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.
Wooyoung loved it.
He always felt alive when dancing. Letting his body go, letting the music move him, it was so freeing. It was strange but he’d never been much of a dancer while human. He only discovered the magic after dying and turning into a vampire. It felt like a fair exchange.
Right now, in this packed club, it felt more than fair. It was going to be a good night. Wooyoung could feel it in the air down to deep in his veins.
And that’s when he saw him.
Black hair streaked with red, broad shoulders and skinny waist. He was dressed in all black, but there was an edge to it, a sparkle that made Wooyoung think of black diamonds. His moves were like quicksilver. His face was sharp angles and sharper eyes, accentuated with eyeliner, and on his features sat an easy, relaxed confidence that told everyone he knew how good he looked.
He was like a magnet. Wooyoung couldn’t tear his eyes away from him.
He approached casually. The stranger locked eyes with him, and one side of his lips rose in a smirk. Wooyoung took that as an okay. He moved in close, maybe closer than necessary, but the stranger didn’t seem to mind. They moved in rhythm together. Up close, Wooyoung could see that his hair wasn’t black with red streaks, but a very dark red, and that his lips were tinted cherry.
Wooyoung could also smell him, and this stranger smelled incredible. Wooyoung couldn’t remember the last time he’d met a human with such sweet blood. Part of him wanted to tug this guy to one of the backrooms and drink deep from him. Part of him wanted to stay here and dance with him all night.
Wooyoung leaned in until he was right by the stranger’s ear, until his heady scent filled his lungs. “Please tell me you’re not here with a boyfriend,” he said.
The stranger giggled. It was the cutest sound. “No, just with a few friends,” he said. He tilted his head towards Wooyoung, just a hair’s breadth. “San.”
“Jung Wooyoung,” said Wooyoung. He pulled back so San could see his face, and grinned. San smiled in return.
His smile was dimples and sunshine. Wooyoung was hooked.
They danced together. Their natural rhythms were in sync, it was like they were made to move together—Wooyoung didn’t even have to try. San was the one who grabbed Wooyoung’s hand and tugged him away from the crush of people dancing around them. San’s hand was the exact size to fit in Wooyoung’s. It was so natural Wooyoung didn’t even realize until they were outside the crowd, leaned against the wall.
“This is your first time here, right?” asked Wooyoung.
San laughed. It was quieter here, and Wooyoung could hear San more clearly, pick up all the dips and highs of his laughter. “What, you would’ve remembered me if I’d come here before?” he asked, teasing.
“Hey, you’re not allowed to steal all my pickup lines before I try them,” said Wooyoung, and San laughed again.
“I’m guessing you come here all the time,” he said.
Wooyoung shrugged. “Enough for you to find me here again,” he said.
“And what makes you keep coming back here?” asked San.
There was a second question there. Wooyoung wasn’t sure how to answer. He didn’t usually tell people that he was a vampire right off the bat, but San didn’t feel like just people. There was something about him. And judging by the way San looked at him, it seemed like he already knew the answer.
“The people, mostly,” said Wooyoung, trying to play it casual.
San raised an eyebrow at him, and then he laughed. “Right, the people,” he said knowingly.
That was good enough. “And what made you come here?” asked Wooyoung.
San hummed as he thought it over. “Just curious, I think,” he said finally, with a bright smile. It was the sweetest, purest smile Wooyoung had ever seen, for a second he thought he might go blind from it.
“That’s a good enough reason to do anything,” said Wooyoung. “What are you curious about?”
“Right now, you,” said San.
Wooyoung grinned. “I’m here to tell you whatever you wanna know.”
They talked, they danced. Wooyoung got to put his hands on San’s waist and bite his bottom lip with blunt teeth. San smiled against his lips.
“There are a couple of rooms in the back,” said Wooyoung. San’s waist fit perfectly under his hands, and he couldn’t let go of him. “It’s quieter back there. Wanna check them out?”
The rooms were reserved exclusively for feeding—they even had cameras to make sure no one tried anything—but Wooyoung wouldn’t consider it too much of a loss if San didn’t want a bite. San smelled good, but that wasn’t the only thing Wooyoung liked about him.
San thought about it. “I don’t know if I can,” he said. “I’m here with my friends, I can’t disappear back there.”
He frowned like he’d suddenly remembered something, and then reached into his pocket for his phone. He swore as soon as he unlocked it.
“I need to go,” said San, already pulling away. “This was really fun but I really need to go, right now. Thanks, Wooyoung.”
“Uh, you too?” Wooyoung was thrown by San’s hasty exit. He didn’t even get a chance to say a proper goodbye before San had disappeared into the crowd.
Only after he was gone did Wooyoung realize he hadn’t even gotten San’s number and had no way of contacting him. They’d have to leave it up to fate to see if they’d meet again.
Wooyoung grinned. He had a feeling this was only the beginning of something amazing.
The house was emptier than it had any right to be. There were as many people in it as ever, but it felt so empty.
Wooyoung felt adrift in the emptiness.
He’d never felt like this before. He’d always had a tether, a pillar to lean on. But now that pillar was gone. He was gone, and it was all Wooyoung’s fault.
Yeosang had always been a part of Wooyoung’s life. From the moment he woke up in this second life, through all the good times and the bad and the desperation, Yeosang had been there. And the only thing worse than him leaving was knowing that he was hurt and alone, and that Wooyoung had done it.
They were all looking for him. Seonghwa was asking Yeosang’s friends, Jongho was visiting all the places Yeosang often went to, even Yunho and Mingi were helping however they could. But Wooyoung didn’t know if they could find him. Yeosang didn’t want to be found.
I don’t hate you. Don’t look for me.
Wooyoung was so scared half of Yeosang’s message to him was a lie.
But he was even more scared that would be the last thing Yeosang would ever say to him.
Wooyoung raised and turned his head.
“Do you wanna go out?” asked San.
Wooyoung shifted in San’s arms. He didn’t want to go anywhere. Right here, in his bed with his back to San’s chest and held snug in his arms, was the best place in the world.
“We’ll just walk in the backyard,” said San. “Get some fresh air, y’know. It’ll help, I promise.”
Nothing would help until Wooyoung could feel Yeosang again. But San wanted to do it, so Wooyoung forced himself to get up.
He didn’t know what he would’ve done without San. Wooyoung loved Seonghwa and Mingi and even Jongho, but he needed San. San was Wooyoung’s air. When he held him, when he kissed him, Wooyoung remembered he was still alive.
They went down the stairs with hands linked. Seonghwa was out, always busy, but the living room wasn’t empty. Jongho was there.
He and Wooyoung exchanged silent looks. Jongho stared, face blank, and Wooyoung bit his bottom lip. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t know if there was anything to say.
They hadn’t talked since the night before. Wooyoung honestly didn’t remember half the things that happened that night. He remembered going to see Hongjoong, not really knowing what he needed, just knowing he needed to get away from the house. He remembered Hongjoong holding him tight, walking with him out to the gates of his apartment complex and getting a cab for him. He remembered the things Jongho had said.
Jongho hadn’t apologized. And that was okay, because Wooyoung didn’t want an apology. Wooyoung was starting to believe he should be apologizing instead.
To Jongho, and Seonghwa and Mingi. To Yeosang. To San.
But Wooyoung had always been a coward, so he held San’s hand and went outside.
It was nice out. The two of them wandered the lawn in the backyard, keeping away from the boundary, hand in hand. San looked beautiful, dark hair falling into his eyes as he watched the grass get crushed under their feet. The sky was cloudy, every star hidden. Wooyoung caught the outline of the moon behind a cloud.
“San,” he said.
San hummed to show he was listening.
“Why are you still with me?” asked Wooyoung.
San stopped. Wooyoung stopped too. San’s hand was still in his own, and Wooyoung didn’t want it to slip out.
“Because I love you, Wooyoung,” said San.
Wooyoung took San in his arms and held him tight, burying his face in the curve of his neck and shoulder. He didn’t have that tantalizing scent anymore, but he was still San. He was still the boy Wooyoung had always wanted, and would always want.
“I love you too,” mumbled Wooyoung.
San wrapped his arms around Wooyoung and held him there.
For Wooyoung’s first official date with San, they went to an arcade.
It seemed like a good idea. It was open late into the night, the atmosphere was relaxed, Wooyoung didn’t have to worry about pretending to eat food to keep up appearances. They’d gone out to clubs and to dance together, but this was an actual date.
Wooyoung liked dating. He liked spending time with people, getting to know about them and finding new things to do in Seoul. To be more specific, really, Wooyoung liked spending time with new people. He met people, had fun, and then they went their separate ways. People were great, but the shine wore off after a while.
San shimmered. He was radiant like a diamond under light. Wooyoung couldn’t remember the last time he’d met someone who’d shined so much, and he was starting to think the glow wouldn’t fade so fast.
The arcade was a rundown little joint far away from the coven house. The room was cramped, packed with at least a dozen retro games and stuff like claw machines and vending machines filled with capsule toys, all coin-operated. There were no windows, and the lighting was dark, the floors covered in cheap vinyl and a million dirty footprints. Wooyoung hadn’t known places like this still existed in Seoul, forget ever going to one before.
But San moved among the machines with easy familiarity. He knew all the games, which machines were rigged and which were lucky, picking out the ones he thought Wooyoung would enjoy. In the neon lights of a hundred game machines San shined brighter than ever.
They played everything they could. San got all their money broken down into a pile of shiny coins that was too big to hold in their hands. Wooyoung aced the basketball game and all the strength-related games, but he was useless at Pac-Man or anything that required concentration.
“Because you have the attention span of a three-year-old,” said San, laughing his ass off after Wooyoung died in the first minute in Pac-Man again. “Look, just pay attention to where the ghosts are going—”
“There are too many ghosts!” complained Wooyoung. “How am I supposed to look at where all of them are? I don’t have six eyes, San!”
“Then how I do keep track of all of them?” asked San.
Wooyoung opened his mouth, and then closed it. “You’re cheating somehow,” he said finally.
“And you’re a sore loser,” said San, laughing.
He was, but San didn’t need to be so direct about it. “Rematch,” said Wooyoung. “We’ll see who scores higher this time.”
San won. He won the next game, and the next, and the one after that and the one after that one too. Wooyoung didn’t get any better, no matter how many times he tried. And Wooyoung’s competitive nature meant he was a very sore loser, but somehow losing wasn’t that bad when it meant San smiled and laughed like that.
He got San cheap soda and snacks. “You shouldn’t have, it’s all watered down here,” said San, but he took the cup anyway. He took a sip and made a face, and even that made Wooyoung’s heart squeeze in his chest.
“A thank you is good too,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Come on, what do you wanna do next?”
San hummed, tapping the straw against his lips. He pouted all the time, Wooyoung realized. He was willing to bet San didn’t even notice it himself.
They were wandering the little floor space the arcade had, looking for games they hadn’t played yet, when Wooyoung spotted a few claw machines lining the wall. One was filled with a ton of stuffed animals. “Hey,” he said. “You want one of those?”
San stopped to see what Wooyoung was pointing at. “No way,” he said. “You can’t win those. They’re rigged.”
“Do you want one or not?” asked Wooyoung.
“I’ve always wanted one of those,” said San, “but it’s literally impossible to win one, Woo. The claws don’t work right.”
“Now who’s the sore loser?” said Wooyoung with a laugh. “It’s impossible for you, maybe. I’m Jung Wooyoung, and if you want a plushie I’m getting you a damn plushie.”
“You’re an idiot,” said San, but his voice dripped with fondness.
That settled it. Wooyoung had to get one for him now.
The claw machine was old, but looked pretty much like every other claw machine. It was piled with all kinds of stuffed animals, cartoon characters, plushies of different food and objects. Wooyoung slapped the clear plastic window and said, “Which one do you want, baby?”
San carefully peered inside before his eyes finally lit up. “That one,” he said, pointing.
It was a rabbit plushie. It sat in one corner of the machine, right on top of a pile of stuffed plushies of corn and pink hearts. It was about the size of a melon, a creamy white with long ears and a pink bowtie around its neck. It was so perfectly San.
“Okay, it’s yours,” said Wooyoung, and he got to work.
He got close the first time. The claw clipped one leg of the rabbit, but it couldn’t get a grip and returned to the front uselessly. Wooyoung clapped his hands and eagerly fed the machine another coin. He had this in the bag. He was getting San that rabbit.
The first attempt turned out to be a fluke. Because the next time Wooyoung didn’t even touch the damn animal, and the time after that he picked up the heart next to it for a few seconds before the claw lost its grip. Wooyoung cursed and fed a few more coins in.
“Woo, it’s okay,” said San, tugging at his sleeve. “Let’s try some other games. I can beat your ass in Pong again, yeah?”
“Not until I get your bunny,” said Wooyoung, focusing on the moving claw. He cursed when it missed the plushie again.
“You’re gonna be here all night,” said San. “I told you, it’s rigged.”
“I’ll get it,” insisted Wooyoung. “Even if it takes me all night.”
The next attempt was nowhere close. The time after that Wooyoung got the claw to close around the rabbit’s ear, but it slipped off when it tried to lift it. So Wooyoung tried again, and again, and again. Sometimes he got the rabbit out of the pile for a few seconds. Sometimes he was able to grab its leg. One time he actually moved it a few inches before it fell out of the claw. San’s cheers quickly turned to a groan of frustration and a crushing hug of disappointment.
“Fucking thing,” hissed Wooyoung. He furiously fed the piece of shit more coins. He didn’t have many left, and he had no more money to change. It was make or break.
“It’s just a rabbit,” said San. “You really don’t have to do all this.”
“No, I have to,” said Wooyoung, eyes fixed on the claw. “I can’t let you down over a little thing, San. Then I’ll end up letting you down over big things, and I don’t wanna do that.”
San didn’t respond, but Wooyoung wasn’t paying attention. He had to get this rabbit. He had to do it for San.
He positioned the claw for the millionth time. He clenched his jaw. He pressed the descend button.
The claw went down. It hooked right around the midsection of the plushie. Slowly, the rabbit was lifted into the air.
Wooyoung reached out blindly for San, and San grabbed him. They held each other tight as the claw moved, crawled, still miraculously holding onto its precious treasure. And then it released, and the rabbit fell right into the box.
They cheered. Wooyoung grabbed San and spun him in the air, laughing and cheering the entire time. San hugged him tight, and the two of them bounced up and down, still in each other’s arms. Wooyoung couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so elated. He kissed San, long and hard, feeling him smile against his lips the entire time.
He retrieved the rabbit from the box and held it out to San with a bow and a flourish. San laughed in delight and took it.
They spent a little longer at the arcade. It was open 24/7, San said, but there were fewer people now that it was past midnight, and in some corners the dark lingered. Wooyoung didn’t mind. He wasn’t scared of anybody, and he would protect San from anything.
It was almost one when they decided to leave. San had a class in the morning, and although Wooyoung would’ve loved nothing more than spending more time with him he knew he shouldn’t. They were heading towards the exit when they passed by those damned claw machines, and something caught Wooyoung’s attention.
There was a stuffed peach in one of the machines. It was about the same size as San’s rabbit, but a pretty peachy pink, round and soft, with a smiley face stitched onto it.
It was the kind of thing Yeosang would love.
“Baby, one second,” said Wooyoung, veering off towards the machines.
“You can’t be serious,” said San, but he followed him. “I don’t need another one.”
“No, I wanna get one for Yeosang,” said Wooyoung.
He fed in a few coins. The claw just clipped the edge of the peach, and Wooyoung cursed. He got out more coins.
“Wooyoung, it’s really late,” said San.
Wooyoung stopped and looked up at San. “You’re right,” he said, frowning. He straightened. “I’ll drop you home.”
San bit his lip, and then shook his head and smiled. “Let’s get your thing first,” he said. “Maybe you’ll take less than three years this time.”
Wooyoung grinned. He kissed San without thinking twice about it. “I’ll definitely get it,” he said.
He was in the middle of his third attempt when San asked, “Yeosang’s the guy you’re—blood-bonded with? Is that what you called it?”
“Yup,” said Wooyoung. He’d mentioned Yeosang a few times before in passing.
“What’s he like?” asked San. “Like you?”
Wooyoung snorted. “Totally not,” he said, focused on the claw and peach. “He’s… he’s sweet. He’s a little distant from people he doesn’t know, but he’s soft and warm to people he’s close to. He likes cute stuff like this, which really surprised me the first time I met him.”
“He doesn’t seem like the type?” asked San.
“I thought he was, like, made of ice the first time I saw him,” said Wooyoung. “Like an ice sculpture. He’s really pretty, y’know? He’s not just pretty, he’s…” He thought for half a moment, and the perfect word came to him. “He’s breathtaking,” he said.
San didn’t say anything. Wooyoung wondered if maybe he should show him a picture of Yeosang, but pictures never did Yeosang justice. You couldn’t see the hidden softness in him in pictures.
Kind of like how pictures couldn’t capture the way San shined.
Wooyoung reached in his pocket for more coins and found it empty. “Shit,” he muttered. He couldn’t go without winning that peach for Yeosang.
A handful of coins appeared in front of him. He looked up and at San’s warm smile. “Thanks,” said Wooyoung, and took the coins from him.
“It’s nothing,” said San. He paused. “So.”
“Yeah?” Wooyoung was busy getting the claw’s position right.
“Is Yeosang kind of like your brother?”
“Uh…” Wooyoung shrugged. “I guess, sure.”
They weren’t brothers. They were family but they weren’t brothers, Wooyoung was sure about that. But it was difficult to explain, and he didn’t wanna get into it now. It didn’t really matter if San thought they were brothers or not, after all.
“Oh, okay,” said San. He laughed. “That’s great.”
Wooyoung managed to get the peach much faster than he won the rabbit. He pulled it out and grinned, and San beamed back and kissed him sweetly.
That night Wooyoung realized something very important. He wanted Yeosang to meet San. He never cared if Yeosang met the many people he had flings with, but he wanted Yeosang to meet San, and he wanted him to like San.
The shine wouldn’t wear off San, not for Wooyoung.
Brothers. Wooyoung had never liked using that word to describe the relationship between him and Yeosang. Jisung liked it, though.
Their maker always referred to Wooyoung and Yeosang as brothers. Family meant a lot to Jisung, Wooyoung knew. He’d grown up an orphan without any siblings. He’d been alone most of his life. Wooyoung had grown up pretty much the same, so he understood. His mother had died when he was young, and he’d never known his father. Friends, sure, he had a lot of them, but family was a new concept to Wooyoung just as it had been for Jisung.
After Jisung became a vampire, he realized he had a chance to create his own family, and that’s what he did. He called Wooyoung and Yeosang his sons, and encouraged them to call him dad. It hadn’t stuck, but Jisung didn’t mind. He was great like that, so relaxed, never forceful. Wooyoung had taken to him immediately, and they were close from the start.
It was different with Yeosang. Yeosang had been cold to Wooyoung from the very beginning. Wooyoung would always remember the first time he awoke a vampire, opening his eyes and seeing the most beautiful man looking down at him with a cold, impassive gaze. He’d been sure he was dead and in heaven.
The awe faded quickly. Yeosang was just a person, and a rather prickly one. But one night Wooyoung saw him smile, so soft, so gentle, and he was obsessed.
He wanted that smile. He wanted that smile directed at him.
It didn’t take much longer after that. It turned from wanting a smile, to wanting to touch, to wanting to hold and kiss. Wooyoung started squirming in guilt every time Jisung referred to them as brothers, as a family like they were related by blood. He knew there was something wrong with wanting to kiss someone who was supposed to be your brother.
In the end, the guilt got too much. Wooyoung told Jisung.
The older man looked at Wooyoung for a long, long time. They sat facing each other on Jisung’s mattress in their ratty apartment, and Wooyoung had never been so uncomfortable. He wished he’d never told Jisung. He wished he’d never felt like this about Yeosang.
And then, finally, Jisung spoke. “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Wooyoung thought he hadn’t heard right. “What?”
“Thinking of Yeosang in that way, Wooyoung,” said Jisung.
“I know it’s not a good idea,” said Wooyoung desperately. “I’m not—I’m not doing this on purpose, hyung. It’s just how I feel.”
“I think you shouldn’t feel that way anymore,” said Jisung.
Wooyoung stared at him, dumbfounded. He shouldn’t feel that way anymore? He could change his heart, just like that?
“Wooyoung, listen,” said Jisung, calm. “You and Yeosang are brothers. We’re a family. Brothers don’t feel like that about each other, right? They just don’t. So you don’t feel like that about Yeosang.”
Wooyoung blinked at Jisung as he processed that. His maker was right. They were a family. Jisung had brought them together to be a family. It was a bad idea to think about Yeosang in any romantic way.
He didn’t want to kiss Yeosang. He didn’t Yeosang to hold him, not like that. All his feelings were platonic. He didn’t want Yeosang to give him the sweet, secret smile of a lover, he didn’t want to feel that smile against his own lips. That wasn’t how things were.
That wasn’t how Wooyoung felt.
“Sorry,” he said, feeling a little lost. “Sorry, I dunno why I thought that.”
Jisung smiled. “It’s okay,” he said, reaching out to ruffle Wooyoung’s hair affectionately. “You just got a little confused. Right?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” said Wooyoung. He smiled at Jisung. “Thanks, hyung.”
And that was that settled.
In the time between San’s death and his rebirth Wooyoung’s soul was broken into pieces and rebuilt a thousand times over. And when San finally opened his eyes it was like Wooyoung was the one who was born again.
It didn’t matter that he was violent, a mindless creature that only knew blood and nothing else. It was San. He would be himself in the end.
Wooyoung could make it up to him.
He knew he’d fucked up. He hadn’t been able to protect San, even after he’d promised both of them he would. He’d let him down. He’d been dumb and hurt him and made bad decisions, but maybe from now on Wooyoung could be the kind of person San deserved. He could be better.
Yeosang was there.
It was hard for Wooyoung at first. Dealing with the guilt of knowing San had been hurt because he’d been late, having to fight against San’s violent outbursts whenever he was awake. Every time Wooyoung closed his eyes he was right back to holding San’s dead body in his arms. It sunk so deep in his memories, deep in his brain, he thought it would always linger, the shadow of it always present no matter how hard he tried to think of anything else.
But Yeosang was always there. He took care of San. While Seonghwa grappled with side effects of turning a vampire, Yeosang managed the house, made sure they had enough blood, kept things calm and running. He was there for Wooyoung. An ache in Wooyoung’s heart told him that although Yeosang was near, he wasn’t close, not really, but everything was happening so fast and everything was so overwhelming, and Wooyoung never got a moment to stop and see.
And then Yeosang wasn’t there.
“He’ll come back,” said Seonghwa, but Wooyoung could see it in his eyes, he could see that he didn’t really believe it. “We’ll find him.”
“What’s he doing out there alone?” asked Mingi, his voice dripping worry.
Jongho never said anything. San held Wooyoung and kissed his temple and told him it would be okay.
And Yeosang said, I don’t hate you. Don’t look for me.
He didn’t really know why he went to Hongjoong. He had lots of friends, friends who knew he was a vampire and knew Yeosang well enough, friends who could give him comfort or talk to him about all the shit that happened. But for some reason Wooyoung felt like he needed to talk Hongjoong.
So there he was, sitting in Hongjoong’s little living room, tearing himself apart on the inside. Hongjoong kept saying it wasn’t his fault, but Wooyoung couldn’t convince himself that. How could it not be his fault? How was all this not happening because of him?
What was Wooyoung supposed to do to make it right?
The doorbell interrupted the silence that settled between them. Wooyoung didn’t even realize who it was until he was sitting on the other end of the couch from him.
Jongho didn’t say anything. He’d become even quieter since Yeosang’s disappearance, and when he did talk it wasn’t to Wooyoung. Wooyoung didn’t try to start a conversation. He wasn’t feeling up for it, and he was more than content to sit in silence with Jongho until Hongjoong came back from whatever he was doing in another room.
For a second Wooyoung didn’t realize it was directed at him. He turned to Jongho, confused. “Huh?”
“You’re honestly unbelievable,” said Jongho with a scoff. “It’s not enough that everyone in the house coddles you? You have to come here and play the victim with him too?”
“What?” Wooyoung couldn’t process what was going on. “What are you talking about?”
“You know,” said Jongho, voice dripping with disdain. “Everyone blames Yeosang-hyung for leaving, but you know the real reason he left. It’s because of you.”
When soft lips pressed against Wooyoung’s like they were always meant to be there, hands buried in his hair. When Yeosang knelt on his bed in front of him and cried. Wooyoung couldn’t speak then, and he couldn’t now.
“You used him for comfort when San turned,” said Jongho, and he sounded so cold. “And now San’s okay so you threw hyung away and went back to San.”
“No,” said Wooyoung, jumping to his feet. “That’s not true.”
“It is, and you know it,” hissed Jongho. “He left all of us because of you. He’s hurt and alone out there without his coven because of you. And everyone keeps talking about bringing him back but you know he won’t come back, don’t you? That’s why you’re using San now—”
“That’s not true!” yelled Wooyoung, vision blurring.
“You don’t deserve him,” said Jongho, as he stood too. “You don’t deserve either of them—”
Wooyoung punched him.
The rest of it was a blur. He knew he tried to hit Jongho again, he tried to make him shut up and stop saying all those things. He knew Hongjoong came between them and held him while he broke down.
And Wooyoung knew he’d been too blind for too long, and there was no escape anymore.
When San said he wanted to meet, Wooyoung was excited. He was always eager to see San, he never needed a reason or occasion. There was something about San, a shine that came from deep within, something special and unique that Wooyoung would never get tired of.
He loved San. There was zero doubt in Wooyoung’s mind. It was like gravity, something you didn’t need to think about for it to work, something you just knew existed and would never stop existing. Wooyoung loved him.
He didn’t think it was wrong that he wanted to be with San forever. He’d thought San felt the same.
So when San stood before Wooyoung, bathed in the neon lights of the busy vampire den where they’d first met, and told him he wanted to end things, Wooyoung thought he was hearing wrong.
“What?” he said, and he couldn’t stop a nervous little laugh from escaping. There was no way he’d heard that right. There was no way San said—
“I’m sorry, Woo,” said San. “I’m so sorry.”
Wooyoung opened his mouth and closed it. This couldn’t be happening. It wasn’t happening.
But he knew it was. He knew it really was, because San looked so hurt, his eyes glimmering like diamonds with held back tears.
San was breaking up with him.
“Why?” asked Wooyoung. His voice sounded small to his own ears.
San took a deep breath. “The turning, Woo,” he said.
“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to,” said Wooyoung at once. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”
“Who did you want to turn me?” asked San. “Seonghwa-hyung?”
“I like Seonghwa-hyung a lot,” said San. “But the blood bond. I don’t—I don’t want to be bonded like that to someone. So close, like you and Yeosang.”
“It’s not like that,” said Wooyoung quickly. “Yeosang and I are special. It’s not the blood bond between us.”
San’s gaze sharpened. “Then you know.”
The sudden shift in mood threw Wooyoung. “What?”
“Wooyoung, please,” said San, and he sounded almost desperate. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself. It’s—it’s okay. It’s okay, Woo, just tell me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Wooyoung.
“Yes, you do,” said San. “You know. You know it’s not just the blood bond between you and Yeosang.”
Wooyoung wanted to back away, feeling panic rise. Why was San bringing up Yeosang? What did Yeosang have to do with their breakup?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said again.
San stared at him for a long moment, and then he sighed and looked away. The hurt was back, more palpable than ever, and Wooyoung wished he could make it go away. He wished he could do something right.
“I’m not breaking up because of the turning,” said San. “I love you, Wooyoung. I’m breaking up with you because you’re not being honest with me.”
“I am,” said Wooyoung, desperate. San couldn’t leave him. “I am, I swear.”
“If you can’t be honest with yourself, you can’t be honest with me,” said San. “I can’t be in the middle of this anymore. I’m sorry.”
He turned and walked away, and Wooyoung just stood there and watched.
Wooyoung had been crushed when Jisung died. He’d loved Jisung as his maker, as his guide and protector, his family. But Wooyoung had picked himself back up and kept moving. He forged ahead, he kept living. Wooyoung was resilient like that. Most of his childhood had been spent on the streets, and he knew how to survive, he knew how to keep moving forward.
But he knew if anything happened to Yeosang, he’d never live past it.
It was so hard to feed. There were vampire hunters everywhere, and after Jisung’s death they couldn’t get any information on where other vampires gathered and found humans to feed on. A group of hunters had somehow gotten Yeosang and Wooyoung’s scent. There were three of them, and everywhere they went, no matter where they hid, the hunting group was there too. They were trying to starve the two of them out.
Yeosang was wasting away right in front of Wooyoung’s eyes. Every night he got weaker, and sometimes he spaced out and Wooyoung had to call his name a few times before he snapped out of it. Wooyoung marked out every night that passed since Yeosang last fed properly, and too many marks were collecting on the drywall.
Yeosang was dying. Wooyoung knew what he had to do.
It was easier than he expected. He was fast, silent when he needed to be. He had the element of surprise on his side. No hunter ever expects to become prey.
It was after midnight when Wooyoung returned to the apartment in the abandoned building that he and Yeosang had made their temporary home. It was a depressing place, dank and dirty. Wooyoung had had to line planks along the windows to keep the sun out during daylight hours, and there was no furniture beyond a few broken chairs, no electricity, no running water.
Yeosang raised his head the moment the door opened. His eyes went wide, mouth falling open as Wooyoung walked in.
Behind him he dragged the limp body of a vampire hunter.
“Woo,” said Yeosang, voice hushed.
“It’s okay,” said Wooyoung calmly. His hands were covered in blood, shirt stained deep red. The dragging body left a trail of red drops, bright as rubies. “It’s okay, Yeosangie. You need to feed.”
“Wooyoung,” said Yeosang. He swallowed as Wooyoung dragged the body to the pile of bedding on the floor that they’d made their bed. “Wooyoung, this… this is…”
“Yeah, it is,” said Wooyoung. “I told you, it’s okay. We’re safe, and you can feed.”
“Where are the others?” asked Yeosang. He reached for Wooyoung, movements weak but desperate. “There were three of them. Are you hurt? Did you get hurt?”
“I’m not hurt,” said Wooyoung.
It was like Yeosang didn’t even hear him. “You shouldn’t have gone after them,” he said. “You could’ve gotten hurt. It’s not worth the risk—”
“It is worth it,” said Wooyoung, cutting him off. “It’s worth it for you.”
He looked down at Yeosang, at his wide, shining eyes, his delicate frame, and whatever pillar that held up Wooyoung’s calmness collapsed. He fell to his knees and held Yeosang by the shoulders, gentle but firm. He couldn’t hold Yeosang with any more strength; he was filled with the sudden fear that his bones would break like a hummingbird’s.
“Yeosang,” said Wooyoung. “You need to live. I can’t live without you. It’s all worth it.”
Yeosang stared at him, eyes shimmering, and nodded.
Wooyoung moved back to let Yeosang feed. The human didn’t wake up, not even when Yeosang sank his fangs into his throat. Wooyoung had been scared for a moment that he’d killed him trying to capture him, but the man was still alive for now.
Yeosang pulled away from the human too soon. “You should too,” he said. “You should feed too, properly.”
Wooyoung shook his head. “I already did,” he said.
“You shouldn’t have brought him here,” said Yeosang. “When he wakes up he might remember. The others might come looking for him—”
“No one’s going to come looking,” said Wooyoung.
They looked at each other in silence. And then the tears finally brimmed over and Yeosang was crying.
Wooyoung had never seen him cry before. Even when Jisung died, Yeosang had held Wooyoung while he’d cried, but he’d been dry-eyed in front of him the entire time. He hid his tears from Wooyoung, from everyone. But now the tears streamed down his face, and Wooyoung could only watch.
“Thank you,” said Yeosang. He wiped his face, but there were still more tears. “For me. You did this for me.”
“Yeah,” said Wooyoung. He swallowed. “It’s you and me until the end, Yeosang. If we live, we live together. And if we die, we die together.”
Yeosang said nothing. He only looked at Wooyoung, eyes still wet. And then, finally, he spoke.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you too,” said Wooyoung, and he had never meant anything more. “We’ll get through this, Yeosang. You and me together, always.”
Yeosang nodded. There was a bit of blood at the corner of his mouth, and for one moment, just one single moment, Wooyoung wanted to press his lips to it and kiss it off.
He quickly discarded the thought. He couldn’t think of that again. All that mattered was that Yeosang was safe, and that he’d be okay.
Wooyoung sat back and watched Yeosang feed.
How long could Wooyoung run?
There was nowhere to run to anymore. There was nothing that was worth it anymore. It wasn’t about him anymore.
He didn’t knock before he entered. He walked in, knowing he was always welcome, at least for now. One last time, Wooyoung would be welcomed. After tonight everything would be done and finished.
San looked up from where he was sitting on the bed. “Woo?”
Wooyoung swallowed. “I need to talk to you.”
“Yeah, of course,” said San, frowning when he saw the look on Wooyoung’s face. Wooyoung had no idea what was written there.
He shifted slightly, and Wooyoung sat opposite him by the edge of the bed. This had been the spare room, now San’s own. Wooyoung had started sleeping here after Yeosang left. Wrapped up tightly around San, he got some peace before sunrise came. He wondered if San would ever let him hold him again after tonight.
“What’s wrong, baby?” asked San gently.
So much was wrong. Wooyoung had done so much wrong. Now he finally had to face it, no matter what happened after.
“San,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
San’s features softened. “Woo—”
“I’m really sorry,” said Wooyoung, and something in him broke. Tears filled his eyes, and they were too many hold back. “I’m really sorry, baby, I’m sorry I’m—I’m like this—”
Immediately San’s arms were around Wooyoung, pulling him close to his chest and holding him there. Wooyoung wanted to stop crying, he wanted to finally be strong and say it clearly like San deserved to hear, but he couldn’t. The tears never ran out. He burrowed closer into San’s solid chest but he couldn’t stop crying.
“Woo, baby, shh.” San’s voice was soft, soothing. “It’s okay, it’s okay…”
His sweet love only made Wooyoung feel worse. San deserved better than this. He deserved all of a person, not whatever Wooyoung was giving him.
“I’m sorry,” said Wooyoung, forcing the words out of his tight throat. “I’m sorry, you were right. I knew it. I just—I just pretended like I didn’t, like it wasn’t, but it—I knew and now—now it’s too late and he’s gone.”
San didn’t say anything. He tightened his embrace around Wooyoung.
“I’m in love with Yeosang,” said Wooyoung.
Silence followed Wooyoung’s words. The only sound in the room was Wooyoung’s quiet sobs. When San finally spoke, his voice was quiet.
“I know,” he said.
Wooyoung took a deep, shuddering breath.
“I know, Woo,” said San softly. “I knew for so long. I just needed you to know.”
“I’m sorry,” whispered Wooyoung. “I’m so sorry. I love you, San.”
“I know that too.”
Wooyoung raised his gaze to meet San’s. San looked down at him, face so open, and he was smiling but his eyes were wet with unshed tears. “I know,” said San. “I know you love me. I love you too, Wooyoung.”
For a moment Wooyoung couldn’t speak. “But—but I—”
“It’s okay,” said San. “You don’t need to beat yourself up over this. You’re not selfish for loving us both.”
“I am,” said Wooyoung. He couldn’t hold back the fresh assault of tears. “I am, because I can’t—I can’t let go of either of you. I need both of you to be happy. That’s not fair, San, it’s not fair to you or Yeosang.”
San sighed softly. “Wooyoung…”
“I’m in love with Yeosang,” said Wooyoung. “But I can’t give you up to get him back.”
“You don’t have to,” said San. “We’re… we’ll find Yeosang. We’ll get him back. And then—then we can figure this out, okay?”
“I don’t deserve you,” said Wooyoung, sobbing. “I don’t deserve either of you.”
“No, baby, you deserve to be happy,” said San.
He held Wooyoung tight against his chest, and Wooyoung held onto him and cried all his tears out.