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Blood, Water

Chapter Text

The smell of humanity pervaded the air. Fruity alcoholic drinks lent a sickly sweet undertone, making the atmosphere even heavier, almost sticky against the skin, adding to the sweat and breath of the humans. And there were many humans. Some hung around the bar, but most danced. The music was loud in the room, something with a heavy, hard beat, something to get lost to.

Hongjoong didn’t know what he was doing here again.

He stood by the doors, debating going home. It was late and he had come here, to a club filled with vampires of all places, alone. He could just turn around and go home. No one would know. Neither San nor Yunho were home, Yunho at his dance class, San out with his boyfriend.

Anxiety bubbled in Hongjoong’s gut. What if San and Wooyoung were here? He’d told San not to come here again, but San had never been very good at listening. What if they saw him? How could he explain what he was doing here?

What am I doing here?

It just hadn’t sat right with Hongjoong.

Seonghwa had run all the way to his house and back for that charm, thinking it was Hongjoong’s. But it wasn’t Hongjoong’s. Sure, Seonghwa had insisted he take it, but Hongjoong didn’t deserve it. It was silver, and silver was damn expensive. Money was obviously not an issue for Seonghwa, but he had kept that charm safe for weeks, so he must have had some attachment to it. Hongjoong had put it on his dresser, and then in the drawer he kept his jewelry in, but no matter where it was it made him uneasy. 

So he put it in an old ring box, slid the box in the inner pocket of his favorite green bomber jacket, and came here.

Back to the vampire club he had told himself he would never enter again. So that he could return jewelry to a vampire.

Hongjoong wasn’t sure he hadn’t fallen into an alternate reality.

The solid lump in his jacket encouraged him. He patted it, because he needed it, and waded into the crowd.

It wasn’t easy navigating the sea of bodies, but Hongjoong managed to reach the other side of the room. He recognized the inconspicuous door he had gone through in his search for San, and felt unease coil in his stomach. The last time he had gone in there he had been attacked by an unknown vampire.

But he didn’t know how else he would find Seonghwa, so Hongjoong walked in. 

The hallway beyond was dark, but not empty. A girl had just left a room—the door was still open behind her. She smiled at Hongjoong sheepishly, but he wasn’t interested in her. He slid in through the door behind her.

There was a woman inside the dimly lit room beyond. She had bleached blonde hair, and was casually dressed. “Sorry, I’m not taking any more right now,” she said.

“I’m looking for someone,” said Hongjoong. “His name’s Seonghwa.”

She rolled her eyes. “You small, pretty ones are always looking for Seonghwa,” she said, getting up. “I swear, he’s like catnip for you guys. Lemme go see if he’s free. Sit tight, sugar.”

“Tell him Hongjoong came to see him,” said Hongjoong as she walked past him.

The woman chuckled. “Sure,” she said, like she thought it was funny Hongjoong thought his identity was important.

And then she was gone, and Hongjoong was alone in the room.

He sat, hands folded in his lap. He felt awkward, but more than that he felt nervous. What if the blonde woman was right? What if Hongjoong was just one of a thousand small, pretty men to Seonghwa?

“What does it matter?” he said aloud. “You just wanna give him his charm back.”

The door clicked open, and Hongjoong started. He rose.

It was Seonghwa. He looked surprised, and stood a few moments in the doorway, blinking. “Hongjoong-ssi,” he said finally, walking in and letting the door shut behind him. “It is you.”

Hongjoong chuckled awkwardly. “It is.”

“What are you doing here?” asked Seonghwa. Concern fell over his features. “Is it Sannie? Did something happen?”

“No, San’s fine,” said Hongjoong quickly. Seonghwa looked like he was ready to have a heart attack, or whatever the vampire equivalent of a heart attack was. “I just wanted to see you.”

“Oh.” Seonghwa let out an unmistakable sigh of relief, and was calm and collected again. “Why did you want to see me?”

“This is yours,” said Hongjoong, reaching inside his jacket for the ring box. It felt small but heavy in his hand, and he almost dropped it before he held it out.

Seonghwa looked at Hongjoong, down at the ring box, and then back up at Hongjoong’s face. “What?” He looked totally perplexed.

“This is for you,” said Hongjoong, giving the box a light shake. “Please take it.”

Seonghwa took it uncertainly. He cracked the box open, and flinched. And then he frowned at the charm inside, and raised his head to frown at Hongjoong.

“I told you, it’s yours now,” he said. 

“But it’s really not,” said Hongjoong. He didn’t know why, but he felt nervous. “It’s really nice of you, but I can’t take it. Thank you and I’m sorry. Please keep it, you found it so it’s yours.”

“Hongjoong-ssi,” said Seonghwa. “I can’t keep this, it’s silver.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s really expensive,” said Hongjoong. He was blabbering and he knew it, but he couldn’t stop. “Which is another reason I can’t just take it. I mean, I’m not gonna lie, I’m not super rich. But you are, so you can just have it lying around, no problem—”

“I’m a vampire,” said Seonghwa.

“Yeah, I know that too—”

“No, listen,” said Seonghwa patiently. “I’m a vampire. This is silver. I can’t keep this.”

Hongjoong blinked at him. And then it clicked.

“Holy shit, I’m so sorry,” he said, the words rushing out of him like a burst dam. “I totally forgot, I’m so stupid, oh fuck I’m stupid—”

Seonghwa laughed. “It’s okay, you just forgot,” he said.

If the Earth decided to swallow Hongjoong whole he would’ve thanked it. Seonghwa had literally flinched when he had opened the box, and Hongjoong still hadn’t realized—

“Really, it’s fine,” said Seonghwa with a chuckle. He stepped forward as if to put a hand on Hongjoong’s shoulder, but then thought better of it. “But I hope you understand now why I really wanted you to have this,” he said. “If you don’t take it I’ll literally throw it away, and I don’t want to do that.”

He held up the box. Hesitantly, Hongjoong took it back, taking care not to touch Seonghwa as he did.

“You could just sell it,” he said. I could just sell it.

“I don’t need any more money,” said Seonghwa. “Is there anything else you wanted to see me about?”

“No,” said Hongjoong, tucking the box back in his jacket pocket.

“You sound disappointed.” The smile tinted Seonghwa’s voice.

“Well, yeah,” said Hongjoong, and he found himself smiling too. “I came all the way out here for nothing.”

“It doesn’t have to be for nothing,” said Seonghwa. “This place has a pretty nice bar, I’ve heard.”

If Hongjoong didn’t know any better, he’d think Seonghwa was offering to buy him a drink. “I’ll just go home,” he said.

“Okay then,” said Seonghwa. “Who are you here with? Sannie, or another friend?”

“I came alone,” said Hongjoong.

Seonghwa blinked at him a moment. “I’ll walk you to the end of the street,” he said. 

If the last time was an offer, this was a statement. Hongjoong just shrugged. Seonghwa moved away from the door to let him exit, and then followed him out.

The blue of the hallway was a welcome change from the dim light inside the room. Seonghwa came up to walk beside Hongjoong, and Hongjoong snuck a glance at him without thinking.

Hongjoong didn’t think he was a hypocrite for finding Seonghwa attractive. It wasn’t an opinion, it was pretty much a fact. Seonghwa was attractive. He was handsome, and rich, and polite and well-spoken and considerate. 

If only he wasn’t him. A vampire, brother to San’s vampire boyfriend. Of course, Hongjoong thought, remembering Seonghwa’s house in the posh suburbs and his car and his fancy watch, their paths probably wouldn’t have crossed if he wasn’t. 

Unless Hongjoong was there to deliver some package or something. He could almost imagine it now, him in that stupid red and orange uniform, Seonghwa dressed just like he was, with his light dress shirt and tight jeans—

“Hello?”

Hongjoong started. “Huh?” he said, so intelligently.

Seonghwa was smiling at him. “You were spaced out,” he said. 

“Yeah, I do that sometimes,” said Hongjoong, with an awkward little laugh. Seonghwa smiled even more at that, and Hongjoong’s attention went to his mouth with full focus. No, bad Hongjoong, he scolded himself, but his brain was stubborn.

He and Seonghwa stepped into the main room, where people danced without a care. Hongjoong half-expected the crowd to part like a sea in front of Seonghwa, but that didn’t happen, and they had to navigate the bodies by themselves. No one even noticed them.

Almost no one. Hongjoong felt eyes on him, and found a man watching him. There was a glint of hunger in the man’s eyes. The shamelessness of it sent a chill over Hongjoong’s skin. 

A hand came to rest on Hongjoong’s upper arm.

He turned to Seonghwa, surprised. Seonghwa said something, but his voice was low and the words got lost in the music. He kept his hand on Hongjoong, his arm going around his back.  

Hongjoong glanced back at the man who had been watching him. He wasn’t watching anymore.

The air outside the club was blessedly cool. Hongjoong inhaled deeply, grateful for it after the crowded heat of the dance floor.

“Sorry about that,” said Seonghwa. “There was a vampire tracking you. I just wanted to make it clear you weren’t looking for a bite from him.”

“Thanks,” said Hongjoong. “I saw him too.”

“You just being with me should’ve been enough for him to get the hint,” said Seonghwa. He started walking, the opposite direction of the way Hongjoong had gone the last time he’d come here. Hongjoong went with him without protest. 

“I thought these places were safe,” he said. “What would the guy have done if you hadn’t—hadn’t—?” Staked your claim were the words on Hongjoong’s tongue, but he managed to shut himself up before they came out.

“Bothered you a few minutes, maybe,” said Seonghwa. “You won’t find anyone inside the club who’ll force you—the owners are very careful.”

Hongjoong thought about the vampire who had pinned him down and fed from him, and said nothing.

“On second thought,” said Seonghwa as they walked down the empty street, “I didn’t need to do that. He would’ve backed off if I just talked to him. Sorry.”

“It’s fine, you did what you thought was right,” said Hongjoong. He paused. “You apologize a lot.”

“Too much?” Seonghwa chuckled sheepishly.

“You don’t need to say sorry for everything,” said Hongjoong. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

It was obvious Seonghwa didn’t feel the same. Hongjoong watched him frown and worry his lower lip in silence for some time, and then he finally cracked.

“Okay, tell me,” he said, stopping. “What bad thing did you ever do to me?”

“Huh?” Seonghwa looked lost.

“Let me help you out with that,” said Hongjoong. “You didn’t do a single bad thing, not to me. So don’t feel guilty or apologetic or any of that.”

Seonghwa shifted awkwardly. “I’m sorry, I can’t help it,” he said. “I just—I keep thinking about the first time we met, I should’ve been—I mean, you were—and I should’ve…” He trailed off, leaving the sentence hanging.

“That wasn’t your fault,” said Hongjoong. “Do not feel guilty over that. It was just one fucking bite, anyway. Come on.”

He started walking again, and a moment later Seonghwa did the same. They walked in silence for some time, until Seonghwa quietly asked, “So you’re really okay?” 

“I’m really okay,” said Hongjoong firmly. “It’s no big deal.”

“You never told Sannie about it.”

Hongjoong opened his mouth, and then shut it. “I didn’t want him to worry,” he said finally.

Seonghwa nodded, and that conversation ended. 

By this time they had reached busier streets. There was an empty cab on the opposite side of the street, driver leaning against the door having a smoke. Now was the time for a brief, polite goodbye.

“Thank you for coming,” said Seonghwa. “And I’m—it’s unfortunate you couldn’t do what you came here for.”

He’d stopped himself before the apology, and it made Hongjoong smile. “Thanks again, I guess, for this,” he said, patting the pocket the ring box was in. “I guess I kinda owe you one.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” said Seonghwa earnestly.

It’s a gift. Hongjoong could see the words right there on Seonghwa’s mouth, but thankfully he didn’t say them. Hongjoong smiled tightly. “Sure,” he said. “I’ll see you around.”

“Wait,” said Seonghwa, before Hongjoong could step off the kerb. He hesitated. “Actually, I do have something I need help with.”

That surprised Hongjoong. “What is it?” he asked.

“I need something from a place I can’t enter,” said Seonghwa carefully. “I was hoping you could get it for me.”

Hongjoong narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Something like a cursed something?”

Seonghwa burst out laughing. This wasn’t one of his polite laughs or quiet chuckles, this was a real, genuine laugh, full-bodied and rich and warm. “No, not like a cursed something,” he said. “Where would I get a cursed something?”

“You can’t get it, that’s why you need me,” said Hongjoong. He was flushed with embarrassment, and wondered if Seonghwa could see it under the ugly light of the streetlights.

“It’s not cursed, don’t worry,” said Seonghwa, still grinning. “It’s completely fine for you. It’s just a little… uncomfortable for me.”

“Okay,” said Hongjoong. “Where is it?” 

“Is that a yes?” asked Seonghwa.

Hongjoong had a feeling he should refuse, that he was standing on the edge of a cliff he wouldn’t be able to climb back up, but it was too late. His curiosity was piqued, and Seonghwa was looking at him expectantly. “Yeah, it’s a yes,” he said.

“Great,” said Seonghwa, breaking into a huge smile. It looked good on his mouth. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow night.”

“Whoa, you didn’t even tell me where we’re going,” said Hongjoong, laughing.

“Somewhere,” said Seonghwa, smile playing on his lips. “Inside Seoul, and it won’t take more than an hour. So tomorrow night?”

“I have work,” said Hongjoong.

“Then whatever time works for you,” said Seonghwa at once. “I’ll—I’ll give you my number and you can call me with all the details?”

Another cliff, another step forward. “Okay,” said Hongjoong, without hesitation. He took out his phone and handed it to Seonghwa, who entered the digits.

“Thank you,” said Seonghwa, giving the phone back. Hongjoong carefully avoided his fingers as he took it. “You can call me anytime after sunset. I’m always awake.” He chuckled, a little awkward.

“Okay, I will,” said Hongjoong. He stepped off the kerb and turned back to Seonghwa and said, “See you, then.”

Seonghwa smiled. “See you.”

 

This is a mistake, thought Hongjoong as he stared at himself in the mirror.

He’d agreed to go somewhere he didn’t know, to do something he didn’t know, with someone he didn’t know. A vampire he didn’t know. A vampire that could literally kill him with barely any effort, that could drain him dry in minutes if the rumors were true.

Hongjoong didn’t think Seonghwa would try to kill him, or drink his blood. But tension tugged at his gut, and he couldn’t be rid of it.

He had dressed casual, and warm. He didn’t know if he needed any other clothes, or anything more than the wallet he had in his jeans pocket. 

“You should’ve asked for more details,” he muttered to himself as he left his bedroom. “Stupid.”

But at the time he hadn’t even thought about it. All he’d thought about Seonghwa’s expectant smile and his laugh, how excited he’d looked. How was Hongjoong supposed to focus on anything else?

San was sprawled out over the couch in the living room, texting. Yunho was, unsurprisingly, playing games in their room. He’d always loved gaming, but recently he’d become almost addicted to them, playing almost every minute he was free. Hongjoong was starting to worry for his sleep cycle.

“Whoa, where are you going?” asked San, jumping upright. 

“Out with a friend,” said Hongjoong. Was that a lie? He wouldn’t exactly call Seonghwa his friend.

San frowned. “Disappointing,” he said, flopping back down on the couch.

“How’s that disappointing?” asked Hongjoong, stepping into his favorite pair of converse shoes. 

“I thought maybe you were going on a date or something.”

“What? Why would you think that?” Hongjoong’s voice came out absurdly high, even to his own ears.

“More like I hoped,” said San, with a laugh. “Your lovelife’s so sad, hyung.”

“Okay, let’s try shutting up now,” said Hongjoong, trying to ignore the burning in his ears. San thought he was going on a date— 

He froze, another thought popping up. “Hey,” said Hongjoong carefully. “Did… Wooyoung say anything?”

“Anything about what?” asked San. 

He looked perfectly clueless. “Nothing,” said Hongjoong. “How is Wooyoung anyway?”

“Fine,” said San with a look. “I still like him and we’re still dating, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“It wasn’t,” said Hongjoong innocently. It had been. “Don’t leave Yunho alone.”

San rolled his eyes. “He’s the one leaving me alone,” he said. “Always talking to his dumb online friends…”

“Just stay in tonight, okay?” said Hongjoong. 

“Don’t worry, I will,” said San. “Go have fun.”

He smiled, and Hongjoong smiled back. And then Hongjoong opened the door and left.

He walked to the end of the block, where Seonghwa was supposed to pick him up. He didn’t want him driving his fancy car among the gray, austere buildings, sticking out like a gold coin in the mud. He was doubly glad now that they had decided on somewhere further away. What if San had spotted him?

Hongjoong didn’t even have the time to wonder if Seonghwa had changed his mind before he saw the black car come down the street. It stopped right in front of him, and the window rolled down to reveal a smiling Seonghwa in the driver’s seat. “Get in,” he said.

And Hongjoong did. “Right on time,” he said, putting on his seatbelt. “Where are we going?”

“Somewhere,” said Seonghwa, eyes on the road, smile playing on his lips.

Hongjoong didn’t ask any more. As the car turned and went back the way it had come, he took the time to look Seonghwa over. He was dressed in light jeans and a thin, soft sweater in wheat brown that settled loosely on his broad shoulders. He looked good. 

“Did I dress okay?” asked Hongjoong. He noticed Seonghwa start in surprise, and quickly added, “I mean, we aren’t going anywhere formal, right?”

“No, we aren’t going anywhere formal,” said Seonghwa. He glanced at Hongjoong. “You look—you look fine.”

Hongjoong felt heat rise up his neck, and quickly turned to stare out the passenger seat window. When was he going to leave this alternate reality? He wasn’t so sure how he felt about it.

They traveled together in silence for some time. The awkwardness in Hongjoong’s gut slowly dissipated, and he was just about to try more conversation when the car came to a stop. “We’re here,” said Seonghwa.

Here was a side street, in front of an array of small stores. They looked old, from before all the skyscrapers that dominated Seoul’s skyline had sprouted, and there was a charm in their old glass storefronts and brick patterned walls. 

Seonghwa got out of the car, and Hongjoong followed. The air outside was crisp and cool, and it felt good on Hongjoong’s skin. 

“Okay,” he said. “What are we doing here?”

“I need you to go in here,” said Seonghwa, motioning to the building they were standing in front of, “and buy something for me.”

It was a small shop. The front window was packed with a random assortment of items, most old and covered in dust. Hongjoong spotted everything from old lamps to crumbling showpieces to fraying clothing. Other than the dust and age, it looked like a perfectly normal store.

“What do you want?” asked Hongjoong.

“That,” said Seonghwa. He pointed to a wooden table in the storefront, on which sat a ring. It was dirty gold, or brass, and had a tiny turquoise stone inlaid in the band.

“Okay,” said Hongjoong. “And why exactly do I have to get it?”

In response, Seonghwa pointed to a dusty set of silverware sitting by the door. 

“Ah,” said Hongjoong, understanding. Silver. “So you can’t even go in?”

“It’s just very uncomfortable,” said Seonghwa. “So will you please go in and buy it for me?”

“Yeah, of course,” said Hongjoong. “It’s why I’m here, right?”

Seonghwa smiled wide. Pretty. “Thank you,” he said. He reached in the pocket of his jeans—which were a little too tight around his thighs, but Hongjoong wasn’t looking, of course not—and pulled out his wallet. “I don’t know how much it is, but there should be enough for it in here.”

“What’s your limit?” asked Hongjoong, taking the wallet. 

“However much I have in there,” said Seonghwa.

Right. Hongjoong had almost forgotten rich people had a completely different set of rules, human or vampire. He smiled tightly at Seonghwa, and then entered the store.

The shopkeeper was a middle-aged man who seemed almost surprised at getting a customer. He asked more for the ring than Hongjoong would’ve been willing to pay, but it wasn’t his ring and it wasn’t his money, so he didn’t argue. And there was a lot of money in the wallet. A lot. 

As he waited for the change, Hongjoong scanned the store. It was dark and dusty, but he caught sight of a number of things, from candlesticks to lamps to a faux set of armor, scattered throughout the room haphazardly. Tin or steel, maybe, but also maybe silver, which would explain why Seonghwa needed him. 

And that was it, wasn’t it? Hongjoong was just Seonghwa’s middleman. His courier. 

A few minutes later and Hongjoong walked out of the store, ring in hand. Seonghwa smiled when he saw him, even more when he dropped the ring in to his upturned hand.

“Thank you,” he said, in that sincere way Hongjoong was starting to associate with him. 

Hongjoong shrugged. “It’s no problem.”

Seonghwa tried the ring on. It was too small for his middle finger, which was the first one he tried, but fit snugly on his pinky. He looked so satisfied Hongjoong couldn’t help but be pleased, knowing it was because of him. 

“So, is that all?” he asked.

“Yeah,” said Seonghwa. “I can drop you home now if you want?”

Another unspoken offer hung at the end of that, but Hongjoong wasn’t accepting. “Great,” he said.

Seonghwa smiled, but it looked tight on his lips. “Okay.”

They got in the car, and as they made their way back to the depressing cluster of buildings Hongjoong called home, he paid attention to the streets they passed and realized he knew the area. There was a flea market near there he went to often, a cache of treasures if you knew where to look and were willing to dig for them. He wondered how Seonghwa had found this place, far away from his posh neighborhood, with its cramped little shops and old buildings. He could ask him. He knew Seonghwa would answer, probably with enthusiasm. Maybe even offer to tell him the whole story, and a bunch of other stories about himself, another night. 

But that felt dangerous in ways Hongjoong didn’t want to test, and so he kept his mouth shut.

He spotted a mart up ahead, and said, “You can drop me off here.”

“Here? But it’s not your place,” said Seonghwa, but he slowed down and parked the car anyway.

“I need to pick up a few things,” said Hongjoong, pointing to the mart. He flashed Seonghwa a quick smile. “Thanks.”

“Oh.” Seonghwa hesitated, and then said, “I could go with you? If you don’t mind.”

Refuse, a part of Hongjoong’s brain told him. The rational part. This is already too much. 

But instead he found himself saying, “Sure,” and the smile Seonghwa gave convinced him it was the right choice.

They were just about to enter the mart when Seonghwa stopped, looking uncertain. 

“What’s wrong?” asked Hongjoong. He’d read somewhere vampires couldn’t enter places without an invitation, that didn’t include convenience stores too, did it? 

“Nothing,” said Seonghwa. “I didn’t… prepare. But it’s fine, I won’t be coming back here, right?” He propped up a smile. “Let’s go.” 

He didn’t look like he wanted to answer whatever questions Hongjoong had, so Hongjoong dropped it, and they walked in.

The inside was brightly lit in that way only marts and hospitals could be. There was a middle-aged woman near the door, looking at drugstore makeup. When she saw Hongjoong and Seonghwa her eyes went huge, and she scurried away, almost tripping over herself in her hurry.

Hongjoong was going to make what would’ve been an embarrassing quip about his good looks, when he saw Seonghwa and was stunned silent.

Seonghwa did not look human. His skin was pale, almost luminescent under the harsh lighting overhead. There was a gloss to it that was obviously not normal. 

But he didn’t look dead. Even with his pale skin he didn’t look washed out, or faded. He looked high contrast. The black of his hair, his eyes, was ultra dark, darker than blindness. His lips were rich in color, shining in contrast to his powder white skin. 

“I’m sorry,” said Seonghwa, raising a hand to cover his face. “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

Hongjoong couldn’t answer. He couldn’t believe he had never noticed before. How could anyone think Seonghwa was human? How did he ever fool himself into imagining Seonghwa was human?

“It’s only really obvious under bright lights,” said Seonghwa, as though he’d read Hongjoong’s mind. “It’s why all the clubs are so dimly lit. I usually wear makeup when I go out to places with a lot of light, but I didn’t think… ah, I’m sorry…”

“It’s fine,” said Hongjoong, finally finding his tongue. “It’s cool. It’s just one time.”

Seonghwa smiled, and it looked so odd on his vampire face. Warmth transposed over cold.

Hongjoong tried to ignore Seonghwa and his obvious vampirism, but it was not easy. He was attracting stares, and not the admiring kind Hongjoong imagined he’d be used to. Some shoppers dropped their baskets and left, stealing furtive glances back. Others watched with unabashed fascination. One woman made the sign of the cross over her chest.

Seonghwa valiantly ignored them all. “Do you come here often?” he asked, as Hongjoong scanned rows of ramen.

“To J-Mart? All the time.” Hongjoong found Yunho’s favorite flavor and dropped a six pack bundle in his basket. “Where quality meets affordability,” he recited, quoting the motto from memory.

“Oh.” Seonghwa shuffled behind him awkwardly. “A loyal customer?” 

Hongjoong laughed. “I work for them.”

“Here?” Seonghwa’s eyes widened.

The expression was so at odds with his corpse pale skin and dark shadows it made Hongjoong laugh again. “No, at another place,” he said. 

“Oh, okay,” said Seonghwa. He sounded relieved. “What do you do?”

“Man the counter, usually, but I’ll do whatever needs to get done,” said Hongjoong, picking up juice. He looked at Seonghwa and asked, “And you? What do you do?”

“Me?” Seonghwa looked surprised. “I don’t do anything.”

“Come on,” said Hongjoong, grinning as he looked for cereal. “You gotta do something. Where do you get gas money for your snazzy car?”

“Most of my money’s in investments,” said Seonghwa. “I get returns from those. I don’t… I don’t really do anything.”

He looked embarrassed. For being rich. Hongjoong wanted to laugh and tell Seonghwa about his three jobs, but decided against it. He couldn’t be that cruel.

They took his basket to the counter where the cashier, a girl who looked no older than Hongjoong, stared openmouthed at Seonghwa. Seonghwa seemed unbothered, but there was something about her shameless staring that put Hongjoong off, and he snapped, more rudely than he’d intended, “He has a vitamin D deficiency.”

Seonghwa snorted, an ugly, un-vampire sound, and had to clamp a hand over his mouth to hold his laughter back. Hongjoong paid for his groceries, feeling oddly pleased. 

The vampire grinned the entire drive back, until the car stopped at the same corner he’d picked Hongjoong up from. “Do you want help with those?” he asked.

“I’m fine, they’re not heavy,” said Hongjoong, as he pulled his bags out of the car.

“If you’re sure then,” said Seonghwa. He smiled. “Thank you, Hongjoong-ssi.”

He looked gorgeous. In the golden light of the streetlights he looked handsome, warm. Human. The smile he wore suited his face, suited that mouth Hongjoong found himself looking at more than once.

“It—you’re welcome,” he said.

Seonghwa fiddled with his new ring, eyes on it, and then finally looked up and asked, “Can I call you? If—if I need help again?”

Hongjoong was still. He should say no. Politely, of course, but no. If he had any sense he’d say no. Because Seonghwa was San’s boyfriend’s brother, because he was rich and charming and a vampire, because it was obvious how he felt about Hongjoong. 

Because this was already too much. Because Hongjoong had guessed his intentions and still agreed. Because any more and Seonghwa would get the wrong idea, think there was something there that would never happen.

And now here he was, sitting in his expensive car, looking up at Hongjoong with earnest hope, and Hongjoong should say no. 

“Okay,” said Hongjoong. 

Seonghwa’s face lit up with a wide, blinding smile. “Okay,” he repeated. “Okay. I’ll see you later, Hongjoong-ssi. Again, thank you so, so much.”

“It’s no problem,” said Hongjoong weakly. “See you.”

Seonghwa gave him one last warm look, and then he drove off, car rolling down the empty street.

Hongjoong watched him go, wondering what he’d gotten himself into.