up in dat maple syrup (frenchtoast) wrote,
up in dat maple syrup

When the Clouds Were Hanged

When the Clouds Were Hanged // Changmin x Kyuhyun x Jinki
future AU, ot3, friendship // pg/pg13
When the clouds were hanged, the Machines took over. They destroyed everything, and now people don't leave their homes or the refugee centers; they sit in fear of the shine of metal, of the darkness that spreads when the lights turn off. And those who have no place to go, wander.

Word Count: 11509
Disclaimer: Mostly written at obscene hours of the night (2am-5am) on a cellular phone. Most likely doesn't make any sense. But enjoy.
Note: for troisbang. Can't be bothered to link right now but I'll get to it eventually (or not)

The lone streetlamp on the block flickers out with an audible sizzle, engulfing the street in a sheet of black only illuminated by the dim light of the waning moon.

The smell of rot and burnt wood lingers in the air, as does a hint of rain. Changmin rubs at his nose and sniffs. It’s a cold night; the way his nose runs is evidence of that. Crossing his arms over his chest for some kind of heat retention, he continues to wander aimlessly, looking for any place to take shelter in for the night, looking for opportunity in a narrow hallway of closed doors and offhanded neighbors.

Opportunity was erased from the language years ago when hope decided to escape from the bloody hands of authoritarian government officials, big corporation tycoons, and deranged scientists.

Now rage walks down the street in Armani sunglasses and slick alligator shoes; greed lives in a high rise penthouse, her money kept in a safe hidden behind faux walls. Blood paints murals of innocent lives taken on the rugged tar streets and hope and opportunity are nowhere to be found.

Changmin turns his face to the sky and huffs out a cloud of white. It sits in front of his mouth before it dissipates and Changmin scolds himself for thinking it would stay.

He looks at the watch on his arm but he’s forgotten the hands have stopped moving. He doesn’t remember when it happened but he supposed it was when everything good died in this world.

Turning left at the corner, Changmin slips his hands into his pockets. His jeans are worn, the denim faded, but they’re without holes and that’s good enough for him. His shirt is thin, a mere t-shirt with some old band logo on it. The breeze runs right through the cotton and scratches cold into his skin but Changmin’s decided nothing will warm him as long as he’s outside.

Approaching the middle of the street, Changmin is greeted with good luck. The other houses he’s passed have had barred windows and doors, filled with people who haven’t seen sunlight in months. But right here, in the middle of these shielded homes, is a house unprotected.

Its left side looks fine but there are walls missing on the right, edges charred black from a house fire. It’s perfect.

He strides up to it with caution. As abandoned as it seems, the machines don’t have the same protection needs as humans and the last thing Changmin needs is to run into another machine. His leg is still healing from his last encounter. A quick and careful look-through of the house proves there is nothing there but a few spiders and mice. No humans or machines to be seen. It seems as if the family who lived here left at the threat of fire. All of their furniture is there, the closets are packed with winter coats and sweatpants, there is a doll lying in the middle of what is left of the living room.
The stairs are still intact and Changmin decides to take shelter in the bedroom of a small boy. All the walls are in fine condition, the door and windows lock, and the posters of Pororo and the Dooly plush are enough to bring a smile to Changmin’s face.

Pulling back lime green sheets, Changmin slides onto the bed. The throb of his leg injury is almost unnoticeable and so he doesn’t bother checking it before he lies down. The room is secure, the curtains are drawn and Changmin deems it safe for him to sleep.

He misses the shine of ice blue eyes through the pale curtains, his back toward the window.

There is a man in a trench coat running down the road, something cradled in his arms. He is the only person out at this time, the only person who has been brave enough to venture out in weeks. He probably won’t make it to his destination. The clock reads 8:25 in the evening in big bold red numerals. Not the witching hour but the time of the machines.

And that is considerably worse.

There are knocks at the door. Three short and impatient sounds.


The opportunity to ignore his caller disappears before the chance even arises.

Kyuhyun sighs, pressing the power button to his monitor and swiveling around in his chair.


His plain wood door is pushed open and the broad chest of his father enters the room before his face. Kyuhyun notices the lack of stubble peppering his chin and the slight twinkle in his eye. His slim line black suit is firmly pressed, creases sharp, his shoes are recently shined.

Something is wrong.

“Your mother is wondering if she’s going to see you for dinner tonight.”

Kyuhyun leans back in his chair, raising the front legs off the floor. His father stiffens at the lack of respect and Kyuhyun bites on the inside of his cheek to refrain from breaking into a smile.

“I’ll be down in a minute. I’m working,” Kyuhyun says. He lets the chair drop to the floor and slides over to his second desk adjacent to the one he was just sitting in front of. There is a piece of paper lying on the matte black surface. Kyuhyun picks it up and scrolls through its contents, not really reading it but not wanting to converse with his father any longer.

His father seems to have other ideas, though.

“Working on what? You don’t do a thing but watch the peasants scurry around out there.” Kyuhyun doesn’t turn around to humor his father. He’s heard this same lecture before anyway. “That’s the problem with you, Kyuhyun. You feel too much sympathy for the rats down there. You don’t understand how this world is supposed to work. You throw the rats a piece of cheese, let them nibble on it, and then kick them back into the gutter. You don’t let them eat the whole pig and let them sleep in your –

“I thought you said mom was waiting with dinner.” Kyuhyun interrupts. He leans over to the right to open the bottom drawer of a black filing cabinet and slips the sheet into one of the dividers randomly, uncaring of which it falls into. Slamming the cabinet closed, he spins around in his chair to face the man he’s been told to call his father. The elder straightens out his suit jacket, mildly put out.

The two exchange no other words and Kyuhyun doesn’t even blink when his father turns on his heel and walks out.

He turns his face to his computer and contemplates returning to his previous task but his father left the door wide open and he doesn’t want anyone to waltz in uninvited. He taps his white-socked foot in a nervous habit, the ball of his foot pressing violently against glossy Maplewood panels.

A familiar beeping has Kyuhyun turning to his door once more.

He smiles at the sight of shining blue eyes and he beckons the figure over. Awkward limbs waddle their way over and when they get close enough, Kyuhyun brings his android into his lap. It beeps enthusiastically and Kyuhyun chuckles. The tiny robot is quite possibly the only thing that brings life to Kyuhyun. It’s his own creation, his child that still stumbles when it walks and likes to get its steel coating dirty with mud.

“Now what kind of trouble have you gotten into today?” He pretends to scold and the robot makes a low, long, beeping sound as it whines, hitting Kyuhyun on the arm. “You think you’re cute, huh? Go close the door so I can plug you in.”

The android drops to the ground and waddles back over to the door. It falls when it tries to maneuver around one of Kyuhyun’s socks and when Kyuhyun laughs at it, it beeps indignantly. After it pushes the door closed, it makes its way back to its owner who picks it up again and slides back over to his computer.

As the monitor comes back to life, the small robot climbs up on the desk and picks up a white cord. The indent in the center of its stomach opens and he forces the jack of the cord into the opening. Kyuhyun makes sure to catch his baby when it slips into hibernation mode and he props it up against the wall. He hums to himself as he opens up the folder containing the information the android collected today, in a better mood at the appearance of his creation than when he was conversing with his father.

There isn’t much in the folder for Kyuhyun to go off of. Minimal machines were sighted, no one left the shelter of their homes to roam the streets – aside from that man Kyuhyun observed earlier, and it seems as though all the robot did was play in the mud going from the video files.

“You’re lucky you’re so adorable.” Kyuhyun mutters under his breath, stealing a glance at his unresponsive robot. He sighs, opening a document file. It’s a conversation log from one of the refugee centers. Skimming through it, Kyuhyun sighs and then closes out of the folder. He reaches over and unplugs the robot that then springs back to life with the same childish energy it always has. He leans back and watches as the robot crawls over to the edge of his desk and slides down the metal leg. As he supervises it as it treks over to the padded basket Kyuhyun deemed its resting place, he ponders over the recent turn of events. His father is too proper, too nice, and the refugee centers are claiming a momentary détente with the machines. Contrary to his father’s beliefs, Kyuhyun knows all there is to know about the world today. And there is no such thing as détente with the machines. The machines don’t need to rest, they don’t need to establish friendly relationships with humans.

The machines’ programming tells them to kill. And that is all they do.

Kyuhyun is tossed out of his thoughts when his robot beeps a high-pitched sound signaling that it’s shutting down. It’s large blue eyes dim to a grey and its body lies flat and unresponsive on the plaid cushion. Looking at the minimalist clock on the wall, Kyuhyun pushes himself out of his chair. His parents are probably finished with dinner by now.

When Changmin awakens, mouth wide in a yawn and arms stretched above his head, the sky is beginning to darken again. A soft breeze slips under the door and dances throughout the room. Changmin doesn’t feel cold after last night.

Tossing back the sheets, he slides out of bed. He doesn’t know what time it is and he considers going out to buy a new watch. But when shopkeepers and vendors don’t open business anymore that means he’s going to go out and steal a new watch. Perhaps find him a new set of clothes and something to eat. There is nothing in this house, the kitchen being a victim of – and possibly the reason for – the house fire.

He ruffles his hair and exits the room, climbing down the stairs with caution. They shudder and creak under his weight and he contemplates pressing on and finding a new shelter on the way. It’s not too bad of an idea but he doesn’t exactly know where he’s going or what he’s searching for. Having been out of the city for so long, he barely remembers where he is. Abandoning this house to continue walking doesn’t guarantee him anything but the possibility of getting lost or attacked.

The streets are clear of humans and machines alike; a stray newspaper dances down unkempt sidewalks in the breeze. Stuffing his hands into his pockets, Changmin starts his aimless walk. The houses further up the street are in the same condition as those in the opposite direction – boarded up with no obvious sign of life. He wonders if the inhabitants of those homes can see him, if they’re looking outside their windows or using camera software to supervise the poor souls like him who wander the streets. He wonders if his family is comfortable, resting in the afterlife. With the way the machines ravaged their neighborhood, he imagines they’re not too satisfied with their deaths. Changmin remembers witnessing Jiyeon scramble up the stairs of their humble home, her fingers ripping up cream threads of the carpet as she crawled, only to be dragged back down by the leg by a machine. He remembers Sooyeon’s screams, the pop of her leg dislocating, the hollow look is his mother’s eyes, his father’s glare.

Shaking his head, he turns his face to the sky where the man-made clouds hang unmoving. How many years ago was it when the dome went up, separating their peninsula from the rest of the world? It was some time after the North and South became one again and everything was thrown into bedlam. The economy took a bigger dive than the government was prepared for, the crime rates skyrocketed with social unrest, and then the dome went up, the lights were installed, and the clouds were hanged. Scientists and engineers ran through the streets advertising their latest vaccines and contraptions. Then the first machines were put in stores around the country. They could do everything – cook, clean, watch your kids – until someone thought it funny to hack into lab databases and reconfigure their software. Soon everything was out of control, way past the line of prevention. Changmin thinks he couldn’t have been more than sixteen when the dome went up.

Changmin picks up the sound of rustling from an alleyway just further up the street. It’s possible it’s a machine but it’s also possible it’s another person. Plus, if it is a machine it will follow him when he passes by the alley even if he doesn’t walk into it. Seeing no major negative consequences to taking a look, Changmin shuffles into the opening. Black plastic trash bags filled with junk litter the small walkway but he doesn’t have to push too many out of the way before he comes across a pretty face. It’s a man – most likely still a boy – with lengthy brown hair and knitted brows. The person doesn’t move during the minute that Changmin stares at them and he proclaims them dead; what he heard moving was probably a rat or something. Backing out of the alley, Changmin’s foot catches on something and he goes tumbling out into the street and onto his back.

He hisses and inclines his head forward to see what he trips on. He catches the dull cardboard of a box under his foot and he groans. Pushing himself up on his elbows, he starts to roll over onto his front so he can push himself up, but before he has the chance to plant his hands firmly on the ground he hears the clank and screech of a machine. Lifting his head, he catches onto bright apple red eyes on the other side of the street.

His heart leaps from chest to the pit of his throat, but he tries his hardest to not let his fear overtake him. This is what he lived for – the rush of meeting machines in his wanderings, in grappling with them in some sort of sick amusement and retribution for what they did to his hometown. Getting to his feet, he stares down the scrap of metal. His leg whines in protest but most of the pain is purely somatoform; the healing cuts and bruises normally don’t hurt as much as they do now. When the bottom of his shoes scrapes against the tar of the street, the machine’s head whirs around and it mouth drops, releasing a horrible screeching noise into the air. Changmin relates the noise to a pterodactyl. This machine looks like a bunch of scrap metal fused together with joints and flashing lights, like a miniature, toddler-sized Transformer robot without the obnoxious weaponry and stylized manufacturing. Its eyes find Changmin’s and it screams again.

The maker of the machines had doomed everyone from the beginning, if only for the fact that they move with the velocity of a speeding vehicle. It charges at him and catches his abdomen. The impact has him crashing back to the ground, his head hitting the road painfully, but Changmin is otherwise grateful that this machine hasn’t taken on some of the…enhancements some of the others have. The machine he encountered in his hometown had teeth like a shark, sharp and capable of drawing blood; this one has a nice set of fingers, its nails – or claws, if you will – are blunt but they still cut a good deal through his shirt and the topmost layer of his skin. Still, it isn’t enough to faze him and he pushes the thing off his front. When he reaches for it in some kind of hopes to deactivate it – how, he isn’t sure because he knows next to nothing about how these things really operate – it swipes at him again and its fingers brush over his wrist. They miss his skin by a fraction and when the machine’s head spins in a very exorcist-esque fashion and screeches its pterodactyl screech, Changmin is momentarily fooled into thinking it’s upset at having missed his skin. But how knows better, knows the machines don’t actually ‘think’, don’t actually do anything but what their programming tells them to do.

It’s hard to judge what this machine’s original purpose was for but it doesn’t matter to Changmin anyway. As the scrap continues to make more noise than it needs to, he grabs it by the leg and tosses it at one of the interior walls of the alleyway. On impact the noise ceases. The thing looks around but from the way it starts ripping at the plastic of the bag, it isn’t interested in him for long. Faulty programming, Changmin assumes. The machine he encountered back in his previous town was vicious, didn’t stop or become distracted at any old noise or kick. It’s strange, but it happens and Changmin thinks nothing of it. He watches it as it digs through the trash, and he surmises it was one of those robots to help find lost items. They were some of the first models put on the market, if his memory serves him correctly. When the machine rips through three bags and comes dangerously close to the dead body lying in the filth, Changmin steps in, grabbing the thing’s head with both hands. Lifting it off the ground, he ignores its noise. That must have been its alert. Quite annoying, in his opinion. Rolling his eyes, he chucks the thing in the dumpster rusting in the very back of the alleyway. It doesn’t matter if the machine got its hands on the body, the guy is dead, but knowing he willingly allowed one of those things to defile the man’s body isn’t something that sits well with him.

The machine claws at the walls of the dumpster and the sound of its metal claws against metal is grating on Changmin’s ears. Despite his evident death wish, he knows when to call it quits and so when the machine whines loud and distressed, Changmin decides to continue on up the street. He’s fairly sure it won’t be able to get out, and the machines aren’t zombies, they don’t congregate for group attacks. Hands finding the comfort of his pockets once more, Changmin strolls up the street lazily. His stomach burns and he’s sure blood is staining the inside of his shirt.

Two blocks down he comes across a familiar sign: a large blue letter ‘C’ on a white backdrop. There is a large building surrounded by a pristine white fence, a large contrast to the blotches of grey settling with the emptiness. He knows what this building is, has never wanted to stop here but he should really clean up his scrapes; at least slap a bandage on it or something.

Walking up to the fence, he pushes at the gate, but it doesn’t budge. Crossing his arms over his chest, he huffs. After all that he’s been through today, he will not be beaten by a lousy gate. With a bit more effort, he tries again. Nothing. He looks both ways down the street before hopping the fence. He sighs. This is too much work for a simple pair of clothes and a watch.

Changmin awakens to soft prodding in his side. Constantly defensive, he swats at the hand and shoots up into a sitting position. In front of him is a set of familiar eyebrows and long brown hair falling across a definitely awake and alive face. But that doesn’t make sense. Surely that guy was dead. Changmin checked – or well, assumed because the guy wasn’t moving and it didn’t look like he was breathing and who sleeping under bags of trash like that. Moving his arm, he notices the blanket that is pooled at his waist. More alert, and more confused, he glances around his surroundings, taking them in better than when he was just looking for some alcohol to clean up his cuts. It’s just one large room, like a high school gym or something. There are many more people sleeping under blankets or in sleeping bags along the wall he’s propped up against. Some people are walking around with bowls in their hands or towels rubbing at damp hair. Facing the boy in front of him, Changmin gapes, unsure of where to start. He knows what this place is: a refuge center. But he doesn’t know this guy is sitting in front of him like this when he was ninety – thirty – percent sure he wasn’t alive. Changmin decides not to question it.

“Are you okay?” The guy in front of him asks and Changmin looks at him like he’s crazy. “I brought you something to eat and clothes to change into.” He picks up a hot pink plastic bowl filled with rice from the floor and holds it out to Changmin. The set of clothes sit next to it.

Taking the bowl, Changmin bows his head and thanks. He takes the spoon in his fingers and digs out some of the rice. The guy also slides the clothing closer to him and smiles. He has a nice smile. Sweet. Innocent. That’s hard to find these days and Changmin finds that he likes it.

“I’m sorry all we have is rice and if the clothing doesn’t fit, tell me. We don’t usually come across such tall people so I may have to go out and find something else for you,” the guy apologizes and stands to make his rounds across the room, approaching the other people there with the same nice smile.

As he eats the rice given to him, Changmin watches the other man. He becomes so engrossed in watching him smile and interact with the others that he doesn’t notice that someone has walked up to him.

“He’s too happy to be living this kind of life, right?”

Changmin whips around to face the person who snuck up on him and he’s greeted with thick, strong eyebrows and very pronounced cheekbones. Setting the half-eaten bowl of rice on the group, he turns back toward the smiling guy and nods.

“Yeah… Just a little bit,” he replies. “How does he do it? The smiling and all.”

“Who knows? He’s always been like that since he came in,” the other refugee says, shrugging. “He brightens up the place, though.” The guy suddenly seems to remember something and he gasps. “Where are my manners? My name is Kim Kibum. Welcome to my center.” He bows and stretches out his hand in greeting.

Looking over the guy hovering over him, Changmin knits his brows together. “This is your refugee center?” The guy looks much too young to be in charge of a refugee center; he can’t be more than Changmin’s age. His face does look a bit aged but it isn’t difficult for the conditions of their current society to force physical change on a person.

“It was my mother’s, but she passed a few weeks ago. Her body couldn’t continue to live this way, I guess,” Kibum sighs.

“I’m sorry.”

Kibum shakes his head, smiling lightly. “Don’t be. We’re all going to die eventually. It was just her time to go.”

Changmin nods and tries to return Kibum’s smile but the sadness sitting heavy in his stomach won’t allow him to. Kibum pats him on the shoulder and tells him to cheer up and that anyone who smiles here really isn’t happy, will probably never be happy again until the machines are settled.

“What about that guy who brought me the rice?” Changmin asks, looking around the room for that bright smile but not seeing it.

Kibum looks for him as well before turning back to Changmin. “He isn’t happy either. He can’t be. Happiness is dead, didn’t you know?” And then Kibum laughs and points out the bathrooms and all of the other places Changmin will need to know about during his stay at the center.

Sadly, Changmin doesn’t intend on staying long. He has nothing to live for, no family, no friends, but that doesn’t mean he wants to stay cooped up in this building, unable to ‘feel’ the artificial sunlight on his skin or smell the recycled air. He would rather wander for days, weeks, and months, and possibly get himself killed in a fashion similar to his kin. The people who live in this center…they’re living in fear and letting it restrict them; Changmin knows that happens in periods of destruction and demoralization but he refuses to be stricken with such natural cowardice.

Getting up onto his feet, Changmin gathers the set of clothing given to him in his hands and shuffles off in the direction of the bathroom. As he walks, he glances at the other inhabitants of the center. They all look comfortable – content, even – with their current state of living. If Changmin was a normal person, he’d probably feel the same; content with thinking he has some kind of security in this world.

The bathrooms are your average public building restrooms except they’re cleaner. Entering one of the stall, he unfolds his new clothes. They’re simple, just a plain black shirt and a pair of dark grey sweatpants. They fit alright, nothing rides up and nothing is falling off, so Changmin can’t complain. As soon as he is redressed, he pushes out of the stall, dropping his old clothes into the trashcan sitting by the door. Tugging at the front of the shirt as he exits the restroom, he frowns. It’s just as thin as the last and bracing the cold weather in this will not be fun at all. Really, for it to be the middle of winter, he expects the people here to understand he needs more than a flimsy shirt and pants.

He isn’t too sure how to get out of here and so he decides to sneak around the center in the search for the exit. There is a small hallway outside the restroom that leads in the opposite direction of the main room where everyone sleeps and generally stays for the greater duration of their time at the center. Looking down the length of the hallway for both hallways, Changmin walks off in the new direction. Nervously, he taps at the front of his pants and he wishes he was given a pair of pants with pockets. He desperately needs something to do with his hands; stuffing his hands in his pockets usually quells any random urges but at the moment he has nothing.

There are two doors at the end of the hallway. The right door leads to some sort of storage room – a pantry from the many shelves filled with canned goods and other non-perishable foods. Changmin finds a simple pack of peanuts sitting on top of a can of chicken broth and he figures no one will notice if he takes them. Leaving the room, he immediately pushes open the opposite door and is surprised by the rush of cold air that slaps him in the face. Back exit, he grins to himself and slips out of the door without looking back. The artificial sunlight does a mediocre job at warming his skin against the winter breeze but Changmin knows he’ll be alright; he made it up here with no jacket and he can go further without one as well. The back exit leads to an alleyway. It’s empty, but Changmin still walks carefully. Whether it’s because he’s afraid someone from the center will come out any second and find him or because he’s being wary of the machines, he doesn’t know. It doesn’t really matter anyway.

Changmin freezes at the sound of the door opening. Great.

“Where are you going?”

Pack of peanuts still clutched tight between his fingers, he looks over his shoulder to see the long haired guy with the strange habit of smiling. He isn’t smiling at the moment, though. His lips are pulled into a pout and his eyes are filled with curious glints and shadows. In his hands is a bottle of water unopened.

Scratching the crown of his head, Changmin looks out at the street peeking from the end of the alleyway. “What do you mean? I’m not going anywhere,” he says dumbly.

“Take me with you.”

“I can’t take you if I’m not going anywhere,” Changmin presses. “How did you know I came out here?”

The other male blinks before turning his face to the sky. Changmin doesn’t know what he’s looking at. “I was doing stock. You didn’t notice I was in the pantry,” he says, smile once again appearing on his face as he looks at Changmin. “No one ever goes back there unless they’re working, and since you just arrived I knew you were up to something. Take me with you.”

When Changmin first set out after the death of most of his family, he expected to be like those epic heroes who brave the world with their good looks and humble attitude. He didn’t expect to take on the companionship of a simple college student hoping to see his family in the North – especially not a college student hoping to see his family in the North who has a strange obsession with singing.

“Can you stop that?” Changmin finally grits out between clenched teeth when his new companion, Jinki as he soon discovered, broke out into an overly upbeat version of the national anthem. It was a song that citizens stopped singing years ago, and a song that causes more grief than nationalistic pride.

Jinki turns to him with bright wide eyes and Changmin’s scowl drops right off his face. “Stop what?” He asks, innocence pouring out of his pores like a broken faucet. Curse him, Changmin thinks, facing the road in front of him again and picking up his speed. Curse him and the woman who birthed him.

Something is off today and Kyuhyun doesn't know what it is. The house is quiet but that isn't anything out of the ordinary; his mother sits in her bedroom all day watching soap operas and engaging and other typical housewife entertainment activities, his father usually disappears into his office where he has video conferences with the other elite men in the neighborhood, and as the son of a technocorp (technology corporation) CEO, Kyuhyun spends most of his time in the lab, running specs on his little blue eyed robot and going through the files and reports on the machines. He woke up today through the light peeking through the curtains of his window. The homes around here weren't boarded up like others Kyuhyun has seen; being wealthy and apart of the reason for the machines' rampage makes one think their invulnerable to attack, and therefore do not need to take precautions. But aside from the lack of protection, Kyuhyun's usually woken up by the cute beeps of his robot companion (that was actually why he was built in the first place; Kyuhyun had a very competitive late streak during his secondary school career).

Looking in the mirror of his personal bathroom, Kyuhyun pulls at the darkening bags under his eyes. Sighing, he shakes his head. He's just being paranoid. He's just a tad on edge because of stress. Walking out into his bedroom, Kyuhyun is greeted by the sight of his father standing hunched over his computer. Kyuhyun can't see what the old man is looking at, but he knows it isn't good. He swallows any and all visible fear and announces his presence with a cough. His father takes his time in straightening his back and turning to face Kyuhyun. The crooked tug of the man’s lips causes Kyuhyun’s heart to flip but he tries to bury the feeling beneath mounds of pretend self-confidence.

Kyuhyun’s never been all too strong of a boy; he likes to pretend and play make-believe. Ever since he was young child, he’s lived off false pretenses of being tougher than he really is. It doesn’t look good on the playground when you are a kid who is constantly worried of being bullied, or taken advantage of, or being left behind by peers who seem to be growing up too fast. That was why he kept to as small of group of friends as possible, to make it seem like he was better than everyone else when he wasn’t; having such an important man for a father worked well in his favor. There was a small boy that Kyuhyun liked to play with all the time – he doesn’t remember his name now, the years have fogged his memory and now he only remembers large, crooked eye smiles and lots of childish sarcasm. They were good friends, him and that other boy, but then the boy moved away to suburbia in the far South and they lost touch. Perhaps one could say they were best friends, but after he left Kyuhyun was bombarded with schoolwork and the concept of aging and best friends were merely a figment of imagination.

“Ah, Kyuhyun. I was just here waiting for you,” his father says, loud and boisterous and fake. “I have a little job for you. Something I don’t think you will mind doing.”

His mouth moves but all Kyuhyun hears is a constant whirring in his ears, the sound of distress taking over.

“What were you looking at?”

“Park, the head technician down at the company, wants me to deliver something to him,” his father explains, slipping his fingers into his pockets as he tours around the room.

“What were you looking at?” Kyuhyun repeats, not taking his eyes off his father who has taken to lifting his pillows and checking under his covers.

“Where are hiding it?” Still not looking at his son, the man questions him and tosses one of Kyuhyun’s pillows across the room. It lands in the middle of the doorway. That’s when Kyuhyun notices his door is wide open.

“I’m not hiding anything.”

“Don’t lie to me, boy,” his father rears up and Kyuhyun winces mentally.

“I’m not,” he says plainly, “How am I supposed to explain this to you when you’re demanding ambiguous things?”

And then there is that cute little beep that has Kyuhyun’s macho facade crashing down faster than the stock market years ago. His android stumbles in, bumbling and clumsy as always. He glances at it and then at his father who was looking at the robot as well.

The old man hums in some form of success and picks up Kyuhyun’s baby; Kyuhyun fights back a growl. “Here it is.” The suited man proceeds to inspect his son’s only prized possession, the android he created after many hours spent hiding out in their basement.

He watches his wary eyes as the man carries his robot out of his room, and he follows him down the unnecessarily long hallway and to the front door of the house. Kyuhyun is positive he knows what his father is doing but treats this like a red alert police mission – no sudden movements and no sharp breaths. His father gingerly opens the front door of their house. There is no one outside. Or, at least there is no one outside until Kyuhyun’s father tosses his android out the door and, stupid and too dependent on a small robot, Kyuhyun rushes out after it, just as his father wanted him too. Crashing onto the street, the small thing shatters like glass and its various parts strew themselves across the tar. Kyuhyun briefly registers the sound of something hitting the grass and he spins around.

“You killed him,” he says, deapan, but his father waves his off and points to a folder sitting in the grass in front of their house.

“Deliver that to Park, will you.” It’s a statement and not a question.

“Why don’t you get one of your workers to do it?” Kyuhyun looks at the manila folder but he focuses on the items sitting in the grass beside it. “What’s that for?” He asks, motioning to the pistol. He didn’t even know his father owned one. In a heap sits Kyuhyun’s only winter jacket.

His father straightens his tie and brushes off traces of imaginary dirt from his suit jacket. “Because you seem to like the peasants so much I thought I’d let you come out and experience their life,” he says,” But I can’t have my son out in this world so unprotected so I thought I’d give you a little something and send you on your way. I’ll just clean up your room a bit while you’re gone, if you don’t mind.” And then the man disappears into the house and closes the door. He makes sure to wave at Kyuhyun before it shuts completely.

Huffing, and more afraid than he lets on, Kyuhyun stomps over to the gun. He ignores the folder and quickly slips on the jacket. He wants nothing more than to shoot at the window and break, but he knows next to nothing about shooting a gun and he settles with throwing a very large rock at the glass. It cracks but doesn’t disintegrate and that’s good enough for him. Looking around the houses in his neighborhood, he sighs, dejected. He knows none of them care about anyone other than themselves. With nothing else to do, he starts walking.

Kyuhyun is overwhelmed by the true reality of the world he was only able to see glimpses of through a security camera by the time he comes across a boy singing hymns. He’s swinging a white plastic bag in his hands and he is too happy to be living in such a grey world. Kyuhyun thinks he’s crazy.

This thought is confirmed when the boy trips over his shoelaces and laughs as he falls face first onto the pavement.

“Are you alright?” Kyuhyun asks, rushing over to the boy and helping him up. The boy is still laughing as Kyuhyun looks him over for injuries. There is a nasty scrape across the left side of his face and his lip has burst. He waves his arms at Kyuhyun, a sweet smile on his face, silently asking for Kyuhyun to stop his inspection.

“Are you alright?” Kyuhyun tries again and the boy shrugs.

“Don’t I look like I’m alright?”

His clothes are tattered and upon closer look, dirt has clung to his skin and he looks everything but alright. Kyuhyun holds his tongue and just looks at the bleeding boy before him. He introduces himself as Lee Jinki, a college student, but Kyuhyun knows there is no way this boy is still attending college because people barely leave their homes now. To add to that, this Lee Jinki looks like he hasn’t bathed properly in days; Kyuhyun sighs at his eventual fate.

Jinki walks as he talks, heading in some direction that he seems to be confident in. Kyuhyun follows him because he doesn’t have anything better to.

“Where are you going?” Kyuhyun asks after a minute of Jinki singing starting to sing children’s songs. Two lines into Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Kyuhyun is already slightly irritated.

“A friend and I are heading toward the North so I can see how my family is doing. We decided to take a stop and he asked me to come out find food. It’s a good thing that convenience store isn’t inaccessible like a lot of these other buildings,” Jinki says, a sing-song lilt still evident in his voice. Despite how annoying the singing is, Kyuhyun recognizes the guy has a very sweet and easygoing voice.

Kyuhyun nods his head and they fall into silence; Jinki must have understood Kyuhyun’s unspoken feelings about the singing. He likes people like that, able to read the atmosphere. They walk past more shops and boarded up homes when Kyuhyun places his hand on Jinki’s shoulder all of a sudden.

“Hm?” Jinki hums, looking at the slightly taller man with quizzical eyes.

“Take me with you.”

Jinki blinks, looks toward the sky, back at Kyuhyun, and then blinks again. “Okay.”

He follows Jinki back to a little stationary store. They have to enter through the fire escape because the front door is boarded up. Sitting behind the long counter where a register should be but isn’t, is a tall lanky guy. Jinki yells out his return and the guy sits up, dropping the Elle magazine in his hands and tossing the boy a smile. His smile falls when his eyes fall upon Kyuhyun.

“Seriously, Jinki?” The guy frowns, looking Kyuhyun up and down with a gaze that clearly says he thinks Kyuhyun is not worthy. “I took you in because you have a nice smile and you’re pretty cute and now you’re dragging in strange folks off the street. Rich stranger folks at that.”

Kyuhyun doesn’t bother with holding in his scoff and he rolls his eyes.

“Stop being like that, Min. He’s nice,” Jinki smiles and Kyuhyun is starting to realize that Jinki never really stops smiling. He wonders if his face cramps up often or if his muscles are used to the exertion. “The more, the merrier, right?”

“No,” the other guy says, but stretches out his hand anyway. “Shim Changmin.”

“Cho Kyuhyun,” Kyuhyun nods but otherwise doesn’t make any effort to take the other’s hand.

Changmin didn’t think he would ever meet that short, cynical kid he called his best friend. Small peninsula, really. Kyuhyun has grown up surprising well; he was a worrisome child. He remembers that the younger man was always alone or asking to be alone. His constantly judgemental gaze is also hauntingly similar and Changmin doesn't know how he didn't identify Kyuhyun at first glance. A set of eyes like that isn't common. Now everyone looks like they have nothing to live for. Except Jinki, of course.

After finding out the rich stranger was his childhood friend, Changmin forgave Jinki for picking up a random person. He found out after three days of Disney songs that he cannot stay upset at Jinki for very long, he's just that precious. His ability to make everything seem so bright is so amazing and Changmin admits he may have developed a slight attachment for the younger man. The feeling is no where near pink but Changmin isn't too sure what it is either. From the way Kyuhyun smiles at the hin, wide and toothy, Changmin can tell Jinki is that shining sun one needs after being trapped in a world of darkness.

And Kyuhyun, while the two of them never expected to meet again and, for the most part, forgot about one another, they have picked up the fallen threads if friendship and sewn them together with no awkwardness. These past few weeks wandering with Kyuhyun and Jinki have been filled with constant teasing and lighthearted fun. After discovering Kyuhyun's romantic awkwardness after a game of truth and more truth when Jinki momentarily decided to give his vocal cords a rest, Changmin and Jinki took to playfully annoying bouts of skinship. Jinki revealed his childish dream of being an opera singer and Changmin talked of the time he and Jooyeon felt rebellious and spent the night at a noraebang and had to clean up the neighborhood for three months. Changmin, as do the other two, gets so distracted he doesn't notice when road signs announce their arrival into a new part of the city.

He’s not sure how long they’ve been wandering around. Probably a couple of weeks, not enough to make a month. Constant walking like this has erased almost all sense of time from their minds and Changmin never did get to steal that watch. He only knows the time when the lights shut off; the clouds don’t move, there isn’t a sun to sit high in the sky to announce the arrival of noon, there is no moon either.

It snowed some days back and the ground it littered with black globs of ice and snow. The snow has been black ever since the dome went up. Now, it isn’t anything too special.

They take a small pit stop at a gas station after a run in with a machine leaves Kyuhyun with nasty gashes up the side of his right arm. After he claimed to be feeling nauseous - Changmin thinks he's overreacting - they decided to stop and check out his arm. It's when Kyuhyun is prepared to rip his face off when he douses the younger man's arm in peroxide from one if the aisles that Changmin remembers Kyuhyun was a sheltered Southern city boy and has never had to deal with things like this. Upon realizing that, Changmin laughs bitterly. Kyuhyun doesn't know that Changmin's father was a close business associate of his father. It was really the only reason why they were allowed to be good friends back then - or why Changmin feels such a strong desire to watch over Kyuhyun. He remembers his father coming home at night and telling hin stories about what kind of trouble Kyuhyun's father got into that day at the office. It's like some twisted kind of fate that they have met up again after so many years; it's like Changmin's family is meant to constantly supervise the Chos. And Changmin doesn't need to supervise over anyone else; Jinki and his singing is a handful as it is.

"Is he going to be okay?" Ears picking up a slight sniffle, Changmin turns around to face Jinki.

Something hits Changmin in the chest like a freight train and he wants to throw up. He’s not sure why but the glitter of Jinki’s tears is quite possibly the most heart wrenching sight Changmin’s ever experienced. He’s somewhat glad Kyuhyun is busy fussing over his injury because if he's still the same kid, he'll eat this up like a five star meal. To be honest, he hates the both of them for making him want to cradle them in his metaphorical bosom.

Curse his good heart.

"Yeah, he's fine." Changmin dismisses Jinki's worry with a handsome smile. "Don't let that ugly face if his sway you into pitying him."

"I can hear you," Kyuhyun says and Changmin turns to give him that same smile he gave Jinki. Kyuhyun promptly flips him off. They're such amazing old friends.

After Kyuhyun stops his whining, the trio set out again. Before they go, Jinki steals a yard of rope and a few other objects they don't need. Changmin and Kyuhyun don't ask questions.

None of them really know but they assume three hours have passed at the least. The air has chilled again and the weather threatens to snow. Changmin wonders what the person who regulates the weather is thinking, if they're actually doing their job at all, because the last time Changmin checked it was the middle of March and the weather should be showing signs of warming up. He wonders if the simple machines are corrupted also, if televisions play shows out of their desired order or if radios - if they still work - are singing static songs against the orders of their masters.

Constantly looking toward the sky, Changmin wonders when the lights are going to shut off. He turns to Jinki and see that he's looking at the sky as well but he always looks at the sky and Changmin doesn't really know what he was thinking.

"If I remember correctly, there is a small park just a little farther up the road. Gated community, low chance of machines. ...If you want to find some place to stop before the lights cut out," Kyuhyun pipes up suddenly.

"How did you know I was worrying about the lights?"

"Unless your looking up at the sky means something else, it isn't all that difficult to predict," Kyuhyun points out. Rely on Kyuhyun to be the most intellectual out of the all of them.

And just as he said, there is a gated park two blocks away. Changmin and Kyuhyun hop over the fence with ease but Jinki displays a little bit of hesitation. When Kyuhyun sighs and strolls off farther into the park for inspection, Changmin turns to Jinki and holds out his hand through the rusting bars. The younger man stares at his hand and his lips push out into a pout.

"Come on, Jinki. We took over a stationary store for three weeks. Surely you can hop a small fence."

Jinki shakes his head fervently, his long tresses whipping back and forth with abandon.

"There isn't anyone here to catch you. And even if there is, I don't think they'll care.

Kyuhyun calls out an all clear.

"Jinki..." he presses, and after a few short, deliberating hums, Jinki grabs two bars of the fence and swings himself over with skill.

Mouth gaping open for all the world to see, Changmin stares at the perpetually singing boy with wide eyes. "What was that whole damsel in distress attitude if you can do that?"

Shrugging, Jinki smiles bright and slightly mocking. "I'm a college student," he says, as if that is a perfect explanation. Changmin supposes he is right.

Farther into the park, Kyuhyun is gathering rocks to form a circle and semi-dry twigs to use to build a small fire pit. For some reason, the once wealthy man knows how to start a fire. But he doesn't know how to shoot a gun, Changmin thinks. Doesn't make much sense to him, but Kyuhyun has never really made much sense in the first place.

The fire is raging and hot; yellow and orange sparks fly out into the air. Only minutes later the main lights are turned off and the minor lights are turned on. The small things meant to give the illusions of stars don't do much in the way of light production; real stars never spared people exuberant light either, though. Kyuhyun settles down first, curling up into a small ball in the grass. Changmin and Jinki remain awake until the fire needs more wood and the latter's Italian chorus fades to a whispering hum.

Changmin sighs. Jinki turns over in his lap and pushes his face into Changmin’s thighs with a small groan. Changmin laughs at that but then he notices the bags beneath Jinki’s eyes, the furrow of his brow even while resting and Changmin can’t help the frown that takes over his face. He begins to card his fingers through the younger man’s hair when he shifts in his sleep again.

He can’t help but feel a little responsible for bringing Jinki into this mess. He probably would have been better off at one of the refuge centers, but the kid asked to tag alone and Changmin let him. Changmin's vain side likes to think it is because Jinki is interested in hin that he asked to come.

Curse his devilishly handsome face.

But in all seriousness, Jinki deserves better than this. He doesn’t deserve the constant worry of not having enough food to eat or water to drink, of not having a stable shelter. Jinki deserves his innocence and his smiles in a world much better than this. One without malfunctioning robots that run amuck because their creators can’t, and don’t want to, fix their mistakes. Jinki –

“Stop thinking so much.”

Changmin takes his eyes off Jinki’s face to see Kyuhyun standing over them. He has his arms full of bags. Changmin forgot he was sent on food gathering duty.

“How do you know what I’m thinking?” He frowns, unconsciously patting the youngest male's head.

Kyuhyun ignores the action and rolls his eyes. “You have this stupid look on your face that tells me all I need to now. You did that when we were younger too.”

Changmin purses his lips and crosses his arms over his chest, forgetting about Jinki just that quickly. “I think I would know if I had a stupid look on my face.”

“Would you now?” Kyuhyun eyes the other. “Because I am quite sure you can’t see your face without a mirror. I trust my own eyes more than your beliefs.”

Raising the bags in his arms, Kyuhyun turns around and walks off to sort the food around the little fire pit before Changmin has a chance to retort. As true as Kyuhyun’s words are, Changmin refuses to concede defeat. He knows when he has a stupid look on his face and when he doesn’t.

They all decide to go out later that day to look for clothes, something they had to do together because Jinki picks out clothes in obnoxious colors, Kyuhyun doesn’t know the meaning of clothing size, and Changmin only buys things he likes – and of course Kyuhyun has a problem with that. It’s for the best they all go together as well; staying in the same position for long wasn’t safe. The machines have no set pattern of movement and they can run into them at any time but being stationary only increases the probability.

Since Kyuhyun bought it, he’s in charge of carrying the food as well as his own things – or thing. His pistol sits heavy and unused in the makeshift holster - wonderfully crafted by Jinki with his rope and a few cell phone holders he stole back at the gas station.

“Hey Changmin…” Kyuhyun starts, staring off into space as they traverse into town. “Why don’t you ever pet my head like that?”

The older man raises a brow at Kyuhyun’s unexpected question. It isn’t usual for him to be even remotely emotionally, at least, not in this way. “Because I don’t want to. You’re not cute,” he replies in his natural joking fashion.

“Oh thanks,” Kyuhyun scoffs.

“No problem.”

Kyuhyun crosses his arms over his chest and speeds up his pace. Furrowing his brows, Changmin worries the former is seriously upset when he catches onto how far Jinki is getting ahead of them.

“Changmin! Kyuhyun! I found a clothing store down the road!” Jinki calls, pointing into the distance. From where Changmin is, he doesn’t really see anything that resembles a clothing store and he breaks into a light jog, slowing down again when he falls into step with Kyuhyun once more.

“You see how he called my name first?” He grins, slinging an arm around Kyuhyun’s shoulder.

“I’m not competing with you for him.”

“So you say,” Changmin drawls out the last word. He sees Kyuhyun roll his eyes. “Must hurt to know nobody loves you.”

Clicking his tongue, Kyuhyun lifts his shoulder, causing Changmin’s arm to fall off. “Okay. So the next time you’re hanging off a ledge, screaming for help, I’m just going to leave you there. No point in saving someone who doesn’t feel anything for me.”

“Watch your step. The ground seems loose here,” Kyuhyun says, stepping over a log. They’ve spent too much time in the city. There is nothing left for them except the destruction the machines left them with. Truthfully, Kyuhyun thinks they’re stupid, all three of them. Who in their sane mind would traverse the land, climbing up hills and miniature mountains and living off prayers of finding some kind of safehouse in the countryside. They could have stayed at one of the many refuges. That was why Kyuhyun was doing research on them, making sure they had enough resources, and attempting to track the sporadic movements of the machines. All of it was precaution for if he was to ever placed in this situation and what is he doing now: hiking up a mountain with a guy who likes to sing and a guy who is the biggest idiot Kyuhyun has ever come to know.

Changmin scoffs from behind him, flanking the other two in their usual formation. “Don’t talk as if you actually know the soil here.”

A small smirking creeping up on his face, Kyuhyun turns around to mock the taller male, his voice laced with cocky confidence. “It’s not that hard to figure out,” he says, waving his hand around flippantly.

“I bet there is nothing wrong with the soi –“

Kyuhyun chokes on a laugh when Changmin steps on an unsteady plot of soil and slips, rolling back down the hill they just climbed. Over his shoulder, he hears the crunch of leaves and he pivots to catch up with Jinki who is a good length ahead.

Hearing his footsteps, Jinki pauses in his song and turns to see Kyuhyun jogging up to him. “Kyuhyun! What are you doing all the way back there?” He asks, a pretty smile on his face. Kyuhyun grins at him and he’s happy Jinki is oblivious enough to not notice the glowing mischief in his eyes.

“I was making sure we weren’t being followed or anything, you know.”

“Oh, of course.” Jinki nods. He starts to hum again as they move forward only to stop suddenly once more. “Where is Changmin?” He glances over his shoulder and frowns when he doesn’t see Changmin following behind him like he should be.

“Who? Changmin?” Kyuhyun bites back a chuckle as he stares at with seemingly worried eyes. “I thought he was with you since it was my turn to flank,” he says, turning to look behind him as well to keep up the lie.

“Kyuhyun! Get back here and help me!” Changmin yells and Kyuhyun can no longer hold back the need to laugh bubbling in this throat. He doesn’t even notice the way Jinki frowns and starts to walk back in the opposite direction, too caught up in his own amusement.

“Is that Changmin?”

“I’m sorry, who?”

After the hill, they come across a forest. It’s not what they were expecting and they’re unsure of where to set up camp but a couple hundred meters in seems like an alright place to settle. While Kyuhyun tasks himself with breaking off the twigs of trees and finding sticks and small logs for firewood, Changmin goes out to scope the area in the opposite direction. Jinki passes him Kyuhyun’s pistol, something they have not used yet and something that may or may not even be helpful against the machines. It’s a weapon, though, and in scouting alone Changmin will need it more than Kyuhyun and Jinki.

“Be careful,” Jinki whispers, raising on his toes to kiss Changmin on the lips sweetly. Kyuhyun turns away, pretending to be yanking a particularly attached twig off the tree behind him. He ignores the two of them until Changmin calls out to him.

“Are you not going to see me off, Kyu?”

Kyuhyun finally gets the twig off and turns around, rolling his eyes. “You’re acting as if you’re not coming back or something. Don’t take too long. We’re having fire baked potatoes and canned pineapples for dinner.”

Changmin laughs and beckons Kyuhyun over with a slight twitch of his index finger. With an overdramatic sigh, the latter obeys.

“I hope you don’t plan on being all lovely-dovey with me because I’m not Jinki,” he says, crossing his arms over his chest and looking anywhere and everywhere beside directly at Changmin.

To Kyuhyun’s surprise, Changmin punches him in the chest, right where his heart is, with more force than he needed to. Coughing slightly, Kyuhyun finally looks at him with a glare and punches Changmin back. Even more to his surprise, Changmin draws him into a hug. In his minor state of confusion, Kyuhyun stands there stiffly as Changmin pats his back. When they separate, Kyuhyun hits him in the chest against for good measure, just to make sure Changmin understands who he’s dealing with. The taller male laughs again and raises his arms in mock innocence.

“I better get the biggest potato when I get back!”

Kyuhyun raises an eyebrow at Changmin’s leaving back. Jinki waves so hard Kyuhyun thinks his hand will fall off. “You’ll get what I give you and like.”

Changmin’s laugh sounds and eventually dies off like a passing wind. Kyuhyun turns from the trees and faces Jinki who is rummaging through their food supply.

“Pray his doesn’t get himself killed?” Kyuhyun grins, bending down to help Jinki retrieve the potatoes.

Jinki sighs and looks up at Kyuhyun with tired eyes. “Always.”

“Why do you only bring down the bright sunshine walls whenever he isn’t around?”
“Because he needs it just as much as I do,” Jinki shrugs. “Changmin and I aren’t strong people like you. We need daydreams and a lot of stupidity to keep us going.”

Kyuhyun pauses, one hand wrapped around a can of pineapples. “Who said I was a strong person?”

“I did. Now start a fire. We don’t know when they’re going to turn the lights off and I don’t want to sit around in the dark.”

Just as he left, Changmin returns laughing but Kyuhyun catches the nervous lilt to his voice; Jinki does as well if the way he looks at the former with knitted brows is any indication.

“How’d it go?” Jinki asks, shoving a pineapple slice into his mouth.

Changmin doesn’t answer his question in favor of walking up to the former student and opening his mouth wide. Sticking out his tongue, Jinki cradles his can of pineapples to his chest and tries to shoo Changmin away with his plastic fork. The latter refuses to leave - refuses to explain why he returned in such a state, Kyuhyun realizes – until Jinki shoves the fork and another pineapple slice down his throat. Watching with his own can of pineapples as Changmin prolongs chewing, Kyuhyun feels his nerves catch fire like a fuse. Once the eldest male swallows the fruit, Kyuhyun expects an explanation but all he gets is Changmin setting his sights on him. The taller male trots over and opens his mouth in a fashion similar to what he just did with Jinki. Kyuhyun is not Jinki, though.

“Stop playing around and tell what you saw before I kill you.”

Smirking, Changmin pulls off the pistol and the holster from around his waist. “But I have the pistol,” he sings.

Kyuhyun kicks him in the shin. “I have a fork. I’ll take you down so fast you’ll think it’s 2012, now speak.”

Changmin’s smirk falls off his face and he scratches the crown of his head. “I think we should find some place less open,” he says. “I didn’t run into any but I felt like I was constantly seeing metal, you know. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?”

Kyuhyun nods and makes to turn around so he can help Jinki who is already starting to pack up the things they spread out when Changmin grabs him by the arm.


“Ah,” Changmin opens his mouth wide. Kyuhyun looks down at his can.

“We were best friends, Changmin. You should know I have a problem with sharing.” Kyuhyun shakes his head, smiling lightly. “I’m not Jinki.”

“Have you ever wondered why the heart doesn’t stop beating on its own? Like if it’s really because its actions are controlled by the brain or if our hearts are always searching for something unattainable?”

Kyuhyun turns to look at Jinki, eyebrows raised in confusion. He feels his throat drop into his stomach at the void in Jinki’s once beautifully expressive eyes. Changmin won’t like this. He won’t like it at all and Kyuhyun is glad he’s going through their food supply somewhere behind them. They sit huddled in an opening in a rock formation in the middle of the unknown forest now, puddles of black pooling around their dirty, aching heels. They don’t have many days left until they run out of food; it’ll probably dwindle down to nothing when Kyuhyun resigns himself to death, when Jinki stops singing hymns to brighten the mood, and when Changmin finally grows a brain.

It’s been a constant snow; black drops freefall like ash after an eruption. It’s when they look at the sky and watch artificial clouds stagnant and suspended by invisible forces that they worry about this batter. They know they should have stayed home – Kyuhyun with his elitist parents, Jinki at the refugee center, and Changmin, well, he would have ended up at the shelter center regardless. Sure, they never would have met Kyuhyun but perhaps that would have been better.

They all would have died eventually, just not so soon, and the thought wouldn’t have crossed their minds as frequently.

“No, Jinki, I haven’t,” Kyuhyun replies, fingering a dirty and jagged rock. Jinki shifts closer to him and places his head upon the older man’s shoulder. He plays with the few strands of grass that peek out from the cracks in the base of the case.

“Do you think our hearts will stop beating soon?” Jinki glances up at Kyuhyun. The latter lets the rock fall from his fingers and watches it roll before leaning his head atop Jinki’s. He reaches for Jinki’s left hand with his right and threads their fingers together.

Sighing, Kyuhyun squeezes their hands. “I don’t know, Jinki.”

Jinki nods and faces the forest laid out before them. He notes how the grass is browning and covered in tainted snow, how there isn’t an animal in sight, how metal shines from behind leaf barren trees.


“Hey! Cho Kyuhyun!”

Rolling his eyes, Kyuhyun looks over his left shoulder at Changmin standing there with his hands crossed over chest and a very ugly pout on his face. “What?”

“What do you think you’re doing with Jinki?” The enraged jealous idiot glares. Kyuhyun turns back around and kisses Jinki’s forehead just to be spiteful.

“I think I’m stealing him from you.”

“I’ll kill you!”

Kyuhyun waves his free hand in the air, nonchalant, and thinks their hearts won’t stop beating until the lights are taken down, the clouds move, and the snow turns white again. Not with the village idiot here, at least.
Tags: au, length: oneshot, rating: pg13, tbc.., titanic: changnew, titanic: ot3, x.crossover, x.dbsk, x.shinee, x.super junior

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