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Forces Among Us

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“Do you know who it was?” A tall woman with a little electronic device in her hands asked him.

“Uh... no...” His voice was shaky, and his hands were a bit sweaty
“Don’t sweat it, kid. It’s an outdated concept, anyway.” She smiled lightly at him, though looking a little sad, and lightly grabbed at his hand. The device registered a bar code over Kai’s palm, and he saw the small patch of numbers on his wrist glow white, going up until it read 999:99:99:99:99:99

"Once you get past the first minute, the timer looks normal." She said.

She smiled again, letting his arm fall softly at his side and he smiled back, sheepishly. He looked down at his arm after walking away 999:99:99:99:99:31

More time than he could ever use. He let his arm fall and pulled down his sleeve

 

“You know that becoming an idol means you’ll never find her.” He heard his mother’s words in his ear.

“But dancing is all I want, mom... It’ll be worth it, and lots of people never really find their person... some even find other people!” his voice was high and chipper

“If you find her before... don’t tell them... I’ve heard things, Jongin... they might make her disappear. This is pretty serious.. This business...” Her tone was low and serious and he felt the weight of her words rumble inside his tummy.

“Well, I might not even get in... but I will be careful, mom.” He smiled up at her.

 

Her.

 

Kai brought himself back to reality where not five minutes prior had he bumped into two boys, and his timer stopped. He knew it would because he had been obsessing over it for days; making sure his hair looked nice, that he was brushing his teeth five times a day just in case an impromptu kiss would happen, that his outfits were nice and clean. He knew that in just a few days he would meet her, but he didn’t meet her. He met him... or rather, he met.. Them?

 

***

 

Kai woke up in another cold sweat as his alarm sounded. He wiped his eyes, and lifted up from his bed, eyeing the one across from him that was usually empty; Chanyeol had apparently spent another night in the studio. Kai figured it was better than him staying in the room and keeping him awake all night, even if his dreams were less than ideal.

 

He grumbled as he stood up from his bed, walked slowly into the bathroom, and began brushing his teeth. He checked his reflection

It looks like I didn’t even sleep

 

“Good morning, Jongin.” Kyungsoo softly came into their room and spoke in a low tone that was kind of mid-tempo that let Kai know he was watching a movie on his tablet

“Good morning.” He offered back, knowing the other boy probably wouldn’t hear him since he was immersed in whatever it was he was watching at the moment.

 

He closed the door behind him, and turned on the shower, hoping the warm water would be enough to wash the ‘I’m tired I barely got any sleep’ remnants off of his face.

 

Later, in their living room as he scrolled through his phone, he felt strong arms wrap around his neck a little too quickly for him to pull away.

 

“Ah! What is this?” The grip wasn’t tight enough to hurt him, but it was enough for him to not be able to pull away.

“I just wanted to asked you something before you could walk away!” A deep voice said behind him.

 

Oh, God.

 

He felt like ignoring Chanyeol as much as he could would actually pay off in the future, not make his life even harder. He didn’t expect him to evolve.

 

“Okay, okay just let me go or I’m gonna say no right now.”

 

“Okay.” Chanyeol let him go immediately, and he slipped away from behind him only to all but run to the other side of the couch so that he was facing Kai with big, almost pleading eyes.

“Well? What is it. I figured it’s serious if you tried to trap me into listening.” Kai’s voice was calm, and he tried to convey a little patience in his voice. He didn’t hate Chanyeol... he just found him extremely annoying.

“Erica is coming over today... in like 10 minutes.”

“Okay so you want the room to yourself?”

“Her friend is with her... it was kind of last minute because I called her to come listen to a song and” He was rambling, running his fingers through his hair and speaking really quickly, Kai already knew where it was going “she was going to blow me off, because she’s spending time with her friend, but I told her one of the boys here could stay with her friend while she listened to the song.”

 

Kai scoffed “We both know that listening to the song means locking your studio door, and eating her out.”

Erica was a designer from America. Park Chanyeol had apparently bumped into her at a fashion show backstage, he claimed that it was love at first site. They had been covering his tracks, and lying to SM about her designing clothes for him... (or with? Kai was hard at keeping up with the lies at point) for about 4 months now. Kai thought they matched well. She was tall, and looked like a model herself. He felt like if he saw her walk on the runway, he wouldn’t know the difference between her and the other models. She was nice, and had once told Kai she’d like him to be in one of her shows; it helped with the lie to SM and their fans. He liked her, surprisingly. He didn’t think he’d like anyone who Chanyeol would pick out, but she was funny, and sweet, and whenever Chanyeol said something annoying around her she shut him up immediately. He’d also noted that his roommate’s clothes were cleaner now, as he started doing laundry. Clearly, she had been a good influence.

 

“Okay, but consider this.” Chanyeol lifted up his sleeve and pushed his wrist into Jongin’s face “Look!”

 

999:08:05:15:24:45

 

“You got reset? I thought you were covering yours up with a tattoo?”

“No... I just lied about that to the public... my sister taught me how to cover it up with makeup so I could keep it in the camps...”

“And yours ended when you met Erica?”

“Yes. I bought a time keeper and reset it so no one would know... you know what Tao said they did when his ended... he never even saw her again...”

 

Kai nodded. “Okay. I will hang out with the friend while you spend time with Erica.”

 

He wasn’t one to judge. He’d kept up his fair share of research on counters ever since that day. He stayed anonymous on forums and blogs trying to find more information on what might have happened to him, but he was way too afraid to go to any sites that might give him real answers.

 

“Thank you!” Chanyeol all but crushed him when he hugged him in excitement. “Anyway, it’s just Logan. You’ve met her before. She’s pretty.”

 

“You’re right.” Kai remembered Logan. People called him chocolate, but really her skin fit the description more. He’d seen her change pieces of her hair from blue to green to pink to red, and probably any other color in between. She was Erica’s principle model; smaller than the designer, but still technically model height. They were always together except when Erica came to see Chanyeol, and Kai noted that their fingers were almost always intertwined. One night while at an after party for a fashion show he swore he even saw them kiss, but figured it was just the strobe lights playing tricks on his eyes which would be plausible given his terrible eyesight.

 

Logan was nice, too like Erica, but she seemed a lot less enchanted by Chanyeol even though he seemed to constantly be trying to win the favor of his girlfriend’s best friend.

 

“I’ll sit with her. Just have fun.” Kai said wriggling from Chanyeol’s grasp.

 

***

 

When Logan and Erica entered their dorm, Jongin and Chanyeol were waiting. Chanyeol seemed to relax whenever Erica was around, like her presence put him at ease. Kai couldn’t help himself from staring at her wrist, but the small numbers that would show how much time she had left were hidden; it’s very hard to see numbers when they are about half an inch tall and scrawled across the inner part of someone’s wrist, the part that was generally invisible when arms hung freely, even when someone wasn’t wearing sleeves. Still, he tried. He focused on her wrist while welcoming Logan, and greeting her to sit with him on the couch, but couldn’t see anything before she disappeared into the studio with Chanyeol.

 

He shook himself back into host mode, and turned his attention to Logan who was idly playing on her phone. He noticed that she was wearing long sleeves... she seemed to always wear long sleeves in his presence, even during the few times he’d seen her on the runway or in a magazine. It was odd, models usually didn’t have any reason to hide their counters. The public found them more likable when they were stable and settled down, and married, able to balance a Victoria’s Secret body with three children running around. He wondered how Adriana Lima did it sometimes.

 

“Do you always wear long sleeves?” he spoke before really thinking about it, but he was curious. He was always curious about other people’s counters since his incident that happened 8 years ago, but now that Chanyeol had revealed his secret to him he wanted to know how many other people in the world were hiding.

“Yea, I guess so.” She answered nonchalantly. Kai still looked at her wrist. It seemed to glow a color he hadn’t noticed before.

She looked up at “Do you want to see it?”

Kai looked back at her, kind of embarrassed that his mind’s persistence, and nodded.

“It’s okay.” She smiled, and moved closer to him. She pulled back her sleeve and he saw a small, almost empty counter on her arms, it had a small purple glow, matching her current hair color.

“You can touch it if you want.” She held out her arm for him to grab, and he did. He’d never been close to a moving counter that wasn’t his own before. He never really asked any of the other boys to see theirs, and his had been a lie ever since it had been reset.

“I’ve never seen a purple one before.” His voice was low, and curious.

“Yea, it’s-ow!” She pulled her wrist back just as Kai slowly began to place his finger over it, and looked down, then looked back up at him with big eyes.

“You have got to be kidding me...” She gave her wrist back to Kai, and he noticed that it had reset. Not to a high or unattainable number, but he’d sworn she only had minutes, or even seconds left before.

“What happened?” He looked up at her “Didn’t you have more time?”

“I did... my counter is...” She pulled her arm back and looked down “Let me see yours.”

“Mine is useless; it was reset 8 years ago to a number I couldn’t even count to in my dreams.”

“Guess that means you found your soulmate, right?”

 

He chuckled weakly. “Yea, something like that.”

 

Logan grabbed his arm anyway and began to push back the fabric that hid his counter.

He felt her thumb lightly press over his wrist.

“It’s empty.” was all she said.

“What?” he pulled his wrist back from her. “That is... impossible....”

“Shh...” she said suddenly looking around the room. “It’s empty.”

“What did you do?” he looked up at her

“Nothing... you did it... I can’t make a counter go down.... No one can...”

“But... my counter stopped years ago.”

“Mine, too.” she smiled and held her wrist out, pulling his to hold side by side with her own wrist.

He looked down at both of them as his beeped, and then rest again. This time to an actually attainable number.

 

“What is happening?” He looked up at her, scared.

“Mine is still purple.” She said “Kinda sad, you’re really cute.”

“What does that mean?”

"Your counter. It has lots of sets... mine does, too, but it changes color every time I meet a different soulmate... this time it didn’t change so I don’t... I don’t really know what that means.”

“Does this happen often?” Kai asked. She laughed

“Much too often in a society that paints monogamous love as the only kind there is.” Her voice was excited now, and Kai seemed to have her full attention.

“I’ve read so much stuff about other people like me, but I’ve never met anyone... Does your wrist ever hurt?”

 

Kai admitted to himself that yes, sometimes his wrist did hurt. It hurt like it was trying to fight back from being reset. It hurt like his body was trying to push the notion of dishonesty out of his veins. He chalked it up to his anxiety from when he met the two boys 8 years ago.

 

“Sometimes...” he suddenly felt like he was sharing something that wasn’t meant for other people to hear, probably because he’d never actually said it to anyone outloud. “...but I don’t really notice it.”

“You do.” He eyes were clear, and simple, and honest. She didn’t look like she was trying to catch him in a lie, just telling him his truth. “When did it first go out?”

 

Kai knew exactly when his wrist numbers first ran out... he just didn’t know exactly who had done it.

 

 

He was rushing, because he knew he was going to be late, and he knew his counter was running down, and he knew he’d have to get it reset, but he was already eyeing around for any girls he might run into just as his timer ran out and therefore not paying attention to who was in front of him.

Their collision was quick, and a little painful, and Kai remembered their faces; one with extremely high cheekbones who seemed to be yelling even before they crashed into each other, and the other with lips shaped like a heart and a weird haircut, who was smiling brightly despite squeezing one eye shut and holding his head.

 

“Sorry!” Kai said as he got back up, on his feet almost immediately “I wasn’t paying attention!”

“It’s okay!” The boys said in unison

“Um. I’ve got to go, I’m late!” He said as he ran off

 

Kai felt a pool of warm twist into his stomach. “Either... years ago... I don’t know who... well I do know who, but I don’t know who it was for.”
“What do you mean?” Logan asked

“Well, I bumped into two people... I didn’t noticed that my counter was over until I was away, and then as soon as I did I had to be reset. Idols can’t have empty counters... or counters at all, really...”

“You bumped into two people?” Her eyes were big, and her voice seemed to get a little bit more high pitched than before “And your counter stopped?”

“Yes. I searched on the internet a lot, but I could never find any answers about it.”
“KAI” she yelled, and then quickly brought her voice back down “....let’s go into your room, okay?”

“Okay...” he figured it must not be too terrible seeing as how his formerly high-as-hell counter had magically ended and reset the moment hers did.

 

He stood up and led her into his room. She closed the door behind them, and he wondered if she would be taking off her clothes soon after.

“Listen, if this is like.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I know people think black girls are easy, but do us both a favor and erase that stereotype from your head.”

“Okay. Sorry.” Kai was a little embarrassed.

“Anyway.” she sat down on his bed next to him, and spoke in a quiet voice. “You have two.”

“Two?” Kai was confused. “Two what?”

“Soulmates. Actually, you’ve probably got more seeing as how your counter reset itself.”

“No one can have two soulmates. That’s why everyone has one counter.”

“Kai, that’s wrong. My counter has reset and changed colors five times. Five times. I am still dating all five of those people, and... I am apparently getting close to number six.” She sighed, looking exasperated.

“Me?”

“No, not you. My counter didn’t change colors with you... I think it means you’re special, though... to me. I mean, you did hurt my wrist... no one has ever directly done that before.”

Kai felt like his brain wasn’t working correctly. Like maybe his ears had began to leak weird pink fluid that forced him to hear impossible things. Like maybe his eyes were really shut tight, and his brain was playing a projection of something that wasn’t actually happening. He entertained the thought of himself dreaming, of him maybe having a fever that he couldn’t quite shake and he had really been in bed for days.

 

“Kai.” His bedroom door opened, and a bandmate, small, high cheekbones, loud, entered the room yelling about how his counter was rapidly dropping. He pulled up his sleeve and shoved it in Kai’s face

“They can’t find out I never actually had mine covered up what am I going to-”

“It stopped, Jongdae.” was all Kai said as he looked over to Logan who was looking at her own wrist.

“Mine, too.” She looked up at Jongdae, and smiled brightly, tears almost filling her eyes, and Kai looked over at Jongdae, who had the same expression.

“Hi.” Jongdae said, pulling his arm away from Kai, and holding out a hand toward Logan. “I’m Jongdae.”

“Logan.” she said, shaking his hand and smiling

“She’s Erica’s friend.” Kai interjected

“Of course. You’re the model.”

“Guilty.”

Kai stood there for a minute, a little confused, and a little annoyed. Chen couldn't be her soulmate if he was Kai's.

“Okay... this is all... very fake.” Kai said, standing between them. “Your counter did not end when you saw her it ended when you met me.”

“What?” Chen looked confused.

“My counter ended when I met you and Kyungsoo, and Logan just told me that I had two soulmates.”

“But... you can only have one.”

“That’s... not right. Mine just reset when Kai touched it. His reset, too.” She looked down at her wrist again.

“Why is it green now?” Kai asked

“Jongdae’s one of my soulmates...” she smiled

“One of?” Kai had never seen Chen’s eyebrows so closely furrowed together. “I am one of your soulmates?”

“Yes. And you are apparently one of Kai’s.”

“What the fuck?”

“Look, I know that in grade school, and all through out our lives we are told a certain thing about our counters, but... it’s wrong. A lot of it is wrong... a lot of it is heterocentric propaganda and a lot of it is monogamous propaganda.”

“Wait, Jongin, how can I be one of your soulmates if I am a boy?”

“Again, I state the heterocentric propaganda.” Logan added. “...That’s why you never told anyone, isn’t it, Kai?”

“Kai looked down at his hands.” “Well... no one has ever had a soulmate who was the same gender... and every time I searched it to find an explanation I just found sites that talked about immoral people who bought time keepers so they could ignore their counters and fuck whoever they wanted... I’m not one of those people.”

“No, you’re not!” Logan said “It’s okay, Kai.”

“How would you even know how I feel? Your soulmate is Jongdae, a boy, and even me being special to you.. I’m still a boy.”

“But you love Jongdae, and Kyungsoo... don’t you?”

 

Kai leaned back on his bed. This was all too much to take in, and way too much to try to comprehend. He’d tried to make sense of his own feelings for Kyungsoo and Jongdae so many times. He tried to rationalize that even in the event that his counter wasn’t screwed up, that maybe he could choose between the two of them... maybe one of them really was meant for him. He knew, though, that in the back of his mind he only did that because he knew it would be easier. Having one soulmate that was a boy should surely be better than having two that were both boys.

He knew if push came to shove he couldn’t actually choose between them... their differences seemed to be so complimentary that the idea of living in bliss with one seemed empty... like it would be missing a piece that he needed.

He let out a load groan, throwing his body down onto his bed.

“I really don’t want to talk about this.”

 

Jongdae crept over and slowly laid his body on top of Kai’s.

“After you bumped into me and Kyungsoo, my counter seemed to be acting weird... I didn’t notice it until later, though... the numbers were higher... I didn’t say anything, because I thought it was weird but...”

 

“You love them, too?” Logan added, looking even more excited “This is so cool. I’ve never met anyone like me except Erica, and her counter has only stopped once!”

 

Jongdae lifted himself up from Kai, still sitting on him. Kai felt a warmness in him, and a lot of relief.

“How do you know this?” He was loud, as usual. Kai didn’t mind

“You’re really loud, and you’ve really got to stop.”
“Being loud is who I am. You might want to get used to it if we’re going to be soulmates.”

 

Kai didn’t understand how that could elicit a smile from her, but he carried on listening to their conversation as if her newfound infatuation was unnoticed.

“I’m fine with you being loud about things but this... is very dangerous. People with weird counters disappear... and you two, and I’m also guessing Kyungsoo, and me... we all have weird counters. We are gonna have to be very quiet about all of this, okay?”

 

Kai sat up, and they both shook their heads

“We lie to our management all the time, this should be easy.” Jongdae said

“We... we can’t tell Kyungsoo.” Kai said

“Yea... you’re right... he wouldn’t believe us, and even if he did he wouldn’t want to get involved.”

“Okay, so, even more reason why we need to be quiet about all of this.”

 

They heard the door open to the room. Logan looked down at her wrist again.

“Kai, usually it’s Chanyeol who has people in here, and he usually tells me beforehand.”

He stood nervously in the door looking over at Logan who immediately stood up, moving close to him quickly and grabbing his arm.

“Um.” Kyungsoo snatched his wrist back

“I’m sorry, but this is kind of important.” She held her wrist out and looked up at him, waiting for him to put his out next to hers.

Kai was beginning to realize that everyone in this camp lied about their counters except him. He was sure Kyungsoo had gotten his either reset or covered.

She looked down, and back over to Jongdae and Kai who looked, over toward them with piercing eyes.

“Is this Kyungsoo?” She asked one more time

“Yes!” Jongdae answered in a yelp

 

Kyungsoo didn’t say anything, only looked with incredulous eyes shifting quickly between her and the empty numbers on his wrist.

 

“Are you my?” Kyungsoo looked confused and, a little scared. “Who are you?”

“I’m Logan.”

“She’s Chanyeol’s girlfriend’s best friend.” Kai added

“Yes.” Her voice was high “Best friend. Sure.”

 

She looked back at her wrist. “It’s not...”

“What?”

Then Kyungsoo looked at his own wrist, noticing that numbers had reappeared. “...what?”

Logan looked back up at him, and winked. He nodded.

“So, I guess you’re my soulmate now, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Chapter Text

“Wait, wait wait!” Kai stood up, inadvertently knocking Chen off of his lap. “Sorry, but wait.”

He went over to Kyungsoo and grabbed his arm “Yours, too? You too, Kyungsoo? Et tu, brute?”

 

Kyungsoo yanked his arm back. “What are you talking about?” His voice was stern.

“I thought you’d gotten your counter covered up years ago?”

“It’s not my fault you’re so gullible. My brother told me years ago to never let them reset my counter. So, I lied. Duh.”

“And Jongdae, you too?”

Jongdae stood up, still recovering from his recent abrupt tumble to the floor.

“Well, yea. I knew what happened to the girls idols found out were their soulmates... or rather... I don’t know, exactly... I just know they disappear, and the idol reappears three days later with his counter reset and a press statement saying there was a misunderstanding... but I still wanted mine. It’s... human, you know?”

“Who else in this fucking dorm is lying about their counter?” Kai raised his voice

“I don’t fucking know” Kyungsoo said slipping past him to get to his own bed “I mind my business like a regular person. Counters are personal.”

 

“So, I got my counter reset years ago, and all the other idols are just running around with extra concealer on their wrists?”

Kyungsoo shrugged, sitting down on his bed “I don’t know. Like I said I mind my business.”

 

Kai was upset? Upset. He took a moment to reevaluate his feelings

“I am upset!” Kai yelled

“We kind of got that part, sugar.” Logan said, following Kyungsoo and moving closer to him as he sat on his bed. He didn’t seem to mind or care.

 

“Okay, but that’s not fair. I got my counter reset years ago when I-” He cut himself off.

 

“When you what?” Kyungsoo was listening to him now
“...Nothing. I don’t really want to talk about it.”
“You met your soulmate already?” Kyungsoo asked, perking up a bit. “What was she like?”

“I said I don’t want to talk about it. I’d rather talk about how all of you have been lying to me for eight years.”

“If it helps, I’ve been lying to everyone.” Kyungsoo said, shrugging

“Well... I guess that’s kind of okay.” Kai said, calming down a little.

“I lied to everyone, too... except Xiumin.” Jongdae chimed in

“And hey I barely know any of you so my lies really don’t have anything to do with this.” Logan added.

 

“I know. I just want all of my bandmates to know... that this is all very... ugly... and booboo....” Kai said, folding his arms

“Great description of your feelings, Jongin. We’ll try to be more open next time.” Jongdae said, leaving the room. He knew Kai only resorted to terrible insults like this when he was feeling particularly wounded.

 

Over the next few days, they’d all fallen into a bit of a pattern. Logan would come over early and disappear into a room with Kyungsoo along with Erica and Chanyeol disappearing in some part of the dorm as well. Kai and Chen would take that opportunity to go into Chen’s room, and get more acquainted with each other. When Logan would leave she’d text Jongdae and Jongin and let them know to come over so they could discuss what to do about Kyungsoo.

 

“He hasn’t even mentioned to me that his counter reset and kept going. I noticed it immediately, but I don’t think he cares.” Logan voice was a little strained, and in response Jongdae stood up and wrapped his arms around her waist.

“It’ll be okay.” Looking at Jongdae be so warm with Logan made Kai feel warm inside. It was kind of like watching himself with Chen, only a little smaller, and with different hair, and an American accent, a girl and not him at all... but he could see the way Jongdae loved people shine through whenever he interacted with Logan. It made him smile to know that he was also receiving that same love.

 

“His counter is going down quickly. I’ve seen it when he’s fallen asleep. He’s going to meet someone soon, and he doesn’t even seem concerned.”

“Maybe he thinks it’s broken or... I mean it is Kyungsoo. I think he tries to avoid unpleasant things at all costs. So, he’s probably just ignoring it at this point, and doesn’t even care.” Kai said, sitting on the big plush bed of the hotel that Erica and Logan were staying in.

“Yea, that’s actually probably right... and anyway if he stays in that room with you all day it’ll never go down anyway. A counter can only get to zero once you touch your soulmate. How’s it gonna work if he’s not touching anyone?” Jongdae said, releasing Logan from his grasp and going to sit near Kai on the bed.

“Well, Kai didn’t try to touch you. He bumped into you and Kyungsoo... and the only reason kyungsoo touched me was because I grabbed his arm to see if mine would go down. He has to be thinking about it. The only people who don’t think about their counters are people whose counters are reset or covered. It’s kind of the whole point of them. Except me, really ‘cause mine goes down like every three seconds... except now, I guess.”

“What do you mean?” Kai asked, motioning her over to the bed so he could inspect her wrist.

“My counter stopped after Kyungsoo so, I guess he’s the last one. Which is honestly a relief. Having so many partners gets draining and old very quickly... You know sometimes I wish I only had one soulmate, honestly.” her voice was small

 

Kai pulled her down onto the bed, and his lap, hugging her tightly. “I know, me, too. It’s very scary... loving two people... knowing you can’t choose, and being afraid that it means neither of them will want you.”

 

Jongdae nodded, kissing her forehead.

 

“I just... I don’t want him to go through that fear alone. Plus, I don’t like lying to him about all of this...” Logan said

“Don’t worry. Like I said, it’ll be okay.” Jongdae smiled.



Kai had taken lots of time to get as close to Jongdae as possible. Slipping into his boyfriend’s room unseen by the other roommates proved to be easier than expected, because the other boys generally didn’t pay attention to them, and Xiumin was always gone.

 

He sat, facing Jongdae, straddling him, and leaning his head on his chest.

 

“I don’t think it’s fair... because we love Kyungsoo, too, but... I’m not sure if he’ll ever come around to the idea of...” his voice trailed off

“Oh, don’t worry about that.” Jongdae tried... but it was hard since Kai was already taller than him, and crouched down as much as possible without hurting his back, to rest his chin on Kai’s head, but he settled on just kissing his temple instead. “Counters are kind of set in stone. He already loves us. He’s probably just afraid.”

 

Jongdae’s voice was calming in his ear, and he relaxed even more into his lap, pulling him closer.

 

The next day as Kai found himself in the same room, on the same bed, in the same position, but instead of talking about Kyungsoo he was counting Jongdae’s eyelashes.

 

“You’ve got 85 lashes on that eye.” Kai laughed “I’m not counting the other one that took too long.”

“What if my eyes are uneven? What it I’m some weird eyelashes freak within an entirely to high number of lashes on one eye? How will I ever know, Jongin? You have to count them.”

“Your eyelashes are fine.” Kai cupped Jongdae’s face in his hands, and pulled him forward, kissing both of his eyes as he blinked responsively. “I blessed them, see? Now they’re okay.”

“Thank you.” Jongdae aid as he craned up to kiss Kai who, only held him in closer, deepening the kiss immediately.

 

It felt so good. It felt so good. The way his lips seemed to melt and move in sync with Jongdae’s even though neither of them really had any idea what the other one was going to do next. The way Jongdae squoze his arms around him, pulling him in closer with tiny little gasps. The way their noses bumped just a little, definitely not enough to make them stop. His fingers were soft around Jongdae’s face, and he felt so delicate being pulled in... he felt like he was the smaller one. For all his dancer strength and agility he didn’t work out as much as Jongdae did. His arms were strong, and steady, and whenever they pulled Kai in he couldn’t help but melt in them.

 

Small whimpers escaped from his mouth as Jongdae trailed kisses down his neck, and latched his teeth into the soft skin. He felt both senses of ecstasy and dread as he felt himself being pulled closer, the soft bites, and lick on his neck hypnotizing him with every touch. Jongdae was delicate and slow, and caring, and it made him feel like his head might explode. His own tender touches turning into rough digs into the shoulders of the smaller boy under him. His body was begging for more of something that he didn’t even know how to give to it, and he wasn’t particularly sure Jongdae knew how to give it to him either.

 

They jumped when Minseok came through the door. Kai quickly removing himself from Jongdae’s lap as Jongdae pushed him further away from him.

 

Minseok laughed. “Really?” he continued, shutting and locking the door behind him “I know you two have been spending a lot of time together, but... I didn’t expect this.” He walked over to his bed and began to take his shirt off.

 

“So have your timers run out or have you been to one too many clubs with that Logan girl?” They turned to each other, confused

“We... um we don’t know what you’re talking about.” Kai blurted out

“The red marks on your neck and protruding growth from both of your pants say different, but you can keep denying it if you want to. Either way, I don’t care, and I won’t tell.”

 

“What are you-”

“So, did someone’s counter go off or what?”

Jongdae took a deep breath.

“Okay... I get that you do a lot of stuff that we don’t know about, but how can you be so calm about this?”

 

Xiumin sighed and sat down on his bed, taking off his shoes and looking more like a father figure than a bandmate.

 

“When I was 21 my counter went off. I was holding a girl’s hair because she was puking in the toilet of some club. I thought to myself ‘This is odd’ but I didn’t care, really. If this was who it was going to be, then this was it... You know, I was always told that meeting your soulmate meant you’d automatically fall in love with them, you know? They even tell us in the camps that we can’t have our counters because fans could lie and say we are their soulmates... it’s to protect us... I was never one to pay attention to mine, anyway. When I met her I felt love, but it was not the love I thought it would be. She made me feel like I was her older brother. I felt like I instantly had to care for her. I made sure that she got home safe. She wanted me around, because her timer went off, too. We noticed that night that both of our counters had started to go up... not down... we also realized that we weren’t going to fall in love or get married or do any of that... we were just going to be good friends...”

 

“Okay, but what does that have to do with anything?” Kai asked,

 

“Jongin, please let me finish. After that I tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I bought a time keeper, but I was afraid that if I added time, my counter would only continue to go up. So, I got a flesh tattoo instead. I started reading a lot about counters that didn’t work correctly... and I found out that mine wasn’t really broken, I just don’t have a romantic soulmate... which made sense, actually. I’d never really thought about it, but after scouring the worst parts of the internet, it just started to piece itself together. I kinda stopped caring about my counter after that. It served it’s purpose, it brought me a life-long friend, and it taught me even more in my search. A lot of people... so many more people than we even know have counters that end when they meet someone of the same gender. A lot of those people buy time keepers to add more time so they can forget... some of them start fucking people at random, some of them live in secret. I mean, fucking people at random is great no matter who you are if that’s what you’re into. Which, clearly I am... so... I’ve had a lot of experiences... and a lot of fun! With lots of different people... of lots of different genders. It was really only a matter of time before someone in this dorm had similar one. I’m at least glad it’s Jongdae so I could’ve found out eventually.”

“So you mean to tell me you lied about your counter, too?” Kai raised his voice a little

“Jongin, calm down.” Xiumin said

“I just want to know who else in this house is lying.”

 

Jongdae rolled his eyes

“You are missing the important parts of this. Minseok, you know about people with weird counters, too?”

“Yes... especially since I’m one of them.”

“Everything I saw on the internet talks about people like you” Kai added “People who add time to their counters so they can sleep with whoever they want.”
“Ah, yes, but I didn’t add any time to my counter did I? And anyway people are gonna fuck lots of people if they want whether their counter works like normal or not. Hell, half the people in training camps lie about their counters, and still fuck every pretty girl they see on the road before finding the one. Having lots of sex doesn’t make you immoral.”

 

Kai sighed “You’re right.”

“I know.”

“So, you’ve had sex with men?” Jongdae’s voice was only a little more than a whisper

“Yes.”

“So... you know how to do it?”

Minseok sighed “I am not going to give you a play by play of what you can look up on the internet but I will...” he reached into the drawer on his night stand table and tossed a small bottle and a handful of condoms over to Jongdae’s bed “...help you along the way.”

 

Minseok re-dressed and left the room seemingly as quickly as he had entered leaving Kai feeling like he was trying to give them something. Privacy, maybe... to do nothing.

 

“I think we should call hanging out quits for the night, Jongdae.” Kai lifted up from the bed completely drained from the long story Xiumin had told them

“Yea, I understand. Get some rest.” Jongdae smiled, and Kai left the room.

 

He couldn’t really get comfortable that night. He kept thinking about counters, and why so many weren’t working the way that everyone had told him, ever since he was born, they work. How could so many people have counters that acted this way, but no one ever talked about it?

No history, no literature, no medical research, no scientific research on this. He couldn’t shake the feeling that they were burying his answers so that he wouldn’t feel he had a place to turn... and that he felt terrible leaving other people like him to feel that way.

 

He looked at his wrist right before falling asleep. The numbers were getting low again. Someone else was coming, and they were coming soon.



“You never go out with me or come to meet any of my friends, and I just want to have a fun night out where we dress up nice and dance and interact with people who don’t live in this dorm pleeeeeeeeease?”

 

“She whines even better than me.” Jongdae whispered to Kai from living room couch across from Kyungsoo and Logan who were sitting on the opposite side of the couch next to them; far enough away that they couldn't hear. Kai nudged him in response.

 

Kyungsoo sighed “You know you could just go without me.”

Kai noticed Kyungsoo glance at his wrist, then back to Logan.

“It won’t be as fun without you. Plus, I want you to meet some of my friends. I think it’ll be fun.”

 

“Yea, and we’ll come!” Jongdae said, half-yelling

“See! If they come and you feel lonely you’ll have friends there.”

“Yes, but Chanyeol is going.”

“Erica will keep him busy so that he doesn’t annoy you. I promise.” she kissed him on the cheek “Pleeeeeease?” she blinked her eyes at him in a pleading fashion,

“Okay, sure, I’ll go.” Kyungsoo smiled.

 

Kai thought it was interesting how he knew Kyungsoo was already going to say yes even before she started pleading. Probably the same way he knew that he only had to ask, and, even if he protested for the first few minutes, he’d watch a scary movie with him. Or if Chen whined even a little while trying to cook something, Kyungsoo would immediately intervene, trying to help, and end up making the whole meal himself. His soft heart was starting to become much more apparent.

 

Kyungsoo looked over to Kai and smiled.

Kai nodded in response.

He just wanted to know it would be okay.

 

Kai stayed close to Kyungsoo when they were out. Jongdae and Logan disappeared into the crowd immediately, and went off to be social butterflies. Kyungsoo, however, was awkward and nervous around people when he first met them. So, having Kai as a buffer helped. Kai would often squeeze his hand for reassurance, and because it felt really nice. He loved being alone with Kyungsoo without Logan to steal the spotlight or Jongdae to distract him by yelling. The two of them together were quiet, and even, and steady. They felt like midnight in the summertime to him; warm, and quiet, and lazy. Somehow even with all the strobe lights, and loud music of the club all of his time spent with Kyungsoo was soft and quiet, and gentle.

He noticed, too, that after a while they began to ignore the crowds. That Kyungsoo seemed to loosen up, not because he was comfortable in the atmosphere, but because he was comfortable, and happy just being with Kai. It seemed to feel like a hundred years and only 1/100th of a second had passed when Logan and Chen returned with two of Logan’s friends and Erica and Chanyeol who seemed to be simultaneously enraptured with one another while also completely ignoring each other. Kai didn’t know how those two seemed to mesh sometimes, but he figured it worked well enough.

 

Kai first saw the small person with pink hair who walked up to him and held their hand out for him to shake.

“You’re a friend of Logan and Erica’s?”

Kai nodded. “Yes, I’m Kai.” he shook their hand, and smiled.

“I’m Dahlia.” their words were pointed, and sharp, and Kai realized that being named Dahlia, and having pink hair, and a pink outfit would probably be overkill for anyone else except them. The pink just seemed to all fit. Like it was their essence.

 

He watched as they shook hands with Kyungsoo, and both of them immediately pulled back when making contact. Kyungsoo looked at his wrist, and so did Dahlia, and before Kai could really process it, Kyungsoo was walking away very quickly with Logan trailing behind him, asking what was wrong.

 

Erica looked toward them for a while then said “Don’t worry she’ll take care of that. Anyway, this is Izarah. She’s a dancer, and does a lot of the elaborate showcases for me. She’s amazing.” and Erica lightly pushed her towards Kai. Unfortunately at the same time Kai was going to move forward to shake hands with her, and they bumped into each other.

“Ow!” Izarah looked down at her wrist. “....okay....”

“Um.” Kai looked over at Jongdae who shrugged “So, I’m Kim Jong-  I’m Kai.. or Jongin... or whichever.”

“I thought idols couldn’t have working counters?” Izarah looked at him, puzzled.

“Funny story.... My counter it... I couldn’t get it reset.... But don’t tell anyone.”

 

“I’m having a party at my suite in... like 20 minutes. The limo is coming to pick us up if any of you want to come.” Erica said while tapping on her phone. “Logan is bringing Kyungsoo.”

 

“How did she get him to come?” Jongdae asked

“I don’t know. Some soulmate shit whatever. Chanyeol, you can’t come.”

Chanyeol turned to her with a pained expression on his face “Why?”

“You haven’t slept for three days.”

“Okay.... and?”

“You will not see me until I have undeniable proof that you have gotten a full night’s rest-”

“Oka-”

“In your bed.”

“WHAT?”

“Not in the studio.”

“...there’s a futon in there, though.”

“Bed.”

 

Erica was stern. Chanyeol sighed and nodded, and left. She smiled, and Kai was really starting to see how they worked; Erica restricted access to herself until Chanyeol complied with whatever she wanted him to do... which mostly seemed to be just basic self care. So, he wasn’t upset about it.

 

They all fit very comfortably in Erica’s limo as they were shuttled off to the high end hotel that Kai had visited so often. Erica and Jongdae were chatting a lot about Logan, appeared to become best friends in a matter of seconds. He stayed close to Izarah who was shy and quiet, and a little untrusting, but also seemed to like him a lot. You can’t deny your soulmate

 

You can’t deny your soulmate.

 

“You can’t deny your soulmate.” the publicist said to them during another media training they were having.

“However, what if someone lies? What if you meet a fan whose counter is already at point 0, and she says that hers stopped when she met you?”

Kai raised his hand “But isn’t there some sort of pinch or... a small amount of pain when your counter gets to zero? Wouldn’t we know?”

“There have been fans in the past who have gone to very extreme and very elaborate risks to make it seem like their favorite idol is their soulmate. It’s very dangerous. Resetting, and covering up your counter is not merely a marketing campaign to make it seem as if you all are available to anyone. It is designed to keep you safe.” The publicist said in a stern voice that showed there wasn’t room for anymore questions.



“I feel as confused about a lot of this as you do, honestly.” Kai was sitting next to Izarah in the hotel room.

“I’ve known Logan for a very long time... she tells me everything.... I know counters can be weird sometimes... she told me what happened with you two. That’s why I was a little confused when mine went off for you.”

 

Kai looked around the room. Jongdae was talking to Kyungsoo who seemed to be delighted to have a distraction from whatever happened with him and Dahlia. However, for some reason he couldn’t seem to stay away from her. So, she was leaning on his shoulder listening to Jongdae talk, too. Erica was laying down on the bed, her hands moving slowly through Logan’s hair who was tucked into her side. He swore he’d glanced over and seen them kiss more than a few times, but he was past the point of trying to focus on anything other than himself and the gnawing feeling inside his chest.

 

“They’re girlfriends.” Izarah said after Kai had let his mind wander for a little too long

“What?”

“Erica and Logan.”

“What?”

“I know, right?”

“Does Chanyeol know about this?”

“Honestly, I have no idea. I think Erica would be the best one to ask about that, but seeing as how being with someone whose the same gender usually ends with people disappearing, I’d say no. It isn’t really safe.”

“For how long?”

“Like... forever. Long before she met Chanyeol that’s for sure.”

“How?”

“I don’t know you’d probably have to ask them that, but I imagine it happened the same way you and I happened.”

 

Kai took a deep breath

“Everything is happening so much....”



Jongdae and Kai tiptoed into their dorm much later than Kyungsoo got back. They stumbled into Jongdae’s room, and began pulling off clothes after Kai noted that Xiumin wasn’t there, and probably wouldn’t be coming back if he was still gone this late. Jongdae agreed and they sat in his bed cuddling. Jongdae drew patterns in Kai’s arms and Kai felt soft and safe and warm. Being with Jongdae felt like a winter night beside the fire.  

 

“Did you know Logan and Erica are like... together?” Kai’s voice was small and sleepy

“Mhm. Logan told me the first day we met. She doesn’t like lying.”

“I know.”

“How do they...” Kai purposely trailed off his voice and waited for Jongdae to fill in the gaps.

“I’m fairly certain that even if I asked it wouldn’t give us any insight as to how we’re supposed to.”

“You’re right.”

“Anyway I don’t think it will be that hard to figure out.”

“I’ve been reading some stuff...”

“You’re always reading stuff, aren’t you?” Jongdae’s voice was light, and he pulled Kai closer, placing a soft kiss to his forehead.

“I’m just... trying to figure all of this out. All of the lying, and secrets had to have started from somewhere. All of the people disappearing... something as simple as this that I would know how to do with if you were Logan even if I’d never done it but with you I had to go searching through pages and pages on the internet to even have any idea of what to do!”

 

“Hey... don’t over-exert yourself... I know it’s kind of hard and confusing, but at least we’ve got the right tools to start with.” Jongdae put two condom packages over his eyes and stuck his tongue out.

Kai laughed “...you’re right. It’s just frustrating. I barely have any idea what to do.”

 

Jongdae sat up, placing the condoms down on the bed, and picking up the container of lubricant.

“Okay. So, this has to go in the same place it’d usually go and this” he picked up a condom “Also goes the same place it’d always go. So, we’ve got a good start! Any idea what to do next?”

 

Kai closed his eyes. “Well, I read that....” He was embarrassed.

“Aww, don’t turn red it’s okay. We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

“But... I do want to. I just want talking about it to be easier.”

“Okay, well, it’s going to be awkward either way so... just tell me where to start.”

“Okay.” He closed his eyes “What I read is that you have to start with fingers and then-”

“Where?”

“Well, you have to use the lube first-”

“How?”

Kai sighed, and pulled the cover over his body, undressing himself, and making a small opening so that Jongdae could stick his hand through.

“Okay, put the lube on one of your fingers.”

“Which one?”

“Whichever one is easiest to control? I guess?”

“Okay.” Jongdae listened and applied a modest amount of lubricant to his index finger

“Like... a lot. A lot of lube.”

“...Okay.” He added more

“That’s good.” Kai took his hand and slowly guided it under the cover, stopping right before himself, and took a deep breath “Do you kind of get the idea now?”

“I guess but I don’t understand how that could feel... pleasant.”

“There’s stuff back there! It’s like sensors and stuff... It’s supposed to feel good or it’s not being done right.” Kai could feel his face turning red again

“Okay, okay. Don’t get nervous. It’s fine. Just let me know if it hurts, okay?”

“Sure.”

 

And Jongdae pushed his finger foreword, little by little. Kai could feel himself tensing up at the sensation.

“Do you want me to stop? I don’t think you’re very relaxed...”

“You can feel me tensing up?”

“Yes. I can feel lots of stuff in here it’s... weird.”

“Just give me a minute to relax, okay? I think it'll help if you...”
Kai motioned toward his crotch and Jongdae looked down at him, perplexed. Kai grabbed his free hand and moved it under the cover, too.

“If you like....”

Jongdae nodded. Kai felt nothing if not awkward as he slowly put the pieces together in his mind and began to massage his dick very slowly and upon feeling Kai relax around him he proceeded to push further, slowly.

“Okay so I’m in here... do I just... leave it in there or?”

“You... move it in and out. This is... just to like... stretch me out... so that you can-”

“AH. I think I get it now.”

 

Kai felt Jongdae slowly move his finger in and out. The sensation was weird, but the speed was helpful in getting him to relax. The slick feel of the lube made his boyfriend's finger nails almost untraceable inside him... almost.

 

“Jongdae, when do most people find their soulmates?”

“Do you really want to talk about this now?”

 

Kai let out a high pitched laugh

“I feel like it will cut the tension.”

 

Chen nodded and continued to move his finger slowly while thinking

“Well, I think most people find their soulmates after the age of 20...”

Kai felt himself relax into the words; listening was comforting

“Not many people who are younger find theirs, but those who find their soulmates younger are said to be marked for an early death. Of course, there's no science behind that. I think it has to do with how a long time ago people died at like 40.”

“Mhm.” Kai felt his eyes closing, his dick hardening in Jongdae’s hand, the sensation inside him moving from weird to familiar.

 

“Then most older people who don't find their for a while, I think, are often travelers.”

“Yea...” Kai nodded. He wasn't sure if he was responding to Chen’s words or the feeling of fingers slowly closing around his dick, pumping steadily as he continued talking. Kai almost wondered if he had any practice doing weird shit while maintaining a calm exterior.

 

“Of course, a lot of what we know...” his voice got lower “is mostly based on tales” Kai felt his grip tightening around him.

 

He bit his lip, not sure if Jongdae’s words had stopped or if his brain had stopped processing anything outside of the feel of his hands inside and outside him. Jongdae moved his hands in sync, speeding up when Kai began to move his body with him. He thought he might melt from the heat and tension of it all

“Fuck...” he muffled out as he felt Jongdae slowly push another finger inside him. The weird sensation was now only one of how much he wished he were filled even more, his hips moving in time with Jongdae’s just as they would if they were performing on stage. His body lightly writhing in the rhythm as well.

 

“How does it feel?” Jongdae’s voice was just above a whisper.

“Good... I...” his voice trailed off as Jongdae began to put yet another finger inside him. Kai was grateful for him being so good at listening earlier. He leaned his head back and let his jaw hang open, his body seemed to be going to another plane of existence, one where he didn’t have the brain capacity to process anything other than pleasure.

 

Fuck.”

 

It wasn’t like he hadn’t gotten into the occasional rendezvous with one or a few random idol girls at some award show after parties. It was that they always felt forced and fake, because he’d known that he didn’t really love them, and that they were also probably waiting for something or someone more meaningful to come along. And they’d definitely never put anything inside him before. He wondered why the wasn’t the standard for all the sex he’d ever had. He wondered why he’d ever deprived himself of it because God it felt so fucking good.

 

“Jongdae... I need...” he clutched the older boy’s shoulder, signalling for him to stop. Jongdae complied

“What? What do you need?”

 

Kai hooked a finger in the collar of his shirt, and pulled him down for a kiss. “I think I can... if you want to...”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Definitely.” Kai smiled, taken back by his own enthusiasm. He was glad that Jongdae was older, and seemed to somehow know what he was thinking next. It made it easier, and took away a lot of tension.

 

He slipped out of the remaining clothes on his body, as Kai laid on the bed, noticing that he, too, was pretty excited about all of this.

 

He picked a condom up from the bed, one of the ones he’d had earlier, and opened it, slowly placing it over himself, and then all but drenched the lube over himself.

“Do you think this is too much?”

“No such thing as too much.” Kai shrugged, and parted his legs as Jongdae laid on top of him

“Let me know if it hurts, okay?”

“Okay.” And he slowly pushed himself inside Kai who could only reactively dig his fingertips into the smaller boy’s back, pulling his body flush against his own.

“Is that okay?” Jongdae’s voice was strained

“Yea.”

 

He slowly began to move in and out, and Kai couldn’t help but try his best to pull him even closer, get him even further inside. He placed his teeth into the soft flesh on the base of Jongdae’s neck and gritted out a tiny, helpless “Please.”

 

To which Jongdae responded by going faster, and Kai moved with him. He thanked his years of dance training for the ability to effortlessly sync up with anyone else’s movements; it only made this experience more amazing.

 

“Jongin... fuck.” He heard Chen say and bit down harder into him. His pants were getting louder, and Kai didn’t know how long they’d been going, but he could tell that he didn’t really want it to end anytime soon. He swore he saw stars when Jongdae switched from fast, to long and slow, hitting what he assumed were those pleasure sensors he’d read about, pressing even deeper inside him. He let one short moan escape from his mouth, trying his best to remember that they had to be quiet because of the other members, but his brain was entirely to focused on Jongdae inside him, stroking tenderly, and filling him completely to keep it all together.

 

“Kai.” was all he heard his boyfriend say before felt his hand reach down, and wrap around him again. He didn’t think he’d had nails on his fingers long enough to scratch anyone, but when he felt the strong fingers around his dick moving in tune with his body, he buried his fingers even further in Chen’s back, surely leaving marks.

 

He came like that, pulling his boyfriend closer and closer, and registering too much pleasure for his body to be able to handle at once without inflicting something on someone else hence, the scratches on his boyfriend’s back. His body went limp, and light, and he felt himself being cleaned up, tucked in. Lights turning off, a warm body pulling him close, kissing his forehead, whispering

I love you, Jongin.












Chapter Text

Kai had been trying to sort out the reasons for all the strange happenings within his world and the counters while also exploring his newly found fun with Jongdae, keeping close eyes on Kyungsoo. His eyes had began to get more red than usual during a long stretch of time off. Kai knew it wasn’t just from staying up watching movies. He seemed to get much better sleep when Logan was there, mostly in the middle of the day. Kai would pretend to not pay attention as she kissed at his wrist, and he smiled softly at her. Sometimes Dahlia would come with her, and Kyungsoo would always seem both a little more stressed and a little more at ease with both of them around. He noticed more glances from Kyungsoo toward him and Jongdae whenever they would sneak off and return with quiet smiles on their faces, but Kyungsoo never actually said anything.

 

“He literally has not even acknowledged what happened with Dahlia, and she hasn’t brought it up, either. They’re like the two most passive people in the whole world!” Logan said as she sat in Jongdae’s lap on the big comfy bed of her hotel suite.

Kai rested his chin on Izarah’s shoulder

“It’s going to take him some time, you know?”

He wrapped his arms around Izarah’s waist and pulled her closer; she had become a big comfort to him. She felt like home even though she was from a different country. He couldn’t tell if Jongdae was listening to the conversation or not as he didn’t actually respond, he just smooshed his face into the crook of Logan’s neck, occasionally lightly kissing it. It made Kai feel fuzzy inside. He and Jongdae seemed to be feeding off of each other, but not in a competitive way; seeing his boyfriend be so close to his now, best friend made him want to be even closer to his now girlfriend. It was like the love inside the room was constantly multiplying, and it also caused the cuddles in the room to multiply. The air was thick and heavy with a sleepy haze of infatuation. Kai wondered how he’d ever lived without it before.

 

When you meet them, it will feel like they were always there...

 

“When you meet them, it will feel like they were always there.” Kai’s teacher told them. “Your soulmate has an innate way of knowing you. I met my soulmate just two years ago, and somehow we feel like we’ve known each other a life time!”

 

Kai smiled at the sentiment of meeting someone who would know him, and love him fully, simply because they were destined to be in the past, but now he wondered how much this was romanticized and how much of it was him actually feeling it.

Which parts of him were so heavily encoded in his brain that they were scripted instead of organic? Wracking his brain with the questions of whether or not any of this was real didn’t make him feel any less like having Izarah close to him, though. He thought about Minseok’s words in his head. He thought about whether or not anything could be as easy as a counter on your arm giving you insight as to who you’re meant to be with. He thought about whether one person would ever be enough, and why the notion of them not seemed to scare so many people. Why do the people who talk disappear?

 

“I know, but... denying it, and acting like it’s not happening isn’t doing him any good. He’s barely sleeping.”

“I know...” Kai wondered how Logan could keep being so reactive and engaged in this conversation with Jongdae plastered to her side if he could do nothing more than go completely pliant at the older boy’s touch.

Jongdae somehow pulled her even closer which Kai didn’t think was possible, as sort of a silent way to try to comfort her.

“I know I’m worrying a lot, I just want him to be okay.” He thought it was amazing how no words came out of his mouth, but she still knew what he was saying.

“Jongdae is probably the quietest he’s ever been when he’s with you.” Kai smiled at her. “How do you get him to do that?”

Jongdae looked up at him, stuck his tongue out, and replaced his face back into the crook of her neck.

“I get all his yelling out in private.”  she laughed

“Oh, god.” Jongdae said as he moved from her neck to hiding behind her shoulder. Kai noticed his cheeks turning red as he moved.

 

Kai returned home with very sleepy eyes, and a very sleepy boyfriend who he very sleepily kissed before returning back to his room.

 

Kyungsoo was awake, surprisingly, and walking around the room as if he was trying to find something.

 

“What are you looking for?” Kai scratched his head as he plopped down onto his bed, and began to take his clothes off.

“Nothing.” Kyungsoo’s voice was frantic, and small as he climbed into his bed and buried his face into his pillow.

“Hey... Kyungsoo... is everything okay?” Kai asked.

 

Kyungsoo took a deep breath before answering “Yes. Everything is fine.” He turned over onto his side to face Jongin “Let’s get some sleep.” he smiled. Kai smiled back, and turned off the light.

 

“Jongin...” Kyungsoo asked just a few seconds later as they laid in the dark

“Yea?”

“Did you have fun with Izarah tonight?”

“Yes. We had lots of fun.”

“Who did Jongdae hang out with when he was there.”

Kai took a deep breath. “I’m not sure. There were lots of girls there. I guess it could have been anyone.”

“Ah. Okay.”

 


 

 

Another night out with a rich fashion designer and her friends, another private room with security monitoring outside paid for on Erica’s dime, another dance with Izarah; they seemed to be perfectly in sync with every turn, another drink, another kiss, another nudge. One after another after another, and Kai felt like his nights had become simultaneously more secretive and more open. He was more relaxed, he was more protected, and he was more loved than he’d felt in a long time. Love where he didn’t have to hide any part of him. The music moved through him, and whoever he was dancing with which through the night the number went from one to two to occasionally three (sometimes Erica liked to make Chanyeol jealous if he said something stupid throughout the night). She always went back to him, though. She really couldn’t bear to see him unhappy for too long. Kai thought it was cute how much she cared about him despite her timer only ever having run down for Logan.

 

“Logan said she’s going to come. Apparently Kyungsoo is acting kind of weird tonight, and she’s not really feeling whatever vibe he’s putting out.”

Erica said looking down at her phone and instinctively going to sit on Chanyeol’s lap. Kai didn’t know if this was to comfort him with the news or just because she felt like it, and he wasn’t sure if he’d ever find out, either.

“Yay!” Jongdae’s voice was loud and distinct through the music. “How far away is she?”

“She said she was already almost here, but forgot to let me know.”

“Good!” he smiled and sat down next to Chanyeol and Erica to wait patiently for Logan who didn’t take long to arrive at all.

Kai watched as Logan walked in, and wasted no time straddling Jongdae, resting her head on his chest, and closing her eyes. He knew how powerful that could be, how calming it could be. Jongdae kissed Logan’s forehead, and from what Kai could tell, was whispering sweet things in her ear.

 

Though she came in and wasn’t dancing or celebrating like the rest of them, she didn’t change the aura of the room. She mostly stood within herself, and only sucked in those who wanted to come like Jongdae who was there comforting her through something that she clearly didn’t feel the need to share with the rest of them, and life went on, another dance, another laugh, another drink, another instance of Chanyeol saying something stupid, and quickly apologizing, another dance with Erica before she returned back with him to let him know she’d forgiven him, another kiss to Logan’s forehead, another person entering their room as the kiss to Logan’s forehead turned into a kiss to her lips.

 

It was Izarah who first noticed it, and Kai noticed when she stopped dancing and stared past him in shock. Kai turned around to see Kyungsoo, staring down at Jongdae and Logan, who were apparently completely in their own world because neither of them seemed to notice, kiss, and pull back, and kiss again.

 

It all seemed to happen in slow motion to Kai; Kyungsoo’s eyes watering, the realization of his presence by literally everyone in the room except Logan and Jongdae, Erica reaching up to quickly grab Kyungsoo’s hand and him pulling away just before she reached him, him storming out of the room, and Kai immediately following him, trying to stop him but failing before reaching their dorm, and closing the door behind them when he got into the room.

 

“Kyungsoo-”

Kyungsoo balled his fists “You can’t help this, Jongin.” He kicked a box that sat by his bed, and sat down, resting his forehead in his hands. He was shaking.

“Please don’t be mad at Logan she’s just-”

“God, Jongin, I knew something weird was going on, but I didn’t know she had anything to do with it.”

“What do you mean something weird?”

Kyungsoo stood up again, going over to Kai to push him.

“I saw you kiss Jongdae in his room the other night. Do you really think I’d never notice? No one would ever notice? You two... Does she even know?”

 

Kai took a deep breath. “Yes, she knows... Maybe it would be better if she explained everything to you.”

“No! You’re going to explain it to me! You’re the one I’ve known for years, Jongin. You’re the one who has been sneaking around with Jongdae... are you even dating Izarah?”

“Yes, it’s... complicated...”

“Oh, and my brain isn’t big enough to understand it?”

“No... that’s not what I meant...”

“Then what? Why couldn’t anyone tell me? Why couldn’t I be in on your weird little secret... orgy group?”

“You literally ran away from Dahlia the moment they set your counter down to zero!”

“...so? You’re my friend... I don’t even know them I could have avoided them all this time if it weren’t for Logan always inviting them to hang out...”

“Why do you think Logan was doing that?”

“Because they’re friends.”

“You’re mad at us because you think we thought you weren’t smart enough to figure something out when you don’t even think we’re capable of noticing when your counter stops? Really?”

“I just deserved to know. How long have you and Jongdae even been-”

“Kyungsoo this isn’t about Jongdae and me this is about you.”

“Anything that happens with Jongdae and you is about me.” Kyungsoo yelled, then steadied himself. “...it’s about me, too.” his voice was low, and he stared down at the ground.

 

Kai took a deep breath. “You noticed your timer stopped with us, too, huh?”

“Of course I did I just... ignored it. It started going down again so I just thought it was broken or something I... and then it did it again with Logan... I really didn’t know what to think.”

“Logan said it’s been stressing you out.”

“You’ve been stressing me out. For years, but even more recently, because... I feel the same way about you as I do about Logan. I was convinced for years that if the next time it stopped everything would go away, that it would verify that whatever happened with the three of us was just a fluke... and it didn’t...”

“There are lots of other people like you, you know...”

“I know I’ve... gathered that about Logan at this point... saying it out loud helped me figure that out...”

 

Kai moved closer to him, and lightly pushed his shoulders

“That’s for pushing me.”

“I’m sorry. It was... I really wanted to punch Jongdae, not push you. Amidst the confusion my first emotion was still ‘Why the fuck is he kissing my girlfriend?’”

“Well, then I’m glad you pushed me instead of punching him.” Kai smiled down at Kyungsoo whose face was read, and eyes were searching.

“Funny how that happened...”

“Yea...” Kai chuckled, his phone vibrating in his pocket.

He took it out, and read the message

“It’s Jongdae... he wants to know if you’re okay.”

Kyungsoo took the phone out of his hand, and slowly placed it on the bed next to them. He grabbed Kai’s hands, and pulled him in. Kai wasn’t sure if they’d ever been that close.

His hands went instinctively behind Kyungsoo’s neck as the older boy grabbed his hips,

“I’ll be okay after I... kiss his boyfriend.” Kyungsoo’s voice was small, and scared, and Kai couldn’t understand why, after all this time, he would have any thought in his mind that he would be rejected.

 

He leaned down to quickly close the space between them before their lips met. Kyungsoo’s lips were soft, and plush like new pillows. He pulled the smaller boy closer, and huffed out a moan that signified more of the time he’d been waiting to do this than arousal. There seemed to be no one leading the kiss; somehow they both knew exactly where the other would be. Kyungsoo was pliant and small and soft, and his kisses felt urgent. He felt himself sucking on Kyungsoo’s bottom lip, and the older boy pulled back after a while

“Be careful you’ll leave a mark.” He said as he smiled up at Kai who nodded and placed a kiss on his forehead in response.

 

He pulled him back into the kiss, though, a little sloppier than before. The air in their room going sweet and sticky with slow fingers moving gently to caress patches of skin, palms moving silently under shirts, tongues dancing methodically in tune with one another. Kai wondered how he could pull Kyungsoo closer to him, move inside him somehow and still experience it within his own body.

 

Their hips began to move in sync with one another, fingers digging into skin. Kai hadn’t even realized what they were doing until he heard a small moan escape from Kyungsoo’s lips.

 

“Kyungsoo...” his voice was rough, and deep, and Kai didn’t really think about it before dropping to his knees, sucking hard on the soft skin that sat right above waistband of his jeans as he unbuttoned them. He’d thought about this for so long.

 

“Kai.” Kyungsoo looked down at him, and Kai met his eyes. His face was soft, and his breathing was ragged.  “I’ve...” his voice was small, and shy again.


“Me, too... I... really want to if that’s okay...” Kai blinked up at him, and waited.

“...Yes.” Kyungsoo breathed out after a moment.

 

Kai pulled his pants, and underwear down all at once. He felt like he didn’t have enough time to do this, like every second was fleeting, because he’d wanted this for so long. Too long. He didn’t think about it when he slid his tongue down over the head of Kyungsoo’s dick, and licked all the way down to the base. He didn’t think about sucking gently on the head before moving down to test how much he could actually take at once. He didn’t think about his hand steadying Kyungsoo. All he registered was the pleasure he felt. His body didn’t seem to need directions, it just did whatever felt good. Having Kyungsoo in his mouth, on his tongue, his hands gripping his hair. Kai couldn’t fully process all of it at once, just that it felt good, and by the tight pull on his follicles it seemed to feel good to Kyungsoo, too. He felt him spill hot and fast into his mouth, and heard Kyungsoo stifle moans as he finished. He wrapped his arms around his waist, pulled him closer as he kissed and bit on his tummy some more, felt his breathing steady, and kyungsoo slide down into his lap. He didn’t know if it was himself or his body in control, but he knew something was making him kiss kyungsoo’s now sweaty forehead, and his arms pull him in even more.

 


 

Kai woke up the next morning tucked into Kyungsoo’s side with Chanyeol knocking on the door to be let in. He didn’t remember who had locked their door for the night, or getting into bed, or even putting on his pajamas for that matter, but he did remember everything that happened before resting on the floor with Kyungsoo.

 

Kai got up from the bed and sleepily went to unlock the door. As the door opened in front of him, five people pushed their way inside the room, Logan being last, and she closed and locked the door behind her.

 

“Hey, guys...” Kai said, sitting at the foot of the bed that he had just gotten up from.

There was a marked silence in the room before Chanyeol spoke up shakily.

 

“Okay, look... this is all very weird... my girlfriend has a girlfriend... and I don’t even have two girlfriends... I... am not her soulmate, but she is mine... Kai and Jongdae have been... much closer than I’ve seen them lately, and I’ve been trying to figure out as best as I can, and Logan seems to kiss everyone so... Kyungsoo... maybe you shouldn’t be so upset... because there’s lots of weird things happening...”

 

Erica smiled, and grabbed his hand. “My timer didn’t go down for you, that’s true, but you can’t tell me you’re not my soulmate... you can’t tell me I’m not going to love you for the rest of my life and... you don’t need a counter set at zero to tell you that, either.” She smiled at Chanyeol who gave her an almost goofy expression back like he couldn't believe what she was saying to him. Kai thought they were cute.

 

Kyungsoo let out a deep sigh. “I’m not... upset with Jongdae... or Logan... anymore, anyway.”

“I’m so sorry.” words seemed to pour out of Logan as she ran to Kyungsoo on the bed “I really wanted to tell you everything. I really, really did. You just.. Already seemed so afraid with everything that was going on with Dahlia, and Jongdae and Kai told me what happened with you three, and I just...” Her voice was high and ragged, and Kai could tell that she hadn’t gotten much- if any -sleep all night. He watched Kyungsoo wipe heavy tears from her eyes and pull her in close to him.

“It’s okay... I don’t think I would’ve told me, either.” He smiled, kissing the top of her head. “How is Dahlia, anyway?”

 

Erica left Chanyeol’s side and went over to the bed to sit on the other side of Kyungsoo.

“Dahlia is great. They’ve been asking about you! They really like spending time with you, and really want to know your opinion on some movies!”

 

Kyungsoo smiled. “That sounds nice.”

 

The tension in the air seemed to cut even more as Chanyeol sat down on his own bed, and Izarah took a place on Kai’s lap, but Kai noticed one last, quiet person standing on the other side of the room.

 

“Kyungsoo...” Jongdae was uncharacteristically quiet. “I’m...”

Kyungsoo motioned for Jongdae to come closer to him. He approached cautiously, sitting next to Logan who seemed to be falling asleep.

 

Kyungsoo slid his hand down the bed, and laced his fingers with Jongdae’s

“I was sure you’d notice... one day... with all the practicing and everything...”

Jongdae shrugged “I...” he shook his head “I thought it was just me being hopeful...” He smiled, and a big tear ran down his face.

 

“How is it... with her?”

Kyungsoo looked down at Logan who was now completely tucked into his side, fast asleep with her head on his chest.

“She worries about you... she misses you when you’re not there... she hated lying to you...”

Jongdae ran his other fingers over her hair very lightly.

“And there are others?”

“Yes... a few.” Jongdae smiled down at her. “Doesn’t change how you feel though, does it?”

“...No...” Kyungsoo added.

 

Kai moved himself, and Izarah over onto his bed as Erica moved to lay down on Chanyeol’s. Izarah quickly latched onto him and whispered “Those two have been up all night...”

Kai kissed her “It will all be okay now...” and smiled sleepily.

 

Jongdae piled into bed with Kyungsoo, Logan sleeping between them. She seemed much more at peace when both of them were surrounding her.

 

They all fell asleep comfortable, and warm.

 


 

 

Kai was forgetting what it felt like to be at home. They all seemed to had found a new one at the hotel. No hiding, and no lying.

Kai found it easy to slip between resting his head on Kyungsoo’s chest while Kyungsoo idly kissed Jongdae sweetly, and softly. Whenever they kissed or touched or held hands or even glanced at each other, Kai was reminded of how well theirs voices worked together, how much they fit so easily. It seemed like they had been together all along. Kyungsoo liked to rest his chin on top of Jongdae’s head whenever he was sitting down, to pretend he was taller, and give him easy access to kissing his hair. Jongdae liked to bury his face in Kyungsoo’s chest as he ran his fingers through his hair. Whenever one hummed the other would harmonize. They liked to cook with each other. They brought out the softest sides of each other, and of Kai.

 

They seemed to be this way even more so with Logan. Kai could see the parallels between them with him, and them with her. Still soft, and doting, still cuddly, but they spoiled her. Things that she would ask for softly were easily met with compliance, and she never seemed to ask for anything with a harsh tone. Kai knew that if he’d asked for some of the things, he be met with a swift pillow to his head and be told to do it himself. Not with Logan, though. To them she was delicate, and regal. She needed to be doted on. Kai couldn’t blame them. If he was in the same position he knew he’d probably fall to the same fate.

 

Kyungsoo seemed to be the same way with Dahlia, too. They were much less demanding, and took pleasure in cleaning. Kyungsoo would often silently move beside them to help dry dishes as they washed. Kyungsoo didn't really give Dahlia the chance to ask for things, really. He just made sure they were taken care of whenever they seemed to need something. He could tell that Dahlia didn't like imposing, and his way of showing he cared was to prevent them from ever having to if he could. It was one of the most noble gestures of affection that Kai had ever seen.

 

He felt no jealousy when Jongdae and Kyungsoo would disappear for hours having what Jongdae described once as 19+ fun. It gave him time to spend with Izarah without being distracted (that is, if Izarah wasn't spending time with Dahlia) which he absolutely loved. She was small and soft and whenever he was with her he knew exactly why Jongdae and Kyungsoo gave Logan everything she wanted. She danced with him, and sat with him, and they talked about just about anything they could think of. He wondered why it took him so long to be able to be so open and honest with someone.

 

“I just want to know where it all started, you know? All the lying.. And the hiding... why does this happen everywhere?”

“I don’t know... It’s scary, though... I think that’s why we keep moving...”

“Keep moving?”

“Well, yea... Erica and Logan have been together for so long... eventually people start to notice things... We leave so that they can stay safe. Fortunately, we just keep making more money so it gets easier to navigate and stay secret...”

“What would I do if someone ever noticed me?”

“I honestly... do not know...”

 

He sighed “I just wish there was a way that we could stop this...”

“Me, too.”

 


 

 

Kai sat with Izarah in his lap, next to Jongdae who had Logan in his lap, who was next to Chanyeol who had Erica in his lap, who was next to Kyungsoo who had Dahlia in his lap. He was sure the two on the end farthest from him were actually talking during the movie, but he couldn’t be too sure.

 

“I’ve seen this movie like 12 times.” Izarah whispered to him.

“I know, me too.” Kai whispered back “Why didn’t they figure out that the Zombies were trying to warn them sooner?”

“I don’t know... why didn’t the ghosts just write ‘This is an evil cat lady and she killed us and we’re trying to save you’ on the wall instead?”

“It would’ve cut the movie down by at least 40 minutes.”

“Probably not you know white people love walking into danger if anything it would have extended it.”

“You’re right.” Kai snickered into her collar.

 

He felt a little connected to the gang. They didn’t see where people were trying to warn them, and he hadn’t seen anything about how the world was apparently trying to keep him secret. He wished he’d been warned like they had... but maybe then he would’ve just avoided the issue all together.

 


 

The wind on the balcony of the suite was cool, fresh. Sometimes Kai wondered if Erica had more money than SM did.

“Must be nice to be here all the time.” He smiled looking over at her

She nodded. “It is... We’ll be able to go back home soon, though.”

“How long is soon?”

She shrugged. Erica was a lot less pensive than Kai imagined she’d be for someone who had gone through all that she had.

“Do you wonder about whether or not you’ll be able to go back?”

She looked off across from them. “I don’t worry about it... when we left I had enough money to last us a lifetime, and it just keeps multiplying... We’ll be fine.”

“But aren’t you tired of running?”

“There’s not much I can do... leave Logan? Just... abandon her? Stay here and figure out my life with Chanyeol raising tall babies and never even think about what we had again? Just... move on to someone else? Let her go on to someone else, too? I don’t think about alternatives because this is the only one we have...”

Kai sighed.

“I just want this to end. I want to know how to stop this.”

“You think you’re above running? What would you do when people get suspicious?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll tell you what you’d do... find a nice hotel to live in for a certain amount of time in a new country, learn a new language, get used to new foods, new people, new schedules, new billing, new life where no one can blow any whistles on you, because no one has started to notice anything yet. New money, new choices, new faces, new, new, new, until you stop worrying about when it’s going to end, and you just start to try to enjoy yourself... because you love her, and you know that if you could do anything to keep her with you for as long as you could, you would, and so you do.”

“And what happens if you don’t do that?”

“Then you wake up in a place that you don’t know, alone, without anyone knowing where you are, and without anything to show for it.”

 


 

“Hello, this is Kai of Exo. I don’t know what will happen to me after posting this. I’ve heard that some people disappear... but I am uploading this on every conceivable site, and I hope that if it is taken down you, my fans will reupload it. Recently, I’ve discovered that my counter does not work the way I’ve been taught that counters work. My counter went down for several people! Some of which were boys! One of which was only a friend... a very good friend of mine, and she is very sweet... I don’t know what will happen to me after all of you have watched this. All I know is that I am tired of hiding. There are so many like me... I know some of you are watching this. If we can all band together we can help stop the disappearances... maybe... but they can’t get rid of us all... more will just be born... I just want everyone to... I just don’t want to have to run. I hope this message gets to someone who needs it.”

 

Kai blinked into his phone camera before turning it off, and selecting upload. He heard his phone ring

“Logan?”

“Kai? Kai, are you okay? I’m on my way over there I’ll be there with you soon.”

“Okay.”

 

He felt numb, almost. He didn’t know if what he’d done would help or hurt, but he felt like he had to be like the zombies... maybe someone wanted a warning. He waited in his room until he heard a knock at his door, a frantic Logan being pushed in onto him, a gas being sprayed; he blacked out.

 


 

Kai woke up alone, in a place that he didn’t know, where no one else knew, and where he was completely unsure if he had anything to show for it.