With blood on his hands and Sungmin's lifeless body rapidly fading away in his arms, Eunhyuk took the only road he knew, going to see the only person he felt could get them out of this mess. He might not have known whether it was possible, but in his heart he didn't dare assume the worst. On the contrary, Sungmin would be great, better than great. The Doc would patch him up and he'd be alive and well and playing chess with Ryeowook like before.
He had to be, he thought, bursting through the front doors at the Clinic without any concern for manners, for security. The doors here were rarely if ever locked and yet no one came to steal morphine or drugs, though they could easily have done so. It was part of the unspoken code in the Bottoms. No one took on the Clinic unless they wanted no sanctuary, ever, from anyone. The Clinic, on the other hand, was sanctuary to all.
Laying Sungmin's prone body on the floor, he waited, ears strained into the silence and sincerely hoped his sister hadn't taken the good Doc out for one of her drinking nights.
"Dai!" He wouldn't have screamed, were the circumstances any different. "Dai! Someone, please!"
If he waited an hour more, a second more, he was sure Sungmin's chances of survival would fade away to nothing. He didn't want that responsibility.
At the other end of the hall, heelless boots squeaked on the linoleum.
"Shit, bro, did you have to interrupt--" Tomiko's voice died in her throat, disheveled dark hair in her eyes as she hurried forward, checking for a pulse on Sungmin's neck. "What happened?"
Eunhyuk shook his head. He couldn't say, not to her, not even if she was family. "Is it bad? Is he going to make it?"
"What're you asking me for?" she snapped, darting a look over her shoulder. "Dai!"
Their doctor appeared sluggishly, each footstep slow as he buttoned up his pants. He only kicked himself into gear when he saw who the patient was.
In the Bottoms, having Eeteuk's family on your hands was as much a privilege as it was a matter of life or death.
The fingers on his right hand had turned purple with rust and dirt on the long climb out of the ditch that was Bottoms central. It couldn't be helped, but neither was the grime in any hurry to wash away, no matter how much he may have tried to wipe it off under the jet of icy water in the motel's bathroom. The room itself was well on the small-side, with a stained mirror and a faucet that leaked, but it was their only alternative, for now, unless they hoped to take the stairs to the floor below.
The risk of being seen was still too great while they were in the Bottoms and yet it wasn't what rested most comfortably in his thoughts.
"At this rate, you'd better just peel off the epidermis," cautioned a voice from the doorway - a voice he'd long given up hoping was real only to find himself mistaken.
He looked up slowly, past the rusty iron fittings to the dirty tiles, to the cracked mirror above it. On whom the seven years' bad luck?
"We don't have time for me to tear off a stratum corneum." Giving up, he rinsed his hands under the stream of icy water. "Ridiculous name anyway, stratum corneum... horny layer." Despite himself, he snorted with laughter that he heard echoed behind him. Still reeling from the other man's return, he glanced in the mirror again.
Almond-shaped eyes wrinkled at the corners - the only sign of the time they'd spent apart. "I'm still here, you know. Not some ghost that'll vanish if you close your eyes." The tilt of his head was all Hyde, even his hair was the same. Pursing his lips, he pushed himself from the off-white wall and stepped behind him. "Try it out. I'm flesh and blood, see."
A pale forearm extended to his side, the surface of which was marred with dried blood.
"I've missed that," he interrupted, folding his fingers around his wrist. "I've missed hearing you say my name." The familiarity of the words hit home, burning like hot coals behind his retinas. It took him a second to realize what the burning sensation was and then he blinked quickly, trying to dispel it. The other man's embrace didn't give him a chance. Deceptively thin arms wrapped around his shoulders and it was in the scent of his hair, his skin, that he finally recognized the man before him as his lover.
I thought you were dead. I thought you were dead.
"I'm right here," his lover whispered, as through answering to his thoughts. "We're all together again. Just as it should be."
Over his shoulder, he saw Han Geng linger in the doorway of the motel room, the flickering neon light throwing ghastly shadows on his face.
Han Geng kept his distance, at first. He had plenty on his mind and he was still reeling from what he'd seen and done that night, but every once in a while he looked up from the sharp edge of his sword and he saw them. As simple as it was just to meticulously clean his weapon and think of something else - something supposedly more pleasant - he couldn't help wonder if maybe this wasn't how it was supposed to be.
If maybe this could work.
Henry was down for the count, hands bound behind his back where he'd been deposited over on the bed. He looked peaceful as he slept, Han Geng was surprised to notice for the first time, but he had a feeling that when consciousness returned, there would be hell to pay. The younger man - his brother - would not understand, at first; he'd think of Sungmin, of the others. As if they still mattered.
The triad was old news, he thought and slipped the stone over the steel with a whisper. They were petty crooks with one vacillating goal in their sights: to take back Judoh and do what? Lead it like the H&E did? Like Eeteuk's father had for decades before that?
It didn't matter. Compared to the sanctity of their code, what the triad did was small time business.
It also didn't matter that he formed some attachments while there. They were flings, nothing more. Henry would realize it too. He had to.
The proof was before them, after all.
Fingers intertwined on his Master's shoulder, his lover stroked through the thin material of his suit and the tense skin beneath it. So wrong for the weather, so perfect for the occasion. It was as it should be. They looked the picture of contentment and peace, and Han Geng wished it for them. Tried to, at least.
It was as it should be, but one of them was still missing.
The last remaining link to the triad, he thought as he dusted off the sharp edge of his sword, and this not one they could easily give up.
When Henry woke the sound was feral. As he caught sight of his master, a painful cry pierced through clenched teeth as he writhed on the bed. He kicked his legs until he backed himself into the wall, his eyes darting around to rest on the occupants of the room, his breath heavy. "Ge-" he spat out, a mangled cry emitting from his throat as Hyde stepped forward.
Han Geng made his move then, setting his sword down to cross over to the bed, gripping the young man's shoulders. The boy whimpered, shifting himself so that he could block the other men from his view. He implored with his eyes, the trauma of his master's death, the bathtub filled with his master's blood. The windowless room. "Ghosts. His blood, my hands...death's come for me."
"No, no, it's okay, Henry-"
"Don't let them put me in the room again, ge, please." Henry pleaded, his words rising to a fevered pitch as Hyde advanced toward the bed again, gingerly pushing Han Geng aside.
"I left you at a horrible time, I know," Hyde soothed, caressing Henry's cheek. "What I put you through, it was supposed to get better. I had so much that I did not get to teach you, my son. Calm yourself now, I taught you far better than that."
"Right here," the man smiled, reaching behind Henry to unfasten the bonds that held him. "A ghost could not be this warm, could they? Now, if you wish for me to die, here is your chance."
Henry instead rubbed at his wrists, staring at the man with a mixture of sadness and confusion. No fear, the means through which Hyde had trained them removed any trace of that.
"Good boy. Now, I have a mission just for you."
"Meeting the missus? I didn't take you for a morning cafe person."
Yesung folded his morning paper and glanced up at the woman, her hair dyed in gradients of blonde and auburn and cut into an uneven bob. "No, investment banker. He could not make our lunch date and wanted to finalize the forms for a wire transfer."
"He's not going to make it." she announced, setting her coffee cup on the table and sitting across from Yesung. "He wouldn't want to be seen with you, not with those guys obviously tailing you. They've probably bugged the patio, have you checked?"
"Why are you doing this?" he asked in exasperation, hitting his palm on the table as she ignored him to look underneath it. Raising her head so that heavily decorated eyes peeked over the rim of the table, the woman laughed.
"Because I like you." Kumiko's eyes disappeared beneath the table once more. He felt her moving beneath the table, knocking against the surface, her hand brushing his thigh and into his pocket.
"Would you please stop?" Yesung hissed, pushing his chair back. Grinning up at him from between his knees, Kumiko held up a small disc.
"Told you, right under the table."
"You're in for a long day, officer." she sighed, gripping his knees as she stood. Leaning forward, she kissed his cheek and then ruffled his hair. "Enjoy your breakfast."