Actions

Work Header

baptized in fire

Work Text:

renjun has a cute little habit of biting his lip when he reads his scriptures. his silvery bangs will flop into his eyes as he concentrates, mouthing along to the latin words, careful hands turning the pages of his text.

 

jeno thinks he could watch him all day. renjun catches his eye. “what’re you looking at?”

 

jeno hears himself sigh. “you.”

 

renjun binks, and then laughs a little, reaching out to ruffle the other’s hair. jeno leans into the touch naturally, sighing contentedly when renjun's fingertips brush against the tips of the horns hidden in his curls. “you’re so cute,” renjun says, his usual handsome smile glowing on his face. "but i think you need to study too. okay?"

 

jeno wriggles around in his seat. "and then- we can go out?"

 

renjun laughs again. "sure, jeno. we can go out. how about... cafe?"

 

 

before all the study dates and cafe dates- renjun was just another enigma on campus.

 

he'd arrived in jeno's grimoire studies class on a dull october morning, the kind where the sky is gray and the leaves crunch, but the chill that bites your cheeks isn't nearly enough for a big parka- just a sweater and maybe some long pants. jeno was almost late that day, barely throwing on his scarf before he tumbled out the door and scrambled right into his grimoire studies class just before the bell, but wasn’t greeted by the teacher at the front of the board- instead, it had been a boy with a fur-lined jacket and silver hair and dark eyes, bowing to the class at ninety degrees, and his name- scrawled out messily behind him on the blackboard- had read 'renjun huang.'

 

he'd straightened up, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. "i hope you'll take care of me."

 

the class had given some reluctant applause, and renjun huang had taken a seat at the back of the room.

 

and that was it.

 

"i heard that demon hunter was in your class, jeno."

 

it's lunch. jaemin’s well known across campus for his flamboyant fashion choices, and today meets the expectations, as usual- he’s decked out in his biggest, thickest, furry black coat paired with shredded skinny jeans and some expensive designer sneakers. as extravagant as he always dresses, however, jaemin also makes sure to meet the dress code- his tweedy uniform sweater is layered underneath.

 

he’s currently crunching down on a shiny red apple. jaemin’s oddity extends from his wardrobe to his food palette, as he’s the only vampire jeno knows that prefers fruit over meat or blood or any usual vampire meals, and his taste has been like that for as long as jeno’s known him. “in your morning class, yeah?”

 

"hunter?" jeno leans back against the tree they're sitting against. in between the orange colored leaves, a few dark birds flitter among the branches, chirping at each other noisily. "no way. i think i'd know if there was a hunter in my class."

 

"well, that's what everyone was saying. and he's supposed to come from a really scary clan, too, one that killed thousands of demons back in the day. they say the clan’s still operational, too.."

 

"so?"

 

jaemin raises an eyebrow at him, cheek bulging with fruit. "you're not scared?"

 

jeno scrapes away a few droplets of apple juice from his cheek. jaemin gives him an grin in lieu of an apology, fangs glinting, and jeno just rolls his eyes, leaning back against the tree trunk. "why would i be scared?"

 

jaemin blinks, then shakes his head. "oh, i dunno. 'cuz you're a demon?”

 

jeno stares back at his friend, eyebrow raised. "really? hunting has been outlawed, since, like, the sixties. it's an ancient thing, jaem. and there's barely any more illegal huntings, because- because, well, everyone knows it's not okay anymore. those are just rumors."

 

jaemin looks offended. "wait- ancient? the sixties weren't ancient."

 

jeno rolls his eyes. "i always forget you're like, three hundred years old-"

 

"hundred thirty two, you don't even know my age? some friend you are." jaemin pouts, pulling his furry coat more tightly around his shoulders, and jeno suddenly remembers the fuzzy insides of the transfer student’s jacket.

 

"oh, wait... with the silver hair? renjun huang?"

 

jaemin snaps his fingers, swallowing down his apple. "yeah, yeah, that was his name! huang. huang clan. scary guys. from, uh, norway, i think."

 

"i thought he was kind of cute."

 

jaemin blinks. "did you hear what i just said? huang clan. scary. norway ."

 

"no, really, he was kind of cute! he had, like, an aviator jacket, and soft looking hair... and like. the darkest eyes. and he was so quiet and polite and mysterious."

 

jaemin’s staring. “what?” jeno huffs, turning away from his friend’s piercing stare.

 

“i think you have a little crush on him,” jaemin muses. “you and your oddball taste in men- demon with a crush on a demon hunter, who woulda thought?”

 

“wha- crush on him? i’ve never even talked to him, haven’t you been listening? i just… think he’s cute.” jeno finally starts rummaging through his bag for his own lunch just so his hands have something to do, but his ears warm at the sound of jaemin snickering behind him.

 

“oh my god, what , jaem?”

 

“nothing,” jaemin singsongs, pulling his third apple from his paper sack. “i just always knew you liked ‘em freaky. i mean, the last guy you dated was doyoung kim, and he was a wolf, and then- you know, that other asshole-”

 

“well, the guy you like isn’t even interested in you,” jeno fires back, glaring, cheeks heating, but jaemin just cocks an eyebrow.

 

“ten euros says you have a crush on renjun huang. i'll give you a week."

 

jeno's not one to back down from a challenge, especially not one from his best friend. "fine. and if haechan lee isn't in your bed at that time, then that ten is mine."

 

jaemin smirks, a grin splitting his face, fangs bared. "that’s a deal, sweetheart."

 

 

"hello," renjun says, smiling softly at jeno. "i'm renjun. miss kim says we're partnered up for this project."

 

his hand is outstretched, waiting, so jeno snaps out of his trance long enough to take it. "i'm- erm- jeno," he hears himself squeak out, but he can hardly make eye contact with the other boy, whose gaze feels so piercing that his poor heart will explode, so jeno resorts to staring at renjun's black industrial pants, with silver chains looped through every pocket, all tucked into a heavy pair of leather boots.

 

"cool- cool boots,” jeno stutters, releasing renjun’s hand.

 

“thank you,” renjun says, smiling. “i like... your socks.”

 

jeno glances downwards and groans inwardly at the sight of his kitten-pattern socks poking out of his converse. “jesus- i’m sorry, i knew i shouldn’t have worn these today,” he mumbles, kicking his legs under his chair, and renjun laughs at that, finally taking a seat next to jeno, where their two desks have been pushed together.

 

“so... what were you thinking of doing for our project?”

 

jeno glances down at his chicken scratch handwriting on his open notebook page. “erm... i guess it's about the temptation of saint anthony, right? and how he- uh, gave into his... temptations..." jeno curses himself for sounding so dumb especially when he'd definitely done the reading on this one, but his brain can't seem to recall a single thing about said saint. he shoves his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose where they're slipping. "he- he believed that- um-"

 

"that... isolation is the truest form of worship?" renjun fills in, voice gentle, and jeno nods his head, embarrassed.

 

"yeah... that," jeno says sheepishly. "we could use that as... a central theme? and... make a slide deck or something?"

 

"that sounds good to me." renjun tugs his phone out from his pocket, tucking a stray piece of hair behind his ears, which, now that he's close up- jeno swallows- can be seen to have several golden piercings through the helix and lobes. "shall we exchange numbers?"

 

"oh- sure," jeno flusters, quickly grabbing his own cell phone to trade with renjun. after typing in his number and marking it as 'jeno! ^_^' he offers it back out to the other boy. the polaroid photo tucked into renjun's case glints, but before jeno can look at it properly, renjun's accepting his phone back, and offers jeno's in return.

 

"let's work on it together soon, alright?"

 

"sure," jeno says weakly, taking his phone back with a crooked little smile, and when renjun smiles back, with little dimples in his cheeks and the morning sun in the stained glass hitting him handsomely at all the right angles, jeno melts.

 

 

jeno lee!! ^_^ 11:09 AM

[ApplePay: €10.00 ]

 

jaemin na 11:12 AM

goddamn ur so pathetic

its been 2 days

 

jeno lee!! ^_^ 11:13 AM

GO AWAYYYY

 

 

"so?" jeno asks nervously. "sweater? or-" he presses his second coat hanger to his chest. "blazer?"

 

mark strokes his imaginary beard, eyebrows scrunched. "hmm. wait, do sweater again."

 

on an ordinary saturday, jeno would have slept in until twelve and then maybe would have went for a few rounds of super smash brothers with mark and a few other guys, and then procrastinate all of his school assignments until the very last minute. but today's different. he has a date.

 

"sweater," his roommate decides, shoving another spoonful of cereal into his mouth. mark's sitting cross legged at their shared kitchen table in their dorm, and jeno's only a little bit jealous of how comfortable he looks in his oversized pajama shirt and shorts while he's dressed stuffily in his slacks and now- sweater.

 

mark crunches on his cornflakes, wiping a little bit of milk from the corner of his mouth as he returns back to scrolling aimlessly on his phone. "who's your date, again?"

 

"oh, it's not a date date," jeno says absently, fixing himself in the mirror by their door, trying to get a little piece of hair at the back of his head to lie flat. "just- we're going to this museum to check out this painting that's related to our reading- temptation of saint anthony, have you heard of it?"

 

"mmhmm- dali's?"

 

"no no, grunewald's-"

 

"aah, i know that one. 1516?"

 

"that's it. how's this?"

 

he turns back to his roommate nervously, spreading his arms to show his outfit. mark squints through his circular glasses, giving jeno a head-to-toe scan. "hmmm..." he swallows down a bite of cornflakes, eyebrows scrunched as he points his spoon at jeno. "now, that- that looks fly , dude."

 

jeno chews on his bottom lip, turning back to the mirror. "really? do you think he'll like it?"

 

mark snorts. "maybe if you told me his name..."

 

"renjun huang-"

 

and then there's a slamming noise from behind him, and when jeno whirls around, mark's punching the table with the side of his fist, face red as he chokes on his cereal.

 

"oh my god, mark-!"

 

"fine- i'm fine-" mark gasps, hand on his chest, waving jeno away, panting when he finally washes down his food with a swig of milk. "but-" he swallows, eyes wide as he turns back to jeno. "i'm sorry- did you say renjun huang?"

 

jeno stares back. "yes...? why?"

 

"don't you know?" mark glances around their dorm as if he's checking for eavesdroppers, but as there obviously isn't, he turns back to jeno. "he's- he's a hunter ."

 

"yes, i know. so do i look alright?

 

"but you- you-"

 

" oh my god , what?"

 

“you’re literally a demon , jeno,” mark hisses. “what’re you doing, trying to get in a hunter’s pants?"

 

jeno pouts. "but- but he's really hot?"

 

mark groans, leaning back. "that's not the point. come on, jeno, use your head. you're a demon. he's a hunter."

 

"he comes from a family of hunters," jeno corrects. "he's more than just his bloodline, mark. hunting was outlawed so long ago, and like, it's 2020? hello? his family probably works for national security now, or something."

 

"but... jeno." and then mark's giving him a look, meaningful, his eyebrow raised. "you... you know what i mean. that clan- everyone's saying they were bad back in the day, and even though they probably aren't hunting anymore- i just want you to be safe."

 

"i- thanks," jeno says finally, after just a beat too long of silence. "i... appreciate it, mark. thank you. but... i'll be fine, okay? he's really nice, and- before anything, he's just a student trying to get a good grade for this project with me."

 

"...okay," mark says. it always takes jeno by surprise, how easily mark's older brother instincts can kick in, even when he's sitting there in his big red vancouver t-shirt and bedhead, eating cornflakes at nine in the morning. "call me if you need anything."

 

"i will." jeno bends down to tie his shoes- a borrowed pair of converse from jaemin, who insists they're designer, but the only difference between them and jeno's pair are a simple red heart painted into the side. "i should be back in the afternoon."

 

"alright." there's the sound of muffled crunching- mark's returned to his breakfast. "and have fun, you look good."

 

"ugh, just- are you sure?" and jeno's back in the mirror again, nervous. "i feel like i'm forgetting something."

 

"ahh- hold up, i got it." and mark holds his hand out, stretched in the direction of their bedrooms, and a second later, jeno's beige scarf comes flying down the hall and into mark's open hand.

 

"scarf," mark says, wiggling his eyebrows, holding it out to jeno, who flushes, grabbing it. "forgetting something, huh?"

 

"t-thanks," jeno mumbles, wrapping it hurriedly around his neck. "also- no magic in the dorm."

 

mark groans, complaints on the tip of his tongue, but jeno's out the door before he can hear.

 

 

"well... that was gruesome."

 

renjun snorts. "tell me about it." without his school uniform, he's dressed casually in a red flannel, buttoned loosely under his usual fur-lined aviator. he's wearing neat dark jeans for the museum- with none of the usual chains- but the same leather boots that act like dress shoes as they're tucked under the cuffs of his pants. he looks awfully cuddly, leaning against one of the marble pillars adorning the galleria's entrance.

 

jeno shivers, fingers curling around his slightly wrinkled museum map pamphlet. "i mean, i knew temptation was going to be a bit violent, but those other ones in the gallery were a bit. yuck. gross."

 

renjun laughs. "very yuck gross indeed. who could've known the museum was having a special galleria on-" he squints at his own pamphlet. "er- 'fifteenth century supernatural assailants?'"

 

jeno lets out a snort, then realizes how gross his natural laugh sounds, and quickly corrects it to his fake practiced giggle. "oh my god, isn't it? at- at least we got some good notes, though."

 

"true, true." and then renjun's head tilts, handsome smile on his face as he turns to jeno, hands slipped into his pockets like a denim model. "so- did you want to grab some lunch before we head back to school?"

 

"oh," jeno squeaks, taken by surprise. "s-sure, i'd love to! i... don't know this area too well, though," he confesses, fiddling nervously with the strap of his crossbody bag.

 

the area they're in just so happens to be at the heart of the nearest city- well away from campus. he and renjun had split the lyft costs, but even then the price had still been pretty hefty.

 

either way, however, this city's mage population is insane . jeno shifts uncomfortably in his borrowed sneakers at the thought. it's not like jeno has anything against mages- hell, his roommate is a mage and lazy, so jeno's seen his fair share of magic- but because of the mage populous, it has the demon population in comparison... well, practically nonexistent. jeno doesn't think he's even seen a fellow demon yet.

 

"that's alright, me neither," renjun says reassuringly. jeno feels his heart squeeze at the warmth in renjun's eyes as he smiles. god, renjun was so handsome. "we can look for a place together, yeah?"

 

wandering about the city on a beautiful saturday morning with the prettiest boy in the world? "okay!" jeno says easily, clapping his hands together. "sounds perfect!"

 

so they set off. it's chilly today as well, but the sun peeks through the clouds and creates a pretty light among the gray of the clouds, glittering against every shop window and street sign. jeno's heart jumps to his throat everytime their hands accidentally brush together, and when they come upon a pretty garden gracing the front of a beauty store, renjun whips out his phone immediately, offering to take jeno's photo. talk about boyfriend material.

 

in between a couple of bakeries, there's a puppy tied to a lamppost, tail wagging obediently as it waits for its owner- who is probably out buying bread at either of the two shops adjacent. jeno stops in his tracks, gasping. "puppy!"

 

"cute," renjun muses.

 

"so cute," jeno sighs, this time pulling out his own phone to snap a few photos.

 

"did- did you want me to do that for you?' renjun asks, amused, offering to take jeno's camera. "and you could go pet it."

 

"oh- oh." and then jeno's flushing, embarrassed. "er... i can't."

 

renjun cocks his head, curious. "why not?"

 

jeno wants to slap himself in the forehead. of course he doesn't know, duh! "oh, it's just-" jeno laughs, awkward. "um- i'm... a demon."

 

renjun doesn't flinch. alright, maybe he did know. "yes. and?"

 

"i- i was baptized in fire," jeno explains, feeling his cheeks flush even redder by the second. "so- so dogs can- er, smell the smoke? on my skin? and- and they're usually afraid of me. of- of all demons, actually. cats can’t smell it, so i usually like them better. because they like me better. you know?"

 

renjun just laughs. "wait, puppies? scared of you? i couldn't imagine anything being frightened of you, you're so sweet."

 

jeno's mouth opens, then shuts. "er- w-what?"

 

his voice is shaky and stuttery, but he can't help it, not when the handsomest prettiest kindest boy in the world just called him so sweet . "you're so sweet," renjun repeats, and now jeno just wants to melt into a puddle and die. "come on, let's go pet it."

 

"n-no, it's really okay," jeno stammers, taking a step back. alright, puppies are adorable, but because of the whole demon thing, jeno hasn't actually ever pet one in his life. "i really don't want to scare it-"

 

and then renjun's holding his hand out, a little smile on his face. "how about you hold my hand?"

 

jeno swallows. "oh. okay."

 

so he takes renjun's hand, and- fuck, renjun's interlaced their fingers together. the gold of renjun's rings glitter prettily back at him, reminiscent of their owner. "come on," renjun says, jerking his head towards the lamppost, grinning. "let's go."

 

the dog sniffs the air as they approach, then cowers, whimpering. renjun just extends his free hand as they approach, squatting down. “hey, boy,” he says softly, and the tenderness in his tone makes butterflies flutter in jeno’s stomach. the dog gives his fingers a reluctant sniff.

 

“i’ve got a friend with me here,” renjun continues, voice still as gentle as ever. “his name is jeno and his teeth are sharper than yours-”

 

“oh my god, stop,” jeno says, mortified, cheeks flushing, but renjun just winks at him and continues with his sweettalk, squeezing jeno’s hand that’s still laced with his own.

 

“his teeth are sharper than yours… but his hands are quite soft.” and then renjun’s pulling jeno down next to him, bringing jeno’s hand to the dog’s twitching nose. a pinkish tongue pokes out from the dog’s mouth, hesitant- jeno holds his breath- but then the dog is licking all over his hand, comfortable.

 

jeno exhales. “good- good boy.”

 

“see, that wasn’t too bad, was it?” renjun laughs, scratching the dog behind the ear. it snuggles into the touch.

 

“animals don’t like me very much,” jeno mumbles, equally parts embarrassed and enchanted by renjun's charisma.

 

"because you're a demon?"

 

jeno sighs. "yeah."

 

renjun snorts. "well, isn't that a load of bull. look how much this puppy likes you, hm?"

 

and as if on cue, the dog jumps forward to lick an enormous slobbery stripe up jeno's cheek, who promptly squeaks and jerks backwards at the wet sensation. " oh my-"

 

when renjun's finally managed to contain his laughter, he helps jeno to his feet, whose face is now properly covered with drool. "that wasn't funny," he hisses, dabbing pathetically at his cheek with the corner of his sweater sleeve. a few passerby laugh as they happen by, and jeno feels his face grow hotter. renjun just laughs again and grabs a napkin from the table of one of the nearby cafes.

 

he reaches out, gently patting jeno's cheekbone and jaw dry. "i'm no expert with animals," he says softly. he’s so close jeno can see the curl of his eyelashes, and the pink of his lips. jeno’s heart stutters. "but… sometimes it's not the smoke they smell.” renjun meets his eye, smiling gently. “sometimes... i think they can tell. when someone's not letting themselves be loved."

 

 

the rest of their grimoire studies project goes by without a hitch, and the resulting slidedeck earns them an A minus, which jeno couldn't be more pleased about. with the project done and dealt with, jeno worries that he and renjun might return to becoming simply classmates, but he finds he doesn't need to.

 

"who're you texting?" jaemin asks, amused. they're out shopping for clothes, as the days are becoming steadily cooler and mark becomes too lazy to cast so many heating enchantments on his t-shirts.

 

"no one," jeno says absently, adding on a string of emojis to his reply- renjun's just told him he's going in for a difficult exam in radical-complex alchemy. you got this!!! o((*^▽^*))o

 

"if no one's name stars with r and ends with enjun huang." jaemin pokes jeno in the side with a sharp jab of his fingers. "am i right?"

 

"ugh, maybe," jeno whines, rubbing his hip- jaemin's nails are sharp. "it’s just- we’ve only ever meet up a few times outside of class, so- so we’ve been texting lots."

 

mark pokes his head out of the dressing room curtain. "is this renjun huang, again?"

 

"who else?"

 

mark frowns. "you're still hanging out with him, jeno? i thought your project was finished."

 

jeno huffs, stowing his phone away into his back pocket. "i mean- it is finished, but we're still friends. besides, i still want to get to know him more."

 

"hey, let's see how those jeans fit," jaemin says, beckoning mark out of the dressing room.

 

mark sighs as jaemin circles him in front of the three-panel mirror, inspecting the new look, vulture-like. "haven't you gotten to know him already, with all those late night texting conversations you two been having every night?"

 

"we don't have them every night ," jeno defends, picking up the shopping bags jaemin and mark had abandoned and joins the the other two by the mirror. "anyway, so what? i really like talking with him, he's interesting and kind and never makes dull conversation. i feel like i could talk with him for hours and hours."

 

mark opens his mouth, frowning, but jaemin interrupts him with a slap to the ass. "these are the ones," jaemin says seriously.

 

mark's distracted immediately, twisting to get a glimpse of his butt in the mirror. "wait, really?"

 

"yeah, look at how they make your calves look, mate. panty-droppers, right there."

 

"i'm only worrying about one pair of panties, though," mark says, biting his lip as he twists some more in the mirror, searching for a good angle.

 

jeno jumps immediately at a change in subject. whew. "oh, mina?" he says excitedly. mina kang is mark's current girlfriend- six months strong, and if mark is reading the signs right, she might be asking him to meet her family quite soon. it's a big deal- she's from a large family of old and important witches (or something, it's far too much lore for jeno to keep track of), and meeting her folks is part of what mark calls, usually with a horrified look on his face, " taking it to the next level."

 

"don't talk about my girlfriend's panties, jeno lee," mark says absently, still biting into his lip. "ahh, i can't take myself seriously- jaem, come help me look for new frames."

 

jeno feels a tug at the bags in his arms, and quickly releases them as they float towards their owner, hovering just a few meet behind as mark and jaemin delve further into the store, most likely courtesy of the former. meanwhile, his phone vibrates twice in his back pocket.

 

renjunnie!! ( *ˊᵕˋ) 2:43 PM

i think i did alright :/

but more importantly i saw the pork buns you like at the brunch bar

want to eat them with me?

 

jeno's cheeks hurt from smiling as he quickly types out a reply.

 

jeno lee!! ^_^ 2:43 PM

YES

yes please!!!

i'm out with jaeminnie & markie rn though ><

 

renjunnie!! ( *ˊᵕˋ) 2:45 PM

OH i'm so sorry

that's alright then

i'll save them for another time haha

don't let me interrupt!!

 

jeno lee!! ^_^ 2:45 PM

NO NO NO ur not interrupting at all!!

we were pretty much done anyway hehe

i can meet u in ten minutes!! o(≧∇≦o)

 

 

renjun frowns. "aren't you cold?"

 

jeno's still in the outfit he had gone shopping in- just a thin cardigan and handkerchief scarf. of course he's cold- it's october for god's sake- but he doesn't want to admit it and look silly in front of renjun. "no, no, i'm fine!" he laughs away his shivers, shoving his hands in his pockets.

 

renjun looks reluctant, but lets it go. "...alright. here's the promised pork bun, then."

 

jeno takes it gratefully, the heated pastry warming up in his hands. "thanks, renjun."

 

renjun jerks his head towards the little stone path, the one that circles the school, a small smile on his face. "would you like to walk with me?"

 

jeno's heart races. "oh, sure! sounds lovely."

 

they set an easy pace- quick enough as to not freeze, but steady enough to enjoy the autumn scenery and for jeno to eat his bun. it’s a serene kind of quiet- no one’s around on campus in the afternoon, perhaps resting or out shopping like jaemin and mark and jeno. 

 

jeno swallows down a bit of the pastry. “how- how was your exam?”

 

renjun sighs, his breath visible in the chilly air. “ah... it was alright, i think. i’m not confident with my alchemy. i.. was a bit stressed about it, to be honest.”

 

jeno frowns. “don’t stress… i’m sure you did great? we should study together next time, i stress a lot about work too and-” jeno catches himself speaking too quickly, and stutters to a stop, embarrassed. “and- and i’ve found that… group studying really- er, lightens the load.”

 

renjun gives jeno a little tight-lipped smile. “thank you, jeno.”

 

jeno swallows. “no- no problem.”

 

“can i be honest?” renjun smiles crookedly at jeno, hands still jammed deep in his pockets. “i invited you on this walk because… talking with you relaxes me. i- i can’t really explain… but hearing your voice and just having conversation with you calms me down. i’m sorry if that’s weird,” he adds quickly, and- oh my god, renjun’s blushing, a faint pink spreading across his cheeks. “i’m sorry if that’s weird, but- it’s true.”

 

he looks away, suddenly awkward, and jeno flounders to reassure him. “don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s not weird at all! i- actually, talking to you calms me down too,” he finds himself saying, honestly. “i love our conversations, and... and if you ever feel stressed and you want to talk to me, you can! whenever you want. really.” 

 

renjun looks up, hopeful. “really?” 

 

“really,” jeno whispers. 

 

but then renjun’s giving him that sad, crooked smile again, and instead just turns to look at the ground, kicking a stray pebble with the toe of his boot, bangs hanging in his eyes. “i... dunno. i think i did quite awfully on my exam.”

 

his voice is tight, like it might break, and jeno has to physically restrain himself from burying himself in renjun’s chest and giving the boy the warmest hug ever. “oh, don’t say that,” jeno tries, instead opting for an awkward grab on renjun’s wrist through the paws of his sweater. “it’s just one exam, it’s not life or death. and even if your grade doesn’t turn out the best, there’s always more opportunities to get it back up, right?” 

 

“i... suppose so.” renjun’s still staring at the ground, eyes hidden by the curtain of his hair. “ah... i- i have to do well. i can’t afford to make mistakes like this.”

 

“why are you so worried? about your grades?”

 

renjun’s head snaps up, and jeno panics, immediately regretting asking that question. “i mean- you don’t have to tell me! i’m sure everyone has their reasons-”

 

but renjun just stares at jeno, brow furrowed. “you’re shivering.”

 

and in one fell movement, he whisks off his fur-lined aviator and drapes it across jeno’s shoulders like a cape. jeno’s immediately doused in warmth, the insides of the jacket soft, and oh god, it smells like renjun’s cologne- timber and mint and musk, and jeno just wants to roll around and bury his nose into it.

 

but still- “no, no, i’m alright!” jeno squeaks, trying to shrug off the jacket. “you shouldn’t have, i don’t want you to-”

renjun just shrugs. without the jacket, he’s in a plain white v-neck t-shirt tucked neatly into his black jeans, and nothing else. “i’m fine. and i don’t mind the question.”

 

“oh- oh, right.” jeno pulls the aviator a bit more tightly around his shoulders. “you... still don’t have to answer, though.”

 

“that’s okay. i feel bad for making you come out here with no explanation, after all. i…” and he exhales. “i’m sure you’ve heard the rumors. about me.”

 

“that... that you’re a demon hunter?” jeno asks quietly.

 

“mmhmm. i’m obviously not,” he adds, and jeno nods again, attentive. “but... i used to be. my family… and all my ancestors before me. they were demon hunters.”

 

renjun gives another shaky exhale, the memories clearly taking a toll on him, and jeno’s heart hurts at the sight of his troubled expression. “you really don’t have to tell me,” he tries again, voice soft, but renjun shakes his head.

 

“no, it’s alright. you deserve to know, being a- a descendant of hell, and all. i grew up with my family, in norway, where i… was trained. to hunt.” 

 

they come across one of the larger oak trees, orange leaves breathing slowly in the breeze. it’s the one that jeno usually likes to eat lunch under with mark or jaemin. “i was trained to hunt, but i grew to hate it. i could see that hunting originated from a desire to eradicate evil, but- it had become more than that. it became centered around prejudice and killing. i couldn’t take it.” 

 

renjun’s fiddling with one of the chains looped through his belt, and jeno instinctively takes his hand, giving it an encouraging squeeze. renjun gives him a watery smile, and squeezes back. “so... i ran. i ran away from home, and i lived on my own for a long time.

 

“it was while i was living on my own i realized my own cowardice. it was then i realized that only i could be the one to stop people like my family. so... i’ve come to school at holy cross. i need a higher education if i want to bring justice to those who my family has ruined.”

 

“you’re really brave,” jeno tells him, voice soft.

 

renjun just shakes his head, an unreadable smile on his face. “i wish i was.”

 

“no, you’re really brave, renjun,” jeno repeats. “to make a stand against your family like that, that’s already something i could never do. and to- to come to school here, where there’s not too many humans, and people spread rumors about you every day- that’s already really, really, brave of you.”

 

renjun shakes his head again, looking away. “you’re too kind to me.”

 

“i- i really mean it!” there’s a quiver in jeno’s voice, and renjun looks back at him, concerned, but there’s nothing to see but a blushing demon, shy from hearing his own voice talk so much. “renjun- you’ve already done so much just by being here. i’ve already learned so much from you, and it’s unfair that no one appreciates it! you’ve been so kind to me as well and-”

 

“how could anyone be anything but kind to you?” 

 

jeno blushes. “what do you mean?”

 

“you’re so sweet,” renjun says, smiling softly. “i mean… jeno, you’ve been so kind to me too, even as the whole school gossips about me.”

 

“you shouldn’t worry about gossip, renjun-”

 

renjun’s grip tightens on jeno’s hand. “no, of course i don’t mind the gossip. because… as long as you’re with me, and as long as you’re kind to me, no one else matters.”

 

jeno feels warm all over and blushes, looking away. “g-gosh, renjun…”

 

“i’m sorry,” renjun whispers. “was that too much?”

 

“no… not at all,” jeno hears himself whisper back. “i’m so glad…”

 

“jeno,” renjun saying, voice suddenly husky and low, and he’s so close all of a sudden, hand still intertwined tightly with jeno’s, leaning in. “there’s a bit of… on your mouth...”

 

renjun’s thumb brushes across jeno’s upper lip, the sensation sending tingles down jeno’s spine as he blushes furiously, heart pounding. 

 

“t-thank you,” jeno squeaks out, but renjun keeps his hand there, cupped gently around jeno’s jaw. 

 

he’s so close, jeno can feel the heat of his body and see the tint of pink on his lips- his tongue darts out, wetting them. he’s so close jeno can hear his heart beating.

 

“jeno…” renjun murmurs, “can i kiss you?”

 

“yes,” jeno sighs, and when renjun presses their lips together, soft and gentle and warm underneath the shade of the orange oak tree, time stills to a stop.

 

 

going out with renjun huang feels like a dream.

 

everyday, jeno wakes up to 'goodmorning, jeno <3' and maybe a picture of some coffee, a simple gesture that never fails to make the butterflies in jeno's stomach flutter like crazy. they'll meet in the courtyard and renjun will walk jeno to his classes, holding his his hand warmly for everyone to see, and he's almost always waiting outside when the bell rings two hours later, books tucked under one arm, with a handsome smile on his face and a greeting of 'how was it?'

 

if they're headed to a class they share, renjun will keep a firm hand on jeno's thigh as he reads or takes notes, clearly concentrated, while jeno can only pretend to follow along while his poor brain is turned to mush just by having his boyfriend by his side.

 

and it's a whole other feeling altogether when renjun drapes jeno in his fur-lined aviator on the days jeno dresses too lightly, insisting that he'll catch a cold. jeno doesn't know if it's from the warmth of the coat or his own embarrassment when he gets double-takes of recognition in the hallway when his classmates realize why the jacket is familiar. either way, he loves it, and if he dresses in a thin shirt on cold days just for that- well, renjun will never know.

 

they're studying together sometime in the afternoon, letting the lazy autumn sun warm their text pages as they sit near the biggest window in the library when renjun starts yawning and jeno insists he return to his dorm to take a nap before dinner. renjun begrudgingly complies, planting a lazy kiss to jeno's cheek before he gathers his things in his bag and and exits, stretching and yawning as he goes. jeno sighs. he doesn't think he'll ever tire of learning a new habit of renjun's.

 

and then mark's slamming his dwarven curses of the late 14th century anthology into the table, jerking jeno out of his trance. "we need to talk," he says firmly.

 

"oh my- mark, you scared the living daylights out of me," jeno gasps, slumping down in his seat.

 

mark just pushes his circular glasses up the bridge of his nose, the line of his mouth flat and his eyes dark. "we need to talk," he repeats. "about renjun."

 

"sorry, mate," jaemin's voice is saying nonchalantly, sliding up to their area as well, in his school blazer and some designer t-shirt, hopping up on the table. "mark's idea, not mine. you know i think renjun's a steal."

 

jeno crosses his arms, annoyed. "is that what this is about? renjun? you've been giving me the silent treatment all week- because i'm dating renjun?"

 

a few weeks ago, when renjun and jeno had become official, mark had stopped talking to him. aside from one word answers in text ( "want me to bring home dinner?" "sure" "studying late?" yep" ), mark had been completely ignoring him, nodding his head in lieu of greeting during the now rare occurrences they would see each other at the dorm. he'd even begun so far as to avoiding sharing jeno's presence altogether- a detail jeno wouldn't even have noticed if he hadn't seen mark's water bottle floating off the table and down the hall all on its own- really, he couldn't just come out and get it himself?

 

at first, jeno figured that he was concentrating on his studies or maybe just going through something on his own (and he'd stocked their pantry with cornflakes out of guilt, too, dammit!), but this?

 

wait, no- this actually makes much more sense.

 

mark just sighs, adjusting his glasses again. "no, no, just- i didn't know how to feel, i mean, i've been warning you about him all this time and you just- start going out with him? didn't even tell us?"

 

jeno blushes a little, guilty. "i didn't tell you anything only because- because i thought you'd be upset," he defends anyway. "and i was right, wasn't i?"

 

"i'm not upset," jaemin offers. "i think renjun's great. kinda scary, but he's great."

 

"aw, thanks, jaem," jeno says, touched, and jaemin reaches out to ruffle his hair, grinning.

 

"alright, look, here's the thing," mark sighs again. "yeah, he seems like a great guy right now. and maybe he is a great guy, what do i know? i'm not the one dating him."

 

jeno glares. "exactly."

 

"but he's still a hunter, jeno! what else is there to understand? that should be where you of all people draw the line!"

 

jeno lets out a shaky laugh of disbelief. "i can't believe this. you actually believe those stupid rumors."

 

mark raises an eyebrow. "are you trying to tell me it's just a rumor that he comes from one of the most notorious hunting clans of the century? jaem, tell him."

 

jaemin slides over his phone, an bright news article lit up on the screen. "norway's infamous huang clan," he says, picking some dirt out from under his nails while jeno skims through the beat. "highest number of kills in the country to date. you won't find it in that article but- their slayer unit kinda whooped my ass in berlin back in '83." he rolls his eyes. "what a pain in the ass. sexy as hell clan, though," he adds. "apparently they win TIME's Most Charming Smile every other generation."

 

" see,"  mark insists. "you hear that? they were active in '83. when was hunting outlawed? 1965, jen. come on, i'm telling you this guy is bad news."

 

"why are you acting like you know his whole stupid story?" jeno fumes. "you're so - he freaking ran away from home when he was twelve, mark!"

 

mark's mouth opens, then closes. "oh. that- that i didn't know."

 

"he was the heir to the clan, but he couldn't stand hunting, although he was one of his family's best," jeno barrels on, trying to keep his temper steady, but- "you can't just- just accuse him of all these things when you don't even know him!

 

"that's not what i-"

 

"i thought you were better than to just- just believe in all those stupid rumors they're spreading around school! jun's been so brave and all he gets in return is-"

 

" jeno," jaemin says sharply. "calm down, sweetheart... you're blacking out."

 

"i- what?" and then jeno smells it- that putrid smell of ash and smoke, and when he scrambles to open the front camera of his phone, he gasps at his own reflection- his horns, usually hidden in his curls, stand a few inches above his head, sharp and curved, nearly at full length, the whites of his eyes are now black with rage, and the steam rising from his skin and through his clothes is visible even through the camera lens.

 

" ah! i- i'm sorry, i'm sorry," he squeaks, mortified, jumping out of his chair as not to melt it. "i- i'm really sorry, i didn't mean to-"

 

"it- it's alright, you're fine," mark says, but he's a little pale, and he's jumped to his feet too, a bead of sweat at his temple. but he still offers his hand out, and jeno automatically takes it- it's as cold as ice. mark's always been the best with temperature spells. he takes a deep breath.

 

"i- i'm sorry," jeno mumbles again, once he stops smelling ash and he can feel his clothes on his skin again. "i didn't mean to- i should've controlled my-"

 

mark squeezes his hand where he's still holding it, giving jeno a tentative smile. "er- i'm sorry too, that was my fault as well. i'm not the type... to believe in rumors. i shouldn't have fallen for that, you were right. i didn't know that about renjun and his family."

 

“that’s right,” jeno huffs, stubborn on forgiving his friend too easily. “thank you.”

 

“thank you for buying me cornflakes,” mark offers, still with the hesitant grin, and it’s only when jaemin begins to chant “ kiss and make up! kiss and make up!” that jeno gives in with a sigh and throws his arms around mark’s shoulders in a hug. 

 

mark exhales, patting jeno’s back comfortingly. “i really am sorry, jen,” he says quietly into jeno’s curls.

 

jeno sniffles, trying his best not to start crying in the middle of the library. he hates emotional moments like this so much. “s’ okay,” he mumbles into mark’s shoulder. “can we not do that ever again?”

 

“‘course.” mark releases jeno, a real smile on his face this time. “so... we’re good?”

 

jeno wipes his nose where it’s suddenly snotty. “ duh, markie. as long as you can trust junnie and not buy into those silly rumors anymore.”

 

"ehhh..." mark laughs nervously, scratching the back of his head. "i mean... i don’t buy into the rumors, but... there is one thing i’d like to see about renjun. just- just one thing.”

 

 

"so... renjun. where you from?"

 

renjun’s a sight to see, sitting in the dining table of mark and jeno’s dorm, all dressed up for dinner with an all black ensemble- dark dress shirt buttoned all the way to the top, freshly ironed slacks, golden jewelry in his ears and on his fingers. he tugs at the collar of his shirt. "er... norway," he says, clearly a bit uncomfortable. "um- not to be rude, but where is jeno?"

 

"he'll be out in a minute, don't worry about that," mark says sweetly, waving his hand nonchalantly. "so- norway?"

 

"but he said dinner would start at six thirty," renjun points out, ignoring mark’s questio. "and right now it's-" his watch glints gold when he checks it- "-it's six forty three and i still haven't seen him."

 

"look, he had something weird to eat and jaemin's with him in the- uh, bathroom," mark says all too quickly, but renjun just frowns.

 

"something weird to eat?" renjun’s chair scrapes backwards as he stands, distracted. "i should go check on him-"

 

"that's not necessary!" mark yelps, and in a split second, an invisible force is suddenly shoving renjun by the shoulders back into the chair, and pushes him right back up to the table, his torso pressing almost uncomfortably into the wood. 

 

"that's- that's not necessary," mark repeats, quickly smiling again, but renjun just raises an eyebrow at him. 

 

"you're a mage," he says. 

 

mark coughs. "maybe i am."

 

"yeah, you are." and then renjun's crossing his arms across his chest, calm and collected, but his stare burns. "your nonverbal charms are quite good, too."

 

"thank you, i appreciate that." 

 

"...well?" renjun's eyes are dark. "go ahead, then. what do you want to know about me?"

 

"no hard feelings," mark says quickly. "i... i'm just looking out for jeno, you know? i want him to be safe."

 

"me too," renjun says coldly. "his safety and wellbeing is the most important thing to me right now."

 

mark blinks. "that's... good. glad to hear it." and then he coughs rather awkwardly again, looking away. "er- where was i?"

 

"you were interrogating me," renjun says, voice dripping with sarcasm as he drums his fingers against the table, rings knocking against the wood.

 

"right, right!" mark laughs, scratching the back of his head, suddenly feeling under dressed in his simple gray sweater he'd chose for their dinner- the room feels as if it's dropped several degrees. "so- i meant to ask. jeno tells me you ran away from your family, is that true?"

 

"that's right. i've been living on my own for a while now."

 

"why'd you run?"

 

"...are you serious?" renjun's staring at mark, nose slightly crinkled in something like disgust. "because hunting is illegal. because i could no longer stand to associate with my over-traditional family. because demon hunting is morally wrong. because my family and my own moral compasses were on opposite damn ends, would you like any more reasons or does that suffice?"

 

his voice is low and hard and frankly, quite intimidating. mark plows on anyway. "right, but- so what? you ran away, and then you just decided to enroll at holy cross academy, then? for what?"

 

"that's not quite any of your business." renjun glances at his surroundings, ticked. "where is jeno? i'd like to see that he's alright."

 

"he's fine. could you answer one more question for me, then? while we- while we wait for jeno?"

 

"fine," renjun spits. "but make it fast."

 

"why are you going out with him? a demon?" the light of the dorm's dining room reflects in mark's round glasses, but not enough so that renjun can miss the hardness in the mage's eye. "after you've been trained your whole life to kill his kind? why ? to ease your conscience, maybe?"

 

renjun's stands to his feet, and before mark can move an inch his fist slams into the table- followed by an almost metallic crunch. mark chances a glance downwards and- holy shit . in the single centimeter between his index and ring finger is a silvery knife, stabbed right through their wooden table. 

 

renjun's right in his face, their noses nearly touching. mark swallows. there's a golden piercing through his eyebrow he's never noticed before- maybe he'd put it on for the dinner occasion. "i'm going out with jeno because i like him," he says, voice nearly venomous. "i like him so much i would do anything for him. to protect him and keep him safe." 

 

"that- that's not enough," mark manages. "i- i have to protect him too."

 

renjun eyes narrow. "what, are you his mother?"

 

"i'm his friend," mark bites back. "i've seen him go through a lot, alright? and i’m not just going to stand by and watch him get hurt again. he’s the sweetest, kindest, most loving person i know, and if you so much as hold a blade near him-”

 

“i’ll hold a blade near you,” renjun snarls, grip tightening around the handle lodged deep into the table, but mark is faster, lips moving silently in a language renjun can’t read off his lips, and renjun almost misses the rustling of paper behind him and whirls around to see one of the biggest occultism anthologies flying straight for his head, so he reaches for his silver on pure instinct-

 

mark swallows. “you- you impaled my fucking occultism anthology.”

 

renjun just sighs, finally backing down from where he’s still pressed close to the mage’s face. “sorry. couldn’t help it.” he glances at the farmost wall of the dining room where there’s now a textbook stabbed straight through the spine, hanging right off the wall like some sort of strange modern artwork. 

 

mark’s still sitting there, panting. “you- you just carry knives around like that?”

 

“if you’d lived alone since you were twelve, i think you’d find yourself doing the same.” renjun removes the knife from the wall with some effort, before folding the blade into the handle and tucking it away. “are we done here?”

 

“maybe.” outside, there’s voices, bickering loudly, and renjun pinpoints jeno’s immediately. 

 

he’s in the bathroom... should’ve known, you lying little-” renjun runs a hand through his hair, agitated. “this was just- a setup? was there even a dinner planned?”

 

“of course there’s dinner,” mark huffs. “i’m not gonna miss out on jaemin’s cooking, he took a master chef course in paris, summer ‘77. but- i just gotta know.” and that shine is back in his eyes, unrelenting. “ why are you going out with him? don’t you- don’t you feel… guilty? i would.”

 

“guilty?” renjun lets out a derisive laugh. “and why would i feel guilty? because of my lineage? because of the life i purposely left behind, to become a better man?”

 

mark blinks. “don’t tell me… he never told you.”

 

that catches renjun’s attention. “told me what?”

 

mark just stares back at him. “it’s not my story to tell, but- really? he’s never told you?”

 

“told me what?” renjun says sharply. “tell me, now, or i’ll-”

 

“didn’t you ever wonder why he never takes off his scarf?” mark asks, wonder in his voice, but before renjun can process the question, the dormitory door bangs open. 

 

“if i’ve told you once i’ve told you a million times, jaem, blood oranges don’t have any real-” and then jeno’s eyes widen. “oh, junnie!”

 

and a second later renjun’s boyfriend has pounced on him in a hug, giving him a big kiss on the cheek before pulling away, beaming up at him. “you’re early!” he says brightly, sharp teeth shining in a gorgeous smile. 

 

it’s adorable. “yes, i- wait, early?” renjun asks, distracted, and jeno cocks his head, confused.

 

“yes, we said dinner started at seven, remember?” he says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and renjun grits his teeth. of course.

 

“i... alright, then. more importantly, is your stomach feeling better?” renjun holds his boyfriend at arms length, ready to provide jeno with a full body health inspection plus medical care, but jeno just giggles.

 

“stomach? my stomach is fine, junnie… are you alright?”

 

“...yes, i’m just fine, baby,” renjun grits, glaring properly at mark over jeno’s shoulder, but mark just slinks away to the kitchen, whistling as he goes. “just... excited for dinner, is all.”

 

“oh, good!” jeno beams, giving renjun’s bicep a little squeeze where he’s clinging onto it. “er-” his face falls  a little as he looks away, nervous. “to be honest... i was just a tiny bit scared for this… jaeminnie knows me the longest-” he jerks his head towards his other friend, who’s now moved to the kitchen with groceries in hand- “-but mark is really, really protective. he can be a little scary sometimes,” jeno admits, biting his lip, “but- but he means well! he just wants the best for me, and i couldn’t ask for anyone better.”

 

“scary,” renjun snorts. “er, i mean- i’m glad, baby,” he adds, reassuring, and jeno’s shoulders relax. “i’ll keep that in mind, promise. we’ll have a good time.” he runs a hand through jeno’s dark curls, fingertips brushing against the points of his horns, and jeno sighs, eyelashes fluttering and cheeks darkening as he leans into the touch.

 

“okay,” jeno murmurs when renjun brings his hand away, eyes still half-lidded. “do you... do you want to stay after…? we can watch a movie, with mark and jaem…”

 

“sure, whatever you’d like,” renjun says softly. “but let’s eat first, okay?”

 

“mmhmm.” and jeno begins to shrug his long coat off, slightly drowsy, and renjun laughs, reaching out to help him. 

 

he suddenly remembers mark’s question when he sees jeno’s beige scarf, still wrapped tightly around his neck. “let me help you with your scarf, hmm?

 

“okay,” jeno says, and turns around, back facing renjun. “thanks, junnie.”

 

“sure,” renjun mumbles, surprised at the ease of the situation, and carefully begins to unwind the scarf from his boyfriend’s neck. he holds his breath when the knitted yarn finally falls away, and- 

 

“thanks,” jeno beams, accepting the loose scarf from renjun’s hands to hang on the coat stand. “now let’s go eat, jaem makes such good steak.”

 

“alright,” renjun says distractedly, still staring at jeno’s neck, even as he skips towards the dinner table excitedly. because where his bare skin should be is another gray handkerchief scarf, tied in a firm knot just below his adam’s apple, another layer of protection that effectively covers almost all of his boyfriend’s skin there. renjun’s seen him wear it before, but he’d never known jeno would wear under his regular scarf, too.

 

he’s still thinking about it when they’re all sat at the table not even ten minutes later. “ voilà ,” jaemin is announcing, uncovering a mouthwatering dinner spread with steaks and brussel sprouts and a divine smelling sauce. “steak au poivre,” he says proudly. “eat well.”

 

jeno and mark are already diving into their meals (rare for jeno and well done for mark), loudly and with compliments, but renjun’s thoughts cloud his mind and he can barely pretend to enjoy it.

 

why wouldn’t jeno take off his scarf? and more importantly, why would he conceal it from his boyfriend?

 

 

december meets renjun with an overwhelming sense of dread. with finals readily approaching, he’s torn between studying, spending time with jeno, and then deliberating over mark’s stupid question from dinner. that stupid question that haunts him still- in the classroom, in his walks through the campus courtyard, in his dates in the city with jeno when they pore over the designs in their cappuchinos and take pictures of their intertwined hands for jeno’s social media. the question haunts him when he lies in his dormitory, alone, awake until dawn. 

 

jeno’s scarf wearing habits, which renjun had previously passed off as a cute and endearing fashion quirk, stick out more than ever as renjun realizes the thing never comes off. not when it gets stuffy in the classroom, not not even when they shop for clothes and jeno wants to try something on- the scarf goes over the new shirt or cardigan he’s picked. renjun finds his eyes glued to it all the time, wondering what secrets that knitted garment could possibly hold before snapping out of it and reprimanding himself for being so weird.

 

his slight obsession must show, because jeno sits him down over sunday brunch and tells him that he’s been worrying about renjun for weeks, nervously caressing renjun’s hands across the table, with big worried eyes behind his circular spectacles. he assures renjun that he’s here for him, and always will be here for him- and so renjun finally makes his decision. 

 

he swings by his favorite jewelry shop the very next day, and pays 230 euros for a thin golden necklace with a pretty j-shaped pendant.

 

the jewelry box feels as heavy as lead in his pocket when he invites jeno out for one of their evening walks around campus. jeno meets him in the courtyard, beaming, in a sweater and a red knitted scarf looped tightly around his neck, hand slipping automatically into renjun’s, warm and comforting and sweet.

 

they make aimless conversation as they follow their usual path, but renjun is certain his boyfriend sees through him- he feels jittery and nervous and knows jeno will be able to tell better than anyone else. renjun’s hypothesis proves to be correct when jeno looks visibly relieved as renjun pauses on their way, telling jeno he needs to tell him something.

 

“what is it?” jeno smiles at him, but renjun can see the curiosity in his eyes.

 

“i... bought you a gift,” renjun says slowly. jeno’s eyebrows perk in interest.

 

“oh, what’s the occasion?” he asks excitedly, breath visible in the cold of the evening. renjun can’t bear to look him in the eye and instead casts his eyes downward, staring at their interlaced hands.

 

“there... isn’t one,” he admits quietly.

 

“oh,” jeno says, now sounding even more confused. “oh... okay.”

 

renjun exhales, bringing jeno’s hand to his mouth before placing a slow, gentle kiss to each of his boyfriend’s knuckles. the action calms him immediately, shoulders relaxing when he looks back up to meet jeno’s gaze, which is soft with affection. “i guess… the occasion is that i love you,” renjun says quietly, and jeno breaks into the tiniest of smiles, eyes crinkling. 

 

“i love you too,” he says softly, and leans in for gentle kiss, a delicate hand cupping renjun’s cheek as his lips part, pliable and sweet and filled with tenderness and all the care in the world.

 

they finally break away, jeno’s cheeks pink. “what was the gift?” he asks breathlessly.

 

“nothing much,” renjun murmurs, reaching into his pocket. he meets jeno’s eyes, offering him a tentative smile, fingers curling around the small box in his pocket. “will you close your eyes for me, baby?”

 

jeno’s eyes flutter shut. “okay,” he says obediently, but he smiles still, standing there adorably as his hands cling on to the ends of renjun’s aviator just to keep his place.

 

renjun takes a deep breath, staring at the black jewelry box in his hands before finally cracking it open. the shiny golden j glints back at him, innocent. he holds it out between them, where jeno will be able to see. 

 

“open,” he says finally.

 

jeno carefully opens one eye, and then the other. his gaze drops downwards, and his jaw drops open. “oh my- renjun,” he gasps, cradling the little box in his hands immediately. “you shouldn’t have, this looks so expensive? and it’s so pretty, oh my gosh -”

 

“it’s only barely as pretty as you,” renjun counters, smiling too, before he remembers the other purpose of his little gift. “it’s... a necklace.”

 

“...yes,” jeno murmurs, eyes dropping downwards. “it’s so beautiful, junnie, thank you.”

 

“can-” renjun’s voice cracks, his throat suddenly dry, and he chokes it down. “can i put it on for you?” his voice is barely a whisper as he struggles to keep it steady. “please?”

 

jeno stares, his face draining of color. “erm- why?”

 

“because i want to. for you.” renjun can hear the tremble in his own voice, but stands his ground anyway. “...jen- jeno?”

 

“i-” jeno bites his lip, looking away. “my neck is really cold… is it okay if i just… wear it at home?”

 

“jeno...” renjun whispers. “why?”

 

“why- why what?” jeno asks, voice shrill, and renjun swallows.

 

“why-” renjun’s voice breaks. “why... why can’t you take off your scarf, baby?”

 

and then jeno’s suddenly alarmed, jerking backwards, hand slipping out of renjun’s. “w-what?” he stutters, and he looks so terrified that renjun regrets all of his schemes and wishes immediately to return to his ignorance- wishes all his desire away just so that jeno wouldn’t look so fucking scared . “did- did somebody tell you-”

 

“nobody told me anything,” renjun says, voice breaking again. “i promise, jeno, just- i... i have to know. what is it that- that you can’t even tell me… ?” 

 

“it’s not like that,” jeno whimpers, hand still tightly clutched around the jewelry box. 

 

“then- what is it? please-” 

 

and then jeno shuts his eyes and a tear slips out, streaking down his cheek. “it’s not-” and he takes a shaky breath. “it- it’s not-” and he hiccups, another tear escaping. “it’s not b-because- of you,” he chokes out, and it takes all of renjun’s might not to gather jeno in his arms and just hold him and tell him that everything is okay. “it’s- it’s me, i’m just-” and another hiccup escapes his throat as he sniffles, wiping his nose with his sleeve pathetically. “i’m just- i’m scared and -”

 

“it’s okay, it’s okay,” renjun whispers, unable to stand the distance between them and finally taking jeno’s shaky hands in his own, and thank god jeno doesn’t jerk away. “it’s okay to be scared-”

 

“n-not when you’re hiding things,” jeno whispers back, looking away. “i- i wanna- i wanna tell you, junnie, but i- i’m so- i just-”

 

“shh, shh, you don’t have to say anything,” renjun says as gently as he can with how fast his heart is beating. “don’t worry, don’t worry, i’m sorry for this-”

 

don’t be sorry,” jeno whimpers. “just-” and he takes a deep, quivery breath. “i- i can show you.”

 

renjun brushes away a tear from his cheek, holding him close. “are you sure?”

 

“y-yes,” jeno says firmly. “please- please take off my scarf, junnie.”

 

“...okay,” renjun whispers finally. “okay.”

 

with a deep breath, renjun reaches out and begins to unravel jeno’s scarf, layer by layer until there’s nothing there, and the scarf falls away. jeno lets out a little noise as the cold air hits his skin, and then simply hangs his head, silent. 

 

renjun swallows. 

 

by the light of the yellow lamppost overhead, renjun can finally see the harsh red of the slash shaped scars, stretching across jeno’s neck and disappearing down his shirt, where they’re presumably more severe. they glare back at renjun until he can only hear the blood boiling in his ears and the pounding in his head.

 

“...who did this?” renjun asks, but the voice he hears is shaky and low and angry, bordering on a growl. “who- who did this to you?”

 

jeno’s head still hangs low, almost ashamed as he bares his neck to his boyfriend. “w-when i was young,” he mumbles, a tear dropping onto the ground, “when- when i was young, my family was attacked.”

 

renjun feels dizzy. “by who?”

 

jeno sniffles. “by... hunters.”

 

renjun’s throat feels tight as he runs his fingertips across the scars. “was… was it- knives?”

 

“and... c-crossbow.” jeno’s eyes shut. “t-there was more too, but-” he hiccups again. “i- i don’t really wanna talk about it.”

 

“that’s okay,” renjun manages, and finally loops the scarf back around jeno’s neck, covering the scars back up. “that’s okay,” he repeats, softly. “thank you… for showing me.”

 

jeno just sniffs again, still staring at the ground. “i’m- i’m sorry.”

 

“for what?”

 

“for-” jeno sniffles, wiping his nose with his sleeve. “for not t-telling you before and worrying you-”

 

“no, baby, no,” renjun sighs, pulling jeno close and letting his boyfriend’s head rest against his shoulder. he feels jeno exhale shakily against his chest. “it’s okay that you didn’t tell me.”

 

“n-no,” jeno mumbles back, arms tightening around renjun’s waist. “i should’ve told you… b-because-” he hiccups. “you trusted me, ‘n told me about your family, and i couldn’t tell you about mine because- i was scared and-”

 

“no, no, you’re brave,” renjun whispers, letting his hand tangle in jeno’s curls at the back of the other’s head, petting him gently. “you’re brave, the bravest person i know, and i’m glad you trust me.”

 

jeno pulls away, sniffling, his glasses riding up as he wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. “thanks, junnie.”

 

“yeah…” renjun’s hand hovers in the air, hesitant to tuck jeno’s hair back behind his ear, but then just drops, uncertain.

 

“do-” jeno hiccups again, shoulders jerking, and he looks back up at renjun through his eyelashes, eyes brimming with unshed tears, hands fiddling with the frays of his sweater. renjun’s heart clenches. “d’you- think they’re ugly?”

 

“of course not,” renjun says immediately, but jeno interrupts him again, eyes scrunching shut.

 

“are you- are you going to leave,” he chokes out, fists clenched by his side, “because i’m w-weak and ugly and-”

 

renjun’s head pounds, moving at a hundred miles an hour, as a second reason for jeno not removing his scarf emerges, and a hazy memory of jeno’s ex-boyfriends emerges with it- maybe from jaemin or mark when he’d visited their dorms with jeno, and all the blood rushes to his head, loud and heavy and red. 

 

of course not,” renjun hears himself say, voice low as he cradles jeno’s jaw tilting his head upwards. jeno just looks at him, snot in his nose and eyes teary. “never say that. your scars are beautiful, jeno, you’re beautiful and-”

 

“y-you didn’t even see all of them,” jeno whimpers, voice trembling. “it- it goes all the way down my back and-”

 

“you could be a bodyless figure, and i’d still think you’re the most beautiful thing in the world,” renjun says, and jeno lets out a snort of laughter, finally managing a weak little smile.

 

“you- you’re gross,” he sniffles, but he tugs renjun closer, fist clenched onto the hem of renjun’s jacket. his eyes shut, a final tear streaking down his cheek. “thank you for- for everything, junnie,” he says with a small voice, letting his forehead drop onto renjun’s chest, burrowing his nose into renjun’s scent. “could i- tell you the rest some other time?”

 

“of course, baby, of course. there’s no rush.”

 

“...i love you so much,” jeno mumbles.

 

renjun pulls him closer, letting his eyes close too, holding jeno just under the streetlamp in the middle of the night. “i love you too,” he whispers into jeno’s curls. “i love you too, so much.”

 

 

jeno’s so much happier. the new freedom of not having to hide his scars around renjun comes with lots more invitations to the dorm, where he can finally answer the door with his pajama shirt hanging off his shoulder, bedhead, and a big smile on his face, dragging renjun into his room where they’ll marathon movies or study or just cuddle.

 

renjun does his best to make jeno feel comfortable about his scars, which jeno just finds awfully sweet. he buys jeno a new scarf- also 230 euros- since the necklace won’t be seen when he wears it out, a custom-made designer piece with jeno’s name stitched in gold over the logo. his neck also becomes renjun’s favorite place to kiss, and not just when they’re making out. it’s almost a new habit of renjun’s- when they’re bustling in the kitchen making a meal together and renjun passes by, he’ll leave a small peck to jeno’s nape, just before coming around light the stove. or they’ll be cuddled up on the couch when mark is out, and renjun will nose along jeno’s jaw, planting little butterflies along edge of his jaw before dipping lower. and everytime, jeno just can’t wipe the smile off his face.

 

jeno’s happy, so renjun’s happy. right? 

 

“aw, man, look, it’s the demon killer… dude, watch out, he’s gonna slice your head off!”

 

renjun just leans back in his seat, and does his best to look nonchalant as possible as he sips his coffee. the space across from him is empty- jeno hasn’t finished class yet- but they’ve arranged a date anyway, just at the little cafe on campus. it’s not their favorite place, but it gets the job done. 

 

the worst part about visiting this cafe is that it’s always full of kids from renjun’s classes. 

 

“hey, man, you scared the crap out of my friend back there.” 

 

renjun looks up. it’s hyunjin, some wolf from ancient linguistics that just won’t get off renjun’s dick. hyunjin jerks his head towards yunho jang, another familiar face, a bloodsucker that pretends to cower in fear near the cash register while his friends snicker. 

 

“sorry,” renjun says. normally he’d bite back, but he feels dazed and tired and all he wants is jeno to show up so he can drag him to the courtyard and kiss him silly under their usual tree. 

 

hyunjin’s fist clenches on the table, his tongue darting out to run itself across his canines as he stares down at renjun, a hungry look in his eyes. “you scared the crap out of him so hard you’re gonna have to compensate.”

 

“yeah? how?” 

 

“gimme all the cash you got on you,” hyunjin growls, baring his teeth. renjun instinctively flinches at the sight- a show of dominance, his old hunting instructor reminds him in his head, and suddenly he feels sick. 



“...what’s the matter with you?” hyunjin says, annoyed when renjun simply turns his head away, silent. “hey. i said answer.” he bangs his fist on the table, and all the metal utensils rattle. “what, finally feeling a little guilty?”

 

“go fuck yourself,” renjun says finally, and hyunjin’s actually taken aback, cheeks darkening.

 

“don’t give me that attitude, you piece of fucking garbage,” he snarls. “some fucking nerve, showing up at this school, don’t you know your daddy’s killed at least five from every single family tree here?”

 

“he’s not my father-”

 

some fucking nerve,” hyunjin continues, “going out with jeno lee of all people- didn’t you see what you hunter filth did to his back? mauled him half to death when he was just nine years fucking old-”

 

a chill runs down renjun’s spine at the mention of his boyfriend. his back? now that he thinks about it, jeno had mentioned his scars running all the way down his body, but he’d never talked about it for long, as renjun would always change the subject the second his boyfriend started to look even a little down. jeno had said that they were more severe than the scars on his neck, but since they were usually hidden by his shirt, he didn’t think about them very often. 

 

but jeno’s name in hyunjin’s mouth burns in renjun’s ears. “don’t talk about my boyfriend,” he warns, standing up, and hyunjin laughs derisively, stepping up to the challenge, getting in renjun’s face.

 

he bares his teeth. “i’ll talk about whoever i fucking want,” he says. “even if you don’t give a fuck about him, after what happened to his family-”

 

“hey, leave him alone, you piece of trash, hyunjin hwang!”

 

the voice is unfamiliar, and when renjun looks up, he sees a pretty boy he doesn’t recognize, glaring at hyunjin as he stands by renjun’s side of the table. “you’ve bothered him for long enough,” the pretty boy says, glowering at hyunjin, “so why don’t you and your pack get out of here and bark at the damn moon instead of someone minding their own business?”

 

“screw off, lee, this isn’t your fight,” hyunjin says irritably, but the boy doesn’t relent, standing by renjun with his arms crossed firmly across his chest. it proves something, however, as hyunjin finally groans and beckons to his group to leave the cafe, grumbling something about how it wasn’t worth messing with a tree. 

 

the boy turns back to renjun. “i’m- i’m so sorry about that,” he says, a little breathless. he really is quite pretty, renjun concludes, with his warm orange hair and fair tan and golden flecks across his nose and cheeks and neck, like little shining freckles. but renjun already knows he prefers jeno’s eye smile and curls and easy blush.

 

“nothing to apologize for,” he says anyway. “thank you, that was kind.”

 

“no problem!” the boy smiles, hugging his books close to his chest. “i’m... um, donghyuck lee, but you can call me haechan if you like, that’s what everyone calls me.” he tucks a little bit of his hair behind his ear before offering his hand out, which renjun shakes politely. his hands are warm.

 

“i’m renjun huang,” renjun says.

 

“oh! yes, i know,” haechan says, laughing nervously, and renjun starts to feel guilty.

 

“er- i’m actually here to meet… my boyfriend, jeno,” he says apologetically, and haechan flushes green.

 

“i, um, knew that too,” he says, giving renjun an embarrassed little grin. “i’m in… a couple of your classes, and- well, the whole school knows you and jeno are an item.”

 

“you’re not going to try and steal my wallet because of that too, are you?” renjun asks, half joking, and to his surprise haechan shakes his head vigorously, serious.

 

“no, no, no, of course not! i mean, jeez, i have half a braincell, you’re obviously not a hunter, anymore at least,  if you’ve decided to come to school here at holy cross... and you do try in all your classes which must count for something too! and jeno’s such a good kid, even having gone through so much, if he’s going out with you, you must be rather decent as well.”

 

“you’re quite observant.”

 

haechan laughs shyly, shrugging. “well, i am a wood nymph, hear all, see all. erm- when were you going to meet jeno? shall i leave?”

 

“oh, right,” renjun remembers. he pulls up the sleeve of his jacket to check the time. “we were going to meet…” his heart sinks. “er- an hour from now.”

 

haechan’s brow furrows, confused. “sorry?” 

 

renjun massages his temples, eyes screwed shut. “i was spacing out so much, i- i came a early, he’s not out of class for another hour.” 

 

and then his head really begins to pound, a headache overtaking his vision as the cafe begins to sway hazily before him, and then it’s haechan’s voice calling out to him that brings him back down to earth. 

 

“- god , are you okay? renjun?” 

 

haechan’s hands are on his shoulders, keeping him steady. “i- i’m fine,” renjun croaks, the cafe around them blurring back into sight. “i-” he grabs he table to steady him as he trembles, wobbling on his feet. “i’m fine.”

 

“are you sure?” haechan asks him worriedly, eyes wide with concern. “you were really spacing out there… i think you should sit down, renjun.”

 

haechan helps him collapse shakily into his seat. renjun rubs his hand down his face, trying to wake himself up. “i-” the voice he hears his choked and low. “i- do you mind if i ask you a few things, haechan?”

 

“‘sure, anything,” haechan says softly, taking the seat across from him. 

 

“does- does the whole school know what happened to jeno and his family?”

 

“it... was a tragedy, what happened,” haechan says finally, voice quiet. “it was huge, all over the news, when jeno’s family was… attacked. because-” he swallows. “because those hunters… were so ruthless.”

 

“what year was it? the attack?”

 

“‘08, or ‘09, i think.”

 

renjun shuts his eyes, swallowing down the lump in his throat, and takes a deep breath. “and- and- does jeno-”

 

“everyone admires jeno for being so strong,” haechan says quickly, but his voice is still as soft as ever. “especially the students here that are descendants of hell, like hyunjin and yunho,  who understand what it was like to be hunted… everyone can see that jeno is a very kind and sweet boy, and everyone knows why he wears his scarf. but despite his demonology and history… he’s never shown any desire for revenge, or grown evil or- or anything like that. i suppose- it’s because of your past and his that the others see him as traitor of sorts, and... tease him.”

 

renjun’s ears ring, and he looks up at haechan, who startles at seeing the heat in his eyes. “tease him? who teases him?”

 

haechan looks taken aback. “in our classes, you know? just little comments, i would never, of course, but just- little things of- ‘why are you going out with him,’ or warnings to stay… away from you…” haechan trails off. “renjun, i don’t think i should-”

 

“they call him a traitor because he goes out with me?” 

 

“i... suppose so,” haechan whispers. “but- but of course he defends you everytime, it’s quite clear he loves you a lot.”

 

renjun’s head spins, trying to process all this new information, and he staggers to his feet, hand raking through his hair. “i- i have to go.”

 

“are you okay-”

 

renjun’s hip bumps into a table as he staggers out of the cafe, someone’s drink tumbling to the floor- “ hey, watch it!” but it feels as if there’s cotton pressed to his ears as he stumbles out of the front door, the world blurry around him. he barely hears haechan’s cry of “renjun, wait, your drink-!” before he collapses into the snow outside. 

 

his chest heaves, his whole body suddenly numb. he shakily grabs a handful of snow on the ground, and douses his face in it. it does little to bring back the feeling in his head. 

 

his teeth begin to chatter as the chill in the air begins to sink through his jacket and into his skin. “ f-fuck…”

 

he shakily tugs his phone out of his jeans pocket and types out a text to jeno, calling off their date, saying he was tired from his own classes and was napping at his dorm instead. jeno responds within five seconds, offering to bring him tea and cuddles with a string of heart emojis, and renjun’s heart immediately calms. 

 

he really does go back to his dorm, but he can’t shut his eyes, not even for a second. he lies awake until midnight, and then until the sun rises and he can hear the birds chirping outside.





everything falls apart during movie night. 

 

it’s jeno who suggests it. renjun can tell that jeno sees through his act, his act of acting like everything is okay, even as he spaces out every day, jitters during class, hands always clammy and cold even when jeno warms them up between his own fingers. 

 

and that’s only when they’re together. renjun finds himself distancing himself from his boyfriend more and more everyday, with a mix of intent and unconscious both. he doesn’t send the usual greeting texts in the morning or before bed, and almost always returns straight to his dorm after classes, telling jeno he’s due to study for finals.

 

but when finals finish, and christmas break comes along with it, renjun is cornered. 

 

jeno invites him over to watch some old 90s flicks- renjun’s favorite- because mark is gone, visiting his girlfriend’s family, or as jeno says, “taking it to the next level.” supposedly, their dorm will be empty until christmas, and it's clear jeno is excited about it. renjun can’t find it in himself to make an excuse without worrying him, so he gives in.

 

renjun shows up at the front of mark and jeno’s dorm sometime in the afternoon, hands shoved deep in his pockets.

 

the door swings open before renjun can even knock. “hey,” jeno greets him, a little breathless, beaming nonetheless. he’s just stepped out of the shower, dark hair flat on his head, dripping, ivory colored horns poking through. he’s wearing one of renjun’s hoodies, and renjun can’t help but smile back at him, fond.

 

“hey, babe,” he sighs, planting a quick kiss on jeno’s forehead before letting himself into the dorm. jeno closes the door behind him, standing a bit awkwardly over renjun as he undoes the laces of his boots.

 

“there’s, um- i made rice… if you want some,” jeno says in a small voice. “have you eaten, junnie?”

 

“i’ve eaten, thanks,” renjun lies, easily, straightening up to hang his aviator on the coat rack. “what’s in the theater today?”

 

“oh! just- er, terminator and the matrix if you’re feeling like that today, or- or pulp fiction and blair witch project  if you want to go in that direction, too. you choose,” he adds, as renjun opens his mouth. “i’m gonna go dry my hair, but you go sit on the couch and put on whatever you like, okay?”

 

jeno scurries away to the bathroom, and renjun does as he’s told, settling in on the couch and hitting play on whichever movie comes up first in mark’s favorites list. his boyfriend returns a moment later, hair much fluffier looking and with his glasses on his nose. it’s his dorm, but he looks nervous, standing there in the hoodie that’s just a size smaller than his, fiddling with the sleeve, and renjun feels guilty almost immediately. he pats the space next to him. “c’mere.”

 

a relieved smile breaks out on jeno’s face, and as soon as he finds his space next to renjun he snuggles close, nuzzling against renjun’s bicep and letting their hands slot together. the movie starts, intro credits rolling, and the lights dim around them. 

 

they’re five minutes into the movie when jeno breaks the silence. “hey,” he says softly, looking up at renjun, still smushed cozily against his shoulder. “you doing okay?”

 

“i’m doing okay,” renjun replies, doing his best to smile back at jeno. jeno just looks back at him uncertainly, and renjun weakens. 

 

“i’ve just… been tired lately,” renjun admits, then sighs, feeling sorry. he holds jeno’s hand tighter, turning slightly to face him. “i’m… sorry for being a bad boyfriend lately, there’s just... there’s been a lot on my mind and-”

 

“no, that’s okay,” jeno whispers back, reaching out to cup renjun’s face with his hand, gentle. “thanks for telling me. i can only imagine… everyone’s going home for the holidays, but you’ve got to stay here…”

 

that’s not even the surface of it, a voice in the back of renjun’s mind says, but he pushes it away. “yeah,” he says instead, letting jeno comb his hand through his hair, pushing his bangs away from his eyes. “yeah… it’s alright. i’m alright, i think.”

 

“okay,” jeno says softly, just looking at renjun with all the care and love in the world, eyes shining behind his glasses. “okay.” 

 

they let the movie play on for another few minutes before jeno breaks the silence again, this time pulling his legs up on the couch and turning to face renjun fully. “junnie, i- i had an idea.”

 

renjun looks at him curiously. “yeah?”

 

there’s a determined look in jeno’s eye as he reaches to grip both of renjun’s hands tightly in his own, palms as warm as ever. “how about meeting my family? for Christmas?”

 

“what?”

 

jeno reddens. “it’s just… i love you a lot, and my family is really important to me-” renjun’s chest clenches at the mention of jeno’s blood- “...and i want them to meet the guy who’s been making me so happy, for so long.” his ears are pink, but he barrels on anyway. “and  meeting the family is taking it to the next level, isn’t it?”

 

renjun laughs, endeared. “isn’t that something that mark says?”

 

“oh, i dunno, maybe it’s just some canada thing after all,” jeno huffs, but he grins bashfully back at his boyfriend anyway. “but… what do you say? i don’t want you to be all alone here at school, once everyone starts leaving for the holidays…”

 

he’s so worried. renjun’s heart hurts. “i… dunno, baby,” he hears himself respond. “i don’t know if i-” his voice cracks embarrassingly. “if i can meet for Christmas.”

 

“in the New Years, then,” jeno says instead, serious, voice quivering ever so slightly. “junnie... i’m worried about you. i wanna take you home, just so you can get out of school and away from stress and studying, and- and i want to take care of you, just a little bit.”

 

all the voices in renjun’s head tell him to bail, that he can’t do this to jeno, not now, but when jeno looks at him like that, with those eyes, he just… can’t say no. “...alright,” he says finally. “in the New Years, then.”

 

“we can go on a date on Christmas,” jeno says softly, drawing little circles into the top of renjun’s hands. “just- just a little outing, the two of us, i’ll prepare it all, don’t worry about a thing, i just... want to spend time with you and- and make you happy,” jeno finishes, his voice barely a whisper now. “okay? is that okay, junnie?”

 

renjun can’t help himself. “you already make me happy,” he says quietly, pulling jeno closer so he’s nearly on his lap. jeno sighs, letting their foreheads bump against each other, gentle. “you make me so happy, sometimes i think i’m going crazy.”

 

the movie becomes background noise when jeno closes the space and presses their lips together, settling over renjun’s thighs for a more comfortable position, arms looping around his neck. it’s slow and sensual and intimate, and renjun can taste the sweetness of jeno’s lips as he presses closer, hips shifting and tongue hot against his mouth. 

 

“i- i love you,” jeno stutters out as they break apart, lips swollen and red and wet. “i love you, junnie-” and he’s cut off by his own whine as renjun begins to leave wet kisses down the expanse of his neck, licking and teasing against the spots he knows are most sensitive, the taste of ash and smoke dancing along his tongue. 

 

jeno’s hips twitch unconsciously against renjun’s as the other moves lower, teeth dragging gently along his exposed collarbone. “oh, junnie,” he whines again, high in his throat, and his hands find their way up and under renjun’s fleece shirt, scraping against the lean muscles of his stomach. 

 

and when renjun looks up, he sees the redness in jeno’s cheeks and the mess of his hair and the gloss in his eyes as he pants, mouth parted ever so slightly. “junnie…” he says, voice only slightly broken, “ let’s… can we… could we make love?”

 

renjun feels himself flush, and jeno mirrors him, red rising in his cheeks. “are- are you sure? there’s no rush, we’ve never…”

 

they’ve talked about sex before, it’s not a foreign matter. but because of this renjun knows that jeno is a virgin while he certainly is not, and had made sure to tell jeno not to feel pressured and that they could take it at their own pace. they haven’t yet gone farther than heavy petting.

 

“i want to, i want to,” jeno says breathlessly, tugging at the buttons on renjun’s shirt, and renjun laughs and helps him along. 

 

“eager?” 

 

“just wanna take care of you,” jeno murmurs. “just wanna… make you feel good.”

 

“okay... alright, baby,” renjun mutters back, as jeno clumsily pulls his shirt down his arms, leaving renjun just in his white tank top and chains around his neck, pressed against the couch cushions. “we can stop whenever you want… you know that, hm?”

 

“y-yeah, i know,” jeno says, heat flushed across his face. “i know.” his hands play at the hem of his sweatshirt for a few moments, and renjun realizes what he’s psyching himself up for.

 

“you don’t have to take it off-”

 

“i’m fine,” jeno says firmly, and whisks the sweatshirt up and over his head. renjun holds his breath as the porcelain of jeno’s skin shines back at him, milky smooth and slightly sheen with sweat. renjun tears his eyes away from the red marks clawing onto jeno’s stomach just above his hip, and instead looks up to meet his boyfriend’s eye. he’s so red, eyes darting downwards, nervous, and renjun gently massages his waist, careful of the scars that he knows sear across his back. 

 

“...you okay?” 

 

“i’m okay,” jeno confirms, exhaling a little. “can- can i be on the bottom?” 

 

“yeah… c’mere, you’re doing so good.”

 

they hastily make to switch spots, giggling when their limbs awkwardly bump together or tangle, until renjun’s leaning over jeno, who lays against the cushions, curls spread out around his head and arms still around renjun’s neck. he sighs, his hand unconsciously reaching out for renjun’s, and laces their fingers together.

 

it’s then that renjun gets a proper look at his boyfriend. “you’re wearing it,” he realizes, reaching out to run his fingers along the thin golden chain around jeno’s neck, and then the smooth cool of the j-shaped pendant. 

 

“i wear it everyday,” jeno admits shyly, ducking his head a little. “you just can’t see… ‘cause i’m wearing the scarf you got me, too.”

 

renjun’s insides squirm, but he leans down for an open-mouthed kiss at jeno’s neck anyway. “you’re a treasure…”

 

jeno’s whining again, hand finding its way to renjun’s hair to grip lightly at his bleached locks, tightening lightly when renjun begins to trail lower and lower. “ jun…”

 

jeno lets out a quivering sigh when renjun finally makes his way to his clothed crotch. renjun raises an eyebrow at jeno, unable to stop the grin forming on his face. “cute boxers.”

 

“they came with the socks, okay?” jeno huffs. his underwear is kitten-printed. “just- just-” he lets out an embarrassing whimper when renjun squeezes softly at his thigh. “just… take it off…”

 

his hand tightens where it’s still interlaced with renjun, but the other trembles as he grips at the couch cushion. renjun frowns as soon as he notices, and looks back up at his boyfriend. “are you sure?”

 

“w-wait,” jeno stutters, and grabs renjun’s wrist, grip tight. “wait, wait-”

 

“i’m here, i’m here,” renjun says immediately, pressing kisses to his cheeks and forehead as he strokes jeno’s sweaty bangs back, keeping his voice as low as he can. “i’m here, we don’t have to-”

 

“no, it’s just- there’s something you should know,” jeno mumbles. 

 

“...what is it?”

 

“i’m- i’m nervous,” jeno whispers, and renjun’s heart breaks.

 

“it is scary, isn’t it? alright, let’s stop-”

 

“no!” jeno cries, cheeks pink. “i- i want to, it's just-” his eyes squeeze shut. “my… my scars…”

 

"oh, jeno," renjun says softly, gently tucking a stray strand of dark hair back behind jeno's ear. "you know i think the scars on your back are beautiful-"

 

"n-not the ones on my back," jeno whispers. "they... they're down there , junnie."

 

"i don't care about your scars," renjun says firmly, not even taking a second to process. "i don't care if they're on your dick or-"

 

"oh my god, they're not on my dick, jun, you're so embarrassing," jeno moans, hitting renjun in the shoulder with his fist. "they're just..." he sniffles, looking away. "really... high up on my thighs..."

 

"and i bet they're just as beautiful, yeah?" renjun gently kisses the top of jeno's forehead. "just as beautiful as you."

 

jeno shakes his head, frantic. "but- junnie, no, you don't get it- they're- they're-" and he hiccups, a tear streaking down his face. "they're- r-really... really ugly, way uglier than my neck and back, and-” he moans, covering his face with his hands. “oh my god, i’m crying, i don’t- i d-didn’t mean to-”

 

“no no no, they’re not ugly, jeno, please don’t say-”

 

“it’s fine,” jeno sobs, “i know they are, you don’t have to say that-”

 

“i’m saying it because i mean it, baby. you’re so beautiful and-”

 

“they’re holy water burns, okay?” jeno snaps, eyes red. “they’re-” and he sniffles again, turning his head into the cushion of the couch. “they’re- they’re holy water burns…”

 

and renjun’s mind goes blank. 

 

he’s seen them. he knows what they do to demons, he’s heard the cries and the screams and he’s seen the bodies, seen the way they’re burnt a deep, dark red, skin stretched and charred along the edges, unhealing, for eternity, through hell and heaven and all places in the universe. burned, forever. for all eternity.

 

the sound of jeno’s stifled cry is what brings him back to reality, and he’s so quick to wrap jeno in his fleece shirt and pull him into a hug. at first jeno is frozen, and his rapid heartbeat pressed to renjun’s chest is all he hears, until a painful sob finally escapes his throat and he cries, cries into renjun’s shoulder, arms tight around his torso, shaking hard, and cries and cries and cries and cries. 

 

when his sobs turn into little hiccups, and his trembling winds down into stillness, renjun lets his hand fall from jeno’s nape, where it had been gently massaging the spot there. “you’re okay,” he murmurs into jeno’s ear. “you’re fine, i- i’m sorry…”

 

“n-no, i’m sorry…” jeno hiccups again, then buries his nose further into renjun’s chest. “s-sorry for- for ruining the mood and- and everything, this was for you and my- my stupid scars, they-”

 

“they’re not you, they’re a part of you.” 

 

jeno lets out a shaky sigh. “you always say the most perfect things…” and he finally sits up, rubbing his eyes, sniffling still. “but- it doesn’t matter.” he gives a watery laugh, hanging his head. “it’s- s-so ugly, junnie.”

 

“it’s not-”

 

“it is, you know it is, they’re ugly and i’m- i’m-”

 

“you’re not weak,” renjun says sharply, but jeno’s eyes squeeze shut and a tear streaks out. 

 

“you- you weren’t there,” he whispers. “when- when they held me down, after they shot me, with the- with the bow-”

 

he’s crying, but not with the loud, shaky sobs from before. silent tears stream down his face, one after the other, streaking wet lines into his cheeks. “they held me down, and c-called me and my family names…”

 

a chill runs down renjun’s spine, memories unintentionally flooding back into his mind as jeno’s broken little voice tells his story. “a-and- when i thought it was over, they- they poured- down my back-”

 

“that doesn’t make you weak,” renjun says shakily. “you’re so strong, jeno, you’re still here, and-”

 

“-and i’m with you.” jeno looks up at him, eyes brimming with tears, face splotchy red. “r-right?”

 

“yes, baby,” renjun whispers. “you’re with me.”

 

jeno’s bottom lip trembles, and then he bursts into tears again. “t-thank you, junnie,” he sobs, hands wiping pathetically at his eyes. “thank you for being with me, i know i’m a handful and a crybaby and i- i have a lot of scars and-”

 

“doesn’t matter,” renjun mumbles, pulling him in again, and jeno clutches his chest, letting his whimpers become muffled. “doesn’t matter…”

 

“i love you, jun,” jeno whimpers, sighing into renjun’s shoulder. “i love you…”

 

renjun strokes his hair, and jeno relaxes into his hold, eyes fluttering shut. “i love you,” he murmurs again. “i love you…”

 

when jeno’s breathing slows and the movie finishes, and the sky outside turns black, renjun realizes what he has to do.

 

 

jeno. <3 10:32 AM

junnie!!! 

u didnt wake me up >:(

i wanted to thank u for last night,, im rly grateful just. for everything

but lets go to the cafe today!!! ill be much better with my words in person TT

or are u busy

thats okay too!!!

skfjskfj i’ll just go by myself its getting late now

 

jeno. <3 5:03 PM

just went out with jaeminnie hehe

markie’s still out of town,, he might not be back until after xmas TT but cant wait for our xmas date hehe

lets go have brunch soon!!

tmr? 

imu!!! love u so much junnie!!

 

jeno. <3 9:54 PM

stopped by ur dorm but no one answered,, eric from next door said he saw u

maybe theres a time when we’re not both busy

im,, still gonna see u on xmas right

Ilysm

 

jeno. <3 11:33 PM

junnie

u know u can talk to me about anything right

see u tmr,,, merry xmas eve

 

jeno. <3 9:03 AM

MERRY CHRISTMAS JUNNIE

hehehe

im onmw,, its gonna be so fun today i promise

im outside!!!

come out when ur ready 

 

jeno. <3 10:20 AM

are u even awake yet u dork

 

jeno. <3 12:46 PM

still outside!!! 

just lmk

 

jeno. <3 4:57 PM

junnie?

 

 

someone’s put up the biggest, lamest, Christmas tree right in the middle of the courtyard. jaemin rolls his eyes- it’s gaudy and ugly and the fairy lights hung across it do little to nothing to light up the courtyard as it’s so dark. so much for having a pretty Christmas display for the holiday, but the day is nearly over, anyway. he bites into his fruit.

 

peaches are soft, like human flesh. jaemin lets the sweetness sink into his tongue, cloying and honeyed as he bites into it, the juices running down his lip and chin. he lets it have its way- he doesn’t mind. the incisions his fangs have made in the peach stand out, the bite mark deep where is incisors are and rounded everywhere else. 

 

there’s the faintest of sighs, and jaemin’s head finally snaps up. haechan lee’s settled on one of the cement benches in the courtyard, paperback book spread on his lap and bag at his feet. 

 

right on time. jaemin licks the juice from his bottom lip. it’s so sweet. 

 

as quietly as possible, he creeps up behind the nymph. he can smell the sugary perfume, and the glitter of haechan’s makeup- or natural glow, he can never tell with nymphs- shimmers back at him in gold flecks. 

 

“jesus christ... are you wearing makeup? for me?”

 

haechan lee jerks, yelping, a dainty hand grabbing his chest. “oh my god , you scared me-”

 

“no, i swear to god, that’s makeup,” jaemin muses, and as he slides next to haechan on the bench, he swipes two fingers across haechan’s cheekbone, like his golden freckles will somehow wipe off. at that, the nymph gasps and slaps him across the face, the sound resonating in the empty courtyard.

 

“ow!” jaemin whines, gripping at his face, although it hadn’t actually hurt very much. “what the fuck was that for?”

 

“you’re a disgusting pig,” haechan seethes, shutting his book. jaemin glances down at the cover before haechan haughtily stands to collect his bag.

 

“hemingway, hm? i actually knew that guy,” jaemin recalls. “handsome man. did you know i once sucked him off, while he writing farewell to arms, in fact?” he puckers his lips, eyebrow wiggling. “taste me, and you’ll actually taste his-”

 

“oh my god, you’re so disgusting jaemin na, don’t make me slap you again!”

 

“hey- wait, where you going?” jaemin calls at haechan’s retreating back, annoyed. “come on, we were just getting started-”

 

“go sink your fangs into some other pretty neck,” haechan snaps, but unless jaemin’s eyes deceive him, there’s a faint glow spreading across the nymph’s cheeks, rosy green and shy. jaemin smirks. 

 

“only if you ask politely, sweetheart.” he bares his teeth, and surely enough, haechan’s ears tint emerald and he looks away, adjusting his bag on his shoulder.

 

“w-whatever,” he snaps. “merry christmas, you fucking pig, jaemin na.”

 

“ah, don’t go, we were just getting started- aah, he’s gone.” jaemin sighs, blowing the bangs out of his eyes. “jesus christ, not even a chance? fucking hell…”

 

it’s then that he’s distracted by the vibrations in his back pocket, followed by the nyan cat song- because jeno still thinks it’s cute, for some reason.

 

“s’going on, sweetheart,” he says irritably, leaning into his phone, but he’s not greeted with jeno’s sweet greeting of ‘hi, jaem!’ on the other end, bubbly laughter and all. instead, it’s the sound of his friend sucking in a shaky breath and a sniffle, stifling back tears- jaemin knows the sound.

 

“jeno?” he says, suddenly alert. “everything okay?”

 

“f-forgot my keys,” jeno’s voice stutters. “m-mark’s left for mina’s- can i crash with you, j-jaem?”

 

jaemin frowns. “you had your big date today, with renjun, i thought?”

 

“it- it didn’t- jaem , just- please…”

 

his teeth are chattering, jaemin can hear it through the phone. he shuts his eyes, trying to clear his head. “renjun still hasn’t been replying to your messages, has he? not since the day mark left. is that right?”

 

jeno doesn’t say anything for a moment. “...jaem, please- i’m- i’m cold-”

 

jaemin grinds his teeth together. “and he didn’t make you wait. in the snow. for the whole day today. did he?”



 

mark’s still in his parka when jaemin quickly ushers him in, snowflakes littered in his hair when he closes the door behind him. jaemin, who’s in nothing except his count dracula Sesame Street pajama bottoms and no shirt, his pink hair a bird’s nest on his head, helps mark lug his luggage through the entrance before leaning it against the wall.

 

“thanks for flying back early,” jaemin says, slightly distracted as he helps mark with his parka. “how was the flight?”

 

“fine, fine, the usual. where’s jeno?”

 

“still in the spare room,” jaemin says darkly. he’s not the type to be serious about anything except when it comes to jeno, so this is a big fucking deal, mark thinks. “he won’t tell me what happened, he won’t eat, he won’t sleep.”

 

“how’d you know he won’t sleep?”

 

“because i can hear him crying, no matter how much he stifles it, damn enhanced senses,” jaemin says, running a hand through his hair. 

 

mark chews on his nails. “did you have an idea of what happened?”

 

jaemin shuts his eyes. “renjun- renjun stopped replying to his texts, the day you left. since then, jeno hasn’t seen him. at all. he had a whole thing planned, for christmas, but renjun never showed and jeno ended up waiting for him in the cold, the whole day. he was in the shower for an hour, and that was the last i saw of him. Christmas.” 

 

mark’s eyes widen. “that was nearly three days ago, man!”

 

“you think i don’t know?” jaemin rakes a hand through his hair again, stressed, as he begins to pace. “ fuck, i would’ve gone out myself and ripped renjun to pieces if i didn’t want to leave jeno alone-”

 

“slow down, we don’t even know renjun’s side,” mark coaxes. jaemin stares at him.

 

“when did you become saint mark, then? thought you hated renjun.”

 

“just- just trying to be logical,” mark says evenly. “listen, let’s try talking to him.”

 

“it won’t work.”

 

“both of us. come on, we need to try, it’s been too long.”

 

jaemin bites his lip, and then sighs. “okay, okay. fine. let’s try.”

 

they come up on the door to jaemin’s room. it’s shut tight. jaemin knocks, gently. 

 

"jen?" he calls, keeping his voice as soft as he can. "can i come in, sweetheart? it's just me, jaemin. jaeminnie," he corrects himself, remembering jeno's fondness for their nicknames. "and- and markie’s here, too. back from mina’s."

 

“hey, jen,” mark tries through the door. “missed you.”

 

there's no response from within. jaemin turns to look at mark, helpless, who waves his hand hurriedly, encouraging him. jaemin turns back to the door with a sigh.

 

"we're gonna come in, okay?"

 

he listens briefly for a response, and when there's none, he twists the handle and pushes the door open.

 

"jen...?"

 

the room is dark, but even in the lack of light, jaemin can see how much of a mess it's become. jeno, who's a freak about keeping any area neat and tidy, has let the room become a near warzone- clothes strewn all over the floor, takeout boxes and assorted litter with it. there's a faint smell of iron in the air, and when mark looks to the desk, there’s several platters of uneaten meals, sitting there at varying degrees of age.

 

on his bed is a misshapen clump, covered with several blankets. the room is dark, but not enough so that mark misses the way it shifts when they come closer.

 

“jen?”

 

the clump shifts a little again, just barely. jaemin sighs, taking a seat near the foot of the bed, and mark drops to the floor next to him, knees hugged tight to his chest. jaemin tentatively lays a hand on the trembling clump. "hey... jen? how’re you feeling?"

 

there's a little sniffling noise. "f-fine."

 

"you sure...? because... ever since christmas-"

 

"i- i don't want to talk about it! p-please, jaeminnie," jeno's voice whimpers.

 

mark reaches out to pet a clump of the blanket he hopes is jeno's head or back, biting his lip nervously. "jen… you went to go see renjun on christmas, right? you wanna tell us what happened?”

 

and when he pulls back the blanket, jeno's there, curled up in a ball, wearing renjun's gray hoodie, face splotchy and eyes swollen as he sobs into- jaemin winces- the scarf renjun had gifted him a few months ago.

 

"oh no... did you and ren- er, junnie- break up?"

 

jeno only sobs harder, holding the scarf closer. “he- he hates me, okay?” he cries, body shaking as he lies there. “he hates me, and i just-” 

 

“he doesn’t hate you,” mark tries, and jeno finally looks at him, eyes red and puffy, tears brimming. 

 

“y-you- you don’t know that,” he whimpers, hiccuping. “he- he thinks i’m ugly, he hates me, he hates my scars-” he hiccups again. “i shouldn’t- i shouldn’t have ever-”

 

"don’t say that, he loves you so much-”

 

“i- just-” jeno hiccups on a sob, sniffling, and jaemin automatically pulls him close, arm around his shoulders. “he-” jeno inhales, shakily, then- “he hates me!”

 

and then he bursts into tears. 

 

“jen- jeno!” mark stammers, leaping to his feet to take a spot on jeno’s other side. “ jeno, what-”

 

"i- we- we were going to- to have sex , last week," jeno says hysterically, clutching hard onto the scarf he’s still holding tight in his hands, "s-so- i told him about the- the h-holy water burns, and- and i guess he thought they were so- so fucking ugly- " jaemin holds his breath- jeno rarely curses- "because he hasn't spoken with me for days !"

 

“oh, sweetheart,” jaemin murmurs, holding him closer. “jeno, he would never-”

 

“why else would he not speak to me, jaem?” jeno asks tearfully. “i- i tell him about the burns, and then he stops talking to me altogether?? what else could it be?”

 

mark swallows the lump in his throat. “jen, maybe if one of us tried talking to renjun-”

 

but at the mention of renjun’s name jeno only cries harder, and jaemin can only swallow and rub jeno’s back even more as his body convulses, shoulders wracking with sobs. 

 

mark’s speechless too, hand automatically finding its way to jeno’s hair, massaging the spots around his horns. jeno relaxes into the touch, but still sniffles into jaemin’s chest.

 

jeno’s body jerks as he chokes back another sob. “it- it didn't all happen on c-christmas… he hasn’t been speaking with me since- since that night i told him about my burns. i thought we were still going to meet for our christmas date, and… and even meet my p-parents in the New Years.” jeno’s fist clenches on the sheets, eyes scrunching shut. “i- i‘m so dumb. of course he wouldn’t want to see me again, knowing about the burns, i’m so dumb-”

 

“you’re not dumb-”

 

“i am,” jeno whimpers, voice wobbling. “i- r-ruined the mood, and- and tried to show him those ugly scars-”

 

mark’s eyes snap up, and as he looks at jeno, he sees bandages wound tightly around his neck. “i ruined the mood, and now he knows how ugly i r-really am,” jeno whispers. 

 

jaemin’s eyes shine a bloody red, his grip tight on jeno’s shoulders. “i’m gonna shred him to pieces.”

 

“not if i get to him first,” mark says darkly. 

 

no, nobody hurt him!” jeno whimpers. “he doesn’t- it’s not his fault-”

 

“sweetheart, of course it’s his fault,” jaemin coaxes, pulling down the hood of jeno’s sweatshirt, but as soon as he sees the bandages around jeno’s neck too, his eyes widen. “jeno... what the fuck is that?”

 

jeno hangs his head. “just- just some bandages, jaem. i’m fine.” he sniffles. “i... hated looking at it." his head jerks in the direction of jaemin's mirror, hanging over the desk. "just... i’ll be fine, e-eventually. i should’ve known earlier it wouldn’t end well, its just... when i was standing there in the snow, waiting for him- it all made sense.” he wipes a tear from his cheek, giving a watery little laugh. “he thinks i’m ugly. he hates me.”

 

jaemin sighs, rubbing up and down jeno’s back. “i know you really liked him, jen, i…” he trails off, unsure what to say. “is there anything you want us to do?”

 

“just- don’t hurt him, please,” jeno whispers. 

 

jaemin clenches his teeth. “fine. anything else?”

 

jeno looks away. “thank you for worrying about me, but- but could you please leave me alone now?” 

 

mark meets jaemin eyes and nods, mouth in a tight line.

 

“...alright, sweetheart,” jaemin says finally. “just- just call if you need anything, yeah?”

 

when mark closes the door behind them as they exit, jaemin turns to him, red in the irises of his eyes. 

 

“i fucking thought renjun was the one. why does this always happen to him?” 

 

mark sighs. “i dunno, jaem. i think… all we can do right now is just try to be there for him.”

 

jaemin shuts his eyes. “i- i can’t believe you were right about renjun.” 

 

mark laughs bitterly. “i wish i wasn’t.”



 

renjun begins to worry when jeno’s texts stop coming in.

 

he finds himself dedicating entire afternoons to staring at his cell phone, waiting for a notification to come in, but it never happens. he supposed that it’s his fault- of course it’s his fault.

 

the nights and days blur by, and when he realizes that jeno probably isn’t going to speak to him ever again, he decides, with an aching heart, that it’s probably time to go.

 

renjun packs his bag one morning when it’s snowing and everything is white- better not to leave any tracks behind. he drags his luggage down from his dorm after booking a train to some town across the country he’s never heard of, and decides it will have to do.

 

he’s halfway through the courtyard when he sees a familiar face, bundled up in a beanie and a thick parka, but there’s no mistaking the big textbooks and round spectacles.  

 

“h-hey,” he calls out, and as expected, mark turns at the sound of the voice, and glares. 

 

“did you just fucking speak to me, you piece of shit?” mark asks incredulously. “i know you didn’t just speak to me.”

 

“i just- wanted to talk,” renjun says. mark raises an eyebrow.

 

“yeah? you want to talk to that tree right there?” he points to one of the biggest oak trees in the courtyard, big and thick and looming. “‘cause you can. i’ll smash it into your face .”

 

“j-just wanted to ask about jeno,” he says, voice cracking pathetically, his teeth chattering in the cold. “p-please, how is he?”

 

mark’s eyes narrow, holding the books he’s carrying closer to his chest. “you don’t sound like you hate him.”

 

“w-why would i hate him?”

 

“oh, i dunno. maybe because you haven’t spoken to him in fucking weeks,” mark snaps. “maybe because he was vulnerable with you, and trusted you, and you just kicked him to curb.”

 

renjun shuts his eyes. “just tell me how he is- before i go.”

 

it’s then that mark’s eyes drop downwards, and he sees renjun’s luggage, packed tight and nearly sunken in the snow. “where the hell are you going?”

 

“away,” renjun says pathetically, teeth still chattering. “i can’t- i can’t be near him.”

 

mark’s eyes darken. “i’ll kill you for saying that, you piece of shit. he’s really that ugly to you? you can’t even stand to look at him?”

 

“n-no, he’s the most beautiful person i’ve ever met,” renjun says, crossing his arms to keep the warmth in. “w-why would i ever-”

 

“do you fucking love him, or not?”

 

“yes! m-more than anything-”

 

“then why are you leaving?”

 

“because isolation is the truest form of worship,” renjun blurts. “because- i can’t be with him, and he can’t be happy at the same time.”

 

mark stares. “did you just quote temptation of saint anthony at me, you fucking prick?”

 

renjun opens his mouth, than closes it. “n-no.”

 

mark stares at him for a few seconds, watches renjun shiver and his teeth chatter, then rolls his eyes. “oh, for-” and then he grabs him by the wrist and drags him into one of the main halls, door echoing in the corridor as it slams shut behind them. 

 

“t-thanks,” renjun mutters when he’s released, still shivering. 

 

“it’s whatever. you have a lot of explaining to do.”

 

“why?”

 

“because jeno hasn’t left his room in a week,” mark says, and renjun’s stomach falls to his feet. “he cries everyday, covers every inch of himself in clothes and scarves and bandages because he thinks he's too ugly to be looked at. did you know that?”

 

“n-no,” renjun stammers. “why would he-”

 

“something about… you.” the air crackles around them, and mark shuts his eyes. “sorry, it’s hard to look at your face and not want to tear you to pieces. just-” he inhales. “he said he showed you his holy water burns. and after that, you stopped talking to him.”

 

renjun feels his heart stop. “no,” he hears himself say. “no, no no no-”

 

and then collapses against one of the metal lockers, metal clanging. mark’s eyes widen. “dude, are you okay-?”

 

“that’s- that’s what it looked like, didn’t it?” renjun chokes out. “that’s not it, i- i couldn’t- it’s because being around him would only hurt him more and-”

 

mark yanks him back to his feet, eyebrow raised skeptically at him. “what the hell are you talking about?”

 

“his family, the attack,” renjun says in rush, jerking out of mark’s grip to pace the hallway. “he was nine. i didn’t leave home until i was twelve, don’t you get it? that attack-” renjun shivers. “ it could’ve been me.”

 

mark hesitates. “...don’t say that. jeno was out living in italy, way deep in the country when it happened. your family was based in norway, right? why would your family go all the way there for a hunt?”

 

“that’s not the point.” renjun shudders. “it could’ve been me. the fact that- that i’m a hunter, and he’s a demon, with all that he’s been through- being with him would only hurt him. he gets called a traitor, you know,” he adds, and mark looks away. “they- they harass him for going out with me, did you know?”

 

“i… didn’t know.”

 

“and those scars, and the burns- they affect him so much, he couldn’t even be intimate with me, that night.” renjun shuts his eyes when he feels them begin to sting. “i can’t just- stand by when he hurts like that, because of me. how could i even consider, with my history and his? he’s a demon, and i’m… i’m a hunter.”

 

“you can’t be serious.” 

 

renjun looks up at him, and mark rolls his eyes. “forget hunter, you’re an idiot, man. dude, jeno barely even acts like a demon, have you seen the socks he wears?” mark massages his temple. “look… before your family are hunters, and before his family are demons… you’re jeno lee and renjun huang. that’s it.”

 

“...what do you mean?”

 

“i can’t believe i’m saying this,” mark mutters to himself, then looks back up at renjun, serious. “it’s 2020. come on. yes, jeno has scars. but so do you.” he raises an eyebrow. “don’t you? even if you can’t see them.”

 

renjun stares. “i… yes, i suppose so.”

 

“then take your own words! jeno put it behind him and loved you anyway. and you loved him back. let yourself be loved, man. it’s a nice feeling.”

 

renjun just blinks, letting the words sink in. “...yeah….”

 

and mark’s sighing, reaching out to pat him on the shoulder. “look,” he says softly. “you can throw knives. he was baptized in fire. there’s no other differences, yeah? just healing.” 

 

“just… healing,” renjun repeats. “yeah, i… fuck.”

 

mark sighs again, fishing around in his pockets, before pulling out a small metal key. “jaemin’s spare,” he says quietly. “he’s not home, so if you go now, you won’t be mauled to pieces. jeno’s in the last bedroom in the hall.”

 

renjun takes the key, still blinking dazedly at mage before him. “i… thank you, mark.”

 

“don’t mention it.” mark looks at him. “ go.”

 

 

renjun takes a deep breath, and pushes open the bedroom door.

 

"jeno...?'

 

and then jeno's broken, tiny voice chokes out from beneath the blankets bunched together on the messily made bed. "'m- 'm not h-hungry, markie, thanks," his voice hiccups, blankets quivering around him. "m-maybe- later, okay?"

 

just the sound of his voice is enough to shatter renjun’s heart to pieces. "it's not mark," renjun says softly, coming around to sit on the foot of his bed. "it's... me."

 

“p-please put away your spells, markie, that’s mean,” jeno’s voice chokes. renjun’s stomach lurches- did jeno really think he would never return? “i just- i just can’t deal with that right now, p-please don’t hurt me-”

 

“it’s not a spell, baby, i promise,” renjun whispers, and he gently pulls back the blankets. 

 

jeno, eyes brimming with tears, red and splotchy, stares back at him for half a second, before gasping and jerking away, pulling the sheets with him.

 

"please don't look at me!" jeno cries, pulling the blanket around him. "please- i'm sorry, i'm sorry-"

 

"no... no, please don't say that." renjun's voice cracks. "i'm the one who should be sorry, jeno-"

 

"no, no no no," jeno whimpers, tugging his blanket more firmly around his shoulders. "i- i'm sorry i wanted to show you my- my scars," he whispers. "i- i know i'm-"

 

"jeno-"

 

"i know i'm r-really really ugly," jeno chokes, "and i- sh-shouldn't've ruined the mood like that, i just thought m-maybe it wouldn't be so bad but- but it was and i'm sorry-"

 

" jeno, stop it,” renjun interrupts, voice breaking. “i’m- how could i leave you? not when… not when you’re so beautiful, and… you.” 

 

jeno just stares at him, a tear sliding down his cheek. “w-what?”

 

“mark said you thought i was leaving you because of your scars. and that’s not true, you didn’t ruin the mood and i didn’t think any less of you, you’re still so beautiful. it’s- it’s because-” and renjun’s eyes are stinging again, and his hand immediately flies up to cover them when he shudders, shielding his face. “it’s because- i love you too much-”

 

he hears jeno gasp. “ oh my god, junnie, don’t- don’t cry, i’m crying, what are we gonna do if we’re both crying?” the bedsprings creak next to him, and jeno is pulling his hands away from his face, eyes filled deep with concern even though his face is streaked with tears. “what do you mean, jun?”

 

“you never said… people were harassing you about going out with me,” renjun whispers. “why didn’t you tell me? i would have beat the crap out of them for you-”

 

jeno glares. “no way. and get you kicked out of school? when you have places to be, taking down every hunter in the country?” he brushes under renjun’s eye with his thumb, wiping the wetness away.

 

renjun laughs wetly, batting his hand away. “i’m sorry, i haven’t cried since i was… twelve.”

 

jeno just sighs. “oh, jun, i don’t mind if a couple of my classmates are a bit cold with me about going out with you, it’s such a small thing. it barely bothered me. is that what was on your mind for so long?”

 

“but... your scars, don’t you- don’t you think of them, every time you look at me? a- a hunter?”

 

“no... all i see is a handsome boy, with charm for days, and a killer smile,” jeno says softly. “brave, thoughtful, always stands for what’s right. that’s why i love him.”

 

"jeno, i'm a hunter, how could i meet your family, with what- what evils hunters have wasted upon them in the past? upon you? what if- what if i want to marry you, or raise children with you, but i'm just a constant reminder of-

 

"marriage, children?" jeno giggles. "oh, junnie- what do you see when you look at me?"

 

"just-" renjun falters. jeno sees his hesitation, and lets their hands lace together in renjun's lap, allowing the latter to trace absent circles into the top of his hand. "just..." renjun looks up at jeno, eyes full of affection. "...someone who makes me want to become a better man." 

 

"then can you... can't you let that person love you?" jeno asks quietly. "please?"

 

"only if i can ask the same from you," renjun whispers back. 

 

"we just..." jeno exhales. "we just have to let the scars heal... right?"

 

and that’s when renjun looks down, and finally sees the bandages wrapped tight around jeno’s neck. “jeno…” 

 

jeno just looks away. “...sorry.”

 

“let them heal,” renjun murmurs. “you have to let them heal.”

 

“it’s tough.” jeno sniffles, then looks back up, eyelashes fluttering. “will you help me?”

 

“...yes,” renjun says finally, voice barely whisper. “of course i’ll help you.”

 

so jeno turns around, and lifts the hem of his shirt over his head. the bandages stretch tightly around his neck, under his arms, and circle all the way down his torso and tucking into the elastic of his sleeping shorts, leaving not even a sliver of skin in its wake. he exhales shakily. 

 

“please... take them off.”

 

renjun finds the start of the bandage, tucked into the nape of his neck, and begins to unwind it, passing it around jeno’s front before it goes around and around his body, letting the excess curl around his hand. he doesn’t go fast, or slow. time stills to a stop.

 

renjun pauses once he’s reached jeno’s lower back. “baby... could you lie down for me?”

 

jeno does as he’s told, laying obediently against the blankets so that renjun hovers over him. renjun uses his teeth to tear away all the bandage he’s already unraveled, but there’s still more, trailing downwards to where jeno’s burns are, at his thighs. 

 

“there’s still more,” jeno says softly. “the ones… covering the holy water burns…”

 

“i know,” renjun whispers back. “do you trust me?”

 

“of course.”

 

“then…” 

 

jeno looks up at him, eyes glossy and cheeks pink. “will you kiss me, jun?”

 

so renjun presses their lips together, soft and gentle and warm, and lets the love bloom between them.

 

 

sometime in the spring, they take the drive down to the countryside.

 

“babe, oh my god, you are sweating so damn much.”

 

jeno’s giggling as he straightens out the dark tie renjun had insisted on wearing as they stand on the doorsteps of jeno’s family home. it’s bright out today, blue butterflies flitting about through the grass and birds singing above their heads, but they’re under the shade of the cute wooden patio built right across the front of the white Victorian-style house. a bronze plaque, reading LEE, is placed just left of the door.

 

“i can’t help it,” renjun mumbles back, letting jeno fix his tie. “what if i do something wrong? what if i say something wrong and your grandfather rips me to pieces? what if-”

 

“oh gosh, junnie, relax,” jeno giggles, letting his hand rest on renjun’s chest once he’s finished. “you’ll be just fine. they’ll love you.”

 

“but- but what if-”

 

but before renjun can properly finish panicking, jeno reaches out and rings the doorbell. renjun’s eyes widen. “ babe! i wasn’t-”

 

the door swings open, and for a moment renjun chokes up, forgetting everything he’d practiced on the drive, but then jeno’s squeezing his hand, gentle and warm with a smile to match.

 

“you got this,” he whispers, encouraging.

 

so renjun nods, and after taking a deep breath, he turns back to the doorway. 

 

“hello,” he says, mustering up the brightest smile he can. “i’m renjun huang, your son’s boyfriend.”