Actions

Work Header

Runaways

Chapter Text

“It’s been a while since we talked.”

Siwon’s father is a large Alpha, whose features are severe and unyielding. Like most CEOs, his office is on the uppermost level of the building, appropriately sectioned off from the rest of the employees. The walls of the room are not walls but tinted windows instead, allowing for natural light to come in softly through the glass. Yet, the ceiling is painted an oppressive black, creating an effectively monotone color palette that coats the entire room with certain darkness.

Respectfully, Siwon stands away from the desk, about six feet away.

“We should meet up more, Father,” he replies easily with a smile. The old Alpha just grunts.

“We shouldn’t waste so much time on small talk. We should discuss what you’ve been doing with your branch of the company.”

It isn’t strange for most of the pleasantries of the conversations to end this early. Siwon’s father is a definite introvert and very reclusive, even to his own child. In his younger years, Siwon had found himself desperately wishing for even a bit of affection from him, only to come up empty.

“I believe that I’ve been running everything smoothly,” he says. His father narrows his eyes.

“Don’t play stupid with me, Siwon. I’m your father. I know what you’ve been doing.”

Siwon feels his palms grow sweaty all of a sudden, but he doesn’t show it. Instead, he maintains his unaffected expression, the same one that he’s seen his father wear so much over the years.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“This is embezzlement, you know. I could charge you.”

His father’s scent permeates through the entire space, as if trying to crush him in its grasp. Siwon presses his lips together.

“This is within my power. Don’t forget that you gave me the freedom to operate within the branch business, and it’s been doing better than ever before. I don’t believe that this warrants a money laundering accusation,” he tries again, from a different route. The old man finally looks a bit thoughtful at that, though his expression doesn’t improve.

“You’re right. Rather than that, I’m more disappointed that my son is associating with those types of lowlifes.”

Siwon tightens his jaw at that, his unperturbed exterior beginning to show its cracks. He takes in a deep exhale, smoothing his expression over.

“Father, I’d appreciate it if you did not call them ‘lowlifes’,” he responds calmly. The old Alpha’s frown grows more severe.

“Call them what you will, they are lowlifes. Failure Alphas who can’t find work or provide for their families or even take care of themselves, weak and useless. Utter disgraces,” he says lowly.

“Father!” Siwon interjects, his fists clenched at his sides. His father’s eyes travel towards it, and he stands up, an angry aura emanating from him.

“Don’t you dare raise your hands at me, Siwon,” he growls.

Siwon looks to the ground and slowly loosens his hands.

“Father,” he grinds out, “you of all people should know that Alphas like that are not at fault for their current condition. It is the failure of our society to provide them resources with which to pull themselves back together.”

His father scoffs. “Society? When have Alphas been so weak as to not take responsibility for our own actions? They’re not like Omegas—” he spits that word out— “They set themselves up for failure, so they should be the ones to help themselves.”

Siwon stares at the ground. Then, he says, “Father, then would you say that you set yourself up for failure?”

The atmosphere in the room suddenly grows icy. Siwon immediately shuts his mouth as his father gets up quietly from the desk, approaching him until they are face to face.

The slap is to be expected.

The sound echoes through the room. Siwon’s head is bent to the side, a red mark on his cheek. His father has his hand raised, a cold expression on his face.

“That’s your punishment. I’m being lenient with you now because you’re my son, but attempt this again and you’ll lose everything.”

Siwon stays silent this time. His father returns to his desk and sits down, crossing his hands over his nose and leaning over.

“I’m halving the amount of free money you have within your control. That’s final.”

“Yes Father,” Siwon replies, steadying himself. The old man looks away from him, a silent dismissal.

“You can go now. Don’t forget about what I said.”

He bows first, then leaves quietly. The door shuts with a small click behind him.

 

 

When Jongwoon wakes up, the first thing he notices is the sun streaming brightly through the curtains.

It’s so strange. Lately, he’s only been waking up early to get to work, and even before that, he had always been up before the sun rose because he was unable to fall back asleep. This habit had persisted even as he moved into the motel, though it significantly improved after being able to breathe fresh air. Nonetheless, he usually did rely on his coffee far too much to keep him going throughout the day.

But strangely, after he had gone back to his room after talking with Hyukjae last night, he had been able to fall into a deep sleep.

Jongwoon climbs off the bed slowly and methodically, as if wanting to savor the moment. He stretches and yawns, refreshed. The clock indicates that at least four hours had passed since he passed out, and it’s a definite improvement.

Like usual, Kyuhyun is already there. However, unlike usual, he’s sitting at the table, eating. The Beta notices him first, looking up towards him in greeting.

“Good morning, Kyuhyun-ah,” Jongwoon sits down slowly, asking, “Did Leeteuk-hyung make this?”

“Yeah.” Kyuhyun chews absentmindedly. “You should eat some, Hyung. After all, you didn’t get to eat much of his cooking two nights ago, right? And you came home late yesterday…”

“Ah no, it’s fine. Hyukjae brought me something last night, so I’m not too hungry right now.” He glances around. “Speaking of which, is he around right now? He’s usually awake around the time that I am. I want to talk to him about something.”

There’s a promise that he still has to fulfill after all.

At that, Kyuhyun stops chewing, looking at him curiously. “You didn’t know? The time that Hyukjae-hyung met you in the morning, he went back to his room right after. He probably woke up to greet you.”

Jongwoon blinks.

He thinks back to the previous night, when Hyukjae had stayed up with him late despite looking utterly exhausted. He wonders if it had anything to do with the favor he asked Heechul and if the encounter hadn’t ended as well as he intended. A flash of guilt explodes through Jongwoon, and he swallows.

“I didn’t know that,” he says. Kyuhyun seems to detect his subtle mood change and gently pushes a bowl of food towards him, even getting out a pair of chopsticks from the holder for him.

“It’s not like you forced him too. He was just being an idiot on his own,” he says reassuringly. Jongwoon glances at him doubtfully but can’t help the chuckle that slips out of his mouth.

“He’s still your hyung. Plus, do you even know him enough to call him an idiot yet?” he responds. Kyuhyun huffs.

“We’ve had a few conversations here and there. He’s always in the motel anyways, so I’ve caught him once or twice sneaking out of his room.”

Jongwoon nods. He slowly picks up his chopsticks and bites off a chunk of the kimchi pancake. He doesn’t realize that it’s not exactly like Ryeowook’s or Kyuhyun’s cooking until he actually starts chewing, pausing at the taste. Kyuhyun watches him intently.

“So, mine’s better, right?” he questions. Jongwoon slips another piece into his mouth.

“It tastes different from yours. More balanced kind of. Your levels are about the same though,” he says truthfully with an amused twinkle in his eye. Kyuhyun starts protesting at the notion, but midway, his expression suddenly falls.

“Neither of us are as good as Ryeowook though,” he mutters, shoving a large bite into his mouth. Jongwoon’s eyes go towards the younger Alpha’s room again, still closed and still locked.

“Has he been eating?” he asks worriedly. Kyuhyun shrugs.

“He always leaves the bowl empty at the end of the day,” he says, tone purposely callous as to hide the concern behind it. “This isn’t the first time this has happened.”

“Things must be difficult for Ryeowook,” Jongwoon murmurs. Taeyeon’s face comes to his mind, and he’s once again reminded of how lucky he is, to be free and to have a job. Kyuhyun continues staring into his plate, now cleared of food.

“Hyung,” he says without looking up, “are you going to go out to the city again today?”

“I don’t know,” he answers vaguely, as if he’s purposely trying to dodge the question. Instead, he tries to make eye contact with the Beta. “Kyuhyun-ah, are you always here? Do you have time to rest?”

“Technically, this is my rest,” the younger man says. He shifts in his chair, now leaning backwards and looking towards the ceiling. “It’s nice. I like it here.”

The statement sounds far too imprecise to not be hiding something, but Jongwoon doesn’t pry. Instead, he leans onto his arm, staring off into the distance.

Like Kyuhyun says, Hyukjae is up shortly after, rubbing his eyes sleepily. His blue hair, now shorter than it was yesterday, sticks up in multiple directions.

“Good morning,” he says. The Beta starts to grab him a plate of food, but Jongwoon stops him.

“Hyukjae-ah, shouldn’t you still be sleeping?” he questions the Alpha. “Didn’t you go to bed late last night? Why are you climbing out now?”

“Well, the reason I stayed up so late was because of Hyung, right?” Hyukjae yawns, sitting down anyways. Jongwoon grimaces at the memory. Kyuhyun glances at him and hands the other Alpha a pair of chopsticks with his other hand, which Hyukjae graciously receives. He pulls a plate towards him and immediately starts scarfing the pancakes down. “This is good!”

“It’s actually Teukie-hyung’s cooking but—”

The same conversation repeats. Jongwoon stays silent the entire time, the only movement of his being him subtly nudging his own dish towards Hyukjae. To his surprise though, the younger Alpha notices quickly, directing the conversation towards him after finishing with Kyuhyun.

“Hyung, what are you going to do today?” he asks almost eagerly. Jongwoon shrugs helplessly.

“I don’t know.”

“Are you going to go out?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you going to stay inside then?”

“I… I don’t know.”

Hyukjae’s frown only grows on his face. “Hyung, are you sure you’re the one that’s not too tired after yesterday night?”

“Ah, no! I’m fine. You don’t have to worry about me…” Jongwoon trails off, pressing his lips together. The younger Alpha tilts his head at him, and he looks away too, twiddling his thumbs over the table as if shy.

“Then… I mean… Hyung still has a promise he hasn’t fulfilled, right?” he mumbles. Jongwoon glances at him in slight surprise.

“What?”

“That! You know? What you said a long time ago… Ah, it’s nothing! Thank you for the food!” Hyukjae quickly stands up and grabs his plate, placing it into the dishwasher and hastily bolting away back into his room. Jongwoon watches him.

“He didn’t eat as much this time,” he says. Kyuhyun finally sighs.

“Hyung, you know you aren’t subtle, you know?” he says.

“Isn’t this better?” Jongwoon looks down, biting his lip. “I didn’t want to hurt him.”

“I already said that he was doing everything because he wanted to. Is that hard to believe?” Kyuhyun reminds him.

“You can’t just say that. Even if he wanted to, he should try to sleep well instead of trying to keep up with my sleep schedule.” He tightens his hand over his lap. “I’ve been annoying him a lot lately with my own requests. I think it’s best if he doesn’t feel like he has to entertain me as much.

The Beta frowns. He changes his approach. “It hasn’t been too long since you two met. Hyukjae-hyung isn’t really the type to be too social with other people. Maybe you’re the only one he feels really comfortable with.”

“He has Donghae though,” Jongwoon tries.

“Those two aren’t exactly talking right now, you know? Just—” Kyuhyun shakes his head— “Look, you two just make sure you keep each other company, alright? There’s too much happening lately. Leeteuk-hyung’s on edge all the time now too. This might sound too easy, but don’t linger on those things.”

He blinks.

“Kyuhyun, you’re really perceptive, aren’t you?” he remarks. Kyuhyun looks at him, a flash of tiredness finally making it past his eyes.

“It’s not me that’s the perceptive one,” he replies, getting up and placing his dishes in the sink as well. Before he goes back to the desk, he says one last thing, “Just don’t break your promise, okay Hyung? He might not have much else to look forward to.”

Then he’s gone, leaving Jongwoon with his mind. After thinking for a few more minutes, he stands as well. He gathers a plate of kimchi pancakes and walks into the hallway.

He knocks on Hyukjae’s door. The response is immediate. As if in apology, Jongwoon holds up the food first in front of his face.

“Let’s go into the city today, alright? Together,” he says. Hyukjae’s expression lights up instantly.

“Let’s go!”

 

 

They stumble outside with the heat on their heels, Jongwoon borrowing another one of Heechul’s more fashion-friendly shirts—who knew his hyung was obsessed with anime—and Hyukjae wearing what he wore when he first arrived at SUPER JUNIOR—except washed this time. He plucks at their clothes regretfully before going out, frowning.

“I’ll save up after paying rent, and we’ll buy ourselves something better to wear, okay?” he tells Hyukjae, who gains a strangely melancholic look on his face.

“The both of us…” he murmurs, so softly that Jongwoon isn’t able to hear him before they leave.

He suggests that they head towards the open markets first, hoping that the earlier time of day will spare them from the crowd. Unable to afford a bus, they walk there together with a companionable silence between them. Or maybe, it’s more of an awkward quiet for Jongwoon, who can’t figure out how to start a conversation for the life of him. All their casual talk topics had been exhausted yesterday after all, in that bright room.

But this time, it’s Hyukjae who speaks up first.

“Hyung, your voice condition isn’t that good, right? What happened?” he asks curiously. Jongwoon automatically reaches up to caress his neck, surprised at the sudden question. Hyukjae’s eyes are open wide and innocent, not a trace of malicious intent within them. He swallows.

“Sorry, does it bother you? Maybe I should speak less,” he half jokes, watching for the younger Alpha’s reaction. Hyukjae snorts.

“You, talk less? You’re always around other people talking like in the city and all that, so I think it’d be more detrimental to your psyche if you did that.”

“Are you saying that I’m annoying?” He grins, and Hyukjae pouts.

“I’m just saying Hyung! It’d probably kill you to not be around other people for too long of a time!”

Jongwoon feels a pang in his heart at those words, which hit a little too close to home. He touches his throat again, feeling the small muscles spasm underneath his fingertips.

“It was my fault,” he says quietly. Then, he flashes a smile towards Hyukjae, trying not to let his carefree mask slip. “But it’ll be alright. After all, these things always heal, right?”

The younger Alpha’s expression changes into one of concern. “Hyung, maybe you should try to use your voice less though. It’s not healthy if you overuse it.”

“Don’t be so worried about me,” Jongwoon brushes him off. “After all, it’s not like I talk too much at work, and I didn’t even sing at the karaoke party yesterday. The only place where I’m like this is at the motel.”

“If you say so, Hyung…” Hyukjae trails off. He suddenly fixes his eyes on something in front of him, and Jongwoon follows him, finding that they’re already nearing the marketplace. Unfortunately for them though, it’s crowded with people, even on an early Saturday morning such as this. He tugs up his mask before starting to head inside, but beside him, Hyukjae has completely frozen.

“Hyukjae-ah? Are you alright?” Jongwoon asks worriedly. He glances towards the crowd again and then back at the other man’s fear-stricken face. “Do you not want to go in today?”

“No!” Hyukjae says loudly, finally shaking himself out of the daze. He stares at his shoes, shifting on his feet. “It’s just been a long time since I saw so many people… We should go in. I want to go in.”

Jongwoon furrows his eyebrows. In a split second decision, he grabs the younger Alpha’s hand, wrapping the other’s longer fingers around his small palm. Hyukjae’s eyes widen, and he looks at Jongwoon in surprise.

“Just hold onto me, okay?” Jongwoon says. Hyukjae nods, and they plunge into the fray together.

The vibrancy of the market during the day is wholly different than the almost melancholic feel it has at night. Above them, paper streamers and banners flutter in the breeze, and the air is filled up with the smells of food and the cries of eager shopkeepers. Jongwoon can feel Hyukjae clutching his hand tighter as he looks around, overwhelmed with his surroundings.

“C’mon, let’s go towards one thing at a time.” Jongwoon tugs him along, and the younger Alpha stumbles after him obediently, eyes still darting around the area.

“Look! It’s a clothes shop!” They stop right in front of a clothing stall, and he uses the free hand to stroke the fabric gently, marveling at the softness of the textile. Hyukjae glances at it but finds himself drawn to something else on the table, examining it as well. Jongwoon turns towards him. “Hyukjae-ah, are you interested in fashion?”

“Yeah,” the younger Alpha responds simply. “I really liked it.”

“I’ll save up as much money as I can, and we can go shopping properly,” he promises. Hyukjae looks pensive before he seems to think of something.

“Hyung, we should style each other!” he suggests with a burst of enthusiasm. Jongwoon smiles.

“But I haven’t approved of your fashion sense yet,” he teases. “How do I know you won’t just put me in something ridiculous.”

“I’d never do that!” Hyukjae insists, but his eyes are twinkling with mischief. Jongwoon chuckles before moving onto the next article of clothing to admire.

They spend about ten minutes in that shop before they leave, back onto the main street. Somewhat eager now, Hyukjae looks around with newfound vigor in his eyes, his irises bright. Jongwoon is ready to bring them to another stall that would appeal to both of them before the other man’s eyes suddenly flit towards a clothing shop across the street, and he quickly pulls them in that direction.

Jongwoon stumbles and trips, yelping as he loses his balance. However, he feels something firm stop him from falling to the ground, and he looks up only to find himself with his chin buried in a startled Hyukjae’s chest. He realizes now that the younger Alpha’s hand is still holding his, and his other hand is on his waist. Embarrassed, Jongwoon quickly pushes himself off the other and dusts himself off, trying to hide the red in his cheeks.

“Sorry, that was my bad,” he says, somehow managing to not stutter. Hyukjae stares at him for a few more moments before he snaps out of his daze.

“Ah, that was my fault, Hyung! I should’ve warned you,” he apologizes before averting his eyes as well. Their hands are still intertwined.

They stand awkwardly together for a few more seconds before Hyukjae scratches the back of his head and leads him towards the store again, this time slower. Jongwoon stares at his feet the entire way, his cheeks burning. It’s only when they stop that he looks upwards, towards the shop name.

He furrows his brows.

“Isn’t this an Omega clothing shop?”

Hyukjae ignores him, pulling them into rows of clothing racks before he can question any further. Jongwoon goes along reluctantly, lowering his head self consciously. Around them, Omegas and Betas glance at them, not malicious but enough to make him feel a different kind of embarrassment.

“What are you trying to pull?” he hisses at Hyukjae when they finally halt at a rack of colorful outfits. Without responding, the younger Alpha pulls out a shirt and starts matching it up with Jongwoon’s figure, eyes concentrated.

“Isn’t it pretty?” he says, grabbing a pink crop top and layering it on top of the shirt. Jongwoon’s ears heat up.

“Are you trying to make a fool of me?” he says exasperatedly. Hyukjae’s gaze meets him, and he shakes his head quickly.

“What do you think I’m trying to make a fool of you? I think Hyung would look good in something more colorful!” He defends himself before mumbling, “Plus, Omega’s clothes have more options anyways. It suits you.”

Jongwoon blinks before sighing. “Fine, do whatever you want, but I’m not going to wear it.”

“Hyung!” Hyukjae protests. He lets go of Jongwoon’s hand, frowning. “C’mon, I’d pick it especially for you!”

“Still won’t,” he insists stubbornly.

Hyukjae’s bottom lip, which had already been sticking out, juts out even more, and he turns his back on the older Alpha, clearly sulking. Jongwoon tries to catch his eyes, but he turns away before their eyes can meet, turning up his chin.

“You seriously can’t expect me to wear it. I mean… ugh, Omega’s clothes wouldn’t even look good on me! I don’t have the figure for it anyways. It’d look bad on me,” he tries. Hyukjae doesn’t budge.

“That’s just what you’re saying! You just think I’d purposely sabotage you, right?” he retorts. “Even if I did try really hard.”

Jongwoon opens his mouth to reply but realizes something. He finally sighs, relenting. “Fine, I’ll wear whatever you want me to when the time comes. After we get the money too.”

At that, Hyukjae whirls around, beaming. “You’re the best, Hyung!” he says with a bright grin. He grabs more clothes off the rock, and Jongwoon notices for the first time that the younger Alpha’s gums stick out when he truly smiles. He can’t help his lips curling up at the sight.

What an innocent smile.

“Yah Hyukjae-ah, we can’t spend too much time here. We have other places to look at too, you know,” Jongwoon says. Hyukjae quickly holds up one more piece of clothing to his body before nodding happily, returning the selected items to the very back of the rack as if he’s trying to save it for later. Jongwoon grabs his hand again, and they leave, satisfied.

 

 

Meanwhile at the motel, two people pick up the phone at the same time.

“What is it, Siwon-ah?” Shindong switches tabs to his workspace, typing something into the blank document. “Is everything good?”

“Shindong-hyung…” Siwon starts hesitantly before coughing, straightening himself. “Shindong-hyung, some things happened on my side. I’m unable to pay you as much as I did before.”

Shindong stops. He looks away from the computer screen, taking the phone off of speaker mode and pressing it to his ear fully. “What?”

“My father,” Siwon states.

“How much less?”

“A lot. My wiggle room got reduced by half. He threatened to charge me with embezzlement.”

Shindong’s eyebrows furrow. “He did give you the authority to do whatever you pleased though. How would that hold up?”

On the other side, Siwon seems to shrug before continuing on in a regretful tone. “I don’t know. All I know is that he can afford better lawyers than I can. Plus…” he adds quietly, “he’s my father. I can’t speak up against him.”

Shindong understands.

“It’ll still be enough to pay rent, right?” he asks cautiously.

“It will. But everything else will have to go to things like rent and the utility bills,” Siwon replies. Shindong leans back in his chair.

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to eat a little less in the mornings, right?” he jokes. When the younger Alpha doesn’t respond, he says, “Look, Siwon-ah. We’re all giving our best, alright? It’ll be fine. Teukie-hyung will find a way.”

“I’m sorry, Shindong-hyung,” Siwon says apologetically. The sound of rustling suddenly fills the speaker, and he seems to say something to someone next to him. “I have to go now. I’m calling on my personal phone, so it looks a little suspicious.”

“You should go, Siwon. Make lots of money and form your own company one day,” Shindong teases, and finally, the younger Alpha lets out a chuckle.

“Sure, Hyung. See you.”

“See you.”

Shindong gets ready to hang up, but Siwon suddenly speaks again. “And… I always have an opening here at the company for you, you know that right? If you ever need a job…”

“I don’t have any credentials. I wouldn’t want you to pay me in,” Shindong says easily. Siwon seems to want to say something more, but he decides against it.

“Just remember, okay Hyung?”

“I will, don’t worry Siwon-ah. But Leeteuk-hyung needs me a bit too much at the moment for me to go.”

He hangs up then returns his gaze to the computer. He clicks onto the original tab again, pursing his lips before he pulls it into a new window and hides it.

On the other side of the building, Kyuhyun jerks up, startled by the sound of the desk phone ringing. He picks it up slowly, speaking in a professional pitch, “SUPER JUNIOR Motel. How may I help you?”

“Kyuhyun-ah, why is your phone turned off?”

The familiar voice shocks him. Kyuhyun’s eyes widen.

“Mom?” He glances around the surroundings, lowering his voice so he isn’t heard. “Why are you calling me right now?”

“I’ve been worried. We haven’t spoken in weeks,” his mother responds fretfully. “I sometimes wonder what you’re even doing over there, and I get so worried about you.”

“Sorry, I’ve been busy lately,” Kyuhyun says, lowering his gaze to the table. “Is something the matter? I’ve been eating well and everything, so you don’t need to be concerned about me.”

“You’re my only child,” she says. “Plus, you’re in a place like that, so I can’t help it.”

Kyuhyun sighs. “Seriously Mom, I’m fine. Everyone here isn’t like you think they are.”

“But…” his mother pauses. “Look, you know where I’m coming from, right?”

“I know. And for you, it’s fair. But I came here to get to know more things, so I can’t exactly agree with you all the way,” he replies.

“Don’t you know enough? Don’t you want to come home? Honestly, I keep trying to think about it, but not a single reason why you’d want to stay comes into my mind,” she says, frustrated. Kyuhyun rubs his temple.

“I like it here,” he says simply.

“How could you?!” his mom explodes, and he takes the phone away from his ear, wincing. “How could you not have learned from my mistakes? Don’t you know what happened to me? How many times have I told you to be careful, yet you keep doing reckless things like this! Can’t you be less selfish?!”

“Seriously, they’re just Alphas,” Kyuhyun says, as patiently as he can. “I am being careful! I’m just not being paranoid, okay? Look—” He takes a deep breath before continuing— “I know what happened, alright? I’ll always remember it. But I also need to expand my mind. I need to be happy too.”

His mother is silent after that.

“I’ll visit soon, alright? I’m sorry I didn’t call more often.” he finally says. When she still doesn't reply, he hangs up.

 

 

Jongwoon can’t stop looking at the jewelry.

It catches his eye from far away, the faint glint of light off of metal. While he isn’t a greedy person, he can’t help but to glance towards it with every store they go into and leave without buying anything.

But little does he know that Hyukjae’s watching too.

It’s only after the younger Alpha finishes styling a more retro outfit for him, a brightly colored, striped shirt, a denim jacket, baggy pants, and a neon orange cap. Because it’s a street stall, there are no fitting rooms, so he settles on putting it against Jongwoon’s body instead, talking excitedly about how good it would look on him. Jongwoon can’t help but to smile, teasing him and watching the other man squawk out defensively. It’s all too fun and good payback for all the ribbing he’s taken from him regularly.

But after they get out of the store, Hyukjae quickly tugs him in one direction again. Jongwoon doesn’t stumble, just looks at him curiously as they cross the street to the other side. He’s fixated on the expression on his face, the one that hints towards an idea.

Jongwoon doesn’t even notice until they stop right in front of a store selling accessories. He blinks.

“Hyukjae—?”

“I want Hyung to pick out an accessory for me,” the younger Alpha interrupts. He turns and smiles towards him, and Jongwoon isn’t sure which he can’t look away from more at the moment, the necklaces or the other’s face.

His heart thumps, and for some reason, heat suddenly rises to his cheeks, and he quickly looks away.

“W-Well, these necklaces should look good on you, right? It would make you look less plain.” He touches the delicate chain, not sure if he should remove it from the holder. Hyukjae takes it off for him and holds it up to his neck.

“Isn’t it a bit too… much?” he grimaces. Jongwoon tilts his head, then picks up something else from the table, measuring it over Hyukjae’s collarbones. The younger Alpha cranes his neck to allow him a better view, and Jongwoon suddenly realizes just how smooth and white the skin there is, his cheeks heating up at the observation.

“It looks pretty,” he murmurs.

“Really? There’s so much hanging off of it though. Isn’t Hyung a bit too materialistic?” Hyukjae jests again. Jongwoon raises an amused eyebrow.

“You really do look fine in it. It’s not like I’d sabotage you,” he says pointedly. The younger Alpha pouts.

“I wouldn’t! The clothes from earlier really were good!”

“Well, you asked me to pick something out for you, right? So don’t complain.”

“I can still complain even if I asked you!” He takes the necklace out of his hands, and just as Jongwoon thinks he’s going to put it back onto the display, the younger Alpha’s eyes suddenly flick towards him. He holds it up to him this time, gaze running up and down his chest. Unconsciously, Jongwoon’s throat bobs.

“It looks nice on Hyung though,” Hyukjae remarks. Then, he sets it down without another word, leaving him standing stunned. Jongwoon watches him as he inspects the table for more accessories, bracelets and rings among other things.

Swallowing, he breaks the silence to ask, “Hyukjae-ah, what kind of thing do you think would like?”

Hyukjae breaks his staring contest with a particularly lovely bracelet to glance upwards at him through his eyelashes. He thinks for a few moments before shrugging.

“I dunno. But definitely not any of that super intricate stuff you kept giving me earlier!” he adds. Jongwoon scuffs him lightly on the ribs.

“You were pret—it fit you really well. It was a nice contrast to your face.”

Hyukjae flashes him a scandalized expression. “Hey! At least I’m more handsome than you!”

“Dream on, Hyukjae-ah,” Jongwoon chuckles. He becomes thoughtful, rubbing his chin. “But what would you like though? Just as a starter before I start throwing a ton of other stuff on you.”

“Something simple would be just fine,” he grumbles. “Why are you so fond of accessories anyways? It’s weird.”

“You just don’t have taste,” Jongwoon shoots back. He scans Hyukjae up and down again, and suddenly, he reaches up to lightly brush the lobe of the other man’s ear. Realizing the strangeness of the action, he quickly retracts his hand, but to his surprise, Hyukjae doesn’t flinch or step back.

He shudders. Jongwoon touches it again, gingerly.

“You’d look good with earrings,” he remarks, letting go. For some reason, both of Hyukjae’s ears are pink.

“D-Doesn’t it hurt to get them?” Hyukjae stammers, covering the reddened area with his hands. Jongwoon takes it as him imagining the pain of the piercing needle goes through and hurries to reassure him.

“It doesn’t hurt that much to be honest,” he says. “Just a little bit if you’re nervous.”

“Really. Don’t they shoot it though? Or they just stab it through?” the younger Alpha says doubtfully.

“How about I come with you? If you choose to go through with it? It’s always easier if there’s something you know around,” Jongwoon suggests. Hyukjae just seems to look at him curiously before breaking into giggles.

“Hyung always makes a lot of promises,” he says mischievously. “I’m definitely your favorite dongsaeng, right?”

“Don’t think that just because I haven’t seen Ryeowook in a few days means that you’ve dethroned him. Kyuhyun’s rising up pretty quickly too.”

“What’s Kyuhyun doing better than me? Just because he cooks…” Hyukjae sulks, and Jongwoon is just about to poke his cheek when someone suddenly taps his shoulder.

He turns around, coming face to face with a man and woman, both staring at them with narrowed eyes. Jongwoon has this urge to step closer to the younger Alpha despite the two clearly being Omegas.

“Excuse me, we’d like to look at the items displayed here. Could you please move?” the man asks politely. His friend nods, though she eyes them with some sort of contempt.

Jongwoon just looks at them in confusion, swallowing. He makes space for them, still wanting to spend a little more time at the front table without going deeper into the shop. They settle in beside them stiffly, and Hyukjae shifts uncomfortably beside him.

It’s only a few moments after that the two Omegas get their attention again.

“I’d like to see the item on your left. Can you move again?”

At first, Jongwoon simply agrees and moves. However, the man and woman quickly take up the entire spot at the table, effectively pushing them out. He looks at them indignantly, but before he can speak again, Hyukjae tugs on the back of his shirt. He shakes his head.

“Let’s just go. There are other shops here too,” he says quietly. Jongwoon falters at the defeated expression on his face and nods silently, leading the path away from the stand. He glances backwards, and Hyukjae flashes him a smile. Jongwoon can only manage a small curl of the lip, his expression quickly sombering as he turns back to the front.

They visit a couple more jewelry shops, but the noose keeps tightening until it becomes nearly unbearable to be within one. Looking into the mirror, all Jongwoon can focus on are his hand-me-down clothes and the strands of hair sticking up from his head. He hasn’t been able to shave recently either, adding to the scruffiness. His eye bags stand out, and his cheeks are sunken and dry, his Adam's apple straining through the skin on his throat.

He suddenly feels like an outsider, an intruder. Just some kind of useless Alpha who can’t even buy things or provide for the people he cares about, always making empty promises and annoying others. He’s of no value to society, a good-for-nothing who can’t offer anything. He had left behind everything, his first love and his old passion. The former was all he had known for the longest time.

That damp room, that bright and blinding wallpaper, that lulling smile, that threat, that locked door…

Of course, he had still left. But what is he even doing now?

He can’t even sing anymore.

Amid his depressive spiral, Jongwoon doesn’t even realize where he’s going. Suddenly, he runs into someone, and the person shrieks. They both fall, and Jongwoon slams into the ground, letting out a small groan. Dazed, he looks upwards and locates the other person, a woman wearing an expensive shirt and leggings.

“Shit, I’m so sorry—”

Don’t touch her.

Jongwoon freezes as the Alpha voice rings through the air, halting every fibre in his body. The Alpha who used it shoves in front of him, helping her to her feet and holding her behind him protectively. He’s well dressed, wearing a nice button up shirt and jeans. Jongwoon can look upwards, and he suddenly feels suffocated with all the people seeming to be staring down on him, at him.

Like dirt.

But then, someone pulls him up. He looks back to see Hyukjae, his eyes worried and his large hands gripping Jongwoon’s shirt. He gets up, focusing only on his face and the fading blue of his haphazardly cut hair.

He’s beautiful.

“Hyung, are you alright?” Hyukjae asks concernedly. Jongwoon breathes. In and out.

Yes, he should hold himself together at least until he’s out of sight. There’s not much else he can do.

“I’m alright, Hyukjae-ah,” he says. He manages a smile. “Shall we get out of here?”

 

 

“How are you, Donghae?”

Donghae leans on the side of the railing overlooking the Han River alongside a taller Alpha, a stockier man who stands a few centimeters taller than him. The man offers him a cigarette, but he declines it politely.

“I don’t smoke anymore,” he says. The other Alpha nods, putting the pack back into his pocket.

“Me neither,” he replies. The hot summer wind blows through them, and he just looks down into the tepid waters, his gaze pensive. Donghae shuts his eyes and inhales the scent of the river. He doesn’t come here often, but maybe he should.

“This isn’t like you. What did you call me here for?” he asks, already somewhat knowing the answer. The man clenches his fist, finally raising his gaze to squint into the sun, the blue skies, and thin clouds.

“I just wanted to talk. I thought you… I thought you’d be able to understand,” he says slowly. Donghae finally opens his eyes, staring into the river with a ruminative expression. A wave of conflicted feelings washes through him, and he hates to focus on it like this.

He’s been a coward lately.

“I’m sorry, Hyung,” he apologizes first. The other Alpha seems to chuckle at that for some reason, as if he had been predicting his response, and suddenly, Donghae feels an arm wrap around his shoulders, pulling him closer. He exhales.

“How’s everyone?” the man asks.

“No one tells me anything. They all miss you. Sungmin visited, and two more people joined. One of them…” Donghae hesitates, “someone I knew from before.”

“When you were a kid?”

“Yeah. I took care of him a little at first, but I feel like now… there’s this distance between us,” he says.

“Is it… related to that?” the other man asks.

Donghae and Hyukjae. Hyukjae and Donghae. They both seem to have changed.

Donghae is afraid.

“I’m still trying to find a place for myself. Away from… I don’t know. Everything just seems so unpredictable still. I can’t get a grip. I’m just lost.”

The Alpha nods. He holds onto him tightly, not saying a word. There isn’t anything to be said anyways. They both just know.

However, Donghae speaks up again.

“But I’m sure that if Leeteuk-hyung hadn’t found me, I would’ve done it again. It’s just what loneliness does. So Hyung—” he leans into the older Alpha, shutting his eyes tightly— “Don’t isolate yourself. It’s not healthy. At least talk to us again.

“Youngwo—Kangin-hyung, please.”

Kangin doesn’t reply. Instead, he turns around and fully pulls Donghae into a tight embrace. Donghae presses his lips together, and when they part, he can feel his eyes growing wet.

“You’re a good dongsaeng,” Kangin says genuinely, “but not now. Not until I get at least some things figured out.”

Donghae can only nod and wipe his nose on his sleeve. The older Alpha smiles at him.

They say goodbyes. He watches as the shadow following Kangin’s feet lengthens as he gets further away.

As if it is reaching out.