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Die for you, Kill for you, Spill this blood for you

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“Mr. Park, is it true that you were arrested due to the prejudices of the police officer against you and your husband?”

The woman reporter’s gaze is sharp on him, cameras from several television channels being shoved into his face. It would be easy to make the conclusion of the woman being a homophobe, but the twitch of her eye to a distant corner where his black limo is parked conveys an entirely different story.

Jongho’s loyalty is unwavering, Seonghwa realizes for the umpteenth time.

San’s arm around his waist tightens, a small warning that he’s zoning out in front of a hoard of journalists.

“His actions seem to strongly suggest such an intention, so I guess I’ll have to agree to the conclusion you’ve made,” Seonghwa says, accentuating his words with a grim nod.

Seonghwa makes sure his face is friendly enough with a tinge of visible disappointment in order to sell it to the audience back home. He knows at least half the nation is watching this live broadcast. 

“Would you say that he is homophobic?” The woman asks, her tone sharp and merciless like journalists generally tend to be, but the way her eyes swim in faux suspicion is a clear give-away. She’s killing the game, he thinks and from beside him, Seonghwa can see that even San is impressed.

“Yes, I would,” Seonghwa says firmly, letting his gaze wander to San who is putting on the best show as a distraught man who has been wrongly framed. The light red eyeshadow around his foxy eyes is a contrast against his pale skin and Seonghwa wants to bury himself inside him and hear him scream, but they’re in public. He’ll save it for when they get home and makes a mental note to live up to his own words.

“He sent us hate mails every day and planted bundles of coke at our condiments factory with the intention to take us down because he couldn’t see two people who loved each other be happy and successful. The divisive rhetoric is getting boring and I assure you that my husband and I have no intention to lie down and take the beating. We are human too, and we have rights,” Seonghwa says and taps San’s back for him to take the cue.

“We are just glad that the court and the jury decided in favor of truth and didn’t let themselves be swayed due to bias towards the law enforcement officers.”

San bites his bottom lip as if he is nervous and when Seonghwa turns to look at him, his eyes are sparkling wet. San’s always been too good at this part of the game taking advantage of emotions to ensure redemption and to convince others.

One of the cameramen wipes his eyes and Seonghwa feels a loud laugh bubble within him, but he holds on to his mastery over his self-control and lets the situation play out. San looks at him, lips wobbling and wet and so fucking irresistible that Seonghwa needs a moment to cool off.

Put on a show ,” San’s eyes tell him.

My pleasure ,” Seonghwa conveys as he cradles San to his chest and waves the cameras away.

“I apologize for the interruption, but I’m afraid that San isn’t in the best place mentally. This whole situation has taken a toll on him. I hope you’ll understand that we need to get home, so if you would please.”

Any other day, Seonghwa wouldn’t tack on the plea at the end of the statement. He was a powerful man and no one of his stature who unfailingly came in the top five in the list made at the end of every financial year would ever stoop down like this to a bunch of raunchy journalists with no respect for personal space. However, Seonghwa goes the extra mile and does it only because he’s fully aware that human emotions are the most malleable in terms of being susceptible to manipulation.

Several of the journalists turn to each other with knowing looks and mumble apologies as they split in the middle, letting them walk through. Jongho sees them coming and opens the door to the back seat of the car parked further away into the parking lot. The younger waves at them, leaning against the car with his hands down his pockets.

Seonghwa shares a look with him. Jongho uses his thumb to scratch the side of his nose in a characteristic move.

The reporter’s finance was already dealt with then.

“He’s so fucking smart,” San mumbles into the space under his collarbone, catching how Jongho has taken care of yet another complication for them, his lips imprinting the words through the material of the crisp black shirt he’s wearing.

“Smart huh? Are you saying you want to fuck him?” Seonghwa asks crassly, letting his lips curl into a feral grin now that there aren’t any cameras surrounding them.

San lets out a long whine. Seonghwa feels it surge through his whole body.

It’s a shame that they’re out in the open like this, feet carrying them to where Jongho waits with the backdoor open. San looks like he’s begging to be ruined.

“Is that what you dream about? Getting to watch someone else fuck me and lie back to enjoy the show?” San’s hand on his pectoral turns into a loose claw as his nails dig over the shirt, cheek still grazing Seonghwa’s chest.

Seonghwa feels his blood boil with familiar and irrational jealousy at the mere thought of someone else touching San. He wouldn’t think twice before putting a bullet in their skull. It didn’t matter who it was.

“No, the only dream I have is of watching myself ruining you, Sannie. You’re mine,” Seonghwa growls, his arm around San’s thin waist squeezing his hip bone.

“Someone’s feeling it today,” San says but instead of the giggle Seonghwa expects, he turns his gaze downward to see San’s intense and sultry gaze fixed on him.

A heady feeling of arousal rushes through Seonghwa the more he looks at his husband and he’s grateful when they finally reach the car, Jongho smiling knowingly at them. 

“I’ll roll up the partition,” he says, winking and saluting before he gets in the driving seat and buckles himself in.

Seonghwa has barely settled in his seat when San straddles his lap, his knees settled on either side of his thighs. Seonghwa raises an eyebrow.

“We could wait till we reach home,” he offers. 

San’s eyes are still a little red from the award-worthy crying scene he’d created for their alibi, but Seonghwa has always found it a little hard to have San the way he wants when he looks like this. It’s illogical because he already knows that it’s just for the sake of keeping their reputation, but it doesn’t make it very easy to ignore that San had to cry for it to be convincing.

Seonghwa has had his share of watching San cry to last a lifetime.

“Seonghwa, hands and eyes on me,” San says, tangling his fingers in his hair and harshly tilting his head back, sitting on his thighs now, his weight settling on Seonghwa, like he knew the exact speed at which Seonghwa was tumbling down a rabbit hole he knew to avoid.

Seonghwa grits his teeth at the sharp sting of pain, feeling the touch of San’s soft lips as he leans in and licks a stripe up his neck, placing feather-light kisses along the column of his throat. Seonghwa closes his eyes in the combined exhilaration from being kissed and the sting from San’s grip on the long strands of hair. He scoots forward, his crotch dangerously close to San’s and San moans even as he kisses down his neck, the sound carrying through Seonghwa’s throat.

“Let me,” Seonghwa says, voice straining from his head being forced backwards.

San’s other hand comes up and joins the one already touching his head and he digs his nails into his scalp, laughing when Seonghwa groans again.

“Focussed now?” San asks, lips already slightly swollen from assaulting his neck. 

“I could never zone out on you, not when you’re so ready for me like this, San. You know that,” Seonghwa whispers as his fingers move in a practiced motion as he unbuttons San’s shirt.

San rolls his shoulders, toned muscles rippling with the moment, Seonghwa’s eyes catching on the scars adorning his body. He’s got his fair share of them under his shirt too, but San’s are different. He wasn’t born into this business after all.

Seonghwa drifts back to the present and cups his ass with both his hands and smiles into San’s neck when his husband moans loudly at the contact. 

It was a good thing that Jongho had the foresight to roll the partition up, at least he’s saved from having to see San’s eyes roll back obscenely, but there’s nothing to be done against how loud San gets at the slightest touch.

Seonghwa lets one hand crawl up and pinch San’s waist as he cranes his neck to kiss San. San meets him in the middle, his lips still stretched into a wide smile as Seonghwa finally takes the opening and licks into his mouth with fervor, groaning at the sparks it sends up his bloodstream. 

San’s fingers on his hair massage softly as Seonghwa languidly laps at his mouth, alternating between biting his lip and letting his tongue roam the walls of his mouth. San tastes like the cola he had from the vending machine next to the lawyer’s office.

Seonghwa squeezes his waist, letting his hands roam all over the smooth plane of San’s body. San’s fingers leave his head and Seonghwa whines at the absence.

“Shirt off, Seonghwa,” San says, voice husky and looking utterly ruined even if all they’ve done is make out for a few minutes.

San loves to dirty talk when they have sex, Seonghwa’s learned to do it and gotten better at it from being on the receiving end alone, but he’s also aware that despite the litany of obscenities that pour out of San’s mouth unfailingly, his husband’s favorite word to use has always been Seonghwa’s name, his pretty mouth curling around the syllables in a downright sinful manner that by the time they come, Seonghwa has forgotten his name and remembers only his husband’s. In the moments when San says his name when Seonghwa still has control over his actions is the best kind of turn on for him because San says it like it’s the one thing he wants to say for an eternity and it never fails in making Seonghwa breathless. 

There is something so exhilarating about the sight, so irresistible about San’s face turned to the side and pressed to the pillow, eyes screwed shut, long eyelashes slightly wet, toes curled and Seonghwa’s name at the tip of his tongue with every soft breathy moan.

“Why don’t you take it off yourself, babe?” Seonghwa asks, cockily raising an eyebrow as San rolls his eyes and fiddles with his shirt’s buttons, fumbling with how he’s rushing it.

Seonghwa laughs and earns himself a bright giggle and a bite to his collarbone, exactly in that order.

“Help me out, you dick,” San says, accentuating his words with another bite to his ear, his teeth snagging the long earring he’s wearing today, the one Seonghwa remembers to be a gift he’d bought for him for his birthday, years blurring together.

Seonghwa laughs again, eyes raking over how gorgeous San looks perched on his lap, shirtless and ready to give him everything he asks for. San’s never denied him anything, so Seonghwa’s always careful with him because he knows he has his limits, limits San will never let him know until he’s stretched thin. Sometimes though, he likes being pulled beyond his boundaries, Seonghwa has stayed by his side long enough to know when to back off.

“This dick,” Seonghwa points in the direction of his crotch and grinds forward for effect, enjoying the way San’s breath stutters on a needy whine, “is going to be in you soon, so why don’t you be my pretty little husband and get this shirt off me, yeah?”

San leans in again and this time, he nips at his jawline, hands still working on the shirt, keening low and desperate, his voice high in a tell that told Seonghwa that he really wanted him to fuck him to oblivion today. He finally gets all the buttons undone and whoops victoriously. Seonghwa presses his palms against his shoulder and pushes him backwards, his body bending at an angle it isn’t supposed to. 

It’s a good thing that San’s flexible. Seonghwa licks his stomach, muscles taut with the tension of being shoved back and being asked to hold the position. San’s mouth is open as Seonghwa leaves little bite marks everywhere his mouth touches, sweat and the delectable taste of San’s skin.

Seonghwa knows from experience that San loves being manhandled like this. He carries on the ministrations, stopping when San lets out a breathless cry of his name, half in pleasure and half in pain.

He knows that they’re both incredibly turned on by now. 

“Floor?” Seonghwa asks with a glance at the burgundy mat.

The limo has the seat arranged like a horseshoe, the curve flattening near the driver’s seat where the partition is already rolled up. The space in between the seats is empty, the minibar table which had previously been placed in the middle had been taken away by Jongho in the morning just in case the media decided to be nosy today.

This is not the first time Seonghwa has taken San here, but he asks for permission every time because he knows that carpet burn wasn't the best thing to lose an orgasm out to. 

It doesn't help with the guilt that will come later too, when San would shower and come lie down next to him, only to wince in pain at the lightest of touches of Seonghwa's hand curling around his back.

That's the thing though. Seonghwa doesn't want to hurt San. All his life, he's done the things he never wanted to, forced himself to take over an empire he never wanted anything to do with, to go into the kind of crime-infested life he spent dreaming about escaping ever since he knew the difference between right and wrong, he'd given up all of it all for the man straddling him. 

It had never been an option for Seonghwa. For San, he would demolish the entire world and rebuild it, solely to destroy it again and leave it in pieces at San's behest. Seonghwa has given up a lot of things for his husband, he's aware that some of the decisions he'd made to ensure San's safety was brash and not completely thought through, but all of it had been for the man he loved with all his heart, the man he'd vowed to protect till the day he breathed his last, the man who'd looked at Seonghwa for the first time like he was just a young boy and not a monster, the same man who'd brought the twist of fate and turned Seonghwa's life into an ironical one, teaching him to live the existence he hated, to live like a monster he was born to be while making him learn how to enjoy it even if a younger version of himself had decided otherwise, had never seen this particular turnabout, this hairpin bend coming. 

San's alluring sensual gaze meets his, a yearning palpable in the dark pools of his eyes, as if he was asking for him to take him like he meant it with all his being. 

Anywhere ,” San says, grinding down into his lap to add effect to his words. Seonghwa tugs him closer roughly and kisses him, their teeth clacking painfully, San’s breath hitching at the contact. They’re both already painfully hard, every touch sending jolts of pleasure up their spines.

Seonghwa lifts him with his arms under his thighs, crouching to accommodate to the height of the car. He doesn’t see the curve coming, the car swerving unexpectedly and immediately twists around, San still in his grip, his arms looped around his neck. Seonghwa lands flat on his back with San on top of him, already resigning himself to the fact that his back will bruise at the impact.

San’s eyes widen as he untangles his fingers connected behind his neck and leans forward.

“Babe, you okay?” San asks, his palms resting on Seonghwa’s chest, hair messy and lips saliva slick.

“My pride is shattered,” Seonghwa answers, groaning as he shifts, eyes closing at the ache spreading on his back.

When he opens his eyes, San’s face is impossibly close to his, his eyes dark, pupils dilated to the edges of his irises. 

“I can kiss it better,” San says, head tilted to one side, before he rolls his hips sinfully and proceeds to kiss Seonghwa, keeping it teasing with kitten licks and interspersed bites. Seonghwa responds enthusiastically, instantly falling into step with San as he lets the years of familiarity play out. 

San’s still fairly loose from the morning sex they’d indulged in to get rid of the nerves before they left for the trial. Seonghwa grabs the lube from the supply box under the seat before San’s hand covers his, the bottle taken out of his hands.

Seonghwa knows what’s coming next. He straightens up, watching as San leans back against the seat and shimmies out of his pants and underwear, fumbling a little as the car’s movement hinders him, both hands occupied with no leverage to hold onto.

San’s eyes roll back to his head and Seonghwa’s breath catches. It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before. In fact, he’s probably so well acquainted with San’s body that he could paint him in his sleep, but it still stuns him into silence when San’s skin is on display like this, his frame curvy and muscular in all the right ways which leave Seonghwa’s mouth dry.

San opens his eyes and looks at him just as he inserts the first finger into his hole, teeth worrying his bottom lip. Seonghwa shrugs out of his shirt and sits back to watch every twist of San’s fingers, his styled hair already fallen apart and sticking up in the perfect iteration of sex hair.

“Like what you see, babe?” San purrs, moaning right after, his index finger gliding into his hole gloriously. Seonghwa can’t help the way his gaze hooks on to his husband’s ring finger, their wedding band glinting like a reminder that San was his, that he could touch, that he could take.

Always ,” Seonghwa whispers, crawling to San’s personal space and kissing his throat. He tips his chin up and kisses his jaw before letting his lips find the other’s, spit slick and a little raw from their rough make out session. Seonghwa’s hand finds San’s and he guides his fingers up as San’s other hand comes up to cradle his jaw, breathing heavy and hot against him, mouth lolling open every now and then.

Seonghwa can tell that San’s tightly coiled like a string now, that he is getting impatient.

“Can I?” He asks, guiding San’s finger out of his hole when he nods softly against his neck, head on his shoulder.

Seonghwa pulls back a little to take the lube and pour a generous amount of it on his fingers, warming the cold liquid by rubbing them together. In the span of a couple of minutes, San’s already a squirming mess in front of him, hands pressed against Seonghwa’s body, nails scratching and digging into his skin as his hips stutter every now and then for some delicious friction.

Seonghwa’s already hard, cock straining against his pants as is San who is sweaty, flushed and completely naked.

Seonghwa finally pushes in slowly, San’s back pressed against the carpet, his black hair fanning out on the burgundy, making him look like he deserves to be in an art museum and not under Seonghwa’s bloody hands. San looks up at him like he knows exactly what he’s thinking and clamps down on his cock like a reminder to get a move on.

Seonghwa grabs one of his wrists and hooks it beside his head, letting his other hand cradle his jaw as he thrusts in rapidly, cock dragging against the tight, wet walls of his hole.

“I wanted to feel you,” San says a little after both their orgasms have crashed down on them. Seonghwa kisses the corner of his mouth and laughs softly.

“Cleaning up would have been a pain,” he says, laughing again when San whines in complaint.

“Thank you, Seonghwa,” San says as he lies back down on the carpet after kissing him again, Seonghwa’s favorite kind of flush covering him head to toe, sweat making his body glisten. Seonghwa wipes his stomach with the wet wipes he keeps under the seat and looks up at the words.

“Thank you for what?” he asks, curious about the sudden gratitude.

San wasn’t the type to indulge in meaningful conversations unless he was in the mood to and he rarely let himself traverse those lanes of his mind. Seonghwa has always respected that, knowing better than to prod when he knew exactly why San was the way he was. Some days, sex and cuddles were the only significant spokes of the wheel that was their love language and Seonghwa was perfectly fine with that.

“For loving me,” San says after enough time has passed for Seonghwa to dress him as San laid out on the carpet, completely fucked out and noodle-limbed.

Seonghwa freezes at the late response. He’s killed countless people after his foray into the family business, but the thrill of the kill will never hold a candle to the way San’s confessions, gently whispered in moments like this, lights up a million lanterns in his heart, the river of blood of the victims of the other side of himself flowing, rippling cold and untamed.

In the boat stranded in the middle of it all, Seonghwa sees himself and San, their faces tilted up at the sky.

It’s not the ideal picture, but with San there, it looks perfect.

“I love you too,” he says, leaning in again and pressing his lips to San’s forehead, hoping that San knows that he means it with all his heart.

 

***

 

Seonghwa’s fourteen years old and interested in everything except chemistry when the house next door is bought by someone. It’s been empty ever since they moved in seven years ago, perhaps even earlier than that. Seonghwa has spent many evenings during summer vacation looking at the window opposite his own, the orange translucent glass shimmering in the light before the weather wore it out with the constant shift between thunderstorms and dusty summers.

In the nights he feels particularly lonely, Seonghwa takes up a book, drags the chair to the window sill and switches on the table light he places on it, reading his favorite books because he’s never been the type of kid to run around parks and play in the sand, not when he was always aware of the fate which awaited him. He preferred biking quietly along the sidewalk and returning home to the exact part where Max gifts Leisel with a book he made in the confines of a basement in Nazi Germany. His gaze flickers to the window every now and then in those nights, more out of habit of keeping an eye on his surroundings as per the advice of his parents than anything else.

Seonghwa is also one among the top three students in his class and he knows exactly when paying attention turns to wanting attention from someone who cared for him more than his parents who were busy with everything that came with their business. He stares longingly at the window even when the logic in his mind beyond that of a fourteen-year-old’s bears down on him and tells him that there’s no way someone would magically appear for him.

Seonghwa watches from the balcony as the black SUV similar to the one his uncle owns as it drives into the driveway next door. He pretends like he’s staring at the garden in front of his house when the car halts. Seonghwa squints against the setting rays of the run and sees the young boy who hops gently into the asphalt, clean white sneakers touching the ground.

Spring and everything nice , is Seonghwa’s first thought.

The boy’s head is facing the ground in a way that is achingly familiar and relatable as he lugs a backpack on his shoulders and walks towards the door. Seonghwa realizes with a shock that there was a chance that the room upstairs could be occupied by the boy and feels joy overtake his heart.

Seonghwa hates his classmates who only stick around him because his parents were rich, who borrowed his homework because he was smart and sang praises about his hair to make sure they were always in his list when the only reason he grows it out is that he hates his face. 

He looks at the boy and sees a potential friend.

Seonghwa turns around only to see the glint of metal on the chest of the man who steps out of the driving seat and immediately feels his heart break.

Maybe their paths are never meant to cross, Seonghwa tells himself, because the son of a crime lord and the son of a cop, there aren’t many happy endings that can be borne from that.

Seonghwa turns back around and goes to his room, blinking slowly up at the ceiling.

Disaster , he tells himself and sighs.

 

***

 

Seonghwa slams the door shut behind him, slipping the knuckle rings off of his hand, momentarily wincing at the deep red bruises circling his fingers. Jongho hands him a warm washcloth silently.

“It was the Kim family,” Seonghwa says, anger still thrumming in his veins. He wipes the crimson coating his fingers and shakes his hand to relax them, wrist singing with the strain of punching the infiltrator in the face.

“What do you want me to do?” Jongho asks, taking back the washcloth, now slightly bloody.

Seonghwa contemplates his options for a moment.

“Tell them that I know. That poking their head into my business won’t be the safest option for them in the long run.”

Jongho smirks at him with a nod. He must consider himself dismissed because he turns on his heel and walks to the door. He stops just short of the doorway.

“Shall I add a present for impact? A guard maybe?” Jongho asks, eyes hungry for approval.

Seonghwa lets his lips curve in a smile. “Yeah, that sounds good to me.”

Jongho returns the smile, his gaze slightly manic. 

“Jongho,” he calls again, “make it count.”

Seonghwa knows that the younger will. Jongho nods again and opens the door as Seonghwa leans back against the desk, the exhaustion from the day catching up to him.

Maybe it had been a bad idea to have an office in the house apart from the one he had had in the company headquarters. San had warned him against it, but Seonghwa had gone ahead and done it only because of his skepticism and lack of faith in everyone who wasn’t his husband or Jongho.

“Someone’s a little tired.”

San’s leaning against the frame of the door, the navy blue satin robe wrapped around him loosely, the deep V neckline giving Seonghwa a glimpse at his torso. His gaze is soft with a kind of warmth he saves only for Seonghwa.

Seonghwa holds out a hand quietly, beckoning his husband. He sees San’s eyes catch on the bruises and he sighs as San connects their fingers. He is sleep warm from the afternoon nap and Seonghwa wants to lean into him and inhale the scent of comfort and love, something only San could make him feel.

Seonghwa spreads his legs so that San can fit between them and feels a smile come on as San leans in close and pecks him on the corner of his mouth. Seonghwa curls his arms around San’s waist and lets his head rest on his chest, one of San’s hands dancing along his spine before it reaches his nape and plays with the hair there.

“Want to go out tonight?” San asks in the silence that hangs in the room. Seonghwa makes a disgruntled whine at the back of his throat in denial.

“Want to stay in and cuddle?” San asks. Seonghwa can hear the smile in his voice and it makes him hold him tighter against him, the side of his face pressed against San’s bare chest where the satin has moved away more than it already was.

He nods and feels San drop a kiss on top of his head.

“Want me to blow you?” San asks again, hands still carding through Seonghwa’s hair with practiced ease. Seonghwa strokes the small of San’s back and shakes his head.

“Okay,” San mumbles, nodding, leaning further back and cupping his face to kiss him full on the mouth. 

“Now, come on, you big baby, come cuddle me,” he says, winking, happiness bubbling under his voice.

It’s a good reminder that what Seonghwa has given up for him is worth it.

Seonghwa tangles their fingers together and connects their lips in a heated kiss, his tongue curling around San’s, thoughts whirling around slightly bruised lips, a thin waist and the foxy smile of the man in front of him whom he’d asked to jump with him into the unknown in honor of a promise.

“I’m still here,” San whispers breathlessly. Seonghwa’s fingers ache when he squeezes San’s hips lightly.

Seonghwa doesn’t grace the words with a response, doesn’t think his mind can come up with anything similar to the loving way his husband says it. Instead, Seonghwa chooses to nuzzle into San’s neck and close his eyes, wanting to pretend for a moment that he wasn’t the most despicable man on earth if someone as beautiful and loyal as San loves him.

For a moment, Seonghwa is at the hilltop of their hometown, the one where they had their first kiss, bikes abandoned behind them, breaths stuttering and hearts pounding hard against their rib cages, the air around them charged with fear and excitement. The moment is one among many Seonghwa has saved in his mind, enough to last him a lifetime, when both of them were learning the world, stumbling through the hurdles, when they believed that things would get better, that they could run away when the time came.

It’s just that when the time came, they had to choose the one option they had never considered. That feeling of failure will stay as long as Seonghwa lives, but they weren’t given the privilege of another option back then.

San’s eyes shine when Seonghwa pulls away. He isn’t feeling like his usual articulate self today, so he leans in and presses his forehead to San’s as he tries to escape the whirlwind inside him. Something sharp starts to snap through his veins, and the more he fights the feeling the harder it pushes back against him.

San’s gaze on him is an anchor and Seonghwa holds fast like he’s always done.

 

***

 

The boy goes to the same school as him, but he’s a year below him. He’s quiet and meek in school except for when he’s biking his way home with a small lilt to the corners of his lips. Seonghwa pays attention blatantly in a bid to grab his attention, but the quiet boy is much too preoccupied with his thoughts to ever notice. He stays longer near the lane where they keep their bikes and plays with his laces just to catch the glimpse of the small smile.

Sometimes, it doesn’t come and Seonghwa immediately knows that it’s a bad day.

Seonghwa knows that the loud noises in the night from the house next door keeps the boy up. He rarely keeps his window open, but Seonghwa always catches him crying as he sits at the end of his bed, hunched over, tears falling into his lap.

Seonghwa knows nothing about the quiet boy with the small smile, but his heart breaks all the same for him.

The boy’s father, a man of law, order and duty with the hefty weight of civilian responsibility on his shoulders, protects everyone except his family. Seonghwa learns this when a week and a half after the family moves in and there are sirens in the night, not of a police car, but of an ambulance. He watches from the balcony as the woman, the quiet boy’s mother, Seonghwa assumes, gets wheeled out on a stretcher.

Seonghwa’s father scolds him at the table when he asks them why the woman was hurt. He tells him that not all men who worked for the law were good and asks him to stay away from their neighbors. 

When he catches the quiet boy crying into his hands that night, Seonghwa feels a part of his mind catch up to the fact that even if his father hurt a lot of people, he had never laid a hand on his family.

Seonghwa goes to sleep with his heart aching for the quiet boy beyond the orange-tinted glass who cried every night and wishes he could hold his hand once and ask him to not cry.

 

***

 

San spins the cigarette around his nimble knuckles, intently staring at the object in question. Seonghwa sits back and watches him spin it again and again, restless.

“Want a lighter?”

San smirks at him, lips curling and teeth flashing predatorily.

“Only if you light it up for me,” San tells him, winking and placing the cigarette between his lips. 

Seonghwa grabs the lighter from the dashboard and leans over to light the end of the cigarette, San’s eyes fixed on him.

He takes a lungful of smoke and rolls the window down, exhaling to the side. Seonghwa has never been a fan of smoking. The rare times he’d done it had been at San’s insistence, but after that one time he choked his lungs out, San hasn’t asked him again.

Seonghwa watches his husband smoke until the cigarette is more than halfway burnt. He throws the cigarette butt outside the window, turning back to face him with a smile, closing the space between them with a kiss, fingers tucking back the fringe covering his eyes.

San closes his eyes and twists his neck as if to relax the muscles there. He’d been complaining of a neck cramp since morning, but Seonghwa hadn’t had the time to indulge him in a neck massage.

San hisses as his cold hands meet the hot skin of his neck.

“You’re a vampire,” San tells him, twisting around in his seat to present his backside to Seonghwa.

“Am I? Must be. Your neck does look like someone tried to suck the life out of you,” Seonghwa says, smirking as his fingers knead the muscles on his neck.

“You sound so cocky,” San says, tilting his head to the side, “It’s hot as fuck.”

Seonghwa laughs, shaking his head again. “We don’t have time to go for a round here, San,” Seonghwa tells him when he moans low in his throat.

“Not here. When we get home,” San says, rolling his shoulders again.

“You’re insatiable,” Seonghwa says, biting his lip at the way San keens as he presses on another spot.

“I married you for your dick,” San says and Seonghwa can hear the eye roll even if he can’t see his face.

“Of course you did,” Seonghwa agrees, keeping the easy banter going.

Seonghwa’s phone chooses that moment to ring. He taps San’s neck once and takes his hands away to pick up the phone.

“Yeah, I’ll send him in,” Seonghwa says when Jongho informs him that the man they’d been hunting down for the past week was finally where they wanted him to be.

“Go watch him burn, baby,” Seonghwa tells San, handing him the lighter. Jongho already has the gasoline set up inside where he’s waiting for San to come and take revenge for doing something the man shouldn’t have done.

San grabs the lighter and peers into his soul with one intense look.

“You’re not going to think I’m a monster, are you?” San asks, the light in his eyes fading a little. The confession falls straight into Seonghwa’s open palm, and he cradles it gently with his tender, accepting fingers.

He shakes his head insistently, denies every hint of doubt that might keep San from thinking he loves him any less for wanting a nasty man dead. He’d barely stopped himself from doing this himself until Jongho had told him that San was the one who should choose the punishment since he’d been the one who received the short end of the stick.

“He drugged you, San. He hurt a lot of people. He raped children. We hurt people too, I know that, but his ways are downright sinister. You’re not a monster for wanting him dead. He’s the monster here. If you don’t want to, I’ll do it myself,” Seonghwa says, firm, one hand stretched out for the lighter.

San grins at him. “I’ve always loved watching people burn, Seonghwa. You know that.”

Seonghwa gives him a slow smile and watches as he slams the door shut and walks past the gate, lighter spinning between his fingers the same way the cigarette was just moments ago.

 

***

 

San , Seonghwa learns.

He doesn’t learn his name courtesy of his saved up courage finally coming in to play.

Instead, Seonghwa learns the quiet boy’s name when he wakes up in the middle of the night to the thunderous roar of the name. He leaps out of bed, running to the window to see the soldier of law and order beat the life out of San, the boy collapsing to the ground under the force of the blows from the thick leather belt.

Seonghwa doesn’t utter a word, stifling his sobs under his hands, not finding it in himself to be happy to finally know that the quiet boy’s name was San when it wasn’t given to him by the boy himself.

Seonghwa stays up the whole night, only falling asleep around dawn when San’s chest rises and falls evenly as he lies down on the bed after hours spent crying.

When afternoon rolls around, Seonghwa follows San to the table he usually eats lunch at.

San gives him a side-eye when he finally settles down beside him, but he doesn’t move away.

When Seonghwa finishes eating, he turns to face the younger boy. “I’m Seonghwa, it’s nice to meet you,” he says with his nicest smile and his best polite voice, even if puberty which is lurking around him makes his voice crack.

San stares at his outstretched hand and meets his gaze. Seonghwa thinks for a minuscule moment that he should have taken his mom up on the haircut offer, but the thought passes by when San reaches for his hand with his own slightly trembling one.

San’s hand is softer than his mother’s. Seonghwa loves the way it fits right in his hands. “I’m San, it’s nice to meet you too.”

Fourteen-year-old Seonghwa is stubborn and logical, a dangerous combination for a teenage boy, but most importantly he listens to his heart and takes decisions only after consulting it. In accordance with the concern flooding his chest the more time he spends looking at the boy who looks down at his own lap more than Seonghwa’s face, Seonghwa decides that he will protect San with his life. 

Seonghwa talks to San for the rest of the lunch break, pointedly trying not to pay attention to the marks over his forearm and the bruises which peek out of the collar of his shirt, trying to shove away the images of a ruthless man and the belt with a metal clasp.

 

***

 

“No, don’t fucking touch me,” San screams, shoving Seonghwa away with horror on his face. He never wants to see San look the way he does now, but it is inevitable. They were bound to break sometime anyway. Seonghwa can easily avoid the attack, but he lets it be, lets San throw a tantrum, lets him do whatever it is that he wants to if it meant that he would calm down enough to hear him out. He sees Jongho move in the corner of his eyes and he shakes his head, waving his hand subtly. The younger gives him a concerned expression before he finally ducks out of the room, the door closing softly behind him.

“What? You don’t have anything to say, Seonghwa? That’s it? Silence and no explanations? Not even guilt?” San shouts, voice splintering around the edges as terror, pain and anger blur together, and it hurts how it reminds him of the past when Seonghwa had just been the boy next door and had to watch San cry for hours in the night.

“When you calm down,” Seonghwa says, still making sure to keep a healthy distance from San. He needed to give him room to breathe or San would have a breakdown.

“Calm down? How the fuck do I calm down?” San yells and gets right into his space, jabbing a sharp finger on his chest, the sting of it nothing compared to the lost look in San’s eyes.

“You just put a bullet inside a child and you’re telling me to calm down?” San asks, shoving him against the nearest wall, chest heaving, tears brimming in his eyes.

“It was the one thing we told each other not to do, Seonghwa. You know that. Anyone but kids,” San sobs, head hanging down, his grip on Seonghwa’s shoulders still tight as if it was the only thing holding him up. Seonghwa places his hands on top of San’s and keeps in the sob threatening to tear out of his throat when their wedding rings clink together.

“I am sorry, San. I really didn’t mean to, but he got in the way. He came out of nowhere and I just… I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to get you out of there.”

Seonghwa remembers panicking seeing San in a chokehold by a burly man who was their target’s guard. He’d aimed to kill, both his guns in his hands, aimed at two targets. San was already unconscious under the suffocating pressure of the guard’s grip around his throat and Seonghwa had aimed at the guard with his eyes set on him so that he wouldn’t hit San accidentally. 

The man on the ground had picked up a gun by then and in a flash, Seonghwa had shot from both his guns, realizing his mistake only when a boy crumpled to the side. He’d immediately recognized him as the teenager from the file Jongho had shown him and realized he’d fucked up. Jongho had rushed in and taken a shot at the guy before he shook Seonghwa out of his reverie and helped him carry San out.

San shakes his head as if he is in denial. His breaths still make a whistling sound from the intensity of the strangling from hours ago.

“I’m sorry, San. I’m so sorry,” Seonghwa says, wanting to do anything to wipe the frown marring San’s beautiful features. He reaches out for San, but he lets go and turns away as if he couldn’t bring himself to look at Seonghwa’s face any longer. It hurts more than all the times he’s gotten hurt.

“You promised me,” San says, voice breaking on the accusing words, the slope of his nose straight and his curled eyelashes clumping together with tears. There are coils of red blemishes which are in the process of turning into purple bruises and Seonghwa remembers the most important thing he’d promised himself.

“I didn’t, San. I told you that I would try . Nothing ,” Seonghwa hates the way he’s so weak as his voice breaks, “nothing and no one will ever be more important to me than you . Even if you hate me for what I did and I got the chance to do it again, if it is the only way I can get you out, then I will kill whoever comes my way, no matter who it is. I try my best to not kill without reason, but if your life is hanging on a balance, I will choose you every single time , regardless of everything else.”

San chokes on a heartbreaking sob. Phantom pain calls Seonghwa, dragging him backward through the passage of time until he is once again curled on the cold, unfeeling floor of his bedroom, clutching his burning eyes with trembling hands as he listens to San’s shouts for his father to stop.

San is crying looking at him now and he is beautiful even like this, disappointed and hurting because of Seonghwa, the singular truth in Seonghwa’s universe, the only star in his sky, the one thing that mattered more than anyone in Seonghwa’s world.

Seonghwa owes him so many things, so many words, but all of them begin with an apology, and if Seonghwa cannot make it now, if he lets his anxiety take over now, he can never get his feelings across. 

“I know you’re disappointed in me and I know it’s not much, but I’ll choose you every single time, San. There is no other way this ends for the both of us.”

Seonghwa knows that the words ring with a promise, he’s just sorry that he’s so fucked up, that he’s like this, that he’d swooped into San’s life on a lunch break and clung to him like a puppy to the first person who gave it attention.

San storms out of the room without a word.

Seonghwa clings to the pillow which smells like San and leaves his side of the bed empty in the three nights that follow. Jongho tells him that San sleeps in the guest room. Seonghwa’s too scared of seeing the disgust and horror on his husband’s face again, so he gives him time.

On the fourth night, San climbs into bed and tells him he loves him against the shell of his ear. 

Forgiveness is given when Seonghwa rocks into him that night, letting San feel every drag of his cock against his tight walls. When he finally comes with a muffled cry of Seonghwa’s name, he arches up to meet Seonghwa’s mouth and whispers that he forgives him against his lips. Seonghwa holds him closer and lets himself be comforted in the redemption San offers like this, with his thin fingers cupping his face and his eyes fond and loving.

 

***

 

San opens up slowly. Seonghwa lets him take it forward at his own pace. San tells him that he’s noticed him looking out for him, that he’s grateful for his attention even if it used to freak him out a little in the beginning. 

Seonghwa doesn’t tell him about leaning against the wall under the windowsill and suffocating at the utter helplessness he felt at hearing San get beaten to a pulp right next door.

The first time he is brave enough to ask him about his father is on San’s fourteenth birthday. It’s a Saturday and Seonghwa finally uses his monthly allowance, something he never did ever since he’d learned the source of his father’s income. He gets San his favorite pair of Vans which matches the ones his father had gotten for him for his birthday. 

It’s the first time San hugs him.

Seonghwa ghosts his arms around San’s delicate frame, well aware of the screaming match which culminated in San crawling to his bed, groaning in pain. Seonghwa had called him at midnight, watching San smile fondly at the phone which his mother had given him for emergencies. 

Seonghwa had wished him on the dot and listened to San’s few words like a starving man who cherished even the smallest of water drops. Seonghwa had hung up only when San fell asleep lying back against the bed with the phone still nestled near his ear.

Sixteen-year-old Seonghwa realizes that he might like San more than a friend when San tiptoes to press a kiss against his cheek that night, hidden against the alley which they use as a shortcut to return home.

There’s a soft call of his name in San’s voice unblemished by puberty and Seonghwa stops pedalling as San stops his bike too, getting down with a nervous expression on his face.

There’s the touch of soft, sticky lips against his face and Seonghwa can’t do anything to calm the sprint his heart embarks on.

San tells him a week later that it’s the happiest he’s ever been in his life.

Seonghwa swears he’ll give him the world even if he doesn’t know what the future will bring.

 

***

 

Seonghwa is in the kitchen, humming the song San wouldn’t stop playing for the past two weeks when San slinks behind him. He feels his husband’s toned arms curl around him, and Seonghwa can’t help the smile that takes over his face.

“Hold a gun to my head and make love to me,” San tells him, standing on his tiptoes to reach his ear. Seonghwa chokes on the strawberry he’d been chewing on and looks at San with watery eyes after he’s hacked his lungs out.

San’s been gone for two days with Jongho for a meeting for the company. Seonghwa had insisted that he familiarize and learn the things Seonghwa did for the company. He’d reasoned that four hands would always be better than two, that he had another meeting with their Yakuza contact and couldn’t be in two places at once.

Seonghwa wasn’t exactly lying.

Seonghwa doesn’t tell him that the fear that he’s going to die and leave San alone without any way to fend for himself is what prompts the sudden invitations to meetings Seonghwa would have handled otherwise.

San looks way too excited for someone who’s just been on an eight-hour flight and he must be staring too much because San shakes his head and pulls him in by the collar of his shirt.

“I missed you,” San tells him, eyes tender.

“I missed you too,” Seonghwa says, clearing his throat at the way his voice falters, letting San pull him even closer before he loops his arms around his neck, their lips meeting in the middle.

It’s deep and slow, just the way Seonghwa knows San likes it and he indulges him, locking him in against the counter and bending him backwards with the intensity of the kiss. San moans into his mouth and Seonghwa’s brain decides to hotwire itself to life and he takes the momentary distraction of San’s moan to realize that he tastes like chocolate.

“Were you eating chocolate, San?” He asks, pulling away from the kiss even if all he wants to do is dive back in and kiss him till the sweet and slightly bitter taste goes away. 

San cooes at him as he twists his finger around the longer strands of hair that he’d combed to the side.

“Jongho bought some for me,” San tells him, smiling warmly. 

Seonghwa really should give Jongho a raise. He’d known that San hadn’t been at his best the past couple of weeks. 

Seonghwa had invested in a couple of self-indulgent gifts too himself. In fact, he’d been planning to bake a strawberry fresh cream cake when San had so temptingly distracted him.

The cake would have to wait till later.

Seonghwa growls low in his throat when San runs his fingers over his chest teasingly. Seonghwa grips him around his waist and taps his hips. San gets the signal and he lifts his legs, wrapping them around Seonghwa’s hips.

Seonghwa savors the way San giggles into the kisses as he carries him to their bedroom and gently lays him down on the mattress.

“I wasn’t kidding before,” San says, eyes dark and enticing. Seonghwa pauses for a moment as he unbuttons his shirt and smiles at his husband with a promise to come through for him.

“I figured,” Seonghwa says smoothly, chucking the shirt to the side as he crawls over San, bracketing him with his hands on either side of his body.

“I’m so fucking horny , Seonghwa,” San says, biting his bottom lip when Seonghwa licks his nipple, already hard under him. 

Seonghwa raises an eyebrow at him and laughs. “When are you ever not horny?”

San groans and reaches for him by the shoulder, Seonghwa willingly following him to kiss him.

“Touche,” San chokes out as Seonghwa grinds down on him.

Seonghwa makes sure that his fingers are steady and gentle when he finally pushes them inside San, the younger sucking on his thumb and letting out open-mouthed breathy moans every now and then, the sounds going straight to Seonghwa’s dick. He mouths at the head of San’s cock and makes sure to relax his jaw as he thrusts his fingers in at the same time as his timed licks over San’s cock in his mouth.

San’s a writhing mess under him when Seonghwa finally rids himself of his pants and leans over to take the gun from under his pillow. He winks at San as he unloads the bullets and is shocked when San places a hand on his wrist with a serious look that can only mean one thing.

“No,” Seonghwa tells him sternly.

“Why not?” San whines, a playful grin pulling up the corners of his lips.

There’s nothing Seonghwa finds funny about placing a loaded gun against his husband’s temple while fucking the daylights out of him. It’s where Seonghwa draws the line.

“I pride myself a lot on my control, but never when you’re involved. So, no,” he says firmly, putting the bullets in the drawer on the bedside table before he looks down at San again who is staring at him with an indecipherable look.

“I love you,” he says, fingers dancing up his torso to his neck before he arches up to bite and kiss his neck for a moment where Seonghwa feels like if he were to die now, he’d die happy.

Seonghwa balances himself on one arm and cradles San’s razor-sharp jawline whispering a confession of his own.

Seonghwa pushes his fingers in again and presses harder, watching San closely, and San arches forward. He rocks down into Seonghwa’s fingers and Seonghwa thinks that he could come from just watching San. He’s definitely done that before, but San had asked him for something specific today and Seonghwa wants to give him that.

San keeps his eyes shut, melting into the ease with which Seonghwa handles him.

Seonghwa finally lathers lube over his cock and hooks one of San’s legs over his shoulder as he pushes in slowly. San keens against his mouth and Seonghwa grabs the gun, placing it against San’s head, watching his mouth fall open at the combined rush of his wish being fulfilled and from the deep and slow thrusts of Seonghwa’s hips.

San trembles violently when he finally lets the speed pick up, and Seonghwa moves to take the gun away when San gives him a warning look.

Seonghwa snaps his hips a little harder into San and rejoices in the extra loud moans it gets him.

“You like that?” Seonghwa asks with a hint of amusement even if he knows San is losing his mind.

San clenches down on him with an evil smile and Seonghwa groans at the unexpected tightening of his walls around him, the knot in his stomach tightening. 

San comes first and Seonghwa moves the gun away. He goes to pull out but San rests his hand on his hips and throws his head back. Seonghwa moans at the sight and thrusts once, twice and comes.

San’s index finger trails across Seonghwa’s lips and he catches his husband’s eyes following the path it traces. It’s the most delicate of touches, his eyes warm on him and Seonghwa parts his lips slightly. San watches the way Seonghwa’s chest heaves and he presses down on his bottom lip, pulling him down by his neck using his other hand. Seonghwa crashes into him like a wave against a boulder.

Like this, it’s easy to pretend like they are just like any other people. 

They’re so close, like this, he can count the lashes that frame San’s eyes. There are tears caught between, and they shine more than any gem can ever shine, not even the ones adorning their wedding bands. San’s eyes stand out the brightest of them all.

Seonghwa lets himself stare because he doesn’t think he’ll ever have enough of San, not when he looks at him like he is a little more in love with Seonghwa every day. It’s like time halts, completely still, and Seonghwa’s chest aches at the way San’s fingers play with the fine hair at the back of his neck. They had gone on ruthlessly, facing off against every force of the universe which had carved suffering and strife in their futures and moved on without a second glance thrown back at them.

It has taken time to fall to the path Seonghwa had promised himself he’d never traverse, but San has always been more than enough for Seonghwa. It’s worth the pain in the end if he gets to stay by San’s side and years have gone past, too many years keeping them away from the one kind of chaos they gave up normalcy for, but this decision made by a nervous and scared seventeen-year-old has remained true over the span of those bygone days.

San smiles, teeth flashing and euphoria oozing from his eyes and Seonghwa knows that it’s worth it.

 

***

 

It’s months later when San calls him sobbing on his phone. Seonghwa pedals so quickly from the music club meeting that he nearly collides against a car, bless his reflexes. He calls San when he finally gets home, pushing the bike down on the car porch before he sprints outside. He’s never visited San’s place. San hasn’t come to his either. Seonghwa’s mom knows that the only real friend he has in school is San. But unlike the reaction he expects, she only tells him to be careful when she first caught him on the phone as he was laughing at something San said.

Her warning rings in his ears as he nervously waits for San to pick up. When he does, he begs Seonghwa if he can come over to talk to him.

Seonghwa runs back inside and asks his mom if it’s alright for San to visit. She gives him a warm smile and nods. Seonghwa pauses at the door to ask his dad, fully expecting to be told off for fraternizing with the enemy’s child, but his dad only gives him a stern nod.

When he finally leads San in, his shoulders curled in on himself and a new cut on his lip from a punch a boy so young shouldn’t have experienced from his father, Seonghwa’s dad gets up to find the first aid box. Both of his parents don’t prod San for answers, just gives him food and helps with his countless bruises and Seonghwa pretends like he hasn’t known about them before.

Seonghwa feels overcome by the guilt of the piercing kind at how wrongly he’d gauged what his parents’ reactions would be based on the initial warning from his dad. 

When they finally go upstairs, San dodging eye contact with him, Seonghwa fidgets near the door, not knowing if he should enter even if it’s his own room. San sits down on his bed and pats the space next to him.

The evening is spent on confessions of trauma and pain that seemed to never end, of a man so cruel that the only way he was happy was if his family was in pain. At the end of the gruelling weight of the story behind the bruises San has hidden for years, Seonghwa hugs him to his chest, his thin frame shivering in his arms.

“I know,” San tells him when they’re lying on the bed next to each other.

“Know what?” Seonghwa asks him.

“I know you’ve known for a while now,” San says, curling up against him.

Seonghwa turns wide eyes to him. “Why didn’t you say anything? I could have helped you.”

“I am beyond help, Seonghwa. I just… I appreciated how you saw me and treated me like a friend and not like a sympathy case even if you knew the reality. The window works two ways. You were not the only one looking.”

Seonghwa puts his arms around him and pulls him closer, careful of the purpling bruise on his back. San will have to leave soon to the nightmare that was his home, but until then, Seonghwa can hold him and mumble reassurances in his ears.

 

***

 

“Mr. Park, your husband’s pieces are beautifully melancholic. Art critics have been saying that abuse and violence seem to be a theme. Could it be that he’s a tragic victim of past abuse?”

Seonghwa wants to shove his hands inside the mouth of the man in front of him and rip his tongue out for speaking so boldly about something he’s avoided the entire night. San’s paintings were his story and it’s the first and last time he will do an exhibition because Seonghwa knows that San doesn’t want his life on display like this.

“Once. Just once,” San had whispered to him two months ago when they were on the couch, San’s fingers in his hair and Seonghwa’s head on his lap.

Seonghwa had foreseen the speculations and rumours and the possible attempt to dig up a past that Seonghwa had paid to erase digitally, but he’d decided that his husband’s happiness was well above the nosiness and lack of decorum of the people the world around him was populated with.

“He isn’t a victim,” Seonghwa lies, “He’s a storyteller, a talented one. I would prefer it if you don’t ruin his night with ghastly questions of the sort. Ask him about his art, not about interpretations drawn from thin air,” Seonghwa says, looking at Jongho with a meaningful expression.

Jongho nods subtly, a promise that he’ll escort the man out himself if he causes any trouble.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find my husband. It’s his night, after all.”

Seonghwa puts on a tacky smile and waltzes to where San is explaining one of his lighter pieces to a trio. He leans against the pillar and drags his gaze over his husband.

San’s wearing a lilac satin flowy peasant blouse underneath his glittery indigo velvet blazer, his hair parted to the side. His lips are shining with peach-colored lip gloss. Seonghwa smiles at the memory of how San had had to reapply it because Seonghwa had lost control of his actions and kissed the life out of him as he twirled around in front of him to show his outfit to him. 

It’s a painful reminder. That this is where San would have been had it not been for the choice they were forced to make. Seonghwa is partially to blame, so he soaks up San’s happiness and makes a reminder to ask the photographer they’d hired to send all the pictures to him first. He wants one framed in his desk at the company and his office at home.

San catches his gaze and winks suggestively, kittenish lips quirking up. The tall man with red hair notices him looking and politely bows to San, forcing his friends to do the same. San saunters to him with a bright smile, sparkly eyeshadow making his eyes shine brighter than usual.

“Hello husband,” San greets, pecking him on his mouth.

Seonghwa loops an arm around his waist and pulls him in, the air conditioner doing nothing to stop the way San’s warmth pierces through the fabric between them.

“Are you having fun?” Seonghwa asks, voice teasing.

“Of course,” San says. “I would have enjoyed it a little more if my husband wasn’t walking around telling off reporters for being intrusive,” San continues, voice lilting and soft, a tenderness coming over his eyes that makes Seonghwa’s heart skip a beat.

It’s even easier to pretend that San hadn’t helped him slit another man’s throat just the night before when he smiles at him like this. Seonghwa will take every shot at normalcy he gets.

“What else am I here for?” Seonghwa asks, feigning curiosity.

“You’re here to support me,” he says, fluttering his eyelashes and continues in a lower, husky voice, “and show others that I’m taken, that the only one who gets to take me home is you.”

Seonghwa ducks his head and tilts it to the side before he leans in to kiss San, letting their tongues meet for barely a second. 

“Tease,” San mutters in annoyance.

Seonghwa winks and tightens his grip on his waist.

 

***

 

There’s a conversation, one that Seonghwa has avoided all his life with everything he has until his dad corners him in his room on an otherwise uneventful Sunday. Seonghwa sweats nervously as his dad pulls his chair from near the study table and sits down opposite him with a determined look on his face.

He begins talking and pulls Seonghwa right out of the closet with his firm, blood-stained and bruise-worn hands. Seonghwa turns his face to the side after he finally gives in to the pressure and fear and spits the truth that he likes boys. 

Seonghwa doesn’t know if there’s another way to tell his dad that he likes San, that he’s only ever liked San.

His dad doesn’t hit him like he expects him to, instead, he bundles him up in a warm but stiff hug and tells him that he’s proud of him. 

It’s easier to bring San home after that, to giggle into kisses and pretend like his mom and dad aren’t right downstairs. 

San’s noticeably happier even if his mom moves out, leaving San alone to fend for himself. Then fate fucks them over and the day everything falls apart comes way too quickly, partly due to their lack of foresight.

It’s a lethal miscalculation that costs them a lifetime.

Seonghwa makes the mistake of responding with an affirmative to San’s request for a study date at his home. It’s meant to be a study date to help San with his abysmal math skills until the characteristic excitement and vibrancy of being each other’s first loves take over and Seonghwa lets himself lose to San’s insistent and inexperienced mouth, their tongues roaming around, learning and remembering every corner with every touch.

Seonghwa’s usually attentive ears fail him that day in the melody of San’s breathy giggles and they pay the price when the man Seonghwa has hated for years for what he continued to do to San shoves him away from him with his rugged hands.

Seonghwa freezes on the floor as realization sinks in and fear takes over. He lashes out at the man as San curls into a ball when the man drags him down with a tight grip around his ankle, yelling every profanity he possibly can as he does it.

Seonghwa screams at him as he pulls San up by his neck and throws him to the side. Seonghwa leaps at the man, trying not to focus on how San was lying there unmoving, his nose dripping blood around his cheek.

The man fights back and Seonghwa is only one lanky seventeen-year-old against a man who found pleasure in beating his wife and his son to a pulp on a daily, it’s obvious who has the upper hand. Seonghwa wheezes for breath as the man slams the chair so hard on his back, it splinters loudly as he hits the ground, his ears ringing. He tries to crawl to San but the man is still in his way and he’s still yelling expletives, hitting Seonghwa with San’s hockey stick even as he tries to get up to get to San. He screams when he feels one of his ribs give way under the brutal attack. 

There’s the sound of a gunshot ringing in his ear and the man sways on his feet, turning away from Seonghwa only to get shot again before he crumbles to the ground. Seonghwa wheezes for another breath, trying not to think about who their savior is and tries to get to San, attempting to crawl on his elbows. He sits up, ignoring the dead body only to see San clutching his side, his father’s service revolver in his shaking hands.

Seonghwa catches the look of horror on his boyfriend’s face, coughs blood to the side and blacks out.

 

***

 

“I’m home,” Seonghwa calls out, his voice echoing in the living room. The lights are off in the hallway, only the rays of the setting sun twisting their way through the steel bars of the window at the end of the hallway.

Seonghwa frowns to himself, walking to San’s art room and opening the door only to see that it is shrouded in darkness too, curtains drawn and air stuffy.

He closes the door behind him and calls for San again, chest beating a little quicker with every empty room. He dials San’s number only to hear the ringtone coming from the living room. He follows the sound to their coffee table.

“San!” He calls loudly, anxiety and fear taking hold of his nerves.

Seonghwa blinks to himself, pinching the bridge of his nose before he stalks to the guest bedroom, sighing in relief when he sees that the lights are on. The bed is empty, but there are the telltale sounds of the drip-drop of water from the bathroom. He doesn’t bother knocking before he enters.

San’s naked, lying in the bathtub with everything up to his neck submerged. His eyes are half-lidded and unfocused, like he’s almost half asleep.

“San,” he breathes. San smiles softly at the call of his name and turns fondly to him, making grabby arms for him, eyes wide open now, his wet hair dripping water into his eyelashes at the quick blink. 

Seonghwa softens and walks forward to lift San out of the bathtub, but San shakes his head.

“Hold me,” he says, like it’s a prayer and Seonghwa’s the only one who can fulfil it for him.

Seonghwa places his gun, phone and keys on the counter and turns around. He doesn’t bother taking his clothes off.

San sits up and scoots forward for accommodating him. Seonghwa lowers himself down behind San, some water spilling over in accordance with his weight. He lets his legs bracket San’s bare thighs, San sighing as he leans back against him.

“Were you waiting?” Seonghwa asks.

He only gets a kiss to his bruised knuckles in response. 

“Closer,” San demands a second later. Seonghwa complies, calmly letting his arms wrap around San’s chest, his own chest snug against San’s back. San drops his head back on his neck in a gesture of silent gratitude before he pulls back and relaxes against him completely.

Seonghwa kisses his neck gently in appreciation. 

“How was your day?” San asks when a few minutes have passed with the steady drip of the water which spills over and the sound of their breaths all synced-up.

“It was alright,” Seonghwa answers. “ Killed two men ,” he doesn’t say because these are the only moments when they’re not blatantly dangerous, when they’re not puppets of fate but merely two men who are in love, married and happy, comfortable around each other more than they could ever be in the presence of other people.

San doesn’t ask any more questions and Seonghwa lets his chin hook over the younger’s shoulders as he gently rocks them back and forth.

 

***

 

When Seonghwa wakes up next, he is at his dad’s hospital. He recognizes the doctor in the room who asks him to keep his eyes open. 

Seonghwa blacks out again.

When he finally opens his eyes again to the light without the pull of numbing drugs tugging viciously on his consciousness, Seonghwa asks the doctor for San.

Instead, he gets his dad and a hefty ultimatum.

Let San go to jail for murder or let his parents handle it instead and sign away his shot at normalcy by taking over the company.

His dad has always been a resourceful person, a man who placed profit, logical long term goals and efficiency above everything else, and Seonghwa has never been too subtle about his desire to venture out of the family business and run away from the tainted past, from the black and crimson on his family’s ledger. Seonghwa’s dad has always wanted him to take over the empire he’d created with years of effort and the blood of hundreds. Seonghwa had long since known that one day he would get on a bus and go far away from the bloodshed and the curses of one too many people. 

Seonghwa’s dad is the leader of a gang, after all, he thinks for the umpteenth time as the man in question waits beside his bed for a life-changing answer. He tells himself that it’s fine to give up his dreams of becoming a doctor and healing people when San was in danger of being locked up inside a cell.

Seonghwa’s on a hospital bed and his lungs are giving up on him, but he knows that the deal his father gives him is not up for negotiation.

Seonghwa buys San’s freedom and his damnation with a nod of agreement.

His dad smiles at him like he’s proud of him and when San finally stumbles into his room, Seonghwa tells him what he’s signed away.

San shakes his head in horror before he walks out the door. He’s only fifteen, but in his steps, Seonghwa sees purpose, a promise to stay by his side.

He returns to inform Seonghwa that if he’s damning him to hell for him, he’d be right beside him.

 

***

 

Sixteen-year-old Seonghwa is smitten with everything San does, the way he asks Seonghwa to pause when they’re making out and he runs out of breath, the way he bites down on his bottom lip when he’s sketching in his notebook and he cries silently into Seonghwa’s chest about his life, the way he runs his paint-smudged hands through Seonghwa’s hair and gets permission from his mom to use their kitchen so that he can make strawberry smoothies for Seonghwa.

San is everything any version of Seonghwa from every universe possible would ever want. He’s broken and beaten up, but his soul is dipped in glitter and soaked in sparkles and inside it is the warmth of the love he feels for Seonghwa.

Seonghwa looks into his first love, his boyfriend’s eyes and sees the rest of forever and a field of gold behind him.

 

***

 

Twenty-six-year-old Seonghwa is still as smitten, if not more, with everything San does, the way he curls his tongue around his and pants against his mouth for more, the way he sits in his art room and paints his past and his present, burning the sad paintings and keeping only the ones he can hang up proudly, the way he can still whisper I love you looking straight at him even if Seonghwa’s hands are painted in blood that’s not his, sometimes of an innocent stranger, sometimes not, the way he slinks towards him like a cat and catches him off guard and the way he kisses their wedding bands when they’re lost in the throes of passion to cover up their guilt.

San is the only one for Seonghwa. He’s confident and still affected by his trauma, he’s a cold-blooded killer, but he’s also his husband, and even though his soul is tainted by the deaths of too many people, he still shines like the only star in Seonghwa’s sky.

Seonghwa looks into his first and only love, his husband’s eyes, and sees all of eternity and a river of blood behind him, lit up by reflections of an ocean of lanterns floating in the sky above him.