I have searched
Every cavity of me
For the greatest compliment
I could give you
Jongwoon’s transformation comes as a surprise, even to him. His… becoming, so to speak. The voices get louder and quieter and overwhelm and retreat like clockwork and Jongwoon tries his best to shut them out with the textbooks from classes and hiding from eyes and simply being as alone as he can manage. It’s not much, when he’s stuck dragging himself from class to class, in oversized hoodies he hides in and glasses he delicately places on his face so the frames block out direct eyesight with anyone.
It’s not so bad in the dorm room. It’s just him and Hyukjae and Heechul and the two of them are different. Heechul is almost never there, out with his boyfriend, and when he is there, he’s almost unnaturally quiet, unlike the Heechul out with his boyfriend, loud and bright and joking around with their friends.
Hyukjae isn’t so bad. Hyukjae doesn’t shut down his interests and listens when Jongwoon rambles to shut out the other voices and his head isn’t so bad to be in. Truthfully, Hyukjae isn’t as dull as most other people. He nurses interests that Jongwoon, too, occasionally thinks about. Hyukjae studies criminology, and it’s fascinating to see secondhand, as Hyukjae pours over his notes from lectures and Jongwoon can hear echoes in his mind, of fingerprints and footprints and tire tracks and blood splatter .
Hyukjae is polite, too, and he has a pretty smile and a prettier laugh. Jongwoon knows he’s nursing a bit of a crush. One he doesn’t think is returned, not in a long shot; Hyukjae is beautiful, he has the attention of anyone who catches sight of him, and he’s delightfully charismatic and charming when he wants to be.
He’s a chameleon, in some ways. Jongwoon envies him, the way Hyukjae seamlessly moves from social group to social group without issues integrating himself wherever it is. Jongwoon overthinks it, spends too much time worrying about how he comes off that he comes off as antisocial above all else. Not that they’re wrong.
Jongwoon changes, after his twenty-second birthday. Hyukjae notices it first, the way Jongwoon holds himself is taller, almost more comfortable. He cuts his hair and starts styling it, and after a little research, Jongwoon’s skincare routine becomes more elaborate than Heechul’s and he, occasionally, is able to talk Hyukjae into it with him. “You seem different,” Hyukjae says one evening when they’re nursing glasses of wine that Jongwoon snuck into the dorm in his backpack- something he never would have even attempted before.
“Is that a bad thing?” Jongwoon asks and where once he would have ducked his head, he instead just cocks his head to the side and the corners of his lips pull up into an almost-smile. Hyukjae raises his eyebrows in return.
“No. It’s a good different. An attractive different,” Hyukjae shakes his head and finishes his glass. “Confident, I guess. You used to always hide, hyung. You’re not really hiding anymore, are you?”
“No, I guess not,” Jongwoon says. Something dances behind his eyes that Hyukjae can’t quite place—he’s still not used to Jongwoon meeting his eyes in the first place—and Jongwoon sets his glass down. “Let’s go do something.”
“Do something?” Hyukjae asks, laughing. He lets Jongwoon tug him up off of the couch and Jongwoon turns to the closet, pulling his hoodie over his head as he does. He’s hunting for something and when he finds it, he lets out a triumphant, “Aha!” and pulls a shirt from Heechul’s part of the closet.
“He’ll kill you,” Hyukjae warns. Jongwoon winks back at him and begins to button it up. It’s sheer fabric, black in color, and he watches with a hint of fascination as Hyukjae’s eyes trail over him. Checking him out , Jongwoon realizes as a flood of attraction not his own hits him and Hyukjae’s eyes meet his again. Hyukjae flushes but doesn’t look away, instead licking his lips.
“Let him try, he’s got the upper body strength of a toddler,” Jongwoon says and tries not to grin when Hyukjae snorts and lets Jongwoon dress him up in Heechul’s clothes too. Skinny jeans for both of them and a tank top and leather jacket for Hyukjae, the shirt stretched in the sides so his entire body is on display when he takes the jacket off.
“Really?” Hyukjae asks, partially amused, and Jongwoon just smirks and pats his hip and steps to the side to avoid Hyukjae as he heads to the bathroom to fix his hair and do his makeup, makeup he’s only acquired in the last week.
“Hyung, you’re really different,” Hyukjae says as they leave but he lets Jongwoon drag him out still. It’s thrilling, to see Jongwoon enjoying himself around people, eyes lit up though distant, and it’s shocking, even, to see Jongwoon flirt back with people.
“Bad?” Jongwoon asks, speaking directly into the shell of Hyukjae’s ear with the pounding of the music. Hyukjae shakes his head no and Jongwoon grins and licks his lips, the tip of his tongue brushing against Hyukjae’s ear too. A shiver wracks Hyukjae’s body for a moment and he pulls back, almost betrayed, as Jongwoon laughs and lets himself get swept away.
Jongwoon gets a tattoo that night. Hyukjae is genuinely surprised, but Jongwoon, despite nursing drinks all night, appears to be completely, impressively sober, as he pulls Hyukjae to the shop and admits he’s done his research. It’s a rose on his thigh. “Just the lineart,” Jongwoon says, licking his lips. His eyes are dark when he looks up and Hyukjae can’t quite place the expression on his face.
Jongwoon is like a light switch from then on and Hyukjae can’t entirely understand it. His mood swings are quick and severe; one second he’ll be joking around with Hyukjae and Heechul and their friends and the next he’ll be silent, almost catatonic, and staring daggers at the people they have over. Heechul’s boyfriend and his friends stop coming over and Jongwoon stops going to classes.
Hyukjae is only just starting to get worried, really worried, when the becoming simply… stops. He comes home to the dorm to find Jongwoon sitting on the couch, his clothes stiff with dried blood. “Fucking hell, hyung,” Hyukjae says and hurries forwards, trying to check him for injuries.
“It’s not mine,” Jongwoon says, his voice soft. When he looks at Hyukjae, something new catches his eye, an earring, a spade, dangling from a new piercing high on his left ear. For some reason the earring, more than the blood, sticks in Hyukjae’s mind as he moves Jongwoon to the bathroom and helps him out of his clothes, helping clean the blood from him. Deep down, Hyukjae knows. He knows .
He’s helping Jongwoon clean up from a crime.
And he doesn’t care.
For someone who has interest in joining the police force, in becoming a criminal profiler after years, Hyukjae knows he’s fucking himself over with his choices. With Jongwoon. He should turn him in, especially when Heechul comes back to them crying a few days later because his boyfriend is missing and then is later found dead, and Hyukjae knows Jongwoon did it because he sees the ghost of a smile on Jongwoon’s face when Heechul tells them.
But he doesn’t.
He arranges for a bonfire with all of their friends and waits until it’s dying down, in the middle of the night. He makes eye contact with Jongwoon and puts Jongwoon’s bloody clothes into the fire. Jongwoon stares back at him, unblinking and distant. The neutrality is terrifying.
Hyukjae tries not to think about Jongwoon when they both graduate and move on with their lives. He tries not to think about Jongwoon when the bodies start showing up with roses, and then with the new tattoo he knows Jongwoon got, the small pink teardrop in the corner of his eye. He knows Jongwoon is the one responsible, and he doesn’t know how Jongwoon is smart enough not to get caught.
My darling, Hyuk,
Catch me if you can.
It’s more than an invitation, from Jongwoon. It’s a promise. They both know that Jongwoon has more than enough evidence to drag Hyukjae down with him. Hyukjae has provided false alibis for him countless times through university, and has admitted that he knows Jongwoon is the one killing.
He draws the line, though, when Jongwoon starts to get more creative. It’s done like an autopsy, the Y-shaped incision made perfectly, and the chest cavity is exposed. An arrangement of flowers is inside and Hyukjae swallows down disgust when Kyuhyun saunters up to him casually at the scene, tapping away at his phone. “Are you allowed to have that out here?” Hyukjae asks and Kyuhyun gestures at him rudely without looking up.
“Phacelia means endurance and strength, violets for innocence and enduring love. Lavender means devotion and purity. Lungwort means admiration and devotion. Literally, you are my life ,” Kyuhyun reads off of his notes and Hyukjae swallows heavily.
“He’s courting someone. This fucker is courting somebody. Another killer?” Donghae asks, from off to their left. Hyukjae pinches the bridge of his nose.