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Blood, Water

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Yunho wasn’t dumb.

He knew people thought he was—probably because he was big and friendly and outgoing, and always tried to get along with people—but he wasn’t. When things stuck out, he noticed, and he knew how to put things together when he needed to.

Like Mingi.

Mingi himself was pretty simple and straightforward. He was shy at first, and he didn’t like to talk about himself, or accept compliments. He liked music and movies and playing games, and he could talk about them for hours. When he was excited he talked louder, and faster, until Yunho felt like he was listening to a high-spirited rap about fantasy battles or high speed chases or whatever Mingi was into at the time. He could be a little absentminded, but he was sweet. Really sweet.

Mingi was simple. Everything else surrounding him was not.

To start with, his illness. Yunho didn’t ask about it, because he knew it was a sensitive subject for him, but he couldn’t help but wonder. Whatever sickness it was forced Mingi to stay indoors, but why? Yunho had asked him once, innocently, if it was because he had a weak immune system or something like that, but Mingi had said no. Not only that, but the sickness didn’t seem to have any other effect on Mingi. He was fit—he’d mentioned dancing to Yunho, and you had to be at least a little fit to do that—and he didn’t ever seem tired or low energy. Yes, he slept the entire day away, but he never sounded sleepy any time during the night.

And then there was the thing about his family. Yunho knew Mingi had brothers—he didn’t know how many; they didn’t really talk about their families—but he had no idea what they did. From what he got none of them really worked, but they had so much money—Mingi owned the latest gaming consoles and his computer had great specs. It didn’t make sense. 

Something felt off, but Yunho never pushed. If something really was up, he was okay with Mingi telling him when he wanted to.

Until something happened that flipped Yunho’s world upside down.

He was lying down on his bed, scrolling through social media and trying to ignore San and Hongjoong arguing in the living room. San had gone out with Wooyoung and hadn’t been picking up Hongjoong’s calls. Hongjoong had somehow managed to get a hold of San and made him come straight home, and San wasn’t happy about it. Hongjoong sometimes yelled at San and Yunho, when they’d done something everyone knew was wrong, but this time San argued back. Yunho noticed he did that often, when it was about Wooyoung and how Hongjoong didn’t like him, but he didn’t say anything. He’d get involved if he needed to.

The arguing finally stopped, and a super angry San stomped into the room. He dropped into his bed, and then kicked around like a kid working through a tantrum. “I am so done with him,” he said shrilly.

“You know he’s a worrywart,” said Yunho. “I thought he was gonna strangle me, he was so worked up. Thanks for coming home before he popped a blood vessel.”

“He’s not a worrywart,” fumed San. “He’s just horrible to Wooyoung.”

Yunho couldn’t argue that, so he didn’t.

San sat upright. “He totally embarrassed me tonight,” he said. “I was with Wooyoung at his place. I forgot to take my phone off silent when I left the movies, which is why I didn’t pick up. So Hongjoong-hyung called Seonghwa-hyung! Can you believe that? He got his number so he could keep tabs on me!”

He looked outraged, but Yunho was lost. “Uh… who’s Seonghwa again?” San didn’t talk much about anyone except Wooyoung.

“Wooyoung’s brother,” said San. “Hongjoong-hyung met him once.”

“Oh,” said Yunho. “Not the pretty one?”

“No, that’s Yeosang,” said San dismissively. He was in the middle of a rant. “Anyway, Hongjoong-hyung must’ve gotten his number then. I saw them talking but I didn’t think it was anything. He called Seonghwa-hyung and it was so embarrassing, like I was a kid that needed to be taken care of. I am not a kid!”

“Yeah, that was too much,” said Yunho. “But you know he was just worried.”

“Why would he be worried? I was on a date! I was with Wooyoung,” said San, still fuming.

That was exactly why Hongjoong had been worried, and they both knew it. Yunho didn’t say anything.

“And we were having so much fun too,” grumbled San. “We were playing charades and I was winning. I even got to meet Mingi for the first time—”

Yunho’s brain shut off.

San kept talking, but Yunho didn’t hear a single word. Mingi. San had met Mingi. Mingi.

“Hey,” said Yunho, and his voice sounded weird to his own ears, like it was coming from a long way away. “Who’s Mingi?”

San stopped mid-rant. “Huh?”

“Mingi,” repeated Yunho. “You said you met Mingi for the first time. Who—who’s Mingi?”

“Another of Wooyoung’s brothers,” said San. “It’s Woo, Yeosang, Seonghwa-hyung, Jongho, and Mingi.”

“Okay,” said Yunho. He swallowed. “And he’s—he’s also—”

“Yeah, they’re all vampires,” said San, not realizing Yunho was in the middle of a mental breakdown. “Mingi’s a little different though. I only talked to him through a video call because he can’t be around humans yet, he gets really hungry and can’t control himself.” He stopped, and his eyes went wide. “You can’t tell Hongjoong-hyung.”

Oh, Yunho was not telling Hongjoong anything. He nodded.

San went back to his rant but Yunho wasn’t listening. His brain was whirring too loud for that. Wooyoung had a brother named Mingi. A brother who couldn’t go out because he couldn’t be around humans. Mingi had said before he lived with his brothers, and they were rich. San talked about Wooyoung’s brothers, and they were rich. 

No, Yunho told himself. It’s just a coincidence. I’m thinking too much into it. After all, what were the odds?

But he couldn’t stop thinking about it. It all made too much sense for Yunho to stop thinking about it.

He could ask Mingi about it. Just one question, direct, and Yunho would know for sure. Mingi was a terrible liar. Yunho was beginning to realize that was why Mingi avoided the topic of his illness and family.

But he didn’t. Instead he asked San.

Not directly, but roundabout questions about Wooyoung, his habits, his family. San was always happy to talk about Wooyoung, so he answered everything innocently. Wooyoung could wake up sometimes in the day. Like Mingi. Yes, they were rich, and they all lived together. Like Mingi’s family. Seonghwa managed their money, and he didn’t work. Like Mingi’s older brother.

And Wooyoung’s brother Mingi was loud and goofy and didn’t go out. Like Mingi.

Yunho wasn’t stupid. 

Mingi was a vampire. He was Wooyoung’s brother.

Oh, Hongjoong was going to kill him.

As soon as Yunho realized that, yes, Mingi was Wooyoung’s brother and a freaking vampire, he was done. He didn’t know what to do. He had to talk to Mingi about it, obviously, tell him he knew, but then what? Should he tell San? What if he spilled to Hongjoong? San wasn’t like that, but when he got worked up he didn’t hold back, and Yunho was not willing to risk his life on San’s emotional state.

So he kept it bottled up, and he was doing okay. San and Hongjoong were both distracted, busy with whatever was going on in their lives, and Yunho could handle it. Or so he thought. 

Things started going downhill after Yunho almost attacked Hongjoong’s friend in the kitchen.

In his defense, he’d really thought he was a home invader. He’d never met the guy before, and he was just standing in the kitchen looking at their glassware, what was Yunho supposed to think? 

Still, he felt guilty. He waited until Hongjoong came back up from seeing his friend downstairs to the bus or subway station or whatever, ready to apologize.

“Hyung,” said Yunho, as soon as Hongjoong walked in. “I’m really sorry, I had no idea—” He stopped. “Are you okay?”

“Huh?” Hongjoong looked up at Yunho. “Yeah, I’m okay. Why would you ask if I’m okay? Do I not look okay?”

He didn’t. He looked… fizzy. Like a bottle of soda that had been shaken hard and then left to sit, with only a flimsy plastic bottle cap to keep all the bubbles in. It was weird, and Yunho didn’t know how to react. Hongjoong was never like this.

“Is your friend okay?” asked Yunho. 

“He’s okay,” said Hongjoong. He smiled, hyper, bouncing. It was cute, and weird. 

“That’s good,” said Yunho. He hesitated, tried to make things normal. “You should’ve worn a scarf or something, your ears are bright red.”

“I’m not cold,” said Hongjoong. 

“Well,” said Yunho. “Okay.”

“Okay,” said Hongjoong. He was about to walk off, when he stopped. “Hey,” he said. “Maybe it’d be better if we didn’t tell San about this, okay?”

“Uh, sure,” said Yunho, confused. 

Hongjoong beamed and nodded. And then he went to his room, almost skipping, and leaving Yunho very confused.

A hyper, bubbly Hongjoong by itself was confusing enough. What made Yunho even more confused was what happened two nights after.

He was going to the kitchen to drink some water and maybe grab a snack. He’d been texting Mingi, which was what he did almost every night, but it wasn’t fun like before. Yunho was secretly freaking out about Mingi being a vampire, and it was getting so bad even Mingi was starting to notice. Even while Yunho got up to get his snack all he could think about was how Mingi didn’t eat snacks, he drank blood

He walked into the living room and found Hongjoong lying down on the couch, staring at the ceiling.

“Uh, you okay?” asked Yunho.

For a long time Hongjoong didn’t look like he’d even heard. And then, slowly, he said, “I did something.”

“Something good?” asked Yunho.

“I don’t know,” said Hongjoong. He sounded super out of it, like he was on a bad trip, except Hongjoong didn’t do drugs. “While I was doing it it felt good. Really good. I never wanted it to end. But now I don’t know if I did the right thing.”

“Uh.” Yunho shifted. “Is this, like, a sex thing?”

Hongjoong shot upright. “No! Fuck!” His face was as red as his hair. “Why would you say that?”

“I don’t know,” said Yunho, squirming. “I just thought… because if it is, y’know, it’s better if you talk to San—”

“It’s not a sex thing,” said Hongjoong. “It’s—you know what, never mind.” He dropped down onto his back again.

Yunho hesitated, and then said, “You know, if it’s about a—a guy or something, I say you should go for it.”

Hongjoong turned to look at him. “What?”

“I’m just saying,” said Yunho. “If you like someone, it’s okay. You can’t choose who you like and you shouldn’t try and—not.” He said it for Hongjoong’s sake, but he was thinking about Mingi. Lately it seemed like that was all he did. 

Hongjoong looked at him a long time, and then went back to staring at the ceiling. He looked deep in thought.

Yunho left him to get his water and snack. He hoped his advice had helped. Yunho wasn’t an idiot—it was obvious Hongjoong’s dilemma was about his ‘friend’, the one Yunho had almost assaulted with a succulent. Yunho hoped Hongjoong would take his advice to heart, and not only for himself, but for Yunho too.

When he got back to his room, stocked up with a bag of chips, San was waiting for him.

“Spill,” said San.

Yunho looked down at the unopened bag of chips, and then back up at San.

“Not the chips,” said San impatiently. He grabbed Yunho and sat him down in front of him. “You’re hiding something. Spill.”

“What?” Yunho laughed, and damn it, he sounded nervous. 

“Don’t you dare lie to me,” said San, fixing Yunho with his piercing stare. “I let it go all this time but now I want to know what you’re hiding. Tell me.”

Oh, he was serious. That wasn’t good. It was impossible to throw off a serious San.

Yunho tried. “Look, dude, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The look San gave him could’ve cut lead. “Don’t,” he said. 

He was giving the San look. That look that could’ve made a secret service agent crack. That look that could’ve boiled a potato in three seconds. That look that was now fixed right on Yunho, trying to crack him like a walnut.

And Yunho was cracking. He could feel it. He’d broken out into a sweat, and he could feel it dripping down the back of his neck. He was going to break. He was going to spill his guts, tell San all about Mingi and how he was a vampire and how Yunho still really liked him despite it—

“Yunho,” said San. “Spill.”

The guy I’ve been talking to online is a vampire and not only is he a vampire but he’s Wooyoung’s brother and I don’t know what to do and Hongjoong-hyung is going to kill me and—

“I met Hongjoong-hyung’s secret boyfriend,” blurted out Yunho.

San’s eyes lit up. “No.”

Yunho nodded.

San screeched. “When?” he cried. “Where? How?”

“Uh, like two nights ago,” said Yunho. “In our kitchen.”

“Our kitchen?” said San, eyes wide. “Like, in our apartment? Hyung brought him to our place?”

Yunho nodded. He felt bad for selling Hongjoong out, but it was the first thing that came to his head and he had to say something.

“Wow,” said San, awed. He started spitting rapid-fire questions. “What’s he like? Is he hot? What’s his name? Did he say anything to you?”

“Uh no we didn’t talk,” said Yunho. “I don’t know his name, hyung didn’t say. And yeah, I guess he was handsome. Black hair, pretty tall.” He didn’t mention the guy’s creepily bright skin. Yunho had been rude enough, threatening to knock him out with a plant. 

San narrowed his eyes. “How do you know he’s Hongjoong-hyung’s secret boyfriend then?” he asked.

Yunho told him about finding the mystery guy in the kitchen, and how he’d dropped the glass. “Hongjoong-hyung held his hand so he could step over, like, one broken glass,” he said. “Have you ever seen Hongjoong-hyung hold anyone’s hand? For any reason? And that was a pretty dumb reason.”

“Holy shit,” said San. “Holy shit.” And then he screeched again.

“Please shut up,” said Yunho with a nervous glance at the door. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you and hyung is literally right out there.”

“What? Why weren’t you supposed to tell me?” demanded San, still way too loud.

“I don’t know,” said Yunho. “He didn’t want me to know either. I just… met the guy.”

San nodded, almost bouncing with excitement. “I need to tell Wooyoung,” he said, and jumped for his phone. 

Which reminded Yunho that he needed to talk to someone too. It had been too long already. Any more and he would explode.

It was time.

It didn’t take long for San to leave, supposedly to hang out with friends but definitely to meet Wooyoung. Hongjoong was still going through his emotional crisis in the living room. It left Yunho alone and undisturbed, which was good. 

He had a very important call to make. 

“Hey,” said Mingi. “Are you feeling better?”

“Hi,” said Yunho. “I’m okay.”

“I just got the feeling something was wrong,” said Mingi awkwardly. “If you wanna talk about it, I’m, like, here.”

Yunho swallowed. “I actually do wanna talk about something.”

“Oh,” said Mingi. There was a rustle on the line, probably him getting comfortable in his bed. “What’s up? Can I do anything?”

“Yeah,” said Yunho. His heart was right up in his throat. “Just… answer. Okay?”

“Yeah, of course,” said Mingi. He sounded so earnest. 

Yunho took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m just going to ask you straight out,” he said. “Are you a vampire?”

Silence. And then, on the other end of the line, a thump, like something heavy falling.

“Mingi,” said Yunho. He didn’t know if Mingi was even listening. “Mingi, just tell me.”

More rustling on the line, and then Mingi said, in a high pitched, reedy voice, “Why would you ask me that right now?”

“Yes or no, Ming,” said Yunho. He was getting desperate now. “Just… yes or no.”

There was another silence, but this one was different. This one felt heavy, and full. Yunho’s heart was lodged in his throat, thudding there.

And then, slow, pulled out and pained, “Yunho.”

Yunho collapsed onto the bed. It was true.

“Yunho,” said Mingi again. He sounded so in pain. “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t—I shouldn’t have—I’m so sorry. If you never want to talk to me again it’s okay—”

“What?” Yunho rolled over. “Why would I never want to talk to you again?”

“Because I’m… you know,” said Mingi miserably.

“Yeah, I know,” said Yunho. “I don’t care.”

It was quiet on the line for some time. And then, very softly, hardly more than a whisper, Mingi said, “What?” 

“I don’t care,” repeated Yunho. “You could be a vampire or a ghost or a demon. It doesn’t matter to me. You’re still you.”

It was dead silent on the other side of the call. Yunho waited. He meant what he said, every single word of it. He liked Mingi. He didn’t care what he was. To Yunho he was just Mingi. 

“Hey,” said Mingi. His voice was soft, with a rasp to it. “Yunho.”

“Yeah, Ming,” said Yunho on an exhale.

For some time neither of them said anything. Yunho was content with keeping his phone to his ear, waiting for Mingi to talk.

He did, finally. “How did you find out?” he asked.

“Oh,” said Yunho. He let out an awkward little chuckle. “It’s actually a funny story.”

“Yeah? Like, funny weird or funny funny?”

“Both,” said Yunho. He laughed nervously, not because it actually was funny, but just because he had to. “So, um, you know Wooyoung?”

“Yeah,” said Mingi. He stopped. “Wait, how do you know Wooyoung?”

“He… uh…” Yunho sighed and gave up. “I live with his boyfriend.”

“Huh?” Mingi sounded confused. “San? You—wait—”

Yunho nodded, even though he knew Mingi couldn’t see him.

Another thump, and then what sounded like a muffled scream.

“You live with San,” said Mingi. “You—you’re the one he says is like his brother?”

“Uh, yeah,” said Yunho. “Aww, San says that? That’s really nice—”

Another muffled scream.

“Hey, are you okay?” asked Yunho, worried. 

“Your hyung is going to kill me!” 

He said it so loud Yunho had to pull the phone away from his ear. “What?”

“Your hyung,” said Mingi frantically. “The other guy you live with—the one Wooyoung is terrified of—he’s going to choke the life out of me, oh shit, Yunho I don’t wanna die, not again—”

“What? Slow down,” said Yunho, propping himself up on his elbows. “My hyung? You mean Hongjoong-hyung?”

“Yes, him,” said Mingi. His voice was high and panicky. “When he finds out he is going to, like, cut off my head or—or I don’t know, throw me off a bridge.”

“Hongjoong-hyung is not going to do anything to you,” said Yunho. He tried not to laugh, but Mingi was freaking out so much it was hilarious. “Why are you so scared of him anyway?”

“I don’t know,” said Mingi. “He scared Wooyoung bad.”

“He never did anything to Wooyoung,” said Yunho, and that was true. Hongjoong just bothered San. If Hongjoong did find out about them, Yunho was willing to be bothered if it would save Mingi.

“But Wooyoung is shit scared of him,” said Mingi. “And he is going to hate me.”

Yunho wanted to say Hongjoong wouldn’t, but that would be a lie and they’d both know it. “So what?” he said. “I don’t care that you’re a vampire. Do you think I care what Hongjoong-hyung thinks?”

There was another silence, and then Mingi said, much more quietly than before, “He’ll want you to stay away from me.”

“Yeah, and I already said I don’t care,” said Yunho. “He’s convinced Wooyoung’s dangerous no matter what he or San do, and they’re still together. What’s the difference if he doesn’t like you?” He didn’t know why Mingi was so hung up on this. Mingi was way more important than Hongjoong’s overprotective tendencies. 

“He’s right,” said Mingi.

Yunho frowned. “What?”

“Not about Wooyoung,” said Mingi. “About me. I am dangerous.”

“No you’re not,” said Yunho. “You wouldn’t hurt anybody, least of all me.”

“I don’t…” Mingi swallowed so loud Yunho could hear him over the line. “I’m not like the others, Yunho. I can’t control myself.”

Unease fluttered up Yunho’s sides. He remembered San saying something like that before, but he hadn’t thought it that serious. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I can’t be around people,” said Mingi. “When I smell blood I go crazy. It’s like I never got out of the stupid newborn stage. That’s why I stay inside my house all the time. I don’t wanna hurt anyone.”

Yunho was quiet as he swallowed the information. Mingi couldn’t be around humans. Mingi couldn’t be around him. “You said it was like a newborn stage,” he said finally. “You’re gonna grow out of it eventually, right?”

“I don’t know,” said Mingi. “Seonghwa-hyung says we’re newborns for six months max.”

“And how long have you been… like this?” asked Yunho, dreading the answer.

“Six years,” said Mingi quietly.

Yunho’s heart ached in his chest. Mingi hadn’t been able to be around people for six entire years. “Ming I’m so sorry,” he said, voice soft.

“It’s cool, it’s not your fault,” said Mingi. He was trying to sound bright, and it hurt Yunho’s heart even more. “Besides, I don’t mind. I like being at home. And it’s not like I can miss what it’s like going out.”

“What?” Yunho didn’t understand. Before Mingi became a vampire he must’ve gone out, with friends or family or somebody, anybody—

“I don’t remember my life before turning,” said Mingi. He sounded so… neutral. Not sad, just recounting facts, like it wasn’t even about his own life. “It’s, like, the vampire who turned me was really young and she kind of messed up. That’s why I’m kind of messed up.”

“You’re not messed up,” said Yunho fiercely.

“No, I am, it’s fine,” said Mingi. “I know it too. Because I didn’t turn properly I lost all my memories from when I was a human. It’s also why I can’t control myself.”

Yunho swallowed. “So you won’t grow out of it?” 

A brief pause, and then Mingi said, “I don’t think I will.”

So Yunho could never meet him. He could never meet him face to face. He could never hold Mingi’s hand, or hug him, or even touch him just once. All of Yunho’s little fantasies, of Mingi coming to see him dance, of the two of them walking in the park together or sitting side by side to watch movies—they all fell apart right in front of him. He’d imagined them more than once, little, down-to-earth scenarios, spending time with Mingi and being around him. He realized now they had always been impossible. Yunho could never do those things with Mingi. 

But if it wasn’t with Mingi, Yunho didn’t want to do them anyway. 

He swallowed down the thick feeling in his throat. “It’s okay,” he said. 

“No, it’s not,” said Mingi. “Not for you.”

Now he sounded miserable. Now, when it was about Yunho, now it hurt Mingi.

“It is,” said Yunho, and he did everything he could to make it sound like the truth. “I told you, I don’t care. It’s okay if you—if we can’t meet. We can still talk like this.”

“It’s not,” said Mingi. “It’s not fair for you. I never should’ve lied to you in the first place. I’m sorry, Yunho.”

“Don’t say sorry,” said Yunho. “You don’t have to say sorry to me. And I told you, I don’t care if we meet in person or not. I’m glad I know you. I’m glad I can talk to you, and I don’t wanna lose that.”

“You won’t be happy with me like this.”

“I won’t be happy without you.” 

Silence followed Yunho’s words, thin and fragile. He waited for Mingi to say something. If Mingi really didn’t want to talk to him, Yunho wouldn’t try and force him. But he’d meant what he said, and he hoped Mingi knew it.

“You mean that?” asked Mingi, as quiet as a whisper.

“Yeah,” said Yunho.

There was another stretch of silence, drawn out, taut like a stretched string. Yunho waited, phone by his ear, ready for whatever Mingi had to say, to fight if he had to. He didn’t move, seconds ticking by again and again, until finally—

“Me too,” said Mingi.

Yunho closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It felt incredible hearing that. The words felt right.

“So it’s us, right?” he asked quietly. “You and me?”

“Yeah,” said Mingi, voice soft. “It’s us.”

Yunho nodded to himself, eyes still closed. He had no idea what he was doing, and he knew Mingi felt the same. All he could do was hope everything turned out okay.