“Do you prefer to take showers, or baths? Do you like to shower in the morning, or in the evening?”
It’s kind of ironic. He’s using that word correctly right? Cause it’s the kind of word he’d trust Chan to use correctly, but not himself.
Jisung’s father once said to him, frustrated and at the end of his wits when Jisung would not, could not be still, “Silence may taste bitter upon your tongue Jisung but, it is not poison.”
Jisung never believed him then, and now? Now he finds those words even less true.
He wanders the streets of Old Seoul with only the sound of his heart beating and the burn of his body aching to keep him company. He knows that this place is the site of numerous former industrial plants that used to belch noxious fumes into the air, and leaked atropine sludge into the Earth. Although only their ruins remain now, and although this portion of the city has long been abandoned, its cracked bones remain and leak marrow poison.
In his silence, Jisung is poisoned.
So it’s ironic, he supposes.
In the new city, the sky is almost constantly blotted out by thick inky smog. Here? The sky is clear and blue. In the new city, the streets are dirty and littered with filth. And anywhere you turn, someone’s there to crush you underfoot. Here in the old city? Jisung stands alone, wandering down cracked pavement. These blown concrete veins in the husk of the city lead him to the heart, tired and barely beating.
This place is deceptive, to the point of being cruel. Through the cracks in the pavement, green plants spring upward: purple thistle and yellow butter cups. Although parts of nature have reclaimed this area, it’s anything but habitable.
Jisung hasn’t seen so much as a crow perch atop the exposed bits of rebar that jut out from the husks of buildings without rooves. Although flowers are plentiful, there are no butterflies, or beetles with jewel toned shells.
The very wrongness of this place takes him by the hand and leads him toward near certain demise. Poison in the air makes what he takes for granted, walking and breathing, the greatest of burdens. His head doesn’t just ache, no, he can feel every capillary in his brain pulse in pain. His leg muscles burn, as if he’d just run for miles and miles. His eyes and his tongue sting, and single minded to the point of his own detriment, all he can fixate on is making it to the meeting point.
Shielding his eyes from the brilliance of the sun, the pain lessens just enough that he can move forward, albeit barely so.
What other option does he have? He’ll be dead before anyone can come extract him.
Jisung checks the coordinates again on his phone, and compares it to the topographical map Changbin generated for him. If his body will give him five minutes, he’ll make the meeting point.
First, he staggers staggers to the left and then the right. There’s a gaping sink hole in the pavement. He’d been walking right toward it, eyes covered to lessen the constant throb of the aura. Over correcting, he stumbles off of the broken road, rolls his ankles and tumbles to the ground. For a moment, he can open his eyes and see lush green grass before him. It tickles his cheek.
Jisung’s body doesn’t have five minutes to give.
His lungs desperately try to bring in air, but instead he feels like he’s gargled with gasoline and inhaled a match. The same chemicals that burn his eyes coat his lungs and starve the oxygen out. Like the mistimed beat of an engine cylinder, his chest shudders and heaves on an empty exhale, there’s nothing left in his lungs.
Not ironic. Just shitty. Right?
Desperately, he swings his arms and tries to move his body upward. Fighting and thrashing against an invisible hand that keeps him pinned down to the grass, Jisung cannot break free. Blackness tugs at the corners of his vision, telescope in, narrowing his vision further. Then, everything goes black.
Jisung wakes to the faint pneumatic sound of air escaping from a contained space, like pressing the top of an aerosol can. The pressure of the heavy, invisible monster sitting upon his chest is lessened, but transferred upward towards his mouth and his nose.
Looking down the bridge of his nose, he can see something black strapped to his face. His first raw and animalistic instinct tells him get rid of it. He reaches for it, claws at it, and desperately tries to remove the thick black plastic that cloisters his face.
Upon pulling the mask off, pain immediately returns to his body. Jisung feels like a fish brought up from the water, left to flounder upon a line, but there’s no one nearby merciful enough to put him out of his misery.
“You need the mask to breathe,” strange, foreign words that he does not understand feel like thunder against the shell of his ear. It’s the same kind of black coffee and dry whiskey voice that his father had, and his father was so cruel that he could not have been human. Therefore, there’s no way at all the speaker was human either. No way that anything human can live and breathe in such an environment. “The air is toxic, man. It’ll melt your lungs.”
He’s probably already dead, and this is just a very muted version of hell.
Then, a very human hand reaches around Jisung’s neck, and pulls the black mask back up to his nose. Jisung screws his eyes shut to soften a blow that never comes. In stark contrast, the pain subsides.
When he opens his eyes once again, someone’s standing in front of him. Colorless white hair frames two large brown eyes. Although his mouth is covered by an identical black plastic mask, Jisung need not see his mouth to know that he smiles. His eyes express the smile well enough, crinkling at the corner, and looking right through him as if he were made of glass.
The stranger bends at the waist and offers his hand to Jisung.
If this isn’t his contact, well…Jisung would never see his own death coming. A small, impossibly soft hand cups his own and leads him across a long, rolling field of Queen Anne’s Lace that grows so thickly that it almost looks like snow.
Jisung hasn’t seen plants outside of Chan’s greenhouse in months. When his eyes linger too long on the plants, when he begins to reach towards the blossoms, the stranger swipes his thumb across the palm of his hand, and looks at him over his shoulder expectantly.
At the end of the lace doily covered field sets a row of trees. The stranger leads him into them. The roots claw out of the ground like veins that press against pale skin.
Even though he’s no longer alone, the poison of silence still leaks in through his ear.
Jisung hasn’t had quiet in so long. There’s always something to talk about with the others. The next mission, or how to best divide the chores, or the things that they miss that they had to leave behind. Jisung talks until his jaw is sore, because it makes the pain of leaving home hurt just a little bit less. Even when no one’s talking to him directly there’s the sound of pipes rattling, or the sound of someone talking through the vents. Those noises keep the anxious spot in the back of his mind that tells him he’s made a mistake, under control.
Now, the silence is so thick that it makes his ears burn, nothingness vibrates into his ear and makes him feel like he’s been pushed under water. The rustle of leaves against leaves is barely a whisper, low and inconsistent, the barest of sounds startles Jisung.
Now that he’s with someone else, the strength of the poison is only intensified.
“Do you speak Korean?” Anything to break the awkward silence. The sound of his own voice is obscured by the plastic mask. Syllables blend together and become round around the edges. The stranger turns to him once more, looks at him with a quizzical expression, and shrugs his shoulders.
Then he says something back, something equally muffled. “I don’t know what you’re saying.”
“My name is Han Jisung,” and Jisung awkwardly tries to extend his other, unheld hand to the stranger to shake it in greeting.
For awhile, Jisung just talks, mostly to himself in muffled tones. The stranger stops looking at him, and keeps leading him through the forest. “Like I said, my name is Jisung. My boyfriend—I mean my best friend—its kind of complicated. Minho is Minho. I live with my friends Changbin and Chan, Changbin deciphered your message. At least I think its your message that we received. Where are we going? Are you even the person I’m supposed to meet?”
On and on until the sound of his own voice becomes more grating than comforting. He stops talking, and lets the silence push himself and the stranger forward.
Navigating the thick roots that crawl upward above the soil and sink downward is difficult, with the surefooted stranger catching him and steadying him multiple times when he rolls his ankle or trips.
“My name is Felix.” His touch is steady, yet soft. “I’m super glad you didn’t die. I’m not upset you’re here, but since you can’t understand, I’ll say it. I was hoping Chris would come. But, it’s nice to not be alone again. I counted. It’s been 117 days since I’ve seen someone out here. You passed out two meters from his corpse. Did you know that?”
Back and forth, muffled, indecipherable, Felix the stranger doesn’t feel so strange anymore.
Eventually, the thick trees that shade them from the sun begin to thin. Only here in the back and forth amongst chatter that neither of them understand does Jisung take the time to truly look at Felix. Light from the sun streams through the leaves and bathes fickle light onto the ground and across Felix’s skin. His clothes are old, faded, but clean, a striped shirt and jeans that are too large tied on with a makeshift belt made of yellowed twine.
By the time the conversation has died down, Felix has led them to a place where the roots and the grass subside into a gravel path. At the end of that path is a place where the earth has heaved, and a bunker has been unearthed from its tomb. Thick concrete walls are carpeted with black green moss, and a large metal door rests in the center.
Felix approaches the door and throws the large vaulted handle backwards. Deception hides in every inch of svelte frame as he throws the door back all by himself. Then, he ushers Jisung inside. Jisung reaches for the handle, trying to close it behind him, but it won’t budge.
Felix grabs it, and throws the vault shut as if it were nothing at all.
The room in which they enter is illuminated by flickering fluorescent lights that hum in rusted metal cages. Along the walls and the floor, gray green tile layered behind patches of mold and watercolor blossoms of rust. Together, they spin an intricate pattern upon the floor, eventually comingling in the center of a room at a large corroded metal grate. Along the wall are several showerheads.
It’s a lot like their home base.
And a lot like home base, there’s no sense of boundaries. Fingers tug at the lapels of his shirt and undo his buttons. Felix gets three buttons undone before it sinks in what he’s doing. He’s not startled at the way Felix manages to get Jisung naked, but because his hand dips inside, brushing against his exposed skin. Just like they like to do at home base.
Jisung pulls back.
The silence, now returned, is more potent than before.
Felix then grabs the hem of his own shirt and pulls it up over his head. Pulls his mask to the side, but doesn’t pull it off completely. His voice is still muffled, and frighteningly deep when he speaks unadulterated, “we’re contaminated, we have to shower.”
Jisung’s had English classes for years now, but its only now in this moment that he understands anything that the stranger says to him. There was a line in his English textbook. A girl with dark skin and black hair asked her houseguest, “Do you prefer to take showers, or baths?”
And the houseguest, a girl with blonde hair responded, “I take showers, and use my sponge.”
He hated English class, but it’s enough to let him know that they’re contaminated.
Jisung removes his own shirt, and then his pants, and Felix takes their clothing and pushes it through a chute. Jisung wonders just how the hell he’s going to end up doing this when he gets back home. If he gets back home, will he have to walk back through the field naked?
For a moment, it seems as if Felix were a cat once kept in the house. Then one day, the house cat snuck out the opened window and never returned. He seems so normal. Felix is kind eyes and kind gestures, a rescue with a smile. Felix is painfully strange, as if he’d forgotten all the little details of politeness. Jisung can feel Felix’s eyes heavy upon him, as if he’d forgotten the shame you’re supposed to bring with you into a public shower.
When the pressure becomes too much to bear, Jisung’s modest, downcast, eyes shift upward.
In that moment, he too crawls out of the window and into the free world. Outside rules don’t matter so much.
That’s probably for the best because now Jisung can take in the sight of smooth skin stretched over compact muscle completely without relying on stolen glances. Small freckles and birthmarks, no two identical, dapple his skin. Constellations and clusters, they sweep down his chest and across his arms. His stomach is predominantly unmarked save for a single sand colored mark the size of a ten won coin just to the left of his belly button. But his thighs are blanketed by a thick cloud of freckles.
Felix breaks the strange and wonderful trance that he himself placed upon Jisung by linking their hands together once more and pulling him toward the shower. With his free hand, he turns the rusted knob. Unlike when he opened the burdensome vaulted door, this actually seems to be a challenge for him. Jisung can feel the muscles in Felix’s body clench and contract in effort.
The shrill, squeaking noise of the faucet turning is joined by the deep rumbling thunder of the pipes roaring to life. Cold water shoots from the head of the shower, and Felix drags him out of the icy spray.
Jisung pulls at the straps of his masks but is interrupted by hands upon his. More strange muffled words that he does not understand, “Not yet.”
Only when steam caresses their flanks and wraps around their shoulders does Felix pull them back into the hot water.
He wonders if the stranger understands that he does indeed know how to wash himself. Body pressed to body, Felix treats him the way he’d almost expect to be treated if your first impression of someone was finding them half dead. That is to say, Felix handles him with a certain kind of rushed benevolence. Felix moves before Jisung has the chance to do anything for himself, but goes through the motions deftly.
Hands coated in thick orange soap suds roam over his body, covering every inch of him, and leaving no place untouched. Although bathing someone like this could never be labeled completely as innocent, Felix’s touches almost begin that way. His hands glide across Jisung’s collarbones and down his arms. Then, Felix moves as if an opportunity has been placed before him, and he’s just now realized it.
Felix lays his palms flat across Jisung’s chest and swipes downward.
It’s the kind of thing that should make Jisung feel threatened. He supposes these kinds of things are why Chan doesn’t like to send him out into the field. Maybe he’s too stupid to feel scared. He doesn’t even know if Felix is his captor, or his savior, or simply one contact in a myriad of missions yet to come. What’s undeniable is that he’s hot, and Jisung? It’d probably be stranger if he didn’t get worked up over someone touching him.
All that he knows is that leaning into the touch makes the silence between them, when it comes, makes it bearable. Offering his body to Felix completely purges the rest of the poison from his body. “I promise I don’t do this with every stranger that saves my life.” The taste of steam is thick in the air, and amplified by the mask. Instead of feeling as if he were burning from the inside like he did out in the field, his lungs are now heavy rainclouds burgeoning with water inside the raging storm of his body. He and Felix’s skin becomes red underneath the spray, and it would almost be painful if it didn’t loosen his muscles tightened by the journey and by poison.
Jisung is half hard, just from getting scrubbed down.
Felix’s hands glide down the v of his hips, curl inward as if he were going to close in and touch his cock, then stops abruptly, holding Jisung between those deceptively strong hands and deliciously gentle touch.
“Do you like…Want to?”
The way that Felix’s brow arches, the upward inflection in his voice. He thinks he knows. Jisung first responds with his voice. “Stop teasing me. C’mon.” When Felix does nothing in response, Jisung responds with instinct, sealing the scant distance between them.
Plastic scrapes against plastic. The sound is hollow and meaningless, but it’s habitual. Minho loves to kiss like every single one is going to be their last. Chan loves to kiss over and over until his lips are puffy, red, and tingle like he’d eaten too much fruit. Changbin loves to kiss too, and every time their lips meet its like a dare.
He can’t help but wonder what it’s like to kiss Felix.
If words don’t work, and instinct doesn’t work, then he’ll have to act. Jisung takes several pumps of soap between his palms working the translucent soap into a frothy orange lather. With the slide of his palm and the circle of his thumb, he paints a layer over of soap over Felix’s skin. With all the constellations before him, it seems a pity to cover the universe when he’s got such a grand view.
“You’re really cute.”
“If it’s been 117 days since I’ve seen someone, it’s been 300 days since I’ve been with anyone. His name was—”
Does it anyway, cups Felix’s chest and circles his nipple with his thumb.
Perhaps the first thing that’s spoken between them that Jisung understands, a moan is torn from Felix’s throat, deep, unhinged. In the low yellow light, Felix’s bright eyes take on a glassy, blown wide look.
Feral. Like he hasn’t been touched in a very, very long time.
Frantic, like the way his lungs heaved for air when Felix put the mask on his face, that’s the way that their bodies collide. Hands grab for each other’s cocks, shudder, stumble, and shiver when they touch. Wet muffled moans fill in the scant spaces between thick clouds of steam and echo off of the cavernous walls of the shower room.
So it’s jarring, but not surprising when Felix touches Jisung’s cock in the same way that he handles the rest of his body, firmly, deftly, and with a sense of caution that’s overridden by personal recklessness. Felix pushes him against the wall, and his skin sticks on contact to the soap residue on the walls. The hand around his cock moves quickly, wrings pleasure out of him before he can even feel.
Jisung does the opposite, working his hand up and down the length of Felix’s cock, deliberately earning each little whine and each little moan that’s filtered through the mask. When those touches aren’t enough for Felix, he grabs Jisung by the wrist and makes him adjust his grip.
Jisung does as instructed, palm across Felix’s shaft, fingers curled around. He moves his wrist faster, and makes sure that his grip is firmer. Although Felix can’t tell Jisung….Jisung knows. Whatever it is that he’s doing…isn’t enough.
The wild look of need in Felix’s eyes never dials back to the calm, comfortable look of dark infatuation that happens whenever a partner is getting touched just right. For a moment, Jisung isn’t certain what to do.
The desperate moans torn from Felix mouth are clipped into short, frustrated grunts. His cock twitches in Jisung’s hand.
Only after Jisung is painfully aware that what he’s doing isn’t enough for Felix, Felix takes what he wants. In an instant Jisung ’s hands are pinned up over his head, and then a silken muscular thigh is jammed between his legs.
As soon as they began the frantic fury of touches stops. For what cannot be longer than a moment, but feels like eons, all Felix does is hold him there. “I probably shouldn’t fuck you huh? But God…I want to. When we’re done here, I’ll get my translator. Then I’ll fuck you. Then I’ll give you the information you came here for.”
While Felix speaks, Jisung melts under the heat of the shower into a needy, whimpering, and confused husk of himself. Only now in this moment does he truly feel helpless before Felix. Pinned by an inhuman strength, all he can do is hump against Felix’s thigh.
Jisung need not see to know that he wears a smirk underneath his mask.
More soap is hastily slapped between his thighs, and down the length of his cock. The pad of Felix’s thumb catches and circles the ridge, and then he twists downward with his palm. In this simple action, Jisung is reminded that he’s at Felix’s mercy.
Felix aligns their cocks, wraps his small, almost delicate looking hand around them, and begins pumping them furiously. It’s never felt this way with another person before, heat tightening and coiling in his stomach like he’s ready to pop no sooner than he’s properly hard. It makes him feel like he’s back in his room at home desperately trying to get off before he gets caught. But the frantic wild look in Felix’s eyes makes him feel like he’s trapped, and Felix is desperately trying to get off before Jisung darts.
“You’re-so-so—” Now the only thing left to be said is the language they share, moans, whimpers, and pleas.
Not content to be passive, Jisung pushes against Felix’s bruising tight grasp and frees a single hand. In wrapping his own hand around their cocks he contributes to the electric chaos of disjointed movement between them. In no time at all Jisung’s spilling with desperate, needy whines that are swallowed up by the mask around his mouth.
Not allowing him time to catch his breath or feel the warmth spill over his body from having just cum, Felix changes course once again. He grabs Jisung up around the middle, fingers digging into the firm flesh of his ass. Together in a needy, desperate knot of tangled limbs they fall to the floor.
Felix lies Jisung on his back, slides his cock in between his thighs and fucks into them without abandon.
He’s done it like this before, once or twice whenever Changbin and Chan, slaves to their erratic sleep schedules, wake him in the middle of the night. When it happens with them, the roll and the drag foster a budding, fever dream heat and they left him with a lopsided smile and a pool of cum on his belly. Now? With his spent cock trapped between them, it makes him feel absolutely used. He can feel the pressure and the drag from Felix’s cock. Jisung can feel every slip-rub-jolt not only between his thighs, but at the base of his cock which threatens to spring back to life with every jagged pistioning motion of Felix’s hips.
More frightening than being pinned to the wall by someone he just met, is the raw, unarticulated emotion he’s forced to confront in Felix’s scrutinous gaze. Surely, Felix doesn’t intend for him, a stranger, to see him like this. Likewise, he can see himself in the reflection of Felix’s eyes, but Felix looks upon him in a way that no one else has. Is it hunger? Is it desperation? Loneliness? What version of himself does Felix see when he looks at him?
Plastic scrapes against plastic in a final furtive, effort to understand each other. Unable to kiss, Felix presses their damp foreheads together.
Felix leads him naked and dripping wet into another room. Here, Felix discards the mask around his face. Jisung does the same.
In that moment, there’s plenty that Jisung should do. Ask for the data, and ask for his clothes. Thank Felix for the important things, like jerking him off, and the little things too like saving him instead of leaving him to die in a field of clover.
But he can’t articulate any of that, so he settles, perhaps for something better. Jisung cups the back of Felix’s neck, and presses their mouths together. Felix’s lips are chapped, and his teeth are sharp when they dig into the soft flesh of his lip and tug and tug until Jisung’s lip is fat.
“You’re taking me back with you Jisung.”