When the world ended, they were three idol trainees on the way home from a late-night practice, Dongmin trailing behind Bin and Minhyuk, jealous of their closeness, the way they had their heads bent close as they talked, hands not-quite-touching. They’d been trainees for the longest, and they were so damn talented, and Dongmin had gone from being the academic and athletic golden boy at his school to crying every day because the instructors yelled at him for his subpar dancing and singing.
And then the alien fighter jets appeared in the sky, and the lights beamed people up and beamed the aliens down, and there was chaos. Destruction. Aliens shooting people with their light rifles and cutting them down with their swords. And sucking the life out of them with the gaping maws in their right hands.
It was Bin who dragged Dongmin out of the path of a beam of light. It was Minhyuk who managed to open a door to a maintenance tunnel into the subway.
And there they hid while the world ended. While they read the increasingly horrifying - and hopeless - news stories on their phones. While they traded desperate text messages with their families until cell service died. And then the power went out.
And then food ran out.
Running water lasted for a long time.
Dongmin volunteered to get food first, because he didn’t think he could stand to face either Bin or Minhyuk if one of them didn’t survive the food run.
He figured it was pity or relief, the way Minhyuk kissed him when he made it back alive, but Bin didn’t seem upset or jealous, and Dongmin slept between them that night, on the cold cement floor of the little bunker that was their temporary haven.
Bin went on the next food run when their rations ran out.
Dongmin sat outside the door after Minhyuk pounced on Bin after his return. He did his best to pretend he didn’t notice how disheveled their clothes were when Bin told him he could come back in, help divvy up the food and supplies.
Dongmin still got to sleep between them.
And then it was Minhyuk’s turn to go on a food run.
He came back with his backpack full, blood spattered on his face, an alien sword in one hand, and an alien’s head in the other.
His expression was terribly blank, and he didn’t say a word for three days.
Bin tried to comfort him, hold him and kiss him, but nothing worked. There was no reaction at all, just Minhyuk woodenly going about his daily tasks.
And then Dongmin said, “Hey, you’re safe now. You’re here, with us.”
And Minhyuk started to cry. Dongmin panicked, scrambled to apologize, but Minhyuk kissed him, and then he kissed Bin, and he fell to his knees and kept on crying. Bin knelt beside him and beckoned for Dongmin, and all three of them ended up cuddling on the floor till Minhyuk’s sobs subsided. Somewhere in the middle of it all, Bin sighed and pressed a kiss to Dongmin’s hair, and after that it somehow became normal for both boys to kiss Dongmin, sometimes just a brief peck, sometimes a more lingering press of lips, and he was part of them in a way he hadn’t been before.
Sometimes it was hard for Dongmin to trust that he wasn’t part of them out of pity or panic or something else, because the world had ended, but these days it was the three of them roaming the remains of the city armed with swords and rifles scavenged from aliens they’d killed, looking for food or things they could use to improve their home, such as it was.
For three years, it had been just the three of them, avoiding roving bands of humans looking to prey on them and take what they had, or aliens who’d come back to Earth to pick off a few humans here and there for a snack - though best as anyone could tell, now that Earth had been culled almost to human extinction, the aliens had moved on.
Between Minhyuk’s martial arts experience now battle-honed, Bin’s nutritional knowledge, and Dongmin’s scientific and engineering know-how, and a lot of luck, they’d survived well. It was the three of them not just against the world, but the universe at large.
But no matter what, it was the three of them.
Bin was never jealous when Minhyuk was with Dongmin, and Minhyuk was never jealous when Bin was with Dongmin, and Dongmin, for the most part, wasn’t jealous when they were with each other, because they had each other, and they were alive.
They took turns keeping watch at night, so they never got to spend the night all together, hadn’t since those first few fraught nights hiding in the subway tunnels.
Dongmin was sitting on a stool at the door of the apartment they had commandeered as their outpost, sword in arm’s reach, scanning the horizon, when he heard someone say, in English,
The aliens spoke English.
Dongmin reached for his sword and slid to his feet. He shouted for the other two. They woke fast, scrambled for their weapons and their emergency packs, ready to defend their home but run if necessary.
Dongmin slid in front of them, sword poised to strike. Boots thumped ominously on the pavement.
Worse than the humans who preyed on other humans were the humans who sold fellow humans out to the aliens.
Fear curled in Dongmin’s gut at the dozen people in gray uniforms and military-style gear who spread out in front of him, but he gripped his sword tighter. He’d die for Minhyuk and Bin, and he’d kill for them.
“Hey, we come in peace,” a man said in English, and then, in very bad Korean, “Peace friend?”
Dongmin said, in slow, careful English, “How do we know you won’t sell us to the aliens?”
The man said, “Damn. It’s been bad since we’ve been gone. There are Wraith-worshippers here too.”
There was a murmur among the men and women with him.
“I’m Lieutenant Colonel Evan Lorne of the United States Air Force. I’m here looking for survivors,” the man said. “You don’t have to come with us if you don’t want to.”
“Where would you even take us? America was attacked too,” Dongmin said.
“America?” Bin asked. Neither he nor Minhyuk were particularly good at English.
Colonel Lorne said, “Our warship is in orbit above Earth.”
“Orbit?” Dongmin echoed.
Colonel Lorne nodded. He was shorter than Dongmin and Bin, but broad across the shoulders, probably seemed broader because of the body armor he was wearing. He did have an American flag patch on his left sleeve.
“How would we even get there?” Dongmin asked.
“Hyung, what’s going on?” Minhyuk asked.
Colonel Lorne reached up and tapped his radio earpiece, “Lorne for Daedalus, do you copy? Over. I have a twenty on some survivors. Send down a medic to check them over, will you? I’ve got three males, late teens. Over.”
“Dongminnie?” Bin asked.
Dongmin said, “They say they’re from the American military and they’re here to rescue us, that they have a spaceship of their own.”
“Humans don’t have spaceships, and those aren’t real Air Force uniforms,” Minhyuk said. “When I was down in Busan as a kid, I’d see American servicemen, and they weren’t dressed like that.”
Before they could debate further, there was a beam of light.
Minhyuk had the fastest reflexes, dove toward it with his sword out.
The soldiers shouted.
And then a human woman appeared. She wore a gray uniform like Colonel Lorne’s, only she had no body armor, and her uniform had yellow patches on it. She was carrying a white bag with red crosses on it.
She was a medic.
Minhyuk froze, his sword inches from her body.
All the soldiers had their guns pointed at Minhyuk.
Colonel Lorne shouted, “Stand down! Stand down! Dammit, should have seen that coming. Look, we also have beaming tech, but we’re not friends with the Wraith, the - the bad aliens. Marie is a medic, okay? She’s here to help.”
The woman straightened up. The flag on her left sleeve was the South Korean flag. She said, in fluent Korean,
“My name is Ko Mari, and I’m a nurse.”
“How do we know you won’t sell us to the aliens?” Minhyuk demanded.
“You really have no way of knowing that, besides our word,” Nurse Ko said. “Look, can you put your sword down? The soldiers won’t put their guns down till you put your sword down, and there are a lot more guns than there are swords.”
“Minhyukie,” Dongmin said. “She’s right. Just - we should hear them out.”
His heart was pounding. After so long, did he dare hope? Did any of them dare hope that rescue was really here?
Minhyuk lowered his sword slowly, but he didn’t relax an iota.
Nurse Ko smiled gently. “Your name is Minhyuk? How old are you?”
“Eighteen,” he said.
Nurse Ko set down her bag. “I’m going to check your vitals, okay? This here is a very fancy scanner, so I don’t even have to touch you. What about your friends? How old are they?”
“My boyfriends,” Minhyuk said, challenge in his gaze. “Binnie and Dongminnie.”
Nurse Ko nodded, her expression completely calm, and Dongmin felt something in his chest loosen.
“I’m nineteen, and Dongmin is twenty,” Bin said.
“How long have you been together?” Nurse Ko asked.
“Minhyuk and I have known each other since Minhyuk was in fifth grade and I was in sixth grade. Dongmin transferred to the same school as us six months before the world ended,” Bin said.
Sympathy shone in Nurse Ko’s eyes, but she didn’t stop working. She had a strange gray boxy device in one hand, which she waved over Minhyuk.
“What is that?” Dongmin asked, itching to go stand beside Minhyuk, but the soldiers were still watching him warily.
“It’s a medical scanner,” Nurse Ko said. “It’s very advanced technology.”
“You have a lot of advanced technology,” Dongmin said. “Warships in space. Teleportation beams. How do we know you didn’t get it from the aliens?”
“We did get it from aliens,” Nurse Ko said, “but not those aliens.”
“That sounds crazy,” Bin said. “But then aliens who suck the life out of people is crazy, so.”
Nurse Ko nodded gently. “You’ve been through a lot. For how much you’ve been through, you are very healthy. Although, did you break your arm when you were seven?”
Minhyuk stared at her. “How did you know that?”
“It showed up on the scanner. Healed fracture,” Nurse Ko said.
“Taekwondo tournament,” Minhyuk said.
“When you were seven?”
“I go hard.” Minhyuk shrugged.
“Who next?” Nurse Ko asked.
Dongmin stepped up. He was given a clean bill of health, as was Bin, although Bin had fractured a few bones in his foot when he was twelve.
“Dancing, probably,” Bin said.
“Dancing?” Nurse Ko asked.
Bin said, “Before the world ended, we were idol trainees.”
Nurse Ko looked him up and down. “I can see that. You are all very handsome.”
“Marie?” Colonel Lorne asked.
She answered in flawless English. “They’re healthy. They’re clean.”
“Do they want to come with us?”
Nurse Ko looked at each of them. “Do you want to come with us?”
“Where?” Dongmin asked. “Besides your spaceship.”
“To another planet in another galaxy,” she said. “It’s where we’ve been living for the past fifteen years. It took us a few years to get back here. We didn’t realize the Wraith had made it to Earth, and by the time we found out - we had to fight them in that galaxy before we could make it back here.”
It was too much to take in. Dongmin closed his eyes. A hand closed around his wrist.
Bin said, “What do we have left here? If we all go, it’ll still be us.”
“You wouldn’t have to stay there forever,” Nurse Ko said. “But you could be safe there while we clean things up here. While we take care of the Wraith once and for all.”
“The Wraith?” Dongmin tested the word.
“The aliens who did this to Earth.”
“So you’re here to save the world? Too little, too late,” Minhyuk said.
Nurse Ko said, “As long as humans are still alive, we can save this world.”
Minhyuk pressed his lips into a thin line.
Dongmin said, “Maybe they have someone who can fix your phone, so you can see pictures of your family again.”
Bin reached out and curled his hand around Minhyuk’s. “Minhyukie?”
He closed his eyes and let out a shaky sigh. “All right. Let’s go.”
“You can pack up any of your belongings,” Nurse Ko said.
Dongmin nodded, and they headed back to their shelter to grab clothes and their phones and other things they thought they might miss. They stuffed everything they could into their big packs, and then they reassembled beside Nurse Ko.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said, and handed each of them a little plastic device.
“What’s this?” Dongmin asked.
“It’ll get you onto the spaceship,” she said.
The three of them huddled together.
“Love you,” Bin whispered, and kissed Minhyuk.
Minhyuk kissed Dongmin and squeezed his hand.
Dongmin kissed Bin, and all three of them were swallowed in a beam of light.