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Blood and Peaches

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It’s less dark when Jaehyun opens his eyes. The sun is starting to creep over the edge of the horizon, and the fact that the church they’re still in has one of its windows and walls sort of torn open means that first rays come streaming in, coloring the darkness with yellow and gold. Jaehyun imagines he can see every single facet of it, the light refracting and bouncing off surfaces and splintered wood alike, throwing back orange and red and pink. 

He’s still lying on the ground in borrowed pajamas, but the skin of his abdomen just feels hot, and when he moves—when he breathes, even though he knows he doesn’t need to—it doesn’t hurt. His jaw aches. His gums twinge. His mouth feels sore and raw. He turns his head for the first time in what feels like years, and is horrified to find his own teeth, thrown up on the ground beside him.

“What?” Jaehyun says, with a voice that sounds like smoke, even to his own ears. 

“Yeah, that might have been up there for the worst moment of my life, not counting when you actually died,” says a voice—says Taeyong’s voice—and Jaehyun is turning towards him like a moth to a flame. 

The other vampire is kneeling beside Jaehyun with blood still down his throat—although now it’s Jaehyun’s mixed on top of Kyungchul’s. He’s in jeans and a simple red t-shirt and his jacket is probably unsalvageable, but he has it in his lap none the same. When Jaehyun inhales—because he does, keeps breathing in and out on repeat because he can’t seem to figure out how to stop because why should he stop; without air he’ll die—he knows that it’s the scent of his own blood making his head throb. 

“Hi,” Taeyong says after a pause, with a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Jaehyunnie—hi—”

Jaehyun is up and kneeling in front of him before he can think about it, the speed with which he moves unimportant compared to getting closer, putting his hands on Taeyong’s skin, touching his hair, palming his cheek, meeting his eyes. “Taeyong-hyung,” Jaehyun says, touching his neck now and breathing him in. “You’re warmer than I am.”

“I fed more recently than you did,” Taeyong says, in a tone that sounds odd. He runs his fingers along the skin of Jaehyun’s free hand, circling his wrist, and then retreating before Jaehyun can flip and twine their fingers. “That’s all.” 

Jaehyun laughs—brilliant sounding and unable to help himself. He presses closer, brings up that second hand and holds Taeyong by both cheeks, filled to the brim with joy and affection. 

Taeyong keeps staring back with an unreadable expression. “Jaehyun—”

That’s not quite right, after all. Jaehyun can see lines in Taeyong’s face that he couldn’t see before. The scar under his eye is a whole galaxy not just a star—he has something like a dimple, from when he scowls. There’s a cut on his left cheek, just along the sharp line of the bone, and it’s not healing, despite all the blood. Jaehyun can see how he shakes, just a bit. How the circles under his eyes are still there. He can smell the sickness—the Diphenhydramine—and wonders if he could beg an audience with his new grandfather and force the other vampire to come fix Taeyong. If normal blood would do nothing, Yunho-hyung’s surely would. Or Jaehyun would offer his, and the laws of vampire magic would simply have to suck it. Surely they should be used to such things, after all. 

“Taeyongie-hyung,” Jaehyun says, a joyous, beautiful sound. “Taeyongie.” He leans forward until his mouth brushes the space under Taeyong’s ear, pulls his lips back and lets the sharp point of his fangs scrape along the sensitive patch of skin there. “Taeyongie-hyung. I love you—”

Taeyong clutches him so tight that it would hurt, if either of them were human, and gasps out something close to a sob.

“I love you,” Jaehyun tells him again, holding him back just as hard. “I love you. Only you. Forever. For always.” 

“Jaehyunnie,” Taeyong says. “Jaehyunnie. Me too, me too, me too. I love you—”

Jaehyun kisses him, and it’s like nothing much has changed, after all.

 


 

Eventually they have to call the police. Eventually they have to separate, and Taeyong hauls Jaehyun to his feet with a groan Jaehyun knows firsthand is faked. The jacket goes back on, blood soaked as it is, because it turns out vampires have something of a monopoly on cleaning services and can get blood out of anything. “It’s a good jacket,” Taeyong says, when he catches Jaehyun watching. Then he blushes again, and it’s even better than when Jaehyun had been human.

Kyungchul’s body isn’t worth Jaehyun’s new eyesight, but the poor kid he killed is, and Jaehyun spends careful seconds bent over closing the boy’s eyes.

Taeyong feels him up for ID, finds one that proclaims him a recently graduated high school student, and frowns. “I told Ten not to call Junho-hyung,” he says.

Jaehyun finishes with the kids eyes and stands back up, feeling very suddenly tired. It’s not real exhaustion, because his awakening—rebirth? Undeath?—has left him with an excess of energy. It’s more likely the placebo effect, or human feelings lingering around because he should be tired. He’s had a very long couple of hours, and an even longer week.

“That was smart,” Jaehyun tells Taeyong. “You had no idea what you were going to be walking into.”

Taeyong keeps staring at the plastic card, and then he tightens his fingers around it in something of a fist. “Doyoungie is probably in Seoul now, anyway,” he mutters. “I’ll call.”

Jaehyun looks at him, taking in the exhaustion lining his face and the shake to his fingers he can’t quite seem to hide. He inhales, pulling air through his mouth past the brand-new organ on the roof of it. He can still smell traces of the drugs in Taeyong’s system, the sickness. “I’ll call,” Jaehyun decides, reaching for Taeyong’s hand. Then he changes his mind. “In a moment.”

Taeyong looks up, eyes wide, but still stunning.

“Can you kiss me again, first?” Jaehyun says. “Just for a little bit. I—I think it’s even better now, and I want to test a theory.”

They get very distracted. Jaehyun determines that vampire-vampire kisses are no better than vampire-human kisses, but then figures the results are very heavily biased, since both involve Taeyong.

Then Jaehyun calls Junho-hyung, and the SMPA descends upon the church. They bring Doyoung, who has reached Seoul after all, and who takes point immediately. Most of the officers seem confused, but Junho-hyung only has to repeat Doyoung’s commands twice before they’re bustling off, taking pictures of the bodies, and doing police things. Jaehyun thinks that has more to do with the fact that Doyoung has retrieved Carrot and less to do with Junho-hyung, but. He knows better than to say anything.

“Here,” Doyoung says, coming to stand in front of Taeyong and Jaehyun. He’s holding out a bag of cow’s blood, and it’s for Jaehyun.

Jaehyun takes it delicately, feeling very, very seen, but Doyoung clearly intends to stand between him and any of his would-be interrogators until he’s drained the thing dry.

“Drink,” he says, then when Jaehyun doesn’t immediately go to do so, looks at Taeyong for help. “Hyung—”

“Drink, Jaehyunnie,” Taeyong tells him quietly, still holding his hand. “It’ll make you feel better.”

Jaehyun feels fine, but the blood seems to help anyway. Some part of Jaehyun is mildly horrified to find that drinking blood is nothing like he’d assumed. It doesn’t really taste like anything—besides good, and maybe sharp, with some sort of metallic, salty undercurrent—but it helps, because Jaehyun feels… refreshed, even though he hadn’t noticed he wasn’t a hundred percent. It’s like… getting recharged—like Jaehyun has a battery—and that makes Jaehyun think about Namsan, and all those jokes he made. Are you a vampire or a robot, he’d said. Jaehyun giggles, leaning into Taeyong to keep his balance.

Taeyong stands counter to him, keeping him upright. “… Jaehyunnie?”

For some reason that only serves to make Jaehyun laugh harder, stumbling forward a little. “Robots,” he says, more to himself than anything. “That’s your real secret. Not the soul thing—you’re all made of tin.”

Taeyong just stares at him, mouth open wide. “You’re blood drunk,” he says, sounding honestly taken aback. “You’re actually blood drunk.”

“Do you have an on switch?” Jaehyun reaches out to poke Taeyong in the nose, ending up mostly in his arms.

“Jaehyun—” Taeyong sounds bemused.

“Go home,” Doyoung determines, staring between the both of them with thinly veiled relief; he may sound disgusted, but Jaehyun can tell he was worried—he was in Tokyo only hours before, first of all. “Both of you. Johnny’s doing much better, and Mark’s almost all the way recovered from the Diphenhydramine.” At Jaehyun’s more than vacant look, he sighs. “The Benadryl,” he explains. “The bastard overdosed them on Benadryl.”

Jaehyun blinks down at Taeyong’s chest, then manages to drag his gaze to meet Taeyong’s eyes. “Benadryl,” he says.

“Benadryl,” Taeyong confirms. “At least two bottles worth, given the effects.”

Jaehyun vaguely remembers there being news reports about the stuff potentially causing heart attacks.

“Ten had to go out and find us donors.” For some reason Taeyong looks like he regrets saying that much, and when Jaehyun tries to catch his eyes, he keeps staring at the floor. “I refused,” he mutters, soft enough that Jaehyun wouldn’t have been able to hear, had he still been human.

Some part of him is involuntarily giddy at the prospect—no more being left out. No more missing out on the fun. Or, not fun. Very important things like survival, and only from willing and consenting humans. Or cows.

“It’s why it took me so long to find you,” Taeyong is in the middle of saying, when Jaehyun stops self-aggrandizing and starts listening again. “I refused. I didn’t want to eat… someone… and the blood Ten got us was old and… weak.” He sounds guilty, and Jaehyun puts himself in Taeyong’s shoes, gives him one last squeeze, and then steps back.

“I love you,” he says, partly because he thinks he’ll never get tired of saying it, and partly because Taeyong needs to hear it. “I wasn’t awake for that long when you showed up, anyway.”

Taeyong lifts his gaze off the floor in time for Jaehyun to see how he feels about that—the less than careful way Jaehyun was brought to the church by Kyungchul in the first place—and Jaehyun goes all shivery.

Doyoung makes a noise, regaining their attention. “Anyway,” he starts to say, glancing between them both and ignoring the swarm of humans moving about the crime scene.

One of the women seems particularly delighted by the decapitation, standing over the body and squinting down at the neck with barely concealed glee. “What did you use to take it off?” she asks, and Doyoung raises Carrot without looking away from Taeyong or Jaehyun. “A katana! Cool!”

“You two should go home,” Doyoung finishes, then darts in quickly to take Taeyong’s hand. He pulls it to his mouth for a barely there kiss, right into the joint of the wrist, before he’s turning and heading for the woman and Kyungchul’s body. “Don’t touch that,” he commands. “He seems very, very dead, but we can never be sure with rogues. And unfortunately we can’t go around asking his maker for more information.”

Jaehyun shoots Taeyong a look and asks with his eyes if he informed Doyoung of the familial relation, and Taeyong nods.

“I may have texted the family group chat,” he says, linking their hands and standing straight so that he’s almost the same height as Jaehyun. “Then I told Doyoungie the address, and turned off my phone.”

“And then I distracted you with my lips—”

“They’re very distracting lips,” Taeyong says, making Jaehyun shudder.

“—and then I called Junho-hyung,” Jaehyun finishes. “Okay.” He grins with both dimples. “Let’s go home.”

For a moment Taeyong seems only able to stare back, and then he returns Jaehyun’s smile, joy lighting him up from the inside. “Yeah,” he says. “Lets.”

 


 

The first thing Mark does when he sees Jaehyun is punch him in the arm. Jaehyun can tell immediately that he’s been told Jaehyun isn’t a fragile, breakable human anymore, but it doesn’t hurt because nothing really hurts right now. Jaehyun is a vampire, and vampires don’t get hurt. Not from carefully pulled punches, at least. And Mark definitely pulled the punch—probably because despite the fact that they both know Jaehyun won’t break anymore, the last five days have left Mark extra careful.

“Yah,” Mark says. “Yah.” He’s standing in the doorway just looking at Jaehyun, and Jaehyun takes a step forward to speak.

It’s like running into an invisible wall. He stares, fully aware that he’s turned into Yangyang from three days ago, but unable to keep from placing a hand against the shielding around the house. The threshold. Jaehyun puts his hand against the threshold.

“Huh,” he says, as Mark snuffles and stands awkwardly in front of him, pressing his hand harder and feeling the way the thing gives. It’s surprisingly flexible for being an impenetrable warding built around the sacredness of a home, but when it bounces back—when Jaehyun lets it bounce back—it feels stronger, like it’s taking whatever energy he puts into it and using it against him. He thinks he could force it, if he really wanted. He thinks it would hurt. He vaguely remembers Taeyong saying it was like choking, being somewhere unwelcome. “I think you’re right; I could force this.” He’s talking about what Mark said to him all those days ago, but clearly Mark has no memory—or no need to remember. Jaehyun only has memory, and of things he hadn’t realized he knew. It’s like waking up a vampire has bled sunlight into the things his humanity deemed unimportant, which was great for remembering his and Taeyong’s first time, but less great when it came to every embarrassing thing Jaehyun had once upon happened to say. “It would probably really hurt if I did, though—oh—Mark—come on.”

Mark has moved on from just sort of staring at him with wet eyes, and is now angrily crying at Jaehyun, covering his mouth with the back of a palm.

Jaehyun glances past him, looking for the human owner of the house to let him. “Johnny-hyung!”

“Which name?” Johnny says, poking around Mark and not giving Jaehyun any time to answer. “Ah, whatever. Jeong Jaehyun. Jeong Yuno. Please come in.”

The magic keeping Jaehyun out dissipates near instantly, and Jaehyun almost stumbles at the lack of resistance. He doesn’t fall because Taeyong puts a hand on his shoulder, and he smiles over his shoulder at the other vampire, pleased.

Taeyong smiles back but seems to be waiting for Jaehyun to go in before he does.

Jaehyun turns his attention back to Johnny, and grins, dropping into a bow for the sake of it. “Thank you,” he says as he steps past the threshold. He’s being more dramatic than it probably calls for, but he can’t help himself. Once inside, Jaehyun has to wait for Taeyong to lose his shoes. Jaehyun hasn’t got shoes since he was abducted in Taeyong’s pajamas, but it hadn’t mattered on their trip home.

Finally Taeyong is done—and moved further into the apartment—and Jaehyun follows suit, eyeing Mark. “Mark Lee,” he says, with a wide grin. “Come here.”

“Jaehyun-hyung,” Mark says, and punches him in the arm again.

Jaehyun punches him back, and giggles when it makes Mark stumble, and then they fall upon each other in a jumble of limbs, laughter, and sobs, once the novelty wears off. Eventually they move out of the doorway, finding their way through the space to land somewhere near the TV, still hugging, still sort of crying, and Jaehyun doing his best not to get too caught up in all the little things about his best friend he’s never been able to notice before. He doesn’t smell a hundred percent, he smells off puttingly like Johnny, and the fear scent covering him is a little overwhelming, despite the fact that Jaehyun is very clearly fine.

“Jaehyun-hyung,” Mark says, in between watery breaths that Jaehyun is kind enough to ignore. “You complete and utter idiot.”

Jaehyun feels like he should be offended—he was kidnapped; it’s not like he chose to get in the car this time.

“You’re a vampire,” Mark continues—a sentence that gives Jaehyun so much déjà vu that the both of them are immediately back at it, laughing and crying and holding each other again. “Jaehyun-hyung. You’re not listening. You’re a vampire!” Mark is laughing more than he is crying, and Jaehyun does it right back, pleased.

“Are you going to break my door?” he asks Mark. “Or should I break yours? Come on. Lets go. I can totally break your door—”

Mark is laughing so hard now he might as well be crying, and Jaehyun hugs him to save face.

“Yeah… I think Taeyong did it wrong. He broke you,” interjects Johnny, and Jaehyun finally looks away from Mark and at his friend.

Mark’s boyfriend is seated on his and Taeyong’s couch with a blanket wrapped around him, a black eye making him into a raccoon, and a hesitant smile gracing his lips. He looks thin, tired, and like Kyungchul did more than just introduce his face into a wall a few times, which worries Jaehyun. Ten is there too—Jaehyun saw him in the background when Johnny raised his voice to let Jaehyun in—but he’s making himself scarce; in the bedroom, Jaehyun’s ears tell him. With Taeyong. Jaehyun would be lying if he said he hadn’t noticed when the other vampire left, but he still feels the loss like he might a limb. It’s a strange thing. Jaehyun wonders when it will fade. He wonders if Mark felt it for Kyungchul. Then he feels very suddenly sick.

“Hey Mark—did you—when we killed Kyungchul—”

“I didn’t have my death dream,” Mark says evenly, so someone must have brought him up to speed. Doyoung, probably, since he and Taeyong had vanished briefly to whisper before the humans set upon Jaehyun with a blanket and questions. They’d smelled delicious, and Jaehyun had been thankful for Taeyong’s return—for the hand placed on his shoulder, holding not tight enough to hurt, but not loose enough that Jaehyun might listen to the instincts roaring in his head and telling him to lean that much closer to the nice paramedic and take a bite.

Mark is looking at Jaehyun with surprisingly aware eyes.

“Good,” Jaehyun says, because it is good. He wouldn’t want to be the reason that Mark had gone insane.

“I think it’s because I’ve already been accepted as part of Taeyong-hyung’s family,” Mark continues, with little care for the swoop in Jaehyun’s stomach. “I’m adopted, but whatever tie that put on me—it supersedes… Kyungchul.” He pulls a face, his feelings about his actual sire much the same as everyone else’s. “It’s too bad I have to wait sixty years to find out how I died, though,” he tells Jaehyun conspiratorially. “Do you remember?”

They’re still sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table across from Johnny, who has a black eye and a tired smile, talking about their deaths. It’s surreal. “Do I remember what?”

“How you died,” Mark says.

“Hey, not something you ask someone outright,” protests Johnny, but Jaehyun only stares back at Mark, mouth open.

“I… do,” Jaehyun says slowly, realizing rather suddenly that there are holes in his memory—but less than there should be. By all accounts he should remember nothing—the church and all events preceding it locked away waiting to release with the last of his humanity—but Jaehyun. Jaehyun remembers. He remembers the fight and everything Taeyong said, all of Taeyong’s fears. He’d almost forgotten in the rush of being inhuman… but now that he’s sitting down, he’ll have to have words with Taeyong. Taeyong was afraid Jaehyun wouldn’t love him as a vampire. That idiot.

Mark pulls out of the hug with a groan. “Ugh, of course you’d remember,” he says, standing and pulling Jaehyun to his feet. “I talked to Xuxi, and even he didn’t remember anything until he and Kun turned sixty.”

Jaehyun hadn’t known that—or that Mark had been having conversations with vampires other than Taeyong and Ten.

As if reading his mind, Mark explains, “He Facetimed Ten. I listened in. We’re actually the same age—most of Ten’s children are twenty-two or twenty-four. Oh but Kun is twenty-five.”

It strikes Jaehyun that he is forever going to be twenty-four now, like the rest of them. It’s nothing like Mark, who may never drink in the USA again (a lie; vampire laws rely on the age based on a person’s birthday, not the physical age of their cells), but still. “Damn,” he says. “I’m never going to be a quarter of a century.”

A pen hits him in the face, drawing him out of his thoughts.

“Yah,” Mark says. “You and I are going to live to be multiple centuries.”

He has a good point, Jaehyun has to concede. “So you didn’t have a fucked up death dream because we killed your sire,” he says. “Good to know.” Mark’s making a face—probably because of the sire thing—so Jaehyun hurries to continue, “I remember almost everything, including the dying.” He winces. “The good thing is I was so doped up on adrenaline and shock that I didn’t really feel anything, because I’m pretty sure I had several broken ribs, and my insides were mostly on the floor of the church.”

“Two broken ribs,” Taeyong says, emerging from the bedroom with a surprisingly smug looking Ten. He’s got a Hello Kitty band-aid scrape on his cheek, and Jaehyun can only stare. “What?” Taeyong flushes. “I’d like to see you heal properly after drinking two bottles of Diphenhydramine.”

In the background Ten is rolling his eyes, but he says, “I’m not surprised you remember everything, Jaehyun. I’ve spoken to Changmin, and he remembers too.”

Jaehyun blinks, not following the connection.

“Is he on his way with the private plane?” mutters Taeyong, angry for reasons beyond Jaehyun as well, but Jaehyun focuses more on Ten.

“Turns out, Changmin was involved with Yunho before he died, too,” Ten explains happily, practically skipping around Taeyong to settle right next to Johnny on the couch. Mark frowns, but doesn’t try to get between them, even when one of Ten’s arms ends up behind Johnny. “He didn’t know for sure he was a vampire, though. Anyway, when Changmin died, Yunho was there, and saved him.”

Jaehyun blinks, confused.

“By killing him,” Ten finishes explaining before he can say anything. “It wasn’t like Kun and Xuxi. I didn’t really know Xuxi—or rather, Xuxi didn’t really know me—so there wasn’t any sort of, uh, premature transference?” Ten shrugs, waving one hand. “Clearly it’s not an exact science.”

Taeyong snorts, and mutters something that sounds a lot like, “It’s not science at all,” but Ten ignores him.

“Don’t worry that you remember, is all I’m saying,” he says. “You’re part of an elite club—maybe it’s a Jeong Yuno thing.” He waits a moment for Jaehyun to get that reference, then frowns. “Although by that logic all of us—whatever.” Ten smiles brilliantly, his too-white, too-sharp teeth practically blinding. “Don’t worry that you don’t remember, Mark-yah.”

Mark blinks curiously back at him, but Ten is only serious when he stares back.

“Kyungchul,” Ten says, enunciating clearly. “Was fucked up.”

“I bet he got ordered to wait in a cave or something,” Jaehyun offers, since Ten is finally done, it seems. “For like… hundreds of years. It’s a wonder he had enough sense to even speak Korean.”

Taeyong’s lips twitch, but he doesn’t comment on the car ride, or anything that happened after the car ride, or give Jaehyun more grief for not having the smarts not to antagonize the kidnapping vampire. Jaehyun finds himself grinning back, and also—finally—starting to relax. He hadn’t realized he was tense without Taeyong in the room until Taeyong came back. And, right, that had been what he was thinking, when he started this conversation. It’s a wonder most of the sire bonds he’s seen are so… charged. But speaking of charged. Jaehyun lets his eyes wander to Taeyong’s mouth, doing his best to tell himself he’s not suddenly so tired he can’t see straight.

“Right,” Mark says, clearly picking up on the tension in the room, but choosing to ignore it. “I’m not about to turn into a mass murderer with a grudge because of the untimely death of my—uh—maker.” His mouth turns down, and he finally climbs onto the couch with Johnny. “It does kind of suck. I was useless for the entire fight because of the Benadryl.” When Jaehyun cocks his head, Mark notices and answers, since he’s a vampire. “There’s only so much human blood can do, and I’m way too brand new. And I don’t have a sire who can donate.”

Jaehyun turns his attention towards Taeyong, whose chin is raised. “But you said you didn’t get any blood from Yunho-hyung,” he says. “You’re still—” He mimes the shake to Taeyong’s hands, and narrows his eyes.

Mark pauses, before focusing on Ten. “But you said—”

Ten makes a noise and gets up off the couch and away from Johnny and Mark before Mark can more than stare at him. “I think I should go talk to the police again,” he says. “Doyoungie’s fine, but he’s still Doyoungie. We wouldn’t want him to start an international incident because he was trapped in Haneda airport for almost an hour.”

“Johnny-hyung has a black eye,” Mark continues, loud enough that even Johnny appears to be inching away. “But you said you didn’t need to take that much because Yunho-hyung had donated blood, and that you would be perfectly fine going out to save Jaehyun-hyung on your own.”

Jaehyun thinks he’d be as mad about that as Mark is if he was any less tired, but given that all of a sudden it’s taking all of his will to stay on his feet, he mostly just listens, probably smiling like an idiot, while Mark rips into Taeyong.

“Look—”

“Taeyong-hyung!” Mark’s voice is shrill. “Johnny-hyung!”

Johnny freezes on the couch, unable to get away, and raises both of his hands. Mark snaps at him, raising a wrist and a hand so he can open a vein, but Johnny grabs hold of him before he can do so, letting the blanket fall off his shoulders, and leaning in to whisper things to Mark that Jaehyun could hear, if he focused, but shouldn’t.

Instead he stifles a yawn and looks at Taeyong.

Taeyong looks right back, a smile gracing his lips that makes Jaehyun want to hide his face. “If you’re all done,” he says quietly, not really addressing the room at this point, but still speaking anyway. “Jaehyunnie and I are going to go to bed.”

Jaehyun blinks. “We are?” He’s tired, but he’s not dead—not really—and Taeyong’s neck—

“Don’t be a pervert.” Taeyong’s eyes are twinkly. “Real bed.”

“Oh.” Jaehyun fails to stifle the next yawn, and it comes out with a whine that totally isn’t cute, no matter what his parents and/or friends might have said.

“Yeah,” says Taeyong, holding out a hand. “Johnny!”

Johnny and Mark stop whatever it is they’re doing, but neither of them turn.

“Hold down the fort, will you? Somebody’s brand new, and not used to being awake during the day.”

There’s some response, but Jaehyun misses it, too busy letting Taeyong take him by the hand, and lead him into the bedroom. It’s dark in the room, the blinds proper black out, and Jaehyun flops face down onto the comforter without even losing the clothes. “Oh,” he manages, realizing. “I’m getting your blankets all bloody.” There’d been no time for him to change, once Johnny let him into the apartment and Mark got his clutches into him, but Taeyong had changed clothes, and Jaehyun… Jaehyun is suddenly exhausted. It’s like the higher in the sky the sun gets the harder it is to stay awake; Jaehyun could probably produce the exact time of day, if prompted.

“Shh.” He feels hands on his ankles, moving his feet into bed, and then a kiss, pressed to the back of his neck, then tucked right behind one ear. “Go to sleep, Jaehyun-ah.”

Jaehyun rolls to his side and tucks around a pillow, eyes closed and already halfway there. “Okay,” he says. “Stay.” There’s a sound—Taeyong slicing down the front of the bloody sleep shirt with a nail—and then Jaehyun succumbs to sleep, warm, and sated, and smelling like Taeyong, like home. His dreams are strange. There is a child, dressed all in white, and screaming. A bathtub, with a claw foot, and blood drip-dripping onto tiles. At one point, Jaehyun wakes disoriented and maybe crying, but Taeyong just wraps around him and holds him tight.

“Shh, Jaehyun-ah. I love you. I’ve got you. Shh.”

Jaehyun goes back to sleep.

 


 

It’s dark when Jaehyun wakes up again, and very clearly evening. His brain thinks he should be hungry, but his stomach seems perfectly fine, so the blood Doyoung brought him was enough. It’s probably because Jaehyun is so brand new, also, because surely there’s something about him having been human so recently? He’d say it was all the human blood still… in him, but he thinks… Taeyong would have had to drain him, after. Whatever it is, Jaehyun isn’t hungry, or tired, or hurt when he wakes up. He just feels refreshed, if not a little restless.

And like he’s being watched. Because he is.

Jaehyun can feel Taeyong’s eyes on him like a long-missed friend, and he shivers. “Hey,” he says, rolling onto his side and better propping his head up on Taeyong’s pillows.

Taeyong makes a noise back, but otherwise doesn’t move, content to just keep staring. He’s in his own set of pajamas—a t-shirt and a pair of flannel pants—but Jaehyun notes he’s down to the borrowed boxers he died in and pulls a face. “Sorry,” Taeyong says, as if reading Jaehyun’s mind. “It seemed… untoward to strip you in your sleep.”

Jaehyun pulls his legs out from under the blankets and peels off the underwear, which was spared blood and other things, thankfully, but still makes Jaehyun feel like he’s polluting Taeyong’s pristine sheets. It doesn’t help that he can smell how recently the bedding was laundered, the underlying cling of Febreze air freshener making the roof of Jaehyun’s mouth hum. He wracks his brain for what Mark had called the new organ there, and comes up blank. Suitably naked, he slips back under the covers, curls an arm around the pillow, and yawns.

Taeyong stares, mouth parted eyes going black.

Something in Jaehyun’s belly is pleased, and he hides a smirk behind a hand. “Were you watching me sleep?” he says.

Taeyong finally manages to drag his eyes away from Jaehyun’s collar bones. “No,” he lies.

“Did you sleep at all?” Jaehyun presses, wiggling around on the bed and trying not to too obviously delight when Taeyong’s gaze drags down his chest to the jut of his hip bones, barely covered by the blanket.

“I’m on a mostly human schedule,” Taeyong says, with a shocking amount of composure. “Can you—” He gestures, but Jaehyun only settles more firmly onto his back, one arm dragged up behind his head and the other thudding down onto the bed closest to the window. “Never mind.” Taeyong’s tone is pained.

Jaehyun is too busy getting distracted by his own body, fingering the place where he knows Kyungchul stuck a piece of wood into him, but bears no scar. He checks for things from before that wound—thinking of the star underneath Taeyong’s eye—and is relieved to find them: mementoes from more than a few childhood falls and several accidents with cooking knives. He thinks—more than a little guiltily—that it would have been too much, to have lost those. It would have made his body feel even less like his own.

“Jaehyunnie?” Taeyong’s tone is odd, and Jaehyun turns toward him with a smile.

“Hyung—”

Two of Taeyong’s fingers land across Jaehyun’s lips, silencing him, but he can’t help but part his mouth, and poke out his tongue. Taeyong tastes inhuman—some part of Jaehyun wonders how he already knows that—but the thread holding them together pulses deep in Jaehyun’s chest, and he sucks in a great gust of air to keep from nipping him, freezing solid in hopes that Taeyong just won’t notice, or will at least be kind enough not to say anything.

“Jaehyunnie,” Taeyong’s tone is breathless, but no less discomforted.

Jaehyun breathes gently against his fingers, and then tips his head so that he can press a kiss to his wrist, right where it hinges to his palm, and his pulse should be beating rapidfire fast, were he not a vampire. “You’re thinking stupid things,” he says, careful to keep his own voice down. “Don’t.”

Taeyong keeps his palm pressed to Jaehyun’s mouth for all of two beats, before he swallows, and meets Jaehyun’s eyes. “Are you sure—”

“Taeyong-hyung.” Jaehyun looks up at Taeyong through his lashes, then sits up, still holding his hand, and tugs him close enough to drop his chin onto his collar bones, and curls his head just under his neck. “I asked you to.”

After a moment’s pause, Taeyong’s hands settle around Jaehyun’s shoulders, and he exhales. “I know.”

Jaehyun’s lips twitch. “Do you?”

“It’s your soul,” Taeyong can’t seem to help but point out.

Jaehyun tilts his head up to look at him, and seals both of their hands over Taeyong’s unbeating heart, pressing down hard enough to leave a mark, if he were to do it for an extended period of time. “It’s not gone,” he says, and finds that he believes it with enough sincerity that Taeyong looks taken aback. “It’s right here.” He presses harder, until Taeyong winces—involuntarily, or maybe because Jaehyun is brand new and not yet sure of his strength—then pulls back. “You’re keeping it safe for me.”

Taeyong looks like he wants to dispute the issue, so Jaehyun leans in and kisses him before his brow can furrow for too long. It works; Taeyong’s eyes widen, his mouth parts once Jaehyun leaves it, and the barest hint of a blush touches his cheeks. He’s too weak for more than that— week-old blood plus a drug overdose plus a fight with a vampire three times his age will do that to you—but Jaehyun can smell the change in temperature none the same. Blushing has a smell, or at least a feeling, and the predator in Jaehyun wants only to latch to Taeyong’s neck and suckle. He doesn’t—pulls away from the kiss and goes hunting for clean underwear and something to wear—but his own ears feel hot, and he’s too full of sire-blood and animal-blood for that not to be showing.

“I’d have missed that,” Taeyong says, once Jaehyun finishes tugging on another pair of thieved sweat pants and pulls out a simple white t-shirt with a designer tag that suggests it costs more than Jaehyun thinks a bit of fabric has any business costing.

“Missed what?”

“Your lie detector ears.” Taeyong stands as well, which means Jaehyun won’t be able to get back in bed. He blurs over to the closet and retrieves his own set of clothes, which distracts Jaehyun because it’s not really a blur, anymore. It’s not like slow motion, or any of the other stupid ways people have interpreted superspeed in the movies, but Jaehyun is aware of Taeyong crossing the room; not just seeing him one place and then another in a split second.

“Weird,” he says, as Taeyong shucks out of the shirt and sleep pants without any modesty. “Not you getting naked.” Taeyong seems to slap the waistband of his boxers rather pointedly, one perfect eyebrow raised. Jaehyun fights the urge to slap him on the ass with a pillow. “The—moving—thing.”

“The moving thing.”

There’s going to be teasing. Jaehyun needs to cut off the teasing. “Yes,” he says. “Now why are we getting up?” He narrows his eyes, thinking. “You’re not”—he lowers his voice—“hungry, are you? Are we going—hunting?” Maybe Taeyong won’t comment on the crack in the middle of that sentence; or think it’s just vampire puberty, since Jaehyun is for all intents and purposes now a baby again.

“We’re not going hunting.” Taeyong’s got a quirk to his mouth that suggests he has noticed and is only not saying something because he loves Jaehyun; Jaehyun can’t be mad. “We are going somewhere, though.”

“Somewhere,” Jaehyun says dubiously, but follows when Taeyong leads. The living room is surprisingly empty, Johnny and Mark no doubt ensconced in their own private bedroom, but Jaehyun was expecting Ten or at least Doyoung. But then there was no reason for the two of them to stick around for protection, anymore—Kyungchul was very, very dead, and the body was only collecting dust until Yunho-hyung could arrive and preside over it’s disposal; burning, Ten had said with a surprising lack of concern, while Mark choked on air and Johnny patted him on the back, hard—and anything would be better than fighting over Taeyong and Johnny’s couch. Even for the undead, who didn’t even need to sleep, but still liked to do so.

Taeyong crosses the room to the shoe racks and pulls on shoes, pausing long enough to level Jaehyun a look until he does the same. He opens the door, doesn’t turn back to grab either of their phones, and Jaehyun leaves with him after only a minor pause. He hasn’t even turned his phone back on since getting back from dying and not dying as a vampire. It died, somewhere between him getting kidnapped and Mark and Taeyong being drugged, and Jaehyun plugged it in that morning when they got home, but, well. He’s not looking forward to reading any of his missed text messages, or following up on missed calls. He made the news, and while not by name, his family aren’t idiots.

There’s no easy way to tell your mother you’re undead.

Jaehyun’s stomach turns itself in uneasy knots, so he follows Taeyong into the elevator and then out of the elevator without even noticing. It’s only once they’re standing outside of a door very clearly marked ‘do not enter’ by the padlock keeping it closed that Jaehyun cottons on, pausing. “Wait,” he says, as Taeyong reaches out to put a hand around the bit of metal so that he can pull it open. “Are we going onto the roof?”

Jaehyun doesn’t know where Taeyong gets the bobby pin, but he picks the lock with ease. The whole thing so happens fast that it’s just like Taeyong had the key and didn’t use vampiric hearing to listen for the for the click of the pins; he’s clearly done this all before, and when Jaehyun narrows his eyes at him, Taeyong just grins.

“Yah,” Jaehyun says, as Taeyong holds out a hand as if to wait for Jaehyun to step out onto the roof first. “What is it with you and roofs?”

“As a child, I dreamed of being Batman,” Taeyong says, as Jaehyun gives in and goes through the door with a sigh. “Watched all the movies. Read all the comics. It changed me.”

Jaehyun narrows his eyes. “You’re older than Batman,” he manages. “I don’t mean—I mean actually older than Batman. The comics came out in 1939—”

“Jaehyunnie!” Taeyong looks delighted, and Jaehyun fights the urge to smack him. “Are you a nerd?”

There are two lawn chairs up on the roof, set up so that no one would see them if they came out looking, and Jaehyun focuses on them instead. “I’m surprised Johnny-hyung even humors you—”

“Well I do own the building,” interjects Taeyong, then grabs Jaehyun by the hand so that he doesn’t go to the chairs. “Come on.” He walks right up to the edge of the building, lets go, and then leaps up onto the ledge without so much as a pause. He’s graceful—like a cat—and Jaehyun’s heart is in his throat.

But then—Jaehyun inhales, shuts his eyes, gathers his legs—Jaehyun can do that too; land on his own two feet like something out of a superhero comic.

“I liked Batman, growing up,” says Jaehyun, sinking down to sit beside Taeyong with his feet dangling off the side, staring down at the street lights and the glow of the city around them and letting it start to take his breath away. “He was cool.”

Taeyong reaches out to hold Jaehyun’s hand again, and his skin is finally cold. It makes Jaehyun wonder if he should offer—if there is a way, to suggest, without having to say it, because surely it would be… impolite to be so forward. Not that Jaehyun has ever been shy. Not that Jaehyun would ever be shy about this, more like.

Taeyong gazes down at Seoul. “Do you ever think… what would it have been like, if I’d picked Connecticut, not Chicago?”

Jaehyun slides sideways until their thighs line up, and tugs his hand free so that he can rest back on his palms, staring up at the surprisingly clear bit of sky. This far into the city there’s too much light pollution for stars, but if Jaehyun focuses—uses the senses that are all vampire and not at all human—he thinks he can see some of them. “Well,” he says. “We’d probably have slept together more than one time, before.”

Taeyong is definitely staring at him with a frown marring his features, and Jaehyun knocks their shoulders together, exhilarated at the prospect of swinging his legs. He’s up here on the roof with his feet dangled over the side, and he’s fine—because he’s a vampire. He could probably survive a fall from this height, but even if he didn’t—he would, because falling off a building wasn’t how Jaehyun had died.

“Hey,” Jaehyun says suddenly, now that he’s thought of it. “So is my weakness church pew in the stomach, or will any bit of wood—”

“Very funny.” Taeyong’s tone is enough to make Jaehyun stop indulging his inner adrenaline junkie, and he pulls his feet back up so that all of him is on the building ledge, and drops his full weight into Taeyong’s side. “It’s just a stake, I’d think,” Taeyong says after a moment. “We’re not testing it.”

“I wouldn’t—” Jaehyun breaks off, because he’d been curious, but not seriously. He gets to have Taeyong for forever. No way is he jeopardizing that on a pointless hunch. It’s just the only other person who knows how Jaehyun died in that church is dead, and Jaehyun had wondered. “I was just curious.”

“I slit my wrists,” Taeyong offers suddenly, and Jaehyun’s head comes up.

“What?” His ears are ringing, and he gapes. “You—Hyung—you can’t just tell me—”

“It’s only fair.” Taeyong’s chin is raised and he looks stubborn, but there is heat in his cheeks; real heat, and not just the faint hint of a flush. He’s had no blood since they left the bed—since they got in the bed—and if Jaehyun were thinking, he’d wonder about that; think of how embarrassed Taeyong must have to be, so blush so hard with so little borrowed blood. “I know yours, so you should know mine—”

“Hyung!” Jaehyun goes to take Taeyong by the shoulders, just so that he can give him a shake. “You—”

Taeyong’s eyes are hard, but underneath Jaehyun can see vulnerability, and that’s enough to give him pause. “What?” Taeyong sounds embarrassed.

Jaehyun walks back his initial fear reaction, and finds himself… embarrassed. Touched. Confused. In love. “Wait,” he manages. “Is this—is this some sort of vampire confession—”

“It’s simply the right thing to do.” Taeyong’s ears are red to match his cheeks and Jaehyun wants to bite them—wants to bite Taeyong—but not in a food way, or a sex way, just a—a Taeyong way.

“Simply the right thing to do,” he repeats. “Simply the right thing to do. You—I—” He doesn’t have the words for this, and feels awkward. “Thank you,” he settles for. “I love you.”

Taeyong is silent, but after a moment’s pause, he tilts so that he’s the one leaning up against Jaehyun now. “I love you too,” he says. He says it like he can’t not say it in response, and Jaehyun swears—swears—his heart thumps. But it’s impossible, so he’ll have to settle for it being a phantom thump. Phantom affection? Taeyong heaves a long sigh, eyeing Jaehyun out of the corner of his eye. “You’re about to say something horrific,” he determines.

“You’d have loved it,” Jaehyun affirms, dropping his feet over the side of the building again.

“Mm.” Taeyong doesn’t dispute that, so Jaehyun lets himself relish in the butterflies. Those, it seems, have not gone away. He hopes they never do; not even in a thousand years. “But to return to your point…”

Jaehyun can’t remember what his point was. “Connecticut? The fact that it’s really a shame that you can’t bend me in half and give it to me the same way anymore—shit—I didn’t say that bit out loud, did I—look can we just for—get—hey!” Jaehyun’s words cut off, sentence going high at the end, because Taeyong has hauled him away from the edge, pulling him so that they’re back to chest, and Jaehyun is breathing hard because his brain still thinks he ought to, and nothing else.

“Jaehyun-ah,” says Taeyong, a low rumble right beside Jaehyun’s ear. “I am your maker.” He’s got his arm around Jaehyun’s front, and as he speaks, he tightens his hold, then drags one of Jaehyun’s hands down to rest in his lap, his fingers wrapped around Jaehyun’s wrist. His grip isn’t hard enough to hurt, but it could be—and Jaehyun can only think of the ease of which he’d opened the chain locking the door to the roof, and swallow. “What do you mean I can’t ‘give it to you’ the same way?”

Jaehyun hears the air quotes, and swallows some more. Very suddenly, he remembers that Taeyong can more than overpower him physically—Taeyong could order him, and Jaehyun would be powerless to refuse. That… shouldn’t be hot. Certainly it was awful when Yunho-hyung did it, but Jaehyun shivers regardless. His skin practically sings, everywhere he and Taeyong are touching feeling like a live wire. “Right,” he manages. “Fair.”

Taeyong holds him for another moment, and then lets him go. It takes Jaehyun a bit to slide apart enough to put his feet back over the edge. As he does so, he can’t help but look at the flush of Taeyong’s own ears. He smiles.

“So,” he says. He wants to go back to dangling over the side of a building—over a side of a building—but some part of him is still humming with need and desire. How unfair, for Taeyong to awaken that in him, and then not commit.

“Are you okay, Jaehyun-ah?” Taeyong says suddenly, completely derailing Jaehyun’s train of thought.

Jaehyun stops with one toe over the edge. “What?”

“I just mean with all”—Taeyong raises a hand and waves it about in the air, then seems to realize he looks like a fool, and lowers it abruptly—“this.”

“This,” Jaehyun says.

“This,” Taeyong agrees. “You being a vampire. Me having killed you. Those things.”

“Taeyong-hyung.” Jaehyun gives in and actually does swing his feet back and forth, feeling only glee at how exhilarating that is—and thankful for not having been a human with a fear of heights—and how the danger factor really is never going to go away. Maybe it will in a few years, but for now? For now Jaehyun is just glad to know that his self-preservation instincts haven’t got the memo, and eager to explore that in… other places. Like the bedroom. Maybe his train hasn’t been entirely derailed. “I’m fine,” he tells Taeyong. “I asked you for it. And the alternative was me dying, so. I could never be mad at you.”

Taeyong is silent for a long moment, and then he drops his feet over the side to join Jaehyun’s. “I just had to be sure,” he mumbles. “Not because I don’t believe you”—it’s good that he’s said that because Jaehyun would hate to have to push him over off a building—“but because I love you, is all.”

That won’t go away in a couple years. The way that makes Jaehyun feel—the thrum—which was there well before they were vampire and sire. “Good,” Jaehyun says.

“I was more asking because you haven’t looked at your phone since you plugged it in, though,” Taeyong says after a small pause, and Jaehyun feels… not embarrassed, because he wanted to say all of that anyway, but a little like he’s jumped the gun.

“Oh,” he says. “Oops.”

Taeyong’s lips quirk, but he just walks their hands to touch again, both of them leaning back to stare up at the sky. “Your mother loves you,” he says.

“My mother loves me human,” Jaehyun mutters, but gets to his feet and off the side of the building in less than two seconds.

Taeyong follows, near silent and kind. He raises a brow, relinks their hands, and doesn’t falter when Jaehyun presses his cheek into his palm, sighing.

“I’m scared,” he whispers. “Not of you.” He lifts his hand, kisses Taeyong’s lifeline. “Not of this. Just—I get you forever.”

Taeyong doesn’t say a word, just lets Jaehyun get it out.

“I only get my parents for—for—”

“I understand,” Taeyong says.

“I’ll tell them tomorrow,” Jaehyun hurries to say. “I’ll call—can you—are you hungry? You look hungry.”

“Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong says, but he drops his gaze to Jaehyun’s wrist anyway.

“Please,” Jaehyun says, eyes on the lawn chairs—on the blanket that is probably for Johnny, since Taeyong could never get cold.

“Well I do own the building,” Taeyong says, almost fondly, and goes. It’s everything. Messy. Intimate. Warm. Like becoming one person—like sex had been before, but different. It’s the stars, and the burn in Jaehyun’s thighs, and blood traded between kisses like the air they no longer need to breathe.

It’s—Taeyong could break Jaehyun after all, it seems. Jaehyun would let him, and ruin him in return.

“I’m glad you own the building,” he tells him after, bundled under the blanket with his head on Taeyong’s chest. “That would have been hard to explain.” He stops to hum, pleasure seeping through his veins like liquid silver, then shuts his eyes, content to just listen.

Taeyong hums as well, fingers trading gently through the hair behind Jaehyun’s ear. “Were you planning on getting caught?”

“No.” Jaehyun doesn’t even try to hide the shudder that goes through him at the thought. Taeyong’s building is mostly manned by other vampires, and neither of them had been very quiet, but the sound of the city—the noise of the world—he’d thought. “Of course not.”

“Mm,” Taeyong says again. “You’re going to make things very hard for me.”

“You love it,” Jaehyun can’t help but say, and grins.

“I do,” says Taeyong. They are a very long time coming, getting down from the roof.

 


 

His father refuses to meet with Jaehyun at the coffee shop. When Jaehyun calls his parents on Friday morning to update them on recent events, his father refuses to stay on the phone, but Jaehyun is too busy dealing with his mother’s barely contained panic to do more than think about that. She wants to come up to Taeyong’s apartment immediately, has only been following Yunho-hyung’s press surrounding the incidents peripherally, but finding out her only child was no longer among the living—that’s grounds for immediate research, and for panic.

Jaehyun gets it, but Jaehyun needed time to get a handle on his own feelings on the matter—no, he didn’t regret it, and no, he still didn’t hate Taeyong, God—and so manages to convince her to wait until Sunday. On Monday, he and Taeyong are due at Yunho-hyung’s Seoul residence for proper introductions. Jaehyun would be lying if he said he wasn’t scared shitless at the prospect.

“Mom,” he finds himself saying. “Mom, it’s okay. I’m okay. I’ll see you and Dad on Sunday.” Then he rattles off the address to Chaeyoung-noona’s coffee shop, and tries not to wince, since it’s not hers anymore.

But only his mother comes to meet them on Sunday. She comes tripping to meet them at the table they’ve commandeered and doesn’t hesitate before pulling Jaehyun into a hug.

“Jaehyun,” she says, into his shoulder. “Jaehyun.”

Jaehyun tells himself it doesn’t matter than she’s alone. That he understands. It’s a tough pill to swallow, your only son becoming a vampire. Jaehyun would never have had children even if he’d stayed human—the love of his life wasn’t about to change even if his father wanted it to—but now… There’s no chance of even surrogacy, as they are. Vampires may walk and talk among them, but vampire-human children are impossible. Jaehyun understands his father’s grief.

It still stings, that he doesn’t come. Because while Jaehyun’s mother is doing the best that she can, Jaehyun still sees it. He sees it when she flinches, two seconds before she notices him notice, as they touch on their way to the sweetener. Jaehyun is just a shade faster than she is now, but he’s trying—newborn vampire 101; be slower than you think you need to be, and then even slower. She’s warm—warmer than she’s ever been—and Jaehyun hates that he can’t stop thinking about the beat of her heart.

“Give him time, baby,” says his mom finally into the silence, with a surprisingly brave hand on Jaehyun’s own.

Jaehyun is the one trying not to flinch now, holding still because Taeyong is sitting beside him, one ankle hooked innocently around Jaehyun’s, breathing in and out, even though he doesn’t have to. “I have a lot of that, now,” Jaehyun manages to say eventually, with a flash of his dimples.

His mom smiles back with her own.

Jaehyun’s chest hurts. “Mom,” he says quietly, staring down at their still linked hands. They’re similar—Jaehyun has always had his mother’s long, pianist fingers—but now. Jaehyun could kill a man with his fingers—could rip padlocks off of wrought iron with his pinky. “The alternative was me dying.” It’s an echo of what he said to Taeyong on the roof, and Taeyong shifts, his ankle hooking tighter under the table.

His mom says nothing, but Jaehyun can read it in her expression anyway. Maybe that should have happened, she doesn’t say, but thinks, and then there is only guilt. Guilt so thick that Jaehyun is nearly ill with it, and only Taeyong’s hand very suddenly on the small of his back keeps him relaxed enough to unnecessarily breathe. Not a week ago he’d thought it funny how quickly Mark learned to stop breathing, but now he understands. It’s the first thing to do, after the blinking, and shifting position. Jaehyun is a predator, and predators favor stillness. Breathing is unnecessary movement.

He manages a smile and also an exhale. “So,” he says. “You were telling me about Sooyeon-noona.”

And Jaehyun’s mother is off again, rambling on about her least favorite coworker—Im Sooyeon.

Taeyong takes his hand afterwards, pulling him along the sidewalk like he did when Jaehyun was human, and swinging their arms like jumping rope. “Are you okay?” he says, and finally Jaehyun feels himself start to relax.

“Hyung,” he says. “Please stop asking me that.”

Taeyong squeezes his hand tighter. “But I love you,” he says straightforwardly. “I’m always going to want you to be okay.”

Jaehyun holds his hand right back with his new strength. When Taeyong raises one brow, he laughs, giddy. “Now that you’re here?” he says in answer. “Always.”

Taeyong laughs as well, clearly pleased. They’re catching stares—they were both on the news and Taeyong remains Taeyong—but Jaehyun doesn’t care. “You do realize this is going to make Johnny-hyung insufferable, right?”

Jaehyun freezes mid step and lets Taeyong rush them out of anyone else’s way. “Oh God,” he says finally. Johnny’s almost back to a hundred percent, now that Mark’s not laid up with Benadryl and actually able to give him a superhuman kick. But he’s also…

“He’s the only human left,” Taeyong continues, speaking Jaehyun’s mind. “And he’ll be twenty-seven next year.”

Jaehyun resumes swinging their hands together and walking. “That’s a problem for Mark,” he decides.

Taeyong rolls his eyes. “Ah yes, Mark,” he says. “Have the two of you finished competing to see who’s the best newborn vampire? You know Yunho-hyung can’t actually give out awards for good behavior, right?”

Jaehyun smiles, the final bit of tension finally leaving his shoulders. “You shouldn’t be mad. I’m clearly winning.”

Taeyong smiles back. “Yes, well, Mark had other things on his mind. He didn’t have time to beg his immortal boyfriend to teach him proper period courting phrases.” He rolls his eyes some more. “You do know I was only born in the 1890s.”

Jaehyun just approximates something of a bow, says words fit for poetry, and feels—not for the first time in what is surely to be a long life and then some—perfectly and utterly at ease. “I love you,” he finishes with.

“I love you too,” Taeyong says. “Now come on. We’ll miss the train.”

And on they go, into forever.