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Blood and Peaches

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The thing is, by the time Jaehyun was born, vampires had already been out of the coffin for centuries. They officially first cropped up in historical records around the Black Death, when the first of them weren’t dying, let alone aging. At least, presumably the first of them.

Jaehyun knows the oldest living vampire in Korea is Lee Sooman, and he doesn’t talk about his, uh, creator? Jaehyun thinks that’s the right word. (Or parent, maybe? Perhaps he should have paid more attention in school.) Since then, vampires have always been around, self-governing and keeping their secrets, but generally coexisting with humans. So, it’s not like it’s weird, waking up on a Thursday morning to his best friend shaking him frantically awake, shouting about vampires.

Jaehyun and Mark go to a mixed school, live in a mixed dorm, and are at the very least on speaking terms with plenty of vampires. Jaehyun even has an unfortunate crush on a vampire—even has a first date scheduled with that vampire. He’s been trying not to fixate on that since asking the man (vampire?) out, but it still lends credence to his point: it’s not weird for Mark to be shouting about vampires. It is weird for Mark to be shouting about how he is a vampire, though. Because when Jaehyun fell asleep the night before, Mark wasn’t a vampire. He was as human as Jaehyun is.

So… weird. Really, really fucking weird.

Jaehyun rolls back over and pulls the pillow over his head, hoping that it’s all just a bad dream.

“Jaehyun-hyung!” says Mark. “Jaehyun-hyung! You’re not listening to me! I’m a vampire!”

It occurs to Jaehyun that he’s not entirely sure how Mark got into his room in the first place. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s too early to think about much of anything. It’s finals week, so no one has classes, but Jaehyun has an eight a.m. final that morning and no way is he waking up before the crack of dawn. Not even for Mark.

“Mark-yah,” Jaehyun says, mostly muffled by his pillow. “It’s too early for this.”

“I am a vampire!” Mark says again, at a considerably higher pitch, and then seems to have no trouble at all wrestling Jaehyun’s pillow from him.

Jaehyun squints into the darkness of his dorm room, then turns in the direction of all the fuss, wincing when he’s hit by a beam of light coming from his cracked door. But it’s not a beam coming from under it. No, it seems to be coming at Jaehyun’s eyes from an odd angle. “What?” Jaehyun looks at the door.

“Sorry about that, uh. I might not know my own strength,” Mark explains, sounding surprisingly perky for having been two seconds away from a nervous breakdown only moments before.

After rubbing his eyes, Jaehyun notices that his front door seems to be resting propped at an angle, no longer sitting on its hinges. “Mark,” he says, sitting up in bed and then pausing to pull a face. Jaehyun doesn’t sleep shirtless because he’s an RA, and the combination of a t-shirt and the winter comforter he’s been too lazy to swap out has left him distinctly gross; he’ll have to shower before his exam, and brush his teeth. He rubs at his eyes again, trying to stay focused. “What did you do to my door?”

Mark shifts guiltily around on Jaehyun’s bed, somehow managing to maintain eye contact. His eyes are… reflective, like a cat’s. Jaehyun is… not thinking about that. “Well, I knocked,” Mark explains. “You didn’t give me a key.”

“I’m an RA,” Jaehyun manages, still staring at his unhinged door.

“I’m not saying I don’t understand,” Mark says. “Just. I knocked.” He lifts his hand and mimes the action, as if that’s the thing that is giving Jaehyun pause. Then he repeats the sentence in English, still miming. Jaehyun knows what knocking is. He speaks Korean, and English, and so does Mark. The issue isn’t the language choice. The issue is that Mark’s knocking was apparently strong enough to knock Jaehyun’s door off its hinges.

“You knocked,” says Jaehyun.

“Yeah,” Mark says. “I’m surprised you didn’t wake up, actually. I mean I caught the door,” he adds, miming that as well, so it must not be something he’s doing consciously. “But it was very loud.”

Jaehyun pulled an almost all-nighter in prep for his second to last final, and he had been dreaming about sailing the ocean as the parrot of some sort of vampire pirate king that might have been said crush-slash-soon-to-be-first-date, but there hadn’t been any loud banging in that setting either. Of either kind. “Wow,” is all he manages.

Mark bites at his lower lip, and Jaehyun sees fangs. “Sorry—”

“Mark,” Jaehyun interrupts, staring—pointing. “Mark, what—”

Mark reaches up to touch his own mouth, finding the sharp canines and pricking a finger with a wince. “Ow—shit—I’ve been doing all morning—don’t worry—it won’t—last… ” He trails off as Jaehyun grabs his hand to put pressure on it to stop the bleeding, and both of them watch firsthand as the skin of Mark’s index finger knits itself back together, leaving absolutely no trace of a scar.

“Shit,” Jaehyun manages, still staring. He shifts his hold on Mark’s hand almost without thinking about it, sliding two fingers to rest at his pulse point. His best friend just keeps rambling on, talking about how the first thing he did when he woke up in a field on west campus was nearly bite off his own tongue. Literally, not figuratively. That should have been the weirdest thing, but it turns out the bloody clothes were weirder.

“It’s my blood,” Mark adds, as Jaehyun pauses in his desperate wait for a pulse that clearly isn’t there to look down at the shirt and pants Mark is wearing. Jeans and thankfully no shoes or socks, with a band t-shirt stained almost entirely brown with dried blood. It’s summer, the end of June, and Mark’s arms are bare and shockingly pale. Jaehyun almost wants to say they’re paler than they usually are, but he’s not sure. “Don’t ask me how I know that, but I know that,” Mark is saying. “It’s my blood. I’m not—I didn’t go out and—eat—someone.”

They’re probably crossing all sorts of lines and not at all politically correct, but Jaehyun doesn’t really care at this point, too busy giving up on finding Mark’s pulse—Mark doesn’t have one; he doesn’t have one; Jaehyun’s best friend is an undead vampire—and instead scrambling around desperately on his bed for his phone. He finds one AirPod, hopes to God he’ll find the second one later, and then closes his fingers around the well-loved bit of technology. It’s five-fifteen, just when dawn should be breaking, and it’s June twenty-fifth—a Thursday. Jaehyun has a final at eight a.m., and then another tomorrow around nine. He swallows.

“Mark,” he says. His friend’s nervous rambling cuts off. “You—what do we do?” He pauses. “How did you get in?” How did you cross the threshold, he means, but doesn’t say. Mark gets it, regardless. They’d both been there for plenty of class welcome ceremonies, where the faculty invited all their undead students past the thresholds of their offices, and the head of school welcomed them onto the campus proper. Jaehyun has a crush—has vampire students in his hall, but he doesn’t remember what the protocol is for dorms. “You can come in, Mark Lee,” he blurts anyway, just in case. He wouldn’t want Mark to be in pain, or something.

“I think it’s different, because it’s a dorm,” Mark says finally. “Like, it’s yours, obviously, but it’s… not yours. And I broke my way in anyway, so I think.” He licks nervously at his lips, almost like he wants to bite down, but seems to remember himself before doing so. “Even if it had been a proper threshold, I’d have been able to cross it after that.”

“Ah,” Jaehyun says. Normally he’d be interested in that sort of information—the impossibility of vampires has always fascinated him—but given that it’s his formerly human best friend, he’s a little too distracted for scientific study.

“Yeah.” Mark bites at his lower lip again, this time hard enough that a line of blood drips down his chin before he realizes and reaches to catch it with a hand. Jaehyun watches the skin heal up once again, and then looks away when Mark’s tongue comes out to lick the skin of his palm clean. He—Jaehyun doesn’t go around thinking about people’s fangs that often, like, not… not often. Only once or twice that first year, when he didn’t really know any vampires beyond the realization that, “Oh, my class TA is pretty and dangerous and great, I’m a cliché.”

“Jaehyun-hyung,” Mark says miserably, not meeting Jaehyun’s eyes.

The longer that Jaehyun’s been awake the better his vision has gotten but he knows it’s nothing compared to Mark’s now, especially given the way his irises keep flashing like a cat’s. He fumbles around behind himself for his glasses, and perches them on his nose.

“I need you to come with me to Johnny-hyung’s,” says Mark.

Jaehyun shut his eyes, filled with despair. “Mark.”

“I’m sorry,” Mark says, just as miserably. “I’m sorry, but I—we have to take the train, and I don’t trust myself.”

“Right,” Jaehyun says, still not opening his eyes. “Right, let me get dressed.”

Mark doesn’t appear to move as Jaehyun gets out of bed to search for clothes, but he speaks once Jaehyun’s peeled his t-shirt off and is feeling around half-blindly for something other than his pajamas. “Maybe take a shower. You—I mean—Taeyong-hyung—”

“Right,” Jaehyun says again, and stumbles for his shower caddy. “Do you mind telling Yerim—” Jaehyun can barely get through the name of the other RA on his hall before Mark moves, so quickly that Jaehyun’s head spins.

He doesn’t even really see it, only notices the inhuman displacement of air Mark leaves behind as he backs into a corner of Jaehyun’s room as far away from the door as possible. It feels like only a second has passed; maybe even less than that. “No,” Mark manages. “No, I. I don’t trust myself.”

Jaehyun swallows, trying his best to remain calm. “Right,” he says for the third time. “I’ll tell her, then.” He tightens his hold on his shower caddy then picks up his phone. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“I’ll get the door for you,” Mark says, appearing by his side again in another one of those inhumanly fast moves. Jaehyun does his best not to seem too bothered, but clearly he can no longer lie to Mark, because his best friend shifts the door out of the way with a downturn to his mouth, metaphorical puppy ears very clearly drooping. “Sorry,” Mark whispers as Jaehyun steps past.

“I’ll be back,” says Jaehyun.

 


 

Yerim stares at Jaehyun like he’s grown a second head, but she nods when he informs her that she’ll have to be the point person for all of their students while he’s gone, and she agrees to handle any issues or complaints on her own.

“It’s a family emergency. I’m really sorry,” Jaehyun explains, standing on her doorstep in only his thrown-back-on pajama shirt and boxers with his towel over one shoulder. He couldn’t bring himself to stand on her doorstep completely naked, and it wasn’t like the pajamas were that dirty, so it wasn’t like putting them on ruined the entire shower. Jaehyun hadn’t been able to do more than stand under lukewarm water and stare at shower tiles anyway, too preoccupied with the fact that his best friend was now a vampire and how he was about to take said vampire best friend on the train to visit the only other vampire they were friendly with on campus. Lee Taeyong, Johnny-hyung’s roommate, and Jaehyun’s… unfortunate crush, going on three years. There hadn’t been a lot of washing. It was more like a vaguely-sudsy rubdown, and a lot of shampoo getting in Jaehyun’s eyes.

“Okay, Oppa,” says Yerim, eyes roaming briefly around the hallway as if there might be some sort of explanation for Jaehyun’s early morning insanity. “Um, I hope everything is okay with your… family.”

“Thanks,” Jaehyun says, bowing a few more times, and then waits for her to close the door before resuming his trek back down the hallway to where he left Mark inside his dorm room. “Oh—” He turns back and knocks sheepishly on Yerim’s door.

She opens it immediately, expression still dubious. “Oppa?”

“My, um, door is broken,” Jaehyun tells her. “Uh, I can call someone to fix it later today, but just… letting you know. It came off the hinges.”

Yerim stares.

“Thank you so much,” Jaehyun says again, and then turns and books it back to his room.

Once there, he dresses in silence, pockets his keys and his phone, and is painfully, awfully aware of his best friend’s presence, despite the lack of noise. Mark is standing in the farthest corner of Jaehyun’s room wearing his immobility like a weapon, but somehow that only draws Jaehyun’s attention to him even more. Mark has never been one for stillness, and it’s unnerving. Nevermind that Mark appears to be caught in a never-ending cycle between reflexively and automatically breathing, and then forgetting about the process entirely. It’s like his body has accepted that he doesn’t need to do that anymore, but his brain can’t quite figure out how to handle that. He keeps—well he bleeds, obviously, but seeing that paradox firsthand is different than simply reading about it. Jaehyun—if this were anyone else, Jaehyun might want to study them.

It takes him an embarrassing three tries to get his contacts in.

“I’m ready,” he tells the statue that is Mark once he’s done, and his friend turns, expression manic.

Mark doesn’t look that much different—he’s still shorter than Jaehyun with dark, boyish hair and a pretty, boyish face. Jaehyun can now see that he’s definitely less tanned than he’d been at the start of the summer and his teeth are obviously not the same—sharply pointed canines on the top and bottom of his mouth that should be something out of a fantasy film, not reality, but vampires have been out of the coffin for centuries and Jaehyun shouldn’t still be weirded out about it. Jaehyun grew up with vampire neighbors, for fuck’s sake. Jaehyun has a vampire on his floor—two of them: Chenle and Jaemin.

It’s Mark’s eyes that are definitely the most changed, even though they’re not any larger. His pupils still remind Jaehyun of a cat’s, but with his light on, they’re now a normal size. A human size. Although it isn’t the size so much as it is the way they now reflect light…

“Are you ready?” Jaehyun manages.

“Let’s go,” Mark says. “I didn’t—I couldn’t text him. Johnny-hyung.”

Jaehyun understands. Jaehyun wouldn’t know how to tell his human boyfriend that he was now a vampire over text either, even if his human boyfriend was best friends with a vampire. He pauses to reach for a stack of post-its and a pen, scrawling a painstakingly legible note about how he’s away, but Yerim is available if anyone needs help in the hours he’s gone, good luck on your exams, fighting!

“Come on,” he says, shifting so Mark can hoist the door with one hand, and then sticking the post-it-note to it once Mark has set it back down, awkwardly covering the entryway to Jaehyun’s room. He supposes he’s lucky it doesn’t seem easily movable with normal human strength, because he’d feel kind of silly taking all of his valuables. He locked his passport and his Bluetooth speakers away in his suitcase hidden under his bed, but even that was probably overkill. Nobody’s going to rob the RA, especially during finals week.

The sun is just barely starting to crest the campus buildings as he and Mark hit the sidewalk and start towards the nearest subway station, only one of them shivering in the early morning cold. Jaehyun hadn’t grabbed more than something with three quarter sleeves, but at least he’s not in shorts like Mark, who was slimmer than Jaehyun and didn’t really fit into any of Jaehyun’s clothes. They’d made do with a belt, but Mark still kind of looks like a little kid. It makes their age difference all the more jarring, and Jaehyun is struck very suddenly that Mark Lee will never be twenty-three.

“What do you remember?” he manages, as they tap their t-money cards and enter the subway. The platform is pretty sparse for this early at the tail end of final exams, but there are always a few vampires getting off from night shifts. A few of them shoot Mark curious looks as they line up beside the yellow footprints, but Mark was unassuming when he was human and seems even more so now that he’s a vampire, so no one seems too bothered. It’s striking in comparison to Taeyong, who draws eyes wherever he goes. Though that might be more due to his… family. Jaehyun really needs to brush up on his terminology. His best friend is a fucking vampire.

“Nothing,” says Mark, in a tone that is so honestly frightened that Jaehyun decides they’re better off keeping silent the full three stops it takes to get to Johnny and Taeyong’s apartment. The two of them would probably have had no problem living within walking distance of SM U like Mark, or even getting nicer dorm rooms on campus than Jaehyun, but apparently Taeyong’s owned this apartment since before there even was an SM U, and he might own the whole building. Taeyong always gets flighty when acknowledging how old he is and Jaehyun never knows when to take Johnny seriously; none of that had changed once Mark and Johnny started dating.

The place is nice: floor-to-ceiling glass windows, two bedrooms, a really nice kitchen, and even a doorman posted around the clock. Jaehyun understands why Johnny was willing to live three subway stops from the university. He still feels visibly unsettled standing beside Mark waiting for the elevator, however. It’s not helped by the fact that the doorman is definitely a vampire. Jaehyun would have known even without Mark telling him, but the nail file the man takes out to very unnecessarily file along one of his canines—all without losing eye contact with poor Jaehyun due to the fucking mirrors on the elevator doors—doesn’t help. He supposes that’s another myth: vampires not showing up in mirrors, along with turning to ash in sunlight (the most glaring falsity invented by men who had most definitely never met a vampire yet still managed to make money off of humanity’s captivation with the dangerous; Taeyong’s words, not Jaehyun’s). Mark is showing up in the mirrored elevator doors too, so Jaehyun taps him on the shoulder and points.

Mark turns to look at him with those same huge, frighteningly dilated eyes, but then grins when he sees where Jaehyun’s pointing. He has fangs and hasn’t realized he stopped breathing sometime around the time they stepped onto the train to Taeyong and Johnny’s, but he’s still Jaehyun’s best friend, and Jaehyun feels his tension ease. “That’s a relief,” Mark says, as the doors finally ding open and they step in. When they turn around, the doorman no longer has the nail file. Instead, he blows a bubble of gum and pops it as the doors close, making Mark roll his eyes. “I was worried that from now on you’d have to style my hair.”

Jaehyun snorts. “I think if vampires couldn’t see themselves in mirrors there would be far less of them on the cover of Vogue Magazine,” he points out, thinking about Eugene’s latest two page spread. Eugene is also Lee Sooman’s daughter, so that more than explains that, but Jaehyun doesn’t think he’s ever met a vampire that wasn’t well dressed. At least not in Seoul. They were a little less stylish in Connecticut.

“Yeah,” Mark says. “Uh, ‘of you,’ probably.”

Jaehyun looks at him, confused.

“You said there would be far less ‘of them.’ It should be ‘of you,’ probably.” Mark’s expression is unreadable, but he’s holding his head high. “Now.”

“Right,” Jaehyun says again. The doors swing open on Taeyong and Johnny’s floor, and Jaehyun waits for Mark to get out of the elevator first. “You—” He searches for good humor and manages not to come up completely short. “Well, you probably won’t end up on the cover of Vogue Magazine,” he says as they make their way to stand awkwardly outside Taeyong and Johnny’s door. “You’re not that hot.”

“Hey,” Mark says. “I’m a catch.”

“You are,” Jaehyun agrees, reaching out to ring the bell on the door, then regretting it the moment the intercom buzzes to life.

“Coming!” calls a voice, low and musical and making Jaehyun’s toes curl.

“Wow,” Mark seems to breathe, totally not thinking before speaking. “You really like him—”

“Mark!” Jaehyun manages as the intercom lights up again and Taeyong clearly takes in the sight darkening his door. Mark’s hidden behind Jaehyun so Taeyong can’t see him, but Jaehyun doesn’t really mind—he’s more bothered by the line of conversation.

“Sorry, you just smell—” Mark stops talking again and exhales, clearly picking up on Jaehyun’s distress on top of his default desire for Lee Taeyong. “Sorry.”

“Jaehyunnie?” Taeyong’s voice sounds surprised. Not unpleasantly so, but it does seem to be a little less warm. Jaehyun still doesn’t get that—he’s never been anything but kind to Taeyong since they met when Jaehyun and Mark were freshmen three years ago—but he does his best not to let it bother him. Mark still picks up on it.

“As your body is no doubt rapidly becoming aware, you don’t actually need to breathe,” Jaehyun tells his friend in barely more than a whisper, hoping Taeyong is too distracted by whatever is going on inside his apartment to be eavesdropping. “So maybe don’t.”

“Sorry,” Mark says again, then shifts like he wants to say more. He probably can’t help but want to comment on how Jaehyun’s gone fucking depressed over Taeyong’s lukewarm welcome.

“Taeyong-hyung, hi,” Jaehyun says, before Mark can do so. “Sorry to bother you this”—late? Early? Vampires are nocturnal, right? Or crepuscular? Jaehyun suddenly can’t fucking remember, so he’ll just fake it and then scour the internet for the information afterwards. “Sorry to bother you,” he settles for.

Taeyong’s voice warms back up again. “You’re not bothering me. Wait a moment?” He clicks off the intercom, but then his door is swinging open to reveal his bright, smiling face, and Jaehyun feels it like a physical blow.

He tries to save face by taking a step back, but Mark is there, and Jaehyun ends up trapped, powerless in the face of Taeyong’s smile.

Taeyong is also shorter than Jaehyun, with unfairly beautiful eyes and a jaw that humans have been willingly going under the knife for probably since the first time technology permitted body alterations. He’s dressed in an oversized white t-shirt with a splash of English on it (“I want to cry in your arms for a hundred years”) and dark skinny jeans; nothing Jaehyun associates with vampires. His eyebrows are frankly unfair, his mouth is the type of thing Jaehyun used to have wet dreams about kissing well before he realized he could have the real thing plus fangs, and over the course of the three years Jaehyun and Mark have known him, he’s had more hair colors than Jaehyun thought possible. Whatever it is that keeps Taeyong from aging seems to also keep Taeyong from balding, because they can’t all have been temporary. Today he’s natural black, and it does nothing to help Jaehyun’s head stop spinning.

“Jaehyunnie,” he breathes, in that deep, airy way that makes Jaehyun’s toes curl again, and Mark makes an involuntary little noise in response. That noise is enough to catch Taeyong’s attention, because his eyes leave Jaehyun’s face immediately. Almost instantly a change comes over him, the warmth leaving him for winter, entirely bypassing autumn. He goes stiller, colder, and stands somehow taller and with infinitely more power.

Jaehyun is no less affected by any of it, and he hates that Mark knows that now. “Um, hi, Taeyongie-hyung,” he says again finally, since no one else is talking. “Sorry to bother you so early.” And there goes faking it and then scouring the internet afterwards.

“Jaehyun-ah.” Taeyong’s black eyes are still fixed on a point over Jaehyun’s shoulder—on Mark, Jaehyun thinks.

Jaehyun steps pointedly to the side, in time for Johnny to cross out of the kitchen area holding a dish towel and drying a plate.

“Jaehyun!” Johnny says when he sees him. “What are you doing here—” His voice breaks off when he spots Mark, standing to Jaehyun’s side with his hand raised awkwardly in a wave.

The plate hits the floor and shatters into tiny pieces.

Johnny’s mouth falls slack and open.

So much for the change not being all that obvious, Jaehyun thinks faintly.

“Hi, Taeyong-hyung. Johnny-hyung,” Mark manages. “Um. Surprise?”

 


 

Taeyong cleans up the plate, and makes Mark, Jaehyun, and Johnny sit with their feet up at the three bar stools in their kitchen. They’re the humans, and Taeyong is far less breakable. Mark tries to point out that he should be excluded from both of those categories, but the glares Taeyong and Johnny level at him are enough to silence him. Jaehyun is content to let Taeyong handle the cleaning—Taeyong likes cleaning regardless and Jaehyun knows that about him—and Johnny seems too enraptured by the changes to Mark’s physique to be too bothered. He’s been petting over Mark’s hands for the entire twenty minutes it’s taken Taeyong to be satisfied with the sweep and the vacuum he gave the tile floor, turning both of them this way and that so that he can look at his palms, and for some reason, pick at his nail beds.

“Taeyong-ah,” Johnny says after he’s done that more than a few times. “Put the vamp sight away and let it go. Just because you can see the micro splinters of glass doesn’t mean my human foot is going to notice them or split open on them.”

Taeyong scowls at Johnny but puts the broom and vacuum away anyway. He does it in one of those too quick to notice little gestures, and both Mark and Jaehyun visibly flinch. Jaehyun saves face by making like he was just resettling his hands in his lap, and Mark guiltily shoves his hands back at Johnny.

“Sorry,” Taeyong says, coming to stand in front of the kitchen island and facing the three of them with deliberate slowness. “I’m home, and I forget when it’s just me and Youngho.” That’s Johnny’s Korean name, and Jaehyun still hasn’t figured out when and why Taeyong uses it instead of his English one.

“It’s fine,” Jaehyun says, since evidently Mark isn’t going to say anything. “I’m just a little jumpy, given.” He gestures with a hand at Mark, who somehow manages to smile a little, and lets go of Johnny with one hand to scratch at an itch on his jaw. Jaehyun leans his elbows onto the counter. “He broke my door off the hinges.”

Taeyong blinks at him, honest surprise and human reaction on his perfect face. He turns almost accusingly towards Mark.

“I don’t know my own strength!” Mark says, though it comes out as more of a shout, and Johnny very gently sets Mark’s hand down on the table.

“And your own volume,” he says.

Mark winces. “Sorry.” Now he’s so quiet Jaehyun can’t really hear him, but Taeyong clearly can.

“Mark—”

“I’m not—good at this,” Mark says. “And I don’t—trust myself,” he continues. “It’s why I made Jaehyun-hyung take me here.”

“You’re the only vampire we know,” Jaehyun explains.

Johnny’s mouth opens to no doubt ramble off a list.

“Who’s our friend,” Jaehyun continues. “And Mark—” He swallows, exchanging a look with his friend.

“I don’t remember what happened to make me like this,” Mark says, gesturing at his face. “I woke up in a field covered in my own blood, with fangs.” He swallows. “There were kids there, making out under the bleachers. I wanted… them.” His jaw is tense, but he’s holding Taeyong’s suddenly much more dangerous gaze. “I didn’t,” Mark finishes, looking at Johnny this time. “I came straight to Jaehyun-hyung.”

“Where you took my door off the hinges.”

“Where I took your door off the hinges, yes,” Mark says. “I said I was sorry.”

“I put my speakers in my suitcase, Mark-yah,” Jaehyun says. “I left my speakers unguarded for you, Mark-yah.”

Mark grins. “Thanks, soulmate,” he says, that nickname they’ve been using since they were paired together as roommates for their freshman year.

Jaehyun grins back, but Taeyong doesn’t look amused. Come to think of it neither does Johnny. They’re both looking at Mark with worried, unreadable eyes.

“Hyung?” Jaehyun says.

Taeyong’s gaze snaps to his instantly, but Johnny keeps staring at Mark. “You don’t remember,” Taeyong says. He’s addressing Mark while still looking at Jaehyun, and Jaehyun feels like he’s under an x-ray.

“No,” Mark says. “I mean, I remember bits of the day before. It was raining? And I—I think I was leaving one of the dorms, for some reason, but that’s kind of fuzzy, and then I was waking up in the field with blood all the way down my front and these.” He reaches up to pull his lips back and show his fangs, which are just as shiny and sharp as Jaehyun had remembered.

Johnny reaches out to poke his right incisor, but nicks the canine and bleeds, instantly, and suddenly the entire atmosphere changes. Taeyong goes so still that Jaehyun kind of can’t look away, but Johnny only seems to have eyes for Mark, who is equally rigid, and unnecessarily panting, almost like he can't help himself. Very slowly, Johnny pulls his hand away, and gets off the stool to pad over to stand behind Taeyong. “Sorry, Mark,” he says quietly. “You’re brand new.”

Mark shuts his mouth around his fangs and doesn’t speak, but nods. It’s staccato and a little clumsy, but it gets his point across. Jaehyun can practically see the tension coming off him in waves. The counter groans a little under his fingers, and Mark abruptly lets go of it. “I don’t remember anything else,” he says quickly. “I don’t even remember getting bitten.”

Jaehyun wants to hold his hand or touch him in some way, but he thinks that wouldn’t help. “Yeah, so we came to you,” he takes over for Mark. “I mean obviously because you know more than I do.” He tries to laugh and fails, then keeps going, stumbling through the tension until he manages to resume something resembling grace. “But also because Mark needs, uh, teaching, I guess.”

“I’m really hungry,” Mark admits, not looking at any of them. “And I’m scared.”

Taeyong and Johnny remain frozen in their kitchen, seemingly communicating without words. Then Johnny breaks away, going for their fridge. He pulls it open and takes out a bag of blood, packaged in plastic with a biohazard label like something right out of a movie. He tosses it at Mark without even a warning, and Mark catches it without so much as moving, it seems. Jaehyun is never going to get used to this.

“That’s cow’s blood,” Johnny explains. “It should hold you over long enough for Taeyongie to explain.”

Taeyong’s pulling a face, mouth rounding around Johnny’s Korean name and something of a whine. “Youngho.”

“And he will explain,” Johnny continues. “Because we have a baby vampire sitting at our kitchen table.”

Mark’s gotten the bag open and is practically inhaling the cow’s blood, and Jaehyun kind of can’t look away. The bags under Mark’s eyes and the hollowness of Mark’s cheeks seem to disappear, but Jaehyun hadn’t even noticed either of those things prior. It’s startling. It’s distracting. It’s utterly unnatural and bizzare. Jaehyun puts his gaze forward.

Johnny and Taeyong are having another silent conversation that seems more of an argument. Taeyong loses, clearly, because Johnny huffs, and rolls his eyes, and crosses pointedly to stand beside Mark as he drinks. Mark smiles and lets Johnny take hold of his left hand, but doesn’t stop gulping for a second. He’d clearly been hungrier than he let on. Jaehyun wonders if that should scare him. He’d been alone in a dorm room with Mark, then almost alone on a train for three subway stops. Jaehyun doesn’t feel afraid.

The change in Mark is more striking the next few sips of blood. Color seems to come back into his cheeks, which fill out even more—When had they become that gaunt? Jaehyun wonders idly—and the tension in the room almost visibly lifts. Johnny seems to wobble, and then he sinks into the chair next to Mark without pause. He’s got his eyes fixed on Taeyong, almost daring him to say something.

“First of all,” Taeyong says finally, tone betraying just how cross he actually is with Johnny, before he gets it under control. “You can’t become a vampire by getting bitten.”

Jaehyun blinks. Technically, nobody knows how anyone becomes a vampire, because it’s a secret no vampire is telling. Sure, plenty of people have become vampires since Lee Sooman and his children came out of the coffin, but since it hasn’t been to the extent that the more zealous and religious seemed quick to spread terror propaganda about, there hasn’t been any reason for people to demand to know how. Or maybe it was a different sort of terror propaganda. It’s not like vampires spend their time turning people’s children.

Although… Jaehyun has two twenty-one-year-old kids on his hall, one who wasn’t a vampire at the start of the year, and even he hadn’t wondered. Both Chenle and Jaemin transferred to SM U already having fangs, but Jaehyun had access to their records, and he knew neither of them had died too far in advance. Jaehyun just hadn’t thought too hard about it, because “how to become a vampire” was one of those things he just assumed people got right. Not like the mirrors or the sunlight—why else would people have written all those books about it, or made all those movies? Surely someone had to have gotten it right.

“But I had blood all down my chest,” Mark says, having finished his blood bag and setting the empty bit of plastic on the table almost sadly. He really does look much better, although he still has not breathed once since he was inhaling all of Jaehyun’s feelings about Taeyong’s jawline. “And on my”—he gestures—“neck.”

Taeyong’s eyes follow Mark’s fingers with ease. “Yes, well, I mean there’s… I guess there’s some biting involved.” He’s starting to look distinctly uncomfortable, and Johnny finally seems to take pity.

“Taeyong-hyung has never made another vampire before,” he says helpfully. “So he’s not speaking from experience.”

“Yes, thank you, Youngho-yah,” says Taeyong, looking even less comfortable.

“He’s just mad that next birthday I’m going to be older than him,” Johnny says quietly, like he’s sharing a secret with Jaehyun and Mark. “It’s okay, Taeyong-hyung,” he says at normal volume again. “You’ll always be my big brother to me.”

Taeyong shakes his head at him, but does seem a little pleased by that change in subject. “You’re the one who’s upset you’re going to be older than me, Hyung,” he says.

Johnny just grins. Then he abruptly sobers. “You have to die to become a vampire,” he says.

Jaehyun nods. “Oh.” That’s not—he supposes that makes sense, given vampires are undead, but seeing how Taeyong and Johnny were going on about it, he thought it was something much worse. “So—”

“We should call Ten,” continues Johnny, as if Jaehyun hasn’t spoken. “Right? I’ll call Ten.” It’s probably good that Taeyong is standing across the kitchen and not holding anything, because the look he gives Johnny is so murderous that Jaehyun is relatively certain that even if he’d been holding a fucking diamond, he’d have crushed the thing to dust.

The kitchen feels significantly cooler. Jaehyun not so subtly shifts closer to Mark, like that’ll help. “Who’s Ten?”

“Nobody,” snaps Taeyong.

“Taeyong’s brother,” says Johnny, at almost the same time.

“Don’t tell him that,” says Taeyong. “We’re not calling Ten.”

“Well then Yuta,” Johnny says. “Taeil?” At each name, Taeyong seems to flinch. “I don’t think you want to call Yun—”

“We’re not calling—any of them,” interrupts Taeyong, two spots of color high on both cheekbones. Jaehyun is again fascinated, leaning in because he can’t help himself. Vampires blush, even though they definitely don’t have pulses. They bleed too—Mark bled. Jaehyun reaches for Mark’s wrist and holds two fingers to the vein there just to be certain, sticking his tongue out when Mark has the audacity to laugh silently at him. Still no pulse. But blushing. Taeyong’s blushing. It’s adorable.

“We have to call someone,” says Johnny, jaw jutting out. “We have a baby vampire sitting at our kitchen table.”

Taeyong’s expression goes petulant and he mumbles out something that sounds remarkably like, “it’s your boyfriend,” but can’t be something that childish, because Jaehyun knows he’s at least a hundred. Johnny has teased him for predating all number of things, for example, the twenty-first century.

“We’re not calling Ten,” says Taeyong. “Or Yuta. Or Taeil—we’ll call—” He stops talking abruptly, because his words crack, and Johnny just looks at him, suddenly very kind. “Doyoung,” Taeyong blurts finally. “I’ll call Doyoung.”

Jaehyun raises his hand to ask who Doyoung is.

“Taeyong’s brother,” Johnny says again, without looking. “Are you sure? When was the last time you spoke to Doyoung?”

Taeyong’s expression is unreadable. “March,” he says finally. “When he—Renjun.”

Jaehyun’s ears perk up. “Renjun? He’s in our year. We had art together last year—”

“He’s my—nephew,” Taeyong says, pulling a face, before addressing Johnny again. “I’m calling Doyoung,” he says. “You—watch them.” And then he disappears into the bedroom, moving unnaturally swift.

Jaehyun pulls his hand away from Mark’s wrist and stares after him, confused, until the low rumble of Taeyong’s voice is audible even to his human ears, and Mark winces at whatever is said on the other line. “Nephew?” Jaehyun manages, looking at Johnny for confirmation.

Johnny winces. “It’s complicated,” he says. “Vampire families are weird.”

There’s a pause from the bedroom, and then Taeyong says, “I heard that!” and Mark winces again.

“Oh, that’s weird,” he says. “They both said it,” he explains, at Johnny’s look. “He’s—Doyoung-hyung is… angry?”

“Doyoungie and Taeyong haven’t spoken since March,” Johnny explains, clearly unconcerned with the fact that both parties in the bedroom can hear everything. “That’s also complicated. But most of the vampires at SM U are related to Taeyong, actually. Most of the vampires in Seoul.” He looks at Mark, who’s gone back to eyeing the empty blood bag sadly. “Hey.” Johnny goes to the fridge and pulls out another bag, and tosses it to Mark without warning again. “You should be taking notes, or something.”

Mark’s ripping into the bag and already drinking, this time with eyes closed; Jaehyun still can’t look away.

“You’re going to need to know all of this, since you’re one of them now.”

Mark keeps his eyes shut and his expression blissful.

Johnny snaps loudly a few times. “Mark Lee,” he says. “Are you listening?”

Mark’s eyes come open, the brown of his irises pretty much gone. He nods, unwilling to let go of his prize.

Johnny shakes his head, bemused. “Anyway, contrary to pop culture, they’re not actually solitary creatures. Vampires, I mean.”

Mark shoots a look toward the bedrooms, but he doesn’t update the human part of the room on what’s going on there. Most likely because that would involve taking his mouth off his meal.

“But they are territorial,” Johnny explains. “And Taeyongie is…”

“Taeyongie is what, Youngho?” says Taeyong, coming back out of the bedroom with his phone in his hand and his expression pinched. “He says he’s not coming before seven p.m.—sunset,” he says, when they all look at him. “And he wants to talk to you.”

Johnny visibly brightens, abandoning his pretend lecture podium to skip his way to Taeyong and Taeyong’s phone. “Doyoungie-hyung,” he says, before he’s even picked up the phone. “Doyoungie-hyung. Hi.” He starts heading for the bedrooms without a backwards glance. “How are you?” He’s much quieter once he’s gone, which must be a side effect of living with vampires. Jaehyun makes a note to pick his brain for tips and tricks.

Mark finally stops gulping down blood. “That must have been some argument in March,” he says, after a few involuntary-seeming gasps of air.

Taeyong just quirks his mouth, still unimpressed. “Do either of you have exams today?” he asks instead, changing the subject.

“No,” Mark says immediately, before going for the last dregs of blood.

“Yes,” Jaehyun says. “At eight.”

Taeyong’s eyes dart to the clock on their microwave, showing that it’s just tipping past six in the morning now. “Johnny can walk you there,” he says, looking at Mark. “You’re going to be—”

Mark finishes his blood and burps, so loudly and suddenly that Jaehyun almost laughs at the absurdity, and the surprise on Mark’s face immediately after. Then Mark yawns.

“—tired,” Taeyong finishes. “If Doyoungie says he won’t be here until after seven, he won’t be here until after seven.”

Jaehyun understands.

“Sorry, Jaehyun-hyung,” says Mark. He looks subdued, and guilty, and sad.

“Mark, it’s fine,” Jaehyun says. “You should—go to sleep,” he ends up with, since saying ‘nap’ feels wrong. He might be imagining it, but he thinks Taeyong’s eyes are significantly more approving thanks to his word choice. “I’ll come back later when Doyoung-hyung is here?” He puts emphasis on the honorific uncertainly; surely this Doyoung is older than Jaehyun given he’s a vampire, but Jaehyun has no way to know for sure.

Taeyong’s eyes are practically sparkling, and Jaehyun is reminded just why he asked him out in the first place. “Doyoungie is older than I am,” he says. The first day Jaehyun met him, he stumbled through some frankly embarrassing bullshit trying to figure out the proper terms of respect for someone who might have been old enough to speak non-modern Korean. It seems Taeyong hasn’t forgotten.

“And how old are you again?” says Jaehyun. That’s an old argument too; Taeyong refuses to drop his birthdate, and Johnny is absolutely no help, having been the one to point out that Jaehyun looking Taeyong up on the internet was probably cheating in the first place.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” says Taeyong. “Youngho-yah!”

Johnny emerges from the bedroom without the cellphone, practically vibrating with joy. For some reason he looks like he might have been crying, but Jaehyun thinks he’s probably imagining it. Johnny’s emotional, but Johnny’s a goofball, and he’s not the sort of person Jaehyun thinks would cry over a phone call. And why would Taeyong and this Doyoung being estranged mean Johnny had to cut all contact, too? Johnny and Taeyong are roommates who have known each other for what Jaehyun thinks has to have been at least a decade, but it’s not like they’re family. Johnny’s human, for one.

“Jaehyunnie has an exam at eight. You should get breakfast with him.”

Johnny gives Taeyong the middle finger. “I’m not seven and having trouble making friends, Taeyong-ah,” he says, all tease. Jaehyun feels second for a second smug; that’s the youngest Johnny’s ever been in a Taeyong story, and Taeyong’s almost more secretive about his history with Johnny than he is with his history period. Then Johnny looks at his boyfriend, sitting sleepily at the kitchen table. “Look who’s nocturnal.”

Mark levels Johnny a glare and his own middle finger.

“Come on,” Johnny says to Jaehyun. “Breakfast first, yeah? Taeyongie cooked.”

Jaehyun shoots a glance towards Taeyong and Mark, who’s letting Taeyong haul him towards their bedrooms without complaining.

“Taeyongie is an amazing cook for someone who can’t eat food,” Johnny continues, unbothered. “And he always makes way too much for one, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re intruding.”

Taeyong gets Mark to the hallway, but then Mark’s head comes up.

“Wait,” Mark says, and Taeyong halts. “I can’t eat?”

What follows is more information than Jaehyun ever wanted to know about vampire digestive systems, before Taeyong seems to grow tired of Mark’s (justifiable; food is great) despair, and heaves him over his shoulder like Jaehyun imagines you’d do with a child. “Come on,” Taeyong says. “You’re tired. You’ll be less upset about this once you’ve slept for a couple hours.”

“Or the rest of the day,” Johnny says, unloading several cartons of what looks like sujebi from their freezer and flicking a switch on their stove. “Bye, Mark-yah! Sleep well!”

“I can’t eat?” shouts Mark, before he and Taeyong vanish into the depths of the apartment.

Jaehyun settles back into the seat at the bar, and gets ready to dig in, only a little apologetic. Johnny’s right. Taeyong’s cooking looks and smells amazing. “Why haven’t I ever eaten his food before?” he wonders a few minutes later, in between scrumptious bites.

Johnny slurps particularly loudly at a bit of broth and chews on a perfectly cooked noodle. “Because he was being an idiot and pining,” he explains. “Also, don’t think this whole murder debacle is getting you out of taking him out this weekend, by the way.”

Jaehyun stares.

Johnny feeds him a mouthful of food, wiping at his jaw with a napkin and grinning. “I like you, Jaehyunnie. I’ve always liked you. I’m glad you asked him out.”

Jaehyun closes his mouth, chews, and swallows.

 


 

It’s not until he’s walking with Johnny to his exam that he thinks about it some more, their discussion over breakfast coming back to him in a haze. “Hey, what did you mean when you said ‘don’t think this murder debacle is getting you out of—of dating Taeyongie-hyung’?” he asks, during a lull in conversation. It’s not hard; he and Johnny always slip into silence so naturally that it’s like they’ve always been friends, and it’s one of Jaehyun’s favorite things about their friendship. They got closer the second year they knew each other, when Mark’s pining hit an all time high, and they were both TA-ing for different sections of Bio lab. Johnny is probably one of Jaehyun’s closest friends, after Mark.

Johnny is also distracted, his gaze fixed on the sky. “Hmm?”

“This murder debacle,” Jaehyun says. “Why did you call it a murder debacle?”

Johnny turns to look at him very sharply then turns suddenly and pulls them both to a halt. “Because it is,” he says finally. “Shit, he didn’t explain it at all, did he.”

Jaehyun tilts his head. “Explain what—”

Johnny takes Jaehyun by the wrist and tugs, pulling him further off the path so that they’re standing nearly nose to nose in the shade of a tree. Jaehyun stares up at him, feeling small for once in his life and also kind of like he’s about to get kissed. He tries to take a step back.

“You don’t become a vampire if you’re just bitten,” says Johnny, before he can. “You become a vampire if you die.”

Jaehyun closes his mouth and stops trying to step away. “Well, yeah, I mean, aren’t they… undead—”

“But it’s not just any dying,” Johnny continues, as if Jaehyun hadn’t even interjected. “You have to—you have to die unnaturally. Violently.”

Jaehyun is aware he’s staring with his mouth still open around the end of his sentence, but he thinks he’s justified in doing that. “What?”

“They’re not exactly ‘natural,’ Jaehyun-ah,” says Johnny. “They’re like walking, talking, bleeding… corpses.”

Even Jaehyun winces, and he’s not the one who’s been friends with a vampire since he was at least seven. “Johnny-hyung—”

Johnny doesn’t seem to care, brushing aside Jaehyun’s protests without pausing. “You have to be killed to become a vampire,” he says. “You have to be murdered. A vampire has to murder you to turn you into a vampire.” Johnny’s eyes are serious and fervent and sort of scaring Jaehyun. “Somebody murdered Mark, Jaehyun-ah,” Johnny says. “A vampire murdered Mark.”

“Oh,” Jaehyun says faintly. “I can see how that would be a problem.”

Chapter Text

Taeyong’s brother Doyoung is nothing like what Jaehyun had expected. He shows up at seven-fifteen p.m. on the dot, despite the sun not having gone down yet. Apparently, sundown is closer to eight p.m. this time of the year, which Jaehyun hadn’t known. Taeyong had known and Johnny had known, and even Mark had been aware, although he did seem significantly more apologetic about that fact than the other two. Jaehyun figures he should start to keep track of things like that, especially since SM U doesn’t require their undead students to keep to a human sleep cycle. Mark won’t be in any of the same classes with Jaehyun their senior year; or if he will, he’ll attend his lectures at night, while Jaehyun has them during the day. It’s depressing. Jaehyun’s not lacking for friends, but his closest relationship by far is his one with Mark, and he doesn’t know how he feels about losing it.

Doyoung is taller than Mark and Taeyong but somehow slimmer than them both, and he stands on Taeyong and Johnny’s doorstep with his head slightly tipped back and one eyebrow raised. He’s pretty, but Jaehyun is starting to realize that all vampires are pretty. He wonders if that’s a chicken or the egg sort of situation; if vampirism turns you pretty, or if vampires are drawn to beautiful people. Or… not vampirism, Jaehyun supposes, but… brutal murder? He wonders if brutal murder is the secret to having the face of an idol.

“Taeyong,” says Doyoung, after a too-long pause. His voice is higher than Jaehyun had been expecting, but certainly soft enough to be a vampire’s. It goes with his getup—an all-black button down with barely any buttons done and tucked into cropped, high waisted khaki slacks. Bare ankles, shiny, shiny dress shoes, with toes so pointy Jaehyun fears losing an eye just looking at them. Doyoung isn’t taller than Jaehyun, but it doesn’t matter. He radiates the exact same sort of energy that Taeyong does when he’s angry, only he’s not angry. Doyoung is curious and only has eyes for Taeyong, but Jaehyun still has never felt more like prey.

He wishes Johnny hadn’t gone to the bathroom sometime before the doorbell rang.

He wishes Mark wasn’t a vampire, too.

Hyung,” says Taeyong finally. “Doyoung-hyung.”

Doyoung’s eyes flash, and Jaehyun gets a sense that the honorific means more than just “hello,” but before he can think more of it, Doyoung’s expression is smoothing into something less predatory. “Taeyongie-hyung,” he says, dipping his head a little. It’s not quite a bow, but it still seems to make Taeyong’s muscles tense, his hold on the door tightening. The metal groans, and Jaehyun has a brief stab of panic when he thinks about his own broken door.

“Your door is fine,” Mark whispers in his ear, making Jaehyun jump despite his best intentions. They’re both still seated at the kitchen counter, but when Jaehyun glances at him, Mark seems surprisingly relaxed. “I went to your dorm while you were at your final. No one has come to fix it, but nobody has been in your room.”

Jaehyun does his best not to think about how Mark even knows all that, or about how Mark is so much better at reading body language now. “How do you know that?” he finds himself asking anyway.

“It’s this, uh—” Mark stops talking and opens his mouth really wide, tilting his head back so that all Jaehyun can see is the roof of his mouth. “This thing, in my mouth.”

Jaehyun keeps staring, taken aback.

“The vomernasal-whatever.”

Jaehyun glances down Mark’s throat like it holds an explanation, and then looks elsewhere for one. Mark changed clothes sometime when Jaehyun was taking his final and studying, but clearly these are borrowed from Taeyong, because they’re a much more mismatched style than Mark favors. Taeyong himself is still in the same oversized t-shirt with different pants, but it works for him. None of this is helpful in decoding Mark’s insanity.

“The what?” Jaehyun says finally.

“The vomernasal-thing. It’s that thing cats and snakes have that lets them smell fear,” Mark says. “Horses too, I think. Sheep? Whatever. I have one of those now.”

Jaehyun doesn’t know what to do with any of that. “I thought you were a bat,” is all he manages.

Mark drops his head back down and shuts his mouth, grinning wide enough to show fangs. “Yah, Jaehyun-hyung,” he says. “I’m not a bat.”

Jaehyun manages to smile back. “Are you sure?” he says. “You’re not going to start emitting sound waves so you can see in the dark?”

Mark hits him, and it’s normal this time. The first time he hit Jaehyun after becoming a vampire he shoved Jaehyun all the way across the room, and Johnny had to practically sit in his lap to get him to stop sulking about it. (Mark had been sulking quite a lot about things by that point, though, since Taeyong made a delicious dinner that neither he nor Mark could eat.) This punch feels like something Mark might have managed before, and Jaehyun grins and leans away from it, feeling relaxed.

Then he rapidly becomes aware that he and Mark have captured the attention of both apex predators in the room, and what little calm Jaehyun had managed to amass fades into panic.

Doyoung is still standing on the doorstep, but his expression is far less threatening than Taeyong’s, honestly. Doyoung just looks mildly bemused, his gaze more focused on Mark as opposed to Jaehyun. Taeyong is the one holding his jaw tight and white-knuckling the poor metal door. He’s stopped breathing, but Doyoung’s chest is still rising and falling with perfect, pretend-human ease.

“Taeyong-hyung,” he says quietly. “Are you going to get Youngho to let me in?” It’s an odd question, but Jaehyun realizes that Taeyong is a vampire—duh—and can’t let Doyoung in. This isn’t Taeyong’s home—it’s Johnny’s—and Doyoung will be trapped on the threshold until Johnny offers him an invitation.

Jaehyun’s curiosity is piqued. “Did Johnny-hyung have to let you in—”

“It’s not a home until someone living has called it that for a while,” Taeyong says, not looking away from Doyoung but speaking perfectly loud enough for Jaehyun to hear. “So it was fine in the beginning—it was fine when I bought the building—but yes, there was that lovely moment two weeks in when I woke Youngho gasping for air and he had to ‘invite me in.’” Taeyong finally lets go of the door long enough to make air quotes, and Jaehyun stares at him with his heart suddenly pounding. It’s stupid, but whenever Taeyong does things like that—brings up modern TV, makes pop music references, acts out a meme—Jaehyun’s heart skips a beat. It’s juxtaposition at it’s finest and a reminder that just because Taeyong is a creature out of time doesn’t mean he’s stopped living.

At his side, Mark is stiffening again, and Jaehyun doesn’t have time to wonder about the biological reasoning behind that—he’s too pissed off at the fact that from now on, there will be no secrets between them. Mark’s mood shifts again, his expression going remorseful, and Jaehyun wants to shake him even more. He knows it’s not Mark’s fault. He doesn’t blame Mark. That doesn’t mean he’s not going to spend at least two more days getting mad every time Taeyong turns him on and his best friend is intimately aware of the fact. That doesn’t mean his first instinct isn’t to flee the scene of the crime after punching Mark in the face.

“Ah, the wonders of living with the living,” says Doyoung, before Jaehyun can follow through on any of his absurdity; a blessing, honestly, since punching Mark would probably be similar to punching a stone wall. “But two weeks? That seems long.”

“Johnny was homesick,” Taeyong says through gritted teeth. “Traveling around Europe for three years isn’t the same as moving to a completely different country.”

Doyoung just nods, expression pacifying. He still hasn’t been let in, and Jaehyun is starting to wonder if he should be worried about how long Johnny’s been in the bathroom, and if he should invite him in. Although maybe it won’t work, since he doesn’t live here.

Jaehyun wracks his brain for something to change the subject to. “Wait, do you not live with… humans?” he settles for finally, addressing Doyoung for the first time. He regrets the action immediately, since at last Jaehyun has Doyoung’s full attention, but he can’t take the words back. All he can do is pile on more, trying to explain. “You said ‘the wonders of living with the living,’” Jaehyun babbles like an idiot. “Do you not normally live with the living?”

“I live with our famil—”

“Johnny-hyung!” Taeyong calls loudly. “Stop playing games on your phone and get out here! Doyoungie is here, and I need you to let him in.”

Doyoung’s mouth shuts around the broken off end of his sentence, and his nostrils flare.

Taeyong… sticks his tongue out at him.

Jaehyun’s heart stutters again, but this time he’s not even bothered when Mark seems to clear his throat in direct response.

“Sorry.” Johnny comes out of the bathroom, pocketing his phone. “You’re one to talk, Mr. Pokémon master.”

“AR games are the future,” Taeyong says, with his nose in the air. “You’re just jealous you can’t play in any of the all-vamp leagues with me.”

“Because playing all-vampire League of Legends is truly my dream aspiration,” says Johnny with an eye roll. He crosses the room, shooting Jaehyun a grin as he goes. “There should be a whole market dedicated to vampire gaming. He’s always breaking expensive keyboards.”

“Doyoung,” Taeyong says again, pointing.

‘Three Corsairs,’ Johnny mouths, before turning his attention to the vampire on his doorstep. “Doyoungie, hi.”

Doyoung has shifted as close as he can get to the invisible barrier keeping him outside the apartment. “Youngho,” he breathes. “You’re so tall.”

Johnny pulls a face. “You’ve seen me since I hit my growth spurt,” he mutters, shoving a hand through his hair. “Come in. Kim Dongyoung, do come in.”

Jaehyun notes the name is different, and wonders what would happen if he was a vampire. Not that he wants to get brutally murdered, but he does have two legal names.

“I like your hair,” Doyoung says, stepping into the apartment and bending to take off his shoes.

Taeyong closes the thing behind him, pausing to fix the metal before it shuts all the way in a move that Jaehyun wouldn’t have even noticed, if he hadn’t seen him warp it beforehand, and if it didn’t make so much noise.

Johnny finally looks away from Doyoung. “Oh, Taeyongie,” he sighs. “Again?”

“It’s why we got the metal one to begin with,” Taeyong mumbles, before coming to stand next to Jaehyun and Mark; between Doyoung and Jaehyun and Mark, Jaehyun notices. He wonders if that’s on purpose. There’d been a very limited crash course on vampire physiology when he’d gotten out of his exam and wandered over to Johnny and Taeyong’s to check on Mark. He’d learned that the territorial thing extended out into mean possessive streaks, which for some reason made Johnny grin, and Taeyong avoid anyone’s eyes. Doyoung is clearly the elder and more experienced vampire, but Jaehyun and Mark are Taeyong’s friends.

Jaehyun feels shivery and weird about it and hopes to God Mark is too distracted to notice.

Johnny appraises Doyoung with his head back and his expression shy. “I like your hair,” he says.

Doyoung lifts a hand to touch his night black bangs, also strangely shy. It’s an odd expression on someone still giving off a rather legendary “don’t fuck with me” vibe, and Jaehyun finally lets his feet fall off the stool, shifting so that he looks much less like a child, and more like a twenty-four-year-old college student. Doyoung looks quickly towards Jaehyun and Mark. “I was blond last time I saw Johnny,” he says, in explanation. “In two thousand and sixteen.”

Jaehyun does the math. Johnny would have been just out of high school—he did gap years, which he knows is why he was even a senior when Mark and Jaehyun were freshman—but Johnny never talks much about his history with Taeyong. Jaehyun has always had to wait for slip-ups—stories, like earlier, about how they’ve known each other since Johnny was seven.

“Yes, yes, we’re all very glad to see you’ve gone natural,” says Taeyong, drawing Jaehyun’s attention back around to him. He looks far less in control now that he hasn’t got anything to hold onto.

Doyoung’s eyes flash and Jaehyun leans involuntarily back in his seat, but then he smiles again. “Sorry,” he says. “Where are my manners?” A blink, and he’s standing close enough that Jaehyun can see his skin is spotless. Too perfect. Unchanging. Doyoung bows. “I’m Kim Doyoung. You must be Jeong Jaehyun.”

“Hi,” Jaehyun says slowly.

Doyoung moves on to Mark. “Lee Mark.”

Mark bows right back, but doesn’t stand. “Nice to meet you.”

Jaehyun can’t help but elbow him fruitlessly in the side. “Mark.”

Mark just keeps staring Doyoung down, unbothered.

“Nice to meet you too.” Doyoung smiles again, clearly not offended, before turning very serious eyes on Taeyong. “So,” he says. “What do you know?”

Taeyong doesn’t seem to be reeling from all of the tonal shifts to their conversation. “Not much,” he says. “We went by the park where Mark woke up when you were busy after your final,” he explains to Jaehyun. “There wasn’t anything there.” That’s more to the room at large. “It’s too big a space, and whoever it was didn’t leave any sort of marker.” He licks his lips, clearly embarrassed, but also resigned. “At least not one I could pick up on.”

Doyoung seems to move before he can stop himself, reaching out to pet Taeyong behind the ears. “Don’t worry, Baby Hyung,” he says, and then abruptly cuts off when Taeyong grabs him by the wrist before he can make contact. The air goes charged. Doyoung seems honestly shocked that Taeyong grabbed him, or maybe that he let Taeyong grab him; that Taeyong surprised him enough that he let him grab him, more like.

Jaehyun shoots a look at Mark to see how he’s handling all this and is relieved to find that even though Mark’s not a token human anymore, he looks about as confused as Jaehyun feels. He raises both eyebrows and Jaehyun risks a grin.

Taeyong seems to have frozen with his fingers wrapped around Doyoung’s wrist, and he doesn’t unfreeze when Doyoung very gently extricates himself. It can’t have really been gentle, given Taeyong’s grip can literally reshape metal doors, but Doyoung still makes the move look sweet. Certainly, the look he gives Taeyong as he passes out of his line of vision is sweet, if not very sad. “Right,” he says, clapping his hands together and rolling up his shirt sleeves. “Lee Mark. Open up.” He comes to stand in front of Mark on the other side of the table, expression earnest.

Jaehyun glances between the both of them.

“Don’t do that,” says Taeyong. He closes his raised hand into a fist, still not lowering it. “You can’t actually tell our age by our teeth.”

Mark shuts his mouth immediately, pink coloring his cheeks.

Jaehyun is going to ask about the blushing when the stakes are lower and he can actually devote proper attention to the impossibility of it all, really.

“You woke up with your fangs, yes?”

Mark nods, and Taeyong isn’t looking, but he somehow knows (maybe he hears the shift of, like, air, or something?).

“The first thing that happens after—the change is that—” He gestures at his own mouth, then turns, arm finally dropping, so he can point at Mark’s, but not at Doyoung’s. “I guess they fall out—or something.”

“Taeyongie hasn’t ever made another vampire before,” Johnny says very helpfully, drawing Jaehyun’s attention back to him. His friend has crossed so that he can stand at Mark’s shoulder, tall and supportive without even touching him.

“Not for a lack of trying, on our part,” mutters Doyoung.

When Taeyong glowers at him, he raises both of his hands. “Taeyong-hyung’s right,” he says. “But it’s fun, though, right? Pretending.” He grins. He’s kind of weird, Jaehyun decides. Good weird, though. He reminds Jaehyun of, well, Taeyong.

“No,” Taeyong mutters.

“Without a sire, there’s really no way of knowing when you were turned, or how,” Doyoung says, back to business. He smiles some more at Mark, much more apologetically this time. “Sorry.”

Mark shrugs, clearly not bothered. “It’s fine.” It’s not fine, clearly. “You said—” He looks quickly at Johnny, turning all the way around in the seat. “You said I had to—die?”

Johnny’s expression is for two seconds aghast, but Jaehyun clears his throat. “Why would it matter how he was murdered?” he says.

There’s a noise—Taeyong—and then Mark turning to Jaehyun with enormous eyes. “Murdered?” Mark says, and oh yeah. Mark doesn’t know. Jaehyun… Johnny only told Jaehyun.

“Youngho,” Taeyong says.

“You didn’t explain,” Johnny says.

“You didn’t tell them?” Doyoung says.

“Jaehyun-hyung?” Mark says.

Jaehyun gives up on trying to follow everyone else’s lead and drags his best friend into a hug that’s more a choke hold than anything else. “Sorry, Mark-yah,” he says in Korean first, and then in English. “Sorry. I’m so sorry.” He glares at Taeyong over Mark’s head. “You didn’t tell him?”

“I didn’t tell you,” Taeyong replies sharply.

“He deserves to know,” Jaehyun bites back, tightening his hold on Mark before he can stop himself. But Mark doesn’t seem bothered—Mark probably will never be bothered, since Jaehyun might have more than a few pounds of muscle and several centimeters on him, but he will never again be stronger, or capable of hurting him, crushing him, forcing the air out of his lungs. Mark will never again need to breathe and so Jaehyun can hold him like his life is ending all he wants. “He deserves to know.”

“Taeyong-ah.” That’s the first time Jaehyun thinks he’s heard Doyoung call Taeyong like he’s younger. He must be—Taeyong is the family baby, that much Jaehyun knows—but Doyoung’s been calling him ‘hyung’ this whole time. “Why haven’t you told him?”

Jaehyun pulls out of his half hug with Mark enough so that he can watch, can see Taeyong’s ears start to burn and his eyes dart anxiously around the kitchen. He looks so fucking human, despite the line of questioning. “I wasn’t—Jaehyunnie and I have a—a date, Saturday, and I—it’s not a first date conversation.”

Doyoung’s expression slides into unreadability again. “A date?” he repeats, but it’s not really a question. “You have a date.”

For some reason Taeyong is looking accusingly at Johnny, now, like this is his fault.

“Don’t look at me,” Johnny says. “You brought it up, not me.”

Taeyong looks helplessly at Jaehyun now, so adorable that Jaehyun can’t stand it.

Mark makes a tiny noise where he’s still half burrowed into Jaehyun’s collarbones, and Jaehyun doesn’t hold back this time. “Mark!” he sputters, embarrassed and trying to save face and failing, because Mark can’t seem to look him in the eye when Jaehyun shoves him not at all gently into Johnny, who grabs him before he can fall. Mark probably wouldn’t have fallen, given that he’s an immortal, undead, superhuman vampire, but Johnny catches him anyway, and now they’re making eyes at each other.

Jaehyun starts to get to his feet, aware that his own ears are on fire, and that more than half the room can probably hear how fast his pulse is racing, or at least pick up on his arousal.

“With a human,” Doyoung says, somehow still finishing his sentence from before, and then not even a blink later he’s directly in front of Jaehyun, holding him by the hand. “Hello, Jeong Jaehyun.”

Jaehyun stares at him with his mouth open, not even sure if he can remember how to speak.

Doyoung’s eyes are near black brown, his skin is ivory white, his hair is so glossy it can’t be real, and he hasn’t done up nearly enough buttons on his shirt. He’s got fangs and seems to be at least two centuries and he’s looking at Jaehyun like he can’t quite decide if Jaehyun is a snack, or a new toy.

Jaehyun goes to a mixed school, lives in a mixed dorm, has an unfortunate crush on Doyoung’s kid brother, but even that hasn’t prepared him for this. He takes two terrified steps back and meets resistance because Doyoung is strong, even with barely more than the tips of his fingers on Jaehyun’s own. “I—”

Kim Dongyoung,” Taeyong spits, and Jaehyun decides to just close his eyes, instead of trying to piece together what happens next. When he opens them Doyoung is far away from him and Taeyong is in between them; Mark is still standing halfway leaning into Johnny, who’s frowning angrily at the both of them; and Jaehyun is not sure how he hasn’t fallen flat on his face, his legs are shaking so bad. He’d sit down, but Taeyong stands between him and the barstool. He settles for spreading his legs a little, like he’s at the gym, about to lift weights.

Doyoung is looking at Taeyong with wide, apologetic looking eyes. “Sorry, Baby Hyung,” he says.

Taeyong takes the nickname like he might take a hit. “God, Doyoungie, you just—” he says, and breaks off in the middle so that he can run a hand over his entire face. “You just—come here, you idiot—”

Jaehyun should shut his eyes again because they’re moving too fast for human sight, but it’s just what has to be an incredibly overdue hug that they end up in in the middle of the room. Doyoung ends up wrapped around Taeyong talking a mile a minute, and Taeyong takes it with a smile tipping the corners of his mouth, his eyes rolling as he hugs the other vampire back. Doyoung’s ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibe is fading away, Taeyong’s hot and cold is shifting far closer to burning, and Jaehyun can’t fucking look away, even though he knows he should.

“I missed you,” Doyoung is saying. “I missed you. How have you been?”

Johnny shifts out from Mark’s grip, drawing Jaehyun’s attention. “Are you okay?” he says.

“Yeah,” Jaehyun manages breathlessly, and then dares Mark to dispute the fact with his eyes. “What was—”

“Doyoungie’s Taeyong’s favorite sibling,” Johnny explains, watching where the two of them are still cuddled in close, but now seem to be arguing quietly in a way that Jaehyun knows only siblings can, and used to feel terribly, terribly jealous of whenever Mark’s older brother came to help Mark move in or out at the end of the year. “They haven’t spoken since March, however,” Johnny finishes.

Doyoung has pulled out an iPhone and is forcing Taeyong to hold still long enough to snap a photo, cackling on about jealousy and getting the last laugh with someone called Yuta; Jaehyun thinks he remembers Johnny mentioning that name before, when they were trying to decide who from Taeyong’s family even to call about Mark’s situation.

Taeyong poses for the impromptu selca but points out that he’s never stopped speaking to this Yuta, and that the other has even visited the apartment.

Doyoung visibly sniffs the air, and then pouts.

“What happened in March?” asks Jaehyun.

“They had a disagreement,” says Johnny. “Over… turning.”

Taeyong and Doyoung’s easy peace shatters and they turn as one to face Johnny, rather like meerkats, but far more predatorily. Maybe more like vultures, or piranhas. Something that eats human flesh and draws blood. Taeyong hesitantly takes a few steps away from Doyoung.

Jaehyun should really let it go; he can tell it would not be wise to continue his line of questioning. “What does that mean?” he asks anyway, curious despite himself. “What do you mean ‘turning’?”

Johnny bites his lip and steps closer to Mark, clearly looking for comfort.

“Taeyong doesn’t want to make another vampire,” Doyoung explains finally, then shuts his eyes, like he’s waiting for whatever comes next.

“Forgive me if I don’t want to be in the business of murder,” Taeyong snaps, then crosses almost angrily to the kitchen to fill a glass of water, not looking at anyone.

Jaehyun feels rather like he’s missed something, but also like every instinct in him is telling him to let it go. Every instinct in him is also telling him to get out of the apartment and forget he ever knew a Mark Lee, though, so fuck instincts. Although he is rather thirsty now that he thinks about it. He should get his own water—

“Here,” Taeyong says, coming to stand in front of Jaehyun at a humanly slow pace. He hands him the glass of water and Jaehyun shivers when their fingers touch.

“Thanks.” His voice is raspy and parched sounding. He takes a few hurried and grateful sips.

“So,” Mark says finally, the most he’s said since Jaehyun accidentally dropped that ball on him. “To return to the point… Murder?” He’s looking at Johnny again, who smiles.

“Murder,” Johnny says. “To turn someone into a vampire, you have to murder them.”

Mark takes that without visibly reacting.

“You have to eat their soul, actually,” interjects Doyoung, without moving from his place across the apartment over by Taeyong and Johnny’s TV. He’s made himself small and done up a few more buttons on his shirt. He’s not looking at anyone. His walls are all back up. When Mark stares at him with his mouth open, he shrugs. “What? You didn’t think we happen because of something pure and wholesome, did you?”

Taeyong’s got a look on his face that Jaehyun can’t read, and even Johnny looks shocked and distraught.

“To turn someone into a vampire, you need to kill them so horribly and unnaturally that their soul sticks around, and then you need to eat it,” Doyoung says. He meets Mark’s eyes. “Sorry.”

“Doyoung-ah,” Taeyong snaps.

Doyoung’s eyes don’t leave Mark’s face. “What?” he snaps back. “We don’t have time to wait sixty years, Taeyong-ah.”

Jaehyun decides he should just sit down and turns so he can shuffle towards the barstools.

“I don’t have a soul?” Mark says.

Jaehyun sinks down onto the floor instead, mind racing.

 


 

Mark takes the news of his soullessness with far more grace than Jaehyun and Johnny seem to, because two minutes into the explanation—Doyoung fielding more questions with matter of factness; Jaehyun opening and closing his mouth; Mark frowning down at his own hands and insisting that he doesn’t feel any different, digestive issues notwithstanding—Johnny drags Taeyong into the bedrooms and appears to lay into him. When they come back, Johnny is holding his hand funny, and Taeyong is refusing to meet anyone’s eyes.

Doyoung crosses the room to force Johnny to uncurl his fist, and then they all get a crash course in vampire 101 when he brings his own wrist to his mouth, bites down, and then gives it to Johnny.

“Vampire blood has healing properties,” he says, as Johnny sighs and rolls his eyes and swallows. He doesn’t swallow a lot, which is good, because Mark looks suitably distracted from his justifiable despair and quite ready to fight Doyoung now. “Why do you think some of us get to be so old?”

Jaehyun blinks, the realization dawning. He’s seen plenty of vampires on the news, and while they tend to keep the younger ones out of the spotlight to save humanity the knowledge that back in the day someone fifteen could be an adult, a lot of them are far older than the life expectancies at the time of their, well, deaths. Vampires giving their soon-to-be-undead chosen blood in advance… that would explain it.

“It can’t heal everything,” Doyoung is sure to point out. “Like—well Yunho-hyung once tried to help with the Cholera Pandemic”—Taeyong shoots him an odd look from where he’s still a tense coil near the hallway—“and I won’t lie and say we’re not putting extensive amounts of research towards things like cancer. I can’t heal that, before you ask,” Doyoung adds, before Jaehyun can speak. “Not without snapping your neck first, and I doubt humanity would jump at that chance.” He heaves a long sigh, licking a long stripe along his own wrist to coax it to finish healing. “We don’t like to advertise this.”

Johnny gives his newly unbroken fingers a flex.

“You shouldn’t either,” Doyoung continues, with a tone that brooks no arguments.

Jaehyun gets that too. He can’t imagine humanity handling the knowledge that vampire blood is the miracle cure all that well to begin with, and add in the fact that they’ve had nearly a thousand years to get used to them… it would not end well.

“The other limit is that our blood has no effect on other vampires,” Doyoung explains. “It only works on a sire to child basis.” That’s what they call the people they’ve made—their children—which Jaehyun thinks is probably better than referring to them as their murder victims. Or chosen. “Our family does not murder people,” Doyoung finishes, with an uncanniness that makes Jaehyun worry about mind reading on top of the healing. “I can’t say the same for others.”

Taeyong stays silent, so Jaehyun decides it’s up to him to carry the conversation. “Right, like, whomever turned Mark.”

Mark looks away from Doyoung and manages to smile at Jaehyun. “Yeah,” he says. He stands. “Look, Taeyong-hyung. Johnny-hyung.” They both look at him the moment he says their names. “I don’t want the two of you fighting about this.”

Johnny immediately looks guilty and Taeyong looks like he thinks he deserved to get punched in the face, or whatever.

“You didn’t do this to me,” says Mark. “And just because I don’t have a soul doesn’t have to change anything.” Mark is so fucking brave, and so fucking kind. Jaehyun wants to hug him again, though he knows better. It’s been less than twenty-four hours, but Jaehyun already thinks he’s starting to get a handle on things. Mark’s twitchy, and pallid, and probably hungry.

Taeyong is already moving to the fridge with an audible groan, almost like Mark speaking was all the permission he needed to stop being quite so upset. “God, I can’t wait until you’re sixty,” he mutters, but tosses Mark a bag of blood anyway. “Don’t go to sleep right after, yeah? We still have to figure out what happened to you.”

Mark catches the bag with a hand in the air. “Thank you, Hyung,” he says. “Sorry.”

Jaehyun exchanges a look with Johnny, who’s still flexing his formerly bruised hand. “Are you alright?” he says.

“I’ve only been dragging Taeyongie to church since the moment I got old enough that he didn’t think it was weird for the two of us to be alone in there,” says Johnny. “I’m fine.”

Jaehyun wants to hug him too. “Vampires can go to church?”

“Don’t believe everything you read, Jaehyun-ah.” Johnny sounds exhausted.

It’s understandable. Jaehyun’s never been very religious, but even he gets that this is a big deal. This is. Mark’s soul. Taeyong’s soul. Doyoung’s soul, he supposes. “Vampires really don’t—”

“Taeyong-hyung is a good person… vampire,” Mark says loudly, interrupting them all. “And he’s much older than I am. Older than sixty, or whatever.”

Taeyong doesn’t dispute the statement and Jaehyun makes a mental note. (He’ll get the man’s birthday out of him somehow, promise.)

“So, there’s no reason anything has to change,” Mark decides. But then his expression goes a little despairing, and Jaehyun wants to hug him again. “Oh,” Mark says. “Mom and Dad.”

Jaehyun flinches. He hadn’t even thought about that. How they fuck are they going to tell Mark’s parents?

“You can’t tell them anything,” says Taeyong, sounding sorry. “Sorry,” he says out loud anyway. “You’re not supposed to know, for one. We’ve probably fucked up your development, or something just by telling you.” He shoots Doyoung an ugly look, but Doyoung just sticks his tongue out in a parody of what Taeyong had done to him earlier. “Just…” Taeyong brightens. “I mean maybe you’ll be less hungry, now.”

Johnny is blinking between Taeyong and Doyoung. “Wait,” he says. “Do you not need to drink blood?”

Doyoung and Taeyong exchange a look. “Well—”

Johnny throws his hands in the air. “That’s it, I’m out,” he says dramatically. He points at Taeyong, then at Doyoung. “Eighteen years. Seven years. I cannot believe—”

“We’re not supposed to go around talking about it,” Taeyong starts to say.

“The only reason I’m even comfortable talking about it with you around is because Taeyongie has—” starts to say Doyoung, before Taeyong puts a hand over his mouth.

Johnny stares, eyes very wide.

Jaehyun also stares, trying not to notice how Doyoung has licked Taeyong’s palm.

Mark makes an audibly pained noise over by the couch. “Gross, Jaehyun-hyung,” he says.

Jaehyun’s cheeks feel hot and he wants to try his hand at punching a stone wall. “You could just not,” he mutters.

“Actually, he can’t,” Doyoung says happily, from behind Taeyong’s fingers. “It’s like having a whole new sense. And breathing’s the hardest thing to stop doing, so.” He shrugs.

Jaehyun wouldn’t mind trying to punch him. Mark looks like he’d agree.

Taeyong drops his hand. “Thank you so much for that, Doyoung-ah,” he says.

“Love you too, Baby Hyung,” Doyoung says sweetly.

“Why do you call him that?” asks Jaehyun.

Taeyong starts to protest.

“He’s older than I am,” Doyoung says. “A full year, too. But only physically.” He brightens. “I’m—”

“Leaving,” interrupts Taeyong, and goes to start sliding him along the floor towards the door. Doyoung pouts and whines and doesn’t help at all, but Jaehyun thinks if he’d actually wanted to put up a fuss, Taeyong wouldn’t be able to even move him.

“No, Taeyong—”

“You’ve met Mark, you’ve sniffed Mark, you can go home and report back to everyone about Mark, and so now you’re leaving,” says Taeyong. “Johnny and I can handle this. I’m not actually a baby, whatever you say.”

Doyoung’s expression goes fond. “You’ll always be a baby to me, Hyung,” he says, utter oxymoron in the formality of his speech, coupled with his words.

“But—”

“Look, I called you,” Taeyong says, still sliding Doyoung across the floor. He halts when they reach Doyoung’s pointy dress shoes. “I called you and Johnny let you in and you got to see and meet Mark, and when we find the bastard who’s responsible, I’ll even call you and invite you in again so you can be there when we handle it.”

Jaehyun has a horrible memory to Burning Sun and the news broadcasts he thinks no one human knew what to think about, where Yang Hyungsuk and Han Seungho formally executed those involved—beheading, draining, and running one of them through with a sword, Jaehyun thinks, and wonders if he should ask about that. If making vampires involves killing, surely—

“Taeyong,” Doyoung whines again, before a phone rings, and the entire apartment goes silent. After a moment, Doyoung fishes it out of his pocket. “Hello?”

Whoever is on the other line with Doyoung isn’t very verbose, because the conversation ends with no more than a few clipped affirmatives from Doyoung. Whoever is on the other line with Doyoung doesn’t have good news, also, because Taeyong’s brow draws together and Mark does another one of those creepy sprints so that he’s standing right next to Jaehyun, eyes wide.

“Mark—”

“What the fuck was that?” says Taeyong, cutting Jaehyun off.

Doyoung clicks his phone locked and then sticks it in his pants pocket, not meeting Taeyong’s eyes. “I can’t leave, Youngho,” he tells Johnny, before looking briefly at Mark and Jaehyun.

“What the fuck was that?”

That was my contact with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency,” Doyoung explains, ignoring Taeyong. “There’s been another murder near your campus.” Mark flinches but Doyoung keeps going. “This one didn’t turn afterwards.”

 


 

They take Doyoung’s car. Doyoung has a really nice car. Jaehyun has to take a moment just looking at Doyoung’s really nice car, and then looking at Taeyong’s really nice building, and doing math. “Taeyongie-hyung, are you rich—”

“You have a contact with the SMPA?” spits Taeyong, ignoring Jaehyun in favor of harassing Doyoung. “Why the fuck do you have a contact with the SMPA?”

Doyoung lifts his head with great dignity. “Yes, I live in Seoul, Taeyong-ah,” he says. “I like to stay apprised of crime. Sue me.”

Johnny pulls open one of the back doors and gestures Mark into the far left seat, before getting into the middle seat without comment, for some reason grinning. When Jaehyun goes to follow, he puts up a hand, pointing at the bickering pair of vampires.

“And does your contact with the SMPA apprise you about all crimes, or just the ones that happen in and around my campus?” says Taeyong darkly, sounding like he already knows the answer.

Doyoung stares at him for a long moment, before looking around. “Youngho? Mark? Are you coming?”

“Yah, Kim Dongyoung!”

Johnny sticks his head out the window and waves. “Here, Doyoungie,” he says.

Doyoung looks pleased, before facing Jaehyun. “You’re old,” he says.

Jaehyun is affronted. He’s only 97line.

“Do you have a license? I don’t, Taeyongie doesn’t, and Youngho’s out.”

“I have a license?” Mark starts to protest.

“You’re legally dead, now,” says Doyoung. “You don’t count.”

“I have a license,” Jaehyun manages.

“Awesome,” Doyoung says. He takes hold of Taeyong’s wrist, frowning when Taeyong starts to shake him off. “I have to sit in the front. I know where we’re going.”

Taeyong rips his hand free but gets in the back seat of the car next to Johnny without saying anything else either.

“Did you not drive here?” manages Jaehyun.

The smile Doyoung gives him kind of reminds Jaehyun of a rabbit, for some reason. “Yes, but we’re going to a crime scene to meet up with Junho-hyung. He’s a real sticker for the rules—must be a detective thing.”

Jaehyun stares at him, mildly taken aback, but gets in the car. He adjusts his mirrors, moves the seat, and stares down at the ignition with his heart in his mouth, certain that he’s sitting in something that costs his entire college tuition.

“Jaehyunnie?”

Jaehyun’s eyes dart to the rear-view mirror and he meets Taeyong’s in the reflection. Taeyong looks honestly worried, and yet is somehow still calming. Jaehyun manages a smile in return and turns the key.

“Where are we going?” he asks Doyoung.

Doyoung pulls out his phone again. “The café near the theater two blocks from the COEX building,” he says, apparently knowing the names of SM U’s academic buildings. “There won’t be parking, but that won’t be a problem.” He smiles with fang. “I’m very convincing.”

Jaehyun swallows and puts the car in drive, pulling away from the curb and heading back towards campus, as instructed. It’s nearly nine p.m. Doyoung’s car has a giant interactive touch screen with a map and Apple Music loaded on the screen, ready to play whatever song they’d like. Jaehyun feels a little faint, honestly. Just that morning, his biggest concern was not failing his classes. Now he’s driving to a crime scene and trying to solve his best friend’s murder. “So, uh.” He glances in the rearview mirror to take stock of the cars around him on the road and meets Taeyong’s eyes again.

Taeyong smiles when he sees Jaehyun, but very rapidly switches to glowering when he sees Doyoung.

Jaehyun opens his mouth to ask if anyone wants to listen to some music.

Before he can do so, Doyoung turns angrily around in his seat. “Look,” he says. “Just because you started pretending we weren’t family doesn’t mean we aren’t family, so forgive me for wanting to make sure the next time I saw you wasn’t when you were being delivered home to us in a coffin.”

Taeyong raises an eyebrow. “Last I checked I was as impervious and immortal as the rest of you.”

“Yes, but Youngho isn’t.”

Johnny’s busy talking with Mark, who has the window rolled down and is staring out at all the buildings like he’s never seen Seoul before. But from the sounds of it, he hasn’t. Not like this, anyway—with vampire eyes. Jaehyun is almost jealous because Seoul at night is one of his favorite things.

“Johnny-hyung is—” Taeyong stops talking very abruptly.

“Johnny is what?” Doyoung sounds almost goading.

Johnny looks away from Mark with his own brow raised. “Yes, Johnny is what, Taeyong?”

“Never mind.” Taeyong sinks back into his seat and crosses his arms. “Jaehyunnie, stop sign.”

Jaehyun steps on the breaks and somehow doesn’t break everyone’s neck in the process, but the wheels do protest, and Doyoung does level him a look. “Sorry,” Jaehyun says, starting to drive again after a full stop. “Tell me again why you’re both like centuries old and I’m the only one with a license?”

“I don’t like driving,” Taeyong says.

“It’s too much work,” Doyoung agrees.

“I have a license?” Mark says again.

“Me too,” Johnny says. “I’ve even driven both of you. In France, and Italy!”

Doyoung shudders. “Never again,” he says.

Jaehyun very wisely decides not to ask. “Uh—”

“Turn here,” Doyoung says.

 


 

Jaehyun has never been to a crime scene before. Jaehyun has watched his share of television crime scenes and read his share of news reports about real crime scenes, but the closest brush he’s ever had with anything illegal were the kids who got busted for cheating on midterms his and Mark’s freshman year. Prior to this evening, murder wasn’t even something Jaehyun ever thought about—certainly not something he excepted to ever come face-to-face with. But prior to this evening, Mark wasn’t a vampire.

They meet Doyoung’s police contact and are swept past the civilian line easily enough with very little questions asked, which seems to be Doyoung’s doing, mostly. He and this Junho-hyung very clearly have a rapport going, but beyond that, Jaehyun gets the sense that there are greater politics at play. Things to do with Doyoung and Taeyong’s family name.

The woman who found the body is a vampire as well, and she takes one look at the two of them and looks like she’d quite like to go into a full ninety-degree bow, babbling on about her own lineage. She’s related to someone called Sunny-unnie, and while Jaehyun doesn’t recognize the name, Taeyong clearly does, as does Doyoung.

“Cousin,” Johnny tells Jaehyun and Mark both, walking them away from the vampires with surprising ease, for them all being at the scene of a crime. “Only not really. I think she’s related to Dana… She’s quite close to Ok Taecyeon, though, and he’s—”

“Park Jinyoung’s,” Mark realizes, clearly much more appraised of Seoul’s undead than poor Jaehyun.

Mark had always been a little more outwardly interested in vampires than Jaehyun was anyway, and even had more than a few classes with Chenle, Jaemin, and Jeno—another vampire in that year. He had all their numbers and would sometimes hang out with them, which Jaehyun had always attributed that to them being almost the same age, and hadn’t really cared. The only vampire Jaehyun had any passing interest in was Taeyong, and Jaehyun certainly wasn’t going to ask Taeyong; Jaehyun was too busy putting his fingers in his ears, trying to do his best to ignore any and all reminders of the fact that Taeyong was ancient and important and one of Jung Yunho’s. Taeyong was pretty and his TA and off limits, and Jaehyun didn’t need to be curious about his history, his family, or vampires period. Jaehyun knew better—had had neighbors who should have known better—and he remembered the ugly things kids would say.

Mark hadn’t had to deal with any of that. And Mark—Mark was going to learn more than Jaehyun ever could.

Johnny smiles at them both. “Yeah,” he says. “If it’s Dana, she’s more than distantly related to Taeyongie, after all. But it’s like I said: pretty much everyone is related to Taeyong—at least if they can trace their lines back to Lee Sooman. And even if she wasn’t”—he shoots a look over at the poor woman, who looks like she can’t be more than twenty, but who could be any number of years at this point—“she’d know who Taeyongie is. Who Doyoungie is.” He looks at Jaehyun, grinning. “Territorial, and all.”

Mark punches Johnny in the arm. “You make us sound like some sort of wild animal,” he says, voice a whine.

It’s the first time Jaehyun thinks he’s heard Mark refer to himself as a vampire, and it shouldn’t be a big deal, because it’s true. Mark’s had a worse day than Jaehyun and Jaehyun should be glad that he’s finally adjusting. But he just feels… lonely.

And then he feels guilty.

And then he feels stupid, because of how selfish he’s being.

“Taeyongie is—” Johnny starts to say.

A big deal, Jaehyun finishes for him. Of course he his. A literal ‘Prince of Seoul’ or whatever it was the tabloids had said that January, when vampires were the big story, given Burning Sun. Leave it to Jaehyun to fall in—to try to date royalty.

“Anyway.” Johnny rubs at the back of his neck with a hand. “It’s good she’s the one who found… the body. Doyoungie’s got no shortage of friends in high places, but this means we have a reason to be involved.” He lowers his voice, even though Doyoung had assured them all there were no other vampires at the crime scene. “Especially given—Mark.” Johnny’s sentence breaks a little before saying his boyfriend’s name.

There’s no reaction from the other three vampires, but Jaehyun gets the sense that they’ve heard, and are listening. “Right,” he says. “Right?”

“And I’ve never met Sunny,” Johnny continues at normal volume. “I’ve only ever met… well, it’s not important.” Johnny cuts off, clearly deciding better than naming names. His eyes go flicking around the shop nervously. “This is weird,” he says, changing the subject rather abruptly. “I get coffee here every day after lunch—I’m always dragging Taeyong here and making him order something off the menu just to listen to him lose his mind over the fact that ‘I can’t eat, Youngho-yah, how many times do we have to go over this?’ and that it was before sundown.” Johnny smiles, but it’s a brittle thing. “I knew her,” he adds, gaze dropping to the fabric covering the body—the woman, Kang Chaeyoung. “We were on a first name basis.”

Jaehyun had been to the place more than a few times too and was on a first name basis with the Chaeyoung-noona too. Jaehyun knew she was in the process of putting herself through law school, and more often than not, served the vampire customers because she pulled late hours. He had never really thought about it, though. “What do vampires even eat at cafes?” he asks, in time for Taeyong to appear at his side, clearly having abandoned Doyoung to the wolves.

“We don’t,” Taeyong says. “And whatever blood we can get here is…” He looks like he’d rather be anywhere but here and saying anything but this.

“Not from a live source.” Doyoung arrives beside him near silently, and Jaehyun nearly jumps out of his skin. “Cause of death is blood loss—she had her throat ripped out,” Doyoung tells them all quietly, without so much as a blink. “But whoever it wasn’t didn’t drain her—the damage to her neck is… messy—it’s almost like they got… bored.”

Doyoung’s expression is unreadable, but Jaehyun gets the sense from his tone that he’s bothered, if not unnerved.

Doyoung shoots Mark a look. “Assuming it’s the same person who turned you, I’m not surprised.” He smiles, but it’s an empty sort of thing. “Vampire’s don’t actually need to eat all that often, and if we’re assuming that whoever it was bled you dry just this morning, well.” He shrugs but doesn’t continue.

Somehow, Mark doesn’t flinch. “Makes sense,” he manages.

“Anyway, the good news is whoever it was probably wasn’t targeting you specifically, Mark-yah,” interjects Taeyong, gaze flicking across the floor to where Junho-hyung seems to have finished taking the vampire woman’s statement, and now seems to be arguing with her on whether or not he needs to send a car to drive her home. She’s clearly too distracted to be eavesdropping, but Taeyong is still watching. It shouldn’t be hot, how aware of the situation Taeyong is. It shouldn’t be hot because it’s a crime scene. Chaeyoung-noona is dead.

Jaehyun curls his hands into fists and digs his nails into his palms.

Taeyong looks briefly at Jaehyun, before moving to address all of them again.

Doyoung’s expression has gone pinched. “Taeyong—”

“The bad news is they’re probably targeting me,” Taeyong continues, ignoring the other vampire. “Given that Chaeyoung-noona is my favorite barista.” He pauses. “Well. She was my favorite barista.” He looks at Johnny and then at Jaehyun, eyes serious. “Both of you should go home. Youngho. Jaehyunnie.”

Taeyong,” snaps Doyoung.

“You’re not safe around me.”

Taeyong,” snarls Doyoung, but Jaehyun isn’t listening. Jaehyun is having an out of body experience.

“I should sit down,” he decides, and drops. He doesn’t faint, but he doesn’t really make it to any sort of chair anyway, and somehow between three superhuman abnormalities, it’s Johnny who gets Jaehyun under both arms, and wrestles him over to sit down at one of the cafe tables.

“Yah,” Jaehyun hears Johnny say. “We’re not going home. Don’t be an idiot.”

“They’re targeting me,” Taeyong says again. “It’s not safe.”

Jaehyun bends forward and puts his head between his knees.

Chapter Text

The first thing Jaehyun becomes aware of over the roar of blood in his ears is Doyoung. “Would you stop saying that!” Taeyong’s brother snaps, his voice suddenly coming through loud and clear. Jaehyun is still sitting in the chair with his head between his knees, but Doyoung and Taeyong are apparently still snarling at each other over him. Jaehyun misses the next few seconds of the conversation due to his own terrified panic, and he doesn’t think he’ll ever get them back. But given that Doyoung just seems to be saying more of the same when he tunes back in, he doesn’t think it’s that much of a problem.

“What?” says Taeyong, louder than he’d been speaking before—the vampire woman must be gone, Jaehyun thinks. “That whoever it is must be targeting me? They clearly are.”

Doyoung makes a frustrated noise. “You don’t know that,” he says. “You can’t know that. You don’t even know that it’s the same vampire.”

Taeyong makes a noncommittal noise, but clearly isn’t convinced. “It has to be me,” he says. “Mark doesn’t come here every day.”

“Taeyong—”

“He doesn’t,” Taeyong says. “Chaeyoung-noona is my favorite barista.”

“You don’t even need to drink!” Doyoung says, before what he’s said seems to catch up with him. “Don’t say anything, Hyung—”

“Mark doesn’t come here every day!” Taeyong says again, which seems to be something he knows, so maybe that was covered when Jaehyun was up to his ears with anxiety. “Do you?”

“Well, no, but I think most of the student body has come here at least once?”

Mark’s voice is surprisingly timid, and Jaehyun fights the urge to grind his teeth. “How do we—I mean, like Doyoung-hyung said, it could just be a coincidence.” Mark pauses. “I might have even been an accident.” Mark’s voice is odd, and Jaehyun wants to know what his face is doing, but he can’t convince himself to sit up. Someone is rubbing gentle circles along his shoulder blades, and he’d bet it’s Johnny. “I just mean how do we even know whoever it was even meant to—to kill me?” Mark finishes, voice so tiny now that Jaehyun starts gnawing on his own tongue, livid at his cowardice, and uncaring of how bad an idea it is to risk drawing blood.

“If that were the case, they’d have stuck around,” says Doyoung. “They wouldn’t have pulled a ‘hit and run,’ as it were.” He sounds disdainful for the first time that night, and Jaehyun really wants to sit up and see what his face is doing. “It’s not exactly commendable, but it happens. Sometimes new vampires get… sloppy and kill people.”

Taeyong has gone worryingly silent.

Johnny’s fingers on Jaehyun’s back are moving in deceptively soothing circles now.

“You—” Doyoung’s voice is exhaustedly resigned before he abruptly stops talking. “Mark, you’re hungry again,” he says, switching tracks. “We should take you out—”

The hand on Jaehyun’s back tightens painfully and then retreats quickly, and Jaehyun finds himself making a noise in protest before he can help himself. When Johnny comes back, his touch is somehow even more soothing. This is good, because while Jaehyun’s head is starting to hurt a little from all the blood rushing to it, he still doesn’t know if he’s ready to sit up.

Mark clears his throat. “What, uh, what do you mean—”

“New vampires are greedy,” Doyoung says finally, clearly choosing his words very carefully. “For the first—sixty years, there is—it’s the duty of the sire to—to look out for their children. They don’t always do it, though. You could have been—that.” He sounds apologetic.

Johnny’s hand on Jaehyun’s shoulders is still deceivingly calm, but Jaehyun can feel the tension in the café. He takes a long, even breath, and then sits up, turning on his best “for company” smile. He meets concerned eyes—Johnny’s—and then, shockingly warm ones.

Taeyong’s eyes.

Taeyong is the one standing beside the chair with his hand still between Jaehyun’s shoulder blades.

Oh.

Jaehyun feels his ears heat and hates that he’s so human.

Right. He looks at Doyoung instead, and freezes. Taeyong’s brother is standing utterly still and practically humming with unnatural power. He’s glancing furiously between Mark—who has his chin raised and is refusing to back down—and then Taeyong, who Jaehyun doesn’t think has moved once since Jaehyun sat up. Johnny is just behind Mark, clearly concerned and ready to step in as needed. The vampire staring contest is enough to lower the temperature by at least three degrees. Jaehyun shifts back into Taeyong’s touch before he can help himself.

“I’ll concede that whoever it is probably didn’t intend to change Mark,” Doyoung says finally, looking away from Mark and Taeyong long enough to include Jaehyun in the conversation with a glance as well. “But until we know more, we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions.” He puts an emphasis on half that sentence and shoots Taeyong a particularly dark look. “And we’re taking Mark out to eat.”

Mark clears his throat. “I’m not actually, uh, hungry, thanks,” he says quickly, not meeting anyone’s eyes. Johnny’s hands hover in the air like he’s going to touch him.

Jaehyun takes a deep breath. They very clearly all need a change of scenery, and very clearly no one else in the room is capable of bringing that up. “Right. I’m fine now,” Jaehyun says. “We can go home.” He shifts to stand, but Mark reaches around Taeyong to put a hand on his shoulder and hold him down.

“You are not fine,” Mark says.

Jaehyun stares up at him, feeling distinctly betrayed. He’s going to have to get used to Mark being able to move that fast and being strong enough to hold Jaehyun down.

His friend’s eyes flick briefly to Jaehyun’s, before he returns to staring down Doyoung. “You’re not fine,” he tells Jaehyun again. “Sorry, Hyung.” He takes his hand off Jaehyun’s shoulder, but Jaehyun gets the feeling that if he tries to move, Mark will put it right back.

So Jaehyun looks between the vampires, then briefly at Johnny, before focusing back on Mark. “I mean,” he says, and his voice is only a little high. “That’s a dead body.”

All of them look in the direction of the outdoors, where the police are still doing their thing and Chaeyoung-noona’s body still lies hidden under that white cloth.

“I just mean—I’m allowed,” Jaehyun mutters, and then reaches up to rub nervously at his own wrist, scratching at a non-existent itch.

Taeyong replaces Mark’s hand with his own, sliding his fingers from where they’re still touching Jaehyun between the shoulder blades around to rest on his shoulder. “Jaehyunnie is right,” he says, not looking at Jaehyun despite the contact—despite his clear concern. “We should all go home.”

Doyoung makes a noise, but Jaehyun still doesn’t want to look at him.

Taeyong’s voice darkens a little in response. “We should all go home,” he says again and he doesn’t sound all the way dangerous, but Jaehyun shivers a little despite himself.

He stands, doing his best not to too obviously flee Taeyong’s grip on his shoulder, a smile back in place. “There’s nothing else we can do here, anyway, right?” he says, glancing around at everyone but Taeyong with that same false, bright smile. “Right,” he answers his own question. “So—”

“Jaehyun-hyung,” Mark starts to say.

“Are you leaving?” says Doyoung’s SMPA contact Junho-hyung, appearing rather suddenly beside Johnny. He’s mostly addressing Doyoung and Taeyong, but Jaehyun notices that he glances at Mark too. And that’s just the icing on the cake, really. Because Mark is… Mark is a vampire.

Mark is a vampire.

Mark won’t be Jaehyun’s go to study partner anymore because they won’t be on the same sleep schedules or sitting in on the same lectures. Mark won’t be Jaehyun’s go to dinner company anymore because Mark doesn’t need to eat. Mark… somebody murdered Mark, and that same somebody probably murdered Chaeyoung-noona as some sort of grudge against Taeyong (“You don’t know that,” says Jaehyun’s inner cynic, sounding remarkably like Doyoung.) and Jaehyun shouldn’t be feeling sorry for himself in this situation.

Mark is the one who is dead, and the one who Jaehyun should be feeling sorry for.

But Mark isn’t dead.

Mark is standing next to Jaehyun, putting a hand on Jaehyun’s arm, glancing at Jaehyun with concern, loudly complaining the entire walk back to Doyoung’s car about how he has “a license, really, why is no one paying attention to that?”

Mark is cold when Jaehyun pulls him into a hug and buries his nose in his hair. Mark is still breathing, even though he doesn’t mean to. Mark says, “Jaehyun-hyung?” and then put his hands hesitantly on Jaehyun’s back. “Are you okay?”

Jaehyun gives him one last squeeze, before releasing a deep breath and stepping back. The smile on his face this time is a lot less fake. “I forgive you for breaking down my door, Mark-yah,” he says quietly.

Mark’s expression goes startled, then a shade embarrassed. “Yah,” he says. “Hyung—”

But Jaehyun finally manages a real grin and gets in Doyoung’s car.

 


 

There is a moment, standing awkwardly in the doorway of Johnny and Taeyong’s apartment, where Jaehyun actually believes that Doyoung is going to offer to come with him and Taeyong back to the dorms, and Taeyong is going to demonstrate first hand just how you kill a vampire. But then Doyoung drops his eyes, shoots one last look at the rather forebodingly closed door to Johnny and Taeyong’s apartment, and then retreats silently down the hallway and into the mirrored elevator. Jaehyun watches him go, trying not to relieve the last five seconds too obviously.

They got back to the apartment. Mark was still annoyed no one would let him drive the fancy convertible but Jaehyun got to drive it twice. Taeyong was still insisting that the murderer was after him and Jaehyun and Johnny needed to leave, and Doyoung was putting up a very stubborn defense. Johnny was almost as silent as Jaehyun was, until they were all inside the apartment and it became rather clear that all the humans needed to go to sleep, and all of the vampires would benefit from some time spent alone.

Johnny said, “If you’re all done, Taeyongie-yah, I’d like to put a metaphorical sock on the door and ask that you go show Doyoungie around campus, or something, for the rest of the evening.” When both vampires just stared at him, he added, “My boyfriend is now a vampire. Sue me.”

Then there had been some very uncomfortable silent communication between Taeyong and Johnny, with Mark and Jaehyun well and truly on the sidelines, neither having a clue what was going on beyond near murder with just eyeballs on Taeyong’s part and a frightening amount of eyebrow waggling on Johnny’s part.

Then Doyoung took pity on them all and said, “oh for fucks sake, Taeyongie. It’s not like he’s never done one before. You know as well as I do that he’s done two,” which wasn’t illuminating in the slightest, but for some reason, still made Mark’s eyes flash and Taeyong turn a rather shocking shade of puce, giving him being undead.

“What?” Doyoung said, staring Taeyong down. “Am I wrong?”

“I’ll, uh, make myself scarce,” Taeyong told Johnny, ignoring whatever that was, and then turned to Jaehyun with earnest eyes. “I can fix your door, Jaehyun-ah.”

Jaehyun only had time to stare because Mark was clearly picking up on whatever was going on with his newfound vampiric senses.

“Done two what?” he said, at the same time Jaehyun nodded. “Two what, Johnny-hyung—”

“Great,” Taeyong said, and then pulled Jaehyun out of the apartment and into the hall, where they stood, waiting, until Doyoung emerged several seconds later with not a hair out of place. He’d smirked. He’d made rather blatant eyes at Taeyong. Taeyong had scowled. Then Doyoung had gone, leaving them to stand there alone.

It makes no more sense to Jaehyun now than it had when it was happening. He blinks some more. He glances at Taeyong.

Taeyong is an unreadable wall, but every so often he winces, shoots a look at his apartment, and flexes both of his hands into and out of fists. Jaehyun doesn’t want to know why. Jaehyun really, really doesn’t want to know.

Jaehyun opens and closes his mouth a few times. “Um—”

“Which dorm do you live in?” interjects Taeyong. “Youngho—Johnny never lived on campus, but Renjunnie—” Taeyong cuts himself off, frowning. “I really will fix your door.” He starts walking, and Jaehyun lets himself follow.

The elevator comes frighteningly quickly, and the mirrors do nothing to help Jaehyun’s nerves. When they get to the lobby, the vampire at the front desk actually bows to Taeyong as they pass, getting to his feet and everything. “Taeyong-ssi.”

“Hi, Byungho—”

Jaehyun can only stare, following along as if in a trance. For two seconds he thinks Taeyong is going to flex his own convertible sports car, but he just follows Jaehyun’s lead down into the subway and holds his head high when they garner more looks from the nocturnal residents of Seoul. No one bows, which Taeyong is clearly taking as a win. “Sorry,” he still mumbles, after they’ve been given seats by a pair of frighteningly still, eternally teenage girls, who flit to the other side of the train with inhuman speed, giggling. They’re not dressed like they’re from another era, but Jaehyun thinks he’s read somewhere that it’s the older vampires who look younger. Whatever article certainly didn’t have a guess as to why, but knowing what he knows now, Jaehyun is sure it has to do with average lifespan.

He flicks his gaze back to Taeyong, who is eternally college-aged. He thinks about Taeyong calling Johnny hyung. He thinks about Taeyong calling him hyung. He shivers.

Two stops later they’re standing outside Jaehyun’s dorm room, surveying the damage from that morning. It looks no less dismaying at almost ten p.m., but Jaehyun feels he’s better able to appreciate it, not being half asleep and panicking. Certainly, he appreciates it when Taeyong wraps both hands around the door and lifts the whole thing effortlessly, eyeing the hinges and trying his best to set it back onto them.

“Yeah,” Taeyong says, obscured almost entirely by the door and sounding distracted. “I don’t think I can fix this.”

Jaehyun waits to make sure he’s not about to drop the door before crossing the threshold into the room, immediately pulling off his shoes and sliding his feet into his slippers. He settles onto his bed, legs curling into a pretzel and one hand coming up to tug nervously at the necklace he’s been wearing. “That’s fine,” he says. “You can come in, Taeyong-hyung.” He pauses, trying to remember what it was Johnny said—what it was the president of the college had said—and adds, “Lee—Lee Taeyong, please come in.”

Taeyong stills with his hands still holding the door; all Jaehyun can see of him are his unfairly pretty fingers, flexed around the bit of wood with ease, and the tips of his shoes. “Thank you,” Taeyong says, then spins, still holding the door, so that he can cross into the room and do his best to close it behind them, affording Jaehyun enough privacy to exist. “Sorry.” He sets the door down and then just stands awkwardly in front of it, not looking at Jaehyun or the bed.

Jaehyun sighs. “Hyung,” he says, putting out a hand. “Sit down.”

“Jaehyunnie, I’m sorry,” Taeyong says, but does sit, so Jaehyun will take it. Of course, now Jaehyun is in the same bed as Taeyong, and that’s a lot. Maybe he shouldn’t take it. Maybe he shouldn’t have invited Taeyong into his bedroom, let alone his bed.

“Why are you apologizing?”

Taeyong shoots Jaehyun a look. “For getting your best friend killed?”

Jaehyun reaches out and throws a pillow at him. “Hey, again, you don’t know that,” he says, because he’s still a little torn up about Mark being dead. Mark’s still talking and walking and is now guaranteed to be in Jaehyun’s life until pretty much the end of it, but Mark’s immortal and won’t die and won’t ever be more than twenty-two years old. Mark doesn’t need to breathe anymore. Mark can’t eat. Mark doesn’t have a— Jaehyun stops, abruptly aware of the fact that he’s nearly drawn blood by chewing on the inside of his own cheek, and releases the flesh with a purposefully controlled exhale. Fuck.

“Jaehyunnie,” says Taeyong gently.

“It could have been a coincidence,” Jaehyun says anyway, stubborn to a fault. Sure, two murders on campus within twenty-four hours of each other both done rather sloppily by way of fangs is unlikely, but it’s not an impossibility. It makes more sense than someone going after Taeyong. Jaehyun can’t imagine why anyone going after Taeyong would start with Mark, anyway. Mark’s over at Taeyong and Johnny’s place a lot, but that’s only because Mark is dating Johnny. Johnny makes more sense as a target. Although Johnny is maybe more protected, since he lives with Taeyong. But then maybe Jaehyun is affording their killer more intelligence than they deserve. “It could have been a coincidence,” Jaehyun says again.

Taeyong clearly doesn’t agree, but he’s too kind to push it. He’s gorgeous and lovely and sitting on Jaehyun’s bed with his hand almost entirely covered up by his shirt sleeves, his hair falling in his eyes. His mouth is soft and slightly downturned, and he is so perfectly still as only the undead can be and Jaehyun panics.

“What happens after sixty years?” he blurts somewhat desperately, latching onto the only thing he can come up with that isn’t likely to put him through several years of therapy. They had to be sure that Chaeyoung-noona had died from a vampire attack, and Johnny wasn’t quick enough in dragging Mark and Jaehyun out of there before Doyoung was bending in close to examine the rip wounds, hauling a protesting and snarling Taeyong with him. Jaehyun doesn’t sleep a lot during finals week anyway, but he would be fine giving up even more sleep if it meant he could forget what he’s sure a tiger attack might look like, or a wild dog. There had been absolutely no finesse involved. Jaehyun couldn’t make his brain stop superimposing Mark’s face over Chaeyoung-noona’s.

Taeyong is staring at Jaehyun with a less than happy twist to his mouth and far too much knowing in his eyes, but after a short pause, he seems to give in, slumping against Jaehyun’s headboard and shifting on the bed to better look at him. “After sixty years, young vampires… remember,” he says finally. He shifts some more, frowns, then turns out his pockets sheepishly, depositing his phone onto Jaehyun’s bedside table with a wry little smile that doesn’t reach the rest of his face.

Jaehyun keeps staring. “What does that mean? Remember what?”

“Dying,” Taeyong says simply. “After sixty years, we remember dying.”

Jaehyun stares. “That’s—”

“Morbid?” Taeyong’s lips quirk. “So are we.”

Jaehyun keeps staring. “So, Mark—” he starts to say, unable to finish.

Taeyong winces. “We call them death dreams,” he says instead of answering what Jaehyun couldn’t bring himself to ask. “The death dream. It’s—we’ve spent our whole… existence loving someone who—” His lips twist into an ugly farce of a smile. “It’s not very pretty,” he ends up with.

Jaehyun wouldn’t think it would be, having to remember that. “So, you—” he starts again.

“I’m older than sixty, yes,” Taeyong says mildly, with an infernal quirk to his mouth.

Jaehyun wants to kiss it off him. He arches a brow. “Go on?”

Taeyong just keeps staring at him, utterly unbothered.

Jaehyun flops back across the foot of his bed with a groan, his feet hanging off the edge and his eyes fixed unblinkingly on his ceiling light. “Ugh, Hyung,” he says. “You’ve already cheated me of a first date.”

Taeyong sputters. “Hey, no, I—that doesn’t—today doesn’t count, right?” He sounds—Jaehyun hates to say it—young, and so Jaehyun twists on the bed so he can stare up at him, all pink cheeks and wide eyes and a too pretty face for someone older than sixty. “That wasn’t—a woman was dead, Jaehyunnie.”

Jaehyun shivers, trying not to focus on the ‘dead’ half of that sentence. “I like it when you call me that.”

“Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong corrects immediately. “Jaehyun-ssi.” He smiles again, less shy. “Jeong RA-ssi.”

Jaehyun glares at him.

Taeyong stares back, still looking amused. His good humor has aged him right back up again. “Anyway,” he says, sobering quickly. “We—we don’t have a soul.” He says it like one might rip off a band-aid, but Jaehyun flinches anyway. “But until we’re sixty we don’t know that—we don’t remember and we—” Taeyong shoots Jaehyun a look, breaking off. “You’ve probably noticed that older vampires tend to be…”

He looks like he’s searching for a word, but Jaehyun has just realized he doesn’t know how old any of the vampires involved with Burning Sun were. He just knows that they were awful and public execution was maybe too kind—death was maybe too kind. But maybe it wasn’t, if you were immortal. Maybe dying was the worse thing when you were that age.

“Mark.” Mark’s name sounds wrestled out of Taeyong’s mouth by force, hurting all the while. “Doyoungie shouldn’t have told him.”

Jaehyun thinks of the look on Mark’s face, the seriousness with which Mark treats on campus church, and swallows hard. “But churches don’t—”

Taeyong looks at Jaehyun with shocking ancient eyes. “The only really sacred place is a home, it turns out,” he says quietly. Then he shifts, his bent leg uncurling from under himself as he goes to stand. “Anyway—” he starts to say again.

“Anyway, you were saying about dating?” Jaehyun says desperately, going up on one palm so that he’s no longer lying on his side, and nearly colliding with Taeyong’s nose in his quest to keep him from leaving. “Today doesn’t count. As a date, I mean.”

Taeyong stares at Jaehyun with his mouth open, and then he settles hesitantly back against the bed with careful slowness. There is heat coloring the tips of his ears, blushing where there shouldn’t be blushing, and some part of Jaehyun wonders where else his blood might go. Some part of Jaehyun wonders if he’s cold all over and inside. He gnaws hard on the inside of his own cheek, then realizes that might be a bad idea, when Taeyong’s breathing very abruptly cuts off.

“Why do you do that?” Jaehyun whispers, suddenly very much aware of how he’s positioned on the bed—how Taeyong is positioned on the bed. Jaehyun’s bed. Taeyong is in Jaehyun’s bed.

“Do what?” Taeyong’s eyes are dark pools and his mouth is so appealingly red. Like blood. Jaehyun’s heart picks up. He should—he thinks he should look into that. Call home. Visit his grandmother. Have some sense knocked into him. Vampires are dangerous, sometimes called profane, oftentimes called soulless—Jaehyun now knows they are actually soulless—and immortal, ancient creatures that Jaehyun has no business going out with on a date. He doesn’t even know how old Taeyong is. He doesn’t know if he cares.

“Breathe,” Jaehyun manages, eyes locked on Taeyong’s mouth. Like clockwork, Taeyong’s lips part on an exhale. “Do you have to think about it?” He remembers Mark, who stopped breathing hours ago.

“No,” Taeyong says. “But it’s not like I don’t still have functioning lungs.”

Jaehyun has to fight the urge to touch him, beautiful and draped against the headboard. “You make no sense,” he whispers, fingers twitching against his comforter. “Hyung—”

Taeyong moves so fast that Jaehyun couldn’t dream to follow, one second laid out across Jaehyun’s bed, the next standing next to it almost all the way to the door, eyes unreadable black pools. “Jaehyun—”

Jaehyun flops back down on the bed and rolls back over, staring at his ceiling. “Today doesn’t count,” he says again, ignoring the alarmed sounding immortal standing in the corner of his room by the door. “You’re taking me out on Saturday. You promised.”

There is only silence from the immortal standing in the corner of his room by the door. When Jaehyun turns his head to look, Taeyong is staring at him with his mouth parted again, eyes wide. He looks so fucking young.

Jaehyun sits up. “Look, Hyung, how old—do you—do you not want to go on a date—with me?” Jaehyun’s sentence breaks in the middle with an ugly, pre-pubescent crack, and he digs his hands into his comforter, heart pounding. He notices that Taeyong seems to be twitching, fingers curling and uncurling where they’re still down at his side. He notices each curl corresponds with the beat of his heart. He swallows.

“No, of course, I really like you—I’m—twenty-six,” Taeyong blurts, with his own, painful sounding voice-crack. “Do you want me to be even more of a cliché and tell you just how long? A hundred years, Jaehyun—”

“I’m going to go to sleep,” Jaehyun interrupts, face on fire. (A hundred—a hundred years. 1895. Taeyong was born in 1895.) “It’s like… ten.” He pulls out his phone and verifies that fact, then has to take a moment when he sees his lock screen. It’s him and Mark, faces squished together as they make a peace sign. They took it after their first week in the dorms together from freshman year. Jaehyun wets his lips. “I’m really glad that—having a soul isn’t a requirement for showing up on film,” he says, with only a tiny stutter in the middle of the sentence. He casts a look at Taeyong, then at Taeyong’s distorted reflection on the window. “Or showing up in mirrors.”

Taeyong seems to smile almost involuntarily. “That’s it?” he says. “You’ve only been begging me for three years—”

“You’re basically just a really tired twenty-six, though,” Jaehyun interrupts almost desperately, because the alternative is unpacking the fact that this hasn’t really changed anything.

“A really tired twenty-six,” repeats Taeyong blandly.

Jaehyun nods. “Yeah.” He should—he should put on pajamas.

“You… you’re going to sleep in your—what are you doing?” says Taeyong, very abruptly going silent as Jaehyun rolls out of the bed.

He says nothing as Jaehyun peels off his shirt and stands facing his dresser, but Jaehyun can feel his eyes on his bare back like a brand. It makes his skin start to itch and his shoulders raise almost involuntarily, and Jaehyun feels stupid, like one of those idiot kids talking big and hanging out in vamp bars trying to get bitten. He pulls his pajama t-shirt over his head and then grabs his pants, heart racing again. He immediately thinks about Taeyong’s curving fingers. That’s not helping things. He decides it’s probably safest to take his jeans off in bed, under the covers.

“Or not,” Taeyong says quietly, as Jaehyun does that.

“Can you get the light?” Jaehyun says, not looking at him as he sets his contacts into their case. There’s a pause, and then the room is very suddenly shrouded in darkness. Jaehyun wonders if Taeyong’s eyes glint like Mark’s do—like a cat’s would. He shuts his eyes. He opens them.

“You’re just going to go to sleep in front of me, like that?” Taeyong says.

“You’re just going to watch me sleep like some sort of serial killer?” Jaehyun says at almost the same time. His vision adjusts just in time to catch the tail end of Taeyong’s response to that question—large eyes glinting in the dark and fangs flashing in the moonlight because Jaehyun’s curtains aren’t perfectly closed. Neither of those things do anything to help Jaehyun with his heart rate problem, and Taeyong’s hands seem to spasm once more.

“What? No? I—I just—your door is still broken!” says Taeyong.

Jaehyun waves a hand. “It’s not like anyone can get into the building anyway,” he says.

“I’ll go,” Taeyong says, reaching for the door and lifting it without even a pause to pretend human strength. The light from the hallway makes Jaehyun’s eyes hurt and shuts them. “You’re so—trusting,” he thinks he hears Taeyong say as the vampire leaves, setting the door down after him and sealing Jaehyun back in darkness. But Jaehyun is tired and his eyelids are heavy, and he’s lived through two murders, one crime scene, and a dead body in the past twenty-four hours, so maybe he’s imagining things.

“You won’t hurt me,” Jaehyun says regardless, just in case. Taeyong doesn’t respond, but Jaehyun’s not a vampire. He wouldn’t hear anyway.

 


 

Jaehyun’s phone wakes him before the sun is up, and for two seconds he just lies there having awful déjà vu. He’s not even all the way awake, exhausted from the day before and bloody, horrible dreams. His eyes feel hot and puffy because he didn’t wash his face before going to sleep—not because he had been crying. There had been absolutely no crying on Jaehyun’s part whatsoever.

The phone is still ringing, so Jaehyun flails a hand around until he makes contact with his phone, then puts it to his ear. “Hello?”

“Taeyongie.” It’s Doyoung. “There’s been another murder.” Jaehyun’s head hurts but Doyoung is already continuing before he can open his mouth to even try to speak. “A cafeteria lady from SM U: Cha Sungmi. Cause of death was a blow to the head and our vampire definitely took a bite out of her neck, but she also had quite a sizable bump to the back of the head. They found her at her house—she lives a few blocks away from campus. She wasn’t drained or anything like Chaeyoung, so clearly whoever it is getting… sloppy. Between you and me, it sounds like they enjoyed ‘playing with their food,’ as it were.” Doyoung pauses after that little nugget of information and Jaehyun stares blankly straight ahead, trying to make sense of the rapid-fire barrage of information. He gets “another murder” and “Cha Sungmi” and then gets lost somewhere around all the information about neck wounds.

“I,” he says. “Doyoung-hyung. This is Jaehyun. How do you have my number?”

There is a solid beat of silence.

“Jaehyun,” says Doyoung finally. “I think you’ll find you have Taeyong’s phone.”

Jaehyun pulls the thing away from his face and notes that it is in fact not his phone. “Oh,” he says aloud, then puts the phone back to his ear so he can say close to the speaker so that Doyoung can hear. He needn’t have bothered.

“Yes, well, I also think you’ll find you have a vampire on your doorstep,” says Doyoung, sounding far too happy for so early in the morning. “You said you have another final?”

“At nine a.m.,” Jaehyun manages.

Doyoung makes a noise. “Mm. Go back to sleep, Jaehyun-ssi.” Jaehyun flinches, almost having forgotten that this is the first time he’s ever met Taeyong’s mysterious older sibling. “But tell Taeyong to call me. He sleeps like the dead.” There’s a beat, then a snicker that is far too teenage for someone immortal and terrifying, and then a dial tone.

“Okay,” Jaehyun tells the silence of his dorm room.

Getting the door open isn’t the worst thing Jaehyun’s had to do before six in the morning—that honor goes to showering off the smell of last minute cramming so that he could take his newly undead best friend on the subway—but it’s not easy, and Jaehyun leaves it only cracked enough so that he can stick his head out into the hallway.

Taeyong is doing as Doyoung said: sleeping like the dead. He isn’t breathing so he isn’t moving and Jaehyun just stares at him for what feels like hours, drinking in the fall of his hair, the slope of his jaw, and noticing not for the first time that Taeyong has scar tissue on his cheekbone, just under his right eye. He wouldn’t think vampires should be able to scar, let alone suffer any physical and permanent harm to their person, but then, Jaehyun has met Renjun, and Renjun’s scars are answer enough to that question. The scar on Taeyong’s face isn’t anywhere close to that immediately noticeable, but Jaehyun still lingers. Then he lifts his chin and reaches out a hand to shake Taeyong awake.

It feels like a bigger deal than it turns out being. Jaehyun knows humans he wouldn’t try to wake without a significant distance and also maybe a catch pole, but with vampires, the stakes are so much higher. Jaehyun pictures not stepping away fast enough and ending up joining Mark in night classes because of that. He’s thankful to find himself suitably adverse to the situation—although maybe not as much so as he should be.

He needn’t have worried. Taeyong opens his eyes and looks up at Jaehyun with dark, beautiful eyes. “Jaehyunnie.” His voice is deep with disuse and his fangs show when he doesn’t close his mouth all the way after speaking.

Jaehyun panics. “You, uh.” What was it Doyoung had said? “You sleep like the dead, ha, um—”

Taeyong tilts his head further back against the wall and blinks up at him, lashes casting shadows on his cheekbones. It makes Jaehyun lose his train of thought even more and draws his attention even closer to the tiny rose blemish sitting just under the corner of his right eye.

“Mm,” Taeyong says, uncurling the leg he had bent and dropping the arm he had resting on his knee. He doesn’t seem like he’s moved at all since Jaehyun sent him out of the room, but unlike a human, he doesn’t seem tense or aching. No, Taeyong just seems svelte and powerful, almost like a panther. His hair is certainly dark enough. “How did you get out of your room?”

Jaehyun snorts despite himself. “You don’t need inhuman strength to lift a door, Taeyongie-hyung.”

Taeyong blinks again. “Oh.” He licks his lips. “Why’d you wake me?” he says. “Isn’t it kind of early by human standards?”

Jaehyun wonders rather suddenly what sort of sleep schedule Taeyong even keeps, since he was sleeping when Doyoung called, and seemed like he had been for quite some time. And there were plenty of times when he’d come to day lectures, looking sleepy and ruffled and unfairly cute for someone who could kill a person with only his canines. “You left your phone in my room,” is what he says instead, because it’s safer than any of the other stuff. Less embarrassing.

Taeyong tilts his head.

“I only realized once I’d picked it up,” Jaehyun continues. “It was your—Doyoung-hyung. There’s been another murder.”

Taeyong stands so suddenly Jaehyun can’t help but flinch back into the room. “What?” Taeyong lifts the door again with one hand and steps across the threshold, sealing them back inside again without a pause. “I’ll call someone about that. Don’t let me forget.”

“Another murder,” Jaehyun manages, trying to keep his voice level. “A cafeteria lady, Doyoung-hyung said. Cha Sungmi? She was killed at her house—two blocks from campus.”

Taeyong looks devastated. “Sungmi-noona?” he manages. “Oh no.”

Jaehyun swallows. “You knew her.”

Taeyong lets go of the door and crosses to pick up his phone, unlocking it with a finger and scrolling. “Yes, she always gave me extra helpings whenever I went to lunch with Johnny.” He seems distracted, his mouth turned down in a hard frown. “I don’t eat, obviously, but that didn’t stop Sungmi-noona.” He glances up at Jaehyun and seems to try to smile, the expression coming off half-dead and painful. “The woman she always worked with was a vampire. One of Park Jinyoung’s. The things she said when we left. ‘Don’t you know who that is?’” Taeyong finishes with his phone and pockets it, frowning. “Sungmi-noona never treated me any differently.”

Jaehyun feels a little like the room is spinning. “You knew her,” he says again. “And you knew Chaeyoung-noona. And Mark.” He swears. “Fuck.”

Taeyong stares at him, nodding. “You understand why you and Johnny need to leave—”

“Johnny and I don’t need to do anything, You need to leave because I need to go back to sleep.” Jaehyun backtracks. “I mean study. I need to study more.”

“Jaehyun.”

“It still could be a coincidence!” Jaehyun hears himself say, trying not to think about it. “Just—I need to go back to sleep.” He turns on his heel and gets back into bed, pulling the covers pointedly up over his face. There’s silence from Taeyong but not the sound of him moving the broken door, so Jaehyun doesn’t relax. But then it eats at him, anxiety about his exam and the murderer in the shadows making his stomach turn in uncomfortable knots. He throws the blankets back off. “How do you kill a vampire?” Once he’s asked, he can’t believe he’s asked it but he can’t take it back—can only stare at Taeyong with what he hopes isn’t too obviously a breakdown hiding between false bravado.

Taeyong tilts his head. “Jaehyunnie—”

Jaehyun puts up a frantic hand. “Never mind!” he says. “Never mind! Just! I’m going to go back to sleep!” This time when he pulls the covers over his head, he only has to wait a few seconds before he hears Taeyong exit the room. Jaehyun shuts his eyes, breathes hard through his nose, and for the second time since yesterday morning, wishes desperately that when he wakes up, it’ll all have been a really bad dream.

 


 

It’s when Jaehyun is making his way across campus for his nine a.m. final that Taeyong texts him. The sun’s been up for four hours now and campus is awash with the final wave of frantically studying college students, but Taeyong, Johnny, and Doyoung all apparently found time to visit the crime scene that morning. Everything seems to be as Doyoung said over the phone, though apparently since Junho-hyung called Doyoung with the news, their medical examiner had time to determine that Sungmi-noona was probably taken out with tools from her gardening shed before their mystery vampire decided to have a snack. It makes Jaehyun think about the blood pattern on Mark’s clothes and regret stopping to have breakfast on his way to the exam room.

Vampires have cell phones? is what he ends up saying when he replies. He’s trying to be witty but completely falls short.

You picked it up earlier, you asshole, replies Taeyong immediately, and Jaehyun can practically read his grin. Do you want more details or not?

Jaehyun would really rather not, honestly, given how graphic Doyoung was on the phone that morning, yet at the same time, Jaehyun knows he needs the details. He needs them for Mark’s sake, for Taeyong’s sake. Only, not now. Well, I’m kind of in the middle of an exam. Not really, but soon enough, honestly.

So?

So, I’d kind of like to not fail, Taeyong-hyung. And I could get in trouble for using my phone.

Oh. Jaehyun very abruptly remembers that Taeyong is a hundred and twenty-six years old—a hundred and twenty-five, internationally speaking—and has probably attended college for more years than Jaehyun has been alive. Taeyong is something so beyond Jaehyun, who is human and fragile, and only a real twenty-four, or twenty-three.

We can’t all be immortal beings who can go to college as many times as they want, Taeyong-hyung, he finds himself typing angrily, before powering off and pocketing his phone. Then he goes into the building and doesn’t think of Taeyong once.

 


 

He feels bad once he gets out of his final, and finds that Taeyong has more than apologized, with more than a few texts, and even a rather adorable selfie.

Her death was odd, Taeyong’s said immediately following that, with an air of someone thinking things through. The body wasn’t even all the way drained; whoever it was didn’t even take more than a liter of blood. The next message is timed stamped not even a minute afterwards, which makes Jaehyun think Taeyong would have deleted it, if he was the sort of person to hide his mistakes. Sorry. Doyoungie says I need to work on being less abrasive about things like that. It’s a vampire habit. We all learn very quickly not to be squeamish.

You’re fine, Jaehyun says.

Taeyong replies almost instantaneously. Jaehyunnie! he says with almost childlike glee, and Jaehyun can’t help but think that he’s adorable, despite the fact that Taeyong is also a hundred and twenty-six years old and a lethal predator.

I’m sorry I snapped at you.

I’m sorry I wasn’t more delicate about it. Forgive me? Taeyong follows his message up with a barrage of emoji, and Jaehyun grins.

You’re way too cute to be a hundred, he starts to type out to send, only doesn’t get to, because Taeyong speaks very suddenly from behind him.

“I’m not cute!”

Jaehyun nearly leaps out of his skin. “Shit, Hyung!”

Taeyong reaches out a hand to grab and steady Jaehyun, looking somehow even more despairing. “Sorry, I—forgot.” He makes an odd aborted gesture, then looks like he’s actually going to leave.

Jaehyun is the one reaching out to hold onto him now. “It’s fine,” he says, as he gets his breath back. “Hi.”

“Hi.” The way Taeyong looks at Jaehyun is almost shy, but he looks different somehow. Healthier. Happier. His hair is just as dark, but somehow silkier; his skin still pale, but less waxy. He’s changed out his jeans for actual shorts—black ones cut just above the very pale knee. His t-shirt is black and white horizontal stripes, with an oversized, white breast pocket.

“You seem… different,” Jaehyun says. They both start walking, wandering a little aimlessly across the campus.

Taeyong opens his mouth, then closes his mouth, then opens it again. “Doyoungie took me drinking.” At Jaehyun’s expression he adds quickly, “No one unwilling.”

Jaehyun nods, but Taeyong frowns, a look of almost hatred flashing across his features before he seems to get himself under control. “We went mostly just to show Mark,” he explains. “He tore Youngho up pretty bad last night, you know.” He makes another face, but this one is significantly more sibling-like. “I’m sure Johnny enjoyed it, but the point still stands. Mark needs to learn more control and finesse.”

The smile he gives Jaehyun after that is so shockingly sunshine that Jaehyun can’t believe he’s something that the more religious parts of the country shun for being abhorrent and unnatural.

“Doyoungie’s a much better teacher than I am,” Taeyong says. “I don’t like eating humans.”

A girl passing by chokes on her own breath when she hears them, but Jaehyun just glares at her. “He’s a vampire,” he says, even though they live on a mixed campus and also, it’s Taeyong. Taeyong who everyone knows, even if they’re human.

Taeyong who is rather helpfully flashing his fangs, which makes the girl scurry away.

Jaehyun can’t help but be distracted. “I’ve never seen your fangs before,” he lies. “Like, more than just when you yawn, or something.” That sounds kind of creepy, but Jaehyun can’t take the words back.

Instead of being insulted, Taeyong just grins with even more teeth.

“How sharp are they?” Jaehyun asks.

“Very,” Taeyong replies, without breaking eye contact. “They have to be able to pierce skin, and all.”

Jaehyun stares, transfixed. “Do vampires have a greater bite force than humans?”

Taeyong graces him with another sunny smile. “You’re very odd, Jaehyunnie,” he says, not answering the question. Then he hooks an arm through Jaehyun’s as they walk.

Jaehyun follows, startled and enraptured and once again struck by how Taeyong is nothing like something that should avoid sunlight —Taeyong is like the sun itself. “Why do books say you can’t go out in the sun?” he asks instead, willing to let the bite force question go.

Taeyong pauses mid-step, but answers anway. “I’m not sure. My—Yunho-hyung says that it’s got something to do with the first vampire. The one who walked out into the sun to die—ah!” He breaks off with a startled noise when Doyoung appears seemingly out of nowhere and rips him away from Jaehyun. Immediately Doyoung has Taeyong in a headlock; the move supernaturally fast, so that to Jaehyun, it happens in a split second.

“You’re not telling the humans our secrets, are you, Baby Hyung?” Doyoung says, as Taeyong snarls and snaps his teeth at him.

Mark and Johnny fall into step on either side of Jaehyun, who halts when they do. Mark looks far bubblier than he had yesterday, but Johnny is sporting a bandaged neck and bags under his eyes.

“Hi, Jaehyun-hyung,” Mark greets Jaehyun happily, before flashing over to join Doyoung and Taeyong.

Johnny just smiles, nudging Jaehyun with a shoulder. “Hi, other human.” He’s even moving gingerly.

“What the fuck happened to you?” Jaehyun blurts, ignoring the vampires.

“Nothing,” Johnny says. Then, when Jaehyun narrows his eyes, he adds, “You’ll understand once you get Taeyongie into bed.”

Jaehyun sputters, but before he can say anything, Doyoung makes a noise. “Ow! Taeyongie, you most definitely broke something!”

“Get over it. You’ll heal,” Taeyong tells him, shooting Johnny several very ugly looks the whole time.

“Do you have another final?” asks Mark, back to standing next to Jaehyun and looking shockingly at ease.

“No,” Jaehyun says. “Don’t you?”

“Nope,” Mark says. “I’m taking the vamp one tonight. Doyoung-hyung took me to see the registrar so that they could swap me. I’m lucky it’s the end of the year, and I won’t have to change all my classes.”

“Yeah,” Jaehyun manages, staring. “Aren’t you tired now, though?”

“No,” Mark says. “But that’s only because I—” His words cut off and he finally looks like the kid Jaehyun remembers. “I just ate.” He looks so guilty and embarrassed that Jaehyun wants to shake him.

“Mark, it’s okay,” he says. “It’s not like you’re the one going around ripping people’s throat’s out.”

Everyone hushes him, so he looks around at them, blinking.

“No one else has made the connection,” Doyoung explains quickly, glancing around at the passing students. More than a few are looking at him, but no one is brave enough to stop. Jaehyun would bet the gossip will be through the entire student body soon—no doubt Mark will be as big a deal as Renjun was when he came back to campus. “We’d like to keep it that way,” Doyoung adds. “We’re going home—”

Taeyong’s mouth opens.

“All of us,” Doyoung says before he can protest. “You too, Mark. I put Taeyongie down as your point of contact with SM U and there’s no way that hasn’t already reached Changmin-hyung.”

Mark’s eyes go very large. “Shim Changmin-ssi.”

“Changmin-hyung,” Doyoung corrects. “You’re going to be meeting him very soon, so you should get used to it. I got us a flight for Monday, when your semester officially ends.” He shoots Jaehyun a look. “I got a ticket for you too, in case you wanted to come.’

“Jaehyunnie doesn’t need to come,” says Taeyong.

“I want to come,” Jaehyun insists. “Mark is my best friend.”

For some reason Mark makes a broken little noise and actually has to wipe at his eyes. “Sorry,” he says, clearly upset with himself. “My emotions are kind of a mess.”

Jaehyun knows him well enough not to do anything but look away as Mark composes himself with vampire speed.

“It’s the change,” Taeyong offers quietly after a moment. “It’ll get better eventually.”

There’s an awkward pause.

“For now it just makes for really great sex,” Johnny puts in, to break the ice. It works, because everybody shouts at him; some more embarrassed than others.

“I’ll get someone to come clean out your apartment,” Doyoung tells Taeyong and Johnny after that, back to business. When Taeyong pulls a face, he amends, “Just to make sure your plants don’t die when you’re away. I’m assuming you’ll want to come back.”

“It’s my home,” Taeyong snaps.

There is more awkward silence.

Finally, Jaehyun excuses himself to head back to the dorm, where someone from building services is waiting to fix his door. Taeyong made the call, so Jaehyun isn’t thrown out of the university for destroying the building. The repair woman is a vampire and she treats the entire situation as completely normal; like students have their doors torn off their hinges all the time. And things are pretty quiet the rest of that Friday, two dead bodies and a murder notwithstanding. Jaehyun even texts Taeyong about their date the next day, making sure it’s still happening.

Vampire-yah. You’re not going to back out, are you?

I’ll be there with bells on, Taeyong says.

Jaehyun smiles.

Chapter Text

At around three p.m. on Saturday, Taeyong shows up on Jaehyun’s doorstep, dressed to impress and wearing a closemouthed grin. He looks shy, which is an expression that seems almost at odds with how stunning he is, not to mention his hundred and twenty-six years. Jaehyun wouldn’t say he’s necessarily handling it, but Taeyong being immortal is probably the least of his problems right now. And Taeyong has never scared Jaehyun, for better or worse. Taeyong has never been more than the hyung he couldn’t figure out how to ask out—now Taeyong’s just… even more of a hyung and actually been asked out.

And standing on Jaehyun’s doorstep. Smiling. Looking shy. Jaehyun has to fight the absurd urge to pin him to the nearest flat surface for entirely wholesome reasons—lay him on the bed so that he can put his head on his chest and listen to his non-existent heartbeat, just to make sure.

They have a date.

Taeyong and Jaehyun have a date.

Jaehyun would hate to know what it is his heart must sound like to someone like Taeyong.

“Jaehyunnie,” is all Taeyong says, though. “Good afternoon.”

“Taeyong-hyung,” he says. “Good afternoon to you too.” It’s possible he doesn’t quite manage a neutral expression.

Taeyong’s smile goes a tinge embarrassed and the tips of his ears turn pink, but still he holds his ground, one foot scuffing the floor of the hall as he stands. He’s wearing shoes to rival Doyoung’s for pointiness, skinny jeans with the knees ripped almost all the way open, and a shirt that looks like liquid silver. It’s billowy and oversized and showing far too much collarbone for Jaehyun to be at all prepared to deal with. Taeyong looks like something out of a romance novel.

“Are you trying to be even more of a cliché?”

Taeyong’s cheeks burn to rival his ears. “Shut up,” he says, looking distinctly less “lead male” and more “kid in his dad’s clothing.” “Doyoungie—dressed me.”

Jaehyun dips his eyes down Taeyong’s ensemble once more, and valiantly tries to hide a grin. “I see,” he says. “And does Doyoung-hyung have a lot of experience in, uh, amusement park dates?”

Taeyong narrows his eyes. “You’re taking me to an amusement park?” he says.

Jaehyun smiles right back at him. “I’ve always wanted to make out with someone on a broken Ferris wheel,” he says. “You know, how they’re always breaking in American movies and people take advantage of the romanticism of being trapped meters off the ground in a steel cage.”

Taeyong is unmoved. “Do you want me to break the Ferris wheel for you, Jaehyunnie?” he says. “Because I can definitely make that happen.” At the end of that sentence, he lifts a hand and gives his fingers a flex that Jaehyun can’t help but track with both eyes. He’s reminded of how easily Taeyong lifted Jaehyun’s broken door and the hand shaped groves Taeyong left on his own door.

Jaehyun feels his pulse pick up and swallows. “Lotte World doesn’t even have a Ferris Wheel,” is all he manages. If Taeyong notices Jaehyun’s predicament—which he must, given he is a vampire—he very kindly says nothing, and so Jaehyun rushes to grab his phone and keys.

He’s also wearing dark skinny jeans, but his shirt is a short-sleeved button down, cut loose and comfortable. It is summer, after all. Come to think of it, Jaehyun wonders if Taeyong would be hot—if vampires even get hot. “Do you—” Jaehyun feels hot, like his own ears are two blazing road signs, signaling his embarrassment.

Taeyong’s pupils seem a shade smaller. “Jaehyunnie.”

“Do you not want to go to Lotte World?” Jaehyun blurts instead, pulling his new door shut behind him and purposefully taking the time to fix his hair. His hair is fine, but even though this date is something Jaehyun has been looking forward to since forever, he’s nervous.

“No.” The Taeyong that stares back at Jaehyun when he turns, is the picture of eagerness, youthful and wearing a little smile. “Lead the way.”

Jaehyun wants to throw him down on the bed for a whole other assortment of reasons, and this time none of them are wholesome. “Cool,” is what he says instead. They leave the dorm. They run into only a few of Jaehyun’s students on their way down to the ground floor, but Jaehyun is far too distracted by the fact that he’s about to go on a date with Taeyong to do more than smile vaguely in their direction. And Taeyong’s Taeyong factor is enough to keep them from commenting.

It’s only once they’ve been given seats on the train once again thanks to Taeyong’s celebrity status that Jaehyun decides to mention it, shooting a look in the direction of the pair of vampires who gave up their seats just to verify that both of them are at least affording them with the illusion of privacy. They are. One of them even has put in AirPods. Jaehyun turns back to Taeyong.

“Hyung—”

“I’m sorry,” Taeyong says again, very much looking it. “I hate—” He bites that sentence right off but the damage has seemed to have already been done, the vampire with the AirPods taking a protective step closer to his friend. Taeyong wilts, attention darting all around the train before settling uncomfortably on top of his own knees.

Jaehyun exhales very carefully through his nose, before leaning closer to nudge him in the arm. “Hey,” he says. “Aren’t you tired?”

Taeyong’s head lifts in one of those too-fast moves that should be terrifying, but instead just makes some part of Jaehyun shudder like a trapped, masochistic bird. There is relief in his too-pretty eyes, but very quickly it’s gone, hidden under easy confidence. “No,” he says. “Well, yes, but I’m trying to get back onto a human schedule.” He grins. “I used to be exclusively on one, you know,” he says. “Back when I lived in Chicago.” He stands, balancing with the perfection of vampirism, and then extends a hand to help Jaehyun to his own feet.

Jaehyun takes it, trying not to shiver at how cold he is. “When you lived in Chicago,” he repeats.

The woman’s voice announces their stop in English and Korean, directing them all to the right side of the train.

Taeyong keeps holding Jaehyun’s hand all the way off the train and onto the platform, following the crowd towards the escalators without comment. There are more people now, this close to Lotte World, and much less vampires, given the time of day. No one looks at them twice, and Jaehyun relishes in their anonymity because Taeyong seems to. He weaves around people without looking away from Jaehyun once and Jaehyun watches him right back, because he’s breathtaking.

“Yes, in Chicago,” Taeyong says as they emerge on ground level, stepping out into sunlight and fresh air. “I used to live in America.” He’s grinning, even as he finally lets go of Jaehyun’s hand so that he can shove his hair out of his eyes.

“Me too,” Jaehyun says, stepping out of the main flow of traffic and shaking at his own bangs. “Live in America, I mean.”

Taeyong’s grin goes wider and his teeth briefly bite into his bottom lip, sharp and gleaming and dangerous enough to force air from Jaehyun’s lungs. “Yes,” he says. “How—how long did you live in America, Jaehyun-ah?”

Jaehyun blinks at him. “What?”

“Was it—was it maybe—four years?” Taeyong’s doing nothing to hide his mirth now, eyes crinkling at the corners and fangs on full display as he smiles, cheeks dimpling.

Jaehyun stares. “No,” he says.

Taeyong throws his head back and laughs, before abruptly composing himself and schooling his features. He starts walking and Jaehyun follows without even thinking about it.

“No.” Jaehyun says again. “No—I’ll—I’ll kill him.” Mark has not. Mark has not. Mark wouldn’t—Mark is an awful friend. Jaehyun was extremely drunk and coming off his very first finals week and his frankly appalling excuse for an English language final when he made that video, and Mark swore he deleted all traces of the thing. “I—” Jaehyun sidesteps a family coming towards them and re-joins Taeyong without missing a beat. “I’ll solve his murder, and then I’ll kill him again,” he says emphatically.

Taeyong keeps gazing at him, breaking out into another wide grin. “Will you—”

“I’ll—” It occurs to Jaehyun that he knows nothing about the murder of vampires; he didn’t watch the Burning Sun executions. “How do you even… kill—”

“The same way you make them,” Taeyong says promptly as they reach the entrance and get in line to pay. “I’m paying.”

Jaehyun doesn’t dispute that; he’ll pay for the next date. “The same way you make them?”

If Taeyong notices the way the woman at the kiosk can’t seem to look away from his still grinning mouth he doesn’t give any indication, handing over bills in exchange for their tickets without any concern. “Yes,” he says.

Jaehyun follows him past the lines into the indoor theme park without comment. “Yes?” It’s loud among the other patrons, and Jaehyun has to work to hear Taeyong.

“You have to kill the same way you made them,” Taeyong explains simply, leaning in close to Jaehyun’s ear. “The exact same way.” His breath is shockingly warm against Jaehyun’s cheek, and Jaehyun shivers.

“Ah,” he manages to say, praying the noise and presence of plenty of other warm bodies is enough to keep Taeyong from noticing just how face his heart is going. “So… I’ll solve his murder and then kill him. Mark.”

Taeyong’s lips quirk. “You’re awfully cute drunk, Jaehyunnie,” he says. “Vampires can’t get drunk. At least not the way humans can on alcohol, or anything. I guess technically we could get drunk on blood, or something.” He frowns, pink tongue darting out to wet his lips. “You’d probably have to drink a lot of blood, though. Enough to kill—” He stops talking rather abruptly, blushing again. “Sorry,” he says. “I’m rambling.”

“Don’t apologize,” Jaehyun says. “Follow that thought out.”

Taeyong stares. “To blood drinking?” he says. “That’s not—”

“A first date conversation?” Jaehyun offers, unable to help himself.

Taeyong shoves him, and Jaehyun ends up several shocked centimeters away, stunned into silence. Taeyong’s enormous eyes are somehow even larger, mouth rounded into a shocked little “o.” The entire indoor amusement park seems to have gone silent. And then the rest of the world rushes back in, and Jaehyun manages to walk back to stand in front of him. “Sorry.” The word comes punched out of Taeyong’s lungs like he can’t remember modern Korean.

“It’s fine,” Jaehyun says quickly. “It’s fine—do you want to—uh—” He cases desperately around for some sort of cue to where they should start, what attraction they should visit and ends up rather lamely stuck on a pair of little girls walking past carrying what have to be large prize stuffed animals, parents following after them looking much less enthused. “Play—games?”

Taeyong seems to compose himself, very kindly not commenting on any of Jaehyun’s unfortunate stutters. He’s going to have to get that under control. He’s known Taeyong for nearly three years, and for all of those three years, Taeyong has, of course, often forgotten to be humanly strong or humanly fast. But for all of those three years, Taeyong wasn’t—hadn’t—he wasn’t attainable, dateable, or any of the things Jaehyun dreamed about in the guilty, early days of their friendship. There wasn’t… possibility; Taeyong’s teeth, gleaming and sharp and dangerous, sinking into the line of Jaehyun’s throat.

“Yeah,” Taeyong says. “We should, uh—” He seems to be looking around for something to do as well, but clearly has far superior sight and hearing at his disposal, because he comes up with, “bumper cars?” and they’re nowhere near the ride in question.

Jaehyun agrees anyway, letting Taeyong lead the way to stand in line. It’s only as they’re waiting for the latest round to finish that it occurs to Jaehyun, and he eyes the laughing mix of children and adults ramming into each other with the fake cars. “Don’t you think this is cheating?” he says. “You’re a vampire.”

Taeyong just shrugs, watching as a little girl goes spinning in laughing circles. “The nice man said I could.”

Jaehyun looks at the staff in question—human, definitely exhausted, and staring blankly ahead with a hint of glaze to his eyes. As Jaehyun watches, the man flicks his tired eyes to look at Taeyong for barely more than a second, but it’s enough to tell Jaehyun all he needs to know. “The nice man definitely recognizes who you are and knows you could eat him.”

He’s probably speaking way too loud, because one of the families shifts so that their children are in front of them and a pair of teenager clearly on a date do one of those double head checks that should be funny, but mostly just leaves Jaehyun with the bizarre urge to stand menacingly in front of Taeyong.

But Taeyong only pouts. “I wouldn’t eat him,” he says. He’s definitely speaking too loud, but doesn’t seem bothered by the reaction his sentence gets him, so Jaehyun tries not to let it get to him either.

They have a great time. Taeyong is pointedly—with great mocking at Jaehyun’s expense—and exaggeratingly human about the entire situation, but the rest of the crowd seems to avoid the two of them anyway. That’s fine with Jaehyun. He’s perfectly willing to take advantage of whatever point Taeyong is making by driving his car into him and full speed, no holds barred. The look on Taeyong’s face is absolutely priceless, as is the resulting all out brawl.

They get more than a few ugly looks when they’re on their way out of the cars, but nothing is broken and Jaehyun’s sides are starting to hurt from laughing, so this time, he doesn’t have to try not to care. He doesn’t care. He takes the hand Taeyong offers him and grins with what has to be both dimples. He teases him about how he’s from a different era.

“Hyung,” he says, once they’ve left the bumper cars behind them and are weaving through the crowd again. Taeyong turns to look at him, still a shade shy, and Jaehyun feels all the air leave his lungs. “Is it weird, being recognized?” he blurts.

If Taeyong is startled by the sudden question he doesn’t show it. He does seem to think it over, however, even going so far to gnaw at his own lips. Jaehyun hates how he notices that, how he immediately thinks about how Taeyong hasn’t broken his own skin. He wonders if that’s a vampire thing—if Taeyong’s skin is just sturdier than Jaehyun’s—than a human’s might be—and it’s not just a testament to his self-control. He wonders if it is on purpose. He feels a little lightheaded. He does his best to listen to what it is Taeyong’s saying.

“It’s weirder with other vampires,” Taeyong mumbles finally, looking down at the ground for the first time that afternoon. “I mean we’re not—full time loners like the media seems to think—”

Jaehyun is struck suddenly by déjà vu and opens his mouth to speak.

“—but we are territorial,” Taeyong finishes before he can do so. He looks like he’s swallowed a lemon. “And I mean that both in the ‘habitat’ sense and the personal sense.” He rolls his eyes, and Jaehyun wonders what it must be like to talk about yourself like some sort of wild animal; what it must be like to listen to the world do something of the same. He wonders if he’s been guilty of that as well, if he’s ever thought of them as more than just other—as something inhuman or animal. (But they are, he supposes. Human bodies aren’t supposed to keep existing for a hundred and twenty-six years.)

Taeyong’s got an odd look on his face when Jaehyun manages to wrestle free from that line of thought. “Possessive sort of bastards, vampires,” he says quietly, once they’ve made eye contact again. “It’s a wonder we even have friends.”

“I—” Jaehyun doesn’t think this is the sort of thing to say, so new to whatever sort of relationship, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t like being the center of Taeyong’s focus like this.

Taeyong holds his gaze for two more seconds, before tilting to stare at nothing instead. “When I lived in Chicago there were no other vampires in Johnny-hyung’s neighborhood,” he says. “And that wasn’t a coincidence. They left when I came. I… scare them.”

Jaehyun blinks at him. “You,” he says.

Taeyong shoves him again, but Jaehyun doesn’t go skidding across the tile this time. “My name scares them,” Taeyong amends. “My… Yunho-hyung.” His mouth is a sardonic little line. “Yunho-hyung is scary. I’m just related to scary.”

Jaehyun decides the safer point of discussion is Johnny, and he doesn’t want to push Taeyong on sore parts, anyway. He can’t help but think that it’s nice to know that familial drama isn’t specific to humanity, however. Even though every survival instinct in him is screaming at him to leave the park. “Why do you call him Johnny-hyung?” he asks instead, a little rhetorical since it’s not hard to guess why. “Aren’t you like… significantly older than he is?”

“Significantly,” Taeyong agrees, with a wry little smirk. “But in a year, he’ll officially be older than I am. I died in December,” he explains, then keeps going before Jaehyun can even begin to digest that information—Taeyong—someone murdered him as much as Mark—Yunho-hyung murdered him as much as Mark, Jaehyun realizes abruptly. He doesn’t know what to do with that. “My birthday is in July. Johnny-hyung will be twenty-seven next February.” Taeyong’s smile dies a little. “Everyone gets older.”

Jaehyun feels something twist in the pit of his stomach. “Would you not—”

“Turn him?” Taeyong asks. “God, no. I have no—I have no desire to make a family, Jaehyun-ah.” His lips quirk but it’s as close to a parody of smile that Jaehyun has seen him get; shocking, because he’s met Doyoung, who has a century on Taeyong, and yet is somehow far more human that Taeyong, at least when it comes to micro-expressions. “Of course, I suppose things might be different now, given Mark’s—”

“Immortality,” Jaehyun offers into the sudden silence when Taeyong cuts off.

Taeyong smiles. “Yeah. That.”

Don’t you get lonely? Jaehyun can’t help but think but doesn’t ask. Instead he just keeps walking, wondering if it’s inappropriate to steer them towards food. Taeyong doesn’t eat human food, obviously, but there will be blood here. Even if it’s not—how did Taeyong put it?—from a live source. Jaehyun opens his mouth to speak, then Taeyong’s phone rings, which freezes them both in their tracks.

“Sorry,” Taeyong says, fishing it out of his pocket and glaring down that screen, moving to decline and then pausing when he sees the photo. It’s the selfie from two nights before, him and Doyoung squeezed into one frame with only one of them (Doyoung) smiling. Taeyong clearly wants to take the call, but clearly also feels guilty.

“Hyung, it’s fine,” Jaehyun says.

Taeyong clicks accept. “Doyoung—” Whatever it is Doyoung says is enough to halt Taeyong, both in speaking, and in walking. He reaches out with an impossibly fast hand to grab hold of Jaehyun by the wrist as well, tugging him quickly to the side so that they’re out of the way of passersby.

“Taeyong-hyung—” Jaehyun tries to say but Taeyong holds up a hand to halt him.

“I don’t know him,” he says, then pauses. “I don’t know him either.” He lifts his head and stares Jaehyun straight in the eye. “Jaehyunnie,” he says. “Do you know—” He rattles off two names, clearly international students at SM U, while Jaehyun can only stare. He shakes his head.

“No—”

“Jaehyunnie doesn’t know them either,” Taeyong says. “Does Mark?” ‘They’re dead,’ he mouths as he listens to whatever is Doyoung’s answer, in case Jaehyun hadn’t picked up on that. Abruptly his brows pull down, and the hold he has on Jaehyun’s wrist is painfully tight. “That recently?” Taeyong’s stopped breathing, eyes dark and serious. He bites his lips again, but this time he winces, clearly having broken skin. Jaehyun can only stare as it knits back together, the shocking color of Taeyong’s blood disappearing under a few clever strokes of his tongue. “Fuck,” is what Taeyong ends up saying rather eloquently when Doyoung finishes. “Fuck—you don’t—can’t we wait a moment—it’s barely four.”

Jaehyun hadn’t noticed the passing of time, nor thought about how very much in tune with the sun Taeyong is. He should have—certainly, Mark’s newfound biological clock was something he’d noticed—but he hadn’t. It’s useful though, because when Jaehyun tugs his own phone out to check, he finds that it really is only three minutes past four p.m.

Taeyong still hasn’t let go of Jaehyun’s wrist, but his grip is much less punishing now.

“Can we at least finish our date?” Taeyong says finally, and then pulls the phone away from his ear with an angry, flushed expression on his pretty, pretty face.

Jaehyun stops staring down at Taeyong’s hand on his wrist. “Hyung, it’s fine—”

“Fuck you, Doyoung-ah,” Taeyong snaps, before angrily hanging up the phone. When it immediately starts ringing again, he silences it with even more venom.

“Hyung…” Jaehyun tries to say.

“It’s awful they’re dead, but they’re not going to get any less dead if we go home right now,” Taeyong says, with a stubborn hard tilt to his head. “And whoever it is clearly in a food coma, so.” He finally lets go of Jaehyun’s wrist and stares angrily at nothing, hands fists at his side.

Jaehyun reaches out to take the hand in question back, unfolding it so that he can fold them back around his own hand, squeezing until Taeyong interlaces their fingers and lets out a loud, explosive breath of air. He shuts his eyes, steps closer, then drops his head down to thud onto Jaehyun’s shoulder, skin cold against the bare skin exposed there by the hang of Jaehyun’s shirt. “Taeyongie-hyung—”

“This isn’t even our first date,” Taeyong says stubbornly, even as he shifts so that his nose drags along Jaehyun’s collarbone through the fabric of his shirt. “I didn’t want it to end at a crime scene too.”

Somehow Jaehyun doesn’t put his hand in Taeyong’s impossibly soft hair. “I thought we agreed that didn’t count,” he says quietly.

Taeyong stands, not moving away from Jaehyun at all. He’s so close that Jaehyun has to start counting in his head to keep from staring at his mouth and the barest hint of fang he can see poking out from behind his parted lips. “It doesn’t.” Taeyong’s eyes are serious and beautiful and piercing. “And we’re not going home.”

Jaehyun doesn’t comment on the implication that it’s both of their homes; it’s the second time Taeyong’s done that, and a foolish part of Jaehyun is perfectly fine with that.

“We’re going to get you food.”

Jaehyun stares.

“What?” Taeyong’s smile is a little forced, but he’s clearly trying, so Jaehyun tries too. “You weren’t trying to hide your rumbling stomach from me, were you? I have very good hearing, Jaehyunnie-yah.”

Jaehyun feels affronted. “My stomach is not rumbling!” he says, aghast like the polite child his mother raised, and then flinches when it does just that—audibly to even his human ears.

Taeyong smirks. “You were saying?”

“Shut up,” Jaehyun says, heat high on the tips of both ears, and then takes Taeyong by the hand and starts walking. “You should at least text Johnny-hyung and tell him to stop worrying,” he mutters finally. “There’s nothing we can do while we wait for the police to do their jobs anyway.”

Taeyong squeezes Jaehyun’s hand but does just that.

 


 

Taeyong and Johnny’s apartment looks surprisingly unscathed for how on edge everyone inside it is when Jaehyun and Taeyong get back later that evening. It’s coming up on eight p.m. because they ended up getting dinner together after their afternoon date, which Jaehyun managed to convince Taeyong to let him pay for. Doyoung meets them both at the door, practically blurring across the room and glaring between them. He helps Taeyong take his shoes off without comment and without seemingly having been asked to, and no matter of protest keeps him from hurling the things onto the ground of the foyer with what Jaehyun thinks is entirely unnecessary force.

“Where have you been?” Doyoung barks once he’s done, glancing between the two of them only briefly. His eyes are frightening and Jaehyun finds himself taking an automatic step back, which seems to raise Taeyong’s hackles, because he lifts his chin stubbornly and faces Doyoung full on.

“I thought you were the one who insisted whoever it was wasn’t after me,” he says.

Doyoung bares both fangs in a move that seems out of place for how old he is. “There is a murderer terrorizing your campus,” he says with considerable calm. “Whether or not they are targeting you is beside the point.”

Taeyong keeps his chin aloft. “I don’t know either of those boys,” he says. “Jaehyun doesn’t know them. It was a date—”

“You are a hundred and twenty-six—”

“Jaehyun-hyung,” interrupts Mark, shocking the other vampires into silence. “You should call your mom.”

Jaehyun stares at his friend, seated on the couch beside Johnny with his knees pulled tight to his chin. Mark doesn’t look like he’s staring at much of anything, but when Jaehyun can only gape, he shifts so that he can wave his phone.

“I’ve already called mine,” Mark says. “She was out with friends. Dad said he’d have her call me back as soon as she got home.” He’s speaking with careful, feigned calm, and Jaehyun can’t help but turn accusing eyes on Johnny.

Johnny lifts his own chin, shifting closer to Mark on the couch, but pointedly not touching him. That’s wise. That’s the right thing to do. Johnny has known Mark for three years—dated him for nearly two—and he knows the right thing to do, but Jaehyun still kind of wants to punch him, or at least box him gently about the ears. He’s aware that Johnny’s got considerable height on him, but Mark Lee inspires all sorts of protective instincts in most of his friends. Something about the too bright eyes and nervously loud laughter whenever anyone gets too close has that effect on even the most taciturn of individuals, Jaehyun thinks.

“It’s on the news,” Mark continues, gesturing again. Jaehyun looks where he’s pointing to see that they have the television on and muted, where the start of the eight o’clock news is trundling along in the background. Jaehyun stares at the rather serious-faced reporter currently in the process of updating the entire country about the latest string of murders rocking Seoul, and swallows. They’re only reporting four because they don’t know about Mark, but it’s eerily similar to last January regardless.

“Mark—”

“Your mom is probably worried,” is all Mark says.

Jaehyun keeps looking. He becomes rather abruptly aware of the fact that Doyoung and Taeyong have not stopped arguing; Jaehyun just got distracted. “Are you okay?” he asks Mark.

Mark manages something of a smile. “Yeah, I’m just tired,” he says.

Johnny’s mouthing something but Jaehyun doesn’t want to draw attention to him so he can’t figure out what it is.

“I have to tell my mom,” is all Mark has to finish with for Jaehyun to understand, though.

“Oh,” Jaehyun says.

“Yeah,” Mark says. He smiles, more than a little heartbreaking. “But hey, at least I’m not dead?”

Jaehyun nods. “Right—”

There’s an audible scuffle from the doorway, then Taeyong comes snarling away from Doyoung, somehow not even grazing Jaehyun in the process. “You’re being absurd, there’s no reason we have to go home now,” he’s in the middle of saying, brushing purposefully around Jaehyun and then reaching out with an afterthought to rather pointlessly steady him.

“There is,” Doyoung is insisting. “And I’ve already called and changed our flights—”

Monday,” Taeyong says. “We’re going back on Monday—in two days—”

“Taeyong!”

Jaehyun gently extricates his arm from Taeyong’s grip with an apologetic smile, being sure to mouth ‘sorry’ when Taeyong glances at him. He still feels a little lightheaded from their date, but the reality of their situation is rapidly starting to suck that joy out of him, which is rather unfortunate. He goes to sit beside Mark, thinks better of it, and goes for his own phone. Once Taeyong put his away that afternoon, Jaehyun thought it was only fair that he silence his, and now he’s regretting it. He’s got three missed calls from his mother and one from his grandmother. Both of them have sent texts in KakaoTalk on top of that, and Jaehyun swallows.

Shit.

It was stupid to pretend that they could ignore reality for so long. Stupid to hide away in a bubble of their own making.

Mark’s phone rings, slashing through Doyoung and Taeyong’s argument once again. Mark doesn’t even apologize, just rushes the thing to his ear and says in a hushed, painfully small voice, “Mom—” before wincing and drawing it away from his ear. She’s not even talking all that loudly, but Mark doesn’t have human hearing anymore, and Jaehyun just wants to give him a hug at how devastated his best friend seems by that. “Mom, please, I’m okay—”

Jaehyun abruptly drops his own gaze, tapping on his mother’s missed call and letting the phone automatically ring her back.

“Yuno-yah?” she says immediately when he picks up, voice audibly concerned. “Are you alright?”

“Mom, hi,” Jaehyun says, trying his best to sound calm. “How are you—”

There’s shocked silence on her end, which allows Jaehyun a front row seat to Mark’s own conversation.

“I’m fine,” Mark is saying, in similar levels of convincing to Jaehyun. “Really, the end of the semester was great.” He’s very pointedly not mentioning the more important thing, and Jaehyun wonders briefly how long he’s planning on keeping that façade in place. Mark changed classes with the registrar and let Doyoung put Taeyong down as his point of contact for all matters undead. Mark—Mark’s going to have to get a whole new set of identification, or something probably. Jaehyun doesn’t know. Jaehyun hasn’t researched. Jaehyun just knows that Renjun is apparently Doyoung’s child, or something. But he thinks he still lives with his family during summer session, so Mark—surely Mark will be allowed to go home also, right?

Jaehyun swallows. “Mom—” He cuts into whatever it is his mother was in the middle of saying and immediately feels bad, turning away from Mark and Johnny on the sofa to apologize. “Sorry. What were you saying?”

“No, you—”

Now all Jaehyun can see is Doyoung and Taeyong, still arguing, but in much more subdued tones. It’s clear they can hear every side of all three conversations, but they’re doing their best not to.

Jaehyun feels even more off balance. “Mom, everything is alright,” he lies. “I’m just going with Mark to visit some friends for a bit and then I’ll come right home—”

“What about that boy you like, Yuno-yah?” his mother asks, interrupting him without pause. “That Lee Taeyong boy. Vampire.” Her voice only breaks a little but Taeyong’s stutters considerably over in the corner where he’s still standing nearly nose-to-nose with Doyoung, and Jaehyun feels his cheeks burn despite himself. Fuck.

He darts a gaze around the apartment, searching for literally anywhere else to escape to, and flees rather desperately into the guest bathroom, pulling the door shut behind him. His heart feels like it’s going to beat right out of his chest, and he knows every single vampire in the room can hear, which just seems stupid to be embarrassed about given he just spent nearly five hours with Taeyong playing carnival games and laughing about nothing.

Jaehyun turns on the vent and turns on all the faucets and doesn’t even feel bad for the waste; he stands as far from the door as possible and says, in a hush, “Mom, it’s fine, I’m fine. I promise Taeyongie’s not involved at all, I swear.”

His mother is silent for a long, long moment. “Jeong Jaehyun,” she says this time. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

Jaehyun feels awful, thinks he shouldn’t be the one to say this, but knows that Mark is going to have to tell his parents eventually, and their families always talk. He needs to focus. He needs to get his head on straight. “Mark’s a vampire, now, Mom,” Jaehyun says finally. “I—”

“What?” His mother’s tone is sharper now. “Yuno—”

The door creaks when it opens, Taeyong easing into the room without making a sound and holding painfully serious eye contact. He closes it behind him.

Jaehyun listens to the click of the lock and feels his knees shudder, fight or flight warring with what can only be very misguided attraction. Taeyong’s eyes seem to glow.

“I’m going to have to call you back,” Jaehyun says slowly, as Taeyong steps forward very carefully so that he can reach into the shower and turn off the water.

“Yuno—”

Jaehyun hangs up in time for Taeyong to turn off the sink as well, leaving him standing so close to Jaehyun that their socked toes are touching.

“Taeyong—”

“You told your mother about me,” breathes Taeyong, with eyes that are only pupils and a gaze that is fixed on the bob of Jaehyun’s throat, the red of Jaehyun’s mouth.

Jaehyun supposes that’s fair. He can’t keep his own eyes off of Taeyong’s mouth, Taeyong’s perfectly shaped jaw, his eyebrows. He can’t help but notice how Taeyong is for once breathing, steady inhales and exhales that give his mouth an excuse to stay parted, exposing the barest glint of fangs.

Jaehyun thinks about what they’d talked about on their date. Possession. “Yeah,” he says, lowering his phone to set it down on the sink counter. “I did.”

Taeyong gets even closer in under a second and Jaehyun can only stare, all other thoughts gone from his mind. “Is this,” Taeyong starts to say. “Do you—on the first date—”

“Taeyong-hyung,” Jaehyun says, reaching up to put a palm flat against his chest, right where his heart would beat, if it still did that. “Don’t be an idiot.” And then Jaehyun is kissing a vampire, in a bathroom, on the eve of several murders. There’s probably a whole slew of things wrong with that, but given that Jaehyun has been near in love with said vampire for over two years (three, if he’s being generous) he thinks he’s allowed this. He wants to kiss Taeyong, has wanted to kiss Taeyong since he first saw Taeyong smile, heard him laugh, nearly got kicked out of a lecture when Taeyong called Jaehyun’s bluff and drew a smiley face on the kid in front of them’s neck without so much as blinking. Jaehyun kisses Taeyong because he’s been wanting to since before they even made plans to go on a date, and if he can take one instance of normalcy in the middle of this mess, he’s going to.

Of course, it’s very hard for Jaehyun to think period, once he starts kissing Taeyong. He knows about the effects of vampire bites on humans, both because he goes to a mixed school, and because he was once a teenager with a terrible libido, but it’s one thing to know these things and another to experience them. Whatever anticoagulant cocktail in Taeyong’s saliva that keeps blood from clotting when he’s eating—and makes the entire experience good enough to have people coming back for more—works just fine without any broken skin. If he was capable of it, Jaehyun would think that neither of them went into the situation with the intention of adding tongue. But clearly neither of them is very much in control, at this point.

Certainly not Taeyong, with his thigh hard between Jaehyun’s and his hand buried in the hair at Jaehyun’s nape. Jaehyun’s ended up shoved against the wall so hard it should hurt but doesn’t, which might just be because he likes it, or because Taeyong’s saliva is a fucking aphrodisiac. Taeyong’s got his mouth parted and his tongue mingling with Jaehyun’s but he’s also being careful, fangs so sharp and dangerous and kept pointedly out of reach. Every time Jaehyun tries to brush his tongue against one Taeyong presses him further to the wall and kisses him, leaving Jaehyun so breathlessly distracted that it’s all he can do to fight his mouth away for much needed air, let alone try to see what would happen if he added blood to the mix.

He’s so hard in his jeans that it hurts, and the unyielding grip Taeyong has on Jaehyun’s right hip really doesn’t help, but Jaehyun doesn’t really care at this point. He just wants to kiss Taeyong some more—tries to kiss Taeyong some more—but Taeyong is unyielding and immovable and just keeps staring, eyes fixed on Jaehyun’s mouth like if he looks away for a second he’ll notice how the collar of Jaehyun’s shirt has fallen so perfectly, enticingly open.

“Fuck,” Taeyong says into the silence, once Jaehyun gives up on trying to kiss him and settles back against the wall with half-lidded eyes.

“I’ll say,” says Jaehyun. “You shouldn’t have turned off the water.”

Taeyong seems confused, and then he flushes all the way up to his hairline. He starts to retreat, but Jaehyun reaches out to hold him in place.

“No, wait,” he says. “Wait—” He reaches out to touch Taeyong’s ears, his cheekbones, his temples—anywhere where the pink is, searching. Taeyong feels as cold and inhuman as ever, but the flush is inescapable. “How do you do that?”

Taeyong tilts his head to catch Jaehyun’s hand with his mouth, pressing the barest of kisses there. He freezes when he sees Jaehyun’s eyes, but doesn’t pull his lips away when Jaehyun drags his index finger down to rest into the divot of his bottom lip. Then he shuts his eyes, opens them again before Jaehyun can get too worried, and very carefully lets Jaehyun drag his lips apart.

It’s so very easy for Jaehyun to reach out, to reach in, to brush the pad of a finger against canines that shouldn’t exist until he draws blood. It’s not like it’s hard—Taeyong is built for this—and Jaehyun remembers being nine years old and hiding a spine from his mother after he’d tried to touch the seemingly-smooth part of a decorative cactus.

Taeyong goes so still that Jaehyun can’t help but hold his own breath as well. “Hyung—”

“Taeyong-ah!” comes Johnny’s voice, way too close for comfort, and accompanied by some very helpful pounding on the bathroom door. “Jaehyun-ah! I may not have superhuman senses, but I’ve lived with vampires long enough to know that nothing good is happening in there!”

Taeyong winces, shutting his eyes briefly and putting his teeth away in the next second.

“Mark went outside to talk to his mom but Doyoungie is still right here, and let me tell you, he does not look happy—”

“I’ve rescheduled our flight for this evening,” interrupts Doyoung, making Taeyong’s eyes flash right back open.

Jaehyun lets his hand drop between them and puts his feet back under him, shifting against the wall so that Taeyong’s not the only thing supporting his weight anymore.

“Hyung—”

“Doyoung-ah!” Taeyong calls, still not moving away from Jaehyun. “We do not need to go home—”

“We do—”

“What’s that smell—oh—”

Jaehyun shuts his eyes when he hears Mark’s voice join the crowd, sounding entirely fake cheerful, but also very quickly going unfortunately knowing, and then best-friend disgusted.

“Gross—”

Jaehyun would literally just like to die

Taeyong reaches out to take hold of Jaehyun’s wrist, raising his hand until it’s level with his mouth, and then, with a surprisingly mild expression given the circumstances and state of both their jeans, darts his tongue out to lick along the wound there. Or not wound. Jaehyun shouldn’t call it a wound. The pad of his finger is sore, but it’s more like he’s pricked himself sewing, and no worse than the things he’s gotten playing sports.

“We’ll be right out,” says Taeyong when he’s done, still holding Jaehyun by the wrist; still pinning Jaehyun to the bathroom wall.

“I’m going to have to fumigate the fucking bathroom,” Johnny can be heard muttering, which for some reason, is enough to have Jaehyun giggling, nervous and panicked and then very rapidly infectious, until Taeyong is cuddled right up against him laughing as well. “Yes, it’s very funny, you assholes, it’s not like my boyfriend has a new sense and is extra sensitive—”

Jaehyun finally manages to stop laughing long enough to push Taeyong gently away so that he can stand on his own two feet, cheeks almost hurting from how they’re stretched in mirth. “Look away,” he tells Taeyong.

When Taeyong only tilts his head in shockingly innocent confusion, Jaehyun rolls his eyes. He reaches down to rearrange himself in his jeans, maintaining eye contact the whole time.

Taeyong’s nostrils flare.

“Taeyong-ah!” Doyoung says. “I can smell you—”

Instead of looking embarrassed, Taeyong just lifts his chin. He reaches out to take hold of Jaehyun’s hand, swiping Jaehyun’s phone with the other and handing it over with inhuman speed.

Jaehyun puts it in a pocket all without looking away from him, throat gone dry. He reaches blindly up to do up his shirt buttons.

Taeyong unlocks and opens the door. “Don’t be jealous, Doyoungie,” he says with great dignity as he and Jaehyun cross out of the room.

Doyoung is standing in the middle of the living area with his arms crossed and Mark is standing just to the left of the kitchen table, gaze darting around.

Johnny flanks Jaehyun and Taeyong, mostly looking amused.

“Hyung,” Jaehyun starts to say.

“Shut up,” Taeyong tells Johnny over him. “You sexiled me on Thursday.”

Johnny can’t seem to stop smiling, but he does make a point to mime locking his mouth and then disposing of the key.

“Anyway,” Taeyong says once they’re all the way back into the living room and semi gathered near the still-muted TV. “We’re not going home tonight.”

Doyoung opens his mouth to argue some more.

“We’re not!” Taeyong says, voice higher than he’d clearly intended because he clears his throat before continuing at a much softer volume. “There’s no reason to rush, and Jaehyun and Johnny need to sleep anyway—”

“I’ve already changed our flights—”

“Well then change them back—”

“Uh, guys?” Johnny’s got his gaze fixed suddenly on the television but Jaehyun is too busy trying to communicate non verbally with Mark, who has his phone clutched in his hand and seems more than a little shaken.

“You change them back. Oh wait, you’re still pretending we’re not related—”

“You are being ridiculous—”

“Guys!”

“I’m being ridiculous—there have been five murders—”

“Four!” Taeyong points at Mark. “Four—”

“Taeyong-ah! Doyoung-ah!” Johnny says, enunciating all three syllables and silencing him and Doyoung. “Look!” He points at the television first with his hand, and then crosses the room to point with the remote, raising the volume as he does so.

They all look at the screen.

“Oh,” Taeyong says, staring.

“Oh,” Doyoung agrees, also staring.

“Fuck,” they both say simultaneously, with absolutely zero humor. “It’s Ten.”

For two seconds, Jaehyun wonders if they’re both confused. It’s not ten—it’s just nearing eight-thirty; this is the eight p.m. news—but then SBS very helpfully puts up a caption on the screen, and Jaehyun understands. Ten, the broadcast says on the bottom left hand corner of the television, helpfully encased in a standard lower third. In frame is an attractive looking vampire, dressed in a suit and smiling at the very human newscaster without seemingly a care in the world for how anxious the man now is. There’s no other descriptor; just that single character. This Ten is talking about the situation—assuring the public that everything is under control—and it very quickly becomes clear that he’s here on Jung Yunho’s behalf. He must be another of Taeyong’s siblings.

Jaehyun thinks back to earlier conversations and comes up with Ten and… Yuta, he thinks. Yuta and Ten. So this must be that Ten, also Taeyong’s brother.

Taeyong’s brother Ten is shockingly humanlike. He’s funny, clearly at ease with the camera, and although there are times when Jaehyun gets the sense that he is picking his words very carefully, he’s handling the interview with aplomb. There have already been two perfectly cracked jokes, and plenty of laughter, somehow not showing fangs. It’s kind of unsettling, if not impressive. Ten is impressive, and funny, and clearly a master at putting out fires.

He’s also very pretty, but then, he’s a vampire.

“Fuck,” Taeyong says again, pacing to stand directly to the left of Jaehyun, facing the TV. “I don’t suppose this is live?”

Johnny opens his mouth to speak, but before he can do so, there is the beep of someone inputting the correct code on the door, before the thing swings open dramatically.

“Sorry, Baby Hyung, but no,” says a voice, and everyone whirls back around to look again. The vampire standing in the doorway to the apartment is smaller than Taeyong and Doyoung, with short, dark hair and sparkling, dark eyes. It’s like he’s stepped straight out of Johnny and Taeyong’s television, the smirk lining his mouth a near replica of the one he’s wearing on television. He’s ditched the suit for jeans and a t-shirt and is wearing open toed sandals. His profile is, frankly, even more stunning in person than it is on the television. “Youngho,” he practically purrs, staring at Johnny.

“Ten.” Johnny seems to be stunned into robotic pausing. “Please. Come in.”

Youngho-yah,” snaps Taeyong, but the damage is done.

Ten takes one step into the apartment and lets the door fall shut behind him.

“Did you give him the code?” Taeyong turns on Johnny, expression livid.

“Sorry.” Johnny’s voice sounds wooden.

“Now, now, Baby Hyung,” says Ten, stepping out of his sandals and gazing around the place with utterly faked curiosity. “You know as well as I do that I’ve been here before.

Taeyong is baring both fangs, but it’s Johnny who takes a stumbling step back. “Sorry,” he says again, but already Mark has circled to stand next to him with an odd look on his face. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands, and Jaehyun notes that his phone is finally out of sight and that he seems… on edge. Like he’s ready to attack. It’s unsettling. Mark’s a stubborn bastard when he’s angry or thinks he’s right and everyone else is wrong, but he’s generally very easy going, and not all that jealous. His dating style has always tended towards almost shyness, with occasional competitive demonstrations interspersed. This feels… important. Different. Yet another change in personality on top of living status.

Jaehyun fights the urge to squirm, but Ten’s gaze settles and stays only on Mark. “Ah,” he says, flicking his eyes up and down. “You must be the new baby.”

Mark’s lips twitch like he wants to curl them back into a snarl to mirror Taeyong’s.

Ten grins even harder. “Don’t worry.” He lifts his left hand, tilting it this way and that so that light glints off the simple gold band wrapped around his ring finger. “I’m very taken.”

Taeyong makes a punched sounding noise, drawing Jaehyun’s attention immediately. “You got married?” he says.

Doyoung clears his throat, before crossing the room to stand just to the side of Taeyong. “Eloped,” he says. “It was a real family drama.” He shoots Taeyong a look. “You can’t imagine the look on Changmin-hyung’s face.”

Ten just keeps smiling, teeth looking like knives.

Chapter Text

Jaehyun thinks he has to have the worst luck, given that he and Taeyong haven’t been on more than one date, and have had only one (admittedly heated) kiss in a bathroom between them, and he is already meeting the parents, as it were. Or rather, meeting the siblings; and under such similar circumstances. It certainly has the feeling of déjà vu, standing awkwardly in the middle of Taeyong and Johnny’s apartment while Ten surveys the lay of the land. Taeyong is clearly still stuck on the marriage thing—sorry, eloping thing—but Ten seems unbothered.

He doesn’t seem to have any of Doyoung or Taeyong’s hang-ups about his lack of humanity, either, shifting through the apartment and all of Taeyong and Johnny’s things too fast for Jaehyun to follow. He tries anyway, watching as Ten picks up a throw pillow, riffles through a shelf of CDs and books, and even has a look through their refrigerator, all with a running commentary.

“These must be Youngho’s. You never had much musical taste. All those wasted dance lessons.” Ten clicks his throat. “I told Mom not to waste all that time and energy on you, but he never listened—said you had ‘promise’—”

Jaehyun feels like he’s getting whiplash, between the near teleporting and now all the inside jokes.

“Ten—stop calling him that—”

“Cow,” Ten says, giving one of the blood bags in the fridge a disapproving sniff. “Really, Taeyongie—”

“Ten! God, Johnny, I can’t believe you let him in!”

“You know as well as I do that he didn’t actually need to. I already have an invitation—”

The pillow in Taeyong’s hand goes bouncing off the opposite wall with a surprising amount of force, feathers flying everywhere.

“Oh, hit a nerve, didn’t I—”

Why are you here?”

“Mom sent me!”

“Stop calling him that!”

Jaehyun decides he’s better off tuning them all out. It’s enough just to pay attention to where Taeyong is, since Taeyong isn’t flitting around too fast to follow. He is following—carefully re-shelving the stack of CDs with his own inhuman speed, righting the pillows, shutting the fridge—but he’s also very clearly hindered by trying to keep between Ten and the rest of the room.

Well.

Between Ten and the humans in the room, Jaehyun realizes. Doyoung and Mark appear to be following the proceedings with much more ease, but neither of them seem to be where Taeyong’s gaze keeps falling. Neither of them keeps ending up slowly herded in the direction of the couch, left standing awkwardly next to each other while Ten and Taeyong have it out. It should make Jaehyun feel uncomfortable. Instead, Jaehyun does his best to be as helpful as possible, staying exactly where prodded while Johnny rolls his eyes and heads over to stand beside Mark. Jaehyun stands exactly where Taeyong wants him and does his best not to take his eyes off Ten.

It only takes about five more seconds of arguing about Taeyong’s appalling taste in culinary ingredients before Ten seems to pick up on that fact, however, because in the next moment Jaehyun finds himself nose to nose with a vampire. “Hello,” says Taeyong’s brother Ten with large, frighteningly calculating eyes. “And who are you?”

“Jaehyun,” says Doyoung, but Ten doesn’t so much as spare him a passing glance.

“Jaehyun,” he repeats, reaching out with a surprisingly soft hand to take hold of Jaehyun’s own.

“Oh, um,” says Jaehyun, not really sure where to look—or if he’s going to need a trip to the hospital to make sure he hasn’t developed a permanent heart condition, at this rate—and feeling particularly trapped against the back of the couch. “Yes, I’m—” He doesn’t yelp when Ten presses a kiss to the back of his hand, but that’s only because he nearly takes his own tongue off to keep it in. “Jeong Jaehyun,” Jaehyun finishes, blushing now on top of the panic, and hating himself for it.

“Jeong Jaehyun,” Ten repeats after him purring out Jaehyun’s name like he had done Johnny’s earlier. “It’s so very good to meet you.”

Chittaphon Leechaiyapornkul,” snarls Taeyong, and Ten and Jaehyun turn as one to look at him.

He’s standing with both arms wrestled behind his back by a very put upon looking Doyoung, while Mark does his best to circle Johnny like some sort of cross between a shark and an attack dog. The thing he said had to have been a name—Ten’s—and it’s… Thai? Ten must be from Thailand, not South Korea.

Ten pulls the worst face but doesn’t let go of Jaehyun’s hand. “Oh, don’t be a spoilsport, Baby Hyung,” he says, and pulls Jaehyun closer by the hand until their bodies line up. He’s significantly shorter, but significantly more toned than either of his outfits had suggested. He’s also far warmer than Jaehyun had been expected. Warmer than either Taeyong or Doyoung—although he’s not breathing. He doesn’t look like he finds that to be all of a hardship either, like Taeyong sometimes gets. (It was weird to be without a sense of smell, he’d explained to Jaehyun just that afternoon. And also, it really was the hardest thing to stop doing, after.)

That Ten doesn’t appear to be at all hindered—Jaehyun can’t help but wonder how much older he is. He also can’t help but wonder if Ten has a death wish, also, when the vampire even goes so far to unbutton the first two buttons on Jaehyun’s shirt; a move that would also give Jaehyun déjà vu, if he wasn’t too busy realizing that he does have survival instincts.

It turns out, Jaehyun isn’t damaged, or a blood whore, or any of the other nasty words people have for vampire enthusiasts. Jaehyun only would like Taeyong to bite him—not all vampires—and if he wasn’t suddenly aware of the fact that he’s one of the most fragile things in the room, he’d probably have slapped Ten across the face. As it stands, Jaehyun just stands, doing his best not to breathe or move or anything, as the vampire leans in very close to him and… inhales. Ten doesn’t touch him—doesn’t even part his lips—but Jaehyun has to lock every muscle in place to keep from throwing himself back against the couch in response.

Over across the room, there’s more scrabbling, and then the sound of what has to be Doyoung’s nose breaking, given the shouting.

“Ow—fuck—Taeyongie—”

When Jaehyun looks he sees Doyoung, holding a bleeding hand to his face and swearing, no Taeyong in sight. The next moment Ten is gone, shoved across the room and then some, and Jaehyun is faced with only the sight of Taeyong’s rigid, frozen back. There’s a growl coming out of Taeyong’s throat that really isn’t human, and Jaehyun decides the safest amount of action he could take right now would just be to peek.

Already Doyoung’s nose is knitting itself back into place, the blood drying up as quickly as it’d came—so vampires do bleed on top of the blushing; good for Jaehyun to know for, uh, reasons—but he’s still swearing, though at a lower volume this time. There’s curse words in there Jaehyun hadn’t ever heard outside of period dramas, and then—when Ten abandons his staring contest with Taeyong to come over and access the drama—a particularly inspired “Fuck!” as the other vampire not so gently helps shift his nose back in place.

“Oh boo hoo, you big baby, Doyoung-hyung,” Ten says, tilting Doyoung’s face to the side and then back again, eyes flicking around all the spaces that are now covered in blood like he’d quite like to lick them. (Jaehyun is briefly curious, then even more aware of the fact that he’s currently pinned between a couch and an angry, possessive vampire boyfriend, and should avoid all bedroom thoughts until after the scent of blood is gone and Taeyong isn’t growling like a mountain lion.) “You’re fine. And you wouldn’t want it to heal crooked. Imagine the effect it might have on your perfect looks. You’ve only got the third best nose in the family.”

Doyoung licks his own palm, glaring. “Third?”

Ten just lifts his head. “Third. It serves you right, getting in the middle. Are you on one of your ‘older sibling’ jags again? Really you ought to know better—that goes over much better with Yuta—”

Yuta has manners,” says Doyoung.

“Yuta is the real baby,” corrects Ten, fingers smoothing along Doyoung’s wrinkled forehead with a surprising amount of grace. “I don’t count. I met Mom first.”

Doyoung just shakes his head, eyes rolling. “You know technically this makes Donghyuck—”

“Anyway,” interrupts Ten, taking a pointed step back towards Taeyong and Jaehyun. “Your nose is fine. Your beautiful face is saved.”

Doyoung is looking at Ten like they’ve known each other for, well, centuries. “Third?” he says again.

Ten tilts his head to the side again, his own nose coming into perfect profile. It’s a very nice nose, and Jaehyun opens his mouth to say so. Then Jaehyun notices Johnny, standing in a similar pose behind Mark and frantically trying to catch Jaehyun’s eye and shaking his head no. He decides better of it.

He still pokes Taeyong in the back, right between the shoulder blades. “Taeyongie-hyung,” he says. “You’re being ridiculous.”

Taeyong doesn’t move, but he does stop growling, so Jaehyun decides to risk it, and very gently puts a hand onto Taeyong’s back instead. Taeyong’s not a complete asshole—just running on vampire instincts—because he lets Jaehyun move him to the side so that he’s no longer playing bodyguard. He still stays a step in front of Jaehyun, so close that Jaehyun would be able to hear his heartbeat, if he had one. His own heart is pounding loud enough for the both of them, and probably audible to every vampire in the room.

Ten has stopped helping Doyoung with his nose, and is instead picking at a nail, looking unbothered from his very exposed place in the center of the room. Mark has shoved Johnny almost all the way toward the hallway where the bedrooms are, and Doyoung has pulled out his phone to try to assess the damage done to his face; he’ll be no help to any of them.

With a sigh, and without lowering his hand or looking at them all, Ten finally speaks. “You’re no fun.”

Johnny has given up on trying to get out from behind Mark, but Jaehyun tests his own shadow, taking a few tentative steps towards the predator in the middle of the room.

Taeyong lets him, which is good. If he hadn’t, Jaehyun would have had to dump him, and given the explosiveness of that one kiss in the bathroom, he’d really have been missing out. Taeyong is still very clearly following just behind Jaehyun, but he’s doing it so silently that Jaehyun is going to let him get away with it. He may be acting tough, but he’s still fucking terrified. Ten is nothing like the other three vampires, and dangerous. Jung Yunho sent him here to clean things up. Jaehyun would do well to heed his gut.

Jaehyun crosses the room to stand directly in front of Ten and reaches out to take hold of his lifted hand. It’s just as warm as the rest of him, and smooth like silk. Jaehyun gives it a shake, then, doing his best not to look like a butterfly about to get pinned into a box, brings it to his own lips to press a kiss to the back of it. “Hello,” he says when he’s done. “You must be Ten.”

There’s another sound from behind him, but this time Taeyong doesn’t appear to have broken anyone’s bones.

“God,” Jaehyun thinks he hears. “God, you can’t be real—” But all that gets lost underneath Ten’s sudden burst of laughter, turning him from lethal carnivore into pretty college student in a second flat.

“Taeyongie-hyung,” he says happily, taking his hand back and not even going in for the sniff he clearly wants to. “I like him.”

“Good,” Taeyong says, from right behind Jaehyun. “Now—”

Jaehyun backs up until he stands pointedly on his toe, even though he knows it won’t do anything. “Don’t be a caveman, you idiot,” he says from between his teeth. “It’s not cute—” Taeyong makes a noise, and Jaehyun feels heat flush the back of his neck. “It’s not cute in this situation,” he amends, not looking at anyone.

Ten glances between the two of them one more time, and cackles. “Baby Hyung,” he says, making Jaehyun wonder just whose nickname that is. “I like him.”

Taeyong lets out a long gust of a breath that ends up mostly against Jaehyun’s still overheated neck, before stepping out from behind him so he can go eye to eye with Ten. “Yes, hello to you too, idiot,” he mumbles, before Ten breaks into a blinding smile, and pulls him into a hug that has to hurt.

Doyoung finishes with his face and stares at the two of them, shaking his head, but his expression is only fond. When he catches Jaehyun looking he says, “Taeyong’s estrangement wasn’t just with me.”

“He hasn’t been home since he had to come and introduce Johnny,” says Ten, with his chin on Taeyong’s head, the other vampire’s protests mostly muffled by the skin of Ten’s neck. “And I’ve sort of been on the bad list ever since my little thing with Young—”

Over by the hallway, Johnny finally manages to get around Mark, and immediately starts laughing very loudly. “Ten, hi, good to see you,” he says, walking quickly across the room to slap Ten on the back a few times, all the way not making eye contact with anyone.

Taeyong wrestles free from the hug, and snorts. “Now you’ve done it,” he says.

Ten ignores him, twisting to grab Johnny’s hand and pumping it vigorously in between them. “Yes, Johnny-hyung, hi,” he says, making the honorific sound positively salacious. Ten must be far older than even Doyoung, Jaehyun decides. “I see you also have a boyfriend.” There’s a sound from where Mark is that makes Jaehyun conclude he’s far safer not looking. “I see he’s a vampire, though.” Ten has stopped shaking Johnny’s hand but he’s still holding it, running his fingers over the back of his palm with absolutely zero shame. His eyes flick to Taeyong. “Doesn’t that go against your little rules?”

Johnny rips free of Ten’s hold and starts laughing even louder, glancing nervously in Mark’s general direction and then facing Taeyong instead. “So, uh, I’m just going to—you got this—because I—” He jabs a thumb in Mark’s direction, and Jaehyun finally gives in and looks.

He doesn’t know what the big fuss is, honestly. Mark doesn’t look all that bothered, although he isn’t smiling. But that’s okay, because Johnny is doing enough for the both of them.

“Mark!” Johnny turns his attention to Jaehyun’s best friend. “Come say hi! This is Ten.”

Mark makes his way over to stand next to Johnny with vampire speed. “Hi,” he says in a clipped, very rude tone. “Nice to meet you.”

Ten doesn’t seem bothered. “Mark,” he says. “Is that English? Are you American?”

“Canadian,” Mark says, with none of his usual friendliness. “There’s a difference.”

Johnny makes a noise, but Taeyong just snorts again, and reaches out to slide a hand into the small of Jaehyun’s back. “Come on,” he says. “You’re probably tired—it’s late.”

“Hey, wait—”

What do you mean you kind of had a threesome?” Mark snarls, and Jaehyun stops all protesting.

“Bed sounds great,” he says. “The dorm, or yours—”

“Well—” Taeyong glances at Doyoung, who heaves a long sigh.

“I guess since Ten’s here, I can cancel our flights,” he concedes grudgingly. “I’ll change them back to Monday, but it might not be first class.”

Taeyong rolls his eyes. “Only you’d care.”

Doyoung doesn’t dispute that. At Jaehyun’s look, he explains, “Because SM U is Taeyongie’s school, it’s under Yunho-hyung’s protection.” He glances at Taeyong, then grins at what he sees there. “Sorry, but it is. Anyway, this is a high profile incident given what happened last January.” They all go quiet, remembering. “And as you know—”

“You prefer to take care of things,” Jaehyun says. “I mean—not you, you, just. You vampires.” He pauses. “I mean I guess in this case; I do mean you you, but—”

Doyoung smiles kindly. “Yes,” he says. “Anyway, Yunho-hyung usually sends one of us to handle things. It sends a different message if he comes personally.”

Taeyong seems to shudder, but Jaehyun is more interested in Doyoung.

“That makes sense.”

“Since Ten’s here, I suppose there’s no reason for us to go home early,” Doyoung finishes, with great dramatics. Taeyong shoves him, but he just laughs. “But seriously, it’s good that he’s here. He has a lot more experience with making children than I do.” Doyoung’s expression smooths into something far less confident, far shyer. “I’ve only got two, after all.”

For two seconds Jaehyun thinks Taeyong just isn’t going to say anything, but then he heaves out a long sigh, and stops stroking fingers along Jaehyun’s hip long enough to turn to face Doyoung. “Look, I’m still mad—don’t pretend the only reason you even knew about Renjunnie’s accident wasn’t because of Junho-hyung—”

Doyoung’s mouth snaps shut but he doesn’t argue; Jaehyun is almost impressed, because not even he’d made that connection.

“—but I suppose, Renjunnie seems nice enough,” Taeyong adds. “And I know you get… lonely.” There’s a lot more there than just an apology, and Jaehyun fights the urge to hug Taeyong. Taeyong and Doyoung have been brothers for all of Taeyong’s hundred years, and clearly the time spent not talking to each other had taken its toll. “I’m not mad, Doyoungie,” Taeyong says quietly. “I know you wouldn’t—you wouldn’t do that to someone who wasn’t willing.”

Jaehyun just barely manages to step back to avoid the hug that inspires, far less play fighting than any of the others, and ending with Ten all of a sudden right in Jaehyun’s face, Mark and Johnny clearly busy without him.

“Would you look at that,” Ten says, watching Taeyong and Doyoung squabble over who started crying first. For all his bluster, Jaehyun can tell he’s pleased to see them getting along. Still, Jaehyun does his best to come across as composed.

“So,” he says. “Threesome?”

And Ten grins, draping an arm across Jaehyun’s shoulders and going on once again about how he likes Jaehyun, which is enough to divorce Taeyong from Doyoung long enough for Mark and Johnny to disappear back towards the bedrooms, and Jaehyun to be left on the doorstep with three vampires this time, instead of two.

“I’ll just—”

“Come, Doyoung-hyung,” Ten says, dragging Doyoung into a headlock and hauling him down the hall. “We have children to say hello to. And you need a new shirt.”

“‘Doyoung-hyung’?” Jaehyun can’t help but ask, watching them go.

“They were turned the same year,” Taeyong says as they get in the elevator. “Born in the same year, actually.” At Jaehyun’s look he adds, “They’re both twenty-five, physically.”

Jaehyun nods.

“They’re not from the same country, though. Ten’s from Bangkok—you remember the cholera outbreak from around 1820?”

This is more information than Taeyong’s ever offered about any of his siblings, and Jaehyun is for a second excited. But then he thinks about it. “Should you be telling me any of this?” he asks, starting to walk now that it’s been a suitable amount of time. “About how Ten died. Isn’t that—a risk?”

Taeyong’s lips quirk. “Were you planning on starting your own cholera pandemic in 2020, Jaehyunnie?” he says. “And, no, Ten didn’t die of cholera. It has to be murder, remember?”

Jaehyun fights the urge to kiss him some more, knowing that they don’t have time for that at all.

“And Yunho—Yunho-hyung likes to offer them a choice,” continues Taeyong. “It runs in the family.”

“Them?”

“Us.” Taeyong presses the button for elevator wearing a little frown, and Jaehyun says fuck it, and tries to kiss it off him anyway. The mirrors in the elevator are absolutely no deterrent, and it’s only Jaehyun’s traitorous humanity that puts a stop to them; Jaehyun yawns, somewhere around the third time Taeyong’s pressed a random floor and let the poor elevator go up and then back down.

“Bed, Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong says. “I’ll still be here in the morning.”

“Creep,” Jaehyun says, but lets him walk him home anyway.

 


 

Jaehyun supposes it was maybe naive, to think they’d somehow get around not having to fly home to see Taeyong’s… parents. Jaehyun supposes it was maybe wishful thinking to hope he wouldn’t be forced to rise at the crack of dawn for the third day in a row. Jaehyun supposes it was a misguided hope to think that their murderer might take a break, after five. He wakes to frantic knocking, and then frantic shaking, and then Mark kneeling at his bedside with glinting eyes.

“—get up, Jaehyun-hyung, fuck—I’m sorry—please wake up—”

Jaehyun is having trouble getting his eyes to start working, let alone his brain, or ears. It’s too dark in his dorm for it to be nearing sunrise, and he certainly feels sluggish enough that he could have only been sleeping for twenty minutes, maybe less. “Mark—what—what time is it?”

“Nearly two a.m.,” says Mark. “Get up—Jaehyun-hyung.” He seems to be vibrating slightly, blurring in and out of focus the longer Jaehyun stares.

Jaehyun feels mindlessly around in the dark for his glasses, only to realize that increased clarity hasn’t helped things any; Mark is physically vibrating, shimmering around the edges like it’s taking all of his brand-new control to stay corporal. Vampires can’t actually teleport—Jaehyun needs to remind himself of that fact. “What—”

“There’s been a—a—Ten-hyung,” says Mark finally, then gestures around in the air like that’ll explain everything.

Jaehyun wants to shake him. “A Ten-hyung,” he repeats.

“The murderer,” Mark says. “He—Ten-hyung—”

“Ten-hyung is the murderer?” Jaehyun tries, mostly joking.

Mark snarls, going from kneeling beside the bed to looming over Jaehyun threateningly in practically two seconds, and that’s enough to sober Jaehyun significantly.

“Mark-yah,” he says, aware that his heart is now racing, and that that cannot be helping things. “Breathe. Uh—I mean, calm down.”

Mark lets go of Jaehyun’s shoulders and pulls back jerkily, but seems a little more composed. “Ten-hyung has been attacked,” he says. “By the—the murderer.” He stutters in the middle of that sentence like he was going to call the vampire something else, but continues before Jaehyun can comment. “He’s alive. Er, still dead—Yun-Yunho-hyung has too much control for that.”

Jaehyun must look confused, because Mark’s lips quirk into a parody of a smile as he reaches out a hand to help Jaehyun to his feet.

“To kill someone by draining them dry,” Mark explains. “Whoever it was got Ten-hyung after he’d left Renjunnie’s dorm. He went to visit the crime scenes.” He pulls a face. “I don’t know if they knew he was a vampire—stupid, really—” He actually sniffs, and Jaehyun fights the urge to smack him some more.

“Yah, you’re a newborn too—”

“What makes you think he’s a newborn?” snaps Mark, letting go of Jaehyun’s hand and casting his eyes around the dorm room at frightening speed.

“Whoa—Mark—calm down—”

“Has he been here?” Mark gets a painfully hard grip on both of Jaehyun’s biceps and Jaehyun winces, grunting.

“No—how do you even know it’s a he—”

“Ten-hyung’s fine,” Mark says, still not letting go. “I’m serious. If he’s been here, you need to tell me. Taeyong-hyung will kill me—”

“Taeyong won’t be killing anybody,” Jaehyun snaps, insulted despite everything. “Look, Mark, I might be significantly more fragile than all of you but I’m not a chew toy—”

Mark lets go of Jaehyun’s arms so quickly Jaehyun wonders if he’d imagined it, before the feeling comes back into his fingers with pins and needles.

“Ow,” he says, flexing. “Mark—”

“Sorry.” Mark’s standing all the way by the door with his hands at his side, not looking at Jaehyun.

Jaehyun scowls but moves so that he can turn a lamp on, wincing as his eyes adjust. “Look—”

“Ten-hyung was attacked by the murderer, so I know for sure that it’s a he,” Mark says straightforwardly, still without making eye contact. “He didn’t seem like he knew what he was doing, but he was obviously strong enough—”

Jaehyun can’t wrap his head around it. “But Ten-hyung’s the—the middle child, right?” he says, trying to think it through. “And Doyoung-hyung is super strong—”

“Apparently it doesn’t matter, once they’ve fastened—gotten a hold,” Mark says, with a shake to his head that makes Jaehyun shut his mouth. “You remember all that fuss about how long it would take to drain a person?”

“Yes, I am an RA,” Jaehyun mutters, because he doesn’t think any human college student has somehow managed to avoid getting that particular lecture, let alone people who’ve been through the army.

“Well, vampires aren’t exempt from the effects of blood loss,” Mark explains, looking uncomfortable for some reason—Jaehyun doesn’t want to know. “By the time Ten-hyung had enough sense to get the guy off of him, it wasn’t a fair fight.”

Jaehyun blinks.

“He doesn’t know who it is, also,” Mark adds. “Ten-hyung, I mean. He got a clear look, but it’s no help.” Mark smiles. “But Ten-hyung’s an artist, so we should have a sketch to go off of soon.”

Jaehyun reaches up to rub at a spot on the bridge of his nose. “So… is he okay, then? Ten-hyung, I mean.” He doesn’t know how to say any of this kindly, so he decides to just go for it. “Does he need… donations?”

Mark stares, and then Mark frowns, and then Mark makes a face that Jaehyun would really rather he never ever have to see again. “Oh, fuck, no. No. No. No—you don’t—Ten-hyung wouldn’t drink your blood even if you offered, anyway. Believe me. Johnny-hyung… tried.” Jaehyun is not going to try to digest Mark’s expression! No thank you! “He’s in a really bad mood anyway,” Mark continues. “His neck is taking it’s time to heal and he’s hungry and he nearly bit Taeyong-hyung’s head off, and I had to fight him and Doyoung-hyung to be the one to go get you.” Mark shudders. “You are not offering to feed him.”

“Right.” Jaehyun won’t lie—he is relieved. “So, are you going to get him… someone else?” he asks instead, taking off his glasses and rubbing and non-existent smudges so that he has something to do with his hands.

“That’s so fucking weird—I’ve been so fucking blind my whole life—”

“Mark, focus,” Jaehyun says, although he understands. Mark hates contacts more than Jaehyun does and finds any excuse not to have to wear them. It must be nice to no longer have flawed vision. But probably weird; Mark’ll be one of those vampires who wears glasses for the aesthetic, or maybe just out of habit, or memory.

“No, Ten-hyung has someone coming in to help with that,” says Mark.

Jaehyun puts his glasses back on and sits on the bed with his legs folded into a pretzel. “Ten-hyung has what?”

“Look, this would all be easier if you got dressed so we could go—”

Jaehyun blinks. “Go? Where am I going? To Taeyong’s house where there’s a hungry, angry, pissed off vampire? No thank you—”

Mark’s phone starts ringing, interrupting Jaehyun before he can really get in the swing of things. “Sorry—I should—hello, Taeyong-hyung?”

“Mark-yah!” Taeyong is speaking loud enough that even Jaehyun can hear him, and poor Mark rips the phone away from his ear immediately, wincing. “Where are you two?”

Jaehyun stares at the phone and Mark with his mouth open, unable to believe what he’s hearing.

“Whatever,” Taeyong barks. “Get him here now.” And then he hangs up, the dial tone for some reason equally audible to Jaehyun.

It’s not hot. It’s possessive and annoying. “Yeah, no,” Jaehyun says. “No—call him back—we are not doing this—I’ll put up with a lot of weird shit but none of this controlling boyfriend crap—”

“Jaehyun-hyung,” Mark interjects, tone high. “Listen, I’m all for you asserting your independence but we both know you’re a little into it, so if you could just—put on some clothes, and grab what you’ll need to go home to visit Taeyong-hyung’s—family—that’d be great.”

Jaehyun closes his mouth, blushes hard enough that he’s worried his ears are going to fall off, but does just that.

 


 

Ten looks a fucking wreck.

It’s Doyoung who lets them into the apartment, eyes wild, the entire front of his shirt stained with what has to be fresh blood (given the state of Mark’s pupils), and some of it even having ended up in his hair, which he can’t seem to stop ruffling. “Thank God you’re here,” he tells Mark, for some reason, grabbing Mark by the wrist and starting to tug him in the direction of the bedrooms.

“Uh, shoes,” Mark starts to protest, but Doyoung doesn’t stop.

“Ten’s a bastard when he’s not hungry, but this is just… stupid,” Doyoung says, ignoring Mark’s protests, but he does seem to slow a little so that Mark can quickly worm out of shis hoes and fling them with unfortunately good aim in the direction of the door.

Bent over his own feet dealing with his own laces, Jaehyun does his best not to get hit in the face with a sneaker.

“Taeyongie owns Youngho, officially, but Ten’s… Ten… slept with him, so he could technically have a claim,” Doyoung continues, and then speaks over Mark’s protests. “Yes, I know, you’re very mad—it’s not real ownership—I’m sure there will be time for them all to explain it to you in detail when they’re not seconds from ripping each other’s faces off. Come on!”

Jaehyun finishes with his own shoes and practically falls after them both, listening rather desperately to anything Doyoung sees fit to explain. Taeyong owns Johnny? Ten really did sleep with Johnny? What?

“Wha—”

Doyoung doesn’t give Mark time to respond to any of that. “I don’t know if you’ll be of any help, really, but I’m going to lose my mind, so—” He drags Mark around the corner into Taeyong’s bedroom, continuing so that they’re standing in the doorway of the on suite. Taeyong’s there already, slightly less covered in blood than Doyoung, and glaring absolute daggers down at Ten. “Taeyong-ah,” Doyoung says in greeting. “Mark brought Jaehyun.”

“Not a chew toy,” Jaehyun feels the need to say again, although it doesn’t have the desired effect. No one laughs. But then, Jaehyun can see why.

Ten’s on the floor in the bathroom slumped up against the edge of the massive tub, one leg bent and the other sprawled out in front of him at an odd angle. His shoes are in the bathroom—clearly nobody took them off him until they got him into the room—and the shower clearly had been running, given the moisture on the walls. If that wasn’t enough proof, Ten’s hair is damp, falling dramatically into his eyes, and his clothes are soaked. His skin is as white as the tile all around him and there are dark, almost painful looking bruises under his eyes from lack of sleep, maybe, or just being a vampire. But what Jaehyun finds most chilling—what Jaehyun finds the most consuming—is his neck, practically slathered with still-drying blood, and shockingly whole, for having been savaged.

It must have happened some time ago, because while Jaehyun can tell that the holes are still bleeding, they are only just that—holes. Two surprisingly small puncture wounds, placed along the line of Ten’s carotid, leading right into the divot of his collarbone. His entire shirt is hanging off that shoulder, the skin around the bite bone-white and brand new.

“Doyoung-hyung,” Ten says, seeing. “Mark-yah. Jaehyun-ah.”

Jaehyun manages to pull his eyes away from him, to find Johnny, kneeling in the middle of the floor directly beside Ten in the mess of blood and shower water, with wide, shell-shocked eyes. He’s not quite all the way dragged into Ten’s lap—they’re not really touching upwards from the torso—but he’s frozen like he has been none the same.

“Hyung,” breathes Mark. “Hyung—”

“Chittaphon,” Taeyong says again, that name that Jaehyun still doesn’t know, but must be Ten’s—certainly sounds Thai. “Let him go.”

“Mmmm,” Ten says, gaze fixed on Mark instead now. “No.”

And Jaehyun shudders, heart feeling like a bird trapped in a cage, because despite everything Mark had assured Jaehyun of on the ride over, Ten looks anything but in control, anything but completely harmless, and has one snow white arm wrapped dangerously around Johnny’s neck, keeping him in place, and perfectly in reach of his razor sharp fangs.

“You see?” Doyoung says rather miserably, from behind both Mark and Jaehyun. “We need all the help we can get.”

 


 

Ten is the first to break the ensuing silence. “Dongyoung,” he says. “Don’t be like that.”

“Doyoung,” Doyoung says sharply. “Or do you prefer Chitta—”

Ten makes a pained noise, shifting on the tile floor until blood oozes from the holes in his neck and Mark makes a low, despairing noise, and comes up almost so that he’s level beside Taeyong, who Jaehyun can see is doing his own bit of bleeding, dripping down from his palms and onto the floor. When Taeyong catches him looking, his left fist releases, and Jaehyun takes comfort in watching at least his skin fuse itself back together at normal speed.

“Ugh, fine, Doyoung,” amends Ten, still holding Johnny loosely about the neck. “Whatever. We’re fine. There’s no need to make such a fuss.”

“We are not fine,” says Taeyong, the first he’s spoken since Jaehyun got there. His voice sounds like gravel. “Let him go.”

“Look—”

Ten moves around on the floor again, and whatever Johnny had been trying to say abruptly cuts off, his balance wavering as Ten hauls him even closer.

“I’m not going to eat Youngho, Taeyong-ah,” Ten says, from behind Johnny’s hair. “You can relax.” He seems to settle his grip, tugging until Johnny really has no choice but to try to hold him back, settling onto his ass with his knees tucked up around him, head resting against Ten’s heaving chest.

Jaehyun notes that Ten’s breathing for the first time all evening—and seemingly without thinking about it. He wonders if that’s just because he’s so weak, or if almost getting killed—or not killed, he supposes, since Ten would be old enough to know how he’d died—has just left him… more human than usual. He wonders if Ten’s still so much warmer than Taeyong and Doyoung—if it’s just human blood that does that. He wonders who is coming to help Ten. If it’s a human—if—he thinks Taeyong and Doyoung wouldn’t be quite so calm, if that was the case.

But then. Does Jaehyun really know Doyoung? Does he even know Taeyong?

Of course he does—what’s gotten into him?

“Well then you should let him go, Ten-ah,” says Taeyong, voice less of a growl now. “Please.”

Johnny doesn’t appear to know what to do with his hands, and Jaehyun notices that he’s got bandages all over his neck again. He blinks. “What happened to you?” he hears himself ask, aware it’s purely rhetorical.

Mark turns to him, eyes all the way guilty. “Look—”

He’s not a chew toy,” Jaehyun manages, pointing.

Johnny rather pointedly shakes some hair across his cheeks, hiding his eyes.

“You noticed that, then,” Ten says, and he must be addressing Jaehyun, because all the vampires in the room are staring at him, and Jaehyun fights not to take a step back. “I noticed that as well. I’m not going to eat Youngho, Taeyongie, because he probably wouldn’t survive.”

Taeyong’s lips curl back in a snarl.

“He talks big, our Johnny-hyung,” Ten continues, shifting to run his fingers along the dressing on Johnny’s throat, and Johnny swats at him, finally acting like a person, and not just dead weight. “Likes to pretend he knows his own limits.”

“I do know my own limits,” Johnny snaps, finally managing to slap Ten’s fingers away from his neck and throwing his hair out of his eyes in one motion, chin raised in clear defiance. “Mark would never hurt me.” There’s something accusatory there that Jaehyun really would not like to know about ever, but thankfully nobody in the room elaborates.

“And yet you came into the room with me,” says Ten quietly. “So how well do you know them really?”

Johnny abruptly shuts his mouth and looks away.

“Thought so,” whispers Ten.

“Ten,” snaps Taeyong, drawing his—and everyone else’s—attention. “Lucas is on his way. Let him go.”

Ten’s eyes seem to glint even more like a cat’s, the pupils expanding so that they’re like twin black holes. “Xuxi,” he breathes. “Xuxi is in Tokyo with Mom. He’s nearly two hours away.”

“He’s taking a red eye,” Taeyong says through gritted teeth. “He’ll be here in an hour.”

“Mmm,” Ten says. “I can wait.”

Taeyong clenches his jaw so hard it has to hurt. “I know you can wait,” he says. “But it would make everyone feel better if you let Johnny go while you wait—”

Ten tightens his grip on Johnny and tugs so that he has him wrapped up in a real hug, this time, both arms coming around to hold him. “Mmm,” he says, closing his eyes like he’s going to sleep. “No.”

“Ten—”

“I said no, Taeyong-ah.” Ten doesn’t open his eyes, but his voice is very suddenly all steel. “I’m just going to sleep.”

“Hyung—”

“He’s nice,” Ten says. “He’s nice and he smells nice, and he likes me.”

“I like you!” Taeyong’s back to digging holes into his own hands, and Jaehyun can’t help himself this time, reaching out to take hold of at least one of them, and not at all being bothered by all the blood. Taeyong stares blankly down at their interlocked fingers for a moment, words seemingly forgotten. Then he gives Jaehyun’s fingers a squeeze, and shifts so that Jaehyun can stay mostly in the shadows out of sight behind him, all while still holding his hand. “I smell nice!”

Ten opens one eye. “You smell like repression,” he says. “You smell like someone who wishes they were still human.”

Taeyong flinches and Jaehyun holds his hand tighter in response.

“It’s not cute, Taeyongie.” Ten’s closed his eyes again. “It was cute in 1920, but it’s not now. You’re a big boy, now, Baby Hyung. Grow up.”

Taeyong is grinding his teeth so hard Jaehyun can hear, and Mark makes a noise—Doyoung shifts like he’s going to move.

“Look,” Johnny says, clearly trying to ease the tension. “Can we all just… calm down? Ten.”

Ten slits open both eyes.

“You’re not going to eat me, are you?”

Ten close his eyes again. “Don’t be ridiculous, Johnny-hyung, I might be half dead, but I’m not an idiot.” He yawns. “Taeyongie is Yunho-hyung’s favorite. If anyone could wrestle my death dream out of him it would be Taeyongie. And you’re Taeyongie’s. Ergo: you’re off limits.”

Jaehyun can see a muscle twitching in Johnny’s temple, so clearly, he’s as annoyed as Jaehyun is about the vampiric tendency towards ownership. “Yes, well, maybe you could let me go, then?” he tries.

Ten snorts. “No, you’re warm.”

“I’m warm,” says Taeyong.

“You’re dead,” says Ten.

You’re dead!” snaps Taeyong.

Ten snuggles Johnny closer. “Youngho isn’t dead.”

“You—” Taeyong very abruptly stops talking, holding his position by the door probably only because Jaehyun is physically holding him by the hand.

“Jaehyun-hyung isn’t dead either,” mutters Mark, who Jaehyun had nearly forgotten, and who comes to stand next to Taeyong with zero fear. Probably he should have some fear, because now Jaehyun can Taeyong’s eyes, blazing with a rage that certainly belongs to someone far older than twenty-six when he turns to snarl at Mark instead.

“Oh, hello, Mark. You’re right,” says Ten brightly, sounding much more awake. “I’ll trade you a Youngho for a Jaehyunnie—what do you say, Taeyong-ah—”

The noise Taeyong makes in response to that is enough to have Jaehyun letting go of his hand, half turned on, and half ready to try his hand and slapping them both. “Look—”

Ten smirks. “That’s what I thought,” he says. Then he arranges Johnny better in his lap and closes his eyes again. “Now, if you’re all done, I’m going to take a nap.” He grins. “Wake me when Xuxi is here.”

Taeyong shifts forward, but Johnny clears his throat.

“Look, he’s not going to eat me… just… it’s fine. Go play house with Jaehyunnie, Taeyong, it’s fine. I’m fine.”

Jaehyun stares at him, not really sure where that came from or if it’s at all appropriate and ready to ask, but before he can do so, Taeyong flushes, heat covering both of his cheeks. “I’m not—I’m not playing—house—” And then he disappears all the way out of the bedroom, leaving Jaehyun stuck next to Mark in the bathroom doorway.

Ten hides a smirk in Johnny’s hair.

“Right,” Jaehyun hears himself. “I’m just going to—” He turns, not even finishing that sentence, and leaves the sound of what has to be Mark, settling onto the floor in the doorway. Doyoung wouldn’t make that much noise.

“You’re staying?”

“Of course I’m staying—he could kill you—not that I think he will, but I don’t know him. No offense.”

“None taken. And what about you, Doyoung-ah?”

“You know I was older than you even before we were inhuman?” Jaehyun hears Doyoung mutter, also lowering himself to the floor, before they fade into the background, and it’s just him and an incredibly flustered Lee Taeyong, alone in the living room.

“Hyung—”

“Don’t—” Taeyong puts out a hand to halt him, the other already ripping at the buttons on his bloodstained shirt, shucking out of it without an ounce of shame. He’s just as slender as Jaehyun had remembered, with arms that could kill a man, and a surprising lack of muscle definition given that he works out, but he’s a vampire, and building up any sort of mass is pure impossibility.

Jaehyun averts his eyes anyway, out of principle. “Do you have a shirt—”

“I’ll just borrow—” Taeyong is gone and then back in the next moment, holding an oversized t-shirt with both hands that has to be Johnny’s.

Jaehyun tries not to stare, or feel irrationally jealous, when he pulls the thing on. It’s way too big for him, and sits awkwardly across his shoulders, making him look small and surprisingly harmless. “Hyung—” Jaehyun tries to say again, but Taeyong just comes to stand directly in front of him too fast to follow again. Jaehyun doesn’t take a step back, isn’t even shocked, just stares, searching his eyes for answers. “Bed?” he tries.

The smile Taeyong gives him is radiant, the hitch in his breathing when Jaehyun shoves him down onto the couch adorable, and the hand he settles into Jaehyun’s hair charmingly hesitant, after Jaehyun clamors into his lap and closes his eyes. “’s four in the morning,” Jaehyun mumbles into Taeyong’s collar bones. “I’m not nocturnal like all of you. ’s unfair.” His words are slurring together, but he doesn’t care. He knows Taeyong understands.

Taeyong smooths fingers along the slope of Jaehyun’s hairline, and then leaves his hand resting along his shoulder. “Sorry,” he says.

“It’s not your fault,” Jaehyun says. He’s suddenly so tired he can’t think straight. “Who’s Xuxi?” He wants to know the answer, but it’s so very hard to stay awake.

“Lucas. Xuxi. He’s Ten’s—” The words blur together and Jaehyun misses it, fights to get his eyes back open, but can’t be bothered, because it’s suddenly way too bright in the room. Taeyong’s grip tightens on Jaehyun’s head, the world tilts, and then they’re back on the couch in complete darkness, Jaehyun getting the sense that he just got his first experience with traveling by vampire.

“Wow,” he manages sleepily. “Are you going to sparkle, next?”

Taeyong snorts. “Jaehyunnie—”

“What?”

Taeyong just puts his hand in Jaehyun’s hair again. “Go to sleep.”

Jaehyun does.

 


 

The doorbell wakes Jaehyun an indefinite amount of time later. He’s slept with his face buried into Taeyong’s neck in an odd parody of Johnny and Ten in the bathroom, but despite the fact that it can’t have been all that much later—Taeyong had said this Lucas was under an hour away—Jaehyun does feel significantly more well rested. He also feels surprisingly warm, for having been cuddled up with a vampire. And it’s not like Taeyong can get stiff from sitting still for so long.

The doorbell rings again.

Jaehyun stretches to stand, uncertain. This—he doesn’t know if Lucas is a vampire, but if he is, Jaehyun will have to let him in, as Johnny is—Johnny is—Johnny is crossing the room, looking worse for wear, but also not making eye contact.

Jaehyun climbs out of Taeyong’s lap and stares, blinking in the dark. “Hyung—”

“I’ll get it,” Johnny says rather redundantly, still without looking. He reaches the door and pulls it open. “Xuxi. Huang Xuxi. Come in.” The formality of the phrasing belies that Huang Xuxi is a vampire, but even without that, Jaehyun thinks he would have known.

Huang Xuxi is tall—tall enough that he rivals Johnny—and he has large, chocolate brown eyes and dyed gold hair. Everything about him seems massive, from the smile he gives Johnny the moment he sees him, to the hands, stuck pleasantly in his jean pockets. He’s not at all dressed for a red eye flight, but then, he’s a vampire; Jaehyun can see his fangs. “Johnny-hyung,” he says in a surprisingly low voice, and Jaehyun realizes this is the first of them who hasn’t immediately called Johnny “Youngho.”

Who is he, Jaehyun wonders? He can’t be one of Taeyong’s siblings. He looks young, and Taeyong is the baby—Ten said. (Although they’re all vampires. Looks can be deceiving. And Taeyong is older than both Ten and Doyoung, physically speaking.)

“Xuxi,” Johnny says again.

“Lucas,” corrects Xuxi—Lucas—and then tips his head in a circle so he can appraise the apartment. “You didn’t have to invite me in.”

Johnny seems to flinch, but it’s Taeyong who makes a noise. “Must you remind us all?”

Lucas turns his attention to Taeyong and Jaehyun, standing silently next to him, feeling significantly… underdressed, maybe. Under everything. Human. Breakable. “Where is he?”

“The bathroom—my bathroom,” is all Taeyong has time to say, before Lucas is gone in a great gust of wind.

Jaehyun shuts his watering eyes, stumbling, and Taeyong reaches out a hand to steady him. “Yukhei!” He’s raising his voice, slipping into a language that Jaehyun knows can’t be Mandarin, because he’s heard more than a few of his students revert to that. “Close the door,” Taeyong barks at Johnny, who does so with a flinch. “Yukhei!” More of the language, and Taeyong disappears after Lucas.

Jaehyun gives himself a mental talking to, and then crosses to look Johnny in the eye. “Are you okay?” He takes in the exhaustion in Johnny’s shoulders, the bandaging around his neck, which is starting to look wet. “Should it be—”

“Nobody had time to give me blood,” Johnny mutters, putting fingers there and then wincing when it clearly hurts. “Fuck—”

“You didn’t say.” That’s Mark, coming out of the bedrooms to stand in front of Johnny with single minded focus. He’s speaking English. “Johnny—”

“I’m fine—”

Jaehyun’s head hurts, and he decides to leave them to their own devices, heading for the bedrooms—for the bathroom—for Ten and this Lucas. He doesn’t know what he’ll find, but he doesn’t care; needs to see.

Ten is still on the floor in the bathroom and bleeding, but his eyes are the brightest Jaehyun’s seen when he gets there. Doyoung stands next to Taeyong, each of them holding Lucas by an arm. The younger vampire doesn’t appear to be struggling, just seems to be leaning as far as he can into the room with Ten, who seems just as fixated on him.

“Taeyong-hyung,” Lucas is saying, in slurring, messy Korean. “Doyoung-hyung. I’ll be good, promise.”

“Yeah,” Ten says. “Taeyong-hyung. Doyoung-hyung. He’ll be good. Promise.”

Taeyong exchanges a look with Doyoung that leaves even Jaehyun withering, but lets Lucas go. “If you so much as breathe on my bed, I’ll throw you both out,” he says distastefully, but clearly neither of them are listening. Lucas is too busy kneeling on the floor in front of Ten, hands coming out to smooth over his biceps, his shoulders, the hinge of his jaw.

“Ten,” Taeyong barks.

“Yes, Baby Hyung,” says Ten. “I wouldn’t dream.”

“Oh, you would,” Taeyong mutters, before he turns and sees Jaehyun. “Jaehyunnie.”

That catches Lucas and Ten’s attention, drawing them out of each other’s eyes to look instead at Jaehyun, who steps back before he can stop himself.

“Who’s that?” They’re not speaking Korean anymore, but from body language alone, Jaehyun gets the gist, understands the head tilts and eye contact that accompany “nobody” and “Taeyongie’s” without even knowing what the language is. Cantonese, maybe?

“Jaehyun-ah.” Taeyong has taken hold of Jaehyun’s hand and is tugging, insistent, but Jaehyun is too distracted.

Jaehyun can’t look away from Ten’s eyes, inhuman and black as the night they all favor, staring him down. The last thing Jaehyun sees before Taeyong drags him out of the bedroom are Ten’s eyes, glowing like something out of a nightmare, gazing unblinkingly into Jaehyun’s own, as he fastens his teeth to Lucas’ beautifully bared neck and feeds.

Chapter Text

Neither Doyoung nor Taeyong waste any time once they’ve left the bedroom.

“I’ll change our flights,” Doyoung says.

“I’ll take you home,” Taeyong says.

Jaehyun looks between the both of them and decides not to argue. “I need to call my mom,” he says.

“I already called her,” Doyoung says.

Jaehyun opens and closes his mouth. “Okay,” he says. “You know I’m not actually the protagonist in a gothic novel, though, right?” He narrows his eyes. “Do I need to throw a tantrum? Make a fuss? Demand loudly that I won’t be treated like cattle, Taeyong-ah.”

Taeyong flinches, but Doyoung is unbothered. “I am older than even your university, Jeong Yuno,” he says. “Something you will just have to get used to, should you continue to pursue my brother.” And then he is gone, and Jaehyun and Taeyong are alone.

“Wow,” is all Jaehyun manages, turning to look at Taeyong. “Wow—he—”

“Look, can we—” Taeyong finally looks exhausted, like whatever is happening in the bathroom between Ten and Lucas has drained him; like wherever Mark and Johnny have disappeared to hasn’t even crossed his mind; like Doyoung acting like some sort of parent from another era doesn’t bother him. Jaehyun only wants to hold him.

“Take me home, Taeyong-hyung,” he says quietly. “Take me home.”

 


 

Taeyong is not there when Jaehyun wakes up again, which wouldn’t make Jaehyun’s chest hurt, if he hadn’t been there when he went to sleep. Taeyong had stayed without Jaehyun even having to ask. He curled up with him in Jaehyun’s too-small-for-two-grown-men dorm bed, silent and unassuming, and offered no words of comfort or meaningless platitudes. Taeyong had pointedly kept breathing, settled a hand up near Jaehyun’s hair, and somehow kept Jaehyun from having too many nightmares about fangs, and blood, and death. Taeyong’s presence had been soothing in a long line of unsettling events, and so when Taeyong is not there when Jaehyun wakes up again, Jaehyun simply lies still and stares angrily at the ceiling.

He feels codependent and stupid and like throwing a tantrum.

He feels off balance and under the weather and like he dreamed of fangs, and blood, and death.

Then he realizes that while Taeyong may not be with him, Jaehyun is certainly not alone.

There is crying coming from the corner of his room, hushed, and painful, and sounding like whoever it is hates that they can’t stop. Jaehyun sits up so quickly he feels dizzy and turns.

It’s Mark, sitting propped up against the far wall with tears sliding down his face and a shocking bit of bruising covering the knuckles on his right hand, which Jaehyun can see because he’s got it up covering his mouth, holding the lower half of his face to keep quiet. He’s not doing a very good job of it, but he’s also crying, and that’s enough to stun Jaehyun into silence. Mark never cries. Mark gets emotional, storms out of rooms to cool down, and laughs nervously to cover for himself. Mark is stubborn and draws lines in the sand like the best of them, but he doesn’t cry, not like this.

Mark shouldn’t be able to bruise, either.

“Mark?” says Jaehyun. His voice comes out raspy and sleep-worn; like he’s been screaming. He shouldn’t have been. He didn’t have nightmares—doesn’t even remember having any dreams—and if he had, Taeyong would have woken him. Although how long has Taeyong been gone—how long has Mark been here? “Mark? Are you okay? What happened?”

Mark just keeps crying, although he does seem to make a valiant effort to go silent, sitting frozen in the corner against the wall.

Jaehyun is up and out of the bed, crouching down in front of Mark immediately. “You—what happened to your hand?” Jaehyun looks for tissues, gets up to grab the box off his bedside table immediately, and comes back. He kneels on the ground, pulls out a handful, and debates if he’s risking losing a hand by dabbing at Mark’s tears and snot. “Did you punch someone? A wall?”

Up close, it doesn’t really look like Mark punched a person because Jaehyun can see what he thinks is drywall caked into the blood, and, wow—how hard would Mark have had to punch for that to happen? The more shocking thing is the bruising—the bleeding—impressive only because Mark is a vampire, and Jaehyun has never heard of vampires sustaining injuries. Not without extenuating circumstances, like Ten in Taeyong and Johnny’s bathroom.

“Mark?”

Mark rolls his head against the wall so that he can look at Jaehyun, no longer crying, but not at all put together. “I punched a hole in Taeyong-hyung’s apartment,” Mark says finally, sounding somehow even worse than Jaehyun had. “Sorry.”

Jaehyun has no idea why Mark is apologizing to him. “Why are you telling me you’re sorry?” he says, giving up on second guessing himself and shoving the entire wad of tissues into Mark’s face, waiting for him to grab them, and then taking hold of his bleeding hand when he doesn’t. He wraps Mark’s fingers around the tissues, hisses at the extent of the wound, and goes in search of his first aid kit; he is an RA. “Why did you—” Jaehyun breaks off, coming back with the medical supplies, and becomes abruptly aware that he’s being tactless. It must be because of how annoyed he is that Taeyong just left. Mark is clearly distraught. Jaehyun should be nicer about this.

“Why did I punch a hole in Taeyong-hyung’s apartment?” Mark says dryly, taking the time to wipe his eyes and blow his nose, then tossing the tissues into Jaehyun’s trash can with vampiric ease. “I’ve been having a really bad couple of days, Jaehyun-hyung.”

Jaehyun drops the first aid kit on the ground between them, and reaches for his friend, going in for a much needed hug. “Mark—”

Mark puts out a hand and pushes him away, wincing when his fingers bend back. “Sorry,” he says again. “Ow—I think I broke something, and they didn’t heal properly—”

Jaehyun can only stare, grateful for his empty stomach, as Mark grits his teeth and does something with his left hand that leaves his fingers looking significantly less crooked, but also audibly cracks in the silence of Jaehyun’s dorm room. “Um—”

Mark just stares down at his hand, expression shuttered, before glancing at the first aid kid. “Oh, that won’t help,” he says. “I’ll heal eventually, I’m just—” He breaks off when Jaehyun grabs his injured hand anyway, dabbing at the cuts along his knuckles with antiseptic. “Blood loss is extra bad for vampires,” Mark says quietly, staring down at their hands. “Lose enough blood, and plenty of things can hurt us.”

Jaehyun finishes with the antiseptic, but doesn’t set down Mark’s hand, reaching for the antibiotic cream. He knows it’s rather pointless, but he can’t just—he’s certainly not going to offer Mark the vampire cure to all ails, so the human one will have to do. And maybe Mark appreciates it, being treated human. Afterall, he was human just Wednesday. “Like walls?”

“Like walls,” Mark says. “And—b-boyfriends.” The word stutters, and Jaehyun stares.

“Mark—”

“We haven’t broken up,” Mark says quickly, finally tugging his hand away and shifting so that he can avoid eye contact. “We’re just—having a disagreement.” He switches into English in the middle of that sentence, one hand coming up to tug anxiously at his hair.

Jaehyun finds himself repeating the words back under his breath, first in English, and then in Korean. “A disagreement—”

“A disagreement—” Their words overlap, Mark clearly translating, Jaehyun clearly continuing, but they don’t laugh like they normally would. “He’s with Johnny right now—Taeyong-hyung?” says Mark after the silence starts to feel sticky. “If you were wondering.”

Jaehyun was—but he was trying not to, trying to be a good friend. “Mark—”

“Johnny—” Mark’s looking anywhere but Jaehyun again but Jaehyun can’t figure out how to fix that. “Johnny-hyung is planning on turning into a vampire before next year,” finishes Mark. He finally meets Jaehyun’s eyes. It’s devastating.

Jaehyun stares at him and can only hear the words ‘I don’t have a soul?’ ringing in his ears, the memory of Mark’s eyes—too large for his face—and the slowly dawning in his expression as his reality warped forever. “Mark—”

“It’s not my choice to make,” Mark continues, clearly quoting Johnny. “It’s none of my business. I’ve only been involved in this for three days—Johnny has known Taeyong-hyung since he was seven years old.” Mark laughs, but it’s brittle and ugly. “Johnny will be a full year older than Taeyong-hyung next year. Johnny—Johnny is Taeyong-hyung’s. He’s already as good as dead.”

Jaehyun doesn’t know what to do with any of that, but he does know that Mark very much needs a hug. He hauls, ignoring the awkwardness, until Mark is no longer leaning against the wall, and is instead very precariously balanced with most of his face buried up against Jaehyun’s chest. “Mark-yah,” he whispers. “Mark-yah, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. We haven’t talked at all, and someone murdered you.”

For a moment, Mark is utterly, utterly still, and then, so carefully and silently that Jaehyun almost jumps out of his skin, he puts his hands around Jaehyun and holds him back. “I don’t have a soul, Jaehyun-hyung,” says Mark. “My mom—my mom hates me.”

Jaehyun just holds him so tight that it would hurt, if Mark were human, but instead only seems to make him shake harder and hug back not nearly as tight.

 


 

“Your mom doesn’t actually hate you,” Jaehyun says after a few minutes of this, because that much he knows is true. He doesn’t know nearly enough about the other things—that Johnny has known Taeyong since he was seven was new information for Jaehyun as well—and that bit about ownership—Jaehyun doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to judge. Doyoung had said something similar on the drive to the café, maybe? Or implied it, at most. And Johnny had clearly already known all of Taeyong’s family, and intimately, in Ten’s case… Mark’s mother—Mark’s lovely, lovely mother—she’s the safest conversation topic.

“She cried when I told her,” Mark replies, tone revealing nothing. “I didn’t even—I’m in no hurry to talk about my—lack of soul—”

“Mark—”

“But when I told her I was a vampire she cried, Jaehyun-hyung, and then she prayed for me in English, and I had to hang up on her because she wouldn’t stop.” By the end of that sentence Mark is agitated, still leaning into Jaehyun’s chest, but clearly okay enough that Jaehyun could sit back, if he wanted to. He doesn’t.

“It’s a shock, Mark. You—you’d be in shock too. You are in shock too.”

“I’m dead,” Mark says bluntly. “What’s there to be shocked about?”

Jaehyun finally releases him, holding him by the arms instead. “Mark Lee,” he says. “Don’t talk like that.”

Mark raises his chin. “Like what? I am, Jaehyun-hyung. I’m legally dead. My new driver’s license—my school ID—they’re all going to say that: deceased.”

“They’ll say you’re a vampire,” Jaehyun says through his teeth. “They’ll say—”

“August 2, 1999, date of birth,” Mark says cruelly. “June 25, 2020, date of death.”

Jaehyun gives him a shake. “You’re talking,” he says. “You’re breathing”—Mark sucks in a shocked gust of air as Jaehyun speaks, like he hadn’t noticed, had forgotten, or simply needed all the air in order to speak, to smell—“Dead people don’t do that,” Jaehyun finishes. “You’re—a vampire.”

“I don’t have a soul—”

“You had a soul,” Jaehyun snaps. “And Taeyong-hyung is—” His words die in his throat, but he powers on regardless. “He is a good person”—I love him—“and you are too.” He gives Mark another shake and does his best to smile. “Nothing has to change, Mark-yah. You’re just… less breakable than me now.”

The laugh that comes out of Mark’s throat sounds utterly surprised.

“Unless you’ve gone to give blood, or something,” Jaehyun says. “Do vampires give blood? They should. The healing properties alone—”

Mark winces. “That’s—that’s not supposed to be public knowledge—”

Jaehyun waves him away. “Whatever you and Johnny-hyung want to get up to in bed is fine by me, Mark, honestly. Just don’t tell me—”

Instead of cowering or flushing, Mark meets Jaehyun’s gaze. “You want to tell me if Taeyong-hyung told you drinking his blood could heal the bite marks on your throat you wouldn’t jump at the chance?”

Jaehyun feels hot just thinking about it, but perseveres, ignoring him; a teasing Mark is not a fatalistic, depressive Mark, and Jaehyun wants him teasing, wants him alive. “You’re stronger, and faster, and not easily damaged,” is what he says. “Ergo, less breakable.”

“And immortal,” Mark says.

“And immortal,” Jaehyun concedes. “And—”

Mark’s breath hitches, but he just keeps staring at Jaehyun with a very brave smile turning up the corners of his mouth.

“A good person,” Jaehyun finishes. “A kind, caring, loving person.” He smiles back at Mark and finally lets go of his arms. “Your mom loves you, Mark. She just needs some time.”

Mark stares back, then nods. “Thank you, Jaehyun-hyung.”

Jaehyun very suddenly feels embarrassed, but holds his gaze. “You’re welcome,” he says. “Now—about your boyfriend—”

Mark groans, flashing with vampire speed to lie with his head on the pillow of Jaehyun’s bed, one arm covering his eyes, the other clenched in the unmade bed covers. “Please don’t remind me.”

“Johnny-hyung’s right,” Jaehyun says. “It’s really not your decision if he wants to turn into a vampire.”

Mark peels his arm off his eyes and glares at Jaehyun. “Taeyong-hyung will have to murder him,” he says. “You’re okay with that? We’d all be accomplices to first degree murder—”

Jaehyun winces, getting to his feet and turning his desk chair around so he can sit there instead of staying kneeling on the floor. “I don’t think it works like that—”

Mark waves a hand. “Whatever,” he says. “It’s only not that because nobody knows—”

“And because they don’t do it that often,” Jaehyun says. “It’s not like they have to worry about their population decreasing because of old age, or anything.”

Mark looks at him with an odd expression, before dropping his head back against the pillows. “You know sometimes I forget you’re majoring in anthropology,” he mutters.

Jaehyun throws up his middle finger, ears hot. “My point is it’s not technically murder.”

“Technically,” Mark says.

Jaehyun makes to throw the tissue box at him, but Mark would probably just catch it with his vampire reflexes. “Doyoung-hyung said that their family doesn’t do that, also,” Jaehyun says instead. “So I don’t think Taeyong-hyung would murder Johnny-hyung.”

Mark looks back at him. “Hyung,” he says. “Doyoung-hyung just means like Renjun.”

Jaehyun winces. He doesn’t know that much about Renjun, really, but the kid’s accident more than made the news on campus. The rumor was he’d turned into a vampire because he wanted revenge, and there had been a right scare for about a month after that. Now that Jaehyun knows Renjun’s sire is Doyoung… he wouldn’t have thought Doyoung would turn someone for something as petty as revenge, but what does he know? Regardless, if that rumor is true—Mark knows more than Jaehyun does, clearly—Renjun would have only had to ask Doyoung to turn him. “Right—”

“Johnny-hyung is perfectly healthy,” Mark says. “I know. I’ve—” He very quickly stops talking, cheeks burning, and Jaehyun is a really good friend, because he says nothing. That’s mostly because Jaehyun is well and truly traumatized, but it still counts. “There’s no reason for him to drop dead before his twenty-sixth birthday,” Mark continues eventually. “So, I—”

Jaehyun feels his mouth round in realization. “You’re worried he’s going to drive his car into a tree or something,” he says. “Or start a fight. Jump off a building. Get himself killed.”

Mark’s eyes are large. “Or just ask Taeyong-hyung—that would count, wouldn’t it? That’s a choice—”

“I guarantee that no matter what he asks, I have absolutely no plans on turning Youngho,” says a voice, interrupting Jaehyun and Mark’s surprisingly morbid discussion, and they both turn. It’s Taeyong, leaning in the doorway having arrived completely silently, and luckily he’s alone—there’s no Johnny. “He went home,” Taeyong explains when he sees both Mark and Jaehyun’s expressions. “Doyoung texted. He made it. Ten and Xuxi are… not decent, and we only have one guest room, but—”

“I can go back to my own place,” Mark says, already standing next to Jaehyun’s bed. “I should be fine, right? Whoever it is shouldn’t have a reason to go after me—”

“Whoever it is shouldn’t have had a reason to go after Ten,” Taeyong says, expression finally looking worried. He looks like he knows that Mark is changing the subject, but he allows it anyway. He finishes coming into the dorm room, shutting the door behind him. Jaehyun tries not to be too obvious about how that makes him feel—knowing that Taeyong has an invitation; can just come and go as he pleases; make himself at home in Jaehyun’s home. (It’s just a dorm. Mark hadn’t needed permission. Jaehyun should stop being silly.) “Ten doesn’t know who he is,” Taeyong adds. “Or what he wants—but he had to know Ten was a vampire. Ten’s not subtle, and he’s as old as Doyoung.”

Jaehyun feels himself start to latch onto that information but he bites his tongue.

“They were both born in 1796,” Taeyong tells Jaehyun with a carefully hidden smile. “For reference. And they died in 1820—”

“Two hundred years ago,” Jaehyun says. “Wow—”

“I’m staying here,” Taeyong says, looking at Mark and speaking over Jaehyun. “You’re welcome to my bed—Doyoungie’s on the couch.” He almost sounds gleeful, and Jaehyun realizes that he and Doyoung have been siblings for more than a hundred years. “We’re flying later today. Three p.m.,” Taeyong continues, looking apologetic. “A vampire flight, but before sundown. Doyoung wants us home before Monday.”

“Thank you,” Mark says, shifting to go. “Hyung—”

Taeyong has a hand on Mark’s shoulder all of a sudden, but unlike Jaehyun, Mark doesn’t flinch. “Go easy on him, Mark-yah,” Taeyong says quietly. “He’s spent his whole life making himself a part of my family.”

Mark flinches.

“You were supposed to be his,” Taeyong continues, voice so quiet now that Jaehyun has to strain to hear him. “Just his. And now—”

“I’m yours,” Mark says.

Jaehyun feels his nails involuntarily bite into both palms.

“Do you love him?”

Mark stares back at Taeyong, enraged. “Of course—”

“Tell him that,” Taeyong continues, undeterred. “Tell him that will never change—not when he’s thirty—forty—fifty, and you are—”

“Not yet twenty-one—uh, twenty-two,” Mark says. “Fuck.” He stares down at his feet, features twisted into despair.

Taeyong doesn’t answer, just keeps staring with his hand on Mark’s shoulder.

“Make a Lord of the Rings joke,” Jaehyun finally offers into the silence.

Mark and Taeyong both turn to stare at him.

“Tell him…” Jaehyun searches for the words. “‘It is mine to give to whom I wish,’ or whatever.”

Mark’s mouth has fallen open.

“Are you implying that Mark is an elven princess, Jaehyun-ah?” says Taeyong.

Jaehyun feels his cheeks burn. “I’m implying Johnny-hyung is the King of Gondor,” he says. “That’s flattering. Johnny-hyung will be flattered.”

Taeyong looks so stunning, smiling at Jaehyun like that. “And what about you?” he says.

Jaehyun blinks. “Me?”

Taeyong has let go of Mark and is coming closer now, gliding across the floor with unfairly graceful steps. It’s like he’s not even making noise; like the only proof he’s here is the fact that Jaehyun is seeing him, has kissed him, thinks maybe it’d be okay to say he loves him once they’ve dated for long enough to make that socially acceptable. “You’re human, too,” Taeyong says. “I’m—immortal, too. I will always be not yet twenty-seven.”

Jaehyun hadn’t thought about that. Hadn’t really gotten beyond dating Taeyong that one time, but now it’s all he can think about. Being thirty, forty, fifty, and Taeyong still perpetually twenty-six, a statute, frozen in time. Jaehyun… Jaehyun wants Taeyong for as long as he can have him—until he’s thirty, forty, fifty, ninety, even—but Jaehyun… hadn’t thought about it.

Taeyong comes to a stop in front of him, a hand extended so that when Jaehyun looks up to keep eye contact, he can rest a thumb against Jaehyun’s chin. “Well?”

“I—” Jaehyun says, and then shuts his eyes, shocked, as Taeyong bends to kiss him. It’s a chaste kiss, sweet and soft and very much like something out of a storybook, with immortal beings and their human, already dying lovers, but Jaehyun still feels guilty for indulging, because Mark—

Mark is gone, when Jaehyun opens his eyes. Left out the open window, which blows a breeze into the room, and makes Jaehyun’s blinds rock back and forth.

“Hyung,” Jaehyun says, staring at the ebb and flow of the fabric. “Do you think it matters, that vampires don’t have a soul?”

Taeyong is silent for a long, long time and then he sighs, going to take Mark’s place in Jaehyun’s bed, staring up at the ceiling and resting his heads on his hands. “What we feed on is… more than just blood,” he says finally. “It’s… it’s not the soul, but—”

“It’s life force?” Jaehyun says, getting out of the desk chair and crawling back onto the bed as well, stretching out with his head on the pillow right next to Taeyong’s.

Taeyong turns to look at him, bemused. “Yeah,” he says. “Life force.”

Jaehyun thinks back to all the times he’s seen Mark eat, how Johnny held his hand. “So—”

Taeyong reaches out to interlace their hands, cutting off Jaehyun’s question before it can go much of anywhere. “I don’t really know,” he says. “But I think… There’s something special in sire bonds,” he says. “Blood from other vampires doesn’t do anything for us. Not in the same way it does when we drink from humans. Blood is healing generally, but for example Doyoung wouldn’t do anything for me—I’d need Yunho-hyung’s. There’s just no…” He trails off, clearly searching for words.

“No… life force?” Jaehyun offers, more focused on the rub of Taeyong’s thumb against his and the coolness of his impossibly perfect skin. Jaehyun may be paler than Taeyong is, and isn’t that something.

“No soul,” Taeyong breathes, and Jaehyun looks at him. He very quickly releases Jaehyun’s hand, looking embarrassed and away. “That’s my theory, anyway.”

Jaehyun nods, then pauses. “So is Lucas—”

“Lucas is my nephew.” Taeyong’s pulling an odd face. “Ten has five children, and Xuxi is his third oldest.” His lips twist. “Or joint third, I guess—they like to call themselves twins.” Jaehyun has no idea what Taeyong is talking about but Taeyong has already moved on. “His blood won’t heal Ten.”

“So then why—”

“Honestly, I think that’s just how they say hello,” Taeyong says, but he sounds apologetic, so Jaehyun decides to let it go. He flicks his eyes over to his alarm clock, and groans. It’s only just five a.m.—Jaehyun has only slept for an hour—and his eyes hurt. “Go to sleep, Jaehyunnie.” Taeyong has gone back to staring at the ceiling, and Jaehyun stifles a yawn. “I’ll be here in the morning. We can trade off.”

“I look forward to watching you sleep for once,” Jaehyun mumbles, but he’s already well on his way back to sleep. He doesn’t notice that Taeyong hadn’t answered his question about if it mattered that vampires lacked a soul.

 


 

Jaehyun sleeps until it is nearly nine in the morning, and when he wakes up, Taeyong is still there, lying with his head on the pillow and his eyes shut. He looks peaceful, his chest is not rising and falling, and Jaehyun has to fight the urge to wake him.

Nocturnal, he reminds himself. Crepuscular. He sits up in bed, stretches out the kinks in his neck, and grabs his phone.

He has texts from Mark and Doyoung: I’m okay, Jaehyun-hyung, from Mark and Mark fought me for the couch and won, from Doyoung. He also has a flight itinerary from Doyoung, copied to his email just in case. Gimpo Airport to Haneda Airport, on a clearly vampire flight, and first class on top of that. Jaehyun stares down at it, trying to remember how to breathe. He didn’t know Taeyong’s family lived in Tokyo. He didn’t know Taeyong’s family flew first class. He should have assumed—the Prince of Seoul, the papers called him.

He certainly looks like a prince, laid out on Jaehyun’s bed like something out of a fairytale.

Jaehyun bites his lip and sets down his phone. He needs to shower.

Afterwards, he goes back to his room to make good on his promise to stare at Taeyong, uneasy and anxious despite himself. There’s nothing they can do until later, because Mark, Doyoung, and Taeyong are asleep. He doesn’t know where Ten is, but Johnny has let him know that he went out with Lucas early that morning—the only one of them to tell Jaehyun anything useful.

Tell Taeyongie Ten took Lucas out hunting, Johnny’s text message says, time stamped close to four-thirty a.m. Also, thanks for likening me to a King of Men. Does this make you Gimli? You’re certainly short enough.

Fuck you, Jaehyun replies, and grins when Johnny reads it. At least he’s not the only human awake. Hey, so, about Taeyongie-hyung’s family.

That’s cheating, Jaehyun-ah, says Johnny. You’ll have to do your ‘meet the parents’ all on your own.

I already know how old Taeyong-hyung is now, though, Jaehyun replies, more than a little petulantly. What’s to stop me from searching for them online?

Instead of joking in response, Johnny actually seems subdued. I really wouldn’t do that, Jaehyun.

Jaehyun’s stomach twists itself into knots.

Yunho-hyung is—Johnny’s message comes through disjointed, like he didn’t really intend to send it, and is only clarifying instead of deleting because Jaehyun saw and read it—Old.

Careful, I’ll tell Taeyongie-hyung you said that about his—Jaehyun thinks about Taeyong’s careful aversion to calling Yunho anything other than “Yunho-hyung,” and Ten’s insistence on calling the other vampire “Mom”—about Yunho-hyung.

He was born in 1586, Johnny says point blank. He died in 1613.

1586. That would make him nearly five hundred. Jaehyun feels a little faint. Right, he says, and decides to change the subject. Uh, any advice for my sleep schedule? I’m assuming none of Taeyong-hyung’s family is on a human schedule.

Johnny sounds apologetic even through the phone. No. It’s going to be a rough couple of days.

Jaehyun casts his gaze back over to Taeyong, whose head has tilted so that his hair halos around on the pillow in a dark fan. It could be worse, he types to Johnny, not really thinking about anything beyond how beautiful Taeyong looks, how—storybook, with white fangs and bloody lips. Except Taeyong’s mouth is clean, pink, and begging to be kissed again. Jaehyun gives his head a shake, cutting those thoughts off at the pass before they can change his body temperature and wake the sleeping vampire in his bed, and then turns his attention back to his phone. What about advice for explaining all of this to my Mom? he asks Johnny, only regretting it a little when he remembers Mark’s own (justifiable) family drama.

I’m afraid I’m no help for you there, either, lol, Johnny says instantly. My mother adores Taeyong.

Jaehyun winces. The problem isn’t his mom liking Taeyong. The problem is the last thing Jaehyun said to her was “Mark is a vampire and I’m going to visit some more friends who are also vampires, but I didn’t fail any of my classes, see you and Dad soon.”

Actually, that’s my advice. Introduce your mom to Taeyongie. Moms love Taeyongie. It’s the fangs. He looks like a particularly cute kitten.

Jaehyun slides his gaze away from the phone to look at the vampire in question. It’s not a bad comparison—Taeyong is at present, curled into the sun much like Jaehyun imagines a cat—but he’s not sleeping with his mouth open, so Jaehyun can’t see his fangs.

Anyway, gtg. Mark’s waking up.

It’s not even 10.

Mark’s a baby vampire, says Johnny. He’s still mostly on a human sleep schedule. We’re going to have more make up sex now.

Hyung!

You asked!

I did not!

Johnny just laughs, a long string of kieuks, and Jaehyun shoves the phone away, cheeks flushing. Well. He supposes he’s glad that Mark and Johnny figured things out, but he absolutely could have lived without that information. As a distraction, Jaehyun dries his hair, towel drying as quickly as he can, trying not to think too much about other things. Not Mark and Johnny and their reconciliation, but about Ten and Lucas. Doyoung said they weren’t flying back with them, since Ten had to stay on campus and handle things. But now that Jaehyun knows what he knows—that Lucas’ blood won’t be able to heal Ten’s injuries… “Hunting,” Doyoung said. Jaehyun hides a shiver behind his towel and damp hair.

He doesn’t know how he feels about all of that.

He calls his mom.

It goes about as well as Jaehyun had expected, but she doesn’t fight him on flying to Tokyo with Mark. She’s spoken to Mark’s mom in the time between calls, but she refuses to tell Jaehyun anything. Then she puts his dad on the phone, and that conversation is much less easy. Jaehyun’s father loves him, but Jaehyun’s father has ideas about what the first and only son should do and shacking up with a vampire isn’t one of them. Nobody asks Jaehyun if he has plans to live forever, but Jaehyun hears it in every moment of silence regardless. His mom gets back on the line in time to read him the riot act for all sorts of things, including but not limited to, not eating enough. She insists on meeting Jaehyun on campus to help him clean out his dorm so he can go home for summer session, and hangs up before Jaehyun can convince her otherwise, or get a word in edgewise.

Taeyong is leaning up against the headboard with both eyes open when Jaehyun finishes putting away the phone, gazing sleepily at Jaehyun and breathing again, getting ready to speak.

“Did we wake you—sorry—”

“I don’t remember my mother, really,” Taeyong says instead, with a surprising amount of calmness for such a sentence, Jaehyun thinks. “She died.” His gaze goes far away. “Not of old age—none of my family did. There was a robbery, we walked in at the wrong time—” He stops talking, seems to come back to himself, and smiles at Jaehyun like it’s just a story, and not a terrible, terrible memory. “I was spared because I was an apprentice to Yunho-hyung,” Taeyong continues. “I know.” His eyes crinkle up at the corners, but Jaehyun isn’t thinking about all the jokes he could make about Taeyong’s vampire father being his former master. Jaehyun is hearing the words ‘she died’ on a horrible, horrible loop. “They told me it was because I belonged to the bloodsucker,” Taeyong says. “After they shot my parents. My sister. So I—I went where I belonged—” He seems to notice he’s been picking at a string in Jaehyun’s comforter, unraveling it seemingly without even thinking, but because he’s a vampire—because he’s something not quite human—it’s doing more damage than any person could. He sets it guiltily away, both hands raised. “Sorry—”

“Don’t worry about it,” says Jaehyun. “Taeyongie-hyung—”

“They were monsters,” Taeyong says, with another sad little smile. “And they died. But I—I became a mon—”

Jaehyun throws his towel in his face, getting him right between the eyes, and trying not to laugh at the startled shape his lips end up in. He’s not really amused—more just unequipped the deluge of information. You’re not a monster, he wants to say, but he doesn’t know if it would be accepted. Hence—towel.

It has the desired effect. Taeyong goes completely silent, mouth falling open around empty air. The towel stays covering his face, and Jaehyun can’t help but break out into giggles despite himself. Taeyong just looks so funny, covered entirely with terry cloth. He looks so human. So safe.

“Jaehyunnie.” Taeyong sounds like he can’t believe it.

“We have got to work on your bedside manner,” Jaehyun tells him. “Doyoung-hyung said you hadn’t been on a date in centuries—”

“I’ve only been around for one century. And when did he say that?”

“—and it certainly shows,” Jaehyun finishes, like he hadn’t even spoken. “Murder. The existence of the human soul. Your tragic past—”

Taeyong peeks out from behind the towel with wide eyes and a gaping mouth. “My tragic past—”

“Boo hoo.” Jaehyun mimes crying. “You’re a hundred-year-old vampire prince.”

Taeyong’s cheeks burn. “I didn’t choose that nickname—”

“Your life is so hard.” Jaehyun’s aware he’s laying it on thick, but the alternative is holding Taeyong, crying on Taeyong—asking for things he knows Taeyong would give him but shouldn’t give Jaehyun, after only one date, one kiss. Taeyong would tell Jaehyun how he died—how to kill him—and Jaehyun wouldn’t be worthy of such trust. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

“Jaehyun-ah.” Taeyong sets the towel down and moves, one second lying in Jaehyun’s bed, he next pinning Jaehyun to his bed without any effort at all.

“I can think of plenty of people who have it worse than you,” Jaehyun continues, with a voice that unfortunately doesn’t hide how affected by it all that he is. Taeyong is cool and beautiful and lying entirely on top of Jaehyun, their bodies all the way lined up, their mouths, barely inches apart. “Wangja-yah.”

Taeyong’s eyes go dark and he kisses Jaehyun quiet, but that had been Jaehyun’s goal anyway, so he’s not too bothered. His looming meet-the-parents when his mother arrives on campus to help pack his things is long forgotten, buried under the heat of Taeyong’s tongue, and the knowledge that in under twenty four hours, Jaehyun will be meeting Taeyong’s parents, one of whom was born in 1586.

 


 

Flying first class is an experience in and of itself, but Jaehyun unfortunately sleeps through most of it. Johnny is disapproving, poking Jaehyun with first only toes, then a whole foot, and finally having to be wrestled away by a snappish looking Taeyong; Jaehyun sleeps through all of that, only waking long enough to pout in Johnny’s direction and to catch a glimpse of Taeyong in full glory, tousled because even vampires are affected by planes, and baring all of his fangs. None of the vampires are sleeping and they’re the ones who ought to be tired at quarter to four in the afternoon, but it’s Jaehyun whose sleep schedule that’s been irrevocably damaged, and Jaehun can’t keep his eyes open.

He wakes when Johnny shakes him on the shoulder, two and a half hours later, as they’re almost landing in Tokyo. Jaehyun has never been to Tokyo before. He fills out the immigration form and tries not to too obviously read over Mark’s shoulder as his friend does the same. It’s different—the thing they give to vampires—and Jaehyun can’t help but be curious. Mark has to put down a vampire point of contact, and Jaehyun tries not to be bothered by how he writes Lee Taeyong without pause. Jaehyun has nothing but nerves and a few changes of clothing, so he declares nothing, copies down the address Johnny passes over, and sets down the pen. He yawns. It’s nearing six p.m., but everyone else looks sprightly.

“You’re tired,” Johnny says, as their plane starts its descent. “I told you.”

Jaehyun glares. “I slept four hours this morning,” he rasps. “I’m not like you.”

Johnny narrows his eyes. “Summer session has made you soft, and technically it hasn’t even started yet.”

Mark is having a discussion with Taeyong and Doyoung in quiet, even tones, but Johnny can’t stop glancing at him, and so Jaehyun follows suit. It seems like they’re going over rules and listing family members, because Jaehyun catches an earful of what has to be all the names of Ten’s many children.

Jaehyun fights another yawn and scratches at the side of his nose, turning his attention back on Johnny. “Is Taeyongie-hyung’s whole family going to be there?” he asks.

Johnny’s eyes dart back toward Mark again, but he answers Jaehyun regardless. “God, I hope not.”

There’s a startled burst of laughter from the trio of vampires, but Taeyong seconds Johnny’s exclamation. “Amen.” He pauses, clearly watching Mark. “Sorry, is that blasphemous? Because by definition, I kind of am—”

“I’m not going to break, Taeyong-hyung,” Jaehyun hears Mark mutter, but with humor, so he doesn’t feel the need to look.

“Yunho-hyung and Changmin-hyung have places all around the world,” Johnny explains, still watching his boyfriend with one eye. “Most vampires do—Boa—n-noona does, I’d guess.” Johnny looks distinctly uncomfortable, like mentioning Kwon Boa is something he’s not entirely used to, which Jaehyun gets. Taeyong and Doyoung are a big deal because Yunho-hyung is a big deal, but Kwon Boa… Kwon Boa is a legend—the daughter of Lee Sooman herself. Jaehyun can’t imagine being on a first name basis with her, but he supposes Johnny must be, because of Taeyong.

Johnny somehow manages to keep talking with only that one minor pause. “The Tokyo house has been around for ages,” he explains. “Taeyongie grew up there—” He shakes his head. “Sorry, grew up there once he was twenty-six and immortal.”

“Sixty years,” Taeyong says, without looking and with one middle finger still raised pointedly in the air. “And we went back and forth a lot between Seoul and Tokyo. ‘Business.’” The obscenity morphs into air quotes easy enough. “‘Empire building.’ ‘Take your child to work day, vampire style.’”

“You were twenty-six,” retorts Johnny, laughing.

Taeyong raises the other middle finger this time.

“Shockingly, the place is older than he is,” Johnny finishes, in a bad attempt at a whisper. “And it’s huge. It even has a garden and everything—there probably won’t be everyone, but it certainly could hold them all.” Johnny stops talking, and then they’re just silence, save for Mark and Doyoung, still quietly going over names.

There’s Lee Donghyuck, Xiao Dejun, Huang Renjun—Doyoung even mentions Lee Jeno, and Jaehyun has to admit Taeyong really is related to most of the vampires at SM U. The list goes on and on, and Jaehyun stops counting somewhere around ten—the number, not the vampire, who comes several more names later. Five kids, Jaehyun remembers, including Lucas. He thinks Doyoung is going in order of physical age until he skips to Nakamoto Yuta, Ten the vampire, and Moon Taeil.

“Taeil-hyung’s the eldest; he was born in the seventeenth century,” interjects Johnny, still watching Mark with one eye.

“With the hair,” Taeyong adds, and gestures about his face. Jaehyun tries to remember what people looked like in the 1600s, and tries not to picture Taeyong in that era. Taeyong wasn’t the one born then.

Mark gazes between them all with large eyes, captivated, but clearly still nervous.

“He’s a singer,” Doyoung continues telling him, with a sigh. “The singer—Haechannie only asked to be turned because of that.”

Taeyong’s pulling a face, clearly not eager to see this “Haechan.”

Jaehyun doesn’t recognize the name from the list but is distracted by the fact that he’s started memorizing them as well. He’s not the one about to join the family like Mark is, but he’s… dating the baby, apparently.

Fuck.

Not only is Jung Yunho four-hundred-and-thirty-four years old—Jaehyun did the math; he counted—but Taeyong is also his youngest. The only one who could wrestle Ten’s death dream from him, Ten had said. Jaehyun is so totally screwed.

“The place is huge,” Johnny offers again, when Jaehyun manages to look him in the eye. “And Taeyongie hasn’t been home for years, so it’s likely they’ll all come.”

Jaehyun feels his stomach turn in knots.

“Not the—the babies, though,” Johnny concedes. “Most of them are still living with their families.” He shoots Mark a barely-there glance, then adds, “We’re not complete monsters.”

Jaehyun files that away under things to hug Mark about.

“And Jeno won’t be there,” Doyoung offers, taking a break from feeding Mark information to join the conversation.

Mark takes full advantage of the lull, scribbling on borrowed paper that he probably won’t even need to consult later—Mark has always been remarkably good at memorizing; it comes with wanting to one day be a musician.

“He’s on babysitting duty—so he’s home for the summer with Jaemin,” Doyoung continues, with a surprisingly mischievous smirk. “Jaemin is Jeno’s, so teaching him is his responsibility. It’s not like he’s a child, anymore. He’s a well past a hundred.”

Jaehyun blinks, putting all of those bits of information together. Lee Jeno, related to Taeyong, sophomore at SM U, more than a hundred. Good to know.

“It helps that a bunch of us have all paired off,” Taeyong offers, finally, once the silence gets a little uncomfortable. “We don’t need quite so many beds.”

Taeyong says that last bit with a particularly teasing glance at Doyoung, who stumbles through the name “Kim Jungwoo” with only minimal fuss, and then raises his middle finger in response. Whoever this Kim Jungwoo is must be someone important to Doyoung—but also… related to Doyoung?

Jaehyun shoots Johnny a look.

“Vampires are very incestuous,” Johnny says, without any shred of shame. “It comes with the territory. Getting bitten feels very, very nice.”

Jaehyun thinks back to that afternoon with Taeyong’s tongue in his mouth, to the bathroom with Taeyong’s fang under his finger, and swallows. Fair. Very, very fair.

Mark seems to have finished with his memorizing, and now has free reign to turn flushing cheeks on Johnny. “Hyung!”

“You’re not the only one in a cross-species relationship,” says Johnny—“Cross species,” mutters Doyoung, bemused.—“Forgive me for wanting to connect with my good pal, human Jeong Jaehyun.” Johnny reaches out to put an arm around Jaehyun, awkward because the aisles are so wide, and Jaehyun’s still in his seatbelt, having been too tired to wait for the fasten your seatbelt sign to go off before heading off to dreamland. “I’m just trying to give him a heads up. You’re not the only one angling for a bite—”

The plane dips, the aforementioned fasten your seat belt sign flashing twice before lighting up, and one of the flight attendants wanders down the aisle with undead grace, letting everyone know they’ll be landing soon with lilting, even tones.

Mark shoots the man a look, before tilting his head towards Taeyong. “Is that one of the perks of being part of your family?”

Jaehyun watches Johnny buckle his seatbelt and strap in without comment.

“Cause it might be worth it, despite the fame.”

“A coincidence,” Taeyong says, like Mark was at all being serious about thinking that Taeyong could somehow influence the plane to avoid a conversation. Even vampire pilots have to obey the rules of the sky, and contrary to the reverent way Doyoung and Taeyong have been treated, they aren’t Jung Yunho, Kwon Boa, or any of their extended family.

“Mhmm.” Mark looks smug and also is most definitely trying to distract Taeyong from Johnny’s latest verbal transgression, the sap.

Jaehyun staples his fingers in front of him and puts in his AirPods and breathes, shoulders up to his ears, and bracing for landing. Bracing to meet the family, all maybe nineteen of them, or twenty.

 


 

The house is huge. It’s much less a house than it is a grounds, and the sort of thing Jaehyun’s brain wants to call a compound, although that invokes other sorts of imagery, and he’s hesitant to apply it to something so… rustic… ancient… historic. It looks like it’s been there forever, the landscaping and the trees making it look like the rest of the world sort of sprung up around it. It looks like something out of a period drama, and while Jaehyun knows that none of Taeyong’s family are what he’d call technologically challenged—Doyoung and Taeyong’s phones case in point—it still feels a little like stepping back in time when they arrive. They got a car from the airport that came complete with one Nakamoto Yuta, who stood about as tall as Mark and Taeyong, and had short, clearly dyed orange hair.

Yuta was the first of Taeyong’s siblings with unnatural coloring and he grinned at Taeyong with a mouth made up of entirely of fangs, before attaching himself to Mark’s side like some sort of parasite, unwilling to let go even when Mark tried valiantly to be polite about extricating himself.

Mark was “cute,” and “the new baby,” and Yuta “didn’t know when to leave well enough alone,” according to Doyoung, whose point was completely disproven when Yuta released Mark immediately in favor of tormenting Doyoung. Doyoung was a nagger—point to Yuta—and Mark wasn’t really upset; just brand new—point to Doyoung, since Jaehyun could tell that Mark actually was a little unsettled, but would get over that fast; Yuta was funny and nice, and already Jaehyun could tell he might be his favorite. He likes Doyoung well enough, but Yuta feels safer, since Ten still scares Jaehyun a little, and Doyoung and Taeyong’s Tom and Jerry act is the sort of thing that makes Jaehyun think he’d be better off avoiding taking any side at all, even if the argument is something like “which one of us has the better favorite flavor of ice cream,” or whatever the vampire equivalent.

Now that they are at the house, Yuta feels less safe, but that might just be the product of circumstances, and nothing he’s done specifically. He flits between Mark and Johnny like he can’t decide who’s more fun to ruffle and rile up, and laughs when Johnny turns to Doyoung and says, quite loudly, “It’s unfortunate that you’re the one who broke first and made babies. I would much rather have had you stopping by unannounced than him.”

“Made babies,” Yuta crows, clearly amused. “Youngho-yah. Really? And you sure?”

Doyoung raises his nose in his air and looks vaguely insulted, but just says very simply, “You can rescind your invitation any time.”

“And I’ll just pout at Taeyongie until he makes Youngho reinstate it,” says Yuta happily, clearly unbothered. “You know I’m his favorite.”

“You are not,” Doyoung mutters, but he doesn’t look quite so sure.

Jaehyun watches it all from behind Taeyong’s shoulder, trying not to act too much like a child hiding behind his mother—an embarrassing comparison on good days, and made worse by the fact that just moments before Yuta’s arrival, Taeyong had been doing obscene things to crappy airport food, and Jaehyun had been speechless and aroused. Jaehyun shouldn’t be thinking of Taeyong in any sort of familial way, first because that’s weird, and second because… if he thinks about it, it’s no small leap towards thinking about becoming a vampire, and Jaehyun promised his mom—promised himself. Jaehyun doesn’t want to outlive his parents anyway, and it’s sort of given even as a human. (Although some part of him thinks at least he wouldn’t be alone; he’d have Taeyong, and Mark, and most likely Johnny, who Jaehyun thinks Taeyong and Mark are misguided if they think they can somehow keep him from something once he’s made up his mind.) Being a vampire… it wouldn’t be so bad.

Jaehyun still keeps half behind Taeyong anyway, only daring to watch—only having dared to say two sentences to Yuta—“I’m Jeong Jaehyun. Nice to meet you.”—with bowing, and very little eye contact, and shyness that Jaehyun has never had before.

Yuta and Doyoung have dissolved into very friendly bickering about Taeyong, who keeps by Jaehyun’s side without comment, although when Jaehyun risks a glance, he can see faint pink around the tips of his ears. “Johnny wasn’t kidding about you being the baby, huh,” Jaehyun can’t help but whisper, even though he knows there’s no such thing as privacy in a yard full of vampires.

Doyoung and Yuta have the decency not to comment, but Taeyong still flinches like they have anyway. “Yunho-hyung turned me the same year all of them ‘started having babies.’” He makes air quotes and looks utterly unimpressed by having to utter those words but doing it anyway. “I’m—”

Whatever he’d intended to say cuts off abruptly with the arrival of a car—a taxi—weaving slowly up to where Yuta’s left the—well—it’s a limo, Jaehyun should—Jaehyun should just call it what it is. Yuta showed up at the airport in a limo and Doyoung and Taeyong didn’t even bat an eyelash; Jaehyun’s been joking about how Taeyong’s a literal prince, but he hadn’t realized just how accurate such a nickname was until he was faced with the vampire’s… castle.

“No way.” Jaehyun flinches when Yuta is very suddenly right next to him and Taeyong, but Taeyong doesn’t even look, eyes fixed on the taxi as well.

“No way,” Taeyong repeats.

Jaehyun blinks, but then Doyoung is frozen next to the two of them, his mouth having fallen open. “Yes way,” he says.

“What—”

The taxi slows, the door opens, and a man steps out—a vampire. Jaehyun knows not because he’s starting to unravel the secret (this vampire is, admittedly, very, very pretty, but Jaehyun still doesn’t think it’s fair to make such a statement; beauty is subjective, anyway), but because this is Taeyong’s childhood home, or whatever, and there would be no humans here. That Taeyong, Yuta, and Doyoung each let out audible exhales of air—the name, “Kun,” coming out of Taeyong’s mouth like a plea for water in a desert—only cements the fact.

Kun is slim, attractive, and tall—not as tall as Johnny, but not short either. He’s not smiling and his nose is ever so slightly upturned, but he comes out of the back seat of the taxi with grace, and with confidence. He also has bright blue hair.

“Kun,” Taeyong says again, still like he can’t believe it. “K-Kun.” That’s louder, raised so that Johnny hears, turns away from where he’d been whispering with Mark with his own audible gasp.

“Kun!” Taeyong takes an involuntary step forward

“What did he do to his hair?” Jaehyun hears Yuta breathe—one to talk, given the color of his own hair.

Kun obviously hears as well, but he only smiles, a shy, tentative thing, and goes to lift a hand.

Then the other door slams open, a long, slender leg falls out, and a teenager—because this is a teenager with knobby knees, a too long body, hair flying everywhere—comes out the door. He’s a vampire too, because he gives no illusion of humanity, whirring around the taxi and slamming open the trunk, hauling out two suitcases without even so much as a batted eye, laughing joyously at the look on Kun’s face, then at the taxi cab driver, who doesn’t even wait for his door to close all the way before accelerating, white faced and not smiling. The other vampire doesn’t appear bothered, catching up with the reversing car without any trouble and shutting the door properly, before coming to stand at Kun’s side, eyes wide.

He stares around at the house with his mouth open, words tumbling out in a rapid fire mix of languages—English, Mandarin, and then… Jaehyun squints… German? It sounds angry enough to be German, and Kun doesn’t at all seem phased.

“Yangyang-ah,” he says in perfect, unaccented Korean. “Behave.”

The kid—Yangyang—straightens, shoulders going back, oversized sweatshirt sleeves falling around his wrists before he shoves them back up, and a wide, sunny smile curving up his pretty mouth. He’s got clear skin and dark brows and fangs, not at all hidden. “Hello,” he says politely. “I’m Liu Yangyang. Please take care of me.” And then he bows, almost a full ninety degrees, before darting forward so that he’s directly in front of Yuta, then Doyoung. “You must be Yuta-hyung. Doyoung-hyung.” His brow furrows. “Taeyong-hyung?”

Taeyong has to look up. The kid—Yangyang—is taller than he is.

Jaehyun takes an automatic step back.

“Wow,” says Yangyang, still focused on Taeyong with almost microscopic intensity. “You never come back. What’s the occasion?”

“Yangyang-ah,” barks Kun, and Yangyang disappears. Jaehyun shuts his eyes, but he still gets dizzy, still has to reach out and take hold of Taeyong’s shirt tails, heart pounding.

When he opens his eyes Yangyang is standing at Kun’s side again, but now his gaze is fixed on Jaehyun. “You’re human,” he says, head cocked to one side. “But you’re not Johnny.”

“Johnny-hyung,” Kun corrects carefully, then clears his throat. “Taeyong-ah. Doyoung-ah. Yuta-hyung.”

The three vampires stare.

“This is Liu Yangyang. My—”

“I’m the new baby,” says Yangyang, like he’s imparting a great secret. But then he cocks his head the other way and turns the full force of his gaze on Mark. “Or… not,” he says. “Who are you?”

Mark steps closer to Johnny. “Lee Mark,” he says, eyes narrowed.

“Let’s go inside,” Kun says quickly. He’s got his gaze fixed on Doyoung—on Yuta. “Please?”

Nobody moves.

Chapter Text

Eventually, Jaehyun finds himself standing just inside the entryway with Taeyong at his side. It should be a relief to escape the awkwardness of outside, but inside the house is worse, because inside the house is Yunho-hyung. Yunho-hyungnim. Yunho… abeonim? No. Jaehyun doesn’t know what the proper form of address for a vampire born in 1586 is, but even he thinks calling the man “father” is too far. It feels too much like drinking his soup first, and while Jaehyun is perfectly aware that what he feels for Taeyong isn’t fleeting, he’s not entirely ready to marry himself to the man. Vampire. Like, would that even be possible, first of all? Have there ever been vampire-human marriages? Jaehyun very suddenly can’t remember, but it’s beside the point. He’s stalling.

Yunho-hyung—Jaehyun decides just to think of him as “Yunho-hyung” because it seems safest—is tall, slender, and handsome. He’s got perfect skin and beautiful eyes and he comes out immediately out of the rest of the house to greet them all, leaving Jaehyun very little time to appraise the architecture. Everything has very high ceilings and very little natural light, probably because all of its residents are nocturnal, and have no need for the sun. It feels a lot like stepping into a mausoleum; even more than the outside had felt.

Jaehyun stays one step just behind Taeyong flanked by Doyoung and Yuta, who haven’t stopped abruptly in the almost doorway, and are instead shucking out of their shoes and acting like—well like they live here.

Because they do.

This is Taeyong’s home.

“Taeyongie.” Yunho-hyung has halted in the foyer with his eyes locked only on Taeyong and posture very carefully closed. He has his hands behind him and his head slightly bowed but he still has presence; Jaehyun thinks one would have to be dead not to notice, but then, the dead would notice more, given who he is. Behind Yunho-hyung has to be Shim Changmin, who is taller still, and thinner, with a large mouth, and sharp eyes. Changmin-hyung’s brow is furrowed and his arms are crossed, but he watches Taeyong with the same heightened focus; different from Yangyang’s, but no less unsettling.

Jaehyun knows better than to step back now, but he still feels the urge to do so.

“Taeyong,” Yunho-hyung says again, not moving, not touching Taeyong, but still giving the two characters utter gravity. “You’re here—”

“Yes, this is Mark,” Taeyong says quickly, glancing around rather desperately.

Jaehyun steps to the side to let Taeyong drag his poor best friend inside the house, but stops, mouth round, when he sees just what it is his poor best friend has gotten up to.

Mark is standing outside in the doorway with Kun, Yangyang, and Johnny, but he’s not stepping inside. No, Mark instead has one hand raised in front of him, palm flat against an invisible barrier. “What?” he says.

“Oh, right,” Jaehyun hears Johnny mutter, as the only other human member of their party steps around Mark and Yangyang without any other comment. “Um—”

“Creepy,” Yangyang says, stepping up behind Mark with no care for personal space. He taps his own hand against the barrier, then twists to converse with Kun in rapid fire Mandarin.

“Mark Lee,” Johnny says. “Liu—Liu Yangyang?” He stumbles a little on Yangyang’s name, but the vampire turns a brilliant smile on him regardless, whatever it was he’d been saying to Kun very quickly forgotten.

At Jaehyun’s side, Doyoung mutters out an almost giddy, involuntarily sounding, “Gosh, it’s like he’s a mini Ten,” but then just smiles when Jaehyun glances at him.

“—please come in,” Johnny finishes, and Mark’s hand slides through the nonexistent wall so quickly that he stumbles into the house. “Sorry,” Johnny continues, glancing between Changmin-hyung and Yunho-hyung and bowing. “I forgot—”

“Youngho-yah,” Yunho-hyung says, reaching out a hand to slap Johnny bracingly on one arm. “It’s good to see you.”

“Johnny-hyung’s part of the family,” Taeyong puts in quietly, since everyone is more than distracted by Yangyang, who only seems to be staying out of the house because of the hold Kun now has on his wrist. “And he’s human, so… It’s his home.”

Johnny rubs a hand at the back of his neck and then bends to take off his shoes, reminding Jaehyun to do his same. Neither of them have the privilege of vampire speed, so they end up bent over their laces awkwardly for several minutes, exchanging rueful grins.

“Oh, please, I’ll be good, Hyung, promise,” whines Yangyang, and Jaehyun hears Kun audibly sigh, before the entire house is awash in the sounds of the younger vampire gleefully taking in his new surroundings, interjected intermittently by Kun.

“This is so cool. How long has this house been around—”

“I fed him before we got on the plane. I’m sorry—”

“Fed him?” There’s something sharp about that voice and it’s new, but Jaehyun takes his cues from Johnny and doesn’t rush to stand.

“Sicheng. Hi.” Kun’s voice comes out significantly less composed and in pieces. “No, I—we went hunting.”

“Kun-hyung taught me all of the rules,” Yangyang explains helpfully. “Um.” He pauses, takes in a huge lungful of air, and Jaehyun stands to his full height in time to watch him properly great Yunho-hyung and Changmin—another ninety degree bow, and speech straight out of some sort of period drama.

Yunho-hyung is the first to shoot Kun something of a rueful look, Changmin-hyung a still silent stone wall behind him. “Kun-ah,” he says. “You didn’t need to make him go that far.”

“Oh, I did,” Kun says vehemently. “Yangyang is—”

“A menace,” interrupts Yangyang happily, like he appreciates the word choice. “Kun-hyung says I’m a menace.”

“And I mean it,” Kun tells him, reaching out to ruffle his hair. “You’ll take years off of my life.”

“You’re immortal,” Yangyang retorts immediately. “So am I. Anyway—”

“You knew about him,” says Taeyong suddenly, making them all turn; some of them (Jaehyun) faster than others. He’s staring between Yangyang, Kun, and Yunho-hyung with something hot and furious in his eyes that Jaehyun might call tears, if he wasn’t a vampire. His mouth is parted and his fangs are gleaming twin points. “You—you knew Kun was coming.”

Changmin-hyung finally starts to take a step forward, arms uncrossing. “Taeyong.”

“That’s why you sent Xuxi to Ten,” Taeyong continues, pulling his arm away before the other vampire can say anything. “That’s why you sent Ten to m—to us.”

Yunho-hyung’s eyes flash, but the tone he uses is reasonable. “I sent Ten because something needed to be done,” he says evenly. “Lucas was just… a bonus.”

“A bonus,” Taeyong spits, lips starting to pull back. “And I suppose Ten being unable to fly was a bonus as well.”

Jaehyun feels confused, but before he can say anything, Johnny is putting a hand on his arm. “Come on,” he says quietly. “This will go all night.”

Kun has stepped forward in parody of Changmin, but his movement keeps Taeyong’s attention, an odd, painful look exchanging between them.

“Kun,” Taeyong says.

“Hyung, it’s fine.”

“It’s not fine—”

“Come on,” Johnny says again, tugging Jaehyun harder. “It’s late. We need to get as much sleep as possible.”

“But it’s not even seven,” Jaehyun protests, even as he lets Johnny start to lead him further into the house. “I napped on the plane.”

“And you’ll nap again now,” Johnny says. “I will too. Just an hour, Jaehyun-ah. they’ve got enough to keep them occupied until then.”

Taeyong and Kun are talking to each other in Mandarin again, but no one else seems too bothered. Poor Mark is trapped beside Taeyong, but Jaehyun knows better than to try to rescue him as well. He still looks rather desperately at Johnny anyway.

“I’ll get him after I’ve shown you to your room,” Johnny assures him. “Believe me, I wouldn’t wish that”—Taeyong seems to have relaxed slightly but Doyoung has very clearly ended up on his side and the newcomer—Sicheng—on Kun’s and in between it all, Changmin-hyung is staring between them all with hard eyes, one hand resting protectively on Yunho-hyung’s hip— “on anyone,” Johnny finishes.

He and Jaehyun round a corner, and Johnny heads immediately down a thin corridor, not even looking at the paintings lining the walls—the art that has to be older than both of them combined. Jaehyun’s an anthropology major. His brain can’t keep up, torn between salivating after the vampire he’s dating, and the history his vampire’s father keeps in his Tokyo guest house.

“What are they fighting about, anyway?”

Johnny winces, but doesn’t speed up or lower his voice. “Kun—” He breaks off, clearly not sure. “I don’t know the details,” Johnny ends up saying. “But Kun and Lucas are having a—a disagreement.”

Jaehyun blinks. He hadn’t caught Lucas’ name at all in all the shouting, only—

“Ten’s collateral,” Johnny adds, clearly catching the thought before Jaehyun has a chance to voice it. “And Taeyong loves Ten, for all he makes a fuss.”

Jaehyun tilts his head.

“Doyoung is technically Changmin-hyung’s,” Johnny adds. “So is Yuta, and Minho.” He catches Jaehyun’s eye, and grins. “The real baby.”

Jaehyun does his best to commit the information to memory, already feeling a headache forming in his temples.

“Doyoungie and Taeyongie are close, but Ten has always been the big brother.” Johnny stops them in front of a room and nudges the thing open with a toe. It’s nothing like Jaehyun had expected; there’s a sliding screen, but all of the appliances are modern—a flat screen, a desktop that makes Jaehyun’s fingers itch to play Overwatch, and an impressive array of shelves, lined floor to ceiling with music—CDs, records, LPs that make Jaehyun’s throat water.

“Kun asked Yunho-hyung to send him away to Europe on business,” Johnny finishes finally, not looking at much of anything. His gaze catches on the bed, which is made, and the assortment of stuffed animals sitting up by the pillow, mouth parting almost involuntarily, and fingers shifting in the air like he’d pet the first of them—a yellow elephant wearing a pink bow. “No way—” He stops talking before Jaehyun can comment. “Yunho-hyung did that,” he tells Jaehyun. “And then he commanded Ten not to follow him.”

Jaehyun stares. “Commanded?” he can’t help but ask, already guessing at the answer, and feeling an odd dread settle into his stomach, the more he learns.

“Commanded,” Johnny says. “Sires can do that to their children, and only their children. Ten… can’t follow Kun, and Xuxi”—Johnny’s expression goes pained—“Well, Xuxi won’t talk about why he stopped following Kun.”

“Yunho-hyung sent Ten and Lucas to SM U because he knew that Kun was coming home,” Jaehyun realizes.

“Ding ding ding—victory,” Johnny says quietly. “Yangyang’s clearly Kun’s.” He doesn’t elaborate but he doesn’t need to; Jaehyun had figured that much out. “It’s only proper for him to bring him home to meet the family.” He quirks a lip. “Taeyongie had to do the same with me, and I’m human.”

Jaehyun crosses his arms. “What’s up with that, anyway?” he asks, never one to miss an opportunity; Johnny even invited the question. “How is this your home?”

Johnny gives Jaehyun a look that makes Jaehyun regret asking, then says with no small amount of glee, “I’d been trying to convince Taeyong to agree to turn me for years and he kept saying ‘no,’ but after I had a threesome with Ten and Xuxi, he couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.”

Jaehyun could have done without that imagery. “Right,” he says.

Johnny’s lips twist. “I know he thinks I’m going to force the issue,” he continues. “And I know what you and Mark talked about—”

“It’s your soul, Johnny-hyung,” Jaehyun feels compelled to point out. “It wouldn’t just be going to—to heaven, or whatever. He’d have to eat it—”

“And something of it would stick around in him.” Johnny waves a hand. “What do you think sire bonds are?”

Jaehyun feels his eyes widen, the conversation shockingly similar to the one he’d had with Taeyong just before the flight. And to think the two of them are on opposing sides of the issue. “Wha—”

“Never mind. It’s just my theory. But I’ve already made up my mind.”

Jaehyun’s starting to feel like he’s gotten whiplash and moves closer to the bed.

“You’ll understand once you’re all the way in love with Taeyongie,” Johnny continues flippantly, with seemingly no awareness of the fact that it’s only by the skin of the inside of his left cheek that Jaehyun stays standing; Johnny’s human; he can’t smell the blood. “All of him—not just the pretty parts he shows at school.”

Jaehyun sits down on the bed and carefully stops bleeding his own mouth, choosing not to comment on any of that. “Right,” he says again.

“Nap,” Johnny continues, with one last look around the room. “Uh—call one of us when you wake up.” He mimes a phone. “The place is huge—you’ll definitely get lost.” Then he’s gone before Jaehyun can do more than open his mouth to respond, leaving Jaehyun alone with his thoughts.

It is only barely seven, but Jaehyun supposes he is still very tired. He decides it’s best to take a nap after all. The alternative is thinking about everything he’s learned, and he doesn’t know if he’s ready for that quite yet.

 


 

For the first few seconds when Jaehyun wakes up in an unfamiliar house among unfamiliar sheets in an unfamiliar bed, he panics. Not for any logical reason—the house is still, the sheets are soft, and the bed is comfortable—but because it’s unfamiliar. The lighting is all off; unnatural because it’s not morning, and Jaehyun’s sleep schedule is well and truly fucked. But Jaehyun’s sleep schedule has been fucked since Mark woke him frantically on Thursday; Jaehyun is in the house of a vampire—his vampire—and so he rolls over onto his back and stares up at the ceiling, trying to decide what woke him up.

There’s light in the room—from a lamp. Jaehyun stares, taking in the lines on the ceiling, before rolling onto his side.

Taeyong is seated at the desk chair, legs curled up under him, reading a book. His hair is falling into his eyes and he doesn’t turn a page—not even when Jaehyun has stared at him for what has to have been more than a few minutes. He just keeps looking at the book.

Jaehyun clears his throat, the noise coming out of it sounding about as fucked as his aforementioned sleep schedule. “This isn’t really earning you any points for vampires not being serial killers.” He thinks about it, kicking at the covers and twisting on the bed. (He slept in his clothes because his stuff was (hopefully) still in the limo and he can already tell that he’s got lines down the seams of his legs where his jeans were sewn front to back, but at least he doesn’t feel any lines on his face, so there’s that small mercy; although what sort of insane person must Jaehyun be, to be worried about appearances when in the home of vampires.) Taeyong has watched Jaehyun sleep… three times now, Jaehyun thinks. And Jaehyun only got to return the favor once.

Taeyong still doesn’t look away from his book, but his lips do twitch slightly before he speaks. “I’ll have you know that this is my childhood bedroom.” He runs a finger along the page he’s on contemplatively, before turning it with a polite swish of paper. “You’re the one who’s trespassing.”

Jaehyun opens his mouth to argue that Johnny was the one who led him here, before the full meaning of that sentence sinks in. He sits up, eyes darting around the room with new purpose. The room doesn’t look any different—still four walls, still half ancient architecture, still sporting a desktop that Jaehyun now wants to drool over even more—but the stuffed animals in bed with Jaehyun take on a new meaning as well.

Jaehyun picks up the elephant, touches the bow, and glances at Taeyong.

“It’s Youngho’s,” Taeyong says without pause, turning another page. “They’re all Youngho’s. The man has a problem.”

Jaehyun thinks back to the few times he’s been in Johnny’s room, and blinks.

Taeyong slants his eyes towards Jaehyun. “Well he’s dating Mark, now,” he says mildly. “I don’t know about you, but I feel like fucking in front of stuffed animals is probably a deal breaker.” Taeyong’s gaze drops very pointedly to the elephant, before coming back up to meet Jaehyun’s. “But by all means.” He sets the book down. “If you must—”

Jaehyun—Jaehyun throws the elephant—hurls the elephant at Taeyong, ears on fire, heart suddenly going a mile a minute, and practically fighting his way free of the blankets. “You—I—what—this can’t be your childhood bedroom,” he says, not looking at Taeyong and instead doing his best to straighten both his clothes and the bed’s. “You haven’t drawn all over the walls.”

No doubt Taeyong can definitely hear Jaehyun’s still-rapidly rabbiting heartbeat, but he doesn’t comment, shifting in his seat so that he can face Jaehyun full on. “I was a twenty-six-year-old child, Jaehyunnie-yah,” he says quietly.

Jaehyun feels his ears warm even more, but somehow, he manages a response. “Uh-huh,” he says. “You totally want to draw on the walls. I took classes with you”—thinking about walking into Art History and seeing Taeyong seated motionless in the back row wearing combat boots and looking every inch the vampire stereotype is probably not the best course of action if Jaehyun wants his heart rate to go down, but he can’t help himself, can’t seem to get his mouth to cease and desist—“I’ve seen your notes,” he finishes. “You’re not fooling me.”

Taeyong’s cheeks briefly flush, but he lifts his head stubbornly. “If you’re awake now, I think my family would like to meet you,” he says, and the mood promptly drops.

To his credit, Jaehyun tries not to let it. He has no problem with Taeyong’s family. He wouldn’t have flown all the way to Japan to meet them if he did, only, it’s a big deal; bigger still because of the threat, and the infamy. Jaehyun can’t help but stare around the room and wonder just how many foreign dignitaries have been within these walls, let alone which historical ones. Jung Yunho-hyung is—aside from very similarly named to Jaehyun, who only reverted back to his birth name when he enrolled at SM U because of one too many rapid head turns from terrified human sheep—sorry—bigots—foreboding. Jaehyun can’t come up with any other word. Jaehyun needs to stop thinking of words, though, and speak to poor Taeyong. “Right, okay,” he says. “What—what time is it?”

Taeyong looks like he wants to comment, but at Jaehyun’s pointed look, he sighs. “Eight p.m.”

Jaehyun blinks. “Eight p.m.?” he says, right as his stomach growls, audible even to his human ears. Jaehyun flushes, embarrassed, and fights the urge to get under the covers. How rude.

Taeyong just grins, eye crinkling in the corners. “You’re right on schedule,” he tells Jaehyun happily, getting to his feet with inhuman swiftness, and reaching out a hand to help haul Jaehyun up with a similar level of inhuman strength.

Jaehyun lets him pull him to standing, more than a little affected by the show of force. Clearly he should just get used to having a racing heartbeat, and clearly he should start to steel himself to the entire household knowing; to the entire household hearing firsthand the effect Taeyong has on Jaehyun with only a smile. “Right on schedule for what?” he manages.

Taeyong just grins harder, looking somehow even more handsome, which Jaehyun hadn’t honestly thought was possible. “Changmin-hyung makes the best breakfast,” he says happily, and gives Jaehyun’s hand another gentle—human—tug.

 


 

Changmin-hyung has made breakfast. Changmin-hyung has more than made breakfast. The amount of breakfast sitting on the table in front of Jaehyun is the sort of thing he’d have expected to see in a film, not reality. There seems to be food from all countries and not at all limited by tradition; Jaehyun spies more than a few desserts littered between the more staple things like eggs and waffles, and no shortage of side dishes. The spread spans the entire length of the table, which is about the only part of the room that Jaehyun was expecting. By Doyoung’s count there could be upwards of twenty vampires in the house at a time, and Jaehyun thinks they would need a table this long to seat them all.

Only… Jaehyun knows vampires don’t eat. At least not anything that would require a table. Jaehyun has a mildly horrific thought about how many humans could lie upon the table, but he very quickly puts that thought away. It’s unnecessary and pointless. Jaehyun has seen Taeyong’s fridge. He knows there are ways they could all sit down and have a meal, but he still… It’s a lot of food. Jaehyun can’t help but be confused. Maybe they’re all going to eat anyway. Certainly he wouldn’t have breakfast at eight p.m.

“Erm,” Jaehyun says, right around the time Johnny crosses into the room from behind Jaehyun and Taeyong.

His neck is very newly bandaged, but he’s got a noticeable spring in his step, and the Mark Lee that trails behind him doesn’t look newly-fed. Mark mostly just looks shy, if not a little on edge. Johnny takes a seat at the table without even pausing, grabbing a plate and beginning to load it with food. Jaehyun watches him, unable to not glance once at Taeyong, but Taeyong isn’t staring back; is instead frowning at Johnny’s neck.

Jaehyun clears his throat and gets his shit together and goes to sit down. “This is, um.”

Johnny’s piling particularly fluffy looking waffles onto a plate and lathering them in syrup, entirely unbothered.

“Normal?” Jaehyun settles for. “Do they—” He moves to whisper, like that’ll do anything, and gets distracted.

Mark has taken up an empty seat across from Johnny and Jaehyun, Taeyong has sat down beside him, and the two of them appear to be arguing about the state of Mark’s teeth. Mark refuses to open his mouth and Taeyong refuses to let him get away with it and in between it all Jaehyun hears enough to get the gist of it.

Apparently, Johnny really shouldn’t still be getting quite so chewed up, and Taeyong has concerns that would be best assuaged by an inspection of the size of Mark’s teeth—Taeyong’s words, not Jaehyun’s. Mark has a hot flush across both cheeks and a stubborn refusal to comply. Jaehyun has an inkling that Taeyong just wants to watch Mark squirm, but he’s kind enough not to comment. Or possibly he’s just whipped—Jaehyun doesn’t discriminate. Taeyong’s certainly worth being whipped over.

“Normal?” Johnny pauses with a bite of waffle already to his mouth, settling more solidly into his seat and using Japanese style chopsticks, something entirely at odds with his choice in breakfast.

“The—food—” Jaehyun says, in time for the rest of the vampires to start arriving.

Yuta comes into the room first, buried in the latest iPhone, but he avoids bumping into the table or any of the chairs with ease anyway. He takes the seat next to Mark also without looking up, although he does offer a mild, “Taeyong-ah. Stop harassing the new baby just because he’s dating your human,” once he’s gotten there.

Jaehyun decides he likes Yuta even more, especially when Mark and Taeyong both sputter, twin looks of horror lining their faces. “You—” Mark says.

“I,” Yuta returns, finally lowering the phone. He shoots a look across the table at Johnny, then points. “Youngho.”

Johnny cocks his head to the side, mouth full of waffle.

“On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your after effects? Are you feeling faint? Lightheaded? Dizzy? Do you feel like at any minute you would require use of the fainting couch Doyoungie keeps refusing to let me burn?”

There’s a sputtering noise from outside the dining room, and Jaehyun looks up to watch Doyoung arrive, trailed by a dark haired, unfamiliar vampire with kind eyes. “The fainting couch is—”

Yuta raises one eyebrow, practically begging Doyoung to continue. “The fainting couch is…”

Doyoung snaps his jaw shut, and turns to face his companion, pointedly ignoring Yuta. “So about the latest numbers—” He’s dressed the most casual Jaehyun’s seen him so far in jeans and a t-shirt but he’s clearly talking some sort of business, the words “licensing,” “production,” and, “investments” all filtering through the conversation as the two vampires move to sit beside Taeyong. Jaehyun decides whatever they’re talking about must be related to that empire building stuff Taeyong had joked about; Jaehyun realizes he doesn’t even know what it is Taeyong and his family do, besides being immortal and vaguely infamous within most of South Korea. Obviously Johnny’s in school trying to get a degree, but Taeyong… Jaehyun can’t even remember if Taeyong has a major. He must have, since he’s the same year as Johnny, but Jaehyun really can’t think of it.

Yuta clears his throat, drawing Jaehyun back out of his thoughts. “The fainting couch should be burned,” he says, and only gets a mild glare from Doyoung and nothing from the unfamiliar vampire. “But do you need it, Youngho-yah?”

Johnny swallows his mouthful and grins. “No, on all counts,” he says.

Yuta looks even more smug. “See?” He turns to face Taeyong and points at him this time. “Stop harassing the baby.”

Mark is glancing between the two of them with his mouth fallen open. “I’m not a baby?” he tries to protest.

“We all know it’s been years since you’ve drunk from anyone seriously, but we can’t all be perfect eaters, Taeyong-ah,” Yuta continues. “Sometimes there has to be a little… mess.” He ends his sentence with a particularly lascivious onceover of Jaehyun, who does his best not to shrink in his seat too obviously. He must fail because Yuta shoots him a particularly pleased grin.

“Anyway,” Taeyong says, glaring at Yuta around Mark, now. “Jaehyunnie.” The intensity of his gaze on Jaehyun has Jaehyun unable to keep from flinching this time, but Taeyong doesn’t look like something out of a bad porno, and just seems focused. “Eat, please.”

Jaehyun glances once more at the wide array of food and starts loading his plate, feeling suitably cowed. “Uh, thank you,” he tells the room at large. He still feels too scrutinized to be hungry, and too confused. No one but he and Johnny can eat in this house, and still there’s enough food to feed a small army.

There’s a small commotion from across the table, but when Jaehyun looks up, all he sees is the end of it—Mark settling back into his seat holding a bag of blood and practically daring the room to say something. It makes Jaehyun feel a lot better, since eating with an audience is generally no fun, and eating with an audience of vampires seems to be even worse. At least with humans half the time they’re not pretending not to notice the rice stuck to the side of your face. Jaehyun picks up his own chopsticks and goes to eat.

“Uh… so.” Jaehyun still feels a little off balance, and can’t quite make himself stop glancing at Doyoung and the newcomer. He’s not even looking at Jaehyun, but Jaehyun still feels like prey—there must be something about putting a name to a ‘could potentially kill you’ face that makes them all much less terrifying; or maybe this new vampire is just generally terrifying.

Almost as if he’s read Jaehyun’s mind, Johnny leans into Jaehyun’s line of sight and points at the vampire in question with one metal chopstick. “Jungwoo,” he says in introduction, not stopping his pointing until Jaehyun is forced to kick him in the shin. “Taeil’s.” There’s nothing after that—just the possessive particle—and Jaehyun realizes he’ll probably have to get used to that. All the kinship terms seemed easy enough when they weren’t in the house itself, but now it just feels weird to be calling people “father,” and “nephew,” and “cousin.” Especially since this Jungwoo looks no younger than Taeyong, Doyoung, and Yuta, who are all a full generation older—or Yuta and Doyoung, at least. Taeyong being the baby, and all.

“Hi,” Jungwoo says, breaking away from his discussion with Doyoung to smile happily at Jaehyun. “You must be Jaehyunnie.” He’s got kind eyes and pretty skin and seemed significantly taller when he was walking; Doyoung had to crane his head. He’s got the oddest colored hair—brown, in most lights, but then shot through with dark red, the second of Taeyong’s family with hair more suited to an idol. He’s also moved his chair practically on top of Doyoung’s, seated between the other vampire and Taeyong without a care in the world.

Doyoung is doing his best to appear similarly unbothered, but Jaehyun thinks he’d have had better luck seeming nonchalant if he stopped glancing at Jungwoo’s lips every other second. They’re nice lips, but Taeyong’s are better, and—Jaehyun’s ears feel hot, and he drops his gaze away abruptly.

“Nice to meet you,” he mumbles, fully aware that he looks and sounds rude, but unable to risk glancing up again.

Across the table, Mark shifts, drawing Jaehyun’s eye.

“Is Taeil-hyung here?” Taeyong’s got his gaze fixed on Jaehyun, but he’s clearly addressing the room at large.

“Not at the moment, no,” Jungwoo says finally, since it’s only him and Yuta who’d know, and Yuta seems to be captivated by his phone again.

When Jaehyun glances at him, Johnny leans into him once more and mutters, “Girlfriend,” with a surprising amount of subterfuge. At least the camouflage of Jungwoo and Taeyong’s quick discussion about this so-called Taeil-hyung covers it up enough that Yuta doesn’t glare at them or try to give Jaehyun more bedroom eyes. The only bedroom Jaehyun’s been in is Taeyong’s, and… It wouldn’t do to be thinking about that in the presence of Yunho.

Like summoned, the rest of Taeyong’s family appears to settle around the table, Yunho-hyung taking the chair at the head without comment, and Changmin-hyung rather deftly stealing Yuta’s phone on his way to the seat directly to his left. Nobody shouts “Dad,” or “Mom,” or pouts, but Jaehyun still feels like he’s watching a perfectly normal human family. Yuta turns his full body after Changmin, mouth parting silently, Doyoung definitely has to hide a grin behind a hand, and Jungwoo just leans even closer, whispering in Doyoung’s ear.

Taeyong glances between them all with his arms crossed, clearly annoyed.

“Well,” Yunho-hyung says after a few more seconds of awkward silence. “Please. Eat.” He’s looking particularly eagerly around at Johnny and Jaehyun, but while Johnny just keeps eating without pause, Jaehyun is very rapidly starting to feel like some sort of animal in the zoo.

“Um,” he says finally. “Do you usually cook such large meals?” It’s only habit that keeps the question coming out in polite speech, but at the last second Jaehyun manages to remember his manners, dipping his head. Then he remembers that Changmin-hyung made the food and turns to face the man. Vampire.

Changmin-hyung is as young as Jaehyun had remembered, but somehow much more intimidating than Yunho. But only until he smiles, because once that happens, Jaehyun can’t believe he’s been around for centuries.

Yunho-hyung interjects before Changmin-hyung can say anything. “Changminnie’s a great cook,” he says, even as Changmin-hyung is rolling his eyes.

“You wouldn’t know,” the other vampire says. “You’re even older than I am.”

Jaehyun thinks that through, having learned nothing about Changmin-hyung other than that the vampire was Doyoung and Yuta’s maker, and almost feels bad. The food is good—what little of it Jaehyun has managed to eat so far—and he thinks it would have been a shame to never have been able to taste it. But then he thinks that would be the case of the entire house, since all of the other vampires are younger than the both of them. He and Johnny are probably the only two people in the room who have had the opportunity to eat Changmin-hyung’s food in… years.

“What would happen if you ate something?” Jaehyun can’t help but ask, even as Johnny seems to choke on a mouthful at his side. “What?”

Johnny swallows, reaches for a glass of orange juice and takes two rather desperate gulps. “Don’t ask,” he says in a rasp, before he’s even done. Some of the juice sloshes down the side of his mouth, but the vampires let him wipe it with a hand, and no one comments on the indent Mark has rather suddenly left in the nice wood table. “Please,” Johnny says, setting his hand and the glass down. “Don’t ask.”

Jaehyun thinks that through to its inevitable conclusion and winces, glad he’s not the one with a mouth full of food. “Oh,” he manages. “Um.”

“Please eat,” Changmin-hyung says, putting him out of his misery. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how long it’s been since someone got to eat my food.”

Jaehyun shoots a look at Johnny, who surely must have been well fed on his last visit, but before he can say anything, they’re joined by the last of the vampires—at least the ones Jaehyun saw earlier in the day. Night. Day? Time is confusing, since most of the room is nocturnal. And Jaehyun still feels tired despite his nap, and guilty because the rest of the room is most definitely not.

Kun comes into the room first, followed by the vampire called Sicheng, with Yangyang bringing up the rear and practically vibrating with excitement. The three of them are speaking what Jaehyun thinks is Mandarin, although Yangyang seems to be peppering in more than a few words in English, and German as well. Sicheng looks annoyed, Yangyang is very clearly unaffected by that annoyance, and Kun’s expression is enough to have Jaehyun reconsidering his earlier assessment. Kun looks as exhausted as Jaehyun feels, and has dark circles under his eyes and a waxiness to his pallor that for the first time makes Jaehyun think of death—of how Kun is undead, and not just a person with fangs.

“Yangyang,” the vampire says once they’ve come into the room properly, and Yangyang freezes from where he’d been claiming the seat right next to Jaehyun, turning rather abruptly to face the head of the table, and bowing.

What follows are more introductions that would seem more in place in a Joseon drama, but Jaehyun finds his eyes caught on Yuta, who is very obviously not listening as he slowly but surely inches one hand closer to where Changmin-hyung has placed his phone, face down on the table. At one point poor Mark is forced to his feet to do something similar, but nobody coached him on the ins and outs of being introduced to an ancient vampire family, so Mark mostly just glances desperately at Johnny and Jaehyun, and then quotes Game of Thrones.

Jaehyun would bet both Yunho-hyung and Changmin-hyung notice, but they’re nice enough not to say anything. There is a less than comfortable moment when the human and recently human part of the table realizes that Mark is officially Taeyong’s, and Jaehyun has to deal with the fact that should he continue dating Taeyong (which—of course he will) he might very well be Mark’s stepfather. At least Mark has the good sense not to say any of that, even though the look he shoots Jaehyun around that part of the discussion does suggest he knows exactly what Jaehyun is thinking. Jaehyun decides if he has to suffer the indignity of basically being his best friend’s pseudo parent by ma—dating, he should get to ground Mark, or something. Threaten Johnny with bodily harm, or something. Bribe Mark’s actual parents for baby pictures and then pass them out at their next house party, or something.

But then. Mark’s parents. Mark’s mother. Mark’s… lack of soul. Jaehyun pushes his food away from himself, suddenly not very hungry, and feeling bad. He glances at Changmin-hyung before he can help himself, but almost as if he’s sensed it, Taeyong stands. “Mark,” he says, making Mark jump. “Are you good?”

Mark blinks, one hand still on the bag of blood. “Uh—”

“Good,” Taeyong says over him. “Jaehyunnie.”

Jaehyun finds himself jumping also, sitting tall in his seat.

“Let me give you a tour. Youngho”—there’s some narrow-eyed glaring at Johnny on Taeyong’s part that Johnny seems utterly unfazed by—“only showed you to my room, it seems.”

Jaehyun thinks it’s probably good that at that exact moment, Yuta manages to get his phone back without Changmin-hyung noticing, because certainly that would have been worthy of teasing.

“You’re studying anthropology, right?” Taeyong continues, not even looking around at his siblings—only staring at Jaehyun with bright, beautiful eyes and the barest hint of a flush coloring the tips of his cheeks. “Yu—there’s the portrait room, and—and art.”

Nobody at the table seems inclined to notice the stutter that might have been Yunho-hyung’s name, though Jaehyun does notice when Changmin-hyung turns a sharp gaze on Yuta almost immediately after.

“Do you want to see it?” Taeyong’s eyes are large and earnest, but Jaehyun can’t help but wonder… “Do you want to see my family’s portrait room?” is certainly the most unique come-on Jaehyun’s ever experienced, but he still finds it easier to assume that that’s what it is. The anthropologist in him is practically ready to start slapping himself in the face, but Jaehyun is ignoring it, because Taeyong dragging him out of the room so they can make out is somehow less scary than Taeyong dragging him out of the room to show him all the proof that his family been alive for entire decades.

“I would love to,” Jaehyun says instead of all of that, standing. “Thank you for the food.” He bows to both heads of the family and lets Taeyong take his hand before they’re even all the way out of the room.

“Wait, so you weren’t kidding when you said Taeyongie was dating a human?” Jaehyun hears Jungwoo say as they go, but whatever Doyoung says in response is lost to him as they round a corner.

 


 

There actually is an entire room of portraits, which Taeyong ushers Jaehyun into rather quickly, and doesn’t even pin him to a wall and make out with him the moment the door closes behind them. Although that might not be because Taeyong hadn’t planned on making out with Jaehyun the moment he got him alone, and be more due to the fact that there is an entire room of portraits, and more than a few of them of Taeyong. Jaehyun spends the first few rounds of the space searching him out, taking in the turns of the century in the different looks on Taeyong’s face. He spends an embarrassing amount of time with the one artist who seemed captivated by the scar under Taeyong’s right eye, and then has to remind himself for an even longer amount of time that he’s currently in a house of vampires, and no matter how far away he and Taeyong are, there’s therefore no such thing as privacy. That doesn’t stop Jaehyun from kissing him anyway, since the alternative is explaining just why he’d touched Taeyong’s right cheek.

“Sorry,” Taeyong says once Jaehyun has pulled away. It’s unfair how unbothered he is—how inhuman. “I’m sorry. They’re a lot, I know.” He’s talking about his family. He’s apologizing for his family. He’s probably never brought anyone—anyone human back home to them before, besides Johnny. Jaehyun wonders. Jaehyun doesn’t know if he’d be able to bear the answer.

“They’re not that bad,” he manages, his mind still a little foggy. “Wait until you meet my mom.”

Taeyong’s throat bobs. “You want me to meet your mom,” he manages.

“It’s only fair you meet my mom,” Jaehyun points out, reaching out to link their hands again and leading Taeyong further into the room so that he can start to investigate the less familiar painting subjects. “She’s going to come to campus to help me move out when we go back.” He says it like there’s no question of them going back, like their wayward murder problem will be resolved within the next few days, and Jaehyun’s mother meeting his hundred-and-twenty-six year-old vampire boyfriend is the least of Jaehyun’s problems.

“I’d love to meet your mother, Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong says.

Jaehyun bites down on his lip to keep from saying something terribly awful and forces himself to stare hard at the painting in front of them. It’s clearly Ten, clearly from well in the past, but what takes Jaehyun’s breath away is that it’s all of them—Kun included. Kun and Lucas are standing the closest, Lucas’ head bent back to laugh at something, and Jaehyun remembers he still has no idea what sort of argument is keeping Ten and Lucas ordered away. But when he opens his mouth to ask, he finds Taeyong’s gaze elsewhere. “What?” Jaehyun says, the question forgotten. “What—”

“That’s my grandmother, Kwon Boa,” Taeyong says, pointing. “I didn’t realize she was in here.”

Jaehyun looks around and realizes that Taeyong’s right—the room is predominantly filled with Taeyong and all of his siblings, and aside from one or two photos that feature them standing or sitting alongside Yunho-hyung or Changmin, there is a glaring omission of the older two vampires. Except for the one that Taeyong has pointed out, tucked slightly in a corner.

Besides Kwon Boa and Yunho, the rest of the picture are strangers—but they must also be vampires, because all of them are smiling, and whoever had sat to paint them very clearly had been captivated by their fangs. Looking at Taeyong standing beside him with his own mouth parted, Jaehyun understands. If he could paint, he’s pretty sure he could fill an entire gallery with just drawings of Taeyong’s fangs. Or his mouth, at least.

“Your grandmother,” Jaehyun says abruptly, turning away before Taeyong notices. “Kwon Boa.” She’s the center of the painting, standing taller than all of the men and women with her hand on Yunho-hyung’s head, and she’s gorgeous. She also looks younger than Jaehyun had remembered. “How old—”

“Twenty-four,” Taeyong says, before Jaehyun can answer. “And before you, ask, Yunho-hyung is twenty-eight and Changmin-hyung is my age.” He pulls a face. “Vampires.” His nose scrunches up and it’s adorable. “Uniquely confusing.”

“Uniquely interesting,” Jaehyun corrects, turning back to the piece of art. “So… Yunho-hyung, obviously.” Yunho-hyung is holding a bit of wood, sharpened into a point so that it can be nothing more than a wooden stake, but it seems almost ornamental.

“That’s funny,” mutters Taeyong, clearly also looking. Quietly, in a tone that lets Jaehyun know this is something not for public consumption he adds, “A lot of the older vampires all died of a stake to the heart.”

Jaehyun blinks, startled.

“Not Lee Sooman or Boa-noona, obviously,” Taeyong continues. “And enough of us have died of other things to disabuse humanity of that bit of mythology, but.” He shrugs. “The stories had to come from somewhere.”

“Huh.” Jaehyun tightens his grip on Taeyong’s hand into a gentle squeeze of gratitude. Taeyong doesn’t have to share—probably shouldn’t actually share—but he does so anyway because he—he—Jaehyun doesn’t know how to finish that sentence without feeling like a lovesick fool.

With a smile, Taeyong swings their hands together between them. “I don’t know who any of the others are,” he says, eyes tracing the other five vampires in the painting. “I don’t usually come in here… and Yunho-hyung doesn’t really talk about his past, or anything.” His head tilts. “I didn’t even know Boa-noona had daughters.”

“Hmm,” Jaehyun says. “Well—”

“They’re dead,” interrupts a voice, nearly making Jaehyun jump straight out of his skin. It’s only because Taeyong is holding him by the hand that he doesn’t take a step back, and honestly Jaehyun is thankful for that. He still decides that he’s going to have to trade Mark’s baby pictures to Johnny for lessons in living with vampires, because his heart can’t take much more than this.

Taeyong doesn’t seem pleased either at least, holding tighter to Jaehyun’s hand and tugging him a little closer. “Fuck, Hyung,” he swears, eyeing the vampire very suddenly standing next to them both, staring at the art. “Someone needs to put a bell on you.”

The other vampire pulls his lips back in a smile that flashes all of his fangs but doesn’t seem all that bothered. “Sorry,” he says, glancing briefly at Jaehyun and making all the hair on his arms stand on end. “I’m not used to humans who aren’t Youngho.”

So, whoever this is knows Johnny. Jaehyun starts going down the list of other vampires. Ten has two missing children—Dejun and Hendery, who are in China visiting with Song Qian; a cousin, or as good as, sired by Cho Kyuhyun—and Taeyong has one other nephew and older sibling—Donghyuck and—

“Taeil-hyung,” Taeyong says, still looking sour.

“Sorry.” Taeil-hyung is much shorter than the both of them but has enough aura that Jaehyun decides he shouldn’t be anything less than “Taeil-hyung,” even just inside his head. He has dark, stylishly cut hair swept over only one brow and he’s wearing a turtleneck in summer. He looks stunning and not at all out of place, even as he reaches out like he’s going to touch the art.

Jaehyun finds himself making a noise before he can stop himself. It’s not a museum, but it feels like one. There should be “no touching” signs, and alarms. Security cameras. There probably are—Jaehyun wouldn’t put it past Yunho, at least.

Taeil-hyung has frozen with his hand still extended, but both of his eyes are boring holes into Jaehyun.

Taeyong makes a noise and presses even closer to Jaehyun, a warm and comforting presence all up and down his side.

“Sorry,” Taeil-hyung says, lowering his hand. “But they are dead.”

Jaehyun turns back to face the painting.

“Boa-noona. Yunho-hyung.” Taeil-hyung points as he talks, darting unnerving little looks at Jaehyun as he does so, like he’s only not touching because of Jaehyun, and he wants his approval. It’s such an oddly childish thing to do for someone very clearly older than a good deal of the art in this room, and so Jaehyun finds himself standing even closer to Taeyong. He almost misses the final five names. “Yeonhee, Ara, Jaejoong, Junsu, Yoochun,” lists Taeil-hyung, still pointing. “They’ve been dead since before I was born.”

That seems to be important, because Taeyong has gone still at Jaehyun’s side.

Taeil-hyung’s lip curves up again with a whole lot of fang. “Changmin-hyung isn’t here because this is from before they met him.” His smile widens. “Changmin-hyung is Boa-noona’s youngest, after all. Not counting Taeminnie.”

Jaehyun has the sense that he’s missing something, but Taeyong speaks before he can ruminate too heavily in it.

“Unlike the rest of you, I happen to like Minho-hyung a lot,” he says.

“Oh, I like him too,” Taeil-hyung says. “But that doesn’t mean I have to agree with the circumstances of his birth.”

Jaehyun glances between the two of them like they’re a weird, highly dangerous and predatory tennis match.

“Whatever,” says Taeyong. “It’s all politics anyway.”

Taeil-hyung goes back to almost touching the painting. “It’s all politics,” he says wistfully, before turning to look at Jaehyun again. “Boa-noona killed them,” he says. “The three of them—Jaejoong, Junsu, and Yoochun.” He points again, which is good, because Jaehyun had missed it the first time.

Jaehyun looks at them harder, trying to memorize their faces, even though they’re long dead—dead maybe from before Changmin? Although that doesn’t sound right. Taeil-hyung hadn’t made it sound like they’d never met them, just that this painting was from before that.

“The three of them thought she loved them enough to tell them how she really died, and they betrayed her.” Taeil-hyung does touch the canvas this time, but stops before anyone can comment. “So she killed them.”

He seems particularly stuck on the center man, who Jaehyun thinks in another life, have had a passing resemblance to Taeyong, maybe. More like Taeyong through warped glass, though. Taeyong with all the edges filed down—a fake.

Taeil-hyung smiles brilliantly at the both of them, entirely unsettling. “Eugene-noona killed the rest.”

Jaehyun knows of Eugene, Boa’s only living sister. But he knows her like he knows the rest of Lee Sooman’s children; peripherally. Eugene is less in the public because she’s physically only nineteen, Jaehyun thinks? He knows his history. He knows in the beginning there was a reason for the older vampires to be so young. It still doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, in 2020.

“At least that’s what Kyuhyun-samchon says,” Taeil-hyung says happily, before his smile morphs into something far more genuine. “So take that with a grain of salt. Hi Taeyongie,” he says. “Did you miss me?”

For two seconds Taeyong just stares, and then he smiles, wide and honest, and releases Jaehyun so he can attempt to slap Taeil-hyung’s arm off. “Yes,” he says. “Idiot—”

Taeil-hyung takes the beating with that same honest grin, but steps away before Taeyong can get too aggressive. “You’re the one who stayed away—”

Taeyong pulls a face. “You could have visited—”

“You know why I couldn’t have—”

“I’m sure you could have managed to control him for one college campus visit,” Taeyong says, eyes rolling, then pauses. “Wait, if you’re here, does that mean—” He freezes before he can finish that sentence, and Jaehyun feels the urge to throw a tantrum.

“What?” he says finally, when it becomes clear that neither vampire is going to enlighten him. “What—”

“Oh, this has to be good,” Taeyong says over top him, staring at Taeil-hyung and shaking his head. “You sent him to Mark without warning me—”

“Mark’s dating Youngho,” says Taeil-hyung simply. “That makes him part of the family. It’s only a right of passage.”

Jaehyun opens his mouth to whine.

“Shush, Jaehyunnie-yah,” Taeyong says. “You don’t want him to remember you’re part of the family too.”

Taeil-hyung’s gaze snaps to Jaehyun instantly, but Jaehyun doesn’t let himself be distracted.

“Hyung.”

Taeyong sighs. “If Taeil-hyung is here…” he says.

“Donghyuckie is here,” Taeil-hyung finishes, and drapes an arm around Jaehyun’s shoulders and starting to usher him away. “Now come. Tell me more about how you are part of the family too.”

“Oh, um,” Jaehyun says, looking rather desperately back towards Taeyong, who just shrugs.

Taeil-hyung just grins, clearly pleased, and keeps walking.

 


 

“You have to call me ‘Donghyuck-hyung’,” says Taeyong’s nephew, Lee Donghyuck. Jaehyun isn’t really still having trouble wrapping his head around the weird pseudo family that seems to be a line of vampires, but it still is a little mind boggling. Especially since Lee Donghyuck seems to be the same amount of terrifying as Taeil-hyung, despite the vast difference in their appearances.

While Taeil-hyung is for all intents and purposes perpetually twenty-seven—Jaehyun had checked; Taeyong had verified—Lee Donghyuck is very clearly still barely more than a teenager—like Yangyang. But unlike Yangyang, who comes across to Jaehyun as still too new to be in perfect control of his actions, Lee Donghyuck is very clearly dangerous. He’s got dyed honey hair and large brown eyes and he’s sitting on top of the stove in the kitchen without a care in the world, legs swinging.

He’s antagonizing Mark.

He seems to think it’s funny.

Jaehyun is just glad that the kitchen seems to only be populated by Doyoung, although Jungwoo had been there when Taeil-hyung had first dragged Jaehyun in to meet the real youngest of the family.

Donghyuck was turned in the nineteenth century, the year before Doyoung, Ten, and Yuta, which makes him the oldest of all of them there, after Taeil-hyung. But Donghyuck was turned when he was only twenty years old, so physically, he’s the youngest. Hence, the sour look on Mark’s face.

“Yeah, I’m not doing that,” Mark says, topping off the bit of blood he’s been scarfing down—still out of the bag, which Jaehyun is trying not to wonder where it’s come from. He’d have said animal if it were Taeyong’s house, but given that it’s not, he’s hesitant to.

Donghyuck just keeps swinging his legs, not looking away. “You have to,” he says. “Taeyongie called me ‘hyung’ for months at the beginning.”

Jaehyun finally manages to disentangle for Taeil-hyung long enough for Taeyong to come replace him, but where Taeil-hyung had been disquieting, Taeyong is only comforting, easing tension Jaehyun hadn’t noticed he’d started carrying in his shoulders somewhere along the way there.

“I did not,” Taeyong says.

Jaehyun smiles.

Donghyuck’s eyes dart briefly to the both of them, before he keeps staring down Mark. “I’m older,” he says.

Mark lifts his chin. “You are not.”

Donghyuck’s eyes flash. “I was born in 1800,” he says.

“You died in 1819,” Mark retorts, clearly having forgotten nothing from the flight over. “You’re not even really twenty. I’m twenty-two.”

Shockingly Donghyuck doesn’t bare his fangs, but Taeil-hyung laughs and crosses to stand between his legs anyway. “Haechan-ah,” he says—croons—and Jaehyun starts to feel distinctly uncomfortable. Not for any particular reason, just, Donghyuck and Taeil-hyung are probably the most unsettling vampires he’s met so far, even including Ten.

Speaking of Ten; Jaehyun wonders if he’s okay—if there has been any more news from SM U. He opens his mouth.

Doyoung speaks before he can. “Ten called,” he tells them all, unaware of the fact that he’s made like a mind reader instead of just gone and changed the subject. “He’s feeling better.” Doyoung’s got his gaze fixed on nothing and Jaehyun very abruptly remembers the whole Kun situation. Right. Even he feels guilty, and he’s not under supernatural orders not to mention anything. “He sent a sketch of the vampire in question, also.”

That has Taeyong’s jaw tightening and Jaehyun’s vampire takes a step forward. Or. What? Not Jaehyun’s—the vampire generally takes a step forward.

“You should take a look at it after dinner,” Doyoung says, like Jaehyun didn’t just eat the world’s strangest breakfast. “Both of you.” Doyoung glances at Mark, who Jaehyun notices hasn’t looked away from Donghyuck and Taeil-hyung once. “And don’t think you can get out of dinner,” Doyoung finishes, shooting Taeyong a look. “You know the rules.”

Taeyong raises his chin stubbornly. “Someone has to stay with Youngho and Jaehyun.”

“No vampire can come into the house without permission,” Doyoung replies, but sighs anyway. “Fine.” He glances at Mark again, before staring down Taeyong. “You owe me. Now, come on.” That’s directed at Mark. “I know you’re still hungry.”

Mark colors, but doesn’t argue, and Jaehyun does his best to smile as all the vampires file from the room.

“Isn’t that a little conspicuous?” Jaehyun says, watching them all go.

Taeyong makes a distracted noise, also watching them go. “What?”

Jaehyun reaches out to touch him, doing his best to smile comfortingly when Taeyong seems to latch onto him with fervent eyes. “Isn’t it conspicuous to go out in a group?” he says.

Taeyong blinks, then shakes. “What, oh, no,” he says. “It’ll probably just be Changmin-hyung, Kun, and Doyoung.” He makes a face. “Normally I should go, since Mark is my…” He looks about as pleased as Jaehyun to have to finish that sentence, and so doesn’t. “But I—I don’t—”

Jaehyun takes his hand and gives it a squeeze. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Taeyongie-hyung,” he says.

Taeyong stares at him for a long time with his mouth open, before smiling. “Come on,” he says finally, giving Jaehyun’s hand a tug. “I know you’re tired.”

Jaehyun feels bad, but it is late, and he’s still only human. Besides, there would be nothing to do, waiting for Mark to get back from wherever it is he’s going. And Jaehyun… Jaehyun doesn’t know if he’d be what Mark needs, afterwards. More likely he’d be better off just with Johnny, who Jaehyun can’t help but notice has taken up residence in a window nook with a perfect view of the front door, phone in hand and music gently wafting out of his speakers.

Chapter Text

Jaehyun sleeps for an embarrassing amount of time. But in his defense, no amount of napping here and there can make up for all of his missed full nights of sleep. It makes sense that Jaehyun sleeps until one p.m.—is natural, even.

He’s alone when he wakes up, curled in Taeyong’s sheets with most of the blankets kicked off. For a few moments he thinks nothing of it, until he remembers the rest of the house ought to be sleeping at one p.m.—ought to be sleeping all the way to sundown around seven p.m.—and he sits all the way up, confused. He looks for Taeyong for an equally embarrassing amount of time, but the room is very clearly empty, and Jaehyun is not so far gone that he’d check the closets.

Jaehyun really needs a shower and a toothbrush, but when he went to sleep his bag was missing in action (hopefully just still in the limo) and he also realizes he doesn’t know where any of the bathrooms are. Because there ought to be many bathrooms in a house this large, Jaehyun decides. He rolls to grab for his phone and glasses, grateful he had the foresight to take out his contacts before passing out for the night, at least.

And then he heaves a sigh of relief, because there might not be a vampire in the room with him, but all of his things have migrated in. Jaehyun can finally change his clothes.

Hyung, he texts Johnny. Where’s the bathroom?

Oh good, you’re awake, replies Johnny. Hold on. Taeyongie’s on his way to come get you. You can hold your breath. He’s that fast.

Jaehyun has a moment of absurd panic about the fact that he’s not even changed into pajamas with blanket imprints all down the side of his face before he gets himself together. Wait, why is Taeyong-hyung awake?

He and Mark are the only two up, Johnny says. Mark’s too new and Taeyongie’s too used to me.

Jaehyun supposes that’s fair. Yangyang?

Yangyang might be up too, but he’s with Kun and Kun’s hiding. Taeyongie’s Ten’s favorite, and Kun’s guilty.

Jaehyun understands, even if he still doesn’t know what Kun and Ten are fighting about. Right.

Get your ass out here, Johnny continues. I love Mark, but not even turning into a vampire could make him good at Overwatch.

Jaehyun stares at his phone.

Taeyong very pointedly swings open the door to his bedroom. The vampire is dressed surprisingly casual in black jeans and a band t-shirt, but there are no holes or ripped clothing this time. Jaehyun gets the feeling that’s on purpose.

Jaehyun stares at him. Your boyfriend and my best friend got murdered by a killer vampire who’s terrorizing our campus, and you’re playing Overwatch? he texts Johnny.

Everyone else is asleep! Ten sent a sketch, but heck if I know the fucker.

Jaehyun looks immediately up at Taeyong, who shakes his head. “Mark didn’t know him either,” he says. “It looks like it was just a coincidence—bad place, bad time, on Mark’s part.”

Jaehyun’s insides churn, but he keeps it together. “Oh. Can I?”

Taeyong nods and comes closer in the blink of an eye holding out his own phone. The drawing he shows Jaehyun is good, first of all, but the vampire it depicts is unfamiliar, second of all. Jaehyun frowns hard at it, uneasy. “So, are we going back to school?”

“Tomorrow,” Taeyong says. “Yunho-hyung wants to do one last family dinner, with everyone.” He says the last bit with great distaste, and Jaehyun just wants to hug him.

“Oh.”

“Now come on,” Taeyong says. “Bathroom is this way.”

Jaehyun blinks.

“I don’t have to be a vampire to know your breath smells foul,” Taeyong continues, without looking over his shoulder. “No kisses for you.”

Jaehyun blushes but gets out of the bed anyway. “Don’t lie, Hyung,” he says as he pads closer to Taeyong and stands beside him. “It’s unbecoming.”

Taeyong doesn’t respond, but he puts Jaehyun back to the door and proves his point anyway, tasting sweet and pretty and making Jaehyun’s toes tingle.

 


 

The four of them game until just past sundown, when the first of Taeyong’s family wakes from their slumber and wanders into the room they’ve commandeered. Doyoung looks particularly well rested, which Jaehyun does his best not to think too hard about. He doesn’t know when any of them got back the night before, but even Mark… Mark looks well fed and pleased, curled up as he is on the couch right next to Johnny. Jaehyun just feels glad no one has bandages on their neck anymore and tries to tell himself some part of him isn’t jealous. Or if it is, it’s just because he’s never going to be privy to that part of Mark’s life—the dangerous, “going out at night to hunt down willing-humans” part, or at least whatever it is that has Johnny looking quite so pleased to be losing so hard at Mario Kart.

Doyoung, at least, looks bored on top of well fed. “Oh,” he says, when he sees them, pausing in the hallway. “You’re awake.” He’s addressing Taeyong.

“Guilty,” Johnny says, raising one hand and dropping back two spots. “Fuck—”

Doyoung just seems to nod, taking them all in, before dropping down onto the couch beside Taeyong with unnatural speed. He ruins the picture by yawning for what seems like an equally unnatural length of time, then slumps against the other vampire sleepily. It does more to sell him as mortal than any of the other things—the color in his cheeks and lack of unnatural stillness to his chest. Jaehyun wonders if eating… if blood makes vampires more… human.

“Good morning, Baby Hyung,” Doyoung mumbles once he’s settled. “I like him—by the way.”

“Hmm?” Taeyong shifts around him to keep his eyes on the wide screen, controller held in both hands. They moved off PC sometime after Jaehyun and Johnny broke to eat something resembling brunch on Jaehyun’s part and weak lunch on Johnny’s, but Taeyong is just as good at video games as he was on a computer, and Jaehyun is having trouble being mad about just how much of an effect that is having on his own skills.

“Mark Lee,” says Doyoung, English pronunciation coming out with a surprising amount of accent for someone so ancient; he must be doing it on purpose, or be more tired than Jaehyun had assumed. “He’s a good one. You did well.” Doyoung yawns again, but this time brings up a hand to hide the back of his throat from view. Jaehyun still gets a flash of fang and has to remind himself that this is not a normal “meet your boyfriend’s family.” “Of course, he’s no Youngho, but as first children go, you could have done worse.” There’s a resounding beat of silence, and Doyoung shifts to watch the screen in time to watch Taeyong execute a particularly skillful throw of shells back at poor Johnny, who swears and veers back into third place. “Are you sure you were born in the twentieth century?”

Taeyong just leans further around him and increases his lead; Jaehyun abruptly realizes he’s let himself fall back into last place because he’s just been staring at the screen doing nothing; Mark sets down his controller and starts sputtering.

“Wait—”

“Good game,” Jaehyun says, a little desperately. “Good game, uh—”

“I am not Taeyong-hyung’s kid,” Mark continues, eyes like giant saucers. “Like. Legally. Officially.” There’s an uncomfortable pause. “I am?” Mark squeaks. “Like.” He looks like he might have to do more than sit down, and he’s seated. “Do I have to call you ‘Dad’?”

There is awkward, momentary silence, before Taeyong wins at Mario Kart, and Doyoung dutifully claps during the in-game winners ceremony.

“Taeyong-hyung?” says Mark.

Taeyong lowers his controller, trying to look calm, but his ears are definitely flushing. “Absolutely not,” he says. “Don’t do that. That would be weird.”

“It’s not weird,” Doyoung tries to say, and Taeyong slaps a hand over his mouth, unbothered he’s risking getting licked.

They’re so human, Jaehyun can’t help but notice. They’re such siblings.

“That’s just something the humans insisted on because otherwise we had to make up new words in like, every single language,” Taeyong continues, casting a look almost desperately at Jaehyun like he’s going to be able to help.

Jaehyun just stares back, trying not to seem too charmed by how pink his cheeks are getting. Taeyong didn’t go out and eat someone last night… did he?

“It’s not real—”

“But do you and Doyoung-hyung call Yunho-hyung—” Mark’s voice only cracks silently.

“Ten calls Yunho-hyung ‘Mom,’” Doyoung points out helpfully through the hand Taeyong still has covering his mouth. “But we’ve known Yunho-hyung for two hundred years. That’s different. I certainly don’t go around making Renjunnie call me ‘Dad.’ He looks barely seventeen. I’m twenty-five. That would be weird, and impossible.”

He’s surprisingly intelligible despite the hand over his mouth, and Jaehyun finally manages to stop making eyes at Taeyong and spends some time staring at him. He thinks that’s the most Doyoung’s said about Renjun in Taeyong’s presence, and like clockwork, Doyoung goes abruptly silent and still at Taeyong’s side, shifting like at any moment he’s going to be shoved aside.

Taeyong just takes his hand back and very kindly doesn’t make a big deal of the noise that escapes Doyoung’s lips, the honest blip of emotion flashing through his eyes almost too quick for Jaehyun to do more than notice. “You call me ‘Father’ in any context beside making a bad joke and I’ll give you a firsthand lesson on just how unbreakable we are,” he tells Mark. “Now are you actually going to play?”

That last bit is addressed to Johnny and Jaehyun both, and Jaehyun startles.

“I get you’re in love with him and he’s very pretty suddenly, but what’s your excuse?” Taeyong continues, looking first at Johnny and then at Jaehyun, who only just barely manages not to flinch back from his gaze.

“I—uh—well,” he says, glancing around the room. He’s never been shy about things like these, and he does seem to be one of the few who’s been brought to meet the entire undead family.

Taeyong’s eyes seem to double in size, a splash of pink spreading across both cheeks. “Oh,” he says softly. “Oh—Jaehyunnie.”

Doyoung rolls his head off the couch and onto Taeyong’s shoulder. “Taeyong-ah,” he says. “Stop making eyes at your human. He’s stinking up the house.”

This time Taeyong does shove Doyoung off his shoulder and onto the floor.

 


 

Once everyone else is awake, Jaehyun waits for things to get awkward, but they don’t. Yunho-hyung woke soon after Doyoung, and Jaehyun spent the next few hours wondering when he’d be sending them off to the airport because while Taeyong had said Yunho-hyung wanted to do a big family dinner, Jaehyun hadn’t thought Yunho-hyung was serious. Surely breakfast the other night had counted, even though Taeil-hyung and Donghyuck were missing. And all their business was done: Ten had uncovered nothing to suggest that any of them were being targeted, Mark had been introduced to the family, and even Jaehyun had been introduced to the family.

Granted he hadn’t realized he was under the same amount of scrutiny as Mark was—not until he ended up alone in a room with Changmin, who was so silent and deliberate that Jaehyun thought he’d even be able to outwit any bell put on him. The vampire leveled Jaehyun with a look that could ice hell itself, possibly, and asked him all sorts of questions about his future plans, talking around the Taeyong shaped elephant in the room with terrifying cheer.

It only makes sense for them to go back to campus as soon as possible—even more so because Jaehyun’s mother is no longer keeping him on read. Jaehyun has to go and help her move him out, and introduce her to Taeyong. But the sun sets, and disappears behind the horizon, and the stars come out to play—brilliant like they don’t get in cities, and distracting. Taeyong’s siblings wander in and out of the common areas, teasing, taunting, and going about their lives. Mark and Donghyuck finally seem to make peace, Taeil-hyung stops tormenting Kun by enabling Yangyang, and Jaehyun learns that Sicheng is his age, give or take a century.

“I was turned the same year as Taeyong-hyung,” he explains, jabbing a thumb in Jaehyun’s vampire’s direction, and Jaehyun doesn’t even try to protest the possessive in his mind; just nods, trying not to do math, and going back to watching the screen.

Sicheng might be even better than Taeyong, and that’s saying something. Although everyone in the house has shown a surprising knack for video games—shocking to Jaehyun, given when they’d all been born. But they’d just laughed at him, when he raised the point. Someone had gone and grabbed paper, someone else ink and quill, and then they’d done some frankly inspiring calligraphy, before Yuta wrote something unrepeatable on Doyoung entirely in Kanji, and nearly ended up murdered for the second time. Only Changmin-hyung knew how Yuta had died, but Doyoung looked well on his way to bargaining for that information, and it was decided they should move on to safer things. Like video games. And whatever the heck sort of American card game Mark and Johnny have been teaching Yuta, Donghyuck, and Taeil-hyung.

“Oh cool,” Jaehyun says. He likes Sicheng a lot, mostly because he’s quiet, and has a rather calming presence. Also he’s the less terrifying option, since Taeyong is off talking with Doyoung about something probably business related, and Mark is surrounded by Yuta and Donghyuck. Jaehyun wouldn’t touch that combination with a catch pole.

He turns back towards Sicheng and finds the television turned off. “—and then Ten-hyung pulled my body out of the water, but I was already dead, so,” says Sicheng.

Jaehyun can only stare at Sicheng, not at all sure what the start of that sentence had been but utterly, utterly confused.

“Sorry.” Sicheng smiles, looking a little embarrassed. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear that story.”

Jaehyun opens his mouth to object—he absolutely would like to hear that story, if only to try to understand what the hell Sicheng had been talking about—but before he can do so, Mark’s phone rings.

Jaehyun knows it’s Mark’s, because it’s an Android ringtone, and Mark’s choice in phones is his one character flaw. Although as he watches, Donghyuck seems to check his pockets as well; all the more reason not to trust Lee Donghyuck, Jaehyun decides.

Mark pauses the card game to pick up the phone. “Hello?”

It’s his mom.

She cries.

Mark cries.

At one point she says loud enough for everyone to hear, “Of course you’re still my baby!” and everyone spends the next few hours teasing him.

“We’re very thin on the ground for mothers,” Yunho-hyung ends up explaining to Jaehyun sometime later that evening, watching Johnny do his best to hold Mark back from smacking Yuta in the face with all of his strength. The groups have changed—Taeil-hyung with Jungwoo and Donghyuck, Sicheng with Kun and Yangyang, Yuta teasing Mark, Johnny supporting Mark, Doyoung still discussing business with Taeyong, Jaehyun unfortunately shuffling between both of Taeyong’s parents—but the mood remains the same.

“You’ll have to forgive them,” continues Yunho-hyung.

“No—I—I’m glad,” Jaehyun replies, which isn’t, “it was my understanding that Ten calls you ‘mother,’” and so was therefore a totally successful conversation with Taeyong’s ancient, immortal sire.

Jaehyun had still been assuming they’d be flying back sometime that night—that that was why Yunho-hyung had pulled him aside to talk—only he’d ended up discussing more of his future plans, while Taeyong tried valiantly to get away from Doyoung to come help him. (Jaehyun could tell that’s what he was doing from the way he kept meeting his eyes and finally, resorting to fistfighting with Doyoung.)

“Mmm,” says Yunho-hyung, looking around. “Ah, everyone? Ten called. He has news.”

There’s resounding silence from the rest of the vampires, Mark finally giving up on trying to get back at Yuta and retreating to Johnny’s side, and Taeyong appearing almost as if summoned to stand beside Jaehyun. Jaehyun can see Doyoung standing frozen with his arms outstretched around the empty space Taeyong had clearly been inhabiting only seconds prior.

“And?” Taeyong says finally, into the silence.

“After dinner,” Yunho-hyung says. “It can wait.”

Jaehyun wouldn’t have thought so, but Jaehyun doesn’t know what Yunho-hyung knows, so maybe—

Taeyong’s eyes flash and his lips curl back. “I would have thought that a serial killer was more important than your inane desire for us to play house,” he snaps. “But of course not.”

The silence following that is more than just echoing—it hurts, and Jaehyun isn’t even in the family.

“Taeyongie,” Doyoung breathes, but Changmin-hyung is the one who reprimands Taeyong.

“Taeyong,” he says, voice like a whip.

Taeyong just bares his fangs at him, unrepentant. “What?”

“That’s no way to speak to your—” Changmin-hyung cuts off, but the damage has already been done.

“My what?” Taeyong says, clearly building steam, and having been close to blowing the entire twenty-four hours spent in the house among his family. “My sire—my murderer—”

“That’s enough, Lee Taeyong,” Yunho-hyung says, his voice even and perfectly soft, but as silencing as both his first sentence and Taeyong’s outburst none the same. “We will discuss this after dinner.”

Taeyong’s jaw slammed shut when first Yunho-hyung spoke, but Jaehyun can see the twitch that betrays how much he wants to argue.

“We will discuss this after dinner,” Yunho-hyung continues, gaze sharpening and voice changing subtly.

Jaehyun feels sick, suddenly, like he’s privy to something very unnatural, and more so than just the existence of vampires. Taeyong’s mouth seems to close even harder, to the point where Jaehyun doesn’t need to watch all of his siblings and Mark inhale to know he’s bitten through his own tongue.

“Hyung,” Changmin-hyung says, clearly also aware. He steps forward as if to touch Yunho-hyung on the shoulder.

Yunho-hyung waves him off, not looking away from Taeyong once. “Are we clear?” he says.

Taeyong doesn’t speak, only nods, and Jaehyun finds himself taking an involuntary step forward at the look in Yunho-hyung’s eyes when he sees that that is all he’s going to get. Taeyong remains stubbornly closed-mouthed, clearly at the expense of his tongue. Jaehyun wants to protect him. He doesn’t know why. Yunho-hyung could probably kill them both without breaking into a sweat. If vampires even sweat.

For two more seconds Jaehyun thinks Yunho-hyung is actually going to press the issue—going to order Taeyong to do more than just nod—and Jaehyun’s stomach feels like a coil of ugly, churning sea just thinking about that. But then Yunho-hyung abruptly faces the rest of the room, smiling. It’s an expression out of place with the amount of power he just displayed. “Now,” he says. “Shall we have dinner?”

Sires can command their children, Johnny had explained, not more than a day before. Ten can’t follow Kun. But Jaehyun hadn’t understood, until this moment. Jaehyun hadn’t known. He understands why Johnny might think it was something more than just compulsion. He gets why Johnny and Taeyong think that it might involve the soul.

Yunho-hyung moves on as if nothing had happened, however, asking Changmin-hyung to cook as if they really are a perfectly normal family.

“Jaehyunnie and Taeyongie can help me,” Changmin-hyung says, catching Jaehyun’s attention by using his name alone. He doesn’t look at either of them, but Jaehyun gets the sense he’s not happy.

Taeyong clearly isn’t, standing stiff as a board beside Jaehyun with his hands in fists. He’s got to be bleeding from there as well, but Jaehyun pays that no mind as he reaches out to lace their fingers. His hand is sticky and hot in sharp contrast to how cold the rest of Taeyong is and Doyoung and Yuta inhale audibly once more, but Jaehyun pays them all no mind. “Hyung,” he says quietly. “Are you alright?”

Taeyong just stares back at him, jaw finally having gone slack. There’s blood on the corner of his lips, though it disappears the longer Jaehyun stares. It’s a shame. He’d have loved to have kissed it away. Or—no. That’s—that’s strange—

Taeyong doesn’t lie to him, just tightens his grip on Jaehyun’s hand, and exhales.

“I’d love to help you with dinner, Hyung,” Jaehyun says, turning to face Changmin-hyung.

The vampire smiles with shockingly no fangs, and gestures towards the kitchen.

“I can make pretty much anything,” he says, as Jaehyun follows with Taeyong held carefully in tow, the blood smearing between their hands feeling like some sort of duelist’s promise. “And given that you’re one of the only two people who will be eating it… ” Changmin-hyung stops talking with honest humor, and Jaehyun manages an answering smile.

“Sujebi,” he says, with a glance at Taeyong. “I—Taeyongie-hyung makes the best sujebi.”

Taeyong’s still silent, but the grip on Jaehyun’s hand goes hard again.

“It was the first thing he ever made for me,” Jaehyun finishes, more to himself than anything else.

Changmin-hyung is kind enough not to comment. “Alright,” he says. “Sujebi. Ah—Taeyong-ah, the kitchen is yours.”

If Taeyong notices that he was almost called “son,” he doesn’t comment either.

 


 

They don’t just make sujebi. They make jeyuk bokkeum because Jaehyun could do that asleep in his dorm kitchen, let alone with access to one out of a chef’s wet dream and with two immortal assistants who have been cooking for longer than Jaehyun has lived. They make Johnny’s favorite dish, and then they make Jaehyun’s favorite dish, because they’re the only two who will be eating the food. Jaehyun doesn’t even know how the two of them figure out what his favorite foods are, but once they do, he gets the sense they won’t be forgetting any time soon. It feels more important than anything else Taeyong’s family has done, and more than once Jaehyun has to remind himself not to get too carried away flirting with Taeyong.

His—Changmin-hyung is right there, and while he does his best to pretend not to see, Jaehyun can tell Taeyong is flustered.

“Yah,” Jaehyun tells Taeyong in an aside, somewhere towards the end of kitchen cleanup, which Jaehyun had been helping with up until the moment he realized he was slowing them down because of his humanity. He’s settled at one of the kitchen stools, legs dangling in the air in front of him because Taeyong’s entire family are very tall immortals. He’s mostly been watching Taeyong clean. Not flirting is becoming a losing battle. “Think of it this way.”

Taeyong pauses with a gloved, soap covered hand on the handle of the frying pan he was in the middle of working into a lather; Jaehyun supposes the caveat to vampiric speed is vampiric vision, because the thing looked spotless to Jaehyun about two minutes ago. “Yes?”

“It’s like a rite of passage, getting caught making out by your parents.”

There’s a distinctly amused noise from where Changmin-hyung has been wiping down the stovetop, and Taeyong nearly drops the pan in the sink.

“Jaehyun-ah!”

“What?” Jaehyun spreads his hands, the picture of innocence.

“We haven’t—we haven’t been making out,” Taeyong hisses.

“And whose fault is that?” Jaehyun can’t help but say, having too much fun making his vampire blush to stop. “Look, I don’t know if you know this about me, but I was born on Valentine’s Day.”

Changmin-hyung’s ears seem to perk up, the older vampire twisting to look back at them both. “Really?”

Taeyong groans, back to scrubbing. “Now look what you’ve done.”

“It’s a given that I’m a romantic,” Jaehyun continues anyway, almost giddy with the near danger of this line of conversation. “So, you should stop flinching every time I tell you I think you’re lovely.”

Taeyong doesn’t drop anything this time, but he does finally put the pan onto the drying rack, his shoulders raised. “I don’t flinch every time you tell me you think I’m lovely,” he says, with only a minor shake to his voice.

Jaehyun swings his legs back and forth in the air some more. “Uh huh.” He grins. “You’re lovely.” Taeyong’s ears flush, and Jaehyun finally lets himself get distracted. Things are significantly less fraught now. “Hey, how does that work—you blushing?” he asks. “I mean obviously you all have blood, but shouldn’t it have stopped circulating once you… once you died?”

Taeyong pulls the gloves off and sets them next to the sink, turning to face Jaehyun with a brow raised despite his red rimmed ears. “Is this your way of finding out about other bodily fluids, Jaehyunnie-yah?” he says, with a surprising amount of gall given all the earlier flinching. “Because there’s nothing wrong in that department”—there’s another noise from their audience, who Jaehyun had totally forgotten about until that exact moment—“and also, I’m pretty sure many things should have stopped happening once I died. Walking, talking, and thinking, foremost.”

Jaehyun feels his cheeks heat for more than just the thought of—of other bodily fluids. “Hyung,” he manages.

Taeyong lifts the other brow, looking more like a predator than ever. “What?” he says. “You asked.”

Jaehyun’s throat feels very, very dry. His hands feel sweaty and he goes to wipe them on his jeans.

Before he can make more of a fool of himself, Changmin-hyung clears his throat again, this time doing more than just turning to face them with a plate laden full of ready to serve food. “I can safely say this conversation is now on par with ‘getting caught making out,’” he says, with audible quotations. “Now which one of your siblings shall we go harass into setting the table?”

 


 

Dinner is better than breakfast, despite the scrutiny. For one, Jaehyun and Johnny aren’t the only two with plates and chopsticks this time. Yuta set the table, and he gave everyone a plate. No one’s commented, but that might just be because of the truly impressive amount of eye contact that was involved in him divvying out utensils; he was practically daring anyone to speak with his gaze alone. He seemed particularly intent on Mark, who took the seat between Johnny and Yunho-hyung without comment. Jaehyun’s next to Johnny and across from Taeil-hyung, with Taeyong a calming presence to his right.

All of them have changed clothes, Taeyong sporting a button down and Jaehyun being thankful for his thought to pack like he was going for a job interview, but neither Yunho-hyung nor Changmin-hyung are wearing ties, and Yunho-hyung even has a few buttons undone. Jaehyun still feels he’s underdressed to take Taeyong to prom, and he left Connecticut years before that could have been a reality.

Unprompted, Mark leans around Johnny to whisper a quick explanation for Yuta’s evil eye. “We played Rock Paper Scissors to see who’d have to set the table, and it was the most terrifying moment of my life when I beat Yuta-hyung. I thought I was going to die. Again.”

He’s joking about his death and Jaehyun kind of wants to hug him. Somehow, he replies instead, doing his best not to too obviously wait for Johnny to start eating like he had for breakfast. “Vampires play Rock Paper Scissors?”

These vampires love Rock Paper Scissors,” Doyoung says dryly, picking up his own set of chopsticks and eyeing the food like he might actually try some. “It’s a good game, Rock Paper Scissors. You did good, coming up with it.”

Jaehyun swallows air. “Right,” he says. “Because all of you”—he strains to remember if he knows this but decides that it’s a good bet to just assume so anyway—“predate… Rock Paper Scissors.”

“Some of us probably predate scissors,” Doyoung adds, still eyeing the food. “Baby Hyung,” he says quietly. “You did this on purpose.”

To Jaehyun’s right, Taeyong just grins back at him, pleased.

“I dare you,” Taeil-hyung interrupts, from across the table where he’s sitting between Donghyuck and Jungwoo.

Doyoung sets his chopsticks down with a scowl, but Donghyuck darts a hand out and swallows a mouthful of pork before anyone else can comment, shocking the entire table into silence.

“What?” Donghyuck says, when he catches his family looking. “You dared.”

The way Taeil-hyung is looking at Donghyuck has moved beyond fondness, but Johnny distracts Jaehyun from it by grabbing his own first mouthful and chewing with great gusto. “Mmm,” he says, with a look around at all the cooks. “It’s delicious, Hyung. Taeyongie. Jaehyun-ah.”

“Ah, I’m glad,” Jaehyun says, and goes to take his own bite.

That seems to be the cue everyone was waiting for, because suddenly there is considerably more noise around the table. None of the vampires load their own plates, but Taeil-hyung is still very aggressively trying to taunt anyone who so much as looks at him into eating a full meal, and unfortunately, Yangyang seems captivated. Only Jaehyun seems to notice when Donghyuck spits out his mouthful into a napkin—but then, perhaps Changmin-hyung notices too, because his lips twitch. Donghyuck grins, full charm leveled in Jaehyun’s direction, so Jaehyun says nothing—just keeps eating silently. Then Donghyuck’s expression sours, and Jaehyun decides he ought to tune back in.

“Kun-gege never lets me eat anything,” Yangyang is in the middle of saying, uncaring of the look crossing Donghyuck’s eyes the longer Yangyang seems to hang off of Taeil-hyung’s every word. “He says I wouldn’t like what would happen if I did. What would happen if I did?”

Johnny swallows so fast it looks like it has to hurt, pointing with a chopstick. “Kun,” he says. “Discipline the child. No discussions of human food and the effects it might have on vampires.”

Kun stares back at Johnny like a deer in the headlights but opens his mouth anyway. “Yangyang-ah—”

“We don’t have functioning digestive systems,” Taeil-hyung says suddenly, turning away from his tormenting of Doyoung to face Jaehyun. “You were wondering. I could tell.”

Jaehyun is having déjà vu. “I—” he says, because that was almost the first thing he and Mark had learned, sitting in Taeyong and Johnny’s apartment last Thursday. But then also, it’s not like vampires don’t eat anything. “But you—you drink blood—”

Taeil-hyung flips to look at Taeyong instead. “Taeyong-ah,” he says. “Your boyfriend just asked me if I pee.”

Jaehyun blinks. “I did not—”

“He did not,” Taeyong says near simultaneously.

Taeil-hyung waves a hand. “It was implied.”

“It was not,” snaps Taeyong.

“It was,” Taeil-hyung says. “And also—”

“Not at the table, please,” Johnny says a bit desperately. “Let’s talk about something else. We can talk about literally anything else—”

Taeyong opens his mouth to do so with a grin that makes Jaehyun’s heart pound, but no sound comes out. He snarls, also soundless, and faces Yunho-hyung at the head of the table. The older vampire just stares him right back, unbothered. “Fine,” Taeyong says, mostly to himself. “Kun.” Kun is a deer in the headlights again. “Tell us about Germany. Is it worth being estranged from the entire family over a stupid grudge?”

There’s more resounding silence, before Yuta lowers his phone. “You’re one to talk, Taeyong-ah,” he says.

Taeyong grins back at him, clearly still annoyed. Jaehyun is starting to get the sense that it’s because he’s been told not to say anything—that the change in personality and lack of concern for things that should remain unsaid is because Taeyong’s under a literal gag order, and one leveled at him on what feels like a molecular level, it’s so binding. Certainly, Yuta doesn’t look too upset, just tired, and no one is looking at Yunho-hyung anymore.

“Taeyong,” Johnny says finally—the only one who could, apparently, as Taeyong finally subsides.

“Sorry,” he tells the table, but then goes back to holding painfully still. Jaehyun wishes he was left handed so that he could hold his hand. “Um,” Taeyong says, clearly looking for other things to say. “So—”

“Who are you texting, Yuta-hyung?” Donghyuck interjects suddenly, gaze shrewd.

Yuta’s phone disappears under the table without so much as a pause. “What?”

“Akane-san?” Donghyuck continues, unbothered. “Has she responded to you at all?”

Jaehyun has no idea who this Akane-san is, but clearly the rest of the table has no such issue, because there is a visible pause. “Shut up,” Yuta says out of the side of his mouth, but it’s too late.

“Akane-san?” says Changmin-hyung mildly. “Amuro-san’s daughter?”

The look Yuta is giving Donghyuck now is straight out of a family drama; the look Donghyuck gives him right back as he plops another piece of inedible pork into his mouth is very cat who got the cream.

“No,” Yuta tells Changmin-hyung.

“Don’t lie,” Donghyuck says. He pokes Taeil-hyung. “Hyung.”

Jaehyun doesn’t know how Taeil-hyung gets Yuta’s phone, but he’s across the room standing behind Doyoung’s chair with it in his hand before Yuta can finish protesting.

“Oh, she has responded,” Taeil-hyung says, unbothered by Yuta’s expression of rage. “Only once though—and two days ago.”

Yuta gets to his feet and stalks across the room, for some reason choosing to go behind Jaehyun, Johnny, and Mark in his quest to get to Taeil-hyung. Doyoung still lifts the plate directly in front of him and Jungwoo, like whatever scuffle that is about to happen, is going to involve Yuta going over the table.

“I didn’t know you knew Akane-san,” Changmin-hyung says mildly, at the same time Yuta gets within fighting range of Taeil-hyung and starts to grab for the phone.

“I don’t—give it back,” Yuta says.

“‘Please stop texting me.’ Sent two days ago, at three a.m. Oooh burn,” Taeil-hyung reads, before Yuta manages to get the phone back and retreats, stalking back to his seat with determinately human speed. 

“Hyung!” Yuta says.

“I think she’s nice,” Changmin-hyung continues, totally unbothered by it all. “And it would be wonderful if at least one of you married outside of the family.”

Yuta slams into his chair with enormous eyes. “Marriage!” he nearly squeaks.

Taeil-hyung just laughs, clearly amused. “What about Taeyongie, though?” he says, taking his own seat. “Jaehyunnie’s a human.”

Now the entire table is looking at Jaehyun and Taeyong, and Yuta looks just recovered enough that Jaehyun needs to redirect immediately. “Johnny-hyung and Mark have been dating for longer than Taeyong-hyung and I,” he says. “They’ll probably get married first.”

Johnny makes a sound around the food in his mouth, but Mark is unmuffled in voicing his betrayal. “Jaehyun-hyung!”

Changmin-hyung just grins around at the entire table, clearly pleased. “That’s a good point,” he says. “Mark-yah.”

Mark practically cracks in his haste to go straight backed.

“Take care of my boy.”

“Your boy,” Johnny says, at the same time Taeyong finally seems to unfurl, staring around at them all with barely concealed disgust.

“Marrying me would be that horrifying?” Jaehyun can’t help but tease, mostly to watch Taeyong sputter in immediate panic.

“What? No—I just—”

“Taeyongie, it’s fine,” Jaehyun says, as Taeyong finally stops looking quite so strained.

After a pause, Doyoung finally puts down the plates. Yuta’s phone is completely gone and he’s very pointedly talking business with Taeil-hyung, and Mark and Johnny are totally having a failed attempt at a whisper argument about cross species marriage. Even Jungwoo looks less uncomfortable, turning to face Doyoung to talk about books.

“I like our family,” Jaehyun hears Yangyang tell Kun. “We should come home more often.”

“Yangyang—”

It all feels distinctly human—like the sort of arguments and conversations Jaehyun imagined he’d have had, if he had grown up siblings with lives and families of their own—which is so incongruous with how he’d been picturing this meet the parents going that he kind of wants to laugh.

But despite his outward calm, the hand Taeyong has resting on his leg under the table is still clenched into what looks like a painful fist, and underneath all the merriment is the steady thrum of danger and the knowledge that the head of the table has been around for nearly five hundred years.

Jaehyun shovels more of all his favorite foods into his mouth and smiles without waiting to swallow, doing his best to show his gratitude.

 


 

The moment dinner ends, Taeyong seems to be released from whatever binding Yunho-hyung’s words had put on him, because he immediately says, before anyone can move to take away Johnny and Jaehyun’s empty plates, “So what else did Ten say?”

There is desert on the table now, but Jaehyun has no idea where it came from. He certainly never made muffins. He picks one up to eat anyway, pleased when it practically melts in his mouth. Somewhere in the middle the entire family ended up with wine glasses filled with something they could all actually eat, but it’s a testament to Jaehyun’s emotional growth that he’s fine with that. Although he is mad at all depictions of blood in wine glasses on TV because it’s no grape juice. More than once or twice Johnny nearly grabbed Mark’s glass, but Taeyong seemed to once again be abstaining, and Jaehyun had no such problem. He tries not to think about that now, settles for picking idly at the crumbs of muffin around the corners of his mouth.

“Taeyong.” Changmin-hyung still looks annoyed, but Yunho-hyung heaves a sigh.

Jaehyun shouldn’t—it’s not good how trigger happy Yunho-hyung makes him, mostly because it’s futile and bound to end with Jaehyun in the ground, but if the other vampire tries to force the issue again Jaehyun might snap and say something unforgivable. He just doesn’t like the fact that Yunho-hyung can force Taeyong into silence, is all. He hates even more how watching it makes him feel.

“What else did Ten say?” Taeyong asks again.

“Nothing,” Yunho-hyung tells Taeyong finally. “More of the same. He and Lucas have not found anything—whoever this vampire is they’ve gone to ground.”

Taeyong frowns down at the table but smiles when Jaehyun shoots a look at him.

“He’s also a stranger to Mark and Ten, so there’s no reason to assume any connection beyond location,” Changmin-hyung offers finally, reaching out with careful fingers to steal his own muffin and eyeing it with a long sigh. “There’s no reason for you to stay here.”

“Thank you,” Taeyong mutters, but looks innocent when Changmin-hyung glares.

“Ten will stay and deal with things—Doyoungie can go too, if he wants.”

Doyoung seems to startle, but when Taeyong doesn’t argue, he smiles. “Tha—”

Taeyong must kick him, since he stops talking and glares, and then Taeyong smiles innocently at him.

“Ten will keep me posted,” Changmin-hyung continues, as if neither of them had done anything. “And Ten should be sufficient to handle things.” He heaves another long sigh, before setting down the muffin. “It’s a pity it’s no one we know. Figuring out how to kill strangers is so time consuming.”

Jaehyun is once again grateful that the meal is finished and wonders how long he has to wait before he can tell Taeyong that his entire family is terrifying. From the look on Taeyong’s face—it’s not long.

“Ten will be back tomorrow morning,” Yunho-hyung interjects finally, not meeting anyone’s eyes. “There’s no reason for Lucas to stay—and I’d like for someone to accompany you—”

Taeyong groans loudly, the combination of being forced to sit through dinner in ordered silence and the fact that this is the most parental Yunho-hyung has been since they got here making him act extra like a teenager.

“I’d like for someone to accompany you on the plane,” Yunho-hyung says again, ignoring Taeyong. “Ten will be here tomorrow morning.”

There’s silence, and then Kun clears his throat, already standing.

Yunho-hyung stands as well, but Jaehyun can see the resignation in his gaze. The rest of the table is pointedly looking down at their empty, empty plates, but Sicheng looks particularly furious, arms crossed across his chest and mouth a hard line.

“Yangyang has family,” Kun says in explanation, like he’s leaving for any reason besides avoiding Ten—avoiding Lucas, Jaehyun supposes.

“I’m glad you brought him to meet us,” Yunho-hyung replies, clasping the hand Kun gives him when the other vampire flashes to stand beside him. “Be well.”

Kun’s eyes shut briefly, but then he nods, bowing. “Thank you,” he says, and Jaehyun gets the sense he means it for more than just the well wishes. “Yangyang-ah.”

Yangyang seems the most confused, but he goes where Kun directs for once, and makes for the hall.

“Taeyong-hyung.”

Taeyong startles briefly before his expression smooths into nothingness.

“Don’t be so much of a stranger.” Kun smiles, then looks at Yuta. “I’ll call you—”

Yuta nods, waving him off.

“Sicheng—”

“Just go.”

Jaehyun wonders what the argument Kun and Lucas must be having, to mess with them all like this. It seems very dramatic—almost soap operatic. Then he thinks about Doyoung and Taeyong’s drama, which resulted in three months of estrangement on top of apparently Taeyong already staying away at college and decides that vampires are maybe by definition overdramatic. It must come with living so long.

Kun seems to steel himself but smiles at the room at large before turning to go.

Jaehyun only stands because Taeyong does, following after him because before Taeyong’s expression went devoid of emotion, Jaehyun had seen how miserable he was. He tells himself it’s because he’s still not convinced that whatever it is Yunho-hyung did to him has worn off, and not because he’s not ready to be alone among vampires without an ally. Not that Johnny and Mark aren’t allies, but they have each other, and Jaehyun has Taeyong.

No one else follows, but no one else stops them.

Kun is waiting at the front door for Yangyang to gather his things, although given the suitcase already standing beside him, clearly they’d both been more than ready for this. Taeyong is standing not quite into the room in front of him, shoulders raised, and back starting to hunch. Jaehyun goes to stand beside him, suddenly afraid to touch. “Hyung—”

“You could stay,” Taeyong says before Jaehyun can finish, arching back into his hesitant hands almost apologetically. “You could stay. Xuxi—”

Kun’s eyes shut briefly but then he lifts his head to watch Yangyang make his way back towards them with his own suitcase. “Here.” He tosses the teenage vampire a set of keys, and Yangyang stares. “Yuta’ll come get it once we leave.”

Yangyang’s eyes light up, and he disappears out of the house too quickly for Jaehyun to follow, clearly knowing where the cars are hidden, and eager to see which one Kun’s given him access to. Kun watches him go with an honest smile.

“Xuxi forgives you,” Taeyong says softly, unable to let it go, it seems. “You could stay. Dejun and Hendery will be back tomorrow, also. They miss you.”

Kun just keeps smiling, gaze on Jaehyun now. “It was really nice to meet you, Jaehyun-ah,” he says. “I’m glad to see someone can put up with Taeyong-hyung.”

Taeyong doesn’t even take the bait. “Kun.”

Kun doesn’t face them, moving to take the suitcases out to the sports car Yangyang is excitedly in the driver’s seat of, top rolling down.

“Kun,” Taeyong says again. “He forgives you.”

Kun pauses. “I know,” he says. And then when Yangyang hollers, “Kun-gege!” he’s gone.

Jaehyun stands beside Taeyong the whole time, as Sicheng comes by them to get silently into the backseat without comment, as Kun doesn’t wave but Yangyang does, as the car skids out of the driveway at a speed that would be worrying, if all the passengers weren’t vampires. “Why are they fighting?” Jaehyun asks finally, not sure he wants to know the answer.

Taeyong purses his lips and shuts his eyes.

“I mean, it’s none of my business—you don’t need to—” Jaehyun goes to close the front door and step back.

“Kun killed Lucas,” Taeyong says quietly, cutting into Jaehyun’s panic. “Before Ten turned them both. Killed killed, as in, Kun is the reason Lucas is dead. I don’t know the specifics, obviously, but when the two of them turned sixty it was… messy.”

Jaehyun tries to reconcile all of that with the both of them—Lucas with his shiny eyes and single-minded devotion to Ten, and Kun, who seemed mostly sad, the twenty-four hours Jaehyun knew him.

“It’s why I refuse to turn anyone,” Taeyong tells Jaehyun finally, facing him with a smile that makes Jaehyun’s entire chest ache. “Nothing kind can come of it. Nothing good.” There’s something he’s not telling Jaehyun still, but before Jaehyun can comment, Johnny comes panting into the entryway.

“Taeyong,” he says breathlessly. “Ten called again. There’s been another murder—a man, this time.”

Taeyong stops looking jaded immediately. “What?”

“A crossing guard,” Johnny continues, leading Taeyong and Jaehyun back into the dining room, where almost everyone has moved on to standing, the plates and excess of food all already put away. “He worked close to the café where Chaeyoung-noona—” Johnny breaks off, clearly still torn up about it. “Anyway, he’s dead. Throat torn out and everything.”

Taeyong is moving to where Mark is standing, looking lost. “Do either of you know him?”

Johnny is already shaking his head. “No, none of us know him,” he says. “He’s another stranger—like the other two—but clearly whoever it is has no intention of stopping.” He thrusts a phone in Taeyong’s face with what looks like the official police photo on it—a man in his late forties, dressed in bright colors, and smiling.

“I don’t know him,” Taeyong says, tilting the phone briefly towards Jaehyun without even looking anyway. “Near the café? Where was Ten when he was attacked—”

“Exploring the crime scene,” Doyoung says grimly. “He must have a nest there, or something.”

“A nest,” Mark manages, more than a little panicked sounding. “Right—”

“That’s Hong-ahjusshi,” Jaehyun hears himself interrupt rather tonelessly, loud enough that all of the vampires finally stop talking. “He’s a crossing guard at the corner on the east edge of campus. I used to say hello to him every day on my way to work in town.” Somehow Jaehyun’s voice sounds calm even to his ears, despite him feeling very, very far away.

The house is utterly, utterly silent, save for Jaehyun and Johnny’s very human breathing.

“You said nobody knew who he was,” Jaehyun continues, unable to help himself. Hong-ahjusshi was always smiling, no matter the weather, or if Jaehyun had to rush past him because he was late. He was kind and funny and a little gruff and now he was dead, his throat torn out, his body tossed down on the ground, left to rot.

Jaehyun feels a little numb.

“That’s not true,” he says. “I knew him.”

More silence, and then chaos.

 


 

Jaehyun comes back to himself in time to hear Taeyong’s voice, wild and agitated, somewhere directly in front of him. “We have to leave,” Taeyong is saying, shifting back and forth like he wants to start pacing. He’s shuddering in a way that Jaehyun is rapidly starting to associate with vampire speed; if he gave in and started pacing, he would most certainly go too fast for Jaehyun to see. “We have to—get you somewhere safe.” He’s looking only at Jaehyun now and his eyes are more panicked than Jaehyun’s ever seen them. That’s saying something, given the past few days they’ve had.

“What?” Jaehyun tries to say. “Taeyongie—”

“You have safe houses in Europe,” Taeyong says, addressing his family now—Doyoung, Jaehyun thinks, or maybe Changmin-hyung. He’s not looking at Yunho-hyung. He’s not looking at Johnny.

Jaehyun’s brows pull together. “Taeyong-hyung—”

“We have to get you somewhere safe,” Taeyong says again, flitting across the room so that he’s now standing directly in front of Jaehyun holding both of his hands, skin like ice and eyes a maelstrom. “You’re his next target.”

Jaehyun stares, then starts to pull away and step back. “No,” he says. “No, you don’t know that. Just because I—knew the victim—” The words come out clogged and messy because Jaehyun knew the victim; said hello to the man every single day on his way back home from work. “It could be”—Jaehyun is grasping for straws—“just a coincidence.”

Taeyong eyes are for once, honestly frightening.

The rest of the room seems to unfreeze.

“Right,” Johnny says. “Right, we don’t know that. Maybe Taeyongie knew him. You were on that campus for far longer than Jaehyunnie.”

“Yeah, and there are tons of kids who walk that way to get to class,” puts in Mark. “Jaehyun-hyung’s right. It could be a coincidence. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

“I’m not jumping to conclusions!” Taeyong’s voice echoes around the absurdly large house and Jaehyun can’t help but flinch. Taeyong is still holding Jaehyun’s hands, but his fingers are starting to look much less human and much more dangerous. Jaehyun doesn’t think vampires have claws, but what does Jaehyun know, really. He’s all talk. All bravo. All… pining heart and foolish first love.

Doyoung steps forward. “Taeyong.”

Taeyong lets go of Jaehyun’s hands like Jaehyun’s somehow managed to burn him. “I’m not jumping to conclusions!” he says, although it’s a volume that it could almost be shouting for a vampire, at least. “The two students were in classes with you this semester.” Jaehyun hadn’t known that, and he opens his mouth to be annoyed at the omission, but Taeyong just keeps going, “Mark’s your best friend, and dating my—dating Youngho! Chaeyoung-noona knew you—”

“Chaeyoung-noona knew everyone,” Johnny tries to say, but Taeyong can’t be bothered.

“—but she was my favorite barista,” Taeyong says. “Sungmi-noona was my favorite cafeteria lady!”

Yuta tilts his head to the side and says, “Taeyongie has a favorite cafeteria lady?”

“Had—”

“—Hong-ahjusshi said hello to you every day!” Taeyong’s still doing that odd almost shouting, and Jaehyun thinks, in a true moment of what must be insanity because this cannot be the time, that there must be a reason they’re all so soft-spoken; it must be the superior hearing.

“You’re really only making a case for them going after you, Taeyong-hyung,” Doyoung puts in rather pointedly. “And the students and crossing guard disprove your point—you didn’t know any of them. Jaehyunnie did.”

“I’m in love with Jaehyunnie!” Taeyong spits. “Of course he’s going after him next! The crossing guard and the two students were clearly just collateral!” Taeyong has started forward like he’s going to touch Jaehyun again before he seems to freeze, perched on the precipice of one of those unnatural lunges and looking even more like a story book creature; white, red lips, black hair, nothing in his eyes. Everything in his eyes.

Jaehyun doesn’t think anyone in the house breathes, and that’s counting the humans.

Fuck,” Taeyong swears, and then he’s gone.

Jaehyun stares at the displacement of air left in his wake and doesn’t blink, even when it blows stinging directly into his eyes. He doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know what to say. He needs to… leave.

Johnny’s hand settles onto Jaehyun’s shoulder like fire, warm where the rest of the house is undead cold, and Jaehyun startles, staring at him with what can’t be anything close to composure. (I’m in love with Jaehyunnie! I’m in love with Jaehyunnie! I’m in love with Jaehyunnie! The words echo in Jaehyun’s head like wedding bells, and with each iteration he feels his heart speed up, his lungs heave—sees the rest of the room seem to stop breathing for more than just shock as they notice as well but doesn’t care.) He turns to Johnny with his teeth bared even though he’s the token human in a sea of immortals, but Johnny pulls back before Jaehyun has so much as finished snarling.

“Oh,” Johnny says, as if Jaehyun had struck him. “Oh, you love him too. All of him. Even the ugly bits he doesn’t show at school.”

There is more silence. Jaehyun does not dispute the statement.

Johnny steps until he reaches Mark, who stares at Jaehyun with eyes that are mostly pupils.

Then Yunho-hyung breaks the silence. “Third corridor,” he says. “Far right bedroom.”

Jaehyun turns to look at the vampire and finds him as unreadable as stone.

“There’s a way out to the roof through his bedroom.” Yunho-hyung’s lips quirk, but it’s one of those expressions Jaehyun is starting to associate with the long undead. It looks like a parody, like something an actor might try, or maybe a robot. “Up through the closet,” Yunho-hyung continues. “And probably other places on the ceiling that I don’t know about, to be honest. The lengths we went through to baby proof it.” He smiles again, but this time it feels real. “Taeyongie has always hated being put in a box.”

Changmin-hyung shifts forward to touch Yunho-hyung on the arm and his lips move so Jaehyun knows he must say something, but it’s too soft for his ears, and his only point of contact with the unnatural is Mark, and Mark doesn’t know the ins and outs of Taeyong’s family.

“It’s true,” is all Yunho-hyung says, to whatever it is that Changmin-hyung has said. “You should go now.” He’s addressing Jaehyun.

Jaehyun nods, and bows, and moves to leave the room in search of the bedroom in question, mad because he’s only been staying there since they arrived. One day he’ll have to come back and commit the entire house to memory, because having to call Johnny is getting old really fast.

Then he stops in the doorway, uncertain but somehow convinced of the rightness of his actions. “Thanks,” he says, which feels hollow in the face of what very well may one day be his father-in-law, for lack of a better turn of phrase. “Thank you. It… it’s been very nice meeting all of you.”

“No, thank you,” he thinks he hears Yunho-hyung say as he leaves the room, but that can’t be, because why would a vampire born in the seventeenth century be thanking Jeong Jaehyun, a twenty-four year old kid from Seoul, who’s only claim to fame is dried up dreams of being an idol, and leftover fluency in English from his time in Connecticut.

Chapter Text

The Taeyong that Jaehyun finds on the roof is so still that he could be a statue. He’s sitting almost all the way to the edge with his legs dangling over it, utterly unbothered by the threat of falling—vampire—and he doesn’t so much as move when Jaehyun fumbles his way up and onto the shingles. The whole roof slopes like something out of a period drama and between that and the moonlight casting Taeyong’s skin in liquid silver, Jaehyun certainly feels like he’s stepped out of time.

“Taeyong-hyung.” The name comes out from between Jaehyun’s lips with the same clumsiness as his feet on the roof tiles. Taeyong doesn’t respond, so Jaehyun grits his teeth and makes his way to join him at the edge. He doesn’t want to dangle both feet over the edge without a care in the world, but he’s certainly not about to let mortal fear keep him from talking this out. He’s just bent one leg awkwardly to try to sit without falling to his doom, when Taeyong finally moves.

“What are you doing?” the vampire snaps, then grabs Jaehyun by the wrist before he can answer, hauling him down to sit beside him and also pushing the both of them away from the edge.

Jaehyun won’t lie—he’s more than a little disoriented—but Taeyong’s grip on his wrist is nothing but gentle and the quirk to his mouth is shockingly kind. His eyes are also shockingly unreadable, but Jaehyun had expected that. I’m in love with Jaehyunnie, he’d said, and then vanished. A little unreadability was practically a guarantee.

“Jaehyun?” Taeyong’s tone is still sharp, despite his expression.

Jaehyun swallows, gaze fixed on Taeyong’s hand, still wrapped around his wrist. When Taeyong notices where he’s looking he takes his hand back, but Jaehyun still feels his touch like a brand. His skin feels cold, despite the summer—despite Taeyong’s lack of human temperature.

“Jaehyunnie?” Taeyong’s voice is a near whisper now, and suddenly shy.

“That was a bit of a dick move when you left right after,” Jaehyun says finally. His own voice sounds rough and worn ragged, so he clears his throat. “A man could be offended—or think you didn’t mean it.”

Taeyong’s eyes flash. “That I didn’t mean it,” he repeats.

“That you love me,” Jaehyun says, and doesn’t stumble. “You—you did, though, right?” He ruins his composure with that last sentence, but he can’t help it. It’s hard, forcing the words out. By all means, this is a confession Jaehyun has been waiting for since he first laid eyes on Taeyong all those years ago, but the circumstances. The murders. Mark’s… vampirism. Sometimes Jaehyun feels like he’s got everything together; sometimes Jaehyun wonders if this has all been a terrible dream. “You do love me, right?” That question comes out like a plea, and Taeyong’s mouth drops open.

“Of course I did,” he says. “Of course I do.”

Jaehyun feels—shivery. “Oh,” he says. He wonders what his heart must be doing, and who else in Taeyong’s ridiculous childhood home can hear it. “Good.”

Taeyong laughs, and it’s not a very nice sound. “You’re not frightened?” he says.

Jaehyun blinks. “Of you?”

“It doesn’t bother you that I told you I was in love with you after only one whole week?” Taeyong says.

Jaehyun can only stare at him. After a few painful seconds, it becomes clear Taeyong is actually asking—actually—actually doesn’t know. “Taeyong-hyung,” he manages. “I’ve been in love with you for longer than only one week.”

Taeyong’s perfect, undead skin goes paradoxically pink again.

Jaehyun has to push. “You—you knew that, right?”

Taeyong’s expression smooths into something resembling marble, unfair, given he’s had a full century to perfect that level of composure. “I—”

“It doesn’t bother you that I’m only going to live for like ninety more years?” Jaehyun counters before he can finish that sentence, not sure he wants to know either answer. He rubs at the place where Taeyong touched him on the wrist, then rubs at the skin of his bare arms too. It shouldn’t be this cold in early July. Jaehyun is almost freezing. It must be the conversation topic.

“You’re planning to live to a hundred-and-thirteen?” Taeyong says finally. “How inspiring. I’ve been a hundred-and-thirteen, and it’s not all that.”

Jaehyun barks out a startled laugh. “I don’t think that really counts.”

Taeyong sniffs and knocks their shoulders together. He’s warm, even though he shouldn’t be. Maybe Jaehyun is really cold. Or it’s all in his head, and Taeyong is warm because Jaehyun’s brain thinks he should be, and he’s running on fumes. “It absolutely counts,” he says. “Don’t argue. Young man.”

Jaehyun winces.

“Too far?” Taeyong says, catching that. “Sorry. I’m not really a hundred-and-twenty-six.”

Jaehyun nibbles on his bottom lip, unsure how to go on.

“What?” Taeyong nudges him again, only kind and prompting. “Jaehyun, what?”

“You don’t think it’s weird—” Jaehyun starts to say.

“It’s not weird,” Taeyong interrupts before he can finish.

“—that you’re—that I’m—” Jaehyun finishes, not done.

“And if it makes you feel better, it’s not like my brain is ever going to get older than twenty-six.”

Jaehyun has to give him that. “Oh God,” he mumbles, unable to help himself. “Mark’s going to always be twenty-two.” He wracks his brain. “When does the brain stop developing? Twenty-five international—your age, right? Mark’s going to be a baby forever.”

There’s a pause, and then Taeyong snorts. “Say that louder,” he says. “I don’t think he heard—Mark’s going to a baby forever.”

“I suppose it’s good Mark is a newborn,” Jaehyun continues, grinning. “Otherwise—”

“Oh, Johnny has no issue with that,” Taeyong says distastefully. “Threesomes with my immediate family case in point.”

He’s frowning, an adorable furrow grooving in between his brows, and Jaehyun wants to poke it. “How did that happen, anyway?” he asks. “I mean Ten-hyung and Lucas are pretty enough but Johnny-hyung—”

Taeyong’s eyes flash. “I do not share,” he says, tone reasonable yet dangerous despite that. “And unlike Ten, I have zero interest in sleeping with anyone I’m blood related to.” He pauses, then snickers. “Get it? Blood related.”

“You’re hilarious,” Jaehyun tells him. “But you didn’t answer my question.”

Taeyong raises a brow. “You said it yourself,” he says. “Ten and Lucas are very, very pretty.”

Jaehyun tilts his head. “Huh,” he says. “I didn’t think Johnny-hyung was that vain.”

That makes Taeyong laugh outright, head going back. “Say that again louder, too,” he says, once he’s done. “Mark’s a good boyfriend, and Youngho can hold a grudge.”

Jaehyun wants to hold his hand or kiss him. “You should laugh more,” he says instead. “I mean—you laugh plenty—you’re different, in public.” You were different at the start of the year, Jaehyun doesn’t say. With me. What changed?

Taeyong’s smile doesn’t go anywhere. “You’re not ‘public,’ anymore, Jaehyunnie,” he says quietly. “You’re—” He stops, and Jaehyun holds his breath.

“I’m?”

Taeyong licks his lips. “My boyfriend,” he decides. “Right?”

Jaehyun’s stomach is all butterflies. “My immortal boyfriend,” he corrects, then frowns, their earlier discussion coming back. “Oh—”

“Jaehyunnie, it’s fine,” Taeyong says. “Plenty of humans have dated vampires.”

It’s Jaehyun’s turn to raise an eyebrow.

“You know what I mean.” Taeyong waves a hand. “But if it makes you feel any better, half the time Youngho yells at me to ‘act my age’ and my entire family calls me ‘the baby,’ so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.” He shoots Jaehyun a look. “Our age difference, I mean.” He does something truly appalling with his tongue after saying the words ‘age difference’ that Jaehyun is not even remotely attracted to.

“I will push you off this roof,” he says, but he does feel better about it. And it’s true—plenty of humans have had… liaisons with vampires. Granted, most of those humans are called some pretty derogatory names by other, more religiously inclined humans, but there’s a reason vampires haven’t had to resort to mass murder to survive. There is no shortage of humans willing to err on the wild side, especially given public knowledge on how… good getting bitten feels. Not that Jaehyun should be thinking about this. Especially since he knows—he’s kissed Taeyong more than once or twice.

“It doesn’t bother me, by the way,” Taeyong says, finally looking away from Jaehyun and out across the roof towards the moon.

“Hmm?” Jaehyun tips his head at him.

“You dying,” Taeyong says. “Of old age, ninety years from now,” he adds, before Jaehyun can tease him. “I love you.” There’s very little pause when he says that this time. “I want you to live a normal, human life.”

Jaehyun licks his lips. “Oh,” he says. “So you—you wouldn’t turn me?”

Taeyong’s head whips around unnaturally fast. “Absolutely not,” he snaps, in the same tone he’d confessed before. Good to know he’s still on edge, under all the pretend calm. Reasonable. There is a murderer about—and he might be targeting Jaehyun. Who Taeyong loves.

Taeyong loves him.

Jaehyun can’t even be mad that Taeyong won’t turn him.

“Jaehyunnie, I’m not even going to bite you—”

“Why not?” Jaehyun can’t help but ask. He’s. Well he’s not insulted, because that would be weird, and probably something those less-than-kindly-thought-of humans would have felt. He’s just curious. That’s all.

“I’m not going to bite you,” Taeyong says again. “So you can stop looking at me like—like—”

“Like I’m a blood whore?” Jaehyun asks, mostly joking.

Taeyong flinches like he’s been struck. “Jaehyun.”

“Sorry.” Jaehyun has a sudden thought that he doesn’t know Taeyong. At least, not like he knows Mark. Taeyong’s been a vampire for longer than he was human, and lived for longer than Jaehyun’s parents. He could have been friend’s with Jaehyun’s grandmother. He—he probably—Jaehyun’s not jealous; he wouldn’t want Taeyong to have starved. “Sorry,” he says again. “Sorry. I just—I mean—why not? Mark and Johnny—”

“Are different people,” Taeyong says. “And Youngho’s—Youngho’s.”

“Been around vampires for longer?” Jaehyun wagers, lips twisting into something very self-deprecating.

“Johnny knows what he’s getting into,” Taeyong corrects, not rising to the bait. “And it’s not like he’s come out of either of their… liaisons without any damage.”

Jaehyun wants to only be pleased at their similar word choice, but he can’t help but shiver when he thinks about the bandages around Johnny’s neck. And not only from his—thankfully still functioning—self-preservation instincts. A little of it is… he wouldn’t mind if it hurt a little after. If Jaehyun ached. Sex should… leave more than just memories. “Yeah, okay,” he says. Then he adds, feeling terribly shy, “I don’t need you to bite me. I just thought—I thought you might want—I mean—”

“Jaehyunnie.” Taeyong’s been calling Jaehyun that more often, since they got on the plane. Since they started dating—

“Hey, can we really call it dating if you’ve taken me on one date?”

“You’ve met my entire family,” Taeyong says simply, with only a smile. “But I see your point—once we’ve handled the serial killer, we can do all the date things.”

“Namsan Tower,” Jaehyun says, willing to hold him to that. “Love locks.”

Taeyong pulls a face. “Oh, Jaehyunnie, I’m older than Namsan Tower,” he says. “And I could break one of those love locks with my pinky.”

Jaehyun points at him. “How dare you,” he says, only a little embarrassed to be thinking about the lock he put on the gate when he was, what, sixteen? “It’s symbolic!”

“Jaehyun.”

“You’d break a symbol of our love with your pinky.”

For a second Jaehyun thinks Taeyong might actually go back on his word and bite his finger, and then he sighs. “Fine,” he says. “But what if we did Paris instead?”

Jaehyun forgets, sometimes, that he’s dating someone so rich and powerful that things like the cost of a flight and France being an entire continent away are irrelevant. “Sure,” he manages. “But let’s start with Namsan first.”

Taeyong sighs. “Fine,” he says. “But fair warning—I am intolerable when it comes to things I predate.”

Jaehyun snorts. “You forget I took classes with you, Art History Major-ssi,” he says.

Taeyong grins. “I think SM U started hiring vampire professors if only because the human faculty were complaining,” he says.

“You were particularly intolerable,” Jaehyun says.

“Lee-seonsaengnim was particularly incorrect,” Taeyong says.

Jaehyun drops his head onto his shoulder, snuggling into his side. “He wasn’t born in 1895, Taeyong-hyung.”

There’s a pause, and then Taeyong’s arm settles around Jaehyun’s back, his fingers splaying along Jaehyun’s hip. “Fair,” he says, breath ruffling the hair at the top of Jaehyun’s head.

Jaehyun shivers again, but not for lack of warmth. Taeyong’s fingers start to pet where they lay. “I wouldn’t keep doing that, if I were you,” he says, as Taeyong gets under his t-shirt, and they touch skin to skin.

“Why?” Taeyong’s voice is calm and utterly composed, but Jaehyun has noticed he’s stopped breathing save for enough air to talk.

“You’ll give me ideas,” Jaehyun says, somehow managing not to sound airy and affected. “You shouldn’t start something you don’t intend to finish.”

Taeyong’s hand slides forward enough so that the edge of his thumbnail almost reaches Jaehyun’s belly button, the intent behind the gesture leaving nothing to imagination. “What makes you think I don’t intend to finish?”

“Oh, well,” Jaehyun says, and then goes to get in Taeyong’s lap. He says goes, because he doesn’t do it all that gracefully. Part of it is because he’s still basically draped across Taeyong’s side, part of it is because he can’t quite believe this is really fucking happening, part of it is because they’re on a freaking roof, and Jaehyun is—tragically—human. He only doesn’t fall off the roof because Taeyong is not human, and for the two seconds of silence immediately following, Jaehyun just clutches at him embarrassingly tightly, the two of them nose to nose. “Let’s never speak of this again,” says Jaehyun.

Taeyong has both hands on his ass—mostly to keep Jaehyun from braining himself on the ground. “But Jaehyunnie—”

“Just the lack of grace,” Jaehyun says, drawing back a little so that he’s not too up and close and personal with Taeyong’s nostrils. “Everything else—I expect you to be talking about it for years to come. Centuries, even.” He doesn’t want to think about Taeyong existing without him, but well, if that has to happen—and it will happen, because Jaehyun will never force the issue; Taeyong doesn’t want to turn anyone, not even Johnny, who he’s known for all of his adult life—Jaehyun would settle for being remembered.

“You’re very graceful,” is all Taeyong says. He’s been holding Jaehyun’s ass for so long that it’s totally not about keeping him on the roof anymore but given that Jaehyun’s been grinding his hips in slow circles rather blatantly into his lap, Jaehyun doesn’t think he can be mad.

You’re graceful,” he says.

A blink, and Taeyong has Jaehyun laid out on the roof, and is looming over him. “I’m a vampire,” he says.

Jaehyun stares up at him, trying to decide if he really wants their first time to happen like this; on a roof. “You’re sure you want to keep bringing that up?” he manages. “It’s ruining your argument that it doesn’t matter—”

“Our age difference doesn’t matter,” Taeyong says. “It’s a non-issue. I can guarantee—I’m perpetually twenty-six. Trust me. I have five older siblings.”

Jaehyun has a thought, staring up at the stars and the slope of Taeyong’s nose. “Hey, what if one of your siblings—”

Taeyong drops his full weight down onto Jaehyun and growls, the vibration of it doing more than enough to leave Jaehyun utterly silenced. “No one else is biting you,” he says, voice deadly thin. “No one.”

Jaehyun swallows, throat gone dry. “Right,” he says. “Right, yes, of course.” His eyes drop down to Taeyong’s mouth, then go back up to his eyes. “Are you—are you planning on kissing me any time soon?”

Taeyong’s gaze drops to Jaehyun’s lips, but he makes no move to do so.

“Hyung?” Jaehyun says, trying not to squirm.

Taeyong keeps staring, but then he seems to come to a decision, and kisses Jaehyun. It’s a lot. Jaehyun likes kissing generally, but the combination of it being Taeyong and Taeyong’s inhuman biology makes everything all the more intense. He loses time, gets light-headed, and he’s hard—harder than he has any right to be from just kissing, which is—God—

“Taeyong-hyung,” Jaehyun says breathlessly, right up against the seam of his lips. “This is—purely—rhetorical—”

Taeyong stares down at him with luminous, beautifully large eyes, and waits.

“Would you—would your saliva—” God, Jaehyun can’t even figure out how to say it, how to ask. “Affect me—if I was—like you.”

Taeyong blinks. “Are you asking me if I’ve kissed other vampires?” he says finally. “Or… if my own spit… gets me hot—”

Jaehyun feels like his entire face is on fire. “You know what never mind,” he says. “Forget I asked—” He breaks off with hiss; Taeyong’s put his mouth on Jaehyun’s neck, left a miniscule kiss there that Jaehyun gets the feeling was totally involuntary, and it stuns him into not talking. It feels like all the air has gone out of the room, and they’re on a roof. There is no shortage of air. Jaehyun is even the only person who needs it to keep existing.

“I think it’s chemical,” Taeyong says, but he sounds like he’s not really answering Jaehyun’s question, more thinking. “And I’ve kissed vampires—I’m a hundred-and-twenty-six—”

“Stop—mentioning—”

“Jaehyunnie,” Taeyong says, back to kissing along Jaehyun’s neck. “I’m not letting you fuck me on the roof.”

Jaehyun can only blink. “You’re letting me fuck you?”

Taeyong’s mouth leaves Jaehyun’s neck. “Jaehyunnie-yah.” He’s over enunciating. “I am in love with you. Take me to fucking bed.”

Jaehyun doesn’t fall off the roof this time because he’s spread out on his back. He feels like he has, though. “As the—the immortal, inhumanly strong one in this relationship,” he manages. “I think that you should take me to bed—”

If pressed, Jaehyun probably wouldn’t be able to detail how they went from being on the roof to being back in Taeyong’s room laid out across Taeyong’s childhood bed, but it’s not like he’s all that mad. Taeyong’s childhood bed was made for someone physically twenty-six and since that afternoon it’s been made up with freshly changed bedding like they’re in a hotel. It is far superior to the roof. Also, Taeyong has absolutely no qualms about spreading out across the comforter under Jaehyun, all hard lines and thin waist—powerful limbs, perfect, heady scent. He smells like flowers, and soap, and something that Jaehyun can only describe as unnatural—but not bad. Vampire, his brain says, and part of him thinks he ought to run. The rest of him only wants to kiss Taeyong, to press him deeper into the bed and get his mouth all over him.

“You’re so,” Jaehyun says, in between kisses that leave him dizzy and even more distracted, the drug on Taeyong’s tongue more than doing its job. “I’m so—” The shirts have to go, the pants, slightly more complicated. Taeyong’s shirt has buttons. Jaehyun’s pants have buttons. Buttons are awful. Jaehyun is not going to be the type of person who will rip the buttons off someone’s shirt, just so he can get them naked. “I hate your clothes,” he says.

Taeyong laughs but reaches up to help Jaehyun with his shirt anyway, working his way down the expanse of his chest with far nimbler fingers.

“Cheater,” Jaehyun says, pulling his own polo over his head and trying not to feel too self-conscious once he’s topless.

“Vampire,” Taeyong says, losing his own shirt and dress pants. He’s still wearing his socks and his boxers and Jaehyun’s throat goes dry. Taeyong just grins and puts his head back so Jaehyun can see his fangs. “You know the good thing, about vampires?”

Jaehyun doesn’t know how he’s expected to carry on a conversation when Taeyong is working his boxers down over his ass seemingly without a care in the world for how very much Jaehyun is into him. “What?”

“We can’t get STIs.”

Jaehyun pauses with both hands still on the zip of his pants. “You what?”

Taeyong gets that final bit of clothing off and kicks his boxers across the room, leaving him spread against the bead completely naked save for the dress socks, pulled up high on his shins in a way that should not be sexy, his cock hard and curving up towards his flat stomach. “None of them affect me,” he says, with a jumpiness that belays how Jaehyun’s gaze is affecting him after all. “Also, I don’t think they’re fatal, which is good. Can you imagine being a vampire and dying of something like gonorrhea, or chlamydia?”

Jaehyun goes back to taking off his pants. “Are you sure you’ve slept with anyone in your—admittedly—very long life?”

Taeyong narrows his eyes, kicking off his socks and sending them sailing to join his pants hanging precariously over by the lamp. “Yes,” he says.

“Just asking.” Jaehyun shucks his own boxers and goes to settle on his knees between Taeyong’s spread legs. “Sexually transmitted diseases are not good bedroom talk.”

Taeyong snarls. “My point was we don’t need a condom,” he says. “I’m clean—and will always be clean—and even if you weren’t—don’t make that face. I can smell you—it wouldn’t matter.” His lips curl into a smile that shows the tips of both fangs. “I’m a vampire.”

“You said that already,” Jaehyun mumbles, heart rate definitely picking up. “Do you mind putting those away? I want to kiss you some more.”

Taeyong’s eyes flash, but he doesn’t close his mouth, or put away his fangs. No, he flips Jaehyun, moves too fast for Jaehyun to do more than gasp, disoriented with his head back against the pillow, trying not to hump his hips too obviously up into the air. Fuck, but if that’s not hot, that amount of strength. Jaehyun’s strong enough himself, but he’s never been into people who looked like they’d be capable of fucking him against a wall, nor been inclined to do the same. Taeyong doesn’t look like he’d be able—slim, mostly bone, and lithe in a way that makes him seem smaller than he actually is—but he is more than able, could hold Jaehyun up with only one hand and not even be bothered. Taeyong could lose control at any moment and do more than leave Jaehyun with bruises, but Taeyong loves him, and would never hurt him.

Not in ways that Jaehyun wouldn’t want him to, at least.

“What—oh,” Jaehyun says, as Taeyong presses surprisingly hot kisses to the bare skin of Jaehyun’s hip bones, both fingers sliding under the meat of Jaehyun’s ass and holding him in place. “Oh—oh—oh,” Jaehyun says, as Taeyong flicks his eyes up at him and puts his mouth on him, going all the way down so that his nose rests in Jaehyun’s pubic hair without pause.

Of course he’s not concerned.

Taeyong’s a vampire.

He doesn’t need to breathe.

He—he doesn’t—

“Do you not have a gag reflex?” Jaehyun manages, breathless and staring down with his hands hovering in the air because he’s too afraid to touch, and Taeyong comes off his dick with an audible, and unfairly sexy pop, fangs peeking out again. That makes Jaehyun’s heart stutter; he’d forgotten the fangs, but also hadn’t felt the fangs, and he’s not sure—he doesn’t—where do they go—

“Nope,” Taeyong says. “Vam—”

“—pire—fuck,” Jaehyun finishes for him, and gives up on not holding him by the hair.

“You can pull,” Taeyong says, then darts his tongue out to lick the slit of Jaehyun’s cock.

Things go very hazy, after that. Jaehyun doesn’t come, though not for lack of trying on Taeyong’s part. He really doesn’t have a gag reflex, and the lack of need for oxygen means he can go for as long as Jaehyun can stand, and then some. Jaehyun’s never had the opportunity to explore over-stimulation or even very minor bits of edging but he—Taeyong’s mouth makes him think things, especially since Taeyong is so strong, so pristine. There’s not a hair out of place, the disarray Jaehyun’s fingers have caused only serving to make him look even sexier. The only time he looks even remotely affected comes around the time Jaehyun starts to give up on not coming with his cock in Taeyong’s ass, because he pulls away from Jaehyun with more force than Jaehyun had been expecting, and takes two seconds just to breathe.

“Fuck,” he says. “Fuck—look—turn over.”

Jaehyun’s confused, shaken, and so hard that it hurts, but he understands enough to know that doesn’t make sense. “Wha—”

“No. Hold on.” A blur, and then Taeyong is the one on his back against the pillows, Jaehyun on knees on the bed in front of him, trying not to come then and there.

“I’m not fucking you, Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong says slowly. “I’ll bite you.”

Jaehyun whines.

Taeyong’s eyes flutter shut. “I can’t be on top of you,” he adds with careful pronunciation. Jaehyun notices he has both hands fisted in the blankets so hard that they might tear.

“I could ride you,” Jaehyun says, starting to feel a little more in control now that he’s not two seconds from shooting down Taeyong’s throat. “I—”

“No.” Taeyong lets go of the blankets and grabs Jaehyun by the back of the neck, pulling him in close so that he can kiss him, and then aborting when he misses and nearly buries his face in Jaehyun’s neck. “Fuck, God, you smell so good—”

Jaehyun places shaky hands on Taeyong’s shoulders, and uses them as an anchor so that he’s back to kneeling over Taeyong, not nearly suffocating him. “Where is the lube?”

Taeyong’s eyes look a little out of focus, but he very kindly doesn’t use vampire speed to get it. “Bedside table,” he says, pointing.

Jaehyun goes, finds an assortment of disorganization and a pair of old wired headphones, but eventually locates the bottle in question. He doesn’t question it, just pops the cap and slathers on a ridiculous amount onto three fingers. “Um—” The reality of the situation has started to catch up with him, the throb in his groin distracting, but less so, and the arousal from all of Taeyong’s pheromones has started to fade to something far less affecting.

“You don’t need to—” Taeyong says, as Jaehyun scoots back up the bed and goes to press one finger inside of him.

Jaehyun narrows his eyes. “Taeyong-hyung,” he says.

“It’s not like it can really hurt me,” Taeyong says in minor protest, and Jaehyun raises an eyebrow. “I don’t mind if it hurts a little?” Taeyong tries instead, hips twisting a little in time with the slide of Jaehyun’s finger deeper inside of him.

“Better,” Jaehyun says, starting to tease adding a second finger along the first. “Me too.” Taeyong’s breath hitches again and he shifts against the pillows. “That still doesn’t change the fact that you have a prostate.” It turns out that one time in college sometime after his man/vampire crisis and all the self-practice Jaehyun’s employed since have paid off, because Taeyong moans, eyes rolling back, and Jaehyun can only feel pleased. “I wonder if I could make you come with only my fingers,” Jaehyun muses, unable to resist giving Taeyong three fingers without any warning.

Taeyong is very, very tight, but he loosens easy enough, and it does seem to be true; if there’s pain, he doesn’t seem bothered by it, his cock an angry curve up against his abs. The skin there is wet with his own arousal, and Jaehyun is for a moment distracted.

“I have a gag reflex,” he says sadly, tone almost wistful.

“Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong says, head no longer thrown back against the pillow. “I am not a virgin.”

Jaehyun blinks down at him, curling all three fingers purposefully just to watch Taeyong’s eyes roll back and his fangs sink into his own bottom lip. God. The fangs. Jaehyun doesn’t know what to do with the fangs. Jaehyun had those fangs around his cock for what felt like hours, and Taeyong—Jaehyun hadn’t felt a thing.

“Me neither,” Jaehyun feels the need to add, still curling his fingers hard enough to make Taeyong’s lips start to tremble.

“I’ve been with—people who predate the Kama Sutra,” Taeyong says.

Jaehyun snorts, pulls his fingers free, and settles one hand anxiously on Taeyong’s hip and the other under the hook of one knee. “I don’t think that’s physically possible,” he says. “Even Lee Sooman—”

“Absolutely no talking about my great-grandfather when you’re about to put your dick in my ass,” says Taeyong, head all the way back against the pillows now. “God, Jaehyunnie. Please.” He groans when Jaehyun pushes in, little hiccupping noises that make Jaehyun want only to kiss him until Taeyong is distracted enough that he might let Jaehyun cut his tongue on a fang.

“Hyung,” he says, begs, balls deep and shaking. “Hyung—I—”

“Maybe—next time,” Taeyong says, promises nonsensically. “Maybe—fuck—I’ll fuck you—”

“I’ll ride you,” Jaehyun says, not really fucking so much as grinding, already too close for more than that. It’s different without a condom—not better; Jaehyun’s not stupid, but… different. It feels important, closer, like Jaehyun’s managed to climb inside Taeyong; exchange of bodily fluids with far less threat of danger, and/or mortal peril. “I’ll—”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Taeyong says, growling. Jaehyun works a hand between them and circles his cock, delighting in the moan that gets him, the flash of fangs, Taeyong’s own blood leaking down his chin.

“Kiss me,” Jaehyun says, something of a blood whore after all. “Kiss me—please—”

“I love you,” Taeyong says, twisting against the pillow. “I love you—God—fuck—there.”

Jaehyun works Taeyong’s cock faster, rocks his own hips harder, and gives up on begging for kisses. He drops his face down to bury in the center of Taeyong’s chest and then he’s the one biting, hard enough that he tastes blood but uncaring because of how good it feels, Taeyong clamping down on Jaehyun’s cock like a vice, his cock coming warm and hard in Jaehyun’s hand, and—the threat of fangs, in his neck. Taeyong’s fingers are in Jaehyun’s hair and his head is pulled to the side, neck forcibly exposed, Taeyong’s breath hot against his throat.

Jaehyun swears.

Taeyong swears.

Both of them are still caught up in the wave of orgasm, Jaehyun’s mind a mess of pleasure and white noise and the knowledge that he’d be fine, if Taeyong bit him, if Taeyong killed him, if this little death was his real death, and Mark wasn’t the only one never going to see the age of thirty, of twenty-five.

It never happens. The moment passes. Taeyong’s fangs don’t so much as scrape the skin of Jaehyun’s neck.

“Fuck,” Taeyong says finally. He lets go of Jaehyun’s hair and Jaehyun lets his head tilt back upright. Taeyong’s bottom lip is a red, bleeding mess, but he presses a kiss to the skin of Jaehyun’s throat regardless—almost an apology, probably involuntarily.

Jaehyun shudders, then goes boneless against him. “Ngh,” he manages, spent in more ways than one. “You’re not going to beat yourself up about that, are you?”

Taeyong is quiet for a long moment, and then his fingers settle back into Jaehyun’s hair and stroke, soft where they’d been harsh and yielding only seconds prior. “No,” he says. “It’s not—I’d like to think I have far greater control than the likes of Mark Lee.” He pauses, and Jaehyun waits for the feedback on his friend’s unheard reaction. None comes. “Mmm, they left,” Taeyong explains, petting Jaehyun some more like that’ll distract him. “Him and Johnny.” Taeyong yawns. “Probably everyone else—you were very loud.”

Jaehyun lifts his head off of Taeyong’s chest and gapes, horror icing his veins. “You—” he says. “I—”

“Don’t be upset,” Taeyong says. “They are vampires—”

“Your—your parents—”

“My parents have done far worse,” Taeyong says, then scowls when he realizes what it is he’s said. “Ugh, Jaehyunnie.” He pets harder until Jaehyun lays his head back down. “You’ve fucked me sentimental.”

Jaehyun hides a grin in Taeyong’s breastbone, which means Taeyong knows. “You’ve always been sentimental,” he says. “Baby Hyung.”

Taeyong’s fingers tighten in his hair.

“Ow—hey, I need that—”

Taeyong goes back to stroking, soothing and kind. “Are you planning on pulling out any time soon?” he says.

“Yes,” Jaehyun says. No, he thinks. He does so anyway, hissing on the drag, and trying not to think about—about—earlier—the fangs—and Taeyong’s lack of gag reflex. Taeyong is a vampire, so he knows, but Taeyong is Taeyong, so he says nothing—strips the bed, changes the sheets, and curls up around Jaehyun like he’s not even remotely tired, whispering “I love you’s” into the crown of Jaehyun’s head until Jaehyun can’t help but giggle, giddy and breathless and stupid with affection.

“There’s been a murder,” Jaehyun says finally. “We’re in the middle of a very serious situation.”

“I know,” Taeyong says, still fighting to get his fingers on Jaehyun’s outie belly button. “Now stop moving. I’ve never seen one of these before—”

“How can that be?” Jaehyun says, squirming away with uncharacteristic shyness. “You’re a hundred-and-twenty-six.”

“I’ve never met anybody like you before, Jeong Jaehyun,” Taeyong tells him seriously, with an expression that leaves Jaehyun too stunned to fight him off anymore. “I’ll never meet anyone like you ever again.”

So turn me, Jaehyun thinks. Don’t lose me. He keeps quiet. He holds Taeyong’s hand. He sleeps.

 


 

Waking up the next morning Jaehyun only feels pleased, surprisingly cool for having slept so wrapped up with someone, and only a little bruised. Taeyong had been gentle, but Taeyong is far stronger than any human, so Jaehyun expected the bruises. The lack of overheating too. Jaehyun runs warm, but Taeyong runs undead, and it works out. Of course Ten felt warm because Ten ate more people than Taeyong did, and while Jaehyun would never want to force Taeyong to do anything he didn’t want to—he did wonder. But then, it’s not like Taeyong wasn’t warm… everywhere. Certainly inside…

Jaehyun swallows, ears flaming, and opens his eyes.

His vampire stares back at him, a happy smile quirking his mouth. “What are you thinking about?” he asks.

Jaehyun is not answering that.

“Your heart rate picked up,” Taeyong continues, unconcerned. “And your breathing. Not to be a cliché, but I love that you do that—”

Jaehyun scoffs, but his ears still feel warm. “Are you always this sappy about my mortality? I never saw you act like this around Johnny-hyung. Why am I special?”

Taeyong shifts on the bed, knocking their legs together under the covers until they lock together once more. “I’ve known Youngho since he was seven years old,” he says. “I think it would be weird, if I—if we were—He agrees—Ten was actually a bit of a relief I think—”

“You know I was in America the same time as Johnny-hyung was,” Jaehyun says, before Taeyong can say anymore about Johnny’s threesome. (Brain bleach. So much brain bleach.) “And Mark. If you’d picked Connecticut… we could have been friends.”

Taeyong’s mouth drops open. “What?”

“Four or five years,” Jaehyun says, feeling awkward. “My dad moved us all there for work. Mark was in New York—much closer than Chicago—but still.”

“I threw darts at the map,” Taeyong says. “America was huge, and I had no experience with it. I just needed to get away.” He stops talking with a sad quirk to his mouth, and Jaehyun hates that for him.

“I get that,” Jaehyun says quickly, not in any rush to force Taeyong to explain any more than he wants. “I’m just saying… I could have been your seven-year-old human. Well… Five-year-old human, I guess.”

Taeyong gets a look on his face and Jaehyun decides he would rather get up than look at him when he says whatever bit of romance he’s gearing up for. “It wouldn’t have mattered, if I’d known you since you were five. I mean that’s part of the reason with Youngho—I knew him before he got tall—when he had all that acne—the first dates—that horrible period when he started working out and kept trying to arm wrestle.” Taeyong shakes his head, bemused. “Me,” he says. “Arm wrestling a human. It wouldn’t even be funny. I was just trying to let him save face.”

Jaehyun sits up, noticing that he’s a little achier than he’d first assumed, and stifles a yawn behind his hand.

“You’d have been different,” Taeyong says. “You’re—you’re Jaehyunnie.”

“Taeyong-hyung,” Jaehyun says. “You’re not—you don’t believe in like soulmates—”

Taeyong’s ears go bright red, but he holds his ground. “My parents have been in love for centuries,” he says. “They met in 1708.”

Jaehyun does not want to do that math. “Hey,” he says. “That’s the second time you’ve called them your parents.” The first time was immediately after all the fucking, and Jaehyun gets very distracted when he recalls that. His hips feel sore, but he’s not the one who had a cock in his ass. That prompts another thought, and unfortunately for Jaehyun, it sticks. “Do you ever get muscle aches?” he can’t help but blurt out. “Like, Mark said if you lose enough blood you heal slower, but…”

Taeyong heaves himself upright and stretches, seemingly unconcerned by how the blanket falls away and leaves him exposed. “Is this your way of finding out if I’m going to be feeling you, Jaehyunnie?” he says. “I know humans have things about dick size—”

“You were human once,” Jaehyun says, shoving him. “And shut up—”

“Do you want me limping, Jaehyun-ah?” Taeyong continues, uncaring and surprisingly confident in his teasing. “I don’t know if that should be the standard—I’d think you wouldn’t want me to feel it. Wouldn’t that mean you were too rough—”

“I like feeling it,” Jaehyun feels the urge to say. “And rough. And you’re immortal, so shut up.”

Taeyong gives one last stretch, before settling back against the pillows, not bothering to tug the blankets back up. “I am,” he says. He doesn’t answer Jaehyun’s question, but he has no outward marks from last night. “And I don’t, sorry.” He does look a little apologetic, and Jaehyun tells himself it would be stupid to be upset.

“Oh,” he says. “Well… if you did. I could… I mean Mark said… blood.” Jaehyun is starting to wonder if he should just turn over and try to smother himself under the pillows.

“Jaehyun-ah.” Taeyong’s eyes are too dark, deep pools. “You don’t need—”

“It’s not about need,” Jaehyun snaps, his ears feeling hot. Somehow he keeps Taeyong’s gaze. “At least not the way you’re thinking.” He struggles to find the words, and finally has to look away. “I’m just… curious,” he settles for. “You’re just… strong”—his voice cracks but he keeps going—“and fast and”—could kill me—“you’re going to make fun of me,” Jaehyun finishes with, feeling like he’s run a mile.

Taeyong places a hand to his unbeating heart, blinks, then puts it on Jaehyun’s chest, ignoring how much faster it beats once he’s done so. “Jaehyunnie-yah,” he says. “I would never.”

Jaehyun is embarrassed but trying valiantly not to show it. “My point is I think I’m always going to want to know what it feels like,” he says, and then he feels bad, because Taeyong clearly doesn’t want to bite him, and Jaehyun is pushing. “I’m not going to force—and I wouldn’t think any of the other vampires I know have a desire to piss you off since they’re all related to you—”

“Jaehyun-ah.” Taeyong’s expression is still a little unreadable, but the hand on Jaehyun’s chest is softer now, fingers almost soothing against Jaehyun’s skin. “It’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because I do.” There is emotion in his eyes now, something so painful and raw that Jaehyun wants to shut his eyes if only because it feels like he shouldn’t see it, know Taeyong in that way, though he’s known Taeyong in the most biblical of ways, now. Though maybe it doesn’t count, them not both being alive.

Like a perfect distraction from more serious things (what does it mean, that Taeyong wants to bite him so much that he wouldn’t—can’t; won’t—and what does it mean that Jaehyun is suddenly so sick with need that his toes curl?), the scar just to the side of Taeyong’s right eye seems to glint, and Jaehyun can’t help but reach out to touch. He strokes his thumb along the skin there, marveling at the imperfection. “You’re an oxymoron, Lee Taeyong,” Jaehyun says, his words a whisper.

“It’s from when I was a baby,” Taeyong says, content to leave the rest of their conversation abandoned. “I scratched at it too hard; left a mark.”

“It looks like a rose,” Jaehyun says. “Or the moon.” He touches it again. “I—sorry—”

Taeyong’s looking at him terribly fondly. “I’m a one-hundred-year-old vampire,” he says. “I eat humans to survive”—that should be scary; Jaehyun should be afraid; Jaehyun shouldn’t want—shouldn’t think—“and you’re calling my scars beautiful—”

“They are—you are—shut up—”

“I love you,” Taeyong tells him, leaning in time for Jaehyun’s stomach to growl. “Now speaking of eating…”

“No humans,” Jaehyun says, getting up. His side feels a little itchy, and investigation shows why. “Oh,” he says. “Gross. Next time condoms.”

Taeyong shrugs, but doesn’t dispute.

“Shower then food,” Jaehyun says. “People food.” Then he shoots his vampire boyfriend a look. “Carry me.”

Taeyong blinks. “Jaehyunnie.”

“You love me,” Jaehyun replies, one brow quirked. “Or did I mishear.”

“Dork,” Taeyong mutters, even as he hoists Jaehyun in a move that feels far too reminiscent of a bridal carry.

“Opportunist,” Jaehyun says, around a yawn. “Wake me when food.”

“I will drop you,” Taeyong mutters. He doesn’t.

 


 

Breakfast goes well, until Taeyong’s entire family comes by. Doyoung and Jungwoo visit first, cheerfully entering the kitchen and going to flank poor Taeyong without so much a glance at Jaehyun. They act like nothing has happened at all, but no matter of squirming can free Taeyong from their clutches, leaving Jaehyun’s vampire to sigh and fall boneless into almost all of Doyoung’s lap. Jaehyun just hooks a finger around his plate and scoots in his seat until Jungwoo isn’t sitting almost on top of him.

“Get it over with,” Taeyong tells Doyoung. “Be the big brother—Yuta is next, right? How dare he. He didn’t even tell me about Akane—”

“Taeyongie-hyung, I’m so happy you are no longer a virgin—” Yuta breaks off into an echo of cackles when Taeyong reaches over Jungwoo to grab a knife and hurls it at him; he catches it, because there is no clatter, and moments later the thing comes sailing back to land perfectly in the drying rack next to the sink.

Jaehyun swallows around a mouthful of rice and slowly lowers his chopsticks, heart rate suitably elevated.

“Be sure to send me and Johnny-hyung a wedding invite!” Taeyong tells Yuta. “You know our address, right?”

Yuta retreats with minor fuss, still laughing.

“He’s not actually going to marry her, do you think?” asks Jungwoo, eyeing Taeyong’s sprawl into Doyoung’s lap like he’s considering following suit. “I know Changmin-hyung said he’d like that, but wouldn’t that still cause a fuss with… you know… Japan. Lee Sooman… seonsaengnim.” The title comes out after a minor pause that has Doyoung’s lips twitching, but when Jaehyun glances at him, his features are immediately schooled.

Taeyong eyes Jungwoo right back, lifting his head a little so that he can eye contact. “What about the two of you?” he says, ignoring the question entirely. “Are you done pretending no one knows you’re in love with each other?”

Doyoung makes a noise, but Taeyong doesn’t get tipped on the floor.

Jungwoo just stares right back, the unnatural stillness of his body the only thing giving him away. “Dunno,” he says. “Are we?”

“You’re just trying to get me to stay in Tokyo,” Doyoung accuses, finally shoving Taeyong off of him.

Taeyong flops into Jungwoo, who very gently tips him back to center. “Taeil-hyung is right here, as is Donghyuckie.”

Jaehyun decides to go back to his breakfast, since none of this is enlightening.

“Go dangle them off the roof or something,” Taeyong finishes. “It’s been years, Doyoung-ah.”

Doyoung doesn’t look at him, but Jungwoo very kindly pokes him in one cheek.

“You’re only hurting yourselves.”

Doyoung shoots Taeyong a particularly sharp look. “You know better,” he says. “You should know—especially given yesterday—”

Taeyong knocks their shoulders together. “I know,” he says. He finally catches Jaehyun’s eye around Jungwoo, and Jaehyun gets the sense he’ll be told everything once they’re properly alone. “Believe me, I know.”

The three vampires lapses into silence, the only sound Jaehyun slowly vacuuming up his rice. He’s a lot hungrier than he’d expected, but then, he’d had a far more active evening than he’d expected. He feels flushed just thinking about it, but a glance shows Jungwoo and Doyoung are too distracted communicating silently to pay any mind to Jaehyun.

“Fine,” Doyoung says. “I’ll stay. You can go home with just Ten for company.” His lips quirk. “Good luck with that. He’s going to be pissed when he finds out Kun was home.”

Taeyong looks too pleased at the prospect of whatever it is Doyoung has conceded to care. “Thanks, Doyoungie,” he says. “Dongyoungie.” Doyoung doesn’t so much as twitch as the other name, but Taeyong keeps going. “Honestly, you’ve been stupid to not—”

“How long have you known this asshole, Jaehyun-ah?” Doyoung says, leaning around Taeyong and Jungwoo to address Jaehyun rather suddenly. “Three, four years?”

“Uh.” Jaehyun frantically swallows rice. “Like three years? We met in March of 2018.”

Taeyong is frantically shaking his head, but it’s too late.

“Three years,” Doyoung says. “And when did you notice you’d like to be more than just friends, Taeyong-ah?”

Taeyong mouths something that couldn’t possibly be “I will never sleep with you again,” and Jaehyun lifts both brows, disbelieving.

“Thanks for agreeing to stay at home, Doyoung-ah,” Taeyong tells Doyoung. “Now shoo. Jaehyunnie and I are eating.”

Jungwoo makes a noise and goes to speak, but Doyoung grabs him by the hand before he can do so.

“Sure thing.” He tugs the other vampire to standing, and then doesn’t let go. “We have an older sibling to go dangle off a roof, anyway.”

“Don’t you dare,” interrupts Taeil-hyung, walking through the room and straight for the fridge. He grabs two blood bags and turns in a quick circle, heading back the way he came. “By the way, Taeyong.”

Taeyong looks up like a deer on the end of a long rifle.

“Thanks for last night. Hyuck was particularly inspired.”

Taeyong is not the only one looking horrified by that statement, especially when Donghyuck wanders in to steal one of the bags of blood, guzzling the thing straight from Taeil-hyung’s hand without a care in the world. He’s very clearly limping, and Jaehyun… Jaehyun could have gone without that knowledge. Although there is his question from earlier answered.

All of them leave in time for Mark and Johnny to appear, and Jaehyun moves his chair back towards Taeyong’s. “Hey—”

“I’ll explain on the plane,” Taeyong tells him. “Really—”

“Okay—”

“Hi,” interrupts Mark, crossing to the fridge and pulling out his own blood bag, pouring the stuff into a wine glass without any concern about Jaehyun’s still open mouth. He points at Taeyong with one hand. “You are an asshole.” Once the glass is completely full, he drowns the thing in one shot.

Jaehyun can only stare, moderately speechless. At his side, Taeyong remains unruffled, poking the leftover food around on Jaehyun’s plate with almost childlike petulance. “You realize you don’t actually need blood—”

“An asshole,” Mark says, setting the glass down on the table and turning to look at Johnny. “Tell him.”

Johnny winces. “Well—”

“You’ve sexiled me at least three times since this whole thing started,” Taeyong says, counting off on his fingers. “And”—he shoots Mark a particularly pointed look—“my sense of smell is significantly better than yours. I know all about the things you did on the couch. My couch.”

Johnny’s mouth shuts, and even Mark looks a little less mad.

Jaehyun shoves in more food to keep from being interrogated.

“And you—”

Jaehyun can only stare back at Mark with cheeks puffed full of rice, the picture of ‘who, me?’

“Keep it to yourself, Jaehyun-hyung.”

Jaehyun has no idea what Mark is talking about.

“‘Do you not have a gag reflex?’ We’re vampires! Why would we have a gag reflex? We don’t need to breathe!”

“He’s just cranky because we spent the night in town and I wouldn’t let him drive Changmin-hyung’s convertible,” says Johnny, taking Mark’s empty wine glass and walking it over to the sink. “And”—he shoots Jaehyun an apologetic look—“you were loud.”

“Could you hear me?” Jaehyun swallows the rice painfully fast.

“Well, no—”

“So there!” Jaehyun says. “It’s not my fault you all have superhuman hearing. Also”—his ears feel hot but he keeps going regardless—“Taeyongie-hyung’s… it would have been rude to be quiet.”

Taeyong makes a startled noise, but it’s Johnny who outwardly reacts.

“Jaehyunnie.” He crosses the room again so that he can give Jaehyun a high five. “Welcome to the family.”

Jaehyun stares, hand still outstretched for the high five.

At his side, Taeyong doesn’t dispute any of it.

“Johnny-hyung,” Jaehyun manages. “I—”

“I mean it,” Johnny says. His hand tightens around Jaehyun’s in a fist. “But if you break his heart, I’ll break you.”

“Johnny-hyung,” Mark says this time.

Johnny is unfazed. “Are we clear?”

“Crystal,” Jaehyun manages.

“Yay.” Johnny gives him his hand back. “Now Mark—”

From the doorway there is suddenly clapping, and Jaehyun looks quickly to find Ten, halfway into the kitchen. He’s accompanied by Lucas, tall and standing so close that it should be uncomfortable, and looking remarkably like a dog. Only Ten is clapping, but Lucas still looks gleeful.

Taeyong gives Johnny a particularly betrayed look, but Johnny just shrugs. “You were busy when they got here. There’s no reason I shouldn’t have let them in.”

“Thresholds get weird when their humans don’t come home for more than a couple of years,” Ten explains, seeing Jaehyun’s look. “Don’t worry. If you stick around, we’ll give you more than just the free tour.”

Lucas has stopped simply standing behind Ten, and is now craning further into the kitchen, not quite crowding the older vampire, but clearly not willing to pass him and go in alone. “Why do I smell Kun-gege?” he asks, expression odd. “And recently—not like before—”

There is uncomfortable, awful silence. Ten inhales deeply.

“Youngho,” he says finally, voice very quiet. “Why does the house smell like Kun?”

There is more awful silence.

“Youngho,” Ten says again. “Taeyong.”

Taeyong lifts his head, guilt pouring off him in spades. “I didn’t know,” he whispers. “Ten, I didn’t know.”

Ten’s expression is unreadable to Jaehyun, but clearly not to Taeyong, or Johnny. His eyes shut. “He knew,” he determines immediately. “It’s why he let Xuxi come visit.”

“He had to come home,” Taeyong admits, still in that same, painfully quiet tone. “He had to introduce someone to the family.”

There’s more chilling, broken silence.

Then Lucas breaks it, somehow worse than it all. “Kun-gege has a baby?” the other vampire says, not sounding very old at all.

 


 

The flight back to campus is awful.

It’s Johnny, Jaehyun, Mark, Taeyong, and Ten, but no one talks to anyone. Ten had a raging argument with Yunho-hyung before they left that afternoon, which saved Jaehyun from further interrogation. He has very little memory of that interaction, only he’s relatively certain he’s joined Yunho-hyung’s book club and no longer allowed to call him “Yunho-hyungnim” to his face. Also Yunho-hyung has been emailing Jaehyun’s mother? It was something. Ten barging in to shout at the vampire about Kun had been a relief.

Lucas disappeared pretty much the moment they found out about Yangyang. Lucas had Chenle, Jaehyun remembered, but Kun… Kun and Lucas had been close, before. They’d called each other twins, since they had the same death day. Lucas loved the whole family, obviously, but Kun—

So he’d disappeared into his room and hadn’t even come out to tell Ten goodbye.

It’s good, ultimately, that Jaehyun can close his eyes and use the vampires as an excuse to sleep the entire trip back to Seoul; he’s not even mad he still doesn’t know what’s going on with Doyoung and Jungwoo, more concerned with how even Mark and Johnny seem to be walking around Ten on eggshells.

Of course the first thing Jaehyun sees, when they’ve finished dropping Taeyong and Johnny’s things back at the apartment and argued about who’s going back to campus with Mark and Jaehyun—Taeyong and Johnny but not Ten, who has other things he could be doing, like very aggressively hassling the SMPA; poor Junho-hyung, Jaehyun thinks—is his mother.

She’s parked her car as close to Jaehyun’s dorm as she can get, gotten out of the drivers side to lean impassively against the passengers’ side door, and when she sees them all, she comes forward without any trace of fear.

“Jeong Yuno,” she says, like she always does when Jaehyun is in trouble, and Jaehyun swallows.

“Mom,” he manages. “Hi.”

Chapter Text

For all his bluster about one day wanting to introduce his mother to Taeyong, it turns out Jaehyun is not prepared for such a thing to be reality. For one, his mother goes to him first, choosing to ignore the undead halves of the equation, and spending so much time fussing over Jaehyun that Johnny and Mark escape interrogation simply because loitering for too long is awkward. Mark’s things aren’t even on campus since Mark lives off campus, but he and Johnny went with Jaehyun and Taeyong anyway in case they needed help. They won’t, probably, since Jaehyun’s mom is here, but Jaehyun could have still used the moral support.

He does his best to convey to the back of Mark’s head just how much his friend is going to regret leaving him alone with his mother and his vampire, but Mark doesn’t look back once.

Which is fine, because Jaehyun is fine.

He’s fine when his mother stops fussing over his hair and however many ribs she can or cannot feel and instead turns the full force of her ire on Taeyong, who to his credit, stands and answers all of her questions without seemingly any concern. He even answers the ones Jaehyun takes issues with—all sorts of invasive stuff that has Jaehyun blushing and sputtering and trying to put her back in the car.

He draws the line at asking Taeyong to show her his fangs, though, shoving his way between the two of them and tugging Taeyong’s hand away from his mouth. “Stop that,” he tells him. “Don’t show her that. Don’t ask him that—Mom!”

His mom looks at him, eyes sharp.

“He’s not an animal in the zoo. You’re embarrassing me,” Jaehyun decides to go with, and she can’t help but grin. Jaehyun feels his chest start to ease a little, since she can’t be too mad at him if she’s smiling.

“Yuno-yah”—well there goes that; he’s only his legal name when his parents are mad with extreme emphasis—“this has nothing to do with Taeyongie being a vampire”—Jaehyun’s not the only one mouthing the nickname under his breath, although Taeyong gets away with it by standing mostly behind Jaehyun—“it has to do with Taeyongie being your boyfriend.

Jaehyun nearly takes his own tongue off in his haste to interrupt her. “Yes, well, thank you, the fangs are real, I assure you, can we go get my things, now?” It’s mostly his clothes and all of his bedding, but unlike Mark, Jaehyun has no excuse to stay in Seoul for summer session. Mark can’t go home yet because Mark is still learning how to be a vampire, and whatever is waiting for Mark at his apartment is probably far worse than what Jaehyun’s facing now, but Jaehyun still feels… jealous. He wants to stay on campus, with Taeyong, and Johnny, and Ten. He wants… He doesn’t know what he wants.

“Jaehyun.”

Jaehyun startles and smiles a little now that he’s Jaehyun again, darting in to finally give his mom a hug hello. “Hi,” he tells her collarbones, bending because he’s taller than her now, and he’s never quite gotten used to that. “Hi.”

His mom hugs him back, and if it’s a little tighter than Jaehyun would have thought reasonable for only the end of the spring semester… There have been four murders on campus and extenuating circumstances. “Now.” His mom steps back, her gaze leaving Jaehyun’s and—shockingly—Taeyong’s as well. “Where’s that best friend of yours?”

Jaehyun blinks.

“Don’t think I noticed him leaving without even a hello—I talked that boy through enough failed loads of laundry to warrant at least a hello.”

Jaehyun can only laugh, covering his mouth with the back of a hand because he’s in front of his mom, and turning to look conspiratorially at Taeyong. “She means Mark. She’s talking about Mark.” He pauses, hand lowering part of the way. “You know how to do laundry, right?” he says. “I mean I’ve seen your house—you’re practically a prince anyway.”

Taeyong glares, cheeks heating with all that borrowed blood. (Jaehyun still doesn’t understand, but he’s starting to get the sense that the answer to his questions is going to be a shrug and maybe an errant, “I don’t know? Magic?” which is frustrating.) “I’ll have you know that I predate the washing machine, you fuck,” he says, and then seems to realize they have an audience right about the time Jaehyun remembers; when his mom laughs, loud and totally uncaring of how unattractive it might make her features. “I’m so sorry,” Taeyong says, looking quite like he’d like to drop to his knees in front of Jaehyun’s mother, but that only serves to make her laugh harder.

“You’re embarrassing me again,” Jaehyun tells her on Taeyong’s behalf, and then takes hold of Taeyong’s hand. It’s cool. Jaehyun doesn’t shiver. “We’ll go get my things. You just stay here and—and—laugh at us.”

For some reason that seems to make his mother laugh even harder, and Jaehyun sighs, sticks his tongue out at her, and with an apologetic squeeze to Taeyong’s fingers, runs back to give her another quick hug. “What do you think?” he says. “He’s… he’s cute, right?” His family has had plenty of time to get over the bisexual thing, especially since Jaehyun isn’t altogether convinced it’s not just “women and vampires named Lee Taeyong,” but he still feels shy asking. He doesn’t need his mother’s approval—Taeyong is older than even his grandmother—but. He’d like it.

“He’s lovely, Yuno,” his mother says. “He’s cute. He’s—”

“He can hear us,” Jaehyun decides, seeing it in her face without even having to look. “Right.” He gestures in the vague direction of his vampire boyfriend. “You go ahead; you know my passcode, it’s, uh, the day Mark and I met—the suitcase is under the bed. They’ll be tiered prizes for how much of the room you manage to pack before Mom and I get there.” There’s not even a displacement of air, but the expression on Jaehyun’s mother’s face says enough. “You get used to that,” he tells her. It’s only a little lie.

His mother swings an arm around his shoulders, holding him tight and then pressing a loud kiss to one cheek and then letting her lips just stay there. “So,” she says, locking the car with an audible chirp before starting to draw Jaehyun along the way Taeyong went without him. “You’re safe?”

Jaehyun falls into step beside her. “Yes,” he says, and almost believes it. “Taeyongie won’t let anything happen to me.”

“Taeyongie?”

“Taeyong-hyung. And Doyoung-hyung—Ten-hyung.” At her look, he smiles. “Taeyong-hyung’s brothers.”

She pauses as he swipes into the building. “Brothers?”

“Vampires,” Jaehyun confirms, pressing the button for his floor once they reach the elevators. “You’d like them. Well, Doyoung-hyung at least. Ten-hyung is, uh. I’m sure he’s great with mothers. He’s certainly fine with his own.” Jaehyun can’t help adding that last bit, even though his mother doesn’t understand. They step into the elevator.

“Vampires have mothers?”

Jaehyun doesn’t know how to answer that. He does, but he doesn’t. “It’s—it’s a joke—” He’s never been happier the elevator in his dorm is so quick. “Here, I’ll go see how much he’s done—”

Taeyong meets them outside the elevator with Jaehyun’s entire college life collected into his two suitcases. Some things are set on top of them, and Jaehyun is pleased to notice he understands the disappointed look on Taeyong’s face.

“There,” Taeyong says, gesturing at his bounty when he sees them. “What will that get me?”

Jaehyun doesn’t take the bait, too busy grinning at the pinched expression Taeyong seems unable to fully hide. “You’re thinking of ways to get me to go to the mall with you,” he determines. “You fashion snob.”

“One person does not need the number of black t-shirts you own, Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong says in a tone that is only a little fake-snotty. He doesn’t so much as twitch when Jaehyun’s mother takes the opportunity to step past him, but his eyes flicker to hers as she crosses around him and Jaehyun’s things in the hall to go see for herself.

“You can’t go wrong with a black t-shirt,” Jaehyun says, because not kissing Taeyong in front of his mother just might be beyond him at this point. “And some of us are actual broke college students working minimum wage, not hundred year-old imposters.”

Taeyong’s face does something to suggest Jaehyun isn’t the only one fighting not to make out in the middle of a college dorm. “I’m not an imposter,” he says. “I got a two on my Art History midterm just like the rest of you.

Jaehyun snorts. “That brag would work better for you if you hadn’t lived through the period in question,” he says. “Were you actually wrong, or just splitting hairs?”

Taeyong’s mouth to no doubt go off on a truly inspiring tirade on the importance of accurate, unedited history, and Jaehyun gives in and kisses him to stop it, hoping that his mother is too busy being in awe of Taeyong’s cleaning skills to check on them.

“I love you,” he says once he’s pulled back. “And I told you my mom was scarier.”

Taeyong’s mouth is still parted, his lips red like he’s the one fighting off chemically induced lethargy and arousal because technically he’s food for the person he’s been kissing. “Your mom isn’t scary,” he says. “My mom is much scarier.”

Jaehyun puts his head back and laughs, heedless of whatever that may or may not signal to a vampire. (Or, the tiny part in his gut tells him, because of that.) “I’m telling Ten-hyung you said that.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Taeyong says. “How many times do I have to threaten to withhold sex, Jaehyunnie—”

“Ahem,” says Jaehyun’s mother, effectively ice water.

Taeyong goes so still he could be—Jaehyun can’t help but think—dead.

“Unfair,” Jaehyun tells him out of the side of his mouth. “You are cheating.”

Taeyong simply remains a statue.

Jaehyun whirls to face his mother. “Mom,” he says with what he hopes is a very innocent smile. He’s twenty-four, but he feels only four.

His mother leans out of his empty dorm room, her expression only bemused. “It’s spotless,” she says. “I think you should definitely keep him.”

Jaehyun only flushes a little bit.

 


 

His mother insists on taking Taeyong and Jaehyun out for lunch. Somewhere in the middle of it all, Mark, Johnny, and Mark’s mother show up, and they get dragged along as well. The only place Jaehyun can think of is the late Chaeyoung-noona’s coffee shop—it’s not really her coffee shop, but Jaehyun’s never going to think of it as anything else at this point, probably—so they go there, and the vampire from before serves them, despite it being lunch time. She’s less nervous than she was then, though she does look about ten seconds from bowing every time Taeyong so much as looks at her.

Mark laughs until Taeyong makes a show of welcoming him to the family loud enough for her to notice, a dual edged sword because now she’s nervous around Mark, and because it makes Mark’s mother’s expression tighten.

Taeyong clearly feels bad, but he can’t take it back.

It’s not the worst lunch outing Jaehyun has ever had, but it’s still up there. Jaehyun’s sociable and likes being around people, but even he has his limits, which is why later that night finds him agreeing to be the one to go out on a 7-Eleven run for food. Taeyong and Johnny have none, because, of course, Doyoung is a vampire who wouldn’t think about that sort of thing, and also—according to Johnny—they don’t really keep a lot of food to begin with since Taeyong doesn’t eat and Johnny mostly eats on campus. He’d have dragged Mark, but it’s only 7-Eleven, and Mark’s been pretty subdued since his mother left. And Jaehyun would like at least a few moments to himself, even if they are only two subway stops to get food.

Jaehyun concedes that he’ll keep his phone on him at all times and agrees to stay on the call with Taeyong for the entire time he’s out of the apartment purchasing their priorly agreed upon haul of instant ramen.

He does not concede to not giving Taeyong crap about it. And so:

“This has to stop once we’ve thwarted the—fixed our problem,” Jaehyun says, paying the cashier with a smile that he hopes simply comes across as unassuming. The cashier is human, to Jaehyun’s relief. Jaehyun is jumpy, which is totally the byproduct of the vampire on the opposite end of the phone, and he’d hate to have to navigate interacting with someone who could hear Taeyong and probably smell how Jaehyun feels about him. “This level of control freak isn’t attractive, and I can already tell I’m going to be the extrovert of this relationship.”

“Oh, what gave it away?” Taeyong says dryly. “We’ve only known each other for nearly three years and you’ve only just managed to learn my birthday.”

“That was because you were being a dick,” Jaehyun says, taking his change with a smile and sliding the ramen into the offered bag. He bows politely, saying his thanks, and slips out of the store. It’s warm for mid-summer, and the sky is clear with very few clouds. It reminds Jaehyun of the view from off Taeyong’s roof, which reminds Jaehyun of the things that happened on Taeyong’s roof, and then after. It reminds him of that morning, of their discussion about… biting.

Jaehyun gnaws on the inside of his cheek. “Anyway—” he starts to say, glad they’re an entire two subway stops away and Taeyong can’t do more than listen to him breathe. He wonders if Taeyong could hear his heartbeat across a phone line. He almost drops the bag of ramen, then tightens his hold on the bag. “Taeyong-hyung—”

“You’re not a fan of the overprotective thing?” Taeyong interjects quickly, sounding pleased. “That’s too bad. I do a really good caveman. Youngho can confirm—” He keeps talking, but Jaehyun stops listening, because at that moment, a car pulls up next to him.

There’s a vampire sitting in the driver’s seat, and he’s staring. He’s thin, unfortunately not immune to the general handsomeness of the undead—really, once this is over, Jaehyun is going to do a fucking survey; chicken; egg—with bloodshot, dark brown eyes, and a frightening expression. His face is conventionally attractive—tiny with a sharp jawline—but his eyes are too close together and they hold little-to-no emotion; no life.

They wouldn’t.

He’s dead.

He’s also their murderer; the likeness to Ten’s drawing is somewhat uncanny.

“Jeong Jaehyun, get in the car,” the vampire says, with a deadpan seriousness that makes Jaehyun stop in his tracks more than the stopped vehicle in the middle of the road.

“Oh, come on,” he hears himself say. “I’m on the phone with my immortal boyfriend.”

Taeyong’s sentence cuts off. “What was that? Who are you talking to?”

“He’s going to kick your ass,” Jaehyun continues, unable to help himself. Foreign Vampire has no weapons, but Foreign Vampire is a vampire, and his mouth is a weapon, as are his fingers, and his inhuman strength. Jaehyun should really get in the car.

“Jaehyunnie-yah,” snaps Taeyong.

“Get in the car,” the vampire repeats. “Or I will kill you right here.”

There’s an inhale, right next to Jaehyun’s ear, and then Taeyong’s voice is like a knife through butter. “Jaehyun—”

“I’m getting in the car,” Jaehyun says, lowering the phone and sliding it into his pocket.

 


 

Possibly Jaehyun has a death wish. There’d been signs before, like his willingness to rush headfirst into the mess of Mark’s murder, and how he still wanted Taeyong to bite him, despite how that the threat of such the other night on the roof had reminded him to be afraid of all vampires—even ones who wouldn’t try to leave scars. Jaehyun had wanted the scars, still wants the scars, and clearly his mouth is perfectly happy to try to get him them.

His mouth also doesn’t seem to discriminate, unbothered by the fact that he’s not with Taeyong, and is currently sitting in the passenger seat of a car with a serial killer vampire. It seems perfectly content to keep up a running commentary about said vampire’s level of skill at kidnapping. And his general state of dress—his appearance, his clothes, the fact that the blood splattered aesthetic kind of just makes Jaehyun think of human murderers, instead of immortal, terrifying beings.

“I think—leather,” Jaehyun hears himself saying, but can’t seem to figure out how to stop—or how to at least control what comes out of his mouth. “You could have done leather—a leather jacket, and”—he glances down at the vampire’s bare feet on the pedals of the car—“combat boots,” Jaehyun finishes. “You’re certainly leaving an impression, but not a good one.” You kind of look like a homeless delinquent, or a pretty boy actor playing one. Oh, so maybe his mouth is discriminating a little bit. Good to know. If only it could shut up, period.

The vampire doesn’t even look at him, just grunts out something that sounds remarkably like the word “no,” but ultimately doesn’t seem to commit to anything. This is Jaehyun’s cue to stop talking, so, of course, he keeps going.

“Do you have a name?” he says. “And a motive? Like, we’ve all just sort of been referring to you as ‘that guy’ or ‘that vampire who killed you.’”

“Kyungchul,” the vampire says, still not willing to give more than one-word answers. “Kyungchul.” He lapses into something that sounds much more suited to a Joseon drama, and Jaehyun furrows his brow.

“Okay,” he says. “Um. How old are you?” Because he could have sworn the man couldn’t be an old vampire—not with the way he’d been going about killing. Everything Ten, Doyoung, and Taeyong had said suggested that their murderer was a newborn, and this vampire—this Kyungchul—he’s talking like he’s been around for centuries.

“Older than you,” Kyungchul says, making an uncomfortably sharp turn. Jaehyun realizes he’s not wearing a seatbelt, and wonders if he’s ever driven a car before.

“Most vampires are,” Jaehyun says. “Except Mark. You know Mark. You killed Mark.”

Kyungchul turns to face him with his lips pulled back into a snarl, his face an ugly, scary thing. “Mark,” he says. “Mark Lee.”

Jaehyun doesn’t know if he’s glad that he knows who Mark is.

“He talked to her,” Kyungchul continues. “Her. Grandmother-nim. Boa.”

Jaehyun blinks. He can’t mean—“Kwon Boa?” he tries.

Kyungchul takes another turn too fast, and this time Jaehyun goes sprawling against the vampire due to the centrifugal force. It’s terrifying, the worst three seconds of Jaehyun’s life, and by the time he’s recovered enough from it to settle as far away from him as possible against the door, Kyungchul has gone back to grinning at him like the serial killer he is. “Yes,” he says. “Kwon Boa-ssi. Kwon Boa-noona. Kwon Boa-whore—she is—mean—” He’s definitely having trouble with modern words and the name calling is only something Jaehyun can discern because of period dramas. “She killed father.” He’s not making much sense, regardless, even if Jaehyun knows all the old words. “I’ll kill you, now.”

“Yeah,” Jaehyun says, with his heart feeling like it’s in his throat and his still-on-the-call phone feeling like a hot coal in his pocket. “I’ve never met Kwon Boa-ssi.”

Kyungchul just snarls at him once more and cuts the ignition. “Get out,” he says

Jaehyun casts a glance out the front window, noticing they’re still in the city, but that there’s no one around—very limited streetlights to keep the shadows at bay. He has no idea how long they’ve been in the car and has very little desire to pull out his phone to check. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline,” he says.

“Stop talking,” the vampire says, pulling open his own door with deathly speed. “Get out.” He stares, pupils unnaturally wide, and Jaehyun swallows. “Get out of the car.” Kyungchul gets out of the car faster than Jaehyun could ever, and looms menacingly beside the door as Jaehyun finally also does so. “Move.”

His command form is fucked beyond reason, but Jaehyun gets the idea. He steps free of the car and lets the vampire start to walk him towards a—

“Oh my God. It’s a shack. Could you be more of a cliché?” Jaehyun says, because—death wish.

To his credit, Kyungchul is showing a surprising amount of restraint; Jaehyun really has no idea why he’s still alive—he’s been giving the vampire crap since the moment he got forced into the car. “I’ve killed before,” Kyungchul says.

“Very badly,” Jaehyun says. “Mark’s totally fine now.” That finally gets him a snarl, but Jaehyun still keeps going, unable to stop at this point. “Also, I’m on the phone with my immortal boyfriend.”

Kyungchul tilts his head at him in a way that should be human and normal, but mostly makes him look like a robot. “And?”

“I never hung up,” Jaehyun says, right about the time Taeyong lands solidly on the hood of their abandoned car, fangs out and eyes glinting.

“Hi,” he says. “I’m the immortal boyfriend.” And then he takes the other vampire’s head off with a fucking katana.

The blood goes—everywhere. Jaehyun supposes that makes sense, given the brain, and the carotid, but still stands there thankful for the fact that he was wearing his glasses and not contacts, and for the fact that his phone is still in his pocket. Then he feels a little queasy and does his best to breathe calmly through his nose. There is blood in his hair, running down his face, and getting dangerously close to inside his mouth. It’s warm, and sticky, and smells very faintly like old pennies. Jaehyun feels faint, and dizzy, and totally off balance.

There is utter, utter silence.

“Oh shit,” Taeyong says finally. “Shit. Jaehyunnie.” He breaks off, voice going muffled, and Jaehyun can’t even fully appreciate the view when he tugs his shirt off his body and uses it to slop at the worst of the blood covering Jaehyun’s face, neck, and shoulders. The clothes are pretty much a lost cause, but they were a lost cause when Jaehyun got abducted in them by the serial killer vampire—ruined by bad association alone. It’s too bad. Jaehyun would hate to lose a perfectly good black t-shirt. Taeyong would be so sad.

Taeyong finishes with Jaehyun’s face and glasses, and then moves on to his arms and wrists, the expression on his face odd. Jaehyun almost gets the sense that he’s jealous, but that would make no sense. “You smell—” Taeyong starts to say when he finally looks at Jaehyun, and Jaehyun steps in close to kiss him before he can finish. He’s not nearly clean enough for that, but he doesn’t care. The alternative is throwing up all over Taeyong’s shoes.

“Hi,” he says when he’s finished. “Thank you.”

Taeyong just keeps staring at him, not even breathing. “Hi,” he says back finally. “You’re welcome.”

Kyungchul’s body gives a postmortem gurgle, but Jaehyun ignores him in favor of the vampire he loves. “Good timing,” he says.

Taeyong’s gaze leaves the body to settle on Jaehyun again. “Yeah,” he says trailing off. “You—”

“—am very thankful that you came and saved me but can still take care of myself and don’t need to be locked in a tower far away from harm,” interrupts Jaehyun, and then kisses him again. He’s sticky and dirty and still way too close to throwing up for comfort, but the longer Taeyong is here, the more relaxed he feels.

Taeyong’s eyes flash, but he doesn’t speak, just keeps standing in front of Jaehyun in only an undershirt, skin gleaming in the moonlight like some sort of fairytale. Or nightmare, more like.

“So,” Jaehyun says finally, into the silence of the night. “What do you think it says about me that you cutting that guy’s head off was still the hottest thing I’ve seen so far?”

Taeyong doesn’t react outwardly, but Jaehyun is still close enough to catch the infinitesimal twitch under his jaw. “Jaehyun,” he says.

“Nothing bad, I hope,” Jaehyun says. “It only took me three years to convince you to let me take you out, and then I nearly blew our first time because I’m a—” He stops talking abruptly, not in the mood to rehash that particular argument.

Taeyong finally takes his eyes off the other vampire, shooting Jaehyun a sharp look. “Yes?” he says. “You want to finish that sentence?”

“Never mind,” says Jaehyun.

Taeyong goes back to surveying the damage he managed with the blade, eyeing Kyungchul’s head with clear distaste, and the blood on the sword with even more. “God,” he says. “Doyoungie’s going to kill me.”

“The sword is Doyoung-hyung’s?” Jaehyun says. “Funny. I’d have bet on Ten-hyung—but I guess I don’t know either of them well enough.”

Taeyong glares at him, giving the blade a superhuman shake that leaves it gleaming. “Don’t think I didn’t hear you taunting the murdering vampire who kidnapped you, Jaehyun-ah,” he says. He’s surprisingly calm despite all that, the dangerous weapon staying pointedly angled at the ground and away from anything too fragile, like Jaehyun.

“That’s hot, too,” says Jaehyun, because he’s an idiot.

Taeyong shuts his eyes. “Get in the damn car, Jaehyun-ah,” he says. In two steps he’s thrown Doyoung’s expensive sword into the backseat and is waiting beside the open driver’s side for Jaehyun to get into the passenger’s side again.

“Believe it or not, you’re the second vampire who’s asked me to do that today,” Jaehyun can’t help but mutter.

Taeyong definitely hears, but he’s kind of enough not to do more than raise an eyebrow. “What was that?”

“I said we’re stealing a dead vampire’s car?” Jaehyun says. “That’s good. You are not carrying me home on your back.”

Taeyong eyes the car in question, then reaches across the dashboard to pull open the glove box. He drops the registration onto the empty seat. “It’s stolen,” he says, like the woman’s name printed on all the paperwork wasn’t an unnecessary clue. “And who said anything about him being dead?”

Jaehyun pauses. “You just cut his head off?” he says. “With a fucking katana, I might add.” He pauses. “Where did you get a katana?”

Taeyong keeps looking at him with careful patience. “It’s Doyoungie’s,” he says again. “We just went over this. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” Jaehyun lies. He can’t help but glance at the headless body, and at then at the head itself. Taeyong just—the sword went clean through despite all the blood, and Taeyong hadn’t even broken a sweat, or been winded.

Taeyong lets him get away with the lie. “It’s Doyoung’s,” he says for the third time. “Hopefully he’s not too mad I got blood on it. Anyway, unless Kidnapper-ssi was, I don’t know, some sort of Korean immigrant in France during the reign of terror—”

“That’s an oddly specific example,” Jaehyun hears himself say, a manner far too similar to the entire ride to the shack with Kyungchul.

“Have you always been this mouthy, or is it the shock?” Taeyong asks, eyes narrowed.

“Haha,” Jaehyun can’t help but say. “Mouthy.”

Taeyong’s eyes narrow further.

“It’s definitely the shock,” Jaehyun says, finally placing the odd numbness he’s still feeling in his limbs and has been feeling since pretty much the time Kyungchul pulled up beside him and showed his teeth. “Oh God,” Jaehyun says. “I think I need to sit down.”

Taeyong’s expression softens. “Jaehyunnie.”

“You’re not carrying me home,” Jaehyun says again, desperate to save face. “I’ll sit in the car.” He gets in the passenger’s seat, uncaring for all the blood he’s getting into the upholstery. He notices Taeyong’s put the papers back in the glovebox sometime in the middle of all that and can’t care he wasn’t fast enough to see. “You were saying about Robespierre?”

“Jaehyun.”

“Please don’t hug me, Hyung, I’ll cry,” says Jaehyun.

Jaehyun.”

“No crying, Taeyongie-hyung,” Jaehyun says. “Not until we’re not contemplating stealing a vehicle and leaving a decapitated body for anyone to find.”

Taeyong winces. “Ah, right,” he says. “Let me just—” And then he disappears, hoisting the head and body in a move that Jaehyun doesn’t even try to follow.

“Did you put him in the shack?” Jaehyun asks as Taeyong gets back and into the car, hands surprisingly clean. “I can’t believe he has a shack. Had.”

“Jaehyun.”

“I’m a walking cliché,” Jaehyun says. “Drive.”

Taeyong drives.

 


 

“I don’t think he’s okay,” Jaehyun says, several intersections later. They were either farther away from the apartment than Jaehyun had assumed, or Taeyong is going somewhere else—to ditch the car, maybe, although it’s not like Jaehyun is at all suited for any sort of public transportation. There is blood drying in his hair and behind his ears, and it’s taking all of his self-control not to start screaming.

Taeyong’s hands seem far less steady on the wheel than they’d been a few minutes ago, but otherwise he doesn’t seem that affected. “I mean he is a serial murderer.”

“No, I think there’s something really wrong with him,” says Jaehyun. He thinks his and Kyungchul’s conversation over, then pulls a face. “He said his name was Kyungchul.” The name clearly means nothing to Taeyong. “He also talked about Boa-ssi a lot.”

That seems to give Taeyong pauses. “Boa.”

“Kwon Boa,” Jaehyun confirms. “Your… grandmother—he called her his grandmother,” he remembers abruptly. “He called her names—names from like, Joseon.”

That makes a muscle twitch in Taeyong’s jaw. “I don’t have any cousins,” he says. “I mean besides Doyoungie. And Yuta.” His lips twist. “Minho-hyung.”

Jaehyun hasn’t met this Minho-hyung, but he has a vague memory of him being mentioned, maybe in the context of Taemin and… Boa. “Well, he definitely had an issue with Boa-ssi,” he tells Taeyong finally. “Do you think… do you think we should call her?”

That earns him a look. “I don’t have Boa-noona’s number,” Taeyong says sharply. His hands are definitely shaking now, the tension in his shoulder only becoming more and more apparent the longer Jaehyun scrutinizes him. It’s almost like being in the car alone together is making things worse, but Jaehyun doesn’t know what to do to help, or even what’s the problem to begin with.

“Oh,” he says.

Taeyong takes one hand off the wheel and nudges his phone out of a pocket and onto the dashboard, lighting it up with the press of a finger. Jaehyun wonders about vampire fingerprints in the time it takes for it to unlock. “Call Yunho-hyung.”

The phone dials, the ringback tone a song Jaehyun doesn’t know, but seems pretty. “Who sings this?”

Taeyong goes to answer, but before he can, Yunho-hyung answers. “Taeyong?” The older vampire’s tone is cautious.

“Hyung.” Taeyong doesn’t even give Yunho-hyung a moment’s pause. “Where is Boa-noona?”

Even Jaehyun is mildly taken aback and can practically hear Yunho-hyung’s eyebrow raise. “It’s good to hear from you too,” he says. “I’m glad your flight went well.”

“Hyung,” Taeyong says again, voice harsher, fine control deteriorating alongside the shake to his hands. It makes Jaehyun nervous despite Taeyong’s naturally calming effect, and he risks a glance ahead—and at the speedometer. Neither of those things help. They’re over a bridge and onto a highway, at least, but they’re—they’re going so fast.

“Hyung,” Jaehyun says quietly, even though he knows Yunho-hyung will still hear. “This is a stolen car.”

Taeyong doesn’t appear to notice, but the speedometer moves to the left, and Jaehyun’s lungs heave a small sigh of relief.

“A stolen car?” Yunho-hyung isn’t making any attempts at humanity tonight, it seems. “Where are you? What are you doing—hello, Jaehyun.” There’s a pause in between his questions that makes Jaehyun think he’s been bullied into greeting him, but he returns it nonetheless.

“Um, hello,” he says politely. “Yunho-hyung.”

Yunho-hyung’s tone seems much brighter. “Is Taeyongie looking after you well? Was the flight good—”

Yunho-hyung,” Taeyong says, tone tight. “Where is Boa-noona?”

Yunho-hyung’s voice is significantly frostier. “I do not know where your grandmother is,” he says.

If Jaehyun can hear Taeyong’s teeth grind together Yunho-hyung certainly can.

“Why?” asks Yunho-hyung, tone deceivingly mild.

Jaehyun can tell they’ll get nowhere if he lets Taeyong answer. “Our mystery vampire paid me a not so pleasant visit tonight,” he says, angling the phone towards his face and blinking down at the default call screen—so Taeyong has no icon in his phone for Yunho-hyung, that might not be a big deal; maybe he has none for anyone, although Jaehyun knows Johnny is in his phone as Princess John, so clearly Taeyong has no qualms about customizing. “His name is Kyungchul,” Jaehyun tells Yunho-hyung, with only a glance at Taeyong. “He said Boa-ssi was his grandmother.”

Yunho-hyung is silent for a long, long time. Then he says, “None of my siblings had children.” His tone is odd.

Taeyong’s teeth make more noise. “Well clearly,” he says stiffly. “They did.”

“They didn’t,” Yunho-hyung insists. “They didn’t—trust me—Boa—” He breaks off.

Taeyong looks about two seconds from saying something irrecoverable, and Jaehyun notes they’ve crept right back up to going terrifyingly fast. “Taeyong-hyung,” he says. “You need to pull over.”

Taeyong finally takes his eyes off the road, doing very little to hide his snarl. He looks frightening, and for once, Jaehyun lets it hit him. He doesn’t wrestle it down, doesn’t feel any arousal to temper or confuse it, and that—that—seems to be the thing that gets through. Taeyong’s expression shatters, his eyes look suddenly enormous, and he takes the first exit off the highway. “Sorry,” he says, barely more than a whisper.

Jaehyun wants to hug him, but he’s still confused—still afraid.

“You’re sure that’s what he said?” says Yunho-hyung suddenly, drawing Jaehyun’s attention back to the phone in his hand. “Jaehyun?”

Jaehyun does his best not to startle. “Yes,” he answers. “Although he wasn’t exactly… speaking normally. Or like he was from modern times.”

Yunho-hyung appears to be thinking. “I do not know where your grandmother is,” he says finally, in time for Taeyong to turn off a less busy looking road and pull into an available parking space looking tense. “And I don’t—I don’t know of any of my siblings having children. My sisters did not live for more than four years.” He sounds like saying this hurts. “And my brothers were killed before they could sire children. For asking to sire children.”

Jaehyun blinks through the knowledge, mind back on the painting in Taeyong’s home. Yunho-hyung has two sisters and three brothers, besides Changmin-hyung. Changmin-hyung. Changmin-hyung.

“Could it have been Changmin?” Taeyong asks what Jaehyun is too afraid to do, and the atmosphere in the car goes frigid.

“No.” Yunho-hyung’s voice is like a knife.

“Are you sure—”

“Positive.”

“But surely you can’t share everything—”

“We can. We do. Changmin.” Yunho-hyung’s words all feel like full sentences. “Boa is not Changmin’s sire.”

Jaehyun goggles down at the phone, mind suitably blown.

“I am,” Yunho-hyung says, in case that was not clear. “So if what you say is true and this Kyungchul is one of your cousins, it will be one of—one of my brothers.”

Taeyong’s face is utterly unreadable. “I see.” His tone is ugly. “And you couldn’t have shared with the class?”

“Taeyong,” Jaehyun says, almost shocked.

“Taeyong,” Yunho-hyung says, much more subdued.

“No, of course you couldn’t. You never do,” Taeyong says, snatching the phone away from Jaehyun with almost claws. “Thank you for your help.” He ends the call, and when Yunho-hyung immediately calls back, hits cancel and then flicks on do-not-disturb. The phone gets tossed in the back with Doyoung’s katana, and Taeyong shuts his eyes.

Jaehyun can only stare at him with his mouth open. “Hyung—”

“I don’t remember how I died,” Taeyong interrupts, sounding strained. “I mean, I know how I died. I just don’t remember the exact moment—not like Ten does. Or Doyoung. Yuta. All of them do. All of them have fully formed death dreams.”

“Okay—”

“But I—I know I didn’t want to be alive,” Taeyong says. His eyes are still closed and his hands clutching white-knuckled to the wheel. Jaehyun feels the implications of that sentence go through him like a knife—like Doyoung’s katana. “I didn’t—my entire family was dead,” Taeyong says.

I don’t remember my mother, really, Jaehyun remembers hearing him say. She died. Not of old age. “Taeyong-hyung,” he manages.

“I don’t think he gave me a choice,” Taeyong finishes. His eyes open once, looking sad and painful and making Jaehyun’s heart hurt, then close once more. “He couldn’t have. Not—not like that—”

Taeyong—”

“I hate him. I’m never going to turn anyone.” The words come out barely whispered, forced, and immediately afterwards Taeyong seems to shudder, coming back to himself. He opens his eyes, painfully works his hands off the wheel. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry—Jaehyunnie—I’m sorry.”

Jaehyun doesn’t know how to handle any of that. “But your family,” he starts to say. “You—it’s not your way—”

“I know.” Taeyong shrugs, shoulders rising self-deprecatingly. “I know. Poor me, though, right?”

“Have you told anyone—”

“No.” Taeyong is emphatic. “No, of course not. I could—I couldn’t do that. Not to Ten. To Doyoungie.” He’s looking at Jaehyun now, eyes wide. “You can’t—”

“Of course not,” Jaehyun says. “Taeyong. That’s your—your weakness—” His skin feels hot and stretched thin and he hates the part of himself that is glad Taeyong isn’t dead, that Taeyong lived a hundred more years and was able to meet Jaehyun, walked into his life like it was just your average freshman elective he was TA for, and changed everything.

“Good.” Taeyong stares straight back ahead, seeming to relax. Then he tightens right back up—the wind shifts, Jaehyun thinks.

“Is it the blood?” he asks, glancing down at the state of his clothes—the state of the poor woman’s car. “I’m sorry. We can open a window.”

“It’s not the blood.” Taeyong’s gone and closed his eyes again. “Not really.”

Jaehyun stares at him, at the tight knot of tension in his shoulders, and the painfully tight grip he seems to have on the wheel. “What, then—”

“I’m—hungry.” The words come out sounding like they hurt, and Jaehyun falls abruptly silent. “I may have”—Taeyong shifts, lifting his hands off the wheel finger with careful slowness—“jumped out of the window.” He opens his eyes, not breathing.

Jaehyun tries to remember on which floor Taeyong and Johnny live, mouth falling open in shock.

“And then I ran here.”

Jaehyun blinks, mouth still open. “You—”

“Or not here—to where you were. GPS,” he says, with a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly, with his hand resting carefully in his lap now. “It’ll be fine.”

Jaehyun looks at him, the tight, tense knot of him, and swallows. “You’re not fine,” he says.

Taeyong’s eyes are like liquid pools, dark and unreadable. He’s never looked more like a predator to Jaehyun, but the shock must be wearing off, because the—the arousal is back, pounding hard in Jaehyun’s ears. “Jaehyun,” Taeyong says. “Breathe, please.”

Jaehyun lets out a noisy, startled exhale, almost involuntary in its speed. “Sorry.” He’s the one apologizing now. “Sorry—”

“I’m not going to bite you,” Taeyong says carefully. “So you don’t need to be afraid—”

“I’m not afraid,” Jaehyun lies, and lies so badly that he can’t even finish. “Sorry,” he says for the third time. “I trust you.” That’s not a lie at all. “I—you’re in no state to drive.”

For a moment Taeyong looks like he might like to argue, but Jaehyun only stares pointedly at his still shuddering hands until he subsides. “Okay,” he concedes. “But we can’t stay here—you look like something out of a horror movie and I—I am out of a horror movie. Also, the katana is not insured—”

Jaehyun can’t help but laugh, though it’s a little more subdued than normal. “I’m not in any state to drive either,” he says. “But you—you just need—blood.”

Taeyong’s eyes flash, but he doesn’t dispute. Jaehyun takes that as his cue to keep talking.

“You’re not going to hurt me,” he says quickly. He doesn’t mention turning. Not… after all that. She died. I didn’t want to be alive. Jaehyun forces the thoughts back down and holds Taeyong’s gaze. “You wouldn’t—you—you love me—”

“I do,” Taeyong says, almost automatic; butterflies bloom in Jaehyun’s stomach but he doesn’t pause for long enough to enjoy them.

“—and I trust you,” he finishes with. “It doesn’t even have to be a big thing—you can just”—he holds out his wrist and mimes drinking—“just so that you’re good to drive us home.”

“Home,” Taeyong says.

“To your apartment,” Jaehyun corrects, with only minor red staining the tips of his ears. “Hyung, I promise, it won’t be a big deal. You don’t even need to bite my neck.”

“Oh, I do,” Taeyong says, but his tone… his tone is several octaves deeper.

Jaehyun shifts uneasily in his seat, working up the courage to unbuckle and climb into his lap. “Right,” he says. “Are you sure—”

Taeyong’s gaze is hot, his eyes half-lidded, every line of him slow and seductive. Jaehyun remembers abruptly that he’s a predator and that he hunts… humans. “If you’re sure—”

“I’m sure.” Jaehyun puts his hands on the buckle and fails to get it open. “Promise—I—fuck—” It’s not opening but Jaehyun’s hands are the ones shaking, and he nearly shouts when Taeyong touches him, fingers cool on top of him.

“Jaehyunnie,” he says gently, releasing the catch anyway, then releasing Jaehyun’s hands. “Shh. I’m sorry. You’re still in shock. I can just go out and find—”

Jaehyun lifts his head, stubborn and finally starting to feel a little more in control. “You’re not going out there and finding someone off the street,” he snaps, with a surprising amount of vitriol, even to himself. “You’re”—hurting, perfect, mine, fragile, lovely, mine—“mine,” Jaehyun says. “No one else. I’m right here, Taeyong-hyung.” I won’t break.

Taeyong stares at him for what feels like hours but can only really be seconds, expression a painful swirl of emotion. Jaehyun feels them mirrored in his own chest, and fumbles for the door. It’s unlocked—how unsafe of Kyungchul; of Taeyong—and the summer night air feels cool, surprisingly. “What are you doing?”

“Well I thought—I could climb over the center console or—”

“The back seat,” Taeyong interjects. He looks about as spooked as Jaehyun feels, so at least they’re on common ground.

“Right,” Jaehyun says. He hops out the door, shuts the door, and goes to the back. There’s the phone, the sword, and… Taeyong. Taeyong has cat’s eyes and pale skin and fangs, glistening in the moonlight. He’s cool when Jaehyun touches him and is as still as something undead, but Jaehyun wants him so badly he aches with it and Taeyong… wants him back.

Taeyong says, “Jaehyunnie,” and it sounds like a prayer. Taeyong puts his hands on Jaehyun’s shoulders and tugs him so that he’s got his head almost against one rear window and stares down at Jaehyun, much like he wants to eat him. He does and he will and Jaehyun feels the urge to talk bubble up in him again. “Jaehyunnie,” Taeyong says again, soft this time. “Jaehyunnie. We don’t have to—”

“Please,” Jaehyun manages. “Taeyong. Please.”

It’s the lack of honorific that does it, the banmal. Jaehyun sees it in the flash of Taeyong’s eyes, the flash of Taeyong’s fangs, and can’t help but shut his eyes. He feels—it’s dangerous, being here, in the car. He’s covered in some other vampire’s blood in the backseat of a stolen car and they shouldn’t—there are things they need to be doing that aren’t this, and yet at the same time. Jaehyun can’t imagine doing anything but this.

“Don’t you dare,” he says, words a mumble. “Don’t you dare—you promised—”

Taeyong sucks in a breath that is entirely involuntary—he does not need to breathe—and then—kisses—Jaehyun.

Of course Jaehyun kisses back, shocked into complacency and silence. “You,” he says into Taeyong’s lips. “I—”

“Me,” Taeyong replies, opening his mouth and distracting right out the gate. “You—”

Taeyong,” Jaehyun moans, and is lost, briefly, to the taste of him. It’s sloppier than before—messier than when they were naked, when Taeyong put his mouth on Jaehyun, and Jaehyun put his cock—there’s much less finesse than their other kisses. This time Taeyong’s fangs draw more than a little blood, and Jaehyun shakes, jittery and shuddery at just that much. “You,” he manages again. “You’re not—my neck.”

“Shh, Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong says again, but when Jaehyun looks at him—stops shaking out of his skin and really looks at him—he’s no more in control than Jaehyun. “You’re sure—”

“Yes,” Jaehyun says, whines, and then Taeyong’s mouth is at his throat, Taeyong’s teeth are at his pulse, Taeyong’s… Taeyong’s fangs are in his neck. Jaehyun flinches, involuntary and sort of relieved, because he hasn’t a death wish after all. It hurts, that initial prick, and Jaehyun is swarmed with memory. Nothing too weird—nothing like the movies, just. Bite force. How sharp are your fangs?  Kissing him in the bathroom. Kissing him on the roof. The bandages around Johnny’s neck. Johnny’s words—For now it just makes for good sex. Two seconds and Jaehyun doesn’t get it, is almost underwhelmed; four seconds and Jaehyun starts to get it, is definitely overwhelmed; eight seconds; ten seconds; it—it doesn’t hurt.

Jaehyun’s neck feels hot where Taeyong’s mouth is, nerves alight with a sensation that is so confusing he has to shut his eyes. Everything feels numb—it should ache every time Taeyong shifts his lips so that he can suck, but Jaehyun just feels high.

“Hyung,” he manages, head starting to spin with blood loss, but it can’t have already been that long. “Hyung.” He’s got hands on Taeyong’s back, fingers digging into Taeyong’s shoulder blades, clutching, holding on for dear life.

Taeyong’s teeth bite once more into Jaehyun’s throat, and then he pulls away, tongue laving along the punctures like a reflex. It feels good, it makes Jaehyun shake, and his skin—it feels tight, hot, like he could walk across coals and feel nothing but pleasure. “I have good news and bad news,” Taeyong says, his voice practically a purr. Jaehyun decides it’s good he’s holding him upright, because the car might be small enough that he’s perfectly fine sprawling bonelessly against the entire backseat, but he’d rather not look too much of a ragdoll. There must be some sort of relaxant mixed in with everything else—marrying with whatever is messing with Jaehyun’s pain receptors and lighting his nerves on fire.

“What’s—” Jaehyun’s tongue feels enormous in his mouth, but already he can feel it start to subside. It’s not like vampire’s leech free will—in fact Jaehyun has never felt more in control—just. He thinks it might be the shock on top of everything else. Or how he’s so hard suddenly in his jeans that a brush of air could set him off. Blood loss on top of all that? It’s a wonder Jaehyun is even still capable of speech. “What’s that?”

“The good news is that while you taste delicious”—that has Jaehyun putting his head back into the window and biting into his own bottom lip, the growl Taeyong puts into that one word enough to make his head spin—“I don’t have any particular desire to rip your throat out and make you one of us.”

Too bad, Jaehyun doesn’t say. “And? The bad news?”

Taeyong’s eyes do that flash thing again, and he shifts so that one of his legs goes right between Jaehyun’s, the heat of his thigh too irresistible for Jaehyun not to hump up against. He feels—he’s warm, under Jaehyun’s palms. Warm and solid and more human-like than ever; Jaehyun’s blood is in his veins, Jaehyun’s flush is coloring his skin.

“I love you,” Jaehyun croons, petting more than clutching him now, and delights at the way Taeyong’s cheeks burn pink with borrowed blood—with Jaehyun’s borrowed blood. “Taeyongie—I love you—”

“The bad news is I very suddenly have the urge to fuck you in the backseat of this very stolen car,” Taeyong says, putting a stop to all of that. “So.”

Jaehyun goes tense, then shivery, then tilts his chin up, baring his throat entirely purposefully with his pulse pounding in his ears. Taeyong is breathing again. After a moment, Jaehyun realizes it’s exactly in sync with Jaehyun’s own lungs. “Oh,” he says. “Well.”

They don’t fuck in the backseat of the very clearly stolen car. Not for lack of trying though. There’s just no time. Kyungchul will eventually heal from the damage done to his person (Jaehyun eventually will have questions) and also surely Johnny and Mark are probably concerned at this point. Either of them could call home but neither of them is so inclined. Taeyong’s phone is on silent and buried somewhere at their feet with Doyoung’s sword, and Jaehyun’s phone is… still in his pocket. He’s lucky Taeyong had to hang up to call Yunho-hyung. It would be unfortunate for anyone to have a recording of this. There are no condoms and lube—nothing to facilitate more than painfully adolescent dry humping—but Jaehyun doesn’t really care. Jaehyun still gets off, still comes sobbing Taeyong’s name with something of Taeyong in him, even though it’s just teeth, sharp and fastened to the line of his throat and driving Jaehyun to near ecstasy.

It’s a ride. The mix of pain-pleasure-life-death runs disorienting loops in Jaehyun’s brain until the only rational thing to do is shut his eyes, howl out his orgasm, and come in his pants like he hasn’t since puberty—since wet dreams—since well before Lee Taeyong.

Taeyong doesn’t come—the bastard—but Jaehyun is too fucked stupid to be more than very barely mad at that, panting dazedly against the backseat. His neck is still bleeding, but a few quick licks of the holes there fixes that, and Jaehyun shouldn’t—the deck is stacked against him because he’s twenty-four and Taeyong is one hundred and-twenty-six but he still moans, utterly uncontained.

“Sorry,” Taeyong says when he’s done. His eyes are only on Jaehyun’s neck, and Jaehyun shakes off the afterglow so that he can lift the vampire’s chin.

“Why are you apologizing?” he says. He feels exhausted, suddenly, and has the intelligence to realize that it’s more than just because of the mind-blowing orgasm. “Um. I mean absolutely no offense—”

“Only enough to drive us home,” Taeyong says promptly, but he doesn’t look offended, so Jaehyun feels safe settling more comfortable across the seats. They’re still pressed entirely together and Jaehyun is sticky on top of bloody, but he’s too high off endorphins for more than mild annoyance.

“I see why Johnny-hyung let Mark do that to him more than once,” Jaehyun says sleepily, around a yawn. “You more than lived up to the hype.”

For two seconds Taeyong just stares at him, and then he gives him a shove. He hasn’t really been touching Jaehyun all this time, Jaehyun realizes, only hovering over him with a surprising amount of control. Jaehyun can’t have that. He tugs Taeyong down, wraps both his arms around him and throws a leg over for good measure.

“Mmm,” he says. “You should… bottle that—”

Taeyong’s raised eyebrow is more than audible. “The experience of getting bitten?” he says dryly.

“Your saliva,” Jaehyun counters, almost all the way to sleeping. “How much does your fame afford you? No one would pull you over, right? Can’t I just sleep?”

There are fingers on his neck, cool still, but not quite so much. Clearly Taeyong hadn’t taken enough to stay… warm. They trace the punctures there, and Jaehyun hisses—not from pain, only. He manages half-lidded eyes.

“Are you trying to go another round?”

Taeyong seems to finish his scrutiny and the look he gives Jaehyun is enough to wipe all traces of arousal out of the air. He looks at Jaehyun like he’s more than just food—like he’s precious, like looking away would hurt. “Are you?”

Jaehyun shuts his eyes, because at least one of them should attempt some level of forethought.

“You can sleep,” Taeyong says. “I’ll drive.” He seems to pause. “I—once we’re home—would you like—I can give you blood—”

Jaehyun opens both eyes and stares back at him, and then very slowly reaches a hand up to touch the marks at his neck. They feel hot and inflamed, the nerves there roaring to life like they know that the one looking at him is exactly who gave them to him—could give him more. “No thank you,” he finally manages.

Taeyong gets out of the car with that inhuman speed, the door slamming between them like an extra, albeit useless, barrier.

“I like them,” Jaehyun continues, twisting to follow Taeyong’s head as he gets into the driver’s seat, unmoving, not breathing, and painfully still.

He decides to follow suit, forgoing sleep for closeness, and gets into the passenger’s seat.

 


 

Johnny and Mark are both seated at the kitchen counter beside both of their phones, clearly waiting for news when Jaehyun strides noisily into the apartment almost half an hour later, kicking off his shoes. He’s covered in blood, his neck is starting to itch, and his boxers—it’s no wonder Mark’s mouth drops open when he sees him; no wonder Mark’s nostrils flare when he smells him; no wonder Mark’s eyes practically bug out of his head.

“You see?” Johnny says loudly, breaking the silence where no one else dares to. “I told you they’d come back fine.”

From his place shutting the door, Taeyong very badly stifles a laugh.

“What the hell happened to you?” says Mark, but Jaehyun just flips him off, his gaze fixed on Taeyong’s master bath.

Chapter Text

Doyoung is unreachable until Wednesday evening, not because of anything like an inhuman schedule, but because he is—in Yuta’s words, no one else’s—currently on the world’s most long-awaited honeymoon, end quote. Apparently, Doyoung and Jungwoo were more than just friends-turned-vampire siblings, but despite having already confessed their undying love for one another, neither of them was willing to talk about it for years. Years, and years, and years, apparently, but Jaehyun supposes when you’re immortal, “in a moment” has a very different meaning. Also, Doyoung and Jungwoo had only confessed because Taeil-hyung ordered them too, which made things worse. So Doyoung is missing in action.

“Call back after sundown,” Yuta tells Taeyong. “And call back more often, period—I miss you. Youngho!” He raises his voice until Johnny looks up, speaking immediately afterwards with an uncanny awareness. “Make sure Taeyongie comes back for my birthday—”

“You realize today is my birthday,” Taeyong says dryly, even though Yuta is still talking, and Jaehyun startles. It is, he realizes rapidly, July 1. He can’t believe he hadn’t realized—he can’t believe Taeyong hasn’t said—but then, maybe vampire’s didn’t care. Or they celebrated other dates—the days they’d died, maybe. Jaehyun can’t remember what they did for Taeyong’s birthday last year—had they celebrated, or even all still been on campus?—but then he can’t remember any other dates they might have celebrated… Perhaps Jaehyun ought to be listening, since Yuta had been talking about his own birthday—

“Vampires throw the best parties,” Ten is saying, when Jaehyun tunes back in. He’s standing in a corner teaching Mark how to play darts with a brand-new dart board, but joins the conversation without missing a beat—or the bullseye.

“We do,” Yuta agrees over speakerphone. “Anyway, I’m offended you didn’t think to call me first—Changmin-hyung is my sire too, you know.”

He does actually sound hurt, but Taeyong doesn’t seem bothered, so Jaehyun takes his cue from him. He’ll have to ask about the birthday thing later and—fuck—figure out what he’s doing presentwise later.

“We even spent a full thirty years together during Sakoku—closed country,” Yuta explains for Jaehyun. “But before you ask, he didn’t say anything about having cousins. Or being Yunho-hyung’s.” Yuta finally lowers his voice, clearly understanding the entire gravity of everything. “Um. We probably shouldn’t—”

“It’s need to know,” Taeyong agrees. “But you needed to know—”

“Thank you.” Yuta seems honestly pleased. “But call back—”

“After sundown,” Taeyong agrees. “Is—is he home?” He’s asking about Yunho-hyung, clearly, and he sounds so painfully shy Jaehyun could just scream.

“They left after you called last night,” Yuta says, sounding apologetic. “Both of them. Probably to go find Boa-noona, or to see what they can find out about potential cousins. Maybe both.”

Taeyong seems to take that like a hit. “Right,” he says. “Okay.”

“Bye, Taeyongie,” says Yuta. “Don’t be a stranger.”

Taeyong lets him get the last word, but the slant to his mouth as he does so only makes Jaehyun want to give him a hug. He understands, now. The guilt Taeyong treats his family with makes sense. The hesitance. The self-imposed exile in Chicago, then here in Seoul at SM U babysitting Johnny, now Mark. Jaehyun wants to hug Taeyong even more. And still scream. Always the screaming. Mostly at Yunho-hyung, honestly, but Jaehyun knows better than to try that.

“Hey.” Ten looks up from where he’s moved on from teaching Mark how to throw darts to teaching Mark how to throw knives. (Jaehyun would be concerned, but no one else is, so he’s deciding to trust the immortal and more experienced human in the room.) “What was that?” He’s obviously addressing Jaehyun, but Jaehyun still looks confusedly at Taeyong, then Johnny.

Johnny smiles back happily, but Taeyong just inclines his head.

“Jaehyunnie.” Ten makes no secret of whom he’s addressing. “What was that? Your heart went all”—he makes an abstract gesture that makes absolutely no sense at all—“and then you looked at Taeyongie like you wanted to climb him like a tree.”

“Isn’t that Jaehyun-hyung’s default state, though?” mutters Mark, and Ten punishes him by cleaving a knife straight through the one Mark just put through the bullseye, the force of the action definitely hitting the wall.

“Hey!” says Taeyong. “I rent!”

“You own the building,” says Ten. “Jaehyun.”

Jaehyun had started to relax thinking he’d been forgotten but tenses right back up.

“You know something.” Ten’s eyes are narrow slits of uncomfortable focus. “About Taeyongie. He’s told you something. Something no one else knows.”

Jaehyun glances at Taeyong, then back at Ten. He fumbles for something to say. “Well—I’d hope not given that all of you are taken and/or as good as his brothers.”

Ten barks out startled laughter, and flashes over to the wall to yank the knife free of the other knife. “I really do like him,” he tells Taeyong conspiratorially. “Not that there’s anything wrong with Mark, Johnny-hyung,” he adds, glancing at Johnny. “But Jaehyunnie is fun.”

Jaehyun decides he’d like Ten better if Ten didn’t think he was fun. He’ll have to work on hiding his emotions. It doesn’t help, but the longer Ten looks at him, the more the holes in his neck itch. Jaehyun doesn’t scratch at them, but only just barely. He still must telegraph something of that—or maybe vampires are just really aware of any and all wounds—because Taeyong makes a noise, and Johnny shoots him a look, and even Mark’s lips quirk a little.

“So fun,” breathes Ten. Jaehyun doesn’t think he’s even aware he’s said it.

Taeyong and Johnny appear to have a totally silent conversation, and finally Johnny sighs, getting up. “Look, Jaehyun.” He ignores Ten completely in favor of coming to stand in front of Jaehyun, blocking his view of the vampires. “Let me at least get you some antibiotic cream—or band-aids. Really, human cures work perfectly fine and it’s not like he drank all that much.”

That seems to distract Ten from Jaehyun, the discussion of what happened in the stolen car having taken up most of last night. Ten finally acted like a sibling, wanting nothing to do with anything the moment he’d gotten a whiff of Jaehyun’s abandoned clothes. They kept them and made Ten smell them mostly for confirmation purposes—“Yep, that’s the same crazy fucker who jumped me the other day. God, Baby Hyung, what did you do to him? And Jaehyunnie?”—and then they burned them, which worried Jaehyun because he hadn’t realized he’d had a thing for fire before and made Ten giggle because it reminded him of an old story. “Heechul-hyung,” he’d said. “Donghae-hyung.” Then Jaehyun tuned them all out, too tired for more new names.

“I’m fine,” Jaehyun tells Johnny. “Really.”

Johnny is unconvinced, so much so that he disappears into the guest bathroom and comes back out with a box of band-aids anyway. “Trust me,” he says. “It’ll help.”

Jaehyun supposes he should be glad it’s just band-aids, even if they do look like something you’d buy for a four-year-old, not a twenty-four-year-old. He lets Johnny fuss over his neck regardless and pretends not to notice the way Taeyong carefully puts his hands into his lap, away from any breakable surfaces.

“To return to Doyoung and Jungwoo,” Taeyong says, eyes not focused on much of anything, but on purpose, if Jaehyun had to guess. “It was almost funny. I mean it was awful—you saw it was like when Yunho-hyung ordered me at dinner”—Jaehyun shudders, wincing, but holds still so that Johnny can swipe a disinfected cotton ball along the punctures in his throat—“but it was… I mean we all knew they were in love with each other. I’m glad they finally got it out of their systems.” He shakes his head. “I can’t believe they got it out of their systems on my birthday.”

Jaehyun makes a noise, and Johnny pulls back his hand, eyes earnest. “Sorry—”

“It’s fine, don’t worry—” Jaehyun waves him back in, and Johnny returns to dabbing with antiseptic.

“I’m glad they finally got it out of their system when I wasn’t home,” corrects Ten. He grins very kindly at Mark, who scowls, but takes back both knives. “Not that before they got it together was particularly fun, either. Fair play to those who like threesomes”—Jaehyun can’t help but laugh at the way Johnny fumbles the first aid supplies, or when Mark is all of a sudden right next to them to catch the box of band-aids before they can fall—“but Donghyuckie?” Ten shudders. “Terrifying.”

“He’s perpetually twenty,” Taeyong defends.

“He likes you,” Ten returns, then switches topics so quickly that Jaehyun’s head hurts. “Haechan threw an absolute fit when Taeil-hyung turned Jungwoo. He wanted to do it himself—they both love Jungwoo, obviously—but Taeil-hyung misunderstood and Haechannie’s always been the jealous type.”

“You’re one to talk. I’d like to see anyone try to look twice at Xuxi,” Taeyong says dryly, but Ten just ignores him and keeps talking.

“This was all in 1920—busy year for the family—so Haechannie spent the first sixty years hanging around with Taeyongie.”

“He’s like my little brother,” Taeyong says, finally standing. “Jaehyun.”

“Haechan?” Jaehyun gets to his feet as well, smiling at Mark and Johnny and touching the band-aids on his neck. He finally gets a good look at the box in Mark’s hand. “Hello Kitty, really?”

Johnny just smiles back at him, bemused. “Would you have rathered Pororo?”

Jaehyun mimes zipping his lips.

“Lee Sooman nicknamed him,” Ten says, clearly answering Jaehyun’s question about Donghyuck. “We’re not sure why—one doesn’t question the maker.”

That makes Taeyong fully roll his eyes, coming to stand next to Jaehyun in barely a blink. “You sound like a bad drama,” he says. “Look, Jaehyunnie and I are going out.”

“We are?” This is news to Jaehyun, but the prospect of staying cooped up in the apartment waiting for Doyoung to call was not one he was excited about. He understands more than anyone the danger involved in leaving, but he was thinking if he just took Mark… they could go to the mall and buy Taeyong a birthday present. But hanging out with Taeyong… Jaehyun would never turn that down.

“I believe I promised you a stupid tower and a combination lock?” Taeyong’s expression is only amused.

Jaehyun feels his ears start to heat up, because it’s impossible to remember that conversation and not the rest of what happened on that roof; what happened after. “Shut up,” he says. “I mean you don’t have to. I mean, it’s your birthday. I know you’d prefer Paris.”

“I would hate for our relationship status to be in question simply for lack of dates,” Taeyong teases, before what Jaehyun has said seems to catch up with him. His eyes widen. “You want to celebrate my birthday?” he says.

Jaehyun reaches for the box of band-aids just so that he can throw them at him, cheeks hot to match his ears. “Well yeah,” he says. “I would have—the last few days have sort of been nuts, but, yeah.” He pauses, the thoughts from before resurfacing. “Do you—do you not… celebrate birthdays?” Maybe Yuta had been talking about some other date, and Jaehyun has messed up horribly.

Ten makes an odd sort of noise, but Jaehyun doesn’t look away from Taeyong, staring back at him with luminous, lovely eyes.

“We do,” Taeyong says. “Both days—the day we were born, and the day we were ‘reborn.’” He says that last bit with a quartet of hooked fingers that makes Jaehyun’s neck itch under the band-aids.

“Oh,” he says. “Well, good, then.” He swallows, feeling like the moment he looks away he’ll drown, which seems counterintuitive, given the depth of Taeyong’s pupils. Surely looking at Taeyong full on should be the thing that kills him, not looking away. “Uh… so we don’t have to go, then. To Namsan.”

Taeyong’s expression is strangely unreadable, but Jaehyun is getting the sense that he’s lucky there are other people in the room. It’s making it hard for him to come up with anything else to say.

Mark breaks the silence for him. “It’s even a question if the two of you are dating?” he says, with barely concealed disgust. “Really? After last night—”

“Okay, Mark!” Johnny’s voice is very high, and he steers his vampire boyfriend away from the scene of what would probably have been an attempted crime on Jaehyun’s part. “Why don’t we leave Jaehyunnie and Taeyong alone.”

“I’m just saying.” Mark lets Johnny pull him away. “My nose will never be the same.”

“The couch, Mark-yah!” says Taeyong. “The kitchen table.”

That gets him a reaction: Mark flushing, Ten pausing in whatever he was doing to stare, and even Johnny colors.

Taeyong throws his head back and cackles, before tossing Jaehyun his phone. “Come on,” he says. “I want to spend my birthday with you at Namsan Tower.”

 


 

The last time Jaehyun came to Namsan Tower on a date he was actually sixteen, almost seventeen. It was with an older girl in his class—Jaehyun can definitely remember her name, but it’s not important, now—and Jaehyun was so shy. He had his first kiss by the gate, after they locked their names together like you were supposed to when visiting Namsan Tower. Jaehyun had somehow managed to forget, in between leaving high school and starting college, his best friend’s murder, and Lee Taeyong.

Lee Taeyong who is beautiful, eyeing the slope up to the tower with a barely concealed sigh. Lee Taeyong who brought Jaehyun here, despite his obvious disdain, because he could tell that Jaehyun was going to go crazy trapped for any longer in that apartment. “I’ve actually done most of the tallest buildings in the world,” he tells Jaehyun, still eyeing the mountain. “Yuta, Johnny, and I visited John Hancock Tower, in Chicago.” He flicks his eyes towards Jaehyun, tongue poking out from between unfairly pretty pink lips. “I predate that one too, in case you were wondering,” he says.

Jaehyun hadn’t been, but he punches the vampire anyway. His fist connects, but only because Taeyong lets him, and when they touch, it’s like a shock of electricity goes up Jaehyun’s arm, bypassing the heart to head straight to the twin holes in his neck. Something burns in his belly, but it can’t be arousal; not so early in the morning, and in broad daylight, too.

“Oh,” Jaehyun says, because he hadn’t thought of it. “I was being stupid. There’s no way Kyungchul would be out in broad daylight.”

Taeyong slants him another look, still a little leaned away from where Jaehyun play-punched him. His eyes go a little sad. “He did kill those two girls in broad daylight,” he says, quiet enough that no one else should notice.

Jaehyun feels even more stupid, and then guilty, but puts his shoulders back. “Well you’re here,” he says. There’s no easy way to make that not “I feel safe with you,” and while Jaehyun isn’t shy about saying that, for some reason, at this moment, he is.

Taeyong laughs, a giddy, honestly pleased sound, and starts forward up the hill, leaving Jaehyun no choice but to follow. It’s not that bad and Jaehyun is certainly not out of shape but still. It’s weird enough now that Mark’s never going to be daunted by physical exertion; Jaehyun would hate to be reminded that from now on, he’ll be at the bottom of the pack for physical strength.

“Anyway, we went last year,” Taeyong continues, about Chicago. “We went home for Thanksgiving—ah—to Johnny’s home, for Thanksgiving—and Yuta tagged along.”

They’re not alone in their trudge up the hill and haven’t been since they got off the bus, but no one is paying them attention. Jaehyun wanted to take the cable car, but Taeyong shot him a look that ended that discussion before it could begin. If he didn’t know better, Jaehyun would say that Taeyong—immortal, “I predate this dumb tower and also could break combination locks with my pinky,” Taeyong—is afraid of heights. But he does know better. Yunho-hyung had said Taeyong was always climbing onto roofs in his youth. And they—Jaehyun and Taeyong had sat on the roof, together.

And then some.

“Doyoungie was invited, of course, and Ten,” says Taeyong. His expression is sour, and this time Jaehyun does laugh, grinning until Taeyong can’t help but grin back. “Neither of them came.” Taeyong’s eyes flash with mischief. “Between you and me, I think Youngho’s mother scares them.”

Jaehyun thinks of what little interaction he’s had with Johnny’s mom, and how she reacted upon finding out about Mark—sending a care package full of foods that should absolutely should not have been able to get through customs and so must have involved magic to show up at his door at exactly twelve a.m. on August 2, 2019—and has to concede that Ten and Doyoung are right to be afraid. “And you’re not afraid?” he says.

“We have an agreement.” Taeyong tips him a mock salute, reaching out with a hand to steady Jaehyun only moments before he missteps. His hand is cool on Jaehyun’s bare arm, and Jaehyun shudders because of more than just that. They’re both dressed for summer—Taeyong in shorts and an unfairly attractive, black and white high-necked t-shirt, and Jaehyun without sleeves. He’d have gone for something more stylish, but the look Taeyong shot him when he wandered out that morning with his bare arms out had been worth it. It probably didn’t help that without an extra layer, Jaehyun’s neck—and his Hello Kitty band-aids—are more than on display.

“An agreement?” Jaehyun does his best to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, ignoring the itch of the wounds on his neck as Taeyong blatantly stares. He still sees Taeyong out of the corner of his eye looking pretty and focused.

“Mm.” Taeyong faces forward as well, looking down though he definitely doesn’t need to. “I’ve known her since Johnny was seven-years-old, after all.” He lets that sentence sit in the air between them for a while. “Doyoungie and Ten have absolutely no reason to be afraid of Youngho’s mother,” he mutters finally. “She’s only ever been welcoming to them—but me”—he shudders—“she would have buried me in the backyard and slept easy.”

Jaehyun risks shooting him a look, glad to see they’ve reached the base of the tower. “She knows how to kill you?”

Taeyong keeps staring straight ahead. “Nope,” he says.

Jaehyun follows that thought to its inevitable buried-alive conclusion, and swallows.

“Yep,” Taeyong says, then links their hands. “Come on,” he says, tugging Jaehyun in the direction of the padlocks. “Or do you want to go up the thing, first and look out in the direction of whatever country?”

“Taeyong-hyung,” Jaehyun says, only a little whine.

Taeyong tightens his grip on Jaehyun’s fingers but settles a little. “Sorry,” he says. “I love you.” Only two of the tourists visiting the tower this afternoon are vampires—despite the time of day—and absolutely one of them snaps a badly concealed selfie once he spots them.

Jaehyun shoots them an ugly look and they nearly disappear almost instantly, but Taeyong simply tugs him around closer, so that the only thing Jaehyun can see is Taeyong and the edge of the world. Well. Not really the edge of the world. More like… a good portion of Seoul.

“It’s possible that in my attempt to get you out of the house so that you would stop looking quite so ready to try trial and error your way to murdering Mark and Ten, I overestimated just how on edge I would be,” Taeyong says finally, still holding Jaehyun’s hands, but looking significantly more apologetic. His smile is almost shy, the hint of a flush touching his cheeks.

“Are you afraid of heights?” Jaehyun can’t help but tease, and laughs when Taeyong’s mouth plops open, the red on his cheeks deepening.

“No,” Taeyong says. “No—just—he took you before—”

Jaehyun tugs his hands free so that he can press both palms against Taeyong’s face, marveling at their temperature difference, and trying to convince himself that in public among an excess of tourists is not the time to be affected by the fact that it’s his own blood that lets Taeyong blush.

“But you’re here this time,” he offers instead, changing the subject. He goes to pull his hands back, but fails when Taeyong grabs him by both wrists.

They must make quite the image—Taeyong recognizable by anyone with a working set of fangs, and Jaehyun very clearly human, the band-aids on his neck doing more to say about their relationship than anything else. Although another vampire might be able to smell Taeyong on Jaehyun and figure it out without even seeing his neck. Jaehyun doesn’t know how he feels about that, or rather, doesn’t know how to feel about how much he might like that.

“I’m assuming you didn’t bring the katana?” manages Jaehyun. He’s not entirely sure how.

Taeyong loosens his grip on Jaehyun’s hands, lowering them to rest between them, before gently letting go. “I didn’t bring the katana.”

Jaehyun can’t remember if he’s always had this strong of a reaction to the rasp Taeyong sometimes puts in his voice, or if it’s simply because he knows what it feels like, to kiss him, now. To put his dick in him. To have had his teeth in him.

“Jaehyunnie.” Taeyong’s voice sounds only lower. “We’re in public.”

“You started it,” Jaehyun manages, but he retreats, stepping away from Taeyong so that he can try to compose himself. No one is blatantly looking, but the vampires have both reappeared, and Jaehyun thinks he catches more than a few smirks, before they pretend not to be listening. “So,” Jaehyun says finally. “What would you say if I told you the reason I wanted to come here, was I’d already been… and kind of had my first kiss here, back when I was seventeen?”

There is resounding, painful silence from Taeyong’s camp. When Jaehyun risks a glance, his vampire’s expression is utterly unreadable. Jaehyun feels a thrill go down his spine. He practically skips off the deck in the direction of the tower.

“Come on,” he says. “Let’s go up. You can tell me how many countries you’ve visited and even shit talk about all the buildings you saw go up—yah!” he breaks off, laughing, when Taeyong goes to grab him by the wrist with a growl.

“Who?”

“Taeyongie, I was seventeen,” Jaehyun says, dancing away towards the tower backwards now, amused. “I know that was nearly a century ago for you, but don’t you remember being seventeen?” Jaehyun shouldn’t, but it’s too hard to pass the opportunity up. “You didn’t think I was a virgin—I mean you weren’t, right, given you’ve been around for said century?”

The only thing that saves Jaehyun from getting dangled off the edge of the world by his pissed off vampire boyfriend, is the fact that he only catches up to Jaehyun once Jaehyun’s gotten into the line to purchase tickets. The man behind the cashier looks at the two of them with a bored expression, although he does seem to do a double take upon noticing Taeyong’s fangs, which poke out from behind his gum line when he reaches Jaehyun with a snarl. Jaehyun laughs, both at the man’s shocked expression, and the color high in Taeyong’s cheeks. He keeps laughing as Taeyong reaches around him to pay for their tickets, and as Taeyong gives up on herding him out of the line and towards the elevator with a growl.

“You are impossible—”

“If I tell you her name and where I vaguely remember where we put our lock, do you think you could find it and”—this time Jaehyun manages not to giggle—“break it with your pinky?”

They’re ushered into the elevator with another group of tourists, the before photos are the only thing that saves Jaehyun from more than a mildly annoyed snap of razor sharp teeth. “It is my birthday,” the vampire says sulkily. “I can’t believe you’re being mean to me on my birthday.”

“You’re officially turning a hundred and twenty-seven,” Jaehyun says mildly. “Shouldn’t you have grown out of pouting?”

Taeyong just scowls harder, but doesn’t move away.

“Mommy?” one of the little girls beside them says, tugging on her mother’s shirt sleeve. “That man is a vampire.”

Taeyong very abruptly stops growling at Jaehyun, schooling his features into something more suited for children. Still, Jaehyun feels on edge, fully aware that not everyone in the world is fine with vampires, and uncomfortable in the small, confined space. To her credit, the mother—and the staff in the elevator with them watching them watch the giant screen in front of them—just smiles at her daughter, expression not at all worried.

“I know, baby,” she says. “But what have I said about talking about people in front of them?”

“That it’s rude,” the little girl says, gaze still fixed on Taeyong’s mouth, where his fangs are hidden behind a close-mouthed smile. She keeps holding onto her mother’s sleeve but raises her voice to address Taeyong regardless. “I’m sorry, Ahjusshi,” she says, with the perfect amount of politeness. The screens in front of them finish their spiel, but Jaehyun has absorbed none of it. “Vampire-ahjusshi,” the girl corrects, before the doors to the elevators open, and the woman tugs her—and her sister—very quickly free.

The other patrons around them leave first, Taeyong frozen, and Jaehyun staying beside him with a grin. “Ahjusshi,” Jaehyun says, with great dignity. They step out of the elevator and pass by the café and tourist traps, heading for the first bit of window they see. “She’s not wrong—you’re older than my father, birthday boy—”

Taeyong reaches for him, mock snapping his teeth some more, and Jaehyun dances away, bemused. “You seem remarkably fixated on the fact that I’m ‘so much’ older than you, Jaehyun-ah,” he says, giving up on trying to catch Jaehyun by surprise, and falling back into something much more predatory, and calm. He stalks, eyes half mast, and the air in the tower gets significantly hotter. Or maybe that’s just Jaehyun. His neck throbs, and his heart stutters.

“Hyung,” he says, a small bit of panic bubbling to the surface before he can stifle it. “You didn’t—all those dramas about people getting blood bound—”

Taeyong’s eyes widen in shock, and abruptly he’s right in Jaehyun’s face, almost like he’d wanted to slap a hand over his mouth, but decided at the last minute not to. “No!” he says, almost too loudly not to be noticed. “No!” he says again, soft this time. “God, no, Jaehyunnie—you—you didn’t think—” He looks sick. “And you let me—”

“I liked it,” Jaehyun says quickly. “I wanted it. And you needed it—stop beating yourself up about it. I love you exactly as you are, murderous instincts included.” That gets him the hint of a lip twitch, although Taeyong still looks suitably spooked. “It was stupid to ask—I just itch, is the problem.” He brings a hand up to the side of his neck but doesn’t scratch. “It gets worse when you look at me.”

Taeyong’s pupils make like a cat’s, growing wider every second Jaehyun keeps his hand in the air. He swallows, an unnecessary bob of his throat that makes Jaehyun think about biting him. “Oh,” he manages.

“Yeah,” Jaehyun says, fighting not to rub the back of his neck in embarrassment. “And I know as well as you do that movies and dramas are wrong. Like.” He offers Taeyong a smile. “You don’t burn up in the sun, for example.”

“I don’t,” Taeyong agrees. His eyes are still on Jaehyun, his entire body held very carefully still. “That sounds like a you problem,” he adds, raising his own fingers to mime a scratch.

Unfortunately for Taeyong, Jaehyun isn’t above letting his hormones make decisions, because the flick of the vampire’s fingers only makes Jaehyun think of other things. He has no qualms about letting some of those thoughts filter through.

Taeyong swallows again. “You could call Youngho to make sure,” he offers.

Jaehyun pivots, finding his way for the first country he recognizes—London, where he’s never been. “Yeah, in no universe am I talking to Johnny-hyung about this,” he mutters.

Taeyong is very suddenly directly next to him, staring out at the shockingly blue bit of sky. “What was that?” No way he hasn’t heard, especially given the smirk he’s appallingly bad at hiding.

“I said you have three hours,” Jaehyun says, and then rattles off the name of the girl who took his first kiss, trying not to be too stupidly pleased at the minute twitch to Taeyong’s eye. “Is this a you thing, or are all vampires this possessive of their food—”

“This has nothing to do with your blood being the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted, and everything to do with the fact that I’m in love with you,” Taeyong snaps, steering Jaehyun out of the way of several shrieking children—one of them the girl from before, who twists to stare up at them until Taeyong winks, and flashes her a fang. She only shrieks louder, joyful in that way that only children are, before racing off after her new friends. Jaehyun has the ugly, awful thought, that vampires can never have children—not in the human sense, anyway.

It distracts him from teasing, and Taeyong’s love confession, the butterflies disappearing from the pit of his stomach as quickly as they’d come. “Is there a reason new vampires aren’t—” Jaehyun asks, breaking off to gesture.

“Under the age of consent?” Taeyong manages. “Besides the fact that we actually don’t want to go to war with humans?” He shrugs. “Nothing good can come of giving immortality to something not yet fully grown.”

Jaehyun blinks at him. “You know, sometimes you sound like you were born in the nineties like the rest of us, but sometimes you sound like you aren’t even a person.”

Taeyong raises an eyebrow, stepping around so that his back is to the room and Jaehyun’s is to the window. Jaehyun wonders if he’s doing that on purpose, but only for a second.

“You’re not a vampire after all, are you,” Jaehyun says. “You’re a robot.”

Taeyong barks out more startled laughter, which attracts more than a few eyes from those around them. Despite the ones out on the deck, Jaehyun gets the sense that Taeyong is maybe the only vampire in the room right now, and the humans—it’s very hard not to be able to tell, even though he’s no more remarkable than anyone else. It’s something in the air, a feeling tracing up and down Jaehyun’s spine. “Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing,” it says, but Jaehyun welcomes it.

“Are you going to run out of charge in three hours?” he says, tipping his head back towards where they’d come. “I can make it two, if that’s easier.”

Taeyong rolls his eyes at him but takes him by the hand once more. “I believe you promised me shit talking,” he says. “I have been to so many of these countries, Jaehyunnie. And the buildings? I predate so many of those as well.”

Jaehyun laughs, head thrown back without a care for the band-aids on his neck, and lets Taeyong lead him through his past without more than a pause.

It only ends up taking Taeyong about half an hour to find the padlock with Jaehyun and his first kiss’s name on it, and Jaehyun can only stare, speechless, as Taeyong presents him with seventeen year old him’s handwriting—“No, that’s the one, ‘Jeong Yuno, 2013.’ I can’t believe we put the date; I can’t believe you found it”—and then proceeds to rip the thing off the gate with nothing more than a pinky. He doesn’t even look to see if they’re being watched, utterly uncaring about his blatant damage to public property.

“Taeyong-hyung,” Jaehyun says, because the alternative is dropping to his knees then and there. Who knew that watching Taeyong break a bit of metal with one finger would be quite so hot? Certainly not Jaehyun, or he would never have brought it up.

Taeyong gives the lock a final look, moving to close his fingers around it and then pausing. “Will you mind terribly if I just—” He makes a face, quirks his lips, but doesn’t squeeze the lock into an unrecognizable lump without permission, because he’s still Jaehyun’s good, kind, immortal vampire boyfriend.

“No, go ahead,” Jaehyun says, watching as Taeyong rather gleefully reduces the thing to a misshapen hunk. “She broke up with me, anyway.” He doesn’t mention that he’d only gone out with her because it seemed like the right thing to do, anyway, back when he was shy, and the class pretty boy, and people left love notes in his locker instead of trying to be his friend.

“I’d be mad.” Taeyong somehow manages to mangle the lock so that none of the names are visible, and seems particularly pleased about that. “But it’s her loss.” He doesn’t do anything so insulting as continue, ‘you’re mine now,’ or beat his chest like a gorilla, but Jaehyun gets the idea anyway, sighing.

“It’s kind of unfair,” he says, as Taeyong stuffs the lock into a pocket and pulls out a brand new one, pulling it free of the packaging with what Jaehyun decides really is an excess of glee.

“What?” Taeyong looks up from where he’s scrawling his name in sharpie onto the thing; for not having wanted to go, he certainly came prepared.

“You get to have me for the rest of my mortal life,” Jaehyun says, taking the marker when offered and scrawling his own name. He puts down Jeong Jaehyun, and then, thinking about it, adds Jeong Yuno. He dates it, staring down at the seven for July trying not to be too floored by the fact that only a week ago the most he was worried about was going on a date with Taeyong.

“And?” Taeyong seems to be judging the gate from the perspective of someone who existed long before it did and would exist long after it ceases to be.

“And I only get you for the rest of my mortal life,” Jaehyun says quickly, looking away before Taeyong can make eye contact. He feels guilty, because he understands why Taeyong has no interest in turning new vampires. He feels guilty, because he saw the way Mark was with his mother just the other day, and every time Jaehyun’s own mother didn’t ask the question that was practically eating away behind her eyes, Jaehyun could see more and more of her fear. “There will be others, after me.” There might even be someone you’d want to keep for forever.

Taeyong locks the padlock onto the gate with a too loud click, tugging Jaehyun’s hands forward to do it with him, and forcing Jaehyun to look at their names. “There won’t be anyone else like you,” says Taeyong.

Jaehyun looks down at their hands, at the brand-new padlock, and manages something of a smile. He smooths his fingers over to interlock with Taeyong’s and keeps grinning. “Sorry,” he says. “Sorry—I’m not pushing—I’m—I understand.”

“Jaehyunnie.”

“I’ve gone and made things all depressing,” Jaehyun continues. “I really did have my first kiss right here.” He squints at the gate. “Did you really lock it in the exact same spot? Possessive, much?”

Taeyong keeps silent for two seconds too long, but then he tightens his hold on Jaehyun’s hands and steps in close. “Are you trying to get me to kiss you, Jaehyun-ah?” he says. “How forward of you. We’ve only been on two dates.”

Jaehyun licks at the back of his top teeth, heart jackrabbiting in his chest. “I’ve met your family, though,” he says. “You’ve met my mother.” He inhales, exhales, and draws up to his full height, only a shade taller than Taeyong, who could probably stare down a giant and be unaffected. “I’ve been inside you,” Jaehyun breathes. “Twice, if we’re being specific.”

Taeyong holds his gaze and doesn’t move for a painfully long time. “True,” he says finally.

“You don’t have to, though,” Jaehyun starts to say, but doesn’t finish, because Taeyong has tipped his head back and given Jaehyun his mouth right in the middle of that sentence.

 


 

On their way down the mountain, Ten calls. “I stopped by the shack you left Kyungchul’s body in, and it’s gone,” he says, loud enough that Jaehyun can hear, tipped in close to the phone as he is. A family passes them, a child happily riding on the father’s shoulders, and Jaehyun smiles just seeing it. Then what Ten’s saying catches up with him, and abruptly sobers.

Gone? he mouths.

Taeyong just shoots him a quick smirk. “Told you,” he breathes in quick reply. To Ten he says, “You’re sure?”

Taeyong’s brother sounds amused, but not insulted. “Absolutely. No trace of the body or the head.”

“Damn.” Cursing sounds nice on Taeyong’s tongue, though Jaehyun wagers most things would. “There goes any chance of Doyoungie lending me Carrot again.”

Jaehyun blinks. “Carrot?”

“Carrot,” Taeyong repeats, with gravity. “The katana.”

Jaehyun keeps blinking. “The katana is named ‘Carrot’?”

“Haechannie named it,” says Ten, sounding pleased. “Doyoungie texted too, by the way, just to tell you you’d better wash the thing.”

“Did he call it by its name?”

“He did not call it by its name.”

“Doyoungie hates that its name is ‘Carrot,’” Taeyong says, grinning at Jaehyun. Then he sobers. “The shack wasn’t his,” he says, not a question.

“No,” Ten answers anyway. “And he left no trace.”

“Damn,” says Taeyong again.

Jaehyun goes to speak, then realizes that despite all his bluster, Kyungchul hadn’t actually gotten Jaehyun into the shack. He’d assumed the shack was where the other vampire was holed up, but apparently that’s not the case. “You mean the shack was an opportunistic shack?” he says.

Taeyong and Ten both ignore him. “When are you both going to be home?” Ten says.

“Wow, I’m a horror movie hero,” Jaehyun says, before that sinks in. “Wait, no.” He pulls the phone away from Taeyong. “Not until lunch.” Then he realizes: “Why are you still awake?” he asks. It’s barely past one p.m.

“Mark is still sleeping,” Ten protests. “And dire times, and all.”

“Dire times,” Jaehyun repeats.

“Jaehyunnie and I will be back before lunch,” says Taeyong.

Jaehyun frowns at him.

“After lunch?”

Jaehyun is not above a pout.

“After—ice cream?”

Jaehyun grins and kisses him right on the mouth, getting distracted the moment their lips touch, and forgetting in an instant about the phone, and Ten. He moans when it’s done, involuntary and because his legs are shaking, his heart going far too fast in his chest.

“The two of you sicken me,” says Ten. He hangs up.

 


 

Jaehyun orders two scoops of pistachio and Taeyong orders nothing, flashing his fangs at the poor vampire stuck working the human shift at the ice cream parlor. It’s clear the vampire recognizes Taeyong, because Jaehyun’s been here before, and his order has never come this promptly. That, and the bowing. Jaehyun is never going to stop teasing Taeyong about the bowing.

They leave with their ice cream, continuing in their slow trek down to the bus home, and Taeyong’s ears are bright red, his head held high.

“Be honest,” Jaehyun says, licking a strip up his ice cream and trying not to delight too obviously in how he can tell Taeyong is tracking that movement like the predator he is; without turning his head, and with single-minded focus. The ice cream is cool on his tongue and makes his taste buds tingle. Not quite unlike kissing a vampire, his brain oh so helpfully points out.

“Be honest about what?” Taeyong seems content to just hold Jaehyun’s hand, swinging it between them with each stride.

“Were you or one of your relatives ever a prince?” asks Jaehyun.

Taeyong doesn’t stumble, but he’s an undead immortal. “Jaehyun,” he says dryly. “I was only born in 1895.”

One of the people walking near them turns to look at that, clearly startled, but when he sees Taeyong—and Taeyong’s barely concealed fangs—he very quickly moves on.

Or one of your relatives,” Jaehyun repeats.

Taeyong just swings their arms harder. “I’m sure at least one of them was,” he says. He eyes Jaehyun’s rapidly disappearing ice cream, expression almost wistful. “I’ve never had pistachio ice cream.” When Jaehyun opens his mouth, he continues, “It’s from after my turn.”

Jaehyun’s never heard him say it like that before, but Jaehyun’s also dealing with the fact that his boyfriend is older than pistachio ice cream.

“Quick.” Taeyong swings their hands together one last time, before tugging Jaehyun closer. “Finish your ice cream so I can get a taste.”

Jaehyun tilts his head. “I thought you couldn’t eat?”

“Not the ice cream,” Taeyong says, his eyes on Jaehyun’s lips. “Hurry.”

 


 

When they get home, Doyoung still hasn’t called and Mark is still asleep, but on the couch, so Jaehyun thinks he must have moved—and woken—sometime during the day. Johnny’s curled up on his phone on the end of the couch, his socked feet intertwined with Mark’s bare ones. Mark doesn’t so much as stir, but he answers Jaehyun’s unvocalized question without moving anyway. “I’m awake,” he says. “I heard your heart when you came in the door.”

Jaehyun blanks at him for a few moments, trying to decide if Mark means “came in the door to the apartment,” or “came in the door to the building,” and which—if any—of those concerns him. He decides neither, and takes off his shoes.

Carrot is lying across the kitchen table, sheathed and gleaming.

“I cleaned the sword for you,” Mark adds. “Johnny-hyung is very bad at Rock Paper Scissors.”

“I let you win,” says Johnny. “How was Namsan?”

Taeyong just pulls out the unrecognizable lump of metal from his pocket, and sets it happily on the kitchen table.

Jaehyun rolls his eyes and walks by it, heading for the fridge and a glass of water. “Good,” he said. “Taeyongie crossed ‘vandalism’ and ‘breaking the law’ off of his bucket list.” He pulls open the cabinet and grabs an empty glass, turning to carry it over to the fridge.

“It’s cute that you think Taeyongie hadn’t ever vandalized or broken the law before he met you,” says Johnny.

Jaehyun flips him off.

“Is that a padlock, Taeyong-hyung?” A glance reveals that Mark has gotten off the couch and is examining the lump of metal with vampire eyes.

Jaehyun flicks his eyes towards Taeyong, waiting to see what he’ll say.

“Yes.” Taeyong looks smug enough Jaehyun should be mad at him, but Mark puts down the metal without pressing for more information.

Jaehyun tops off his glass and takes a long, much needed sip of water, wondering idly if there’s any correlation between making out with vampires and dehydration. He yawns.

Taeyong notices. “You should take a nap,” he says.

Jaehyun flips him off, but the effect is ruined by more yawning. “Where’s Ten?”

“Out patrolling,” says Johnny. “Canvassing all the areas we’ve seen Kyungchul—the coffee shop, campus, Jaehyun’s shack.”

Jaehyun sets down the glass in the sink with another badly concealed yawn. “It’s not my shack.”

Johnny just grins. “Ten’s eager to resolve this. I think he wants to go home.”

“Or to Germany,” Taeyong says quietly. There’s silence as they all think that over.

“He hasn’t found anything,” Johnny offers. “He’s been texting updates. It’s very quiet—Kyungchul has gone to ground.”

They all seem to weigh that also.

“Why are we waiting for Doyoung-hyung, again?” asks Mark quietly. “I thought you’d said that Taeil-hyung knew more about Yunho-hyung’s brothers.”

Jaehyun shoots Taeyong a look, but the vampire doesn’t look away from Mark. “Taeil-hyung said he heard from Kyuhyun-hyung,” he explains.

Jaehyun feels the start of another yawn.

“Doyoung is closest to Kyuhyun-hyung.”

“Kyuhyun-hyung,” Mark says.

“Heechul-hyung’s eldest,” Johnny explains, which is enlightening to Mark, but not to Jaehyun.

“Doyoungie is our best bet for information,” adds Taeyong.

There’s more quiet, broken only by Jaehyun yawning once more. “I think I will nap, then,” he says, and heads without pause towards Taeyong’s bedroom.

He hears Taeyong say, “That’s my bedroom?” around the same time Mark says, “That’s your bedroom?” and Johnny whistles, low and meant to carry.

Taeyong shows up in the room sometime around when Jaehyun finishes unbuttoning his shorts, sliding them down his legs and diligently going to put them in the laundry basket before Taeyong can do it himself.

“Are you taking off all of your clothes?” Taeyong’s throat sounds dry enough to be a desert, and Jaehyun risks a grin.

“It’s very hot,” he says, trying to be totally unabashed in his nudity. “It’s summer.” He doesn’t feel self-conscious with Taeyong—at most he feels on the precipice from safe to still safe but also likely to get off with fangs in his neck—but there’s still the automatic urge to cover, or at least roll away from Taeyong’s eyes. Jaehyun wishes he’d be bold enough to forgo blankets, but he’s not. He settles for sliding under Taeyong’s covers with as much sex appeal as he can manage, still not fully recovered from his blood donation, and residually tired from the long date and even longer week and a day. “Are you coming?” He doesn’t mean the innuendo, but Taeyong’s eyes darken anyway.

“I’m not tired.”

“Aren’t you nocturnal?”

A blink, and Taeyong settles into the bed next to Jaehyun, on top of the blankets.

Jaehyun fights not to shut his eyes. “Why am I so tired?” he mumbles.

“You’ve had a long week,” Taeyong says.

Jaehyun slits his eyes at him.

“You’ve had a long week,” Taeyong amends. “And—” His fingers end up along the band-aids, walking between the two of them along Jaehyun’s skin and leaving only goosebumps. “Go to sleep,” Taeyong tells him, eyes like liquid chocolate as he stares down at where his fingers are brushing Jaehyun’s neck, almost looking like a cat minding its claws.

Jaehyun shuts his eyes, dropping his cheek into the pillow and shoving a hand underneath. When that doesn’t satisfy him, he flops around until he has Taeyong, frozen in death and stillness, blinking down at Jaehyun as Jaehyun buries into his throat, sighing. “Mmm,” Jaehyun says, pleased with the pillow choice. “You’re… cool.”

“Jaehyun-ah.”

“It’s nice,” Jaehyun mumbles, more than halfway to sleeping. “Love you. Happy Birthday.”

“I love you too,” says Taeyong.

 


 

Jaehyun wakes to voices, clearly trying to be quiet, but failing. The room is dark and he is alone, but he doesn’t feel scared, just a little like he does when he’s sick, and has to take medicine to get to sleep. It’s Taeyong, Mark, and Johnny talking, and in between that—Doyoung, clearly finally having called. They’re not being abysmally loud, or anything. Jaehyun only woke because there’s only so much sleep a person can get if they start before sundown, but they’re clearly also not used to having to be quiet—or being around people who might not overhear. Or maybe it’s just Johnny, playing token human so that Jaehyun can overhear. Because surely the vampires know he’s awake, by now.

“—nobody can find Boa-noona; she’s completely off the grid,” Doyoung is saying, with a surprising amount of calm, given he’s been missing in action for more than twenty-four hours. “She’s not dead, before you ask—I think we’d all be able to tell that.”

Jaehyun files that away for more thought, stretching out on the bed until his knees crack.

“And I asked Taeil-hyung too, but if we have any long lost cousins, he doesn’t know either.”

Jaehyun stares at Taeyong’s ceiling and tries to remember what it was exactly that Kyungchul had said when he was driving Jaehyun to the shack. Father, he’d said. Formally, like something out of a Joseon drama.

“It’s not one of our—aunts.” Jaehyun wonders if anyone else hears the hitch in Taeyong’s sentence as he speaks. “Jaehyunnie said he said ‘father.’” Jaehyun warms, pleased that Taeyong remembered. He debates going back to sleep. “I’m just worried that he appears to be fixated on Jaehyun,” Taeyong continues, putting a stop to that train of thought rather soundly. “From what he said, Kyungchul is pretty angry at Boa-noona, and Jaehyun has never met her.”

“Mark hasn’t either,” Johnny puts in. “And he killed him.”

They all seem to think about that, before finally Doyoung offers, “We don’t know that Mark wasn’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“True.” Johnny doesn’t sound happy about that.

“Uh, also, I—well.” Mark’s sounds awkward. “I don’t really remember, but I had a dream earlier.”

There’s a pause.

“A dream?”

“Nothing like—nothing like a death dream.” Mark says the words like they’re something particularly unpleasant, and Jaehyun understands—a dream of your death could never be nice, especially given it would always be your murder, and at the hands of the person you trusted most—your maker. “Just… there was a woman. I gave her my umbrella? She seemed sad.”

“It was raining the night before you died,” Taeyong says, tone odd. “But why would Boa-noona be at SM U?”

There’s another momentary silence, but this one feels distinctly more uncomfortable. “Well you are her favorite grandson,” Doyoung says eventually. “I wasn’t the only one checking up on you. We ran into each other in the airport, sometimes.” He speaks quickly, his words falling almost on top of each other, but Jaehyun still grins when Taeyong squawks about it.

“You what?”

“You’re my favorite sibling”—someone makes a wounded noise from the background on Doyoung’s end and Jaehyun can’t place who it is; Yuta? Taeil-hyung? Neither?—“and again, body bag.”

 “Control freak,” Taeyong says, but it’s a tease—Jaehyun can tell.

“If you met Boa, that might have been enough to set him off. I mean he doesn’t sound exactly logical.” Johnny very valiantly attempts to steer the conversation back on course, with little help from anyone else. “Do you remember anything else from your dream?”

“No, sorry.” Mark really does sound sorry.

Taeyong sounds pensive. “I wonder if you’ll have your death dream sooner,” he muses. “I mean since you know—sorry.” Clearly Johnny and Mark are giving him a look. “Where were we?”

“The most Kyuhyun-hyung has ever said is that there was some issue about Changmin-hyung being turned himself,” says Doyoung, as if Taeyong hadn’t spoken. “I mean… there’s got to be a reason Boa-noona is claiming him as her own.”

Jaehyun yawns into the next silence, and Taeyong raises his voice. “We all know you’re awake, Jaehyun-ah! Come out any time!”

“I’ve been out since middle school,” Jaehyun can’t help but tease back, but he sits up to try to find clothes anyway. The only things he has that are his own are what he wore to Namsan Tower which aren’t too dirty, but he still feels gross at the prospect of putting them all back on anyway. Maybe it’s because it’s mid-summer, and the humidity ruins all clothing.

Taeyong laughs at him but goes back to talking shop with Doyoung anyway. “We’re just going to have to treat him like any other rogue,” he says. “Right?”

Jaehyun flops back against the bed, reminded that Taeyong is the youngest of them all, not counting Mark.

“Right.” Doyoung doesn’t sound patronizing. “You can cut off his head… again.”

“Carrot!” Taeyong says happily, and is ignored.

“Call one of us, we’ll call Changmin-hyung, and we’ll be there within an hour to… help.”

They lapse into silence again, and this time Jaehyun shudders a little under the covers, because of the reminder of what Changmin-hyung had said over dinner. Not that Kyungchul is exactly a model citizen, but Jaehyun thinks he wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t green at the prospect of… figuring out what it was that would kill another person. Or not a person. A vampire. And Jaehyun is one of two humans, in the apartment.

“Ugh,” Doyoung says. “This entire conversation is depressing.”

Taeyong makes a noise.

“I was having a truly wonderful day, and you’ve ruined it soundly.”

“Is Jungwoo still there?”

“He went hunting with Haechan and Taeil-hyung,” says Doyoung. “Sire things.”

“Aw, Doyoungie, are you jealous—”

“I will hang up this phone—”

There’s a noise, possibly the thud of the fridge slamming closed, a swish of something through the air, the impact of someone catching whatever it is, and then Taeyong speaks, first addressing Mark, then Doyoung. “Thank you. Doyoungie, thanks for sending the blood, by the way.” His words sound muffled, and all Mark does is make a noise in agreement. “You emptied the fridge when we left, and we haven’t had time to go get more.”

Jaehyun should be more curious, since he’s often wondered where vampires get their supply of blood, but Jaehyun is too busy dealing with the fact that he’s annoyed that Taeyong is drinking out of a blood bag and not… He tables the thought, giving up on sleep and going to hunt for Taeyong’s clothes. There’s got to be something he can borrow.

“What are you talking about?”

“The blood.” Mark’s the one speaking now, so Taeyong must have been hungrier than he’d let on. “You sent some over around dinner time? About four bags. Thanks—”

“I didn’t send blood.” Doyoung’s voice comes out sharp, like a knife, and there’s a shocked, choking noise from the other room. “Mark? Taeyong—I didn’t send any blood—Youngho!” Doyoung’s practically snarling, concern turning his words into commands. “Where’s Ten?”

“Out,” Johnny says, helpless. “Mark? Taeyong—oh God—”

“Taeyong-hyung?” Mark’s voice sounds very small. “I don’t feel so good.”

“It can’t kill them,” Doyoung snaps, loud enough that Jaehyun thinks it has to be for his own benefit as well. “It can’t—” He stops talking when there is a knock at the door, innocuous sounding yet simultaneously foreboding.

No one makes a sound.

The knock comes again. “Youngho,” says Kyungchul. “Please let me in.”

Jaehyun feels ice slide through his veins. He needs clothes, and a weapon. All he can find are some of Taeyong’s, sweatpants and a t-shirt pulled anxiously out of a drawer and thrown on with shaking hands. He grabs the baseball bat that Taeyong has for some reason drawn all over and left in his closet.

“Johnny.” Taeyong’s voice sounds rough and slurred. “Let him in.”

“What?” Johnny sounds panicked. “No—”

Kyungchul knocks again.

“Let him in,” Taeyong snarls again. It sounds like it hurts.

“What’s your name?” Johnny blurts Johnny bravely, from farther away. Jaehyun hears the door beep open and tightens his grip on the bat. “Your full name, so that I can let you in.”

“Park Kyungchul,” purrs Kyungchul, and Jaehyun shuts his eyes.

“Park Kyungchul,” repeats Johnny. “Please do come in.”

Jaehyun tells himself that Doyoung is on the line, and he’ll call Ten. He tells himself that Kyungchul can’t kill Taeyong permanently, because he doesn’t know how. He tells himself that everything is fine, that the dual cracks and thuds on the floor are not the snap of Taeyong and Mark’s necks, or the fall of their bodies. That Johnny doesn’t gasp, then go silent. That Doyoung doesn’t say, “I’ll kill you—” before the phone call ends abruptly.

Jaehyun shuts his eyes and counts to ten. He breathes. He shoves open the door. He sees nothing, manages only half a step out of the bedroom, before something connects with the back of his own head, and everything goes black.

Chapter Text

Jaehyun wakes up in what appears to be a church, lying bound with his hands tied behind his back. It’s kind of ironic. This is a place of worship—everything is in almost complete darkness save for the moonlight coming through the windows, but Jaehyun can see pews and stained glass—and Jaehyun—Jaehyun was taken by a vampire.

“Well, what do you know,” he says, voice barely more than a whisper as he takes stock. “Johnny-hyung wasn’t lying—vampires can go to church.”

His head hurts like someone hit him on the back of it to knock him out, and when he licks his lips, he tastes blood. He must have bitten his tongue on his way down. It’s obviously still night, but that means nothing. Jaehyun could have been out for only a couple minutes, or several days. Although it doesn’t feel like it’s been days—his stomach isn’t painfully starving, and he hasn’t… soiled himself.

The most glaring problem is the tied-up hands.

The darkness shifts. “You’re awake,” it says. The darkness is obviously Kyungchul, but Jaehyun has the sinking feeling the vampire is not alone. Something is making noises so quietly that Jaehyun can almost pretend it’s nothing, but the longer he lies there listening to only the sound of his own breathing, the louder they seem to get. The holes in his neck itch very suddenly, and Jaehyun realizes with no small amount of panic that the band-aids are gone. That’s—maybe they just fell off when Kyungchul was transporting him. Or maybe Kyungchul took them off for a reason, and Jaehyun feels sick.

He shouldn’t.

He should hold himself together, and not show fear. No doubt he’s got to be wafting his emotions off in spades, but at the least he can attempt to seem composed. But he can’t—Jaehyun slaps a hand to his neck regardless, heart pounding. Please. Please, please, please, please. He finds no new bite marks—only Taeyong’s—and Jaehyun swallows, relieved.

“I just wanted to see,” says Kyungchul, with a terrifying amount of awareness that Jaehyun tells himself is likely just due to the fact that he has night vision and has nothing to do with what Jaehyun must smell like, tied up in the dark, lying at the feet of a murdering vampire. “I’ve only ever met father. No other vampires this whole time, and I’m a very messy eater.”

Jaehyun feels even more sick, thinking of Chaeyoung-noona, Sungmi-ssi, and Hong-ahjusshi. Those poor international students with their throats ripped out in broad daylight.

“Taeyong obviously isn’t,” Kyungchul continues. “It was Taeyong, yes? The one who bit you? I didn’t think you were that close with the other one.”

Ten, Jaehyun determines. Ten is the only other vampire with them right now that Kyungchul would have met, although surely he’d know of Doyoung. Ten wasn’t in the apartment when Mark and Taeyong—when Mark and Taeyong—when Johnny— “What did you do to them?” Jaehyun manages, horrified. “What did you—did you drug them?” And snap their necks after? He thinks Kyungchul snapped their necks. There had been… the sound. Jaehyun won’t say that, won’t ask.

“Poison is so much easier to get in this century,” Kyungchul says reasonably, like he’s describing the weather. “I simply had to walk into a store and be… convincing.”

Jaehyun swallows bile, pretty sure Kyungchul could be plenty convincing.

“Your human friend…” Kyungchul pauses, and Jaehyun feels the world spin to a horrifying stop. Taeyong and Mark could probably recover from whatever drug cocktail Kyungchul spiked their blood with, and neither of them had really died from a broken neck. They’d probably be out for a while, but fine in the end. But Johnny. Johnny’s just a human—like Jaehyun—and he won’t be shrugging off an overdose without so much as breaking into a sweat. Johnny wouldn’t survive having his neck snapped. Not even with two vampires in the room—drugs have half-lives, and it will take time to work its way out of their systems so that they could wake up and—Jaehyun can’t even say it, almost shaking with each passing second.

“I’ll kill you,” Jaehyun says, in a voice that sounds unfamiliar to his own ears it’s so warped with despair. “Mark will kill you. Taeyong-hyung—”

“Don’t work yourself up unnecessarily, Jaehyun-ssi,” Kyungchul says. He really has graduated to full sentences, Jaehyun can’t help but notice. “I did not poison your… friend.”

Jaehyun breathes one sigh of relief, then gulps in more panic, because—if Kyungchul did anything more immediate—

“I simply introduced his head to the wall,” Kyungchul finishes. “Several times.” He grins, and Jaehyun can only tell by the glint of his fangs in the darkness. “I’m certain he will be fine.” He sounds like something out of a nightmare. “Although you humans are so… fragile.”

Jaehyun really misses the stilted, awkward answers. Jaehyun feels like he’s run two marathons. He turns his attention to the rest of his surroundings, searching for a distraction—anything to take his mind off of other things. Johnny is okay. Johnny has been as knocked out cold as Jaehyun was, but at least he’s not dead. And Taeyong and Mark will be fine enough soon, and Doyoung was on the phone. He’ll have called Ten. Ten will get help, and then Taeyong will find Jaehyun. Jaehyun just has to… stall. His gaze lights on a nest of blankets bundled on the closest row of pews. Clearly Kyungchul has been spending more than just this night here. “Nice upgrade,” says Jaehyun.

Kyungchul just keeps silent and all the way in the shadows, nocturnally glinting eyes the only thing giving him away, but he inclines his head for Jaehyun to keep talking.

“The church is a nice upgrade,” Jaehyun says, shifting his shoulders back. The rope is a lot tougher than he was expecting, and Jaehyun never did scouts or anything where he’d have practice with getting out of restraints. “It’s much better than the shack. Although I know it wasn’t actually your shack.”

Kyungchul only tilts his head to the other side. “You really have no self-perseveration instincts at all, do you?” he says thoughtfully. “I understand now why Taeyongie finds you so fascinating.” Before Jaehyun can take offense at that, his expression morphs rather cruelly, visible to Jaehyun in the darkness because of the gleam of his knife-sharp fangs. “Or why you’re so fascinated by him, more like.”

Jaehyun swallows, panicking. “You’re much more loquacious now,” he blurts, the dictionary word coming out like a shield. Fuck. No matter how much Kyungchul seems to have progressed beyond his one-word answers, there’s no way that’s not going to end with Jaehyun getting his own head introduced to a wall.

“Loquacious,” Kyungchul says.

“Talkative,” Jaehyun hurries to correct. “Sorry—”

“I know what loquacious is,” Kyungchul snaps.

Jaehyun pauses. “Oh,” he manages, thinking back to the car ride from hell, when Jaehyun had done his best to sarcasm his way to either death or freedom, and Kyungchul did a rather stunning impression of Frankenstein’s monster.

“I know a lot of things now,” Kyungchul continues, and he finally shifts all the way out of the shadows.

Jaehyun can’t help but shut his eyes because the noises were someone after all—a teenage boy, sniveling and terrified, with salt all the way down both cheeks and blood already covering the front of his shirt. Kyungchul is horrible to look at as well, but Jaehyun remembers that from previous encounters. He’s still tall, still thin, with too close together eyes and utterly blank, black irises. But he seems more solid, more whole, less… fragile.

“For example,” Kyungchul says, shifting his hold on the kid so that they’re standing back to front, the kid’s wet, frightened eyes locked on Jaehyun like if he looks anywhere else, he might disappear. “The problem is eating too much.” Kyungchul pauses, clearly savoring, before continuing, his mouth too close to the kid’s trembling ear. “If you eat too much, they come back. And you don’t want them to come back. Not without permission. Father didn’t have permission, which is why she killed him.”

Jaehyun gets the feeling that this is important information and does his best to file the knowledge away for future use. Jaehyun also can’t bring himself to look away from the kid either, struggling against the ropes tying his hands behind his back and trying to stand—to do anything beside watch Kyungchul put his fangs into the kid’s throat and rip

“Wait,” Jaehyun says, but Kyungchul pulls away with a bloody, cruel mouth and spits the mouthful out at their feet. The kid makes an awful, terrified noise, almost like he can’t help himself, and the vampire’s nostrils flare with disgust. The kid looks small, shaking like a leaf and covered in all manner of fluids, but there’s—there is arousal in his eyes, in his posture, and Jaehyun struggles even harder. He knows. He remembers. It feels good, he’d said, hadn’t he? Hadn’t he? “Wait—”

“But that doesn’t mean you can’t still kill them anyway,” Kyungchul says conversationally, and neither Jaehyun nor the kid have any warning before he’s snapped the poor boy’s neck, dropping the corpse to lie between them with his wild, still staring eyes fixed blankly on nothing.

Jaehyun can only stare back, heart roaring in his ears. He’s frozen with the ropes pulled taut and all ten of his fingers spread in a desperate pull to get free.

“But no eating after they’re dead,” Kyungchul finishes, seemingly only to himself. He’s got his eyes fixed on the body. “Not without permission.” His lips pull back, and then he sighs, switching from horrifying to genial in a second. “But you know all about that, right, Jaehyunnie?”

Jaehyun thinks that’s the first time he’s called him so familiarly, and he flinches. But when he stops panicking long enough to pause in tugging his hands apart, he notices that the ropes feel looser. Jaehyun didn’t spend any of his childhood learning how to tie and untie fancy knots, but it’s likely Kyungchul didn’t either. Jaehyun grits his teeth against the incoming pain of reinvigorated pulling, but tries to smile up at the vampire anyway. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” he says, as what he hopes works as a distraction.

He gets no warning; one second Kyungchul is several paces away, the next he’s right in Jaehyun’s face with a hand in his hair, hauling him onto his knees with a painfully tight grip. “Now, now,” he says, voice a hiss. “That’s not very nice.”

Jaehyun struggles not to balk away from the smell of his breath—the blood, shining and still wet all the way around his mouth and down his neck, and takes advantage of the change in position to do a more cursory stock of his injuries. Besides the lump to the back of his head and the sting on his tongue from where he nearly took it off, Jaehyun seems fine—all of his limbs are working, and when he tugs harder on his bound wrists, the ropes seem to give even more.

“You should be nice to me, Jeong Jaehyun,” Kyungchul is saying. “We are related, after all.”

Jaehyun is distracted from his attempt to break free by the absurdity of that sentence. “You—I—what?” he manages, lifting his chin to meet Kyungchul’s eyes despite the water of his own. His hair. Fuck, his hair.

Kyungchul seems to tug even harder, pulling so that he can put his bloody mouth right up against Jaehyun’s cheekbone and breathe—it’s horrible, it’s awful, Jaehyun feels like he could throw up—before he lets him go almost aggressively, not stepping away, but not so much as moving when Jaehyun goes stumbling back onto the ground, landing hard on his chin because his automatic response is still to try to catch himself with his hands, not twist to do less damage when making friends with the floor.

“Taeyongie is my cousin,” Kyungchul says. “And you’re his—”

Don’t say something weird, don’t say something weird, don’t say something weird—

“Mate.” Kyungchul sounds about as happy about the word choice as Jaehyun, who is now frantically reviewing any and all articles he’s read about vampires trying to remember if anyone was stupid enough to talk about them like they were wild animals who—it’s all Jaehyun can do not to burst out into nervous laughter—mate for life.

“Boyfriend,” he says, pushing his left shoulder back so that he can use the right one to leverage himself back up onto his knees. His chin is absolutely smarting and he tastes blood again, which is great, given present company. “I believe the word you’re looking for is boyfriend.” The floor is disgusting and the taste of his own blood is like more bile on his tongue. Jaehyun spits on the ground to get rid of the taste. “And it’s kind of you to imply that that makes me part of the family. We’ve only been dating for a week.”

Kyungchul stares down his nose at Jaehyun like he’s a particularly sarcastic bug, which Jaehyun had to concede would probably be a fair comparison. “Yes,” he says. “That.”

Jaehyun gives his mouth another wash with spit and swallows it down with the bile, meeting the vampire’s eyes full on. “Anyway, you said that last time.”

Kyungchul’s own eyes flash.

“That you were Taeyong-hyung’s cousin.” Jaehyun’s heart practically skips a beat when he says Taeyong’s name, and unfortunately for his reputation and/or his survival instincts, Kyungchul definitely notices. Ignoring that, Jaehyun hauls a knee up and pauses, panting, before doing his best to climb to his feet. He’s still got his hands tied behind his back, but he isn’t that much shorter than Kyungchul, and he certainly has more muscle mass. Jaehyun’s no Johnny Suh, but Kyungchul looks like one of those models who the barest breath could blow over—pretty, but lighter than air. It doesn’t help that he’s still got blood all around his lips, or that the thinness of his hands makes Jaehyun think of claws.

“Yes.” Kyungchul’s eyes dip and down Jaehyun’s entire body, settling at his feet, where the corpse of the kid still lies. Jaehyun tries not to look at him—at either of them.

“Unfortunately for you, Yunho-hyung doesn’t have any living siblings,” Jaehyun says. He goes back to working at the ropes around his wrists, giving up on simply tugging and instead trying to work out where the knot starts. It’s hard work without being able to look, and harder still when faced with an immortal being with unparalleled senses.

Kyungchul seems to look down his nose at Jaehyun. “Stop that.” He bats at Jaehyun with barely more than a hand, but Jaehyun still ends up slamming back down onto his knees, years of core training the only thing keeping him from face planting onto the floor again. “If you get free, I’ll just have to tie you up again.” He pauses, breath going funny. “And maybe mess you up a little so you stop struggling quite as hard.” He sounds practically ecstatic at the prospect, and Jaehyun swallows down more bile. “On second thought, do keep struggling.” He takes a step forward, and Jaehyun gives in and lets his animal brain send him scurrying backwards until his back hits the front row of pews, pressing against the wood there like a reprieve. “I’m so very hungry, Jaehyun-ah.”

The bite on Jaehyun’s mark flares hot, almost like a warning, and he swallows. “You didn’t answer my question,” he manages, deciding against getting up, but going back to working on the ropes. Maybe he can use the wood of the pews… “How are can you be Taeyongie’s cousin, if Yunho-hyung’s sibling were all dead before they could have children?”

Kyungchul waves a hand in the air but stays several meters away. “Obviously your information is wrong,” he says, tongue licking along his lips. He’s moving his head oddly, almost like a being-charmed snake, and the longer Jaehyun watches, the more he realizes he’s moving to the beat of Jaehyun’s heart.

He swallows.

“I think I would know who my sire is.”

Jaehyun will have to give him that. “Who?” he says anyway, giving up on the ropes and straining back onto his feet. He hates to keep looking up, and even though he’s much less precariously balanced on his knees, he’d much rather go down fighting than cowering.

Kyungchul’s head tilts to the side again, clearly listening. When Jaehyun opens his mouth, he lifts a thin hand. “Sh,” he says. “Listen.”

Jaehyun does, hope bubbling up in his chest because surely it’s Taeyong, or Ten—Mark, even—come to save him.

“Listen to your heart,” Kyungchul continues, putting a stop to that thought as quickly as it’d come. He stalks forward at a leisurely pace that makes Jaehyun fight not to fall back further against the pews. “Surely that cannot be healthy,” Kyungchul says, from barely more than a foot away from Jaehyun. “It’s been so long since I had a heartbeat, but yours sounds positively… racing,” Kyungchul finishes, with almost a purr. He’s close enough that Jaehyun can’t do more than stare up at him, furious and terrified and with his hands still tied behind his back.

“Who is your sire?” he says through gritted teeth, and doesn’t flinch when Kyungchul forgoes touching him with fingers, and instead leans in to drag his nose along the skin of Jaehyun’s cheek, down past his ears, and along his throat. The marks there throb like a second warning. Jaehyun’s hands tighten into fists. “Hey,” he says, risking it and shutting his eyes because it’s not like Kyungchul is looking at him. “I asked you a question. Who is your sire?”

The vampire pulls back, very pointedly not breathing, and Jaehyun ignores the implications of that. “Kim Jaejoong,” he says.

The name is only vaguely familiar, but Jaehyun opens his eyes. “He’s dead,” he manages, shocked. “Boa—”

“Killed him,” Kyungchul finishes. “Because of me. It was awful.” He shudders, but the move looks much less out of fear, and much more like… pleasure. “I had the most horrible dream.”

A death dream, Jaehyun thinks, and wracks his brain for what Taeil-hyung said exactly. “I thought it was because he tried to kill her first,” he says.

Kyungchul’s lips pull back in a snarl. “She killed him because he wasn’t supposed to have made me,” he says, with a wash of hot breath against the side of Jaehyun’s face that makes him shut his eyes again. He tries not to notice that the blood around Kyungchul’s mouth has finally gone dry enough to flake onto Jaehyun’s collarbones. “I was an accident, you see.” Kyungchul sounds like he’d like to step away, but he doesn’t, staying pressed up against Jaehyun and staring him down with hot, angry eyes. “A mistake.”

Jaehyun keeps trying to make sense of all of that, remembering that Taeil-hyung had said that they died before he was born—made?—so that must mean that Kyungchul is very old. Older than both Ten and Taeyong, at least. That might make him stronger. But strong enough they won’t be able to kill? Surely they have to be looking for Jaehyun now. Surely— Jaehyun breathes hard out through his nose, trying not to think about Johnny. Johnny has to be okay. At this point, Doyoung has to have gotten him help.

“What are you thinking about?” Kyungchul’s tone has gone sharp, and Jaehyun very quickly realizes his mistake. “Whatever it is—keep thinking about it—it makes you smell delicious”—of course Jaehyun would have gotten kidnapped by the first vampire he’s met who’s actually into real-life, non-consensual fear—“I am so very hungry”—Jaehyun starts fighting the ropes on his wrists again, realizes that’s really doing nothing, and starts fighting the grip Kyungchul has on the rest of him, twisting and trying to get free—“and you smell so very delicious. You’re family. I’m allowed”—Jaehyun ends up falling back, slamming ass down onto the pew with a bang and fighting stars out of his vision. Kyungchul just follows him down, still crooning terrifying nonsense in his ear, but they don’t stay that way for long.

“You—stop—what—” Jaehyun says, finally all the way to panicking, but Kyungchul ignores him, grabbing him by the shoulder and dragging him back up to standing. His breath is like a brand on Jaehyun’s neck and it’s not good at all, ice in his veins and nothing like what it’d been with Taeyong. Jaehyun twists, fights, nearly cries.

“Jaehyun-ah,” Kyungchul says, voice like a terrible, terrible song. “Do hold still. I’m such a messy eater.”

Fuck you,” snarls Jaehyun, practically spitting mad and shaking, as Kyungchul puts a hand on the back of his neck and holds. One of his fangs drags along the skin of Jaehyun’s neck no matter how hard he tries to get away. No, Jaehyun thinks. No no no no no—

A knife goes whistling past, the sound of it barely audible over the roaring in Jaehyun’s ears, and embeds itself with a dull thud in the back of Kyungchul’s right shoulder. The vampire freezes.

Jaehyun takes the reprieve for what it is, gulping in much needed air, and taking advantage of Kyungchul’s sudden stillness to knee him in the dick with as much force as he can manage. Then, as Kyungchul is no longer holding him with fingers so tight Jaehyun feels bruised just thinking about it, he steps frantically away from him, stumbling only a little because of how his hands are bound behind his back. He spits at the vampire once he’s free, then twists to wipe his mouth on his shoulder.

Kyungchul doesn’t even move.

“Hey, asshole,” Taeyong says, like a balm to Jaehyun’s soul. “There wasn’t a lot of Diphenhydramine in 1920—you’re going to have to try harder than that to kill me.”

Jaehyun could just kiss him, or cry. “Taeyong-hyung.” He sounds like he lost a fight with a serial killer vampire and like not crying was less of a reality than he’d like, but given he lost a fight with a serial killer vampire—and that serial killer vampire was literal seconds from putting his teeth in him—Jaehyun thinks he’s allowed.

Taeyong’s eyes flick briefly to catch Jaehyun’s, his expression guarded. Besides the knife he’s brought Doyoung’s katana, the blade shining in his hands. He doesn’t look good—dark circles under his eyes and a shake to his hands that the unfortunately large weapon does nothing to hide—but he’s here, in Kyungchul’s church, ready to fight. “Are you okay, Jaehyunnie?”

Jaehyun lets the sound of Taeyong’s voice wrap around him like a warm blanket, and then gathers himself. “Yes,” he says, a lie if he ever heard one. “Well, no. But I’m fine. I’m not injured—”

“Good,” Taeyong says, eyes not leaving Kyungchul. “Ten stayed with Mark and Youngho, but I’ve let them know—”

“Johnny’s alive,” Jaehyun can’t help but blurt, relief coloring every syllable. “Thank God, I thought.” He doesn’t finish the sentence, not sure what he thought.

Taeyong’s expression softens, his mouth turning up at the corners. “I’ve got you, Jaehyun-ah,” he says. “I’ve got you”—and Jaehyun has no warning—none at all—before Kyungchul isn’t a statue anymore, and the knife embedded in his back is slamming sharp end first right in between Taeyong’s eyes. He startles, pupils blown wide, and Jaehyun makes an awful, keening noise.

“Taeyong-hyung!” he shouts, voice loud in the sudden silence of the church. “Taeyong-hyung—”

Taeyong’s pupil’s hold Jaehyun’s, but he stumbles, Doyoung’s katana hitting the ground at his side with a clang. “Jae—hyun—” He falls, legs going out from under him like they’ve been kicked, and Jaehyun watches him hit the ground in what feels like slow motion.

Kyungchul coughs, a noise Jaehyun quickly determines was meant to be a laugh, and when he looks, the other vampire has a hand still touching the wound in his back. “Oops,” he says when he catches Jaehyun looking. “My bad. Father always said I was a lousy throw.”

And even though Jaehyun knows Taeyong didn’t die of a knife through the eyes and will probably be fine, he rushes him, snarling, because no person should have to watch someone they care about die like that, no person at all.

To his credit Kyungchul just sidesteps with vampiric speed, one instant frozen in front of the pews, and the next far out of Jaehyun’s reach, but he doesn’t seem mocking. In fact he seems livid, lips pulled back in his own roar of rage. “Jaehyun-ah,” he says, as Jaehyun whirls to face him. “Look what you’ve made me do.”

Jaehyun could just laugh; he doesn’t want to look at Taeyong’s body, lying in a heap on the dirty church floor next to the katana.

The katana.

Jaehyun needs to get the katana. He stumbles forward, panic making him clumsy, and Kyungchul catches on.

“Ah ah, Jaehyun-ah,” he chides, like some sort of storybook villain. Jaehyun doesn’t even see him coming, human as he is, because Kyungchul is done moving like anything but a supernatural predator. “That’s not very nice. You’ve ruined all my fun.” He takes hold of Jaehyun with fingers that hurt like the knife he put through Taeyong’s skull and heaves, throwing Jaehyun back into the church pews with a crash of sound and broken, splintering wood.

Thankfully nothing of Jaehyun’s breaks—or if it does, he’s too hyped up on adrenaline to notice—but the ropes binding Jaehyun’s wrists finally snap in two. He struggles to pull free, scraped up hands fighting splinters and bits of church pew. He grabs a piece—broken and not nearly sharp enough, but the only thing on hand. Kyungchul seems to be back to playing with his food because he’s not moving towards Jaehyun, circling around between them almost like a broken toy. Jaehyun spares him a couple glances because he seems to be fighting himself, muttering on about orders and caves and other things—confusing things that Jaehyun can’t understand, not with Taeyong dead, and Jaehyun’s only defense against the vampire trying to kill him a sword more than a few feet away. The wood will have to do. Taeyong had said a lot of the older vampires could be killed by stakes, anyway. And Kyungchul must be very old, to have not been known by Yunho-hyung.

Jaehyun holds to that thought desperately.

“You don’t understand what it’s like,” Kyungchul is saying, finally done fighting himself, it seems.

This time Jaehyun does flinch when the vampire starts to tear at his shirt. The spot where Taeyong nailed him with the knife really seems to be bothering him; when he turns once more Jaehyun gets an eyeful, and the skin looks puffy and wrong. More wrong than it should, given that Kyungchul is a vampire, anyway. Poison? Of some sort? Something that messes up vampires—although wouldn’t most things mess up vampires, at least for a short time. Or maybe it’s something else—wolfsbane, or whatever the plants people write about that harm vampires. Silver. Not that silver does anything, like sunlight.

Jaehyun gives himself a shake, aware he’s getting distracted, and acting a fool. He doesn’t have a concussion. He’s fine. He has a weapon, as bad as it is, and Taeyong will get up eventually. Soon. Hopefully.

“Father told me to stay.” Kyungchul is back to monologuing and Jaehyun really needs to focus, shifting on the balls of his feet and trying to decide if it’s worth it to run flat out for the sword.

Jaehyun’s never used a sword before, but he figures it’s sharp and able to do damage, so it’s his best bet. Better than the wood, but the wood is all he has for now.

“And then he died.”

Jaehyun really needs to be paying better attention, because Kyungchul is still talking, still ripping at the shirt where the knife pierced him.

“Do you know what that’s like, Jaehyun-ah?”

Jaehyun growls at his name, tightens his grip on the wood, and rocks back and forth a bit with nervous, panicked energy.

“He died when I was barely more than three years old.”

This is important but fuck if Jaehyun is able to focus, working his way through the necessary sequence of events for survival: run at vampire; stab vampire in heart with stake, hopefully killing vampire, but if not, at least wounding vampire enough to get to sword; get sword; use sword take off vampire’s head; grab Taeyong; get the fuck out of church; and wait for backup, since Taeyong said he called Ten.

“You’re not listening to me, Jaehyun-ah!”

Fuck, okay, Jaehyun’s not going to be able to run at the vampire, Jaehyun’s just going to have to stab and pray when the vampire runs at him, which, shit, fuck, okay, that’s happening now.

Kyungchul actually seems shocked when Jaehyun meets him halfway and thrusts the bit of wood right up between his ribs towards what he really hopes is the vampire’s heart, but he doesn’t turn to ash or freeze in his tracks or do any of the more dramatic things Jaehyun had imagined happening. (Fuck authors, and fuck Hollywood’s overactive imagination.) No, Kyungchul just stares at him, brown eyes liquid wide, and then he starts to laugh.

Jaehyun doesn’t manage to disengage from him—the trouble with close range weaponry like hunks of church pew—so before he can think, Kyungchul has grabbed Jaehyun’s hand and is holding it punishingly tight. He doesn’t seem to care that he’s forcing more of the stake into his own chest, just grins harder and takes hold of Jaehyun’s left bicep with an equally punishing grip. He draws blood, scratching up Jaehyun’s arm and ripping at the sleeve of his borrowed nightshirt. Jaehyun whimpers in pain, unable to stop himself.

“So he has told you more,” Kyungchul says, in a tone that takes Jaehyun straight back only moments earlier, when the vampire had been this close because he was going to bite Jaehyun; was going to put his teeth in him and make him feel things only Taeyong was supposed to. “Too bad.”

Kyungchul pries Jaehyun’s fingers off the stake without letting him get away, taking hold of the thing with his own hand and pulling it free of his chest with a sickeningly loud squelch. There is blood, hot and sticky, and it’s getting all over Jaehyun. He feels like he’s going to throw up.

“I was an accident, you see,” Kyungchul continues, bringing Jaehyun’s make-shift stake to his mouth and fucking licking it, laving his tongue along the surface without a fear of getting splinters.

Jaehyun keeps trying to pull free fruitlessly, not even feeling it anymore as Kyungchul’s nails rake his bare skin.

“I feel like I should give you a grade for effort, though,” Kyungchul continues in a purr that makes Jaehyun want to run for the hills screaming. “Jaehyun-hyung.”

Jaehyun stares up at him in sick, morbid curiosity.

“I’m only twenty,” Kyungchul affirms, and then stabs the bit of wood directly into Jaehyun’s gut.

It hurts.

The wires in Jaehyun’s brain have gone all wonky, nerves firing and misfiring and leaving him stunned into not speaking, falling painfully onto the ground when Kyungchul drops him like he’s not even a person—like he’s a thing, utterly useless, and not worth his time. Jaehyun’s not even sure he’s a person anymore; everything is red and hot and awful and he can’t think, can’t breathe. He puts his hands on the bit of wood sticking out of his stomach like that’ll help, somehow. Someone is making high pitched, awful noises and abruptly Jaehyun realizes it’s him. He can’t make them stop, but bites his own tongue to try anyway.

“It’s too bad,” Kyungchul says, standing over him looking down at him like he’s nothing more than dust. “I was looking forward to having fun with you.”

Jaehyun thinks there’s irony—he’s somehow ended up side to side with the dead kid from earlier, who no doubt Kyungchul had fun with—and if he wasn’t trying his hardest to keep from sobbing in broken, terrified pain, he thinks he might finally throw up.

There is a stake.

In Jaehyun’s stomach.

“Well.” Kyungchul regards Jaehyun like whatever comes next is somehow his fault. “I suppose you’ll have to do.”

“No,” Jaehyun manages, through a mouth that refuses to cooperate. “No—”

“I’m still hungry, you see,” Kyungchul says, practically in ecstasies, and Jaehyun shuts his eyes and waits.

Kyungchul never comes.

Instead there’s a roar of sound, a crash—when Jaehyun opens his eyes it’s to find Taeyong’s back, heaving, and Kyungchul halfway across the church struggling to free himself of the stained-glass window and hard brick of the outside wall. In the two seconds it takes Jaehyun to parse that out Taeyong is whirling to face him, his own eyes wide, and the knife in his head thankfully gone. There’s not even a scar—only the faintest line of blood down the bridge of his nose to even suggest that there’d been a wound—and when he stares down at Jaehyun, Jaehyun finally does let himself cry.

“Taeyong-hyung,” he says, a gasp, as the vampire sinks to his knees in front of him and puts his hands on Jaehyun’s shoulders.

“Fuck,” Taeyong says. He can’t seem to look anywhere for very long. “Fuck—Jaehyunnie—you’re bleeding.”

Jaehyun stares up at him, willing himself to memorize every inch. The pale skin. The flush that he couldn’t see halfway across the church that means Taeyong must have drank from someone before coming to rescue him. His eyes are lovely and his brows are strong and Jaehyun wants to kiss him, even though it’s not appropriate. Even though he can hear Kyungchul swearing and picking his way free of the rubble Taeyong threw him into. Even though there is a piece of wood in Jaehyun’s side.

“Wait—Jaheyunnie—don’t pull it out—fuck!” Taeyong swears, as Jaehyun puts shaking fingers on the edge of the makeshift stake and tugs it free, heart pounding.

He can tell immediately it’s a mistake. The splintered bit of pew comes free with a mess of more blood and other things—things Jaehyun is not thinking of at this time. He can’t. He’ll throw up. He’ll—he’ll—he wants to laugh—die.

Fuck!” Taeyong says again, and then pulls away from Jaehyun briefly so that he can practically tear off his jacket. It’s leather, something Jaehyun would expect for a vampire, but it’s soft on the inside, like butter. It fits Taeyong like he’s been wearing for the whole century, and Jaehyun opens his mouth to comment—to say something endlessly stupid, like, “it’s too bad you never had the opportunity to take me shopping.” Taeyong shoves the thing against the open wound in Jaehyun’s side and presses hard enough to make Jaehyun moan.

“Hyung,” he manages.

“Sorry.” Taeyong doesn’t let up, but he looks terribly apologetic. “Fuck, I’m sorry. Jaehyunnie. I’ll fix it. It’ll be okay. Let me just—”

Kyungchul has picked his way free and is taunting Taeyong now, plucking shards of glass out of his hair and skin and then sucking on his fingertips when they start bleeding; he draws Jaehyun’s attention as he moves, like any prey would when facing down a predator. “Oh Taeyongie-hyung,” Kyungchul says. “You don’t have to be mad. Didn’t Yunho-samchon tell you it’s common courtesy to share your things?”

“Jaehyunnie is not a thing,” Taeyong says through gritted teeth. He waits until Jaehyun manages to get his own hands onto the jacket and hold it over the wound before he stands, back ramrod straight, and puts himself between Jaehyun and the murderous vampire. “And he’s mine.”

“Kind of contradicting yourself there,” Jaehyun says, because he can’t help himself, and Taeyong shoots him a look that wants to be angry, but ends up pleased.

God.

Jaehyun loves him.

“And you’re not my cousin,” Taeyong continues.

That seems to piss Kyungchul off more than Taeyong throwing him into a window had, and Jaehyun hurries to interject.

“Actually, I think he might be,” he says at nearly the same time Kyungchul’s mouth opens. “He says he’s Kim Jaejoong’s… child.” Words are starting to be hard now, so Jaehyun puts more pressure on the hole in his chest and takes a moment to just breathe. “From before Boa killed him,” he adds.

Kyungchul seems pleased by Jaehyun’s recall. “Very good,” he says, back to stalking Taeyong. He has Doyoung’s katana in his hands before Jaehyun can so much as blink, the sword looking almost angry to be used by him, but no less dangerous.

Taeyong only has the knife that Kyungchul put between his eyes, and he holds it with a frown. When he catches Jaehyun looking, he smiles. “Poison doesn’t work on us unless it was how we died, but it’s not fun,” he explains.

Jaehyun lets out a rasp of a laugh that aches, then holds tighter to Taeyong’s jacket in response. Fuck but if he’s going to bled out stabbed by a piece of a church. Jaehyun’s not even that religious, and none of the people fighting for or against him have souls! They’re all fucking profane.

Taeyong notices because of course he does, and snarls a little in response, gaze concerned.

Jaehyun does his best to smile back, tilting his head towards Kyungchul to say, “Go for it.”

If vampires had superpowers, Taeyong’s gaze would be enough to kill Kyungchul. As it stands, Kyungchul just grins in the face of it. “It doesn’t matter if you’re really my cousin,” Taeyong tells him seriously. “I’m going to kill you regardless.”

“You can think that,” Kyungchul says, giving Doyoung’s sword a swish. “Dongsaeng.”

They meet in a clang, and Jaehyun has to close his eyes instead of watching. He feels hazy and tired, but shutting his eyes only makes it worse. For two horrifying seconds Jaehyun isn’t even sure if he can open his eyes, but eventually he does.

Taeyong has Kyungchul forced into abandoning the sword by his unwillingness to leave close quarters, bleeding out of wounds in both arms that make Jaehyun’s heart hurt, but giving as good as he can with the much shorter knife. Whatever is on it does not agree with vampiric healing so while Taeyong’s wounds close up near instantly whenever Kyungchul pauses to reevaluate, Kyungchul’s own remain open and red. It’s pissing the other vampire off, and Jaehyun wants to cheer.

Unfortunately abandoning the sword is the only concession that Taeyong seems able to force out of Kyungchul, because despite the sluggish heal of his wounds, the other vampire has still been feeding more regularly than Taeyong—who Jaehyun wonders, in the far corner of his idiot mind that’s not too busy worrying he’s going to bleed out in die, if he went out and ate some random stranger of it was Johnny. Kyungchul is also considerably older, if not more unhinged, and he fights like he doesn’t care if Taeyong cuts him up.

Taeyong is mostly fighting to keep Kyungchul away from Jaehyun, and that’s not helping.

Jaehyun feels bad, sits up no matter how hard it hurts, and stares around the church. There’s got to be a place he can drag himself to that will help. Like—well the closest thing he can manage is the place where Kyungchul threw him into the pews earlier, but the hole there makes for some decent defense from behind, and is far enough that Taeyong should be able to maneuver without fear of Kyungchul going for him. Gritting his teeth, Jaehyun starts to move.

Taeyong notices. “What are you doing? Stop that!” His voice sounds pained, and Jaehyun doesn’t let himself look to see why. He keeps moving, holding the jacket over his side and telling himself he’ll stop once he’s there.

“Absolutely—no—self-preservation—instincts—at all,” Kyungchul says in segments, like Taeyong isn’t giving him any time to do more than suck in tiny pockets of air.

“Jaehyun-ah!” In any other circumstances Jaehyun would welcome the authoritative crack to Taeyong’s voice, but as it stands, he uses it like a lifeline to crawl the remaining way across the floor to sink gratefully against the wood.

“Getting—out of—your way,” he answers Taeyong through gritted teeth, then finally lets himself look.

Taeyong has shifted to keep his back to Jaehyun, but the cuts Kyunchul’s managed to land seem to be taking longer to heal. Taeyong’s knife is nowhere to be found, lost with Doyoung’s katana. Jaehyun’s heart hurts. His side hurts. His head hurts. He bites his tongue, hard.

“Fuck—”

“Jaehyun—” Taeyong’s voice comes out mostly filled with air, breaking off when Kyungchul lunges for him, raking nails across his cheek and leaving marks.

His fangs are bared, his eyes are terrifying, and he practically growls. “Don’t ignore me,” he says. “Don’t ignore me—” He looks unhinged—he is unhinged—and Jaehyun… flounders.

There were things he wanted to remember. Important things. Kyungchul had monologued and Taeyong had not been there.

“Kyungchul was—made”—it’s not “made.” The word isn’t “made,” it’s—“sired—by—Kim Jaejoong,” Jaehyun manages, talking feeling like he’s forcing the words through molasses instead of just past his teeth. Everything is sharp and red and aching but somehow Jaehyun’s head just feels fuzzy; it’s hard to think and speak and stay awake. He thinks he’s still holding Taeyong’s jacket to the wound in his side, but he can’t be sure. “By—Kim Jaejoong,” he says again.

“Yes, I’m aware. Please, let’s not waste breath on my asshole uncle who tried to murder my grandmother, Jaehyun-ah!” says Taeyong, sounding strained himself.

Jaehyun takes that information like another bit of wood to the gut and manages to force his eyes open. He hadn’t realized he’d closed them. The church seems unbearably bright. His head is spinning. It must be the blood loss. “An accident,” he says.

Taeyong and Kyungchul are wreaking havoc away from the front of the church and not towards the pews, angled away from Jaehyun’s section by Taeyong’s strength alone. They’re moving too fast for human eyes to see to begin with, but it’s all Jaehyun can do to figure out which shape must be Taeyong. It has to be the smaller one, moving slower and constantly stopping to reposition itself between Jaehyun and the larger blur, taking unnecessary hits as it does.

“Stupid,” Jaehyun says.

“What’s that?” Taeyong’s sentence comes out clipped and in banmal, and Jaehyun feels it like the crack of a whip.

It was an accident,” he says.

Taeyong and Kyungchul meet in another clash of fists and splintered wood and Jaehyun tries to lift a hand to shield his face from the shower of debris. “It’s okay, Jaehyunnie, you don’t need to justify it! We’re all a little stressed!” calls Taeyong. It’s a lot of words and a lot of sentences and Jaehyun has no idea what he’s talking about.

“It was an accident!” he says again, louder and more controlled this time.

Taeyong takes a hit of some sort with an audible grunt and the sound of what must be bone breaking, but shouldn’t be, because he’s a vampire. Jaehyun’s vampire. A full a hundred-and-twenty-six years old. But Kyungchul is a vampire too, and much older. “Jaehyun—”

“Kyungchul was an accident!” Jaehyun shouts, chest heaving and wound aching and hand no longer holding fabric against his insides because the jacket has fallen away and all he has now is his hand, white and stained with blood. “When he—your uncle—” Words are failing Jaehyun and his eyes feel heavy and he growls, stubborn to the end, pressing his hand harder into the wound until he feels something give—squish—and wants to throw up but doesn’t; puts his head back and pants up at the sky. Or not the sky. The ceiling. It’s black because it’s night, and the stars are—there are no stars. There are no stars inside.

“What?” Taeyong is still fighting, trying with limited success to shift the battleground away from where Jaehyun is lying and back towards the sword, lying abandoned and slick with Kyungchul’s blood. “Look, I’ll just—behead him”—Taeyong pauses, taking a hit to the cheek that makes Kyungchul cackle, the laughter just as deranged and unhinged as he is—“and this time we won’t leave; we’ll watch him, and I’ll call Boa-noona—”

“Kyungchul was an accident!” Jaehyun says again, feeling his grip on reality starting to slip away again and panicking, holding tighter to his own insides and forcing his head back up so that he can at least try to look at Taeyong one last time. “An—he wasn’t—on purpose—” He hears Taeyong suck in a breath, but that can’t be, because Jaehyun is so very far away and Taeyong doesn’t even need to breathe. He sees Taeyong clench his fist, watches Taeyong take a hit, and keeps his eyes open on for the next pass, when Kyungchul comes in swinging and Taeyong lets him, releasing whatever bit of church he’d amassed as a weapon and hooking his hands into the other vampire’s shoulders, snarling.

“He—drained him—” Jaehyun slurs, speech leaving him, in time for Taeyong’s chest to explode in a vicious, monstrous growl.

I hope you rot in hell,” Taeyong says, and then seals his fangs to Kyungchul’s throat and bites.

And Jaehyun thinks to himself, lying spread out on the floor with blood staining his fingers, and whatever semblance of consciousness that he’d managed to cling to starting to spin away into nothingness, that if he has to die, at least that will be the last thing he sees.

Lee Taeyong.

Beautiful, terrible, immortal Lee Taeyong, the vampire. Jaehyun’s vampire. The last of Jung Yunho. Jaehyun’s Taeyong.

Jaehyun’s Taeyong with murder in his eyes and blood dripping down his chin, ripping the throat out of the murdering bastard who killed Jaehyun’s best friend.

Jaehyun floats.

 


 

“—Jaehyun! Jaehyun—Jaehyun—Yuno—Jaehyunnie—Jae—hyun—”

It’s loud, in heaven. Louder than Jaehyun had expected.

“—oh God—oh fuck—Jaehyun—Jaehyunnie—please—please no—”

God is louder than Jaehyun had expected and using his own name in vain. Her name? Her name seems better… truer—Jaehyun adores his Grandmother—Jaehyun can’t think, can’t remember. But then he thinks God sounds very much like Taeyong, and Jaehyun tries to sit up so fast he hurts. Taeyong. Taeyong, Taeyong, Taeyong. Jaehyun’s chest aches and Jaehyun’s stomach churns and Jaehyun wrenches his eyes open, gaps up at the black expanse of ceiling that has to be the church, before zeroing in on Taeyong’s eyes. They’re large and wet and staring frantically down at Jaehyun’s own.

“Jaehyun-ah,” Taeyong says when he sees Jaehyun looking back. “Jaehyun-ah. Jaehyun-ah.” He’s got salt all down his cheeks and red all around his mouth and his fangs are practically polished ivory, poking out from behind his upper lip. His bottom lip is trembling, more tears threatening to spill, and for some reason he keeps darting looks down the rest of Jaehyun before returning to staring him in the eye.

Jaehyun stares, and wants to blink, and then tries to sit up farther so that he can see.

“No—don’t—Jaehyunnie—Jaehyunnie, please—”

Pain. Pain, pain, pain, pain and oh, Jaehyun was stabbed, yes, he remembers now. Park Kyungchul ripped a bit of church pew out of his own stomach and shoved it into Jaehyun’s gut, grinning the whole time.

“Ow,” Jaehyun says in the world’s largest understatement. “Ow, Hyung—”

“Shh,” Taeyong says, fingers smoothing over Jaehyun’s cheeks and brushing the hair out of his eyes. “Shh, shh, shh, Jaehyun. Don’t waste your breath—”

“Did you kill him?” Jaehyun interrupts, unable to keep from glancing around as if he’d somehow be able to find the body.

Taeyong’s fingers are cool against his cheek, but firm as he turns Jaehyun back from looking. There is blood on his wrist. Fresh blood. His own blood? Jaehyun licks his lips, and is confused.

“Shh—yes,” Taeyong says. “He’s very dead, Jaehyunnie. I drained him. And I cut his head off again to be safe,” he adds.

Jaehyun lets out a shaky exhale. “Good,” he says, forcing his eyes to focus on Taeyong’s face again. It’s hard, but he does it anyway, gaze drawn to the red splashed all down his chin and throat. “That’s still totally hot.”

Taeyong’s mouth drops wider. “Jaehyun!” He sounds embarrassed like only he can be, and Jaehyun laughs despite how much it hurts.

“Taeyong-ah,” he rasps. “How can you even be surprised?”

Taeyong’s expression goes even more embarrassed, that impossible flush coloring more than just the tips of his ears now. He doesn’t have a heartbeat. He doesn’t need to breathe. How does he have blood? How does he even blush? How does he—the air whistling through Jaehyun’s lungs feels filled with yellow dust, making his chest ache—get hard?

“It should have been clear given how I was writhing in your lap earlier—”

Taeyong’s gone much less embarrassed now, and much more long-suffering. “Jaehyunnie—”

“—but I’m kind of a bit of a blood whore—”

“Stop that.” Taeyong puts a finger on Jaehyun’s mouth and stills him, eye sharp. “You’re not—”

“There’s nothing wrong with it, Taeyongie-hyung,” Jaehyun says, feeling like he’s swimming through his own brain.

“It’s taking advantage,” Taeyong says, stubborn to a fault even in the face of Jaehyun’s inevitable demise; Jaehyun loves him so much it hurts more than the mortal wound.

“It feels good,” Jaehyun says. He feels like he’s whispering but he can’t be. He focuses on Taeyong’s face, on Taeyong’s voice, and his lovely, captivating eyes.

“That doesn’t make it right,” Taeyong says.

“Are we not right?”

“I love you. I’m careful with you. I could never hurt you,” Taeyong says, and they diverge on opposite sides of the long divide.

“Hyung—”

“Stop it,” Taeyong interrupts, his hand back to cradling Jaehyun’s jaw. Jaehyun tries not to think about how he’s done nothing to try to staunch the hole in his side; vampires must better than any doctor at assessing the mortality of a given wound, he decides. “You’re—” He doesn’t seem like he can bear to finish that sentence. “I don’t want our—” Nor that one. “Stop it,” he ends up with.

Jaehyun does his best to reach up with his own hand to hold him, but can’t. He must make some noise of frustration, or broadcast with his eyes, because Taeyong lets go of Jaehyun’s cheek and clutches him by the hand instead. His fingers are cold and slick with blood and Jaehyun loves him. “Taeyongie-hyung,” he says. “Taeyongie-hyung, it’s okay,” he says.

Taeyong stares down at him and laughs, involuntarily and like he’s the one who’s been stabbed. “Okay?” he says. “Okay?”

“I want it to be you,” Jaehyun says. “It’s okay if it’s you.” He shakes the whole time, but somehow, he manages to drag Taeyong’s hand back up to his face, presses a kiss to the ice-cold skin of his thumb.

Taeyong’s eyes are more pupil than anything else. “Jaehyunnie,” he says.

“I think it would be kind of weird if it was Mark,” Jaehyun continues. “Or—Ten-hyung. Doyoung-hyung. Yuta-hyung.”

At the mention of his siblings, Taeyong’s eyes go a shade darker, but then his jaw tightens so hard that the veins there seem to jump. “Jaehyunnie, I’m not going to turn you,” he says.

Jaehyun looks up at him and does his best to look shocked. “What, really?” he says. “Still? That’s unfortunate. We only got to do it one time—and I didn’t even get to sit on your co—”

“Can you stop making jokes about sex, Jaehyun-ah!” snaps Taeyong, voice harsh despite how gently he’s still holding Jaehyun’s hand, the tension in the rest of him seeming to leech away in all the places they’re touching skin to skin. Immediately he looks regretful about yelling.

“Sorry,” Jaehyun says anyway, and means it. “Sorry, I—I love you, Taeyong-hyung.”

Taeyong’s expression splits wide open. “I know and that’s why, Jaehyunnie-yah,” he says.

Jaehyun looks up at him, utterly confused. “That’s why?”

“You love me,” Taeyong says.

“Yes,” Jaehyun agrees faintly. “Which is why I want to spend the rest of my life with you—”

“But you won’t love me after,” Taeyong says, practically blurts, like he can’t help himself. This—this must be the thing that has been eating at him more than his own undeath.

Jaehyun would blink, but he’s afraid to close his eyes. “What are you even talking about?”

“You won’t have a soul, after,” Taeyong says. “You won’t”—he stops talking rather abruptly, so the level of disdain Jaehyun manages to summon for his inane line of thought must show through—“you might not love me, after.”

Jaehyun can only stare at him with his mouth open wide. “What?” he says finally, because that’s all he can manage. “You—what?”

“You might not love me without your soul,” Taeyong says, like a terrible, guilty little secret, and Jaehyun does laugh at him.

It doesn’t hurt as much anymore. That’s probably not a good thing. “What are you even saying, Taeyong-ah?”

If Taeyong even notices the banmal, he doesn’t let it show. “Without a soul,” he says again, and Jaehyun has the sudden urge to touch him. He goes to do so, but he must mess up, because Taeyong makes a pained noise, like a punch. When Jaehyun looks down, his hands are bloody, and his chest—he looks back up.

“I won’t not have a soul,” Jaehyun tries to say, thinking. “It’ll be yours.”

The words must not come out intelligibly, because that gets him no reaction. Jaehyun thinks that ought to get him a reaction. Instead Taeyong just keeps staring, looking forlorn. Broken. At the end of his rope.

Jaehyun wants to laugh, thinking of rope. He spent what felt like hours unable to get free of some rope. “Taeyong-hyung,” he manages. “Don’t you love me?”

That gets him a response. Taeyong’s grip on Jaehyun goes so sharp suddenly that Jaehyun gasps, pulled a little upright. He’s lying on the ground among the broken church pews with Taeyong kneeling before him, holding him by the hands—or—by the shoulders. “Of course I love you!” Taeyong’s voice is loud and carries across the entire empty building. There are no sirens, but Jaehyun thinks there ought to be sirens. They can’t have been very quiet, when Kyungchul and Taeyong were fighting. Maybe there are sirens. Jaehyun can’t tell. “Jaehyun-ah!”

Oh. It seems Taeyong has said something, and Jaehyun has missed it. He tries to smile. For some reason that just makes Taeyong sob, a tiny, hopeless thing.

“Then why are you yelling about me not loving you just because I won’t have a soul,” Jaehyun says, or tries to say. He can’t really tell if he manages it. “You haven’t got a soul, and you still love me. Or do you not love me?”

Taeyong is staring at him with his mouth pulled open, but as Jaehyun speaks, he snarls. “Of course I love you,” he snaps, and even goes so far to give Jaehyun a shake. He doesn’t mean it—winces when Jaehyun’s wound pulls and his chest aches and he breathes harder—but he does it anyway for emphasis.

“Well there,” Jaehyun says, staring hard into him because he wants that to be the last thing he sees. “That’s your proof.”

Taeyong is looking at him like he’s trying to commit Jaehyun to memory as well. “Jaehyunnie.”

“Taeyongie,” Jaehyun says back. It comes out slurred; his eyes are closed; he can’t be bothered to care. “I love you.” He doesn’t think he’s making sense. He hopes he’s making sense. He’s so tired. Doing anything is so hard. “Taeyongie, I want it to be you. I love you.”

The world stills, then goes black.

“Jaehyun?” Taeyong says, but Jaehyun doesn’t hear—not really. “Jaehyun? No. No. Jaehyunnie. Jaehyunnie. Jaehyunnie.”

It’s warm in the dark, but sad.

“I’m sorry,” Taeyong says, more stolen air than words. “I’m sorry. I—I love you—”

Pain, sharp and vibrant, in the twin holes on Jaehyun’s neck.

Then—

Nothing.

Chapter Text

The thing about Jeong Jaehyun is that Taeyong… Taeyong is terrified of him. But not for any good reason. Jeong Jaehyun was barely twenty-two when Taeyong first met him, and so unremarkably human that to be afraid of him was to be a fool. He was fragile and pretty and had good grades; he laughed at all of Taeyong’s jokes dumb and then some, that first semester when Taeyong was his T.A. Now… Jaehyun is still pretty and fragile, with good grades. He still laughs at Taeyong’s jokes although he gets some of the more nuanced ones now. He gives as good as he gets, has met almost all of Taeyong’s family and Taeyong… Taeyong doesn’t know how to go on.

Jeong Jaehyun is the most beautiful thing Taeyong has ever tasted, and Taeyong has drunk from many people in his one-hundred-and-twenty-six odd years. Taeyong has even drunk from his sire himself, back in the early years when he didn’t remember enough to hate the man. (Taeyong doesn’t hate the man, not really.)

Jaehyun smiles with dimples as he loves Taeyong; Taeyong, this fragile, stupid thing who miraculously keeps living, when it makes no sense for him to do so.

Taeyong who killed himself, once upon a time.

Jaehyun loves him.

Jaehyun loves him.

Jaehyun is dying.

Jaehyun lies bleeding out on the floor of a church from a wound that someone who hated Taeyong put there, because if not for Taeyong, Jaehyun wouldn’t have even landed on Kyungchul’s radar. Jaehyun can’t seem to focus on anything for longer than three seconds, is sweating and still somehow smiling, underneath all of the pain, and when Taeyong breathes him in, he feels like he can taste love on top of all the death and fear.

“Jaehyunnie,” Taeyong says, holding him with careful hands that can’t do anything—he never trained in medicine—he doesn’t think training in medicine would even have helped—he knows what he has to do if he wants to keep Jaehyun and he—fuck. “Here,” he tries, even as Jaehyun’s head lolls and his pulse goes faint. “Here.” Taeyong opens a vein on his wrist and shoves it at Jaehyun’s mouth but it does nothing. Jaehyun wont swallow, and even if he did, vampire blood wouldn’t help. Not like this. Not like this. “Jaehyun,” Taeyong says. “Jaehyun. Yuno. Jaehyun—” He hurts, an ache like nothing he’s ever felt before and Taeyong died—once at his own hands and once at a vampire’s and then again, over and over, because whatever magic that flowed through his veins didn’t want to let him go. “Oh God. Oh Fuck. Jaehyun. Jaehyunnie. Please. Please no—” What even is Taeyong saying, anymore? What even is Taeyong existing for, anymore?

Jaehyun’s eyes flutter. His lungs stutter. He stares, gazing up at Taeyong with too large eyes. His pupils are expanded to let in all the light. He looks woozy, and hazy, and he—grins.

He wants Taeyong to turn him.

He thinks Taeyong is going to turn him.

He laughs, tries to see where his own guts are spilling out of himself like an idiot, and he—he’s beautiful, even now, even like this. He’s the most precious thing in Taeyong’s one-hundred-and-twenty-six years and he’s losing him, after he’s only just found him—had one week, seven days—and not years. It’s unfair, Taeyong thinks, but doesn’t say, and does his best not to cry.

“Taeyongie, I love you,” Jaehyun says, with almost no air—no emotion, no life. “Taeyongie, I want it to be you. I love you.” And then he’s gone. Dead. Bled out on the floor—nothing but skin and bone with all the magic in the world gone with him.

Taeyong feels it like part of a church pew to his own gut, bits of splintered wood making a home in the middle of his ribcage. He feels the moment Jaehyun’s heart stops beating like his own death all those very many years ago, and swallows. He should die. This should kill him. This should—there should be no living, after this. Not like this. Not without… this.

“No,” Taeyong says, and clutches Jaehyun—Jaehyun’s corpse—to himself, helpless in his grief. “Jaehyunnie. Jaehyunnie. Jaehyunnie.” Taeyong wants to hate him, wants to shake him, wants to hold him, has to bite him, wants to live like this forever, holding Jaehyun’s hand. I’ve never met anybody in the world like you, Jeong Jaehyun. I’ll never meet anyone like you ever again, Taeyong said no less than forty-eight hours ago and he meant it—will still mean it when humanity manages flying cars, and the twenty-first century is but a memory and nothing more.

He aches.

He said he wouldn’t—he said he wouldn’t—but he can’t live without Jaehyun. Not forever. Not after all.

“I’m sorry,” Taeyong says to Jaehyun’s closed eyes. “I’m sorry. I—I love you—” He thinks, briefly, in the seconds before he sinks his teeth into the skin of Jaehyun’s neck, that of course Jaehyun is the most beautiful thing he’s ever tasted, and then Taeyong doesn’t think of very much of anything, anymore.

Blood.

Hunger.

Pleasure.

Pain.

 


 

He’s twenty-six.

He’s twenty-six and his entire family is dead, murdered in cold blood for the things in their house, which isn’t much, living as they are. Taeyong’s family’s only claim to fame is Taeyong: healthy, with good prospects, and having caught the eye of a—of Jung-seonsaengnim. An apprenticeship. A modicum of protection—security—in a world rocked by the Japanese occupation. There isn’t much in that house. Certainly nothing worth all the bullets.

Three bullets, right between the eyes; execution style without so much as a pause in Taeyong’s direction. There was nothing Taeyong could do—nothing Taeyong could say—and then a gun between his own eyes, and the man’s expression: cold and dead. Like Taeyong’s family. Like Taeyong’s sister. He thought—there was peace, in that moment—the quiet resignation that at least he’d be with them all soon, and then—

“No.”

The man is frozen with his finger over the trigger to Taeyong’s life. Taeyong holds his gaze; holds his breath.

“Not that one,” says the other man; the one who killed Taeyong’s mother—his sister—and smiled when he did it. “That one belongs to the blood sucker.” The man’s lips curl back when he speaks, like the existence of vampires are an affront to all that he holds dear, and Taeyong feels it like a physical blow.

Not that one.

That one belongs to the blood sucker.

The murderers are careful not to touch him as they move on, leaving behind only rubble and corpses—Taeyong’s family—minor atrocities, left in their wake.

Taeyong.

Floats.

He finds Jung-seonsaengnim. He finds Jung-seonsaengnim. He goes—there are—holes—in his memory.

There is no reason for Lee Taeyong to keep living, anymore.

He’s in the bathroom.

He’s in the bathroom.

He’s in the bathroom and Yunho-hyung is there and Taeyong doesn’t want to see this—doesn’t want to know this. His wrists are already bleeding and the knife on the floor clatters when Yunho-hyung grabs him and Taeyong closes his eyes because he doesn’t want to see this, not now. Not like this.

Jaehyun is dying. Peripherally, Taeyong knows that Jaehyun is dying. Jaehyun is more important than all of this. Taeyong can’t focus.

Someone is saying, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die—” over and over ad nauseum and it makes Taeyong’s head hurt.

I don’t want to die.

I don’t want to die.

I don’t want to die.

I don’t want to die

“Stop it!” Taeyong finally shouts, near screams, going to cover both ears. He glances down as he does so and sees his own wrists, bare with no evidence of this moment beyond this—this memory—the dream that he had when he’d been dead for sixty years. “Stop saying that!”

“—I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die—Yunho-hyung, I don’t want to die—”

Taeyong freezes, the fight leaving him in one great gust, as he realizes it’s him, saying that, shouting that, on repeat. It’s him being pulled naked and shivering from the water, him shuddering and clutching at Yunho’s chest, him babbling, eyes wide and terrified and holding the vampire with trembling, bleeding hands. “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die,” babbles Taeyong, on repeat, like a broken stereo—were there stereos in 1920? Taeyong can’t remember—and Taeyong.

Taeyong freezes.

Yunho grabs a towel, turns off the overflow that must have drawn his attention—“What’s the point of being immortal and all powerful if we can’t have nice things,” Yunho said, the first time Taeyong even saw the bathtub, and Changmin just scoffed and rolled his eyes—and covers Taeyong’s sluggishly bleeding wrists. “Shh,” he says, tone soothing. “Shh, shh, Taeyong-ah, you’re alright. You’ll be alright. You won’t die. I won’t let you die.”

“I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, please don’t let me die—please—”

Taeyong can’t breathe.

Taeyong doesn’t need to breathe.

Taeyong—

There is a hand tugging on his sleeve.

Someone says, “Hyung?”

Taeyong looks down, and gasps, a whole wash of unnecessary air leaving his lungs. A boy is standing there holding onto Taeyong’s sleeve—a boy with dimples, missing teeth, and lovely, unfairly pale skin. He’s wearing white shorts and a white t-shirt and he smiles up at Taeyong; he can’t be more than seven; he can’t be more than a dream.

“Jaehyunnie?” Taeyong says, asks, dares to more than dream.

“Taeyong-hyung,” says Jaehyun—says baby Jaehyun—and then he hugs him, barely reaching Taeyong’s middle, and holding surprisingly tight. He smells like strawberries and clean things, like babies, and children, and nothing like blood, or pain, or death.

Taeyong stares down at him, puts shaking, shuddering hands into the soft hair on the crown of his head, and opens his mouth to say—anything—but very suddenly there is a brilliant, flash of blinding light.

“Hi Taeyongie,” Taeyong thinks Jaehyun says—baby Jaehyun says—but it can’t be anything but his imagination. “I love you.”

Taeyong comes back to himself in that church, next to the ruins of the fight and Jaehyun’s frozen, unmoving, dead body, and swallows. There’s moisture in his eyes, and all the way down his face. He’s shaking like he’s cold, and no matter of telling himself he can’t get cold anymore seems able to make it stop. He feels raw and stretched thin. He—he spent a hundred years hating himself—hating Yunho-hyung—for something that wasn’t even true. Yunho-hyung let him

Taeyong exhales, wipes at the tears still leaking from his eyes, and turns his attention back to Jaehyun’s body. He has more important things to focus on than whatever that was. Is.

He has to focus on Jaehyun.

Jaehyunnie.

Jaehyunnie’s body seems even more still now, despite the twin punctures along his jugular. Somehow Taeyong managed not to open new wounds—magic, maybe, or luck. Taeyong clings to that—something must be looking out for them. Some higher power. Taeyong doesn’t believe in a God—can’t, now that he’s lived enough lives and then some—but maybe. The wounds aren’t bleeding anymore, but not for anything so good as clotting; Taeyong has drained him—bled him dry. He feels sick.

He feels dizzy.

He chalks it up to the residual kick of Benadryl in his system, human blood only going so far. Once this is over, he’ll have to visit Yunho-hyung. That ought to help. That ought to… hurt. Taeyong exhales, and looks harder at Jaehyun’s body.

Jaehyun’s body stays still, stays dead. That’s worrisome. It’s clearly been some time since he died, but Taeyong has no idea how long. And Taeyong has no idea if he’s done it wrong—no idea if he’s done it right. There was no manual, no lessons, although maybe Taeyong could have asked, any of those times his family pressed. Perhaps it should have been Ten or Doyoung who turned Jaehyun. They’d done this before—multiple times. He could have called. He should have called.

But Taeyong knows better. Taeyong knows he’d have killed Ten or Doyoung if they tried, or if they even asked. Jaehyun is Taeyong’s, and no one else’s. He thinks he’d let someone else turn Youngho. (He’s not going to turn Youngho.) But Jaehyun. No one else could be allowed to tie themselves to Jaehyun. Tie Jaehyun to themselves. Eat his soul. (I won’t not have a soul, Jaehyun said. It’ll be yours. Could that be true? Can Taeyong allow himself to believe?) If anyone else had tried to turn Jaehyun, Taeyong would have had to kill them.

He stares. He watches. He waits.

As he does, there’s movement—hardly noticeable at first—until the raw patches on Jaehyun’s wrists from the ropes seem to shudder and shift. It’s healing, the new skin coming in unmarked and surprisingly soft looking. The broken ribs—Jaehyun had two, maybe three—snap back together, marrow mending as if there had never been a break. Taeyong hears it all, the quiet snap of sinew reforming, the stitch of new flesh, of new bones, and he struggles to get Jaehyun’s shirt open so he can stare, mouth open, as the wound in his abdomen knits back together as well. The hole doesn’t even leave a scar.

“Oh,” Taeyong says, stupidly shocked, and pets the baby soft skin of Jaehyun’s belly. “Oh—”

He wonders if it’ll take much longer, if it—if he’s been here for very long—if he should call Doyoung if only for information—but then there’s another noise and Jaehyun—Jaehyun is—choking?

Taeyong panics and moves to flip him over, trying to get his fingers into his mouth without causing irreparable damage—it’s been years since he’s been this out of control with his own strength. He swears as he fails to do so, then keeps swearing, as he realizes that Jaehyun isn’t choking. Jaehyun is coughing up his own teeth, and the process is so unsettling and startling that Taeyong can only watch it happen with his own mouth still hanging open. He hadn’t gotten farther than turning Jaehyun’s head, and he’s not getting any farther.

“What the fuck,” he whispers, eyes fixed on Jaehyun’s open mouth, held open by Taeyong’s blood-stained fingers. “What the fuck—you couldn’t have warned me about this part, Ten-ah?

He can practically hear Ten’s laughter ringing in his ears, Doyoung’s much more subdued, “Stop laughing. He’s a baby,” as he teases Taeyong for never having the wherewithal to ask.

“Well, I’m asking now,” Taeyong mutters, as Jaehyun finishes on what seems to be a canine, and goes back to being still. “I can’t believe Ten did this five times.”

It must be hours later—what feels to Taeyong like centuries—when Jaehyun finally stirs, blinking open his beautiful, beautiful brown eyes with the pupils blown so wide they look entirely black. It’s unfairly anticlimactic, but at least Taeyong is a vampire, and sitting still for however long hasn’t done more than leave him alone with his thoughts. He doesn’t hurt at all.

For the first few moments, all Jaehyun does is lie back against the floor and stare up at the ceiling. It’s been so long that the sun is just starting to come up, and Taeyong had woken from his drug overdose closer to ten p.m. It was eleven by the time he convinced Ten it was pointless for Ten to be the only one searching; nearing midnight when Taeyong caught enough of Jaehyun’s scent to follow him to the church; half-past-that when he put a knife in that bastard’s back; and finally, sunrise. So it’s been about five hours, give or take.

Of course Jaehyunnie would be reborn with the sunrise.

Jaehyunnie is Taeyong’s sunrise, after all.

In the books, vampires can’t walk in the sunlight. They’re impure, the profane, soulless, without morals, and evil, and anything such as that shouldn’t show up in mirrors, or walk out in the day. Taeyong thinks a world without Jaehyun would have been a world that is sunless, and wants only to laugh.

Jaehyun is staring at the pile of his old teeth, lying frozen with his mouth open wide. As Taeyong watches, he licks over the tip of one pointed, razor sharp fang; it’s involuntary, it’s not supposed to be sexy, and Taeyong feels. Free.

Jaehyun’s brow furrows. His eyelashes flutter. The world spins, all the magic, rushing right back in. There’s a moment—involuntary banter—and then—

“Taeyong-hyung.”

Taeyong smiles.

Chapter Text

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.