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Strange Birds

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Seo Moonjo could still remember the sweltering heat on his skin when he first laid eyes on the New Tenant.

“ Here comes another young one.” Bok Soon had stepped in next to him, her voice dripping with a sickening excitement. “ We’ll enjoy him greatly, won’t we, Moonjo?”

Moonjo simply smiled, eyes intent on the huddled figure struggling to haul his suitcase up the narrow flight of stairs that leads to the goshiwon building. “ Of course we will, Bok Soon-ah.”

Bok Soon chuckled. “ I better get ready now, you can’t leave the guest waiting!”

Moonjo listened as she scuttled away, humming church tunes under her breath. Being tone deaf, unfortunately, did not curb her desires for singing.

He let himself gaze at the man for a little while longer. His job as a dentist requires punctuality, and he doesn’t want to risk any unwarranted suspicion.

His chest burns with the thought of the police finding and toppling his precious, precious collection.

Still, Moonjo lets himself linger. It is only when the New Tenant stops and makes as if to raise his head that he finally decides to leave.

***

“ Are you the new guy?” Moonjo calls out, deliberately bringing his feet harder onto the cement ground to announce his presence. But he startles anyway, whipping his head around in the manner of a startled rabbit.

“ Yes.” His reply is polite enough, but his expression remains wary. When Moonjo gets close enough, he realises that the New Tenant is barely a man. He is petite - a rare occurrence for Korean men- and dresses shabbily, much like a school kid in hand me downs from older siblings and cousins. His clothes hang loosely off his slender frame, and his face...

Moonjo stares openly at him, taking in his delicate features. A lovely china doll itching to be broken.

A vivid image of dashing him to the ground and snapping his svelte neck swims in Moonjo’s vision, the heat rushing to his loins. He towers over him easily, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the New Tenant, for he seems to curl further into himself, which oddly sends a rush of adrenaline into his veins. It’s almost as euphoric as feeling the dying pulse of Tenant 302 beneath his fingertips.

Almost.

“ The landlady told me about you,” Moonjo begins, schooling his expression into genuine curiosity. “ You moved into Unit 303.”

“ Yes.”

And your name is Yoon Jong Woo.

It was what Bok Soon whispered to him, her eyes blown wide in glee and reeking of cheap hair dye.

Deuk Jong had told him the same thing, forcing out the syllables in between his stutters, simpering and stupid, rubbing his bald head as he goes.

But Moonjo asks him anyway, and pretends like he’s seeing him for the very first time.

“ What’s your name?” He makes sure he keeps his distance, curving his lips in the way Bok Soon does when she wants to gain trust. She gets on his nerves more often than not, but she knows the human mind. How to weasel in, and how to break them.

The trick proves successful when the new tenant finally speaks, albeit reluctantly. “ My name is Yoon Jong Woo.”

“ Seo Moonjo.” He smiles lightly, holding out his hand. “ It’s nice to see a new face around here.”

Jongwoo shakes his outstretched hand, though he pulls away quickly, the discomfort at Moonjo’s cold hands flitting across his expression.

“ Isn’t it nice up here?” Moonjo looks to the city lights and concrete buildings like it fascinates him. Jongwoo follows suit, gaze sweeping across them in obligatory interest. “ The rooms are suffocating, just like a coffin. If you have a beer up here, you would feel better.”

“ You would.”

Moonjo turns to him, trailing down the length of his body. He is pretty, Moonjo thinks, but would he be pretty on the inside, too?

“ Why do you keep smiling at me?” Jong Woo snaps, jolting Moonjo away from his thoughts. Any attempt at keeping up civil interaction crumbles away, the anger in his voice thinly veiled. It ripples beneath his bambi eyes and stretches taut across his jaw, his chin lifted in a fierceness that Moonjo did not predict.

“ Sorry if that was offensive.”

“ No,-” The fury diminishes as quickly as it came, and for some reason, leaves a hollow feeling in Moonjo’s chest. “ I just-”

“ Like it?”

Jongwoo pauses, staring blankly at him. “Huh?”

Moonjo turns away, pushing down the urge to smirk. He picks a can of beer he got from the convenience store, the metal as cool as the night air. He could have went on, watched as Jongwoo squirms in discomfort, but now is not the right time.

He hands the can to him, smiling dismissively. “ Do you want a beer?”

***

He sees a reflection of himself in Jongwoo that night.

A distant echo of what he once was, and a glaring possibility of what Jongwoo can be.

It is that glare that keeps him awake in the darkness of him room, peering at Jongwoo through a drilled peephole of the brittle walls. He drinks in his every move, revels in his every waking moment. He memorizes his every breath, every sceptical gaze, every perturbed expression. He listens for the rhythmic tap tap tap as Jongwoo types away at his keyboard, stopping only when he hears the nerves starts getting to him, or when he hears Deuk Jong’s unsettling giggles floating down the hall.

“ You’ve always loved the pretty ones.” Bok Soon sighs over dinner, chewing on the marinated meat. “ The strange, little birds.”

“ Birds!” Deuk Jong exclaims, laughing and clapping his hands, whilst his twin, Deuk Soo, smiles affectionately at him. “ We used to pluck their tiny feathers, remember?”

Moonjo gives off a distracted hum, getting up from the table. They never did interest him much. They were wicked to the bone, but they were foolish and ugly, ruffians who will never understand art. But Jong Woo was different. He could be different.

He will be. All Moonjo needed was time, and he has all the time in the world.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Moonjo catches him showering in the washroom and wonders how the taste of Jong Woo’s bare skin would taste like, if the rivulets trickling down his body would sweeten the tip of his parched tongue.

He reminds him of a sparrow, small-boned and bright-eyed.

Jongwoo senses his presence behind him and turns, peering at him through his damp fringe. His expression is curious, but holds none of the scepticism he had towards him the other night, and Moonjo prides himself on reaping his trust.

“ Good morning, hyung,” He greets, smiling a little. He smells like fresh soap.

Moonjo returns the gesture, striking light conversation and holding his gaze so that Jongwoo’s attention doesn’t stray to his own nakedness and sees the burning hunger to push him against the tiles and break his tender skin with his teeth, to devour his shudders and breathy gasps as he forcefully rams inside of him-

But Moonjo waits. He has always been good at waiting.

Yet he can’t hide his face from falling when Jongwoo speaks of his girlfriend in that disgusting tone of affection, the casualness of his open adoration churning his insides with the force of a riptide and kindling Moonjo’s urge to crack his skull against the water basin.

His eyes trail after Jongwoo as he leaves, wishing that he had given into his desires instead.

***

It didn’t take long for Moonjo to decide that he hates the newcomer, a young college student who talks too much for his own good.

Jongwoo grows on him quickly, though- they stand too closely on the balcony, exchanging friendly laughs and glasses of soju. It is clear that Jongwoo enjoys his company, the pent-up rage inside him replaced by a calm, unguarded warmth whenever he is near the boy.

Moonjo thinks the boy is nothing more than a hindrance and a waste of space. He is too simple, too naïve.

He falls into Moonjo’s trap in a matter of clever words and old mind tricks, and Moonjo dully observes that he snivels like a spoiled child, pleading and begging with no qualms to his own dignity. He listens from the darkness of his room when the boy wails at Jongwoo to stay, his lies tumbling clumsily from his lips. The terror in his quivering voice as Jongwoo regards him with the same distaste as the other tenants, turning his back on the boy he had grown fond of.

(“You’re just like them”, he spits.)

Moonjo doesn’t feel sorry when he disposes of him, or when he bleeds out in his chair. The boy does have some function to him, he supposed, admiring the new set of teeth to his collection while he patiently awaits Jongwoo’s return.

***

Jongwoo nearly kills Jaeho when he humiliates him in the restaurant, and while Moonjo lives off his unpredictable temper, he moves in to grab his hand, holding the skinny wrist tightly in his palm.

He can’t afford to have such exquisite potential rot away behind bars.

Moonjo kills Jaeho later that night, a man who was all bark no bite, all preening masculinity stripped bare as he gapes up at him, paralysed from the sedatives jabbed into his neck.

“ I’m not usually this impulsive, but Jongwoo is… very special to me.” Moonjo sighs, picking a statuette on a nearby shelf. “ He is very special to me. Earlier, why did you have to-”

He brings down the statuette onto his skull, bashing his head in until he hears a familiar crack and detects the metallic scent of blood. He catches his reflection in the window above the counter, all pale skin and gleaming, black eyes. He would find blood droplets on his face and sweater later on, but it is a small sacrifice to give for a much bigger cause.

He looks down at Jaeho’s misshapen head, his blood staining the marble floor of his own office.

Oh, Jongwoo, Moonjo thought, how I wished you were here with me right now.

***

“ Deny it all you want, but we are birds of a feather, you and I.” Moonjo grips his chin, inhaling the scent of blood and sweat. “ We are each other’s shadow.”

“ You are a fucking monster.” Jongwoo spits, his beautiful face contorted in pure hatred. “ A fucking murderer.”

“ I am simply different,” Moonjo replies coolly; uncontained wrath gives Jongwoo’s eyes an intoxicating quality, jagged splinters of hazel and chestnut that could love and hate in equal measure. “ An artist that enjoys a unique beauty. You out of all people should understand.”

Jongwoo falls silent, seething with barely controlled rage. His girlfriend – Jiyoon? Jiwoo?- lays unconscious a few rooms away, and Moonjo wonders why it is always the simpletons that Jongwoo associates and grows attached to.

Moonjo eventually comes up with an ultimatum. “ Kill them all.”

Jongwoo’s shoulders tensed, his breathing coming off uneven.

“ Kill all the tenants,” Moonjo says, “ and I’ll set your girlfriend free.”

Moonjo lets go of him; he tumbles into a table, gasping heavily and scrambling around for support. Once he regained his footing, he fixed Moonjo with a stare so chilling it excited a hidden part of him that he thought was long dead.

“ When you’re done, you know where to find me.”

He doesn’t need a reply to know Jongwoo’s decision.

***

The clatter of the knife falls to the ground and echoes against the wall. It has gotten dark, and all that remained after the piercing noise has settled is the blood dripping from his hands and the unwavering gaze of Seo Moonjo.

“ You enjoyed it, didn’t you?” He asks, though it comes off as a statement. “ Aren’t you happy?”

Jongwoo thinks of Bok Soon’s corpse dangling over the counter like a bloated ragdoll, the heavy rain falling into Byun Deuk Soo’s unblinking stare, his infuriating giggles ripped completely from his throat.

For a moment, they just look at each other- observing, scrutinizing.

A muscle in Moonjo’s face shifts. It takes a second for Jongwoo to realize that he’s smiling.

***

A shrill cry rings out into the dead silence of the night.

“ You will do well to keep silent, sweetheart.” The man’s clasp over her mouth is suffocating, but the breath of his voice rivals a gentle caress. He had fooled her into letting him into her apartment, fogging her rationale with his pale, pretty face and heavy doses of alcohol. His eyes- sweet and thoughtful when she had met him at the pub, now gleamed with a fervent mania. “ We’ll make it fast, I promise.”

When she finally obeys, Moonjo calls out to the darkness, his tone brimming with sickening adoration. “ She’s all yours, my little sparrow.”

A petite figure moves into view, clothes hanging loosely of their frame. The voice, when it speaks, is calm and masculine.

A light smile graces his shadowed features. “Hello there, jagi.