Pairing: eventual n/leo, hyuk/ken, hongbin/ravi
Word count: 7,500
Summary: Taekwoon had always found the adaptability of humans amazing, though he’d never found himself to be the best at it. And he’d never thought he’d be able to live this way, with a silent heart and blood in his mouth. (Or the one in which Taekwoon is the hunter, and Hakyeon is the monster).
A/N: So, those of you who follow me on twitter probably noticed this chapter is shorter than i said it was going to be. That is because in the end it got too long, so I decided to split it up into two chapters.
Thank you to Rara for helping me so much with this chapter, writing it (and the subsequent one) would have been impossible without you :ccc
Hakyeon leaned against Taekwoon’s car, the handle of the driver’s door digging into his hip. He had his hands clasped in front of himself, not breathing as he listened to the night. There was the faint sound of critters in the darkness, tiny paws on pavement, but Taekwoon was by far the loudest thing, his heartbeat like a drum. Hakyeon could hear him a few blocks away, rapidly approaching, even if he couldn’t yet see him. There was no sign or sound of the vampire that had killed that girl, but Hakyeon was still glad for Taekwoon’s relative loudness. It let Hakyeon know he was alright.
Hakyeon closed his eyes for a moment, steadying himself. He had been a vampire for over three hundred years, had seen many things. In that time, he had always tried his damndest to be as just of a creature as one of his kind could be. But he had to admit, he had grown desensitized to death, especially to the death of humans. It wasn’t that he meant to be callous, it was just— they were so fragile. He could not, could not, mourn every human. There was middle ground to be had though, and somewhere along the way he had left it.
He didn’t see himself as evil, never had, for he knew his own heart and mind. But standing in that alleyway, Taekwoon‘s stare stripping him down to his bones as that girl’s body lay between them— Hakyeon had finally been able to see why Taekwoon saw him as a monster. And in truth, he had never felt more like one.
Hakyeon let his eyes flutter open once more when the sound of Taekwoon’s footsteps halted. Taekwoon had turned onto the block and stopped, staring at Hakyeon leaning against his car, waiting. Even from this far, Hakyeon could tell he was still riled. Perhaps he’d thought Hakyeon had truly gone, but Hakyeon had simply rather thought trailing after him might make him more edgy. Better to wait for him by the car, give him a few minutes to gather himself.
It was a plan that did not seem to have completely worked. Taekwoon resumed walking, hands fisted at his sides and eyes lowered so he wouldn’t have to look at Hakyeon. When he was nearer, Hakyeon could see there was color high on his cheeks, a bead of sweat running down the side of his face. Hakyeon wanted to taste it, and his fangs slipped out a little, before he reigned himself back in with a snap. Now was not the time. Now could not be a worse time.
Taekwoon stepped off the curb, keys in hand. “Move,” he said gruffly, head still ducked down.
“Taekwoon,” Hakyeon said, not moving at all. Instead he putting his hand on the window, holding it shut even as Taekwoon tried to reach under him to grab at the door handle. “Look at me, please.”
“Why, so you can glamour me into forgetting this?” Taekwoon asked sharply. When Hakyeon didn’t budge, Taekwoon pulled back, scowling deeply. “I hate you. I hate your kind.”
“I did not do this,” Hakyeon said, wanting Taekwoon to understand. “It wasn’t me, Taekwoon.” So please don't blame me for it. Don’t blame me for any of this.
Taekwoon, for a moment, simply breathed harshly through his nose, his lips pressed into a line. Then he shook his head. “I could have saved her, if I hadn’t been babysitting you,” he murmured. He looked up then, and his gaze was so full of anger it felt like it was scraping at Hakyeon’s skin. “I could have gotten here in time.”
Hakyeon swallowed. “Or gotten yourself killed.” Fuck. Taekwoon was right though— the kill had been very fresh. Hakyeon had been able to still smell the faint, cloying sweetness of vampire on the girl.
“Like you care,” Taekwoon said, upper lip curling. “Or, well, I suppose me dying on your watch would put a dampener of your deal with Jaehwan, as well as your plan to fuck me.”
“I did not make a deal with Jaehwan,” Hakyeon said, fighting to keep his voice level. It wasn’t exactly a lie. The deal was drawn, just not yet sealed. “And my plan is not to fuck you.”
Taekwoon stared at him, but not into his eyes; he was glaring more at Hakyeon’s nose. He opened his mouth, then closed it, before shaking his head and opening it again. “You know— I don’t want to know. I don’t care. You’re filth and I don’t want anything to do with you.”
He stepped back, striding quickly around the front of the car, and Hakyeon realised he was going to go in through the passenger side door. Hakyeon stuttered forward a step, not sure if he should try and stop him. Taekwoon was too angry to be reasoned with, but something about this situation was leaving Hakyeon unsettled. Perhaps it was simply because he had finally seen himself through Taekwoon’s gaze, and didn’t like the image.
“This wasn’t my fault,” Hakyeon said, a touch on the loud side, and Taekwoon looked a little startled, flinching in his quest to fumble the key into the passenger door. “I did not kill that girl.”
“And?” Taekwoon burst out. He stared at Hakyeon over the top of the car. “Are you going to do anything about her death? You’re so old, I know you could track the other vampire down, put a stop to these killings. But will you? No.” He was snarling by the end of it, teeth flashing in the low light, and with each word Hakyeon’s stomach sank further.
“I can’t,” Hakyeon whispered, barely audible. Taekwoon sneered, then yanked the passenger door open. “There are laws, Taekwoon.”
Taekwoon had been ducking to get into the car, and he paused, for a beat, before getting in the rest of the way and slamming the door shut behind him. The car rocked against Hakyeon’s palm with Taekwoon’s weight as the hunter climbed over the gearstick and into the driver’s seat. Hakyeon sighed, letting his hand fall away from the window as the car started, taking a step back.
To his surprise, the window rolled down, just enough to show Taekwoon’s pretty catlike eyes blinking up at him. “Laws?” Taekwoon asked, muffled under the sound of the car engine. His gaze was suspicious. “Vampire laws?”
“Yes,” Hakyeon said, tamping down the warmth suddenly blooming in his chest at the loss of hostility in Taekwoon’s tone. He’d piqued Taekwoon’s curiosity— which was possibly going to be his best method of conversation in the future. Taekwoon seemed to want to learn. Most humans had many questions about vampires, and Hakyeon could definitely give him answers. “We have a government of sorts, but you know that.”
The window rolled down more, so Hakyeon could see the tightness at the corners of Taekwoon’s mouth. “And there are laws against vampires killing one another?”
“If there is no just cause,” Hakyeon said softly, leaning forward so Taekwoon could better hear him, “yes.”
Taekwoon’s mouth twisted, hands tightening on the steering wheel. “And I suppose killing a random human is not just cause.”
Hakyeon rested his hands tentatively on the top edge of the window. If Taekwoon suddenly slammed the car into reverse, he’d run right over Hakyeon’s toes, but it was a risk Hakyeon was willing to take. “No, it isn’t,” he said, knowing it wasn’t a pretty thing to hear.
Taekwoon made a soft noise, it was almost a laugh, but the smile that curved his lips was anything but amused. “We’re so worthless to your kind,” he murmured, seemingly to himself, and looked away from Hakyeon, staring out the front window instead.
“Not to me,” Hakyeon said. In the low light, Taekwoon’s silver earring glinted. Taekwoon was shaking slightly, but with which emotion, Hakyeon didn’t know. “I don’t make the laws. I just have to follow them.”
“You can’t tell me we’re not worthless to you, not when you were going to kill Hongbin just to make a point to me, to others like me,” Taekwoon said softly. “And that would have been acceptable to your government.”
Hakyeon bit his bottom lip for a moment. He sensed this conversation was over. “I was wrong,” Hakyeon murmured. “I’ve— I try, Taekwoon, as I said. To be the right kind of vampire. But you’re right, I’ve slipped up in places. It— it was cruel of me, and I knew it was but when you’re surrounded by such things for so long—”
“I don’t want your excuses,” Taekwoon said abruptly, shaking his head like he was trying to clear it. He reached down to the gear stick, shifting the car into drive.
“Then take my apology,” Hakyeon said, stepping back as the car pulled away from the curb. “I’m sorry, Taekwoon.”
Taekwoon laughed, and it was an awful sound, devoid of any joy. “You must really want to make me into your personal feeder, you’re trying so hard,” he said, and Hakyeon didn’t get a chance to reply, because Taekwoon slammed his foot onto the pedal and the car shot off into the darkness. Hakyeon stood in the middle of the road, watching Taekwoon’s red tail lights recede.
“I just don’t want you to think I’m a monster,” Hakyeon whispered. He did want Taekwoon, in his bed, at his feet, but he also, more than that, simply wanted to change his mind. Not necessarily about all vampires per se, but about himself. Wanted to teach him the world wasn’t black and white, it had greys, nuances Taekwoon was utterly overlooking.
Hakyeon wanted to be respected, maybe even feared, but he didn’t want to be a nightmare for true. That was not what he was.
In the distance, there was the faint sound of a siren. It was possibly the VCF, possibly the ordinary police, and maybe not even coming for the dead body a few blocks away. Either way, Hakyeon leapt out of the road, flittering up onto the nearest rooftop. He would not follow Taekwoon’s car on the streets, would take a more direct route back to the hunters’ house. If one of his children wasn’t there keeping watch he’d have both their heads on a plate when he went home later.
He raced through the night, jumping from roof to roof with barely a whisper of sound as he landed each time. The stars above him gleamed, and he revelled in the strength of his own body, inhaling large gulps of the cool night air even though he did not need to.
The streets were quiet, and Hakyeon did find himself wondering where that vampire had gone. He could not kill the creature, but he could, perhaps, throw his weight around a bit and chase it off on the grounds of this being his territory. There were potential issues with that, though, not the least of which being that the feeder house was going to inevitably bring more vampires passing through. Hakyeon could not afford to chase off every vampire that stayed a little too long in the area. Not when Kyungsoo wanted their money, anyway.
He arrived back to the hunters’ house well before Taekwoon, who for all Hakyeon knew was doing laps around the block in an attempt to calm himself down. He should maybe not let Taekwoon go off like this, but he knew he would come home before long. He had nowhere else to go.
There were lights on in the house still, while most of the other houses on the block had gone dark. Hakyeon landed on their roof, head on a swivel as he scanned the skyline of the roofs. Neither of his children were in sight, at least, and Hakyeon tipped his head back and scented the air. It was faint, but he could smell Wonshik.
“Wonshik,” Hakyeon said, not calling out, but then he didn’t need to, because his voice would carry well enough to a vampire’s ears. Sure enough, in a flicker, Wonshik was there, standing a bit down the slope of the roof and staring up at Hakyeon. “Where were you?”
“The back porch,” Wonshik said, picking his way up to the crest of the roof so he could sit on it, long legs sprawled out in front of himself. “I figured there was no point in hiding.”
Hakyeon moved so he was sitting beside Wonshik, hands bracing on the rough tiles beneath them. “Anything happen while I was gone?”
“Nothing exciting,” Wonshik said with a half shrug. “The pretty one wants his phone back.”
Hakyeon’s eyebrow arched, brain not running on the right track apparently. He felt so distracted. “What?”
“His phone, you apparently have it.” Wonshik rubbed his hand through the hair at the back of his skull, scratching in that way he did when he was thoughtful. “He kept popping out to tell me to fuck off. And that he wants his phone back. And that he thinks my hair is stupid.”
Hakyeon blinked, thinking back. Yes, the night he’d first met the hunters — if one could call it a meeting — Hongbin had dropped his phone on the pavement. Hakyeon had picked it up and all but forgotten about it. Not exactly high on his list of priorities.
“He is a very angry thing,” Wonshik continued, in that soft, unintrusive way he had. “You know?”
Hakyeon sighed. “Yes, he and Taekwoon both.”
Wonshik glanced down at the driveway, tellingly empty, and then back at Hakyeon. “You left him? Where did you two go?”
“Vampire hunting,” Hakyeon said, grinning without any amusement, and Wonshik snorted softly. “We found a body, he is— upset.” Wonshik shrugged again, as if to say, What can you do?
Hakyeon paused then, biting his lip. Wonshik was his first child, not much younger than he himself was. They shared many ideals, many thoughts, deeply in tune in mentalities, if not personalities.
“Wonshik,” Hakyeon said slowly, and Wonshik cocked an eyebrow at him, to indicate he was listening, “do you think we’ve grown flippant about human life?”
Wonshik blinked, slowly, like a cat. “Yes,” he said. “Not in a terrible way— but we can’t afford to place high value on every human’s life, not when so many of our kind don’t. Getting upset over every human’s unrightful death would be emotional suicide.”
“But—” Hakyeon said, huffing it out, “I mean— it’s more like— when Kyungsoo ordered me to cripple this hunting unit, to kill one of them— I didn’t hesitate, no part of me recoiled. And once upon a time I— I would have obeyed, but it would have been with some reluctance if nothing else. I felt none of it this time. His life was nothing to me.”
Wonshik looked away from him, up at the stars shining as vibrantly as the sun to their eyes. “He is a hunter,” he said softly. “Killing hunters is never exactly sorrowful for us. Nor do I think it should be.”
“Yes, I said that too, before, and maybe it is so,” Hakyeon said, looking down at his own hands in his lap, instead of the bright sky. “But does that in turn mean it is right for us to relish in the kill? They are just trying to live, as we are. Their lives are as vibrant as our own. I am by no means saying— I don’t know what I am saying.” He laughed, shortly.
“Killing must happen, it is a fact of being what we are,” Wonshik said. “But yes, there is a difference between killing humans as a necessity, while still acknowledging the weight of their lives, versus treating them as nothing more than sheeps for slaughter. I suppose even hunters deserve respect.”
Hakyeon’s skin looked silver in the moonlight. Wonshik was better with words than he was. “I forgot it,” Hakyeon said softly. “I didn’t— he was nothing to me. If I’d succeeded in killing him, it would have been cruel, I was treating him as a creature with no thought, and no worth. As if his life was a game.”
“I think it is impossible for us to truly retain a grasp on the realities of mortality, on what it means to be so temporary,” Wonshik said softly, glancing at Hakyeon once more. “Do not be angry at yourself Hakyeon, it is a hard line to walk. And whether you give weight to a kill or not— in the end they are still dead.”
Hakyeon laughed again, and this time there was more genuine amusement in the sound. “Yes, that is true,” he said, smile still lingering. Wonshik smiled softly back at him. “I am just— just—”
“Seeing through his eyes,” Wonshik finished for him, the side of his face suddenly illuminated by headlights. Hakyeon turned to look behind them, saw Taekwoon had returned, parking his little car neatly in the driveway.
“Vampires killed someone he loved,” Hakyeon said softly, watching as Taekwoon climbed out of the car, slamming the door none-too-gently behind himself. Out of his peripheral vision, he saw Wonshik turn to him in surprise. “He did not say it in so many words, but it is the obvious reasoning. His anger runs too deep to be anything but personal.”
Wonshik accepted that, humming in thought. Taekwoon did not look up at them, disappearing beneath the porch’s coverings. A moment later the sound of the front door opening and closing echoed through the darkness. Safe. All three of the humans back where they belonged.
“Hakyeon,” Wonshik said gently, and Hakyeon closed his eyes, already knowing what was coming. “Have you considered this is not—”
“Yes,” Hakyeon broke in. “Yes. I have. But you should know me well enough by now.”
“I do, and that is why I am advising caution,” Wonshik said simply. “You are already too attached. But— you can only change so much, Hakyeon. Yes, moderate your behavior if you must, but you are not the evil he sees, and you cannot change being vampire. It might never be enough for him.”
Hakyeon did not look at him. He stared down at the car, with its headlights gone dark. There were the faint sounds of voices floating up from the house.
“I want him, Wonshik,” Hakyeon whispered. He hated how defensive he felt. “I cannot change what I am, but I think I can change his mind.”
He could feel Wonshik staring at him. “And if you cannot?”
Hakyeon thought of Taekwoon’s bright eyes, of tear tracks shining on his cheeks. “Well,” he said softly, “I suppose I just have to hope I— I was able to make some kind of impact on his outlook.”
“You’re a glutton for punishment,” Wonshik sighed. “Are we just going to pretend this has nothing to do with Jungsu?”
“Yes,” Hakyeon said. The word was bitten out sharply. “Go home, Wonshik. I am staying here til dawn.”
Wonshik made a small noise which sounded like disappointment, but he got to his feet nonetheless. He knew arguing was pointless. “Stay safe,” he murmured, and then he was gone.
Hakyeon slumped, a headache creeping around the fringes of his mind. He did not know what he was doing anymore.
For a moment, Hakyeon wondered at their differences, at how angry Taekwoon was over the loss of someone he loved at the hands of vampires, when Hakyeon was not nearly so bitter over the loss of a loved one to hunters. But, he supposed, their cases weren’t the same. Faceless monsters in the dark had stolen Taekwoon’s loved one, loved ones, Hakyeon did not yet know— but Hakyeon had ended his own. The bitter tang of betrayal still sat like ashes in his mouth.
And Taekwoon— he did not seem to love easily. Not like Hakyeon did. So the loss of one, or more, of his loves would surely hit harder.
Hakyeon wondered if he’d be able to claw his way back from almost killing Hongbin, redeem himself in Taekwoon’s eyes. It did not look likely, not unless he began delivering vampire heads on platters. And he could do many things, but that was not one. His own kind would see him staked for it.
His phone vibrated in his pocket, and he shook his head to clear it before pulling his phone out. It was a message from Kyungsoo, and it read simply, Tomorrow night you will visit me.
“Fuck,” Hakyeon muttered to himself. His maker would want a status update, and he did not have much of one to give. Yes, he had backed Jaehwan into a corner, they were on the precipice of an agreement— but Hakyeon did not truly want to take it. Not if it meant giving up his chance with Taekwoon. And he knew that would not go over swimmingly with his maker. Hakyeon wanted the spell, yes, but— well. He supposed, as the humans said, he wanted to have his cake and eat it too.
If Taekwoon fell for him, perhaps he would give up the spell of his own accord. The thought made Hakyeon laugh, because of how ridiculous it was. The sound echoed back to him, and a cool breeze plucked at his clothes, his hair. The sensation did not bother him, no matter how chilled it grew, he would not feel it as a human did. Donning oversized sweaters was all for show. Taekwoon seemed to like small and delicate things, if Jaehwan was anything to go by.
Hakyeon would have him. He would. It was just a matter of patience, and playing his cards right. Already Taekwoon was bending, just slightly. Hakyeon would sink into his cracks and take him apart.
It was occurring to Hongbin that Taekwoon was impossible. Stubborn as a mule and as unmovable as a boulder. He’d always known, but it had never been such a problem before.
When Taekwoon had walked in the door he’d been as pissed off as when he’d left, which hadn’t been what either Jaehwan or Hongbin were hoping for. In fact, he was possibly more agitated than when he’d stormed off in the first place, but whether that was due to Hakyeon, or the dead body they’d apparently found, Hongbin didn’t know.
“Taekwoon,” Jaehwan sighed out, tone already laced with defeat. Taekwoon had said There’s been another attack like it was the closing line in an argument, everything about his body language closed off.
“Don’t,” was all Taekwoon said in reply. He pushed past them, further into the house so he could grab their canvas map of the city off the coffee table.
Jaehwan looked at Hongbin, his full lips pressed into a line, frustration heavy in his gaze. Hongbin inhaled deeply. “Taekwoon,” he said, sharp where Jaehwan was soft. “We need to talk about this.”
Taekwoon was holding the map open between his hands, the spellwork lit up with blue lights, making Taekwoon’s face look washed out and cold. The corners of his mouth tightened, but he didn’t look up at them. “What is there to talk about?”
“You,” Hongbin said simply. “You can’t be going off on your own like this.”
Taekwoon looked at him then, flat and blank. “You didn’t want to come.”
“Because—” Hongbin made a frustrated sound and gestured at the roof, where they could all sense at least one of their new vampire guardians lurking.
But all Taekwoon did in reply to that was shrug. “That’s your problem.”
Hongbin felt his temper flaring up, scowl sitting heavy on his brow. Jaehwan noticed and cut in again, voice gentler, more in control. “Taekwoon,” he said, somewhat placating and it grated on Hongbin, “I’ve always agreed with hunting vamps, because it is the right thing to do, but only so long as we’re a team, Taekwoon. You can’t do it on your own. it’s too dangerous, and right now with everything else that is happening—”
Taekwoon, abruptly, rolled the map back up, the little lights spattered across the fabric flickering out. “We had this conversation earlier,” he said, a note of finality in his voice.
“No,” Jaehwan said, watching at Taekwoon tossed the map back down on the coffee table, “we started to have it, before you ran out on us.”
The vague accusation there made Taekwoon frown, gaze growing sharp, and he shook his head. “We had it,” he said. “It’s over. I can’t stop hunting. People are still dying.”
“I know, I know,” Jaehwan said, holding his hands up a little, motioning for Taekwoon to stay, because he looked like he was about to run out again. “And I know you want to save them, I know you want to prevent— what happened to you happening to anyone else—”
Hongbin could almost physically see the shutters come down over Taekwoon’s face. “Jaehwan.”
Jaehwan stuttered to a stop, unnerved, and Hongbin stepped in again. “He’s right. I’m all for killing suckers. but we have to do it as a unit— it has to be clean,” he said. “You’ve always brought more emotion into it than you should have, and that was fine, because we were still neat about it. But you’re spiralling, we’ve been slipping, and all of us need to stop and take stock.”
Taekwoon made a sweeping motion with his hand, voice raising. “The vampires aren’t stopping!”
“Taekwoon,” Jaehwan said. There was desperation beginning to creep into his tone, and Hongbin knew it well. They’d already lost this fight, but they had to try anyway. “Saving people is important to you, I know it is, but—”
“We need to stop pretending,” Hongbin said harshly, figuring they had nothing to lose by going right for the jugular. “This has never been about saving people, not totally. It’s always been about us, about anger, in my case, and revenge, in yours.”
He was satisfied to see Taekwoon’s pale cheeks turn blotchy red. Taekwoon, for a moment, was incoherent, but he managed to spit out, “It has nothing to do with—”
“It has everything to do with it, Taekwoon, don’t even give me that,” Hongbin said, moving in, trying to get him in a corner, so he would have to stop making denials and finally look at himself.
“It’s about making the world right,” Taekwoon countered, voice going gratingly loud, “about getting rid of monsters so we can have peace.”
“Peace, yes,” Hongbin said, laughing a little without humor, “the peace that was taken from you. Maybe you’ve never thought about it in such explicit terms, Taek, but hunting for you has always been about avenging the life vampires stole from you, your brother’s and your own, and you need to stop lying to yourself about it.”
Taekwoon looked like Hongbin had hit him, and his chest heaved, hands clenched at his sides. There was still color painted high on his cheeks, angry reds. Taekwoon opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. “I— I don’t want to deal with this right now,” he muttered, looking away all of a sudden and stepping quickly into the hallway.
No, Hongbin thought, following on Taekwoon’s heels. “You never want to deal with it,” Hongbin fairly shouted at Taekwoon’s retreating back, “and we’ve never pushed you about it— because you’ve always been able to keep your fucking head. But you’re losing it now.”
Taekwoon turned when he was in the doorway of his own bedroom, hand on the edge of the door and ready to slam it in Hongbin’s face. “I am not losing it,” he said, gritting each word out.
When Taekwoon went to close the door, thus ending the conversation, Hongbin wedged his foot against the frame, preventing the door from being able to shut fully. “The notion of not being able to hunt, even for a little while, of not being able to assuage your pain by killing vamps— it has you going fucking nuts,” Hongbin said, a little out of breath because Taekwoon was trying to push him back, out of the way. “You’ve been using this as a coping mechanism for far too long.”
Hongbin almost lost his balance when the door suddenly went flying open again. “And you haven’t been as well?” Taekwoon shouted, right in Hongbin’s face. “You’re a fucking hypocrite.”
“Not in the same way,” Hongbin said with a grim smile. He didn’t match Taekwoon in volume, but his words were no less intense for it. “If it wasn’t vamps, I could kill demons, or maybe take up boxing. Shooting on ranges. I just need to get the anger out somehow. But you— it’s personal for you, it always has been. And we’ve always known, even if none of us has said it.”
They were both breathing hard, and for a moment they just stared at one another.
“You’re right, it always has been,” Taekwoon finally said, voice low, “so why are you bitching about it now?”
“Because,” Hongbin said, holding onto his patience by the skin of his teeth, “it was never a problem until now. You need to step back. You need to evaluate yourself.”
Taekwoon just stared down at him, brow hitched, and Hongbin could almost physically see the thoughts swirling behind his eyes. If they could just get Taekwoon to stop and even begin to try and piece through the mess of everything, Hongbin knew he’d come around. Getting Taekwoon to even try was the hard part, but maybe—
Taekwoon’s lips parted. “Fuck you,” he said softly, with no real malice, and the door shut in Hongbin’s face before he could move to block it again.
Sanghyuk had perfect vision as a vampire. But staring down at tiny faded text night after night was making even his eyesight go fuzzy.
There was nothing left to even go through— it wasn’t time for absorption anymore, it was time for critical thought. None of the spells in these books had ever worked, so it was time for Sanghyuk to cross reference the things that almost worked, and see if he could catch onto something. He’d begun to do just that, making untidy notes in a spiral-bound notebook that had a pink unicorn on the cover.
The problem was there didn’t seem to be a lot of correlation between many of these attempts at the spells. Different spellwork ingredients, different Anchors, different Circles. And as a vampire, he couldn’t very well test any theories he did come up with. Magic could not live in vampires.
From his perch on the couch, he heard Wonshik come in the front door, and he gladly tossed his pen down on the page he’d been scrawling on. Any excuse to not stare at this for five minutes was a good one.
Wonshik came into the living room, hair a little askew. He’d tossed on a simple graphic tee and some long denim shorts, not caring apparently about the seasons changing. He looked ridiculous. “Hey, Sanghyuk,” Wonshik said, cracking a wide yawn at the tail end of Sanghyuk’s name.
Sanghyuk grinned at him. “Long night?” he asked pleasantly.
“I just don’t do well getting up so early,” Wonshik said, with a glare. “As you well know.”
“Hakyeon had an emergency,” Sanghyuk said, mock-surprised. “And one of us had to go— it isn’t my fault you suck at rock, paper, scissors.”
Wonshik’s lips pursed, and he sniffed. “Well, tomorrow night it’s your turn.”
“Fine,” Sanghyuk said, glancing down at his work before shaking his head. He’d get back to it later, right now he needed a breather. He stood and stretched, just to tower over Wonshik. “I might try and get the sorcerer alone. See if anything I’ve gathered hits a nerve.”
“Good luck,” Wonshik said, and the tone of his voice was unusually bitter. That wasn’t like Wonshik, and Sanghyuk glanced at him in question once he’d straightened from his stretch. “They’re hostile and closed off, is all. I’m just— I don’t have hope.”
Sanghyuk blinked. “That is unusually pessimistic of you,” he said, tilting his head. He could read on Wonshik’s face something was preoccupying him. “What is it?”
Wonshik didn’t look at him, staring at the far wall as he gnawed at his bottom lip. Finally he sighed, shoulders slumping. “I’m worried for Hakyeon.”
That wasn’t what Sanghyuk had been expecting, and he frowned. Hakyeon was the pillar of their lives, he was strong and smart and diplomatic, and he’d always been perfectly capable of handling anything life threw at him. “Why?”
Wonshik, in typical Wonshik fashion, seemed to be able to read Sanghyuk’s mind. He spoke like he was trying to persuade Sanghyuk of something, rather that simply voicing his own thoughts. “I just think he is losing sight of the bigger picture, and already too emotionally invested in this hunter,” he said slowly, carefully. “He messaged us to babysit the sorcerer, while he trailed the hunter out— well, hunting. Which is not the priority.”
No, it wasn’t, but he didn’t see the harm in it. They could watch after the sorcerer just as well as Hakyeon could. So long as their bases were covered it didn’t much matter. “Maybe the hunter shouldn’t be his higher concern,” Sanghyuk said, “but he can be a bit obsessive, you know he can. More than that— it has been a long while, Wonshik, since he has been more than simply physically interested in anyone.” It was time, Sanghyuk rather thought, for Hakyeon to begin making connections again. Sanghyuk wasn’t going to stop him.
Wonshik stared at him, flatly, like he thought Sanghyuk was missing a large chunk of his brains. It made Sanghyuk want to kick him. “Think about it, Sanghyuk,” Wonshik said, and Sanghyuk huffed because he was thinking. “The sorcerer is a threat, one we will have to nullify one way or another— and this hunter seems to care for him.”
That would put a dampener on many things, if it happened. But Sanghyuk didn’t think it would. “I think we can collar the sorcerer. They’re usually more morally flexible.”
“Usually,” Wonshik echoed, and Sanghyuk sighed. “Even if we do, or if he dies before we get the chance to do anything— they’re just so hostile, Sanghyuk. And I can already see the poison of the hunter’s hatred wearing on Hakyeon. I think Hakyeon forgets that we all know our own minds, but others will see what they want to see. I just feel like— he knows what happened with Jungsu wasn’t really his fault, but he still wonders.” Sanghyuk felt his mouth twist at the mention of the name, so rarely spoken. “And I worry he is carrying that here, trying to prove something to a hunter, where he failed before.”
It wasn’t the same. “He wasn’t trying before,” Sanghyuk argued, defensive for Hakyeon even though he didn’t need to be in present company. “He didn’t know.”
“No, he didn't— but that is just it,” Wonshik said, frustration lacing his tone as he laid out something that to him was clearly obvious. “He was himself, with Jungsu, and in the end Jungsu still saw him as a monster.”
“He isn’t a monster, though,” Sanghyuk said. It had been a flaw in Jungsu, not Hakyeon, as far as Sanghyuk was concerned.
Wonshik, surprisingly, smiled. “We’re all monsters, Sanghyuk,” he said, no humor in the words. “Just in different ways.”
Sanghyuk disagreed. He didn’t like to think of themselves that way. “I think you may be overthinking this, a bit,” he muttered, looking away from Wonshik. “I can imagine Hakyeon probably likes Taekwoon’s transparency. Can’t hide a dagger behind your back when you’ve got one in each hand in plain sight. But I feel like it ends there.”
Were this anyone else, they probably would have treated this as an argument, gone back and forth. But Wonshik just shrugged. “Maybe it does,” he said amiably. “I do have a tendency to dissect things a bit too much. Regardless— I am worried for him. Falling for a hunter so set in their views will only end in heartache.” That, Sanghyuk could agree on, but he also knew Hakyeon was powerfully persuasive when he wanted to be. So they would simply have to wait and see. “And you?”
The question caught Sanghyuk off guard, and he glanced at Wonshik in a snap. “Me?”
“The sorcerer,” Wonshik said with a roll of his eyes. “Don’t play dumb.”
Sanghyuk, ever contrary, played dumb. He blinked, lashes fluttering. “The sorcerer is pretty,” he said lightly. “I’m merely curious.” Wonshik glared at him, and Sanghyuk cracked, smirking. “There’s three of them you know. Do you want the leftover one? He is pretty too. And he smells quite lovely.”
“He tasted lovely too,” Wonshik muttered, but he shook his head. “I do not relish challenges the way Hakyeon seems to. I prefer my lovers to be enthusiastic about the prospect of being with me.” He thought for a moment. “And he has too many teeth.”
Sanghyuk laughed. “The fact that you’ve bothered to note that means you were thinking of putting your dick in his mouth.”
Wonshik looked at him sourly. “Too many teeth,” he said shortly. Another pause. “He says my hair is ugly.”
“Your hair is ugly.” Sanghyuk laughed again as Wonshik snarled at him.
Talking to Taekwoon any further was impossible. He locked himself in his room and wouldn’t answer them, though Hongbin spent a valiant amount of time calling him many colorful names through the door before he finally had to give up in favor of sleeping. He had a shift in the late morning.
Jaehwan understood. They’d tried. It wasn’t going to happen so easily, so quickly. He’d known that. But the whole thing left him unsettled, and now he was alone, the silence of the night pressing down on him. It was worse upstairs, somehow, so he went back down to the basement, his basement, where the quiet seemed more normal.
They should never have started hunting, but it had always seemed like the right thing to do. It still did. He could see where Taekwoon was coming from— but they weren’t saying they should quit forever. Jaehwan rather thought it was too late for that. They just needed to concentrate on the issue at hand. The house wards were still tittering, reminding Jaehwan that there was a vampire waiting for him, waiting for the spell.
Yes. Jaehwan breathed deeply, tucking the thoughts of the past night out of his mind. He needed to begin piecing through what had happened that night a few years ago.
He kept journals all through his magical journey, extensive notes from the time he’d begun dabbling in sorcery. The ones from a few years ago were packed onto a shelf, and he tugged them down. It wasn’t hard to find the one he was searching for— it was thick with excerpts glued in, taped, stapled, samples of foliage wedged between the pages. The dried leaves crackled, pieces falling out as he moved the notebook to his desk. It wasn’t the sort he saw in movies— leatherbound and mystical looking. It was one of his old high school comp books.
Jaehwan sat in front of it, flipping it right open to the last used page, already knowing the recipes he was going to see. None of the spells he’d been able to find already made in other old spellbooks — tomes the lot of them — had worked. And they had said in the books that they did not work. After a few months of trying to cobble together a spell from the parts of the ones that did not work, Jaehwan has scrapped it all, and began anew.
Which had been foolish. He hadn’t had any training. But he’d thought he could guess well enough. The problem was, when it came to constructing, and deconstructing, spells, one had to know what, exactly, each ingredient did, and why. And Jaehwan didn’t, that information was tedious, all rote memorization, and also, very much unavailable for public access. He knew the basics of it all, yes. For instance, he knew candy caps should not be put into any spells with animal byproducts, lest spontaneous combustion happen. He knew any sort of ivy was best harvested under moonlight, and that under no circumstances should the blood of more than one species be mixed. But he didn’t know why, and the whys of it all were the most important.
He’d just thrown together anything he thought might work, and that wouldn’t clash with each other. Witch hazel and sage, because they were used in protective warding. Bones from a small finch, fire charred. Sea salt and copper. An obsidian totem, to house the spell, for all spells needed a vessel, somewhere to live. And lamb’s blood, to power it.
They hadn’t worked. He touched his fingertips to the pages. None of the spells he’d made worked. In desperate frustration, when the last one had fizzled itself into harmlessness, Jaehwan had taken his spell knife and cut a gash into his own arm, letting the blood patter out, over the lines of his Circle. Because, he’d thought, maybe everything was right, the kindling was set, and what it lacked was energy, a spark to finally get it going.
Other sunlight spells made mention of human blood, of sacrifice. Jaehwan was not the first to think of such an idea. He was, perhaps, the first to use his own blood, and not from a cup, pre-collected, but right from his own veins.
It needed too much power to live, could not be sustained on a cup of dead lamb’s blood. No, it needed constant fuel, lest it fizzle out before it could begin. Jaehwan imagined that was why, in the past, no one had ever gotten it to work, not even with human sacrifice. Those methods all used terminated energy. The spell could not live in a vessel of stone or wood, a fact no one in the past would have suspected. A totem was a totem, after all. Some suited different spells better than others, but they had little to do with workability.
So why would anyone think that instead of putting the spell in a totem, it should be placed in a living vessel, to feed on energy as it was generated. Jaehwan certainly hadn’t. Spells, curses, could be placed on people, but that wasn’t the same thing at all. It had never even occurred to Jaehwan that such a thing was possible.
In retrospect, such an event had probably happened before. Most likely, it was why every damn book he’d ever come across said not to use one’s own blood when casting a spell. But it was never spelled out so clearly, that cross contamination could happen, that the spell could fritz and bypass the intended totem and instead catch fire in the blood, follow it into the caster’s veins.
Jaehwan should have died. He’d thought he was going to. It consumed him, burning, stealing his energy until he could feel his heart fluttering weakly, until he couldn’t scream anymore.
But it plateaued out. And Jaehwan still drew breath, even when the spell was at its peak. It stretched, filling him up to his fingertips and toes, he’d been able to feel it. But still he lived. And it came down, in small increments. Spells needed a large burst of energy to come to life, but to continue living, they did not need quite as much.
It did not kill him that night. But it drained him, every minute that passed, and eventually, eventually, his body would not be able to keep up with the demand. He was only still alive because of how strong he was— the spell took most of that power, left him just enough for his heart to continue beating on.
He was the spell. But also he wasn’t. It was a parasite inside him.
And it left him with very few options in their current predicament.
Jaehwan could give Hakyeon the spell ingredients written on the page resting under his fingertips. It had been the one he’d been trying, the night it had happened. But he didn’t think it would truly fulfil his end of the deal. Jaehwan was less inclined to think he’d gotten the ingredients just right, and a lot more convinced his intentions had summoned the spell, which then only lived because it took him as its own.
And Jaehwan didn’t think he could replicate that. He didn’t think anyone could. No more than he, or anyone, could undo it. Spells lived. They lived until they ran out of energy or their vessel was destroyed.
Sadly, in Jaehwan’s case, it was looking like those two things were going to be one in the same.
1. i’m not sure when the next chapter will be up— as i said, i have it all written but i know i am going to be really busy these next four weeks or so, and probably won’t have an opportunity to write more in that time. so i’m not sure if i am going to just post it next week, or wait until maybe the week after that.
2. i know it is a bit late, but i’m taking orders for Kratos albums, $18 including standard shipping, poster, and choice of photocard. anyone buying from me would be much appreciated. please fill out this form if interested, thank you ;u;