Length: ~24,000 words
Summary: When Chanyeol's plane crashes into the sea, he never expected to wake up in a hidden city deep in the belly of the South Pacific Ocean. This is his journey of rediscovering himself, and learning the hard way that nothing is ever as it seems. Bioshock!AU for runandgun summer 2013
Potential trigger warnings: Spoiler-y, so please read at your own discretion!
A/N: here but contains spoilers for the fic so read it when you've finished hehe
“To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated, closed in, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, evaluated, censored, commanded; all by creatures that have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue.”
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
“Oh, hello! You’re awake at last.”
Chanyeol blinks his bleary eyes, his vision swimming. The first thing he notices is that, somewhere in the distance, he can hear a gramophone crooning out a slow jazz tune, the notes familiar to his ears and making the pounding in his head more bearable. He tries to sit up, but suddenly there are two hands on his chest, pushing him back into a lying position. Chanyeol complies, groaning as he does so because goddamn, his bones feels so painful and stiff, and there are bandages around his waist.
“Calm down, don’t hurt yourself,” the voice from before laughs, and Chanyeol turns his head this way and that, attempting to find the source of the voice with his hearing because his vision hasn’t returned yet. When his eyes focus, he finds a young man sitting on the edge of the couch he’s lying in. The man’s features are almost feminine: large, expressive eyes, a cute button nose, and small lips that are quirked up to a kind smile. In fact, Chanyeol would have thought he was a woman if it weren’t for the tie and dress shirt he wears, sleeves rolled up to the elbows. Not far off, he spots a dark suit draped over a chair and a fedora sitting on the desk. The song on the gramophone ends, and after a few beats of silence, it repeats itself.
Chanyeol gingerly lifts a hand and touches his head; he feels a little better, vision not so skewed anymore, his joints moving a little smoother. “How long have I been unconscious? Is it still the year 1927? Where am I?” he asks.
Something flashes in the man’s eyes, which Chanyeol thinks looks like concern, and he’s hesitating before he answers, “It is still 1927, and you're in Olympus.”
The name is foreign to Chanyeol’s ears. Is this somewhere in Europe? The Mediterranean, perhaps? Maybe in South America?
“I -- I’m sorry, but what continent is this?” Chanyeol inquires again, attempting to sit up and this time managing to do so without feeling like he’s going to throw up.
The man looks sheepish now, scratching the back of his head as he mutters, “Somewhere in the South Pacific.”
“The Polynesian Islands!?” Chanyeol yells. The storm threw the plane that far off course?
“No, I mean the South Pacific Ocean. The ocean. We are under the sea.”
Chanyeol is silent for a while. The man is too. He’s restless, shifting in his seat nervously and his hands are twisting each other in his lap. Chanyeol must have misheard him, because there is no way he had said they are under the sea. It’s not possible.
“My name is Luhan?” he says uncertainly, trying to break the awkward silence. Chanyeol nods once, and clears his throat.
“Okay, so, Luhan? I think I misheard you, I thought you said we’re under the sea.” Chanyeol laughs, reaching up to scratch the back of his head. He forgets he has a serious wound in his side, and moving his arm only makes it worse, causing him to wince and curl in on himself.
Luhan is quick to push him back to a lying position, muttering quietly, “You didn’t mishear--” at this, Chanyeol nearly sits up again, intending to object, because how in the world-- “Maybe it’s better if you get more rest first, I’ll elaborate later.”
He then urges Chanyeol to down two pills and some water, and Chanyeol obeys easily, still too weak to fight back. The accident is still fresh on his mind, the first sparks of fire, the grinding noise of tearing metal, the screams -- and it isn’t long before he drifts back to fitful sleep.
The ocean presses heavily against his chest, saltwater flooding his lungs and stinging his eyes. He can’t breathe, he’s been holding his breath for too long. His heartbeat thunders in his ears as he fights against the waves, desperately moving his weak and tired limbs in an attempt to reach the surface, but it’s no use -- he doesn’t even know which way is to the surface. He could be swimming down instead, for all he knows.
Too bad the flight was during the night. It’s black wherever he sees; there’s no moonlight to guide him up but it’s probably also because he’s too far down.
The last of his air supply leaves his lungs in a frenzy of bubbles, and he knows he should follow them, but he’s too tired, his brain is all fuzzy from lack of oxygen and his waist is bleeding out from when the plane crashed into the sea, and a bit of metal tore through his body. His limbs go still as unconsciousness overtakes him.
The next time Chanyeol wakes, he finds himself in an unfamiliar room with an eerie pale green glow on everything. The sheets are snow white and so are the curtains; there’s a dresser on one corner and a Victorian-style chair beside it, and it’s so silent. He frowns at the expensive-looking rug on the hardwood floor, head still throbbing a little. The wound on his side feels better, though.
The door opens suddenly, startling Chanyeol and he jumps on the bed. But it’s only Luhan, looking just as surprised and taking a hasty step back when he sees that Chanyeol is awake.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were awake,” he explains, bowing his head a little in apology. Behind him, Chanyeol sees a pair of wide, curious eyes, staring at him and making him feel uncomfortable. “I can come back later if you still want to rest!”
“No, no, I’ve had enough of sleeping,” Chanyeol waves his hand dismissively, and then gestures them to come in. Luhan smiles and opens the door wider, walking into the room, and a short, timid looking man follows him, wearing a doctor’s overcoat and carrying a black bag. He looks nervous, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he stands half a step behind Luhan.
“This is Kyungsoo. He’s my doctor and he’s the one who’s been looking after you. We can trust him,” Luhan says, pushing the short man to the front with a giggle. The man stumbles a little, frowning disapprovingly at Luhan before turning to Chanyeol and bowing low.
Chanyeol nods in acknowledgement, but turns to Luhan again, confused. “Trust him? With what? And why can’t you just take me to a hospital instead of bringing a doctor here?”
Luhan and Kyungsoo are silent for a while, before they look at each other with similar worried expressions on their faces. Luhan sighs and Kyungsoo walks towards Chanyeol, quietly murmuring for Chanyeol to take off his shirt so he can take a look at his wounds and change his bandages.
“It’s... complicated,” Luhan says, sitting down on the chest at the end of the bed. Chanyeol nods at him encouragingly, absently lifting his arms so Kyungsoo can unwrap the old bandages. They stick to his skin a little from sweat and healing creams, and Chanyeol winces as Kyungsoo pats the stitching on his side to check that it’s holding.
“Olympus is... a secret. The best-kept one,” Luhan begins, fiddling with his thumbs. “It’s built at the belly of the South Pacific Ocean, just after World War I ended. No one should be able to know about this place, except those invited by The Janus himself to live here --”
“The Janus? Invited? Why would they need to be invited?” Chanyeol interrupts.
“This city is unlike any other city in the world, you see. We are free and completely independent of any country and we don’t have a government. Although The Janus and his group of political friends are our unofficial leaders, it’s only because he’s the founder of the city, and they are the people he could trust to run the city with him. All he does is make sure every public service run smoothly and hosts parties every now and then for the citizens of Olympus. It’s a very comfortable arrangement,” Luhan says, sounding proud. “Olympus is the safest place on earth, you see. Rumour has it that The Janus built the city because he himself had seen the horrors of The War, and wanted to build a place where it’s out of reach of any country so people could be safe.”
Chanyeol sits silent for a while, trying to digest the information that’s just been thrown at him. He’s not buying it, there’s no way they could be this comfortable deep at the bottom of the ocean. Everything looks perfectly normal: the clothes, the furniture, the fruits on the bowl atop the desk near the window. Surely you can’t grow fruit underwater? The only thing that Chanyeol finds strange is the eerie green glow streaming in from the window, but that’s probably just a neon sign, which is not uncommon in these times.
“You don’t believe me.”
Chanyeol looks up, about to apologize but Luhan doesn’t look offended, smiling with legs swinging back and forth.
“It’s okay, I wouldn’t believe it too, if I were you,” he says again, hopping down from the chest as Kyungsoo helps Chanyeol put his shirt back on. “But it is the truth. I shall have to take you out sometime, when you are better.”
And with that he leaves the room, waving and telling him to rest some more. Kyungsoo bows politely, and closes the door behind him with a snap.
Chanyeol recuperates quickly, much to Luhan’s delight. He dotes on Chanyeol like a younger brother, and, although reluctantly, lets him out a week later. Chanyeol is eager to be outside, because Luhan’s house is rather small and stuffy, and he wants to, most of all, go home. Although he doesn’t have anyone who will worry about him back home, he doesn’t want to burden Luhan even more.
“It’s completely fine,” Luhan had said firmly when Chanyeol tried to bring up the subject during dinner one night. At Chanyeol’s uncertain expression, Luhan had sighed and his shoulders had fallen as he gloomily poked the vegetables in his plate around. “Chanyeol, to be honest, I like having you around. I’ve always lived alone and I don’t really have any... friends. So just -- stay as long as you want.”
Even though Luhan had said so, Chanyeol still feels bad for taking benefits from something he’s not contributing to. The guilt sits like a stone in his stomach. And if, god forbid, he couldn’t go home soon, he’s going to find something to do, help Luhan out.
Chanyeol bounces with excitement as Luhan accompanies him to the door, the latter sighing heavily and gripping his arm so he doesn’t upset his stitchings too much. Chanyeol didn’t want Luhan to come with him initially, but Luhan had insisted, saying that it’ll be troublesome if Chanyeol attracts too much attention on himself and somebody finds out that he isn’t from down here.
Another reason why Chanyeol wants to go out so badly is to see for himself if this city -- Olympus -- really is submerged underwater as Luhan said. He still doesn’t believe it, can not believe it, because it’s pretty damn near impossible with the current technology the world has now.
“Just,” Luhan says in an exasperated tone. “Don’t ask questions or gape too much, people might notice, okay?”
Chanyeol nods obediently and makes a cross over his heart, making Luhan smile. Luhan opens the door, and leads him out.
Chanyeol has had glimpses of the outside from windows before, and what he sees now isn’t too different. It’s dark overhead, but it always is, because apparently the city is built inside an underwater mountain, safely hidden from the rest of the ocean. Chanyeol still finds it hard to believe though. The streets are bright, though. Neon signs and bright street lights floods the roads with an array of colours and eye-catching advertisements and billboards line the rooftops of buildings. The city looks perfectly normal, and he’s starting to think that Luhan’s been playing with him all this time.
The people who wander around the streets don’t even look twice in their direction as Chanyeol follows wherever Luhan leads him. They dress normally, too. To be honest, Chanyeol expected large, bulky diving suits, but what he sees makes him believe Luhan less and less.
“This is called the Capitolium,” Luhan explains, leading him easily around the paved walkways, while Chanyeol takes in his surroundings with large eyes. “This is where most of us live. At the top of the mountain is the Archaeian Peak. That’s where The Janus lives.”
After a while, there’s one thing Chanyeol notices the most, it’s the lack of vehicles. Everywhere they go, people seem to be going on foot; there are no cars or motorbikes, no horse-drawn carriages. Maybe the city isn’t as normal as he first thought. “Why aren’t there any vehicles?” Chanyeol whispers his question to Luhan, who laughs.
“There is very little ground when you have a city under a mountain,” Luhan says. “Especially the higher you get, the smaller the area, so everything you need is at most a thirty minutes walk away. Imagine a cake, with a couple of tiers. That’s what the city is like. If you keep walking, you’ll end up right where you started. Every level is a circle.”
Chanyeol huffs and crosses his arms. “This is confusing. Can’t you just show me the sea, then? I still don’t really believe it.”
Luhan rolls his eyes, but pulls Chanyeol along, this time with more purpose. He takes him to a building where people are getting into elevators, but the curious thing is that the elevators, these big, sturdy things with curvy brass decorations all over it, seems to be only going down, and not up. They queue in elevator number twenty-six, behind a pair of women who wear so much glitter and sparkles in their dresses it almost hurts to look. They peer back at him in a bashful act and bats their long eyelashes, and Chanyeol smiles back awkwardly.
“The elevators can’t go up?” he asks Luhan, in an attempt to look busy to evade the girls who keep throwing him flirtatious glances. Luhan shakes his head.
“The elevators can go down, but not up. The higher you live, the higher your social status.”
“I thought everyone is equal?”
Luhan shrugs. “Money talks, even in Olympus. Besides, it’s a comfortable enough arrangement for everyone.”
When it is their turn, Chanyeol immediately claims a corner, pulling Luhan with him. He winces as some people accidentally bump against his injury, but the slight pain is soon forgotten as the elevator begins to descend. He stares wide eyed at the advertisements plastered on the walls, some of the things advertised stuff Chanyeol had never seen (Gun Turrets! Keep your home safe!), while Luhan hisses at him to stay low and not look so obvious.
The elevator stops at every level, and slowly it begins to empty. Finally, only Chanyeol and Luhan are left inside, and Chanyeol wonders how far down they’ll be going. After what seemed like a long time, the elevator dinged to a stop at the lowest level, golden brass grills sliding open. They come out to a building not unlike the one they came in from, but here, there are no queues. Only a handful of people walking briskly to their own destinations, paying them no mind. Chanyeol noticed that their attires are slightly shabbier than where Luhan lives, but they still seemed to be pretty well off.
“Where are we going now?” There really is nothing to see in this part of Olympus; it’s darker and more subdued, like there’s a perpetual shadow over the area. Luhan puts a finger to his lips, telling him to stop asking questions.
They walk quietly along a high wall, being as quiet as possible. Luhan keeps glancing around, as if he’s on the lookout for something, which in turn makes Chanyeol nervous.
“This wall,” Luhan whispers, tapping his hand over the solid concrete twice. “Is where Capitolium ends. This is called Achilles’ Fort. Beyond this, there is only the sea, and going beyond it without authorised permission is prohibited.”
He then stops, listening for anything that could possibly catch them, before he pulls on an ancient looking lever, that looks like it’s going to break from all the rust at any moment.
The concrete wall suddenly gave a low groan, not too loud, but it still makes Chanyeol nervous. Luhan turns to him, grinning. “We’re going out to the sea!” he announces excitedly. A chunk of the wall slowly lifts, an area that blended so well with the rest of the block he wouldn’t know it was there upon first glance. It’s dark inside, Chanyeol couldn’t even begin to fathom what lies in there.
“But I thought it’s forbidden? And how did you even find this place?”
Luhan’s grin widens mischievously. “I found it. The lever, I mean. It was broken and dead when I found it, but I was curious about what it does, so I tinkered with it.” He sounds proud as he ushers Chanyeol into the dark room, and closes the hole with another lever on the inside. He flicks a switch and the room lights up.
Except it’s not a simple room, it’s a huge chamber, with rows upon rows of small circle submarines, just enough to hold a few people. Metal stairs lead to more of them on a second level, then to a third, a fourth, and then to a fifth. Chanyeol stands in the middle of the chamber, rotating slowly as he takes it all in with wonder, oblivious to the world until Luhan drags him to one of the vehicles and closes the thick glass door behind them.
“Wow,” Chanyeol breathes as he sits down on the plush, dark red seats. “How did you even get access to these?”
“Bathyspheres are easy to pick open and use,” Luhan shrugs, not even turning around as he operates the controls. “I use them, sometimes, when I feel suffocated living under this mountain and want to see the sky.”
The bathysphere whirs to life, control lights blinking red, yellow and green. Chanyeol grips the edge of the seat tightly, not knowing what to expect. He had been skeptical about this whole city-under-the-sea thing when they stepped out of the house, but now, he’s not so sure. The tiny submarine turns slowly around, and the glass doors are faced with darkness, before moving forward into a tunnel. The small light on the top of the bathysphere shines the way a few meters ahead, and, indeed the tunnel is filled with water, sort of glowing a greenish hue like an abyss where the sun could never reach. Chanyeol suddenly feels afraid, but Luhan seems at ease, pressing a button on the controller with a smile on his face. Music begins to flow from the speakers overhead, the same song he had heard in Luhan’s house the first time he woke up.
“Are you sure this is safe?” Chanyeol asks, frowning as he peers out of the glass. He could see barnacles growing on the tunnel walls, a starfish sticking to the concrete every once in awhile, and he gulps uneasily.
“Of course,” Luhan answers easily, feet tapping to the rhythm of the music. “This bathysphere is completely airlocked, with navigation installed so we won’t get lost. Besides, I’ve done this many times before. Trust me.”
Despite himself, Chanyeol relaxes, finding that he does indeed trust Luhan. He allows himself to hum to the music while Luhan drums his fingers and toes happily against the floor and the dashboard. After a while of travelling inside the tunnel, Luhan turns to him, eyes glinting.
There’s light at the end of tunnel. Except it’s not as bright as Chanyeol expected, and it’s also rather muted, like the source of light is blocked by miles and miles of water. So it’s true then, Chanyeol thinks, feeling a little light headed from the revelation. It’s strange, to finally accept the fact that he’s hundreds of miles under the sea, listening to nice music with a man he hardly knew in a tiny submarine. It’s a little unreal.
They burst out of the tunnel, and the sight makes Chanyeol gasp and jump up to press his nose to the glass door straight away.
They’ve come out to an open ocean, nothing around them but the green waters and the occasional fish and underwater creature swimming past. There’s not much to see, but still Chanyeol’s eyes widens and he gapes like a child on Christmas day, while Luhan watches his reactions closely, giggling. The bathysphere moves smoothly along the water, skimming a few metres off the rocky bottom of the sea. Then Luhan drags the control stick around and they turn, looking back to where they came from.
“There’s the mountain, see?” Luhan points to a dark shape in the distance, and Chanyeol could just make out the shadow of a mountain with the dark, murky water blocking his vision. “Inside it is Olympus. Pretty amazing stuff, eh?”
He laughs, but Chanyeol doesn’t join him. He’s still awestruck by it all, feeling very overwhelmed as he tries to take it all in. The submarine jolts a little as it settles on higher ground, overlooking the mountain. An octopus swims past, long, dark tentacles just a few feet from Chanyeol’s face. There’s a fish, as long as Chanyeol’s body, that swims curiously to the glass door, but turns around and flees when Luhan flashes light on it.
“Take your time,” Luhan says pleasantly, sitting down next to Chanyeol and grinning wide.
Chanyeol explores Olympus for the rest of the week, sometimes with Luhan, sometimes by himself when Luhan is at work. He finds himself slowly falling in love with the city, how harmonious everything works despite the absence of a governing body, how everyone seems so happy and content with their lives. Everywhere he goes he sees smiles, laughter drifting from every corner of the city.
There’s so much to explore in this level and the ones under it, he doesn’t even begin to want to go up. Luhan said that where he lives is somewhere in the middle, a strategic place if you’re not looking to stand out from the crowd, if you are a person content with the small things in life.
“Which is absolutely what I’m looking for,” Luhan had said with a laugh.
Slowly, thoughts of going home to the surface disappears from Chanyeol’s mind. He loves it here, loves the freedom he has, loves the faint smell of salt that lingers in the air, and most of all, he loves how it’s so easy to live like this. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world.
There’s a space on every level dedicated to agriculture and oxygen production for Olympus. Demeter’s Fields, it’s called. Bright, exotic plants that nobody would have ever thought could grow underwater are plentiful there, along with the necessary food plants as well as animals that had initially been imported from the surface, and are now carefully monitored and bred. It’s also a recreational park, where people could walk through the foliages and have picnics in the clearings. When Chanyeol isn’t exploring, he spends his time on a bench beside one of the ponds in Demeter’s Fields, reading one of Luhan’s books that are in abundance in the house.
When Chanyeol is completely healed, he starts looking for a job. If he’s not leaving Olympus, he should start contributing to daily expenses. Moving out from Luhan’s house doesn’t seem like an option at the moment; he’s practically penniless, and right now he can’t afford to be picky with jobs.
So that’s how he finds himself selling balloons for children by one of the ponds in Demeter’s Fields. It’s not much, he has to admit, but it’s fun, and very rewarding when the children’s eyes light up as he hands them a balloon in the colour of their choice. Luhan approves of this, often joining Chanyeol by the pond for lunch breaks. Chanyeol has never felt this happy and content in a long while.
As the two of them walk out of the marketplace one Sunday evening, the bright lights and lanterns overhead dancing on the the pavement and Chanyeol trying to step on them childishly, he can hear music drifting from somewhere in the distance. It sounds like a party, lots of people gathering in one place and dancing and drinking and eating.
“Looks like The Janus is hosting another one of his parties tonight,” Luhan says, as if he read Chanyeol’s mind. Chanyeol turns to him, and Luhan grins, waggling his eyebrows. “I’ll take you to one of them soon.”
“Party?” he echoes.
“Mmhm!” Luhan nods, the spring in his step following the beat of the faint music. “The Janus hosts these huge parties every few weeks or so. Lots of drinks, girls, you know. It’s really big and glamorous. You’ll love it.”
Chanyeol hums, picking at the sleeve of his jacket self-consciously. It’s a little on the shabby side, picked up from a second-hand store a couple of days ago, and it’s the best piece of clothing he has. “Sounds great. But I don’t think I’ll fit in. I don’t have anything to wear, for one.”
Luhan huffs, looking offended as he crosses his arms in front of his chest. “Why do you worry about these little things? I’ll lend you something.”
“You don’t have to --”
“I want to,” Luhan says firmly, stalling anymore arguments. “If you’re going to stay a while, you should know everything there is to know about the city.”
They go to the next party The Janus hosts, about two weeks after the one they heard on the streets. Luhan lends Chanyeol a dashing, dark green three-piece suit with a fedora, and although the legs of the pants and the sleeves of the suit are a little short, it’s not so noticeable to look strange. Before they head off, Chanyeol admires himself in the mirror in his room, turning around and around and playing with his hat, tipping it to the left, then to the right, then finally deciding to wear it straight.
Luhan is in a gray set, fussing with his cufflinks distractedly as Chanyeol locks the door. A couple flits past them, beautiful young things, the man in clothes not unlike theirs while the woman is in the standard-style flapper dress and headpiece, her outfit glittering in the low evening light. Luhan and Chanyeol follow them, albeit at a slower pace; there is no need to rush. The party will go on till morning, they have plenty of time to get there.
As they get closer to the venue, one of the large mansions owned by The Janus in this level, the music grows louder, the bass thumping and reverberating in the ground. The sweet sound of jazz saxophones lures them in, and they start seeing more people headed for the party. Men smoking cigars and women winking prettily at them, the heels of their shoes clicking along the pavement.
When they arrive the party is in full swing; there are dancers on a raised platform, a band playing live in the corner. Serving girls and boys slip easily between the party-goers, holding up trays of champagne and cocktails while a whole roasted pig takes up the middle of the long table pushed to the side. Various other delicacies line the table, turkeys and the finest cuts of meat and fish, every kind of pudding one could think of, and more brightly coloured drinks. Streamers burst overhead, long, metallic ribbons flying down just as the music picks up rhythm.
Luhan grabs two glasses of champagne and hands one to Chanyeol. Chanyeol sips delicately, letting the fizziness of the sparkling wine tickle his lips for a little before it glides down his throat; its pleasant buzz lingers in his mouth. He grins at Luhan, who grins back in return, and they toast to The Janus and The City.
“Funny how the city is built on the foundation of ‘all men are equals’, and yet, at The Peak The Janus sits, high above everyone else,” Chanyeol says, brows furrowing. Such a curious system, how the city works, not that he’s complaining. He’s merely curious.
“Ironically, most people act their best and most cooperatively when they are given freedom and are totally unrestricted,” Luhan chuckles, tracing the rim of his glass with the tip of his finger. “And you know how humans are. They naturally stratify. And the Janus was the one who gave birth to this city. It’s natural that they all look up to him. I guess one could say he is the ‘first among equals’, but a first, nonetheless.”
“Oh, so it’s They, is it?” Chanyeol raises his eyebrows, grinning amusedly. “You don’t think so? You don’t think the Janus should sit up there? What do you think, then?”
A faint smile graces Luhan’s lips, and he looks up at Chanyeol, eyes unreadable.
“The Janus has built a city in which I could live, work, and do as I please with security I wouldn’t find anywhere else. For that, I am grateful.”
Chanyeol notes the tone of finality in his voice, so he leaves it at that. They down the rest of the champagne just as a very pretty girl latches herself to Luhan’s arm, batting her eyelashes flirtatiously at him. She drags Luhan to the dance floor and he lets her, flashing an apologetic glance to Chanyeol.
Who is she? Chanyeol mouths, grinning wide. Luhan shrugs, and laughs.
He’s not in the mood for some dancing yet, so Chanyeol takes some grapes from the food table and pops it in his mouth, chewing slowly and leaning against a wall while he watches the party go on. He decides that he’s going to spend the rest of his life here, in Olympus. It’s the most wonderful place he has ever had the luck to stumble upon, and no one will miss him in the surface.
Chanyeol is eyeing a couple of flappers that are standing some way down the table, their feathered headpieces bobbing when they giggle every time they accidentally make contact with him, so he startles when he feels someone lean on the wall next to him. He nearly spills his champagne all over his nice suit, and hears quiet laughter from the person beside him.
“Careful, you don’t want to get that on your suit. The night is still long,” the stranger says, and Chanyeol turns to see a cheeky smile, and dark eyes that shine with mischief. He’s almost a whole head shorter than Chanyeol, wearing a rich burgundy suit, with a pure white rose slipped into the breast pocket. The lines of his face is handsome, but somehow feminine at the same time (probably because of the kohl and makeup), his hair neatly combed to the side. The bowtie he wears is a little wonky, and Chanyeol itches to point it out, but he holds his tongue in case the stranger is offended.
“Nice night,” the stranger comments, gesturing vaguely with his hand that’s holding a tall glass of champagne. “You enjoying yourself?”
Chanyeol nods twice eagerly. Naturally, he’s drawn to the man’s confidence that practically radiates off him and the glint in his eyes, being a person full of mischief himself. He feels he can relax around this person, and Luhan is still lost in the dance floor, so Chanyeol carries on with the conversation.
“Did you just arrive?” Chanyeol asks. The man is still composed, not a single strand of brown hair out of place, unlike some of the people who are starting to dance drunkenly to the jazz music. He spots Luhan, who has his face buried in a girl’s neck, his movements already a little uncoordinated, and shakes his head at his friend.
“Not really,” his companion shrugs, shoving his hands into his pockets. “I just don’t want to go home wasted, or wake up tomorrow morning in a stranger’s bed, naked. I think it’s stupid.”
“I see,” Chanyeol mutters. He can’t say he totally agrees with the stranger, he thinks that getting drunk every once in a while is good, and sees nothing wrong with occasional one nights stands. From the corner of his eye, he sees the stranger smile softly at him, before he pushes his back off the wall with a little grunt.
“Well, it was nice meeting you...?”
“Chanyeol,” Chanyeol supplies quickly, straightening up as well. He feels a little disappointed; he likes the man’s presence, finds it a little comforting even, and had hoped the man would stay a little longer.
“Chanyeol,” he says, nodding his head. “It was nice meeting you. I suppose I should go rescue my friends, now. No doubt they’ll be in the garden somewhere, puking their guts out.” Then, after some hesitation, “I’ll see you around.”
It’s only after the man disappears into the crowd, Chanyeol staring after his back morosely, that he realises he’s forgotten to ask for his name.
Luhan comes back to him pleasantly buzzed, hiccuping slightly. His bowtie is loose around his neck, and the first button of his shirt is undone, so are the ones in his waistcoat. The grin he throws at Chanyeol is lopsided and Chanyeol laughs, offering a plate of melons and chocolate coated strawberries that Luhan eagerly accepts.
“Why aren’t you out there, dancing?” Luhan asks, frowning disapprovingly. “Hell, did you even drink at all?”
“A little,” Chanyeol admits. “I don’t want to get smashed on my first party here. Let me just watch, for now.”
His friend is silent for a while, and then grunts quietly which Chanyeol takes as him agreeing. “Next party, then.”
They lapse to silence, watching as girls strut by and men eye them from head to toe. It’s a great night out; the atmosphere is perfect as more streamers fly down from the ceiling, and Chanyeol finds himself thinking about getting to the dance floor and grabbing the next girl he comes across.
But all thoughts of that vanishes as a shot rings out above the roar of the party, clearly heard by everyone despite the din, and a man who is standing on the stairs crumples to the floor with a pained scream and a bloody shoulder. There is a collective silence in which the musicians stops playing, and those who are dancing freezes mid-move. And then someone screams, and the place flies into chaos.
Another couple of shots are fired, but luckily this time they don’t hit anybody. The bullets ricochet off the walls but some of them hit stone statues and vases and they crumble, dusty debris flying. One well-aimed bullet hits the chains that hold up the chandelier in the middle of the dance floor, and everyone watches as it seems to fall in slow motion, before shattering into a million shards of glass on the marble floor.
Chanyeol is pressed against the wall, frightened, but mostly confused by the sudden attack. He couldn’t see who or what are shooting the place down, too many people are running for their lives. He feels a hand grip his wrist and startles, turning to see Luhan’s sober and focused eyes, and sees the fear he feels mirrored there. Luhan presses down on his shoulder blades, telling him to stay low as he urges him to the exit, before they sprint out to the streets.
Too curious for his own good, Chanyeol glances back to see what has become of the party. As he runs, he only manages to catch sight of a Jeep (where the hell did that even come from? There are no cars in Olympus, as far as he knows) that had crashed a hole through one of the walls in the mansion. Masked men firing rifles jump down from the large vehicle, and people are running away as far as they can, but one man exits the party coolly and walks to the Jeep with leisurely steps, seemingly unafraid. No one else notices him in the chaos, but Chanyeol sees the man he had been talking to before climb to the passenger seat of the Jeep, and meet Chanyeol’s eyes, as if he knew prior exactly where Chanyeol's standing. His gaze is steely, cold, even, so very different from earlier, and Chanyeol stumbles in his shock, before the man closes the door.
Chanyeol goes to work with a head full of questions the following morning. When they got home from the party, hair messed up and dress shirts sticking to their skin from sweat, he asked Luhan who those people who attacked the party were, and what they wanted. Luhan had waved his question away as he caught his breath, only muttering a vague, “One of those delinquent teenager gangs. You know, every society has them, we’re not that different.”
But none of those men holding guns seemed like teenagers to Chanyeol. They were well armed, and very tactful from what he saw. It’s probably just a one-time thing, he assures himself. Turns out Olympus isn’t as utopian as he first thought, but then again, nothing is perfect.
He still can’t shake off his bad feeling, though. The children who buy his balloons today notices his inner turmoil too. A little girl in a yellow dress and a matching bow on her red hair even asked him why he looked like he was being chased by a monster. He simply smiled and let her play with his ivy cap, laughing as it drops to cover half her face, before sending her off to her waiting parents with her balloon.
Luhan visits him for lunch, bringing two boxed sandwiches from the cafeteria of his office with him. He still looks tense, and Chanyeol could tell it’s from last night’s events. Chanyeol doesn’t want to make him feel any more uncomfortable than he already is, so he keeps his mouth shut even though he really wants to ask more about it.
But surprisingly, it’s Luhan who brings up the topic later. Chanyeol is still finishing the last of his sandwich while Luhan plays with his wrapper, twisting the plastic and cardboard between his fingers nervously.
“I really hope what happened last night didn’t scare you out of the city.”
Chanyeol stops mid-chew, and looks at Luhan. He has his face turned away from Chanyeol, and though the tone of his voice is casual, Chanyeol could tell that it’s a mask for Luhan’s anxiousness. He swallows all the food in his mouth first before answering.
“Don’t worry!” he says, attempting to brighten the situation. “I’ve fallen in love with this city. I’m never leaving it!”
Luhan looks taken aback, but then his face smooths to a pleasantly surprised kind of expression. His smile is rather uncertain, and a bit shaky, so Chanyeol grins wide to make up for it.
“Thanks,” he says, sincerely. He looks better, some of the tension has left his shoulders. “You’re a great friend, you know? I’ve never had a friend like you, here, or on the surface.”
Chanyeol flushes from the compliment, but he, too, is glad he’s found Olympus, and Luhan.
They chat for a little longer after they finished their lunches, until Luhan has to go back to his work. He waves goodbye and leaves Chanyeol feeling better about his hunch, the weight in his chest not so heavy anymore.
The rest of the day goes by quickly, and before he knows it it’s almost closing time. Chanyeol is packing up his things when he hears whispering behind one of the bushes; it sounds like it’s a couple of people, not just two. He frowns as he continues tidying up his stuff, while the people (probably teenagers, with too much time on their hands) behind the bushes continues to whisper. The overhead speaker begins announcing that Demeter’s Fields is about to close.
Finally, annoyed, Chanyeol stomps to the bushes, about to tell these kids off and to send them on their way home, but he stops when he gets close enough to hear what they are whispering about.
“...beyond The Fort?” A scared voice.
“That’s right.” A different voice, more certain, more pumped. Neither of them sound like kids, and Chanyeol’s curiosity gets the better of him. He inches closer, carefully avoiding stepping on the sticks on the ground that might notify these people of his presence. “There are people living beyond Achilles’ Fort, y’know? Not in the surface, or at sea, but just outside The Fort. It sucks living there, y’know? You guys in Capitolium have it easy, you got theaters and parties, food, clean water... hell, some of the people down there don’t even have toilets!”
What? Chanyeol thinks, shocked. Luhan never said that there are people living beyond The Fort. When they went on the bathysphere they went straight out to sea, or are the tunnels under those places?
“Really?” the first voice says, no trace of fear anymore, but shock, just like what Chanyeol is feeling.
“Yup. Don’t you think it’s unfair? The people who live down there are the slaves who did all the hard work of building this city. When the founders had no more use of them, they left them outside The Fort to fend for themselves.” The voice sounds angry now, and Chanyeol hears someone spitting on the ground. “Makes me sick, The Janus and The Archaia. He don’t give two shits about the rest of us, only those with money.”
There’s silence for a while. Chanyeol feels his heart beat faster inside his chest. Is it true, what these people are saying? That beneath all the glamour of the Capitolium, people are suffering? He’ll have to ask Luhan later when he gets home, but now he needs to know more, so he stays put, crouched low.
“What do you want?” the first voice asks again, and to Chanyeol’s surprise, it sounds determined. He believes them, Chanyeol concludes.
A different voice speaks up, softer than the others. With a jolt, Chanyeol recognises it.
“Join us, help our cause. You heard what we did at The Janus’ party last night, right?” It’s the voice of the man Chanyeol spoke to at the party, the man who had climbed into the Jeep of the attackers and looked Chanyeol in the eye. His palms are beginning to sweat.
“I heard. And you guys took all the valuables you could find. Did you give them to the people living out there?”
“We did. But that wasn’t our main reason for crashing the party. We want to show everyone that we exist, and that we’re strong. We’re doing this for the good of the city.” There’s a quiet ‘wow’, and Chanyeol couldn’t agree more. “So are you coming with us?”
Chanyeol had been listening so intently he hadn’t realised that someone had stood up and walked around the bush. All he gets as a warning is a quiet ’Shit,’ before his arms are twisted behind his back and a hand claps over his mouth. Chanyeol struggles, attempting to cry out, but it’s impossible. The scuffle brings the other two people out from behind the bush, and Chanyeol was right. It was the man from the party, expression surprised, and a nicely dressed young man who’s wearing a terrified expression.
He’s surprised that the man still remembers his name. He’s not dressed up like yesterday, only wearing a dress shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbows, the slacks he wears more casual and his face is clear of any makeup, Chanyeol realises. The man holding Chanyeol pulls on his arms tighter, making him cry out in pain.
“Don’t hurt him, Jongin,” the man says sharply, and the hands holding him loosens a little. Then he turns to the boy, still looking scared out of his pants. “Go on, go home. And remember not to tell anyone. We’ll come find you soon.”
As soon the kid scampers away, the stranger frowns and bites his lip, seemingly thinking about what to do with him. Chanyeol’s heart thuds fitfully in his chest; what are they going to do to him? Kill him? The thought alone is enough to make his knees shake a little; he doesn’t want to die yet.
“Baekhyun, he’s heard too much,” the one holding him, Jongin, said.
“Shush, Jongin, I’m trying to think.”
“What is there to think about!? He could ruin all our plans! We have to get rid of him.”
Chanyeol gasps, as much as the hand over his mouth allows him. This is it then? This is where he’s going to die? He tries to meet Baekhyun’s eyes, plead wordlessly to spare his life, and promise that he wouldn’t utter a single word. Baekhyun stares back at him, looking conflicted, before the line of his lips tightened and he looks up at Jongin.
“Killing him will raise too much suspicion. Knock him out; we’re taking him back.”
And then a hard, heavy thing hits the back of Chanyeol’s head, and his vision fades to black.