(Jun 25) Summertime blanketed the woods like a wet towel and smelled similar. It smelled like Yunhyeong mostly, but like Donghyuk when he took the shortcut through the park in the rain. Like moss and the cat Junhoe liked to hang out with near the wooden bench. Like dirt and walked foot trails. Hanbin’s ear twitched, could not stop catching the gentle tune of a guitar played on a balcony somewhere in the nearby neighbourhood. Distant and ghostly. He kept sniffing. The woods smelled plentiful and deep.
He focused, continuing on the search. Donghyuk ran ahead and insisted he knew where he was, where they were when he lost track of him. Hanbin just tried to be the anchor in the dirt as the pack slipped and bounded through it.
“I got him!”
Yunhyeong’s voice sounded like a slipped bow-induced note screeching across the strings of a violin. Hanbin tuned out the distant guitar and hyper-focused on where the voice came from. Jinhwan sped forward from behind him in full-wolf form, though Hanbin was forgoing it for the time being, needed more control over his fine motor functions to feel like a competent expedition leader. He followed as close behind and he could.
They came upon a steep hill, Hanbin barely throwing out an arm in time to keep Junhoe, also in full-wolf form, from tumbling down. Bobby lied at the bottom next to a rock, still in his own wolf skin.
Donghyuk ran up the side of the incline, all juice-diet and core strength and adrenaline, kicking dirt down onto Yunhyeong and Bobby on the ground. Yunhyeong made a scrunching expression. Hanbin hoped Donghyuk was not expecting a compliment for finding Bobby in the same place he dropped him. Jinhwan carefully crawled his way down.
‘Well fuck,’ Junhoe cursed, still in full-wolf form, and Hanbin was startled at the barking sound.
Hanbin made a growling sound in response, and although it did not carry the same lingual significance in a human throat, it conveyed the right feeling. You’re not helping. Junhoe rolled his eyes and licked his snout. He really looked like a punk at the moment, dark hair all spiked up due to the moisture in the air.
“He’s out cold,” Yunhyeong announced. He stood over Bobby in a loose outfit, worn to make the shift easy. “We need to get him some help.”
Chanwoo, in half-wolf form – and loose clothes as well – spoke, “Why is he unconscious? Don’t we have accelerated healing?”
“We’re not superhumans, kid,” Hanbin explained. Chanwoo was still getting the hang of the wolf thing. “He’s probably just lucky to be alive.” Hanbin felt the words catch in his throat, swallowed them harshly. “You need me down there?”
“Depends,” Yunhyeong examined the wolf. He was just lying there, but breathing, and he was wearing a loose shirt and sweatpants with a hole for the tail, so they could be fairly sure it was Bobby. Hanbin was not sure what more there was to find. “Do you think his neck is broken?”
Hanbin’s stomach dropped and he held down the bile. He was outwardly not impressed by the question and all but rolled his eyes. “He’d be dead or disfigured. Hayi taught me that much.”
Yunhyeong nodded, and his lips curled into a contemplative frown as he looked back down at Bobby. Jinhwan took Bobby’s scruff in his mouth and started dragging Bobby towards the steep hill.
“Hey, Jinhwan hyung,” Yunhyeong held out a hand to stop him. “You don’t want him to get hurt even more.”
Jinhwan, the stubborn thing he was, made a gruff sound with his nose and continued backing up, defiantly pulling Bobby along.
Hanbin sighed. “Jinan,” Hanbin called. “Let Yunhyeong and Donghyuk help. One of them will carry him and the other one will push. You’ll pull from the front.”
“Excuse me,” Donghyuk raised his hand. “But does that mean one of us has to have Bobby on top of them? He’s heavy. I don’t want to be the one under him.”
“Relax,” Chanwoo said, crossing his arms. “Hanbin hyung does it all the time.”
Jinhwan’s jaw dropped, and Bobby fell from it, landing limply on the ground. Junhoe literally howled in laughter, and Donghyuk and Yunhyeong slowly broke down as well.
Hanbin heated up in rage, ears and nose twitching irritably. “You know what? Change of plans. Chanwoo, you get to practice the full shift today.”
Chanwoo’s smile fell and his wolf ears drooped.
Hanbin organized the rescue team as best he could. Jinhwan again took Bobby by the scruff at the back of his neck. Yunhyeong changed into his full-wolf form. Chanwoo (full-wolf form) nosed at Bobby’s butt and pushed him onto Yunhyeong’s back while Jinhwan pulled at the other end. Once Bobby was draped over Yunhyeong, Jinhwan continued pulling, helping take some of Bobby’s weight up the hill. Chanwoo stayed behind and pushed Yunhyeong’s butt with the side of his neck, whimpering all the while.
It was quite a sight to see: Three wolves in human loungewear, two only dressed in their fur coat, one in half-wolf form acting as Hanbin’s anxious co-expeditor, one bearing the weight of two wolves by a wolf-butt, all assisting to help an unconscious wolf up a cliff-side. This was Hanbin’s pack. This was his pride and joy.
Once they got a decent amount of the way up the perilous hill, Junhoe pitched in, biting down on Jinhwan’s tail and tugging. It was useless, but at least he tried.
Hanbin held Jinhwan by his scruff, and Donghyuk grabbed Bobby’s fur to help Chanwoo, to assist in pulling him up.
Eventually, the team managed to pull all the werewolves over the edge of the hill and onto elevated ground. Jinhwan smacked Junhoe with a paw and licked at his injured tail. Junhoe nosed at it apologetically and got another paw in the face. Chanwoo walked three steps and collapsed, wheezing and complaining.
Hanbin gave him a supportive but sarcastic pat on the back and said, “Good work, maknae.” Chanwoo huffed.
“Assuming we didn’t just kill him,” Donghyuk spoke, “we really need to get Bobby hyung some help now.”
Hanbin swallowed down his panic again and nodded. “Let’s go, I need to get signal somewhere.”
Jinhwan insisted on carrying Bobby the whole way to the edge of the forest on his own back. At the van, all the wolves (barring Bobby) shifted back into their human forms. Chanwoo got into the van with Donghyuk. Yunhyeong and Junhoe helped to lay Bobby across Donghyuk and Chanwoo’s laps. Hanbin and Junhoe jumped into the middle seats, Yunhyeong called shotgun and Jinhwan hopped into the front seat to drive.
Jinhwan quickly pulled his pants and shirt on, forgoing underwear. “Call Hayi,” he said.
The pack usually just wore loose clothes to make the shift easy – over-sized shirts, baggy sweats, commando – but Jinhwan and Junhoe had run out in a panic when Donghyuk burst in yelling about losing Bobby in the woods, and they just all sort of ran out. While the others were in relaxed clothes, Jinhwan and Junhoe had been dressed up to go out, so they had just left their clothes in the car.
“Already doing it,” Hanbin confirmed. To Junhoe, he said, “You get dressed too, you naked freak,” and then he put the phone to his ear. Junhoe sighed loudly and reluctantly struggled to pull his skinny jeans back on.
After a few rings, their emissary answered, grumpily, “What.”
“Bobby fell down a hill and hit his head on a rock and is currently unconscious.” Not what Hanbin wanted to happen in the dead of night either, but there they were.
He heard the sound of Hayi gasp, heard bedsheets rustle. “Bring him here.”
“We’re on our way,” Hanbin confirmed, and hung up.
They drove straight to Hayi’s house, and Hayi welcomed them at the door. She already had a blanket and pillow laid out in the foyer. The pack gently set Bobby down on the makeshift bed.
The emissary immediately got to work, eyes still heavy from sleep. Her hair was tousled and sticking up in every which direction, falling into her face. Hanbin stood behind her and held her hair back, and Hayi thanked him. Yunhyeong was sent to find a hair tie.
She carried out her examination. Having received the hair tie, Hanbin tied her hair up while she worked. At the end of it, she had a messy ponytail and her preliminary results.
“We’ll keep him in the home infirmary overnight,” Hayi said. “I’ll do whatever I can, and I’ll get Taehyung over here. He was injured as a wolf, right?”
“Yeah,” Donghyuk confirmed. “We were playing.”
“Who goes out running in the woods at night?” Junhoe shook his head. “Seriously…”
“We were blowing off some steam,” Donghyuk argued. “You could afford to exercise every now and again.”
“I’m not going to go out into the woods and—”
Hayi cut in, “Guys…”
“We were just playing and we—”
“He has broken bones.”
Donghyuk and Junhoe turned to Hayi. “What?”
Hayi sighed and shook her head. “I don’t want to jostle him or drag him, I felt broken bones in his arms. It’s lucky his neck isn’t hurt. Can you guys help me carry him to the infirmary? It’s just around the corner.”
Hanbin nodded, organized his team once more. Hayi called Taehyung, the 24-year-old veterinarian-in-training that treated werewolves on the downlow. Hayi was a great emissary to the pack, but in terms of her as a medical practitioner, her specialty lied in alchemy and digestive teas.
Bobby was set down on the white bed in the infirmary next to the kitchen, a converted dining room closed off by French doors. Hayi’s parents came downstairs then, sleepy and apprehensive. Hayi explained the situation to the two tea-store owners and they headed back up to bed. Hanbin wondered what it must have been like on the night their daughter told them she’s a witch doctor for things that go bump in the night.
But back to the current issue at hand – Yunhyeong and Hanbin adjusted Bobby on the bed, pillow under his fluffy head, blanket pulled up over his body. “How’s his temperature?”
“He’s totally fine in that regard,” Hayi said. “Don’t worry.”
“Why hasn’t he woken up?” Chanwoo asked. He looked so nervous, Hanbin almost felt bad for how he treated the kid earlier. This must have been a big first crisis for the little – or, big but young – guy.
Hayi said, “He’s in a coma. He’s probably healing a concussion while he sleeps. Accelerated healing is good, but not that good. The process time varies. Taehyung and I will keep a close eye on him and make sure he recovers well, try to have him back home in a few days.”
“Thank you,” Hanbin said. His heart was absolutely racing, and if his pack was not tuning it out, they would be able to hear it. He wondered what the point of appearing strong was if everyone knew he was freaking out like some teenaged puppy on the inside. For dignity? For what dignity? He wished he was better.
As if reading his mind, Hayi placed a hand on Hanbin’s arm. “You did really well. The whole pack seems calm and in order. That’s not easy in a crisis.”
Hanbin shrugged and said, “They’re good people.”
Hayi said, “You’re a good leader.”
Hanbin swallowed. He placed his hand on Hayi’s arm and squeezed. “Please take care of him.”
He was not confident, not strong, did not actually know what he was doing. He always just needed to take control of the situation and do his best in the moment, whether Donghyuk was choking on a chicken bone, Chanwoo was crying because of a nightmare, or Bobby was healing a smashed skull.
Hanbin shivered and his stomach turned.
Hayi nodded and said, “I know I can’t tell you not to worry, but I will take care of him.”
Hanbin nodded again and herded his pack out of the room. He cast one final glance in Bobby’s direction, looked over the boy’s messy, matted black fur and dried blood crusted along the side of his face. He saw how small Bobby looked, even at 180 centimeters in length. Moonlight blanketed him like a silver salve.
Yeobo, Bobby and Hayi’s cat, grey as the moon herself, strutted through the doors. She jumped on the bed and lied down next to Bobby.
Hanbin blinked to keep the tears at bay and left.
Chanwoo walked alongside Hanbin with his head hanging. “I’m sorry for teasing you earlier, hyungnim.”
Hanbin let out a heavy breath. He put an arm around Chanwoo’s shoulders, slumped low enough for Hanbin to reach around them. A leader is only as strong as his team, can only function if his team can hold it together. He never regretted recruiting Chanwoo. “We needed it at the time. It kept our heads clear. Good work.”
Chanwoo straightened out and looked at Hanbin with wide, shining eyes. He even smiled a little.
Hanbin reassured, “But you’re a real brat.”
Chanwoo gave an insincere laugh and hung his head again.
Hanbin, heart still pounding against his ribs, heavy and exhausted, led his pack home and put them to bed. Jinhwan kissed Junhoe on the cheek, apparently deciding that the grudge was not worth it tonight. The boys fell asleep in Jinhwan and Yunhyeong’s room. Hanbin fell asleep in Bobby’s bed, alone.
In a way, Hanbin supposed that it was that nice university was out for the summer, because it meant the whole pack could be together in these trying times. Chanwoo still attended high school and lived with his parents, but was welcome to visit at any time. He should arrive soon, actually. As much as Hanbin had wanted Chanwoo there for the night, he could just not snatch a boy from his parents in the night. He had dealt with emotionally traumatized parents before, ones who begged his previous alpha to let their child come home, unsure if he was safe or kidnapped or dead, and Chanwoo was actually Hanbin’s fault, so… he went home. The werewolf thing is a big adjustment for most families.
Hanbin woke up first to an empty bed, an empty room. He kind of felt like his heart was empty too. He hoped Bobby would be okay.
Yunhyeong had already made breakfast by the time Hanbin trudged out of his room, and Jinhwan sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee with Junhoe and Donghyuk, all still in their pajamas. In a way, he supposed it was bad that university was out for the summer, because Donghyuk and Junhoe had moved in from their dorms, and having six guys live in a two bedroom apartment was crowded, especially at mealtimes.
“Move over,” Hanbin complained. Junhoe, ostensibly deciding he would rather not deal with the bad vibes, bitchfaced and left the room. Jinhwan folded up the morning paper, sighed, and carried his coffee out to the living room to sit on the couch with Junhoe. Hanbin took a now empty seat.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Yunhyeong said, and sat down at the table with his food. “Are you hungry?”
“Not really,” Hanbin said, swollen lips in a pout. He pushed a grain of salt around on the table with a wolf claw.
Guiltily, Donghyuk put down his fruit juice and whole-grain toast and hung his head in shame. Hanbin acknowledged the sentiment and went back to his salt.
Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Bobby was usually on his mind. It usually hurt. But this was unusual, a new hurt, and Hanbin could not compartmentalize his thoughts and feelings to cope with it.
If Bobby died it would be his fault no matter how much he wanted to blame it on Donghyuk. He was the alpha, their leader, they were his responsibility. If Bobby died then Hanbin would lose his best friend.
Just as the Anxiety Death threatened to undertake him, there came a knock at the door. Probably Chanwoo. Hanbin got up to answer it.
Bobby stood in the doorway in the spare t-shirt and sweatpants they had kept at Hayi’s place for emergencies. A dumb, stupid stretched over his entire face, and bandage wrapped around his dumb, stupid head. Hanbin stood there, stunned. Bobby said, “Hi!”
Hanbin was so fucking mad. He could not have grabbed Bobby, yanked him inside, and hugged him hard enough. But damn it, he hugged as hard as he could.
“Ah, my…” Bobby gasped. “My ribs are broken.”
“Ah!” Hanbin quickly released him.
Bobby was still smiling. “Don’t worry, just two on this side,” he gestured to his right set of ribs. It was then Hanbin noticed that both of Bobby’s hands, wrists, and forearms were completely wrapped up in strategically knotted bandages.
Before Hanbin could say anything else, the pack bounded in, tripping over themselves and each other. Hanbin appreciated the fleeting moment they had given the two alone, for whatever that was worth.
Donghyuk ran and jumped at them. Hanbin let out an involuntary screech and pushed Donghyuk to the floor before he could tackle Bobby. Donghyuk landed with a distinctive thud that echoed through the room. Yunhyeong and Jinhwan gasped and froze.
Hands up, Hanbin defended, “He has broken bones! Just… take it easy!”
Donghyuk picked himself up off the floor, rubbed his tailbone, and sent Hanbin a judgmental, but understanding bitchface. Hanbin hung his head, proverbial tail between his legs, and stepped aside. The pack swarmed and coddled Bobby while Hanbin supervised the interaction from a safe, non-emotionally-invested distance, and pouted.
Junhoe and Bobby shared a quick Christian side-hug. Then Bobby looked frantically around the room, and asked, “Where’s Chanwoo?”
“He’s at home,” Yunhyeong said. “I just texted him to get over here.”
“Ah, good!” Bobby’s eyes disappeared behind his smile again. “I love that kid.”
Hanbin did not know why his melodramatic heart had to scream whenever Bobby mentioned his love for another person, but, alas. Hanbin seethed.
“So what’s going on?” Donghyuk asked. “Where are you in the healing process?”
“Ah,” Bobby explained, “I’m doing well! I woke up pretty early this morning. Hayi made sure to give me lots of moonlight and like, a moonstone witchcraft ritual… thing. So I healed well overnight. I’m gonna make a full recovery!” He beamed, and everyone cheered.
“How long?” Jinhwan asked.
“My ribs should take about two weeks, and my wrists should take around four. Taehyung said my skull fracture is pretty simple and will heal on its own since it’s not depressed, but they can’t give me an exact time frame. Maybe a week.”
Hanbin blinked in confusion. Luckily, Junhoe muttered to Jinhwan for him, “Your skull can be sad?” to which Jinhwan mumbled back, “It means his skull didn’t cave in,” to which Junhoe said ‘ah’ and nodded, and the pack pretended they did not have heightened hearing.
“Hayi said she would try to have you home in a few days, though.” Hanbin raised an eyebrow.
Bobby shrugged and said, “I didn’t want to wait that long.”
“Alright,” Hanbin asserted himself once again. “That means you need to rest here to make sure the healing process goes well.”
“Dude,” Bobby immediately argued. “I can’t just stay in bed for a month.”
“You’re staying in bed for a week,” Hanbin said, crossing his arms. “And after that, you’re housebound. The convenience store is fine. No woods. No gym.”
“NO GYM?!” Donghyuk and Bobby demanded in unison.
Hanbin narrowed his eyes. What the fuck would Bobby even do at the gym in this state. “No. And that’s not all. Both of you are grounded.”
“Grounded from what?” Donghyuk asked, frowning and drooping.
Hanbin thought about it. He wanted to teach them a lesson that would stick. Hm. “No…” he went over the situation, and aha! came up with a decent punishment, “No Bobby.”
Donghyuk demanded, “NO BOBBY?!”
Hanbin turned to Bobby and said, “And no Donghyuk.”
“HEY!” Bobby argued.
Hanbin pointed a stern index finger and said, “That’s that!”
Donghyuk and Bobby’s shoulders fell in sorrowful unison.
Great, now that everyone was reminded of who wielded the Alpha Dick in this family, Hanbin squared his shoulders and addressed the lot of them. “Since Bobby-sshi is officially bedridden—” Bobby made an unhappy groaning noise, “—the pack will rotate being his bedside nurses.”
Yunhyeong lit up. “I’ll make an excel document.”
Hanbin nodded vaguely in his direction, “Yeah, just try and keep it in your pants, Yun hyung.” He again addressed the whole group, “Do I make myself clear?”
Everyone mumbled in the affirmative. Yunhyeong then skipped to his bedroom, presumably to acquire his laptop.
Donghyuk, letting out an emphatic sigh, said, “I’ll take the first shift, since this is mostly my fault.”
Hanbin said, “Noble, but you’re grounded.”
Donghyuk sighed, “This is cruel and unusual.”
Bobby agreed, “Seriously.”
Hanbin said, “Junhoe will take the first shift.”
Junhoe asserted, “THIS IS CRUEL AND UNSUAL.”
Yunhyeong reentered the living room, laptop open in his hands. He sat on the couch and typed. Junhoe smelled angrier upon realizing that was probably his name written into the schedule.
Bobby asked, “Wouldn’t it be better if someone else took care of me? No offense,” he quickly raised his bandage stubs as an action of peace, “I just mean, you don’t look… excited.”
Junhoe sighed. “It’s fine.”
“Being a pack means being there for each other in our times of need,” Hanbin said. Junhoe had the decency to look visibly moved, and he looked down. Hanbin continued, “Junhoe, remember when you cried about dance class and Jiwon hyung hugged you and told you everything would be okay?”
Junhoe and Bobby both flushed pink. Junhoe muttered, “Yes.”
“Good,” Hanbin smiled, “and I’m sure everyone in this room can think of one good reason to care about Jiwon.”
“That’s touching,” Jinhwan commented, voice coloured by sarcasm, but Hanbin ignored that.
“So let’s all band together and help our packmate recover,” Hanbin finished his pep talk.
Bobby looked very shy and very embarrassed, mortified even, so Hanbin felt his job was done here.
The pack was then excused, and they all ventured into the kitchen to eat breakfast and talk about… valerian root, apparently, last time Hanbin tuned into the conversation. He promptly tuned out at the mention of bone reconstruction. He figured he would have to hear about that later anyway, but he would rather hear it from Hayi or Taehyung. Hanbin sat on the couch with Yunhyeong to make the schedule.
Sometime later, another knock was heard at the door. Hanbin could already smell it was Chanwoo. Oh, he suddenly remembered, he could not smell Bobby from that distance anymore? The guy was probably saturated in medication, inside and out. Maybe Hayi enchanted him to help him heal. Hanbin hoped it wore off soon.
Hanbin did not even have a chance to plant his feet on the floor and attempt to stand before Bobby and Donghyuk reached the door. Bobby apparently remembered that he did not have any use of his hands at the last moment, skidded, and crashed into the door. Hanbin winced. Hayi had spiritually fortified that wood to strengthen it against attackers.
Although Bobby seemed fine, Hanbin raised his voice to say, “You’re supposed to be healing!” but his censure was drowned out by the happy cheers of Donghyuk, Bobby, and Junhoe, and Chanwoo, who was now inside.
Hanbin grumbled. He wanted to join in on the fun, but he had leader stuff to do, like pretending to understand Microsoft Excel, ugh.
Jinhwan walked over to the couch, coffee still in his hand, and gently sat down. “Don’t be so grouchy,” he said. “You were a kid once.”
Without taking his eyes off the screen, Hanbin replied, “I was born at age nineteen.”
Jinhwan sipped his coffee and said, “Of course.”
The sound of bodies hitting the floor, and not in the fun Lil Jon way, alerted Hanbin to the scene unfolding. Junhoe and Chanwoo were rolling around on the floor, Chanwoo’s wolf ear in between Junhoe’s still very human teeth.
“Ju-ne,” Hanbin scolded, “stop being kinky.”
Junhoe spit out Chanwoo’s ear, disgusted, as if realizing it was in his mouth for the first time. Chanwoo’s nose scrunched in equal disgust, and his ear twitched, probably to rid itself of Junhoe slobber.
Hanbin remembered being young. He remembered losing control so easily like that.
He was the second wolf bitten for the New Pack, right after Jinhwan. Bobby was third. They were such children then, set off by the slightest poke to the ribs, the softest giggle. They would jump each other on the bed and wrestle until the mattress was destroyed and the blanket was left in torn ribbons of fabric, they would dent the floors and the walls, break furniture, (one antique), fight until covered in blood and grass stains, cotton stuck to their hair…
Jinhwan and Hanbin matured before Bobby did, but Hanbin was the youngest, and Bobby kept him young.
Hanbin remembered Bobby laughing with him about something funny, a joke they made about something that happened at school. Bobby nudged his shoulder, and Hanbin tackled him. Bobby laughed wildly as they rolled around on the floor of Hanbin’s childhood bedroom, Hanbin a still a senior in high school at the time and Bobby in his first year of university. They destroyed two of their notebooks, a quarter of a rug, and quite nearly the leg of Hanbin’s desk before Bobby pinned Hanbin to the paper-littered floor by his wrists. Hanbin caught his breath, looked up at Bobby with a smile. Bobby looked down, smile on his own cheeks, and a far-reaching twinkle in his eye, something that went to the moon and back.
Hanbin’s heart raced. Bobby kept him going.
“You good?” Yunhyeong laughed.
“Yeah,” Hanbin said. He rubbed his eye with his fist. “Just tired.”
“You’ve worked hard,” Jinhwan complimented. “Go rest. Your shift doesn’t start until tonight.”
With a wistful, angry feeling in his heart, like something had been taken from him, Hanbin nodded. He stood up to head to his room.
Bobby jogged in front of Hanbin on the way there. Hanbin startled to a stop.
Bobby said, “I’m gonna be okay, Bin,” and smiled a dumb, stupid smile.
Hanbin nodded stiffly, tried to push past Bobby as gently as he could.
Bobby stopped him again with his bandage stump. “And… I’m sorry,” he said, and the smile fell off his cheeks. “I know you worried.” Hanbin’s heart leapt into his throat and he swallowed it down. “I didn’t mean to do that to you. I’m seriously gonna be fine though, alright? So please don’t worry.”
Hanbin sniffled, and oh no, he was not doing this, he was not crying about this now. Bobby was literally fine. He could stress-cry in the dead of night under the uncaring eyes of God, like always.
“Hey,” Bobby’s voice was soft and… a little husky, Hanbin thought. Hanbin laughed at the pun he made in his own head.
Bobby smiled softly at Hanbin’s laugh. He wrapped Hanbin up in a hug, much gentler than the one Hanbin had inflicted upon him. It took a moment, but Hanbin fell into it, just as gentle. He buried his face in Bobby’s shoulder.
“You’re an idiot,” Hanbin whispered.
“I know,” Bobby whispered back.
Hanbin’s heart bled dry and his stomach burst into a flurry of a hundred honeyed butterflies. He grabbed the back of Bobby’s shirt so tight he made new holes with his claws in the fabric. Bobby petted Hanbin’s back in return. Hanbin inhaled, as deeply as he could, to catch Bobby’s scent mingled with the medicine.
“Go rest,” Bobby nuzzled his nose against Hanbin’s temple.
Hanbin kissed Bobby’s cheek. Bobby pulled away, scrunched his nose, hunched his shoulders and weakly snuffled in Hanbin’s direction, as per his usual reaction to Hanbin’s kisses.
This was the usual hurt.
“You rest too,” Hanbin said, and pointed a finger to prove he was serious.
Bobby, still blushing and reluctant to engage him any further due to the physical contact, just snuffled again and bashfully snapped his wolf jaws at Hanbin. He was quickly smiling at the floor again. The wolf in Hanbin howled for more affection as he accepted what his life was, who this person was, (and who they were not), and shut his bedroom door behind him.
Since Hanbin and Bobby roomed together, Hanbin agreed that it would be fine for him to take the night shifts for Bobby. Jinhwan excused himself and gave Hanbin a pat on the shoulder as he left. Bobby had been laughing, but quieted and looked down when Hanbin entered. Hanbin had avoided putting them both in the same room all day. He supposed they both felt awkward.
“Do you need anything?” Hanbin asked on impulse.
Bobby looked up, blinked. “Oh, no, that’s okay,” he smiled. “I can still use my hand stubs.”
Hanbin sighed. “But you shouldn’t be using your hands at all.”
Bobby shrugged. “I can’t be helpless. And I cannot have a bathroom attendant.”
“Point taken, but not my issue,” Hanbin said. “Stop trying to type.”
Bobby pouted and pushed the very tip of his claw down onto another key. His hands were entirely bandaged, his wolf claws only poking through the top of the fabric. If he had been pressing all the keys individually for the whole time he had been using his laptop, well then, Hanbin could only admire his determination. He let it go, accepting that he could not very well just tie Bobby down to the bed.
Oh. That was a Bad Thought. He quickly stopped thinking about that.
Some time passed, and Hanbin finally decided it was time to forcibly herd Bobby into bed. Bobby sighed and logged off his computer, took his earphones off his neck, and Hanbin scolded him once again for picking up and carrying objects when he was not supposed to. Bobby grumpily dropped the headphones on the desk with a clattering sound.
He stood up, attempted to move his arms, then stopped. “Hey,” Bobby said. “Can you take my clothes off?”
Hanbin’s eyes widened. “Pardon?”
“Can you…?” Bobby pushed up his shirt. “Help me?”
“Uh…” They had been naked around each other before, of course, but Hanbin could not really remember a time he had… disrobed the other boy. The worst he had done was a jovial pantsing. This was a new concept.
He swallowed dryly, stood up to do his job. “Sure.”
“You can leave my boxers on,” Bobby smiled shyly. “I’ll handle that myself. If I’m almost naked it’ll be easier to shower tomorrow morning.”
Hanbin sighed. “You don’t have to do that alone.”
“I have two broken wrists, I’ll be a nuisance,” Bobby said. “Besides, it’s so hard to pee in the toilet like this. I need some space.”
“Sometimes I hate that you can’t lie to me,” Hanbin sighed. “You’re cleaning the whole bathtub when your wrists heal.”
“Won’t it be too late by then?”
“Not the point.”
Hanbin carefully grabbed the bottom of Bobby’s shirt, pulled upwards. Bobby raised his arms, and Hanbin pulled the shirt off as gently as he could. The fabric got caught slightly on Bobby’s bandages, as Hanbin was too concerned about hurting Bobby should he tug. He just stood there, shirts in his hands, linking him to the other boy. He stared at Bobby’s hands, a little past to the band of his boxers, at the smooth skin under his navel…
Bobby slightly pulled his arms backwards, causing Hanbin to look up. Bobby’s head was tilted, and he stared at Hanbin, eyes soft and shining. A tiny smile tugged at one corner of Bobby’s lips. The moonlight was so good to him.
“Bin,” he said, and tugged again on the fabric that bound them.
Right, Hanbin returned his gaze to the issue at hand. “Let me know if I’m hurting you, alright?”
Bobby laughed softly and said, “I’m hurting all over. This won’t make much of a difference.”
Hanbin’s heart hurt for the boy. “You’re a stupid idiot,” he said, eyebrows furrowed.
“I know,” Bobby said.
Hanbin coaxed the shirt over Bobby’s bandages with the utmost care in his movements. After a little sliding and shimmying, the fabric fell fully into Hanbin’s hold.
Bobby said, “Thanks.” His eyes were squished and crescent-shaped. “It didn’t hurt at all.”
Hanbin nodded, threw Bobby’s shirt across the room and onto Bobby’s bed. Bobby paused for a moment, presumably just to give Hanbin some time, which he needed. The moment timed out into a minute passed, and Bobby, reaching the end of an unspoken agreement of patience, gently nodded downward. Hanbin avoided looking for as long as his eyes could hold out. Then they dropped to the waistband of Bobby’s sweatpants.
“Bin?” Bobby prompted. “I can kick these off if you really don’t want to...”
“Yeah,” Hanbin quickly responded. He breathed. “I know.”
He placed his fingers on the top of Bobby’s sweats, feeling the wash-roughened cotton below his hesitant fingertips. He trailed his hands along the garment until they reached the center, the knot at the drawstrings.
Hanbin really did not have to do this. He told himself as much.
He pulled the strings free of their entanglement and let the fastening fall limp.
He saw Bobby breathing and heard as much, the sound of air through his ever-stuffy nose. Being a werewolf unfortunately did not cure rhinitis. It was only unfortunate depending on who you ask, however. Bobby’s stuffed nose was just a part of Bobby, and Hanbin liked Bobby for every part of him.
Hanbin hooked his fingers under the waistband of Bobby’s sweatpants and pulled down. The elastic squeezed the fabric of Bobby’s underwear close to his body, outlining the lines of his thighs, of… him. Hanbin let go when the hard part was over.
Hanbin was sixteen and curious when he was bitten, Jinhwan was eighteen and exploring. They listened to songs with swears and watched music videos with half-naked men and women grinding on one another to the beat of a heady tune. Hanbin pretended his heart pounded at the thought of girls and chased down images of boys hidden safely behind the female lead of a drama, under the guise of aspirations and music taste.
It was harder to hide when they were in a bedroom together. There were things that just could not be hidden behind posters and drowned out by music played loud and beguiling. Hanbin always looked, always saw, but he never let it get to him. He just wanted to get through high school a little less of a freak than he had to be.
He always had a feeling Jinhwan purposely showed off.
Bobby moved back to South Korea for university and was recruited to the pack in his first year. He was not good at making friends, was not beautiful or confident. It had been easy to persuade him to accept the gift that Hanbin’s old alpha was offering.
Hanbin was seventeen and Bobby was eighteen and by then Hanbin figured they had both gotten good at drowning out unnecessary thoughts in loud music. They got along well, became friends quickly. They shared many of the same loves (barring anything romantic, but Hanbin was content to keep that for himself).
It was easy to see Bobby in just his boxers, half-hanging off the side of his bed, half-hard and lazing around without a care about it because sometimes there’s just nothing to do about a random boner. Hanbin would throw a pillow at him and land the hit. Bobby would groan but they would both laugh. Heartbeats were kind of gross and hard to listen to all the time, and easier to just… tune out. To willfully ignore.
Bobby quickly shook his pants all the way down, and the change of pace threw Hanbin off track, caused him to blink and recollect his bearings. Thank goodness. He promptly collected the fallen pants and tossed them onto Bobby’s bed as well. Why the fuck had he been so dramatic about that? Ridiculous. It was just Bobby, no matter how ripped he was. Hanbin hoped he could hold it together.
He could not bear to meet Bobby’s eyes, so he just flopped back down into bed. Bobby said, “Thanks,” and Hanbin nodded in his general direction.
They went to sleep some time after that. Moonlight poured in through the window and put Hanbin’s soul at ease. It was summer, a constant rainstorm, but somehow the moon managed to find them. Hanbin liked to believe he could personally will it out from behind the clouds. Power was a comfort to him.
Hanbin jolted upright in fear at the sound of screaming.
He threw the blanket off, ran to Bobby’s bedside. He was seemingly in pain based on how he was writhing, face contorted and teeth clenched, tears streaming down his cheeks. Hanbin hesitated, hands shaking, and he called Bobby’s name over and over.
Jinhwan burst into the room. “Shut him up, shut him up!”
“I can’t!” Hanbin said. Bobby’s wolf fangs had grown out, blood on his lips, and Hanbin was not sure what would do more harm than good.
“Gag him!” Jinhwan demanded. “I’m calling Hayi.”
“Gag him?!” Hanbin demanded right back, but Jinhwan had already stepped out.
God, Bobby was still screaming, the neighbours would surely call the police or bang on their door to scold them for their ‘nasty habits’ (again) soon. Hanbin ran to get a bandana from his dresser drawer, folded it, and ran it back over. He shoved it into Bobby’s mouth, and Bobby bit down on it, hard, almost gratefully. He still made loud, whimpered cries of pain, but he seemed to be calming himself down.
Hanbin stroked his hand through Bobby’s hair, discovered the boy had sweat beading at his scalp. Hanbin just pet him and tried to get him through it.
Hayi and Taehyung showed up after… Hanbin was not sure how long. He was not even sure what time it was. He checked Bobby’s phone and saw it was 2:10am by the time Hayi and Taehyung actually stepped into the room. Hanbin returned Bobby’s phone to the nightstand.
“Okay, Bobby, okay…” Taehyung cooed. He presented Bobby with a flask. “Drink all of this, okay? Drink all of the pieces in it. Everything.”
He removed the gag, and Bobby did as he was told. Taehyung sat next to him on the bed, holding the flask for Bobby and feeding him like a baby with a bottle. Bobby drank it all down while Hanbin stood beside Hayi, stunned silent.
When Bobby finished drinking, almost instantly, he dropped to the bed, unconscious.
“Oh good,” Hayi said. “It worked.”
Taehyung checked Bobby’s pulse and smiled. “Yup!” he confirmed. “It worked.”
Regaining the strength to speak now, Hanbin asked, “What… just happened?”
Taehyung said, “Your friend’s bones are trying to switch back into their human structure, but since they were broken as a wolf, they’re having trouble switching back.”
Hanbin blinked. “That’s… those are his paws, under there? That’s not even possible.”
“Generally no,” Hayi explained. “Usually only the claws remain in a half-shift. But because he was injured in his wolf form, his bones can’t, like… figure out how to reposition themselves. We need Bobby to heal in his human form, or his bones will heal disfigured, but for now, his bones are still trying to heal enough to become human again.”
“He heals faster at night, when the moon’s effect is stronger on you,” Taehyung said, “so he must be going through a lot. Shifting between forms already hurts. What’s happening now is called ‘bone reconstruction’. In my research, I’ve learned… it hurts like a bitch.”
Hanbin asked, “Like a bitch?”
Taehyung confirmed, “Like a bad bitch. I call it the Lee Chaerin of healing processes.”
Oh man. “There are other kinds?” he could not help but ask.
Taehyung just let out a long huff of air, ruffling his bangs with it, like, welcome to supernatural-veterinary world.
Hanbin asked Hayi, “What did you just give him?”
“It was a mix of valerian root tea, lavender, a liiitle bit of Valium, and powdered wolfsbane, so the Valium can work,” Hayi said. “It’s moon-dried, so the toxins are like, 90% drained. It should just sit in his stomach like a rock until he throws it up tomorrow morning.”
Hanbin pursed his lips. “Great.” He supposed Bobby would have his wish granted to shower alone.
“This is confirmation enough that his wrists are broken,” Taehyung said. “We’ll get my buddy Kim Seokjin to get him his treatment. Don’t worry, he has a great mentor, he can falsity and omit info from medical records, no problem.”
“Kim Seokjin?” Hanbin blinked. He heard of this doctor-in-training. He was new on the scene like Taehyung, around 27 years old, and he helped werewolves on the down-low as well for the modern wolf generation. They had not needed the doctor to assist them yet, as usually Taehyung was enough. “Can’t you do it?”
“A vet’s specialty is animal casts,” Taehyung said with a frown. “My mentor said to not give casts to werewolves because of the bone reconstruction thing. You need proper evaluation and treatment.”
“And this Seokjin guy…” Hanbin gestured vaguely with a hand, “You trust him?”
“I do,” Taehyung confirmed. “We kind of teamed up. Both our mentors are doctors and vets for the older gen, too. They’re training their protégés up really well.”
Hanbin nodded. “Okay.” That was enough for him. He did not have many options. “Please make sure he gets the help he needs.”
“We will, Bin,” Hayi tapped Hanbin’s arm.
He knew the kids were standing next to the doorway, and Hanbin finally acknowledged them. “It’s alright, guys. He’ll be okay.”
Jinhwan, Donghyuk, and Yunhyeong tentatively entered the room. Jinhwan and Yunhyeong nodded, kept their heads up, but Donghyuk just looked so sad.
Perhaps it was hard on both the youngest ones in the house, because Junhoe was not even there.
“Is Junhoe alright?” Hanbin asked.
“Junhoe?” Donghyuk asked in response. “Oh, Junhoe didn’t wake up.”
Hanbin sighed, a deep and abysmal sound.
The puppies all wiggled around on the couch and swarmed Bobby with pens in their eager paws. Bobby giggled and offered out his two shiny new splints for decoration. They were not ideal for drawing on, but Seokjin made them white (at Bobby’s request), so the colour would show up.
“Move over,” Donghyuk elbowed Junhoe. “Best friends get to sign first.”
“In that case, you move over,” Jinhwan elbowed Donghyuk. “Because I was his best friend first, and I’m the oldest.”
“And you’re grounded,” Yunhyeong added.
Jinhwan nodded. “And you’re grounded.”
Donghyuk humphed loudly and Junhoe stole his pen to hand to Jinhwan, as Junhoe was a go-getter and already had his own. “This is SO unfair.”
“Don’t worry man,” Bobby said, “best for last.”
Donghyuk smiled. Bobby gave him playful wink. Yunhyeong complained about being his ‘actual chingu!’ and drew a unibrow between Bobby’s eyes as revenge for hurting his feelings.
Hanbin loomed. If all was right in the world, he would be signing the casts first, because HE ALONE was Bobby’s Best Friend™, but he could not seem too desperate in the current situation.
Seokjin was a pretty capable doctor-in-training, and his mentor seemed like a cool guy. Bobby’s switch back to his full human form was the hardest part. They got in and out of the hospital without any attention drawn to them, and a promise that they would only have to return to the hospital for the splint removal in a few weeks to make it seem like a legit, totally normal human injury.
“Taehyung and I are confident you can take them off in four weeks,” Seokjin had said to Bobby. “But you’ll have to pretend to wear the splints a little longer than four weeks so the records look legitimate. This situation is…” he melodramatically sighed, “irregular.” He shook his head, “Ah, so complicated, but we have to stay strong, you know, for the medical records.” His final instructions were, “Right, so, just stay in bed for at least a week to heal your head, but try to move around a little to prevent blood clots, although, yeah, I guess you’re not as prone to them, I haven’t been doing this long enough… but still, exercise! Have fun, get your heart rate up! Eat chocolate! Endorphins are good for pain. But remember to eat healthy as well to help the healing process.” He beamed as he waved them off. “Have a safe trip! Haha, sorry, just a little broken wrist humour. Take care.”
So it had gone… well? Hanbin supposed so.
He clapped his hands to break up the murmured laughter and chatter and headed over. “Okay everyone, hurry up, Bobby needs to get back to bed.”
Bobby sighed. “Come on, Bin, I’m not straining myself here.”
Hanbin crossed his arms. “Doctor Seokjin and Doctor Taehyung both said it’s a good idea for you to stay in bed until your head heals. So you have to, no questions asked.”
Bobby pouted. “It’s boring.”
“Don’t be stupid next time you have fun, then,” Hanbin said.
Donghyuk and Bobby both sighed and hung their heads.
Junhoe got up off the couch, having already signed the splints to his satisfaction. “I’ll walk you to the café, let’s go, Jinan.”
Jinhwan huffed a little at the informality, but stood and straightened out his shirt. “You coming, Donghyuk?”
Donghyuk sighed. “Got nothing to do here,” he pouted, and got up to hang out with the others. He and Bobby shared meaningful eye contact until Donghyuk was forced out of the apartment to take Jinhwan to work.
“Alright, party’s over,” Hanbin said. “Get to bed, Frida Kahlo.”
Yunhyeong laughed, helped Bobby stand up. He walked Bobby to the bedroom, as it was his shift.
Bobby’s sad puppy eyes passed over Hanbin’s harsh glare where they made eye contact in the hallway. Bobby sadly looked down and carried on, Yunhyeong’s arm around his back. Hanbin felt like there was a hand around his throat.
Hanbin took his laptop to the library and worked on some music there, since his room was being occupied at the moment. The record label that he, Bobby, and Jinhwan were signed to was indie, established to be the exact opposite of the mainstream entertainment industry. Artists could stay low-key in this entertainment company, which was very beneficial for people with complications in their lives, such as lycanthropy, or if their dad was arrested for embezzlement crimes.
He and Bobby loved to work on their tracks together. They would bounce ideas off one another and create better work with both their brains working in harmony. They were a good pair. They always talked about making it out there in the music industry together.
They started writing songs together soon after they first met. Bobby lived in the dorms at his university, and although that changed since, being apart had never stopped the two from being together. They would rap and sing and rave to their own music in the basement of Hanbin’s house, in the old alpha’s house when Jinhwan was included in their hang-outs.
They loved Jinhwan, loved to write him into their music, but it was still their music. It was a talent they shared. It was a love they created together, with their own hands and lips and sweat running in rivulets down their necks. Their passion that could only be reflected in the eyes of their other half.
In the song playing through his earphones, Hanbin heard Bobby’s lips kiss each lyric onto the guide track, like wolf-bitten hickeys down the length of his spine. Like chills.
In a teen drama sense, Bobby made a really fucking good werewolf. Jacob Black could eat his heart out in Hanbin’s opinion.
He worked as best he could before heading somewhere for dinner, then home for the night with a bag of kimbap from the small restaurant Yunhyeong worked at, just in case no one remembered that bed-ridden idiots needed food too. Hanbin hoped that Junhoe had made it home for his shift. Hanbin stopped into the pharmacy to buy Bobby a decent fluoride mouthwash too. He dodged questions and shortened phone calls from his mother to avoid giving details of the situation.
Chanwoo and Donghyuk were playing video games when Hanbin arrived home. He patted Chanwoo on the head before taking Bobby’s kimbap to the bedroom. It was weird how much Hanbin missed the maknae nuisance when he was not around. Chanwoo was the first and only werewolf that Hanbin had ever bitten, so maybe it was an attachment thing.
On Bobby’s bed, it seemed that Junhoe was force-reading Bobby poetry from a book, and probably Junhoe’s own compositions. Actually, though, Bobby looked into it. He was focusing intently on the page the book was open to, and his ears were tuned into Junhoe’s commentary beside him, Hanbin could tell by the way his head was slightly tilted. He tried to turn the page with his splinted hand and crinkled it. Junhoe sighed, flattened out the paper as best he could and turned the page for him.
Hanbin liked poetry too. They could read it together. It was time for Junhoe to go anyway.
“Hello, Hanbin,” Junhoe said. “Will you be joining us?”
“You’ll be getting out,” Hanbin said, not missing the lack of respect. He threw the bag of food onto Bobby’s bed.
Junhoe took the paper bag and inspected it. “Why’s that?”
“Your shift is over.”
Junhoe popped a piece of kimbap into his mouth. Bobby opened his mouth, and Junhoe popped a piece into his mouth as well. “So?” he asked. The two ate together and continued reading. Continued ignoring him.
“Did you both skip dinner for poetry?”
“No?” Junhoe responded, confused. “We ate dinner.”
Of course they did.
“Out,” Hanbin commanded. “Time to go be annoying somewhere else.”
Junhoe’s nose wrinkled and he sent Hanbin a bitchface. Bobby said, “Seriously, Bin, it’s okay…”
Was it Annoy Hanbin Day or something? Who did these two think they were?
Hanbin said, “I am the alpha, and I decide what happens. Junhoe, go.”
Junhoe grumpily closed the poetry book and scooted his way off the bed. He and Bobby shared a brotherly knuckle-bump. He shoved another piece of kimbap into his mouth for the road. He muttered to the floor, “You’re the alpha, but you’re really a bitch, too.”
“Funny,” Hanbin rolled his eyes. “You’re such a comedian.”
Junhoe slammed the door behind him. Bobby looked awkward, like a couple just had a fight in front of him, and he was not sure how to react. Hanbin grumpily put his laptop on his bed.
“Have you been resting?”
“I have been…” Bobby muttered. He sniffled. “We weren’t doing anything strenuous.”
Hanbin did not trust Junhoe nor Bobby to know the definition of ‘strenuous’. Hanbin just grumpily changed out of his clothes and into pajamas.
As Hanbin changed, Bobby said, “I think you’re overreacting a little, Hanbin.”
Hanbin’s nerves snapped. He clenched his jaws together, low growl rumbling in the bottom of his throat. Bobby really had to say that, huh? Even though he knew that the pack was Hanbin’s number one priority, and that he cared about everyone before himself, that he did everything in this goddamned house—
Before Hanbin could go off on a parental rant, Bobby hastily added, “Sorry, just listen to me, okay, please? I’m okay. I’m going to be okay. Why are you being this way?”
He sounded genuinely curious. “There’s a schedule,” Hanbin answered. “If I don’t enforce the schedule, I lose power. The pack will walk all over me, our camaraderie will fall into chaos and anarchy, and the new renegades will collapse the pack hierarchy system. I can’t let that happen.”
Bobby’s head tilted to the side. “I know. I mean, I know that’s how you feel. I know you feel like this is somehow your fault.”
Hanbin stopped moving, frozen, hands still on the hem of the t-shirt he had just pulled on.
Bobby continued, “I know you’re all upset over this because I could have died and you think that makes you a bad leader. But it doesn’t, Hanbin. I was just stupid.”
Something about Bobby’s words clued him in, very suddenly. His head snapped up. Startled, Bobby shrunk back.
Hanbin seethed, “Because you ‘could have died’. How can you say that so casually?!” Hanbin picked up the pair of sweatpants he had intended to put on just to throw them on the floor. “Do you know what I would do if I lost you? Do you know what I would do if you died? If that was MY fault?!”
Bobby was silent.
Hanbin wailed, “I would go crazy!” Tears welled up in his eyes. “I would lose my mind because I should have known better, I should have been there for you because that’s what partners—” Hanbin choked on the word. “That’s what packmates are supposed to do!”
Bobby stared, eyes wide, glassy. Hanbin sniffled and rubbed his eyes.
“And I almost wasn’t there for you.”
Before he could do something dumb like healthily communicate his emotions, Hanbin hastily changed out of his pants and underwear and retrieved the pair of sweatpants he had thrown to the floor.
Then, Bobby sniffled, and said, “Hanbin… come here.”
Hanbin turned to look at Bobby at the command. Bobby held his two casted arms open and ready for a hug.
Hanbin felt his shoulders fall as he drooped. Sadly, Hanbin could never deny him that hug. Bobby needed care, after all, and that’s what Hanbin needed to ensure he got. It was Hanbin’s turn with his Bobby now.
He pulled on his sweatpants and trudged over. He awkwardly kneeled on the bed in between Bobby’s uncrossed legs, and wrapped his arms around Bobby to hug him. Bobby wrapped his arms around Hanbin, dropping the weight of two heavy, fiberglass splints onto Hanbin’s back, and embraced him. Hanbin could not help but smile at the weight he felt. Bobby was such a big, dumb idiot. His big dumb idiot.
Hanbin mumbled into Bobby’s shoulder, “It’s my shift.” Not Junhoe’s. His. He hummed his complaints incoherently against Bobby’s shirt.
Bobby squeezed Hanbin tighter. “You haven’t lost control over us. You’re a good alpha.”
He pulled Hanbin down and they fell on the bed in each other’s arms, Hanbin on Bobby’s chest. Hanbin caught himself on his arm and was mindful as to which side of Bobby’s ribcage he rested his weight on.
Although touched by Bobby’s reassurance, in the atmosphere of the moment, Hanbin could not help but joke, “Are you just doing this to convince me to let you read poetry?”
“No,” Bobby easily responded.
“To let you play video games?”
Bobby pulled away with a gleam in his eyes. “Can I play video games?”
Hanbin laughed. “Maybe tomorrow, if you heal well tonight.”
“Yes, Sir,” Bobby said, and immediately lied down on his back. He shuffled to get comfortable, then went still. He smiled a smug, close-lipped grin at Hanbin.
Hanbin sat up and smiled back down at him. He caressed Bobby’s cheek, something meant to be sweet, trailed his hand down Bobby’s neck, his chest. Hanbin’s hand stopped at Bobby’s stomach. He cupped a hand around Bobby’s unbroken ribs, swiped his thumb across them.
Hanbin was never great with the concept of ‘boundaries’.
Bobby’s smile fell slightly at the corners, eyes widened – no, only the pupils. He turned his head to break their eye contact. The side of his cheek and neck were both painted pink by Hanbin’s fingers.
He was so cocky one moment and shy the next. Hanbin hoped this was just Bobby’s personality, Bobby’s dislike for touchy-feely affection, and nothing to do with Hanbin himself. He always tried to keep his touches unmotivated by Bobby himself. He always tried to make it appear that way.
Together, the two finished Bobby’s kimbap and worked on their song together until the dreaded bedtime striptease. It was just as hard this time, pun intended. Hanbin used the bathroom this time before he went to sleep.
The pack was all really happy that Hanbin was out of his dark mood, or his Sergeant Major Depressive Mode, as Chanwoo called it, and got a clap on the back of the head for it. Junhoe laughed, but Hanbin figured he was owed a laugh for how Hanbin treated him the previous night, so he let it go.
They ate breakfast together, all making sure Bobby drank his pain medication (Hayi dropped off a bunch of tea bags portioned and ready to boil the other day), and did not strain himself while moving. They laughed and made sure Bobby was entertained and having fun, even made sure he ate chocolate at the end of breakfast.
“Not too much chocolate, though,” Hanbin instructed. “Bobby is on a healthy diet until he can exercise properly again.”
Bobby said he appreciated the concern but he was not happy about it, and Hanbin giggled at him over the rim of his own teacup.
Chanwoo escorted Bobby back to his bedroom as it was his shift. Hanbin sheepishly thought he should have had more faith in his pack to handle this well.
Sometime later, Hanbin entered the bedroom. Bobby was lying down, doing nothing, although that was likely an act.
“I healed well,” Bobby said. “Can I play video games now?”
Two light brown bruises coloured a spot on his ribcage, stubbornly persisting against the healing process. As usual, Bobby had decided to not wear a shirt. He was not humbled by his condition. But he had no reason to be. He could not exercise well now, but he was certainly not hurting for crossfit. Although used to it by now, Hanbin wondered if seeing Bobby bare would always feel as fizzy in his gut as the first time.
Needless to say he looked fine enough to push buttons on a game controller despite the injury.
Hanbin sighed. “I seriously don’t know how you expect to do that without moving your hands, but…” Hanbin shrugged, “Sure, you’re free to try.”
Bobby sprung up and Hanbin promptly slowed him down by placing two hands on his shoulders. Bobby sat. Once Hanbin was sure Bobby understood he could not strain himself, Hanbin let go, backing away with trepidation. Bobby slowly stood up, raising his eyebrows at Hanbin as if for permission. Hanbin nodded.
Bobby smiled and Hanbin noticed him trip over his heel a little, barely stopping himself from running. Hanbin followed him out to the living room with a tiny, inconsolable smile dimpling his cheek, because Hanbin was too weak for this dork.
“Alright, Bobby hyung!” Donghyuk cheered. “You can play with me.”
“No,” Jinhwan said. He took the controller out of Donghyuk’s hands. “He can play with me.”
Chanwoo sighed and accepted his turn was over. He patted Bobby supportively on the shoulder, then went to the kitchen, probably in search of a snack.
“Nice try,” Hanbin commented, cleaning up a little around the coffee table. Where did Junhoe even get this many hotbars? He was a snack machine. “You’re still grounded.”
Bobby and Donghyuk held hands as Donghyuk walked away. “DON’T LET GO, ROSE,” Bobby actually screamed.
Donghyuk fake-cried and said, “I’ll never let go, Jack.”
From the couch, Junhoe pompously bitched, “Have either of you ever actually seen Titanic?”
Hanbin laughed and just continued cleaning up around the house. Bobby all but smashed the controller to pieces, but he was never especially graceful with the game consoles to begin with. As long as he had fun, Hanbin figured; that was the important thing. And as long as he did not strain himself, that was the non-sentimental most important thing.
Nighttime rolled around again. Bobby took baths in the evening now with another pack member so he could actually get clean, but he always wore a shirt after, claiming he got cold, maybe because of the medicine or something. Hanbin did not know enough about witchcraft to dispute it. He had a feeling that Bobby just liked to make things
hard difficult for him, though.
Despite his doubts in the way of necessity, Hanbin helped Bobby undress. He pulled Bobby’s shirt off and laughed when it got stuck coming off his head. Bobby laughed too, tried to struggle out of it. The shirt popped off with a floof of his hair. Hanbin wanted to ruffle it so bad, but Bobby combed it back with his fingers.
It had been funny to learn how Bobby had been brushing his teeth with the splints on. He just gripped the toothbrush as tight as he could with both sets of fingers and did his best. Hanbin had laughed at him. It startled Bobby, caused him to laugh too and spit toothpaste foam onto the mirror, which Hanbin had to clean, and although it was his fault that it happened, Hanbin did not appreciate how Bobby seemed to find a way to make Hanbin’s life more difficult in every situation.
But Hanbin also loved feeling Bobby’s existence in his life in any way possible.
Bobby sipped his mouthwash through a straw, swished it around, and spit it out. He smiled as wide as he could at the freshly cleaned mirror. Hanbin’s heart fluttered and forced a laugh out of his chest.
Now Bobby was all ready for bed, stripped down to his underwear. He flopped down onto his mattress – Hanbin did not know when a reprimand would actually affect Bobby in any way, he was losing hope. He gave Bobby a kiss on the cheek and headed to his own bed.
“Hey,” Bobby called after him. “Stay here.”
They had often shared the little single bed, but Bobby did not have two broken ribs and wrists to worry about then. “I can’t,” Hanbin said with a small giggle. “I could roll over on you and hurt you. The splints will hurt me.”
“Come onnnn,” Bobby said. He smiled. “I’m not even tired yet. Just hang out for a bit.”
“It’s late,” Hanbin told him, but found himself walking back over to Bobby’s bed anyway.
Bobby, knowing he won, smiled. Hanbin lied down.
Bobby must have been lonely lately. The pack loved to crawl in a puppy-pile and snuggle, found instinctive comfort in cuddling and scenting, and it had been difficult to accommodate Bobby as of late.
Bobby practically melted against Hanbin’s side when they touched. There was comfort in the fact that both of their hearts were pounding in their chests, not just Hanbin’s. Maybe Hanbin could play it off as excitement, or high blood pressure. He was not sure what Bobby’s excuse was though; probably just happiness at having someone to entertain him. His head dropped to rest against Hanbin’s shoulder and Hanbin was content despite the nervous tension that Bobby would figure something out.
Nah— he would have caught on already if he was ever going to.
Hanbin pinched Bobby’s cheek. “You’re so cute, hyung.”
Bobby grabbed a handful of Hanbin’s face and shoved him to the side. Hanbin laughed at his bashfulness.
They played with Hanbin’s phone, listening to music, writing notes, talking, until an alarm of Hanbin’s went off, alerting him to a calendar event.
“Oh, shit,” Hanbin remembered. “I have this tea party thing tomorrow, with the Upper Northside pack.”
“Ah,” Bobby frowned. He dropped his earphone. “Are you taking anyone with you?”
“Maybe Jinhwan,” Hanbin said. It was always a power move to bring a date to these functions. “Ah, no, he works early on Tuesdays.”
“Bring me!” Bobby volunteered.
All that naïve energy was too cute for Hanbin to scorn. “Hyung, you have two broken wrists and a skull fracture.”
“Yeah,” Bobby said, “they’ll feel bad for me and like, give us VIP access to the specialty creamery in rich-town.”
Hanbin responded, “That is not at all how turf distribution under our alliance works. You can go there at any time as long as you respect the house etiquette.”
“And what’s the house etiquette?”
“You can know once you heal. I’m not giving you a reason to leave this bed.”
Bobby groaned. “UGHHHHH, HANBIN, YOU WON’T LET ME DO ANYTHIIIING.”
“Shh.” Hanbin said, and placed his hand on Bobby’s cheek.
He abruptly rolled over on his side and said, “Get your beauty sleep, then.”
Hanbin pouted and cooed, “Are you mad at me?”
Hanbin smiled, tried to roll Bobby back over, “Then smile…”
Bobby yanked his arm out of Hanbin’s hold. Hanbin’s smile fell. That reaction actually worried him a little bit.
“Sorry,” Bobby said. “I’m just… really comfortable like this.”
“Oh…” Hanbin resolved to let this one go. Bobby seemed to know what he wanted. “Okay.” He gave Bobby’s hair a little fluffing, experimentally, and thankfully, Bobby let it happen. “Good night.”
“See you tomorrow,” Hanbin said, “after the tea party.”
“Yeah,” Bobby said. His voice was a little strained. “See you.”
Hanbin felt odd leaving things how they were, but if this is what Bobby wanted… he respected that. He also respected how hard it must have been to find a comfortable sleeping position with that many broken bones. Yeah. Bobby was just in a comfortable position.
Hanbin told himself this was not about him and tried to get some sleep.
Hanbin woke up late, of course. He already had trouble sleeping at night, and paired with the awkward tension that would not let him relax last night, he did not stand a chance. He hurriedly shoved a piece of toast in his mouth like a goddamn anime character, collected his bag, and headed to the door.
“What’s going on, hyung?” Chanwoo asked.
“It’s a tea party,” Hanbin said. “It’s like, a conference. I’m meeting up with the pack on the Upper Northside to maintain peaceful relations and whatever.”
“They’re an all-girl pack,” Yunhyeong commented, raising his eyebrows suggestively. “Maybe Chanwoo wants to go with you.”
Chanwoo blushed and ducked. “Wait,” he raised his head, “all girls? Are all packs divided by gender?”
“Nope,” Yunhyeong said. “Their alpha is just a huge misandrist.”
“Oh,” Chanwoo said. “Why are we all guys?”
“Because our old alpha was a huge misogynist,” Hanbin said, “and I picked you because I thought you would be a good addition to the team, not because you identify as a boy. Okay? Gotta go. Love you. Be good.” He gave Chanwoo a quick kiss on the head and barreled out of the apartment.
Hanbin made it to the location on time. It was a Victorian-looking place, had a magical feeling to it. It was very pink and white and intimidating in that way. Hanbin wished he had worn a better outfit, but he thought he could not go wrong in the classic black dress pants and white dress shirt, right?
Jisoo looked super pretty, in her far superior pink dress and hair bows. Hanbin was thrilled her alpha skipped out on this one. They bowed, shook hands, and sat together. Jisoo asked how Hayi was doing, and Hanbin asked about their emissary, Chanhyuk. Hanbin really liked Chanhyuk. He suggested they all meet up for ice cream at the fancy place in the Northside, and Jisoo ethusiastically agreed, gushing about how much she loved that place. They ate lunch together and maintained a peaceful relationship that would make their former alphas seethe in oppressive rage, so all was well.
“You know what?” Jisoo asked. “You should come over to my house in August for my inauguration as alpha. Jennie, Chaeyoung, and Lalisa will all be there, with a few of our friends. It’s like, a little get-together. Bring your whole pack!”
“Ah, the date is coming so soon,” Hanbin smiled. “You must be so excited. Of course, we’ll be there.”
“I’ll send an invitation!” Jisoo beamed. “Just to be formal.”
“Of course,” Hanbin smiled. He really liked this girl. Formality, structure, and organization? Hanbin trusted her as an alpha already.
“Of course,” she said. “Now, let’s go over the peace treaty.”
At the end of the snooze-fest, he walked Jisoo to her cab, the two travelling arm-in-arm. She patted his arm and thanked him for being a gentleman, that her alpha would really ‘appreciate it’. Hanbin laughed at the… compliment. Seriously, he could not wait for Jisoo to take over her own pack.
Hanbin got home late into the afternoon.
“Woah, it really is Hanbin!” Donghyuk jeered right as Hanbin walked in. “I thought we had a Playboy coming to visit us.”
Hanbin raised his eyebrows and Yunhyeong snorted a laugh. “Heh?”
“You smell like a rich girl,” Donghyuk commented from his seat on the floor. “Like, we could smell you coming down the hall, dude. She was all OVER you!”
He was sure that Donghyuk, like the whole pack, had caught onto Hanbin’s gender preference by then, so Hanbin assumed what they were doing right then was joking. Ha-ha. Junhoe hid a smirk. Hanbin just laughed, shook his head, rolled his eyes.
Hanbin asked, “Where’s Jinhwan?”
“He’s out doing some shopping with Chanwoo for dinner,” Yunhyeong said.
“Will you be hungry, Hanbin?” Donghyuk raised his eyebrows. “I think you might’ve already had dessert.”
“Aish,” Yunhyeong scolded, and smacked Donghyuk in the back of the head while Donghyuk hollered in laughter. “Don’t be a pervert.”
Literally at the same time, Junhoe and Donghyuk loudly spoke over each other, saying something akin to, “Oh YoU’rE OnE to TaLK.”
Hanbin held his hands out to calm the fighting. “Hey, who’s nursing Bobby? Please forget I worded it like that.” Hanbin rubbed his forehead to fend off the regret-headache.
“What are you talking about?” Junhoe asked, and pointed a finger at the end of the couch. “He’s right here.”
Oh? Hanbin looked around Yunhyeong and saw that Bobby was sitting there, cuddled up to the elder. He also seemed to be purposely making himself look smaller. With a thin, culpable-looking grin, Bobby waved.
At least he had his head on a cushion.
Hanbin sighed. Whatever, Hanbin needed to go shower and change. He had no idea how a werewolf could stand such a potent perfume.
Washed, changed, and content, Hanbin spend a few hours at the desk on his laptop. Bobby did not return to the room. Hanbin did not have the strength to care too much about where Bobby chose to rest anymore, just as long as he was resting. Hanbin considered this a mark of personal growth.
At dinner, Bobby did not talk much at all. Maybe he thought he was in trouble. That was funny, in a cute way. Hanbin kicked Bobby under the table. Bobby was startled, looked at Hanbin with wide eyes. Hanbin winked, and Bobby shyly hid his feet under his chair and focused on his food.
“Good news,” Hanbin spoke conversationally. Two wolves were not in the kitchen, instead eating in the living room, but that did not matter. “Jisoo-sshi has invited us all to her coming-of-alpha celebration.”
“Ah, you did do well at lunch, then,” Donghyuk teased.
Hanbin smiled and shrugged like it was nothing. He laughed with the others. He noticed that Bobby’s giggle was quiet, halfhearted.
“Also,” Hanbin added, “if any of you fuck up the pack relations, I will have Doctor Taehyung neuter you.”
The laughter immediately died down.
Hanbin got ready for bed at the usual time. He was a little thrown off his rhythm when he discovered that Bobby was not waiting to be undressed. He was just lying in bed with his phone, dressed in his t-shirt and sweats, lazily scrolling SNS.
“Hey,” Hanbin went over to him. “Don’t you need help tonight?”
Bobby shook his head. “I’m good like this.”
Hanbin bit his lip. “Is something wrong?”
Bobby shook his head.
Yunhyeong had texted Hanbin after dinner: he’s been like this all night.
Pouty, reserved. Hanbin wondered what was wrong.
He patted Bobby’s butt. “Jiwon hyung…”
Bobby rolled over. He pouted.
Hanbin asked, “What’s wrong?”
Bobby mumbled, “Will you stay with me for a little while?”
Hanbin could not help but laugh at Bobby’s expression. “Of course,” Hanbin sat on the bed, “but why are you sad? Did you miss me today?”
Bobby rolled over slightly to hide his face in his pillow. Hanbin’s heart melted.
“It gets lonely,” Bobby said.
He smelled a little bitter due to muted anger that emanated from a selfish place deep in one’s soul. Bobby was jealous. Awh.
“The pack is making sure you rest a lot,” Hanbin said. He combed his fingers through Bobby’s hair. “You have to heal well.”
Bobby sniffled. Hanbin lied down beside him.
“Here,” he said. “I’ll keep you company.”
Bobby’s heart rate picked up ever-so-slightly. Hanbin smiled and cuddled closer.
“Hanbin,” Bobby suddenly spoke. “Hanbin, stop.”
What? That was weird, Bobby usually was cool with cuddles. “What? Why?”
“I…” Bobby rolled on his side. “I don’t…”
“Don’t what?” Hanbin asked. Don’t want you to? Hanbin hoped that was not it.
Bobby sighed and said, “I don’t… feel comfortable with that right now. Can you leave?”
Oh. Hanbin retracted his arms from around Bobby’s torso. Sadness surely radiated off of him.
“No, Bin,” Bobby quickly tried to make amends. “It’s not that. It’s not…” he struggled to find the words, “it’s not about the cuddling. I like the cuddling. It’s just…”
Hanbin raised an eyebrow, prompted, “It’s what?”
“It’s…” Bobby struggled, “I just… I can’t… like, I can’t do anything about… myself… so I’m… sensitive.”
Hanbin raised both his eyebrows. Bobby was usually sensitive, though. What was he even talking about?
Hanbin gasped and choked on the air he inhaled. Oh fuck.
“You…” he trailed off.
“Yeah,” Bobby deadpanned. “I can’t do anything. DO anything.”
Hanbin got it loud and clear now. He had not bothered to really smell the pheromones in the air last time Bobby shut Hanbin out, because he was too hesitant to learn the reason for it. “Shit, Bobby…” he had not even thought about the issue of Bobby getting off. Well, he did, but not in this context. Bad Thoughts. Hanbin forcibly thought of… Donghyuk. That worked.
“Yeah,” Bobby said. “It’s just super annoying, and I get random boners all the time anyway, so now that I can’t help myself out…” he exhaled grouchily. “It’s like headache but in my dick. I’ve tried using the bed, or a pillow, but… someone always walks in, because, you know, nurses.”
“Oh…” Hanbin actually felt really bad for the guy. “That… that’s not good.”
“No, it’s not. So can you just… not…” Bobby sighed and did not finish that sentence. Hanbin did not blame him.
“Yeah, sorry,” Hanbin scooted over.
Bobby muttered, “Goodnight.”
Hanbin knew he should have gone to bed. He knew this would be a bad move. But his brain insisted that he was Bobby’s bedside nurse until morning, and he needed to help him out. He wanted to help him out. It was his noble responsibility as a caring, altruistic, selfless bff, his bro for life, his ride or die. (And also the love of his life, sue him.)
“Uh…” Hanbin started, seductive and eloquent. “If… if you really need help…” his heart beat into his throat. “I could help.”
Bobby froze for a moment. He asked, “…Are you sure we should do that?”
“Yeah?” Hanbin said, very unsure. “We’re friends, right? Friends help each other out. Just call on me brother when you need a hand. You know? Literally.”
Bobby laughed into his pillow at that, but did not turn around. “Honestly? I really want to say yes. No homo. This problem is just really annoying.”
“Hey, no shame in that,” Hanbin tried to make light of the situation. “It’s natural.”
Bobby rubbed his face with the tips of his fingers. “Uhm… dude, if you would seriously do that, thank you. I promise I won’t be weird about it.”
“Shouldn’t I be worried about that?” He was. Hanbin was so worried about that. “I’m the one who offered.”
“Nah, it’s… nice of you. You’re a good friend, bro.”
God bless obliviousness. “It’s nothing, man.”
He leaned over to Bobby’s nightstand drawer to squeeze some lotion onto his hand. The cold feeling of the lotion on his palm woke up him to the reality of the situation: he was really going to touch Bobby’s dick. For medicinal purposes! But still. Maybe that was worse actually. Oh God.
He warmed the lotion in his hand. Bobby shifted, seemingly trying to pull his pants down with his two splinted hands.
Hanbin sat upright, stopping Bobby’s movements. “Hey,” he said softly. “Let me.”
He did not notice until his words processed and echoed in the depths of his skull that he sounded really sensual there. Oh boy.
With his available hand, he worked Bobby’s sweatpants down slightly, just over the curve of his butt (his cute butt, Hanbin’s mind duly reminded him), so they would not get in the way. He figured that would be enough.
He lied down again, shuffled down a little lower to get a good angle. Once they were spooning, he reached over Bobby’s groin. Paused. Lingered.
“Are you sure this is okay?” Hanbin asked.
Bobby muttered, “It is for me, but you don’t sound sure it’s okay for you.”
“What?” Hanbin responded. “No, I am! I want to.”
Silence passed over them. Hanbin lingered on.
“Uh…” he tried, “I mean, I meant, I have no problem—”
“That’s a great idea,” Hanbin said, and promptly stuck his hand down Bobby’s boxers.
Bobby gasped as soon as he felt Hanbin on him. Fuck, Hanbin reacted to that. Bobby slipped an arm under his pillow and lifted it hold the pillow against his mouth. What was that for? To keep him from making noise? Oh, Hanbin was not going to make it through this. This was a ride and die situation.
Hanbin moved his hand. They were at an easy angle, natural, so Hanbin moved as though he was jerking himself off. He tried to de-romanticize it.
Bobby moaned, the sound muffled by the pillow, and Hanbin reacted, moved his dick against Bobby’s ass.
Bobby was too distracted to notice and Hanbin was too distracted to care.
He stroked Bobby slow at first, adjusting them both to the feeling. Hanbin turned his wrist, rubbed his thumb in circles around the head of Bobby’s cock. Bobby’s moans were consistent and grew ragged as Hanbin worked him up. Hanbin brushed his thumb over the head, and Bobby exhaled. He went quiet, breathing steady as Hanbin began stroking him again.
Hanbin pushed his forehead into the back of Bobby’s neck, let out a heavy exhale of his own. He gripped the bedsheet underneath them to keep himself grounded – it was so hard to not move his hips, to not grind his cock against Bobby’s ass that was right there, right against him… Hanbin indulgently rolled his hips forward once and pumped Bobby hard to distract from it. Bobby made a grunting sound into the pillow.
Hanbin literally bit his tongue to keep from whispering an expletive as he worked Bobby closer to his edge, listened to his heart pounding in time with Hanbin’s. Bobby moved his hips into Hanbin’s hand. God… Hanbin bit Bobby’s shirt between his teeth to keep his mouth shut. He moved his hand faster along Bobby’s cock.
Bobby was quiet now, but panting against his pillow. Hanbin paid only attention to him, how hard he was breathing, how he shifted every so often, subconsciously as it seemed…
Hanbin made a muffled sound against Bobby’s back. He felt the vibrations run through both of them. Bobby’s heart pounded against his lips.
How did Hanbin get here?
Bobby shifted again, but it felt different this time. After a few more ardent stokes of his hand, Bobby tilted his face out of the pillow and gasped, “Bin.”
Bobby came in his boxers right after, over himself and Hanbin’s hand. And he let out a loud – not obscured by the pillow – moan. Hanbin vowed to care about that in a few seconds. Right then, he just stroked Bobby through his orgasm, just did his best to hold it together and breathe.
His movements slowed. Stopped. They both caught their breath. Hanbin was half in a state of total euphoria and half in a state of desperate, aching need for a release (the sweet release of death or an orgasm, either one would be fine).
Bobby whispered, “Fuck.”
Hanbin whispered back, “Sorry,” because he had no idea what to say.
“You think the kids heard that?”
Yes. Hanbin simply replied, “Not Junhoe.”
Bobby groaned, not out of pleasure this time. “Thanks for that, bro,” he said, but that sounded genuine.
Hanbin lit up again, glowing in the… pre-after-glow. “No problem, dude.”
“You should get cleaned up.”
“Oh, right,” Hanbin said. He moved slowly, as though not to jostle his bedmate. “I’ll bring back a wet towel for you. Can you kick your own pants off?”
“Yeah. Thanks, Bin.”
Hanbin locked himself in the bathroom and immediately went to the toilet. He still had some lotion, and yeah, cum on his hand. He was depraved, so despairingly irredeemable that God probably looked down on him with pity. He jerked himself off with the lubricant left on his hand, hard and quick. It did not take long for Hanbin to come in hot ribbons, white stars behind his vision, hand supporting himself on the bathroom wall.
He caught his breath. Holy fuck. There had to be frat rules against this. There had to be a bro code that regulated sex with your bros. Would this fall under the condition of loyalty, or would it count as betrayal? Hanbin just could not figure it out, not now, not when he was jerked out and reeling and exhausted from not sleeping the previous night. Hopefully not ever if he could help it.
He cleaned up, wet the cloth, and brought it back to their room. Bobby was already falling asleep, so Hanbin helped him out. He helped Bobby shimmy out of his underwear and it was less weird than Hanbin thought it would be. He was kind of already in a dream, so his consciousness was not all there.
Bobby cleaned up, and then dropped the towel beside his bed.
“Do you have to pee?” Hanbin asked.
“Nah,” Bobby said, eyes already closed, voice low and drowsy. “Just went before bed.”
Hanbin kissed Bobby on the head, said goodnight, and collapsed into his own bed. He fell asleep before he hit the mattress – it was easier than it had been in a long time.
Hanbin thought that if people lived in eternal night there would be no regrets. There would never come a morning to suffer through. He envied the brilliant mind of Tim Burton. Chanwoo sensed his emo suffering and suggested he channel his sadness into a ballad so it could be useful for something – why did Chanwoo only live to roast? – and Donghyuk laughed when Chanwoo got hit again.
It was early afternoon and they had all – except for two – driven in the van down to the woods on the outskirts of town. Hanbin stood by the tree with the branch that grew low, close to the ground, and sent his wolves over it as a hurdle. They had only been caught out there once, and since the news spread that there was a wolf pack in the community woods (even better, since the rangers would never find them, they were known as Ghost Wolves, which was a very good band name), the flow of visitors had dwindled considerably. So that was good.
He and Bobby did not even glance at each other in the morning. Bobby did not even shower, he just got up to pee and brush his teeth or whatever before heading back to bed and hiding under the covers. Hanbin hid under his own covers until he could have access to the bathroom.
Their clothes lay in a pile next to Hanbin. It was far easier to jump as the wolf when clothes were not restricting their movements, even with the assless sweats.
Donghyuk got a running start and leapt gracefully over the branch in his path, although his landing was a little awkward. Donghyuk was sinewy and stable, made for leaps and landings, the structure of a dancer. Hanbin was not worried, the kid just needed a bit more training.
“Nice job, Donghyuk, but work on your landing.”
Donghyuk nodded and stood tall and proud on strong paws.
Junhoe was left at home to take his shift with Bobby. Hanbin would have to catch the boy up on training later. The summer was meant to be used for rigorous training, but alas, Bobby’s condition put a rain check on the group training activities (figure of speech, as the monsoons could not stop their training). Hanbin decided to just do his best with skill development, and for that, he could divide the pack in groups, no biggie.
Yunhyeong took his running start, crashed into the branch, and fell to the ground with a whimper. Donghyuk cackled. Yunhyeong just lied there on the forest floor.
“Depth perception,” Hanbin said. “Work on gauging.”
After a little while longer of no movement, Donghyuk trotted over to Yunhyeong and licked his face. When that did not work, Donghyuk just stood over him and tilted his head.
Jinhwan had already passed this test, jumping over the hurdle and landing with ease, so he was currently relaxing next to Hanbin, observing the team. Jinhwan barked, “Ye!” which was ‘Yunhyeong’, as each of their names had a specific sound in the wolf tongue.
Yunhyeong muttered, make a show of forcing himself to stand upright, injured and weak. He shook leaves and ground debris off his brown coat and trudged back to the starting line.
“Thanks for the assistance,” Hanbin said to the wolf, known as Hwa.
Jinhwan asked, “Mneh, Wowo?”
Hanbin was curious about Junhoe and Jiwon too. “I’ll train June with Yunhyeong later,” he responded. “Jiwon… will catch up eventually.”
This was really far from an ideal situation. Bobby needed particular attention paid to him, like Junhoe. Junhoe was agile and good on his feet but not athletic, and Bobby was athletic but inelegant and unenthusiastic about hard physical labour. These vices set them behind the others.
Chanwoo took his running start, leapt over the branch, but tumbled to the ground and rolled. He huffed.
“Good effort, Chanwoo,” Hanbin said. “But remember that you probably have an easier time jumping the hurdle because you have long legs. That gives you an advantage. Don’t think you know what you’re doing just because you made it over. Your technique needs serious improvement.”
Chanwoo huffed again, louder.
“Oowoo!” Jinhwan cheered the maknae on.
Yeah, ‘Oowoo’ was not Hanbin’s first choice for Chanwoo’s wolf name, but they were working with a limited amount of lip and tongue shapes in the wolf form.
“Haba?” Jinhwan addressed Hanbin.
Hanbin looked down and answered, “Yes?”
Jinhwan tilted his head and asked, “Woo oway?”
“Of course I’m okay,” Hanbin said, crossing his arms tighter, more defensively. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Jinhwan blinked. Their communication was clearest in non-verbal cues.
Hanbin sighed. “Kinda maybe made a bad call last night. I’m handling it.” The worst lie he ever told.
Jinhwan scoffed and looked forward to the group again. How rude.
Donghyuk jumped the hurdle again, nearly sticking a perfect landing. Yunhyeong tried again and made it over this time, but tumbled to the ground as Chanwoo had. He decided to sulk on the woodland floor again. Chanwoo ran, jumped the hurdle, and rolled directly on top of Yunhyeong. “Worrweh,” Chanwoo apologized, and Yunhyeong just groaned.
They trained for a few more hours.
The kids started getting restless at around 4:30, nearing dinnertime. A few minor scraps broke out. Jinhwan was being bitchier than usual, snapping his jaws at trivial matters like Donghyuk missing a command and Hanbin’s tempestuous waves of depression. Donghyuk began forlornly munching on the foliage. Hanbin could not work with a team of hungry wolves. In a proverbial sense, it was just not going to happen.
“Okay,” Hanbin clapped his hands. “Good effort today. Everybody, shift and get dressed. We have to get dinner.”
The wolves howled and cheered. Yunhyeong shouted, “HUUUUU,” calling for Donghyuk to hurry up. Hu bounded over with the rest of them and tackled Chanwoo at the clothing pile.
They shifted back, dusted themselves off and got dressed. Hanbin supposed the only acceptable place to show up in this state of disarray was the American-style waffle house nearby. He herded his pack into the car and let Jinhwan know the destination.
They merrily arrived at the place of food and ate the same way. Jinhwan ordered a fancier dish for Junhoe, French toast and fruits and this maple-y meat, but Hanbin went simple for Bobby. A big breakfast, lots of eggs and potato and fruit, but allowed the boy a sample of greasy meat, because he was not heartless.
They arrived home, and filled to the brim, the kids immediately dispersed to relax. Chanwoo and Yunhyeong went to Yunhyeong’s room to nap, Donghyuk plopped down on the couch with Jinhwan. Hanbin put Junhoe and Bobby’s food on the table.
Attracted by the smell of food, a slightly damp and fresh-smelling Junhoe entered the kitchen with no prompting. He ‘ooo’d happily at Jinhwan’s menu choice for him, got right to eating it.
“Can you put coffee on?” Hanbin asked. He was just going to run and get Bobby real quick.
Junhoe snuffled, neither a yes nor a no, but Hanbin trusted that Junhoe was the least bit grateful to Hanbin for making sure he was fed. Hanbin left him to the task.
“Jiwon?” Hanbin called. He knocked the bedroom door, and Bobby let him in.
He smelled like a fresh shower. He was clean and glowing, hair slightly damp as he looked up from his laptop and beamed in Hanbin’s direction. Hanbin’s heart fluttered.
“Food’s here,” he said.
Bobby broke into a huge, toothy smile. Hanbin could not help but mirror it.
He closed his laptop, headed over to Hanbin as if waiting for him so they could walk out together. He was sweet. Hanbin had to tease him a little bit. He fixed Bobby’s hair and said, “So, you and Junhoe took a shower together?”
Bobby laughed breathily and hid his face. “Bin…”
Hanbin grinned and said, “That’s progress! I’m so proud of you.”
Bobby smiled, tight-lipped. Hanbin grabbed his face, gently, and nuzzled his nose into Bobby’s cute cheek. Bobby’s facial hair was thin and minimal, but he was a little rough, as neither Bobby nor Jinhwan when assisting could shave the whole shadow off at their awkward angles. Hanbin liked the soft burn of the friction – Bobby was cute like a litchi. Bobby snuffled and whined and tried to squirm out of Hanbin’s grasp.
“Ahhh!” Bobby resisted, and finally pulled away.
Hanbin just felt so happy that Bobby was happy and not tense around him anymore. He breathed it all in.
…Wait. He grabbed Bobby’s arm to stop him from leaving.
He caught a scent.
“What’s that smell?” Hanbin asked.
Bobby tensed. Hanbin could feel it and smell it.
“That smell in your mouth,” Hanbin said. He had caught a whiff when Bobby laughed in his face, and now he could smell it in the room, as though it was slowly permeating.
Bobby kept his mouth closed and shook his head. His heart rate increased.
Hanbin would not play this game. He sniffed, sniffed…
He gasped. “Choco-pie.”
Bobby looked like he had just been found guilty of murder. He frantically shook his head.
“Stop that!” Hanbin held Bobby’s head in place. “You’re healing!” Bobby stopped. Hanbin continued, “Why do I smell Choco-pie?”
Bobby looked down. He mumbled, lips closed, I ‘unno.
Hanbin sniffed. He let go of Bobby, marched over to his bed. “Hanbin!” Bobby yelled, and quickly followed behind.
Hanbin lifted Bobby’s mattress and produced the empty, flattened Choco-pie box. He held it up in Bobby’s face. Bobby whimpered.
Hanbin had strongly forbidden the pack to bring sweets into the house while Bobby was on his diet. They had to eat whatever they bought right after they bought it so Bobby would not feel tempted. “Who did this belong to?”
Hanbin narrowed his eyes.
“Was it Donghyuk’s?”
Bobby made no response.
“Was it Junhoe’s?”
Bobby’s heart rate sped up.
Of course. Seriously, where did Junhoe even GET so many snacks?
“Hanbin please,” he caught Hanbin’s arm, “I asked for them, he was doing me a favour.”
“Junhoe smuggled in Choco-pies for you?!”
This was not a moment of weakness on Bobby’s part, then, this was planned. Of course it would be Bobby and Junhoe to conspire behind Hanbin’s back, the two who defied him most. Hanbin supposed this was his fault for not seeing it coming. He had trusted two scorpions not to sting him.
Hanbin heard the front door open and close. Hanbin sighed. The traitor could run, but he could not hide, not forever.
“When did this happen?”
Bobby muttered, “Today.”
Hanbin was beside himself. “You are the whole box in one day?! That is very BAD for you, Jiwon!”
Bobby pouted at the wall, avoiding Hanbin’s eyes. “I only ate six.”
Hanbin dropped his face into his hands. “Oh my god.” And they were doing so well, too.
Bobby muttered, “You’re making a big deal out of it for nothing…”
That was so unfair. He would not have made a big deal if Bobby was eating extra chocolate after breakfast. This was borderline menopause crisis territory, and that lack of will to stay fit worried him. Hanbin did not want to care about Bobby more than Bobby himself did. It would not help anyone.
“You cannot,” Hanbin stressed, “give up on your health just because you’re bored, especially in the crucial stages of your healing.” He continued, “You have to care about your own recovery. And you cannot push yourself to stay on a diet to the point of a BREAKDOWN.” Not everyone could be blessed with Donghyuk’s unyielding motivation. “Just talk to me if you’re struggling and we can find a solution together. Okay?”
Bobby looked down, nodded. “Okay.”
That was a bit too easy. “Really?”
Bobby nodded. “I’ll pay more attention to my health.”
Well… at least they were in a good place now. This was fine. Hanbin smiled and pet Bobby’s face. “Okay.”
Bobby’s eyelashes fluttered. He blushed. Hanbin continued, “And now you’re double-grounded. No Donghyuk or Junhoe.” He patted Bobby’s cheek. Bobby muttered and groaned some more. “Also, you won’t have nurses anymore. You get to take care of yourself, since that’s apparently what you want.” He patted Bobby over the head with the flattened box.
Bobby shut up. His shoulders fell. Hanbin smiled at tapped the box against Bobby’s head until Bobby batted it away.
Hanbin just checked up on Bobby every now and again to make sure he was not flat-lining and went about his day. This tough love thing was almost therapeutic for him, actually. Let Bobby feel the all-consuming need for affection for a change.
What Hanbin did not expect was to find Bobby staying in his room all day. Maybe he only left when Hanbin was not home, to spite him or something.
At dinner time, Hanbin walked into their bedroom. He had been out with Donghyuk and Chanwoo most of the day, and Jinhwan was out somewhere supervising Junhoe, and Yunhyeong had his own life, so Hanbin assumed that Bobby would enjoy some interaction.
He did not. It surprised Hanbin that Bobby was just lying as a bump on the mattress when he had been cleared for light crossfit, too. When Hanbin baited him with food, Bobby did not even budge. Weird.
“What is this, a hunger strike?” Hanbin crossed his arms.
Bobby muttered something incoherent.
Hanbin smiled. “You know I’m not going to let you die.”
Bobby kicked his feet angrily and turned on his back. He glared at Hanbin with a pouty frown.
Hanbin just laughed at him, pulled off his shirt to change. “You sure you’re not in the mood for anything?”
And Bobby just… froze.
Hanbin waited for a response for a few seconds. His smile fell. He grew curious. What was going on?
Bobby swallowed dryly, eyes roaming Hanbin’s body. Hanbin flushed, and became aware of the room temperature draft on his skin as he heated up, feeling colder. He quickly found a nice sweater and pulled it on.
Bobby’s eyelashes fluttered and he averted his gaze. He rolled back over on his side and used his fingertips to pull the covers back over him.
There was a pervasive tension that returned to the room that Hanbin was eager to escape from. Hanbin bit the inside of his lip, collected his wallet, and left.
On the seventh day of Bobby’s sentence to bed-rest, Hanbin made sure that Bobby stayed in bed all day to use every last moment he had to heal before he was sent back into the world to get hurt all over again (and he would, make no mistake, he would). He had recovered from his bout of grumpiness, so he was far more vocal than he had been the day before, demanding more things of Hanbin: banana milk, a lighter blanket, entertainment, attention.
“Bobby,” Hanbin said, “you are a grown man.”
Bobby hugged his Pooh bear in both arms and sulked.
Hanbin struck a straw in Bobby’s milk, set up Bobby’s laptop on his lap, gave him a pat on the head and neck – Bobby grumbled – and left him to his entertainment.
“Han-BIN,” Bobby shouted as Hanbin tried to leave.
Hanbin turned around. “Yes?”
Bobby had looked so mad when they first made eye contact. As their gazes held, Bobby’s expression softened. He looked down at his lap and humphed.
Regardless of his disciplinary motivations, Hanbin was doing this because he cared. He knew more about injuries than all of them, had made a point to study common injuries and treatments with Hayi back when they first met through Chanhyuk and his emissary mentor, back when it was just Hanbin, Jinhwan, Bobby, and Junhoe, falling over each other, bruising and spraining wrists that healed in a few days.
There was a time shortly after Junhoe arrived when Hanbin realized he was going to be the alpha of this New Pack his former alpha hinted at. New blood, he always said, of the new blood, you’re the best. And Hanbin was sure that no matter who else joined the pack, it would not affect his standing in the ranks. He was the best of them. He was the best of anyone. His former alpha chose the new pack around the chemistry they had with Hanbin, not himself.
Hanbin took this idea of him being a leader very seriously. He began to hold himself back during playtimes, knew that he had to be stronger than the rest, healthier, knew he would have to carry the kids home if it came down to that. It was then the look in Bobby’s eyes started to change when he looked at him. At first it was all uneasiness, uncertainty; why won’t you play with us anymore? With me?
Then it changed. He matured. Where the fond twinkle in his irises once lived there was a new glimmer in the dark of his pupils, dilated and filled with admiration. Hanbin knew Bobby looked up to him as a leader, and trusted him as one, because he understood. Bobby knew he cared. Bobby knew that Hanbin had to force them to take care of themselves when they could not do it on their own.
So he shut up and grumpily sipped his banana milk and typed on his computer, one key at a time. He quickly gave up and dropped his casted fist on the keyboard and key-smashed it. Hanbin let him be.
“I miss you,” Bobby grumbled, almost inaudibly. Hanbin’s ear twitched when he picked up the sound.
Hanbin flippantly replied, “You can have the pack back tomorrow,” and began to walk out the door.
Bobby mumbled, softer, “I miss you.”
Caught in the momentum of the action, Hanbin simply kept walking.