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Even if I Bleed

Chapter Text

Kihyun was standing on the roof of the palace, watching the sun set over the land. He had dealt with the pain of the bond being broken earlier today, and now he was just peaceful. Content. He drummed his fingers on the brick of the rampart in front of him and let himself feel nothing at all for the first time in centuries.


“I knew you’d be up here. Hyunwoo didn’t believe me.” Kihyun didn’t turn towards Minhyuk’s voice. He just moved to the side a bit, so his friend could find a place next to him, Minhyuk’s shoulder bumping against his. They stood there together for a while, a comfortable silence slipping over them as Minhyuk wrapped his hand over Kihyun’s incessantly drumming fingers. Kihyun sighed and looked down at the gardens below them.


“Now we’re both free,” Minhyuk said softly. Kihyun let out a laugh, humorless.


“Free from them. Unfortunately, now I have the weight of responsibility falling on me,” Kihyun said.


“Ah, that’s right. I almost forgot, your majesty,” Minhyuk said with a slight bow. Kihyun smiled, finally looking at him.


“It could’ve easily been you, you know.”


“Ah, but it wasn’t. I was only unlucky enough to belong to the Queen and not the King,” Minhyuk said. He stared off at the distance again, and Kihyun traced circles on Minhyuk’s palm with his fingers, willing him off the ledge of whatever precipice he stood on in his mind. He watched Minhyuk blink a few times, uneven and unsynchronised. Kihyun was grateful Minhyuk had kept that little tic of his humanity.


“Is Hyunwoo looking for me?” Kihyun asked. Minhyuk nodded a little before he rubbed at his eyes.


“He wants to talk to you about what happens next. About the...the royal line,” Minhyuk said. Kihyun’s eyes widened as he started shaking his head.


“No. I can’t. Minhyuk, I can’t, I won’t. I can’t do to someone what was done to me. I couldn’t bare it. I’d rather fling myself off this roof over and over again.”


Minhyuk pulled Kihyun into his arms, cradling the back of his head, shushing him. “You know Hyunwoo isn’t like that. He hated what happened to us. But he thought of a solution, and honestly, I think it could work. You just have to hear him out, Ki.” Minhyuk kissed Kihyun’s temple, knowing how still it always made him. They felt like they fit each other, moved together, were soulmates brought together under the wrong sky, the wrong place, the wrong time. They were meant to have each other when they were at their lowest point. It was the only thing that had made them keep going throughout the centuries.


Kihyun sighed, pulling away from Minhyuk, holding him at arm’s length. He nodded a little. “Okay. I’ll listen to Hyunwoo’s proposal. But if I don’t like it-“


“Then it never happened,” Minhyuk replied with a nod. Kihyun ran his hands through the strands of his black hair before he let Minhyuk lead him back into the palace, sparing one last look at the night sky before starting a new chapter of his life.


+++


“Changkyun, come look at this,” Jooheon called from the living room. Changkyun groaned as he got up from his computer, padding softly toward the sound of his best friend’s voice.


“You’re lucky I just died in PUBG, or I wouldn’t be over here right now,” he said.


“Shut up, watch the TV,” Jooheon said, not tearing his eyes off their television. Changkyun sighed as he crossed his arms and sat down next to Jooheon. The television was on a news channel, showing a press conference. Changkyun was about to roll his eyes, say something snarky about being forced to watch the news, when he saw the words on the bottom of the screen. New Vampire King.


“What the fuck?” He whispered out. The vampires had kept to themselves for as long as human history. They played nice with global politics, had their own set of laws and regulations, had their own country, had their own secrets. Them having a press conference was unheard of. Changkyun leaned forward, focusing in on the television. “Is that the new king?” Changkyun asked Jooheon, pointing his finger at the screen. Jooheon shook his head.


“That’s his advisor or something. He’s just introducing the king.”


“That’s unfortunate. This guy is hot.”


“You’re telling me. Look at his muscles.”


“The Internet is probably going to be thirsting over him for months.” Changkyun reached out and turned the volume up.


“I know you have many questions, but I ask you to please wait until the end to ask them. His majesty, King Kihyun Yoo, will come give his statement now,” the man said. Changkyun watched as he took a step back and turned slightly as another man stepped up to the podium. He could hear the reporters and cameras go silent as he walked up. Changkyun and Jooheon’s jaws both fell open.
The vampire king was gorgeous. He was ethereal, stunning. Changkyun thought he looked like an angel. He was wearing a plain suit, obviously trying to fit in, but Changkyun just knew that he didn’t fit in at all with the crowd of humans in the room. He probably stuck out like a sore thumb.


“Good evening everyone. My name is Kihyun Yoo, and I am King of Wallachia. I am here because my kind has been hiding in the shadows for far too long.” His voice was beautiful and light despite his serious tone. “I am here because according to our laws, I must bring some new blood into the royal line.” He stopped to wait out the quiet and nervous chuckles of the reporters before licking his lips and continuing. “It is one of our most ancient laws that the king must create a new vampire to train to become the future ruler. I was that human once, a very long time ago, and I wish to change how this process is done.” Another pause as he cleared his throat. “I know there is interest from humans in becoming vampires. We see more and more vampires created each day, most of them willing and happy at the change. The royal palace is looking for such people that want to become vampires. If they are accepted, they will come to live in the palace with us to see if they would like being there and be able to take on the responsibilities this status holds. We are willing to pay all expenses, take care of the applicants, and if they decide that it is not for them, pay them for their time and travel to go back home. We will be exclusive with whom we allow in, so there will be an application process.Thank you for your time, and we look forward to being more open with the rest of the world in the future.”


Then he simply stepped away from the podium and went to sit back down. The earlier man, Hyunwoo, the screen told them, stepped back up to the podium. “I’ll be taking any questions.”


The room exploded with noise, but Hyunwoo didn’t seem flustered as he pointed to someone. The room quietened as she stood up. “So you’re basically giving humans a chance to become vampire royalty?”


“That is correct,” he said with a nod. Changkyun thought he seemed kind, the way he focused on each person asking things and spoke softly at them like he didn’t want to startle them.


“Those lucky bitches that get to apply,” Jooheon said.


“I know. If only we were women. I’d love to live in a palace for free and be around beautiful men all day,” Changkyun said as he leaned into Jooheon’s side. Jooheon laughed. He was reaching for the remote again.

“So anyone at all can apply?”


“While station, career, and any of those material things do not matter, we do have certain requirements. All applicants should be at least 21 years old, and they should be men.” Jooheon dropped the remote. Changkyun flew to his feet.


“Are you saying only men can rule the country, sir?” someone asked. Hyunwoo shook his head.


“Not at all. We’ve had Queens that ruled. This is entirely to do with the King’s own preferences.”


“HE’S GAY! HOLY SHIT, JOOHEON, THE VAMPIRE KING IS FUCKING GAY!”


“Hush! I’m trying to listen!” Jooheon yelled back. He got up too, and they both walked toward the television, focusing on it. They listened to every word of the press conference before they both sat on their couch, filling out the application online.


“We’re so dumb. We probably don’t even have a chance,” Changkyun said as he hit submit.


“Listen, so what? The worst-case scenario, we never hear back from them. Best-case scenario one of us ends up in the vampire royal family.”


“When you get in, I’ll be so happy for you, please don’t forget about me,” Changkyun said. Jooheon laughed.


“Same goes to you when you get in.”


“What if we both get accepted?”


“Shut up, I can’t even think about that right now,” Jooheon said. He rubbed his hands together like he was praying before he finally hit submit. Then he just laughed. Changkyun laughed too. The whole world had been turned upside down for them suddenly. They had never even talked about vampires before, but here they were talking about how they secretly always wanted to try dating one, always had a curiosity, always wondered. They fell asleep cuddled up on the couch, dreaming about far-away lands and handsome kings.


+++


“So after we got literally thousands of applications, me and Hyunwoo narrowed it down some for you,” Minhyuk said as he set up his projector and laptop. Kihyun’s eyes were wide.


“Thousands?”


“Literally,” Hyunwoo sighed out. He rubbed at his temples, willing himself not to feel exhausted.


“And you narrowed it down to how many?”


“Only a hundred. It was hard work,” Minhyuk said. He ran his hands through Hyunwoo’s hair, and Hyunwoo simply pulled him into his lap. Minhyuk smiled as he settled himself there, moving his laptop to be in front of him. Hyunwoo placed his chin on Minhyuk’s shoulder. Kihyun smiled at them, glad they could finally be open like this toward each other, not having to hide away anymore.


“Well, I appreciate it. How’d you narrow it down?”


“Very carefully,” Minhyuk groaned out. Kihyun smiled, chest moving with tiny laughs.


“It was case by case. Do you know how many you’re planning on inviting here?” Hyunwoo asked.


“I was thinking around five at most? Less if possible,” Kihyun said. Hyunwoo groaned as he buried his face in Minhyuk’s shoulder. It was going to be a long night. Minhyuk started their presentation, flashing through pictures and generalized biographies of each person that came up. Kihyun listened intently, looking at all the pictures that flashed by, trying to write down the ones that stood out to him. At the end of the first run through, Kihyun already had it down to fifteen people.


“It gets harder when you have less people,” Hyunwoo said. Kihyun nodded.


“Yeah, I can see that,” he said as he stared at his list of names. He thought for a few seconds before crossing a few out. Then a few more. “Actually. I think there’s only four that I really want to meet,” Kihyun said. He pushed the paper across the table to Minhyuk who instantly snatched it up and looked at it. He smiled.


“Thank God, you’re so picky, Kihyun. We would’ve been here forever if you weren’t,” Minhyuk said.


“We’ll get to work on contacting them, then,” Hyunwoo said as he took the paper away from Minhyuk. Kihyun shook his head.


“You guys have to be tired after weeks of sifting through these. It can wait until tomorrow,” he said. Minhyuk sighed, relaxing back into Hyunwoo’s hold. Hyunwoo smiled, wrapping his arm around Minhyuk’s middle.


“Thanks, Ki. We appreciate it.” Hyunwoo tapped Minhyuk’s hip, and Minhyuk got up. Hyunwoo stood up after him. “Is there anything you need before we go?” Hyunwoo asked, looking at Kihyun. Kihyun just waved them off with a smile.


“Just go. Be happy, be in love, whatever it is you guys do,” Kihyun said. Minhyuk laughed before pulling Hyunwoo out of the room after him. Kihyun smiled after them before he reached over and turned off Minhyuk’s laptop and projector for him. He left the room, locking the door after him, before he made the long trek down to the cellar of the palace.


The cellar was freezing, not that Kihyun could really feel it. He walked the familiar path to where they kept the packets and packets of pigs’ blood stocked for him. He sat on the ground as he ripped one open with his teeth and poured its contents down his throat. He licked and smacked his lips before tearing open another one, and another one before he finally felt sated. He laid down on the ground, felt the cool brick press against his back and closed his eyes. He hadn’t had human blood in a long time. He didn’t want it. Didn’t want to make someone suffer for him. He had been half starving himself until the head of the house noticed and fed him pigs’ blood instead. It took twice as much of it to make him feel full, to quell the thirst, but Kihyun had been grateful for it.


He hoped that the four men he had invited wouldn’t expect him to taste them. He didn’t want to choose off taste like his creator had, thrusting a whole new life on him that he didn’t want, he didn’t ask for. He groaned. He didn’t want to be like his creator at all.


He rolled onto his stomach and got up, throwing away the empty pieces of plastic before making his way to his bedroom. He wanted this to work out. He thought about the faces and names of the men who would be finding out they’ve been invited. He hoped they’d be excited.


+++


“Jooheon, get your ass in here!” Changkyun yelled.


“What is it?” He asked as he walked into the living room. Changkyun gestured to the television where Hyunwoo was standing in front of a podium again. Jooheon cursed under his breath before he sat down next to Changkyun. “Has it started yet?”


“No, he just walked up.”


“Good. Okay. Shit.”


“Thank you for joining us again,” Hyunwoo said. “We are simply here to announce that we have chosen the applicants that have been invited. For their privacy, we will not reveal their personal information, but they should be contacted by us within the next few minutes. Are there any questions?”


“Shit shit shit,” Jooheon said, opening up his email on his phone. Changkyun followed his lead, keeping an eye on the television.


“How many applicants were there?”


“Over five thousand.”


“Holy fuck,” Changkyun said.


“How many were invited?” Jooheon and Changkyun held their breath.


“Four.”


“Four?! Holy shit, there’s no way,” Changkyun said. Jooheon sighed before throwing his phone on the coffee table. Changkyun sat back on the couch, curling his legs up in front of him.


“How will they be contacted?”


They watched as Hyunwoo glanced down at his watch. He was counting the seconds down, waiting. Jooheon groaned.


Then both their phones went off. They froze. Hyunwoo spoke on the television. “The applicants should have just received an email that contains the information as well as a copy of their original application, so they know it is real.”


“Jooheon, we both just got a notification,” Changkyun whispered out, staring at his downturned phone in his lap.


“I know,” Jooheon said, his own eyes trained on his own phone. They both looked at their phones at the same time. “I got an email.”


“Same.” They opened their new message. They both started screaming and hitting each other.


“Holy shit! We both. We both got...accepted?” Changkyun asked. Jooheon nodded, a huge smile on his face.


“I literally can’t believe it. Four people, and we’re two of them. That’s it I’ve spent all my luck for a lifetime, and I don’t even care,” Jooheon said, collapsing back on the couch. Changkyun hugged his friend tight, laying his head on his chest. He looked at the email again, reading the instructions on the bottom.


“It says we should message them back to tell them we accept, and, if we do, we’ll have personal escorts sent to us to help us organize everything? This is like. Really official,” Changkyun said.


“Personal escorts?”


“I mean, we might be royalty. We deserve bodyguards,” Changkyun said with a wiggle of his brow. Jooheon laughed at him before he playfully shoved at him. They emailed back saying they accepted. They spent the rest of the night wondering what all they would be able to take with them.


+++


The two vampires named Wonsik and Hongbin were slightly terrifying when they knocked on their door a few days later. They had looked so serious and tall and strong that Changkyun had hid behind Jooheon when they came in. They quickly learned, however, that the two of them were absolute sweethearts bent on taking the best care of them, explaining everything to them, giving all the terms to them in writing, offering to pay for a lawyer to help them look it over. It made Changkyun feel like it was safe and real. They took care of their apartment, helped them move things into storage, packed all their things they wanted around and had it sent ahead of them. But once they were on their way to the airport to start this adventure, Jooheon and Changkyun saw their bodyguard side.


They were always flanked by the two of them, and they were constantly looking around trying to make sure nothing bad could happen.


“Is it really that dangerous?” Changkyun whispered to Hongbin after they made it past security.


“It might not be, but we can’t take any chances,” he replied. He took Changkyun’s carry-on in his hand, even though Changkyun insisted that he could carry it himself.


“Wait, are we riding business class?” Jooheon asked as he looked at his ticket.


“Of course. Much less people, much more comfortable for a long flight,” Wonsik answered.


Changkyun and Jooheon had never experienced such luxury. They sat in pods that could lay all the way back and turn around, so you can talk to the people behind you. Changkyun instantly flipped his around, so he faced Jooheon and Wonsik. Hongbin followed his lead.


“Are we going to meet the king soon?” Changkyun asked.


“Probably as soon as we get to the palace,” Wonsik answered with an encouraging smile.


“Can we ask you something?” Jooheon asked.


“Anything,” Wonsik said.


“Isn’t he basically looking for a lover?” Jooheon asked. Hongbin laughed a little.


“It could be taken that way, yes,” Hongbin said.


“But Kihyun would never force anyone to do anything,” Wonsik quickly added.


“You can talk about the king informally?” Changkyun asked.


“Well, we can. He wants to scratch our eyes out every time we call him by his proper titles,” Hongbin answered as he opened up the book he brought with him to read.


“Are you guys close?” Jooheon asked.


“Kihyun wouldn’t have sent just anyone to keep you guys safe,” Wonsik said with a wink.


“Do you know anything about the other two guys?” Changkyun asked. Wonsik shook his head.


“We just got our assignments. We were actually surprised when we realized we were going to the same place,” he said.


“So, are you guys going to leave us as soon as we get to the palace?” Changkyun said with a pout. Hongbin laughed before he ruffled Changkyun’s hair.


“Of course not. We won’t be attached at your hip as much, but for the remainder of your stay we have to look out for you,” he said.


“You have our numbers, but I’m sure Kihyun will have some other layer of things to help keep you safe. Although I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt you. The country is buzzing because of this,” Wonsik said. Jooheon and Changkyun looked at each other. They suddenly realized they had reached a level of celebrity they never even thought about. People would talk about them, wonder about them, try to match them up with their king. It made Changkyun feel like water on the brink of boiling. He stared out the window as the took off. He and Jooheon eventually fell asleep, legs tangled together in the space between them, clinging to the last bit of familiarity they had.

Chapter Text

Kihyun was practically flying around the place, checking all the rooms nervously over and over again. Minhyuk was holding on to the back of his shirt, trying to slow him down. “You know you can’t go this fast in front of them, right? They’ll get freaked out,” Minhyuk yelled at him. Kihyun stopped suddenly, Minhyuk ramming into his back, causing them both to fall on the ground. “Fuck! Momentum exists, Kihyun, Jesus,” Minhyuk groaned out as he pushed himself up. Kihyun laughed a bit before getting up, rubbing at his stomach where he had slammed into the ground.

“Shit, do I look okay?” Kihyun asked. Minhyuk narrowed his eyes at him before he reached out and pushed a few stray strands of his hair back in place. Kihyun nodded. “Thanks.”

“Now, will you stop being so nervous?” Minhyuk asked.

“How? I’m going to be housing four human men in a palace full of vampires.”

“In case you forgot, tourists come to this God-forsaken country all the time and leave unscathed. Well, unless they want to be scathed. We’re not starving. We’re not going to jump on their necks as soon as they turn around,” Minhyuk said, as he straightened out Kihyun’s suit.

“You’re right, but still. I’m nervous.”

“They’re also under the king’s highest protection. In case you forgot.” Minhyuk smiled at Kihyun as Kihyun rolled his eyes and started walking away. Minhyuk followed him.

“I already hate being called king, how am I supposed to last for centuries?” Kihyun grumbled.

“By picking a pretty person to keep you entertained. Or multiple pretty people. At least that’s what the last king did.”

“Please don’t remind me,” Kihyun said. They had already made their way down to the front entrance of the palace. The entrance was rarely used unless there was a party happening, or they were receiving important guests. Kihyun stepped outside, slipping his sunglasses on as he walked down the steps. He stopped at the bottom of the steps, Minhyuk finding his place next to him.

“They should be here soon, I just got a text from Hyunwoo,” Minhyuk said.

“Can you tell Hyunwoo to come here? And Hakyeon, too, so they can meet the…important people,” Kihyun said.

“Sure, let me text Hyunwoo, and he’ll call Hakyeon.” Minhyuk started typing away. Kihyun sighed out, clasping his hands behind him.

“How long did he say?” Kihyun asked. He was staring past the gates down the long stretch of road that led up to the castle. He didn’t see the cars yet.

“Ten minutes?” Hyunwoo said, suddenly appearing next to Minhyuk. He placed a kiss on Minhyuk’s cheek before addressing Kihyun again. “Hakyeon is coming. You know how he gets when he’s preparing things for a big event.”

“Yeah, I do,” Kihyun said with a smile. He could just imagine Hakyeon flitting around like a fairy, whisper-yelling instructions at all the people under him. It wasn’t long before Hakyeon was flitting down the stairs, his hair slightly mussed, huffing as he went to stand next to Hyunwoo. He bowed at Kihyun with a whispered your majesty before standing up straight and pulling his own sunglasses on. Kihyun sighed.

“Hakyeon, we talked about that,” Kihyun said.

“Old habits, Kihyun,” he answered back without looking his way. Kihyun laughed.

“Did you just leave Jaehwan in charge?”

“Of course? Who else would do it? You sent off the rest of the capable people to babysit your suitors.”

“There are plenty of capable people here, Hakyeon,” Hyunwoo said.

“Oh, you know what I mean,” Hakyeon said with a wave. Kihyun could tell Hyunwoo was rolling his eyes beneath his dark glasses. It made him feel calmer, knowing that at least this hadn’t changed.

“I see them,” Minhyuk said excitedly before grabbing onto Kihyun’s hand. Kihyun looked past the gates again to see three limos coming toward them. He went up on his toes to try to see farther. Minhyuk laughed at him before letting go of him and taking a step back, putting his hands behind his back. He was excited for this, for watching his best friend find a love of his own after centuries and centuries of basically being alone.

+++

Changkyun’s breath stalled as they laid eyes on the palace. “I-is that where we’re staying?” he asked.

“Yep. And Kihyun’s waiting outside,” Wonsik said. Changkyun and Jooheon both whirled around.

“What?!” Jooheon asked.

“He’s outside. What’s the issue?” Hongbin asked.

“We just traveled for fourteen hours, and we look like shit,” Changkyun answered, trying to focus his eyes on the slightly reflective surface of the partition to see himself as he frantically ran his fingers through his hair. Jooheon was staring at himself in his phone camera, rubbing at the small bags under his eyes. Wonsik laughed a little.

“I’m sure he won’t care if you look a bit tired,” he said.

“Besides, there’s four of you for him to focus on,” Hongbin said.

“Excuse me?” Jooheon said.

“The other two guys are in cars behind us,” Hongbin said with a nod behind them. Jooheon and Changkyun looked to see two limos following them. Changkyun’s throat got tight.

“Shit, I didn’t even think about the fact that we’d be meeting them soon,” he said.

“Don’t think of them as competition. Think of them as potential new friends,” Wonsik said. Changkyun stuck his tongue out at Wonsik before he opened up his phone camera to check himself out. He bit at his own lips, trying to make them pinker and plumper. The car stopped, and Changkyun wanted to scream, make them give him a few more minutes, but then he was stepping out of the limo behind Jooheon, slinging his bag over his shoulder, and he swore he wasn’t controlling his body. Jooheon wrapped his fingers around Changkyun’s wrists and pulled him in place next to him, and Changkyun quietly thanked God that he had someone there to help contain the disaster that was his entire existence.

Then he laid eyes on the four devastatingly beautiful men standing in a line in front of a devastatingly beautiful castle, and all he could think about was how he didn’t even have eyeliner smudged under his eyelid in the way that always made him act much more confident than he actually was. Not being able to see their eyes also made him panic, all of them wearing the dark sunglasses that he saw Wonsik and Hongbin sport whenever they went out in daylight.

“H-hi everyone. I’m Kihyun. It’s nice to actually meet you,” the one in the center said as he took a small step forward. Changkyun obviously recognized him from the press conference. He felt Jooheon squeeze his wrist again. Kihyun’s tongue flicked over his lips as he walked toward them. Changkyun could feel his heart pounding in his throat.

“You must be Jooheon. Nice to meet you,” Kihyun said with a smile, reaching his hand out toward him. Jooheon hesitantly let go of Changkyun to shake Kihyun’s hand, bowing his head a little with a smile.

“Nice to meet you too,” Jooheon whispered out. Kihyun turned to Changkyun, and Changkyun had the breath knocked out of him.

“And you’re Changkyun. You know, I didn’t know you guys lived together when you were chosen. What are the odds?” Kihyun said as he held his hand out. Changkyun wiped his hand up his pant leg before grabbing Kihyun’s hand. If Kihyun had been human, he probably would’ve flinched at how hard he gripped at him.

“Hi! I’m Changkyun! Changkyun Im. Haha. Nice to meet you!” Changkyun said with a huge smile on his face. Kihyun smiled back, a small chuckle leaving him as he tilted his head at Changkyun. He let his hand slip out of Changkyun’s still a bit clammy hand, eyes lingering on him before he walked away. Changkyun felt himself deflate, body slumping as Jooheon grabbed his wrist again. He watched as Kihyun greeted the other two men the same way, listened for their names. Hoseok and Hyungwon.

“They’re fucking gorgeous, oh my god,” Jooheon whispered in his ear. Changkyun nodded, but truthfully, his eyes never left Kihyun. Changkyun could feel himself already trying to memorize every bit of Kihyun, the way he took careful and graceful steps, like he had been trained to walk so straight and perfect. His feet never made a sound as they hit the ground. He was quite possibly the most elegant creature Changkyun had ever seen, and he had gone to the ballet regularly as a kid.

He watched as Kihyun walked back to the space in front of them and gestured to the three men behind him. “These are my friends. Minhyuk and Hyunwoo are my main advisors. You might have seen Hyunwoo on television because I like letting him speak for me. Minhyuk is more behind the scenes, I guess. And this is Hakyeon, he’s the head of the household here. He keeps everything running, so I won’t go insane. You’ve all met your own escorts, but there’s Taekwoon, Hyuk, Wonsik, and Hongbin. And there’s Jaehwan, but he’s busy inside preparing your rooms and…yes, Changkyun?”

Everyone turned to look at Changkyun who had raised his hand like a good student in class. He could hear Jooheon groan next to him. Changkyun put his hand back down. “Um, are our rooms already assigned and stuff then?” he asked.

“We put you and Jooheon in rooms next to each other, if that’s what you’re concerned about,” Hakyeon spoke up. Changkyun nodded a little, scooting closer to Jooheon.

“Okay, cool. Thank you,” Changkyun said. Kihyun smiled again, and Changkyun smiled back.

“Basically, my only real rule is to please let someone know when you want to leave the grounds for safety reasons. If you ever get to the point that you want to go back home, just let us know! We understand that this isn’t for everyone, and we’ll work with you on getting your life back to normal. Um, anything else?” Kihyun said as he turned back to look at Minhyuk. He was cracking his knuckles. Changkyun wondered if that was a nervous habit.

“Dinner is at eight tonight, and we’d appreciate it if you’re all there, so we can all get to know each other better. And if there’s literally anything you need at all, don’t hesitate to ask any of us,” Hyunwoo said.

“Hesitate to ask me anything until tomorrow. Can I go now?” Hakyeon asked Kihyun. Changkyun snorted, and Jooheon smacked Changkyun’s arm. Kihyun grit his teeth before nodding. Hakyeon smiled at them and with a wave he was off, moving faster than Changkyun’s brain could process. Kihyun sighed as he turned back to them.

“Well, let’s get your stuff up to your rooms then, and…yes, Changkyun?” Kihyun’s head tilted to the side again, looking at Changkyun with mild amusement as he held his hand up again.

“Do you guys like all live here? Like all of you?” Changkyun asked.

“Yes. Trust me, there’s enough room in here for a lot more than just us. You won’t feel crowded,” Kihyun answered. Changkyun nodded. Kihyun looked down again before speaking. “Right. Um, stuff. Rooms. I’ll see you all at dinner. I’m sure you’ll all want to rest after your travels.” Kihyun gave a small bow, and everyone scrambled to bow back before he was turning around and walking back up the stairs towards the entrance. Changkyun noticed Minhyuk sigh before he stepped forward, Hyunwoo following quickly after Kihyun. Minhyuk smiled at them.

“Hello, everyone. I’m Minhyuk. I’ll show you to your rooms.”

+++

“I. I can’t do this, Hyunwoo. I can’t.” Kihyun was bent over, leaning against the door to their meeting room, hugging himself. His breath was coming in pants. Hyunwoo was crouched in front of him, hands on his shoulders.

“You did fine! They seem great. Happy to be here,” Hyunwoo said.

“I feel like I’m going to die. Why did I do this to myself? I’m not good around new people, you know?” Kihyun swallowed his breaths down until he could stand up straight again, Hyunwoo finally stepping back now that he didn’t need the extra support.

“Because this is better than the wretched alternative,” Hyunwoo replied. Kihyun stared up at the ceiling, forcing a dam up in his mind to stop the unwanted memories from flooding it.

“You’re right.”

“If you don’t like this, we can always send them all home,” Hyunwoo said.

Kihyun shook his head. “No, no. I don’t want this to be a waste of time for them. They came all this way and waited month to get here.”

“They came all this way for you,” Hyunwoo said before patting Kihyun’s head gently. He would never do this around anyone else. He wouldn’t want anyone to think he was disrespecting the throne. But he was so old, he could still remember the day when Kihyun had first been brought to the castle, a gangly little newborn vampire, wide-eyed and shaking. He just wanted him to be safe and happy.

Kihyun sighed, finally looking at Hyunwoo. “I suppose you’re right. Thanks for. Well, everything.”

“No problem, Kihyun. Now, what do you want to do? Do you want to go see how they’re getting settled?”

“No. I don’t want to be in the way. I want to talk to the guys though, get a mission report, I guess?”

“Of course. Anything else?”

“Food?” Kihyun slumped into the chair at the head of the table. Hyunwoo nodded a bit.

“You still only drink the-“

“Yes. Four of them, please?”

“Got it.”

Hyunwoo left the room, rushing off to do what he was asked. Kihyun bit his lip as he thought about the four humans. They were all so different from each other. He hoped they would get along, not treat this like some horrific dating competition. Then he thought about Changkyun, how outspoken and free he seemed. How he had made everyone laugh. How Jooheon had kept holding his wrist like a child with a flight-risk.

There was a knock before the door opened, and Taekwoon stalked in, followed by the rest of the escorts he had sent. Taekwoon dropped four packets of blood on the table in front of Kihyun before they lined up against the wall, standing at attention. Kihyun rolled his eyes. “Could you guys relax? I know you want to pounce all over each other.”

“If we pounce now, we won’t separate until tomorrow,” Wonsik said with a smile. His whole body was leaning toward Taekwoon like he was being pulled by a magnet. Kihyun smirked.

“Not even for the king?” Kihyun asked.

“Oh, now you’re cool with it?” Hyuk teased. Kihyun laughed.

“You know what I mean.”

“Of course, your majesty, we can pounce all over each other in front of you if you want,” Hongbin said before he threw his arms around Hyuk and smooched his cheek loudly, causing Hyuk to shut his eyes and giggle. Kihyun groaned.

“Please just sit the hell down and talk to me.” They all laughed before they found seats around the table. Kihyun opened up one of the bags and started sipping at it. “How did everything go?”

“Who do you want to talk first?” Hyuk asked, swiveling around in his chair.

“Taekwoon, you go.”

“I liked Hoseok. He’s very sweet,” Taekwoon said, his voice all small.

“Okay, great, but like the other stuff,” Kihyun prompted.

“He was living month to month at some long-stay hotel. He didn’t have many things to bring, so we just packed him two suitcases. There was no lease or contract to break or anything. It was pretty simple. He seems big and scary, but he just wants to make people happy,” Taekwoon said.

Kihyun nodded thinking about how shyly Hoseok had smiled at him as they shook hands, how he stood confidently, but like he was trying to make himself smaller at the same time. He opened up his next pack. “Okay. Hyuk?”

“Hyungwon was a bit more difficult to deal with. He had a lot of things that we shipped here in advance, did they get here?”

“Yep. Jaehwan didn’t set them up though because he didn’t want to mess anything up.”

“Okay, that’s fine. We paid out the months he had left on his lease and moved a shit ton of furniture into storage. His family was…a bit upset at his decision to come here, but he was determined to come. He’s a bit sleepy, but he seems like a good kid.”

“Sleepy?”

“He could fall asleep anywhere. It’s cute,” Hyuk concluded. Kihyun had noticed Hyungwon’s hooded eyes. He thought they were charming. He drank down the next pack all at once.

“Okay. Wonsik?”

“Do you want to hear about Jooheon or Changkyun?”

“I mean, you were assigned Jooheon, but I guess you and Hongbin can talk about them at the same time.”

“They’re like attached at the hip. Reminds me of you and Minhyuk,” Hongbin said.

“They have a cute dynamic, but I worry about them getting separated and getting upset,” Wonsik said. Kihyun thought about Jooheon’s hand around Changkyun’s wrist.

“Noted. Everything else?”

“We did a lot of packing and shipping and storing. They had a lot of junk. I think they’ll probably want to explore the country. They would ask a lot about history and vampire things,” Hongbin said.

“They were very interested in the actual job part of this, actually,” Wonsik added.

“Well, that’s good,” Kihyun said.

“And they definitely think you’re hot,” Hongbin added. Kihyun sputtered as he sipped at his last pack. He shut his eyes.

“How could you possibly-“

“Changkyun doesn’t really…have a filter around Jooheon. He didn’t gain one around us either,” Hongbin said, a smile on his lips.

“Great. That’s good,” Kihyun said, finally just downing the rest of his meal.

“Jooheon is much more demure, but he’s adorable and charming,” Wonsik commented.

“So, overall?”

“We approve,” Taekwoon said.

“Anything else before we go pounce the night away?” Hyuk asked. Kihyun grinned at him.

“I’m more than sure that Hakyeon and Jaehwan want to see you guys, so please go make sure Hakyeon isn’t about to murder everything in here.

“Will do. See you later, Kihyun,” Hongbin said, already next to the door, tapping his foot as he impatiently waited for everyone else to leave. Kihyun watched as Hongbin launched himself on Hyuk’s back as soon as the door started closing and laughed, glad they were all happy to be back together.

+++

Changkyun woke up on the most comfortable bed he had ever had the pleasure to nap on. He stretched out, hands spreading over the soft sheets until he found his phone. He picked it up and looked at the time. 6. He sat up and rubbed at his face before getting up, staring around his massive new room in awe again. He walked toward the door that connected his and Jooheon’s room (they really had thought about them) and walked into Jooheon’s equally as large but different room. Where his room was white and bright, Jooheon’s was all cool colors and comfort.

Changkyun walked up to the bed that Jooheon was currently buried in and shook him. “Wake up, Jooheon, we need to get ready.” Jooheon grumbled, burying his face further into his pillow. Changkyun shook him more. “Dinner is in two hours, and I know you want to look as hot as possible, please get up.”

“Okay, okay, I’m up,” Jooheon groaned as he pushed himself up and rubbed at his eyes. Changkyun smiled.

“Good. I think we have our own bathrooms, so who’s room are we meeting in to do wardrobe and make up?”

“Yours.”

“Great. See you in fifteen?” Jooheon just put a thumbs-up as he stumbled out of bed. Changkyun then went back to his room, showered in the ridiculously fancy bathroom, and was staring at his new closet in fourteen minutes, Jooheon walking in a few seconds later.

“So they said something casual nice, I was thinking this t-shirt with black jeans and a jacket,” Jooheon said, holding up the clothing items. Changkyun nodded, clapping his hands together.

“You’ll look so good. I approve. I was thinking this black sweater and these tight skinny jeans,” Changkyun said.

“Is that nice enough?” Jooheon asked.

“Ugh, maybe not. Okay, new plan, this button-up and this other pair of tight skinny jeans.”

“Can you even wear those briefs you’re wearing under those?” Changkyun shrugged in response. Jooheon groaned. “This isn’t the club, you can’t just walk around with your dick out, we’re literally dining with royalty.”

“Fine, normal non-skinny jeans, like a fucking straight man, I guess,” Changkyun said with a pout as he pulled his outfit out, dropping it on the ground. Jooheon laughed.

“We’re four guys trying to catch the attention of the vampire king. I don’t think anyone will confuse you for a straight man, Changkyun.”

Changkyun just waved at him before hopping into his jeans easily, after years of having to shimmy and jump around into skinny jeans. The fabric feels like it’s floating around him, like some glob of a planet orbiting his legs instead of the second-skin feel he loved. He grimaced as he buttoned on his shirt. “I can’t even do a dramatic eye or anything. It’ll look off. Ruin the whole concept.”            

“I wonder what those other guys are wearing,” Jooheon says as he started rolling the sleeves of his jacket up to his elbows.

“I don’t know. He really picked like four completely different types, though.”

“God, I know. That Hoseok guy? He was massive. Like all he does is work out.”

“Hyungwon is taller than Kihyun. Do you think that’ll affect his decision?”

“I doubt it since we’re all taller than him except for you.”

“Shit. I’m at a disadvantage then, he probably wants a taller guy.” Changkyun flopped back onto his bed again, letting a sigh get pushed out of his lungs. He wondered if anyone else here wanted Kihyun as much as he did. Already wanted Kihyun buried in him every way he could be, dick and tongue. And fangs. Changkyun shivered. “Hongbin said Kihyun only drinks pig blood.”

Jooheon messes with his hair in front of Changkyun’s mirror. “He did.”

“I wonder why?”

“Who knows? Why don’t you ask him since you’re already so into asking him things.”

“I was nervous. You know I get hyper when I’m nervous.”

“Are you going to be nervous again?” Jooheon asked. Changkyun thought about sitting down at a table across from Kihyun for a whole dinner. Tried to remember what his eyes looked like from the press conference. Wondered if they would make him gasp aloud as soon as they turned on him. He licked his lips.

“Probably.”

+++

Changkyun finds it funny that the four of them show up so early to the dining room. It’s like they all had an internal clock and compass guiding them straight to where they needed to be exactly half an hour early. They all awkwardly chuckle and bow at each other as they stand around the table, afraid of accidentally picking the wrong seat. Changkyun remembers Wonsik’s words about new friends and decides to plop down in a chair.

“I’m Changkyun. We never officially introduced ourselves, and we’re going to be living together for a while, so we might as well get used to each other.” He’s grateful when Hoseok lets out a sigh of relief before he sits down in the chair across from him.

“I’m Hoseok. It’s nice to meet you,” he said, an adorably bright smile appearing on his lips. Changkyun takes him in, really takes him in for the first time. He’s huge, even in the flowy fabric of the white shirt he’s wearing tucked into a pair of tight red pants, although Changkyun has a suspicion that they’re tight because of his body, and not because they are meant to be tight. Changkyun already loves him. He places his head in his hand as he turns his sights on Hyungwon.

Hyungwon hesitates for a second before pulling out the chair next to Hoseok. He blinks up at everyone, smiling at them with no teeth like a cute baby turtle. “I’m Hyungwon. And you’re Jooheon, right?” he says, looking up at Jooheon who is leaning against the wooden back of the chair next to Changkyun.

Jooheon smiles back at them, his eyes practically disappearing, and Changkyun fights the urge to coo. “Yep! Nice to meet you guys."

“Do you think they’ll be weirded out about us being so early?” Hoseok asks.

“Nah. Everyone seems really chill,” Changkyun said, reaching up to pull at Jooheon’s hands and will him to sit down.

“So are you guys together?” Hyungwon asks. Both Jooheon and Changkyun instantly gag.

“God, no, he’s like my little brother,” Jooheon said. He’s grimacing as he sits down.

“We made out once, and it was probably the most incestuous thing we’ve ever done,” Changkyun adds with a sad little nod. Jooheon face palms as Hoseok and Hyungwon giggle at them.

“You’re lucky to have such a close and supportive friend here with you, then,” Hoseok said. He’s bit at his lip as he looked at all of them.

“Tell me about it. I was terrified that the other guys would be mean or hate me,” Hyungwon said.

“We can be friends!” Changkyun said quickly, reaching a hand out to each of them. Hyungwon stares at the offered hand before taking it. Hoseok laughs as he takes Changkyun’s other hand, and Changkyun smiles at them. “See? Friends already.”

“You’re adorable,” Hyungwon said. He stated it like it’s a fact he’s stumbled upon on the internet and not a thought about the person who’s hand he is currently grasping. Jooheon rolls his eyes before pulling gently at Changkyun’s shirt sleeve.

“You always just leave me out of stuff, huh?” he grumbles as Changkyun yanks his elbow away from him. They spent the next thirty minutes talking about how nervous they were and what they all thought of Kihyun so far, and how nice their rooms were, and anything at all. It was nice, comfortable. Changkyun was grateful that none of them were catty bitches yet.

It was exactly eight o’clock when Kihyun, Minhyuk, and Hyunwoo walked into the dining room. The four of them pushed up to their feet immediately, bowing their heads as Kihyun walked by. Kihyun was wearing a sweater and tight pants, and Changkyun wanted to curse his baggy jeans and button up.

“You’re all early,” Minhyuk said before he plopped down next to Changkyun. Hyunwoo grunted his agreement before he sat down next to Hoseok. Kihyun sat at the head of the table, near Jooheon and Hyungwon. Changkyun was glad he wasn’t next to him. He didn’t think he’d be able to do anything other than stare at his eyelashes and try to count them. Like a freak.

“Hakyeon should be-“ Kihyun started before he was interrupted by the door opening again, and Hakyeon floating through it, carrying one large tray in each hand. He was followed by another man that they hadn’t met, all smiles and cute lips, also carrying trays in the same way. They put their trays down, one for each of the four humans, lifting away the covers at the same precise moment. Changkyun’s mouth watered.

“I was going to make you all an individual dish, but you all said you liked meat except for Hoseok, so I made you all steak, and Hoseok some beef ramen. I hope that’s okay, it’s been a while since I had to actually cook,” Hakyeon said as he cocked a hip out and crossed his arms. The other man came up behind him and wrapped his arms around him, placing his head on Hakyeon’s shoulder. Changkyun had never been so terrified for a man in his life.

“It looks great, cutie,” the man said before planting a kiss on Hakyeon’s cheek. Changkyun pressed his lips together to keep in the laugh that bubbled up in his throat at Hakyeon’s eyeroll.

“Everyone, this is Jaehwan,” Hyunwoo finally explained.

“Hi! I’m sorry I couldn’t meet you guys earlier, but I was busy being run ragged by Yeonie, here,” he said with an exaggerated pout towards Hakyeon that Hakyeon refused to acknowledge.

“If that’s everything, we’ll get going, we have our own meals to eat,” Hakyeon said, looking toward Kihyun. Kihyun nodded and instantly Hakyeon was floating away again, dragging Jaehwan along behind him. Once the door closed behind them, Changkyun finally let out the giggles he was holding in, which made everyone else smile at the sound.

“Hakyeon is the scariest bitch in this whole place and that guy just…he just,” Changkyun explained between laughs. He glanced up and saw Kihyun staring at him again, his head tilted again like he was trying to do a math problem. Changkyun looked back down at his food and started shoveling it in his mouth, trying to shove his heart back down into his chest with food.

“Are you guys not going to eat?” Hyungwon asked as he glanced at the three vampires surrounding them.

“We already ate,” Kihyun answered succinctly. Changkyun chewed slower, thinking about what that implied.

“Oh,” Hoseok said before he slurped up some ramen. Changkyun heard Jooheon laugh a little next to him.

“Are you all happy with your rooms?” Kihyun asked.

“Oh, yes!”

“Totally!”

“They’re great!”

“Yep!”

They all looked at each other again. Changkyun wished they could go back to just talking like they were earlier. Kihyun let out a little sigh. “Okay, that’s good,” he said softly.

“I’m sure you’ve all introduced yourselves?” Minhyuk asked. Changkyun looked over at him. He was practically laying on the table, his arm holding his head up. He looked casual, relaxed, but his eyes were piercing as they moved around the table quickly, taking them all in. For the first time, Changkyun remembered that Minhyuk could probably hear his rapid heartbeat, and he wanted to hide under the mahogany of the table.

“Yeah, we had a little while to talk together,” Hoseok said.

“That’s good. It’s easy to let situations like these turn you against one another,” Minhyuk said. He drummed his long pretty fingernails on the table almost impatiently.

“Minhyuk,” Hyunwoo said softly. Minhyuk sighed as he spread his fingers out flat on the table top. Changkyun realized they had nothing to drink as he felt his mouth go dry.

“Can we get some water?” he asked, looking around the table, not sure where to address his question. Kihyun’s eyes widened before he buried his face in his palm.

“God, yeah, okay, sorry,” he mumbled before he started getting up.

“I’ll go get it, you need to talk to them,” Hyunwoo said. Kihyun sank back in his chair before looking at Changkyun.

“Sorry. We’re so stressed, sometimes we forget about little details like that,” Kihyun said. Changkyun nodded.

“No, yeah, that’s fine. I was just thirsty,” Changkyun said.

“We all probably were,” Jooheon mumbled. Hyunwoo returned with a big glass pitcher and four glasses. He poured each of them some water before placing the pitcher in between them and sitting back down.

“So, um, how exactly does this work?” Hyungwon asked, his head turning toward Kihyun. Kihyun licked at his lips before he leaned forward on his elbows, his hands clasping together.

“In all honesty, we’ve never done this before either. We thought it’d be best to discuss that with you guys. We don’t want to overwhelm you all at once,” Kihyun said.

“Do we have a time-limit on this situation?” Jooheon asked. Kihyun furrowed his brows as he thought, glancing over at Minhyuk and Hyunwoo.

“I’m sure none of you would want to be too old if you get turned into a vampire. That’s usually something that concerns humans,” Hyunwoo said.

“So, no?” Jooheon said.

Kihyun sighed. “You all will probably have your own time-limits, but I…I have all the time in the world.” Changkyun’s stomach clenched at the sadness that seemed to tinge Kihyun’s words suddenly. Kihyun was pressing his lips against his clasped hands, hiding the bottom of his face. Changkyun wanted to hear whatever story was playing out in his head.

“Hoseok is the oldest. You’re twenty-five, right?” Minhyuk asked. Hoseok nodded as he wiped at his mouth with a napkin. “And if you were to be chosen, what’s the age limit you want to set before being turned?”

Hoseok licked his lips and swallowed like his mouth had gone completely dry. “P-probably around 35? Maybe?” he asked like he was guessing at the correct answer.

“Wow, that’s much older than I expected. So ten years, maybe,” Minhyuk said, his hand waving again. Changkyun’s eyes widened.

“Ten years is a long time,” Jooheon said.

“For now, yes. When you live long enough, a decade feels like a year,” Minhyuk said.

“Minhyuk,” Hyunwoo groaned, his fingers rubbing at a spot above his eyebrow. Changkyun wondered how many times Hyunwoo got little Minhyuk-induced headaches.

“Obviously, you’re not obligated to stay that long,” Kihyun piped up, his eyes wide as he stared at Minhyuk. Changkyun smiled. He had seen that look many times on Jooheon’s face. The why the hell would you say that? look. Minhyuk only smiled back at Kihyun and shrugged.

“Anyways, we’ll probably give you overviews on royal life, what you’ll have to deal with, the country itself, the laws and rules,” Hyunwoo said.

“And most importantly you’ll have to hang out with Kihyun,” Minhyuk added with a smile. Changkyun looked back over at Kihyun. He looked like he was two seconds away from jumping across the table and taking Minhyuk out.

“Hang out?” Hyungwon asked.

“Yep. Go on dates and stuff. Get to know each other. See if you’d want to spend forever with him,” Minhyuk said with a dreamy look in his eyes. Changkyun sputtered out the laughter he couldn’t hold anymore. Minhyuk looked at him and winked.

“I will have various obligations to attend that I’ll invite each of you to,” Kihyun explained, his eyes still burning into Minhyuk.

“But if you want to invite him somewhere, please feel free, he doesn’t leave this place enough,” Minhyuk added.

“Mihyuk, I swear to fucking God-“ Kihyun started.

“Okay! Everyone’s finished eating, right? Great, does anyone want dessert?” Hyunwoo said loudly, standing up and smiling at the four of them. Changkyun bit his tongue. He heard someone else huff out a laugh before slapping their hand over their mouth.

“Is…is this what it’s like all the time?” Hyungwon asked carefully, a crooked smile appearing on his lips.

“No!”

“No.”

“Yep!” Minhyuk said with a smile. Kihyun groaned, his head slumping onto the table.

“Why must you do this to me? I thought you were my best friend,” Kihyun said. Minhyuk stood up dramatically, a hand pressed to his chest.

“I am! Why do you think I’m pushing your buttons, so they can fall in love with the real you? You deserve real love, Kihyun!”

“Oh my god,” Jooheon gasped out before he burst out laughing. Changkyun finally let out the cackle that had been building up inside him the entirety of the dinner. Hoseok slumped forward, his shoulders shaking, and Hyungwon threw his head back to let out loud laughter. Minhyuk looked at the table and smiled, entirely too pleased with himself, and Kihyun thought about how long it would take to rip all the hairs off his head. Hyunwoo seemed to pick up on the suddenly violent energy and placed himself between them.

“Um, dessert. We have ice cream, I think,” Hyunwoo said.

“Fuck, that sounds good,” Changkyun said. Jooheon elbowed him.

“You can’t have ice cream,” he said as he wiped at his eyes. Changkyun pouted.

“It’s a special occasion, though.”

“We bought lactose-free ice cream,” Kihyun said. Changkyun looked at him like an actual angel descended upon earth.

“Wow, I think I’m already in love with you,” Changkyun said with a smile. Kihyun’s eyes widened as he let out a nervous laugh. He stood up.

“Ice cream, yep. I’m going to go get that now,” Kihyun said before sending one final glare at Minhyuk and Hyunwoo and rushing out. 

“That’s the most flustered I’ve seen Kihyun all day,” Minhyuk said with a smile.

“If you’ll excuse us, I think we’ll take our leave,” Hyunwoo said.

“Wha-“ Minhyuk’s words were stopped as Hyunwoo grabbed his arm and yanked him out of the room after him. The four men left looked at each other before all starting to laugh again.

“Well, I’m glad to find out that vampires are just like us,” Hoseok said.

“Tell me about it,” Hyungwon said.

“I thought we would have to be so serious all the time,” Jooheon said.

“Well, thank fuck that is not the case,” Changkyun said as he leaned his head on Jooheon’s shoulder.

“Do you think they’ll actually come back with this ice cream?” Hyungwon asked.

“God, who knows?” Jooheon said. Then they all laughed again, waiting to find out if the ice cream would ever show up.

Chapter Text

Changkyun woke up to an incessant knock at his door. He groaned, not even bothering to check the time before he rolled out of bed and walked to the door. He opened it as he rubbed at his eyes, standing there in a big t-shirt and his underwear. Jaehwan was standing there with a smile.

“Good morning!” he sang.

“What time is it?” Changkyun groaned out.

“Seven.” Changkyun fought the urge to slam the door in his annoyingly adorable face.

“It’s too early for this. Why did you wake me up?”

“You have a fitting in an hour,” Jaehwan said as he held out a little envelope toward him. Changkyun’s face scrunched as he took the envelope from him and opened it.

Changkyun,

I have a charity gala to attend on Friday, and I would like you to accompany me. I’ve ordered the tailor to come and prepare something for you to wear for the occasion, so please cooperate with them, if you want to come. If you do not wish to go, please tell Jaehwan immediately, so I can make other arrangements.

Best,

Kihyun

Changkyun practically drooled over the neat and careful handwriting of the note. He looked up at Jaehwan, who was still smiling at him, hands behind his back.

“Friday as in two days from now Friday?” Changkyun asked.

“Yep! Now what’s your response?”

“Of course, I’ll go. Are you insane?”

Jaehwan chuckled. “Go shower then, and just put on the underwear you’d wear to the event. Be ready in an hour!” And then Jaehwan was gone, the flash of wind he left behind the only sign that he didn’t simply fade to nothingness. Changkyun shook his head as he closed the door and finally turned on the lights in his room. He was still tired, but he was on a mission now. He gently folded the note and put it back in its envelope before putting it in the top drawer of his cabinet. Then he got to work trying to make himself the cleanest he had ever been before, scrubbing off his dead skin and running over himself with the fancy soap that had been placed in the shower twice. When he was done, he was left alone to silently stare at his underwear drawer and agonize over which boxer briefs he wanted to wear.

When he heard another gentle knock, he finally settled on the navy pair, putting them on as he waddled to answer the door. When he opened it, he was met with the sight of Hakyeon and Minhyuk and a smaller woman who was holding a large fabric bag. She was dressed in an all-red suit, and Changkyun felt like she was skinning him alive with her eyes as she looked him up and down. He wrapped his hands around his middle protectively.

“Um, hey guys,” he said softly to the two familiar faces. They both smiled at him as they walked past him into the room. They went to the set of mirrors that had come with the room and rearranged them, so they were in a semi-circle. Hakyeon moved a little stool over in front of the mirrors. The woman dropped her bag on the floor next to the stool.

“Stand here,” she said with a point at the stool. Changkyun stood where he was told, stiff as a nervous soldier.

“This is Hyojin. You’ll have to forgive her, she tends to get hyper-focused,” Minhyuk explained.

“I hate royal fashion. It has to be so boring for men now,” she said as she pulled out a measuring tape and started measuring every inch of Changkyun’s body with tightly pressed lips, reading out her findings, so Hakyeon could write them down in a little notebook. Changkyun nodded.

“Yeah, I get that. Just plain suits and tuxes, no awesome avant-garde ball gowns,”Changkyun said. He saw Hyojin’s face pinch into a smile through the mirror as she measured his shoulders.

“Don’t worry though, I’ll make you something great. I always do,” she said with a wink. Changkyun smiled at the gesture, glad that the terrifying shark of a woman had become all smiles and ease as she pulled out samples for him to try on. She asked him questions about his personal style, his favorite colors, his favorite fabrics, and things that Changkyun had not ever thought about when picking out an outfit, noting to Hakyeon what he should write down.

“Okay, I think I have enough. I’ll be back tomorrow for your fitting, and you’ll have it ready by Friday morning at the latest,” she said as she packed up all her things in her bag.

“You work that fast?” Changkyun said, stepping off the cushion and suddenly realizing how tight his muscles had been that entire time. Hyojin smiled.

“I’m the best in the business for a reason,” she said with a wink. Then she was walking out of the room, all of them watching as strutted out.

“She’s scarier than Hakyeon,” Changkyun said. Minhyuk snorted while Hakyeon gasped.

“I am not scary!” he said.

“Out of everyone we’ve met you have the most menacing aura,” Changkyun said with a general wave over Hakyeon’s body. Hakyeon scowled.

“How am I scarier than Hyunwoo? He’s huge!”

“A huge teddy bear,” Minhyuk said.

“I thought you were going to murder Jaehwan when he hugged you at dinner the other night,” Changkyun said.

“I can’t believe this,” Hakyeon muttered. He popped his hip out and crossed his arms, looking every bit like the annoyed gay he was. Changkyun smiled at him. Some things are the same no matter where you went.

“But, yeah, Hyojin is terrifying,” Changkyun continued.

“Probably because she’s ancient. She’s been the royal tailor since before Hyunwoo came here, and Hyunwoo has been here for two kings, well, three now with Kihyun,” Minhyuk said.

“Jesus,” Changkyun said.

“I wonder if she ever met him,” Hakyeon thought out loud. Changkyun sputtered out a laugh before rubbing at his eyes.

“You can go back to sleep. We know it’s early for you,” Minhyuk said. Changkyun nodded as he made his way back toward his bed.

“Why am I going first?” he asked as he pulled his blankets over him. Minhyuk looked at him.

“No idea,” he said before he shut the door behind him and Hakyeon. Changkyun scoffed as he buried himself in his pillow. There was no way that was true, but Changkyun dealt with it, kicking his feet a little at the thought that maybe Kihyun picked him because he liked him best.

+++

Changkyun couldn’t stop looking at himself in the mirror as he was getting his hair and make-up done. Jooheon was sitting on Changkyun’s bed, watching as the stylists had gotten his friend ready for his first official event.

“You look amazing, holy shit,” Jooheon said.

“Shit, I know, what magic is this?” Changkyun replied.

“Years of experience, now look up,” the make-up artist, Jeonghwa, said. Changkyun looked up at the ceiling as she carefully put mascara on his bottom eyelashes. “There. Now you’re done,” she said, before holding a mirror in front of Changkyun’s face. Changkyun grabbed the mirror and gasped as he looked at himself. His hair was brushed back off his face. His skin was glowing bronze, his eyes were outlined in black and gold and pink, and his lips were pink like he had just been making out. He squealed.

“Oh my god, do my makeup every day please, teach me your ways,” Changkyun said with a pout up at Jeonghwa. She smiled before patting his shoulder.

“Maybe one day. For now, I gotta go. Have fun tonight,” she said before she started packing her things back up. Changkyun got up and practically skipped over to Jooheon.

“Wow. I hope I get to look this good when my turn comes,” Jooheon said as he looked Changkyun up and down. He was wearing a perfectly tailored blue suit that had leather accents on the lapel and collar. The buttons were gold.

“I’m sure you’ll look even better,” Changkyun said with a smile. Jooheon smiled back, poking at Changkyun’s stomach excitedly, making Changkyun giggle.

“Am I interrupting something?” Kihyun said from the door. Jooheon yanked his hands away and put them behind his back. Changkyun’s eyes got wide as he whirled around to look at him.

“No! Sorry,” he said.

“You’re fine. I’m just here to pick you up,” Kihyun said with a smile. He was wearing a suit that looked almost exactly like Changkyun’s, only black. Changkyun thought he would explode.

“Oh, I didn’t expect you to come personally,” Changkyun said as he rushed over to where his phone was charging, yanking it off the cord and stuffing it in his pocket along with his wallet. Jooheon shot Changkyun two thumbs-up as he watched him rush over to where Kihyun was standing, perfectly straight and polite with his hands clasped together in front of him.

“Of course. We are going on a date, aren’t we?” Kihyun said. Changkyun sucked in a breath before nodding. Kihyun smiled as he cocked his elbow out toward Changkyun. With one final look back at Jooheon, Changkyun placed his hand on the inside of Kihyun’s arm before they started walking down the hallway. Changkyun thought he might pass out.

“So what exactly do we have to do at this event?” Changkyun said.

“Stand there and look pretty,” Kihyun said, still leading Changkyun by his side.

“Well, at least we have the pretty part down,” Changkyun said before a nervous giggle left his mouth. They walked to the garage where a limousine was already waiting for them, Hongbin and Hyunwoo leaning against the side of it. They straightened up when they came walking up, Hongbin giving a pointed look at where Changkyun’s hand was gripping at Kihyun’s forearm and smiling. Changkyun blushed.

“I didn’t know other people would come with us,” Changkyun said.

“Well, we do need body guards.”

“I thought Hyunwoo was an advisor?”

“I am, but I can do both,” Hyunwoo said as he opened the car door. Kihyun led Changkyun forward, and he got the hint, sliding in first before everyone else got in. He sat with his back to the partition, Kihyun next to him, Hyunwoo and Hongbin across from them. Changkyun sat with his hands between his knees, trying hard not to think about the way Kihyun’s thigh was pressed against his.

“You know we can hear your heartbeat, right? It sounds like you’re about to have a panic attack,” Hongbin said. Changkyun looked up at him, his hands flying up to cover his heart as if he could muffle the sound.

“I’m not. I’m just nervous,” Changkyun said.

“There’s going to be a lot of media attention on you because you’re the first…applicant they’ll see in person,” Hyunwoo said.

“What am I supposed to do?” Changkyun asked.

“Nothing. Stand and look pretty. Once we’re inside the cameras will die down,” Kihyun said. He gently patted at Changkyun’s shoulder, trying to comfort him.

“No talking?” Changkyun asked. He let his hands drop back into his lap, deflating a bit.

“You can always choose to ignore reporters, but if you want to answer a question, we can’t stop you,” Hyunwoo said.

“Do you want me to ignore them?”

Hyunwoo shrugged. “It’s up to you. Just don’t give away anyone else’s personal information or anything like that.” Changkyun nodded, biting at his lip. He tried to will his heart into beating slower. Then Kihyun’s pretty hand landed gently on his knee.

“You’ll be fine,” Kihyun said softly, like it was something meant just for him. Changkyun wanted to scream, and he knew that Kihyun could tell as soon as he let out a small laugh. Kihyun was so close to him, but it wasn’t anything intimate. Not yet. Changkyun couldn’t believe he was acting like a hormonal virgin.

“Th-thanks. I’ll try,” he managed to say before taking a deep breath.

“God, it sounds like a moth stuck in a glass box,” Kihyun whispered. He put his hand on Changkyun’s chest, right over his heart. Changkyun turned to him, and suddenly they were so close, noses almost touching.

Fuck.

“W-wha?” Changkyun felt like his tongue had grown two sizes in a few seconds. It felt awkward and horribly big in his mouth, unwieldy and in the way.

“Your heart. It’s so…fast and loud,” Kihyun said. Changkyun swallowed thickly, felt like his tongue might get stuck in his esophagus.

“Kihyun, maybe stop staring at the kid like a cat staring at a canary and his heart will calm down,” Hongbin said. Kihyun blinked a few times before he finally moved his hand away again and stared straight ahead of him. Changkyun’s head was still swimming, but he wasn’t drowning anymore.

“Sorry. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so close to a human, I guess I’m not used to it,” Kihyun said. Changkyun nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He tried to calm himself down for a while, and it was silent. He hoped they weren’t listening intently, trying to figure out if he had calmed down or not. After a while, Hyunwoo finally spoke up again.

“We’re getting close to the venue. We won’t let you be by yourself anywhere, so hopefully it shouldn’t get too overwhelming.” Changkyun nodded.

“Just don’t leave my side, please. I hate mingling with these people, and they’ll stay away if I’m occupied,” Kihyun said. His hand had found Changkyun’s knee again. Changkyun looked at him, and Kihyun was staring at him like he was studying him. Changkyun nodded again. Then it was bright outside, and Changkyun looked at the red carpet lined with people and cameras and lights. He shivered as he felt Kihyun press close to him, his breath somewhere next to his ear. “You’ll be fine. You look amazing, and they love beautiful people,” Kihyun whispered.

Hongbin and Hyunwoo stepped out first, then Kihyun. He held his hand out, and Changkyun took it as he stepped out of the car. Then everyone was yelling at them. Kihyun pulled Changkyun to his side, and Changkyun grabbed onto his forearm like he had back in the palace. They walked down the red carpet slowly, stopping occasionally to pose for photos.

“Should I smile?” Changkyun whispered in Kihyun’s ear.

“Yeah. You have a pretty smile,” Kihyun said back. Changkyun felt himself blush as he smiled at the cameras. Everyone was yelling for Kihyun, the only words he could make out were your majesty, your highness. He noticed that Hyunwoo was talking to some reporters, and he wondered if he was handling all the questions for Kihyun. It wasn’t long before Kihyun was pulling him off the carpet and into the venue, so quick they left Hyunwoo and Honbin behind.

It was a pretty normal room, large and done up with round tables and tablecloths and a stage with a podium. As they swept past all the people, making their way to a small table near the stage, everyone moved out of their way, bowing at the waist until they were past. Changkyun was in awe. In the castle, it was almost easy to forget that Kihyun was royalty. It was almost a running joke how casual he was. But here, he could almost feel the royalty dripping off him. His normally perfect posture was haughty here, his head raised slightly, so his gaze had to slip down the bridge of his nose before it met someone. Changkyun felt like a blotchy, uncoordinated child next to him.

“Here we are,” Kihyun said. He pulled out a chair and watched as Changkyun nodded toward him before he sat down in the chair. Kihyun then sat down next to him, letting out a sigh.

“What’s wrong?” Changkyun asked.

“I like the charity, I do. It does great things for conservation in the country. But I don’t like all this pomp and circumstance, all the speeches, all the people.”

“At least you have an excuse to wear super awesome clothes like this. And it’s for a good cause,” Changkyun said with a smile. Kihyun leaned forward on the table, looking at Changkyun.

“Do you always look on the bright side, or are you doing it for my benefit?” he asked.

“I try to be optimistic,” Changkyun answered easily. Kihyun smiled.

“I like that. Maybe I should try to be optimistic, too,” he said.

“So is there going to be a big fancy dinner?” Changkyun asked. He noticed the tables were bare. Kihyun shook his head.

“While we can eat normal food, it just is usually a waste at things like this. I told Minhyuk to make sure you ate before we came. Are you hungry again already?”

“Oh, no! I just was. Wondering.”

“Have you been to lots of events with big fancy dinners?”

“Only weddings I crashed,” Changkyun said. Kihyun laughed, and Changkyun felt his heart start to speed up again.

“I’ll have to hear those stories another day. They sound fascinating.”

“Totally. I’m an open book when I’m not freaking the hell out,” Changkyun said. Kihyun tilted his head, pouting a bit. It was the cutest shit Changkyun had ever seen.

“I don’t want you to be freaking out, though,” Kihyun said. He reached up and dusted something off Changkyun’s shoulder gently.

“I’m trying not to,” he whispered out. Then Kihyun smiled again. Changkyun realized again how close they were, talking quietly to each other in a room full of people. It felt intimate, like they were hidden in a blanket fort in a busy living room. He wondered if Kihyun’s heart still beat. Would it be beating as hard as his right now if it did?

“You really do look so gorgeous. I can barely take my eyes off of you,” Kihyun said softly before he ran his hand through his hair. Changkyun patted his palms against his cheeks, feeling how hot they were getting. Kihyun smiled as he watched Changkyun get flustered. “I can see the tabloid headlines now. King infatuated with new human beau,” Kihyun said.

“I’m thirsty, can I get water? Is there water anywhere in here?” Changkyun said, looking around the room, looking at anywhere that wasn’t Kihyun.

“I’ll go get one for you. Hongbin’s on his way over.” Kihyun walked away, and Changkyun felt like he could breathe again. Holy shit, this is bad. He heard Hongbin sit down next to him.

“Are you okay? You look like you’re about to pass out.”

“Is he always this flirty or is it just for my benefit, you think?”

“Kihyun? Oh god, it could be a billion things.”
“Great. Good. He keeps telling me I’m pretty, and I think I’m going to die.”

“Don’t do that, Kihyun would never forgive himself.” Changkyun groaned before burying his face in his arms on the table. Hongbin laughed before patting his back. “I know Kihyun is objectively attractive, but is it really this bad? I’m sure you dated plenty of attractive men in your life before.”

Changkyun sat up, his eyes wild as he grabbed Hongbin’s collar. “None of them could literally hear my heart flutter, Hongbin.”

Hongbin laughed again, pulling Changkyun gently away from him and fixing his collar. “Okay, point made.”

“Also, he’s literally a king? Like how the hell is this my life now?”

“Because you wanted it to be,” Hongbin said. Changkyun sighed. He wanted to rub at his face, but he didn’t want to ruin his pretty make up.

“I managed to find a few bottles of water,” Kihyun said, placing three bottles in front of Changkyun one-by-one.

“Thanks.”

“I hope that’s enough, but if not let me know.” Kihyun sat down again, and Changkyun unscrewed one of the bottles and started chugging it.

“God, I wish the vultures would let Hyunwoo join us already,” Hongbin said.

“I know. The faster everyone walks in, the quicker we get to go home,” Kihyun said. Changkyun sat there and listened to Kihyun and Hongbin’s idle chatter until Hyunwoo finally joined them, and the lights dimmed.

The event was boring. Changkyun struggled to stay awake through the speeches about how important trees were, but every time he felt himself nodding off, Kihyun’s thin fingers would brush against his thigh and startle him awake. He kept looking at the program Hyunwoo had brought with him, trying to figure out how much longer it would take. It was hours before they finally were piling back up into the limousine, rushing away from the cacophony of people yelling after them, the words your majesty, this human boy bouncing against his eardrums.

Changkyun was exhausted, and he wished he wasn’t. But it was late, and he was hungry, and his make-up was staring to feel heavy on his skin. He had been pushed and pulled all day, his heart racing and slowing almost like he was working out. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep on the ride home. He especially hadn’t meant to fall asleep leaning against Kihyun’s shoulder.

+++

Kihyun found himself carrying Changkyun to his bedroom. He didn’t have the heart to wake him, even as Hongbin scolded him for not giving him food. He gently put him down on his bed over his covers. He awkwardly hovered over him, knowing he needed to take off his make-up, change into pajamas, probably eat something, but he couldn’t do that. It would be overstepping.

“Just wake him up,” Minhyuk said. Kihyun sighed, turning to look at his best friend. Minhyuk had his arms crossed over his chest, leaning against the doorframe.

“He’s so tired, I can’t.”

“If you don’t, I will. He needs to change and eat.”

Kihyun sighed before he knelt down next to the bed. “Changkyun? Get up, we’re home now,” he said softly. Changkyun groaned, one of his eyes opening before he startled up into a seated position.

“Shit, sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” Changkyun said.

“You’re fine,” Kihyun said as he stood back up. He tucked his hands behind him, watching as Changkyun rubbed at his eyes, not caring about his make-up anymore. Kihyun smiled. “Thank you for coming with me. I know it was boring.”

Changkyun shook his head, making a small dismissive wave. “Thanks for inviting me. It was cool to experience something like that even if I was a bit tired.” He smiled up at Kihyun, blinding and genuine. Kihyun could hear Changkyun’s heart, steadily speeding up as he looked up at him. It was incredibly endearing, honestly. It was such a gentle noise, like a pocket-watch that was in the midst of being wound.

“Well, we both need to get ready for bed. The kitchen is open if you need a snack or anything,” Kihyun said. Changkyun nodded.

“Yeah, okay. Thanks.” Changkyun stood up and looked around, like he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do first. It was adorable, a pout sitting on his lips and eyes narrowing a bit. Kihyun stepped closer to him, and Changkyun turned to him, his eyes getting wider. His heart picking up speed.

“Goodnight,” Kihyun whispered.

Changkyun smiled that sleepy smile again. “Night, Kihyun.” And Kihyun took his hand in his, bringing it up to his lips. He pressed his lips to Changkyun’s knuckles. He knew somewhere deep in his mind this was lame, something you only saw in movies nowadays. But the sweet sound of Changkyun’s breath hitching and his heart starting to pound was enough to convince Kihyun that it was all okay. He dropped Changkyun’s hand before he turned and walked out.

Well, ran out as he slammed the door behind him. He grabbed Minhyuk’s arm as he passed, dragging him along behind him. “Not a word about this,” he gritted out. Minhyuk laughed.

“Fine, fine, I won’t tell the whole world how cliché you are if you can convince me that you’ll give the other three a chance and not just focus all your attention on Changkyun.”

“I will! I wouldn’t be that unfair. It’s just…he’s so…”

“Yep. Come on, let’s get you out of this suit, and we can sit on your bed and squeal about how cute you think he is,” Minhyuk said.

“I hate you sometimes, you know that?” Kihyun answered. He had dragged Minhyuk all the way to his room, already planning on doing exactly what Minhyuk had suggested.

Minhyuk smirked. “Sure, Ki. Sure.”

“He just is so interesting. He acts so brave, but then his little heart flutters so fast I think he might get light-headed. And he’s funny,” Kihyun explained as he kicked his trousers off and threw his jacket onto the floor. Minhyuk sighed, picking up after Kihyun and folding his discarded clothes.

“He must really have you fucked up if you’re being this messy.”

“He could be okay with going to stuff like that. He handled it well. He was falling asleep, but that wouldn’t happen if he was a vampire anyways,” Kihyun explained.

“And you think he’s hot?”

“God, so hot. Even without all the make-up and fancy clothes.”

“Do you think he’s the hottest one you invited?”

“Well, all of them are very attractive. But I’ve spent the most amount of time with him, so yeah, I guess.”

“Agreed. Just remember that, though.”

“Remember what?”

“All of them are hot and great, so you can’t decide on Changkyun after just one date.”

Kihyun rolled his eyes as he started wiping his make-up off. “I know, Minhyuk. I just want to actually…date them?”

“Court them like in the olden days?”

“Exactly. I don’t want to change anyone unless they love me first,” Kihyun said. Minhyuk sighed, staring down at the ground.

“Yeah, it’s probably better that way. Having that love forced on you is so…”

“Yeah, I know,” Kihyun interrupted him, not wanting Minhyuk to remember, to think about the way their emotions had been so furiously twisted like iron in fire. Kihyun could still feel it sometimes like a phantom limb, even with the connection severed by death. Could still feel the innate feeling of affection for the creator that he despised.

“It’ll get better, you know,” Minhyuk said softly.

“I know.”

“It’s only been a few months since he died. I can barely even remember the feeling anymore now that it’s been years.”

“I didn’t mean to bring it up, Minhyuk.”

“I know, Ki. It’s fine. It’s a good idea, though. Them loving you before.”

“I mean, I hope so. I’m going based off Hakyeon and his little brood.”

Minhyuk laughed. “God, if he heard you call them a brood, he’d destroy the kitchen out of spite.”

Kihyun smiled. “I mean, what else are they? Brood of vampires, works well, I think.”

“You explain that to him yourself, then.” Minhyuk plopped down on Kihyun’s familiar bed, laying back on it.

“What should I invite Changkyun to do next?” Kihyun asked as he sat next to him. Minhyuk made a face at him.

“I think you should invite someone else out first. Like Hyungwon. He seems sweet.”

Kihyun sighed, his fingers running through Minhyuk’s soft hair. “You’re probably right. But I’ll go by age, so it seems like I have a pattern.”

“Ah, good idea. So Jooheon next, then?” Minhyuk asked. Kihyun nodded, biting at his lip.

“Yeah. Maybe the next event won’t be as boring.”

“I think your next event is the anniversary.” Kihyun let out a groan.

“Oh God, the anniversary.”

“Yep. At least there’s music for that?” Minhyuk said.

“Maybe we should just invite all of them to that. Jooheon will get his solo date after that.”

Minhyuk nodded. “Noted. I’ll make sure to sit you all at one long table like the last supper.”

Kihyun snorted. “God, that’d be the worst.” Minhyuk smiled. They spent a while talking about Kihyun’s upcoming schedules. They laid on the bed next to each other, talking quietly. Hyunwoo eventually showed up. He didn’t move them, didn’t interrupt them. He just laid down behind Minhyuk and kissed at his hair, laughing at their casual jibes and familiar jokes.

Chapter Text

The anniversary of the founding of their country was an event that had been terrifying to behold when Kihyun and Minhyuk first came to the palace. They had clung to their creator’s sides like all would be lost if they let go for even a moment. Kihyun remembered weeping and blood, and how the King had smiled down at him and told him that he should go join the festivities when all he wanted was to just go back inside the palace, curl up next to the creator he now loved, and make himself hibernate until he couldn’t remember the screams anymore. It was the first time he had met Minhyuk and Hyunwoo. He and Minhyuk had found each other in the crowd and had hid beneath a table, clutching to each other like lost orphans. Hyunwoo had found them and took them back inside, cleaned them up, and lied for them when the King and Queen asked about them.

Sometimes Kihyun could still smell the stench of bodies mixed with the sweet smell of blood everywhere. He would dread the anniversary every year until Hyunwoo convinced the King it was a bad idea to celebrate that way. That it affected their image. That it turned people against them. Now, the anniversary was basically just a concert with an excess of alcohol. Kihyun preferred this, but the entirety of it still made him feel slightly off. He sighed as he looked at himself in the mirror, analyzing his outfit. Minhyuk wrapped his arms around Kihyun’s middle, hooking his chin on his shoulder.

“I think it’s good for people to see you be dressed like this in public. Like a normal person,” he said.

“It’s just a leather jacket, a t-shirt, and jeans,” Kihyun said.

“And you look great in it!” Minhyuk said with a smile.

“Thanks.” Kihyun tried on a smile, but it came out more like a grimace. Minhyuk sighed.

“I know you hate it, but I’ll be there, and so will Hyunwoo, and we have more pig’s blood than you can carry, and wine to mix it with, and-“

“I get it, Minhyuk. It’s fine.”

“And the boys all look hot as fuck,” Minhyuk added with a waggle of his brows. Kihyun snorted, leaning his head against Minhyuk’s.

“Do they now?”

“Hyungwon is dressed in this outfit. He looks like a pirate. Changkyun looks like an adorable Sherlock Holmes with his long brown coat and glasses. Hoseok is wearing an entirely too sinful hoodie-harness thing. And Jooheon is wearing these great jeans and his one Gucci t-shirt.”

“Sounds about right,” Kihyun said.

“They don’t know about all the shitty things that have happened before. They’re just excited to be spending a whole day having fun.”

“I know. I’ll try to be more cheerful.”

“Good. I hate seeing you like this.” Minhyuk kissed Kihyun’s cheek before pulling away. “I’m going to go find Hyunwoo now. Think you can handle finding the amphitheater in our backyard by yourself?”

“Yeah yeah yeah. Go suck Hyunwoo’s dick or whatever,” Kihyun said.

“Thank you for the direct order, your majesty,” Minhyuk said with an exaggerated bow. He winked up at Kihyun before running off. Kihyun sighed, running his hands through his hair one last time before finally making his way out.

+++

Hoseok liked being outside when the weather was like this. It was sunny but not hot. A breeze played against his skin, not enough to make him shiver, but just enough to feel like the cherry on top of the sundae. His seat was comfortable at the round table they were sitting at, sandwiched between Hyungwon and Jooheon. Their table was next to the stage. It was already loud around them, the people filling into the seats that surrounded them.

“Do you think they put Hakyeon’s table next to ours for a reason?” Changkyun asked, his eyes focused somewhere behind Hoseok. He glanced behind him to see Hakyeon and his little group sitting around a table, laughing and talking as they sipped at their deep red wine glasses. He looked back at Changkyun.

“They put them directly between us and everyone else, and they technically are our bodyguards,” Hoseok said.

“Do you think it’s dangerous for us, then?” Jooheon asked, his eyes suddenly scanning the entire crowd.

Hoseok shrugged. “Probably not, but they have to just in case. I mean if a vampire decided to overtake us, I don’t think we’d stand a chance.”

“You could probably end up fine,” Hyungwon said. He sipped at the wine in front of him and smacked his lips.

“I may be big, but even tiny vampires are stronger than me,” Hoseok said.

“The wine is good,” Hyungwon said, gesturing to the bottle sitting in ice in the middle of the table. Changkyun made grabby hands for it. Hoseok chuckled. Jooheon rolled his eyes.

“Don’t encourage him,” Jooheon mumbled as he reached for the bottle and poured Changkyun and himself a drink. Hoseok laughed, his nose scrunching up.

“Aren’t you the one encouraging him?”

“Shut up. I can’t help it, I’ve known him since we were in grade school. I saw him eat glue, Hoseok.”

“Hey, every kid eats a little bit of glue. It looks like milk,” Changkyun said.

“Just try the wine already, kid,” Jooheon said before ruffling Changkyun’s hair. Changkyun huffed but did as he was told, sipping at the wine. He hummed in approval before chugging the rest of his glass. Hoseok laughed.

“Is it a smart idea to get drunk before we see Kihyun?” Hoseok asked.

“If he can’t handle club-level me, he doesn’t deserve cute and quiet me,” Changkyun said with a wink.

“Okay, cute, sure. There’s a quiet version of you?” Hyungwon asked. The table burst out laughing, and Hoseok decided that maybe he should try the wine since everyone else was enjoying it so much. It was supposed to be a fun day, anyway.

Usually Hoseok thought wine tasted like rot and death, but this was sweet and clean, and it coated his mouth in a thin sheen of something that sometimes tasted like strawberries and sometimes tasted like peaches. “I have a feeling we’re going to need a few more bottles,” Hoseok said.

“I think there’s some stashed under the table,” Jooheon said. He lifted the tablecloth a bit and Hoseok looked under. There was, in fact, a case of wine bottles lingering just a few inches away from their feet. Hoseok giggled as he popped back up and looked at Jooheon.

“You were right,” Hoseok said.

“Thank God, we need to start chilling the next one soon,” Hyungwon said.

“Let’s focus on finishing this one first,” Jooheon said, shaking the still half-full bottle at them.

“Chug it, then,” Changkyun said. He was spinning the stem of his glass in his fingers. Jooheon huffed nervously before tilting the entirety of his glass’s contents in his mouth. Changkyun whooped in response, and Jooheon smiled at him, his eyes disappearing into adorable little crescents.

“So we’re all doing this and not just the baby?” Hyungwon asked.

“Did you just call me the baby?” Changkyun asked. Hyungwon blinked at him a few times before Changkyun reached across and grabbed his hand, eyes wide and serious as he said, “Thank you.” Everyone laughed again.

“I guess everyone is doing this,” Hyungwon said. He held his glass toward Hoseok, and Hoseok clinked his glass against Hyungwon’s before they both threw back the wine like it was a shot. Changkyun applauded them as Jooheon started pouring them more wine.

“It’s definitely going to be an interesting day,” Jooheon said to himself. Hoseok heard it though.

“Well, at least we won’t be alone,” he said. Jooheon laughed a bit, nodding along. Once they all had wine again, they clinked their glasses together before chugging it all down. Strawberry, peach, and maybe something sour. Something that stuck in Hoseok’s jaw and made his throat and lips feel tight. He licked the inside of his mouth, savoring it.

“This is the best wine I’ve ever had,” Changkyun said. Hoseok was inclined to agree, holding his glass out as Jooheon poured them all the last bits left of the first bottle. He drank it down in a few seconds, and Jooheon laughed at him.

“So eager. Can you grab one of the bottles in the case?” he asked. Hoseok smiled back at him before reaching down and grabbing the neck of a bottle. They put it on ice and waited for it to cool. Hoseok closed his eyes and listened to all of them talk, taking in the warm sun and cool breeze. He had always loved days like this.

+++

“Pssst. Changkyyuuun,” Jooheon slurred, leaning close to his friend’s ear. Changkyun turned to him, face rosy and smile semi-permanent.

“Yeah, honey?” Changkyun replied. They were whispering loudly to each other, the whole table able to hear them even over the din of the band that was playing.

“I think…I’m reaaal drunk,” Jooheon said. He slapped his hand over his mouth before he giggled, the world getting small and blurry through his little eye-smiles. Changkyun laughed, leaning his head against Jooheon’s for a moment.

“I can tell. This band’s real good,” Changkyun said. He turned back to stare and yell at the stage, causing Kihyun to laugh as he glanced back at them for a moment. Jooheon licked at his lips. Kihyun was so pretty to look at, but Jooheon couldn’t stop looking at Hoseok. Jooheon thought it was cute how Hoseok kept rubbing his hand against his cheek like he was trying to remind himself he was real. Jooheon leaned over to him and grabbed his hand.

“Hoseeoook,” he said with a giggle. Hoseok smiled at him, letting their newly joined hands hang somewhere between them. Jooheon smiled. “You okay?” he asked.

Hoseok nodded slowly. “Yep. You okay?” he asked.

“Mmhmm,” Jooheon responded. He squeezed Hoseok’s hand. Hoseok intertwined their fingers. They leaned closer, Jooheon laying his head on Hoseok’s shoulder, Hoseok’s head on Jooheon’s head. They swayed to the music, although they kept losing the rhythm of the actual song. They moved at their own pace, their own way, their own beat. It was relaxing. They never lost each other’s rhythms, moving together.

+++

Hyungwon had not been this drunk in ages. He kept pulling at his collar, wishing he hadn’t gotten so hot. He closed his eyes, and everything spun. He groaned as he stumbled forward, coming in contact with something cool and solid. Hyungwon sighed as he bent forward, wrapping around the cool thing that brought him so much relief.

“Um, hello? Can I help you?”

Hyungwon forced his eyes open and realized he was leaning against Minhyuk. He nodded to himself as if that made perfect sense. “Was hot. ‘re cold,” Hyungwon explained simply. Minhyuk giggled, his smaller body shaking against Hyungwon’s.

Hyungwon pressed his cheek to Minhyuk’s shoulder, listening to the drums and guitars pounding through them. He felt like he was floating pleasantly against the soundwaves from the speakers. Minhyuk felt like all the fresh air in the world wrapped up in a t-shirt. Hyungwon loved it, sank closer against the cool feeling.

“Are you okay? Do we need to take you to bed?” Minhyuk asked. He had turned his head slightly to look at the man who was currently using him to stay upright. Hyungwon shook his head, straightening back up. His blinked his eyes at Minhyuk.

“’M fine. Just hot,” Hyungwon said.

“So that’s why you’re leaning against me?” Hyungwon scrunched his nose up a little before he giggled. He pressed the back of his hand against Minhyuk’s cheek.

“You feel like an ice cream shop,” Hyungwon answered. Minhyuk let out a surprised laugh. Hyungwon noticed how he blinked, how it was unsynchronized and slow. Hyungwon liked it. Thought it was cute. So cute. Cute boy. Hyungwon put his chin on Minhyuk’s shoulder. “Just wanna not sweat, lemme stay,” he whined. He could feel Minhyuk shake with laughter again.

“Okay, Hyungwon. Just don’t fall asleep on me,” Minhyuk said.

“Course not,” Hyungwon grumbled. He kept his eyes on the stage, enjoying feeling nice and cool and drunk and floaty.

+++

Kihyun was hopping up and down to the electronic music. He usually wasn’t like this, but Changkyun had grabbed his hands and pulled him up and slurred dance with me. And honestly, Kihyun didn’t think he could argue with him. Changkyun had latched their fingers together and hadn’t let go, and Kihyun was happy, jumping up and down in time with Changkyun as he lost himself. Kihyun could hear his heart pleasantly syncopating with the beat of the music. When the song ended, Changkyun panted and yelled and applauded along with the rest of the crowd.

Changkyun turned to look at him, and he was smiling, all toothy and wolf-like, like he wanted to jump on Kihyun and eat him alive. Kihyun licked his lips. Changkyun had shed his jacket a long time ago, sweat making his white shirt stick to him. The little circles of his nipples were barely visible where his shirt was glued to his chest. Kihyun reached out and pulled at his shirt, peeled it off, so he wasn’t as exposed. Changkyun grabbed his wrist, giggling.

“Am I too sticky?” Changkyun asked.

“No, your shirt was just sticking to you. It didn’t look comfortable,” Kihyun said.

“Good,” Changkyun said before leaning forward, his hand still wrapped around Kihyun’s wrists. He bit his lip and opened his eyes wide at Kihyun. “You know, what I really need is to just take it off,” Changkyun whispered. He batted his eyelashes up at him and giggled again. Kihyun huffed out a laugh. He pulled Changkyun back to their table and made him sit back down.

“What you need is water,” Kihyun said, pushing a water bottle into Changkyun’s hand. Changkyun sighed but brought the bottle up to his lips anyway. “Good. Now, I’m going to check on everyone else, okay?” Changkyun gave him a thumbs up as he kept drinking his water. Kihyun nodded before he made his way to Hyunwoo who was gently bopping to the music.

“How’s it going?” Kihyun asked.

“I think our favorite guests all got a bit too drunk,” Hyunwoo said with a glance at the table behind them. Kihyun turned.

Jooheon and Hoseok were giggling as they leaned against each other, like their combined efforts was the only thing keeping them upright. Hyungwon looked almost like a parrot perched on Minhyuk’s shoulder, eyes wide and glossy as his plump lips moved as he whispered things to Minhyuk. At least, Minhyuk looked mildly amused at the situation. When he and Kihyun’s eyes met, he waved at him. Kihyun waved back before turning back to Hyunwoo.

“At least everyone else here usually does the same thing?” Kihyun asked.

“Oh, yeah, it’s fine. I just think it’s cute. Apparently Hyungwon is hugged up on Minhyuk because he was hot, and he thought Minhyuk felt cold.”

“Adorable,” Kihyun said.

“Are you having fun? I haven’t seen you actually dance in ages,” Hyunwoo said. Kihyun smiled.

“Changkyun asked. It would’ve been rude to say no.”

“Of course. You seem to like him.”

“He makes me laugh,” Kihyun answered. Hyunwoo hummed. Kihyun watched people run around in front of the stage, dancing and writhing around close to each other.

“That’s what I used to say about Minhyuk whenever the Queen would come sniffing around, you know. ‘It’s nothing, your highness, he just makes me laugh’,” Hyunwoo said. Kihyun rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, that was after decades. It’s been weeks. I haven’t even gone on a date with anyone else. I shouldn’t play favorites, you know.”

“You already are. If you weren’t you would’ve gone out with someone else first.”

“Don’t make me look at myself like that, Hyunwoo,” Kihyun groaned.

Hyunwoo laughed before slinging his arm around Kihyun’s shoulder. “That’s kinda my job, kid.”

“Ugh, I know,” Kihyun said. He leaned into Hyunwoo’s side. He always felt safe there after centuries of being protected and taken care of by the older vampire. “I’m surprised you and Minhyuk haven’t snuck off yet, though,” Kihyun said.

Hyunwoo’s chuckle shook the both of them for a moment. “We didn’t want to abandon you with them.”

“Well, thank you. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. That’s what we’re here for, Ki,” Hyunwoo said, giving Kihyun a final squeeze before letting his arm drop back to his side. Kihyun smiled up at Hyunwoo, turning back to the stage. They were quiet together for a moment before Kihyun felt a hand smack at his shoulder gently. Kihyun and Hyunwoo both whirled around to see Jooheon and Hoseok, all smiles, their arms around each other’s shoulders.

“Hey guys. You alright?” Kihyun asked.

“Yeah, we just forgot where the closest bathroom was,” Hoseok said.

“It’s just over there, past the wall,” Hyunwoo said with a point.

“Awesome, thanks,” Jooheon said. They watched the pair walk off fearlessly to the bathroom.

“Do you think we need to go with them?” Hyunwoo asked.

Kihyun shook his head. “They’ll be fine. If anything happens, we’d be able to hear it, anyways.”

“Okay,” Hyunwoo said with a nod. Kihyun turned back to the stage, but Hyunwoo’s eyes lingered on the pair for a while longer, something gnawing at the back of his mind that he couldn’t quite place.

+++

Hoseok and Jooheon were all giggles in the one-person bathroom. They had taken turns, deciding that they were far too drunk to be embarrassed by going to the bathroom in front of each other. They were both trying to wash their hands at the same time, but it was mainly an excuse to feel the cool water run over their hands.

“The music is pretty good,” Hoseok said. His quiet voice was pleasant against Jooheon’s tired eardrums.

“Yeah. It’s fun,” Jooehon said.

“I hope Changkyun doesn’t hate me for borrowing his best friend for the day,” Hoseok said.

Jooheon giggled. “He’s too busy trying to hop on Kihyun’s dick to be offended at that.”

“That wine was so good. We definitely drank too much.”

Jooheon nodded in response, but quickly stopped when he felt all the blood in his brain move around. He giggled as he pulled his hands out of the water and grabbed at the sides of his head. Hoseok laughed, turning off the sink and grabbing at Jooheon’s head too.

“Aw, did you get a head rush?” Hoseok said. Jooheon pouted up at him.

“Yeah. Shook too fast.”

Hoseok smiled at him. “You’re so cute. Here, let me kiss it better.” Jooheon opened his mouth to respond, but Hoseok had already pressed a kiss to his forehead. They stared at each other for a moment, breathing in the scent of alcohol and sweat that lingered in the space between them. Somewhere between the strawberries changing into peaches on Hoseok’s tongue, the world turned to white noise around them.

Jooheon tilted his head up at the same time that Hoseok leaned in and their lips met. They tasted like salt and sour and peaches. Hoseok held Jooheon’s cheeks in his hands, gently like he was afraid to spook him. They were too drunk to coordinate, their wet lips mashing together, tongues clashing, teeth occasionally knocking. They tried to suck at each other’s mouths, giggling occasionally when things went awry.

It was the best kiss Hoseok had ever had. It was genuine, real, messy. Hoseok had struck gold while mining for silver. Hoseok rubbed his nose against Jooheon’s, happy. Jooheon smiled at him, giggling a bit against his mouth.

Somewhere between the peaches changing back to strawberries, the world crashed into them again. Their smiles fading slightly as they separated. They stared at each other in silence.

“Shhhit,” Jooheon whispered out.

“No, no, it’s fine, we’re fine,” Hoseok said.

“We’re here for…for Kihyun. Here for Kihyun,” Jooheon said. It was like he was trying to convince himself of it more than Hoseok.

“Kihyun hasn’t even looked in our direction yet, Jooheon.”

“I’m sure they didn’t expect us to be disloyal, though.”

“Disloyal? Jooheon, they’re super chill. I’m sure they’d understand if-“

“All we did was kiss. It didn’t mean anything,” Jooheon said. Hoseok sighed. He ran his hands through his hair. He turned toward the sink, taking in his face in the mirror. He suddenly looked so tired. Exhausted.

“And you didn’t mean that,” Hoseok said softly. Jooheon stared at the ground. He didn’t move to dispute him or leave. Hoseok looked at him again.

“I just…I came here for a reason, you know,” Jooheon said.

“Yeah, the same reason I came here. And here we are.”

“I’m too drunk for feelings,” Jooheon said, his lip quivering a bit. Hoseok nodded.

“Fine. Let’s head back. We’ve been in here long enough.”

“Okay,” Jooheon said. Hoseok held his hand out to him, and Jooheon intertwined their fingers again. Hoseok felt relieved at the gesture as they walked out of the bathroom, making their way back to the table, back to Kihyun and his friendly smiles.

+++

“Minhyuk, you’re a mess sometimes, you know?” Hyunwoo said with a slight chuckle. He was watching Minhyuk brush his teeth. Minhyuk froze, looking at Hyunwoo through the mirror.

“Wha?” he said around his toothbrush.

“You know what.”

Minhyuk spit out his toothpaste and wiped at his mouth. Hyunwoo was just standing there, arms across his chest. Minhyuk turned to him. “Babe, what are you talking about?”

Hyunwoo sighed, his head tilting to the side. “I’m talking about Hyungwon.”

Minhyuk’s eyes widened a bit before he schooled his expression. “I have no idea-“

“Minhyuk, you know you can’t lie to me, right?”

Minhyuk deflated a bit. “I want Kihyun to give him a chance. He seems so sweet and cute,” he said. Hyunwoo hummed, holding his arms open. Minhyuk ran forward, burying his face in Hyunwoo’s chest. “I-I promise that’s it. That’s all.”

Hyunwoo wrapped his arms around Minhyuk and kissed the top of his head. “Is that really all?” he asked softly. Minhyuk gripped into Hyunwoo’s shirt. “You know I wouldn’t mind if you liked him. I understand.”

“Kihyun would mind,” Minhyuk said miserably.

“I think Kihyun is very occupied with Changkyun, right now.”

“No, you know how he is about this kind of stuff.”

“What are you talking about?” Hyunwoo stroked at Minhyuk’s hair as he looked down at him, trying to coax him into looking up at him.

“He’d call me greedy like he called them,” Minhyuk said. Hyunwoo sighed. He gripped around Minhyuk and picked him up off the ground. He shuffled them to their bed and fell sideways onto it with Minhyuk still in his arms.

“He would not call you greedy. He doesn’t call Hakyeon greedy.”

“Yes, he would! He thinks that you and me are like perfect and meant to be, and that we belong together.”

“Do you not think that?” Hyunwoo said with a pout. Minhyuk finally looked up at him, scrambling up to grab at Hyunwoo’s face.

“Of course, I think that! We do belong together, don’t pout like that,” Minhyuk said with his own pout. Hyunwoo laughed a little, pushing forward to kiss Minhyuk’s lips. He felt Minhyuk relax in his arms.

“So, what’s the problem?” Hyunwoo said.

“He thinks if we belong together, it’s just us.”

Hyunwoo sighed. He cupped Minhyuk’s chin in his hand before kissing him again. “It’s our relationship, Minhyuk.”

“But he’s used to being involved. Like, since the beginning. And we’re…you know.”

“I know.”

“But he stopped as soon as he became king, and all he talks about is how happy he is that you and I can finally be together.”

“It’s not like we won’t be together.”

Minhyuk sighed. “I shouldn’t even be thinking about Hyungwon at all. He’s here to try to like fucking marry Kihyun anyway.”

“Okay. That’s fine. But you know, vampires weren’t really made to stay monogamous. They can be. And a few of them are. But most of us aren’t. It’s not like you’re a bad person if you want to sleep with Hyungwon.”

“Ugh, I hate how nice you are sometimes,” Minhyuk said before burying his face in Hyunwoo’s neck. Hyunwoo squeezed him close, breathing in the smell of the shampoo Minhyuk used.

“Shush. You’re nice, too,” Hyunwoo said. Minhyuk wrapped himself around Hyunwoo like a koala, burying himself in his large chest.

“I love you,” Minhyuk said.

“I love you, too. Come on, we need to rest. The kids are going to be hungover as hell tomorrow, and everyone else is probably going to be occupied, so we’re going to have to make sure this whole place is running.”

“Ugh, how did we end up being the sober ones?”

“Because Hakyeon hasn’t had a break in over a year, and I’m pretty sure he’d kill all of us soon if he didn’t get to go crazy for at least a day.”

Minhyuk frowned. “Point taken.” Hyunwoo laughed as he moved them to a more comfortable position. They laid together, just ghosting their fingers over each other’s skin. Minhyuk wondered how someone like Hyunwoo could even be real, bronzed and muscled and loving. He pressed his lips to every inch of Hyunwoo’s skin he could reach, slow and tentative like he was praying at the most sacred of altars. He felt Hyunwoo shiver a few times, but he never flinched away, never took his gaze off of him.

“God, you’re so beautiful,” Hyunwoo whispered, tracing shapes into Minhyuk’s back as Minhyuk kissed at his sternum again. Minhyuk flicked his eyes up at Hyunwoo, hoping he would understand what it was he was praying so adamantly for. Hyunwoo pulled him up, so he was laying on top of him, face-to-face. Hyunwoo kissed his nose, then his cheeks, then his lips, then his jaw, then his neck. Then Hyunwoo sunk his fangs into Minhyuk’s cold skin, and Minhyuk gasped, gripping onto Hyunwoo’s shoulders. He closed his eyes, moaning as Hyunwoo marked him up the only way he could.

              

Chapter Text

Jooheon sat next to Kihyun in the limousine, staring out the window, watching the world fly past them. They were wearing matching white suits on their way to the opening of some new library that had been named after Kihyun. It was bright and sunny outside, the opening happening early at three. Jooheon was the only one in the car not wearing sunglasses. Wonsik had come with them, sprawled out in one of the corner seats, and, of course, Hyunwoo, who was shaking his head at Wonsik for sitting like a delinquent or something.

“What are you thinking about?” Kihyun asked. Jooheon turned to face him and shrugged.

“Nothing, really. I tend to just space out when I’m riding in a car.”

“It gives you a chance to relax?”

“Exactly. I can think about nothing, and no one can judge me for it,” Jooheon said with a wink. Kihyun laughed back.

“I’m glad. Well, today I have to give a speech, so you’re going to have to stand next to Hyunwoo and Wonsik on stage behind me. Is that okay?”

“You can’t pass the fancy speech onto Hyunwoo this time?” Jooheon teased.

“Unfortunately, not. Trust me, I’m thoroughly upset about it.”

“They named it after you! What the hell can I say?” Hyunwoo exclaimed. Kihyun pouted in his direction until Hyunwoo just shook his head, resigned. “Damn kid,” he grumbled to himself. Kihyun perked up again, smiling as he leaned toward Jooheon.

“I love it when he turns into an old grandpa,” Kihyun said.

“Aren’t you all technically old grandpas?” Jooheon asked.

“Hey, I resent that! I’m cool. I play video games and everything,” Wonsik said, finally sitting straight in his seat. Jooheon laughed at that, putting his hands up.

“Okay, okay, I guess some of you are less grandpa-like than others,” Jooheon said. Wonsik smiled, content with that decision.

“We’re here,” Hyunwoo said. Jooheon looked out the window. They were pulled into the back of a building. He looked over at Kihyun.

“No red carpet this time. Sorry,” Kihyun said with an apologetic smile.

“That’s fine. I wasn’t too keen on walking a red carpet, anyway,” Jooheon said.

“Come on, then, we don’t have all day,” Wonsik said as he stepped out of the car. Jooheon followed him out, Kihyun close behind him. They stood next to each other for a moment, awkwardly reaching to each other and pulling back until Kihyun finally laughed and wrapped his arm around Jooheon’s, their elbows locked together.

“Are you guys done yet?” Wonsik said. Hyunwoo smacked his chest, and Wonsik pouted at him, rubbing at the spot. “Don’t be mean to me, I’ll send Hakyeon after you and then what?”

“Then I sell tickets to the fight of the century, and we call off taxes for a year from the profit,” Kihyun said before he walked past them, pulling Jooheon along after him. Jooheon loved watching them bicker. It felt so familiar, even though he still didn’t quite understand everyone’s dynamic. They were led to a green room of sorts where they had a few snacks just for Jooheon. Apparently, the events coordinators had scrambled when they knew they would have an important human guest. He ate as many pretzels and mini cheeses as he could when he found that out, not wanting it to go to waste.

Jooheon did well, standing still and at attention with his hands in front of him as Kihyun gave his speech about literacy and books and the importance of libraries. He felt a bit like an egg that was cracked into a cold pan. Unfinished when there was so much anticipation. He kept staring at the back of Kihyun’s head, telling himself over and over again that Kihyun was handsome, and well-mannered and good. That he’d be lucky to be with him.

But all he could think about was the taste of that wine on Hoseok’s lips. The way they would stare at each other whenever no one else was looking. A promise that was still unfulfilled. Jooheon and Hoseok hadn’t talked about it. The next day they were so hungover neither of them left their rooms, and then soon after Kihyun had invited Jooheon to this. But Hoseok was all that Jooheon could think about lately. It made his stomach lurch.

When Kihyun finally came back to stand next to him, Kihyun cleared his throat. “How’d I do?”

“Fine. Speech was good,” Jooheon said.

“At least this isn’t as long and boring as a charity gala,” Kihyun said.

“Not as fun as an all-day crazy party, though,” Jooheon said. Kihyun laughed.

“I wish we had those more often, too,” Kihyun said.

Kihyun knew it was different. Jooheon’s heartbeat was steady and precious and calm. It didn’t startle when their eyes met. It didn’t flutter like moth’s wings in his ears whenever they got near each other. It didn’t sound as thrilling. He liked Jooheon. He was like an adorable and happy puppy. He was like bottled up sunshine when he smiled, but Kihyun didn’t have the bottle opener. He could only admire it through glass and warmth and not in the sweet direct heat. Kihyun didn’t feel guilty about it because Jooheon obviously didn’t get thrills from him either.

When they got back to the palace, Jooheon simply thanked him for the fun day and went off to his room. Changkyun was waiting there, legs bouncing as he sat on the bed. He looked like a kid waiting for a present.

“Jooheon! How was it? Isn’t he dreamy? And so flirty, right?” Changkyun said as he latched onto Jooheon’s arm. Jooheon sighed.

“It was fun. It wasn’t really like a date though,” Jooheon said. He threw his jacket on the bed and started unbuttoning his shirt as he went to his cabinets, pulling out a t-shirt and sweatpants to change into.

“Um, what?” Changkyun asked.

“We were just. Bros, I guess. He’s very pretty, though.”

“But when I went-“

“He probably likes you more, Changkyun,” Jooheon said with a smile. Changkyun pouted.

“But you’re like totally a catch,” he said. Jooheon laughed, ruffling at Changkyun’s hair. He knew how bad Changkyun wanted Kihyun, and he still wasn’t even faking the disappointment in his voice. Ultimately, he was glad he didn’t feel sparks for Kihyun. Changkyun would never have told him, but he probably would’ve still gotten jealous.

“I know I am. It’s fine, I don’t think I’m that into him either. There wasn’t like fireworks or sparks or anything,” Jooheon said. He finished changing and grabbed a make-up wipe. He started rubbing it against his face, and Changkyun huffed, taking the wipe from him.

“You need to treat yourself more gently,” Changkyun said as he started gently wiping at Jooheon’s face. Jooheon closed his eyes, letting Chankyun do as he pleased.

“I know, I know,” Jooheon muttered.

“So you don’t like him?” Changkyun asked softly. He was wiping at Jooheon’s eyelid with precise care. Jooheon knew he did it on purpose, so he couldn’t look at him.

“He’s a cool guy. I could be friends with him. But like be with him? Date him? I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think you’re going to leave, do you?” Changkyun’s hand stopped over Jooheon’s cheek. Jooheon opened his eyes to look at Changkyun. He was pouting, staring down at his feet. Jooheon laughed.

“Of course not. I can’t just leave you here to fend for yourself,” Jooheon said. Changkyun snorted as he tossed out the make-up wipe. He hugged Jooheon.

“Good, I don’t think I’d keep it together without you,” Changkyun said. Jooheon laughed as he hugged Changkyun back. “Now come on, let’s play a game or something,” Changkyun said as he pulled away. Jooheon nodded, going to the desk where he kept his laptop.

Jooheon didn’t want to admit that there were other reasons he wanted to stay. He wanted to try that wine again. He wanted to talk to Hoseok. He wanted to see if his heart still fluttered if they kissed sober. When he plopped down next to Changkyun and opened up his laptop, he tried to focus on the game, but he kept making mistakes, thinking about peaches and strawberries.

+++

“And it’s still Changkyun, huh?” Minhyuk said. Kihyun was currently buried face-down in his pillows, suit still on. He just groaned in response Minhyuk laughed as he plopped down next to him, laying his head on Kihyun’s back. “It’s not a bad thing to have a preference.”

“Jooheon is great,” Kihyun said as he turned his face to the side.

Minhyuk nodded, his cheek rubbing against the fabric of Kihyun’s jacket. “He is! You don’t have to want him, though.”

“He doesn’t like me either. His heart didn’t flutter not once.”

“That’s fine, too.”

“Can he stay, though?”

Minhyuk rolled his eyes. “You’re literally in charge of the country, Ki.”

“Well, I want him to stay. He fits in.”

“Yeah. Doesn’t have anything to do with who his best friend is, right?”

Kihyun paused for a moment before he got it together. “Okay, yeah. Changkyun is really happy and adorable around him.”

Minhyuk laughed as he pushed himself back up. It was incredible to him how easy Kihyun was to read at this point. Even when the king had tried to keep them separated, they could always still find each other. He poked at Kihyun’s side. “Now you gotta worry about the best friend approval.”

Kihyun groaned again. “No, now I have to worry about Hyungwon.” Minhyuk’s smile faltered for a second, only a second, before he brightened again.

“Of course. You can take him to that thing that Seungcheol is doing on Saturday.”

“What kind of thing?” Kihyun asked, his eyebrows raising.

“Ha ha. It’s not anything crazy, I don’t think.”

“Where is it?”

“Corinthe.”

“It’s at his biggest club, and it’s not going to be crazy?” Kihyun raised a brow. Minhyuk laughed, staring up at the ceiling as he thought about it.

“It’s for Jihoon’s birthday. We have a VIP room, so it only has to be as crazy as we want it to be.”

“Ah,” Kihyun said. He bit at his lip and narrowed his eyes. Minhyuk could already feel the question formulating in his brain. “Shouldn’t I-“

“Nope. If you invite all of them, you’re only going to pay attention to Changkyun,” Minhyuk said. Predictable.

Kihyun sighed. “You’re right. Now I feel bad that I took Changkyun and Jooheon to boring things and Hyungwon to a fun thing.”

“There will be plenty of parties to invite them to, so don’t feel bad.” Kihyun pouted up at Minhyuk for a moment before they both started laughing at each other. Minhyuk collapsed onto Kihyun’s back again. He tried to imagine Hyungwon wrapping himself around Kihyun like he had done to him. He shut his eyes and buried his face in Kihyun’s shoulders. He knows Kihyun too well to even bring it up.

+++

When Hyunwoo told Kihyun that the queen was dead, Kihyun had jumped for joy. He was happy for Minhyuk. She was terrible to him, making him do things that wouldn’t let him even close his eyes to rest for a while. Kihyun couldn’t say he was too fond of her either. She had always hated him. Kihyun could understand why. The king had been with her for a long time, and then one day he shows up to the castle with him, calling him darling, doting on him. He could understand her jealousy, but he couldn’t understand her cruelty toward both him and Minhyuk as a response. Hyunwoo grabbed him by the shoulders and yanked him back down to earth. Hyunwoo’s eyes were wide and desperate. Kihyun froze.

“What’s wrong?”

“Kihyun, Minhyuk was Najoon’s plaything. She made him to spite Sekwang, remember?” Hyunwoo whispered out. His fingers were digging into Kihyun, making him wince.

“Yes, I know, but-“

“Sekwang couldn’t touch him when she was alive. She’s dead now.” Hyunwoo’s words were pushed out in tiny little puffs of air between his teeth. Kihyun’s eyes widened.

“No. No no no, he just got out, he can’t-“

“Sekwang’s going to burn him up right after her,” Hyunwoo said. Kihyun felt his bones turn to putty. His head started pounding, his breaths coming in faster as he shook his head.

“He…he can’t. Minhyuk. I…He can’t.”

“He won’t listen to me, but maybe he’ll listen to you,” Hyunwoo said, holding Kihyun up on his unsteady legs. Kihyun nodded, pushing past Hyunwoo. He stumbled a bit before he broke off into a sprint toward his maker’s room.

Kihyun burst into the room, panting. Sekwang looked surprised at the sudden intrusion. He was pouring himself a glass of wine next to his bedside table. Then his face broke into a smile.

“Darling, you’ve heard the news. I’m assuming you’re here to celebrate?” Sekwang finished pouring himself a drink before sitting down on the bed. Kihyun kicked the door closed behind him before he walked over, falling to his knees in front of him. Sekwang cocked his head before wiping at Kihyun’s cheek. “Are you…crying for her? I always knew you were soft-hearted, but this is a bit much.”

Kihyun didn’t realize he had been crying. He grabbed the king’s knee and shook his head. “M-my king, w-what are your plans for M-Minhyuk?” Sekwang’s smile darkened to a sneer. He smacked Kihyun’s hand off his knee.

“You’re here right now for that boy?” he said. Kihyun felt the change in his tone crack somewhere in his heart and trickle down the rest of his body. He watched as Sekwang scoffed before he downed the contents of his glass. “Her belongings are going to buried with her ashes where they belong.”

Kihyun’s eyes widened. He moved closer, placing himself between Sekwang’s legs. “But, your majesty-“

“What is it about him? First Najoon, now you. All of you fucking obsessed,” he snarled.

“It’s not his fault that the queen chose him!” Kihyun yelled. He regretted it instantly when Sekwang grabbed Kihyun’s collar and yanked him up to his face. His features were dark and twisted with anger. Kihyun shut his eyes, his heart feeling like it was getting torn apart in his chest.

“Oh, but it is, darling. Just like it’s your fault that I chose you. You called to us without even realizing it.” His breath was hot against Kihyun’s cheek. And Kihyun hated his body for the shivers sent down his spine, and the arousal that grew low in his stomach. Sekwang put him back down again, sighing.

“Fine. What do you suggest I do with him, then?” he asked. Kihyun’s breath came out in a smooth huff. He wrapped his arms around one of Sekwang’s legs and pressed his forehead to his knee.

“Thank you, your highness, thank you,” he whispered out.

“Don’t thank me yet, I just asked for suggestions.” Kihyun tensed. He looked up at Sekwang’s cold black eyes. They were studying him. Kihyun felt like a butterfly pinned to a board, always splayed out to be looked and prodded at.

“I…I can take care of him, your majesty, keep him with me and-“ Sekwang was already shaking his head. Kihyun bit his lip.

“So you can run around in utter bliss with each other? So you can forget about me just like she did? I don’t think so.”

“Your majesty-“

“Wine,” Sekwang said, holding his glass to Kihyun. He swallowed and took the glass, going to the bottle to fill it again. Once the glass was filled and back in the king’s hands, Kihyun tried again.

“Your majesty, I could never forget about you,” Kihyun said softly.

Sekwang scoffed. “Do you think I’m an idiot or just blind?” He carded his fingers through his long black hair. Kihyun remembered how mesmerized he had been at first. He had always thought Sekwang was beautiful, had looked at him like he looked at the twinkling stars in the sky. Sometimes he missed how he was when he was more naïve. He shook his head up at Sekwang, confused. Sekwang laughed, drinking down his second of glass of wine. “Darling, you used to cling to me so sweetly, and now you run off with that boy to do God only knows what.”

Kihyun draped himself over Sekwang’s knee again, placing his cheek against his thigh. “You told me to make friends for when I become king,” Kihyun said softly. He hoped the affection would settle him some.

“Friends?”

“Yes. That’s it. That’s all we are,” Kihyun said. He looked up at Sekwang, hoped that his cold eyes would turn soft towards him right now like they used to.

“You’re very desperate to keep him here, aren’t you?” he said. His hand ran through Kihyun’s hair. Kihyun shivered, partially out of disgust, partially out of affection. “Fine. What are you going to offer me to keep him here and safe?”

Kihyun’s stomach lurched. He let out a breath. “W-whatever you want.”

“Hm. Who will watch over him?”

“You…you could make Hyunwoo take care of him. He’s been loyal to you, hasn’t he? Say that he’s…that he’s trusted with this high honor or something,” Kihyun whispered. He hated talking about Minhyuk like some object. Like some trinket that wasn’t in the will.

“Hm. That could work. I’m sure Hyunwoo wouldn’t want his secret little affair to disappear, right?” Kihyun froze. Fuck fuck fuck fuckfuckfuckfuck- “I know I don’t have friends in the castle, but I still have eyes, you know. I know how you keep watch for them, warn them, so they never get caught.”

“Your majesty, I-“

“Hush. It seems the entirety of the castle, my queen, and even my precious little creation is obsessed with him. I have half a mind to bring him to my bed and find out why.” Kihyun shot up, gripping at the bottom of the king’s shirt, shaking his head.

“Please leave him alone, please, he’s suffered enough, please-“

Kihyun got shoved, falling back a foot away from him. Sekwang’s eyes had turned red, bright red, and Kihyun cried because his brain wouldn’t stop yelling he’s mad at you, make him happy again, make him love you back!

“I-I’ll be good. I won’t leave your side ever again, please just let him be, please,” Kihyun whimpered out.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you beg before, darling,” Sekwang said. He got up, poured himself another drink. Kihyun’s chest shook with each sobbing breath he took. He didn’t dare move. Sekwang drank his wine at a more leisurely pace now, staring down at Kihyun.

“P-please, I-I love you, please,” Kihyun said. Another sob rose up like bile in his throat. He wished he was lying, wished his chest didn’t feel tight whenever he looked up at Sekwang. He didn’t think he was beautiful anymore, but every cell in his body had been reprogrammed to respond to his every move, to love him, want him, need him. Sekwang cocked his head slightly before sighing.

“I’ll let Hyunwoo take care of him. But you, you have to give me something,” Sekwang said softly.

Kihyun swallowed. He felt himself starting to calm, knowing that Minhyuk would be safe. There was nothing Sekwang could do to him that he hadn’t already done after so many years. “Anything,” Kihyun whispered out. Sekwang smiled, sitting back down on the bed.

“Come here, then.”

Kihyun’s body moved without him wanting it to. He wished more than anything that he could just get rid of him, kill him, never have to look at his face again. Instead he walked over to his creator, let him pull him close. He moaned when Sekwang sank his fangs into his neck.

“Until the day I die, you belong to me. I’m the fucking king,” he whispered against Kihyun’s throat. Kihyun wanted to roll his eyes.

“I know, your majesty.”

“You won’t be leaving my side then. No more running off to play watchdog for the happy couple. No more secret little meetings with Minhyuk or Hyunwoo or Hakyeon and any of his little creations for that matter,” he said.

Kihyun closed his eyes. He wondered how long it would be before Sekwang would tire of his loneliness. A few years? A few decades? Would he have to make himself lonely for another century just to please him?

“Yes, your majesty. I can do that,” Kihyun finally replied. Sekwang smiled at him before pressing a kiss to his cheek.

“Good. I’ll send someone to take care of that, then.” Kihyun made himself smile before he leaned in to kiss the corner of his lips. As long as Minhyuk was safe, he could do this. Even if it took centuries.

Chapter Text

Hyungwon was wide-eyed as he stared around the glamorous and pounding club. It had two stories, and everything was black and sleek and glitter. Hyungwon was at the very least, glad he matched the atmosphere. He was wearing a very low-cut patterned silk tank top with a glittery black suit jacket over it. He was hanging on Kihyun’s arm as he stared around. Kihyun thought that Hyungwon was probably the definition of arm candy. His grip was casual around Kihyun’s bicep, and he was devastatingly gorgeous.

“I think we’re going to be upstairs,” Kihyun said, pointing toward the stairs. Hyungwon nodded. He had never had a VIP room in a club before, especially not with an entourage. Hyungwon glanced around as the crowd parted for them. His hand slid down to Kihyun’s as they walked up the stairs. It was cool to the touch, and Hyungwon shivered. It wasn’t nearly hot enough in the club for that yet.

“You came!” a voice called. A short sharp-faced man walked up to them, his arms spread. Kihyun sent an apologetic look toward Hyungwon as he let go of his hand to hug the man.

“Of course, Jihoon. How could I miss your party?” Kihyun said. They separated, and Kihyun reached toward Hyungwon again. Hyungwon came close, taking his hand again. “This is Hyungwon, he’s my date for the evening.”

“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Jihoon,” the man said. Hyungwon could see his little fangs glinting in the lights when he smiled. Hyungwon squeezed Kihyun’s hand tighter. He had never seen any of the vampires feed or have their fangs out. They were very careful to not do any of that in front of the four humans. Hyungwon managed a smile though.

“Nice to meet you, too,” he said with a small bow.

“Jihooonie!” someone called. Jihoon laughed and before waving at them and walking past them.

“Did the fangs freak you out?” Kihyun asked. He started pulling Hyungwon with him toward a small doorway with a bouncer and a velvet rope. He let them in with a frantic little bow.

“I was just startled, I guess,” Hyungwon said. They sat down in a large circular corner booth, Kihyun and Hyungwon in the middle, and everyone else filing in around them. Minhyuk and Hyunwoo slid in next to Hyungwon, and Hyuk sent them a look before he slid in next to Kihyun. Hongbin sighed.

“Am I on drink duty?” he whined.

“Yep! You know my order!” Hyuk said with a smile toward him. Hongbin rolled his eyes before he asked everyone their order and made his way over to the bar.

“Why were you startled?” Kihyun asked.

“You guys never show us your fangs,” Hyungwon said with a shrug.  

“You wanna see our fangs?” Minhyuk said with a sly smile. Hyungwon nodded, leaning toward Minhyuk slightly. Minhyuk closed his mouth for a moment, and then he smiled again. His canines were longer, sharper. Hyungwon chuckled a little, before leaning in even closer to Minhyuk.

“It’s so weird, where do they go?” he asked.

“Up into our gums,” Hyunwoo said, making a face as he said it. Hyungwon nodded, eyes still glued to Minhyuk’s open mouth. Minhyuk giggled before he licked his teeth, and then they were back to normal again. It was like watching a someone doing one of those lame magic tricks where the punchline is got your nose or them pretending to pull a finger off. Hyungwon wanted him to do it again.

“That’s so weird. Does it feel weird?” he asked. He realized his fingers had been reaching up toward Minhyuk’s mouth before he catches himself and balls his hands up into fists. Minhyuk looks at him, mouth open like a question was dangling from his bottom lip.

“You get used to it,” Minhyuk finally answers. Hyungwon leans back in his seat again, back towards Kihyun, and Hongbin returns with an actual tray of drinks, dropping them one by one in front of the people that ordered them. Hyungwon sips at his sex on the beach through the tiny black straw.

“Nice club, right?” Kihyun asked. Hyungwon turns to him and nods.

“Nicest club I’ve ever been in.”

“We actually get tourists that come here just for the club scene,” Hyunwoo said.

“Really?” Hyungwon sips at his drink again, and it’s fruity and punchy and just what he needs.

“Lots of humans come to get sucked off,” Hyuk said, a gleam in his eyes. Hyungwon almost spits out his drink.

“Sucked off? Is that real slang?” Hyungwon asked, slightly horrified.

“God, no. He just wishes it was,” Hongbin said as he throws his arm around Hyuk. Hyuk beams as he leans into the touch.

“At least it’s funny,” Hyuk said.

“Is it though?” Kihyun asked. Hyuk rolled his eyes again before taking a sip of whatever was in his glass. Hyungwon stirred his drink idly as he watched Hongbin and Hyuk jab back and forth, Hyuk only cuddling closer to Hongbin in response. He finally looked over at Kihyun who was looking around the room. Hyungwon leaned closer.

“So, how do you know this Jihoon guy? Must be important to have the king show up to his birthday,” Hyungwon said. He draped his arm across the back of the booth behind Kihyun.

“Well, Jihoon was a singer at the palace for like entertainment, you know? Way back in the day before I was king. This successful hotshot merchant heard him one day and fell in love, I guess. That merchant now owns half the clubs and bars in the city, and they’re still together,” Kihyun said.

“So you got to know him back when he was a singer?”

“Yep! He was great, too. Used to give me lessons sometimes.”

“You sing?” Hyungwon asked. Kihyun smiled.

“Yeah, but not often nowadays.”

“I’d love to hear you sing,” Hyungwon said softly. He drank the rest of his drink down, crunched on some of the ice. Kihyun hums a little happy noise. Hyungwon thinks he’s strangely adorable for a powerful vampire king.

“Maybe one day. Not tonight, though,” Kihyun said. Hyungwon nods.

“Hyuk told me you had a bit of a rough time before coming here. He never really expanded on it,” Kihyun said. Hyungwon flicked his tongue over his lips, cold and wet from the ice.

“Um, yeah. My parents are…they didn’t approve.”

“Why not?”

Hyungwon smiled a bit, huffing out another breath. He moved his arm again, so that both of his long bony hands were wrapped around his glass. He cleared his throat. “Well, they don’t really approve of me in general.”

Kihyun tilted his head. He moved in closer to Hyungwon, leaning his head into his palm. “I can’t see why. You’re very handsome and kind from what I’ve seen.”

Hyungwon smiled again. “They’re very religious. They were already appalled at the homosexuality. But homosexual and cavorting with damned blood-sucking demons? They wanted to lock me in a basement somewhere to pray the shame away.”

Kihyun’s face pinched. “Oh. I-I’m sorry. I didn’t know-“

“You’re fine. I came here because I wanted to. I stopped caring about what my parents thought a long time ago,” Hyungwon said. He smiled at Kihyun, lips pressed tight together. Kihyun sighed, running his fingers through his own hair.

“Still. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Kihyun. Besides, I had Hyuk to make sure nothing happened to me,” Hyungwon said. Kihyun glanced over at Hyuk, eyes closed as he giggled at something Hongbin was whispering in his ear. Sometimes Kihyun could forget that he was taller than all of them and could break them in half if he wanted to. He looked back over to Hyungwon.

Hyungwon is watching Kihyun with a small smile on his face. He looks beautiful. He’s like a siren, and the thumping coming from somewhere in his chest only adds to it somehow. Kihyun noticed how everyone’s eyes fell on Hyungwon when they walked in. He’s the only human here tonight, and even the wall-shaking pounding of the music can’t cover up the distinct little flutter of blood and veins and arteries that they all were instinctually attracted to. Kihyun tried to be introspective. Tried to figure out how he felt about everyone looking at his date at the club.

“Are you happy here?” Kihyun asked finally. Hyungwon’s lips curled up in the corners.

“In this club?” he asked.

“No, I mean in general here,” Kihyun said with a laugh.

“Yeah. Everyone is super nice, I can do whatever I want, I don’t have to worry about much. You’re treating all of us very well.”

“Good. I’m glad to hear that.”

“Plus you guys are fun to hang out with.”

Kihyun smiled. “Oh really?”

“Yeah, you guys bicker all the time, it’s hilarious.”

Kihyun laughed at that. “Did you hear that Minhyuk? Apparently, we’re hilarious.”

“Well, I’ve known that about myself, but it’s nice that you got included in that,” Minhyuk said. Kihyun’s jaw fell open as Hyungwon started laughing. It was like a controlled cackle. It was endearing. Minhyuk smiled. “Hey, we wanna go dance, are you going to come with us?” Minhyuk asked.

“I don’t really feel like dancing,” Kihyun said. Hyungwon pouted slightly. Minhyuk turned to him.

“You wanna come dance with us?” Minhyuk asked Hyungwon. He shifted a little at the offer. Hyungwon looked over at Kihyun.

“You can go ahead. I just need another drink or two first,” Kihyun said with a smile. Hyungwon smiled back before he turned to Minhyuk.

“Let’s go then,” Hyungwon said. Minhyuk smiled before they were sliding out of the booth, Kihyun calling after them to take care of Hyungwon. Minhyuk grabbed Hyungwon’s hand with one hand and Hyunwoo’s with the other, making a little train back down to the dance floor. They found a spot between the mess of writhing bodies. They stood in an awkward circle, bobbing and swaying to the beat, trying to keep some distance between them.

Hyungwon, for being a mess of dangly and long limbs, was surprisingly coordinated as he moved his hips, swirling them around in small little circles. Minhyuk kept glancing between Hyunwoo and Hyungwon and gnawing at his lips. Someone a little too drunk knocked into Hyungwon’s back, making him stumble forward. Hyunwoo steadied him and pulled Hyungwon between Minhyuk and himself.

“The safest place for you is between us, honestly,” Hyunwoo called over the music. Hyungwon nodded along, suddenly sandwiched between two of the most attractive people he’d ever met, Hyunwoo behind him, and Minhyuk in front of him. He glanced up the stairs, thinking about Kihyun for a moment. Then he looked back down at Minhyuk.

Minhyuk was looking at him like he was trying to solve a puzzle, like he knew the solution but was afraid of the answer. Hyungwon licked his lips, slow and sensual, staring right into Minhyuk’s eyes. If he had had at least one more drink, he could’ve played this all off. But he barely even felt a buzz as he leaned his head back onto Hyunwoo’s shoulder and started moving his hips side-to-side. He was sober when he ran his hand down his long torso, pulling at his shirt a bit as he went. Hyunwoo’s hands found his hips, and then they were just another pair of writhing bodies on the dance floor, losing themselves in the pounding beat and the feeling of a body against them.

Hyungwon had lost his sense of self-preservation a long time ago, sometime between realizing he was gay and actually coming out to his parents. There should’ve been a little voice in his head telling him it was a horrible idea to pull Minhyuk closer, their breaths mingling together in the small space between them. It should’ve told him to stop grinding back onto Hyunwoo. That it was a bad idea to dance like he was trying to secure a one-night stand with the best friends.

Hyungwon thought about Kihyun and Changkyun. How they were probably already head-over-heels for each other. Hyungwon decided he deserved some fun. He pulled Minhyuk closer, draped his arms around his shoulders. Hyunwoo gripped into his hips. Hyungwon smiled. Fuck it.

He didn’t care at all that everyone could see them. He whispered into Minhyuk’s ear and grinded forward. Minhyuk shuddered, and Hyungwon knew then. At the very least, he’d have fun.

+++

Hakyeon was in the kitchen straightening up when Hongbin and Hyuk stalked in, heads down and eyes wide. They went right up to him, Hyuk yanking at the back of his shirt. Hakyeon turned to him, eyebrows furrowed. “What is it?” he said.

“Let’s go to bed. Right now,” Hyuk said, forcing a smile on his face. Hakyeon tilted his head.

“I’m not done cleaning.”

“It can wait ‘til morning,” Hongbin said through gritted teeth. Hakyeon was opening his mouth to say something when he heard something crash outside. His eyes widened as he started going for the door, but Hyuk wrapped his arms around Hakyeon, holding him back.

“We need to go, we’ll explain later,” Hyuk whispered, already dragging Hakyeon back toward the other door. Hakyeon sighed, giving them a look as he acquiesced, getting pulled along by the arm.

“What happened?” Hakyeon asked after they closed his bedroom door behind him.

“Kihyun and Minhyuk are fighting,” Hongbin said. Hakyeon’s jaw dropped.

“Excuse me? That’s not a funny joke.”

“Why would we joke about that?” Hyuk whispered loudly. Hakyeon shut his eyes and listened hard to the castle. He could hear muffled angry voices. He groaned as he opened his eyes again.

“What the actual fuck guys?”

“Listen, we don’t know, but it was tense as hell in the car, and it just exploded as soon as Hyunwoo walked Hyungwon to his room,” Hongbin said. Hakyeon sighed before he leaned against the door again and listened. He listened for everyone else in the house, not wanting them to get caught in whatever cross-fire happened.

+++

Warmth had betrayed them. Kihyun had noticed how warm Minhyuk was and knew instantly. Minhyuk wanted to feel bad, guilty, prostrate himself at Kihyun’s feet and beg his king for forgiveness. He didn’t feel bad at all, though. He felt like a flower that just bloomed. Like a kernel that had finally popped. Like he had finally figured out the tune that he couldn’t get out of his head but couldn’t quite place. He was grateful, at least, that Kihyun had waited until after Hyungwon had gone to bed.

“Minhyuk, tell me you didn’t. For the love of God, tell me you didn’t,” Kihyun said. His voice was caught somewhere between his nose and his throat, high and tight and pinched.

“That would involve lying. Never lied to you before, not going to start now,” Minhyuk said. He didn’t think Kihyun would be so angry. Kihyun whirled around on him, eyes glowing red and fangs out, as he grabbed at his shirt. Minhyuk was quick to jump back, avoid the attack, knocking into a table that fell over.

“How could you, Minhyuk? How? I don’t think I set up very many rules, but I feel like I definitely banned that.” Minhyuk scoffed.

“He asked.”

“The fuck he did.”

“I’m serious! He wasn’t even drunk, Ki.”

“I don’t care, you should have never-“

“You wouldn’t even go dance with him! You danced with Changkyun the second he asked!” God, everything was so hot, he hadn’t felt this hot in ages, like he would melt himself to nothing or go up in flames in ten seconds.

Kihyun’s jaw dropped. “Are you seriously trying to matchmake right now?”

“I like Hyungwon,” Minhyuk said.

Kihyun rolled his eyes. “Oh, I’m sure you do, Minhyuk. I’m sure you liked him just fine when you fucking fed on him tonight.”

“He. Wanted. It,” Minhyuk hissed out. Kihyun grabbed at him again, and Minhyuk dodged it again, slipping out from between Kihyun and a wall.

“You fucking shouldn’t have done it even if he wanted it!”

“Why? You know we still drink human blood, you’ve never had an issue with it before.”

“Yeah, sure, just not the humans I literally promised to take care of and protect.”

“It’s not like I hurt him, Ki! I know what the fuck I’m doing,” Minhyuk said. He was circling away from Kihyun, trying to get out of his orbit. Kihyun kept following him with his red eyes.

“How about this one, Minhyuk? I was on a date with him,” Kihyun gritted out.

Minhyuk rolled his eyes. “Oh, please, you’re playing this little trying to be fair game, and I get it, I do, but you and I both know you already made your choice.”

Kihyun let out a frustrated yell. “Yeah, I like Changkyun. It doesn’t make the other three fucking prey for you and Hyunwoo.”

Minhyuk felt himself ignite. He was inches away from Kihyun’s nose, puffing himself up. He could still taste Hyungwon on his teeth, sweet like cotton-candy. It made him feel dizzy and angry. “He’s. Not. Prey,” Minhyuk whispered dangerously.

“Then what the fuck is he then? An amusement?”

“I like him! You know I’m not like that.”

“Anymore,” Kihyun spat out.

Everything lurched to a stop. Minhyuk didn’t feel warm anymore. He felt icy like venom was injected directly into his heart as he stumbled back a few steps, feeling everything well up inside him. “Are you fucking serious?” he whispered.

He watched as Kihyun’s eyes faded back to their usual brown, wide and surprised. “Minhyuk. I, I didn’t mean it,” Kihyun said.

“Fuck you, Kihyun,” Minhyuk said before he ran off, tears already tumbling down his face. He wanted Hyunwoo. Wanted him to hold him close and tell him everything would be okay like he always did. When he pushed into the room, Hyunwoo was ready, instantly gathering him up in his arms, kissing at his wet cheeks. Hyunwoo locked the door behind them, picking up Minhyuk easily. Minhyuk wrapped his legs around him, buried his face in Hyunwoo’s shoulder and sobbed like he hadn’t in a long time.

Chapter Text

The news was exhausting as it played from Hyungwon’s phone. He stared at himself in the mirror, sitting in front of it as he kept rubbing over his neck and collarbones, listening to the anchors drone on and on about the horrible things happening in the world. He was fascinated by the lack of a mark on him. He could still feel the ghost of Minhyuk’s lips, his breath, his teeth against him. Hyungwon swallowed. His fangs in the place where his collarbone met his neck. He wished there was more of a mark. When he had first glanced at the mirror in the club bathroom there had been two bleeding dots there, and Minhyuk’s crimson eyes staring back at him, his mouth dripping and open. Hyungwon shivered at the memory. He had never been more turned on in his life.

But now there was only a patch of slightly pale new skin there. Hyunwoo had said something about enzymes or some other science thing as Minhyuk lapped at his neck. It was supposed to be reassuring, but now all Hyungwon wanted was to find Minhyuk and make him mark him back up. He sighed as he started wiping at his face again, trying to take the make up off. The word vampire came from his phone, and he furrowed his brows, looking down at his screen.

“And how do you feel about the situation with the humans that are living with the vampire king currently?”

“They are traitors. Stupid traitors. They left their own kind to go be some demon’s prostitute and-”

Hyungwon closed out of the app. He sighed out and wiped at his face more furiously. He got enough of that from his parents, he didn’t need to hear it from strangers, too. Hyungwon changed into his pajamas, soft, warm, and got into bed. He tossed and turned for a while before he just stared at the ceiling. He brushed his fingers against his collarbone again. He didn’t want to sleep alone. Not tonight.

He was reaching for his doorknob when there was a knock. Hyungwon froze, counted out a few seconds in his head before he opened the door slowly. Kihyun was standing there, still dressed in his club outfit, but much more mussed, his shirt untucked and sleeves rolled up. Hyungwon was slightly disappointed, but he smiled, nonetheless.

“Hey. What’s up?” Hyungwon said. Kihyun held all his weight on the balls of his feet like he was ready to run, a stance that Hyungwon was all too familiar with himself.

“May I come in?” he asked. Hyungwon simply held the door open as he stepped aside, and Kihyun hesitated before he walked into the room. Hyungwon flipped on the lights as he closed the door behind him. He watched as Kihyun huffed, looking around the room awkwardly.

“Do you wanna sit or something?” Hyungwon said, gesturing to the couch he had in the room. Kihyun didn’t respond. He just walked straight over there and sat down. Hyungwon would have laughed if he didn’t feel like Kihyun was about to manifest thunder into the room. He walked over and sat down on the opposite side of the couch, as far from Kihyun as possible. Kihyun was staring at the rug beneath his feet. Then he took a deep breath and looked at Hyungwon with a serious expression, devoid of all emotions. Hyungwon’s heart stuttered.

“Hyungwon, I’ve come to apologize for what happened tonight. It should not have happened. I should have been more attentive. We should have protected you.”

Hyungwon spluttered. “Protected me? From what?”

“Minhyuk should have never tried to feed from you, and I’m-“

“That’s what you’re here to talk to me about?” Hyungwon said, an easy smile forming on his lips. He put his hands between his knees, trying to warm them up.

“Yes. I promise that neither Minhyuk or Hyunwoo will not be doing that again. You won’t be left alone with them like that again…” Kihyun kept speaking, but the ringing in Hyungwon’s ears was too loud for him to focus. He was watching Kihyun’s mouth move, precise and careful. He looked like he had when he was reading a speech on television, not like he was talking to an actual person. The thought of Minhyuk and Hyunwoo being kept away from him tasted like pennies in his mouth. Hyungwon started shaking his head at Kihyun until he saw Kihyun’s mouth stop moving.

Hyungwon bit his lip. “You…you can’t. They didn’t. It’s my fault.”

“What?”

“I told Minhyuk to. I-I wanted it. Him. Them. Shit. You. You can’t.” Something in Kihyun’s expression shifted, but he kept his lips pressed tight together. Hyungwon rubbed at his eyes. “This is ridiculous, he didn’t. They didn’t do anything.”

“Why would you want that?” Kihyun asked. Hyungwon looked at him, his lips pouting out pathetically. He realized absently that his throat felt a bit tight, but he ignored it.  

“You didn’t see the way he was looking at me. No one’s ever looked at me like that before,” Hyungwon said softly, squeezing the words through. Kihyun sighed and stood up, and Hyungwon lunged forward, grabbing at his hand. Hyungwon squeezed it between his fingers. “I-I’m sorry, but we both know-“

“Know what?” Kihyun asked. Hyungwon’s spit was molasses in his throat as he swallowed.

“It was never going to be me, you know?” Hyungwon said. He gurgled out a laugh, pitiful, as he looked up at Kihyun. They stared at each other for a moment longer than a lifetime. Hyungwon felt his lungs falling in from the breath he was holding and couldn’t make himself take.

Kihyun nodded, tiny, subconscious, and Hyungwon let go of him. Kihyun ran his hands through his hair. “You could’ve been,” he tried.

“No. No, I couldn’t have,” Hyungwon whispered out. “I can see the way you look at Changkyun when you think no one is looking.”

Kihyun shifted on his feet, eyes widening a bit. “I didn’t…I…”

Hyungwon stared up at him. He could feel his eyes tearing up a bit, and he wished he knew why. Maybe it was the rejection that he had already accepted finally hitting home. “That’s the way Minhyuk was looking at me in the club.” Hyungwon blinked and looked down, not believing that he had actually said that out loud.

Kihyun left, silence following him like a fog until the door closed behind him. Hyungwon was still for a moment, something inside him pounding. He was yanking the door open, running out into the hallway. He didn’t know where he was going, but he couldn’t stay by himself anymore. He could still feel the pounding in his head as he ran. He didn’t know if he was running toward or away from something. He could barely see. Barely feel his bare feet smacking against the cold hard floor or hear the sound of the air rushing past his ears.

When he smacked face first into someone, he groaned, stumbling back. Hakyeon was panting as he stood in front of him, grabbing at his shoulders and pulling him to the side of the hall. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? You shouldn’t be running around like this right now,” he said. Hyungwon whimpered as Hakyeon took in his tearful face. Then his eyes went down to Hyungwon’s neck, to the little pale dots of skin on his neck. Hakyeon sighed out a curse.

“Kihyun or Minhyuk?” Hakyeon asked. Hyungwon’s eyes widened.

“M-minhyuk.”

“Come on then,” Hakyeon said. He wrapped his hand gently around Hyungwon’s bicep as he led him down a few halls to a pair of double doors. Hakyeon knocked on one of them. “Hyunwoo, I know you’re in there.”

“Not now, Hakyeon,” came Hyunwoo’s voice from behind the door. Hakyeon sighed before he gently pushed Hyungwon in front of him, pressing him gently against the door. Hyungwon looked back at him, confused, but Hakyeon just shook his head and kept staring at the door. In a few moments, the door opened, and Hyunwoo’s surprised face was in front of Hyungwon.

“Everyone in this palace is a god-forsaken idiot,” Hakyeon grumbled, pointing his finger in front of Hyunwoo’s nose. And then he simply turned and left, leaving Hyungwon and Hyunwoo there. Hyunwoo grabbed Hyungwon and pulled him inside.

“H-hyungwon?” Minhyuk sat up in the bed, his face swollen and puffy and red and Hyungwon knew. This was the first time he was running full-speed toward something, someone, and not running away.

+++

Kihyun found himself laying in the cellar, staring up at the ceiling. It was cold and lonely and just what he needed as he opened another packet of pig’s blood and drank it down. He had drunk so much he felt like he could feel the liquid sloshing up to his throat every time he moved. He used to hide here whenever things got overwhelming. He’d let the coolness of the bricks seep into his skin and make him feel like he was whole. Now it just made him feel frozen like a block of ice.

“I knew you’d be here.”

Kihyun sat up and turned to find Hakyeon standing there, arms crossed, hip popped, his usual annoyed stance. Kihyun sighed and hugged his knees to himself. “Hakyeon-“

“You and Minhyuk love each other.” Kihyun swallowed and looked down. He heard Hakyeon sigh, and then Hakyeon was sitting down cross-legged in front of him. He reached out and messed with Kihyun’s hair, straightening out a few pieces absently. “You wanna talk about it?”

“Talk about what?”

“Kihyun.” Hakyeon’s voice was always on the precipice of scolding you. It was gentle but scolding nonetheless. Kihyun sighed before he buried his face in his knees.

“I don’t know. I got angry.”

“You said something you shouldn’t have, right?”

“He fed from Hyunwon, and I didn’t listen to him,” Kihyun added. Hakyeon closed his mouth and nodded.

“Maybe. But we’re still here now. You have to deal with the situation at hand.”

“I know, okay? I know. I didn’t even…You know how I get when I’m angry.”

“I do. Give me a ballpark about how bad it is?”

“I maybe referenced what…what Najoon used to make him do,” Kihyun said softly. He watched as Hakyeon’s eyes widened before he managed to control his expression. He nodded slowly.

“Okay, so pretty bad.”

Kihyun groaned. “I feel gross. I tried to talk to Hyungwon and-“

“And he was okay with it,” Hakyeon finished for him. Kihyun looked up at him.

“How do you know literally everything?”

Hakyeon smiled and shrugged. “Intuition. So Hyungwon is into Minhyuk and Hyunwoo, and he let Minhyuk feed from him. What’s the problem?”

“The problem is I acted like Minhyuk was some dangerous predator that preys on innocent humans when I know he’s not like that. He said he wasn’t like that, and all my dumbass said was ‘anymore’,” Kihyun said. Hakyeon hummed. He patted the top of Kihyun’s head, comforting, slow, semi-awkward.

“So, you talk to him. Apologize. Tell him you’re an asshole. Hug him close. Go back to normal because this whole place will descend to chaos if you guys are fighting.”

Kihyun let out a laugh. “Is it really that bad?”

“I thought Hyuk and Hongbin were going to have a panic attack, they were so freaked out,” Hakyeon said. “Which by the way.” Hakyeon’s hand chopped gently at the side of Kihyun’s neck. Kihyun gasped, his hand going up to the spot Hakyeon had hit.

“Hey!” he said.

“That’s for stressing out my precious babies,” Hakyeon said with a smug smile. Kihyun scrunched his nose up at him.

“I’m still your King, you know that, right?”

“And I’m still the reason this whole place is running and not burnt to the ground. Also, what kind of vampire would I be if I didn’t try to protect my creations?”

Kihyun laughed. “Keep talking, and I’ll tell Hyuk you referred to him as your precious baby.

“Bye, Kihyun. Wait until morning to try to fix your shit,” Hakyeon said. He waved with a flourish before he walked out of the cellar. Kihyun watched him go, shaking his head after him. Kihyun sat there the rest of the night, thinking about how he was going to apologize to Minhyuk.

+++

“Kihyun, I really don’t-“

“Don’t make me say it’s an order or something,” Kihyun responded. Minhyuk’s jaw clenched as he turned back to face Kihyun. He nodded once and followed Kihyun. They made their way to Kihyun’s bedroom, and Minhyuk felt himself disarm a little. This had always been somewhere safe. Somewhere they could get away from the rest of the world. Minhyuk thinks about all the times he used to hide in here when Najoon went looking for him, how he’d keep his hands planted over his lips because he always wanted to giggle when Kihyun tried to act like he had no idea where he was.

“I thought we needed to have a meeting. We don’t have official meetings in here. We don’t have official meetings without Hyunwoo. And if it’s really official, Hakyeon has to be here, too,” Minhyuk said. He still closed the door behind him. Habits.

Kihyun rolled his eyes before gesturing to the bed. Minhyuk narrowed his eyes at him, at the bed, then back at him. Kihyun sighed. He sat down in the middle of the bed, crossing his legs and leaning back on his palms. “Come on. Sit down,” he said.

Minhyuk scrunched up his nose before walking over. He crossed his arms before he sat on the very edge of the bed, one foot on the floor like he was ready to run. “What do you want to talk about, your majesty?”

Kihyun winced a little before leaning forward, elbows on his knees. “I’m an asshole.”

“Yeah. You are.”

“You know I say stupid shit when I’m angry.”

“That wasn’t stupid shit, Kihyun. You meant that shit,” Minhyuk said. He swallowed down the knot in his throat and stared at the wall.

“I did not mean that, Minhyuk.”

Minhyuk turned to glare at Kihyun. “I could understand you getting mad at me. I get it. I fucking fed on someone you said you’d keep safe, and you had no idea how it happened. I can get that. What I don’t get is how you can throw…throw that in my face.”

Kihyun grimaced. His fingers found a loose string on his sheets and pulled at it. “I know. I shouldn’t have done that. It was wrong.”

Minhyuk groaned. “I thought I would never get that from you. And yeah, I’m not that person anymore because I never was that person.” Minhyuk stared up at the ceiling, willing the forming tears to go away. Because it was true. He wanted it to be true. He needed it to be true.

“Najoon made you do horrible things, Minhyuk. She made you act like someone you’re not. No matter how mad I was, I shouldn’t have brought that up because none of that was your fault.”

Minhyuk shut his eyes. It had been decades, and she still had this twisted power over him. Every time he thought it was all erased from his memories, every time he thought it was all finally gone, something would always bring him right back. A triggered memory. A nightmare formed in the rare times he let himself rest. A dirty look from a stranger that felt like they just knew. It always sent him running straight to Hyunwoo’s arms, crying. It always hurt, but he moved past it quickly because it wasn’t real.

This, though, had been real. This was Kihyun telling him that he saw him as the conniving predator that Najoon had sculpted him to be. Kihyun who knew him better than anyone, who had seen his soul when Minhyuk could only imagine it as tar-black sludge and had smiled at him and told him it glimmered in the sun instead. Kihyun who had helped clean him up after a particularly bad night and told him that it would all be okay, that he and Hyunwoo were there, that it wasn’t his fault, that he had to do it to survive.

“I can still hear screaming sometimes, you know,” Minhyuk said softly. And then Kihyun had his arms around him and was pulling him close. Minhyuk buried his face in Kihyun’s shoulder and shuddered. “Please tell me you don’t think I’m like that, please, fuck, don’t think I’m like that.”

“I don’t, Minhyuk. I never thought you were like that. I didn’t mean it, I’m so fucking sorry,” Kihyun whispered in his ear. And then the dam burst, and he was crying, crying into Kihyun’s shoulder like he had a million times before. Kihyun still squeezed him close and breathed into his hair. He could feel Kihyun shudder sometimes, too, like he wanted to cry but wasn’t letting himself.

“Promise?” Minhyuk finally asked after pulling himself together more. He didn’t pick his head up.

“I swear,” Kihyun said back.

“What about the Hyungwon thing?” Minhyuk said skeptically. Kihyun laughed a little, squeezed him closer.

“I talked to him last night. He told me you asked him to. I can’t very well be mad at two consenting adults, can I? Or, well, three consenting adults?”

Minhyuk let out a breath that was meant to be a laugh. He sat up again and looked right at Kihyun. Kihyun smiled at him. Minhyuk rolled his eyes before smooshing his palm against Kihyun’s face. “God, you’re so annoying,” Minhyuk said.

Kihyun smacked his arm away and narrowed his eyes at him, and Minhyuk wanted to cry again because it felt normal again. Like them against the world again. He wiped at his face and tackled Kihyun down on the bed. Kihyun screeched, but he didn’t fight. He let Minhyuk shove him down on the bed before rolling over onto his back. “And you call me annoying,” Kihyun said.

Minhyuk pursed his lips as he stared up at the ceiling. “Because you are. Always have been.”

“Do you really still hear screaming sometimes?” Kihyun asked quietly. Minhyuk stretched his hands up above him, nodding a little. Kihyun sighed. “We got you help before. Maybe we can get you help again.”

“No. They’re not going to tell me things I don’t already know.”

“You can still talk to me about it, you know? I know you have Hyunwoo, but I’m still here.”

“I know.”

Kihyun wiped at Minhyuk’s face with some tissues. He hadn’t stopped crying. Not really. But Kihyun wasn’t going to tell him to stop. They curled up on Kihyun’s bed facing each other and talked. It could hurt but not as much as before. They always bared their souls to each other here, close and whispered and safe. It was a habit Minhyuk thinks will never break.

+++

Hyunwoo burst into Kihyun’s room after being told they had been locked in there for a while, terrified of what he’d find in there. But the sight in front of him was surprising. Kihyun and Minhyuk were both crying and swollen, hugged tightly, tangled up together on the bed. Hyunwoo let out a sigh before walking over to the bed tentatively. “Um, guys?” he said.

Minhyuk sniffled as he opened one eye to look at him. “We’re fine, now, I think. He was a lot less mad after Hyungwon told him he wanted it.”

“Yeah,” Kihyun said, finally pulling away from Minhyuk to wipe at his face.

“And the other stuff?” Hyunwoo asked.

“We talked about it,” Minhyuk said with a firm nod. Hyunwoo nodded before he got on the bed behind Minhyuk, wrapping his arm around him. Hyunwoo was glad this worked out easier than he expected it to. He had thought they’d be tearing each other’s hair out, not cuddling and crying. But Hyunwoo was grateful that, in the end, they were always soft toward each other. Easy in a way they weren’t with anyone else, not even Hyunwoo. He sighed into Minhyuk’s hair.

“I think we need to talk to everyone,” Kihyun said.

“About?” Hyunwoo said. Kihyun sat up and sighed, face still dewy and puffy. He pulled at that loose string on his sheets again.

“Well, after I take Hoseok out. Things are different, I guess. Changkyun is really…something. And Hyungwon, too, with you guys. I don’t know what we’ll do though. I don’t want to send anyone back, though. They fit in. The other guys love them all a lot, you know?”

“You don’t have to send anyone home,” Minhyuk said.

“Okay, yeah, but why would they stay here?”

“You wanted to start interacting with the human world more, right? Call them advisors or something like you do with us,” Hyunwoo said. Kihyun bit his lip, wondering if that could work.

“I still should take Hoseok out though. It wouldn’t be fair.”

“That’s fine, I think. Are you sure about Changkyun, though? You went on one date with him,” Hyunwoo said. He felt Minhyuk start to giggle in his grasp. He looked down at him, then back up at Kihyun. “What?”

“Well, maybe I’ve…I’ve been leaving him letters at night. He writes back,” Kihyun said with a miserable pout. Minhyuk started cackling, burying his face in the mattress.

“Not even Hyunwoo did that old man shit,” he said between laughs. Kihyun groaned rubbing at his face.

“I’m old-fashioned, what can I say?”

“Changkyun is a child of the 21st century, remember? He probably thinks romance is a guy who doesn’t send a dick pic for the first few hours,” Minhyuk countered. Kihyun groaned and fell forward, landing on top of Hyunwoo and Minhyuk’s giggling bodies.

+++

Changkyun was determined to catch Kihyun this time. After a whole month of romantic letters in pretty old-fashioned script, Changkyun was ready to be ravished like the romanced maiden he was starting to feel like he was. He sat in front of his door, in only his briefs, staring at it, willing Kihyun to show up already. He wished that Kihyun made noise when he walked, so he could hear his footsteps coming and prepare himself. Instead he had to listen for clothes ruffling or wind shifting or some other ridiculous tiny mouse sound that Kihyun would make.

He glanced at his watch. It was about to be 2AM. It was dark in his room, so that Kihyun would think he was sleeping. He had already drunk a whole cup of coffee earlier, causing Jaehwan to send him a scrunched-up and almost-knowing look. Sometimes Changkyun wondered if he could manifest as eyes on the walls of the castle, and he had a little black book with all their secrets. He hoped to God that Hakyeon kept him happy, so those secrets wouldn’t be angrily leaked all over the place like graffiti on bathroom walls.

Changkyun stretched his legs again, wiggling his toes a bit. His bed was calling his name over and over again, and all he could say back was not without Kihyun. He sighed, standing up to press his ear to the door, wondering if he should call this whole thing off. Then an envelope flew in between his feet from under the door, and Changkyun scrambled to rip the door open.

Kihyun was still kneeling, his eyes wide and shocked as they looked up at Changkyun who was completely bare except for his underwear. Kihyun felt like the canary that had been caught by the sly cat. He didn’t have time for his brain to finally react before Changkyun grabbed him by the shoulders and dragged him into the room, shutting the door behind him. Changkyun squatted down and all Kihyun could think about was his milky white thighs that rarely ever saw sunlight.

“Caught you,” Changkyun said with a smile. Kihyun managed a chuckle.

“I guess you have,” he responded before he pushed himself up, dusting himself off. Changkyun stood up, too, still smiling. Kihyun focused in on the sound of his heart beating excitedly in his chest. It made Kihyun more confident. He stepped closer to Changkyun, tilting his head. “Now what was your plan for what happens after you caught me?”

Beating to fluttering. Spit getting swallowed down. A shaky breath. “Oh. Um. I-“

Kihyun pressed his hand to Changkyun’s chest again, his palm becoming the light his little moth of a heart was attracted to. Kihyun smiled. Changkyun was warm and smooth under his fingers. “So excitable,” he said.

“You…you’ve never kissed me,” Changkyun whispered. Kihyun lets the sound of Changkyun’s heart wash over him, pretended it’s his heart that’s pounding out of his chest.

“Do you want me to kiss you?”

Changkyun let out a breath. His hand went up to press Kihyun’s palm firmly against his chest. “Yeah. Yeah, I do. You wrote about it a lot. Wanting to kiss me.”

“I do.” Kihyun stepped closer, shrinking the distance between them. Changkyun tilted ever so slightly, blindly because it’s still so dark in his room, not even a window to let some moonlight in. And Kihyun brushed their lips together. Changkyun’s heart sang under his palm. Kihyun slid his hand around and down to the small of Changkyun’s back, pulling him closer. Changkyun moaned into the kiss, wrapping his arms around Kihyun’s neck.

Kihyun knew. He had always known, he guessed, as soon as he saw him raise his hand like he was a kid in a classroom to ask a question when he didn’t have to. He knew when he found himself trying to memorize the distinct patter of his heart, how he wanted to be able to find it no matter where he was in the castle, no matter how far apart they were. He knew when all his thoughts were Changkyun, Changkyun, Changkyun.

He pulled away and watched Changkyun pant into the space between them. Changkyun’s eyes flew open, and he scooted closer. “Again, please,” he said. Kihyun laughed, brushing his fingers gently through Changkyun’s hair. He takes Changkyun’s cheeks in his hands before he leans again.

Kihyun tastes like toothpaste and faint copper. Changkyun tried not to dwell too long on where the copper taste came from as he parts his lips to lick into Kihyun’s mouth. Kihyun mades a little surprised noise before he let Changkyun in, their tongues meeting together in the space where their mouths have almost become one. Changkyun thinks about all the hook-ups and one-night stands and boyfriends he’s ever had before. He wonders if any of them have ever felt as right as this.

Kihyun’s lips had been cold when they had started kissing, but they felt warmer now like they were absorbing the warmth of Changkyun’s lips. And he had so much warmth to give. He felt sweat beading up on the back of his neck as he and Kihyun kept kissing. He could feel his heart pounding away in his chest, and he knew that Kihyun could hear it, knew he could feel and hear how excited he was. He didn’t care. He wanted Kihyun to know, wanted to show him how badly he had ached for this.

Changkyun pulled away only because he needed to get more oxygen in. Kihyun tugged him closer, and Changkyun felt like his entire body was combusting. “Kihyun-“

“It’s you, Changkyun.” Kihyun said it like he was telling him that it was cold outside. Changkyun sighed, burying his face in Kihyun’s shoulder.

“You haven’t even-“

“I know. But you’re it. You’ve always been it.” Kihyun kissed Changkyun’s cheek. Changkyun shuddered in his arms.

“Show me? Please?” Changkyun whispered.

“What do you me-“ Changkyun grabbed his face and kissed him, sloppy and needy, and Kihyun knew exactly what he meant. “A-are you sure?” Kihyun asked as he pulled away.

“God, I’ve had a hard-on for you since I saw you on television, please Kihyun.” And Kihyun picked him up easily, and then he’s dropped onto the bed, Kihyun flicking on the lamp on his bedside table. Changkyun winces at the sudden light, but he wants it, wants to see Kihyun’s perfect face, all round edges and sharp lines. Kihyun moved so fast to undress himself that Changkyun could barely see him, just a blur of clothes and then a blur of pale skin, and then he’s on top of him, still and beautiful. Changkyun breathes in, out, and then they’re kissing again.

There’s something about being locked together and also apart. Seeing someone every day and flirting and wanting and pining and never actually acting on it. Getting yourself worked up to a frenzy at the mere idea of them, especially when you know they feel the same way. Sprinting next to each other on a track and wanting to veer off-course just a little just to collide in a heap together.

This was it. They had finally collided. And Changkyun couldn’t wait anymore.

Changkyun shimmied out of his underwear, and Kihyun’s skin was freezing against his, especially against his, but he loved it, loved it because he knew that Kihyun can take some of the overwhelming heat he has and make it all okay. Everything is so fast, like instinct is everything that drives them. Changkyun flailed his arm toward the cabinets, and Kihyun pulled himself away to open it. He pulled out lube and condoms. He raised a brow down at Changkyun. Changkyun smiled and shrugged.

“I always go everywhere prepared,” Changkyun said. Kihyun laughed a little, shaking his head as he rolled a condom on before pouring lube on his fingers.

“Well, that’s good for us, I guess,” Kihyun said. Changkyun holds onto his ankles already, and Kihyun shakes his head, a giggle bubbling up in his lips. Changkyun giggles too, until the little bubbles burst in his throat as Kihyun slides his slick fingers inside of him.

Kihyun is not new at this, has done this many times with many partners, but he’s never seen anyone react like Changkyun does. Like he’s a taut string getting pulled up by a knife. Like he knows he’s going to fray and break if he’s doesn’t give in, become soft, easy, pliable. Kihyun squeezes Changkyun’s thigh, feels the pulsing of his artery against his thumb, spreads and prods his fingers until the pulsing is a constant drumming against his finger, and Changkyun is wide-eyed and gasping please I want you please please please.

Want was a thing that Kihyun had locked away inside of himself a long time ago when he had become horrified with himself. He had sworn off human blood, and Hakyeon had held his head to his chest and hand-fed him fresh pig’s blood from a cup, warm and unsatisfying, telling him he could do this, he could survive without want. Kihyun had, had lived without it. Had tried. Sometimes a tickle would start in his throat until it grew teeth and claws, and he would bury himself in the cellar and drink twice as much as usual until everything was okay again.

He looked down at Changkyun, and he felt the tickle again, wondered how long it’d be until it grew claws and latched onto him and never let go again. Changkyun was wriggling and warm and his heart, God, his heart sounded like hail against stone, and it pounded through Kihyun and pulled him closer, and Kihyun let go. Let himself want again for the first time in a long time as he pushed himself inside of Changkyun, watched his precious taut string go limp beneath him.

“Ooooh fuuuuck,” Changkyun said, his grip around his ankles loosening as Kihyun rutted into him. Changkyun pulsed around Kihyun, and Kihyun moaned. He ran his hands up Changkyun’s body and watched him shiver, wanted him to react like this. Changkyun’s eyes were wide and blown and his lips were open and wet, and Kihyun kissed him again, kissed him and fucked him until he felt his control start to slip.

He pulled away and heard Changkyun gasp. Then he felt hands around his face. “Oh my god, your eyes, shit, that’s hot,” Changkyun gasped out. Kihyun barked out a laugh as he thrusted hard into him, watched Changkyun’s eyes roll back in his head. Kihyun smirked, listening to Changkyun moan and pant and his heart fluttering underneath all of that. He let himself go back to when sex had been fun and happy, licked his palm before wrapping it around Changkyun’s throbbing dick.

Changkyun thought the world might end. He felt like every brick in this ancient place was stacked on his chest. He thought of hot fudge and vanilla ice cream. Like Kihyun was the best vanilla bean he’d ever had, and he was gooey and melty fudge. Kihyun flicked his wrist in time with his hips and crashed their lips together, and Changkyun felt the world go painfully bright.

His release was warm on his stomach as he panted, and Kihyun’s movements became sweet and soft, and he whimpered as he chased his own orgasm, hands gripping at Changkyun’s thighs. Changkyun stared up at the ceiling as Kihyun started to caress his face. He could hear Kihyun trying to control his breathing. Changkyun smiled to himself, blissful, dumb, fulfilled.

“That was the best sex I’ve ever had,” he whispered out. Kihyun laughed before he let himself fall next to Changkyun, wiping at his belly with the sheets, not even caring about the mess. Changkyun turned his head toward him, puckering out his lips a bit. Kihyun blinked a few times, his eyes slowly darkening back to their original brown color. He let out one last sigh before he kissed Changkyun again, sweet, chaste. Locking his want away again.

“I’m serious, about the sex, you know,” Changkyun said against his lips. Kihyun smiled.

“I know. You were so loud.”

“Your eyes.”

“Yeah, they do that sometimes.”

“Like when?” Changkyun was turning toward him now, pressing his chest against Kihyun’s. Kihyun felt warmer. He looked at Changkyun’s face, the little scars on his cheeks, the way his eyelashes brushed against his cheeks when he blinked. His heart is softer now, steady, sure.

“Strong emotions make them come out, or when I lose myself in…” Changkyun smiles sweetly up at him, tip of his tongue between his teeth. “…everything.” Changkyun hums and pecks their lips together again.

“Are you going to stay the night?” Changkyun asked. Kihyun sighed, ran his hand up Changkyun’s side. He’s so firm there despite the squish of his thighs.

“Do you want me to?”

“At least until I go to sleep, at least? I don’t know what you do at night.”

“I can do that.” Kihyun kisses Changkyun again, takes slow breaths until he pulls away again. Changkyun has a whole galaxy in his gaze, and Kihyun thinks he’s never seen something so beautiful.

Chapter Text

Hoseok opened his eyes slowly. He glanced behind him at his clock, saw that it was six in the morning and turned back around. He sighed, arm reaching out, searching before it found what he wanted. Jooheon made a soft sound as he felt Hoseok’s warmth envelope him again.

“What time ‘sit?” Jooheon mumbled.

“Too early,” Hoseok breathed against his shoulder. He nuzzled into the spot, breathing in the soft smell of Jooheon’s skin. Like a baby. “Go back to sleep,” he mumbled. They both relaxed again. Hoseok wondered for a moment what had pulled him from his slumber when-

Knock knock knock.

Hoseok and Jooheon both bolted up, eyes wide as they stared at each other. Hoseok’s mind started racing, trying to think of ways to explain Jooheon being here to any of the people that could be knocking. Jooheon’s mouth opened, closed, then he buried his face in Hoseok’s chest and trembled. Hoseok patted his back. The knocks came again, a bit more aggressive. Jooheon pulled away and hid himself in the sheets, eyes wide and frantic as he waved Hoseok off. Hoseok sighed, jumping off the bed, finding his sweatpants on the ground and yanking them on as he stumbled toward the door.

“What?” Hoseok said as he opened the door just enough for his face to peek through. Taekwoon and Jaehwan were standing there, staring at him. Jaehwan smiled at him all bright. Taekwoon just squinted his eyes at him, then at the place where he’s gripping the door.

“Invitation from Kihyun,” Jaehwan said as he held out an envelope. Hoseok bit his lip. Drummed his fingers against the door. Stared at the blue envelope with his name written on it with pretty script. He reached out with the hand that wasn’t holding the door, careful not to move the door at all, and took it. He held it up.

“Thanks, I’ll-“

“You should open it now,” Taekwoon said in his tiny little whisper-y voice. Hoseok sighed. He made a show of rubbing at his eye, envelope tucked between his ring finger and middle finger.

“Yeah, right. Sorry. Just still waking up,” Hoseok said.

“Really? Your heart rate already is really high,” Jaehwan said, lips still curved around that smile of his. Hoseok rubbed at his chest, putting his foot down next to the door to keep it in place.

“Oh, really? Haha, that’s weird,” Hoseok breathed out. He huffed as he ripped open the envelope and scanned the note. He can feel the three pairs of eyes on him like condensation clinging to glass. He cleared his throat a bit before looking up at the two vampires standing there, waiting. He noticed Jaehwan staring at the door like he can see right past it before he flicks his eyes back at him. Hoseok swallowed. Taekwoon sighed, his hand coming up to touch Jaehwan’s shoulder.

“We need an answer,” Taekwoon said. Hoseok looked at him. Taekwoon’s eyes are soft, encouraging. Hoseok cut his eyes over to Jaehwan. Jaehwan laughed a little, tongue poking out between his teeth as he looked directly through Hoseok right into his soul. Hoseok feels his stomach broil. He knows.

“An answer?” Hoseok squeaked out.

Jaehwan’s adorable smile now seems slightly sinister, but Hoseok tries to convince himself it’s his imagination. Tries to will himself to be normal, act like Jooheon isn’t sitting in his bed right this moment. “Do you want to go with Kihyun to this thing? We need to get you fitted in like half an hour, if you do,” Jaehwan said.

Hoseok suddenly remembered that the whole reason he was supposed to be here was Kihyun. He hadn’t even thought about Kihyun since he had kissed Jooheon all those weeks ago. He knows he should say yes, go on this date, awkwardly stand next to Kihyun at whatever function he has to attend, pretend that he’s trying to figure out his feelings before ultimately getting dropped for someone else. Hoseok sees it all so clearly.

He looked up at Taekwoon, gentle, sweet, quiet. He opens his mouth then closes it again. Taekwoon had been such an understanding person when he was helping him get his shit together to come here. He’s sure his eyes are screaming for help. Taekwoon nodded a little, clearing his throat.

“Jaehwanie, maybe we should-“ he started.

“You can say no, you know,” Jaehwan whispered, smile unfaltering, as he leans closer to Hoseok. Everything turns to mush in Hoseok’s stomach. Jaehwan pointedly looks at the door that Hoseok is gripping so hard the wood might start to splinter any second, then back at him, and then he winks.

Shit.

“Shouldn’t I, though? Say yes?”

“Not if you don’t want to,” Taekwoon said softly.

“I don’t think Kihyun will mind too much,” Jaehwan said with a little scrunch of his nose. Hoseok wondered if Jaehwan enjoys this little terrifying all-knowing fairy routine. He has a sickening feeling that he does.

“I just…I can’t, you know?” Hoseok finally said. He held the note back out to Jaehwan who took it and shoved it into Taekwoon’s front pocket. Taekwoon rolled his eyes but doesn’t move to stop him.

“We understand. Have a good morning, Hoseok,” Jaehwan said. Then he starts walking off. Taekwoon put his hand on Hoseok’s shoulder and gave him a nod.

“If you need me,” he said before he takes off after Jaehwan. Hoseok stepped back into the room and closed the door. His bones are five seconds from disintegrating, but he manages to make it back to his bed, back to Jooheon, back to something warm and familiar and comfortable.

“You said no,” Jooheon breathed out. He let Hoseok pull him into his arms, cradle Jooheon’s head against his chest. Breathe in his soft baby smell as he buries his nose in his hair.

“I said no,” Hoseok said.

“Do you think they knew?” Jooheon asked.

“Jaehwan is…”

“Terrifying,” Jooheon finished. Hoseok laughed, kissing at the top of his head. Jooheon noses at his collarbone, and it feels like how champagne tastes. Bubbles up in the back of Hoseok’s throat and coats him in warmth. He feels Jooheon squeeze at his sides. His fingers dig in, nervous, tense.

“What is it?” Hoseok asked.

“I’m worried. I don’t know.”

“About?” Jooheon sighed against Hoseok’s skin before he looked up at him.

“How long have we been doing this?” he asked.

“Almost two months.”

“I haven’t even told Changkyun, you know. I tell him everything.”

“Why haven’t you?”

“I’m scared of what happens when everyone knows. What if they send us back or something? And I…we can’t…” Jooheon trailed off. He squeezed Hoseok’s sides again. Hoseok kissed Jooheon’s forehead, held him closer.

“Even if they did, I’d move to you. I don’t care.”

“I’d feel like shit about making you move.”

“I didn’t have much anyway, that’s why I’m here.”

“I know but. It’s only been two months, and I’m.” Jooheon froze. Hoseok feels him tense in his arms again. Hoseok’s lungs turn into liquid goop. He uses what feels like his last breath to ask.

“You’re what, Jooheon?”

Jooheon pushed himself out of Hoseok’s arms, hovering over him, looking at him with big eyes. Hoseok suddenly feels how early it is again, feels time slowing down like when you’re about to nod off. He reached up and touched Jooheon’s cheek, pressed his fingers into the soft give of his face. He licked his lips and waited, felt his stomach start to clench because he feels like he knows.

“I think. Maybe,” Jooheon whispered.

“Say it,” Hoseok whispered back. Time is an illusion. A trick. The only thing that’s real is Jooheon’s eyes and the way they’re sharing oxygen in this tiny little space together.

“I think I’m in love with you.”

Time doesn’t matter in the quiet hours of too-early in the morning, in the dark quiet space of Hoseok’s bedroom. At least not anymore. Time used to be everything, late enough for Jooheon to sneak in, early enough for him to sneak out without anyone noticing. How many seconds can they go without looking at each other at breakfast every morning. How long can they make eye contact over dinner without bursting out laughing. How long can their lips stay connected until they’re both gasping.

“I love you, too.”

Jooheon’s lips will always taste a bit like strawberries and a bit like peaches to Hoseok. He can never separate the two now. Whenever they sip that wine at dinner, they exchange glances just knowing. Hoseok licks into Jooheon’s mouth, and it feels like liquor. Makes him giddy and pliant and loose. And he is in love. So in love. Loves every bit of Jooheon and his body and the way he laughs and the way he gasps when Hoseok sucks a little mark high on his thigh where no one will see it because their love is just for them, has always been just for them.

And when Hoseok finds himself slipping into Jooheon for the second time today, tonight, whatever, he’s never felt more right, more at home. He wouldn’t let anything come between him and Jooheon. Not a promise of a date with a vampire king, not eternal life, not even the beautiful palace around them. Every time they whisper each other’s names against each other’s skin it’s a promise. The words I love you taste better than strawberries and peaches and wine on Jooheon’s lips. Hoseok wants to taste it over and over again.

+++

“Okay, go over it again. You went to his room?” Kihyun said.

“Yep!” Jaehwan responded. His smile was strained now, obviously getting annoyed but not wanting to be mean.

“And?”

“He said no. Honestly, Kihyun, it’s not that hard to understand,” Taekwoon said, puffing out a sigh as he leaned his head on Jaehwan’s shoulder like an overgrown cat trying to find a place to nap.

“But why did he say no?”

“I’m sure he has his reasons. Maybe he doesn’t want to be bored to death on a date to the…what was it?” Jaehwan asked.

Kihyun licks his lips. “The um. The water conservation festival.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Taekwoon whispered from his little perch on Jaehwan’s shoulder. Kihyun pressed his lips together.

“Well, either way, he said no. Can I go now? Or do you need me to wait for you to deliver another message?” Jaehwan asked. He reached up to pet at Taekwoon’s hair, like he’s trying to appease a yowling cat. Kihyun can almost imagine Taekwoon actually purring.

“Just invite Changkyun. No fitting that way,” Minhyuk suggested. Kihyun sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Fine. That’s fine,” he said.

“Are you going to handwrite another note or…?” Taekwoon grumbled. Kihyun rolled his eyes as he went to his desk to find his stationery.

“For someone that doesn’t need to sleep every night, you sure get grumpy in the mornings,” Kihyun said.

“At least I didn’t get a rejection before breakfast happened,” Taekwoon said. Kihyun whirled around, note in hand.

“You know what-“

“Kihyun, give me the note, please,” Jaehwan said, standing firmly between Kihyun and Taekwoon. Still smiling, slightly manic now. Kihyun swallowed, holding the note out. Jaehwan took the note and made a kissy face at Kihyun before pulling Taekwoon out of the room after him.

“I love how his highness the royal king of Wallachia is actually terrified of his messenger,” Minhyuk said.

“Remember when that random guy tried to pick a fight with Hongbin way back in the day?” Kihyun asked.

“Yeah.”

“I’m pretty sure the last thing he saw was that smile.” Minhyuk spluttered out a laugh. Kihyun smiled at him, falling back on his bed.

“At least you get a day with Changkyun out of this,” Minhyuk said, messing with Kihyun’s hair. Kihyun smiled up at him, goofy and giddy.

“Yeah. It’s been so long since we’ve been alone.”

“Sure. By my guess it’s been about…two days?” Minhyuk said. Kihyun shot up. His eyes are wide and Minhyuk is smirking at him.

“Wha-what are you talking about?” Minhyuk leaned in really close, taking in a big whiff in front of Kihyun’s appalled face.

“Changkyun smells like that lemony body lotion he uses. You usually just smell like soap, but you still kinda smell like lemons.”

“Shit.”

“What exactly do you guys do that makes his scent just stick to you so much?” Minhyuk asked with a smile.

“Shut up, Minhyuk,” Kihyun said as he started rushing to leave the room.

“It’s cute that you think you can keep secrets from me!” Minhyuk called after him. Kihyun goes to find a hole to bury his head in for the foreseeable future.

+++

Minhyuk was there again. He was terrified, but he tried to hide it. He was glad Kihyun and Hyunwoo weren’t there to see him like this. He was kneeling in front of her, like he always was, like he was trained to do. He was staring at her, at her cold unfeeling face. She always made herself look ghastly, but here, it was worse. Pale like an actual corpse, veins black and unnatural. Minhyuk was crying, sobbing, begging, but he was given a purpose, and he had to listen to her, had to do whatever she asked. Then he was dressed in the best fashions of the time, ruffles and coats and gold buttons, and he was searching. Searching searching searching. A young girl, timid, heart fluttering in his eardrums, blushing at his smiles and the press of his lips on her hand. He hates himself, feels like something dark is climbing up his throat and taking hold of him. He takes her somewhere dark and murky and then he’s back kneeling at the queen’s feet. She’s pleased with him, and he wants to claw his own eyes out. He tries to. Reaches up to his face and presses in. He gets shoved forward, and the girl is back, and she’s screaming so loud her lungs fill with blood, and Minhyuk can already taste it, tastes like death and mold and rot, and it fills him up and makes him volcanic, molten, deadly.

One screams and the other laughs and Minhyuk is caught in the middle of a horrid tide and he’s drowning in her blood. He’s Death, red-eyed and starving and rabid as he drinks her life away. The screams echo through his bones and settles in the hollow of his throat, and he’s screaming too, crying, sobbing, begging. He wants to tear himself to shreds, become nothing but molecules to atone, burn himself to ash, and he’s out again, another party, an unsuspecting victim, and he’s a tiger, a lion, a vicious evil thing. His veins turn black like hers. He cries black blood as he tears his hair out in a heap of straw and muck and he’s lost. But nothing changes, he’s always kneeling, always feeding, always preying and crying and sobbing and begging.

“Minhyuk!”

Minhyuk had been so comfortable, he had forgotten why he had avoided sleeping while he was with Hyungwon. He didn’t think about the nightmares that would plague him. He didn’t think about the fact that neither Hyunwoo nor Kihyun would be there to fix it if he had a nightmare. He didn’t think that he could have a nightmare when he had Hyungwon’s heart in his ear, lulling him to sleep.

He sat bolt upright, trembling. He needed to see himself. He pushed himself out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom, flicking on the light. He stares at himself. He isn’t ghastly. He’s not gargling up black blood. Fluttering tickles his ears, and he shuts his eyes, covers up his ears with his palms.

“Minhyuk? You’re crying. What’s-“ Minhyuk held his hands up toward Hyungwon, backing away from him until he’s against the wall. He wants to scream, can feel it somewhere in his throat. He sits on the ground, and he wants Hyunwoo to hold him together, bind the pieces he’s broken into and fuse them together. But Hyunwoo isn’t here. And Hyungwon’s heartbeat feels like a nightmare, a bad memory, bile mixing into that scream trapped in his throat.

Hyungwon persisted, though. He comes close, sits in front of Minhyuk, and takes his face in his hands. Minhyuk wants to push him far away from himself. He’s fragile and precious, and Minhyuk will ruin him like he ruined so many others before him. Hyungwon is too good, too soft as he touches Minhyuk’s cheeks and holds them like he’s made of puffs of dandelion, and he doesn’t want them to fall apart and scatter to the wind.

“Minhyuk, it was a bad dream. It’s not real, you’re safe,” Hyungwon whispered. Minhyuk lets out a dry sob because he doesn’t have the heart to explain how real it had been. Hyungwon’s face scrunched at the sound. He leans forward to put his forehead against Minhyuk’s. “You’re here now, okay? We’re here and safe and together. Not wherever you were.”

“Hyungwon,” Minhyuk hiccuped.

“I don’t know what spooked you so much, but it’s over now. Please come back to bed? It’s warmer there, and maybe we can cuddle and I-“

Minhyuk sobbed again, and he falls onto Hyungwon’s shoulder. Hyungwon reached up into his hair and twirled his fingers against his scalp. Hyungwon is cotton candy, sweet and delicate. A snowflake. Crumbly puff pastry. And Minhyuk lets himself breathe in the scent of Hyungwon’s skin and grounds himself in it. He sniffed, voice tiny as he spoke. “Let’s go to bed, then.”

Hyungwon helped him up, held his hands as they walked back out and found the bed again. He kissed Minhyuk’s palms and cheeks and buried himself in Minhyuk’s chest like that was the best place for him, like he belonged there. Minhyuk couldn’t hear the screaming anymore. He held Hyungwon to him, listened to his heartbeat and let himself forget, and maybe he can forgive himself, at least for a moment.

“Do you feel better?” Hyungwon asked softly. He pressed his puffy lips to Minhyuk’s sternum before he looked up, eyes wide and clear. Minhyuk smiled at him, and Hyungwon kissed him. Minhyuk remembers the words he told Kihyun before. I like him.

“Thank you,” he said to Hyungwon. His face is sleepy and tired because they always keep him up too late at night, and he has to sleep the morning away to catch up. Minhyuk brushed at Hyungwon’s hair, pulling him down onto his collarbone. “You can go back to sleep,” he said softly. Hyungwon rubbed at his eyes before letting them close.

Hyungwon is warm hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. Sweet, delicious. Impermanent. Minhyuk clutches him tight. He wonders when death and mold and rot had turned to sugar on his taste buds.

As soon as I tasted him, cotton-candy, sugar shock.

Chapter Text

Jittery and nervous and giddy, Changkyun wriggles in the big fancy chair in the meeting room as he waits. The others would have to be told to come before they would slowly trickle in, but he knew this was coming a few days in advance. Everything was moving so quickly, but he didn’t mind. He was too busy being head-over-heels for Kihyun. Too busy waiting for him by his door, constantly receiving new outfits from Hyojin, spending more and more days out with him. So busy he’s barely even had time to play video games or give anyone more than the usual happy greeting. He’s wrapped up in everything about Kihyun, getting answers to questions.

“Does it hurt? Why haven’t you tried it yet?”

“To feed from you?”

“Yes.”

“I want the first time I taste you to be the night I change you.”

“Oh my god, of course you do,” Changkyun would giggle and bury his face in Kihyun’s sharp collarbone. Kihyun would giggle, too, high on joy and bliss.

Jooheon walks in first, hesitating until he spots Changkyun in the room and instantly moves to sit across from him. Changkyun smiles bright at him, his precious Jooheon, his honey, his best friend. He can smile because he knows he’ll never have to lose him, and he’s so grateful for that. Hoseok walks in soon after and settles in the chair next to Jooheon. Changkyun watches as they awkwardly try to make small talk. Jooheon’s neck and cheeks flush, and Changkyun feels even giddier. He and Kihyun had heard Jooheon sneak out in the dead of night. Now Changkyun knows why, and he’s so glad because he likes Hoseok so much. He’s a giant soft teddy bear with more love to give in his enormous body than anyone could ever guess, and his precious honey deserves that.

“So how does it happen?” Changkyun lays in Kihyun’s arms and stares up at him.

“The change?”

“Yeah. What happens?”

“Well, I’ll feed from you for a while,” Kihyun’s voice is low, and he presses his thumb into Changkyun’s dimple like he’s checking if it’s real.

“How long?”

“Until you have barely any left to give me. Until your heart is so soft and slow in my ears I’ll barely even remember the moth you once had in there.” Changkyun should be terrified, but he presses closer to Kihyun, trembles from want and love and the thought of giving everything to Kihyun.

“And then? Do I die?” he croaks out. Kihyun’s thumb traces up jaw, circles the apple of his cheek. Feather-light, ticklish, but Changkyun doesn’t flinch.

“You never die. I fill you back up with me instead. I cut myself open and let you drink from me, replace everything I took with bits of me instead.” Changkyun shudders out a breath. He thinks of lace and leather and heat. Of filling himself up to the brim, a tiny teacup for Kihyun to pour himself into. Kihyun’s arm wraps tighter around his shoulder, pulling him flush against his chest. Changkyun wonders if he’d be able to feel Kihyun’s heartbeat against his if he focused enough.

Hyungwon walks in, plopping down next to Changkyun with a small wave. He looks like clothed satisfaction, and Changkyun smiles at him. He knows about him and Minhyuk and Hyunwoo. Changkyun had squealed when he had found out, calling him a lucky bastard. He leans his head on Hyungwon’s shoulder, and Hyungwon pats at his head, affectionate, caring. They look at each other. Hyungwon smiles at him like he knows. Changkyun stifles a happy giggle.

“There’s a lot of things that happen to your body when you change,” Kihyun explains. This time they’re sitting, staring at each other, both hands clasped together in front of them. Loose palms, tight fingers.

“I’m sure, I’m literally turning into a vampire,” Changkyun laughs. Kihyun laughs too. Changkyun thinks he’ll never be able to live again without that sound.

 “Well, your heart will still beat but barely. You’ll breathe. But you won’t be normal. And you won’t feel normal. Suddenly you feel like you have sprouted muscles you never had before, a gentle push is now a huge shove across the room. It’s a learning curve.” Kihyun huffs out a breath, bites at his lip as he remembers, tries to remember. Changkyun squeezes his hands. He doesn’t know what happened, but he knows Kihyun hates remembering.

“Okay, won’t know my own strength, got it.”

“And you’ll be so thirsty. Parched. Like you’ve swallowed every bit of sand in the Sahara.” Changkyun smacks his lips at the thought, already glancing at the glass of water on his nightstand. Kihyun smirks at him.

“So I’ll need to drink?”

“Yes. We’ll have blood ready, don’t worry. It’ll be donated in packets and warmed up for you.”

“It has to be warm?”

“No, but it’ll feel better warm.” Changkyun nods like he understands. He thinks about how Kihyun siphons heat from him like a cold-blooded reptile on a sun-warmed rock.

“Okay. Thirst and strength.”

“Your senses will heighten a lot. You’ll see colors you’ve never seen before. Hear things you’ve never heard before.”

“Like heartbeats?”

Kihyun smiles. “Yeah, like heartbeats.”

Changkyun bites at his lip, nodding slowly. He presses his toes against Kihyun’s calf, and it’s Kihyun’s turn to squeeze his hands.

“So we’ll do it soon?”

“Whenever you’re ready, Changkyun. I can wait forever. If you want to do it when you’re ninety, I’ll still be here, probably petting at your bald head.”

“I would not go bald!” Kihyun laughs again, clear and bright like a bell on Christmas. Changkyun grins.

“There is one thing, though, and it can be jarring, so bear with me,” Kihyun says. Changkyun nods, waits. “I think it’s evolutionary, you know? New creations are generally weaker, more impulsive. They’d destroy themselves without their creator taking care of them.” Changkyun hums in response, waiting for the rest of the information. “Something shifts. I don’t know how to explain it, but it does. It’s like your cells get filled up with me and learn to respond to me. You’ll be so disgustingly in love with me. Clingy. Needy. And your body will react to every emotion I feel, every thought I have, everything. If I whisper your name across the grounds, you’ll feel this pull toward me because I called for you.”

Changkyun smiles, brings Kihyun’s knuckles to his lips. “I’m already so disgustingly on love with you that that sounds amazing.” Kihyun brightens before he pulls Changkyun into his lap, brings their lips together.

“I love you too.”

“Also, I like being called your creation. It’s like I’m your masterpiece or something.” Kihyun’s smile reaches every inch of his face as he brushes their noses together, making Changkyun giggle.

“You will be. My perfect and only masterpiece. Made just for me.” Changkyun feels his heart swell up, and Kihyun presses his palm against his chest to feel it thrum. They stay like that for a while, tangled legs and a moth flying into cool glass.

Changkyun is mildly surprised when everyone files into the room. Hakyeon’s creations all shuffling in to sit at the table while Hakyeon tries to go to stand in the corner where he usually is. Jaehwan is holding onto his shirt and pouting, whispering something at him. Hakyeon sighs as he brushes his long tan fingers through Jaehwan’s hair, and he leans into the touch, making kissy faces up at Hakyeon. He laughs at the face, and Changkyun tries to think of a time he’d ever seen Hakyeon so publicly and openly pleased. He thinks about Kihyun looking down at him with that same fondness in his eyes and feels everything bubble up in his stomach again.

The last ones to come in are Minhyuk, Hyunwoo, and then finally Kihyun. There are bursts of stars in Changkyun’s stomach as the room quietens, and Hakyeon finally moves to his place in the corner.

“Hello, everyone,” Kihyun said. He sits at the head of the table, Minhyuk and Hyunwoo standing, flanking him. “I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re all here.” Staring eyes answer him. Changkyun feels Jooheon glance at him, then back at Kihyun. Kihyun clears his throat. He reached his hand out toward Changkyun, palm up, and looked at him. Changkyun smiled and slid his hand into his. “I...I’ve made my decision,” Kihyun said.

There’s a moment of silence, and then Hyuk yelled out in celebration, making Hakyeon bury his face in his hand. Soon everyone is squealing around Changkyun, and touching him, squeezing his shoulders and grabbing at his other hand, and Changkyun is giggles and blush and fucking bliss.

After a while, Kihyun manages to get everyone to settle back down again, with the assistance of Hakyeon’s glare. Jooheon tangles his legs with Changkyun’s under the table and smiles at him, bright and happy, and Changkyun reaches his free hand out to him, and Jooheon takes it in both of his.

“I also have more announcements. Hyungwon, Jooheon, Hoseok, I’d very much like you all to stay here. Everyone has become quite fond of you, and we’d very much like you to stay.”

Changkyun smiles directly at Jooheon’s slightly stunned face. “You’re...you’re not sending us home?” Jooheon asked.

Kihyun shook his head. “Only if you want to go back. But I’d very much like you to advise me like Minhyuk and Hyunwoo. Help us integrate better with the human world, you know?”

Jooheon looked over at Hoseok, and Christ, they’re already having silent conversations. Hoseok licked his lips. “Thank you, Kihyun. I think we’ll definitely take you up on that offer,” he said. Changkyun brightens again, watching everything fall into place.

“Of course, I’m staying,” Hyungwon said, eyes shining directly at Minhyuk and Hyunwoo. Minhyuk smiles at him before he looks down at the ground, reaching up quickly to wipe at his face. Hyunwoo doesn’t even look as he reaches a hand out to take Minhyuk’s.

“Fucking finally. I thought you guys would all be too chicken-shit to ever actually talk about everything,” Jaehwan piped up. Changkyun whirled around to look at him, eyes wide. Has Jaehwan ever sworn before?

“Jae…” Hakyeon groaned out from his corner.

“What? It’s true! This whole fucking palace, including myself, is a bunch of dumb bastards, you know? Like why the fuck-“ Hakyeon slapped his hand over Jaehwan’s mouth and gave him a pained expression. He mouthed the word sorry over at Kihyun, and Changkyun can’t hold back the laugh anymore and soon everyone is laughing. Changkyun feels at home. Like he’s finally found all of his people. Everything falling into place, and Changkyun has never been happier.

+++

“Do we ever actually wear crowns?” Changkyun asked as Hyojin measured every inch of his head.

“At least once a year for the royal gala,” Kihyun answered.

“Where’s your crown?”

“With Solji and Heeyeon. They make them and take care of them along with all the other metal work we get done here,” Kihyun explained.

“I’m thinking rose gold, for him. It would make his pretty skin stand out,” Hyojin said. She pinched Changkyun’s cheek, and Changkyun doesn’t dare object to the motherly affection of a probably thousand-year-old woman.

“I like rose gold,” Changkyun said, looking up at Kihyun with big eyes. Kihyun smiled down at him.

“Hyojin, you know I have the utmost trust in you on these decisions,” Kihyun answered.

“And stars. His eyes sparkle,” she said as she cupped Changkyun’s face. She coos at him, and Changkyun wonders if she looks at him like a pretty puppy. “Little diamond stars. And dramatic and sharp teeth up.” She nods as if she has figured everything out. She picks up her notebook and sketches.

“Am I going to wear it at the party?” Changkyun asked.

“I think Solji will murder me if I try to rush order that for the announcement party,” Kihyun said. He still looks at Changkyun though, like he’s saying but if you just ask.

Changkyun shook his head. “Nah, then. I don’t need it anyway,” Changkyun said with a wave. Kihyun let out a sigh, and then Hyojin holds out her sketch for Changkyun. He gasped, his fingers tracing over the drawn details. “It’s so pretty,” he whispered. Hyojin smiles before putting her notebook up.

“I like this one. He’ll be fun to dress,” she said. Changkyun beamed at this highest of compliments.

“I like him, too. Can you go do the other fittings now, or do you need to do something else?” Kihyun asked. Hyojin just waves behind her as she walks out of the room with her bag and purple suit. Once the door closes behind her, Kihyun and Changkyun’s eyes meet for a moment, three breaths long.

Kihyun closed the distance between them and kissed him, powerful, happy, delighted. Changkyun moans and melts into it, winds his arms around Kihyun’s shoulders. Kihyun’s hands find purchase under his thighs and picks him up, Changkyun letting out a small squeal as he wraps his legs around Kihyun.

“You know, I’m sure that the royals had to stay chaste before their unions,” Changkyun said.

“Fuck that,” Kihyun breathed out, and Changkyun laughs as he’s thrown gently on his bed, Kihyun crawling on top of him. Ever since the announcement, Kihyun has been ravenous. He doesn’t suppress his feelings anymore, doesn’t lock away his want. He lets himself take his time to figure out all the things that make Changkyun shiver, moan, shudder, scream.

He learns that when he sucks on Changkyun’s inner thighs it makes his legs kick and his toes curl as he frantically says tickles! It tickles! If he sucks a bit higher, on his hip or above his pubic bone he goes dreadfully still, holding his breath until Kihyun decides to flash his tongue and mouth against his dick. He learns that Changkyun can take three fingers pressed inside him, but that his eyes will tear up as he begs for Kihyun’s cock instead when he does. If he teases him with just two fingers long enough, he gets the same result. He learns that Changkyun likes being thrown around, held down, and treated roughly during sex sometimes. If he holds himself back, Changkyun notices but doesn’t question it, just wonders how much more it can be when he’s a vampire, too.

Kihyun sucks bruises on to Changkyun’s chest. It satisfies some small instinctual part of him that wants to claim, mark up, make mine mine mine. Sometimes Kihyun can taste the ghost of Changkyun’s blood under his tongue when he does that, feel his heart beat up into his mouth through his rib cage like it belongs firmly between his teeth.

Kihyun’s eyes blow wide and crimson when he looks up at Changkyun again, mouth pressed against his nipple. Changkyun moans, and Kihyun can feel where it starts somewhere deep near his diaphragm.

“Shit,” Changkyun whispers out before he throws his arm over his eyes. Kihyun swears he can feel every vein in Changkyun’s body pulse at once, hears it echo inside his head like the ghost of a song he doesn’t really remember. He holds Changkyun’s face, and he can see the stars, the universe, the beginning of creation in his eyes. Kihyun wonders if this is what true love is, seeing the mysteries of the world reflected in your lover’s eyes and not wanting the answers at all because the only answer there could ever be for you is already right there, laying pliant and easy and fluttering beneath you. They kiss again, and Kihyun can see solar systems on the back of his eyelids.

Changkyun always tastes like citrus. Kihyun wonders if that’s what his blood tastes like, if his lips taste like that because Changkyun is always biting and gnawing on them.

Changkyun’s favorite word is please. To please, to be pleased, please, Ki, oh please please please. Sometimes Kihyun thinks he doesn’t even know what he’s so vehemently begging for, just that the word feels right as he breathes it out between his moans and pants and screams. And how can Kihyun deny him anything when he asks so sweetly, so ardently, so beautifully? He flips Changkyun over to watch him rut against the mattress desperately, his fingers inside of him, circling and pushing. Please please please.

When Kihyun is finally inside him, Changkyun stops altogether, still except for his caged heart almost bursting at the seams. Kihyun closes his eyes as he settles himself down and deep. He shudders despite the heat, want creeping up his spine, wrapping around his throat. Changkyun lets out a moan from deep in his rumbling chest, and Kihyun rubs his hands up his back, up and down again, feeling the glide of their skin together. Please please please.

When Kihyun finally, blessedly, starts to move, Changkyun is in tatters. Kihyun holds his hips up and in place, and the rest of Changkyun sinks into the mattress, melts, falls apart. He tingles in all the places where Kihyun’s hands run over him. Kihyun is electricity trying to conduct itself straight into his body. Changkyun feels like he’s standing in front of the speakers at a rave. Kihyun rattles down to the marrow of Changkyun’s bones and grips into him, pounds through him like bass, manifests somewhere in his throat and pops the needy noises that bubble up there. Please please pleeeaaase.

Changkyun sees pure white when Kihyun threads his fingers in the hairs on the back of his head and pulls. Changkyun’s cock is trapped in the friction between his stomach and his sheets, and everything is liquid silver running through his veins as he comes, Kihyun’s bared teeth pressed against his shoulder but not into his shoulder, and Changkyun wishes that Kihyun would just tear into his flesh and drink him down. Please please please.

He knows Kihyun is finished by the way he stills on top of him, and the push of his teeth turning to soft warm lips. Changkyun pants, boneless, nothing keeping him together but Kihyun’s weight on his back. Kihyun is pressing wet open kisses to Changkyun’s shoulders, and Changkyun knows that this is where they’re supposed to be. Kihyun kisses his cheek and holds him and whispers stay with me forever please please please.

And how can Changkyun deny him anything when he asks so sweetly, so ardently, so beautifully?

+++

They’re back at the amphitheater, all of them. It feels strange, like this was the beginning of it all, and they’re back again. Same giant crowd, all of them there to witness history. All of them there to see Kihyun choose Changkyun.

Thanks to Hyojin, everyone is dressed like a king, like royalty. They sit on the stage at a long table, like a press conference or a panel. Kihyun is in the middle, his left hand always on Changkyun’s thigh under the table cloth. Minhyuk sits to his right, and Hyunwoo next to him. Jooheon sits next to Changkyun, and they whisper together like gossipy school girls about their boyfriends as if they aren’t sitting right there next to them.

“Has he...you know?” Jooheon asked with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

“Bit me? No, unfortunately,” Changkyun said with a pout. He feels Kihyun squeeze his thigh, and he smirks.

“I guess I’ll never know what that’s like,” Jooheon said.

“Who says? You can totally become vampires. I’m sure any one of these guys will do it.” Jooheon tilted his head like he’s thinking. He looked over at Hoseok who shrugged at him.

“I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth, so it’s up to you,” he said.

“Wow, I’m so glad you found a boyfriend that is worthy of you because damn,” Changkyun whispered. Jooheon swatted him away, face turning all red.

“Hey, could you guys keep the couple shit down a bit? I’m all lonely over here,” Hyungwon said with a pout. He’s sitting next to Hoseok, on the opposite side of the table from Minhyuk and Hyunwoo. Changkyun pouted back.

“My poor laffy taffy all lonely,” Changkyun sighed. Hyungwon let out one bark of a laugh, and Changkyun felt satisfied.

“I’m sorry, that is mean,” Hoseok said, turning his body forward to include Hyungwon more. Hyungwon leaned forward on the table and leaned in, sleepy smile on his face.

“That’s better.”

“Can you get Kihyun to move this along though? I think everyone that’s going to eat is done eating,” Hoseok said with a glance around the room. There’re quite a few humans here this time, all gushing about this like it’s the English royal wedding and the Bachelor mixed into one. Hoseok glances at his watch, then at all the cameras.

“Why? You feel antsy?” Changkyun asked.

“I just don’t like all the cameras on me,” Hoseok whispered back. Changkyun nods and turns around to say it to Kihyun, but Kihyun holds his hand up.

“I can hear, you know,” he said with a smile. Changkyun smiled back. Kihyun stood, and the whole room went silent. Changkyun’s ears are ringing, not even listening to Kihyun’s pre-written speech about everything, how well it had gone, how he had chosen someone already. He is blushing, and everyone is cooing, awing. He barely hears Jooheon titter softly in his ear over the pounding of his own heart. He wonders if Kihyun would propose, if he would think to do that at all. When he hears a scream, he assumes it’s from applause or joy because he’s that happy. It takes moments for him to realize it’s not.

“Traitors!”

“Changkyun!”

And then a gunshot. And Jooheon’s in front of him. The long table flips, and Changkyun doesn’t know how he’s gotten here, staring at his bleeding honey on the ground. He hears lots of screams, but he doesn’t hear his own. And Jooheon is shaking and bleeding and there’s so much, too much, and a it’s blooming thing from his chest. He sees Hoseok’s pale hands holding Jooheon’s face, and his face is terror and his mouth is torn apart in a scream that Changkyun can’t hear anymore. He blinks and the world turns so slow as he looks at Kihyun.

Sweet, gentle, loving Kihyun. Eyes wide and crimson as he falls next to Changkyun and presses his hands hard into the rose of blood forming on Jooheon’s chest. Yelling, but Changkyun can’t hear it. Everything had been finally falling into place, and now. Now.

Changkyun knows Jooheon is dying, and he feels like death too, doesn’t feel his own heart beating in his head anymore. Changkyun reaches and grabs Kihyun’s face, and he knows he’s saying the words, can feel his mouth moving, but no sound reaches him. He watches tears fall down Kihyun’s face as he says the only thing he can.

Please please please.

And Kihyun shuts his eyes because he understands. He can never say no to Changkyun. So he leans down over the bloom of Jooheon’s chest and for the first time in a long time, tastes human blood.

Jooheon is so pale. And his eyes keep trying to shut, but Hoseok is staring into his eyes, trying to keep him awake. Changkyun’s hearing clicks back as he sees Kihyun bite down on his wrist and press it against Jooheon’s lips.

You never die. I fill you back up with me instead. I cut myself open and let you drink from me, replace everything I took with bits of me instead.

Changkyun is an empty teacup with a hole at the bottom. He watches the love of his life bring his best friend back from the brink of death. Metal clangs onto the ground, and Jooheon’s eyes turn crimson, matching Kihyun’s. And Changkyun can see it happen, can see the moment when Jooheon looks up into Kihyun’s eyes like the universe is reflected in them.

“Blood, he needs blood.”

Changkyun watches Hoseok push his wrist in front of Jooheon’s mouth. Jooheon bites into him, and Hoseok is smiling down at him, his tears hitting Jooheon’s face as Jooheon feeds for the first time.

“Get him out of here!”

Changkyun feels arms gather around him, and he panics, shaking his head. He reaches for Jooheon, thrashing, elbowing, and the arms disappear. Changkyun grips onto Jooheon’s hand, and Jooheon squeezes back.

It feels like an apology.

It feels like the screams that Changkyun didn’t hear himself make.

It feels like watching something precious go up in flames.

Changkyun looks up at Kihyun, and Kihyun is sobbing into his palms. And Changkyun wants to beg again, make him look at him, make him promise all over again, but his throat is slammed shut. Changkyun thinks about promises and what they mean. Jooheon squeezes his hand again, and Changkyun tries to smile at him, tries to be encouraging because at least he hasn’t lost him. He looks down at Jooheon and remembers how Kihyun would’ve described him if it had been him. If it had still been clicked into place. If everything hadn't been broken into a million pieces.

Perfect and only masterpiece.

Chapter Text

Changkyun wondered if this is what Tinkerbell feels like when she’s dying from lack of attention. This empty hollow feeling. He doesn’t cry anymore. Doesn’t have any tears left for it. He hasn’t left his room since he had to be dragged there, kicking and screaming away from Jooheon and Kihyun. Hakyeon had held him tight and told him that it’d be better soon, he just had to give it time. But Changkyun knows. Kihyun explained it so well to him. He knows that Jooheon is in love with Kihyun now, has to be. Changkyun doesn’t regret it. He needed to save him. That was the only way Jooheon could continue to live. It was worth it.

Or so he has to remind himself every day.

It’d been days now. He knows because Jaehwan comes by with food every once in a while, one for each meal. He had stopped keeping track at nine. He hadn’t eaten much of it anyway. Jaehwan would only pout at him as he picked up plates full of food. He wished someone would talk to him. Anyone, but mainly Kihyun or Jooheon. The only piece of communication he’s had was one little note, scribbled on a scrap of paper, delivered on top of a cookie by Jaehwan the day after it all happened.

We’ll figure this out. -Ki

That was all he had to go on. Everything he had. He knew that Kihyun was probably dealing with Jooheon, so he tried to give them time. He tried to understand. But everything still hurt. He holds the little scrap of paper in his hand as he stares at the ceiling, trying to find a way to believe the words on it.

A knock, and Hakyeon walked in. “Okay, Changkyun, you need to clean up, come on.” Changkyun whined as Hakyeon walked over and picked him up out of bed. He didn’t fight as Hakyeon walked him to the bathroom and sat him down on the toilet. He fills the tub before he turns and undresses Changkyun. He tests the water, and satisfied, he gestures toward it. When Changkyun didn’t move from his spot, he picked him up again before sitting him in the tub. Hakyeon is gentle as he scrubs the filth from Changkyun’s body, scrunching up his nose when he realizes his fingernails still have crusted up blood under them.

“Why do I need to be clean?” Changkyun asked. His voice is gruff with disuse. He reached up and rubbed at his throat. Hakyeon poured water over his back.

“I think you’d like to be presentable before you go see Kihyun,” Hakyeon said softly. Changkyun looked at him, his heart feeling like it’s stirring to life again for the first time since it happened.

“Please don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not lying. Now come on, look up so I can wash the shampoo out.” Changkyun tilted his head back and Hakyeon’s fingers pressed into his scalp and rinsed away the shampoo.

“How is he doing? Jooheon?” Changkyun asked.

“He’s doing…okay.”

“And Kihyun?”

“He’s…Kihyun.”

“Hm.”

“I’m sorry.” Changkyun didn’t know what Hakyeon was apologizing for. Hakyeon stood up and helped him out of the tub and before wrapping a towel around him. Changkyun feels like a bag of sand.

“What about Hoseok?” he asked, trying to make himself feel real again. Hakyeon let out a breath, slow between his teeth.

“How have you been feeling, Changkyun?”

“Like shit.”

“Yeah, Hoseok said the same thing.”

“We should be happy, right?”

“Hm?”

“Jooheon’s alive. He didn’t die. The guy who tried to…to kill me is gone.”

“Yes.”

“Then why do I feel like shit?”

Hakyeon sighed. He dragged Changkyun back out to the bedroom, sat him up on the bed before he started searching through the drawers. “I think it’s not my place to tell you why when you know.” Hakyeon dropped clothes in Changkyun’s lap. Changkyun stared at them for a moment before he threw them across the room. He jumped out of bed and ripped all his sheets off and threw them at the ground. He threw his pillows hard against the wall. He hears Hakyeon sigh somewhere in his room, and then arms are around his middle, and suddenly he has tears to cry again. He falls forward sobbing again, but Hakyeon holds him up.

“Shh, I know, I know,” Hakyeon whispered. Changkyun shook his head.

“He was mine. All mine,” Changkyun sobbed out. Hakyeon turned him around and pulled him into his chest.

“I know, Changkyun. He still loves you so much, and he wants to see you and-“

“H-He didn’t come. I th-thought he’d come, and he l-left me here a-all alone, and J-jooheon almost d-died! Dead, Hakyeon!”

“Changkyun.”

“Kihyun will never be with me again! He’s not like you! He only. Only wanted one. O-one. Perfect and o-only.” Changkyun shoved Hakyeon back and wiped at his face. Saying it out loud made it real. Muck cleaned out from inside of him and spilled on his shoes.

“Changkyun, please at least get dressed. I feel weird trying to comfort you when you’re still naked,” Hakyeon said with a small smile. Changkyun glares at him but takes the clothes when Hakyeon hands them to him. He gets dressed and sighs. It’s the first time he’s felt clean in a while. Hakyeon hugged him again, and Changkyun buried his face in his chest.

“At least see what Kihyun has to say first, okay?” Hakyeon said, ruffling at Changkyun’s hair. Changkyun sniffed, feels tight like his skin isn’t really his anymore. He nods and lets Hakyeon lead him out of his room for the first time in days.

+++

Changkyun knew this wouldn’t be fun as soon as he stepped into the meeting room and saw Hoseok sitting there, his head down as he stared at the table. He bit his lip as he walked over and sat down next to him. Hoseok didn’t look up. Chankyun swallowed.

“Both of us, huh?” he said softly. Hoseok blinked slowly before he looked up at Changkyun. There were ghosts behind his eyes. Changkyun felt himself shiver. Hoseok blinked again before looking back down again.

“Sorry. Yeah, I guess,” Hoseok said softly. His voice was like the mewling of kittens left behind in a box. Changkyun thought it was the saddest noise he’d ever heard.

“Have you…seen either of them?” Changkyun tried. Hoseok simply shook his head. Changkyun bit at his lip again. “Me either. Who’s been taking care of you?”

“Taekwoon made me shower, if that’s what you mean.”

“That is what I mean.” Changkyun tried on a laugh, hoping that it’ll make Hoseok look less haunted. Hoseok looked up at him again. One of the corners of his mouth twitched up in response. Close enough for now.

Changkyun opened his mouth to say something when the door opened. When Kihyun and Jooheon come in and sit down across from them, everything shifts slightly. Hoseok leans a bit forward, toward Jooheon, and Changkyun wonders if he even notices. Changkyun knows he’s staring and moving toward Kihyun because he’s the sun, and Changkyun can’t help but orbit him.

“We...we’re sorry we didn’t come to you sooner, but there were a lot of things we had to sort through before talking to you,” Kihyun said. He’s staring at the wood of the table in front of them but won’t look at them. But Changkyun is looking at them. Looks right at them and sees the way Jooheon is fisting at the hem Kihyun’s shirt, the way he leans toward him like he wants to lay on him but knows he shouldn’t. Changkyun wonders if something completely hollow can ache.

“Kihyun, just talk to us already,” Hoseok said softly. The sound of a kicked puppy. Changkyun swallowed.

Kihyun shut his eyes before he finally tilted his head up to them, took a deep breath, and opened them again. Changkyun thought about how teacups must feel when they shatter.

“By law. By mandate, my first creation is the...is the crown prince,” Kihyun said softly. Jooheon blinked a few times before staring up at the ceiling. “And if he turns someone now, they’ll be next in line after him.”

Changkyun can hear the breath leave Hoseok. He looked over, and Hoseok is staring at Jooheon, at his jaw because Jooheon hasn’t looked down yet, maybe can’t face reality, maybe wishing the world would swallow him whole. Changkyun sighed and rubbed his palm into his eye.

“Okay. So I won’t be prince,” he said. He swallowed even though his mouth was dry. He pushed his hand out toward the middle of the table where Kihyun can reach. “But Kihyun we can still-“

He stopped when he saw Kihyun’s hand twitch on the table. He wanted to reach, but he stopped himself. Something ached again inside Changkyun, and he’s frustrated because he can’t understand why Kihyun won’t just hold his hand. His eyes stung. “Kihyun?”

Kihyun sighed. He runs his hand through his hair, and Jooheon shuddered slightly. He’s still staring at a spot on the wall behind them, refusing to look.

“We can talk about that later when we can be alone, okay?” Kihyun asked. He stared hard at Changkyun, eyes a bit desperate, so Changkyun nodded.  

Changkyun wanted to be hollow again, he wanted to be a sturdy stump in the forest, dead but always there. “I...I love you,” Changkyun said. His voice is airy and soft and barely exists, but everyone hears it. Kihyun glanced over at Jooheon, gnawing at his lip, and Changkyun’s hand is left there in the middle of the table. He can feel it almost sinking into the wood.

“The offer we made before. About staying and advising. It’s still there. We don’t want either of you to leave,” Kihyun said.

“You thought we’d leave?” Hoseok said. His eyes are trained on the slope of Jooheon’s neck, willing him to just look at him for even a second.

Kihyun licked his lips. “We thought it could be a possibility.”

Changkyun twitched. Ached. This isn’t Kihyun. This is His Royal Highness, the King. He wants to tear everything in this room apart. His Kihyun wouldn’t be asking him to be an advisor. Changkyun can feel the implication. He’d stay a human and advise. He squeezed his hands into a fist. He shook his head. He had to be thinking too much about it. He had to be wrong.

“Honey, how are you doing?” Changkyun asked. He can’t deal with Kihyun right now because he knows he’ll say something he’ll regret. He turned to his best friend because he knew that he wouldn’t be different. He sees Jooheon’s adam’s apple bob in his throat before he finally looks down at him. His eyes are puffy like he’s been crying for a while, but he smiled at Changkyun anyway.

“I’m okay,” he barely said. His eyes scream at Changkyun. The way he looked at him when they had locked themselves out of the apartment after a night out once. Or when they’re at a club and a guy is getting way too touchy, and Jooheon wants to run away. Hopeless. Trapped. Changkyun shifted his hand over to be in front of Jooheon, and Jooheon instantly grabbed it, interlacing their fingers together. Changkyun smiled like nothing has changed.

“We would have talked to you sooner, but we couldn’t. It’d be dangerous, especially since you let him feed on you after he was changed,” Kihyun said. Hoseok lets out two puffs of breath. A sad little laugh.

“Of course, I let him. Why wouldn’t I?” he asked. Jooheon winced like someone raised their hand to smack him.

“You’re lucky you’re alive,” Kihyun said. Jooheon shuts his eyes tight like there’s a ringing in his ears. Maybe there is.

Hoseok shrugged. “He was dying, Kihyun. I couldn’t let him die.”

Jooheon’s body kicked like he’s trying to hold back a sob, and he squeezed Changkyun’s hand so tight that Changkyun yelled a bit. Jooheon yanked his hands away and put them in his lap, staring at them like they don’t belong to him. Kihyun took them instead, squeezed them, traced his thumb against them. Changkyun wished he could rip out his own heart.

“Why would it be so dangerous?” Changkyun asked.

Kihyun blinked at him. “Young vampires don’t have as much self-control. And while we could protect you, I don’t think Jooheon would’ve wanted you to see him like that. Hell, it’s still dangerous, but we couldn’t. We couldn’t wait anymore. We had to tell you. We still want you here. Both of you. We care about you both.”

Changkyun registered the words in his head. Care about you not love you.

“Are you going to avoid us again after we leave this room?” Changkyun asked. He wished there was more fire in his voice. More venom. But he thinks he’s starting to sound like a kicked puppy, too.

Jooheon sighed. He licked his lips and swallowed. “It’s…hard. So hard. I don’t want to avoid you. You’re my best friend. But I just-“

“What about me?” Hoseok asked. Jooheon deflated. He still hasn’t looked at him, Changkyun realized.

“It’d be dangerous for you, too. Especially since you already let me drink so much,” Jooheon said. It sounds rehearsed. Hoseok leans forward, upper body almost lying in the table.

“But you stopped yourself then, didn’t you? How could you do that when you supposedly had no self-control?” Hoseok asked.

Jooheon blinked, and then he looked at Kihyun. Changkyun wants to scream that this is wrong. That Jooheon had never once looked at Kihyun like that, and Changkyun always had. He wants to go back to when Kihyun would press his palm against his chest gently. Back before he curled his fingers around his heart and squeezed.

“We were all shocked by that, too,” Kihyun said. Hoseok didn’t look at Kihyun. He stared at Jooheon and Jooheon only. Like he wouldn’t believe anything unless it came from him.

“I couldn't kill you,” Jooheon whispered out. He looked at Hoseok, and Changkyun knew there were still stars in his eyes when they looked at each other. They still orbited around each other. And then Changkyun felt worse because his best friend is so in love, so disgustingly in love with two people. Hoseok shuddered out a breath.

“I love you, you know? I’d go to the ends of the earth for you,” Hoseok said. Jooheon’s face scrunched up.

“Look, I love you, too, but I can still…I can still taste it. And you’re sitting there, and I love you, but something in me still…I don’t want to hurt you,” he said. Kihyun squeezed Jooheon’s hand tight.

So Jooheon could say it, but Kihyun wouldn’t. Changkyun opened his mouth to let more air into his lungs, and Kihyun looked at him. Changkyun slammed his jaws shut. Kihyun looked like he was in pain, his face pinched slightly. Changkyun felt the words bubble up in his throat. He wondered if they would still work.

Instead he stands up, hand landing on Hoseok’s shoulder. “What are we trying to say here? I’m just so. Confused.”

“We need time, Changkyun. We’re sorry, but we need a bit more time,” Kihyun said. Hoseok stood up, sighing. He and Changkyun looked at each other. They were both still sad.

“Fine. I can give you time. Take care of my Honey, okay? I can’t do it, now, so you better keep him together,” Changkyun said. Jooheon smiled a little, at least for a moment. Kihyun just nodded.

“Let’s go,” Hoseok said, pushing a bit at Changkyun’s side. His eyes are filling up with tears, and Changkyun gets the message.  

“Wait! Um, here, take this,” Kihyun said. Kihyun stood and Jooheon gets dragged into his orbit because he’s the sun, and how could he not? He held out a piece of paper, folded up small, and waved it at Changkyun. Changkyun snatched it out of his hand and stuffed it into his pocket before he pulled Hoseok behind him, walking out of the room. From the corner of his eyes, he can see Jooheon collapse forward onto Kihyun’s chest and shudder.

+++

“I need to get the fuck out of this place for a while,” Changkyun said. They’re lying on Hoseok’s bed, staring up at the ceiling. Hoseok hummed next to him. The note is still in his pocket. He’s afraid to look at it. “I need air. I need to just. Wanna go to a club with me?”

“A club?” Hoseok asked. Changkyun sat up and looked down at him.

“Yeah. I need. I don’t usually, but I need a drink and music and-“

“To forget,” Hoseok finished.

Changkyun shuddered out a breath before he popped his lips. “Yep.”

“Shouldn’t we tell someone?”

“I guess Taekwoon and Hongbin. They didn’t...you know?” Didn’t just tell us to wait on them forever. Didn’t make us feel however we’re feeling right now.

“Yeah. Yeah, sounds good.” Hoseok’s voice was still barely there like he doesn’t quite believe he’s real.

“Should we invite Hyungwon?”

Hoseok shifted. “He’s probably. I mean, he still has...and we’re so…”

“You make a valid point.”

“But we should probably be polite anyway,” Hoseok said. Changkyun scoffed.

“I’ll be lovely to Hyungwon, sure. Hyungwon is adorable,” he said as he took out his phone to send him a text. Changkyun stretched before hopping out of bed. “Hoseok, will you let me dress you? I just need something to do.”

“Yeah, sounds fun,” Hoseok replied. Changkyun went to Hoseok’s closet and looked through it, pulling out some clothes and laying it on the bed next to Hoseok. Hoseok laid there for a second before pushing himself up and looking at the clothes. His tight torn jeans and a black tank top. Changkyun turned around while Hoseok got dressed, turning back around to evaluate his choices. Hoseok looked at himself in the mirror. Changkyun hovered behind him.

“You look good,” he said. Hoseok nodded. “Can I do your makeup too?” Changkyun asked. Hoseok nodded again as he let Changkyun pull him to his vanity. He tries not to think at all, just lets everything go through the motions. Close eyes, look up, smile for the blush. Hoseok goes through the motions easily. When he looked at himself in the mirror after, he knew Changkyun had done a great job. He had covered up the black bags under his eyes, put color back on his pale cheeks. Made him look alive again.

“Okay, I need to go to my room to get ready, you want to come with me?” Changkyun asked. And Hoseok nodded, getting up, let Changkyun take him to his room. He watched him go through outfits and makeup options for a while before he finally declared he was ready. Changkyun is wearing tight black skinny jeans and an oversized black graphic hoodie. When he asked if he looked good, Hoseok just nods again.

Taekwoon and Hongbin and Hyungwon show up in a few minutes, dressed to go out. They all looked at Changkyun and Hoseok with sad eyes, with pity, and Changkyun hated it so much. Hongbin ruffled his hair but didn’t say anything. Taekwoon patted at Hoseok’s shoulder. Changkyun is suddenly glad they invited the least emotional ones, the ones that wouldn’t prod or poke at their fragile hearts with questions and feelings. They’re there to protect them in the club, maybe have fun with them, and that’s it. Their little raggedy crew goes out on the town, silent in the car.

+++

Changkyun and Hoseok were already drunk as they took another shot of tequila together. Hyungwon was hovering around them, trying to shove water down their throats after every drink they had. Changkyun liked that. Liked that someone cared about them and wanted to take care of them. Taekwoon and Hongbin were very busy glaring at anyone that comes within five feet of them, hissing and showing fangs like they already claimed them and weren’t planning on sharing anytime soon.

Changkyun wasn’t happy, but he could pretend to be. He made jokes and yelled and was a mess and Hoseok laughed at him, smiled at him, played into the illusion that this is all normal and okay and fun.

Changkyun wasn’t thinking about Kihyun at all. Nope. Not once. Not even a little bit. He’s not thinking about the note he left on his dresser, still unopened and unread.

The song changed, and Changkyun felt it pound up from his feet to the top of his head, and he grabbed Hoseok and pulled him out to the dance floor. They held each other’s hands as they jumped around and twirled and stumbled and laughed.

Changkyun wasn’t happy, but he could pretend.

They danced and laughed and smiled. But Changkyun can still see the ghosts in Hoseok’s eyes when they both let the facade fade a little. Changkyun wondered if there were phantoms in his head too, if Hoseok could see his. Maybe they can only see each other’s because they know. They both know. They’re the only ones that know.

Changkyun let Hoseok throw his arms around his neck as a grimy slimy song came on, and they swayed together, the smell of tequila stinging their noses. Changkyun squeezed Hoseok’s massive shoulders.

“Do you think we’ll remember this tomorrow?” He yelled over the music. Hoseok laughs. It’s hollow, and it aches.

“I’ve never blacked out before,” Hoseok said with a wink. Changkyun giggled before smacking his chest.

“I’ll still remember too!” Changkyun said.

“Good.”

“Remember everything.”

Hoseok tilted his head to the side, smile still present. “Not as good,” he decided.

Changkyun swallowed. “Yeah, yeah. Not as good.”

Hoseok let out a laugh from his chest. Like shattered glass instead of joy. “I hate it so much,” Hoseok said. He’s still smiling. He’s not happy, but he was pretending to be.

“I hate it, too,” Changkyun admitted. They stopped swaying, holding each other at arm’s length. Hoseok is haunted, Changkyun knows, but maybe so is he. They have ghouls in their gazes. Ghosts in the attic. Changkyun sighed out. Maybe they can exorcise them together.

Changkyun swayed forward, and Hoseok caught him, hugged him to his chest. It shakes in a sad little laugh again. He looked up at Hoseok and smiled, going up on his toes. Hoseok smiled back. And they’re drunk and they’re hollow and they ache.

Changkyun kissed Hoseok on the cheek before hugging him close. Like he would kiss and hug Jooheon. Hoseok hummed. They were standing in the middle of a dance floor, just hugging each other tight. They stay like that until they both start giggling. Like they are full and whole and happy.

Because they’re not happy, but they can pretend to be.

+++

Hongbin had ended up having to piggy-back Changkyun back to his room. “Did you have fun tonight, kid?” Hongbin asked.

“As much fun as possible,” Changkyun mumbled. His cheek was pressed against Hongbin’s shoulder. “Thanks for taking care of us.”

“No problem. Now come on, get off and sit on the bed.”

Changkyun opened his eyes and let himself slide off of Hongbin’s back onto the bed. He sighed, rubbing at his face. “Why can’t I lay down?”

“I’m not leaving until you at least chug two glasses of water and take some pain meds. I don’t want you to be fucking miserable tomorrow morning.” Hongbin walked over to the mini-fridge in the room and pulled out two water bottles. He put one on the nightstand and handed one to Changkyun. Changkyun rolled his eyes but took it anyway.

“I’ll be fucking miserable tomorrow morning no matter what,” he replied. He opened the water bottle and drank from it. He hadn’t realized how dry his throat had been until then. He drank down almost half the bottle before he pulled it away from his lips. Hongbin was frowning at him. “What?”

“You know that’s not what I meant,” Hongbin said. Changkyun shrugged.

“Yeah, well. Whatever.” He drank from the bottle again.

“If you need to talk-“

“I don’t wanna fucking talk.”

Hongbin sighed and nodded. “Fine. Do you remember where Hakyeon put the first aid kit in here?”

Changkyun pointed to the dresser as he finished up the bottle and crushed it in his hand. Hongbin walked over to the dresser and opened up the top cabinet. He took out the first aid kit and pulled out the bottle of Ibuprofen. Changkyun sighed and stared up at the ceiling. He didn’t feel as drunk, but his body still felt heavy and tired. He just wanted to be left alone to sleep.

“What’s this?” Hongbin asked. Changkyun looked at him. The note was sitting on his open palm, holding it out toward him. Changkyun wanted to curse.

“Why the fuck-“

“I just saw it. I can put it back.”

“No! Just. Here, give it,” Changkyun said. He held his hand out, and Hongbin dropped it into his hand. Changkyun dropped it onto the bed next to him. “Now, give me the meds, I can feel the headache about to start.”

Hongbin handed Changkyun two pills. Changkyun swallowed them down with a big gulp of water. It was quiet for a little while, Hongbin staring around the room.

“You think you can go to bed without throwing up?” he asked.

Changkyun rubbed at his face again and shrugged. “I don’t know. I never know.”

Hongbin laughed a little before ruffling Changkyun’s hair again. “If you need me for anything. Or any of us. We’re here for you. We’ve all grown to really like you guys, you know,” Hongbin said.

Changkyun took a deep breath and nodded. “I know.”

“I’ll let you get to bed, then. If you need anything, just yell. I’ll hear it.”

Changkyun chuckled and looked up at him. Hongbin smiled at him. He squeezed Changkyun’s shoulder once before he walked out. Changkyun watched him leave. Then he looked down at the note.

It was written on the same papers Kihyun had written his love letters on instead of normal notebook paper. Changkyun crossed his legs as he picked up and played with it in his hands. He didn’t want to, but he should. He had always been so excited to read Kihyun’s letters.

He took a deep breath before he slowly unfolded it, spreading it open with his fingers against the mattress. He closed his eyes for a second, counted to three, and then read it.

I love you. I’ll go to you as soon as I can, please just wait for me. I love you. I know it’s hard, but I’m not going to give up on this. On us. Jooheon needs me, and I can’t abandon him. I can’t be that person. But we’ll figure this mess out. Because it’s you. It’s still you. It’s always been you.

I love you.

Wait for me.

Please please please.

-Ki

Changkyun sniffed. He read it over and over again. He hadn’t said the words earlier, and it had hurt, but they were there, written in Kihyun’s pretty hand-writing. He picked it up and pressed it to his chest, right over his heart. It wasn’t enough to pull him out of his misery, but it was something. A step toward a light. He laid down, still holding the note. He sniffed and wiped at his face. He was too tired to deal with any of it. Any of this. He pushed the note under his pillow and curled up.

He bit his lip and turned onto his back. He rubbed at his eyes. “I love you, too, Ki. So fucking much,” he said into the emptiness of his room. He hoped that somewhere in the palace, Kihyun could hear him.

 

Chapter Text

Please please please.

Jooheon hears the words echo in his head constantly. Every time he looks at Kihyun and feels like the world stops, he hears them. Changkyun screaming and begging to save him. Jiminy Cricket has nothing on his conscience. His has teeth and they’re always at his throat, threatening to tear him limb from limb.

Jooheon’s head is always pounding. When he’s trying to listen to Hyunwoo and Hakyeon talk about the country, when Kihyun is telling him what his new duties as Prince are, when he’s sitting in the shower, trying to hold back the tears, he can always hear them. He never knew how loud hearts could be. He had wondered how the vampires could pick them out by their heartbeats, but he knows now. Has Hoseok’s heartbeat memorized and branded into his skin. He listens for it at night when he wishes he could sleep instead of staring up at the ceiling of Kihyun’s bedroom. When Hoseok is sleeping, his heart says maybe maybe. Maybe maybe. Or at least that’s how it sounds to Jooheon. He doesn’t ask Kihyun if hearts can have voices. He doesn’t want to seem crazy.

He doesn’t want to think about what Hoseok’s heart is contemplating.

Changkyun’s heart is louder, or maybe Jooheon can pick it up easier. Subconsciously already knows it from years of falling asleep curled up on his chest. He knows Kihyun called it a moth in a box, but Jooheon can only hear it in words. Come come, come come. If things were different, Jooheon would’ve told Changkyun, and they all would’ve laughed. God, even your heart’s just trying to get off. But he knows it’s a question. A request. A request that’s being ignored.

Hyungwon’s is fascinating to Jooheon because it has two words. Run and home. Sometimes it’s run home, run home. Sometimes it’s run run run. Most of the time it’s home home home. Jooheon thanks God that at least one of them was left unscathed. One of them is living a dream and not this. He listens for it when he needs to calm down, when he needs a reminder that the entire world isn’t actually falling apart.

Jooheon craves lots of things that he hates himself for. He hates the way his skin sometimes feels too hot until he’s touching Kihyun. He hates how he feels his chest fill up with light whenever he looks at Kihyun. He tries to remember what Kihyun’s smile is like because he’s not happy, and he can’t pretend to be. He hasn’t smiled since it happened. Not when he tries to reassure Jooheon that it’ll all be okay. Not when he talks to Minhyuk. Not when he holds Jooheon to his chest and kisses his forehead like a parent would kiss his child’s doll.

It hurts Jooheon. Because he can’t pretend to be happy either.

Most of all, Jooheon hates how much he wants Kihyun. The love, he had been warned about, but not this. Not this aching need that Kihyun has to fill. Whenever they have sex, Jooheon feels like his mind is going to boil over and spill out of every orifice he has. Because he needs it. Needs to feel Kihyun’s skin on his and the feeling of becoming one for just a moment. Kihyun says not to worry because that need doesn’t last long, and it sounds like a promise that there’s going to be a time that’s the last time. It tears Jooheon apart inside. Kihyun always does it as quickly as possible from behind. They never look at each other during. One time, Jooheon caught a glimpse of him in the mirror and saw that Kihyun’s eyes were shut tight and his head was tilted back at the ceiling like he wanted to be as far away from Jooheon as possible. Jooheon shuts his eyes, too. He paints the back of his eyelids with Hoseok and remembers how his blood tasted a bit like strawberries and a bit like peaches and warm like love. Like mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. Like home. When Jooheon comes he whispers I love you I love you I love you. He doesn’t know who he’s saying it to because the masterpiece he painted for himself always has flickers of Kihyun. Kihyun always kisses between his shoulders with puckered and closed lips, and then goes to scrub himself clean in the shower. Jooheon knows he’ll never get the stain of guilt off his body, but he lets him try. Because he wants Kihyun to be happy. He loves him so much, he wants to see him smile and laugh like he used to with Changkyun. And then he feels sick all over again for feeling that way. It’s a strange type of love. Emotions caused by something physical instead of something physical caused by emotions.

Jooheon stared at the ceiling of Kihyun’s bedroom and listened to the shower turn off. He sat up to face the bathroom door, heart heavy and painful in his chest because he knows how beautiful Kihyun is when he steps out of the shower, still bare and toweling off his head, toned and somehow a bit relaxed. Jooheon cleared his throat, and Kihyun looked at him.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

Maybe maybe. “Can...can we talk?”

Kihyun nodded as he pulled a pair of boxers on before sitting on the bed in front of Jooheon. Jooheon reached his hands out toward him, and Kihyun took them, fumbling a bit as he intertwined their fingers. It still feels awkward. They haven’t figured out how to hold each other’s hands yet.

“What’s up?” Kihyun asked.

“I want you to be honest with me,” Jooheon said. Kihyun clicked his tongue in his mouth, lips already pulling together into a tight line.

“Okay,” he answered.

“Why won’t you go to Changkyun and see him?” Kihyun shut his eyes. Jooheon feels like a part of him just got smacked, and he knows it’s because that’s how Kihyun feels. Jooheon wriggled uncomfortably. “I know that...you think about him whenever we...whenever we do this.” Jooheon’s voice was quiet when he said it. He’s never said it aloud, and the words taste like bitter tea.

Kihyun opened his eyes and looked at him. “I can’t yet.”

“Why not? He makes you so happy. You make him happy. I hate knowing my best friend is miserable, you know.”

“Because. It’d just…” Kihyun smacked his lips. Swallowed. “...it’d just hurt you, Jooheon.”

Jooheon immediately shook his head. “No! No, it wouldn’t. I’d understand.”

Kihyun looked at him, contemplating for a moment. “I love Changkyun so much,” he said softly.

Jooheon feels gutted in an instant. His breath leaves him in a slow long hiss. It aches in his rib cage and tears come to his eyes. He looks at Kihyun, confused, angry, because it’s not Kihyun’s emotions welling up inside him now, it’s his own. Kihyun sighed before he pulled Jooheon to his chest and kissed his forehead.

“See? It hurts you,” he whispered.

“W-why? Won’t this fade some too? Like the other things,” Jooheon asked. He felt Kihyun rub up and down his back. It feels like the center of the universe is wherever he touches.

“It does, but not for a while,” Kihyun replied.

“How did you-“

“Because my maker didn’t love me. Not really. He just thought I was pretty. He was in love with his queen. And seeing them together tore me to pieces. Whenever he sent me away to be with her, I would cry and shake until he asked for me to come back.”

“But. You don’t-“  Love me. Jooheon can’t finish the sentence because the words have thorns that stick to his throat.

“I know. I’m sorry,” Kihyun said.

“I still love Hoseok,” Jooheon said suddenly. Those words don’t hurt. Kihyun hummed, played with his hair the wrong way, trying to twirl his fingers into it when Jooheon preferred scratches. He knows Changkyun loves fingers twirled in his hair. 

“Do you think you’re ready to go be alone with him?” Kihyun asked.

Jooheon bit his lip. “Maybe? I want to see him. It’s been so long. I miss him so much.”

“Then go be with him. If you think shit might go down, just yell.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?” Kihyun looked down at him.  

“It won’t hurt you? Like it hurts me?”

A deep breath. “Not at all.”

Jooheon wanted to scream at how unfair that is. Because some sick part of him wanted it to hurt Kihyun, wanted Kihyun to ache for him like he did. But he knows Kihyun does ache. Aches like a wound that won’t heal because you keep tearing it open again. Just not for him.

“If I go to see Hoseok, and you don’t go to see Changkyun, it’d tear him apart. I can’t do that to him, Kihyun,” Jooheon said. He pushed himself back out of Kihyun’s grasp, tried to put distance between them again because it still feels wrong.

 “It’ll hurt you,” Kihyun repeated. He leaned back on his arms and sighed.

Come come.

“He just wants you to go to him. I know him, Kihyun. I’ve been there every time a guy ghosted him, or he broke up with his boyfriend.”

Kihyun’s eyes narrowed. “I am not ghosting him.”

“He beats himself up for it. And then he gets hyper-fixated on fucking anything to try to distract himself from his emotions, and it’s not good for him. I know everyone is checking in on him and Hoseok all the time, but it’s not the same. I know he wants to see you. Talk to you.”

“I just don’t-“

“You love him so much,” Jooheon croaked out. Pushed it past the thorns and it feels easier. Like ripping off a bandaid.

Kihyun took a deep breath.

“I do.” Something crackled inside Jooheon again, but he tried to ignore it.

“Look, if we’re going to do this, we need to do it together, at the same time. I don’t know what the fuck we’re going to do, but we need to be talking to them to even start trying to figure things out.”

Kihyun sighed and leaned forward again, nodding. “Okay. Then what do you suggest we do?”

“Simple. I’ll love Hoseok while you go be in love with Changkyun.” Jooheon could feel tears well up in his eyes now, but he doesn’t want to think about why. He wiped at them with the back of his hand, frustrated. Kihyun looked at him, searching his face. He watched as fat tears roll down Jooheon’s cheeks. He sighed and reached out to wipe them away with his thumbs. He hated seeing him so upset.

“If it hurts too much, you have to tell me,” Kihyun said. He leaned forward and kissed Jooheon’s forehead again. Jooheon smiled at him in response.

Guilt, to Jooheon, sounds an awful lot like please please please. So he doesn’t try to kiss Kihyun even though he could, even though he wants to. He wondered what his own heart would’ve sounded like in his ears. As he curled up on Kihyun’s chest for the night, he thought that maybe it would’ve just screamed help me.

+++

Misery is a type of gravity for two lost moons floating in the universe. It’s hollow, and it aches, but it’s something to hold on to for now. They had gone through the hopeful phase, where they thought each day would be the day they showed up. They had made it past the phase where they were angry, yelling and ranting about being kept in the dark, being made to wait without any sign of them ever coming. Now they had settled to a type of resignation. Hoseok and Changkyun are miserable, but they’re miserable together because if they weren’t, they’d go insane. At least they can make each other laugh. It’s always hollow and strange and foreign, but they laugh a lot. Bitter.

“God, look at this idiot,” Changkyun said as he pointed out somebody in PUBG running around in the open. Hoseok sat in a chair next to him, watching the screen and laughing.

“He’s going to get himself killed,” Hoseok commented.

“Yeah, by me,” Changkyun said with a grin toward Hoseok. He grinned back, wondering when the adorable puppy he had first met turned into this wolfish thing. He laid his head on Changkyun’s shoulder, and he watched him snipe the other player.

“Nice,” Hoseok said.

“Thanks.” Changkyun leaned his head against Hoseok’s. They let silence fall over them for a while. This was routine now. Changkyun playing video games, and Hoseok watching to numb themselves. They keep going until they’re both about to pass out from fatigue, and then they go to their own beds to sleep for a while. They can’t go to bed before then because they don’t want to deal with their own thoughts. They’ve created a tiny micro-universe between them, just them and the misery that has become the center of it. They set it up perfectly, so they don’t have to think at all about the holes in their hearts. They get visitors sometimes, like falling stars, but never the ones they want.

The door opened behind them, and neither of them even flinch or move, frozen in position. Hoseok only looked when he heard the person clear their throat behind them. Taekwoon was standing there, his hands in front of him. Hoseok put on a grin like a mask.

“Hey, Taek. What’s up? Don’t mind Changkyun, he’s a bit busy.”

“Hey, um, Hoseok, could you come outside for a second with me?” Taekwoon asked in his soft little voice. Hoseok’s grin slipped off his face as he turned to look at Changkyun. They can’t stray too far. They might get sucked into a black hole. Changkyun glanced at him and nodded a little. Hoseok peeled himself away from Changkyun’s side and followed Taekwoon out.

“Where are we going?” Hoseok asked.

“Kitchen.”

“Why?”

“Just. Because.” Taekwoon is a terrible liar, but Hoseok lets it slide. Mainly because this is the most interesting thing he’s done since they went to the club a few weeks ago. He lets silence overtake them because he knows Taekwoon likes silence. When they got to the kitchen door, Taekwoon held it open for him. Hoseok quirked his eyes up at him before walking into the kitchen, and he looked up.

Misery was a gravity, but Jooheon is still his sun. He’s sitting on the counter, biting at his lip, and Hoseok has to force himself to stand still, to not get pulled in. But God, how is he supposed to breathe when even the air in the room gets pulled toward Jooheon and away from him? He hears the kitchen door close somewhere behind him, and he knows Taekwoon is gone. He was just a messenger anyway.

Jooheon drummed his fingers on the counter before he let out a puff of air. It’s almost a chuckle, but it’s not. And it pulled on Hoseok’s weaker gravity, pulled him a step forward before Hoseok caught himself again.

“I…I know you may not want to see me-“

“I always want to see you,” Hoseok said because he has to tell the truth. The truth keeps his feet planted. Jooheon smiled a little before he looked down.

“I missed you so much, Hoseok.”

“Me too. So much.” Hoseok took another tentative step forward. Jooheon looked back up at him, and there were tears in his eyes. Hoseok frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Can you. Can we. Here?” Jooheon said as he reached his hand out toward Hoseok. And just like that, Hoseok is pulled into Jooheon’s orbit. He closed the distance, and their hands touched, and Hoseok’s heart stirred back to life in his chest. Maybe maybe maybe.

Jooheon grabbed onto Hoseok’s hand and pulled him in between his legs and buried his face in Hoseok’s neck, breathed him in and sobbed. Hoseok instantly wrapped his arms around Jooheon, hands twisting in the back of his shirt. “Hey, shh, it’s okay, please don’t cry,” Hoseok whispered, burying his nose in the spot behind Jooheon’s ear. It almost feels like before. Jooheon in his arms, breathing him in. Except Jooheon feels so cold now. And he’s never cried in Hoseok’s arms before.

It was quiet for a while except for Jooheon’s sniffling. And Hoseok let himself hope that things could be normal again. That he could go back to orbiting the sun instead of his own misery. Because Jooheon was in his arms again, and that’s all he wanted.

“I’m so sorry. I’ve been so horrible. I should’ve talked to you somehow. I should’ve found a way without putting you in danger. I’m sorry.”

“Hey, it’s okay. I understand. You’ve been through a lot.” Jooheon laughed a little, and it almost feels like home again. Like Hoseok is only a block away from the front door, and he just needs to walk a bit more to get there. Jooheon pulled his head up, but he doesn’t pull out of Hoseok’s arms. Jooheon’s fingers pressed into Hoseok’s face gently, like he can’t really believe he’s real.

“It’s not okay, but we’ll work on that,” Jooheon said.

“We? As in you and me? Being together?” Hoseok asked. He’s smiling a bit, trying to joke.

Jooheon smiled back. “Yeah. You and me together. I love you, Hoseok. I want to be with you.”

Hoseok sighed out before he grabbed Jooheon’s shirt and pulled him closer. Jooheon’s eyes are wide until their lips touch, and Jooheon realizes he hasn’t been breathing properly for weeks. Hasn’t taken a full breath since the change. He sighs into Hoseok’s mouth as he feels Hoseok’s hand go up into his hair and plays with it the right way, scratching gently at the back of his scalp. Jooheon moaned and pressed forward, opening his mouth, and it’s a promise again. Hoseok slid his tongue across his lips before pushing further in.

Hoseok lets himself hope because this always felt right. Him and Jooheon, together. Everything else was just details.

+++

Changkyun rolled his shoulders as he watched the game he lost continue on, waiting to see the resolution. It’d been a while since Hoseok left, but Changkyun tried not to think about it. He’d come back eventually. There was a knock on the door, and Changkyun hummed.

“You know you don’t have to knock, Hoseok,” he said.

“It’s not Hoseok.”

Changkyun froze as his heart dropped all the way down to his toes before jumping back up to his throat. He scrambled up to his feet and turned around, and Kihyun really was standing there at his door. Shy, like when he dropped him off after their first date. Changkyun let out a breath.

“Kihyun. Hi.”

“May I come in?” Kihyun asked. Changkyun scrunched up his nose at him and nodded.

“Yeah. Yeah, of course.”

Kihyun walked in and closed the door behind him. Changkyun’s heart felt like a moth again. He wants to grab Kihyun’s hand and press it to his chest to show him. Look! It still remembers you! See? I do love you, please stop testing me, please please please.

Kihyun looked around the room like it’s the first time he’s seeing it. Changkyun shuffled on his feet, not knowing how to stand still anymore. Kihyun was still the same, and Changkyun shouldn’t have been surprised but he was. He feels like he looks different now when he looks in the mirror. He thought it would show on everyone, but Kihyun was the same. Still standing perfectly straight like he has a book on his head, still taking completely silent steps, still the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

“How are you?” Kihyun asked. Changkyun laughed a little.

“Really? That’s what you’re asking me?”

Kihyun sighed, his palms open and forward. “Yes. I want to hear it.”

Changkyun took a deep breath. Looked at the ground. “What should I say, Kihyun?” He hears Kihyun take a deep breath. His lip wobbled at the sound.

“The truth,” Kihyun said softly.

Changkyun cleared his throat. He balled his hands into fists. “Do you really want that?” Kihyun was right in front of him now. Changkyun was staring right at his feet.

Kihyun sighed again, long and sad. “Yeah. I think I need to hear it.”

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. “I feel like I’m falling constantly, and I’d love to hit the bottom, so I don’t have to feel anymore.”

“Changkyun.”

“I hate everything, hate every bit of this, but I sure as hell don’t hate you. And I kinda wish I hated you the most.”

“Kyun.”

I’m hollow, and I ache. Fill me back up again, please please please. “It feels like you don’t love me anymore.”

“I do love you.”

Changkyun looked up at Kihyun. He let out a breath. He felt like he was going to lose his mind because Kihyun was so close to him, the closest they’ve been in so fucking long, and he still loves him. And then Changkyun wanted to scream. He shoved at Kihyun’s chest. Kihyun took a step back even though the shove didn’t phase him.

“Then how could you do this to me? You left me. I could’ve been rotting away by now, and you wouldn’t have fucking known!”

Kihyun just stared at him, his face stoic. Changkyun grit his teeth and shoved at him again.

“I don’t know what happened to you before, but it doesn’t fucking justify this. I know that Jooheon needs you, and I’m okay with that because I love Jooheon, too, but you need to fucking talk to me!”

“Changkyun.”

“No! Shut the fuck up and listen to me!” Changkyun yelled. He felt the moisture on his cheeks and decided that now is not the time to think about it. Kihyun’s eyes were wide as he stared at Changkyun, and everything still fucking hurt, but Changkyun had an emotion to cling to now, so he let it fill him up like scalding tea in an empty tea cup. “I was going to give up everything for you. Everything! And you literally wrote me two notes like that would be fine. Like I didn’t mean anything at all to you. It’s been weeks, Kihyun. Weeks! And I’m here like an idiot reading the same note over and over again. We were supposed to be together forever. And you…you…” Changkyun folded, shuddering. He didn’t know where he was going with this anymore. He just felt. Felt everything. Felt too much. And the words mixed with the stinging feeling of bile that he swallowed back down. Please please please.

And then Kihyun’s arms were around him, holding him up, and Changkyun finally let himself become boneless because he knew Kihyun would be there. He buried his face in Kihyun’s shoulder and let himself sob again for the first time in a long time. Let himself feel again.

Kihyun held him close, one hand playing with his hair, the other on his lower back, pulling him in. Kihyun sighed. “Changkyun, please look at me? Please? I’m sorry. I know one note was not enough, but I really couldn’t leave before now and…look at me?” he asked softly. Changkyun sniffed, rubbing his face into Kihyun’s shirt before looking up, face puffy and red. They stared at each other for a moment. Kihyun licked his lips, and then he moved in and kissed him.

Changkyun knew he should’ve still been angry. Should’ve pushed Kihyun away. But he didn’t want to think. He just wanted to feel. And Kihyun still felt so good. Changkyun kissed back and moaned, gripping into Kihyun like the world would end if he let go.

He didn’t mean to end up like this. One little kiss, and they were ripping each other’s clothes off. It had been so long. They had been so frustrated. And Changkyun just wanted. Wanted Kihyun more than anything in the entire world. They were on Changkyun’s bed and pulling and scratching and grabbing. Everything was messy as Kihyun poured out the majority of what was left in the forgotten bottle of lube tucked away in Changkyun’s drawer. And when Kihyun was finally inside of Changkyun, Changkyun cried. They were a meteor shower and a mushroom cloud at once. Kihyun kept their lips pressed together, and Changkyun wrapped himself around Kihyun, keeping him close, as close as possible. Because this felt different than all the other times. Kihyun fucked him fast and hard, both of them panting into each other’s mouths. Changkyun felt dizzy, world spinning from the sheer amount of things he felt.

Kihyun traced his lips all over Changkyun’s face and neck and shoulders, and Changkyun felt like he was his again. He cried and told him over and over again I love you I love you I love you.

When Changkyun was on the precipice and about to tip over he begged like he always did, hoping that Kihyun would know what he was asking for like he always seemed to.

Please. Please. Please.

Kihyun sank his fangs into Changkyun’s neck, and Changkyun screamed as the world turned to white and everything went still. He came harder than he ever had before as Kihyun drank him in, chasing after his own orgasm.

Changkyun whimpered as Kihyun licked at the spot he bit.

“I-I’m sorry. I just got…caught up,” Kihyun whispered. He was still laying on top of Changkyun, face buried in his collarbone. Changkyun hummed, dragging his hands up Kihyun’s back.

“It’s okay. I liked it.”

“I finally come here to talk to you, and all I do is fuck you and drink from you,” Kihyun groaned. Changkyun squeezed Kihyun closer to him.

“We can still talk. I think we just…tension and all that,” he whispered.

“I’m a shitty boyfriend.”

Changkyun snorted a little and wrapped his arms around Kihyun’s shoulders. It felt so good to have him in his arms again. “I would try to comfort you, but you kinda haven’t even been a boyfriend,” Changkyun joked. Kihyun chuckled a little before pushing himself up enough to hover over Changkyun’s face.

“I couldn’t leave until Jooheon could handle himself, but you’re right. I should’ve sent you letters or something. Told you something. Anything. But I was afraid you wouldn’t want to see me.”

Changkyun tilted his head up at him. He ran his fingers through Kihyun’s hair, brushing it back to expose his forehead. “Why?”

“Because I had to make you wait for so long. Because I made you wait period.”

Changkyun bit his lip. “It fucking sucked. Me and Hoseok had no idea if we were supposed to wait days or months or years.”

Kihyun frowned. He leaned down and kissed Changkyun again, and Changkyun pushed up into the kiss. Like drinking water after walking in the desert for so long.

“I know I was wrong, and we still need to figure a lot of things out, but I love you, Changkyun. And I know I don’t deserve it, but I’m asking for your forgiveness. For you to take me back. For you to still be with me.”

Changkyun was breathless as he looked up at Kihyun. They were still pressed together, covered in sweat and sex, and Changkyun still felt hurt, still ached deep inside of him, but not as bad. He squeezed Kihyun’s sides.

“Why didn’t you say it that day? All I wanted was for you to tell me you loved me back, and you didn’t,” Changkyun whispered. Kihyun frowned again as he twirled his fingers into Changkyun’s hair.

“If I had, then I wouldn’t have been taking care of Jooheon. It hurts to not have someone love you back, but it’s worse when they love someone else, you know? It would’ve physically pained him. It does physically pain him.”

Changkyun’s eyes widened. “Oh. Oh my God. That must…wow.”

“Yeah.”

“Shit. I didn’t even-“

“But he’s not here right now, and I can say it. I love you.”

Changkyun blinked a few times before nodding. “I love you too.”

And if there was only one truth in the world that mattered, that was it. Changkyun wrapped his arms around Kihyun and pulled him down on top of him. He kissed him over and over again, and everything felt like before, clicking into place more and more.

Reality was something they would face when they left the comfort of his sheets, but for now they just let themselves be together and be in love.

Chapter Text

Hyungwon and his heart had always been a flight risk. He always felt like he was trying to find a home, run away from horrid reality and find home. He never really settled because home was just an illusion anyway, he had convinced himself. Home is nothing. Just a word.

But Minhyuk and Hyunwoo felt like home. Now whenever his heart yelled at him to run home he had a heading. He ran straight for Minhyuk’s waiting arms and Hyunwoo’s broad chest. And he settled. He thinks it’s the first time he’s ever been able to fully relax. Like he can finally slump down and be lazy and calm for the first time.

He hoped that they loved him, too. Hyungwon kept the word love puffed up like air in his cheek. He’s never wanted to say it before, so he doesn’t know how to. Just hoped that one day Minhyuk or Hyunwoo would kiss his face, smile, and say it first. Then he could just ride the wave and say it back. Hyungwon wondered what their faces would look like. Wondered if they would smother him with love immediately after.

Hyungwon never feels more alive than when he’s surrounded by his loves, vampires, certain death if they wanted to be. But they never felt like that. They were always gentle and loving and careful even when Hyungwon didn’t want them to be. Ever since that night at the club, they hadn’t fed from him. Hadn’t let him see their crimson eyes. Hyungwon can still feel the spot on his neck, rubs at it every time he feels restless.

At the very least they help distract him. There’s a lot happening all the time now. Hyungwon always listened to the news and heard all about the things Hyunwoo and Minhyuk whispered about when they thought he was asleep. News like: there were no deaths at the terror attack in Wallachia, but one injury. King Kihyun and Crown Prince Jooheon make first official appearance together. King Kihyun sees attack as isolated incident and not a declaration of war. Hyungwon isn’t stupid. He was there. He saw his three newest and closest friends all fall to pieces in a matter of minutes. He tried to help as much as he could, be there for them as much as he could. But he’s a flight-risk when things start to get messy. So he runs home to Minhyuk and Hyunwoo, and they help him feel normal, like he isn’t seconds away from falling apart with everyone else.

They came in late one night, trying to sneak in, but Hyungwon was awake. He was restless. Gasping and sweating and so startled when the door opened. His heart was pounding, but when he saw them it got worse, changing rhythms. Home home home. They call him baby, and it feels like love. Like it’s his because they don’t ever call each other baby. Hyungwon doesn’t know what’s different about tonight. Why they look so exhausted when they walk in or why their eyes turn crimson as soon as they take a deep enough breath. All he knows is that the shiver up his spine isn’t fear at all.

Sometimes Hyungwon forgets that he’s constantly surrounded by vampires. But when Minhyuk and Hyunwoo were on him in an instant, he knew he’d never forget again. The way they tore their own clothes off, how cold they were against his skin, the noises that came from deep in their throats that made Hyungwon feel like he’s lost in the forest. The hands on him pressed and squeezed, and he moaned because it felt like love to be touched like this.

They sat him up, and Minhyuk slotted himself behind him while Hyunwoo stayed in front of him. Hyunwoo’s lips were full and plump and wet. They felt like silk against his lips, his jaw, his throat. Minhyuk’s mouth and tongue spanned across Hyungwon’s back and shoulders. It was already so much. Hyungwon had been close, so close, and then it all got interrupted. Now the hands and mouths he had been imagining were real against his skin, teasing and needy, and they want him. And Hyungwon wanted them, too. Wanted to go back to the time he always thought about when he got himself off, the moment that changed everything, the moment he found home.

It was torture, slow and dreadful and delicious as they fill him up, both of them. Everything was overwhelming, and Hyungwon was practically delirious at every sensation. Stretched, full, burning. Hyungwon was a trembling leaf in the wind with Hyunwoo on top of him, and Minhyuk beneath him, and he still felt restless, still wanted more. He asked, begged, cried, and shuddered in their hold. And then he saw the hesitation in Hyunwoo’s gaze as it flickered past him to Minhyuk. And the hesitation felt like love, too.

Hyungwon felt tiny between them. He watched Hyunwoo come down to kiss him, gentle, so gentle. Everyone stilled. And then Hyungwon let his head fall to the side when he saw Hyunwoo’s fangs. When Hyunwoo sunk his fangs into him, Hyungwon lost himself entirely. Doesn’t know where their bodies end and his begins. It was enough, finally finally enough, and then Minhyuk moved.

Hyungwon yelled and screamed and cried because there was so much. He couldn’t focus on anything, couldn’t pick a sensation to feel, couldn’t think a coherent thought. And in the mess of limbs and bodies and heat and blood something comes out loud and clear.

Home home home. And then it all goes black.

When Hyungwon returned back to his body, he felt clean and warm and soft. His head was pillowed on Hyunwoo’s chest, and Minhyuk’s head was on Hyunwoo’s shoulder. Two left arms around his torso. And that felt like love.

“Hey, baby. You okay?” Minhyuk asked. Hyungwon blinked up at them. And he has never been good at this because he’s never done it before.

“I love you both so much,” he said before his flight-risk of a heart could take it all back, make him too scared to admit it. And Hyunwoo and Minhyuk smiled at him.

“We love you, too, Hyungwon,” Minhyuk said.

“So much,” Hyunwoo added.

And Hyungwon giggled before he sunk his head back down onto Hyunwoo’s chest, in the only place that had ever felt right, like home. It felt like love because it was.

+++

Kihyun felt warm as he watched Changkyun sleep on his chest. He tasted like citrus after all. Kihyun licked at his teeth to remember the flavor, to keep it on his tongue longer. It tasted like sunshine. Changkyun sniffled, his face scrunching up a little until his eyes opened up at him, dewy, new. Lovely.

“Good morning,” Kihyun said with a smile. It was real, and it felt foreign, but it was right. Changkyun smiled back.

“Good morning,” Changkyun answered. He reached up to rub at his eyes, and Kihyun forgot about everything. He returned to before when they were each other’s, and that was all that mattered. He sat up, pulling Changkyun up with him. Changkyun giggled and straddled him.

“What time is it?” Changkyun asked.

“Does it matter?” Kihyun’s thumbs rubbed into his hips. Changkyun closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against Kihyun’s before he giggled.

“It does. I need to eat breakfast and shower and-“

“We can do that all from right here, probably.”

“Ki, shut up, you’re being ridiculous,” Changkyun said with a slap to his chest. He laughed, and it made Kihyun kiss him again because, God, he loved him so much. Missed him so much. His laugh and his face and his warmth.

“Fine, fine, at least let me just…” Kihyun whispered before he reached down between them and wrapped his fingers around Changkyun, stroked the half-hard length in his hand. Changkyun’s breath hitched.

“You’re really going for morning sex, right now?” Changkyun asked, voice breathless. Kihyun smiled.

“Mhm. Need to make up for lost time.” Kihyun kissed at the place on Changkyun’s neck where he bit him before, tasted him before, and the memory of lemons and oranges runs over his taste buds again. He sucked against the spot because he didn’t leave a mark before, not really, and he wants Changkyun to be marked up by him, by his lips.

Changkyun moaned and grinded into Kihyun’s hand and against his hips. He always wants Kihyun, is always begging for him with all his being. Kihyun palmed at him as he reached for the lube, bright and happy at this, at their closeness, at how Changkyun kept kissing at his neck and jaw. He still feels stretched and ready for him after last night, and the noise that escaped Changkyun’s mouth was relieved, calm.

“God, you feel so good,” Kihyun whispered against the skin of Changkyun’s chest.

“Fuck, yeah, you too,” Changkyun whispered as he started to rock up and down on Kihyun. Their lips found each other again, and they clung to each other. Hope tastes like Changkyun’s lips and citrus and love. It sounds like a moth beating its wings in a glass box. It feels like bare chests pushed together.

Changkyun grinded down onto Kihyun, and groaned, and it felt so fucking right. Kihyun knew they were meant to be, to be together, and nothing could get between them, nothing at all.

“Changkyun! I miss you! We should-“

The door opened, and the whole world stops for a second. Then Kihyun pulled Changkyun to his chest and pulled the covers over them. “Shit,” Kihyun groaned. Changkyun giggled because of course they would get interrupted. Of course. He pulled out of Kihyun’s grip and turned to smile at Jooheon.

“We’re a bit busy, honey, I’m –“ Changkyun’s smile stopped when he got a good look at Jooheon. His lips were wobbling, and his eyes were shut tight. He was cringing like he was in pain. Kihyun could hear Changkyun’s heartrate tick up in concern.

“I’m leaving. S-sorry, I’m. Sorry,” Jooheon whispered out before he ran off. Changkyun turned to Kihyun.

“Fuck, I forgot, he probably…shit” he said.

“Shit,” Kihyun said back. He looked down at Changkyun, and there’re so many feelings there in his eyes. Kihyun can almost feel him be physically torn apart. Kihyun sighed. “Baby,” he said. Changkyun’s expression steeled itself before he rolled off Kihyun’s lap and plopped down next to him.

“Go take care of him, please. He looked so upset,” Changkyun said softly. Kihyun rubbed his palms into his eyes before getting out of bed and yanking his clothes back on. He could feel Changkyun’s eyes on him as he muttered under his breath, curses and anger and sighs. Kihyun leaned on the bed again before looking at Changkyun.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Just please make him feel better,” Changkyun said. He smiled, too. Sad and confusing. Kihyun sighed before kissing him. And then he was gone.

Changkyun fell back onto the bed and pulled at the strings of his emotions, trying to untangle them. He understands, he does. He needed Jooheon alive, and he had to be Kihyun’s to save him. He doesn’t know how anyone does it, how anyone can share their sunshine so easily with someone else. But then Changkyun remembers.

He gets up and gets ready for the day. He has a plan, people to see, people to talk to. And he thinks that maybe, he’ll find the hope again after.

+++

“Jooheon, I didn’t know you would-“

“I- ‘m not m-mad just. J-just h-huuurts,” Jooheon tried to explain. He was curled up on Kihyun’s bed, face buried in one of Kihyun’s pillows, breathing in his scent. It made it hurt less. Kihyun sighed as he walked over and sat on the bed next to him. He pulled Jooheon’s head into his lap and twirled his fingers in his hair.

“I know, Jooheon, I know.” Kihyun hates this. Hates how much pain he can see in Jooheon’s face. He feels like he’s looking back in time, another version of himself from long ago. Jooheon looked up at him, and Kihyun bit his lip. He thinks about all the things that made him feel better all those years ago and considers them one by one. He can hear Changkyun’s words echoing in his head. Just make him feel better.

“’M sorry, Ki. I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Jooheon said after a while. His voice is barely a whisper. Kihyun sighed.

“It happens. You’re just used to just walking into Changkyun’s room, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Just. Knock next time?”

“You look at him during.” Jooheon licked his lips, and Kihyun felt it again. The guilt covering his body like a stain. Jooheon gives him a broken little smile. “It’s sweet.”

“Come here,” Kihyun said, pulling Jooheon up into his lap, like he did with Changkyun earlier. Jooheon buried his face in Kihyun’s shoulder and laughed.

“This is so fucked.”

“Yeah. Yeah, it is, but do you feel better?” Kihyun asked. He squeezed Jooheon closer, closing his eyes as he tried to still taste the citrus in his mouth.

“A little. Doesn’t ache as much.”

“How was Hoseok?”

Jooheon smiled as he nuzzled into Kihyun’s shoulder. This is all fucked. “He’s fine. We’re fine.”

“Good. I’m glad.”

“We talked about it, and he understands. He’s okay with it. Everything.” Kihyun took a deep breath. He listened for Changkyun’s heart in the distance, letting the faint, muffled sound fill him up. He really is happy for Jooheon. If he has hope, then he can have hope, too.

“I knew Hoseok would. He loves you a lot,” Kihyun said.

“What about you and Changkyun?” Jooeheon rolled his shoulders like he’s sore somewhere. Kihyun looked at him. Jooheon tried to smile again. “I felt it, you know, how happy you were.”

“Jooheon.”

“Kihyun.”

“I know it’s literally hurting you to talk about it. You don’t have to.”

“I have to. I can’t pretend you aren’t in love with him,” Jooheon grumbled. He pressed his nose to Kihyun’s neck and breathed in. He still smelled like Changkyun.

“You’re just working yourself back up again,” Kihyun whispered. He sighed and pulled Jooheon away from him a bit, enough to look into his eyes. They were still wet and wide and so fucking sad. Kihyun bit his lip. Just make him feel better. “I can…I can do something to make you feel better?” he offered.

Jooheon swallowed. “You can?”

Kihyun nodded a little. “It’s only temporary. Like a bandage. But it’ll make it stop hurting so bad right now.”

Jooheon sighed. “Yeah. I want that.” Kihyun took a deep breath before he ghosted his thumbs over Jooheon’s cheeks. Jooheon relaxed, closing his eyes. Kihyun tilted Jooheon’s face to the side a bit, leaned in and kissed his cheek before he moved down a bit. He sunk his fangs into Jooheon in the spot where his neck and jaw meet. Jooheon let out a little whine before his whole body went lax. Kihyun drank, feeling the last lingering bits of citrus fade away and be replaced with the salty caramel that is Jooheon before he pulls away, licking at the bite mark. It’s Kihyun proving to Jooheon, to his body, that he’s claimed, wanted, his.

Jooheon was smiling at Kihyun, the pinched feeling of pain gone from his face. And Kihyun sighed out, relieved. So very fucked. He had promised to take care of Jooheon. Promised Changkyun. He didn’t intend to break that promise.

+++

Days later, things feel better. Still strange. Still off. Like they’re all doing a carefully choreographed dance to survive. But Changkyun was happy because he would get to see Jooheon, get to hang out with him, get to be with his best friend for the first time in what feels like forever. Changkyun and Jooheon were sitting on the bed together. Jooheon was smiling all big as Changkyun squished at his cheeks. It almost felt like before. Like old times.

“I missed you and your squishy cheeks,” Changkyun giggled.

“Hey, my cheeks aren’t that squishy,” Jooheon said as he swatted Changkyun’s hands away.

“I’m sure Hoseok loves your squishy cheeks,” Changkyun said with one final pinch and a wink before letting his hands drop. Jooheon laughed again, and Changkyun felt like they were at home again, not a care in the world.

“Hoseok would never call them squishy,” Jooheon said. Changkyun squinted his eyes at him before tackling Jooheon back onto the bed. Jooheon let himself fall, and Changkyun tangled their legs together like they always had.

“I had almost forgotten,” Changkyun whispered. Jooheon took a deep breath, let it puff up his cheeks before blowing it back out again.

“Yeah. Me too.” He hugged Changkyun, squeezed him tight. Come come, come come.

“How’s being the prince? You’re always running all over the place now.”

“It’s…weird. Busy. Meeting people. Getting lectured about all kinds of myths and legends and shit by Hyunwoo. Vampires have a lot of shit going on, obvious. But, hey. At least I look good in all the suits, right?”

Changkyun poked his tongue against the inside of his cheek before he smiled. “You always look great. Whenever Hyungwon shows us the pictures from the news me and Hoseok are always squealing over them.” Jooheon smiled, nosing at the top of Changkyun’s head. Changkyun hummed a bit, poking at Jooheon’s arm.

“Of course, you two are,” Jooheon said. Changkyun laughed because it’s normal. It’s normal because Changkyun is careful not to mention Kihyun at all. He doesn’t want to see Jooheon’s face collapse again like it did that morning. It’s all a part of the dance.

“How are you and Hoseok, though? Is he annoyed at me for stealing you away today?”

“How can he be? You’re like, the two most important people in the world to me.” Changkyun grunted in response. The third most important person is left floating somewhere between them, and they both choose to ignore it.

“Well, good. I don’t want your boyfriend mad at me.” Changkyun bit at his lip because he didn’t know how to talk about it. He’s still treading water, staying up late, going to the goddamn library that he didn’t even know was here five days ago, probably reading all about they same myths that Jooheon had been complaining about.

“You know, sometimes I wonder if that stupid lemon lotion you use so much literally seeped into your bloodstream,” Jooheon said, pulling Changkyun back to right now.

“Really? Why?”

Jooheon scrunched his nose up. “You smell like it. All citrusy.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“No idea. But really, maybe stop using that lotion for a while.” Jooheon poked at Changkyun’s forehead. Changkyun giggled before he buried his head in Jooheon’s shoulder. Jooheon chuckled.

“Would…your boyfriend be bothered by us cuddling like this, though?” Jooheon asked after a while. Changkyun bit his lip and shook his head.

“Me and you are a package deal. Always have been, always will be. And we’ve been cuddling for literal years at this point.”

Jooheon laughed a little. “Hm. That’s good to know.”

“So, what do you wanna do?”

“I haven’t played PUBG in a minute,” Jooheon said with a smile.

“Fuck yeah.” Changkyun leapt off the bed and went to his computer. Jooheon hurried after him, and they were happy again because they always managed to make each other happy. He and Jooheon would always be best friends, and Changkyun would never regret anything. Because at least he and Jooheon would never change. Not really. Even if all the things he learned were just myths and legends after all. Even if there was no way to fix this.

But Changkyun was getting more and more sure every day that passed, that there was.

His hope was tiny and prickly, but it was his, and he was not letting it go. Even if he was keeping secrets. Even if he was bursting at the seams to tell Kihyun and Jooheon. He couldn’t let them hope, too. Then it would hurt too much if he was wrong. He smiled down his secrets and played with Jooheon.

Chapter Text

“Hakyeon, can I talk to you for a second?” Kihyun said as he walked into the kitchen where Hakyeon was watching Taekwoon cook dinner. Hakyeon blinked slowly before turning toward Kihyun. He leaned against the counter.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Alone,” Kihyun clarified. Hakyeon raised an eyebrow but followed Kihyun out to the empty dining room anyway.

“Okay. So we’re alone. Mind telling me what’s on your mind?”

“What are you and Changkyun doing?” Kihyun asked. He had his arms crossed across his chest and his jaw was set. Hakyeon looked at him and laughed.

“Are you…serious right now?”

Kihyun’s expression didn’t change. “You smell like him.”

Hakyeon chuckled again, slightly exasperated. “We…hugged?”

“Why?”

“Come on, Ki, you know him well enough to know that he loves hugs.”

“But why are you guys hanging out so much?” Kihyun was whining now, and Hakyeon suddenly feels his age weigh down on his shoulders.

“Kihyun, what exactly is the issue exactly?”

“I just want to know what the hell is going on in my palace, you know. My library especially.”

Hakyeon laughed before he put his hands on Kihyun’s shoulders. “Kihyun, Changkyun is a curious guy. He just wanted to do something other than play video games, so he asked me for help since I’m the only one that even goes in there.”

Kihyun’s eyes narrowed. “Helping him with what?”

“He wants to know about vampire history, I guess. He and Jooheon were asking Wonsik and Hongbin about it before they even came here,” Hakyeon said. He let his hands slide off Kihyun’s shoulders. Kihyun looked down at the ground before sighing.

“Okay, yeah, I guess.”

Hakyeon rolled his eyes. “I have five whole entire lovers, and you think I’m going after Changkyun.”

“Hakyeon. You have five lovers.”

“Okay, valid, but I’d be an idiot to try to be trying to get into Changkyun’s pants in the fucking library of all places.”

Kihyun nodded a bit before opening his eyes wide at Hakyeon. “Wait, didn’t you see him naked?”

“Goodbye, Kihyun.” Hakyeon waved with both hands and a smile before he walked back to the kitchen. Kihyun sighed. He wondered why Changkyun was suddenly studying so seriously. He closed his eyes and listened for Changkyun’s heartbeat before following the noise to find him.

Changkyun and Jooheon were yelling and having fun in Changkyun’s room, and Kihyun instantly felt bad as soon as he walked up to the door because he heard Jooheon instantly get quiet inside. Fuck.

“Kihyun’s outside,” Jooheon said quietly.

“What?”

“Outside the door.”

“Is it your curfew or something?” Changkyun laughed. Kihyun smiled to himself at the sound.

“I don’t know, but he’s definitely just standing outside listening to us now.”

Thanks, Jooheon.

“Kihyun! We know you’re out there!” Changkyun called. Kihyun sighed before he walked into the room.

“Hey guys.” Kihyun hovered in the doorway. He watched as Changkyun and Jooheon finished up their game before they turned around to look at him. Kihyun licked his lips.

“What’s up?” Jooheon asked. Kihyun looked at him and lifted the corner of his mouth a bit before glancing over at Changkyun and then back at Jooheon. He watched Jooheon deflate a little, and Kihyun can feel his palms itch with guilt again.

“I was just…checking to see what you guys were up to,” Kihyun said, lamely. Jooheon bit his lip as he got up.

“I was just heading out. Gotta go see Hoseok, you know,” Jooheon said. He doesn’t look at Kihyun anymore.

“Aw, okay. See you later?” Changkyun said with a huge pout. Jooheon smiled at him and pinched his cheek.

“Of course. See you.” Jooheon walked carefully past Kihyun and out the door. Kihyun’s palm itched until he heard the door click behind him.

“We told you we were going to try to hang out,” Changkyun said, pout still on his mouth. Kihyun walked over and pressed his thumb lightly against Changkyun’s lips.

“I know. I’m sorry, but I wanted to talk to you,” Kihyun said. Changkyun puckered his lips against Kihyun’s thumb before smiling up at him. Kihyun smiled back.

“About what?”

“You’re in the library a lot, and I was wondering what you were reading about.”

“That’s why you came up here?” Changkyun grabbed Kihyun’s hand and pulled it down to his lap. Kihyun leaned forward and kissed Changkyun’s forehead.

“Yeah, that’s why I came up here.”

Changkyun shrugged. “Just stuff. History of vampires and stuff is interesting.”

“You know, funny thing. Your heartbeat speeds up when you lie.”

“It also speeds up when you touch me.” Changkyun squeezed his hand before bringing it up to his chest. Kihyun pressed his palm against him, right over his heart. Changkyun smiled up at him.

“It feels like you’re keeping secrets from me,” Kihyun said. He heard Changkyun’s heart skip a beat before Changkyun shook his head up at him.

“I’m not. It’s just…not that interesting.”

“Hm.”

“Did Jooheon really go to Hoseok? Or is he sad somewhere by himself?” Changkyun asked. Kihyun notes how he’s changing the subject. There was genuine concern in Changkyuns eyes, though, so he lets it go.

Kihyun tilted his head a bit and listened. Past the moth fluttering in front of him he can hear two other hearts. He focuses in on them, blocking out the sound of Changkyun. He heard Hoseok’s heartbeat, and much more faintly, because he’s listening for it, the whispering murmur of Jooheon’s. Kihyun nodded. “Yeah, they’re together.”

“Good. I hate it when he gets all…sad like that.” Changkyun chewed on the inside of his cheek.

“I hate it, too,” Kihyun said softly. Every time he saw Jooheon’s frown it always made him feel awful. Like he was the worst maker in the world. Like he was just like the one who made him. Kihyun poked at Changkyun’s cheek to stop himself from going too far down that train of thought. Changkyun sighed before he shook his head and stood up. He kissed Kihyun before he smiled.

“Are you going to spend the night, then? I wasn’t really expecting you, but here you are,” Changkyun asked.

Kihyun smiled as he pulled Changkyun closer, squeezing his hips. Because being close to Changkyun could make everything else irrelevant. “I want to. If you’ll let me.”

Changkyun wrapped his arms around Kihyun’s neck and kissed his nose. Kihyun giggled a bit before pressing their foreheads together. He moved a hand up between them and pressed it against Changkyun’s chest again. Changkyun hummed a bit before he looked down.

“If…if you could make Jooheon feel better forever, would you?” Changkyun asked. Kihyun blinked a few times. He tilted his head a bit. He had no idea where this was coming from.

“Am I still in love with you in this scenario?” Kihyun asked, carefully. Changkyun nodded. Kihyun licked his lips and nodded back. He’d be honest, even if he could feel Changkyun’s heart doing all kinds of flips and flops under his palm. “Then I’d do it. In a heartbeat.”

“Do you even have a heartbeat?” Changkyun laughed, and it was gravity pulling Kihyun to his lips again.

“Barely,” Kihyun whispered between a giggle. He pulled Changkyun’s hand up to his chest and pressed it hard against him. Changkyun swallowed and stared at his own hand, tongue poking out between his lips as he concentrated for a while before shaking his head a little.

“I can’t feel it,” he said. He pouted at Kihyun, and Kihyun subconsciously pouted back. He squeezed Changkyun’s hand in his.

“That’s okay. I can make you feel other things instead,” Kihyun said. He moved Changkyun’s hand up to his mouth and sucked at the pad of his pointer finger. Changkyun’s heart pounded in Kihyun’s ears, and it made Kihyun shiver. Guilt is a thing that only exists when he’s staring it in the face. And when he’s with Changkyun, there’s only light and love and the want he had kept locked away.

+++

Hoseok hugged Jooheon tight, kissing his shoulder. Jooheon nuzzled against Hoseok’s neck, sighing deep. Hoseok rubbed his hands up and down Jooheon’s back, a smile playing on his lips.

Jooheon came to be with him all the time now. As often as he could. He had even started spending nights with him. It was more than Hoseok had expected, honestly. But he was grateful. He was always grateful for every second they were together because even if things weren’t the same, Hoseok couldn’t help but think about how it could’ve been. Even if Jooheon’s skin was cold, and he had to go off to do official things, and he was attached to someone else, at least he was still here. Alive.

Hoseok tried not to think about it as he pulled Jooheon’s chin up. He had been upset when he came today. Hoseok didn’t ask why. He didn’t need to ask why. It was an unspoken thing. If Jooheon was upset when he came, Hoseok just tried to make it better. So Hoseok smiled at him before kissing him lightly.

“I thought you and Changkyun were going to be hanging out all day. Although I can’t say I’m not glad you ended up here instead,” Hoseok said. Jooheon smiled before he kissed Hoseok again.

“Hm. I can’t say I’m too mad either. I missed you. Always miss you.”

“Aw. Cute,” Hoseok joked before peeling himself away from him. He closed the door, and Jooheon went to sit on the bed. Hoseok turned and smiled at him. “In bed already? It’s not even that late.”

“What is late when you don’t need to sleep for days? Besides, I wanna cuddle,” Jooheon said with a pout. Hoseok smiled as he walked over and crawled onto bed. He laid back and held his arms open and then Jooheon found his place there against him, his cheek against Hoseok’s chest.

“I missed you, too, you know,” Hoseok said. He traced his hand up Jooheon’s arm. His skin was so soft. It had always felt so soft.

Jooheon smiled as he looked up at him. “I know, babe.”

“Wanna tell me about that thing you did a few days ago? I don’t remember what you were doing, but you were wearing this navy suit.”

Jooheon licked his lips. “Changkyun told me that the two of you fanboy over me on the news.”

Hoseok laughed, squeezing him closer. “Maybe. But you always look so good, how can I not talk about it?”

“Well, I think I wore the navy suit to the summit on environmentalism or something. Kihyun and Hyunwoo were the ones that had a job. I was just there to smile and look pretty basically.”

Hoseok hummed. “Well, you always look pretty, so it must’ve been easy.”

“Boring. It was boring. I just wanted to be back here with you.” Jooheon leaned up and pressed his lips against Hoseok’s jaw. Hoseok smiled because he believed it. He turned his head down, and Jooheon leaned up again, his lips feather light against his. Jooheon’s hands fisted into Hoseok’s shirt and everything was so quiet.

“I love you,” Hoseok said, his lips still hovering against Jooheon’s. Jooheon melted on top of him.

“I love you, too,” he whispered. Hoseok smiled as he kissed Jooheon again. He loved moments like this. Lazy and slow and delicious. He ran his hand down Jooheon’s arm and intertwined their fingers together.

Jooheon pulled away, huge smile on his face making his eyes disappear into happy little crescents. Hoseok giggled a bit. “So boring?”

“Really boring. Drinks were okay. Nothing as good as the wine we have here, though,” Jooheon said.

Hoseok tilted his head. “You should make that the national wine or something. Doesn’t the crown prince deserve at least that much power?”

Jooheon laughed. “And make everyone want to try it? No thanks, I want it to keep it all to ourselves.”

“All to ourselves, huh?” Hoseok asked, tongue between his teeth.

Jooheon bit his lip. He wrapped his arms around Hoseok and put his chin on his chest. “Can I tell you something?”

“What kind of question is that?”

“I mean, vampire stuff.”

Hoseok grabbed Jooheon’s face and squished his cheeks together. He smiled at the little pout that Jooheon’s lips formed into. “You can tell me anything. That’s kinda the whole point of like…being boyfriends and dating and shit, you know?”

Jooheon shook his head to move Hoseok’s hand away before leaning his head back down against his chest. “What if it’s weird or something? I don’t wanna freak you out.”

“Babe, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m like actually in love with you. You’re a vampire. It’s fine.” Jooheon hummed. He rubbed his cheek against Hoseok’s chest, right over his heart. Hoseok reached up and scratched at the back of his head. “I want you to tell me everything about you.”

Jooheon smiled. He kissed Hoseok’s chest before he looked up at him. “I think your heart literally speaks to me.”

Hoseok scrunched up his nose. “You’re right. Too weird.” Jooheon tapped his chest and laughed. Hoseok wrapped his arms around him and held him tight. “What do you mean it speaks to you?”

Jooheon licked his lips. “It’s like…the rhythm it has. It’s like a voice. And I can hear it.”

“Hm. Let me guess. Does it say ‘Jooheon, Jooheon, Jooheon’?”

Jooheon sputtered out another laugh. “Cheesy. Super cheesy. And lame.”

Hoseok pouted up at him. “It was an honest guess!”

“Sure, it was, babe. Sure.” Jooheon kissed the tip of Hoseok’s nose. “No, it does not say my name.”

Hoseok squirmed a bit. “Then what?”

Jooheon closed his eyes. He titled his head a bit like he was listening. He smiled a bit, small like it was just for himself. Hoseok couldn’t help but smile too.

“Maybe maybe,” Jooheon whispered. Hoseok blinked up at him until Jooheon opened his eyes. He looked down at Hoseok. “What do you think it means?” he asked softly.

Hoseok swallowed as he thought about it. He thought about Jooheon’s confession. I think. Maybe. He smoothed his hands over Jooheon’s shoulders before wrapping his arms around his neck. He licked his lips. “I don’t really know. It could mean lots of things.”

Jooheon is fully laying on top of him now. He still feels cool even through the layers of clothes between them. Hoseok has decided he likes the feeling. The way Jooheon’s body slots against his like it belongs there. That felt right no matter what temperature Jooheon was.

Jooheon grunts. “You have no idea?”

Hoseok shook his head a little. “I have some ideas.”

“Like?”

Hoseok took a deep breath. “Maybe that’s just the way I lived, you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, before I got here nothing was really…stable. Everything was a maybe. Hell, even coming here was a maybe.”

“Mhm.”

“And…then there’s you.”

Jooheon blinked down at him. “Me?”

Hoseok smiled a little, and he shrugged. “Not like that. It’s like…I don’t know what’s going to happen, or how we got here, or anything at all.” Jooheon bit his lip as he nodded, something sad coming over his eyes. Hoseok shook his head a little. “But you’re like the one thing I’m sure of. No matter what. Past all the maybes. I want to be with you.”

Jooheon kissed him. Lips down to jaw. Jaw down to neck. Hoseok closed his eyes and sighed out, letting Jooheon kiss at him. “I wanna be with you, too.”

Hoseok moaned when Jooheon nipped at his throat. “Fuck, babe.”

“You taste like it,” Jooheon whispered out. He pushed Hoseok’s shirt up to kiss at his chest.

“Like what?” When Jooheon looked back up at him, his eyes were red. Hoseok let out a shaky breath. He still thought about the first time he had seen him like that, when he was first changed. It still sends a shiver up Hoseok’s spine, not because he’s scared, but because he can still see it so clearly. The bloom of red on his chest, and then the bloom of red in his eyes. Hoseok closed his eyes and licked his lips. “Taste like what?” he tried again.

“Like strawberries and peaches and wine,” Jooheon whispered.

Maybe Hoseok would still have nightmares sometimes. Maybe Jooheon will have to watch him grow old while he stays just like this. Maybe he’ll choose Kihyun over him. Maybe nothing will ever be perfect again.

But right now, maybe didn’t matter. Maybe doesn’t exist when not even time does. That’s how Hoseok had always felt around Jooheon, and that would never change. Everything got lazy and slow and delicious. Like the taste of strawberries turning into the taste of peaches on the back of his tongue.  

+++

Hongbin had been no help himself. When Changkyun went to him, asking questions, Hongbin just deflected the attention toward everyone else. Changkyun had been annoyed and kept wheedling him until he finally gave him a specific person to go ask his questions to. That was how Changkyun found himself wandering around the palace for a while before he finally just started yelling.

“Taekwoon! Taek? Where are you?” Changkyun called as he walked around the hallways. He had never really found out where their rooms were, and they always told him that if he needed anything he could just yell. Because he was so loud, and vampires are so sensitive, of course, that was more effective than he thought it would be.

“Changkyun, why are you being so…loud?” Taekwoon groaned, suddenly appearing in front of him. Changkyun smiled and grabbed Taekwoon’s hand, making Taekwoon’s eyes get wide.

“Take me to your room. I wanna talk.”

“Um…excuse me?”

“Please please please, Taekwoon. Please?” Changkyun batted his eyes up at Taekwoon. Taekwoon scoffed, but he squeezed Changkyun’s hand.

“Fine, but only because this is the most enthusiasm I’ve seen out of you in a minute. And don’t ever bat your eyelashes up at me like that again, it’s weird,” Taekwoon grumbled. Changkyun smirked up at him as he followed Taekwoon’s lead. They went through hallways he had never been in, stairs he’d never seen, until they finally got to a large room with lots of doors. There was a big mattress and a couch and a television.

“Is this where you all…rest?” Changkyun said, trying to imagine six people piled onto the bed. Taekwoon laughed a little.

“Hakyeon always does. We mostly stay in our rooms, though,” Taekwoon said as he headed for the first door on the left. He held it open for Changkyun, and Changkyun walked into the simple sky-blue room. It was simple. There was a keyboard pressed against one wall, and a shelf full of albums on another. Changkyun whistled as he plopped down on the bed. Taekwoon sighed as he sat down at the chair in front of the keyboard.

“You room is different from what I expected,” Changkyun said as he tried to take in his surroundings. He can’t believe he’s been here for so long, and he had never been in any of these rooms.

“What were you expecting?” Taekwoon asked. He looked around his own room.

Changkyun eyed the walls. “Something much less…bright.”

“I might look like a goth, but that doesn’t mean I want to hang out in a black room.”

“Noted,” Changkyun said, finally turning his gaze back to him. Taekwoon slumped down in his chair and sighed, making himself comfortable.

“Didn’t you want to talk to me about something?” he asked softly.

“Yeah! I just had a few questions,” Changkyun said as he pulled out his phone and opened his notes app. Taekwoon raised a brow as he watched him.

“About?”

“How all of this works. For you guys,” Changkyun said with a vague gesture toward him.

Taekwoon blinked a few times before tilting his head. “What do you mean?”

“Well, Hakyeon made all of you, right?”

Taekwoon licked his lip before nodding. “Yes.”

“And you all get along well. You’re not…Jooheon looked like he was in pain,” Changkyun said softly. Taekwoon’s face softened as he leaned forward in his chair.

“He saw you and Kihyun together?” he asked.

Changkyun nodded. “I didn’t think him loving Kihyun would…affect him like that. Make him hurt if Kihyun was with someone else. I thought it was Kihyun being…”

“Overzealous? Strange? Extra?”

Changkyun raised an eyebrow. “You know extra? I thought you and Hakyeon were like the most grandpa of everyone.”

“Just because we’re old doesn’t mean we can’t hear you guys talk,” Taekwoon said with a laugh.

“Right. Okay, yeah. I thought he was being extra. And then I saw Jooheon, and it all made sense.”

“I can imagine,” Taekwoon said.

Changkyun took a deep breath. “But Hakyeon. He made five of you.”

Taekwoon smiled a bit as he nodded. “It wasn’t always easy, you know. We’ve been through a lot together.”

“Can you tell me about it?” Changkyun kicked his feet a bit, leaning toward Taekwoon like he was afraid he might miss a sound from his soft voice. He let his phone drop back down onto the bed. He had only really made a list out of anxiety.

“About what exactly?” Taekwoon asked.

“Like. How does it work? Didn’t it hurt?”

Taekwoon looked down at the ground and cleared his throat. “I was…I was Hakyeon’s first, you know? He was traveling, and he asked to stay in our farmhouse for the night. My mother was always kind to travelers and let him.” Changkyun’s throat got tight. He didn’t know if he liked where this story seemed to be going. He liked Hakyeon, and he didn’t think he could imagine him being terrifying. Taekwoon chuckled to himself and shook his head, like he knew exactly what Changkyun was thinking. “When I went in the morning to feed the pigs…he was feeding on one of them.”

Changkyun huffed out a laugh. “Oh my god. I can’t even imagine.”

“To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t scream. We just stared at each other, and Hakyeon was freaking out, and I just asked him to take me with him. I didn’t know what had possessed me back then, but now I know that he was a way out. Something fascinating in my boring little farm life,” Taekwoon said. Changkyun smiled to himself at the fond look on Taekwoon’s face.

“So then?” Changkyun urged him on.

Taekwoon shrugged a bit, but he was still smiling. “He taught me how to dance. I taught him how to sing. We fell in love. He changed me, and we were inseparable. We came back to the palace, then. I think Hakyeon was traveling for experience or something. He had bigger aspirations before we met, I think. He never really talked about it, though.”

“So you’ve been here forever?”

“Forever. We were everyone’s favorite couple back then. The whole court would stop to watch us dance. Back when there was a court.” Taekwoon’s nose scrunched before he shook his head. “Fucking ridiculous.” A laugh. Changkyun felt warm from fondness. Any love story reminded him of his own, now. This was no exception. He bit his tongue for a second before he cleared his throat.

“It didn’t stay that way, though?” Changkyun prodded.

“Hm. Hakyeon and I were travelling when we met Jaehwan. He was singing in a city square somewhere. Hakyeon…has a thing for singers. I was insanely jealous. Wanted to leave immediately. But then someone tried to hurt Jaehwan. Steal from him or something. Almost killed him. And he was so small and broken, and Hakyeon needed to save him,” Taekwoon shrugged a bit. “I let him.”

Changkyun shifted a bit, pulling his feet onto the bed. “Did it…did it hurt when Hakyeon made him?” Changkyun’s voice is quiet compared to his heart. Taekwoon had to blink a few times before the question registered in his mind.

“There was like…a moment. When Hakyeon first smiled down at him. It was like all the breath got knocked out of me. And something…” Taekwoon rubbed at his chest like retracing an old scar.

“Ached,” Changkyun finished. He knows. Has that same scar on his heart that Taekwoon was rubbing against. He looked past Taekwoon for a second when he felt something boil up inside him. Once he pushed the feeling back down, he looked back over at Taekwoon.

“Yeah. Something ached. But Hakyeon loves me. So even though it hurt, it didn’t feel like utter death. And then we were all in love with each other, so it never really ached anymore. It’s hard at first, but Hakyeon…loves all of us. And makes sure we all love each other. So it doesn’t hurt, not really.”

Changkyun bit his lip because it’s not the answer he wanted. Because Kihyun didn’t love Jooheon. Not like that. He stared at his shoes.

“What if…what if he hadn’t though? Loved you?” Chankyun asked, already dreading the answer.

Taekwoon winced a bit. “It would’ve hurt like hell.”

Changkyun huffed out a breath. “Great. That’s just…exactly what I didn’t want to hear.”

“I’m not going to lie to you, Changkyun,” Taekwoon said softly.

“I know. But can’t there be a way for that connection to go away if you don’t need it? They said it like fades a bit over time or something?” Changkyun asked. At least that’s what Kihyun had told him before, back when it was just them. When he was going to be the only one.

Taekwoon looked at him. “Yeah, it fades a bit, but it never goes away. I still feel shivers and stuff because of Hakyeon. I still feel that like…overwhelming feeling sometimes. The only thing that cuts off that connection is death.”

Changkyun sighed out slow before staring at the ceiling. Well, there goes that option.

“Well. Unless...” Taekwoon scrunched up nose like he was thinking.

Changkyun leaned forward, staring hard at Taekwoon. “Unless?”

Taekwoon shook his head a bit. “No, I don’t want to get your hopes up with some bedtime stories.”

Changkyun sighed and scooted forward. He stared hard at Taekwoon. “Taekwoon, right now my hopes are microscopic. They’re a millimeter off the ground. Get my hopes up. Please. I’m going to go fucking crazy if I don’t have even a little bit of hope that Kihyun will turn me one day, and it won’t ruin Jooheon’s life.”

Taekwoon sighed and nodded. He looked up at the ceiling, his tongue poking at the edge of his lips. Changkyun tried to keep his leg from bouncing nervously. “It’s been a long time since I’ve even thought about it,” Taekwoon said.

Changkyun nodded. “That’s fine. Take your time.”

Hakyeon, it seemed, had known the secrets of the universe. He was good at telling stories, whispered them in Taekwoon’s ears to lull him to sleep at night while they traveled. Taekwoon soaked it all in, trying to remember it for when he’d be a vampire, so he could seem as wise and all-knowing as Hakyeon did. It was a myth, a legend. Like the ones that Jooheon was being lectured about by Hyunwoo. Taekwoon probably hadn’t thought about it in decades, but Changkyun’s questions triggered the memory. Taekwoon closed his eyes as he thought.  

“The first King never actually died. The only way we die is if we go up in flames. The first King simply abdicated and went to rest,” Taekwoon recited, trying to remember the way Hakyeon had told the story.

“He was the most powerful of all vampires, or some scary ominous thing. He supposedly could do things from ancient legend that we can’t do. Apparently, he’s where the turning into bats thing comes from.” Taekwoon opened his eyes again and looked at Changkyun. Changkyun hummed a bit, starting to smile.

“And what? He’s…sleeping somewhere?” he asked.

Taekwoon laughed a bit. “Not just somewhere. He supposedly went to rest in the catacombs here.”

Changkyun pushed his lips out and nodded. “Catacombs. Wow. Well, what does that have to do with our situation?”

Taekwoon stretched a bit. “His blood was supposed to do a lot of things. Allegedly, if a human drank it, they would just turn into a vampire. No being fed from first needed. And if a vampire drank it, all kinds of things could happen. They could become more powerful, change things about themselves.”

Changkyun giggled. “Turn into bats?”

Taekwoon laughed. “Maybe. But there was a story once that Hakyeon told me about it being able to…to disconnect vampires from their creators or something.”

Changkyun’s breath hitched. Please please please. “How?”

Taekwoon swallowed. He brought his shoulder up to his ear like something was too loud, and Changkyun wrapped his arms around his own chest. Taekwoon sighed. “The blood is supposedly so powerful, it like just takes over. Overcomes the weaker blood. The connection comes from having your creator’s blood replace yours, you know? If that blood is gone, wiped out, so’s the connection.”

Changkyun felt like his whole body was buzzing. He could barely think over how loud everything felt all of a sudden. He tried to talk, but nothing came out. He took a deep breath before he tried again. “But. Is it real?”

Taekwoon sighed before he ran his hands through his hair. “Who knows? That’s why I didn’t want to…” Changkyun knows his face was probably pathetic to make Taekwoon stop. Taekwoon licked his lips and nodded before talking againg. “All I know is I refuse to go to the catacombs ever, and especially not at night. I don’t know if I believe the blood thing, but I know there’s…something deep down there.” Taekwoon shivered. Changkyun nodded a bit.

“What are the catacombs like?”

“Changkyun.”

“Please? I have to know. Have to try.”

Taekwoon took a deep breath. “You know, Kihyun is probably going to kill me for this.”

Changkyun smiled a bit. “Nah. I wouldn’t let him.”

Taekwoon smiled back. He hummed before slumping in his seat again. “They’re like a maze down there, but I know there’re probably maps in the library.”

“There’s a library?”

“I knew Kihyun should’ve given you an actual tour,” Taekwoon groaned.

“Yeah, well. What can you do?”

“Changkyun just…promise me you won’t do this alone. Promise me you’ll ask someone to go with you to help you. Preferably someone that knows what they’re doing.”

“None of you know what the fuck you’re doing,” Changkyun grumbled. Taekwoon threw a pillow at him.

“I resent that. And I’m serious, Changkyun. A vampire can get lost down there and make it out eventually, but a human? You could die, Changkyun. You know how many royal vampires are napping down there that haven’t fed in centuries? A lot.”

Changkyun shivered, hugging the pillow that Taekwoon had thrown at him. “Oh. I hadn’t thought about that. Was the first king…scary?”

Taekwoon shook his head. “Apparently, he was incredibly kind-hearted, but he’s also a vampire who hasn’t fed since centuries before Hakyeon was even born. And you’re still a warm-blooded human.”

Changkyun sighed. He shook his head. He had made up his mind. “I have to try, Taekwoon. There’s nothing you can say to stop me.”

Taekwoon groaned. “I know, Changkyun. At least…ask Hakyeon. Take him with you. He is the one that knows all about this stuff. If anyone can protect you from whatever is down there, he can. Since I’m assuming you don’t want to tell Kihyun?”

Changkyun scrunched up his face. “How did you know?”

“Because Kihyun would never let you out of his sight if he thought you were going down there, and you know it.”

Changkyun groaned. “How am I supposed to keep this a secret?”

Taekwoon shrugged. “You don’t have to. But we both know that if you told him, none of this would even matter anyway because he wouldn’t even consider it. This is all just myths and legends, but none of us have been inside the catacombs except for Hakyeon and maybe Hyunwoo. It’s that creepy.”

Changkyun felt like his veins were injected with ice suddenly, but he nodded. He’d go to Hakyeon. HE’d keep it a secret. He would do whatever it took because it was a hope. It was prickly and barely there, but Changkyun had to cling to it. It was the only thing he had for now. Changkyun sighed as he looked up at the ceiling. He wondered if hope would make him bleed.

A laugh bubbled up in Changkyun’s throat. Fuck it. It’s all I got. I’m going to fucking hold onto it even if I bleed.

Chapter Text

The entrance to the catacombs was found on the edge of the forests that surrounded the palace, past the amphitheater and gardens. It felt ancient and foreboding as Changkyun and Hakyeon walked toward it, a big cylinder made of stone with a door. They picked today because Kihyun and Jooheon were abroad until tomorrow, giving Changkyun plenty of time to do this without them coming around to look for them. He still hadn’t told them anything, afraid that they’d stop him or call him an idiot. Changkyun smiled to himself. He didn’t care if he was being an idiot. He was doing this no matter what.

“Ground rules,” Hakyeon said when they got to the door. Changkyun looked at him. “You stay by me the entire time. No separating for any reason. I can see and hear better than you, so please listen to me when I tell you to do things.”

“Okay, that won’t be a problem.”

Hakyeon grabbed Changkyun’s arm. “And if we find what you’re looking for down there, we get in, take it, and get out. Do you understand?” Hakyeon’s voice was quiet. It reminded Changkyun that they were literally standing outside a maze of what could be considered graves. Changkyun swallowed and nodded.

“Yeah. Yes. Got it,” Changkyun said, voice going quiet, too. Hakyeon took a deep breath before opening the door, and Changkyun switched on a flashlight. Hakyeon gripped at his wrist as they walked down a winding staircase, dark and cool and damp already surrounding them. Chankgyun shivered and pressed closer behind Hakyeon. His footsteps rang loud even if he was careful because they were the only sound to be heard. That and his own thundering heartbeat.

They went down what felt like hundreds of stairs, passing off-shooting hallways. The deeper they got, the tighter Hakyeon’s grip was on him. The bigger the quiet got. The dimmer his flashlight felt. The more needles his hope sprouted. He felt like screaming more and more with each step just to fill the darkness with something other than dread. Hakyeon eventually stopped and tilted his head, pulling Changkyun to his side. Changkyun held his breath.

“What did your map say?” Hakyeon breathed out. Changkyun let out his breath as he looked into his bag and pulls out his notebook.

“It said like twenty stories down, and then down a hallway. Why? Are we close?” Hakyeon walked down again before he stopped, putting his hand against the wall. “Hakyeon?”

“I can…hear things.” Changkyun moved closer to him, interlaced their fingers together to try to fight the dread that pooled in his gut. Hakyeon squeezed his hand before pushing on the wall. It swung open like a door, and Hakyeon swallowed, pulling Changkyun to his side before stepping into the corridor.

Changkyun cowered because he felt like something was crawling all over his skin as the hidden door shut behind them. He swung his flashlight around at the narrow hall, seeing how the walls are covered in moss and slime. “Shit,” he whispered out.

“Do you need to stop? For a break?” Hakyeon asked. Changkyun swallowed.

“A break?”

“It’s been a while. I don’t know how long, but long enough to where you probably need to eat. You brought food, right?”

“Um, yeah.” Changkyun cleared his throat before he reached into his backpack and pulled out a granola bar. Hakyeon eyed it carefully.

“Is that all you brought?”

“Yes?” Changkyun looked down at the bar. “Is this not enough?”

Hakyeon shrugged. “Are you not hungry?”

Changkyun bit at his lip and shook his head but opened the bar anyway. “If you say it’s been long enough, I believe you.” He ate it quickly, watching the way Hakyeon’s eyes searched the walls around them. It made something uneasy crawl up his spine. “Hakyeon?”

“Hm?” He turned his eyes toward Changkyun.

“What do you hear?” Changkyun watched as Hakyeon shuddered and turned away, and that made Changkyun look back down at the dark ground. “Sorry, you don’t have to-“

“This whole place is breathing. It’s slow, quiet, but it’s there,” Hakyeon whispered. Changkyun swallowed down the last bits of granola before shoving the wrapper into the bag.

“I’m done,” he announced softly.

“We need to keep going, then,” Hakyeon said, pulling Changkyun behind him again. Changkyun kept his eyes forward, terrified of looking at the walls and being able to see something move, something breathe, something alive.

“Right. Um, we go down this corridor and take the third right,” Changkyun said. Hakyeon nodded, and he pulled him harder, quicker. Changkyun stumbled along behind him, but he didn’t mind the quick pace, wanting to get out of here as quickly as possible.

They moved in silence as they traversed the catacombs. It feels like miles, and Changkyun wondered how they built this, who built this, when. He wondered if the feeling of something breathing down his back was his own heart in his chest or something that belongs to the darkness. If it was like one of the things growing on the walls. Changkyun took to staring at the ground, just letting Hakyeon lead the way.

The darkness was palpable. It tasted like dampness on his tongue. It pressed down on them like a tangible weight. Changkyun felt like if it wasn’t for his footsteps, he’d probably go deaf. The quiet and darkness were one. Changkyun understood what Hakyeon meant. It was like everything was alive around them, even the air. Changkyun didn’t want to think about why. He just focused on his steps and his breath, one foot in front of the other, inhale and exhale, until Hakyeon stopped.

“Shit,” Hakyeon whispered. Changkyun flashed his light on an ornate metal door, and his heart pounded. He remembered seeing a sketch of it in one of the books he found in the library. He finally pulled away from Hakyeon’s grip and stepped toward it, his hand pressing against the cool metal.

“This is…” Changkyun trailed off, not knowing what to call it.

“The king’s resting place,” Hakyeon said softly, almost reverent. His hand traced gently over the carvings on the door. He cleared his throat a bit. “Can you just…open it?”

Changkyun huffed out a breath. The darkness didn’t feel as strong here. Not as overwhelming. Changkyun drummed his fingers against it before letting his hand drop. “It was meant to be visited, I think. From what I read.”

Hakyeon hummed as he spread his fingers out against the door and pushed it a bit. Changkyun could tell it was heavy by the way he gritted his teeth slightly before he gave it another shove. It creaked as it opened, and Changkyun realized he had been holding his breath as he waited for Hakyeon to push the door open all the way. He flashed the light up into the room, and then immediately dropped the flashlight on the ground at what he saw.

In the room behind the door, there was a throne. Sitting on the throne was a man. He barely looked any older than Hakyeon. He was draped in furs and had a band of twine wrapped around his head like a crown. He looked like he had only just fallen asleep, eyes closed and face relaxed. If it wasn’t for how sunken his cheeks were, he would’ve been handsome. Changkyun fell to his knees, scrambling to pick his flashlight back up. He knew his heart rate was rocketing up, and he knew that couldn’t be good. Not with how ravenous the man on the throne must feel.

“H-Hakyeon,” Changkyun whispered out.

“Fuck, yeah, okay, sorry,” Hakyeon answered before he helped Changkyun up. He held Changkyun’s hand to still it’s shaking. “It’s okay, he’s…he’s asleep. Been asleep forever now.” Changkyun nodded but still noticed how Hakyeon moved, so he was in front of him, between him and the throne.

“I…I know,” Changkyun whispered. He peeked around Hakyeon at him again, wondering why he felt so strange. Like something was tickling at the back of his head.

“We need to go in there, okay?” Hakyeon said. Changkyun nodded. Hakyeon stayed in front of him as they walked in. Hakyeon took a deep breath as soon as they were past the door frame. “Changkyun, give me the stuff and stay here,” he whispered, holding his hands open behind him. Changkyun pulled out a small knife and a jar, as well as a packet of blood and placed them carefully in Hakyeon’s hands. Changkyun wished his hands would stop shaking as he backed up a bit, leaning on the open door.

Hakyeon walked forward to the man, the king, and sighed. “I’m sorry, your majesty,” he mumbled as he tilted its head back and thumbed at its lips to open them. Changkyun felt wrong, like they were desecrating a tombstone, but he couldn’t look away. Hakyeon ripped the plastic with his teeth before pouring the blood into the old king’s mouth. Changkyun sank to the ground when he saw it swallow.

“H-ha-hakyeon,” Changkyun whimpered. Everything inside of him was screaming.

“Shh, it’s okay, it’s fine,” Hakyeon whispered back. He stuffed the empty plastic in his pocket before clearing his throat and kneeling. He pushed the furs back, revealing an upturned palm on the armrest.  “Your majesty, we need-“

“Blood.”

Changkyun screamed, dropping his flashlight again. He had read about the king. His supposed powers. He didn’t want to believe it. Didn’t want to believe the voice that filled his mind, a voice he didn’t recognize. But he needed to believe it. Because if this was true, then maybe the rest would be, too. He squeezed around the hope in his chest, needles digging into his heart. Please please please.

He didn’t dare look at the king anymore. Instead, he stared at the back of Hakyeon’s head as he nodded. It feels like they’re underwater when he hears him speak. “Yes, your majesty. Blood.”

Take it.”

Changkyun shut his eyes. He didn’t want to watch, not when other things were already filling his mind, other images. Images that didn’t belong to him, of biting, of feeding. Blood. So much blood that Changkyun practically chokes on it. And then there’s something familiar, and Changkyun clings to that image in the sea of everything else, hoping it could keep him from drowning. A universe in a pair of eyes. And Changkyun sucked in a breath. The voice in his head turned into static. He begged in his mind, hoping the voice could give him an answer, any answer. Please please please.

Yes,” the voice whispered back. Changkyun sniffled, wiping at his face. He didn’t know if he had even asked the correct thing, but he had answer now. Any answer.

“Hakyeon,” Changkyun whimpered again.

“I’m almost done. You okay?”

“Yeah,” Changkyun shuddered out. He still wouldn’t look up from the dark ground. Didn’t dare.

“Okay. There. Now come on,” Hakyeon said as he slipped the jar it back into Changkyun’s bag. Changkyun felt how heavy it was and shivered. Hakyeon helped him up, pushed him back outside the room before dragging the door closed behind them. They stood still for a moment.

Everything came rushing down on Changkyun at once. He couldn’t stop shaking. “Hakyeon. I can…I can hear the breathing now, too,” Changkyun whispered. Hakyeon grabbed Chankyun’s hand again.

“It’s okay. We’re getting the hell out of here, come on,” he said. They made their way back, retracing their steps. Changkyun still felt strange, off, but he pressed on, followed Hakyeon. He kept pressing in his mind, past the muddled images and the sound of quiet sleeping breath, trying to figure out what the feeling was. Then it suddenly hit Changkyun like a ton of bricks. He was starving. He was parched. How long have we been down here?

He made them stop, pulled out the bottle of water and drained it. Hakyeon waited, staring around them like he was afraid something would happen now. Changkyun regretted not bringing more food.

“How long have we been down here?” Changkyun asked.

“I don’t know. Too long. Way too long,” Hakyeon replied.

“Fuck. I think I’m done, let’s get going again.”

“Are you sure you-“ Hakyeon froze, wincing as he squeezed Changkyun’s hand.

“Hakyeon? What’s wrong?” Changkyun asked, pulling on his hand. Hakyeon’s eyes widened as he looked at him, and for the first time ever, Changkyun saw fear on his face. A word was on Hakyeon’s lips. A name. Hongbin.

“Hakyeon, what’s-“

“Get on my back, we need to go,” Hakyeon said as he dropped down. Changkyun hesitated before doing as he was told, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and his legs around his waist. And then they were flying up and out, Hakyeon sprinting as fast as he could. And Changkyun wanted to cry because something was wrong, and he didn’t know what or why, and he could still hear the breathing.

They didn’t stop running until they got to the palace.

+++

Hongbin covered his own ears as he screamed as loud as he could. Kihyun flinched, scrunching his nose. Jooheon groaned before burying his face in Kihyun’s shoulder.

“Is this really the best idea we’ve got?” Jooheon asked.

“Hongbin’s the best actor out of all of them. He’s the only one who could convincingly call for Hakyeon without actually feeling fear,” Minhyuk whispered to him. Hongbin screamed again, and Jooheon covered his ears.

“Does calling really have to involve screaming?” he grumbled.

“If it makes it convincing, then yes,” Kihyun answered.

“It’s bullshit that you guys can call for us whenever you want, but you guys only feel something when we’re terrified or literally dying,” Jooheon said. Kihyun grinned a bit.

“You definitely have a point there.”

“I just can’t believe that Hakyeon would leave without telling anyone,” Hyunwoo said.

“I still can’t hear him, you know,” Jooheon mumbled. Kihyun took a deep breath before nodding.

“I can’t hear him either,” Kihyun said.

“Hongbin, please for the love of God, take a break,” Minhyuk groaned when Hongbin screamed again. Hongbin took a deep breath and looked at him.

“But I don’t want him to think I died or something, you know,” Hongbin said. He sucked in another breath like he was about to scream again when everyone froze.

Come come. Come come.

“Changkyun,” Jooheon whispered as he scrambled to stand up.

“Hakyeon,” Hongbin said with a smile. 

And then Hongbin was tackled into the wall, Hakyeon staring at him wide-eyed and panting, searching his face. “Wh-what?” he gasped out.

“I knew I could make you come,” Hongbin said before he kissed Hakyeon’s nose. Changkyun ran in a little later, legs shaking from the effort. And then Jooheon had him in his arms, Changkyun’s face pressed into his chest.

“Where the fuck were you? We were so fucking worried. We come back, and we don’t hear your heartbeat, and Hakyeon is gone, and no one knows where you are, Jesus, Changkyun,” Jooheon said. He petted at Changkyun’s hair and held him close.

“I-I’m sorry. How…how long have we been gone?” Changkyun asked. Jooheon felt his body give a little, and he shifted so he could hold Changkyun up. He held Changkyun away a bit from him and searched his face. He looked dazed, like he wasn’t all there.

“Changkyun?” Jooheon asked softly.

“It’s been two days,” Kihyun answered. Changkyun looked past Jooheon and toward Hakyeon, his eyes squinting a bit. Jooheon followed his gaze.  

“We need to feed Changkyun,” Hakyeon said as he clutched Hongbin to him. “I thought you were fucking dying, what the fuck, Bin?”

“We didn’t know where you were! We figured you’d come if you felt a call,” Hongbin said. He had a shit-eating grin on his face as he let Hakyeon squish his head against his chest.

“We’ll take care of Changkyun, so you can be alone,” Kihyun said. Jooheon nodded and picked Changkyun up. Changkyun grumbled but wrapped his arms around Jooheon’s neck anyway. Like the times that Changkyun had gotten way too drunk, and Jooheon had to carry him home. They took him straight to the kitchen and sat him down. Jooheon pouted as he looked at his face.

“You’re so pale, Kyunie,” Jooheon said.

“I can’t believe it’s been two days. It only feels like we were down there for a few hours at most,” Changkyun muttered. His eyes followed Kihyun as he walked around the kitchen, throwing stuff on plates and into the microwave.

“Down where?” Kihyun asked.

Jooheon bristled at his tone. “Ki, maybe now is not the best time for this talk.”

Changkyun blinked a few times, shaking his head a bit. “We were in the catacombs.”

Kihyun whirled around to look at Changkyun with wide eyes. “Are you serious? Even I’ve never been down there. Why the hell would you do that?”

“Ki, seriously. Let it go until tomorrow,” Jooheon gritted out. Kihyun huffed, opening his mouth to reply. Jooheon felt something coiling up inside his stomach at Kihyun’s anger. He could feel something screaming inside of him to try to calm him down, to make him be happy again.

The microwave beeped, pulling Kihyun away from whatever he was about to say to grab the food. Jooheon sighed as he turned back to Changkyun. He twirled his fingers in Changkyun’s hair, trying to make him look more awake, more aware of here and now. Changkyun didn’t make him feel like he was being turned inside out. Changkyun had always been safe. Home. Jooheon hated how weak and confused he looked. How exhausted. He smiled at Changkyun, hoping to get a smile back.

Kihyun put the plate down in front of Changkyun. He started scooping up a bit of food before he stopped and handed the fork to Jooheon. They looked at each other for a moment before Jooheon held some food in front of Changkyun’s face. “Come on, you need to eat,” Jooheon said, smile still on his face.

“I can feed myself,” Changkyun mumbled, holding out his hand.

“You’re about to pass out on the table. Just let Jooheon feed you,” Kihyun said. His tone was still a nagging one. Jooheon pressed his lips together as he ignored him. Changkyun glared at him as he took the bite Jooheon was holding for him. Jooheon watched Changkyun chew, and it was so slow. Jooheon started scooping up more food.

“Now, what the actual fuck were you and Hakyeon doing in the catacombs?” Kihyun asked.

Jooheon couldn’t stop the growl that came from his chest if he tried. Kihyun gripped at the table. “Drop it,” Jooheon said, turning to glare at Kihyun. Kihyun scoffed, turning away to grab something. Jooheon tried to ignore the screeching happening somewhere deep in his cells.

Changkyun swallowed down his food as Kihyun handed him a glass of water. Jooheon watched as he gulped down the entire contents of the glass before handing it back to Kihyun who moved to refill it.

“I was looking for something to fix all this,” Changkyun said. Jooheon bit his lip as he fed Changkyun more food. Kihyun sighed, putting the glass of water in front of Changkyun again.

“To fix all of what?” Kihyun asked. Changkyun rolled his eyes. Jooheon smirked a bit at the sign of life.

“This. So Jooheon won’t hurt anymore,” Changkyun said. Jooheon coughed as he put the fork down. Kihyun sighed.

“Changkyun,” Kihyun said softly. It was gentle. Like the voice he used whenever Jooheon got upset.

“No, listen. The first king. He’s…he’s real. Me and Hakyeon found him,” Changkyun said. His eyes narrowed a bit as he looked at them, doing his best to focus.

Kihyun’s eyes widened. Jooheon looked at Kihyun, confused. “The first king? Like the story Hyunwoo told me that one time?”

“That’s…a myth,” Kihyun said softly. Changkyun shook his head before taking another bite of food himself, grabbing the fork that Jooheon had put down.

“I have a jar of his blood in this bag, Ki,” Changkyun said, patting the bag.

“Oh my God,” Kihyun said.

“Can someone please explain to me what the fuck you’re talking about? When Hyunwoo told me the story, he didn’t say anything about jars of blood and catacombs,” Jooheon asked.

“The first vampire king. His blood was said to be magical. It could do all sorts of things, supposedly,” Kihyun said softly.

“It could cut connections, Honey,” Changkyun said. Jooheon blinked as he turned back to him. Changkyun was looking at him, reaching a bit for his hand. Jooheon instantly reached out and intertwined their hands together.

“Cut connections? Like…mine and Kihyun’s?” Jooheon asked.

“Yeah. Like ours,” Kihyun said. Jooheon felt like he was screaming underwater. His whole body was tense, begging, rejecting the idea. But Jooheon’s brain was doing somersaults at the idea of being free. It was quiet for a bit as they watched Changkyun finish everything on his plate and drink through two more glasses of water. He still looked exhausted, but he didn’t look as pale. Jooheon kept their hands tangled together. He didn’t know if he was trying to be there for Changkyun, or if he was holding on to the only thing in the room that could keep him stable.

Changkyun didn’t let go as his other hand reached into his bag and pulled out the jar. He squeezed it in his hand for a second before putting it on the counter and pushing it toward Jooheon. Kihyun scrunched his nose up as he looked at it.

“What if it doesn’t work?” Kihyun asked.

“Then Jooheon drank old vampire blood that might be gross, and that’s it. We just. Keep going, right?” Changkyun said. His eyes seemed so heavy, and his grip was barely there. Jooheon sighed as he stared at the crimson-filled jar.

“Right,” Jooheon said. He swallowed. “Will it hurt?” he asked, looking over at Kihyun.

Kihyun sighed and shrugged. “I don’t know. But shouldn’t you go tell Hoseok that you’re going to do this?”

Jooheon shook his head a bit. He sniffed, trying to push down everything he was feeling. “I can’t give him hope like that if it doesn’t work,” he said softly. He didn’t want Hoseok to get pricked by hope, didn’t want to see him have to bleed in vain. He wouldn’t be able to stand it if he hurt Hoseok more than he already had. Jooheon took a deep breath as he finally let go of Changkyun’s hand, steadying himself on the table as he stared at the jar.

“Are you going to do it?” Kihyun asked. Jooheon felt something pull inside him. Something like apprehension. Something like fear. It wasn’t his. It was Kihyun’s, boiling up inside of him, manifesting somewhere on the tips of his fingers as tingles. And Jooheon smiled because it was close enough. It was close enough to love to make his body satisfied. Jooheon looked at Kihyun. He hoped this was the last time he would look at him like this. Like he was the whole universe pulling down on him.

Jooheon swallowed before he leaned in and kissed Kihyun’s cheek. Kihyun’s eyes got all wide, but Jooheon tried not to pay attention. Jooheon grabbed the jar and opened it. He downed the contents of the jar before he could hesitate long enough to smell it. It tasted wrong as it made its way past his lips, but he swallowed it all down anyway.

His body lurched as he coughed. The world was far away, like he was floating above everything. He knew they were saying his name, but it didn’t feel real. It wasn’t close.

Hope sounded a lot like please please please to Jooheon right then. It rang through his mind with Changkyun’s voice as quiet filled up his ears.

It was cold. And all he could hear was Changkyun’s voice from a memory he had tried to bury.

All he could see was Hoseok’s face etched onto the back of his eyelids. A perfect picture he painted there himself.

And then there was only darkness. A quiet and a darkness so strong, it felt like it was breathing.

Chapter Text

The quiet writhed in Jooheon. It twisted through his limbs and stung and burned. Jooheon didn’t know how long it had been or how much longer he would have to feel this way. Jooheon registered the feelings, the pain, but only really felt it whenever his mind would lurch dangerously close to reality. His body was writhing. He was screaming.

And then he’d be pulled back down into the darkness again.

In the darkness, Jooheon was left with nothing but his thoughts. He wondered if Hoseok knew about him. If he could see him right now. If he was nearby. He strained against his own body to listen for the quiet murmur of maybe maybe, but the quiet was something palpable bearing down on his eardrums. He couldn’t hear past it.

Jooheon had seen death. Maybe that was why he wasn’t afraid. Even when he felt like he was being unmade, none of it felt like death had before. Death had been painful, but only for a moment. Then it had been cold and loud and numb. There had been a ringing in his ears and the calls of please please please and the feeling leaving the tips of his fingers and Hoseok’s hands feeling impossibly hot against his face. It wasn’t this. It wasn’t this acute awareness of everything while trapped inside his own mind.

Jooheon pushed against the quiet until it gave a bit. And then there were murmurs in his ears, voices he knew but were too quiet to really listen to. He couldn’t catch words, but he could tell who was talking. He could hear Changkyun and Kihyun and Hoseok whispering around him, and it made him push harder. He wanted to see past the darkness, move past the quiet, and just be already.

It was slow and exhausting. His body didn’t writhe anymore. Nothing twisted. But he was so tired all the time, his mind not resting at all. He pushed until he had tactile feeling back. He could feel legs wrapped around his own, a hand entwined in his. Sometimes he would feel a soft brush against his temple, and a feel breath against his ear, and then the whispers again. He didn’t have to hear the words to know. Hoseok was talking to him, kissing him, trying to will him to come back to himself. It made Jooheon push harder.

He didn’t know how long it had been, but it felt like he was almost there. He was so close. Like he was wrapped in cellophane, and he just needed to tear it, but he didn’t know how. He felt stuck. He couldn’t bring himself out. He had to be pulled out. But no matter how many times Hoseok kissed his temple or how many times Changkyun tangled their legs together like they were just laying on the couch at home, it wasn’t working.

He had thought that this was like a fairytale, and he needed true love’s kiss to wake up. But even when he felt something warm and soft press against his mouth, he didn’t push through. He could feel something wet drip onto his face, and his heart lurched inside him because he recognized that feeling. Had already felt Hoseok’s tears fall onto his face before. He had never wanted that to happen again, and he couldn’t stop it. Couldn’t pull Hoseok down into his arms and kiss away his tears and tell him it would be okay.

True love’s kiss wasn’t enough. It was quiet for a while again, no murmuring, no whispers. Just the sound of Jooheon’s mind screaming out into the void, trying to find a way through.

The next whisper was Hoseok’s again. Jooheon reached for it, tried, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. Then Kihyun’s voice came. They were talking. All Jooheon could register was how sad they sounded.

Something shifted around him, and he felt hands on his face. Hoseok’s hands. It made Jooheon feel warmer than laying out in the sun ever had. Hoseok caressed his face, soft, gentle, careful. His lips pressed against Jooheon’s, and Jooheon ached to kiss him back. Then he was gone, the feeling of Hoseok’s tears cold on his cheeks.

It felt like a goodbye, and Jooheon started panicking. He was rattling around in his mind like a tiger in a cage, fighting everything he could to try to get out. He couldn’t let it end like this. Couldn’t have Hoseok think he had given up when he was fighting so hard for them.

Jooheon wanted to cry when he felt Hoseok’s fingers against his skin again. It was relief and hope and love, and Jooheon yelled again, felt his heart rumble in his chest.

He had been so focused on getting out that he didn’t register what Hoseok was doing. He didn’t feel Hoseok thumb at his lips until they fell open. He didn’t feel him push at his chin until his mouth was wide open. He didn’t feel how the bed shuddered when Hoseok took a deep breath.

Jooheon’s mind stopped running all at once and tasted.

Tasted strawberries and peaches and wine.

Maybe maybe.

Maybe Hoseok is everything to Jooheon. Maybe his blood is their new wine, the thing that will always bind them together. Maybe it’s fitting that the first thing Jooheon tasted when he was changed was Hoseok. Maybe it’s fitting that after another change, he was tasting him again. And somewhere between dreams of strawberries and thoughts of peaches, Jooheon felt warm.

The quiet shattered, and Jooheon opened his eyes.  

Hoseok’s face, puffy and pink, was the first thing Jooheon saw. His bleeding wrist was pressed against his mouth, and he reached up and grabbed it, held it to his mouth as he licked at the cut.

“Jooheon! Fuck, oh my God, Jooheon,” Hoseok said. His other hand cradled the back of Jooheon’s head. There were new tears swimming in his eyes. Jooheon was about to speak when Hoseok pushed his wrist harder against his mouth. “Shh, just drink what you need. It’s okay, I’m fine, just drink.”

Jooheon’s eyes widened as he shook his head a little and pushed Hoseok away. He held Hoseok’s wrist in front of him and watched as the wound started healing. Jooheon sighed before staring up at Hoseok. He squeezed his hand and smiled at him. He said the only thing he could think about saying for however long he had been trapped inside himself.

“I love you, Hoseok. So much.”

Hoseok’s face scrunched up, and he pulled Jooheon up into his arms. He buried his face in Jooheon’s chest and sobbed. “I-I love you, too. Fuck, you scared the shit out of me.”

Jooheon wrapped his arms around Hoseok, burying his face in his hair. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it’d be like that.”

“Fuck you. You were screaming and writhing around for days, and then you just went fucking catatonic. I thought you were dying again,” Hoseok said. Then they both stopped, and Hoseok looked up at him. His eyes were red-rimmed and wet and everything about him was swollen with how much he’d been crying.

Jooheon pouted and squeezed Hoseok closer. “I’m so fucking sorry, but I’m here, babe. I’m right here.”

Hoseok sniffed and nodded before he kissed Jooheon, and Jooheon thanked every deity he could think of for the ability to kiss him back like he had wanted to. Pressed his lips as hard as he could against Hoseok’s until Hoseok started smiling and giggling against him. Jooheon smiled, too. He was home again, back where he belonged.

He had forgotten that he had heard Kihyun’s voice in the room earlier until Kihyun awkwardly cleared his throat. Hoseok pulled away from Jooheon and laid his head on his shoulder. Jooheon held him tight. Even if Kihyun was there, there was no way in hell he was going to stop touching Hoseok.

“I’m sorry to be interrupting, but um…shit, Changkyun is going to be so upset that I made him go take a shower when you woke up,” Kihyun said. He moved closer to the bed and looked at them. “Jooheon, are you okay?”

Jooheon looked back at Kihyun. Kihyun that had been light, warmth, need. Kihyun that tried so very hard to spare him hurt. Kihyun that had become a gravity that Jooheon couldn’t escape, doomed to orbit him forever.

And he didn’t feel anything. Not a pull, not a need, not an ache.

He felt like he did whenever he looked at Changkyun. Fond and friendly. Jooheon laughed, really laughed for the first time since he opened his eyes with a thirst he had never known before. He didn’t ache. Didn’t feel his chest pulling in to a point. He laughed and cried because he was in control of his love again, and he knew who he was going to give it to.

“I don’t…I don’t feel it anymore. I can’t feel you anymore,” Jooheon said.

Kihyun blinked a few times at him, his mouth falling open a bit. And he laughed too, laughed even as he reached up to rub at his eyes. Jooheon could tell he was happy even if he couldn’t feel it anymore.

“Jooheon?” Hoseok asked. He looked up at him, leaving the rest of his question out. Jooheon squeezed Hoseok in his arms and held him tight, kissing every inch of his face that his lips could find. Hoseok smiled and tried to kiss him back just as much.

“I’m all yours. Only yours,” Jooheon whispered, and Hoseok buried his face in the crook of Jooheon’s neck again.

“I love you so much,” Hoseok whispered back.

“I love you, too.”

And then Jooheon heard it. He listened as the voice of Hoseok’s heart changed from maybe maybe to all mine all mine.

+++

“His eyes are different,” Kihyun said as Changkyun plopped himself down in his lap. Kihyun wrapped his arms around him to keep him there even though there were plenty of other chairs in the meeting room.

“Different how?” Hyunwoo asked as he glanced over at Jooheon.

Jooheon was slumped in the chair next to Kihyun’s, his hand playing with Hoseok’s on the table. He shrugged. “I don’t know, I can’t see my own eyes.”

Kihyun sputtered out a brief laugh before he buried his face in Changkyun’s shoulder to try to calm himself. He heard Hyunwoo take a deep breath.

“Yes, I know that. I’m asking the other people who were there when you woke up,” he said.

“They were gold instead of red, right?” Hakyeon piped up. Kihyun turned his head to look at him. He was leaning against the wall, arms crossed. He was looking at Jooheon with slight fascination.

“Yeah. How did you know?” Hoseok asked.

Hakyeon shrugged a bit. “Lucky guess,” he said. Kihyun pursed his lips a bit. He didn’t believe that at all, but he decided to let it go.

“Okay. But what does that mean?” Changkyun asked. He wriggled a bit in Kihyun’s lap, and Kihyun let him go for a second, so he could get comfortable. Changkyun instantly turned to frown at him before grabbing his hands and very deliberately pulling them around him again. Kihyun bit the inside of his lip to stop himself from laughing.

Hyunwoo looked very unimpressed with all of this. “Can we please focus for like a second?” he said.

Minhyuk poked at Hyunwoo’s cheek. “Ah, let them be cute, this is the happiest they’ve all been in a while.” He looked over and smiled at Kihyun. Kihyun pulled Changkyun closer, craning his neck around him to look at everyone.

Jooheon and Hoseok had been inseparable since Jooheon had woken up. They were all smiles and giggles together, and it made Kihyun glad. He was glad they could all be in the same room together, and no one was getting hurt somehow. Kihyun kissed Changkyun’s shoulder before clearing his throat.

“Look, we don’t need to figure this out right now, but there’s a lot of questions going on right now. We’ve been silent on all of this, and reporters are coming around to ask if something has happened, and why there’s been literally no news from the crown. We didn’t even get to do our rundown of the UN event after we got home because of this whole situation,” Kihyun said.

“Well, what exactly do you want to tell them? We had an internal personal issue, sorry?” Hyunwoo said.

“We could tell them that Jooheon drank the blood of the first king unknowingly after an excavation to find out if it was true,” Minhyuk offered.

“That makes me sound like a dumbass,” Jooheon whined.

“Not necessarily. They have no idea what that blood is like,” Hyunwoo said.

“Won’t people want it then?” Changkyun asked. Everyone turned to look at him.

“What do you mean?” Hyunwoo asked.

Changkyun pointed at Jooheon. “Maybe it’s just because I’m his best friend, but I can tell that he’s different. Even without having seen the gold eyes or whatever. Wouldn’t people want that?”

Kihyun looked over at Jooheon. “You feel different other than the connection thing?”

Jooheon bit at his lip before he leaned forward. “I don’t know. A bit? Not anything too crazy, but like…I think I’m even stronger than I was.”

“Yeah, you are,” Hoseok commented. All the eyes in the room went to him. Hoseok blushed a little before hiding behind his hands. “I’m not elaborating, don’t look at me.”

Minhyuk laughed a bit. “I don’t think you have to, I’m sure we get the picture.”

“Minhyuk, be nice,” Kihyun warned. Minhyuk put his hands up in surrender before laughing to himself. Kihyun rolled his eyes.

“Look, here’s the thing, though. Is Jooheon still the prince? Technically, he’s not my creation anymore,” Kihyun said.

Hyunwoo’s mouth fell open a bit as he looked at him. “Oh.”

Oh?” Jooheon asked back, his voice going way up in pitch.

“I hadn’t even thought about that,” Hyunwoo groaned before slumping forward unto the table. Minhyuk patted his back.

“You’re…considering abdicating him of the throne?” Hakyeon asked.

Kihyun looked over at Jooheon. He was still playing with Hoseok’s hand, but he was looking back at Kihyun. He could still hear Changkyun’s voice in his head. Take care of him.

He looked back over at Hakyeon. “Yes, if he wants. If he still wants to be the crown prince, I will happily help him along. But I know how he and Hoseok’s relationship is going to go. He’s going to change Hoseok one day, and as far as I know, Hoseok doesn’t want to be king.”

Hoseok’s heartbeat picked up, and Kihyun turned to look back at him. Hoseok was biting at his lip. “I hadn’t really…thought about that,” he said softly. Kihyun smiled at him and nodded a bit.

“That’s okay. It’s not your job to think about these things,” he said.

Jooheon sighed. “I think that’s something we’d have to talk about,” he said. He squeezed Hoseok’s hand and looked at him. Hoseok was gnawing on his bottom lip and staring at the table.

“I mean, we can discuss all that later. For now, though, we need to tell them something,” Hyunwoo said, finally sitting back up.

Kihyun groaned and pressed his forehead against Changkyun’s shoulder. Changkyun reached up and petted at his head. “I don’t know, Hyunwoo. We haven’t even had the coronation yet, the royal gala is coming up, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Fuck the coronation,” Hakyeon said slowly.

Kihyun picked his head up and looked at him, eyes narrowing. “Hakyeon?”

Hakyeon looked at him, a smile on his face. “Look, we haven’t even scheduled that. Don’t schedule it until we figure this out. Listen, the whole fucking world saw what happened that day. They heard you announce that you had picked Changkyun. And then they saw you doing the whole royalty thing with Jooheon. No one asked about it because everyone figured it was a sensitive topic.”

“I mean, it was,” Jooheon said.

“Right. What I’m saying is that this whole thing?” Hakyeon gestured toward all of them, “Has literally never happened before, and no one knows that it happened except for us,” Hakyeon said. Hyunwoo perked up a little and looked back at him.

“You’re right,” he said.

“Um, what? Are you guys communicating telepathically? What the hell are you guys talking about?” Kihyun asked.

Hakyeon sighed and walked forward. He leaned against the table and stared at Kihyun. “What I’m trying to say is that you’ve been a very caring and conscious king. You’ve been very open with everyone about what is going on because you want to be good.”

Kihyun raised a brow at Hakyeon. “So you’re saying…we tell them nothing?”

Hakyeon beamed at him. “Exactly. This transparency thing you’re doing is sweet and all, but things weren’t always like that. It used to be that no one had any idea what was going on in the capital if they weren’t part of the court. Now, we don’t even have a full court to worry about.”

Hyunwoo leaned back in his chair and huffed out a laugh. “Just a weird group of guys instead, I guess,” he said softly.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know much about vampire history apparently, but what the actual fuck are you guys talking about?” Changkyun asked.

Kihyun licked his lips. “Palace secrets. It’s the way vampires have been running things since the beginning of time. No one knew what was happening in the palace because no one in the palace told anyone.”

“Sounds great,” Jooheon said.

Kihyun rolled his eyes. “I’ve literally been doing the opposite of that for a reason, guys. I thought it was time for us to open up to the world.”

Hakyeon shrugged. “Sure. Open up to the world. Do you know what’s going on in the household of the British Prime Minister? What about the President of the US?”

Kihyun shook his head. “Of course not.”

“Then they don’t need to know what goes on inside these walls,” Hakyeon replied.

Kihyun looked at Hyunwoo for help. “But, technically all of this is political.”

Hyunwoo shrugged. “Sure. But none of those reporters will be alive when it actually matters who is going to take the throne after you.”

“Ouch, pulling the immortality card, huh?” Changkyun said.

“Some of them will be! We have vampire reporters!” Kihyun said.

“And they’ll understand because they’re vampires,” Minhyuk added.

Jooheon laughed a little, and Kihyun turned to him. He frowned. “Do you agree with this?” Kihyun asked.

Jooheon shrugged. “Vampires were cool because they were mysterious, you know? That’s why we were glued to the TV when you came on. And I mean, what are you going to do in the grand global scheme? We already trade with people. We give aid if needed. We go to the big meetings.”

“That’s already more than we’ve ever done before,” Hyunwoo added.

Kihyun sighed. He squeezed Changkyun’s hips a bit as he thought. “So fuck it all, huh?”

“Fuck it all,” Hakyeon said with a smile.

“Be King. Keep going to those meetings. Keep being good. But fuck this media circus,” Hyunwoo said.

“They don’t need to know,” Minhyuk agreed.

Kihyun rubbed at his face before he nodded. “Okay. Okay, yeah. Fuck, I can’t believe I have a palace secret.”

“A whole bunch of them, actually,” Hakyeon said with a smile.

“Thanks, Hakyeon,” Kihyun grumbled.

“Anytime. Now that this meeting is over-“

“Wait,” Changkyun said. Kihyun looked up at him and saw him pouting back at him. Kihyun furrowed his brows and pouted back up at him out of habit.

“What?”

“What about us?”

Kihyun tilted his head some. “What do you mean?”

Changkyun sighed a little. “Before all this happened, you were going to turn me into a vampire, you know.”

Kihyun heard Minhyuk snicker a little. He ignored it. “Yes?”

Changkyun crossed his arms. “I still want that. Whether I’m the prince or not.”

Kihyun’s eyes widened a bit. He heard chairs move around.

“Okay, time for us to go,” Hoseok said as he got up, pulling Jooheon along after him.

“Aw, really? You’re not going to stay for the show?” Minhyuk asked.

Kihyun shut his eyes. “Minhyuk, I swear to God.”

“Ignore him! I’m literally sitting in your lap, don’t ignore me!”

“Definitely time to go,” Jooheon said as he held the door open for Hakyeon and Hoseok to hurry out. He let the door fall shut behind them.

“I’m not ignoring you, I just didn’t think-“ Kihyun started.

“Didn’t think what? That I wanted to? Kihyun, are you dumb? That’s literally-“

“Of course, I’m going to turn you! I didn’t think we’d have to talk about it in front of everyone, I thought you just knew!” Kihyun exclaimed. Changkyun’s jaw fell a little.

“Wait, really?” he said softly.

Kihyun sighed a little before smoothing his hands down Changkyun’s arms. “Yes, really.”

“Aw, Ki, I’m sorry, I just thought…we hadn’t talked about it and…”

Kihyun pulled Changkyun down and kissed him. Changkyun melted a bit as he kissed back. He pulled away and smiled at him before leaning into his chest. “I love you, Ki.”

Kihyun smiled and hugged him. “I love you, too.”

“Okay, now it’s time to leave,” Minhyuk said loudly.

“Oh, go suck a dick,” Kihyun said back.

Minhyuk laughed as he pushed Hyunwoo out of the room. “With pleasure, your majesty.”

+++

“Are you sure?”

“For the billionth time, Kihyun, yes. I’ve never been more sure of anything in my entire life.” Kihyun pouted at Changkyun before sliding his hand up Changkyun’s body and pressing it against his chest. Changkyun bit his lip as he stared up at Kihyun.

“I’ll miss it, though. My little moth,” Kihyun said before pressing a kiss over Changkyun’s heart. Changkyun chuckled.

“I’m sure it’ll still flutter like crazy around you.” Kihyun smiled before he started kissing at Changkyun’s chest again. Small, soft.

“A lot of things will change, you know,” Kihyun said.

“But we’ll still love each other, and that’s all that needs to stay the same,” Changkyun answered. Kihyun hummed and kissed Changkyun. Kihyun took his time like he was savoring it, feeling how perfect and warm Changkyun was beneath him. Changkyun wrapped his arms around him. He sighed into his mouth. After everything, this still felt right. Everything felt right when they were in each other’s arms.

Kihyun kissed down Changkyun’s jaw and neck, making Changkyun shiver and moan. He traced his lips gently all over his throat. “Where do you want it, then, love?” Kihyun whispered.

Changkyun swallowed and licked his lips. “Wherever. Just want it.” Kihyun smiled as he nosed against Changkyun’s throat. He kissed against one of the veins there.

“Changkyun?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Ki.”

“Stay with me forever?”

Changkyun giggled. “Please please please?” he asked back.

Changkyun could feel the smile form on Kihyun’s lips against him. “Deep breath,” Kihyun said.

When he inhaled, nothing happened. When he exhaled, Kihyun sank his fangs in. Changkyun squirmed and moaned as he drank. At first, Changkyun felt his heart pounding fast and hard, but as time went on, he just felt tired, fatigued. He focused all his energy on pressing his fingers into Kihyun’s skin, trying not to fall asleep. And then the heat of Kihyun’s lips against his neck was gone.

“Open your mouth for me,” Kihyun said. He sounded far away, but Changkyun let his jaw fall open. And then he felt it drip. It tasted like metal and heat and salt. He swallowed it down and opened his mouth again, and then Kihun’s wrist was against his mouth. He drank slowly, eyes closed, feeling time slow to a stop.

Metal, heat, salt. And then something else, something like apple. Then it was all he could taste. And he could hear. Hear the shaky breaths Kihyun was taking, the sound of two loud human hearts in the distance, and then a soft murmur of the heart closest to his own. His body shuddered, arching closer to Kihyun’s like a magnet pulling it. I’ll replace everything I took with bits of me. The universe collapsed down to the size of Kihyun’s lips pressing against his forehead. Changkyun opened his eyes.

Kihyun was smiling down at him, caressing his face, the galaxies in his eyes twinkling. Changkyun was stupidly, disgustingly, in love. Nothing at all had changed.

Kihyun pulled his wrist away and sat up. Changkyun panted, swallowing over a dry and scratchy throat. Kihyun reached over and grabbed a blood packet and held it out to Changkyun. Changkyun bit into it and sucked the bag dry, and the tickle in his throat left with it. Kihyun threw the empty plastic away. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Kihyun,” Changkyun said. He felt breathless, like everything was crashing against him at once.

“Yes?”

And then Changkyun pushed himself up to kiss him, and it was like the first time all over again. Changkyun’s skin felt like it was on fire, and Kihyun was a cool river against him. He never wanted to be away from him again. Kihyun laughed against his lips as he pressed a hand up against Changkyun’s chest.

“It’s still there, you know,” he whispered, and it felt like thunder in Changkyun’s ears.

“What?”

“Still beating all fast, just quieter. Still a moth.” Changkyun smiled back, pulling Kihyun down on him again, holding his body close against him.

“God, you feel so…it feels,” Changkyun said. Kihyun laughed as he nosed at Changkyun’s collarbone.

“I know.”

“No holding back anymore?” Changkyun asked.

Kihyun smirked as he nipped at Changkyun’s collarbone and watched him shiver. “No more holding back.”

And Kihyun let himself go. Let himself feel and want and need. He tried to show Changkyun exactly how much he loved him. In the darkness of Kihyun’s bedroom, wrapped up in the sheets, they said the only things that could matter in that moment.

I love you.

I’m yours.

Forever and ever.

Please please please.

Chapter Text

Hi, guys!

I’m just writing to say that, if you didn’t already know, the sequel to this work “Bled Through” has started. I added it to a series with this one, so check it out if you’re interested!

If not, thank you for checking out this work anyway! I love this story a lot, and I’m glad some of you out there even read this. 

Lots of love!