“I really didn’t know, promise—”
Jongho fell silent, looking away. His face looked perfectly contrite, but there was no emotion in his eyes.
Seonghwa sighed, running a hand over his face. Things like this weren’t supposed to happen. It was why they’d joined the club in the first place.
“I didn’t hurt him,” muttered Jongho, barely audible. “I just drank from him.”
“He didn’t want to be drunk from,” said Seonghwa. “It doesn’t matter if you hurt him or not.”
“But I didn’t hurt him, or even get close to draining him,” protested Jongho. “It’s just blood. He’s got more. Hell, his body’s probably already busy making more.”
“Jongho,” said Seonghwa sharply.
The younger vampire shut his mouth and avoided eye contact, which suited Seonghwa just fine. He didn’t want to scold him any more. Jongho wasn’t Seonghwa’s child, not by blood, but that had never mattered to him.
“Go get Wooyoung,” said Seonghwa. “We’re going home.”
Jongho grumbled but got up and went in search of Wooyoung. Seonghwa was glad Yeosang was home, watching Mingi. He wished now he’d left Jongho with them.
Seonghwa ran a hand through his hair again. It wasn’t Jongho’s fault, not entirely. He thought of forced feeding as something akin to robbery, or theft. Most vampires did. Not for the first time Seonghwa wondered if he was the one who was strange, insisting on feeding only from willing humans.
In a few minutes Jongho returned, Wooyoung in tow. Wooyoung looked chipper and flushed, meaning he’d had a hot dance partner or good meal or both.
“What’s up?” asked Wooyoung.
“We’re going home,” said Seonghwa.
Wooyoung didn’t complain, proving he’d fed well. He just shrugged, and was already heading towards the couch to get his jacket when he abruptly stopped and turned towards the door.
A second later, Yeosang walked in, beautiful as ever. He was dressed in a pink oversized sweater, a perfect complement to his petite frame and delicate features.
“What are you doing here?” asked Seonghwa, surprised. Yeosang was supposed to be watching Mingi.
“I was bored,” said Yeosang with a shrug. He walked over to Wooyoung.
“And Mingi?” Seonghwa stared at him in disbelief.
“He’s at home,” said Yeosang, taking Wooyoung’s jacket off the hook and handing it to him. He caught Seonghwa’s expression and said, “Relax, hyung. He’s not an animal. He can handle a little time alone.”
“I didn’t say he was an animal,” muttered Seonghwa, but no one paid him any attention.
“You should’ve seen the guy I was dancing with, Yeosangie,” said Wooyoung. “He was so good! His moves, his expressions, everything. Like a pro.”
“Good to know you had fun,” said Yeosang, fond smile touching the corners of his lips. “You fed?”
Wooyoung hummed happily, and the smile on Yeosang’s face grew.
Seonghwa watched them silently. In their little coven, Wooyoung and Yeosang were the only ones related by blood, both of them having the same maker. It gave them a bond Seonghwa secretly envied. He had no living blood bonds.
“And you?” asked Yeosang, addressing Jongho.
“I did,” said Jongho shortly. “Though I guess Seonghwa-hyung would rather I starved.”
Yeosang raised an eyebrow at that, and then sighed, like he didn’t even want to know anymore.
“Someone wandered into the back rooms,” explained Seonghwa. “Jongho fed from him.”
“So? That’s what the back rooms are for,” said Yeosang.
“That person was new,” said Seonghwa, ignoring Jongho’s look of validation. “And he was not looking for a bite.”
“Did Jongho know that?” asked Yeosang.
“I didn’t,” said Jongho at once. “I found a human in the room, I assumed he was there for what they’re always there for.”
“You should’ve asked him,” said Seonghwa, turning to him. “You should’ve asked and only fed after he said yes.”
“I thought he was one of the kinky pervs, you know the type—”
“It doesn’t matter—”
“I saw him,” said Yeosang.
Seonghwa stopped. “What?”
“The human Jongho fed from,” said Yeosang. “Short, red hair? I could smell Jongho’s venom all over him. He was outside the club with his two friends, trying to get home. I told them where they could get a cab.”
So he had found his friends. Seonghwa had been worried, after he’d let the human wade back into the club’s main room when he was still trying to shake off the effects of the venom. He’d already planned a sweep of the rooms before he left just to make sure some other, less respectable vampire hadn’t tried to take him back while he was still disoriented.
“He looked fine,” said Yeosang. “Jongho obviously wasn’t violent. No harm done. Or did he hurt him?”
“He…” Seonghwa didn’t know what to say. Violent? The red-haired boy had been so small and delicate and human, and he hadn’t wanted to be fed from. How violent did Jongho have to be for it to be wrong? “The human wasn’t hurt,” he said finally.
“There,” said Yeosang, like that settled things.
Seonghwa couldn’t even argue. The conversation felt over.
“He won’t do it again,” he tried.
“I won’t,” said Jongho. He looked serious, and sincere. “I’ll always wait for a clear answer first, I promise.”
And Seonghwa wanted to believe him, wanted to believe Jongho’s maker hadn’t irreparably warped him, so he smiled and said, “Okay. Good.”
Jongho smiled back.
“Okay, let’s head back to the house,” said Seonghwa. “Mingi’s probably feeling lonely by now, and you know how he gets.”
“Whiney,” said Wooyoung, rolling his eyes.
“Whiney,” agreed Seonghwa. “Let’s go.”
It was okay, he told himself. Everything was fine. Jongho wouldn’t do it again, and he hadn’t hurt the human. The boy with the bright red hair had found his friends and gotten home safely. He was okay. Everything was okay.
It didn’t matter that he had looked at Seonghwa like he was horrible, or evil, or that Seonghwa would never have the chance to convince him he wasn’t. He would probably never see him again.
And that was okay, he told himself, as he started the walk home.
“Seonghwa, there’s a human here looking for one of your kids.”
Seonghwa opened his eyes. “They’re not my kids,” he said. “I don’t have any kids.”
“You know what I mean,” said Minhyuk, rolling his eyes.
It was still early, hardly midnight, but Seonghwa could see from the shine in his eyes that the older vampire had already fed. Minhyuk was beautiful and personable, and very popular among humans at the club.
“What human?” asked Seonghwa, stretching on the couch. He was waiting for his turn to use one of the feeding rooms.
“I don’t know, just a human,” said Minhyuk with a shrug. “Red hair. Skinny.” He smiled toothily. “Smelled delicious.”
Seonghwa was off the couch in an instant. He could hear Minhyuk laughing as he left the room, but he didn’t care. The red-haired boy was back.
Was he alright? Was he looking for Jongho? Jongho wasn’t the type to make small talk before feeding but he might’ve mentioned his name. The human with the bright red hair might have something to say to him. Maybe he wanted to confront him. Seonghwa sincerely hoped not. Jongho was at home, and Seonghwa didn’t want to deal with an angry human.
He went out into the hallway lined with feeding rooms, and found it empty. All the rooms were marked occupied, except for the one at the end. Seonghwa took a moment to brace himself, and then walked in.
There was a young man sitting inside. Sharp features, hair dyed a dark red. Someone Seonghwa had never seen before.
Seonghwa was relieved, and just the tiniest bit disappointed.
“You’re not Wooyoung,” said the boy, frowning.
“No, Wooyoung’s not here tonight,” said Seonghwa. “You’re looking for him?”
“And no one else,” said the human pointedly. He didn’t want a bite from Seonghwa.
Seonghwa got the message clearly, and nodded. It was a shame, because Minhyuk had been right—the boy smelled good.
The human got up, and asked, “What nights does he come?”
“Whenever he feels like it,” said Seonghwa. “Usually a couple of times a week.”
“You know him?” asked the boy.
“I’m kind of his brother,” said Seonghwa. It was a nicer way of describing their relationship.
“Oh, that’s nice,” said the human, and he looked like he really meant it. His smile showed off a set of deep dimples. “Are you Yeosang?”
“No, my name is Seonghwa,” said Seonghwa, slightly taken aback. The boy knew Yeosang?
“Oh, Wooyoung only mentioned Yeosang,” said the human. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s alright,” said Seonghwa, smiling. He paused. “Are you the one who danced with Wooyoung two nights ago?”
The boy’s face lit up. “Yeah, that’s me! He talked about me?”
“He did,” said Seonghwa. “He said you were a great dancer.”
“I am pretty good,” said the boy, with a small flourish. He laughed a laugh of genuine delight.
It didn’t seem like he was here only for a bite. Seonghwa hesitated, wondering if it would be awkward, and then went for it. “If you want,” he said, “you could give me your number, and I’ll pass it on to Wooyoung? Then he could call you the next time he comes to the club.”
“That sounds great,” said the human, almost bouncing with excitement. “Wow, thank you, Seonghwa-nim.”
“Seonghwa-ssi will be okay, thanks,” said Seonghwa with a slight chuckle. There was something about this kid that was so pure and likeable.
He handed his phone over to the boy, who punched his number in. Seonghwa took it back when he was done, taking a glance at the newly saved contact name.
“Okay, Sannie,” he said. “Are you going home now?”
“Yup,” said the boy, Sannie. “I only came to see Wooyoung.”
Cute. There were all sorts of problems with vampire-human relationships, but that was only if things got serious. Wooyoung didn’t do serious relationships. “Did you come with your friends?” asked Seonghwa.
Sannie laughed. “No way,” he said. “They’d kill me if they knew I came here again.”
“How are you gonna get home?” asked Seonghwa, moving out of the doorway so Sannie could walk out.
“Take a cab, I guess,” said the boy, shrugging.
“You’ll need to go to the end of the street,” said Seonghwa, frowning. He didn’t like the thought of the boy walking outside, alone, the sweet scent of his blood calling to those vampires that loitered outside the club.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” said Sannie. He put on a bright, reassuring smile.
Seonghwa was not reassured. “I’ll walk you,” he said.
“Ooh, how sweet! Are you trying to steal me away from Wooyoung?” asked Sannie, grinning mischievously.
“No, of course not,” said Seonghwa quickly, flustered.
Sannie laughed. “I know, I know,” he said. “Okay, let’s go.”
Eyes followed them as they made their way through the club, some curious, some leering. Seonghwa stayed close behind Sannie, not enough to invade his personal space but enough to send a message. This human was his.
If Sannie noticed, he didn’t comment. He seemed like a very chipper, sunny person, despite his sharp looks. Seonghwa found himself attracted to him. Not physically or romantically, but in a strange, sentimental way. The boy was like sunshine, and Seonghwa missed sunshine.
“Do you come here every night?” asked Sannie, once they’d stepped out of the busy club into the brisk night air outside. “How long do you stay?”
“Not every night,” said Seonghwa. He saw Kijoong in the alley nearby, and he frowned in distaste. He subtly led Sannie the opposite direction. “I stay as long as I need to. I only come when I—when I’m hungry.”
“You don’t like dancing?” asked Sannie.
“I don’t like clubs,” said Seonghwa.
Sannie paused, looking Seonghwa up and down. “Are you good at dancing? You don’t look like it.” He smiled mischievously.
“I’m good enough,” said Seonghwa with a laugh, half offended.
“Don’t believe you,” said Sannie.
“Come back to the club one night, and I’ll prove it to you,” said Seonghwa.
“That an invitation?” Sannie raised an eyebrow. “I’m there. Tell me whenever.”
Seonghwa laughed. “But you can’t compare me to Wooyoung,” he said. “Or yourself. He said you danced like a professional.”
A happy sparkle lit up Sannie’s eyes. “I’m not a professional,” he said, looking a little embarrassed. “He was exaggerating.”
“I don’t think so,” said Seonghwa.
Sannie didn’t say anything, just looked away and smiled to himself.
They’d reached the end of the street, where more stores were open and the air was busier. “If you call a car from here, they’ll show up,” said Seonghwa. “Or we can wait for a cab, drivers hang around here sometimes.”
“Why don’t cars wanna pick up in front of the club?” asked Sannie. “They have no problems dropping people off.”
It wasn’t his fault, but Seonghwa still felt embarrassed. “Drivers used to get ambushed sometimes,” he said. “So now they avoid the place.”
Sannie nodded, understanding. “If you’re busy, I can call a car,” he said. “But I don’t mind waiting for a cab, if you’ll wait with me.” He smiled.
Seonghwa blinked, surprised. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had genuinely, innocently, asked to spend time with him. Certainly not any of his ungrateful kids—
“I’d love to wait with you,” he said sincerely.
“Great,” said Sannie, showing off his dimples. He looked even sharper, more mature under the streetlights. “Do you live with Wooyoung? You’re his brother, right?”
“Kind of,” corrected Seonghwa. “Yeah, I live with him. Yeosang lives with us too, along with two others.”
“And you’re all siblings? That’s cool.”
“All brothers,” said Seonghwa. Being in a coven was not exactly like being siblings, especially when they didn’t have blood bonds, but it was a good enough analogy.
“Even better,” said Sannie. “I live with two of my friends, and we’re pretty much brothers too. It’s great.”
“I hope your friends treat you better than mine treat me,” said Seonghwa. “I’m pretty sure they’re running a bet on who can get me to throw myself off the roof.”
Sannie laughed. “You’d be okay if you did, wouldn’t you?”
Seonghwa frowned. “That’s not the point.”
That made Sannie laugh again. Seonghwa was going to complain about Wooyoung and how he poked him when he tried to sleep, but spotted a cab approaching. He was about to point it out to Sannie, when the cab abruptly stopped right in front of them.
The door to the backseat flew open, and someone jumped out.
Seonghwa stared in shock. It was him.
The boy with bright red hair.
“Hyung,” squeaked Sannie.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” demanded the boy. He was angry. Seonghwa could almost imagine the heat radiating off him.
“I—I just—” Sannie stuttered, and then fell silent, looking ashamed.
“You went back there? Alone?” yelled the other. “After—after—”
“After what?” asked Sannie in a small voice.
The red-haired human didn’t answer. He hadn’t told Sannie about Jongho.
“We’re going home,” he said, grabbing hold of Sannie’s arm. He turned to Seonghwa and glared daggers at him. “You got a problem with that?”
“No,” said Seonghwa awkwardly, feeling like an extra in a scene he was not supposed to be in.
“Good,” snapped the human. For such a small person, he had a lot of bite.
He opened the cab door and maneuvered Sannie in. Seonghwa got one look at Sannie’s miserable face and his mouthed ‘thank you’, and smiled sympathetically in return. Many humans didn’t trust vampires, and they had reason not to. Seonghwa didn’t begrudge the red-haired boy’s reaction.
He expected him to climb in after Sannie, but the other human hesitated and turned back to Seonghwa. “Did you drink his blood?” he asked sharply.
“No,” said Seonghwa, surprised by the directness of the question.
“Why did you bring him here?” asked the human.
“So that he could get a cab and go home,” said Seonghwa. He hesitated, and then added awkwardly, “No one at the club bit him.”
The human watched him through narrowed eyes, but said nothing. He turned to get into the cab.
“Wait,” burst out Seonghwa, before he could stop himself.
To his surprise, the boy with the bright red hair stopped. “Yeah?”
Seonghwa stood there uselessly. He didn’t know why he’d asked the human to wait. What did he even want to talk to him about? He didn’t know him. They’d barely spoken to each other, and it was obvious the boy didn’t particularly like him.
He really was pretty. Large, expressive eyes, pointed nose, pretty lips. Seonghwa had noticed the first time he’d seen him in the backroom, with his eyes glazed over and blank, dreamy expression on his face, but it was so much more obvious now, with the focus in his gaze as he looked right at him.
“Are you okay?” Seonghwa asked finally, stupidly, because he couldn’t think of anything else to ask.
The human blinked at him. “I’m fine,” he said, with less acid in his voice than before.
“Okay, that’s good,” said Seonghwa. He shifted. “I’m sorry.”
The boy pursed his lips. Then he shook his head.
Seonghwa wanted to ask what he meant, but the red-haired human turned and climbed into the car without a second glance. The cab made a u-turn in the middle of the empty street, and left the direction it had come.
Seonghwa watched it go. He had a feeling he’d see Sannie again, and soon. The kid didn’t seem the type to be reined in so easy. Seonghwa would pass his number on to Wooyoung, because he’d said he would, but he felt a twinge of guilt when he thought of the red-haired boy. Which was stupid, because he didn’t even know the human, what did it matter—
Something crunched underfoot. Seonghwa raised his shoe, and saw something glint on the pavement.
He crouched down to pick it up, but stopped before his fingers touched it. He could feel the faint energy emanating from it, driving him away. His face twisted.
It was a small circular charm, with a bent hook on one end. Half the flat circle was solid, the other just the outline. Silver was expensive, prices skyrocketing after it became known the metal repelled vampires. Even a charm that size could sell for a good amount.
Seonghwa was already abandoning it to the pavement when he stopped mid-step. The charm could be his. He’d been wearing a bracelet, hadn’t he? Sannie hadn’t been wearing any jewelry apart from some earrings, and there had been no other people anywhere near. What if he wanted it back? Seonghwa couldn’t just leave it there.
He turned back, decided against it and turned again, decided against that and turned back. He hovered on the spot, glancing around uncomfortably, and then finally sighed and gave up.
“They’re right, you are an idiot,” muttered Seonghwa to himself, getting down on one knee.
He picked the charm up in his handkerchief and carefully folded it around it. Then he put the handkerchief back in the inner pocket of his coat.
He could feel the silver through the cotton and pocket, an uncomfortable lump against his chest. Seonghwa straightened, trying to ignore the itching, clawing feeling, and started walking back to the club.