Renjun considers Donghyuck a good roommate.
Granted, he is Renjun's first and only roommate so he doesn't have much to compare to — but he gives Donghyuck the benefit of doubt.
It's not undeserved: Donghyuck keeps up his share of work around the dorm. He stays on track with their alternating laundry schedule and doesn’t mind being assigned trash duties. For the most part he cleans up after himself, and, if he's feeling nice, he'll even help stock up their mini fridge with leftovers he brings from his part-time job. But while Donghyuck is a good roommate, he's a terrible movie buddy.
He has a genetic disposition to talk over important scenes, he hogs the popcorn bowl to himself, and his taste in movies makes Renjun’s skin itch. Movie nights with Donghyuck usually end with Renjun scraping up popcorn kernels from the couch, a horrible romantic musical sequence stuck in his head. Still, Renjun finds himself sat next to Donghyuck every Friday night, remote in one hand and theatre box candy in the other.
"It's because you love me," Donghyuck says, stuffing a handful of popcorn into his mouth. Most of it trajectories elsewhere, and Renjun snatches the bowl away from him to stop any more mess from happening.
"It's because you won't stop bothering me," Renjun says. There’s a piece of popcorn stuck to the jut of Donghyuck’s bottom lip, and Renjun busies his hands with unwrapping a Starburst to get rid of the need to wipe the food off Donghyuck’s face.
"You’re so cute when you act emotionally constipated."
Renjun watches the lone piece of popcorn fall and land on Donghyuck’s lap. The urge he continuously feels to clean it confuses him.
Renjun adds to the accumulating litter instead, flicking the Starburst at Donghyuck, who tries to land it on his tongue but fails as it finds company with the popcorn on his lap. Donghyuck sweeps both of them onto the floor, and Renjun no longer feels an impulse to dust them away for him.
"You better clean that up later," Renjun threatens.
Donghyuck hums, snaking the popcorn bowl back into his arms. Renjun’s disapproving eyes are met with twinkling ones, and he guides the bowl in between them as compromise. The gleam in Donghyuck’s eyes is bright, even as they’re scrunched up in a laugh. "What are we watching tonight?"
Renjun had already set their TV on a movie before Donghyuck joined him on the couch. It’s the anniversary of one of his favorites, an indie zombie film made by alumni of their university, and Renjun hopes to gain some untapped inspiration by re-watching it. "Reality Bites! It’s a zombie movie, you probably won’t like it."
"Sounds lame," Donghyuck snorts, just as Renjun expected him to, but he doesn’t add any additional complaints as Renjun starts the movie.
"It's not lame." Reality Bites! has a high IMDB rating of eight point five. Most critics loved the different take on the zombie apocalypse setting, marking the director as a promising rookie who has the power to capture realistic science fiction in a whole new light. Although they had to work with a very low budget, Reality Bites! was praised for managing the length of a feature film without feeling cheap.
Renjun maintains that the few negative reviews came from people who clearly didn’t like how the world’s current issues were reflected in the zombie politics of Reality Bites! and felt personally called out by the movie’s message. Reality Bites! is not lame, it’s thought-provoking.
"That’s what you said about that Thelma movie."
"Thelma is amazing." It was hard to keep up while watching Thelma. The audio was in Norwegian, and he had stuck with Korean subtitles so Donghyuck wouldn’t ask him to translate the Mandarin every two seconds. Renjun barely processed most of what happened, but he could recognize a movie with not only an interesting plot, but great execution when he saw one.
"Nothing made sense!" Donghyuck had given up on understanding Thelma by the time the main character and her love interest first met — which, if Renjun remembers correctly, wasn’t even ten minutes into the movie.
“Deal or go back to the room,” Renjun says. They’ve talked through the opening credits, and the first scene of the movie cuts in with a guy studying in his dorm.
"I'm dealing, I'm dealing." Donghyuck relents.
The sound of a doorbell is distant in the TV’s speakers, and the guy on the screen gets up to answer it. Outside his door is another person, leaning on the frame in a manner that suggests he’s injured.
"He's hot," Donghyuck says when the injured man raises his head up and asks the owner of the dorm for help. He’s got short cropped hair, and Renjun’s mind briefly wanders the thought of his own fringe getting a trim.
"I guess." Both of the characters on screen were also the integral parts of the movie’s creation. Ten, the injured one, played a huge role in the production, while Kun, the one ushering Ten into his dorm, directed everything. Renjun thinks they’re both amazing, and he supposes objectively they are also attractive, but neither of them suit Renjun’s fancy.
Donghyuck snickers at the lack of enthusiasm in Renjun’s voice, carrying on his leering.
"He's like what? Taeyong-hyung's age? Maybe even older. Think he'd be weirded out if I asked him to date me?"
"Anyone with common sense would be weirded out by you, period." Renjun can admit to himself that objectively, Donghyuck is pleasant to look at as well. But despite Donghyuck’s smile being otherworldly, his charm radiating in waves that no one can resist being exposed to, Renjun’s lived with him long enough to be disillusioned.
Sure, there’s someone out there who will soon be suckered into dating Donghyuck, but it’s definitely not going to an up-and-coming film producer who has too much on his plate to babysit an undergrad who just thinks he’s hot.
"God Renjun, you sure know how to butter a girl up."
Renjun rolls his eyes before they settle back on the TV screen. Ten has just told Kun about how he got injured. He was on a date with a girl he’d been talking to on an app. It had been going great, up until the time she led him into an alley near his dormitory and attacked him. The fight for his life had taken so much out of him, but the part of his shin she bit off had taken so much more.
There’s a pregnant silence as the words sink in, and Kun inspects Ten’s leg, which is indeed missing a good chunk of skin. Kun hurries for a first aid kit to patch the wound.
Renjun feels Donghyuck shift closer to him, and his grip on the remote tightens when Donghyuck tries to sneak it out of his hands.
“What are you doing?”
Donghyuck doesn’t answer, sliding a hand under one of Renjun’s to pry the remote further from him. Renjun draws it into his side, and pinches Donghyuck’s arm in warning.
"I’m gonna change it to something interesting," Donghyuck finally says as he attempts once more to gain control of the remote. He doesn’t sly his way around this time, reaching over to directly steal it from Renjun.
Renjun catches it midway, and the remote hangs suspended over the popcorn bowl as they fight for it. One of Renjun’s fingers dig at a button, and the movie pauses. “Donghyuck, stop.”
Donghyuck’s nails find purchase on a few buttons as well, and the movie rewinds a few minutes back before it’s paused again. “I’m just gonna check what else we could watch.”
Renjun presses his whole palm flat on the remote and tugs it back his way. The movie resumes, fast-forwarding through parts they hadn’t yet gotten to. “We’re watching this.”
Donghyuck imitates his actions, and the movie glitches before completely shutting off. "Oh," he breathes, eyes wide as he looks at the TV.
There’s no fight as Renjun finally confiscates the remote from Donghyuck’s possession. He presses the power button, trying to remember where they were in the movie before Donghyuck started tug-of-war with him. The TV screen springs to life for a second, before it shuts off with finality — along with every other electrical appliance in their dorm.
“This. This isn’t my fault.” Renjun can hardly make out Donghyuck’s face in the dark, but he already knows that the corners of Donghyuck’s mouth are pulled into the small frown he makes when he’s feeling guilty for pushing Renjun around too much.
"Yeah," Renjun agrees. “Can you turn on your phone’s flashlight? I left mine in the room.”
Donghyuck elbows the popcorn bowl onto the floor in the process, but a stream of light is emitting from his phone moments later.
"Good. I need to see you in case I have to choke the shit out of you."
The hand not occupied with the phone cautions itself around Donghyuck’s neck.
“Violence is never the answer,” he says, adding puppy dog eyes to his pout in a fish for forgiveness. Renjun doesn’t take the bait.
"Unless it is."
Donghyuck seizes up slightly when Renjun approaches him, but all he does is take the phone away from Donghyuck, amusement lilting his smile. He hears Donghyuck curse behind his back as he checks outside their dorm. There are a few people roaming around the air of confusion, and Renjun has a silent exchange with the first person he makes eye contact with. He nods at them, closing their door and turning to face an expectant Donghyuck.
"Looks like there's a power outage. It’s probably dorm-wide."
"Oh okay, so what do we do now?"
Renjun points the phone in the direction of their shared room. "I'm going to sleep, no point in staying up if everything's off."
He makes to lead the way, but Donghyuck lifts the phone out of his hands and steps in front of him.
“I’m protecting you from any wayward tables,” Donghyuck reasons when he catches Renjun’s questioning stare, “Can’t have you stubbing your toes.”
Renjun can feel his ears heating up, and he’s thankful that it’s too dark for Donghyuck to notice. Renjun would never hear the end of it if Donghyuck knew that his awful teasing could strike up such an embarrassing reaction. Renjun doesn’t even know why his ears are betraying him like this, if anything, Donghyuck should be the abashed one for letting something so shameless come out of his mouth. "You do that."
“Anything for you Renjun,” Donghyuck adds on as they fall onto their respective beds. The heat spreads to Renjun’s cheeks, and he stuffs his face into his pillow to drown out rhythm of Donghyuck’s laughter to his own heartbeat.
When Renjun wakes up in the morning, his hand fumbles on their room light switch instinctively. He freezes for a second when he remembers the power outage, but tries to flick the light on anyway. The bulb fastened above their beds brightens up, and Renjun lets out a relieved sigh.
Donghyuck rises from his side of the room, all sleep marked and dazed. He squints at Renjun through unfocused eyes.
"What are you sighing for?"
"The power's back on."
It takes Donghyuck a second, but when the words finally set, he manages whatever semblance of a smile that his dry lips can pull. "Oh, cool."
"Yeah," Renjun quirks a smile of his own before heading into their bathroom to brush his teeth. When he comes out Donghyuck is squatting near their mini fridge, frowning at the lack of food.
"There's nothing to eat," Renjun supplies, and the glare Donghyuck pinpoints him with tells Renjun that Donghyuck had already figured that out.
Donghyuck scoffs. “No shit.” He looks into the fridge once more before slamming it shut. “I don’t feel like renewing my meal bundle at the cafe, how many meals do you have left?”
“None for you,” Renjun says, shaking Donghyuck off his arm when he latches on it to whine.
“Please, I’ll pay you back.” Donghyuck is unrelenting, sticking himself back onto Renjun to beg at full force. Renjun’s stomach lurches at the way Donghyuck’s moue makes his eyes protrude.
“Take laundry duty for the next month,” Renjun bargains. Donghyuck drops the act immediately, his face pulling into a defined scowl.
“For one meal? Unfair.”
Renjun breathes at the familiarity. He doesn’t know what is up with him, but it seems like snarky Donghyuck is the only side of him that doesn’t make Renjun feel strange. “Then bum off of someone else.”
“No way, I’m your problem only Renjun,” Donghyuck says without diffidence, and Renjun is acutely aware that Donghyuck is still fixed to his side.
“Whatever,” Renjun forces out as he wriggles free from Donghyuck’s hold, “So, what are you gonna do about food?”
“I’m supposed to visit Taeyong-hyung anyways, I’ll just get him to make me something,” Donghyuck says, utterly un-bothered.
It miffs Renjun that it’s only him who feels odd around the other. Donghyuck can flirt and cling as much as he wants to without blinking, but the thought of even doing half of what Donghyuck does makes Renjun’s palms sweat. He’s not that bold; he doesn’t want to be that bold.
“He’s your brother, not your personal chef.”
The side of Donghyuck’s cheek dents in a small smirk. "Are you saying you don’t want to come with?"
"I’m definitely coming." Renjun would never miss an opportunity to go to Taeyong’s place. Taeyong always has food, a fact Renjun learned during move-in week. Taeyong had come over with an array of housewarming treats, and it was the first and last time their mini fridge had ever been so full. Renjun would have asked to live with Taeyong instead of Donghyuck if it weren’t for graduate students having different dormitories.
Donghyuck gazes at him for a moment, smile faltering at the corners,"Your crush on my brother is weird."
Renjun can’t help the cackle that stutters out of him. “Crush?”
“Am I wrong?” Donghyuck asks, and Renjun shakes his head in affirmation because yes, he’s wrong — so wrong. Donghyuck couldn’t be any more wrong.
Donghyuck’s smile evens out again. “Huh,” he says, his hand on their bathroom door. “Never mind then.”
“Surprised you didn’t say something like — ” Renjun gives himself a second to come up with his best Donghyuck impression, “‘Guess it makes sense, why would you be attracted to the older version when you live with the new and improved model?’”
Donghyuck is thoroughly entertained. “You think I’m the new and improved model?”
Renjun’s eyes flicker to Donghyuck’s before looking away just as quickly, and his heart thumps out of step. “No,” he says slowly, “I think the sooner they announce your factory recall, the better.”
“Ouch,” Donghyuck snickers as he slips into the bathroom, “Tsundere Renjun strikes again!”
Renjun’s glower meets a closed door and he slouches on the couch. They haven’t cleaned the floor from last night, and the remote is stuck in the crevice of the cushions. Renjun picks it up to test the TV as he hears the shower shut off. No matter how many times Renjun presses the power button, the TV doesn’t react.
“I think the TV is broken,” Renjun says when Donghyuck emerges from the steamed bathroom.
All parts of Donghyuck’s skin that aren’t covered in clothing glisten with moisture, and Renjun doesn’t know why he notices, but he does as Donghyuck towels his hair in the middle of the hallway.
"It was pretty cheap anyways, it wasn't meant to last long," Donghyuck says, throwing the towel into their clothes hamper when he’s done.
"True." Renjun says. He thumbs the power button for another try, watching the TV for a sign of life; there is none. "You still broke it though."
"Don't deny the team effort."
Renjun is just as quick as Donghyuck in the bathroom, and they find themselves on track for Taeyong’s dorm soon after. Taeyong lives a long stretch from their side of campus, but Renjun doesn’t really mind the distance. The walk gives Renjun a peace that he doesn’t get to experience when rushing to classes.
“Hey, does anything feel different to you?” Donghyuck asks when they step out. Renjun looks around. The street is never particularly lively since they choose a route that shortcuts away from major buildings, and all Renjun can see at the moment are cars so familiar to him that he could probably recite their license plates if asked.
“I don’t know, just getting a feeling something’s different. Like… the air or something.” Donghyuck’s eyes narrow as he takes his own glance at their surroundings.
They pass a telephone pole with a scatter of eccentric poster ads exclaiming about a zombie apocalypse. Donghyuck doesn’t give Renjun the time to read them, but Renjun files it in his memory as a potential movie he would need to check out later.
“Are… you okay?”
At this point in the road, it would usually be more populated, but as of now it’s vaguely empty. It’s peculiar, but nothing Renjun thinks is worth worrying about. After a power outage as big as the one they had last night, it’d make sense that most people are choosing to stay inside.
“Yeah, never mind. It’s nothing.” Donghyuck shuts down, and a worried frown cements itself on Renjun’s face. He tunes his steps with Donghyuck’s, and hopes the steady brush of their shoulders is as comforting to Donghyuck as it is to him. Donghyuck shoots him a grateful smile.
As they turn the corner to Taeyong’s dormitory, they cross paths with a police officer. Renjun thinks the greetings they exchange are pleasant enough, but when they continue forward and he still feels the officers eyes on his back, he wonders if they had done anything that caused for suspicion.
The receptionist is missing from the entrance of the dormitory, and neither Renjun’s nor Donghyuck’s ID cards are authorized to access the dorm floors. They wait for the receptionist to return, but after the minute hand on the clock above the wall elapses enough numbers, Donghyuck lets himself in through the visitor’s gate.
“You coming?” Donghyuck holds the gate open, and Renjun slips through as well.
The common area is bustling with life, wholly unlike the barren wasteland the street seemed to be, and it really makes Renjun ponder how unusual it was.
“It does feel different.” Renjun says as they get on the elevator and travel up to Taeyong’s floor.
“Yeah.” Donghyuck sounds, eyes focused on the increasing numbers above the sliding doors. When it hits twelve, they hurry to room one twenty seven. Renjun stands behind Donghyuck as he knocks.
“Oh,” Taeyong looks taken aback when he answers the door, “…Hyuck? Renjun?”
“Try not to look so surprised hyung, you’re the one who told me to come,” Donghyuck says, hand impatiently at his hip as he waits for Taeyong to let them in.
“I did?” Taeyong says. “Sorry, I must have forgotten, it’s been a busy week.”
He opens the door for them properly, and Renjun follows in after Donghyuck. There’s someone else in the dorm — a guy, standing with Taeyong’s fridge door fully wide in front of him, stacking packs upon packs of varied meat in his arms.“
“It’s okay,” Donghyuck says flippantly. Renjun makes himself comfortable on one of the beanbag chairs decorating Taeyong’s floor. “What’s up with Doyoung-hyung?”
Doyoung looks up promptly at the mention of his name, finally noticing the two new presences in the room. He stops scavenging for meat and shuts the fridge door with the heel of his foot. “Oh, hi… Didn’t see you there…”
“Clearly,” Donghyuck levels Doyoung with judgement that Doyoung does not return. Instead, Doyoung casts his eyes to Taeyong, and they share an uncomfortable frown that makes Renjun cautious. He looks to Donghyuck to see if he noticed it, but Donghyuck is still assessing Doyoung critically. “Everything alright? You look off, no offense hyung.”
Renjun’s only met Doyoung a few times, but he agrees with Donghyuck entirely. The Doyoung Renjun knows is healthy and keeps up his appearances, to the point that it almost makes him seem high-maintenance. But the Doyoung in front of him is sickly pale, with palpable dark circles under his eyes and hair messy enough for a bird to accidentally nest in. He looks dead, like a student who just came out of four consecutive midterms, or —
“That term paper you were complaining about is really beating your ass, huh?” Donghyuck says without thinking, and both he and Renjun wary a glance at Taeyong when they realize that Donghyuck has very much just cursed in front of his older brother.
Taeyong just laughs though, his attention startled with something else that he doesn’t even realize Donghyuck’s choice of words.
“Yeah that’s it,” Taeyong says for Doyoung. Doyoung grunts and grabs a tray to dump his meat collection onto, directing himself to Taeyong’s cutlery drawer and then to the couch. “Anyways, I’m assuming you guys came here for food?”
“How dare you hyung?,” Donghyuck produces his dramatics on cue, one hand flying to guard his his chest, — “My poor heart!” Donghyuck calls out. — the other bracing his forehead with the back of his palm in mock faint, “I come, just to visit you, my dear and only brother, and you think I came merely for food?”
“Right,” Taeyong snorts in disbelief, in awe of the stage Donghyuck seemed to have set for himself, as if he didn’t grow up around these theatrics. “All I’ve got is breakfast bagels, but help yourself.”
Both hands flutter to cover his face, and Donghyuck heaves out a faked sob, “Don’t think a mere breakfast bagel can mend my broken heart, hyung.”
“And you can use my meal bundles too if you want something else from the cafe.”
Donghyuck changes his tune in an instant, the dazzle in his eyes too vivid for someone who was just playing heartbroken.
“Have I told you how much I love you, hyung? You’re literally the best ever.” He turns a smug smile onto Renjun. “Do your own laundry, sucker.”
Renjun sticks his tongue out at Donghyuck. Taeyong might be in the moment of giving, but he’ll soon regret it after Donghyuck spends all his meal bundles on cookies. He doesn’t understand why Taeyong never learns his lesson.
“You can use my meal bundles… Renjun,” Doyoung offers. He’s already opened up a pack of bacon and skewered all the pieces onto a stick, and now he’s doing the same with the next pack.
Renjun gapes at him. They’ve spoken to each other even less than they’ve met, there’s no way Renjun can just take the meal bundles he’s paid for. “Oh no, it’s okay hyung. I’m okay with just the bagel.”
“No seriously, use it, whenever. It’s yours now,” Doyoung says. He folds the bacon on top of itself in a square, powers through its middle with the stick, and repeats. It’s practically mesmerizing. “I don’t eat at the cafe anymore, I don’t want it to go to waste.”
He tosses Renjun his ID card before Renjun can refuse him another time. Renjun’s hands shoot out to clasp it, “Thank you.”
“What’s up with all the meat anyways, hyung? Thought you of all people would be more vegetarian if anything.” Donghyuck voices the question that had been running through Renjun’s head.
“It’s a new dietary craze,” Taeyong brushes off their concern for Doyoung again. This time, Donghyuck notes it and he seeks Renjun’s eyes with a dubious glint.
“Raw?” Donghyuck furthers.
“I need the Vitamin B,” Doyoung says simply, and it’s so nonchalant that Renjun thinks maybe they are overreacting. Doyoung could have had some kind of health scare for all they knew, and he was prescribed this bizarre diet by a doctor who would know better about these things than two college freshmen.
“You guys be safe on the way to the cafe,” Taeyong says, seemingly willing to move the conversation on. “There’s — um, been recent rogue attacks. So be careful.”
Doyoung breaks his pattern of meat preparation for a moment, and it’s gone fast enough that it’s barely noticeable, but Renjun’s been observing a lot in these past minutes, and Donghyuck was more than right — something is different, something is very different.
Renjun’s heard the term rogues before, it’s hardly uncommon. But coupled with everything that’s been going on, his mind draws him to the rogues of Reality Bites!, zombies that attack humans instead of trying to blend in with them. It’s improbable realistically considering zombies don’t exist, but —
“Rogues?” Donghyuck parrots, once again the microphone of Renjun’s thoughts.
“Yeah?” Taeyong tilts his head, matching Donghyuck’s perplexed tone. “The rogue zombies. I know it’s not common for them to attack — mostly just tabloid assaults. But, uh — stay safe. Just in case.”
The heat of Donghyuck’s stare burns the side of Renjun’s cheek, but the feeling of his arm being nipped leaves a more festered fire.
“Pinch yourself, what the hell,” he says, rubbing his arm and dealing a pinch back to Donghyuck to even the score.
“Are you guys okay?” Taeyong asks. Even Doyoung’s stopped his routine and is grimacing at them with open discomfort.
“Zombies aren’t real, hyung.” Donghyuck says. “Stop being weird.”
Taeyong chances a peek at Doyoung as he speaks carefully, like he’s trying his best not to offend anyone. “While the way they came to be isn’t exactly ideal, they are very much real Donghyuck.”
“No need to mince words, Taeyong,” Doyoung says, picking up one of the arranged sticks and chewing off a mouthful of meat. It hasn’t been properly washed — most likely to have been bought straight from the butchers’ — and the blood drips as far as Doyoung will let it before he wipes it away with a napkin. “They’re abominations. They shouldn’t exist.”
Taeyong winces and flounders at Donghyuck and Renjun for help, but both of them are stumped. Donghyuck pats his pocket for his phone, fishing it out and typing the word zombie into his search bar with shaking fingers. Renjun peers over his shoulder, and tries to ignore the wash of fear at the auto-populates that try to finish his query.
zombie attacked me
zombies ate someone
The actual search results are gut-twisting. The first page alone is filled with reports of zombie aggression, each with a sensational headline meant to sink fear right into the pit of their stomachs.
Zombie Turned Father Mutilates Children and Wife
Zombie Sympathizer School Teacher Charged With Feeding Students to Rogues
“We’re Going To Take Over!” Self Proclaimed Zombie Boasts His Feeding Frenzies
The Movies Were Wrong, But We Wish They Were Right: How to Protect Yourself From Zombies Who Try To Blend Into Society
“Zombies,” Donghyuck says with a disbelieving laugh. His eyes pop in slight recognition, and he turns an accusing glare at Renjun. “What did you do?”
“Me?” Renjun balks. He hasn’t done anything, he couldn’t do anything. If he was going to plan something like this as a joke, he would at least let himself in on it. Right now, he’s just as clueless as Donghyuck.
“Well maybe if I was reading headlines about handsome but dangerous boys with amazing acting talent running around killing people, maybe I’d think to blame myself. But zombies?”
“Did you guys… not really know?” Doyoung speaks up. He’s gone through most of the sticks he’s prepared, but he’s still eating with ferocity that tells Renjun his hunger won’t be satisfied anytime soon.
And like that, it clicks.
“You’re a zombie.” Renjun says instead.
Now that it’s so obvious, he doesn’t know why he didn’t remember it before — but with him and Donghyuck being thrown in, it makes sense that it didn’t make sense. It’s a part of Reality Bites! that he didn’t get to last night because of Donghyuck, but he knows it from the times he’s watched it alone.
After Kun patches up Ten, he lets him rest on his couch while they try to figure out how to deal with the situation. Neither of them want to talk about it, but they both knew what took a portion of Ten’s leg out there. From there on, it was either Ten died from his body being unable to battle the bacteria he contracted from the zombie, or — he became one.
It ends up being the second option — unsurprisingly — and when Kun wakes up to change Ten’s gauze, he finds the wound all healed up. Ten though looks worse for wears — his pallor is of someone who’d been born with chronic iron deficiency, and the bags under his eyes give panda bears’ a run for their money. It’s drastic change for so few hours, but it’s expected of zombies. The advertisements on TV warn of it all.
— Be aware of changes in people you know, who may have had contact with rogues. They may have characteristics including, but not limited to: extreme transformations in appearance, an abnormal hunger for meat in raw form, a tendency to groan, inhuman healing phenomena, etc…. If you see anyone that raises concern, do not hesitate to inform authorities. You could be the reason one less civilian is attacked. —
Kun is wary of Ten, but not as wary as Ten is of himself. He flees Kun’s dorm as soon as he wakes up, and Kun doesn’t see him again for a week. Ten skips all his classes and not even his roommate knows where he is when Kun asks. Kun is on edge the whole time, wondering what his friend could do — what Kun himself should do — until Ten shows up at his door, collapsing in a manner that is reminiscent of when he was attacked. But he hasn’t been attacked, he’s been fighting off his hunger for so long he can barely stand.
Kun forces him to eat whatever meat he has in his fridge, hoping it would satisfy his cravings. Kun tries to get Ten to stay with him so that he can watch over Ten, but Ten refuses to put Kun in that kind of danger, and so they make a deal: Ten would try to go back to his normal life as long as he checked in with Kun at least once a week. Kun would stock his fridge up with poultry just for the visits, and Ten could come every Saturday to the solace of the only other person who knew his secret.
“I’m not a zombie.” Doyoung hardens up, his meal forgotten as it drops from his hands. The look in his eyes is concrete; he’s not going to just admit to what he is, not without proof.
“Yes you are,” Renjun asserts. He doesn’t know how he’s keeping his voice so steady, or where all of this resolve is coming from. But — if they’re going to find a way out, or even understand how they got here in the first place, someone has to know. “You were attacked by a zombie on a date and they bit through your leg. Taeyong helped you and now you visit him for meat every week.”
Doyoung’s face slacks, but then it firms fury that rages at one sole recipient, who is regarding Renjun like he’s some apparition. “What the fuck, Taeyong? You said you wouldn’t —”
Renjun cuts him short. “Taeyong didn’t tell me.”
“Then, how do you know?” Donghyuck asks, leaning his ear to Renjun’s mouth conspiratorially.
“It’s from the movie,” Renjun eyes cross at the moles on the side of Donghyuck’s face, and he takes awareness of his voice volume for the distance between them too late. Donghyuck winces, pulling away at immediate speed, and Renjun has to bite the inside of his cheek to not laugh. “This is all from the movie.”
“The shit you tried to make us watch last night?”
“Not shit. Reality Bites! For some reason we’re in it.”
“But,” Donghyuck grows minutely sullen, “Why are they the main characters? Where’s the hot guy?”
“Main characters,” Doyoung repeats, his eyes darting from Renjun to Donghyuck clear distrust. Taeyong is still stuck in his form of initial shock, and it’s not until Doyoung gets up to wave a hand in his face that Taeyong’s panic sounds from his throat.
“We’re not from here,” Renjun says. “This is a movie, and we’re stuck in it somehow.”
“Ridiculous,” Doyoung shoots back. “Are you calling my life a movie? Is this entertaining to you?”
“No, not like that. Like. We’re from a different world. In our world, this — zombies,” Renjun holds Donghyuck’s arm up, and in his hand the phone keeps the zombie pulled up, “They can’t exist. It isn’t possible in our world.”
“And movie traveling kids isn’t possible in mine.”
“No wait, Doyoung. I think they’re telling the truth.” Taeyong’s voice is faint, and one look at his face shows that he’s been thinking, he’s been thinking hard.
“No way. Taeyong, you actually believe this?”
“I don’t want to,” Taeyong starts, brows furrowing as he continues to mull over his thoughts, “But — it makes sense. I don’t remember inviting Donghyuck over today, and honestly,”
Taeyong’s eyes pool anxiously as he looks at Doyoung, “I don’t really remember having a brother? Like. It’s like my brain’s only allowing me to remember their names? I can’t think of anything else about them, — no. I don’t know anything else about them.”
There’s a spread of understanding in Doyoung’s face as the words settle in. “Wait. You’re right. Holy shit.” He spins towards Renjun and Donghyuck and marvels. “Who are you guys?”
“Real people,” Donghyuck is wry, but it seems these versions of Doyoung and Taeyong are used to it by now, their lips barely twitch. “It seems we got transported into his favorite movie.”
He sticks a finger in Renjun’s face, and narrowly misses it getting bitten off.
“Shit kid,” Doyoung’s mouth is still hung open, and he wrangles a laugh out of it, “Zombies? You couldn’t have liked a musical or something?”
“That’s what I’m saying!” Donghyuck exclaims, “You get me, zombie Doyoung.”
Doyoung clenches his teeth, “Not a zombie.”
“So how do you get back home?” Taeyong asks, and Renjun and Donghyuck shrug at the same time. “Oh, okay. No that’s — Um. Stay in your dorms, okay? Or dorm? Whatever, just stay there. We’ll. Um, figure something out.”
“We?” Doyoung lours. Taeyong exasperates a sigh and nudges away from him.
“I didn’t mean you.”
“I know who you meant, I thought we agreed you weren’t going back there.”
Taeyong gathers a backpack and empties it of the school materials. Out goes textbooks, notepads, binders, pencils, and loose papers — in goes a medical kit, a Halligan bar, a machete — Renjun hears Donghyuck’s gulp as Taeyong stashes a combat knife in the belt of his jeans.
“They can help us,” Taeyong says as he ties up his ankle boots, “They can help all of us.”
Doyoung scoffs, and he broadens his arm at Renjun and Donghyuck, “Might as well just have them join you as well, huh?”
Taeyong halts on his second loop. “Oh, good idea,” he says, facing them, “Would you guys like to come along?”
“No!” Doyoung says, the rigidness of his voice overpowering Renjun’s, “Can we?”
Taeyong hears it all the same, though it seems he was not expecting the response, “You want to? Really?”
“Aren’t you just gonna tell us we can’t?” Donghyuck pipes up, his eyes still stuck on the spot where Taeyong’s knife is hidden.
“Why would I do that? I offered you to come?”
Donghyuck looks affronted, and he wraps his hand around Renjun’s wrist to tug him closer — away from Taeyong. Renjun feels the tips of his ears tingle. “Who are you? Real hyung would never let us do anything even slightly dangerous.”
Taeyong shrugs his backpack on as he laughs, “Guess real hyung has a stick up his ass then. If you want to do something, I can’t stop you — I can only make sure that you do it in the safest way possible.”
“That,” Donghyuck weighs it in his head, his hand sliding off Renjun’s wrist, and into Renjun’s hand. The tingles shoot straight into Renjun’s palm and he accidentally squeezes Donghyuck’s hand in response; Donghyuck doesn’t seem to mind. “That makes sense. Write that down for me please, I’m so gonna tell him that when I get home.”
“Sure,” Taeyong says, squatting to scribble the words onto a blank page in his notepad. He rips it out and to give to Donghyuck, and Donghyuck pockets it with his unoccupied hand.
“I think real hyung just understands the value of life,” Doyoung chimes in. The stress of seeing someone he cares about go and be reckless with their life — especially when he is a living example of the worst possible outcome of such abandon, shows on his face.
“No one’s forcing you to join.” Taeyong spits, his stance betraying knowledge that they’ve had this conversation one time too many.
“I’m not joining.” Doyoung says.
“Then don’t complain.”
Doyoung huffs incredulous breath out into the air, but he resigns.
“So,” Taeyong says to Donghyuck, “You didn’t say if you wanted to come or not.”
Donghyuck showcases their linked hands without warning, and Renjun’s face cooks up with realization of what they’re doing, in front of an audience that they didn’t actually know. “Of course I’m coming, who’s gonna protect him if I don’t?”
“You’d get us both killed,” Renjun says, reclaiming ownership of his hand. When Donghyuck can’t get him to re-link their hands, he settles for conjoining their arms.
Taeyong admires them with a fond smile. “You guys are cute.”
“I’m cuter though, right?” Donghyuck asks.
“No, I think Renjun’s cuter.”
“I agree.” Doyoung says.
“I’ll take it!” Donghyuck pokes his cheek, and Renjun knows that the his flush is on display, nowhere for him to hide it this time around.