Pairing: Zhou Mi/Kyuhyun, Eunhyuk/Donghae, past!Yesung/Ryeowook, ninja!Ryeowook/Henry
Word Count: 12,766
Summary: The thing about zombie bites is that they never heal over. The slightest weakness in the immune system and the Z-virus, as it is called, will swoop in and start to change your very genetic make-up.
Notes: Zombie AU. A one-shot split into two posts because it's huge.
Warning: Character death and gore
The Road [1/2]
Zhou Mi shakes Kyuhyun roughly, awaking him from a deep slumber. “Go 'way,” Kyuhyun mumbles sleepily, pulling his blanket closer around his shoulders and turning the other way.
“I'm sorry, Kui Xian, but you need to get up. We have to keep moving, and it's our turn to drive.” Zhou Mi is the perfect picture of apologetic, and one look at that pouting face makes Kyuhyun give in.
“Fine,” he grumbles, tugging off the blanket as Eunhyuk pulls the car to the side of the road and puts it into park, sliding onto Donghae's lap in the front seat to make room for Zhou Mi to take his place behind the wheel. They've done this a thousand times, and the shift changes are a lot quicker and smoother than they were when they first started out.
When Zhou Mi is in place, Eunhyuk and Donghae climb into the back seat and Kyuhyun moves to the front, picking up the shotgun Donghae left on the dashboard and checking it over as they pull back onto the highway.
Even in the darkness Kyuhyun can see the constantly moving shapes just a short distance from the vehicle. Those creatures, as slow and lazy as they seem to be, can creep up on you in no time. Stop for too long and you're goners.
They learned that the hard way.
Ryeowook is still asleep in the very back seat, and they probably won't wake him unless they absolutely need him. It's so rarely that he actually sleeps these days, and they have learned to leave him be when he manages it, especially if he's not having nightmares.
“Kui Xian, can you pass me some water?” Zhou Mi asks, his eyes fiercely trained on the road. Kyuhyun reaches into the bag at his feet and extracts a bottle, unscrewing the cap before passing it to his partner and returning his eyes to the window.
“We're running low,” he murmurs, soft enough that Eunhyuk and Donghae—who are curled around each other on the middle seat and probably already asleep—won't be disturbed. “Where's the next stop?
“Not for...,” Zhou Mi pauses as he tries to make out the sign up ahead in the darkness, “At least another two hundred miles,” he decides at last. “We're getting low on fuel, too.”
“We have some extra in the trunk if we need it.” Kyuhyun takes the bottle of water back and puts the cap on it. Zhou Mi has drained nearly half of it.
Zhou Mi shakes his head. “I'd rather fill up at a station and save that for emergencies.”
“If we run out of fuel in the middle of the highway, that constitutes an emergency,” Kyuhyun points out.
A sigh. “I know. But still, I'd like to save it if we can. You never know, the next emergency might be worse, and then we'll wish we had it.” He grips the wheel tightly and suddenly veers to the left.
Kyuhyun grips the armrest while simultaneously rolling down the window with one hand, then lifting the shotgun, points it out at the horde. “Keep driving,” he insists, his gaze not wavering, “I'll cover you.” A shot rings out, and in the back Ryeowook jerks awake, groping for his gun.
“We're fine, Ryeowook,” Zhou Mi says calmly, as he jerks the wheel around to get them headed the right direction again and Kyuhyun leans his entire upper body out the window to keep the monsters in range.
Despite the older man's words, Ryeowook picks up his gun, a Steyr AUG Para 9mm submachine gun, and opens the back hatch, raining bullets down on the swarm. Ryeowook hates zombies with a passion, and they all understand why, but that's something they don't talk about.
It's not long before the horde is out of range, and then they close up the car and silence falls. After a moment there's rustling in the back seat and Ryeowook passes up some protein bars. “You guys should eat. Especially Kyuhyun.” When Kyuhyun turns to accept the food Ryeowook ducks his head and refuses to look him in the eyes. Kyuhyun knows why that is, too, so he doesn't comment.
Once Zhou Mi is munching contentedly away on his protein bar, Kyuhyun unwraps his own. He shifts slightly and the jar to his leg sends knives of pain racing up it. He hisses, and Zhou Mi nearly glances at him in concern. “Are you alright, Kui Xian?” he settles for, keeping his sight glued to the road.
“I'm fine,” Kyuhyun growls, taking a particularly fierce bite. He hates this. He wants to go home, wants to wake up safe and warm in his bed and find that this was all a horrible nightmare. But then he looks up at Zhou Mi, remembers how they met, and the warm wash of home fills him right there in that stupid station wagon, in the middle of fucking nowhere, with zombies surrounding them as they run from safe house to safe house, and with his calf still throbbing softly underneath the layers of gauze pad and medical tape secured to it. He's an idiot, he knows, but still he brushes a gentle hand against Zhou Mi's shoulder and murmurs, “I love you.”
Zhou Mi's smile, though rare in this place and under these circumstances, is like the sun, and it warms and fills Kyuhyun so much that he can hardly breathe. If Zhou Mi weren't driving right now he would pull him in for a kiss. He settles for another touch to his lover's tense shoulder and tries not to cringe at the soft sob he hears from the back seat.
The town they pull into is deserted, but the entire place is lit up like a Christmas tree. Donghae rubs his eyes sleepily as they all slip out of the car and murmurs, “Safe house must be the power plant.” It's a good guess, as this is fairly common practice for keeping the hordes away. Zombies, they have discovered, don't like light. Therefore keeping the power plant running and the entire city lit up helps protect those who are traveling or scavenging for food, like themselves.
Eunhyuk pulls a Chinese Type 81S assault rifle from underneath the car seat and hands it to Donghae along with its ammunition belt. Eunhyuk himself tucks a glock into the back of his pants and some extra ammo into the pocket of his sweatshirt, then picks up a few bags and looks to Zhou Mi, who is shoving a fresh magazine into his own handgun, a Daewoo DP-51. Zhou Mi nods at Ryeowook, who is sitting in the open back hatch with his AUG in his lap and then commands, “Ten minutes.”
Eunhyuk, with Donghae in front of him and Kyuhyun behind with the shotgun, walks into the convenience store. Most of the shelves are empty, and Eunhyuk can smell the stench of rotting food, but there are still usable items here. Moving quickly, he manages to gather up toilet paper, some boxes of power bars, five bags of snack mix, and a few other necessities. There isn't a lot of bottled water, but the soda is still good, so he takes as much as he can fit in the bags.
As they walk out, he hears Kyuhyun mutter ironically, “Thank you, come again.”
Zhou Mi has already finished filling the car with gas when they make it back, and Eunhyuk takes the bags to the back and climbs in after them as Ryeowook pulls the hatch shut.
Ryeowook digs through their “purchases” silently, occasionally shaking his head, as they drive away. Eunhyuk doesn't ask what's wrong with his choices, just climbs over the seat and cuddles up against Donghae's side.
“Did you get more gauze pad?” Zhou Mi asks. Kyuhyun's hand twitches like he wants to hit him but refrains because he's driving.
“Wasn't any,” Eunhyuk grunts, inhaling the scent of Donghae's hair and then wrinkling his nose. It has obviously been way too long since any of them has had a shower.
Zhou Mi sighs, his mouth turning down at the corners as he says, “But Kui Xian's bandages haven't been changed in days! We really need clean gauze pad, or he could get an infection.”
In the back, Ryeowook's shoulders tense.
“Maybe we can find someone who'll trade us some at the safe house,” Eunhyuk shrugs. He's not terribly concerned, and Kyuhyun can't blame him. It's not like he's exactly made a big deal about the injury. He does his job as usual and tries not to complain.
“Zhou Mi is right,” Ryeowook pipes up, “We need to change his bandages as soon as possible, and clean the wound again, too.” They all shut up. After all, Ryeowook knows this better than anyone.
The safe house is indeed in the power plant, they discover, and it's clean and not overly crowded. There are showers in the employee locker room that are free for use and plenty of empty cots. The only thing the operators ask is that while they stay they help out around the place, cleaning and helping keep things running. Zhou Mi tries to insist that Kyuhyun not work, but Kyuhyun growls and shoves at him until he gives in, though reluctantly.
They claim five cots near each other and the first thing Eunhyuk and Donghae do is shove theirs together. People around them look at them weirdly, but they pretend not to notice while Zhou Mi smiles a false smile and explains that they're very close and it's a comfort thing, after all the trauma. It's the story they've always used, easier than explaining that Eunhyuk and Donghae are in love and they can't stand to be apart for more than a few minutes at a time.
Kyuhyun claims a cot next to Zhou Mi's, but still separated, then pulls shampoo, soap, and his towel from their supplies and sneaks off to take a shower while Zhou Mi is still conversing and bartering with people, trying to get those precious gauze pads for him.
The warm water soaking through his bandages stings harshly, a huge contrast to the gentle soothing on his head and shoulders, massaging out the tension from the past few days. He washes his hair twice, reveling in the feel of the grease and dirt sliding away. But all too soon, it's time to get out, and he dries off carefully, trying not to dislodge the bandages. He hates looking at it, hates being reminded that he wasn't fast enough, wasn't smart enough, wasn't good enough. He hates the reminder that he could have saved...no, he's not going to think about that; he promised himself—promised Ryeowook—that he wouldn't.
He's just pulling his shirt on when Zhou Mi bursts in, sunshine smile on his face. “I found more gauze pads, Kui Xian!” he announces happily, holding them up as evidence.
Kyuhyun blinks at him, sighs in defeat, and asks, “What did you end up trading for them?”
“Six packets of instant ramen,” Zhou Mi admits. “Eunhyuk got them at the store thinking that people who are staying here more or less permanently would have much more reason to have them than we do. Good thing he did.”
“Yeah,” Kyuhyun agrees, zipping up his sweatshirt, “Good thing.”
Kyuhyun hates having the bandages changed. It's disgusting and painful and he hates it. The only way they've found to do it is to have him lay down on his stomach, the injured back of his calf facing upward so that Ryeowook—who used to be a nurse—can work unhindered. The tape and gauze pad is removed carefully, revealing the ragged, pus-oozing, still sluggishly bleeding wound. The others stand around them so that the casual observer can't properly see anything, but Kyuhyun knows what they would see if they could. It's a perfect, dashed oval of tooth marks.
The thing about zombie bites is that they never heal over. Unless a cure is found, Kyuhyun will have this injury to worry about for the rest of his life. Which could be very short unless he takes good care of himself. The slightest weakness in the immune system and the Z-virus, as it is called, will swoop in and start to change his very genetic make-up.
Ryeowook lays an old towel kept for this purpose underneath Kyuhyun's leg and pours rubbing alcohol onto the wound.
Curious bystanders murmur to each other, wondering what Ryeowook is doing to him, but Kyuhyun can barely comprehend anything beyond the blinding pain. Some part of his brain which is distanced from the rest vaguely registers Zhou Mi holding his hand and rubbing his back soothingly as Ryeowook wipes up the excess alcohol while being careful not to touch the wound itself. A gauze pad is pressed on, gently, and secured with tape.
Kyuhyun sobs into his pillow and refuses to be consoled, even by Zhou Mi. Eventually they all leave him alone, though he feels someone put a bottle of water and some food beside him on his cot. When he calms finally, about an hour later, Zhou Mi is nowhere to be seen and lying next to the food and water on his cot is a bottle of ibuprofen. He looks instinctively for Ryeowook and sees him on his own cot, reading a well-worn, brown leather-bound book.
Kyuhyun turns away, takes the medication, and sighs in relief when it finally starts to work.
Two days later they're back on the road again, stopping only briefly at a grocery store for more provisions before they leave. It's nearly a week's drive to the next safe house, and the last thing they want is to run out of food halfway there.
As luck has it, at least according to Zhou Mi, they find more gauze pads and rubbing alcohol there, so they'll be able to change Kyuhyun's bandages as often as they need. Kyuhyun insists that it's not necessary to do it as often as Zhou Mi seems to want to, but Ryeowook shoots down his protests with a well-placed, “Do you really want to know what will happen if we don't change them, Kyuhyun?”
Kyuhyun agrees to submit to bandage changes when Ryeowook thinks it's necessary, then refuses to speak to Zhou Mi for the first several hours of the drive.
Kyuhyun opens his eyes in the dead of night, wondering what woke him. A whimper from the back seat gives him a clue, and he turns—rather awkwardly, with Zhou Mi sleeping on his shoulder—to see that Ryeowook is having another nightmare. He considers waking him, and is contemplating how to do that without waking Zhou Mi as well when Ryeowook suddenly clutches his book to his chest and breathes deeply, beginning to hum a soft lullaby. Just like that, Kyuhyun thinks, Ryeowook has turned his nightmare into a dream of better times.
Kyuhyun recognizes the song. Ryeowook's mother used to sing it to them when Kyuhyun stayed at their house, as a child. He knows that Ryeowook's mother sang it every night, and that she had told him it was how she showed the nightmares that she loved Ryeowook and she was protecting him. Kyuhyun softly hums along, slipping slowly into sleep again.
“What's that?” Zhou Mi asks, squinting at the horizon. “Shit, there's a horde! Should we go another way?”
Kyuhyun shakes his head, lifting binoculars to his eyes. “There's a car in there, and the only reason a swarm would attack a car like that is if there are people in it. We should help them.”
“Kui Xian,” Zhou Mi begins in a chiding voice, “You know we can't save everyone.”
“Just shut up for once, Zhou Mi. They need help. They're probably out of ammunition and stranded in there, just waiting for the horde to make it through the walls of their car so that they can be eaten.” At the word “eaten,” Kyuhyun's leg gives a throb. He ignores it.
Despite his uncertainties, Zhou Mi continues driving as Kyuhyun wakes the others, explaining the situation in as few words as possible and making battle plans. Donghae and Kyuhyun retrieve their weapons and roll down their windows, waiting till the zombies are in range, as Eunhyuk pulls an MM-1 grenade launcher from beneath his seat and loads it. Ryeowook opens the hatch and climbs onto the roof, closing it behind him and bracing his shins on the luggage rack to stay in place as he pulls his AUG around front from the strap over his shoulder. With his specially-added 5x telescope sight he's the first to come within range, and the others hear the clattering of gunfire before they see zombies exploding in front of them. Zhou Mi rolls down his window and picks up his Daewoo with his left hand, the right still firmly on the wheel.
They're ready to kick some zombie ass.
There are deafening explosions as Eunhyuk launches grenades at the edge of the horde and Donghae starts to pick them off one by one with his rifle. It takes longer for Kyuhyun to get close enough to take a shot, but when he does the zombie's head explodes rather dramatically and splatters the windshield. “Oh, Kui Xian, ew,” Zhou Mi complains, but it's clear that his focus isn't actually on the gore now coating his car.
Of all their positions, Ryeowook's is by far the most dangerous as they approach the main body of the swarm. On the roof he is vulnerable to the possibility of zombies climbing up on the car, and he has no easy-access way to get back in for cover, as it was necessary to close the hatch or fear leaving that part of the car unprotected. Once upon a time, they'd had another man to cover that and to make sure that Ryeowook came back safe, but now it's just the five of them, and Ryeowook refuses to relinquish his position. It's not like he cares about his own well-being at this point.
Getting to the horde was the easy part. More difficult is actually making it through to the other car and helping the people trapped inside. But they carve a path through, Eunhyuk pulling out a machete and his glock for the close-range fighting. They'd rather he not blow them all up, thank you very much.
“Oh, idiots!” Kyuhyun growls as they finally near the other car.
“What did we do?” Zhou Mi asks, his voice unusually high as he sticks his hand out the window and shoots a zombie that's a mere two feet away.
“Not you.” Blam! More zombie guts on the car, courtesy of Kyuhyun's shotgun. “I was talking about the dumb-asses we're saving. There are only two of them. Who would travel in that small a group?”
“Can we discuss this when we're not in a potentially life-threatening situation, please?” Eunhyuk begs, suddenly shoving his door open and then closing it again, a zombie thrown about five feet by the impact.
Donghae grunts an agreement and slams another magazine into his rifle, lifting it again just in time to take out a zombie about to climb into his window. Gore splatters his face, and he cringes and then disregards it, shooting another that's sneaking up behind Zhou Mi.
Kyuhyun stops speaking, if only because they're getting close but the swarm is getting thicker and pops the glove compartment, trusting Eunhyuk and Ryeowook to cover for him for half a minute. He pulls out a zip-lock bag of meat that is very much not fresh anymore and wrinkles his nose in disgust at the smell that's coming through the plastic. Hauling his arm back, he throws the meat as hard as he can away from both cars and pulls his shotgun out again in the same movement, taking out those zombies that are slow to catch the scent.
Soon enough they are by the other car, and Eunhyuk throws his door open and climbs out, machete whirling, glock firing near-constantly, with Kyuhyun and Ryeowook standing by as backup if he needs it.
“Come on, you idiots!” Kyuhyun screams, his ears ringing with the sounds of battle. “Get in the damn car!”
The two of them scramble out, clutching backpacks, and throw themselves into the station wagon. Kyuhyun is shocked to see that one of them looks like he could be a bodyguard or some sergeant in the army. The other is much smaller, though, and was probably the reason they got stranded. He looks like the kind of person who would just drag someone down.
“Is that all your stuff?” Eunhyuk asks, a sweat starting to break out on his brow.
“There's half a crate of water in the front seat.”
Eunhyuk glances back at them, clearly wondering if he should bother, and seems to remember the boxes of soda he collected.
“Eunhyuk, damn you, get back in the fucking car!” Kyuhyun yells at him, “We're barely keeping them off you as it is!”
Eunhyuk doesn't look back again, and Kyuhyun only barely hears him say, “We really need it. Bottled water is hard to come by these days,” before he's screaming, “Cover me!” and diving toward the driver's side of the other car.
“I'll kill you!” Kyuhyun thinks he screams, but he's too busy fending off the swarm to really register his own words.
As Eunhyuk struggles with the water, things become more and more tense. Kyuhyun can tell that Donghae is very close to throwing himself out there with his lover, and so he growls, “Whoever you are, do either of you know how to use a gun?”
“Um,” the little one says, “I do. Sort of.”
“What does 'sort of' mean?” Kyuhyun thrusts a new magazine into his shotgun and flips it back into place, aiming and firing three times in rapid succession and reloading again.
“I can aim and fire, and usually hit the target?” the little one answers, sounding timid.
What the hell, this guy needs to toughen up. There's no place for sissies out on the open road like this, they'll die, Kyuhyun thinks, but he really says, “Look under my seat. There should be a gun and some extra ammo down there.” It's a good thing that Ryeowook is on the roof and can't see this, he thinks. This is going to be awkward later, but they need the extra gun.
He doesn't turn to see what the little guy is doing, but after a minute he hears the chatter of gunfire and he figures that the poor kid figured it out. “Eunhyuk, you have ten seconds or I'll shoot you myself,” he orders, reloading his shotgun yet again. This is possibly the most inconvenient weapon ever, he muses. Maybe I should get an assault rifle like Donghae has.
The little guy slips out of the car as Eunhyuk comes back, still firing into the horde. When Kyuhyun has a moment and turns to look and make sure they're alright, he sees a perfect line of zombies all piled on top of one another. Just as each one gets to the pile and climbs over it, the little guy hits it square in the head with a single bullet. “That's a submachine gun, you know, not a sniper rifle!” Kyuhyun scolds, but secretly he's pleased, because damn if that isn't the best shooting he's ever seen, and damned if they couldn't use another gunman.
Eunhyuk gets in the car, followed again by the little guy, and Kyuhyun orders, “Eunhyuk, have him get in the back and cover Ryeowook.”
“Since when are you the boss?” Eunhyuk grumbles, but does as he says anyway, retaking his own place by the right-side window as the little guy goes to the back and opens the hatch.
They pull out of the swarm as fast as they can, gore getting everywhere, and as they get towards the edge, Zhou Mi says, “Please tell me we can wash the car after this.” Everyone except for the big guy—who has moved to the back seat to be out of the way and also to hand ammo to the little guy when he needs it—laughs at this, though Zhou Mi insists that he said it in earnest.
Once they get out of sight of the horde everyone relaxes, and Donghae asks for some wet wipes for his face. Clearly laughing at him on the inside, though he tries to hide it, Eunhyuk passes them to him. Ryeowook finally climbs in from the roof, assisted by the little guy and looking none the worse for wear, as always. He doesn't have a single drop of zombie blood on him. None of them got close enough to splatter.
Now that they're more or less safe and there are plenty of people available to watch their backs, Kyuhyun turns around and says, “Nice shooting, little guy. When you said you could only sort of shoot a gun I was worried that you were going to end up shooting yourself in the foot, but you did all right.” He smirks, absently patting his trusty shotgun.
The little guy shrugs while scowling. It's a strange look. “I have a name, you know. And I'm not little, either. Anyway I don't really use guns much. I prefer other weapons.”
“I had to call you something to differentiate between you and the big guy,” Kyuhyun gestures at said man, who is sitting in the corner and trying to make himself invisible, if Kyuhyun's guess is right. “What kind of weapons do you normally use?”
“Nunchaku, or occasionally a staff. Mostly I just do hand to hand.” Another shrug, as if everyone can do these things.
“Doing hand to hand with a zombie can get you killed or maimed. Stick to guns for now, they're safer.” Kyuhyun runs a hand through his hair and tries to ignore the insistent throbbing in his leg.
“Maybe. This one is a beauty.” He looks down at the gun he still holds, stroking it like a cat. It is a Chang Feng submachine gun. Small and compact, but very, very deadly.
Ryeowook also looks at the gun, and Kyuhyun sees tears well up in his eyes. “Damn it,” he mutters to himself, suddenly climbing from the front seat. “Donghae, take point,” he says, already falling to the floor next to Ryeowook. “I'm sorry,” he whispers, pulling his childhood friend into his arms and holding him as he cries, “I'm so sorry, Wookie, I wouldn't have done it, but I had no choice. It was that or let Eunhyuk die.”
Ryeowook doesn't speak, but he holds Kyuhyun in return. He cries until the tears won't come, and then he buries his face in Kyuhyun's hair, murmurs, “I forgive you,” and falls asleep. Kyuhyun lifts his tiny form onto the seat and the big guy moves to the middle bench so that Ryeowook can lay down. Kyuhyun covers him with a blanket and sighs, turning away to check that the hatch is sealed properly and then leaning against it, pulling his left leg up to his chest and then stretching the right one out as far as it will go in the cramped space, feeling the tape tug at his skin and wincing at the pain.
“Did I do something?” the little one whispers, looking down at the gun in his hands instead of at Kyuhyun.
“It's not your fault,” Kyuhyun reassures him, “I'm the one who told you to use that. I knew he would react this way.”
“But why did he...,” he looks up, eyes shining with curiosity, then ducks his head again. “I'm sorry, it's not really my place.”
“No,” Kyuhyun insists, “It's better that you asked me, and while he can't hear. It's hard for him, and it hasn't been that long.”
The other man is silent, waiting for Kyuhyun to say whatever he may, so he starts slowly, “We originally had a sixth traveling companion. He and Ryeowook were...close. In love. About a month ago, he was bitten by one of those things,” at this Kyuhyun jerks his thumb towards the window to clarify what 'things' he's talking about. “We didn't know how to treat it, and within a week he had turned. He attacked me while I slept, and though I fought him off, I got this.” He pulls up his pant leg, revealing the bandages with their sickly colored stains, speckles of red surrounded by streaks of yellowish brown.
“We stopped the car, threw him in the ditch and...well. You know what we do with zombies. But Ryeowook, he insisted that he had to be the one to do it, kept screaming that that was what Yesung would want. I think it broke a part of him, and he hasn't been the same since. Sometimes I think he resents me for surviving this,” a gesture at his leg, once more covered, “When Yesung didn't. We didn't learn until later how to prevent the change, and by then it was too late for him”
The little guy is silent, absorbing all this information. “Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because you're a damned good shot, and if you want to get out of this godforsaken place you're going to need a team to travel with. That's the only way to make it through. I know we're not the most normal bunch of guys, but we work together and we keep each other safe, as much as we know how, and if you travel with us you might just make it to wherever it is that you're going.”
“Can you just invite me like that, without your friends' consent?” He looks unsure, as if this is too good to be true.
“They trust my judgment. If I think that you're a good addition to our party, then they'll accept it. Besides, our leader is my boyfriend.” He smirks and points at Zhou Mi, who can't hear them all the way from the front.
The other man snickers a little, then sobering, asks, “What about Siwon?”
“The big guy? We'll teach him to use a gun. He can have my shotgun when we find a weapons supply where I can replace it. It's easy to use and even easier to hit things with, though the constant reloads drive me damned well near crazy.”
“I bet Siwon will figure it out. And if not, I'm sure there are other things we can put him to use doing.” His fox-like eyes turn up in the corners as he smirks, and Kyuhyun decides that he definitely likes this guy.
“I'm Kyuhyun, by the way,” he finally remembers to say, holding out his hand to be shaken.
The other man takes it, suddenly smiling widely. “Sungmin. And I think I'll enjoy traveling with you, for however long we stay together.”
The next safe house is right next to an old army base, and is again a power plant. They get settled in, the others accepting Siwon and Sungmin immediately, and after showers all around it's time to go gun shopping. Kyuhyun explains his wish for an assault rifle and Donghae immediately kidnaps him so that he can point out the best models. Siwon and Sungmin are hesitant at first, not sure what to do, but Eunhyuk soon drags Siwon off to look at knives and Sungmin is left with Zhou Mi smiling at him and Ryeowook a looming presence just behind him.
“I suppose I should look for a gun, huh?” Sungmin asks dumbly. “But I'll be honest with you, I have no idea what kind of weapon would suit me best.”
“You can keep the Chang Feng,” says a soft voice behind him. He turns to look at Ryeowook, frowning slightly.
“I don't want to upset you. If you'd rather I didn't use it....” He's not sure what to say that won't upset Ryeowook or cause another breakdown like the one the day before.
“It's alright.” Ryeowook comes up and lays a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Yesung doesn't need it anymore, and I think he would want you to have it. It's a beautiful gun. It's compact, weighs only about 2 kilograms when not loaded, and fires at 800 rounds per minute. He always said it was the best gun in the world.” Ryeowook's eyes shine with tears, but he manages to look up at Sungmin and smile. “The way you handled it out there yesterday, I think you were made to carry that gun. Yesung would be proud. You're a man after his own heart.”
Sungmin can feel himself tearing up and wills it away, clasping Ryeowook's shoulder in return. “Thank you,” he murmurs, “That means a lot.”
Ryeowook takes him to find ammunition and teaches him how to recognize the magazines he needs for his weapon. It's the start of a shaky friendship.
Meanwhile, Kyuhyun finds himself an assault rifle that Donghae announces is great and that he would use one like it except that he likes his 81S too well to switch now. It's a Pindad SS2-V5, a subcompact assault rifle that fires at 700 rounds per minute. It fits perfectly in Kyuhyun's hands, almost as if it is made for him. He thinks he might be in love.
He and Donghae find Zhou Mi as they go to get ammunition, and Kyuhyun kicks him playfully in the shin as he teases, “I think you might have competition, Zhou Mi. I'm having some awfully strong feelings for this gun right here.”
Zhou Mi looks at it, whistles, and then fake pouts and whines, “Kui Xian! Is that stupid rifle really better than me?”
Kyuhyun appears to think about it for a moment, then replies, “No, not really. It's a very close second, though,” and leans up to give Zhou Mi a kiss.
Eunhyuk and Siwon walk up just then, Siwon holding his new acquisition warily in just his thumb and forefinger. It's a black knife, its blade just over 8 centimeters long, and it folds securely into the handle. Kyuhyun chuckles, steps over to him, and takes the knife from his hand, deftly flipping it open. “A nice blade,” he comments, weighing it in his hand. “But you're holding it wrong.” He presses the handle firmly into Siwon's hand and folds his fingers over it. “You're going to be using this weapon to kill. You should get used to it now instead of waiting until you face death, so that when the time comes, you won't hesitate. Those who hesitate out there die. You should know that by now.”
Siwon's grip on the knife tightens as Kyuhyun turns to walk away, his assault rifle still in one hand. Siwon suddenly rushes him, the knife held up as if to stab him, and Zhou Mi cries out but can't get there in time. Kyuhyun raises the rifle and pulls the trigger. There is a click, and then silence. Siwon stands with his weapon bare inches from Kyuhyun's heart, and Kyuhyun's gun points directly between Siwon's eyes. “If I were an enemy, you would be dead. Remember that,” Kyuhyun tells him, again walking away.
Siwon is left to wonder whether he is supposed to remember that Kyuhyun could have killed him, or that he had just implied that he was not an enemy, and therefore...his friend?
When the weapons are secured they go back to the safe house to rest. It's not often that they all get to sleep at the same time, and they take the chance when they can. The only one who does not sleep is Ryeowook, who seems to be over-thinking things again as Kyuhyun prepares for bed. “Hey,” he murmurs, putting a gentle hand on Ryeowook's shoulder, “I'm here, if you need to talk.” He waits for several minutes for Ryeowook to respond, and when he doesn't, Kyuhyun returns to his own cot. He knows that Ryeowook will only talk in his own time, on his own terms. And maybe Kyuhyun isn't the person he wants to talk to.
That night, Kyuhyun dreams of Yesung.
The next morning Ryeowook announces that it's time to change Kyuhyun's bandages. Kyuhyun submits, but not without a grumbled, “I hate this.”
Sungmin watches with avid fascination as the bandages are changed and the wound cleaned. Having extra people to block others' sight frees Zhou Mi to kneel by Kyuhyun's head, whispering comforting words and holding his hand. With the new guys right there Kyuhyun tries admirably not to cry, and only barely accomplishes it. He still lays face-down in his pillow for several minutes afterwards, willing back the pain. When he finally sits up, Zhou Mi is still there, and so is Sungmin.
“That looked painful,” Sungmin observes. “I think I would have cried.”
Zhou Mi wisely does not comment on this as Kyuhyun hisses, “Yeah, well I'm used to it by now,” then looks at Zhou Mi, gives him a smile and asks, “Will you get me something to eat?” Zhou Mi walks away, and Kyuhyun is left alone with Sungmin.
“He really loves you,” Sungmin observes quietly.
Kyuhyun glances at him, and then back at Zhou Mi, who is now rooting through their supply bags. “Yeah, I guess. We just...being on the road is hard, you know? Sometimes you just need someone to lean on. Donghae and Eunhyuk have that, and Ryeowook and...so I guess it was just natural for Zhou Mi and I to gravitate towards one another. He's like my exact opposite, but somehow we fit together well.” He suddenly turns back to Sungmin. “Why am I even telling you this?”
Sungmin's smile has a devious quality to it. “I have no idea, but I'm glad you are. It helps me to understand you better.”
Kyuhyun frowns. “I've told you a lot of our secrets. What about you? Where are you headed?”
Sungmin shrugs, running a hand through his hair. “Same place everyone is, I suppose. Safety, a place where we can start over.”
“Will you and Siwon stick together?” Kyuhyun accepts the food and water that Zhou Mi brings him, as well as a bottle of ibuprofen. He swallows the pills and hands the bottle back to Zhou Mi, who goes to return it to where it belongs.
“I don't know. He and his party found me at a safe house on the south coast of Korea and brought me along, but I never expected to remain with them for long.” Sungmin sits on the floor with his back leaning against the bed and wraps his arms around his knees.
“What happened to the others?” Kyuhyun asks, knowing that it will probably be a painful story, one that Sungmin may not want to relive.
As he suspected, Sungmin does not respond, and only sits there hugging himself for long minutes until Siwon comes over and asks for his help with something. Kyuhyun is left alone to wonder what could have happened that they lost their entire party.
Once they've gotten the car washed they go in search of other supplies, and they discover that Sungmin is an excellent scavenger. He finds canned fruits and vegetables that Eunhyuk would have missed, and vitamin supplements for when those are gone. Malnutrition, he explains, is not a good thing when you're fighting for your life. Ryeowook quietly protests that he's been saying this all along and no one listened, but Sungmin just smiles at him and points out that Eunhyuk had tried his best.
Meanwhile Siwon gets to practice with his shotgun. He stands guard outside as they refill the gas tank and collect supplies, with Ryeowook standing by as backup should it get too much for him. But Siwon surprises them all with his quick adaptability and keeps them perfectly safe for more than twenty minutes.
When they're finally on the road again, heading to the next safe house, they go about assigning new watch schedules and battle positions. With two extra people they can have three shifts, and they rotate it in such a way that Ryeowook won't have to constantly be the third member, sometimes adding someone else to the two-man teams.
As for battle positions, it's decided that they're going to have to put someone else on the roof with Ryeowook, and that with Eunhyuk's weaponry he would be the best choice. So Ryeowook begins teaching him how to climb out onto the roof and balance himself once there so that he won't fall while shooting. They nearly lose him once or twice, but once he gets the hang of it, he finds that he quite likes the fresh air up there and the wind blowing in his face. They have to forbid him from going out without a second to watch the back hatch for him. Donghae is more than happy to do this from time to time, though he demands that Eunhyuk sleep occasionally.
With the extra shifts everyone gets more sleep, and Kyuhyun finds that it gives him more time to dream, as well.
As their station wagon rolls in, its gas gauge dropping dangerously below the red line, it is completely dark, the city abandoned. “Lights, everyone, and keep a sharp eye out. Five minutes in the store, and no more than that, Eunhyuk.” Zhou Mi's eyes flash in the darkness as he looks critically at his team. They all grunt their understanding and pick up flashlights, getting out of the car.
Ryeowook sits on the back bumper with the hatch open, his AUG in his lap and a camping lantern on by his side, eyes darting everywhere at once. Near him, Yesung leans on the side of the car, his Chang Feng's stock out and ready to be pressed to his shoulder at a moment's notice. He holds a mag-lite, shining it into the surrounding darkness.
Kyuhyun, Donghae, and Eunhyuk head into the store, Eunhyuk carrying another mag-lite, Donghae wearing a mining helmet that Kyuhyun personally thinks looks stupid but has tired of commenting on, and Kyuhyun himself with a camping lantern hanging from his left wrist just below the barrel of the shotgun he holds.
It is cold, the wind biting their exposed skin and whipping through their layers of clothing. It had been unusually warm for March, until the past few days. Kyuhyun thinks they might get snow.
They haven't been in the store two minutes when the chatter of submachine gun fire reaches their ears. “Finish up fast, Eunhyukkie,” Donghae insists, head turning rapidly to keep an eye on all sides.
Eunhyuk is just tossing much-needed bottles of water into the bag when they hear a horrific scream. He nearly drops the bag, but manages to hold onto it as Kyuhyun turns and pushes him towards the exit. Whatever has happened, they need to get out there and help.
The car is almost completely surrounded, and as they fight to get near, Ryeowook lets out an inhuman battle cry and lets his gun rip. More than a dozen zombies fall around him, and he reaches a hand toward the ground and pulls, still firing into the mass. Yesung stands weakly beside him, raising his own gun to his shoulder once more and assisting him. His mag-lite has fallen to the ground, and Kyuhyun can just barely see it shining somewhere near them.
Eunhyuk holds both the bag and his mag-lite in one hand as he pulls his glock from the back of his pants. Step one: get through the horde to their car.
Donghae has already thrown himself into the fray, assault rifle blasting, its noises mixing with that of the submachine guns. Grimly, Kyuhyun joins in with his shotgun, and can nearly see Zhou Mi doing the same on the far side of the car with his Daewoo.
It takes far too long to fight their way through, and by then the others are already in battle stations, Ryeowook poised on top of the car, still shooting. When they finally make it, Eunhyuk gets out his machete and they fight their way out of the parking lot tooth and nail.
When it's safe, Ryeowook climbs back in and the back hatch is closed, then he turns to Yesung and slaps him across the face. “You bastard! I thought I was going to lose you!”
Seconds later they are kissing desperately, and everyone turns away to give them some privacy. It's over and they're all safe now, and they'd rather just forget that traumatic experience. That is, until Yesung screams.
Kyuhyun wakes up in a cold sweat and clutches Zhou Mi tighter, looking around to reassure himself that they're no longer in the chaos and aftermath of Yesung's injury. When he sees Siwon behind the wheel, Donghae next to him with the shotgun—which they pass around between shifts because it's easier than moving their own various weapons around—and Eunhyuk sitting quietly on the floor in the back cradling several weapons in his own lap, Kyuhyun breathes a sigh of relief. Yesung is long gone, may he rest in peace, and the only thing they can do now is keep moving.
He settles into Zhou Mi's warmth again, unknowingly humming a soft lullaby to himself, and drifts back into slumber. This time he doesn't dream.
They have only a few stops left before they make it to the west coast of Africa and their ticket to freedom. Only a few stops before they'll reach Freedom Harbor, as it has been renamed, and will be able to board a boat bound for North America, where the infection has yet to spread. It will be a couple of weeks, at most, before they get there. If they're lucky, they will hold on that long.
Safe houses are fewer and farther between through Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but they stock up on as many supplies as they can and they make do with what they have. Soon enough they'll be in Egypt, and they'll travel along the North coast, where safe houses are much more common. For now, they just make sure that they don't have to stop for fuel in the middle of the night, and if they do there is no scavenging. They all stay near the car with their guns and watch Zhou Mi's back as he fills up, and then they're moving again.
Sungmin is driving, with Siwon in the front seat, and Kyuhyun is keeping watch in the back with his assault rifle in his lap, the others sleeping around them. Kyuhyun has had to catch Zhou Mi several times before he falls off the seat, so used to having Kyuhyun next to him to prop him up is he.
Siwon and Sungmin are hissing at each other, their conversation becoming more and more harsh. Kyuhyun perks his ears up. “Are you crazy, Sungmin? I thought you were genuinely changing this time!” Siwon's voice is almost a low growl in his throat.
“Shut up, Siwon. You do what I tell you now, remember? Or I'll do to you what I did to your precious Hangeng-ge.” Sungmin's voice is completely devoid of emotion, his words flat. When Kyuhyun turns to steal a peek his face is the same way, stoic and expressionless.
“Hyung please. They haven't done anything to you. Why would you do this?” Siwon begs, his hands placating.
“You shouldn't question me, Siwon. You know my reasons.”
Siwon is silent after that, and Kyuhyun wonders what the conversation was about.
He finds out the next morning, when he wakes up realizing that he'd fallen asleep and the shifts never got changed, and that they're now on the outskirts of Cairo. He turns, sees Sungmin still behind the wheel, and screams, “You fool!”
Sungmin does not react, but Siwon jumps and the others start to wake.
“Why would you take us here? We'll be killed! Turn the car around!” Kyuhyun tries to scramble over seats and people to get at him, but suddenly the Chang Feng is being pointed in his face and Siwon is giving him an apologetic smile.
“I'm really sorry about this, Kyuhyun, but if you move another inch I'm going to have to shoot you between the eyes. Do us all a favor and sit down.” Kyuhyun does, slowly and warily, and shakes his head minutely at Zhou Mi as he wakes and begins to sit up. He starts to lay his hand on his rifle, but Siwon growls, “Touch that gun and your boyfriend dies,” and his aim switches to Zhou Mi.
Kyuhyun wants to cry. He wants to break down and beg them not to hurt Zhou Mi. He wants to ask why they're doing this, why they would turn on their rescuers, but he thinks he knows. So instead he says accusingly, “You did this on purpose.”
Sungmin chuckles, and it's a horrible, dirty sound. “You mean hijacking the car and taking all of you to Cairo, where you will face certain death in light of the millions of zombies that inhabit the city? Why yes, I did.”
“No,” Kyuhyun states definitively, “That's not what I meant. You're not really Korean, are you? I know this whole thing, this supposed apocalypse, started in Russia. You're one of the people who caused it, aren't you? And now you're leading more unsuspecting survivors to their dooms. That's what you did to Siwon's team, isn't it?” When Sungmin doesn't answer, Kyuhyun screams, “ISN'T IT!”
“Shut the hell up!” Sungmin orders. “You're right, I'm only half Korean. My father was from Russia, and that's where I grew up. Very good, but there's nothing you can do with that information, because it's too late for you. In a few short minutes we will be in the heart of Cairo, at which time you will all get out of the car and wait to be eaten or changed. But wait, Kyuhyun, you're already changing, aren't you?”
“You bastard! Why are you bothering with random travelers like us?” Kyuhyun's right leg twitches as if he can feel the change beginning.
“I am merely a pawn for the organization that manufactured the Z-virus. There are many of us. If all goes according to plan, no one will make it to your precious 'Freedom Harbor.'” The last is said dripping with contempt.
“Why would they do that? What is the goal?” Kyuhyun asks. He can just barely see the tall buildings of Cairo looming closer and closer through the window.
“I should think that would be obvious. We are cleansing the world of all the imperfect, sinful human beings and starting again.” Sungmin turns the wheel smartly and suddenly they're driving down what used to be one of the busiest streets in the city with large, modern buildings all around them.
“How are you going to start again with zombies roaming the earth?” Kyuhyun is desperate. Anything to get them to stop, to turn around, what should he do?
“It's quite simple, really. When the higher-ups decide it is time, they send out a special radio-wave all over the world, and the switch that is programmed into the virus causes all their bodies to shut down and die.”
“What happens if the virus mutates and the switch doesn't work?”
“Then people like me are sent out, and we shoot the survivors.” The car pulls to a stop, and Sungmin puts it in park and turns to smile sadistically at them. “That was a lovely conversation, but now we really must get going. After all, I wouldn't want to be stuck here when the horde smells your fear and comes looking.”
“We trusted you!” Ryeowook suddenly screams, “I gave you his Chang Feng! I thought you were my friend!”
Sungmin frowns. “Now, now. There's no need to be like that. You must understand that it's all for the greater good. You'll go out first. Siwon, persuade him.”
Siwon points the gun at Ryeowook, and Ryeowook sits up straight, staring him down. “I am not afraid to die. At least I know that my Yesung will be waiting for me.”
“Perhaps you'll be more cooperative if we threaten your childhood friend then, h'm?” The gun is moved again to Kyuhyun, who tries to be as brave as Ryeowook is.
“They're going to kill us all either way, Ryeowook. Personally I'd rather be shot in the head than eaten by those things.” Kyuhyun insists, and Ryeowook stands his ground.
“You're being incredibly uncooperative,” Sungmin pouts. “How am I supposed to turn you all into zombies if you're not willing to get out of the car?”
“You're going to kill all the zombies anyway. What does it matter how we die?” Zhou Mi points out, his voice very admirably not shaking though he doesn't take his eyes away from the gun aimed at his lover.
“If you become zombies, then you'll stick around to infect others. Anyway, killing you is so messy, and you'll stain the car.”
“We're not going out there.”
“Open the damn hatch! NOW!” Sungmin screams, but still they do not move. “Fine. Siwon, shoot them all.”
Five gunshots, and then silence.