Rating: R. Language, violence and later sexual themes.
Summary: In a world bound by the tangles of war, Hakyeon searches for freedom after meeting a group of travelers. Post-apocalyptic AU.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, just love 'em.
Part 1. || Part 2. || Part 3. || Part 4.
A/N: So I decided to continue this fic, a year after I last wrote from it. I have most of the story planned out so it's just a matter of writing. ^^ slashedsilver encouraged me to continue so...here I am!
After N's last incident, he’s invited with the small hunting group--more like duo since it only consists of Leo and Ravi. Leo mentions in passing it’ll build up his skill to be vigilant and he’ll acquire a quicker reflex to fight or defend himself. Hyuk stays back with Hongbin and Ken, their task to clean out the inside of the camper. The youngest in the group gives him a pat on the back and whispers for him to make sure they don’t murder him and leave him out there in the woods.
If he isn’t already so anxious about holding a knife, he’s sure he would’ve scolded Hyuk for implanting that fear. But N finds out quickly hunting is a lot of patience--in fact, it’s rather boring. Ravi and Leo sit quietly at opposite ends of a tree’s massive trunk. While its grand branches arch over them, blanketing them in cool shade from the mid-autumn’s sun, Ravi skins the bark off fallen sticks while Leo stares out into the sea of trees.
N positions himself on part of the tree trunk, leaning back against the wood that digs into his shoulder blades uncomfortably. He wants to talk, but each time he opens his lips to speak, he remembers Leo told him silence and stillness is the most important thing while hunting--to blend in with the natural forest is the key to drawing in the stray wild animals.
Sighing quietly, he wonders how much longer they need to sit there before they decide this trip is futile and they can return to the camper.
Eventually, there’s a stirring in the trees. A twig somewhere in the distance cracks and Hakyeon sits up, sensing Ravi and Leo’s attention both alert to the sound. When N's eyes dart over to Leo, he sees the leader raise a finger up to his lips, reminding N to remain silent and calm. Leo is graceful in his movements as he starts to tread quietly through the brush, his boots evenly stepping onto the dead leaves with such a quietness, that N's afraid to follow.
Ravi urges him though from behind, a hand here and there nudging at his back for him to keep going. N's even terrified of breathing, worried he’ll misjudge the amount of oxygen he’ll bring into his lungs and make a loud, startling gasp.
Suddenly Leo’s arm is extending out, motioning for N and Ravi to halt. N follows the line of Leo’s gesture as he nods ahead, and as he squints his eyes to peer forward, past the winding vines of bushes and trees and into a clearing up ahead, he sees it. It looks like...what are those animals called...a pig? Or maybe it’s a wild boar! N had heard of wild boars being quite rampant in the upperlands. They were vicious creatures that would use their horns to tear apart any human.
N gulps, not keen on the idea of getting his limbs ripped clean from his body.
As he feels fingers curl into his shirt from behind, he realizes it’s Ravi, holding him in his spot. N has no intention of moving, confident that his legs wouldn’t carry him ahead even if he was ordered to. Instead, he watches as Leo continues onward by himself, barely making a sound as he’s like a legendary lion closing in on its unsuspecting prey.
His heart beats faster the closer he sees Leo gets; the glint of the knife is so vivid in his eyes, gripped tightly in his hand as he’s low to the ground, moving with more ease as the trees clear up. And then it’s with bated breath, that N stares with a watchful gaze, his heart racing and pounding harder in his chest as he sees just how close Leo is. The boar is sniffing around, chewing on shrubbery and breaking off small sticks as its tail swishes behind.
And then it all falls into place so quickly, N almost yelps if it isn’t for Ravi’s hand covering his mouth. He barely sees it, everything happening so fast. There’s a loud squeal howling into the forest suddenly, echoing in N's ears so glaringly sharp that it feels like it’s a foot away from him. He can see movement of bodies, one human, one animal. Leaves and branches crunch and snap between the wild fight happening just ahead of them and N's digging his nails so tightly into Ravi’s forearm he can hear him gritting his teeth and straining out a groan.
N's in a panic, simply because he’s worried Leo will come out mangled--or worse, dead. However, as quickly as the sounds of a raging fight begin, it all ends. Everything stills so rapidly, like a calm breeze whipping through and thrusting silence on the surrounding area.
Slowly, N loosens his hold on Ravi’s arm and he sees his skin is red and already raising. “Sorry,” he apologizes, sheepish and guilty at his reaction.
“It’s okay,” Ravi dismisses his apology with a small grimace and like that, he’s grabbing N's arm to drag him forward to where the attack occurred.
N is breathless when they approach Leo. The quiet man is cradling the boar in his arms, blood spilling forth from its neck onto his clothes; he’s murmuring foreign words that sound like a rhythmic chant. N is about to question what he’s doing, but Ravi stops him, exchanging a look that conveys it’s too important to interrupt.
As N returns his gaze onto Leo, observing the whole scene, he begins to listen attentively. The more he listens, the more he realizes it sounds like a prayer. The stream of words are gentle and produce a calming, peaceful effect as he feels his previous panic placate and sober. It’s like the whole forest is listening to Leo’s soft hymn of words.
By the time Leo finishes, Ravi also has a somber expression and a hand over his heart, like he is giving an ode to the boar that spared its life for theirs. Leo lays the boar down and continues to take out a large cloth from his sack, wrapping the lifeless animal carefully. When they gather it up and bind it with ties, Ravi and Leo carry it together for the animal weighs a lot.
It’s a success as soon as they arrive back at the camper. The other guys started their own game of Rocks but as soon as they see the wrapped beast, they start jumping up and down in joyful cheers.
“Dinner is gonna be so good for the next week!” Ken exclaims, clapping excessively. His bright grin is certainly contagious for N is also grinning.
"You should've seen Leo-hyung," Ravi begins to reenact the action, of a fierce and fearless Leo grabbing and holding down the boar as he slid his knife cleanly in its head.
The other guys laugh and roar up into a cheer again. N glances at Leo, seeing a small smile lifting on his usually dark and pensive features. It’s obvious how delighted he is, even if he’s not cheering like the rest of them.
That night’s dinner is indeed the best one they’ve had so far. Ken manages to roast part of the pig, saving its skin to dry out later in the sun. They have it with the usual beans but for some reason, even those taste better.
It’s also the first night N has a dreamless sleep. He sleeps to darkness and silence, content in the void that draws him in and lets him feel restful.
Another week passes before they stop at this small town. It’s not a larger city, but it does have an inn.
To N’s surprise, they agree to stay overnight where they can have the luxury of warm beds and a meal that isn’t cooked over a campfire. He watches as they lock up the camper, going to the extent of removing its two back tires and storing them within, the doors bound by thick, rusting chains. It’s to keep anyone from stealing it, large vehicles like this a great asset.
The town itself isn’t bustling with activity. The people here stay inside once it’s dark. Ravi whispers to him that usually smaller places like this are susceptible to groups of bandits coming through. No wonder the curtains to the homes are drawn as they pass by.
They make it to the inn and upon entering, N realizes this is where everyone who dares to leave their homes after dark come. He had heard the noise from outside but it’s nothing compared to the wild scene before him. There’s men and women on the raised stage, playing music from instruments N’s never seen before; one of them has metal looking cans aligned together and the woman on it is beating at them with a carven stick. People are shuffling between the patrons, moving to the music while serving glasses that are filled to the brim with foaming alcohol. Some tables are crowded by people playing cards, yelling out bets to the plays in their hands. It’s lively and boisterous and N smiles widely.
As they slowly make their way through towards the bar, a large man is about to stand up and bump into him, when N feels an arm suddenly pressing across his chest. He sees Leo beside him, dark eyes set upon the man as he guides N gently out of his way. N feels this flowering heat bloom across his cheeks.
At the bar, Ken is the first one to order a drink. He claims he rarely drinks because he always has to be vigilant about driving. Ravi and Hongbin are the next ones to order, challenging each other to a drink off. Hyuk sits quietly at the end and only agrees to one when Hongbin pulls him in, ruffling at his hair and declaring the ‘kid’ will finally become a man.
N snorts to himself at the interactions, nodding when the bartender slides a glass in front of him and fills it up. He’s never drank the rice alcohol--or was this wheat? Potato?
It doesn’t matter in the end as he takes the first sip, nose wrinkling and eyes squinting at the strong, sharp taste. He coughs, the burn in his throat unexpected. N hears a soft trail of laughter from beside him and he glances over, seeing the look of amusement on Leo’s features. He’s enthralled by the sound of his laugh, and the way his eyes arch before he ducks his head down to cover his face.
“I’m used to alcohol that’s sweeter,” N defends himself, accusing Leo of being offensive. “You’re not allowed to laugh,” and he pops his elbow out to nudge at him.
Leo doesn’t budge, his shoulders still shaking.
N is suddenly distracted though by an arm winding around his shoulders from the other side. “N-hyung!” Ravi is hanging off him, clinking their glasses together. “To joining our team! We’re glad to have you!”
“Isn’t this your first drink?” N teases, feeling light and playful tonight. “Why are you acting so drunk, being all cheesy.” He feigns distaste but joins in drinking more of the alcohol, his nose wrinkling again. It’s truly stronger than what he’s used to back at...what was once home. N doesn’t let his emotions falter though, too caught up in the joyful atmosphere.
Not much time passes before most of them are feeling the weight of the drinking. Hongbin makes his way to a table and plays a few hands of cards, slamming his palm on the table when he comes out on top and wins a handful of Liebre. Hyuk isn’t anywhere to be seen but N doesn’t worry about it; he wouldn’t wander off outside.
N has a nice tingling sensation fluttering through his limbs and he’s so content he can’t stop smiling. He doesn’t even care when a woman pushes her way between him and Leo, her plump breasts nearly toppling out of her dress in his face. He just giggles and lets her talk to him. He can barely process what she’s saying, her dialect different than what he’s used to. Is she even speaking the Uni-Korean language?
She must notice N isn’t registering anything she’s saying, for she moves from verbal language to body language. His eyes widen when she boldly slides a slender hand up his thigh, barely giving him time to react before it’s midway up and squeezing gently at his leg through his pants. There must be a thermometer demonstrating just how hot he slowly becomes, for he glances past her to see Leo staring right at him.
N hasn’t used the bathroom in a while and he finds now is a good time to do so. He excuses himself, slipping away from the barstool with only just a small stumble. He’s making his way somewhat successfully past the tables, only tripping once when a chair knocks into him as a table fumes up in cheers.
In the bathroom he lingers, washing his face with cool water and wishing there was a mirror. He’s not sure what kind of state he’s in: if he’s flushed with warmth from the alcohol all the way to his ears, or if he looks tired from the slowing of his body’s reactions and the long day’s travels.
He’s beginning to lose count of the days but he’s sure more than a few weeks have passed. Has it been a month yet? At this point, N isn’t even sure if they’re still in Uni-Korea. They could have already traveled to Jungguk. He did remember the mention of avoiding the mountains in a conversation between Ken and Leo but his geography knowledge was never high. The words spoken between people out in the inn’s bar don’t sound familiar and he’s not sure if he can attribute that to how drunk he is.
Either way, N is drunk and he’s having the most fun since his hometown.
Suddenly the door opens and a man stumbles inside, drunk off his toes as well as he clambers up to the wall--N leaves before he sees what else happens.
When he’s back at the bar, he notices all of the guys save for Ken have left.
“Where are the others?” N asks Ken who’s still drinking his way through the night. He doesn’t seem fazed at all.
“They turned in early...tired,” Ken informs, before he’s smiling at the bartender who clearly admires his drinking stamina. N nods and looks around again, seeing Leo was one of the ones who left.
“I should turn in, too…” N drifts off, indicating he doesn’t know where to go.
Ken’s dark eyebrows beneath his blond hair lift up at N and he chuckles. “Here,” he whisks out a key, “Take this. I think yours is the fourth one...on the right? Or left? No, I think the right.” He nods a few times, searching his mind for confirmation. “Well, one of the two!” Ken claps his hand on N’s shoulder, telling him to rest up and enjoy a bed while he can.
The stairs aren’t too difficult to climb despite how many times he does indeed pause to recollect himself. He’s feeling the buzz and as bubbly as it makes him, it’s one hell of a task to get up to the second floor.
Once he makes it, N counts the doors while walking down the hall: 1, 2, 3, 4...and he shifts his weight to the right. It’s quieter up here, the further from the staircase he heads. The downstairs liveliness becomes a distant hum of laughter and music.
When N goes to slide the key into the door, he hears a sound from past the wood.
N pauses, the metal of the key’s tip stuck against the knob. His eyes go wide as he hears a moan follow suit and it’s so clear what’s transpiring beyond this door that he freezes in place.
There’s a deep groan and a few grunts, before another moan spills out and N recognizes both voices well enough without the given names. He’s suddenly flushed and embarrassed that he can even register whose noises belong to who; he starts to sweat at the back of his neck and his heart is racing, utterly shocked as his legs are too stiff to move.
“Hey,” he abruptly hears a soft voice and a hand claiming his shoulder.
N nearly jumps and yelps but then he sees Leo; he also has a hand suddenly on his mouth, probably to prevent him from shrieking at the surprise.
Leo silently nods for N to follow him, turning to the door on the opposite side--to the left. His room is the one to the left.
N makes a note to curse at Ken later on for the mistake, but he knows he’ll back out the instant he remembers what exactly was going on behind the right door. N watches, flustered, as Leo takes out his own key and is opening the door.
“We-” N is about to ask if they are sharing a room and Leo simply nods before he fits the whole question in. N just sinks back silently and follows him inside, the embarrassment lingering as he feels his palms are still clammy and his stomach is still tight.
The room is small. There’s two narrow beds with just a wooden stand between. The candle on the stand is lit; it’s an easy way for inn’s like this to save on using up a gas resource. Wax is easier to come across.
Leo flops down onto a bed he’s already claimed. It’s a rather unceremonious action, ungraceful and displaying exhaustion--very unlike him. N lingers by the door, hesitating to move as a hand comes up to rub along his opposite forearm. He feels shy and sheepish, the alcohol not helping as it keeps him from focusing on one thought too long.
His gaze shifts from the way Leo’s long legs cross, the black pant material framing his slender limbs so tightly, that N’s mind flashes back to moments ago when he heard indecent sounds fluttering freely from the cracks between the wood.
“What are you doing?” Leo’s voice slices through the air, soft and curious.
N stiffens as he flushes, shaking his head. His heart gallops straight into his throat, preventing a vocal response. When he steals a glance at Leo, he sees the pair of black, brooding eyes staring at him. He shifts his eyes away, unable to meet them.
What feels like hours pass by, N still standing by the door. When Leo speaks again, it surprises N what comes out of his mouth. “It’s normal.”
He’s so surprised he’s able to drag his eyes over, feeling his lids widen as he assesses Leo’s expression. He’s serious about what he said--then again, when is he not serious.
“Is it?” N asks, feeling quite naive and dumb. He finally risks movement, his shoes previously glued to the floor begin to step forward, the boards beneath them creaking under his weight. The mattress is hard beneath him as he sits down on the edge, taking interest in his boots as he waits for a reply.
“Yeah,” Leo’s body moves out of the corner of his eyes, but N gauges he only places his arms beneath his head to further relax. “It can get lonely. Humans look for companionship, don’t they?”
The way he inquires leads N to wonder if maybe Leo really is a lion--or a wolf; both suit him.
“But…they’re doing homosexual acts...” N drifts off. It’s silly, for he knows the taboo word ‘homosexual’ comes from old terms, originating thousands of years before their time. He remembers seeing men before, tangled in one another’s arms in back alleys or even in bed chambers of guest rooms of the local inn in Chawon. He used to work there before his factory job, before he came of age. It was simple tasks of cleaning up tables and bringing drinks to visitors.
The first time he saw two men together, he was shocked. He was just passing by to carry a bag of rice to the front when the door was ajar. One of them was pinned down on the bed, legs in the air as the other man’s body bucked so hard against him. All N could think about for the next week was the sound of skin hitting skin and ass cheeks tensing with vigor from each thrust. He was ashamed that he found arousal from recalling the images, bringing himself to fruition by his own hand in his bed at night.
Homosexuality was once popular, but after the wars spread and resources became thin, communication circling down and towns becoming more isolated, making sure the human race survived became a larger priority. Women and men were expected to reproduce, to birth new life and keep the race alive. Uni-Korea in particular had a history of fighting off its political neighbors, so it was more imperative that families form and prosper.
N feels his body deflate as he doesn’t know what to feel about Ravi and Hongbin.
“We only have each other,” Leo states.
The words carry so much weight to them as N realizes this. They’re a traveling band of six guys. If they ever stop anywhere, it’s only for a night like this. That’s not enough time to meet a girl and build a family. None of them knew how long they’d be in this position; their destination date is still so unknown.
N swallows thickly, the sound audible in the quiet of the room. He’s afraid though if he listens too closely to this silence, he’ll hear the sounds from across the hall.
He wants to ask a question, but he’s terrified. He’s terrified of the answer and he’s terrified of why he even wants to ask it--but he does. “Then what about you?”
Leo is still, as quiet as usual, his breathing not even audible. The amount of time that passes again feels like another round of hours. N doesn’t move from his spot, his fingers digging into the edge of the hard mattress as his heart continues to run rampant in his chest.
“I do get lonely, but…” There’s the but and N waits to hear how he finishes. “...they’re my brothers.”
“Am I your brother?” The question slips out so quickly he bites down on his bottom lip, a gasp hiccuping out of him. He’ll blame that one on the alcohol. His palms begin to sweat again and he knows if he looks up at Leo, he’ll see he’s looking right back at him. It’s easy to know, for Leo’s eyes are always so sharp the daggers in them prickle at N’s skin.
“You should get to sleep,” Leo finally answers. The tone in his voice is more neutral than it was seconds ago when he was sharing something personal.
It makes N want to grab the pillow on the bed and bury his face in it. He really should sleep and just forget this conversation ever happened. Untying his boots and slipping his feet out of them, he lays onto the bed and rolls over, his back to Leo. He struggles for a moment of wiggling the thin blanket free from beneath him; he eventually succeeds and he’s pulling it up to his shoulders, curling into himself.
N hears a gust of breath and the small light of the candle goes out, leaving them in complete darkness. A long while passes before he feels sleep overcome him. His last thoughts before falling asleep are wondering if Leo is still awake.
That night, N doesn’t have a dreamless sleep. He also doesn’t dream of his hometown burning into ash before his eyes.
Instead, he dreams of pale arms cradling him firmly while his thighs are wrapped around sturdy hips. He dreams of wavy black hair spilling above him while he feels those hips rock into him. He dreams of lips whispering hushed words of protection and love before they kiss him. He dreams of a world where he’s not a brother, but a companion.
A/N: Sorry to disappoint those of you who've been waiting a year and this is all you get!! Hope you still liked it!