giggling hongbin (julyfix) wrote,
giggling hongbin

In Your Bones: Chapter 5

notes: there's a part in here that is a streeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch but that's why sci-fi is such a great genre ok


“Leave? Are you nuts?” Sehun looks like he’s torn between yelling and crying, standing in the middle of Jongdae’s apartment, the clutter from case files and take-out cartons making him look like a petulant college student more than a renowned detective.

“It’s not safe,” Jongdae says. He knows that this is the safest place Sehun and Minseok can be, but he also knows that he’s pushing Jongin’s buttons by including them in his work. “Zitao’s dead,” his voice cracks, “and we’re all on Kai’s hit list.”

“I don’t care,” Sehun crosses his arms, glaring at where Jongdae is standing at the entrance of the kitchen. “I’m not leaving. I’m not abandoning this case— do you expect us to just leave and carry on with other shit like Kai doesn’t exist? Like we didn’t invest so much into all this stupid shit? I don’t know about you but I can’t handle another domestic dispute, I can’t answer another call about a runaway teenager. Not when I know Kai is out there. Not when I know Kai is right fucking here.”

Minseok is on the couch with the expression of a child witnessing their parent’s first real argument. He’s wrapped up in the fleece throw blanket, feet on the coffee table, eyes moving slowly between Jongdae and Sehun as they argue.

“And you expect me to just allow you and Minseok to sit here with targets on your backs?” Jongdae asks, exasperated. “Zitao was killed in my fucking bathroom while we slept. One of us is next.” He can feel tears in his eyes and fuck, when was the last time Jongdae cried? His cheeks flush, ears burn, and he holds his hands out in a pleading gesture, desperate for them to understand his own desperation. “One of you is next.”

“How are you so sure?” Sehun is still adamant. “What if we’re not next, Jongdae?”

“I can’t take that risk,” Jongdae snaps, slamming his fist against the door frame. The wall rattles and Sehun flinches, the room falling quiet.

Minseok’s voice is soft when he speaks. “You can’t carry the burden of this alone, Jongdae. It’s too big.” Jongdae’s attention fixates on the other. “You can’t feel responsible for our lives, or the lives of anyone else. It’s Kai killing people, not you. We know what we’re doing— we know that we have bullseyes on our asses. You do, too. We won’t leave you. Even if you don’t let us help you with the case, we’re not going anywhere, Jongdae…” he stands up, still wrapped in the blanket as he gives Jongdae a soft, imploring look. “Let us stay.”

Jongdae’s eyes still feel hot and wet, and his chest tightens when Minseok takes a step forward. “It’s dangerous…”

“It’s been dangerous,” Minseok replies, voice still soft. He’s approaching Jongdae like he’s a frightened deer, ready to spook. “Don’t push us away.”

A tear spills down Jongdae’s cheek, his shoulders spasming and lower lip trembling. “I’m sorry.”

He’s not expecting the hug that Minseok envelops him in. Minseok’s arms bring the blanket and he cocoons Jongdae up inside of it with him, and they’re basically the same size so it’s not like Jongdae can just fold into him. His face ends up pressed into Minseok’s neck and his arms are limp at his side because he doesn’t have the strength to lift them and return the embrace, but… it feels nice. Minseok is solid, Minseok is real and he’s not a phantom that’s going to just poof away the instant Jongdae gets his wits about him. They stand like that for a few moments and soon Jongdae hears Sehun let out an impatient sigh, before he feels Sehun’s spindly arms wrapping around the both of them.

“Group hug,” Sehun mumbles. “What are we, ten?”

“It’s a morale booster,” Minseok replies easily, voice still soft. “We’re all in this together.”

When Jongdae’s eyes close he sees flashes of Kai’s shadowy figure on the edges of his mind.

His acceptance of Minseok and Sehun staying just signed their death certificate.

“You have really nice friends,” Kai says one day, seemingly just… appearing next to Jongdae as he heads towards a food cart by the river.

“You think so?” Jongdae asks, barely any emotion to his voice. He’s on lunch break at work and needed to clear his head, and Jongin allowed him to head down to the river to get a bite to eat and recover a bit of his sanity. If only Jongin knew that there’s barely any sanity to recover at all. After all, he’s here talking to the world’s most popular serial killer.
“Yeah,” there's a shrug in Kai’s voice. Jongdae won't look at him. “I had friends like them, once. A long time ago.” His voice gets a little dreamy, “Soon I'll have them back~”

“What does killing people have to do with your tree?” Jongdae finally asks, suddenly uncaring about being conservative around Kai. “Why are you leaving symbols? What's going to happen after you've met your quota?”

Kai’s fingers wrap around Jongdae’s wrist, halting him from walking any further. Jongdae finally turns to look at the other and is surprised to see long, blond, slicked back hair and smaller sunglasses than normal. Kai’s smile is roguish, handsome by normal standards, his skin tan and body dressed with jeans and a hoodie. He looks like an idol incognito.

His touch doesn't burn.

“I've been waiting for you to ask,” Kai says breathlessly.

Jongdae frowns. “But I have—”

Kai pulls Jongdae closer, and the detective gets a whiff of aftershave. He tenses, but he doesn't feel the usual urge to flee or puke like he normally does when he comes into physical contact with Kai… and he relaxes, slightly.

“Tell me,” Jongdae says, looking at his reflection in Kai’s sunglasses.

“First, let's get some food~” Kai says with a grin, tugging on Jongdae’s wrist again, this time to start heading in the direction of the food cart once more.

Jongdae doesn’t really have a choice but to follow Kai’s nose to the fried food stand. Kai excitedly orders two corndogs and even pays the vendor, asking Jongdae asinine questions like ‘Do you want ketchup?’ or ‘How many napkins do you want?’. Jongdae is impatient. His stomach is steeled and his emotions are hardened but Kai doesn’t affect him like he used to. Jongdae isn’t sure if that’s a good or bad thing, yet. They make their way to a bench overlooking the river and sit down, Kai happily munching into his corndog. Jongdae thinks about their encounter at the convenience store; how the employee had said that Jongdae had been alone the whole time. He thinks about how Kai just slips around in the shadows and no one seems to notice him whenever he’s present. But here Kai just had a conversation with a person that wasn’t Jongdae, and that person saw Kai, joked with Kai, smiled at Kai.

It seems so… normal.

“The Tree of Life,” Kai starts without prompting, “is everything. It is the reason that you and I exist — the reason this planet, and all the other planets in the universe exist.”

“Pretty sure the Big Bang did all that,” Jongdae grumbles, taking a bite of his corndog.

Kai laughs a little. “No one can be sure, right? Science can only uncover so much. This planet is still such a small, insignificant speck in the entirety of the cosmos. Do you really think that today’s scientists can grasp when and how it was created?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” Jongdae asks, glancing over at Kai.

“Why shouldn’t you believe that there is a Tree of Life?” Kai retorts, sending Jongdae a wry smile. There’s mustard on the corner of his full, bottom lip.

“Alright, alright,” Jongdae waves his free hand. “I get your point. So. This Tree of Life. What happened to it?”

“It split,” Kai sighs, sounding dejected. “Right down the middle.” He takes another bite of his corndog and then leans back against the bench, crossing his legs. “Do you like tales?”

“I’ve heard my share,” Jongdae replies dryly, staring out at the river.

“I’ll summarize,” Kai grins. “In the beginning, the universe was unified by the Tree. All was Good. The Twelve Forces kept the Tree alive — nurtured it, cared for it, protected it. One day, a great, red eye created an evil that stole the heart of the Tree… and slowly, the Tree grew dry. The Twelve Forces decided that the only way to save the Tree was to split it in half and send it to the outermost reaches of space and time to ensure its safety. Each Force took a piece of the Tree’s heart into their protection. Six and six, the Twelve Forces split the universe in two, just as the red eye did to the tree. The legends shall now see the same sky, but stand on different grounds — stand on the same grounds, but see different skies. The day the red eye is purified, and the day that the Twelve Forces take new root, a new world shall open up.”

In Kai’s speech, Jongdae’s corndog lowers more, and more still, until the outside of his curled palm rests on top of his thigh. He’s staring at Kai — he’s examining his profile, the strength of his jaw, the curve of his adam’s apple, the slope of his nose. The sun is setting and it’s probably really cliche and really wrong of Jongdae to think that, in this rare moment of sanity Kai is showing, the man is… beautiful. Jongdae starts absorbing Kai’s words, though, and then lets out a little sigh as he wipes his lips with his napkin.

“Ok. So some aliens had a tree, the tree died or whatever, and now you’re trying to find the pieces of the tree so that it can come back to life?” Jongdae has better deduction skills than this, but it’s all he can emotionally afford right now.

“Something like that,” Kai’s head turns towards Jongdae and he offers a lopsided smile. “I just want us all to be home, again.”

“What you’re talking about sounds awfully apocalyptic,” Jongdae snorts, taking another bite of his food.

Kai shrugs, finishing off his corndog. “It is. A new era will rise up once the Tree is restored.”

“So the Twelve Forces…” Jongdae’s eyes watch the sun glint off of the water. He mentally counts the victims in his head, and then feels realization starting to blossom. “Are you saying the victims are the reincarnated Twelve Forces? Why would you kill them?”

Sacrifice,” Kai corrects Jongdae on the term for a second time. “I am freeing them of their human shells so that we can regain our power and restore the Tree.”

“Power?” Jongdae starts chewing on his corndog, leaning back against the bench as well. “What power? Were all those symbols part of some alien language? Are you an alien?” he suddenly asks, gaze examining Kai’s features.

Kai laughs. That weird twisting feeling in Jongdae’s gut returns.

He blinks, and Kai is gone.

Alone on the bench, Jongdae stares at the spot that Kai had been previously occupying. Aliens? Cosmic power? Reincarnation? He already knew Kai was a whackjob but this whole story…

“Fuck—” Jongdae slams his fist down on the bench, angry at himself. He’d listened! He let Kai fill his head with all this bullshit and now Jongdae isn’t sure which way is up at this point. The story makes it sound like Kai himself is a victim — the story is just plain ludicrous. Groaning, Jongdae stands up, tossing his garbage into the wastebin by the bench. He paces for a few moments, hands stuffed into his pockets, the chilly air kissing his cheeks like an old friend.

Jongdae doesn’t know what he had been expecting when Kai agreed to give him some answers. He surely wasn’t expecting some be-all-end-all of the fucking universe. He wasn’t expecting Kai to tell him that his victims are meant to be reincarnates of legendary aliens past, and he definitely wasn’t expecting Kai to sound so… sane, when he talked about it.

Checking his watch, Jongdae huffs softly when he realizes he’s been gone for an hour. He turns on heel and starts heading back to the station, his head spinning with all the information.

What the fuck is he supposed to believe anymore?

“You want me to research… aliens,” Minseok repeats monotonously, eyes unamused as he looks at Jongdae.

“Yes,” Jongdae says, sounding resolute.

Sehun groans from where he’s curled up on the recliner, “Jesus, Jongdae, are you really listening to that guy? He’s a fucking psycho. Talking about aliens and rebirth or whatever…”

“It’s something to go on,” Jongdae says. “There might be some newspaper articles, blogs, something talking about what he told me. Maybe he’s part of a cult? Or some sort of fanatic?”

“What I want to know,” Minseok says as he picks his laptop up off of the table and puts it on his lap, “is how he appears and disappears without anyone noticing.”

“He’s a creep,” Sehun says, brow furrowed as he snuggles into the blanket wrapped around him. “Guys like that go everywhere unnoticed, until they’re too creepy to not be noticed.”

Jongdae rolls his eyes. “Helpful, Sehun.”

“He mentioned powers, right?” Minseok asks, typing away. “The Twelve Forces had powers? What if all the symbols left with the victims were symbols of their powers, and he left them there so that when they reincarnated their power would be intact?”

“You guys are both nuts.” Sehun sounds agitated. “We’re police detectives, not paranormal investigators.”

“No, Minseok is right,” Jongdae says, sitting down next to the man on the couch and watching articles fly across the screen of the laptop. “This shit isn’t real, man, no aliens are wandering the universe looking for a tree and no aliens are being reincarnated on Earth.” His gut twists, and he lets out a surprised breath at the sensation. Minseok exhales at the same time and Sehun squirms, and they all fall quiet.

“Did you feel that?” Minseok asks, putting a hand on his stomach.

Sehun shifts. “Probably gas. We’ve been eating too much take-out.”

They take Sehun’s suggestion lightly, but commit to it, unwilling to blame it on anything else.

“In any case, we need to look into it. Let’s start by finding out what each of the symbols mean,” Jongdae says, grabbing the file that has a digital drawing of each symbol. Less gore, more specific.

“Joonmyun’s symbol is obviously water,” Minseok says, glancing over at the paper in Jongdae’s hand. “You need water to nourish a plant.”

“Baekhyun looked like a light,” Sehun joins in. “Photosynthesis.”

“Yixing was a unicorn, which I can only imagine relates to mystical healing powers?” Jongdae ventures, using a sharpie to write on each photo as they discuss. “Chanyeol was a bird…?”

“Phoenix,” Sehun says, sounding very assured. “Rebirth. Reincarnation.”

Minseok lets out a breath as Jongdae writes it down. “Kyungsoo’s symbol is a little weird. It kind of looks like a transformer.”

“Or one of those things from Easter Island,” Jongdae suggests, turning the photo this way and that to look at it. “It could represent Earth itself. The Easter Island megaliths are one of the most mysterious structures created by man and are a good representation of early human history.”

“Good, good,” Minseok mutters, still typing away.

Sehun is starting to look more interested as well. “A message was left on a watch that Zitao didn’t even own. Her symbol was time?”

Jongdae nods, writing it down. “Kai mentioned something about a space-time continuum, alternate dimensions and stuff.” Next is Yifan’s photo. “A dragon. This one is obvious.”

“The protector,” Minseok suggests, shrugging. “The fierce beast to ward off enemies.”

Jongdae’s fingers are starting to cramp, his handwriting all sorts of sloppy with how quickly he’s writing. Luhan’s photo is probably the most perplexing, and Jongdae holds it up so everyone can see it.

“Molecule?” Sehun guesses.

Minseok wrinkles his nose. “Atoms…?”

Jongdae chews his lip. “No… maybe? Something like that. This is the one symbol that literally doesn’t look like fucking anything.” He turns it upside down, sideways, even traces his fingers along the lines. They all fall into quiet contemplation, and then suddenly Sehun pipes up.

“A brain.”

Minseok and Jongdae both direct their attention to Sehun, who is now sitting up in the recliner, the blanket falling off his shoulders.

“It’s a brain with six threads,” Sehun insists. “Kai said that the Twelve Forces were split in half, right? So one brain, on one half, is connected to all six brains.”

“Six hearts?” Minseok adds on.

Jongdae looks at the photo again. “It does sort of look like a mind map. Like what writers use when they’re fleshing out stories.”

“Idea bubbles,” Sehun says, nodding.

“Ok,” Jongdae writes ‘brain - hearts’ down on the photo, and then sighs softly. “If he’s really talking about twelve victims, there’s still four more slots left.” He closes the file, tossing it onto the coffee table and then flopping back against the couch. “Why do I feel like we just did a bunch of work and hit another dead end?”

“Because we did,” Sehun pouts, re-wrapping himself up in the blanket and sinking back into the recliner as well. “Maybe Kai really is an alien, and that’s why we can’t find anything on him.”

Jongdae snorts, and Minseok stays quiet, his fingers the loudest noise in the room for a few moments. Soon enough Minseok puts his laptop down on the coffee table, pointing at the screen.

“I don’t know about aliens, and I definitely don’t know about powers or legends or whatever,” he says. “But I think I just found Kai… in a photo from a hundred years ago.”


Jongdae and Sehun both chorus, scrambling off of the furniture to kneel on the floor so they can get a good look at the photo Minseok has blown up on the screen. It’s grainy and has been digitally remastered, and looks like it came from the old West, and Jongdae squints, trying to find Kai in the photo.

“There,” Sehun points at the photo, which comprises of about a dozen men in construction attire in front of a great steel structure. A man looking suspiciously like Kai is in the back row, stony-faced and hardened, dark hair unruly under a floppy hat and Jongdae blinks.

“That’s him.” His voice is tinged in disbelief. He’s never seen Kai without a pair of sunglasses or a mask, at least not in person, and he’s… stunned at what he sees. “That’s fucking him. Or his great great grandfather.” He shifts so he can sit on his butt, relieving the pressure on his ankles. “What is this photo from?”

“The great Nikola Tesla’s construction of the Wardenclyffe Tower,” Minseok says.

“America?” Sehun wonders out loud. “What’s Kai’s ancestor doing in America?”

“Helping build the world’s first SMS system,” Minseok says. “Tesla’s research was groundbreaking. If he hadn’t been defunded sending international messages via a wireless connection would have been a reality for grandma and grandpa.”

“Tesla was a little crazy though, wasn’t he?” Sehun asks, glancing up at Minseok. “No one believed what he could do.”

“No one knew where he drew his inspiration from,” Minseok says, shrugging. “One day he got this idea in his head and wouldn’t stop until he completed it.”

“Ok, but— what about Kai?” Jongdae asks, still staring at the photo. “Or grandpa Kai? How did you even find this picture, Minseok?”

Minseok doesn’t answer for a moment, which makes Sehun and Jongdae look up at him suspiciously. Minseok looks a little sheepish, and then replies, “I did some digging on Jongin’s background.”

“Jongin?” Sehun and Jongdae echo, clearly in disbelief.

“Look, we can’t — we aren’t ignoring the fact that when Kai’s activity spikes, so does Jongin’s, in one way or another. And look at this photo — you can’t tell me that this man isn’t a spitting image of Jongin.”

“Oh great,” Sehun rolls his eyes, standing up. “Back to suspecting Chief? I thought we were over this!”

“He hasn’t been cleared,” Jongdae says, taking sides with Minseok. “There’s no way to disconnect him, but there’s no real way to connect him, either.” he looks back at the laptop. “So— is this Jongin’s grandpa?”

“I couldn’t find a birth or death certificate of him, but his name on the construction roster was Kim Jongin.” Minseok says, pulling up that photo on the laptop.

“That’s no coincidence,” Jongdae whistles.

Sehun starts walking towards the kitchen. “You guys are fucking nuts. Nuts. Chief? Kai? Jongdae, you’ve SEEN Kai. You would be able to tell if they were the same fucking person.”

“Didn’t you say that Kai was blond, yesterday?” Minseok asks Jongdae.

Jongdae nods. “Like, Lady Gaga blond. If he and Jongin were the same person there’s no way that Jongin would be able to cover that up so quickly. Plus, Kai’s hair is longer. Shaggier.”

Sehun disappears into the kitchen, leaving Minseok and Jongdae in the living room to stare at the mysterious photo. Jongdae bites his thumb thoughtfully, brows furrowed. There’s no explanation glaring at him as to why suddenly Jongin and Kai look to be one in the same.

“Ok. So… Let’s say Jongin and Kai are related, in any way possible. Why would he be at the construction sight of Tesla’s tower?”

Minseok shrugs, “Tesla was on the brink of a breakthrough. And he had to get the idea for wireless transmission from somewhere. What if… What if someone gave him the idea?”

“Someone… alien?” Jongdae sighs, leaning back against the couch and stretching his legs out in front of him. “Next thing you know, we’re going to be turning on that weird History channel show and listening to that guy spout off about extra terrestrial beings.”

“I think nothing is farfetched at this point,” Minseok says, seriously.

“Ok, but Tesla’s project failed and he died without the accomplishment.” Jongdae drops his head back on the cushions and stares at the ceiling.

“But someone else accomplished it later,” Minseok says. He scoots to sit on the edge of the couch. “Tesla’s theory may have failed in his own time due to inconvenience and financial troubles, but someone carried on his work and succeeded. In the eighties people made their own breakthroughs and started to fine tune the science.”

“Someone carried the torch,” Jongdae says.

“How much you wanna bet if we look up workers on the SMS project from the eighties in Europe, we’ll see Jongin’s beautiful face?”

Jongdae covers his face, rubbing vigorously. “It’s not possible. Jongin is not Kai. There’s no fucking way. They’re different, Minseok. Like night and day.”

They fall silent, and Jongdae gets caught up in his thoughts. When first shown the picture, he had identified the man as Kai. And then upon further looking, identified the man as Jongin. There’s no way it can be both. It’s one or the other. Jongin and Kai are two totally separate entities — right? Although, when Jongdae racks his brain, he has never recalled that their presence overlapped one another. But why should they? Kai has a twisted interest in Jongdae and Jongdae alone.

But… so does Jongin, Jongdae’s buzzing brain quietly replies. Jongin’s feelings for Jongdae can’t be ignored forever. It’s one thing that Jongdae hasn’t shared with Minseok and Sehun, and one thing that he’ll probably take to the grave with him. He won’t embarrass his superior like that, no matter what the circumstances.

No matter how suspicious he is.

When the doorbell rings, Jongdae looks up curiously. “Who ordered food?”

Minseok shakes his head. “I didn’t.”

Sehun peeks out from the kitchen. “I’m making a sandwich…”

Jongdae rolls his eyes. “Ok, it’s probably not food. Are we being noisy again? I can’t deal with another neighbor complaint…” he mumbles, as he stands up and makes his way to the door.

When he looks through the peephole, he doesn’t see anyone standing in the hallway. He angles his head a little, turns his eyeball this way and that, and still sees nothing. Stepping back, he frowns. Ding dong ditch?

“Well, whoever it was isn’t—”

A knock on the door interrupts what Jongdae was about to say. Turning around and staring at the door curiously, Jongdae tilts his head to listen for any foot steps or indication that someone is on the other side. Fear bubbles in the pit of his stomach and he tries to ignore it, despite the ominous feeling he’s getting.

The lights in the apartment flicker, and Jongdae clenches his jaw.

“This isn’t funny,” he says, moving forward and unlocking the door, swinging it open, his stomach plummeting.

Kai is on the other side.

His smile is the last thing Jongdae sees before everything goes black.


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Tags: group: exo, member: jongdae, series: in your bones
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