Summary: The night before his wedding, Luhan disappears.
Extinguish the small, Inflame the great i/ii
He wondered where he was being taken as his feet sank into brittle sand and sharp edged pebbles tore into his skin. Behind the blindfold he shut his eyes so tightly he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to open them again even if he wanted to.He bit the inside of his cheek harder, wincing in pain as the sore wounds on his feet worsened.
He pulled in a long, shuddering breath and let the acrid smell distract him from the pain. He was determined not to show his weakness, determined to make no sound but he couldn't stop the cry that escaped him as something cut into his heel, stinging and way too pointed to be a pebble. It had to be a needle or a nail but whatever it was, it had him yelping, hands reaching out to grab hold of his leg, remembering all too late the thick ropes that were tied around his wrists. He stumbled, body swaying slightly as his head began to spin, his lack of sight throwing him off balance. Just when he was sure he was going to fall face first into the sand, rough hands shot out to steady him, grabbing him across the forearms fiercely and shoving him forward. An angry voice hissed into his ear, “You make one more sound and you die.”
He bit his bottom lip, tears stinging his eyes as he continued limping along, feeling those large hands at his back push at him impatiently from time to time. What did they want from him? He felt like crying out loud but held his tongue. That would be stupid. Of course they won’t just spell it out for him. He’d just have to wait and see for himself.
Luhan felt the ground underneath his feet become harder.Bricks, he thought, at the cold,hard surface against his toes. Even from behind his blindfold he felt everything grow darker. They were inside a room now. The hands at his back roughly shoved him forward, sending him sprawling across the floor before he heard the scrape of metal against metal. There was the sound of feet shuffling away, the door clicking shut and then he was alone, left on the cold hard floor, shivering in the menacing darkness.
“Luhan.” Luhan turned sharply at the sound of his mother stepping into his room.
“Yes, mother.” He said, big brown eyes wide and attentive. He had noticed his parents acting a little strange around him for the past few days-quieter. It left him feeling uneasy since it had never happened before. He was their only son, their only child, and they treated him as nothing less than a prince. Luhan took pride in the fact that in a tribe where parents hardly ever paid any heed to their son’s whereabouts his parents were always extremely cautious of when he went out and who he went out with. He took pride in how his mom always knew all his friends, even their families and always kept track of how much time he spent in the company of a certain friend.It made him feel special. But the change in attitude hadn’t gone unnoticed and now he found himself worrying his bottom lip as his mother continued.
“Your father and I have been thinking for quite a while now....” his mother trailed off, clearing her throat. Luhan watched her twist the plain band of gold across her middle finger-her wedding ring-and waited for her to speak further. His mother coughed loudly before walking across the room and sitting at the foot of the bed to face him. She began again, “ You know, Luhan,” she said ,placing a tentative hand across Luhan’s cheek and he felt gratitude for her swell inside his heart, “ You know how much we love you, don’t you?” she asked softly and Luhan nuzzled into her hand. He had always been affectionate.
“The thing is, your father and I---we think you are a grown man now. You have grown up so handsome and smart and you---you are everything we ever wished for in our child. I can hardly believe time has gone by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday when you we welcomed you into this world, crying and whining in my arms---but you've grown up now and we both believe it’s about time you got yourself a nice, pretty girl. Someone to keep you company all the time, take care of you and give you all the love and attention that you deserve.” She finished. Luhan felt his heart start racing. Was she saying what he thought she was saying? She couldn't be asking him to get married already, could she?
“ Luhan, we think its about time we got you married.”
Luhan yanked at the chains holding his arms above his head. Trying with every ounce of energy he could muster to break free. There was just the sound of metal clinking against metal before his arms jerked back sharply, so sharply that a low, pained yelp escaped his parched lips.
He stayed still for a second, afraid that he might have pulled his arms out of their sockets. After a while he let his hands fall back down under the weight of the chain. He was scared. More so the he had ever been before in his entire life and he wished he could rest his hands in his lap, place his head above them and curl into an inconspicuous ball, away from reality. But he couldn’t. He knew that his futile attempts at breaking free would bring him only pain and more desperation . So he curled his hands into fists, nails digging into his sweaty palms and concentrated on refraining himself from succumbing to the madness that threatened to take over his mind.
The heel of his left foot hurt from where he had cut it on his way there. He contemplated touching the cut, inspecting it with his fingers but couldn’t bring himself to touch the raw wound, suspecting he might not be able to stomach it.
He wished he could take his blindfold off, get his sight back somehow, anything to help him gather more information. Questions whirled around in his head, each more daunting and nerve wracking than the one before it. What did these people want with him? If they wanted him dead, why hadn't they killed him already? Had they kidnapped him for ransom? Dread washed through his body. His parents didn't have any money. Certainly not the kind of money they asked for kidnappings. There was no way out for him. They'd have to kill him eventually once they realized there was nothing they could get out of this.
Bile rose in his throat at the thought. He was so young. He had often thought about death but never in his wildest dreams had he imagined dying this early. He let his head fall back; gulping back the sobs that threatened to break out and let his mind go blank.His eyes began to sting and he shrank back onto the floor, tiny rivulets of tears making their way down his cheeks, leaving in their wake wet, feeble traces and a trembling body shaking uncontrollably in fright; trepidation stayed by him as all other thoughts faded to the back. He was going to die. He was going to die...
Luhan’s dad sat on the rocking chair, swaying it back and forth with on light foot pushing at the carpeted floor periodically as he went through an old detective novel. His mother smoothed the last wrinkle out of the sheets before flopping down on the bed, “I don’t understand the rush though.” said his father, his eyes never leaving the pages of the book. “Why can’t you just wait for him to choose a girl and come to us himself?”
“You don’t understand! “ His mother hissed back at her husband, as the snippets of conversations she had picked up that morning at the market-fare passed through her mind. “You could never understand what goes through a mother’s heart.”
His father, ever the docile one in the relationship, sighed heavily, “Okay then, I’ll let you two settle the matter yourself. Just, please, do take his consent into account before deciding on anything. He is young. He might already have his eyes set on someone.Make sure you put his wishes before your own.”
“I have asked him already. He suggested no such inclination towards anyone.”
“I’m just saying, Luhan’s a good boy. Do take his wishes into consideration.”
“I will, I will.” His mother replied impatiently, before gathering her knitting tools and wool in her hands, losing herself in the motion of the needles as thoughts started haunting her mind; thoughts about her son.
Luhan shot up straight, body tensing as he heard faint voices in the distance, drawing closer. Every fiber of his being protested in response. His muscles had turned rigid from sitting in the same position for so long.
Before now there had been no sign of anyone being around. The silence had gotten incessant to the point where he suspected they had left him there to starve to death instead of actually doing anything about him. But now, the sudden sound of the door lock being dragged open had his heart racing impossibly fast. What was it? Had they decided to kill him already? Did they figure out his family’s financial position? Was he going to die right then and there?
How--He couldn't help but wonder, How did they plan on killing him? He didn't have long to deliberate about it as the door creaked open, footsteps making their way towards him.
Someone cleared their throat before a husky voice started,” I---” the new comer cleared his throat again.” I brought you food.” The voice said and Luhan felt his breathing slow down... so it wasn't death. Not yet.
He sighed in relief.
“Why did you bring me here?” he croaked, throat raw. “Who are you people.What do you want from me?” He asked, voice catching at the end of the sentence. He knew better than to expect an answer but he couldn't help it..
“ I brought you food. “ The voice repeated. Luhan heard the footsteps approach him before something was pressed to his lips. It felt dry and grainy, it had to be bread. But food was the furthest thing from his mind at the moment and he flinched back on instinct, quailing at the forced contact. He pressed his eyes shut tighter, as if to make the intruder go away, and moved to bury his face in his shoulder.
“Don't make me force it down your throat now...” Another voice, deep and impatient, chipped in.
Luhan stayed rooted in place, not a muscle in his body moving.
Whoever it was grunted once, patience obviously wearing thin as Luhan refused to let them feed him. He bent forward, yanking Luhan’s face out of his shoulder and grabbing onto his chin to hold him in place as he pressed the bread to his lips again, this time a little more forcefully.
“Sehun, don’t! You’ll hurt him.” the first one of the voices said, low but commanding; firm. The hold on Luhan’s chin slackened considerably but the food continued to prod against his lips,demanding access. Luhan stubbornly defied the advance, pursing his lips close together so tight they started to turn cold, their blood supply severing.
“Okay, well...Just call out if you get hungry. You can have the food, whenever you feel like eating. I’ll be just outside your door.“ The first voice resigned. “Come on Sehun. Let’s leave him be for now.” There were footsteps scrambling away before the lock shifted into place.
Everything went silent again.
The thick air burned his throat when he inhaled and it was all he could do to stop from falling into a fit of violent coughing. He gathered the saliva in his mouth, pushing his muscles to swallow to get his throat some lubrication. His mouth felt dry as a dessert, his lips parched and there wasn't any helping it. He barked out cough after dry cough, attempts at trying to smother the sound down going vain.
Luhan felt the urge to call out, beg for water from whoever was in earshot. The thirst was driving him insane, making him fidgety with want. He needed water.
But his pride wouldn't allow him to ask for help from the very same people who had put him in that position to begin with. So he held his tongue as his insides twisted and turned painfully, his stomach grumbling out angry protests.
Luhan told himself that the knotting in his stomach was only out of hunger. He tried to pretend that death was the only thing that dismayed him. But that wasn’t the worse thing they could do to him and he knew. He couldn't dismiss the fear anymore, his thoughts, growing more haunting with each passing second; his suspicions coming dauntingly close to confirmation as the clock ticked by. To think that death had sounded like the worst end to him just a while ago felt almost laughable now. Now when his mind could see all the other possibilities it had missed earlier.
His body, what if that’s what they really wanted? What if they planned on selling him? Turning him into a slave, or worse yet, making him sell his body for money.
He felt his breath grow short, the ground coming awfully close to disappearing from underneath his feet. The unsettling feeling in the pit of his stomach made him nauseous. He probably would have thrown up already had his stomach not been so painfully empty. Bile rose in his throat....He couldn’t let that happen.
Had his hands been free he would have held his head in them. He would have clawed at his face, biting into his flesh and tearing away the skin just to make himself look repulsive.He would have torn off any skin he could lay his fingers on.
Frustration tipped him over the edge and he jerked his hands back, straining against the unforgiving chain uselessly again...This couldn't be happening...he couldn't be here...he would much rather he were dead... he pulled and pulled and pulled till he was afraid he would rip his own arms out.
He couldn't allow that; he wouldn’t.If death was the only way out for him then so be it. He would die if that was the kind of disgrace and humiliation life held for him. He would starve himself to death if that was what it took to keep his honor alive; his family’s honor.
Luhan inhaled a long breath,shifting on the floor so that he would be staring up at the ceiling had his eyes been at the liberty. As time went by he found his resolve growing stronger, the boiling anger inside him lending him determination.This time around, even succumbing to the reality of impending death couldn’t bring tears to his eyes. He welcomed it.
The next time he heard feet shuffle, the smell of food wafting over him, he feigned sleep; determination overpowering hunger.
It is funny how time loses all significance once you lose control of your own life.How the ticking of the hour hand becomes almost as insignificant as the ticking of the second needle.
For Luhan, Hours went by like that. It could have been days for all he knew, or mere seconds; he couldn't be sure.
He was just there, shifting from one side to the other on the cold floor, alone with his thoughts. He wasn’t making a mistake, was he? For him if he died that way-Starved to death-before he could become the reason his family was robbed of honor; that was the right thing to do, wasn’t it? The only right thing he could do. Before he could put himself and all his loved ones to shame just because he wasn’t strong enough, it would be better to let go now and save everyone the disgrace, right? His family, his parents…what had they not done for him to have the best of this world. And now, bringing such humiliation upon them with his own two hands. It would be best to die now.He had to die.
But dying without any idea of what it was he had done wrong. Dying without any answers…dying without goodbyes…heck, he couldn’t even be sure if the worst he was imagining was really true. Did they really want him for just that? Could they really be going to such lengths to keep him alive just so they could have their way with his body, scar his soul, when they could have gone ahead and done it already a hundred times over in the time he had spent there?
Luhan didn't know what to think by this point. His mind was too tired to think up coherent thoughts.He didn’t know how long he had been there, how long he had been going without food. It had probably been a long time though. A very long time, because his body was hurting all over. He felt tired; so, so tired...
Behind the blindfold, his eyes that had been a blinking mess started to still considerably.
Another long while and he could no longer muster up the energy to think in words, not even short, broken phrases.
There were only images. Sluggishly flashing in front of his closed lids, they started gleaming brightly against the dark that had recently taken over his head. In the brightness he forgot where he was, the thin line between fantasy and reality long lost. His thoughts dipped in and out of memories as life began to wind out of him.
He saw the face of his mother, smiling at him from behind a curtain of light brown hair, the sun behind her setting fire to the tips,leaving them aglow.Then there he was, his father, rocking back and forth in his rocking chair, hands clutching a leather bound book. There was the face of the first girl he had fallen in love with…vague and blurry, but there nonetheless. His neighbor’s cat, meowing up at him as he held out a dry piece of bread to it. More visions of his mother; knitting and gardening, going about life. For a long while there was that.
Then stark blackness; thick and heavy, and somewhere deep inside, Luhan, knew this was it. Time to leave. And he surrendered to death easily, falling into the bottomless pit that awaited him.
Sehun muffled a pained grunt behind his hand, clasping it tightly over his mouth as he reached behind with his other hand to clutch at his aching back.He had been standing hunched inside the grand oak wardrobe-which seemed to have already been overflowing with things without his colourful edition to it- for at least a couple of hours now, and he couldn’t help the sour taste it left in his mouth to know that Kai had been the one to assign him with that task. This was why he hated it when Kris wasn’t there to watch over them on a mission.
He was infuriated, ready to rip the others guts out by the time he heard the first whistle- his first sign. He waited in silence, holding his breath in anticipation. Seconds later, he heard it again. No sooner had the whistle blown the third time that he creaked the heavy door open, peeking out for a second to make sure the coast was clear. He saw no one in sight. It was way past midnight and everyone had probably already gone to sleep.
Sehun had slipped in earlier, disguised as a labourer as a lot of labourers had started to flock the house, painting one corner,fixing another. Their information had been correct, there were indeed preparations for a wedding underway. With so many people going on about their jobs in that confined space, he had managed to sneak into the wardrobe without difficulty. Now it was his cue to act.
Careful not to make a sound he unbarred the gate. In the heavy silence four sets of footsteps made their way into the house. They were to grab all the gold they could lay their fingers on. All the money, all the valuables they could find, they were to stack up and smuggle out in less than half an hour. The longer they stayed, the more dangerous it got.
Kai asked Sehun to give him a hand with the upper story-leaving the others to tend to the rest of the house- and Sehun had to fight down the urge to grunt in complaint, scowling in silence instead as he followed the other with angry steps against the stairs.
Once upstairs, they checked each cupboard, drew out every drawer, dragging things out and trashing the entire living space in the process. They found nothing .
They were left with just one room, one that stood at the end of the lobby, its door slightly ajar.Kai was getting worried, his gut instinct told him he would be going back a failure today. He pushed himself to keep moving, ignoring Sehun’s angry stomping behind him. With the flick of his foot he pushed the door, making it slide open wider.
It was darker in the room, everything pitch black except for the tiny stream of golden that was flowing in through the window. It cast a bright, glowing shadow on the far wall, illuminated partly the covers that lay disheveled on the bed, and lit aglow- Kai drew in a sharp breath as he realized- two large brown orbs as they lifted up to meet his eyes. There was a person in the room.Wide awake.
“What's going on guys? Who is that?” Kris demanded, eyes bewildered as he looked each of them in the face. One mission he let them carry out without him and there he was, regretting it like he had regretted nothing in his life before.
Baekhyun shrugged, lighting another lantern before putting out the matchstick against his palm. “ Ask the one in charge” he said.
“The one you put in charge.” Sehun said pointedly and it took all the self restraint he could muster for Kris to not fling himself at Kai, “ Kim Jongin, what the hell is going on?” He demanded instead, folding his hands in front of his chest and Kai would have taken him to be totally calm and collected, if only the tightening of his jaw had not given him away.
“It’s no big deal Kris-” Kai started but Kris cut him off, grabbing him by the shoulder and shaking him a good couple of times. He was buying none of Kai’s feigned nonchalance. “ It is a big deal Kai! What the heck did you think you were doing grabbing a guy like that? And bringing him here alive? Fuck, it is a big deal!”
Kai shook Kris’s hand off, “When I’m saying it’s no big deal, it’s no big deal! What is wrong with you?” Kai demanded, turning away to grab a beer from where the others had huddled together, gathered around a display of beer cans. “Why are you overreacting like I got an arm or a leg chopped off one of your men or something?” Kai asked, looking Kris straight in the eye.
It was his decision. He was going to follow through with it.
“You would think all that love at first sight crap was just for stories and fairy-tales. Guess I was wrong though.” Sehun mumbled just loud enough that Kris could hear him as he went about shrugging his shoes off. Kai would have enjoyed nothing more then strangling him with his shoelaces in that moment. But he stayed put. He had Kris to deal with first.
Kris’ face lost all colour at Sehun’s words, eyes widening impossibly, “You brought him here because you like him?” he asked, incredulous. “What is it Kai, have you forgotten who you are? Just because you have food to stuff your belly with now, have you forgotten what you are here for?” He asked, and Kai felt his desperation return.It was stupid how he knew he was being pathetic and yet he could do nothing to stop himself. All his self control, all his restrain had fled him and-cliched as it sounded even to his own ears- he felt helplessly in love.
“I have forgotten nothing Kris. I know where I stand. And I know I owe it all to you. But just-- just this once please, I couldn’t--- Just please, Please let me keep him. Please Kris I beg you, let me have my way this once and I swear I’ll never--”
“Shut it Kai, stop grumbling. You look pathetic.” Zitao cut him off, walking right up to him so that his direct line of vision was blocked by the others broad shoulders.
“Tao, you stay out of It.This has nothing to do with you.” Kai hissed, the threat in his voice falling on deaf ears as Tao shot back, “ You put all of us at risk by bringing him here.It has everything to do with me.”
“Hey, don’t be so hard on the poor fellow, guys. I don’t think he stood any chance of making a different choice back there even if he wanted to“ Baekhyun started. “You should have seen his face the moment he landed eyes on that guy. It was obsession at first sight I tell ya!” He offered, flopping down on a thick log as he pulled his shirt over his head, the sweat on his body glistening in the warm glow of the lanterns.
Kris said nothing in return. He just turned on his heel, ready to leave. At the entrance he turned back. “You can keep him for now, Jongin. But one indication that he’s any sort of trouble and don’t think for a moment that I won't put a bullet right through his brains.”
Luhan’s senses stirred at the sound of something shifting, although it barely reached him. There was the unsettling sensation of shifting direction amid his fall that he couldn’t quite comprehend, followed closely by a touch to side of his face. This was weird, since he was already gone, halfway dead. But there it was again, a press of something against his cheek, not quite as light as he had first imagined if he concentrated hard enough. There were fingers at his face. And no, no, no…he wasn’t supposed to feel that. But no matter how hard he tried to block the sensation out, he couldn’t ignore the pressure digging into his cheek.
Then with a start, his senses flared back to life, his right cheek burning up in flames as something struck against it hard. There were voices near him, shouting into his ear probably but he was still too far gone and they seemed to be coming from a whole different world. So far away.
He felt another slap to his face and it burned so hot he almost hissed. Almost. Because he had to locate the muscles of his throat first. He had to find his way into his own body.
He tried to open his eyes instead but he couldn’t find the muscles of his eyes either. Not for a while at least. Not until he felt something cold there, something wet and dripping and he suddenly remembered where his eyes were. They shot open, only to snap back shut, shielding as more of the wet substance dripped into them. Water! his mind provided and on instinct his chin arched upwards, jaw falling open as his dry mouth searched desperately to find some of the cool liquid. Then when the water touched his tongue he gulped it down in pathetic greed and choked on it; miserable and frail.
Someone pulled his torso into an upright position, heavy hands pounding on his back to help ease the coughing. But Luhan noticed none of it. His hands reached out for the source of the water, searching blindly and he realized he still couldn't see anything, a different kind of darkness-- less pitchy than the one he had been brought out of-- was still intact. Before he could protest, a rim was pressed to his lips, making it impossible for him to speak.
He gulped the water down greedily, his hands searching for the source covetously as they clenched and unclenched mindlessly in the air. If he looked pathetic in his attempts, he didn’t care. He was coughing and spluttering water all over and he would probably have continued till the bottle ran out of water but someone forced it out of his hands, holding it away from him. They must have realized that he would choke himself to death if he continued at that rate.
Luhan coughed out the water that had traveled down his windpipe. With water in his system and oxygen in his lungs his head began to clear and he became more aware of his surroundings. He was sitting in somebody’s lap, his back pressed stark against their chest and he felt a sudden jolt of electricity. He needed to put some distance between their bodies.
He shot up straight, back tensing and then realized how stupid he had been to move so suddenly when his head started spinning, nausea rising in his throat.
Rough, powerful hands reached out to steady him, “Stay down.” A hoarse voice commanded in his ear, the same one that had talked to him that first time they had tried to feed him. “Don’t move for a while.” the guy said, more softly, and Luhan flinched at the air being breathed into his ear. He didn't want anyone touching him. He didn’t want anyone anywhere near him. He felt like ripping his body away from the other's but couldn’t find the strength in his limbs. His body had gone numb suddenly. He made a small sound at the back of his throat, anything to display his displeasure.
And he thought it had worked, as the fingers around his arms disappeared. But no sooner had he been released that he felt a strong arm curl up around his front, “Now eat.” The guy commanded, voice firm, but not unkind as he pressed something soft to Luhan’s lips.
In the distance the sound of a door creaking open caught Luhan’s attention, followed closely by a voice speaking up, “Kai, Kris says to come meet him once you are done babysitting him.” Someone called into the room and Luhan felt the guy’s grip around him tighten before he snapped back, “Fuck off.”
Luhan wanted to protest to the food pressing against his lips but the other’s angry voice unnerved him and he let his mouth fall open. Had his body not been so dehydrated there would probably be tears streaking down his face already but the sting and the prickle in his eyes never came.“ Take my blindfold off...please. I want to see.” Luhan begged.
“Later, maybe, if you are a good boy.” The other promised. There was something in his voice, something in his words that made Luhan feel like he wasn’t lying; Like he meant what he said, every single word.
Luhan willed himself not to fall for it. He reminded himself of all the hurt he had been caused, of all the pain his family must have gone through and he forbade himself from trusting the guy. But deep inside, he knew it was useless. He had nothing more to lose anyway. What could his trust ruin further that hadn’t been ruined already?
So he allowed himself to trust. Allowed his captor to feed him, bite after bite, and said not another word. He trusted the deep warm voice whispering encouragements into his ear with every bit of food he gulped down. And before long, with his stomach full and the warmth of another body around him, he found himself falling into a dreamless slumber.
It was when he was halfway under already that he realized his hands had been mobile, the ropes around his wrists gone. He hoped that would still be the case when he came around next.
Luhan woke up to the shrill screech of metal gliding over brittle, grainy, uneven ground. He could see bright red from behind his closed eyelids and he held his breath as he questioned the possibility of what the observation suggested. Had his blindfold been taken off? He tried to keep his expectations low as he started opening his eyes, quick, fluttery blinks allowing him to check if indeed his gut feeling was correct and sure enough, in the short moment that his eyes blinked open, blinding light hit them and he clamped them shut right back, the intensity of the light making him hiss and flinch back into his shoulder, hiding his face there.
The screeching sound repeated and he remembered what had woken him up in the first place. He squinted to see again, slowly this time, cautiously, his eyes trained at the floor. They met the source of the sound; a thin, rusted metal tray that had an apple, half a loaf of bread and some kind of soup in a bowl sitting atop it. He lifted his gaze and it landed on a figure, a boy of roughly about his age crouched against the opposite wall, watching him with his eyes fixed at his face, sharp glances following his every move. He was pushing the tray towards Luhan.
They watched each other in silence, Luhan determined not to break the eye contact first. He didn’t want to let on how scared he felt. He held and held and held the gaze till his eyes started burning and his determination wavered. His eyes fell to the ground, embarrassed. What was he thinking trying to provoke the other? It was like asking for death sentence, especially with the way the guy looked, menacing.
“You passed out.” Said guy informed him, voice low but clear. He fell silent then, waiting for Luhan to say something. When it was clear Luhan wouldn’t utter a word, he said, “It was pretty pathetic. You are of no use to us dead. So, No more hunger strikes.” he informed with a tone of finality and Luhan knew he wouldn’t be getting away with any of that again. The guy sounded firm in his words. He mumbled something under his breath, something about Luhan being of no use alive either but Luhan couldn’t really be sure. He didn’t ask.
“Eat now.” The boy commanded and Luhan glanced at his wrist restraints, eyeing the ropes for emphasis. They had his hands secured behind body again. How could he be asked to eat like that? Not like he wanted to touch the food anyway. The guy understood and walked over to the pole, untying the hard, complex knots and letting the rope slide to the floor with a soft thud.
Luhan brought his arms over his head to the front, hesitant in his movements. A sharp pain shot through his arms when he moved them. He was pretty sure he heard them crack once.They hurt from being frozen in the same position for so long, his joints pained when he flexed them. His attention lifted off the pain for a second when the boy spoke up again,
“I’m Sehun, by the way.” he said, pushing himself off the wall and walking over, crouching down to Luhan’s level when he got there, “What’s your name pretty boy?” He asked, taking Luhan’s chin between his fingers.
Luhan remained silent, breath coming out uneven. He was scared of Sehun and the close proximity had him squirming to get away.What did this guy want with him?
”I asked what your name is.” Sehun repeated, voice rough and dangerously low as he lowered his face to glower into Luhan’s eyes.
“ I — don’t — ” Luhan began to murmur, hands roaming the rough floor as hysteria began to uncoil inside him, making him mumble meaninglessly. Try as he might the words just kept slipping off his tongue and dread filled him till his eyes watered up.
“Are you not going to answer me?” Sehun asked, incredulous as he glared into Luhan’s eyes, making him stare back with a firm hold on his chin. Luhan was still struggling to get a proper answer out when Sehun’s palm collided with his cheek. He felt his body fall back from the impact before the sting of the hand striking his face registered in his head and he cried out, yelping in pain, his bound hands travelling up to his cheek only to find it warm-and slick. There was definitely blood oozing out and he didn't have to see his hand to know that.
“Do you think just because you are Kai’s fucktoy you can get all high and mighty with me?” Sehun hissed in his face and Luhan flinched,full fledged tears now streaming down his face, the salt water making his wound burn even more. He made a strangled noise somewhere at the back of his throat when Sehun took hold of his face again, nails digging into his skin so hard Luhan was sure they’d leave imprints.
“Want to give me the name now?” Sehun asked..
“L-Luhan.” Luhan muttered, unsteady, his own tongue feeling heavy in his mouth.
A shadow moved across the far wall and they both turned towards the door, where another guy stood, his eyes wild and confused, looking between the two of them. Luhan saw the new comer had his hands fisted, knuckles standing out as he clenched and unclenched his hands. He looked angry. Luhan looked at him in dismay, how long had he been standing there? How much had he seen? Was he going to hit him too? Was he mad at him for not answering Sehun’s question? He felt another tear roll down his bruised cheek and bit his lip, hissing under his breath when the pain continued.
“Sehun, what the fuck did you do?” The figure at the door demanded, voice considerably controlled for the rage oozing through his eyes. That was strange. Why was he shouting at his own friend?
“He needed a fucking lesson, this dimwit— ” Sehun didn't get to finish before the other guy was striding towards him. Luhan shut his eyes as tight as he could; the last thing he saw was the others fisted hand flying to meet Sehun’s face. He heard a snapping sound and told himself that wasn’t Sehun’s jaw dislocating.
”You lay a finger on him again and I swear to god I'm going to rip your throat out you bastard.” Luhan heard the guy hiss and suddenly he remembered, Kai, the guy that had been holding him the day before.
“Fine!” Sehun hissed through clenched teeth, “Just trying to do you a fucking favor here, but fine!” He snarled - glaring at Kai like he wanted to punch him but was restraining himself- before turning on his heel and leaving the room.
Luhan didn’t even realize how he got next to him so fast but suddenly Kai was at his side, eyes sad and apologetic at the same time, “Are you ok?” He asked, leaning in even closer to Luhan.
Luhan said nothing, burying his face in his shoulder again, his hands covering the rest of his face as he tried to get away from Kai.
“Let me take a look.” Kai pleaded, shifting closer and raising his hand to Luhan’s face, asking for permission.
Luhan wanted to protest but he knew better than to resist. He didn’t want them to hit him again. He let his hands go limp, falling in his lap as he allowed Kai a look at his bruised, ugly face. He shut his eyes in hopes of fighting down how disgusting he felt before remembering that the more repulsive he looked, the better.
Kai drew in a sharp, shuddering breath.
“Oh my god!” he breathed, his voice torn “Oh my god.....” he repeated. Luhan saw his eyes darken and his eyebrows furrow before a crazed expression took hold of his features. “God, you are hurt--you are bleeding...” Kai cried again before grabbing Luhan, throwing his arms around his body possessively, as if trying to will the pain into nonexistence. “Oh my god....” he chanted over and over as he cradled Luhan’s body, pressing his face into his chest and rocking him back and forth like a child. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Kai’s breath hitched when Luhan’s hand came to rest on his chest, heart doing a double back flip when his fingers splayed across his skin and he felt weightless, flying, before he realized the latter was trying to push him away, and his heart shattered into a thousand different pieces. He loosened his hold around the latter’s frail body, putting an end to his feeble protests. He let him fall back, watching him struggle to get away.
Kai looked at Luhan, pain evident in his eyes when he took in his bruised cheek, his lip bleeding from where he had bitten down on it so hard. He felt an overpowering urge to touch him again, to wipe the blood away before it dried there, and felt his hand begin to rise. He caught hold of himself just before his fingers touched the others face though, forcing himself to drop his hand. Before his self control could waver again, he turned around and left the room.
Sleep came to Luhan fast, his mind exhausted and body famished. With eyelids drooping he lay down, thinking back; on life, on the events leading up to where he was now.He didn't have any reason to hope for a way back so he tried not to think about home, about listless morning with the sun warm on his face, the wind in his hair. He tried not to think about the smell of hot cookies fresh out of the oven.He liked them best hot, even if it meant they weren't yet crispy, he loved them chewy and soft against his tongue, the chocolate in them melting away in his mouth. He tried not to let himself think about the market fare with all the different people crowding in. He tried not to think at all-as long as he was unharmed, he should consider himself lucky- but thoughts kept coming at him from every corner of his mind. How must life be back at home?He wondered. How would his mother be right now? What must she be doing? Would she have cried a lot after he was taken away? What about his father? What must he be feeling?
His father was weak at heart; always had been. His Asthma attacks had worn his heart out.How must he have taken his son’s kidnapping? He must have been infuriated. He had a calm poise to him but once agitated his anger could shake the skies. What if his father blamed him for the kidnapping? What if he was mad at him for being taken captive so easily, going down without so much as a fight, what if he was ashamed of having a weakling for a son?
Luhan shivered at that, the cool wind breezing in through a broken window engraved high in the east wall worsening the situation.
He didn't know when his thoughts entered fantasy as he drifted off to sleep.
The door to Luhan’s room creaked open to reveal a dark hooded figure and Kai stepped into the shabby room ambling up to where Luhan lay unsuspecting, deep in sleep. He settled down on the floor next to his sleeping form, going about it as soundlessly as he could, he didn't want to wake him.
He lost count of how many hours he sat there straight, paying no mind to the pain that began rising in his back, and watched Luhan sleep. Lying on his side, his chest heaving as he breathed in and out, eyelids fluttering from time to time and somehow, Kai knew he was dreaming.
He looked so peaceful like that, far away from the mess Kai had put him in. What could he be dreaming about? Kai wondered. He couldn't imagine, it was a long time since he had last dreamed of anything and he could almost say he had forgotten what it was like to dream all together. But whatever it was, for Luhan he hoped it was something nice.Something sweet. Sweet dreams... he whispered in his head, hoping that by some miracle, the sound would reach the other wherever he was. Sweet dreams..., it was his last thought before he too, went under, sinking down next to Luhan on the paper thin mattress and drifting off to sleep.
He woke up to weak, helpless squirming sounds and small hands pushing at his chest, bony fingers digging into him as Luhan trashed and turned around under him, trying to climb out from underneath him.
Kai jolted awake. What time had he fallen asleep? He couldn’t remember. He scrambled to his feet, spilling out apologies as he rushed past the other and slipped out of the room.
Luhan’s throat had turned raw from eating meal after dry,stale meal.The flakey break grazed his insides as he swallowed it and he hissed under his breath. Although he wouldn’t admit it to himself but he was glad for the soup as he hurried to gulp it down.
With the fight gone out of him, Luhan found himself sinking slowly into his new routine. He sat inside his shabby room all day, drawing shapes and figures into the sand on the floor and scribbling mindlessly into the walls with his fingers. The red of the bricks peeked out from where the paint and cement had flaked off and through the cracks in the wall light would seep in.
He would spent a good part of his day trying to peek out the cracks, hoping to catch any movement that would help fight his boredom. He never caught any. He was beginning to suspect Sehun and Kai were the only ones there. He didn’t know how he felt about that.
Sometimes he would stand on tiptoes, trying to glance out the high set window. He didn’t have much to see from there either. The window was set far too high for him and his legs would start hurting after a while. So he would sink down to the ground and stare up at the sky from there instead. It wasn’t a wasted effort though. At least now he knew what the constant smell was. It was the ocean, vast and seemingly ceaseless, melting into the skyline along the horizon.
It’s smell was getting less acrid by the day. The sound, waves crashing against the shore, had grown familiar over his time there;so much so that it was now the lullaby that drew him into slumber every night.
Luhan had never been near the ocean before. As a boy he had often dreamed of seeing the ocean someday, never in his wildest dreams had he imagined he would see it this way. Captive to god-knows-who for god-knows-what.
But he had already given up on trying to figure all those questions out. He wasn’t about to start again now.
It became their nightly ritual after that. Every night after Luhan had drifted off to sleep, Kai would slip into the room, staying by his side till the crack of dawn. He would watch him sleep, something akin to fascination gleaming through his eyes.
Sometimes Luhan would wake up and find Kai like that, asleep by the far wall. Other times he would wake up and find himself in Kai’s embrace, making him struggle and fight to get the other off.
Perturbed, he felt his anxiety growing day after day. They didn't seem to have any plans for him. If they did they certainly didn't let it on. He didn’t know what to think any more. He didn't know what to expect. Why was he there? What exactly did they want with him?
He didn't say anything though, keeping all the questions, all the queries to himself as he spent each passing day looking out at the shifting ocean, wide and free; sometimes snooping through the small holes in the gate to catch sight of any movement he could get.
Kai brought him fruits every now and then. All of them Luhan left to rot, not taking a step in their direction. He took the bare minimum of whatever food he was given; just enough to keep him alive. He could almost feel his body grow weak. His skin now clung to his bones, stretching over them more tightly than ever.
Kai liked to spend most of his time with him. Sitting and talking to Luhan mindlessly for hours on end. He liked to touch Luhan, small, fleeting touches that never failed to take Luhan by surprise. He thought Luhan would grow used to it. He thought he’d learn to trust him, little by little, learn not to squirm away, learn to welcome the warmth.But it never got any better. If anything, it only got worse. Luhan didn't know what they intended to do with him. How long they intended to keep that madness going.So he grew even more detached each passing day, spending his days in stubborn silence, not even bothering to look up any more when somebody entered the room. He always knew who it would be: Kai, with his mindless rambling or Sehun with his stale bread.
Some days Kai sat besides him, twirling a lock of his hair around his finger mindlessly as Luhan buried his face in his arms, not allowing Kai to look at his face. Once he went away for a couple of days-going into town for business- he told him, and brought him a book on his way back. Luhan didn’t think he wanted to know what he meant when he said ‘business’. He was glad about the book though. It was a compilation of myths and folktales. Luhan read it over and over until he remembered every one of them by heart. His favourite was the tale of Icarus. Luhan would spend hours each day staring up at the sky and thinking about it. About being imprisoned and about yearning for freedom.
Kai talked to him a lot, always trying to make him talk back. Luhan never answered him, except for the occasional instances when Kai would ask him if he needed anything and he’d proceed to beg him to let him go. Somehow, somehow he felt like Kai was the only thing standing between him and his freedom, although the other didn’t really show that, always busy being pathetic over something. Luhan didn’t know what.
Nights in his makeshift cell were appalling, cold and-occasionally, when it rained-wet, with water dripping down the roof in broken, jagged succession. Luhan despised the rain;always had. and he could never fight off the feeling of unease that would crawl over him every time the water started lashing against the paper thin walls. The heavy pounding of the rain as it lashed against the walls always had his heart racing. It was scary when the sky roared and despite having outgrown his intense fear a long time ago, he still couldn't help but squirm with unease at the sound of the pouring rain.
It had to be exactly that. It had to be the rain messing with his head when he started dreaming. He dreamed he was standing across the street from his house,feeling tiny and almost invisible.He knew he had to get there, to cross the street to his house but his feet just wouldn't take him across. He took one step, his legs feeling heavy.Then another and another before breaking into a run, putting all the energy he could muster into his movements but the house kept moving away from him. and no matter how many futile steps he took, the distance never lessened. Then he went limp, his body turning to stone. He couldn’t move a limb.He trashed and turned, all in vain. You are dreaming. A part of him said. You are dreaming. and he knew that was right. He knew he was dreaming but he still couldn’t get his body to move. He couldn't get his muscles to function.
But he had to move. he had to breathe he remembered as realization hit him. He wasn’t breathing! So Luhan tried, giving it a final try as he pushed and pushed and it was all in his head but before he knew what had happened, the walls were falling away. He jolted awake, cold sweat glistening over his entire body as tears started streaming down his face. he had his hands clutching at the front of Kai’s shirt. He didn’t wait to think about anything. He didn’t think about what he was doing when he started clawing at the others skin. “Kai!” he cried without thinking. “Kai! I have to go! I’ll never see them again I know. I know I’ll never see them again, Kai. Please. Please let me go.” Kai stirred in his sleep, looking down at the clinging mess in his arms as he cranked an eyes open. Luhan was sobbing, head buried in his chest. he could feel wet tears seep in through the material of his shirt. “ Hey--” he started, trying to shift into a sitting position but the weight on his chest wouldn't allow it. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked Luhan, finding himself at a total loss of words. This was unexpected. He almost hissed in pain as sharp nails dug into his skin but Luhan’s broken sobs caught his attention. He was still crying, repeating pleas about going home over and over like a mantra and Kai didn’t think he knew what he was doing.
“I want to go home.” He said one last time before going still in Kai’s arms, his voice small and broken as his hands fell lifeless. He must have fallen back asleep, Kai though as he raised his hand to the other’s head, rubbing soothing circles into his hair. “ I know, little one, I know...” he murmured, falling asleep right after
Luhan woke up feeling exhausted and thoroughly ashamed of himself. What had he been thinking? He wanted to leap into the sea and drown before he could face Kai again. Not after what he had done, he didn’t think he could face him ever again.
Just as he was thinking that the door swung open and in walked Kai, balancing a tray on his arms as he came in to tower before Luhan. He kept his eyes trained at the food, not looking Luhan in the eye and Luhan caught himself seizing that opportunity to check out how much damage he had done. Kai was wearing a low cut shirt that bared his collarbones and there, engraved in deep red, were bloody marks of fresh, crescent wounds. Had he done that? He wondered. He didn’t realize how long he kept staring at the other’s skin but felt heat rise in his cheeks when Kai’s eyes rose up to meet his. He had been caught staring! Luhan blushed scarlet, lowering his eyes and folding his legs back into himself. He was so embarrassed.
“I-I brought you breakfast.” Kai mumbled. Yeah,I can see that Luhan thought but didn’t say anything. He kept his head bowed, refusing to look the other in the face.
Kai held the tray out to him instead of placing it on the ground like he was supposed to do. Luhan chanced him a glance before scrambling to get the tray. He still had his eyes trained at his feet so when he felt their fingertips brush he almost hissed. He didn’t know what overcame him.But it was like he had suddenly been burned and he caught hold of himself right before the tray slipped out of his hands.
Kai didn’t say any more,turning around to shuffle out of the room as quickly as he could, but not before Luhan caught the red tainting his face.Luhan quickly averted his gaze back to his feet, pretending he hadn’t seen anything.
Sehun came in with his lunch when the sun was high up in the sky. Luhan knew because he had spent the entire day at the window, gazing out. He was hardly aware of how sore his legs had grown.
“Find anything interesting?” He asked Luhan, walking up to stand behind him at the window.
Luhan shook his head, remaining silent. He watched Sehun look around the room, his eyes landing on the tray of untouched food since last night and that morning, and knew what was coming before the words left his mouth. “ You know you shouldn’t try to pull that stunt again. The one where you tried to starve yourself to death. Because you know as well as I do, that that ain’t working.” Luhan turned back to face him, watching him silently as he continued. “ All that suicide crap, princess, none of that is child’s play. And you--you are a child. Those games are not for you.” He said, patting Luhan’s hair like he was a pet. Luhan felt bothered by the way he was talking to him but he didn’t feel the need to reply. He only wished the other would leave him alone.
“ I wonder what it is that he likes about you.” Sehun said, inching forward till Luhan could feel his breath on his face. “It maybe your pretty face. Or maybe it’s the fact that you don’t talk.” He said, reaching out to touch Luhan’s mouth with his fingers, brushing them over the purpling bruise where he had bitten himself into bleeding. “ just keep that pretty tongue locked inside like you've been doing so far and maybe we’ll never have to waste a bullet on you.” He said before waving his hand at Luhan. “Just some friendly advice.” He called before slipping out of the room.
Luhan had been getting exceedingly good at forcing sleep upon himself with every passing night and tonight would have been no different had Sehun’s words not stuck to his mind the way they had.He didn’t want to think about what the other had said.He didn’t want to know about Kai’s feelings for him-nor think about his intentions. He didn’t want to think about home. He didn’t want to think about anything! All he wanted to do was close his eyes and fall into nothingness.
He tossed and turned over his tattered mattress for a long time instead, grumbling under his breath about how uncomfortable sleeping on the floor was.Even in his head he was starting to sound like a grumpy, old widow but he couldn't bring himself to care. If anything it added a little more to the bitterness he felt towards everything.
It was fairly past midnight that Kai entered the room, followed close on his heel by Sehun.
“Stop following me.” Kai hissed at Sehun, who only shrugged. “ I’m just paying our guest a visit.” He insisted as Kai plopped down on the floor.
“Our guest doesn't need your visits.” Kai insisted quietly, the fight gone out of his voice as he placed his head on his knees, wrapping both arms around it.
“Why, because he has you now?” Sehun mocked, with no real bite to his words.
“That’s what I like to tell myself.” Kai mumbled honestly, face still hidden in his arms.And it made Sehun curious, just so curious. He was still in awe over how a single person could have this effect on Kai. It was like his brain had been taken out and replaced by some stranger's-leaving him a totally different person-- someone Sehun felt he didn’t know at all.
“ What would you do if he started to like you back?” He asked, tentatively. Normally he wouldn't have had a problem with talking about anything with Kai but ever since this happened-this guy thing- he just didn’t know where or when he was crossing the line.He was trying his best to stay careful though.But when Kai didn’t answer him right away he got worried.Maybe he shouldn't have tried to pry into the other’s feelings like. He found himself about to apologize when Kai drew in a long shuddering breath and he caught his tongue.
“ I’d light his house with a thousand lanterns, light his room with a thousand candles. I’d make him a bed of roses. I’d hold his hand while he’s awake and hold his body while he’s asleep. I’d bring him the stars if he asked for them.” Kai replied, looking like he meant every word of what he said.And for once, Sehun couldn’t bring himself to laugh his words off. He felt like crying for some reason. The way Kai said it, he felt like crying.
He chuckled instead. “Well lets hope he doesn't want anything to do with the stars.That one would be an awfully long journey.I’m not sure we could make it through that long a time without you here” He said, and Kai couldn’t help but smile. He felt all giddy inside just thinking about it.
“ Do you think this will work out for me?” He asked Sehun seriously.
Sehun didn’t answer, staying silent for a long time before saying,
“ I don't know Kai. I really don't know.” He replied honestly.