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Outbreak

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Soobin was screaming again.

He rolls his head back, curls his hands into tiny fists and brings them crashing down onto his desk. The other children look at you, their eyes wide with panic as his plaintive wailing reaches a fever pitch.

You close your eyes and exhale sharply through your nose. Whilst you can’t deny the eight-year-old has incredible range, you could do without the pitch-perfect recreation of your morning alarm.

To say you were wildly unprepared for the classroom was a gross understatement. Being a teacher had never been something you’d dreamt of considering - happy to coast along in your cushy publishing job, spending comfortable weekends eating brunch and renovating the small semi you’d co-purchased in a leafy London suburb. Then you’d found your fiancé in bed with your best friend, kick-starting a spate of rapid decision-making that had passed so quickly you could only comprehend the change in numerical terms. Sold one house. Quit one job. Deleted two phone numbers. Washed your hair for the first time in three weeks to make yourself presentable enough to ace one interview. Whittled your entire life into two suitcases. Booked one plane ticket. Landed in Seoul airport and missed two trains to Daegu before arriving in one tiny, run-down apartment a mere fifteen minutes from the school where you would work. All of this in the shortest - yet somehow, also the longest - six months you’d ever experienced in your life. Everything added up very neatly. But you still hadn’t come to terms with the events behind the numbers.

It wasn’t the children or the work that scared you the most, though.

You heard your co-teacher before you saw him - a hiss of breath through thinly-pursed lips that you were regrettably all-too-familiar with. The legs of his chair screeched across the polished floor as he unfolded himself from his seat and rapidly walked to your desk.

Despite yourself, you sneak a glance. He’s preternaturally handsome: slim, toned and athletic, with fine-boned, delicate features and a jaw so sharp it could cut glass. His jet-black hair falls prettily about his face, framing dark eyes that scan the classroom keenly. At his expression, the children immediately fall silent. You can’t blame them. One sharp look from him and you were putty in his hands. They respected him in a way you could only dream of, and he was so obviously the one in charge that it was frankly laughable that he was billed as your ‘assistant’.

“They keep crying,” he said, tapping his finger twice on the desk. “Children shouldn’t cry at school.”

You had no doubts that Jung Hoseok thought you were an absolutely terrible teacher. Could you blame him? You’d hate sharing a classroom with you too. The children wailed and cried every time you held a lesson. Made nervous by your lack of composure and over-explanation, your quiet voice failed to command their attention and he resented telling you to speak up.

After a month of your lesson plans, he’d dropped an entire semester’s worth of curriculum on your desk without a word. The implication was clear. They were created by the teacher you’d replaced - Susanne. You knew precisely three things about her. One: she was the sister-in-law of your cousin. Two: despite never having met her in person, all her Facebook profile pictures (or at least the ones you could see - you weren’t connected) showed her looking unreasonably beautiful and surrounded by friends. Three: you absolutely hated her. You hated her perfect lesson plans in elegant, looping cursive. You hated her habit of double-underlining titles and using cute, color-coded stickers. Most of all, though, you hated that she clearly was a much better teacher than you could ever dream of being - and that Hoseok had measured your performance against hers and found it wanting.

You shrink backward as he sweeps past you to the front of the classroom, his body brushing against your side in the cramped space. Soobin stops crying in an instant, and his large eyes widen almost comically. His lower lip wobbles and he whimpers at Hoseok’s stony expression. You don’t blame him. You have something in common, after all. Your co-teacher intimidates the shit out of you, too.

The little boy stammers something in Korean, and you’re quietly thankful that your linguistic ability isn’t as bad as your teaching. Whilst not being fluent, you’d thrown yourself into your studies once your placement had been confirmed, and had been pleasantly surprised on how much you’d picked up. Heartbreak was an excellent study aid.

Hoseok clears his throat. “English.”

Soobin nods and shuffles his feet. “Bathroom. Please?”

Hoseok turns towards you and points to the door. Wilting under his glare, you make an effort to smile as warmly as you can manage. Soobin ducks under your arm and gives you a cute grin. You watch him cutely waddle off in the direction of the boy’s washroom. If he wasn’t so damned noisy, you muse, he’d easily be your favorite pupil.

Hoseok breaks your reverie, reaching over you and curling his hand around your shoulder. He clicks the door firmly shut and steers you back in the direction of the desk, hand running softly down your side. You shiver. Despite yourself, you can’t help but feel hyper-aware of the close contact. The hairs on your neck prickle uncomfortably, and you hope he didn’t notice your reaction. You know he doesn’t mean anything by it, but you can’t help but notice how handsy he is. Why does he always sit behind you, anyway? It makes your back feel hot and clammy to think of him back there, like a wild animal waiting to pounce. Everything he does makes you feel nervous. Maybe that was the point.

The children are whispering to one another, concentration totally blown. They’d never learn anything if you kept getting distracted by your co-teacher. Susanne wouldn’t have these issues. You sigh and place your finger to your lips, arching your eyebrow with your most fearsome look. The class breaks into giggles - until Hoseok loudly clears his throat, startling you enough that you jump with fear. Feeling ruffled, you flop into your seat and press ‘play’. The television crackles into life. You’ll never be her biggest fan, but you quietly thank Susanne, patron saint of all things teaching, that today’s class was mostly reliant on video clips.

The chatter from the television drones on and you allow your thoughts to drift. Flexing your hands, you breathe deeply, imagining wisps of smoke billowing from your fingertips, taking all your worry and insecurity with it. At times like this, when you felt like you might snap in two your routine was everything. Trusting in your routine was the only thing you could do to keep going.

In the month before your contract began, you’d flown over early in an attempt to reset from the chaos of your personal life. The initial jet-lag had been replaced by all-consuming, jittery anxiety that you couldn’t shake. Resolving to shave down your pain into a fine point, you’d thrown yourself into a punishing fitness routine to take your mind off everything. Waking up at 5 am had felt severe, yet you quickly found exhaustion was preferable to the crushing pain of heartache. The newly-single, slimmed-down version of you grew to love the masochism, finding strength in a discipline you didn’t know you had. Sleeping in your running gear meant getting outside was just that little bit easier, and the early morning air was still cool enough that an hour’s jog still felt enjoyable. Besides, getting up early had its advantages…

You’d spotted the coffee shop on your second week of becoming the new you, conveniently located midway between your apartment and your school. The bright blue sign acted as your chequered flag, and you considered it a victory if you made it all the way there without stopping. One day, after a particularly taxing run, you’d collapsed onto the grass, unable to make it any further. The sweat had tumbled down your neck in the hazy morning sun, and you gasped rattling lungfuls of air whilst the muscles in your leg had started to twitch.

Your view was suddenly obscured. «Are you ok?»

A man wearing an apron emblazoned with a blue logo was hovering over your face, eyebrow cocked, his small mouth a line of solemn concern. You had to raise your hand over your eyes to see him properly. He had a sweet, round face and impassive eyes; you felt him scan your figure as he leaned forward and gave you his hand.

He spoke his native language slowly, so you could understand. «Get up. Do you need water?»

You shook your head, but allowed him to lead you into the building anyway. He had large hands and a firm grip.

His coffee shop was spartan but chic, with utilitarian concrete walls and exposed plumbing contrasted against the bright blue trim of the coffee machine. Dithering at the entrance, you watched whilst he ran the tap, his long fingers drumming on the sink. Catching your eye for a moment, he indicated towards a bar stool and set down the water. He’d put ice and a slice of lemon in it, which you thought was rather sweet. Hoping he might strike up a conversation, you stayed much longer than necessary - but he just nodded at you once you’d finished drinking and went back to work. By the time customers started to appear, it was time for you to leave. You didn’t even have a chance to thank him.

The next morning you found that waking up had been a little easier than usual. Styling your hair into a flattering plait rather than scraping it back, you’d set out on your route with a bounce to your step. Rounding the corner with increasing speed, the voice in your headphones had congratulated you on a personal best. Already flushed with exertion, you remembered the way he had grasped your hand in his and your cheeks burned. Would he talk to you today, instead? Was he just shy? Did you dare to be bold and ask for his number? The thought had made you feel guilty - although you didn’t need to be. You could talk to whomever you wanted, now. The thought sent adrenaline coursing through your body and sped you towards the home stretch.

By the time you’d gotten to the coffee shop, however, you had your answer. He had set out a glass of water on a little table outside. A clatter from the direction of the store pulls your attention - its owner is hauling a table outside, presumably for some outside seating as the weather gets warmer. For a moment you consider helping him - it looks heavy - before the glint of the water catches your eye once more. Why would he leave it here, of all places? Your heart began to sink. He’d probably seen you every morning, struggling to a halt just outside his store, red and pathetic and out of breath. The water was here because he felt sorry for you; pitied you, even. He certainly didn’t want to talk.

You felt a surge of disappointment, then shame. This wasn’t a meet-cute. The whole point of coming out here was to get away from these sorts of feelings, boxing them deep, deep down where they could no longer hurt you. You weren’t here to chase after another man. There was no point. They all lied to you in the end.

You’d grabbed the glass of water so harshly it slopped onto your hand, chugging it down in one and tossing it in the trash as you jogged the rest of the way home.

After that day, you’d tried to run fast enough that you’d beat him opening up. In three months, however, you’d never managed it. The glass of water was always waiting for you, no matter how quickly you’d run. At first, you resented seeing it there, but over time you learned to appreciate it, in a sadistic way. It served as good motivation - a reminder of how far you still had to go. One day, you’d be strong enough to run right past it and all the way home. One day, you wouldn’t need it. And in the meantime, you can’t say you didn’t appreciate watching the handsome owner set out his outdoor furniture every morning. You weren’t here to chase men, but you weren’t a monk, either.

The students worked diligently, pens scratching busily as the tick of the clock echoed around the room. You wondered how many of them, like you, were stuck in their own head, counting down the seconds to freedom. Hoseok shifted in his seat behind you. Was he as bored as you were? Was everyone here held ransom to your futility?

You thought of your husband. Ex-husband, now. He’d figured it out your uselessness way before you had. For all the time you’d been together, you’d worried too much, thought too hard and when it came down to it, couldn’t make the simplest of decisions - even when it came to your wedding. Which of your friends should be your maid of honor, and which of them would you piss off if they were not chosen. What flower arrangements would match the color scheme without looking tacky. Whether or not your mother deserved an invite. Paralyzed by fear, your prevarication over every facet of your life must have been exhausting for him to endure. No wonder he’d found someone else. When you’d discovered his infidelity you’d been utterly devastated, but the pain had been accompanied by a surprising sense of relief. Expedited by the wedding, the muddle of things playing on your mind had mounted and mounted until they felt truly impossible - a grand monument to your ineffectuality. With his betrayal, all of it had evaporated. The path ahead was crystal clear: escape and survive - at any cost.

But now, when you were as far away as you could possibly get, the fog of anxiety had started to cloud your vision once more. More choices lay ahead. This time, however, you had to make them alone. No wonder Hoseok saw right through you. You were as transparent and breakable as glass.

You started, roused from your reverie by a gentle brush on your shoulder. You knew it had to be Hoseok from the direction it came, but the way he had done it so carefully was surprising. It didn’t feel how you imagined he would touch you. How you would imagine he’d touch you was a train of thought that went places you weren’t expecting, and you didn’t miss his slightly quizzical look as you turned towards him, cheeks blazing.

“Soobin has been gone for a long time,“ he said, indicating the clock; “shall I go and bring him back?”

You were useless, useless teacher. You hadn’t even paid attention to the time that he’d left. Hoseok looks at you with a neutral expression that seems somewhat forced, placidly waiting for an answer. He was probably so used to your ineptitude that nothing surprised him any more. Steeling yourself, you take a deep breath.

“I’ll go fetch him. You watch the class.”

Hoseok raises his eyebrows but nods mutely, standing up to let you pass. Your hip brushes awkwardly against his thigh as you get up to leave, and you curse your general lack of balance as you hurry towards the boys bathroom. The fact that he was covering for your general uselessness on a daily basis was bad enough, but fawning over him would make you the very worst type of pathetic divorcée.

A little out of breath, you knock quietly on the door to the men’s bathroom.

“Soobin? Soobin! Are you there?”

You place your ear to the door, and can just make out a low whine in response. At least he wasn’t crying. You hope like hell he hadn’t made a mess of himself. Poor kid. He had to put up with you as a teacher. The least you could do is help him out.

You try again, this time in shaky Korean. «Soobin? It’s teacher Y/N. I’m going to come in now, OK?»

There’s no answer. Tentatively, you swing the door inwards.

The floor is pooled impossibly red, running in rivulets around the square, white tiles and spilling into the drain with a faint gurgle. Blood. It was blood. So much blood. A body - a teacher, you realize with a dizzy thump in your stomach - lies sprawled on the floor, staff lanyard clutched unnaturally tight in her prone hand. The window at the end of the long corridor is broken, as if some large animal had sprung through it. And underneath is Soobin, tiny and huddled over, whining strangely with his breath coming in puffy, erratic gasps.

Your fingers tingle as you reflexively grip the door handle. An uncomfortable white heat shoots upward, electric, through your body and to your throat as you draw in a shaky breath. At this, both Soobin and the teacher on the floor snap their heads in your direction. Blood bubbles through Soobin’s gritted teeth. The teacher snarls.

Nothing makes sense anymore. You whirl around and run, the bathroom door banging behind you and a skittering noise following as they leap from the floor in pursuit. The hot, white feeling centers in your temple, foggy and heavy, sending adrenaline coursing through your limbs. Hurtling through the corridor as fast as you can, they follow close behind, jaws snapping.

You crash into the classroom with a yelp and Hoseok leaps from his chair in horror. Then the world spins as a heavy weight bears you down, down, hurtling towards the floor with a smack. The female teacher screeches, huffing rotten breath into your ear, her hair sticking to your face in wet, sticky strands. Screaming, you flail your arms and scratch at the floor tiles to pull yourself loose. She hisses, opening her mouth so you can feel her teeth and wet tongue on your neck. You are certain that you are going to die.

The weight suddenly lifts. You’re free. You scramble under the desk, and turn to see Hoseok push the teacher up and out of the classroom with force. Everyone is screaming. From where you’re crouched, you see desks start to topple and children fall upon one another. Soobin is at the top of the tangled pile, and you watch, transfixed, as he sinks his teeth into the plump arm of a little girl. He pulls back with a flourish and the pink, torn flesh in his mouth showers blood across the handmade posters in the back of the room. She falls to the floor, limp and lifeless. What was her name? She sat near the front and she had a Hello Kitty pencil case. You can’t remember her name.

Then you were up. Someone - Hoseok - grabs your arm and yanks you towards the door. The girl’s head jerks upwards. She meets your eyes, bloodshot and yellow, and her mouth lolls open with a shriek as she lurches towards you.

You’re outside the classroom now, running down the corridor, your arm outstretched as Hoseok pulls you behind him. The teacher is chasing you. The children are chasing you. As you run, small, bloody faces appear at the classroom windows either side of you, pawing at the glass and howling. You wonder if this is what hell sounds like.

Hoseok forces you into the Teacher’s Room at the end of the corridor and holds it shut, leaning his entire body against it.

“Help me!” he roars, “Quickly!”

The door shakes and rattles violently on its hinges. Something is throwing itself against it from the other side. The bookshelf next to you looks heavy and like it might block the door, so you push it forward with all your strength. Elementary-grade textbooks tumble to the floor as the rattling gets louder - so loud that the door might fly from its hinges at any moment. Hoseok spins around, so his back flush against the door. He motions with his hands. To force the lock shut, he’s rolled his shoulder under the door handle, and he winces in pain as it digs into his collarbone.

Your hands won’t stop shaking as you pivot the shelf for him to catch. It falls, but you quickly realize you’ve misjudged the distance. Eyes widening, Hoseok lurches forward to grab it - but a hand snakes its way through the gap in the door, gripping his shirt so tightly the fabric pulls around his neck. He screams - a shrill, unnaturally high sound that curdles your blood. Everything slows down. If Hoseok dies, you’re next. You can’t let it get him, because then you’re going to die too. You don’t know how to stop it.

There’s a fireman’s axe to your right behind a thick layer of plexiglass. He sees it too, and he’s nodding frantically, his screams muted as the hand tightens its grip. As if moving through treacle, you bring your fist towards the alarm and time seems to slow down until you smash the glass. A piercing wail echoes around the hallways, and you dimly register that it must be the fire alarm. You’ve never heard it before.

Running to the door, Hoseok nimbly leaps out of the way as you swing the axe down in a trance - once, twice, three times. There’s a sickening crack, then a limb bounces to the floor and rolls out of view, covering Hoseok in blood. The thrumming in your ears lifts and you’re suddenly aware of a crescendo of noise. The alarm is just so loud, and you have no idea what to do next. So you stand in place, hands hanging limp at your side.

Hoseok turns the lock on the door and falls against it, panting heavily. You stare at the axe in your hand, which is coated in a sheen of thick, sticky blood. Whatever it was outside - the word ‘zombie’ feels too much to handle right now - whatever it was, is gone, for now. You hope it has gone far, far away.

Chapter Text

It’s been a good few hours since you and Hoseok barricaded yourselves in the staff room to escape the undead horde, but neither of you had been able to formulate much to say to one another. How could you? What you’d both seen and done was too difficult, too unreal to even begin to process.

You’d held onto the axe tightly for a long time, but after some coaxing from Hoseok, you’d torn your gaze from the blockade and deposited it on the table with a dull thunk. Over the next few hours, the blood on the hilt dripped onto the aged carpet in a dark, congealed puddle. Hoseok brushed the broken plexiglass from the fire-axe casing into the waste bin. Neither of you looked at the severed arm.

The alarm blares on; a shrill, unpleasant monotone that echoes in your ears. They’re so sore now that a migraine is prickling around the edges of your consciousness, fogging your thoughts. And if you thought too much, too hard, the reality of the situation would become too apparent. Nothing you’d experienced today should be possible. What were they? Where had they come from? Why now? Was it happening all over the world? What about your parents? Your sister? Were they still alive? You flash to Soobin’s bloody maw and the wild, yellow eyes of the little girl. The saliva sticks in the back of your throat. All the children in your class are probably dead.

You turn to Hoseok. He’s crumpled on the floor, head bent, his slight, slim shoulders wracked with sobs. He’s crying. You’ve never seen him cry before.

You want to comfort him, but you don’t know where to begin. He’s always so calm and composed. What could you say that would be of any use? There’s nothing he could have done differently. He saved your life. And in doing so, thirty-two children are now dead. Children that you were supposed to protect and care for. If only you had pulled one — just one! — away from that wriggling, revolting pile, perhaps you’d feel less wicked. Your face is wet. You’re crying, too.

“We left them,” he whispers.

You swallow, mouth dry and papery. Fresh tears spring from his eyes.

“I should have done something,” he croaks. “I should have done something, but I just ran.”

Your arm was still sore from where he’d yanked you out of the classroom. He’d held your wrist so tightly it had left a mark. If Hoseok hadn’t saved you, you most definitely would be dead by now.

“You did your best.”

He shakes his head, staring at the floor. “Earlier. At the door.” His voice is so cracked that it’s barely recognizable. “That can’t have been nice.”

His eyes meet yours, soft and hazel-brown, more gentle than you’d ever seen them before.

“We saved each other, at least. Thank you.”

He looks so broken. You move to touch his shoulder, to hold him and say how sorry you are, but he springs away as if burned. It was your fault. In saving you, he’d sacrificed the kids. And if you hadn’t run to the classroom in the first place, they’d all still be alive.

The alarm comes to a sudden, mewling halt, making you both jump. The hum in your ears doesn’t abate, but you can begin to make out shouting and the sound of sirens in the distance. On autopilot, you reach for the axe, dragging it across the wooden table with a solid thump.

At the sound, the banging on the door starts afresh. Hoseok looks at you in horror. Hoots and growls echo from the other side, louder now, more frenzied.

Narrowing his eyes, Hoseok raises his fingers to his lips and scowls. You nod obediently. Vulnerable Hoseok was not someone you felt equipped to handle. But this Hoseok? This was the Hoseok you knew best. With this Hoseok, you knew to keep your distance.

You rest the handle of the axe next to him as quietly as you can manage, and make your way to the window. He’d probably be much better with it than you, anyway.

It’s hot. You shift uncomfortably in your linen shirt, sending beads of sweat rolling down the small of your back. Summer was sticky and unpleasant at the best of times, but today was thick with that sheer, shimmering type of heat that makes a mirage of the ground. You want to open the window, feel the breeze on your skin, but Hoseok would not tolerate any more unnecessary noise. Besides, those things might get in. Instead, you content yourself by staring out onto the street, mesmerized by the swaying trees.

You’re high up, but not high enough to distract you from the chaos below. Rubbish strews the quad; newspapers and plastic bags scatter in the breeze, tumbling over abandoned backpacks and coats. The playground is mostly empty, save for one or two of the shambling undead. Smoke is rising from a heap of mangled cars, glimmering in the summer sun. Behind them, a hoard is held at bay, shuffling behind the twisted metal. There are more than you dare count. You can just about make out the coffee shop in the distance, the logo a bright blue smudge on a dull horizon. Even though his coldness upset you, you hope its owner is safe.

A belch of flame suddenly roars up the building across the quad, sending the glass from the window panes tinkling to the ground with a loud crack. As the fire rages, three smartly-dressed figures burst onto the street, smoke pouring from the door behind them. A bright pink lanyard hangs from each of their necks, marking them as employees of Gyeroo Publishing, the office opposite your school. Their crisp, white shirts are patchworked with blood and dirt. One of them is brandishing a metal baseball bat, flanked by his two taller colleagues.

With a start, you recognize the broad shoulders and loping gait of the man that lives in the apartment opposite you. On your first day on the job, you’d both enjoyed the awkward realization that he not only lived next door but worked opposite you too; commuting side-by-side, both morning and night. At the time, you’d been unable to tear your eyes away from his handsome looks — strong, masculine shoulders that contrasted with soft, pouty lips and a calm, gentle expression. His face is far from gentle now, however, and he turns wildly around the street in panic, looking for a place to go.

You don’t stop to think. Pressing your body against the window, you hit the glass with all your might and shout as loudly as you possibly can. Hoseok swears at you, tone incredulous, but for now it doesn’t matter. They see you. He sees you. He grips the baseball bat tightly and you stare at one another for a moment. His friends are shouting for him now, motioning wildly. You wave your hands. Slowly, cautiously, he lifts his hand and waves back.

Hoseok lurches forward, pushing you aside. Unlatching the window, he pulls it up with a loud bang, sending the hammering on the door behind you into a wild frenzy. “Look out!” he yells.

Before you realize exactly what Hoseok is referring to, a small shape tumbles from a floor-level classroom window and barrels towards the group with inhuman ferocity. The tallest man sees it first, and he yells in panic as it leaps onto your neighbor’s back. Wrenching it away, he brandishes his baseball bat to attack, but it’s already too late. Thrown to the ground, the child leaps instead at his friend, lunging teeth-first and tearing into his throat. Arterial spray spurts from the wound, landing impossibly far across the playground. Hoseok gasps in horror.

A pack of children runs forward and the injured man is forced to his knees, disappearing under a growing pile of writing bodies. His scream is shrill, strangely high-pitched and it increases in intensity as tiny hands tear his clothes and paw his bare chest. There’s blood everywhere. So much blood. You don’t know how one human body can contain so much of it. Your hands are at your mouth now, and you watch, transfixed, as the third man desperately tugs at your neighbor’s shirt, attempting to pull him away from the spectacle.

Hoseok leans forward, frantically waving. “This way!” He points to the fire ladder, locked in place by your window. If they were quick, they could climb to safety.

The taller of the pair gives your neighbor a leg up, and he clatters on top of the shallow roof, metal bat clanging on corrugated iron. Behind them, you can see small figures start to peel away from the bloody corpse in the center of the playground. They speed towards their remaining targets, mouths open wide, tiny hands smeared with blood.

Hoseok leans out of the window to drop the fire ladder, wobbling unsteadily as he stretches downward. You reach for him, circling his waist and holding his body tight to yours so he doesn’t fall. He’s extremely slim underneath all his clothes, and the taut muscle flexes under your hands as he pushes the ladder down.

Your neighbor pulls his friend up and pushes him towards the ladder. Will it be able to carry both their weights? It sounds so rickety that it could collapse at any minute. But if they didn’t get up soon, they’d both be overrun.

The undead clamor at their heels. Your neighbor swings his baseball bat in a wide arc, down onto the head of the closest assailant. The metal connects hard with the small skull, and the dull, wet noise it makes your stomach turn.

There’s a sharp pain in your shin; Hoseok has kicked you, hard, in an attempt to get you out of the way. You hobble backward, and the tall office worker tumbles through the window with a clatter after you. Hoseok bangs the ladder, screaming for your neighbor to hurry. The tall man joins him. “Seokjin! Come now!”

You stand on your tiptoes, craning to see between their shoulders. Your neighbor — Seokjin, the taller man called him — is standing resolutely still, bat clenched in his trembling hands. Why won’t he come up? If he doesn’t climb now, he might not make it. You see the reason why a moment later.

His fallen friend has risen to his feet, staggering towards Seokjin with his arms outstretched. Damp ribbons of flesh hang limply from his face where his lips used to be, revealing teeth and bone in an unnaturally wide grimace. His shirt is soaked with blood and his stomach is slashed clean open, guts trailing crimson across the ground.

His tall stature and athletic build make short work of the distance and all at once he’s up on the small ledge with Seokjin, turning on all fours and growling like a hungry dog. Seokjin whimpers and lets the bat fall by his side, begging and pleading him to stop in a small, desperate voice. You can’t watch this, you realize. You can’t watch someone else die.

You back away from the window. The door behind you shakes fiercely and the ladder clatters against the brickwork. Outside, the zombie roars. Overwhelmed by the noise, you start to breathe heavily. You can’t watch, can’t bear to see what you fear is about to happen. You’re going to die. You’re all going to die.

Your knees crumble underneath you, and you curl your body tightly to your arms as your hearing starts to fade. Spots appear in your vision. You try to breathe, but the air stalls in your throat, airway shut tight. The room whirls around you, a kaleidoscope of color and strange mass, spinning on its axis before disappearing altogether. Then, everything turns black.

-

You’re weightless, floating down a dark corridor.

Ahead of you is a wooden, green door with a brass door handle. It’s the door to your bedroom.

You want nothing more than to go home, for this all to go back to normal. It can all be a bad dream.

You want to sleep. You want nothing more than to wake up in your familiar linen sheets to the smell of toast and fresh paint, the grumble of bus 59 pulling up outside your house, your husband snoring softly beside you—

It’s 8.32pm on Wednesday evening. Your art class is canceled, the teacher falling ill with that flu that’s been making the rounds. You weren’t too upset, though. This was the first time you and your husband would have more than a few hours together in months.

You looked for him downstairs, but both the kitchen and the living room were dark and silent. He must have gone to bed early. He’d worked a lot of late nights, of late. You made your way to the bedroom as quietly as you could muster. If he was exhausted, you didn’t want to wake him up.

You hear it when you make it out onto the landing. A soft, breathy whimper—a woman’s voice. Not your own. You pause.

Of course, you’re imagining things. Perhaps it was the television, or a cat, or a figment of your imagination, some odd, phantasmic horror you’d conjured up in the dark confines of your own home.

But then you hear it again, louder this time, and this time your husband answers with his own affirmative. Your heart rises painfully in your chest, beating rhythmically as the bed-springs start to squeak.

Blood rushes to your temples, a vein throbbing hard against your skin. All at once, the entire corridor suddenly tilts on its axis, lurching beneath your feet until you’re falling, falling towards your bedroom door with your hands outstretched, and pushing it open you see—

Nothing. You see nothing. You’re not falling, anymore. There is ground beneath your feet.

You try to move forward, but your path is blocked. In front of you is a wide, wooden desk. Small classroom chairs are lined up in endless rows, stretching as far as your eyes can see. They’re all empty. Somewhere, a clock ticks loudly.

The sound of a chair squeaks on cheap flooring. Hoseok stands up behind you, and his hot breath tickles the back of your neck as your hair stands to attention. Your heart races and your hands feel clammy. You’ve done something wrong, you know it. But you’re not quite sure what it is.

His hands are on you, now, palms wrapped warmly around your shoulders. It feels nice. Comforting, even. You lean into him, happy for him to guide you, tell you where you need to go. You could always rely on Hoseok to know what to do. He could decide exactly what happens next.

And he does. Flattening his palms, he slowly runs them down, down past your waist and over the curve of your hips. You shudder at his touch, arching backward as he nuzzles into you, placing a soft kiss at the nape of your neck that makes you sigh with pleasure. Shuffling forward, his erection presses hard against your backside as he holds your chin, giving your earlobe a gentle suck. It all feels too much, forbidden, even, but it’s so good that you don’t want him to stop. He pulls you close and leans in for a deep kiss, and your eyes flutter shut.

When you open them, your neighbor pulls away, his plump lips shiny and soft, mouth a little open. You look at him, utterly confused, and he blinks at your expression–once, twice–before leaning in, nudging your mouth open with his tongue. You’re not sure what’s happening but you kiss him back, open-mouthed, soft and sensual, and he brings you closer, wrapping his arms tight around you. Your heart picks up pace as he deepens the kiss, tongue swiping over yours, and you’re losing yourself in it as he reaches his hands up your body, pulling away, shaking you, shaking you hard–

He’s shaking you so hard that you’re beginning to see stars, hands grasped tight around your arms, harder and harder. His grip is starting to get so tight it hurts. Your head begins to throb, painfully, and you try in vain to struggle from his iron grip, wiggling frantically. Something is burning. Your ears pop and–

-

“Hello? Hello! Wake up! Are you ok?”

Your vision returns and your neighbor swims into view. He kneels over you, eyebrows knitted in a frown of concern. Hoseok and the other man are stood just behind him. The window is closed.

He made it. You’re alive. You’re all still alive.

Everything comes rushing back to you at once. Wide-eyed, you try to sit up, the old carpet scratching your legs as you writhe on the floor. Seokjin props you up against the table and gives you a lopsided smile.

“Take it easy, ok? You were out cold for a second there.”

Hoseok bends down to crouch next to him, giving you a strange, searching look. You can’t meet his eyes, and you busy yourself with staring at the floor as your cheeks start to burn.

Of all the times for you to have a weird-ass sex dream, did it really have to be right now, when the world was ending? Zombies were one thing, but if mind-reading was also possible you’d pitch yourself head-first out the window.

The tall man kneels down, extending a hand. “Thank you for saving us. I’m Kim Namjoon.”

You introduce yourself, giving him a shaky smile. He returns it, but the warmth does not reach his eyes.

The room falls silent. Both men are breathing heavily, damp and sweaty from exertion and the summer heat, their white shirts sticking to their bodies with blood and sweat. Namjoon looks shaken but relatively unscathed, his swept-back hair still immaculate and tidy. Seokjin has fared far worse; his white shirt dark and messy with smoke, covered in deep red spatter all up his left side–even in his hair. With an unpleasant twist of your gut, you realize it’s the blood of his friend.

The day wears on but the banging on the door of the office doesn’t stop. You’re surprised the hinges are still holding. Namjoon and Hoseok lift the coffee table and desk to properly block off the exit; with the door now fully blocked from view, the noise outside doesn’t sound quite so bad. Maybe if you stayed here, you could wait it out until this all got sorted out. The army couldn’t be far away.

With nothing else to do, you all talk. Like Namjoon, your neighbor is also a Kim. They both work at Gyeroo Publishing; Namjoon as an Editor, Seokjin as a Project Manager. Their dead colleague was a Cover Designer called Kim Jaehwan. Seokjin was best man at his wedding. He relates this fact with pride before bursting into tears, and Namjoon holds his head into his shoulder as he sobs.

The light starts to fade. You’ve all agreed that you’ll stay here until you’re rescued. It’s too dangerous outside, and the staff room has a small selection of biscuits, fruit, and other snacks to see you through an entire week if necessary. Hoseok is particularly confident that help will be along in the next few days. Korea’s army is one of the best in the world, he says. Just you wait.

You wish you could be so optimistic.

It’s strange, trying to sleep with three other men in the same room. Namjoon knocks out almost immediately, mouth hanging open and snoring softly. Hoseok follows soon after, laid prone on his back, his fingers steepled as if in prayer. You curl up, fetal position in the furthest corner from the door, willing your eyes to close. Seokjin turns away, laid on his side, moonlight cast over his broad shoulders. You find the sight strangely comforting, and the thought keeps the flood of strange and wild feelings at bay before you, too, can think no longer.

Chapter Text

You’d had a strange, fitful night of sleep. Each time you’d regained consciousness you’d had the dizzying realization that yes, it still was the end of the world and yes, you were trapped in the staff room with three strange men. It was almost as if your body was hoping it could hard reset your current reality–with just one more reawakening that you’d reappear in your tiny flat, tucked up safely in bed with all of this just being a nasty dream. 

Everything is unnaturally still. There’s no birdsong, no car horns or children playing in the street. The only sounds you can make out are the rustling of trees and the steady breathing of the boys. Seokjin is the only one awake; he’s sat cross-legged, looking out of the window, chin perched on his hands in contemplation. 

Lying prone on the ground, you stare at the empty ceiling of the staff room. There’s a brown, rusty mark next to the light fitting. A single drop of water descends from the gap and hits your skin. It tingles as it rolls down your arm, the hairs prickling as it comes to a stop in the crook of your elbow. 

Good news: you’re not dead! A win, considering the situation. The banging on the door is also gone, so you are not due to die any time in the immediate future, either. The ghoulish creatures outside are either sleeping–if they do sleep–or perhaps they’re hunting some other unfortunate souls instead. Ken’s torn face and Soobin’s sharp teeth flash briefly in your mind’s eye. You hope they do sleep. Only then did you stand a chance.   

The bad news: It’s hot. Unbelievably hot. That means you all must have slept for far longer than usual and you still hadn’t been rescued. It’s been some time since you had a shower, and your face feels greasy and heavy. 

Sitting up, you see Seokjin’s stoic face, practically boring a hole in the glass with his eyes. He must want a shower too–he’s covered in blood. Seeing you’re awake, he motions you forward and brings a finger to his lips, indicating the others.

Hoseok is laid neatly underneath a table, still and quiet as a statue. Namjoon is sprawled in the corner, legs akimbo. It’s funny; when you saw him to begin with, you were intimidated by his sleek, refined looks. But in sleep, he looks kind of doofy. 

Seokjin points in the near distance. “We have a problem.”

The fire at Gyeroo Publishing has engulfed the entire building, turning it into an obelisk of flame that outshines the morning sun. To your dismay, the breeze is carrying the flames closer and closer to the playground. The wooden swings and climbing frame won’t last long. You’ll be burned alive.

You turn to your neighbor. “If someone doesn’t come soon, we’re going to be in trouble.”

Seokjin sighs, sinking his chin onto his hands. “I don’t think anyone is coming to save us.”

You both watch the flames dance along the treeline. The smell of smoke is acrid and pungent; you’re amazed it hasn’t woken the others. 

“We can’t be the only ones. The authorities prepare for this kind of thing. They’ll come. The fire brigade, the police–”

Seokjin swivels his head towards you at that, faint smile dancing on his lips.

“Ah! Your boyfriend will save us! I almost forgot.”

You narrow your eyes. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Sure you do. I caught you in the act, remember?”

You scowl. “I’m single, Jin. Thanks for the reminder, though.”

He cocks his head and regards you curiously. 

“What about that guy at your apartment? He obviously wasn’t there to take your fingerprints.”

Furrowing your brow, you wonder what he could be referring to… A man. At your apartment. A policeman.  

Jeon Jungkook.

The roof of your mouth is fuzzy and unpleasant. It’s been months since you drank any alcohol, and the pain of your hangover is sharp and sudden, flooding your senses as the blood rushes to your temples. Why would you do this to yourself? Groaning, you switch your phone alarm off and flop back into the pillow with a huff. 

Your memory is hazy. The Group Head had come to visit the school, so the new cohort had been obliged to entertain him by getting thoroughly drunk. You loved the occasional glass of wine or craft beer, but whatever you’d been drinking that night had been lethal. The tiny nightclub you’d ended up in had sticky floors and uncomfortable seats, and you dimly remember dancing with two guys who claimed they were policemen. You scoff. Nice try. 

There’s a faint moan as something–someone–stirs next to you. 

You’re not alone. Shit

You turn slowly, lifting your body up so as not to pull the covers and rouse your unexpected guest. Please let it be Linda or Suzy, you pray, squeezing your eyes tightly shut. Please say Suzy got wasted and needed a place to crash. Please say you didn’t hit on some random guy in front of the Group Head and the entire teaching staff at the school. Please say you didn’t bring someone home whose name you didn’t know in your first week. 

Please say this wasn’t going to be the first person you’d slept with since him…

The man in your bed is facing towards you, chest moving rhythmically as he breathes deeply, in and out. A mop of black, curly hair is splayed over your pillow, long enough to cover most of his face. His sharp jaw is clenched tight, and his nose pokes from underneath his fluffy fringe. 

Something about him looks vaguely familiar–a weird mixture of man and boy that you’re certain you’ve seen before–but you can’t place where. Everyone knows everyone in this tiny town, so you’d probably find out soon enough. You’d barely been there a hot minute, but your little indiscretion was likely public knowledge already. 

Groaning, you massage your aching temples. Seeing as you can’t remember his name, who he is, or even how he’d managed to get here–well. You’d like to postpone the coming awkward conversation and ensuing reality for as long as humanly possible. 

The man furrows his brow, body wiggling into the mattress. The movement sends the cover sliding from his muscular shoulders, revealing his shirtless form to the morning air. 

You raise an eyebrow. Drunk you is clearly braver than sober you. Sober you would never dream of approaching someone so… so… college dreamboat-ey. 

Your gaze travels slowly down his naked form. His strong, sinewy arms are wrapped protectively across his broad chest, with both hands tucked neatly beneath his cheek. Under his prominent biceps, you can just about make out his brown nipples and the taut, defined line between his pecs. Your eyes stray further down his firm, hard stomach, resting where your bedsheets are barely gathered around his waist. His prominent hip-bones create sharp lines either side of his belly button, and a line of curly hair snakes towards his groin and the tented covers beneath it. 

The heat rises in your cheeks. He’s glorious. 
  
Blushing furiously, you adjust your attention back towards his face, thankful that he’s still asleep. Except–of course–the most handsome man you’ve ever inadvertently seduced is now awake. Blinking at you sleepily, he glances down in confusion before looking back at you.  

“Is something wrong?” 

You gulp. He’s handsome; so very handsome that you can’t help but feel your heart twist a little in your chest. He meets your gaze with big, doe-like eyes that are a beautiful shade of chocolate brown. He’s young. No, scratch that, very young. He must be at least five years younger than you. Maybe more? 

He cocks his head. You’ve left his question unanswered.

“Hi… Did you, uh, sleep well?”

He grins sheepishly, the deep smile revealing two bunny teeth. Cute, you think, before chastising yourself for it. 

“I did. Your bed is very comfortable.”

He rolls his lips inward so his mouth forms a little line, eyes flitting awkwardly around the room. He’s as embarrassed as you are, but you have to ask.

“Did we, uh…” You make a vague gesture with your hands. “You know.”

His mouth falls open a little. “I don’t think I do.”

Oh god. Were you really going to have to spell it out for him?

“Did we… have sex? Last night.”

“Ah.” The corners of his mouth quirk. “No. I think you’ll find you have all your clothes on.” 

Checking under the covers, you’re relieved to see he’s telling the truth. Even your tiny handbag is still strapped around your body.   

You meet his eyes again. They’re so pretty. 

“Can you remember last night?”

You shake your head ruefully, and he smiles.  When he speaks again, his voice is careful and soft.

“My name is Jungkook. You met me and my friend Jimin at The Ivy. He asked you who was better looking. You chose me. He… wasn’t impressed. Thanks, by the way.”

He gives you another wide, bunny-toothed grin.

“We drank a little. Played darts. You told me I couldn’t leave until you beat me. When the bar closed, you invited me to your apartment. You were… quite insistent.”

You cringe. Drunk you is a piece of work.

“You passed out in the taxi, so I carried you up to make sure you were safe. I was going to leave, but you kept falling over and wouldn’t drink any water… I didn’t know what to do and I was worried you’d hurt yourself, so I figured you wouldn’t mind if I slept over. I hope that’s ok…”

You glance once more at his shirtless chest. “And nothing happened?”

He shakes his head vehemently, long hair falling into his eyes. “You were really drunk! I’m not like that. I… I just get hot at night, that’s all.” 

You nod, slowly. 

“I can put my shirt back on if it makes you feel uncomfortable.”

“No!”

He raises an eyebrow. “No?”

“I mean… make yourself at home. I owe you one. For getting me home.”

Jungkook chews his thumbnail. “You’re welcome.”

The silence yawns between the pair of you until he claps his hands, seemingly coming to a decision. Flinging the covers off, he hops out of bed, stomach flexing. He’s wearing tight, black boxers; and when he bends over to pick up his discarded jeans from the floor you don’t quite know where to look. 

“Can I take a shower? I go on shift in a few hours.”

Is your mouth hanging open? You really hope your mouth isn’t hanging open. 

He indicates the only door in your studio apartment that isn’t the exit. You nod mutely, and he gives you a cheesy smile before ducking his head under the shallow door frame. 

The shower clicks on. Trying very hard not to think about the now-nude man currently getting sudsy in your bathroom, you fall head-first into the pillow. When you wake, Jungkook’s face swims in front of you, fluffy hair hidden away underneath a black hat. 

This is it. You’re being locked away for seducing an adorable man-child. Figures.  

“Y/N? Did you pass out?”

Your vision returns, properly this time. Jungkook is holding a black athletic bag, his wet hair combed neatly behind his ears. He’s dressed in a black uniform with a little gold badge. Crowning his head is a sharp, black policeman’s hat.

He hadn’t lied. He really was a policeman. Whoops.

You see him to the door, despite his protests that you should rest. Instead of leaving, however, he hesitates; turning and leaning on the doorframe in what he must think is a casual pose, arms tense as he holds his kitbag.  

“You know, this doesn’t have to be–”

The elevator pings, startling you both. Your handsome neighbor–the one who, by coincidence or schadenfreude, works and lives next door to you–walks out onto your floor. He bows the moment he sees Jungkook.

“Officer.”  

Jungkook nods, straightening up to his full height. It is at that moment your neighbor registers you. 

Looking between you both, he furrows his brow–in confusion? Amusement? Jealousy? you can’t tell–and offers you a small bow too, which you return. His shopping bags rustle as he lingers at his door, patting down his pockets. You’re fairly certain his door has a keycode. You hope he hasn’t forgotten it.

Jungkook coughs, turning towards you once more. His cheeks are pink.

“Hey. I know you don’t remember much but… I had fun last night. More fun than I’ve had in a long time.”

Your neighbor drops a plastic bottle. It clatters to the floor, bouncing once, twice, three times on the shiny tiles before rolling to your feet. Jungkook gives it a savage look.

“If you want to… I’d like to do this again.”

You wonder what he means. “Stay over?” 

Jungkook shuffles his feet. “No. Well… yes? But, other stuff too? We could… go out. Get food. Cinema. You know.” 

Your mouth forms a rounded ‘o’ of surprise. He’s asking you out on a date? You really, really wish your neighbor wasn’t listening right now.

Jungkook drops his kit bag and pats down his pockets. After a few moments, he produces a piece of paper with a triumphant grin. 

“My number. You can call it. If you want. And not just in an emergency.”

He’s sweet and nice and cute and you feel your heart trill a little at the feel of the paper in your hand. Younger than you or not, he’s been kind and caring and if your neighbor wasn’t within earshot you’d tell him to stay a little longer, have coffee, talk a while before he goes on duty. But you need to say something to see him off, and the words come tumbling from your mouth before you’ve even thought them through. 

“And if I need immediate assistance?” 

You’d wanted to be cool, but that was way more forward than you intended. He notices it too, his eyes widening and meeting yours for a few moments with an intense stare that you can’t decipher. Slight language barrier or not, he knows exactly what you meant.

“Well… I know where you live.”

His radio crackles into life. He points to it and lifts the kit bag back onto his shoulder, flashing you a devastating smile. Duty calls. With one more grin in your direction, he spins around, bouncing down your stairs and out of sight. 

You exhale deeply, clutching the paper in your hand. Jeon Jungkook was written at the top in looping cursive, next to his number. He even has pretty handwriting. It’s a little damp; giving it a cautionary sniff, you recoil at the sharp smell of alcohol. He must have written it last night. 

Great. The first nice man you’d met since your divorce and you’d gotten wasted, forced him home and promptly passed out on top of him. Good job. 

Remembering your neighbor, you turn towards his door to give him a helping hand getting in, seeing as he was having such difficulty. To your surprise, he’s nowhere to be seen. He must have found his keys. 

Retreating into your apartment, you sink into your sofa with a sigh. Are you really ready to start dating again? Your hand hovers over the ‘Add Contact’ button in your phone. One date. That’s all. How hard could it be? It could be nothing more than a little experiment, just to see if you still ‘had it’. No pressure.

You thought about Jungkook’s soft eyes and pink cheeks. What would happen if one date became two? Or three? What if you began to like the charming policeman with the dazzling smile? Honestly, you could definitely imagine a timeline where that was a distinct possibility. 

Even worse, what if he liked you back? No matter what feelings you might have for one another, you’d seen how it all ends. Sooner or later, one of you would end up hurting the other. And then you’d be bereft and alone, stuck in a foreign country with nowhere else to run. 

You crumple the paper into a ball and throw it into the trash can.

“What about that guy at your apartment? He obviously wasn’t there to take your fingerprints.”

As realization flits across your features, Seokjin gives you an evil smirk.

“I hope he conducted a… thorough investigation. He was there all night, after all.”

Your jaw drops. Cheeky asshole! 

“You… you do not know me well enough to say stuff like that!” you hiss, threatening him with your hand. “What’s it to you, anyway?”

Seokjin cowers in mock horror. “I just want to know if I’m living next door to a criminal mastermind!”

“You… nothing happened! He was just… there one time! He’s not my boyfriend. OK?”

Seokjin is grinning, wider now–if you didn’t know any better, you’d say he looked thoroughly pleased–and he dodges and weaves as you throw hands towards him. Despite everything, you appreciate the moment of levity. He’s a funny guy.

“What are you two so happy about? Are we being rescued?”

Hoseok is awake, his face puffy and sleek hair tufted from sleep. He shoots you a pointed look that immediately makes your stomach sink. What were you thinking, messing around at a time like this? 

Seokjin moves as if to say something but thinks better of it, pulling his mouth into a thin, serious line. Hoseok doesn’t look at him. Instead, you follow his gaze, beyond Seokjin’s wide shoulders and towards the window. The publishing house is now totally ablaze. 

“Oh. Shit.”

It was time to talk.

—-

Even though your Korean isn’t entirely fluent, you can tell the debate is not getting anywhere. It’s been a few hours now, yet your three companions cannot come to a resolution. 

Everyone is pink from heat and exertion. Hoseok looks angrier than you’ve ever seen him, his lips white where he’s been biting them. Namjoon has sweat tumbling down his brow, running his hands hurriedly through his hair. Seokjin is the calmest of the three, but you can tell even his patience is wearing thin. 

The fire continues to rage. Despite this, Namjoon reasons, you should stay where you are. You’re secure. Someone will come and get you. It would be foolish to risk your lives outside.

Hoseok vehemently disagrees. Unless Namjoon hadn’t noticed, the school is about to burn down and you’re in the middle of nowhere. Daegu, the nearest large city and the most likely source of help, is at least two hours drive away. You need to get there and join up with the rest of civilization. There’s an army base in Daegu where Hoseok completed his service. That’s where you should go.

“What’s happening here is there too,” says Seokjin. “We should leave the school, but we shouldn’t go far. Our apartment is really close by. We should stick to what we know.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes. “Your apartment? Why? There’s nothing there!”

Seokjin lowers his voice, speaking slowly and carefully as if talking to a child. 

“We know this town. And we don’t know what’s happening in Daegu. It’s a long way to go to a place where we aren’t as familiar. Besides, there’s a lot of people in a big city.”

“Exactly!”

You look at Hoseok in surprise. You’ve never seen him lose his temper. You suppose he’s used to being in charge–this change of pace must be getting to him.

Seokjin exhales. “Exactly. More people means more of those things. We struggled with one or two. Imagine an entire city full of them.”

“The army will have taken care of it.”

“Or, they’ve taken care of the army.”

Hoseok bristles. “Our army is one of the best in the world. You’d know that if you’d enlisted. Willing to bet you haven’t.”

Seokjin stands upright, hands balled at his sides. 

“Say that again,” he whispers.

Namjoon looks at you in alarm, but you don’t know what to do either. Hoseok squares up to Seokjin, muscle twitching in his jaw. 

“You’d know the army were a force to be reckoned with if you’d actually completed your service. How’d you dodge it? Cyber degree? Fake injury? Tell me I’m wrong.”

Seokjin’s ears are bright red. Hoseok smirks.

“I knew it. It’s unpatriotic, how negative you are.”

“Negative? Negative!” Seokjin waves his arms, looking as if he might explode. “Tell me! Does anything outside look positive to you?”

Without thinking, you slam your hands on the ground. “STOP!”

All three men turn towards you. 

“I… I can’t listen to this any longer. You’re all wrong. Sorry.” 

You’d listened to the debate for some time now, waiting for your moment to offer your opinion, but it had never come. But now you had their attention, the words dry up as quickly as they arrived. You wanted them to stop fighting, but you’d probably just made things worse. Besides, Hoseok’s eyebrows are currently arched so high, you’re worried they might fly off his face.   

Seokjin loosens his fists, exhaling as he sits back down. He gives you an encouraging look. 

“Go on. I’m listening.” 

Feeling a little braver, you take a deep breath. You could do this. Steeling your nerves, you turn towards Namjoon. 

“I’m sorry, Mr Kim… but we can’t stay here. I see your logic, I do. Food, four walls… we’re safe here. For now. But how long do you think that will last?”

You point towards the door. “There’s only one way in. And one way out. We lost the ladder getting you up here. If this building catches fire, how do we leave this room?”

Namjoon shuffles his feet. “In emergency situations, they always recommend you stay indoors and wait for people to come.”

He’s right. And in any normal situation, you’d agree. But what was happening right now was beyond the bounds of human comprehension. 

“They might be out there. But if we’re burnt alive, there’ll be nothing to save.”

He nods. He looks scared. You’re scared too.

“I’m sorry. I… I don’t want to go out there either. But it’s the only way.”

Hoseok crosses his arms. “That much is obvious. Sorry Namjoon, but if you want to stay here and be burned to death because you’re too scared to go outside, then that’s on you.”

Namjoon doesn’t challenge him, looking despondently at the floor. 

Hoseok turns towards you. “This is the plan. We get out of here and head East. Daegu isn’t far. It might take us 2 days on foot-” 

You raise your hand, cutting him off. You can’t quite believe you’re about to talk back. Here goes nothing.

“Mr Jung… I… I’m sorry. I appreciate that we’re in the middle of nowhere. And I can see why you’d want to make the trip to Daegu. But it’s a long way to the army base.”

Hoseok stares at you, mouth open in disbelief. You’re just as surprised; you’d never have dreamed of talking over him or disagreeing with him before. But you weren’t in the classroom. You had just as much right to say where you would go next as any of the boys.  

“We don’t know how long we’d have to travel to find them. Who knows if they’re even still there? We can’t expect their help. Jin’s right. There’s no guarantee anyone is coming. We have to rely on ourselves.” 

Your heart is hammering. Hoseok doesn’t respond, his face a silent mask of disapproval. 

Jin looks between you both. “So. Our apartment, then?”

Also a bad idea. You shake your head. “I agree that we need to leave. And I think we shouldn’t go far. But our apartment might be overrun with those things, too.”

Seokjin pauses, thinking it over. To your relief, he nods his head in agreement. With that, you feel the strength to continue your strategy.

“We need to go through those things outside before we go anywhere, but we don’t know how many there are or what they’re doing. So we slip out quietly, slowly–and reassess once we have more information. We have no idea what is waiting for us beyond that door. And if there’s anything I’ve learned this year? You never know what nasty surprise is waiting just around the corner.”

You flash to the horrified face of your ex-fianceé, calling your name as you backed out of the bedroom door and fled. Things never turn out quite the way you expect. A contingency plan is essential for survival. 

“What we need is a list of places we could go. Places likely to be secure. Four solid walls, not many windows, multiple exits. Places with food and water. We don’t need much, but we do need the basics to survive. I learned this when I moved here. You don’t need much to get by.”  

Slightly breathless, you pause, conscious you’ve been talking for an awfully long time. The boys, however, seem to be listening well–you could swear Seokjin actually looks impressed. Namjoon looks grim, but he nods in agreement. There’s just one person left convince.

“Hoseok…?”

Folding his arms, he leans back against the window, fixing you with the narrow look you recognize all-too-well from your previous classroom blunders. 

“Fine.”

Fine would have to do. It was time to make your escape.

Chapter Text

After discussion, you all decide it would be best to leave at night. Daytime was too risky. At least with the cover of darkness, you might get a small headstart before all hell broke loose. 

Once the plan was decided, the first thing you all needed was a weapon. Seokjin already had his metal baseball bat from earlier, and Hoseok had the axe—so you and Namjoon needed to improvise. Rifling around the kitchen, you found a particularly vicious-looking knife with a long, sharp blade. Holding the dark, wooden handle made you feel a little safer, although you tried not to think too hard about the situation in which you’d have to use it. Namjoon found it a little tougher to find something suitable, eventually settling on one of the table-legs from a rickety desk. After a few failed rounds of trying to detach it, he kicked it clean off—which had the added advantage of taking with it a few stray nails embedded into the hilt. 

When all four of you had something to defend yourselves with, it was time to divvy up supplies. You were grateful Hoseok had the foresight to barricade you in the Teacher’s Room instead of one of the classrooms—it was very well stocked. Splitting the bags between you, Hoseok and Namjoon each carried an athletic bag filled with as much food as they could carry. Seokjin took a backpack of water, and you filled your rucksack with wet-wipes, batteries, matches and a torch. By the time you were all finished, the staff room had been totally picked clean.

As you worked, you each discussed different areas that could be turned into a new safe haven once you braved the outside. Seokjin still favored your apartment complex, but thought a nearby supermarket could be a good option too. Namjoon wasn’t keen to move too far away, choosing a library just a few moments away from the quad. Hoseok had a few options; a local ramen shop, a nearby market and a coffeehouse run by an acquaintance. You couldn't help but note that all but one of his choices were along the main road that leads to Daegu, but you decided to let sleeping dogs lie. Besides, you still needed to make peace with him after your earlier argument.

Spotting your opening, you make your way over to the corner of the room, where he's rifling through the cupboards over the sink. He’s not spoken to you since you dared to challenge his opinion—something he must not be used to after all. In the classroom, he was in charge.

"Hey... Hoseok?" you say, tapping his shoulder. 

At the familiar address, he meets your eyes with a dark, assertive glare. God, did he always have to look this intense?

You swallow. "I'm... sorry. About earlier. I didn't mean to upset you. I'm just trying to keep us safe." 

He clenches and unclenches his jaw, something flinty and stubborn behind his eyes. Picking up the axe, you pass it to him handle-first with the bravest smile you can muster. 

"It's a peace offering," you say, hoping he comes around, "can we, uh, bury the hatchet?"

Seokjin titters behind you, but Hoseok shoots him a glare. You wilt as he brings his steely gaze back to you, mouth drawn into a thin line. He is not so easily impressed.  

"As soon as I can, I'm going to Daegu. The axe is coming with me, just so we’re clear." Uncrossing his arms, he leans in towards you, hand on your shoulder as his voice drops to a whisper. "If you want to stay safe, Y/N, come with me. When the time comes, we can just go. These two don’t know what they’re doing."

You’re not entirely sure you agree. Seokjin and Namjoon had arguably survived more challenging circumstances than either of you had yet to come face to face with. Besides—you liked them. Namjoon was endearingly earnest, despite being terrified, and Seokjin… well. At least if you were going to die, you knew you’d both have a good laugh together before you bricked it.

Hoseok is quiet and serious, waiting for your answer. And despite your misgivings, there’s something about the way he looks at you that makes you relent—that hint of vulnerability you’d seen when you’d escaped the classroom reminding you that Hoseok is as scared as you are, deep down. 

So you nod. This seems to please him, and he zips the bag and signals to the others. 

“You guys ready?” asks Namjoon, licking his lips nervously. 

Hoseok slings the bag over his shoulder. “As I’ll ever be.”

Seokjin gives you a little smile. “You feeling up for this?”

You nod, looking at the ground and trying not to let them see the blood drain from your face. You weren’t ready at all.

The plan was simple. As the smallest of the four of you, you’d been unanimously nominated to open the door. Whatever was outside would rush in, the boys would take care of it, and then you’d all sneak out of the school as quietly as possible.

In theory, it sounded great. In practice, you knew it meant that you would be closest to the horror outside. 

The boys ready their weapons. Your heart starts pumping wildly, adrenaline making you feel dizzy. You look at them, wild-eyed, and they each nod the affirmative; Hoseok terse and swift, Namjoon’s nostril’s flaring, Seokjin’s brows knitted together in concentration. It was now or never. 

Hands trembling, you turn the handle.

A wild shape throws itself on the door, hurtling through the gap. It's your co-teacher, the one who'd chased you from the men's bathrooms. She’s missing an arm.

"Now!" screams Hoseok. 

Seokjin swings the metal bat in a wide arc, the weight of his movement contorting his entire body. It connects with the front of her face with a hideous crunch, sending her flying over the top of the hastily moved furniture. Namjoon lunges next, taking a stab with his table leg that leaves nails embedded in the fleshy part of her neck.  

Howling, she turns, the whites of her eyes widening as they meet yours. Snarling in anger, she scrambles towards you, over the tabletops towards your cramped corner - but Hoseok brings the axe down on her skull with a sharp snap, sending blood showering from the wound in a red fountain. Her corpse sways for a moment before falling prone and motionless on the table, and your breath returns to you in a rush as you quietly close the door. 

Looking at your hands, you’re surprised to see they’re covered in sticky, thick red; so you move to wipe them on your shirt. But your shirt is also red, damp on your skin, and hysteria grips your windpipe like a vice as you scramble to your feet, picking at your clothes in a panic. 

Her name was Miss Lee. She'd once given you a packet of biscuits because you'd taken her class so she could make an emergency doctor’s appointment with her sister. She'd always been a nice and friendly teacher, one of the few to ensure she smiled at you. And now you were covered in her blood.

Hoseok grabs you by the shoulders, giving you a firm shake. "You are OK,” he says, firmly. "We need to go, now, before more of them come. You must get it together. You are OK." 

You were not OK. Not by a long stretch. You are not cut out for this at all. You'd felt confident, in your element, even, planning where to go and what to do. Hypotheticals were comfortable. Where you felt safe. But now you’re face to face with the horror of it all once more, you’re absolutely convinced you are going to die.

Hoseok throws the axe over his shoulder with an exasperated sigh, jerking his head towards the exit. "Let's go."

Namjoon follows him out into the corridor, leaving you alone with Seokjin in the Teacher’s Room. He bends his knees so your faces are level, looking to meet your gaze, your eyes red and watery. He’s shaken, you can tell, but he passes you your knife handle-first, giving your shoulder an encouraging squeeze.

"We need to go, Y/N. We made a lot of noise. You won't be safe here." 

You nod, tears pricking at your eyes, hot and itchy from smoke. This is all so messed up. You want to wake up, to go home, to go back to the way things were. Nothing was safe anymore.

Seokjin ushers you forward, his hand ghosting over the small of your back as you exit. All four of you tiptoe into the corridor, taking care to quietly jump over the bookshelf that had been dislodged in the hubbub.  

With a twist of your gut, you realize that you're headed back where you had come. The things that had chased you into the Teacher’s Room were this way. So many more of those things were this way.

The classrooms were deserted and silent. Everything is lit with the soft, pale glow of moonlight. It glimmers through the blinds and empty stairwells, illuminating the path ahead. Abandoned textbooks and detritus litter the hallways you walk. Lockers hang open, contents half removed. Blood is smeared on the walls. 

The four of you make it to the ground floor without much disturbance. In death, the school is utterly still, ethereal and silent. Your uneasy breathing feels like an intrusion to a grave, your heartbeat a ringing drum, inviting your pursuers to dine. Namjoon’s plan of staying put suddenly feels very appealing. Perhaps burning alive was preferable to being torn to pieces. Who knew? 

As you’ve descended it’s gotten darker, and you fumble in your bag for the torch to light the way. Trembling, you turn it on—a yellow-gold beacon in a grey, dead world. Unfortunately, what it reveals isn’t good news. The ceiling ahead is caved in, blocking the way out in a muddle of concrete and open piping. If you tried to climb over it, one of you might slip and cause a racket. Panning the light slowly across the corridor, you search for a better way around.

And that's when you see them.

In the center of the sports hall, the beam bounces from the backs of a group of zombies, their breathing ragged and heavy as they stand in a grand mass. You gasp, bringing the light back under your control, looking to the others in alarm.  

The horror on their faces tells you all you needed to know. You could never take that many. They’d be on you in seconds. If any of you made a single sound right now, you were all going to die.

Seokjin motions for you all to come closer, placing a bloody finger to his lips. He indicates a small gap in the cave-in, and motions a crawling stance. Potentially, you could each pass one-by-one through the gap and to the exit, provided you did not dislodge the rubble. He then points at himself.

He’d volunteered to go first. He was so brave. If he got caught down there, you didn't want to think about what would happen to him. At least the three of you would be able to turn tail and run. He’d be trapped under there and eaten alive.

Slowly, oh-so-slowly, he sets the bat down on the floor and kneels in a crouching position. You keep the light shone on the gap as he crawls on his hands and knees, disappearing under the broken ceiling tiles. The beam of light in your hand trembles as he extends his fingers back through the gap, giving you all the thumbs up before lifting the weapon and easing it through. 

Hoseok walks forward, leaving you and Namjoon dithering in the corridor. He places the axe down on the ground and follows Seokjin through, making his way through with athletic ease. You wince as the metal blade of the axe grinds the floor as he picks it up. Chancing a quick look at the pack, you’re relieved to see they're still occupied with the remnants of whatever unfortunate meal they’d last eaten, the smacking of lips and grinding of sinew barely audible in the gloom.

Namjoon looks at you plaintively, eyes wide and pale. You know he wants to go first, and despite the fact that you don’t want to be last, you can't help but feel a surge of pity at his expression. Gesturing him forward, he bows a silent thank-you at your generosity. 

As he walks towards the gap, you see the uneven floor before he does; but you can't move, frozen in place as he trips, whimpering as his ankle twists, a loud clatter ringing out in the air as his table leg goes bouncing across the tiles.

As if stuck in slow-motion, you turn, the light in your hands illuminating the sports hall. The hungry eyes of hundreds of bloody faces glitter back at you, teeth bared and gleaming in the darkness. The beam goes tumbling downwards as you drop the light in shock.

"Y/N!" screams Seokjin, "RUN!"

Your legs move of their own accord, powering you forward and across the rubble. Namjoon scrabbles upward, pulling his body through the tunnel as you leap towards the exit. Behind you both, the hoard scream and hoot in anticipation of their meal.

Seokjin rushes forward and tucks his arm under Namjoon’s shoulder, lifting him into a standing position so he can support his twisted ankle. Hoseok holds open the door as they run through. You follow behind, knife clutched firmly in your right hand. The four of you race across the playground, the undead in hot pursuit.

The blockade towers on your left. Up close, you can see more of what it actually comprises—a mangled mess of cars and motorbikes that had collided with an ambulance in a horrific crash. The smell of burning rubber assaults your nostrils, making it hard to breathe. You weren't getting out on the road any time soon. Most of your plans are immediately laid to waste, as they had involved taking that exit. Where were you going to go?

Head pounding, you follow at Hoseok's heels, who has broken into a full-on sprint. You turn to see Jin and Namjoon lagging behind, the zombie horde starting to gain ground. Seokjin's face is red with exertion, Namjoon's jaw stiff and twisted with pain.  

The undead keeps coming. They don’t seem to tire, or rest, or pause for a breather. Although most of them were children before they turned, they run as fast as any adult. Their howls surround you, an unholy chorus that only seems to grow in magnitude. 

Your feeling of dread grows, seeping into your bones and weighing you down like sand dripping into the bottom of an hourglass. Your legs feel heavy, inept and weak. Whilst shock had kept you alert and afloat in the first few moments of your escape, the magnitude of what you were facing hangs over you in a thick fog of panic. Your time was running out.

Hoseok pulls away, heading towards the park. It's your running route, you realize. Your route, but in reverse. You rally. You can do this. You've run faster than this, run longer than this. The dead feeling starts to ebb from your legs as you follow his lead.

And where did you end up last, before hitting the quad and making your way back home?

The coffee shop. That must be where Hoseok is taking you. There was nowhere else close by that matches his description. 

You wonder if the owner is still alive.

Behind you, Namjoon yelps in pain. To your horror, he's prone on the floor, Seokjin desperately trying to get him moving again. But Namjoon is a big guy, and Seokjin can't quite lift him to a standing position.

"Hoseok!" you scream, "help us!" 

There's no reply. Only the diminishing sight of his back as he runs away. Coward

Making your mind up, you run to Seokjin, whose face is a mask of tears and pain.

"I'm not leaving you," says Seokjin, pulling at Namjoon's shirt, "I’m not leaving another one of my friends to die!"

"Just go!" puffs Namjoon, his voice hoarse. "You'll never make it!"

You loop your arm underneath Namjoon's other shoulder. "Jin? On three, OK? One, two—" 

"Three!" says Seokjin, as he hoists Namjoon upwards. 

With both of you carrying his weight, you manage a fairly decent pace, perfectly in-step despite the obvious height difference between you. Entering the park and turning the corner, you nearly fall on top of Hoseok, who must have been running back to find you.

"Oh! Y/N! Thank god, you're here, I thought I'd lost you, where—"

You glare at him as the three of you motor past, zombies hot on your tail. He jogs at your side, glancing nervously behind you.  

"Is it much further, Hoseok?" says Namjoon, panting heavily.

Hoseok shakes his head, pointing a little way in the distance. Even in the dark of night, the familiar blue sign of the coffee shop was a beacon of hope in the wilderness.

"How do we get in?" says Seokjin. "It looks closed!"

Hoseok batters the door with his fist. "Min Yoongi, open this door! I know you're in there!" 

Seokjin glances at you, his face a mask of panic. If you didn't get inside quickly, you’d never make it far, especially whilst carrying Namjoon. Propping him up at the barred-up windowsill, you take a defensive stance, brandishing your knife in preparation to fight. Seokjin does the same, standing at your side with his bat. In the distance, the hoard gets closer.

"Hoseok," you say, eyes locked on the horrors ahead, "get that door open, now!"

"Working on it! YOONGI! Fuck sake, we're going to die out here!" 

"Is there nowhere else we can go?" says Namjoon. He’s bent double, wheezing with exhaustion. You can’t help but notice his injured ankle, which is awkwardly propped on the ground. He’s not going anywhere fast. 

Hoseok shakes his head. "Not for miles. Besides, this place is solid concrete, if only this fuck"—he brings his axe clanging onto the steel door—"would let us in!"

"Guys," says Seokjin "It’s about to get real hairy very, very soon!" 

"Shit." You join Hoseok at the door, hoping the barista will recognize you and take pity on you as he had so many times before. "Yoongi? Is that your name? Please help us. Please let us in. Please—"

The door swings rapidly open, your hair ruffling in the draft as the air is sucked inside. You recognize the round face and scruffy hair of the barista immediately, his eyes widening almost comically as he takes in the pack of growling monsters nearly at his door.

Hoseok doesn't wait for an invite, forcing the door open and barging inside. You run to Namjoon, nearly stumbling as he topples on top of you, dragging him inside with Seokjin's help. You slide the wide lock of the door into place as Hoseok and Seokjin brace it with a large coffee table.

Breathing raggedly, all of you stare as the door rattles on its hinges, the sound of handprints hitting it with deadly, rhythmic precision. Despite the crowd outside, it holds. 

You made it. You actually made it. You’re safe. 

Hoseok speaks first, giving the man he called Yoongi a shove. "What the actual fuck, man? We could have died out there!"

Yoongi waves him away, his chest heaving, and Hoseok almost hisses in disapproval. "Fuck you, asshole."

"The feeling's mutual," says Yoongi, glancing at you from underneath his messy fringe. "Hey, water girl. How you holding up?"

At that, Hoseok's eyebrows shoot up. "You two know each other?"

You swear you see a look of smug satisfaction pass briefly over Yoongi's lips before he brings his expression back under control. "Yeah. She's a regular." 

Hoseok starts to speak, but Seokjin pipes up from the corner of the room. "I hate to break up the reunion, guys... but my friend isn't doing so good..." 

Namjoon is pale as a sheet, his breathing erratic and phlegmy. Sweat tumbles from his brow, and his shirt is stuck to his chest with perspiration. Seokjin has done his very best with his ankle, removing his shoe and propping it up—but you can see how swollen and raw it looks, a purple bruise already blooming at the joint.

Yoongi shuffles behind the bar, bringing out a large metal case that he settles on the ground with a loud clunk. Outside, the zombies hammer harder at the door, and you all are cowed into silence. Wrinkling his nose at their commotion, Yoongi examines Namjoon’s foot with care, flexing it carefully to wrap it in a bracing bandage.

"This is a bad sprain," he says, fixing the dressing with a safety pin. "If you want to walk again, you’re gonna be immobile for a while, buddy."

"Nobody’s going anywhere," says Seokjin, looking grimly at the door. 

"Luckily for you all," says Yoongi, "I'm a resourceful man. I've got quite a lot in storage."

Resourceful was one word for it. Clearly preparing for a world-ending scenario for most of his life was another. Min Yoongi's coffee shop may have been sparsely decorated, but he had plenty up his sleeve. He explained that his love of camping meant he kept a lot in storage—when you saw the dried food, tarpaulin and first aid kit, you could have kissed him.

"How do you two know each other?" you ask Yoongi. 

"Hoseok used to date my sister," says Yoongi, quietly. "Until he fucked his co-teacher, of course." 

Suzanne, you think, eyes wide. That must have been why she left so quickly.

Suddenly, everything made sense. Hoseok had given you such a hard time because you weren’t Suzanne. This is why he alternated between cold indifference and outright hatred. He'd had an affair, and when it ended, he was stuck with you, a useless reminder of his infidelity. No wonder he held you to impossible standards. He must have really cared about her.

You felt your heart harden as he approaches. A cheater. Just like your ex.

He glares at the man next to you. "Yoongi. We need to talk."

Nodding the affirmative, Yoongi turns towards you. "The roof is open. I think one of your friends is already up there." 

As much as you want to hear what they’re about to say one another, you give them some privacy, heading upstairs to the roof. Some fresh air would probably do you good. 

There’s a small garden up top, potted plants of various sizes and types and even a small set of chairs. Seokjin is sat with his back to the wall of the stairwell, gazing into the blank nothingness of the night's sky. He gives you a weak smile as you approach and fold yourself into a seated position next to him.

"Namjoon's asleep," he says, chewing his lip. "He knocked out cold nearly as soon as you guys went to the cellar."

"I'm not surprised," you say, "It's way past all of our bedtimes now..." 

Seokjin laughs bitterly. "Yeah. I think bedtime is something we won't get to enjoy for a while..."

A gust of wind rattles through you, setting your teeth on edge. In the daytime, it was punishingly hot, but you’d never gotten used to how cold it gets at night.

Seeing you shiver, Seokjin unzips his jacket, placing it around your shoulders. It smells comforting, manly; both of oranges and vanilla musk.

"He's alive because of you, you know... Thank you."

His eyes are uncommonly pretty, a dark shade of hazel brown. Despite the puffy, pink skin from where he's been crying, you're struck by how soft and warm they are, almost deer-like in their appearance.

"I'm glad you're alive," you say, patting him on the knee cautiously. "It'd feel lonely if I didn't see you every day. I’m so used to it now." 

The thought is amusing, in a dark sort of way. You'd seen Seokjin five days a week, every week, ever since you’d arrived. He was practically part of the furniture, a constant of the scenery in your life.

"All that time. Why did you never say anything to me?" he asks. "I'm quite friendly..." 

You shrug. "Too busy. Social customs. Nerves."

And you were simply too good-looking for me to dare approach you, you think.

He nods. "I see. Well, don't worry. I'll keep you safe until your boyfriend comes to save you."

"Jin!" You lean into him unconsciously, his broad shoulders so inviting that you feel pulled to their orbit like a magnet. "I don't have a boyfriend. I told you."

The moment the words leave your lips, you remember your ex-fiancé.

Was he trapped in a building, surrounded by hideous creatures? Had he been chased, afraid and alone, with nothing but his bare hands to show for it? Was he, too, facing an impossible situation and certain death? 

Something in you snaps at the thought, and you hold onto Seokjin's shirt as your body is wracked with sobs. Bringing you closer, he gently holds you still, allowing your head to fall onto his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," you sniff, pulling away. "I just... it's all too horrible."

"Ah! You have... here, let me"—he reaches forward, using his thumb to rub the grime from your cheek—"If only I could get rid of this blood," he says, wiping his hand on his shirt. "It's everywhere. I hate it."

You have wet wipes in your bag, you remember. Instead of crying, you could actually be useful. Frantic, you reach for your bag, pulling a packet out with enthusiasm. Tearing open the seal and yanking one out, you move to pass it to him—but he seemingly misunderstands your action, meekly angling his face towards your hand. He wants you to do it for him. 

Carefully, you bring your hand to his face. You'd always thought your neighbor handsome, but up close he really was quite breathtaking. Delicately making contact with his skin, the wipe is so cold that his eyes flutter closed, his curly lashes long and thick. 

First, you work at removing the smoke stains from his forehead, admiring the way his brows knit together as you smooth it over his skin. Another wipe takes care of each cheek, stripes of blood coming away as you reveal his tan complexion. Finally, you move to his chin, using a clean wipe to ghost over his full lips as delicately as you can, whilst marveling at how pillowy they feel under your fingertips.

"All done," you say, hoping he doesn't realize how breathless you are.

Wordlessly, he takes the pack from your hands and pulls one free himself, moving to dab at your cheeks. You hesitate, wondering if you should allow him to do something so intimate; but resolve to go with the flow. You might die tomorrow. The social customs of your host country probably weren't too important any more.

Closing your eyes, you allow him to run the wipe along your nose and around your cheeks, which he cups with the palm of his hand as he works. You hear him breathe in as he tips your chin back and moves onto your neck, wiping away the blood from your encounter at the school. It's incredibly soothing, allowing yourself to be touched in this way; you're so starved for affection that his caress feels like a burst of electricity on your skin, sending warm sensations dancing down your body.

"Finished," he says, pressing a finger to your nose. "You're fresh as a daisy, now!"

Opening your eyes, you blush to see him so close to you, his arm slung casually around you as if you belonged there. Your eyes meet, and he opens his mouth as if to speak—but your attention is pulled away by a clatter from the stairwell behind you.

Yoongi shuffles into view, bottle in hand. He reaches down, passing you a plastic cup full of a clear liquid that makes you grin in recognition. 

"As you'd been for a run," he says, gruffly, "I thought you'd like something to drink." 

He sits down opposite you as you tip back the glass. The bitter sting catches you totally by surprise, your eyes watering at the taste.

"This isn't water!" you splutter.

"No. It's vodka," says Yoongi, lifting up his glass. "Cheers to the apocalypse." 

"I'll drink to that," says Seokjin, clinking his glass in a solemn motion.

The three of you drink into the night, knocking back shots and getting to know one another. After a few drinks, the quiet barista actually becomes quite talkative. A DJ on weekends, he had taken over the coffee shop from his father who'd passed away, inheriting not only the business but a tonne of debt, too. Resolving to make the most of it, he’d given the coffee house a fashionable makeover, which had turned the forgotten bar into one of the busiest places in town. About two months ago, he’d finally got back into the black—just in time, as he put it, for the world to get royally fucked.

The alcohol also loosens Seokjin’s inhibitions, and you allow him to rest his hand on your knee, which he pats every so often as he makes a point. He'd moved to the area at a young age to take care of his grandmother before she’d passed. The job at the publishing house wasn’t really his passion, but it paid the bills. He loved computer games, figurines and drinking with his friends, most of whom he’d met through work. 

Yoongi and Seokjin were very different—one a driven businessman, the other just happy to take each day as it came—but they both were delighted to find they shared an interest in fishing. You were less delighted as they drunkenly began to discuss tackle, rods and fishing spots at length. As Seokjin droned on about his largest catch, your mind wandered to the only person left unaccounted for.

Making your excuses, you slink back downstairs. You just wanted to see if Hoseok was ok.

He's stood in the dark on the ground floor, facing towards the window. The sun is rising in the distance, and the orange light outlines the hands pressed against the reinforced windows.

"Hoseok?" you whisper.

He doesn't move. Stepping carefully over a snoring Namjoon, you stand beside him.

Once you’re by his side, the hoard outside immediately react, their growls increasing in temerity and pitch. You can hear the snarls distinctly, their fingernails scraping against the glass.

"I'm sorry, Y/N." Hoseok whispers.

You look up at him in surprise. Hoseok never apologizes.

"I’ve not been nice to you for a long time, really. When I'm under pressure, and it all gets too much, I just snap. I... I can't help it. I lash out, and I hate myself for it."

He swallows, his jaw tense. His hand brushes yours, and for a second you wonder if he wants you to hold it.

"I'm sorry. I won't lose my temper again. I... I just don't want another situation like our class."

Exhausted, he leans into you, and you allow him to rest his head gently on yours. It’s nice, having him rely on you for a change. Despite everything you’ve been through, Hoseok has always been there for you. Perhaps he would trust you enough to allow you to be there for him. 

Together, you watch the sun come up. A new day was about to begin.

Chapter Text

“...And we all know what these are for.” Yoongi throws a roll of biodegradable dog waste bags into the pile.

“Great. We’re dying, but at least we’re looking out for mother nature,” says Namjoon, shuffling to sit from where he’s slouched on the floor. “Nice.” 

“Thanks for the optimism, man,” deadpans Yoongi. “Appreciate it.” 

It was a few hours since you’d all finished drinking, reality setting in as the alcohol wore off and the sun began to rise. With the emergency services still not in sight and surrounded as you were, survival was of the highest priority. And first, you needed to see if it was possible.

Making trips up from the basement in shifts, you gathered what essentials you had in a pile. Along with your supplies hoarded from the staff room, it would soon become apparent what you were missing.  

Hoseok takes inventory, making a neat list in Yoongi’s supply order book. “Ten packs of water. Box of chopsticks. Tarp. First-aid kit. Prescription headache tablets...” He continues to mutter to himself as he passes you, taking note of the number of supplies you have. 

“I think we should try to hold out here for as long as possible,” says Namjoon. 

“You have a vested interest,” notes Yoongi. “You’re stuck here regardless.” 

“True,” Namjoon rubs his jaw guiltily. “But the last time I checked my phone, before it died? It said this was all over the world. This is serious. We should stay put and wait for an official response. It’s what they always tell you to do.” 

An uncomfortable silence settles in at the weight of his words. He was right. You’d left your mobile phone in the classroom, so there was no way you could have checked—but Yoongi had filled you in last night on how quickly the outside world had dropped out of contact. First, the internet had gone down. TV next. The last news bulletin he had heard told people to barricade themselves indoors. Then, nothing.  

“I read somewhere that most people die within the first three days of a survival situation like this,” says Seokjin, rubbing his head and groaning. “Dehydration, mostly.”

His words are grim, but you can’t help but smirk. You’re also starting to feel hungover. 

“Did it say if vodka speeds up the process?”

He chuckles. "It certainly makes it more painful. Can you grab me a painkiller? 

You move to pick up a packet, but Hoseok slides them just out of reach with his foot. 

"Emergencies only," he says, shooting Seokjin a dark look. 

"This is a hangover emergency," says Jin, crossing his arms. "Who put you in charge, anyway?"

Hoseok rolls his eyes, tossing Jin a pack. "Fine. Don't come to me when we run out."

Jin shrugs. "Aren't you off to Daegu soon? Don't let the door hit you on the way out." 

He gestures towards the door, where you can still make out the zombie horde, shuffling around the building. Hoseok narrows his eyes, making a point of crossing out a number on his ledger to account for the pills. Jin pops two capsules out of the packet, passing you one and swallowing the other in silence.

You wish you knew why they didn't get along. It made liking them both quite stressful.

Yoongi coughs, looking between the pair cautiously. "So, we're missing a fair few essentials and could do with gathering as much as we can. Medicine, toilet roll, soap... that stuff runs out fast, especially if there's five of us. Food too. We have to ration it.”

You all stare at the floor. Yoongi’s coffee shop wasn’t large. Downstairs and the next floor were mostly tables and chairs. He had a small bedroom and toilet on the third floor and a roof terrace. Even if each of you tried to take a room, you’d be doubled up twice-over.

He leans back on the coffee-bar with a sigh. “We'll need some kind of sand for a latrine, but the big thing we're missing is water. Jin’s right. Water purification tablets, water bottles, buckets... we don't know how long we're gonna be out here and... I don't wanna die of thirst. One of us has to go out there and get it."

You all nod. Nobody looks towards the door.

"I guess I'm not going to fetch it," Namjoon pipes up cheerily.

Seokjin pats his shoulder. "Nope. You're staying right here, buddy."

"I guess I should stay here too," says Yoongi, scratching his chin, "seeing as I'm the only one who knows how to get the generator working." 

Jin laughs weakly, turning towards you and Hoseok. "Rock paper, scissors, guys?" 

"She can't go," Hoseok jerks his thumb in your direction, "don't be stupid."

"Why not?" You're on your feet now, aghast at why Hoseok would say such a thing. "The three of us are able-bodied. It's between us."

"What if we run into survivors?" Hoseok crosses his arms, turned towards Seokjin. "She's a woman. Something bad might happen."

"She looked fine with the knife to me, mate," says Jin. 

"Stop talking about me as if I'm not here!" you exclaim, making the two men jump. "I stopped us from burning to death back there, unless you'd forgotten already?" 

“She’s got a point,” says Yoongi. 

"Fine. Your funeral," snarls Hoseok.

He's giving you that look again. The thin lips and sharp eyebrows that you're so used to from the classroom. He can’t help himself, seems to even enjoy letting you know he disapproves. His eyes are piercing, challenging you in a way that makes you shrink back and the adrenaline in your system rise. 

It's strange. He annoys you, but you almost like it, too. Perhaps you're just tired, or its the alcohol talking—but a small part of you has begun to enjoy pushing Hoseok's buttons. You can't deny that you're curious to see how far he is willing to tolerate your new, provoking behavior before he snaps.

Seokjin looks curiously between you both as you realize you've been staring one another down for a little too long. "Erm, shall we try for it?" He clenches his fist and puts his hand forward. "Rock. Paper. Scissors..." 

You show paper. Both Seokjin and Hoseok draw scissors.

Scissors cut paper. 

You lost. You're going outside. 

You, outside, with those things. Your legs start to shake as the blood drains from your face.

"No. No, no, no. You're not going alone," says Hoseok. "You barely made it here, let alone going outside." He turns to Seokjin. "You should go in her place."

"She saved me and Namjoon, dude," says Seokjin. "You've known that if you’d stayed and helped us, instead of running off."

"If you think I was gonna risk my life to save you, you have another thing coming," says Hoseok. "Besides, whose idea was it to come here anyway? If it hadn't been for me, you and your friend would have been—"

"Quiet!" 

Yoongi waves them all silent and crouches beside you. Ever since you got the news you'd crumpled to the floor, cross-legged and quiet as the boys had begun to bicker. The buzzing in your ears had increased, all the blood rushing to your temples. All you could hear was those things.  

"I don't think you should go alone," he says, giving you a gentle pat on the shoulder. "Why don't you take Hoseok with you?"

"Me?" says Hoseok, "why should I—" 

"I'll go," sighs Jin. "We’ll go together. Right, Y/N? Does that work for you?"

You nod, the numb feeling starting to ease. You’re glad for the company. You don’t want to go alone.

“She shouldn’t be going anywhere. You volunteered,” says Hoseok, glaring at Jin. “Why don’t you go alone?”

“Because it’s not fair.” Even though your voice sounds small, your inflection is irritated. “I drew paper. I’m going.”

“I think it’s good you go in a pair.” Yoongi, ever the peacemaker. “You can watch each other’s backs.”

The snarls from outside punctuate his sentence, bringing the topic of conversation to a close. Yoongi was right, of course. Thank god your group had found him. If not, you’re not sure you would have survived. 

“I need to sleep before I watch anyone’s back, though.” Seokjin rubs his eyes, yawning wide. “I’m knackered.”

“Because you had a bender,” growls Hoseok, eyeing the empty bottle that Yoongi brought down from the terrace.

“Yes, we had a few drinks,” says Yoongi smoothly, motioning for you to get up. “And now we’re going to sleep and wait for it to get dark. They can’t see in the dark, right?”

Hoseok confirms. “Yeah. It helped us get away, no doubt.”

“Good.” Yoongi points upstairs, motioning you and Seokjin to follow. “I only have one bed, but it's a double. You guys should use it. You need all the sleep you can get.”

You can feel Seokjin's eyes on you as you chew your lip. You hadn't shared a bed with a man since you were with your fiancé. He was a restless sleeper, often reaching for you in the middle of the night, arms wrapped around your waist to pull you in tight. It would always wake you up, but you'd welcome him anyway. The interruption was worth the discomfort because; well. It reminded you that you were loved.

He'd stopped doing it in the last few months before your separation. You really should have read the signs.

You climb the stairs, following the two men in silence. Sharing a bed with Seokjin. Not quite the circumstances which you had pictured your first sleepover with a man, but you had to get it over with sooner or later. Your first impression of your neighbor was one of cold indifference, but as it transpired he seems quite kind. Docile, even. Certainly not the type of man to take advantage of a situation like this.  

He made you feel safe. You couldn't think of a better man to test the waters with. Besides, it was totally platonic. If this was going to be weird, at least you didn’t have to open that particular can of worms just yet.

You realize it as you round the second flight of steps.

Jeon Jungkook.

Jeon Jungkook had stayed over. How had single-you forgotten that fact, exactly?

Admittedly, you could barely remember how the handsome policeman had even gotten to your apartment in the first place, seeing as you'd had quite a lot to drink... but that was no excuse. Not even a year out of your separation, and you already couldn’t remember who you’d slept with. Even if all 'sleeping together' had amounted to was carefully avoiding his advances and trying not to think about his naked body whilst he took a shower. 

You smile at your naivety. Hindsight really was twenty-twenty. If you knew you were going to be in this predicament mere months later, you might have taken his advances a little more seriously.

Like everything else of Yoongi’s, his bedroom is deeply utilitarian, as if it had been decorated by a spartan with a fondness for Scandinavian minimalism. The concrete walls are bare save for a few posters of Korean movies you don't recognize, and a tiny picture of him and an older man pinned to his wardrobe—you guess it must be his father. 

Most of his room is dedicated to his music set-up, a big set of decks and mixing table looming large and surrounded by a mess of cabling. As if placed there as an afterthought, his double bed is pushed into the furthest corner, blankets, and pillows piled on top of it as if he'd made a fort the night before.

"It's not much," says Yoongi, rocking on his heels. "But you'll be able to get some rest before you have to go out, at least."

"Thanks, Yoongi," you say, patting him on his arm. "It's kind of you to let us sleep here. You sure you don't mind?"

He mumbles the negative, and waves as he shuffles away from the door and out of sight.

Your head is spinning now, hangover kicking in full-force, and you start to nervously tug at your clothes as Seokjin does the same. You're both grubby and covered in blood - neither of you seeming willing to start the conversation about undressing. Were you expected to sleep together in your underwear? The prospect of seeing your handsome, tall neighbor in his boxer-briefs wasn't an entirely unwelcome one, you had to admit. But you felt anxious about the context.

Thankfully, Hoseok barges into the room without knocking, handing you both a towel. "He says there's enough hot water for us all to get cleaned up." He looks between you and Seokjin. "Looks real cosy in here."

The implication is clear, and Seokjin spins around as if stung at his intrusion, grabbing the towel roughly from his hands and stalking out to the washroom without a word. 

"Why are you doing this?" The question leaves your lips before you've had time to realize you've said it, and your mouth hangs open in shock at your tone. You never could have imagined you’d snap at him quite so savagely. 

"Guys will be guys. Even in the apocalypse." Hoseok passes you your towel, his mouth hollowing from where he’s chewing it on the inside. "Scratch that. Especially in the apocalypse." 

"He's not like that, Hoseok." 

Of this you're certain. Whether or not he was attracted to you was immaterial - you knew he wouldn't try anything stupid. He'd lived next door to you for months and had barely managed to talk to you more than a handful of times. Why would this be any different? 

"Just keep your clothes on, ok?" Hoseok comes closer to you, his slender fingers brushing your collarbones as he re-buttons the neck of your blouse that you had started to remove. "Make sure he falls asleep first."

Hoseok often touched you in the classroom - just little brushes of his hands here and there to maneuver you in the tight space - but this feels different, more intimate, even as he covers you from view. It affects you more than it should, the feel of his fingers on your skin, and you feel a blush start to tingle in the apples of your cheeks at the close proximity. 

Feeling daring, you allow your gaze to wander up to meet his; and you swear you see him look down to study your mouth before licking his lips. His eyes are dark and hazel brown, flecked with shards of gold, almost hypnotic in the way they burn through you. 

Before you have a chance to ponder on what this interaction means, he moves away. "I'll be downstairs if you need me," he says, his hands dancing around your hips as he moves around you and towards the door. "Just shout. ok?"

You nod, too lost in your own thoughts to give him a proper answer. 

What was wrong with you? 

In a daze, you sit on the bed and absent-mindedly fondle the pile of fabric in your hands. Along with the towel, he's given you a t-shirt to sleep in, emblazoned with Yoongi’s bright-blue, cheery coffee-shop logo. At least that put the underwear debate to bed. Besides, Hoseok had given you enough to chew over, without worrying about exposing yourself.

You tug off your bloody blouse and turn it inside-out, piling it neatly on the floor. Slipping on the cool t-shirt, you instantly feel better to be wearing something clean, letting out a contented sigh as you fall back on the bed. You'd been awake for far too long if you were beginning to find Hoseok attractive.

He was attractive though, for all his flaws. You'd always thought so. His slim frame was so different from that of your larger ex-fiancé, his body all sinew and wiry muscles. He was masculine, yet almost delicate in his features in a way you found fascinating—how he managed to have the presence of a boxer with the build of a dancer was wondrous to you.

Your mind drifts as exhaustion takes hold, his protective words echoing in your ears. Guys will be guys. Was Hoseok one of those guys? You couldn’t tell. Was his territorial behavior towards you just chivalry, or something more? 

The thought of Hoseok wanting something more with you sent a twinge of something like arousal shooting up your body. You'd fantasized about him before, of course. Wondered how his authoritative streak would play out in the bedroom. That wasn't something you'd ever really explored with your ex—happy just to give and receive without much thought. But with Hoseok, you imagine it would be something altogether different.

The door creaks open, breaking your train of thought. Jin makes his way carefully inside, pushing it shut as slowly as he can. He must think you're asleep, from the way you’re laid in bed—and you greedily drink in the sight of him under your lashes, your heart rate increasing at his exposed skin. If you'd been thinking of Hoseok earlier, you suddenly couldn't remember why. Not with the vision you’ve been faced with.

His wet hair is fresh from the shower, and rivulets of water cascade down his broad shoulders and exposed chest. A small towel is wrapped around his waist, and you allow your eyes to stray down his slender, lean thighs and muscular calves, trying not to focus too hard at how the fabric bows outward at his groin.

He sits down on the bed and shakes your shoulder gently. “Hey, Y/N. It’s time to get up.”

You move upwards slowly, focussing very, very hard on trying to look as sleepy as possible and not as if you’d just been checking him out.

He crossed his arms protectively over his chest as soon as he realizes you’re up. “Uh… sorry. Yoongi says I can borrow his clothes, but I had to come in first…”

“It’s ok, don’t worry.” You wav him off, “it’s not like I’ve never seen a man before.”

He coughs awkwardly, ears burning red. Oops. You scuttle from the bedroom to the bathroom with your cheeks blazing, hoping you hadn’t been too forward. This lack of sleep was really getting to you.

Yoongi’s bathroom is as bare as the rest of the house, all concrete walls and exposed brickwork. It’s a simple wetroom, the head of the shower visible over a sink that juts awkwardly into the shower curtain. From the open window, you can hear the snarls of the horde outside, the sun beaming through the window. It’s around 11am now. You must have been awake for a full 24 hours. 

Turning the shower on, you sigh in relief as the warm water hits your skin. As it does so it takes the grime and blood with it, the pool at your legs marbled red and black with the efforts of your excursions. You grab Yoongi’s shampoo—mint scented— and start to massage your scalp, hoping the motions will help you relax, or at least knock some sense into you.

If this really is the apocalypse, would this be the last warm shower you ever take?  

You frown at the thought, suds tumbling down your back. If this was to be the last time, you’d have preferred to use your vanilla body wash from home, at the very least. Hell, maybe even lit some candles. Put on some romantic music. Glass of wine. God, if you could have chosen, definitely one of those baths with the little feet. 

Certainly not this concrete warehouse surrounded by zombies with Yoongi’s stringent gel body wash that smells like toothpaste.

The water down your back suddenly runs like ice, nearly freezing you in place. You yelp loudly, flailing for the tap in shock whilst steam fogs your vision. In the confusion, you skid, falling squarely on the floor of the tub with a screech. 

“Y/N? Are you alright!” Yoongi’s voice echoes around the bare room.

You squeal again as a second jet of ice-cold water hits you, this time cascading over your feet from the tap in the bathtub. Hearing you scream, Yoongi tears open the curtain separating your naked body from the outside world.

“Are you hurt? Did one of them get in? Are...” He trails off as he takes in the reality of the situation, his eyes growing wide. 

“Oh.” 

“What are you doing?” You hiss, shivering as you yank the shower curtain to cover yourself. “Are you out of your mind?”

Maybe Hoseok wasn’t so wrong after all. Guys will be guys. Even the nice ones. 

“I didn’t mean”—Yoongi waves his hands in panic—“I heard you scream! The window… I thought one of them had gotten in and…”

He trails off, his mouth hanging open, bat held loosely in his hand. Your anger ebbs when you see it. Perhaps he was telling the truth.  

“You can look away now, Yoongi,” you say, softly. “I’m ok. There’s nothing here.”

“I, uh… yeah. Sure. God, I’m sorry.”

“S’ok.”

He turns around, and once you’re sure he can’t see you step out of the tub, shivering as wrap the towel around you. 

He’s seen you naked. You’re too shocked to feel embarrassed, but you’ve got no idea what to say. Especially since you can tell he’s ruffled. You can see his hand trembling.

“We have no more hot water,” you say. If in doubt, state the obvious.

He nods. “I think a cold shower would probably do me good.”

You snort. “I doubt I have that much of an effect.”

He panics again, waving his hands. “Because I deserve it, I mean!”

“I know.” You giggle. “I was just… surprised. I’m glad you came to check. Really. You can turn around, now”

He does so, ruffling the back of his hair. “I’m not used to company. Or… any of this zombie stuff.”

“I don’t think any of us could have predicted this,” you say.

The silence between you hangs in the air. He’s seen you naked. Your cheeks heat up.

“I didn’t see anything, you know,” he mutters. “As soon as I realized, I didn’t look.”

You reach out to pat his shoulder reassuringly. He flinches at the contact but allows you to give him a comforting squeeze.

“It’s ok, Yoongi. I’m gonna go to sleep now.”

He gives you a small smile, holding the door open. “I’ll wash next. Goodnight.”

Seokjin is already in bed when you return, a pair of Yoongi’s sweatpants laid out for you to wear along with the branded t-shirt. He’s breathing steadily, plump lips slightly ajar as he sleeps, and you stare for a moment, happy to enjoy his appearance with no one around to judge you for it. At least if you died tomorrow, you had something nice to remember. God, he really was handsome.

Carefully crawling over his lean form, you pull the covers up and over you as you slide into the side of the bed nearest the wall. Jin stirs; rolling over and caging you in his arms as he sleeps. It feels so wonderful to be held like this that you don’t immediately object, every fiber in your body aching to curl into his chest and lay your head there, so starved as you are of affection. You breathe in and out, trying to match him. Soon, you’re in sync, and your eyes begin to flutter closed.

You’re not sure when he closes the gap, but he leans his head into your shoulder in his sleep, his lips perilously close to your collarbone. They’re so close you can feel his breath tickle at your skin, and you can’t help but feel a pulse of arousal coursing down your body as you imagine what it would be like to have them on you with a sense of purpose. It shocks you, how quickly your mind takes you to dark places; between Yoongi’s intrusion of your personal space and Hoseok’s possessiveness, having Jin this close is suddenly all a bit too much. 

“Jin.” You lean in, whispering into his ear so you don’t alarm him. “Seokjin. Wake up. Wake—”

He jerks to with a small cry, his hands reaching for your wrists as he rolls on top of you and holds you down. His chest rises and falls as his eyes snap open wildly and he takes in what’s going on; immediately releasing you from his grip as you cower back in terror.

“I’m sorry!” He flaps, clearly torn between trying to comfort you and worrying about touching you any further. “I thought—I thought you were... and I—”

He thought you were a zombie. He thought you were going to attack him

You’d had similar dreams—or more accurately, nightmares—the first night you’d fallen asleep after all hell had broken loose. Visions of claws and teeth, the flames of the fire licking at your ankles and the snapping maws of your massacred class. 

All of you had already been through so much. Was this your new reality? Two days in, and with no law enforcement in sight, it certainly didn’t feel very hopeful. Maybe you’d always have to sleep with one eye open. Maybe nightmares were now the new normal. The thought fills you with pathos. 

Without thinking, you pull him into an embrace. He tenses at first, unused to the contact—but then he sinks into your arms, exhaling with relief. He’s a big guy, heavier than you would have expected, but you allow him to lay on top of you, feeling comforted despite the intimacy of the situation. Somehow, with Jin, you immediately felt safe.

“Sorry,” he mumbles into your neck, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Likewise.” You strain backward, trying to get a read on his facial expression. “Was it a nightmare?”

He nods, his eyes meeting yours. 

You gaze into them for a little too long, admiring his lashes, and suddenly you’re very conscious of how close you both are. Him, laid on top of you, chest crushing your breasts as your bodies lie flush to one another. He doesn’t look away and neither do you, both of you still for a moment as you breathe.

You’re not sure who moves first or how it happens but suddenly your lips are on his, gentle and soft and just as inviting as you’d imagined. Whether it’s the need for human contact or the strangeness of the situation you’re both in that brings it on, you don’t know. But you kiss him with a hungry fervor that he returns, his hand cupping your cheek as he brings you in closer. You open your mouth, moaning quietly as he slides his tongue inside and over yours, your teeth crashing together as you get used to one another.

This is nothing like kissing your fiancé. Or at least, nothing like you remember from your last few years. It’s messy and needy and his lips are so full and wet that you roll your hips upward in want, gasping when you feel his hardening length pressing into you. Your heartbeat thrums as he grinds back in response, dragging a cautious hand down to your chest and pausing at the neckline of the baggy shirt. 

You nod. You want this. You want him. The feeling takes you by surprise, but you roll with it, slipping your hands under his shirt and pulling it up over his shoulders. He shakes it off and pulls you up to meet his embrace, one arm around your waist and the other tentative over your breast. You put your hand on top of his and squeeze, encouraging him to be firmer. 

You don’t want to think anymore. About tomorrow, about what was going to happen. Eyes tight, you run your hands down his chest and over his erection, making him stutter his hips. You just wanted to lose yourself in this sensation, the feeling of being taken and had and used. You just wanted to forget.

“Are you ok?” He pulls away from your lips, eyes glassy and pupils blown out. God, he looks good like this.

You nod, mutely, but he seems to sense your hesitation, pulling you into his chest and holding you there. 

“No, you’re not,” he says, softly. You lean on him fully, allowing his breathing to buoy you up and down. “You’re not ok.”

He strokes your hair as he holds you, your eyes prickling with tears as the sun streams through the blinds. The sound of muted growls can be heard even up here, on the third floor. You’re exhausted. It’s the middle of the day, and you’re in bed with a strange man you barely know. And soon, you would have to face a group of people who weren’t people. Dead, but alive. Everything you’d once known is upside down and back-to-front all at once. 

He’s right. You’re not ok. Nothing about this is ok.

Chapter Text

You wake up before Jin. In sleep, it is as if the world’s worries are someone else’s problem. His brow is smooth, thick eyebrows laid in a perfect line, eyes gently closed. You look for a little too long at his plush lips, held slightly ajar as he breathes in and out in deep sleep; his chest bare and tan as it rises up and down. 

He really is beautiful.

It makes the kiss you shared even harder to forget.

But you must forget it, really. Even though the memory of it still tingles on your lips, the way your bodies fit so well together making you ache for more — he was right to stop you both. It isn’t sensible, given the situation. You feel embarrassed for having let it get so far; foolish for clinging to him when he has done nothing but behave like a gentleman. 

This is the reason you do not wake him. Not because you’re too embarrassed to face him. And certainly not because if he woke up next to you at this precise moment, you may feel tempted to ask him to kiss you again. 

With one last glance at his sleeping form, you get up from the bed and close the door behind you.

You have no idea where the other men are. As it’s now the middle of the night, you hope they’re all asleep. Strictly speaking, it was only you and Seokjin who needed to miss out on a full night’s rest. 

Yoongi’s rickety stairs lie ahead. It’s dark  — so dark you can barely see your hand in front of your face, let alone the steps in front of you. The stairs creak ominously as you descend, the sound of aching wood discordant and sharp in the gloom. Gripping the banister tightly, you try to keep your tread light, feet trembling as you feel out each shaky step.  

Whilst you both slept — and kissed — it’s immediately apparent the others haven’t been idle in your absence. It’s actually quite jarring, seeing the coffeehouse you visited for so long in an utter state of disarray. 

All the furniture is pushed to the side, creating a large, empty space in the center of the room. The supplies are labeled carefully, positioned on benches and tables. The windows are now covered with slats of wood, the iron bars on the front window totally blocked from view. They’ve drawn up a rota for sleeping and supplies — Yoongi and Hoseok will take the next supply run when you return. 

If you return, that is.

You spot a small hole carved in the lowest beam to the floor. Kneeling down, you try to see if the coast is clear.

It’s pitch black outside. You blink as your eyes adjust to the gloom. Yoongi’s outdoor furniture swims into view first, scattered and folded on the floor. The horde must have knocked it over. For a brief, wonderful moment, you hope that they’ve moved on — but then you make out the shuffling, swaying shapes of the undead.

Zombies.

There are so many outside that you think at first they must be part of the scenery or a trick of the light. Mouths slack and eyes rolled to the back of their heads, their movements are slower, less frantic than the pack that chased you here. Dirty, bloody and pressed together, they rub and grumble against one another in silent, careful reverie. 

Not asleep, though. Waiting. 

“They don’t seem to move much, do they? Not if they don’t have something to chase.”

You start at the sound, a small squeak leaving your lips. Namjoon looks up at you from where he’s laying on the floor, covered haphazardly with blankets. You didn’t see him when you entered, so taken aback with the transformation of the coffee shop you once knew.

He places his finger to his lips, and you nod. You won’t make a noise like that again.

“I guess not.” You squint through the hole once more, mesmerized by the sight of your impending doom. “I guess they’ll have something to run after soon, though.” 

He shuffles across to the window to join you. His injured leg drags along the concrete, the blanket catching as he pulls it along the floor.

“I’ve been watching them quite carefully since we all went to sleep,” he says, eyes glittering in the darkness as he looks up at you. “I have a few observations.”

You haven’t talked much to Namjoon. He intimidated you a little, at first — all tight-jawed and slick hair and bright white shirt — but the more time you spent around him, the more comfortable you felt. He did seem austere, but underneath his frosty exterior you can sense something earthy, something reassuringly human. He isn’t afraid to tell you he’s scared too, after all, and you appreciated that about him a great deal. It’s good to know you’re not alone in it.

“Observations? And what are they?” you say. “I’m all ears.”

“Seeing as you asked so nicely.” He grimaces as he pulls up next to you, collapsing back against the wall. He doesn’t even have the strength to stand. “I’ll tell you.”

His breathing is labored, shirt stuck to his broad chest with sweat, buttons slightly pulled as the fabric strains over his pecs. You eye him curiously — you’ve never paid much attention to his appearance before now, never had the opportunity to see him up close. He has an attractive jaw, you note, square and masculine and unfortunately set with the agony he must currently be in. 

His dark eyes flick up to yours; fixing you with a stare that feels somewhere between an invitation and a cross-examination. 

“I know what you’re thinking,” he says, voice low and gravelly. “But I’ve not been bitten.” 

You swallow. “Didn’t say that.”

“I know.” He sighs, pulling his leg to a less awkward angle. “But I know you’re thinking it. You and that other guy. Hoseok .”

The way he says his name sounds venomous. You suppose that you can’t blame him. Hoseok left him and Seokjin for dead. If you hadn’t stayed with them, you’re not sure he would have come back and helped at all. 

“Did Hoseok say that to you?” you ask. You almost don’t want to hear his answer.

He shakes his head. “No. But I overheard him talking to Yoongi. Dead weight . I can only assume he meant me.”

You scowl. You had no idea Hoseok could be this cold-hearted. Pragmatic? Definitely. A little cold? No doubt. But the way he’s been behaving is downright ruthless. You needed to talk to him, and soon. 

“Well. You are a bit big,” you joke, giving Namjoon a small, encouraging smile. 

He doesn’t laugh, though. Nor does he look upset — both reactions that you immediately anticipated. Instead, he blushes; pink+cheeked and grinning, bending his neck downward to hide his face. 

“You noticed that, huh?” He smiles at you, cheeks bunched under his eyes. “People are always telling me I’m too tall. Clumsy. Whatever. But big is a new one. You… probably shouldn’t use the word you used, by the way. In that context it... it could be… misconstrued.”  

He has a dimple. It’s cute. It makes it hard to ignore what he’s implying. 

“Yeah! Tall. That’s what I meant. Thanks. And I’m sorry… I’m not fluent yet.” 

He laughs at that, a low and throaty noise that you can’t help but like. 

“Don’t worry. It’s not exactly an insult, is it?”

You cough, feeling your cheeks burn with a flush of guilt. Why did this keep happening? Between Yoongi seeing you naked, Hoseok getting in your personal space and Seokjin and you… well. Namjoon was the only one left who you had not flirted with.  

And yet — here you are. You’ve inadvertently completed the set. 

“Um… you mentioned the zombies?” you ask, hoping to bring the conversation back to a more pertinent topic.

“Ah... yeah.” He shuffles a little closer, taking a look out of the window himself, face illuminated by the light of the moon. His dark eyes flit back and forth, presumably following the movement of the hoard. Whatever he sees seems to please him, a wry smile forming on his lips. 

“As I thought. Tell me, have you ever heard of Linepithema humile?”

“Beg your pardon?” you ask.

He continues to stare out of the gap, voice dreamy and distracted. “It’s a type of ant. From Argentina.”

“R-right…” 

You’ve always been terrible with names, even in your native language. Let alone Latin.

“Scientists don’t really know how groups of animals work. Why birds flock together or how fish shoals know where they’re going.” Namjoon turns towards you, gesticulating as he rambles. “It’s fascinating really. This big group of creatures, all knowing which way to turn, what to do… it’s amazing that it works at all, to be honest. But it does! Termites build huge homes, birds travel across the globe, fish travel miles and miles — all without uttering a single word…”

You brush the sleep out of your eyes, hoping you look somewhat alert. “So you’re saying they’re like birds?”

“Well… not exactly.” He taps the gap. “Look.” 

You place your eye back to the viewing hole, squinting as your sight adjusts. One of the nearest undead lurches forward in a straight line, arms floppy and head hanging to the side as if sleepwalking. It careens into Yoongi’s patio furniture with a clatter, turning sharply on its heel before setting off in the opposite direction.

“See how it only changes direction when it hits something?” he asks, breath warm on your neck as he peers behind you. “When they’re not provoked, they kinda mill around. I’ve been watching them do that for a while now. At first I thought it was random, but... there’s method to it. They move in straight lines, bump into things, adjust course and keep going. Until… something catches their attention.”

“Like ants,” you breathe. “They do that too. Saw it in a nature documentary.”

“Exactly.” He smiles at you, dimple reappearing in his cheek. “Except… these ants want to eat us!”

You look at the ground. Of all of the things he could have discussed at this moment, that’s probably the worst thing he could have mentioned. 

“Sorry. I…” He exhales, realizing he’s said the wrong thing. Reaching out, he pats you carefully on the knee. “I’m sure you’ll be ok. Seokjin will take care of you. He’s a good guy.”


Seokjin . You think of him sleeping upstairs, lips pressed softly together in sleep. You remember how he stopped you both before you went too far, and how easy it would have been for him to take what he wanted.

“He is,” you say. “He really is.” 

You catch how wistful you sound a little too late to play it off. Namjoon definitely notices your tone, the expression on his face changing from mild consternation to curiosity in one fell swoop. 

“You two knew each other? From before?” He asks, leaning away from you to rest on the wall. “I know you said you lived in the same apartment complex, but…”

You shake your head, trying to keep your face as neutral as possible. “We’re just neighbors. That’s all. But we never actually spoke. I just… saw him. A lot. Hard not to, when you live next door.”

Something like recognition travels over Namjoon’s face, his eyes widening. “Oh! You’re the neighbor, then!”

The neighbor?”

Ah. He, uh…” He scratches the back of his head. “He mentioned a foreigner had moved next door and she was really… well. I remember he said that.”

Another awkward pause stretches between you both, punctuated by the soft growls and clattering outside.   

“We could probably use the ant thing to our advantage,” he eventually says. “If they’re triggered by noise or sight, perhaps we could lure them places. Maybe even dangerous places. Set traps. Fortify this place, if we have to. We… could be here for a while. Until the authorities arrive.”

“Until the authorities arrive,” you parrot. 

“They will come, right?” Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek. “The police. Army. Whatever.”

You exhale, the weight of the question heavy. “If this is global… it might take a while.”

“Yeah,” says Namjoon, deflated, voice husky. “It may take a while. All we need to do is wait.”

From the way his eyes glisten with held-back tears, you don’t have the heart to tell him what you really think. 

Yoongi walks in on you both, yawning wide. “Hello. Is it time?” He whispers. “Where’s Jin?”

“Still asleep,” you say. “We don’t need to go yet, do we?”

Yoongi squats down beside you both, face drawn and grim. “Actually, I’d say you should go as soon as possible. It’s only gonna get lighter. Sun rises fast in summer.”

Your stomach sinks with an unpleasant twist. The longer you wait, the riskier it will be.

Hoseok follows soon after Yoongi. You don’t fail to see how Namjoon’s eyes narrow with displeasure at his arrival.

“They’re not smart, are they?” Hoseok jabs a finger, indicating the outside. “From where I was sleeping, I could see everything. There’s a door to the back passage that’s unlocked, but they’ve not opened it.”

Namjoon nods, setting his jaw. “From what I’ve observed, they’re not intelligent. When there’s no noise, they’re kinda… dormant. I saw a few of them take down a bird — the commotion set the lot of them off. Would be fairly easy to distract.”

“From what you’ve observed, huh?” Hoseok allows his eyes to trail down Namjoon’s legs, resting where the ankle is bandaged. “Well. Do keep us updated.”

Yoongi pinches the bridge of his nose. “Stop looking for a fight, Hoseok. It won’t end well.”

You realize your fists are balled tight by your side. Hoseok is getting on your nerves.

“Where is he, then?” Hoseok fixes you with a glare. “The man of the hour.”

“Jin’s asleep,” you hiss, staring him down. “I’ll go get him.”

He looks taken aback by your tone, the look on his face melting away to something softer, more gentle. It’s rare to see him looking vulnerable, but you’re still boiling hot with rage. This isn’t the man you recognize, who the children adored and admired. This is someone entirely different, and you don’t like him one bit. 

You shoot to your feet, walking towards the stairwell in a temper — but he reaches forward and holds your shoulder, just as you move to storm past him.

“Wait. I’m sorry. I’ll go with you, instead.”

“What if I don’t want to go with you, Hoseok?” 

“They’re quiet. We don’t know how much longer they’ll hold.” Yoongi is a man of little words, but when he does speak up, he usually has something useful to say. “They jump at anything. I set them off a few hours ago just by walking in here. Not to mention, they’ve stirred several times in the night already, totally on their own.”

You do not want to go. Not without Jin. 

“By the time we go upstairs, wake Seokjin? We may make too much noise,” says Yoongi. “Honestly? We might not get another chance like this. I think you should go.”

You breathe out through the nose, trying to steady your nerves. You hadn’t banked on doing this with Hoseok. “Can’t we wake him? It won’t take long. I—“

You feel a pull on your t-shirt. Namjoon is tugging it, from where he’s slumped on the floor.

“To be frank…” he flashes Hoseok a dirty look. “Seeing as your friend left me for dead, I don’t really fancy being left alone with him. Besides… Seokjin hasn’t had it easy, recently. His best friend died, like, two days ago, and—“ He pauses, eyebrows furrowed as if thinking about what he should reveal. “—-and he’s not as cheerful as he appears. That’s all I’ll say.”

You think of how peaceful Jin looked upstairs. The way his hands balled the cover into little fists when he slept. The muffled noise he made when you startled him awake, and the way he stroked your hair after kissing you, holding you tight until you fell asleep... 

He’s been so kind to you. Perhaps you could return the favor.

“Okay,” you say, your mind made up. “Okay, Hoseok. Jin can stay. We can go.”

The next half hour passes in a hurried rush of quiet, frantic activity. You pack Yoongi’s sports bag and one of the hold-alls from the school into your backpack, so you and Hoseok can carry as many supplies as possible. He takes the emergency medical kit, flashlight, a bottle of water and the axe. You opt for your kitchen knife — feeling safer with a sharp blade than the heavy steel bat. 

Once you’ve geared up, Yoongi gives you both a small nod, ushering you both to the back room of the coffee shop as quietly as possible. Namjoon wishes you luck as you pass, flashing you a nervous smile of encouragement. At least he’ll be safe with Seokjin, you reason. 

You wish Seokjin was coming with you.

The night sky is already starting to lighten on the horizon when Yoongi slowly pulls up the small window leading to the back porch. Below, there’s a small walkway that snakes around the back of the property, walled in from the hoard at the front. Hoseok reaches down, leaning as far as he can out of the window to place his pack on the floor. You hand him yours and he does the same, balancing on his supple, sinewy forearms with the grace of a ballet dancer. Swinging his legs forward, he lands on the ground as noiseless as a cat. 

You gulp. No doubt your exit would not be quite so elegant. 

“You’ll be ok,” says Yoongi, giving your shoulder an encouraging squeeze. “Hoseok will look after you.”

The sentiment irritates you. He’d suggested the change in line-up, after all.

“Like he looked after your sister?” you say, sharper than necessary. 

Something like thunder passes over Yoongi’s expression, barely visible yet settling into flints in his eyes. 

You bite your lip.

“... I’m sorry, Yoongi. I promise I didn’t mean it that way.” He doesn’t say anything, and in the silence you exhale nervously. “I’m just really scared. I thought I’d be going with Jin, and now I’m not and… well...”

“Hoseok.” He finishes your thought, the apologetic smile that follows filling you with a flood of relief. “Believe it or not, he’s not always been this difficult. He’s made mistakes, but... he’s not a bad person. Not that bad, anyway.”

Your eyes widen at his words. Has he really forgiven the man who had an affair whilst dating his sister ?   

“Still wanna punch his lights out, though,” mutters Yoongi. 

You snicker. He seems pleased that he’s amused you, the corners of his mouth tugging upward in a wry, shy smile.

“Are you coming?” hisses Hoseok, from outside. “We have to go!

Yoongi holds out a hand and helps you mount the sill. Your heartbeat rises, pumping warm blood around your body that thrums wildly at the base of your neck. You turn, looking to him in panic; but he just gives your palm a squeeze and nods towards the gap.

You jump.

Hoseok is there to catch you. Tumbling forward, you land awkwardly, head glancing off his shoulder as you grab onto his shirt. Both of you look at one another in wild-eyed panic at the noise you’ve made on the gravel path, tight to one another’s bodies as you breathe in unison — but there’s no sound of footsteps or snarls from the other side of the building. 

You’re safe. For now.

Hoseok lets out a breathy exhale that ruffles the hair on the top of your head. “O-okay. We’re okay. God, I really thought we’d blown it, there.”

“I’m sorry, Hoseok,” you whisper, your hands still fisted in his shirt. His chest is warm and inviting and you want to linger there for as long as possible before facing reality. “I didn’t mean to make so much noise.”

“It’s done now.” He pulls away from you, dark eyes scanning your face. “Are you ready? Are you okay?”

The last time you were this close to Hoseok, you’d abandoned your class to be eaten alive. Colleagues who he’d known for years and years had chased you both through hallways, baying for your blood. You’ve only lived here for a short period of time, but for him, this is his home

Is he okay? Has he stopped blaming himself? Or does he still blame you? 

You wonder if you were faced with such a decision, could you bring yourself to make it? 

You nod, feeling determined not to let him down. “Yes. I’m ready.”

“Hoseok!” whispers Yoongi, from the window ledge. “Catch!”

He throws a rolled up piece of fabric that Hoseok snatches deftly before it hits the ground. It’s white, with a splash of red and blue in the middle and what looks like black lines emanating from its center. 

“How patriotic,” smirks Hoseok. “What’s this for?”

“If you need to get our attention when you come back,” says Yoongi. “Just wave it.”

“Should I sing the national anthem, too?” asks Hoseok.

“Only if you find what we need,” says Yoongi, sliding the window closed. “Good luck.”

With the sill shut, there’s only one thing for it.

“Guess it’s time to go, then,” you say, resigned to the path ahead. “Can you give me a leg up?”

You both clamber over the wall, landing softly on the grass outside the building perimeter. As soon as you’re fully exposed, all your senses heighten; the growling is louder, the air colder and most worryingly of all, the light creeping over the horizon moves faster than ever. 

Yoongi had been right, to tell you not to wait for Seokjin. You may already be too late.

Hoseok jogs through the park towards the nearby treeline. You follow close behind, the shared sounds of your rapid, exhaled breaths all you can hear for some time. There’s not a soul in sight, living or dead, and once you enter the thicket, it’s eerily quiet too — no grating crickets or hooting of owls. 

Rounding the copse, you can see the blue sign of the coffee shop to your left once more, a large pack of zombies still milling outside. To proceed, you and Hoseok will now have to break cover to head towards town. And whilst the group is far away, you can still make them out quite easily.

If you can see them, they can probably see you.

“What should we do?” you ask, stomach twisting with primal fear at the thought “Will they chase us?”

Hoseok shakes his head, putting his finger to his lips. Gently, he folds himself down until he’s laid on the grass, just outside of the bushes. He props himself up to his elbows, crawling a little way forward and motioning for you to do the same.

“Leopard crawl,” he whispers, as you lay next to him. “We’ll go slow and quiet until we hit the fence. From there, we should be okay.”

“All that way?” you can’t help but stare, the fence far further than the distance you’d run to get here. “Will we make it?”

“Would you rather run?” says Hoseok, eyes burning with annoyance. “I wouldn’t.”

“Good point,” you say, meekly. “You go first.”

“No. You go first. If they start to come for us, you’ll need the headstart when we sprint.”

You scowl. You want to argue with him, wipe the smug look off his face, tell him you run every single day, thank you very much — but now is not the time. Sunlight has just started to break through the clouds, covering the grass with a shimmering, golden hue. Soon, visibility will be a lot better, and you’d rather use the cover of darkness whilst you still have it.

Crawling is horrid. Your bones ache, your skin chafes and you’re very self-conscious that Hoseok has a front-row seat to watch your ass in the air. Time passes inexorably slowly; from your position, you can easily see the clouds wheeling overhead as twilight begins to lift, the sun glittering on the dewdrops of the grass. 

The snarling carries on the wind. It keeps you moving towards your goal.

The heat rises as you grovel over the ground, making beads of sweat trickle down your face and into your eyes. You daren’t turn round, but you can hear Hoseok behind you, puffing with exertion. Your muscles scream for rest but you press onward, the fence moments away. It’s only when your fingers make contact with the brick that you relent, collapsing prone on the ground with a whimper.

“Shh…” whispers Hoseok. “We don’t know who else is here…”

He clambers to his knees, making short work of the barrier as he leaps over it. You’re a little slower and shaky, practically falling on top of him as you scramble over and onto the other side. He crouches and so do you, although your thighs beg for mercy. 

Together, you survey the area. You live in a small town, but you’re still a way out from the center. You’d not often ventured this far — the tiny local pharmacy, small convenience store, and beaten-up kimbap restaurant hardly making for a buzzing tourist destination. It’s eerie and quiet, rubbish littering the streets from where a garbage can has been upended. A car is abandoned just outside the pharmacy, doors flung wide open. No undead, but no people to speak of either. 

You wonder if anyone else in the town has been as fortunate as you. There must be other survivors. Perhaps you could band together—

“I think we should go to the pharmacy first,” says Hoseok. “Medical supplies are always useful to have.”

I could pick up some pain relief for Namjoon , you think, eyeing the building. There’s a large crack running through the green cross emblazoning the glass front, and the litter has started to collect by the ramp from where the wind has blown it across the tarmac. 

Hoseok goes first and you follow, crouched and quiet as you approach slowly. You both wince at the jingle of the door, tense and still—but nothing is summoned to your immediate vicinity. Carefully, he lets the door settle back on its hinges, and you both make your way into the small store. It appears mostly undisturbed, lined with dietary aids, cold medicine, and face masks, frozen in a time before the outbreak. 

“I’ll check the back first,” breathes Hoseok, as you both crouch behind the counter. “Get ready to run if I find anything, ok? Don’t wait for me.”

You nod, knowing you’ll do exactly the opposite when it comes down to it. The worst possible thing you could imagine right now is to be alone. 

Luckily, the coast is clear. 

You get to work quickly, unzipping one of the hold-all bags you’re carrying and filling it with supplies. Painkillers, diarrhea medication, bandages, gauze, disinfectant—you can practically hear Yoongi’s voice in your head as you rattle through his list of demands, hands trembling. 

Hoseok pops the till and shoots you a guilty look before pocketing the cash. Pulling a post-it note from the desk, he writes his name and phone number and places it inside the drawer before pushing it closed.

“Just in case,” he says. “You never know what’s gonna happen.”

It’s a sweet gesture. You hope it’s not entirely redundant. That sometime in the future, Hoseok will get a call from a kindly pharmacist, requesting he replenish the meager takings.

You strongly suspect, however, that money has no meaning in this world any more.

Hoseok walks around to the back of the store, presumably to gather more medication. In his absence, you scour the shelves, keen to see if you can spot anything else that would be useful. Vanity kicks in once you enter the beauty aisle, and you pick up a hairbrush, dry shampoo, skincare and makeup, sliding them all into a small beauty bag and concealing it in the bottom of your backpack. Whilst looking beautiful isn’t a top priority right now, a little bit of self-care will go a long way to improving your mood. 

You won’t tell Hoseok. He’ll probably tell you that you can’t keep it.  

Your eyes stray to a shelf tucked in the corner of the shop. Next to some brightly colored tubes of lubricant are boxes of condoms, neatly stacked out of sight from most customers.  Before you can really analyze why you’re acting this way, you reach out and grab a packet, slipping it into your pocket. 

“You need… those?” says Hoseok, tone sharp. “Can I ask why?”

Your cheeks burn hot as he stares you down, leaning in the doorway. Mentioning what happened with Seokjin at this point in time would probably not be advisable, you reason.

“They’re, uh... actually really useful for survival,” you say, hoping you sound convincing. “The rubber is strong, and you can use them as water skins, slingshots… there are many uses.” 

“I see,” Hoseok says, tone neutral. You can’t tell if he’s bought it, but he continues packing syringes into the open pack. “Didn’t know that. Bring them all, then.”

You feel the blood drain from your face. “All of them?”  

“Yeah. Besides, their primary function also has its merits.”

Your eyes grow wide. Hoseok is usually so formal, especially with you. It’s what makes his touchy-feely nature so difficult to handle. The contrast between the two often gives you whiplash, but this new combination of both verbal and physical causes a whole new flock of feelings that you aren’t quite prepared to handle.   

“Relax.” He nudges you in the side, something approaching a grin dancing over his lips. “You should see your face! I’m just kidding. I can see why they’d be helpful.”

You continue to pull the packets off the shelves, hoping beyond hope that your face isn’t bright scarlet. Hoseok chuckles to himself, seemingly quite amused. Between the two of you, you manage to entirely fill the first hold-all, pulling the sides together to ensure the zipper can close. 

“It’s nearly morning,” says Hoseok, rubbing his chin with concern. “We need to be quick. You hit the kimbap place, I’ll go to the convenience store. Grab what you can and let's meet by the fence. Can’t go back in full daylight, it’s too risky.”

You agree. You’d been lucky to sneak away before. Without the cover of darkness, you might become zombie chow in mere moments.

The kimbap restaurant is silent; dull, oily air in the dark, suspended over dirty plates. Unlike the undisturbed pharmacy, it’s clear that something unpleasant occurred here in the wake of the outbreak. Blood is splashed on the wall to the right in a bright, congealed smear that slices through the bleak decor, leaving toppled furniture in its wake. Abandoned coats and handbags are positioned at various tables, slung casually over chairs, their owners presumably long gone. An undelivered order still sits at the pass, serving bell next to it, never to ring again.   

It’s a ghastly tableau. You’re acutely aware that this horrifying still life might become your present at any moment.  

“H-hello?” you ask, hand holding the knife trembling as you advance. “Is anyone there?”

There’s a bang from upstairs. You freeze, saliva congealing in your throat. 

“A foreigner?” says a man from upstairs. His voice is gruff and low, in an accent you don’t recognize.

You exhale shakily, glad to be answered by a human voice. “Yes. I work at the school.”

“Stay there,” says another man. “Stay right where you are.”

Their footsteps are heavy on the rickety wooden stairs, and you hope the noise they’re making won’t attract unwelcome attention.

You look outside. Hoseok hasn’t emerged from the convenience store yet, but he’ll probably be pleased that you’ve found more survivors. Or will he? He’s more pessimistic than you, it’s true. But you want to believe they’ll be as kind as Namjoon and Seokjin. Besides, if they’re anywhere near as scared as you are, they won’t want any trouble. 

You hope.

Either way, you probably shouldn’t meet them at knifepoint. Putting your weapon and your backpack down on the table, you walk forward to greet them instead. Best foot forward.

“Hello,” says the owner of the first voice. 

He’s a burly, older man; clearly a construction worker from the way he’s dressed. He eyes you up and down, passing his tongue over his cracked lips in a way that sends a shiver up your spine. 

“You on your own?” says the second man. He’s slimmer than the first, and taller too, blood-spattered spade brandished in his rangy, calloused hands. “You got company?”

You thought you would be happy to see more living people, their existence igniting a dim hope that all is not lost — but that fades the moment you spot the glint in their eyes. They exchange a look, loaded with meaning, then turn their gaze back to you. 

You can feel it. These are not good men. Your heart starts to race.

“N-no.” You answer on instinct, even as your eyes dart nervously around you, desperately praying Hoseok will appear. “I’m on my own.”

The two men round on you from behind the counter, and you reflexively back into the corner in panic. You immediately realize the stupidity of your actions; the knife even further away than before. The taller of the pair follows your line of sight until he sees the blade, pushing it off the table. It tumbles to the floor with a clatter, bouncing once, twice in an arc before settling behind a table and out of sight.

“That’s mine,” you say, your voice small and thin even as you try to sound intimidating. “Give it back.”

One of them is laughing, the guttural sound making your heart thud faster. The shorter of the pair has his pudgy hands laid on his belt buckle, caressing the leather strap. You can’t seem to tear your eyes away.

“You’re pretty. Ain’t she pretty, Songcheol?” says the second man.

“Yeah,” says the man called Songcheol, gripping the spade tight. “Really pretty. It would be a shame if something happened to that pretty face.”

“Leave me alone,” you say. “My friends are coming here right now. You’ll be sorry.”

“But you’re alone, sweetheart. You told us that...” Songcheol prods you in the stomach with the spade, hard. The metal is like ice on your skin. “It’s just you and us, now…”

You tremble, the implication of their words shaking you to your very core. There’s nowhere left to run. With your back to the till and their bodies blocking the only window facing into the square, you can’t see Hoseok or signal to him. 

“On your knees, love,” drools the man. “Don’t make me ask twice.”

You shake your head, tears streaming down your face. “No. Fuck you.”

“Oh, I will,” says the large man. 

You want to talk, to scream or beg but the words won’t come. They move closer, and you sink to the floor, whimpering with fear. You look on the ground, desperate to find a weapon, chair leg, anything you can hit them with — but there’s nothing except the cool tiles of the floor and the wooden bar, paint peeling where your hands scrabble against it.

This is not happening. And if this really is happening, you do not want to bear witness.

Your eyes fall closed. 

You feel the rough, plump fingers of one of the men on your face, making you shudder where his thick, flakey skin caresses the side of your cheek. It lingers there for a moment, tickling you under the chin, and every atom of your being screams to get away, to move away, to stop—

His palm jerks back. It’s so fast the mangled skin scratches your cheek. And then, you hear a loud shriek of pain. 

Something liquid hits your face, wet, sticky and unpleasant, and you snap your eyes back open to the sight of Hoseok brandishing the bloody axe, the large man cradling his arm on the floor.

“Get the fuck away from her,” hisses Hoseok, eyes blazing. “Or it’s your head next.”

You let out a cry of relief, bringing a trembling hand to your face in horror. You’re covered in blood.

“O-ok,” stammers the taller man, pulling at his companion’s shirt. “Just let us leave, man! We don’t want a fight. We’re only trying to have some fun…”

“Fuck you,” spits Hoseok, waving the axe. “Fun? You think that’s fun?”

The larger man staggers to his feet with a groan, his hand clasped firmly over his gaping wound. The blood is soaking through his shirt, staining the gaps between his hands.

“L-let’s go, ‘Cheol,” he groans, “before those fucking things come back.”

They clatter out of the restaurant and into the street, the larger man nearly falling into the car. The slimmer of the two shuts the doors and pulls the keys from his pocket, revving the engine and driving away with a squeal. 

You breathe out, the spittle shaky in your throat as relief surges through you. 

He saved you. You’re okay.

“How many times?” Hoseok rounds on you, eyes blazing. “It’s dangerous on your own! You need to keep your guard up! The moment you knew they were here, you should have called for me. Why are you so trusting?”

You choke back tears. He can’t know, of course, but he’s inadvertently touched on one of your deepest insecurities. Trust . You desperately want to be able to trust people again.

“I just wanted to talk to them,” you sniff. “I-I thought you’d be happy! That maybe we could pool resources and—“

“Don’t ever do that again. Okay?” He wipes the blood from the axe on a tablecloth, leaving a red stain that you can’t help but stare at. “No talking to strangers. Especially strange men. They’re not our friends. As of right now, they’re all bad news.”

On your darker days, you might wholeheartedly agree with his statement. But you also don’t want to believe it. You need it not to be true. Because if it is, then men like your fiancé are ten a penny.

“Men are not all ‘bad news’, Hoseok,” you gasp, breath still stuck in your throat. “How do you know that?”

“Because I am one, all right? I know. Just take my word for it.”

“Why are you always telling me what to do?” you ask, voice tremulous and soft. 

“Why is it so hard for you to accept that I'm right?”

“So you’re right, and I’m wrong,” you say, using the wall to stand back on your feet. “Is that a rule for just now, or always? Just so I know.”

He runs his hands through his hair, expression angry and firm. You expect him to shout, even scream — but when he looks at you next, all you can see is a gentle concern.

“I want to keep you safe,” he says, quietly. “Can’t you see that all I am doing is trying to keep you safe?”

“Why do you care so much?” Your bottom lip is trembling, emotions from earlier threatening to spill over as the tears flow hot against your cheek. “You said you were going to Daegu to meet up with your army buddies, or whatever. So just go, already! You don’t need to worry about me!”

“I worry about you because I like you!” He fumes. “I like you, I care about you and... and I want to get us through this!”

Your jaw drops. 

Hoseok likes you.

Chapter Text

Hoseok likes you.

You can't wrap your head around it. He's given you absolutely no indication — not a single one — that he might be interested in you. 

He never fails to remind you where you need to improve. Ever. And from your time in the classroom, it’s clear that he feels there’s a lot to be worked on. You're not sure what he actually likes about you, to be honest. He's picked a flaw in nearly every action you've ever taken since he met you. Why on earth would he worry about your safety when all he's ever done is berate you?

Sure, he's been overfamiliar at times, perhaps even a little intense. But you thought this was just... how he was. Fussy, irritable and handsy. After all, you reason, it doesn’t matter how many times someone touches the small of your back if it’s always followed by a scowl.

That was then. This is now. You’re beginning to realize there’s a lot you’ve misunderstood.

You look up from the floor, where you've been staring since he made his confession.

"Hoseok? I don't understand—"

You gasp as he reaches forward and yanks you towards him. His hand fists the fabric of your t-shirt so tight it rides up your body, exposing your stomach. You struggle, panic, almost cry out — but he spins you around and pulls you down to the ground with one fluid movement, clamping his hand firmly over your mouth. 

Breathless, you do your best to wriggle away, shocked at how strong and forceful he is being — but he wraps his other arm tight around your middle, the skin of his forearm hot against your stomach. You're entirely flush to him, back pressed tightly to his chest and sat squarely between his legs, and you whimper as he grips his palm tighter over your mouth.

His chin is level with your ear, breath hot on your neck. When he breathes, flyaway strands of your hair stir with the force of his shaky exhalation.

"Stay. Very. Still," he whispers. "Don't make a sound."

The door clatters open.

Something staggers inside.

And suddenly, everything makes sense.

You swallow. You hear two —  no, three? Or perhaps even four undead tumble inside, snarling and snapping at the air. Their growls are feral, unhinged, high-pitched and hungry. One of them sniffs the air in sharp, short inhales that send shivers down your spine.

Hoseok's hand is still over your mouth. You're glad. You're not sure you would have the self-control not to scream, otherwise.

Your weapons are still on the floor. Your knife is within grabbing distance if it comes to it, but the axe is too far away to reach. Pressed up against the bar as you are, there’s absolutely nowhere to run. Only one set of tables spares you both from being eaten alive.

You can feel Hoseok's heartbeat hammering against your back, hard and fast, as they move further into the restaurant. It's so loud that it echoes in your ribcage, the rhythm adding to your own, blood pumping through two hearts so loudly the thud in your ears sounds like a drum. 

One zombie pushes into a chair as it wanders closer, the screech sending the others into a yapping frenzy, hissing and howling.

The door clatters again.

This time, the footfall is so fast that you can't guess how many are now in the building with you.

Adrenaline washes through you so quickly that all your senses are heightened to a fever pitch. The prickle of sweat forming on your upper lip; the dust that dances from the dirty plates in the still air; a vessel in your cheek thrumming against where Hoseok's palm is pressed hard and firm against your mouth. Both of you breathe in quiet, awed unison, chests rising and falling, a symphony of ragged inhales and exhales that very well may be your last.

When two of them clatter into the bank of tables a row away from yours, their frenzied snarls so very close, you wonder if you're going to pass out. 

The fingertips of Hoseok's right hand begin to slowly unfurl from your stomach, delicately ghosting over the painful marks where they've been anchored vice-tight on your bare skin. At first, you think he is trying to soothe you — but your eyes widen in horror as he begins to move his arm slowly, slowly, oh-so-slowly forward.

He's going for the knife.

You try to shake your head, to make him stop — but the movement is so staccato it comes out more like a tremble of fear. In response, Hoseok presses his hand even harder over your mouth, his thumb sliding between your wet lips and pressing down on your tongue. It makes your eyes water and your throat sting with the need to gag, but you suppress it all, your need for survival burning stronger and brighter than any of your bodily impulses. 

A particularly loud snarl stills the progress of his hand; it trembles, now, on the precipice between the air above and the gap between the tables. 

In the past, you'd watched nature programs and often pondered why cornered animals simply gave up. Leaning towards the television, you would will the wounded gazelle or zebra to its feet, praying that it would find the strength to evade the lion that brought it to its knees. Unable to tear yourself away from the grisly scene, you'd watch, open-mouthed and filled with morbid fascination, confused that it's final, hideous moments were not of spirited escape but willful, relinquished surrender.

Now, with nowhere to run, you think you finally understand what it means to submit.

BOOM .

The entire restaurant shakes with the force of a loud, violent explosion. Chairs screech across the ground, tables wobbling so violently that you're afraid you'll be revealed. Glasses come crashing down from where they're stacked on high, showering downwards in a hail of sharp shards.

You crouch backward into Hoseok's chest, eyes shut as tight as you can. In the darkness, you feel his hand close on yours.

The air at once is filled with the screams and snarls of the undead, frenzied and out for blood. For one, singular, blood-curdling moment, you think they've discovered you — but they pile out and onto the street, door slamming again and again as they pass through the threshold. You can hear them still, despite the boundary — but the noise quickly starts to decrease in volume as they run away, presumably towards the explosion.

Hoseok gently loosens his grip on your chin, slipping his fingers out of your mouth and releasing your jaw. You stay as close as you can to his chest, buried in the crook of his left shoulder.

"Hey." He shakes you gently, hand on your shoulder. "Hey. They're gone now. It's okay."

You open your eyes. 

The restaurant is totally destroyed. The shelving has fallen from the wall, taking most of the right-hand side of the restaurant with it. When you entered, you'd found a hastily abandoned scene, signs of life you once knew still present. Gruesome, yes, but still something you recognized — now it’s shattered beyond comprehension. If you'd found the previous disturbing, this is even more horrific, a symbol of what has changed for the both of you, forever.

You turn towards Hoseok. You don't know where else to go.

A cascade of glass shards tinkles as they fall from your shoulders. You press your palms against him, wanting to feel something alive, something real — something that will anchor you to this earth and remind you that all is not lost. 

His chest rises sharply under your hands, breath coming in ragged, torn-up gasps. He’s shaking, you realize; the arms that encircle you are agitated, trembling like a leaf, heart thud-thud-thud under your hands. 

There are tears in the corners of his eyes. You can’t look away.

“I-I’ve got you,” he says, expression wild and untamed. He can barely get the words out but you can tell he wants to, muscles tensed in his face as he tries to swallow, tongue tumbling over the words. 

“I’m… glad I’ve got you. You’re… all I have, now.”

His confession catches you off guard, a slam to the chest that drenches you with a wave of pathos. You need to let him know it's okay — it’s okay to feel and be frightened. That you’re scared too. And in many ways, you feel the same. He might be difficult and challenging, he might be too controlling, even — but he’s saved you twice, now, and you don’t know how else to repay him. You don’t know how else to make the pain go away.

You need to touch him. Comfort him. Let him know he’s not alone.

Because then you’re not alone, too.

You reach forward and stroke his cheek, awed hand on his warm skin. You’ve always liked his jaw, found it elegant the way the bone sharpens to a right angle as it leads up to his ear. You allow your fingertips to dance across it, a forbidden canvas that you track up the side of his face and into his dark, black hair. 

His breathing slows, heartbeat still quailing at the touch of your hand. The terror in his dark eyes is still apparent, but it's laced with something else — something dangerous and intense that you can't help but lock onto, watching his gaze dart from your hand to your face and over the curve of your half-open lips. You can’t help yourself either, allowing yourself to observe the way his lips quiver, just for a moment.

You want to kiss him, you realize. You want to kiss him to take the pain away, to thank him for being there for you when nobody else was. You want to kiss him, so you lean forward without thinking and press your lips to his.

He tilts his head to the side to welcome you, sliding his hand under your chin with a breathy moan that makes you quiver. At once his tongue is in your mouth, urgent and needy, and all you can do is allow your eyes to flutter closed as he deepens the kiss. 

It's not polite, the way he turns his head to take more of you, but you let him have his way because you want to feel every part of him on you, pressing into you and possessing your mouth entirely in his. You shudder when he sucks at your lower lip, the sound lewd and strange — but the noise he makes in response to your whimper makes it so very worth it.

The same hands that held you down and restrained you earlier pull you closer, pull you under; and he pushes you backward and onto the floor, the broken glass pressing uncomfortably into your clothes as he maneuvers on top. Catching your breath is hard when he's kissing you so passionately, his hands threaded through your hair and on your body, underneath your clothes — but you let him because you don't want to think anymore, don't want to feel, just want to let him take and take until you can forget, just like before when—

Seokjin.

Just like before, with Seokjin.

You break away, feeling a scrape of pain from the glass below as you move your hands to restrain him. He pulls upward, his dark hair hanging down from where his brow is set firm, eyes burning with want. The sight nearly takes your breath away.

"Stop," you say, voice small and reedy. "Hoseok, stop. T-this isn't right."

His lips curve downward, still wet from your tongue. "It isn't?" he asks, breathlessly. "I don't understand."

"I don't want to. I made a mistake," you say, the memory of Jin's peaceful, sleeping face bringing a sharp stab of guilt with it. "I'm not interested."

Hoseok blinks. He removes his hand from underneath your shirt.

"I didn't mean..." he stumbles over the words, leaning up until he's kneeling at your open legs. "If it's too soon, I understand... but I thought—"

"I said no." You rise to your feet, turning to get your knife. "I don't want this. There's nothing to think about."

Blood is thumping in your ears. Your body is hot, unbelievably hot from the way he manhandled you — and you hope he can't tell how ragged your breathing is, how wet your panties are, uncomfortably stuck to your core. You shut your eyes as your hand closes around the handle of the blade, trying to will away the memory of his hands all over you; the way he slid the digit inside your lips and held down your tongue with his thumb.

It's true, you feel guilty. But you also feel hopelessly turned on.

This lie is going to be difficult to maintain.

"Wait," says Hoseok. "You're bleeding. Wait."

Your hands tremble when you swing one of the supply packs onto your shoulder. It's unbelievably heavy but you haul it onto your shredded back anyway, your legs leaden and weak with arousal. The effect of its bulk makes the cuts sting with pain, but you're grateful for the reprieve from your lustful thoughts.

"No time," you growl. "Look."

The sun is high in the sky, light beaming through the greasy windows of the kimbap restaurant.

"O-okay. We should go," says Hoseok. "Just... give me a minute?"

You spin on your heel and immediately wish you hadn't. His erection stands proudly from his body, pushing out the baggy material of the sweatpants. He flushes, trying to mask it with one of the bags but it's too late — you've seen it, and he knows you've seen it. You can see absolutely everything .

"Turn around!" he says, the skin near his scalp nearly beetroot. "I thought you said you weren't interested?"

"I'm not," you say, mouth open and staring, "I just... didn't think you—"

A second explosion sounds, making you jump.

"Do you think it's the army," says Hoseok, his frown shifting into wide-eyed hope. "It could be, right?"

The sound is further in the distance than the first. It's followed in quick succession by two more, and when you look outside you can see large clouds of smoke belching into the sky.

"It's in the direction of the school," you say. "I think the school blew up."

Hoseok joins you by the window, the remaining two bags hung from his arms. Neither of you speaks. There are no words.

"We should go," says Hoseok, after you both stand in silence for a while. "There's nothing left for us here."

He suggests you both cycle back, considering the extra weight you're carrying, and you gladly oblige — your legs, at this point, twitch in agony from the exertions of your journey.

As Hoseok unhooks the two abandoned bicycles from the stand, you note that they are unlocked. That would never happen back home. It’s one of your favorite things about this little town, how safe it is.

How safe it was.

It's not now. Those two men had helped you understand that once and for all.

The return to Yoongi's coffee shop is far less eventful than your exit. Cycling feels like running but without the muscle pain, and you relish the breeze on your overheated skin. With the wind in your hair and the sound of birdsong in your ears, it's easy to pretend that this is all a nasty dream. Then you turn around to check on Hoseok, and that's when everything shatters.

There are flames now clearly visible from the place you once used to live. You were right — there was an explosion at the school. The ensuing fire seems to have engulfed most of the town, the large gas explosions you heard earlier only fueling the blaze. A dull, painful weight in your chest reminds you that this supply run might be your last; inevitable that most of the things you might be able to forage and steal for survival were currently going up in smoke. 

The noise did, at least, mean your travel back is absolutely free of the undead.  Mercifully, the large group outside Yoongi's coffee shop had totally dispersed, a fact you and Hoseok verified before cycling from the forest trail towards his place. The journey is slow at this point; the weight of the bag heavy on your shoulders. By the time you reach the gate, your t-shirt is crisp to your back with blood.

Hoseok chucks the bicycle on the ground, throwing the two bags soon after it. You follow his example, letting out a strangled cry as the strap falls from your shoulders. For a moment, you both breathe with relief; you, doubled over and shaking, him laid back against the wall.

When you straighten up you see him pull the flag out of his pocket, walking towards you with an unreadable expression.

"You did it," he whispers, wrapping it around your shoulders. "Well done."

He fusses, eyes narrowed as he rearranges the fabric over your arms. His dark hair sways in the breeze, damp and slightly curled at the front with sweat. You can't look away from the curve of his mouth, the way his larger upper lip dips at the center in a neat cupid's bow.

He meets your gaze, dark eyes flitting down to look at your lips too. It's as if he knows exactly what you're thinking about. 

"You don't want this?" he asks.

Your cheeks are on fire. "No," you whisper. "I don't."

He swallows. He opens his mouth as if to say something — but then you both start at the clatter of the door.

"Welcome to Min's Coffeehouse!" says Yoongi, brighter than you've ever heard him before. "What can I get you?"   

Hoseok furrows his brow, eyes still locked on yours — but you leave him hanging, the flag billowing out behind you as you walk through the gate.    

"Nice cape," says Yoongi, as you pass.

You giggle. It's nice to feel like you're capable.

The laughter dies in your throat as soon as you go inside. You're immediately face to face with the one person who you both desperately wanted to see and also were hoping to avoid.

"Why didn't you wake me?" says Jin, his face white and pale. "I felt sick when they told me you'd gone."

He walks towards you, hands outstretched. You go to him instinctively, your body reacting before your brain can catch up. He pulls you into a hug and you wince with pain, a muffled squeak against his chest. At that, he pulls away; holding your shoulders with large, worried eyes.

"Are you hurt? Was it okay?" 

"The school exploded," you say. The finality of saying it out loud makes you feel dazed. "The school exploded and now the town is on fire."

He takes in a sharp breath. "All of it?"

You nod. "Yes. It seems that way."

He chews his lip, mouth downturned and somber. You both stand in silence for a moment, mourning the life you once knew.

"You got the stuff, at least?" he says, his smile bunching his cheeks like a hamster. It doesn't reach his eyes.

"Yeah. Even got a splint for Namjoon. Should help his leg."

"That was nice of you. He'll appreciate that."

He steps closer to you still. You want more than anything to lean into his chest once more, but your guilt prevents you from initiating any contact. Instead, he reaches down and scrunches the fabric of the flag in his hand with a confused look, pulling it from your shoulders. What he sees underneath it makes him gasp.

"You're hurt! What happened?"

Your heart thrums a little faster at the memory of Hoseok’s hands creeping up your shirt, the crunch of the glass as he laid on top of you. What lie can you possibly tell Seokjin that will explain your ragged t-shirt and the bloody scratches on your back?

"I should have gone with you," says Seokjin, gently turning you around so he can examine you more closely. "You're bleeding so badly."

"She's okay," says Hoseok, leaning on the doorway with his arms folded. Your gust twists. You wonder how long he's been stood there. "It's not easy out there, you know."

“These are glass cuts. We have to disinfect them,” says Jin, his hands ghosting over the slices in your back. “She’s absolutely torn to pieces. How could you let this happen?”

To your horror, Hoseok smirks. “Why don’t you ask her?”

“Hoseok!” you exclaim. The guilt is apparent in your voice. 

If Jin notices, he doesn’t pick up on it, pushing past you and squaring up. “You were supposed to look after her. What the fuck?”

“Thought you said she didn’t need looking after,” gloats Hoseok. Pushing off the doorframe, he walks towards Seokjin too, head tilted with amusement. 

Seokjin doesn’t back down. He’s broader than Hoseok, and taller too —  but you’re in no hurry to see who would win in a fight. 

“Not what I mean, and you know it,” says Seokjin. His voice is quieter than you’ve ever heard him speak before, and it scares you. “I know what you’re trying to do here.”

“Please stop,” you say, moving towards them. The anxiety is so tight in your throat that it grips like a vice. “Stop. Stop this.”

“Tell me. What am I trying to do, Seokjin ?” Hoseok’s eyes burn with intensity. “Am I trying? Or maybe I’ve already done—”

“Imodium! Hobi, I could kiss you,” trills Yoongi, bouncing through the doorway brandishing a packet with delight. “I’ve been so dehydrated I—”

He stands stock still, his eyes almost comically wide as he takes in the scene. Neither of the two men at odds with one another pay him any mind. You see Hoseok clench and unclench his fist.

“I’ve had enough of this shit,” Yoongi says eventually, a long, drawn-out sigh escaping his lips. “Hoseok? Go to bed.”

“No,” growls Hoseok. “I’ve got something to settle, here.”

“This is my house and you’ll do as I say,” says Yoongi. “Go to bed. Now.”

It’s as if the stuffing tumbles from Hoseok all at once, deflating like a balloon as his shoulders droop. You feel impossibly, totally guilty at the sight; guilty for falling under his spell, guilty for kissing Seokjin, guilty for letting your feelings for both men cloud the dangerous situation you’re all in.

Seokjin turns to Yoongi, his ears burning scarlet. “Hey, I’m sorry man, I kinda lost my—”

Yoongi cuts him off. “Go and get the rest of the supplies. Lift them into the basement. Y/N? Come with me.”

You exchange a look with Seokjin. You want to apologize, but then he’ll ask why — so you settle for an apologetic smile, which to your surprise he does not return. Instead, he blinks rapidly, eyebrows knotted as if in thought. You stare at each other like this for a moment, and then he turns away.

You can’t help but think that he’s figured it out.

“Come on,” says Yoongi. “Follow me.”

He lets you go first down the stairs, gesturing politely for you to lead the way. You appreciate the formality, although can’t help but feel like a pupil being taken to the headmasters office.

The first hold-all is mostly filled with medical supplies. You daren’t look up as Seokjin brings the third down the stairs; don’t want to meet his eyes as you hear his feet tentatively shuffle-shuffle back up the basement steps to the top floor. 

You both crouch, unpacking boxes and stacking them neatly. The tension grows as the silence stretches onward. The only noise you can hear is the sound of box on box and the creak of your legs as you wobble on tired thighs.

“I have to ask,” says Yoongi, finally choosing to speak. “What was that all about? Upstairs.”

“I don’t know,” you lie, hoping he doesn’t see you swallow. Your mouth feels dry. “They don’t really get along.”

 “Tell me the truth.” Yoongi doesn’t look at you, but the way he yanks the zipper of the hold-all open speaks volumes. “Please. This home is all I have. I... need to know what’s going on.”

You stop unpacking the bag, closing your eyes to think. God, you want to be able to talk. You want to talk to someone, anyone, so very badly. You want to talk about it, but you don’t want to be—

“I won’t judge you,” says Yoongi. “I mean that.”

"I think..." you chew the inside of your mouth, pausing as you fumble for the right words. You don't want him to think you're being big-headed. "I think Hoseok likes me."

Yoongi snorts. "Really. Who could have guessed."

"You knew?" you say, incredulous. "How?"

"My amazing powers of deduction," he says, rubbing the back of his neck. "Of course he likes you."

"He's always so mean to me," you grumble.

"Boys pull the pigtails of girls they like," says Yoongi. "My old man told me that."

You cough, trying to hide the way your cheeks light up. The thought of Hoseok pulling your hair shouldn't affect you quite as much as it does.

"This is taking too long." Yoongi stands with a grunt, hand on his knee as he rises. He tugs the zipper all the way open and turns the bag over, giving it a good shake so the remaining contents fall out.

Boxes of condoms scatter the floor, covering the tiles in a sea of blue.

"Do you like Hoseok," asks Yoongi grimly, staring at the ground in dismay.

"No! It's not like that!" You scrabble madly to try and make the pile seem smaller, but all you succeed in doing is creating a small tower. "They're a good survival aid!"

"A good survival aid."

"I saw it on a TV program!"

"Okay. Please don't reenact it in my bed."

"I like someone else!"

He looks up at that, dark hair mussy in his eyes. His lips are a straight, firm line; but you swear you spot them twitch at the corners for just a second.   

"Seokjin," he says. It's more of a statement than a question. "You like him."

You bite your lip to stop your mouth curling upwards at the sides. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

“Will you tell him, though?” asks Yoongi. “Seokjin, I mean. Not Hoseok.”

"I don't know..." you trail off. Telling Seokjin is one thing; Hoseok is another. With all five of you under one roof, you’re worried that if one of them knows, inevitably that knowledge would soon spread. Hoseok would tell Jin that you'd kissed him, and then you'd lose them both. 

“Look. I don't know what happened out there to give Hoseok the wrong idea...” Yoongi looks you dead in the eyes, and you hope he can't read your mind in the way it feels he sometimes can. “But what've you got to lose? We might all die tomorrow.”

He’s right, of course. He’s always right.

You don’t tell Seokjin that day, though. You don’t tell him the next one, either. Three full weeks pass before you build up the courage to speak to him one on one. Namjoon is back on his feet; with the aid of your splint, he can hobble a fair distance unsupported. The fire has mostly burnt itself out. Vast proportions of your town have been lost to the blaze, but Seokjin and Hoseok complete a surprisingly productive supply run in spite of it. Considering their animosity towards each other, both you, Namjoon and Yoongi are surprised to see them bringing back two large bottles of water from an office watercooler, each of them taking a handle of the hold-all to make the trip.

"It's been a while," says Seokjin. "Are they healing well?"

He's sat on the edge of the bath in Yoongi's washroom. You asked him to join you to talk; but now he's here, you can't quite find the words.

"They ache, to be honest," you say, truthfully. The cuts bleed quite often, especially when you move. "I wish they'd close up."

"They will, eventually. Do you want me to take a look?" He stands, walking towards you before pausing, finally seeming to realize what that will entail. "...If you're comfortable. Of course."

"Yes," you say, breathlessly. "You can look."

He takes the disinfectant from your hands, pulling a cotton ball from Yoongi's bare vanity cabinet. Your heart beats a little faster at the prospect of him touching your bare skin.

"Not got many left of these, now," he says, waving it at you with a smile. "We'll have to make it count."

You turn away from him, shyly rolling up the back of your shirt. It's one of Yoongi's, a shrunken, tatty old thing that smells of mothballs and dish soap.

“Some of these look sore,” he says, voice laced with concern. “This might sting a little…”

You nod, a small squeak exiting your lips when he first swipes the liquid across your shoulders.

“This okay?” he asks. “It’ll be better when it’s done, I promise.”

“Keep going,” you say, scrunching your eyes in agony. “I’ll be alright.”

Seokjin continues to clean your wounds attentively, making small clicking noises with his tongue as the fabric skirts over the worst of the cuts. His diligent attention to detail makes you feel cared for. Wanted. Important.

“You really got sliced up bad, huh? You still haven’t told me what happened.”

You exhale. You have to tell him. It’s only fair. You know your conscience won’t let you rest, otherwise. Whilst you never were together, you know there’s something unspoken between you both, something starting to bud and push its way into the light. Something that you may have damaged forever with your rash, impulsive action.

After all, you know how it feels to be betrayed. And you don't want to do that to him.

The sun is high in the sky, heat beaming through the window. You stare at the reflected glare, willing yourself to speak and hoping he doesn’t find your bare, mutilated skin unappealing or dirty.

“I kissed Hoseok.”

He pauses at that, a solitary dribble of disinfectant rolling down your spine from the sodden cotton ball.

“I’m sorry,” you whisper. “I wasn’t thinking straight.”

He resumes dabbing at your back. “You have nothing to apologise for.

You turn around, clutching the t-shirt. “No… I do. I… shouldn’t have done it. I still don’t know why I did.”

Seokjin holds the pad upwards in his right hand, motion paused as his eyes meet yours. They dart across your bare shoulders, where your hands bunch the fabric to cover your chest.

“You like him. It’s ok.” He chews his bottom lip nervously. “I’m sorry I overstepped, before.”

You stand. He doesn’t move back, but his hands fall to his sides.

“No. I like you, Seokjin,” you whisper. “You’re… really lovely. Kind. I’m not used to it.”

You’re not. You’re not used to it, and you think that’s why it took you so long to figure it out.

He knits his eyebrows in confusion. “But… you said… you kissed...”

You reach for his hand, the cotton falling to the floor as you clasp his palm. It’s wet from the disinfectant, the cloying smell cutting through the air with astringent clarity.

"It's you I like, Jin. I've wanted to say something. For a while now, actually."

He still looks unsure. "How long did it go on for?"

"How long? Jin, I..." you squeeze his hand. "It was one time. A mistake. I was upset and scared and I just... did something stupid. It meant nothing to me."

You blink. For a moment, you're transported right back to your marital bedroom. Your suitcase on the bed. The sickly sweet smell of dying lilies. And your fiancé, begging you to stay.

He'd said that too. That it meant nothing.

You swallow, hard. 

"I liked you ever since you moved in," he mumbles, eyes locked on the floor. He doesn't let go of your hand. "You looked sad and lonely, and I wanted to talk to you."

It's curious to hear someone else describe that time. For you, the first few months after your separation had passed in a blur that you could barely recall. To know your most broken self had endured in someone else's imagination feels somewhat surreal.

"I didn't want to bother you when we were going to work. I thought about just asking for your number, but that felt weird. I wanted to bump into you, but I never found the right time." He swings your hand. "Then you had your boyfriend, so I couldn't."

You're glowing at his words, but can't help but smirk at that. "I keep telling you. He's not my boyfriend."

Jeon Jungkook. He was a nice guy too, just like Jin. Another nice guy you'd pushed away. You wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

You hope he's still alive.

"I don't like Hoseok," says Seokjin, the firmness in his voice surprising you from your thoughts. "Since we've been here, I... see the way he treats you."

"He's difficult."

"Understatement. He doesn't respect you."

"I..." you exhale, conscious of how close you and Jin are now stood to one another. "Yeah. He probably doesn't. You do, though."

He nods. "I do."

Both of you are standing so close to one another that his breath tickles your cheek. The back of your arm is pressed against his chest from where you hold the t-shirt over your breasts. Your body aches for him to hold you, but he is stiff and cold, afraid to touch you.

"Are you sure?" he asks. "About me, I mean."

You nod. Of course, you’re sure. You always feel safe with him.

"Yoongi said we might die tomorrow," you say. "If this was your last day, what would you do?"

The question catches him off guard, but he takes it seriously, looking into space over your shoulder as he mulls it over.

"I'd ask if I could kiss you," he replies, his ears burning red. "That sounds like a good last day, to me."

You reach upward to place a kiss on his cheek. For a moment he blinks, unmoving; then you feel his hands ghost up your sides, resting where your waistband meets your bare skin. 

He's so lovely it makes your heart ache.

"Can... do you want..."

You reach to cup his face, letting the shirt fall to the ground.

"Please kiss me, Seokjin."

He wraps his arm around your bare waist, bringing his hand to your cheek as he leans in. His lips are tentative, gentle on yours as he deepens the kiss, soft yet inviting, his tongue pressing for entrance. You open your mouth as you welcome him, whimpering as he pulls you even tighter into his body.

It's slow and gentle yet your body burns with need, his sincere and vulnerable confession igniting your senses. Everything feels heightened; the way his hand cards through your hair, the chill of the sink that he presses you into as he walks you back.

You break away, hopping onto it and opening your legs to welcome him. He pauses for a moment — despite his blush, he can't tear his eyes away from your naked breasts — before he returns to you once more, pushing his newly formed hardness into your core with a groan that you echo.

Tugging at the hem of his shirt, you pull it upwards, hands running over the smooth, tan muscle. When your fingertips graze the line of his hipbone you feel him stutter against you, open-mouthed and needy, and you savor the effect you have on him. Unlike before, you want to commit every moment of this to memory. You like him so much, you realize, and you want to remember. 

He pulls you tightly around your waist, careful to ensure his hands don't press the cuts on your back. In response, you wrap your legs around him, relishing the way his hips rock gently upwards, big length fully erect and rubbing against your center. The delicious friction sends shivers of heat through you until you moan softly, throwing your head back. His kisses are more frantic now, matching the speed of his thrusts, and you grind back as he seizes the opportunity to lave your exposed neck, giving you little pecks in a line down to your collarbone.

You can tell he wants to go further; cautious hands straying from your hips to brush your sides, but he dallies underneath and over, lacking the conviction to take and hold what he wants to touch. 

You want him to so very badly, but you like how careful he is too. In his arms, you feel precious and delicate, a warmth blooming in your chest that you can't quite seem to describe or quantify. It's been so long since you felt this way.

Special. He makes you feel special.

"You can touch me," you whisper, bringing your hand to his wrist and pushing it down to the waistband of your joggers. "If you want."

You feel his Adam's apple bob against your neck as he swallows his assent, little kiss on your cheek as he runs his fingertips underneath the bunched-up terry cloth. His breathing speeds up as he reaches the line of your panties, the heat tickling your neck. You can tell he's hesitant so you kiss him again and again, up his strong neck and over his jaw, making your way to his lips and encouraging him to slip inside. When he finally brushes over your clothed core you moan into his kiss, your mouths sloppy and wet as you both come undone. The noise seems to provoke him into action; elastic slipped to the side, he dips into your slick and drags it upward, pads circling your clit.

You gasp. It's been so long since anyone touched you like this that the sensation is overwhelming. After your separation, you'd often wondered who the first person you slept with might be. For so long, you've imagined how it might feel, to kiss another man's lips and have his on you. The image of it was shameful, even painful at first, but later became erotic; in your mind, you cycled through a whole host of potential new lovers, fantasies more wild and creative with each passing day. But now, in reality, you were so very glad that you had chosen a man who is gentle and attentive; with whom you feel safe enough to give this first, precious moment to. It feels significant. You can't understand why you feel so comfortable so fast, but he's making you feel so good that you can't bring yourself to question it.

He's delicate and slow, chest rising and falling against yours as he listens to how your whimpers pitch with each careful touch. He rolls around the bud of your clit and dips back down, up and down as you sigh with delight. It builds and builds until you're sure you'll burst, and you scrunch your eyes tight with pleasure as you teeter on the brink.

"Jin," you say, hand on his wrist as you blush from what you're about to ask him, "...inside. Please."

He cups your breast as he pushes his fingers inside you, made confident by your request. He moans with you as you jerk your hips forward and onto him, and he watches, slack-jawed as fingers disappear inside you. You're so close you're shaking, eyebrows scrunched tight; and when he sees he nuzzles into you, placing a kiss on your ear.

"Cum," he says, shyly, "let go, I want to see."

Your vision bleaches white as your orgasm crashes into you, bright heat at his words that shoots from your core outward. Once, twice the wave rolls over you until you're panting in his arms, holding his shoulders for support. 

You know from the curve of his lips on your neck that he's smiling, and so are you. Bundled into his warm chest, you've not felt so happy in a long, long time. You lay there for a little while, enjoying the sound of his heartbeat. Neither of you says anything, content to be in one another's arms.

Seokjin shifts his weight from one leg to another, and you're suddenly aware that his erection still sits painfully stiff from his body, straining for contact. Feeling a little selfish for having neglected him for so long, you allow your hand to creep downwards, grazing where his pants tent. His reaction is immediate, the strangled groan that leaves his open mouth sounding heavenly in the stillness of the room.  

He's big. Bigger than your fiancé, for sure. He feels long, thick and girthy, weight warm under your hands. 

Suddenly you know exactly what you want to do and what you want to give him, your mouth watering at the thought. Sliding from where you're perched on the sink, you gently walk him backward, hands skirting his waistband as you look deep into his eyes. You spot a flicker of hope that makes you smile, sinking to your knees and enjoying the way his pupils dilate at your action.

"You don't have t-to," he says, breathing heavily. His kiss-bitten lips hang open when you unzip his fly. "Only if you want to..."

"I do." You smile, enjoying the way he simply smiles back at you even as you pull at the elastic of his boxers. "I want to do this for you."

You can't help but bite your lip when you pull him loose, cock bouncing free from its confines. Such a sight would usually make you feel coy, but his size is so intimidating you can't help but stare. Momentary panic shrouds your thoughts — would you satisfy him? Are you still any good? Could you even remember how? But then he reaches down and pets your hair, brushing away your jitters with each soothing stroke. 

It’s okay. It’s been some time, but you’re with Seokjin — and you know, somehow, it will be okay.

The noise he makes when you place a first, tentative kitten lick under his shaft sends a shiver up your spine. And when you take his head between your lips, tongue flat as you envelop his length, you can feel his thighs shake underneath your hands. He's quiet but demonstrative, throaty groan rumbling in his throat as he lets his head fall back. You admire his strong, thick neck as he swallows lustfully, cheeks pink and breath shallow. You want to make it good for him so you move faster, head bobbing as you bring your hand to his hip and—

You pull away.

The sound of an engine. More than one.

He hears it too, chest heaving as he stumbles to the window. When he turns back to face you, his face is drained white.

"Quick. Put your clothes on. Hide," he says. "I think—"

"Help! Please don't shoot!" says a voice outside, shrill and panicked. "I'll do anything you want! Please?"

Seokjin closes his eyes tight.

It's Namjoon's voice.