The first few weeks are hard. It aches in places that Jonghyun thought were a myth, some gaping maw in his heart stretching wider and wider each time he sees Jinki look up at him with blood dripping down his face and whine for more — more food, more blood, more death.
Once he had thought that he could never refuse Jinki anything — Jinki was everything to him. A light in the darkness, a spark of normalcy among the chaos, a chance for Jonghyun to really understand that there was more to life than duty. Jinki meant so much to him, and once, despite the lies between them, the unspoken secrets, Jonghyun had known that he would be with Jinki until the day that Jinki died.
And now, well…
Now everything had changed, because here Jinki was, dead in front of him, and Jonghyun couldn’t let go. And here Jinki was, pleading for the very thing he needed to keep him… existing, and Jonghyun had to refuse him.
‘One a night,’ Kibum had said, dropping Jinki’s lifeless body on the floor. For the first few weeks, Jinki would need pints and pints of blood to live. But if Jinki drained someone dry, one per night, he would survive until the next night.
That’s what he has to do to survive, and so that’s what Jonghyun has to let him do, watching in horror as Jinki claims life after life over those first few weeks.
It’s the hardest thing he’d ever done — harder than watching Kibum kill him even. But not, he knows without question, harder than it would have been to watch Jinki die, slow and horrible, and know that he would never come back. At least, at very least, he has Jinki now, who crawls into his arms afterward, licking desperately at his own mouth and hands like he might get more if only he tries hard enough.
It’s awful, watching Jinki like this, some desperate, pathetic thing that feeds on blood and death. But Jonghyun holds on because he’s seen vampires like Kibum, ones who are cruel and vicious, but who haven’t murdered — not like that — in years and years. And if Jinki can be that, if they can find a way, then it will be okay. Everything will be okay. It has to be.
But he forgets, somehow, that this isn’t all he’ll have to deal with. He’s braced himself against the horror of watching Jinki drink, figured out how to justify it in his mind. But he’s never considered the moment that Jinki becomes lucid until it happens.
Jinki has found a man — a boy, really, because he can’t be more than 21 or 22 at most. The boy smells of cigarette smoke and alcohol and some sort of substance that Jonghyun doesn’t know quite well enough to place. Jinki wrinkles his nose at him, but he’s hungry, and he feeds anyways, face buried in the boy’s neck, blood pooling and dripping down the boy’s front as Jinki gulps, blood spilling out the corners of his mouth.
Jonghyun forces himself to watch, to wait for Jinki to be done. He waits for Jinki to crawl into his arms and gnaw at his neck and beg for more.
But Jinki doesn’t. Instead, he freezes suddenly, going utterly stiff, and shoves the boy away from him. He jerks around with wild eyes, and his hands come up, scrubbing at his mouth. He gags openly, a choked-off sound of disgust, and when he finally twists towards Jonghyun, he looks stricken and horrified.
“Wh-what,” he stutters, and he’s visibly trembling. It’s so human in a way that Jinki isn’t anymore, and this is the boy Jonghyun fell in love with but he looks so shattered that Jonghyun can’t even feel happy to see him. “Jonghyun, what’s going on. What’s–”
“I’m sorry,” Jonghyun says, because what else can he say?
“What did I do? What– the… the man. You said…”
And Jonghyun winces because he had. He had said that he would fix Jinki, told him he knew someone who might be able to help, and ‘Please, please Jinki, just try? Just give it a shot. I don’t want to lose you.’
And then he had taken Jinki to Kibum. And he’s not sure that helping is the right word for this.
“Jinki,” he says, reaching out for him. Jinki doesn’t back away, but he doesn’t come closer either. Jonghyun forces himself not to flinch. “Jinki, love…”
“Jonghyun, what did I do? I killed him. I– Jonghyun…” Jinki’s eyes are welling with tears, and Jonghyun feels his entire body rebel, the urge to be sick suddenly a real threat. He’s seen it before, but it’s never been so personal before. It’s never been so horrifying.
“Please,” he pleads. “Please don’t–”
But Jinki has already raised his hand to touch the tears, and when he pulls it away, his face and hand are smeared with blood. Jinki gags, and now he does step backward, half tripping over the body. He catches himself with supernatural grace, and for just a moment, just a few seconds, Jonghyun remembers why he did this. Before, Jinki would have gone sprawling, all his balance gone as the disease in his brain spread.
But now… now he’s going to live, even if it’s like this, and Jonghyun doesn’t know how to feel bad about that.
But Jinki’s voice cracks into a sob as he repeats himself, crying as he mumbles, “Jonghyun… Jonghyunnie…”
“I’m here,” Jonghyun says, feeling helpless, and Jinki moves towards him too easily.
It’s somehow not even a surprise when Jinki falls into his arms and only whines, “Jonghyunnie, hungry. Want more.”
But surprised or not, it still hurts, especially when Jinki begins to rub his tears down his face into his mouth, smearing blood all over and whining incoherently. Jonghyun cradles him as long as he can, until the sky is lightening and Jonghyun has to take him home, making sure Jinki is clean and safe as he tucks him into bed and lets the dawn lull him to sleep.
Once he knows Jinki is asleep and won’t wake, Jonghyun lets himself cry.
It becomes some kind of awful habit — Jonghyun takes Jinki, feeds him, and Jinki comes back to himself, almost lucid. Almost. And then he begins to cry, inevitably, and the blood is almost a trigger, something that sends him spiraling back into the haze of bloodlust that Jonghyun can’t let him satiate.
A part of him knows that if he did, if he let Jinki drink more, he would have him back sooner, for longer. But he can’t bring himself to. He can’t bring himself to let Jinki take more just so he has him for a little longer.
And maybe, just maybe, Jonghyun is scared for the day that Jinki doesn’t lose that lucidity, for the day that Jonghyun will have to face Jinki and admit what he’s done. Maybe he’s scared for the way that Jinki will react when he learns that all of this is Jonghyun’s fault and has the capability to remember.
But the day comes, as inevitably as the sun rising in the morning and just as harmful. Because vampires aren’t just bloodthirsty monsters, not all of them, and there comes a night when Jinki wakes, and his first thought isn’t the hunger.
Jonghyun is there, always, waiting for Jinki to wake. He isn’t compelled to sleep during the day, and it’s not difficult for him to wake an hour before sunset to ensure that he can be there for Jinki the moment he wakes to guide him through another night.
“Are you hungry?” Jonghyun asks gently when Jinki blinks awake. He’s swaying a bit, his eyes unfocused, and Jonghyun knows it’s better to prompt Jinki before the haze of sleep is entirely gone, before Jinki comes to and realizes that he’s hungry and no one has mentioned food. If Jonghyun brings it up first, it’s easier to settle Jinki into understanding that he’ll get fed, one way or another.
But tonight, Jinki doesn’t react to the word, doesn’t nod eagerly, doesn’t repeat Jonghyun. He only looks turns to him, sleepiness fading towards clarity, and whispers, “Jonghyun… Jonghyun, I’m–”
“Jinki,” Jonghyun whispers, dread filling him, as it does every time they do this call and response. “Are you— How are you feeling?”
“I’m…” Jinki shakes his head. “It’s all wrong. This is all wrong. What is this? What’s wrong with me?”
“It’s okay,” Jonghyun says, voice cracking. “It’s okay. You’re here. You’re alive. It’s okay.”
Jinki shudders. “No,” he moans. “I can’t— I’m dead. I’m dead, Jonghyun. My heart’s not beating. I never felt it when it was, but it’s not beating and it’s so wrong.”
“Jinki, please—” Jonghyun starts, but Jinki looks frantic now, eyes growing wider, and Jonghyun waits for the tears to come, to take Jinki away from him. But they don’t.
“He killed me,” Jinki says. “You took me — there was that man, and he… he killed me. He killed me, and you watched.”
Jonghyun flinches like Jinki’s struck him. “No, that’s… that’s not what happened,” Jonghyun says, and he wants so badly for that to be the truth. But Jinki’s right, and that’s exactly what happened, and now Jonghyun has to live with that.
Jinki pulls away from him, putting space between them, and Jonghyun’s heart clenches, but he knows better than to try and stop him. What right does he have?
“Jinki,” he tries again. “Jinki, you were dying. You were dying, and I didn’t know what else to do.”
Jonghyun tries to search Jinki’s face, but Jinki won’t even look at him. But it’s easy enough to tell how broken Jinki is by the way his voice sounds as he asks, “What did you do, Jonghyun?”
And Jonghyun doesn’t know what to say. It was one thing when Jinki was his human, was a place to escape to where monsters weren’t real and the beast under Jonghyun’s skin wasn’t a pressing thought. But now…
Jonghyun’s ruined that for both of them, pulled Jinki into a world of monsters and things that lurk in the dark. It’s a world that he doesn’t belong in, that he never got a choice of being a part of. But at least, in this world, Jinki will live.
“You were dying,” Jonghyun says again, trying to make Jinki understand. “What was I supposed to do, Jinki? You were dying, and you were acting like it was all fine.”
“You think I wanted to die?” Jinki snaps, and he looks up finally, and his eyes are brimming with red tears, and Jonghyun knows that he’s going to lose him again soon. “But I’m dead now. Jonghyun, I’m dead and I don’t understand—”
“You’re not dead. You’re here. You’re right here,” Jonghyun says, and reaches out for Jinki’s hands, trying to keep him from touching his face too soon. But Jinki tugs away, which hurts. “You’re not… you’re different, but you’re still you, and you’re still here.”
“Jonghyun,” Jinki says again, and there’s something sharper in his voice now, a line of desperation pulled so taut it could cut. “What did you do?”
“I made a deal,” Jonghyun says, crumpling into himself. “I made a deal with a vampire. That he would turn you for me.”
And Jinki stares at him, horror in his eyes, as the first tear falls. “I’m a vampire,” he says. “That’s not— vampires aren’t real, Jonghyun.”
And Jonghyun doesn’t know where to go from here, so, instead, he brushes his fingers over Jinki’s cheek, wiping away the tear. He pulls his hand away, fingertips damp with blood, and watches Jinki’s eyes widen, watches him open his mouth and then shut it, and—
“Hungry,” Jinki says.
Jonghyun feeds him, as always, and when Jinki comes to this time, sated and full, Jonghyun doesn’t have any words except, “Vampires are real. You’re one of them. And I’m sorry—”
Jinki sobs, curling into himself. And Jonghyun doesn’t know if it’s better or worse that this time, Jinki doesn’t lose himself to the hunger.
Jinki is distant from him now. Most nights, Jinki won’t even look at him, and Jonghyun wants to scream and throw a fit about it because after all of this, he’s lost Jinki anyways. But he knows that’s not fair, and whatever Jonghyun has lost, Jinki has lost more. Jinki is mourning his own death in a way that Jonghyun refuses to and mourning the deaths of every human he drinks from at the same time.
Jinki is looking at the kitchen sink, at the water running pale red as he washes the blood off of his hands and mouth, and he doesn’t look up at Jonghyun when he asks, “Why don’t I want to eat you? Why do you smell like that?”
“I’m… I’m not human,” Jonghyun admits.
Jinki does look at him now. It’s a startled look, mostly disbelief, but after a moment it crumples into something unhappy. “Of course you’re not,” he says, looking back at his hands and the sink. His voice is flat. “What are you then?”
Jonghyun swallows. “I’m a werewolf. That’s why I smell like that to you. Werewolves and vampires — we’re natural enemies.”
“Were you ever going to say?” Jinki says.
“How would I have?” Jonghyun says. “You didn’t know that werewolves or vampires were real until–”
“Not that,” Jinki snaps. “You weren’t going to tell me you weren’t human? You were just going to… to let me go on thinking that we could have a normal life when, the whole time– is this what you used to do at night? Go and hunt vampires, o-or…”
“Jinks,” Jonghyun says, stepping forward, and Jinki pulls away sharply. “Jinks, no. I never lied to you. I just… how could I have told you about this? Would you have believed me?”
Jinki steps forward, into Jonghyun’s space, and he’s broader, taller, bigger, and Jonghyun gasps because before that had meant nothing, but Jinki is a vampire now, even with him in strength, and Jonghyun knows that, in a fight, he would win, except that this is Jinki and Jonghyun couldn’t hurt him if he wanted to.
“Why are you making excuses?” Jinki says. “Were you just going to lie to me forever? Pretend nothing was wrong?”
“Exactly like you were doing?” Jonghyun says before he can help it. “Pretending nothing was wrong? Like I wasn’t going to have to watch you waste away in front of me? Like—”
“I told you,” Jinki says, and shoves away, turning his back on Jonghyun. “I told you I was dying, because I love you, and I trusted you, and I wanted you to be with me until the end, and I kept it hidden because I was afraid you’d abandon me or… or do something rash. I just… god, I just didn’t expect this.”
“You love me,” Jonghyun repeats, and it comes out breathless and so, so relieved. “You still love me.”
“Seriously?” Jinki says, cold as ice. “Of all of this, and that’s what you focus on? God, Jonghyun, you’re—”
“I thought you hated me,” Jonghyun whispers, and Jinki falters. Jonghyun looks away. “You’ve been acting like you hate me.”
“Jonghyun, I don’t hate you,” Jinki says. “I hate this. I hate myself. I don’t want to be this. I don’t want to be a killer.”
“You don’t have to be,” Jonghyun says. “Once you’re through the bloodlust. Kibum says that’s the worst part, but he doesn’t kill either. I… that’s my job. To make sure he doesn’t kill anyone innocent.”
Jinki lets out a tiny, bitter laugh. “And me? It’s fine when it’s me?”
“No, but… you wouldn’t have made the transition otherwise. You would have died anyways, after everything, after—”
“Why are you this desperate to save me?”
“Because I’m in love with you, you asshole!” Jonghyun snaps. “And I was ready to live part of my life without you, but not that much!”
Jinki freezes. “You were ready to…”
“Werewolves live hundreds of years,” Jonghyun whimpers. “Human’s live maybe 100 if they’re really healthy. I was going to have to watch you die, and I knew that, but I was willing to spend your entire life with you. I just wasn’t willing to only let it be a few more years, Jinki. Decades, maybe, but years… god.”
Jinki is staring at him. Jinki hasn’t looked at him properly in days, and now he’s staring. “Hundreds of years,” he repeats. “You were… what were you going to do, Jonghyun? Not bring up the fact that when I was 70 you still looked like… what, 30?”
“I mean… I figured, by the time we made it to 70, you’d maybe be willing to listen to me being a werewolf,” Jonghyun says, feeling shamefaced. “But…”
“But what?” Jinki says.
“But does it really… I mean… you won’t age anymore. We’d have centuries together, if you still want me.”
Jinki pauses. “Oh,” he says, and god that hurts more than anything.
“Oh,” Jonghyun echoes.
“Jonghyun, I love you. I just… I don’t know how to do this. How to be this. How am I supposed to…?”
“I can help you. After this is over, you can feed less often. You don’t have to kill. You can take enough to leave them alive. Some people even like it — Minho, and... nevermind. Nevermind, just… I’ll help you. I will.”
“Jonghyun,” Jinki says, and finally looks away, back at the sink. It’s running clear now, but there’s red smeared around the edges of the sink, along the tap. He lets out a shuddering breath. “I’m hungry…”
“Jinki,” Jonghyun says, wincing but immediately softening his tone. “You’ve already eaten—”
“I’m not… I’m not gone, Jonghyun. I just. I’m hungry all the time. I’m cold and I’m dead and I— I don’t want to be a killer,” Jinki says. “I want to be done.”
Jonghun bites his lips together. “I can help you take less,” he tries again. “I can help you not kill anyone else.”
“I want you to do what you’d do to... what was his name? Kibum,” Jinki says. “I want you to promise me that if I kill anyone else, you’ll do your job.”
Jonghyun gapes. “Jinki, I can’t–”
“Promise me, Jonghyun. Promise.”
“I… I promise,” Jonghyun says, voice wavering. He doesn’t want to do this. But if this is what it takes. If this is how they come to terms with this…
“Okay,” Jinki says, and steps closer. “I… you know I love you, right?”
Jonghyun nods. “I know. I love you too.”
“And you know… it’s going to take a while for this to work? For me to trust you again. After all of this.”
“I know that too,” Jonghyun says, stomach churning. “But we have centuries. If you want them.”
“I do,” Jinki says. “I do want them. With you.”
And it’s not perfect, but… it can work. They can make it work. Together.