Title: my heart is still (remembering)
Word Count: 2,927 (68,053 total so far)
Warnings: Lots of swearing, depictions of a character having panic attacks, mentions of alcohol and drug abuse, some (mostly non-graphic) blood and gore, sexual situations(?)
Summary: He’s not a hero, and he’s not a spy. Really, he’s just a mechanic who nearly went crazy and got in over his head in order to cope.
Notes: This chapter is long and it is intense. Prepare yourselves. Also: I almost killed him.
He wastes time at the door. The back-up computers were supposed to bring the locking mechanisms back online too, but his seems to have malfunctioned and he has to punch the manual button and then turn a hand crank until he hears the giant steel bolt inside the door release and it swings open.
He slips through, praying that he has enough time, that the elevator isn’t offline too.
The opposite end of the hallway is dark, and there’s no light above the elevator door, no sign that it’s functioning at all. He doesn’t have time to waste going all the way down there to check it, so instead he detours halfway down the corridor, slams through a little-used door and starts on the stairs two and three steps at a time.
Once, half a lifetime ago it seems, he’d told Taekwoon not to use the stairs. They were eighteen floors down, and no sane person would climb that many flights unless they had good reason. He feels like if anything’s a good reason, it’s this.
He’s panting by B12, struggling for breath as he keeps pushing himself. One more step, and two here, and swing himself around with a hand on the railing and start in on the next flight. B11. He can do this.
He has no idea how many minutes he has left. For all he knows he could be too late. He forces himself to go faster even as his thighs burn. He regrets not letting Hakyeon do more work on him. If his legs were robotic he would have no trouble with stairs.
B9. He runs straight past the door that would take him into the IT department. His whole mind is on his race against the clock and he doesn’t even pause to remember the things that happened there, the fact that if he’d never gone there that day looking for Wonshik then he wouldn’t be here right now.
The numbers get smaller. B7, B6, B5. He’s almost there, and he pushes his aching body as hard as he can, pulls himself up the last step onto B4 with his arms instead and keeps going.
Wonshik loves him. Wonshik told him to get out. Maybe it’s stupid to believe it, but Hongbin doesn’t have much left to believe in. B3. He’s nearly at the lobby now.
“I fucking love you.”
Hongbin thinks of Youngji, of how much difference there is between his love for her and the love that Wonshik professes to have for him. Hongbin’s love for her was pure and untainted, the way only first love can be. They were so happy. Can he be that way with Wonshik?
B2. It feels like it takes ages to finish this flight of stairs. The paint on the railings is chipped and the bright yellow caution tape on the edges of the steps is worn through the middle where it gets walked on frequently.
B1. After this is the ground floor, and Hongbin feels his hands shaking and his breath juddering in his lungs and tells himself to hold on.
He reaches the ground floor with a broken-glass feeling in his throat and no idea how much time he has left. The back exit is to his right as he slams through the stairwell door, a few precious steps closer than the lobby doors are. He heaves in a great, gasping breath of air and sprints full-out down the corridor.
Through two layers of sealed glass doors, Hongbin can see the parking structure behind the building, the distant streetlights and neon signs just beyond.
This door simply opens as he approaches. It’s almost surprising, how easy it is to get out after all of that.
He runs down the alley instead of going for the parking garage. He’s fairly sure that the effects of the explosion won’t spread that far, but it’s best to be safe. He goes for the empty street beyond, crosses the abandoned motorway and then bends over himself, hands on his knees, and attempts to catch his breath.
Not a moment too soon; there’s a horrific bang, muffled but still loud, like a gun set off inside a house that he’s on the outside of. Hongbin turns just in time to see the cracks that have rent through most of the walls, to see the structure begin to fold in on itself.
It just…crumbles. Slowly at first and then quicker and quicker as the supports give way, turning to little more than a giant pile of dirt and sinking into the hole made by the explosion, down into twenty basement levels on top of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment.
Some part of him expected screaming. There isn’t any. There’s no sound at all, actually, after the rubble settles. The street is silent. Somewhere, far in the distance, Hongbin imagines he can hear a siren.
A car drives up—not a police car or an ambulance or a firetruck, but Hakyeon in a sleek gray sedan, Taekwoon perched like a sentinel in the front seat, his eyes dark and blank as he stares at what’s left of the building where he was…created.
“Hongbin, thank god,” Hakyeon sighs, rolling the window down. He’s not wearing a mask. That’s a good way to get himself dead. “We waited until we saw it start to fall and then we came looking for you. Are you okay? You look like you just ran a marathon.”
Hongbin nods, somewhat blankly. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do now. “Elevator died,” he mumbles. “Had to take the stairs.”
“The—god, Hongbin, you could have died,” Hakyeon protests, gaping.
Hongbin looks him square in the eye and says, “I know.” He imagines that Hakyeon understands exactly what he means by that one short phrase. If anyone does, if anyone understands him that much besides Wonshik, it’s Hakyeon.
“Get in the car,” Hakyeon says.
Hongbin takes hold of the door handle and then stops. “Wait. Where’s Wonshik?”
Hakyeon gets a look in his eyes that Hongbin can’t for the life of him decipher. It looks like pity or hurt or shame, or maybe none, or all three, and it can’t mean what Hongbin thinks it means because if it does, if that’s Hakyeon’s response to Hongbin’s question….
“He said he was going to get out,” Hongbin whispers. “He said he was…was going to find some excuse to step out of the meeting and he was going to—“
“He was never going to leave, Hongbin,” Hakyeon replies just as softly. “You know he felt responsible, you know he felt like he had to make up for what he’d done.”
“Not by dying!” Hongbin yells. God, what an idiot. If he told Hongbin he loved him, if he insisted that Hongbin live, then he should be here. He should take responsibility for those actions too, damn it.
He runs for the rubble, looks up at the huge pile of rock and rebar and crushed furniture and isn’t sure where to even start. To his left is what looks like one of the excessively ostentatious office chairs from the thirty-first floor and Hongbin goes for it, climbs over chunks of concrete flooring and pushes aside potted plants and bits of ventilation ducts and fucking coffee makers.
“Hongbin!” Hakyeon’s voice yells, slightly muffled but close. A single glance tells Hongbin that he’s down at the very edge of the pile, wearing a mask now and shouting until he’s red in the face. “There’s nothing you can do! Even if he’s in there, the fall will have killed him.”
“He’s a cyborg,” Hongbin shouts back. He shoves aside a smaller chunk of concrete, unearthing a large wooden desk that may have been Wonshik’s. He’s probably looking in the wrong place. Wonshik was probably in the conference room, not his office. “He might have survived it.”
There’s crunching behind him, the sound of someone else shoving aside rubble. Hongbin doesn’t turn, just keeps doing what he’s doing, pushing things away until he finds a leather lounge chair, and then a familiar coffee table.
“Hongbin!” Hakyeon shouts again. He’s getting closer, his shoes slip-sliding on dusty, uneven surfaces. When he’s close enough he lays a hand on Hongbin’s arm in an attempt to get him to stop. Softly, he says, “Even if his robotic parts are still functional, Hongbin, you have to know that everything that makes him human…well, there won’t be much left. He can’t have survived a fall like that, or the weight of all of this rubble collapsing on top of him. If…if the explosion itself didn’t kill him, then the aftermath did.”
Hongbin grits his teeth, fights back the sob for as long as he can, but it’s futile in the end. It comes out ragged and broken and far too loud, and he cries, “He said he loved me, Hakyeon. He’s the reason I even fucking got out and then he goes and does this shit. He fucking…I actually fucking loved him. And it was stupid and irrational and I didn’t think I’d ever feel this way again after…after Youngji. But I do, and now he can’t be dead. He can’t.”
Hakyeon stares at him with wide eyes. His hand on Hongbin’s arm has gone slack, and Hongbin takes the opportunity to go back to digging.
Taekwoon comes up behind him, lays a hand on Hongbin’s shoulder, and then addresses Hakyeon. “I would do the same for you,” he says. “If there was any chance that you were still alive, I would fight demons or swim across the sea or come back from the dead in order to save you.”
Tears run down Hakyeon’s cheeks, suddenly and without warning. He wipes them away irritably, smearing gray concrete dust across his cheeks. “You’re so damn poetic at the worst times,” he tells Taekwoon wryly. “Fine, we’ll find him. But I…I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to save him, Hongbin. Or that he’ll be anything like he used to if I do.”
“I know,” Hongbin says. He knows he’s already asking for a miracle. Putting it all on Hakyeon hardly seems fair.
The distant wail of sirens starts up for real as they go back to digging. This district is primarily industrial, but it was only a matter of time before someone noticed a thing as obvious as the collapse of an entire office building.
Behind him and off to his left he can hear Taekwoon and Hakyeon shouting Wonshik’s name, but Hongbin can’t speak, can barely breathe through the tears that are flooding his throat.
He makes the hitch of his breath in the smoggy air incentive to dig faster. He doesn’t know what’ll happen if Fire and Rescue show up before they find Wonshik, but he has a feeling that they won’t let him stay.
“God, Wonshik,” he whispers, unvoiced, with barely a breath behind the words, “please, you have to be alive.”
It gets him through shoving aside another hunk of cement, bracing his feet on shifting rubble, forcing his muscles to work harder. The hardware built into his arms makes him inhumanly strong, but he’s not a miracle. He can lift two or three times as much as another man of his size, but that does little in the face of a slab of concrete the size of a truck.
Taekwoon comes over, jams his hands under the other side of the slab, and together they lift it as though it were a small table, setting it aside out of the way. The sirens are growing closer.
“Wonshik!” Taekwoon calls again, pushing through the haphazard collection of office furniture that they’ve unearthed. There’s a large wooden thing near Taekwoon that might be a conference table.
Hongbin feels his heart swell with hope. There’s very little chance…but he can’t help but think, maybe this is it, maybe they’ve found him.
The sight of a bloodied hand, buried under smaller bits of concrete and crushed beneath a shattered LCD display, nearly forces Hongbin to his knees. He shoves forward instead, pushes the useless monitor away and prays that Wonshik is alive and feels the hope die as quickly as it came.
He doesn’t know who this is, but it is not Wonshik. It must be one of the company directors, Hongbin thinks, based on what he can see of the man’s clothes—suit jacket, tie, cufflinks. One side of his face is crushed beyond recognition and he’s not breathing.
Hongbin leaves him, goes back to digging.
Taekwoon yells, “Wonshik!” again as he shoves a once-luxurious leather rolling chair out of his way.
There’s a thump, and Hongbin thinks it’s the chair at first, the shifting rubble, his own heartbeat in his ears. But then it comes again, and again, rhythmic and repetitive. Thump, and then three breaths, and then again thump. It’s coming from the table.
Hongbin swallows thickly, clears his throat hard and then shouts, “Wonshik?” He waits for an answer with his heart beating in his temples and he nearly misses it, but there it is again, slightly louder this time: thump.
“Taekwoon,” Hongbin says, “Taekwoon, help me move this table.”
Taekwoon comes at once, and together they lift it, so much easier than the cement slab but so much more careful.
Hakyeon joins them, his voice choked as he says Hongbin’s name, and then Wonshik’s. He crouches down, directs them, “A little higher, okay, now move it towards Taekwoon.”
As soon as he’s cleared them to set it down, Hongbin lets go and rushes to his side, falling to his knees.
And fuck, Wonshik is there. He’s buried in tiny bits of concrete up to his thighs and he’s bleeding from who knows where and his right arm is bent at an impossible angle but he’s there, whole and looking back at Hongbin. “Hey,” he mumbles.
“Oh my god, you’re alive,” Hongbin responds.
Hakyeon is checking Wonshik’s pulse, looking over his damaged arm. “How are your legs?” he asks.
Wonshik grunts, says, “Fuckin’ hurts, but I’m gonna take that as a good sign.”
Hakyeon gives him a slightly wild smile, still fingering the exposed bits of wiring in his arm. “Means you’re not paralyzed,” he says. “Which, considering I didn’t expect you to even survive that, is pretty damn good.”
“Wonshik,” Hongbin says. His mouth fills with dust and smog and he has to stop to cough, feeling like he’s attempting to hack up his entire insides. “Fuck,” he mutters, “you’re alive.”
Wonshik’s little grin is pained and barely there, but Hongbin will take it. “Somehow,” he says. He takes a deep breath, reaches out with his uninjured arm, and grasps Hongbin’s wrist where he’s propped himself up on the ground. “Got under the table at the last minute. Wasn’t sure….”
“I know,” Hongbin replies. He doesn’t even know which question he’s answering. It doesn’t matter. “You fucker, you can’t just force me to live and then do this shit.”
Wonshik chuckles, but it causes a wince to cross his face and he stops quickly. “Wasn’t sure it would work. Wasn’t sure you would care.”
“Of course I—you think I don’t care?” Hongbin sputters. His cups his right hand around Wonshik’s head, dirt and blood and sweat and all, and says, “God, you’re an idiot.”
Wonshik’s lips pull up again, a little hopeful, Hongbin thinks. “Yeah?” he says.
Hongbin presses the lightest, gentlest kiss possible to Wonshik’s forehead. “Yeah,” he replies.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Hakyeon interjects evenly, “but there are firemen on their way up to us and we need to get Wonshik dug out and presentable before that happens.”
They have to scoop bits of rubble away from Wonshik’s legs until they’re exposed enough that they can very gently pull him out. After that Taekwoon’s jacket is appropriated to be used as a ‘splint’ for Wonshik’s arm and Hakyeon brushes carefully through the hair on the right side of Wonshik’s head to check for lacerations.
Finally, they pull him into standing. His left leg can’t take any weight, but Hongbin tucks himself under his arm and leads him carefully across the rubble towards the car.
Fire and Rescue try to stop them to ask questions, but Hakyeon pulls out his medical ID and waves at them to keep walking while he says, “I’m afraid this man is one of my patients. He has several very delicate health conditions and it’s in everyone’s best interests if I take him directly to my clinic.”
One of the firemen snorts, and the other tries to reason with Hakyeon that, “The hospital will have better equipment and additional personnel. You’re welcome to go with him to ensure his care yourself.”
Hakyeon shakes his head, one sharp movement, and says, “My clinic is well stocked and well staffed, and I have no need of the hospital’s facilities. I’m sure that law enforcement will want to talk to him later, and I guarantee that he will be available for any inquiries they might have. He shouldn’t be hard to find: Kim Wonshik, CFO of this company.” He waves his hand at the pile of rubble around them. “But at the moment, I would like to ensure that his injuries don’t send him into shock or cause a seizure, if you don’t mind too terribly.”
The reasonable fireman nods and says, “Go on then. Sorry to delay you.”
Hakyeon waltzes back up to them, practically dancing over jagged pieces of former building, and mutters, “Come on, let’s get in the car before they change their minds.”
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