Seonghwa didn’t look up from the model he was building. “Who’s that?”
There was a smile in Yeosang’s voice as he answered, “Your human.”
“What?” Seonghwa lowered the piece in his hand.
“I know about him,” said Yeosang, dropping into the easy chair beside Seonghwa. “I talked to Minhyuk-hyung, you know. He told me there’s a human you’re interested in. You even asked Jaehwan-nim about him?”
“Oh.” Seonghwa picked up the piece again, feigning disinterest. “He’s the one Jongho fed from. I just wanted to know if he came back. If he complains Jongho could get banned.”
“If you say so,” said Yeosang.
Seonghwa tried to focus on his model, but it was impossible now. “How do you know?” he asked finally, giving up.
“Did you know Wooyoung’s newest piece is friends with your human?” asked Yeosang. “I met him and his friend, and the friend told me.”
“Don’t talk about Sannie like that,” said Seonghwa, frowning.
Yeosang rolled his eyes. “That’s what he is, hyung,” he said. “He knows it too.”
“Fine,” said Yeosang. “Wooyoung’s newest lover is friends with your human. Did you know?”
“Yes, actually,” said Seonghwa. “And he’s not my human.”
“You did?” Yeosang looked surprised. “You could’ve asked him to set up a meeting then, instead of pining uselessly.”
“I am not pining,” said Seonghwa. He paused. “Also I don’t think he wants to see me.”
“So you’ll return to pining?” asked Yeosang. “That’s terrible, but it’s your choice.”
“I am not pining,” repeated Seonghwa, but his words had as much effect as the first time.
“There are so many humans who’d love to have you,” said Yeosang. He thought it over a moment, and then amended, “Or have you have them. Same thing. Why are you so hung up on this one?”
“The human part is not important,” said Seonghwa. “It’s not because he’s human.”
But Seonghwa had no answer to that. He went back to his model and tried to concentrate, while Yeosang sighed and picked up his tablet.
It wasn’t because he was human. If anything, Seonghwa wished he was a vampire. Then at least he wouldn’t have to see that look, that look that said all he thought of Seonghwa was a predator.
It was something in his gaze. The intensity in the human’s eyes caught Seonghwa’s attention. Even in the drowsy high of vampire venom it had been there, clouded over but still present. It was sharp, and strong, and impossible to ignore. There was a fire in the human that suited his vibrant red hair.
Hongjoong, Seonghwa corrected himself. Not ‘the human’. Hongjoong.
They sat in silence for some time, Yeosang reading, Seonghwa trying uselessly to get back to his model. It was a relief when the front door opened and Jongho walked in.
“Got Mingi’s blood,” he announced. “And something for you, Seonghwa-hyung.”
“A present?” Seonghwa stood up, excited.
“I guess, yeah,” said Jongho, holding out a plant in a clay pot.
Seonghwa went up to him to take it, while Yeosang called Mingi to the living room. It looked fragile, two long stems skinny and bare, laden with beautiful purple orchids at the top. Seonghwa put his nose to the flowers. He could smell things, so long as they were alive, and the orchids had a sweet, delicate scent.
“Thank you,” he said.
Jongho shrugged, looking casual, but it was obvious he was pleased. It felt like an apology for his behavior at the club the week before, delivered in the usual Jongho style—every way that avoided talking about himself.
Mingi entered the living room, taking the bottle from Jongho with a quick thanks. He unscrewed it and was about to pour it straight down his throat when he saw Seonghwa’s look.
“Slowly,” said Seonghwa.
Mingi blinked at him, and tipped the bottle again, making eye contact the entire time.
“Slowly, you buffoon,” said Yeosang. That was enough to make Mingi give up and go get a straw.
“How do you get him to do what you want?” asked Seonghwa, at a loss.
“I have my methods,” said Yeosang.
“Yeosang-hyung told Mingi-hyung he killed people before he met you,” said Jongho casually, while Yeosang went back to his reading. “And he’s not scared to do it again.”
Mingi came back before Seonghwa could respond to that. “Straws are killing the environment,” he said, sticking a straw into the open bottle. “I hope you know that. You’re making me kill the environment.”
“Unmitigated manufacture and dumping of single-use plastics are killing the environment,” said Jongho like he was reciting something he’d seen in a documentary, which he probably was.
“Un-what?” asked Mingi blankly.
“Don’t worry about that,” said Jongho. He smiled. “Just enjoy your bottle. Baby.”
Mingi put the bottle down on the table carefully, and then threw himself at Jongho. In the next minute Jongho had him in a headlock.
“I give up, I give up,” said Mingi, struggling. “Let me go. You’re gonna pull my head off my shoulders, demon.”
“Say unmitigated manufacture and dumping of single-use plastics are killing the environment,” said Jongho, shaking him. “Say it.”
Jongho shook Mingi by the neck threateningly.
“Unmitigated manufacture and dumping of single-use plastics are killing the environment,” recited Mingi, quick as lightning. “I said it, I said it! Happy now?”
Jongho released him, satisfied. Yeosang sighed, which meant he either missed Wooyoung or was extremely glad he wasn’t around to add to the noise. Seonghwa just smiled and went to put the flowerpot in the balcony. His coven was strange and rowdy, but it was nice to have a bit of noise in the big house.
A few nights’ time brought someone new to the big house.
“Sannie,” said Seonghwa. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see where Wooyoung lived,” said San, smiling brightly. “Your house is amazing.”
It was amazing, all things considered. It was situated in one of Seoul’s suburbs, and had an expansive front lawn as well as a big backyard. Seonghwa and Jongho tended both, and the grass was green and the flower beds vibrant with life. The house itself was a large two storey building, old enough to be considered vintage style, and had weathered the years well. Most of the furnishings were old but in good condition, and Seonghwa strictly followed a tasteful decorating theme. It was nice to have his hard work appreciated.
Seonghwa smiled back. “Thank you.”
“It’s horrible to clean,” said Wooyoung. “There’s dust literally everywhere.”
“I clean it anyway, so how’s that your problem?” said Seonghwa.
Wooyoung grinned cheekily. “It’s not.”
“That’s too much,” said San, elbowing Wooyoung in the stomach. “You should help out, you live here too.”
“We do help,” said Wooyoung, suddenly serious. “We take turns to help, it’s just Seonghwa-hyung does most of it.”
He came up behind San and put his hands on his waist. San gave him a suspicious look, but then relented and leaned into him. Their contact looked so natural, so comfortable, Seonghwa felt a twinge of envy.
“Yeosang-ssi, hi,” said San brightly.
Yeosang, who had just walked into the room, blinked in surprise. “Hello,” he said.
San smiled, and Yeosang returned it, though not as brightly.
“Where’re the others?” asked San.
“Jongho is somewhere around here, Mingi’s in his room probably playing video games,” said Seonghwa. He raised his voice and called up the stairs, “Jongho! Come down, we’ve got a guest.”
“Mingi’s not coming to say hi?” asked San.
“It’s better if he doesn’t,” said Seonghwa. “He’s not very good around humans.”
“He can’t control himself right,” said Wooyoung. “His maker was young and didn’t really know what she was doing, so he’s kinda… off.”
“He’s fine,” said Seonghwa, giving Wooyoung a sharp look. He smiled at San. “It’s just a precaution.”
At that moment Jongho came down the stairs, asking, “What smells good?” He stopped mid-step when he saw San.
“Hi,” said San. “I’m San.”
“Uh, hey,” said Jongho, much less confidently. “Jongho.”
“Great to meet you,” said San. “So what do you guys do for fun?”
They spent a couple of hours together, Seonghwa embarrassed he had nothing to serve their guest—they had no food in the house—until San had to go home. On the way out, he asked what game Mingi played.
“Oh, Yunho plays that game,” said San, after Jongho told him. “He’s always on the same server. I can text the code or whatever later?”
“Great,” said Jongho. “Mingi’s always looking for people to play with.”
“Okay,” said San with one of his sunny smiles. “I’ll see you guys later. Bye!” He left, Wooyoung going with him to drop him off home.
There was silence in the house after the two of them were gone. Seonghwa looked from Yeosang to Jongho and back again.
“I like him,” said Yeosang, and Seonghwa and Jongho both breathed sighs of relief. Yeosang’s approval meant no arguments, and Wooyoung would keep seeing San, probably bring him around again.
“I like him too,” yelled Mingi from upstairs.
Wooyoung and San’s relationship thrived. Any moment Wooyoung was not out with him he was on his phone, texting him. Yeosang was slowly getting exasperated with how much time Wooyoung spent on San—talking to San, talking about San—but he always got exasperated with Wooyoung’s ‘pieces’, as he called them, so it was a normal progression as far as Seonghwa was concerned.
What was not normal was Wooyoung receiving a text, opening it, and then screaming at the ceiling.
Seonghwa jumped, book almost falling out of his hands. Jongho swore, first in surprise, and then at Wooyoung for startling him. Yeosang came sprinting down the stairs.
“What the fuck happened?” he demanded. “Is Wooyoung okay?”
“I think he’s just being dramatic again,” said Jongho, as Wooyoung screamed into his hands.
Yeosang gave Wooyoung a look that could’ve etched glass, and then went back up the stairs.
Seonghwa had already decided he wasn’t going to ask, so it was up to Jongho to put Wooyoung out of his misery. “What happened?” he asked. “Why are you screaming?”
Wooyoung collapsed on the sofa, limp. “San’s hyung wants to meet me,” he said.
“So what?” asked Jongho. “We met San. What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is,” started Wooyoung, but that’s where he stopped. “I don’t know,” he said finally.
Jongho rolled his eyes. “Just meet the hyung, hyung,” he said. “It’s not like you’re promising to marry San.”
“I guess,” said Wooyoung. He suddenly grabbed Seonghwa. “You have to come with me.”
“Me? Why?” Seonghwa tried to extricate himself from Wooyoung’s grip. “Take Yeosang.”
“I wanna make a good impression,” said Wooyoung. “Not a I-want-to-murder-everyone-here impression.”
He made a good point. “What about Jongho?” tried Seonghwa. “People love him.”
“No thanks,” said Jongho cheerfully.
“No offense to him, but you’re the only one who can be around San without looking like you want to eat him,” said Wooyoung, completely serious.
Jongho shrugged, unoffended. “Your boyfriend’s a snack,” he said.
“He is,” agreed Wooyoung proudly. He tightened his grip on Seonghwa’s arm. “So?”
“Fine,” said Seonghwa with a sigh. “When?”
“Night after tomorrow,” said Wooyoung. “San said he’ll fix all the details and then let me know.” He smiled. “Thanks, hyung.”
Seonghwa smiled in return. “Of course,” he said. After all, what was the harm?
“Hurry up,” Seonghwa called up the stairs. “We’re going to be late.”
Wooyoung yelled something back, but it was impossible to tell what. He was in the bathroom and had been doing his makeup for well over an hour now.
“You look pretty, I swear,” yelled Seonghwa. “Please come down now.”
More yelling back, but this time Seonghwa was pretty sure he heard some not very nice words.
“Stop fucking swearing in the fucking house,” said Yeosang, coming downstairs. He stopped when he saw Seonghwa. “You dressed up.”
“Yeah, thought I should make a good impression,” said Seonghwa, with a little twirl so Yeosang could see his outfit properly. There was supposed to be a chill in the air outside and while Seonghwa couldn’t sense temperature, he still dressed the part. Black slacks, white button up, a long coat with a gray and white checkered pattern and a red scarf to top off. Semi formal, put together.
“You look nice,” said Yeosang, genuine.
Seonghwa smiled. Yeosang could be cold to people he didn’t know, but he wasn’t a bad person at all.
“So what do you know about the people you’re meeting?” asked Yeosang.
“It’s just San and his hyung,” said Seonghwa. “Wooyoung didn’t give many details and I didn’t want to make him nervous again so I didn’t ask.”
“Good thinking,” said Yeosang. He was smiling. Amused.
“What?” asked Seonghwa, nervous. The last time he’d seen Yeosang smile like that was just before Mingi walked into a sliding glass door. “What is it?”
“Nothing,” said Yeosang, still smiling that amused smile. “I hope your little meeting goes well.”
“Why wouldn’t it?” asked Seonghwa.
“I didn’t say it wouldn’t,” said Yeosang lightly.
He wanted him to ask what he meant, but Seonghwa wouldn’t rise to the bait. They waited in silence for a few seconds, until Wooyoung came bounding down the stairs. “How do I look?” he asked. “Do I look good?”
He was in skinny jeans and a creamy white turtleneck, and wearing light makeup. He looked good, wholesome. Seonghwa looked him over approvingly, and nodded.
“Cream puff,” said Yeosang, voice flat.
Wooyoung broke into a huge smile, and then turned to Seonghwa. “Let’s go.”
They had agreed to meet in the little park near the house. It was after 8 pm and already dark, but there were still people wandering the grass. The two of them found a visible spot near one of the many golden-lit lamps, and waited.
Wooyoung obviously took this meeting seriously. Despite the fact that—if his previous relationships were any indication—his relationship with San was nearing the end of its natural lifetime, he was still very invested in impressing his hyung. He was bouncing on his heels, bubbling with nervous energy.
“Don’t worry,” said Seonghwa soothingly. “It’ll be fine.”
“I hope so,” said Wooyoung.
It seemed like San wasn’t leaving Wooyoung’s life any time soon, despite Yeosang’s quiet speculation. Remembering Yeosang and his little smile, Seonghwa asked, “What kind of person is San’s hyung?”
“Cool, but kind of strict,” said Wooyoung.
“Strict?” Seonghwa frowned. “He’s his actual blood relative?” Now that he thought about it, Wooyoung hadn’t shared any details at all. Seonghwa knew nothing about the man they would be meeting aside from the fact that San called him hyung.
“No, but they’re so close it doesn’t matter,” said Wooyoung.
“Like me and Jongho, Mingi, and Yeosang,” said Seonghwa, smiling.
Wooyoung gave him a sour look. “Yeah, sure.”
“The four of us are so close we might as well be blood bonded,” said Seonghwa with a happy sigh. It was just so much fun to tease Wooyoung.
“Oh, yeah, about that,” said Wooyoung. “Don’t bring up blood, blood drinking, immortality or any of that stuff.”
“He’s uncomfortable with the whole vampire thing?” asked Seonghwa. Most humans were. A lot of them pretended vampires didn’t exist, despite all the whispers.
“Kinda,” said Wooyoung.
“Okay then, no mention of vampirism,” said Seonghwa. “Understood.”
“Basically don’t talk unless you’re asked something directly,” said Wooyoung. “Me and San will handle it.”
“So you brought me here as, what, decoration?”
“Just as my loving, supportive older brother,” said Wooyoung.
Seonghwa raised an eyebrow.
“A rich, fancy older brother,” explained Wooyoung.
“Making you rich and fancy as well,” said Seonghwa. “Understood.”
“I knew you would,” said Wooyoung, smiling brightly. He checked the time on his phone. “They should be here soon.”
They lapsed into silence as they waited, but something niggled at the back of Seonghwa’s mind. Finally, he couldn’t bear it anymore.
“Wooyoung,” he said carefully, “San’s hyung knows you’re a vampire, right?”
Wooyoung laughed, loud and high pitched and nervous, and checked the time again. “Wow, they really should be here by now,” he said. “I wonder why they’re late.”
Seonghwa grabbed him by the shoulders. “Wooyoung,” he said. “Tell me San’s hyung knows you’re a vampire.”
Wooyoung didn’t answer, only stared at a point slightly to the left of Seonghwa’s head, and that was answer enough.
“You cannot be serious,” groaned Seonghwa, letting him go.
“Look, he never has to find out,” said Wooyoung hurriedly. “This’ll literally be the only time he’ll ever see us. We just have to fool him this one time, and then we’re good.”
“We’re not good,” said Seonghwa. “This is very seriously not good.”
“Don’t say that,” said Wooyoung. He suddenly straightened. “Okay, that’s them. Look alive.”
Seonghwa was going to respond with a biting remark, when he spotted San. He was walking up the gentle slope, and beside him was another boy, smaller than him but keeping pace.
And that was the moment Seonghwa realized what an utter fool he’d been.
“Idiot,” he breathed aloud. That was the reason behind Yeosang’s little smile, the things he’d said to him. Seonghwa should have known. He should have known.
“What?” Wooyoung looked at him, tense, and then looked back at San and waved.
Seonghwa said nothing. It was too late.
He had made a mistake.