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Shindong has always been a lowlife. From even before he dragged his ass out of his parents’ house and finally got himself out of their hair. He’s never been able to have a relationship. He doesn’t have too many friends outside the people in the motel. He’s spent most of his life chronically online and inside a room smaller than one of Siwon’s bathrooms, whether it be rotting away or working on a spreadsheet for a living wage.

A wage that no longer exists, of course.

Shindong’s halfway down the hallway when he sees Kyuhyun crack open a can of beer. It’s barely half past noon.

“Give me a can too.”

If he knew, Leeteuk would have their heads about this. Fortunately, he won’t.

The cool aluminum freezes his lips as he tilts his head back, inhaling nearly half of the can in a single gulp. He groans as he puts it back on the counter, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Similarly, Kyuhyun exhales heavily, sinking into his chair. The placement of the telephone stand has changed slightly from before.

Neither of them say anything for a while.

“You always leave your door open during the summer, Hyung,” Kyuhyun says.

“It’s so I can hear Leeteuk-hyung calling me if I need to,” he replies. They look at each other and sigh at the same time.

“What are you going to do now?” the Beta asks, taking another sip from his can. Shindong leans back, staring down at the table.

“It’s not like Hyung can’t pay me. I just got greedy with Siwon, that’s all,” he says. “He was really doing me a favor by letting me get some of his scraps.”

“But that’s the kind of person that you are, right?” Kyuhyun says. Shindong looks at him questioningly, and he continues, “You know… the type that always wants something to do.”

“Are you calling me hedonistic?” Shindong snorts. He swallows down the rest of his beer and doesn’t open another one. Briefly, he wonders where Donghae is.

“Not really. But it always feels like you have your eye on something away from here.” Kyuhyun shrugs. “You’re always looking for something new.”

Shindong blinks. The Beta stares at him meaningfully.

“There’s nothing that I can’t do here,” Shindong says. “Nothing that I need to do anyways.”

Kyuhyun frowns. He pulls another can of beer from the fridge.

“It’s comfortable here,” he agrees.

They sit in silence.

“But honestly, Kyuhyun, you seem like a person with a lot of ambition. You’ve probably finished college too, so what are you doing here?”

“I don’t plan on using my degree.” Kyuhyun swirls his beer around, staring into it pensively. “And in all honesty, I don’t really know how I ended up here either.”

Kyuhyun had arrived at the motel only shortly after Shindong had. At the time, he’d been prickly and standoffish with almost everyone, only talking to Leeteuk and Ryeowook. He hadn’t provided any reason for his arrival, only that he wanted to ‘widen his perspective’.

“Well—” Shindong shrugs— “it’s nice to have you here and doing the grunt work. Cooking, sitting at a desk doing nothing, playing Starcraft…”

“Heechul-hyung can tell you that I’m amazing at Starcraft,” Kyuhyun grumbles. “Plus, what else can I do? It’s not like I’d be satisfied or anything, not without—fuck—”

He stops, clenching his fist on the table. Shindong hums. He stands up, grabbing Kyuhyun’s beer before he can grab it himself, drawing a protest from the younger man.

“Let’s go to the kitchen so we don’t spill any on the counter and piss Leeteuk-hyung off,” he says. Kyuhyun just slumps forwards.

 

 

It’s like this again. Hyukjae dragging Jongwoon away, Jongwoon stumbling after him.

The voice of the Alpha from before still rings in his ears. He focuses on the grip that Hyukjae’s hand has on the bump on his wrist, the pretty curves of his knuckles around his bony limb. Jongwoon’s arm is like a twig in his large palm, and it gives him a strange feeling.

Hyukjae as a whole gives him a strange feeling.

“Alright, we’re finally out of there.” The younger Alpha turns to him in concern. “Hyung, are you alright? You were really frozen back there.”

Jongwoon just blinks at him. Hyukjae’s eyes are filled with concern, and he’s so focused on them that he doesn’t even notice the other man’s hands reaching up towards his face.

“Ah, Hyung. Your mask is a little off.” Hyukjae touches his mask, leaning close.

His eyes widen, but for some reason, he doesn’t push Hyukjae away like he would have for any other person. Instead, he inhales, and his mouth is suddenly flooded with a sort of fruit-like scent. It’s not sickly sweet like an Omega’s scent, no. It’s unmistakably Alpha in its spiciness. It’s pleasant. He realizes now that he’s been breathing it in so much that he hadn’t even noticed when his mask loosened, baring his nostrils to the outside world.

“Along with their normal emotive scents, Alphas, Betas, and Omegas also have their own unique scents. For Alphas, these are usually emitted during the mating stage. Another Alpha’s scent will often be repulsive to you. This is normal, as in early times Alphas would ward off each other by putting their scents on their ‘property’. Although this is no longer needed in modern times, Alphas today are still averse to each other’s scents.”

The memory comes to Jongwoon randomly. He doesn’t react to it, only letting Hyukjae fuss over the straps on his ears. Still, it rings in his head.

“There, it’s fine now.” Hyukjae draws back after the straps have been sufficiently tightened.

“Sorry about earlier. I wasn’t thinking,” Jongwoon croaks out.

“It wasn’t your fault. All you did was run into someone, so why did everyone have to react so strongly?” the younger Alpha says.

“I bumped into an Omega,” he replies. Hyukjae sighs. He suddenly reaches into his pocket and to Jongwoon’s shock, pulls out a couple of coins and bills.

“Let’s see if there’s anything we can afford,” he says, gesturing to the food street. The sight of food makes Jongwoon’s stomach clench, much more the sight of highly caloric, greasy foods. He looks back at Hyukjae, and in contrast, he’s gazing at the street longingly. It’s cute, but it also makes him feel bad. It’s time for lunch after all. It wouldn’t be right to not let the other man get something to eat.

“Let’s go,” he says, and Hyukjae grins widely. He’s like a completely different person from when they first walked into the shopping street. He grabs Jongwoon again and pulls him towards the line of restaurants.

Honestly, there’s not a lot they can buy. A couple of Hyukjae’s coins are worth only so much, and even though he clutches them in his palm like a lifeline, no one else would bat an eye at the paltry sum.

Jongwoon keeps his eyes trained on his feet, avoiding the enticing pictures of food posted on every sign. Hyukjae notices, but he doesn’t say anything, simply guiding him attentively.

When they finally stop, he looks up to find himself in front of a simple bungeoppang stand.

“Hyung, what do you want?” Hyukjae asks. Jongwoon looks at the options and averts his eyes.

“I don’t want anything,” he says. The younger Alpha frowns.

“But I have enough money for two. And I ate your breakfast,” he says, his bottom lip sticking out. “Please, Hyung?”

Jongwoon gulps. “My face will get swollen,” he tries, the final defense. Hyukjae shakes his head.

“Who cares? It’s not like anyone’s asking you to not have a swollen face. Plus…” he trails off, “it’s not like you wouldn’t be handsome anyways…”

Jongwoon’s eyes widen in surprise.

“Did I just hear you calling me handsome?” he questions. Hyukjae’s cheeks turn red, and he hits him on the chest.

“Don’t let it get to your head! Just let me treat you, alright? I’d feel guilty otherwise,” he says imploringly. Jongwoon makes the mistake of looking into the younger Alpha’s puppy eyes, and he can’t do anything but give in, sighing.

“Sure.”

Hyukjae beams, his gums showing again. He turns towards the stall owner, and for a second, Jongwoon has the thought that he’d do anything for that smile.

A few moments later, the woman hands them their bungeoppang. Jongwoon takes it, and Hyukjae pays, thanking her for her service. Jongwoon reaches into the bag to hand him his pastry after they both walk away.

“You got one without any red bean filling?” he remarks, giving Hyukjae his. “That’s so strange.”

“It tastes good this way!” Hyukjae says, biting into it and moaning in delight. Jongwoon scoffs.

“That isn’t right.”

“It’s delicious,” the younger Alpha insists, his mouth stuffed. Jongwoon opens his mouth to retort but can’t help the fond smile that makes his way to his lips. He brushes a crumb off the other man’s lips, rolling his eyes.

“Sure, weirdo,” he says, finally reaching in for his own bungeoppang. Hyukjae pouts cutely, and Jongwoon wonders when he started to notice those small things. He takes a bite out of the pastry, and a burst of that sweet flavor floods into his mouth. The mellowness is nostalgic, and the pastry is still warm after being pulled fresh off the mold. Unconsciously, he smiles.

Hyukjae peers over at him.

“It’s good, isn’t it?” he says. Jongwoon just takes another bite, slowly chewing.

“Yeah,” he says. “It’s really good.”

Hyukjae looks at him eating, and he smiles. It isn’t one of those gummy smiles from before, but it’s still beautiful. It’s quiet yet sincere. Full of… something. Jongwoon hasn’t seen one of those smiles directed at him in so long.

He reaches for Hyukjae’s hand and squeezes.

He says gently, “The reason you wanted to go out was because you wanted to say something to me, right?”

 

 

Since Leeteuk saved him that day, Donghae had always tried to live his life virtuously. He got a laborious job quickly using his good looks and body, and he tossed away the degree that he had enjoyed getting but earned uselessly. It was a miracle that he had finished college in the first place, but he had only been able to get through it because of his skills of evading authority and his genuine passion for his study. He got sloppy soon after and stopped caring.

Lee Donghae is not a good person. Or at least, he is not a good Alpha.

When he walks back to the dorm, he eyes the various families and couples on the street with a sort of envy in his eyes. However, they would be frightened if they noticed an Alpha staring at them, so he never looks at them for longer than a second or so.

An Omega, an Alpha, and a few children. That would be nice.

There had once been a time when he had wanted to work with children for the rest of his life, but no one would hire someone with a track record like him now.

He gets the text soon after he enters back into the motel. He thinks that his rut is going to come soon, but all he can smell now is the scent of spilt beer. He clicks into the message app on his phone and almost drops it onto the floor.

He doesn’t want to call, but he probably has to. He doesn’t. He sets his phone down on the table and buries his head in his hands, tearing at his hair and trying not to throw something. He walks over to the bed and slams his fist into his pillow, and the metal bed frame creaks. He picks up his phone again and reads the message over again. He looks away without replying, leaving his room and heading for the kitchen.

Shindong and Kyuhyun are desperately wiping at something on the table. Donghae wrinkles his nose, and they see him, their eyes widening. It smells like alcohol. He wordlessly grabs a wet towel from the sink and kneels down to help them. Hearing the noise, Heechul comes out of his room to shout at them. Kyuhyun promises him another bottle of soju if he doesn’t tell Leeteuk. Heechul hmphs, before coughing harshly into his hand and agreeing shortly. He retreats back into his lair soon enough, leaving the three of them to clean up by themselves.

Ryeowook still hasn’t come out yet. Leeteuk is on a business trip, which never happens because there is no business.

It seems like everything is going wrong.

 

 

Hyukjae stiffens, but Jongwoon doesn’t let go, smiling kindly. He takes the younger Alpha’s larger hand into both of his own, and for some reason, the skin is cold even though it’s summer.

“It’s alright if you tell me,” he says. Hyukjae inhales sharply. He gently extracts his hand from Jongwoon’s grip, pressing his lips together. Jongwoon can’t help but to frown, lines of worry appearing on his face. “Hyukjae?”

“Hyung… What kind of person do you think is shameful?” the other man asks quietly.

“How—how do you want me to answer that?” Jongwoon says dumbly. Hyukjae averts his eyes, lowering his gaze to the ground.

“You’re right. That is hard to answer,” he says quietly. “Then, what kind of person do you think I am? Would you be able to accept everything about me?”

“I would,” Jongwoon says automatically. “No matter what.”

“Even if I’m a shameful person? Even if I’m a shameful Alpha? Fuck, I don’t even know what kind of Alpha I can be now. Everything’s wrong. It’s all my fault.”

“It’s not your fault. To me, you don’t seem like a shameful person at all. Is something wrong? Tell me,” he tries, but the other Alpha just ducks his head further down.

“How do you know that? How can you think that? When we’ve only just met? When we haven’t even known each other for that long? It feels like I’m deceiving you now. I seriously—”

Hyukjae finally raises his head, and the younger Alpha’s expression is so pained that his own heart can’t help but to hurt as well. Jongwoon slowly places a hand on his nape, his small, cold hand against the raised hair on the back of Hyukjae’s neck.

“What’s going on, Hyukjae-ah? Did something make you upset?” he asks softly. The other man doesn’t respond, only closing his eyes in agony, his bungeoppang forgotten at his side.

“Sorry, Hyung. I’m usually not the type to get worked up. I guess I’ve been on edge,” he says tiredly. Jongwoon rubs his neck comfortingly, trying to ease off the tenseness in his shoulders.

“It’s alright. After all, we’re all a bit stressed, right? You can talk to me if you want to,” he says. Hyukjae exhales heavily. He seems to play with his fingers for a few moments nervously before opening his mouth again.

“What would you do if someone said that they could understand a part of you that you don’t want others to know about? And they said that you could rely on them?” he asks. Jongwoon tilts his head in thought.

“I guess, if you two could understand each other, it might be alright to lean on them a little bit? There’s less chance of judgement, isn’t there?” he says. “But it’s really complicated. If you tell someone something that you want to hide, it might make you feel worse. At the same time, if you can’t tell anyone, you can only suffer by yourself.”

Hyukjae listens silently. He unconsciously ends up leaning into Jongwoon’s firm hold, shutting his eyes. The older Alpha notices, his expression turning worried.

“Does this have anything to do with Heechul-hyung? I know I’ve been butting into a lot of your life recently, so you don’t have to talk to him if you don’t want to. It was wrong of me to make you two interact in the first place if you didn’t feel like it—”

“No,” Hyukjae finally speaks up. He opens his eyes, the brown reflecting off the blue of the sky. “I’m glad you did, Hyung.”

“That’s a relief,” Jongwoon sighs. He looks to the younger Alpha again. “Look, I’m not going to intrude anymore, but the worst thing for me was being alone. I don’t want that for you, alright?”

He pinches Hyukjae’s cheek. Hyukjae squawks. Jongwoon takes another bite from his bungeoppang and smiles.

“Let’s go home,” he says. “You must be hungry.”

 

 

It’s a few hours past noon when they finally arrive back at the motel. The empty pastry wrapper is crumpled in his hands, and Jongwoon throws it away at the nearest trash can. Hyukjae hasn’t said anything since their last conversation, but unlike a few hours ago, it isn’t an uncomfortable silence. The both of them have a lot on their mind after all.

Jongwoon speaks it right before they re-enter the building.

“It wasn’t too much trouble, was it? Today?” he says hesitantly, pausing right before the entrance. Hyukjae blinks at him.

“What?”

“I heard about you waking up early to see me. I made you promise we’d go out together, and I made Heechul talk to you. I was afraid that I was pushing myself onto you.” Jongwoon presses his lips together, rubbing the pads of his fingers onto each other. Hyukjae just looks at him, head tilted.

“Did it look like I was bothered? Hyung shouldn’t make assumptions without asking me first,” he says simply.

Jongwoon looks at him in surprise. Then, he chuckles.

“You’re right, I shouldn’t.”

With that, he climbs up the stairs and throws his arm around Hyukjae’s broad shoulders one last time before the automatic doors engulf them like a pair of jaws, chewing them up and swallowing them up.

 

 

Kyuhyun fixes them all a late lunch while Leeteuk is away and Ryeowook is still in his room. No one comments on how he gathers a bowl for the Alpha first and goes to leave it at his door before serving anyone else. Jongwoon takes off his mask and slides in next to Donghae while Hyukjae timidly sits beside him. Shindong takes his share and eats it quickly but lingers even after his bowl is empty. They don’t talk about the stain on the table.

Jongwoon glances at Donghae, who looks unusually downcast. He touches him on the shoulder silently, reassuring without prompting him to speak. Hyukjae watches them with his bottom lip between his teeth, averting his eyes as soon as Jongwoon turns towards him.

They eat. Kyuhyun finishes first and heats up Ryeowook’s meal so that it doesn’t get cold before he eats it. Then, he commands Hyukjae to stay behind and wash dishes, to which the older Alpha can only comply. Jongwoon had tried to stay with Donghae, but the other man had disappeared with Shindong as soon as he could.

So, he’s here washing dishes next to Hyukjae, who hasn’t spoken since they came back in, seemingly in deep thought. He rubs the younger Alpha’s nape briefly before grabbing a pair of rubber gloves and starting on the first plate.

When Hyukjae finishes on his first bowl, he passes it to Jongwoon, who puts it into the drying rack. Similarly, Jongwoon nudges the other man for a dash of detergent when he’s about to run out, murmuring a small word of gratitude after it’s given to him.

It continues like that with surprising domesticity. Unconsciously, Jongwoon finds himself humming a small tune while scrubbing the pots and pans, a melody that he used to be familiar with.

At the place where the starlight gathers, I’ll be waiting. Close your eyes and fly, I’ll hug you.

Hyukjae pauses beside him, as if he’s listening. Suddenly self conscious, Jongwoon stops, cheeks reddening and gaze lowering to the sink. He avoids looking into the younger Alpha’s eyes, embarrassed.

“Hyung…” Hyukjae’s voice seems to be usually heavy. “Is your… does it hurt when you hum like that?”

“Huh?” Jongwoon blinks. He almost reaches up to touch his neck before remembering the situation. “A little. It’s hard to get a sound out.”

He should’ve noticed that dull pain earlier. But for some reason, he had let himself get too comfortable. Why was that?

“Ah, I see.” Hyukjae starts wiping the dishes again, returning his eyes to the faucet. “I hope Hyung’s throat heals soon.”

Jongwoon swallows. He presses his lips together, looking away as well.

“Yeah.”

“You two look awfully close.”

The both of them jump as Heechul suddenly appears behind them, patting Jongwoon lightly on the shoulder. Hyukjae looks like he’s about to have a heart attack while Jongwoon is just surprised, laughing soon after the shock wears away.

“Hyung, no way! We’re both Alphas!”

He doesn’t notice how Hyukjae seems to falter at that. Heechul narrows his eyes but shrugs.

“It is what it is. Where’s my share?”

“I-It’s in the microwave. Kyu put it in there to keep it warm,” Hyukjae speaks up diffidently. The other Alpha nods at him before heading towards it on the other side of the kitchen. Jongwoon starts to turn back around, but he’s stopped by Hyukjae’s shoulder pressing into his bicep.

“Hyukjae?” He blinks. The younger Alpha just nudges him again, glancing in Heechul’s direction subtly. Jongwoon tilts his head before the realization hits him. “Oh!”

“Thanks, Hyung,” Hyukjae says gratefully. Jongwoon just removes his gloves and pats the other man’s head lightly.

“I’ll leave everything to you!”

He takes off his apron and hangs it on the rack, leaving with a smile. Hyukjae’s lips curl up as well before he turns back towards his work. Behind him, Heechul sits down with the plate of food warm in his hand.

It’s only the two of them now.

 

 

“You wanted to talk to me, right?” Heechul speaks first after about half his meal is finished. Hyukjae stops himself from trembling, placing the last dish into the drying rack. He takes his gloves and apron off, wiping the sweat accumulated on his hands on his pants. After preparing himself, he turns around, leaning back on the sink as casually as possible. Heechul just watches him patiently, chewing occasionally.

Finally, Hyukjae takes a deep breath.

“To be honest, Hyung, after yesterday, I thought you were really cruel,” he says honestly, surprising the older Alpha. Heechul leans forward on his elbows, looking elsewhere. Hyukjae plays with his fingers, continuing, “I really didn’t want to hear something like that… I wanted it to just disappear.”

“Did something change your mind or something?” Heechul asks distantly. Hyukjae thinks for a second before shaking his head.

“Not really. I still don’t want to think about it,” he says.

“Then why are you talking to me right now? Our personalities don’t really match in the first place. We’re too different from each other,” Heechul scoffs.

“That may be true but—” Hyukjae shifts on his feet— “I have a feeling that Hyung has also been… wanting someone to talk to. And maybe we have more in common than you think…”

To say the older Alpha is surprised is an understatement. He leans back in his chair, not quite knowing what to say.

“So… you want us to be friends?”

“N-Not friends! I mean, if you wanted to…” Hyukjae bites his lip. “I mean, we have to get to know each other first, right? Beyond the first impression…”

“You’re saying that my first impression wasn’t the best, right?” he laughs suddenly, surprising the other. Hyukjae rubs the back of his neck.

“I mean—maybe it could have been better?” he tries. When Heechul keeps guffawing, he just buries his head in his hands, face red. “Ah, Hyung! Things like this are so embarrassing.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not the type either. It’s more Lee Donghae’s thing.” The older Alpha kicks open the chair in front of him, gesturing at Hyukjae to sit. “You still hungry? Kyuhyun, that brat, left me too much.”

“I just ate. I got bungeoppang with Jongwoon-hyung earlier too…” Hyukjae touches his stomach, smoothing over the nonexistent bump. Heechul shrugs before coughing almost violently into his hand. The other man looks at him in concern, but he ignores it.

“If you say so. Jongwoon should definitely eat more. I’ll tell Jungsoo when he gets back.”

“Who’s Jungsoo?” Hyukjae asks, confused.

Heechul stiffens. He shoves a bite into his mouth, gesticulating harshly for Hyukjae to sit down. “No one. Forget about it.”

“Alright…” Hyukjae takes a seat slowly, as if he still isn’t sure whether or not he’s allowed to. Heechul chews, looking back towards the plate.

He finishes everything. He’s surprised by it, but he knows that Kyuhyun will be pleased. Hyukjae insists on washing the dishes, hurrying away to dribble some dish soap onto the plate. It’s still awkward.

But it helps Heechul keep his mind off the pain in his gut for a little bit.

 

 

The day goes by too quickly. Shindong and Donghae leave the door closed behind him as they talk in hushed whispers, and Kyuhyun’s chest grows tighter still as he watches that same door. Jongwoon doesn’t know what else to do but wander outside again, and this time, Hyukjae doesn’t accompany him. Dinner is made, though none of them eat too much.

Heechul is busy staring into the distance with the lights off—thinking about his conversation with Hyukjae—when he hears a timid knock on his door. Tasting the air, he jumps to his feet, almost slamming the door open.

In front of him stands Leeteuk, head lowered and shoulders slumped. He collapses into Heechul’s arms.

“Teukie—?”

“Just hold me.” Leeteuk’s voice is hoarse and rough, wracked with despair. His muscled arms reach up to grab at Heechul’s thin ones, bony fingers grasping his sleeves. “Please.”

For a moment, the Alpha is too stunned to move. Then, he snaps out of his daze, supporting the other man until they reach his bed. He feels around his clothes, fretting at Leeteuk’s disheveled state. “You haven’t even changed clothes yet.”

“It’s fine. But shit… I shouldn’t get your bed dirty, right? Sorry I—”

“That’s the least of my worries right now,” Heechul snaps. He drags Leeteuk to his feet again, tugging down his suit and unbuttoning his shirt quickly. “You’re exhausted. Aish, did you not even think? I should’ve known… You’re always tired, so why did you take a trip halfway across this city? What an idiot…”

“Because Heechul wasn’t there to tell me not to…” Leeteuk says exhaustedly, obediently moving his arms out of his sleeves as Heechul pulls it off of him. The Alpha has been ignoring the implications of his own actions with the Omega, but his eyes widen at the other man’s words.

“Really…” he mutters. “I’m right here…”

Leeteuk shifts again, murmuring to himself in a tone too low to hear. Heechul pauses to sit him back down onto the bed.

“Can you take off your pants by yourself? I’ll find some clothes for you to wear.”

“We’ll get weird glances from the others later,” the Omega says. Heechul throws him a pair of sweatpants.

“Who cares? Not like I’ll let them talk shit for too long.”

Leeteuk hums. Heechul turns around as he switches his dress pants for Heechul’s sweats. It hangs off his hips loosely, and he pulls at it. “It doesn’t fit, Chullie-ah.”

“You can just say I’m fat,” Heechul grumbles under his breath, finally turning around and tightening the string around the waistband for me. “Did you drink or something? It’s weird for you to be like this.”

“Just a little bit,” Leeteuk admits. “Jinki-ah didn’t know… that I don’t drink.”

Heechul sighs. He grabs a t-shirt and hastily fits it over the other man’s head, straightening the wrinkles on his muscled chest. The Omega had always been more built than him, having the motivation and health to actually bulk himself up rather than sit in a room all day playing games.

“I’m the Alpha, I’m the one that’s supposed to be ripped…” Heechul frowns at Leeteuk, who just smiles at him while tossing on a simple t-shirt.

“It’s better for your health if you don’t engage in really intensive exercise for now, Heechul-ah. What would you need to be ripped for anyway? To play League of Legends?”

“Hey! Playing League of Legends is hard work!” He crosses his arms, pouting, much to the Omega’s amusement. “And it’s not like I think that you shouldn’t have muscle, it’s just…”

“You feel like you should be more capable?” Leeteuk finishes. Heechul averts his eyes, nodding. The other man just sighs and pats his hair gently. “You help me out a lot already. It’s good enough for me.”

Heechul can only press his lips together. He squeezes the fat on his arms, only able to watch as Leeteuk bids him goodbye and heads for his office again.

But at least right now, he can appreciate how Leeteuk looks in one of his tacky t-shirts.

“Not going to wash your hair?” Heechul brushes the oily locks of brown hair with his fingers. Leeteuk shakes his head.

“If I shower, I’ll be too awake. I’ll have to work,” he says. Heechul nods. He sits on the bed and pulls the both of them down, throwing the blankets over them.

Leeteuk’s body is hot. So is he. The Omega notices, touching his neck.

“Your rut, is it coming?” he asks. Heechul just pulls him closer, closing his eyes.

“Don’t worry about it, Teukie-ah. Just sleep.”

On a normal day, the other man would have resisted and tried to climb back onto his feet. But today, Leeteuk lets him embrace him with his skinny arms. He clutches onto the Alpha like he’ll disappear if he lets go.

He’s asleep before he knows it.

Heechul brushes his bangs out of his forehead and presses a chaste kiss to his skin. It’s improper, an Alpha and Omega being in the same bed like this, but they’ve long since crossed that barrier. They aren’t lovers of course, and they’ve done nothing like that, despite the rumors circulating around them. Despite what he desires deep inside.

Leeteuk is Heechul’s pillar. He wishes he could be the same.

 

 

“It smells a bit…” Jongwoon covers his nose. Hyukjae sniffs the air, noticing it after it’s been pointed out.

“It smells like an Omega…” he says slowly. Without a word, Jongwoon hurries back into his room to grab a mask.

By the time he’s back, Hyukjae already has two plates of food ready in his hands, one smaller than the next. He smiles.

“Let’s eat in my room,” he suggests. Gratefully, Jongwoon follows him, though his eyes linger on Heechul’s room on the way in.

Hyukjae’s eyes follow him.

 

 

Shindong stares at Donghae, still snoring softly. He resists the urge to wake him up and get his Alpha ass out of his bed, opting to get dressed properly instead. Unlike usual, he doesn’t open his laptop. He doesn’t want to.

Last night, they had talked themselves into exhaustion about the future. Donghae’s face had been haggard, his eyes sunken and his jaw poking out of his cheeks. His voice had been hushed, his fingernails dug into his palms.

Shindong hadn’t been much better. Despite his nonchalance, the only thing he could do after the lights went off was stare into the darkness of the ceiling and let his mind run. He could think, yes. He could think of a solution to both of their problems, and maybe he could even think of something to help the motel stay afloat too.

“There should be something I can do,” Donghae murmurs. He’s been silent thus far, his expression stoic. Shindong had expected him to cry, but he doesn’t. Instead, he just clicks through part-time jobs in the area, eyes blank. Then, he finally looks up to the older Alpha, his lips in a thin line. “I need another job.”

Shindong doesn’t know what to tell him. He opens another tab on his laptop, eyebrows knitting together.

“Me too,” he says helplessly.

Donghae shifts again in his sleep, cuddling further into Shindong’s covers. As much as he is annoyed at the younger Alpha for stealing part of his bed, he can’t help but feel sorry for him, sensing his loneliness. He covers him with a blanket, patting his shoulder afterwards.

“Between you and I, we both need to get Omegas,” he muses. Well there must be a reason that Donghae hadn’t gone looking for a partner yet. He could probably get one easily if he tried.

But for Shindong, it’s just a bit of wishful thinking.

 

 

Kyuhyun puts his chopsticks into the sink, rinsing it off briefly before leaving it there. He’ll just make Hyukjae wash it later. It isn’t like the Alpha had anything better to do anyways.

His eyes wander to that door again. He walks towards it, picking up the empty bowl on the side. It’s been a few days. He knows full well that the Alpha had gone out once or twice to clean up things around the kitchen, to tidy up the things that no one else would think to tidy up except maybe the clean freaks duo.

But he’s been avoiding them. It’s Sunday now. A depressive episode has never lasted this long.

Kyuhyun clenches his fist. He sets the dirty dishes into the sink and starts to angrily wash them, gritting his teeth.

This can’t go on. He won’t let it go on.

He won’t let the other lose hope like this.

 

 

Hyukjae stops abruptly as Donghae suddenly steps out of Shindong’s room right in front of him. Two dirty dishes are balanced respectively in his hands, and the other man rakes his eyes over them. Hyukjae’s breath catches in his throat.

Donghae’s face is gaunt. It’s like he’s aged ten years in the span of a day.

“Donghae…?” Hyukjae steps forward, worry shining in his eyes.

The other Alpha just looks at him. Then, he turns away, leaving him alone in the hallway.

Jongwoon emerges from his room soon after, placing a hand on his nape. He relaxes slightly with the comforting touch, but he still bites his bottom lip between his front teeth. The older Alpha asks what’s wrong, but Hyukjae shakes his head, managing a strained smile. They walk away together.

But, his chest still feels unbearably tight.