TITLE: random-chance selection
WARNINGS: brief angst, unhappy ending, porn that doesn’t feature layhan
SUMMARY: A/B/O dystopia!au: Lovecraft 708-53 has no chance for love.
FINAL NOTES: title from the Muse track ‘Unnatural Selection’. cut from another Muse song, ‘Undisclosed Desires’.
|Under a grey sky, fifteen units flicker awake.
Correction: under a moderately temperate sky, today’s temperature at an unobjectionable sixty-one degrees, fifteen housing units receive waking triggers. Lights switch on automatically as any given fifteen people resist the pull of wakefulness. Food replicators boil water seconds after the lights.
Some people among the fifteen are probably successful at ignoring the house—until the window blinds turn translucent. At seven o’clock, in two-minute intervals, every fifteen houses in a neighborhood come alive.
In the year AF195, life is as regular as clockwork.
Beta-type 53 has a hard time getting out of bed. He groans when sunlight pours into his house, grabbing at the covers and yanking them over his head to block out the brightness. Grumbling, he throws his only pillow at the beeping thing next to his bed. Zhang Yixing, it is now 7:08. Zhang Yixing, it is now 7:08.
“Okay, okay, I got it.”
You have an appointment, the voice continues. Please report to the Fields at 9:00. Stretching, Yixing listens to the voice as it reminds him to bring all relevant documents to the front desk, where you will be sorted into a Process One selection pool. Please report to the Fields at 9:00. He fishes out his phone, which repeats the same message and, with a series of swipes, dismisses it from its main screen with a frown.
“Huh,” he says softly. “I’d forgotten it was today.”
Yixing takes a pair of headphones with him to the Fields. It’s the best way to pass the time—he keeps an ear free to make sure he doesn’t miss any announcements—and it’s on the approved items list. He knows he can wait in one of the larger rooms, but he likes how quiet it is in the singular cubicles.
“Lovecraft Batch 708, number 53.” The attendant at the front desk barely notices as he takes Yixing’s card. “Beta type,” he reads aloud, scanning it into his machine as Yixing waits patiently. “Go ahead, thanks.” The attendant drops his card into another device, and for the first time, Yixing can see him smile.
It’s a nice smile. Dismissed, Yixing unwinds the cables of his headphones. His second-hand music library shares storage space with the player’s predecessor, but it’s stuff Yixing sometimes tries out. He scrolls past the electronic albums and chooses something mellow, organic guitar melody sweet in his ears as he steadfastly ignores the lines of people in adjacent corridors.
The Fields are generally peaceful places, but today he can hear over his headphones the sound of someone crying. Probably their first time—Yixing could sympathize. Undertaking Process One was harder for some than others.
Today, there are no announcements for Lovecraft 708, Number 53. After his three hours are up, Yixing goes back to the desk to collect his card. He doesn’t hear anyone cry.
He does wish there were words to music.
Lovecraft Batch 708-53 has a secret. He doesn’t think much of it, since it’s not something illegal and it’s not anything life-threatening. Yixing rarely thinks about the fact of the secret—but spends plenty of time thinking about its subject.
Between the designated work hours of the day and the society hours, when Yixing has time to himself, he brings up the scent-memory of someone whose name he doesn’t know.
He wonders about the name, if the scent belongs to another generation’s Alpha older or younger than his. He holds on to its details, how he’d only brushed by it for seconds but how strong it had been, blindsiding his senses.
It’s not much of a secret—but by some strange fluke, Yixing never manages to tell anyone about the Alpha. If prompted, he wouldn’t even have the right word for it, the feeling somewhere beyond want and attraction.
Yixing’s next session at the Fields doesn’t happen for another few months. In the rhythm of scheduled life, between shifts at work and leisure time, he naturally forgets about the appointment until it creeps up on him again at 7:08 in the morning.
“Hello,” he smiles at the desk attendant, who doesn’t remember him. “Thanks,” he says anyway, unwinding his headphone cables and finding a separate waiting cubicle.
He’s halfway through an orchestral suite when he hears the announcement calling for him, Lovecraft 708-53, please come to Room Six.
He’s paired with an omega who’s so tall Yixing vaguely considers kissing him by standing on the tips of his toes. “Hey, look down here, please?” He shuts the door of Room Six behind him, taking cautious steps toward the boy and putting on his friendliest smile. “What’s your name?”
“Sehun,” who sounds nervous. “I’m number 75. Lovecraft 710-75.” The kid is, all things considered, cute. He wonders how tall the boy would be, if his mouth was on the same kissing height as his own.
Yixing’s close enough to scent Sehun’s pheromones, the tang of his sweat and genetic makeup thick in the air. “You’re here for—” and it’s hot in the chamber, the air in Room Six nearly halved, “Normalization?” There’s a hit of something else in the air, something that nearly unfocuses Yixing’s eyes completely as his body takes it in. He can’t trace it—it doesn’t even seem like something naturally Omega-type—but Sehun’s nerves push Yixing’s libido into gear, overriding the scent-memory of something else.
“Yeah.” Sehun licks his lips. Yixing’s eyes track the movement across his mouth. “Yeah, I am.”
Yixing knows that he doesn’t have too many chances to try Process One with an Omega-type; he knows, too, that Sehun’s only in Room Six to learn the mechanics of the process without any danger of Process Two. But the facts are pushed out of his head when Sehun shifts, changing the curve of his body in a subtle move that gets Yixing closing the space between them in a hurry.
Everything feels better when he’s riding the high of arousal; the pressure on his mouth from kisses is practically its own taste. Sehun keeps his hands on Yixing’s shoulders, pulling so close Yixing can separate the other element of Sehun’s scent signature. The heady scent of another Alpha is unmistakable. Yixing focuses on it, blending his mind with the trace element.
That Alpha probably taught Sehun how to kiss—Yixing likes the way their mouths fit, how Sehun takes in breaths between kisses. Yixing rocks his hips against Sehun’s, halfway-drunk on the chemical pheromone cocktail pumping through his system as Sehun lets out a soft whine. He rests his head against Yixing’s shoulder at the sudden movement, hands pulling up Yixing’s shirt.
“Good idea,” he laughs—and lets Sehun tug it off completely. Yixing makes sure to always touch Sehun, even while stripping him; he presses soft kisses against his abdomen while he unbuttons Sehun’s shirt. He can taste the residues of the Alpha on Sehun’s skin.
Yixing’s fingers leave shallow indents against the flesh of Sehun’s hips when he grips, keeping Sehun pinned down as he grinds down, slow and intent. Sehun already sounds wrecked; his eyes stay screwed shut, mouth falling open as he pants through short breaths.
Yixing pulls his body away, prompting the same low whine again, and tugs Sehun toward the only other piece of furniture in the room.
“It’s easier on a bed.”
Sehun scowls at his comment, face flushed pink. “I know that.” He stays standing, arms crossed over his chest while Yixing sits. He reaches out, hands settling back on Sehun’s waist, and slowly tugs Sehun forward by his belt loops.
“Then you should come here. Make friends with the bed.”
Sehun is shy about his body, batting Yixing’s hands away to take off the rest of his clothes. He hunches his shoulders until Yixing kisses the stress lines away from his mouth. He shakes while Yixing bends him over, knees spread over the bed. “I’m not shaking,” he manages, and Yixing lets him keep the lie.
He takes his time with Sehun, teaching him how to breathe through the process until Sehun chokes out affirmatives through his little lessons. Yixing never disconnects from him once, keeping at least one part of his body in constant touch with Sehun’s. “That’s it,” he says, voice low—as if the occasion had called for this level of privacy—and talks him through the process, inch by inch. The scent of the Alpha never leaves Sehun’s body, despite Yixing’s cock halfway in him already.
Yixing lets Sehun set the rhythm, slow and shallow as Sehun learns his body. Sehun rocks back and forth, keeping his eyes closed as quiet noises escape from his throat. He remembers what that was like, too, and lets Sehun fuck himself on Yixing’s cock, reaching his hands out to hold Sehun’s trembling fingers in a steady grip.
Sehun moves carefully, hips rotating in small, hesitant circles. He draws himself upward, limited by Yixing’s grip on his hands. Pheromones cloud his head. Yixing could close his eyes and drown in the Alpha’s scent, body experiencing another type of pleasure as Sehun learns the full extent of the process.
When Sehun finds his ideal pace, face red with exertion, Yixing lets go of his hands. He grabs his hips, fingers splayed over pale skin, and thrusts up with a precision borne of practice. Sehun arches, hands curled into fists.
He opens his mouth to say something between pants, but Yixing never catches it. Sehun shudders—Yixing hadn’t realized how close Sehun had been—and he watches him come through pheromone-hazed eyes. Sehun stays tight, still shaking from the last aftershocks of orgasm; it looks like he’s smiling.
Yixing keeps Sehun pinned, hands clamping imprints of his fingertips into the skin of his thighs until he comes, as if he could fuck a part of himself into Sehun—or the boy, he can’t quite tell.
It’s hours later when Yixing presses a final kiss on Sehun’s temple and leaves Room Six, legs shaking from exertion. He picks up his newly-stamped card from the front desk and wishes the attendant a nice day.
He can smell the Alpha’s scent on his own body on the way home.
Society hour is usually tiresome.
The hangover from his last session keeps him tired despite a full night’s sleep. Yixing wouldn’t have minded trading the socialization hour in for another nap, but it’s also an hour of watching interactions that usually provide hilarious payoff. Their shared social room still bears the marks of the Baekhyun-Yifan war, mostly because the evidence of their shared weight on a single, flimsy chair ensured pieces of plastic ground into the floor.
Yixing leaves his guitar at home and lets Jongdae drum a casual rhythm on his shoulder as he slumps over a low table, exhausted.
“Fields appointment yesterday,” he mumbles, pushing away Zitao’s hand as he pokes Yixing on the cheek. “Go away.”
Yixing almost naps away the entire hour, opening his eyes when Minseok shakes him. “Time to go,” he says, grinning. “Sleeping beauty. Go home, man.”
He’s still so tired—but on the way out, crammed toward the doors among others, Yixing can barely scent someone familiar.
He didn’t even realize the Alpha was so close to his batch type. Suddenly energized, he pushes through the crowd toward the Alpha-type doors. “Sorry, sorry,” he says, by way of habit. He can almost pinpoint him, wide brown eyes and a pretty face—yes, that was the Alpha. Despite the type 2 eyes and the type 10 mouth, all common traits of Omega-types, the scent was something that Yixing knew better than his own.
The boy leaves the room before Yixing can reach him.
At home, Yixing fumbles for a pen. He tears off a scrap of paper from yesterday’s newspaper and scribbles down a brief, honest message. If music had words, it would probably say something along those lines.
He’s careful about the words he chooses, uncertain about a particular word that he thinks might be the intended name of the thing beyond want and attraction. The Alpha’s scent stays on his body while he writes out his message.
He keeps the scrap of paper in his pocket.
Yixing grows used to the Lovecraft 708-53, please come to Room Six message broadcast through the facility. He knew this would happen; his teachers always taught that Beta-types were used to normalize Process One, that his sterility would be a prized quality.
Lovecraft designation 709-42, Park Chanyeol, is only a year younger than Yixing—and his inexperience is made up by his incredible enthusiasm. Yixing’s head stays clear of pheromones until he’s stretching Chanyeol open, carefully listening to Chanyeol’s voice break with every added inch of his fingers.
The familiar scent of that Alpha again pours out of his pores—and Yixing thinks about asking Chanyeol a question, if he’d had a Process One appointment with him. But he just fucks into Chanyeol instead, fingers wet with lubricant and curling around the head of Chanyeol’s cock, and asks him nothing.
Chanyeol wraps long legs around Yixing’s waist. He doesn’t let him move for a few minutes, choked breath and blown-open pupils evidence of his want. Chanyeol is loud, voice probably echoing down the corridors of the wing while Yixing moves, short strokes in consistent rhythm.
Plain attraction still makes it easy—Yixing rolls his hips and keeps Chanyeol on edge, lets him sweat and grind his hips down to meet Yixing’s thrusts. The harsh ground between sensation and urgency blurs with the Alpha’s scent, adding an extra sharpness to Yixing’s arousal. It coils like a spring as Yixing leans over Chanyeol’s body and rakes his fingernails down the sides of his body.
Yixing takes as much as Chanyeol can give; he can feel Chanyeol’s legs pull him closer, so he pulls Chanyeol in closer for a kiss that will keep his mouth bruised for the rest of the day. “Yes, yes,” he can hear Chanyeol groan, pausing for a fraction of a second at the name. “Jongdae, yes—” and Yixing smothers Chanyeol’s mouth with his own, lets him moan someone else’s name with every other breath.
He knows what that’s like, after all. He doesn’t have a name to cry out, but it’s the face he thinks about kissing just the same. Drunk on the Alpha’s residual scent and the tight furnace of Chanyeol’s body, Yixing anchors Chanyeol’s hips down and picks up the pace.
Chanyeol shakes when he comes. He throws his head back and lets his voice crack; Yixing taking advantage of the tension in his body by burying himself in his heat. He hopes he doesn’t sound the way Chanyeol does, release and noise breaking him open. Yixing bites at the juncture of Chanyeol’s shoulder and arm, pain adding shock to orgasm, and when Chanyeol clenches down in response, Yixing comes thinking of nothing at all.
Neither of them mention Kim Jongdae, Lovecraft Batch 708-68, or the Alpha that Chanyeol obviously knows.
Yixing puts his clothes back on and thinks about him on the way home. The message he’d written down drums itself into his head as Yixing breathes in Chanyeol’s scent—and underneath it, the familiar signature of someone else.
Kris is a good friend to have during a society hour, when Yixing can pry him away from his newest acquisition. “Hey, Beta-stud. Haven’t seen you in, what, a week?”
“Watch it, Kris, your panties are leaking.” Baekhyun laughs at that, the sound ringing through the room.
Yixing curls up next to Kris, in a seat far away from his usual, and keeps his eyes peeled for just one person. The uneasy feeling in his stomach from his last appointment stays with him until his eyes find a familiar face.
The Alpha looks up when someone calls, “Hey, princess!” For a split second, he looks blank—and the way he looks twists the uneasiness in Yixing’s system into something slightly more solid.
Then he punches the guy on the arm, type 10 mouth twisting into a smile. “Don’t call me that,” he laughs. Yixing can’t look away.
He wonders what it would be like to see him in Process One; if he and the Alpha could make the sterile rooms in the Fields something else. Chanyeol and Sehun were so responsive—Yixing wonders if it was the Alpha who’d taught Sehun how to kiss, if he’d taught Chanyeol about the narrow bridge between pain and pleasure.
The three-word message is insistent; that, and the memory of fucking someone imbued with the Alpha’s scent, are the only things running through Yixing’s head.
“Yixing?” Kris waves a giant hand in front of his face. “Earth to Yixing? Hello?”
“Yeah.” His voice sounds distant, even to his own ears. He could just give him the message now. “I’ll be right back.” He wades into the crowd, pushing past the clusters of mingling Lovecraft batches with his focus zeroed in on the only person he’d been thinking about for months.
“Hey, wait—” Baekhyun’s slender hand catches Yixing’s wrist. He tugs Yixing back, brow furrowed. “Are you going to do what I think you are?” His voice sounds almost soft, and Kris hunches forward when he notices that Baekhyun is touching someone else.
“I’m just going to pass on a note,” Yixing says defensively. Baekhyun snorts. “Really. That’s all.” The scrap of paper in his pocket weighs him down like a stone.
“You gotta push the babies out of the tree,” Kris sighs. “Or something,” he amends, when Baekhyun snorts at his attempted proverb.
Yixing takes the opportunity to escape the strange black hole of their relationship, weaving his way past clusters of mingling Lovecrafts.
“Hey, uh—could I have a word with you?” The boy blinks, surprised, and Yixing wishes his genetic makeup accounted for a better courage factor. “I’m—it’s not anything serious. But I thought we could step out, for a second.”
This close to him, Yixing probably looks unscrewed somewhere; but he can’t bring himself to care. He’s also acutely aware of the fact that Baekhyun and Kris are watching, but Yixing has no attention for the world.
The boy looks concerned. “Sure,” he says, and Yixing lets loose a breath he didn’t realize he’d kept holding.
The boy follows Yixing out, the Beta corridors deserted in the wake of society hour. “I’m—uh.” He stumbles over his words. “I’m Lovecraft 708-53.”
“Do your friends call you 53?” The boy jokes, but Yixing’s high-stress laugh sounds unnatural. “I’m 706-14.”
This close to him, Number 14’s pheromones are so strong they disorient Yixing further. “No, I’m. My name, it’s, I’m Yixing. Zhang Yixing.”
“Yeah?” Yixing is almost drunkenly happy about the proximity. The boy just moves closer, forcing Yixing to walk backward until his back hits the wall. “Um, I’m—”
The Alpha kisses like Sehun; or rather, Sehun kisses something like the Alpha. Number 14’s mouth is hot and wet, tongue moving with a courage that the Omega-type boy had simply lacked. Yixing’s eyes flutter shut on instinct, his hands tangling in his hair to keep him close.
Without a buffer, Yixing is drowning in that scent; he could lose himself in it. When the Alpha-type puts a leg between Yixing’s thighs, he grinds against it thoughtlessly. Number 14 lets Yixing moan with it, his hips fucking up into thin air as the boy sucks at the base of Yixing’s neck.
When Yixing opens his eyes to see the boy’s mouth swollen from the force of his kiss, he hazily remembers why he’d asked the Alpha to step out. Yixing reaches for the scrap of paper in his pocket, willing his hands to stay steady as he hands it over.
He brushes Number 14’s fingertips in the exchange. The boy recoils as if he’d shocked him; when he reads Yixing’s message, a strange expression drifts across his face.
Yixing wants to brush it away, but the Alpha boy still keeps him pinned against the wall. He waits, frozen in that space of time—three seconds, three years—and waits, capable of doing nothing but breathe.
Yixing’s heart starts again when Number 14 hands back the note and steps away. (Or maybe it stops, and it had only started when he’d scented the boy for the first time.) “I can’t keep this,” he says, licking his lips and frowning. “I’m sorry. I should—we—I should just go.”
It’s so, so wrong.
Number 14 turns to leave Yixing in the Beta corridor when Yixing’s voice stops him in his tracks. He doesn’t mean to sound so broken—Yixing hadn’t meant to let Number 14 know how much he’d meant the message—when he asks, “Can’t I know the name of the person rejecting me?”
The Alpha had looked so conflicted when he’d turned back around. Yixing keeps his eyes open, paper scrap still clutched in his hand, and resolutely tries not to cry. “Lu Han. I’m Lu Han, not 706-14. And I’m really, really sorry. I thought—I’m not looking for that kind of—I’m sorry.”
And when Lu Han leaves, Yixing crumples up the paper.
In the year AF195, life should be regular as clockwork.
Under a grey sky, Lovecraft 708-53 goes home with a scrap of newsprint that weighs him down like a slab of concrete. He locks himself in his housing unit and quietly fills out an absentee card.
Yixing marks the date and reason, citing body pain and fatigue to exempt himself from Field appointments and small duties. The proper word for it clings to him, his name echoing the word that he hadn’t known before.
The paper stays by his bed. Yixing thinks about burning it, but doesn’t know where he’d find a match. He doesn’t even feel heartbroken.
It’s not his heart that’s broken at all; it’s like he’d never had one in the first place. He was right to write his message, Yixing knows that much. He’d chosen the right word for it: it was I love you that described the territory beyond want and attraction, after all.
Heartache might have been the reason the world had bred love out of its system. Yixing had only known the word before because of history classes; that love was something that prompted people to procreate beyond the capacities of the world’s resources.
Either way, he doesn’t remember learning about this in school.
Kris knocks down the door of his housing unit after a week of absences. At least, he tries to—Yixing isn’t despondent enough to let him break down the building and lets him in after an enthusiastic series of knocks.
“No,” he says flatly. “I already know what you’re going to say.” Kris settles into the only chair in Yixing’s house and looks up, having arranged his titanic limbs into an acceptable configuration.
“It wasn’t I told you so, for the record.”
“Oh.” Yixing blinks. He still thinks about the forlorn scrap of paper in the bedroom—and frowns. “Then I don’t know what you’re going to say.”
“Okay, some of it was that,” Kris admits. “But most of it isn’t.” He stares at Yixing from head to toe—if Yixing didn’t know Kris was the type to cry after Process One, he’d think he was being sized up for something. “How are you, man?”
“I’m heartbroken,” he mumbles. Kris winces at the word. “Try to guess how that feels.”
“I’m just asking, hey.” Everything makes Yixing think about the note and Lu Han’s face. "I guess giving you a b—"
"If you actually ask me if your mouth anywhere near my body will help me feel better, I swear to God—"
"Okay, okay. Just thought I'd ask. You know, 'cause we're friends." Kris fidgets like a baby, despite his giant proportions. "I'm doing you a favor by coming here, you know."
"Again, your mouth on my body isn't a favor." Yixing frowns so hard he thinks it'll stay carved on his face.
"No, just—hear me out. Baekhyun and I, we guessed what happened last week, and—well, he knows this guy that I also knew, as it turns out, and he knew this other guy who knows the guy who rej—I mean, the guy you talked to."
"How," he deadpans, "Is this supposed to be a favor?"
"Well, we had to make sure it was in the Alpha area of the neighborhood, but this guy swears he can have your guy meet you somewhere—I have the address right here—and, um. I don't know. You look terrible, by the way."
Something like hope fills Yixing’s head. He tamps down on it, and only agrees to meet Lu Han to get Kris out of his house.
Heartbreak and love are qualities unaccounted for by the Lovecraft system—despite its functional name—but Yixing’s fairly sure he’s an expert. He can almost gauge them on a ten-point scale.
For example: when Yixing settles himself on a bench in an Alpha-neighborhood park, his heartbreak gauge rests at a familiar nine out of ten. The other one goes off the charts at a negative reading, at first, then jumping up to an alarming ten when he sees Lu Han again.
He still looks so apologetic. Yixing hates that expression. He can’t read Lu Han’s face, if he’s at any part of the heartbreak scale the way he is; if he even registers on the other scale.
Yixing doesn’t know how to start talking—so he begins by using something familiar. “Hello.” (I wish I hadn’t kissed you.) “Um. Having a nice day?”
“Something like that,” Lu Han agrees, tucking his hands in his pockets and taking a seat next to Yixing. (I’m sorry about that, too.) “I’m meeting this Beta guy who my friends know—I think I broke his heart.”
“You didn’t.” (Yes, you did.) “You really didn’t.”
“Oh.” Lu Han looks relieved to hear it. Yixing doesn’t know who’s the better actor, Lu Han or himself. “Well, then—”
“I thought I’d come here because we went off to a bad start. We could—I thought we could try again.”
Outside, in a park that Yixing had never been to before, he feels almost detached—as if he weren’t even himself. He can scent Luhan’s signature, his system running on its residue.
He probably doesn’t know that Yixing’s fucked Omega-types bearing his scent. He doesn’t really need to know that—that Yixing spent a day drunk on the afterglow of it, disoriented and focused only on the scent-memory of Lu Han.
“Yeah,” he pushes on. “I thought—we could try again. You know. Be friends.”
Lu Han has a smile that looks like the sun. Yixing fuses the sight of it with his scent-memory and carries it home with his hope.