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The Road Less Traveled - Chapter 28

Title: The Road Less Traveled
Fandoms: SS501, Super Junior, U-KISS
Pairings: KyuJong/YoungSaeng, KiBum/Kevin, TBA
Rating: PG-13, some chapters R
Chapters: 23/?
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




A voice floated out of the caravan. "Oh wow, it’s freezing out here."

YoungSaeng glanced over his shoulder to see JongWoon poking his head out from inside the caravan. "Will you please sit down," he said tersely; the caravan leader was less than happy to be so close to the edge of the mountain, and had needed convincing this was the best path to take in the first place.

"Sorry," JongWoon quickly crouched down before he could shake the caravan and draw YoungSaeng’s wrath. "I just woke up and was wondering where we were."

"We’ll be making camp soon," YoungSaeng replied. "Is Zhou Mi awake too?"

KyuJong peeked over his shoulder into the caravan, seeing beyond JongWoon to where Zhou Mi was still curled up under his blankets. "Doesn't look like it. Not sure how he can still be asleep with all this bumping around."

"Not sure either," JongWoon shivered at a cold wind that blew by.

"Well, let him know when he wakes up we’ll be stopping soon," YoungSaeng said, facing forward again.

"Okay." JongWoon quickly retreated back into the caravan, searching for the blankets he’d dropped on the way to the front. He grabbed them and threw the blankets over his shoulder, before landing on his side with a squawk when the caravan hit a large bump. "Ow."

The lump of blankets covering Zhou Mi shifted a little as he made a small groan. His head poked out of the blankets enough to blink around blearily. He mumbled something incomprehensible, whether it was Mandarin or Korean it was hard to tell.

JongWoon disentangled himself from the blankets to sit up, blinking repeatedly at the lump on the bed. "Oh, hi," he said, seeing Zhou Mi’s head sticking out with his hair going everywhere. "Sleep okay?"

Zhou Mi's reply was a grunt and his eyes closed again briefly. "Yes... sleep... hao."

"Hao?" JongWoon repeated. He decided to settle down on the caravan’s floor next to the bed rather than risk another faceplant, bundling back up in the blankets against the chill. "What does that mean?"

"...Good," Zhou Mi replied, opening his eyes and looking around for the speaker. "JongWoon? What... what's going on?"

"Nothing much, we’re traveling through the mountains and it’s freezing out there, so you’d better stay in bed," JongWoon said with a small smile. "We should be stopping soon, or that’s what YoungSaeng said a minute ago."

"Oh, that's good," Zhou Mi said, though his brow furrowed a little. "The last thing I remember clearly was... we were standing on the bank of the river and then I was underwater. You saved me though, didn't you."

JongWoon’s lips curled into a smile. "Yeah, well, I wasn’t just going to let you swim out to sea. The water was kind of cold so we were both out of it for a while."

"Probably was a bad time to go swimming then," Zhou Mi said. "Thank you."

"Was nothing," JongWoon shrugged. "Are you feeling better now though? Uh… hao?"

Zhou Mi snorted at that. "Shi, wo hen hao."

"Uh…that’s…good?" JongWoon tried to pretend he knew what Zhou Mi had said, and failed utterly. "What does that mean? That sounded really long for ‘yes’ or ‘no’."

"I said I am fine," Zhou Mi said, lips quirking a little. "A little hungry, how long were we sleeping for? I don't remember being near the mountains."

"Oh, we’ve been out for a few days. Apparently we’ve been semi-conscious enough to eat something then just went right back to sleep, I woke up properly just the other day myself." JongWoon grabbed one of the bags and dragged it closer, rummaging around for something to eat. While he did that, he tried mumbling the Mandarin to himself. "Shi hen…wo…"

"Are you trying to learn Mandarin?" Zhou Mi asked, watching him.

"I don’t know," JongWoon blinked, looking up at him. "I just think it sounds kind of cool. Even if a lot of the words sound really similar."

"I could say the same about Korean," Zhou Mi said. "But I can help you learn, it would be nice to talk to someone in my home language every now and then."

"That would be cool," JongWoon grinned. "I thought you talk to that KyuHyun guy in Mandarin though?"

"I did," Zhou Mi nodded, looking away. "Doesn't appear we will be talking in the future."

"Why?" JongWoon asked, confused.

"Our... interests weren't in the same place, I guess," Zhou Mi said.

JongWoon blinked repeatedly before seeming to realize what Zhou Mi meant. "Oh…" He looked down at the bag he was rooting around in. "I’m sorry. You seem like a really great guy." Finding some hard tack, he offered it to the other man.

"Ah... doesn't mean I'm not an idiot though," Zhou Mi said. "What about you though? I recall you and RyeoWook were talking quite a bit, are you still?"

"I kind of just woke up yesterday, but not really," JongWoon shrugged. "He was just keeping me company while I was tied up and no one else was talking to me. Or at least, no one else was talking to me nicely."

"Well, then maybe we can commiserate together," Zhou Mi chuckled. "Neither of us seem that welcome."

"They like you just fine," JongWoon smiled, nudging Zhou Mi again with the hard tack. "Here, you were hungry."

Pulling a hand out of the blankets, Zhou Mi accepted the biscuit with a small thanks and started to nibble at it. "They only like me because I'm useful."

"Nah, you’re a nice guy." JongWoon huddled under his own blankets, pulling them tighter around himself and shivering. "From my perspective anyways."

"Well, I think you're a nice guy as well," Zhou Mi said. "No matter what they may think of you. I think you'll prove them wrong."

"Doubt that, they still think I’m waiting for my chance to kidnap the brothers or something," JongWoon shrugged. He rested his cheek against the edge of the bed, closing his eyes. "I thought about what you said before you went swimming though, and I don’t think I want to go back home just yet."

"No?" Zhou Mi blinked a little at that, trying to sit up. "Why is that?"

"Because even if I’m not really welcome here, I want to see it through," JongWoon murmured. "See if…there really is a cure. And besides, if I go home now, who’s gonna fish you out of rivers?"

Zhou Mi chuckled a little. "Well, I don't plan on going swimming any time soon. But I think it's honorable you want to see this through. You have no real stake in this. Even if the others are sort of... holding you captive. I'm glad you made the right choice."

"Well there is the whole captive thing too, I don’t really want to give them a reason to shoot me," JongWoon wrinkled his nose a little before sobering. "Do they know?" He asked, opening his eyes and looking up at Zhou Mi. "That you’re running out of time."

Blinking a little, Zhou Mi tilted his head. "Hm? What do you mean?"

"I saw your mark," JongWoon replied, frowning a little. "Do they know?"

"Oh... that," Zhou Mi's hand went to his chest automatically, looking down. "Some know, the ones that need to know. It's... it's why I'm here in Korea. I used what years I had left looking for a real cure."

JongWoon nodded slowly, looking down. "So…how much time is left, exactly? I’m assuming you gave yourself that medicine thing that KyuJong got."

"I have enough time to make it back home," Zhou Mi said. "A few months at most. I can feel it starting again. There's a... lingering pain that I've always felt, and it's getting worse as days go on."

"Oh," JongWoon said quietly. "Is there…anything we can do? One of the kids has tea, doesn’t he? Does that help?"

"Not really, not yet anyway," Zhou Mi said. "I'm used to the pain JongWoon, but thank you for trying to help."

Nodding, JongWoon closed his eyes again. "Well…just let me know if there’s anything I can do. At least you’ll be back in your home country, if nothing else."

"it will be nice to be back home," Zhou Mi said. "It is... a lot different than Korea. There aren't the problems with bandits and compound living like there is here. Not that there aren't problems, but not as bad."

"There’s no compounds?" JongWoon asked, curiosity in his voice. "What’s it like, then?"

"Well, it's kind of like... imagine living in a compound with no walls. People are much friendlier to one another," Zhou Mi said. "It's... calm."

"If there’s no walls, how do you keep trouble away?" the other man asked, confused. "There aren’t any bandits or questionable people wandering around?"

"Of course there are, but they were there before the virus," Zhou Mi said. "Where I lived, it was a fairly good sized city before the virus, and they kept a working military and government after it hit."

"Wow…" JongWoon thought about that. "I wish it was like that in Korea. My compound…because we’re on the other side of the old border, most of the compounds in the south kind of ignore our existence except to send bandits and the like after us."

"From what I can tell, it's the same everywhere in Korea," Zhou Mi said. "There's no sense of... unity. Which I find very strange. The korean people are stronger than what they've become. I hope one day they can see that."

JongWoon looked up as he felt the caravan turning. "We’re not going off the cliff, are we?"

"No," YoungSaeng glanced back at them. "There’s a place to stop, we’re getting away from the edge before we do fall off."

"Your faith in JungMin not leading us off a cliff is staggering!" KyuHyun laughed from up ahead.

"Shut up KyuHyun, I'd like to see you do a better job," JungMin shot back over his shoulder.

"I’m not the one who’s convinced we’re going to fall off the face of the mountain, why are you telling me to shut up?" KyuHyun sniffed.

"Because you're being annoying," JungMin said. "You can't even keep your comments to yourself."

"And horses have no sense of humor," KyuHyun muttered under his breath, falling silent again behind RyeoWook.

"You should know better by now," RyeoWook said, smiling in sympathy over his shoulder at KyuHyun. "Why do you do that?"

KyuHyun’s eyes lifted to meet RyeoWook’s, confused. "Why do I do what?"

"Poke the hornet's nest like that," RyeoWook said. "One of these days he's going to make good on his threats."

"That would be too much work for him," KyuHyun chuckled quietly. "That’s just me. It’s how I show I like people."

"Does he know that?" RyeoWook asked, shaking his head a little.

"We’ve been with this group for how long? He knows by now," KyuHyun wrinkled his nose a little.

"Well, yeah, doesn't mean he does," RyeoWook said. "Same with everyone else. I don't think everyone gets you like I do."

KyuHyun was silent for a moment, watching as they made their way farther from the path. "I’m fine with that. Although I don’t think you get me as much as I thought you did."

"Why do you say that?" RyeoWook blinked at that.

"If you had, you wouldn’t have accused me of lying the other day," KyuHyun said simply.

"When did I accuse you of lying?" RyeoWook turned a little more to look at him.

"You’re going to fall off the horse." KyuHyun put one hand against RyeoWook’s back to keep him from tumbling off. "When I told you I like you."

"What? I didn't call you a liar," RyeoWook said, his expression hurt. "Why would I call you a liar? I didn't think you were lying."

"Yes you did, and you said as much," KyuHyun replied, looking away from RyeoWook. They’d stopped in a large enough clearing for the caravan, YoungSaeng stopping the team horses. KyuHyun slid off the horse behind RyeoWook, stumbling a little as the horse had still been moving.

"I did not..." RyeoWook said quietly, looking down at KyuHyun with an unreadable expression. "I did not." Turning his horse around, he kicked the horse to head back down the trail.

"RyeoWook?" YoungSaeng saw the horse taking off as he climbed off the front bench, jumping off the caravan. "Hey, where are you going?" He called, confused. Looking back at KyuHyun, he saw the archer wordlessly starting to set up camp.

"God dammit, don't have time for this shit," JungMin swore, swinging back up onto his horse and starting off after RyeoWook. Both horses turned a corner in the road, disappearing from sight. There was a sound of a scuffle, RyeoWook shrieking before it cut off.

A few seconds later, JungMin returned, RyeoWook sitting behind him on JungMin's horse and RyeoWook's horse trotting along behind them. "Get down, you've lost horse privileges." RyeoWook slid down off the horse, his head down and frowning.

"What was that all about?" YoungSaeng frowned at RyeoWook, arms folded in front of his chest.

"Didn't feel like being here anymore," RyeoWook said, looking away. "Sorry I made you worry."

YoungSaeng looked confused. "Why? Do you need to talk about something, Wook?" He motioned for the others to set up camp.

"No, there's nothing to talk about," RyeoWook shook his head, not meeting YoungSaeng's eyes. "I'll get some lunch going. If that's okay boss."

"…Sure," YoungSaeng frowned, looking down at him. "Get someone to help you." He looked around the camp. KyuHyun had gathered up the horses, going to find a stream.

"I don't need any help," RyeoWook said, brushing past YoungSaeng to get past.

YoungSaeng watched RyeoWook go, confused and worried. Something had obviously happened between KyuHyun and RyeoWook, but considering how well they’d seemed to get along just a few minutes prior, he had no idea what. The air between them had been tense for days, something bothering the both of them.

It had looked for a short while like they were okay again, but it had been a false peace. YoungSaeng hoped they’d work around whatever was eating at them soon, because in all the time he’d known them he had never seen them apart.

*************

The days and nights grew longer from there. Those few who were speaking to one another walked on egg shells around the rest of the caravan. Nothing seemed to ease the tension, not even when JungMin's horse dumped him off into the middle of a river. When KyuHyun made no comments about it, that seemed to be the tipping point in the tension.

By the time they made it out of the worst of the hills, even KyuJong was weary of the constant tension between one another. "This is getting a little... ridiculous," KyuJong murmured to YoungSaeng when they set up camp. They were less than a day's ride from the next compound, the supplies stretched to their limits.

YoungSaeng frowned, glancing around at the others working. KyuHyun was once again taking care of the horses, just another sign something was wrong since the archer was usually very vocal about not having anything to do with the horses. He was obviously using the horses and hunting for food as excuses to stay away from the camp. "I don’t understand why they won’t just…talk it over. I’ve never seen them this distant before."

"No idea," KyuJong said. "You've never seen them fight before? KyuHyun doesn't seem the type that likes to talk much. I thought RyeoWook would at least try, but he runs away soon as KyuHyun so much as comes near."

"RyeoWook’s been keeping away from him ever since Yesan though," YoungSaeng murmured, brow furrowed. "I’ve seen them get into small arguments, but only very minor ones. More when KyuHyun makes a bad joke than over anything serious." His shoulders slumped a little. "I really wanted them to figure this out on their own rather than pull rank on them."

"You think that would be wise? It could get even worse," KyuJong said, watching RyeoWook. Their cook was trying to use some wild tubers they had found to make a meager stew. Hopefully they'd be able to get some real food once they got into a compound. "Should someone try to talk to KyuHyun? Or would he be worse than RyeoWook and ignore you."

"KyuHyun doesn’t appreciate people butting into his business, I don’t know which of them would be worse to be honest," YoungSaeng sighed, looking at KyuJong ruefully. "But it can’t continue like this."

Movement out of his side vision caught his attention. Almost as soon as they’d made camp, HyungJoon had disappeared to hunt; anything they found would help. Now the older brother returned to the camp empty-handed, making a beeline straight for YoungSaeng.

"Boss," HyungJoon stopped, panting a little from his run. "There’s a horse coming up the path we just took, it’ll be here in a few minutes. Two riders."

"I'll get JungMin," KyuJong said, glancing at YoungSaeng with a frown, as he jogged over to where JungMin was setting up the fire. It only took a couple of words before JungMin was on his feet, expression grim.

"KyuHyun! Horses!" JungMin called, walking back over to where YoungSaeng and HyungJoon were standing. "Joon, they look armed?"

HyungJoon was catching his breath, nodding. "One had a shotgun, if there were other weapons on them I couldn’t spot them. I don’t know if they realize we’re here or if they’re just following the trail to Pyongyang."

"Do we have time to move the camp?" YoungSaeng asked, glancing back to see KyuHyun returning with the team horses and getting ready to rehitch them to the caravan.

"They’ll be here any minute," HyungJoon shook his head.

"Alright, Joon and I will head them off," JungMin said. "Saeng, try and get the caravan away from here if you can."

YoungSaeng nodded. "Be careful, both of you," he looked between them before turning to head back to the caravan. He called to those who hadn’t noticed what was going on, rallying them up to leave. HyungJoon had run to get his and JungMin’s horses from KyuHyun, returning a moment later.

Cinching the belt on his horse's saddle, JungMin climbed up and waited for HyungJoon to join him. "Keep your gun at the ready Joon, but let me do the talking," he said, looking at him. "Keep your eyes on the trees, it could be a ruse."

HyungJoon nodded in understanding, settling in his saddle and pulling his gun out. Nudging his horse, he set off back down the path they’d just came from.

It didn’t take them long to come across the horse heading their way. The unknown riders weren’t going very fast, huddled together against the cold with hoods pulled up. HyungJoon couldn’t even see the face of the second person, buried as it was against the other rider’s back. Seeing them coming closer, the rider immediately drew the horse to a stop. "…Who are you?"

"Could ask you the same thing," JungMin said, his gun resting on his lap. "We're just passing through the area, where are you headed?"

"I don’t see how it’s any concern to you, friend," the rider said, one hand against his shotgun. "We’re just passing through as well. If you don’t mind, we’ll continue on our way." The second rider hadn’t so much as looked up, arms wrapped around the other’s waist.

"By all means, but these are trying times of course," JungMin said. "Just the two of you then? Or are you traveling with others?"

"…Just ourselves," replied the stranger, eyeing them both. HyungJoon, keeping a wary gaze on the trees, couldn’t see anyone else to disprove that statement. "We’re not looking for trouble, just to continue in peace."

"We don't want any trouble either friend," JungMin said, glancing at HyungJoon. "If we're heading the same way though, maybe we can head that way together. Safety in numbers right?"

HyungJoon looked at JungMin sharply at that, immediately set to protest. "We can’t—" The arguments never left his lips, cut off by the sound of the stranger’s shotgun dropping.

Looking back, he saw the one they’d been talking to had dropped his weapon in favor of stopping the other rider from tipping sideways off the horse, holding onto his companion tightly. Long hair fell out from inside the hood, identifying the second rider as a woman. She didn’t seem to have the strength to hold on anymore, the only thing keeping her in the saddle being the other rider’s arms.

JungMin frowned at that, his hand relaxing its grip off his gun. "Everything okay friend? You look like you could use some help."

"We’re fine," the man said, and it sounded more like a knee-jerk reaction than a true answer. "She’s…not well. Come on, we’ll switch places and you’ll ride in front, okay?" The second sentence was quieter, directed to his companion. "I can hold you easier. It’s just a little farther." She made a quiet noise of pain, nodding under the hood.

"Is she hurt?" JungMin asked. "If she needs care, we have a medic with us."

The stranger looked at them. "It’s nothing a medic would be able to help," he said after a moment. "It’s the virus." He slipped off the horse and carefully helped her lean forward against the horse’s neck for stability. He stooped to pick up his shotgun before climbing back onto the horse behind her this time, arms circling around her to both hold the reins and keep her from falling.

"... He can, actually," JungMin said. "We have someone with us who can help with the pain."

HyungJoon’s eyes widened, looking at JungMin in surprise.

That had the stranger’s full attention. "…What do you mean?" he asked.

"Just what I said," JungMin said. "He has something that can help with the pain. It's a tea."

"Such a thing exists?" The stranger was distracted by another noise of agony from the woman with him. "If you do have a way to help with her pain…I’d be in your debt."

"Follow us," JungMin said. "Joon, take up the rear, I'll lead them back to the caravan."

HyungJoon still didn’t look sure about this, but didn’t argue with JungMin. He moved back out of the way, waiting for the other horse to start following JungMin. He fell in place behind the other two horses, not letting go of his gun and keeping a wary eye for any attempt to shoot JungMin in the back. But the stranger appeared far more concerned with keeping his companion in the saddle than anything else going on around him.

Following the crude path back towards the clearing, JungMin could see the caravan up ahead. It hadn't got very far. "Saeng, hold up," JungMin said. "Where's Kevin, he needs to make some tea real quick."

"JungMin?" YoungSaeng stopped the horses and hopped down off of the front bench. He looked between the two strangers. "What’s going on?"

"Her virus went rampant," JungMin said. "I let them know we have a tea that can help with the pain. And uh... maybe Zhou Mi can take a look at her, if he wants?"

Blinking, YoungSaeng looked with concern at the woman slumped over the horse’s neck. "I’ll let him know. Kevin," he called.

Ever since RyeoWook had been banned from riding horses, the youngest of their group had been trying his hand at riding alone, switching on and off with KyuHyun. He brought his horse over when he heard his name.

"We’re not going anywhere after all," YoungSaeng said to both him and KyuHyun who was poking his head out of the back of the caravan. "Make some of your tea for this lovely woman, would you?"

"Yes boss," Kevin climbed off his horse and hurried to get his supplies. YoungSaeng went to the caravan back gate, leaning in. "Zhou Mi?"

"What's going on?" Zhou Mi asked, sitting up a little bit more and glancing towards where the new horse and two riders were. "Someone ill?"

"Yes, she’s dying of the virus," YoungSaeng said, lowering his voice. He could see JongWoon watching from where he sat next to the bed. "Kevin’s making tea for her right now. It’s up to you if you want to see her or not…if you have any supplies left."

Sighing a little, Zhou Mi's lips thinned. "I'll see her when she's recovered a bit after the tea. I have enough supplies, but it will take me a bit of time to get it ready. Don't... tell them. I'll tell them later."

"Understood," YoungSaeng nodded. "Thank you, Mi." He moved away from the caravan, going to where the strangers were carefully dismounting from their horse. "We’ll have a fire for you to rest by soon," he smiled warmly at them.

"Thank you," the man said.

"What are your names?"

"My name is YunHo. This is HeeBon," the stranger looked down at the woman leaning heavily against him.

Staying nearby as a fire was built, JungMin kept a close eye on the two newcomers. "So where are you two headed?" he asked.

YunHo looked up at him, rubbing a hand slowly along HeeBon’s back as she buried her face against his jacket. "Pyongyang," he replied after a moment. "We’re meeting with the rest of our group there, we got separated on the road."

"That's where we're heading," JungMin said. "We'll help you get there. Did this happen while you were on the road then, is that why you were separated?"

"We were separated before that, but yes," YunHo replied. Once the fire was started, he helped HeeBon to sit down beside it. "We have nothing to pay you with."

"We'll worry about that later," JungMin shrugged. "Our boss, YoungSaeng? He's a good guy, helps people when they need it the most. Seemed like you needed help."

YunHo’s lips curled slightly. "…Thank you. Don’t find many people willing to help anymore, especially if there’s nothing in it for them." He watched Kevin bustling around on the other side of the fire, setting a pot of water to boil and crushing herbs. "Why are you this far north? You look like merchants, and there’s not much trade to be had outside of Pyongyang."

"... We go wherever the trade takes us," JungMin shrugged. "We're leaving Korea, heading to China for some goods. That's all."

"Okay," YunHo nodded, not asking more than that. He turned his attention back to HeeBon, rubbing her back slowly.

Kevin had the tea ready soon after, approaching them with the cup in his hands. "Here," he held it out. "Careful, it’s hot."

YunHo took the cup from him. "What’s in here?"

"Some different kinds of herbs," Kevin replied, smiling. He stepped back, watching YunHo blow gently on the tea before helping HeeBon to drink it. Looking around for the others, he spotted HyungJoon hovering nearby, wary about the new people.

"It seems to help a lot with the pain," JungMin said. "If you need anything, ask YoungSaeng or myself. The others aren't as... helpful as they could be. I'm sure you understand why."

"Yeah," YunHo nodded, eyes on HeeBon. "Thank you for your help…but I think it would be best for everyone if we part ways. I’m sure you understand as well."

"Yes, I can understand," JungMin nodded. "At least take a bit, let her regain her strength before you go."

Nodding, YunHo smiled when HeeBon’s breathing evened out a little. "And?" he murmured to her.

"The pain’s a little less," HeeBon said quietly, opening her eyes to peer up at them in a daze. "What’s going on?"

"These nice folk helped us out," YunHo replied, smoothing her hair back out of her face and pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Just rest."

YoungSaeng approached beside JungMin. "Everything all right here?" he said quietly, watching the two strangers.

"For now," JungMin replied, keeping his voice down. "Did you talk to Zhou Mi? Is he going to help her?"

"He needs time to get the supplies ready, and doesn’t want them to know for now," YoungSaeng replied back, just as low. "Are we okay to stay here for the night?"

"Area seems secure enough," JungMin said. "Maybe we should double up on watches tonight. Just to be safe."

YoungSaeng nodded in agreement. "Joon," he called, seeing the older brother lurking. "Go hunt, we’re fine here."

"…All right," HyungJoon glanced at JungMin before heading out.

Heading back to the caravan, YoungSaeng found Zhou Mi inside with JongWoon. "She’s feeling better with the tea…is there anything I can do for you, Mi?"

Looking up from his work, Zhou Mi shook his head a little. "No, I'll be done soon though. I'll let you know when it's time to bring her in here. I don't think everyone needs to crowd around and see what's happening."

"All right," YoungSaeng nodded. "I’ll get RyeoWook to finish making dinner, and bring you some when it’s ready." He looked between the two in the caravan before disappearing.

"What’re you doing?" JongWoon asked curiously, sitting out of the way.

"A very delicate operation," Zhou Mi said, a myriad of pots and vials set up in front of him on the floor. Using a mortar and pestle, he was grinding something into a very fine power. "What are you doing?"

"Watching you?" JongWoon rocked back and forth slowly on the bed, peering at all the equipment. "Is there anything I can do to help? Cause I’m kind of just sitting here being nosey, might as well be useful."

"No, there really isn't anything you can do," Zhou Mi said, scooping a small amount out of the pestle and into one of the vials. "Try not to move around too much, I don't want to lose any of this."

"Okay," JongWoon stopped rocking on the bed, sitting still with his legs drawn up to his chest and a blanket draped around him. "I guess…just let me know if you need anything."

Zhou Mi didn't acknowledge hearing him, too focused on his work. The whole process took close to a half hour more, Zhou Mi poking his head out of the caravan when he was finished. "YoungSaeng?"

YoungSaeng looked up from where he was feeding more wood into the camp fire. Straightening, he walked up to the caravan. "Everything’s ready?"

"It is, have you told them I wanted to see them?" Zhou Mi asked, looking towards the fire where the two strangers were seated.

"Not yet," YoungSaeng shook his head. "I’ll bring her to see you." He turned and headed back to the campfire. "HeeBon?"

She opened her eyes and peered up at him past the hood still drawn up over her head. Though the tea had helped with the pain, she was still very out of it. "…Yes?"

He crouched down next to them. "There’s someone here who can help you more than the tea will be able to," he said gently. "He’s in our caravan, and is asking to see you. Of course, YunHo can come too."

The two looked at each other, YunHo a little wary but nodding. "…What do you mean, he can help more?" YunHo asked.

"I’ll leave that to him to explain, if you’re willing to see him," YoungSaeng smiled. He stood up, watching them slowly stand up. YunHo helped HeeBon to the caravan, letting her lean heavily against him.

Zhou Mi stepped down out of the caravan, smiling softly at the two. "Hello, my name is Zhou Mi. I am a... doctor I guess you could say. I specialize in dealing with the virus. I want to help you, if you'll let me."

YunHo looked up at Zhou Mi, frowning a little at the obviously foreign name. "How can you help?" he asked, voice quiet as he rubbed HeeBon’s back slowly. "You have something like that tea?"

"No, but it will help," Zhou Mi said, motioning towards the caravan. "Come in, if you'll let me, I want to examine her to see the progress of the virus. I have something that will help slow the progress, and give her a few years, instead of a few months."

"…A few years?" YunHo was startled, but he nodded. "All right. Thank you."

JongWoon watched curiously as the two filed into the caravan, seeing YoungSaeng keeping an eye on them just outside. Getting his first good look at who the two strangers were, JongWoon’s mouth fell open.

He glanced around, making sure people were in earshot before piping up, raising his voice. "YunHo, HeeBon! What are you two doing out of Yonan?"

Hearing JongWoon’s voice loud and clear outside, YoungSaeng’s eyes widened and he glanced back at JungMin.

"... Well, shit," JungMin swore under his breath. "I didn't even think of that as a possibility."

YoungSaeng’s lips thinned. As polite and nice as YunHo and HeeBon were, he wasn’t going to risk any one else finding out about the brothers. "…They’re not staying," he said lowly so only JungMin could hear, and KyuHyun who had heard JongWoon as well and run to YoungSaeng’s side to figure out what was going on. "After Zhou Mi’s seen to her, they’ll leave. They didn’t want to stick around anyways. JungMin, find KiBum and send him out to hunt with HyungJoon. Tell him what’s going on, and not to come back until we give them the clear."

"No way I'm telling them what's going on," JungMin replied. "HyungJoon's two steps away from a panic attack as it is. I'll find KiBum and tell him to go hunting."

"JungMin, they can’t come back until those two are gone," YoungSaeng said. "Tell him about them or not, make sure they understand that. We’ll go get them."

"I'll tell them," JungMin said. "Where's Kevin, Kevin!" he turned, looking for the youngest of the group.

"Yes hyung?" Kevin poked his head around the caravan when he heard his name. Finding JungMin, he walked over. "What is it?"

"Come with me," JungMin grabbed Kevin by the arm and dragged him towards where KiBum was. "I need you to keep KiBum and HyungJoon company."

Staggering, Kevin followed after him in confusion. "Why? HyungJoon’s gone hunting, hasn’t he? I saw him leave."

"Yes, he did," JungMin said, stopping them a ways away from the others, turning Kevin around to look him in the eye. "That's why you are going to take KiBum and find HyungJoon, and tell him, that I told you two to learn how to hunt. This is the most important thing I'm going to ask you to do Kevin, can I trust you to do that?"

Kevin nodded slowly, confused. "Okay, I can do that, sure. But…why’s it so important? No one said anything about us hunting earlier."

"You don't need to know why right this second," JungMin said. "Tell HyungJoon I'll come find you guys later, when we're ready to head out."

"You’ll come find us? So we’re just supposed to keep hunting until someone finds us?" Kevin frowned. "What’s going on, hyung."

"This is something you'll have to take my word for and just do as I say," JungMin said. "Now go, and tell HyungJoon exactly what I told you."

Kevin still looked very confused, but he nodded slowly. "…All right," he said, backing up. "But you’ll have to tell us what’s going on sooner or later." He turned and went in search of Kibum, checking to make sure he had what he needed to hunt.

Tags: fandom: ss501, fandom: super junior, fandom: ukiss, fic: road less traveled, pairing: hyungjun/jungmin, pairing: kibum/kevin, pairing: kyujong/youngsaeng, rating: r
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