Pairing: kris/luhan, sehun/luhan
Word count: ~5500
Summary: For Lu Han's entire life, he's known the restriction of the word limit. But when his best friend and rebel, Kris, takes things a step too far, just as an intriguing foreigner named Sehun enters Lu Han's life, he must make a terrible choice.
A/N: IS THIS A ONESHOT I SEE?? i was so worried it would end up overly long, as usual, but i think i did all right :'D
this is silent!au, and my first piece of exo fic on my comm! the first exo fic ive ever started is coming a bit slowly (i must admit infinite comes to me much more easily) but hopefully that au will not disappoint either ;; pls enjoy ♥? also, i am so crap at writing summaries srsly :c
now that summer vacation is here, expect more fic! esp updates for social classes au ^______^;;
somewhat inspired by this fic [✩]! except my idea ran away from me as usual, and snowballed into this :|
93 words left.
Lu Han turns the digital face of his wristband away with a sigh; judging by the dimming light of the sky filtering through the austere windows, he’ll last for the rest of the day without any problem. Today’s recording is at its end, buzzing with static, and the chores are complete. The general atmosphere of the room is tired but not unhappy, a group going through a daily routine they’ve stopped thinking about.
By his side, however, is a different story. Kris is angry. A glance in his direction easily pinpoints the cause, seeing as Lu Han's eyes are always inevitably drawn to the red 0 on his word count--0 words left and too many things to say until midnight, when the counter resets itself back to 150 again.
He wastes his words--sometimes with curses, sometimes with instinctive exclamations. Ever since he was a child, his excessive babbling earned him the jet black tally on the inside of his wrist, the one not wearing the counter. What used to streak across more than half of a pudgy arm is now a tapering, vertical dash over faint veins, centered perfectly. Kris always touches it absent-mindedly, tracing the raised ink, and Lu Han thinks maybe there’s more to him than the government thinks.
His mouth pressed into a line of distaste, Kris inserts his banded wrist into the sensor, turning it so the tiny barcode is scanned, and the screen of the machine flashes green at him. Everyone is required to go through this process every day of the year to log how many words they have left, right before night curfew. Apparently, the numbers go into records in order for the government to properly monitor people and watch for danger; low numbers are signals for brewing rebellions, high numbers mean the country is in order. No one is exempt from this government check.
They make this trip together every night, and Lu Han sits at his usual spot in the back of the room to wait for Kris to pass through the scanners, holding his audio player in his lap. He does not need to raise his eyes. Propaganda is plastered across the wall behind him, proclaiming phrases such as “LESS IS MORE” and “SILENCE IS GOLDEN” that always make Kris laugh bitterly. Despite their closeness, their positions on the Great Silence, as the lessons are calling it, are completely different--a result of their upbringings. But no matter what they think, they all follow the same rules, listen to the same lessons, go through the same word count checks; this life is all they’ve ever known.
Kris sits down and bumps his shoulder into Lu Han's, and Lu Han looks at him questioningly in place of asking, “Yes?” A few moments pass as Kris struggles to communicate, opening his mouth and closing it repeatedly until finally slumping back in his seat.
“You can tell me tomorrow,” he reminds Kris gently. The spending of Lu Han's own precious quota is worth it when Kris subsides into silence and reaches for his notebook; the black cover is familiar, seeing as everyone in their country carries them around for when they run out of words. “OK,” Kris replies. His handwriting is dark, the pen pressing hard into the paper, and jagged with frustration.
Lu Han smiles at him, and checks his wrist again. 88 words left.
It’s been such a long time since the rule has been implemented, several generations born and aging, that the reason why has been skewed by rumors with only a few constants: the government, obviously, and more discreetly, the mutes. The government policy declaring the Great Silence was logged in textbooks and, later, in the audio lessons, because of its rarity as a policy imposed for the minority rather than the majority. Some say the President fell in love with a mute that caused him to change so many lives, while others hand all the credit to the fabled mutes’ uprising--apparently, a wordless rebellion is more frightening than anyone thought possible. And of course, some people claim it's the government’s attempt to restore good in the world, with all the crime and felony and darkness, to encourage people to listen rather than speak. Whether it worked is a matter of opinion, but every good thing comes with its downsides. Seeing as it has lasted for so long, without major conflict or death, makes it a success in some people’s eyes.
All of this, Lu Han knows from his lessons. No one has the words to waste on talking about matters like these when their lives require those precious 150 words. Children are educated by the abused, crackling recordings made by people who dedicated years of their life to making these lessons--150 words, 365 days, 54750 words a year: only then can one make something worth keeping. He has never known the freedom of speech before the government decided on these regulations, and despite listening to all the recordings countless times, a lack of practice has made him afraid to speak.
Kris grew up with wistful stories of better days, scrawled across paper and read so many times the pages crinkle from being flipped so many times. His family is one of the riskier ones, proud of their warning tallies and longing to overthrow this system. Unsurprisingly, Kris's fiery and rebellious personality lines up well to this perspective reminiscent of the past, while Lu Han is the modern, meek civilian, almost cowering away at the idea of speaking. When he tells Lu Han about his dream, a world when anyone can speak their mind without worrying about numbers, a world where prolixity isn’t a death sentence, he listens (or reads) quietly but doesn’t comment. The idea of a real teacher, of lawyers and debaters and music with words, all of the things he promises is captivating, but he doubts that silence will be such an easy habit to break. Often, he has more than enough words left at the end of the day, all gone to waste. If he could, though, he’d save them up and give them to Kris.
But it doesn’t work that way. Words not used at all are words never given back, and that rule goes for everyone. Within the government, apparently, favored officials get bumped up to 200 and other oral privileges that have Kris fuming at its injustice, but Lu Han is more uncertain.
Wednesday evening is shopping evening, and Lu Han’s mother takes him along when she goes to purchase groceries and other essentials. She greets acquaintances with a smile and perhaps a wave if she has a free hand to, and inclines her head courteously to the cashier after making her purchases without changing the 46 of her word count at all. Lu Han is impressed at her efficiency.
His father is equally reticent. He nods to his mother's greeting of a light touch to his shoulder and returns his attention to the newspaper, full of printed words marching along in neat lines. Lu Han often wonders how they would sound if read aloud, as well as the storybooks lined up along the bookshelf in his bedroom. There used to be news on the television, he knows, but people stopped reading off the screen because of its fluorescent glare and decided to go back to paper in yet another way. There are computers, but after the government took them back from civilian homes for official uses and for the general public’s protection, it’s impossible to get one of those devices. Telephones are practically useless now.
The burden of the word count means there’s no new music, no television shows, no entertainment. On the TV, the only things airing are scrolling texts that have been carefully screened by the government. Kris's family doesn’t trust the government, so naturally they only have books upon books from other times in their home.
Disappearing into another world, whether one with magic and supernatural creatures or the everyday struggles of a teenager long before, is something Lu Han has fallen in love with. Dialogue flows freely in books, easily passing 150 words but equally precious. Every book he has has been read devoutly multiple times, as well as any audio book recordings he can get his hands on. On his most recent birthday, Kris gave him a recording of poetry his mother had managed to hold on to through the years; he knows exactly what Lu Han likes, and vice versa. They know each other like the back of each others’ hands, a result of growing up together--the government’s system of assigning a family number and a citizen member, all the better to track population, has logged their families side by side, and the system is used everywhere.
The next time they go to the word count scanners, Kris is stopped, red screen flashing over and over again; he tells Lu Han later that it’s only a technical difficulty, but Lu Han used the same machine right before him and he passed without problems. His malfunctioning wristband causes a delay that upsets some people, but Lu Han sits down and prepares himself for a wait.
The sound of a spoken greeting rather than a wave or a touch startles him, and he looks up into the face of an unfamiliar boy. Lu Han glances down at his wrist--64--and decides to reply in kind. It’s courtesy, to make the same sacrifice of words when someone else has done so for conversation. “H-Hello.”
The boy looks in the same direction, watching the 64 flicker into a 63. “I just got mine put on today,” he explains, holding out his own: 136. Words slide comfortably from his mouth, and the way speaking is so natural for him makes Lu Han sad. He’ll hate the system.
“Are you new here?” Lu Han asks curiously.
The boy nods. “I’m Sehun. Just moved here for my dad’s job, but he failed to mention what a crazy place this is. What’s with these things?” Sehun frowns at his wristband, but Lu Han has a feeling he’ll be glowering and trying to find ways to break it and get it off by the end of the week. The new ones are always like that, and the government always squashes them out and replaces the wristbands by the next day.
112 words left for Sehun, 59 for Lu Han. Lu Han's eyes make the familiar trip from Sehun's face to the faces of the wristbands, first his own then Sehun's shiner, newer one, then back up to those neat features. “What’s it like not to have a word count?” he blurts. He probably could’ve worded that better, but the lure of a real insight is too much. He’s not even worrying about his accent, born not from ethnicity but from lack of speaking and hearing words in general.
“Oh, it’s great,” Sehun says with a grin. He talks easily until Lu Han reluctantly puts his hand on Sehun's, pointing at the 28 remaining words. Sehun falls silent, but reluctantly. It’s easy to see how hard this is for him.
Just then, Kris walks up, finally freed from the machine overseers; Lu Han withdraws his hand from Sehun's hastily, and Sehun glances at him in confusion. “Who is this?” Kris demands, and the 5 on his wristband dwindles down to a 2.
As is his habit, Lu Han holds up 2 fingers to remind him, which Kris acknowledges with a scowl. “This is Sehun,” he introduces, trying to use as few words as possible. “He’s new here.”
Kris stares him down, and Sehun matches his gaze without fear, the tension making Lu Han shift uncomfortably in his seat. Eventually, Sehun breaks it with a friendly smile. “Nice to meet you.”
“Same,” Kris says coldly, and Lu Han tugs him away with a quick farewell to Sehun, knowing that Kris will take his frustration at being held up for so long out on the other boy. Kris hovers in the brink of speech all the way home, written words not enough to express himself properly but unwilling to use his one last word of the day rashly. They pick grains of sand from the ground in this life, and it’s too effortless to drop one.
The train station is almost completely empty when the train they’re on smoothly slides to a stop, the automatic doors opening with a hiss. Lu Han braces his hand on the rail as he gets off, not for stability but to feel the seamless, white bar under his fingertips. Kris storms down the steps without bothering, walking a bit in front of him, but he still accompanies Lu Han home.
When Lu Han unlatches the gate before his house, Kris waits there, gazing at him intently. Usually, Kris wears his heart on his sleeve, emotions visible in his eyes, but now he’s unreadable. “G’night,” he says softly, and the word count ticks to 0.
By the third time they see each other, Sehun has mastered the trick of getting to the scanners before Lu Han does, punctually sitting in the seat beside his usual one with that expectant smile. Through that week, Kris's wristband doesn’t work every night but one, trapping him at the machines and leaving Lu Han free to talk with Sehun. Lu Han goes almost all day without speaking to save all 150 of his words, showing Sehun the 143 or sometimes even 147 proudly in reward for an eye-crinkling grin. Sehun still is not as good at it, usually something around 94 and maybe 125 if he’s worked especially hard, but either way it’s enough to keep a proper conversation going for a while as long as they’re careful.
Sehun tells Lu Han about the world outside this country, and he can put it the landscapes and phenomena into words in a way that amazes him. When Lu Han tells him he’s like a storybook come to life, he laughs out loud, and Lu Han is so terribly glad that laughing doesn’t count as words because he doubts it’d be possible for him to keep from passing 150 every day if that were the case. Sehun coaxes him into speaking more too, correcting his mispronunciations gently and repeating words until Lu Han is sure of how they sound, and persuades him to tell Sehun all of his favorite stories and dreams.
It’s confusing for Lu Han when they have to stop, because it means Kris is done and there’s the usual happiness of being by Kris's side, but now it’s blurred by bitterness, being forced to leave Sehun and his words. It doesn’t help that Kris is always angry now, almost pointlessly so, and Lu Han can't be sure if it’s the scanners or him always being with Sehun that has Kris so short-tempered lately, or maybe it’s something else he hasn’t spoken about yet. He is fire, ready to blaze up at any provocation yet warming Lu Han with comfort, and Sehun is water, calming and sweet and soothing, with that sincere smile and constant friendliness. They can’t coexist nor can he survive without either of them.
Lu Han is curled up in blankets, reading Treasure Island when Kris comes thundering up the stairs and barreling through the door. Lu Han looks up, startled, afraid to see Kris's face contorted with rage but finding him overjoyed instead. He is radiant, the glare of sunlight bouncing off metal and blinding Lu Han's eyes.
“We’ve almost done it!” Kris exclaims, brandishing his arm at him. “We’re almost there!”
Lu Han looks for his word count automatically at this careless waste of words, and stares to see the 138 rather than the 38 he was expecting. “What happened?” he asks urgently. It’s impossible to tamper with the wristbands. The government has improved and updated them so many times, constantly checking for hacks and flaws with such attention that there’s no way it could be changed so anyone could slip under the radar and speak freely.
“Dad reset it, he figured out how to do it whenever he wanted,” Kris tells him breathlessly. “He’s going to try and find a way to get rid of it completely next, and we can only reset it once a day, but for now, it’s enough. 300 words, Lu Han! Three hundred!”
300 words could mean more stories, more talking to Sehun, and Lu Han is sorely tempted to ask Kris's father to reset his own wristband right then and there before they go to the scanners. But he resists, instead asking, “Scanners?”
Kris understands the one-word question, though scoffs at having to be so cautious with his words when he himself has so many more at his command. “Yeah, that’s why they kept freaking out lately. Dad’s tampering was picked up on the scanners but they couldn’t find exactly what was wrong, so they just let me go. He and Mom have been having issues too, but it doesn’t matter.”
“You’ll get in trouble!” Lu Han gasps.
“The risk is nothing,” Kris says recklessly, and Lu Han has never seen him like this, almost free and dangerous. His mind makes the comparison of an angel of destruction and then rejects it at once, the fairytale analogy out of place in this reality. Perhaps he suspected before, but he never really believed Kris's father was a rebel. To imagine them actually attempting to alter the wristbands and succeeding to an extent, Lu Han has to admit, is frightening. That Kris is completely devoid of fear scares him even more.
In the end, Lu Han goes to scanning with the 106 words he managed to save--it would’ve been 113 if it weren’t for Kris's announcement--and Sehun reacts with surprise when his 121 is more than Lu Han's. Sehun's wide-eyed amazement and pride makes him give a much-needed laugh.
Kris's wristband causes trouble again, and this time he’s dragged off for questioning. On the way out, between two burly, sullen-faced security guards, he gives Lu Han a wink that makes him feel sick to his stomach. Watching him go is a distraction Sehun does not miss. “Who is he to you?” he asks softly.
Lu Han gives him a startled look. “Kris is...” He curses himself when the sentence dies in his throat, wasting two words, but he honestly can’t describe their relationship. Kris has been there all his life, his partner and best friend and family. They aren’t blood related siblings, but he’s always pictured his life intertwined with Kris's. “He’s...”
When it’s obvious he can’t answer the question, Sehun gives him a sad smile and changes the subject.
Sehun wants to escape the country.
He dreams of finding a way out, of getting the wristband unfastened and being able to speak freely. The country he came from had no such thing, and the influence of that is evident in every word he says. He is full of opinions on everything, full of descriptions that paints vivid images into Lu Han's mind’s eye. He tells Lu Han of blocks of ice big enough to fill a valley, of mountains coming to life and spewing liquid fire, of shivering hazes of light in the night sky: things that shouldn’t be possible but, with the colorful words he uses, Lu Han can see. And he isn’t the only one who can do that in his world, and there are those who are more eloquent, but Lu Han doubts it’s even possible.
His father’s job may be going well, but his family is finding it difficult to adjust to a limitation when being talkative is in their blood. It’s impossible for them to leave, but Sehun alone can get out. And, as he tells Lu Han, maybe Sehun and Lu Han alone can get out. Lu Han doesn’t need words to show how tempting that is. All his life, he’s cemented into his mind the idea of being born in this country is as good as jailed, because the government tightly screens who goes in and comes out, and makes sure everyone comes back. They don’t need outside influences and they don’t need people thinking that can leave any time they want to. Everyone who wants to come in, like Sehun's family, undergoes a painstaking process to enter.
Kris wants to escape the country.
Instead, he’s happy where he is. All he wants is to overthrow the government, to reverse all these policies for everyone to live the life he wants, which is no easy task. He’s deeper into the rebel movement than Lu Han likes it; children are less suspected, their data more open for flaws, and the rebels seize the advantage. Kris is evidently exhilarated to help, in the way he waxes about their progress to Lu Han every day about blueprints and mechanics and technicalities Lu Han knows he doesn’t want to hear. The pent up energy inside of him is directed into his mission, an explosive ready for its destructive duty.
Everything will be perfect once they get rid of the word count, he promises Lu Han. There’s nothing overlooked or forgotten, especially not something as important as a recovery stage, as all rebellions require. The country has been watching their word count for much too long, changing technology and education and economics to adjust to a shortage of words, closing itself off fron the rest of the world almost completely. Bringing back jobs that have been replaced with quiet alternatives to people who aren’t familiar with so much speaking, people who might not necessarily want this change like the rebels do, might end up being the best for the country, or absolutely disastrous. Lu Han can’t say he likes being choked, but extremes either way are counterproductive and even harmful. But every time Lu Han tries to bring up his worries, they brush him off.
It takes a while to notice it, for some reason. Maybe because he’s always looking at the other wrist, maybe because the smooth, thick bandage is pale enough to blend with his skin. He didn’t realize it at the time, but the white bandages should have been enough to set all warning bells off.
Kris removes the bandages one week after disappearing from scanning. Neat and straight, identical to his childhood one, is another warning tally.
“They thought I was getting out of control,” he tells Lu Han dispassionately. “Got suspicious of the machines. When nothing came out in questioning, they gave me this.” He rolls his eyes.
Swallowing worries he knows Kris will ignore, Lu Han reaches out to take Kris's hand in his own. The raised lines glare at him, black and foreboding, and he can’t help but read them as an 11 when his mind has numbers drilled into every cell. The first was in the precise center, but the second is to the left of it, about a centimeter apart. But otherwise, they are exactly the same.
“Do you know why they put them here?”
Lu Han looks up into Kris's face, which is closed off to him again. He shakes his head slowly, and his lack of an oral response seems to anger Kris.
“It hurts the most here,” Kris says flatly, looking down at the tattoos. “Right over the bone, you see? To remind everyone they’ll never win, right over the veins. But we’ll show them--I’ll show them.”
The word count on his other wrist drops to a 36. He’s already reset it today, when he hit 1 for the first time; a counter down to 0 is a counter unable to change, adding yet another thing to the list of matters the rebels didn’t understand. They don’t know why the wristbands won’t reset after the second 150, either. Lu Han doubts the government would be so sloppy.
But he doesn’t say a word.
“What kind of punishments do they have here, anyways?” Sehun asks Lu Han one night.
Lu Han stares at him, shocked. “What?”
“I’m serious. What happens when you run out of words and keep talking anyways?” he asks. Lu Han can tell he won’t stop asking until he tells him.
“They cut down your words, to 100,” Lu Han says slowly, trying to remember. His eyes look down at his own 94 left of the day. “The wristbands can't count to the negatives, you see. And then they...they cut your tongue out.”
Sehun's face is pale. “They want to keep people gagged so badly?”
Lu Han shrugs. “I guess they make laws to be obeyed. In the beginning, apparently, some people went insane or killed themselves rather than to stop talking. But it’s been a long time and people forget what they used to have.” 54 words left. He’ll have to be more careful not to use words wastefully.
“I suppose it’d be hard to cause fights and such without words,” Sehun muses, but he’s frowning.
They sit quietly, Lu Han averting Sehun's eyes and fiddling with his wristband. The metal is cold and unfamiliar, even after wearing it all his life. It’s perfectly smooth, no screws or panels or anything to detach from the band or face; with such a secure design, it seems impossible the rebels could even touch the inside mechanisms. He stops when Sehun's fingers, cold in a different way, cover his own. Sehun touches him with an ease that amazes him, his hands a soothing contrast. “But you wouldn’t mind a world without a word count, right?”
His other hand touches Lu Han's chin to make Lu Han's wide eyes meet his. “Right?” Sehun repeats.
“No,” Lu Han whispers. “I wouldn’t.”
The government calls a country-wide assembly. The last time this happened, it was to announce the speaking regulations. Gossip flies unchecked, and the government is evidently lifting, tightening, and renovating the word count policies all at once.
Each division of the country will attend its own assembly, in the capital. When Lu Han and his parents line up and file through the City Hall’s front doors, grand and imposing to match the polished marble building, he can’t help but look up in awe. It took an hour on a tedious and crowded train to get here, despite the early hour everyone struggled to wake up at to avoid the rush. It’s his first trip to the capital and he feels seven instead of seventeen, surrounded by looming buildings and countless strangers. Several of them bump into him on the way to a main room, on their way to taking their designated seats like Lu Han and his family. The seats next to them, three of them marked with the names of Kris and his family along with their number codes, are empty. His mother glances at them with surprise, but Lu Han feels sick to his stomach, staring forward fixedly. He is pleasantly distracted when Sehun, sitting several rows in front of him in the front section, turns around to wave at him.
Everyone falls silent when the current President steps up to the podium. He is the great-great-grandson of the President who decided on the word count, and he dutifully upholds the regulations that no one knows whether he supports or not. The government council certainly does, so some believe he’s just a puppet. He has a very expressionless face and his stomach strains his suit buttons, but his voice is surprisingly soft for a man of his size.
Soft or not, it is clear he has rehearsed for this shockingly eloquent speech. It’s a greeting, a formality, and a warning, all in one. Lu Han glances at his mother again, who is listening raptly as her fingers worry the hem of her sweater. However, the President is only a few minutes into his speech when the alarms, monstrous fixtures on the walls of every building in the country, go off with a shriek. Everyone jumps in their seats, even the President, who drops the microphone to the ground from his spot on the podium. The thud of the microphone hitting the ground is the only thing the entire room hears, matching a collective, startled heartbeat, before the guards start pouring in.
The carefully constructed order of the room crumbles, as everyone realizes something is terribly wrong. Suddenly, the mob is moving, swarming toward the doors despite the guards’ efforts to keep them in, and Lu Han is separated from his parents in the mess of frantic people. He pushes through the crowd, lost but knowing staying still isn’t an option, and catches snatches of screams here and there.
...it’s all the President...
Part of the plan...
...is everyone is armed...
Where do we go?...
Lu Han cries out when a hand latches onto his wrist, trying to jerk free and imagining the grip of a guard failing to restore order or the grasp of a rebel infiltrating and causing havoc. Instead, he looks into the frantic face of Sehun. “There you are,” Sehun chokes out.
“Sehun, what’s going on?” Lu Han begs, letting Sehun tug him forward, insisting he move quickly. His broad shoulders push through the panicking crowd much more easily than Lu Han's small build.
“Apparently, a bunch of rebels skipped out on the meeting,” Sehun says, panting. “They attacked from outside, but the guard can’t handle them because they split up--some of them are at a civilian house. I heard the house was the home of a rebel family. The guard went to stop whatever they were planning.
“Oh, no,” Lu Han whispers, his stomach rolling with nausea. It’s Kris. It has to be Kris.
“So,” continues Sehun with an uncharacteristic amount of determination in his voice, “I figured, with all the mess right now, this is the perfect time to go.”
Lu Han stops. “Go!?” His incredulous tone is too strong; he knows Sehun has been planning for this for a long time. He’s heard him go over the procedure several times, with the passage his friend will leak them out through, the future they will find outside this country. But Lu Han has always figured he’d have time to prepare and warn the people he’d be leaving. To never be able to see his parents again... This is the worst way to separate.
“Keep moving!” Sehun says urgently, pulling Lu Han forward again, but he lags back, tripping over his feet. Anything to stall. Anything to buy more time.
Kris is in danger--it doesn’t matter whether this danger was self-imposed or not, but the compelling need to find him makes Lu Han's feet drag with uncertainty. Angry and frustrated or not, Kris is still his Kris, the boy who has been with him longer than he can remember. Leaving with Sehun has always seemed like a good idea, in a warm building and the calmness he always brings all around Lu Han, but now that it’s time, Kris is the only thing he can think of, the sense of panic growing rapidly. The government won’t stop with just his tongue for this.
But Sehun is here, Sehun with his hand in Lu Han's and his eyes so pleading on Lu Han's own. Sehun, of the beautiful images and beautiful voice, promising him a beautiful future. The world he used to have and he is so sure he will have again is a world he wants to share with Lu Han, and he’d be lying if he said he didn’t want it, with Sehun. Lu Han's eyes take the worn trip down to his banded wrist, trying to imagine the skin exposed to sunlight, his vocal cords free. He can read stories out loud, sing, and talk to Sehun for as long as he wants if he leaves with him now.
And he can do the same if Kris manages to succeed at this hopeless mission. If he fails, he’ll need Lu Han to be by his side, if he’s even alive. And Sehun wants him at his side if he gets out alive.
If Kris is alive.
If Sehun is alive.
“Lu Han, please,” Sehun murmurs, and his voice carries even amid the cacophony of sound. “Please come with me.”
He could tear his hand out of Sehun's grip and run out the doors to try and find Kris. Or he could hold Sehun’s hand tightly and follow him out of this mess, out of this country. Out of these chains that Kris has spent all his life trying to break. He could.
But Lu Han has never been brave.
“Lu Han?” Sehun asks. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” Lu Han stands and goes to him, knowing Sehun will worry if he doesn’t speak, pressing a gentle kiss to the corner of Sehun's mouth. Now that the word count wristband has been gone, as it has for the past thirteen years, Sehun hovers when Lu Han is overly quiet. But being talkative doesn’t come easily to him after so many years of silence.
Lu Han knows he causes Sehun worry in too many ways; everything is something to be fretted over: his smile, his careful words, even his smallest expressions. But a habit of silence is hard to break, as well as the one of looking down at his wrist every time he speaks. Lu Han hates wearing watches now because the pressure reminds him of the past.
Lu Han keeps a drawer in the study, full of newspaper clippings and website printouts (though even now, he dislikes being too dependent on the computer). Sehun doubts Lu Han knows that he knows about it, but he's seen everything in it. Every time the Silent country, as everyone outside calls it, makes it into the newspaper--headline or irrelevant column--Lu Han cuts it out and hides it away. The ones about the now exterminated Dragon Rebels are on the very top, as well as a list of their deceased. If he squints, he can see the dried impression of an imperfect circle of water beside the name Kris Wu.