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Blood, Water

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The beat in the club was heavy, fast, drowning out near everything else. Bodies moved to the music, packed together on the dance floor in a heady mix of smells. The scent of blood was overpowering. It pumped through people’s veins, calling like a siren song, heavy in the air.

Yeosang swayed on his feet, just enough to look like he was dancing. He wasn’t paying attention to the music, not really. He was just here to be one more body among all the others. All his effort had been expended, put into his appearance, into the leather pants that hugged his thighs, the loose mesh top that hung past his collarbones and showed the outline of his narrow waist, the heavy makeup he’d so carefully applied to his lips and eyes. He wasn’t here to dance. He was here for another reason entirely.

Hands settled on Yeosang’s hips, and he grinned. 

He schooled his features into a relaxed smile before he turned, finding himself face to face with a short man, shorter than him, with a round face and a greedy smile. Yeosang bit his lower lip, looking at the man with lidded eyes. Inviting. Easy. 

The man was taken immediately. He moved his hands from Yeosang’s hips to his waist, slipping in under his clothes. Yeosang barely showed a reaction. His skin crawled under the man’s grasping fingers, but he could force it down, he could swallow it without even a flicker in his expression. It was only a touch. It was unimportant. 

The human was getting greedy now, going all the way up Yeosang’s back until Yeosang could feel his oily fingers between his shoulder blades. He was impatient too, moving close up against him, right into his personal space. Yeosang took a breath he didn’t need, even though he knew the man was too far gone to even realize, and then he leaned forward, ready to whisper into the man’s ear. A proposition, maybe to go somewhere where it was less crowded—

Hands grabbed the human and ripped him off Yeosang.

The man whirled, ready to yell, but a body stepped between him and Yeosang, protective.

“Get lost,” said Wooyoung. 

“Mind your own fucking business,” growled the human. His voice was nearly lost in the music. “He didn’t seem to mind. Is he your bitch or something?”

Yeosang saw the way Wooyoung’s shoulders tensed, and immediately grabbed him, hand gripping his waist. Don’t. 

“Get lost,” repeated Wooyoung, and something must’ve shown in his face because the man’s eyes went wide and he immediately backed away, hands up in the sign of surrender.

Once the man was out of sight, Wooyoung turned to face Yeosang. Yeosang grabbed him by the collar.

“What the fuck was that?” he hissed. “He would’ve left the place with me.”

“He was all over you,” said Wooyoung, like that explained everything.

“That was the point,” said Yeosang. “I could’ve taken him all the way out to the alley, he would’ve gone with me.”

“But he was all over you, Yeosangie.”

“We need to feed,” said Yeosang.

Wooyoung shook his head. “It’s not worth it.”

Yeosang faltered. “I can’t let you—we can’t starve,” he said. He let go of Wooyoung’s collar.

“We won’t,” said Wooyoung, grabbing Yeosang’s hands. “From now on I’ll lure the sleazeballs, okay? You let them paw you too much. It’ll be better if I handle it.” He beamed, shining like a beacon of pure light, completely at odds with his club makeup and clothing.

“I don’t see how that’s any different,” said Yeosang, smiling despite himself.

Wooyoung grinned. “That way they don’t get to touch you.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” said Yeosang.

“It does to me,” said Wooyoung, and he put his arm around Yeosang, holding him close. Yeosang relaxed in his embrace. “Come on, let’s try another place.”

Yeosang nodded, and he and Wooyoung left the club.

 

“Where you going?”

Yeosang turned at Jongho’s words. The younger vampire was standing by the kitchen door, looking out of place.

“Out,” said Yeosang.

“To feed?” asked Jongho. “I’m going soon.”

“No, just out,” said Yeosang. He wanted to go, he could see Jongho didn’t want a conversation, but he had to ask. “How are you?”

“Fine,” said Jongho.

The answer was too quick, too casual. Yeosang waited for more.

“Seonghwa-hyung didn’t come home again last night,” said Jongho.

There it was. “He’s with that human of his,” said Yeosang. “They’re right in that disgusting honeymoon period, he’ll probably be sleeping over at the apartment all the time.”

“I don’t think so,” said Jongho.

“Oh, I assure you,” said Yeosang, putting on a smile. “It’s not like he’s moving out.”

“I don’t think this is some kind of honeymoon period,” said Jongho quietly. “I think this one’s… different.”

Yeosang was ready to deny it, tell Jongho that Hongjoong was no different from the other humans except that he had been more of a challenge to obtain, but stopped. He was well aware of Jongho’s past and how it had changed how he saw things, how he saw the coven and his place in it. So he stopped, thought his words through for a moment, and then said, “Maybe. But he is still part of this coven first, just as you are.”

Jongho nodded. It was difficult to know if Yeosang’s words had had the right effect on him. He guarded his emotions like they were all he had.

Yeosang was ready to leave, thinking the conversation over, when Jongho suddenly asked, “Did you talk to him?”

“Who?” asked Yeosang, turning back. “Seonghwa? Or Hongjoong?”

“Wooyoung,” said Jongho.

Yeosang tensed.

“I know you’re avoiding him,” continued Jongho. “He knows it too. You should talk to him.”

“I’ll talk to him when there’s something to talk about,” said Yeosang stiffly.

“It’s obvious there is something to talk about,” said Jongho, voice quiet.

“There isn’t,” hissed Yeosang. He glanced at the staircase, which Wooyoung could come down any second. “You don’t need to worry about him.”

Why would anyone? Wooyoung had San, after all. Did he need anyone else? Did he need Yeosang, did Wooyoung need him in the way Yeosang needed him, in that desperate way he could fill with nothing and no one else? That way he could still feel eating away inside him, until all he had was hollowness between his ribs, and it felt as though the smallest touch would send it collapsing.

No, Wooyoung was fine. Wooyoung was happy. There was no need to worry about him.

“I’m worried about you,” said Jongho, so calm, so quiet.

“I’m fine,” said Yeosang, a bald-faced lie he had no problem repeating as many times as he needed to. “I have to go now. Will you leave with me?”

For a moment Jongho only looked at Yeosang. And then he said, “You know he loves you more.”

The words were like a knife in Yeosang’s chest. He said nothing, only turned on his heel and walked out of the room. Jongho did not say anything after him.

It was cold outside. Yeosang could see it in the way the humans gathered closer together, sharing precious body heat. He had dressed appropriately, in a heavy coat and a scarf which he now pulled up to cover his mouth and nose. Aimlessly he wandered, letting his feet take him wherever they wanted, so long as he left the house behind. A bitterness he could nearly taste in his mouth filled him. There was nowhere Yeosang could be safe, not even his own home. Everything had been taken over.

By him. San. If not by the human himself then by his scent, or the very thought of him. Yeosang looked around the living room and imagined him sitting there, or smelled the faint traces of his scent lingering. Jongho poked him about Wooyoung, and San. Seonghwa lit up when San came over. Even Mingi, so in love with the boy San lived with.

It was like San had entrenched himself into the coven. And that was fine. It was fine if the others adored him, if they doted on him and wished him around and showered him with love. Yeosang didn’t care. He didn’t even hate San, not when he knew how genuine San was in his efforts at friendship.

But every time Wooyoung entered the room, the scent of San’s blood heavy in the air around him, Yeosang felt a little hollower on the inside.

He could leave, he knew. Minhyuk, one of the older vampires who frequented the club, had mentioned a new place that Hakyeon and his coven were starting where humans would pay vampires to be fed from, and they were looking for employees. “Only pretty ones,” Minhyuk had told Yeosang with a predatory grin. “I’m thinking of joining. You could too.”

He could. He could move out of the house, put some distance between he and Wooyoung. It was a good chance and Yeosang found himself thinking of it more and more every time Wooyoung left for a date, which was often. But he knew he couldn’t let go of Wooyoung, not even for a moment, and Yeosang’s thoughts of leaving remained only thoughts. 

He found himself in the large park near the house, and walked the paths until he found an empty bench. He came here often, he realized, for no real reason at all. It was the place he’d first been introduced to San as Wooyoung’s boyfriend. At the time he had had no idea what it would turn into.

It was supposed to be nothing more than a fling. Casual, like all Wooyoung’s relationships were, easily taken up and easily forgotten.

But San was different. San was special.

Wooyoung was in love with him.

He loves you more, Jongho had said. But what use was that, when he wouldn’t love Yeosang the same way?

He could wait, he knew. He could wait until San grew old, or died. Yeosang and Wooyoung had forever, San was only human. Wooyoung would eventually move on, and he and Yeosang would go back to how they had been before San had arrived and made himself a part of their lives. But could Yeosang be happy with that, knowing what he now knew?

He was in love with Wooyoung, and Wooyoung didn’t feel the same.

Yeosang leaned back on the bench and closed his eyes, losing himself in memories.

 

“What are you looking at?”

“Your face,” said Wooyoung.

Yeosang blinked, stunned. They had only known each other a few months, the majority of the time with Wooyoung in his newborn haze, and he was already so bold.

“Stop it,” said Yeosang.

“Make me,” said Wooyoung.

Yeosang raised his book, fighting the urge to grind his teeth. He didn’t like the new vampire. He saw no reason for his existence; after all, Jisung had Yeosang and thousands of boys died on the street all the time, why did Wooyoung have to be turned? He was just past the newborn phase and he had been a colossal pain throughout it, ceaselessly craving blood, manic and trying to escape their little apartment any time he could. Now that he could talk, he talked all the fucking time, and Yeosang was sick of his voice. He was sick of him in general.

“Hey.”

It took all of Yeosang’s willpower to bite back his words. He ignored Wooyoung.

“Hey. Hey. Yeosang, hey. I’m talking to you. You can’t ignore me!”

Yeosang continued glaring at the page, pretending he was looking at the words in front of him, when the book was suddenly snatched from his hands.

He lunged for Wooyoung at once. Wooyoung threw himself back on the sofa, keeping the book just out of Yeosang’s reach, no matter how hard Yeosang struggled.

“Give it back,” he growled. “Now. I am not joking.”

“If you want it so much, take it,” said Wooyoung. He cackled. “Not so scary now, are you?”

Yeosang made another violent grab for it, and then sat back and huffed. “Wooyoung.”

He didn’t expect anything from his exasperation, and definitely not for Wooyoung to immediately hand the book over. Yeosang took it, equal parts wary and disbelieving.

“I just wanted you to talk to me,” said Wooyoung, seeing the look on Yeosang’s face.

“That’s… all?” Yeosang could hardly believe what he was hearing.

Wooyoung nodded. “That’s all.”

Yeosang gave him one last glance, and went back to reading. They didn’t have much money but Jisung loved reading, so they always had books. The one in Yeosang’s hands was about flower language, everything from daffodils to the impossible true blue rose, and he’d picked it up because he’d thought it interesting. But now he couldn’t concentrate. His mind kept going back to the boy still sitting next to him, now quiet and unassuming, leaning back and staring at the ceiling. It was a few unbearable minutes of this before Yeosang finally gave in. He put his book down and said, “Why?”

“Why what?” Wooyoung looked surprised.

“Why did you want me to talk to you so much?” asked Yeosang.

“Why don’t you ever wanna talk to me?”  Wooyoung asked back.

“We have nothing in common,” said Yeosang.

“We have literally so much in common,” said Wooyoung, throwing himself dramatically over the back of the couch. “And come on, does it even matter? All we have is each other.”

“That’s not true,” said Yeosang. “We have Jisung-hyung, and I’m sure you have many friends.”

“Not really,” muttered Wooyoung. “I stopped talking to the people I used to know when I turned. I don’t think they even noticed.”

Yeosang blinked, surprised. That wasn’t what he’d expected from the new vampire. It took him a moment, but he rallied. “You’ll make more friends,” he said.

“I don’t wanna be just friends with anyone,” said Wooyoung, pouting. “I wanna be friends with you.”

There was something so genuine, so sincere in Wooyoung’s face that Yeosang faltered. And then he turned away from him and pretended to read his book again.

He got ten seconds of blessed peace before Wooyoung threw himself on him. Yeosang sighed exasperatedly and was ready to throw Wooyoung off again when he stopped. The other vampire wasn’t too uncomfortable, actually. Yeosang shifted, getting more comfortable, and rested his arm and book on Wooyoung’s back. He paused, waiting to see if Wooyoung would move away. He didn’t. So Yeosang relaxed and got back to his reading.

Later that night, when Wooyoung badgered him for a description of what he’d read, Yeosang sat beside him and told him everything.

 

A few hours later Yeosang made his way home. It was only an hour or so after midnight, so Wooyoung would likely be out with San. Yeosang smiled to himself as he pondered letting them know Hongjoong would be spending more nights out, so they could spend even longer on their dates without him knowing. Then at least Yeosang could spend more time at home with Mingi, or go see Yunho unbothered.

He went in through the back gate like he always did, not wanting to be in view of Wooyoung’s bedroom window. He was surprised to find Mingi outside, sitting on the lawn, tapping at his phone.

“What are you doing out here?” asked Yeosang. Mingi had nothing with him but his phone, so it couldn’t be some ill-conceived night time picnic.

“Oh, just chilling,” said Mingi with a shrug. “Talking to Yunho. I’ll tell him you said hi.”

“Do that,” said Yeosang. He paused. “Why are you sitting outside? The WiFi is better inside, you know.”

“Yeah, but San’s there,” said Mingi, still busy on his phone.

“San’s…” Yeosang glanced at the house. “San’s where?”

“In me and Wooyoung’s room,” said Mingi.

“And you’re… sitting out here…” said Yeosang slowly. “Outside your own house. Because of him.”

“Yeah,” said Mingi. Something must’ve shown on Yeosang’s face because he quickly added, “It’s okay, Wooyoung just asked if I could go downstairs, I’m the one who came and sat outside, I—Yeosang!”

Yeosang had already started towards the house. Mingi followed, and Yeosang could feel him tugging on his sleeve, he could hear him trying to justify it or excuse Wooyoung. He ignored it.

He was angry. He was angrier than he had been in so long, so angry he could feel it sharp and twisting in his gut, hot like fire. This was not San’s house, this would never be San’s house, and Wooyoung had no right to force Mingi out to accommodate him. The others might let him do whatever he wanted but Yeosang wouldn’t. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t fair.

Yeosang was a few steps away from the back door when he felt Mingi let go of him and step back. When he threw open the kitchen door he realized why.

He could smell blood.

It was light, but it was in the air, tickling Yeosang’s nose. Even so faint the scent was sweet.

San.

Yeosang strode across the kitchen, through the living room to the stairs. The smell of blood got stronger with every step. By the time he reached the upstairs landing it was so strong he could imagine it sinking into his skin from the air. Blood had been spilled.

Another tongue of white-hot anger surged in Yeosang’s gut. Not only had Wooyoung fed from San, he had done so messily enough that he’d spilled blood. He’d made Mingi too uncomfortable to even sit in the living room.

He stormed up to the bedroom door and threw it open.

The smell of San’s blood hung heavy in the air, so thick Yeosang could imagine reaching out and touching it, and it took all his self-control to keep his fangs in check. Wooyoung was there, sitting on his bed, shirt askew but still on. San was there too, but Yeosang barely registered him.

“How fucking dare you?” he hissed, eyes trained on Wooyoung.

“Yeosangie?” Wooyoung climbed out of the bed. “What’s wrong?”

Yeosang wanted to laugh in derision. Of course Wooyoung didn’t know what was wrong. He didn’t know anything anymore, not since San.

He looked at the human, and watched with a sick pleasure as he flinched. “Why is he here?” he asked acidly, turning back to Wooyoung.

“He came over like an hour ago to hang out,” said Wooyoung. “Hongjoong is out of the house a lot so he has more time to be with me.”

Just as Yeosang had predicted. Seonghwa was busy, so Hongjoong was busy. And Yeosang had even considered letting them know so they could spend even more time together, thinking it would allow him peace. How stupid was he?

“What is he doing here?” asked Yeosang, struggling to keep his calm. It felt like a string stretched right to breaking point.

“Do you want a play-by-play or…?” Wooyoung grinned.

That was the wrong thing to say. Wooyoung realized his mistake too late, and quickly started towards the doorway where Yeosang stood.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry, don’t be mad. What did I do wrong? Why are you so mad at me?”

Yeosang said nothing to that. Instead he glanced at San one more time before he said, “He needs to go.”

Wooyoung immediately switched gears. “What? Why?”

“He’s been here long enough,” said Yeosang. “Take him and get the fuck out.”

“Get out? This is my house and my room,” said Wooyoung, and Yeosang could see the anger rising on his face. “What the hell are you doing barging in here anyway? I was busy.”

“I don’t fucking care,” snapped Yeosang. “I—”

“No you don’t!” yelled Wooyoung. “You don’t fucking care about me, you don’t fucking care—”

“This isn’t about you and me,” said Yeosang, voice low. “This is about you driving Mingi out of his own house because you brought your piece home—”

Wooyoung stepped right up to Yeosang, noses almost touching. “Do not call him that.”

His eyes were hard, two chips of obsidian fixed on Yeosang. Yeosang had seen Wooyoung look like that before, when handsy humans came too close, when someone whispered about Seonghwa’s maker’s death, when they talked about Jongho’s maker. He’d never turned that look on Yeosang.

Until now. Until San.

“I’m sorry,” said Yeosang, voice dripping vicious sarcasm. “I’m sorry for insulting your precious human, the love of your fucking life, the only person worth caring about to you. I’m so sorry, Wooyoung. I hope you can forgive me. I hope you won’t hate me forever for daring to call him that.”

Wooyoung was right in Yeosang’s face, so close Yeosang saw every expression flit across his face, no matter how brief. And they went quick, from anger to disbelief before settling on pain. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he cried, stepping back.

He looked so hurt Yeosang felt his resolve falter, but it was too late. Things had gone too far and he couldn’t take them back. He swallowed and said, “Mingi is outside.”

“What? No, he’s downstairs,” said Wooyoung. He looked thrown by the sudden change of track. “He’s—I asked him if he could go downstairs for a while.”

“He couldn’t be downstairs,” said Yeosang. He glanced at San, and then back to Wooyoung. “You can smell San’s blood through the entire house.”

“It…” Wooyoung looked like he’d had the floor rug out from underneath his feet. “It shouldn’t be that bad, we only spilled a bit…”

“It’s bad for him,” said Yeosang. He took a deep breath, trying to force the anger down. “Did you feed in here?”

Wooyoung nodded.

Yeosang pulled his lower lip between his teeth. “You know this is his room too. How long do you think until he’ll be comfortable in here again?”

“He…” Wooyoung chewed his lower lip. “I didn’t know it would be that bad for him…”

“Mingi had to leave the house?”

Yeosang turned to San. It was the first time he’d heard the human speak that night.

“I didn’t know he’d have to,” said Wooyoung, going back to the bed as San got up on his knees. “Honest, I thought he could just sit in the living room and it’d be okay.”

“I know,” said San quietly, taking Wooyoung’s face in his hands. Yeosang took another deep breath. “But Yeosang-ssi’s right, we can’t just kick him out of his room, especially if he won’t be okay being here afterward.”

“He kicks me out of our room all the time,” whined Wooyoung. “I didn’t know it would be such a big deal if I asked him to leave for some time. I’ve never asked him before.”

“It’s not just the room, Woo, he had to leave the entire house,” said San. He turned to Yeosang, catching him off-guard. “Where is he?”

“In the backyard,” said Yeosang.

“We made him go sit in the backyard,” said San to Wooyoung, frowning.

“Not on purpose,” said Wooyoung.

He was so gentle speaking to San, a stark contrast to what he’d been like just minutes ago, with Yeosang. Yeosang knew he shouldn’t be surprised, but it still hurt. San was special, he was different. Wooyoung was in love with him.

“I think I should go,” said San.

“What? No, don’t,” said Wooyoung, grabbing his arm. “It’s okay, you don’t need to—”

“I agree with San-ssi,” said Yeosang.

Wooyoung whipped his head around to look at him. Yeosang didn’t look at his face.

“I’m really sorry,” said San. “I had no idea.”

“It’s not your fault,” said Yeosang, and he could see from the corner of his eye Wooyoung’s mouth already open to protest San’s words. Wooyoung snapped his mouth shut. “Thank you for understanding.”

San nodded. He glanced at Wooyoung, and Yeosang did too. Wooyoung was looking at him intensely with an expression he could not read.

It didn’t matter. Yeosang knew he was not wanted. “We’ll be outside, in the back,” said Yeosang. “Please be sure to use the front door. Mingi would be devastated if he ended up hurting you.”

He stayed just long enough to hear San’s last “Okay,” and then Yeosang left the room, closing the door behind him.

He was trembling as he went down the stairs, and had to wrap his arms around himself for comfort, take a moment to lean against the railing and steady himself. It had been years since he’d been so angry, and never with Wooyoung. They had argued before, but it had always been petty. To fight like this rattled Yeosang to the core.

And he couldn’t reach out and feel for Wooyoung. He couldn’t feel for the bond and understand what Wooyoung was feeling, he didn’t know how to tread to make things better. In truth, he didn’t know if he cared to make things better. 

Yeosang did love Wooyoung, and he didn’t want to hurt him and make him unhappy. But he was so tired. 

Maybe he should just leave. 

Mingi was on a video call when Yeosang went to him, and immediately tilted the phone so he’d be on-screen. Yeosang smiled and waved at Yunho. 

“Yeosang, nice scarf,” said Yunho, smiling back. “Can you get Mingi to wear one too?”

“I told you, I don’t feel cold,” said Mingi. 

“Looking at you is making me feel cold!”

“Here,” said Yeosang, taking his scarf off and wrapping it around Mingi. “Better?”

“No, now you’re freezing,” said Yunho.

Yeosang huffed, unwrapped the scarf from Mingi, and then wrapped it loose so that it covered both his and Mingi’s necks, effectively tying them together. “Happy?”

Yunho laughed. “Yes.”

Yeosang grinned, rolled his eyes, and then laughed too. It was so easy to be friends with Yunho. He was warm and genuine and friendly. More than that, he truly cared for and liked Mingi, even with Mingi’s vampire issues, and that made him a good person in Yeosang’s book.

He glanced at Mingi, who had a big smile on his face as he and Yunho talked about some show or game they both liked. Yunho was special to Mingi too. 

“Yunho,” said Yeosang quietly, “how are things with your Hongjoong-hyung?”

Yunho looked a little surprised at the sudden question, but easily got over it. “Kind of weird,” he said. “Every time I look at him it’s kind of awkward? Plus he keeps spending entire nights out and because of San, that asshole, I keep thinking about what he’s doing and… uh…” He looked away, ears bright red. 

“So his boyfriend’s definitely a vampire,” said Mingi.

“Definitely,” said Yunho. He paused. “Actually, I was thinking, since Hongjoong-hyung is definitely dating a vampire too, he has no right to say anything so…”

“He’ll still kill me,” said Mingi. “And worse now, because he’ll know I’m not normal.”

“You are normal,” insisted Yunho. “You just have some issues.”

“Having issues like that is what makes me not normal!”

“We don’t have to tell him if you don’t want to,” said Yunho. “I’m just saying we could.”

Mingi didn’t say anything to that, only nodded.

Yeosang gathered this was a conversation they’d had more than once, and it was not his place to comment. It was a strange sort of irony though that Mingi was so unwilling to reveal their relationship when Hongjoong was dating Seonghwa of all people. Yunho was right, Hongjoong had no right to say anything.

“Have you asked him about it?” asked Yeosang. He caught Yunho’s confused look and added, “Hongjoong. About his boyfriend.”

“No, it’s awkward and I don’t wanna make it worse,” said Yunho. “And I kinda don’t wanna bring it up without bringing up Ming so…”

Yeosang nodded. Yunho had been put in a weird position, and he was uncomfortable. Yeosang would’ve just spilled and told him, at least, the truth, but he had already promised Seonghwa and he was bound to it.

They sat and talked for some time, Yeosang mostly listening to the conversation, when the back door opened. Wooyoung stepped out, looking down.

“Hey,” he said. “San left, so… you guys can come in now.”

“Open all the windows and let air in,” said Yeosang. “We’ll come in a few minutes.”

Wooyoung nodded. He looked so drained, none of that bright energy Yeosang was so used to feeling around him. He hesitated at the doorway and said, “What’re you guys doing?”

“Talking to Yunho,” said Mingi. “Wanna say hi?”

“Maybe later,” said Wooyoung. “I—” He shifted again, one hand on the doorway, the other rubbing at his neck. “Yeosangie, can I talk to you?”

Yeosang didn’t want to. He could guess what Wooyoung wanted to say and he didn’t want to hear it. But he still got up from the grass and followed Wooyoung inside and to the living room. 

Once inside and away from Mingi, Wooyoung turned around. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“You don’t need to apologize to me,” said Yeosang. 

“You make me feel like I do,” said Wooyoung. 

Yeosang bit his lip. “Wooyoung—”

“Whatever I did, I’m sorry, okay?” said Wooyoung, voice cracking. “I’m sorry I messed up, I’m sorry I made you mad at me and I’m sorry I’m too dumb to even know what I did wrong—”

“No,” said Yeosang, but Wooyoung didn’t even hear him.

“Just tell me so I can make it better,” he said, face twisting as he struggled not to cry. “Okay? I’m sorry, I don’t know what I did to make you hate me but I’m so sorry and I promise I won’t do it again—”

Yeosang grabbed Wooyoung and pulled him into a tight hug. At once Wooyoung’s arms went around his middle, and he clutched him close, trembling. Yeosang tightened his embrace. 

“I’m really sorry,” said Wooyoung, voice small where his face was pressed into Yeosang’s neck. “Please don’t hate me anymore.”

“I don’t hate you,” said Yeosang. Pain seized his chest and all he could do to soothe it was hold Wooyoung even closer. “I could never hate you, never. I’m so sorry for making you think that.”

“Then why won’t you be with me?”

And Yeosang wished he could cry. That was what he wanted, more than anything. It was Wooyoung who didn’t want to be with him. 

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I… I’ve been going through some things. Things I can’t tell you about.”

“You can always tell me anything,” said Wooyoung.

“This time I can’t,” said Yeosang. “I’m sorry.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Wooyoung asked, “Is that why you closed our bond?”

Yeosang took a deep breath, feeling Wooyoung clutch the back of his jacket as he did so. He nodded. 

Another long moment passed, Wooyoung with his face still buried in the crook of Yeosang’s neck, Yeosang holding him like he needed him to live. And he did. Yeosang needed him.

“I thought I did something,” said Wooyoung, after what felt like an age. “I thought you were angry at me or…”

“I’m sorry, it’s my fault,” said Yeosang. And he knew it was. By distancing himself from Wooyoung he had hurt him, and that was the last thing he’d wanted. 

Wooyoung pulled away, hands dropping to Yeosang’s waist. “You can’t tell me what’s bothering you?” he asked. “Maybe I could help.”

“No, I’m sorry,” said Yeosang. 

“But you’re not mad at me,” said Wooyoung.

“No,” said Yeosang, putting up a small smile. “And I could never hate you. I’m just… just stressed.”

“I wanna help,” said Wooyoung. “Even if you can’t tell me. I could—I could cheer you up, or distract you, make you feel better. I’ll even sit next to you and shut up if you want. Anything.” Hurt touched his gaze again. “Just don’t push me away.”

“I won’t,” said Yeosang. He couldn’t hurt Wooyoung again. 

He looked at Wooyoung, at his sincere, glimmering dark eyes, and without thinking raised a hand to his face.

Yeosang ran his thumb over Wooyoung’s cheek, cupping it gently. It was dry, which was a huge relief. At least Yeosang hadn’t made him cry. At least.

“I love you,” said Yeosang. 

Wooyoung’s eyes widened in surprise. Yeosang didn’t often make declarations of love, not unless things were serious. He couldn’t remember once telling Wooyoung he loved him after Mingi joined the coven. It was understood, after all, and saying it aloud felt unnecessary. But Yeosang needed to say it now. If not for Wooyoung, then for himself. 

“I love you too,” said Wooyoung. 

Yeosang swallowed down the words. He would always have them, no matter what. Even if Wooyoung didn’t mean it the same way Yeosang did, at least Yeosang could hear them. 

He leaned forward and kissed Wooyoung’s cheek.

At once he felt Wooyoung tense in his arms. Yeosang knew it was stupid, he knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t stop himself. He wanted nothing more than to kiss Wooyoung right then. This much should be enough. This much should be allowed.

Yeosang pulled away, still in Wooyoung’s arms, just enough to gauge Wooyoung’s reaction. Wooyoung often kissed him and the others on the cheek, but Yeosang never initiated something like this. He looked shocked, frozen still, only blinking at him.

You’re special, Yeosang wanted to tell him. I love the others, but I’m in love with you.

Wooyoung stared at him, and then his eyes flicked down to Yeosang’s lips. 

It was a small movement, but Yeosang didn’t miss it. Instinctively he parted his lips, and then let his tongue slide out to pull the lower one between his teeth.

Wooyoung let go of Yeosang like he’d been burned. He backed away hurriedly, putting space between them. His eyes were wide, and he looked more than shocked, he looked confused, like he’d been thrown into a storm.

“Woo?” said Yeosang softly, reaching for him.

“Sorry,” said Wooyoung, sidestepping towards the stairs. “Um, sorry, I, you know…” He laughed, but it was high and sounded forced. “I’m going upstairs.”

He fled. Yeosang watched him run upstairs, filled with something he couldn’t describe. He hadn’t missed the way Wooyoung had gone tense when he’d pressed his lips to his cheek, and it hadn’t felt entirely like surprise. And when he’d looked down to Yeosang’s mouth, almost like he was expecting more…

He loves you more, Jongho had said. And Yeosang had dismissed it, thinking it impossible for Wooyoung to return his feelings in the same way. But if Yeosang had changed, if he had realized what he really felt, then was it so wrong to think Wooyoung could do the same?

Suddenly everything didn’t feel so out of reach anymore.