There are only two types of people in the world, Namjoon surmises. The ones who struggle, and the ones who don’t. Right now Namjoon is one of those that struggle. It’s tough being Korean attending a university in Japan, and tougher still living in a dingy little dorm he shares with another student who doesn’t speak a lick of English, so when Namjoon struggles to find his words in Japanese, there’s nothing he can do but struggle. He rues the day he decided to study literature in Japan. Admiring it was one thing but immersing himself in it was something else entirely. But it’s okay, because despite the fact that Namjoon is one of those that struggle, he knows that the fruits of his efforts will be that much sweeter.
Today he decides to continue his struggle in a café he’d never chanced upon before. He’d heard that the coffee was delicious and boy, he hadn’t heard wrong. Tucked into a quiet corner of the shop he sips on his cup with one hand and types on his laptop with his other. The quiet thrum of the steam, the mellow murmuring of the other patrons, the low lighting, all sink into Namjoon’s skin easily and indulgently. He can see himself returning here, and he can see himself calling this his favourite spot. After his classes, maybe, to continue struggling on an essay or even to unwind and relax. It’s quiet and a little further away from his university than other cafes, so Namjoon knows it won’t be as busy or as loud.
A bell chimes as the door opens. Heavy boots pad across the linoleum floor. There’s the soft murmur again, Namjoon recognises it as just that. Murmurs. He doesn’t try to straighten those sounds out until they reach the barista, and their voices grow. “We’re from the CCG,” one of them says in a low tone. “We’re looking for someone. A frequent customer here.”
The CCG. Namjoon knows someone in his class has told him about that, before, because those three letters ring a bell somewhere in the back of his mind. He looks up from his laptop and sees the barista, wiping a mug, while smiling at the two men dressed in white trench coats, holding silver briefcases. Those three words, the CCG, rings a bell somewhere in the back of his mind but he can’t pull it from there; the men in white trench coats don’t help in any way to jog his memory. He feels out of place, again, a Korean man living in Japan with only two years of residency under his belt. It feels like the countless times his friends at university have explained something about Japanese culture or mannerisms that Namjoon knows he needs to remember but unfortunately he can’t recall. He returns to his laptop; he’ll ask his friends tomorrow to remind him what the CCG is.
“Who are you looking for?” The barista asks, ever-pleasant, ever-calm. Namjoon looks back up, unable to keep his curiosity at bay. He wonders if by eavesdropping he might be able to decipher what the CCG is. He knows he shouldn’t, it’s not polite, but Namjoon has a hunger for knowledge and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t annoyed that he’d forgotten what the CCG was. He needs to know.
“A young male, perhaps in his twenties. Tall, apparently good-looking. Slim build.”
Well. That does nothing to clear up the itch in the back of his mind. Namjoon reaches into the pocket of his sweatpants and pulls his phone out. He absentmindedly finds the chat with one of his more closer friends at school and quickly sends a text asking what the CCG is. He tries to be quick, of course, he doesn’t want to miss a second of hearing the conversation between the barista and the men from the CCG, but his fingers aren’t yet fully accustomed to typing in Japanese.
“Young male,” one of the men says while Namjoon is still typing on his phone. The voice is no longer directed towards the barista, Namjoon can hear it, it’s facing him, so he looks up. The men are staring right at him. “Probably in his twenties,” the man says.
He sends the text while locked in a battle of eyes with the men. “He’s got long legs. He must be tall. Good-looking, slim build,” the other one confirms.
Confused, Namjoon slowly sets his laptop down on the coffee table. He pushes himself up and out of the chair, bringing with him his cup of coffee under the guise of a refill. “Um,” he begins uncertainly, “can I help you?” he asks.
“Yes,” one of them answers, and takes a step towards Namjoon. There’s a glint in his eyes that doesn’t pass by Namjoon’s attention. Instinctively, Namjoon swerves towards the barista and asks for his refill, keeping his eyes focused ahead.
“He’s not a frequent customer,” the barista says when he takes the cup. “This is his first time here. He’s not who you’re looking for.”
His fingers rap against the counter as the barista turns to make him another cup of coffee. He doesn’t look at the two men even though he can feel their eyes still on him, still scrutinising him, sizing him up. Analysing him. But once he gets his cup back he pays and quickly turns on his heel and walks back to his chair, his laptop, and sits. Only then do the men from the CCG leave. Their eyes, however, watch Namjoon as they go.
With bewildered eyes he quickly looks back down to his laptop and hopes to never run into them ever again. And despite how mellow the atmosphere here is or how delicious the coffee is, he doesn’t think he’ll be returning. He can find another coffee shop, it’s no big deal. He stays until he’s finished his coffee, until he’s written enough words that satisfy him before calling it a day with this essay, before he decides to leave the coffee shop and never return. During this time, though, he couldn’t help but feel somewhat paranoid, always glancing up whenever the door opened.
Just to make sure no one else from the CCG comes to dissect him with their eyes like he’s anything more than a poor university student.
When he does, finally, get up to leave after packing his laptop back into his messenger bag and picking up his cup of coffee to take back to the barista, he pauses.
Sitting at one of the stools by the counter is a face he doesn’t remember seeing when he’d first walked in or seen coming into the store after the little (non) fiasco with the men from the CCG.
Now, Namjoon has always believed there are only two types of people in this world: people who are beautiful, and people who aren’t. Today, Namjoon had realised that there’s only one beautiful person in the world, and the rest are ugly. That beautiful person is sitting at a stool in front of the barista, elbows resting on the counter, chin in his hand. Staring up at Namjoon.
“Hi,” the beautiful man says.
“H-hello,” Namjoon stutters out, hand paused where he has it outstretched, trying to give back the cup. The man smiles, his already plush, plump lips remaining plump when they stretch. Namjoon almost loses his grip on his cup before the barista takes it. “Sorry,” Namjoon mutters and hightails it out of the coffee shop as fast as he could.
On his way back to his dorm his phone buzzes in his pocket with the notification of a text. His friend had replied.
CCG? commission of counter ghoul?
u know, they investigate ghouls n stuff
But being able to finally read Takusu’s message only brings about another problem. What the hell is a ghoul? And why the hell is there an organisation behind it?
Namjoon’s hunger for knowledge doesn’t let him rely on texting his friends for information. The second he gets home and opens his laptop up, he launches himself deeply into the internet.
“What the fuck happened to you?”
Namjoon just yawns as he sits down in the lecture hall, slipping his bag off his shoulder. Takusu watches him intently. “Didn’t sleep,” Namjoon replies with another yawn.
“Yeah, I can see that. Your entire face looks like an eyebag. You wanna explain why?”
He waits until he’s pulled his laptop out, put in his password, and the first thing to pop up answers Takusu’s question.
“You’ve… been reading articles on ghouls.”
Namjoon nods and exits out of all the articles he’d been pilfering through the night before and rubs his eyes. “Did you know ghouls can’t actually digest normal food properly? Like, it’s not that they like human flesh, it’s just the only thing they can eat. That’s quite sad.”
“I did know,” Takusu deadpans, shrugging off his jacket, “I’ve lived in Japan all my life. And it’s not sad, it’s horrific. They’re monsters. They eat people.”
Namjoon purses his lips for a moment to think, only it’s nine in the morning and he’d slept for, maybe, two hours, so his thought process is a little slow right now. “You guys eat animals, you don’t see me calling you a monster.”
Their professor walks into the lecture hall, setting his portfolio onto the podium as he organises his notes and turns the large screen at the front on. “You literally called me a monster last time we went out to eat. Don’t get all high and mighty on me, you vegan.”
“Vegetarian,” Namjoon blankly corrects Takusu. “I didn’t reach this height drinking almond milk.”
There are two types of people in the world, Namjoon wonders. People who stick to their convictions, and people who don’t. Namjoon belongs to the latter category, he dolefully notes as he makes his way back to that coffee shop that’s a little further from his university than what’s justifiable even though he said he’d never come back.
Anteiku. Run by a somewhat elderly barista, staffed with young waiters and waitresses of different personalities. Frequented by men (correction: one man) so beautiful that it almost killed Namjoon. Almost. He goes back even though he’d said he’d never return, even though he believed he was one of those who stuck by their convictions, all because he thought (hoped) that he’d get to see that beautiful man again. Namjoon’s a man of convictions (he likes to think), but more than that he’s a gay man. Gay men like Namjoon have no business with convictions when men like (what’s his name? his age? the way in which he likes his eggs in the morning?) exist.
He sits in the corner of the shop again, facing the interior, the entrance, sipping on his delicious coffee. Does Namjoon work on his essay, or does he keep surveillance of the customers in the shop? Thirty marks, sixty minutes.
The beautiful man doesn’t appear.
Or the day after, or the day after that. On the fifth day, he goes straight home after his last class. There’d been a death near the university, and the news of it had spread like wildfire across the campus. Namjoon had seen it pop up on his feed, and within an hour it was all anyone was talking about. Talks about who it was (a student), how they knew a guy who knew the student. What class he was in. Where he was found dead.
Talks about it being the work of a ghoul.
Namjoon goes straight home after his last class. Makes sure to walk with a group of people. They all tell each other to stay safe before heading to their own dorms, and the second Namjoon shuts the door he locks it, sends a text to his roommate to hurry his ass home, and once again launches into a deep and intense research session on the internet.
He quickly finds information of the death of the student. Indeed, it was a student who attended his university. The official police statements all say they cannot confirm the nature of the death as of yet, but there are countless unofficial posts pinning it to doings of a ghoul. There are people saying they’ve witnessed it with their own two eyes (Namjoon doubts that), and people saying they saw the body. There are pictures. A dark shot of an alleyway, a blurry, murky object on the ground. Something shining under the moonlight. It looks like liquid.
Namjoon zooms into the picture. He can make out a leg here, some fingers there. Intestines trailing beside it.
Keys in the door shake Namjoon out of his reverie. “Hey, Namjoon, did you hear? This guy,” his roommate begins the second he enters the dorm as he’s kicking off his shoes. “Fucking got eaten by a ghoul.”
“Yeah, that’s why I texted you to come home quick, Yusuke.”
Yusuke flops onto the sofa beside Namjoon. “Bet you wish you never left Korea, huh?”
“Hmm,” Namjoon hums, staring down at the screen of his laptop. His research on the ghouls. “I guess.”
Namjoon may not have much in the way of convictions, but he sure is a determined (see: stupid, but that’s a debate for another day) man, because on the sixth day, one day after the uproar of a student from his university being eaten and killed by a ghoul, he goes back to Anteiku. There are less customers here today than the other days, Namjoon notes sourly. He waits, as usual, under the guise of drinking coffee and working on his assignments, for the chance to glimpse at the beautiful man he’d seen once here, when he realises he could just ask the barista. That man was talking to him, wasn’t he? The barista might know about him.
“Yes, I remember,” the barista answers easily, like he didn’t have to rifle through his memory to pick out the face Namjoon is trying to describe. “Why do you ask?”
“Uh,” Namjoon falters for a moment, because he didn’t think he’d get this far. “What’s his name?” he asks after decided on the easiest piece of information to acquire.
“I don’t know,” the barista replies.
There’s something in his tone, his unwavering relaxed smile that says tells Namjoon he’s hiding something.
“Right… is he a frequent customer here?”
This, it seems, gives the barista something to think about. “You could say that.”
“Then…” Namjoon chews on his lip for a second before pulling a notebook out of his bag and ripping a sheaf of paper from it. He uncaps a pen and scribbles down his name, and his phone number. “Could you give this to him the next time he comes here?”
The barista slowly takes the paper, folds it after a short glance, and puts it in his pocket. “Sure,” he says with his ever-present smile. “Your Japanese is very good, Kim-san.”
“Oh, uh, just Namjoon is fine. Thanks.”
It’s been a few days. The beautiful man doesn’t call.
He’s been very careful since the news of the ghoul attack had spread through the university, making sure to come home early and avoid walking around alone. He’d seen more of those men in white trench coats carrying around silver briefcases, but this time he’s not wary of them and he knows exactly who they are. The Commission of Counter Ghoul, the CCG, an organisation that deals with the investigation of ghouls and ghoul-related incidents. He’s not wary of seeing them (the investigators in the white trench coats, nicknamed Doves by the public) around; instead, he feels comforted by their presence. Like they’ll be able to protect him if he ever does come into contact with a ghoul.
As the days go on the commotion thins out. The panic in the air lessens, quietens, and Namjoon stays out longer. The CCG, as he’d learned from his friends, never give public statements about their work – and Namjoon guesses it’s for good measure. Better to keep the public calm than to have them all collectively lose their minds, right? Namjoon has yet to see anything regarding a resolution of the death of the student by the hands of a ghoul, but he believes that the CCG have sorted it out. Whatever it means to sort out a ghoul.
The sky is dark when Namjoon heads back to his dorm after a long day spent studying in the library and then heading to the nearest grocery store to restock on essentials. He hums along lightly to the song stuck in his head, languidly waking through the streets with their flickering sodium lamps and quiet thrum of life in the living spaces above his head, in the buildings, the people who have yet to go to sleep.
The quiet thrum of the people who have yet to go to sleep, and the sound of something crunching, squelching, simmered down by distance and walls. As Namjoon walks on the sound thrums louder, until he can hear it clearly, coupled with a few humanly grunts. Soon, that sound is unobstructed and Namjoon turns his head to look down the alleyway he stands at the mouth of, and that’s when he sees it with his own two eyes.
His breathing stops in his chest. His breathing stops and yet the sudden assault of the stench of blood wafts in, regardless, and it almost brings tears to his eyes. He steps backwards, painfully slowly, painfully quietly, focusing everything he has to the sounds coming from the end of the alleyway around the corner he’d backed away from.
It was a ghoul. It was definitely a ghoul. What else could it have been? It was dark, there were no street lamps back there; but from what light did reach Namjoon had made out the silhouette of a human hunched over another, lifeless body, eating away at the abdomen.
The sounds of the ghoul chewing, the squelch of raw and bloody flesh, stops abruptly.
Namjoon feels himself go cold. The ghoul has heard him. His heart picks up speed, it’s hammering away in his chest, it’s threatening to break his ribs, and all Namjoon can think of is that he needs to stay calm, keep his ears trained, his feet ready to dash. But the sound of his heart clamouring away and his blood rushing is almost deafening.
He can’t hear the ghoul. He can’t hear anything. There’s too much noise inside him, his own organs, his blood (the parts of him that’ll be delicious to a hungry, flesh-eating monster) and his own mind that’s screaming at him that he’s going to die he’s going to die he’s going to die-
He turns around. Rather than waiting with the hope that the noises will simmer down so that he can track the sound of the ghoul he realises it’ll be easier if he just starts running now. So that’s what he does. His heart is already thumping like he’s been sprinting all this time, so it’s easy to get his legs to start churning. To go. To live.
Waiting for him is a man wearing a long, black coat. Namjoon skids to a halt. The man has a mask over his face- a white mask that covers his entire face, dark grey patches where the eyes would be. He starts to walk towards Namjoon, and Namjoon falls backwards. There’s the ghoul behind him, he knows for sure, it must’ve heard him, and there’s a strange man in front of him, walking towards him. There’s so much noise inside him that he doesn’t know which voice to listen to, which of the two dangers to run from, whether he should still try to live, until the man in the white mask reaches him.
“Go home,” he says, his voice barely audible over the noise.
And then he walks past Namjoon.
Namjoon doesn’t leave his dorm for a few days.
When he finally does emerge from his cave and sees actual sunlight, the first thing he does is go back to that alleyway where he’d seen the ghoul eating someone, where a mysterious man in a white mask had told him to go home. Where he ran back home and no one came chasing after him. That alleyway, now properly lit. There’s nothing there save for the few trashcans, dumpsters. There’s no body on the ground (but what did Namjoon expect?) so he almost tells himself that he’d imagined the whole thing until he sees a faint red tint to the grey ground. Blood, it seems, is hard to wash out.
Namjoon’s hunger for knowledge flares up again. He wants to know what had happened to the ghoul that was here, who the victim was. Who the man in the long black coat and white mask was, and what happened after he told Namjoon to go home. He wants to know, but this time he realises that he won’t find any answers by searching the internet.
He attends his classes. He doesn’t make it obvious that he’s still shaken, still so fixated, but as soon as his last class ends he doesn’t wait around; determined, he exits the building with his phone in his hand, the map already loaded and ready to give him directions.
Sure, his first encounter with the CCG was… well, subpar, but now Namjoon thinks he might need them.
The building is big, sleekly designed with white concrete and large windows. The interior is polished, white shiny floors and white marble desks, at which a receptionist sits. Namjoon walks over to her and blurts out everything he’d suffered through.
She directs him to one of the grey sofas on the other side of the lobby, telling him she’ll get someone over to him in a minute. It takes much longer than a minute, Namjoon knew that already, so he waits patiently. Waits, and waits, until someone in a black shirt tucked into black pants walks up to him. “Kim Namjoon?” he asks, and Namjoon quickly stands.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“I’m Nakajima Yasutomo, I’m one of the bureau investigators here. Come with me,” the man says. He turns and starts to walk. Namjoon follows.
They reach some sort of detection gate that Yasutomo walks through with ease, hands in his pockets lazily, but when he gets to the other side he turns to face Namjoon.
“Come on through,” Yasutomo beckons Namjoon.
Namjoon feels a challenge in Yasutomo’s voice, but he can’t tell why. He puts his legs into action and walks through. Though he’d been wearing a metal chain around his wrist, the gate doesn’t make a sound.
“Great,” Yasutomo resounds, and continues walking. Namjoon continues to follow.
He finds an empty room to sit down in, and beckons Namjoon to take a seat, too. “Um, Nakajima-san,” Namjoon begins apprehensively, “what was that gate for, back there? It’s not a metal-detection gate.”
Yasutomo nods slowly. “It’s an RC cell detection gate. A normal human’s RC cell count is around two to five hundred. For a ghoul it can be anything from one thousand to eight thousand.”
“Right…” Namjoon says with furrowed, curious brows. “And what does that mean? For the ghoul, I mean.”
“The RC cells are stored in the ghoul’s body, in a place we call the kakuhou. The cells typically are liquidated, but ghouls can freely control them and solidify them. Think of it like liquid muscle.”
Namjoon tries to wrap his mind around this bit of information, but as he sits and thinks he realises that this is not what he’s here for. He can search up these so-called liquid muscle cells later on the internet. “Right, okay. Thanks. Uh, I came to report a ghoul sighting…” he mutters, unsure of the correct way to phrase his concerns.
“When and where?”
“Three days ago, around eleven at night. It was eating someone, and I tried to get away quietly, but I think it heard me,” he purses his lips as he says. He looks down at his knees. “But this guy appeared. He was wearing a long black coat and a white mask with black patches where the eyes would be over his face. He told me to go home and walked towards the ghoul. I ran home after that.”
Yasutomo taps his fingers on the desk like he’s absorbing all the information Namjoon had just thrown at him. He takes a deep breath. “Give me a moment. Let me check CCTV footage.”
He gets up and leaves the room. Namjoon jiggles his leg to pass time until he returns with a tablet in his hands, a grainy image paused on the screen. He shows the screen to Namjoon and taps on it to start the video, and Namjoon watches the surveillance footage from a camera angled towards the street Namjoon had walked on. In a few seconds, Namjoon sees himself walking into the shot, walking down the street with ease. Then, he sees himself freeze when he reaches the mouth of the alleyway that he can’t see down. Yasutomo pauses the video.
“Was it in there that you saw the ghoul?” he asks.
Namjoon nods sombrely.
Yasutomo taps on the screen again. Namjoon watches himself back up ever so slowly, slowly, until he suddenly turns on his heel and runs.
A figure walks into the shot. The man in the long black coat and white mask. Namjoon watches himself fall flat on his ass, watches the mysterious man walk past him, to the corner, and then he disappears into the alleyway.
“That guy…” Namjoon trails, staring at the screen even after Yasutomo pauses it, “was he a CCG investigator?”
“No. We’ll look into this. Would you like to be updated on this incident?” he asks.
“Yes, please. Thank you, Nakajima-san.”
After giving his personal details, like his contact number and email (and address, just in case his ghoul sighting had put him in danger), he leaves the CCG building and heads back to his dorm as early as he can.
The beautiful man sits on a bench under a tree just outside the building Namjoon needs to enter to get to his class. He’s got his eyes on Namjoon already when Namjoon spots him, and when their eyes meet Namjoon feels his breath stop in his chest while the man just smiles.
He’s walking towards the man like his feet have a mind of their own. Like the gay panic in him doesn’t faze their mission. The man’s eyes are big, almond shaped, lilting, when Namjoon reaches the bench. “Hi,” Namjoon says breathlessly.
Namjoon swallows thickly. The man is smiling up at him but there’s something in his eyes in the way he looks up at Namjoon, like there’s something that amuses him but Namjoon doesn’t know what that thing is. He’s only vaguely aware that the man is amused at something. Namjoon licks his lips. “I’m Kim Namjoon.”
“I know. A fellow Korean,” the man says, and pats the space next to him on the bench. Namjoon quickly parks his ass on it. “I’m Kim Seokjin.”
“Kim Seokjin,” Namjoon tests out, letting the sound of the beautiful man’s beautiful name roll off his tongue. “You got my note.”
“A note with just your name and number.”
“Right, sorry. I uh, just wanted to…”
“What?” Seokjin asks, leaning forward to angle his head towards Namjoon. His thick brows raised curiously. “What did you want to do? Get to know me?”
Namjoon gulps and nods.
“Okay. Tell me about yourself, first,” Seokjin suggests, a light smirk on his plump lips, and that feeling like he’s amused at something Namjoon doesn’t see is there again. Namjoon wants to wipe it off his face.
“Uh, I’m Kim Namjoon. Twenty. I study Japanese Literature.”
Seokjin waves his hand dismissively. “Boring,” he complains in a sing-song voice, “tell me the good stuff.”
“Like what you do for fun. What kind of food you like to eat. How big your dick is.”
Namjoon’s eyes snap open wide and he freezes. Seokjin throws his head back and laughs. His hand lands on Namjoon’s arm and it feels like it’s going to burn, it’s hot on his skin. Seokjin laughs and laughs like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever said, his voice loud and high pitched and some of the students walking by stare at him as they go. When he calms down he wipes a tear from his eye. Namjoon smacks his lips together. “I like learning about new stuff. I like spicy food. My dick is pretty big.”
The amusement on Seokjin’s face slides off when he meets Namjoon’s eyes. For a few seconds neither of them say a word but Namjoon becomes increasingly aware of Seokjin’s hand on his arm. His hand squeezes before it lets go. “That’s a… big claim you’re making,” Seokjin replies, pressing his lips together to stop a giggle from escaping him.
There’s something about Seokjin’s demeanour that throws Namjoon off. “Well?” Namjoon growls, looking away as he feels heat creep up his neck. “I answered your questions. Now tell me about yourself.”
Seokjin looks at him and smiles widely, cheekily. “I like to eat boys like you for fun. There, that’s two questions answered in one. And my dick is pretty big, too.”
He launches himself up off the bench, turns to face Namjoon.
“Oh, and I’ll need your number again,” Seokjin says like he’s just remembered. “I threw out your note as soon as I got it.”
Wearily, Namjoon takes the phone Seokjin hands him and cautiously punches in his digits. “Are you going to call me?”
“Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. If you behave and be a good boy, I won’t have to.”
“What does that even mean?”
Seokjin’s eyes go dark. “It means that you need to be more careful. The streets of Tokyo are not safe.”
“H-huh?” Namjoon stutters at the drop in temperature between them. Seokjin turns on his heels to leave. “Wait! At least give me your number, too!”
Seokjin doesn’t stop walking. Namjoon wants to chase after him but he’s already wasted too much time talking that if he doesn’t get to his class right now, he’d be late. He bites his lip and resigns himself, and with clenched fists he walks inside the building.
Later that evening, his phone rings. Namjoon nearly falls off his bed with his legs tangled in the bedsheets trying to reach for his phone where he’d left it on the desk. His heart starts racing as he accepts the call. “Hi- Seok-“
“Kim Namjoon?” comes the cold, low voice of Nakajima Yasutomo.
“Oh,” Namjoon mumbles, his shoulders sagging and his excitement slipping out of him. “Yes, it’s me, Namjoon.”
“Just wanted to fill you in on the situation. The ghoul you saw is dead, so rest assured.”
“Right… um, when did- how did that ghoul die?”
“It was killed by another ghoul. The one that walked past you.”
“T-that was another ghoul? I-“ Namjoon pauses and recalls skidding to halt in front of that mysterious man, falling back on his ass and staring up in fear at the white mask that covered it’s face. “I’m so confused. Why didn’t it attack me?”
“We’re currently investigating that ghoul. He’s an S-rated ghoul we’ve nicknamed Betelgeuse. He is extremely powerful, but unusually he only eats other ghouls or finishes off humans that have already been killed.”
Namjoon bites on his lower lip. The man in the long black coat and the white mask walked had walked past him that night, told him to go home, and then proceeded to eat the ghoul and his victim.
If Namjoon didn’t run, he might’ve been killed and feasted on by the ghoul in the alleyway, only to be finished off by a far more powerful ghoul.
“We have only a few descriptions of what Betelgeuse may look like under his garb. Tall, slim build. Perhaps in his twenties. Good-looking, apparently. He may be a well-known person. Not many people have seen Betelgeuse in his garb, however. The reason we are sharing all of this information with you is because we want you to keep an eye out for this ghoul. If he let you go without hurting you, he may do so again. If you see him, please notify us,” Yasutomo beseeches.
Of course, the first thing Namjoon does when he gets off the phone with Yasutomo is drag his laptop onto his lap and start searching.
Betelgeuse. A red, supergiant star fourteen-hundred times larger than the sun, it sits in the shoulder of Orion and has been dubbed the cannibal star due to the companion stars it has devoured. The star is relatively young – ten million years old compared to the sun’s four and a half billion years, and despite how much larger it is than the sun, how much younger, it’s still spinning much, much faster than it should. Rapidly hurtling itself towards its explosive death. The stars that it has cannibalised is bringing about its own end.
Which, Namjoon guesses, is a fitting name for a powerful, S-rated ghoul that only preys on other ghouls.
Somehow, Namjoon finds himself looking at pictures of from a movie called Beetlejuice, an American comedy-horror movie that features a character named Betelgeuse who wears white face paint and black around his eyes.
There are two types of people in the world, Namjoon contemplates. Those who have the time to think up these connections, and those who don’t. Does Betelgeuse even know, himself, that he’s been named Betelgeuse?
He gets halfway through his timetable on the Friday before a much-needed weekend off when his phone buzzes. It buzzes in his pocket, once, twice, while he’s in class and Namjoon likes to think he’s a good student, so he doesn’t look at his phone until after the class is over.
From: Unknown Number
From: Unknown Number
To: Unknown Number
new phone who dis
From: Unknown Number
From: Unknown Number
go home, now
Okay, I’m home. Now what?
It reaches the time he would’ve come home if he’d attended his lecture and come home, and then it reaches the time he would’ve come if he’d gone to the library to study, and then it reaches midnight, and then there’s a knock on the door of his dorm. He trudges over to it, confused and wondering who would knock on his door because if it was any of his friends they’d smack their fists against it and shout at Namjoon to open up. He jogs over to the door with a quickly growing ember of hope that it might be Seokjin.
It’s not Seokjin. Two policemen stand by his door.
“Kim Namjoon?” one of them asks, and Namjoon slowly nods. From the corner of his eyes he can see a head poking out of the neighbouring dorm. “You live with Sugihara Yusuke?”
Namjoon nods again, and then suddenly, he realises that Yusuke never came back to the dorm today. “What happened?” he asks, his voice suddenly sounding thin and strained.
“He was found dead a few hours ago. As his roommate we want to ask you some questions. Please come with us.”
The first thing Namjoon does, at four in the morning when he finally returns to his dorm after being dropped off in a patrol car, is take his phone and dial Seokjin’s number.
It takes a while before Seokjin picks up.
“What the fuck,” Namjoon almost yells when Seokjin finally answers. He’s struggling to keep his voice down, the walls are thin and he doesn’t want to wake any of the other students on his floor (even though many of them had been awake when Namjoon finally returned, badgering him for answers). “What the fuck!”
“What is it?” Seokjin asks, his voice low and gruff. Maybe Namjoon had woken him up with his phone call, who knows. Who cares.
“You told me to go home like something bad was going to happen. You didn’t give me any explanation. And now- and now-“
Namjoon chokes. Slaps his hand to his mouth to stop himself from crying all over again like he had been in front of the police officers trying to get answers from him about Yusuke.
“My roommate,” he manages to get out, “my roommate is dead. What the fuck.”
“Calm down,” Seokjin says when he can finally get a word in. “Where are you now?”
“In my dorm.”
“When did you find out that he died?”
“The police came to my dorm at midnight and told me. I went down to answer questions and just came home now.”
“Did they check your phone?”
“What does that matter? My roommate is fucking dead-“
“Answer me. Did they check your phone?”
Namjoon huffs out loud and his hand strikes into his hair. He grabs it tightly. “They looked at my last conversation with him, that’s all.”
“They didn’t look at our conversation? Where I asked you to go home?”
“Alright. Alright, Namjoon, calm down. Go to sleep. Okay?”
Namjoon wants to fling his phone at his wall. He bites down on his lip, hard, to hold back all his anger and frustration but he breathes through his mouth instead. “I don’t think I’m gonna get any fucking sleep. Not until I get answers. Why did you tell me to go home and what has that got to do with Yusuke dying?”
“I can’t come to you right now. So do whatever you want- sleep, don’t sleep, it’s up to you.”
“Are you fucking serious-“
“Namjoon. You’re getting on my nerves. I’ll speak to you tomorrow.”
And then, Seokjin hangs up.
As he’d anticipated, Namjoon doesn’t sleep. His phone blows up in the morning with messages from people who were friends with Yusuke, there are knocks every hour on his door from their neighbours. Namjoon stays indoors. He doesn’t say a word. He ignores every phone call he gets. There’s too much shit swirling inside his mind to be able to form any kind of answer that Yusuke’s friends want.
He doesn’t leave the dorm, and he doesn’t do any work in the time he spends there, either, until the afternoon rolls around and he’s stagnant, exhausted and wide-awake at the same time, when he gets a message he’s from someone he’s been looking out for.
go to the campus gym. If anyone asks, u just need to clear ur head
He manages to reach the campus gym with as little conversation as possible. Two or three of his friends (he can’t remember) stop him and bombard him with questions which he deflects. Not because Seokjin told him not to, but because he can’t bear to. He says he needs to clear his head and continues on towards the gym. He signs in, goes to the changing rooms to change, and then heads into the large, air-conditioned space.
Right in the corner of the room sitting on the edge of a weight bench is Seokjin. Namjoon walks towards him.
“You look like shit,” Seokjin says, staring up at Namjoon once he reaches the bench.
“I don’t really care about what I look like, right now,” Namjoon growls back. He waves his hand, gesturing to Seokjin to move up the bench so that he could sit on the end of it. “How about you explain what happened yesterday?”
Seokjin looks around. From where he’s sat in the corner of the vast room he has a scope of everyone in it, everyone coming in and out. Satisfied, he lowers his gaze back to Namjoon. “The streets of Tokyo are not safe,” Seokjin says. His voice is quiet, low.
“You told me that once, already. After you asked me how big my dick is.”
The straight-lipped, taut pull at the corners of Seokjin’s mouth don’t budge. He glances around the room once more. “You should pretend you’re bench pressing,” Seokjin tells him.
“Why don’t you?”
“I need to keep an eye out.”
“For what? Why are you so secretive? Who the hell are you?”
Seokjin’s hand darts out and grabs the front of Namjoon’s t-shirt. “Keep quiet,” he hisses, his thick brows heavy over his eyes. Namjoon quickly brings his hand up to cover Seokjin’s.
“You’re not giving me any reason to want to listen to you,” Namjoon hisses back.
“What, even though you tried giving me your number from seeing me once? Coming back to Anteiku hoping you’d get to see me? Asking old man Yoshi about me? Isn’t your massive crush on me reason enough?”
Heat rushes up to Namjoon’s face but he doesn’t let go of Seokjin’s hand holding onto the front of his t-shirt. Instead, he bites down on his lip and he pulls Seokjin’s hand off. “Get up. I’ll pretend to bench press,” he gives in.
Seokjin stands and walks around to the back of the bench to spot for Namjoon when he lowers himself onto the bench, feet planted on the ground on either side of the bench and looks up at the ceiling, the bright fluorescent lights. He hears metal scraping on metal, the sounds of Seokjin changing the weights on the bar, and then, Seokjin’s face appears in front of Namjoon’s eyes, looking down at him. “You don’t look very muscular. I adjusted the weights for you.”
Namjoon reaches up and takes the bar in his hands. Seokjin’s hands appear beside his, the sides of his palm pressed against the sides of Namjoon’s palms. Then, he lifts the bar off the stand, and he almost drops the weights on his chest. Almost. Seokjin holds it up. “Okay,” Namjoon grunts when he gets used to the heaviness of it. “Tell me.”
“You know about ghouls,” Seokjin whispers, almost too quietly for Namjoon to hear. “Some of them like to gather in places. Some of them don’t. The eleventh ward, for example, you should steer clear of. But here in the twentieth, it’s pretty calm and safe.”
“Okay…” Namjoon breathes. He places the weight on the rack and gives his arms a break from pumping.
“Some ghouls have been migrating here. To get away from the doves. But recently there’s been some commotion that has caught their attention, and the ghouls aren’t happy.”
Namjoon swallows, painfully. He needs water; his throat is dry, but more than that his throat feels like it’s closing up with panic and dread. He keeps his mouth shut as Seokjin walks around, perches himself on the end of the bench, in between Namjoon’s legs. His back faces Namjoon.
With a heave, Namjoon pushes himself up. The back of Seokjin’s head is right in front of him, his silky black hair. The inch that Namjoon has over Seokjin lets him see over Seokjin’s head. No one’s watching them, tucked into the corner. “They’re targeting you,” Seokjin whispers.
“Me?” Namjoon asks.
Seokjin nods. “You’re the one who went to the CCG. I told you to go home that day because I was trying to keep you safe.”
Namjoon brings his hands forward and he rests them on Seokjin’s sides slowly, gently, as if the man in front of him could suddenly jump up and disappear. “You wanted to keep me safe?” he echoes.
“You should worry about yourself,” Namjoon whispers, leaning in and to the side so that he can push his head forward over Seokjin’s shoulder. “You look like-“
“You don’t need to worry about me,” Seokjin replies quickly, turning his head to face Namjoon. Their faces are only inches apart, and Namjoon catches himself staring into Seokjin’s deep, dark eyes. “You only need to listen to me when I tell you hide. The ghouls know they got the wrong guy, after killing your roommate-“
“Huh?” Namjoon’s eyes snap open wide, his fingers digging into Seokjin’s flesh. “Is- is that why Yusuke-“
Seokjin’s hand darts up and claps over Namjoon’s mouth. “You’re too loud.”
A few seconds pass where Seokjin challenges Namjoon, like he’s daring Namjoon to even try make another sound, until Namjoon reaches up with one hand and pulls his hand off. “You need to tell me,” Namjoon whispers so quietly that he barely hears himself, but it’s okay because Seokjin is so close to him right now, he doesn’t doubt that the mysterious, beautiful man can hear him. “How you know all of this. Who are you?”
“Just a good-looking regular at a quaint little coffee shop,” Seokjin replies flatly.
Namjoon holds Seokjin’s stare, not backing down, not backing away. Seokjin stares back, and he doesn’t give up either. He keeps staring, sizing up every clue he can find in Seokjin’s face until something dawns on him. “Young male,” Namjoon whispers. “Probably in your twenties.”
Seokjin cocks his head to the side, brows furrowed, a question on his face.
“Tall, slim-build. Frequent customer at Anteiku. You’re the guy the CCG were looking for that day. You- are you-“
Seokjin’s hand clamps around Namjoon’s mouth again, harsh, cutting off the risky words that were about to spill from his lips. His brows lower over his eyes, unspoken danger lurking under them. “Be careful, Namjoon,” Seokjin whispers, his voice level and calm but there’s something brewing underneath it, boiling and bubbling and ready to lash out. “When you realise how vast the world really is, you realise how weak you are. I’m looking out for you, trying to keep you alive. So don’t bite the hand that feeds you, or I’ll bite back.”
He slowly lowers his hand from around Namjoon’s mouth, slowly, as if he doesn’t trust Namjoon to not scream the second his lips are free. But Namjoon stays quiet. He keeps his lips pressed together, his lips that have touched Seokjin’s palms, and he watches the mysterious man stand from where he’d been sat, in between Namjoon’s legs, watches him back as he walks off. Then, he turns and he leaves.
There are two types of people in the world, Namjoon wonders on his way back to his empty dorm lined with flowers. Those who bite, and those who are bitten. Namjoon doesn’t want to be in either of those categories; he’s a vegetarian, and he wants to live to see old age. But he can’t, for the sake of himself, get rid of the hunger in him that wants a taste of Seokjin.
The next time he speaks with Nakajima Yasutomo it’s all about Yusuke. Whether Namjoon knew that it was the doings of a ghoul (he knows, he says he didn’t) and whether he’s had any other encounters with ghouls (he says he hasn’t, but his mind goes blank when he thinks he has). Yasutomo tells Namjoon that the CCG are planning to fortify the twentieth ward a little better, help to lessen the number of victims. Namjoon asks if they’d discovered anything since the last time they’d spoken.
Yasutomo says that they’re still stuck in the same place when it comes to the cannibal S-rated ghoul, Betelgeuse – the one that, for no reason, had saved Namjoon one night on a dark street.
It’s been a few days since Yusuke’s passing. He finally gets his shit together and replies to the messages he’s gotten about it, finally acknowledges the flowers that have gathered outside his dorm. He attends the small memorial Yusuke’s girlfriend had put together. He tries to move on, but his dorm suddenly feels too big, too empty, too grey.
He hasn’t seen Seokjin for a few days. Not since seeing him at the gym. He can’t stop thinking about him, can’t get him out of his head, but every time he breaches upon what they’d spoken about just before Seokjin left… Namjoon’s mind shuts down. He doesn’t want to think about it. He doesn’t want to think about it, doesn’t want to accept that it might be true. He doesn’t want to even entertain the idea, so whenever his mind drifts towards it he shuts it down.
He stays at the university a little later than usual today. He pushes it, he knows he’s pushing it, because the sky is dark when he leaves the university building and walks across campus.
The streets of Tokyo are not safe. Namjoon was disillusioned when he first came here, two years ago, hopping on the excitement of starting the next chapter of his life in another country. Sure, it’s only Japan and it’s not that far from South Korea, but it’s still new. The language is new, the customs and mannerisms are new, the culture is new. It was all so bright and sparkly when Namjoon first came here with his head in the clouds, but now he realises how dirty it really is. Away from the bustling city centre of tall buildings, neon lights and strange fashion Namjoon sees the underbelly of this place he thought he was enamoured with for what it really is- dirty alleyways, trashbags that haven’t been cleared away, litter on the ground. Cigarette butts put out and left wherever. Blood stains on the ground left behind by someone who once lived, someone who was once someone’s child, someone’s brother, someone’s lover, someone’s parent. The blood of that person left on the ground where it’s been scrubbed and scrubbed but has yet to be fully washed away and forgotten.
That someone refuses to be forgotten. The ghoul who ate that person: eating to satisfy their hunger.
Namjoon’s own hunger refuses to be satiated. Someone who was once someone’s child, brother, lover, parent, friend, someone who was once important to the people around him, was killed and feasted on in front of Namjoon’s eyes. Namjoon doesn’t know who that person was, but he did know Yusuke.
Namjoon wonders if, on that night, he had been killed and eaten instead of Yusuke, would people think of him the way Namjoon thinks of the people who have lost their lives so far? Would they think about the people Namjoon is leaving behind, the life Namjoon had left? Would they line the door and hallway outside his dorm with flowers like they did to the people who have lived here in Japan all their lives, have built their lives here, built families?
The lonely boy who moved here from South Korea only two years ago, who is still trying to learn complicated kanji, doesn’t want to let the blood on the ground wash away.
In the underbelly of the city away from the bright lights and promise of better days Namjoon stumbles on another feeding. The ghoul stops midway into ripping open her victim’s belly when she spots Namjoon and lunges him. Her eyes, her sclerae- are inked pitch black and her irises as red as the blood pooling under the faint trickling streetlight from the lamp around the corner. Panic and fear rush up Namjoon’s chest when she reaches him, bloody hands stretching out to him, to rip him open, but Namjoon pulls the plank of wood he’d found on his way from behind him and swings it recklessly in front of him. It connects with a sickening crack of flesh on wood and the ghoul falls to the side.
“Huh,” the ghoul stands up almost instantly. Namjoon watches in horror as the scraped flesh on her face where Namjoon had whacked her heals almost instantly. “My dessert is putting up a fight? That’s fine,” she wipes the back of her hand across her mouth, wiping the blood off.
“You’re not eating anything,” Namjoon steels his voice, trembling hands clutching the end of the plank so hard he feels splinters digging into his palms. “You’re going to give me answers.”
“What’s the question?” she asks. From the corner of Namjoon’s eyes he sees the body of the person on the ground, dead and in a pool of his own blood.
“Why have you come here to eat? Why do you attack innocent people?” Namjoon clenches his teeth as he tries not to let his eyes water all over again.
“I want to live, just as much as you do,” the ghoul says. “If that means I have to kill innocent people so that I don’t starve to death, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
There are two types of people in the world, Namjoon considers as he stands there, in a dirty alleyway in a lying, deceiving city in a country he doesn’t belong to. There are monsters, and there are men. Monsters do evil with the intention of being evil, because they like it, because it pleases them. Men do evil because they can’t help it. They need to live. There’s no room in this world for angels. To live is to hurt others.
The girl in front of him is no monster.
Her black sclerae and blood-red irises darken as she lunges towards Namjoon again and Namjoon’s hands grasp the plank of wood again, ready to strike again because damnit, he wants to live. He wants to live. He pulls his arms back ready to swing, when something rushes out from behind the girl. Namjoon’s eyes widen and he freezes.
Two large, limb-like extensions rush towards Namjoon. Namjoon doesn’t have the chance to drink it in, wonder what the fuck it is before one of them slams into his chest and knocks the air out of him before it knocks Namjoon against the wall. He drops onto the ground, and chokes out his desperation to breathe, but he doesn’t have time, he can’t kickstart his chest fast enough because the girl is towering above him, her two large, limb-like appendages floating beside her body. Namjoon heaves one leg up but it’s suddenly the most difficult thing in the world to move; his lungs have yet to try contracting after he’d been slammed in the chest and now all his muscles feel lactic and frozen. But he tries to move, anyway, and when the girl sees his effort she directs one of her appendages towards Namjoon at a speed so fast that Namjoon can barely see it.
He ducks, dropping down to the ground, but he’s not fast enough and the appendage scrapes over his shoulder, ripping open his sweatshirt, ripping through his skin. He can’t scream. He can only wince and slap his hand over his wound and hope to supress the pain. His hand scrambles against the warm blood gathering there.
The girl moves to attack him again, angling one of the appendages towards Namjoon. It’s pointed on the end, and it’s pointed right at Namjoon. He squeezes his eyes shut.
There’s a rush of wind in front him that he almost gets blown away by, stumbling onto the ground with the force of it. He snaps his eyes open. The girl is no longer in front of him, but a few feet away and lying on the ground. There’s a slowly growing pool of blood around her. Namjoon snaps his head away, to the other side, and his eyes zero in on the man in the long black coat and white mask. Betelgeuse, the S-rated cannibal ghoul.
Betelgeuse walks past him, reaches the girl and crouches down. The girl tries to sit up, pushing herself up off the ground, but Betelgeuse strikes one hand out to grab her throat. He crushes it.
Then, with his back to Namjoon, he lifts his mask off his face and lets it rest atop his head.
It takes a few minutes for Namjoon to find his voice amidst the sounds and the silhouette of Betelgeuse devouring the girl, the thick, heavy stench of metallic blood. “W-Who are you? Show me your face,” Namjoon demands. Betelgeuse doesn’t stop eating.
He swallows down his fear, as much as he can, trying to gather up all the courage he can find in his body, when Betelgeuse gets started on finishing off the dead human.
Namjoon tries his best to creep up behind Betelgeuse. “Not another step,” Betelgeuse mumbles through a mouth full of flesh. “I saved your life, so go home.”
“I’m curious,” Namjoon replies. “Why did you save me?”
“Curiosity will kill you on these streets. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, so just go home.”
With his pained lungs that have slowly gotten used to breathing again, he draws in a sharp inhale. He remembers Seokjin’s hand clamped around his mouth. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, he’d told Namjoon. Or I’ll bite back.
And the subsequent dread of what dawned on Namjoon that filled him up like dirty water.
Betelgeuse stops eating.
“I’m right, aren’t I?”
That day, the first time Namjoon had ever interacted with the CCG they’d been looking for someone who was a frequent customer at the Anteiku coffee shop. Someone who was tall, good-looking, in his twenties. They’d mistaken Namjoon for that person. It was Seokjin they were looking for- he must’ve been hiding somewhere else in the building that day, only coming back out once the CCG had left. That’s why Namjoon didn’t see him enter the shop- he’d been there all along.
Which means that the barista… and perhaps even the waitstaff, were ghouls, too. They’d hidden Seokjin, told him that Namjoon was mistaken for him, told him about how Namjoon kept coming back on the hopes that he’d get to see Seokjin again.
The night he’d seen a ghoul feasting for the first time, Betelgeuse had saved his life. And Seokjin appeared in front of him the next time he left his dorm, had asked for his number and told him to stay safe.
Namjoon didn’t want to accept it for a long time. Had shut his brain down every time his thoughts wandered off down that path. But now he’s standing in the middle of that path, he’s at the end of it, and there’s nowhere else to go.
Betelgeuse tips his chin upwards, slowly, and then looks behind him.
There’s blood smeared around those plump, plush lips, and the eyes Namjoon remembers seeing right in front of his face are inked black, red irises blaring at him and piercing through him. Namjoon quickly looks down, away from Seokjin’s face.
“I told you not to bite the hand of the one that feeds you,” Seokjin says after he swallows. “Or I’ll bite you back.”
“Y-you’re a ghoul,” Namjoon whispers.
“I’ve been protecting you, Namjoon. All I asked for was that you mind your own business. I liked you, Namjoon,” Seokjin says as he stands up, pushing himself up on his knees. The long black coat flows open. “But I can’t let you live.”
Something moves from under Seokjin’s coat, under the sleeves. A long, red rapier slips out from Seokjin’s cuff, and he holds onto the spear. It looks like dark, crystallised blood. He takes a step towards Namjoon.
“Wait!” Namjoon quickly shouts, hands up. “I- I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I promise. I-I-“ he stutters, and his panic is crashing around him like an chained monster and he knows that he doesn’t sound convincing, not in the slightest: he sounds like a desperate man begging to live. He wonders how many people have begged Seokjin for their lives. How many of them he let go, how many of them he ate. “I,” he grunts, “I figured it out that day in the gym. That you’re a ghoul. But I never told the CCG. I don’t plan to.”
The rapier pulls back into Seokjin’s sleeve. “Really?” he asks, but there’s nothing in his voice that tells Namjoon he believes him.
Namjoon quickly nods, nods so fast and furiously that his wound over his shoulder hurts and he clamps his hand over it to try and stifle the pain. “Yes, really. Can you, uh, help me? My shoulder is fucked up. How do I treat ghoul attacks?”
Seokjin throws his head back and laughs. “I don’t know.”
“Please tell me you won’t kill me,” Namjoon beseeches while there’s still amusement on Seokjin’s face, in his blood irises. “I’ll stop being curious about ghouls. I’ll keep your identity a secret.”
Seokjin stops laughing. The amusement on his lips slip away and the only thing left there is blood. “Go back to your dorm. Don’t go to the hospital. I’ll come after.”
He almost questions why he shouldn’t go to be seen medically but he shuts himself up. Just the fact that he’s being allowed to live should be enough. He should do whatever Seokjin asks him to do. He nods quickly and with his hand still clamped over his shoulder he rushes home.
He’s got his t-shirt peeled off but doing just that aggravates the wound over his shoulder. His t-shirt is soaked in blood. He chucks that in the sink and starts the taps, letting water run over it and take the blood with it.
The windows in his dorm open, and Namjoon’s ears pick up the sound, startling himself into dropping the washcloth in his hands. He runs out of the bathroom and finds Seokjin climbing into the room through the window. His long black coat and white mask are nowhere to be seen. “What the fuck,” Namjoon mutters. “I have a door?”
“I know,” Seokjin says, brushing himself off, “but I didn’t want to be seen entering through the front. I don’t know what the CCG knows about me.”
He walks around the dorm, like he’s familiarising himself with it. Namjoon inspects his face as he does; his lips are no longer blood-red and his eyes are back to normal. It’s almost as if he hadn’t been feasting on people just now.
Namjoon lowers himself and sits on the floor. He’s been running on fumes up until now; he’d been smacked in the chest, against a wall, almost stabbed in the shoulder. Now that Seokjin is here Namjoon finally releases those last few embers of energy. He hears Seokjin slip into the bathroom, hears him grab a washcloth and run it under the water.
“Seokjin,” Namjoon calls out, chewing on his bottom lip. Seokjin pokes his head out of the bathroom, brows raised at Namjoon. “Come here.”
“Let me just get some stuff to stop the bleeding first,” Seokjin replies.
Seokjin pauses for just a moment at that, confusion and apprehension in his eyes. He licks his lips. There’s a question hanging in the air around his expression, so Namjoon clears his throat and tries to keep his fear at bay.
“You can… you can drink it. My blood,” he mutters, refusing to meet Seokjin’s eyes.
A few slow, heavy moments pass between them in silence. And then, “Why?” Seokjin asks quietly.
“I’m gonna lose this blood, either way. It’s either gonna get soaked up and thrown in the bin, or… or, you know. Let’s not waste it.”
He looks down at his legs crossed in front of him as he listens to Seokjin walking towards him. And then, he lowers himself onto the ground, legs folded under him. “Are you sure?” he asks softly.
Namjoon looks up and meets Seokjin’s deep, dark brown eyes. “Yeah. So long as you promise not to drink it all or eat me.”
He watches as Seokjin’s throat bobs up and down in his neck with a painful swallow, and then the whites of his eyes fade to black. His irises light up and burn red. Then, he leans over and connects his lips to Namjoon’s shoulder.
He feels Seokjin’s hands holding the sides of his ribcage, he feels Seokjin’s silky black hair against his neck, and he feels Seokjin’s tongue against his skin, his wound, lapping up his blood and tasting him.
Namjoon lowers his forehead onto Seokjin’s shoulder as the ghoul feeds. He feels Seokjin’s tongue drag across his skin, feels it pressing lightly in, feels Seokjin suck. Briefly he’d wondered if it would hurt, but it doesn’t. His soft lips, his tongue, it alleviates the pain he’d been struck with. In the quiet of his empty dorm room and the muffled sounds of the students who are awake at this time, the sounds of Seokjin’s lips against Namjoon’s skin, the sounds of skin on skin, Namjoon lets everything go.
His hands come up to hold Seokjin’s body, cradling him, holding him in place. He’s warm, and it’s comfortable. His skin feels hot, but it’s good. It feels good. He starts to feel lightheaded. His hands, holding Seokjin’s side, press in.
And then, he feels something small and sharp pierce his skin.
He yelps and slaps Seokjin’s thigh the second he feels that sting and the subsequent ache that follows after. “I told you not to eat me,” he breathes, still lightheaded, still woozy, but trying to muster up whatever annoyed expression he can show.
Looking only a little guilty, Seokjin draws back. He tries to look guilty, Namjoon guesses, but all he sees are his black sclerae and bright, blood-red irises. His lips are shining from where it had been connected to Namjoon’s skin through a layer of saliva and blood. He wipes them on the back of his hand. “Sorry, I got carried away. Your blood is delicious.”
“I bet you say that to all your meals,” Namjoon jokes lightly.
Seokjin laughs softly.
Namjoon experimentally tries to move his arm. “There are… bandages and stuff in the bathroom, in one of the cabinets. Can you get me a dressing?”
With a quick nod Seokjin stands easily and jogs off to the bathroom and returns a minute later with a patch. He returns to Namjoon’s side, folds his legs under him, and unpeels the backing off the patch. Then, he carefully secures it over the wound on Namjoon’s shoulder that has stopped flowing blood.
“Thanks,” Namjoon says, hooking one hand over that shoulder, moving it, testing its mobility. It seems okay. He lets out a deep, dejected sigh and drops his gaze to Seokjin. His eyes are still red, still the eyes of a ghoul.
“Can you put some clothes on?” Seokjin asks, his unwavering red eyes latched onto the skin of Namjoon’s chest. “Or are you trying to tease me?”
Namjoon’s shirt had been flung at the sofa the second he walked into his dorm. It’s too far to get up and retrieve. “Tease you?” he asks absentmindedly. His hand lowers onto Seokjin’s knee.
“Yes,” Seokjin replies, flashing his red eyes back up at Namjoon’s. He holds the gaze steadily. “You look like a snack. Unwrapped and ready to eat.”
“You’re a grown man,” is all Namjoon says despite the little flicker of fear in his chest. The air in the room feels cold against his skin now that Seokjin isn’t leaning into him anymore. He doesn’t move. “Do you think I look at quinoa and start salivating because I can’t control myself?”
“It’s… grown from plants. Popular amongst vegetarians.”
“You… you don’t know what a vegetarian is?” Namjoon asks, slowly, horrified. He can feel his hopelessness finally fill him up. He almost wants to run.
“No, I know, of course,” Seokjin quickly rectifies, “I’ve just never met one. Didn’t think they were real.”
“Says the ghoul. Vegetarians aren’t mythical creatures.”
“Well, shit! I didn’t know! I knew being vegetarian was a thing but I’d just never met one. All the humans I know eat meat. Fucking hypocrites. People, cows, they’re all animals. What makes them any better from us ghouls? Taking the moral high ground like they’re the chosen ones, fuck them.”
Namjoon wants to laugh at the way Seokjin pouts out his frustrated rant, the way his cheeks are puffed out. It’s cute. “I know, right?” he joins in, shuffling a little closer to him. “They act like cows don’t have feelings and aren’t hurt when they’re slaughtered. At least humans have a choice on what they consume- they can survive without meat. You don’t have that choice.”
His red eyes bore into Namjoon’s nearly black ones. The silence settles in between them again. “You’re a strange human,” Seokjin says.
“Why do you say that?”
“Humans don’t really… empathise with us ghouls. They say we’re all monsters and that we should die. I’ve never heard anyone say what you just said.”
Namjoon presses his lips together and shuffles closer to Seokjin on the floor of his empty dorm. “Are you falling in love with me?”
A sound halfway between a scoff and a laugh leaves Seokjin’s lips. “What, are you trying to make me fall in love with you?”
“Hasn’t that been obvious since the shitty note I left with the barista in that coffee shop?”
“That was before you knew I’m a ghoul.”
Namjoon licks his lips as he keeps his gaze strong and steady on Seokjin’s ghoul eyes. “Apparently, that hasn’t changed how attracted I am to you.”
There are two types of people in the world, Namjoon wonders. There are humans, and there are ghouls. He doesn’t know everything there is to know about ghouls; what makes them different to humans, what makes them enemies, but what he does know is that they’re both still people. “If you’re not gonna put on some clothes,” Seokjin begins lightly after what feels like an eternity of staring deeply, longingly, into his strange red eyes as they return back to brown, “either feed me or fuck me.”
“Feed me,” Seokjin reiterates slowly, “or fuck me. Ghouls like to have sex, too. That’s how ghoul babies are made.”
“We’re both men,” Namjoon replies with a suddenly dry mouth.
“Good, because I’m too young to raise kids right now,” Seokjin replies. He licks his lips and runs a hand through his hair.
“Has anyone ever told you that you talk the most shit?” Namjoon asks, equal parts amused and annoyed because he was trying to be romantic and it seems as though Seokjin doesn’t know how to be romantic- only annoying.
“What’s your point?” Seokjin asks with a blank, serious face. “Are you gonna take your pants off or shall I do it for you?”
So much for romance, Namjoon wonders to himself. “Do it for me, my shoulder hurts.”
With a smile Seokjin drops his gaze to the front of Namjoon’s jeans, the only remaining articles of clothing left on Namjoon, and unbuckles it. Pulls the zip down, and then eases them off Namjoon’s long legs. Seokjin discards them, and then helps Namjoon up. He shivers, lightly, because Seokjin hadn’t closed the windows after he’d climbed through it, but he ignores it and walks to his bedroom. Shutting the door he walks to his nightstand, first, and retrieves his bottle of lube and a condom. Then, he turns to face Seokjin sitting cross-legged on his bed and pulling his shirt off his head.
He climbs onto the bed. He tries to keep his eyes on the pink flush on Seokjin’s cheeks but all his eyes want to do is travel down and drink in the expanse of his wide chest, his beautiful flawless skin. He reaches out to touch Seokjin, fingertips grazing over his nipples before he pulls down, to the front of his slacks. He unbuttons them and pulls them down. Seokjin raises his legs in the air to help him, falling onto his back as he does.
Namjoon flings his slacks onto the floor and leans over Seokjin. He hooks his fingers over the waistband of his boxers, edging along, carefully. He flickers his eyes up to Seokjin to look at him, his soft black hair splayed on the bed around his face. His eyes are soft, his brows thick, and he looks angelic. He looks so angelic. His fingers let go of his boxers.
Instead, his hands move to grab Seokjin’s cheeks, to cup them and hold them in place as he shuffles on his knees to straddle Seokjin’s hips, and he curves down. Presses his lips to Seokjin’s lips.
And then he’s kissing Seokjin, full and hard and with all the passion he can muster in himself. His shoulder hurts but it doesn’t matter, he ignores it, he kisses Seokjin who’s kissing back. He kisses roughly, uncertainly, and when Seokjin parts his lips he draws a breath in, the air tingling against Namjoon’s lip. A tingle falls down Namjoon’s spine, to his fingers, so he lets go of Seokjin’s cheeks. His hands graze down his neck, sliding over his chest. He presses his palms against Seokjin’s pectorals, he squeezes, and Seokjin writhes under him. Namjoon’s body responds on its own, rolling his hips down against Seokjin’s.
There’s a rush of heat in his stomach, his body grows hot, but when he pulls back from Seokjin’s lips to pant for air nothing changes. There’s still a fire in his stomach. He’s hungry for more.
He presses his tongue against Seokjin’s lip and Seokjin parts them immediately, letting Namjoon in. He licks into Seokjin’s mouth and tastes him, tastes Seokjin and a hint of something else. Something metallic. His own blood. He pants, his breath coming hot and heavy from where he refuses to stop kissing Seokjin. He can’t stop his hands from roaming up and down Seokjin’s muscular body. He can’t stop his tongue from tasting every inch of Seokjin’s mouth.
Seokjin’s reaches up and his hands card through Namjoon’s hair before he grips in. Then, he pulls away from Namjoon for a moment just to tip his head back and catch his breath. Namjoon grunts, he’s not done kissing him, so his eyes find Seokjin’s neck stretched out in front of him. He presses his lips to Seokjin’s throat. He bares his teeth and grazes the sensitive skin there.
“Is this,” Seokjin breathes out, “payback?”
Namjoon bites him, lightly. “Yes.”
Seokjin pushes Namjoon by the shoulders, pushing him to the side and making him fall on his back onto the bed. Seokjin comes up with it, straddling Namjoon’s hips. He looms over him. He’s looking down on Namjoon through dark, swirling eyes and soft, ruffled hair and shiny, pink-flushed skin. Namjoon reaches up, slides his hands over Seokjin’s thighs on either side of him. Seokjin’s hips. His trim waist before it widens out towards his shoulders. He presses his fingers into the muscle under Seokjin’s skin, and then he hooks his fingers back over the waistband of his boxers. Feels the jut of his pelvic bone. Then, he pulls them down. Seokjin shuffles on his knees to let them go, kick them off the side of the bed. “I didn’t lie when I told you my dick was pretty big,” Seokjin says, and Namjoon’s eyes travel down. Seokjin wasn’t lying.
Namjoon props himself up on his forearm, angling upwards as he can from where he’d been lying flat on the bed. “I wasn’t lying, either,” he says, but his voice is nothing more than a husky growl at this point. He doesn’t bother to clear his throat.
There’s a smirk on Seokjin’s lips when he looks down at Namjoon, and that smirk goes straight to Namjoon’s unit just before Seokjin pulls his boxers off. “Dicks out for Harambe,” he exclaims.
“What the fuck.”
Seokjin throws his head back and laughs like he’s just heard the funniest joke ever told to man. He laughs so hard that he has to sit down, right on top of Namjoon’s painfully hard member. Namjoon forces himself up, almost bumping his chest against Seokjin’s before he takes his face into his hands again and shuts him up with a kiss.
When he’s sure Seokjin won’t pull back to keep laughing he lets go of his cheeks and lets his hands trail down Seokjin’s neck, his shoulders, the sides of his ribcage. Down to his hips. He feels Seokjin’s cock against his stomach, stirring up his hunger all over again, so he pulls back, lightly. Tries his goddamn hardest to ignore the way his cock throbs painfully. Squeezes on Seokjin’s hips, lightly, before detaching one hand to pat around the bed blindly for the bottle of lube he’d chucked onto it. When he finds it he holds it in both hands behind Seokjin’s back.
Seokjin’s hands come up to Namjoon’s jaw. He angles his face downwards and ghosts a kiss over his lips.
With the bottle uncapped he squirts out more than enough lube into his hands. He can’t see what he’s doing because Seokjin is sitting on his lap, knees on either side of his hips, and he’s kissing down on him. He reaches down, fingers pressing into the firm flesh of his backside. “I guess you really weren’t lying,” Seokjin breathes against Namjoon’s mouth. “I’ve got a good eye. Who would make a good meal, and who’d make a good fuck. Namjoon, you’re- holy fuck.”
Namjoon uses one hand to work Seokjin open, his other hand to squeeze around the base of his cock. His lubricated hand slides up, slides down.
“Fuck, fuck. Nam- Namjoon-“
Seokjin tips his head backwards and squeezes his eyes shut as Namjoon uses one hand to pump him up and down and his other hand to prep him. There’s a string of colourful words leaving Seokjin’s lips, words that make sense, words that don’t, Namjoon leans forward to take Seokjin’s bottom lip in between his teeth. He slips two fingers in, and a moan that sounds nothing like Seokjin escapes him. His fingers press so hard into Namjoon’s biceps that it almost hurts. Almost. But nothing hurts as much as the strain in his untouched cock, right now. He slips in a third finger.
“N-Namjoon, fuck, yes- I’m-“ he stutters into Namjoon’s mouth.
He lets go of Seokjin’s cock. A petulant whine airs past Seokjin’s lips but Namjoon is leaning forward, forward, until he’s pushing Seokjin off his lap and onto the bed. His hair, once soft and fluffy, is now shiny and a little damp with sweat. His skin is still shining and flushed pink. Namjoon leans over, once, and presses his open mouth against the divot between his collarbones. He darts his tongue out to taste Seokjin’s skin. He tastes like sweat and the night air and the unknown that Namjoon hungers for.
He tucks himself tight in between Seokjin’s legs. He licks his lips. “Are you ready?” he asks.
Seokjin angles his brows down. “Yes. Hurry up and fuck me.”
Namjoon flicks his head to the side to where he knows he’d left the condom. Stretches over to pick it up, unwrap it, and then roll it onto his hard member. Seokjin watches him. Spreads his thighs out.
Beautiful, Namjoon thinks to himself. He recalls seeing Seokjin’s face for the first time in that little coffee shop and being surprised by just how beautiful his face was, and he almost feels the same sensation now. The way his broad shoulders tuck into a small waist, the way his skin looks so soft and creamy despite the muscle he’s packing under it, the way it ripples and flows when he moves- the ridges of his abs that trail down, all of it takes Namjoon’s breath away. Last time, Namjoon had run away. This time, he doesn’t dare run.
This time, he squirts a generous amount of lube onto his hands, warms up and slathers it onto his length. Steadies it in his hands as he breathes out, and he presses himself in.
Seokjin gasps, and Namjoon chokes- he’s tight, so tight (he’d prepped him, didn’t he?) and he squeezes his eyes shut as he pushes, slowly, slowly, to listen to Seokjin’s response just in case he was hurting him, just in case-
And then he moans, the sound of it so hot and heavy and Namjoon opens his eyes and takes that sound from Seokjin’s lips as his cue to keep going. Seokjin’s hands curl even tighter around his biceps. “F-fuck. Namjoon. Please,” Seokjin stutters, his voice a wreck as he lets go of Namjoon’s arms to loop around his neck. “N-Namjoon-“
Seokjin cracks his eyelids open but the pants that leave his lips, his eyes that look like they’re struggling to stay open, squinting, but meeting Namjoon’s eyes all the same. His sclerae have gone black, his eyes the colour of blood again. Namjoon bites on his bottom lip so hard that he draws blood, and then he kisses Seokjin. Leans over and presses the ghoul against the mattress. Pushes himself in deeper- harder. They kiss, mixing saliva and blood until Namjoon is flush against Seokjin, and Seokjin pauses. Clenches everything in him, and for a moment Namjoon feels like he’s going to suffocate. “S-Seokjin.”
It’s hot, it’s so hot, their bodies are pressed against each other all the way. “You okay?” he breathes.
Seokjin tightens against him with one last clench before he lets go, relaxes, and lets out a shuddering breath with it that sounds partway like a whine. “All’s good,” he whispers.
Namjoon pulls out, slowly, keeping Seokjin pinned under him and pressed into the mattress. He kisses Seokjin as he goes, and then sucks in a sharp inhale when he thrusts in. The moan that leaves Seokjin’s lips spurs Namjoon on further, riles up the hunger in his stomach, and he pulls out slowly to thrust harder in. Seokjin’s gasps and moans grow louder, with every thrust, until Namjoon remembers the walls are thin and he has to keep it down so he presses his mouth to Seokjin’s and devours every moan that spills past Seokjin’s plush lips.
His head goes light again like it had after Seokjin drank his blood but he’s still slamming into Seokjin and eating up every gasp and moan that leaves him, fuelling every thrust until all that heat and tension low in the pit of his stomach bursts and his body shivers through his release, his eyes snapping shut as he spills out into the condom.
Everything spills out of him. His strength spills out and he drops himself onto Seokjin who’s gasping for air, now. He pulls out carefully, uses whatever modicum of energy he has left to slip the condom off and tie it. “I’ll…” Namjoon huffs, “be back in a sec.”
Seokjin blinks lethargically through his tired, blood-red eyes. His skin is bright shining- slick with sweat. Through the moonlight and the orange light of the sodium lamps outside his window, the curtains he’d forgotten to shut, his skin glows beautifully. His blood-red eyes are beautiful.
When Namjoon returns, having cleaned his crotch and a fresh pair of boxers on, he wipes Seokjin down with a warm, damp washcloth. Then slips a pair of his boxers onto him. Pulls the bedsheets back and eases them both in. He swallows, hard, before he hooks his arm around Seokjin’s shoulders.
And Seokjin twists in the bed to drape his arm over Namjoon’s chest. For a while they lay there, quiet, listening to each other breathe and feeling each other’s warm, hot, burning skin against their own. Namjoon looks down at Seokjin, who’s staring off out the window with his eyelids low over his brown eyes. “Seokjin,” he says quietly. His voice is still gruff, still strained in his throat, but he doesn’t bother to clear it. “What now?” he asks.
“We go to sleep,” Seokjin replies, just as quietly.
“No, I mean- us. I mean, I would’ve preferred it if we started off slow, got to know each other, went on dates…”
A weak laugh that’s nothing short of derision rumbles through Seokjin’s chest, reverberating against Namjoon’s ribs. “And then what? We get married, have kids, and everyone showers us in their love and support? The world doesn’t work like that.”
Namjoon swallows, hard. His hand curls a little tighter around Seokjin’s shoulder.
“Namjoon. Why are you a vegetarian?”
“Weird question to ask after I just fucked the hell out of you,” Namjoon huffs, staring up at the ceiling. He squeezes them shut, tight. “I don’t know. I guess I wasn’t really comfortable eating something that was once alive,” he replies mildly.
“What would you have done if you were a ghoul?”
He looks down at Seokjin. The ghoul is still looking out of the window, at the night sky outside and the orange sodium light of streetlamps lining the dark, dangerous streets of Tokyo. “I would’ve done what I had to do to survive,” Namjoon replies while drinking in the glow on Seokjin’s cheeks.
“And how would you have coped with that murder on your hands?” Seokjin asks. He shuffles a little closer to Namjoon, his arm a little tighter around Namjoon’s chest.
“How do you cope with it?”
“I don’t. I’ve never killed a human. I only eat other ghouls or humans that are already dead,” Seokjin replies flatly. Namjoon swallows hard, his throat feeling dry.
He doesn’t say anything for a while. He listens to Seokjin’s breathing, feels his chest against his. Feels his warm skin under his hands. “Why?” he asks quietly.
“What do you mean, why? Are you expecting some kind of sad sob story?” Seokjin asks, shuffling around a little under the bedsheets. “My story is no different to the next ghoul’s story. Being born as a ghoul automatically signs you up for a life steeped in shit and tragedy. I know people, and I know ghouls. And I’d rather kill ghouls.”
“Hey,” Namjoon says, lifting the tone of his voice, and he watches as the low furrow of Seokjin’s brow raises. “I want you to be my boyfriend. We’ll go on dates and do all of that stupid, fairy-tale shit that other couples do.”
Seokjin scrunches up his nose. “Ew,” he snorts, but then he softens he look of disgust on his face. “Do whatever you want, it’s none of my business.”
“It’s literally your business.”
The ghoul huffs. “I mean, yeah, sure. Whatever. I don’t usually do the boyfriend, girlfriend, thing. I don’t like being tied down, you see, I’m a lone wolf-“
Namjoon scoffs out a laugh he has to stifle with his hand over his mouth. “Alright then,” he mocks, “is that Betelgeuse talking?”
“I knew it!” Namjoon exclaims. “I knew you didn’t know about it. The CCG nicknamed you Betelgeuse after the supergiant cannibal star, because you’re the S-rated cannibal ghoul.”
Seokjin pushes himself up on his forearms, one hand on the other side of Namjoon. He stares down at him, his brows furrowed and confusion painted across his eyes. “Wait, they know I’m a cannibal ghoul? And they’re still after me? Why the fuck- I don’t understand. I’m doing them a favour!”
Namjoon can only purse his lips as he stares at Seokjin hanging over him.
“If they know I’m a cannibal ghoul and they know I’m strong… it would make sense for them to leave me alone. Let me do their job for them. Do it better, too.”
He huffs and drops back down on the bed, grumbling to himself.
“How strong are you?” Namjoon wonders languidly.
“Very. Ghouls taste like shit, but I eat them to add their RC cells to my own. I’m not S-rated for no reason.”
Briefly, Namjoon remembers being in that dark alleyway just hours before and closing his eyes in wait of the attack that could end his life, and the rush of wind that came with Betelgeuse’s attack on the female ghoul. How the wind from the attack blew him off his feet. How Betelgeuse walked over and took her throat in one hand and crushed it. Namjoon curves over Seokjin and envelopes the S-rated cannibal ghoul into his arms. “One of these days you’ll explain all of this to me,” he says. “But today, we’ll go to sleep.”
He hears Seokjin muffle something from where his face is pressed into Namjoon’s shoulder. It’s hot, their warm bodies tangled together under the bedsheets, but Namjoon has had a rather eventful night (attacked a ghoul? Check. Was attacked by a ghoul? Check. Had his blood sucked by a ghoul? Check. Fucked a ghoul? CHECK.) so he falls asleep almost instantly.
And in the morning he wakes up with empty arms.
There are two types of people in the world, Namjoon ponders as he walks, groggily and with his hood pulled way over his head, to his first class in the morning. Those who are in relationships, and those who are not. And it seems as though his super strong, super shameless ghoul boyfriend thinks he’s still one of those who aren’t in a relationship because he’s fucked off somewhere and Namjoon has no idea where he is. He’s texted him but it’s been a few hours since he woke up alone (what did he expect?) and Seokjin has yet to reply.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. When Namjoon walks out of his last class of the day, knowing to just head straight back to his dorm, his phone buzzes.
I have a favour to ask u
“Yeah, okay, whatever. I need you to do something for me,” Seokjin replies hastily.
“What is it?”
“I need you to go to the CCG, and tip them off with false info. I know I was caught on a surveillance camera last night, and so were you. I need you to lie to the doves. Tell them Betel-goose or whatever the fuck they’ve decided to call me has gone to another ward.”
Namjoon releases a heavy breath, and he parts his lips to answer Seokjin, but his phone buzzes. He quickly detaches it from his ear and notices the incoming number from Nakajima Yasutomo. He quickly presses the phone against his ear again. “They’re calling me, now. I’ll talk to you later,” he tells Seokjin.
“Namjoon, wait, are you-“
He hangs up, and then answers the call from Yasutomo. “Nakajima-san, hello,” Namjoon answers politely.
“Kim-san. Are you well?”
Namjoon licks his lips. The small talk almost makes him even more nervous- like there’s a chance the big question won’t be asked, like this is just the lead up to it, or if this is all to catch Namjoon out. “Yes,” he replies.
“You ran into Betelgeuse again, didn’t you?”
There it is.
“You were caught on the surveillance cameras last night around a street corner. What happened in your encounter with him?”
He sucks in a breath before he answers Yasutomo, and briefly he remembers the faraway look in Seokjin’s eyes as he laid on Namjoon’s chest last night. “I was attacked by another ghoul,” Namjoon begins, his voice thin and hollow, “I think it was an acquaintance of the other one that I stumbled upon a while ago. And Betelgeuse came and saved me again. Ate that ghoul up.”
“What happened, next?” Yasutomo asks.
“He- er, Betelgeuse told me I needed to stop getting into trouble because he wouldn’t be around to protect me anymore,” Namjoon lies.
“Why not? Did he say?”
“S-something about moving to another ward. I don’t remember which… I was too shaken up at the time.”
“I understand. Take a deep breath,” Yasutomo says, and Namjoon almost feels bad for his shitty acting. He takes a breath, anyway, making sure it’s loud enough for Yasutomo to hear. “Did he say why? Or when he would leave? Do you remember?”
“I don’t remember why,” Namjoon says. “He said he was going to leave soon. He didn’t say when.”
There’s a pause, and Namjoon’s heart picks up pace as he wonders if Yasutomo has seen through Namjoon’s lies or not. He chews on his bottom lip.
“Did you get to see his face, at all?” Yasutomo asks.
“N-no. He ate with his back to me. I was too scared to move.”
“Alright. I’ll be in touch. Thanks, Kim Namjoon.”
Namjoon doesn’t realise his hands are shaking until he sees his fingers trying to tap on the button on his screen to hang up. He just walks back home. There are still flowers waiting outside his door.
He waits for a few days to pass before he contacts Seokjin, until he believes it’s safe enough (but what does that even mean? what has he launched himself into?) to call him. Seokjin picks up just before Namjoon despairs and gives up.
“Hi,” Seokjin answers.
“Hi. We’re boyfriends now, aren’t we?” Namjoon asks with his most determined voice.
“Good. I lied to the CCG for you like you asked, and I haven’t seen you in a few days,” Namjoon informs him.
“Sorry, not sorry. Someone as hot as me-“
“I literally don’t care about the end of that sentence,” Namjoon cuts him off. “Just come here so I can take you out on a date.”
“Where are we going? A sex-“
“I regret calling you.”
Seokjin laughs. “Where should I come to?” he asks.
“Just come to the university at five. That’s when I finish classes for the day.”
“Alright,” Seokjin replies calmly and for a moment Namjoon expects him to be annoying again, but he doesn’t. “See you then.”
There’s a smile on his face as he hangs up and stares down at his phone for a few seconds before heading off to his classes.
Seokjin is waiting outside at five like Namjoon had asked. He’s sitting on one of the benches, dressed in blue jeans and a white t-shirt, his soft black hair blowing in the wind. He looks casual, almost like he could blend into the background, but at the same time with the backdrop of the sky that’s turning orange from the sun on its descent down he looks absolutely breath-taking. His skin has a soft glow to it, pink-tinged on the highs of his cheeks. When he turns his head and finds Namjoon he smiles, his plump lips stretching. He looks so beautiful and so innocent that it drags against Namjoon’s chest.
“Where are we going, big boy?” Seokjin asks when Namjoon reaches his side. Seokjin is the perfect height for Namjoon to kiss his forehead but he doesn’t. Not out in the open like this.
“The aquarium. It closes at six-thirty, so let’s go quickly.”
Seokjin complains, of course he does, something about what’s so great about water creatures and how boring it sounds, but Namjoon ignores each of his whines and clasps his hand on the bus between them. That seems to get Seokjin to put a lid on his complaints. Namjoon finally gets to talk to Seokjin normally. When they get off the bus he has to let go of Seokjin’s hand but once they’ve entered the aquarium and Namjoon has paid for entry tickets for the both of them and they’ve entered the darkness, he takes Seokjin’s hand again.
“This is so gay,” Seokjin whispers, bringing their intertwined fingers up to inspect as they walk through the initial darkness.
“But us having sex wasn’t?”
“Fight me, bitch.”
They walk through the aquarium and Namjoon stops Seokjin at every tank they come to. He stands in front of the glass and peers in, looking around and admiring the beautiful fish swimming around in the water. It’s coming close to the closing time so there aren’t many people around, so it’s quiet. Seokjin’s hand remains in his. They walk through the aquarium, stopping every now and then to gaze at the sea creatures.
He turns to check on Seokjin, who has remained quiet for a while now. He’s probably bored beyond his wits, probably is using his free hand to look at memes on his phone, but when he faces him he finds Seokjin is looking back at him. “You okay?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Seokjin replies, turning his head back to look at the tank. The blue glow from the water glows on Seokjin’s face, reflecting off his soft, shiny skin, radiates in his eyes.
“You sure?” Namjoon asks. Seokjin’s expression is straight-laced, blank. He can’t tell what is running through his mind, but he remembers the look in Seokjin’s eyes as they laid together in bed. Being born as a ghoul automatically signs you up for a life steeped in shit and tragedy, he’d said. Namjoon can understand why he’d said that, and he can’t begin to fathom what kinds of things Seokjin has seen with those eyes of his. What kinds of things have broken his heart over and over again. The kinds of people Seokjin must have lost.
“Yeah. It’s not bad,” Seokjin mutters through a little pout, “all the, uh, water animals. What’s that?” he points to something in the tank, and Namjoon follows his finger to the sting ray floating in the water. “Looks like a sea pancake.”
“That’s a sting ray,” Namjoon tells him. There’s a silly smile on his face he doesn’t bother to wipe off. “Look, this aquarium has the fish from Finding Nemo,” he says, and tugs of Seokjin’s hand to pull him along.
“What’s Finding Nemo?”
“You don’t know what Finding Nemo is? It’s, like, a classic. A movie about a little clownfish who gets separated from his dad, and his dad searches the whole ocean for him,” Namjoon explains as they walk. “Let’s watch it together sometime.”
“I’d rather watch porn with you.”
Namjoon glances over at Seokjin. Seokjin looks up at Namjoon, eyes wide with anticipation. Namjoon swallows. “Yeah, sure, we could do that too. But Finding Nemo, first.”
Seokjin remains relatively well-behaved until six-thirty rolls around and they have to leave. Namjoon opens his mouth to suggest a place to eat but he quickly snaps it shut and mentally scolds himself- Namjoon’s a vegetarian and Seokjin eats people. Somehow he doubts he’d find a place that caters to them both.
He just walks with Seokjin along the streets of Tokyo while the sky is still blue (but fading away into the orange and red bleeding up into it from the way the sun lowers itself) with his hand still clutching onto Seokjin’s. He no longer cares about other people seeing them.
“So, this, uh, relationship thing,” Seokjin starts hesitantly, “is it exclusive? Do I need to stop fucking around?”
Namjoon raises his brows and gives him a pointed look. “I hope so? I would like it to be exclusive.”
Seokjin keeps his beautiful eyes looking straight ahead. “Okay,” he says.
He squeezes on Seokjin’s hand.
But it’s been a while since he’s seen Seokjin. He doesn’t say anything, of course, because he knows that for all of Seokjin’s shamelessness that if he says he’s committed to Namjoon then he’s telling the truth. Namjoon doesn’t ask questions he knows Seokjin doesn’t want to answer right now. He lets Seokjin do what he needs to do.
There are things he doesn’t understand about the dark underbelly of Tokyo. Where the people that dwell there eat humans because their tongues reject anything else, because their stomachs can’t digest anything else. There are a lot of things Namjoon doesn’t understand because he’s only human and he was born being able to eat whatever he wants, and by default that meant that he is innocent. His existence is innocent. But for ghouls that refuse to kill humans, that are only trying to live by eating the meat of people who have already died (like suicide victims, Seokjin sombrely informed him), their existences are still wrong.
There are many things Namjoon doesn’t understand about what it means to be a ghoul. He wants to find out. He doesn’t want Seokjin to regret trusting him, so when Seokjin says he needs to go away for a while, he doesn’t ask questions. He only does what he needs to do: attend his classes, complete his assignments, and works with the CCG in trying to reduce the number of ghoul attacks (and supporting the narrative that Betelgeuse is, in fact, gone for good).
Namjoon tries to come home earlier than usual today, as he always does since Seokjin is away. He takes the precautions he needs to take, he’s careful, he does everything right and the way Seokjin told him to, and yet-
And yet his world turns black on the way back to his dorm.
The severe pounding in his head wakes him up and for a moment he can’t see anything, the pain in the back of his head clamours away and demands his full attention. His hair and the back of his neck feels sticky, and he guesses that it’s blood. He groans and tries to blink his vision back, but everything is dark; he sees no orange sodium streetlamps, no glow from the windows of the buildings in the city. He’s sitting on the floor, legs folded under him, his arms behind him. Rope tied around his torso.
Tiny, red pinpricks catch his attention, and then suddenly the room is filled with them before those images become clearer and he finds he’s surrounded by people- peoples dressed in dark cloaks and masks that everything on their faces except for their red ghoul eyes.
“Kim Namjoon,” one of them says, stepping into the large room. Namjoon guesses, from what he can see, that he’s in a building that’s long since been abandoned. The floor is decrepit. The windows are glassless. “You’ve really been fucking shit up for us with all your rendezvouses with the CCG.”
Oh, Namjoon thinks with the few braincells left in him that weren’t completely knocked out. Seokjin had told him about this before. Ghouls have migrated to the twentieth ward in the hopes of feeding, quietly, and away from the eye of the CCG. Namjoon fucked it up.
“So,” he begins, his voice coming out as an empty growl before he clears his throat and tries again, “what are you going to do? Torture me?” Namjoon asks, his voice carrying derision even though he’s screaming with fear on the inside.
“No,” the ghoul replies. “We’re too annoyed and hungry for that. We just brought you here so that we could eat in peace.”
Namjoon bites on his bottom lip, bites so hard that it hurts. His breathing quickens, his heartrate spikes up, but he begs it to calm down. Please, he screams inside his mind. I’m begging you. “Why…” he starts quietly with a small and shaking voice, “did you wait until I woke up?”
“Humans taste better when they’re screaming and begging for their lives.”
He swallows, hard.
The door blasts open from its hinges, and the steady stalking of the ghouls towards Namjoon pauses. “I could say the same about ghouls, you dumbass motherfuckers.”
With his barely awake mind he has no idea what’s going on until there’s a crash, and he sees a giant red appendage slam three ghouls into the concrete wall.
“It… it’s Betelgeuse,” the ghoul closest to Namjoon whispers in fear.
And in a matter of seconds the entire room collapses into chaos, there are ghouls who try to escape, and ghouls who have shed their cloaks and produce all kinds of strange, macabre appendages from their backs to try and fight back. But even through the darkness and the chaos and smell of broken bodies his eyes fall on the creature that is rapidly wiping out every ghoul that stands in its way. It doesn’t look human. It doesn’t look like anything Namjoon’s ever seen in his life. Perhaps in movies, he isn’t sure, but he begins to shake so violently and his breathing is so short and so shallow that his vision starts to blur at the edges. Dark red, crystallised armour clads the creature’s body, wrought like iron muscle against the attacks of the ghouls. The massive behemoth of a creature moves its armour at will, producing long, spear-like rapiers that pierce the bodies of its adversaries and takes them out. Namjoon watches with his mouth hanging open.
The chaos and the screaming and the sounds of bodies breaking lull to a stop, and Namjoon stares at the ground. He’s been left alive. He’s been left alive, but for what reason? There’s that- that creature, that looks like a fucking behemoth and has ripped through ghouls like they were nothing, and two figures next to it. They approach Namjoon. Namjoon keeps his eyes down and wonders if it would’ve been better if he’d just died at the hands of the ghouls that lay dead around him, now. He wonders if this will be much, much worse.
“Namjoon, look at me.”
He keeps his eyes fixed on the ground. He doesn’t dare look up. He’s shaking so violently on the ground that he can’t bear to move, so when the behemoth crouches down in front of him and touches a large, steel-like finger to his chin to lift it, he almost bites his own tongue off.
It’s Seokjin’s face. It’s Seokjin’s face with that dark red, crystallised armour melting off him like liquid. It takes a moment, and Namjoon watches through wide, fear-filled eyes as that behemoth armour melts down into nothing and disappears back into Seokjin’s body. Namjoon tries to speak but there’s nothing left in him. All he can do is stare with blurring vision into Seokjin’s black and red ghoul eyes.
The two figures behind Namjoon step forward and take their masks off their faces. “Hyung, what should we do with all these ghouls?” one of them asks.
Seokjin looks up and over his shoulder. “You should eat them, Yoongi. You could do with a bit more bulk on you,” he says.
“Ugh. Ghouls taste like shit. I don’t know how you do it,” Yoongi replies.
“Why don’t you just eat them, hyung?” the other one asks.
“I’m on a diet,” Seokjin jokes, “you know that, Hoseok-ah. I’m trying to watch my figure.”
Namjoon licks his lips and coughs, dropping his eyes to his lap. Seokjin quickly brings his attention back to him and cups his face in his hands- his soft palms which, only a few minutes ago, where wrought in muscular armour and had ripped through the bodies of ghouls like it was nothing. “Are you okay? Sorry, I was late.”
“No,” Namjoon croaks. “It’s fine. I’m not hurt,” he whispers.
Seokjin stands and hooks his hands under Namjoon’s arm to help him up. Seokjin lifts him like he weighs as much as a cat. Then, he wraps his arms around Namjoon’s waist. “I’ll stop disappearing. I’ll stop, I promise. Let’s just go home and… try to live normal lives so that shit like this doesn’t happen,” he tells Namjoon.
Namjoon swallows, hard. “They’ll still be after me, won’t they? They’re angry at me.”
Seokjin waves his hand dismissively. “It’s cool. Ghouls are more afraid of me than they are of the CCG. Let’s go.”
He looks up at Seokjin’s friends (are they his friends? They sounded like it by the way they spoke to each other. They’re Korean, too, so Namjoon guesses they must be friends) who are inspecting the bodies of the ghouls on the ground. “You should eat,” Namjoon tells Seokjin.
“Nah. I’ve done enough damage. To you, especially.”
Namjoon furrows his brows as he tries not to laugh. “You’re being weirdly sentimental.”
A deep huff leaves Seokjin’s chest. “I don’t know. This time away from you made me miss you and your stupid vegetarian ass.”
Namjoon doesn’t even try to fight off the silly smile that finds its way onto his lips. He cups Seokjin’s face in his hands and leans down to kiss his lips.
“And I was really upset to find the ghouls here thought they could hurt you while I was gone. I wanna eat them all up… but you don’t like watching me eat.”
He hears one of the ghouls, the one named Yoongi, scoff.
“I want you to eat,” Namjoon tells Seokjin. “The world is yours to feast on.”
“You really went and hooked up with a cheesy motherfucker- an S-rated, bad bitch kakuja like you,” Yoongi hisses just as Namjoon ducks down to kiss Seokjin’s lips again, and Seokjin looks over his shoulder with a frown pulling taut on his mouth.
“Shut up or I’ll eat you too.”
Namjoon trains his stomach to handle the sight of Seokjin eating. It’s hard, he’ll admit, but Seokjin tries hard for Namjoon, too. Prepares his meat beforehand, washes it in vinegar and water to get rid of the stench of flesh. Sometimes, he makes it look like a steak. It’s still hard for Namjoon to watch him eat it only because he knows it’s the flesh of a person, but he’s getting there. Seokjin’s sclerae always turn pitch black and his irises bright red when he feeds, and it’s so beautiful. It makes watching him eat so much easier. Namjoon focuses on his eyes instead of what’s on his plate.
There are two types of people in the world, Namjoon finally concludes. There are those that this world will bear fruit for, and those that this world has abandoned. Namjoon has had it easy, he graciously takes that fruit and he bites into it. Seokjin had drawn the short end of the stick when he was born, into a life steeped in shit and tragedy, and Namjoon is still learning about all of it. The things his beautiful eyes have seen, the people he’s lost. How strong he’s forced himself to become. Namjoon is weak, he can’t give Seokjin the world, but it’s okay because he knows Seokjin will take it for himself.