Sanghyuk couldn’t see Hakyeon’s face from his perch alone in the backseat, but he could read his posture, the stiff line of his shoulders, his arms crossed over his chest. And his jaw kept tensing up, suggesting he was grinding his teeth.
"Thank you for the ride, Yixing," Sanghyuk said, trying to aim for a light tone. Hakyeon audibly exhaled through his nose.
Yixing turned around in the driver’s seat, flashing a smile so two dimples appeared in his cheeks, but then his face smoothed out, his head cocking to the side. "I feel like I can sense a vamp nearby," he said softly.
"Maybe it’s Wonshik," Hakyeon replied snidely.
"Hakyeon," Sanghyuk murmured, placing a hand on Hakyeon’s tense shoulder, and Hakyeon huffed, abruptly unbuckling his seat belt and stepping out of the car. Sanghyuk scrambled to follow, thanking Yixing again before he closed the car door behind him.
Sanghyuk waited until he was following Hakyeon up the stairs to his apartment before saying, "I sense a vamp nearby as well." Hakyeon didn’t respond, simply searched through his keys with jerky motions. "I know it probably isn’t but— what if it is Wonshik?"
"It’s not," Hakyeon said, with utter certainty. He looked up when Sanghyuk opened his mouth to argue, pressing a finger to his own lips, and Sanghyuk snapped his mouth shut. Hakyeon opened his door, and something about the darkened apartment caused Sanghyuk to get goosebumps. Nevertheless, he stepped forward when Hakyeon ushered him inside.
The moment Sanghyuk stepped over the threshold he was slapped in the face by the overwhelming feeling of vampire. His heart was sent hammering, his wards warming to the point of burning. He stumbled. "Hakyeon—"
Hakyeon gave him the gentlest of pushes, and then he was inside and shutting the door behind them. He didn’t bother turning on any lights. Sanghyuk’s head darted around, searching for danger, but Hakyeon was calm. "We need to be careful what we say outside these walls, because there are charms designed for eavesdropping on people. But no spell will be able to penetrate the wards of this apartment."
Sanghyuk could barely absorb what Hakyeon was saying, brain unable to focus on anything but the heavy feeling of predator in the air. "There’s a vampire, Hakyeon, can’t you—"
"Yes," Hakyeon interrupted. "I can. It’s not Wonshik. It’s Taekwoon, and he’s— here. It’s why you can feel him so strongly."
Sanghyuk inhaled sharply, his heart feeling like it was trying to gallop out of his chest. He needed to get a handle on himself, he’d known he’d be meeting Taekwoon sometime soon, but he’d expected a little more warning, more time to prepare.
Hakyeon grasped his shoulder, giving him a little shake, his face etched with concern. "Are you going to be alright with this?" Hakyeon asked, voice low and urgent.
"Yes," Sanghyuk gasped, without really thinking about if it was true or not. He didn’t want Hakyeon to think he was weak, Hakyeon who looked perfectly composed while Sanghyuk was already shaking so hard his teeth were beginning to chatter.
"Sit down," Hakyeon said, motioning to his kitchen table, the three chairs around it. "I’ll be right back." He strode swiftly away, disappearing into the living room, leaving Sanghyuk alone in the kitchen.
His trembling worsened, if that was even possible, and he stumbled to a chair, but felt too pumped up on adrenaline to sit, so instead he simply grasped the back of it for support. He felt so open, exposed, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end.
Hakyeon’s voice floated gently from the living room, saying, "Get in the kitchen, we’re being watched. Make sure you can’t be seen from the windows—"
There was a sound then, soft, like the flutter of a bird’s wings, and then suddenly there was a vampire in the room with Sanghyuk, standing just on the other side of the table. Hakyeon added, "Go slowly!" far too late. Sanghyuk was already stumbling back, throwing himself away from Taekwoon with such force that when his back hit the wall it might have dented the plaster, but he didn’t stop to check. He slid along the wall rapidly until his hip knocked against the countertop, wedging himself into a corner, his back finally protected.
Taekwoon was quite tall, shoulders broad, and he was— dishevelled, his face and sweater smeared with black. He hadn’t moved when Sanghyuk had thrown himself away from him, really, just followed the movement with eyes that were terrifyingly intense. His gaze pressed down upon Sanghyuk, shortening his breath, and Sanghyuk’s vision narrowed down to just those dark eyes. He remembered belatedly that he shouldn't be looking into a vamp’s eyes and, with effort, he moved his gaze down to the collar of Taekwoon’s sweater.
The living room light flickered on, which gave Sanghyuk a bit more to see by. The sound of Hakyeon drawing the blinds of a window up reached Sanghyuk’s ears, quiet under the noise of his pounding heart. Then there was silence for a beat, just long enough for Sanghyuk to realize the dark flecks on Taekwoon weren’t black but— red, blood, smeared across his face, splashed along his front.
Sanghyuk’s heart was beating so hard, so fast, it felt like it was going to give out. Surely he couldn’t withstand this kind of terror. He was feeling so light headed, but that might be because he could barely breathe, drawing air in with short, little pants. He was pressing himself so hard against the countertop he could tell his hip was going to bruise.
There was the sound of the blinds closing again, and then Hakyeon was saying, "I was waving at Yixing, showing him we’re inside." His shadow preceded him into the kitchen, footsteps quick. "We’ll have to be careful if we go in there, I don’t want him seeing three shadows— oh god, Sanghyuk?" Hakyeon stopped beside the table when he caught sight of Sanghyuk, pressed into the corner, eyes surely wide as saucers. Maybe he could hear Sanghyuk’s heart beating. It was so loud in his ears that surely it must be audible.
Hakyeon rounded on Taekwoon. "What did you do?" he demanded. "Oh my god, you’re covered in blood, what the fuck."
"It is not human blood," Taekwoon said, in a voice so soft it barely carried across the kitchen, but Sanghyuk shivered all the same, his breath stuttering for a moment.
"Go to the bathroom and clean up, jeez, no wonder you’re giving him a heart attack, looking like some sort of crazy serial killer," Hakyeon snapped, and Taekwoon stared at him for a moment, and he looked so cold, so hard, so wrong, that Sanghyuk was afraid, afraid for Hakyeon, standing so close, too close— he was in danger—
Taekwoon turned and padded quietly out of the room, human speed this time. Hakyeon watched him go with his hands on his hips, then heaved out a sigh. He turned and walked to Sanghyuk slowly, hands held out tentatively. The sound of running water reached Sanghyuk’s ears.
"Sanghyuk," Hakyeon said gently, and Sanghyuk made a determined effort to focus on him, on his face, his voice. His instincts were screaming at him to run, the overwhelming feeling of vampire sending his wards into a frenzy. "Sanghyuk," he repeated, "you can wait in my room and shut the door if you can’t do this—"
"I can do this," Sanghyuk gasped out. He tried to take a deep breath and almost gagged on it. He couldn’t do this, he couldn’t, oh god, how could Hakyeon stand it? Sanghyuk looked so weak next to him, like a frightened child. "I can," he said harshly, more to himself than Hakyeon. He would get a fucking grip on himself through sheer force of will if nothing else.
Hakyeon led him back to the table and this time Sanghyuk let himself be lowered into a seat. "Breathe, okay?" Hakyeon said. He inhaled slowly, and then exhaled the same way, and Sanghyuk tried to follow him, but he hiccuped a few times. "I know it’s hard, I know, it was— hard for me too, at first. But he won’t hurt you, no matter how scary he looks, or what your senses say, he won’t."
"I know," Sanghyuk whispered, and he did. Hakyeon had nagged Taekwoon and the vampire hadn't even twitched, but even though intellectually he knew the danger was low, trying to get his body to calm down was a different matter. He was still struggling to pull in enough air, body shaking violently.
Hakyeon had gone to his cabinets, and then he was back, with the vodka and a glass, which he poured a couple of shot's worth into. "I don’t like that this is basically teaching you that the way to deal with trauma is to drink, but, oh well," Hakyeon grumbled, and he handed Sanghyuk the glass. Sanghyuk downed it gratefully then held the glass out for another. Hakyeon pursed his lips and splashed some more vodka into the glass.
Sanghyuk wanted to tell Hakyeon that it was alright, that alcohol tasted like gasoline and that he wasn’t going to turn to it like this outside of extreme situations, but found he was still short of breath. So he just drank. It dulled his senses enough that the terror wasn’t threatening to swallow him, and the burn of it was distracting.
Sanghyuk didn’t hear Taekwoon come back, but he caught the movement out of the corner of his eyes and startled, a little. The blood was gone from Taekwoon’s face, his hands, and his hairline was damp, but there was no washing out the stains on his clothing. The sweater he was wearing was pale blue, and the dark flecks would never come out.
Sanghyuk continued breathing evenly, gritting his teeth with the effort of it. He stayed sitting even though his every fiber wanted to go back into the corner, where his back was protected.
Hakyeon shifted so he was facing Taekwoon, placing a light hand on Sanghyuk’s shoulder comfortingly. Taekwoon had stopped on the fringes of the kitchen, appearing not to want to get closer, potentially for Sanghyuk’s benefit. Sanghyuk appreciated it.
After a few beats of silence, Hakyeon spoke. "So, uhm, this is Sanghyuk." Hakyeon patted Sanghyuk’s shoulder gently. Sanghyuk took another swig of vodka. "And this is— is Taekwoon."
"Hi," Sanghyuk managed to get out. His voice cracked a little, but he could blame that on the alcohol. He stared at Taekwoon’s belt buckle.
"Mm," Taekwoon murmured, and Sanghyuk wondered what that meant.
"Why were you covered in blood—" Hakyeon began, but he was cut off.
"You are being watched," Taekwoon interrupted, just as soft as he’d been before. The sentence was lilted slightly, so it was almost a question.
"Yes," Hakyeon huffed. "I’ll tell you about it after you tell me who you— did you find Wonshik? What did you do?"
Taekwoon didn’t reply, just stared at Hakyeon, not blinking and still in that way that was wholly vampire. After a moment Sanghyuk turned a little so he could look at Hakyeon’s face, and found he was frowning slightly as he stared right back at Taekwoon. Don’t look into their eyes, Sanghyuk’s mind whispered.
It was like they were having a telepathic conversation, Hakyeon’s expression shifting minutely while Taekwoon remained still, and finally Hakyeon huffed again. "Fine. Yes. HQ figured out that it was Wonshik that busted Hongbin out far sooner than I’d anticipated. We’re kind of partners so, well, I’m suspicious. I think we fooled Kris well enough that we didn’t actually have anything to do with it, but he’s set up a watch on us just in case Wonshik stops by." Hakyeon’s foot was tapping anxiously. "Now tell me what happened to you tonight."
Taekwoon took a step forward very slowly, then another, until he could pull the chair opposite Sanghyuk out and, just as slowly, lower himself into it. Sanghyuk felt lightheaded all over again, a bead of sweat falling from his hairline to his jaw. He didn’t move though, forced himself into stillness aside from some renewed trembling.
Sanghyuk couldn’t take his eyes off Taekwoon, the predator, the threat, but he could see Hakyeon out of the corner of his eye taking the third and final seat. He saw Hakyeon’s hand reach out, felt it as he lay it atop Sanghyuk’s arm, trying to anchor him.
"He smells like fear," Taekwoon whispered, looking at Sanghyuk, and Hakyeon flinched. Taekwoon turned his gaze to him. "How long will the surveillance last?"
"I don’t know," Hakyeon replied, and he sounded a little peevish now.
Taekwoon paused a moment to absorb that, then he frowned. "I found Wonshik. And Hongbin," he said slowly, and Hakyeon gasped. Sanghyuk worked hard to focus on Taekwoon’s words, what they meant, tried to forget about vampire in the room. He felt almost like he wasn’t quite in his body anymore, so that helped.
"Where?" Hakyeon asked. "Are they— alright? What did you— whose blood was that?"
"They are in a city not far from here, with—" Taekwoon cut himself off, lips pressing together. He glanced at Sanghyuk, and looked even unhappier for a flash, but then his face smoothed over. When he spoke again, he was determinately looking at Hakyeon. "We’ve spoken before about the circumstances of my turning."
Sanghyuk looked at Hakyeon, who nodded. Despite the terror, Sanghyuk was curious, but he’d save his questions for later, for when he and Hakyeon were alone. He didn’t really want to press Taekwoon for, well, anything at all.
"After I’d left my maker, it didn’t take him long to— to wish for the company of another once more. And rather than drag me back, he opted to simply turn someone new," Taekwoon murmured.
"So you have a sibling, of a sort," Hakyeon mused, and Taekwoon shot him a sour look, the expression strangely human. "You should have told me this earlier."
Taekwoon looked away. "He is— not like me. I did not want you to be exposed to him, if I could help it. I am not proud of him."
Hakyeon looked concerned, the lines around his mouth tight. "How does this tie into Wonshik and Hongbin?" He sounded so anxious.
"My— Jaehwan is the one who turned Wonshik," Taekwoon said, biting the words out. "I could smell him last night, so I went back to the place he and my master used to share and— they were there."
Jaehwan, Sanghyuk thought. He wondered what this meant. "Are they— alright?"
Hakyeon squeezed his arm gently, and Taekwoon looked at Sanghyuk’s face, expression softening. Sanghyuk fought not to flinch. "They are well. I did not harm them. Hongbin is— he is not in his right mind." Taekwoon paused. "Wonshik does not seem to be either, but for different reasons."
Sanghyuk swallowed thickly, and Hakyeon said, "So the blood on you is—"
"Jaehwan’s," Taekwoon finished, expression hardening once more. "He’s— selfish, so selfish, he always has been. I just— I lost my temper. He has that effect. After three hundred years of dealing with him, you’d think I’d—" Taekwoon cut himself off, shaking his head and looking away. "I didn’t kill him, there are laws, of a sort, in place. He is my kin. I’m sorry, Hakyeon."
"It’s not your fault," Hakyeon said, a little numbly. "And I wouldn’t want you to kill your brother for me anyway."
He and Taekwoon stared at one another for several beats, doing that weird, telepathic communication thing again. Sanghyuk had no idea at all what either of them were thinking, how they could apparently read one another so well.
"You might change your mind about that," Taekwoon said softly, in the end. Hakyeon glanced at Sanghyuk, and it made Sanghyuk feel like such a third wheel. It was clear that the next time Hakyeon and Taekwoon were alone, they’d have much to discuss.
Hakyeon appeared to shake himself. "So what now?" he asked.
Taekwoon gave a small, one shouldered shrug, the motion oily and setting Sanghyuk’s wards jangling all over again. "There is nothing to be done for now. Wonshik would, at some point, like to see you, but that cannot happen until all the ruckus he caused at your place of work dies down, until the surveillance lifts."
"Ah, speaking of that," Hakyeon said quickly, "for you to get out of here without being seen, Sanghyuk and I will go to his place, to draw our watchers away, and while we’re all gone you can leave." His face twisted. "You won’t be able to come back until the surveillance lifts, it will be too dangerous."
Taekwoon frowned. "I could, perhaps—"
"No," Hakyeon said, a little harshly. "You know what happens to captured Elimias, I— no. I will not risk it."
"It could be months," Taekwoon whispered, but he said no more.
Months. The way Taekwoon was looking at Hakyeon— suddenly Sanghyuk felt like an intruder upon an intimate moment. "Uh," he said, and Hakyeon turned to him.
"Sanghyuk," Hakyeon said, voice back to business. "Go to the bathroom and get my first aid kit will you?"
Sanghyuk blinked. "Uhm, alright, sure." He stood, nearly wobbling, his legs still feeling weak from earlier. Taekwoon didn’t look at him, was staring down at the table, and that made Sanghyuk feel a little less like screaming for the hills.
He didn’t feel quite right walking away from Taekwoon, his instincts protesting turning his back on such a creature, so he settled for an awkward sideways crab walk. As he turned the corner into the living room, Hakyeon added, "Take your time."
Okay, now his curiosity was piqued, so once he was properly out of sight he stopped and pressed himself against the wall, listening. He wanted to know what it was that Hakyeon didn’t want him to hear, though the moment he heard any mushy things he’d leave.
There was silence, for so long that Sanghyuk wondered if Hakyeon knew Sanghyuk was lurking, but then there was the sound of a chair scraping back, and Hakyeon’s voice.
"It won’t be months," Hakyeon was whispering urgently. Sanghyuk strained to hear him. "I can promise that, it will only be a few weeks but— you must promise me to stay away. Please, Taekwoon, I couldn’t— I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you."
Sanghyuk found himself blushing. He shouldn’t be listening in on this, but now he was too worried that if he moved they’d hear him.
"And what about you?" Taekwoon murmured.
"They aren’t going to do anything to me, I didn’t have anything to do with Wonshik’s turning as far as they know, and I sure as hell didn’t have anything to do with him breaking Hongbin out. My story will check out. In the meantime I will be stuck here at nights, under a watchful eye. I won’t be in any danger, Taekwoon."
There was silence, again, and Taekwoon must have— nodded, or something, because then Hakyeon was sighing. "Thank you, for everything." Another silence. "We can get through this."
"Mm." Taekwoon was back to being taciturn, apparently.
"I love you," Hakyeon said, the sincerity in his voice burning, making Sanghyuk turn red all the way to the roots of his hair. He moved to push off from the wall, no longer caring if they heard him, but then Hakyeon was saying, "You need to feed." Sanghyuk froze, heart stuttering. "It’s been weeks since you’ve fed on me, I’ve been so preoccupied with hunting—"
"I don’t need to," was Taekwoon’s soft reply.
"Not now, no, but what about in a couple of weeks? Just— for me, please. I worry." There was the sound of a chair moving, shuffling. "It’ll have to be on the arm, not the neck—"
Sanghyuk managed to make himself move then, footsteps a little too loud as he fled through the living room and down the hall, into the bathroom. He closed the door behind himself, trying to be quiet and not quite managing it.
He’d known that Hakyeon and Taekwoon had— kissed, and had sex, in all likelihood, but he hadn’t realized— biting. Hakyeon had let Taekwoon bite him. Sanghyuk hadn’t contemplated it, it seemed too insane, even for what Hakyeon was doing. He laughed, a little hysterically, at his own thoughts. So it was okay for Hakyeon to date a vampire, to fuck one, but, horror of horrors, biting was where Sanghyuk was going to draw the line? He was being stupid. If Hakyeon had stomped on every other rule, of course he’d trodden all over that one as well.
"Get it together," Sanghyuk muttered to himself. If Taekwoon hadn’t hurt Hakyeon yet, chances are he wasn’t going to start now.
Sanghyuk knelt, opening the cabinet under the sink. There wasn’t much under there, an extra bottle of body wash and shampoo, and then beside it, a white metal box with a red cross on the top. Leave it to Hakyeon to have a proper first aid kit in his house. Sanghyuk grabbed it and then closed the cabinet, standing up.
Now that he knew why Hakyeon wanted it, he was reluctant to rush back into the kitchen. He found he was just reluctant anyway, not relishing the thought of being in a room with Taekwoon again. His wards were still jumpy, even at this distance, and he felt so tired, the night’s events catching up with him.
He counted to one hundred in his mind, closing his eyes as he did so and breathing evenly. He let everything else fade, focusing solely on calming his poor racing heart, quieting his mind. By the time he finished counting, he felt a little more capable of handling things, so he opened the bathroom door slowly and stepped through it.
He wasn’t going to stomp into the kitchen and potentially interrupt— something. Instead he tip-toed across the carpet, out of the hallway and through the living room, until he could poke his head around the corner and see into the kitchen.
His stomach dropped even as heat rose to his face. Hakyeon had pushed his chair out, and Taekwoon was kneeling on the floor, between his legs. The sleeve of Hakyeon’s left arm had been rolled way up, and Taekwoon’s mouth was pressed into the crook of his arm, his eyes closed. His hands were holding Hakyeon’s arm lightly, and Sanghyuk could see him swallowing.
Hakyeon was bent over, slightly, nearly cradling Taekwoon to himself, his free hand carding through Taekwoon’s dark hair tenderly. His other hand, the one attached to the arm Taekwoon was feeding from, was completely lax, everything about Hakyeon’s body seeming calm.
I love you, Hakyeon had said, and Sanghyuk could see it, now, see it etched into every curve and edge of Hakyeon’s being. He swallowed thickly against the sudden sting of tears. He wondered if Hakyeon knew— but of course he must.
How this was going to end.
Sanghyuk cleared his throat, stepping into the kitchen. He pointedly looked away as Hakyeon jerked, dislodging Taekwoon from feeding.
After a few moments of shuffling, Hakyeon said, "Thank you, Sanghyuk, bring it here."
Sanghyuk could feel that his cheeks were still warm, but he made himself look at Hakyeon. He was still sitting, his arm out, but Taekwoon was no longer kneeling in front of him, had stood and moved off to the side, so Sanghyuk could see two neat little puncture wounds in Hakyeon’s skin.
Had the first aid box been glass, it surely would have shattered apart in Sanghyuk’s hands from how tightly he was gripping it. Sanghyuk took a deep breath, steadying himself, and then made himself take a step forward, then another. Taekwoon loomed at the corner of his vision, making the walk across the kitchen feel like miles rather than a mere few feet.
When he reached the table he placed the kit down carefully, and then busied himself opening it, pulling out peroxide and gauze, trying to focus on something, anything, but the blood on Taekwoon’s mouth.
Hakyeon stopped Sanghyuk as he was opening the peroxide, placing his fingertips lightly on the back of Sanghyuk’s hand. "No, none of that, just gauze and some medical tape," Hakyeon said gently.
Sanghyuk looked at him quizzically. "Uh, germs?"
Hakyeon’s lips quirked. "Yes, well, according to Taekwoon..." He trailed off, looking at Taekwoon expectantly.
Taekwoon scowled, crossing his arms over his chest. "There is magic in the bite."
"There is magic in the bite," Hakyeon repeated as solemnly as he could, but he couldn’t keep the smile wholly off his face. He looked up at Sanghyuk. "They heal faster when I leave them alone, so I just need some fixings to keep any blood from seeping through my shirt."
Sanghyuk swallowed. He’d chew on this new information later. For now he simply grabbed two thin pieces of gauze and pressed them into the crook of Hakyeon’s elbow, over the bite marks. Hakyeon held the gauze down as Sanghyuk struggled with the medical tape, finally finding the end of it and wrapping it over the gauze and around Hakyeon’s arm twice before tearing it off.
"Thank you," Hakyeon said, amusement thick in his voice. He unrolled his sleeve, the material covering the gauze and tape, as well as the rest of his arm. He stood, hand resting on the table, face thoughtful for a moment.
"Are you okay?" Sanghyuk asked. "You aren’t lightheaded? Do you need— juice? A muffin?" Hakyeon shot him a look, and Sanghyuk blushed. "Well, after people donate blood they need food!"
"He never takes much," Hakyeon said, the casual way he said the words at odds with the gravity of their meaning. How many times had Hakyeon let Taekwoon feed on him, for fuck’s sake.
Sanghyuk didn’t want to think about it. "So, what now?" he asked.
"Now," Hakyeon said, "you and I go outside and ask if Yixing can give us a ride to your place, so you can pack some clothing and other necessities to stay with me for a couple of weeks." He turned to Taekwoon. "And while we’re gone, you— sneak out of here." There was a hitch between Taekwoon’s eyebrows, but he nodded. "I’ll contact you as soon as— as soon as it’s safe."
Taekwoon nodded again, but none of them moved after that, silence falling. Sanghyuk was about to turn, to go into the living room to shut the light off, but then Taekwoon was striding forward, and Sanghyuk froze on instinct to watch him.
Taekwoon reached out, cupping Hakyeon’s face gently in his hands and tipping it up, and then he was kissing Hakyeon fiercely. Sanghyuk made a noise, he couldn’t help it, some strange sound that was between a gurgle and a yelp, and he fled into the living room, but not before he’d seen Hakyeon’s hands come up to grip Taekwoon’s wrists, his head tipping slightly.
Sanghyuk knew his face was red, and his neck too, probably. He grumbled to himself a little as he turned the living room light off. It was just— weird. Weird and wrong on so many levels. Sanghyuk had goosebumps, Taekwoon was just so vampire. And Hakyeon— augh.
"Augh," Sanghyuk said, stomping back into the kitchen.
Hakyeon and Taekwoon weren't quite kissing anymore, but they were still in roughly the same spot, their foreheads pressed together. Sanghyuk didn’t stop to gawk, heading right for the front door so he could wait there and glare balefully at Hakyeon.
"It’s just a few weeks— Taekwoon—" Hakyeon was trying to say, but Taekwoon kept pressing kisses to his mouth. Finally Hakyeon broke away, gasping. He stumbled back, and Taekwoon’s hands fell away.
Sanghyuk coughed, and Hakyeon turned to look at him, face reddening. Taekwoon— vampires couldn’t blush, as far as Sanghyuk knew, but something about his face looked embarrassed. Though that could just be Sanghyuk projecting.
"I’ll see you soon," Hakyeon said roughly, walking to Sanghyuk’s side. Sanghyuk could tell he was trying to maintain composure, but he was wobbling a bit.
"Stay safe," Taekwoon whispered.
Hakyeon grasped Sanghyuk’s shoulder, and ushered him out the front door. When Sanghyuk glanced back, he saw Taekwoon’s eyes boring into them right before the door slammed shut.
Sanghyuk had shivers chasing up his spine, and it was hard to not bound down the staircase and out into the moonlight, but he managed. There was an absurd amount of adrenaline running through his system, but it wouldn’t do to look like anything was wrong.
It was Hakyeon who knocked on Yixing’s car window, who did all the talking. Sanghyuk watched him, amazed by the change in his demeanor.
"Sure," Yixing said. He seemed a bit bemused, but he smiled, easy. "Hop in."
Sanghyuk slid back into the backseat, while Hakyeon got in shotgun. As they drove away, Sanghyuk looked back, at Hakyeon’s dark living room window.
Hakyeon had said, I love you, and Taekwoon hadn’t said it back, but he hadn’t needed to. It was etched into his every move. Taekwoon was a predator, a knife sharpened to a deadly edge, but Sanghyuk had watched as he softened those edges for Hakyeon, cradling his face with the tenderness Sanghyuk would use to cup a baby bird. And when he’d said, Stay safe, he’d really been saying, I love you too.
Sanghyuk was beginning to understand everything now.
Hakyeon leaned against the window ledge, staring out at the street. It was bright out today, almost glaringly so, and it looked like the whole city was scampering about.
Yixing’s car had pulled away from the curb after dawn had broken, implying that they only had a watch on them after dark, but Hakyeon wasn’t sure he believed that. Sometime in the next few days he’d go to Kyungsoo, get himself and Sanghyuk some new charms. One to sense if they were being followed, and another to throw off anyone who was. And he didn’t care if Kyungsoo bitched him out about how he already had too many charms.
"Hakyeon?" Sanghyuk said tentatively, and Hakyeon looked away from the window, blinking a bit. His apartment was considerably darker than the outside world.
Sanghyuk was standing on the other side of the living room, holding a small pile of his own folded clothes. They’d retrieved several backpacks full of clothes at Sanghyuk’s apartment, as well as Sanghyuk’s laptop and what Hakyeon thought was a rather absurd amount of dvds. "Taking a shower?" Hakyeon asked.
"I was going to," Sanghyuk said. Hakyeon nodded, but Sanghyuk didn’t move, shuffling his feet a bit.
"Do you need me to get you a towel?" Hakyeon asked, knowing that’s not what this was.
Sanghyuk shook his head. "Can we talk?"
Hakyeon turned fully from the window, still leaning back against the frame, relaxed. He’d figured questions would come eventually. They hadn’t gotten a chance to talk again last night. Yixing had come in to help them pack at Sanghyuk’s place, and then once they were back here, Hakyeon had just been too tired. "What is it?"
Sanghyuk shuffled his feet for a few more moments, clutching his clothes to his chest as he looked down at the floor. "You love him," he mumbled. "Taekwoon."
"I do," Hakyeon agreed softly. "I told you that, though."
"Yes, but—" Sanghyuk looked up at Hakyeon’s face. "You really love him."
Hakyeon didn’t reply, didn’t need to. Yes, he really loved Taekwoon, more than he’d ever loved another person — almost person — in his life. A sickening, soul crushing amount. He was fucking crippled with it.
"Does he— that is— has he told you he loves you, as well?" Sanghyuk asked, voice young and curious.
Hakyeon looked away, back out the window. "Yes," he whispered, cheeks turning red as he remembered. Taekwoon pressed against him, skin to skin, face nuzzled against Hakyeon’s ear. I love you, he’d whispered, rolling his hips forward. Four hundred years and I’ve never loved anyone like you, Hakyeon—
"What are you going to do, Hakyeon?" Sanghyuk asked.
Hakyeon cleared his throat, trying to will his blush away. "What do you mean?"
Sanghyuk frowned, thinking for a moment. "It’s just— he’s a vampire?"
Hakyeon raised his eyebrows. "No, really? I hadn't noticed."
Sanghyuk glowered at him, puffing himself up. "He’s a vampire, and you’re not, and you’re in love with one another. Very in love. It’s almost gross." Hakyeon smiled. "I just want to know what you’re going to do about it, because the whole vampire thing— it’s not going away, you know? If you stay with him—"
"Don’t, Sanghyuk," Hakyeon said, a little sharply.
"So you’ve thought about it, then, what you’re going to do," Sanghyuk continued, not deterred.
Hakyeon paused. "Not exactly," he finally said. "I know what my options are but— it’s all too big for me right now, Sanghyuk, and trying to come to some sort of decision gives me a panic attack. So I just don’t think about it, to be honest." He tried not to think about it, he tried so fucking hard, but as the weeks turned into months it was getting harder. "I just live in the now. The now is hard enough."
Sanghyuk frowned, but he didn’t pursue the matter further. Hakyeon took advantage of his silence and shoved away from the window, brushing past Sanghyuk to the linen cabinet. He pulled down a fluffy towel and placed it carefully on top of the clothes in Sanghyuk’s arms.
"Take your shower," Hakyeon said, smiling. "Enjoy it."
Sanghyuk grumbled but stomped off to the bathroom nonetheless, closing and locking the door behind him.
Hakyeon heaved a heavy sigh once the water started running, and he rubbed a hand against the back of his neck. He had one hell of a stress headache coming, not helped along by the fact that he was sore from sleeping on the couch. Sanghyuk had taken the bed last night, but tonight the little dweeb was sleeping on the couch, guest or not.
Hakyeon leaned against the wall by the bathroom door, listening to the water drumming against the tiles, and thought the now kind of sucked.
But it was better than trying to piece together a future that was heading right for tragedy no matter how Hakyeon looked at it. Hakyeon was going to die, one way or another, the only question was the manner and time of his death.
There was a ripple along Hakyeon’s house wards, and then a few beats later a knock fell on the front door. Hakyeon tensed immediately, even though it was daylight. He strode out of the hall, through the living room and into his kitchen. His eyebrows raised as he looked through the peephole of his front door. He undid the deadbolt, then the chain latch, and pulled the door open to reveal Minseok standing there holding a medium sized cardboard box.
"Er, hi," Hakyeon said, not bothering to hide his bewilderment.
"Hey," Minseok said, an easy smile coming to his face. His upper teeth were slightly snaggly, giving him a sort of roguish charm. He’d always seemed to have a reckless air around him, and when Hakyeon had first met him, years and years ago, he’d immediately thought that he was going to die quite young. But then, people had said the same thing about Hakyeon, and now here they both were, having outlived many of their colleagues.
"What’s up?" Hakyeon asked, opening the door a little wider, not wanting to seem standoffish. He wasn’t, no matter what had happened at HQ a few days ago. He liked Minseok, and he liked Yixing. He just had to be careful around them, since they were close to Kris.
Minseok hefted the box in his hands, drawing Hakyeon’s eye down to it. "Ah, well, we’re going through Wonshik’s apartment, you know, to see if we can find any clues there, about where he’s gone." Hakyeon absorbed that silently. "But like, once we’ve gone through it, there’s nothing to really do with it, since it’s not like Wonshik is gonna come back for it, so we thought— maybe—" He held the box out to Hakyeon. "Maybe you’d want to go through it? See if there’s anything you want to keep."
Hakyeon hesitated a beat before reaching out take the box from Minseok’s hands. "Thanks," he said, stepping back into his apartment so he could put the box on the kitchen table. "You can come in."
Minseok followed him to the table, letting the front door close gently on its own. "I’ve got more boxes in my car, and I’ll be bringing more by as the week goes on. Wonshik has a lot of stuff." He watched as Hakyeon carefully placed the box on the table and began to open it, then he began to look around. "Where’s Sanghyuk?"
"Showering," Hakyeon said absently, as he shoved the flaps of the box aside, revealing clothes. Hakyeon almost snorted but then he recognized the leather jacket on top, faded and worn. He picked it up, running his hands along the soft leather. "This is Hongbin’s," he whispered.
"Oh, is it?" Minseok asked, peering at the garment in Hakyeon’s hands. "Well, after HQ wouldn’t pay the rent on Hongbin’s old apartment, Wonshik took his stuff back to his place. I hadn’t known he’d kept it though."
"I did," Hakyeon mumbled, still looking down at the leather. Oh, Wonshik.
Minseok moved his gaze up to Hakyeon’s face, staring intently. "How are you holding up?"
Hakyeon swallowed. "I think I’m in shock, still. It doesn’t seem quite real to me yet." Truth.
"A lot of us are still in shock, I think," Minseok mused. "How is Sanghyuk?"
Hakyeon sank into a chair, still holding the jacket, and Minseok followed suit, plunking down in the seat Taekwoon had been in last night. Hakyeon shoved the thought out of his mind. "He’s taking it hard, but he’s a strong kid," Hakyeon said softly. "He’ll be alright."
"And you, Hakyeon?" Minseok asked, voice tentative. "Will you be alright?" Hakyeon looked up at him questioningly, and Minseok added, "It’s just— there’s been a lot of talk, lately, you know."
Hakyeon winced and went back to frowning down at the leather jacket. It smelled stale, musty, not at all like Hongbin anymore. "I know. I know I’ve been— slipping."
Minseok’s mouth twisted. "You’re— you’re a fucking legend, Hakyeon. You’ve got one of the highest kill rates to date. You were solo before we recruited you." His voice turned slightly reverent, and Hakyeon blushed. "You were— amazing."
"I was reckless and out of my mind," Hakyeon muttered. And he had been. He’d become a hunter on his own, taught himself on his own, armed himself on his own, gotten his spelled tattoos on his own, and then he’d hit the field on his own. He hadn’t wanted to have to answer to anyone, not the VCF and not any underground hunting unit. He’d been wild and angry and unstoppable.
Hakyeon tried to recall the energy he’d once felt, standing under a full moon, pumped up on adrenaline and a righteous purpose, but it wouldn’t come. It hadn’t for a long while now.
"Maybe, but— damn," Minseok said, shaking his head. "You were on fire, you— it was like you had a light, from within. You radiated heat, it’s hard to explain. There was a reason all the vampires were afraid of you. When you were out in the field, even in the dead of night, it felt like the sun was at your back." Minseok stared at Hakyeon’s face, eyes searching. "What happened, Hakyeon?"
"I don’t know. I haven’t been alright for a long time, Minseok," Hakyeon mumbled. "I think it started with Hongbin getting turned and— I don’t think I’m going to get better, just worse." He met Minseok’s eyes. "I’m getting old, you know."
Minseok frowned, and Hakyeon smiled softly at him, knowing Minseok was only a few years younger than he was. "You’re twenty-six."
"Yes, like I said, old, for a hunter anyway," Hakyeon said. He folded the jacket, carefully, and then put it back into the box. "I think I’m going to retire."
Minseok’s eyes widened and he reeled back. "Hakyeon—"
"I’ve been thinking about it for a while now," Hakyeon said. "I’m not the hunter I used to be, and I never will be again. I’d rather leave now, before I totally fall from grace. Leave some of my reputation in tact."
"Now?" Minseok repeated after him, in vague horror, and Hakyeon waved the word away, like it was an annoying bug.
"Not now now, but soon." Hakyeon paused, wanting to word this carefully. "I can’t face being given a new team, or even a new partner, even if I wasn’t losing my touch. Which, make no mistake, I am. I am slower than I’ve ever been before in my life, and I don’t notice things as well as I used to." Hakyeon thought back to the night he and Taekwoon first met, how he hadn’t noticed Taekwoon was an Elimia. He laughed, the sound slightly hollow, and then he rubbed his hands over his face. This was all so absurd.
Minseok’s expression clearly stated that he thought there was a joke here that he’d missed, but he didn’t comment on it, instead saying, "Sanghyuk won’t be a trainee for too much longer, you could always partner with him, instead of someone you don’t know as well. I think that’s what HQ was planning anyway."
The smile dimmed on Hakyeon’s face, and he shook his head. "No, we’re too much alike," he whispered. "He’s going to be like I was when I first started, untameable and ruthless. He’ll shake off any partners you give him, because they won’t be able to keep up. He’s going to be a phantom in the dark, going to be the next hunter every vampire learns to fear."
Minseok looked a little skeptical, and Hakyeon’s smile returned. "He’s not there yet," Hakyeon admitted. "But he will be. I am going to stay long enough to finish training him. I am going to stay to make sure he’s as good as I was." His smiled turned a little sharp. "Then I am going to retire."
Minseok blinked at him, clearly a little taken off guard. "Well," he said slowly, "I’m gonna— go get those other boxes for you." He stood and edged his way out of the apartment.
Hakyeon stayed sitting at the table, gently fingering the edge of the box, trying very hard not to think about the future.
As usual this au will be continued, we have a lot left to tell. The next update will have all six boys and tHE FUN WILL REALLY BEGIN.