The six blondes all lean their heads back all the way to stare up at the building before them with a feeling of apprehension coursing collectively through their minds. The building is tall and dark and uninviting. Whichever doubts they may have had about this previously have intensified just by seeing the place.
"I still don't know about this, General," Daehyun mutters from under his mask. A stern look from the oldest stops him from speaking even though he was clearly not done. Daehyun stays silent for a moment to think his words over before rephrasing his sentence. "I still don't know about this, hyung," he corrects himself and continues when the other nods for him to do so: "There are twelve of them and we're only six. This is bordering on suicidal."
Yongguk's gaze flickers back to the building. His eyes narrow. "Youngjae?"
"I have studied the subjects and analyzed their combat abilities," the group's brain responds as he brings up the correct files on his iPad, one of Earth's electronic devices that he has taken a special liking to. "Although we are fewer in number we definitely have the upper hand when it comes to fighting. Supposedly they're a peaceful group."
"It never hurts to be careful. Are there any of them we should be paying more attention to than others?"
"As I already told you on the way here they all possess some sort of powers even though they rarely seem to use them." Murmurs of concurrence meet his statement. "Other than that... Huang Zitao." He brings a picture of a young male up on his screen and lets everyone see it in order to memorize his face. "Goes by Tao. As far as I know he's generally harmless, but he is a skilled martial artist and he's capable of much damage. You shouldn't underestimate him."
"Who leads them?" Yongguk questions and Youngjae exits the picture of Zitao and brings up two new pictures side by side on the screen.
"Kim Joonmyun, goes by Suho." He points to the smiley-looking one first and then to the other one, a male with hard eyes and striking features: "Wu Yifan, goes by Kris. Also known as Kevin Li or Wufan or Li Jiaheng and possibly more aliases, it's uncertain. I kind of hit an unexpected bump in the road in my search for information on him. The guy is somewhat of an enigma, it seems." He pulls a face.
"But who leads them?" Yongguk repeats somewhat impatiently. "One of them must be of higher authority than the other." He gestures between himself and Himchan as an example. Himchan is the Commander, Yongguk is the First General. Technically Himchan has the authority to overrule Yongguk's orders, but he rarely chooses to do so. Yongguk makes a better leader. Himchan is mostly just a pretty face.
"Both," Youngjae responds.
"Two equally ranked leaders?" Himchan comments, speaking up for the first time that evening, and he scoffs at the mere thought. "How preposterous."
"From my understandings their group dynamic is different from ours. Their strategy is, apparently, to separate into two teams in order to conquer more earthlings simultaneously. One half operates mainly in China, the other operates in South Korea. It's all very confusing, but so far their plan seems to be a success."
"General," Jongup quips and they all turn their heads to him. He looks up from his wristwatch. "It's time."
At exactly seventeen hundred Earth hours the group begins to move. They enter the building, swiftly, silently, and they reach and enter the elevator with no obstacles and press the button for the right floor. Everything is silent apart from the whirring of wires as the metal contraption carries them continuously upwards. "Do you have it?" Himchan suddenly asks Jongup and when the younger male looks momentarily confused the Commander rolls his eyes. "The package. Do you have it?" Jongup produces the item in question from the pocket of his jacket and Himchan rewards his compliance with a pat on the shoulder.
"Why do we have to bring that again?" Daehyun questions, eyeing the package with disdain.
"It is common courtesy for earthlings to exchange presents such as this one during this particular holiday season," Youngjae explains in his lecture voice. Understanding Earth's culture is vital to fit in, he persistently claims. "We are gifting them this in return for their hospitality." Daehyun snorts and rolls his eyes, but he doesn't object. He just thinks to himself that Earth rituals are dumb.
The elevator doors slide open and they make the combat robot, Zelo, exit first in order to let him scope out the area to make sure the coast is clear. For all they know they could be falling into an ambush. They're still not sure if the other's intentions are all good. When the group is convinced that they're safe and won't be harmed they all step out of the elevator and into the hallway.
Still keeping as quiet as possible they make their way towards the door and after a short pause Yongguk, being the oldest, rings the doorbell and they wait. "Your mask," Youngjae hisses, pointing to Daehyun's face. "Remove it. It's not polite." The older male rolls his eyes with a snort, a gesture that seems to have become a trademark for him by now. He does as he's told nonetheless, which may or may not have something to do with the withering look Yongguk shoots him.
They wait for a while and nothing happens. There are sounds coming from inside the apartment, though, loud, raucous laughter and squeals and sounds of things falling over. The six blonde male's exchange looks and Yongguk raises his hand to reach for the doorbell again when the door suddenly swings open and is replaced by a widely smiling, tiny male. They all mentally compare him to the pictures they had been shown earlier and they are quick to identify him. Kim Joonmyun. "Hello," he greets them, bowing.
"Hello," Yongguk says as well and they all return the gesture with various degrees of dedication.
"Well, come in, come in, make yourselves at home." He steps aside to allow the guests to enter and they do so, hesitantly, still on guard.
"We brought a present," Himchan announces as he pushes Jongup, who is still holding the neatly wrapped package, forward and he quickly adds just to make it clear: "The gift, not the boy."
"Oh," Joonmyun exclaims, he looks pleasantly surprised. "Wow. You really didn't have to."
Youngjae lets out a flustered sputter at this. "But it... it is common courtesy f-for earthlings to exchange presents s-such as this one during this particular holiday season," he rambles, anxiously side-eyeing the General, whose jaw is now clenched.
The male in front of them blinks in surprise. His smile has faded to be replaced by what appears to be a confused expression. Wary, he glances down at the present he's holding in both of his hands before glancing up at the guests again. Yongguk forces a smile onto his own face. A matching one appears on Joonmyun's soon after. "Well, thank you for the present, then." Youngjae breathes an inaudible sigh of relief. He had feared that their gift would be rejected and cause discord and that is definitely not what any of them want.
In the next second a male clad in an apron with reindeers on the front and antlers on top of his head comes rushing through the hall. He stops in his tracks halfway between the living room and the kitchen when he sees that the guests have arrived and he shoots the group a wide-eyed expression that makes him look like he's scared out of his wits by their presence. For a few seconds stares at them and they stare right back, awaiting his next move. Then he bows. "Hello, I'm D.O, it's good to see you."
"Likewise," Himchan responds on all of their behalves and they bow at him as well.
"I'm sorry it's not very Christmassy, I asked the others to take care of the decorations, but they haven't been doing a very good job, it seems." He pouts a little.
"Don't worry about it, Kyungsoo, it's fine," Joonmyun assures him, placing a hand on the other male's shoulder in a friendly gesture. "How's dinner coming along?"
"Pretty good, I think. It should be done in about an hour or so. We're-" A loud crash followed by an equally loud yelp can be heard from the kitchen and if they thought D.O looked terrified before they were clearly wrong because now his eyes have widened and they look like they're about to pop out of his skull. Jongup, who is standing closest to him, takes a cautious step backwards just to be safe. The unnatural eyeball activity could quite possibly be a means of offense that they have not accounted for. However, D.O merely lets out a tired groan. "Oh for the love of... excuse me for a moment." He rushes off before anyone can say anything, mumbling frustrated slurs of "damnit, Yixing" and "you can't leave that guy alone for five minutes".
Joonmyun turns to beam at them again only this time it appears a little more forced. "I'm sorry about that," he says with an anxious chuckle. "Well, come along, now. I want you to come meet everyone." The blondes exchange looks full of mixed emotions, confusion and surprise being the dominant ones. This is all going a lot different from how they had expected things to go.
They leave their shoes and coats at the door and follow Joonmyun when he gestures for them to do so. He leads them through the dorm and into the too small living room. D.O had complained about it not being Christmassy enough, but it's hard to see why. There are garlands of red and golden tinsel hung in waves along the walls with baubles of various colors dangling from the twinkling material, there are elf figurines spread on every plane surface, there is a small, fairy light-covered Christmas tree pushed into the corner next to the couch and the window is decorated with spray on snow.
The room is currently occupied by a total of nine young, rowdy males spread all over the place. Some are on the floor in front of the TV, watching one pixel man beat up another with the directions of the controllers that are plugged into the black box on top of the TV as the people holding said controllers scream at each other and at the screen. Two of the males are curled up together in an armchair and appear to be napping, another one takes up the entire couch by himself, sleeping facedown.
Joonmyun claps his hands twice to get their attention and fails miserably at doing so. Only one male reacts, the one who goes by Kris. He approaches them with a cold, unwelcoming expression that has the group of blondes on edge and he bows stiffly. "Hello, I'm Kris," he says. He strikes Yongguk as the stoic leader type, especially when he turns to face the chaos before them and manages to bring the entire room to complete silence by uttering a single: "Guys."
"Equally ranked?" Yongguk leans in to whisper to Youngjae, who has the audacity to look flustered once more.
"Th-that's what my sources told me," he proclaims weakly. Yongguk just hums, skepticism clear in his tone.
When they notice that the guests have arrived the dorm's inhabitants all scramble to their feet and bow - some of them repeatedly, some of them halfheartedly - while mumbling various words of greeting. The atmosphere is tense as the newcomers hover by the doorway, unsure of what to do. "Have a seat," Joonmyun offers, gesturing towards the couch. The male that had been occupying it up until now pulls a face as his resting place is taken away from him. A single look from Kris makes him cower and move out of the way without much struggle to allow the others to sit.
It's awkward. The six blondes are sitting squished together on the three-seater, rigid, as the rest of the guys surround them, staring at them with interest. The silence is palpable. Joonmyun has left to check up on the previous accident in the kitchen and Kris doesn't seem all too eager to initiate any type of conversation between them even though he should probably do so in his role as supreme leader. He's too busy not acknowledging the dark-circled teen who keeps throwing admiring glances at him.
In the end it's one of the other members, the one with the chubby cheeks and the gummy smile, who starts talking. "Hey, you guys wanna play?" he asks, raising the joystick in offering. Youngjae shifts a little in his seat at the proposition and looks hesitantly at the others. He has been curious to try out this type of earthling electronics for some time, but he has never had the opportunity to.
When Yongguk nods almost unnoticeably to grant him permission, Youngjae gets up from his seat and moves to sit down on the floor in front of the TV instead like the others had done earlier. "I've never played before," he admits. The other, who has introduced himself as Xiumin, hands over one of the controllers and Youngjae studies it with equal amounts of curiosity and wonder. "How does it work?"
"It's pretty easy," Xiumin says. "You pick a character that you want to play with and then the point is to beat the opponent by doing cool tricks and combos and stuff. You just have to click those things." He points to the buttons on the joystick in Youngjae's hands. One half of them are marked with arrows, the other half is marked with different colors and shapes.
"That sounds simple enough," Youngjae mutters as he hesitantly flips between the characters on the screen in the process of picking one. Xiumin just smiles, crooked and devious.
Distracted by the scene unfolding before them Yongguk somehow fails to notice the less than graceful figure that has slowly moved closer and closer to the couch. Not until Daehyun darts halfway across the room all of a sudden to seize the guy by the wrist does Yongguk notice him. The guy lets out a yelp, squirming at the tight hold, but Daehyun doesn't relent, he takes his occupation of personal guard very seriously and looks like he's about three seconds away from putting his Mato death grip to use. "It's the fire one," he hisses with alarm in his tone and disdain in his eyes. "He was trying to touch you, Gen-... hyung. He could be potentially harmful."
"Zelo?" Yongguk says and the robot turns in his seat to let his eyes roam over the lanky form.
"No danger detected," he says in a monotone.
"I'm not harmful, I promise," the guy on the floor whimpers. A single hand gesture from Yongguk makes Daehyun release him - albeit reluctantly - and return to his place in the opposite end of the couch. He still keeps his eyes on the so-called 'potentially harmful' person as if he still doesn't trust him.
The guy stares up at Yongguk with wide eyes and his mouth hanging open in both wonder and admiration and Yongguk schools his features into what he thinks is a somewhat friendly expression. His best attempt at producing one, anyway. "You're... Chanyeol, right?" The General recognizes the other from the pictures and videos he has viewed to get to know his competition better. Chanyeol's voice, however, is a complete surprise as it does not match his face at all.
"You know my name?" A large hand comes up to curl around Yongguk's forearm and it becomes increasingly impossible for him to prevent the smile on his face from slipping, but he forces himself to keep it up. "That... is so awesome! I... I'm a huge fan of you guys. Of you. I mean, you're really talented and cool and handsome and cool and, and, stuff and I want to be just like you. Will you teach me your ways, sunbae?" The strength of his grip and the amount of pleading in his wide eyes increase proportionally.
"Teach you?" Yongguk repeats with a hint of indignation in his tone. "Oh, but this kind of ability is not simply something you can be taught. It's something you're born with and it takes years of practice to perfect it." Himchan snorts from the sidelines in a display of his amusement with the conversation. Yongguk decides to ignore him and instead goes on to embark on a monologue about how to become a skilled soldier as Chanyeol sits cross-legged on the floor and listens while nodding his head eagerly the whole time.
A small hand rests on Himchan's arm and Jongup scoots closer. "Commander," the younger says and Himchan can't bring himself to reprimand him for using the wrong form of address when he sounds so alarmed. "That one keeps looking at me." They both turn their heads to the right to look at the person Jongup had been referring to. It's Zitao, the one Youngjae had told them to be wary of.
"It's alright," Himchan mutters in an attempt at soothing the other's nerves. He places a hand on his knee with that same intent. "Remember what Youngjae taught us about Earth customs. Just smile and try to appear approachable." Jongup still looks a little hesitant so Himchan nods once to reassure him further and Jongup cracks a smile before looking at Zitao again. The latter's eyes widen almost comically and a flush rises to stain his cheeks and then he averts his gaze. Jongup feels a little disappointed.
"You're his type," another male interjects.
Jongup's smile slips a little. "P-pardon?"
The other's lips stretch out thin and he perches himself on the armrest next to Jongup, sitting a little too close and seemingly towering over him. "You're his type," he repeats. "Small and cute and with a nice smile. He likes that in a person and he probably just wants to get to know you better." He gestures towards Zitao, who quickly turns his head away again when he realizes they're looking at him. "Tao's not as scary as he seems, I swear, he's just not very good at expressing himself. Especially not in Korean. It's his second language, you see."
"I see," Jongup says even though he doesn't really because he still thinks that Zitao looks pretty scary.
A hand is stretched out towards Jongup and he recognizes it as the western way of greeting so he shakes it like he has been taught. "Jongup." When he tries to release the hand again, Baekhyun keeps his hold.
"You guys are really pretty up close," he exhales as he looks between the two youngest with eyes that appear to be almost glittering. He nods towards Zelo, who turns his head with a robotic snap and it to the side in a questioning expression when he is spoken to. "You've got such clear skin. Almost like a doll, it's so beautiful. How do you manage to keep it so nice?"
"There are nanites installed in my system and they keep my exterior as well of my parts clean and free of scratches," Zelo answers mechanically.
Another person who has overheard the conversation snorts at this. He has chiseled cheekbones and a cat-like, snarky smirk on his face. "Wow," he drawls, leaning his chin in his palm. "You guys really take this whole alien concept seriously, huh?"
Zelo blinks and Jongup frowns, both in confusion. "Concept?"
"Whatever," Baekhyun says, elbowing the other to make him go away, which he eventually does. Then Baekhyun looks at Jongup again while he runs his bottom lip between his teeth in thought. "How do you feel about eyeliner?"
"Eyeliner?" Jongup repeats meekly. He flinches when Baekhyun makes a high-pitched noise.
"You're so cute." The fingers of his unoccupied hand twitch. "I bet I could do great things for your faces and make you even more beautiful. If you'll let me work on you, I mean." Baekhyun looks at Zelo and Zelo looks at Baekhyun and Jongup looks at Himchan, who nods his permission in response to the unspoken question.
"Alright," Jongup says slowly, still not certain, and Baekhyun lets out another high-pitched noise, grabbing both of them by the wrists and dragging them out of the room. A timid-looking Zitao gets up soon after and follows them.
Xiumin groans when his character is K.O.'ed for the twelfth time in a row. "I thought you said you hadn't tried this before," he mutters, shooting an accusing look at Youngjae.
Another guy, who has been watching them play for a while, hums from his place on the floor. He's leaned back against the side of the armchair that the two guys from earlier - one of them looks rather grumpy until the other one, who looks like he's about twelve years old, leans in to whisper something in his ear, then his face splits in a bright smile - are still occupying. "Beginner's luck," the guy sitting on the floor mumbles, rubbing his eye and yawning. He's the one that had to abandon his place on the couch when Kris forced him to.
"Not really," Youngjae says with his lips pursed. "This game is actually fairly simple once you crack the code and manage to memorize the character's commands. For example for this one all you have to do is press square, triangle, cross, triangle, square, triangle, square, circle, triangle, square or square, triangle, cross, square, circle, triangle, square, circle, triangle, square or square, triangle, cross, square, triangle for a ten hit combo." He shrugs. "Simple."
Xiumin stares at him for a few speechless seconds, mouth hanging open. Then he puts down his joystick with a little more force than necessary and gets up from his spot on the floor. "I'm not playing anymore," he announces. Youngjae watches him walk off to go join some of the other people in the other end of the living room. Then he shifts his gaze to look at the seemingly forever sleepy male, who's sitting next to him, still rubbing his eye. The latter just stares back at him but makes no move to pick up the abandoned controller.
True to word, dinner is ready about one hour after the guests' arrival. Joonmyun lets them all know so when he appears in the living room again and for what seems like the first time - the first time in a while, at least, judging by Joonmyun's surprised expression - all the members actually listen to him. It's most likely the prospect of food that makes them temporarily obedient. They all rush off to the kitchen with the guests trailing behind a little more hesitantly.
The kitchen isn't very big just like the rest of the dorm isn't very big and yet they have somehow managed to fit eighteen chairs in there in order for everyone to be able to sit down. The wide-eyed male they met in the hallway earlier is standing by the stove with someone they haven't met before. The latter sees them entering and he raises his hand in a quick gesture of greeting and flashes a dimpled smile at the same time. "Hi, I'm Lay, merry Christmas." D.O swats him on the shoulder and pulls his hand back down so he can continue to bandage it.
Daehyun's eyes are positively sparkling as he takes in the sight of all the food that is scattered on the table. There seems to be enough to feed twice the amount of people present and then some. Not even when Joonmyun invites everyone to take a seat does he take his eyes off the overflowing plates and trays. He looks like he can't wait to dig in. "Where are your maknaes?" Kris asks with a frown when he sees the empty chairs.
"And where's Baek and Tao?" D.O adds.
"Here," chirps a cheery voice from the doorway and seconds later Baekhyun plops into a chair followed by Zitao, Jongup and Zelo. Unlike before the two blondes are both wearing eye makeup now and though Jongup looks a little shaken up by everything, Zitao can't seem to keep his eyes off him.
"Okay, good," Joonmyun says and despite having just sat down he stands up again and he raises his glass. "Now that we're all here I'd just like to thank our guests for coming. I'm glad you guys could make it and I hope you will enjoy your time here. Cheers." He tips his glass back only to realize that it was never filled in the first place and he sits down quickly with a flush creeping up his neck and over his face.
D.O clears his throat. "Well, now that that's over with, feel free to help yourself." He gestures towards the table and he doesn't have to repeat himself.
Before long everyone is stuffing their faces, some more tentatively than others at first as they are not all that familiar with all the dishes on the table, but soon with equal vigor. "Earth food is the best," Daehyun declares happily between bites, he's not opposed to chewing and speaking simultaneously. "This is amazing. I want to marry someone who can cook like this."
"I hope you're all saving room for dessert," Lay says out loud at the same moment despite not hearing the other's comment. "We made cheesecake." Several of Daehyun's group mates have to physically hold him back to keep him from getting down on one knee right then and there.
They're about halfway through aforementioned dessert when Yongguk deems it alright for him to leave for a while. His stealth skills makes him able to sneak out unnoticed and as he makes his way away from the kitchen, the noise of the seventeen people gathered there gradually diminishes. He lets out a sigh of relief. He's not really much of a social butterfly.
In need of some fresh air he ends up on the small balcony outside of the living room. The wind is somewhat brisk but far from unbearable and with the sounds of the cars driving by below it's not really that quiet, but it's as quiet as it gets and it's better than what he just left. He inhales the semi-polluted city air and exhales slowly. He's happy with the night's outcome, the two groups seem to get along pretty well. That was the intention.
Yongguk is studying what appears to be a -turned-deformed-Christmas-tree that decorates one of the windows in the form of spray on snow when the balcony door slides open and a tall figure steps outside. "Mind if I join you?" Kris asks. When Yongguk shakes his head, the other slides the door closed behind himself. They both lean over with their forearms on the cold railing of the balcony as they overlook the snow-covered city. The silence isn't uncomfortable. Yet Kris eventually breaks it: "So you're not really into that whole social thing, huh?" There's a slight lingering accent to his words and the other knows it's because he's Chinese.
"Not really," Yongguk replies and Kris nods.
"Yeah, me neither." They fall silent for another few moments. "I don't know if Joonmyun made it clear enough yet, but we're really happy that you decided to come. We weren't sure if you'd accept the invitation or not."
"Of course," Yongguk is quick to say. "Our emperor will only be happy to hear of this, he's very fond of interspecies bonding. And this makes way for potential treaties in the future as well, does it not? Perhaps a collaboration of sorts between our nations? I mean we're kind of in the same situation here, being stuck on unfamiliar grounds." When Kris doesn't respond promptly, Yongguk casts a glance at him only to see the other eyeing him with a questioning expression as if he's trying to figure something out.
"Are you...?" The tall male opens and closes his mouth a few times before frowning, searching for his words. "You do know that we're not... we're not really aliens... you know that, right?"
Now Yongguk is furrowing his brow as well. "I don't follow."
"It's just a concept. Our company thought it up. We don't really have powers and we don't really come from planet EXO or whatever. We're all humans from planet Earth."
Yongguk stares at him for what feels like minutes. Then he inhales a sharp breath and steps backwards repeatedly until he's backed up against the patio furniture in a defensive stance. "You're... you're not...?"
"Don't worry," Kris quickly says, raising both of his hands in front of him. "I'm not going to tell anyone if... if you're really..." He swallows something, looking the other up and down. "So... are you guys really... aliens?"
"We're from planet Mato," Yongguk says in a wary tone. He still doesn't trust the other. "I'm the General, Himchan is the Commander, Zelo is a robot created for combat, Daehyun is skilled in stealth and unarmed defense, Youngjae is a genius with electronics and Jongup is a weapons expert. We've been sent here to gather energy for our people. We mean no harm."
For a long time Kris is silent, staring at him. "That's... pretty cool," he then says, slowly. He nods to himself as if it took him saying it aloud for him to really believe it. "And don't worry, I'm really not going to tell anyone. I mean it. Your secret is safe with me."
Yongguk lets out a breath and he relaxes noticeably. "If you keep your promise, human, we will be forever grateful." Kris shoots him a tight smile and they lapse into momentary silence once more.
The balcony door slides open and this time it's Jongup who sticks his head outside. "The others are requesting you presence, General. Apparently it is time to exchange presents."
"We will be there in a moment," Yongguk says and the boy nods before disappearing.
It takes another minute or so for the two leaders to follow him. "If you think about it," Kris interjects as they make their way inside. "...I suppose this can still be considered interspecies bonding. It's just Mato-Earth rather than Mato-EXO."
A smile spreads slowly on Yongguk's face at the realization. "Yeah," he says. "I guess you can view it that way."
A/N: MERRY CHRISTMAS YOU GUYSSSSS. ♥
uhm. so yeah, here's this story. it's probably different from what you guys expected from the foreword but oh well. 8D
1) sorry about the crappy ending eheheh.
2) did you spot all the "hidden" pairings/hinted pairings? meheheheheh. /shot
3) the main image was created by celo-mar, isn't it beauTIFUL???
4) I'm sorry about everything.
yup. that's all I have to say. it's almost 3:30am right now and I have to get up at like 9am to get ready to go somewhere (my aunt and uncle's house) for a christmas part, woo, but I wanted to finish this story for you guys because ai lab you and you can leave me lots and lots of pwetty comments and I will respond to them and stuff okay~? okay!