One of Jongho’s most vivid memories was of a night many years ago. He was lying down in the decrepit apartment that had been his home, stretched out on a ratty old sofa, his head pillowed on Jihyun’s lap. She was stroking his hair, gently, lovingly, and he had never felt more content in his life.
“Jongho,” she said sweetly, voice like music. “You are a broken thing.”
That hurt, and Jongho tried not to let it show. Jihyun noticed anyway, and laughed.
“No, sweetie, that’s a good thing,” she said. “People love broken things. They love trying to fix them. Clocks, cars, antiques. People too. There are so many souls in the world drawn to broken things, filled with the ridiculous need to be the special person to fix them and make them good as new. You’ll never be without someone all your life.”
Something about her words sounded off, but Jongho accepted them anyway. She often said unexpected things like this, and sometimes he didn’t understand but he knew she was always right. “But I don’t need all those people,” said Jongho, shifting so that he could look up at her. “I have you, right?”
Jihyun smiled at him. “Of course you do, sweetie.”
Three days later she left, and Jongho found out just how much of him she had taken with her.
Seonghwa came down the stairs, dressed impeccably in a dark sweater and hair styled down. He hummed to himself as he picked out shoes, and then looked over his shoulder and smiled just as he was about to head out.
“Make sure you come back before sunrise,” said Jongho.
“That was just one time,” grumbled Seonghwa. “I’ll be back, don’t worry.”
He looked happy, so Jongho smiled. Seonghwa beamed back, and then he was gone.
He’d barely been gone a minute when Mingi came down. “Where’s hyung?” he asked. “Left already?”
“Yup,” said Jongho. “Where’ve you been?”
“In my room,” said Mingi with a shrug. He paused, and then said, “He’s been going out a lot, huh? With his new boyfriend.”
It had gotten obvious enough even Mingi realized. Jongho just nodded.
“Have you, like, met him?” asked Mingi. “Is he like San?”
“I haven’t met him,” said Jongho shortly. “What do you mean, like San?”
“Like…” Mingi gestured. “Smells really good.”
“Oh.” Jongho paused. “I don’t know. Hyung doesn’t feed from him.”
“That’s nice,” said Mingi, sitting down on the couch. “I mean, I guess. I dunno.”
Jongho didn’t know what to say in response. He was saved from an awkward conversation by Mingi’s phone buzzing with a notification. Mingi looked at the screen, and his face lit up. He curled his legs up on the couch as he started tapping.
He had a boyfriend or girlfriend or someone like that. Jongho watched detachedly as Mingi smiled, chewed his lower lip, rested his chin on his knees. He was cute, in a way. Jongho could see how Seonghwa would find him cute.
Five years since their first meeting and Jongho still could not bring himself to like Mingi. He didn’t dislike him. There was nothing to dislike about Mingi, with his honest emotions, surprisingly considerate nature and playful personality. In another life Jongho would’ve adored him. Fate had dealt him a bad hand, but he never let it weigh on him. He kept his head up and moved forward, and smiled.
And maybe that was what Jongho found so difficult to accept. Mingi was a broken thing too, but his cracks were so much prettier than Jongho’s. One day Seonghwa and the others would realize, and they’d decide they didn’t need two broken things in their house.
That day hadn’t come yet. Jongho watched Mingi smile and wondered when it would.
“What are you doing?”
Mingi started and jumped back. “Nothing,” he said quickly.
Jongho looked from his nervous face to the lit stove burner. “What were you doing?”
He’d asked, but he wasn’t expecting an answer, and he didn’t really care. Mingi had shown up barely more than a month ago, an overgrown interloper, disgustingly sweet and dripping nectar, cute to the point of nausea. Jongho hated him. He wished he could throw him out somewhere, threaten him until he knew he wasn’t welcome here and that if he knew what was good for him he would leave. Jongho’s coven was four people. Now Mingi had shown up, and they were five.
Mingi was too stupid to register Jongho’s antipathy, which was good. Jongho didn’t want to make Seonghwa have to choose between the two of them. He already knew who would win.
The night Mingi moved in, the night Jongho realized he was actually going to join their coven and live with them, Jongho took all his vital possessions and packed them in a bag. Clothes, mostly, because he didn’t own anything else, and a few stupid sentimental items the others had given him. He’d heard Mingi’s story. He was messed up, like Jongho, but unlike Jongho he wasn’t broken inside. He was fun, he could be cute, he smiled a lot. He was loveable.
His welcome into their home had put a timer on Jongho’s. The others might not have realized, but Jongho did. So he packed his bag, stuck it under his bed, and waited.
And now he’d found Mingi in the kitchen, hand over the stove like some brainless child. Jongho didn’t care if he hurt himself. He didn’t care if Mingi set himself on fire and burned to ash. Some part of him secretly wished he would. He was all ready to water the plants in the windowsill and leave, when Mingi suddenly spoke.
“Hey,” he said. “What does warmth feel like?”
Jongho stopped. “What?”
“Warmth,” said Mingi. He shifted awkwardly. “Like… from a fire, or when you’re wrapped up in blankets, or… just being warm.”
Jongho watched him. He looked uncertain, uncomfortable. Of course. Mingi had lost all memory of his human life, which meant he had lost all memory of his human experiences. He didn’t know warmth, or cold, or taste. All he knew was hunger.
He was a broken thing.
“Sorry to ask you,” said Mingi, taking Jongho’s silence for something else. “I would’ve asked Seonghwa-hyung, but he’s so mushy, y’know, he’d get all emotional…” He chuckled awkwardly. “And I asked Wooyoung, but he couldn’t really explain it. It’s okay if you don’t want to, maybe Yeosang—”
“Do you have someone you love?” asked Jongho.
Mingi’s words stopped in his throat. He hesitated, and then said, “Yeah.”
“And you’ve been hugged by them?”
“It’s like that,” said Jongho. “But instead of inside you, it’s on your skin.”
For some time Mingi didn’t say anything, lost in thought. Then he said, “Thanks.”
Jongho watched him a moment longer, then he nodded and went to water his plants. Mingi turned off the stove and left the kitchen.
The next night, Jongho zipped up his bag and took it out from under his bed. But he didn’t leave.
And when Mingi gave him a Mickey Mouse figurine the next month, Jongho put that in his bag too.
Wooyoung threw himself over Jongho. “Play with me.”
Jongho took the man’s entire weight easily, pulling him onto his back. He had a strength even beyond most vampires’, and could’ve held off Seonghwa at his most feral. Wooyoung’s weight was nothing in comparison.
“Please get a hobby,” said Jongho, but he shifted to get a good grip on Wooyoung.
“I have lots of hobbies,” said Wooyoung innocently.
“A hobby you can do alone,” said Jongho.
“Why would I need to be alone?” asked Wooyoung. “I have you, our little baby.”
Jongho shook threateningly, and Wooyoung squawked and held on tighter.
“Where’s San-hyung? Go cling to him,” said Jongho.
“He’s studying,” said Wooyoung with a pout. “And Seonghwa-hyung is out on a date, again. Mingi’s bony.”
He didn’t mention Yeosang. Which was strange, because Yeosang and Wooyoung were always in a set, it was just a law of nature. Jongho didn’t point it out. Instead he said, “So I’m the last option.”
“Yup,” said Wooyoung sweetly.
“Then I should totally throw you off,” said Jongho. “You really want me to climb these stairs with you?”
“Like I weigh anything to you,” said Wooyoung with a slap on his chest.
Jongho shrugged, and Wooyoung laughed from the movement. He was halfway to the stairs when the front door opened.
It was Yeosang, hair no longer brown but instead a striking white blond. He froze in the doorway, and then relaxed a little and said, “Hey.”
Wooyoung dropped off Jongho’s back. “Yeosangie,” he said, sounding half dazed. “You dyed your hair.”
“I did,” said Yeosang. He tucked a few strands behind his ear in a shy, sweet motion. “Do you like it?”
In response Wooyoung walked up to him and ran both hands through his hair. Yeosang’s eyes fluttered closed as the smallest smile pulled at his lips. Wooyoung murmured something too quiet for Jongho to hear, and Yeosang smiled more at that, tilting his head as Wooyoung continued running a hand through his newly dyed hair.
They’d completely forgotten Jongho’s existence. It didn’t hurt, because he knew it wasn’t about him. It was just Wooyoung and Yeosang. He watched them, just a minute, before he would slip away like usual.
Envy coiled tight and painful in his chest. This was what Jongho was supposed to have. This was what a blood bond was supposed to be like, this was the love Jongho had expected when he had accepted Jihyun’s offer. Instead all he could do was watch, as Wooyoung talked in that soft voice he used only with Yeosang, as Yeosang smiled sweetly in that way so unlike the unhappiness Jongho had recently felt around him like a mist.
Wooyoung put an arm around Yeosang’s shoulders as he dug his phone out of his pocket. He said something, right by Yeosang’s ear, and Yeosang ducked his head and giggled. Jongho backed away, feeling like he’d intruded enough.
And then Wooyoung said, “Let me take a picture to show San.”
The mood shift was stark. The smile slid off Yeosang’s face like water, leaving behind a dead, hollow expression. The golden glow he’d had just a second before was gone.
He looked up and made eye contact with Jongho, and Jongho wished now he’d left when he had the chance. Yeosang looked mortified. Like he’d forgotten there was an audience to his reaction, and now that he’d realized someone had seen him he was ashamed.
“I need to go,” he said quietly, removing Wooyoung’s arm from his shoulder.
“Huh? Why?” Wooyoung looked lost, reaching for Yeosang’s arm.
Yeosang stepped out of reach. “Sorry,” he said. “Maybe later.”
He went up the stairs without another word, avoiding both Jongho and Wooyoung’s gazes. Jongho thought of going after him, but decided against it. Now was not the time.
He glanced over at the other. Wooyoung stood where he was, looking utterly alone.
Jongho slipped away, unnoticed.
He had been in the household about three months when Seonghwa got his first boyfriend. He was human, of course, and built small and petite, with big round eyes that always looked on the verge of tears. Jongho hated him from first glance. He hated the way he clung to Seonghwa, like he would blow away in the wind otherwise. It was pathetic.
His new boyfriend meant Seonghwa was out of the house more. Jongho didn’t mind. He might’ve disliked the boyfriend but he could appreciate him making Seonghwa happy.
It was one of those nights when Wooyoung walked into Jongho’s room and plopped down on the bed beside him.
Jongho sat up, surprised. He’d heard Yeosang leave earlier to go feed. He’d naturally assumed Wooyoung had gone with him.
He couldn’t say he was particularly close with Wooyoung. As a rule, Jongho did not get close to anyone, but Seonghwa had attached himself to whatever remained of his heart and Yeosang had a personality that meshed well with his own. Wooyoung was completely different. His personality was loud and unbridled, like a storm, and Jongho found it difficult to bear for long.
“What’s up?” he asked, putting aside the book he’d been reading.
“I wanted to ask you something,” said Wooyoung. “Before I do, I want you to know that whatever you say, Seonghwa-hyung will never have to know. So you can tell me honestly, okay?”
He looked serious, more serious than Jongho had ever seen him. It didn’t suit his face.
It set Jongho on edge. “What is it?” he asked.
Wooyoung paused, thinking his words over. Then he said, very carefully, “Do you want to be free from your maker?”
“Look, Seonghwa-hyung told us about what happened to you,” continued Wooyoung. He paused. “Well, he told Yeosang. What she did was fucked up. We all know it. I’m asking you if you want me to make sure she can’t do that again.”
The words hung in the air while Jongho took them in. When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet. “Do you know what you’re offering?” he asked.
“Yeah, I do,” said Wooyoung. There was no mischief in his warm eyes.
“You’re asking me if I want you to kill her,” said Jongho.
He said it flat, expecting Wooyoung to flinch. Wooyoung didn’t.
“Do you want me to?” asked Wooyoung. “If she comes back she could do it all over again. It’ll be too late then.”
She wouldn’t come back. Jongho was a broken thing, he wasn’t worth coming back for. “Could you do it?” asked Jongho. “If I said yes, could you?”
Wooyoung, bright, playful Wooyoung, who lit up like fireworks and joked and laughed all the time, nodded.
“You’ve killed someone before?” asked Jongho.
He didn’t know why he asked. Before he could apologize and take back the question, Wooyoung answered.
“Yeah,” he said.
Jongho stopped. That couldn’t be true. Wooyoung couldn’t have— “When?” he asked.
“Some years ago,” said Wooyoung. “After our maker died, when it was just me and Yeosang. There were some hunters that were tracking us. There were hunters everywhere, but these guys were specifically after us, I think. Two dudes, one lady. I swear I saw them all the time.”
His voice was calmer than Jongho could have ever imagined. There was no inflection to it, just fact.
“We couldn’t feed,” continued Wooyoung, still in that measured voice. “Yeosang got really weak. I had to do something.”
“So you killed them,” said Jongho.
“It wasn’t hard,” said Wooyoung. “They didn’t expect anyone to go after them.”
“You killed them,” repeated Jongho in disbelief. Wooyoung? Bright, chipper Wooyoung?
“I did,” said Wooyoung. He read the shock on Jongho’s face and said, “It was their lives or Yeosang’s. It wasn’t a choice.”
He didn’t even pretend to feel remorse. It was like he’d said, it hadn’t been a choice for him. He had killed for Yeosang.
And now he was offering to for Jongho.
He sat still, processing what he’d learned, what he was being offered. Finally, he spoke. “You don’t have to,” he said. He swallowed. “You don’t have to do it for me. She won’t come back. You don’t need to go find her. Just let her live whatever life she’s gone off to enjoy.”
Wooyoung nodded, lips pursed. “And if she does come back?”
Jongho took a breath he didn’t need. “Then you can do what you want,” he said.
Wooyoung looked at him with eyes too serious for his face, and nodded once more.
A few nights after Yeosang revealed his blond hair, Wooyoung dyed his silver and tinted it with purple.
“We kinda match now, don’t we?” he asked, huge grin on his face as he threw his arm over Yeosang’s shoulders.
“That’s why you dyed your hair?” said Yeosang, laughing. “To match with me?”
“The fact is, you were getting too good-looking,” said Wooyoung, with a poke to Yeosang’s side. “We’re a pair, Yeosangie. I had to catch up.”
“Looks more like you were trying to pull us down,” said Yeosang with a smirk.
Wooyoung squawked, offended. “That is so rude! And not even close to true!”
“Look, we look so good together,” said Wooyoung, pulling Yeosang in close. “Jongho, quick, take a picture of us.”
Jongho noticed the change in Yeosang’s mood, and hesitated. “Maybe later, hyung.”
“Oh, come on,” said Wooyoung. He was bouncing up and down in impatience.
Jongho hung back, but Yeosang sighed and said, “Just take the picture, Jongho. He’ll never stop screeching otherwise.”
So he got off the couch and took a couple of pictures. Their vampire eyes glowed yellow and demonic, but otherwise the pictures turned out decent. Wooyoung smiled brightly, radiating happiness. Yeosang reflected his joy.
Wooyoung was right. They did look good together.
With the photo session done, Wooyoung got busy inspecting them and transferring them to his phone. Yeosang silently went upstairs. Jongho followed.
“Hyung,” he said, when they’d reached the first floor and were far enough from Wooyoung. “Is everything okay?”
“Hmm?” Yeosang blinked at Jongho, and then smiled. “Everything’s fine. Why?”
It didn’t look fine. Another time Jongho would’ve butted out and let him be, but he was concerned. “You’ve been different lately,” he said.
“Really? You too?” Yeosang sighed dramatically. “Like I told hyung, I am fine. Just a little low energy. Probably because I have to layer on a thousand jackets to fit in outside.”
It was a poor excuse, and they both knew it. Yeosang was probably hoping Jongho would understand and let him go. Jongho understood, but he was not letting go.
“Did Wooyoung-hyung do something?” he asked.
“You mean aside from almost scream everyone’s ears off?” said Yeosang with a light laugh. “No, nothing different.”
Jongho paused. “Is it San?”
“No, of course not,” said Yeosang, but it was too late. Jongho had seen the way he tensed, how the smile had slipped for a fraction of a second.
“So it’s San,” he said. “Did he say something? To you?”
For a moment it looked like Yeosang might deny it, but then he gave up. “No, he didn’t do anything, he just…” He ran a hand through his hair. “He just exists.”
“So you just don’t like him,” said Jongho.
Yeosang shrugged, avoiding eye contact.
Silence fell as Jongho thought it over. There was only one thing connecting San to their household. Or rather, one person.
Yeosang was jealous.
It wasn’t hard to connect the dots. Jongho knew how to use his imagination. Wooyoung had had boyfriends before, but none that he’d been so into and with for so long as San. Yeosang was used to Wooyoung being attached to him, if not physically then in thought, and San’s emergence as a contender for Wooyoung’s attention could not be welcome. It made sense.
“You know,” said Jongho finally, “San is human.”
“Yes, I know,” said Yeosang, now frowning at the floor.
Yeosang looked up at Jongho. His face was blank.
“He’ll get old and wrinkly,” said Jongho. “Wooyoung-hyung will get tired of him eventually. If not soon, then when he gets old. But you’re with us forever.”
For a long moment Yeosang didn’t answer, only looked at Jongho with that same empty expression. “Right,” he said finally, but there was still no emotion on his beautiful face.
“If it really bothers you, you could just tell Wooyoung-hyung,” said Jongho. He’d pick you. You have a blood bond, and that means something.
“No, it’s nothing I can’t get over by myself,” said Yeosang. He smiled, but there was something hollow about it. “Thank you, Jongho.”
He turned and walked away, leaving Jongho alone in the hallway.
He was small, and pretty, just like Jongho had expected. His hair was silver, almost glowing under the lights, and he was dressed in a very short sweater and very tight pants. Exactly Seonghwa’s type.
Jongho was so excited he got ahead of himself, and he had to rein it in. “Right, sorry, I didn’t introduce myself,” he said. He rubbed his hands to warm them up a bit, because he knew humans liked it, and then offered one for a handshake. “I’m Jongho.”
The human stared at his outstretched hand, and then back up at him.
“Jongho,” repeated Jongho. Nerves hit—had Seonghwa not told him about him? Was Seonghwa trying to hide Jongho because he was broken?—but he forced them down. “I’m—I live with Seonghwa.”
The human just looked at him, lost in thought. “Do you know who I am?” he asked finally.
“Yeah,” said Jongho, smiling in what he hoped was a friendly way. “You’re Seonghwa-hyung’s boyfriend.”
He didn’t get anything in response, not even a name. Jongho was about to try again when the door opened and Seonghwa entered.
The atmosphere went taut as a string. Jongho stood where he was, watching Seonghwa, then his boyfriend, wondering if he should say something or apologize or leave.
“Hongjoong, I can explain,” said Seonghwa.
“Don’t bother,” said the human, face twisting in anger. He stormed past Jongho, who was too stunned to react. Seonghwa followed the human without a second glance back.
And Jongho was left alone.
He didn’t understand. He knew he’d done something wrong—it was obvious he’d done something wrong—but he didn’t know what. Seonghwa’s boyfriend hated him. Why?
Had Seonghwa told him something about Jongho? Did the boyfriend know Jongho was a broken thing, so worthless even his maker had decided he wasn’t worth keeping?
He left the feeding room. The hallway beyond was empty, so he went out to the main area, where all the humans danced and drank and enjoyed themselves. The human Seonghwa had called Hongjoong looked like he wanted to leave, and Seonghwa had followed him. Jongho went outside too.
He saw Seonghwa in the distance, talking to the short human. And then the human stormed off, and Seonghwa just stood there.
Jongho approached cautiously. When he was just a few steps behind he called out softly, “Hyung?”
Seonghwa turned around. His face was a raw picture of hurt and regret. Jongho noticed now that his hair was a mess, and he was breathing too, chest rising and falling heavily. His eyes glistened under the streetlights. He bit his lower lip.
He was going to say something hurtful. Jongho knew it, and braced himself for it. He deserved it after all, he’d made Seonghwa argue with his boyfriend, and tonight was the night he’d finally realize Jongho wasn’t worthy of living with him—
“I’m so stupid,” said Seonghwa. He kicked at the ground in frustration, and then whirled around to show Jongho his back again as he pulled at his hair with both hands. Jongho stepped back and turned away. He knew Seonghwa didn’t like getting emotional in front of him or the others. He was supposed to be their steady guide and protector.
After what felt like hours Seonghwa faced him again, calmer than before. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I want to go home. Did you feed? Then we can go together.”
He was trying so hard to sound normal, even though he wasn’t. Jongho pretended like he didn’t hear anything wrong and nodded.
Seonghwa drove. He was dressed up, Jongho noticed, in heavy makeup and with a choker around his neck. His lip tint was smudged. He and his boyfriend had been having fun before they’d come to the club. Before Jongho had shown up.
“Hyung, I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
Seonghwa pulled over so suddenly Jongho gripped the seat. “You don’t need to say sorry,” said Seonghwa, looking Jongho right in the eyes. “You made a mistake but that’s in the past. Nothing that happened tonight was your fault. Don’t say sorry.”
“What did I do?” asked Jongho. He wasn’t stupid, he knew Seonghwa was lying. This had to be his fault.
For a moment Seonghwa fell silent, chewing his lower lip. Then he sighed. “Do you remember that time you fed from a human who’d wandered into one of the feeding rooms?” he asked. “I stopped you and made you leave.”
“I remember,” said Jongho. That had been months ago.
“That was him,” said Seonghwa. “Hongjoong.”
Jongho frowned, trying to remember the human’s face. It had been a man, and short. He couldn’t recall any specific features.
“He didn’t know I knew you,” said Seonghwa. “That’s why he… that’s why he’s upset.”
“Oh.” Jongho thought it over. “Why is he mad at you? You didn’t do anything.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of it,” said Seonghwa with a bitter smile. “I didn’t tell him.”
“So? It’s not anything you did,” said Jongho, not understanding. Seonghwa did nothing wrong.
“I didn’t tell him,” said Seonghwa, like he was talking to a child. “I should’ve. I thought I would, just when the time was right…” He looked away, brows furrowed.
“I ruined it,” said Jongho.
“You didn’t know,” said Seonghwa at once. “This is all my fault. I’m sorry. Did he say anything to you?”
“He just asked me if I knew who he was,” said Jongho. “He didn’t really… say anything.”
“Okay,” said Seonghwa, nodding. “That’s good. Because I don’t want you to feel bad for anything, okay?”
And Jongho just nodded back, because he knew Seonghwa was trying so hard to stop him from blaming himself. He would try, for Seonghwa’s sake, even if they both knew the truth.
The rest of the ride was silent. Only as they were pulling in did Seonghwa say, “Is it okay if you don’t tell the others about this? I don’t… I just don’t want anyone to know.”
The calm mask was cracking around the edges, but he was still holding it together. For Jongho’s sake.
“Okay, hyung,” said Jongho.
Seonghwa smiled at him, and Jongho forced a smile back.
Seonghwa cried, but he didn’t let anyone see. Jongho knew anyway.
It was obvious when he didn’t leave his room the entire night, not even when Mingi and Wooyoung stood in front of his closed door and whined at him to come out.
“I’m tired,” yelled Seonghwa through the door. “Leave, brats.”
He was better at sounding normal through a solid wood door. Jongho wasn’t fooled. He’d lived through many of Seonghwa’s breakups, and they all involved secret tears and fake smiles.
But this one felt a little different.
Seonghwa didn’t come out of his room. At all. Usually he would after one or two nights, looking haggard and insisting he was okay, but it had been nearly a week now and still none of them saw his face. Jongho was concerned, for more reasons than one. He didn’t know the last time Seonghwa had fed.
He kept his word and didn’t tell any of the others what had happened, or that he’d been the one to cause Seonghwa all this pain. But it didn’t take long for them to figure out the cause of Seonghwa’s change in mood.
“We need to do something,” said Wooyoung one night, while the four of them were gathered in the living room. It was a rare event now, with Yeosang putting so much effort into avoiding them, but they were able to manage it. “Who cares if his boyfriend dumped him? He needs to get out of there.”
“He can’t just stay like that forever,” said Mingi, chewing his fingernails. “He’ll die.”
“He won’t die,” said Yeosang calmly. He sat beside Wooyoung, offering comfort with his proximity and a hand on his shoulder.
“He hasn’t fed in a while,” said Mingi.
“Which is why I know he’ll snap out of it soon,” said Yeosang. “He needs to leave his bed to feed, and once he gets up we’ll just keep him from going back.” He sighed. “I don’t know why he’s being like this. He’s just a damn human.”
“I’m worried,” said Wooyoung, shifting nervously. “We should do something.”
“We should at least get him blood to drink,” said Mingi.
“If we feed him he’ll have less motivation to get up,” said Yeosang.
They argued about it for some time. Jongho mostly sat in silence. Yeosang was unofficially the second head of the household, but things were always tricky when it concerned Seonghwa, and they went back and forth for a while. In the end they decided they would not bottle feed him, but one of them would get inside his room and check up on him.
“We vote,” said Wooyoung. “Whoever thinks Jongho should go, raise your hand.”
Three hands went up in unison. Jongho looked at the other vampires and said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“He loves you the most,” said Wooyoung. “You’re like his big, freakishly strong little baby. If I went in he’d probably rip me in half.”
But Wooyoung hadn’t been the one who’d ruined his relationship. Jongho was sure the moment Seonghwa was able to process his sadness he’d be angry. He would hate Jongho, and Jongho would deserve it. Maybe he would finally realize he didn’t want Jongho around anymore.
“I don’t want to,” he said.
“No choice,” said Wooyoung. “You gotta. Go, or we’ll drag you in there.”
It was an empty threat. None of them could’ve forced Jongho anywhere, and he could’ve taken on two of them together. But their looks were stronger than his will, and he swallowed and got to his feet.
Maybe it’s better like this, he thought, as he stared at the polished mahogany of Seonghwa’s bedroom door. Get it over with, then I don’t have to wait for it to happen anymore.
He knocked once. “Hyung?”
He was met with silence. And then, “Jongho? Sorry, hyung’s not in the mood right now.”
“I know,” said Jongho. He glanced at the end of the hallway, where Wooyoung, Yeosang and Mingi were crouched together. “Can I come in?”
“Later. I’m not—I’m not dressed.”
“Hyung,” said Jongho with an exasperated sigh, “if you don’t open the door for me I will break it down. Open up.”
More silence. And then the click of the door being unlocked.
The others scrambled downstairs. Jongho squared his shoulders and opened the door.
It was dark inside, room lit only by the bedside lamp. The curtains were drawn, which was unusual for Seonghwa because he loved looking at the sky. Seonghwa was already climbing back into bed. He didn’t want to show Jongho his face. Jongho would respect that.
“Hyung,” he said softly, sitting on the opposite side of the bed. “We’re worried about you.”
Seonghwa curled up under the covers, away from him. “I’m fine.”
He wasn’t, that’s why Jongho hadn’t asked him. He hesitated, not knowing what to say, but he didn’t have to push.
“I called him, but he won’t answer,” said Seonghwa. “And I sent him a thousand messages but he won’t reply. Not even to tell me if it’s—it’s over. I don’t know what to do.”
He sounded so small and sad. Jongho didn’t know what to say to make things better.
He tried. “I don’t think it’s over,” he said.
“He won’t talk to me,” said Seonghwa, voice thick. “I can’t tell him how sorry I am because he won’t listen. He won’t even tell me he hates me and that it’s over and I should give up. What am I supposed to do?” He shifted, and Jongho caught a glimpse of something gray and plush in his arms, clutched to his chest.
“I’m sorry,” said Jongho, because he was, and he didn’t know what else to say.
“It’s my fault, I knew I should’ve told him,” said Seonghwa, voice muffled as he pressed his face into the stuffed animal. It was a raccoon. “He hates me.”
No one could hate you, thought Jongho, looking at Seonghwa’s curled up form under the covers. Love attracted love, and Seonghwa had enough love for so many, even the worst. He had enough love for Jongho.
“I love him,” murmured Seonghwa.
Of course he did. Jongho remembered the look on his face when the human had left him on that empty street, what his voice had sounded like when he’d tried so hard to pretend like he was okay. Of course he loved him.
“I’m sorry,” said Jongho again.
This time Seonghwa didn’t say anything. But he shifted backwards, closer to Jongho, an unspoken request. He wanted to be held.
Jongho hated cuddling. He hated close contact, the feeling of someone pressed against him, attached like a vine. But he climbed into the bed fully and wrapped his arm around Seonghwa’s middle, pulling his back to his chest. Seonghwa relaxed in his embrace, and any discomfort Jongho felt was worth it.
He didn’t feel like other people did. He didn’t cry during sad movies, he didn’t bounce in excitement or squeal with joy. He was happy when someone he loved was happy, but there weren’t many people he loved, and he couldn’t make himself love anyone more.
Jongho just didn’t feel. He had, before, when he’d been human. Before Jihyun crushed his mind and his heart, before she reshaped them into what she wanted and then yanked away the pillars she’d used to keep them up. He did not have much empathy. He had none to spare beyond Seonghwa and Yeosang and Wooyoung, and sometimes Mingi.
Seonghwa was the complete opposite. His heart was tender and overflowing where Jongho’s was burned black. He had so much love in him he gave it away freely, even to those who didn’t deserve it. He gave it to Wooyoung and Yeosang, who would leave him without a single thought so long as they had each other. He gave it to Mingi, who was too immature to understand what he was being given. He gave it to Jongho.
And he never wanted anything in return. He’d allowed them into his home, let them use his money like it was theirs, and all he asked was that they be safe. Nothing more.
But love attracted love. Yeosang and Wooyoung stayed when they could’ve left, they made bonds with him separate from each other. Mingi returned Seonghwa’s affection with pure sincerity, taking his advice and warnings to heart and following them diligently. And Jongho felt.
Seonghwa had so much love to give, and now he’d given it to this human.
Jongho wondered, as he held Seonghwa to his chest, if one day Seonghwa’s love would run out. If he’d realize it was something finite, and he couldn’t share any more of it. If he’d decide he needed more of it to give to his stupid white-haired boyfriend, and less of it to keep with Jongho.
He’d been living on borrowed time since Mingi’s arrival into the house. Jongho wondered if this was what would finally click the button on the timer.
After all, he was only a broken thing.