Title: Dearly Departed
Genre: Dystopian!au (The Walking Dead!au)
Length: ~15,500 words
Side Pairings: slight!Sehun/Wendy
Warnings: gore/violence, references to the walking dead (but no spoilers, don’t worry), character death.
Summary: In the middle of the apocalypse, the end of the world doesn’t begin till Kyungsoo is reunited with Jongin.
A/N: First off, congratulations to KFR! I’ve been following the blog since pretty much the beginning, and to be able to participate in this fest is such an honour! (anything I can do to contribute to the kaisoo fandom tbh). Thank you to my betas (two is always beta than one heheh) for helping me see the light (I owe you my soul). Hope you enjoy, and give KFR lots of love ♡
The moment he had finished gasping soundlessly, the cold truth of once again being left alone washed over him. Trembling slightly, all he could feel was the gut churning guilt of being the lone survivor.
This was a process he was all too familiar with, and one he loathed experiencing every time. He felt the remorse slowly crawl up the skin of his arms, leaving shivers to wrack over his body.
The questions then started, as usual, but with one in particular standing out in solemn repetition.
Why is it always just me?
Do Kyungsoo was by no means a weak man. Despite the short build and youthful features mistaken for inexperience, Kyungsoo was packing toned arms and muscular legs that aided him in fight or flight. The dead didn’t really stand a chance against his powerful swerves, whether he was wielding baseball bats or sharp pocket knives. And the living… well, they had often underestimated his true capabilities, their better judgments clouded by doe eyes and a soft, unassuming voice.
Kyungsoo was a survivor; he was strong.
But behind his knack for survival was his weakness to isolation. Even before all of this, before the world went to fucking shit, Kyungsoo was never one to be alone. He was not necessarily the most popular guy in his high school, but his boyish charm had won him a close knit group of friends and many acquaintances.
All of whom are probably dead.
A laboured sigh escaped his lips as his eyes drooped to a close.
What does it really mean to be strong?
Leaning against the backseat of an abandoned Nissan, Kyungsoo mentally asked himself over and over again. How can he consider himself strong if he can never protect the people around him?
His thoughts blocked out all else, muting the noises coming from outside to distant, dull thuds barely audible against his unresponsiveness.
Huddling his legs closer to his body with one hand, his right aimlessly played out a melody he dimly recalled learning in his early adolescence. He didn’t even remember the name of the tune. Didn’t know if the execution was even perfect. It was just… instinctive. The gentle pressures left behind on the damaged material already ingrained into the muscles of his fingers; each key following the previous reflexively.
Kyungsoo’s reflexes were what had kept him alive. Formerly, it had been fear that drove his senses to fight. Fear for his family (now dead), his friends (now dead) and fear for himself. Witnessing countless losses within his circulating group of survivors – his allies – had however slowly numbed his fear, letting rise to a different emotion. One Kyungsoo would rather die than to feel over and over.
He didn’t even know himself why he kept on living though. Whenever he was left alone to his thoughts, much like the present moment, Kyungsoo had seriously contemplated pulling the trigger on his life. But then, he is stopped. He is pulled back into the land occupied by the living dead for reasons he cannot even fathom himself, but he lives anyway. He kept fighting, even if it was tearing his soul.
A part of him wanted to fight in solitude, even if his endgame was bleak. He was afraid of the damage he would ripple into the lives of other survivors. He hated being held responsible for everyone he had came across. He hated being the only one equipped with the ability to come out of any situation alive, the others ending up dead or missing. Gone from his life, either way.
However, the bigger, suppressed part knows his only desire was companionship. No matter whether it be temporary and unpredictable, Kyungsoo craved at least one other heartbeat beside his.
The living come and they go. Kyungsoo had learned that much in the past… he didn’t even know how much time had passed since it began. He was unconscious to the time that has passed, apprehensive of the future and simply accepting of his present. The obvious constant in Kyungsoo’s life was the imminent threat of death; if he was lucky. Turning, if he wasn’t. The implicit consequence of being a part of this world was the guilt he swallowed down with every breath he inhaled. That was what haunted him the most.
Kyungsoo gazed at the loose strings escaping the car seat in a daze, barely flinching at the knocking and groaning outside the window. His fingers continued dancing on their own, creating a muted version of a song he once knew. Ripped, inhumanly human limbs scratched at the parts of the glass he could see through.
Through the haze in his mind Kyungsoo dazedly watched the reanimated corpse of a familiar young woman groaning and slamming her grimy hands on the window. He had only met her and her husband a mere two days ago before they were swamped. Kyungsoo gritted his teeth at the memory of it; the three of them were enough to take down the dead, but the couple’s lack of experience led Kyungsoo to flee with screams filling the air and flesh being ripped from bones.
The car was covered in dried blood and coats of dust and rubble long before he had locked himself inside, leaving only few spaces of clarity to look through. Kyungsoo’s eyes lifelessly roamed the perimeter of the rear windshield before it paused at the top right corner. A deviation to the dust-laced screen stood out to him; the letters J S S disturbing the grime from outside.
He stared at it a lot longer than he needed to. Someone had stopped to inscribe a note onto a car. Without their reasons for doing so becoming clear, a bolt of optimism roused Kyungsoo up to gather in his surroundings, vision becoming clearer. Though, he wasn’t even sure what it was – someone’s initials, a prayer even – the message gave him a sense of hope. He didn’t know why someone took time to articulately disturb the dust, he didn’t understand the meaning behind it, but somehow, he felt like this could be applied to him. Applied to anyone, really, but he felt a rush of hope taking over the remnants of remorse. Whatever the message meant, someone had survived long enough to put it there, and he was going to live for them. Live so that their message wouldn’t be meaningless.
The sleeping remnants of his determination stirred and he felt himself reach for his bat.
Kyungsoo was struck back into reality by a particularly aggressive shove against the door. Wiping his face with his jacket, Kyungsoo took one last glimpse of the letters, before eyeing the biters. There were only three of them, as far as he could see, but even if there were more, he knew he could take them. The others must’ve got bored, or ceased to sense his presence in a corroded, blood splattered car. He could take them.
He grabbed the bat leaning against his thigh with a newfound sense of conviction. Back to business.
The voices were hushed, cautious whispers directing orders and instructions back and forth. Kyungsoo could tell from the tones of those voices that they were more or less in the same mess as he was. We were so careful…How could you have made such a racket?... How did we end up in a situation like this?
How did he end up in a situation like this?
Kyungsoo was trapped. Trapped and surrounded in a supposedly abandoned warehouse. He gritted his teeth in annoyance. Kyungsoo had broken one of his own rules, that is, to never assume anything, and his own incompetence had him in a situation where he was trapped inside a building with who knows what. Or who knows who, from the sounds of it; while he did hear some groaning, they sounded very much alive.
He took that back, there was definitely muffled, undead groaning coming from outside as well. It was faint, but even from his spot behind aisles and haphazard boxes of canned foods, he could hear the desperate scratches against the walls and the throaty noises coming out of what could only be a hoard of biters.
A whole goddamn hoard. Kyungsoo was so screwed. If he did manage to reach the exit, how would he be able to fight off so many of them? From experience, he could handle ten of them at a given moment, but this... This didn’t sound good to him at all. Not to mention the living he would have to deal with on his way out. He would very much like to spare that confrontation as well. How could he have been so careless as to end up like this?
He had walked aimlessly for what seemed like weeks (and it probably was) after fighting his way out of that car, to the point where he was honestly faint with hunger. Given that his old crossbow was discarded in a previous attempt to run, he had no means of hunting game. Relying on greens and berries can only get him so far, and with his minimal knowledge on toxic plants, living that way was too close to a game of Russian Roulette.
His limbs defeated by exhaustion and his mind ravenously looking out for any sort of food outlet, Kyungsoo stopped by the first storage facility he’d come across, hoping to stay put for a while. And he thought he was in the clear, after driving his bat through a few skulls of course, and things seemed to be relatively quiet enough for him to enjoy satisfying his own rumbling stomach.
That was before a crash from outside followed by gunshots and some very loud yelling alerted every biter in the vicinity to his location.
Never assume anything, a voice in the back of his mind whispered. He should have never assumed his safety under the roof of an obvious attraction to the living in broad daylight. He smacked his fist against his forehead, berating himself for his sloppiness.
He had scrambled up to hide behind the fallen boxes, effectively shielding himself from whoever it was that had stumbled inside his hideout through the same entrance he had used. Now that exit was out of the question; he could almost see the grime being left behind on the walls by the filthy, hungry fingers.
The voices died down, but Kyungsoo knew better than to let his guard down again. There was no way anyone inside could have made an escape already. He couldn’t hear anything else now save for the withered cries that have multiplied in volume. That means there must be more of them outside. Kyungsoo exhaled. While his bat lay on the ground at his side, his knife was gripped in his hand, his legs bent down in anticipation and his ears perked up to register any sounds within the warehouse.
It was too bad his enemy was much lighter on their feet than he could ever have anticipated. It was far too late for Kyungsoo to react as fast as he would have liked. There was a soft crunch right behind him, but before he could fully turn around, an arm gripped his bicep and twisted him backwards so that he was now face to face with a man.
Kyungsoo almost drops his knife.
“You!” the man gasped, recognition flitting across his face moments before a mischievous glint took over. Kyungsoo was quick to wipe that look off of him, thrusting himself forwards and slamming the man against the aisle. The wind was knocked out of him, but Kyungsoo was careful not to hurt him with the knife he set against his throat. Yet.
“D-don’t move,” Kyungsoo internally cursed himself for stuttering, but went on, speaking in the most threatening voice he could muster in his low volume. “I have a knife. I will kill you.”
“Whoa, okay there chief we have a knife wielder.” As if the sarcasm wasn’t evident enough, he had the audacity to raise his hand in mock surrender, complete with an eye roll. He then leaned down, absolute disregard for the blade pushed against his throat, to leave a dangerously seductive whisper against Kyungsoo’s jaw. “It’s great that you like stating the obvious, but you’re not the only one who’s come here armed.”
Kyungsoo cursed himself again as he felt the heavy press of a gun against his stomach. Never fucking assume anything. Kyungsoo felt like a complete fucking idiot. How did this kid manage to one up him? He wouldn’t have even been caught off guard if he wasn’t stupid enough to jump the gun. So to speak.
“Shoot me then.”
Kyungsoo needed to distract him while he thought of a way to get out of this situation, fast. And maybe use the man he was pressed up against as a shield against the biters. Kyungsoo winced at his own plan, he’d have to rethink that one. He’d rather not let anymore people die. Unless this man proved to be more difficult than he already is.
He startled. He hadn’t heard his own name being whispered with such a sense of familiarity weaved into it in such a long time. He felt the gun retreat with the same reflection of wavering confidence in its owner’s face. Kyungsoo hesitated.
He couldn’t just trust him though; he couldn’t let his guard down again just because someone from his past strategically looked at him with puppy eyes. At least, he thought it made for a good strategy. He was starting to doubt himself as the seconds passed.
“Don’t ‘Kyungsoo’ me,” he muttered with a little more aggression.
“Hey, whoa,” he finally began to show genuine panic, but still didn’t lift his gun back up. In the back of his mind, Kyungsoo knew his own threat was an empty one, and he was sure the other had that half-figured out as well. “I’m not going to hurt you, okay? I’m not the enemy here.”
Kyungsoo stared so intensely into his eyes he felt his own prickle with the concentration. He didn’t waver either, staring back as if trying to silently obtain his approval. Kyungsoo relented with a sigh. His hands dropped to his side as he ignores the relieved breath let out by the other. He’s still got a strong handle on his weapon.
“How do you even remember my name?”
“I have a photographic memory, remember?” The man had a boyish grin on his face, his happiness a contradiction to how fucking screwed they were.
He honestly didn't remember too much about Kim Jongin. He remembered a handsome boy, a little taller than him, a lot leaner than him, and almost never attending class. The last he saw of him, he was much, much younger. He had bleached blonde hair echoing every rebellious bone in his body and a smile brighter than a torch in a tunnel.
Now standing before him is a replica of who used to be the dreamiest boy in high school.
He couldn’t accurately determine how long it had been since the start of this entire mess, but judging from Jongin’s appearance it felt like years had passed since he fought off the dead. Jongin’s hair was longer and shaggier, back to a natural dark brown but nonetheless flattering his undeniable good looks. He was older, you could tell from the lines creasing his features, but you didn't need a closer look to see the boyish charm lingering beneath. What hadn’t changed at all is the little twinkle in his eyes. Familiar and warm.
“It’s not like I remember you.” Jongin chuckled at his answer, seeing right through him. He had been startled by the fleeting nostalgia after all.
“Well, I’d never forget a handsome face. Any kind of face really but, you know.” Jongin observed him, almost appraisingly with his eyes running down his frame. “You used to be really skinny.” It made Kyungsoo feel a little flattered at the implied compliment, but still uncomfortable nonetheless. Kyungsoo gave him an incredulous look. “I mean, you were hot then, but you’re… wow.”
“And I see you’re still a pain in the ass.”
“I thought you said you don’t remember me,” Jongin chuckled, shaking his head slightly in amusement. He looked like he was holding back from saying more, lest he gets punched in the nuts.
He didn’t know why, but Kyungsoo felt the need to defend himself, “The world back then didn't require me to stay in shape. I guess smashing brains gave me a little lift.”
Jongin raised an eyebrow, seemingly taken aback that Kyungsoo even answered, let alone sounding a little cocky. He couldn’t help it though, because despite everything – the aching loneliness, the continuous isolation – he was proud of what he’d achieved in this world. He was proud of how far he’d come. And if he’s got the muscles to prove it, why not show the fuck off?
“Didn’t think you’d be the type to brag, Kyungsoo.”
“Survival tip number one,” he leaned in conspiratorially, humouring himself with the way Jongin’s eyes widen, “Never assume anything.”
Jongin smirked knowingly. This seemed to be an annoying habit of his, to smirk at whatever he found entertaining in Kyungsoo’s speech. “Oh but I can see right through your macho façade, Kyungsoo dear. I’m not assuming anything when I say that beneath all that manly man smell you’ve perfumed yourself with, you’re just lost. And alone.”
“I’m not–!” Kyungsoo mentally beat himself up for rising up to the bait. He’d been doing that a lot, owing to his carelessness. He hasn’t had a rational thought in weeks. He blamed it on the lack of food. “I’m not alone.”
“It’s a good thing then that I’m not alone either,” Jongin smiled, too warm and too comfortable for someone he had just met. They were practically still strangers.
Kyungsoo didn’t know how to answer that. All he could hope was to get out of here as soon as possible, so he could go back to finding shelter in his solitude.
He looked around to gather his surroundings once again, trying to erase Jongin’s smile from his mind. The exit he came in through was blocked for sure, and he wasn’t going to chance his way through an entire hoard of biters. He had noticed on his way inside that the other exit, the one from the back, was blocked from the outside. Barrelling his way through that would only inform more biters of where to look for fresh meat. That only left one way out.
“What are the chances that we’d end up in a situation like this together?” Jongin seemed to find amusement in their predicament, but Kyungsoo was too wrapped up in figuring out how to access the roof to even care. It was not like he really knew how to respond to that anyway. Jongin seemed like the type to fill up any silence, while Kyungsoo really just needed to live in it. “It’s almost like it’s… fate or something.’
Kyungsoo could usually handle the quiet, in fact he would graciously invite it, but this was just very awkward. He could hear Jongin’s little puffy breaths, as if he was still recovering from his earlier rush of adrenaline. He could almost smell Jongin, a musky scent fighting its way to the surface underneath the grime and blood scattered across Jongin’s body and clothes like a morbid piece of art. His very presence left goose bumps prickling along his skin, and he couldn’t believe how affected he was by someone he’d just met, and how deprived he’d been of human contact for the past few weeks.
The moment they escape, Kyungsoo had already made up his mind to leave him and his mixed clump of emotions behind.
“Are you just going to keep ignoring me? Really?”
“Will you please shut up, I’m trying to figure out how to get out of the mess you put us in.”
Both Kyungsoo and Jongin looked towards the left, where a boy much younger than the two of them stood with his arms crossed, rifle slung over his shoulder. His features were set in a permanent resting bitch face, his sharp eyebrows and dark eyes only serving to intensify his blank glare.
“Sehun,” Kyungsoo almost felt pinpricks of jealousy at the sound of comfort Jongin exhales as a greeting.
Kyungsoo didn’t know how else to describe this new kid but as a character straight from a cartoon – or a friend he would have conjured up from his imagination in his childhood. He was tall and gangly – a caricature on his own – yet he could see how he’d be a reliable asset to Jongin with his broad shoulders and sturdy legs.
“The coast is all clear, well, inside I mean,” Sehun grinned, stunning Kyungsoo. He didn’t realise this boy’s emotional range could exceed monotony. “Your boy here’s done a badass job of wiping out the roaches you knamsayin’.”
“You’ll get used to how he speaks,” Jongin whispered to him, “he calls himself Meme King Sehun–“
“–that’s trademarked, by the way–“
“But he’s great. A real good shot with that gun of his,” Jongin winked. Kyungsoo felt uncomfortable with how casual he was being. But he knew he needed to remain by this mismatched pair if he wanted to get out of this alive.
“Yeah well anyway, our best bet is through the roof,” Sehun had already retreated back to his bored stare. He was joking around one second and serious the next, and the changes were so sudden and unexpected that Kyungsoo wondered if this boy had a switch that would turn it on and off.
“Kyungsoo already figured that out, right?” He felt annoyed at how easily Jongin seemed to crawl under his skin and finding a way to stay two steps ahead of his own plans before he even formulated them.
“Alright well, we should get going then,” Sehun began leading them towards the back area of the warehouse, unfazed by Kyungsoo’s tense stature, “There’s some stairs up the back leading to the top. I don’t really know how roach-free the roof is though so keep your weapons poised lads.”
Before Kyungsoo’s forehead could even mar with confusion, Jongin butted in, “He calls them roaches. Helps him take the humanity out of it.”
“Thank you, Jongin, I really needed a Meme King Sehun-Dictionary.”
“Hey, you called me Jongin!” Kyungsoo had to turn away from the genuine excitement displayed in his smile. He picked up his bat and slipped his knife back under his belt, giving him something else to focus his attention on.
“Not as exciting as him calling me Meme King Sehun though,” Sehun turned around with a cheeky grin, “suck it bitch.”
“Listen here, you spoiled piece of shit–” Jongin stopped when he noticed Kyungsoo surveying the store properly for the first time. He already knew what Kyungsoo might be looking for.
“We have most of the edibles and the weapons back at home,” Jongin shrugged, “You’re welcome to look for anything useful but I really doubt you would find anything. We basically own this block of buildings; we’ve pretty much raided everything.”
Home. He has a home.
“Then how come you’re back here?”
Jongin smiled. “We needed to refuel.”
Kyungsoo frowned as Sehun nodded from in front of them, coming to a stop in front of a door. Beside it, laid four large bottles of gasoline, some rope and a plastic bag full of batteries. “For my Nintendo DS,” Sehun explained.
Sehun hauled two of the bottles, instructing Kyungsoo to do the same, while Jongin wrapped the bag and rope around his shoulders. Silently, Jongin was instructed to lead the trio up the stairs, to “take one for the team,” and cover for them. They began their ascension, the collective gnawing and grumbling becoming more faint as they went up higher. Kyungsoo made sure to barricade the door behind him, just in case.
“When we got here, there were a few biters lurking behind some of the buildings. Wendy was jumped and the next thing you know she toppled a vehicle over and created a huge ruckus,” Jongin stated, as if Kyungsoo had asked.
“We’re not saying blame Wendy but… blame Wendy.”
“We got separated from the others. They tried to create a diversion from the other side so that we’d have a chance to sneak in here. They’d probably have made it back to the car by now,” he exchanged a look with Sehun, “at least, I hope they have.”
“You have a car?” So much for feigning disinterest.
But… a car.
“We’ve got three fam,” Sehun grinned, “and in this world, I don’t even need a license to drive. Or a license to kill.”
“Stop quoting movies, white boy,” Jongin stood at the top of the stairs, ready to open it up. He looked directly at Kyungsoo this time. Kyungsoo shuddered at the authority in Jongin’s eyes. “Stay alert and stand behind me. If there’s more than one, drop the bottles and back me up.”
Sehun made a clicking noise in affirmation, and if his hands weren’t full, Kyungsoo imagined him to be pointing finger guns at Jongin. And this was the boy he was currently trusting his life with.
Jongin leaned his head against the door, his hand clutching the handle. He knocked, once, twice. He softly gave a countdown in warning, and Kyungsoo felt the air thicken and freeze around them. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, and the muscles of his thighs tensed up.
Jongin opened the door and stepped out into the light.
Despite agreeing to let Jongin take the lead, Kyungsoo rushed in front of him and dropped his items, retrieving his bat from Jongin and gripping it tightly. The noises from before intensified tenfold now that they were out in the open, but he couldn’t tell if it was just the biters from below them, or if there were any up on the roof with them.
“Kyungsoo, behind you!”
Kyungsoo was quick to step forward and turn around to face the staggering decomposed body of a man, in a once bright blue work uniform, making its way towards him with one arm stretched out. The stench it emitted almost caused Kyungsoo to black out, but he paid it no heed, instead aiming his weapon straight for the hollowed, blackened face.
He took a deep breath, calming his racing heart before swinging his bat straight at the biter’s skull. Blood and filth splattered across his own face as the body fell to the ground, the resounding thwack leaving an air of satisfaction behind. He slammed his bat against the head two more times before he was really assured that the squashed up mess of brains couldn’t get back up and bite him.
Behind him, Sehun had pierced two biters with the tip of his rifle effortlessly, while Jongin had kept his eyes on Kyungsoo the entire time.
“That was pretty awesome,” he smiled, not giving Kyungsoo a chance to catch his breath. “We should have just let you taken the lead.”
“Why don’t you ever compliment me man?” Sehun grumbled with his entire body folded in faux exhaustion. He looked up at Kyungsoo. “No homo.”
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes, a small smile playing on his lips. This didn’t go unnoticed by Jongin, of course it didn’t, but he also chose to not comment on it. Instead, he began updating the two of the situation on the ground.
“So yeah, we’re sort of fucked.”
The moment those words were out of his mouth, there was a loud explosion on their right. The three of them fall to the ground as the earth trembled beneath them, bringing their arms over their heads to protect them from the stray rubble shooting their way. Kyungsoo lifted his head to see a cloud of smoke already permeating the air above the adjacent building.
“Holy shit! Go Wendy!”
Sehun and Jongin laughed victoriously, exchanging high fives like children. Kyungsoo leaned over the railing to see the biters sway towards the burning building, some disappearing right into the fire. He exhaled in a mixture of relief and disbelief.
“Ah, Wendy. The queen of ex machina.” Sehun sung out gleefully, tying the rope the ledge on the opposite side of the fire, and dropping it down. “As expected of Wendy. When will your faves?”
“Weren’t you just shitting on Wendy five minutes ago?”
“Look Jongin, haters come around,” he shrugged looking over at the ground below him. Kyungsoo couldn’t help the laugh that had escaped him. “Yo, our girl’s over there, she’s got the cars with her. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!”
Jongin carefully tied two of the bottles around his waist, with the other two around Kyungsoo’s waist. Kyungsoo stopped breathing, not just because of the smoke closing in on them, but also because of Jongin’s face being so close to his. He watched Jongin’s lashes flutter and his nose scrunching up, thinking that it was the most beautiful face of concentration he had ever seen.
Jongin looked up at his eyes, and Kyungsoo couldn’t bring it in himself to look away. This was completely different to how he stared the other down back in the warehouse. Jongin frowned a little, reaching up to gently wipe the blood scattered on Kyungsoo’s face.
Kyungsoo felt the heaviness of the bottles clinging to his body multiply with the heaviness he felt in his chest. He couldn’t get attached to more people. He needed to get away as soon as they were out of the danger zone.
He knew that by tonight, this place will be swarmed by biters, and by tomorrow there might not be a warehouse to raid. The whole neighbourhood might burn down. But he was okay with that, so long as it took some of the undead with it.
They scrambled down the rope hastily, Sehun keeping guard at the foot of it. Hidden clumsily behind a clump of shrubbery are two vehicles, and beside it, two people. They sprinted towards it, surprisingly not attracting any biters on the way.
Kyungsoo was stunned when Sehun dropped a quick kiss on a girl’s lips (Wendy he guesses), before scrambling into the first car with her. Jongin only offered a cryptic smile. And Kyungsoo reprimanded himself for even bothering. He shouldn’t even be concerned by these people in the first place, let alone if they have their own loved ones.
Another man, much older than all of them in appearance, popped silently into the driver’s seat of Sehun and Wendy’s vehicle before nodding to Jongin and starting the engine.
“Come on,” Jongin grabbed his arm like he did in the warehouse, though with a lot less force, “You and I have a lot of catching up to do.”
They hurriedly untied the bottles and put them in the back before climbing in the front. Kyungsoo looked at the driver’s seat enviously but didn’t speak up. Jongin smiled at him sheepishly as if to say, “Next time.”
Jongin started to follow behind the other car at a steady pace. Before he even realised, Kyungsoo had dozed off into the most peaceful sleep he’d had in months.
“You might not be as skinny as you used to be, but you still look like you haven’t eaten in weeks.” Kyungsoo’s stomach responded on his behalf, grumbling in affirmation and betraying him. Jongin smirked.
For the past half hour that he had been awake (Kyungsoo had learned to tell the time from the setting sun), Jongin had been trying to convince him to stay with his group. Wordlessly, he had figured out that Kyungsoo was in fact travelling alone, and he was spending the remaining energy that wasn’t focused on driving, on finding ways to get Kyungsoo to agree.
Jongin and his group were occupying an old school, he had stated. Kyungsoo couldn’t help but chuckle as Jongin spoke of the “state of the art security system” guarding them, the abundance of “recreational facilities” available, and his personal favourite, “the bus”.
Kyungsoo had looked at him questioningly.
“You’ll see what I mean,” Jongin said mischievously, fingers casually drumming against the wheel. “It’s my favourite spot in the entire school.”
Kyungsoo nods. It was still awkward for him to carry a conversation with Jongin. It wasn’t like they were friends in high school.
“But we did speak a few times,” Jongin muttered, sounding a little disappointed with Kyungsoo’s apathy. “You let me borrow your physics notes once. They were shit by the way.” Jongin outright laughed at Kyungsoo’s affronted look.
“Why did you borrow them if you didn’t even need them?”
“This is going to sound silly,” he laughed, one hand coming up to rub the back of his neck, “I may have admired you from afar back in the day.”
Kyungsoo frowned, “Like what? A crush? I find that really hard to believe.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jongin sighed, “I never really acted on it. Otherwise you would have been totally charmed by me, and we’d have lived through the apocalypse as the ultimate power couple.”
“Yeah, no,” Kyungsoo scoffed, amused nonetheless. “I find that hard to believe as well.”
Jongin simply smiled. Kyungsoo then continued, “And you said we’ve spoken a few times and yet, you only named one. You couldn’t have liked me from just one interaction. You never even came to class.”
“Ah, so senpai did notice me,” Kyungsoo cringed but otherwise, didn’t interrupt. “I told you, I have a photographic memory. I didn’t really need to study to pass tests. They even bumped me up a year.”
“Who’s bragging now,” Kyungsoo muttered disdainfully. Jongin momentarily lifted his hands off the wheel in a shrugging motion.
“Hey, you asked. But anyway, I was also your Secret Santa in 2013.”
“But, I didn’t get any presents from my Secret Santa in 2013.”
“Yeah… My bad, sorry.”
Kyungsoo shook his head in disbelief. He was once again confronted with a rush of fondness blooming in his chest. He couldn’t distinguish it from the pain he felt of possibly losing more people, which was contradictory to his yearning to be with people he could call his family. He felt like he had to jump out of the moving vehicle and get as far away as he can.
He knew Jongin was good. Sehun was good. Wendy was good. He refused to be a part of something like that again, only for it to come crashing down.
He promised himself that he’ll leave the moment he’s had his stomach filled and his head rested. He’ll leave the moment the sun rises.
Kyungsoo was stirred from his reverie by a gentle hand on his shoulder, a hand that left his skin scorching underneath his jacket. He ignored it in favour of looking forward towards the structure looming up in the distance in front of them.
The school was undoubtedly a large one, encircling the grounds in its vicinity. The surrounding gates encasing the perimeter were layered with sheets of steel, and the sheets themselves covered in biter-muck, in what he assumed was a tactic to ensure they remain ‘invisible’ to any biters. The steel sheets were held up by large wooden pegs. Kyungsoo had no idea how anyone could have managed to erect that many outside while being exposed to biters.
Jongin drove around him around the school so he could show Kyungsoo what he meant earlier about the safety of the building, and to give him a feel of the surrounding area. Another tactic, Kyungsoo realised, to get him to stay.
As he drove them around, Kyungsoo can finally see what Jongin said regarding their assured security when entering the school.
There were two main entrances, as well as a side entrance. Jongin pointed out that the side entrance was the one they’d be using, as the main entrances were lures for biters and other undesirables. The path they were on, was relatively biter-free.
Kyungsoo couldn't take it anymore, the questions were itching his throat. “How did you cover up all the fences? And keep them standing?”
Jongin smiled like he was acknowledging Kyungsoo’s understanding of the difficulty of such a task. Kyungsoo reluctantly admitted that it was one part cocky, one part attractive, and entirely annoying. “We had some help.”
“There’s a prison nearby,” he nodded vaguely in a direction. Kyungsoo looked passed the other’s shoulders, to the trees rapidly blurring by, as if he could somehow picture a prison behind the branches. “It’s occupied by another group of people. They’re fucking insane if you ask me. But...they agreed to help us out.”
They drove by in silence till they were back on the path again behind the other car.
“We made a makeshift watchtower, up on one of the tallest floors of the school,” Jongin leaned forward to look up, Kyungsoo mirroring his actions. “When we return from errands, we’ll light a flare so the person manning the watchtower knows we’re close. What they then do is, if they notice any biters near our entrance, they’ll shoot a firework away from it – we have a few stacks of hay we refill every once in a while near the front and back – so that any biters, if there are any, would be attracted to that instead.”
He spotted the car in front of theirs rolling up their sunroof and a hand reaching out with a red flare. A few tense seconds passed by before a crack cut through the quiet air. The hand later discarded the dying flare and the sunroof rolled back up.
This whole plan… sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Kyungsoo didn’t say anything but he had serious doubts this plan was as fool-proof as Jongin seemed to think it was. Jongin sensed his discomfort. “I know what you’re thinking, and we’re super careful okay? We’ve carved out paths for biters to follow so they don’t stumble across this one, and even if they do, it’s always a small number of them. Besides, we’ve been doing this forever. T.C. will tell you it’s been close to 13 months.”
“T.C.?” Kyungsoo still had his doubts.
“The guy driving the other car. You’ll get introduced to him and the rest later,” he looked over at him. “Don’t worry your manly man head over it Kyungsoo, we’re safe.”
Kyungsoo’s uneasiness may had minimised, but he still had a lot of questions buzzing in his head. The cars came close to the side entrance, where the gate was open and awaiting their entrance.
But what drew his attention was a more gruesome sight. Kyungsoo gasped. Attached to two of the pegs near the entrance, were two mutilated biters, arms and jaws amputated. Blood and rotten bits of flesh dangled loosely from where their appendages had been cut. They stood swaying pathetically, stumbling to get to the cars but physically being unable to reach for it. Kyungsoo felt disgusted, but also an overwhelming gust of pity for the biters, which was strange for him.
“I don’t like it either, but it does the job,” Jongin gritted his teeth in distaste. “They turn off other biters from sticking around. We ripped the idea off the prison gang. Told you they were fucking insane.”
The gates shut behind them as they entered the vast expanse of the school yard. It was like… a completely different world. Kyungsoo’s jaw dropped as he caught sight of the school building, a duplicate of his own high school, standing tall against the backdrop of a neatly trimmed garden and a working water fountain. He could see the group’s watchtower, currently abandoned, standing proudly amidst the shorter structures. Kyungsoo was honestly amazed. While for the most part, the building was perfectly maintained, vines still creeping up its sides like poisonous green tendrils. If it weren’t for the steel fences encasing the school, he would have thought everything was back to how it used to be.
Not far off, he could see a small cloud of smoke behind what he figured was the back entrance. The faint sounds of biters scrambling for purchase against the metal fences could be heard, even from where he stood. Kyungsoo eyed the entrance wearily.
“Isn’t it funny how we meet in school again,” Jongin said quietly, knowingly. He parked the car next to two others, one of which Kyungsoo had already seen. Kyungsoo rolled his eyes, hopping out of the car and missing the, “I’m telling you, it’s fate.”
Not far off, Kyungsoo noticed a yellow school bus, the school bus Jongin presumably found solace in. It didn't look like anything special, in fact it was covered in more moss and vines than the building itself. But it wasn’t exactly like he was looking to find out why Jongin was so attached to it. Or so he told himself.
The school didn’t seem too extraordinary, but bathed in the warm rays of the setting sun, it looked enchanting.
Jongin stood next to him, nudging him on the side. Kyungsoo hated how he acted like they were the closest of friends, but he let him get away with it. “Sehun and the rest are already inside. Come on, let me give you the royal tour.”
“And this, will be your room, should you choose to accept.”
“Will you be self-destructing in five seconds?”
Jongin laughed, “Ah! So he has a sense of humour!”
“I didn’t live under a rock Jongin; I did have DVDs.”
Sehun passed by them, distracted by his Nintendo. “DVDs… what a loser. Ever heard of Netflix?”
They both ignored him as they stared at what used to be a classroom. The desks were pushed to a corner to make space for the mattresses laid out on the ground. It was dimly lit, the room illuminated by a single candle, given that electricity was a concept of the past. The shadows casted by the light clung eerily to the surface, inviting Kyungsoo to clamber into the darkness. Kyungsoo shivered, trying to ignore the dried stains of blood against the blackboard, the wall, the floor.
“You don’t have to decide now,” Jongin lifted a hand, but brought it back to his side again, “But just know that at least here, you’ll be safe.”
Kyungsoo had a million thoughts swimming through his head. The thought of staying here, with people to take care of and look out for him, with actual food on a plate, with a pillow for his head. It was… tempting, to say the least. He wouldn’t have to hunt, he wouldn’t have to lose sleep over every slight sound he hears in the dark, and he knew there was a high chance that he wouldn’t lose anymore people from Jongin’s group if they stayed put.
But Kyungsoo remembers the faces of everyone he has ever lost over the past… God knows how long. He remembers being with group after group, till it felt like he was rotating with different people until they’d end up dying or turning and he’d end up alone.
“Think about it over dinner,” Jongin smiled, small and soft, like he wanted to shoulder Kyungsoo’s burden with him. Kyungsoo’s heart fluttered.
It’s been a day Kyungsoo, get a fucking grip.
How did Jongin go from being the potential enemy he nearly stabbed in the throat, to this?
Kyungsoo shook the thought out of his head.
He was given the chance to shower first before he could meet the rest of the group. Jongin had handed him some of his own spare clothes, the smell of Jongin on them already dangerously familiar. Nevertheless, he graciously accepted.
The spray of water was ice cold against his burning skin, and if this was before he knew there were corpses waiting outside to eat him, he would have leaped away. But this was now, and he hasn’t had a proper shower since the beginning of the end so he couldn’t care less.
The droplets crawled along his skin, rolling down his limbs and slowly expelling the dirt that had been clinging onto him since the start. He scratched and scraped at every part of his body he could reach, trying to get as much filth off of him as he could.
And they had soap.
Suddenly, he remembered what it was like to be normal again, with every glide of the bar against his arms and his legs and the ridges of his torso, he felt like he was rediscovering something that he had lost. Only when he looked down at the water swirling down the drain, did he realise just how squalid he had been all this time.
But now, he felt clean. And fresh. And like a brand new person.
And he smelled like coconuts.
Jongin was waiting outside his ‘room’, beaming appreciatively as if he too was seeing Kyungsoo for the first time.
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