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Blood, Water

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Wooyoung smelled sweet.

It wafted around him wherever he went, so strong you could imagine it rolling off him in waves. It was the delicious, alluring smell of an especially appetizing human. It was the smell of San’s blood.

“Geez, hyung, can you go somewhere else?” said Jongho, making a face as he curled up on the couch. “You’re making me hungry.”

“Sorry,” said Wooyoung, not sorry at all. “You’re too dramatic anyway. I smell fine, don’t I, Yeosangie?”

Yeosang forced a smile. “Sure.”

“See? Perfectly fine,” said Wooyoung, satisfied. He didn’t notice the smile was fake. He didn’t notice a lot about Yeosang recently.

“Then go over there,” said Jongho, poking Wooyoung with a foot.

Wooyoung grumbled about Jongho being mean and disrespectful, but got up anyway. Yeosang was stretched out on the long couch, tablet resting on his chest, and when Wooyoung walked over he curled up his legs to give him space. Wooyoung ignored it and lay down flat over Yeosang.

“Fuck, you’re heavy,” groaned Yeosang, but he let Wooyoung get comfortable.

“All you guys do is hurt me,” said Wooyoung. He rested his head on Yeosang’s chest, legs entangled with his, and fell still.

The smell of San was all over him. But it didn’t make Yeosang hungry, it made him sick. He knew Wooyoung fed from San regularly, which he understood—San smelled incredible, even he could admit that. But it wasn’t all feeding. San’s smell clung to Wooyoung for hours, attaching to him from what must’ve been lots of close contact. They were together a lot.

Discreetly, Yeosang rubbed his cheek against the crown of Wooyoung’s head, hoping some of his own scent would attach to Wooyoung. Vampires’ scents weren’t as strong as humans’, but they did exist.

Yeosang missed Wooyoung’s scent. His real scent, that mild, familiar fragrance that barely traveled in the air, that scent he could get only when they were close together like this. Slowly, carefully, he rested his hand on Wooyoung’s back. Wooyoung didn’t stir.

They had known each other for almost a century, but to Yeosang it felt both longer and shorter than that. In the hardest time of his life, Wooyoung was the only love and comfort he had known, and Wooyoung would remain Yeosang’s greatest love until he was taken by his second death.

Seonghwa came down the stairs, fully dressed for the outside in a stylish wool coat. “I’m going out for a few hours,” he said, as he picked out a pair of shoes. “Don’t destroy the house while I’m gone.”

“Another date?” asked Jongho. “Don’t you think you’re a little too into this new guy already?”

“It’s not a date,” said Seonghwa, stepping into a pair of black boots. “I need a human nose for something.”

“Uh-huh,” said Jongho. “You didn’t answer my second question.”

“Okay, I’ll see you guys when I get back,” said Seonghwa brightly. “Bye.” He was out the door so fast he might’ve teleported.

“He can’t just ignore every question he doesn’t like,” said Jongho, more to himself than anyone else. “He spends so much time on this new human.”

Yeosang smiled sympathetically. Jongho, of all of them, knew the dangers of getting attached to the wrong person. “Just let him be,” he said. “You know you can’t stop him when he falls for his newest human.”

Jongho frowned. “He’s going to get hurt.”

“Maybe a little,” said Yeosang. Seonghwa had never been good at picking humans. “Then he’ll get over it and be back to normal. He might even learn something from it this time.”

Jongho didn’t look convinced, but he let it go, picking up his phone again.

Yeosang looked back up at the ceiling and released a silent sigh. Seonghwa had some strange attachment to life. He was always chasing after humans, desiring their friendship or their love, trying his best to fit in. He forced himself to stay awake after dawn to watch the sun for as long as he could bear. He was so attached to living things and Yeosang, for all his sympathetic nature, could not understand what he was looking for.

Yeosang had been a vampire many, many years. But he never missed the sun, because he had Wooyoung.

He still remembered the night, so many decades ago, when their maker had still been alive and Wooyoung had just overcome the newborn thirst. Yeosang had been a vampire for more than a year by then, and he had finally gathered the courage to ask Jisung why he had turned Wooyoung, why Yeosang wasn’t enough anymore.

“Oh, Yeosang, I love you,” Jisung had said, fond smile on his face. “But you are the moon, and Wooyoung is the sun.”

At that time, Yeosang hadn’t understood. He’d been bitter, and miserable. He understood now. Yeosang was lovely, but he was cold. Wooyoung was brighter and hotter than life itself. Jisung had needed both of them to balance, two sons so different and yet so close.

Yeosang missed Jisung sometimes, but on the whole he was happier in his new life. He had a bigger coven, a more comfortable house and a stable supply of blood, and, most importantly, he still had Wooyoung.

“I still have him,” he murmured to himself, so quiet not even Wooyoung heard. “I still do.”

Wooyoung’s phone rang, and he maneuvered himself to get it out of his pocket, stabbing Yeosang in the gut with an elbow as he did so. Yeosang got a clear look at the screen before Wooyoung picked up.

“Hey baby,” said Wooyoung, voice sweet like honey. “Busy at work?”

Of course. Who else would it be? Yeosang tried to focus on the book he’d been reading, tune out the half of conversation he could hear.

“Mmm, no, I didn’t miss you,” said Wooyoung, in that mischievous way he did so well. “Why, did you miss me?”

Jongho gagged. Yeosang allowed himself a chuckle at that, before trying to focus on what he was supposed to be reading.

Wooyoung didn’t notice either of them. “Well, I didn’t,” he said. “Shouldn’t you be working? This is why your boss is so mean to you.” Silence, a hum, and then Wooyoung burst out, “What? Again? Give me his address, I’ll go beat him up.”

He stabbed Yeosang again in his excitement, and Yeosang stifled a groan. He poked Wooyoung to no effect.

“I’ll definitely beat him up,” said Wooyoung seriously. “I’ll go beat up his friends and family too. Okay, maybe not his family… wait, does he have a dog?” A hum. “Well I can’t beat up the dog, that’s just inhuman…” A huge smile broke on his face. “You know what I mean! It’s the principle of the thing.”

Yeosang moved to the next page of his book. He hadn’t finished the last one.

“I’m home,” said Wooyoung. “Mingi’s upstairs, Seonghwa-hyung went out. I’m lying down right on top of Yeosangie.” He hummed. “Yeah he’s kind of skinny… well if you wanted me to be comfortable maybe you should’ve been here—”

Yeosang got up. Wooyoung almost fell off the sofa and called out a hurt “Hey!” but Yeosang ignored him and walked away. He didn’t want to be around Wooyoung right then.

He got to the top of the stairs before he stopped. Yeosang felt unsettled, a feeling deep in his chest, like something burrowing in the space between his ribs. He hated how he couldn’t pinpoint the feeling, how he couldn’t pull it out like a knife.

“Hyung?”

Yeosang brought himself back to his surroundings. Jongho was coming up the stairs, a look of concern on his face.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

“Fine,” said Yeosang. He put up a smile. “Just got tired of Wooyoung and his sickly sweetness.”

“Yeah, same,” said Jongho. He hesitated. “Hey, so, do you know who Seonghwa-hyung’s dating?”

“No,” said Yeosang.

“Okay,” said Jongho. “Because he usually tells us all about whoever he’s seeing… I thought maybe he was just hiding it from me.”

“He isn’t,” said Yeosang. He had noticed Seonghwa being unusually secretive about this new lover, but had chalked it up to him wanting to avoid being teased. “Why would he hide it from you?”

“Yeah, exactly,” said Jongho with a laugh. “Why me? I mean, I understand why he wouldn’t tell Mingi-hyung, he’s a freak, but I’m okay, right?”

Yeosang regarded him coldly. “I know you use Mingi to deflect, so I’ll let that go,” he said. “But know that if Seonghwa-hyung hears you he won’t be so kind.”

Jongho didn’t respond, but he looked chastised. Yeosang didn’t know how genuine that look was.

“Seonghwa didn’t tell anyone,” said Yeosang, hoping it would be enough to convince the younger. “Not me, or Wooyoung, at least.”

Which really was strange. He usually wasn’t able to contain his excitement, no matter how he tried. If Yeosang didn’t know better he’d think Seonghwa actually had done the stupidest thing and gone after that short friend of San’s. But that was impossible, because Wooyoung would’ve known, and so Yeosang would’ve too.

The door halfway down the hallway slammed open, and Mingi burst out of the room. “Yeosang, shit, thank god you’re here,” he said. “I need your help.”

“For what?” asked Yeosang.

“You remember I told you about the friend I made online?” asked Mingi. “I was trying to come up with a reason why I couldn’t talk during the day, and you said I should say I’m sick?”

Yeosang did remember that. “What’s the problem?”

“He’s asking about my sickness,” said Mingi. “What should I say?”

“Do some research,” said Yeosang. “Find something that fits. You’re online all the time, use that time for something useful.”

“Something useful like lying to your human friend,” said Jongho.

“At least I have friends,” shot back Mingi. He turned back to Yeosang. “Thanks for nothing, I guess.”

“You’re welcome,” said Yeosang. “If you need to, you can say the medicine makes you sleep, not the sickness.”

Mingi nodded, openmouthed, impressed. “Thanks, you’re a lifesaver,” he said. He stuck out his tongue at Jongho and went back to his room.

Yeosang sighed fondly. They were children, all of them in different ways.

“I can’t believe everyone’s just going and getting themselves a human,” grumbled Jongho. “I should start looking for one too.”

“Please don’t join them,” said Yeosang seriously. “If you leave me alone I’ll move out.”

Jongho laughed. “Why would you be alone?”

Because Wooyoung— Yeosang stopped the thought before it went too far. “Just don’t do it,” he said. Jongho shrugged at that.

“I’m going out!” Wooyoung called from downstairs. He didn’t have to say where. Any time he went out nowadays it was to see San.

“He’s, like, addicted to him,” said Jongho, as they heard the front door close. “I’m surprised he isn’t tired of him yet. I thought it would be time by now.”

Yeosang said nothing. That feeling in his chest was back, and he couldn’t dig it out.

Wooyoung was out for most of the night, but when he came back he went to Yeosang’s room. Yeosang lay still, pretending to sleep, wanting to avoid Wooyoung, avoid the thought of Wooyoung spending all his time with San.

“You’re the worst,” grumbled Wooyoung, climbing into bed next to him. “Ignoring me? Your best friend in the entire world? Horrible.”

“I’m sleeping,” said Yeosang, fighting the smile on his face.

“You talk pretty well in your sleep,” said Wooyoung.

He lay with his back pressed against Yeosang’s, and miraculously fell silent. Yeosang relaxed for the first time since Wooyoung had left, uneasy feeling dissipating.

 

Yeosang smelled him before anything else.

Wooyoung was back home early tonight, smiling brightly. The smile suited him, filled out his features, lit them up with his sunlight. He was not alone.

“Sannie, it’s been a while,” said Seonghwa, smiling, getting up to take the human into a hug. “I’m so happy to see you again.”

“You too, hyung,” said San. He turned to Yeosang and smiled. “Hi, Yeosang-ssi.”

Yeosang mumbled a greeting back.

“You don’t need to be so polite,” said Wooyoung, as Seonghwa went to get Jongho to greet their guest. “It’s just Yeosangie.”

“I’m being nice and you’re criticizing me,” said San. He’d naturally latched onto Wooyoung’s arm again, and was squeezing it. “You were polite with Hongjoong-hyung. You kind of looked scared of him.”

“Why would I be scared of him?” scoffed Wooyoung. “He should be afraid of me! I could kidnap you and steal you away.”

San gave Yeosang a look. “He was totally scared of him.”

By this time Jongho had come downstairs. They all gathered in the living room, scattered among the many seats. Seonghwa had procured food from somewhere, setting an assortment of snacks in front of San.

“We just came from the movies, hyung,” said Wooyoung. “San had a million buckets of popcorn. He’s fine.”

“So?” said Seonghwa. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to let him be in my house without offering something. Some of us have manners, Wooyoung.”

Wooyoung grumbled and made a face at Seonghwa, and Yeosang smiled.

The conversation flowed, eventually turning to seniority. San didn’t understand why Jongho called Mingi hyung.

“Because he turned when he was older than me,” said Jongho.

“But you turned first, so technically you’re older,” said San.

“Technically, sure,” said Jongho, shrugging. “I don’t mind. It’s kind of fun being the youngest.”

“Jongho was nineteen when he turned,” said Seonghwa. “Mingi was twenty, like Wooyoung and Yeosang.”

“So he says,” said Yeosang. “We don’t really know and I think he just wanted to be our age.”

San nodded, understanding. “You know, I’m twenty-one,” he said, grinning mischievously. “So shouldn’t you all call me hyung?”

“Vampires only,” said Yeosang, while Wooyoung cackled.

“I’ll call you hyung,” said Seonghwa. “San-hyung, please take me out. I wanna go to an amusement park, and hyung please help me figure out what to do with our household budget—”

San yelled and covered his ears. “I change my mind, I change my mind!”

“Fine, fine, I’ll let you go this time,” said Seonghwa. He sighed dramatically. “When will someone actually help me with the budget?”

“I regret helping you all this time,” said Jongho, making Seonghwa laugh.

“You own the money, you take care of it,” said Yeosang. “If you didn’t want to do it, you shouldn’t have gotten turned by a rich person.”

“You and Wooyoung have the same maker, right?” asked San. “What happened to him?”

“Killed by vampire hunters,” said Yeosang. He saw the look on San’s face and said, “Don’t. It was a long time ago and frankly speaking I didn’t love him that much. He was just our maker.”

“I didn’t know there were vampire hunters,” said San. “No one ever talks about them.”

“Because they don’t really exist anymore,” said Seonghwa. “The government back then condoned it, so wannabe vampire hunters were everywhere, killing whoever they could find.”

“That’s terrible,” said San. He squeezed Wooyoung’s arm. “Why didn’t anyone do anything about it?”

“Well we couldn’t really go to the police,” said Seonghwa with a sad smile. “I know a lot of the hunters died when vampires fought back. A lot of innocent people did too. They just got caught up in it.”

“The hunting went on until a new government came in,” said Wooyoung. “They didn’t like it, so they made the hunters stop. But a lot of vampires were already dead by then. Our maker Jisung was one of them.”

“I’m so sorry,” said San, drawing Wooyoung in closer, comforting him.

“It’s cool, it’s like Yeosangie said,” said Wooyoung with a shrug. “It was a long time ago and I don’t miss him that much. Me and Yeosang are still alive, that’s what matters.” He looked at Yeosang, and Yeosang returned the look with a weak smile.

“That got depressing real fast,” said Jongho. “Let’s talk about something else.”

They decided to play a game at Seonghwa’s insistence. After a half hour of arguments and counterarguments, charades was chosen.

“What about Mingi?” asked San, as Jongho went to dig out the box of cards.

“What about him?” asked Wooyoung.

“He should play too,” said San. “We shouldn’t leave him alone while we all play together.”

Wooyoung and Seonghwa exchanged looks. “He can’t come down, baby, you know that,” said Wooyoung.

“He doesn’t need to come down to play,” said San. “Seriously, were you all born a hundred years ago?”

They set up a video call on Seonghwa’s laptop. Mingi had agreed but he looked nervous now, sitting on his bed, avoiding eye contact. His eyes were disconcerting even to Yeosang, but San didn’t seem to mind.

“It’s great to finally meet you,” he said brightly.

“Yeah, you too,” said Mingi. He gave a nervous smile.

He forgot about most of his nerves as the game started. The five of them made themselves comfortable around the living room. Yeosang found himself on the sofa beside San, Wooyoung on San’s other side. San was bubbling with excitement and had his hand on Yeosang’s knee apparently subconsciously. Yeosang didn’t bother with getting him to remove it.

Seonghwa got first turn by rights of age (“Old man,” said Wooyoung gleefully, and was rewarded with a threatening look from Seonghwa) and picked the first card to act out. Jongho guessed the right answer (“Pizza!” he yelled in his impressive low register and Seonghwa jumped up and down and cheered) and got the next turn, and from him it went to San. Then back to Jongho, and then finally to Yeosang.

San squeezed Yeosang into a hug after he guessed right, and Yeosang only sat still and accepted it. It bothered him that San seemed genuinely fond of him while Yeosang was just… not. He didn’t understand why. San was sweet and considerate and warm. But Yeosang just couldn’t like him.

He got up and picked a card. Salad. Yeosang sighed and said, “Why food again? We don’t even eat.”

“Foul!” yelled Mingi. “He gave a hint! He’s out!”

“He’s not out,” said Wooyoung. He glared at the laptop sitting on the table next to him. “Say that again and I’ll end the call on you.”

Mingi gasped. “Seonghwa-hyung, did you hear that?”

“I’m the oldest hyung here and I agree with Wooyoung,” said San. “Yeosang, your turn.”

“Yeosang-hyung is so bad at charades though,” said Jongho.

“What? I’m great at it,” said Yeosang, affronted. “If you can’t get the answers it’s a you problem.” San and Wooyoung both laughed.

Yeosang tried to focus on the game, but it was difficult, with Wooyoung and San sitting right there in front of him, attached to each other. They were both in high spirits, arms linked, San nearly climbing onto Wooyoung’s lap. Yeosang focused on the wall behind them and got to work. He got as far as showing a bowl before the guesses started coming in—different types of soup was the most popular guess, until Seonghwa said cereal and then everyone started guessing types of cereal—and he started losing patience. He tried showing tongs and made Mingi guess skewers (which got him deservedly teased). Finally, as a last idea, he mimed tossing the salad in the bowl.

“Salad?” tried San.

Yeosang clapped once and nodded, satisfied. San cheered and jumped up, pulling Yeosang into a tight hug and nearly lifting him off his feet.

“How the hell was that salad?” grumbled Jongho. “Salad, my ass.”

“Wait a second,” said Seonghwa, sitting up. “Wooyoung, did you tell San the answer?”

“What? No,” said Wooyoung, with that high-pitched laugh that meant he was lying.

Pandemonium broke out. Jongho booed, while Mingi yelled, “Red card! Red card! Blood bond cheating, that’s a red card!” Seonghwa started chanting, “Wooyoung out, Wooyoung out, Wooyoung out—”

“Hold up,” said San, cutting through the shouting. “Even if Wooyoung did tell me—which he didn’t—how is that cheating? It’s not like Yeosang told me!”

“Wooyoung isn’t allowed to answer Yeosang’s questions, or vice versa,” said Seonghwa. “Blood bond. It’s an unfair advantage.”

“So it’s like telepathy?” asked San, eyes widening. “Cool.”

“No, it’s not,” said Wooyoung. “And I don’t see how it’s an unfair advantage! I just know Yeosang better than you guys do! Just because I’ve known him for a long time means I can’t answer when it’s his turn? How is that fair?”

“It is an unfair advantage,” argued Jongho, while Seonghwa went back to chanting. “Blood bonds matter a lot.”

“Just kick Wooyoung out of the game, problem solved,” said Mingi.

“I swear Mingi I will close this stupid laptop—”

The ring of Seonghwa’s phone cut off Wooyoung’s empty threat. He glanced at the screen, and said, “Sorry, I have to take this.” He got up and left the room, going halfway up the stairs before he even picked up.

Yeosang noticed Jongho’s eyes on the stairway. “Leave him be,” he said.

“Are you sure he didn’t say anything?” asked Jongho.

“He didn’t,” said Yeosang firmly. It had been years since Jongho had joined the coven, and yet the smallest thing sent him careening into the fear of being excluded or abandoned.

“Is this about Seonghwa-hyung?” asked Mingi. “Do you want me to, like, eavesdrop up here?”

“Like you could,” said Wooyoung. “You’d get caught in three seconds.”

“What’s up with Seonghwa-hyung?” asked San. He went back to the sofa, tucking himself in under Wooyoung’s arm.

“Nothing,” said Yeosang, before Wooyoung could answer. San wasn’t in their coven, he didn’t need to know.

“Just being a little weird,” said Wooyoung. He buried his nose in San’s hair, and Yeosang felt his gut twist. “He’ll get over it.”

“As long as he’s okay,” said San. He stretched, putting his arms over his head, and his loose sleeves slipped down past his elbows.

There were bite marks on his forearm.

Two small pinpoints, still bumpy but already fading. The sight of them drained Yeosang of whatever happiness he might’ve had. It wasn’t sudden, but it wasn’t slow either, and it left Yeosang feeling like he was empty, a husk standing upright on its feet. He knew Wooyoung fed from San, he knew that, it was obvious and Wooyoung had said it himself, the smell of San’s blood was on him all the time, but—

There were bite marks on Yeosang in the same place, but those would never fade.

“Hey, are you okay?”

It was Wooyoung. He was quieter than usual, soft concern on his face. But he still had his arm around San, still held San close. All he did was look at Yeosang.

“Fine,” said Yeosang, and it sounded like a lie, even to himself. “I need to check on something.”

He went to the kitchen, because he couldn’t be in the room any longer and he didn’t risk seeing Seonghwa and being asked if he was okay. Because Yeosang wasn’t okay, and he didn’t know why.

The kitchen was brightly lit, immaculately clean. Yeosang leaned against the counter and found that he was breathing, taking down breaths he didn’t need anymore. The action was calming.

He rolled up his left sleeve, ran his fingers over his forearm. His skin was peppered with bite marks. Most were concentrated in the same area, failed attempts at marking his skin less. He had more on his other arm, on his upper arm, one in the shoulder, so many he couldn’t remember when he’d gotten them all.

Vampires could heal from any injury, any poison, except vampire venom.

It had been a scary, desperate time. Vampire hunters crawled over Seoul, ready to kill any vampire they found. And they found so many. Jisung was already dead, and the secret haunts they visited got less crowded with every passing night, until the places disappeared and all the vampires scattered to the wind.

Rich, well-connected vampires like Seonghwa could talk about the hunters like nothing more than an inconvenience. For Yeosang and Wooyoung it had been life and death.

Every day was dangerous. Most nights they stayed indoors, in whatever abandoned building they could find, hiding away as sunrise approached and hoping they wouldn’t be found in the daytime. The only time they went out was to feed, prey on whatever foolish human walked the dark streets alone, drink as much as they dared before disappearing. It was too sporadic, too brief. There was never enough blood.

Yeosang had been terrified Wooyoung would die. And so he had given him whatever blood he could.

It wasn’t as good as human blood, but it made Wooyoung stronger. Kept him alive. He needed it more, Yeosang had reasoned, because he was younger and more active. The truth was Yeosang simply couldn’t bear to see him suffer, see him turn weak and then manic with thirst, until he got careless and got himself killed.

So Yeosang let Wooyoung feed on him, let him leave marks on him that would never fade, and they survived. Now they were happy, and comfortable, with a beautiful house and freedom to feed whenever they wanted and a sort of family that adored them.

And now Wooyoung left marks on other people.

“But his will fade,” murmured Yeosang aloud. “His will, and mine won’t.”

He went back to the living room, where everything was just as he’d left it. Seonghwa walked in right after him, phone in hand and looking slightly distressed.

“Sannie, why aren’t you picking up your phone?” he asked.

“Huh?” San frowned, confused, and dug out his phone. He swore. “I forgot to take it off silent when we got out of the movie. Oh, shit, Hongjoong-hyung called me a billion times.”

“Yeah,” said Seonghwa. He held out his phone to San.

San’s eyes widened. “He got your number so that he could keep tabs on me?” He took the phone from Seonghwa and walked off, yelling into it, “Oh, my god, hyung, this is way too much—”

Seonghwa looked embarrassed, and only shrugged when Wooyoung gave him a questioning look. But Yeosang wasn’t fooled so easily. “Hyung, can I talk to you for a moment?” he asked.

They went to the kitchen, but this time Yeosang didn’t need the support of the countertop. “Are you fucking insane?” he asked flatly.

“That’s kind of hurtful,” said Seonghwa. “What are you talking about?”

“San’s friend,” said Yeosang. “The red-haired one. He’s the one you’ve been seeing.”

Seonghwa froze. “That’s not—”

“Don’t fucking lie to me,” hissed Yeosang. “Why would you leave the room to answer his call if he was just keeping tabs on San?”

Seonghwa hesitated, opened his mouth and closed it, shifted on the spot and glanced around. “You can’t tell Wooyoung,” he said finally.

“Like hell I won’t tell Wooyoung,” said Yeosang. “I’m telling him and everyone else.”

“You can’t,” said Seonghwa, and fuck, he actually looked desperate. “Hongjoong doesn’t want anyone to know.”

Of course he doesn’t. “And you don’t care why?” asked Yeosang.

No answer. Seonghwa avoided eye contact like a disobedient child.

“You need to stop seeing him,” said Yeosang. “For your own good.”

“What? Why should I?” demanded Seonghwa.

“He hates Wooyoung,” said Yeosang flatly. “He hates that Wooyoung is dating his precious San. You never stopped to think about why?”

Seonghwa hesitated. “He’s protective…”

“Bullshit,” said Yeosang. “He hates vampires. That’s why he can’t stand Wooyoung dating San. I don’t know what he’s playing at dating you, but I know he hates us.”

“He doesn’t hate me,” insisted Seonghwa.

Yeosang didn’t address the fact that Seonghwa was willing to overlook Hongjoong’s distrust of Wooyoung to justify dating him. Instead he said, “You think you’re the exception. I’m sorry hyung, but people like that, they don’t have exceptions.”

“You don’t know Hongjoong hates us,” said Seonghwa. “You’ve never even talked to him.”

“Not really, no,” said Yeosang. “But it’s obvious, and you know it too. That’s why he’s trying to hide whatever you got going on.”

“No, that’s not…” But Seonghwa looked uncertain. “It’s… Wooyoung and San…”

They were back to the same point, and Seonghwa still refused to understand. “Hyung,” said Yeosang calmly, gently. “Please. You’re going to break your heart.”

Seonghwa stared at Yeosang, and then averted his eyes. But it was too late. Yeosang could see it. Seonghwa was scared Yeosang was right.

“Does he know?” asked Yeosang.

“Does he know what?” muttered Seonghwa, still looking away.

“That it was Jongho who fed from him at the club,” said Yeosang.

Seonghwa swallowed. “No.”

Yeosang closed his eyes. Oh, Seonghwa really was a fool. “I can’t stop you,” he said finally. “And I won’t tell Wooyoung or anyone else. But I really hope you’ll reconsider this, for your own sake.”

“Thank you, Yeosang,” said Seonghwa, and he looked so relieved it hurt. “I know what I’m doing.”

But he didn’t. He thought he did but he didn’t, which is why Seonghwa always got hurt. So many humans, so many heartbreaks, and yet he kept going back for more. Yeosang just didn’t understand.

They returned to the living room, where San was putting on his coat. “I need to get home before he pops a blood vessel or something,” he grumbled. “I’m so sorry, Seonghwa-hyung. He’s too much.”

“It’s alright,” said Seonghwa. “He just cares about you.”

“Yeah, but calling you?” San frowned. “I’m really sorry. And for bailing in the middle of your game too.”

“It’s cool, you only won one round,” said Mingi.

“That’s one more than you, egghead,” said Wooyoung. He turned back to San. “Should I take you home?”

“No, it’s still early,” said San. He smiled. “You can walk me to the gate, though.”

“Of course,” said Wooyoung, smiling back. Of course. Yeosang wasn’t surprised.

San said goodbye to all of them, hugging Seonghwa, telling Mingi how happy he was to finally talk to him. He smiled at Yeosang, and Yeosang smiled back. And then he walked out the front door, Wooyoung with him.

Everyone naturally scattered after that. Mingi turned off the video chat, probably to get back to his online games. Jongho stretched out over the couch with his phone. Seonghwa went upstairs to his bedroom.

And Yeosang went to his. He went to his room and stood in front of the window, not knowing what he was doing, driven by a compulsion he couldn’t name. Wooyoung and San were by the front gate, talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. From his bedroom window Yeosang got a perfect view of them, so clear he could imagine himself standing right before them.

Wooyoung looked luminous in the moonlight. The way the light caught his hair, his laughing features, the way shadows fell over him as he buried his face in San’s neck. San was laughing too, his face scrunched up in delight and hands at Wooyoung’s shoulders, but Yeosang barely paid him any attention. Wooyoung was like a magnet, a black hole, sucking Yeosang in. He looked so happy. So happy with San, and Yeosang didn’t understand why.

Why San? What was so special about San? Why was it San who made Wooyoung smile like that, laugh like that? It was Yeosang who Wooyoung had known for so long, it was Yeosang who had been with him and cared for him for decades. Yeosang was the one Wooyoung had promised to live with and die with. So why did Wooyoung want San? Why did he hold him like that, kiss him like that? Why didn’t he—why didn’t he want—

Realization hit Yeosang like a physical blow to the chest.

All at once, everything made sense. The unsettled feeling that had taken up residence in his ribcage, why even the thought of San felt like an itch on his skin. Why he hated it when Wooyoung talked to San, or went out with him, or smiled when he talked about him. Why Yeosang could never like San.

Without warning, Wooyoung looked up and at Yeosang’s bedroom. Yeosang darted out of sight, pressing his back to the wall beside the window and willing himself to be calm. After a minute he risked a look outside, and saw that San was getting into a car, saying his last goodbyes to Wooyoung. They kissed, brief, sweet. Wooyoung turned to get back to the house, and Yeosang pulled away from the window in case he looked up and saw him there. He couldn’t let Wooyoung know. He couldn’t let anyone know.

Yeosang was in love with Wooyoung.