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Runaways

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Ryeowook has come to expect that pair of arms wrapping around his midsection, the chin resting against his shoulder, and the scent of sweet wine that arrives with it.

“Good morning,” he greets the drowsy hugger. “Sleep well?”

“Drank too much last night,” Kyuhyun mumbles against his shirt sleeve. “My head hurts.”

“You shouldn’t drink so much before work,” the Alpha scolds lightly. He flips an egg in the pan. “Do you want me to make you some soup?”

“It’s fine. I ate a few pills before coming here.” He snuggles deeper into Ryeowook. “You’re so warm.”

“Go sit down so that you won’t get burned,” Ryeowook glances over, only to find a strangely mournful expression on the other man’s face. “Something wrong?” he asks, worried.

“Did you make up with Teukie-hyung yesterday?” Kyuhyun says, voice strange. “You smell like him a little.”

“We did! He was probably only holding a grudge because he’s having a fight with Heechul-hyung right now.” Ryeowook presses his lips together. “I still feel bad though. Especially since Heechul-hyung forgave me really easily. You did too, you know.”

“It’s not like things like that are habitual for you, so it’s alright,” he replies easily before pausing again. “I wonder when Heechul-hyung and Leeteuk-hyung are going to get together though.”

“... I guess it’s a little more complicated than we can see. Heechul-hyung is a straightforward person after all,” the Alpha says, though he agrees with the Beta on the inside. Kyuhyun huffs.

“You’re too nice. I’m tired of seeing them like this. One of them should just confess and get it over with already—”

Kyuhyun suddenly stops. Ryeowook looks at him curiously and reaches over to grab a plate from the cabinets, releasing himself from the Beta’s grasp in the process. Kyuhyun watches him as he gently transfers each egg to the dish before turning around and handing it to him with a smile.

“Put it on the table. I’ll make coffee for you.” Ryeowook looks away, humming.

He just stands there, holding a plate of fried eggs and burning his fingers on the bottom. He breathes in, but he smells nothing.

 

 

“Hyung, isn’t it too early?”

Jongwoon notices him as he steps out of the shower. Hyukjae stands in front of him, rubbing his eyes and yawning. It’s absolutely adorable, and it makes his chest clench, his mind whirling as it begins to imagine what it’d be like to wake up to this, to see it every day.

“I want to arrive earlier,” he says first. “You don’t have to come eat breakfast with me if you’re tired.”

“But if I don’t go, Hyung won’t eat anything,” the younger Alpha says sleepily.

Jongwoon blinks. He reaches forward and ruffles his hair, gentle enough to not hurt his damaged scalp. “Don’t worry about that. I promise I’ll eat something, alright? I’ll even eat all of my lunch.”

“But if you eat too much, you’ll get a stomach ache like last night.”

“Then what do you want me to do?” he chuckles. “You’re so cute, Dongba.”

The words slip out of his mouth without meaning to, and he quickly flushes. Hyukjae’s cheeks turn red as well, and he averts his eyes, frowning.

“I want to eat with Hyung.”

“Right now?”

“Yes.”

Jongwoon thinks about it. If they eat a bit quicker than normal—basically him pawning off most of the food off to the younger Alpha, who will no doubt devour it in a few minutes—then he’ll be able to take a shower before meeting with Yunho and Changmin at the company. He wouldn’t be disturbing Hyukjae’s suffering sleep schedule too much either.

He sighs. “Let’s go then. C’mon.”

Jongwoon steps forward first, but the younger Alpha quickly grabs his hand, taking him by surprise. However, Hyukjae doesn’t seem to notice it, still trying to press the sleep out of his cheeks.

“You’re so cute,” Jongwoon says again, softer. The younger Alpha doesn’t seem to hear it this time, but the strawberry scent drifts through the air nonetheless.

Later, after eating and tucking Hyukjae back into bed, he runs into Leeteuk in the lobby. He extends a sleeve towards him, tilting his head in a question.

“Can you smell it?”

The Omega looks at him and shakes his head. He runs his hand over Jongwoon’s arm and the stiff fabric, only stopping at his shoulder blade, misaligned with the seam.

“It doesn’t fit you too well,” he comments.

“It fits fine. I’m just a little taller, that’s all. It’s nice of you to lend me your clothes, Teukie-hyung,” Jongwoon says sincerely.

“I’m just glad you’re not wearing that old suit anymore,” Leeteuk murmurs, almost too soft to hear. He clears his throat. “I never got the time to ask, but I hope you’ve made good friends with at least some of your coworkers.”

“I have. Maybe I’ll even introduce you to some of them,” he replies easily. Eyes then going to the clock, he blinks. “Ah, I’m going to be late!”

“Just go. Remember, you can come to me for anything,” the Omega says, patting down his suit one more time. His fingers come to Jongwoon’s wrist, and he tilts his head, gaze turning curious. “Oh? Where did this accessory come from?”

Surprised, Jongwoon quickly retracts his hand from Leeteuk’s grasp. Flushing, he thumbs the edge of the bracelet almost bashfully. “Hyukjae got it for me.”

“Did he?” A knowing glint flashes in Leeteuk’s eyes. It makes Jongwoon want to shy away from his stare, those deep brown irises seeming to dig into the most innermost part of himself. Fortunately, he looks away quickly, instead patting his shoulder. He smiles. “You’re really handsome, Jongwoon-ah.”

Jongwoon’s eyes widen. “Ah, thank you!” The clock strikes a new hour, and he quickly dips his head to the older man and almost runs away, an embarrassing smile on his lips. Behind him, Leeteuk waves him goodbye, his expression wistful and sorrowful.

 

 

Jongwoon waits for the elevator patiently, listening to the platform move from outside. He adjusts his tie again, a little nervously, glancing from side to side occasionally.

Then, the elevator dings, and the doors slide open in front of him. He hesitates, looking towards the entrance one more time. The doors close, and he’s still there, waiting anxiously. In his right pocket, he squeezes his phone, running his fingertips over the textured back lightly. He pulls it out and checks the time, scanning the numbers intently.

Just when he’s about to give up and press the button again, he hears it, the front doors opening.

But to his surprise, instead of seeing only two people, he sees three.

Taeyeon notices him first. Her eyes widen. “Kim Jongwoon-ssi?”

It makes the other two Alphas look towards him as well. Yunho’s face instantly lights up into a beam, and he waves, grinning as he speeds up his walk, dragging Changmin with him. The younger Alpha doesn’t even seem to be all disgruntled. He might even be a little… relieved.

“Hey man!” Yunho says first, brightly. “You’re finally back!”

“Sorry,” Jongwoon apologizes sheepishly. “My rut came unexpectedly.”

“We guessed.” Taeyeon joins them, an amused smile on her face. “Glad to see you survived though.”

Jongwoon smiles. “Thanks.” He pauses to look between the three of them curiously, and a sense of deja vu hits him. He blinks. “Do you guys know each other now?”

“We went looking for you,” Changmin answers, much to his surprise. “That’s how we met, and we’ve been eating together ever since.”

“Which means I’m technically better acquainted with them than you are,” Taeyeon says, teasingly. Her expression is different from what it was a few days ago. It makes Jongwoon smile.

The elevator suddenly dings, startling them. It reminds him, and he hurriedly opens his phone again, opening his contacts app.

“Can I have your phone numbers?” he asks eagerly. Yunho peers over at his screen inquisitively.

“Sure! Just hand it to me.”

Jongwoon gives it to him, and he types in his number before passing it to Changmin, who inspects the device first.

“Did you just get it? It’s an old brand,” he observes. Jongwoon scratches the back of his head.

“It was actually my birthday yesterday. It was the only thing I could afford at the moment,” he admits. Yunho looks at him in surprise.

“It was your birthday? I didn’t know!” he exclaims.

“That’s because we didn’t ask. Here, I put it in.” Changmin passes the phone to Taeyeon. Jongwoon blinks, slightly bewildered by the younger Alpha’s change in attitude from a few days ago.

Finally, the elevator doors open in front of them. Taeyeon hands him the phone back, and he clutches it tightly as they step in.

It reaches their floor first. Loudly, Yunho wishes him a happy birthday, Changmin repeating the words in a calmer manner. Jongwoon waves back and tells them that they’ll meet during lunch.

As they walk together to the office, Taeyeon bumps against him, a glint in her eyes.

“You know, you look far too happy for someone who just finished their rut alone with a stale bite,” she notes.

“I’ve been wanting your phone numbers for a long time, so I’m happy about it,” he replies honestly, a skip in his step.

Taeyeon shakes her head, gesturing at something on his arm. He follows her gaze, realizing she’s pointing towards the bracelet. He blushes, rolling it up his sleeve so that it’s no longer visible.

“So,” she smirks. “Did you end up spending it with someone after all?”

“I didn’t spend my rut with anyone!” Jongwoon says defensively. “It’s from a friend, that’s all!”

“A friend, huh? Must’ve been a pretty good friend then,” she muses. At his expression, she starts laughing. “Just kidding, alright? In all seriousness, I’m glad to see you like this. After all—” her voice softens— “ruts are hell when your mating bite hasn’t faded yet.”

Jongwoon stops. He looks at her, but she’s already heading in front of him. He trips to catch up.

“H-He’s important to me!” he says loudly. “And I’m sure that you too—Taeyeon-ssi will find someone like that too!”

The smile she sends back is soft. Jongwoon is startled by it.

“So there’s someone after all?” she teases first. Something in her seems to have changed since meeting Changmin and Yunho.

He smiles, the shame and the fear suddenly draining out of him in a single moment, even only temporarily.

“Yes!” he beams.

 

 

Donghae finishes into his hand, breathing hard. The adult movie plays out in front of him, and he watches it for a few more minutes, his eyes half lidded. Just as the scene transitions, he shuts it off, grabbing a tissue from the side and wiping himself.

His hair drips with water, the bathroom mirror still clouded with steam from the shower. He washes his hands slowly, his breath thick. He shuts the faucet off and wipes a bit of the condensation off the mirror, revealing his reflection.

Quickly, he looks away. He runs his hands over his face, exhaling heavily.

Heechul greets him first, joking around with Kyuhyun. Donghae laughs with them but decides to leave them be for now. He heads towards Shindong’s room next, but the older Alpha looks too troubled to not mind being bothered. He quietly closes the door and starts for Leeteuk’s office, only then remembering that the other man is usually embroiled in work around his time.

Finally, he stops in front of Hyukjae’s room, staring at his feet. He starts to raise his hand to knock, but he falters, just standing there instead and staring into the dark eyehole of the door.

“Are you going to knock, Donghae-hyung?”

He turns to see Ryeowook beside him, head tilted in question. Quickly, Donghae tears his eyes away from Hyukjae’s door, massaging his wrists guiltily like he’s been caught.

“I’d just be bothering him,” he laughs, emptily. “Is lunch ready?”

The younger Alpha doesn’t blink. “Everyone else has eaten already. It’s just you.”

“I guess I’ll head down then. Thanks, Ryeowook-ah.”

“Wait, I’ll go with you.”

Ryeowook quickly follows him, his shorter legs slightly struggling to catch up to him. Still, Donghae knows better than to purposefully slow, and he waits until the other man is able to walk with him side by side to wrap his arm around his shoulders.

“I don’t smell, do I?” he frets. Ryeowook shakes his head.

“You smell fine.” The younger Alpha tilts his chin up towards him. “Ugh. Seriously, you’re so handsome, Hyung.”

“Suddenly?” He can’t help the shy smile that comes to his lips. “You say that to me too often.”

“Because it’s true,” Ryeowook shrugs with a pout. “I’m so jealous.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Donghae says automatically. Then, he coughs. “Why did you decide to come with me? I thought you had eaten already?”

“I just wanted to keep you company, that’s all,” he replies easily. He glances back at him. “You really have been looking sort of down lately. The only times you really look happy is when you’re with Hyukjae-hyung.”

Donghae blinks. Then, he hangs his head, averting his eyes guiltily. “I’m sorry. There’s just been a lot going on.”

“Why are you saying sorry? I’m not mad,” Ryeowook says quickly. “I’m glad that you and Hyukjae-hyung are getting along well. After all, you two are friends of the same age, and it helps to have someone around when you’re lonely.”

“It does help. It helps a lot,” Donghae admits, “but I’m not sure how much it’s helping him.”

“Well, without you, he would’ve stayed in his room for the entirety of Jongwoon-hyung’s rut,” he points out. “And even though he always complained about you dragging him out, he still went with you, so it’s not like you’re completely forcing him.”

“... I guess you’re right,” he agrees simply, expression still troubled. He purses his lips and hugs the younger Alpha a little tighter to himself. “Speaking of people born in the ‘same year’—” he changes the subject— “how are things with Kyuhyun?”

Ryeowook raises an eyebrow at the abrupt shift in conversation. “We’re fine. Why?”

“Just fine?”

“Yeah, we are. What are you trying to say?” he asks, suspicious. “Did you forget how to speak again, Donghae-hyung?”

Donghae smacks him on the arm, whining. “No. I was just saying because you two always seem to be chummy with each other, okay? Heechul-hyung said that you two have something on!”

Ryeowook blinks. Then, his cheeks turn red, and he elbows Donghae back, visibly flustered. “Heechul-hyung is saying that?!”

“Shindong-hyung sometimes makes veiled remarks too—”

“Shindong-hyung too?! Aish—” Ryeowook buries his head in his hands. “I’m going to kill them.”

“Is there really nothing? I mean, even I can see it happening,” Donghae says doubtfully. “Kyuhyun’s a good kid, so I’d definitely approve if you wanted to date him. I’d kill you if you hurt them though—”

“There’s nothing between us!” The younger Alpha screeches. “We’re just friends, alright?! Just friends! It’s way too weird to think of him as anything else.” His voice softens. “And I’m too afraid to think about anything changing from what we have now.”

“Huh,” Donghae says. He eyes Ryeowook curiously. “Then what do you think you’re looking for in a partner?”

“Are we really going to talk about this?” Ryeowook chuckles almost incredulously. As he stops to think, a small smile comes to his lips. “Honestly, I’m not so sure, but I’ve had a dream for a long time. After I get treatment, I want to marry an Omega I love. I want to get a nice paying job and buy a big house for my family. When I get old, I want to be surrounded by grandchildren.” He laughs to himself as he says it. “It’s a little old-fashioned, isn’t it?”

“No,” Donghae says quickly. “I think it’s nice.”

How can he blame Ryeowook for wanting something like that when it’s exactly the thing that he desires the most?

The younger Alpha hums. He tastes a bit of wine in the air and glances back, but there’s nothing there. For some reason, some painful emotion floods through his chest, and his heart clenches, even though he doesn’t know why.

After finally expressing his dream, why does he feel so… guilty?

“You alright, Ryeonggu?”

Donghae’s expression snaps him out of it. Ryeowook turns back towards the older Alpha, slightly startled. Then, he sighs.

“Yeah. Let’s go eat before your stomach starts creating a thunderstorm.”

“Hey!”

In the lobby, Kyuhyun sits back down into the receptionist’s chair, leaning backwards and staring emptily into the distance.

He breathes in shakily.

 

 

Hyukjae can’t stop eyeing the pair of scissors a little fearfully. He fidgets a little and gulps as Jongwoon flexes the blades right in front of him, making the protective covering underneath him crinkle.

“Hey, Hyung. Since you’re tired from work and didn’t get much sleep last night, maybe it’d be better if we did this another day?” he suggests nervously. Jongwoon huffs.

“I’m not going to kill you, Dongba,” he states. “You literally let Heechul-hyung cut your hair, and I assure you that I have loads more experience than he does.”

“From where?” Hyukjae’s throat bobs as the older Alpha swings the plastic covering over him, tying it back in a neat knot over his nape.

“From the military. Everyone said that I gave the best haircuts back then.” Jongwoon grabs a long strip of tissue paper, fastening it around his neck to prevent shards of hair from sticking to the skin.

“How long ago was that?”

“Short enough. Now sit back and hold your posture straight.”

Still unsure but without any other options now, Hyukjae can only lean backwards and squeeze his eyes shut, only relaxing after he feels the other man’s hands slowly carding through his black-blue locks.

“How would you like it cut?” Jongwoon asks first, still playing with the younger Alpha’s hair. Hyukjae opens his eyes briefly, glancing at himself in the mirror.

“Uh—just shave down the back and sides until it’s out of my neck and ears. The bangs can be trimmed to just over my eyelid.”

“Shaved down to a two?”

“Three.”

“Got it.” Jongwoon reaches behind him for the razor. It buzzes on, and he massages Hyukjae’s nape for just a second before dusting some nonexistent silt off. “Just relax and bend down.”

The words make Hyukjae’s cheeks flush even if the implications were unintended. He tilts his chin towards his chest and takes a deep breath.

God, why hadn’t he been this nervous when it was Heechul?

The vibrating noise of the razor gets louder as it brushes against the guiding comb. Slowly, the blades are pressed to his hair, surprisingly gentle. Locks of damaged blue hair fall to the floor, fluttering downwards without a sound.

He exhales.

“That wasn’t so bad, right?” Jongwoon asks, smirking.

“I still think you’re going to turn me half bald,” Hyukjae shoots back.

“If you keep doing that, maybe I will.” The razor suddenly starts again, and another few pieces of hair drift down to the ground.

Hyukjae doesn’t respond, letting himself relax instead. Strangely, the buzzing against the back of his head is soothing in a way, even though he’s still distinctly aware of Jongwoon’s spicy coffee scent curling around him.

After some time, the older Alpha makes conversation again.

“Your hair is so thin. There’s no sound or feeling when I cut through it,” he comments casually. “Why did you dye it this far anyways? It must’ve started to hurt even before.”

“Well…” Hyukjae hesitates. “My old partner liked it, so I dyed it a lot.”

Sensing the other man’s discomfort, Jongwoon nods and quickly changes the subject. “What do you do every day while I’m at work? You’ve never told me.”

“I just stay in my room. Nothing too interesting,” he mumbles. “It’s like the opposite of what you do.”

“Really?” Jongwoon says, surprised. “Doesn’t it feel stifling if you stay inside all day long?”

“Being outside is too uncomfortable,” he admits. “It’s better to just stay inside.”

The older Alpha’s eyebrows furrow at that. He snips off another stray piece of hair. “Going outside with me… Did you offer because you thought I wanted you to?”

“No!” Hyukjae says quickly. “Even though it was scary, I wanted to go… with you…” he trails off, embarrassed.

Jongwoon hums. “You went with Donghae too, right? That’s probably healthier for you.”

“It’s different with Donghae,” Hyukjae murmurs.

“Huh? I couldn’t hear you.”

“Nothing! It’s fine with Donghae.”

“After my rut, you two seem to have gotten a lot closer. Did you finally clear up some things with him?” Jongwoon wonders. It had been strange at first to see the two Alphas so close to each other, but on second glance, it seemed natural, like it was always supposed to be that way.

“Ah… well… We only hung out because he’s attached to me. We didn’t actually talk about much,” Hyukjae confesses.

“Oh? Why not?” He raises an eyebrow.

“... It’s complicated. It’s not as easy as just… talking. That’s way too awkward,” he says, fidgeting slightly. “Donghae is more put together than me. He has a job. He can pay rent. He actually has social skills. He longs for a family and can protect his loved ones. He’s… a better Alpha than I am. I don’t even—I don’t even understand why he insists on being with me so much.” Hyukjae finishes, frustration leaking into his voice.

“Maybe Donghae is attached to you because he has to be. And because he isn’t as put together as you think he is,” Jongwoon responds, sectioning off a part of the other man’s bangs and cutting it off neatly.

Hyukjae presses his lips together, lowering his eyes. “I don’t know about that. I just… I just don’t want to taint him.”

His voice goes quiet at the end, pained. Jongwoon pauses in his work.

“You’re not tainted,” he murmurs.

Hyukjae’s hands clench in his lap.

“You don’t know anything about me,” he states, teeth gritted. Immediately, he feels guilty as he sees Jongwoon’s eyes shine with hurt, looking like he’s been stabbed in the heart, but he isn’t wrong at all. To his surprise though, the older Alpha doesn’t lash back. Gently, he cards his fingers through Hyukjae’s short hair, brushing away the tiny fragments still lingering on his reddened scalp.

“Donghae needs you. He’s lonely. For his sake, you should try,” he says absently. “Even if you feel inferior to him, you two both ended up in the same place. Something must’ve happened on his side too. Plus—” he smiles, snipping off a final piece of hair before he turns Hyukjae around to face the mirror— “You seemed happy to be with him too.”

As promised, the ends are meticulously trimmed and shaved, and the bangs are the perfect length. A bit of black hair peeks out from the crown of Hyukjae’s head, and he blinks.

“Didn’t I do a good job? I told you I wasn’t an amateur,” Jongwoon says proudly, removing the plastic sheet over Hyukjae’s chest. The younger Alpha doesn’t respond, and he frowns, bending over to inspect his expression. “Is it not good? I can make improvements if you want—”

“No, I like it,” Hyukjae says slowly. He reaches up and rubs a few strands together, pushing his bangs back slightly. “Thanks.”

Jongwoon hums, satisfied with himself. Suddenly, an idea pops into his mind and he pulls something from his pocket, tapping it open.

“I almost forgot, let’s take a selca!” he suggests, hurriedly, tugging the other man up and towards him. Hyukjae stumbles, his cheeks going pink as he’s pressed against Jongwoon, who raises the phone up in front of him.

But then, he frowns.

“Let’s switch sides,” he says. Hyukjae, though perplexed, does it without complaint. Jongwoon puts his phone in the other hand, and he pulls his sleeve down, revealing the silver bracelet that the younger Alpha had gifted him. “I have to show this off!” he grins. “Now look up!”

Despite his enthusiastic words, it takes a bit of finagling for Jongwoon to find the right angle for the photo. He thinks that maybe Hyukjae will start grumbling like he usually does, but he just stays silent. Finally, he moves them to the right spot where the lighting hits right, and he smiles.

The phone camera snaps. Quickly, he takes a look at it, examining it closely.

He laughs. “Hey, what’s this expression?”

In the selca, Hyukjae has his lips puckered, almost like he’s about to give someone a kiss. Jongwoon chuckles at it as he prepares to send it to Leeteuk and Heechul, knowing the two elders would appreciate it.

As he smiles at the photo again, Hyukjae observes him. He touches his chest, feeling his quickening heart rate, and a wave of emotion washes over him.

If only he could… lean a little closer with the same expression he had made in the selca…

But when Jongwoon finally notices him staring, tilting his head in confusion, there’s nothing Hyukjae can do but to look away.

“Hyung… what you said earlier… I’ll think about it,” he says. Jongwoon pinches his cheek fondly before retrieving something from behind the cabinet.

“I hope you’re not bad at cleaning.” He tosses a broom towards Hyukjae, smirking. Hyukjae catches it in surprise before pouting.

“Aren’t you supposed to treat customers well?” he complains. Jongwoon wiggles a finger at him.

“Just consider this as payment!”

 

 

Silently, Kyuhyun chops the vegetables as Ryeowook hurriedly slides into the kitchen, rolling up his sleeves in haste.

“Sorry about being late! Shindong-hyung just went into rut,” he says, washing his hands in the sink quickly. “Anything I can help with?”

“The pot needs some tending to,” Kyuhyun answers quietly. Ryeowook can’t help but to feel worried at the sound of the Beta’s voice, but he complies anyway, knowing better than to force it.

The words he had said earlier ring in his head. They bother him, and he frowns as he stirs the bubbling pot, glancing at Kyuhyun occasionally.

Ryeowook has always loved this view. Of Kyuhyun, apron clad, his large and pretty hands keeping the vegetables in place as he cleanly slices through them with a knife. Or, of him standing in front of a pan, stir frying meat with a considerable amount of strength, voice raising as he shouts across the kitchen for someone to check up on the stew.

But today, he seems strangely reserved, not even speaking a single word to him as he works.

“Is there something wrong, Kyuhyun?” he asks, concerned. The Beta just sets down his knife, gazing intently at the cutting board.

“Ryeowook, let’s sing together,” he says suddenly. Ryeowook’s eyebrows furrow.

“Tonight? But won’t you have work? And Shindong-hyung won’t be able to replace you either…” he trails off seeing the almost desperate expression on Kyuhyun’s face.

“Please,” Kyuhyun pleads. Ryeowook nods. Hesitantly, he places his hand on the other man’s shoulder, but Kyuhyun only stiffens at the touch. He quickly recoils, hurt, but that’s quickly overshadowed by worry.

“We’ll go right after dinner,” he says softly. Kyuhyun closes his eyes.

“Thank you.”

 

 

The process of setting up equipment is more bearable with someone else around. It’s easier to ignore the various comments thrown his way when he’s busying himself with getting Kyuhyun’s microphone set up despite the Beta’s protests.

“Hey, what a nice ass on that Omega over there.” Someone whistles from the crowd, and Kyuhyun’s head immediately shoots up, lips curling in a snarl. However, Ryeowook stops him, shaking his head.

“Those fuckers must’ve been raised by savages,” he says contemptuously. “They’re not worth it. I just feel bad for the actual Omegas that have to deal with this.”

Kyuhyun blinks at him. Then, he nods, returning his attention to plugging in the amp.

“You know, Ryeowook, even though no one else has noticed, you’ve changed a little,” he comments. Ryeowook raises an eyebrow.

“Is that a good thing or bad thing?” he asks.

“It’s a good thing.” Kyuhyun stands up straight, untangling the microphone cord and attaching it to the stand.

At the same time, Ryeowook finishes setting up, settling next to the Beta easily. He looks over to his side, and a sense of rightness washes over him. This is where he wants Kyuhyun to be, he realizes.

“Kyuhyun-ah, what do you think about being my Beta second in the future?” he says suddenly. The look Kyuhyun sends him is incredulous.

“What?”

“Nevermind!” Ryeowook quickly backpedals, embarrassed by his sudden daringness. “It’s an old fashioned idea anyway!”

A mix of complex emotions crosses Kyuhyun’s face, and he quickly looks away, biting his lip. “Well, even if I wanted to, my mom hates Alphas. She’d probably disown me if I did something like that.”

Ryeowook doesn’t know if he should be pleased that he’s being implicitly included as an Alpha or disappointed that Kyuhyun’s mother would never approve of a partnership between them.

“It should be about what you want though,” he says, surprising Kyuhyun. But then, he lowers his head, pursing his lips. “But you’re right. If you don’t want your mom to worry.” He grabs his phone and hastily picks out an instrumental from their tried and true playlist.

Kyuhyun just gazes at him, eyes swirling with a whirlwind of impossible emotions. But as his cue starts, he’s taken away by the music.

At the same time that he starts vocalizing, Ryeowook turns to him, smiling as he recognizes Kyuhyun’s familiar singing posture. He wishes the other man would meet his eyes, but it’s enough for him that he can watch such a beautiful sound flow from such a beautiful pair of lips.

When did he start thinking of Kyuhyun as beautiful?

Ryeowook isn’t sure. For him, he’s always been.

The chorus starts, and they both join in singing together, their voices blending together perfectly. A couple of people in the crowd noticeably stop to listen to the duet.

It’s Ryeowook’s solo part next. Although his voice has always been high pitched, it’s always been the one thing about his delayed development that he didn’t mind. He’s fond of it even. It’s bright, attention catching. It splits through the air like a rocket through a sheet of clouds, a butter knife through a crowd.

It’s purifying.

Kyuhyun thinks this as he tips a bottle of water over his mouth. Although he had wanted to sing together again in order to let himself go, he can’t find it within himself to tear his eyes away from the almost magnetic view of the Alpha.

Ryeowook’s twinkling eyes meet his, and Kyuhyun raises the microphone to his lips again. This time, the chorus splits into a harmony, their voices intertwining and tugging at each other in the air like two threads pulling on each other. Like fireworks bursting in the air.

Kyuhyun’s the one that gets the high note in the bridge. It builds up, steady and calm, until the final belt, and everything just bursts out. For a moment, Ryeowook is so entranced that he almost forgets to lead back into the final chorus. He just watches Kyuhyun, with his throat stretched around the note, his mouth wide open as if it’s going to swallow the sky.

Then, the instrumental hits back at full force. Ryeowook, suddenly impassioned by Kyuhyun’s show of skill, explodes, his ad-libs bright and furious through the air, as if he is challenging the other man. By the way he smirks, there’s no doubt that Kyuhyun has noticed that he’s trying to show him up. He lifts the microphone higher, his eyes closing by habit as he grips the microphone and sings into it as hard as he can.

By now, a large crowd has gathered, marveling at the duo. It’s unclear what they’re witnessing, a duet, a dance, or… something else?

Ryeowook and Kyuhyun don’t notice them. Instead, their eyes are locked onto each other. Kyuhyun’s pupils are dilated and strangely shiny in a way that he’ll probably blame on the dust later. He doesn’t want this moment to end, but he’s come here knowing that it will.

Ryeowook’s eyes are wide.

He realizes that he wants Kyuhyun to remain by his side for all his life.

The two emotions collide and combine, scintillating in the sky.

Their voices soar.

 

 

“Whoa, the money we collected this time was so much more than when I had gone alone!” Ryeowook exclaims, counting the bills in the tin.

“It was because I was here, right?” Kyuhyun grins, though it’s cracking a little at the edges. The Alpha presses his lips together. He stands up and grabs something from his pocket, suddenly using it to dab at Kyuhyun’s eyes. “Ryeonggu, what is this?” He tries to keep up a composed expression, but his voice can only come out in a rasp.

“Even though you’re kind of egotistical, you’re usually not the type to cry at your own singing,” Ryeowook says, gently tracing the other man’s moist cheeks with the cloth. “Did something happen with your mother earlier? I haven’t seen you like this in a while.”

“No, Mom didn’t call. It’s fine, it’s just… Beta hormones,” he chuckles wetly. “You know, I don’t have that thing that makes it ridiculously hard for Alphas to cry like you have.”

“I don’t have it yet. I need to get my medicine,” Ryeowook reminds him.

“After that you’ll just be a regular Alpha, right? And then you won’t have to face all these obstacles towards getting a regular job anymore, and you’ll be able to live life normally,” Kyuhyun says slowly.

He nods. “That’s the goal. Wait…” he stops. “You weren’t thinking that I was going to leave you behind after I got everything together, right?”

Kyuhyun bites his lip. Ryeowook’s eyebrows furrow.

“Kyu, that’s not what I wanted at all. I said so before, right? I want you to be my B—”

“That’s not what I want.”

Kyuhyun suddenly gets to his feet, fists clenched beside him. Ryeowook flinches backwards, shocked.

“Kyuhyun-ah, have I misunderstood something? Your scent—”

“No, there haven’t been any misunderstandings. Fuck—” He rubs his eyes almost violently. “I just wanted to come with you today so that I could sing with you for the last time.”

“Sing with me for the last time?” Ryeowook whispers. He stands, hurt glinting in his eyes. “What?”

“Yes! Things would be easier for me that way. So much easier!” Kyuhyun almost shouts, before remembering that they’re in a public space. He digs his nails into his palms. “All of this time, I was just enduring it and hoping… but you never… In the end, I became the stupid one. I became a fool because of you.”

“You were enduring it?” Ryeowook echoes, feeling like he’s been stabbed. “Have I—have I done something to you?” His mind spirals. “You said that you always enjoyed it when we sang together, but you were always better than me. But you always went along… Was it because you thought you were obligated to take care of me? Or was it because I didn’t treat you well, and you were hiding it this entire time?”

“No!” Kyuhyun backtracks, shaking his head vehemently. “That’s not what I meant at all! I was never better at singing than you, and you—” he breathes in— “You always treated me well.”

“Then why?” Ryeowook’s expression is anguished. “Why are you saying all of those things?”

“I—” Kyuhyun presses his lips together, averting his eyes. The Alpha sees him, and his face crumbles. Quickly, he turns away and grabs the rest of the equipment by himself, hiding the tears stinging in his eyes.

“I’ll carry it back to give you some space,” he says. For some reason, something in his chest feels like it’s been shattered into pieces. “I don’t want you to feel pressured by me anymore.”

“I was never pressured by you! Goddamn it.” The Beta tears at his hair in frustration. “Why did it come to this? Why are you so fucking dense?”

Ryeowook grits his teeth, a burst of anger suddenly blazing through his body. He whirls around, fists clenched, only to be confronted with a crying Kyuhyun.

“Why can’t you just understand me without me having to say it out loud?” he chokes. “Why do you have to do this to me?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ryeowook responds, tears streaming down his face. Kyuhyun storms forward at that, grabbing his collar with equally wet cheeks.

He spits out, “I’m fucking in love with you, Ryeowook. That’s what I’m talking about.”