“Okay, what happened?”
“What happened with what?” asked Hongjoong, not taking his eyes off the chicken he was pushing around the pan. He could never get it cooked right.
“With you and San,” said Yunho. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” said Hongjoong.
“Don’t give me that,” said Yunho, leaning against the counter. “I know something happened. San looks super miserable, and you guys haven’t been talking to each other.”
Hongjoong said nothing, only took the pan off the heat.
“Is it because he snuck out?” asked Yunho. “It’s not the first time, y’know. Besides, he’s not a kid, and you’re not his dad.”
“It’s not because he snuck out, it’s where he went to,” said Hongjoong. “He went back to that… that club. Alone.”
“Yeah, because he had a good time there,” said Yunho with a shrug. “He didn’t want to be babysat, you can’t blame him for that.”
“It was dangerous,” said Hongjoong, whirling on him. “Going there alone. Going there in the first place, actually, and he dragged both you and me into it. What if something happened there? What if someone overpowered him and—and—”
“You know those places are safe,” said Yunho.
“So they say,” said Hongjoong. The side of his neck tingled.
A frown creased Yunho’s brow. “Did something happen, hyung?”
“No,” lied Hongjoong. “But it might’ve.”
Yunho didn’t say anything, but there was concern in his eyes as he backed out of the kitchen. Hongjoong ignored it. If he just pretended it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen, and he could go on living as normal.
There was no evidence after all. The fang marks had faded scarily quick, disappearing to nothing by morning. Hongjoong had stared at himself in his bathroom mirror, running his fingertips over the flawless skin of his neck in disbelief. Yunho and San hadn’t asked any more about where he’d gone when he was looking for San, and Hongjoong had been glad. He’d thought they could put it behind them.
And then San had gone back to that damned vampire club.
Hongjoong had no idea why. For the thrill of it? Because it was dangerous and he liked the danger? Or was he really looking for a vampire to bite him? To experience that floating bliss, that feeling that nothing else existed—
Hongjoong stopped that thought before he got too far. That drugged out feeling was the first thing he had to forget.
It wasn’t the feeding that made Hongjoong shudder every time he thought of it. It was the venom. The sweet allure of the high that called to him, that blissful lightness that he could imagine even now. He’d never let himself become a venom addict, those listless, glass-eyed zombies who hung around clubs and in dark streets, hoping a vampire would feed from them, and he’d rather die than let San join their ranks. He just had to keep San from ever getting a taste of the drug.
San hadn’t been bitten the first night he’d gone to the club, if he was telling the truth. And he hadn’t been bitten the second night either, if that vampire was telling the truth.
That vampire. That same fucking vampire. What were the odds?
It was too much of a coincidence. The same vampire that had led Hongjoong out of the club’s back rooms had accompanied San to the street? There were a thousand vampires infesting that place, and of all of them San had found the exact same one?
Hongjoong stabbed at a tomato with a knife. The vampire had said he hadn’t fed from San, that no one had, and the weird thing was Hongjoong believed him. He believed the vampire. Hell, he believed him more than San’s repeated insistence on the cab ride home that he hadn’t been bitten. If any other vampire had said it Hongjoong would’ve laughed in disbelief and despair, but because it was this one—the one that had helped him—
He sighed aloud. He just wanted to stop thinking about vampires, was that too much to ask for?
Dinner was a two-person meal. San had the closing shift at the café, and wouldn’t be back until Hongjoong was already gone for his job at the convenience store. Yunho would probably sit with him as he ate, just as he sat with Hongjoong at breakfast.
They sat at the dining table, because their shoebox apartment didn’t have a lot but it did have a dining table, and like hell Hongjoong wasn’t going to use something they’d paid money for. They’d talked about moving before, but there never seemed to be enough money for that, and everything just got more and more expensive. So they stopped talking about moving, and focused on living. The living room was cramped, barely fitting more than the sofa and TV, but there was art on the walls, some collected, some painted by Hongjoong. Cute figurines San had bought sat on the old coffee table, and Yunho watered the potted plants religiously. It wasn’t the fanciest place, but it had become home.
They were halfway through dinner when Yunho said, “Hyung, you’d tell me if something was wrong, right?”
“Is this about the chicken?” asked Hongjoong, grinning. “I know it’s kinda dry, but I swear, it was literally raw a second before it became like this.”
But Yunho wasn’t smiling. “No, I mean like seriously,” he said. “You’ve been kinda… off.”
The smile dropped off Hongjoong’s face. “I’m fine,” he said.
“I thought I was supposed to be your right-hand man,” said Yunho. “This is not how you treat your right-hand man. Come on, tell me.”
He looked so earnest Hongjoong almost spilled everything. But the words sounded so stupid, even in his own mind. A vampire bit me and now I’m paranoid me, San, and hell, even you, are gonna turn into addicts. Instead he asked, “Do you know anyone who’s been… bitten?”
Yunho looked at him blankly. “Bitten by what?”
Hongjoong burst out laughing. It was so unexpected, he couldn’t help it. “A vampire, idiot,” he said.
“How was I supposed to know you were talking about vampires?” said Yunho, about to throw his chopsticks at Hongjoong before he thought better of it. He hummed, thinking it over. “One of the guys in my class got ‘mugged’,” he said finally. “A couple of times, actually. He had to change his classes so he didn’t have to go out at night.”
“Whoa,” said Hongjoong. “So they were, like, targeting him? Why?”
“No idea,” said Yunho, shrugging. “Maybe he had really tasty blood? I’ve been out at night loads of times and never been bitten.” He frowned. “Do you think my blood is rank or something? I heard vampires can smell your blood like that. What if I stink to them?”
“Dude, I’m serious,” said Hongjoong, laughing as he gave Yunho a shove.
“So am I,” said Yunho, in the most serious voice he could manage. “That club was full of vampires. Did they all plug their noses when I walked in?”
“Vampires don’t breathe,” said Hongjoong. “Everyone knows that.”
“Then how do they smell?” countered Yunho.
Hongjoong opened his mouth, and then closed it again. “I don’t know,” he said finally.
“They smell, so they breathe,” said Yunho, smug.
“Okay, fine, whatever you say,” said Hongjoong. “Can we get back to what we were talking about?”
“What were we talking about?” asked Yunho, blank, before he suddenly remembered. “Oh, right. Yeah, Woong got bit loads of times. He doesn’t remember it, though. They always knock you out first.”
“Right,” said Hongjoong. He hesitated, and then asked, “So he doesn’t know what it’s like? The… drugged out feeling?”
“Nope,” said Yunho. “Which sucks. I mean, they drank his blood, they could at least give him a sweet high.” He raised an eyebrow at Hongjoong. “Why do you wanna know? You want that drugged out feeling?”
“No, of course not,” said Hongjoong quickly. “Just curious.”
“We could always go back to that club,” said Yunho innocently. “If you’re really curious.”
“No one’s going back to that club,” said Hongjoong, firm. “Now, do you want more chicken?”
“So I can die from dehydration? No thanks.”
Hongjoong laughed, exasperated, but feeling lighter than before.
San put his chin on Yunho’s shoulder, looking at him with sparkling eyes. “Do you wanna go out?”
“Go out where?” asked Yunho, leaning back so his face stayed in focus.
“Out,” said San simply. “Outside the apartment. I’m bored.”
“Sure,” said Yunho with a shrug. “Where do you wanna go?”
“Here,” said San immediately, pulling out his phone. It was a screenshot of a map, red balloon marking a spot.
Yunho looked at it carefully. The spot was on the south west side, and they lived in an eastern neighborhood. It looked like a park.
“Why?” he asked.
San chewed on his lower lip, hesitating. “Okay,” he said finally. “There’s a guy…”
Yunho groaned. Not a guy. San’s guys were the worst. Yunho hated all of them, and that was saying a lot, because Yunho generally liked everybody. San was just a shitty guy magnet. The last one had seemed almost okay, until he’d started trying to sleep with Hongjoong.
“No, he’s not like that,” said San quickly. “He’s really nice, and funny and cute, and he really likes me.”
“Okay,” said Yunho. He’d give the guy a chance. Yunho never put someone in his trash cabinet without giving them a chance. “Where’d you meet?”
San opened his mouth, closed it. “A club,” he said.
“What club?” asked Yunho slowly.
“A club,” repeated San. He looked one second away from exploding under pressure.
“Hongjoong-hyung is gonna kill you,” said Yunho.
“He doesn’t have to know,” said San, grabbing Yunho in a hug. “If no one tells him, he’ll never find out.”
“Are you crazy? Of course he’s gonna find out,” said Yunho, shaking free. “He finds out everything! He found out we went to that amusement park without him and blew all our money!”
“That’s because we got hyper and spilled,” said San. “We won’t this time. We’ve learned our lesson.”
Yunho groaned again. He didn’t even know why he was arguing. No one stood a chance against San’s persistence.
“We have to get back before Hongjoong-hyung,” he said.
San squealed and threw himself onto Yunho in a hug. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said, squeezing him. “We’ll get back before hyung, I promise.”
They got a taxi. On the way, San excitedly talked all about his new man.
“His name’s Wooyoung,” he said. “He lives with his brothers in a place near the park. One of his brothers gave him my number, and we’ve been texting.”
“So that’s why you went back that night,” said Yunho.
“Yeah,” said San without hesitation. “I went looking for Wooyoung, but he wasn’t there. But Seonghwa-ssi was really nice and helped me out.”
Yunho listened to it all, and then came right out and asked, “Is he a vampire?”
“Seonghwa?” asked San, playing dumb.
“Him, and Wooyoung,” said Yunho.
San didn’t say anything, and that was answer enough.
“Hongjoong-hyung is definitely gonna kill you,” said Yunho. “And he’s gonna kill me too for taking you.”
“He won’t know,” insisted San. “I’m not spilling. Are you gonna spill? No. Then we’re good.”
“So we’re just gonna hide it from him forever?” asked Yunho. “It’ll never work.”
“Not forever,” said San. “It’s not like I’m going to marry Wooyoung.” He laughed. “It’s just a fun little thing, nothing serious.”
“Good,” said Yunho. “I’m not covering your ass for years.”
San gasped dramatically. “After I covered your ass when you broke the coffee table.”
“That was an accident,” said Yunho. “You don’t accidentally start dating a vampire.”
“Let’s shush,” hissed San, with a pointed look at the cab driver. Yunho rolled his eyes and was silent for the rest of the ride.
They arrived at the park soon after. It wasn’t as empty as Yunho had expected, which was good. Couples wandered the area, some buying snacks from the carts that dotted the green, others walking down the narrow paths. It was a posh part of the city. Definitely more expensive than the crowded mess of buildings in Yunho’s neighborhood.
He and San joined the wandering couples. Yunho had no idea what to expect. Some tall, skinny dude dressed in a black leather jacket with a face as white as paper and hair as black as coal. San didn’t really have a fixed type when it came to looks, so it was totally possible.
San suddenly let out a happy shout, and rushed off the path and across the grass. Yunho changed course and followed.
There were two figures standing in the open space, lit by the golden light from the lamps lining the paths. Both were short, shorter than Yunho. One came forward and took San in a hug.
“You’re early,” Yunho heard San say as he reached them.
“Yeah, got up early,” said the other. He let go and spotted Yunho. “Hey.”
“Hey,” said Yunho. He inspected San’s new guy. He was good looking, with black hair and a nice smile, and he filled out the T-shirt and jeans he was wearing pretty well. He looked kind of familiar, like Yunho had caught a glimpse of him somewhere before. He didn’t look like a vampire. He just looked like a guy. “I’m Yunho,” he said.
“Wooyoung,” said the guy. “And that’s Yeosang. Yeosangie, this is San, and his friend Yunho.”
The figure behind Wooyoung raised a hand and said, in a bored but polite kind of way, “Hello.”
He was pretty. Crazy pretty. San and Hongjoong were kind of pretty too, but this guy was in a league of his own. He was also familiar.
“I think we met before,” said Yunho.
“Oh, yes,” said the other, Yeosang, with a start of surprise. He smiled. “Outside the club, right? How is your friend?”
Hongjoong-hyung? “He’s okay,” said Yunho, surprised. Why was Yeosang asking about Hongjoong?
“Glad to hear it,” said Yeosang.
“How’s everyone?” asked San. He was attached to Wooyoung, plastered to his side, arm around his waist. Wooyoung looked like he didn’t mind at all.
“They’re okay,” said Wooyoung. “Seonghwa-hyung was asking about you. I didn’t tell him I was going to meet you tonight, otherwise he’d have tagged along for sure.”
San laughed. “Seonghwa-ssi likes me,” he said to Yunho.
“Seonghwa-ssi needs to get a love life of his own,” grumbled Wooyoung. He pressed his lips to San’s neck, and San giggled.
They looked comfortable. Comfortable enough to make Yunho uncomfortable. He looked away and ended up making eye contact with Yeosang. “So,” he said awkwardly. He was usually so good with new people, but Yeosang’s cool gaze threw him off. “You and Wooyoung are friends?”
“Brothers, in a way,” answered Yeosang. “The same vampire turned us both.”
Well that answered the question of if Yeosang was a vampire. “Cool,” said Yunho, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say. The conversation felt dead, but San and Wooyoung were now busy sucking each other’s faces, and Yunho had nowhere else to go.
Yeosang took pity on him. “We live in a big house, all of us together,” he said. “A… family, in a way. But Wooyoung and I are the only ones related by blood.”
“Oh, that’s neat,” said Yunho. “We live together too. Me, San and Hongjoong-hyung.”
“So that’s your red-haired friend’s name,” said Yeosang, a smile curling the ends of his lips. “The three of you should come back to the club one night. It could be fun.”
“Maybe one night,” said Yunho, knowing full well Hongjoong would rather swallow a gallon of bleach. He hesitated, and then asked, “You’ve, like, drunk blood before, right?”
“That’s how I’m still here,” said Yeosang.
“Can you smell people’s blood?” asked Yunho.
Yeosang raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
“Okay, me and Wooyoung are gonna go now,” said San, interrupting their conversation. “So… see you.”
“Hold up, you can’t just leave me,” said Yunho. What was he supposed to do while San was off being lovey dovey? Yeosang was already walking away.
“You can’t third wheel our date,” said San seriously. “I only brought you along so you could meet Wooyoung.”
“So I’m just supposed to go home?” Yunho stared at him. “Alone? Without you?”
“We’re both grownups,” said San.
“Calling yourself a grownup isn’t a grownup thing to do,” said Yeosang, apparently to himself.
“I’ll drop San off after, if you’re worried,” said Wooyoung helpfully.
Yunho didn’t know what to do. Wooyoung looked sincere, and besides, if he wanted to rip San’s throat out he wouldn’t have asked to meet in such a public place. San was so gone for him he would’ve agreed. But Yunho was supposed to be Hongjoong’s right-hand man, and letting San go off with a literal stranger didn’t seem like something Hongjoong would agree with.
But what could he do? Tag along with San and Wooyoung? Or, worse, call Hongjoong? San would just keep sneaking out, the only difference would be he’d start hiding it from Yunho too.
“Make sure you get home soon,” he said finally, giving up.
“I will,” said San, with a nod. “See you later, Yunho. Bye, Yeosang-ssi.”
He walked off with Wooyoung, leaving Yunho with Yeosang.
“I’ll be leaving,” said Yeosang, already walking away. “Bye.”
“Bye,” said Yunho uselessly.
He hailed a cab to go home, possibly the same one he and San had come to the park in. As the car rumbled back towards their apartment, Yunho couldn’t help but wonder if the whole night had been a huge mistake.
Yunho did end up regretting it, but not in the way he’d expected.
San got home before Hongjoong, had a long, loud goodbye kiss with Wooyoung at the front door, and hugged Yunho again before heading to their room. Hongjoong got back some time later, completely oblivious to their outdoor adventure. He went to bed, and Yunho breathed a sigh of relief. Everything turned out okay.
Except San kept doing it.
He kept sneaking out at night to meet Wooyoung. The nights Hongjoong worked—which, considering how much he worked, was almost every night—San would shout Yunho a goodbye and head out. A few nights Yunho would come back from evening classes and find the apartment empty. One time San had even snuck out when Hongjoong was at home and they’d all gone to bed. Yunho was sick with nerves the entire time he was out. He’d been so close to breaking all the rules of bro-hood and telling Hongjoong, but San had come back, Yunho had tackled him to the ground, and everything worked itself out.
One night, after a long evening class, Yunho trudged up to their apartment door. He had to work the next morning, and he was not looking forward to that, but at least he had a few hours to play Starfell before he slept. There was a new player on his usual server that Yunho liked hanging out with, and he hoped he was online. Hongjoong was working, and San was probably out with his boyfriend (Yunho hadn’t been invited to see him or his pretty brother again, and that suited him just fine) so Yunho unlocked the door and entered the empty apartment.
Except it wasn’t empty.
“Holy shit,” said Yunho, clutching his chest. “You almost gave me a heart attack.”
“Hey, Yunho,” said Hongjoong. “Where’s San?”
Yunho opened his mouth, and closed it without a sound. Oh crap.
“I called him, and he didn’t pick up,” said Hongjoong. He didn’t sound worried, just angry, and tired. “And then I called him again, and it went to voicemail. Do you know where he is, Yunho?”
“No,” said Yunho, and that was the truth. He didn’t know where San was.
“Okay,” said Hongjoong. “Do you know who he’s with?”
Yunho cracked. “Okay he’s got a new boyfriend and he goes out to meet him sometimes,” he said, words coming out in a flood. “I don’t know where they go but he always comes back before it gets too late so… it seemed okay…”
“What? A boyfriend?” Hongjoong looked surprised. “Since when?”
“Like two weeks ago?” said Yunho. “I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you hyung, I thought it would be okay and San said it wasn’t serious and—”
“Yunho, stop,” said Hongjoong. “You met this boyfriend?”
“What’s he like?” asked Hongjoong.
He’s a freaking vampire. But Yunho wasn’t going to bring the wrath of Hongjoong on himself like that. San could tell him. “He seemed okay,” said Yunho. “Not sleazy. It seems like he really likes San? I don’t know. But he always brings San home.”
“Alright,” said Hongjoong, processing this information. “Okay. That’s good. Why was San sneaking out then? He could’ve just told me, it would’ve been easier.”
Yunho shrugged, trying to look casual.
“I guess I’ll just have to ask him,” said Hongjoong. He settled into the sofa.
Yunho shifted uncomfortably. “I’ll just go then…”
“Sit down, Yunho.”
They didn’t have to wait long. Less than fifteen minutes later the lock clicked, and the door creaked open.
San looked guilty as all hell as he walked in, but not surprised. He obviously knew what he was coming home to. “Hyung, I’m so sorry,” he said, as soon as he made eye contact with Hongjoong. “I can explain.”
“Yunho already told me,” said Hongjoong. San glanced at Yunho, who tried to send a message with his look back. “You found a new guy,” continued Hongjoong. “That’s… fine. But why did you have to sneak out?”
“I didn’t want you to ask about him,” said San, shuffling his feet. “I knew you wouldn’t like him.”
“Why, what’s wrong with him?” asked Hongjoong.
Yunho closed his eyes, waiting for the bomb to drop.
Yunho’s eyes shot open. He stared at San in disbelief.
Hongjoong didn’t notice. “That’s it? One of your boyfriends sold essential oils.”
“He’s kind of living off his brother’s money,” said San, while Yunho kept staring. “I knew you wouldn’t like it, and I didn’t wanna hear that. He’s a really great guy and I like him a lot.”
Hongjoong sat silent for some time, thinking it over. “I want to meet him,” he said finally.
“Sure,” said San without hesitation, and Yunho almost had his second heart attack of the night.
Even Hongjoong looked surprised. “Okay,” he said. “When?”
“Wednesday night, since you don’t have work then,” said San. “You’re gonna like him as soon as you meet him, you’ll see.”
“I guess I will,” said Hongjoong. He sighed, and slid down the sofa’s backrest. “You can go change, I’ll take dinner out.”
San thanked Hongjoong and insisted he’d like Wooyoung, and then went off to their room. Yunho silently followed.
As soon as he’d shut the door behind him Yunho whirled to face San. “What was that?”
“It was all the truth,” said San innocently. “Wooyoung doesn’t work, and the house is Seonghwa-hyung’s.”
“He doesn’t work because he’s a vampire,” hissed Yunho. “And you want Hongjoong-hyung to meet him?”
“Of course I don’t want Hongjoong-hyung to meet him,” said San. “But now I can’t refuse otherwise he’ll know something’s up.”
“He’ll know something’s up as soon as they meet,” said Yunho.
“He won’t realize Wooyoung’s not human,” said San.
“Yes he will!”
“Really?” San fixed Yunho with a look. “When you met Wooyoung and Yeosang, could you tell?”
Yunho didn’t answer. He wouldn’t have been able to tell they were vampires if he hadn’t known. He’d met Yeosang before and he hadn’t been able to tell then.
“Exactly,” said San, satisfied by his silence. “It’ll be a super short meeting. Hyung sees Wooyoung, talks to him a minute. That’s enough.” He put his hands on Yunho’s shoulders and beamed at him. “It’s gonna be fine, you’ll see.”
“I really, really hope so,” said Yunho.