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so come as you are

Chapter Text

As one of Heaven’s many ambassadors on earth, Jeonghan was a busy angel. The job was a thankless one, often requiring him to travel between realms, and was only half as prestigious as the cushy jobs up in the headquarters.

Still, Jeonghan found his job rewarding.

For one, he thought that earth was fascinating. There was just so much colour, and scent and noise on earth - a welcome break from the monotonous, sterile environment in Heaven. Every time he beamed down to earth, he found his senses inundated. It was like breaking through the surface of the water - everything was muted, muffled, smothered under a blanket, and then suddenly he could seesmelltastehearfeel tenfold of what he could before. It was jarring at first - the first time he beamed to earth as a fledgling, he threw up - but he learned to welcome the overwhelming feeling.

Over time, he also came to appreciate earthlings. Humans, animals, supernaturals, heck, even the plants on earth. Of course, as an angel, interacting with humans was a strict no-no, unless he received orders from Up There. But he was free to mingle with supernaturals, as long as it didn’t affect his work ethic. It wasn’t overtly encouraged, but angels working on earth often developed a network of contacts they could trust and call upon for favours. It made fact-finding missions easier, and, frankly, alleviated some of the loneliness and boredom he felt when he was on earth for long stretches at a time. Jeonghan has long collected a list of connections during his time on earth, and they ranged from the common werewolves and vampires to the odd gumiho or leprechaun. He also, guiltily, had a few earth-bound demons that he kept in touch with occasionally, but was not very close to, for fear that he would be tempted.

Some of his “connections” he could consider friends. Seungcheol was one of them. He was a werewolf that Jeonghan had first met when he was still a fledgling, shadowing his mentor on earth. Jeonghan was old by earth standards, but Seungcheol was older, albeit slightly. Despite his age, Seungcheol’s face and spirit retained a bright and youthful charm. He was a young soul trapped in an immortal’s body - constantly delving into the newest causes no matter the century, and always chasing the newest fads. In the Middle Ages, Seungcheol was found amongst the art snobs in renaissance Italy, then he was in the thick of the American revolution, then the French revolution, then the overthrowing of the Qing dynasty, then he was in the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Every time Jeonghan popped by to visit him, he was neck-deep in another cause.

Which was why Jeonghan was only slightly surprised when he found out that Seungcheol had adopted an orphaned pup. Of course Seungcheol had adopted the next helpless cause he stumbled upon. Of course Seungcheol had taken him in and fed him and clothed him and put him through school. It was exactly the sort of thing he had been doing all those centuries ago, just on a smaller scale. And of course he did all that while obtaining his 3847475th university degree. Jeonghan just wished that Seungcheol had warned him before he beamed into his flat and was immediately attacked by a tiny 20-pound pup. He and Mingyu didn’t get off on the right foot, but over time, he came to adore the bubbly young wolf, whom he secretly loved to spoil.

Seungcheol was one of the first earthlings Jeonghan befriended, so it followed that Jeonghan met other earthlings through him. Seungcheol had friends from all over the world, of various species. Seungcheol was a lone wolf - he never involved himself in territorial disputes, and rarely made enemies. As such, he introduced Joshua to Jeonghan at the height of the Werewolf-Vampiric War in the most nonchalant way possible.

Jeonghan beamed into Seungcheol’s manor, where he was hiding out to avoid the blitzing and occupation and general chaos of the human’s world war and the werewolf-vampiric war. The manor was a hidden island of peace in the maelstrom of the world, hidden from human and supernatural eyes alike by charms and spells. He breathed a sigh of relief as he took in the quiet - as much as he liked earth for its chaos, the simultaneous wars and increasing death tolls on earth had kept him busy and made him long for some rest.

“Jeonghannie?” Seungcheol called out from somewhere within the manor, ears sharp as ever, “Is that you?”

Jeonghan hummed in acknowledgement, knowing that Seungcheol would hear it.

“Come on into the drawing room. We’re ah - having some drinks.”

Jeonghan’s wings shifted in curiosity - Seungcheol had other guests over? Well, Jeonghan could certainly use the company and the alcohol he was offering to forget about the violence and death for a little while.

He stopped outside the drawing room, mouth agape. Seungcheol was sprawled out on one of the lounges, head tilted back and neck bared. On his lap was a vampire, fangs latched onto his jugular, drinking leisurely. Jeonghan’s hand flew to the hilt of his sword, and he was halfway to unsheathing it when he realised that it was no attack - there was no struggling, no pained grunts and whines.

The ring of his sword attracted the attention of the vampire. Blood-red eyes flickered up to meet his. Jeonghan held both hands up, empty, as a sign of peace. The eyes closed again in pleasure, and the vampire continued feeding. As Jeonghan watched, a trickle of blood leaked out of the corner of its lips. Jeonghan felt queasy.

“Um.”

“Come in,” Seungcheol said invitingly, casually, as though this was a normal occurrence.

Jeonghan sat stiffly on the armchair furthest away from them.

“Jeonghan, meet Joshua, Joshua, meet Jeonghan,” Seungcheol introduced cheerily. The vampire - Joshua - grunted in greeting, while Jeonghan mumbled a quick ‘hi’.

“Feel free to pour yourself a drink,” Seungcheol added, gesturing vaguely to the decanters set out on the coffee table. Jeonghan set out to do exactly that. Seungcheol always had good taste in alcohol.

“So,” Seungcheol said, voice slurring a little, “how’re things doin’ on your end, Hannie?”

“It’s been tiring,” started Jeonghan hesitantly, still wary of Joshua, who was still feeding on Seungcheol, “The war’s keeping me busy. Been going back and forth a lot. Spending a lot of time in Europe.”

“Mm,” acknowledged Seungcheol. There was a long pause before he spoke again, voice gone thick and syrupy, barely coherent. “Are you - Have you, um, seen, um, Jihoon lately?”

“No,” Jeonghan frowned, “I suppose he’s pretty busy too. Last I heard, he was assigned to East Asia,” he stopped suddenly when Seungcheol let out a particularly shivery exhale. “Hey,” he snapped, addressing the vampire, “stop, Seungcheol’s barely conscious.”

A growl erupted from the vampire, and his bloodthirsty eyes flickered towards Jeonghan and held his gaze challengingly. Too late Jeonghan remembered that interrupting a vampire’s feeding was probably not the best idea.

“No, no, it’s fine, Shua, you can continue,” Seungcheol mumbled soothingly, running a light hand up Joshua’s flank. “Think I’ve got half a pint left in me.”

To Jeonghan, Seungcheol said, “I’m letting Shua take more than usual. He’s been starved for weeks.”

At Jeonghan’s skeptical glance, he explained, “Stuck in werewolf territory. I snuck him out.”

Jeonghan’s heart twisted in pity - lone vampires and werewolves were probably the biggest casualty in the raging werewolf-vampire war. As humans died by the thousands, werewolves and vampires jumped on the opportunity to expand their territory - clashing violently when interests collided. The war was fought by covens and clans, but loners got caught in the crossfire, too, often tortured and held captive and bearing the brunt of the hatred against their kind. Jeonghan often worried for Seungcheol, the only lone werewolf he knew, but reassured himself with the fact that Seungcheol always seemed to have connections that got him out of trouble. No doubt when Seungcheol “snuck out” Joshua his connections came in handy.

Joshua surfaced moments later, gasping. He licked his lips clean of blood, then proceeded to do the same to Seungcheol’s neck, chasing every last drop of blood and sealing the fang wound. Jeonghan squirmed watching him. It was so… animalistic, so primal, the way Joshua was so desperate for blood. It was something he would never see in Heaven - angels had no need for food or water, or anything, really, besides the grace of God. Witnessing something so carnal almost felt like a sin, but Jeonghan was fascinated and could not look away.

Joshua gentled as soon as the wound healed - thanks to Seungcheol’s quick healing abilities. He pressed a light kiss against the new skin, before moving up and pressing another onto Seungcheol’s bloodless cheek.

“Thank you,” he murmured. “Did it hurt at all?”

“No, it felt good,” replied Seungcheol, a slightly dazed smile on his face. He moved to get up, but Joshua stopped him.

“I’ll go get you dinner. Raw steak?”

“Two pieces of them. They should be defrosting on the kitchen counter.”

Joshua nodded and slipped away.

“He’s an old friend,” said Seungcheol abruptly, in the silence left in Joshua’s wake. “Met him a few decades ago, when we were both in China. Great guy. Really nice. He’s really gentle, gentler than most vampires I’ve let feed on me. He’s funny too, and he -”

“Are you chatting your friend up?” Jeonghan asked, confused.

“Uh, yeah. I mean, you don’t seem to like him, so I thought -”

“Oh, no, not at all! I was just a little wary. When I first walked in I thought you were being attacked, and, um, you know carnal activities make me uncomfortable, so…”

“Oh! Oh… I see,” Seungcheol stuttered, looking mildly embarrassed.

An awkward silence ensued, though thankfully not for long - Joshua had returned from the kitchen with Seungcheol’s dinner. And Jeonghan found Joshua to be exactly as Seungcheol described him, and more. He was funny, gentle, and considerate of others - asking polite questions about Jeonghan’s job and nature, and when Jeonghan couldn’t reveal too much, graciously steered the topic away to a safer one. Throughout the evening, Jeonghan didn’t feel like the odd one out, or the third wheel, as he so often did amongst supernaturals on earth. As much as he loved spending time on earth, there were still so many things he didn’t “get” - from the lingo to the references to earth culture - he was still a foreigner to the world he was serving. But Joshua somehow navigated conversation in a way that was inclusive and smooth - there wasn’t a single awkward moment for the rest of the evening.

If Jeonghan weren’t immune to glamour, he would have thought that he was being induced by the vampire. But as it was, Jeonghan found himself charmed anyway, adding Joshua (with his consent) to the list of contacts he had on earth.

/////

Half a century later, Jeonghan thought nothing of it when Joshua called. Perhaps Joshua was calling to ask if Jeonghan wanted to meet and catch up. It had been a few years since they last saw each other, though they texted often. It was just that Jeonghan was so busy. Some angels in his department had been transferred to another almost a decade ago, and Jeonghan had to pick up the slack.

“Hello?” he answered his phone distractedly. The excuse of sorry, it’s been a busy decade for me, call me back in a few years was on the tip of his tongue already.

“Angel, it’s me. I need your help.”

The urgency in Joshua’s tone froze Jeonghan in his tracks. Immediately, he was on alert. “What’s wrong?”

“Long story, I need to go somewhere safe, now. I have a halfling child with me who’s in danger of being trafficked. He’s going to be Tracked soon.”

Jeonghan didn’t even bother answering; he beamed himself to Joshua’s side in an instant. He heard Joshua’s sigh of relief as he flickered into his flat. The first thing Jeonghan did was to look Joshua over for injuries - thankfully, there was none. But the child clinging onto Joshua’s legs looked malnourished, and had a sickly pallor to his skin. He also had a terrified expression on his face. Jeonghan wanted to drop everything and coddle him and protect him from the world, but the threat of being Tracked still hung over him.

“Hold onto my hands, both of you,” he commanded.

Joshua nudged the halfling to hold onto Jeonghan’s left hand while he held the right. The halfling seemed to trust Joshua, because he reluctantly let go of Joshua and obeyed. Within a blink of an eye, Jeonghan beamed back into his own apartment.

“You can lay low here,” Jeonghan assured Joshua. “The apartment has wards crafted in Heaven, so rest assured you’ll be safe while you’re here.”

“Thanks, Hannie,” Joshua murmured, before sweeping him into a hug.

Jeonghan sighed, sinking into the hug and relishing it. It had been so long since he last saw Joshua. It had been so long since Jeonghan had company that weren't other angels.

He caught sight of the halfling trying to stifle a yawn. “Hey, um,” he started, unsure of how to address the child. He looked at Joshua quizzically.

“Vernon,” Joshua said softly to the child. “This is my friend, Jeonghan. He’s an angel.”

Vernon’s mouth dropped into an ‘o’ of surprise. Jeonghan suppressed a squeal at his cuteness. “Wow. A real angel?”

“Yes, a real angel,” Jeonghan said, smiling, puffing his wings for effect. Vernon looked at them in awe. “Well, Vernon, I can see you look a little tired, and it’s almost midnight. I’m going to get my spare mattress out so you can sleep, okay?”

“He needs to eat first,” Joshua interrupted, digging through his backpack and producing some raw minced beef.

They left Vernon perched on Jeonghan’s kitchen counter, eating the minced beef with a dessert spoon (it was the only clean utensil in his kitchen). With Joshua’s help, Jeonghan managed to maneuver the spare mattress - a futon, really - from underneath his bed to the living room. It was a considerable feat, considering the relatively tight confines of his small apartment.

“Sleep well, Vernon,” Jeonghan overheard Joshua say as he tucked Vernon in.

/////

“We need a plan.”

Joshua sighed, flopping onto Jeonghan’s bed. He was exhausted from relaying the evening’s series of events to Jeonghan. “I know. God, today’s been such a mess.”

Jeonghan grabbed a scrap of paper on his desk and started a rudimentary list. “Tell me what you need to get done.”

“If Vernon’s captors really set a sniffer dog on him, it won’t be hard for them to track Vernon’s scent to my apartment. I guess one way of knowing for sure that they’re tracking him is to go back to my apartment and check if there are any new scents. But I can’t go back too soon - they might have staked out the apartment. I can’t go back too late either - the scents would fade after a week.”

“Do you have anyone who could drop by your apartment and check in for you?”

“No.”

“Your co-workers? Neighbours?”

“Ugh!” exclaimed Joshua, facepalming. “I have to find a way to resign. I mean, I was already planning to, but not this soon.”

“Family emergency,” Jeonghan suggested.

“But I can’t just up and leave without collecting my stuff from the office.”

“Extended family emergency. You can go back in a few months and properly resign then.”

Joshua exhaled a long breath. That was how long it took for a sniffer dog to give up a hunt. A few months. Sure, he was 246 years old, a few months was nothing, but it was still a long time to be on the run. His blood supply wouldn’t last more than a few weeks, at most. And what about the kid? No child, let alone a werewolf pup, could stand being cooped up in the small space of Jeonghan’s apartment for a few months.

“What have I gotten myself into?” he groaned, pressing his palms against his eyes.