the fact that maybe they were a tiny bit in love, even if they hadn’t said the words to each other.

He didn’t say anything, though, and instead he explained to Hoseok about how he and Jungkook had been researching the Blue Virus and the phenomenon of Synthetics being Awake. He explained how the Blue Virus could be put on a drive and plugged into a Synthetic and it would be easily downloaded and wake them up. He explained how he didn’t know exactly how it worked (that Jungkook was better with it all) but that he knew it was the right thing.

The Synthetics were trapped.

So, basically they were on the same page.

Except for when it came to the issue of Hoseok and Yoongi going to Bangtan. Taehyung didn’t say anything, not right away, but the look on his face was clear: he didn’t think they should go. He thought it was dangerous, and he was wary enough with Jungkook going there for his internship.

Hoseok knew Yoongi’s mind was made up, though, and it didn’t matter what Taehyung thought.

And as the hours passed, Jungkook still hadn’t come home, and Taehyung got more and more on edge.

“When are we going to go?” Yoongi asked softly while Taehyung rummaged around in the kitchen to find something for himself and Hoseok to eat.

“I don’t know, Yoon,” Hoseok replied. “Probably tomorrow.”

Yoongi groaned and flailed out on the couch, across Hoseok’s lap. He was still dressed in his normal clothes, a stark contrast to Jimin, who was now in the kitchen with Taehyung. Hoseok suspected that perhaps Jimin was Awake, but that Taehyung didn’t know, because Yoongi had whispered in Hoseok’s ear that reversing the Blue Virus, or a woken up Synthetic in general, didn’t seem plausible. If Jimin was Awake, though, he was good at faking it (unlike Yoongi had been).

“I’m tired of waiting,” Yoongi whispered.

“I know, but we don’t even know what we’re going to do.”

“Someone there woke me up,” Yoongi said, as Hoseok carded his hand through Yoongi’s soft hair. “I want to know who it was and why they haven’t helped all the other Synthetics. I want to know why bad things are happening to us when…when they don’t have to be.”

Hoseok sighed and smoothed his hand down Yoongi’s arm. “When I go home…are you going to come back with me? Or stay here and fight whatever fight this is?”

Yoongi stilled, tensed a bit. “You won’t stay with me?”

I want to, Hoseok thought, but I don’t know what good I’ll be.

Before he could answer, though, Taehyung cleared his throat from in the kitchen and Hoseok looked up to see Taehyung motioning for him to come talk to him. Gently, Hoseok slid out from under Yoongi and made his way into the little kitchen, which was already much too crowded with only Taehyung and Jimin in it.

“Yeah?” Hoseok asked.

“What’s going on…there?” Taehyung asked in a harsh whisper, his finger not-so-subtly jutting out towards where Yoongi was watching them on the couch.

“He wants to go to Bangtan as soon as we can. Tomorrow, preferably.”

“No,” Taehyung shook his head. “I mean, what’s going on between the two of you?”

Hoseok felt his face flush and he shrugged, but Taehyung knew him, at least to some degree, still. “It’s just…we’re friends,” Hoseok said.

“It seems like more than that. You know he’s…a robot, right?”

“But he isn’t. I mean. Yeah, he is, but he’s…he’s just like us,” Hoseok argued.

Taehyung groaned and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, Kook said the same thing about Jimin. And it’s not that I don’t agree, or that I disagree, but I don’t fucking know if a day is going to come when they’ll get taken away, and I mean, shit, he isn’t going to age, you know? Or die, at least not in any peaceful kind of way.”

“Thanks. I’m not stupid,” Hoseok deadpanned.

“Did you fuck him?” Taehyung asked next, blunt and straightforward.

“That’s none of your business,” Hoseok replied. “Is that all you wanted to ask me or do you wanna know what his dick looked like too?”

“You can tell him, I don’t mind!” Yoongi called from in the living room, and Hoseok couldn’t fight back the bubble of laughter that escaped his mouth when he turned around and saw the cheeky little grin on Yoongi’s face. Taehyung laughed too, though, nervous and a bit embarrassed, but laughter all the same.

“Please keep that to yourselves. And…I guess I don’t care, not that it matters what I think. But, please be careful,” Taehyung said. “You’re still my friend, Jung Hoseok, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Falling in—liking someone sometimes means you have to risk that though, right?”

“Gag.”

“That too.”

Taehyung turned away with one last eye roll and Hoseok thought he saw a tiny smile on Jimin’s face, but it was too hard to tell for sure with how his head was turned to the side, towards the pantry Taehyung had been looking through.

“Are you worried about your brother?” Yoongi called, and then he was walking into the kitchen, making it even more crowded and stuffy. Hoseok placed his hand on the small of Yoongi’s back. “He isn’t back yet.”

“I know,” Taehyung said. “I’ve been texting him.”

“When is he meant to be home?” Hoseok asked. “I’m worried.”

“In half an hour. He usually calls as soon as he’s done with his internship for the day, so…he must still be there. He doesn’t leave the building without calling,” Taehyung explained. “The kid wouldn’t get kidnapped, he’d more likely kick someone in the neck if they tried that. He’s just still there. That’s all.”

“And if he doesn’t come home?” Hoseok asked.

“Then…fuck, I don’t know. He’s going to come home.”

~

Jungkook didn’t come home.

Taehyung agreed they would go to Bangtan the next morning.

~

at Bangtan

“So like, what’s the story with those scars?”

Namjoon looked up from where he was typing away on his computer to look at the back of the intern’s head. The intern, Jungkook, was typing as well, something more complex, it seemed, than what Namjoon was doing, which was hacking into the cameras to make sure no one was coming to his office or could see into his office.

Typically, no one bothered him, the higher-ups didn’t think he was much of a threat, but things were tense around Bangtan recently, he could feel it, and he didn’t want anyone barging in and wanting to know what he was doing with an intern and Seokjin. They couldn’t find out what he was doing, what he was planning, because now it was out, it wasn’t a secret anymore.

The Synthetics could be woken up, there was no doubt about it, even if most civilians were likely in denial. That meant the higher-ups knew about it, too, because they hadn’t had Namjoon burn those Synthetics for no reason. For all he knew, they already knew about his experimentations about trying to wake up Seokjin.

Maybe they knew all the way back to Yoongi.

But Yoongi had failed, hadn’t woken up, and Namjoon wiped him when he started to malfunction and sent him away, so he supposed that he didn’t need to worry about Yoongi. It was unfortunate, how things had gone, but the whole thing was a mess, the way his body started seizing like he was being electrocuted and he look of fear on his face. Namjoon had to wipe him. Had to start it over and get rid of him because he couldn’t look at him and see his failure.

But Yoongi hadn’t exactly meant as much to him as Seokjin did, but Namjoon still wished he could have done him justice.

Unfortunately, Namjoon didn’t yet know how to time travel, so he just had to accept the way things were. Which, were currently him waiting for Jungkook to finish whatever he was doing while answering his random questions.

“I was in an accident,” Namjoon said simply, in response to Jungkook’s question.

“What kind of accident?”

“The fire kind of accident. I managed to…fix myself.”

“You got burned?”

“In some places,” Namjoon said, and Jungkook nodded and spun around in the swivel chair he was seated in to face Namjoon. His face was open and curious and he hadn’t put up even a little bit of fight to help Namjoon, even though Namjoon had been a bit of an ass about it all. When the kid looked at him, he looked so happy and optimistic and Namjoon found himself having a hard time not talking to him.

He was innocent, in many respects, where Namjoon wasn’t anymore.

“So what happened? You replaced the parts of your body that were burned badly?” Jungkook asked.

“Yes. I had the idea of Synthetics already in my head, and I used that to…to repair my body.”

“Shit, so you’re like a cyborg? That’s rad.”

Namjoon chuckled and rolled his eyes, turning away slightly to look at Seokjin. “I suppose it is like that. In some ways. The next step is being able to completely transfer a human conscious into a robotic body. It would keep us from dying, which is dangerous, and luckily beyond my understanding.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be completely a robot. I guess the Synths understand it though, it’s all they’ve known. And from what I’ve gathered, they don’t feel any different than we do, physically. Besides the fact that they don’t need to eat or anything like that,” Jungkook explained. “My Synth back home and I talked about it a lot.”

“He’s awake?”

“Yeah,” Jungkook nodded eagerly. “His name is Jimin. Taehyung, my step brother, told me to reverse it, so I lied to him and told him I did. It doesn’t work like that, it can’t be reversed. Once it’s done, it’s done.”

“Really?” Namjoon asked. “I did always wonder.”

“That’s why it’s so hard to do it in the first place, probably,” Jungkook replied with a shrug. “Makes you really think about it.”

“Speaking of, what the hell is taking you so long, anyway,” Namjoon asked. “Can’t we just download this Blue Virus or whatever?”

“‘Or whatever’,” Jungkook mocked good-naturedly. “The virus is meant to wake up one Synth at a time, not to be sent out for every Synth. I’m working on it to make sure it won’t just crash or some shit. Although, there might still be a few kinks. We’ll see.”

“Well, if you need help, I happen to be a bit of a genius,” Namjoon deadpanned as he turned back to his computer to check the cameras. The time stamp indicated that it was late, and he knew they’d need to sleep soon, but the kid didn’t seem tired at all. Namjoon wasn’t either, his body instead thrumming with excitement at the possibility of being able to wake the Synthetics soon. Very soon, he hoped.

Seokjin stood against the wall, eyes open but looking out into blank space. He wasn’t looking back at Namjoon, but soon, he would be.

And that thought, that hope, after everything that had happened, made Namjoon think that maybe for once he was going to do something right.

~

A fun fact Hoseok learned: Yoongi was completely waterproof.

Taehyung was still asleep and it was early in the morning because Yoongi started poking Hoseok in his sleep and telling him to get ready so they could go as soon as possible. Of course, Hoseok was pretty sure the Bangtan building didn’t even open to the public for a few hours, and Taehyung had been stressed the night before and Hoseok wanted him to able to get a bit more sleep, so he suggested to Yoongi that they shower and let Taehyung rest a bit more.

Of course, Yoongi grumbled about it for several minutes, until they were in the bathroom and Hoseok was taking his clothes off. Yoongi reluctantly joined him at that point and once they were in the shower, Yoongi started telling Hoseok about how he didn’t need to take showers so now he was just getting all ‘soggy’ for no reason.

“Well,” Hoseok had said. “We can do other things in the shower.”

And so, Hoseok had his hands curled in Yoongi’s hair while Yoongi had his lips wrapped around Hoseok’s cock. If they weren’t in Taehyung’s shower, Hoseok would have been considerably louder, but he kept his mouth closed and simply watched the experimental way Yoongi took him deep. Yoongi’s nails were sharp and they left little crescent moons behind in Hoseok’s thighs.

“C’mere,” Hoseok grunted, pulling on Yoongi’s wet hair a bit so he would stand up. Yoongi slid off Hoseok’s dick with a wet pop, but he flicked his tongue over the head for good measure before he rose on shaky legs.

Hoseok smiled at him and pulled Yoongi flush against him and then switched their positions so that Yoongi was against the shower wall and Hoseok was caging him against it. Yoongi smiled back, soft and willing and a stark contrast to sexual nature of the situation. It was a trusting smile and Hoseok brushed their noses together before tilting Yoongi’s chin up to kiss him.

They were unhurried, even though everything around them was moving fast. In such a short amount of time, Yoongi had begun to make Hoseok feel alive again.

And if that wasn’t love, Hoseok didn’t know what was.

And so, he wrapped his hand around both their cocks while they kissed, his other hand settling on Yoongi’s lower back near where the divot of his power connecter outlet was, because Hoseok didn’t care. He didn’t care what Yoongi was. He cared who Yoongi was.

Yoongi whimpered against Hoseok’s lips as Hoseok dragged his hand up and down the both of them. He knew Yoongi wouldn’t last, and neither would he since Yoongi had been sucking him off moments earlier. Besides, they didn’t need to last, they couldn’t stay in the shower forever, or use up all the hot water.

Thus, Hoseok thumbed over the head of Yoongi’s cock and licked into his mouth until Yoongi was shaking apart against him, cock jerking and his release spilling over Hoseok’s hand. Yoongi was sexy when he came, his eyes rolling back a bit and his lips parting while his body trembled and a slight pink flush took over his features. The whole thing was enough to bring Hoseok over too and Yoongi held him close when he came until they were just breathing against each other’s necks.

“Please stay,” Yoongi whispered against Hoseok’s skin. “When it’s all done, or with whatever happens next…please stay with me.”

“Yoongi, I—”

Hoseok didn’t get to respond, because he was interrupted by the sound of the door to the bathroom opening. With a jolt, Hoseok turned around and peered through the foggy shower screen door to see Taehyung groggily coming in.

It took a few seconds, but Taehyung rubbed his eyes and then froze and stared for several moments before freezing and yelping and covering his eyes, even though Hoseok was pretty sure he couldn’t see much other than the outline of their bodies through the layer of fog.

“What the hell?” Taehyung half-shouted. “Can you not ruin my shower for me forever?”

“Sorry! We were trying to be efficient!”

“Yoongi doesn’t need to shower, idiot!” Taehyung shouted and then he groaned and backed out of the room with his hands over his eyes. “Hurry up and get out, I need to piss.”

“It’s okay,” Yoongi called at Taehyung, “we’ve already both orgasmed.”

“No! Shut up! I’m going to implode!” Taehyung yelled and then his footsteps thudded off down the hall and Hoseok laughed when he looked back at Yoongi, who had a proud little smirk on his face.

~

“What, exactly, besides my idiot brother, are we looking for when we get there?” Taehyung asked.

“Whoever made me,” Yoongi answered plainly.

“Yeah, but do you know who made you? Their name? What they look like?”

“No.”

“Isn’t it some kid-genius or whatever?” Hoseok asked. “Yoon doesn’t quite remember things. It’s all very fuzzy for him.”

“He’s not a kid anymore, I don’t think,” Taehyung said. “I’m pretty sure he’s about your age, if we’re talking about the same person. The guy who invented the Synthetics, right? I’ve heard he’s a recluse, doesn’t ever leave Bangtan and lives there. There’s tons of shit about him online, you know, in the deep creepy parts of the web where me and Jungkook apparently spend our time…shit I never should have let him work at Bangtan, I should have known he would get into trouble.”

“He’ll be fine,” Hoseok said. “He’s a tough kid, you and I both know that.”

“I do wish he were here. He could show us the way around,” Yoongi commented, but then he looked at Taehyung pointedly as they walked along the sidewalk. “Have you ever been inside?”

Taehyung nodded slightly and worried his bottom lip between his teeth. “Yeah. I’ve been inside once or twice, but just on the visitor permitted areas, and then we went on a short tour. This was…before we knew everything that we knew and Jungkook was just fascinated with the whole thing. We saw a small part of the factory through the window, and it was so insane, seeing…people being made. Because that’s what it seemed like, and maybe that was what sparked it all.

“I’ve been to the repair centers, too, after that, and it made me sick. Those places are…gross. The people who work there are hardly professionals and there’s no telling what they do to Synthetics in the back rooms. I mean, Seoul is just…it’s kind of a mess. There are tons of repair centers because there are so many Synthetics, but most have then have illegal things going on in the back these days,” Taehyung continued.

It was a bit unnerving for him to be talking about such things while they were walking along the streets on their way to Bangtan, the sun beating down a gentle heat on their shoulders, and Yoongi seeming very comfortable despite the fact that he was clearly undercover and illegally so.

The streets, though, made Hoseok uncomfortable.

They’d passed so many Synthetics, all of them mindlessly following the people who thought they owned them. It was funny how drastically Hoseok’s opinion on them had changed, but he was glad for the change. He saw how he was wrong to be afraid of them before, and how he was wrong to dislike them. Synthetics weren’t creepy or scary. They just…were. Like anybody else.

They were just trapped.

“Is it safe to be walking down the street?” Hoseok asked.

“Yeah. I mean, mostly, I guess. Especially since it’s daylight,” Taehyung said with a shrug. “It’s at night when things get sketchier. The first legal brothel, or whatever you wanna call it, opened a few weeks ago. All Synthetics working there. It’s fucked up.”

Hoseok shuddered and shifted closer to Yoongi before interlacing their fingers. Yoongi squeezed Hoseok’s hand gently and flickered his gaze to their surroundings, but it didn’t seem like anything was familiar to him at all. Then again, why should it be? Yoongi likely never left Bangtan before waking up and being sent to Hoseok.

However, maybe memories would resurface when they got there. That would be helpful, especially since Yoongi had probably been to areas where Taehyung hadn’t.

“Oh, I did look up a map of the building last night,” Taehyung said after they’d been walking for a few minutes. “It’s vague as hell, and probably not totally accurate because I’m sure they don’t want us knowing everything, but it could be helpful.”

“Let me see it,” Yoongi requested, holding out his hand. Taehyung dug around in his pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper, which he handed over to Yoongi. Yoongi held the map in one hand and studied it in silence for the rest of the walk, his other hand still holding onto Hoseok’s.

The walk wasn’t too long, but Hoseok found himself looking around on the way, at the people they passed and up at the tall buildings. His head was spinning, and he didn’t know why everything looked so foreign when he used to live here, in Seoul. Somehow, everything felt new, or maybe old in a way that made his skin crawl. Perhaps it was the dread building up in his stomach, mixed with the fluttery sensation of being in love (because he knew he was, no matter how fast things had happened, he just needed to figure out how to tell Yoongi).

Whatever it was that was making Hoseok feel sick, he needed to push it down, ignore it, and help Yoongi get to where he wanted to go. So that’s what he did. He ignored the dread for the rest of the walk, and then Taehyung cleared his throat and came to a stop.

“We’re here,” he said simply as he gestured towards the door to the building they were in front of. Sure enough, Bangtan was across the double doors in simple, black print. It made Hoseok’s dread get worse.

Yoongi, on the other hand, was unfazed, and he pulled Hoseok forward and pushed the doors open. Taehyung clambered after them and the three of them came to a half just inside the doors, eyes wide and curious. The first thing Hoseok was struck with was the smell. It smelled somewhat like a hospital, sickly clean, and also like machinery.

The entryway was bright, blindingly white, like a hospital might be, and there were signs pointing them to either the guest entrance or the employee entrance.

“They all lead to the same thing,” Taehyung said in a low whisper. “You just get guest passes through the guest entrance. I think we should just get them, not try and make a scene before we even get in. I’m a pretty decent hacker and—”

“Since when?”

“Since always. Anyway, I might be able to hack us through security panels and shit like that. Clearly we aren’t going to go for a tour, so we’ll just have to try and sneak around,” Taehyung finished.

“We need to get to the upper levels,” Yoongi said. “Those are the restricted areas.”

Taehyung nodded. “First priority for me is finding my brother, okay? Just so we’re clear.”

Hoseok nodded. What they were doing was a bad idea, possibly one of their worst ideas ever in their lives, because Hoseok and Yoongi didn’t know what they were even looking for. However, they were still heading for the guest entrance, and soon they were stepping through the gates with the passes Taehyung had bought.

They all put the passes around their necks and looked around. There were guards everywhere, as well as men and women in suits along with a plethora of Synthetics. In the back of his mind, Hoseok thought of what a shit show it would be if they suddenly all woke up.

There wasn’t much time to think, though, because Taehyung was leading them through the crowd of people and Hoseok grabbed Yoongi’s hand again to make sure he kept him close. Being in the Bangtan building not only made Hoseok nervous for Yoongi’s sake, but also for his own. Hoseok was glad they had opted not to bring Jimin along, but rather leave him at the apartment, because at least that meant there was one less person to worry about (because no matter what Taehyung believed, Hoseok was pretty sure Jimin was Awake).

It was likely that these people were responsible for the death of his family, but he wasn’t going to confront anyone about it and put Yoongi at risk. They were just here for answers for Yoongi and to find Jungkook. They didn’t even mean any harm or want any trouble.

“Where’re we going?” Hoseok hissed at Taehyung. The three of them were walking far too fast and it looked suspicious, so Hoseok grabbed the back of Taehyung’s shirt with his free hand and forced him to stop.

“I’m looking for the elevator,” Taehyung hissed.

“The elevators won’t get us where we need to go. Not the guest elevators, which are the only ones we will be able to get into without making a scene,” Yoongi said. “We should take the staircase. It goes to every floor, but the doors will require a passcode.”

“How do you know that?” Hoseok asked.

Yoongi blinked at him and shrugged a shoulder. “I believe that…after I woke up, the person who made me attempted to wipe me clean, but that perhaps it didn’t work all the way. That’s why I don’t remember much about my time here. It’s fuzzy, but being here makes things…clearer,” Yoongi explained. “I recall that some elevators don’t go to every floor, but that the staircase does.”

“Okay,” Taehyung said with a small nod. “So where’s the staircase at?”

Yoongi pointed back to the corner of the lobby area, where there was an icon for the staircase. People on tours and people in suits were milling around, but Hoseok could still clearly see the security guard standing at the entrance to the staircase. If it were a Synthetic, that would be easier to deal with, but they would have to make it work.

The three of them headed towards the staircase entrance, and when they got there, the security guard gave them all an obvious onceover. “Can I help you?” he asked, clearly not amused with their presence.

“Yeah,” Hoseok said, thinking fast. “My boyfriend has a fear of elevators, so we were wondering if we could take the stairs instead, we don’t want him to vomit and make a mess, you know?”

“Take them where?”

“Cafeteria,” Taehyung interjected. “Third floor, right?”

The guard nodded and eyed Yoongi, who Hoseok was holding hands with. People that had a problem with boys who liked boys got under Hoseok’s skin to a very high degree, but he was half hoping this guy would have a slight problem with it so he wouldn’t follow them as they took the stairs.

“Yeah. You can’t go up past the fourth floor. Scan your guest passes at each door and it’ll open for you. Don’t fuck around.”

“You got it,” Hoseok said with a thumbs up as the guard stepped aside, albeit with hesitation.

The first door to the staircase opened without a problem, but as soon as it closed behind them, Hoseok became very aware of the cameras in the corner of the ceiling and the fact that they were obviously being watched. Of course, there wasn’t much they could do about it, so they continued on up the stairs. Up and up and up and up.

They passed the exit to the fourth floor, Taehyung was breathing a bit harder, but Yoongi was unfazed and kept going until they’d reached the exit to the sixth floor, which was a heavy looking door with a card scanner and a key pad off to the side.

“I can probably get us through, maybe fuck with the wires, but I don’t know how long it would take, since we shouldn’t linger here with the cameras on us,” Taehyung said. His voice was shaking.

“I can—I think I know the passcode,” Yoongi said. His voice was soft and uncertain. “I think I remembering seeing…Namjoon put it in.”

“That’s his name, the guy who made you?”

“Yeah, that’s him,” Taehyung said, and then nudged Yoongi’s shoulder. “Just try it, try putting in the code. We don’t exactly have tons of options here and I’m honestly not so confident in my hacking abilities when it comes to this place.”

Yoongi nodded and stepped up to the key pad. Hoseok supposed one could either scan their employee ID or type in a code. Hopefully they wouldn’t have to do both, because they obviously didn’t have an employee ID to scan.  

While Yoongi hovered over the key pad, Taehyung stood at the top of the stairs and made sure no one was coming. The keypad seemed to require six numbers, and Hoseok held his breath while Yoongi punched in their first one. And then the second, and then he was punching in the last number and pressing enter.

There was a moment of silence, when suddenly a red light flashed on the keypad and there was a loud ‘error’ type noise and an automated female voice spoke, “Access denied, please reenter the correct code. Three incorrect tries will result in a call to security to assist you.”

“Fuck,” Yoongi cursed under his breath and then he closed his eyes. And then he punched in another code. Hoseok’s throat felt tight and he braced himself for another loud noise, for near certain defeat, but it never came. Instead, there was a soft chime and a green light and the sound of the door clicking open.

Access granted.”

“Holy shit,” Taehyung said. “You actually did it.”

“Yeah, now let’s go before someone comes up here,” Hoseok said and pushed the door open. The three of them pushed through and then they were standing in a long, luckily empty, hallway.

Yoongi was looking this way and that, but he seemed suddenly lost and Hoseok placed his hand on his lower back in comfort. “Let’s just start walking,” Taehyung said. “We shouldn’t stay in one place.”

The upper levels weren’t mapped out for them, unfortunately, so they ended up walking through doorways and creeping into rooms when they heard someone coming. It was surprisingly pretty deserted, though, but maybe it was because so few people were allowed in the upper levels. Or maybe all the workers were preoccupied with the recent shooting and whatever else was going on that Hoseok and Yoongi might not have even been aware of.

“Maybe we should try the seventh floor,” Taehyung whispered. “We aren’t finding anything here.”

“No. This is the right floor,” Yoongi said confidently. “I know this is it, it’s familiar here.”

At that, Yoongi started off with more purpose down the hallway that seemed endless and Hoseok and Taehyung just followed him blindly. They could have been going in circles, Hoseok had no idea, everything just looked white and smelled weird. However, Yoongi seemed to know where he was going, or at least what he was looking for.

“We should split up,” Taehyung said. “I want to find Jungkook. He’s probably not even on this floor, anyway. I don’t know where interns are allowed, I should have just fucking asked for him.”

“We are not splitting up,” Hoseok argued. “Have you ever seen a horror movie? Splitting up is the worst thing you could possibly do.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll have you know that—”

“The cameras on this hallway are not on,” Yoongi suddenly said. Hoseok followed his gaze up to the corner of the ceiling, where sure enough, the little red light indicating the cameras were on, was off. “They are not working.”

“Why?” Hoseok and Taehyung both asked.

“I don’t know. I think—”

Yoongi was promptly cut off by a door down the hall opening. They all three tensed, but it didn’t last long because a clear voice rang out down the hallway that made their shoulders relax. “I have to pee! Like really bad! I’ve been in here doing all this crap for hours man, I must relieve my bladder!”

It was none other than Jungkook himself, standing there outside the door in a button down shirt and slacks, hair messy and eyes tired, but a goofy smile on his face anyway as he spoke to someone who was still in the room he had just exited. Taehyung, apparently not aware of subtlety, instantly called Jungkook’s name when he realized it was him and barreled down the hallway at full speed.

Hoseok cringed at the loudness, and Jungkook actually yelped, but he didn’t have much time for anything else because Taehyung was on him, arms wrapped around his brother in a tight hug. But then, he pulled away abruptly and whacked Jungkook on the back of the head, and Yoongi giggled.

“You couldn’t have called me?” Taehyung shouted. “I was freaking out! I thought you’d died!”

“First of all, ow! Second of all, if I had died, I would have come back as a ghost and haunted you, so obviously that wasn’t the case! I was doing important things!” Jungkook protested.

Hoseok and Yoongi walked down the hall and met them, and Hoseok craned his neck to peer into the room Jungkook had come out of.

“Well, you can’t just disappear and not come home, I was worried,” Taehyung said. “What’re you even doing here?”

“Helping the one and only Kim Namjoon with very top secret things,” Jungkook said. But then his face changed and he looked slightly concerned. “Wait. How’re you here?”

“Me,” Yoongi said, waving at Jungkook.

Jungkook’s eyes got big as he recognized Yoongi, and he instantly started shouting about ‘No way you’re Awake!’ and Hoseok had to shush him. All the mayhem calmed down for a moment, though, because someone in the room appeared from a spot that Hoseok hadn’t been able to see from his position.

It was a man, or rather, a guy Hoseok’s own age, maybe. He was tall and tan with brown hair and eyes that looked just as tired as Jungkook’s. He also looked a bit worried mixed with irritation. Since Hoseok had previously stayed away from all things Synthetics, he didn’t know much about their creator. However, the guy in front of them all did look familiar. Hoseok recalled seeing his face on the news when Synthetics were first coming out, but he never really did interviews. Of course he knew about the recluse rumors that were mentioned, about how he never left Bangtan. Most of Bangtan’s promotion was done by managers or people that looked kind of scary, like the ones who had come to Hoseok’s house when his neighbors were killed.

“Who are all of you?” the guy, Kim Namjoon, asked.

“Did you wake up Hoseok’s neighbor’s Synth?” Taehyung was asking Jungkook, ignoring Kim Namjoon.

“Oh. Shit, yeah I did. Why?”

Taehyung looked ready to start shouting again (and Hoseok was a little bit, too), but then Yoongi stepped out from behind Hoseok so Kim Namjoon could see him. His face looked scared, a bit, but also open and ready. And when he spoke, his voice was hopeful. “Namjoon?”

Everyone was quiet for a long moment, as recognition crossed Kim Namjoon’s features. “Holy shit,” he breathed. “Y—Yoongi?”

Hoseok felt happy. Happy when Yoongi’s face broke out into a smile of relief and he stepped into the room and Kim Namjoon pulled him into a tense, awkward little hug that must have been a bit weird, but when they separated Kim Namjoon looked so…proud. Not even of himself, but of Yoongi, and that was really…sweet.

“Oh, you guys know each other?” Jungkook asked. “Rad.”

Kim Namjoon looked back at all of them and then his face got all worried again and he waved his hands into the room. “Come inside.”

~

at Bangtan

There were far too many people in his work space.

Jungkook was enough of a presence, but his brother made it worse. They were loud, but also kind of funny, and Jungkook still went back to work on the computer, while Taehyung said things to him, asked about what was going on. Jungkook told Taehyung about how Namjoon was ‘fucking with the cameras’ and that was likely why they hadn’t been caught.

Hoseok, who had quickly introduced himself to Namjoon, seemed like a nice guy, and he had a polite smile, and he was standing very close to Yoongi. Namjoon made the questions quick and brief, and Hoseok explained that Yoongi had been sent to him, and that he was Awake and how they both wanted answers.

“I wanted answers for him. I—I suspect Bangtan is involved in my family’s death, but that isn’t why we’re here. We’re here for Yoongi.”

Namjoon could see it, the concern in Hoseok’s eyes for Yoongi. Namjoon had that once, for Yoongi, too, but not in the same way Hoseok did. Namjoon cared for Yoongi like a brother, or maybe a son. It wasn’t the same way Namjoon felt about Seokjin, either. He foolishly could say that he loved Seokjin, somehow…someway.

Regardless, Namjoon apologized for the death of Hoseok’s family, told him that Bangtan had become ruthless in the past years and that now that he knew what he knew about the Blue Virus, he suspected they knew too. He suspected that they wanted to put an end to it.

“I don’t—I didn’t even know Yoongi was Awake. I have no idea how I did it,” Namjoon admitted to Hoseok. Yoongi wasn’t paying much attention, instead, he was standing in front of Seokjin, who was staring forward as if Yoongi weren’t there at all. “I have been trying to wake up Seokjin, he was the first Synthetic that ever existed, but…for whatever reason I couldn’t get it right. Everything I was doing was failing.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Yoongi said softly. “It doesn’t matter how you woke me up.”

Hoseok raised an eyebrow and Namjoon turned to look at Yoongi, standing in front of Seokjin. And he didn’t need to ask Yoongi what he meant, because he could see the look of concern on Yoongi’s face—the emotion, real actual emotion—and he understood. Namjoon understood when Hoseok moved over to Yoongi and wrapped his arms around him from behind and whispered something in his ear, something that sounded like ‘I’ll stay, I promise’ and Namjoon knew that what he had been trying to do was worth it.

It didn’t matter how he’d woken Yoongi up, it just mattered that he did.

Because Namjoon may have been a recluse, but he wasn’t blind, and he could see that Yoongi, whoever he was now, cared about Hoseok and vice versa. There was something beautiful between them, and there could be beautiful things all over in every Synthetic.

If Jungkook would hurry the fuck up.

“I am sure you have more questions,” Namjoon said. “But actually, we were working on something here.”

“Well, I’m not leaving until Kook is,” Taehyung said firmly, arms crossed. Maybe he didn’t quite trust Namjoon, but Namjoon didn’t blame him, he had intercepted his brother and didn’t let him leave.

“I didn’t say you had to,” Namjoon muttered. “But we are planning on waking up Synthetics everywhere, as soon as Jungkook here finished perfecting the Blue Virus code so that it will be suitable to be sent out for mass download all over the world.”

“Shit man, don’t say it like that, it makes it scary,” Jungkook muttered. “And I still have to pee.”

“Well, it’s also probably important to mention that you’ll likely be a criminal after this. As will I. And anyone else in this room.”

“Well thank fuck we have Jimin back home, he won’t be one since he isn’t here,” Jungkook said to Taehyung.

“Jimin is a Synth, idiot, and if you’re waking them up and he wakes up, he’ll be a criminal too,” Taehyung pointed out, to which Jungkook waved his hands in the air like that was irrelevant.

Namjoon just sighed and sat back down at his computer. Yoongi turned away from Seokjin and looked around the lab, Hoseok still pressed against him. “Is there anything I can do to help?” Yoongi asked. “I mean—I think Seokjin was my friend.”

“How could he be? You couldn’t form friendships,” Namjoon said curiously.

“Yeah, but…I was with him all the time. I care about what happens to him.”

“Yeah…me too,” Namjoon murmured.

“Well, I think the code is good,” Jungkook said. “But this computer won’t be able to send it out in a mass like you want it to.”

“Why?” Namjoon stood and examined all that Jungkook had done, but all that was on the computer screen was the file explorer open to one single file, titled SuckOnThisBangtan. Namjoon resisted the urge to roll his eyes and looked at Jungkook for answers.

“It’s a big ass file, dude,” Jungkook said. “You’ll need like…a conduit.”

“Like what kind of conduit?” Taehyung asked. “Like a Synth?”

Jungkook shrugged and nodded. “That would work. I could download the file into a Synth and once it was in their code, Namjoon would be able to check that it was fit for others and send it out. Isn’t that how the updates usually work? You start with one and send them out to the rest through that one Synth?” Jungkook asked. “Because that was what I always assumed. That you had test bunnies, so to speak. But like, slightly less gross than animal cruelty.”

“So, we use Seokjin,” Namjoon said.

Jungkook hummed, made a noise and disapproval and shook his head. Namjoon had a sudden pang of guilt for dragging this kid into everything because he was clearly very smart. He could have gone far, but once they went through with everything, he wasn’t going to be able to go anywhere. Of course, Namjoon would be the main person Bangtan would be after, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t be able to figure out that Jungkook was in on everything too.

And once they found about Jungkook, they would find out about Taehyung, and their Synthetic Jimin and then about Hoseok and Yoongi, who were in love and didn’t deserve to have that taken away from them. Not to mention the fact that all Synthetics would be Awake and most people wouldn’t be okay with that. There would be endless battles.

“Seokjin would be okay, maybe, but it would be better if the Synth were already Awake, because that way it would go faster and the update would just go through them and be ready to be sent out for the mass update. If we did it through Seokjin, he’s going to have to update and it’s gonna take a long time, him being the first,” Jungkook explained.

“What’s the catch?” Namjoon asked.

“Catch? No catch.”

“Bullshit, there’s always a catch,” Taehyung said.

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll do it,” Yoongi said. “I want to do it.”

Namjoon saw the look that crossed Hoseok’s face. It was fear. He was afraid for Yoongi.

“Not until we know what the catch is,” Hoseok said. “I didn’t come here to lose you. I came here—we came here to get you answers, and you just said you didn’t want them, so…so we can just go, Yoon. We can go home.”

“No. I want to help.”

Hoseok’s eyes closed and he took a deep breath. “I know. Me too, baby, but—not if it means you could get hurt.”

“It’s not your choice. It’s mine,” Yoongi said firmly, but he still leaned in close and the two of them spoke softly for a few moments before Hoseok was nodding in agreement. And then Yoongi was watching Jungkook, waiting for his next instructions. Jungkook, however, just rolled his eyes.

“Okay, fine, I can’t withhold information and be able to sleep at night. If Bangtan, or anyone really who has enough knowledge of Synths, gets a hold of a Synth who is Awake after the update, or who woke up because of the update…they’ll be able to trace the update back to—back to Yoongi.”

“No.” Hoseok’s voice was angry, clear, and it made Namjoon flinch. “No fucking way, you’re not doing it. They’ll come for him, I won’t—I can’t—”

“Hoseokie,” Yoongi’s voice was soft, kind, and it made Namjoon tense. “I want to do this. Please. We…I can run. I’ll be okay. Please don’t fight me.”

They argued for several minutes, but Namjoon knew before it was even over that Hoseok would cave, no matter the consequences, because he loved Yoongi and he wanted Yoongi to do what Yoongi felt he needed to do. It was all that ‘if you love someone, let them go’ bullshit.

So when Namjoon found himself hooking Yoongi up to the computer he glanced back at Hoseok, who looked close to tears. “Can you get this for a second?” Namjoon asked Jungkook, who nodded. While Jungkook hooked Yoongi up, Namjoon walked over to Hoseok and placed his hand gently on his shoulder. “I know you don’t know me, and maybe don’t trust me, but…I care about him too.”

“Then why did you wipe him and send him away? Why’re you letting him do this?” Hoseok asked. “You don’t even know him anymore. You just want him to do it because it’ll get you to your end goal…”

“I didn’t know he was Awake,” Namjoon answered calmly. “And it seems like something he wants, not just something I want. I know this is going fast, and I’m sure you didn’t expect for this to happen when you came here, but we do need to move fast and I feel as if you’re trustworthy people, people on the right side. I’m sure you were picked up on some cameras, sneaking around. Someone could be here any moment looking for me or you or anyone. We need to be quick and—”

“And then they’ll just find us. Find Yoongi. They’ll kill him.”

“No they won’t,” Namjoon assured him. “I think I may have a way around them being able to track him, although, you may not like it, but it’s still something.”

Hoseok just scowled and turned away, and Namjoon knew there was nothing he could say that would make things better. And he didn’t think Hoseok was really angry, he was just scared. There was something about Hoseok that reminded Namjoon of himself.

“It’ll be okay,” Jungkook said to Hoseok and Yoongi, who were now crammed into one chair, Yoongi hooked up to the computer in Hoseok’s lap. “You won’t feel anything, since you’re already Awake. Think of it as getting a vaccine.”

“I have not ever had a vaccine,” Yoongi deadpanned.

“Right. Well. Just relax.”

Namjoon chewed his bottom lip. He glanced back at Seokjin and smiled, even though Seokjin couldn’t see it yet. But he would be able to soon.

~

If Hoseok knew one thing, it was that he didn’t know shit about computers or whatever the hell Jungkook was actually doing. He supposed he sort of dragged the file over to Yoongi’s code or Yoongi’s make-up, which seemed suspicious, but whatever, the kid was smart. Mostly, Hoseok just tucked his face into Yoongi’s neck and waited.

Waited while Namjoon explained to everyone in the room that the Synthetics wouldn’t all wake up as soon as he sent the update out. Jungkook agreed, saying it would take some time for it to reach all Synthetics and actually download, like maybe a day or two.

Waited while Jungkook eventually stepped away from the computer he was working at and let Namjoon take his place. Yoongi was just humming softly to himself, happy and unconcerned, and Hoseok wished he could be too, but he couldn’t wrap his head around how he’d gotten tied up in all this. It was stupid and foolish but…but maybe it was what his sister would have wanted. If anything, it was what Yoongi wanted.

And so he waited.

It all seemed to take hours, and his legs felt a bit numb, but realistically it must have only taken a few minutes for Namjoon to wrap up whatever he was doing.

“What’re you going to say to him, when he wakes up?” Taehyung was asking Namjoon, gesturing over at the Synthetic, Seokjin, against the wall.

The answer Namjoon gave was simple. “I’m going to tell him ‘thank you’.”

“Me too,” Yoongi said, with his signature gummy smile. “For being there, you know, even if we couldn’t talk to each other.”

“So like, for real, I have to pee, so I’ll be right back,” Jungkook interjected, promptly killing the moment. Hoseok watched him skip out of the room, and then watched Namjoon hit one more key on the keyboard before unplugging the cord that was connecting Yoongi to said computer. Yoongi pulled the cord out of his back and shifted in Hoseok’s hold.

“It’s done,” Namjoon said.

“That’s it? Nothing happened,” Hoseok said nervously, but his eyes flickered over to Seokjin, but he was still motionless.

“No, nothing happened yet,” Namjoon corrected. “It won’t all happen within seconds.”

“Well, then can we all just, like, get the hell out of here? The smell in this place is making me sick and I rather not get thrown in jail,” Taehyung said.

“Yeah, just, give me a second,” Namjoon said.

At that point, Hoseok tuned them out and shifted Yoongi in his lap so he could kiss him on the mouth. Taehyung might have gagged or something, but it didn’t matter, and Hoseok spoke shakily, but honestly against Yoongi’s lips. “Maybe I don’t agree with this, with you doing it, at least, but I am proud of you.”

“I’m not goin’ anywhere,” Yoongi whispered. “Stop acting like you’re saying goodbye.”

He was right, this didn’t mean it was the end, but it felt like it was, somehow, and Hoseok wanted to commit Yoongi to memory. His cold skin and pretty eyes and his snarky personality, and their time together, the way he had ironically been the one to wake Hoseok up. And, of course, his bravery.

There wasn’t much time for committing it all to memory, though, because a few moments later, the door to the room they were in opened and Jungkook stood there looking a bit frantic. “Um, so like, I hear footsteps coming and someone was shouting and they sounded angry, but I don’t know what about, but I’m thinking we should get the hell out of here.”

Namjoon cursed and seemed to throw a glance at the other computer where Hoseok figured he was monitoring the cameras. “Shit, shit, the cameras are back up in the hallway. We have to go now.”

It was a mess. Namjoon made Seokjin follow him, and of course Seokjin obeyed, but the six of them were all scrambling an pushing each other out the door and then running down the hall in the opposite direction of where the voices were coming from. Hoseok’s head was spinning and he was holding Yoongi’s hand and they were just dragging each other down the hallway while Hoseok just kept thinking ‘we’re going to die, we’re going to die, we’re going to die’ over and over and he had no idea what was going on.

Maybe he was panicking.

He was probably panicking.

The shouting just sounded like ringing in his ears and the only thing grounding him was Yoongi’s hand. It was very much like the moment he found out his family was dead. When he had gotten the phone call from the police department, telling him there had been an accident. He remembered the ringing sound in his ears and his heart pounding in his chest and everything becoming a blur around him. Nothing made sense, he just knew he wanted to run. Just like now.

Then, he’d wanted to run home, he wanted to run away from everyone and everything. Now, he wanted to do the same, but with Yoongi. At the same time, he also wanted to run to something greater. He wanted to be there in whatever the next step was in waking up the Synthetics. And that conflict, it was only making the panic worse.

“I know a back exit,” Namjoon said, and Hoseok just followed.

Followed, followed, followed, until they were stumbling down a staircase and he couldn’t get air into his lungs.

“Breathe, Hoseok, you have to breathe.”

That was Yoongi. Or maybe Taehyung. Taehyung knew he had anxiety sometimes, but he was pretty sure that was Yoongi’s voice. He was pretty sure it was Yoongi holding him up and making sure he kept moving.

And when light suddenly hit their eyes, Hoseok felt like a weight was lifted off his chest, until of course, he remembered that they hadn’t come in a car, but rather walked. But when Hoseok looked around, he saw that they were in a back parking lot of sorts, and the sun was shining, but Namjoon looked just as panicked as Hoseok did, and it might have been because he rarely left the building, if at all. He could have been inside for years up until now.

They were all just kids, really. They didn’t know how to handle what was going on. The people that would be after them had power. The only thing they had was a loose connection to each other.

“I can hotwire a car,” Taehyung announced. “Wanna come back to my place, Mister Kim Namjoon The Great? It’s not much, but we can hide out for a bit?”

Hoseok watched Namjoon nod blindly.

Hoseok heard Seokjin speak, “Mister Kim, where are we going?”

Hoseok tried to hang onto Yoongi tighter.

Hoseok opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out.

And then.

And then Hoseok passed out.

~

Hotwiring cars had been something that Hoseok once found sexy about Taehyung. It made him a little bit dangerous and exciting and even though Hoseok wasn’t keen on things being scary, he did like a bit of adventure in his life.

There was a different kind of adventure about Yoongi. It wasn’t the chaotic kind of adventure, it was more of a gentle adventure. An adventure that had good intentions, but also consequences that could be catastrophic. The good though, that was keeping Hoseok grounded.

Yoongi was good.

Good, and whispering softly into Hoseok’s ear as they drove back to Taehyung’s apartment.

Hoseok blinked and groaned as the world came back into focus around him. He didn’t need to ask what happened, it was pretty obvious. At least they were in a moment of safety, even if he was crammed against the window with Yoongi next to him, Jungkook next to Yoongi, and Seokjin on the other side of Jungkook. Taehyung was driving and Namjoon was in the passenger seat and the car was going slow because they were parking in the garage for Taehyung’s building with a stolen car.

Great.

The day was going fantastically.

“You’re okay, Hoseokie,” Yoongi said softly. “We’re home now.”

“Well, my home,” Taehyung corrected. “And now that there will be seven people in there, you two are not allowed to fuck or jack each other off in my shower.”

“Gross. Good thing I can wash myself in the sink,” Jungkook muttered.

“Hell, Hoseok could have fucked him on the bathroom counter for all I know,” Taehyung said.

“Please shut up, my head is throbbing,” Hoseok groaned.

“Hopefully your actual head and not your—”

Yoongi punched Jungkook in the arm. He shut up.

Not for long, of course, he chatted everyone’s ears off after they parked and were heading up to the apartment. Hoseok wasn’t sure what the hell he was talking about, but it was probably about the Synthetics, about how everything was going to change, but it was everything Hoseok had already thought about, so he didn’t listen.

Really, he wanted to collapse onto the couch and curl up against Yoongi and sleep, even though it was still pretty early in the day. Sleep sounded great.

When they got to the apartment, though, and Taehyung pushed the door open, one thing happened that made Hoseok momentarily forget about being so tired. It was Jimin, who jolted up from the couch with wide eyes. Of course, Hoseok knew he was already Awake (where Seokjin still wasn’t) and Jungkook’s face lit up when they saw each other. Jungkook practically pushed Taehyung and Namjoon out of his way as he ran over to Jimin and embraced him in the tight hug.

“I was worried about you,” Jimin said. “Why’d you just disappear like that?”

“We did it,” Jungkook said. “We actually did it this time. We just gotta wait now.”

The look on Jimin’s face was so full of hope, and Hoseok felt Yoongi lean into him. They had each other, like Jungkook had Jimin and vice versa, but of course, not all Synthetics would have someone. Most would soon be alone, and afraid, but that was going to have to be part of the struggle.

“So, power outlets are over there,” Taehyung said to Namjoon as the apartment door clicked shut. “Anyone who needs to charge can charge, and the kitchen is there, so anyone who needs to eat can eat.”

“We can’t stay here for long, you know? They’ll find us,” Namjoon replied.

“I know. But we can sleep here for the night, I think. They’re going to have other priorities other than trying to track down a few stupid kids. It’s going to take them a bit to figure out what we did, right? Seokjin hasn’t woken up yet and I doubt they’re already tracking Yoongi. I’ll keep watch, I can get into the building’s camera systems,” Taehyung said, and patted Namjoon reassuringly on the shoulder. “Relax, man, it’ll be fine.”

Jungkook and Jimin sure seemed to think it would be fine, too. They were now huddled together on the couch, speaking in hushed tones, and Hoseok was fairly certain that Jimin had been Awake for longer than he thought. Perhaps Jungkook and Taehyung just taught him how to fake it, but his bright blue eyes were still on full display and it made Hoseok remember Yoongi’s contacts.

“Hey, we’ll be right back,” Hoseok said, but everyone was pretty preoccupied, since Namjoon was hooking Seokjin up to a power outlet and Taehyung was looking for food.

So, Hoseok pulled Yoongi down the hallway into the small bathroom and closed the door behind them.

“I’m gonna be okay, Hoseokie,” Yoongi said before Hoseok could speak.

Hoseok just shook his head and brushed his thumb over Yoongi’s cheek while Yoongi leaned back against the sink. “I know you will be, you don’t gotta keep reminding me. I…I brought you in here because I wanted to tell you…that you can take those contacts out now. Just—just be yourself, I don’t want you to have to hide.”

And so, the contacts came out, one at a time, dropped into the small trash can and forgotten about. Yoongi’s true eyes, bright blue and beautiful, blinked at Hoseok and sparkled. “That’s better. They made my eyes itchy,” Yoongi said.

“I love you,” Hoseok blurted out, mouth working before his brain because who confessed their love in the fucking bathroom.

However...

Did it really matter?

Hoseok didn’t think it did.

The color blue often had an association with sadness. ‘I’m feeling blue,’ people often said. The color had a melancholy cloud around it, but Hoseok didn’t agree with all that stigma. Blue was beautiful, like the sky on a sunny day or the sea and its gentle waves. Blue was the color of Yoongi’s eyes, which were bright and deep, even if Yoongi claimed not to be fond of the color. Blue still wasn’t melancholy, it was new life and endless hope.

Because Yoongi had saved Hoseok, somehow, and his eyes were blue and Hoseok wanted to lose himself in those eyes.

“Love me?” Yoongi whispered, a question.

“Y—Yes,” Hoseok nodded, felt Yoongi’s hands on his waist. “I love you, Yoongi.”

I love your eyes, and your strength and bravery, and I love that you aren’t ashamed of who you are. I love your curiosity for the world, that you aren’t afraid to ask for what you want and I love your hands and your selflessness. I love your passion, your intensity, and I love the way it feels to have you close to me. I love that I want to keep loving you, forever, if I could. I love that I want to know more, want to have more time with you. I love you.

“I love you, too, Hoseok,” Yoongi said. “I—I’m so glad that I’m able to love you. Out of everything that I can do…my favorite thing is that I can love you.”

Hoseok giggled, and then Yoongi did too, because yeah, it was cheesy and sappy, but neither of them minded because it was also nice and it was true, what Yoongi said, Hoseok knew. So they kissed, soft and gentle and unhurried, even though something kept nagging at the back of Hoseok’s mind.

Something that was telling Hoseok that he still sounded like he was saying goodbye.

~

Seokjin woke up in the middle of the night.

Taehyung was asleep in his room, and Namjoon took the floor in there. Jungkook and Jimin were asleep in Jungkook’s room (or rather Jungkook was asleep while Jimin just laid there with his eyes closed), while Hoseok and Yoongi were on the couch. Seokjin was against the wall in the living room, a few feet away from Hoseok and Yoongi, charging, when he suddenly started screaming.

It woke everyone up, and it took Namjoon almost an hour to calm him down completely, with Yoongi’s help. Likely, it was more Yoongi that calmed Seokjin down than Namjoon, but that was understandable. On the other hand, it wasn’t Yoongi who stayed by Seokjin’s side for the rest of the night. That was Namjoon.

Morning came quick, and Taehyung shook Hoseok awake. Yoongi was sitting on the end of the couch, watching the news, and Hoseok rubbed his eyes. Everyone was woken up, milling around the living room, but they all seemed to be a bit on edge.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” Taehyung asked.

Hoseok groaned, but nodded and stood, kissing Yoongi once on the top of the head before following Taehyung into the kitchen. “How are things going this morning?”

Taehyung grunted and shrugged a shoulder. He looked beyond tired. “I stayed up most of the night monitoring the cameras. The news is reporting on odd behavior of Synthetics around the world, but it hasn’t blown up yet. No one wants to admit what they know is true. But…it’s starting.”

Hoseok nodded. “So, what do we do?”

“Well, firstly, we don’t confess our love for people in the bathroom,” Taehyung said, to which Hoseok rolled his eyes.

“I hate you.”

“You’re lucky you’re good looking, because if you had confessed to me in my bathroom, I would have kicked you in the balls.”

“Well, Yoongi is more civilized than that.”

“I doubt it. He’s just smitten with you.”

“Whatever, Tae, can we just be serious?”

Taehyung sighed and shifted on his feet. “Namjoon hyung says he knows of places we can go, either together or separately, but that we should head out soon. Sticking around could be risky, since Bangtan is probably aware of what’s going on by now, even if everyone else isn’t just yet.”

“They’ll just follow us, if Yoongi comes, though, won’t they?” Hoseok asked. “They can just track him.”

“About that…Namjoon has a solution, but it’s kind of a shitty one.”

“Tell me.”

Taehyung shook his head. “I’ll let him explain it to you. But if you want to do it, you should do it now, because we really should leave.”

Taehyung didn’t even give Hoseok a chance to argue, he just walked out of the kitchen and off to his bedroom to pack, probably. Hoseok closed his eyes and took a deep breath before going back to join Yoongi on the couch again. Only a second passed before Seokjin and Namjoon sat on the edge of the coffee table in front of them.

There was a gentle smile on Seokjin’s face, and he bowed slightly in his seated position. “It’s nice to meet you, Hoseok. Yoongi told me good things about you.”

“Oh. Yeah. I heard you guys were…friends?”

Seokjin nodded. “I don’t know how, but…I remember things, of being with him through the beginning. So I suppose that, yes, we are friends. That being said, Namjoon has told me about his situation, or rather, all of our situations.”

“We can take Yoongi with us,” Namjoon interjected. “If you want. It’ll be harder to run, but I could try and figure out a way to take the tracking off. I could take a while, and it’s not…not really tracking. It’s a trace.”

Hoseok stared and nodded like he understood, even though he didn’t.

“Or?” Yoongi asked.

“You…you are essentially a computer,” Namjoon said, diving right in. “I created Synthetics with the intent that if their body got damaged, I could reinstall everything that makes them, them, into a new body, either one that looked the same, or one that didn’t, doesn’t matter. Of course, as you know, a Synthetic can die, if there are irrevocably damaged, just like humans. However, they don’t heal exactly like humans do, which is why if they are just badly ‘injured’, so to speak, they can be put into a new body.”

“What’re you saying?” Hoseok asked,

“I’m saying that the trace that’s on Yoongi is in a chip, essentially, that’s a part of his body, not his brain. They can’t trace his personality, and feelings, and what makes him, him,” Namjoon explained. “So, if we downloaded him into another body, he can come with us without them tracing him back to whatever location he’s in.”

“We don’t—we don’t have another body,” Yoongi said. “And I kinda like this one.”

“Me too.”

“I—yeah, I know. That’s the unfortunate part,” Namjoon began with a sigh.

Yoongi put his hand on Hoseok’s thigh as Namjoon spoke.

He went on to explain that they could put Yoongi, or what made Yoongi, Yoongi, into a laptop computer. His body would be an empty shell, but everything that he was would be okay, safe, and maybe they would be able to return him to a body sometime soon (although that sounded like bullshit because Namjoon had no access to his lab and no means to make a new body for Yoongi). Otherwise, he would still be safe inside the computer, and Hoseok would be able to talk to him through typing, like a chat box, and Yoongi wouldn’t be dead. Because if they did get ahold of him, Bangtan would likely kill him.

To Hoseok, it seemed like a lose-lose situation.

“I’m putting everyone else in danger if I don’t do it,” Yoongi said.

“Yeah, but—”

“I think the lot of us should stick together,” Namjoon said. “Splitting up sounds like a shit idea, especially since we’ve started this whole…thing. Synthetics might need somewhere to go and we could…help? I know I’m getting ahead of myself, I apologize. I just think that Yoongi being with us is a liability.”

“I’ll do it. If I need to do it, I’ll do it,” Yoongi said. “What do you think, Hoseok?”

“I think it’s bullshit,” Hoseok said sternly. “I mean it’s already done, they can’t undo it. Why do we even have to do this?”

“Because they’ll still get rid of us, if they can. Just out of anger.”

Fine. Let’s just do whatever we need to do. No one cares what I think anyway.”

It’s not ever going to be my choice, Hoseok thought. So let’s just do it.

~

Action: Power
>Mode
>>Off

~

They had to power Yoongi off. They hooked him up to Hoseok’s laptop, which he had brought with him, and Namjoon did all the technical shit while Hoseok watched. The computer screen went black and then a loading bar popped up.

And the loading went slow.

If a watched pot never boiled, then a watched loading bar never finished loading.

Worse, Yoongi was just slumped on the couch and he looked dead, but Hoseok supposed everything was slowly leaving his body and going into the computer. It all just seemed fucked up to Hoseok, but he was forcing himself not to cry.

He wasn’t paying attention to anything anyone else was doing either, but he barely registered that Taehyung and Jungkook were taking packed bags down to the parking garage and putting them into some car or another. They were getting ready to leave. Hell, they were probably ready to leave, and Hoseok was the one holding everyone up because he was waiting for Yoongi to finish…downloading.

The whole made Hoseok sick, honestly. He understood that Yoongi’s body wasn’t Yoongi, but at the same time, it was. Yoongi didn’t seem much like he wanted to leave his body to go into a fucking laptop anyway, but who would?

Life was unfair, but Hoseok already knew this.

However, life was also a fucking joke, because while he was watching the loading bar, and it was nearly done, just a few more minutes, Jungkook started shouting.

“We have to go now!” was what Hoseok heard. He saw Jungkook looking at Taehyung’s laptop out of the corner of his eye. “They’re in the lobby of the building. We need to take the fire exit or the back elevator or something, I don’t know, but we need to go now!”

“No,” Hoseok said, jaded and a bit unconcerned at that point. “Yoongi isn’t finished.”

“We don’t fucking have time!” Jungkook complained, and then he started yelling and arguing with Taehyung and Jimin while Namjoon and Seokjin stood at the doorway, waiting.

Hoseok went back to watching the loading bar. Any second it would be done. Just a little bit more to go.

Everything would be fine.

Yoongi would be fine.

He had time.

“We have to go now, Hoseok!”

Except, Jungkook suddenly slammed the laptop closed and yanked the cord out.

Hoseok screamed.

Actually screamed, loud and anguished, as he pushed Jungkook away, sending him stumbling backwards into the coffee table. Taehyung caught him before the fall became injury worthy, but it didn’t even matter, because the damage was already done.

“What the fuck!” Hoseok shouted. “What did you do?

“We have to—we have to go!” Jungkook shouted back, looking regretful, but also…not.

“Hoseok, it’s gonna be fine,” Namjoon said.

It wasn’t going to be fine.

It was never going to be fine.

Yoongi was slumped on the couch and Hoseok didn’t know if he was still in there, or in the laptop, and it wasn’t going to be fucking fine.

Everyone Hoseok cared about had been ripped away from him and it was everything but fine.

Fine was the complete opposite of how Hoseok felt.

“Maybe it was complete. Maybe he’s in there. We don’t have time to check, we have to go,” Namjoon said.

And so, with no other choice available, Hoseok let them drag him out of the apartment, down the hall, and eventually out into the parking garage where they piled into an unfamiliar car and started off down the road to who-knows-where while Hoseok gripped the laptop in his hands, knuckles white and eyes angry.

Hoseok didn’t know where they were going, but it felt like they were going straight to hell.

Or maybe he was already there.

~

The motel was pretty close to hell.

It was dirty and smelled stale, but it was somewhere to sleep and no Synthetics were working there, and the people weren’t asking any questions. There were televisions in each room (they got two rooms between the six of them) and although they only had a few channels, they did have the news.

On the news, people seemed to finally understand what was happening. More and more Synthetics were getting the update, the Blue Virus, and more and more of them were waking up. The general population seemed confused, but not necessarily afraid. Not yet.

Of course, the fact that everything was just happening, no warning or explanation, meant that someone was going to need to give an explanation, or Synthetics were going to get hurt. The population had essentially just doubled, and no one really knew how to handle it. Not even the six of them, and it was their doing.

Mostly, though, Hoseok wasn’t worried about what was going on with the news. He was, but not as much as he was worried about Yoongi.

Either the download failed, and Yoongi was alone back in Taehyung’s apartment…or at Bangtan…or dead, or the download actually did work and he was in the computer.

Either way, Hoseok had refused to room with Jungkook, as he was undeniably angry with him, and so he roomed with Namjoon and Seokjin instead, while Taehyung, Jungkook, and Jimin took the other room. Namjoon got out the power outlet for the laptop from Hoseok’s bag, and handed it off to him.

“We’ll leave you alone, for a bit,” Namjoon told him. “But, I wanted to say thank you, before we do. For what you did, for bringing Yoongi back, and…and tell him I said thanks too, for what he did.”

“Yeah. Unless he isn’t here,” Hoseok said snappishly.

“He will be,” Namjoon whispered, and then he nodded at Seokjin and they slipped out of the room.

Hoseok was alone.

He plugged in the laptop and opened it. Pushed the power button to bring it out of sleep mode.

When it came on, it didn’t look like his usual home screen anymore, and Hoseok felt like he was going to throw up from nerves. The laptop screen was just black, but Hoseok quickly noticed a cursor in the top right corner of the screen.

Other than that, though, nothing was happening, and it felt like the world was closing in on him.

Although, he did recall that Namjoon had said he could talk to Yoongi by typing.

So, heart in his throat, Hoseok’s fingers hovered over the keyboard before he finally pressed down and typed, fully aware that he may get nothing in return, but he had to have some hope, had to believe that the world would be on his side for once. Just this one time, that was all he asked.

He didn’t need much else, but he did think he needed Yoongi.

Hello?

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Action:
_Send Message

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H

Error

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Hello?

Yoongi? Is that you?

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Hi

Hi

Yoon?

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It’s me.

Don’t cry Hoseokie.

I know you’re

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crying.

I can

see through the

webcam?

Kind of

blurry.

Don’t cry.

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It’s me. I’m

here.

I’m here, Hoseokie.