Chapter 1: Prologue
German Translation on Wattpad!
Hongjoong had already known at the tender age of six years old that he wanted to achieve great things in his life.
With big eyes and pouting lips he had pulled at his mother's skirt, his little voice soft as he spoke up to her.
"Mama, Mama! I want to be a pirate one day!"
His mother had been shocked at first. Pirates were being hunted down and executed across all heavenly lands, never could her son go down such a path! What made him wish for something like that?
"But, baby... Why a pirate? Why not a mechanic on a ship like your father? Then you can see the sky, too."
Little Hongjoong, really tiny for his age, had stubbornly shaken his head.
"Nooo. I want to be a famous captain and I want to have a crew of my own! And my own ship! And then explore the sky with my friends!"
"My darling, you're not free when the good guys chase you. Must you become a bad man?" She reached down with a faint smile to let her hand glide worriedly through her son's hair. When Hongjoong raised his head to grin at her with the gap of his missing teeth, she knew it was no use.
"Nonsense! I will stay good, I will even become the best! Whenever I come home, you can be proud of me, Mom."
It had to be childhood nonsense, a careless dream that faded with the years.
His father would talk Hongjoong out of such foolishness, she was absolutely sure.
Hongjoong left her side to run into the garden again, staring up into the endless sky full of wonder. He stretched out his hands as if he wanted to pick the small airships in the distance from the sky or to pull himself up to them.
She watched him with a conflicted heart.
Why did his words feel like the heaviest burden on her shoulders?
Chapter 2: Info: This Universe's Aliens (for future reference)
This universe's species! A.G = Appearance on Google, i.e. if you put in the names (or avatar in that case) in google, you get pictures
Some of these do not appear in this story or it's sequel as i have other works written in this universe do not be surprised!
!!!!!!ALSO MAJOR SPOILER WARNING!!!!!!
Bleuwy: Have the outer appearance of the Avatars from the movie 'Avatar'. They are very strong and have powers that include teleportation, seeing in the dark, or an infinite supply of air (A.G.)
Wodae: They are winged people who can descend from any bird. Raven wodae have wolf companions
Fenris: Is a kind of werewolf that is accompanied by ravens. The fenris can change their shape, its companion cannot. If the Fenris is the companion, it is always in wolf form, the wodae can change. Fenris are the three days of the full moon continuously rabid and in werewolf form.
Nightwalkers: are nocturnal illusionists who see in the dark and suffer under the sun. They populate the undersides of the floating islands and are capable of magic spells. Drink human blood. The bite of a monarch can cancel out all magic spells on someone. Can turn into darkness in the shadows. Not all aliens can be enchanted by them
Amphibris: Crossbreeds of amphibians and humans, warm-blooded. Have scales and horns, usually larger than normal humans and good fighters.
Naga: half snake, half man (female form: Lamia or Nagini) with 2,4 or 6 arms, depending on their origin. Cold-blooded. (A.G.)
Viera: enchanted crossbreeds of rabbits and humans that have a strong understanding of magic (A.G)
Seek: upright walking and talking pigs with actual brains (A.G)
Mogrys: small cat- or hare-like fluff balls that fly and are used as messengers. Capable of teleportation (A.G.)
Troll Juncha: A rhinoceros- or wild boar-like animal with two tusks and two horns. Mostly wild and territorial. (A.G., but please be careful (gore). The one on four legs it is.)
Úi: A galaxy of its own within a being that can take on any shape. Very rare and often worshipped as deities
Princes: Star beings that shine from inside out and have an almost human shape, not clearly recognizable because of the glow, can go out temporarily. Natural enemies of the nightwalkers
Wyrm: A subgroup of dragons, only without legs and wings, large blind snakes living in the dark (a.g.)
Jackalope: Hare with antlers, comes from the Salika Forest, has healing and calming powers (a.g.)
Tiefling: Probably most similar to a demon, these creatures have horns as well as a lizard-like tail, they are a further development of the amphibris, where the amphibian side is more developed. (a.g.)
Khajiit: A nomadic people from the desert, humanoid cat creatures that speak and are known for their trade skills (a.g.)
Lashunta: A humanoid alien race, whose antennae serve them for telepathy and who usually have colorful skin and bone growth on their skulls (a.g.)
Farlan: Omnivorous monsters without eyes and nose, whose upper part of the face is covered by a white skull. Disgusting. Have bone limbs as hands with which they slaughter their prey.
Bangaa: Upright, talking lizards (A.G.)
Djinn: magical shape-shifters (A.G.)
Kaflera: Small, colourful mammals. Have six legs, the face of a cat and butterfly wings (more robust and with fur), as well as bat ears. Likes to eat beetles. They have excellent hearing and are capable of complex thoughts
Duohumans/hybrids: Inhabitants of Miset, consisting of one animal and one human mixed together with various skills
Sèse: Another god-like creature that is born dead and come to life through magic given to it. Incredibly powerful
Chapter 3: Kim Hongjoong
"Hongjoong! Could you bring me down a new transducer?"
"Right away, Mom!"
The young man hurried to close the locks on the small device he had been tinkering with, leaving the object between his tools on his table. His feet carried him hurriedly out of his room and into the hall, where he began to search their closet for a transducer. He quickly found it and skated down the narrow stairs on his thick socks.
His mother awaited him in the kitchen with a soft smile on her wrinkled face. She was absolutely convinced that her hair had started turning grey too, but Hongjoong disagreed. His mom had not aged since she had turned 42.
Hongjoong returned her thanks with a smile, then offered to replace the appliance. He was the man of the house and his mother was tiny, of course he had to do it!
Now and then she would tease him about how he had been always too eager to help ever since he had been a child, taking on tasks that were too much for his narrow shoulders.
She held him by his trouser leg while Hongjoong confidently climbed onto a chair to replace the converter with the old one. The previously dead wire immediately lit up blue again and started to move, music could be heard again in the kitchen.
She thanked him again and Hongjoong just grinned before he hurriedly put away the chair and went back to work. His mother was busy with preparing food again.
Hongjoong was now 21 years old and therefore an adult for a human being. He had finished school and university as one of the best and had received confirmation of getting a job with the aerial fleet.
Hongjoong lived with his parents in his hometown, always had enough food and drink, access to energy and a roof over his head.
He knew he had no reason to be unhappy with his life. Many would give a lot to be in his place.
Oh, and what he would give to trade places with some of them.
State awards for intelligence meant nothing to him. A social value attached to his living conditions and education meant nothing to him. Being a human being meant nothing to him.
What was it worth? What was a boring life in the service of the state with a regular job and boring colleagues worth? False friendliness left and right, an illusion far from the utopia the world promised you originally.
No, as a human being his intelligence and origins were worth nothing. He would always be the last choice, every bleuwy, every viera, every nearly humanoid life form was preferred to humans.
To be able to live properly as a human being, fulfilled and happy, one had to break away from this society.
Hongjoong could not look at his father and proudly say that he wanted to follow in his footsteps. The eyes of his mother were grey and dull. Man was tolerated, but he was unimportant.
Hongjoong wanted more from life than spending an existence in mere acceptance.
Hongjoong wanted to go away, into the wide sky into his own realm where it did not matter who you were or where you came from. Hongjoong longed for a safe place and friends who did not think in pigeonholes. He longed for people like himself. People who stood out from the crowd and wanted an alternative.
He was not ungrateful to his parents, and would also be indebted to them for all eternity. However, his parents were absolutely sure that he had discarded his childhood dreams and had grown up to an average citizen. He kept it from them that this was not true at all.
Hongjoong kept it from them during his school holidays.
Hongjoong did not tell them when he received his acceptance to the fleet.
Hongjoong remained silent even when it was time to pack up.
He packed for the fleet, all the few belongings he wanted to take with him. He packed to live there and return home only for the holidays.
His mother helped him, giving comfort and advice in those moments when the fear of the unknown overwhelmed him. Much like mothers were, she was torn apart by seeing her only child leave and at the same time she was so proud to let him jump into his life.
If only she knew...
His father was less emotional. He gave him practical advice and he held his mother, who was in tears when he left her behind.
Hongjoong was crying himself, but his heart was dissolved in freedom.
From then on, he just had to find a beginning. He had to leave behind the garden where he had spent so much time counting the airships in the sky as a child. The house where he had lost every single milk tooth. The small town where he had gone to school and university.
He expected it to be harder. But his feet carried him so willingly to the ports, to a ship and to freedom. Hongjoong had always known what he wanted. And now that time had come.
"Hey, are you okay? Let me see that."
Hongjoong felt with his tongue over his open lip, tasting blood and tried to disinfect the cut with his salvia as best as he could.
"I could get you some substance?"
Groaning, Hongjoong raised his eyes to the bangaa kneeling in front of him, a leathery hand worriedly placed on Hongjoong's knee.
"It's okay, at least I didn't fall on any shards..." Hongjoong pulled a wry face as every word twitched painfully through his lip.
"What did he want from you?"
"It was a she. I think she mistook me for merchandise. It was a misunderstanding."
The bangaa nodded seriously and rose again before a six-fingered hand reached out in Hongjoong's direction. The human let himself be pulled to his feet, still feeling the outcome of his fall dully in his tailbone.
The mogry in the adjoining booth threw a worried look at the two of them. It was a cute, flying bunny with big, black button eyes. He was too shy to actually join them, but all the more distressed for the frail human who was almost trampled by a full-grown bleuwy.
Hongjoong smiled apologetically at the neighbor, joining Gurk behind their stand again.
The bangaa scrutinized him once more, then pulled his crocodile-like mouth to a harmless snarling of teeth.
"You might want to go home, that's a lot of blood."
Not that Hongjoong still had much feeling in his mouth, but the amount of blood he kept swallowing spoke volumes.
"I can't, I need the kroks." Hongjoong swallowed again and then resumed his position at his end of their little weapon booth. Gurk seemed unconvinced and put a red hand on his shoulder.
"No really, man. You're lucky that nothing is broken. At least go spray some substance on it and then come back. I'll hold the fort."
Hongjoong sighed while feeling once more over his lip, then nodded defeatedly. He would not want to buy a sword from a bloody grinning person either.
"Well, see you later.", he somehow got out between the blood and then grabbed his bag to go home.
Or what he just called home. It was not his home in the classical sense.
He was staying at Gurk's after the two of them had worked together for three months. Hongjoong was saving for a ship and cut his costa wherever possible, overestimating his fragile health far too often. In the beginning he had simply found shelter in the security bunkers of the fenris. It was not a nice place and the bunkers were rented out over the months at ridiculously low prices. Only a few races could actually stay in these dark bunkers until the next full moon came, but Hongjoong did.
Gurk had been absolutely horrified from his ways of saving and dragged him out of there and let him move into his simple apartment. Somewhen he had talked Hongjoong out of putting himself in danger just for the sake of saving money.
Hongjoong was just too practical and his human body was too weak for his stubbornness.
Sighing, he kicked his boots off his feet back in the apartment.
It was a long way to a ship of his own and not seldom he toyed with the idea to find a crew first and then a ship. They would surely help him to find one, would they not?
Unfortunately Gurk did not want to fly with him, he was afraid of heights and liked to stay on solid ground.
Hongjoong walked to their medicine cabinet and pulled out first a mirror, then the bottle with substance. At his home there would have been a fully automatic terminal for treatments and every now and then he wondered if he should plan to set up that on his future ship too. Sure, it was pricey, but after all he had no medical knowledge whatsoever. If he had anything other than humans on board, he would already be lost.
Indeed, the angry blow of the bleuwy at his refusal had been harder than he had first thought. She had managed to make his tongue piercing tear a deep wound in his flesh and the inside of his mouth was bleeding much more aggressively than his lip.
Hongjoong squeezed his eyes together when he sprayed the wound. The taste had never been his favourite one, but at least it helped.
So while his cells were regenerating, Hongjoong went to clean up a bit, wiping the blood from his mouth and waited until his sense of feeling slowly came back to him.
Then he went back to work.
Chapter 4: Begin of a Journey
In the end, Hongjoong had to accept that he would not make it on his own. It would take years until he had saved enough money to afford even a small ship, not to mention all the additional equipment for an unspecified number of crew members.
Depending on who they were, their race, their gender, they would also need other things. He would like to have six people, and to do justice to all of them on his ship, he had to find them first.
So Hongjoong left Gurk alone after six months and went to travel to a jungle island, where a big treasure was supposed to be hidden. If he already became a pirate, he could also spend his time searching for treasures and the money would certainly do no harm to him in his situation.
Gurk said goodbye to him with a heavy heart and gave him another bottle of substance, wishing him all the best in the world.
Hongjoong was on his own again.
He traveled to the island in a normal passenger glider. It was only a few hours of flight from his location.
On the way, Hongjoong thought a lot about his future. He worried about the chances of success of his project, feverishly thought about jobs he could take, ways to get more money faster.
He did not necessarily want to go down the criminal road, if not absolutely inevitable. He was still afraid of shadowy deals, but as a pirate he would have to make do with them in the future. He had to learn to assert himself anyway, to earn his respect as a human being.
Gurk himself had already introduced him to some people and from them he also learned about the treasure. There were ways to get money, more pleasant and more unpleasant ones in the shadows, but not a few of them still legal.
If Hongjoong had not been such a fragile person, he might have thought more about it.
But as it was, he was risking his health by engaging in this kind of business. The human might have become stronger with time, might have more endurance and more stable bones, but he still broke like a twig when somebody intended to.
Hongjoong preferred treasure hunting to that.
Having arrived in the overgrown jungle, Hongjoong no longer found himself alone. The forest was alive, and strange animals and plants were everywhere. Everything was populated by more or less peaceful organisms and Hongjoong determinedly shouldered his bag and set off.
His map led him deep into the woods and although he was watched from all sides, his humming being overheard, the beings let him pass. One of them in particular seemed to like him.
It was a small kaflera, barely as big as Hongjoong's foot and it swarmed around the human, warbling a happy song to him.
In one of his breaks Hongjoong decided to build a friendship to it.
"What's your name, huh?", he asked the creature on his shoulder softly and it seemed surprised to understand him, pricking up its ears attentively.
"Don't you have a name?" Hongjoong reached up to gently tickle the cat-like head under his chin and a purring sound escaped the small green body.
"Shall I give you a name? Will you come with me?"
The creature opened its mouth to chirp again, then seemed disappointed when it remembered that it did not speak Hongjoong's language.
But he understood anyway.
"Oh, you too? Then I understand why you were with me. Seems we've both found a friend in solitude, huh?" He had to laugh and heard an ominous whisper coming from the trees as various creatures took renewed pleasure in it.
Six legs stumbled over Hongjoong's shoulder overzealously as the kaflera flapped his wings excitedly and began to talk.
She had no name, those had no value among her people, but she was more than willing to accompany Hongjoong because she liked him with his two arms and legs. Hongjoong had to laugh while she talked animatedly, then softly offered to give her a name.
"How about Aurora, huh? One day I wanted to see the northern lights in the sky. Until then, you can be my Aurora."
She was adorably embarrassed, but she happily agreed.
Aurora stayed by his side, sweetening his time with her joy of life and words that gushed like a waterfall. She had never spoken to anyone of his kind before, everything was so overwhelming for her.
It was a small comfort, a small happiness in the boring existence of the man, but it was something.
They found no treasure. Not even after three days of searching and also after several times of questioning the forest inhabitants, there was nothing.
What they got to learn however from a friendly white tiger was that there was something on this island for sure.
So Hongjoong stayed and searched further, Aurora now at his side.
It did not occur to them until much later that the island also had a bottom side.
Hongjoong was a little uneasy about it. The shadowy sides of the islands were difficult to access, not to say impossible to reach without a glider or some kind of equipment. The individual islands themselves did not have a core of gravity, which meant that if you were underneath, you would actually just fall down.
They had existed once. The energy points everywhere in the air that allowed you to enter all the islands from both sides. But they were abolished again when the disliked nightwalkers got into racial fights.
Hongjoong was not keen on exploring the whole thing, but he was sure that the treasure had to be there.
So he prepared himself for the descent.
Hongjoong was not bad at climbing. His body was small enough that he could control it and use it pretty well for a human with the appropriate agility.
However, this did not mean that it was easy.
Aurora swarmed around him anxiously as he descended the cliffs, completely unsecured and with nothing but the endless sky beneath him. It was not too risky, there were forcefields in the atmosphere that prevented bad falls and caught you safely. How else could they protect the islanders from constanty falling to death?
Nevertheless, he was not meant to fall. Who knew if he would get hurt and his parents would hear about it.
Under Aurora's instructions and sweaty caution, Hongjoong managed to climb down the cliffs to reach the bottom of the island.
From here on it became harder. The dark mountains and forests on the lower side were no less big than the upper side, only here everything was the other way around.
Hongjoong almost slipped several times as he climbed, his palms and knees sore within a few moments.
He already knew now, if he should really find a treasure somewhere around here, he had to send Aurora to Gurk to pick it up. Of course he could compensate for it, but how else could he recover a treasure of unbeknownst size from down here?
Hongjoong was way too grateful when he somewhen found a large cave.
It was at the foot of one of the mountains and thus had to climb through an endless ascent from Hongjoong's point of view, but it was just about feasible with his strength.
Of course there were caves here, after all, this was where the nightwalkers lived and Hongjoong had counted on those and the trees when it came to taking a break.
Only now, of course, absolute caution had to be exercised.
If this cave was inhabited, the dark beings probably did not appreciate someone just walking into their home.
So Hongjoong moved forward very slowly, exploring first before he set up his camp.
His stomach growled pleadingly as he wandered through the dark vaults with a homemade light source. It was a very wide cave, barely occupied by vegetation, and the few insects he saw fled from its small light.
Aurora was restless, but showed no signs of sensing an alien creature.
Hongjoong relaxed a bit when they entered a large room that reached far into the darkness, but still nothing indicated an inhabitant.
"Well, I think we are alone. Would you care to go for a spin?"
Aurora pushed herself off his shoulder to soar through the room, checking every nook and cranny.
Meanwhile Hongjoong worked on building a slightly larger light source and his makeshift camp in a small recess. He found himself on the shore of an underground lake that was surrounded by jagged rocks, lying milky in the darkness. It could not be deep, though he could probably wander around it for quite a while, the end was definitely lost in the darkness.
It took a while until Aurora came back, but it went faster than first expected.
However, when she reappeared, she was absolutely giddy with excitement, all six legs kicking wildly in the air. She then shortly afterwards she crashed into Hongjoong's chest. He caught her with his hands in surprise.
"What is it, have you found someone? Do we have to leave?"
"Ship, ship! There's a ship!"
Hongjoong blinked, petting gently through her short fur to calm her down.
"A ship? In the lake? Is it coming towards us?" he asked tense, really could not see anything with his stupid human eyes.
"No! A wreck, an airship!"
In Hongjoong some hope blossomed, only growing when Aurora assured him that the wreck was in no absolutely terrible condition and could perhaps fly again if only the technology would be get to work again.
Hongjoong willingly let her guide him to get to the bottom of it.
Chapter 5: A Ship
The airship that Aurora had found protruded like an ancient monster from the back of the cave, seemed to have been parked here once for repair and then forgotten. The entrances were firmly locked despite the lack of energy and Hongjoong found his way through a small leak on the right part of the ship, squeezing his narrow body into it.
Aurora chirped excitedly as Hongjoong rose inside again, dusting his clothes for a moment. The interior of the plain wooden corridor he was in was filled with all kinds of barrels and crates, some tipped over and carelessly thrown in the way.
Hongjoong was cautious as he worked his way forward, the light from the small lamp in his hand groping curiously over the treacherous stumbling blocks and smooth walls.
It was obviously a modern ship, even if it was not completely technological. Instead of independent robotic and flight systems, there were power lines and control panels, but they were manually operated and replaced.
It was ideal. Hongjoong might be able to get the ship running again and they would not have to rely on a fully automated control system. Not that there was much to worry about, but if those failed, it also meant that any repair systems were useless. In that case, the ship would actually be nothing more than a pile of scrap metal.
"Can you fix it?" Aurora whispered to him, vibrating with excitement, having felt so much pity when he had told her about his exhausting search for a ship.
Hongjoong hummed uncertainly, would actually have to take a look at the machinery first to be able to say that exactly. His pale light flickered over brown wood panelling, then fell onto a massive sliding door. If the machinery was still useful, it would have given way without further complaints, but not like this.
Sighing, Hongjoong jammed his flashlight between his teeth and began to press himself against the door with all his strength. Aurora did her best to help, pressing all six paws against the metal and flapping her delicate wings vehemently.
To Hongjoong's surprise they even got the security door moved a bit. Barely far enough for him to slip through, but it was a small victory.
They found themselves on the bridge.
Two small stairs led from here into the wood-panelled room, it almost felt like a real old ship. The middle of the room was occupied by a medium-sized ball, usually the central navigator, but now just a sad ball half in the floor. Further ahead was the control center. The large, round glass dome at the front of the ship currently only offered a view of penetrating blackness. In front of the glass, the two chairs took up a good portion of the room, with a wide area of all kinds of buttons and more system controls in front.
Aurora excitedly explored the room, telling Hongjoong about the other door symmetrical to the one they had come through and the comfortable footwell under the control panel.
It was a sight Hongjoong could get used to. He liked the layout and he could take this ship in his dreams with ease. Crossing the sky with it, standing at this mighty field and shouting instructions, it almost sounded too good to be true.
Of course he had to check the state of the systems first. He should not let the euphoria get to him too much before he at least knew how long it would take him to repair.
Nevertheless, his gut feeling already seemed to be convinced that this was it, that he wanted exactly this ship.
A sharp scream tore him out of his daydreams, so abruptly back to reality that the flashlight almost fell out of his hand in shock.
"Aurora? Aurora!" In panic, he shone the light across the room, ran here and there and tried to find the cute friend without accidentally falling down.
"I'm here! Hongjoong, by that funny rack! And... here...", she replied quietly, her voice higher than before and restless. Hongjoong drove around again to illuminate the panel, finally finding Aurora, who had curled up over a few buttons and stared defensively in another direction.
"Don't scare me like that... What's wrong with you?" He hurried towards her in relief, held her by his chest and she cuddled up willingly in his arm.
"There is a man. In the chair."
She whispered it so ominously that Hongjoong's blood instantly froze in his veins. He stood in the room for a moment unable to move. The affected chair was barely an arm's length from him.
Could he fight right now?
No, this man would certainly not be hostile to them if he had tolerated them here for so long, would he?
On the other hand... what was he doing here? Was he an explorer? The owner? A renegade?
Hongjoong took a deep breath once and then turned around, illuminated the chair which Aurora had so dreaded before.
He almost screamed too, but he bit the sound back. No one would hear him here anyway.
There was a man. A man whom Hongjoong would define as a corpse rather than a man, though.
The first thing he noticed about him was how terribly pale he was. He seemed pale enough that his skin seemed almost translucent, bloodless veins could be seen under the skin of his flabby hands in his lap.
His eyes were closed, lying deep in their sockets, in stark contrast to his sickly protruding cheekbones. His full lips were completely colourless and he looked even paler, if one accounted the night-black hair that carelessly fell into his face.
Hongjoong decided that the poor fellow must have been barely older than he was when he met his end here.
"Is he alive?", Aurora whispered softly and horrified at his chest and Hongjoong took a brave step forward, now standing almost directly at the chair on which the man had collapsed. He saw no signs of breathing but was too afraid to touch the dead man to test his actual pulse himself.
"I-I don't know... He doesn't look very much alive."
Hongjoong's heart raced wildly as he gently picked up the lamp that Aurora had been holding, pressing the small bundle of warmth of hers comfortingly against his chest.
How could he get a corpse out of here? He did not look like he could fit through the leak.
How would Hongjoong even touch a corpse?
He forced his trembling hands to rest, then acted resolutely before shying away further.
The man's hand was freezing cold when he touched it and almost flinched again.
Looking unnecessarily attentive on the man's reclined head, he scanned the inside of his icy wrist for a pulse.
Nothing. Absolute silence, only Hongjoong's own galloping pulse could be felt within his fingers.
"He's really dead.", Hongjoong breathed a sigh of relief, instantly chiding himself to welcome death. It also meant more work for him. That was not the way his parents raised him, not nice!
The adrenaline still made Hongjoong jumpy, but slowly he calmed down again, stepping back from the dead. He looked at him for a moment, wondering if he was part of the crew. He was not in uniform but this was not a ship of the fleet either after all.
"We are going to check on the energy nodes. If I can get them working, we'll put him away. Otherwise, we leave him and get the hell out of here." Hongjoong tried smiling and then they finally stopped disturbing the dead man's peace.
He and Aurora may have hurried to leave the room more than before, this time through the other door and the tour went on through the ship.
They passed a kitchen with a dinette, a bathroom and then found the stairs down, further into the ship's belly. Down here were the rooms for the crew, small separate rooms, six of them. Inside there was barely enough room to walk two steps, but there was enough for a bed and a small night table.
In the back, a last door blocked their access to the power sources.
Hongjoong had to wedge in his bag, too afraid that he would not be able to open it once it was closed.
Inside there was another dome, similar to the one above, but this one allowed access to the inside.
Aurora held his light nervously fluttering while Hongjoong investigated the matter.
"Okay, the reactors don't seem to have been damaged, that's good.", he muttered to himself under his breath, only receiving an uncertain chirp from Aurora.
Hongjoong kept on burrowing deeper, hanging almost with his whole upper body in the big dome and it drove the blood into his head, made him get much too warm.
"And here we have- Aha! Here we don't have!"
"What haven't we got?"
Hongjoong reappeared with a mischievous smile, smiling reassuringly at his nervous companion.
"We're missing a connecting piece. The way I see it, it took off when the energy overloaded and it's probably in here somewhere." He pointed triumphantly into the dome.
"It's just probably shattered by the force of the impact. But I'll quickly construct one of those joints if I can find the remains. Bull's-eye!"
He could hardly believe his luck. For once in his life, it seemed like everything was falling into his lap.
Aurora was thrilled and immediately offered to look for the parts, he shone the light for her as she scurried through the narrow slits.
With an arm full of stuff he returned to the bridge, had to take a look at the counterpart in there to connect everything in a functional way.
Upstairs, however, the two of them faced another problem in naked horror.
Their supposed corpse had disappeared from its place.
Chapter 6: Not alone
Hongjoong's panicky attempts to calm Aurora did not even work on himself. Rather, he just managed to confuse them both more, to disagree in the face of the situation.
"You said you checked him!"
"I did, he was definitely dead! There's no way!"
Aurora's voice cracked due to her panic, her legs kicking restlessly in the air.
"Then where did he go? He could not have got up and left!"
Hongjoong paused when he thought of another possibility and he carefully put down his components, then he pushed his hair back with anxiously calm hands. He trembled like a leaf in the wind, his ears oversensitive as he tried to hear every possible movement in the ship.
"Something else could have followed us, too. Maybe the cave was inhabited after all and they just took him...", he whispered trembling, barely daring to raise his voice, as if he could accidently wake up whatever was here with them.
Aurora remained silent, eyes wide, while Hongjoong hastily began to rummage in his pocket, his brain working at full speed. He had a bottle of substance, he could heal quickly if there was an attack. There was also the makeshift rope of lianas he had made in the forest to make the descent easier. The model of his weapon was not yet finished and still lay useless on his clothes, but with some luck he could finish it before something bad happened.
"Let's just get the tech back up and barricade ourselves in here. Whatever it is, it's not going to come in here and maybe leave us when the energies revive. I'm afraid we're on the losing side if we try to escape now."
He did not exactly want to leave the ship behind either. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he was supposed to learn right away not to run away from everything.
They shared a similar stare, eyes full of unrest and worry. The darkness in the ship suddenly seemed overwhelming, too alive for Hongjoong's taste.
Aurora nodded reluctantly and Hongjoong set to work full of false confidence. The distorted shadows in the corners of the room kept them company while he worked, Aurora's grip around his lamp shaking.
It would not have taken too long normally, barely a few hours, but Hongjoong's nerves were too tense to concentrate. His fingers disobeyed him, slipped off the polished metal again and again and he gritted his teeth unyieldingly.
He refused to look into the darkness. Although one could hear when someone pushed the heavy doors open, the paranoia would not let him rest. But his pride forbade him to ask Aurora to fly a fast swerve through the room as well.
In that sense, they were safe for the moment. But whatever was here had made it in and out through the doors, taking the body of the dead man with it without a trace.
Hongjoong had to take a break in between and reach for the supplies in his pocket. His brain did not work on hunger and also expected him much more to ensure his survival instead of tinkering with a stupid distributor.
He slipped up another time and angrily kicked his feet into the actually very spacious footwell below him, they did not even reach the floor.
But instead he hit something soft.
It was always fascinating to see how the body went into a state of shock. It was so unnecessary, blocked so much without actually being of any use. Most dangers did not ignore you just because you stood very, very still.
And Hongjoong was absolutely unable to move.
"Aurora.", his lips silently formed her name, his heart barely beating as a fictitious icy hand seemed to hold it in its grip.
He thought he felt a cold draft at his ankle, every hair in his neck stood up.
So masterfully he forced himself not to become hysterical, not to scream and kick wildly and to flee immediately. He gave it on his incredible self-control, but in the end it was only the naked fear that kept him in his chair.
An icy hand reached for his leg.
This one was much less fictional than the one in his chest. It did not grab, it did not pull, it just neutrally wrapped around his ankle.
Hongjoong bit back a scream, continued to see only the simple desk in front of him, the faint glow of his light. There was nothing at all to indicate the threatening fingers, which now slowly began to move up his trousers.
Aurora seemed to notice how he had stopped pulling his hair and giving angry looks at the distributor. Her weight landed gently on his shoulder, would have been comforting if there were not icy fingers crawling straight across his knee.
"It's- It's under the desk."
The hand stayed where it was for a moment, as if it heard him, as if it was averting its chances.
Cold sweat of fear moistened his upper lip, his breath came heavy and jerky.
His head was bare enough that even if he had an idea how to escape the situation and survive, it would be denied him. Still he could not lift a finger.
A second hand joined the first, found his other knee. His legs were so invitingly open, offering no protection whatsoever should the being suddenly shoot out of the darkness.
"What's under the desk?" Aurora sounded sceptical, not quite as restless as Hongjoong. Fearful, but not as if she was expecting the answer.
Hongjoong leaned his upper body back a little with the help of the movable chair, stiff as a board and oh so careful not to move his lower half.
The faint glow of the light on the table top was enough to make out just barely anything in the darkness into which Hongjoong now cast no shadow anymore.
It was the man from before, the dead man from before, and he was not as dead as Hongjoong would have liked.
His pale face was positioned between Hongjoong's knees, black inhuman eyes staring up at what could only be the most ridiculous sight in his life. Hongjoong with wide eyes and open mouth, a small green kaflera with a flashlight in its paws on his shoulder.
Hongjoong often wondered later how things would have gone on at this point if they had not moved. Would the man have killed him? Would his white hand have come out of the shadows at some point, only to reach straight for Hongjoong's heart? Would he have reacted at all had Hongjoong not kicked him earlier?
Questions that became irrelevant at that moment, because the actual event that happened was something entirely else.
One moment Hongjoong was staring in sheer horror at the sunken-cheeked face between his legs, the next moment it was already gone and a shrill scream echoed through the pitch black room.
Hongjoong knew that the man himself was not gone at all, in front of his inner eye he still saw the raven hair hanging into his expressionless face like traces of black ink and the yawning emptiness of his eyes.
The only thing that was gone was his light source, which Aurora had dropped in her shock. The light had gone out, the lamp had rolled away in an indeterminate direction.
It was absolutely horrifying to feel the fingers just continue crawling up on Hongjoong, slowly but inexorably.
"Aurora, I need the rope."
She was not yet sane, hiding somewhere in the shadows, whimpering under her breath that she should never have come here.
Hongjoong was already standing with one foot in the grave when the groping fingers of his legs touched his hips, tickling his sides.
"Aurora.", Hongjoong hissed harshly, sweat dripping down from his chin and now the man's cold breath hit him at the height of his arms.
Hongjoong was sitting blind in the dark, still unable to lift a finger, even when the dead man climbed out of his hiding place and slipped into Hongjoong's lap unbothered.
"Aurora, it's getting close.", he warned her one more time, the man had to be too much in his trance to hear him.
Perhaps he really was no longer alive enough, had no perception that could enable him to hear. A walking corpse.
"Hongjoong, I don't want to, I don't dare.", she cried softly in her corner and Hongjoong clenched his hands into whitish fists as he felt the man's legs to the left and right of his. The fingers had stopped at his head, almost gently nestled around his jaws, a touch like that of a lover.
But for Hongjoong, only the icy kiss of death awaited.
"Aurora, I'll do anything. Just give me the rope before he comes to his senses." His voice was pressed between his clenched teeth and the man's hair tickled his chin. He was searching.
Aurora whimpered his name anxiously once more, then she became silent again and he thought he could hear her wings fluttering over.
The unfamiliar nose that, followed by the shuddering reactions of Hongjoong's body, was gliding across his neck, became secondary as he slowly raised his hands, becoming much more composed than before.
The man sat in his lap, not sane and defenceless, he could do this.
"The rope, Aurora."
Something touched his hand and he skilfully grabbed the stable end of the liana, began to pass it in a complicated way between his body and the other's without touching him.
The stranger suddenly stopped, seemed to take a long, trembling breath for the first time. Cold air brushed against Hongjoong's sensitive throat, making a spot uncomfortably damp from the treatment.
Hongjoong was careful, but Hongjoong was not fast enough.
Burning pain shot through his neck as the man opened his mouth wide and brutally buried his teeth in Hongjoong's skin.
Chapter 7: Park Seonghwa
Hongjoong's vision blurred in the first moment when his head, disorientated, tried to make sense of what was going on. Then at least he managed to grab the rope with both hands and took a deep breath.
The nightwalker - and Hongjoong was hoping that this better was a nightwalker and not a particularly scary person - started to swallow hard. He was greedy, overhasty like a starving man and single trickles of blood escaped his painful grip, tickling Hongjoong's skin as they fled from him.
For a moment Hongjoong's insides turned in circles along with his thoughts, then he gathered all his courage. With a barely audible whimper he pressed his lips together, for a fleeting moment he actually had the fleeting thought that the other one might bite out whole parts of his neck. Then no more substance would save him.
With the rope tight in his hands Hongjoong straightened up a bit, taking the clinging figure of the nightwalker with him.
Somewhere Aurora whispered his name anxiously, then Hongjoong went into action.
He pushed his arms forward, causing the rope to stretch around the neck of the nightwalker, interrupting him in the middle of the swallow. He choked warm blood on Hongjoong's shoulder, then Hongjoong pressed his weight against it, suddenly pulling it from his neck.
The flaring pain was murderous, an open wound where the other's teeth were ripped from his flesh, but it had to wait.
For now, the surprised nightwalker had to be tamed.
He had not drunk enough blood to be sane yet, but his movements were already a bit more focused, more headstrong, when he reached for Hongjoong's neck again.
Hongjoong stood up abruptly, throwing off the far too light weight of the man, only to immediately take advantage of it. He knelt behind the nightwalker, who only turned his head back and forth confusedly, his nose always searching in the air, and began to wrap the rope around him, making him absolutely immobile.
"Hurry, Aurora. I need the bottle from my bag."
The man pressed himself weakly into his grip, more out of confusion than actual intent, but Hongjoong was already finished, dragging the man across the room and next to the small polished railing that surrounded the gallery with the stairs. It was at the perfect height to tie the nightwalker to it.
After the work was done, Hongjoong hastily dressed his wound, hurried to get into a fresh shirt and asked Aurora to hide the old one somewhere in the ship. She carried it away hysterically while Hongjoong stood in front of the sleepwalker with arms proudly stemmed on his hips. He had successfully averted the danger.
Aurora was allowed to keep an eye on the man, who was hanging in his corner like a drunken teenager. He seemed healthier than before, but still far from being defined as alive.
Hongjoong now quickly finished the distributor.
He ran around a lot, trying to find more ways to tie the stranger down, and actually got the technology up and running again the same day, as soon as he had added some extra wires. After the work was done, he flopped next to the ball in the energy room on the floor, waiting tense.
Seconds tickled away.
Hongjoong wiped the sweat from his forehead.
The ship came to life with a humming sound beneath him, bathing him from one moment to the next in a gentle light created from the sun's rays.
Hongjoong was in the process of making leaps of joy on the inside, but the outside remained calm and calculating as he returned to the bridge. The nightwalker visibly squirmed under the sunlight, not damaged by it, but quite annoyed.
"This is the assistant operator of the Sunrise. Please just address me as Sunrise.", the ship greeted in a pleasant, sexless voice as Hongjoong dropped back onto one of the chairs, victoriously making a lap.
"Sunrise, what is your current condition?"
"My system kernels are fixed and fully operational. However, I am suffering from a leak on my right side. It is advised not to fliy with a leakage."
Aurora came to rest beside Hongjoong in amazement, looking around in fascination at the now brighter and much friendlier airship. The sleepwalker behind them was silent.
"Can you fix it?" Hongjoong could not stifle the victorious grin on his face as he leaned back, glanced briefly at the nightwalker, who actually met his eyes. His facial expression was unreadable, probably also not intentional enough to express any emotion at all. Hongjoong the god turned to the front again.
"I can. Repair is being done. Repair completed. Reserve supplies are scarce."
Hongjoong bit his finger so as not to laugh out loud, overwhelmed by the joy. The nightwalker was almost forgotten in his head.
"Can we fly?"
"Wecan. Activate flight assistants. Please enter coordinates."
There were no coordinates. There was just the endless sky and them. Hongjoong's victory, Aurora's excited vibrating ears and the piercing gaze of the man in black.
Yet Hongjoong knew exactly where they were going.
"Set course for the university city and search for nightwalkers in the database."
The glass in front of them lit up with the information about the nightwalkers, but more importantly was, the louder, active humming as the machinery began to operate. It drew another relieved laugh from Hongjoong.
He turned around to Aurora with a broad grin, grabbed her and pressed her tightly against his chest.
"We did it! We've repaired it, she's flying!"
A movement was actually hardly noticeable on board, but they must have moved, because the penetrating blackness in front of them soon gave way to a hazy grey. It still had to be night, it would not get much brighter, but they were approaching the exit.
Hongjoong put his boots on the desk in front of him, absently stroking the fur of a happily purring aurora while he searched for information on the glass.
"Can nightwalkers die of malnutrition?"
The Sunrise answered him.
"They cannot, but brain functions suffer from prolonged food shortages."
Hongjoong looked almost pityingly at the nightwalker behind him. He had lowered his head again.
"How much blood does a malnourished nightwalker need to get back on his feet?" He asked out of curiosity, but had not made a decision yet. Perhaps he would do well to leave the nightwalker outside between the cliffs and wait for a clan to find him.
On the other hand, that seemed like a bad idea to him, too. There must be a reason why he was alone here.
"It depends on how long it has been since he had any food."
Undecidedly, Hongjoong pursed his lips, watching from the corners of his eyes as night spread around the ship, endless stars embracing it.
He had done it. There was just no time left to celebrate. And he did not have enough friends to do so!
"When did the ship have its last activity before the turbines failed?"
"Eight months ago. Captain Park Seonghwa steered the ship into the cave. There was a breakdown."
"Captain Park Seonghwa, huh?"
Hongjoong turned in his chair, watching the nightwalker at a loss.
"How much blood does a sleepwalker need after eight months without blood?" Hongjoong reached into his bag of supplies and started eating. Not having to save for a ship meant he finally had enough to eat. He was in heaven.
"He would need about two liters of blood but in small doses over a period of multiple weeks to prevent further damage."
"When would he be sane again?"
"Within a week, his head would clear up. For this he needs three doses of 250 ml each. After two weeks his strength would begin to return to him. From then on, he will return to a normal dietary pattern."
"Alright. Sunrise, make a calendar for me."
"Would you like to create your own profile?"
"No, no. Save it to Park Seonghwa."
Hongjoong turned around, watching the screen as the data for Park Seonghwa appeared. Among them was a picture of a healthy young nightwalker. His eyes were bright and vivid, his hair a shorter version of what it had become.
He was only recorded as a captain, but still nothing indicated a profession or occupation. He must have been travelling privately, that was why the ship was not secured.
"Save it as 'blood donation' and make me a schedule of how to run a maintenance program from today - the first appointment was already made."
Aurora looked at Hongjoong with eyes wide open, but he just smiled at her.
"This is his ship. What better way to convince him to leave it to me than to put him in my debt?" The plan had already taken shape in his mind. He nursed that sleepwalker back to health, got to know him better, learned to value him. Eight months without blood was a long time but it spoke for an iron will. He had had a long time to find his victims by force, before his strength had waned.
Hongjoong doubted that this nightwalker was an enemy and he was admittedly curious. What was he doing here alone on this ship? And why had he not left it?
To find out, however, he first had to get him back to health.
And that was exactly what Hongjoong would do.
Chapter 8: Waking Up
Hongjoong had some time to get acquainted with his new companion as they flew, peacefully crisscrossing their atmosphere that had only grown more and more as the years passed. Meanwhile it reached beyond Mars and countless islands had found room on the newly habitable asteroid rocks and a (also blasted, but this was intentional) Mars.
Up to their moon one flew about 15 days, slower with one of the old ships. Hongjoong would need maybe five days to get to University Island.
It was a strange five days.
Hongjoong was getting familiar with the ship, with the layout and the many functions. He was absolutely euphoric to find a first-aid terminal and with the hours he spent on board, he wished to leave less and less.
Aurora had also arrived, already occupying her favourite niche in one of the shelves on the bridge, right next to the heating system.
Park Seonghwa was silent.
He was incredibly quiet. He did not move at all, was so lifeless that Hogjoong once thought he had actually died. Only when Hongjoong gave him a dose of his blood two days later, some life came into the man. It was more his instinct that told him to bend over Hongjoong's offered wrist, but it was something.
The Sunrise informed Hongjoong when it was enough and again he escaped the searching lips of the other with gentle force, went to treat his injury.
It was almost boring. The Sunrise flew, he waited, Aurora watched the nightwalker. A cycle that repeated itself every day and quickly lost its charm.
On the third day of their journey, Hongjoong went to clean up the hold, familiarizing himself with the goods they were transporting. He found only the usual materials for life and ship, still nothing that somehow suggested the role of Park Seonghwa. As Hongjoong was disappointed to find out after much curious wandering, there were also no secret chambers in which he could have smuggled weapons.
Regularly he just sat bored in his boss chair and turned in circles, talking to Aurora and the ship.
The Sunrise itself had no information in its databases who Park Seonghwa really could be or what his job was before he was stranded. It could only mean that it had been deleted manually, otherwise the ship would have saved everything. It made sense. After all, the captain could not know who found the ship after him.
It was the morning they were due to reach the island and Hongjoong was vibrating with excitement at what was waiting for him there, who was waiting for him there, that he almost forgot to feed Captain Park.
"Can I come with you? Or should I guard the ship?" Aurora had asked him insecurely and Hongjoong had thought for a long time about how safe it would be to leave an unsecured ship with a hungry nightwalker alone.
"I thought of something else." Hongjoong knelt at Park Seonghwa's side, confidently supporting the other's head as the lazy one opened his eyes.
He looked healthier after the second blood ration, Hongjoong could not count every single vein on him anymore and that was a good thing. His skin looked less like paper.
"Come here." With gentle force he got the nightwalker to bite him, gritting his teeth briefly as the pain twitched up his arm.
"I want to call my friend and order him over. He needs to take a look at our captain here and I'm afraid it's not a good idea to bring him to an institute full of people." Absent mindedly, he stroked through the black hair in front of him, keeping it out of the bloodsucker's face as best he could while he worked on his skin.
He seemed softer than usual, his teeth less careless and his lips almost polite against his skin.
Aurora agreed with him by tweeting.
"A good idea! Is he nice? Who is he?"
Hongjoong had to laugh softly, thinking about employing a ruse and leading Aurora on the wrong track.
"He is a scientist and a friend from my unitages. He's the nicest guy I've ever met and I know some nice guys," he spoke the truth, however, raising his eyes to the glass front as the Sunrise gave him his beep.
Aurora was excited and showered him with more questions, but Hongjoong was focused on the nightwalker, on the way he let go of his own accord and his pale lips were trying to shape words.
Hongjoong reached for the substance at his side, briefly spraying his wound.
The eyes of the nightwalker followed the movement, awake and alert.
Hongjoong then put the bottle down again to grab the weak nightwalker by the chin, removing the last remnants of blood from the corner of his mouth with his thumb.
"Can you hear me? Understand me?"
He earnestly sought the other's gaze, saw in his eyes that resembled black lakes his own troubled self.
Park Seonghwa's lips formed words again, but they were too soft to understand. Hongjoong teetered unsatisfied on his heels.
"Sunrise, why can't he speak? I should be able to understand him." Hongjoong nervously groped for the piercing on his ear helix, one of many in appearance, but the one important to him.
"His vocal cords are not used to words right now. I also doubt that you speak his language. Or he yours."
Hongjoong did not worry about that. He was worried about the nightwalker's vocal cords.
"Okay. Sunrise, call the lnstitute of Racial and Xenological Research on the island. I need Doctor Jeong Yunho. Tell him Kim Hongjoong sent for him and to look us up."
With this he turned back to the captain, also noticed Aurora, who had compassionately pattered over to them and crept insecurely around the man's feet.
"You can understand me, right?"
Park Seonghwa nodded with big eyes, as if he could not believe it himself and Hongjoong just had to smile, noticing how the dark eyebrows of the other man narrowed a bit.
"Fine. I'll untie you, alright? Do you feel able to move freely around here and walk around? Do you feel safe?" He had to ask so as not to endanger himself and him.
Another nod and Hongjoong's smile widened, then he calmly started to untie the ropes around the man's body. He trusted him and if he was wrong, Hongjoong was still the stronger of the two.
"The friend I invited can take a look at you. He knows all about nightwalkers and stuff. You don't have to be afraid of him. I also know you are not able to communicate properly and tell me your will, but you can of course do it through the ship. I didn't block you or anything." Hongjoong talked and talked and the nightwalker followed every word, his eyes strained on Hongjoong's face, while he focused the ropes.
"There. Do you have any pain?" With a stab of remorse, he rubbed the man's reddened wrists, tying him up in his panic more than what had been necessary.
Park Seonghwa shook his head gently, escaping Hongjoong's grip. He looked around for the railing behind him, seeking help, and finally grabbed it, trying to pull himself onto his feet.
Hongjoong was immediately at his side, supporting him at the elbow.
"Shall I get you the chair? Or if you want to lie down a bit, I can put you to bed! You haven't been sitting in the most pleasant of spots these last few days.", he immediately offered himself again to fully support the night-walker in his role wherever possible.
His black eyes were again so strangely gentle as he directed them at Hongjoong, then looked from him to the door outside.
"So bed? Sure, rest until Yunho gets here! It's only fair." He was just about to start pulling the sleepwalker with him when he was held back weakly. His body seemed so weak and fragile under Hongjoong's hands, even though he was a good deal taller.
Hongjoong looked around in confusion between his eyes.
"No? Rather... "Uh..." What else could he need?
The captain helped him out by slowly raising a hand, letting Hongjoong support him shakingly, putting it in his hair, then touching Hongjoong's own curls.
Behind Hongjoong's forehead, the gears were turning.
"Oh! Bathroom! You want to take a shower?"
Then something that could be interpreted as a smile gaped over the other man's face and he nodded seriously, taking his hand back to himself.
"Alright, we can do this! Aurora, you keep an eye on the ship, okay? We'll be in the bathroom."
He was infinitely patient, gave the other man precise instructions about the steps and corners of the ship, guided him safely to the bathroom.
Seonghwa was sat on the floor while Hongjoong scurried around the bathroom, trying to gather things, critically assessing how small his clothes were on Seonghwa and whether it would be quicker to clean his clothes.
Seonghwa watched him tired in his scurry, finally seemed recovered enough that his body thought about sleeping again, but for now he had to fight through the complicated process of getting rid of his clothes.
Hongjoong took them to the cleaners, put Seonghwa on the floor of the shower system, and with his consent he chose the quick version, which would rid the body of all the germs in seconds.
Hongjoong was in the process of combing Seonghwa's hair and taming it into some form of hairstyle when Seonghwa suddenly turned towards him, reaching out a weak hand at Hongjoong's collar. The smaller of the two was pulled down in surprise and Seonghwa looked down from his neck to him, a question in his eyes.
His first reflex would have been to give the man permission, but not before Yunho had taken a closer look and made a diagnosis.
Carefully, he pushed Seonghwa's hand away from him and shook his head.
Chapter 9: Blood Pact
Yunho arrived not much later after Hongjoong had helped Seonghwa back on the bridge and into one of the two comfortable chairs. The man leaned back powerlessly but managed to keep his eyes open and watch Hongjoong closely while he welcomed his friend.
The tall doctor was a bleuwy and measured about one meter more than Hongjoong, towering hopelessly above him. He had used the beam system, materialized in the middle of their gallery after a small warning from the Sunrise. Poor Aurora was still so frightened that she tumbled from Hongjoong's shoulder into his arms.
Seonghwa watched the man suspiciously, but seemed to relax again when Hongjoong jumped at him excitedly. Yunho's laughter boomed full and happy across the room and he held Hongjoong tightly pressed against his blue body. They exchanged courtesies for a moment.
His hair was shorter than the last time they had seen each other and, to Hongjoong's great amusement, it was also blue, bing hardly noticeable on him.
"I am glad to see you! Look around you! I have a ship, I have made it, Yunho!", Hongjoong greeted him exuberantly, trying not to let go of the other at all.
Yunho let him stick to his body, the human's head barely resting on his chest and his arms not reaching all the way around Yunho's huge figure.
"You did! How did you do that? From where?"
Hongjoong finally let go of him to gesticulate frantically towards Seonghwa. Yunho lifted his forked yellow eyes to him, sceptically staring at his sunken figure.
"A nightwalker." Hongjoong was relatively certain.
With a confident nod, Yunho reached into his pocket, unearthed a small translation device, before he approached Seonghwa with defensively raised hands. The man remained absolutely still, motionlessly allowing Yunho to sit down beside him.
Hongjoong nervously followed, sat down on the second chair and started playing with his hands.
"Can he speak? No, right?"
Hongjoong shook his head, then watched as Yunho first examined Seonghwa's veins and then, after a silent agreement, his eyes as well. The blue strands of muscles under his white top moved in a hypnotic way, attracting Aurora again, who nervously found her place in Hongjoong's lap.
"Tell me his story."
Yunho leaned back a bit, gazing comfortably between Hongjoong and Seonghwa, while Hongjoong began to speak, recounting events in the smallest detail. He told him everything from when he broke into the ship to the feeding in the morning. Seonghwa seemed to find it difficult to get into the part of the story where he had not yet been conscious, because he lowered his head fiercely when Hongjoong reported being attacked by him.
Yunho did not seem to be convinced of Hongjoong's trust in the man, but then he had to agree with him that Seonghwa was much too weak to do anything about it. He thought about his condition once again and calculated his scores in his head.
"The ship was definitely right in what it calculated. You should be back on your feet soon." He grinned encouragingly at Seonghwa and he nodded weakly. The smile on Yunho's face seemed tormented.
"Hongjoong, can you step out for a minute?"
Slightly confused but in good spirits, Hongjoong rose to follow the Bleuwy. Aurora stayed behind to watch over Seonghwa, while Yunho squeezed through the door to the corridor outside. Hongjoong joined him in the passage and let the door slide shut behind him.
Yunho sat down to be on the same level with Hongjoong, but this did not make his accusation any less harmless.
"Hongjoong, what are you thinking?! A complete stranger? He could be a criminal! Finding him in a cave, half-dead doesn't speak well of his kindness."
Hongjoong had the decency to embarrassedly bow his head, shrinking even more into his already tiny form.
Yunho was an absolutely nice guy, the best friend you could wish for, but to Hongjoong's luck and also misfortune, he was also an intelligent creature with a doctor in foreign research.
"He was alone... and had a ship! He couldn't have hurt me anyway... I couldn't leave him behind and he is definitely not angry with me! You saw how calmly he takes things.", Hongjoong quietly fought back, indeed not regretting having trusted his instincts with Seonghwa. Sure, the man already gave him nightmares for the rest of his life, but at least he had silently accepted him on his ship!
"Hongjoong, I know what your instincts tell you. That you're back to looking for the special cases. In fact, your whole group will probably consist of special cases of which at least half will try to kill you, but-" Yunho ran a stressed hand through his hair, Hongjoong shyly staring at his scraping shoe.
A deep sigh of the bleuwy made the mood lighten a bit.
"Stop pouting... You know I can't stand it." He sounded much softer again, like a resigned mother.
Hongjoong looked up from under his eyelashes, treadingly playing with his fingers in front of his chest.
"I like him... He hasn't murdered anyone in a bloodthirsty frenzy and he seems to be a respectable man. I'd take him with me if he'd like."
In fact, Hongjoong had thought about it for a long time. At night, when he had already left the weak nightwalker at the front of the bridge, when the door to his chosen cabin was tightly locked. It was then, when he lay in the darkness with burning eyes, Aurora soundly sleeping on his pillow and Hongjoong filled with the one worry of how lonely the nightwalker must be in those moments.
How lost and abandoned he had possibly felt before. How his condition was too bad that he could not have changed it even if he wanted to.
No, Hongjoong was very sure in his heart that Park Seonghwa deserved a chance. The intelligent eyes and the gentleness with which he had treated Hongjoong since he was awake were enough reasons for him.
Apart from that it would rather be Seonghwa who sent him away, not the other way around.
He told this to Yunho as well and he could only grin amusedly.
"You always manage to worm your way into other people's hearts Don't let me stop you from that."
"No really... As long as he accepts me, I'm willing to give it my best shot. Who knows, we might become the best team! I'll stay for a while, get him healthy, talk to him rationally, then I'll know more." Hongjoong smiled encouragingly, finally stopped sulking to look at Yunho beaming.
The Bleuwy ruffled affectionately through the other man's black hair, unable to resist a pleased coo.
"I think it's great that you're trying so hard for him. Though I suspect it may have something to do with the way you also had him between your legs once."
Hongjoong choked on bare air, had to catch his coughing self on a wall to keep his balance. His face glowed hotter than any sun, probably taking on the pretty shade of a ripe tomato.
Yunho's laughter echoed through the corridor.
While Hongjoong was still struggling to breathe, waving his hands in panic, Yunho teasingly patted his shoulder to comfort him, then he made his way back to the bridge, nonchalant.
He spoke over his shoulder without turning around. "He's not the worst choice. Once he's healthy again..." Yunho left the sentence unfinished and just walked out. Hongjoong stayed behind to stare at him in shock, eyes wide.
Heavens, the sight of Seonghwa under that table could have come straight out of a horror movie, nothing about it was sexy! The nightwalker was injured and weak, not to mention a stranger. Absolutely impossible!
Slightly indignant and offended in his honor, he followed Yunho belatedly, found him kneeling next to Seonghwa and softly talking to him via translator. He smiled teasingly at Hongjoong as he approached
Hongjoong coolly ignored him.
"I just made a deal with him."
Now Hongjoong listened and looked between the to men with interest.
"Seonghwa needs your blood in the near future, but also after that... He has agreed to think about giving you his ship if he can use you as his main source of food in return." Yunho remained tense, waiting for a reaction
Promising yourself to someone else literally as their food was rarely a good idea and it should probably be thought through in detail.
It took Hongjoong a moment for every word to register in his brain, then his jaw dropped nearly hard enough to punch a hole in the floor.
"Wait, really?! Really?!!" This time, he just asked Seonghwa and he nodded intently, not taking his eyes off him.
Hongjoong would probably have jumped into his arms if Seonghwa would not have collapsed under his weight.
Because that meant he had actually done it! He had a ship, a first official crew member and a permanent position on both!
Yunho laughed again when he saw Hongjoong's face and a little smile played around Seonghwa's lips, too.
"He's thinking about it, but you should clarify that more thoroughly once he can speak again. After the next feeding, probably." The bleuwy's smile softened.
Hongjoong, however, finally saw a future.
Chapter 10: Painful Truth
Hongjoong honestly could hardly wait until the dark nightwalker finally spoke to him. Although he had the opportunity to let the ship speak for him, he kept his thoughts to himself and Hongjoong died of curiosity.
Yunho had gone back to work and had left it to Hongjoong to decide where he wanted to go next. He had chosen one of the capitals, the northern one to be exact. It was the closest one and even though it was cold, Hongjoong needed more clothes and Seonghwa too, if he did not soon explain his presence on this ship with the suspicious absence of all personal belongings.
They were on the way two days out of three and Hongjoong noticed the icy silence in the ship again and again until it was time for Seonghwa's next feeding. Clearly, it needed someone to bring more life into it. Someone like Yunho! He wondered if Yunho would accompany him if he asked nicely.
Although the man needed time to recover, Seonghwa had never bothered to actually go to bed. Rather, he sat at Hongjoong's side all day long and only let himself be persuaded to return to his cabin when Hongjoong himself finally found some rest.
Seonghwa may have been silent, but it made him all the more pleasant in Hongjoong's eyes. He just sat at Hongjoong's side and listened to his ranting about crossing ships or his longing for freedom. Every now and then the corners of his mouth twitched into a smile and it made Hongjoong smile as well.
So when the expected day arrived, Hongjoong was worked up all morning, his movements hectic and his head confused. Aurora laughed at him as he tripped over a chair leg. Seonghwa just watched him from his seat with a relaxed smile.
Hongjoong finally leaned against the control desk just in front of Seonghwa, finding himself between his open legs as Seonghwa slowly slid even closer to him. Yunho's insinuating words often haunted the back of his head, keeping him awake at night with a glowing face in the darkness. Even now, they came up again and he thought about them like annoying flies. How could they dare?
Seonghwa waited patiently, his eyes constantly fixed on Hongjoong's face, and he accepted the wristabruptly thrust in his direction with an elegant nod, drawing it up to his lips with gentle fingers.
Hongjoong narrowed his eyes as sharp teeth dug into his skin, then controlled his breathing again. Then he watched again.
Seonghwa met his eyes with an apology in his own expression, held his gaze for a brief moment, and then his eyelids fluttered, closing as he pressed his lips closer to Hongjoong's skin.
The pain ebbed away quickly and what remained was the fascination for Seonghwa.
Nightwalkers were one of the few races that were once human. They were originally bred, a sick invention of man himself, when he began to use his new power over genetic engineering and chemistry to the full.
Originally, it had also been more of a joke. An experiment that should have failed. A meme on the Internet. But what came out of it was bigger than any researcher had ever expected and the nightwalkers bred like rabbits in their dark canyons on the back of the islands. Eventually they were established as full-fledged aliens, even though they were not alien but once descended from human parents.
It was the stuff of storybooks, vampires who drank human blood. But in the end, it was what kept them sane. Sure, there were special blood farms, artificial ways to get the same result, but what were they in comparison? In the end the nightwalker lived on humans and not seldomly humans were threatened in their existence under exactly this circumstances.
Hongjoong was deeply impressed.
Seonghwa drank in heavy sips, listened to the signal of the Sunrise and when she gave the warning, he immediately retreated, rose without letting Hongjoong's arm go.
Instinctively Hongjoong took a step back, finding nothing in his back but a control panel and Seonghwa's toes were not even in front his own. They were beside it. Seonghwa would hardly have to move an inch or two and their bodies would be pressed together.
Waiting, on guard, Hongjoong stood still, watching the nightwalker from below. His lips were now a soft pink and his eyes did not look as sunken in their sockets. It was getting better and Yunho was right.
Park Seonghwa was one of the best looking men Hongjoong had ever seen and the poor human was over the moon already.
Hongjoong was still waiting for Seonghwa to take a step away from him.
He did not, but rather the man reached out a hand to Hongjoong's ear in a searching gesture and the black-haired man paused, allowing the other man to search nervously.
He easily found the one important piercing between the other six, pulling barely noticeably on Hongjoong's ear to let the light to fall on it. The man let it happen, his heart restless in his chest from Seonghwa's proximity and the uncertainty of the situation.
"Kim Hongjoong, huh?"
Hongjoong did not realize at first that Seonghwa had spoken. The deep and slightly scratchy voice was difficult to identify, but it was certainly not Aurora's. She dozed calmly on her shelf, her wings trembling with every breath.
"I was wondering why you speak an old dialect that not even the nightwalkers all speak, but I suppose you have no trouble understanding me either, do you?"
Yes, he spoke a dialect, but good heaven how he spoke it.
It was as if he was shaping the words in his mouth differently, giving them an elaborate form that they had not had before. His already deep voice seemed only deeper than normal and Hongjoong pressed his bloody arm against his chest in shock, expecting something softer.
Hongjoong cleared his throat awkwardly.
"Uh, yes... I built it myself, it... Works as a translator." No, Hongjoong did not sound as impressive in his dialect as the other man.
Seonghwa was still fascinated by the piercing for a moment, then he actually finally stepped back respectfully from Hongjoong. The smaller of the two took an imperceptible breath. He was not afraid of Seonghwa, more of the silliness he himself fell into when trying to impress someone.
"So that in your tongue...?"
Seonghwa seemed to observe him much more closely than he thought. Almost embarrassed, Hongjoong put his hand to his lips.
"Yes. It speaks the language you understand best."
And, of course, it had to be an incredibly pleasant and far too attractive dialect. What else?
Seonghwa walked over to the shelf to get Hongjoong's substance and the towel for the blood remnants and his movements were secure again, he could use his legs stably. His left hand slid thoughtlessly through Aurora's fur and everything was already so domesticated. Hongjoong would need time to get used to the sight of the free-roaming Seonghwa.
Hongjoong held out, allowing Seonghwa to grab his arm once more. His hair fell like a dark curtain over his eyes as he worked, his fingers frighteningly soft.
Maybe Hongjoong was thinking too much in stereotypes, or maybe he just never had enough contact to these nightwalkers his parents distrusted, but Seonghwa seemed to be especially soft for his kind.
"So, tell me about you. Who are you?"
Seonghwa still dabbed his arm clean, but did not hesitate to speak.
"I am Park Seonghwa, former captain of an aerial battalion and now someone hunted by the system. I had decided to stay in this cave and die at some point, until you had the magnificent idea to interrupt me."
That was a lot of information at once.
First of all, he had actually been a soldier. Someone Hongjoong would have become if he had lived his life linearly.
But now he was being hunted. Was he a criminal? Or had he just retreated?
And what was this business of dying? Had Hongjoong misheard?
His helplessness must have been shown on his face, because Seonghwa smiled at him empathetically and let himself sink back into his chair, even if he pushed him further away from Hongjoong's direct proximity.
"You- I am not responsible for digging in your past. We can discuss it if it will make you feel better, but I will not define you by that. Therefore... if you decide to follow me and stay by my side, then it doesn't matter. I am on your side.", Hongjoong started completely honest and Seonghwa's shoulders relaxed a bit.
"But this whole death thing... No offense, we haven't known each other for very long, but..." Hongjoong had no idea how to handle it. How did he put it delicately?
His gaze snapped up from the floor to Seonghwa's eyes and he stopped chewing on his lip in the process. Seonghwa smiled distortedly.
"If you really are who I think you are, if you really are by my side and want to keep me here, then my life is in your hands now anyway. Am I right in guessing that you won't allow me to just throw it away?"
He was smart.
"Quite so. If you stay and we do indeed make this pact, then I expect you to protect your life and I would save it again, no matter how many times.", Hongjoong spoke seriously, for it was quite natural for him. This was about his crew, his friends. A group of people he did not know right now but for whom he would give everything.
Seonghwa leaned back contentedly, his eyes fascinated on those of Hongjoong.
"Then let's do this. I entrust myself and my ship to you, Kim Hongjoong. Let's see where it takes us."
And so Hongjoong got his first crew member.
Chapter 11: Preparations
Hongjoong would explore the city alone for the time being, but Seonghwa had promised to join him after sunset. So after Hongjoong had checked their cargo and supplies again, he went out through the hangar with Aurora alone at noon.
He and Seonghwa had fallen into a routine so easily. After the nightwalker had handed over his captain's title to Hongjoong without further discussion, they had put a profile of him in the ship's database and the Sunrise now officially obeyed his command, addressing him as the captain. Seonghwa only manned the post when Hongjoong was in the kitchenreal quick to have something to eat printed or sleeping.
The two of them were absolutely uncomplicated, complementing each other in all aspects that a single person would have lacked, and they did not mince matters. Both could speak freely and both appreciated the other for his reliability.
They were like a well-oiled machine, but they were too few. Too aimless.
Sure, Hongjoong knew a lot about technology and was able to make it spark outside of normal functions. Hongjoong knew how their turbines worked and Hongjoong knew about the energy and computers on the ship.
However, Hongjoong had no idea about the actual material of the ship and its steadfastness. Hongjoong had no idea how to take care of his health or how to fight. And even more they lacked liveliness. The part with them being a machine also referred to rationality and sovereignty. Their conversations were short and to the point, an update and an answer.
They were massively lacking something that a family, a group could make out of all this. Even the peaceful Aurora was not enough for that.
Hongjoong stuck to it. He wanted six men. Minus Seonghwa there were still five. He wanted a colourful troupe with many different stories to tell each other non-stop. With humor and emotion, which formed a common ground between the group and was not only decisive for the function of their ship.
With the goal of finding exactly that, Hongjoong set off for the city. It might not be here, not in the whole north, maybe on a completely different planet, but that did not matter. He would find it, just as he had found Seonghwa.
Raingen was cold. Surely not the coldest place among the islands, but compared to the mildness Hongjoong was accustomed to it felt like an extra good working refrigerator.
He was wrapped in a thick coat that he had bought in the hangar building. While the coat was specially designed to ward off the creeping cold, Hongjoong still found himself shaking as he stepped outside. Aurora had found a nice spot in his collar to tuck herself into and was now watching the city and its inhabitants from wide eyes.
Raingen was made of glass, crystal, ice, whatever it was that created the illusion it was. It was a bright and shining city, where snow was falling constantly, which was cleared just as continuously. Of course, they could make it vanish while falling still, but what was the fun in that?
Hongjoong was once advised to go there for a beautiful winter festival, he had known a frosty prince from here in class. The people were probably as icy and rigid as their whole environment.
As he walked down a snowy path with little lights at his sides and looked around between the glass buildings, he was still feverishly thinking about how to negotiate with this kind of people best. So far he had not seen a single human who was at least as small as him, and he do not get him started on the aliens.
In any case, he needed new fuel, clothes for himself and Seonghwa and more material for his handicrafts. It was about time that he finished his weapon before he got into another situation where he might need it and it was still useless.
In a quiet conversation with Aurora and inconspicuously under the snooty eyes of the city's inhabitants, Hongjoong wriggled his way through narrow alleys, skillfully avoiding the hurrying people. He found the clothes the quickest and picked out a few pieces for himself and Seonghwa, made the quick decision to keep the nightwalker in black and white and not in his own colorful spectrum.
He packed the bags into a shopping balloon and let it float behind him while he continued his search.
Aurora also wanted to crawl into the transparent work of chemistry and physics that the balloon was, but preferred to stay where she was when Hongjoong warned her that it was not getting any warmer in there.
Hongjoong also found a merchant who dealt in scrap parts and spent quite some time digging things out of the pile of rubble, dancing around other customers all the time.
With a well filled balloon he made his way back to the hangar. If was going to find any fuel pods anywhere, it was there.
Hongjoong wandered through fan-shaped streets arranged around a government building, slowly working his way downwards and his nose was absolutely numb in his cold face, probably falling off completely if you touched it now.
Right, Hongjoong could hardly wait to leave.
He should also consider making a communicator with which he could reach Seonghwa.
On the other hand... Did he feel like having the man's deep and smooth voice right at his ear for a longer period of time? Probably not.
Shaking his head, Hongjoong entered the hangar again and set off to get his shopping back to the ship before he started his hunt for fuel. Poor, trembling Aurora also looked like she could use a break.
Hongjoong was still crossing the hangar to get to the Sunrise's parking lot when he noticed a quick movement out of the corner of his eye.
He watched a dark-cloaked figure running directly toward a group of sinister looking amphibris who instinctively grabbed at their weapons.
Hongjoong's footsteps slowed as he barely noticeably tried to eavesdrop on their conversation. The newcomer spoke frantically to the woman closest to him and she merely glanced back at him confusedly.
He effortlessly changed languages - something that not many people did anymore and began to speak again.
Hongjoong was busy marvelling at the ships, slipping inconspicuously closer in their direction.
"-me too! I can work, I don't eat too much and I definitely wouldn't be a burden to you! I can even pay you a large sum of money if you free and take another friend of mine with you! Please." He sounded absolutely desperate, possibly even close to tears, as often as his shrill voice broke. Hongjoong pursed his lips skeptically.
The groups obviously did not know each other and the newcomer was also much smaller than the threatening amphibris, whose group seemed to consist of nothing else.
Hongjoong glanced over his shoulder and saw the Amphibris exchanging puzzled glances.
It was a man who finally stepped forward from further back. He was tall and broadly built, his bare chest covered with scars of all kinds, and his horns curled menacingly in his forehead, casting dark shadows in the artificial hangar light.
Hongjoong swallowed restlessly, took a quick look at his ship. Should he alert Seonghwa? He probably had a better way with that than he did.
"You want to come with us, eh? I mean... any objections?"
Silence, the amphibris relaxed again as Hongjoong tensed more.
"Let me have a look at you. You're a handsome boy."
Hongjoong took another look, watching as the amphibris carefully lowered the hood of the other. White-blond hair and two delicate feelers came out and Hongjoong tilted his head questioningly.
Should a lashunta not be able to read the mood? To see through the intent of these men?
The man nodded contentedly and then stepped aside the boy to put an arm around his hips. No comradely gesture, the arm was settled too low for that.
Hongjoong cursed softly to himself and whispered to Aurora to return to the ship with the balloon.
"Don't worry, handsome. We'll gladly take you with us. What's your friend like? Is he like you?"
The murmuring continued and slowly the whole group of eight people moved closer around the helpless lashunta with confusingly vibrating feelers.
Hongjoong began marching towards them without hesitation. He would not allow them to make a desperate, distraught boy a slave before his eyes.
He had barely got halfway through the hall when he began to shout.
"Henry, my goodness, do you know how long I've searched for you?!"
He shouted in the language the stranger had spoken before and he turned his head confusedly. The amphibris followed the movement, but judging by their faces they did not understand. Perfect.
"You are in danger, these gentlemen are only interested in your body!" He kept his voice sunny, as if he had missed the other one incredibly. The amphibris exchanged restless looks.
The lashunta, on the other hand, blinked rapidly, seemed to finally catch up with the situation and then began to smile radiantly.
Heaven, he was young. Probably younger than Hongjoong himself.
"Ah, there you are!"
Hongjoong caught up with them and the amphibris gave way confusedly, allowing the lashunta to jump into Hongjoong's arms full of artificial joy. He spoke with his lips close to Hongjoong's ear, barely loud enough for Hongjoong to hear him.
"If you are one of father's dogs, you are about to have a big problem." His voice dripped with poison and hostility and Hongjoong forced himself to smile nervously as he patted the other's back.
"I have no idea what you are talking about."
Chapter 12: Royalty
Hongjoong more or less threw the boy onto the bridge in front of him, leaving him no time to explain himself before he had already confronted him with crossed arms.
"Really? You're what, obviously a lashunta, what do you think you were trying to do?!"
Seonghwa rose restlessly from his chair further back in the room, but still kept his distance. For the time being, they both just eyeballed the blond man on the floor, who blew his hair away from his face with a snort.
"What and you're so much better?! What do you expect for this false kindness, don't you have a plan to sell me to your captain?!" He was loud. Way too loud.
Seonghwa looked so confused. His dark eyebrows narrowed indecisively for a moment, then he manually typed a translation command into the Sunrise, reading along.
Hongjoong, on the other hand, was deeply hurt in his ego. What would he want to do with such a brat?
"What?! Can you please repeat that again, because I just literally saved you from being ripped apart in the air by a bunch of bloodthirsty amphibris!" So much for initiating Seonghwa. He looked deeply impressed.
"I didn't care what they wanted with me, I just wanted to get out!"
"You're not gone when you're dead! No, wait, I'm sorry. They wouldn't have gone that far."
The kid looked angry, but he got up from the floor to stomp towards Hongjoong. He built himself up in front of the human (without his feelers, he was hardly taller than him) and looked down on him contemptuously.
"What, you think I couldn't have survived that?" He was quieter than before, threatening and Hongjoong resisted the urge to slap his hand to his own forehead.
"I think you, of all people, should know best who you can and cannot get involved with. What good are these things to you otherwise?" He nodded his chin at the other's feelers, which retreated almost in indignation.
"I'm not. My father has strong nightwalkers who work for him, they can fool me anytime. You have no idea!"
Hongjoong hated him.
Seonghwa stepped in at the exact moment when Hongjoong seriously considered feeding the little one to the sharks after all. Like a dark shadow, he appeared at Hongjoong's side, placing a hand on his shoulder to soothe him.
Apparently he had used his time alone, because his hair was cut and styled differently, showing his new undercut on one side. Hongjoong hurriedly focused their nag with the skeptical eyes again.
"Hey, hi. I'm Seonghwa." He nodded diplomatically to the other and the other boy just folded his arms like a defiant child. Hongjoong rolled his eyes.
"Can he understand me?"
Hongjoong just raised his shoulders and stepped to the desk to activate the translation sequence.
"Now he does."
"As you can see, I am a nightwalker. This person is under my protection and I can assure you that I have not given him any charm to lie to you. We are travelers and he intervened only because he saw disaster."
Hongjoong spun angrily in his chair, admiring Seonghwa's patience.
The stranger seemed hesitant to speak, but regained courage and volume as the ship faithfully translated.
"I would not have needed his help. I was looking for a crew that could take me away from here and not return under demands and bribery. I'd have had them if Mr. Justice here hadn't..."
Hongjoong let his palms crash down on the wood of the desk and rose again abruptly. The blood in his veins boiled like hot water, begging for action.
"They would have raped you, stupid boy!"
"So what if they had? Better than being here!"
The two were so close to grabbing each other by the collar and shaking each other when Seonghwa stepped in again, now even raising his hands defensively.
"Alright, stop it. You, explain yourself. And Hongjoong, get a grip."
Hongjoong flopped back to his seat sulking and turned to them, but kept his eyes on the ground. Time to cool down.
"I don't owe you an explanation at all," the other one grumbled again and Seonghwa grabbed him by the shoulders and steered him towards the second chair to press him down roughly.
"Yes, you obviously are, if you think you would feel better with something like that. We are not your father's men, so speak."
The blond remained stubbornly silent for a moment, then finally dropped his shoulders and started to speak. His eyes twitched suspiciously from Seonghwa to Hongjoong.
"Fine. If you've been paying attention, you'll notice I don't have a very good family relationship."
Hongjoong snorted dryly.
"I'm running away from my father again."
Now Hongjoong let his neck roll with a sigh, leaning his head back to stare at the boy from behind.
"What are you, 15? Get a grip."
Seonghwa gave him a harsh slap on the back of the head and immediately Hongjoong bit his lip, refocusing on the lashunta, who was annoyed himself.
"I know what you're thinking. But you are wrong. I actually have my reasons and I am old enough to decide that I do not want to tolerate a life of constant subjugation. So I ran away."
Seonghwa leaned back at the desk between them, listening attentively to the translation program.
"You should know that I belong to the nobility. There, now it's out, now nothing stands in the way of the ransom fun.", he muttered nervously, seemed so absolutely sure that they threw him away again, that Hongjoong felt an unpleasant stab in his heart.
Neither of them moved and the stranger seemed surprised to be able to continue speaking.
"Well, anyway, I am supposed to be married - as it is the case in the aristocracy - to some important princess who would please my sister much better but that's another story! But I'd rather marry my best friend, because nothing better will happen to me anyway!"
"How is that relevant? Marry him." Hongjoong closed his eyes tiredly.
"That's not possible for my father! First of all, he's a man, and secondly, he's not of equal or higher social rank! Dad has forbidden us to see each other and is trying to force me to marry and I-"
Hongjoong cut him off.
"Wait, how old are you again? 15?"
"Oh... you look 15, go on."
The stranger sighed heavily.
"I wanted to run away with him... With my best friend. But he only wants good things for me and thus keep me at home. But I can't stand it any longer, I must go."
Hongjoong turned his head towards Seonghwa, caught his gaze to have a silent conversation with him.
"So you're not going home under any circumstances?", Seonghwa made clear and Hongjoong sat up more attentively when the boy just nodded. His tongue slid nervously across his lips as he stared at them both.
Again Seonghwa and Hongjoong exchanged looks.
"When I... Excuse me, you just had absolutely no ulterior motive during the nobility thing, but if I could stay here at least for the time being... I think I would be very grateful."
Hongjoong blinked. He did actually care where he ended up, huh?
The stranger read his thoughts and continued to bow his head, mumbling an apology under his breath.
"We need more crew anyway, so... Why not?" Seonghwa turned to Hongjoong and he watched the lashunta for a long time, trying to make the right decision.
"You sure you won't get homesick after two weeks?"
He nodded overeagerly, slowly understanding that Hongjoong was the person to talk to. Interested, he leaned closer.
"What about this friend? Why don't you take him with you?"
The boy swallowed nervously, his adam's apple sliding up and down.
"The problem is... he wants what's best for me too. After father started threatening us, threatening his life and my freedom, he backed off so as not to put me in danger. He wouldn't open the door for me."
Hongjoong rose with a sigh and began to peel off his jacket, handing it over to Seonghwa. The stranger looked confused between them, like a lost lamb.
"Well then, too bad you were just kidnapped by pirates. Sunrise, start a rumor. Hwa, we need more fuel." With that, he turned back to the boy, who now had much bigger eyes. Seonghwa slipped into his jacket, smiling.
"Your friend has until tomorrow morning to come get you. We'll take him with us when he shows up. Otherwise, you'll either have to live without him, or we'll meet him later if he wants."
The Sunrise spoke up.
"Captain, if I start a rumor, his father will show up. Maybe I can find the friend with a name and address."
Soliciting, Hongjoong looked at the stranger and he stuttered helplessly, passing on the information.
"K-Kang Yeosang. His name is Kang Yeosang."
"Okay, Sunrise, just a direct message to Kang Yeosang. Make it threatening, with lots of ominous 'we have your friend', but also the kind of message by that he knows no harm will come for him... Like..."
The lashunta spoke up.
"Tell him he's a cowardly mogry if he doesn't come!"
"Right, do that."
The sunrise fell silent again, and Seonghwa petted the lashunta carefully through his hair, paying attention to all feelers before he left the ship.
Hongjoong and the new guy were left alone.
"So... I attacked my captain earlier, huh?"
"Yeah, you did."
He shrank back more into himself.
And they waited.
Chapter 13: Jung Wooyoung
The blond lashunta had introduced himself to them as Jung Wooyoung at last. The last name finally made a few lights dawn in Seonghwa's head and they accepted that they were now considered the kidnappers of an important noble son. Not the worst beginning, it qctually was a good one.
Wooyoung had become more reserved about his own story after the most important facts were clarified, but in return he seemed to be even more interested in the story Hongjoong and Seonghwa shared.
"How did you two meet?"
Hongjoong ignored him for the moment, too upset by the naiveté that nearly cost the boy his life. Where would Wooyoung be now if Hongjoong had not intervened? Where would they have chained him up? Who would have mistreated his soft and well-groomed body?
Hongjoong didn not want to think about it too much. He was happy to have found Wooyoung in time, but he would still hate the other one for a while.
"Does he live on your blood?"
Wooyoung did not really seem like the truly naive sort. Rather like someone who pretended to be naive to get what he wanted. Still, a good portion of his being seemed to consist simply of defiance and blindness. That was something that could help him, but it could also hurt him.
Hongjoong had to get to know him better in order to learn more about it, but for now Wooyoung promised not to rummage around in his head just how they would not bother him. Still, he should maybe ask Seonghwa to erect a barrier for his mind. At least as long as they did not know each other that well yet.
"Are you together?"
Hongjoong stumbled over his linear train of thought and lost the context so abrupt, that his head was just blank for a long moment.
His confusion had show on his face, because from across the room a high, cheerful giggle could suddenly be heard. Hongjoong blinked confusedly at the amusedly clapping Wooyoung, who was hanging over the back of his chair and didn not let Hongjoong out of his sight.
"You've just about confessed. It was obvious."
"What are we talking about?"
Wooyoung's grin was that of a kid craving cookies, absolutely impish, and it honestly worried Hongjoong.
"You and Seonghwa! I think your reaction was very clear!" Again, his squeaky laughter echoed across the room.
Why was he so lively and loud when he came from a winter island anyway? It did not make sense to Hongjoong.
"Don't they teach you to respect your elders and superiors at home? You and a princess would never have worked.", Hongjoong hardly even scolded him and Wooyoung just giggled towards himself, then leaned back dreamily.
"Back in the old days, when I was young and not yet restricted from all sides, I used to pay more attention to such things. I don't want to say that Yeosang is a bad influence, otherwise I would directly agree with my father, but Yeosang showed me that other things are more important than artificial smiles and feigned modesty. Thanks to Yeosang, I know what real laughter is. Friends. I would go through anything with him."
Wooyoung spoke like an adult for the first time, and Hongjoong was fascinated by the turnaround.
"Yeosang... what's he like?"
"He is... boring. He's absolutely average. Completely two-dimensional." A loving smile played around Wooyoung's lips, his eyes shining with pride.
"He's the best friend a man could ever have. The only one I would ever marry. For tax reasons. And because he's pretty funny. In a flat sort of way."
Wooyoung just nodded, then looked up at the ceiling again. His sluggish legs swayed him back and forth.
"Yeosang didn't grow up in a big glass house like me. Yeosang lives alone, he never mentioned any family and I never asked him. He always gets by somehow, with small jobs here and there, and would never want any help from me." He frowned reluctantly.
"Yeosang works with all kinds of people and materials, though, maybe that'll come in handy on the boat."
Hongjoong didn not want to push him, did notwant to make him feel like he had to give something in return right away. In generous camaraderie, he pushed their knees together, made them swive around together.
"We will welcome him here with open arms. Seonghwa seems to want to take on an excellent chaperone function.", he assured Wooyoung calmly and saw him grinning, knowing he was safe.
"So, you and Seonghwa?"
He slapped his knees rudely against the giggling Wooyoung's.
Seonghwa later returned with the fuel capsules and Hongjoong exchanged them while his two friends and also Aurora watched him critically.
Wooyoung had welcomed the kaflera with open arms. Although they did not understand each other, Wooyoung took care of her, warmed her in his arms and stroked her continuously while she purred in his arm.
Seonghwa knew at least that Hongjoong had once studied these energies and techniques and was therefore less sceptical, but this was still his ship and if the captain was not there he had to step in as a pilot. Therefore, he watched everything like a hwak.
They made themselves some hot drinks and listened to Wooyoung's gushing words about his island for a while, his hobby of giving people on the street answers about their thoughts and his ideas about how their journey should be.
He would like to have a bleuwy in the group. Bleuwy had a few, quote, "qualities he would like to explore."
Hongjoong tried to picture him with Yunho and came up with nothing.
Seonghwa, on the other hand, found the whole scene hilarious and regularly hid his tortured-looking grin behind his hand. Hongjoong itched to remove his fingers each time and stare at the paradox that Seonghwa's smile was, but he did not. For the sake of his own peace.
Aurora was already asleep again and Hongjoong's eyes also began to get more and more tired sometime during the night when Yeosang arrived.
Hongjoong was half dozing in his chair and Wooyoung was sleeping with his mouth open and Aurora in his limp hands. So only Seonghwa remained, who followed the soft knocking sound with a benevolent smile.
Wooyoung had indeed often left home. Not infrequently, he was missing for a few weeks until his father's greasy hunters picked him up again. He had assured them that Yeosang would not make a fuss. On the contrary, he had already told his friend that he would leave, but Yeosang himself had doubted Wooyoung's naivety.
Anyway, he followed Seonghwa to the bridge without any resistance and the sound of the door opening made Hongjoong wake up a bit and yawning he rubbed his eyes.
Yeosang was... average.
A normal-sized man, with brown hair covering his forehead and a blank face, which could have been made of stone as well. No distinctive feature caught his eye and it would be so easy to miss him. He was a master in becoming invisible.
Just the ability they lacked.
Hongjoong politely sat up to greet him.
He seemed terrifyingly rational and cold compared to Wooyoung. He seemed like a real inhabitant of this island with its neutrality and ignorance. Wooyoung obviously thought with his heart and Yeosang with his brain.
They complemented each other perfectly.
Hongjoong exchanged a surprised look with Seonghwa and he just nodded seriously.
While Hongjoong explained to Yeosang what had happened, Seonghwa took over to put the boy to bed and carried him off with little difficulty. Hongjoong watched him, faltering somewhere in his sentence, for Seonghwa was at half his strength. Half.
Yeosang understood perfectly well what had happened and was quick to thank Hongjoong.
Hongjoong wondered why he was not more suspicious of them.
He could not possibly have trusted Wooyoung if he had thrown himself into the arms of the bad guys immediately, right?
Maybe he just had a good instinct?
Anyway, he seemed trustworthy. Yeosang seemed like someone Hongjoong could work with, someone to discuss and evaluate with. And at the same time someone who could deal with the wreckage of emotions that was Wooyoung.
Yeosang joined in without any problems and then went to check on Wooyoung before he, too, retired.
Hongjoong dozed off in the front on his chair while waiting for Seonghwa.
When the nightwalker found him, he hesitated to wake up his captain at first, but then he carefully reached out a hand to him. He touched him gently on the shoulder.
Hongjoong flinched a bit but quickly found Seonghwa from reddened eyes and grinned up at him drowsily.
"Hey. What do you think of them?"
Seonghwa glanced briefly at the doors, then nodded confidently.
"I think their story is a little more complicated than ours. But they will come around. And hopefully have peace." His voice was like music to Hongjoong's ears, like the most beautiful lullaby.
Unfortunately, sadly, it also seemed to be trying to lure him to bed in a way he was far too tired for.
No, Hongjoong was not into Seonghwa.
Groaning, the captain rose and stretched for a moment, then he also started to stumble to his quarters.
"Then it's alright. Night, Hwa."
"Good night, Hongjoong."
Chapter 14: Kang Yeosang
"So. Where are we going? I'll let you decide, because you haven't been around that long.", Hongjoong greeted their two newcomers the next morning as they ventured onto the bridge. Aurora sat on Hongjoong's shoulder and groomed her fur while Seonghwa waited well-behaved behind the control fields.
Yeosang and Wooyoung exchanged a perplexed look.
"Don't we have a goal? Isn't that what the captain decides?", Wooyoung then made his confusion clear and Hongjoong finally had to accept that he was simply had a loud voice. Unwillingly, Wooyoung shook the curls from his face.
"Not yet, no. Right now we're just looking for a crew together. Where do you want to look? Anyone or anything you'd like to take along?"
Yeosang, thinking sharply, put his cheek down on his hand, suddenly looking more like he was modeling for an expensive clothing brand than a pushover.
Wooyoung suddenly seemed to have a flash of inspiration and he made an indeterminate noise, pulling at Yeosang's sleeve excitedly.
"Oh, the desert! I always wanted to go to the desert! Where it's nice and warm!" His eyes glided happily to Hongjoong, and he just raised his shoulders, then forwarded the order to Seonghwa.
He knew his way around. He should choose their destination.
"I mean... the desert may not be the best place to start if you're used to the cold, but we'll see." Hongjoong dropped Aurora in Wooyoung's arms to join Seonghwa's side, his hip barely touching Seonghwa's shoulder. The man made no comment, concentrating only on the coordinates on the glass in front of them.
"In the desert, there are all kinds of naga and the like. Not a bad idea if we still need fighters.", Seonghwa muttered, only now turning to Hongjoong and he nodded thoughtfully, not finding his ship particularly suitable for any naga.
"I still want a bleuwy!"
Yeosang told Wooyoung to be quiet and dragged him over to the small staircase with him, settled down there and together they hung over Aurora while Seonghwa discussed their goal with Hongjoong.
"Rabanastre sounds like a good start. We can listen around without running the risk of being caught by desert bandits or the like. I think if we actively seek a fighter, we're bound to find one there."
Hongjoong searched the map for Rabanastre, the southern capital and residence of the only king. Undecided, he swayed his head around. Hongjoong was no fan of monarchies.
Seonghwa's fingers slid across the control panels as if he had never done anything else in his life. Cleverly, he zoomed in closer, then nodded towards the island.
"I know the king there. My battalion once helped him with a pirate problem. I think we would do well to go there and ask around."
Hongjoong could not really say no to that voice, even if he had wanted to, so he just nodded, turned back to the other two guys. Seonghwa went to work.
Hongjoong took the moment just to stand next to Seonghwa, very distracted by his hands scurrying around at his side, watching the two men.
Yeosang had said they were the same age, but he seemed so much more mature. They both sat shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip squeezed on the steps, Aurora in Wooyoung's lap and Yeosang's deep voice like soft water surrounding the other. They looked like two little angels with flawless faces, ready to explore the world, and Hongjoong wanted to protect them at all costs.
Seonghwa had switched off the command function of the Sunrise again, did not like it when she talked all the time and had only left the translation function on. Although thit did not work at the volume where Wooyoung and Yeosang whispered yet, Hongjoong still enjoyed the moment of almost silence.
"It'll take us quite a while to get there. We should make stops, I don't think we want to spend two weeks just on the boat."
Hongjoong looked down at Seonghwa's head at his side and then turned completely back to the map.
"Fine. What do you suggest?"
Wooyoung and Yeosang soon got bored.
Yeosang was an excellent student, so Hongjoong began to explain to him early on how the medicine and food supply worked here. So while Yeosang was learning about the logistics and functioning of the ship, Wooyoung had terribly little to do.
He needed a job.
"You know what? You're in charge of amusement here from now on. Research movies we can watch. Make up games. Try to come up with something that all races could live with and enjoy. Somehow we have to integrate the newcomers.", Hongjoong had told him two days later and Wooyoung had jumped away excitedly with Aurora, a survey began immediately.
Hongjoong had looked after the other one with a smile and could only shake his head. Wooyoung had no problems at all to find his way in, blossomed in his new surroundings, while Yeosang preferred to sit in a corner and watch.
Sometimes Hongjoong wondered how the two had managed to become friends, but in the end, no one could resist Wooyoung, not even him.
But Hongjoong was happy as long as everyone felt comfortable. That's all he asked of them at the moment.
He had almost reached the bridge to check on Seonghwa like every evening, before he retired when the door opened in front of him prematurely. It was the same nightwalker who came to meet him and Hongjoong received his strange smile, which he returned with a beaming smile.
"What's up, we got a problem?"
Seonghwa shook his head softly and slowly approached Hongjoong, too close to still be polite. But hesitant enough that Hongjoong could have avoided him if he wanted to.
With the tips of his shoes on his, Seonghwa reached out his hand to Hongjoong's collar and gently pulled it aside, only then finding the other man's gaze.
"It is time again... Do you feel up to it? You've slept more than usual these past few days."
Which was not bad at all, but unusual for Hongjoong, it was true.
Hongjoong just shrugged, even raising his hands to his shirt to undo two buttons on it to give Seonghwa more access.
The dark eyes of the nightwalker fell back on his exposed skin and he swallowed for a moment. A reaction of hunger, but for Hongjoong this look suddenly felt much more intense and heavy.
He cleared his throat strangely.
"Go ahead, I'm fine."
Hongjoong had once asked Seonghwa why he preferred his neck to his wrist. In the case of the very neat and clean Seonghwa, Hongjoong thought it was for hygiene reasons at first.
But the actual reason was completely different.
Seonghwa had then gently grasped his hand and made him aware of all the tendons and muscles under his skin. He had explained to him how difficult it was to heal them, but how easy it was to tear them apart if he was not careful.
Hence the neck.
Seonghwa's hair was already tickling his chin when Hongjoong remembered how uncomfortable the difference in size must be for Seonghwa at that moment and he promised to confront Seonghwa somewhere else next time.
In a feather-light touch his hands found support on Seonghwa's shoulders, who in turn had one hand on the back of Hongjoong's head, with the other supporting himself on the wall next to them.
A breathless moment of waiting passed, then Seonghwa bit him as gently as possible, immediately putting his lips around the wound to drink with deep gulps.
Hongjoong stood absolutely still, just waiting, staring blindly at the ceiling. Seonghwa's body was cool under his fingers but he smelled good. Clean and distantly after their shampoo.
Absent, Hongjoong began to caress the other's shoulders, counting the seconds in his head as long as they were outside the bridge.
For a moment everything was quiet except for the swallowing of Seonghwa's throat and Hongjoong's soft breath in the other's hair, but then the door behind Seonghwa slipped open.
It was Wooyoung, with his golden curls and a smile on his lips, ready to harass Hongjoong for his games.
Hongjoong had just taken a hand from Seonghwa, lifted it up to tell him that it would not be long and that he would be back for him as soon as possible when Wooyoung suddenly got very big eyes.
His smile went out like a candle in the wind.
Seonghwa paused, then gently detached himself from Hongjoong again to cautiously look around at Wooyoung, his body frozen between them both.
Wooyoung let out a nervous laugh.
"Ah... Ha ha... Of course he drinks from you, doesn't he? Of course he does." His feelers twitched nervously, curling protectively into each other.
"Wooyoung? Hongjoong asked carefully, getting a queasy feeling in his stomach as he saw the emptiness in the other's gaze. His eyes were blank.
Seonghwa moved carefully, slowly stepping back from Hongjoong and raising his hands defensively, as if to say 'I didn't hurt him'. Wooyoung's gaze flickered up as he moved and his eyes found Hongjoong's neck, the open wound from which blood was still flowing.
Suddenly his feelers twitched into a vertical position and Wooyoung's hand came up to his lips. Hongjoong's eyes widened with his own.
He threw himself around faster than Hongjoong could react. He absolutely panicked and fell back out onto the bridge with his hand firmly in front of his mouth.
Alarmed, Hongjoong caught Seonghwa's gaze and he only shook his head in a frown.
His stomach was in knots for the rest of the day and Wooyoung did not come out of his cabin again.
Chapter 15: Bonding
Hongjoong left Wooyoung alone for the time being, allowing him to remain barricaded in his room for the entire following day. With the exception of Yeosang with food, no one dared to disturb him and Hongjoong had time to reflect on the cause of this situation.
It was obvious that Wooyoung did not take well to seeing Seonghwa actually drinking blood. His reaction had been disgust and fear, something Hogjoong was absolutely not prepared for.
Nightwalkers were part of their society. It was like watching a mother publicly breastfeeding her child. Completely natural and socially accepted.
Hongjoong was absolutely certain that this was not the first time Wooyoung had seen the sight, and he was equally certain that Wooyoung must have had an unpleasant memory of it if it was so serious to him.
Yeosang had politely refused to talk to Hongjoong about it, even though the pain in his eyes indicated that he had hoped for something else.
In the end there was nothing left for Hongjoong to do but to visit Wooyoung himself. A ship would not work if the crew couldn not talk to each other.
Seonghwa had refused to accompany him and preferred to talk to Wooyoung in peace and quiet and so Hongjoong found himself at Wooyoung's door not much later, the name of Lashunta softly on his lips.
Wooyoung opened it with the face of one who had accidentally stepped on his dog's tail and it warmed Hongjoong's heart.
He had Aurora with him and she too greeted Hongjoong softly.
"Hey... Can I come in?" Hongjoong lifted up the chocolate he had brought as a peace gift, smiling and tilting his head.
Wooyoung nodded with a pout on his lips, and from up close Hongjoong noticed a birthmark on his lips.
The corner of Wooyoung's mouth twitched involuntarily when the thought reached him and Hongjoong could only shake his head as he entered at the side of the other. Gruffly, he pressed the chocolate into the boy's hands.
"Do you want to talk about it? If not, I would only ask you to warn me sooner next time. Seonghwa and I will make sure you don't have to see this again." Hongjoong dropped on Wooyoung's unmade bed with a groan and reached for Aurora.
Wooyoung hesitated, but eventually put the chocolate down on his bedside table and sank to Hongjoong's side. His nervous eyes wandered searchingly across Hongjoong's neck, finding no injury.
A deep sigh took all tension out of his shoulders.
"It's trauma... I'm sure it wasn't pleasant for you either, I'm sorry. I'll tell Seonghwa later."
The poor guy looked so depressed, feelers lifeless around his face and restless, Hongjoong pushed Aurora back to him. Wooyoung smiled weakly as she crawled into his lap chirping.
"I can listen to you if you want. My mother always said I was an excellent listener."
A born leader, she'd called him. Someone who could deliver flawless work with his group.
Wooyoung seemed to trust his word.
"You know... I said my father was a bit of a problem, and that he used nightwalker magic a lot, right?" He lowered his head, focused on Aurora while Hongjoong stared at his curls.
It was strange to see Wooyoung so depressed. And not nice.
Hongjoong gave a approving growl.
"I had a nanny as a child, a woman so kind and warm, she was much more of a mother than anyone else could ever be to me. She was the only one in this house of arrogant, power-hungry bastards who had a heart. My father liked to blame her for my weaknesses, for my vivacity and warmth."
Hongjoong clenched his jaw.
"Anyway, without much reminiscing, he wanted to get rid of her. Actually, just get her away from me, but one of his men had his eye on her. One of the nightwalkers." He shivered a little, digging his fingers deeper into Aurora's fur.
"He promised her to that man, asked him to take her away, but he couldn't wait, had told his friends about it and they finally took her in the backyard. I saw nothing, only heard from where I was sitting in my father's study."
He had to catch his breath, swallowing hard before continuing, and with every word, Hongjoong's heart tightened more and more.
"Her cries disturbed him, and the moment he was distracted to give them an order of silence from the window, I escaped, running to save her." A mocking laugh escaped his lips.
"I was 13. She was already dead when they carried her past me and out, but it wasn't... It wasn't like you and Seonghwa There were bites everywhere, big bloody wounds, like predators were attacking her." He shivered again, barely noticing his knees drawing in even closer to his body. Hongjoong's hands itched to grab him, embrace him and protect him from all evil.
"In the end, it didn't matter, she was one of many people in my life, but... but these nightwalkers, they still work for him today. And every time I see them- every time I see that nightwalker, I-" He broke off, kept hanging his head, and Hongjoong relaxed his fists again.
He was careful as he kicked his shoes off his feet and crawled around Wooyoung, sliding to his side so he could take him in his arms. Wooyoung replied immediately, burying his face in Hongjoong's neck and his feelers gently tickling his cheek.
"I know that Seonghwa is not like them. I saw it, he- He would never hurt you. But at that moment, it was just too much, I'm sorry."
Hongjoong kept rubbing his right hand over Wooyoung's back in gentle movements, bringing up his free hand to stroke benignly through the soft curls of the lashunta.
"No one blames you, Woo. We all have our quirks. I just wish I could have stopped it if I'd known about it."
Wooyoung looked up at him again full of remorse, then nodded timidly as he loosened up again, sniffing once.
"Thanks for that. I know I still have to learn to deal with it..."
Hongjoong smiled encouragingly at him, still had one hand on his back, which he now patted comfortingly.
"Seonghwa and I didn't think it through very well either to do this in the middle of the hallway. That was-" A blush crept involuntarily into Hongjoong's cheeks and he turned away from Wooyoung's head, staring at the wall with fake interest, while the other squeakily reached for his chin to scratch it, as if he was Aurora.
Hongjoong gave him a playfully angry look, tried not to grin and secretly enjoyed Wooyoung's little banter with him.
"It probably could have looked wrong, yes. Yeosang would have asked you very flatly if you needed time alone." Wooyoung giggled happily as Hongjoong only reddened further.
"You must stop thinking of us like that... I've known him barely a week longer than you." Defiantly he slapped Wooyoung's hand away, ever so gently and carefully.
Wooyoung grinned broadly, his eyes were hardly visible and his feelers bobbed excitedly again. He was back to being himself.
"You say that now! But bam! Before you know it, his lips are not only at your neck, but deeper as well." He tried to wiggle his eyebrows and failed miserably. Hongjoong wisely decided not to tell him the story of Seonghwa under that desk.
Instead, he only acted in excessive horror.
"Please, if he does, let his lips do the talking up here first, then we can continue." He gestured to his face and heavens, it was meant as a spontaneous joke, but Hongjoong's brain now seemed to raise its own eyebrows just as insinuatingly.
Wooyoung laughed at the top of his lungs, just agreed with Hongjoong enthusiastically and then demanded to be informed about every update. Hongjoong had just rolled his eyes and then stood up to slowly start walking. He still had clothes to sort out in his closet.
Wooyoung also stood up, thanked him brightly for the chocolate and together they slipped into their shoes.
Hongjoong knew that the thank you was not only meant for the snack. He saw it in Wooyoung's eyes but he did not need to hear it either. Wooyoung now knew he could come to his captain at any time and Hongjoong would give him comfort and advice.
They said goodbye to each other in the corridor.
"So... I'll go talk to Seonghwa. He deserves to hear an apology, too." He talked nonchalantly and maturely, but his grin was impish.
Hongjoong's eyes grew large.
"You wouldn't dare."
Wooyoung started laughing again, attracting Yeosang's attention as he walked across the corridor
"You said it yourself!" He started running, dodging with a giggle as Hongjoong's fingers snapped at him.
"Under no circumstances! Come back here, you little--"
Wooyoung stormed off devilishly giggling, only pushing Yeosang towards Hongjoong in defense. He was gone before Hongjoong could catch him.
Yeosang blinked at him in absolutely unreadable fashion.
"He's better, huh?"
Hongjoong watched Wooyoung sulking, then turned around beaten and stomped into his room.
"Couldn't be better, yeah."
The Sunrise absolutely needed a Wooyoung filtration system. Time for him to design one.
Chapter 16: Flirting
Of course Wooyoung had sung like a bird. He sang as if he and Seonghwa were new best friends. Hongjoong was desperate.
Three days later he still came out of the bridge with a big grin on his face, his hair like bouncing feathers on his head. Hongjoong met him in the kitchen when the lashunta went to get a muffin (lactose-free, with extra chocolate) while humming. The buzzing man, who giggled at himself, did not even notice Hongjoong in his corner with his coffee and he could only shake his head again.
Clearly not viable.
Wooyoung was still preparing breakfast for Yeosang, his humming soft and lovely like the birds in the morning when Hongjoong was still at home.
It was about time to contact his parents again.
Hongjoong sipped audibly on his coffee and finally Wooyoung noticed him and dropped his croissant with a shrill scream, meeting Hongjoong's eyes in dismay.
"Is the croissant okay?"
"You scared me!" Accusing as if Hongjoong had just committed a grave deadly sin, Wooyoung pointed at Hongjoong with his crumbly, half-eaten muffin.
He pulled a wry face.
"It crumbles. Now pick this croissant up off my floor."
Wooyoung opened his mouth full of food again to protest, but someone beat him to it. Hongjoong suspiciously raised his eyes to Seonghwa, who had silently appeared in the doorway.
"In theory, my floor. But go ahead, that dominance is attractive."
Now it was Hongjoong who failed in his swallowing, almost emptying half his cup as he began to cough. Between watery eyes he had to watch the two traitors high-fiving each other, dear goodness, Wooyoung didn't even know what Seonghwa had said.
"You can't ally against me! I am the captain," he coughed clumsily as soon as he could speak again and pointed accusingly between them. Wooyoung smiled like an angel, Seonghwa... Not quite as angelic.
Stressed, Hongjoong turned to his cup again.
"I need better friends." The coffee cup understood. It always understood.
"Oh, you already have, fruitdwarf. If they were standing in front of you, no one could see you anymore!", Seonghwa whispered absolutely sweetly and Hongjoong was about to strangle him absolutely sweetly.
"You don't deserve my blood anymore, you're obnoxious when you have strength."
Wooyoung did not understand anything, but his eyes still twitched animatedly between them as if they were part of the greatest play ever.
Seonghwa broke away from the doorframe to come over to Hongjoong to steal his muffin, unmoved. Hongjoong moved up a bit as the nightwalker slid elegantly onto the bench next to him.
"You know I'm strong enough now to take it by force?"
Heavens, Hongjoong knew that. Seonghwa's caution and gentleness considering his strength was undisputed. Not that this made him terribly attractive to Hongjoong, not at all.
And being pressed against the wall by Seonghwa while he drew blood... Hongjoong would stop thinking about it at this point. For his own health.
His face must have done something, because Wooyoung suddenly started to laugh up high and Hongjoong felt his tense nerves snap.
"You! Hush. I don't know what you've been whispering to Seonghwa, but he's unbearable since you became friends.", Hongjoong whimpered exhaustedly, and it was not the first time that he actually enjoyed Seonghwa's playful looks and words.
It had been so easy when the nightwalker was still too weak for everything.
"Uhhh, don't think so, Cap. I rather think he's always like that. So far, he just ain't been well enough."
Not what Hongjoong wanted to hear. Flirtatious Seonghwa was cruel.
Hongjoong's eyebrows shrank together like an approaching thunderstorm and Wooyoung hurried to flee, passing on the latest developments to Yeosang immediately.
Yeosang was a great guy. Yeosang had finished building Hongjoong's pistol. Hongjoong liked Yeosang. And his pistol.
Tense, he sat next to Seonghwa and emptied his coffee, ignoring it deliberately that Seonghwa was almost himself again. And he was already absolutely destructive.
"When are you hungry today? I promised Wooyoung we wouldn't do this where he saw it, so..." He shrugged nonchalantly. Hongjoong was such a good speaker.
"I mean, he just left. "The chances of him showing up again soon are slim."
Hongjoong was good, but Seonghwa was better. More experienced.
But two could play this game. He knew how to feel Seonghwa out, how to find out how serious these flirtations really were.
"What, you don't really want to fulfill any fantasies about eating me right on the table, do you? At our dinner table?" He smugly turned his gaze to Seonghwa, who looked surprised for a moment, then a lazy grin played around his lips.
"What, it's a dinner table. I eat at it as much as you do."
Hongjoong just opened his mouth in indignation to remind him that he was more than just his food, like his damned captain and not a fruitdwarf, when the unspoken question in Seonghwa's eyes caught his attention.
They were gentle, standing in opposition to his grin, and silently asked Hongjoong to stop him before he crossed any borders.
Hongjoong put down his coffee cup grumbling and pushed it to the end of the table. With two movements he sat on the table, a little higher than Seonghwa, but definitely more comfortable than before.
"A captain does too much for his crew."
Seonghwa came closer, led one of Hongjoong's legs over his lap to the other side and then put both hands on his knees, looking up at him waiting.
With a curse on his lips, Hongjoong looked up at the ceiling, then roughly ruffled through his hair before turning back to the hungry nightwalker.
Luckily, Wooyoung was the mind reader and not Seonghwa.
Though Seonghwa's perfect dark brow was now raised knowingly enough.
"By the way, if your neck gets too uncomfortable, there's a good spot on your thigh where I can bite you."
Hongjoong's brain needed a moment, then hurriedly caught Seonghwa's hand that had started to crawl up his leg to show him where he meant.
Seonghwa. With his mouth against Hongjoong's thigh. Under no circumstances.
He had to be red as a Christmas bauble and wow, Christmas hadn't been around for about a thousand years. In the stress, Hongjoong would come up with useless facts.
"You know, I absolutely love having your teeth in my throat and no, that sounded weird, I don't, forget that, it doesn't matter, but let's keep it at the neck."
Seonghwa grinned graciously at him with his sharp teeth.
"Could you just--" Hongjoong ended in a frustrated groan, impatiently ripping his collar aside to present his bare neck to Seonghwa.
Seonghwa swallowed again - what was this swallowing - and then stood up a little too abruptly, throwing Hongjoong off balance.
A strong hand found his back, straightened it up again so that he was almost chest to chest with Seonghwa, legs open around the man's hips.
They were to switch to transfusions through tubes. The proximity of this man upset Hongjoong.
"Can't wait until you're all healthy again, and only once every two weeks have a reason to make such a fuss over me.", Hongjoong grumbled angrily, his heart busy with complicated aerobic choreography and Seonghwa's hands gentle as they reached for his head, tipping it.
"Can't wait until I have enough reasons to come at you without lousy excuses."
That accent, Hongjoong hated it. He hated Seonghwa's voice. He needed gags, dough, scissors, and chains. Time to play Seonghwa down.
Warningly, he grabbed the man by the hair, pulled him rudely closer to his skin, eyes still alert to any protests on Seonghwa's face.
But he remained absolutely calm, continuing to support Hongjoong's body with one hand, the other holding his jaw. The discussion ended with Seonghwa's teeth carefully sinking into his skin, with the brief surge of pain.
Hongjoong released his hand again to clumsily rest on the shoulders of the other, grateful for the distance between their bodies where there was still table.
Hongjoong felt like a dessert.
Seonghwa's favorite dessert, certainly, but still like food.
Not that Hongjoong did not love and desire food, no (not enough to sleep with but luckily Seonghwa saw that differently), but he did not necessarily want to be categorized as such.
He was grateful that Seonghwa respected these boundaries. That he never forgot that Hongjoong was a person with feelings.
Time passed and before Hongjoong knew it, Seonghwa's warm tongue was already stroking comfortingly over the wound, sending a shiver down Hongjoong's back.
Seonghwa detached himself from his neck, but did not retreat yet, studying Hongjoong's face carefully for a moment.
His heavy eyes stuck to his lips.
Now Hongjoong swallowed.
"A little birdie told me that it might be in my best interest to kiss you. May I?"
Hongjoong's heart was thrilled, definitely loud enough now for Seonghwa to hear it. The corners of the nightwalker's mouth twitched suspiciously.
Hongjoong pushed him off by the shoulders.
"No chance. Try being more romantic next time, then I'll think about it. Preferably not while you have my blood on your lips."
With that, he jumped off the table and stomped off gracefully to go scream into his pillow like a schoolgirl.
Chapter 17: Stopover
Two days later they found themselves on a rainy island with large lakes and swampy terrain, wading through the mud to a sinking city to replenish their supplies.
Aurora and Seonghwa had once again stayed on board. Although the foggy and overcast swamps did not allow any sunlight to shine through, the nightwalker still preferred the safety of his own walls.
So Hongjoong was alone with Yeosang and Wooyoung, who walked hand in hand behind him. Wooyoung had no worries in the world, his lips constantly moving and Yeosang listened to him with one ear, otherwise he rather kept an eye on the suspicious surroundings.
The city was gray, much of it already engulfed by vegetation, and the smell of mold and rancid water filled the almost deserted streets. It was an old city, far away from all the new technologies Hongjoong was used to and in a few years even these ruins would not exist here anymore.
Hongjoong remembered regularly looking for his two companions, checking their presence as he scurried through the dark alleys, here and there targeting the few merchants that roused his interest.
Hongjoong needed new parts for a translation device of some kind. He could not really expect that his crew members would simply drill holes into their bodies like he did, so the good old technique had to suffice.
Their stop here was a welcome change for him; getting his head clear of Seonghwa for once was a welcome change for him.
The black-haired man had been buzzing through his thoughts and dreams for the last few days, leaving him absolutely no time to relax. It was not the inevitable proximity to the nightwalker, or his obvious attractiveness. What had really brought Hongjoong to the brink of despair was Seonghwa's request to kiss him.
The very existence of this request, the caution and attentiveness to Hongjoong's wishes, often left the human desperately burying his head in his pillow.
The fantasies that plagued his thoughts were much less harmless than just a careful kiss and it was less Hongjoong who had to assure Seonghwa of his trust in this. Seonghwa was playing with hotter fire than he expected.
It had been a while since Hongjoong had actually dated anyone. His studies had left him little room for romance. Of course, there had been people there, short acquaintances, who only had one goal in mind and not seldomly Yunho and he had found each other in their loneliness, as unlikely as it seemed.
Hongjoong was not completely clueless in dating, but Hongjoong was terribly rusty. Something he did not really want to put on Seonghwa, if he still was not quite sure.
Nevertheless, Hongjoong was driven almost crazy by the knowledge that Seonghwa was interested.
Shaking his head, Hongjoong turned back to one of the main streets and met the gaze of a policeman who was walking peacefully down the streets. It was not that a single Naga disguised as a human being had much to do against the dark machinations here, but his presence here was as much faking respect as his outward appearance.
Hongjoong just looked down the street again, wondering sceptically if it was a good idea to find some food for the three of them here, when the policeman suddenly started to approach them. Hongjoong found the man's green, snake-like eyes a little more suspicious.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen.", he greeted them in northern dialect, and Hongjoong relaxed a bit. Wooyoung and Yeosang would understand him.
"You can tell what time of day it is here?", Hongjoong joked with a perplexed look at the milky sky and the man just laughed.
"If you live long enough in this hellhole, you can count the hours, yes. You're just passing through, I suppose?"
Hongjoong just nodded, feeling a little uneasy in the cold silence. The swamp dwellers could no longer be heard out here and the streets lay empty.
"As charming as this place is, we could hardly stay here any longer. I fear I have hardly any blood left in my body." Hongjoong raised his arm, showing the other the stitches on his arms.
"Those things seem to be sparing you. Thank goodness." Always better to play dumb. No mosquito, no matter how death-defying, would attack a naga, but Hongjoong supposedly did not know that after all.
The man laughed again, then let his eyes wander over their little group.
"Were you attacked? It's not often that something other than the bog causes problems here, and that doesn't usually bring out its bones again."
Hongjoong forced a smile on his face.
"What makes you think so?"
The man raised one hand and pointed at Hongjoong's neck.
"This doesn't look like a normal bite to me. It might have been infected with something."
Confused, Hongjoong raised his hand to his skin and touched it in slippery blood.
He stared at it confusedly for a moment, then the pieces finally fell together.
It had forgotten to heal the wound after Seonghwa's sudden words and now he must have scratched it open again. Hongjoong cursed himself, trying to keep his dirty hands off.
"Ah, no. This is old, just reopened again. I will disinfect it when I get back to my ship. Thanks for the information.", he turned politely back to the man and he just nodded sincerely.
"Let's hope you're not too late. The diseases here are still largely unexplored. Perhaps you should have a doctor look at it." He tapped himself on the forehead in greeting and then went his way.
After all, he was just trying to get an exciting job. At least that showed some sense of duty.
Yeosang's hand found Hongjoong's shoulder, turning the man towards him in concern. His calm, calculating eyes slid over the injury, his face too smooth to convey any kind of information.
"You should go back. We can do the rest. Make sure to leave this open, closing the wound now would be unwise.", he spoke softly and deeply, always soothing and Hongjoong looked around uncertainly between him and Wooyoung, who was nervously chewing on his lip.
"Can you manage alone? I'm afraid an order might come up soon to take Wooyoung home."
Hongjoong wiped the sweat from his brow and Yeosang followed the movement restlessly with his eyes.
"You know what? You're right. We'll send Seonghwa out later and bring you back now."
Wooyoung nodded seriously at his side, then came around Hongjoong to link himself to his arm, grinning.
"Don't worry, he'll get it in any case. We'll bring you back to him safely." He grinned playfully, patting Hongjoong's hand and wow, he had just been so happy to be away from Seonghwa. A short-lived joy. Hongjoong decided to enjoy every minute he had left.
However, time passed in strange stages on this island. Hongjoong seemed to have just left to find their way to the docks, then his two friends dragged him, already groaning, up the ramp to the ship. His feet were as if made of lead and his wadded head was also when he lifted him.
"We're here already?"
Hongjoong was certain to speak clearly, but what escaped him was more an incomprehensible gurgling, nothing that was close to any language.
At least he could hear Seonghwa coming down the aisle with quick steps, even though he could not manage to lift the block of head on his shoulders anymore.
"Quick, do something! He's waking up and passing out all the time, he must be infected!"
Hongjoong wanted to laugh.
Seonghwa did not even understand Wooyoung after all. No matter how hectic he talked and gestured.
He must have been gone again for a short time, because the next time he woke up he was sitting on the chair of the bridge and sweat was wetting his clammy skin. Hongjoong froze miserably and somewhere in his heavy head all the alarm bells rang out that he was feeling bad, but what could he do?
Seonghwa stood in front of him, holding his chin in one hand and examining the wound on his neck with the other. His dark eyes glided worriedly over Hongjoong as his eyelids fluttered.
The nightwalker looked good.
As in good, good, despite his blurred edges. Hongjoong's blood worked actual wonders on him. The edges were still debatable, though.
"Yunho, he's coming to!"
Wooyoung jumped into Hongjoong's field of vision and alright, Wooyoung was not quite Hongjoong's type but Wooyoung was cute too.
But Seonghwa in his white shirt...
Hongjoong's fever must have taken over.
"Hongjoong, can you hear me?"
It sounded like Yunho. Ridiculous, Yunho was not there.
What was that green flying leaf in the corner? What deciduous trees had Yeosang planted here without his permission? How dare he?
"Hongjoong, you've caught an infection, idiot, I can send you to a doctor of my confidence on the nearest island, but until then, don't let anyone touch your blood, do you understand?"
Seonghwa nodded seriously and wow, Seonghwa also spoke Yunho-ish. How impressive.
Seonghwa actually sounded like a not so bad match.
Hongjoong woke up in his room, alone, everything was silent.
He fell asleep again.
Chapter 18: Infection
Hongjoong was awake, Hongjoong was asleep. Sometimes he had people around, sometimes he was alone. Hongjoong was dreaming confused, feverish dreams without any meaning. Not infrequently he woke up trembling on a sweat-soaked pillow, his blankets like deadly tendrils reaching around his legs.
Hongjoong's condition did not improve.
For a normal fever he would have had the immune system, for a human, natural fever.
But not for a fever from the deepest swamps of Nebruria, and certainly not for a fever that no doctor could help him with.
They needed a doctor.
They needed Yunho. Sure, he was not an actual doctor, but he knew his way around. You did not need to be able to cut people open professionally to see to the effects of alien fevers.
Once Hongjoong was awake wondering where Yunho was.
Once Hongjoong was awake and Wooyoung stood at his bed and sang a nursery rhyme in his soft voice.
Once Hongjoong awoke from the sharp pain of two teeth drilling into his throat.
From then on he felt better.
The next time Hongjoong woke up, he was no longer lying in his cabin but in a house with a solid stone floor beneath him.
Hongjoong felt weak and beat like a sheet of paper under the pleasant warmth of the room. There was no blanket covering his sweaty limbs, but the temperature still seemed to nestle around his body like a hot film.
As strange as he felt, for the first time in an indefinite period of time, he was awake enough to think rationally.
And seriously, where was he?
Hongjoong blinked, the air seemed stuffy and dry, his eyes glued together at the corners with more than just the usual sleeping sand.
He made a pitiful attempt to stand up, at least leaning on his hands, and failed across the board.
He lay aimlessly in the room, rubbing his eyes, wishing all of a sudden more than ever just a glass of water.
Hongjoong was a simple man.
However, he would not say no to information about where his crew was and what exactly he was doing here either.
Okay, how could he get up from the bed?
The question was answered about ten minutes later, during which Hongjoong, still thinking a bit slow, had studied the cracks in the ceiling. It was Seonghwa who entered the room, his black hair like a dark curtain in front of his right eye and in his hands he held - watch out - a glass of water.
Hongjoong turned his head towards him with a hopeful smile, even finding his facial muscles too weak to hold the corners of his mouth in place for long. But the short moment was enough, Seonghwa's eyes found his face in time.
It was almost ridiculous how wide his eyes became from one moment to the next. It took away this unapproachable attractiveness.
His name escaped Seonghwa's lips in one quick breath and then the man walked towards him with long steps, sinking down on the mattress at his side. Hongjoong could only stare in amazement as Seonghwa placed the glass next to them on a small table, only to whip around to Hongjoong again.
Seonghwa's arms were cautious as he pushed them under Hongjoong's somehow narrow-looking body, supporting his neck as he pulled it up towards him with safe movements. Hongjoong sank into his embrace with absolutely no resistance, letting himself be surrounded by Seonghwa's clean smell and his strong arms.
"Hey, Seonghwa..." He could speak, better than expected, even though the insides of his neck felt like the ridge of an amphibris.
It was not bad lying in Seonghwa's arms. A situation he could get used to.
A dry snort erupted uncontrollably from Seonghwa's throat, making his chest tremble and the very unwashed hair on Hongjoong's forehead twitch.
The nightwalker was very pleasantly cool compared to their surroundings. Hongjoong leaned his head into the other's neck, pretending to be amused and trying to bite him.
Blunt human teeth glided uselessly on the nightwalker's soft skin and Seonghwa laughed again and it sounded wonderful.
One arm left Hongjoong when Seonghwa reached into his pocket and Hongjoong was already feeling a whine in his throat until he glanced at what the nightwalker was holding out to him.
Although he saw the stud that was normally in his tongue, Hongjoong still let the affected limb slide through his mouth searching for it. No piercing.
Hongjoong plucked the tongue piercing out and put it back in, trying to ignore Seonghwa's cloudy eyes on him as best he could. It was completely irrelevant how much he stared at his mouth. First of all Hongjoong had to piece himself back together.
Then first his communication piercing was moved into his ear again and he started to sophisticate his way through the rest.
"Give me an update, huh?"
Seonghwa let the rest of his piercings sink openly in his hand onto Hongjoong's leg, still holding his unstable captain in one arm.
"I missed you."
He said it so simply, so plainly, but it was full of emotion, the pain in his voice almost tangible.
Hongjoong froze in motion as his heart contracted as if gripped by an icy hand, stumbling over his words as he sought comfort for the man.
Shaking his head, Seonghwa told him to remain silent, his tortured smile so familiar and yes, Hongjoong must have missed him too. Dream Seonghwa, half of whom consisted of kitchen utensils and talked in donkey, was no match for the real Seonghwa.
"We didn't think you would wake up again. The bacteria were right in your blood, you were sick for almost two weeks." Seonghwa's thumb started to draw little circles in Hongjoong's lower back, Hongjoong almost dropped the next piercing.
"Two weeks? Damn it, why am I awake?" Hongjoong was deeply impressed with himself.
Seonghwa, on the other hand, tapped his knuckles roughly on Hongjoong's head.
"That could have ended badly, so please spare me the shock next time!"
His concern was sweet.
"Are the two boys okay?", he asked calmly instead, sliding both hands under his shirt as he came to the last piece of sky metal. Seonghwa's eyes followed the movement heavily.
"They are. They have a lot of contact with Yunho, who helped us as much as possible via Sunrise. He came up with the idea that I'll get the infection out of your veins."
Oh, so that was it. That was why. Hongjoong must have teetered really close to the cliff of death and did not notice anything.
A barely audible click made Seonghwa's eyes shake for a moment, but he controlled himself, allowing Hongjoong to bring his hands back into his lap.
"I'm glad they're alright. And thanks, I guess... For saving me." They were even, it seemed.
Seonghwa shook his head, though.
"Figure out a way to make up for two weeks of pure fear for you."
Hongjoong would have an idea if he were not so disgusting right now.
Besides, that disease was Seonghwa's fault. He had distracted him!
"You left me alone with the kids just like that!"
Hongjoong had to laugh - ouch - and then playfully poked Seonghwa's shoulder.
"I'll take them off your back in a minute. Just help me take a shower, huh?"
Nightwalkers could not blush, but Seonghwa still lowered his head embarrassed, hiding as best he could behind his hair.
"Where are we, anyway?"
Seonghwa rose, looming over Hongjoong for a moment and handed him the water, making him drink it. After putting the glass down, he put his hands under Hongjoong's body, effortlessly lifting him up and against his chest.
With wide eyes Hongjoong clung to him, to his strong shoulders and well, Seonghwa seemed to be himself again.
"Trascen. Oh, and Wooyoung lost his heart here, but that's a story for later."
This was their destination island. Hongjoong must have actually slept for two weeks. Fascinating.
"Literally or more like... Romantic?"
Seonghwa's grin was soft.
"Romantic, that's how well I took care of him at least. You'll probably understand when you meet him."
That sounded fishy. Too dreamy and approving for Seonghwa. Suspiciously, Hongjoong narrowed his eyes.
"Him, huh? Guess I have to sign off on that."
Meanwhile Seonghwa had carried him through an adjoining room (a living room, it looked like) and now entered the bathroom, put Hongjoong down for a moment while he filled a good, old, classic bathtub.
"You must. You won't get to see Wooyoung anywhere else anyway. After this it's also time we paid a visit to my friends at the palace."
Hongjoong began to peel off his stiff clothes.
Seonghwa could only laugh softly, and honestly, Hongjoong had missed him too.
Seonghwa had helped Hongjoong embarassedly and with his eyes almost exclusively on the walls and ceiling to take a shower, then dressed the other freshly and put him back on his bed. He had also already found him some medicine that would restore his energy and help with his muscles.
Two weeks was a long time if you did not move at all.
Seonghwa's care for Hongjoong was absolutely devastating, the nightwalker's hands gentle as he combed them through Hongjoong's wet hair as he passed by. If Hongjoong had not been so happy to see his other friends again soon and explore this place, he might have allowed the other to continue.
After Hongjoong had taken his medicine and tried a few careful steps with Seonghwa's help, they were ready to leave.
Seonghwa told him that it was already evening (theoretically Hongjoong had slept for 15 days) and the nightwalker could accompany him and Hongjoong had rarely been so happy.
Seonghwa warmly returned the simple smile that Hongjoong threw in his direction.
They did not walk hand in hand, but rather arm against arm, so that they would always be close to each other, but Hongjoong thought of this every time Seonghwa's fingers yaccidentally touched his own. The pilot could not possibly not notice either.
The evening had indeed already invaded Trascen, showed itself in its pale moon and the violet shimmer of the desert city. A colourful variety of aliens populated the streets at all times, brisk trade was going on and everywhere small translation devices were beeping in different languages.
It was beautiful; fluorescent desert flowers climbed up old-fashioned houses, gliders designed like flying carpets glided colorfully through the balmy air. Dance and music were shown in every corner and the air was heavy with the smells of different food.
Real food, not printed matter.
Hongjoong felt at home easily, took the time to look around and indulge in a rare luxury he would not allow himself.
Seonghwa looked like a prince at his side, with his dark hair and softly glowing skin, absolutely in his element, and the thin, light-colored fabrics on his body fitting the local fashion.
"How many piercings do you have?"
He almost missed hearing Seonghwa, too busy with the impressions around him. The streets were well-populated, but not crowded, and with a little twist and turn, they could easily slip through.
"Uhh... exactly 10. Did you take them out?"
Seonghwa's ankles touched his and he grabbed Hongjoong's sleeves so as not to lose him in a larger crowd of people.
"No. Yeosang thought you might hurt yourself with them. He-- uhh... We didn't know about the..."
They broke free, and Seonghwa helplessly used his hand to gesticulate to Hongjoong's upper body. Embarrassed vampire.
Hongjoong threw a playful look over his shoulder, gave his companion a mischievous grin.
"What, you like it? Honestly, I thought you'd notice it sometime after being around my neck all the time."
Seonghwa stared very intently at a passing by booth.
"It's not...ugly." he brought out hesitantly, when Hongjoong just stared at him defiantly, then sneakily retracting his head between his shoulders.
Hongjoong had to laugh.
"Who knows, maybe I'll get the second one done some day. No big deal these days." Not with substance, definitely not.
Seonghwa looked curious, slowly taking the lead to guide Hongjoong to the others.
"If not for traditional and religious reasons in the army we were not allowed to wear such jewelry. Do you think it would suit me?"
Hongjoong looked up at him smiling radiantly.
"You with a lip piercing? Tongue? Ear? Anything, nose? Sure! You would be the best-looking nightwalker on our ship." Hongjoong camouflaged himself with that joke and indulged in Seonghwa's exaggerated eye rolling.
"No, really, Hwa. If you had substance working for you, I'd support you absolutely. But I don't know if it is such a good idea with how bad your injuries heal."
Substance worked on the blood. Nightwalkers did not have blood in the classic sense.
The other nodded slowly, then moved on to direct Hongjoong through another alley.
Seonghwa became quieter again, though his gaze kept returning to Hongjoong's profile, slipping over the metal in his ears.
"So tell me about Wooyoung's crush! Please don't tell me it's some weird naga or potted plant or something, I'm afraid Wooyoung has his heart on his sleeve."
"Seonghwa grinned a little and then politely surrounded other bypassers.
"He's... How shall I put it, a good person. A nice alien." It started off well.
"What is he?"
Now Seonghwa pulled his dark eyebrows together sceptically, moving closer to Hongjoong's side as a ponderous seek pushed by grunting. Seonghwa smelled so good again.
"That's the thing... I think he-" Seonghwa looked around intently, left, right, then bent down to Hongjoong's ear, whispering straight into it.
"I think he's a djinn."
Seonghwa's breath on his skin was soon forgotten when Hongjoong turned his head towards him with big eyes.
The nightwalker shook his head gloomily, deadly serious.
"I'm afraid not. Wooyoung could not look into his head to confirm it, but even that is only one of many signals. The information circles into the shadows, but he is praised as a djinn. Someone who can grant the customers any wish." His voice darkened towards the end, disgust took root and Hongjoong tightened his jaw.
"I mean... Wooyoung saw him on a stage and liked him. I found out the rest in secret. Someone has his lamp and is using it to blackmail him."
Hongjoong stared more gloomily than before as the previous good mood disappeared. Everything inside him cried out to free the poor djinn, give him his lamp and be able to sleep in peace, but as Seonghwa sounded, it was a tight net. Hongjoong was too weak to take on the entire southern mafia.
As much as it hurt him, he would have to wait, scouting the situation for the time being.
"There they are."
Hongjoong raised his head as they stepped out of the alley and onto a larger square. Here was an audience gathered around a big stage, their eyes fixed on the artist there.
Hongjoong followed the line of Seonghwa's arm and finally found their two friends, hanging from the edge of the crowd and with Wooyoung hopping excitedly up and down on Yeosang's arm.
The other smiled affectionately at his friend, infected by his joy and Hongjoong too could not help but smile. It was good to see them well.
"And that's him."
Seonghwa's voice stopped Hongjoong as he was about to leave for his friends, and his eyes fell on the man on stage, the whirl of veils and slender limbs.
He was a dancer, undoubtedly the best this city had to offer.
The djinn was dressed in golden veils, transparent enough to barely cover the most necessary bits, and even from this distance Hongjoong saw him glitter and shine. Golden jewelry elegantly whirled through the air with his shape as he performed intricate turns and breathtaking grace.
The crowd was absolutely thrilled and Hongjoong was too.
The man, the djinn, had white-blond hair and a body that seemed neither too thin nor too fat. Just the right amount of muscles to not take away the sharp edges of his body and to help him in his movements instead of disturbing them.
Totally under the spell of the dancing man, Hongjoong completely forgot why he was here, what the secret was about this being. He let himself be carried away into the ecstasy the djinn brought them all.
He was the one who was held involuntarily, but he played them like dolls on strings.
A gentle hand on his hip tore him out of his stupor and with wide eyes Hongjoong focused Seonghwa, the corners of his mouth twitching suspiciously.
"Not now. We're here to see the boys." His dark dialect caught Hogjoong's attention again and he nodded seriously, lowering his eyes as they continued.
They got there faster than expected and Seonghwa only had to say Yeosang's name in a tense voice for a moment, then they both whipped around to them.
"Cap-," Yeosang started with big eyes, but Wooyoung came in between.
Seonghwa had stepped elegantly around the noisy Lashunta and now, grinning, slapped a hand over his lips, sending apologetic looks to those few who were concerned. Too many were caught like moths by the light of the dancer.
"I am happy to see you too," Hongjoong could only laugh and patted Yeosang's shoulder comradely. The man nodded confidently.
"Shall we go back to... to the house and talk things over? I would like to know exactly what happened and what this means." Hongjoong nodded to the djinn without taking the eyes off a pretty blushing Wooyoung.
Heavens, Wooyoung was much too naive and innocent for a djinn. How could Seonghwa give his blessing on this?
The two agreed and while they pulled Wooyoung away, he didn not take his beaming eyes off the handsome man on stage for a second.
Hongjoong only had to take one look at the hungry crowd, the animalistic ferocity in their gaze and yes, he would take the djinn with him right away. He could not possibly be more dangerous than these people here.
Hey, check out chapter two for an information on the aliens here! I will put it as the last chapter after this story is finished~
Chapter 20: Rescue mission
Their time in Trascen was limited, Yunho had demanded to meet Hongjoong as soon as he could. So Hongjoong already planned his journey back to his worried friend, while the others still wanted to enjoy the beauty of the city.
Especially a certain beauty that could only be found in the darkest corners of Trascen. Wooyoung absolutely could not be dissuaded from the mysterious dancer.
Hongjoong was still undecided concerning the strange man, but for Seonghwa the answer was already crystal clear. The djinn had to be freed from the clutches of his captors and had to be integrated into life like a person. It was against Seonghwa's principles of justice and equality to treat an individual like an exotic animal merely because of their race.
Hongjoong therefore planned on raids, lists and secret liberation actions.
But Seonghwa did not.
"I will talk to the head of this town. If he knew about it, he would certainly act against it.", he had firmly decided, while he sat stiff as a board next to Hongjoong on his bed. The man's dark brows were darkly furrowed, his eyes cold in their sharpness.
Hongjoong decided not to interfere. If Seonghwa wanted to act on this, he would. Rather, Hongjoong better just concentrated on his role as a translator.
"You know him? The king, I mean."
Wooyoung was on fire too when it came to freeing the man, but now his restlessness gave way to polite curiosity. Tense, he leaned on Yeosang's head, mercilessly using the motionless man on his lap as an armrest.
"Taemin? Of course. I mean... Who doesn't know him?"
Taemin was the only Úi in their solar system, and the boundaries between respect, esteem and worship blurred for him deoending from race to race. Anyway, the most important fact was that this man had ruled the South for over 500 years, wise and just and absolutely unchallenged.
"My battalion once helped out at the palace when his closest confidant was absent. Taemin is a good man, woman, whatever he is these days." Seonghwa nodded confidently, the light in his eyes shining proudly.
Hongjoong questioningly supported his chin on his hand, bowing his head to get a better view of Seonghwa.
"Oh, right, you were a soldier! I'm sure he will be happy to see you again, won't he? All the better, hopefully he can help with San!" Wooyoung drummed a little too excitedly on Yeosang's chest, and he hit him like an annoying fly.
Hongjoong watched as Seonghwa tightened his jaw for a moment, then nodded slowly. Interesting.
"I want to leave for him as soon as possible. I already notified the palace while you were still asleep." He said that part to Hongjoong. He nodded thoughtfully.
"I'll take Hongjoong with me, you two can watch San without attracting attention."
The shine in Wooyoung's eyes was anything but subtle, but who could blame him? Hongjoong had also made many reckless decisions to keep Seonghwa with him.
"Tomorrow then. It's time to sleep now, sorry, Hongjoong, even for you." Seonghwa's worried eyes landed on him again and Hongjoong just shrugged his shoulders.
"That's okay, I have to get back into a normal rhythm anyway.", Hongjoong assured him with his simple smile and Seonghwa nodded in relief.
Yeosang rose in one flowing movement from beneath Wooyoung, pulling the other man up with him. Their hands found each other like the two ends of a magnet and they gave their good night wishes and disappeared again towards the living room.
Seonghwa stayed at Hongjoong's side and again he crooked his head questioningly.
"Tell me... What does Yeosang say about this whole story? About Wooyoung and his sparkling belly dancer?"
Seonghwa just raised his hands helplessly, staring no less puzzled at the door through which the two boys had disappeared.
"You have to ask him yourself. I haven't noticed any changes in their relationship since Wooyoung started it. Yeosang continues to faithfully play his role as his protector." He digressed.
Hongjoong at first hesitantly, then with more conviction raised his hand to his collar, pulling it away gently to expose his neck to Seonghwa. The dark eyes of the nightwalker immediately fell on his pale skin, staying glued there like suction cups.
"Here, it's been a while since you've drunken anything again, hasn't it? Do it now, while we still have time. Who knows what will happen with San." Hongjoong had lowered his voice a bit so as not to alarm the other two guys somewhere in the building, and Seonghwa was swallowing hard as usual. He seemed to want to start a protest, but he couldn not take his reddened eyes off Hongjoong's throat either.
"I'm strong enough, or else I wouldn't have woken up. Now that the medicine is working, I feel as healthy as ever." A bit sleepy from all the sleep, perhaps, but otherwise absolutely splendid.
Seonghwa opened his mouth and then closed it again, thinking it over.
"Alright, then... Lie down. If you feel dizzy or light-headed, let me know immediately."
Hongjoong had never thought about it before, but whoever married Seonghwa later really got the best deal in life. The man was worth his weight in gold.
Hongjoong obeyed with a sympathetic roll of his eyes, but rejected Seonghwa's hands when the man made him lie down like an incompetent infant.
"I can do it, you know. I'm not really five anymore."
"But you're human. You should start acting like one."
Seonghwa seemed to hesitate for a moment, not knowing where to put his hands and legs, and Hongjoong enjoyed his nervousness for a moment, then he reached out one helping hand to the other.
"Come here. I was too warm anyway." Hongjoong's right hand found his knee, gently dragging it across his hip and thus the larger man right onto his body. He sat on Hongjoong's flat lower abdomen, his hands in front of his mouth in surprise for a second. Hongjoong had to laugh as Seonghwa stared out of big eyes through his black hair, pulling impatiently on his arms.
"Come on, how many enemies did you sit on while you were beating them up? It's just me, Seonghwa. Let me know if you're really uncomfortable."
Seonghwa hurried to shake his head, letting his hands fall uselessly on his thighs
"It's not you. I'm glad to have you awake again. So..." Tentatively, he tightened his legs around Hongjoong's chest, surely feeling the pulse of the excited human with his sharp senses.
"So alive.", he ended more quietly and Hongjoong could not keep the smile off his face, letting his own hands rest on Seonghwa's knees. He gently massaged the cold flesh of the nightwalker, watching rapturously as the man hid behind his hair again (turning his head especially for this).
"Those have become too long again. Don't hide from me." Hongjoong's voice had become even softer, barely more than a tentative whisper in the purple twilight of the room.
"I don't want you to see me like this."
He sounded so careful and vulnerable, so lonely behind his controlled face. His otherwise tingly accent was a soft whisper, timid as a child's voice.
Hongjoong's heart contracted painfully in his chest.
"Hwa, I want to see you. I want to see you always. Every emotion, every smile and tear. I am responsible for it."
Seonghwa was uncertain, but looked down at him again and threw the stubborn streaks of hair from his right eye.
"You never asked me why I'm not a soldier anymore. You never doubted me?"
Their little private bubble of seclusion no longer seemed to be in a hostel in Trascen. It seemed so far away, so intimate and secret. Bare and full of honesty.
"It doesn't matter. You're my pilot, no matter who you were before."
"Wooyoung asked me about this some time ago."
Hongjoong's heart made a leap in fear and discomfort. It was clearly not Seonghwa's favorite subject, as he avoided it and Hongjoong feared the group might have quarreled while he was out.
"Did you tell him?"
Seonghwa exhaled audibly, finally bending forward to lay his hands left and right of Hongjoong's shoulders. Their upper bodies were pressed together lengthwise as he made himself comfortable, burying his face protectively in Hongjoong's neck.
He was so amazingly cool, so pleasant in the warm air.
"No. He respected it. But he told me about himself back home... His mother, Joong, she was like San. An object in the hands of cruel men. You can't deny him the desire to help that man."
Hongjoong responded with the sigh from before and raised one hand to lower it gently into Seonghwa's hair, pressing the other's head against his neck in an encouraging way.
"Have you saved many slaves? In your time as a soldier?"
It was a relatively harmless question, cautious in view of the fact that Seonghwa was obviously struggling to talk to him.
Seonghwa's hand brushed Hongjoong's chest and stuttered for a second against cold metal. After some short moment of breathing he placed it against Hongjoong's jaw, paused for a long moment, gathering himself.
"Not a single one. But I'd be more than happy to make up for that now."
He bit him, gentle and practised by now, and Hongjoong just stroked his hair in an absent-minded way.
It was easy like that.
Chapter 21: The Ùi
The next evening the two of them went in the direction of the palace, the mighty building between the normal houses hardly to be overlooked.
Hongjoong tried to remember what they had learned about Taemin, how powerful the being actually was, but even the teachers had disagreed with each other. Hongjoong had the creeping suspicion that Taemin did not even knew himself how far his power reached.
And yet he did not rule through fear over the people, but through their admiration and respect. Taemin was a good king, even if his hands were tied in many ways.
Hongjoong doubted that Taemin could really help them. There was no way that he did not know about the djinn in the town and if he hadn not acted so far, he probably would continue to do so.
What he had for them, however, might be valuable information.
Seonghwa skillfully wiggled his way between the evening passers-by, one hand firmly attached to Hongjoong's sleeve so as not to lose the other man.
They had spent the day catching up. Seonghwa had told him how Yunho had helped them via ship, how Wooyoung had had many serious conversations with Seonghwa to overcome his fear of him and Yeosang was about to finish their little transmitters. For communication and understanding.
Moreover, Wooyoung's father finally demanded Wooyoung back. After several attempts to contact the ship, he finally offered a reward on Wooyoung and also one on Hongjoong. Hongjoong suspected that not both had the same character.
Thus, while Wooyoung and Yeosang were walking around the city with double the usual caution, Seonghwa had let Hongjoong touch his hair.
It was already a progress to get it to his undercut after eight months of no care, but the rest was just too long, tickling under his chin all the time. Hongjoong cut it so that he could see actually; that Hongjoong could see him.
They arrived at the palace sooner than planned and Seonghwa explained her request to a naga standing guard. He looked a little indecisive, but eventually let them pass.
Taemin usually did not receive many complaints and they were quickly dealt with.
They were first sent to Taemin's right hand, Jonghyun. He was the one for whose absence Seonghwa had to stand in.
A small mogry floated ahead of them through the corridors, chirping his information gleefully, and Hongjoong was still far too busy to admire the simple but noble halls to listen much.
It was like desert palaces were. Stone walls rose majestically from the sand, colorful tiles shimmered as the only source of light in the ground. Alien plants ran across columns and ceilings, and here and there hung a fine carpet or a tangled mural.
There was no superfluous pomp, no gold or precious stones, these had long since lost their significance. There was only art.
The mogry knocked on a door in the west wing of the palace and then fluttered away buzzing, while they were opened almost instantly.
Blinding, glaring light fell from the room and Seonghwa flinched immediately, one hand protecting his eyes. Hongjoong jumped forward, quickly stepping in front of the nightwalker, telling him to stay calm with one hand on his arm. Attentively, he checked for dangers.
Then suddenly the golden light went out and only one young man stood in front of them. A handsome man, angelic and with white hair. But with his eyes and lips wide open.
"Oh, heavens, I'm sorry! I didn't know that a nightwalker, of all people, would be standing here!", he said and apologized many times to Seonghwa, who nodded weakly. Not that difficult to understand.
Hongjoong patted Seonghwa's arm reassuringly, and confidently stepped out of the way again when the prince obviously posed no danger.
"How can I help you? Besides blinding you?"
Hongjoong laughed, then glanced briefly at Seonghwa, who had calmed down, his eyes slightly reddened.
"We must go to Taemin. This is former Captain Park Seonghwa of the fleet. He helped out here once while you were away?" Hongjoong had no idea what number his battalion was.
Still, Jonghyun's face lit up - actually lit up a bit, but not unpleasantly - and nodded eagerly.
"Oh, yes! I remember. Well, let's go, Taemin never says no to old friends." He winked playfully at Hongjoong and then went ahead of them, his white clothes angelic.
Hongjoong walked close to Seonghwa, peering up at his face every now and then in concern.
"Are you all right? Looks a bit angry." He carefully touched over the outer corner of Seonghwa's eyes, heard the other one sigh heavily.
"It'll be okay. I can still see." He reached up to grab Hongjoong's finger, pulling it gently from his face.
Hongjoong was expecting to be released and then took a long moment to catch up when Seonghwa did not do that, just continued walking with Hongjoong's fingers swaying between them in his hand.
Amused, he blinked up to the nightwalker and he just squeezed his hand with a grin, then concentrated on the approaching door at the end of the corridor.
Jonghyun opened it generously, pointed them in and then followed.
They were in a kind of throne room, only instead of a throne there was an elegant divan and a single man lay stretched out on it. He was playing a game of stones with a young bleuwy child in front of him and the little one was regularly muttering angrily to himself.
No, wait, that was no child. That was a full-grown bleuwy, but a half-breed. That was why he was only as big as a human.
The man laughed, sunny and frolicsome as the bleuwy lost, aggressively whipping the stones around the room with his tail.
Jonghyun cleared his throat amused.
"By your leave? Taemin, I have Park Seonghwa here, you remember him?"
Taemin turned his head lazily towards them, his eyes terrifyingly knowing and penetrating as he examined them both.
Then, however, he jumped up with a big smile and shooed his partner away as he approached them.
He was dressed in the typical veils of the desert dancers, not unlike San, but he wore them longer and thicker, more discreet and the stripes of naked skin seemed rather playful and innocent, not inevitably seductive like San.
"Seonghwa! It's good to see you!" He embraced Seonghwa in a warm embrace, pressing the larger nightwalker comradely to himself for a moment.
The voice he whispered in Seonghwa's ear with was soft enough that even Hongjoong could barely understand it.
"It's good to see you, Seonghwa." Taemin's eyes brushed the man's short hair as he stepped back, then immediately, grinning, shook hands with Hongjoong.
"Yes, I know." He laughed.
"So you came for San, huh? Let's get serious now. We'll sweettalk later. But first things first." He gestured to them to come, and sat on a bench in the other corner of the room. The two visitors found a tense seat to his left and right.
"I could imagine you knew. Why don't you do something?"
"Point A, he is subconsciously powerful enough to free himself from there, which he has obviously just managed to do while you are here. B, he's powerful enough subconsciously that if I have to save him, it'll be weird. Point C they have his lamp and therefore his life in their hands. He's dead before I can intervene. Djinn and ùi are not that fond of each other showcasting their weakness."
Sounded reasonable, yeah.
"Any ideas how to get him out of there? Is there a way in?"
Taemin shook his head regretfully, and Hongjoong only now realized that he switched freely between languages. Interesting.
"No chance, this is the work of a lifetime. San would have to wriggle out of there himself, but he'd need a reason." He sounded gloomy, his eyebrows pulled tight, disconcerted in his ageless face.
"Shouldn't he have that? After all the abuse?", Hongjoong threw in softly and Taemin's smile was distorted as he turned to him.
"If you don't know the world differently, you accept it as it is. He is too broken to try anything. I'm not sure if his mind would still be strong enough to experience the cruel reality once he was free."
That put them in a quandary. If the Djinn had no plans and strength to escape and they could not access these circles either, what then?
"I have an idea for you, though. You may not get in as an organizer, but you can get in as a customer." He left that thought unfinished and just turned his hand to Seonghwa, holding a shiny black chip in his hand.
"He satisfies his customers' every wish. And I can assure you, no one has ever come up with the idea of freeing him. But put it well. You might block him otherwise."
Hongjoong's heart made a sentence.
He offered them an opportunity, a way, but it was a dangerous one and far too dependent on a broken man with no will of his own.
"We can work with that," Seonghwa smiled warmly, though, and he reached for the chip, letting it slide safely into his pocket. Taemin smiled in praise and then stretched out, letting both arms drop down onto the backrests behind them.
"So tell me, you two. How did you find each other? Oh, or we could continue this discussion in bed if you're interested?"
Taemin was desirable and if he were someone else, Hongjoong would not have said no, but not in this life.
Seonghwa read Hongjoong's face and burst out laughing.
"No thanks, we want to live. If you bring Hongjoong home, I will be happy to tell you about E27. At least what you don't know yet." Seonghwa's smile turned sad and Taemin just nodded seriously.
Hongjoong stopped asking.
Chapter 22: Confessions
Hongjoong had not overheard much of Seonghwa and Taemin's conversation. Taemin had asked a few things that had Seonghwa look at Hongjoong and shake his head. Then some softer things that had made the nightwalker glance embarrassed at his shoes. Seonghwa had also talked, told a tense story, his shoulders trembling in anger and sadness while Taemin had listened seriously.
Hongjoong had probably fallen asleep on the bench because he woke up when Seonghwa lifted him from the divan up and gently into his arms. Taemin brought them home - he could just teleport, how cool was that? - and Seonghwa put Hongjoong into his bed, then left the room again with the úi.
Hongjoong lay awake for a while, musing about the relationship between the two men and about Seonghwa's story, though he knew he should keep his hands off it. It was Seonghwa's decision to talk or not.
He fell into an exhausted sleep at some point, his thoughts entangled with the maths of his chances of saving San.
"I'll do it."
Collectively, they turned their heads confusedly to Wooyoung, and Seonghwa's eyes widened as Hongjoong gently translated.
"It was my decision to have him join us and I know best what he's going through! I don't want to be mean, but as great as Hongjoong can lead, he has no clue about these things!"
Yeosang looked restless. He did not want to send Wooyoung into the lion's den by himself.
"You only get one chance, you know that, right? The wishes are monitored and filtered, I'm sure enough of them he just won't hear because they reprogrammed his communication device.", Seonghwa warned gloomily and Wooyoung crossed his arms seriously. His eyes burned in a fire that was unfamiliar to them, like black flames in his face.
"I can do it. And if not then no one else runs better than me."
"I'll go with you."
Wooyoung and Yeosang exchanged a long look, communicating on their way and finally Wooyoung sighed defeatedly.
I wonder what Yeosang was thinking about.
Hongjoong leaned ponderous back in his chair, mindlessly playing with the metal in his mouth.
"Wooyoung probably has the least suspicious behavior. Be warned, if this goes wrong, I'll ram our ship into the building and get you out. Then Seonghwa will be furious."
"Seonghwa is furious either way.", the affected sleepwalker muttered grimly and Wooyoung just sulked at him when he didn not need a translation for it.
"I appreciate your concern, Cap, but I assure you, I can handle this. Yeo and I have been dealing with these kind of weirdos all our lives. We work well together." He sounded confident and for Hongjoong that was enough. At least Yeosang knew how to take care of Wooyoung.
He was right. Hongjoong did not ever experience this kind of mission, and Seonghwa was still too much of a soldier for that sort of thing.
"Then he needs a cover. Can you make him look like some kind of disgusting bastard?" Hongjoong asked Seonghwa broodingly, still trying to figure out which species would be good for that.
Yeosang rose to make tea and Seonghwa stared at Wooyoung without a clue.
There was definitely no intention to see on his empty face, nothing that showed consciousness, but that one moment was enough.
Hongjoong saw two Seonghwas sitting at the table for the blink of an eye, barely a brief flash.
Hongjoong's hip crashed painfully against the table as he jumped up, the projected chair underneath him automatically disappearing.
All the people turned their heads confusedly towards him, visibly frozen at the sight of his angry eyes and tense jaw.
"You. To me." Stomping around the table, he grabbed the bewildered sleepwalker by the collar. Wooyoung would certainly have whistled at them if the situation was not so serious and so only Seonghwa stumbled out of the room behind Hongjoong, overwhelmed.
Hongjoong did not know what to do with himself. His insides were a wild mix of concern for Wooyoung, emergency plans and anger towards Seonghwa. Or was it even anger at all? Could be grief or worry as well.
As much as Hongjoong did not know what to do with himself, he knew what to do with Seonghwa.
He marched brusquely into his room and slammed the door behind them, noticing through the veil of his emotions the dull throbbing pain in his hip and it only spurred him on.
Roughly, Seonghwa's back landed on the door, Hongjoong pressed against him lengthwise.
It was the way Seonghwa stared at him. Absolutely as if he was only expecting it, as if he deserved it. Hongjoong almost snapped, his knuckles showing where he had grabbed Seonghwa's collar.
Hongjoong gritted his teeth hard enough that it hurt, forcing himself not to wake up the other man with a blow. How this looked like that would be exactly the wrong idea.
Instead, he tore the hands off Seonghwa's shirt in an uncontrolled manner, bringing them down to his sides again, gruffly. His chest brushed against Seonghwa's whenever he took a heavy breath and the heat made him so upset, making Seonghwa's cold indifference so much worse.
"I don't know who made you do this, but you better stop thinking like that or we'll have serious problems with each other.", Hongjoong gnashed out in a painstakingly controlled manner and Seonghwa just sighed softly. He found Hongjoong's eyes but didn not quite look at him, his gaze empty.
"You haven't figured it out yet? How many times have I asked you, Hongjoong, how long have I been waiting for you to finally understand? I'm not the poor, stranded nightwalker you think I am!"
Hongjoong threw his hands in the air in frustration.
"This again? I know, Seonghwa! I know everything! I know every stupid detail."
Seonghwa looked like he punched him in the face after all. For a moment, he looked even paler than usual, his eyes wide in naked horror.
Hongjoong just nodded, hot tears of anger and pain in his eyes and he angrily tried to blink them away.
"I had my suspicions about your name, but then I stopped thinking about it, because names double, right? Even in the army." Hongjoong spoke weakly, now lowering his eyes to the other's motionless chest.
"It became clearer to me after finding no record of you in the ship. Every ship has data on its captain. It was too obvious that you didn't want them there, that you did not want to see and banish them."
Seonghwa began to speak and Hongjoong raised a hand, warning him not to.
"Every little detail that came up made more sense. That you didn't want to see yourself, that you pushed being a soldier away from yourself in such a way, that you desperately wanted to help, that you were constantly afraid I would leave you behind. Yesterday it was clear. After E27."
This time, it was Seonghwa who grabbed him indignantly and pushed him to the door. Much more gently than Hongjoong had done it to him, but the same warning was there. His eyes were wide open in panic and disbelief.
"You knew?! You knew it all along? Hongjoong, what are you doing here? How suicidal can one man be? You're a weak human, stop thinking that you're stronger than the rest!"
Angry Seonghwa would have been scary if Hongjoong did not feel that terrible pity for him. If his heart was not so torn up by hearing the man speak like that.
"Big words from you, huh?! I promised to keep you alive and I still keep my promise! I told you it doesn't matter who you are!"
"How can you say that when you know for sure?! Where is disgust and fear, where are your natural survival instincts?!" He sounded so desperate, so angry about the fact that Hongjoong could not protect himself, but that was not what this was about.
"This is about you. I know about the horrors that the E27 committed on Pirate Island. I know about how you killed, no matter who it was. I know that you didn't back down by yourself, you got a suicide order. But I found you down there, Seonghwa, and you didn't want to die! So stop it! That was your life, and you left it behind. We're here, we're your family and we don't give a damn who you are! I wouldn't have saved you after I knew it, if it had mattered!"
Hongjoong struggled to breathe, had talked himself into a rage and stared at Seonghwa relentlessly.
The man held himself upright at Hongjoong's shoulders, his hands trembling and his head lowered. He was crying, crystal clear precious drops dripping on their tops and his whole body was trembling against Hongjoongs.
Softer, Hongjoong continued to speak.
"I didn't come here to beat you, and I will personally fight anyone who made you think so. But the rest is your responsibility. Get out of your head, Seonghwa. Trust me, trust us. Don't let my promises seem empty and stand by yours. I'm right here."
In a diplomatic gesture, Hongjoong raised his arms to Seonghwa's hips, gently embraced the man and allowed his sobbing figure to sink against Hongjoong.
It tore Hongjoong apart to hear him cry and not to have his face by his throat with friendly banter because he needed Hongjoong's blood. Seonghwa needed him like this just as much, sad as it was. And Hongjoong might have been a weak human, but he was stronger than Seonghwa.
"It's alright. It doesn't matter here. You're different, you can work through it. We freed Wooyoung and are taking San with us, alright? You can account for the past and I'll help you."
Seonghwa let his hands slip weakly from Hongjoong's shoulders, just standing absolutely powerless in his arms, leaned against his smaller, weaker figure.
His voice was rough and emotional when he spoke.
"You're an absolute idiot, Kim Hongjoong."
Chapter 23: Choi San
Seonghwa observed Hongjoong differently from that day on. It was similar to what Hongjoong had already noticed about him before, when Seonghwa was not yet sane and only drank his blood in silence.
It was the same, only much stronger, the expression in his eyes different when he saw Hongjoong.
It didn not take a genius to see that something had changed between the two of them, but it would have taken a moment of attentive observation. And they did not have that moment.
Seonghwa was asleep when Yeosang and Wooyoung left the next day. Wooyoung was disguised as a tiefling with crass green hair and skin and black horns. Yeosang was some mushroom thing, a creature that appeared more like nature and forest than humanoid.
They left together with Taemin's chip, promising to return with San.
Hongjoong was already planning to ram the Sunrise into the building.
Wooyoung was so determined, so confident and Hongjoong could only let them go defeated, did not have the energy for more.
He sat in the living room for a long time and just brooded, trying not to lose himself too much in his concern for his two friends. They needed someone who could stand firm and confident, even when faced with danger. It had to be him.
The sun created a hot trail across the sky and Hongjoong would have liked to go outside, to explore the city further, but the restlessness would not let him go.
It was evening somewhen and Wooyoung and Yeosang still had not returned. Hongjoong walked up and down the living room with long steps, his hair wild from the many times he had pulled his hands through it doubtingly.
He had to wait, he had to trust them.
When a hand suddenly touched his shoulder, his knees gave way under him for a moment, the shock in a throaty scream on his lips.
Seonghwa's second hand shot forward, stabilizing him and for a moment the nightwalker looked at his face in surprise, then he pressed Hongjoong down on the couch with gentle conviction.
"You should have eaten. If these two come running with a bunch of chasers, we'll have to show some speed." His voice eased Hongjoong's stress and he allowed his burning eyes to rest for a moment in relief as Seonghwa walked around the room.
"Can't. I feel sick."
Seonghwa sighed deeply, was now closer again and when Hongjoong opened his eyes again, the man knelt before him, just taking one of his hands gently in his own. Under his lowered eyelashes hung deep circles underneath his eyes, testimony to his own nervousness, and the corner of Hongjoong's mouth twitched compassionately upwards.
Seonghwa said no more, just spraying gently the open wounds on Hongjoong's hands where he had anxiously bitten and peeled away nails and skin.
"We're like those obnoxious helicopter parents, buzzing around their kids all the time. It's annoying.", Hongjoong suddenly noticed and Seonghwa raised an amused brow.
"You think so? You are the mother."
Hongjoong sat more upright with this, his mouth open in indignation.
"What? Obviously, you are the mother! Look at you." Affectionately, he reached out one hand to stroke Seonghwa's cheek, but caught himself in time and stopped moving.
"Hongjoong, you're tiny. And you have that worry character, I'm just good at nagging." Seonghwa said it quite naturally, as if he was lecturing a stubborn child, and Hongjoong snortingly took his hands away, clasping them in front of his chest.
"Me? If you always make sure everyone has eaten, everything is clean and everyone is in bed on time? Seonghwa I'm that irresponsible father who's just in for fun!" He had to laugh and watched Seonghwa's amused reaction, noticing that intense look for the first time
His laughter quickly died away and Hongjoong slowly became aware of their situation. Seonghwa between his knees (Jesus, how did he always get there?!) and with his hands on Hongjoong's thighs. Their faces were at about the same level and Seonghwa's eyes were so infinitely soft on his.
Hongjoong immediately got a fit of shyness.
"Why are you looking at me like that?", he mumbled, barely understandable, his eyes gliding restlessly across the room.
He saw Seonghwa's smile from the corner of his eye and for a moment he desperately thought up a sarcastic remark to escape from the situation. Seonghwa's words, however, tore him from his train of thought.
"You are extraordinarily pretty for a human, Joong. Especially when you laugh."
Now Hongoong turned to him again, an indignant remark about humans on his lips, but Seonghwa had come even closer in the meantime. Their noses brushed against each other in a shy, questioning touch and Hongjoong's words died once more in his throat.
This time Hongjoong swallowed hard, wanted to keep looking at Seonghwa, looking for approval in his gaze, but it was too much and his eyelids fluttered dangerously. They paused, both just waiting for the other to withdraw and Hongjoong's breath warm and irregular between their lips.
It was the moment when Hongjoong raised his hand to pull Seonghwa towards him, closing the last gap between them and bringing his raging heart and whirling thoughts to a halt as the apartment door opened.
They did not dramatically throw themselves away from each other. Seonghwa rose tense when for a moment there was only emptiness at the door, then Hongjoong had calmed down enough to follow.
The moment was quickly forgotten, everything was quickly forgotten when a green tiefling with an exceptionally handsome dancer in his arms and a funny mushroom thing staggered in.
All three breathed heavily and Wooyoung stumbled uncoordinated into a wall under his shapeless load, intercepting his djinn protectively with his own body.
Seonghwa blinked once and the illusion was already gone.
Hongjoong's eyes first found Yeosang, slightly out of breath and a strand of his hair had strayed to the wrong side, but otherwise he looked as usual. In his hands he held the djinn's magic lamp.
Wooyoung on the other hand was a completely different story. He looked as if he'd been thrown from an airship, his eyes widened and his hair a mess. Hongjoong noticed suspicious red spots on the neck of the lashunta and seriously, at that moment it was impossible to tell what those were now.
Yeosang spoke calmly and deeply, reliable as always.
"We are being followed."
Seonghwa was the mother. Mothers were always right.
Their departure had been relatively secret.
Seonghwa had camouflaged them all, but of course there were always beings who could at least notice that the air around them was flickering strangely. So there would be clues about them but in the end, there was enough technology here anyway to find them directly. It no longer mattered.
Back on the Sunrise they made everything ready in a flying hurry, San was forgotten in a corner, while the rest of them ran around in confusion. Hongjoong noticed in passing how the man's head was lowered submissively, how he automatically seemed to make his figure as small as possible.
It broke his heart, but it would have to wait.
It was a brief gesture, nothing great, when he dropped a pile of Yeosang's clothes on the djinn's lap as he passed by. Still, he looked up at him with big eyes as if he had just gifted him with the greatest favour and his ringed fingers trembled where they touched the cool fabric.
Up close, San was much prettier, a sharp jawline and high cheekbones that gave his face an artistic elegance. Hongjoong paused at the sight of the man's golden eyes, the deep disbelief in them.
"You are free. You no longer have to fulfill a single wish, you can go wherever you want and do whatever you want. Welcome to the Sunrise, San.", he greeted him softly, then highfived Aurora, who just came fluttering along.
"Keep him company, huh? I'll take him to Yunho's soon to have a look at him."
"Yessir!" With that she fluttered unceremoniously onto the mountain of clothes in San's lap and wiggled with all six legs at him, her big eyes glittering and adorable.
San's tense posture softened and he stretched out his hands towards Aurora with the greatest of care, starting to gently pet her.
Hongjoong made his way back, satisfied, and dropped down onto his boss chair next to Seonghwa, leaning his head back and groaning.
The nightwalker laughed softly.
"I'll take him to Yunho tomorrow. Before Wooyoung revives any old traumas or anything, we should check him. Also for diseases and injuries and stuff like that.", Hongjoong informed him calmly, turning his head to look at his gorgeous nightwalker. The women of the army must have been running after him in swarms when he was there looking like that.
"I think Wooyoung can handle it. But of course he should tell us the whole story first. In an hour in the kitchen?"
Hongjoong just nodded, closing his eyes a bit to enjoy the buzz of the machinery among them.
If San wanted to stay, he would have one more crew member. That made five. Slowly their cabins were getting scarce.
But maybe... he could share with Seonghwa? The two never slept at the same time anyway.
Hongjoong's fingers twitched when he stopped himself from beating the thought out of his head.
San. San had top priority for now.
Chapter 24: Therapy
San was silent. San was also silent when Hongjoong explicitly allowed him to talk to him and San was still silent even when the two of them beamed to Yunho, waiting in front of his office for their appointment.
Meanwhile San had been dressed fully again, in normal pants and a fluffy sweater that hugged his shoulders, but any idiot could see that he was not used to it.
His gaze wandered non-stop through the rooms around them, fascinated by the laughing and open-minded customers of the department and even if he kept silent, it was at least a small victory that he lifted his eyes from his lap.
But then Yunho stepped out to them and immediately his gaze fell again, head down.
This time he sounded more angry than relieved, and Hongjoong raised his hands with an embarrassed grin.
"I can explain everything, just don't grab my collar or you'll scare San."
Yunho looked as if that was exactly what he had been aiming for, but now he thought about it twice, let his eyes wander worriedly over the djinn.
With a warning look in Hongjoong's direction that they would still talk about it, Yunho then crouched down on his knees in front of San, tried to peer carefully into his face.
"Do not touch. He's afraid.", Hongjoong muttered to him warningly, not wanting to think about how many bleuwy had taken advantage of San. He felt sick.
"Can you bring him in? And tell me what it is about him?" Yunho spoke softly and clearly, the translating device in his pocket supporting him softly and San at least knew that they did not want to hurt him.
So Hongjoong just nodded and rose, asking San to come with him quietly. They followed Yunho to his office and took a seat in his small couch corner, San torn to hide at Hongjoong's side and stay away from him.
"Come here, I won't hurt you. No one here will."
San sank down next to him on the couch, but curled up in the opposite corner and turned his gaze to the floor.
Yunho looked as heartbroken and helpless as Hongjoong felt.
"Go ahead, I'll check you."
Yunho went to work, distracted himself by testing Hongjoong's blood and scanning his body. Hongjoong repeated what Wooyoung had told him.
"We found him on Trascen, he was used there for sex work and Wooyoung wanted to free him. Seonghwa found out that he was a djinn and we contacted Taemin to get entrance. Wooyoung and Yeosang then went to free him. Yeo stole his lamp - somehow he managed - and Woo persuaded San to come with him. He wanted San to be his companion and I believe San... can't really grasp that wish. After they were prevented from escaping, Taemin showed up and closed the shop for illegal activities. They got away and we shook off the angry dealers. That was yesterday."
Yunho just gave him a pointed look, no longer surprised or disappointed. Just as if he expected that from Hongjoong. He rubbed his neck in embarrassment.
"And your nightwalker prince? You don't have him with you today.", he redirected the topic then, his voice teasing again as Hongjoong blushed a pretty pink.
"No, he's still asleep.", he mumbled towards his knees, then sat down again when Yunho was finished.
"Good, so apparently his technique worked on you. I can't find any remains of poison in your body, what a pity, I would have liked to study it first." He winked playfully as Hongjoong childishly stuck out his tongue.
"You're fine otherwise, too, which is a relief, this fever was no joke, and knowing you, you were up and about too soon again." No question, knowledge.
Hongjoong grinned broadly.
"Fine, then to you. Can you talk to me, San? It would be nice if we could talk directly."
Yunho had the talent to look very nice and open for a bleuwy and it seemed to calm San down a bit. Still, the man's eyes first glided worriedly to Hongjoong.
"Your call, baby, I'm not your boss or anything. We're the same rank."
San gulped worried, probably been set up too many times with such traps, and then started talking softly. His voice was soft and sweet as honey in winter, grabbing Yunho as well as Hongjoong right at the heart.
"I... can do that, yes."
Hongjoong grinned encouragingly and Yunho also looked as if he wanted to shower the other man with hugs and treats.
"Alright, thanks. I'm Yunho, expert in alien race research and a good friend of Hongjoong here. Do you want to tell me how you are doing right now? Does anything hurt right now?"
Hongjoong leaned back patiently, watching Yunho work his puppy-like charm. No one could say no to Yunho, he spoke from experience.
"I am San... and very confused at the moment. I know I've been freed, but somehow... so far... no one... has tried anything?" He kept making confused pauses, totally out of balance and Yunho smiled patiently.
"Alright, I'll tell you this very directly, you were part of evil machinations. Evil people who did evil things. We don't do that here. Now you decide what you do and want and we are here to help you with that. If you don't want to, you don't ever have to be involved in these horrible things again."
"But what are you doing instead?", he asked, absolutely curious to learn, the wide eyes confused and at least he seemed to believe them. The bright, open environment and no chains on him could contribute well.
"We talk to each other! We play, explore the world, laugh, cry... We are all equal and we enjoy our time without having to be afraid. Or in pain. Are you in pain right now, San?"
San shook his head slowly, his eyes shining in his fascination. Hongjoong was over the moon.
"Wooyoung can teach you all this. On our ship, he's responsible for getting everyone together. You like Wooyoung, huh?," Hongjoong added gently, there was no doubt that the empathic nature of the lashunta had also struck a chord with San. Not to mention that Wooyoung looked like a little angel.
San nodded seriously, then turned to Yunho again. He had unknotted his body a bit, put his feet on the ground and his back was more upright, the interest was real.
"I have no pain. Can I see Wooyoung again?"
San understood quickly, it gave him a lot of potential for improvement. That was excellent.
Yunho gave him a hasty nod, then turned to Hongjoong.
"Say, would you take me with you? I would like to keep an eye on him a bit and help him with his progress. Besides, it's obvious you can't be left alone." He rolled his eyes in a good-natured way.
Hongjoong raised his shoulders, trying to act nonchalantly while performing a whole victory dance on the inside. A whole doctor, oh heavens.
"Sure, come along."
Hongjoong looked searchingly at San.
"Are you okay with this? If you don't want to, then-" He left the sentence unfinished.
San looked completely overwhelmed between the two of them, probably never had to make any of these decisions himself.
"Uhh, alright, yeah."
Yunho and Hongjoong beamed at him together, and San just lowered his head in embarrassment.
"Well, I'll go and file for leave. I'll catch up with you after I pack up my stuff." Yunho rose and hugged Hongjoong as he left, holding out a hand to San. The djinn grabbed it in awe and shook it gently, his eyes settled shining on Yunho's huge figure.
Yunho left and Hongjoong squeaked softly to himself, leading San back to the terminal.
"I've never met such a nice bleuwy! That they can be so... warm!", San wondered and Hongjoong had to smile. Finally, he talked. He hurried to answer before San had any doubts.
"Yunho is much too nice, to everyone. In general, my whole crew is too kind to everyone, I have no idea how we'll survive."
San nodded almost in a good mood, walking a bit more confidently beside Hongjoong.
"Wooyoung can show you anything. He really wanted you to come along. But the rest of us are always open to your questions, you don't have to be afraid of the others. Not even Seonghwa." Was Yeosang scary? No, right?
Like a book-learned disciple, San nodded again and they beamed back to the ship, greeted by Yeosang, who had lazily kept an eye on the pit. At the sight of them, he turned around in his chair, Aurora on his lap. His hand constantly stroked through her fur, like a clichéd villain.
"Welcome back." He smiled a little, a shy smile, but it helped San and Aurora jumped at him immediately to cuddle comradely against his chest. San snuggled her back intimately.
"Yunho will soon join us and accompany us for an indefinite time. Will you let Wooyoung know when you see him?"
Yeosang saluted lazily, then rose to go out with San.
Hongjoong happily sat down in his chief's chair and stared up at the sky.
They needed a new target.
Chapter 25: Modern Solutions
Hongjoong had decided after some discussions with Seonghwa to head for a smaller trading island. They needed things for San and also for Yunho who was going to arrive in the afternoon of the next day.
Wooyoung had gone somewhere to play with San, Yeosang being their calm, spiritual support. Probably it was good to have them both around San. The balance was perfect.
Hongjoong on the other hand had set himself a goal.
And that goal was called Seonghwa.
He no longer doubted that Seonghwa desperately wanted to kiss him and what he wanted, he should get. Only it seemed that nothing would come of it unless Hongjoong himself took the wheel.
Joking aside, Hongjoong was an emotional, tense wreck, whenever he threatened to be alone in the room with Seonghwa, the tension was unbearable. The gaze of the man, the way he looked at him as if he were the brightest star in the sky, it robbed Hongjoong of every nerve.
So it was only a matter of time until one of the two of them would break first. And the tension was affecting the crew.
It was Wooyoung who approached Hongjoong sometime around noon, while Hongjoong was negotiating their coordinates with the Sunrise.
"You and Seonghwa... When are you finally gonna get it on?"
And Hongjoong choked, coughing until the ship asked him if he needed survival tips.
"What do you mean, finally?!", it came over his lips in utter horror, and Wooyoung had grinned a sunny grin, his hands raised in defence.
"Don't get me wrong, but you were obvious when I arrived here. That was what, almost a month ago? I thought something solid was already in place but Yeosang thinks differently. So... what about this?"
Hongjoong should not have allowed him to ask everything. Not ever.
Wooyoung's feelers bobbed back and forth like blades of grass and of course, who was Hongjoong kidding? Wooyoung knew about it anyway.
"Is this your attempt to set us up or is there a problem?"
They were all adults. This was not some giggly school romance. It was more than that.
"Both. The problem really is that this tension is giving me a headache. It wouldn't be so tragic for me, but I think it scares San. He thinks Seonghwa wants to hurt you."
Great, they even confused San with this.
Hongjoong sighed tiredly, his fingers so nervous in his lap.
"I will talk to him about it. Sorry to drag you into this."
Wooyoung nodded seriously and headed for the door again.
"So, you have my blessing!" He scurried away before Hongjoong could throw Aurora at him.
Doubtful, Hongjoong looked from one door to another and then to the kaflera on the shelf, raising an eyebrow inquiringly.
"Are we that terrible?"
Aurora licked her paws neatly.
"Since day one."
Hongjoong would have been willing to throw Wooyoung too.
But he just stood at attention, looking up at the blazing sun out in the sky. It was an excellent time to visit Seonghwa, only to sadly be unable to talk to him because he was asleep.
Full of conviction, he marched off, ignoring Aurora's almost amused look at him.
At the crew's quarters he quickly found Seonghwa's door (Woosan had painted colorful signs to help everyone find their way). On quiet soles he crept in front of it and listened for a moment, heard no movement.
"Seonghwa.", he whispered the name of the other one, barely audible, and listened again, nothing.
Well, that's all he could do, right? He had tried everything in his might.
Satisfied, he turned on his heel to go back to the front, sliding his hand through his hair in relief. Maybe he should dye it? Somehow people had to recognize him as a captain.
Hongjoong did not get far.
The door behind him opened like in a creepy horror castle, giving a view of piercing darkness and an equally dark shadow moving inside.
Hongjoong was grabbed by the collar and dragged into the dark cave before another sound escaped him and the door slid shut behind them again.
If he was eaten now, no one would know.
Hongjoong saw exactly nothing, leaning back nervously against the door to at least have this hold.
"Nice interior, Hwa!", he said optimistically, as if there was not a nightwalker wandering around somewhere in this blackness, carrying also Hongjoong's interest on the side.
"What are you doing out there in the middle of the day, whispering my name as if you wanted to murder me in my sleep?"
He could not have been awake for long, his deep voice still scratchy and rough, which Hongjoong liked.
A nervous laugh escaped him.
It would really be quite pleasant to see the nightwalker.
"To make a long story short: Wooyoung wanted me to talk to you and I didn't want to bother you. So I pretended to be, just to have an excuse. You could have gone back to sleep, you know?"
He stared seriously in some corner, praying that Seonghwa was there.
"Why? Did you do something wrong?"
He might as well just laugh and forget the subject. But Hongjoong just scratched his head and looked at the floor embarrassed, trying to explain himself to the darkness.
"He... Well, apparently our dancing around each other bothers him and San, and he asked me to clarify this. As in advance, not finish.", he quickly explained, biting his lip immediately when this version did not sound any better than any other in his head.
Seonghwa remained silent for a long time.
"Because Wooyoung wants it, or because you want it?"
Why did he have to make things so complicated? If the light was on, Hongjoong would have just grabbed him and kissed him, not asked any more questions. But no, Seonghwa.
"Because I want to." Hongjoong rolled his eyes in the dark.
"By the way, it would be really nice if you could turn on a light. These conversations are quite unpleasant if you don't see your counterpart.", he asked quietly, went almost crazy with his own nervously galloping heart.
Seonghwa's footsteps moved around the room and Hongjoong took a deep breath, playing a bit with his thumbs.
Hongjoong did not expect Seonghwa to suddenly stand directly in front of him, their bodies barely apart and the nightwalker's cool fingers gently on his hips. His breath stopped for a moment and then came back more uncontrolled.
Hongjoong's fingers twitched in surprise to Seonghwa's upper arms when the man was suddenly directly with him, his forehead placed against his.
"Now it's you who is staring at me strangely.", Seonghwa had to laugh despite the situation and Hongjoong stomped on his foot only half strong.
"I can't even see you, you idiot! Stop pestering your captain!"
Seonghwa probably grinned and his nose coolly slipped across Hongjoong's face, Hongjoongs's eyelids fluttering dangerously.
"Then how does my captain want me to treat him?" His voice meant Hongjoong's death.
"Your captain wants you to kiss him now, or he'll bite your nose off in the middle of your darkroom!" The threat was nothing more than an angry hiss, hardly serious, for Seonghwa was already so close to him that Hongjoong's breath brushed against his lips.
"What a coincidence, this was exactly what I had in mind."
He bowed his head before Hongjoong could complain any further and everything stopped for a moment.
Hongjoong had kissed an understandable number of people. Men and women, humans and aliens. There had been better kisses and worse, innocent and hot.
Yet kissing Seonghwa was different. For it was Seonghwa he had kissed.
Hongjoong felt so much more, his senses much more attentive in the darkness, if it was not for Seonghwa's unfairily pretty face distracting him.
Hongjoong's brain provided him with the information of how Seonghwa's broad shoulders felt under his hands. How gentle his cool lips were, on which Hongjoong's lay, waiting for him to accept the kiss. He felt Seonghwa's long lashes tickling his skin and his hair on his forehead.
Hongjoong smelled Seonghwa's soap, his generally fresh room and he heard Wooyoung and San chatting with each other in the next room. It all affected him, anchored itself in his head.
It was not a difficult decision to raise his head with a sigh and return Seonghwa's kiss with gentle pressure from his sides. It was all it took for Seonghwa to approach him completely, to embrace Hongjoong's small, hot body with his arms, and to pull him into his net like a maelstrom.
It was uncharted territory for both of them, each grip on the other's body questioning, each movement of their mouths untrained.
But Hongjoong wanted to learn, Hongjoong wanted to know everything. Hongjoong wanted Seonghwa.
The nightwalker left it at chaste kisses, eluded Hongjoong much faster than he wanted to. Warningly, Hongjoong kept him pressed against himself. Seonghwa's quiet laugh filled the room a bit nervously.
"What, what's that supposed to mean?"
"Stay." Hongjoong felt like sulking, wanted to run away on one hand and lament how much Seonghwa had him in his hand, on the other hand he wanted to file a complaint. How could Seonghwa dare kiss him as if they were a victorian couple running away from their parents?
Seonghwa relaxed a bit, smiling and pressing another kiss to Hongjoong's forehead.
Everything in Hongjoong was singing because this was Seonghwa, his gentle, far too pretty nightwalker and Hongjoong did not deserve him.
"My lips are down here."
Seonghwa had to laugh again, and for a moment sweetly caught Hongjoong's mouth again.
"Yeah, I see you, you know?"
Hongjoong stomped on his foot again, then occupied himself with kissing Seonghwa all his ridiculously attractive sayings from the lips.
Chapter 26: Jeong Yunho
It was an absolute accident that the very next day everyone on board knew about Seonghwa and Hongjoong. The fact that Wooyoung came into the room in the evening chatting with San while Hongjoong sat in his boss chair in Seonghwa's lap and let the nightwalker taste his tongue piercing had maybe a little to do with it.
Worse still, Wooyoung had immediately burst into loud howling at the sight and San stared with big eyes, still seeming unsure about Seonghwa's intentions.
Hongjoong was immediately shocked and jerked away from Seonghwa, putting his hands on the shoulders of the nightwalker to avoid falling but to keep as much distance as possible between their upper bodies.
The captain's face was glowing, his lips still clearly marked by Seonghwa's kisses and the soft curls of the other's hair wild. Wooyoung had to support himself on his knees, panting.
"Wooyoung-", Hongjoong started a warning growl, but Seonghwa just let his head roll back, cast a languid glance from half-lidded eyes at the lashunta.
Wooyoung fell silent again but could not wipe the grin off his face and gently grasped San's hand to bring the djinn closer to his side.
"Can I help you in any way?", Hongjoong asked full of tension, Seonghwa's hands like comforting pillows of warmth on his hips. Seonghwa focused on Hongjoong again, looked up at him as he sat above him, his eyes fixed on their duo. Hongjoong watched from the corners of his eyes as he licked his lips.
"Basically I just wanted to ask if anyone would mind if San spent the night with me. But now I want to know all dirty details." Wooyoung smiled his oh so angelic smile and Hongjoong pitied the poor, soon to be corrupt San.
"Go ahead. But forget that."
"Does the cap taste as much as he looks like pent-up anger, Seonghwa?", Wooyoung's sweet voice drifted over to them, and the Sunrise always translated so faithfully.
Hongjoong had forgotten to ask Yeosang if he had passed a communicator to San and Wooyoung. He was distracted.
"Why don't you come and find out if you're too curious. But watch your head.", Seonghwa shot back directly, pulling Hongjoong closer again to enjoy his warm body against his own. Hongjoong continued to blush when he felt Seonghwa's inviting body against his again. Sensitively the fabric of his shirt rubbed against the one piercing that Seonghwa liked to feel on his skin through both of their clothes.
"My goodness, I can hardly stand it. Why don't you two find a room, what are you doing here in the front? Just disturbing the poor child tzz." Wooyoung shook his head and dragged San with him outside
"Where were we?"
"My tongue in your throat. Wouldn't you rather go somewhere else?" Hongjoong did not want the man to feel uncomfortable.
But he just pulled him to himself, no need to answer when their mouths met again. Hongjoong did his best to breathe some warmth into Seonghwa.
Yunho only had to look once at them both and he buried his head in his hands already groaning.
"A couple, of course. Fate hates me. What have I done to deserve this?"
Hongjoong crossed his arms in front of his chest with a snort, watched critically how Yunho, still groaning, put a heavy backpack down at his side.
"Ay, what does that mean? I'm your captain now.", Hongjoong reminded him immediately in indignation, raised a brow in warning as the bleuwy rebuilt himself to full size in front of them.
"I know best of all here how tacky you can be in a relationship, I speak the truth."
And somebody like that calls himself best friend. Hongjoong was offended.
Seonghwa, on the other hand, looked around surprised between the two of them. Yunho started to greet Wooyoung and Yeosang in an absolutely friendly way, meeting them in person for the first time and San shook his hand again concentratedly.
As soon as Yunho was free, Seonghwa danced over to him, looking ridiculously small next to the bleuwy when he looped their arms together.
"You dated Hongjoong?"
"More or less. I'm sorry you have to do it now."
Seonghwa looked up from under his eyelashes, flirtatiously embracing his strong arm.
"Tell me everything, doctor." He breathed the last word exaggeratedly auspicious and Yunho looked mildly uncomfortable but joined in and nodded smitten.
Seonghwa winked playfully at Hongjoong before leading Yunho away, easily taking his bag with him as they walked away.
Hongjoong had to go sulking.
Yunho had the advantage of knowing them all already. He had communicated a lot with Wooyoung and Yeosang by ship and had already taken Seonghwa and San as patients.
It was Hongjoong's luck and misfortune to have the playful man on board, because with this he had brought the worst weapon against himself into the ship.
And the boys were unstoppable.
Interestingly enough, it was mainly Yeosang who harassed Yunho, saving every piece of information with a little grin on his face. Wooyoung had his fun teasing Hongjoong about having a kink for size differences and Seonghwa chased after either children's pictures or insiders of Hongjoong's sex life.
It was an absolute chaos.
A chaos in which San found himself surprisingly at ease. It was more and more often that he sat in the same room with them, carefully engaging in conversation. Once they had almost seen him smile before he had quickly suppressed it and he seemed not to fear any of them.
Which was also difficult once you knew every story of how Hongjoong ate tons of chocolate when frustrated and without a care for his face.
Yunho also skilfully danced around all the stories in Hongjoong's advantage, just laughing at him when he tried to defend himself against the embarrassment.
Where Yunho should have tamed the previous chaos, he only caused more, but it was just right. It was just the kind of family Hongjoong wanted. A motley crew, full of laughter and strange quirks, all unique.
It felt like home.
A home where Hongjoong was hot on Yunho's heels after nearly disclosing one mystery too many, where Aurora flew in serpentines around the bleuwy's head, which was much too high, and the rest of them was highly amused.
San made enormous progress.
Within a few days he had already understood perfectly that he did not have to be afraid of his crew members and he started joking with them. An intense flame began to burn behind his eyes, but it did not speak of revenge and anger.
They spoke of gratitude and love.
It was the eyes with which he only watched them, with which he came alone to Hongjoong to ask him something in a firm voice. The same, when he helped Seonghwa clean the ship or leaned over Yeosang's shoulder while the man was tinkering away over Hongjoong's sketches. Yunho described it as the empathic ability of the lashunta, Hongjoong as Sans affinity with Wooyoung.
Wooyoung was right, he, as a broken boy who had grown up around similar people, knew best how to help San.
Yunho had regular check-ups with him, inquired about San's well-being and his information became more and more specific. He was happy, he was grateful, he had fun. Things that warmed Hongjoong's heart when Yunho told him in the kitchen in the evening.
They decided to celebrate this victory a little bit, to bring more warmth and understanding to San, and so one evening they found themselves on the outer deck at the stern of the Sunrise, a small, orange nightwalker fire in their midst.
They shared stories and food that Seoghwa had found in Trascen.
Yeosang told of how he had found Wooyoung with one of his flying drones after the man had picked an argument with a horde of disgruntled wodae. How he took pity and nursed the younger man back to health.
Wooyoung hung on to how Yeosang's first reflex after his confession about his family had been to use explosives to disperse around Wooyoung's estate, which they had then had to make disappear in a flying hurry.
Yunho told of his voluntary service on Jupiter, the fascinating life forms there and the strange gravity. Several moons and bottomless lakes.
Seonghwa told of his travels through stars and galaxies, far away from their islands and full of much weirder and strange creatures. He told of meteorite showers, black holes and solar explosions.
San told them quietly about dancing, about the freedom he felt when his limbs became weightless. He remembered a time before captivity, his glider that looked like a frayed old bath rug and it had been his best friend.
Hongjoong told them how he had started his journey, ignoring the fleet to find a crew. How he had found Aurora and had almost died when Seonghwa came along. He told them about the Sunrise repairs and his pride of finding a ship.
They laughed a lot after that, drinking according to will and tolerance. At one point, San lay in Wooyoung's lap staring at the stars, Yeosang leaning low humming at the railing. Yunho had played soft music and occasionally sang along, supported by Wooyoung's voice, which either sang sweetly or broke. None in between.
Seonghwa and Hongjoong sat shoulder to shoulder, a bottle between them, which only belonged to Hongjoong either way. Seonghwa would occasionally lift one of Hongjoong's fingers to his mouth, taste his fruity blood and be drunk on it.
Hongjoong wondered what would happen next. What dangers, what new people they would face. If they would be able to stay together.
With the fire dancing in front of their faces, the smaller, more vulnerable among them fell asleep in the open air, leaving it to their two strong men to carry them to bed.
Chapter 27: Theft
The crew spent the trip to the next island together or in small groups. Finding time alone had become almost impossible. Most of the time, conversations and laughter were always to be heard somewhere, as if it were part of a ticking clockwork. A routine. Everyone asked about who was missing, when they were gone, they shared their insiders and no one felt left out.
It was a perfect moment.
A perfect moment that made them so blind to everything else. For Hongjoong and Wooyoung, it was just the more because of their other interests.
It was Yeosang who finally realized the flaw in their system.
His transmitter glowed orange at his ear when he spoke and Hongjoong, San and Yunho curiously turned his head towards him in the kitchen.
"We were somehow... robbed? Somewhen? On Trascen probably still?"
An awkward silence overtook the room for a moment. Yeosang touched nervously across his communicator, worried that it was down.
"What?", Hongjoong asked first in disbelief and San turned his pretty head around, his hair partly in small braids gliding over his temples. A new hobby from Wooyoung's side, they were disgustingly cute.
"Yeah, uh... We lack all the money. Only the money, nothing else of value." Yeosang spoke calmly and factually, unaware of the pure confusion that had packed the table.
"I thought Aurora was paying attention. The ship didn't sound the alarm."
Now, even Yeosang scratched the back of his head at a loss.
"I mean... I can investigate if you want, but we left there anyway, and the thief probably wouldn't have returned it."
That was definitely a problem. No money meant no batteries, meant no propulsion, meant no food and no flying. It meant nothing.
Tensed eyes were drawn to Hongjoong.
"Okay, then... I have to settle this with Seonghwa. We'll only use your savings in an emergency. Please don't think it's necessary. I'll find a way." Determined, Hongjoong rose from their little game and walked away with the dignity of a totally confused, robbed captain.
How did that happen?
For the time being it was relatively irrelevant, the exact circumstances and damages did not matter. They needed money to survive. And now they had to get it.
Hongjoong knocked timidly on Seonghwa's door, waiting for the nightwalker to answer sluggishly before entering. The nightwalker seemed to have been just about to get up anyway, rolling around in his bed still tired.
At the sight of Hongjoong he became a bit more awake and his half-closed eyes immediately noticed the other's mouth. A pink tongue glided fleetinly over his own lips and Hongjoong prayed that his blush would not be visible in the grey twilight of the room.
How could Seonghwa dare to look so good all the time? To be so desirable? It distracted Hongjoong.
"We got robbed on Trascen, Yeosang just told me."
Seonghwa raised a dark brow in mild surprise, briefly studying Hongjoong's bewildered face.
"And we need money?"
Hongjoong nodded, stepping through Seonghwa's absolutely spotless room towards his bed to drop himself next to the nightwalker. He propped one hand on the mattress behind Hongjoong, just leaning a little closer to listen to him seriously.
Hongjoong sat on his hands slightly nervous.
"I had an idea... We could exchange me for that reward and I'll escape again."
A deep laugh vibrated in Seonghwa's chest.
"You think they can't hold a human?"
"Do they expect a San? Besides, this is more like a bounty hunt, not a government order."
Seonghwa didn't seem to agree, and Hongjoong hurried to continue talking.
"We just have to make it right. As if I had lost Wooyoung, even though I was trying to extort ransom money, and one of you drunkenly caught me somewhere. Yeosang can take me, and you and San will bail me out or something."
The idea made sense in Hongjoong's mind. They did not have the time to work long hours, and he did not want to steal actually, so this was the solution.
"I'd rather not. But for what it's worth, if you want to see me shock your guards and carry you out in my arms, go ahead. Have your fun.", the nightwalker teased him gently and Hongjoong's chin was grasped so the other had free access to give him a soft kiss on the lips.
Hongjoong surrendered, allowing himself to grab the other's hair for a moment and let the sweet kiss deepen into something more heated. Seonghwa allowed him to do so, returning the attack with an effortless grace.
His lips - warmed by Hongjoong's own heat - glided only too quickly from Hongjoong's mouth down to his throat, kissing undisturbed at the spot below which his pulse was boiling.
"Let's make it look as if you've already been weakened and attacked."
Sighing, Hongjoong offered him his neck, trembling only for a moment as the nightwalker buried his teeth in his skin.
Wooyoung and Yunho had exactly the same kind of grin on their faces when Hongjoong later called them all into the kitchen for a briefing. They were barely holding on to their chairs, their legs bobbing as they fought tooth and nail not to comment on the bite on their captain's neck.
Yeosang looked as usual and San - with a small ponytail - at least did not look too disturbed.
Seonghwa's eyes stuck to the tabletop.
Hongjoong calmly explained their next steps and worked out a plan with them as to how Seonghwa would accompany him. On Wooyoung's kidnapping he was involved as an accomplice and so they could pretend that he betrayed him for the money. Then Yunho would show up with San, who would pose as Hongjoong and cause more confusion before they escaped with the money.
They could not take the responsibility to have San locked up, so they would actually have to get the real Hongjoong out somehow.
The dangerous action they planned made a warm ball of anticipation and excitement bounce into Hongjoong's lower stomach. The trading island they were getting closer to worked only with old technology and therefore did not use any complicated energy techniques.
It was the perfect ruse.
Yeosang also had a few words left about the thief.
"It was a tiefling, about six feet tall and named Kim Yugyeom. He will use the money to make up for a losing bet with a group of students. We can pay him a little visit when we're done."
No one had any idea where he got his somewhat too specific information from, whether he had somehow located him by ship and recognized his face. Yet no one asked. Yeosang just knew things.
"Perhaps... I would like to tell him not to bet with teenagers. They are horrible.", Wooyoung muttered softly to himself and Yunho looked slightly worried between him and the enthusiastically nodding Seonghwa.
"Anything else? Maybe we should find a crew member on the island? At least keep our eyes open? We could use more fighters, right?"
Hongjoong nodded at Yeosang thoughtfully.
"A good idea. Any of you got problems with Naga, or Amphibris, or anything like that? Fenris maybe?"
"I don't like amphibris.", was Wooyoung's grumbling reply, while at the same time San brought out a choked "No Naga!".
While the two clasped hands again, Hongjoong weighed his choices. That would be the last addition, he should somehow take care to be considerate of his crew, but also smooth out their weaknesses.
"We could also raise our quota of women here a bit. It's not that great so far." Hongjoong took a quick look at Aurora, who was barely visible under Yunho's gentle hands.
No one really blinked, but instead of San, a decidedly female, black-haired beauty suddenly sat there, her full breasts gently pressing against Wooyoung's arm. The lashunta was abruptly so red that it seemed almost purple under his slightly bluish skin.
"So when it comes to that..." San left the sentence unfinished and just winked seductively at Hongjoong, the red lips all too inviting.
Yunho covered Aurora's eyes with a protesting sound.
"Fine, uh... We have enough woman.", Hongjoong saved them in a strange cough and San just raised his shoulders, being himself again.
Wooyoung stared at his arm with a strange grin.
"It's getting too weird here, I'm going to check on the ship." Nonchalantly, Yeosang rose and marched out of the room, removing the spell from the rest.
"Alright, so you guys keep an eye out for anything you find. He doesn't have to be a gladiator or anything, an ordinary, brave guy is enough. We're more appearance than what's actually behind either way."
The boys nodded seriously before Hongjoong also rose and went to make himself a coffee, not forgetting San's hot chocolate. The rest scattered again afterwards and Seonghwa was the only one who kept Hongjoong company, thinking hard about who should be the one to join them.
"We might as well take a nightwalker with us. One of those newer ones, you know? The ones that don't get hurt by the sun."
Another failed experiment, but they were among them now.
"Another one? Who will feed him, Yeosang? I don't know if he's that keen on it."
Seonghwa's grin was smug, the dark voice comradely as he whispered close to Hongjoong's ear.
"As fast as your body reacts to me when I do, I'm sure you wouldn't mind having two of us against you."
Hongjoong struck out at him.
Chapter 28: Tricks
The Sunrise looked only half out of place at the small harbour full of zeppelins and steampunk-like airships, could score with her traditional ship character, even if she flew differently. The crew's plan was carried out as planned.
Hongjoong would be betrayed at a public place by Seonghwa and handed over to the officials. Then Yunho appeared with the 'real Hongjoong' San and caused confusion. Meanwhile San liberated Hongjoong. Seonghwa would have returned to the ship by then with their reward and Wooyoung and Yeosang might have picked up a potential crew member in the meantime.
Their plan was not perfect, needed a lot of spontaneity, but they would see how far they got. If necessary, Yeosang could also ram the Sunrise into the building.
Hongjoong had already shouldered his bag with some provisions for the long day and was already standing at the extendable plank downwards while Seonghwa was still imposing camouflage on Wooyoung and Yeosang. Better not take any risks.
After that only the two of them left the ship for the time being.
Seonghwa had buried both of his hands in the pockets of his long black coat, physically refrained from grasping Hongjoong's hand and the captain felt the same. Did not make sense to hold hands now when they wanted to act out a play.
Under a cloudy sky with its artificially maintained clouds, they both marched into a pleasant corner of the city. There were enough people on the way who would take notice of them, but not too many, as in the trade routes.
Seonghwa started out of the blue.
"Hey, Hongjoong... I've been thinking. About you, about us."
Curiously, Hongjoong turned his head towards him, slowing his step a bit, to bump his shoulder comradely against Seonghwa's.
"What, is this your confession of love coming? Aww, Seonghwa!"
The other one shook his head oh so sadly, even though the corners of his mouth twichted amusedly for a moment.
"No, no. I think we should stop. I think we should split up."
Hongjoong let a last quiet moment pass before he started.
"What?! After all-- WHAT?"
The first heads turned to them confusedly, but the crowd still went on, undisturbed.
"Listen, you should understand this. We've talked about this. I can't really-"
"You said you'd always be by my side! Seonghwa!", Hongjoong exclaimed somewhat louder, took the next step and grabbed the nightwalker by the collar with both hands. At first, Seonghwa instinctively followed the movement, then he stiffened abruptly, towering darkly over the other man.
"We talked about this! You cannot ask me to do something like that! It was all very nice flying with you, but now it's enough." Gruffly, he knocked Hongjoong's hands off himself and turned to leave.
Hongjoong sent an inner apology to him, then grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him around. Painfully, his fist made contact with Seonghwa's chin.
A passer-by oohed in shock as Seonghwa's head flew around briefly, then focused on Hongjoong again with icily burning eyes.
"Call the officers.", was also heard in the crowd and Hongjoong concentrated on Seonghwa, no gentleness in his gaze, because a second of hesitation meant that they were discovered.
Hongjoong raised both fists again, ready to strike, even if it hurt him to have to treat Seonghwa's face like that.
At least the soldier thought along and grabbed Hongjoong's wrists, pulling him closer roughly.
"I thought we were a team!"
"You, yes! You thought! Why can't you ever be considerate of me while you think?!"
Hongjoong resisted Seonghwa's firm grip, throwing wild accusations and threats between them.
The crowd did not dare come closer, but they were more restless, slowed down or stood to watch.
They fought a little, kicking the other, always staying in the same spot and heating up each other and their audience with wild insults.
Everything got out of hand when Seonghwa roughly pulled Hongjoong by his arms even closer, pressed their bodies close together and tilted his head to ram his teeth into his neck.
An actual cry of pain escaped him, but Hongjoong was not afraid. He could trust Seonghwa.
"Let go, you damned-" Hongjoong pulled and turned, but it was absolutely impossible to escape Seonghwa, to dodge the hungry teeth in his throat.
Hongjoong yelled again, for the sincerity of the situation, while Seonghwa did not really drink, only stayed hidden by his dark hair, apologetically licking up the blood around the wound.
Still, Hongjoong tried hard to let his resistance weaken little by little, desperately clinging to Seonghwa as if his strength was failing him.
The murmuring in the crowd became louder, the searching looks more frantic as Hongjoong collapsed, only held by Seonghwa who continued to pretend to suck his blood.
"Oh, my God, he's killing him!"
"In broad daylight, I hate these nightwalkers!"
"Shouldn't we help? The kid doesn't stand a chance!"
"There they are! Over here, Captain. They're here!"
Seonghwa finally let go as the soldiers' cries of warning approached. Still his arms held Hongjoong like the most precious possession, Hongjoong himself had dropped his head unconscious on his chest.
He was wide awake and alert.
"You there! Break it up, what's going on?!"
"The nightwalker attacked him, sir!"
"No, no! The boy struck first!"
The crowd shouted wildly, almost exchanging racist slurs, as the soldiers approached, stopped short. They had no weapons with them, but the threat was obvious.
Seonghwa straightened up a bit, dropped Hongjoong like a sack of potatoes. He grunted as his chin hit the ground hard, tasting blood.
That was revenge, huh, Seonghwa?
"I am Park Seonghwa, fleet captain." He probably showed them his badge.
"This here is wanted Kim Hongjoong, and I hereby surrender his lousy existence to the chiefs."
Someone carefully rolled Hongjoong around, and as if he was totally gone, he looked up useless to the three guards from half-closed lids.
A black naga with six arms. An elderly fenris with a raven on his shoulder and a blonde wodae. Good team.
"Check this.", Fenris said to Wodae, and she pulled a small computer out of her bracelet for a moment, typing cleverly on the hologram.
"He's right. Kim is wanted for kidnapping. I assume you put a stop to it?"
Seonghwa nodded gloomily, and Hongjoong rang out a betrayed curse.
"Good work, comrade. Tell me your connection, I'll transfer the reward to you immediately and you'll have him out of your sight in no time." The wodae took Seonghwa aside, perhaps staring at his face a little too long, standing a little too close, but Hongjoong had to swallow his anger.
Meanwhile, the naga collected Hongjoong, did not even bother to get a cage because he had six arms after all and Hongjoong was only some human, right?
Seonghwa did not look at him anymore when the people left together with him, smoothly disappearing between the passers-by. Flabby, Hongjoong let himself be taken along.
Fenris took him by the hair at some point, pulled him around to be able to study his wound.
"That doesn't look bad. He's no longer losing blood, but there are several fresh wounds, it's a question of how much blood he still has to lose."
Hongjoong rolled his eyes.
They laughed quietly among themselves, then entered what might be the most fashionable building here.
Hongjoong was not taken to the race-independent oxygen cells. Rather, he was given a normal cell with a door in front of it. Why bother, he was human. He was thus kept in the good old bar cell. Oh, the aesthetics.
He was left on the uncomfortable stretcher and his wounds were treated with substance before the trio left again. Hongjoong stayed behind, watching the cameras.
Now they had to wait. Some time had to pass until the other two showed up, otherwise it looked too coordinated. Hongjoong could use this time to think about whether he could convert the naga and worry about Seonghwa.
He must have arrived safely, and the fact that he did not show up here meant only good things.
Hongjoong lay and waited, took a nap in between and also got food after he carefully asked for it through the bars.
The naga and the wodae were gone again in between, helping somewhere, but the Fenris stayed, guarding Hongjoong while his raven stared at him non-stop.
It was incredibly boring alone in the row of three cells (small island) and Hongjoong actually passed his time by sleeping.
The people here did not have a beaming system, so they would probably put him on a ship tomorrow that would take him back to Trascen and beam him from there. Then he would be handed over directly to Wooyoung's father, who would then do Heaven knows what with him.
But if he remained the only prisoner, it could be that they waited longer to deliver a larger load. Hongjoong's case wasn't that urgent either. It played to their advantage.
Groaning, he turned around again on the rancid mattress.
Time to get some more sleep.
He would hear Yunho and San coming.
Chapter 29: Criminals
It was becoming late, the sky in front of the small window in the corridor opposite was getting darker and darker, when some more life came into the station.
The naga and the wodae returned after their long trip, in their midst a large, soon to be imprisoned amphibris. Hongjoong lifted his head curiously as he stepped through the door with them, stopping at the fenris' table for the time being. They were all wet, their hair stuck flat to their foreheads.
Fenris almost looked up at the stranger chastisingly, then sighed with a beaten expression
"Again, Mingi? Just let him go, folks, it won't work anymore." They seemed to be familiar with each other.
The red-haired amphibris raised his hands defensively. They were unbound, not restrained in any way. He was not dangerous?
"Come on, I was really this close! Can't you just put out a sheet and write about how evil I am and I don't know, put a bounty on my head or something? I'll never bother you again!" His deep voice was surprisingly pleasant, seemed unfitting for a young man at first, but it was not bad.
The trio looked torn, so pitiful with this man who was missing a horn on his left side. Hongjoong continued to prick up his ears.
"Mingi, we can't punish you for something you didn't do. Moreover, we do not support gang activities. If they know that we helped you get in, we'll all be in trouble.", said old Fenris gently, so mature and apologetic.
Hongjoong was so curious. Who was this amphibris? He was a gang member? A double spy perhaps, the way he talked to them?
"Let him go. Mingi, please try something else to get a lifg out of. You must have realized by now that you're just too clumsy to steal." He continued to send the man away.
Mingi's voice was suddenly small, so vulnerable despite his large build and deep scratching.
"Could I possibly stay again? It started raining and someone else stole my blanket earlier..."
The understanding slowly reached Hongjoong and his heart contracted uncomfortably in his chest.
The soldiers exchanged unsteady looks until Fenris finally nodded with another exhausted sigh. He leaned back heavily on his bench.
"There is no one here today who can take offence at this. Promise not to come here again, man. You gotta find something else." The naga brotherly patted Mingi's shoulder and it hurt Hongjoong.
It was the wodae that gently took Mingi by the arm, walked with him to one of the cells. It was the one next to Hongjoong, a cell from which a healthy amphibris could easily escape. It made sense. Mingi obviously was not here because he was such a good criminal.
"Here, I'll bring you some more food in a minute, alright? Shall I put your shoes by the heater?" She leaned confidently in the open door, while Mingi made himself comfortable in the camp, seemingly familiar with this environment.
"No, that's fine, thanks. Hwanwoong will know if they're too dry tomorrow." He pulled a grimace as he slipped out of his wet boots, his claws clacking scratchily on the floor.
The wodae nodded sadly, then shut the door and disappeared further back into the station. The naga began a quiet conversation with the fenris.
Hongjoong stared, waiting for the amphibris to finally turn his head curiously. Which he did almost immediately.
Mingi looked... sad. Just as marked by life as San. But while San didn not know life, Mingi seemed to know its dark corners all too well.
He was dirty and wet, the red hair hanging lifelessly in his eyes. His clothes seemed too big on him, and the fracture of his one horn only added to the image of a lost puppy.
Yet his full lips curled into a broad smile when he met Hongjoong's gaze, showing white teeth and a slightly crooked incisor. How cute.
"Hey. I haven't seen you around here before. You must be new here, huh?"
And he was in that cell way too much.
"Ah, yes. I kidnapped the wrong guy, how about you? Theft, if I heard you right?"
Mingi waved his hand in embarrassment, laughing shyly, his eyes having vanished under the force of his happy smile.
"No, no. Just the attempt. I want to become a gang member and have to take a test for that. I can only dream of being a kidnapper.", he babbled a little too much, but Hongjoong did not mind.
"Oh, I see. No luck yet, I guess?"
"Not at all. I've been trying for years!"
That was... not bad. Or rather very bad. He was a real lousy thief.
Hongjoong was deeply impressed.
"Years? They never changed the test for you? Or... I don't know, why don't you try somewhere else?", he asked with honest curiosity and astonishment.
Mingi leaned against the bars between them with a sigh, his eyes turned to the ground.
"I don't really have a choice. My education is basically zero, and normal jobs do not promise you a roof over your head. Meanwhile, it's also a matter of pride to make the test work!"
So Hongjoong did guess right. He had no home.
Hongjoong bit his lip, looked at this bright and positive amphibris with no future prospects.
"I can understand. Is it a group with a name?"
Mingi became more attentive again, looking excitedly at Hongjoong.
"Oneus, have you heard of them?!"
"...no. Sorry, man."
Mingi just laughed and shook his head happily.
"It's alright. They're not some big, cruel mafia. More a small group that makes a home for the rest. They only do what they have to."
Just like Hongjoong and his crew.
The wodae came along and they were quiet for a minute. Mingi thanked her many times for letting him stay and then waved Hongjoong to come closer in order to share his food with him through the bars.
The naga and fenris watched them with the conflict obvious on their faces.
"Well, tell me! What is your name?"
"Hongjoong, Kim Hongjoong. You are Mingi, huh?"
Mingi nodded enthusiastically.
"Could you imagine being in another group? You could come with me."
Hongjoong could not help it. He could not leave Mingi to his fate of living on the streets, finding shelter in a bare cell at night.
Mingi giggled conspiratorially.
"Listen, I can leave anytime, you're locked up here.", he reminded him as if he were a silly child, generously giving him the last cookie (those had not been included at Hongjoong's dinner).
"Oh, I'll leave too. Do you want to join? We'll sail through the sky, looking for adventure."
Mingis eyes shone like those of one who had never left his home, never tasted the freedom of the sky.
"I have nothing to leave here, but really. These three are doing a good job, you don't just run out of here, I'm sorry. I'm afraid more adventure in heaven won't be possible."
If only he knew.
"If I can prove it to you. "If I come out here and show you my ship, my crew, will you come with me?"
Mingi raised his shoulders nonchalantly, but Hongjoong saw tears gleaming in his eyes. Heavens, that hurt.
"It would be a dream... to be part of a team... to have a home. If you offer me that, I'll go with you. You seem like a good guy." His voice was rough, and Hongjoong just wanted to blow up those bars and hug the big guy, never let go.
Time for his people to show up.
As if they had heard him (which could have been possible actually if Wooyoung was present), a hectic mogry suddenly rushed through the door, attracting the attention of the soldiers and also of both of them.
"Quick, quick! Kim Hongjoong was just seen outside, he must have escaped you!"
Hongjoong happily crossed his legs, leaning at Mingis side, waiting. He looked around absolutely overwhelmed between the mogry and Hongjoong.
"Wait, isn't that you? You're posing as him?", he hissed exaggeratedly at him, while the soldiers confusedly moved, obviously seeing Hongjoong in his cell. He remained smugly silent.
"Are you sure?!"
The mogry nodded eagerly, showing a hologram.
There it was, a perfect image of Hongjoong, no faint nightwalker flickering and nothing, because that was San. San had no solid form.
The confusion in the faces of the others rose, then the fenris grabbed the wodae.
"We'll take a look, you guard him! One of them is not real!"
Hongjoong was about to whistle innocently.
Mingi looked fascinated from him to the door, as if he was just waiting for a second one to come in.
The fenris' raven continued to guard them with sharp eyes while the naga made calls, presumably to a higher office to let them know about the case.
San appeared absolutely out of nowhere and he had Yeosang and Yunho with him.
Yeosang made short work of the bird, a gentle crack and he was gone while Yunho hurriedly pulled the door to the office shut behind the naga.
Hongjoong grinned disarmingly at the perfect image of himself.
"I wish we were back on the ship, Yunho, Mingi, Yeosang, you and I."
Mingi had started to say something, but it faded away when San immediately complied to the wish with a smile.
The naga broke through the wooden door a second later, but all he found was a dead raven and three empty cells.
Chapter 30: Song Mingi
They landed in the bridge of the Sunrise, Mingi somewhat clumsy on the stairs and San again as himself.
Beneath them, the engines were already whirring, announcing their location in the sky, and as Hongjoong looked around, he now noticed Wooyoung holding San's hand again and Aurora joyfully licking Yunho's cheek.
Mingi looked around with big eyes and open mouth, his amazement barely masked as his yellowish eyes glided across the room.
Hongjoong had to grin.
"Well, folks, this here is Mingi, our new friend. Mingi this here is Yunho, our doctor, Yeosang, our mechanic, Wooyoung, our mascot - the kidnapped one by the way - Aurora, our... our other mascot, and San the djinn. Welcome to the Sunrise.", he greeted the man effusively, and at least he did not look like he was going to cry again.
Rather too overwhelmed for that.
So he immediately started to shake hands chaotically and to greet in the respective gestures, was loudly welcomed by Wooyoung, while the rest smiled rather reservedly.
"Please look around for some clothes for him and we'll meet in the kitchen later to discuss the room arrangement. Yeosang, I need a communicator for him."
The crew dispersed and Wooyoung waved sweetly, then he pulled San away with him. Aurora swarmed after them and Yeosang followed.
Yunho stayed behind with them, carefully falling onto one of their chairs.
Mingi was considerably bigger than Hongjoong, but still small next to Yunho.
And he could not get out of his astonishment.
"You... really have a crew and a ship! And you escaped! Just like that!" With deep respect, he inspected Hongjoong.
He had to laugh again and pointed Mingi to sit on the other chair.
"Yunho is our doctor, you should check everything with him. How you've lived, if you're sick, these things. He should know." Hongjoong patted Mingis shoulders softly, smiling at Yunho as well, who responded to the gesture brightly and invitingly smiling.
Yunho took his communicator to help him talk to Mingi, interviewing him with that native patience.
Hongjoong knew he was in good hands.
So he set out to prepare a bath for Mingi, to see if they had found something at least halfway suitable for the amphibris on board.
He had just arrived at the bathroom when Seonghwa stepped outside, the room behind him already warm, and Hongjoong could also make out a pile of clothes and towels. He had thought well.
Hongjoong just turned his head to thank the nightwalker, then the other's lips were already on his, cool hands holding his face as if it was made of glass.
Hongjoong forgot everything he wanted to say, letting Seonghwa know he was with him even though he felt sorry for everyone who came down the aisle now. Seonghwa liked to be caught in dangerous positions with Hongjoong. Hongjoong did not mind, but the rest of the crew... well...
"Seonghwa.", he muttered softly between their kisses, trying to get the man's attention. Seonghwa barely let him, kissing more, kissing deeper, until Hongjoong clumsily grabbed his shoulders, gently parting from him.
Hongjoong's quickened breath echoed in the empty hallway when he found Seonghwa's eyes, discovering pain. Gently, he reached out a hand and touched the nightwalker on the chin, close to the place where no injury was seen (as it was without blood) but it certainly hurt anyway.
"Let's never do that again. I hurt you." Seonghwa's voice was rough with remorse and guilt, and his hand stroked lost over Hongjoong's neck where he had bitten him before.
It had been agreed upon, yet it hurt him so much.
Seonghwa seemed distraught all around.
"I think I hurt you more by asking you to do this.", Hongjoong replied softly, pulled himself up to his tiptoes to press an apologetic kiss on Seonghwa's forehead. His long eyelashes fluttered like dark fans as he leaned against the touch, embracing Hongjoong's hips with his arms to pull him to his body like the highest good.
Hongjoong came down again, nestled willingly in the other's arms. They fit like two pieces of a puzzle, it felt like home.
"I was worried. We should wait, but it was torture not knowing where you were or how you were doing." Seonghwa leaned back, against the wall and spoke softly in Hongjoong's hair, his otherwise so enticing voice now like cool wind on a warm day.
Hongjoong would never let go of him.
"I had good company. You should meet him later."
Seonghwa just hummed vaguely, tilting Hongjoong's head slightly to one side with his nose so he could bend down again to find the other's lips. It was tender and soft, like a lover's touch and Hongjoong just fell deeper and deeper for him.
A sudden 'ohhh' tore them out of their thoughts, back into the hallway where they were still standing, blocking half of it.
Mingi had come running, probably sent into the bathtub by Yunho, and he now looked around between the two of them with understanding in his eyes as they stood there tightly embraceg each other.
"I see, you've already- I'll try to get rid of my crush very quickly before it gets worse, okay? Don't worry."
He was babbling too much. He was Wooyoung.
Seonghwa laughed softly, then took his hands off Hongjoong where they had just started to get warm. Hongjoog stepped away from him again, rubbing his neck uncomfortable from the sudden emptiness.
"I am sorry. On the very first day..." Hongjoong grimaced.
Mingi grinned cheerfully and naive, waving dismissively.
"No problem, not at all! It's better this way than later, before I... you know."
Hongjoong tried to explain himself somehow, but Seonghwa got there first.
"You, to me. We'll talk about it. You go rest, Hongjoong."
The nightwalker dragged Mingi into the bathroom and smiled his strange smile at Hongjoong once more, then he was gone and Hongjoong was left alone in the hallway.
The kitchen, then. They had to discuss the situation.
They had agreed that San would share his room with Wooyoung. San slept in his lamp anyway, so he did not need quite so much space, his things could be stored in Wooyoung's cupboard.
Mingi could thus move into San's room and seemed very happy about it, generally seemed to have switched off at some point today.
Yunho had told Hongjoong that it would be much for him to have a bathroom, a kitchen, a bed and dry clothes. Mingi would need some time to get used to it and probably would not understand it even then. Just like San with his newly won freedom.
Mingi seemed to like Yunho, though, was open about his thoughts and problems with him, and Yunho was sure that he could help him as much as Wooyoung did with San.
It was a great relief for Hongjoong, and even though he had done virtually nothing else all day but lie around on that uncomfortable thing, he could hardly wait to go back to his room now. He took some snacks with him and planned to fall into his bed and leave it in ten hours.
Seonghwa put a spoke in the wheel.
The nightwalker sat on Hongjoong's bed, wide awake and in the middle of the darkness of course. Hongjoong first dazzled him unintentionally, scared him to death, then he turned on a small dimmed light.
"Did you talk to Mingi? You didn't threaten him or anything, right?" Hongjoong calmly placed his cookies on his bedside table, Seonghwa lifted his legs up on the bed so he would not have to navigate around them too complicatedly.
"Of course not. He totally understood, just didn't think you could have someone before."
Hongjoong nodded in agreement, stripping off his jacket to hang it on the door.
He hummed questioningly, brushing his boots and socks off his feet.
"This between us doesn't have to be... anything. If you want Mingi, then..." He got lost, nervously looking down at his lap.
They should have taken the time to discuss this.
Hongjoong approached Seonghwa on quiet soles, reaching the edge of the bed and gently grabbing the other's face.
"Hey. It's me, Seonghwa. Are you that worried about losing me? Weak human again?"
Seonghwa looked around silently between his eyes, then shook his head tentatively. Hongjoong gently stroked his cheeks.
"I'm afraid you want to leave. Because I'm too boring, too insecure, too repulsive... I'm waiting for it every day.", he whispered throatily, nestled tremulous in Hongjoong's touch as if it could disappear at any moment.
Hongjoong's heart kicked and beat in his chest, scolded him to be a fool for making Seonghwa believe that. His pretty nightwalker, so sad because of him.
"I told you, it doesn't matter. Nothing could make me leave. I want you, Seonghwa, in every way and with everything I wouldn't have gone into it if I wanted to end it over something like this." He put as much honesty and affection as possible in his voice, trying to deliver the message.
Seonghwa blinked tears from his eyes, raising trembling hands to Hongjoong's hips. He carefully pulled the man down to his bed, his fingers pleasantly gentle over the warmth of Hongjoong's flesh.
Seonghwa nodded weakly, pulling Hongjoong completely into his arms to press him against himself like a comforting plush toy.
Hongjoong smiled weakly into his shoulder.
"Yes... all good."
Chapter 31: United
Hongjoong woke up the next morning in Seonghwa's arms, the nightwalker even a little warm under Hongjoong's blanket and pressed tightly against him for a change. The smaller one of the two could not feel any more comfortable surrounded by the fragrant figure of the other.
However, he was denied any further rest. The change of his breath made Seonghwa aware of him.
"You're awake?" He sounded tired, his voice rough from all the disuse, but he had some time left before he would go to sleep himself. Time to cuddle.
Hongjoong just hummed, blinking into the darkness of his room and then brought his hands up to tiredly rub his glued shut eyes. How nice that Seonghwa's body did not have such functions and he could see in the dark instead. Marvelous.
"Were you here all night?" He sounded deep and rough himself, turning in Seonghwa's arms to snuggle up to the other's warm chest. He would love to listen to Seonghwa's heart, if he had one.
"Not quite. Yeosang needed me in between, so I was gone. You slept like a rock." He shifted his arms, bringing one hand up to stroke gently through Hongjoong's hair. He became sleepy again, felt himself succumbing to the touch.
He was almost gone when Seonghwa woke him up again, pulling his arm out from under him, groaning, moving Hongjoong up a little higher on the bed.
"Do not fall asleep again. You have to get out soon, and I want your company until then."
Hongjoong just grumbled, keeping his eyes closed, even as Seonghwa let a small light fly into the corner of a room, bathing it in soft orange. It was not too bright, but it helped Hongjoong keep his eyes open.
"Should I tell Wooyoung later that we slept together? He'll keep you on your feet throughout the day.", the nightwalker continued to tease the other gently, rolling him on his back to be able to lean over him better. Gentle kisses tickled Hongjoong's chin and jaw, wandering across his face like butterflies.
"Don't you dare. He'll get the wrong idea."
He became drowsy again, lulled by Seonghwa's caresses.
"Would you do it? Sometime? I'm only asking out of curiosity."
Hongjoong just hummed, barely registering the question.
"Would I do what?"
"Would you sleep with me?"
Now that was obvious.
Hongjoong's eyes fluttered open again, finding Seonghwa, still bent over him calmly, his elbows resting in the pillows to the left and right of his head.
For a moment, they stared at each other in questioningly, trying to read each other's thoughts.
"I know that it is unusual for humans to, also because of the danger. But mostly because of fear, which you don't plan on sharing because of me. So this is not an important question. Just curiosity.", Seonghwa reassured again. He seemed to have a hard time weighing up to what extent Hongjoong would still sleep with aliens and when he would draw the line.
"I have never before... with a nightwalker, I mean. But it wasn't because I wasn't interested, it was because there was no one suitable." Hongjoong blushed, trying to hide his face in his shoulder.
Shortly after that, he gave up and dropped his head again, lazily watching Seonghwa, who held perfectly still.
"Well, yes, I would. Even if I had to get used to it, without warmth and pulse and all that. Also how your body works. Just because of the danger, I would probably want to top- at least in the beginning."
Seonghwa nodded thoughtfully, seemed to be lost for a moment, but then a mischievous grin crept up on his face. He came down a bit, leaned his forehead against Hongjoong's and was close enough that his pretty face blurred, he somehow only had one eye left.
Even minion Seonghwa still looked good, Hongjoong hated his life. (Minions not, minions actually existed after a long time of breeding, but only on Mars. Hongjoong loved minions).
"In the beginning, huh? Sounds almost like you're trying to keep me above you even later on."
Hongjoong closed his eyes with a snort - nothing minion - and tried to push Seonghwa gently away from him.
"That was the idea, but who knows, maybe you feel so comfortable that it's not even up for discussion. We literally met with you between my legs, that's pretty direct.", Hongjoong returned fiery and Seonghwa raised his head from his to stare at him amusedly for a moment. Hongjoong sulked like a child, too easily caught.
Seonghwa moved under the blankets, pulling them down from their sides as he suddenly placed one leg between Hongjoong's, slipping effortlessly between them. Hongjoong's breath faltered for a moment when Seonghwa reached down and found the hollow of Hongjoong's knee with one hand. Seonghwa lifted his leg right up, pulled it close above his hip and then came down so that the centres of their bodies were pressed directly against each other.
Fortunately Hongjoong was not San and did not sleep naked, hallelujah.
Seonghwa had never taken his eyes off Hongjoong and those eyes were lakes of darkness in which Hongjoong was drowning.
Besides, he suddenly felt too warm under the blankets.
"Seonghwa...", he warned quietly, not knowing what he was going to say. It was certainly not a complaint, but was it a permission?
"I'm between your legs like this too, Hongjoong. Have you ever thought about what I might want there?" Seonghwa's nose touched his when he lowered his face to the other one's, still not kissing him.
Hongjoong was tense, his hands buried in the sheets, just waiting for Seonghwa to make another move. Sleep was forgotten.
"It seems you want different things between my legs."
Seonghwa laughed, but then raised his head far enough to find Hongjoong's gaze again. He asked a silent question, a silent question that made Hongjoong hesitate.
"Not today. Mingi has just arrived and I want to read about it or something first. Give me time until you're not the only one doing all the work.", he finally muttered carefully, anxious to give Seonghwa wrong thoughts again, and raised one hand to gently stroke the other's cheek.
But he just smiled.
"How sweet. You can be selfish too, you know? I'm offering."
Hongjoong shook his head vehemently.
"No chance. I'm not letting you do heaven knows what to me here and then just walk out, I don't work that way."
Seonghwa laughed, then bent down to put a chaste kiss on Hongjoong's lips. All civil and harmless.
"Fine, you go out and do your important things, see you this afternoon."
Hongjoong snorted heavily, lifting his leg around Seonghwa's body again to get on his knees.
"You can sleep now while I'm distracted all day, thank you very much." He sulked again, looking around for his socks.
"But you are awake, aren't you?"
Yes, he was awake.
Grumbling, he climbed out of bed, finally found his socks and started to put them on. Meanwhile, Seonghwa sorted the cushions and smoothed out the blankets where Hongjoong had made a mess of their order.
Hongjoong tried not to think about how he would obviously sleep here, in Hongjoong's bed, instead of his own.
"Well, I'm out. I wish you far too vivid dreams! Good afternoon." Hongjoong turned to the door to leave, already stretching out his hand for the button, when Seonghwa was duddenly right behind with a big step, pressing himself lengthwise against his body. One hand came up to Hongjoong's neck, pushing his head back against Seonghwa's shoulder with gentle force, and the other found his hip.
Seonghwa's lips sank to his own, searching, pressing, wanting, and like a shock, the accumulated heat twitched through Hongjoong's body. A whimper faded between them as he reached up with both hands, stretching his back to grab Seonghwa's hair, making him roughly taste that piercing he so desired.
They got lost in each other, they knew each other well enough by now to use the knowledge to their advantage, to turn the other one's head completely into mush.
And in Seonghwa's case: to steal Hongjoong's breath.
After all, he was the one who had to let go to gasp for breath, his neck aching. Seonghwa abruptly released him from his grip, wandered back to bed and his light went out while he buried himself contentedly under the blankets.
Hongjoong laughed softly in the darkness, his breath heavy.
"You have no idea what you're getting yourself into."
With another giggle, Hongjoong left the room, the taste and feeling of Seonghwa's lips still noticeable for a while.
Hongjoong had already learned how nightwalker sex worked - it was different without blood - but he would have to do more research to come to terms with the idea.
He did not want to ask San, that would be very cruel (and Wooyoung would hear about it).
The Sunrise was also open to everyone, a dangerous method.
So he had only one solution.
He had to ask his ex again how these things worked. He was looking forward to the comments about Yunho's own stature.
Hongjoong sighed heavily.
Yeosang laughed somewhere in the ship.
After all, one who was happy...
Chapter 32: Sex Ed
"We should celebrate, guys. We're complete."
Wooyoung looked up curiously from where he sat on their kitchen bench between San and Yeosang, playing with one of each's hands in his.
Mingi was leaning at the counter, sipping a definitely vegan coconut-banana shake with chocolate sprinkles (it was purple) and Yunho seemed strangely fascinated by this behaviour. Actually, the bleuwy even changed restless looks with the blender quite often.
"You want no more crew?" It was Yeosang who asked, trustworthy and confident.
Hongjoong shook his head.
"That's enough, isn't it? I can't pick up everyone I want or we'd never finish."
Confused, San tilted his head, meanwhile studying Mingi's drink, too.
"So a party for like 'yay this is our crew'? How about finding a nice island with a few lakes and meadows? We'll take a break there and then start fully into our first real adventure.", Yunho suggested distractedly, his eyes still scanning the details of Mingis drink relentlessly.
"Sounds good. If we party at night, Seonghwa can join in too."
No, Hongjoong, don't think about it. Don't do it. Don't. Fine, now the fat was in the fire.
The crew agreed more or less focused, Hongjoong had already digressed himself, too many fantasies of Seonghwa between his legs in his head.
"Do any of you know Stowa? The island? With the biggest lake?"
Yeosang was clearly too down to earth for their crew.
"The place, yes, but I've never been there."
The rest agreed, except for Wooyoung.
"I went there on vacation once! It's very beautiful, with an island in the middle since they reformatted it!", he reported loudly, releasing Sans hand to gesture.
Sulking, the djinn collapsed, just about to slide up to Hongjoong, to find comfort with him instead, when Wooyoung took hold of him again. His smile was disarming when he crossed his fingers with San's again, breathing a gentle kiss across his knuckles.
San snuggled happily back to him, the hint of a relieved smile on his face.
Hongjoong still could not believe the talent Wooyoung had shown at integrating him. He turned out to be so strong and helpful, mercilessly erasing Hongjoong's initial doubts and he could not be prouder.
San deserved someone like him. Someone who would give him his heart without hesitation.
They grew up so quickly...
"Then let's go there. Yunho, do you have some time for me after this?", Hongjoong decided when obviously everyone was happy with the idea and Yunho hardly took his eyes from Mingi's lips and nodded slightly.
"Doctor Jeong always has time for his captain." He saluted very seriously, the mischief in his eyes shining.
The rest of the crew dispersed again, following their hobbies or getting on each other's nerves, so that in the end only Yunho and Hogjoong were left alone. Sighing, the captain looked around.
"Let's go to your room, it's too public here."
"Can I come with you?", Aurora chirped sneakilyly from Yunho's lap and Hongjoong shook his head vehemently.
"Nope, you're the very last I would allow in. You know too much anyway." He chased her away, enjoying her lilting laugh for a moment before he went to Yunho's room with him.
"You'd think someone had died with the way you take this so seriously." Yunho sounded a bit restless, closing the door behind them before he made himself comfortable on the bed at Hongjoong's side. Hongjoong sat at the foot, Yunho at the head, facing each other and assessing their eyes.
"It's not without danger, it's true. But not even that. It's about sex, and they don't all need to hear that." He raised his shoulders. San did not need to because it could hurt him, the rest did not because that information would immediately be used as a weapon.
Yunho, on the other hand, nodded thoughtfully, absolutely calmly.
"You spoke to him about this?"
"Aye. We still agreed that it's better to ask the professional again."
Yunho basked in the compliment, then got more serious.
"You can't impregnate each other, I'll tell you in advance, which is good."
This could happen between races, regardless of gender. It's an unpleasant surprise for a man to get pregnant by a tentacle monster. How did you explain that to your parents?
"It could happen, however, that he hurts you in the process. I hope you remember from bio that nightwalkers need a good amount of blood before such escapades. Their sex works through magic because they don't have the genitals that humans have. Tell him exactly what you want him to do, you just have to agree, he'll do it. But with magic. You'll be weakened by the blood loss but won't really notice it while doing it. What he does notice, however, is how- say, delicious your blood is in your veins when in ecstasy. You must talk about that too. It's in his instinct to bite you at this moment, but with the blood loss from before, there can be serious consequences."
Hongjoong nodded on, listening carefully to every word. Basically, everything he knew but had repressed with his school days.
"How do nightwalkers feel pleasure, well, that depends... Normally, drinking blood covers all the needs they feel. They have a nerve center, though. If you ask him to combine his magic with that, it can work the same way as with normal people. If in doubt, the easiest way to start is to have him imitate you, perhaps with the exception of being more sexually linked to when you are the top. Ask him how much experience he has. Otherwise, let him examine you first."
Hongjoong had to laugh out loud, trying so hard to look at all this with the same medical seriousness.
"I'm not a guinea pig, Yunho!"
With a laugh, the bleuwy threw a pillow at him, hitting him harmlessly in the face
"You're not, but he must know your anatomy anyway to not hurt you! You cannot hurt him in this case."
For a moment they both sat there grinning, then the doctor mask slipped back onto Yunho's face.
"If you have any fetishes... Most things are possible because he can adapt, but nothing that can cause open wounds on you or him. And always keep some substance on you."
So difficult to sleep with his quasi-vampire boyfriend.
"Well, enough so far. Many things also depend on his personal comfort, of which I can say little. Remember, he does feel pleasure, and so he can't always be completely focused on the illusion part of his magic. When he is thinking about how much he would like to have you as a woman under him, heavens, be prepared to suddenly have breasts. But if you get the feeling you're Yeosang, you should worry."
Hongjoong threw the pillow back and Yunho caught it laughing in front of his face.
"Okay, enough talking. He knows these things, too, so if there are certain rules that should apply to him extra, he will point them out to you. I'm going out now and try not to think about how you're banging your vampire.", Yunho said as seriously as if they had not spent much time testing and understanding their limits the!selvws.
"I think nightwalkers are still pretty easy with that... They just adapt and if in doubt they'll tear you apart. Imagine that it's a mogry or something!"
"With a mogry, you would sit a nightwalker next to it, giving it the illusion of something useful, and now go. You'll get more out of a physical relationship than he will." Yunho rose with him and together they wandered out into the corridor again, past San's door, where a colorful Mingi sign had been hung in the meantime with scales and just one horn and everything
"So course for Stowa, huh? Although I would like to go more north. Northern lights and everything.", Hongjoong pondered thoughtlessly, Yeosang stuck to their heels like chewing gum in the hallway.
"Do that on your honeymoon. When are you going to marry?"
Hongjoong struck out for his tall, blue friend. He and Seonghwa were a long way from getting married.
"You'll know when I ask about nightwalker wedding traditions, don't worry."
"Will you invite us?", Yeosang inquired patiently, once again looking perfectly untouched like a statue, and Hongjoong felt like a wet sponge next to him. What was his crew so good-looking for, why? They were pirates!
"Sure. Wait. Why do we just assume we're getting married?! I don't marry everyone I date! For example Yunho!"
Yeosang patted his shoulder with a nod, fully understanding.
"You have my blessing."
Wonderful. They had Yeosang's blessing.
"With Yeosang's blessing, you practically have to marry him, Cap."
Reasons to marry Seonghwa: Yeosang.
"Of course. I'll just go steer our ship and do other captain things, okay? Marriage is not on the list."
Jesus, what would he want with a husband? With Seonghwa as his husband? What a strange notion. Hongjoong enjoyed his freedom quite a bit.
With a bunch of strange emotions in his chest and images in his head, Hongjoong went to check on the ship. Now, crew party. Everything else was a matter of timing.
Chapter 33: Conspiracy
The first day of their journey was uneventful.
On the second, Hongjoong found San seated on one of their chairs at the desk of the Sunrise and watching a hologram animation of a desert city through which flying carpets were speeding at an insane pace above the sphere in the room.
And Hongjoong came up with an excellent idea.
He went straight to work, only inaugurated Yeosang, who then told Wooyoung. From Wooyoung came the information that San did not know what a birthday was and of course also did not celebrate it. Yunho suspected that the man could not be very old, otherwise his memories of a time before that would not be that fresh.
So they decided that San would turn 20 with most of them. That was as soon as Hongjoong had managed to build him a glider that looked like a flying carpet.
Nothing and no one could stop him and Yeosang helped where he could, pointing out little things and keeping San out of the engine room where they were doing handicrafts.
Hongjoong spent a good portion of his time there, his thoughts constantly circling around the gift, what it should look like when he had finished it, what was still missing. In between he had briefly panicked that Seonghwa might become insecure about their relationship again. But when he had rushed frantically to their room - they had unintentionally started to share - Seonghwa had only welcomed him with a laugh, asking him with shining eyes to find some peace now and then.
Hongjoong still noticed his surroundings.
Mingi was well received, often found on the floor of the bridge, hands folded on his stomach and eyes blind, while Yunho sat at his side, a tablet on his lap and a purple drink in his hand. He had a therapeutic effect on the other man, had taken it upon himself to supervise him, just as Wooyoung had done with San.
Every now and then it was a little strange for them to see Yeosang ghosting through the corridors so lonely, but when he was spoken to, his sarcasm would mercilessly burn their fingers.
Yeosang was doing great and he loved to watch them and tease everybody for their slip-ups.
Eventually, everyone knew about Hongjoong's secret project except Mingi (who could not just not blab things out) and San himself. The djinn seemed to be confused and sad not to be initiated from time to time, also worriedly whispering to Hongjoong several times about his dark circles.
But everything was fine, he just had to wait.
They would be on their way to Stowa for two weeks, making a stopover to recharge their batteries and get more parts for Hongjoong.
Two weeks later, when Stowa finally came into view, Yunho brought him these good news while Hongjoong was sitting cross-legged on the floor painting the glider. He had long since lost all feeling in the back side and Aurora was slumbering beside him where she had played in the paint, had once been his brush holder.
Hongjoong yawned happily when Yunho told him and stretched after a long time finally.
His neck snapped warningly.
"You look like you're going to announce a week's vacation and then sleep through it completely. How did Seonghwa allow you to do that," Yunho joked gently, but his eyes glided amazedly over the glider, over the light blue buzzing energy gears below.
"He did not. I'm an adult myself, you know? He can play mother to you, but I decide when I sleep myself."
In truth, Seonghwa had often turned up with disappointed looks when he worked late into the morning, the whole ship being asleep, and only the nightwalker witnessed Hongjoong physically struggling to keep his eyes open.
It was also Seonghwa who dragged him to bed every night. Sometimes he pushed him out into the corridor, sometimes he carried him on his arms, forcing him to give his body a break at least for a few hours.
Hongjoong appreciated his concern, as well as his ability to read Hongjoong well enough by now that he knew it was hopeless. They all wanted to do this for San and if their help was to trust Hongjoong, then that was enough for him.
The day they docked at Stowa was the day Hongjoong finished the glider and Seonghwa later found him there, curled up like a child around the purring Aurora and out like a light.
The rest were allowed to go ahead, being led by Yeosang as assistant captain, and Seonghwa promised to follow with Hongjoong as soon as he had gotten a good night's sleep.
And he slept.
He slept through their complete, noisy departure, through Seonghwa getting ready for bed, through Seonghwa staying with him while he was lying in bed, keeping him asleep and did not wake up again until late in the evening, 14 hours later and when Seonghwa climbed over him out of bed again.
Hongjoong managed to grab the other man's hand weakly during his movement, just holding his fingers for a moment before he lost all his strength.
Seonghwa turned around questioningly, much more alert than his wrinkled looking captain who had the lines of his pillow on his face.
"I'm done, Hwa." he croaked deeply and throatily, seeing a smile twitch across the corner of Seonghwa's mouth. The nightwalker got down on one knee in front of their bed, grabbing Hongjoong's face tenderly to press a warm kiss on his forehead.
"You are. You did a great job, little perfectionist."
Hongjoong sulked at him.
"I am not little, Seonghwa."
"Yeah, I know. Wooyoung also isn't blond or anything. Or Yeosang the most cynical gangster in the universe." He rose laughing before Hongjoong could strike at him, wisely anticipating his fate.
"Shall we join the others then? San deserves his birthday present, doesn't he?"
Hongjoong just lay there, gazing at Seonghwa by the light of his dimmed lamp. The way he carried his chin, the high bridge of his nose, and the shadows his eyelashes cast on his cheeks.
The nightwalker also seemed to scrutinize him, pausing in the moment to imprint his face.
Hongjoong wondered what he saw.
A long moment passed, their silence expressive and then Seonghwa reached out his hand.
Hongjoong grabbed it without a word, letting it help him off the bed and onto his feet.
They shut off thw Sunrise and this time they took Aurora with them as they left the docks and headed for the prominent entrance gate, passing with the others' data. Inside, a vast expanse of water awaited them, and in the distance, an island in the inverted sky.
Some more guests stayed here, ate, laughed and enjoyed their time swimming, in boats or simply lying on the beach.
It was centrifuging. As if nothing else was around them.
The moon and the stars were reflected in the lake, a lake that did not get cold, as Hongjoong soon realized when he walked barefoot through the nearby water.
Seonghwa watched him silently, Aurora happily warbling above them.
Hongjoong saw freedom in the endless reflection. He saw a world.
Seonghwa saw his world.
They found their group without saying a word. Wooyoung's soft glow in the moonlight set them on the right track and they wandered over sparkling stones by the wayside, past singing flowers full of heavy scents, while the canopy of heaven stretched far and wide above them.
Mingi and Yunho were not in sight when they arrived. Instead, Wooyoung, who had leaned on his hands, stared thoughtfully and uncharacteristically quietly into the stars. San lay with his head on his lap, did the same, but Hongjoong once saw his eyes twitching to Wooyoung's face instead. San looked at him as if he was so much more beautiful than any star and it warmed his heart.
Yeosang sat there too, had closed his eyes and leaned back against a tree, listening to the gentle sound of wind in the palms and trees around the lake.
Wooyoung grinningly turned his head towards them when they arrived but then seemed to falter briefly, his feelers stiff. His eyes flickered restlessly back and forth between Hongjoong and Seonghwa, but then he smiled his softest smile.
San could not take his eyes off him and an invisible smile seemed to play around the corner of Yeosang's mouth.
"Where are the two chaotic people," Hongjoong greeted them evenly and had to laugh when Yeosang immediately gestured flatly to Woosan.
Wooyoung cheekily stuck out his tongue.
"Mingi went diving and Yunho checked on him. They're probably with each other in the lake somewhere, talking about the deeper meaning of Mingi's purple coconut shakes." Wooyoung's eyes rolled and he let one hand sink into San's hair, letting the blond strands of hair glide preciously through his fingers like liquid gold.
"Are they just with each other or doing each other because one of these becomes quite strange when combined with coconut shakes," Seonghwa asked piquantly, sinking elegantly into the sand next to Yeosang.
One could see the rest of them getting sleepy, only Seonghwa and Hongjoong were actually awake by now.
"Who knows... What is it? We would have picked them up soon anyway and returned to the ship, you know?"
"It's San's birthday tomorrow."
San looked up in surprise.
Hongjoong had to smile, meeting Seonghwa's dark eyes on him in the twilight.
"Yeah. And we have the best present."
Chapter 34: Birthday
It was San's birthday, but the rest of the crew seemed to vibrate with excitement even more than he himself did. Especially Mingi was running around with a big sunny grin on his face, not having a clue what was going on, but that did not stop him from being happy.
Hongjoong caught Seonghwa looking down on the others motherly twice, but had to move away squeaking the second time when his amusement was noticed by an aggressive Seonghwa.
They had spent the night on the ship and Seonghwa had prepared a cake overnight with Hongjoong's help. Some pudding on the nose accidents later, the others had also come trundling into the kitchen, San with big eyes hanging between Wooyoung and Mingi.
Mingi was surprisingly uncomplicated about all the strange people around him. He had simply found a place and was accepted there.
Seonghwa had grabbed San by the shoulders and nodded at the others to follow them. Hongjoong grabbed the cake and traced them to the engine room, the crew hopping after them like a bunch of puppies.
With much whispering and giggling, they finally arrived and Hongjoong passed the cake to Yunho, trusting him to keep it out of the others' reach.
"We have prepared something, Sannie. Happy birthday," Seonghwa smiled warmly down at the djinn and he just turned his head confusedly to Hongjoong who in turn opened the door to the engine room.
His new glider was there, polished and painted in hours of detailed work. The force field over the energy node kept the carpet that Seonghwa had gotten for him upright and the object just barely hovered at knee level (Hongjoongs, not Yunhos) above the floor, waiting for its new master.
Hongjoong proudly looked from him to San.
Not a word came over his trembling lips and his body flickered barely noticeably, seemed not to be able to keep its shape in a completely controlled way. Hongjoong had to smile softly as tears rolled down his cheeks and San was visibly overcome by his emotions.
"We all helped," he tried to gently get through to him and San's eyes actually detached from the glider, finding his captain.
As he suddenly plunged forward, straight towards Hongjoong, he hardly had time to catch him. Their bodies collided rudely and Hongjoong stumbled, landing on the floor without any shine, only to become San's pillow.
San did not even try to hold himself together. With loud sobs and the occasional whimper that got stuck wetly in his throat, he nestled up against Hongjoong, threatening to force all the breath out of his lungs.
Hongjoong stubbornly blinked away his own tears, put both arms around his djinn, holding him protectively.
"Happy birthday, baby. He is all yours." Hongjoong ignored his aching tailbone, too busy cooing lovingly over San.
Yunho finally picked him up, plucking him from Hongjoong's arms like a kitten, to lift him to himself, to embrace him as well.
San just sobbed brokenly at his neck.
Hongjoong came back to his feet with Seonghwa's help, groaning, watching his work contentedly as San was passed like one lost child from one friend to the next, muttering quiet thanks.
He was certainly not the only one whose heart contracted between pain and affection in his chest, but it was so worth it. All those sleepless hours, all that stress.
When San finally sank into Wooyoung's arms, the blond in his soft voice whispering to him, Hongjoong squared up a bit. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, San spontaneously stretched his head, pressed a gentle kiss on the corner of Wooyoung's mouth and Hongjoong got every word stuck in his throat again.
Seonghwa's hand found his shoulder, squeezed it gently and then he stepped in front of him a bit, drawing attention to himself.
San wiped away his tears with a sniff, staying close to Wooyoung's side. The lashunta was slightly flushed but held San around his waist with the same conviction as before.
"So folks. Today is San's birthday and of course we want to celebrate that. You're not allowed to glide around here because it's a resort, but you're free on the next island." Seonghwa simply smiled and took his hand back.
"We'll rest here for a few more days and then leave again, alright? I'd also like each of you to come and see me at the control panel today so we can save your birthdays. If you don't have one, you'll get one."
They looked at each other excitedly, and it was then that Hongjoong first saw it.
The man's smile was absolutely gorgeous, beautiful despite the wetness of his eyes. It was an honest and broad smile, sunny in its way. It showed his pearly white teeth and made his eyes disappear, creating a web of tiny wrinkles around them.
But it got even better.
Not only did San slightly scrunch his nose when he smiled, becoming cute and feline, he also had dimples. Dimples that seemed deep enough for Hongjoong to fit into.
Hongjoong blinked rapidly, his heart swelling in his chest.
The rest saw it also, had to smile warmly and Hongjoong swore Seonghwa would have cried like a waterfall if his body would only let him. His smile had rarely been so absolutely happy and tormented.
Joyful cheering met them in response to Seonghwa's suggestion and then Wooyoung already pulled San out of the room with him, fresh tears wetting the djinn's cheeks. They dripped down his neck, over a whole galaxy of freckles, and Wooyoung brushed them gently away from there.
Hongjoong saw why San was so popular. He had chosen an absolutely gorgeous look.
"So tell me. What do you want for your birthday?", Yunho grinned, put an arm around Mingis shoulders, led the smaller man out with him, and Yeosang followed with interest, making the first pet suggestions. Aurora on his shoulder protested.
Hongjoong waited until the door had slid shut behind them, then he already pressed himself against Seonghwa, hugged the man trembling. Peacefully he let his head sink between his shoulder blades, taking a deep breath.
Seonghwa's hands found his own in front of his stomach, clasping his fingers.
"He likes it."
Hongjoong let out a breathless laugh against the other's back, leaning warmly against the cool body.
"Yes, I noticed."
Seonghwa laughed softly as well, then pulled one of Hongjoong's hands up to his face to spread small kisses across the human's fingertips. His hands had been sore all the time, often torn open and full of blisters, after working with metal and hot energy all the time. Seonghwa had cared for them every evening, discovering and healing every little scratch. His lips on Hongjoong's hands felt natural by now and as much as Hongjoong loved his rings, he wanted nothing more than to throw them far away from him to allow Seonghwa more access.
Hongjoong dropped the second hand from Seonghwa's middle, turning the nightwalker towards him in an elegant turn. Seonghwa kept his hand in his own, resting his lips warm on Hongjoong's knuckles. His eyelashes darkened the expression of his eyes as he watched Hongjoong through them.
Hongjoong's voice was stuck in his throat.
Seonghwa's left corner of his mouth twitched into a wry grin, absolutely knowing.
It was Hongjoong who let his free hand slide to the neck of the nightwalker, pressing his fingertips into the short hair there to pull himself closer to the other man. He gripped Seonghwa's hand tighter, pulled it away from his lips and to their sides.
Seonghwa came towards him, lips opened expectantly when they found Hongjoong's. Hongjoong gave him what he wanted, let himself be carried away by the familiar feeling of home and warmth that Seonghwa brought with him.
Everything around Hongjoong collapsed, all the stress and nervousness of the last weeks. He had been so worried, but San had smiled, was so sincerely happy and Hongjoong's heart was threatening to burst in his chest.
Seonghwa seemed to notice it, because he was quick to let go of the shaky and disoriented Hongjoong, starting to lead him wordlessly to their room. Hongjoong stumbled after him in a slowed manner.
They had barely left the door and turned the corner when Seonghwa suddenly stopped abruptly, Hongjoong stumbled thoughtlessly into his back.
Confused, he collected his gaze from the floor and peered past Seonghwa's tense shoulder into the passageway.
There, in the open door to the bridge, stood a sturdily built man, his fists clenched at his sides as if ready to punch a hole in the next wall.
Hongjoong had never seen him in his life.
"San?", he asked quietly around Seonghwa, could find no sign of the djinn on this guy.
Apart from that, he radiated pure hostility, his eyes intense like lasers as they drilled holes into them both.
"I don't think that's San," Seonghwa muttered warningly in Hongjoong's direction, also not daring to take his eyes off the stranger.
Hongjoong nodded, collecting his wits and then released his hand from Seonghwa's grip to step around the nightwalker. An intruder was on his ship, endangering his family.
The movement proved to be a mistake, though.
As soon as Hongjoong appeared behind Seonghwa, the man jumped into action at surged towards them both at a crazy speed.
Hongjoong shouted a warning when a previously invisible weapon formed the other's fist. Seonghwa pushed Hongjoong roughly off by his shoulder, out of danger. His eyes lit up golden and then the power went out as the nightwalker began to fight.
Chapter 35: Revanche
Hongjoong spent a long, panicky moment groping over the side of the ship where his shoulder had crashed into in the darkness. Not far from him sounded the angry growling of the intruder, now and then the sound of one of Seonghwa's feet touching the ground for a split second.
He had to get the others, as quickly as possible.
As quietly and hurriedly as he could get away, Hongjoong stormed down the hall, had to enter a code for the door so that the Sunrise would open it for him in power-saving mode. Cursing quietly, Hongjoong then looked around the dimly lit bridge.
The rest had probably already gone outside again, enjoying the morning in the water and it would be reckless to run to them screaming like a madman.
Hectic Hongjoong handled his communicator, calling Yunho. He answered shortly after, mumbling questioningly.
"Yunho! Where are you now? Are the others with you?"
"Yes, except for Yeosang, Hwa and you, We took San to the lake." He sounded tense, must have heard the change in Hongjoong's voice.
"You must come back here immediately. Wish it on San, it's important and the energy is gone."
"How did you- Hey Wooyoung, San! Over here! We'll be right back with you, Captain."
Hongjoong had hardly turned off the device and nervously lowered his teeth into his lip, then his group was already around him. Mingi still looked around confusedly in the dark ship, while Yunho was with a long step near Hongjoong, searching his face.
"What's wrong, where are the other two?"
"We were attacked. Seonghwa is fighting him, but Yeo... He ran out with you!" Hongjoong breathed, admonishing himself to calm down.
Yunho nodded firmly, his faithful eyes determined.
"I see. Boys, you hold the fort here, we'll see how-" He interrupted himself as the lights suddenly flickered, the Sunrise came to life again.
Either Seonghwa had lifted his blockade, or Seonghwa was too weak to hold on to it.
Hongjoong tasted blood as he dashed forward anxiously, Yunho close on his heels.
It was just the one door they had to pass to get into the passage behind, but it felt like an eternity.
As soon as the door had slipped aside in its much too slow pace, Hongjoong did a quick scan of the situation.
Seonghwa was leaning against a wall, one arm around his middle and his gaze incessantly fixed on the angry attacker sitting on the floor opposite him. The man was bound by what could only be Seonghwa's shadow, shaped like a rope tightly wrapped around the other's limbs.
Yeosang was also here, quiet as ever and his eyes silently raised to Hongjoong and Yunho.
No one seemed hurt and Hongjoong felt a whole boulder falling from his heart.
Hurriedly he tightened up and marched with long steps towards the scene. Yunho followed and at the sight of the big bleuwy, the stranger seemed to collapse a little. He seemed human and he was clearly outnumbered.
"Careful, Joong. This one is dangerous."
The corners of the man's mouth twitched in a mocking smile at Seonghwa's words, but for the moment he preferred to remain silent.
Hongjoong refused to straighten Seonghwa's wild hair, refusing to allow himself to show weakness in the face of the stranger.
"You, who are you?"
If the man was surprised to understand Hongjoong, he did not show it. Rather, he just kept silent, staring fiercely into Hongjoong's eyes.
It was Yeosang who moved at his post, just harmlessly shifting his weight from one leg to the other, but the stranger suddenly flinched as if he had beaten him. For a brief moment his wide, panic-stricken eyes fell on Yeosang, his body receding from him as if in reflex.
Yeosang also blinked.
It was Yunho who stepped forward. He pulled a small syringe out of his jacket pocket and with it in his huge hand went down on his knees before the man. Hongjoong restlessly placed a hand on his shoulder, ready to pull him back.
"This here is enough poison to kill no matter what you are. Tell us what you want here and who you are." Yunho's voice was hard and deep, the murder weapon in his hand so inconspicuous, but on closer inspection, it was probably an ordinary painkiller.
Yunho would never carry anything that could hurt people.
The stranger eyed them suspiciously, but then seemed to make his decision after another nervous look at Yeosang.
"I wanted your ship. I thought it was abandoned, but... I could have made sure it was."
No doubt, he seemed human, but he had nearly beaten Seonghwa and it had taken two people to overpower him.
Seonghwa was a nightwalker. And a soldier.
"I want to go home. Someone took me from Miset and I must go back." No pleading, no asking, just cold, hard facts.
Hongjoong did not like the look in his eyes.
"Miset... Isn't that the planet with the hybrids? All those half-man, half-animal stories?"
"It's a star, but yes."
The stranger looked at Hongjoong a little too arrogantly, seemed about to tell him to speak only when he was told to, when Yeosang tiredly rubbed his eyes. The man in front of them almost flinched through the wall, so abruptly his body crashed against it, those big eyes panicking.
Hongjoong and Yunho exchanged worried looks.
"You must go back... Are you a resident there? I don't see anything animal in you."
The man gave an indignant snort.
"I am a prince! Of course I have to go back! And what I look like is none of your business!"
Yunho lifted the syringe as a warning, but the man paid no attention to him, he only glanced frantically at Yeosang, who was standing blandly in the corridor.
Hongjoong did not understand. Why did he fear one human so much more than another?
He was still at a loss standing in front of the stranger and Yunho, who had begun to argue like children about how a prince should behave and how Miset's inhabitants should look when Seonghwa reached for him.
The nightwalker's cool body nestled against Hongjoong's back as he put his chin on his shoulder, gently rolling his head against Hongjoong's.
"I'm dizzy," the nightwalker muttered muffled at his ear, and pitifully Hongjoong reached out a hand, flicking the now wildly falling curls.
"You've used up a lot of energy. Just lean on me and take a nap, I'll take you to your room as soon as everything is safe here again."
Seonghwa just hummed and when Hongjoong turned his head again, he found the fiery look of the stranger on him. He stared back just as hotly, trying to make his dominance in this environment clear.
With Seonghwa like an overweight rucksack on his back, Hongjoong watched the theatre a little longer, listening to a completely outraged prince complaining to the omniscient Yunho. The little one still twitched every time Yeosang lifted even one finger.
Seonghwa dozed off several times, slipping dangerously from his grip only to be caught up by Hongjoong again, but it was strange.
The shackles around the stranger's body seemed to become grayer. Seonghwa's magic might be weakened while he slept or if it was day, but his shadow acted independently of him. It should not be possible for him to lose strength.
So at some point Hongjoong turned around worried and put Seonghwa on the floor, the head of the nightwalker rolling before leaning him against the wall.
When he turned around next time, the guy had risen stubbornly, shaken off all restraints, and Yunho had retreated a little before him, had stretched out a hand warningly at Hongjoong.
"I hope you know you're outnumbered. There are three more outside," Yunho threatened him alarmed, the stranger's hands were clenched in fists again.
"I have a gun, watch out." Hongjoong positioned himself protectively in front of the obviously weakened Seonghwa, took notice of his shadow that had returned lifelessly to his feet.
"I have taken out this nightwalker, I can do the same with a dwarf and a harmless bleuwy. You should have stayed with your people. Learn to fight, not help."
It was indeed somewhat disturbing how overwhelmed Seonghwa seemed.
With confidence in Yunho, Hongjoong turned back worried, examining the nightwalker more closely for injuries. His eyes glided searchingly over the other's neck and head, then his hands began to busily push aside clothes.
He found the reason for Seonghwa's weakness on his stomach.
There were three deep wounds in his skin, as if caused by stabbing blades. Hideous, bloodless wounds through which they could see inside of flesh. it was deep enugh for intestines even, if Seonghwa had any.
Hongjoong still became nauseous and his fingers started trembling. He pulled Seonghwa's cuddly sweater back into place, acting stronger than he felt.
The guy had defeated a fully trained nightwalker. As a human, at best a funny hybrid.
Hongjoong took a deep breath, came back on his feet a little shakily, to turn around.
The man had his weapon back in his hand, a long trident, old-fashioned and without any energy boosters. He held it tilted towards Yunho in warning.
His gaze flinched back to Hongjoong.
"You impaled my boyfriend with a trident?"
Something must have changed in his voice or look, because the man returned to combat stance, alarmed.
"He was asking for it. He should keep his paws off princes when he doesn't want a political dispute." He sounded like he was defending himself.
Hongjoong repeated himself, clearly.
"You impaled my boyfriend with a trident?" He stressed every word.
It was Yunho who quickly intercepted Hongjoong's fury before more happened, but the stranger still screamed shrillly only when Yeosang stepped towards him.
Yeosang did nothing, nothing at all even though Hongjoong was blinded by anger.
But the man still fainted and tipped over to the side, being silent.
Chapter 36: Prisoner
They did not know what to do with their stowaway.
At first though, everything stayed absolutely the same, because first they had to deal with Seonghwa.
After they had thrown their strange visitor into their free room and locked the door, Yunho had already run into Hongjoong's room with Seonghwa in his arms. Hongjoong helped him to carefully lay the sleepwalker out on his bed, staring anxiously into his peaceful face.
"He'll be okay, won't he?" Hongjoong hardly dared to ask, his voice small and uncertain. Nightwalkers were so different from him.
Yunho's mask of professionalism broke and with a consenting hum he brushed his fingers comfortingly through Hongjoong's hair.
"Of course he will. This is his revenge for leaving him alone with your fever."
Hongjoong sulked, but sat nicely by Seonghwa's side when Yunho pulled out a small medicine chest. He transformed the energy it contained into a transfusion tube, connecting Hongjoong's wrist with Seonghwa's wounds.
"It will take a while before he wakes up, his body will take longer. However, he has a much better chance of survival than you did at that time." Yunho grinned crookedly, monitoring the blood flow from one to the other.
"You're here now at least, not anywhere else."
"It was Seonghwa who saved you, not me. I had my doubts... You didn't know each other for long and the odds were slim anyway, so why bother? But he got you to survive. That speaks very much for him, Hongjoong," Yunho remembered with a small smile, his big hands cautious as he manoeuvred them around.
Hongjoong let his gaze fall dejectedly towards Seonghwa, did not like how he was the one lying there.
"He saved me again today. Seonghwa is always so quick to save me."
"It might be related to how you saved him back then. If even he wants to live again after all this, thanks to you, he won't want to lose you."
Hongjoong hummed uncertainly, absently stroking the unconscious man's wild curls.
"I would save him again anytime. With my blood or otherwise." Hongjoong took his arm to his chest, when Yunho released him, turning away when the bleuwy began expertively sewing tissue sutures into the wounds.
"How do you feel about each other? Is it now more than just watching out for each other?"
A tricky question.
"I still don't know him long... But I spend so much time with him. I'm sure I could have him by my side for life as a friend, but as a lover..."
Hongjoong had to think.
A nightwalker, another species that drank his blood and depended on it. Someone who could never be too far away from him. Someone who was always cold.
"Yes, as a lover, too."
Hongjoong saw Seonghwa. With his curls and painful-looking smile. His playful eyebrow handling and how he always sat upright like the best boy in the village, his hands in his lap. He could see how much livelier the dark eyes of the other had become, how active his movements. Hongjoong knew how the man, in this devastating gesture, visibly stuck his tongue between his teeth when he spoke.
Hongjoong saw it all. Saw Seonghwa's gentleness and honesty. His tears and remorse. Every emotion on his smooth face.
And if Hongjoong imagined him at his side under the northern lights, under thick snowflakes in Wooyoung's hometown, in the light of crackling campfires or even on Hongjoong's soft pillows, then yes, he could do it forever.
Even after all of this, no matter in which situation they were put into. With Seonghwa at his side, Hongjoong was safe.
"He'll be happy to hear that. He has the same answer, though much more direct." Yunho gently dabbed the wound, began dressing it, using the warmth of the bandages to give it more potential for quick healing.
"Yes, I know... Seonghwa is always one step ahead of me." He could not help but smile benevolently towards the nightwalker.
Yunho just smiled quietly into himself, finished his work and then wrapped Seonghwa neatly under the blankets. Hongjoong watched him peacefully, his stomach in knots in his worry, but Seonghwa was in good hands.
"But I find it interesting that you talk about me. Makes sense somewhere, because everyone comes to you with their troubles, but..."
Yunho rolled his eyes, stepped out the door at his side Hongjoong turned off the light behind them.
"Somewhere between the many hours I spend with Mingi, I must have that time."
"Mingi butters up, right? I think he and San have the hardest time."
The two stopped in the corridor, Yunho thoughtfully shoving his hands into his jacket pockets.
"He's doing quite well. He's not complicating things, that helps him. Mingi is content to accept the situation as it is. I just try to teach him that he won't suddenly lose it again. So yes, he feels comfortable, but no, he can't find his place. But what else is free yunhotherapy good for?"
Hongjoong giggled softly, having observed it somewhere many times before, Yunho sitting patiently next to a lying Mingi, while the latter just babbled, animatedly talking and gesturing.
"Thanks for your help with this. By now we are so many... It was easier when it was just the four of us. But everyone had someone, except Mingi."
Yunho shrugged his shoulders, giving Hongjoong a warm smile.
"Now he has someone. I'll check on them and find out more about Miset. If the guy really is a prince, we'd probably do well to bring him back. You might want to talk to Yeosang. That was a little weird earlier. We should know what weapon we have against him."
Hongjoong agreed with him humming, frowning at the memory.
The behavior of the stranger towards Yeosang had indeed been strange.
Yunho tapped Hongjoong's shoulder comradely as a goodbye and then walked out on the bridge, leaving him alone.
Somehow everything seemed so much emptier without Seonghwa, even though they had different daily rhythms.
Sighing, Hongjoong went to Yeosang's door, knocking softly there.
"Yeosang? Can I come in?"
Inside there was a sigh, then the tap of two feet and the door opened, showing a flawless Yeosang. He nodded at Hongjoong to come in silently.
"So, uh, I wanted to talk to you about earlier?"
They did not often talk for long and it showed...
Yeosang leaned back against the headboard of his bed, cuddling one of his pillows in his arms. With his foot, he indicated to Hongjoong to sit down.
Awkwardly, he did exactly that, Yeosang watching helplessly.
"I thought you knew. But your confusion tells me that you don't."
Hongjoong crooked his head confusedly.
"I'm not human, Cap."
Indeed, he did not know that.
"Does... does Wooyoung know? Because my information came from him." Hongjoong tried hard to be calm and even-tempered, as if he had not made a serious mistake at neglecting his crew.
"Yes, he does. He probably just forgot. I'm trying very hard not to attract attention."
He's also been extremely successful.
"You could have told me. I would have listened, you know? If you ever felt mistreated, I'm sorry.", the only human on board confessed a bit depressed, felt a bit offended. He had failed in his job as captain.
Well, he had no experience, did not even know why he was captain instead of Seonghwa. But Yeosang's simple confession still made him feel bad.
"I never thought it mattered. I thought everyone knew too and was only too careful to ask, but... I guess not."
Hongjoong looked down at his lap with embarrassment.
Yeosang's grin was very close to being diabolical, but with enough imagination one could write it off as playful. Very knowing in any case.
"Well, ask. You must know what you have here with you to practise handling it."
He could be anything, a shapeshifter of any kind, a humanoid race like Wooyoung or Mingi or something completely different, like Seonghwa.
There were so many possibilities, and Hongjoong just never thought twice about it.
"Uh, fine. You want to tell me what you are, Yeosang?"
Hongjoong stared at him flatly. Yeosang had to laugh, a brief moment of half-hearted joy before he fell back into statue mode.
"I hear you accepted Seonghwa here, no matter who he is. Can you do the same with me? And keep my secret? I may scare the hybrid, but that's about it. That's all you need to know."
Hongjoong was confused, but raised his shoulders.
"You're right. Though I'm sure Wooyoung will shout it out loud as soon as it occurs to him again. Anyway, it explains your strange... tendencies. You hear everything, don't you?"
"Seonghwa wants you, Cap."
Frustrated, Hongjoong threw his hands in the air.
"I thought I had an ally here, at least one! But I didn't."
Yeosang laughed again, nice and proper with one hand in front of his mouth.
"Do you want to know how much you've stressed him out after that one conversation? He was singing." Yeosang's grin said all about the background of that signing and the room was starting to become too warm for Hongjoong.
"You and Wooyoung fit well together. Have the decency to stay with your stuff occasionally, huh? I'll make you extra good headphones!"
Yeosang just grinned like a spoiled prince in place.
"Go ahead and maybe I won't tell him about-"
"Great talk, Yeo. Bye."
Hongjoong fled, his ears red and the blood wild in his veins.
Chapter 37: Waiting Times
Hongjoong was bored without Seonghwa.
He had spoken to Yunho and they had agreed to take their stowaway to Miset. Either he was indeed their prince and they could be richly rewarded, or he played some game and they could hand him over to the officials with a clear conscience.
So the others played outside and enjoyed their holidays while Yeosang and Hongjoong were on guard duty. Not that Hongjoong could have laughed and danced as long as Seonghwa was in bad condition, prisoner or not, but he did mourn it a bit.
On the other hand, Seonghwa healed quite well.
Yunho accelerated the process daily with small amounts of Hongjoong's blood, using as many artificial healing aids on him as possible. He expected three days of healing if Seonghwa did not make it worse.
Three days was an eternity at this age, but it was fast for a nightwalker. Luckily, he was able to benefit from a person close to him.
Hongjoong felt like a snack again.
At least Seonghwa awoke that same day. He was late, the night had already advanced and Hongjoong was just on his way to bed, but he woke up.
He and Hongjoong blinked at each other surprisedly for a moment, then a small smile broke out on Seonghwa's face.
"What a pretty sight. Did I die? You an angel?"
Hongjoong could only sigh devotedly, leaving his sleeping shirt waiting on the nightstand to sit down at Seonghwa's side. The eyes of the other glided pleasurably across the areas of naked skin presented to him, always hesitating very long on his chest.
"It looks like you're still alive, I must disappoint you. You have to keep hanging out with us losers." Hongjoong tried not to let too much emotion flow into his voice, to deliver the joke pleasantly, but he heard it himself, how relieved and grateful he sounded.
Seonghwa closed his eyes contentedly when Hongjoong's hand found his hair, humming and letting himself be caressed by the other. Hongjoong was overcome by the same calmness.
"How beautiful... More time I can spend with this angel on earth," Seonghwa joked further and groaning, Hongjoong retreated, the mood ruined.
"Heaven, it was nice and quiet before." He smiled inside himself, rose once more to put out the light.
"Come back here and I'll think about keeping it down."
The shirt was forgotten as Hongjoong carefully climbed back into bed with Seonghwa, instead of sleeping facing the wall, this time in the front to protect him if anything happened.
It was an unnecessary thought, Seonghwa stronger than him even now, but it seemed to move the nightwalker a bit.
Seonghwa's hands found him as soon as he lay there. He let his hands slide over Hongjoong's body, tracing his features and bones with tender fingertips. Hongjoong let him do it, lulled by the gentle touches of the other.
They fell asleep together again.
Hongjoong woke up sometime around noon with Seonghwa's arm pressed against him like a somewhat too heavy cuddly toy. The man had spread his fingers far over Hongjoong's sternum and Hongjoong hugged his arm above his belly.
Seonghwa was already awake when Hongjoong stirred, turning his fuzzy head inertially towards him.
"You don't look so angelic as you drool on my fingers."
With a snort, Hongjoong threw the other man's arm off, looking for a blanket to choke Seonghwa with, hopefully. He just laughed like a nasty witch and started fighting Hongjoong for the blanket.
"Take care of your wounds, I won't tell Yunho if you tear them open again," Hongjoong grumbled breathlessly as they fought with each other, being careful to kick only the man's legs and nothing higher.
Seonghwa stubbornly did not let up, much more childish and irresponsible than Hongjoong was used to, and after a few minutes more of the (for Hongjoong) exhausting fight, he finally took drastic measures. Seonghwa leaned over him, the blanket between them entangled in their arms, so he did not expect Hongjoong to put his legs around his hips without warning.
One movement and Seonghwa landed with a squeak in the cushions, defenseless under Hongjoong and the blanket trapped between them. Hongjoong grinned victoriously at him, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
"Stay still. I don't have to lose more blood because of you."
Seonghwa just smiled languidly, placing both hands on Hongjoong's thighs at his sides. It was a familiar situation for both of them, the memories of their developments in Trascen still fresh in Hongjoong's mind.
Seonghwa was pretty. His black hair lay wild and untamed around his head, contrasting strongly with the white of the pillows. His rosy lips were slightly open, waiting.
Hongjoong melted away.
Seonghwa let both of his elegant eyebrows flick up knowingly for only a moment and Hongjoong reached for the blanket again.
"Stop flirting with me when you're hurt!"
"Should I go and flirt with someone else? Can you get me Mingi for a minute?"
Hongjoong couldn not hold back his scandalized snort.
"After me, your choice would be Mingi? Really?"
Seonghwa acted horrified, his soft voice hardly serious enough.
"Have you seen Mingi? So sexy and charismatic... Sorry, Joong, you can't compete with that."
Hongjoong tried to smother him again.
"You're kind of dating the wrong guy if you want that." Hongjoong criticized him jokingly, but the confusion with which Seonghwa tilted his head was real.
"What, you don't find those qualities in yourself?"
Hongjoong almost fell off the bed, leaning in surprise on Seonghwa's chest.
"Me? I'm human, what about me isn't strange bodily functions and boredom?!"
With similar faces of confusion, they stared at each other.
"I literally drink blood, Hongjoong."
Seonghwa laughed out loud, a decision he immediately regretted. He pulled a long face, then looked up at Hongjoong honestly. He seemed tempted to pull Hongjoong against his body, but hesitated due to his injuries.
"You don't stink, don't worry."
Hongjoong looked at him with an absolutely flat face, then placed both elbows on Seonghwa's sides, kneeling over him. Carefully, he also lifted his hips from those of Seonghwa, slowly bowing his head towards the other's.
Seonghwa's eyes closed immediately when Hongjoong's mouth found his and he let him steer willingly.
Seonghwa kissed so softly. While he was definitely a supporter of tongue, he also seemed to be careful with it so as not to hurt Hongjoong by mistake. Teeth were a no-go for him, he did not really force Hongjoong to kiss him through his own blood. So whenever Hongjoong gave him this deep, breathless kisses, Seonghwa seemed so surprised, so well-behaved for the first moment.
In the end, however, he only tried not to hurt Hongjoong.
Hongjoong separated their lips gently, proud of the palpable warmth on the lips of his cold nightwalker.
"There. I don't know any other breed with morning breath, where do I-"
And sometimes Seonghwa forgot that he wanted to be careful.
With clear force he pressed Hongjoong backwards, his lips almost painfully on his and his no less deep kisses breathtaking until Hongjoong became dizzy. He might have almost choked on Seonghwa's long tongue, but if that was the way he died, goodness, he was content.
Hongjoong escaped a surprised sound when he landed on Seonghwa's thighs again, the other's hands on his face.
In a warning, he brought his own hands up to Seonghwa's elbows. The blanket had slipped from them and he was so warm and this was dangerous. Seonghwa was also injured.
Hongjoong finally broke free of Seonghwa, holding on to his shoulders in front of him, breathing heavily, while Seonghwa's fingers gently found his hip again.
With wide eyes and his chest rising and falling, Hongjoong stared at him, trying to get behind the mystery that was Seonghwa. He was always so well-behaved and clean, and then he did things like that.
"You're sexy that way, Hongjoong. In front of me, just like this." His voice had dropped lower again, his dialect deadly, before bending over to give an apologetic kiss on Hongjoong's chin.
Hongjoong sulked at him, forcing his body to cool down again. They had talked about it and now was a very bad moment.
"And the charisma?"
"Unfortunately, only Mingi has that."
Hongjoong hit him and got another kiss in return.
"OK, enough games. I have important things to do."
Seonghwa raised an eyebrow questioningly, but obeyed when Hongjoong diplomatically pushed him back into the pillows. With a pat of praise on his leg, Hongjoong rose from his lap, barely breathing.
"We're going to Miset to bring the weird guy back. I should pull some data out of his nose."
Seonghwa looked for a moment as if he was going to say something, but then he stopped, just nodded.
"Take care of yourself, best take someone with you."
"I will. You better get well, or Mingi will lose his fan."
Hongjoong was already halfway out the door, in his head already in the shower, Seonghwa's name hidden on his lips, when the man held him back again.
"Aren't you going to get dressed? Not that I'm complaining."
Hongjoong blinked perplexed, then looked from him to the shirt on the table.
Wordlessly he grabbed it and hurried out embarrassed, Seonghwa's laughter barely muffled by the door.
Chapter 38: Stars
It was the last day of their vacation and Seonghwa's wounds were hardly still recognizable as such. Hongjoong actually allowed him to leave the ship and accompanied him on an evening walk along the beach. Their hands dangled thoughtlessly between them, the little fingers intertwined in a shy gesture. Both looked out over the reflection of the stars on the water, contemplating the wonders of the brightly coloured trees that gently illuminated the sand.
Seonghwa was dressed in black again today, barely visible in the darkness, while Hongjoong stood out at his side in red and blue and purple.
They had to make a strange pair, but they were fine with it.
"San told me that yesterday he swam to the island with the others. Yunho actually taught Mingi how to swim," Hongjoong laughed softly, not wanting to disturb the peaceful atmosphere, the few night owls around them no less.
"You couldn't go with them because you were looking after me, huh?"
Hongjoong peered up at Seonghwa's face, faintly recognizing his expression. He looked apologetic.
"It's okay. San told me what it looks like there. Someone had to protect you from that weird burglar."
He had done such a good job. Hongjoong was the best bodyguard in the world.
Seonghwa laughed softly, looking over Hongjoong's head and over to the island as well.
"There's a little pond in the middle, with warm water and the gravel on the bottom are these self-luminous gems. There is dense jungle everywhere, and there are small huts where the travelers can stay as they please. Oh, and monkeys." Ninety percent of what San had said were monkeys.
"It's quieter there than here, especially in the evening, because most of them don't want to stay outside, San said that hardly anyone was there when they went over, and even less towards evening. It's safe, but-" Hongjoong broke off when Seonghwa suddenly stopped, slipping an arm around Hongjoong's hips. Willingly he let himself be pulled close to the larger body of the other, happily breathing in his scent. When Seonghwa spoke, he did so close to Hongjoong's ear, quietly and firmly.
"That sounds wonderful."
Hongjoong let his eyelids flutter, allowing himself to stand in this embrace for a brief moment. When he then raised his head to look at Seonghwa, their surroundings had changed.
They were no longer standing on the beach from before. Rather, they were now on the other side, looking out over the water and the distant shore with its crystal trees and huts. In the distance, the lights of the harbor shimmered.
Seonghwa buried his nose in Hongjoong's hair, holding the man safe and sound in his arms.
"Want to go exploring?", he whispered softly, and Hongjoong did not have the heart to tell him to rest. Yunho had made the mistake of acquitting him, they now had to live with that.
So Hongjoong just nodded, grabbing Seonghwa's hand properly this time as he led them deeper into the forest.
The island was manageable, barely 20 minutes walk and they had reached the said pond. There was thick forest around them, a faintly lit hut in the distance, and the trees here were not glowing, only the pond did. The water, being illuminated from below, threw colorful reflections of light at the trunks of the trees around them and, fascinated, Hongjoong looked up and discovered a dark net stretching between the trees like an oversized hammock.
Only stars shimmered above it.
Hongjoong reached excitedly for Seonghwa's arm, had barely pointed upwards and was already there, swinging in a five-meter square net, over 20 meters above the ground.
For a moment he clung to Seonghwa in surprise, exchanging nervous glances with the corners.
After ten seconds, when they were still not falling and Seonghwa was just calmly rubbing his hips, he calmed down again, sat down on his knees to lift his head to the stars.
"Oh.", he said softly again as they sparkled down on them like the prettiest diamonds, bright in the sky but their soft light barely penetrating the treetops to reach them. He turned his head to Seonghwa, ready to share his thoughts about their small, insignificant existence in the universe, but then stopped again.
Seonghwa had taken off his shirt, his pale skin lovingly illuminated by the starlight above, and the glittering stones below. Hongjoong lost any train of thought he might have had.
"Oh," he said again, only quieter this time, and found Seonghwa's gaze questioningly when his hand lifted to Seonghwa's skin as if magnetically attracted. Seonghwa just closed his eyes waiting, allowing Hongjoong's shy touch to his chest. Hongjoong let tender fingertips glide over a body as if made of marble, was infinitely gentle in every movement as he slid a little closer, gliding smoothly into Seonghwa's inviting lap.
"Take my blood," Hongjoong asked the other quietly, the forest around them peaceful and calm, apart from chirping insects and the sound of water in the distance.
The stars were reflected in Seonghwa's eyes and, fascinated, Hongjoong brought a hand up, stroking the cool cheek of his flawless nightwalker.
"Are you sure? Yunho is not here to watch us."
Hongjoong gave a grimace, then confidently offered his throat to Seonghwa.
"Let's not talk about Yunho anytime soon, huh? Help yourself."
Seonghwa said nothing more, his chest vibrating with a gentle laugh before he pulled Hongjoong closer around his waist, pressing their bodies together. Cool lips first kissed his chin and jugular lovingly before he actually bit. Hongjoong concentrated on breathing properly, his fingers waiting and massaging on Seonghwa's shoulders.
It took longer than usual, needed a deeper wound and Seonghwa also gently massaged the skin around his neck, drawing the blood out of Hongjoong's veins. He shivered in the warm night on his cool nightwalker, let him work in peace.
A few minutes had to pass during which Seonghwa had drunk only in deep sips, then his tongue gently touched the wounds, licking up the blood as much as possible. Hongjoong rummaged in his trouser pocket for the smaller bottle of substance he had been carrying around since Seonghwa had started drinking from him more regularly, for emergencies.
Seonghwa took it from him in silence, licking the last drops from his lips while he dressed the wounds.
"Are you alright? How do you feel?"
Hongjoong was okay. His pulse seemed to have quickened, not only because of Seonghwa's proximity. He also felt a slight headache in the back of his head, hardly tragic.
"All is well, yes. Surprisingly good." He had to laugh, slipping the vial back into his pocket.
Seonghwa just hummed, then took Hongjoong's head in both hands to pull it down to him.
"Then come here," his last whisper was against the other's lips before he found them with his own, inviting them to dance. Hongjoong sighed contentedly into his mouth, made himself comfortable on the other's lap and got lost in the other's feeling.
Seonghwa's hands wandered, searching and touching as they explored Hongjoong's curves, freeing him from his shirt almost unnoticed. Hongjoong's head fell to his neck, his eyes dark on the humming stars, while Seonghwa memorized him with his fingers and lips. Like a king, the man was enthroned on his mighty nightwalker, lips breathlessly parted when Seonghwa tasted his other piercing this time.
Hongjoong's hands found the other's hair, played with the silky strands and finally he tore himself away from the stars, had to burn the surreal sight in his memory.
Hongjoong wore a ring with a small pendant of a metal pin on it in his left breast and Seonghwa's lips glided incredibly gently over the heated metal. Small shocks of lust travelled southwards through Hongjoong's body and, trembling, he leaned into Seonghwa's touch, so securely held by his arm around his centre.
By the time Seonghwa finally let go of his chest and spread more kisses across his belly, Hongjoong's pants had already become clearly too tight, pressing against Seonghwa's belly.
But Seonghwa remained the gentleman that he was.
His fingers skillfully unhooked the fastener of Hongjoong's trousers and promptly his hand slipped under the fabric, finding Hongjoong.
Hongjoong bent shakily in Seonghwa's grip, allowing the man to lay him gently on his back, perfectly placed between his legs.
"Is this a habit? Or may I assure my head that I didn't have you on me every time without underwear?", Seonghwa's voice softly and teasingly reached his ears and Hongjoong stared at the stars again full of wonder, thanking them for having found Seonghwa.
Delayed, he looked down at the man who was by now helping him out of his shoes and trousers, his black curls falling softly in front of his eyes, fierily watching Hongjoong.
"I wear them to sleep," he breathed roughly, then stretched out a hand to Seonghwa inquiringly but he shook his head.
Hongjoong's pants and boots were discarded somewhere on the net. The soft material was finely woven enough not to injure Hongjoong and yet still be gripped well when Seonghwa sank elegantly back into his place.
Hongjoong held his breath sharply as Seonghwa's cool fingers found the overheated skin of his thighs, gently urging him to put his legs over the shoulders of the nightwalker. Seonghwa's eyes were calm and careful when he found Hongjoong's gaze, silently asking for permission.
Hongjoong had barely nodded, then Seonghwa's cool mouth already surrounded his arousal, the unknown sensation a shock in Hongjoong's system. He was so overheated, guilelessly dug his fingers into the net and felt his hair already sticking to his neck, but Seonghwa still managed to torture him with his temperature and tormenting movements.
Hongjoong felt like a lost cause.
"Seonghwa," he whimpered highly the name of the other, when his tongue found even the last piece of metal on him, curiously exploring the sensitive spot. Too much detail.
Hongjoong was so rusty, so hungry for every little touch and hurriedly he grabbed Seonghwa's hair, pulled the man off him before he could sink down on him once more.
The nightwalker just grinned at him, half amused, half affectionate and absolutely irresistible. His fingers played lazily with Hongjoong's weight in his hand and Hongjoong was ready to scream.
"I knew 10 sounded strange when you had seven in your ears... I couldn't get it out of my head for weeks."
Seonghwa's voice was more rough than before, be it the desire or the inappropriate ways of using his mouth, but Hongjoong grabbed him almost feverishly, pulling him back up to himself.
He was tremendously irritated that Seonghwa was not out of breath, was not sweaty, and his hair was just a little bit fuzzy because Hongjoong had messed it up. It really challenged him to taint his pristine soldier.
Seonghwa allowed his body weight to drop on Hongjoong, finding his lips almost automatically with his own, while a hand came back up to play with his chest. Hongjoong trembled again, his breath interrupted.
What was more important, however, was how Seonghwa had already taken on another form. Hongjoong actually felt something pressing against him for once and it made him throb in desire himself.
"You did your homework, huh?"
Seonghwa leaned against him, finally allowing Hongjoong's hands to slide over his upper body and down to the waistband of his pants.
"I assumed you would prefer it if I were to define as a man... If not, say so."
Hongjoong left it at that, only letting his fingers wander, while Seonghwa hid his face expectantly at his neck, now a bit shy.
He found everything just as one would expect from Seonghwa - as one would expect from a man - and Hongjoong knew he just had to reach forward to test how much Seonghwa was connected to his nerve centre, but where was the fun in that?
It was a revenge in a sense, as Hongjoong gently slid one finger into the entrance of the other, acknowledging that Seonghwa had thought along and made the ring of muscles more pliable.
Heavens, he even seemed to have managed to incorporate some kind of slick and it felt like paradise.
Seonghwa's thinking of the most sensible methods in view of Hongjoong, probably even testing them by himself made Hongjoong's head turn foggy, the blazing heat between his thighs even more unbearable.
A second finger slipped effortlessly beside the first and Seonghwa shook in his grip, pushing back a soft sound. Hongjoong stroked his hip in a repetition of his gesture from before, pressing a gentle kiss on Seonghwa's ear at his side.
Seonghwa flinched and it was impossible to tell if it was because of the ear or Hongjoong's softly thrusting fingers, but who was Hongjoong that he did not take advantage of it immediately?
He carefully removed his fingers fro Seonghwa's body, ignoring their sticky slipperiness, to help Seonghwa out of his clothes completely. He managed to bring the tip of his tongue close to Seonghwa's ear in the same movement in which he rolled Seonghwa underneath him, pushing it just barely into his external auditory canal.
Seonghwa escaped a sound that was a wild mixture between a groan and a squeak and his body bent willingly towards Hongjoong. He received it generously, rolling his hips against those of the other, who only carelessly reached for Hongjoong's arms, grabbing them.
Hongjoong did the thing with his tongue again, grinning as Seonghwa almost violently twitched, not knowing whether to pull his head away or bring it closer to Hongjoong.
He gave him a break, leaning back a little to look down in wonder at his ravishing nightwalker, absent-mindedly sorting his legs around his hips.
Seonghwa looked a bit winded now after all, his pupils dilated under cloudy eyes and Hongjoong's saliva shimmering in his ear.
Hongjoong brought his hand down, taking himself and Seonghwa in one hand the best possible way.
Seonghwa seemed to have lost all his words, just returning Hongjoong's heated look.
"May I? If I hurt you or anything... You must let me know."
Seonghwa just nodded a bit too quickly and Hongjoong had to laugh before bending over the other one again, his right hand leading his hardness to Seonghwa's entrance while the left hand found his hair again.
He kissed Seonghwa, deeply and in harmony with his intrusion into the other's body. It was so easy, Seonghwa's body perfectly adapted to him and Hongjoong swore he could come as soon as he was inside.
Breathless, he tore his lips from those of Seonghwa, searching his face for pain, but he had only closed his eyes comfortably.
No, not the right time.
He swallowed the words, moving his hips instead to see Seonghwa stretching nicely under him. He did it again and again, his own contentment so secondary, for he was enchanted by the sweet sounds that escaped Seonghwa as he disintegrated beneath him, his hands reaching for Hongjoong uncontrollably.
"Don't bite me," he warned the nightwalker, almost growling, using his hold on Seonghwa's hair to turn his head almost roughly to the side and bending over him again.
The angle changed slightly and Hongjoong felt it, grabbed Seonghwa's hip at just the right moment to hold him, when he arched violently, starting to sing Hongjoong's name again.
Hongjoong almost went crazy, again let his tongue play at the other's ear and pushed in at the same frantic pace as his hips were working.
Seonghwa's noises reached an almost silent climax and Hongjoong's hand automatically twitched down, finishing him until the nightwalker came dry, his body twitching and quivering with relish around Hongjoong.
Hongjoong left his ear alone and straightened up, staring down for a moment at the boneless, relaxed Seonghwa. Cursing, he retreated and came whimpering across the other's chest, seeing the result shimmering like evidence in the starlight on the other's skin.
Breathlessly, Hongjoong sank back on his heels, leaning on Seonghwa's knees to the left and right of him and shaking the sweat from his hair for a moment. He found Seonghwa's gaze again, his soft, dark eyes and they spoke more than a thousand words.
A breathless grin twitched across Hongjoong's face.
"Good? Does anything hurt?", he asked softly, his heart and body still so overjoyed by what had happened that he almost forgot to ask.
"Everything better than good. Come here." Seonghwa reached for him and Hongjoong sank willingly into his arms, nestled against the warmed up body of the nightwalker.
Hongjoong allowed his eyes some rest, feeling so safe under the stars, and had fallen asleep before thinking of opening them again.
Chapter 39: Getting closer
When Hongjoong opened his eyes again sleepily, he found himself in his bed and Seonghwa was at his side. At the sight of his deep slumbering nightwalker, a lazy grin formed on Hongjoong's face and he snuggled closer to the other.
The nightwalker's body was heated by Hongjoong's heat and the warm blanket over them, and Hongjoong could not help but slide one hand over the side of the other, feeling his slender body under the soft fabric of his sleeping shirt.
Hongjoong was quite sure that Seonghwa was once a well-trained, well-formed man, with a great butt, as soldiers were. But after his rapid weight loss and safety on the Sunrise, the strings of hard muscle had given way to smooth flesh and Hongjoong was very happy with that.
The nightwalker's pretty face was calm and even, perfect even in sleep, and it made Hongjoong want to stare at him like a dreamy puppy for the next fourteen hours. He would be very willing to do just that if duty would not call for him.
Absolutely silently he slipped out of bed, browsing his clothes as quietly as possible in the dim light, because something on his skin would be a good start. He was about to interrogate the intruder and while it was certainly a power move to walk naked into the room, the stranger did not really need to see every piercing on Hongjoong.
Quiet as a tiger Hongjoong sneaked out of the room, turned off the light behind him to step out into the pleasantly lit corridor.
Everything was quiet and they were already flying again, probably under Yunho's command.
For a short, ridiculous moment Hongjoong wondered if the others would have flown away as well if he had not returned with Seonghwa at night. Would they have looked?
After a quick shower, they hunted for his crew and found Yunho and Mingi on the outer deck, arm pressed against arm supported on the railing and looking out into the clear sky. Individual aircrafts or aliens passed them, but otherwise there were only white clouds like sheep in front of the endless blue, the outlines of the closest islands far away.
Hongjoong stemmed his arms in his hips, smiling.
Yunho had made Mingi laugh, joking with a big, silly grin, and Mingi shone brighter than any sun, his smile probably making children walk and flowers bloom.
Hongjoong refrained from disturbing them and wandered back inside, gently knocking on the door to Wooyoung and San's room.
He waited for a moment, then a loud and cheerful 'waaaaiiiit' greeted him and eager feet trudged towards the door. Wooyoung opened it and grinned broadly at Hongjoong, his feelers bobbing. San sat behind him on his bed, his nose hidden behind a tablet held upside down and his ears barely noticeably red.
Hongjoong returned Wooyoung's grin kindly.
"I want to go and question the stranger, can you accompany me? It would be good to know beforehand if he's hostile."
Wooyoung nodded eagerly and too often, San used the moment to rush past Hongjoong to get Yeosang. Hongjoong could only watch him while shaking his head.
"Everything okay between you? You seem happy." Hongjoong turned back to Wooyoung, who hurried around looking for a jacket, leaning with folded arms in the doorway.
Wooyoung looked over his shoulder in amusement.
"What, the father role again? Come on, let us be in love in peace, huh?" Wooyoung giggled, free and clear. Hongjoong felt the corner of his mouth twitch before raising an eyebrow in amazement.
"He's okay with that? I mean, it's really your business only, but you know how he is. He's not trying to..." Hongjoong gestured helplessly and Wooyoung's antennae twitched as he explored Hongjoong's thoughts.
San did not know how to love.
Wooyoung's smile dimmed down a little, was smaller and more intimate, as if he kept the key to the greatest secret.
"He can. And he learns. Thanks for your concern, Cap, but I think it's unnecessary. San and I help each other." It was final, soft words that gave all the answers and Hongjoong just nodded in relief. His crew got along, he had to stop thinking that they were not all self-thinking and probably all more intelligent beings than him.
"Just think of Seonghwa. I saw him come in yesterday, you were so small and cute in his arms."
And hopefully camouflaged by an illusion if Seonghwa had skipped it to put some clothes on him!
Unwillingly, Hongjoong slapped Wooyoung's hand away from him, fireily dodging additionally when the other man tried to grab his cheek with a coo.
"Off. And stop the rumors. I fell asleep outside, after I had to chase a way too energetic Seonghwa around after three days lying in boredom."
Not quite the truth, but not a lie also. He had fallen asleep outside.
Wooyoung just nodded with a smug grin, did not believe anything, judging by the look on his face.
Hongjoong sent a relieved prayer of thanks to Yeosang and San, who came through the door to the bridge just at that moment. Around the neck of whatever he was, it did not matter, were safety glasses and various stains and liquids covered his arms and clothes.
He looked like a real mechanic and Hongjoong wondered what the man was tinkering with this time.
Hopefully a Wooyoung filter system, that was still missing.
San disappeared into Wooyoung's room again, but Hongjoong watched as he patted the other's hip for a moment, his fingers reluctantly loosening from Wooyoung's skin.
Were they not cute? And not discreet at all? Love had to be something wonderful.
Hongjoong snorted hypocritically.
Wooyoung and Yeosang each stepped to one of his two sides like his personal bodyguards and Hongjoong felt it as they exchanged amused looks, probably sharing their funny thoughts with each other again.
He was generous enough to knock before unlocking the door to the room, automatically taking a step back when it opened.
Of course, the man behind it was already on the verge of cracking his fist into Hongjoong's face and of course his eyes were burning in icy hate, but the sight of Yeosang made him freeze in motion, visibly pale.
Slowly he dropped his posture again, looking around attentively between the three of them.
"Come. Let's talk on the bridge, it's too small here."
The stranger had to feel that they were already in the air again, that an attempt at escaping would be futile, and indeed he let his shoulders fall a little while he marched to the bridge at a safe distance from them, leaning outside against the railing to the gallery with folded arms.
Yeosang sat quietly close to him on the steps of the stairs and Wooyoung found a seat on their swivel chairs next to Hongjoong. Dully, Hongjoong began to sway back and forth, acting bored.
"So sing for us. Who are you?"
"I am a prince. And I don't take orders from a little human!" It was more... spite than actual dignity, yes, he was like a stubborn child. Hongjoong denied himself a smile.
"Well, this little human commands this crew of not so little people, and besides, this little human has control over your destiny right now. What is your name?"
Yeosang gave him a thumbs-up hidden next to his leg and Hongjoong nodded to him confidently.
"Jongho... Choi Jongho. I didn't tell you this because I'm intimidated by you!" Again, he shot laser-like glances through Hongjoong's body.
"Well done, I'm glad to meet you! I'm Hongjoong, this is Yeosang and Wooyoung. We'll take you home if you're interested in that." He raised his voice a bit, tried to sound more open and friendly and actually the man blinked perplexed. He relaxed his fists again.
"How can I believe you? You could take me anywhere!"
"To do... what with you?"
An awkward silence spread through the room.
Hongjoong cleared his throat.
"Well, we'll take you home. I have no idea how you ended up so far away from Miset when you obviously have important obligations there, but we have nothing to do anyway, so this is your luck."
Jongho nodded with big eyes.
Waiting, Hongjoong stared at him.
"Oh- Yes! I meant yes, thank you! Now I'm almost sorry I skewered the other one, but it was a reflex!"
Of course, that happened to Hongjoong all the time, too.
Hongjoong's eyes got hard again.
"But that doesn't mean I trust you." He stared at them suspiciously and Yeosang started laughing softly, making the other one nearly jump up to the ceiling in horror.
"Fine, how's that: next week we'll be stuck together, so be good and don't hurt anyone, then we'll bring you home safely, what do you think?", Hongjoong suggested like an adult and Jongho still held his chest as if someone wanted to steal it from him.
"Does that apply to him too?"
"Of course, you can't spear Yeosang either, what the-"
"No, he... Is he leaving me alone?" He sounded almost desperate.
Hongjoong blinked, lost.
"Sure he is, he hasn't hurt you yet either, you know?"
"He ran through the fucking wall!"
Hongjoong choked, trying not to show his shock on his face. Yeosang smiled patiently.
"Yeah, some people just don't know what doors are! If you're nice to us, we'll be nice to you."
Jongho nodded suspiciously, then stepped sideways to Hongjoong like a crab to shake his hand without letting Yeosang out of his sight.
"If you do anything to me, I'll kill the weak human first," he threatened grumbling to the other and Yeosang just smiled at him in entertainment.
"Try it, you'll see how far you can get."
Hongjoong shivered a little beneath Yeosang's icy coolness, soothingly squeezing Jongho's hand.
"Just don't fight, and we'll all get there safely."
Jongho didn not look convinced.
Chapter 40: Truce
Letting Jongho run free seemed like a bad decision, but Hongjoong could not keep him locked up either (not that he wasn't on a very limited ship anyway).
However, while Jongho seemed to be less of a victim in the story and only occasionally scared himself to death when Yeosang suddenly turned a corner, the rest was different.
Wooyoung suspiciously pulled San behind him every time the grim man passed them, boldly reading his moods, and Yunho had also restlessly reached for Mingis hand as often as Mingi had grabbed his sleeve. Jongho made a lasting impression and Seonghwa was not even awake yet to give his blessing.
Hongjoong felt a bit sorry.
Still, the man seemed peaceful in the first place, had not impaled anyone with his trident again and Hongjoong already counted this as a small victory. Anyway, their parting was only a week away.
The human later sought out their resident bleuwy on the bridge, found him sitting next to Mingi as usual and quietly talking to him. Hongjoong picked up scraps of their conversation - it was about how Mingi had lost his horn because his piercings had broken out. Yunho nodded along with the other's words, too distracted to notice Hongjoong.
He cleared his throat after standing in the door for a while.
"Hey, could you- I need information about how much blood I've lost in the... healing process and when Seonghwa can drink again." He hated to bother them. Yunho just smiled responsibly though, nodding eagerly.
"I'll check with you both as soon as Mister Vampire is awake, which should be soon. If you're not busy just wait for me in your room and I will join you later."
It was not often that they had to deal with a ship flying by itself with everyone barricaded in their rooms, indeed.
So Hongjoong just shrugged and wandered off again. Mingi started to yak animatedly behind him again.
A glance at the clock told Hongjoong that it was already late afternoon and Seonghwa would surely wake up soon. Otherwise, it would be a good idea to wake him up before Yunho came in and saw their sleepwalker still look pretty naked either way.
For a moment he wondered who else on board knew about the previous evening. Wooyoung probably, maybe even Yeosang already.
Shaking his head, Hongjoong entered the cabin again, briefly lost in the darkness, groping for a light switch.
When he finally found it and wrapped the room in a dimmed light, he breathed a sigh of relief, then turned calmly to the bed.
At first he did not understand what he saw, Seonghwa's skin difficult to distinguish from his blankets. But when the thought reached him, his hand flinched back to the light switch faster than the blood managed to rise to his face.
Seonghwa's quiet laughter filled the room, then the lock clicked as Hongjoong frantically locked them in.
"Hey! I could have been Yeosang or something!" Hongjoong waved his arms wildly, trying to ignore his glowing face and the heat in his veins as best he could. Seonghwa was not far away from him looking like that and judging by the sounds Hongjoong heard, he didn not care much that Hongjoong was in the room with him now.
"What a relief that I am so good at creating illusions, huh?"
Hongjoong suddenly had the suspicion that Yeosang might be able to see through them. Some aliens did.
Determined, he marched towards Seonghwa, feeling for his hand in the dark to separate it from his body with a wet sound.
"What, suddenly convinced of how humans are built?" His voice had become rougher, the grip determined as he kicked his boots off his feet to find room between Seonghwa's open legs.
"It's not the same when I do it... Is it because of your piercing?"
Seonghwa would forever be his death.
"Does your magic last long enough for you to explore?"
Seonghwa snorted in amusement, grabbing Hongjoong by the collar to pull him over his body, immediately aiding him in getting rid of his shirt.
"My body will not suddenly disappear from under you, Hongjoong."
His mouth hungrily found the other's then and for the moment their meeting with Yunho was forgotten.
With a satisfied nod, Yunho pulled his small scanner from Hongjoong's wrist, letting it slide back into his coat pocket.
"Everything looks good, it'll be fine in a few days. Eat a few things that will get your blood flowing again and then you should recover. You shouldn't notice any more episodes, but it's best not to lose much more blood."
Hongjoong grinned gratefully at him, put his hand back in his lap. The bleuwy also patted the nightwalker's head on Hongjoong's shoulder for a moment, raising to his feet after.
"So, I'm going to dig a little deeper into Jongho's head... Wooyoung already told me a few things about him, but we still don't have any clues what he is supposed to represent exactly. But we'll find out." Daringly, he propped his chin up against the L of his index finger and thumb. Seonghwa did the same, Hongjoong rolled his eyes.
"I'd also like some information on how he got on board... The ship didn't sound the alarm and Aurora never saw him coming."
He hoped he was not a Yeosang, walking through walls or something.
Yunho nodded eagerly, then slipped out of the room again.
Hongjoong let himself fall back onto the bed with a sigh, ignoring the way Seonghwa tipped from his shoulder into his lap. Humming, the nightwalker snuggled up against his belly, buried his nose in the warm flesh there.
"This is our first adventure as a whole crew, have you noticed?"
Hongjoong stared thoughtfully at the ceiling for a moment.
"Not really, no... I don't want to discourage them if it ends in chaos. A good adventure should be our first adventure together."
Seonghwa laughed softly, slipping both hands around Hongjoong's waist to hold it astonished. He was not able to clasp it fully, but it was so narrow still.
"Very Captain-like of you." Seonghwa snuggled up to him again and smiling, Hongjoong buried a hand in his hair, stroking lazily through it.
"Yesterday was okay for you, huh? I didn't hurt you?" He had wanted to ask again as soon as they were awake and clear-headed. Seonghwa's well-being was his top priority.
"All is well, Hongjoong. Thanks for your caution, but I really don't think you could hurt me seriously."
Seonghwa's eyes were again so infinitely soft as he raised his head to cross them with Hongjoong's. Hongjoong gave him a little smile.
"I'm just making sure. Even then I wouldn't have tested all the limits the first time. That time should be kind of..." Hongjoong shivered violently, already feeling his body cringing inside.
"Be something special, huh? Too much cringe for you?" Seonghwa grinned disarmingly at him and groaning Hongjoong let his head fall back onto the pillows. For a moment, he just stared at the ceiling.
"I'm happy to leave the cringe part to you. You're better at it."
Seonghwa giggled again and Hongjoong closed his eyes defeated. What had he gotten himself into this time?
Seonghwa's weight disappeared from him and the man climbed around on the bed, dipping the mattress here and there around Hongjoong.
His voice came from somewhere above him and Hongjoong answered with a dull hum, not ready to see Seonghwa's smug face yet. Instead, he turned his head and playfully kissed Seonghwa's fingers that were propped up at his side.
"I love you."
Hongjoong almost broke his neck in his haste to throw his head around and stare up at Seonghwa. He returned the gaze with seriousness and warmth, all the playfulness from before vanished.
It was not that Hongjoong did not believe him, however little he understood it. Rather, he found himself in a spiral of: Me? How? For what? Since when? Why are you saying it now?
Totally unhinged, he just stared helplessly at Seonghwa.
The corner of Seonghwa's mouth twitched in a delighted smile and for a brief moment, he came down to press a chaste kiss to Hongjoong's lips.
"Aye, Captain. It seems to me that I have already found my greatest treasure and I am unfortunately not willing to share it."
Hongjoong pushed him away from himself with a groan, closing his eyes again in agony.
"Heavens, this is absolutely terrible. Let's skip the cringe altogether, shall we?" Stressed, he rubbed the bottom of his hands into his eyes.
Laughing, Seonghwa pulled his fingers away from his face, just kissing him again, even though Hongjoong stared at him sceptically.
"But I'm having fun, will you take that away?"
"If it's at my expense? Yes, right away."
Seonghwa only let himself sink back to his side amused, laid his head on Hongjoong's chest to listen to his wildly raging heart. Hongjoong felt him grin, but fortunately, he did not comment.
This time, the nightwalker hummed only briefly.
"Are you 10000 percent sure?"
Seonghwa's voice became soft and meaningful while his grip on Hongjoong grew tighter.
Hongjoong hummed and let his hand slide through Seonghwa's hair again, deeply intrigued.
But also very pleased.
Chapter 41: Miset
There was practically nothing to be found out about Jongho, not for the whole week. While Wooyoung was able to assure them that his thoughts were pure and never had evil intentions, that was absolutely all they got. Neither actively, nor in his head there was anything else. Hongjoong still found his piercing gaze a bit unsettling, too, but in the end he was alone and looked tiny next to Yunho. Hongjoong could not really hate him.
However, he also could not wait to get rid of him. He did not hate him, but he did not trust him either.
Anyway, Hongjoong was very thankful when they finally docked at Miset's harbors and gathered some decent clothes to take Jongho home. If he really was a prince, it would not be a bad idea to look at least halfway decent.
Everyone had also insisted on leaving as a group, so Aurora would again guard the ship and the rest of them would leave in one chaotic group. Hongjoong already saw enough drama coming up for a whole month, but that's how it was. His troop of clumsy oddities was complete.
Seonghwa had only patted his shoulder comfortingly when it came to the matter.
Jongho was not dissatisfied. On the contrary, he found himself worthy of a delegation and also expected to be welcomed by his father with much fanfare. The crew almost died of curiosity.
In fact, a harmless worker already seemed to recognize Jongho in the hangar.
Unlike Jongho, this man was very obviously a felishuman with ears and tail and claws and all that. He looked like someone who should live on such an island.
Thus, he skilfully swung down from the hangar's entablature where he had been tinkering with the rotor blades of another ship, landing elegantly on his feet in front of them.
"My Prince Jongho! We did not expect you anymore!" He looked around wildly among them, seemingly analysing the situation. Hongjoong crossed his arms in front of his chest, waiting.
Jongho gave a dry snort.
"Yeah, me neither. Can you tell my father? Please send someone to pick me up."
The guy nodded hurriedly and jogged towards the next terminal, his decorated ears barely recognizable in the mop of black hair.
"Looks like you didn't lie to us after all, huh?" Hongjoong joked calmly, only to be immediately stabbed by glances.
Yeosang gave a small, quiet applause.
Jongho was quick to move away from them and walk more towards the cat guy, tapping impatiently with one foot on the floor.
Hongjoong found him amusing.
When the guy finally came back, his face glowed with the happy news that someone would soon be there and a bit more shyly he asked Jongho for an autograph. The man generously gave him what he asked for and then came sighing to the others again.
"You do not have to wait here with me if you do not want to. I can give you your reward in other ways."
No compensation to Seonghwa. Just a reward.
Wooyoung tilted his head with a grin.
"What, is it a signed photo album? That's what I always wanted!"
Jongho looked down on him with a sublime disdain (not really).
"Of course not, who do you take me for? Only direct members of the harem have access to photo albums."
Hongjoong choked on his tongue, quickly stopped himself from laughing and burying his face in Seonghwa's chest. At least Seonghwa put a trembling hand on Hongjoong's shoulder.
"The what?!" This time it was Yunho, even though Wooyoung also let out a surprised shout. Mingi looked around unsuspectingly between them and Yeosang at least grinned a little.
"The harem." Jongho reluctantly pulled his brows together, probably suspecting that they were making fun of him.
Well, they did.
"You have a harem?!"
Hongjoong turned around and howled into Seonghwa's chest finally. Seonghwa just sniffed, laboriously stroking his hair.
"Of course I do, I'm a prince!"
The cat man also seemed confused, but from the other direction.
"Excuse me, but you're what, 19? What do you want with a harem?"
Jongho stared at Yunho as if he tried explaining to him that the earth is a cube.
"You, what's your name?"
"Youjin, is it or is it not normal for a prince to have a harem no matter how young they are?"
"It may be old-fashioned, but it's perfectly normal. I'm afraid these ones simply have no knowledge in this field. I'm glad you made it back."
Hongjoong could hardly believe it.
Whatt even was this place?
Wooyoung laughed hysterically in the meantime and Yunho whispered in Mingis ear, his gaze clearly doubting Jongho. Yeosang patted San's back.
The discussion went on, neither side understanding the other and Youjin with Jongho also obviously outnumbered.
Luckily Jongho's welcoming committee saved them before they pulled each other's hair.
They had probably beamed up and finally entered the hangar. Hongjoong assumed they were Jongho's father, mother and older brother.
They did not carry any weapons or signs of their origin (not even animal ones) and of course, it made sense. Here, a monarchy was not like in the Middle Ages.
Hongjoong moved away from Seonghwa a little, and curiously watched the troop as they greeted Jongho with big smiles on their faces.
"Jongho my sweetheart-bunny-apple-sugar-bear, it's so good to see you again!" With just a few steps, his mother was with him, smacking a big kiss on his forehead. Jongho could not have been more lifeless, and behind them all five of the others were curled up in laughter.
Hongjoong laboriously controlled the twitching corners of his mouth.
"Son! You're here and not down a wormhole hahahaha what a pity, that would have been funny! You know, wormhole, because-"
He looked so, so embarrassed.
Behind them, the others were already practicing their most horrible pet names.
Hongjoong's brother received him in a similarly playful, similarly uncomfortable way...
"Well, tell me, snookums-snail-peach-raspberry-darling, how have you been?" Hongjoong's father tickled laughingly under his chin and Youjin watched everything ecstatically, what was going on here? It seemed serious.
In horror, Hongjoong quietly repeated the name to Seonghwa. He just nodded.
"I've been kidnapped, Dad. And these gentlemen" He cast a disparaging glance at the kindergarten behind them, arguing about the stickiest names. "have taken me home. We should reward them."
"Kidnapped, you say! What fun! I remember the first time your mother kidnapped me!"
Dreamily the royal couple looked at each other, sharing hand kisses in the air.
"Maybe it's the air," Seonghwa suggested, humming at Hongjoong's ear and he helplessly lifted his shoulders.
"I have never been kidnapped! Dearest Father, when can I ever be kidnapped? Have you lost your heart there, Jongho?"
Jongho shook his head.
"No, of course not! I was in danger!"
It passed his weird family like wind.
"Vanilla-baby-star-gem-precious, we really hoped you'd grow up and develop stockholm syndrome like a decent man... But apparently not. Why didn't you grow up wonderfully like these two?"
And Jongho's mother pointed at Mingi and Wooyoung.
Who were chasing each other snickering and screaming to peck each others cheeks.
Hongjoong got a headache.
The trio looked at each other with pity, then shook their heads sadly.
"You must be the leader of this group, right? So grown up," Jongho's father finally addressed Mingi and he froze in the race in surprise, blinking at them confusedly. Then his gaze wandered uncertainly to Hongjoong and he just nodded in agreement.
Yeosang giggled into his hand.
"Tell me, how do you manage to educate your raspberry cake slices? I've been trying for years on my cute little baby boy, but it just doesn't work!"
Mingi dutifully confronted him and Seonghwa pulled on Hongjoong's cheeks, squeezing his face in his hands in boredom. Hongjoong's brother grinned at them encouragingly.
"The whole trick is to break them, sir... I mean, splendid King... bro."
Hongjoong was just waiting for everyone to burst into scornful laughter and cut off their heads, he was so ready for it but now everyone was laughing again, Jongho was desperate and his family seemed enraptured.
"Most of tem here have come to my crew for exactly this reason and look at them! Almost all perfectly behaved, after barely a few months of lessons!" He grinned broadly, opening both arms towards the crew, who saw this as their sign to make some strange noises and gestures. Woosan danced.
"Fascinating... Say, got any room left, honey paw? If you can raise Jongho, we'll pay you handsomely! In fact, I'm sure he's indispensable. He may be a dull child, but he is our best fighter."
Hongjoong pricked up his ears.
Taking anyone else along, maybe involuntarily? Did not sound like a good idea.
Hongjoong crossed Jongho's gaze and was surprised how pleadingly the man stared at him. Just because of what?
Hongjoong broke away from Seonghwa to go to Wooyoung and gently ask him to read Jongho's mood.
"He wants to come with us. Just get out of here. He may feel like a prince but he doesn't feel comfortable here as a person," Wooyoung whispered back, his eyes pitying
Hongjoong understood well. He too would have wanted to escape from this hell.
Still, the man had attacked Seonghwa and was not entirely trustworthy.
In the end, it was Yeosang who put a hand on Hongjoong's shoulder, eyes straight ahead at Jongho's family, who tried to teach Jongho how fun life was.
"Take him along. We can always bring him back if he causes trouble or let him go somewhere else if he wants to. Take him, Hongjoong."
And Hongjoong nodded at Mingi.
Chapter 42: Choi Jongho
Hongjoong had no idea what to do with a Choi Jongho on his ship, but he would manage somehow.
Therefore, all (now clearly too many) crew members were called to the bridge.
Hongjoong was sitting on the chief's chair, Seonghwa at his side and the captain almost sinking into the big fluffy coat he was wearing today. He was cold. Having Seonghwa as a boyfriend did not help him much in this respect.
"Well, men - and Aurora - we have received this further addition that we did not expect, but we will accept him here and receive him without prejudice. I don't want any arguments from either direction, and Jongho, if you don't feel well at all, you are free to tell me, we will take you wherever you want and drop you off." He looked between them seriously, receiving cheerful and affable smiles.
Jongho raised his hand like a well-behaved student and Hongjoong motioned to him to speak like a dutiful teacher.
"Can I take my harem with me?"
"Can you- No! You can't have a bunch of wives - or men, we're open - running around on the ship!"
Jongho had the courage to sulk, and Seonghwa soothingly squeezed Hongjoong's thighs.
"You'll have to tell us more about your family anyway, like, what are you and what the hell was wrong with them," Wooyoung interjected, and Yunho too was absolutely desperate about the incident, had dark circles under his eyes from hours of research.
Mingi bounced happily from the balls of his feet to his heels and San did the same next to him a few inches smaller.
"Please don't come with the 'I don't owe you any answers' either, because now you do. What is private is private, but we cannot involve you here if we don't know you. It goes both ways." Hongjoong sounded tired even before Jongho raised a complaint.
Finally, the other sighed heavily and then nodded.
"I'll do my best."
It was a small beginning.
"You can move into my room, I don't really use it anymore anyway," Seonghwa smiled encouragingly to Jongho, already rising to escort him to his room. But Jongho paused for a moment and looked sceptically between Hongjoong and Seonghwa.
"Yes, they are. Just like Wooyoung and San, if you have a problem with it, you should say so immediately, that can become critical," Yeosang warningly answered the unspoken question in Jongho's eyes. For a moment, his gaze wandered apologetically to Wooyoung, but he just waved it away with a small smile. It had only been a matter of time anyway.
Jongho had the decency to look apologetic. With his dark eyes turned to the ground and his hands slightly embarassedly crossed in front of his sturdily built body, he just nodded.
"I have no problem with that. I just wanted to know."
Hongjoong saw Yunho's eyes flaring with sympathy for their new youngest and Aurora also gave a compassionate chirp.
"Okay, I'll take you to your room. We may have to move my stuff a bit, but it'll be quick."
Seonghwa parted from their troupe and Jongho followed, Yeosang close behind. It would take time before they would trust Jongho, but Hongjoong saw a lot of potential for a good friendship. Better Jongho than the rest of his family.
Mingi sat down graciously by Hongjoong's side (slumped on the chair like a sack of potatoes) and Yunho also sank to the ground, starting to play thoughtfully with the tassel of his tail. Wooyoung and San stayed close together, fingers crossed and whispering softly every now and then while staring deeply into each other's eyes.
"Will you pick up more crew members?"
Hongjoong threw a distorted grin in Yunho's direction, wrapped himself more tightly in his coat.
"I don't know if he'll stay. We have no problem with temporary visitors who need help. If he were to stay, however, we would finally have a real fighter. The rest of us here - except for you Yunho - didn't really have a choice, so the question is... how he'll use it."
"Maybe he'll stay because we're such a fun group! He just needs to warm up," Mingi added enthusiastically from the side, and Hongjoong slid his fingers through the other's wild hair with a smile.
"What else? We've had our vacation, now where are we going?"
Thoughtfully, Hongjoong turned around in his chair, staring through the glass front into the endless sky.
"I don't know, Wooyoung... Where do you want to go? There's a whole sky in front of us and then a whole universe to explore."
Finally, after all this time, realization hit Hongjoong.
He had found it. He had fulfilled his dream.
Here he was, with a faithful group he had not had a few months ago and in the middle of that infinite paradise that opened any door for him.
He could fly to Mars, he could see moon sheep, he could go wherever he wanted.
And his friends would go with him.
The corner of Hongjoong's mouth twitched at the thought of how he had been here with only Aurora, Seonghwa bound in that very room on the steps. It had been cold and unpleasant and now everything was full of life.
Sighing, he closed his eyes, enjoying for a moment all the memories he associated with them. The hours of laughter and doubt.
San's voice was soft as it cut through the haze of his thoughts to them.
"Can we...leave? No cities, or many people... Can we?"
San was finally ready to say what he wanted and Hongjoong knew he was just too emotional, but the thought formed a thick lump in his throat.
"Sure, baby... Sure we can. We define as pirates, in case anyone forgot. And you know what pirates need? A nest. A safe haven where no one can find them."
Where would that be? Wherever there were not too many people.
Once there was a pirate's island. A safe place for all pirates, where no government officials were allowed. It was a peaceful place in itself, where the families and homes of many thousands of pirates could be found.
But that island no longer existed. It was wiped out, turning the peaceful pirates back into the same savages they were many years ago. Hongjoong had not been involved, but the boiling hatred of the government's treachery meant a bitter judgment not only for those involved.
It also applied to all those who were now attacked again by the savage barbarians.
But enough of that.
Hongjoong had to provide them with a safe place where they could flee to when things got tough, where they could leave people behind when they went on missions where not everyone could accompany them.
They needed something like that.
"I know a place. It's old, but other pirates used to live there. It might be empty, and if it's not... We'll find a place."
Hongjoong leaned over the desk to enter data, gently persuading the Sunrise to come back to life.
Behind him, the crew scattered happily, each finding his niche. Wooyoung's laughter echoed vividly through the corridors to them from time to time, or Yunho could be heard making a fuss about Mingi when he fell down again.
Hongjoong could only sit back and enjoy it.
Darker hours would come upon them. Doubt and pain, loss and grief. But Hongjoong felt it, they were strong enough to endure it. They would go on their journey and have adventures and any pain would be balanced by joy and healing.
That was what he wanted. The sky open in front of him and a family around him.
Cool hands on his neck made him look up, protesting and shooing the nightwalker away to keep his neck warm. With a mischievous smile, Seonghwa sank back to his seat by his side, his profile gorgeous as he looked out the windows.
"Hilg, huh? Not a bad choice, though it might be occupied."
Seonghwa was... had been something Hongjoong had not expected. He had never foreseen dating a crew member, and he had never expected it to be such a good-looking nightwalker.
"We can do this. Hey, Seonghwa..."
Seonghwa turned his head inquiringly, his eyes gentle and Hongjoong's heart swelled in his chest. Heavens, how he had come to love that man.
"After Jongho hurt you... Why didn't you let me know at once? It was risky."
A sad smile played around the corner of Seonghwa's mouth, his eyelashes fluttering as he lowered his eyes in resignation.
"I hoped you'd forget about it because of Jongho's arrival. Apparently not, huh?"
Hongjoong bit his lip, would have liked to address it more sensitively, but now it was too late.
"How could I make you love me before you accepted yourself? How can you wish me the best... when you're part of it?" He was confused and could not put his thoughts into words, and they hurt.
Seonghwa empathically spread his arms, inviting Hongjoong to sit on his lap. He obeyed all too willingly, burying his face in the other's neck while Seonghwa's fingers slipped absently through the soft fur of his cloak.
"You are building a new life for this crew. You give them a home, a reason to stay and live. That includes me, Hongjoong, and I swear to you, I'll do everything I can to be part of it."
Hongjoong did not deserve Seonghwa, and Hongjoong knew that Seonghwa felt the same about him.
And it was just one goal of many to erase those thoughts.
It only took a short moment of ringing, then the terminal already clicked.
Subconsciously, Hongjoong held his breath.
"Yes? Oh, Hongjoong, it's you! Where are you? What are you doing? How are you? It's been a while since you called."
His heart was beating up to his neck, and at first his voice completely stopped. He tried again.
"Hey, Mama, I... I have something to tell you."
His mother's silence was brief, then her cheerful laughter was heard.
"What is it, you make it sound so awful! Talk to me, Hongjoong, you know I can take it."
Hongjoong exchanged a nervous look with Seonghwa at the door, finding peace in his relaxed smile.
"Mama I never joined the fleet. I became a pirate. I'm not sorry I lied."
Again, he held his breath, almost choking with nervousness while his mother remained silent.
He did not dare tell his father yet. His father had advocated the extermination of Pirate Island. He hated people like Hongjoong.
"I see. Are you happy there? Have you found your friends?" She sounded endlessly gentle and loving, no more reproach in her voice.
She had always known it. Hongjoong had never stopped dreaming.
Hot tears welled up in his eyes and he supported a hand on the wall next to the terminal.
"Yes... Yes, I am. I've found people who make me very happy."
Hongjoong's mother sighed softly but not disappointed.
"Bring them by sometime, honey. Before things get horrible with you. I'd like to meet them one day."
Hongjoong's voice broke again and his tears streamed down his cheeks like waterfalls. Seonghwa was with him immediately, pulling him into a comforting embrace.
She did not hate him. She wanted to get to know them.
"I- I will, Mama. You'll love them."
Aaaand we're done! Come scream at me on Twitter @Susimau_s I promise to check it sometimes xD
See ya tomorrow with part two!