Fandoms: SS501, Super Junior, U-KISS
Pairings: KyuJong/YoungSaeng, KiBum/Kevin, TBA
Rating: PG-13, some chapters R
Warnings: Violence, angst
Summary: In a world destroyed by plague and war, it’s every man for themselves. To survive, a small caravan of misfits navigate through the remains of a civilization on death's door; where trust must be earned and closely-kept secrets could get them all killed
"Don't be mean, boss," Ryeowook said, though he did pass KyuHyun by as he passed out bowls of leftover soup. "He can earn his breakfast like the rest of us by helping out, right?"
"…I have been helping out," KyuHyun muttered, frowning at the ground.
"Looks good," Kevin woke up a little more at the smell of the soup, cradling the bowl in his hands. "I’ll wake up HyungJoon before he misses out."
"I'll make sure there's some for him," RyeoWook said. "If you're helping out, then what are you doing now KyuHyun?"
KyuHyun’s lips thinned at that. Waiting for some kind of witty remark, Kevin looked up when KyuHyun stood and walked towards where the horses were tethered without a word, grabbing a brush on his way by.
The exchange didn't go unnoticed by most of the camp, JungMin frowning a little but saying nothing as he tore down the tarp lean to.
"Sometimes I can't tell if anyone here is really friends with one another," KyuJong said, coming up beside YoungSaeng.
YoungSaeng watched KyuHyun go, eyes worried. "…Something must have happened. Those two have been inseparable ever since I met them." He sighed, turning around to look at KyuJong. "How are you feeling?"
"Like my old self," KyuJong said, smiling a little. "And you? Other than glad to have everyone back together."
"Mmm… well-rested," YoungSaeng chuckled, wrapping one arm around KyuJong’s waist loosely. "Are you hungry? Should get some food before we head out again, we have a lot of ground to cover today."
"I'm good, I can hold out for a bit," KyuJong said. "Do we have any idea what way we're heading? We don't have Zhou Mi to guide us right now."
YoungSaeng frowned. "He showed me some paths we can take on the map, that’ll do until he’s recovered. We also have KyuHyun, it’s been some years since he came back from China but he’ll have a general idea of where to go."
"Let's hope he remembers," KyuJong said, breathing in and out slowly. "You think this is the best plan, right? Following Zhou Mi to another country... it's so far away."
"It is," YoungSaeng looked at KyuJong, pulling the younger man close. "But if this pays off…just think about it. It’ll be more than worth the trek to China. No matter how small that chance is…I’m willing to take it."
"If... I wasn't sick, if I wasn't with you, you wouldn't go right?" KyuJong asked, looking into YoungSaeng's eyes. "Are you only doing this because of me?"
YoungSaeng was silent for a moment, meeting KyuJong’s gaze. "…We’ll all die from this eventually, Kyu yah," he said quietly. "Every last one of us. Your sickness…it just drives it home for me that I’m tired of standing on the sidelines, helpless."
Putting his arms around YoungSaeng's shoulders, KyuJong sighed a little. "At the very least Saeng... Zhou Mi bought us a little more time. Even if this cure doesn't work, we'll be together."
"And I’ll be thankful for every minute we are," YoungSaeng smiled, resting his forehead against KyuJong’s lightly. "But Kyu yah, I’m tired of blindly accepting my fate…our fate. I’m ready to fight for you."
"I wish we didn't have to," KyuJong said quietly. "I was really... really hoping we could have a few years together at least. We don't even know if we'll make it through to China. We don't know what we're going into."
"No, we don’t know. It could be good, or it could be bad. Or it could be just what we need," YoungSaeng murmured, a small smile on his lips. "Only way we’re going to find out is by getting there."
"Guess so," KyuJong said, leaning in a little to give YoungSaeng a kiss. "... I hope you've missed being able to do that as much as I have."
"Of course I have," YoungSaeng chuckled, returning the kiss and closing his eyes. He couldn’t resist pulling the younger man closer. "I’ wish we were still in a city so I could show you just how much I’ve missed you."
"Maybe when we stop for the night we should go for a walk," KyuJong murmured against YoungSaeng's lips.
"That sounds like a great idea," YoungSaeng whispered in return. "Though I think we’ll have to go a little farther this time, don’t want to scare the children."
"Long as we don't get lost," KyuJong chuckled.
"Yah! If you two want to make out, do it in the caravan!" JungMin yelled from across the clearing. "We're leaving!"
"Oh fine," YoungSaeng huffed against KyuJong’s lips, kissing him again before pulling away. "Time to be a leader again, go get inside," he nudged KyuJong’s shoulder before going to help hitch the team horses to the caravan. KyuHyun was taking care of it, and he didn’t look any happier. "We’re all packed?" He asked JungMin.
"Packed, ready, and just waiting on the boss," JungMin said, his horse dancing under him. "Everyone who is on horses, get on your damn horse so we can get the hell out of here!" he called, nudging his horse towards the road. "Joon, watch our rear, I'll take point."
"Going." HyungJoon headed to the back of the caravan.
"Get on inside," YoungSaeng said to KyuHyun, watching him climb up into the caravan with a small frown. Securing the horses, he climbed up onto the front bench and took up the reins. "We’re all set?"
"Yes boss!" Kevin climbed up behind KiBum and happily wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s waist. YoungSaeng couldn’t help but smile at them; they were cute. He flicked the reins lightly, the caravan lurching forward.
With everyone back together, and finally headed in the direction they needed to go, JungMin finally felt like they were making progress. Even if two people were laid up and recovering from mild hypothermia, and half the caravan wasn't talking to the other half, it still felt better to be all together.
As hard as they were pushing the horses on the treacherous mountain terrain, JungMin knew they needed to take breaks to give the horses time to rest, but it didn't mean he liked it. He liked it even less that they were stopping midday just to eat a meal, arguing they could eat as they traveled but a stern look from YoungSaeng had him complying with a grumble. "There's a stream nearby," he said, seeing the glint of the water through the trees. "We'll stop here just off the road. Kevin, KiBum, make sure those horses are watered before you even think about lunch."
"Yes sir," KiBum sighed, helping Kevin to dismount before climbing off as well and going to help unhitch the horses. "We're never going to get to do anything but take care of the horses," he complained to his boyfriend.
"Maybe we can get someone to switch with us next time," Kevin wrinkled his nose, gathering up the horses from those who were riding. Going to get RyeoWook’s horse, he looked at the older man hopefully. "Hyung, want to switch jobs with us next time?"
"And let you cook?" RyeoWook raised an eyebrow as he handed over the reins. "I think YoungSaeng would have something to say about that."
"…I’m not that bad," Kevin protested as he took the reins. "Okay, I’m not that good, but I’m better than the others and I can learn. KiBum too, maybe. Possibly."
"JungMin and YoungSaeng give the jobs, you'll have to ask them," RyeoWook said. "So good luck with that. Oh, and grab me a bucket of water while you're at the stream."
"…Oh fine," Kevin grumbled. "What good is wanting to learn stuff if no one wants us to." He pulled the horses towards the caravan in search of a bucket.
Once he was gone, footsteps approached from RyeoWook’s other side. "Hey." KyuHyun stopped, arms folded across his chest. "Let’s talk."
Blinking a little at KyuHyun and his stance, RyeoWook's lips thinned a little. "Alright... you'll have to talk while I work. Don't let JungMin catch you not helping out right now, he looks like he's about to murder people today."
"I’m not talking here." KyuHyun nodded towards the trees. "They can wait a few minutes."
"... Okay, but if I get in trouble I'm blaming you," RyeoWook said, glancing towards the others before following KyuHyun over into the tree line. "Well, what is it?"
KyuHyun only spoke once they were far enough to not be seen or heard. He turned to RyeoWook, eyes narrowed. "So are you going to tell me what I did wrong now? Or are you just going to keep treating me like a parasite and not your best friend."
"What are you talking about?" RyeoWook frowned, crossing his arms. "I'm not treating you like anything. You were the one who was ignoring me in favor of talking to your new best friend in that silly language."
"…Is that seriously why you’re acting like this?" KyuHyun demanded. "Because I wanted to talk to someone in the language I grew up with? He’s not my best friend and I haven’t been ignoring you, but you sure as hell don’t seem to want to talk to me. I thought we talked this out already."
"No, we really didn't," RyeoWook said. "I don't know what you want from me, and it's confusing the hell out of me. Just.. just leave me alone." He turned away and started back towards the caravan.
KyuHyun caught RyeoWook’s wrist, not letting him leave. "I just want to know what’s wrong," he said quietly. "I can’t fix things if I don’t know what’s going on."
"Nothing is wrong!" RyeoWook snapped, pulling at his wrist in an attempt to break free. "There's nothing to fix KyuHyun. I'm just not going to stand in your way anymore."
"Stand in my way? Stand in my way of what?" KyuHyun pulled him back, unrelenting.
"...Of being happy," RyeoWook said. "I've been holding you back KyuHyun, you can't deny it. I see the way you light up when you talk to Zhou Mi and talk to him in Chinese. You miss that life so much you'll do anything to get it back. I'm just a weight on you and I've been so selfish thinking... think that you cared more about me than China. I was so afraid of losing you as a friend, but I never really had you in the first place."
KyuHyun’s expression eased a little at the admission, his grip on RyeoWook’s wrist loosening. His gaze went to the side, taking a moment to think about that before looking back at the other man.
"Wook…you’ve always been my best friend. Nothing’s ever going to change that, not Zhou Mi, not China. I do miss China, yes. But I decided a long time ago I wasn’t going to leave you behind, even if it meant never going back." KyuHyun had never been good at emotional conversation, preferring to tease and joke, but now he spoke slowly and deliberately. "Not because you’re holding me back, but because I’m happiest with you. China has nothing over Kim RyeoWook."
RyeoWook looked away, his jaw set and expression unreadable. "That's not how you've made it seem the past few weeks. Every since Zhou Mi got here, I saw this fire in your eyes that I've never seen before. I thought it was him at first, but you say it isn't. You don't have that same fire when you look at me KyuHyun. I guess I've just come to realize I can't keep following you around the world. I have to take care of myself."
KyuHyun was silent, picking through RyeoWook’s words. "…You thought I liked him. That’s what you mean by fire, then." He quirked a small, rueful smile as he pulled RyeoWook further away from the caravan. "But since I don’t like him, that changes everything doesn’t it? Cause that means that ‘fire’ is something else, like say…an ordinary friendship. So no, I don’t have that when I look at you, cause you’ve never been just an ordinary friendship."
"... But what does that even mean," RyeoWook sighed, rubbing at his forehead. "I have to get started on lunch, we're not sitting here for very long."
"One more minute. I’ll deal with JungMin afterwards. You asked me a question, so I have to answer it," KyuHyun raised an eyebrow at RyeoWook. "But because you’re being grumpy and rushing me, you’re going to close your eyes first."
"... Why?" RyeoWook frowned at him. "Do we really have to play games right now? You're making my head spin."
"Just humor me?" KyuHyun looked down at him.
"Fine, you've got one minute," RyeoWook sighed, closing his eyes as asked.
"I don’t think answering your question will take that long." KyuHyun fell silent for a brief moment, just looking at him. He let go of RyeoWook’s wrist to rest his hands on the other man’s thin shoulders, before leaning in to kiss him softly.
RyeoWook's eyes snapped open and he pushed KyuHyun away. "What the fuck was that? Is this some kind of joke to you? What the hell is wrong with you?"
Surprised, KyuHyun staggered backwards at the rough push. "…What do you mean is this a joke," he said, trying not to get annoyed. "You think I’d joke about that?"
"Everything is a joke to you KyuHyun," RyeoWook said, looking hurt. "And this one isn't very funny."
Staring at him, KyuHyun’s expression slowly closed off. "You were never a joke to me, and it’s insulting that you think I’d joke about this. You know, I was seriously worried about you while we were separated. But you didn’t even look happy to see me."
RyeoWook sighed a little, his shoulders slumping. "KyuHyun... what do you want from me? Can you just answer me, using words, tell me what you want."
KyuHyun turned away, lips pressed together thinly. "…the reason why you’ve probably never noticed anything in how I look at you is because I’ve liked you from the first day we met. Nothing’s changed in how I look at you, because that hasn’t changed since then."
"... You're being serious," RyeoWook murmured, watching KyuHyun. "I... I honestly didn't think you did. Why didn't you ever tell me?"
"Because I was perfectly happy where I was," KyuHyun replied. "And didn’t want to screw up our friendship."
"Well I wasn't happy," RyeoWook frowned, punching him weakly in the arm. "You acted as if I was like your brother or something this whole time and I seriously... seriously was going to sleep with JungMin because of it."
"Yeah, because you made it abundantly clear you were interested in me. Right." KyuHyun stepped away from the punch. "Minute’s up."
"Don't you dare turn this around on me," RyeoWook said. "I thought you and Zhou Mi were going to start making out in front of me the way you two were flirting." Caught for a moment in indecision, he marched up to KyuHyun and grabbed his shirt by the collar and pulled him into a kiss. "We'll talk more later, okay?" he said when he pulled away.
Breathing in slowly, KyuHyun looked down at RyeoWook. "Are we actually going to talk, or am I going to be dragging you away kicking and screaming again."
"We'll talk," RyeoWook said. "I think we have a lot more to talk about still."
"…Okay." KyuHyun nodded, looking away as he turned to walk back to camp. "I’ll pacify JungMin I guess."
"Good luck," RyeoWook said, sighing a little before following after him towards the caravan. He wasn't quite sure if anything had really been resolved there. They would need more time.
The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully once they got back on the road. They made good time, which pleased YoungSaeng considering how behind schedule they were. They were heading farther into the mountains, and by the time they stopped for the night they could turn around and look down into the river valley they’d left behind. They were only going to climb in altitude from there, and YoungSaeng hoped they had enough extra blankets and clothes for when the temperature dropped.
They set up camp just before the sun set in a small clearing not far from a stream. Before someone could tell them to go take care of the horses again, Kevin immediately pulled KiBum over to where RyeoWook was. "Hyung, can we help you with food this time?"
"Well... I guess," RyeoWook said, digging through one of the crates. "We're running low on supplies, so we have to make stuff last. Go get me some water KiBum." He turned to Kevin when KiBum was gone. "You know how to make hard tack?"
"Hard tack?" Kevin shook his head slowly. "Uh…no. Is it easy to learn?"
"It is, and it lasts a long time," RyeoWook said. "It tastes like rocks, but it'll keep you fed. My mom showed me how to make it with rice, though flour is supposed to be the best."
"Okay," Kevin nodded, making a mental note of that. "So we’re making normal rice first?" He tried to stay out of the way of what RyeoWook was doing while watching at the same time.
"No, we have to use dry rice," RyeoWook said, pulling out their small sack of flour. "We grind it up with a small amount of water until it's a paste, add a little bit of salt and mix it up. When we pour it into my cast iron dish and put it right in the fire so it cooks. You want to try?"
"Sure!" Kevin grinned widely. "Sounds like a good recipe to start learning with." Pulling out the pestle and mortar from another crate (he knew where they were after making tea so many times), he glanced to the side as he heard KyuHyun’s voice.
"Going to hunt," the archer was telling YoungSaeng as he headed out, quiver slung over one shoulder and bow in his hand. Kevin saw KyuHyun glance towards him and RyeoWook before stepping past the tree line.
"It's pretty easy," RyeoWook said, his eyes following KyuHyun. "And really hard to mess up. You work on that, I'll be back in a bit okay?" Getting to his feet, he followed after KyuHyun.
"Uhhh sure," Kevin blinked, getting set up.
Hearing footsteps crunching through the leaves behind him, KyuHyun turned around and saw RyeoWook following him away from the caravan. "Hey."
"Hey," RyeoWook said. "So um... you want some company? Joon was showing me how to hunt... I could help."
Blinking, KyuHyun glanced over RyeoWook’s shoulder before his eyes returned to the other man’s face. "You aren’t helping the kid with something?"
"I left him doing something, he'll be at it for a while," RyeoWook said. "And if he messes up he'll start again. I just... thought you would want some company."
KyuHyun’s lips quirked after a moment. "…You have your gun on you, I take it? Unless you want to try your luck with my bow."
"Yeah, I have my gun," RyeoWook said, patting his back pocket. "I've been keeping it on me all the time now, just in case."
"Good idea." KyuHyun adjusted his quiver strap on his shoulder, nodding towards the trees. "Let’s get some food. I’m curious how much you learned."
"I learned a lot from HyungJoon," RyeoWook said. "I think I'll surprise you."
"Whose idea was it for you to learn hunting?" KyuHyun asked, starting to walk. "Who did the clean-up work afterwards?"
"... JungMin's idea," RyeoWook said. "He said we all had to help out and he didn't trust Kevin enough with a weapon. HyungJoon made me skin a rabbit... but I threw up. The second time I didn't get nearly as sick."
"…Oh," KyuHyun frowned, glancing at the shorter man beside him. "Well…it gets better with practice. Did you want to take care of it this time, or should I? I don’t mind it."
I know you don't... but like HyungJoon told me, I have to be able to rely on myself," RyeoWook said. "You're not always going to be around to help me, so I needed to figure out how to do it on my own."
"Okay," KyuHyun nodded, looking away. He looked like he didn’t know what to say, frowning at nothing in particular. "As long as you know that I’m there if you need the help."
"I will," RyeoWook nodded, keeping an eye on where he was going. Wouldn't look good if he fell down in a ditch with KyuHyun watching.
Back at the camp, JungMin was approaching Kevin and KiBum, hands on hips. "Where's RyeoWook and why isn't he watching you two?"
Kevin looked up at JungMin, all wide-eyed confusion (even though after seeing where RyeoWook was heading he had a pretty good idea of how long it would be before their cook returned). "He went with KyuHyun, told me how to make hard tack so that’s what KiBum and I are doing now." He was still working on grinding up the dry rice and water, he and KiBum passing the mortar back and forth between them as one person’s arms tired.
"... Alright, well, long as you think you know what you're doing then," JungMin said, watching them. "Just don't burn yourself, alright?"
"We won’t," Kevin nodded, passing the mortar and pestle back to KiBum. "We really want to help out more, with everything. The more we know, the more useful we’ll be, right?"
"That's the idea," JungMin nodded, turning away. His eyes scanned over the camp, not seeing who he was looking for he went to the next person he saw. "So, boss," he said, leaning up against a tree. "Our path is taking us through the mountains. We're not going to have to blindfold you are we?"
"Very funny," YoungSaeng said drily, looking up from where he was taking stock of their current supplies. "Can’t drive the caravan very well if I can’t see, and I don’t know who else would drive. I’ll be fine as long as you make sure we’re not about to fall off the side of the mountain."
"I'll make sure of it, boss," JungMin said. "You could let KyuJong drive, he seems to be able to handle himself in the driver's seat."
YoungSaeng’s lips quirked a little at his boyfriend’s name. "I’ll have to talk to him. I should be all right for the most part. As long as we avoid any cliffs." He glanced to the side, seeing HyungJoon stepping out of the trees on the other side of the clearing. "I thought KyuHyun was hunting?"
"That's what Kevin just told me," JungMin said. "Wook went with him."
"Ah, so someone’s back to hiding in the trees," YoungSaeng went back to checking their supplies as HyungJoon slowly made his way over.
"Huh?" JungMin blinked a little at him. "You're talking nonsense, maybe Wook should check you for fever."
"Or maybe you should just turn around," YoungSaeng snorted.
JungMin glanced over his shoulder, seeing HyungJoon. "Oh. You mean him," he said, watching HyungJoon walk toward them.
HyungJoon stopped awkwardly a few trees away, eyeing YoungSaeng (who was not looking at them anymore but clearly all-ears) before approaching. He was holding a handkerchief in his hands, something heaped inside. "…Hey," he said, looking down at his hands as he held out the bundle of bright red berries to JungMin. "They’re not poisonous or anything."
Blinking a little bit at the handkerchief, JungMin's lips thinned a little. "Are you sure? You're not trying to kill me are you?"
In response, HyungJoon freed one hand to take a berry and pop it into his mouth. "They’re pretty good," he said after he’d chewed and swallowed, looking to the side. "Haven’t found them anywhere but around here before."
"Are there more? Tell the kids to go gather some," JungMin said. "We'll be needing those when we get high up in the mountains and there's nothing to eat."
HyungJoon’s expression fell. "…Yeah, okay. There aren’t that many, but okay." He tied up the small bundle so no berries fell out, holding it out to JungMin again.
Raising an eyebrow slightly, JungMin reached out to take the handkerchief, his hand closing around HyungJoon's. "Thanks... I didn't figure you'd be a gatherer type."
HyungJoon’s gaze went to the hand covering his own, not pulling away. "…I wasn’t always the best shot," he shrugged a little, looking up at JungMin. "Kevin and KiBum seem to be doing fine over there, I’ll get the rest myself."
Frowning a little, JungMin looked down at their hands as well. "You... want any help?" he asked. "I'm not really doing much of anything useful 'round here, except annoying Saeng."
The younger man glanced at YoungSaeng, who was smiling to himself as he checked off items on a list. "If you don’t mind how boring picking berries is…I wouldn’t mind the help," he nodded. "We’ll need something bigger than my handkerchief though."
"I think Saeng's got a bag we can use, I'm sure he won't mind," JungMin said, smiling a little. "Isn't that right boss?"
"Yeah," YoungSaeng chuckled, his expression amused about something as he rooted around in one of the crates. He pulled out a spare bag, holding it out to JungMin. "Have fun, try to avoid getting shot at by the two hunting."
"I'm sure that'll be easy enough," JungMin snorted. "Alright, let's go Joon, before we get roped into doing actual work."
A small smile tugged at the corner of HyungJoon’s mouth before he turned to head back the way he’d came. "We are doing work though. You should try one, they’re really good."
"I'll try one later," JungMin said, tucking the bundle into his jacket pocket. "How did you know those aren't poisonous?"
"KiBum ate some while I wasn’t looking when he was twelve," HyungJoon replied, crossing the clearing and ducking under a tree branch.. "I noticed the berries back around the river, but it didn’t click that they were the same ones right away."
"Why'd you bring them to me, why not to Wook?" JungMin asked. "I thought you weren't going to talk to me anymore."
"…Because I didn’t want to give them to RyeoWook," HyungJoon replied after a moment, not looking back at JungMin. "I gave them to you."
"Joon..." JungMin sighed a little, grabbing HyungJoon by the arm to get him to stop. "We really need to talk, don't you think?"
HyungJoon stopped at the pull on his arm, frowning down at the ground. "I don’t want to get into an argument with you again," he said, glancing back at JungMin. "And I don’t know if we’ll be able to talk without that happening."
"So... what you propose we do then, just ignore the elephant in the room?" JungMin replied. "I... Joon, I don't want us to be at odds with each other."
"I don’t want to be either," HyungJoon replied. Exhaling slowly, he looked up through the canopy of leaves between them and the sky. "I kind of like being around you. But I can’t change who I am."
"I'm not saying you have to change who you are, but what I do hope is that... you can just.. kind of let go of some of that tension you've got," JungMin said.
"That ‘tension’ as you put it, is the only reason I’m still alive," HyungJoon replied. "It’s not something I can just let go of. I…I am trying."
"I'd like to help Joon, if you'll let me," JungMin said, watching him.
The corner of HyungJoon’s mouth twitched before he glanced at JungMin beside him. "I already am."
"That so?" JungMin raised an eyebrow at that. "Sometimes doesn't feel like it. You make it so difficult sometimes."
"And sometimes you ask more of me than I’m ready for," HyungJoon replied. "But if I didn’t want to let you in…we wouldn’t be talking right now."
"Well... I'll take that as progress," JungMin said, smiling a little. "I'll... try not to ask more of you than you're ready for. And I'll try to not get frustrated... though I can't promise anything."
"I can’t promise anything either, so that’s fine." HyungJoon turned around to face JungMin fully. "So…we’re okay now?"
"Well, I wouldn't say we're completely okay, but maybe we can get there," JungMin said. "So, where are those berries?"
"You actually wanted to help pick berries?" HyungJoon blinked. "Last time you followed me somewhere to get work done, you were just following for a kiss."
"Hey, what do you take me for?" JungMin sniffed. "I followed you cause I wanted to talk, that's all. And I'll help pick berries if there's enough."
"Well, it’ll go faster with the two of us." The older brother looked amused. Glancing over JungMin’s shoulder back towards the camp, he stepped closer and leaned in to kiss JungMin lightly.
JungMin returned the kiss, his hand finding HyungJoon's and threading their fingers together. "Yeah? I'm kind of hoping it takes a little while myself."
HyungJoon’s fingers curled around JungMin’s a little. "Well, I guess we’ll have to see," he murmured, looking up at JungMin with a small smile before turning to head through the bushes. "It’s this way." He didn’t let go of JungMin’s hand, tugging the older man along.
The further the caravan climbed into the mountains, the colder the air turned. Heavy cloaks were brought out, the horse riders bundled with hoods drawn up. Luckily, Zhou Mi and JongWoon seemed to be doing much better before the first snowfall, RyeoWook worried their condition could worsen if the air dipped too low.
Having Kevin pressed up snuggly against his back, KiBum was grateful he had an extra source of warmth as they traveled a narrow road along the side of one of the steep hills. He wasn't the only one taking advantage of human sized heaters, KyuJong and YoungSaeng sharing a blanket on the driver's bench. The biggest surprise though, was KyuHyun riding behind RyeoWook on his horse.
"Cold weather sure does bring people together," KiBum said quietly to Kevin over his shoulder. "Guess my brother will freeze."
Unburying his nose from KiBum’s jacket, Kevin glanced to where HyungJoon was riding near the back of the caravan. The older brother was just as bundled up as everyone else, but couldn’t be as warm by himself on his horse. He was visibly shivering every now and then.
"He and JungMin should share a horse," Kevin replied, looking for wherever JungMin was.
"As if HyungJoon would share anything," KiBum snorted. "I think he'd rather jump in the river than share with JungMin."
"That wasn’t what JungMin…I mean…" Kevin stumbled a little over the words. "I don’t think they would really mind sharing a horse."
"Why do you say that?" KiBum said, peeking over his shoulder as best he could. "HyungJoon doesn't like anyone, least of all JungMin."
Kevin made sure no one was in eavesdropping range. "Uh…well…I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, but while we were separated JungMin said something about maybe kissing HyungJoon."
"Kissing?" KiBum's eyes widened at that and he looked towards where JungMin was up ahead. "He had to be joking, right? I mean JungMin likes to joke around, you've heard him. Hyung doesn't kiss people. I don't think he even knows what that is."
Kevin shushed KiBum, nudging him in the side. "I don’t know if he was joking or not, they were kinda on the outs with each other while we were separated. But I mean…have you even been watching them the past couple days? Your brother’s actually talking to JungMin, and while I guess that doesn’t seem like much…he doesn’t really talk to anyone else. And sometimes they’ll both disappear from camp around the same time."
"What, you think they're... no, that's not even possible," KiBum said. "It could just be all coincidence. JungMin was the first one to know the secret so I guess... maybe hyung has just finally made a friend."
"What’s wrong with them being together?" Kevin asked. "If they are, wouldn’t it be a good thing?"
"There's nothing wrong with it," KiBum said. "It's just... weird. My brother wouldn't let anyone get that close to him. I wish he would, let himself be distracted for once."
"He’s been…nicer lately? I bet JungMin does have something to do with it," Kevin mused. ‘Nicer’ for HyungJoon was all relative, but considering that the older brother wasn’t glaring at people and hiding in the tree line anymore, he felt justified in saying it.
"I guess? I thought it was just because now that everyone knew our secret he wasn't so worried anymore," KiBum said. "Guess it could be because of JungMin... doesn't mean they're together though."
"I kind of hope they are," Kevin said quietly. "I mean…I can’t remember being this happy, being with you. I think everyone should have someone like that. Especially your brother."
"I’m happy too Kevin, doesn't mean HyungJoon would be," KiBum said. "I don't think he could trust someone enough to get that close."
"Maybe…you should try talking to him?" Kevin asked. "You’re his brother…unless you don’t think that’ll help."
"Talk to him about what?" KiBum made a face. "What he wants to do with his own life is his business. I don't want him butting into my life, why would I butt into his?"
"Was just an idea," Kevin shrugged, glancing back at HyungJoon. Despite KiBum’s words, he did hope JungMin hadn’t just been joking. Because HyungJoon finally trusting someone wasn’t something to joke about.