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Euphoric Endeavours

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You think, idly, that these kinds of things happen in movies and in YA novels in the back of dusty libraries. Girls huddling in the rain outside of a boy’s apartment, yelling profanities at his back as he leaves them in his wake.

But this isn’t a YA novel, and you aren’t in a movie. This isn’t even your fight, not really.

You probably should take it back a few hours, right? It would make it easier to understand, you suppose.

Okay. Back to the early evening.

You’d just finished your first glass of wine. It was a Friday night, you’d finished work and you had no plans for the evening, so you’d cracked open the cheap pink rose you and Young-mi had bought on a whim, and had turned on the newest episode of Black Mirror on your laptop, snuggling under the shared heated Ryan blanket on the living room sofa. One of your roommates is in her room, ignoring you as usual. The other, your lovely and angelic Mei Li, was on a date. Or something to that effect. You only asked for the location and the time she’d be back, for safety, because she was an adult and even though she had cherub-like pink cheeks and silky long hair, reminding you of a pristine doll, she was an individual and made her own choices. The final, your bestie, Young-mi, was beside you, with her own mug of wine and ice because why not.

The two of you were lost in the world of virtual reality and time-travel when the front door bursts open, dragging a half-scream from your throat. You both stumbled up onto your feet, to see Mei Li in tears. Loud sobs escaped her throat, and she seemed to be unable to breathe, let alone explain herself. It took you nearly half an hour to get her to calm down enough to explain the situation, and when she did, you nearly blew a gasket.

“YN, wait a second, we don’t know everything,” Young-mi tried to placate. She quietened at your intense glare.

“What else do we need to know? That sack of dirt used her,” you growled back, and she let out a short sigh of hesitation.

Mei Li let out another choked off sob and you pat her shoulder, cooing softly. “It’s okay. He’s not worth it.”

“I thought he was the one, YN,” she wailed into her hands. “Why am I so stupid?”

“You’re not stupid, baby,” you soothed. “Boys are dogs. Less than dogs. They’re rats. They’re fleas on rats.”

Young-mi covertly rolled her eyes from where she stood. You’d been watching too much Grease recently. Young-mi asked, “What happened, exactly?”

“We’d gone out for food, and he took me back to his place. He said his brothers were out, so we’d have the place to ourselves. We, you know, did it, and then I asked- hic- I asked when he wanted to go out on our next date. He- hic- he froze and let out this – hic – he laughed at me! He said he didn’t do dating.”

Young-mi’s lips thinned. “Did you guys ever, you know, mention dating before? Or being exclusive?”

She took a moment to think, before she shook her head. “But I didn’t want to come across as intense, you know? I wanted to make it cool.”

“He told you he didn’t want a girlfriend when you first started messing around, right?” Young-mi looked resigned, but you just found yourself getting angrier as Mei Li’s eyes filled with tears once more. Jack ass. “I’m sorry, honey. But, some boys- they’re not boyfriend material. Maybe he’s doing you a favour.”

Shooting to your feet, you snarled. “That’s bullshit! Mei doesn’t deserve some worm making her feel low about herself. I ought to kick his self-righteous ass.”

Young-mi quirks a brow. “For what? Not wanting to date her?”

“For making her come home like this!” You gestured to the sniffling girl, and you felt your heart pulse for her. “He could have done it a hundred different ways, but he decided to make her feel so bad about herself. I can’t forgive that.”

Before she can talk you out of it, you’ve already grabbed your sneakers. Pausing by the door, you looked back and asked, “You coming to kick his ass, or not?”

“How else are you supposed to get there, weirdo?” Young-mi laughed, and the three of you make your way to the boy’s apartment complex.

It started to spit with rain as you drove over the bridge, and, in hindsight, you probably should have taken that as a warning sign, but you were PMSing, a little tipsy on wine and your littlest baby came home crying because of a stupid boy, with his stupid boy feelings and it just- you wouldn’t accept it.

“Woah, there’s no way we’re getting in there,” Young-mi murmured from the front seat of the car, staring up at the sky-rise apartment complex. You both turned to look at Mei Li, who shrugged, seemingly past the initial phase of shock and had fallen into depression.

“He’s loaded,” she explained.

“Who is he, anyway? Some old, rich pervert who likes young girls?” You growled out.

Mei Li shoved your shoulder from the back seat. “Don’t talk about him like that. He- He’s not old. He’s literally only 22.”

“He deals drugs,” you reasoned. “He has to.”

“Or, he’s like the kid of an international gun racketeering ring,” Young-mi helpfully suggested.

You make a face in acknowledgement. “Equally as likely.”

Mei Li scoffed and explained, “He goes to our university. Did I seriously never mention who it was?”

“No!” Young-mi and you chorused.

Before she can answer, the doors to the apartment complex open to reveal a face you know too well. Jung Hoseok – dance extraordinaire and campus jokester. Mei Li ducked beneath the seat, in fear of being seen and she grabbed at both of your collars to do the same.

“Hide!”

Young-mi put two and two together. “You’re sleeping with Jung Hoseok?!”

“I was!”

“Mei Li! Of all people? You know he wasn’t going to date you,” she told her, not unkindly. “Jung Hoseok – those Bangtan Boys – they don’t date. At all.”

“That still doesn’t make what he did okay,” you hissed, anger flickering back to life at the fearful expression on Mei’s face. “You know what, I’m gonna teach this asshole a lesson.”

You tugged out of her grip and slammed the car door shut as you got out.

Young-mi let out a low moan of, “Here we go,” before joining you, leaving Mei Li trembling in the backseat of the car.

“Hey, jackass!”

And that brings you to the present moment, you suppose.

He pauses ahead, head crooking to the side, incredulously, before glancing back, finger pointing at his chest, eyes surprisingly wide and expressive for someone you’re about to fight. He asks, “You talking to me?”

“You’re the only jackass around here, so I guess so,” you snarl.

He inspects you closer, expression funny, before staring at the sky, begrudgingly. He takes out his other earphone and faces you head on, tucking both hands into his hoodie pockets. “Who did it? Jin? Taehyung? God, did was it Jimin?”

“I’m not here for any of your weirdo brothers,” you snap. His eyes go sharp for a moment, a slash of something icy rushing through your system, before you set your shoulders and continue, “I’m here for you.”

“What is this, Mortal Kombat? Is this a duel or something?” He’s making a joke of the situation, and it only makes you more annoyed.

You jab a finger at his chest. “You’re lucky we aren’t in medieval Europe because I would’ve had you flayed by now.”

“If this were medieval Europe, you wouldn’t be able to do much about anything,” he tells you, matter-of-factly. He points to himself, “Man,” then at you, “Woman.” He shrugs. “The optics would’ve been interesting though.”

You think you’re about to blow your top.

“Look, whatever I did, I guess I meant it at the time,” he says, honestly. “But you’re clearly upset. So, have at it. Curse me out, do whatever. But after this, please, move on.”

You grit your teeth so hard you think they’re about to chip, and his lack of accountability is making your head spin. “You’re more of an asshole than I thought.”

“Not enough for you to not sleep with me,” he replies, easily.

“You think that I’d sleep with you? What a joke,” you huff. “You did my friend dirty.”

He lets out a chuckle, and these dimples appear above his mouth, and you’re reminded distinctly of the image of a delighted chipmunk. “So, you’re here to fight for her honour? How noble.”

“Stop being so condescending,” you growl. “I’m here to tell you that you’re an asshole, and you don’t deserve her. Her, or anyone else.”

His jaw clicks in annoyance, seemingly over the conversation. “Let me ask you something. I know myself to know that I don’t give promises and I don’t lie. Did I ever once, once, tell your friend that she’d be my girl? That we’d be special? That she was the one for me? Anything?”

You can’t reply, because you don’t know.

He takes your lack of answer as, well, answer enough and scoffs, approaching you, like a hunter stalks its prey. “You come here, to my home, to curse me out, without knowing the facts? This just gets better and better.”

He takes a step closer to you, and you can smell his aftershave, despite the pouring rain. You try to meet his eyes, but the feeling – the twisting in your gut, the instinct that tells you that you aren’t safe keeps you from glaring into his orbs as fiercely as you wanted, settling for the space between his shapely brows – overwhelms you.

“You should confer with your so-called friend, so you don’t make an ass of yourself in the future,” he advises, mockingly. He puts his headphones back into his ears and turns his back to you, walking on the way he was headed before.

You feel the rain pounding against your back, soaking into your old university hoodie and your leggings feel sticky against your skin.

“That couldn’t have been more embarrassing if you tried,” Young-mi says, blandly. You look back at her, to see she’s already surveying you, curiously. “Let’s go home, okay? McDonald’s on me.”

“Damn right,” you sniff.

The drive back is quiet. Mei Li falls asleep, barely taking two bites of her burger, while you’d scoffed both yours and the rest of Young-mi’s apple pie.

“As much of a car wreck as that was to watch, I must admire your determination,” she says, honestly. The soft music from the radio, combined with the rain colliding with the front screen and the low blow of heat in the car makes you feel sleepy. “You’re a ride or die like that. But- And I love you, you know this, but sometimes you need to look out for yourself first.”

“He could’ve been a crazy, violent kind of guy,” she tells you. “And, we wouldn’t have been able to protect you, or ourselves.”

“I box,” you tell her, pouting.

“On the WII. Sitting down,” she answers with a light peal of laughter. Unable to help it, you join her, knowing now, after cooling off, that your actions were impulsive and potentially dangerous. “Next time, let’s leave him a nasty call instead, okay?”

“Or, we could order a bunch of pizza to his address and make him pay for it,” you suggest.

She grins, evilly, at you. “There’s my maniacal bestie.”

You both smile at each other, before she turns her attention back to the road, and you close your eyes, finally lulled to sleep.

//

Hoseok returns to his apartment after finally finishing what he set out to do – get a couple beers for the boys and snacks so they could have a movie and games night indoors, but in his head, all he can think about is your aggressive chastising and his pink-eared shame. He slams the front door shut, the events of half an hour before still pissing him off.

“Woah, woah, woah, hyung,” Taehyung says, surprise written across his face at seeing his hyung react to seemingly nothing so aggressively. “Where’s the fire?”

“Nothing,” he denies, rolling his eyes as he shoves the beer in the refrigerator. He’s careful to avoid the bagged blood, because Namjoon gets huffy if they mess around with his special AB cocktail. To Hoseok, it mostly tastes the same – bagged blood didn’t touch the hem of the real thing, and just thinking about his annoyance makes his fangs itch to drop and drain. “Just some girl.”

“Somebody finally catch your heart, hyung?” The younger artist says, mockingly. He heaves himself onto the island, chewing happily but loudly on his dried mango snacks. “Tell me about her.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes, leaning against the fridge and crossing his arms over his chest. “You know as well as I do that no girl is catching this heart of mine. I guess I hurt one of her friend’s feelings, and she came to give me a piece of her mind.”

“Oof, it gets better,” Tae laughs, dropping his head back and emptying the bag into his mouth. “Then what?”

“She was outside the apartment, screaming at me, in the rain,” he retells with a shake of his head. “It was embarrassing. Kyungsoo heard everything.”

“He’s the concierge, he’s supposed to see and hear everything,” Taehyung tells him, with a shrug of his shoulders. “So, did she get you to see the error of your ways?”

“Not at all! I never tell lies,” he says, affronted. “She must have got it into her head that we would be something we absolutely weren’t going to be, and got her own feelings hurt.”

“I get it,” Tae replies. “But, you need to understand how human girls work. They’re fragile, emotional. Easy to anger, easy to break.”

“You don’t have to tell me that, brat,” Hoseok tells him, shoving at his shoulder. “I should stop playing around with college girls.”

“You should, you pervert,” the brunet laughs, tossing his waste in the trash bin hidden under the sink. He gets a thoughtful look on his face, before he remarks, blithely, “They do taste delicious, though.”

“They really do,” he agrees, with a low groan, the memory of Mei’s blood spilling down his throat making him itch to do it again. Her blood was good, better tasting considering her diet and her age, but there was better out there, and he didn’t feel like he was missing out by cutting her off.

“What’re you going to do?” Tae asks, with a playful tilt of his head.

Hoseok shrugs. “Nothing, I guess. Mei Li and I won’t ever meet up again. Eventually, she’ll move on. The friend got all her fury off her chest. Everybody should be happy now.”

Taehyung gives him a long look, before snorting. “Here’s to hoping, hyung.”

The dancer disappears down the hall, back towards his room, leaving the artist in the kitchen, scanning the fridge for more snacks, singing lowly to himself, before deciding to quench his low-burning thirst and grabbing a bag of O-neg and piercing it with a straw.

“For someone so much older than me, he really is naïve,” Jungkook remarks, joining his hyung in their neatly designed kitchen, taking a sip of the O-neg before making a face. “Not my favourite flavour, I’m gonna be honest.”

Taehyung snorts. “That’s why it’s on my shelf. Besides, it’s not our place to tell him that.”

“It is more fun to watch the mess play out,” Jungkook agrees. “How much do you want to bet she’ll curse him out in public again?”

Taehyung shakes his head. “I think she’ll be passive-aggressive towards him but won’t do anything in person, but I’m open to change. The normal rate?”

“Bet,” Jungkook says, and the two of them share their secret handshake in agreement, touching thumbs at the end.

Chapter Text

You start your period the next day, and so begins the cycle once more.

“Young-mi, please, less mint ice-cream, more rocky-road,” you plead when you hear the front door open and close. You’ve been sat vegetating on your couch for the last three hours, having called in sick from work at the café, promising to do the early shift next Wednesday before your afternoon creative writing class – which you already regret taking.

“I already got you, baby,” she sing-songs, holding up a plastic bag with the blessed cream sugariness. “I got you some of that coconut shit that you like.”

“Coconut milk?” You laugh. “Thank you for thinking me and my butthole when you were shopping.”

“Gluten-free ice-cream and dairy-free milk,” she says, disgust written across her face. “Nothing is sacred anymore.”

“How was class?”

Young-mi studies contemporary dance and is one of the most professional and beautiful performers you’ve ever seen. You’d been fortunate enough to go to her freshman year showcase, and an end-of-year performance where she was able to dance on stage with some of the then-sophomore and junior dance students.

“Fine. Exhausting. Normal stuff,” she replies, stretching her hands over her head. She’s wearing a co-ord sportswear outfit that you wouldn’t be able to squeeze yourself into, even if you tried. “I got to see him dance today, so it made the pain so worth it.”

“Are you still on that guy?” You ask, mouth filled with sugary ice-cream. “He’s such a tool.”

She slaps your shoulder, cheeks pinking. “Don’t talk about Jimin like that. He’s a lovely person.”

“He's besties with Hoseok. By association, he must be at least one-eighth jerk,” you inform her, shrugging. “I don’t make the rules.”

“You’re such a negative Nancy,” she says, dropping on the floor in front of you, spreading into an uncomfortable looking split. She does this sometimes, to keep her muscles stretched out and flexible. “He’s a hottie with a heart of pure gold.”

“He stares at nothing all the time,” you tell her. “And when I do catch his eye, he always looks angry to me.”

“That’s because you catch him at the worst angles, at the worst times. You haven’t seen him on stage, YN. He’s like a literal angel,” she reveres, eyes getting a weird sheen to them, as if recalling a distant yet blissful dream. “When you get to see how he embodies his dance, how he expresses motion and emotion, then tell me he’s nothing but a rotten jerk.”

“Until then, can I maintain the notion that he is nothing but a rotten, no-good jerk?” You ask, batting your eyelashes. She shoves at you.

“Your hair is a little greasy, want me to braid it for you?” She offers, kindly.

“Please, I can’t be bothered to reach it otherwise,” you tell her.

Letting your hair down, she pulls the tendrils back in two neat braids, your curls finally being tamed in something that wasn’t a rough-looking ponytail, and once she’s finished, you feel, rather than look, better.

“Thanks, bestie,” you say, falling into her embrace. She holds you close, warm and tight, and presses a kiss to your forehead.

“Aish, our baby YN, so strong and so untouchable, until her time of the month,” she teases, playing with the ends of your hair. “Then, it’s clingy baby time.”

“I missed you, asshole,” you curse, but refuse to move, too content with the comfort you’re receiving. She isn’t wrong – you usually prefer not to engage in skinship with anyone, too uncomfortable in your own skin to let anyone touch you for long, but when you’re around your period, it becomes like a drug to you. You think, maybe, supressing your desire for human contact for so long sends your body into a kind of hunger, and when you have a reason – a justification – you yearn for the closeness of another body.

When her tummy rumbles, signalling the end of your embrace, she goes about making the two of you some quick food, consisting of low-fat rice and veggie sides. She’s prepping for a mid-semester show-case and has drastically changed her die.

To make it easier, the house decided to avoid bringing meats and fatty foods home (save for this one discretion, due to your period) and so, it’s okra and seasoned kimchi for dinner. Again.

Young-mi leaves for her room to get ready for the last shift at the diner, leaving you to your thoughts once more.

Mei Li comes home from her study session at the university library, looking weary but accomplished. She drops onto the couch, as if her strings have been cut and says, eyes closing, “I finished most of my gender and sexuality assignment due next week. Thank God. Who gives out a thousand word, unweighted but obligatory assignment the third week into a semester? Satan, that’s who!”

“I told you that he had a terrible reputation for being a hard-ass, but you didn’t listen,” you tell her, sympathetically. You had taken his gender and sexuality class last year and decided then and there that if you saw his name associated with any of your other modules, you would rather die than take them. He was ruthless. “But, well done, Mei. You did well.”

She smiles, tiredly, at you, before cracking open one eye to assess you. “YN, I haven’t thanked you for defending me the other night.”

“There’s no need to thank me,” you answer.

She says, softly, eyes lining with tears, “I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. Thinking about it, he really didn’t promise me anything. I- In my head, I guess I made connections where there wasn’t any.”

You sit up and stare at her as she speaks. “It’s an easy mistake to make. Getting caught up in your feelings.”

“But- I feel bad. For how it went down. So, I think I’m going to be a big girl and apologise,” she declares, sniffing and wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. After a second, she shifts on the sofa, tossing you a cautious glance. “But- Would you be able to come with me?Not that you need to apologise at all! I just don’t- I don’t know if I can do it by myself.”

Feeling a bump at your pride, you set your jaw at her words. “I don’t know…”

The light flickers behind her eyes and, unhappily, she stares down at her hands. “I understand, YN.”

“No, no, wait,” you tell her, letting out a gentle sigh. “Fine, fine. I’ll come. But if I talk to him, I’ll probably curse him out again.”

“Why?”

“His stupid face is associated with rage in my head,” you explain. “Seeing him brings it out again.”

“That doesn’t sound healthy,” she remarks, with a watery grin. “How about tomorrow? He has a dance class that finishes at one.”

With a raised brow, you enquire, “You know his schedule?”

She blinks at you, blankly. “Is that weird?”

“A little strange,” you tell her.

She blushes lightly, ducking her head. “I just really liked him, and I didn’t know where to draw the line.”

You suppose you understand the feeling, having had your fair share of intense crushes during your teen years. After having come to university, you quickly realised that men aren’t worth the tears, nor the effort that you put into the so-called relationship.

You let out another huff of air through your nose, before throwing your arm over her shoulder, comfortingly. “I’ll be with you when you do it, so you don’t have to feel so nervous.”

//

The next day, you find yourself in the hallway of the university dance studios, waiting for Hoseok’s class to let out, with a trembling Mei Li by your side.

You’re dressed as you usually are – sneakers, a hoodie and some leggings, with your backpack strewn over your shoulder, laden with books and papers from your classes – but Mei has put some effort into her attire, you notice. Subtle makeup, a pale dress, bare legs, a pretty purse on her hip. She looks cute, adorable – lovely. Subconsciously, she’s trying to curry favour with him, and it makes sense.

As much as she says she’s getting over it, she still wants him to be attracted to her.

The doors to the studios swing open, and you spot Hoseok’s mop of chestnut brown hair, held back with a thin headband, pushed away from his face, exposing his forehead. Mei’s legs tremble, forcing her to lean into you to keep herself upright. You can’t imagine having that kind of visceral response to someone.

Yes, he’s handsome. Very handsome, painfully so. But, to almost collapse? You can’t imagine it.

“He looks so good,” she mumbles, delicately, and you toss her a sympathetic glance. She doesn’t seem to be able to open her mouth and call his name, and the window was rapidly closing, as he, and his group of chattering, excited friends glide on past.

When you realise she’s not going to say a thing, you let out a sigh. “Hoseok!”

Her grip on your wrist tightens to the point of pain, nails biting into your wrist as you do so.

He pauses, hearing your voice, tossing a glance over his shoulder. His brow furrows before recognition blossoms across his features. Once he realises who you are, his jaw ticks in annoyance, and he pauses. “What?”

You let out a sigh at his combative nature, knowing it wasn’t going to be easy to get him to agree. “I need to talk to you.”

“If it’s not to apologise, I don’t want to hear it,” he replies, crossing his arms over his firm chest. “And you don’t strike me as the apologetic type.”

“I’m usually not,” you reply. “Especially when I did nothing wrong.”

“Nothing wr- Are you kidding me?” He approaches you, and his group of friends watch, in fascination, as the usually upbeat and animated dancer looks so dangerously irritated. “You practically cursed me out in front of my house!”

You feel the eyes on you, and your cheeks pink at the implication of his words, but you push ahead. You suggest, tightly, “How about we go outside to discuss what happened?”

“YN, let’s leave it,” Mei says, softly pulling at your wrist. “He doesn’t- He doesn’t want to talk.”

“I don’t care,” you reply, jutting your chin out in defiance. “Outside, now.”

He stares down at you, and you notice, belatedly, that he’s significantly taller than you, and that fact ought to scare you, but there’s something that tells you he won’t hurt you, although that same tingling in the back of your mind tells you that he’s someone to be wary of. Your gut instinct, you suppose.

“Lead the way,” he concedes, gesturing with a sweep of his hand. “I’d love to hear the excuse you have for how you acted.”

You feel your jaw thrum in annoyance, but you say nothing, stomping ahead, leading a tentative Mei and an irked Hoseok out into the courtyard.

The rain from the last week has dwindled, leaving the grass and flora damp with dew, but you like the chill on the wind, taking in deep breath after deep breath to calm your nerves.

“So, what do you have to say?” Hoseok asks, sidling up to where you are, adopting a defensive stance – arms across his chest, jaw set tightly, leaning his weight on one foot.

“Not me. Her,” you say, with a roll of your eyes, hopping onto a table and tucking your hands into your pockets.

His eyes scan your body, barely restraining the urge to roll them into the back his head, before he turns his gaze onto the other girl, finally acknowledging her presence. Mei shifts from foot to foot, nervousness written clearly across her face. “I- I’m sorry, for how I behaved the other night. I- I was being sensitive about things, and we ended up- you know, doing what we did. And it was wrong. So, I’m sorry.”

He stares at her, blankly, before he does the unimaginable. He cracks a charming smile, silky and entrancing, and you see the moment she falls straight under his spell once more.

“You did nothing wrong, Mei,” he tells her, reaching for her wrist, to stroke at the skin there. He takes another half-step towards her, holding her eyes, and you feel the urge to gag well up in you. “But… As much as I’d like to say it’s okay, what happened outside my apartment wasn’t okay.”

She closes her eyes and it’s then that you notice the tears.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, brokenly.

“I believe you,” he says, softly. But, then, his eyes turn to you, and they fill with barely restrained frustration. “But I feel like someone else needs to apologise too.”

Mei looks over at you, eyes shiny with tears, and you can see the pleading in her expression.

He turns to you, rearing back, approaching you until he’s directly in front of you, practically between your legs.

“What do you say, YN? Are you going to apologise for what you did?” He’s staring at you. It almost feels as if he’s staring through you. His rich dark brown orbs practically enchant you into silence. You almost can’t even hear his words clearly, as the world feels as if it’s been dunked underwater. He reaches for your wrist, thumb rubbing along your pulse point, enticingly, and he says, lips quirking slightly. “All you have to do is say sorry, just one little word.”

Your mouth goes bone-dry at his silky tone of voice. “I-”

“That’s it, pretty girl,” he soothes. “Just one word, and I’ll forgive you.”

Yes, of course you should apologise. Why not? He just wants you to say it, one little word.

Your mouth parts, but your tongue doesn’t move, too heavy in your mouth.

“Ah, ah, ah. Pretty girl, you’re letting me down,” he sing-songs, lips pulling up in a smile.

His canines glint under the afternoon light. “You don’t want to let me down, right?”

You shook your head, not moving your eyes from his intense eye contact. “Good girl,” he murmurs. His fingers trail up your forearm, never traversing past your elbow, but the feeling of his skin on yours – it’s tantalising, addicting.

“Hyung! Aren’t you coming to lunch?” Someone’s loud, cheery voice catches your attention, jarring you out of his enchanting hold, and you jerk away, as if you’d been burned.

Bouncing, long brown hair, held back by a white headband, GUCCI emblazoned across the front of his forehead in small crystalline gems, catches your eye. He’s wearing a plain white shirt under a deep red jacquard jacket and some fitted jeans with expensive sneakers on his feet. He looks every bit of the model you’ve heard he is. By his side is a muscular looking, brown-haired freshman, wide-eyes taking in the scene, lips partially parted. His body is nice, more than nice, honestly, and he’s tall, but the air of youth and adorableness that surrounds him contrasts with his well-built, firm appearance.

“Taehyung. Jungkook.” Hoseok greets with a tick in his jaw and a warning look in his eye. “Shouldn’t you both be in class?”

“Skipped,” he replies, lips spreading in a cheerful, open grin, showing all his straight teeth.

“I don’t need to go to technical illustration. I did the readings before, and the professor records the lectures anyway. I’ll watch it at home, I promise.”

“You better,” he warns. “And you, Kookie?”

The muscle-boy shrugs, running a hand through his dark hair, cheeks pinking over being chastised. “I couldn’t let Taehyung go around by himself. Who knows what trouble he might find himself in.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes and shoves at the other boy’s shoulder, causing a small, amused smile to break across Hoseok’s face. The dancer’s eyes swivel back to your body, and notices you’ve put space between the two of your bodies, much to his dismay. He’d found your responses to his Compulsion quite intriguing. Taehyung sidles next to his hyung, scanning your form quickly, interest piquing.

Hoseok asks, quirking a knowing brow in your direction, “Don’t you have something to say to me, YN?”

“How do you even know my name?” You reply, brow puckering in confusion.

“I figured I was at a disadvantage. You knew all this stuff about me,” he tosses a side-long glance at a trembling Mei before he continues, “But I knew nothing of you. So, I just asked around. You’re surprisingly hard to get information on.”

“That’s sort of how I like it,” you answer, edgily. “Look, if you’ve heard what she’s had to say, then we can get out of here.”

You move to try and shuffle around Hoseok and Taehyung’s solid forms, but he puts out a hand to stop you.

“Ah, ah, ah, not quite yet,” he says, stepping in front of you. “Not just yet. I still want that apology.”

“You won’t get it,” you tell him, squaring your shoulders. “I have nothing to apologise for.”

“Like hell you don’t,” he remarks, frowning. “You went out of your way to come to my home, embarrassed me in front of my neighbours, over something that you had zero knowledge about. I deserve an apology.”

Mei latches onto your sleeve, and whispers, pleadingly, “YN, just say sorry. He’s said he’ll forgive me if you do.”

“You did nothing that needs forgiving, Mei,” you deny, angrily. Quieter, you mumble, “And neither did I.” Then, directed at him, you spit, venomously, “You’ll get your apology over my dead body.”

Sniffing, you spin on your heel and drag Mei along with you, tugging at the taller girl until she’s stumbling behind you, throwing nervous looks back at the pair of handsome boys.

When you disappear from their line of sight, Taehyung rests his chin on Hoseok’s shoulder, glancing down and his brows raise in surprise. “You shouldn’t look so smug, hyung. Your face might stick that way.”

“Enough cheek from you,” Hoseok replies, shoving at Taehyung’s handsome face, playfully.

The taller of the two simply beams brightly, and across the quad, two random freshman swoon into each other, practically dissolving. The boys don’t notice – they rarely ever do, so accustomed to the attention.

Jungkook, on the other hand, doesn’t stop staring at you. His eyes don’t leave your back as you walk away, a strange desire to follow you welling up in his chest. He pays it no mind, but still, he’s aware of a niggling somewhere in his being. He’s used to being intrigued by unique things – his camera is full of photos of strange, of the inimitable, of the menacing, of the perverse. His entire art style revolves around capturing special sights and immortalising them in film. But, this sensation, the niggling in his chest, is new.

Shrugging it off as best he can, he follows behind his two hyungs to the cafeteria, where they indulge in shitty food and more jokes that have them in floods of tears. Taehyung shoves two carrots in his nose and Hoseok practically chokes on his green smoothie.

Still, when he sees hair that even so much as reminds him of your unique texture, he can’t help but let his eyes linger.

Chapter Text

Waking up extra early on the only day that you have a late class is a torturous task. You force your eyes open, to the sound of waves crashes against the shore, a wind-chime ringing loudly from beneath your fluffy pillow, and get ready for work at the café.

After a lukewarm shower to wake yourself up, you pin your hair back in two braids, throwing on your brown work shirt beneath a soft sweater, protecting you from the chilly weather outside your apartment. Peeking a head into your housemate’s bedroom, you leave her with a kiss on her forehead, to which she whines and swats at you, weakly, before falling back into unconsciousness.

“Cutie,” you mumble, before closing her door and leaving, coffee in a large insulated tumbler and you rush down the street to the bus stop. You’d left some in the coffee machine for the rest of them to paw at once they dragged themselves out of bed, like usual.

“Morning, YN,” your manager sing-songs as you walk in, the bitter, crisp smell of coffee a welcoming and familiar scent that strangely calms your nerves. You don’t know why, but since your encounter with Hoseok, and by consequence, Taehyung and Jungkook, you’ve felt strangely out of sorts.

You know that you’re being silly, but when you’re walking home alone, you can’t help but glance over your shoulder, feeling eyes on you everywhere you go. Shrugging off your paranoia, you give her as bright a smile as you can afford considering the early hour, to which she returns, politely.

“Morning, Areum-ssi,” you reply, unravelling your scarf as you pass her by. “What time did you get in?”

“Not even an hour,” she replies, cheerily.

You quickly deposit your coat, gloves and scarves in the lockers in the back office, kicking into your work shoes that you kept there for safe keeping, and lock it up, before joining your manager on the shop floor, taking the dish rag from her. You say, fairly, “I’ll carry on with the set-up, you can go and organise the till and documents for the day.”

She gives you a thankful smile before doing just that. You sweep and mop the floors, set-up the coffee machines, make sure all the mugs and cups have been washed and stacked, and refill the plastic and paper cup pile so you don’t run out, working up quite the sweat while you do so. You’re just about to replenish the sugar packets when your manager comes out.

“I’ll open the doors for the morning shift,” she says, dangling the keys, playfully. “You get off at 12.”

You nod, thankful. “I appreciate you letting me swap at such short notice.”

“I understand, I get that it’s hard sometimes. I appreciate you coming in at all,” she says, pointedly.

“Is Byung-mi still not coming in on time?” You ask, with a knowing smile. The eighteen-year old had an issue with punctuality, much to your irritation.

“I might have to have another word with her about it,” she says, with a tightening of her lips. She isn’t comfortable with confronting staff. Considering her soft and gentle affect makes it hard to be assertive with employees and clients alike, you understand her plight.

As you’re wiping down the coffee pipes, you feel a presence behind you, and when you turn back to the till area, you find a sleepy-eyed student, rubbing at their eyes and yawning widely.

You greet them, with a sunny grin. “Morning! Anything I can help you with?”

Your shift goes by quickly, and half an hour before you’re supposed to clock out, you find yourself battling a long queue of people.

You’re tossing some straw wrappers in the trash, not looking at the customer, when you ask, “I’m sorry for your wait, what can I help you with?”

A soft voice, rough with a lack of sleep, and tinged with a drawl you find vaguely familiar, says, “Large black coffee, no sugar. One green tea, two pumpkin spiced lattes and a caffe mocha. One hot chocolate with extra cream.”

Another voice, higher in pitch and an infinitely livelier, tacks on, “Don’t forget the medium chai tea. He'll be murder to deal with if you forget it again."

You grab two cups and ask, “The names?”

You look at him through your lashes and are surprised by just how strikingly beautiful he is. Contrary to the slow way he talks, his appearance reminds you of that of a well-groomed cat. His eyes are sharp and are a rich brown colour, swirling like the black coffee sitting in the strainer behind you, and his lips are tinged with a blush rose pink, as he nibbles on his lower lip, absently.

The man by his side is taller, and prior to seeing him, you would have never used the word stunning to describe a man, but somehow, he embodies every inch of the typical idol look you’d lusted over in magazines with Young-mi. He’s the kind of handsome that doesn’t make sense belonging to a human being. You feel, with his plump lips, child-like wide eyes and a gently curved smile, he could ask anyone for anything and they’d give it to him without a second thought. His hair is dark, with a little forehead exposed and he’s eyeing you back, eyelids fluttering, seemingly intrigued.

“Just Yoongi is fine,” he says, brusquely, pulling you out of your reverie.

You jerk, in surprise, and scratch the name onto the cups and pass the order on to the boy manning the coffee machine. Finally, you find your voice, and stammer, “N-No problem, coming right up.”

The shorter of the two has pale skin, and his cheeks and ears pink due to the chill outside. His white blond hair is hidden under a black cap, left backwards on his head. He’s wearing a long-line coat, touching his knees. On his long but thin legs, he’s wearing dark jeans with holes at the knees, and on his feet, you can see comfy looking leather sneakers, with a thick white trim on the bottom and white laces.

The other is dressed formally, in a white button up shirt, tucked into some black fitted slacks and smart shoes, with a long-line camel coat over his shoulders and a briefcase in his hand. He looks every bit of the model you’re sure he is, and you notice that the women and men around you keep tossing him what they believe to be covert glances, instead of eating their breakfasts.

You would probably be doing the same thing, if you weren’t at work.

“How much is that going to be?” The paler one – Yoongi – prompts, quirking a straight brow slightly.

You realise you’ve just been staring at them vacantly, and you feel your ears burn in shame over being caught. Something about the blond strikes you as familiar, but you can’t put your finger on it.

With shaky hands, you tap out the order onto the till and say, “S-Sorry, uh, that’ll be 24 thousand won, please.”

He taps his card without sparing you another glance and shifts to the side, hoisting the backpack on his shoulder higher as he waits for his drinks. Unable to help yourself, you toss them covert glances every few seconds, taking in the blonde’s languid aura. You don’t know why he’s so familiar, but he is, and it’s going to bug you.

The taller one is just standing, with his hand in his pocket, scanning the confectioneries in the front glass case by the till, his eyes observing the treats with interest. You wouldn’t have thought someone so handsome and slender would ever touch goodies, but he seems to be a hairsbreadth away from buying the whole tray.

In the distance, you hear the dinging of the bell by the door, signalling the entry of another wave of customers, but you don’t pay it any mind, trying to focus on your task at hand.

A painfully familiar voice rings out, making your spine go ram-rod straight in surprise, “Jin-hyung, Yoongi-hyung! Did you get it?”

“Yes, Tae, I got your message and bought your stupid tea,” you overhear Yoongi say, his tone one-note, but you can hear the fondness as plain as day in his voice. “You could’ve just waited outside.”

“You did almost forget,” Jin tacks on, unhelpfully.

Taehyung throws his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders and pouts, deeply. “It's too cold outside, hyung!”

You continue to serve, ignoring them like the black plague, refusing to so much as glance in their direction, but that didn’t seem to save you.

“…YN?”

You feel your eyes close as you let out a frustrated puff of air, trying to maintain an air of professionalism. “Yes?”

“I didn’t know you worked here?” He says, leaning against the counter, blinking up at you with pretty dark brown eyes. He’s left the headband at home, you presume, because his shaggy hair is out free. He’s wearing a button up coat, grey in colour, and a cream scarf wrapped around his neck, with a portfolio case in his hand, a unique hand-drawn design scrawled across both sides, reminding you of the sky painted in Munch’s ‘The Scream’. 

The lady that’s next in the queue doesn’t even seem to care about being held up, too enthralled by his handsomeness, staring unabashedly at the man, who doesn’t spare her a glance.

Yoongi’s seems intrigued as he asks, “Oh, this is the girl you and Hoseok were talking about?”

They discussed you?

Taehyung nods, excitedly, gesturing to you with a bright boxy smile. Yoongi eyes you, top-to-toe, before he makes a soft noise. A ‘hm’. What’s that supposed to mean?

You give the lady a quick, tight smile, before you say to Taehyung, giving him a pointed look, “I’ve got customers, so, I’m sorry, but can I carry on serving?”

“But then I won’t get to see your pretty face, will I?” He asks, playfully batting his eyelashes your way.

You popped a spot on your forehead this morning, so the red inflamed mark is clear to anyone who looks at you – too much stress, not enough sleep – and while that doesn’t make you less pretty, you’ve certainly had days where you felt more confident.

“I appreciate that, but I really, really have to keep working,” you say, giving him a hard look before turning your attention back to the woman in the queue. “How can I help you?”

She goes about ordering, but the tall handsome boy pouts at you, huffing purposefully, looking a picture of pathetic. He points a finger in your direction and says, “Jin-hyung, YNie doesn’t want to be nice to me.”

“I know, I know, kiddo,” Jin says, playfully, handing him one set of the cup holders. “Let’s get our drinks and leave YN to get her work done, alright?”

You think, there must be a God-

“She’s always going to be here, so we can always come back, can’t we?”

On second thought, there can’t be, because really, you’ve done nothing to warrant this kind of trouble in your life. Honest. You try and be a good person, but clearly, clearly, you’ve upset a powerful, celestial being in your past life.

“You’re right, hyung,” Taehyung says, grin returning as if it never left. “See ya later, YN! Have a good day!”

Jin tosses you a two-finger salute as he exits the shop and Yoongi leaves you with a parting look filled with an emotion that you can’t distinguish, and you feel unsteady on your feet as soon as they leave.

“How do you know those three sex-bombs?” Your colleague, Minhyuk, asks once you’ve grabbed your things and are getting ready to go to your one-pm creative writing class. He bumps his hip with yours and gives you a knowing look, to which your roll your eyes, so hard that you almost pass out.

“I don’t,” you tell him, but you can see he doesn’t believe you. “Honestly! I don’t!”

He scoffs. “Fine, be that way! But if I had hotties of that calibre interested in me, I certainly wouldn’t be able to keep it secret.”

“There is no secret!” You yell, but he’s already turned his back to you and has disappeared into the back, leaving you with your thoughts and a tingling feeling down your spine.

After you sign out, you leave, waving at your colleagues and some of the familiar customers that you recognise, and make the journey to your university – not a far walk from your workplace.

You have to rush into your class, taking the stairs quickly to find your usual spot, eyes glued to your phone screen the entire way.

“Is everyone seated? Good, good. Quiet down,” your professor says, adjusting her glasses on her nose. “Everyone, look at the rubric. The assessment of the year, a presentation after eight weeks of preparation with a partner, equally weighted. Transcript and visual aid is also essential. Partners have already been assigned, so after class, look at the list outside the lecture theatre.”

You tune out most of the lecture, instead making a light plan for the presentation, already having a few authors and novels in mind.

When you focus, you realise that the book that the professor is discussing has already been consumed by you prior to attending university, so it’s not difficult for you to refocus and make your notes. You praise the Google Gods for padding the gaps in your knowledge, and you spend the lecture bouncing between your assignments, making sparse notes and scanning Twitter whenever you find yourself zoning out.

Before long, you realise everyone is packing up to leave for their next class, and you scramble to do the same. Having long-drained your coffee and having replaced it with the rich expensive cocoa that you use at your job and having finished that too during the lecture, your bladder screams at you to empty it.

Avoiding the huddle outside of the lecture theatre, you sprint to the bathroom and do your business quickly. Once you finish, you wash your hands and return to the lecture theatre, to see who you’ve been paired with. You’re grateful that you’ve got such a relaxed personality, and for the most part, you get along with everyone – although you wouldn’t consider many of them your friends, and merely acquaintances.

Scanning the names quickly, you speedily find your own, and your knees almost buckle at the name that’s typed out beside your own.

Kim Taehyung.

You hadn’t noticed the brown-haired model in your class this afternoon, in fact, you hadn’t ever noticed him in your class at all, so to see his name next to yours – it’s inconceivable.

“Howdy, partner,” a voice murmurs from your side, and you jerk away to realise that the very man who plagues your thoughts is directly beside you. He gives you an exaggerated once over before he remarks, voice as soft and mellifluous as ever, like thick treacle running over a flat surface, “Oh, you finally noticed me, huh?”

Without his coat on, you only see the long lines of his body; long fingers, long legs, long arms that cross over his broad chest.

“You aren’t even in this class,” you tell him, certain.

He rolls his eyes, and even that action is pretty. You curse him in your head. “I sure am. You don’t pay attention to anybody behind you, do you? Too busy on social media, I guess.”

“That’s an invasion of privacy,” you gasp out.

He laughs, head thrown back in amusement, and it sounds like flowers blooming. That doesn’t even make sense, and yet, it - he - strikes you silent. “It’s not if I happened upon the information by accident. I sit directly behind you, and you’re short. It’s not my fault.” He holds his hands up, to assuage his culpability, and says, “Not that you can prove anyway.”

“Whatever,” you snap, spinning on your heels. “I don’t have time for this.”

“That’s okay. We have two whole months to get to know each other,” he says, pushing off the wall and falling in-step with you. “What class do you have next?”

Glancing at him, suspiciously, you query, “Why do you care?”

“I want to get to know you,” he admits, with a shrug. “Is that a crime?”

“I’ve never spoken to you in the whole time I’ve been at this university,” you tell him. “And now, after the incident with your idiot brother, all I’m seeing is your face. What a coincidence.”

His eyes get sharp when you mention Hoseok, but he doesn’t say anything. The smile doesn’t even leave his face, to the point where it becomes alarming.

“It’s not often that I find someone I think is interesting, so I can’t help but be drawn to you,” he replies, simply. You pause outside of your next anthropology class – history of female sexuality – and crane your neck to stare up at him, brow puckering. He’s too close to you, you can smell his expensive cologne and it makes your head spin. In a bold move, he ducks down a little, so you can count the lashes framing his expressive brown eyes. “Is that so bad?”

You feel yourself swallow, feeling pathetic and small for how quick your ire extinguishes into a shy flutter of butterflies in your tummy. Although he and his brothers set you on edge, something about their aura separates them from the rest of your peers, making them intrinsically special – and dangerous, a voice whispers in your mind. You would be a liar if you said that he wasn’t painfully handsome. And, handsome men had a direct line to your genitals, apparently.

“J-Just… Leave me alone,” you tell him, twisting out from under him and shouldering into your classroom.

He pokes his head in, watching you climb the stairs to the available seat, and he yells, “So, I’ll pick you up tonight, then, YNie?”

You freeze all over, feeling eyes glue to the back of your head. Stiffly, you toss a vitriolic glare his way, but the only response you get is a soft giggle and the lingering scent of Dior Homme on your clothes.

 

Chapter Text

“She’s awfully fun to play around with,” Taehyung comments, tossing more of his chocolate covered almonds into his mouth. He hands some over to Jimin and Jungkook, who open their palms, without shifting their eyes from the TV screen. “She refuses to bend to any of my requests. She’s so cute.”

“You think? I haven’t met her yet, but I’ve heard about her,” the pink-haired dancer says, peeling an orange and tossing the rind into the bin as if it were a basketball. He hands a third to Jungkook and another third to Taehyung. “One of the girls in my contemporary class, Young-mi, is apparently close with her.”

Jungkook nods, stomach swooping strangely at the mention of you. “She’s a little headstrong but, from what I can tell, she’s a nice girl.”

“Hyung’s been trying, unsuccessfully, to break her down,” Taehyung says, excitedly. “He gets so mad when she just brushes him off.”

“It serves him right,” the youngest says, pushing some of his cherry red hair from his eyes. He recently bleached and dyed his locks, finally taking the leap to drastically change his appearance. Taehyung had been the one to do it for him, experienced with bleach and dye, and he’s proud of his work, liking how to colour contrasts with the maknae’s honeyed skin. “He’s too cocky sometimes, especially with girls.”

The way the older boys ran through girls never really appealed to Jungkook, considering he’s just come out the back end of a long-term relationship, only ending because his ex-girlfriend thought it pertinent to sleep with someone else during Freshers’ Week at her campus in Daejeon. He wasn’t a sucker, and he wouldn’t forgive cheating, no matter how much he loved her. That had been one of his hard limits, and she knew that. He's a stickler for faithfulness.

“You’re only saying that because you haven’t experienced women,” Taehyung says, making a lewd gesture with his hands, as if he were squeezing soft globes in his hands. Jungkook didn't need to a mind-reader to know where his head was at. His lips pull up in a salacious smirk, fangs peeking out dangerously. “They’re addicting.”

Jungkook snorts, turning back to the TV. “Are you forgetting that I’m not a virgin anymore, hyung?”

Taehyung lets out a gentle laugh at Jungkook’s affronted gawk. “No, silly. I mean, once you start to actively, you know, sleep around. You realise how fun it is. How easy it is. How good it feels. You and Seugi were dating for like, what, a year before you took that step?”

The maknae nods, adjusting his circle-framed glasses on the end of his nose. “It didn’t really feel great, either. Like, okay, it felt good, but in my head, I kind of thought, well, ‘is this it?’ You know?”

Jimin puts a hand on his shoulder, sending him an empathetic look, flipping his fluffy pink hair from his eyes. "You deserved better than that."

Taehyung gives him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience.”

“Seulgi was fine, I was fine. It just wasn’t meant to be,” he supposes, shrugging. Taehyung can scent the frustration on the maknae, but he leaves him be. Kookie deals with his emotions in a relatively healthy way, so he can’t complain, especially knowing that after his first break-up, he was in a much worse state, emotionally.

Jimin says, clapping his hands together, “That’s enough about this depressing stuff. Tell me about YN.”

Taehyung can’t stop the grin from reappearing on his face and he goes off, cheerily, “She’s funny, and fiery, despite her size. Even Yoongi-hyung thinks she’s interesting. He keeps going to her workplace, even though we have a coffee shop nearer to our apartment. He keeps pretending like he doesn’t, but I see the coffee cups in his car.”

Jimin’s brow raises at that, knowing how disengaged Yoongi likes to be with near enough everyone outside of their coven. To have caught his eye, and maintained his interest, there needs to be something noteworthy about you. He asks, “What does she look like?”

“She won’t accept my Instagram request otherwise I would show you,” the artist mumbles, put out, staring at his phone screen, icon with your name and the word ‘pending’ beside it, sending a new flash of annoyance through him. “And she doesn’t have any pictures on Line. Or, maybe I’ve been blocked from them – I don’t know. She’s being really difficult.”

Jimin shifts on the floor, adjusting himself to get more comfortable, before he asks, “Are you- Are you interested in her, as a woman? Or, just as something to play with?”

“Neither,” he admits. The idea of using you for sex hadn’t even come into his mind, strangely enough. The late nights in the library working on your content of the presentation, he’d never thought of trying it on with you. He thinks you’d smack him into the sun if he did. He’s not ashamed to say that he’s somewhat thrilled by the fact. “She’s fun to be around.”

Jimin rears back to stare at the artist, and he lets out a low whistle. “Well I’ll be damned. Taehyung finally seeing a girl as a person, and not a hole.”

“Let’s not be crude,” Taehyung chastises, with an amused look. “Her mouth is sharp enough to keep my penis disengaged.”

Jungkook perks up and, playfully, presses his finger into his ear, pretending to be a service agent. In a funny voice, he says, “The weapon has been holstered. I repeat, the weapon has been holstered.”

Taehyung shoves at him, laughing loudly. “Both of you are idiots.”

“Did I hear you guys mention YN?” Namjoon asks, stepping into the room from where he’s been holed up, writing up a composition on some long-dead homophobic poet from the 1700s. His eyes are puffy from a lack of sleep and he’s sipping on his AB-neg like it’s his lifeline. “Hoseok keeps talking about her, I’m starting to hear her name in my dreams.”

The two boys share a room. As do Jimin and Jin, Taehyung and Jungkook, which leaves Yoongi in the smallest room by himself. The white-blond composer often stayed up late, putting together his pieces, editing his tracks and playing instruments well into the night, as to not bother his room-mate, he elected to take the single room by himself. Plus, he prefers his own company, unlike someone like Jimin or Taehyung, who thrives around more people.

Taehyung bounces excitedly on the floor, making space for the leader of their coven to sidle beside him. When he drops down, Taehyung notices the smell of shampoo and body wash, realising that Joon must have just come out of the shower.

Unhappily, Jungkook pokes at the bags under Namjoon’s eyes, and asks, frowning, “What time did you get to sleep, hyung?”

“I didn’t,” he admits, ashamedly. “This composition is pretty important, and the professor is an ass, so he doesn’t give extensions, save for like… death. So, it was either sacrifice sleep, or sacrifice my grade.”

Jimin prompts, “But, you’ve finished now?”

He takes a long drag of the bagged blood, finishing it and crushing it in his hands. “Yep. Submitted and now, I finally feel like I can breathe.”

“Then, why aren’t you in bed?” The chastising tone of his voice surprises Jimin, Taehyung and Namjoon, but Jungkook appears serious. “You should be resting.”

“I have work,” he tells them, glumly. “The aquarium gave me a few days off to finish, thankfully, but I’ve got to go in for a couple of hours, just to show my face and make up for the time I took off.”

Hyuuung,” Jungkook whines, unhappily. “You’re running yourself into the ground.”

“It’ll be fine,” he says, ruffling his hair. “Oh, that’s what’s different about you. Your hair. It looks good, Kookie. Who did it?”

Taehyung gestures to his face, extravagantly flipping his hair. “Moi.”

“It’s good. You always were good with hair,” he runs a hand through his own honey-blond locks, having been done by the same talented hands.

“My mom is a hair technician,” he tells the two of them. “If I weren’t good with hair, I’m sure it’d somehow offend her.”

They chuckle, enjoying the amicable silence, before Namjoon drifts off in Taehyung’s lap. “He’s more tired than he lets on,” he mumbles, carding a hand through his hair as he lightly snores in his lap.

“I hate it,” Jungkook admits, pouting. “He’s always doing so much for us, working himself when he doesn’t need to. He deserves a break.”

“Shall we treat him? We could drive down to the beach again,” Jimin says, wistfully recalling their three-day excursion, dropping all their responsibilities and just escaping from the pressures of their family life, of their titles, of their blood bonds. They just got to be a group of teenagers, for once. “We all could use it.”

He can tell that Jungkook is thinking the same as he is, by the wistful, nostalgic smile on his face. He nods. “Yeah, hyung. That sounds good. But, for now, can we let him sleep a little? He won’t have work until four or so. It’s not even midday yet.”

“Of course, Kook,” he says. The maknae retrieves a blanket and throws it over Namjoon’s shoulders. The leader lets out a happy sigh and nuzzles closer into Taehyung’s gut, throwing an arm around his tummy.

“He’s such a snuggler,” Taehyung laughs, quietly, playing with the metal at the cuff on his own ear. “He’s so cute.”

/

“He’s so weird,” you complain to yourself, tossing your mug in the sink and flicking on the hot water. You’d just finished a shift at work and had come home to a messy kitchen area, a frustrated grunt escaping your throat at the sight, but you clean up because if you don’t, and you still see it tomorrow morning, you’ll want to bury your housemates. “What kind of person does that? They’re all so fucking weird.

“Who’s so weird?” Mei asks, joining you in the kitchen. She has a bowl of what was ramen in her hands, and sheepishly hands it over to you to wash out. You don’t even care to glare at her, simply dropping it into the hot water to soak, like the other pots and pans. “You’re making the Face.”

Intrigued, you echo, brow furrowing, “What Face?”

“The ‘I’m going to kill you and eat your kids’ face,” she says, grabbing a banana from the fruit basket atop the small fridge. “You usually reserve it for men at the bar who keep pestering you. And I know you haven’t been out for a long time, so what gives?”

“That’s because I’m too busy to go out. If I don’t have class, I have work. If I don’t have work, I’m in the library for this stupid project,” you whine, wanting to stamp your colourful sock clad feet against the linoleum and turn to begin washing the dishes. “But, thinking about it, I don’t have work next Saturday morning. Maybe I can sleep in.”

“You’re such a grandma,” she laughs. “Next weekend, there’s a house party over at the EXO frat house. Do you want to go?”

“Hm. Do I, also, want a yeast infection? The same answer applies,” you sass, grabbing a sponge and scrubbing at the stubborn red stains on the plates from last night.

She grimaces at the image. “Gross.”

You blow her a kiss and she catches it, holding it to her heart, before she asks, “Who were you talking about when I came in?”

You grumble, “Oh, just Kim Taehyung. In fact, all of those Bangtan Boys.”

The subject is still a little sore for her, remembering Hoseok’s cold attitude towards her a few weeks ago, although she says he’s been nothing but cordial with her since then. She ducks her head, shyly, and asks, “Have you- Have you, maybe, spoken to h-him since?”

You try not to wince at the reminder. You’ve tried to avoid him, but for some reason, since you found yourself on his radar, he pops up at the strangest times. When you and Taehyung have been in the library for hours, working on your project, he would drop in the seat opposite to you, feigning conversation with his brother before staring you down.

When you’d finished in the swimming pool at ass o’clock in the morning after a long study session, you walk out, hair still wet, to see him entering the pool at exact the same time. He’s been delightfully shirtless, but you couldn’t even concentrate on the trail of dark hair leading beneath his swim shorts, nor his literal washboard abs, because you were so shocked at the time, sliding onto your ass.

He even popped up at your work, but you’d been in the back at the time, only spotting his ostentatiously bright jacket as he left. You knew it was him because of the shape of his back and his expensive Mercedes parked outside.

You shake off your stupor and reply, edgily, “Who? Hoseok? Absolutely not. His brother, on the other hand, won’t seem to leave me alone. Plus, the older one- uh, what’s his name? Yoongi? He came to my work the other day. Again.

She looks at you in shock, and babbles, “You- Do you know how lucky you are to interact with them so closely? Do you know how many girls would literally, and I mean literally, do anything to have that kind of luck?”

You nearly buckle over from how hard you laugh, the sound lacking all amusement. “Lucky? Are you kidding me? They’re a menace.”

She laughs and gives you a seedy look, mimicking claws and pawing at you. “Menacingly attractive.”

Grimacing down at the soapy water, you reprimand, “Okay, one, ew. Don’t say that ever again. And two, they’re upsetting my chakras. Clogging my flow. Obstructing my waves.”

“You’re an idiot,” she laughs.

“I’m your idiot,” you reply, winking at her, before letting out a sigh. “I’m going to be stuck with Taehyung for another month or so, but I refuse to interact with any of the others. They give me major weird vibes.”

She echoes, a cute pout to her lips, “Weird vibes?”

You nod, vehemently. “Are you telling me you’ve never felt it before? They don’t feel- I don’t know, they don’t feel like they’re one of us.”

“Taehyung’s nickname among the student body is Alien, because he’s so quirky, if that’s what you mean,” she suggests, tossing the banana skin in the trash.

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” you mumble, but you can’t think of how to explain it, so you drop the topic. “Whatever. Look, I’m gonna kick ass on this presentation and get a hundred, and there’s no way Gucci Boi is going to stop me from doing just that.”

She squeals out a laugh at the nickname you gave the tall artist, nearly falling off her chair in amusement, before she glances at her phone. “Oh, shoot. I’ve got to get going.”

You ask, sympathetically, “Do you have work?”

She glances at you, shyly, and instantly, you’re intrigued. “I’ve actually got a date?”

You clap your hands together, forgetting that they’re lathered in soap and so the blowback has bubbles flying into your face and mouth. Spluttering, you ask, excitedly, “Who is this guy? What’s his name? Where did you meet?”

“Not enough time to explain,” she tells you, grabbing her pretty heels from the front door. “He’s nice though, I promise! No shadiness this time. I’ll text you when I’m on my way home, okay? I shouldn’t be too late.”

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” you call after her.

She laughs, playfully. “Then I wouldn’t do anything, YN!”

Leaving you with your thoughts, you finish washing the dishes mechanically, and disappear into your room, to finish off your anthropology assignment for the week, and add some notes to your end of year applied linguistics essay. You know it’s early, but you’d rather be on top and ahead, than lacking and behind in your studies.

Before long, you realise that hours have passed, and Mei hasn’t contacted you at all, despite the few messages you’ve sent her. You don’t want to overwhelm her, or cock block on accident, so you let her be. But, something in you feels anxious, and you can’t put your finger on why you feel so confused.

Just as you get out of the shower, you hear the tail-end of your ring-tone signalling an incoming call, but you’re too slow to answer it in time.

Glancing at your front screen, you see an unknown number, that you call back instantly.

“Hello, Seoul General Hospital. How may I help you ?”

Chapter Text

Rushing through the front doors of the hospital, sweat dripping down your temple, you nearly collide with a passing nurse, who you grab by the elbow and ask, “M-My f-friend. I got a c-call… S-Surgery?”

The nurse stares down at you, confusion overtaking her features, before understanding blossoms mere moments later. She echoes, “Your friend is in surgery?”

You nod, wildly, and with shaky hands, you take out your phone. “M-My friend.”

Gesturing to the picture on the front screen shows you, Young-mi and Mei Li, at your last girl’s trip to Mei Li’s hometown, dressed in traditional, vibrant yukata during a summer festival in Japan.

She asks, kind eyes taking in your trembling form, “Her name?”

“Mei Li,” you tell her, legs feeling like jelly. “She’s nineteen, a freshman.”

“Come with me,” she says, gently leading you towards the nurse’s station. She spends a couple of seconds tapping away at the screen, before she tells you, “Your friend just came out of surgery and is in her recovery room.”

You plead, “What happened to her?”

“I can’t give that information,” she says, apologetically. “Her doctor would be able to inform you about the specifics of her injuries.”

“Which room?”

“405, bed 6,” she informs you and after a lax bow, you rush off, taking the elevator to the fourth floor.

You had already sent Young-mi a text about the call you got – apparently you were Mei Li’s emergency contact, considering her parents were both back in Japan and she had nobody but her housemates to rely on – but she was still at work, and would be until after midnight. You didn’t know how you were going to cope by yourself.

Biting your nails as you shuffle down the hallway, eyes scanning the door numbers until you find the appropriate one and you almost burst into the room. The only thing that keeps you restrained is the fact that there are other people around her, in their own beds, recovering from a medley of injuries and illnesses.

Spotting her bed right at the end of the room closest to the window, you notice the gurney is hidden from sight by a blandly decorated curtain. After exhaling, sharply, you draw it back with trembling hands, to see Mei Li, slumbering. Her skin is clearly pale and tinged with grey, bruised already blossoming across her exposed skin, hidden beneath the scrubs on her shoulders. You spot all sorts of insertions leading to an IV drip and the heart monitor to the left of her, and the sight nearly brings you to your knees.

The doctor doing rounds steps into the room and takes stock of you – your quivering hands, your tear-streaked face, your ruddy cheeks – and asks, quietly, “Are you related to this patient?”

“She’s m-my housemate, I’m her e-emergency contact,” you explain. He notices how unsteady you are and offers you a seat. Dropping into the chair, you lean your forehead against the edge of the bed, careful to avoid Mei’s legs, and turn to look at her, unable to tear your eyes from the bandaged injuries to her neck and chest. “What happened to her?”

“She seems to have been a victim of a canine attack,” he says, carefully checking over her chart. “There were heavy lesions to her throat and chest area, deep bite marks that almost severed the arteries in her throat, but thankfully, it wasn’t deep enough to cause long-lasting damage to her vocal cords. The breathing machine is there just to help her through the night while she’s unconscious.”

You swallow, feeling the final vestiges of adrenaline leave your system, and you slump in your seat, like a puppet after it’s strings get cut. You ask, rubbing at your eyes behind your glasses, “When is she going to wake up?”

“Once the anaesthesia works itself out of her system, she’ll wake up on her own. It could be a few hours, though,” he tells you. “She was signed in by someone with the name Kim Namjoon. Do you recognise the name?”

Kim Namjoon? One of the Bangtan Boys? Vaguely, you remember the junior having the same name, but you can’t imagine why he’d have helped your friend, or why he would’ve been out so late at night.  Shaking your head free of those errant thoughts, you turn to the doctor and reply, “I-I think so. He- He was the one who brought her in?”

The doctor nods. “According to these notes, yes. He brought her in, waited until her surgery was done, paid the fee and left.”

You feel small and pathetic but knowing that her fees had been covered fills you with a brief sense of relief, as you don’t know how you would’ve helped cover it after the fact.  Pushing some hair behind your ear, you enquire, “Did he leave a contact number?”

“No, once we contacted you, we didn’t need his information besides his name,” he tells you, tucking the chart back in place at the end of the bed. “Shall we contact her parents?”

“I’ll do it. I’ll let them know,” you reply. “I’ll stay with her until she wakes up. Thank you, doctor.”

He nods, the two of you exchange bows and he moves on to the next patient, leaving you to your whirring thoughts.

Shakily, you reach out to grab her hand, knitting your fingers together, but her face doesn’t so much as twitch in response, and while you’re disappointed, you can’t help but be a little comforted by the fact that she’s asleep and away from the pain of the injuries scattered across her body.

The shock has finally started to wear off, and you feel yourself becoming drained, the adrenaline leaving your body, but your nerves are still primed and alert, leaving you exhausted and wobbly.

Mei Li has always been a scaredy-cat, so you can’t imagine her approaching a dog big enough to caught so much damage to her body willingly. It just doesn’t fit her character. There are too many parts of the story that are missing, too many gaps that only Mei, and you suppose Kim Namjoon, can fill, and it’s giving you a tension headache.

A couple of hours pass before Young-mi’s terrified call comes through, and as concisely as you can, you explain the situation and she promises to be there as quick as possible. It doesn’t take long, and you worry that she had ignored some traffic laws to get to the hospital as far as she could.

As soon as your eyes land on her shaken form, you let out a low cry and break down in her arms. Instead of disturbing the other patients, who have long since fallen asleep, the two of you step out into the hallway and cry in each other’s arms.

“It’s already so late,” she mumbles, a few minutes later, once you’ve both been reduced to sniffles and red cheeks. She squeezes your hand once and asks, quietly, “Don’t you want to go home? I’ll wait until she wakes up.”

“You’ve been at the diner all evening,” you tell her, shaking your head. “I’ll stay, you go home.”

“Not to be annoying, but you look terrible, YN,” she tells you, pushing your hair back. “Go home, shower and change.”

“I showered before I came,” you reply, defensively. “I don’t smell bad, do I?”

“No, but you just look…” she breaks off, grimacing. “You look like you need a breather.”

“What I need is a cigarette,” you murmur, rubbing your eyes in frustration. She gives you a venomous glare, to which you hold up your hands and say, “I told you I quit.”

She holds your hand and gives it a tight squeeze. “Go home, YN, and get some sleep. I’ll call you as soon as she wakes up.”

“I don’t want to leave her,” you state, staring at the door in front of you.

She shakes her head. “I don’t have classes on Fridays, so I can stay. Please, you look like you’re about to keel over. You’re worrying me more than Mei is right now. She’s safe, she’s recovering, she’s okay.”

Letting out a long-winded sigh, you eventually concede to her demands. She gives you a gentle smile before shoving some bills into your palm and telling you to take a cab. She tucks some of your stray hair behind your ear and says, seriously, “It’s too late at night for you to be taking the late buses.”

After kissing Mei on her forehead and making Young-mi promise once more to give you a call, you find yourself in a cab, driving down the roads towards your shared apartment in Hongdae. Staring out into the blanket of darkness that has cocooned your city, you feel something twist and turn inside of your chest - intrigue, curiosity, fascination.

The tail-end of an errant thought catches your attention, turning quickly into a badly-formed plan. Determination blooms in your chest, and in resolution, you set your shoulders and lean forward, to tell the cab driver to change directions.

“I have to see somebody about something serious, so if you could drive to this address quickly, I’d appreciate it.”

Chapter Text

Stepping out into the chilly weather, you realise that it’s nearing one in the morning and your body is exhausted, but you know you won’t be able to sleep if you don’t figure out what happened, and the only person you can go to lives at this address.

Walking into the decorative foyer of the expensive building, barely taking in the smooth marble floors, the white stone pillars holding up an outrageously high ceiling,

you lock eyes with the singular concierge behind the desk. He’s dressed in a suit, hair slick back and appearance perfect, despite the late hour. He takes one look at you, narrowing his eyes briefly at your unkempt appearance, before the perfunctory smile takes place.

He greets you, politely, head inclining slightly in interest, “Hello, Miss. May I help you?”

“I’m looking for Kim Namjoon’s floor,” you tell him, not having the energy to come up with an appropriate lie. “It’s important.”

His eyes narrow fractionally, and he says, “Unfortunately, I will not be able to give you that information.”

For the first time, you regret with your whole being never taking Taehyung up on his offers to come study at his apartment. You’d always been too hesitant, too wary, to be in his home, away from the safety of the prying eyes in the library and study hall. He’d always offered, and he seemed genuine enough, but still – you felt weary. If you had, maybe you’d have more information to use.

“I understand all of that, but I need to talk to him,” you reply. Leaning your elbows against the marble desk, you say, “If you could just ask him to come down, I’d be really appreciative.”

“Like I said, Miss, I won’t be able to disturb the residents this late at night,” he says. “If you knew his apartment number, you could use the phone to call up and he could grant you access to the building.”

“I don’t know it,” you answer, frustration building at the front of your head. Rubbing at the sore spot, you say, “I’m not interested in coming back here. He has some information about something that happened to my friend, and I need to speak with him.”

The man sets his jaw and replies, “Then, I would suggest trying to contact him directly at another time.”

Letting out a huff of frustration, you rest your head against the cool marble and whine, “My friend is in the hospital and I can’t do anything but cry outside of some jerk’s apartment. Today truly is the most pathetic I’ve felt in a while.”

“YN?”

You perk up at the call of your name, turning around to see Taehyung’s cautious expression fill your line of sight. He looks awfully comfy, the way he’s dressed, and he cards his hand through his damp brown hair, grin widening. “I knew it was you. I’d recognise the line of your back from anywhere.”

“That’s not remotely perverted at all,” you tell him, humourlessly.

“Is something wrong? Your face is all puffy,” he says, approaching you. Tilting your head with the crook of his finger, he lets out a light hiss, expression darkening. “You’re almost crying. Why?”

You push your glasses into your hair and scrub at your eyes, banishing your tears with the sleeve of your sweater. “The weather outside is windy, that’s why I cried.”

The break in your voice on the last words makes him grimace, and he says, softer, gentler, a note of tenderness that makes your stomach flip, “Talk to me.”

“Why do you care?”

He shrugs. “I care because you’re a friend of mine. And I worry about my friends, even the stubborn ones.”

“We aren’t friends,” you inform him, tightly. “Your brother wants to beat my ass.”

“Ah, hyung wouldn’t do that,” he teases, lips pulling up into a carefree smile, glad that your tears have subsided. He’d prefer you to be smiling, of course, but progress is progress, he supposes. “He’s just not used to getting his way, is all.”

“He’s spoiled,” you huff, dirty shoes squeaking as you kick at the marble floor.

He nods, in agreement, or to placate you – you don’t know – and asks, mischievously, “Did you come all this way to tell him that again?”

You shake your head. “I need to talk to Namjoon.”

His brow puckers, in confusion, before he asks, “Namjoonie-hyung? Why?”

“He helped my friend,” you explain, desperately. “I just want to ask him a couple of questions about what happened.”

Taehyung plays with the metal dangling from his ear, and suggests, “Why don’t you ask her?”

“She’s still unconscious. Young-mi said she’ll call me when she wakes up,” you gesture to your phone, but when the device doesn’t respond, you let out a gentle curse. “Fuck, it died.”

“Come on up. Joonie-hyung should be home, and you can charge your phone all you like,” he offers, helpfully. When he notices your hesitancy, he lets out a light chuckle. “We really don’t bite, YN.” Then, he grabs your wrist, pulling you towards the elevator. He throws a wave at the baffled concierge and says, enthusiastically, “Thanks, Kyungsoo-ssi. Get some rest, okay?”

You feel the concierge’s disapproving stare, but you refuse to spare him a glance back, although you want nothing more than to childishly stick your tongue out in his direction.

The ride up to their floor – the top floor, your brain supplies – is silent, save for Taehyung humming along to some trot song that’s running through his brain. He doesn’t let go of your hand the entire way up. When the doors open, he tugs you down the hall, and taps in the code to their apartment, pulling open the doors and nudging you inside. Instantly, you’re met with the scent of rosewood and vanilla.

Sniffing experimentally, you make a face, and Taehyung giggles. “It’s Jungkook. He likes sweet smelling things, so he’s been buying oil diffusers to put around the house.”

“It’s good,” you admit, kicking off your shoes, awkwardly.

He beams before gesturing with his head to the corridor to the left. “Come. Joonie should be in his room.”

“I’ll wait here,” you reply, planting your feet. The lounge area felt more neutral than walking deeper into their personal spaces, potentially nearing their bedrooms. You feel so out of your comfort zone, and you know that it shows on your face.

“Suit yourself,” he answers, still just as bubbly. “Take a seat in the living room and we’ll be out in a second, okay?”

You nod, shuffling into the living area, taking note of the cream, deep green and brown colour scheme, the crystalline centrepiece dangling from the high ceiling, the picturesque sight that greets you from the lofty windows. It looks like something out of a furniture magazine, not somewhere that a bunch of university students live.

“I hear someone’s looking for me?” An unfamiliar voice rings out, deep and gentle, a light airiness twisting around every consonant. His voice doesn’t match his appearance, wearing an oversized shirt dangling from his broad and tall frame, with some matching baggy pants. Fluffy honey-blond hair atop his head sticks all over, as if he’d just been woken up. “YN, right? Taehyung has told us a lot about you.”

Unwinding your arms from around your middle (when had you done that, you wonder), you reach out to shake his hand and his brows climb his forehead in surprise. “T-Thank you, for helping my f-friend.”

He takes in your trembling hands, your watery eyes, your wobbly bottom lip, and lets out a soft sigh. “I’m glad she’s okay. I didn’t mean to leave without making sure she had someone with her, but I had a previous engagement and I had to leave.”

“N-No. You g-got her to the h-hospital,” you assure him, holding his hand tighter. “T-Thank you.”

He glances down at your joined hands, a grimace on his face, before uncoupling your hands and playing with the hair at the nape of his neck, shyly. “I didn’t do anything, really.”

“What happened? I can’t- It doesn’t make sense, so please, can you tell me what you remember?”

His eyes get a strangely guarded light to them, before he nods. “Take a seat?”

You both do, and you turn to watch him. He doesn’t seem happy with you being here, but he’s accepting of your presence, if only to assuage your sadness. He’s sympathetic, but he doesn’t reach out to physically console you, and he was uncomfortable with you touching him earlier.

In short, he didn’t like you being in his presence.

He begins, “I was walking home from work, passing by some bars, a couple convenience stores. Then, I walked past an alley, near an arcade and bowling alley. And something, I don’t know, I just caught the sight of her dress on the floor. She was all crumpled up in the corner and covered in blood. I just- I couldn’t just leave her by herself, so I grabbed her up and took a cab to the hospital. End of story.”

“The doctor mentioned something about a dog.”

“I didn’t see a dog,” he spits the word out, before pausing, reigning in the surprising flash anger in his expression. “But the injuries were… extensive. I wouldn’t be surprised if she did get bit by a dog.”

With a hand to your mouth, you ask, contemplatively, “You said she was in an alley?”

He nods.

“Mei Li is severely claustrophobic, she wouldn’t have been in an alley, regardless of time, but especially not at night,” you mumble. “That just doesn’t make sense.”

“I don’t what to tell you, but… that’s what happened,” he tells you, but he’s staring out of the window. You don’t want to say he’s avoiding your eyes, but he certainly won’t look at you when you try and catch his gaze. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

“No… No, you did enough, thank you,” you say, frown deepening the more you thought about his words.

Taehyung bounds into the room, excitedly, and announces, “YNie, I found a charger for you. Give me your phone.”

He takes your phone, surveying its cracked screen for a second in displeasure, before he shoves the device into the wall. He sits on the floor at your feet, blinking up at you with big eyes, before he asks, “Did you get everything you needed from Joonie?”

You lick your lips, grimacing before you nod. “He- He told me what he knew, so for that, I’m appreciative.”

The tall man nods, pushing his hair from his eyes and he moves to stand up. “It’s getting late and I have a morning lecture, so I guess I’ll see you around?”

You nod, distractedly, and he disappears down the hall, back to where he came from, sleepily dragging his feet as he goes. You miss the heated look that he and Taehyung share over your head.

Finally, you become aware of your surroundings and the awkward atmosphere that you can practically feel suffocating you, you say, “Taehyung, I’ll just get a cab and charge my phone at home. There’s not enough time.”

“You don’t have a class until midday tomorrow,” he says, pouting. Putting on a childish voice, he pleads, blinking up at you prettily, “Stay for a little while?”

Staring down at him, you enquire, curtly, “And do… what, exactly?”

“Just talk,” he replies, that boxy smile still in place. “I want to get to know you some more.”

“Taehyung…”

He echoes, with a playful wink, “YN…”

“Wait, how do you know my class schedule?” You frown as you query the bright-eyed artist.

He shrugs, unabashedly. “You can get any information if you pay enough for it.”

Your brows raise in surprise. “You paid someone to find out my schedule?”

“I didn’t pay with money, if that makes you feel better,” he says, lips pouting. “If you must know, I went on a date with a secretary.”

With a smirk, you ask, “So, you prostituted yourself to find out which classes I’m in?”

He slaps your knee lightly, the warmth from his palm soaking through your sweats. “YNie, if I were to engage in sex work, I promise you the price would be much higher than just a simple date. Plus, we respect sex workers in this household.”

Unable to help yourself, you let out a soft giggle of your own, and he seems so proud of himself for being the one to make you do it that he does a little dance on the spot. “YNie’s laugh is so pretty.”

“Ugh, I look a mess,” you tell him, pushing your hair out of your face.

He nods. “You do look like you’ve had a rough night. Tell me about it?”

You let out a soft sigh, and decide that, while you’re waiting, you might as well tell him. It’s only when you start to talk that you realise just how much you’ve been needing to say. He’s a good listener, an amazing one, acknowledging your pain with a strangely serious expression on his face, thick brows pushed together when you recall seeing your friend, grey-skinned and unconscious in the hospital room. You talk until there’s nothing else to say, until you’ve exhausted every word, every stress, every complaint that has been weighing on your chest for the last few weeks. You contemplate letting him know about your worries about your parents, their health, your work, your tuition – there’s something compelling about the way he sits, how carefully blank his face is.

You really feel as if he’s not just listening, but he’s hearing you.

He pushes his lips up in a curious pout and enquires, “Mei Li? The sociology major that Hobi-hyung was dating?”

You nod, feeling tears fall once more. He brushes them away with the corner of his finger, seemingly unconsciously, staring at the offensive bubble of liquid before wiping it away on his pants. He rests the side of his face on the chair, staring up at you, and he whispers, hand resting on your knee, a comforting weight, “YNie, I really don’t like seeing you cry.”

“’m sorry,” you mumble, sniffling pathetically. “I just really want her to be okay.”

“She will be,” he guarantees, and his positivity, his assuredness makes you falter for a moment. You feel yourself getting lost in the chocolate orbs of his eyes, shining dully under the dim lights overhead. He looks so certain and solid and real that you feel your sob catch in your throat, almost as if you were under a spell. “She’ll be nothing but okay. So, stop worrying yourself sick over it. You’ll make me worry.”

Letting out a shaky breath, you nod along with him, and he beams, knocking you over with just how pretty he looks, despite the early hour. You uncurl your legs (when had you gotten that comfortable in his house that you felt okay putting your feet on his couch?) and stretch your arms over your head. “What time is it?”

“Nearly three,” he replies, letting out a surprisingly wide yawn, nostrils flaring before his face returns to his regular handsomeness. “You seemed to need to get quite a bit off your chest.”

“Are you kidding me?” You nearly vault over his body to get to the phone, and sure enough, you have a few missed calls from Young-mi, and a picture of Mei, fragile-looking with her eyes cracked open ever so slightly, and you feel your legs give out before you can save yourself.

“YN, be careful,” Taehyung chastises when you collide with the floor. “Your knees might get bruised.”

He moves to shove the legs of your sweats up your calf to check the area, but you wiggle away. He frowns down at your refusal, eyes narrowing slightly. You stammer out a pathetic explanation, “My legs- I haven’t shaved them in a while.”

He stares at you, blankly, before letting out longest wail of a laugh that you’ve ever heard. His eyes are practically leaking with how funny he finds your honesty, and he wipes them away with the back of his hand.

“YN, p-please, never change,” he pleads, grin disarming. “I don’t care about leg hair. Everyone grows it. You should see Jimin sometimes. You could probably braid his leg hair.”

Letting out a bubble of a laugh, you feel yourself relax. He smiles once more, incredibly proud that he was the one to put that smile on your face. “So, you all live here? Together?”

“Why wouldn’t we?” He asks, observing the tender area of your knees, pressing around the area lightly, before giving them a satisfied nod and rolling your pants down. “We’re practically family.”

You repeat, puzzled, “Practically?”

“You thought we were actually related? We don’t even have the same last names.” He giggles. “I guess, to some extent, you could probably say we are closer than blood. But no, I have a younger brother and sister back home.”

He’s sitting too close to you for you to be able to relax properly, and he seems to notice how you shrink in on yourself, glaring down at your feet.

“Are you nervous, YNie?” And the way he says it is like he knows your answer before you give it, frustrating you further.

“Not nervous, just… I don’t know, this whole day has been a wreck,” you reply, but he can hear the flutter in your voice. He lets out a soft snort of air through his nose, but the front door opening and closing behind someone stops whatever undoubtedly charming words were gearing to come out of his mouth.

“Hyung!” He says, perking up adorably, like a puppy. You can almost see the way his ears would stand to attention. “You’re home early.”

You look over to see Yoongi walk into the house, and he eyes you, expression unreadable. “I only had two sets.”

“Hyung deejays at all the best clubs in Seoul,” Taehyung explains, excitedly, when he takes note of your puzzled expression. “He sometimes bounces from four or five places a night. He’s so cool, don’t you think, YNie?”

Ignoring Taehyung’s question, Yoongi takes a step into the living room, eyes still fixed on your frozen form, and asks, “What is she doing here? At this time?”

“She needed to talk to Joonie-hyung,” the artist explains, excitedly. “But, that was hours ago. We’ve been talking since then. She’s so interesting, Yoongi.”

“Hardly,” you mumble, eyes still stuck on the pale student’s body as he drops his heavy backpack carefully on the floor. You say, awkwardly, “I should get going.”

“Yeah, you should,” Yoongi advises, with a quirk in his brow. You feel your cheeks heat up at his curt words. “It’s late, and Taehyung has class. I don’t wanna hear any complaints tomorrow morning, brat.”

“You won’t, I promise,” he laughs. He moves to stand up and taps your shoulder, playfully. “Come, YN. I’ll take you home.”

“No, I will,” Yoongi intervenes, shaking his car keys disinterestedly. “Hurry up.”

He kicks into some slides near the door and walks on ahead, not even waiting for you to catch up.

“See ya, Taehyung,” you say, snatching your phone out of the charger port and nearly fall over trying to kick into your shoes.

The radiant artist waves, animatedly. “Bye!”

You don’t see how his expression shutters as soon as the door closes behind him.

Yoongi’s waiting impatiently at the elevator, foot blocking the door from closing, and you rush down the corridor to join him. He gets in first, plugging his AirPods in as soon as you open your mouth to thank him, leaving you, once more, bathed in silence.

Fantastic,” you mumble.

He leads you to the basement of their building, and some of the cars in there, you’ve only ever seen in movies and on the TV. He presses his key and a car beeps in response. A compact black BMW M3 beeps back in response.

“No way is this your car,” you gasp in surprise. You haven’t sat in such an expensive car, well, in ever, and a small part of you is overly excited by the luxury. You can’t help it – you’re a broke college student and the only way for you to get around is the subway, your best friend or walking. You’re going to revel in this extravagance and nobody is going to make you feel guilty, dang it!

“Get in,” he commands, sliding into the driver’s seat and slamming his door closed.

“Grouchy,” you tut, but you do as he tells you, feeling thankful for the protection from the chilly air outside.

“Put in your address,” he says, gesturing to the console at the head of the car, switching on the air conditioner, despite your chattering teeth. “Quickly.”

You do so, only making a few mistakes in your nervousness, before settling back in the leather seats and closing your eyes.

“Don’t fall asleep,” he grumbles, flicking on the radio. An unfamiliar mix plays from the speakers embedded in the headrest behind you, not too loud but enough to keep you engaged. The rapping voice is familiar, as metaphors describing the heady sensuality of success fill your ears. The beat is hard-hitting and rough, the words cut at your skin, but the volume stops the music from being overwhelming. You can picture the song being played in clubs, for sure. You know you’d work up a sweat, grinding along to the song, for sure.

To assuage the stilted silence growing in the car, you ask, awkwardly, “Is this- Is this your song?”

He doesn’t answer with words, but he simply nods, eyes fixed on the road ahead. It starts pelting with rain again once you pull out of the parking lot, and you watch as rivulets of rain trickle down the front window. The song moves onto topics more specific – the hatred of the dark, the addiction of victory. The way he craves it like he yearns for air, a thought that never leaves him, even in the dead of the night. The sultry sentiment of arrogance, of how enchanting it is to be adored.

You compliment, blithely, “It’s good. How long have you been doing music?”

“A while,” he replies.

That’s all you’re getting?

“It’s good,” you murmur.

“You said that already,” he answers, turning the wheel. He’s the picture of disengaged, and you feel shame heat up your cheeks over forcing a conversation with someone who clearly isn’t interested. Instead, you quieten down, and let the next song – more upbeat but just as intelligent – fill the silence between you two.

The journey is smooth, equal parts due to the early hour and the lack of cars on the road, and by the time you pull up at your apartment, you find yourself almost drifting to sleep in the corner of the seat.

“I said don’t fall asleep,” he mumbles, reaching over to poke you in the side, forcing you to jerk up out of your restful state and you wipe your chin, just in case you started to drool. You rub at the area he jabbed and let out an unwitting noise, once you realised what he’d done.

“Ticklish?” He suggests, quirking his brow, leaning back into the safety of his side of the car.

Nodding, feebly, you swallow and angle your body in his direction. “Uh, I just- thank you.”

“It’s nothing, honestly,” he replies. “Just get into your place safe. Taehyung won’t stop nagging me if something happens to you.”

“That… is the most you’ve ever spoken to me,” you tell him, blankly.

He snorts. “I don’t have much to say to you, honestly.”

“I- Strangely respect that,” you mumble, sliding out of the car. “Drive home safe.”

He nods curtly at you and pulls away from your apartment complex once you’ve stepped a safe enough distance from his car window. You watch until his red lights disappear from your line of sight, and then retreat inside, practically shivering by the time you get into your living room.

Showering off the stress and quickly dressing for bed, you send Young-mi a message before you drift off almost as soon as your head touches the pillow.

Your phone lights up with a text message in the dark, while you snore, lightly, into the air.

Don’t trust them.

Chapter Text

When you wake to see such a strange message, from an unknown number, you don’t pause to contemplate anything before sleepily deleting it. You don’t know who it could be from, and you have no idea whom ‘they’ are referring to. Honestly, you assume Young-mi had used your number again online and so now, you’re going to be a victim of spam. 

Instead, you go about your normal day, scanning through Young-mi’s sporadic messages.

Apparently, upon her awakening and the doctor’s determining that Mei’s health was, for lack of better word, fine, Young-mi was sent home and a quick peek into her room shows her snoring form, tangled in her bedsheets. According to the rest of Young-mi’s messages, Mei Li remembered nothing of the attack. In fact, she doesn’t remember anything about the day before – not even speaking with you in the kitchen. It was unnerving.

After packing your lunch for the day, you dress and lock up your apartment, careful to not disturb your other roommate’s ant collection (you don’t understand it, and you try not to look at it for too long as the tiny legs scurrying along never fails to send shivers down your spine) as you leave.

An incessant beeping catches your attention in the distance.

“YN! YN! I’ll take you to class today! C’mere!”

Taehyung is half-hanging out of the driver’s side window, in front of your cheap apartment complex, grinning brightly. You think that a smile must be his natural disposition, considering how easily it seems to appear on his face. A small part of you envies the ease with which he grins.

The sight of such an expensive car, with such a handsome driver, doesn’t fit with the dreary, grey morning. You approach and ask, “What’re you doing here, Taehyung? It’s like,” you check your phone, “Eight in the morning.”

He nods, giddily. “I’m an early riser. I’ve got coffee.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” you lie, but you slide into the passenger seat nonetheless.

“Don’t lie to me, YN,” he says, with a laugh. “I’ve seen you, with my own eyes, take more caffeine into your system than the average middle-aged office worker. Now, do me a favour and drink.

He gestures to the steaming coffee cups in the car’s console, and you let out a sigh of surrender, reaching for it. At the first sip, you practically melt in the heated seats. You ignore his smug grin in favour of savouring the flavour on your tongue.

“You’re awfully chipper this morning,” you comment, eyeing him suspiciously. “And I’m not going to class yet. I’m going to the hospital.”

“I thought you might be heading in that direction,” he tells you, sparing you a glance. “I’ll take you.”

Just like that, he drives you, one hand on the wheel, the picture of nonchalance, to the hospital to see your injured friend.

Unable to handle the strangeness of the whole ordeal, you ask, frowning, “Why are you being so nice to me?”

“I told you already, you’re my friend,” he replies, never taking his eyes from the road. He tacks on, cheekily, “Your memory must be bad, YNie.”

“We-”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know,” he says, rolling his rich brown eyes, mockingly. “We aren’t friends. Yadda yadda yadda.”

You scoff. “As long as you know.”

“I’m more than aware of our tentative relationship,” he tells you, pouting heavily. “I wish you would just let me take care of you, YN. You’re so stubborn.”

You sink further into your seat, avoiding his brief eye contact.

He asks, amicably, “How is your friend? Is she feeling any better?”

“She’s much better, apparently. She’s awake. Young-mi came home early hours of the morning, so she’s been by herself. Which is why I’m bringing these,” you gesture to your backpack. “Breakfast.”

He states, a strangely hesitant tenor to his voice, “You really care for her, right, YN?”

“She’s my baby,” you reply, a small, pleased smile on your face. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

You miss the way his jaw thrums and the tightening of his fist against the steering wheel, but you do notice how he goes strangely quiet, focusing on the road ahead, as if nothing else exists. You think maybe he’s just concentrating, and you feel yourself relax, observing the line of the city, watching as the sun morphs from the foggy grey morning to something crisper.

He drops you off without another word, bidding you a safe trip, and there’s a moment of awkwardly intense eye contact as you step away from the driver’s side window where he just watches you, intently.

“Take care of yourself, YN,” he says, uncharacteristically serious. “There are all sorts of things around, especially at night.”

Brow puckering, you attempt to laugh off his strange behaviour. “Whatever. First, you want to be my friend. Now, you want to be my Dad? Make up your mind, Taehyung.”

He pauses, before his shoulders shake with how he tries to suppress his giggles. “Do you want me to pick you up before class?”

Shaking your head, you move away, out of his orbit, away from his penetratingly passionate eyes and his contagious smile. “I’ll find a way to class.”

“You really don’t like making things easy for me, YNie,” he mumbles, before pulling off with a relaxed wave.

Nudging open the doors to Mei’s room, you’re met with a sight that you wish you could tattoo onto the back of your eyelids. Mei, sitting up, a small smile on her face, decidedly awake, alive and healthy. You almost burst into tears at the mere sight of her, but you hold it together, somehow.

What you weren’t expecting, though, was the fella next to her.

“Who’s this?”

You eye the dark-haired, pale-skinned man, apprehensively. You hadn’t met him before, and you were very good with faces. Names, not so much, but faces, you could do in a heartbeat.

His hair was quaffed, despite the early hour, and he was dressed formally in a crisp button up, coupled with a deep red tie and a blazer, as if he were going to work. He smells strongly of expensive cologne, and he has a neatly decorated pocket-square in the front of his jacket pocket. Despite his well put together and somewhat attractive appearance, something was off about him.

You felt the same prickly sensation in your gut that you did whenever anyone mentioned anyone from Bangtan. A strange, twisting discomfort – a tingling in the back of your mind.

“Hello, it’s nice to finally meet you. I’m Min Dongwon,” he stands and gives you a solid yet polite bow. “Mei Li has told me much about you. I’m glad to finally put a face to the name.”

“All good things, I hope,” you reply, cautiously. “Who-”

“He’s the guy I’ve been talking to for the last few weeks,” Mei tells you, shyly. She’s playing with the edge of her bedding, and she keeps sending him tender glances. “I got my phone this morning and realised he’d been calling me, so I told him what happened, and he came straight away. Isn’t that sweet?”

“Very,” you answer, sitting down. As much as your stomach was rolling at his presence, you put a polite smile on your face and say, “I’m glad my friend has someone to rely on.”

“I’ve got you too, YN,” she grumbles, reaching for your hand with a shaky grip. Upon noticing you watching the tremor incredulously, she explains, “The doctors say it’s because of the blood loss, but they say that by tomorrow morning, I’ll be fine.”

“If that’s the case, then you should be resting,” you chastise lightly.

The man opposite you leans forward and says, “She’s been doing nothing but sleeping. I think Mei might be hungry.”

Strangely, you didn’t ask what he thought, but it seems that Mei appreciated it, as she tosses him a thankful look, bordering on the cusp of dreamy.

Acquiescing, you shrug off your backpack and say, “Fine, fine. I brought some food from home.”

“Rather than that, I can organise some food to get delivered. How does that sound?” he suggests, eagerly. Mei’s eyes catch his, before she nods her head, shyly. He continues, “What do you want to eat?”

You stare at him, feeling the strange atmosphere swallow you whole, but Mei doesn’t seem bothered. If anything, she melts further into the bed and mumbles, “Chinese food, I think.”

You try not to get your feelings hurt by her dismissal, acknowledging that maybe she might want something a little fancier than the small bites you put together, but it stings.

Just a bit.

He nods, eagerly pulling out his phone and in a flash, he orders the food without consulting her.

Curiously, you ask, brow furrowing, “How do you know what she likes?”

He shrugs, not looking away from Mei’s face, as if fascinated, enthralled even. “I know everything about her.”

Your brow furrows, but Mei lets out a playful squeak of happiness and grabs his hand. Never being one for such bold displays of affection, you avert your eyes, only to catch him staring at you. He averts his gaze once he realises you’ve caught him, and the unpleasant look in his eyes – it makes you feel shiver.

Mei catches your attention with a soft question, “Don’t you have class today?”

“Not until later,” you tell her, squeezing her hand over the quilt. You feel Dongwon’s eyes on your joined grip, but you don’t want to give him the satisfaction of making you visibly uncomfortable, so you square your shoulders and assure her, “I’ll stay as long as you need me to.”

“I don’t want you to miss out on classes just for me,” she says, lightly. “I’d feel worse than I already do.”

“If you think I’ll be able to concentrate, knowing you’ll be here by yourself, you’re crazy,” you tease her. She blushes deeply and ducks her head to hide her face. You realise that she’s had her hair brushed, even though her face is bare of makeup, she looks a little sallow around the gills and you feel concern well up in you.

Dongwon jumps up, excitedly. “I’ll be with her, she won’t be alone.”

“Don’t you have work today?” Mei asks him, curiously.

He shakes his head. “I can call in. You’re more important, my love.”

The nickname seems to catch her off-guard, if the surprised expression means anything. The desperate fondness on his face makes your stomach feel queasy.

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” you tell him, holding her hand once more and catching her attention. “I’ll be here for you, Mei.”

His jaw ticks but he says nothing else, slumping back in his seat, playing idly with her fingers.

Hours pass, and you find yourself in a strange cat-and-mouse game with the stranger sitting opposite you.

It didn’t take you long to realise that he was very into your friend. Every word she said, he was hooked on. Every expression, he cooed at. At every twitch of pain or discomfort on her face, he was at her side, instantly.

A sip of water? Check.

Fluffing her pillow? Check.

Massaging her feet? Check.

It was almost too much. For you, anyway.

You felt so uncomfortable as the minutes ticked by, that you almost, almost, wished you could just disappear off to your next class at three instead of being forced to endure the sickeningly sweet displays of affection.

Sure enough, as if God herself was hearing your worries, your phone pings in your back pocket, signalling an incoming call. Shyly, you shuffle out of the room, giving apologetic bows to the elderly neighbours who sniffle and huff at the disturbance.

You close the door behind you, leaning against the wall and murmur, “Hello?”

A voice asks, curtly, on the other side of the receiver. “Where are you?”

Staring at the handset, confusion written across your face, you enquire, “Who is this?”

“Can’t you recognise my voice? I’m hurt, YN,” he says, whimsically.

A pause. “…Hoseok?”

“The one and only,” he replies, and you can imagine him rolling his eyes at your words. “Answer my question, pretty girl.”

“At the hospital,” you respond, automatically. “And, stop teasing. I don’t like the nickname.”

He pauses. “Two things I don’t do, pretty girl. Tease, and lie. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“No, don’t co… And, he’s put the phone down. Great.”

You slide down to the floor, holding your knees up to your chest, needing the moment of respite, before you walk back in to see Dongwon spoon-feeding Mei more mushed bananas.

/

True to his word, Hoseok pulls up outside of the hospital in ten minutes, having broken a few speeding rules to get there.

He uses his nose to trace your scent. Thankfully, the nasty, sterile smell of the hospital being drowned out by your heady natural aroma, practically leading him by the collar to the appropriate floor. To see you sat on the floor, head in your lap, nearly asleep. Unable to help it, he mutters, quietly, “Cute.”

You wake up to the side of someone’s expensive loafers in front of your eyes. Your eyes trail upward, following the black cigarette pants, the YSL belt cinched around an astoundingly thin waist, with a deep purple, short-sleeved, silky shirt tucked into it.

“m-What?”

“Nothing,” he laughs, crouching down, so the two of you are eye-level. His hair is pushed back, showing a dangerous amount of forehead, and his eyes practically twinkle with amusement as he observes you. He murmurs, tenderly, “Hello, again.”

“What are you even doing here?”

He shrugs, hooking his arms around his knees. “I wanted to see you.”

You eye his, distrustfully, “To finally enact your revenge when I’m at my weakest?”

“I’m over it,” he replies, plucking imaginary lint off his slender shoulders. “If I wanted to, I’d have done it a long time ago.”

“That doesn’t sound remotely ominous,” you answer, grunting to pull yourself up to your feet. He does the same, with an infinite amount more grace than you. “If we’re done here, I have to get back to my friend.”

“That’s what these are for,” he replies, gesturing to the flowers in his hand. You hadn’t even noticed them, too enthralled by the swirling nature of his rich brown eyes. “After you.”

You push open the door, stepping inside and Hoseok follows behind you. Instantly, you notice the stiffness of his shoulders, but when you glance back, his expression is carefully blank of any emotion. He surveys the people in their beds, bowing as he passes, maintaining his polite, soft-boy image.

Liar.

“Mei Li, you’ll never guess who’s come to see you,” you sing-song as you approach her bed. Pulling back the curtain, you find Dongwon already staring at you. Well, not at you. Behind you. And the look in his eye, you can only liken it to pure, unadulterated, absolute black rage. “Woah…”

“I’m glad you’re feeling better, Mei Li,” Hoseok says, ignoring Dongwon’s presence entirely. You wonder if this is what they call a dick-measuring competition. “Where can I put these?”

He gestures to the blush pink flowers and Mei Li stumbles over her words. “I-I don’t h-have a vase.”

“I’ll find one, okay?” He says, with a playful wink.

She giggles, but Dongwon lets out a firm cough, drawing attention to him. He comments, curtly, “I don’t think you’re allowed to bring flowers in the communal rooms. Someone else might be allergic.”

Hoseok’s brow quirks at his words, before spinning on his heels. He addresses the room, with a polite smile, “Sorry for the interruption. Is anyone in here allergic to pollen? Or to flowers?”

A low mumble of ‘no, not at all’ wells up in the room, before he turns back with a self-satisfied smile, the sight seeming to set Dongwon off even more. “I think it shouldn’t be a problem if I spruce up this boring old room, especially for our Mei Li.”

Dongwon averts his eyes, but you keep yours on his face, noting the ticking of his jaw and the way he shifts his knees away from Mei’s body, as if he couldn’t bear to see her engaging with someone else.

Mei Li doesn’t seem to notice, as she asks, courteously, “Hoseok, how was dance class today?”

The other boy drags an unused chair from the corner of the room to sit beside Mei’s body, and shrugs in response. “Nothing special. I’ve got a jazz showcase this weekend.”

“I wish I could go,” she laments.

“If you’re feeling better, I’ll get you tickets. How does that sound?”

“If YN comes, I’ll go,” she barters playfully.

Dongwon reaches out and squeezes Mei’s other hand. “I’d love to see the showcase too.”

“You’re more than welcome,” Hoseok says, and his mouth is smiling but his eyes- they’re decidedly sharp. He looks to you and the intensity in them makes you quiver. His eyes soften when they notice the unwitting shudder, and he leans closer to you. “You in?”

“I- I don’t see why not,” you answer, quietly. “Hoseok, can I- can I speak to you? Privately?”

“Later, pretty girl,” he says, and his tone is tinged with seriousness for only a moment before he sheds whatever is weighing him down and claps loudly, surprising everyone in your vicinity. The bubbly persona is back in full effect, practically giving you whiplash. “I want to hear all about Mei Li, and how she’s healing up.”

/

An hour passes and the four of you spend the time discussing Mei’s condition, the things the doctor has told her about her outpatient care, briefly touching on her relationship with Dongwon (who, you notice is practically vibrating in his seat in excitement) and her studies. Anything to keep her mind off the giant elephant in the room – the incident.

Her parents arrive, and after giving her mother a tearful, long hug, both you and Hoseok exit the patient room, promising to return the next day, after class. Hoseok leads you, by your elbow out of the hospital, nudging you into the parking lot to his car – the fancy white Mercedes.

“Is having a stupidly expensive car a requirement to join your little boy’s club?” You ask, not unkindly, just for something to fill the cavernous silence that had engulfed the two of you.

He glances at you, letting out a short snort of amusement. “Why? Thinking of joining the Bangtan Boys?”

“I’d rather choke,” you reply, shortly.

He opens the passenger side door for you, gesturing to the inviting-looking seat with a grand sweep of his arm. “M’lady.”

“You’re being slimy again,” you chastise, hopping in and slamming the door shut. He makes a face at you through the window, crossing his eyes exaggeratedly and sticking out his pink tongue. Strangely enough, he doesn’t look as ugly as you’d expect, and with a scoff, you glare out at the front screen.

Getting into the other side of the car, making it shudder with the weight, he switches on the heating instantly, but only lets the car rest in the car park.

“Let it out,” he says, staring ahead, expression bemused.

You stare at him, confusion written across your face.

“Whatever you had to say, let it out,” he explains. “I know you’ve been practically bursting to talk about it.”

Letting out a huff, you ask, “Do you know Dongwon from somewhere? He seemed really… angry with you.”

“I’ve never met him before,” he replies, purposefully vague. The tick of his jaw being the only sign of his deep-seated irritation. He cards a hand through his hair. It’s longer than you remember, piling on his head in chestnut brown waves. You’re sure you could pull it back in a messy bun, and the image stirs something hot and silky in your gut.

“Are you not going to give me anything more than that? Because clearly something happened,” you tell him, frustration leaking into your tone, unwittingly.

“I know of his kind,” he answers, and it seems that the words were pulled from his throat, roughly, as if you were tugging on his molars.

You echo, confusedly, “Kind?”

“I don’t want to explain any more than that,” he says, simply. “Don’t ask me anything else. Please, YN. I can’t lie to you.”

He stares into your eyes and the way he does so makes you feel that he’s pleading with you, he genuinely doesn’t want to lie to you, but he can’t explain whatever his reasons were. You wish you could muster the energy to argue with him, shout at him, demand an explanation – this was your friend you were talking about – but the words didn’t form.

In fact, you nod, meekly, and stare down at your hands.

You can feel his eyes on the side of your face, but you’re too busy picking at the bed of your fingernails to meet his eyes. The image of Dongwon, hovering persistently over Mei’s battered and bruised body just doesn’t sit well with you.

Suddenly, a warm hand clasps over your own, and he says, “Don’t do that. You’ll hurt yourself. Yoongi-hyung picks his nails sometimes when he’s nervous, and he bleeds all over the place.”

“It’s a bad habit,” you admit. “I can’t help that I’m anxious.”

“You’ve had a rough couple of days,” he tells you, turning to face you, his thumb swiping along the back of your hand, soothingly. “Your feelings are valid.”

“What are you, my therapist?” You ask, with a bleak scoff.

“If you want me to be,” he replies, with a salacious wink. “I’ve always said that I look good in a doctor’s coat.”

He looks so handsome, right beside you, real and warm and he’s giving you support – real, genuine support. You aren’t surprised that girls fall at his feet, he has this aura, this orbit, this pull that is undeniable. And then, you spot the lewd expression he sends your way, and you are back to realising why you want to step on his head half of the time.

Shaking off your momentary weakness, you toss a sharp glance at the joining of your palms and you ask, tightly, “Can I have my hand back?”

He counters, quirking a brow, smartly, “Are you going to stop picking at your nails all over the interior of my car?”

“I’ll rub my blood all over the seats,” you promise.

His eyes cut down to your hand, the look in them darkening, sharpening, before he lets out a soft sigh. “You really- You play with fire, you’ll get burned, pretty girl.”

“Whatever,” you reply, tugging your hand away. “Just take me home.”

“Your wish is my command, pretty girl,” he answers, pulling out of the parking space and driving onto the main road, quickly hitting the highway.

/

Mei Li is released from the hospital at the end of the week, her health and well-being coming along much faster than the doctors thought possible. Her parents stay with her for most of her stay, but her Dad needed to go back to work and they couldn't risk his job, so they left her in your care.

You don't mind though, because she's your friend, practically your little sister, so it doesn't bother you one bit to change her bandages three times a day and help rub ointment on them so they don't get infected every other hour.

You get accustomed to the strong, bitter scent of the antiseptic creams and the way she winces whenever you touch the tender cuts by her collar-bone and along her jawline.

You do wonder, sometimes, if her discharge had come too early, though, because even though her cuts were healing well, she always carried a sickly dewy finish to her swallow skin.  She’d tell you, holding your hand in her trembling ones, “There’s really nothing to worry about, YN. I’ll be fine,” and turn over in bed, falling asleep.

One thing you did mind, however, is the fly in the ointment, for lack of better word.

Dongwon.

The translator - you had learned that little titbit about the annoyance one evening after he had spent the whole evening translating the English movie that you were all watching into Korean, making the experience unbearable - quickly became a fixed presence in your house, practically having moved in by the time Mei Li returns home.

Young-mi tosses you a firm look when she catches you roll your eyes for the eighth time during movie night, but the fact is, you can’t stomach their intense PDA from across the room, slurping noises from where their lips smack together, interrupting your movie experience.

Sometimes, she’d have bursts of energy, where she’d jump on you in bed, giggling and laughing, or wake you up with breakfast. Other days, she could barely lift her wrist to drink from a glass.

Today was one of those positive days, apparently.

Young-mi pinches your side under the heated blanket that the two of you are sharing on the couch and hisses, lowly, “Tone down the aggression. They’re just… enjoying each other.”

You mock, “In front of my salad?”

She snorts. “Fine, it’s gross. But, Mei just got out of the hospital and she’s finally getting over Hoseok.”

“She’s been over him,” you reply, but the words lack the usual heat. “This is… something else.”

Since the conversation in the car, Hoseok has shown himself to be a pillar of support for you. He picks you up and drops you off, regardless of direction and location, and never fails to bring you your favourite foods each time. He does things without thinking, without expectation, and it’s been hard to maintain the distance between the two of you. While you might not consider him a friend, off principle alone, he’s become someone irreplaceable in your life. Kind of like Taehyung, who’s special ringtone echoes out of your phone, signalling a text message.

Gucci Boi: I’m outside YNie! Hurry, hurry! ^^

You shuffle out from under the blanket and you say, as you’re kicking into your shoes, “Late night study session. Don’t wait up.”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Mei replies, giggling into Dongwon’s mouth.

You blanche at the sight and toss a sympathetic look Young-mi’s way.

“I’ll probably go up to sleep, then,” the svelte dancer says, rolling up the blanket and moving to her room. “YN, have a good night.”

“You too, Young-mi,” you blow the two girls quick kisses before closing the door behind you. You ignore Dongwon’s presence, and he does the same for you – the two of you have a strange understanding. He knew you weren’t fond of him, and he never showed you any kindness, save for when he was in the presence of Mei Li.

Taehyung is in the front seat of his car, sunglasses on the tip of his nose, despite the late hour and distinct lack of sunlight, and he beams brightly when he spots you, shoving the glasses into his hair. Which is… blue.

“You like it? I did it myself. Kookie helped, but he has ham hands and ended up just timing me, so I didn’t burn my scalp,” he says, showing off the deep blue strands proudly. He puts his hands under his chin and says, in a baby voice, “Tell me I’m pretty, YN.”

“You’re the prettiest boy around,” you reply, scratching behind his ear as if he were a puppy. You walk around to the passenger side, only to pull up and see Namjoon’s gently smiling face. “Oh, hello.”

“Evening, YN,” he says, politely. “Sorry, I’ll get in the back.”

“Are you kidding? I could sit in the trunk and be comfortable. You’re like seven-foot tall,” you remark, jumping into the back. Beside you, holding laptop cases in his hands, is a silent Yoongi, who greets you with a blasé tilt of his head.

“I’m exactly six-foot, if you should know,” he tells you, sniffing.

Taehyung pulls off onto the main street and says, “I hope you don’t mind but I invited the boys to your study session.”

“No problem,” you reply, quickly.

Yoongi rolls his eyes at your words, and Namjoon snorts. The taller boy remarks, “You’re a terrible liar.”

“Why do you guys keep saying that? How do you know I’m lying?”

Yoongi pulls the face-mask from his mouth to rest on his chin, exposing his small, pouty mouth and he explains, “Your eyes – they can’t lie.”

You close your eyes, playfully, before cracking one open and asking, “How about now?”

Taehyung lets out an amused giggle and replies, “I’d be able to tell by your expression.”

“I agree,” Namjoon tacks on, glancing at you in the rear-view mirror. “Your face is very open.”

“I don’t know how I feel about that,” you answer, honestly. “I thought I was a good liar.”

“That isn’t a good characteristic to have,” Yoongi says, sagely, leaning on his fist, staring at you. “You should be happy that you can’t lie well. It means you’re trustworthy.”

Catching his eyes, you ask, bluntly, “Does that mean you trust me?”

The three boys go quiet at your words, and their refusal to answer is answer enough for you. Clearing your throat to ease the awkwardness, you ask, “What are we doing tonight, if we aren’t studying?”

Namjoon asks, pouting, “How do you know we aren’t studying?”

“You two aren’t in any of my classes,” you gesture to the honey-blond and white-haired men in the car. “And I don’t think you’d enjoy spending your spare time just watching Taehyung and I argue.”

“I don’t know about that, YNie, you’re awfully funny when you get mad, especially when food is involved,” Taehyung teases. “How does a change of scenery sound?”

Curiously, you ask, tilting your head to the side slightly, “What do you have in mind?”

You only receive a mischievous look in the rear-view mirror as a response.

 

Chapter Text

Scowling up at the bright lights overhead, you ask, “Why are we in a market at ten thirty?”

Taehyung shoves the trolley in your direction, a touch too hard because Namjoon has to stop it before it hits you, a disapproving glare being sent his way, before he lets you take the reins. “Hush, young Padawan. Our fridge is nearly empty.”

Pushing the trolley ahead, you ask, staring at the bubbly blue-haired artist, “What does that have to do with me?”

“Did you want to eat tonight?” Yoongi asks, with an unsympathetic look. “If so, be quiet and push.”

You sniff at his attitude, and say, “Can I sit inside the trolley instead?”

The blond looks you up and down, before he asks, derisively, “Can you fit?”

You hit him in the chest with a low curse, to which he snorts at. “Aish! I haven’t put that much weight on, have I?”

Yoongi hums, but says nothing else, suddenly intrigued by his phone.

Intuitively, Namjoon puts his hands on your waist and hoists you into the front of the trolley, letting you get comfortable. He takes off his scarf and wraps it around your neck. He ducks down a little, eyes glittering under the lights, and he asks, kindly, “Better?”

“Much,” you reply, sound muffled by the soft cashmere of his scarf. It smells like him, masculine and something woodsy. You duck your head, suddenly shy, avoiding the sight of his sparkly dark orbs, “Thank you.”

“What’s on the list?” Namjoon asks, turning to look at Yoongi, who has taken to pushing the trolley, while Taehyung bounces across the aisles, scanning the products for the things they need. “What are we missing?”

Yoongi pulls out his phone, pushing one-handedly (and you’ll be damned if you ever say that he makes for a hot image) while he scrolls through his phone, and says, “Beer.”

“Of course,” you laugh, tilting your head back to survey the blond. “A bunch of boys, the first thing you need is beer.”

“Well, the first thing on the list is condoms, but I thought I’d ease us into that,” Yoongi remarks, with a roll of his eyes.

You balk at the nonchalant tone of his voice and he grins, small but showing a bit of his gums, and you feel your chest seize up at the sight of it.

Namjoon tuts. “Hyung, that’s not funny. Don’t tease YN like that.”

“I’m not lying, look! Jin’s first addition, condoms. Second, French hand cream that I can't pronounce. He’s weird,” the shorter man grumbles, ruffling his own hair.

The four of you spend the next hour and some change speeding through the aisles, peals of laughter echoing through the supermarket as you all collect the products on their electronic list. You even get to grab some snacks for yourself, on the boy’s dime, of course.

They don't even bat an eyelid.

“What are we having for dinner tonight?”

“I wanted spicy lamb skewers,” Yoongi proposes, with a cute smile. Spending time with you seems to have slowly melted the ice around the aloof composer (he’d mentioned briefly that he studied music alongside being a DJ and a rapper in the underground hip-hop scene) and now, he’s jeering and giggling alongside the rest of you. “And you, YN?”

“I’m good with anything meaty. Spicy sounds good too,” you answer. You had to get out of the trolley once the four of you had gotten three-quarters through the list, needing the extra space, much to your dismay. “Taehyung-ah!”

The blue-haired artist perks up at the sound of his name. “You called, YNie?”

You ask, staring up at him, “What are you craving?”

His throat bobs as he swallows, looking behind you briefly, before his usual smile overtakes his face. “Anything YN wants, I’ll eat happily.”

The four of you decide on what to get, and upon reaching the meat aisle, Namjoon and Taehyung decide to race.

“First one who gets everything needed for dinner wins,” Yoongi explains the rules, handing the two other men empty baskets. “The loser… Pays for everything.”

Taehyung gasps, “How steep!”

Namjoon snorts, blinking down at the blond, “Woah, you know I’m only getting paid minimum wage, right, hyung?”

“You guys live in a sky-rise apartment,” you state, bewildered. “Why do you even work? Don’t you have rich parents or something?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Taehyung says, cheekily. “Alright, alright. Let’s start.”

Taehyung and Namjoon drop low, as if they were racers gearing up for a world class competition, and on Yoongi’s yelp, they shoot off, grabbing the first clumps of healthy red meat they can land their hands on.

They needed to get seasonings and the side dish ingredients, so you weren’t expecting them back for a few minutes.

Quietly, you ask, “Yoongi?”

He’s relaxes against the trolley, the picture of nonchalance, as he replies, softly, “Yes, YN.”

You pick at your sleeves and ask, bashfully, “Why do you guys want to spend time with me?”

He lets out a muted chuckle and asks, tossing you a sideways glance, “Hasn’t Taehyung given you the ‘friends’ speech yet?”

“He has, but…” You trail off, cheeks flushing in embarrassment.

He fills in the gap, knowingly. “But it doesn’t make sense?”

You nod, diffidently.

He plays with his fingers, turning around and resting his elbows on the edge of the cart’s handle. “You’re fun to be around. As strange as that sounds coming from me. You make Tae happy, and Jin likes your personality. Hoseok thinks you’re interesting. I appreciate your smarts. Even Jungkook thinks you’re cute. There’s no reason not to hang out with you.”

Fighting the urge to flush at the barrage of compliments, simply not expecting them to come from the blond, you clear your throat before you remark, offhandedly, “The seven of you are some of the most popular faces on campus. You have a surplus of people to hang out with, if that’s what you wanted to do.”

He says, dark eyes catching your own in a penetrating gaze. “And people treat us like celebrities, like we’re untouchable, and that just isn’t who we are.”

“So…”

“You treat us like we’re human,” he answers, spotting Taehyung’s bright hair, flopping as he barrels down the aisle, grin boxy and eyes crinkled. “You make us feel human.”

Taehyung and Namjoon drew, deciding to go dutch on the cost of the shopping, and the four of you lug the dozen bags into the trunk and back seats of Taehyung’s car. Once you arrive at the complex, the concierge helps you get all the shopping bags up into their apartment, leaving after Yoongi hands him a healthy tip.

The three of them perk up, as if hearing someone in the distance and Namjoon calls, excitedly, “Jin-hyung!”

The sound of pattering feet echoes through the apartment as the eldest makes his way down from the second floor, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt (the casual clothes clashing with his natural magnetism sends you reeling), and he claps, enthusiastically, upon seeing you.

“YN-ah! Nice seeing you again! I’m glad Taehyung has finally stopped keeping you to himself and decided to share,” he says, happily. He puts his hands on your shoulders and nudges you into the living room. “Go entertain Jimin while we pack away everything.”

“J-Jimin?”

The one of the seven you had yet to meet yet. A mop of pink hair greets you from the floor of the living room, as the boy, no, man, sits cross-legged, playing a game on the console, staring up at the impressive wide-screen TV, seemingly ignorant to everything around him.

“Hyung, please I’m almost beating the level. I’ll come wash up in a second,” he mumbles, slamming his finger down on the game pad in his hands. He’s wearing a grey fleece and some sweats, with bare feet poking out of the end of them.

He looks like the definition of cosy.

Rubbing at your elbow, awkwardly, you ask, curiously, “I- Uh… What game are you playing?”

At the sound of your voice, Jimin snaps his neck to look at you, spotting your decidedly not-male form and he shoots up, only to slip on the foot of his sweats and collapse onto his ass.

“F-Fuck,” he curses, rubbing at his bruised behind. “Ouch…”

“Sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you,” you say, moving to try and help him stand up.

He jerks away, as if he’d been burned, and he says, “No- No, it’s fine. I, uh, I wasn’t paying attention. I’ll- Let me… I need to wash my face.”

He disappears into what you assume is a downstairs bathroom before you can even respond, and you hear the water running distantly.

“Hyung, hyung, hyung,” Jungkook sings as he hops down the stairs, dressed all in grey, with black sock on his feet. “Did you get me the snacks I- Oh… Noona. What are you doing here? It’s kind of late.”

You rub the back of your neck, surprisingly awkward at the sight of Jungkook in his home clothes, and explain, “Taehyung- he, uh, picked me up and kind of, well, kidnapped me?”

His eyes widen in surprise before he asks, “Really?”

“No, I’m kidding,” you say, laughing at the concerned mar of his handsome face. “We were supposed to be studying, but instead we ended up going to the supermarket.”

“Aish, hyung shouldn’t have done that, you saw all our embarrassing things,” he says, cheeks pinking.

“Shaving cream and razors is hardly embarrassing,” you tell him, face twisting in enjoyment at seeing his obvious embarrassment. Contrary to his bulky appearance, he’s surprisingly easy to rile up. You feel a little sadistic doing it, but you can’t help but tease him. “But… Seven boys do seem to go through a surprising number of contraceptives.”

“Aish!” He drops to the floor, crouching down to hide his reddening ears. “They’re not for me!”

“Safety first, Jungkook. You should use them,” you suggest, playfully.

It’s then that Jimin joins you both, the collar of his shirt damp with water, smelling of mint and he does seem more fresh-faced, his upper lip and cheeks are slightly reddened with aggravation.

Jungkook looks closer before letting out a snort. “Did you shave, hyung?”

“Quiet, brat!” Jimin curses, kicking him in the butt, then he drops to the floor to join Jungkook. “Move over, I want to carry on with my game.”

“Can I join?”

“Sure, noona,” Jungkook replies, making space for you on the couch. “Don’t sit on the floor, it can be a little uncomfortable if you aren’t used to it.”

“Kiss ass,” Jimin teases under his breath, nudging Jungkook’s shoulder with his own, before turning to you with a curious expression. “I haven’t gotten to meet you yet, but I’ve heard a lot.”

You hold out your hand and after staring down at it, strangely, Jimin clasps his own around it, to shake it lightly. His palms are surprisingly cool against yours and you give it a cursory squeeze.

“Good things I hope,” you reply, smiling slightly. “YN.”

“Jimin,” he replies, eyes crinkling. His face is wonderful, just like Young-mi said, when he isn’t zoned out and seemingly angry at nothing. His cheeks puff up, his eyes practically disappear into half-moons, and he tilts his head slightly, shrinking in on himself. Your heart pounds at the sight of him, brain snapshotting his visage without your permission

“Alright, alright, enough of that,” Taehyung says as he walks in, swatting at your hands so you’re forced to let him go. “YNie, come help me make dinner.”

“But we were just about to start playing,” Jungkook whines.

“Enough, maknae,” Taehyung commands, with a dismissive wave, before he returns his eyes to you, staring intently at you. “Don’t you wanna come and help me out?”

You ask, eyeing him distrustfully, “Can you even cook?”

“You wound me,” he says.

Jimin snorts. “Taehyungie, I wouldn’t eat your food if you paid me.”

“Ha ha ha,” Taehyung laughs, pointedly, before jabbing Jimin in his back with his elbow. “So funny. Come YN,” he says, reaching for your hand and hoisting you off the couch.

“If YN’s cooking, then I want to,” Jungkook grumbles, obstinately, moving to stand.

Jimin huffs and does the same. “Might as well join in, then, shouldn’t I?”

Yoongi, Jin and Namjoon are already dotted around their kitchen, doing different jobs regarding the food. Jin’s eyes practically bug out in his head. The handsome man grouses, “There’s barely enough space for us four and now you’ve brought the other three munchkins? How are we going to do this?”

Yoongi snorts. “If you’re complaining about height, then why don’t the trees of the group kindly exit?”

Jin contemplates that for a moment before he asks, lips quirking, “Then how would you survive without my amazing cooking skills?”

“I’m sure we’d manage, hyung,” Jimin snarks, with a brazen grin. He ducks into the cabinet and says, absently, “YN, why don’t you pass me some veggies from the refrigerator?”

You twist on your heels to approach the silver fridge, missing the look of panic that overtakes Taehyung’s face.

“No!” Namjoon shouts, startling you nearly out of your skin. He clears his throat, before putting his hands on your shoulder. “How about you use those dexterous fingers and keep chopping up the carrots? I’ll take my hand off otherwise. I’ll give Jiminie the veggies.”

“Suuuure,” you reply, eyes narrowing but you occupy Namjoon’s space and carry on with his job.

You don’t see the sharp smack that the five men deliver to Jimin’s head in chastisement. The absentminded pinkette flushes around his collar, ducking his head in shame.

It strikes you, then, that someone is missing from the bunch, and you ask, “Where’s Hoseok?”

“He should be on his way home from work,” Jin tells you. “He teaches dance at a rec centre in the city. Usually kids, but he’s recently taken on choreography work for a dance group.”

“That’s… impressive,” you reply, surprised. “I didn’t know he had a job.”

“We all do,” Jungkook informs you, face twisting in bewilderment. “Why’s that so surprising?”

“Just that, well, you live in such a nice apartment,” you explain, feeling strangely shy. “I didn’t think you needed to work.”

Namjoon rubs the back of his head, awkwardly. “The building belongs to Jin’s Dad, so we get to live here rent free.”

The eldest shrugs at your look of shock. “But we don’t rely on our parents for anything else. We wanted to live as independently as we can, while we’re able to.”

You don’t understand what he means by that, but the seriousness in his eyes brings you to a halt.

The seven of you work around each other, laughing and giggling as you go, and within half an hour, with team-work, you’re getting the food transplanted into the living room area. Jungkook materialises a table and sets it up with enough space to allow the seven of you to sit around comfortably.

Hoseok walks into the apartment just before the boys started eating, and you hear him kick off his shoes loudly, making gleeful noises in the back of his throat.

“Is YN in here?” He asks, as he enters the living room. He perks up at the sight of you, and he grins “I thought I could smell you.”

“Smell me?”

“He’s kidding,” Namjoon says, tossing the dancer a hard look. “Obviously, not a very good joke.”

“I saw your shoes,” he explains, with a playful wink. He gives the boys all fist-bumps and high-fives, before he presses a quick kiss to your cheek, surprising you at the skin-ship. The other boys seem just a shocked, but he doesn’t give an explanation, simply stepping away with flushed cheeks, you guess from the change in temperature and rush upstairs.

Jungkook asks, “Did you have a good day, hyung?”

He nods, taking off the cap and running a hand through his sweat-slick hair. “I’m gonna catch a shower. Don’t wait for me, eat up.”

“I don’t like eating without you, hyung,” Taehyung grumbles, pouting. The dancer laughs, mussing up his hair and passing him by, rushing upstairs to clean up.

When he returns, pink in the cheeks and fresh from the shower, the seven of you are well into the meal, tissues piled from where you’ve all wiped your fingers and chins of the sweet-spicy noodles and sauce, empty skewers piled on a plate in the corner of the table.

“Nobody saved me any skewers?” He asks, appalled. “I feel betrayed.”

Namjoon pulls a whole pile from behind his body. “Eat these quickly. I had to practically kick hyung to keep him from them.”

“This is why you’re my favourite, Joonie,” Hoseok sing-songs, taking the plate and nudging in between you and Jungkook. “Move over Kookie.”

“Careful of YN’s drink,” the youngest chastises, lifting your beer in the air and handing it to you over Hoseok’s wet head. “Drink up, noona.”

You thank him with a smile and go back to sipping your drink, washing down the mouthful of well-seasoned, tasty meat. “I don’t think I ever asked. What are each of your majors? I know Jimin and Hoseok dance, and that Taehyung is an art major. Yoongi majors in music. But the rest of you – I’m not sure.”

Jin grins, but the gesture lacks his usual fervour. “Business admin and finance.” You shudder, and he nods, grimly. “Painfully boring, but I had to do it.”

“Why?”

“My Dad is CEO of Kim Construction Conglomerate,” he explains, with a shrug. “Eventually he wants me to join the company to aid my older brother.”

You lean forward to catch his hooded gaze. “Is that what you want?”

He shrugs into his drink, taking back the beer and wincing, as if the taste was bitter on his tongue. You know from your own sips that the alcohol is on the sweeter side, so you think that the truth is making him grimace. You drop the subject, not wanting to overstep, but you reach over to give his hand a light squeeze in comradery. He seems surprised by the gesture, but he gives you a soft smile of acknowledgement.

“Applied linguistics and English literature,” Namjoon explains, lips pulling up in a shy smile.

“A book nerd,” Jimin tacks on, unhelpfully.

“A book connoisseur,” Namjoon corrects, flicking the pinkette in the forehead. “I’m glad to be graduating next year, because all these assignments are suffocating me.”

You nod in understanding before you ask, “Do you have a big collection of books?”

Hoseok scoffs around a mouthful of meat and grouches, “If you saw our room, you’d recoil. There’s barely any room to walk around, let alone dance. It sucks.”

Namjoon’s cheeks pink, from the alcohol and from the chastisement. “Sorry, hyung.”

“I’d like to see it,” you say, suddenly. “The collection, not your room. I- I really do love reading.”

“She’s an anthropology major,” Taehyung says, by way of explanation. “She’s probably more of a babbling nerd than you are, hyung.”

Both you and Namjoon toss the blue-haired artist dark looks, but he simply grins, stretching out on the couch languidly, like a cat.

Jungkook glances at you, and says, mutely, “Cinematics and photography. I want to be a director one day.”

“Film-making? That’s so interesting,” you gush, happily. The alcohol is making your head swim and you’re loosening up, giggling more freely, letting your eyes linger, wander, observe with a glassy gaze that only comes from intoxication. “What kinds of movies?”

“I just want to make something meaningful,” he mumbles, softly. The tip of his nose has blushed red, the apples of his cheeks are painted the same colour. “If I can make only one person feel something, I’d be able to die happy.”

“Our Jungkook doesn’t take to alcohol well,” Yoongi explains, teasingly ruffling the maknae’s cherry red hair. “He tends to get morbid quickly. Or, intensely self-reflective.”

“Neither do I, apparently,” you mumble, resting your head on Jungkook’s shoulder. “I usually drink a glass of wine once every other week. Before bed, or when we watch a movie. Stuff like that. I’ve never been a fan of beer but this,” you hold up your third can in victory, “tastes spectacular.”

The boys chuckle at your behaviour, and Jin lets out a gentle coo of “Cute.”

“Weren’t we supposed to be doing something tonight?” You ask, pushing your glasses into your hair and rubbing your eyes, brain swimming. “I feel like there was something to do.”

“We wanted to see you,” Yoongi tells you, eyes lingering on the cute way you’re blinking, sluggishly. “Isn’t that something worth doing?!

Jungkook rests his head on the seat of the couch, eyes closed, content in letting you use him as a pillow, fingers tapping out a rhythm on his knee that you catch in your periphery.

You point in the dancer’s direction, accusingly. “You saw me yesterday!”

“All of us wanted to see you,” Namjoon corrects, grinning brightly.

“I don’t even know him,” you mumble, gesturing to Jimin, who pouts heavily.

“And you wouldn’t have ever known of me if you didn’t come over,” he complains. “Everyone else has fun stories about you, YN, but me. It’s not fair.”

His cheeks are pink all over, splotches of joy exploding across the expanses of honeyed skin.

You can’t help but lean forward, entranced by his aura, and you whisper, “Why are you all so inhumanly attractive?”

Jimin giggles, putting both hands under his chin and bats his eyelids, playfully. “Why? Falling for me already?”

You shake your head, exaggeratedly, from side to side, and reply, “Nope! Not my type!”

That was a partial lie – you don’t have a type. You liked pretty things, handsome things, unique things. They were all those things combined, so your vagina, at least, was very interested.

He looks scandalised, brow puckering and his mouth twists in irritation. He doesn’t know why hearing that from you twists at his chest so much, but it does. He grumbles, “If I’m not, then who is?”

“I dunno.”

Hoseok leans forward, intrigued. “C’mon, sunshine. Who, out of all of us, would you date, if you had the chance?”

“If I had the chance?” You scoff, draining the can of beer in your hand and Yoongi hands you another without thinking about it, cracking it open and watching it foam with glassy eyes. “You mean if I deigned it worth my time to date you?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” he says, dismissively, a strangely determined gleam in his eye. “Tell us. Which one of us you’d date.”

You close your eyes, and your mouth moves before your brain can properly engage with it. “Yoongi.”

The table explodes in noise.

“What the hell!”

“No way! Hyung? Why?”

“Me? Seriously? Should I be flattered?”

“I’m not your type but he is? That doesn’t even make sense!”

“Are you kidding me? When you have someone that looks this good right in front of you?”

“Wow, YN. Your taste is low. I’m surprised.”

“His personality is closest to my ex-girlfriend,” you tell them with a shrug. “Nonchalant and moody on the surface. Awfully sweet on the inside.”

Namjoon asks, a strange twist to his lips, “You like girls?”

“I like the person,” you explain with a sigh. “Their genitals don’t really matter to me until we get to bumping uglies.”

Taehyung and Hoseok nod as they chorus, “Same.”

Yoongi dips his head. “Me too.”

Jimin makes his head into a flower once more, fluttering his fingers under his chin. “Me three. Or, four, I guess.”

“My exes have been… interesting to say the least,” you say with a humorous laugh. “For example, my last girlfriend, Yoonji. She dumped me, because I wasn’t ‘emotionally available’. What even does that mean?”

“You didn’t pay enough attention to her,” Jungkook grumbles, seemingly rising from the grave, eyes blinking open to stare down at you. “Did you take her for granted?”

You gape at him, throat clenching over nothing. “No… I was always there for her when she needed me. If she wanted me to turn up outside her dorm at three in the morning because she went out and got drunk, regardless of if I had a nine am class the same day, I did. She always would say that I wasn’t doing enough and I- ugh, you know what? Forget about it.”

You toss your drink on the table, pushing it away from you in frustration, the memories welling up in your mind and making your eyes sting. You hadn’t cried since you broke up all those months ago, promising Young-mi that you’d only spend the weekend licking your wounds, crying into your tubs of ice-cream (non-dairy, you recall the pain you were in for the rest of the week because of it), and when you went to class the following Monday, you were fine.

That’s what you’d been telling yourself for the nine months. That you were fine.

“Noona, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you upset,” Jungkook mumbles from your side. You can feel the awkward tension of the other boys staring at you, the weight of their eyes on you makes you want to curl up.

Unthinkingly, you glare at him, icily, but upon seeing his chastised puppy dog look, you sigh.

He flinches away as if you’d moved to strike him when you reach up and the gesture makes you feel guilty. Softly, you soothe, “It’s okay, Kookie. I know you didn’t mean it.”

You pat his curly hair repeatedly, until the tense line of his shoulders melts away, and he relaxes into you. In a bold move, he wraps his arms around your middle, cuddling you close. Contrary to your anti-skinship rule, feeling his cool arms around you makes you feel overwhelmingly safe, not uncomfortable.

“Wah, Jungkook is being awfully brazen tonight,” Yoongi remarks. “Mere moments ago, YN said she’d be my girlfriend and now he’s moving in on her so shamelessly. I ought to beat him.”

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say hyung sounds jealous,” Jimin remarks, playfully.

Yoongi sniffs, draining his beer, glaring at the pinkette over the neck of the bottle. “Jealous? What do I look like being jealous over our youngest bunny?”

Namjoon laughs, the sound loud enough to surprise you, and when you stare at him in surprise, his cheeks pink. “Yoongi-hyung usually isn’t so vocal about his feelings.”

The composer’s cheeks flush even darker at his assertion, and he curls into Namjoon’s shoulder, hiding his face from your line of sight. “Stop teasing Joonie, otherwise I’m going to hide all your Ryan toys.”

“You have Ryan plushies?”

Namjoon’s reddened cheeks are answer enough and you demand to see at least one.

The laugh that paints your voice is bright, like a splash of vibrant paint, perfect and unique – just like you – and you miss the way the boys’ eyes linger on the curve of your lips, a heap more intrigued than they should be.

Chapter Text

In the days following the night at the apartment, you and the boys have gotten increasingly closer. So close, in fact, it becomes impossible to find you without at least one of them trailing behind you, much to the confusion of most of the student body. Before you knew it, it was the last two weeks of your semester and you’d spent nearly two months orbiting Bangtan. Your presentation was due the following Monday, and you’d practically finished it all, happy to submit the work that you and Taehyung had breathed life into.

Jimin waits for you after class, grabbing your backpack and shouldering it with ease, ignoring the longing looks that get tossed his way. As soon as his eyes lay on you, his lips pull up in a bright smile, lifting his sunglasses into his hair and waving wildly, as if you somehow couldn’t see him with his glowing skin and his bright pink hair.

Jungkook would grab your books without thought and open doors for you, shouldering in with his broad form and giving you a fond grin when you’d tell him he did a good job. His dimples deepen, and his cheeks take on a rosy glow, avoiding your eyes like a nervous boy. He never drops his polite tone with you, but the distance between you slowly diminishes over those days until he feels comfortable enough putting his hands on your shoulders and leading you to the cafeteria, massaging the tense muscles, unconsciously.

Taehyung has more illustrations of you than he can count – fascinated by the slope of your nose and the shape of your lips. The thing is, he can never seem to get the twinkle in your eyes just right, so he’d trash the half-complete composition, in irritation, before starting another. Although he was the first to befriend you, something he takes pride in, he finds that your budding relationships with his brothers bugs him more than he would like to admit. He covets your time, holding it selfishly to his chest, like a child would their favourite toy. He knows you aren’t an inanimate object, but he can’t help but feel… replaced when you rather spend your time with anybody else.

Namjoon thinks of you whenever he reads a piece of poetry, remembering the music in the way you speak. He shares his favourite novels with you – the two of you meet up a few times a week in your café to discuss the book’s content, and he finds the way your brain works to be fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. He sees the colours swirling in your eyes at the bottom of the pools in the aquarium he works in, shimmering vibrantly against the scales of the exotic aquatic creatures who call his job their home. He even finds himself telling them about you, as he scrubs the bottom of the tanks, oblivious to the blank way in which they watch him from their own supplementary tank.

Hoseok still picks you up, he brings you food and keeps your stuffed full and happy. His favourite sight is you, mouth full of meat and your stomach being filled with things he provides. He doesn’t know why, but it fills a primal urge within him that he doesn’t care to try and flesh out. One time, he even had chicken wings delivered right to your door. You had been so surprised when your doorbell rang, signalling the arrival of the local pimply pizza-boy, two boxes of the glistening, sauce-coated meat steaming in his hands. Hoseok had excitedly FaceTimed you as you ate, grinning from ear to ear as you danced on your sheets, mouth jam-packed.

Jin, with his magnetising charm, collects you from work, sitting in a corner, tapping away at his keyboard – facts and figures that you had no chance of understanding swimming across his screen – a serious expression on his handsome face. Swarms of girls wait outside the window, staring and giggling at him, pointing and whispering words of praise, but it’s almost as if it is background noise for him. He doesn’t pay them a moment of notice, mouthing for another green tea from across the room. He brings you little trinkets sometimes, not really thinking about the significance of them – a silky scarf here, a small handmade bracelet there. To him, they are nothing but symbols of his growing fondness of you, but to you, as someone who isn’t used to this kind of attention – it stirs something in your tummy that keeps you awake at night sometimes.

Yoongi is the only one who tries to keep that distance between you. It’s awkward for him to come home and see you in the living room, wearing one of Jungkook’s hoodies because yours got soaked in the rain, waiting for Namjoon to finish work. He doesn’t know why, but the sight of you becoming a regular fixture in his spaces sets him on edge. He’s glad you are aware enough to keep yourself out of his room – in fact, you don’t go into any of their rooms, for privacy and respect of their space – because he doesn’t know if he’d be able to sleep again with the scent of you swirling in the air of his most personal space.

He hates how he sees your eyes in every cluster of flora he plants at the botanical garden that he works three days a week. Yoongi feels pathetic, for latching onto the moments your give him your attention – when your eyes spark to life when he drops a plate of something steaming and spicy in your lap on his way to his bedroom, to hide from the world. Actually, no, he’s just hiding from you and your perceptive eyes.

He does, though, slip up once and only once. He sees you sleeping on the sofa late one night, while Jungkook and Jimin are splayed out on the floor, staring at the screen in a zombie-like fashion. The blanket has fallen off your body, dressed in some shorts and one of Jimin’s shirts that has risen because of your comfortable position. He curses the boys out for their lack of care toward you, and shoves the blanket over you, bundling you up like his grandma used to do for him until not a strip of skin is exposed to the air. You woke up, only a little, and grabbed his hand, sleepily bringing it to your face to nuzzle at his fingers before you were back lightly snoring.

The boys didn’t let him live down how much he blushed for days.

You’d be lying if you said that the new attention didn’t make you flush from head to toe. Seeing them, men who looked as if they belonged on the cover of magazines, standing in front of you – waiting for you, giving you things, making you laugh, smothering you in warmth – made your heart skip a beat, no matter how many times you saw it. You fight to keep your feelings under wraps, laughing off every awkward beat of silence, pinching their cheeks when they got a little too close, fastidiously avoiding alcoholic beverages lest you act of your impulses under the influence.

You were doing a good job, in your opinion, of hiding the way they made you feel, too ashamed of the intensity of your infatuation (that’s what you’d taken to calling it, as calling the fluttering in your stomach ‘real feelings’ felt too personal), of being one of the other girls – the ones who fell at their feet.

Young-mi complains from the kitchen, haphazardly applying her makeup to her cheeks, drawing you out of your reverie, “You didn’t tell me he was coming!”

“I didn’t know,” you reply, throwing your hands in the air, flustered. “He just turns up!”

“God, I look like such a mess!” She complains, simultaneously putting a curler into her fringe and applying mascara to her eyes. She stares at the dancer’s body through the frosted glass of the kitchen door, the only partition between the two of you and the pinkette scanning the photos dotted around in the living room. “Why did Aunt Flow have to come now of all times? Look at the pimple of my forehead! Look! It’s the size of Jeju Island!”

You laugh at her frazzled expression and soothe her with soft coos. “You look lovely, the loveliest in fact! You’re glowing. And don’t complain! You triggered my period, so now I’m three days early.” You glance down and ask, lightly, “Could you, maybe, let my wrist go. I can’t feel my fingers.”

She does as you ask with a noise of frustration, and you rub at your chafing joints.

“You never much cared for them before,” she says, suspiciously. “Why are they hanging around you like fruit flies?”

Pausing, you stare at her, “Am I the trash in this situation?”

She nods.

Amazing.”

Her lips pull up in a small smile before she gets a reflective look on her face. She sits down and plays with her fingers, looking infinitely smaller. She mutters, hurt painting her tone, “Everything feels like it’s changing.”

Ducking down, you look up at her and ask, reaching for her hand and hooking one finger with her own, “What do you mean?”

“First Mei Li, now you,” she says, softly, staring at your intertwined fingers. “I don’t like it.”

Your expression falls at the mention of your absentee roommate. Instantly, the gut churning sensation that had plagued you returns, and you let out a frustrated gust of air. You pull yourself onto the other chair and ask, letting your feet swing listlessly, “Have you heard from her at all?”

She shakes her head. “Her Mom hasn’t either.”

“I swear, when I find that loser, I’m going to peel his disgusting creep face off,” you curse Dongwon, knowing you should have trusted your gut regarding him. “I can’t believe he convinced her to run away.”

“We don’t know that,” Young-mi denies, weakly. “All we know is that Mei Li text her Mom saying she wasn’t coming home and that she was happy.”

“What else could have happened, Young-mi?” You ask, desperately. You miss your younger friend, someone who you looked at like a little sister. She could be anywhere, doing anything – completely vulnerable after her accident. It didn’t sit right with you. “You tell me what else makes sense.”

She couldn’t, letting her head drop in frustration. “I just wish she’d contact us, so we wouldn’t worry. It’s been four days already.”

Jimin makes a noise of amusement, drawing both of your attentions, and Young-mi’s cheeks pink at the sound of his cheerful giggle.

You nudge open the door with a partial frown, already suspicious. “I don’t think I like the sound of you laughing in here alone.”

Jimin is holding a framed photo of you and Young-mi from your Fresher’s Fair, both dressed in the typical get-up for the annual cancer run (pink top to toe), and he’s taking a picture of it on his phone.

“The boys will want to see this,” Jimin remarks, snapping multiple pictures, much to your surprise.

“Drop the photo and delete those pictures,” you demand, swiping for the phone.

Jimin holds the phone high above his head, nudging you away with his other arm, smile practically taking over his face. “Already sent it to the group chat.”

Your phone in your back pocket vibrates repeatedly, signalling an influx of messages and you assume they’re all going to be laughing emojis from Taehyung, who you’ve found doesn’t stray from his phone for more than a minute.

“You’re dead, Jimin,” you threaten.

He giggles, spinning out of your hold with a grace that shouldn’t belong to anyone short of an angel, and says, “Youngmi-ssi will protect me.”

He hides behind the furiously blushing girl, holding her ahead of him as a mock-shield, ducking away from your wild swipes for his head. For a moment, over her shoulder, you see his expression falter (his brow puckers and his lip curls up, momentarily making him look murderous) before he seems to freeze, taking a large step back.

“Ah, YN, I forgot I had something to do today, so I guess we’ll have to postpone our plans,” he says in a rush, practically falling over himself to get to his shoes, shoulders stiff.

Confused by the sudden shift in his attitude, you ask, “Are you sure you’re okay, Jiminie?”

He nods, stiffly, and kicks into his shoes. He doesn’t give you your usual half-hug before he’s slamming your front door shut behind him.

“Do I smell bad or something?”

You turn to Young-mi and shake your head. “Why?”

“Because I’m sure he wasn’t breathing,” she says, voice soft with hurt and confusion. “Quick. Sniff me.”

“I’m not sniffing you, Young-mi,” you complain, but the she simply grabs you and practically rubs herself on you. “Ew! Stop molesting me! You smell fine! Great, actually.”

Satisfied, she releases you, dropping onto the couch with a huff. She crosses her arms over her chest and she glares up at you, adorably. “You have a group chat with the Bangtan Boys?”

Groaning, you throw your arm over your eyes and drown out her complaints, thinking back to Jimin’s weird behaviour. Fishing out your phone, you pull up your private chat with the boys and type out your response.

You: Anybody who talks smack about my endeavours to raise money to find a cure for *cancer* is clearly a demon and shall be banished from my sight!!

Gucci Boi: You look cute, YNie!!

Baby Bun: He’s right, noona! Jiminie-hyung was just teasing, right hyung?

Nation’s Dancer: Right.

Yoon: Somebody piss in his cereal or something?

You: Is everything okay, Jimin? You kinda… left in a hurry?

Nation’s Dancer: I’m fine, talk later.

Joon-bug: YN… Maybe talk to Jimin later? He has a lot on his place.

You: Fine, Joonie, just make sure he eats something? We didn’t get to go for lunch.

Worldwide handsome guy: You guys were doing lunch *without* us???

Sunflower: ???

Sunflower: I’m getting real sick of being left out on the fun!

You: Well that’s TOO DAMN BAD!

Yoon: Who yells?

Letting out a small chuckle, you toss your phone away from you, turning your eyes back to your housemate, who seems to have been watching you for a while.

“You really like these boys, don’t you?” She asks, sagely. “You get this little… I don’t know, this little private smile? It’s cute.”

“I don’t know, they’re just really sweet to me,” you explain, openly. “They’re so close, like a family, and to be a part of that – it’s addicting.”

“You should be careful,” Young-mi warns, with a gentle smile. “I want nothing but the best for you, YN, you know that? You’re my bestie. I’m just not used to you being so open with people that aren’t me, but it’s not a bad thing. I’m glad you’re opening up.”

“You mean that?”

She nods, vehemently, clutching your hand.

//

You feel hands grip your waist, long dexterous digits digging into the soft curve of your sides, running along your ribs, experimentally.

“You’re so soft, noona ,” a familiar voice whimpers, excitement deepening his tone of voice. “Is this all for me?”

“For us, you mean,” another voice calls from your side. Hot puffs of air brush against the curve of your neck and you feel a silky tongue work along the line of your jaw, nibbling at your skin before nuzzling in. “You smell delectable, YNie .”

“Honey ,” a higher-pitched voice sing-songs, excitedly. Stubbier fingers work along your spine, pressing into the ridges of your vertebrae, teasing along the swell of your ass. “You feel so good, jagi. So… fucking… good.” He punctuates each word with a light nibble along the curve of your spine. “All ours.”

A deep rumble bubbles along your other side, where someone’s tongue is working lazily along the ridges of your ribs. “I can’t wait to fuck into your sweet, little pussy, YN. You can’t imagine how long I’ve been yearning for you.”

Letting out a sharp gasp at an intrusion at your centre, as skinny fingers skirt along your opening, missing where you need them the most.

A knowing voice asks, teasingly, “Is this where you want us, petal ? In your pretty pussy?”

Nodding, blindly, you reach other, but touch nothingness. The bright light overwhelms you, and you clench your eyes shut once more, feeling pathetic and vulnerable – at their command, at their mercy, under their control. You can sense them around you, the taste of them marinating on your tongue, coating your throat and the scent of them fills your lungs, but as you reach out for them, you grip nothing but empty space.

“Don’t tease her, hyung ,” a fair voice demands, pressing dry kisses at your cheeks, where tears seem to have spilled out. “You’re making her cry. I hate seeing her cry.”

The voice is so familiar that you want to reach out again, but he soothes you. “No, no, baby girl. This is all about you. Let us take care of you, okay?”

A new set of fingers dip into you, pressing in deep, until you let out a sharp noise at the intrusion. You clench around them, unconsciously, and whoever they belong to let out a low hiss at the tightening sensation. Those same fingers scissor your entrance, spreading your nether lips and setting a languid pace that has your body buzzing.

“She’s so tight inside,” a familiar voice mumbles, pressing a dry kiss to your collar, nose brushing against your jaw, affectionately. “I want to be inside her first. Can I?”

“Noona… Can you cum from just this?” A voice remarks, in wonderment. He asks, and you don't feel as if he's talking to you anymore, "Shall we try?”

A chorus of intrigued noises fills your ears, before a myriad of tongues assault your body. Your pebbled nipples, the line of your throat, the inside of your mouth, your nether entrance. You feel as if there’s not a single patch of your skin that isn’t being nibbled on, sucked at, licked with a talented, determined tongue.

You let out a groan of frustration, more hot tears spilling from your eyes, as you feel the rolling heat in your gut, but you know that without the pressure inside, the relentless pounding on hips against hips, the feeling of fullness – you won’t be able to finish.

“Our baby is getting frustrated,” the teasing voice calls, pushing your hair behind your ear. “Should I play with you some more, sunshine?”

“No,” you plead, but the sound is so quiet, you don’t know how they hear you. “P-Please, I need you.”

“Which one?”

“Any of you,” you babble. “All of you.”

“All?” They chorus, amused. Fond. So in love.

You nod, vehemently, more tears spilling over with just how honest you are being. “I don’t want to pick, I can’t. That’s not fair.”

A low chuckle sounds, echoing loudly in your head, before an explosion of noise, sound and colour shatters behind your lids. Fragmented glass pings around your head and you feel as if you’re being pulled by your every limb across the universe.

Blinking open your eyes, you realise, quickly, that your pillow is damp from your frustrated tears, and the space between your thighs burns in a yearning you can’t begin to explain.

After sluggishly pulling yourself out of bed, you get ready for the day, dressing for work in a skirt, tights and some boots, with your work shirt. Upon stepping outside, you instantly feel that something is off.

Looking from left to right, you realise what it is.

Hoseok hadn’t turned up outside of your place. Taehyung didn’t either, which catches you off-guard.

While you know, logically, you shouldn’t have gotten so used to having them as a crutch, you couldn’t help but fall into a routine, so not seeing them – it made your heart ache a little in your chest.

You make your way through the near empty streets, cutting into familiar alleyways to shorten the distance, towards the bus station, distractedly scanning the last messages from the group chat, wondering if something had happened to them.

Baby Bun: @Gucci Boy Stop spamming the group with pictures of your nose pores, it’s gross!

Gucci Boi: I want YN to see them! She keeps saying that we’re perfect but look! Pores! Pores galore!

Yoon: Aren’t you a human being? Of course, you have nose pores – stop sending the pics or I might throw up

Sunflower: Wanna see mine???

You: Absolutely not!

Baby bun: NO!

Joon-bug: Please, hyung, I’m begging you not to.

Sunflower: :’((( meanie

And then nothing, until this morning. There had been nothing that gave you the impression that they were upset with you, so you know being self-conscious is silly.

You: Morning boys!

You: Here’s a photo of my breakfast (considering you guys are determined to see everything I put into my body) of coffee and a pop-tart

You: The strawberry kind so it’s extra yummy

Then, just as you’d left the house, you’d sent another message that went completely ignored by everyone in the chat.

You: Hey guys! Is everything okay?

You shuffle down the street, huffing a little to yourself, ignorant of your surroundings as you scroll through the words.

A shiver runs down your spine as your subconscious senses someone behind you. Thinking it might be a stranger wanting to pass-by, you move to twist out of the way, an apology already on your lips, only to bump directly into someone’s chest.

Instantly, fear grips your heart as a vice-like grip wraps around your wrist, while the other hand winds into your hair, locking you up tight. You find yourself shoved forward into an alleyway, and while you claw at their wrists, at their chests, a scream bubbling in the back of your throat, the strength behind the assaulter’s grip in your hair threatens to snap your neck in half.

“Shut the fuck up or I’ll cut your throat,” a deep voice hisses into your ear. The warning is followed by a tightening of the hand in your hair. You don’t recognise the tone of voice at all, it sounds more like a rough, angry growl, the words garbled and mismatched, and your mind is whirring too quickly to make sense of anything outside of the fact that your life was in absolute danger.

You rear up, trying to scream but before you can get it out, his (you can tell it’s a man’s body) hand covers your mouth with a cloth soaked in something damp and the strong smell makes your eyes sting and your throat burns from inhaling the fumes.

The last thing you can remember before your world turns black is the heavy smell of cologne and a familiar blood-red tie.

Chapter Text

The night before

“Jimin, aren’t you done feeding yet?” Taehyung asks, rapping the back of his knuckle on the dancer’s door, concern marring his features. “It’s been nearly an hour, you can’t possibly still be hungry.”

Inside, the pinkette sluggishly lifts his head from where he’s had his face pressed in the throat of the nameless donor. Light rivulets of blood stream down the man’s clavicle, pooling at the joint of shoulder, where Jimin laps at the blessed ambrosia lethargically. The other man stirs in his state of euphoria, a low moan bubbling from his chest, and Jimin reaches down to stroke him through his boxers, to alleviate the pressure burning low in his gut.

“It’s okay,” Jimin soothes, brushing his long sweat-damp hair from his face. The man is resting on his chest, oblivious to the world outside of the feeding room on the bottom floor. They had a specially equipped, furnished room at the behest of Jimin’s doctor parents, for when they had situations like this one, where someone needs to feed so badly on real blood and not plasma or bagged blood, but needs to do it in a safe and secure way. “I’ve got you.”

The two men are nude from their earlier activities, the buzzing in the back of Jimin’s head from the afterglow of a solid orgasm or two helps him relax, but after rousing from his rest, he realises just how uncomfortable he is, sticky in places he’d rather not be.

The roaring burn in the back of his throat that was triggered when he’d scented Young-mi and YN’s menstrual cycle that afternoon has diminished to a low tickle that he can easily ignore and has been replaced by a corroding guilt in his gut.

He doesn’t want to entertain the sentiment’s origins, he already knows where it’s coming from.

He sees your face flash up in his mind, making his skin crawl with shame.

Still, he suckles lightly at the wound until the man winces in his groggy state, only then does Jimin pulls back, licking at the wound and letting his venom heal over.

“You’ll be okay,” Jimin comforts him when he gurgles in his sleep, shifting his body across the bed into a more comfortable position. The man, dark-haired with handsome features, can barely open his eyes, too lost in the trance of blood loss and the ecstasy of the feeding, a sight that Jimin is more than accustomed to. The reminder makes his stomach turn. “Just sleep it off.”

Stepping under the intense spray of his shower, Jimin scrubs at his skin until he feels pink and bruised all over, the memories of the incident threatening to drown him. Flashes of a young girl’s face flickers in his mind’s eye and he clenches his fist so tightly that his nails bite into the meat of his palm, blood welling up before the skin heals over nearly instantaneously. Once done, he swipes a hand across the mirror, staring at his gaunt-looking reflection in the steamy mirror until he feels himself grow sickened by his appearance.

Towelling off his pink hair, he shuffles out of the room, leaving his guest to sleep, and he joins the other boys in the living room, avoiding their curious glances.

“Are you… Are you feeling okay?” Jungkook asks, cautiously, approaching his hyung with soft, understanding eyes. Jimin hates it.

The dancer nods, stiffly, but refuses to speak, worried that if he allows himself to mutter even one word, the dam will explode, and he’ll do nothing but scream and cry. He’d done enough of that when it happened. He had terrified Namjoon and Yoongi to the point of tears, standing on the precipice of nothingness, wishing for nothing but the darkness to absorb him, so he just clenches his fists and stares at nothing.

“Is the guy okay?”

Hoseok receives a hard glare from the maknae line, who rally around Jimin like protective puppies.

“Don’t talk like that, hyung,” Taehyung chastises, a hand on Jimin’s thigh. The blue-haired boy ignores the way the dancer flinches. “Jimin’s control has improved so much. He doesn’t do that anymore.”

Namjoon puts a hand on Hoseok’s shoulder, a control tactic he learned from his mother’s interactions with her subordinates, and says, tone fair and light, “You can hear his heartbeat from here. He’s just sleeping off the fatigue. You know better than I do that during a long feed, donors end up passing out.”

Hoseok ducks his head, ashamed. “I wasn’t trying to imply that Jiminie didn’t have good control, I just- it’s been an hour, and he didn’t speak to any of us when he came home. He just texted Jin-hyung and told him to get a donor in the dorm. What else am I supposed to think?”

“How about having some trust in him?” Yoongi asks, with a deep frown. He doesn’t like the implications of Hoseok’s words, and although he understands how things go, he wishes they’d give Jimin a break, and that frustration bleeds into his voice, sharpening his words. “How about treating him like a member of this cluster, rather than some kind of liability?”

“Yoongi.” Jin says, firmly, in warning. The eldest stares the musician into submission. “Enough.”

Namjoon lets out a gentle sigh. “I understand your worries, Hobi-hyung. It’s okay to worry about your members, about the cluster. We’re a family. But I agree with Yoongi. We need to trust in each other. Jimin and Yoongi have improved in their control over the last few years, and we have to be proud of that.”

Hoseok and Yoongi share a long look of deliberation, before the dancer concedes with a regretful nod. “My bad. Jimin. I’m sorry, I didn’t think about how it sounded.”

The wet-haired pinkette says nothing, he only nuzzles his head further into his knees and hides his eyes from the group of his brothers. Jungkook shares a long look with a worried Taehyung.

“Jiminie-hyung, you were with YN earlier,” Jungkook says, trying to get the older boy to engage in conversation. “How is she?”

Jimin shrugs.

Taehyung fishes his phone out of his pocket and brings up his phone’s background photo, set of the girl in question, hair tied up and out of the way, with some paint splotches on her cheeks. She had spent some hours with him one evening while he had been finishing a design project for his end of year ceramics assignment, and she spontaneously decided to give painting a try. Her art style was abstract – too abstract for her to earnestly say she wanted to show it off – but to the illustrator, it was a passionate expression of her emotions. Primary colours had been swiped across the easel in broad, strong strokes, blending together in a clash of vibrancy, with black lines intersecting at odd points. She had explained it vaguely when Taehyung had sidled up beside her to observe the art, “I just like how it looks, you know?”

And he did. He knew. He understood.

“Look at what our YNie did,” he says, nudging the phone under Jimin’s nose. “She’s pretty when she’s working, right?”

Jimin shrugs once more, but his eyes do linger on the picture for a few seconds, before the wave of guilt crashes over his head.

Jungkook whines, pawing at the phone, “No fair, hyung! Why do you get to spend so much time with YN?”

“She was my friend first,” Taehyung huffs, still sour.

Namjoon laughs, eyes sparkling at seeing Taehyung jealousy. “Being her friend first doesn’t mean anything, considering she means so much to all of us now.”

The blue-haired boy sticks his tongue out at his leader before snatching his phone back from a sour-looking Jungkook.

Yoongi rubs the back of his head, awkwardly, eyes flitting to the phone. “Send me the photo, Tae.”

“What was that, hyung?” Taehyung teases, maliciously ribbing the blond who is blushing furiously under the weight of the six other stares in the room. “I couldn’t quite hear you.”

Aish, brat. You heard me,” he growls. “Send the damned picture.”

He does, tossing it into their chat sans YN, and Jungkook makes a happy noise in the back of his throat, scanning the photo with focused eyes.

“She’s so pretty,” he compliments, eyes glittering. “How is she so pretty doing nothing?”

The other boys agree with low hums in their throat, before Taehyung’s phone pings with an incoming message. Instantly, his blissed-out expression fades into something darker, losing all amusement in his dark orbs.

“Namjoon, it’s time to go,” he says, simply. “Jooheon says there’s a problem with the girl.”

The leader asks, frowning, “Is she okay?”

Taehyung mumbles, miserably, “He doesn’t think she’ll make it two more days.”

“We have to try and figure out a way to help her,” Jin says, softly. “She did nothing wrong.”

Yoongi murmurs, “Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we want, hyung.”

Jin’s lips thin into a grim line. “Should we, maybe, call our parents to help us deal with the situation?”

“I’ve already spoken to Dongwon’s Alpha,” Namjoon replies, rubbing at the space between his eyes in frustration. “He says that he’s been off the rails before, but he’d been to a correction facility for wolves, to adjust his behaviour. They’re trying to find him, and they’ll contact me when they do.”

“Clearly that did nothing,” Yoongi remarks, caustically. “He’s bat-shit crazy.”

“Apparently, it’s called the mating call,” Namjoon corrects. “They feel the pull from potential mates, but sometimes, for some wolves that are immature, they become overwhelmed by the scent and sight of their mates and can react badly.”

“If they knew that this was a possibility, they should have kept him locked up,” Hoseok comments, blithely.

Jimin flinches violently from across the room, as if he had been struck in the face. “Their Alpha thought he got better. Should he be locked up for the rest of his life, because of a mistake he made years ago? Is that how you really feel, hyung?”

Hoseok lets out a gentle sigh. “Jiminie, you know that’s not what I meant. Wolves are dangerous.”

“So are we!” He roars, fangs dropping in anger. He looks every inch the vampire that he is. Every inch of the predator that he wishes he could hide from the world. His chest heaves with emotion and his eyes blacken in rage, in disappointment, in shame, in self-hatred, as he growls out, “So am I!”

Jungkook reaches for him, holding his sleeve in a loose grip, but the maknae finds himself shoved away, nearly tumbling over with the force of the thrust. “Don’t fucking touch me!”

Hurt, he murmurs, but goes unheard, “Hyung…”

“I need some air,” Jimin snaps, pulling away and grabbing his coat. “I feel like I’m going to choke in here.”

Hoseok flinches at the vitriol in the pinkette’s voice, unable to maintain the air of impassivity.

Yoongi moves to stand and grabs at his wrist once more. “I’ll come with you. Don’t open your mouth to deny me that, Jiminie. I’m coming.”

The two leave the apartment, bathing the room in absolute silence.

“Well that couldn’t have gone worse if we tried,” Taehyung mumbles, staring at the front door briefly before moving his eyes to their leader. “We still need to go check out the warehouse.”

“Let’s go,” Namjoon says. He moves to stand, squeezing Hoseok’s shoulder in support and tells him, “It’ll be okay. Jiminie is just really sensitive because it’s coming up to the five-year mark of, well, you remember.”

Taehyung sidles beside the dancer and says, not unkindly, “He has done really well, and sometimes, hyung, I think you forget that.”

 Jin accompanies the two out of the apartment, leaving Jungkook and Hoseok alone.

“Let’s play a game on the XBOX, hyung,” the maknae suggests, lips lifting in a small smile. “Once the donor wakes up, we’ll feed him and send him home in a car, and we can go on a riverside date, like we used to. How does that sound?”

Jungkook’s attempt at getting Hoseok’s mood to change in successful, as the dark-haired dancer smiles lightly at him, before ruffling his hair. “Turn it on, so I can beat your sweet little ass at your own game.”

“Oh, you’re on.”

Miles away, Taehyung, Namjoon and Jin both arrive at a dingy looking abandoned warehouse, parking up and piling out, pulling their collars up to protect their faces from the bitter wind.

“What’s the damage?” Taehyung asks the white-haired fixer, Jooheon, as soon as he lays eyes on him from across the warehouse. His hair is slicked back as usual, dark clothes making him seem paler under the moonlight being cast in through the high windows. “You called us here for more than just a friendly chit-chat I hope, Jooheon.”

The fixer rolls his eyes and gives Taehyung a half-hug. “Shut it, dweeb. I wouldn’t have had you out here so late after your curfew if it wasn’t important. She’s metamorphosising.”

Namjoon asks, concerned, “How far along is she in the transformation?”

“Take a look for yourself,” Jooheon says, leading them down the hallway, past empty, derelict rooms that had been used for mass-production of car parts. Down a flight of stairs, he leads them into the basement area, down, down, down the corridor until he reaches a heavily locked room sealed with a heavy iron door. It almost looks like a prison cell. He pulls back the visor and gestures for Taehyung to take a look inside.

The smell billowing out from the small opening is off-putting enough to their sensitive noses. Upon seeing the boys flinch, the fixer grimaces. “She threw up on herself. I tried to get her cleaned up, but even after I dosed her, she’s a feisty one.”

Taehyung bends down to look through the visor and his eyes widen in horror.

In a huddled corner, draped in a thick blanket, stained with blood and other unmentionables is a shivering, weeping Mei Li.

She is unconscious, or as much as she can be, considering the pain she must be going through, and her wrist is bound to the wall with an iron chain – the only thing strong enough to keep the hybrid restrained. She has some clothes on, bundled in the blanket, in an attempt to keep her warm despite the furnace burning inside of the chamber. They had to keep her locked up for her own good, but they tried to make her as comfortable as possible. Beneath her skin, explosions of black blood pulse through the contours of her thin veins, mapping across her greyish skin in patches.

“She almost bit her own arm off trying to get out,” Jooheon says, leaning against the wall beside the door, staring at the boys impassively. “That’s what the muzzle is for. You told me to keep her under lock and key until you could figure out what to do. You’re running out of time, kiddo.”

Namjoon curses Jooheon's lack of care towards her, knowing that the other man really doesn't care about wolves - doesn't really care about anyone outside of their coven, honestly.

“We know that,” Jin curses, sharply nudging the white-haired man out of the way. He looks in through the partition and bites back a sob at the sight of her. Although he holds no emotional connection to the girl in front of him, he knows the value of human life – they all do, they respect it – so it hurts him to see her in such pain. He’d already long voted to have her put out of her misery once they realised what was happening, both he and Yoongi knew it to be the best thing for her, but the boys all voted – five to two – to keep her alive. “She can’t handle much more of this.”

“She could still pull through,” Taehyung denies, frown deepening. “We spoke to an experienced white witch, and he said that it’s possible for her to pull through.”

“Only if we acquire the blood of the person who turned her,” Jin adds, with a growl. “And that scum of the Earth has disappeared off the face of the planet. His own useless Alpha doesn’t know where he is.”

“Hey, be careful,” Jooheon says, nudging the visor closed and hushing the boys with a gesture of his hands. “She heard me talking about her maker, and I think her subconscious instincts are telling her to defend his name. She nearly bit my hand off.”

“What do we do, Namjoon?” Jin asks, once they’re far enough away from the chamber to no longer sense the waves of sickness pulsing from the room, from her clammy and fragile body. “This isn’t humane.”

“We aren’t human,” Jooheon remarks, unhelpfully. Jin tosses him an icy glare, to which the white-haired fixer backs away from, whistling lowly. “My bad. I’ll just go… over there.”

Namjoon runs a hand through his honey-blond hair and shrugs, shoulders heavy with the weight of his responsibilities. “I don’t know how to alleviate her pain. I can’t stop the transformation, not without Dongwon’s blood. And she burns through the pain medication too quickly for it to be effective.”

“I’ve been giving her morphine every thirty minutes for the last 24 hours,” Jooheon says, honestly. He glances at the chamber, gaze blank, but there’s an edge of something like pity in it. Like how someone looks at a dog on its way to the pound to be put down. “I’m surprised she isn’t dead.”

“You always talk too much,” Taehyung chastises, shoving at his shoulder. "Shut up sometimes, hyung!"

“Why do you guys care so much anyway?” Jooheon asks, tilting his head curiously. He eyes the group of boys and purses his lips. “I’ve always known you’ve been… partial to the humans, but to go this far? For a hybrid that you have no claim to? This is dangerous.”

“Dongwon overstepped his bounds first,” Taehyung says, defensively. “He breached the Accords first.”

“And his Pack should be the ones punishing him for that,” Jooheon reasons. “It’s not our place, as vampires. We have our rules, they have theirs.”

“This is our coven’s territory, my cluster's territory,” Namjoon explains, jaw ticking in annoyance. “Any and all supernaturals that come through this city have to defer to my mother, to our coven leader. As her proxy, I have the right to manage situations like this at my own discretion.”

Jooheon stares at the tall leader, expression strangely pensive, before letting out a light snort and he asks, teasingly, “When did you grow up so much, Joonie?”

The leader flushes around the collar, and Jin chuckles at his innocent reaction, clapping a hand on his shoulder, proud. “Our leader has always been the fairest of us all.”

In the distance, the hybrid in the cellar lets out a low wail, haunting and streaked with pain. It brings the four boys to a halt, and Namjoon’s expression fades into agony once more.

“We need to find Dongwon, and quickly,” he says, jaw set in firm resolve. “But, tonight, all we can do is keep an eye on her. I’ll stay with Jin-hyung. Taehyung, Jooheon, both of you can go home.”

The blue-haired boy grits his teeth and bites out, “No way!”

“Taehyung, I’m not kidding,” Namjoon says, firmly, levelling him with a hard stare, “I need you to go home and make sure Jimin and Hoseok haven’t killed each other.”

The blue-haired illustrator lets out a long-winded groan, but he throws an arm over Jooheon’s neck and lugs him out of the factory. “Let’s get some ice-cream before we go home, hyung.”

Jooheon nods, excitedly. “You know, Soohyun asks about you from time to time. When are you coming back to visit us in Daegu?”

“You know I’ve been pledged to Namjoon's cluster since I was a kid,” Taehyung says, lightly. “Same with you and Shownu-hyung. I couldn't leave to come back to Daegu even if I wanted to... Which I don't. Seoul is my home now.”

Jooheon scoffs. “But you can always come and visit, right?”

“Of course,” he laughs, shoving him away. Then, his expression gets tight and he asks, strangely uneasily, “How is Soohyun?”

“She’s still obsessed with you, if that’s what you’re asking,” he laughs. The blue-haired boy winces. “You shouldn’t have fucked her, if you were going to regret it so much.”

“It was one time,” he groans, sliding into the driver’s seat.

Jooheon’s laughter nearly deafens the other boy, who’s cheeks redden at the teasing.

Chapter Text

Back to present

The muted sounds of choked-off sobs bleeds into your subconscious, muffled by what feels like cotton padding the inside of your brain. You blink open your eyes, wincing instantly at the bright light burning directly into your face. Clenching your eyes shut, you let out a croon of pain and you try to cover your eyes but… you can’t move.

“You’re awake then,” a voice mumbles, strangely weary, from a corner of the room. “There’s no use in pretending. My hearing might not be as good as a vampire’s, but I can hear your heart pounding in your chest. What a delightful sound.”

You hear the flicker of something and then through your closed lids, you see the light dim considerably. When you open your eyes, the room has been bathed in blackness, only illuminated by the light filtering through the gaps in the wooden planks that had been haphazardly nailed to the window pane. The floor isn’t dirty, but things are out of place – a chair toppled over, a pile of books haphazardly tossed to the side, empty packets of half-eaten food strewn over the place.

Your stomach feels as if it has nose-dived straight to your toes.

Wiggling your fingers, you realise nothing is broken, but your wrists are bound. Tight enough to hurt.

You’re terrified, so petrified that it isn’t funny.

It feels like you’ve been hit with an anvil. Your head throbs so badly and your jaw aches, as if you bumped your chin on something hard. The memory before waking up is woolly, you recall flicking on the coffee machine in the kitchen, and the way the cold air brushed against your skin when you stepped outside. But… after a point, it goes fuzzy at the edges, then completely black.

“Look at me.”

Opposite you, sitting down in a chair not dissimilar to the one you’ve been bound to, is Dongwon. But he looks weird. His eyes are too wide, bloodshot and rimmed with red. He seems crazed, his hair is a bird’s nest atop his head as if he’d combed his hands through it multiple times. Sweat is beaded at his brow and temples, and his shirt sleeves have been rolled up messily past his elbows.

When you’ve been able to wet your lips enough to form the words without pain scorching your throat, you ask, inaudibly, “Where am I?”

“That’s an awfully good question,” he mumbles, tugging on his tendrils once more, to the point of causing himself pain. His lips pull down in a grimace as he muses, distractedly, “Where are you? Where am I? Where are we?”

“You’re not making any sense,” you mumble, voice rough and laced with pain. You glare at him, trying to mask the fear in your eyes, and demand, “This isn’t funny anymore. I want to go home. Now.”

“Don’t you recognise this place? You are home, YN,” he says, gesturing to your surroundings with a wide sweep of his hands. He rises to his feet, before he ducks down so the two of you are at eye-level, one hand braced on the back of your chair, leaning so close that his nose is almost brushing with his own. Dongwon looks even more frantic, up close. He gives you a deranged grin, almost childlike in its brightness, before he says, assuredly, “You’re with me, where you belong.”

“Dongwon-ssi… please,” you plead, your voice breaking on the final word. “I want to go home.”

He rears back slightly, as if he doesn’t understand why you aren’t beaming along with him, as if your discomfort truly isn’t registering in his mind.

His lip curls in displeasure, making him look infinitely more dangerous, more frightening, more intimidating, and he practically snarls, curling a fist in your hair at the root, tugging until you wince, “Why aren’t you listening to me?”

Pulling away, as if physically putting distance between you calms him down. He digs his nails into his wrist, drawing blood. You watch, in rapt fascination, as welts appear and lines of blood rise to the surface in thin scratches. He says, more to himself than anyone else, “It’s okay, YN. You didn’t know. It’ll be okay now. She- She’s gone right now, but you’ll be good for me, won’t you?”

You ask, although your intuition is flashing red in your mind – you know you already know who he’s referring to, but you need to hear him confirm it. “Who?”

“Don’t make me talk about her,” he whines, tears springing to his eyes. He runs his hands down your thighs, back and forth, as if he’s pacifying himself and not you. His touch makes you recoil, but the threat of his nails digging into the meat of your legs makes you freeze.

Wildly, he scrubs at his face until his cheeks are pink and he’s practically slapping himself.

You bite out, anger rising in your throat, “Are you talking about Mei Li? Where is she? What did you do to her?”

“They stole her from me!” Dongwon roars, picking up his chair and tossing it against the wall with a strength that takes you by surprise. The roar that escapes his throat practically shakes the windows and you feel it rattle the bones inside your body. The sound echoes inside of your head, as if it were bellowed into an empty cave, pinging violently off the walls of your brain, and you feel absolute, honest-to-god fear flash through your system. His eyes- You must be seeing things because you’re sure you saw them flash a sickly yellow colour, despite the dimness of the room.

“No, no, no,” he says, approaching you again, crowding your space with worried hands patting at your cheeks and jaw. “Don’t cry, little one. I don’t want you to cry.”

You didn’t realise you were. Rivulets of tears stain your cheeks and you’re choking on your sobs with how violent they are being pulled from your chest. He coos at you, wiping your tears away, he even presses a kiss to your temple, making you nearly jump out of your skin at the contact.

“It’ll be okay,” he pacifies, playing with a loose curl, spellbound. “I might not have her right now, but I have you. And that means that they have to give her back to me.”

He holds your chin in his hands, rubbing his thumb back and forth along your bottom lip, as he smiles down at you. You attempt to pull away, but he holds fast, grip unyielding. Instead, you demand, “What are you talking about?”

His eyes narrow in irritation, lip ticking up as if he wants to scowl.

“Don’t act like you don’t know,” he growls, threateningly. His grip on your jaw becomes oppressive, and you feel spit pool in the corners of your mouth. Your throat hurts, your head is throbbing, and now, you can barely breathe. “Those fucking vampires you’ve been slutting it up with.”

“V-Vampireth?” You slur, teeth cutting into your gums painfully as you try to wiggle out of his steel-like grip.

He pushes your face away and you very nearly topple over in the chair, but Dongwon catches you in time. Stomach swooping at the change in vertigo, he rights your chair and crowds your space once more.

“I’m sorry I was so rough,” he says, mood shifting so quickly, it’s giving you a whiplash. He does genuinely seem apologetic, eyes wide as they catalogue your face, slick with spit, tears and your lip throbs in pain. “I made you bleed.”

Licking the corner of your lips, you feel where your tooth had cut into your lower lip, the light coppery taste tinging your mouth, feeling like poison on your tongue.

He lets out a dry scoff and says, moving away from you, “You’re lucky it’s me and not one of those bloodsuckers. They would drain your dry and rape your corpse at the mere sight of your blood. That’s all they’re good for, those disgusting creatures.”

Slowly, you stammer, holding his gaze, “I…don’t know… what… you’re talking… about.”

“Those wretched Bangtan Boys,” he explains, blankly. “You’re trying to tell me that you didn’t know they were blood-fiends? That they drained humans of their blood as you would a can of soda? Don’t make me laugh. I can smell them all over you, you stink of them.”

“Vampires?”

Flashes of their faces run through your mind, and you can’t consolidate his words with reality. It didn’t make sense, the idea of those boys being vampires is almost laughable. Jungkook, who cries when watching Disney movies. Jimin, who made you origami cranes with words of support when you were tired. Jin, who always makes you your favourite foods. Yoongi, who made you a special CD of all his favourite tracks that he had made, one of a kind, just for you, complete with a personalised design on the disc. Namjoon, who sketches cartoons instead of studying because it helps him relax. Taehyung, who braids your hair for you when you’re half-asleep and can’t do it by yourself. Hoseok, who holds your hand during scary movies, squeezing your hands tightly as if you were the only tether he had to stop himself from freaking out.

He nods, crouching down. His grin turns unhinged. “And I’m a werewolf.”

You only stare at him, expression carefully blank, because clearly, he isn’t well, and you needed to keep calm, otherwise anything could happen, and you were alone and so vulnerable. God, he really could hurt you and-

He lets out a disgruntled sigh. “Mei Li didn’t believe me either. That’s why I lost my temper with her. But I’ve been doing better at controlling myself, don’t you think, YN?”

You let out a choked off sob, tongue feeling too heavy in your mouth, head pounding, sending you dizzy.

He holds up his hands to your face, and you watch in rapt, sickening fascination as his nails, short and neatly manicured, elongate into brownish-grey talons. His eyes morph into yellowed slits, and his teeth become fangs. One minute, he looks like Dongwon – terrifying yet decidedly human – and the next, he’s this creature.

It, suddenly, feels too much. The cloying smell of sweat in the room, the throbbing of your head, the aching of your shoulders and thighs from where you’ve been holding tension in your body, clenched and waiting for him to strike you stupid, the pulsating pain of your lip, the ache of the wrist ties cutting off circulation in your arms, the fucking talons in front of your face.

You don’t remember passing out, but you know you do, because you’re back in the sea of inky blackness, the oozing darkness blanketing everything as far as your eyes can see.

//

“What do you mean YN didn’t come to work this morning?”

Yoongi’s grip on the counter becomes painful as your colleague blinks at him uncomprehendingly.

He (Minhyuk, Yoongi remembers, distantly) repeats, “Just that. She didn’t turn up for her shift, so our boss had to call me in to cover for her. She hasn’t picked up her phone either.”

“That isn’t like her,” Yoongi mumbles, an uncomfortable weight settling in his gut. He doesn’t like the feeling, in fact, he hates it. His instincts are rarely, if ever, wrong. “Have you tried calling her?”

“We’ve called, sent texts. I even called her housemate, Young-mi. She hasn’t seen her since this morning,” he says, frowning. “Maybe she forgot she had a shift today.”

“She’s not forgetful like that,” Yoongi denies, stomach rolling. He’s already fishing out his phone from his coat pocket and is dialling your number. Straight to voicemail. “Shit.”

Minhyuk says, “If you hear from her, let her know we’re concerned.”

Yoongi waves him off as he sweeps out of the café, and jumps into his car, connecting his Bluetooth.

“Yellow?”

“Joon,” he sobs, and that’s all it takes. His tone of voice sets off a flash of panic in Namjoon – the low whimper he’d only ever heard the day he found Jimin’s room empty, the blind panic, the shakiness in his voice as the composer claws at his control to keep himself together.

“What’s wrong?”

“Something’s wrong with YN,” he babbles, hastily pressing down on the gas and ignoring the traffic rules. His breathing is heavy, heart pounding in his chest. “She didn’t turn up to work.”

“Maybe she’s at home,” Namjoon suggests, but Yoongi can hear that he’s rustling around on the other side of the phone. Probably gathering whatever papers he’d had his nose pressed into before his call. “Go to her place and find out.”

“They’d, uh, they’d already called Young-mi,” he says, grip tightening on the steering wheel. “She left home this morning and it’s like she disappeared.”

“What time?”

“I- I forgot to ask,” he says, cursing himself for his hastiness. “I- I’m almost at her place, I’ll ask Young-mi when I get there. We can- I think we can- We have to find her.”

“We will, Yoongi,” Namjoon soothes, and the certainty in his voice calms the raging storm in the blue-haired artist’s chest. “Take a deep breath before you speak to Young-mi. Remember – control.”

“Control,” he repeats, the singular word being the only tether he has in that moment, holding on tightly to the fraying edges of his bloodlust. “Control.”

“Good boy,” he praises, and Yoongi’s shoulders lose even more of the tension that had built. Namjoon had a talent for words, a passion for the language. It serves him well as leader of their coven. “You’re doing so well. I’ll get Jungkook to meet you there.”

“Okay,” he responds, letting out a sigh. “Joon, please don’t put the phone down. I’m… I’m worried.”

“It’s okay, Yoongi,” he says. “I’ll send them a text. I’ll stay with you. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone.”

And for the rest of the short journey, Namjoon’s soft dulcet tones fill the car, bringing Yoongi’s burning anxiety levels down the Earth, allowing him to breathe properly. He doesn’t know when you became so important to him, but he knows you are – to all of them. They haven’t gotten it figured out, but they always do. As a cluster, as a coven, as a family.

They care for you (he doesn’t dare use that word) but he knows that if anything is amiss with you, he would rip whoever harmed you to shreds. He wouldn’t even drink their blood, he’d just tear them limb from limb for the sake of it. For the sheer audacity of touching you, of entering your periphery with the intent to harm you. He had always been a pacifist, intent only on protecting the cluster, on defending his family.

True, he would draw blood, but only in extreme situations. That suited Hobi and Jimin more than him. But the idea of you being hurt, of you being in danger, sets him completely on edge and flips his ideology on its head. He doesn’t know when you became so important to him, but all he knows is that you are, and he would do anything to keep you safe, like his brothers.

“Calm down, Yoongi. I can hear your bloodlust through the phone,” Namjoon jokes, but the words lack their usual vigour, implying that Joon is just as effected by the possibility of you being in peril as he is. It doesn’t make him feel any better, but at least he isn’t alone in his worry.

Yoongi parks up his car and steps out, grabbing his phone as he goes, and he climbs her stairs two and a time.

Knocking on her door, loudly, he waits, tapping his foot impatiently, for your housemate to open the door. Upon seeing his white-blond hair and black-on-black outfit, her eyes nearly bug out of her head in surprise. The two of them have yet to talk, but that doesn’t matter right now. All he cares about is making sure you’re okay.

“Have you seen YN today?”

“She left for work already,” she says, but her lips form a small pout as she thinks. “But they say she didn’t turn up, so I have no idea where she might be.”

Upon closer inspection, Yoongi can tell that she’s been crying. Her nose and eyes are red, and she keeps sniffling, pathetically. She wishes he could do the same, but he fights to maintain his impassive expression.

“Do you have any idea where she might be?”

“Besides work or university? No,” she says. “Well, there’s this pet store she goes to when she’s really stressed out, but they don’t open until midday.”

It was barely 10 in the morning.

“She left before eight,” she tells him, worry painting her features. “I remember hearing her in the bathroom, but I fell back asleep.”

She sounds frustrated with herself, and Yoongi can’t help but echo her sentiment. He isn’t angry at her, it wasn’t her responsibility, but he feels frustrated with the whole ordeal.

“Her phone is off too,” Young-mi practically sobs, slumping against the doorframe. “I don’t know where she is.”

“We’ll look for her and keep you posted,” he promises, giving her what he hopes is a comforting smile.

“T-Thank you, Yoongi-ssi,” she mumbles, rubbing at her arms. He realises she’s in a dressing gown and not much else.

“Get inside, it’s quite cold this morning,” he tells her, stepping away. Over the balcony, he can see Jungkook pulling up in Jimin’s car, with the pinkette beside him. The two of them seem panicked. “I’ll be off.”

“Yoongi! Please… Please find her,” she says, brokenly. “She’s my best friend. I’m so worried.”

He nods, grimly, before barrelling down the stairs and joining the boys in the courtyard.

“Where is she?”

“Is she here?”

Yoongi shakes his head, grimly.

Jimin lets out a ragged whine, and Jungkook’s whole expression dissolves into an agonised grimace.

Jimin begs, brow collapsing in distress, gripping Yoongi's sleeve, “What are we supposed to do, hyung?”

The composer reaches out to give the pinkette a hug, holding him close to his chest and patting his back with his other hand. He's used to being the emotional pillar, knowing that while they're all adults, they sometimes need to reach out for someone for reassurance and support. He says, mustering a courage that he doesn’t feel, “It’ll be okay, we’re going to find her.”

Their phones all vibrate at the same time, signalling a message in their group chat, and Jungkook fishes his phone out quickly.

The photographer lets out a low curse. “Fuck…”

He twists his phone, showing the other two his chipped screen and they read the screenshot that Namjoon sent to their group chat.

I’ve got the girl. Bring my mate to the following location at midnight tonight, or you’ll find her headless corpse outside of her home.You know I'll do it.

Followed by a photo of you, unconscious, with a swollen lip.

Jimin snatches the phone from Jungkook’s hand and squeezes it in his hand, so tightly that the plastic creaks under the pressure. His back teeth grind together, and he growls out, eyes flashing a threatening silver, the promise of vengeance in his gaze, “If that’s a bloody lip, I’m going to tear Dongwon’s spine out through his asshole.”

Their phones vibrate once more and they read the message together.

Get to the warehouse. Now. No questions.

Chapter Text

When you come to, you can’t tell what time is because everything around you is so dark. Within moments, you are made aware of three key, terrifying things.

Firstly, you have a sliver of fabric tied tightly around your head, covering your orbs and cutting into the skin under your eyes. You wouldn’t have been able to see anything anyway, even if you didn’t, which leads to your second realisation.

You’re trapped inside someone’s trunk. The sounds of cars passing by outside is drowned out by the juddering roar of the engine sending sharp vibrations through your body. With every bump of the road beneath the wheels, you are sent rolling around, bumping your joints against the interior of the car. There’s a half-open bag of rusty-smelling tools in the corner and a large wheel that is pressing horribly against your ribs.

Your face is pressed into a patch of gasoline, long-dried into the fabric of the interior. You can’t even push yourself out of it because your hands are still fucking bound behind your back, and now, you are almost absolutely sure that your wrist is sprained, white-hot shooting pains overtaking you when you try to do so much as wriggle your fingers.

Using the minimal power, you have in your core, you try and wiggle your body into a more comfortable shape, but it feels impossible. Sweat beads at your brow from the oppressive heat in the trunk, the pulsing adrenaline coursing through your system and from the pathetic attempt at adjusting your body. Letting out a miserable huff, you slump over, thinking intently over your situation.

Okay. Wait.

You let your body relax, and your mind rushes with possible exit strategies, of ways to get yourself out of the current situation, but every possible avenue that you come to feels hopeless.

Logically, you know that panicking will do you no good. You need to calm down, you need to plan and get your mind together, but fuck, you would be lying if you say you weren’t absolutely petrified. You wonder if you did something in a past life to deserve this treatment now. If some deity has put a curse on you for the actions of your ancestors. Maybe you used to drown puppies for fun, or you were a war-monger, and that’s the reason why you’re stuck in the back of some psychopath’s car, bounding directly towards your inevitable death.

Hot tears escape your eyes and you bite down hard on your bottom lip to hold back your scream. In frustrated, you jerk around, kicking out your legs and knees, colliding with the roof of the trunk and the sides of the car, hoping against hope that someone might see the disruption in the boot and maybe call the police.

Before long, you slump over, utterly exhausted, damp with sweat and your chest is heaving.

You need to think of a plan, but you’ve got minimal things to work with.

Dongwon is alone, which works in your favour. More than one monster would be too much for you to deal with. First, you need to get your hands out of the zip ties and get the blindfold off your face before you can do anything of substance. But, it feels impossible.

Every time you shuffle in the back of the car, your legs cramp up and you feel your panic rising in your chest. Every time you wiggle your fingers, whatever injury he caused when he forced you into the trunk, twinges.

“Fuck,” you whisper, letting out a hard sob filled with hopeless anguish.

The car turns suddenly, sending you barrelling into the wall, forcing a gust of air from your lungs. Dongwon takes a sharp left, sending you crumpling into the opposite corner with a gruff groan. The road feels different now, more uneven and unsteady as Dongwon’s car judders along to its destination. Every second you are in the car feels like one less second you have left to live, and the knowledge of that makes you cry out in fear.

Not long passes before he puts the car in park, but your heart feels as if it’s about to fly out of your throat, so you tense up all over, clenching every limb. You hear him push open the driver’s side door, boots crunching against the rough ground as he approaches you. The trunk pops open and you feel him hover, just staring at you.

You plead with your pulse to slow down, but it doesn’t want to listen to you – not one part of your body seems to be in your control.

A moment of silence passes over the two of you where he simply observes you, and you pretend as best you can that you are still unconscious.

He lets out a put-upon sigh. “I already told you it was useless trying to pretend, didn’t I, YN?”

He scoops you out, as if you were nothing more than a doll, shaking you when you stumbled over your own feet. He straightens you out when you collapse from being unable to carry your own weight with an exasperated jeer.

“I have her here,” he shouts, and you know that it isn’t meant for you. Wincing away from the booming tone of his voice, you feel your breath catch in your throat as a gust of sharp wind passes over your sensitive skin. He roars, angrily, “Reveal yourselves, and my Mei Li. Otherwise, I’ll slit her throat.”

The pinpricks of his talons kiss your neck, pressing in threateningly against the hollow of your throat, and you let out a whine, legs almost buckling underneath you once more. He keeps you upright, grip on your elbow practically burning, the socket of your wrist screaming at you to beg him to stop.

“There you are,” he says, after a beat of frosty silence. “Min Yoongi. Kim Seokjin. Where are the rest of your little cluster?”

“We act as correspondents for our cluster,” Yoongi’s voice sounds in your ears, and you curse your heart for skipping a beat at the sturdy tone of voice. A small pathetic part of you is comforted by the familiar voice. “You wish to barter with us. Do as you wish.”

“I have no need for bartering,” he scoffs. “I’ve given you my terms. She dies if I do not get my beloved.”

“Mei Li is sick,” Jin informs you both. Dongwon’s grip tightens fractionally on your arm. “You should know, seeing as you are the cause of her illness.”

“I can save her,” Dongwon hisses, desperately. “Show her to me.”

The boys go quiet for a moment, and although you can’t see, your eyes dart around from behind the fabric, in anticipation.

“We have discussed with the head of our coven,” Jin says, gravely. “We cannot agree to your conditions.”

“By doing so, you acknowledge that you are the reason YN will die,” Dongwon answers, desperation leaking into his tone. His grip tightens even more, and now you start to feel dizzy, not enough air getting into your lungs. “I’ll snap her pretty little neck.”

“You won’t get out of here alive,” another voice from the left says. It’s Jimin, and he sounds… different. As if he’s speaking around a full mouth. A low growl in his voice warns Dongwon, and it sends a frightened shudder through your body. “I’ll tear your skin from your bones.”

“But not before I kill this bitch,” he answers, voice losing all traces of sanity. Your legs buckle again, and this time he doesn’t keep you upright, but lets you swing pathetically, like a doll with its strings cut. He hooks his arm around your neck and squeezes tight, making your head swim for lack of oxygen. His claws prick into the side of your face, pressing in deeper, deeper and deeper still.

“Enough!”

Namjoon’s voice is authoritative enough to cause Dongwon to halt his movements. You suck down air as if you were starving, an instant reaction once he lets you go. Slumping forward, you gasp and choke, spitting up some bile that had risen in your throat without your permission, and you can’t even push yourself up.

He murmurs, “M-Mei Li…?”

Dongwon’s voice is practically nothing more than a whisper, but in just her name, you can hear just how inconsolable he is over whatever it is he sees.

He takes a step away from you, you hear his boots crunching the leaves that litter the floor, and he cries, “Wh-What have they done to you, baby?”

You are loathed to lay eyes on your friend, if the mere sight of her is enough to drive this kind of agony into his voice.

“Do you see what we mean now?” Jin asks, coldly.

Dongwon grabs you by the back of your neck, seemingly having snapped out of his moment of weakness and he roars, “What did you do to her?!”

Us?” It sounds like Jungkook, and his voice is bathed in concern. For you? For Mei Li? You don’t know, but all you can do is sway from side to side, unsteady on your feet and dizzy all over. “She’s like this because of you!”

“Stop fucking lying! I can save her! Give her to me, now!” Dongwon shouts, and his voice rises in his panic, in his urgency.

You’re really going to die here. The thought comes to you like a mist, coating your bones with a thick resin, making you feel… well, nothing. You’re scared, in an abstract kind of way, but you feel so disorientated, so disconnected from your body that it almost feels as if it doesn’t matter.

“Fine, fine. Calm down. We’ll make the swap,” Jin reasons, his voice never wavering. His calm seems to bleed outward, and Dongwon’s grip on you lightens fractionally. “Bring YN here and I’ll give you Mei Li.”

Finding your voice at that moment, you choke out, voice breaking, “P-Please don’t give her to him.”

“Shut up!” Dongwon says, shaking the sense out of you. “Shut the fuck up!”

“He’s going to hurt her,” you say, voice trembling in fear for your friend. “P-Please, Seokjin.”

“I’m doing what I have to do to help you, YN,” he tells you. His voice sounds impartial, distant. You feel a shudder pass through your body at how unfamiliar he is being with you. As if he didn’t help you paint Hoseok’s nails the other night. Tears spring to your eyes behind the blindfold and you chew on your lip, curling into yourself. “Let us do our jobs.”

Dongwon snarls into your ear, breath hot blowing against your skin, “Don’t say another word, otherwise I’ll break your spine.”

You press your lips together in a grim line and nod, stiffly.

“Good,” he purrs, nudging you forward. “Walk.”

You stumble and trip over your feet, stepping on the untied laces of your sneakers and falling to your knees, splitting your tights. He heaves you up and holds you at a distance.

He pulls you to his chest and you feel yourself break out in a cold sweat, heart pounding wildly in your chest.

“Stop stalling,” Dongwon growls. “Give her to me, Namjoon.” He nudges you forward, holding you at arm’s length. You’re still close enough for him to do damage, and you pray, you pray, that Namjoon doesn’t do anything stupid.

“Take a step forward, YN,” Namjoon’s gentle voice commands you. You can almost feel him beckoning you forward and despite the absolute terror pulsing through you, something in your subconscious recognises him as a safe space. He continues, “We’ve got you. We won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.”

Dongwon releases you, and he makes a noise of glee as he grabs Mei Li, who you feel bump into you as she’s passed off. A shudder passes through you at the contact, but you can’t even reach for her, to protect her, to hold her close, to keep her safe. You’re too weak all over, you’re too exhausted and too fucking terrified to do much more than weep into Namjoon’s chest as he holds you close.

The honey-blond doesn’t even wait a moment to assess you before he passes you off to someone else, who sweeps you into a bridal hold.

“It’s okay, I’ve got you,” it’s Yoongi, and his grip on your body is firm, despite his slender frame. He twists on his heel and takes off back on himself, just as someone in the distance lets out a blood-curdling roar. Dongwon.

They must’ve done something to him, to Mei Li, but you’re still shaking so hard that your teeth chatter, so you curl into Yoongi’s arms and close your eyes tight, ignoring the sounds in the distance. He nudges you into the safety and warmth of someone’s car, and when he pulls off the blindfold, he visibly winces at what he sees.

“Your eyes are all puffy,” he comments, inaudibly, drawing his thumb gently across your cheeks, wiping away your tears. “Can you talk? Is your throat okay? Are you in any pain?”

“Y-Yoongi,” you begin, but the sight of something in the distance catches your attention. The car is parked far enough to be away from the carnage, but you know, you know, the sight before you will never leave your memory, searing itself into the seams of your brain.

You ask, inaudibly, “Are they-”

“They’re blood atoning,” he explains, quietly. “You shouldn’t watch that.”

He holds your chin and turns you away, moving to sit in front of you so his shoulders block the sight of the spilled blood and the unseeing eyes staring out at you from the decapitated head that had once belonged to your assaulter, Dongwon.

“It’s within our rites,” he clarifies. “You might not understand now, but you will soon.”

You shake your head, dizziness overtaking you and black spots appearing in your line of sight. Avoiding his eyes, you whisper, brokenly, “I don’t want to know anything. I just want to go home.”

He nudges you forward and says, “Let me take these binds off. You must be in pain.”

You hear the popping of the zip tie and the rush of blood to your fingers forces a pain-filled groan from your lips. You feel as if your fingertips are about to explode.

“Let me,” he says, carefully adjusting your arms, barely touching your elbows to do so. He slowly and gently massages your swollen and green-tinged wrists, brow furrowing at the sight of the bruises. His jaw ticks in anger, as he bites out, “I’m so sorry you had to experience this, YN.”

And he sounds earnest.

His voice is a medley of broken glass and frayed edges, sore and laced with pain.

He continues to massage your skin silently, eyes never leaving your palms. He twists your hands around, surveying them for any cuts or further bruising, before lathing the areas with soft touches from thin, long fingers until you feel the circulation in them returning.

“Did- Did he hurt you anywhere?” He asks, and the way he says it – it’s as dark as the night sky above you, endless in its intent to hurt and harm and burn and obliterate.

You’re glad he doesn’t look at you as he says it, because you think that the look in his eye would haunt you just as much as the glassy-eyed stare from the now-burning decapitated head mere feet in front of the car. His fingers prod at the cut in your tights, carefully assessing the welts on your skin and the thin slices in your skin. Blood had welled to the surface, dripping down your knee and staining your tights, but it continued to flow – slowly pooling at the surface until it formed a solid droplet and trickling down your skin.

You shake your head, unable to find the words to explain that what he did was worse. He didn’t hurt you, not even a fingernail’s worth as much as he could have, he didn’t burn you or break you or violate your body, but he petrified you. He exposed you to the truth, and now, you’re stuck in a confined space with a potential vampire with a bloody knee and-

“Get away from me!” You nearly scream, tugging your hands away from him and nudging yourself into the corner of the backseat, pressed so hard against the other door that the plastic bites into your already bruised skin, attempting to put as much space between you and Yoongi as possible.

He glances up at you, momentarily overcome with surprise, before he observes the shaky, fearful look in your eyes. The look in his eye dies, his shiny orbs dimming into a carefully blank, constructed stare. He says, bluntly, “He told you, then.”

You don’t reply, you don’t need to, as he lets out a soft sigh and steps out of the car. He looks at you for a long moment, holding the door open, observing your trembling body with sad eyes, before he mutters, “I’ll leave you alone, YN.”

He closes the car door behind him, leaving you in the kind of silence that haunts your dreams sometimes. A loud silence. A silence filled with such gaping agony that you’d do anything to fill it. You plug your ears with your fingers and push your head in between your knees, the adrenaline having left your system and now you are left shaking like a leaf all over.

And you’re alone.

//

Outside the car, the boys have just finished burning Dongwon’s body, Jimin practically spitting in the fire to soothe the anger burning in his chest, the flames licking at the man’s glassy skin not nearly hot enough to assuage his rage. He throws the rest of him in along with the flames, watching in glee as the fire blackens his skin and tears at his flesh. It’s only when the entirety of Dongwon is engulfed in the blaze, that he feels the wedge of vitriol shift, only slightly.

“Is she okay, hyung?” Jungkook asks, as soon as he lays eyes on Yoongi’s sombre form. His hands are tucked deep in his trousers and his eyes seem distant, as if he isn’t here with them in the moment. Jungkook puts a hand on his shoulder and repeats, surprisingly gentle despite the violence he had just taken part in moments ago, “Hyung…”

“She’s fine, Jungkook,” Yoongi says, and the maknae flinches at the hard tone of his voice. He isn’t used to Yoongi being explicitly angry, especially not directed towards him, considering the two of them haven’t so much as squabbled over the remote let alone bigger things, so to hear the firmness in his voice – it startles him. Yoongi lets out a sigh and shrugs off the hand on his shoulder. “My bad, Kookie. She just- She knows.”

Taehyung overhears and chimes in, brow puckering in worry, “She knows? What do you mean, she knows?”

“Dongwon told her what we are,” Yoongi informs the group, begrudgingly. He glares down at the flames and wishes, not for the first time, that he could’ve been the one to tear his throat out and not Hoseok. “She’s- She’s scared of me.”

Jimin lets out a soft whine at the idea of you feeling fearful of them, knowing that he’d rather tear out his own fangs than to hurt a single hair on your head. He couldn’t hurt you, he couldn’t dream of doing anything to bring you any pain.

Hoseok kicks at the limbs haphazardly piled up in his frustration, watching as a wave of ash disintegrates in the air. His expression is dark, matching the wrathful mood that the seven of them have found themselves in.

“We can’t focus on that right now,” Jin says, catching their attention. Mobilising the troops is what he does best. He’s the compartmentaliser, the practical one. “She’s safe, and that’s what we came here for. Now… We have to worry about Mei Li.”

“She wasn’t going to last the night,” Jimin reasons. “We told him that and yet he was determined to have her. It isn’t our fault.”

The seven of them glance at the body of the girl, no longer breathing, eyes staring unseeingly ahead of her, chin splattered with black blood. Her spirit had burned out long before her body had expired, and for that, the boys feel regret. Once bitten, she had begun the change – turning into a werewolf – but some humans, they can’t handle the metamorphosis.

It takes too much out of their bodies, and so they need the blood of their sire to reverse the effects of the change.

Or, so the boys thought.

After having grabbed Mei Li from Taehyung’s grasp, Dongwon had immediately bitten his own wrist and fed her some of his blood, eyes shining in hope. She swallowed, yet not even a second had passed before her body began to convulse.

She threw up, blackened blood, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head.

Jimin, unable to help himself, had attacked first, taking the first swing to Dongwon’s gut, forcing the wolf to his knees. He followed it with a sharp cross that surely broke his jaw. Hoseok, never one to be left out of a fight, joined in, and the fight, while bloody, ended quickly, with a swift swipe of ragged teeth to his throat, holding the ravaged flesh between his jaw, like a trophy.

Needless to say, they were a strong fighting team, their natural athleticism acting in their favour, regardless of their personal fusses.

“Shall we bury her?” Namjoon suggests, crouching down beside her body, a look of regret and pain filling his face. “She deserves that at least.”

“You know we can’t, Joon,” Yoongi says, putting a hand on his shoulder. “She needs to be burned. Her cells are still transforming. If she isn’t properly disposed of, she could turn into a Ghoul.”

“And that would be hell on Earth for us,” Jungkook says, shuddering at the memory of his grandmother’s stories from her youth. “I’ll get the gasoline.”

“I’ve got the fire,” Taehyung says, pulling his trusty lighter out of his back pocket and erecting a strong flame. They hear the maknae approach one of the cars, before cursing loudly and rushing back to the group.

His eyes are large and wide in shock and he shrieks, “Hyung, you didn’t lock the car!”

Yoongi freezes all over before he curses, “Fuck!”

Chapter Text

Rushing through the forest, you feel the low-hanging branches slap against your exposed skin, cutting painfully into your clothes, but you don't pause for air nor to whine about the pain. You are too determined to escape. Fractured thoughts, like shards of shattered glass, rush through your mind and you can't hold on to any one stream for longer than half a second before you are reminded of what lies behind you - vampires.

Maybe if you run fast enough, you’ll actually break a hole in the space time continuum and you’d be able to go back to before you’d realised that the world was entirely seedier and more dangerous than you’d initially thought.

If someone had asked you what the worst thing that could happen to you was, you probably would say losing your parents. Being sexually assaulted. Drowning. Being in a plane crash. Being robbed. You know, real, tangible threats to your person.

Now, the only thing you can see in your head is the glassy eyes of Dongwon, the flames licking at his waxy and ravaged skin, the stench of death that clings to your body as you rush through the foliage. It makes you feel disgusting.

Unable to hold back, you stumble over yourself trying to get your hair out of the way, so you can throw up against the trunk of a nearby tree. Retching once, twice and a third time, you feel your stomach clench around nothing, the weight of the day crashing over you like a tumultuous wave.

Feeling the bark cut into your palm, you push away, spitting out the bile that coats your tongue, and you slump down, legs giving out. You feel as if you’ve run a marathon, sweat clinging to your back and making your clothes stick to you in the most repulsive ways. Every shift of your body means that the cold air encounters the sweat coating your body and you start to shiver. You have no coat, having been stripped of your winter-wear before being shoved into the trunk, so you end up curling in on yourself, teeth chattering pathetically, bracing yourself against the unyielding wind.

Your fingers are starting to turn blue when you hear a branch snap and leaves crunch in the distance.

“I think- She’s nearby, I can smell her blood,” Namjoon’s voice dances alongside the blasts of wind accosting your weary and trembling body. You can hear him approach, and you know that with him must be the others, but you can’t muster the energy to run any longer. You had never been much of a quitter before, but this situation is so unlike anything you’ve ever experienced that you can’t help but cry into your knees, biting your lip to hold back any noise. You're so alone and so scared. “Was she hurt, hyung?”

Yoongi’s dry response is carried on the heavy wind, reaching your ears, “She was bleeding from the knee from where that bastard dropped her. She had some bruising that I could barely stand to look at. But, mostly, she was just scared out of her mind.”

“For good reason,” Jimin chimes in, bitterness seeping into his voice. “I think she might be nearby. The wind is carrying her scent all over the place.”

“At least it isn’t raining,” Namjoon replies, as usual trying to look at the positive side of the situation. If there is one. “Then, it would be impossible for us to find her.”

You can hear the rustling from where they’re rushing through the brush and the sound of someone gasping catches your attention. Glancing up through your matted, sweaty hair, you see Namjoon’s wide-eyed stare above you. He ducks down, but the sudden movement makes you flinch, and he frowns at the sight of you doing so. “I won’t hurt you, baby girl. You- You know that, right?”

He seems to be trying to make you understand with his eyes, but you can’t- you can’t trust it. You can’t trust him.

Shying away, burrowing further into yourself, you hear him let out a sigh. “Jin-hyung, give me your jacket. She’s shivering all over. And I don’t think she’ll want any of us touching her skin.” He mumbles the last part.

Suddenly, someone drapes a sweet-smelling coat over your shoulders and you’re heaved up once more into someone’s arms. Glancing up to see the cut jawline of the eldest member of the Bangtan Boys, you let out a shuddering breath, fear coursing through you and pulsing off your skin in waves. The scent is making the men feel sick to their stomachs.

Jin whispers, voice painted with anguish, “I understand you don’t want us near you, but you’re injured, and we need to get you home. So, please, bear it for the moment.”

Gritting your teeth, you let yourself be help, curling up into his hold. As much as you wish he’d let you go, you know you won’t be able to make it by yourself, and as with Namjoon, the feeling of being swaddled by him feels good, like a distant, familiar comfort. You close your eyes and let yourself be soothed by the rocking motion until you’ve almost passed out.

The walk back to the car doesn’t take long, especially with Jin’s long legs, and when the group of four arrive, they see the smouldering embers of Mei Li’s body. To avoid you catching sight of the agonising scene, he pushes your body into the back of his car and closes the door, careful as to not jostle you too much, and he locks it for good measure.

Once he’s sure you’re asleep, he moves back to where the other boys have gathered and says, “I don’t think it’s wise to leave her alone tonight.”

“We can take her to our apartment,” Jungkook suggests, eyes flicking to your form in the backseat of the car. “I won’t be able to sleep if she’s not with us.”

“I’ll text Young-mi and tell her we found her and that she’ll be staying with us for the night,” Taehyung says, quietly. “Then, we’ll have to explain ourselves to her.”

“That’s if she sticks around to listen,” Jimin grumbles, sulkily, kicking at the ground.

The pink-haired boy stomps into Yoongi’s car, slamming the door behind him as he mopes in the passenger seat.

“He’s going to hell to travel with,” Yoongi comments, lightly. “Anybody want to call backseat?”

“I’d rather choke,” Namjoon replies, taking Jin’s passenger side.

Jungkook huffs. “I’ll do it.”

“And me,” Hoseok supposes, airily. “I owe him.”

“Good,” Taehyung says. “If that’s all done, I’ll dispose of the remains and meet you guys back at the house.”

The seven of them agree and pile into their respective cars, the journey back into Seoul spent in absolute silence, the only sound being the light huffs of air escaping your partially open mouth from the backseat of Jin’s cherry red Camry.

/

When you come to, you’re wrapped around someone’s broad back, drooling into the crook of their shoulder.

Jungkook asks, voice rumbling lowly, vibrating against your chest, “Are you finally awake, sleepy-head?”

You blink, a lost expression on your face. “Wh’s goin’ on?”

“We’re back at the apartment,” he says, softly. He nudges open a door off to the side and walks inside. “Let’s get you showered and in bed, okay?”

“D’nt w’na,” you whine, clutching tighter to his body. “S’warm.”

He lets out a soft giggle at your cuteness, but he stands firm. “You have to wash off before bed.”

Nudging you off his back, he watches you slump against the bed, groaning low in your throat and curling into a pathetic ball. Just seeing you, covered in dirt and bruises, making a haze of rage coat his vision and he feels his eyes shift to an unnatural silver at the thought of tonight's events. He could have lost you. The thought has him knitting his fingers with your own, bringing the digits to his mouth and pressing a thankful kiss to the tips as lightly as he can. You're still half-conscious, so you can't see nor feel his actions, but he blushes regardless.

“C’mon, noona,” he says, quickly moving into the bathroom to switch on the shower and rummaging through the chest of drawers to find some of his own clothes for you to sleep in. The mental image of you in his comfy clothes makes him feel irrationally satisfied. “I’ll leave you to do what you need to. We won’t bother you for the rest of the night, I promise.”

Your brow puckers at the hidden note of hurt in his voice, but all you hear after is the sound of the door closing before you are bathed in silence. Opening your eyes for the first time, you allow yourself some moments to wake up before padding into the bathroom and kicking out of the ruined clothes, tossing them in the corner with more force than necessary.

The memories of the night come to you in pieces while you scrub your skin beneath the hot spray of water. Every time you recall something, you feel yourself freeze all over, a shiver passing through you, and you feel hot tears leak from the corners of your eyes.

You don’t know what happened to Mei Li. You don’t know the real truth behind the boys of Bangtan. You don’t know who to trust, or what to believe, and by the end of the shower, you are left with more questions than answers.

Dressing in the clothes Jungkook left you, you towel off your hair, pinning it back in perfunctory braids, and slide under the clean black sheets. You think that maybe the room belongs to Yoongi – the black on black colour scheme fits the composer’s personality – or maybe the maknae, but you can’t tell. Really, you think, you don’t know anything about the boys. Everything they ever told you had been prefaced by lie after lie after lie.

When it becomes too much for you to keep running through your mind, you turn on your side to stare out at the open window. The moon shines down on you, silvery light bathes half of your face, and you take your time counting the stars that you can see. Your Mom used to do this with you when you were nervous – before your first day of school, before an important test, or a recital.

The memory of your mother calms you down instantly, allowing your eyes to finally close and your body to relax into the soft mattress below you. The mild scent of vanilla lulls you to a thankfully silent dream-state, and you sleep through the night, unlike the seven other men in the apartment, who stay up, haunted by the thought of what could happen with the approaching dawn.

/

You wake up naturally, feeling heaps better than the night before, and you begrudgingly thank Jungkook for forcing you to shower off the dirt, sweat and grime that caked your body and hair before you slid into bed.

The heat from the shower seemed to have had an adverse reaction to the blood in your body, because when you got out of the bed and glance in the full-length mirror to the side of the room, you realise that you took more damage than you had initially thought.

Both your eyes are swollen from your tears, making you resemble more of a frog than a human being. Your lip is swollen too, from the cut, and after running your tongue over the flesh experimentally, you realise it’s also tender and sore. Your throat has bruises littered across it, and although there’s no distinct shape of the clusters of purple and inflamed red, the fact that you know it was caused by a hand has you tracing it, idly, with your own, realising just how much bigger Dongwon’s hand was in comparison. The side of your face has a few scratches, from the tips of his claws, red-looking and tender.

Your wrists are discoloured, swollen and cut in places, having scabbed over during the night – thankfully. And the skin of your palm and knee is swollen and irritated. You don’t know how you weren’t wincing every second of your shower last night – maybe you were still in shock – but now, you could feel every twinge, every throb, every pulse of pain racking through your body, and it makes you want to cry all over again.

Overall, you look like and feel like you’ve been dragged through a series of bushes backwards, and the visual confirmation of the events of the last 24 hours only seems to make you even more anxious about what awaits you outside the door.

You had always prided yourself on being independent, fiery – strong – but last night proved to you just how weak you really are, and it made the act of even stepping out of bed feel like a momentous event. Something that feels impossible to overcome.

You crack open the door, to realise you are at the very end of the corridor (confirmation that you are in Yoongi’s room, from what Taehyung had told you in the past), and in the distance, you hear the TV on a low volume, indicating that at least one person is awake and waiting for you.

Pushing the door closed as quietly as possible, you press your back to the wood and slide down to the floor.

You know you can’t get out through a window, the apartment is too high up, and while you’re absolutely terrified by the men outside of the room, you aren’t daring enough to try and chance sliding out and falling to your death.

But, you also know you can’t stay in here all day.

You need to get home, you need to contact the authorities, you need to let Young-mi know about what happened – about Mei Li, about the boys of Bangtan, about Dongwon, everything and anything in between – but you won’t be able to get to the door before someone catches you.

Who knows what they are capable of.

“We aren’t going to hurt you,” a voice calls through the wooden door. Jin. He sounds tired, a stark contrast from the emotionless way he spoke last night. Another reminder that has you wincing. “We’ll be waiting for you in the dining room, to answer any questions you have. So, whenever you’re ready, come out.”

He pads away, you hear his slipper-clad feet collide with the marble flooring.

The image of a hundred-year old vampire padding down a corridor with Ryan plushie slippers on almost, almost strikes you as amusing. If you weren’t scared out of your wits, you probably would have laughed.

You lick your lips and steady yourself, letting out the breath that you hadn’t realised you had been holding, emptying your lungs a few times to calm your nerves, before leaving the precarious safety of the room and joining him at the dining room table. The boys are all sat down, the seven of them wearing matching serious looks, looking you from head to toe, searching your body for injuries.

Jimin rears up when he spots the bruising on your throat, and his eyes grow dark. He clears his throat, glancing away and down to the floor, before he asks, quietly, “Are you okay?”

You nod, taking the empty seat at the head of the table cautiously. Knitting your fingers in front of you above the table, you sneak a glance at the boys surrounding you, to find them all observing you, an unusual air of seriousness about them.

Namjoon straightens out, and says, delicately, “I’m sure you have questions.”

“You could say that,” you reply, voice barely over a whisper, brow puckering. “If I ask, are you going to lie to me?”

“You know about our secret, so there’s no reason for us to lie to you,” Yoongi replies, faintly. “We didn’t want to keep this from you.”

You wince. “The fact that you’re…”

You can’t even say it aloud.

“We’re vampires, yes,” Jin says, getting straight to the point. His expression is blank of any emotion, he’s just stating facts. This is business man Jin, not your Jinnie. The face that takes over when he sees he’s receiving a call from his distant father, carefully withdrawn to hide any reaction. “We are immortal beings that drink human blood. Now that that’s out of the way, what other questions do you have?”

Staring at him, blankly, you feel a wave of wooziness overtake you. “Are you kidding me, Seokjin?”

Jin shrugs, impassiveness overtaking his expression, and asks, “Would cossetting you make it easier for you to swallow? The reality doesn’t change – we are what we are, and now you know about it.”

Jungkook curses under his breath and he comments, “You could try and say it a little nicer, hyung.”

“For what? She’s practically shaking in her seat,” Jin replies, gesturing to your trembling form. Yoongi’s eyes don’t leave your body, gaze unwavering and intense, but you spot him wince at Jin’s cutting words. “Lying to her, trying to soften the blows of reality will do nothing but aggravate the situation. Being forthright is our only option.”

The seven come to a conclusion, wordlessly communicating between each other, before returning their gazes back to you.

Namjoon utters, “So, your questions…”

Blinking past tears, you sniff, pathetically, and whine, “Was it all a lie?”

You had intended on asking about Mei, about her wellbeing, her location, about Dongwon. You had wanted to demand the truth from them. You had wanted to curse them, shout at them, show your roaring anger towards them for deceiving you for months on end. But, the only thing that falls from your lips revolves around your relationship with the boys. You need to know if it was all in your head, if you were the only one who was being duped, the pathetic, emotional loser who created a bond all in her own head.

Your heart hurts.

“If you mean the time we spent together,” Namjoon says, taking over, drawing your scrutiny. “Not a single moment was a lie. We really care about you, YN. So much.”

The others nod, vehemently, their eyes pleading with you to understand, to accept his words as gospel, but you just can’t.

You swallow down your anguish and return your eyes to your hands, picking at the bed of your nails, anxiously. You ask, quietly, “Is Mei Li okay?”

Taehyung exhales, softly, and he replies, after a moment, “No, she isn’t.”

Swallowing down the sob that threatens to burst from your lips, you ask, “Did you hurt her?”

Jimin sucks his teeth in frustration. “We don’t hurt humans.”

Turning your angry glare to the pink-haired, red-cheeked man, you exclaim, shoving an accusing finger in his direction, “You just told me you drank their blood! You kill humans!”

Jimin stands up, slamming his hand down on the table, the sound ricocheting through the room, spiralling the rest of you into silence. His jaw ticks in anger, eyes blazing so brightly with his frustration that you feel as if you will melt into your seat. He glares at you, eyes shifting for a moment from the coffee brown you had grown to love, to a mercury-like silver than reminds you, instantly, of his true nature.

How could you have been so blind?

“We do not kill humans,” he asserts. He approaches you, so quickly that you can’t follow his movement, until he’s directly in front of you, towering over your seated form. “Don’t you understand that our very survival balances on the fact that your kind doesn’t know about us? Do you think that your kind would take kindly to knowing that they aren’t, in fact, the apex predator? We would be hunted like animals, forced to the shadows to live in squalor, in fear of our lives. We’re people too, YN. We just aren’t human.”

“But-”

“I understand you’re afraid,” he says, voice breaking on the final word. “But, you know us. Do you really think we’d hurt someone? Do you think we’d hurt you?”

“I don’t know you,” you gasp, voice laced with pain. “I don’t know any of you.”

Jimin stares at you for a long moment, before moving his gaze to the ceiling. After a pause, he whimpers, voice thick with emotion, “I- I can’t sit here and listen to this anymore.”

Without another word, he storms off down the corridor, leaving the seven of you in a shocked silence, slamming the door to his room upstairs closed.

The silence that engulfs you all is so loud, it practically deafens you.

Why do you feel so guilty?

Yoongi sighs, pushing a hand through his hair, an unusual sign of frustration. “Jimin isn’t wrong, YN. You know us better than anyone else does. We don’t get close to people easily. We have our secret for a reason, but we still couldn’t push you away. And, we tried to keep the distance. We really did.”

“You became too important to us,” Taehyung says, playing with his fingers, nervously. “We don’t know when, or why, but it’s true.”

You don’t want to hear any more of their lies.

“We really do, noona,” Jungkook says, hand twitching to reach out for you, but at Namjoon’s hard look, he drops his hand to his lap and continues, quietly, “Yoongi-hyung wasn’t lying when he said that we didn’t want to keep you in the dark, but it’s kind of the way we live.”

“If we told any and every person about what we are, we’d be killed,” Hoseok comments, seriously. “This is the only way we can guarantee our survival.”

You barely hold back your scoff. “So, is this one of those ‘tell anyone and you’ll die’ situations?”

“Half and half,” Jin replies. “If you tell anyone, you’ll probably be hunted, but not by us. We have a legal system of our own in place to keep errant vampires from breeching the Accords,” you open your mouth to ask, but he raises his hand to stall you, “Save the questions until after, YN. If you tell someone, you’re acting in direct contrast to those rules. You would have to die. And whoever told you would have to die, meaning us. And whoever you told would probably be killed too.”

Your skin goes green at the frankness in his tone.

Namjoon scrambles to soften the harshness of the eldest’s words. “But, don’t be scared, YN. That kind of thing doesn’t happen often anymore. We live in harmony with humans.”

“For the most part,” Yoongi amends with a frighteningly blank expression.

You want to ask him to elaborate, but the warning in his tone wards you away from doing so.

Ignoring the way his words make you feel, you ask, brusquely, “What happened to Mei Li?”

Jungkook sighs at your stubbornness, but explains, “Dongwon had become fixated on her. They’d apparently been dating casually for a short while, but he’d wanted more. Werewolves, they can sometimes form a fledgling mating bond. He did that with Mei Li, purposefully scenting her to ward off other wolves from her, providing her with gifts – things like that.”

You remember the necklace around Mei Li’s neck, sparkly and pretty and way too expensive for a first-year student to be able to afford. She’d laughed it off when you’d asked her about it, saying it was a gift, but you didn’t believe her, thinking maybe it were a fake, or even a family heirloom.

Yoongi continues, picking at his nail bed, absently, “The night of her accident, we think he may have attempted to instigate a full bond, but she wasn’t receptive. He bit her in anger, ravaging her body and pumping his venom into her system. For lack of better word, he turned her.”

“Like I said, supernaturals aren’t allowed to change anybody at will,” Jin explains. “He broke the Accords first, and even if it weren’t by our hand, he was always going to have to be punished for his actions.”

Namjoon carries on, expression withdrawn, “When I found Mei Li, I smelled wolf, but I didn’t realise what had happened until Hoseok told us of Dongwon’s presence at the hospital. We put two-and-two together and alerted his Pack. But, they told us that he hadn’t been back to their den for weeks. And he was spending so much time around you, in your home, that we couldn’t get at him.”

“That’s why you kept coming around?” You ask, almost inaudibly.

Now it all made sense. They didn’t come for you. Of course, they didn’t.

Jungkook shakes his head. “We came around to protect you.”

It doesn’t make you feel any better.

Hoseok continues, “After Mei Li’s health started to worsen, we decided that it wasn’t safe for her to be around you, around any humans. So, we… we took her and held her in a safe space outside of town, where she started to transform.”

You repeat, eyes wide, “You kidnapped my best friend?”

“You’re focusing on the wrong parts,” Hoseok huffs, affronted. “Concentrate, YN.”

You snap your jaw shut and continue to listen.

The dancer lets out a long sigh. “She was deteriorating, too quickly for us to help. We tried to keep her medicated, we tried to make her comfortable, but she was turning feral. We needed to find Dongwon to take his blood, to undo the transformation.”

“But he was AWOL,” Yoongi says, regret bleeding into his tone. “He was gone, and then suddenly so were you, and we panicked. We went to the meeting point because we needed to know you were okay. We had to see you, to protect you.”

“It’s in our blood,” Jungkook finishes, earnestly. “To protect you, to protect our coven – it’s an innate desire that we can’t go against.”

You don’t understand what he’s talking about, but you feel your head is about to split down the middle from all the new knowledge being pumped into it.

“So, then what happened?”

Namjoon exhales, shakily. “We did the trade off, hyung took you to the car, but something went wrong. He tried to feed her his blood himself, but I guess it was too late for her, because she started to seize up and…” He broke off, eyes shining with pain. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Setting your jaw, you demand, with watery eyes, “Just tell me.”

“She didn’t make it,” he finishes, a sympathetic gleam in his eyes.

You don’t feel much of anything once he confirms your dreaded suspicions. It’s as if you’ve been thrust into a river of ice, your body seizing in the seat and your face freezing in an expression of blank anguish.

“We- We tried, we really did, but she wasn’t well,” Jin says and you realise he’s closer than he had been before. He’s kneeling in front of you, hands on your knees, but you can’t feel it. You can’t really see his face clearly. Your vision is too blurry, as if you were looking through melted glass. “Don’t cry, petal. I’m sorry.”

You didn’t realise you had started crying. Raising a hand to your face, you feel hot tears streaming down your face and your throat, thick with anguish, bobs as you choke over your words. You blink past your tears, sniffling pitifully, and ask, “W-Why c-couldn’t you j-just take h-her to the h-h-hospital?”

Jin looks at you, eyes filled with compassion, and he explains, gently, “Because our kind can’t go to the hospital, petal. Joonie didn’t know what had happened, but if he did, he wouldn’t have taken her in the first place.”

“S-She was h-human,” you cry, chest heaving. “T-They could have h-helped her.”

He shakes his head, biting his bottom lip as he watches you destroy yourself from the inside out. It burns him more than he can explain. He explains, gently, “As soon as he bit her, she became one of us. And we deal with things internally. I know it hurts, I know she meant so much to you, but the reality of the situation is that she was a victim of a deranged wolf who fixated on her. She did nothing wrong, and I can only apologise that this happened to her.”

“I don’t w-want your ‘s-sorry’, Jin! I w-want her b-back,” you practically scream, closing your eyes and letting out a heart-wrenching wail.

The boys let you cry, even though it broke them inside to hear and see you in so much emotional pain. In his room, Jimin threw his pillow over his head to drown out the sounds of your cries, but the noise echoes in his head, seemingly endless in its torment of him.

When you seem to have cried out every single tear in your body, you sit, sniffing, feeling small and pitiful, staring at the nothingness ahead of you. Nobody speaks until you do, letting you gestate and ruminate in the new information that you’d been given. Although they understood the roles of their culture and society, having known nothing else, they knew it was hard to digest for a newcomer.

“I want to go home,” you say, a note of finality in your voice. You push away from the table, chair scraping against the expensive marble flooring, and you move to grab your shoes.

Yoongi’s fingers hook around your elbow to stop your movement. “You can’t leave yet.”

Daringly, you snap at the blond, “Why not? Are you kidnapping me too now?”

He lets out a low sigh, expression pained, troubled by the vitriolic fire in your eyes. “No, princess. You’ve got no pants on.”

Glancing down, you see that you are, in fact, only in a large shirt and a pair of Jungkook’s boxer shorts. Feeling strangely naked in front of them, you pull away and cover yourself with your hands, the gesture useless. Jungkook lets out a weak smile at your red-faced shame, but at least tries to hide the gesture by pretending he was coughing.

“Let’s get you some sweats and I’ll drive you home,” he suggests, softly. The tone of voice he uses when he wants something, the dulcet, silky tone of voice that you associate with enchantment. It turns your stomach now. “How does that sound?”

“No,” you growl. “I’ll get home by myself.”

He quirks a brow, more challenging this time. “How? You have no money, nor a phone.”

“I’ll- I’ll call Young-mi.”

He crosses his arms over his chest, and it’s only then that you realise he’s wearing a basketball jersey, long arms poking out from beneath the red and orange shirt. “Fine. I’ll get you those pants, Taehyung will call your friend.”

“Fine.”

“Fine,” he echoes, rolling his eyes. He casts a frustrated look your way before he chastises, “You’re so stubborn.”

He’s one to talk.

He disappears down the hall and up the stairs, leaving you with five pairs of intense eyes on you.

Irked, you snap, “Can you stop?”

The five boys blink at you, strangely innocent.

Taehyung grumbles, adjusting the backwards black cap on his head, “It’s because you’re mad at us.”

“I’m more than just mad,” you snarl. The physical distance seems to have given you some kind of power back in your voice, and strangely, you like it. “I never want to see any of you again.”

Taehyung winces as he moves to the balcony outside, phone pressed to his ear. You can’t hear what he’s saying, but his hand is on his hip and his shoulders are pulled taut.

“And that’s fine,” Namjoon says, catching your eye. His words were false, it absolutely wasn’t okay. His heart throbs at the mere idea of never speaking to you, of never seeing your eyes light up, of never seeing that charming curve of your lips when you smile. Of never smelling the enticing scent of you in the air, of never hearing your laughter over the sea of noise in a crowded room. “But for now, you need to understand that you’re in as deep as we are. If you go home and tell Young-mi about what we are, she’ll be in danger.”

Jin prompts, a meaningful lilt to his tone, “You don’t want that, do you?”

Unable to answer, your lip simply twists in discomfort, the thought of your friend being hurt because of you making you want to tear up all over again. But, it feels as if all your tears have run out, leaving your face feel stiff and swollen.

“Exactly,” the eldest continues. “We told her a story about you getting into a car accident and having been unconscious at the hospital. Your phone was destroyed in the collision, and we’d been dealing with the police on your behalf. She doesn’t know about Dongwon, she doesn’t know about any of it.”

“And, she doesn’t have to,” Hoseok finishes.

You ask, glaring at them hotly, “So, you expect me to lie to my best friend?”

“I expect you to do the right thing for your best friend,” Jin says, firmly. “We aren’t going to force you to do what we say. It has to be your choice.”

“It’s not like compulsion works on you anyway,” Jungkook adds, innocuously.

Your brow puckers once more and you echo, “What does that mean?”

Taehyung steps back into the room and growls, heatedly, “Jungkook, do you never know when to shut up?”

“Sorry, hyung,” the maknae mumbles, thoroughly chastised.

Namjoon lets out a sigh before he explains, “As vampires, we have the ability to compel humans. It’s similar to hypnosis.”

The floor of your stomach drops out and you feel your eyes widen at the implications. You can’t even put into worse how betrayed you feel.

You stutter, throat closing up in trepidation, “Have you… Have you done that to me before?”

“I tried,” Hoseok says, shamefacedly. “When we were fighting. But you didn’t respond to it the way people normally do. We haven’t done it since. I swear.”

“And I’m just supposed to trust you on that?”

“No,” Yoongi mumbles as he descends the stairs. As he passes you by, he hands you the sweats, before he says, avoiding your eyes, “You’re supposed to trust yourself.”

Kicking into the sweatpants, angrily, you growl, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re probably thinking that if we could compel you, then these last few months must have meant nothing,” he says, lightly. “And that you can wash your hands of us without feeling guilty, because obviously, this connection that we all feel must have been faked. Right?”

Your silence tells them everything they need to know.

Yoongi continues, not unkindly but steadfastly, “Well it wasn’t. Not one of us used compulsion against you. The bond we have with each other is authentic and it occurred naturally. So, any thoughts you have in your head of blaming us for how you feel about us are redundant.”

“I just- I need space,” you tell them. “I don’t know what to think anymore.”

Jin nods, understandingly. “If you want to talk to us, you know we’re just a phone call away, right?”

You won’t call them, you tell yourself, as you practically run across the hall to the elevator once Taehyung alerts you to Young-mi’s arrival downstairs. You don’t look back, you don’t trust yourself to leave if you do see their faces, so you keep your chin down and run.

None of them try to stop you, although as soon as the door clicks shut, they slump, as if their strings had been simultaneously cut, and in the distance, they hear something smash against the wall in Jimin’s room followed by a loud roar of infuriation.

“I’ll go make sure he doesn’t give himself a hernia,” Hoseok says, sluggishly making his way to the other dancer’s room, the weight of your rejection still heavy on his shoulders.

Jungkook reaches out to grab Yoongi’s hand, where it had been clenched at his side, and says, “Hyung, she won’t avoid us forever, will she? She feels the bond just like we do, right?”

“I don’t know, kiddo,” Yoongi replies, shoulders slumping. “She sounded pretty upset.”

“But- But this isn’t fair,” Taehyung remarks. “We were going to tell her, just- just when the time was right.”

Jin looks bleak as he replies, “I don’t think the time was ever going to be right, Taehyungie.”

Chapter Text

The ride back to the house is filled with Young-mi’s tear-filled questions and your weighty silence.

“Taehyung said you were hit by a car, YN,” she cries, hugging you tightly once you’ve gotten into the house safe and sound. “Do you know how scared I was? I didn’t know what to do with myself. I can’t lose you. I just can’t!”

You feel her tears soak into the material of Jungkook’s sweatshirt and you think, detachedly, about how you’re supposed to return it to him, considering you told them all you never wanted to see them again. Young-mi sobs into you, holding you in shaking hands, and you impassively pat her back, comforting her while your mind remains a typhoon of static and roaring noise.

Over her shoulder, you hold the long sleeve up to the light and let yourself imagine that it was Jungkook holding you, and not Young-mi – that he, that they, were giving you comfort at your most vulnerable time – and you find the clamour in your head quietens, if only by a fraction.

You curse yourself for still feeling anything but contempt for them, for being so weak.

A nasty part of you imagines that you had been quite the point of amusement for them for the last few weeks, laughing at your stupidity, mocking your eagerness to please. Pathetic, a low voice hisses, spitefully. It sounds suspiciously like Mei Li, but the thought has you frozen in agony.

After the intense conversation in their apartment, all you wanted was to fall into the blessed safety of your bed and sleep – to dissolve into the blackness of your subconscious and run away from your reality.

Maybe there, you would be able to see their faces and not feel the rising nausea and fear clawing up in your throat, threatening to suffocate you with its acidic flavour.

Alas, that was not to be.

That night, you don’t think you slept for longer than twenty minutes at a time.

You kept shooting up, covered in a light sheen of sweat, stomach rolling as the haunting images flashed before your eyes, screams lodged like viscous tar in your throat.

Mei Li’s corpse would sing a haunting song to you, stroking your face, staining your skin with her sticky, coppery blood. Her glassy eyes would stare, unseeingly, at you, and her lips, usually so pink and stretched wide around a set of bright teeth, now are cracked and greyish, her teeth jagged and tainted with patches of black blood.

Dream-you would open your mouth to scream, only to have your jaw gripped by Dongwon’s unyielding hand. It felt like you couldn’t breathe, like he was about to shatter your jaw between his fingertips and turn your bones to dust. You almost wish he would put you out of your misery, the guilt threatening to drown you.

“You did this to me,” Mei Li’s hauntingly soft voice would whimper, tears of black ink dripping from her glossy sockets. “You killed me, YN.”

“You whoring around with those blood-suckers caused this,” Dongwon growls, his voice ragged. “You killed us!”

And, it is then that you would always shoot up, chest heaving and stomach rolling, violently.

Young-mi had elected to sleep beside you, too distressed to leave you alone for the night, but she slept through the night, seamlessly. She had always been a heavy sleeper, so you know your anguish wouldn’t have woken her up. You stare down at her for a minute, grateful to have such a loving friend by your side, and yet, the wave of guilt that crashes over your head at the thought of potentially causing her to meet the same fate as Mei Li has you tearing out of the bed to put some much-needed space between you.

Quietly, you step out into the chilly air and eye Jungkook’s sweater, thrown haphazardly over the back of your chair. With a pathetic sigh, you grab it and throw it on, practically swaddling yourself in his scent and having it instantly calm the raging panic in your chest.

“I need to get a grip,” you curse as you step into the bathroom. “I’m such a joke.”

Closing the door behind you, you flick on the white light overhead and stare at your sweaty face in the mirror. The bruises under your eyes make you look even gloomier than usual, and you brush your teeth, banishing the sour taste from your tongue. You avoid the scratches and bruises on your body, in favour of scrubbing at your gums until they bleed.

The clock in the hallway tells you that it’s only four in the morning, and so you make yourself a cup of green tea (the coffee would do nothing but set you on edge for the next few hours and give you a runny tummy), and curl up on the couch, wrapping yourself in a blanket burrito and switching on the TV. Subtitles run along the bottom of the screen rather than having a high volume, taking consideration of your housemates, snoozing away in their rooms.

Just because you are miserable doesn’t mean you need to force anyone else feel the same way.

Taking long sips of your tea, you can’t stop your mind from wandering to those final moments in the apartment.

Remorse wells up in your gut at the memory of their barely-hidden hurt that had had flashed across their faces at your words. While you know, logically, you shouldn’t feel guilty – they had kept you in the dark, they had manipulated your feelings. They were the ones who lied.

And yet, you still hated seeing the expression on their faces. Jimin even cried, you’re sure of it.

Knowing that you had to see Taehyung at least in your final creative writing class on Wednesday had you on edge. You don’t want to want to see him, you know it’s best that you don’t. And yet…

You spent the rest of the morning running over every interaction with them until you sent yourself dizzy.

Did Yoongi really mean it when he said that you were important to them? Did Namjoon really appreciate you the way he had mentioned on countless occasions? Did Taehyung really think of you as a friend? Did Jimin really think you were as sweet as he said? Did Hoseok really acknowledge you as a person? Did Jungkook really worry for your health as he often complained about whenever you would fall asleep mid-sentence? Did Jin really care for you, like he had told you?

The dark blue of the early morning sky gave way to the light, and you watch, in rapt fascination, as the sun breaks out over the horizon, unable to tear your eyes away, even after it had long settled high in the sky. Something about that feels ironic, but your brain is too jumbled up to make sense of it.

“Why are you up so early, YN? I got scared when you weren’t in bed,” Young-mi yawns, giving you a sleepy kiss on the forehead. You wince at the contact, not wanting to be touched. She asks, “How are you feeling?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” you reply, throat scratchy from misuse. You clear your throat and continue, “I didn’t want to wake you up.”

“Don’t be silly,” she chastises, softly, her eyes shiny and warm as she smiles at up at you, staring at you as if she was so happy that you were just there, existing, and knowing what you know, knowing what you did, makes you feel green. “Whenever you need me, I’m here.”

You smile, the gesture hollow, holding her hand for a beat before letting her go. “I need to get a new phone today. Want to come with?”

“Sure, I’ve got class at two,” she replies. “Are you taking the week off? You look like you need it.”

“No, I need to go in,” you tell her, the thought of being alone in the house with nothing but your thoughts as company makes you shiver. “I’m a responsible bean.”

“At least let me help you cover up the bruises on your face,” she says, lip thinning in upset. She traces her fingers down the side of your face, and the gesture mirrors the one from your dream so vividly that you can’t help but flinch away. She hides her shock well, brow puckering only fractionally, as she explains, “I don’t want people hounding you.”

After showering and letting her do your face so you appeared somewhat more human, you both left out for town and get a new phone. Thankfully, you were stringent about your Cloud updates, so you didn’t lose much of anything. You called your parents, telling them about what happened (an abbreviated version that was a complete bag of lies, of course), you scan your messages and feel yourself frown.

Nothing new from the boys.

You don’t know whether you should feel relieved or frustrated by their radio silence.

You know you asked for it, and they’re simply respecting your wishes, but a foolish part of you wishes they would assert themselves.

You can’t figure out your own feelings, let alone anything else, so you push forward through your day, going to class and avoiding people’s curious eyes. Your bruises are obvious to the eye, and you hear the rumours but you pay them no mind. Nobody approaches you about information, and at the end of the day, you aren't anybody special so you don't expect any sympathy nor any attention for being injured.

Strangely, though, you don’t care hair nor hide of any of the boys for the whole day. Where they used to fall over themselves to get to you, their lack of presence feels like a boulder attached to your ankle, dragging you further into the depths of your dread. You think you catch a familiar tuft of cherry-red but it's gone before you can really take a look.

You feel lost. 

As the hours bleed into one another, the thought that you had been nothing but a sick game of ‘play with the pathetic human’, and now that you had exposed them, they had lost all interest in you. The thought makes you feel physically sick, and you have to leave your class to get some air before the urge to vomit overtakes you.

On you way home, you feel heavier than you did when you first arrived, head hung low and your stomach rolling nastily, as your dark thoughts swirled in your head. Dark and dark and darker still, the pain of being cast aside has shackled itself around your throat.

The next day passes much the same, before you realise it, you are outside your creative writing class, during your presentation slot time, waiting for Taehyung to arrive.

Strangely enough, you find yourself anticipating his presence, rocking excitedly on the balls of your feet as you stare down either side of the corridor, waiting to see the shaggy blue-haired boy that has been one of seven faces that have plagued your nightmares.

The group before you exit the room, visibly crestfallen, and you give them a supportive, polite bow as they pass you by.

Tae still hadn’t arrived, and you were feeling more anxious by the second.

“YN,” your teacher calls, poking her head out. Her skin is wrinkled in places, exposing her age and the glasses at the tip of her nose has always given her the air of severity that never fails to set your class on edge, but considering she has never viewed you as anything other than a fastidious student, she gives you a small smile as she asks, “Are you ready?”

“I- I guess so,” you mumble, gathering your things. You knew the presentation parts that you had been assigned like the back of your hand, but Taehyung’s parts, you hadn’t researched well. “I’m just- I’m sorry, but Taehyung isn’t here yet. Can… Should we wait?”

She glances at you, curiously. “Taehyung already informed me that he wouldn’t be present for this assessment. I would have thought you would know, as his partner.”

You ask, feeling the bottom of your stomach give way, “W-What does that mean for him?”

“His part will have to be done later. Your mark won’t be affected, so don’t worry,” she says, mistaking your expression of pain for one of nervousness. “He says he’s been hospitalised so therefore is unable to come to any classes for the week. Doctor’s orders.”

You try not to let the surprise show on your face.

So that was it? He just- he didn’t want to see you, at all?

“O-Okay, I’ll go ahead with my parts,” you say, feigning a confidence you didn’t feel at all. Your palms have started to sweat already. You stammer, “T-Thank you for being so reasonable, for both of us.”

She waves you off. “When you’re ready.”

And you begin.

By the end of the presentation, your hands are sticky with sweat and your shirt clings to your back with how much you’ve perspired. Public speaking had always been a hang up of yours, and Taehyung had spent most of the time comforting you, building you up, acting as your own personal audience, giving nothing but effective feedback.

But now, you’re alone, and it feels so overwhelming that you find yourself in the bathroom afterwards, viciously biting back sobs in the stall, biting into your fist to not make too much noise. He had always said you wouldn’t do it alone, that he would be by your side through the whole thing, but no – he’s a fucking liar. They all are.

When you get home, you find yourself staring into empty space, grateful for the break that was coming – a month long winter vacation that you had planned on spending with Young-mi in your apartment, but now… going back home sounds like the best idea for you.

That Saturday, Young-mi stands in your doorway, staring disapprovingly at your back as you pack.

“Are you sure you’re okay to be going home? It’s hours by train,” she says, softly.

“I need this,” you reassure her, zipping your suitcase closed with a gruff noise. The sound carries with it a note of finality. You roll your eyes at her pout and say, “I’ll call you every stop of the way.”

“Promise?”

“Yes! Now I really do have to go,” you tell her, nudging your suitcase into the living room. You only have a small case, still having a bunch of clothes and other things back in your home town, so you don’t need much of anything else.

“Let me give you a ride,” she says, grabbing her keys. “I can’t let you catch a cab when I have a perfectly usable car.”

You don’t fight her, and the drive to the coach station is quick. Young-mi kisses both of your cheeks, a little sour over your desire to go home, but understanding your need to get away from the situation. She still doesn’t know about the truth, probably thinking that the trauma from the ‘accident’ has you shaken to your core. Being around her but knowing that with every interaction, you are lying to her (even by omission) makes the seed of guilt feel heavier in your stomach.

Worst is, they still haven’t contacted you, and the longer you go without talking, the more your heart feels as if it is breaking.

/

The journey back to Daegu is long – so long, in fact, that by the end of it, you are bursting for the toilet and you are more than a little grouchy. Those negative feelings all but disappear once you spot the wide line of your father’s back.

Unable to contain yourself, you squeal, excitedly, “Daddy!”

Your Papa, a grizzly bear of a man with a crown of salt and pepper atop his head, turns to where hears your voice and waves, wildly, over his head. He gives you a huge hug, the comforting scent of home enveloping you tightly, and the tears sting at your eyes instantly.

“There’s my little girl,” he says, pressing kisses into your bushy hair. He pushes your head away from his chest and cards his fingers through your curls, a disapproving grimace on his face. “Aish, you shouldn’t let your hair get so messy like this. It’ll take forever to take all the knots out.”

“Can you do it for me, daddy?” You ask, grinning cheekily. “You always did my hair so pretty!”

He squeezes you tightly as he nods, leading you to the car, taking your case from you without a word. He says, “Mom has missed you while you’ve been gone.”

“I’ve missed both of you,” you tell him, beaming. Even being in his presence for a few minutes, you feel your mood lightening considerably. The boys still occupy a space in your mind, never really leaving you alone, but you think you can bear it, if you have your daddy by your side. “I feel like I’ve been gone forever.”

Arriving at your childhood home, you feel a piece of the puzzle, the empty space that had grown into an echoing chasm in your chest, settles in place, and you can finally breathe a little easier.

Your Papa realises something is wrong and pokes his head out from where he’d been retrieving your case, then asks, frown evident, “Are you okay, Little Bird?”

He’s always called you that, since you had been a baby, apparently. He said it was because your hair reminded him of a new-born chick when you had been first-born. Your Ma says it is because as an infant, you would only ever cry in the early hours of the morning, bringing in the new day like a bird.

You nod, covertly wiping the tears that had appeared in your eyes before they could fall. You lie, “Just happy to be home, that’s all.”

He hums, hooking his arm around your neck and leading you ahead into the house. He doesn’t believe you in the slightest, knowing that you’ve always been a pathetically bad liar, but he lets you have your secrets.

You squeal excitedly, “Mommy!”

Your mother, a svelte woman with coarse curls atop her head, tied back with a vibrant scarf, glasses perched at the tip of her shapely nose and dressed in a comfortable house-dress that was worn with age and use, beams and hugs you tightly.

“My little girl,” she sing-songs, pressing dry kisses all over your face, the two of you falling into fits of giggles as she does so. Her brown skin glows as she takes you in, pushing your hair out of your face and she demands, “When did you get so pretty? Is it because I haven’t seen you since summer?”

She stares at you, eyes flicking to the bruises on your neck and she lets out a worried coo. “Let’s get some food in you. I’ve made all your favourites.”

Grinning over the special treatment, you let her pamper you, knowing that your ‘accident’ had frightened the life out of your parents. To assuage their worry, you let them do what they wanted, being their doll and letting them coddle you until you fell asleep that night, in their bed.

The time you spend in Daegu is wonderfully invigorating. Your parents make it as easy for you as possible, taking you around and showing you off to the neighbours – their smart, special baby girl, studying academics in a big, fancy university in Seoul. Their only child. You bathe in their attentions during the day, rolling around in the consideration that they gave you, only to stare blankly at your phone screen at night, compulsively, wondering how the boys are coping without you.

Resentfully, you assume that they’re fine, because they don’t contact you at all, and the idea of them being okay without you makes you feel sad. More than sad, but you don’t allow yourself to contemplate those kinds of complex feelings, especially not at night, especially not alone.

The urge to go down that particular rabbit-hole tugs at your collar, but you brush it off, concentrating on the splatter of paint on your ceiling from a childhood volcano experiment that went wrong, and like most nights since the incident, you watch as the sun rises, bringing with it along with it another exhausting day.

“Sweetheart, daddy needs to go to the market. Do you want to go with him?” Your mom asks you one morning as you are in the middle of devouring your breakfast.

Nodding, you rush to finish your food, leaving the washing up for your Mom to do and getting dressed in winter clothes (a coat and a hat to hide your curls from the harsh wind and gloves to protect your hands). Your Dad adjusts your hat when he sees you, pulling it further down, as he chastises, “You can’t protect your ears this way. Quit trying to look fashionable in winter.”

You roll your eyes covertly.

The drive into town was long, considering your house is hidden away in the countryside, so the two of you sing and dance in the car with each other, watching as the rolling hills coated in white turns into towering buildings draped in red and green lights signalling the approach of Christmas.

Both of you do the shopping at the local greengrocers, grabbing healthy and fresh fruits and veggies for your Mom’s eccentric winter holiday recipes, picking up healthy slices of meats to decorate the table. It will just be the three of you, most likely, but your Ma makes food for her elderly neighbours who don’t have any family to celebrate the holidays with. The three of you had made it a family tradition years ago to take a bunch of Tupperware filled with hot, simple meals to the food bank, as an act of kindness to the less fortunate.

“How about you go and look for a gift for your mother while I go sort some things out at the mechanics?” Your Dad asks, a suggestive raise to his brows. He owns and works in a mechanics shop in town – small enough to be manned by himself, but popular enough with the public that you don’t worry about finances at home – so you nod, not seeing anything strange about his words. You are old enough to take care of yourself, and your city is hardly dangerous, especially with so many people around, so you both separate with a hug and a kiss as a goodbye.

You walk through the streets of the Christmas Fair, passing by a group of squealing kids, dressed in heavy winter clothes, holding cups of hot chocolate in their red-knuckled hands. One bumps into your legs, cheeks burning shyly as his mother apologises to you on his behalf, chastising him in local dialect. You chuckle and continue walking on, glancing around the trinkets and small pieces of intricately designed jewellery, hoping to find something that fits your mother’s tastes.

“Oof!”

Someone bumps into you, knocking you off balance, as they stumble out to stand up from a bench tucked under a rustic-looking open tavern selling beer and meat (influenced by the German aesthete), and they move to steady you with a firm grip on your elbow.

“I’m so sorry, I’m awfully clumsy,” they say, self-deprecatingly, and the voice is so painfully familiar that you freeze all over. “Are you okay?”

Almost unwilling to confirm the reality, you slowly glance up, eyes widening at the image before you, feeling your entire being freeze up instantly.

“T-Taehyung?”

His breath seems to catch in his chest at the sight of you and he stammers, “YN?”

A moment of pure peace envelops you as you stare into his dark, shiny eyes. You finally feel like you can breathe, the corner of your chest that had been in absolute turmoil settles instantly at the feeling on his grip on your elbow. He stares down at you, seemingly drinking your appearance in, and he seems just as lost as you are in the bubble of harmony that has encased you both.

That same moment that is absolutely shattered by the rushing reminder of what transpired the last time you met.

You throw away the peace you feel, reminded of the nightmares that have plagued you, the memory of Mei Li’s battered and bloodied skin making anger rise in your throat like magma.

Tearing yourself out of his grip, you hiss, “Are you following me?”

Scandalised, he gasps, rearing back, big eyes widening. “No!”

He looks so offended by the idea that it makes you blush. Well, excuse me for making assumptions.

You gesture to him and spit, “What do you call this?”

“Me, visiting my parents during my vacation time,” he replies, frown deepening. His eyes don’t leave your body as he asks, accusingly, “What are you doing here?”

“The same,” you answer. You move away from him further, brow puckering slightly. He’s wearing a long bubble coat that reaches his knees, and a beanie hat is on his head, hiding the tips of his red ears from the cold weather. “I didn’t know you were from this city.”

“You never asked,” he replies, just as quietly.

A little girl pokes her head from around his long legs and stares up at you, pink and red clips in the shape of ladybugs and strawberries decorate the side of her head and she has her hair pulled up in two adorably short pigtails. She pulls at the bottom of his coat and asks, with an endearing lisp, “Oppa, who’s this?”

He lifts her up easily, and says, dipping the girl towards you, “This is Oppa’s friend from big school, YNie..." He clears his throat. "YN-ssi, this is my baby sister. You can call her Bug."

She pouts at the nickname, puffing up her chubby cheeks. Taehyung crosses his eyes playfully at her, pressing a kiss to her red nose. She curls into his neck, his shaggy hair falling into his eyes as he cautiously watches you interact with one of the most important people in his life. He doesn't know what he would do if you reacted badly and made Bug sad. 

“Nice to meet you, Bug,” you say, smiling faintly, reaching out to shake her hand. She does so, little fist in a mitten being wrapped up in your own gloved hand, and she bows shyly.

"Hello, unni!" She's beaming, just like him, but her front two teeth are missing. Fuck, she's adorable. "Oppa, her hair is so pretty."

He chuckles. "Your hair is just as pretty, Bug."

You wonder if she’s like him – a vampire. She looks so cute and small, all prettied up and red-cheeked. You can’t connect the dangerous image of a blood-fiend with the visual of such a cute girl, it feels too surreal.

The expression of frustration that he had worn as he looked at you disappears, being replaced by a delightfully bright one when he observes the little girl. He doesn’t want her to sense the awkwardness between the two of you. He looks at Bug as if she’s his whole world, and the sight makes your heart skip a beat.

You’d never thought of Taehyung in the context of young children, always thinking the man too immature to handle being around little ones, but he seems so at home, so comfortable in the role of big brother. The errant thought of Taehyung in twenty years assaults you, images of him with children of his own hanging off his long body, identical boxy smiles on their faces, flickers in your mind’s eye.

He suggests, staring at his little sister, “Shall we go and get that chocolate you wanted?”

Her eyes light up at the idea and she nods, vehemently. “Let’s go!”

“Okay, okay,” he coos, kissing her pink cheek. “Oppa will buy you whatever you want, okay? Just don't tell Mom, okay?"

"Okay!" She claps, but the sound is muffled by the mittens covering her palms.

Taehyung turns to you, guarded expression returning instantly, and he says, bluntly, “I’m sorry for disturbing your vacation.”

He moves to leave with the little girl, but you can’t help but reach out to grasp his elbow, lightly, stalling his movement. The blue-haired artist glances down at you, then at your hand, and back at your face, expression cautious but intrigued.

“Have a g-good vacation,” you mumble, pathetically, shifting your eyes from his to the floor.

The vampire stares down at you, brow creasing, before he nods, curtly. “And you.”

Then, he’s gone, sweeping down the brightly-lit street with his little sister in his arms, the two of them singing the entire way.

You wonder, idly, if this is how Fate manifests.

How else can you make sense of bumping into one of the only people in the world that had the ability to mess you up inside so deeply that you have to take a seat to steady yourself, on the precipice of a panic attack.

What you don’t see is Taehyung experiencing the same internal battle mere feet from your form, staring unseeingly ahead while his little sister babbles, excitedly, in his ear, his mind whirring with the irony of it all. He left Seoul to come home and get away from the guilt that was practically eating him alive. And now, his home town is tainted with that same sensation – seeing you brought it all back, full-force and without mercy.

Chapter Text

You don’t see Taehyung again that night. And, although you are more than a little embarrassed to say that you have contemplated accompanying your father into the city’s centre on multiple other occasions with the intention of catching even the shortest sight of the tuft of blue atop his head.

Some days, you do go by yourself, busying yourself with miscellaneous ‘chores’ that you really didn’t need to do. When you would return in the evenings, your mother would comment on the slump of your shoulders, startling you into making up some awkward lie about cramping and scuttle off to your bedroom before she could see through your misgivings. Despite your assertions that you would rather never see them again, you find yourself yearning, deeply.

“How about you come with me to the shop? You always used to like it,” your Dad says, poking his head into your room. He looks at you expectantly, and his expression takes on a more mischievous note. “Xiumin heard you were back in town and has been asking for you.”

You think of the cheeky-looking boy in fondness, a small smile quirking your lips. The two of you had grown up in the same countryside town, going to the same kindergarten, although he was three years older than you. His Dad was best friends with your Dad, so the two of you spent some time together in your youth. Of course, over time, you had developed a crush – seemingly harmless and sweet with childhood admiration.

He was your first ‘heart break’, and looking back on it, you almost want to laugh because at the time, finding out he had a girlfriend (older and more gentle and ‘prettier’ than you, whatever that means to a ten-year old) was enough to have you crying, inconsolable for days.

Your parents had been tickled pink at your misery, knowing you to be more than a little bit dramatic at that age.

“Sure, daddy, let me just get some clothes on,” you tell him, jumping out of your bed and switching off your laptop, saving the little progress you had made in one of your essays that were due over the break.

“Mom needs some help in the garden, so we can leave after we do that,” he says, disappearing from your room after kissing your forehead.

You shower, brush your teeth and dress in under half an hour – a new record – and join your parents as they try to prune the damages and overlapping branches from the shrubs and trees that line your immediate back yard.

“You’ll do more harm than good, YN,” your mother says, teasingly. “Go inside and stay warm.”

Your Dad nods in agreement, tripping over a particularly stubborn root that he was hoisting out of the ground. Huffing to yourself, you return to the house, setting about making your Dad a flask of cinnamon-infused coffee for his day at the office. You know you aren’t much help with domestic work, but you want to spend as much time with them as possible.

“Your work as a barista seems to be coming in handy,” he comments, sniffing at the concoction over your shoulder. “It smells good.”

“It tastes better,” you reply, grinning. “Ready?”

He nods, washing his hands and grabbing his trusty tool kit. The two of you make the same journey that you have multiple times this week back into the main city centre and after picking up some breakfast for the workers at the garage, you both arrive at the mechanics.

“Morning, fellas,” you chime in, nudging the door open with your side. “Coffee, coffee and more coffee.”

The men all grin at you, taking their cups with greedy, dirty hands, and you beam at them all as a way of greeting. Most of the older men had been working with your father for years, having watched you grow up from the weedy little kid to the young woman that you’ve become, so to them, they felt like you were their daughter too.

Having such a solid support system meant a lot to you, and you didn’t realise just how much you’d missed being around it.

“YN? Is that you?” Xiumin asks, from the front desk. He’s dressed in overalls and some heavy boots, with a long-sleeved shirt stained with grease and oil. He looks good, inky hair pushed out of his eyes, the same cheeky grin on his face that you’d recognise from a mile off. He had a smudge of dirt on his chin, and it just made him look even more endearing.

You wonder why, though, that you feel nothing but fondness for him, when the last time you’d seen him, you would have been as red as a tomato and bumbling like a fool.

“Oppa,” you call, waving excitedly. “Here’s your coffee, and a breakfast bun that I kept secret from everyone else.”

“Wah,” he replies, bushy brows raising in amusement. “What did I do to deserve this?”

“Nothing but be your charming self, of course,” you tease, playfully. “It’s your favourite too. Cinnamon.”

His grin only widens at your words, but a sharp cough from across the garage catches his attention. Instantly, Xiumin straightens out and almost fumbles with his food with how flustered he is.

“My apologies, Yoongi-ssi,” he says, stuttering over his words. “I got a little distracted.”

“I can see that,” a familiar grumble sounds from the other side of the car. For the second time, you feel the bottom of your stomach open at the sight of such a recognisable face. He leans against the car, looking every inch of the unbothered charmer that you remember, as if he’d been transplanted straight from your dreams into reality. He raises a brow in challenge and says, lips quirking down slightly as he glances between you and Xiumin, “Fancy seeing you here, YN.”

Your tongue feels heavy in your mouth and you’re glad that you had already put down the drink because you’re sure you would have dropped it for how shocked you were. You ask, “What are yoi doing here, Yoongi?”

“Car issues,” he explains, gesturing to the fancy dark blue Mazda in front of him. “My Papa’s car.”

“Nice,” you reply, tersely. Turning to Xiumin, you catalogue his confused expression as he glances between both you and Yoongi, and say, gently, “I’ll leave you to get back to that.”

He nods, putting a hand on your shoulder and smiling. “We’ll talk after, okay?”

“If you don’t mind, I have places to be,” Yoongi cuts in, voice having lost the lightness you are sure you’d heard before. Now, it sounds venomous, brusque even. “I don’t have all day.”

You toss him a nasty glare when Xiumin isn’t looking, to which he simply rolls his eyes, and the fact that he doesn’t spontaneously combust irritates you immensely. Rather than sticking around like a bad smell, you disappear in your father’s office, commandeering his spinning chair and playing on his computer.

“There’s important things on there,” he comments, brow raising in fondness. “You could do some serious damage to my business’ credibility.”

You snort. “It can’t beat the time that I downloaded some music onto your work computer and ended up putting a virus on it. Good times.”

“Good?” He balks. “I lost so much data that morning, I thought I would lose all my hair from the stress. And I couldn’t even punish you, because you cried yourself sick.”

Flushing around the collar, you mumble, “I didn’t like your yelling voice.”

He grabs another chair, gesturing to it with his head. “Sit here, YN. Daddy needs the chair for his bad back.”

“It’s because you sit down all day,” you chastise, but move without complaint. “Have you been doing those back exercises that I sent you?”

“No, because I can’t get that damned Facebook app to work,” he complains. “And I don’t need to exercise, as if I’m some geriatric. I’m still young.”

“Tell that to your grey hairs,” you tease, running your hand through his salt and pepper crown. “I think I like it though.”

“Your mother loves the grey,” he replies. “She says that it’s charming on me, like a silver fox.”

“You two flirt too much for such old people,” you say, gagging.

He chuckles and sits back in his seat, staring at you with so much love and affection in his eyes that it makes your heart contract. “I can’t help but flirt with the lady who gave me such a smart and lovely little girl.”

“Cheesy! So cheesy!” You exclaim, shoving your fingers in your ears.

A knock on the door catches both of your attentions and Xiumin pokes his head in once your Dad gives the ‘okay’.

“Sir, the customer, Min Yoongi, wants to commission us for a full body clean and gear shift change,” he says, briefly glancing your way. “He says that he’ll come back for the pick up in a couple of days.”

“That’s perfect. Did you have him sign the contract?”

Xiumin slides the sheet of paper with Yoongi’s messy scrawl at the bottom of it. Intrigued, you lean forward, suddenly desperate to have any new information about the white-haired boy. You had expected his writing to be elegant, neat cursive, matching his lordly personality, but no, it’s almost as if he writes in bursts of energy, trying to get his thoughts out before he loses the inspiration that triggered them.

“He left this for you, too,” he says, directed your way. “I didn’t read it. I promise.”

Xiumin hands you a hastily scrawled note, written on the back of a receipt from a local bookstore.

Meet me in front of The Arc at nine tonight.

We need to talk, and you know it.

Yoongi

The thought of meeting him alone fills you with butterflies, wings pounding mercilessly in your stomach.

/

Begrudgingly, you find yourself in front of the egg-shaped landmark at nine that same night, dressed for the weather, scarf pulled to cover your nose and fluffy ear muffs over your head. You pace from one side to the other, unable to stay seated. Your nerves were alight with agitation, feeling your heart thunder in your chest.

That whole day, you had been unable to fully concentrate on the occurrences around you. Xiumin ended up shaking his hand in front of your face more than once to reobtain your attention, and your Dad noticed the immediate change in your demeanour at the garage but chose to say nothing. You and Xiumin spent time together, catching up on miscellaneous things, happy to just be in each other’s presence. He seems shyer than before, cheeks pinking at odd times, but you think nothing of it.

“YN!”

Yoongi’s voice carries on the wind, reaching you like an echo in an empty grotto, and you turn to see him approach you, Taehyung by his side, both dressed head-to-toe in black with their hands tucked deep into their pockets. Yoongi’s cheeks are practically glowing red from the harsh weather, and Taehyung had a mask covering the lower half of his face, hiding it from view. His thick brows are pulled together in a frown, and the sight of the usually-jovial man being so serious fills you with dread.

The taller of the two asks, awkwardly, “Have you been waiting for long?”

Ignoring his question, you direct your attention to the blond. “What did you want to discuss?”

“Don’t be purposefully obtuse, YN,” Yoongi chastises, a shiver passing through him as a particularly bitter gust of wind accosts the three of you. “I assume you don’t want to talk in the car so let’s go find somewhere warmer to talk.”

The two of them walk ahead without hearing your confirmation, and with a groan, you trail behind them, having to rush forward because their long legs and wide gait propelled them forward at a faster pace than your shorter, stubbier limbs.

“That’s better,” he says, pulling into a tented restaurant on the side of the park. He lets you step inside first, then he nods at the ahjumma cooking the food and asks for two bottles of alcohol and some sides. He gestures to a nearby empty table, furthest away from any of the few patrons, and commands, “Sit.”

Unenthusiastically, you drop into the seat and cross your arms over your chest, defensively. “So, talk.”

The lady puts the meat and alcohol with small shot glasses on the table before she moves back to near the hob and oven area.

Yoongi uncaps the alcohol and fills the glasses up. “Drink first.”

“Yoongi!”

He nudges the glass at you, insistently.

“Fine,” you reply, draining the glass in one. Wincing, sharply, you bite out, “Happy?”

The alcohol warms your stomach, spreading across your chest, burning you ever so slightly as it does down. Taehyung and Yoongi do the same, and the blue-haired boy fills the glasses this time around.

“Talk,” you repeat.

Yoongi and Taehyung share a look before the blond says, “We really didn’t know you’d be here. If we did, we probably wouldn’t have come home.”

That doesn’t sit well with you, as much as you don’t want to want to be around them, they have the right to go wherever they want.

Mumbling, you reply, “I might not be happy to see you, but that doesn’t mean I can dictate where you go.”

Taehyung ducks his head, hiding his grimace. “We can see that pretty clearly, YNie.”

“Don’t-”

“Please don’t ask me to act as if I don’t know you,” he replies, voice strangled, still staring down at his drink filled with clear alcohol. “It already hurts enough that you’re so distant.”

He downs his drink without another word.

“I- Fine. I don’t have any intention of seeing you again for the rest of the vacation, so what does it matter to me what you call me,” you answer, licking your lips and glancing to the side. “I don’t care.”

Yoongi lets out a bitter chuckle, much to your irritation. “As much as I respect your right to privacy, you can’t lie to us, YN.”

“We can hear the lie in your voice,” Taehyung clarifies. “In your pulse. It speeds up when you’re being purposefully deceptive.”

“Dongw- He mentioned something about that,” you reply, feeling a shiver overtake your body at the reminder. The two men opposite you share another look of shared anguish, and they wish like hell that they could comfort you. But they know touching you would do nothing but worsen your mood. “I guess I shouldn’t put anything past you guys.”

You take another shot, bitterness breaking out along your tongue despite the sweet tasting alcohol.

Taehyung says, “This- We’ve never had to do this before. Explain ourselves, I mean.”

“Clearly,” you grumble, pouring yourself another shot.

“Slow down,” Yoongi chastises, lightly. He stops you from drinking the one you have by downing it himself, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. “You don’t take your alcohol well.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” you snap, grabbing the bottle and taking a swig, glaring at the two of them over the neck of the bottle. “If I want to drink myself to death, I sure will.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes at your dramatic attitude. “Fine, fine. Do what you want. But it’ll be us having to drag you home if you drink too much, and that’s not the first impression I want to make on your parents.”

“You won’t meet my parents, ever,” you growl.

Yoongi snorts. “Too late.”

“Well…” You pause, brain moving sluggishly. The alcohol is swishing nicely in your stomach, and you regret not eating anything before – too nervous to keep food down. “That doesn’t count.”

Yoongi snorts. “Oh yeah? Why not?”

“You’re a client, not a person,” you explain. “You aren’t anything more than money in the bank.”

He observes you, amused by your words, and offers you some meat. “Alright, alright. Eat this instead of talking so much.”

Begrudgingly, you chew at the lightly seasoned, oily meat and stare at them, expectantly.

“Let us tell you about our story, okay, YNie?” Taehyung pleads, eyes large with desperation. “Namjoon-hyung didn’t want us to overstep, but this feels too much like Fate. Yoongi-hyung and I just want to show you our side, that’s all. And if you want to leave, you just say the word and we’ll take you home.”

Staring at him, distrustfully, you ask, “Promise?”

He nods, vehemently. “I promise.”

“Go ahead.”

Yoongi licks his lips, nudging forward in his seat and he says, “The seven of us are in a coven, which is just the vampiric version of a family. We have blood relatives, but amongst our kind, coven-bonds are stronger than blood-bonds. In our culture, coven-bonds are taken as more serious than simple familial ones. Which is why we take our safety so seriously.”

Taehyung nods. “We don’t often open ourselves up to dangerous situations, like this. Being open with you, with anyone outside of our coven, is new, and kind of strange for us.”

Yoongi continues, “As much as we have ‘friends’ in our social circles, and some of us are popular at university, but those relationships are absurdly superficial. Once we move, we probably won’t ever meet anyone from university again, unless they’ll contribute to the benefit of our coven. We’re incredibly private creatures, YN.”

“So, when we stress that you are important to us, we do so because we need for you to know that the decision to tell you wasn’t done so lightly,” Taehyung explains, strangely serious.

“But, you didn’t tell me,” you stammer.

“We were going to,” Yoongi replies, brow puckering. “We just wanted to… ease you into it. Finding out that your closest friends are vampires isn’t really something that can be exposed over chicken and beer.”

Taehyung lets out a soft sigh. “The situation with Dongwon and Mei Li – that was never something we wanted you to experience, and we don’t want you to think that we don’t care about what happened to her. She was an innocent and should have never been exposed to that side of our world the way she was.”

Yoongi finishes, “Her family is being compensated by Dongwon’s Pack. We don’t know the details, but as far as we know, by the Accords, they owe them a blood atonement.”

“You mentioned that before, a blood atonement. What does that mean?”

“Compensation,” Yoongi explains. “If someone draws blood, the family of the victim can do the same. An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth-style system.”

You ask, frowning slightly, “Isn’t that archaic?”

“Absolutely, but it keeps us in line,” Yoongi replies. “Other societies still work under that kind of arrangement, even today.”

After a pause, you enquire, almost nervous to hear their response, “Why did you need to atone with Dongwon?”

“He needed to atone to us,” Taehyung corrects, expression sharpening at whatever thought is passing through his mind. He looks intimidating, eyes flat and lips turned down in displeasure. “He touched what wasn’t his, and for that he had to die.”

Yoongi simplifies, “He hurt you. For that, blood had to be shed in turn.”

“So, you killed him… for me?”

The two of them nod, solemnly. “We would do anything to protect you, YNie. That, we can promise you.”

Taking another swig from the bottle, you feel your stomach burn. Chewing on some pickled radish, you stare at the two men opposite you, a melancholy smile forming on your face, tears pricking at your eyes. “I never asked for that.”

“We understand that,” Yoongi says, regretfully. “To a human, our actions were extreme, and we acknowledge how scary it must have been. But, to us, to any supernatural, there was nothing wrong with our reaction. And I won’t lie to you and say we’re sorry that hunk of shit is dead, because I’m not. None of us are.”

You can’t say you feel sorry that another person won’t have to face what Mei Li faced.

You can’t lie to yourself and say that knowing that he’s gone – that he can’t hurt anyone else – doesn’t fill you with a sick sense of comfort.

But, you also can’t dupe yourself into feeling like the boys aren’t inextricably linked to your feelings of grief and loss over one of your best friends. You haven’t even been able to look at the pictures of her in your phone, too filled with pain and shame over your unwitting involvement.

Taehyung sighs, softly, and his fingers twitch as if he wanted to reach out for you. “Don’t cry, YNie. Please?”

You wipe at the tear that had trailed down the length of your nose before it can fall from your face. “’m not sad,” you mumble. “Just… Overwhelmed.”

The alcohol is making you loose-lipped and painfully honest, but you almost are grateful for it. You haven’t been able to shift the weight in your chest, and it seems being honest is the only way to cut out that poisonous part of yourself.

You blink, blearily, trying to rid yourself of the wateriness in your vision.

Yoongi shuffles forward until his knee bumps into yours under the table, the contact settling something deep inside of you. He murmurs, quietly, “It’s okay to feel that way. Anybody would be.”

“Am I a bad person?”

Taehyung shakes his head, cooing at you softly. “Not at all, YNie. You’re not a bad person for being scared.”

“’n not scared,” you whisper, as if you speak any louder, you feel you would shatter your already fragile sense of being. “She wouldn’t have been hurt if it wasn’t for me.”

Yoongi tuts a little, as if he isn’t surprised by your words. “You had nothing to do with that.”

“You can’t know that,” you whine, more tears falling.

Taehyung clasps both of your hands in his own, ignoring your look of surprise, and growls, “Were you there when she was attacked the first time?”

Cautiously, you shake your head.

“Were you the one who hurt her?”

“I would never,” you gasp, the beginnings of a headache blooming between your eyes.

Taehyung stares deeply into your eyes, holding the contact for a meaningful moment, before dropping his gaze to your conjoined hands. “Then, you can’t be considered responsible for what happened to her.”

“I still feel as if I am,” you mutter, a harsh whisper. “Mei Li would be so ashamed of me. Cosying up to the people who-”

“We didn’t kill her, sweetheart.” Yoongi corrects, quietly, careful to not get overheard. He reaches forward to wipe away your tears with the sleeve of his hoodie and watches your cheeks pink even further at the contact. Warmth spreads across his chest that had nothing to do with the alcohol sloshing about in his gut. “We didn’t do anything but keep her from other people who she might hurt in her deranged state and try and save her life.”

“As you’ve said time and time again, but she’s still dead. And now, I’m being comforted by the very vampires who watched her deteriorate,” you whisper, sharply. Taking a calming breath, you stare at the now empty bottle in front of you and mumble, “I feel disgusting.”

“Why?”

“Because as much as I say I don’t want to see you, I feel so… happy with you around,” you mutter, helplessly. Sluggishly, you rub at the new tear stains on your face, sniffling pathetically.

Taehyung lets out a soft whine, unable to help himself.

“Hey, hey, stop that,” he chastises, softly, brushing his thumb along your jaw, gently. “You’ll cry yourself sick if you keep that up, silly girl.”

Unconsciously, Yoongi reaches for your other hand, swiping a knobbly thumb along the back of your palm, in soothing motions.

“It hurts,” you whine, fresh tears spilling over at your heart-wrenching confession. Your cheeks flush hotly at your words, but rather than mocking you for your attachment, the boys simply nod, attentively, one hand in each of their grip. “My heart hurts.”

“We’ll make it better,” Yoongi promises, pressing your knuckles to his lips in a quick kiss. The butterflies in your tummy soar at the way his lips linger on your skin. After a long moment where he simply seems to be breathing you in, he opens his eyes, staring at you with such warmth and asks, “Shall we get you home and out of the cold?”

“’m not cold anymore,” you mutter, but it does unheard. Taehyung helps you out of your seat and Yoongi moves to pay for the food and drinks with a polite bow. The taller of the two hoists you onto his back with ease, grip under your thighs firm, so you can barely even shift, let alone fall off.

“I don’t need to be carried!” You huff, but they ignore you, simply shifting you on his back and Yoongi walks in-step with you.

Reaching for his palms swinging by his side, you don’t know why you knit your fingers with his own, but you do, and he glances at you, pleasantly surprised.

As you walk to their car, you exclaim, “Taehyungie!”

He glances over his shoulder at you, and smiles, indulgently. “Yes, YNie?”

You sing, drunkenly, “I missed you!”

He laughs at your childlike tone, knowing that your confessions are mostly just liquid courage and you’ll probably go back to your stubborn denial come morning, but still, the knowledge that you do, on some level, miss him and his brothers, it makes the last few weeks of radio silence worth it.

“We’ve missed you too, sweetheart,” Yoongi murmurs, shyly. He stares down at your joined hands, heart pounding in his chest. “So much.”

Chapter Text

Waking up the next day, you feel like hell on Earth.

Your tongue feels disgustingly rough and thick with something you want nothing more than to scrape off and burn, and your stomach rolls with nausea as you crack open an eye to stare at the wall opposite your bed. Groaning into your pillow, you try to turn over but you fail, slumping over in a pathetic heap.

Being awake hurts.

Breathing hurts.

Thinking too much hurts.

Everything aches.

You must have gotten into your Dad’s secret stash of whiskey in the basement, but, you wonder, why? Why did you drink so much?

Making your way to the bathroom, sluggishly, to relieve yourself and brush your teeth with the strength of six men, you notice that your face is surprisingly lacking the smudges of black you had expected to see.

When you return to your room, you take in your surroundings more clearly.

Make-up wipes sit, innocently, on your vanity, which definitely hadn’t been there before you had left but… well, you guess you must have drunkenly wiped off your makeup last night. Hm, drunk you really had her shit together!

You silently applaud your drunk counterpart and continue to scan the room with watery eyes.

A note sits innocently on your bedside table and that- well, that makes you pause.

 Absently, you notice that your window had been cracked open, letting in a small draft that you would’ve usually hated but the freshness of the air diffuses any gross scents that would have accumulated overnight, and you sit beside the gust of cool air as your eyes scan over the note, familiar writing instantly sending a shiver down your spine.

You really can’t handle your liquor, YNie. ^^

But you’re very cute when you’re drunk, so we forgive you!

Sleep well and contact us when you wake up – uh, only if you want to!

We aren’t taking your forgiveness for granted, we promise, but we’d really like to see you before we go back to campus. Even if it’s just to talk… or just see you, you know. Whatever you’re comfortable with!

Your special Taehyunie (and a grumpy Yoongi-hyung)

Snapping open the drawer, you shove the letter inside with trembling hands. Nail polish and your barely used perfume clatter loudly to the floor, only spared from smashing because of your fluffy pink rug underneath it.

Flashes of the night before runs through your mind, fragments of the conversation with the two boys racing through your head at break-neck speed. Collapsing to the floor, you feel your stomach roll even harder at the memories, and shame burns at your cheeks at your actions.

“Little Bird,” your Dad’s voice calls through the wood of your door. He doesn’t sound angry, but still, you freeze all over. If you’re in bed, then you have to have come home plastered, and that- you never wanted your Dad to see that side of you. He continues, tone still just as mild, “Did I hear you wake up?”

Scrambling to your feet, you shuffle to the door and crack it open, peeking up at his serious expression, shame-facedly. “Hey, daddy.”

He inhales, long and low, before he asks, thick arms crossed over his wide chest, “Want to explain why I met two of your friends, one of whom is my client, early this morning when they carried your drunk butt into the house, too inebriated to stand by yourself?”

Your ears burn in embarrassment. “I’m sorry.”

He lets out a low hum of deliberation. You always hated when your Dad would discipline you, more than any of the physical punishments (going to bed early, eating your least favourite foods for dinner for a week, having to run laps of the garden until your legs felt like jelly) because he would just show resolute disappointment – something you had grown to detest over the years.

“You should be apologising to them, not me,” he remarks, a short shrug of his brows being the only indication of emotion on his face. “They seem to be… interesting boys.”

If possible, your ears burn even more at his implicative tone.

You reply, begrudgingly, “They’re… fine.”

He echoes, quirking his brow higher, “Just fine?”

You nod, still unable to meet his eyes.

He lets out a small laugh, and in an instant, the tension bleeds out of you. He isn’t mad, he still loves you, you aren’t bad – the thoughts rush through over you like water, soothing your invisible wounds. “Fine, fine. I won’t push you for answers you’re clearly so unwilling to give.”

He shifts out of the way, letting you out of your room and away from his penetrating glower of pleasure over seeing you squirm. He gestures with his head to the stairs and commands, “Mom’s made breakfast, hurry up and come eat.”

“Love you, daddy,” you mumble, trailing behind him into the kitchen, feeling two-feet tall.

You both take your designated seats and your Mom presses a kiss to your temple before tugging at a strand of your messy hair and sitting down herself.

He glances at you and lets out a small chuckle, as your Mom pours out some hangover soup for you, a knowing glint in her eye. He says, “I’ll always love you, Little Bird. You just made a silly choice last night. You got home safe, and they took care of you. I watched, of course, but they seemed to know what they were doing with you… Which leads me to believe that they’re more than just associates of yours.”

“We’re… They’re friends of mine,” you admit. “Or, they were.”

Were?” Your mother prompts, sucking up some porridge and putting some meat into your father’s bowl. “That’s not what we saw yesterday.”

You ask, brow furrowing in confusion, “What do you mean?”

“They knocked on the door, and it was lucky that we were downstairs watching some movies together for Indoor Date Night, otherwise we might not have heard them,” he says, chuckling. “The taller one bowed with you dribbling on his back and introduced himself so proudly. They looked… unique. Their blue and white hair stood out so brightly against their skin, and they were… so handsome.”

“YN, are men like that in Seoul really that attractive?” Your mother says, leaning forward conspiratorially. “I almost fainted when the tall one smiled at me.”

“No, just them,” you reply, sulkily jabbing into your bowl. “Then, what happened?”

Your Dad replies, pouting slightly, “I offered to take you off them, still uncomfortable with my Princess with strange men, but they insisted on getting you upstairs. They were very charming and seemed trustworthy, so eventually, I led them to your room. They got you in bed, wiped off your make-up, even while you were swiping at them in your sleep.”

Your Mom chortles behind her tiny hand and says, “The shorter one, what was his name? Yoongi? Yes, Yoongi. He tried to get your hair out of the bun and you bit him.”

Choking on your mouthful of soup, you gasp, “I did WHAT?”

“You bit his hand,” your mother laughs at the memory. “He didn’t even respond, just sighed like you were a little kid and kept doing what he needed to do.”

“I changed you,” she says a second later, eyes wide. “Don’t worry about that. They didn’t see your private parts.”

“Mom!”

She only giggles in response.

Your Dad mumbles, strangely reflective, “The boys and I had a talk in the living room afterwards.”

Your Mom rolls her eyes to the ceiling and mumbles in her home-tongue. “Holy God.”

“I could hardly let them into my house, with my little girl, drunk as a skunk, without asking some questions,” he castigates. “Nothing personal, but they were forthcoming and honest. You met them in school, and they think of you as a close friend. They sung nothing but your praises.”

You feel your cheeks pink at his words, but you try to maintain your expressionless appearance.

“Once your father was done interrogating the poor boys, they left with a polite word and an apology for coming over so late,” your mother finishes. “And a promise to visit again soon, under more appropriate circumstances.”

You sigh. “They won’t be coming around, I promise.”

“And why not?”

You grumble, poking at your food, no longer interested, “We had a fight, I guess.”

“You don’t sound so sure,” your mother remarks, lightly.

Snorting, acerbically, you reply, “I’m pretty sure.”

“Were they in the wrong?”

You mumble, “I- It’s complicated.”

With a brow raised, your Dad rephrases his question. “Were you in the wrong?”

“It’s complicated, Dad.”

“So, it sounds like you have something weighting on your mind, Little Bird,” he says, sympathetically. “Talking sometimes can help.”

“There’s really nothing to talk about,” you lie, avoiding their eyes. Knowing that, according to the boys, you can’t lie very well (as much as you boast about your deception skills, you know you’re ridiculously bad at lying to people), you want to get this conversation over with as quickly as possible before you let something dangerous slip. The boys’ warning rings loudly in your head. “I haven’t forgiven them for something that happened at school.”

Your Dad’s expression grows stormy instantly. “Did they hurt you?”

You shake your head. “My feelings, mostly.”

“Have you spoken to them about it?”

You nod. “They explained their side, and it makes sense. I just- I haven’t been able to forgive them, inside. I hadn’t really spoken to them since it happened.”

“You aren’t required to forgive anyone just because they apologise,” your mother tells you, sagely. “It isn’t essential for your healing as a person. Forgiveness is not guaranteed. But, holding onto that pain, it only eats you up inside. You’re the only one hurting.”

You let out a shaky sigh. “I know that, Mom. I don’t want to keep being mad, but every time I see them, I get these reminders of those bad feelings.”

“Take as long as you need to consolidate those feelings, and work through them healthily,” she says. “Try journaling again. It helped you in school, didn’t it?”

You nod, quickly draining the rest of your food, eager to have more of the sweetly-seasoned meal in your stomach.

Your Mom lets out a light-hearted chuckle and asks, “Want some more?”

Eagerly, you nod, raising your bowl and she fills it, indulging your greediness.

/

Christmas is spent in the company of your parents. Songs are sung, gifts are exchanged, happiness is shared. You even video-call Young-mi, who is spending the day with her dance troupe in the university dorms. You promise to bring her back some dessert from your Mom’s super-secret recipe book and end the call with a bunch of kisses.

You don’t meet the boys again, but you do unblock their profiles on social media, secretly and greedily scrolling through their feeds at the new information from their vacations.

Jungkook seems to have gone to Sweden with his family, pictures with his younger brother flooding your newsfeed. You had never thought about seeing Jungkook decked out in snowboarding gear before, but once you witnessed it, you can’t think about anything else for hours. He always looks good but dressed in a black and white compilation of snow gear, with yellow tinged glasses covering his wonderfully expressive eyes and holding a snowboard that looks as tall as him, you feel your eyes, keenly, hover over the broad expanse of his shoulders and the tightly coiled lines of his body.

Namjoon spent the winter vacation in Seoul, working on the winter wonderland feature at the aquarium, proudly showing off his sticky and tentacle-having friends. There is even a video recorded underwater of him swimming with sharks. You know he probably was geeked out the whole time. It makes you miss his smile so much. He even has a couple of snapshots of him with some kids, leading a workshop about why recycling is so important. You recognise the carboard cut outs – he had made them himself.

Jin and his older brother, who you haven’t seen before, but you find looks more like his father than like the handsome man you have grown to care so deeply about, took a trip to Dubai for a fancy company conference. The smartly-dressed business major is staring, vacantly, into the camera and the distant look on his face makes you yearn to be around him, to pull the excited nature from his body into the world. There aren’t many pictures from his time in the country, but from what you see, he led a discussion about collaborative business mergers and even spent some time at the beach. You exit out of those pictures really quickly because Jin’s smooth tanned skin, bare broad shoulders and soft tummy are more than you can take when you are feeling so weak inside.

Taehyung and Yoongi return to Seoul almost a full ten days after the events of that night, leaving you with just under a week left before you needed to go back to the city to start a new semester. They don’t attempt to contact you, but you do covetously scroll through their pictures. Taehyung had posted a picture of his face on New Year’s Day, of the fireworks on the top of a high hill, with Yoongi in the background with Bug sitting on his shoulders. The caption: Missing you is like missing the sun. You’ve left my world quiet and cold, please come home.

You hear his voice whispering the words into your ear for hours afterwards.

Yoongi mostly takes pictures in his room, of his lyric book (the cover a mess of black scratches and overlapping doodles), of his dog, Holly, and the food that he had eaten. One picture gives you pause, one of him with his family, and you notice that Yoongi has two fathers. He never mentioned it to you before, but he seems happy in the picture, with both men (one tall but thin and the other short and adorable with a pair of glasses on his nose) kissing both of his cheeks. His dark eyes glitter from under his bucket hat, freshly dyed hair poking out from beneath it, a miniature version of his gummy smile tugging at his mouth, small teeth poking out from between his soft, blush pink lips.

Jimin had an important dance recital, and all the boys went to watch him – except for Hoseok, who was spending the whole vacation tracking across Europe with his parents and older sister, but he seemed to have sent him a big bouquet of pink roses to match his hair as congratulations, if the picture Jimin posts says anything. Jungkook even snapped professional-grade photos of the ethereal pinkette half suspended in the air, in the process of what seems to be an impressive aerial, posting them proudly all over his Wall.

Hobi’s trip across Europe fills you with happiness, because the dancer had always talked about wanting to see Rome, Paris and London, and seeing him live out his fantasy filled you with nothing but joy. In every photo he snapped, you notice, though, that he is alone. He doesn’t have any pictures with his mother, or father, or even his sister, despite going on the trip with them. You scan his whole profile and don’t find a single picture of his family – well, outside of the boys.

The precious photo of the six of them gets saved into your phone before you can think better of it, and you greedily stare at it late at night until your eyes burn.

In a moment of weakness, or seven, you set it as your home-screen background photo and hold it close to your chest, to help you fall asleep at night.

You had spent your days doing just as your mother suggested – journaling your feelings, documenting the changes you experienced every day, openly, earnestly, and then you would burn the incriminating words and watch as they disintegrated into the air. You had an honest conversation with yourself in the bath, in the shower, during the quietest hours of the night and early morning, and you found yourself coming to the same conclusion each time.

You missed them.

You forgave them.

Your phone pings from where it has been sat on the arm of the couch for the last hour, but you ignore it, choosing to focus on the game of Scrabble.

Your Mom glances nosily at your phone over her glasses and asks, amused, “Who is ‘Baby Bun’?”

You snap up to look at your mother, then at your phone that continues to buzz.

“One of the boys from Taehyung and Yoongi’s friendship group,” you explain, suddenly strangely alert. “I- I unblocked their numbers this afternoon.”

She makes a face. “Is that a good thing?”

You nod, slowly. “I think so.”

“Then, I’m proud of you,” she remarks, lightly. “Be careful, your Dad is cheating again.”

You look down to see him having made a bogus word for the third time in an hour.

“Daddy! Quit cheating!” You whine, bouncing on the spot.

He tuts. “Cimex is a word!”

Jerking your chin at him, you demand, “What does it mean?”

“It’s a type of bedbug,” he replies, haughtily. “Naver it if you don’t believe me.”

Huffing, you do just that, realising that he is, in fact, correct. Tossing him a vitriolic glare, you point at your eyes with both your index and middle finger before gesturing to his body in the typical ‘I’m watching you’ motion.

“Your turn, Little Bird,” he laughs. “If you can beat me, that is.”

Moments later, your phone pings with a series of noises, with increasing intensity.

Your mother huffs, in distaste, over the distraction, and eyes you. “If you don’t answer it, I will.”

Taking a moment to pout, you grab your phone and leave the room for some privacy.

Baby Bun: Look, hyung! I can see YN’s picture again

Joon-bug: Me too… Maybe she unblocked us?

Yoon: Did you, YN?

Gucci Boi: How do you feel, YNie? Did you recover well? We didn’t hear back from you after that night

Nation’s Dancer: YN-ah? Are you… Are you still upset with us?

Nation’s Dancer: Not saying you shouldn’t be, but… It’s good to see you. Hear from you? Even if you don’t reply. I’m glad you’re okay.

Yoon: We told them about what happened. It was only right. There aren’t any lies in our cluster.

Worldwide Handsome: You guys do know that it’s late, right? She might be asleep.

Baby Bun: Sorry, noona! I didn’t think!

Sunflower: Just let us know you’re okay, YN. Whenever you’re ready.

Nation’s Dancer: Just an emoji will suffice, YN. Not even a word. Any that you like!

Worldwide Handsome: She’s going to send the shit emoji, I hope you understand that.

Yoon: She loves the middle finger one too

Joon-bug: Or the throw-up one. That’s a pretty popular one with her.

Nation’s Dancer: She’s never sent me anything other than the colourful food ones. I feel left out!

Sunflower: She sends emojis?! YN-ah! You’ve never sent me one! You’re killing me here!

You: .

And then you put your phone on silent, not able to handle the wave of emotion that crashes over your head at the thought of opening that door again, of being in contact with them again, of letting them back in.

Throwing up feels pretty good to you right now, actually.

/

“Are you sure you want to go back? There’s still three more days before you were supposed to leave?” Your Mom asks, strangely subdued. “We got you for Christmas, and New Year’s, but still. We miss you.”

“I’ll be back around April,” you promise, softly. She kisses every spot on your face that she can press her lips, leaving light smudges of deep red lipstick that she opts to wear, even at home. “You won’t even have time to miss me.”

“Silly girl, you could be upstairs, and I’d still miss you,” she coos.

Your Dad is more emotional than your mother, hugging you and swaying you from side to side, kissing your temple and mumbling unintelligible words into your hair. Still, it’s much better than when you first left during freshman year. He had cried and refused to open the car door to let you out onto campus when he had driven you down during Fresher’s Week.

“I’ll miss you so much, Daddy,” you mumble, hugging him back just as tightly. “But, I’m going to miss my train if you don’t let me go.”

He scoffs, wetly, and pulls away. “Fine. Our Little Bird is so eager to fly the nest, I suppose.”

The three of you exchange loving words and promises to see each other soon, and before long, you’re on your way back to Seoul, curled in a ball, the hard-hitting vocals of Yoongi’s rap tracks pounding in your ears. Recently, it had been the only thing that had let you sleep peacefully, and you thank God that his Soundcloud profile had been public.

Young-mi meets you at the coach station, embracing you as if the two of you were lovers, in a scene from a pathetically romantic movie.

The whole drive back, she keeps shooting you covert glances, as if she can’t figure you out, and it’s only when you are in your room, with her helping you pack away your belongings, that she says, “They heard back from Mei Li.”

Fighting to keep your voice neutral, you reply, forcing the appropriate level of surprise in your tone, “Is she okay?”

Young-mi’s eyes narrow at you before she answers, “Her Mom said that she and Dongwon eloped.”

You nearly drop the pile of shirts in your hand when you register her words. Swirling to face her, you demand, “Are you fucki- Are you serious?”

She nods, solemnly. “She got a message from her, a picture of a marriage license and a call from Dongwon’s Dad, apparently. He quit his job and the two of them left the country.”

“How-”

“Her Mom called me last weekend to tell me,” she replies, strangely sad. “If Mei Li wanted to be with him so bad, she could’ve just told us. This is so… dramatic.

“So, you haven’t heard from her?”

She shakes her head, sadly. “She’s over 18, so legally she’s an adult. Her Mom said that in her e-mail, Mei Li said she doesn’t want ties to her old life. So, she cut off contact with everyone.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“That’s what I said,” she mumbles, hurt. “But I saw the e-mail myself. It’s from her account, the same way she would write it. She even sent a picture of the rings, and the two of them at the altar, just to get her Mom off her back.”

That- In that moment, you realise just how terrifyingly thorough Namjoon’s connections had to be. The attention to detail that they had to have paid to successfully convince her own mother of her disappearance is nothing short of petrifying. You don’t have to hide the queasiness on your face, as it is mirrored on Young-mi’s face just the same.

You ask, “So… So, she’s just gone?”

“I guess so,” she replies, gently, rubbing her hand up and down your arm. “I’m sorry, YN. I know how much this must hurt.”

And, she isn’t wrong. It hurts, it burns.

But, for all the wrong reasons.

She comforts you, and you spend the night hating yourself for being the worst piece of human garbage alive. She cries with you, and you can’t stop yourself from throwing up into the toilet bowl once she’s fallen asleep, curled around your sheets.

You feel like a disgusting person, but a small part of you, the teeniest, tiniest part, feels relieved.

The ordeal is over.

Mei Li can finally rest.

You have just been left with the heavy weight resting on your chest, knowing your silence is tantamount to being complicit in her disappearance.

You make yourself sick .

 

Chapter Text

Classes start back the following week and you are glad for the change in pace. Your creative writing class got swapped out for a history module that you weren’t over the moon about taking, but still, the change felt good.

Your job at the café had been waiting for you after your sudden decision to go back home, and you were welcomed with open arms, considering the Christmas period had been a hellish experience, you took on plenty of shifts to ease your guilt and make things easier on Areum.

That all meant you hadn’t been able to see the boys at all for two weeks, despite being back in the same city. You had muted the chat, so you didn’t see when they messaged you, but sometimes you would peek in. Really, you hadn’t been avoiding them, per se, but you weren’t exactly chasing them down either, still tender from your own feelings of guilt.

But now, rather than simply being because of Mei Li’s death, you also felt guilty about how you reacted to them. And their secret.

It came to you one night, that if they really didn’t often expose their affliction to outsiders, because they feared the consequences of their vulnerability, you had proven them all right. Your reaction to their secret had been proverbial spittle in their faces, and you felt bad.

“Are you done with housekeeping, YN?” Areum asks, snapping you out of your reverie.

You look up and nod, a perfunctory smile working its way onto your face. “I can sign out now.”

“Okay, thanks. You were a real help tonight,” she says, putting a comforting hand on your shoulder. “Get home safe, okay?”

You nod, wrapping your scarf around your neck and kicking into your boots.

Pushing open the back doors to the establishment, you step out into the bitter wind and let out a low groan.

It was late, just after eleven at night, so the subway is still running. You could probably get home before midnight if you hurry, but the floors are still icy from the cold temperature, so you crunch, awkwardly, through the slush-snow-mush that coats the ground, careful of any translucent, shiny patches on the floor.

An obnoxiously loud series of beeps makes you jump out of your skin.

“Fuck!”

“You shouldn’t curse so loud, YN,” Namjoon’s pleasant tone rings from the driver’s seat. His hair is purple now, and shorter. It suits him so well, you almost drop your satchel at the sight of his honey-skin contrasting with the deep violet shade. “You look well. It’s nice to see you.”

“Mmm,” you reply, brain still catching up with your body. You know you’re just staring, dumbly, at him, and he lets out a soft chuckle, dimples appearing. That just isn’t fair.

“Do you want to get in the car and out of the cold? I can give you a ride,” he suggests, softly. There’s no compulsion in his voice, but he does seem a little uncomfortable with the idea of leaving you alone so late. “I don’t want you to think you have to – you don’t. I could get you a cab instead if you’re uncomfortable?”

“I’m not uncomfortable,” you reply, a touch too quickly. “Open the door.”

He does so, pushing it open and the heat tickles at you, invitingly. Settling into the car, you notice that the air smells strongly of vanilla – an aroma you closely associate with the tall literature major.

He doesn’t push you to talk, he just drives, taking special care of the stoplights, eyes on the road the entire way. The way he holds tension in his shoulders betrays his newly learner status as a driver.

You ask, scrambling for anything to fill the silence, “When did you pass your driving test?”

He glances at you, once the light overhead turns red. “Uhh, over the break actually. I’ve been saving for this car for a couple of months. My Mom said she’d match whatever I put up, so even though it isn’t as fancy as the others’, it’s all mine.”

He looks so proud of himself, chest puffing a little and his eyes are fucking sparkling. You can’t find it in you to laugh at him. You wouldn’t anyway. You don’t have a car, you don’t even have a license, so what right do you have to mock him?

“It’s nice,” you compliment. “Really, I’m happy for you.”

He smiles, dimples deepening before he turns his eyes to the street ahead, focused. The light changes and the silence returns.

“Did you have work?”

He nods, carefully. “I thought I’d stop by after, you know. To see if you were okay.”

“You work across town,” you remark, quirking a brow, the challenge clear in your voice.

The apples of his cheeks pink. “Yeah, I do, don’t I?”

“What time did you finish work?”

He pauses. “… Seven.”

“Namjoon!”

“I didn’t wait the whole time, I promise,” he says. “I went to dinner with a colleague, and then to the library for an hour. I just- I wanted to make sure you got home okay.”

You stare at him, the earnestness practically etched in every pane of his face, before you enquire, “And you couldn’t just call like a normal person, because…?”

“Because you wouldn’t have answered,” he replies, a touch sulkily.

You can’t say he’s wrong, because you aren’t sure if you would have answered the call, seeing his nickname flashing on your phone screen. Your panic would have probably choked you.

“You’re right,” you mumble. “Sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry about,” he answers. “You are entitled to your space. We fucked up, big time, YN. We aren’t hiding from that.”

“You always say ‘we’,” you remark. “Why?”

He seems surprised for a second, contemplative, even. “Well, that’s because we are a ‘we’. There’s no ‘I’ in a cluster. I think of them as extensions of myself.”

“Yoongi said that you think of me as part of your coven too,” you suggest, shyly. “Is that- Is that true?”

Namjoon’s collar feels hot. He didn’t think he’d be getting into such personal matters so quickly, but he owes you an explanation. A brief one, but still – it’s there.

“Yes,” he replies, after a moment of thought. “Subconsciously, we’ve all begun to think of you as a part of our cluster.”

You bite your lip, lightly, at the confidence in his assertion.

He continues, carefully, “That’s why Hoseok brings you food, and why Jimin waits for you after class. It’s why Kookie will carry your things, and why Taehyung massages your feet without you needing to ask. Jin-hyung buys you little trinkets that he thinks you’ll like, because you’ve become a priority of his. Yoongi has one of your scarves in his room, because your scent feels comforting to him. All of us feel responsible for your well-being. It’s as natural for us as breathing.”

You chance a glance at him, and you notice that his face is just as red as yours is, maybe more so. “And you?”

He blinks, the car jerking a little in his nervousness, before he asks, shakily, “What about me?”

“What do you think of me?”

“I think you’re special, YN,” he says, after a long pause. “I think that we’re lucky to have you in our lives, and that I’m sorry we put you in a compromising position. I’m sorry you lost trust in us, and I want to somehow get us back to how it was before.”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” you reply, quietly.

His face crumples in regret, but you see him try to control it. He bites down on his bottom lip firmly, practically chewing on the skin in an attempt to keep the anguish off his face. He doesn’t want to make you feel guilty, even now, as you crush his heart in your hand.

You amend, quickly, “I just mean that because I know your secret, things have to be different, don’t they?”

He looks over at you, cautiously hopeful surprise written across his gorgeous face. “D-Do you mean that, YN?”

You let out a sigh. “I did wrong too. I didn’t listen to you, too caught up in my own… feelings that I didn’t think of how vulnerable you guys might feel. Yoongi explained that you guys are super-duper private creatures by nature. And I trampled on that, by reacting so badly.”

Namjoon shakes his head, finally pulling up outside of your apartment. “Not at all, YN. You’re human, we didn’t expect roses and a red carpet once you realised we fed on your kind.”

The visual of his words makes you cringe, and you cling to the reminder that they had said that they don’t kill humans. You remind yourself that this is Namjoon, and you’ve seen his collection of fluffy toys and the hand-knitted sweater than he wears, gifted to him for his birthday from Jimin, and the fear instantly dissolves.

“Still, I’m sorry I took your openness for granted and for ignoring you for the last few weeks. It was immature of me,” you reply, turning to face him head on. He’s already watching you, expression carefully withdrawn. “I want to try… I miss you guys so much.”

You blink back tears that sting at your eyes, and before you know it, the friendly giant has you bundled in his arms over the console. He exhales, shakily, “I’ve missed you so much, YN.”

He breathes into your hair, the hands that hold you are trembling, and you try to ignore the fact that your own are doing the same.

“Do you want to come to our apartment? The other boys would really appreciate seeing you soon,” he suggests, eager to have you back in their space that had long diffused itself of your natural scent.

“We’re already at my place,” you reply, sighing, before an idea strikes you. “How about you come up?”

Namjoon hadn’t been inside of your place yet – the only one of the seven to have never stepped foot in your place – so you are excited to take that step with him.

“If it’s okay with your housemates, sure,” he answers, unclipping his belt and turning off the engine. The two of you climb the stairs to your apartment and he hovers behind you as you struggle with your keys, palms slightly sweating with nerves.

“The place might be a bit messy, but my room’s fine,” you warn, stepping over the pile of shoes in the hallway. “I guess Young-mi or Nayeon might have some company.”

Lively chatter fills the living room, and you wince as you see Nayeon’s group of friends all turn their disinterested gazes over to you, barely acknowledging your existence.

“YN, you’re late,” Nayeon remarks, flippantly. “Sorry for the mess.”

“No worries,” you reply. “My friend and I will be in my room.”

Namjoon steps into the living room, and you see the moment where the girls all realise just who has stepped into your apartment. Not wanting to deal with the armed militia, you rush past the girls, stepping over neatly pedicured feet to get to your room, grip unyielding on Joon’s sleeve, and you slam your door shut.

“Was that Kim Namjoon?”

“How does she know him?”

“Do you think she could get me Jimin’s number? He blocked my other one…”

You close your eyes and wince at the revelry in the girl’s voice. Joon doesn’t seem to be paying attention, although you are sure he can hear every word.

“Your room is… just like I thought it’d be,” he says, fingers playing in the cotton blanket draped over your bed. He eyes your funky alarm clock in the shape of a cartoon bumblebee (a gift from your Mom), the photo-frame shaped like a book filled with one picture on each moveable page (your parents and yourself, you at your high-school graduation, a sepia picture of your parents on their wedding day, one of your childhood pet puppy, Ddeul, and the rest are empty), your giant cartoon pig plushie (from Mei Li), and your assorted posters dotted around the room.

Crossing your arms over your chest, you retort, strangely defensive, “And what does that mean?”

He glances at you, eyes glowing softly in the faint light from your bedside lamp, and he says, “It’s homely. Just like you, YN. It feels like a home.”

Namjoon ends up spending the night, taking the floor while you sleep on the bed, and you feel guilty the whole time. He’s wearing some ratty old sweats and one of your Dad’s college shirts that you had stolen to wear as pyjamas. He looks cute, in comfy clothes, even though they’re a touch too big for him.

“Your Dad must be huge,” he had murmured, somewhat frightened at the prospect. “Why are you do tiny?”

“My Mom is barely five-foot-tall,” you had replied, shoving at his shoulder. “I think I come somewhere nicely in the middle.”

That had been an hour ago. After getting yourself showered and into some PJs, you had come back to find Joon rooting through your barren shelves of books, appraising them, endearingly. Before long, the yawns set in, and you got into bed.

But, now you couldn’t really drift off.

“You can sleep here with me,” you mutter, moodily staring down at him, as if you could change his mood with your mind. “You’re being obstinate.”

“I’d rather not spend my first night in your apartment in your bed, YN,” he says, before he winks playfully. “What would the neighbours think?”

“That I was finally getting some,” you mutter, cynicism escaping before you realise he can hear you, perfectly well. “Ignore that.”

He nods, ducking his head further under the pathetic attempt of a bed you haphazardly made.

“The floor can’t be comfortable,” you murmur, staring down at the lumpy form that has taken up most of your floor space. You hadn’t realised just how long Namjoon was until you’d tried to create a makeshift bed for him.

He sighs, softly. “YN. Drop it.”

“Why?”

“I’m still a guy, you know,” he grumbles, suddenly glaring hotly up at you. “Men are dangerous to girls like you.”

“The implication that you would hurt me is laughable,” you reply, rolling your eyes so hard you almost black out. “Outside of the whole, you know, vampire thing, you’re practically a teddy bear.”

He growls something indistinguishable into your sheets before rolling onto his side, effectively ending the conversation. You don't know why he's being so grumpy with you, but you're so happy to have him back in your orbit that you don't really care. Just staring at the fluffy of purple atop his head is enough to make your stomach flutter with excited little butterflies.

“Fine, Moody,” you retort, pettily. “I’m changing your name in my phone to Namjoon No-Fun.”

Nothing.

“Not a fan? Okay, how about Joonie No-Jams?” You suggest, giggling.

He scoffs, lightly.

You tap your chin, contemplative. “Miserable Moni?”

He throws his pillow at you with frightening accuracy and growls, but there's no heat behind his words, only fond frustration, “Go to bed, YN!”

You don’t bother him for the rest of the night, but the two of you fall asleep with identical smiles on your faces, comforted by the presence of someone you cared about so much and appreciated so dearly.

Chapter Text

Namjoon leaves in the morning, without alerting you to his departure, but he does press a kiss to your forehead unable to ignore the urge to scent-mark you somehow. He steps over the bodies littering the living room and ignores the lustful stares he receives from the girls that had been awake for some time. He knows what it looks like, and a small, conceited part of him wants them to think something happened between YN and himself. He wants them to know she’s taken, and that she’s his, that she’s theirs.

He arrives back at the apartment, with a dire need to empty his bladder and brush his teeth, to find six pairs of eyes glaring at him as soon as he opens the door.

Jimin takes one sniff of his clothes and snarls, accusingly, “You were with YN all night, weren’t you?”

Namjoon can’t even sigh before they are piling on his head, pulling at his clothes and whining like babies.

“You said we’d take it slow with her.”

“We weren’t allowed to meet with her, but you can?”

“That’s low, hyung!”

“Joon, you better start explaining yourself, before I lose my cool.”

He sighs. “Can I, at least, wash my face before I’m being interrogated?”

The boys roll their eyes and let him pass, begrudgingly. They collect in the living room, all taking their respective spots, subconsciously leaving one on the couch and another in the middle of the room where Joon takes his spot.

“I picked her up from work,” he says, towelling off his wet strands of purple. “We went back to her apartment. I slept over. No big deal.”

Jungkook asks, brow puckering,  "Nothing happened, hyung?”

“Something happened, it has to have,” Yoongi accuses, with a sharp glint in his eye. “Tell us, Joon.”

“I wouldn’t be able to lie to you guys,” Namjoon huffs. “We didn’t even sleep in the same bed. I slept on the floor. She’s probably still asleep now.”

They know he's telling the truth, the steadiness of his pulse tells them that, but still, they still feel envious of the time he got to spend with her that they didn't.

“Is- Is she doing okay?” Jimin asks, quietly. He’s picking at the sleeve of his striped sweater, looking ten times smaller than normal. He's leaning against Yoongi, resting his weight on the composer, as if he couldn't bear to stand. “Does she hate us?”

“She’s okay. Whatever happened while she was away must have helped her come to terms with her feelings towards us,” he says, contemplatively. The boys are all paying attention, focusing their eyes on their leader. “She isn’t mad at us anymore.”

Jungkook falls back, spreading out on the floor and he lets out a roar of happiness. “Thank fuck!

Jimin laughs, dropping onto the maknae and burrowing into the dark material of his stomach.

Hoseok glances at them fondly, before he asks, “So, what’s the plan of action?”

“We play it by ear,” Jin suggests. “Take what she gives us and slowly build a relationship from there.”

Jimin asks, nervously, “Do you think its possible for her to really accept us as we are?”

“She’s getting over us being vampires,” Taehyung says, fairly. “If we explain to her our differences to humans, she may over time become open to our advances.”

“I don’t even really understand how it works,” Jimin admits. “But I do know that I don’t ever want to be without any of you, and especially not her.”

Yoongi nods in agreement, but he closes his eyes in minor frustration. “I really hate the whole convention around courting. It’s so stuffy and formal.”

“It’s long-winded but it’s a tradition,” Jin replies. “Our parents would kill us if we didn’t do this the right way.”

Taehyung perks up then and asks, “Speaking of our parents, have any of you actually told them about her?”

“I mentioned her briefly when we were on vacation,” Hoseok says. “They want to meet her once we’ve officially started courting her.”

“That’s going to be a shit show,” Jin mumbles, running a hand over his face. “My father is going to hit the roof.”

“He knows how soul-bonds work,” Namjoon comforts, pushing some of Jin’s dark hair from his face. He’s gotten tan over his two-week break in the Arab Emirates and he seems to glow from the inside out. “You had no choice in this, the same way none of us did.”

“Logic escapes him sometimes,” Jin spits out, face contorting in spite before he forces himself to calm down. “Anyway. Jiminie, how’s your mother’s health? I heard she was responding well to the change in medication.”

The pinkette nods happily, curling around Hoseok’s back and resting his head on his shoulder. The older man glances down at him, fondly, as he explains, “She video-called me yesterday, and she was outside. Just in the hospital garden, but still. I don’t think she’s been able to be outside since I was a kid. She looked so pretty next to the flowers.”

Jungkook sits up. Unconsciously, he curls around Jimin’s waist, resting his chin on his shoulder, and he asks, “Did you cry?”

The dancer nods, mood souring. “I felt overwhelmed, but I tried not to show it. When she went back inside, I cried a lot, thinking that she might be, you know, getting better. But, it’s happened before. She responds well for a while, before her blood disorder lashes back out at her and she’s back to square one.”

“You don’t want to get your hopes up,” Jin presumes, soberly.

Jimin nods, grimly. “My Dad’s been with her the whole time. He still loves and cares about her so much.”

“Your parents are literal soulmates,” Namjoon says. “Of course, he’s by her side.”

Jimin feels his lips pull up in a ghost of a smile. “You’re right, hyung.”

Jin moves to his feet and says, “Breakfast’s on me tonight. I don’t feel like cooking and I’ve been itching to try the diner that just opened up.”

“YNie might like it there,” Taehyung suggests, grin broadening until its boxy and wide. “Maybe we should take her there one day.”

“One day, Taehyungie,” Jin agrees, ruffling his blue strands. “Let’s go.”

/

~

“How bad do you want it, YNie?” His voice murmurs against your neck, puffs of hot breath tickling against your skin, making you squirm. “C’mon, jagiya. Tell me.”

“Taehyung,” you whine, grinding down against him, in an aborted hip thrust, searching for friction where you need him the most. A deep throb at your core has you clenching around nothing. He grips you tighter, halting your motions with a light tut of chastisement. You beg, “It hurts.”

“Listen to her, Taehyung,” Jin chastises from behind you, fingers gripping your hip in an unyielding, possessive grip. “You’re being too mean with our precious YN. Petal, where do you want us?”

“I-Inside me,” you gasp out, pressing against the hard, hot length you feel press against your lower back. “I need you inside of me.”

The fog behind your lids clears, slowly, and you can briefly see Taehyung grinning, salaciously, from beneath you.

"There she is,” he murmurs, hands cradling your chin, his eyes glittering with so much affection that it makes your heart ache. “She’s finally looking at us again.”

“I’m so happy,” Jin murmurs, pressing kisses to your shoulder-blade. The dry press of his mouth on your skin might as well have been a dribble of molten lava with how deep it burns. Fuck, it burns so good. “Welcome back, petal.”

Taehyung’s grin turns heated as his eyes graze over your body and he moves to sit up, pressing his nude chest against your own, skin already sticky with sweat. He holds your eyes as he murmurs, lips teasing yours but never touching, “We’re going to make you feel so good that you’re going to forget your own name.”

“Please,” you beg, and that’s the last coherent thought you have before you feel as if your insides are being stirred up.

~

Shooting up out of bed, you grip your sheets in between shaky fingers, glancing around your head wildly, as if chasing away the ghosts of your dreams.

“There’s no fucking way that actually happened,” you murmur, quietly. Glancing over the side of your bed, you see Namjoon’s spot is empty and his sheets have been rolled up and put to the side neatly. “Thank God.

From past experiences, you know you’re on the louder side when it comes to trysts between the sheets and nothing would make you want to fake your own death and relocate to Jeju Island more than having Namjoon overhear you having a sex dream about his two cluster-mates.

Rubbing your thighs together, you feel the seat of your underwear stick to your core uncomfortably and you let out a long whine.

“I need some dick,” you murmur, more to yourself than anything else.

“Did I hear someone say dick?” Young-mi sing-songs as she steps into your room, fresh-faced and dressed in her yoga gear, mat tucked under her arm. “Does this have anything to do with Nayeon’s friends all creaming themselves this morning, talking about a certain Kim Namjoon spending the night?”

You toss your pillow in her direction, which she skilfully avoids. “Nothing happened.”

“Are you sure?” She teases, moving to sit on the end of your bed. “He is super handsome.”

“It takes more than being handsome to get in between these thighs,” you reply, gesturing to your legs, spread under the sheets.

“Oh, yes, I forgot. He doesn’t have the stinking attitude to match your past lovers,” she sasses. “C’mon, YN. He’s good-looking. They all are. And they pay attention to you. Tell me you haven’t thought about it.”

“I haven’t,” you lie. You’ve dreamt of it instead. “They’re just really good friends to me.”

“I’m your best friend and even we’ve made out before,” she tells you, disbelief written clear on her face.

“What about you, huh? Why don’t you go for one of them?” You ask, self-conscious at the memory of your drunken fumble.

“I’d fuck them all seven-ways to Sunday,” she replies, face free of all tension. “But to them, I don’t exist. You do.”

Throwing your pillow over your head, you groan. “This is so confusing.”

“Why? Namjoon is a sweet guy,” she says, rubbing your thigh, comfortingly.

“It’s not just him,” you whimper, covering your face with your hands. “I think- I don’t know. They’re all so nice to me, and I’m not used to that.”

Her eyes slowly grow big at your words, as she begins to understand your dilemma. “Bitch, you really are living in a young adult novel.”

“Shut up!”

“How about this? There’s a party this coming Friday,” she says, a suggestive lilt to her voice. She’s playing with the fraying edges of your blanket as she speaks, and her behaviour makes you more suspicious of her proposal. “How about… we stop by? Just for a little while.”

Sitting up to cross your arms over your chest, you ask, brow raising, “Who’s going to be there?”

She continues to avoid your eyes as she mumbles, “Oh, you know… just some people…”

“Like…?”

“Like that cute ass first year that I’ve been trying to bone since November,” she gushes, eyes crinkling in amusement. “She’s so pretty and tall. She boxes, YN. She has a back tattoo. I need to eat her out! Don’t laugh – this is serious!”

“We can go,” you tell her, wanting to help your friend get some action, even if you aren’t reaping the benefits. “Anything to get your plasdick wet.”

She squeals, wrapping you up in a big, warm hug and she says, “I’m going to ignore your crassness and simply say this – thank you, thank you, thank you, YN! You won’t regret it, I promise.”

You already do, but you don’t tell her that. She seems too excited for you to piss on her parade like that.

/

Jimin is outside of your first class of ancient communication, resting the back of his head on the wall, looking as cool as anything in his leather jacket and freshly dyed hair. You feel the initial flutter of butterflies in your stomach at the first sight of him, but you don’t feel a touch of fear. In fact, all you feel is guilt over the last time you were together. You were sure you had made him cry.

“Where did the pink go?” You ask by way of greeting, glancing up at the tuft of vibrant orange.

“You like it?” He shakes out his hair, before habitually brushing it back in place. His nails have been painted too, black and shiny. “Jin-hyung thought it’d go well with the outfit. Do you think so?”

He gives you a cursory spin, and you see how professors and students alike stop to admire his absolute beauty. Hiding your blush in your folders, you nod. “It does.”

“As long as YN likes it, I’m happy,” he sing-songs, reaching for your bag and books. “What class do you have next?”

“Nothing until four,” you tell him. “I hate early classes.”

He grimaces for you. “Me too. How about we get some dessert?”

“It’s eleven am, Jiminie,” you mumble. He shoulders through the exit doors leading to the parking lot, before turning back to stare at you, not understanding. “Fine,” you concede with a huff. “But if I get diabetes, it’ll be your fault.”

“Nothing like that will ever happen to you, YN,” he says, boldly grabbing your hand and pressing a kiss to your fingertips. The sensation of his mouth on your skin makes you tingle all over. “I’ll make sure of that.”

“Do your vampiric powers cover cavities or something? I certainly missed that section in Twilight,” you tease, sliding into his car. He flicks on the heating and lets out a chuckle of his own, eyes crinkling up into half-moons, the skin creasing, showing off the slight chip in the front of his tooth.

“Twilight is a crock of shit,” he says. “They get nothing right.”

“What did they get wrong?”

“We don’t sparkle in the sunlight. We aren’t mortal enemies with other supernaturals, especially not werewolves. We can eat, drink, fart, pee and poop just like humans can. We can’t have kids with humans,” he says, listing off on his fingers. “There’s a bunch more but that’ll come with time.”

Giggling to yourself, you change the question, intrigue bubbling in your gut. “What can you do?”

“We’re able to control our development, so if I wanted to, I could be this age forever, but once I make that choice, I can’t undo it. And, being 20 for eternity doesn’t sound like the best time, so we usually wait until we’re in our early 30s before we consider stopping the ageing process.”

“What else?”

“We’re stronger and faster than humans. Smarter, too. Sorry,” he gives you a haughty smirk. “We’re impervious to most diseases and heal at a faster rate.”

You enquire, “What about when you want to have kids?”

“I was born this way,” he tells you with a quick glance. “My parents are both like me. Born. Our families are pure-blooded.”

Surprise colours your tone as you ask, “All of you were born as vampires?”

He nods, before giving you a smile filled with pearly white teeth. “Crazy, right?”

“The way you say it implies that there’s something other than being pure-blooded.”

He nods. “Half-bloods. It’s an archaic system, but that’s how we classify vampires who have been bitten and turned, rather than born, like us.”

“Is that… a bad thing?”

“Not bad,” he replies, licking his lips. “Just- different. A born vampire will be stronger and faster, and sometimes they have… special abilities.”

“Special abilities? You have got to be kidding me now.”

He shakes his head. “Hoseok is one.”

“What?”

“He can manipulate memory,” he explains. “He never uses it, because it tires him out. He’s KO’d for the whole day if he does, but he can do it.”

“That’s… insane.”

He seems to agree. “It can be overwhelming at first, which is why we didn’t want to throw it all at you at once. But… we care for you. A lot. And we don’t want you going into this situation blind.”

Silence descends over the two of you as you digest his words, and before long, you’re pulling into the parking lot of the dessert place, and you spot a familiar car in the corner, glinting sharply under the early afternoon sun. Grasping at Jimin’s elbow, stalling the confidently-striding dancer’s movement, you ask, suddenly nervous, “Is… Is Jin here?”

Jimin nods, shyly, rubbing the back of his neck. “I told the group that we were going for dessert, just so they wouldn’t worry if they didn’t see you around, and Jin-hyung, Yoongi-hyung and Jungkook wanted to see you. Is that…” He trails off. “Did I overstep?”

“No, it’s fine,” you pause, exhaling softly. He stares down at you, fingers itching to touch you. “I wanted to see you guys anyway.”

He holds the door open for you and ushers you inside and out of the cold.

“You did?” He stops you with a cool hand on your elbow, echoing your actions from mere minutes ago. “You really mean that?”

He’s staring deep into your eyes, so deep in fact that it’s making your skin break out in gooseflesh. Unable to speak, you simply nod, and he pulls you into a deep, long hug. His sweet natural smell is so intoxicating that you feel your eyes close without your permission, tucking yourself further into his chest to get closer to the source of the aroma.

“I missed you so much, jagi,” he mumbles into your hair, lovingly. “I really was going crazy not being able to see you.”

You wrap your arms around his trim waist, for sake of them just hanging uselessly by your sides and find that latching into him is exactly where you want to be.

“Fuck, I missed you,” he whines, rocking you from side to side. “’m sorry for lying to you, for keeping it from you. I’ll never lie to you again, as God is my witness I’ll-”

“If you’re done,” Yoongi mumbles, dryly, voice cutting the private moment sharply. “You aren’t the only one who has missed her, Jimin.”

The orange-haired boy pulls away from you, mortified.

“Yah! You got to see her during the break! If anyone should be upset, its me,” Jin growls, nudging the shorter man out of the way to envelop you in just as deep of a hug as Jimin. He smells so good that your knees buckle slightly in his grasp. Giggling at your behaviour, he whispers in your ear, “Am I that good of a hugger that you can’t stay standing, petal?”

The nickname takes you straight back to your dream, his sultry words sliding across the expanse of your back as he presses into you, deeper and deeper still.

Jin’s nostrils flare, slightly, an action that goes unseen by you and he feels his fangs drop at the flood of arousal that he smells wafting from your body. His knees buckle slightly, and his mind instantly conjures up the image of you, nude, hovering above his face, tongue mere inches from your warm, slick pink p- Yoongi steps on his foot sharply, more affected by the combined arousal than his blank expression shows. Shaking off the wave of adrenaline that is pumping through his body, he ushers you to the seat and sets Yoongi with a firm stare, one that the younger knows all too well, before letting the seriousness wash off him and he’s back to his bubbly, cheeky self.

Warmly, you hug Jungkook, who nervously places his hands on your shoulders, refusing to let himself linger, no matter how much he wants to bury his face in your innermost corners. You find his awkwardness quite endearing and want to pinch his puffy cheeks. Embracing the blond, you feel the composer press a quick kiss to your temple, before giving your hand a quick squeeze. He asks, before you can question his increase of skinship, “How’ve you been?”

“Better than before,” you admit, sitting down between Jin and Jimin. You level him with a sober stare and say, “Thank you. For everything.”

He shrugs, awkwardly staring off to the side.

You assert, reaching for his thin, long fingers across the table, holding his gaze, “No, really. My Dad really likes you.”

He can’t help but let his chest puff up at your words, staring, self-righteously, down his nose at the others. “That’s to be expected.”

“I can’t wait to meet your parents, YN,” Jimin says, excitedly. “They’ll love me more than hyung, don’t you think?”

“It’s obvious that it’ll be me that’s their favourite,” Jin declares, hotly.

Jungkook snorts. “Whatever, hyung. Who can say no to this face?”

He cups his chin with big hands and sends you a cheesy wink.  Nodding in agreement, you lean over to copy his gesture and repeat, “Who can say no to this face?”

Jin’s cheeks pink at the sight of the two of you and he grumbles, “You’re both going to be the death of me.”

“Is that even possible?” You sass, playfully. He tugs at your curl in response.

“We can, technically, be killed,” Yoongi says, quietly. “But, there’s a whole host of things that have to happen for it to be effective.”

“What? Like silver crafted into a perfectly symmetrical blade, forged under the light of a full moon, by the hands of the village virgin?” You tease with a roll of your eyes.

The four of them freeze, shooting you shocked glances, mouths parted slightly in surprise.

Jungkook mumbles, “How… How did you know?”

Mouth nearly falling open, you gasp, “Are you kidding me?”

Yoongi breaks first, bursting into laughter, followed by Jimin and Jin. Jungkook hides his face in the dancer’s shoulder, unable to stop the jerking motion of his body as he guffaws.

“You should’ve seen your face, noona!”

“Shut it!” You groan, cheeks burning, hotly. “I was thinking of the most far-fetched thing I could think of.”

“You can tell you like to read fantasy books,” Jimin remarks, amusedly. “Namjoonie has been spending too much time with you.”

“Not enough, honestly,” you grumble. “We haven’t had a library date for ages.”

“Date?” Jin repeats, a challenging quirk to his brow. "That's new."

You stutter, ears burning, “T-That’s what he calls them!”

“I’m sure he does, the sly dog,” Yoongi berates. “Why weren’t any of us invited to your little library dates?”

“Do you guys even like to read?”

Jimin and Jungkook’s cheeks puff up in upset. “We read!”

“Comics don’t count,” Jin ribs the pair.

“Technically, they do,” you correct. “Literature comes in all forms.”

“Ah, don’t you start,” Jin complains. “We get enough of that from Joonie.”

“Joonie’s right,” you assert, reaching for Jimin’s hand and giving it a cursory squeeze. “Next time, I’ll tell you when we’re going okay? You can show me the comics you like.”

“Really?” He perks up, happily, at the idea. “Thank you, YN.”

“Enough talking, I’m hungry,” Yoongi complains, picking up a menu and sliding it across in your direction. “Choose what you’re craving.”

“I’ll take the waffles with honey and some raspberries in a cup,” you reply, lips pursing.

Yoongi snorts at your peculiar request. Jungkook mumbles, “She doesn’t like the cold and the warm touching, like me.”

You beam at him, finally happy to have someone who shares your specific taste. “Can I have an orange juice too, please, Jinnie?”

Yoongi nods and Jin leans down to murmurs into your ear, “You can get anything you like, petal.”

Your cheeks redden instantly, and you stammer, ducking your head to hide you’re the splotches of embarrassment on your face, “What’s with that nickname?”

He ducks closer, practically with his lips pressed against the curve of your ear, and he whispers, softly, “Is it not to your tastes?”

“I- It’s… It’s just different,” you mumble, quietly. You feel as if your lungs are going to climb out of your throat, and the sensation only decreases once the handsome businessman reclines out of your space.

He gives you a warm smile before calling over a nearby waitress. He tells her the orders of the group, seemingly not needing to confer with the other boys, and you wonder how it is they can know each other so well.

“We’ve known each other since birth. Some of us have lived together for nearly half our lives. If I can’t get their orders right, what kind of hyung would I be?” He asks, tilting his head slightly. You didn’t even ask the question aloud, but he seems to have interpreted the expression on their face well.

Once the food arrives, you all dive in, eating happily. You do notice, though, that none of the boys ate anything until you’d taken your first bite, watching you carefully as you chew and swallow the sweet mouthful of soft, warm waffle.

You say, curiously, “You guys never told me your backstory.”

They share uneasy stares, making you feel suspicious, before Jungkook takes the lead, surprising you at his forwardness. “There isn’t much to tell, honestly. We were born into a special family, our parents are in a coven together, and our families all go back generations. All of us belong to the same main family, but because we form clusters, we’re spread out all over the place.”

“What does that mean?”

“To put it simply, there’s one main family we plead allegiance to. The head of the family – currently being Namjoon’s Mom – communicates directly with the High Court, who organizes and carries out our legal system. There are hundreds of clusters within a coven, we’re just one of many.”

“Namjoon’s Mom is like… an area manager, and Namjoon is like… the owner of a store?”

Jimin giggles at your abstract explanation before contemplating for a moment. “More like, Joonie-hyung’s Mom being a COO. Namjoon being the owner of a store that the main branch owns. But like… a big one, you know?”

You snort. “Why is there only seven of you?”

Jin replies, simply, “We don’t want anyone else.”

“Really?”

“If we wanted to,” Yoongi says, coolly. “We could have a cluster of over twenty different bodies. There are plenty of vampires on campus who want to join us.”

Your eyes bug out of your head. “Wait, wait, wait. There are more of you?”

Jin lets out an explosive laugh, and you’re enamoured with the way his eyes crinkle at the sides when he does so. He says, bemusedly, “You thought we were the only supernatural people at our university? Petal, the campus is huge.

“But still!”

They all laugh at your lack of forethought. Jungkook comments, putting his hand over yours and giving it a comforting squeeze. “Don’t worry, noona, nobody would hurt you. You smell to much like our cluster to be messed with by anyone with sense.”

You echo, brow puckering, “Smell?”

“We scent you,” Jimin explains. “Nothing weird or gross, so don’t feel that we’re invading your privacy. It’s just a natural exchange of scent, so other supernaturals with sensitive noses can smell that we’ve laid claim.”

Rearing back to stare the orange boy down, you ask, winding your neck back, “Claim?”

“It sounds reductive, but in our terminology, it just means that you belong under our protection,” Jungkook hurries to explain, smiling apologetically. “Hyung didn’t mean to make it sound so caveman-like, I promise, noona.”

“When you wear our clothes, or when we hug you, you’re exchanging your scent with ours,” Yoongi moves to explain further. “It doesn’t just go one way either. We smell like you, too.”

That makes you feel minutely better, surprisingly, and they can tell.

You ask, quirking a brow in challenge, “So, after figuratively peeing on me to mark your territory, what does that mean for me?”

“You’ve been told about the fact that we consider you part of our cluster, right?” Jin asks. When you nod, he continues, “Well, to put it simply, we’ve begun a fledgling bond with you. Nothing will happen to you, but on a pheromonic and hormonal level, we’ve started to merge our scents, to bring you closer to our coven. We would… eventually want you to join us, but that doesn’t have to be now… Or, ever. There’s no compulsion with this.”

“There can’t be,” Yoongi says, slowly. He’s picking at the remnants of the banana split that Jimin was given, having long finished his own serving of tiramisu. “We can’t force you to Pledge. That has to come completely from your own free will.”

“What does it mean, to pledge?”

“That’ll come later, princess,” Yoongi says, a soft uplift to his lips. He licks some cream from his lower lip, making your core thrum with heat at the sight, before he continues, “We don’t want to scare you off so early.”

“It’s best if that comes more naturally, noona,” Jungkook says, sucking on his thumb where some chocolate sauce had been smeared. A pink tongue works around the digit slowly, cheeks hollowing out as he sucks up the sweet sauce. You think you’re going crazy. You rub your thighs together at the sight, missing the way Jin digs his sharp nails into the meat of his leg to keep his urges at bay. The other two aren’t fairing much better, Jimin having to pinch himself to keep his head in the game and Yoongi doesn’t think he’s turned half-mast so fast in his life. “Joonie-hyung will explain as the time is right, we promise.”

After shaking off his silken longing, Jin grabs for your hand, with as much tenderness that he can manage, and catches your eye as you begin to argue. “Do you trust us?”

The other three wait in bated breath, stares practically searing into your flesh, waiting for your answer.

“Yes.”

Jin relaxes a touch. “Then, wait until the time is right. We wouldn’t do anything that would compromise your faith in us again. Honest.”

Exhaling, softly, you concede with a nod. “Fine. But, can I have some of that crepe? It looks good.”

“You can have whatever you like, petal.”

You completely missed the look of hunger that passed over his eyes as he watches you nibble on his food, fingers absently twisting in some of your curls.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week passes by quickly, and before you know it, it’s the afternoon of the mixer at the EXO frat house. You’ve always liked going to parties, dancing the night away until sweat is damp at your temples and your legs ache the next day because of how energetic you were being. You liked dressing up nicely, getting your makeup done and feeling pampered, which is why you didn’t argue with Young-mi when she dragged you to a pedicure appointment, citing your recent class stress as a reason to get taken care of.

After getting your toenails and fingers painted the same opalescent white that shone prettily under the light, Young-mi grabs an outfit from the nearest department store, after scanning the aisles for nearly an hour. There’s a reason why you order clothes online, you can’t stand the lengthy experience of being in a store for nearly half the day.

“What do you think about this one?” It’s a black and yellow co-ord, strappy set. Wide leg pants and covered in sunflowers. It would suit her skin tone prettily, and her toned stomach peeks out, unwittingly seductive. She’s barefoot, but you assume she would wear a simple pair of heels with it to complete the whole look. She gives you a cursory spin, arms out, and her expression is somewhat shy as she asks, “Too much?”

“No, it looks lovely,” you reply. And you aren’t lying, but you’ve said the same thing about the last four outfits she has tried on in the same flat tone. She gives you a nasty look before drawing the curtain closed with a low huff and the sound of shuffling clothes tells you she’s in a bad mood. “Honestly, Young-mi, you’ll look amazing in anything.”

“I don’t want to look amazing, I need to look bangable,” she grumbles.

“The pants do make your ass look good,” you compliment, with a giggle. “But, the dresses mean easy access.”

You had already grabbed an outfit from the sale rack (you were on a budget, damn it) but you were happy with the quality and the style of the clothes, so you couldn’t complain. It fit nicely, and you know with your hair done and after shaving your legs (finally) you would feel much more confident in it. A small part of you wonders if the boys might find you pretty in it, and you feel your cheeks heat up at the thought that you quickly stamp on.

“Fine, fine. I think I’ll get the first and last one,” she says, rolling the clothes over her arm and handing the discarded outfit to the attendee by the door. The two of you join the queue when she asks, “Are you going to let me do your makeup tonight?”

“You know I’m hopeless at that,” you laugh. “I can just about do my eyebrows, and that’s only after you taught me.”

“I promise I won’t do too much,” she tells you, with a secret smile. “You’ll look amazing.”

Famous last words, you suppose.

/

“You said you wouldn’t do too much,” you groan, staring at your reflection in surprise. You look stunning, you know that. Your eyes are smoked out with a brown and gold, lined with dark liner, and there are some wispy lashes glued to your lids that make your whole face light up. You admit, she’s talented with a brush and some pretty colours, but you worry that looking so… appealing with all this on your face might make you feel self-conscious without it. You gesture to your face with a wave of your fingers, and you mutter, “This is the definition of ‘too much’.”

“Oh, hush,” she says, spinning you back around to face her in the office chair. “Close your mouth.”

You do as you are told. “Good girl.”

She gives you a cute smile and slides some gloss onto your lips before opening and closing her own, looking decidedly like a fish out of water. A gorgeous fish in a white lace strappy dress, but a fish nonetheless. “Do this.”

You copy her gesture, feeling the slick, thick, vanilla-scented gloss stick to your lips. “Is this okay?”

“More than okay,” she tells you. “Go get dressed.”

You had been a towel for the last hour, letting her do your makeup and hair to compliment your outfit. Young-mi’s face and hair is done already – a classic look on her face, pinks and nudes and beiges on her eyes and peach gloss on her lips making her appear like the main character out of a romance novel from the 20th century, with pin-straight dark hair trailing down her spine.

“We can leave in, like, ten minutes,” she calls from the bathroom, where she’s touching up.

“I’ll call the uber,” you tell her, stepping into your heels, stumbling slightly. Thankfully, you’re wearing booted heels rather than the peep-toes that Young-mi chose to wear. You couldn’t afford breaking your ankle tonight. “Fifteen minutes.”

You sit down in the living room after tugging on your clothes and scan your social media. A few messages from the boys greet you and you smile at their tone.

Jimin apparently was volunteering at the local homeless woman’s shelter tonight until the early hours of the morning, something he does quite often apparently, serving food, buying clothes and distributing hygiene products at the local WalMart. Yoongi was deejaying for the night and had already set out, sending a picture of himself in his black mask and bucket hat combination that sent your heart into a mini-frenzy.

Jin had a Skype call with his Dad about business, and you sent him a few gentle words of encouragement, knowing for some reason he didn’t like talking to his Dad for too long. You haven’t pried, and he hasn’t told you yet, so you are waiting patiently for him to do so at his own behest. Taehyung had spent the last 48 hours in the art studio, working on his mid-term illustration project, and had been unbelievably stressed out, so he didn’t even reply to any messages, making you think he had long since fallen asleep.

The others had been actively pestering you for the last two hours, peppering you with cute questions that went unanswered while you had spent quality time with your bestie.

You send them a picture of your face, requested by Hobi once you had told them you were going out. The ones who replied don’t seem all too concerned about you going out, thankfully. The idea of them trying to control your movement, regardless of how much you appreciate and care about their opinion, makes you feel stifled, so when you receive nothing but compliments upon compliments, you feel warm spread inside your tummy.

“Are you done?”

Young-mi’s voice takes you by surprise.

Nodding at her, you let her know that the cab it outside and the two of you leave, giggling the entire way.

“The boys like your work,” you tell Young-mi as you both slide into the cab. To the driver, you tell him the address, ignoring his lascivious glance at your chest and exposed skin. Even though you are wearing a jacket, you feel like his stare is burning through the material of your camel coat, and you tighten it closer to you as if to protect your privacy. Asshole.  

“Of course, they do,” she says, tossing her hair over her shoulder with a smug wink. “I know what I’m doing, and my canvas was lovely already. It didn’t take much.”

Your phone buzzes and you glance down to see a message from your baby bun.

Joonie-hyung, Hobi-hyung and I decided to go to the party, so look out for us, noona! Your eyes are so beautiful tonight, I can’t wait to see them in person!

Feeling something akin to excitement bubble in your gut as you realise you will get to see the handsome gamer for the first time what feels like ages (you had seen him literally less than 24 hours ago, and yet it still feels like you are going out of your mind with missing his face).

Pulling up at the party, you already feel yourself getting into the mood. You had heard the music pumping from all the way down the street. The walk is quick, hurrying down the road, passing by the oddly parked cars that lined the campus street.

Instantly, you are enveloped by big, long hugs and have drinks thrust into your waiting palms. Young-mi’s classmate and close friend, Seoyeon, kisses your cheek, and you notice that her pupils are blown wide with something that can’t just be alcohol. Drugs haven’t ever been your thing, having dabbled with the odd joint or two in high school but never really pushing past that. She trips up a little, in her excitement, and you find her behaviour endearing, but you hope she has someone with her that will keep her safe during her come down. Worst comes to worst, it will have to be the two of you.

“YN! You look so pretty!” She compliments, happily, slumping against you with trembling legs. “Have you lost some weight?”

No, you had actually gained some around your hips, but you were happy with the gain of meat on your thighs. Your Mom had complained about you losing weight because you weren’t getting regular, home-cooked meals. You shift the blame to Yoongi and Jin for continually filling your tummy with their splendid kitchen concoctions, Hoseok’s consistent late-night treats of pizza and Jimin sneaking bags of spicy tteok into the library for you to snack on after a long day of studying.

Jungkook offered to help you out in the gym if you wanted to lose the weight (“You look perfect the way you are, noona. But if you want to, I’ll help you. I promise I’ll go easy on you. What’s that look for? You don’t believe me?”) but you had never taken him up on it, secretly happy with the wobble and soft skin at your hips.

You drain the mix of red wine and lemonade, humming contentedly at the taste, before going back for a second cup, handing one to Young-mi and another to Seoyeon, who had begun chatting animatedly with some strangers.

Mid-sip, Young-mi jabs you sharply in your ribs, forcing some wine to spurt from your lips in shock. She babbles, gripping your arm excitedly, “Oh! YN! She’s over there. Doesn’t she just look so sexy?”

You look over at the roguish-looking, short-haired, heavily tatted chemistry major who keeps scanning your friend’s with barely-concealed lust in her eyes. Oh, yes. She was very sexy, and if Young-mi hadn’t snagged her, you might have given her some attention.

You nudge Young-mi playfully. “She’s totally into you!”

The music is so loud that you need to shout into her ear, so she can hear you.

She looks at you, nervously before she replies, shooting the girl a quick peek, “Are you sure?”

You nod, emphatically, and she takes a deep breath, gathering courage. You nudge her slightly in her direction and say, giddily, the alcohol already getting to your head, “Go for it! Get your pussy wet! One of us has to!”

A heavy hand on your hip makes your back stiffen instantly. It’s only when you realise that the touch is more familiar than you had thought that you relax slightly.

“Who’s getting wet?”

You look over your shoulder to see Jungkook, flushed cheeks and eyes wide, glittering even in the low light of the room, looming over you. (He’s wearing a grey tight shirt underneath an oversized tartan black, grey and white shirt with a matching bucket hat and some simple silver hoops in both of his ears. His hair is a mess of curls, the cherry-red having been touched up and brighter than ever before. He looks edible, if that even makes sense.)

Snorting, you gesture to Young-mi, who is practically stomping across the room to her target. The two of you watch as she taps the girl on the shoulder and leans in, whispering something in her ear, before trailing her hand down her back and pulling her onto the dancefloor.  

“I guess Young-mi isn’t coming home with me tonight,” you muse, absently. “Or, maybe she’ll bring her home.”

“She seems really into it,” Jungkook replies, his hand hasn’t moved from where it was resting on the swell of your hip. It feels like it burns through your coat and brands your skin. “Aren’t you hot in that coat, noona?”

He seems concerned and so, even though you weren’t particularly warm now, you nod, and he takes your hand, pulling you through the crowd and leading you into the room off to the left of the door.

“This is where everyone leaves their clothes,” he says, helping you out of your jacket carefully. He hangs the camel coat over the crook of his arm and goes quiet, eyes trailing down the lines of your body, in wonderment. “You look… so beautiful tonight.”

“Young-mi did her job well, I suppose,” you reply, giving him a little spin.

He feels the breath catch in his throat at the sight. The figure-hugging burgundy two-piece clings to every curve of your body, showing off a little bit of your pudgy centre. Jungkook wants to lathe his tongue along your ribs and take your skin into his mouth until bruises the same colour as your wretched dress paint your flesh. He licks his lips, unconsciously, feeling the heat he carries for you roar to life, momentarily rendering him stupid.

And, clearly, not in control of his tongue.

“You always look this good, noona,” he asserts, gently. The music is still loud in the background, the bass pounding through the floor, sending vibrations through the soles of your heeled boots, but it’s as if he’s whispered the words directly into your ear canal – they are so clear. “You’re always so pretty to us.”

Shyly, you tuck some hair out of the way, not sure how to feel about the compliment. “T-Thank you.”

He shakes off his lust and he moves to hide your coat amongst the others. You don’t have anything of value in the pockets, so you don’t worry about anyone stealing your things. He turns to you and asks, “How about I get you a drink?”

“I’ve already had two,” you admit, blush creeping along your cheeks. He thinks he’s never seen anything lovelier. “But, I could do with another.”

“You’ve had a rough week,” he comments, nudging open the door and knitting his fingers with yours. “Don’t let go of my hand, okay, noona? I’ll keep you safe.”

The feeling of his large, cool palm caressing your warmer, smaller one makes your stomach flutter wildly.  You get bumped by people who pass you by, but he keeps tossing you concerned glances as he storms through the hordes of bodies. When he notices that you are being nudged, he practically pulls you flush to him and uses his larger form to keep you protected. When you spot the other two vampires, they both freeze at the sight of you, and just like with the maknae, their brains seem to instantly turn to mush.

“Joonie! Hobi!” You cry. “You look so good!”

And you mean it.

Joon has on a paisley bandana, a large lavender puffer jacket draped over his broad shoulders, a plain white shirt underneath that, despite the warm temperature inside of the frat due to the gyrating, sweating bodies, and some ripped jeans with some expensive looking sneakers on his feet.

When his wits come back to him, Namjoon hooks his arm around your waist and tugs you off the floor, pressing a kiss to your temple lightly. You hook your arm around his neck tightly and inhale in his heady cologne. He smells just as divine as he looks.

“You look stunning, YN,” he mumbles against your skin, careful to not hold you too tight, despite his raging desire to ravage you right here and now – fuck everyone else. He feels heat lick at his gut and he had to let you go before you feel the pressing of his need against your stomach, taking a visible step back.

Your eyes shift to the sunshine of the group and you appraise him with wide eyes. Hobi looks like a whole meal in a red and white Rolling Stone tartan shirt with a thin white vest damp with sweat from his own gyration and ardent dancing beneath it. Black jeans shredded at the knee and a chain leading from a belt-loop to his pocket. His inky black hair is plastered to his forehead and atop his head is a black cap.

“You’ve been hiding these legs from us,” Hoseok comments, with a lewd wink, practically sweeping you off your feet with how he hugs you. He spins you in his arms and squeezes your middle tightly. “You look gorgeous.”

Shoving his head away from your face, you snort, ears burning, “You’re a pig.”

“But, I’m your pig,” he teases, bumping you before squeezing your waist lightly once. He oinks once, playfully, before hooking his arm around your shoulder, holding you close and tossing a dirty look over your head at a final-year student who had been eyeing your ass too much for his liking.

The possessive part of him wants to reach out and grab it in his hands, just so the little fucker can see you aren’t free to be gawped at, but his good common sense tells him that you would probably gut punch him for even thinking about it, and he is aware that his thoughts alone are stepping over a thick, thick line.

“How about we get some drinks for our YN? She’s lagging behind,” Jungkook taunts, reaching for the shots behind Namjoon’s body. “Here’s one.”

“Give me two, please,” you reply, holding the small plastic coloured glass filled with clear liquid. They stare at you, awkwardly. “You said I’m lagging behind. I need to catch up, don’t I? I don’t plan on remembering tonight, honestly.”

Hoseok gives you a crude look before he clinks his drink with yours, making some spill out and stain the floor. He promises, with a crooked grin, “I’ll make this a night you won’t be able to forget.”

/

“I’m never drinking again,” you groan, wetly, from the toilet bowl, hours later. Hoseok regards you, impassively, rubbing your back in soothing circles, and he winces, slightly, as another wave of vomit spills from your lips and fills the bowl. He presses the cold compress a little harder against the back of your neck, worriedly.

You had been puking now for nearly twenty minutes.

Jungkook isn’t fairing much better, having passed out cold in the car after having thrown up on himself in the backyard of the EXO frat house. He’d gotten into a fight with a partygoer who grabbed at you too roughly and went full caveman, bumping chests and shedding his shirt as if he were about to wrestle the man into submission. After breaking a bench in their backyard, the boys and a bubbling you had slid into a cab and arrived at the hotel – not that you remember much of the trip from where you were sat, straddling Hobi’s lap, snoring into his neck while he stroked your back.

Joon had to carry Jungkook, with a sleepy, moody Taehyung’s help (they had called him to come help, considering the younger body was the heaviest in terms of weight and muscle mass), while Hoseok had carried you bridal-style, considering you were no longer able to hold yourself up, holding your heels, that you had tossed off in a huff, in his hand.

“I did tell you to stop after the second shot of Ciroc,” Hoseok replies from the edge of the bathtub. He’s holding back your hair and your phone (having dropped and smashed into pieces when you and Kookie thought it would be a good idea to turn the photographer into a walking rollercoaster) in his back pocket. “But you didn’t listen to me.”

You groan and spit up a little more into the toilet bowl. He tuts, sympathetically, and presses a soft kiss to your shoulder. “It’ll be okay, baby. Let it all out.”

Once he thinks you’re done, he gets you to sloppily wash your mouth out and even brushes your teeth and tongue, admiring your tiny molars in amusement, before getting your makeup off and in some pyjamas (one of Yoongi’s clean jerseys) and into his bed. You wrap yourself around Namjoon’s largest Ryan toy that Hoseok had ‘left’ on his bed the other night when he was having trouble sleeping.

Unexpectedly, you reach out, eyes still closed and cling to the chain around his neck, forcing him to jerk forward, before he disentangles himself, reluctantly pulling away.

“Stob being mean, ‘seokkie,” you whine, eyes rolling open before fluttering closed, as if merely keeping your orbs open was too much work for your alcohol-addled brain. “I- hic- I wanna cuddle.”

He stares down at you, contemplatively, but doesn’t make any move to get into Joon’s bed (the literature major is begrudgingly spending the night in Jungkook’s room, so the younger doesn’t puke in his sleep). You seem to notice that you aren’t being cuddled, so you start frowning (eyes still closed, like the adorable fucking thing you are).

“Why aren’t you- Come cuddle, Hoseok,” you repeat, holding your hands out to him, making grabby hands at him. Steeling yourself, you blink, wetly, up at the dancer, you tug yourself up, head lolling slightly to the side, and slur, softly, “Hobi, don’cha wanna cuddle?”

He lets out a long sigh, scrubbing a hand across his face and takes in your vulnerable appearance. “You’re going to hit me in the morning.”

Shaking your head animatedly, only to stop when you make yourself dizzier, you exclaim, “Won’t!”

“Yeah, we’ll see,” he grumbles, sardonically, moving to stand.

He sheds his clothes quickly, facing away from you, but you are paying attention. The lines of his back are sharp and well-built from years of intense dance training. He always had enticing lines of his body, whenever he wore form-fitting clothes or a belt around his waist, but it’s only when he’s partially nude that you realise just how cinched his waist is.

You burn slightly with envy and, not for the first time, wish your Mom had kept you up with ice skating from a young age. Alas, you had turned to books instead of bladed boots and here you are. His biceps flexing lightly as he kicks into some sweats catches your attention once more and you watch, fascinated, as he throws on a clean sleep shirt. When he’s turning to you, you catch, with wide eyes, the tail end of his abdominal area and- whew.

He’s built.

He quirks his brow at you and asks, smugly, “Like what you see, sunshine?”

He’s grinning at you, bright and warm, despite the early morning hour, and you can’t help but sigh, contentedly, as he slides between the sheets with you.

“Yeah, I do,” you admit, eyes brazenly taking in his form. He smells good, like aftershave and Hoseok, calm and a little citrusy. You lean forward and take another sniff, the warmth from his skin making your head swim. “I like it so much that I d’nt know what to do sometimes.”

He freezes all over, staring down at you in shock. “You don’t mean that, sunshine. You’re drunk.”

“Just ‘cause ‘m drunk doesn’t mean I d’nt know what I want,” you slur, burrowing into his chest.

He sighs but says nothing else, silently observing you, listening, waiting, for a lie.

“I really like you,” you mumble, curling your arm around his mid-section and pulling yourself closer to him, strangely desperate. Slowly, he relaxes under the gentle ministrations of your thumb swirling in light circles on his back. “I really like all of you.”

He lets out a light chuckle at your drunken rambling, pushing some hair from your face to just- look at you. He lays down, resting on his fist, and observes the slope of your nose, the puffiness of your lip, the freckles and beauty marks dotted all over the expanse of your face. Once he realises you’re fully asleep, your pulse (his favourite sound in the world) calm, he begins to trace the marks with his fingers, too enamoured with the glow beneath your skin to stop.

“Is she asleep?” Yoongi asks, brow puckered as he steps into the room. One step into the apartment told him all he needed to know about how the night had gone. The smell of vomit, alcohol and tears lingered in the air, like poison. “Is she doing okay?”

“She was pretty bad,” Hoseok replies, quietly. “We didn’t realise how much she’d drank while we weren’t looking. It’s our fault, hyung.”

He had no problem with her drinking to excess, when she was in a safe space and they could protect her, but in the outside world, she was their responsibility and anything bad that happened to her was at their feet.

“Joon is with Kookie,” he tells the blond. He tries to sit up, but you whine in your sleep and hold him tighter, brow furrowing. In fear of waking you up, he settles back down, patting your back pacifyingly. He addresses Yoongi with a soft look in his eyes, “You can sleep here tonight, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving her with me.”

“I trust you, Hobi,” Yoongi replies blandly, when he sees Hobi’s tight grimace, but he does shed his clothes and slide into Namjoon’s bed. “I just- I feel like I have to be in here.”

“Better you than Taehyung,” Hoseok teases, an impish grin on his face. “He almost bit my head off for letting her get like this. You should have seen how he was cursing up a storm, knowing she was going to be at a party without any of us. He convinced Kookie, Joonie and I to go, last minute, because he was so exhausted.”

“He’s overprotective,” Yoongi admits. “For good reason. You know how he is.”

Hoseok exhales, turning on his side, moving his knee between your thighs and resting his hand on your back. You relax even further, tucking your nose into the crook of his neck, snuffling slightly. The puffs of warm air against his skin tethers Hobi in the moment, and he brushes some of your hair out of your face to stare down at you, love shining in his orbs. “She told me she likes us.”

Yoongi perks up at that, before his eyes take on a guarded note. “She’s drunk.”

“But still,” Hoseok says, eyes glued to the panes of your face, in reverence. “Drunk words are sober thoughts, hyung. She said it, and she meant it. She wasn’t lying.”

Yoongi pauses. “Hobi…”

“Come over, hyung,” he says, pulling back the sheet and patting the space by your other side. “She won’t mind.”

The blond eagerly gets into bed with the two, careful to not overstep boundaries. He rests on his back, one arm crooked beneath his head and the other resting on his chest above his heart. The two boys fall into a comfortable silence, listening to the sound of your heartbeat, lulled into the throes of sleep, sharing warmth and a sense of comfort that only their bond can create.

Chapter Text

Waking up the next morning, the last thing you expect to see was a wall of honeyed skin bracketing you in place.

Hoseok’s sleep-slack face is above you. The older man is laying on his stomach, one arm bent so his cheek can rest on it, the other stiff by his side. You notice, idly, that he looks infinitely younger when he’s asleep. There’s no bravado here, just him, resting, relaxed – at peace – and you wish you could see the sight every day, considering how beautiful he is.

Unconsciously, you catalogue his features, burning the slightly pointed tip of his nose in your brain. His high cheekbones and sleep-swollen lips imprint themselves in your head, and you couldn’t forget this sight even if you tried. His lashes are dark and long, and his hair is a mess of curls atop his head, exposing his forehead. He had put a headband in, apparently to keep the strands from his eyes.

Entranced, you reach up, barely touching his skin, to trace from the corner of his eye to his jaw, reverence practically shining in your eyes. He sniffs in his sleep, burrowing deeper into the safety of his arms

“Are you awake now?” A rough voice asks from behind you, making you jump out of your skin. Yoongi is staring at you from where he had been laying, content to just watch you sleep. When you had woken up, you had twisted away from him, making him pout childishly. Now, though, you’re your attention back on him, his lips quirk up in a private smile as he remarks, playfully, “You look like you had a good night.”

“My head hurts,” you complain, pathetically, wanting to cover your eyes with your hands. You ask, frowning slightly in confusion, “How did I get here? Why am I in bed with you guys?”

You don’t feel even remotely unsafe, but the fact that the last thing you remember is jumping onto Jungkook’s back in the back yard is disconcerting.

“You’re awfully clingy when you get drunk,” Yoongi remarks, light-heartedly. He sits up, the sheets pooling at his waist, and you notice that his shirt is too big, showing off the pale expanse of his collarbone and shoulder. It makes your mouth feel drier than before. “You wouldn’t let Hobi go to sleep on the couch, so he spent the night in bed with you.”

With burning ears, you feel yourself frown. You really ought to stop drinking so much.

Still… something about the set up of the bed makes you snicker.

“That doesn’t explain why you’re in bed with us too,” you remark.

He shrugs, expression passive. “It looked comfortable.”

“And, was it?” You enquire, rolling onto your side to glance up at him. “Comfortable, I mean.”

He glances at you, meaning imbued heavily in his gaze, and he nods. “Very.”

Cheeks pinking quickly, you drop your eyes to his shirt and you finger the smooth material, to distract yourself. “Is this Joonie’s shirt?”

He looks down at it, pulling it away from his body, before sleepily nodding. His eyes are puffy, almost half-way closed, but he seems well-rested, still floating contentedly in the vestiges of slumber. He explains, “We always wear each other’s stuff. No big.”

Feeling somewhat envious, you simply nod and move to sit up too. Hoseok’s grip tightens on your waist and he makes a noise of dissent in his sleep, brow instantly furrowing.

“He’s just as clingy as you are,” Yoongi says, a rough chuckle tumbling from his lips. He slides out of bed, scratching his scalp, messing up his already chaotic blond nest and mumbles, “I’ll go get you something to eat.”

“You don’t have to, Yoon,” you reply, cosying up to Hobi. You feel like being lazy and being so close to the dancer’s warmth makes your stomach-ache feel more manageable. “I feel like I’m taking advantage of you.”

The blond snorts, giving you an uninterested look that has you shutting up with an audible clack of your jaw. He rests his knee on the bed to press a finger to your nose, mischievously, before he comments, lightly, “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t want to, sweetheart.”

And then he’s gone, backing out of your space and disappearing to the kitchen to whip up a quick breakfast for you to eat in bed.

Hoseok makes a soft noise in his sleep, like a mix between a sigh and a groan, before he snuggles up closer to you, so your back is flush with his chest, arm tossed over your middle. You relax into his hold, letting the soft puffs of his breath against your ear lull you back under the fuzzy blanket of exhaustion. You feel yourself succumbing to the urge to fall into your own dreams once more…

That is, until you tense up all over when you feel something hard and hot poke in your lower back.

Jerking away from the throbbing heat, you feel your face flood, instantly, in embarrassment. You curse yourself for being so skittish, but you aren’t used to being in such an intimate setting with another body, used to a quick and mostly unsatisfying romp in the sheets, followed by a swift exit and an awkward Uber ride back to your dorm room. This, however, feels intimate.

You think, mind whirring, it’s just the morning, he can’t help it. It’s perfectly natural. You’re the one making it weird. Just get up normally and he’ll let you g-

“Don’t move so much,” Hoseok grumbles, voice thick and rough and so deep with sleep that you feel tingles break out all over your body. His grip only tightens fractionally around your middle and you feel him pull himself closer to you, if that’s even possible. “You’re so warm, sunshine.”

“Mphm, Hobi,” you grumble, struggling to worm your way out of his steel-like grip. For someone who’s half-asleep, he sure likes to hold on tight. You feel bad for the plushies that Joon says he steals off his bed. You say, quickly, trying to avoid rubbing against his arousal, “I need to pee!”

“Liar,” he whispers against the skin of your shoulder, dry lips pressing briefly against your skin, so light that it feels as if he’s kissing you. He still sounds out of it, disorientated even. “You just want to leave me.”

Huffing, you wiggle harder, actively pulling yourself away from him, but he only lets out a growl of disapproval. You say, “When you wake up properly, you’re going to be so embarrassed.”

“Nothin’ to be ‘barrassed about,” he sulks, nosing into your neck, as if burrowing for more warmth. “’s normal for me to hold you like this.”

That’s where you snap, nails gripping into the meat of his forearm and shake him.

“Pressing your hard dick into my back is the antithesis of normal, Hobi,” you snap.

At that, he lets you go as if your body had just spontaneously combusted, nearly throwing himself away from you, a wall of cold air replacing the blanket of warmth that you had just been swaddled in. You barely have time to miss the feeling before you see his face crack into something you could only liken to horror.

“’m sorry!” He stammers, sitting up but covering himself with a pillow, cheeks so ruddy that you are sure that if you touched them, they would be burning with warmth. He mutters, twisting his fingers in the deep green covers, “It’s morning and I- I wasn’t thinking.”

Feeling guilty over his embarrassed appearance, you say, “It’s fine. No harm, no foul.”

He slides out of bed, shivering a little at the cold of the bedroom, before jerking his thumb to the bathroom, awkwardly. He avoids your eyes as he mumbles, “I’ll go, uh, take care of this.”

If you didn’t think your cheeks could burn any hotter, you were wrong.

“Jerk!” You toss the plushie at his head, which he ducks out of and, giggling, disappears into the bathroom.

The shower flicks on in the distance and you drown out the potential sounds of the bathroom by getting out of bed and exploring the house. Your head aches, but there’s two tablets and a bottle of water on the bedside table that you neck down instantly.

“Thanks for the medication, Yoon,” you say, softly, as you walk into the kitchen. The blond had been standing at the sink, his slender back facing you, draped in a mass of material and his narrow waist hidden from your sight, as he chewed listlessly on some of Taehyung’s mango chips.

He offers you the bag with a small smile and the two of you giggle, remembering the time Tae almost killed you in the backseat because you ate them all without asking. Well, Yoongi took most of the blame, but you definitely enjoyed more than your fair share.

“Sit with me while I cook,” he declares, and even though it should sound like a question, you wouldn’t be able to deny him even if you tried.

You hop onto the sideboard and kick your feet as you watch him expertly flit around the kitchen, snapping off the yellow washing up gloves after he had finished hand-washing the mess from last night and moving to the oven. Open flames burst from the hob and within minutes, he has a mass of bubbling hobs on the go, without issue.

“There’s a reason why I’m not allowed in the kitchen by myself,” you joke. “I would have burned myself to high hell already.”

He glances your way, briefly. “You don’t cook at all?”

“I try,” you say, before tossing another mango chip into your mouth. “My Mom says I’m hopeless with anything domestic.”

“That’s okay,” he answers, unbothered. “I’ll teach you. And anything I can’t teach you, I’ll do for you. There – no problem.”

You don’t know why but his words make your stomach feel as if a medley of butterflies had just been released and you can barely hide your smile before you ask, “Can you sew?”

“For that, you’ll have to ask Jiminie,” he says, begrudgingly. “He’s always been the one to adjust our clothes since we were kids.”

You inquire, curiosity piqued – the idea of a mini-Jimin sewing up holes in the knees of Joon’s scruffy jeans, or the split seams of Jin’s shirts when he started growing too big for his clothes, making you coo internally. “Who taught him?”

“My Mom did,” a voice calls from the hallway. Jimin saunters into the room, already dressed, hair still damp and a towel draped around his shoulders. He looks at you, eyes bright with concern. “Are you feeling better? I heard our baby got too drunk last night.”

The nickname doesn’t even give you pause anymore, considering the medley of monikers they’ve given you against your will. Despite the fact that you’re actually older than Taehyung and Jungkook, and therefore the furthest from the baby of the group, you feel warmed by the pet name.

Pouting, you nod. “I feel much better. Yoon made sure I got tablets, and he cuddled me last night. Hobi, too. It was nice.”

“And I missed out on that?” He asks, quirking his brow as he approaches you. He nudges your knees apart in a surprisingly daring act, and wraps his arms around your middle, pressing his nose to your collar. “You smell like hyung.”

“I did sleep in his bed,” you mutter, shyly. Unable to stop yourself, you grab the tail end of the damp towel and sop up the trails of water that have dripped from his hair and lead down the neck of his shirt. You complain, “You’re going to catch a cold.”

“You’ll keep me warm,” he murmurs against your skin. “Sleep with me tonight, won’t you, YN?”

Yoongi snorts from where he’s frying some kimchi pancakes in the small pan. “Now that you’ve started this tradition, I hope you don’t plan on sleeping alone any time soon, YN.”

Jimin huffs at him. “Don’t start, hyung. You got to sleep with her, so did Hobi-hyung. And Joonie got to sleep in her room. I haven’t even been in her room. You guys are being so unfair.”

He’s practically stamping his bare feet on the linoleum before you let out a light giggle at his childish, bratty antics. “Fine, fine. I’ll sleep with you tonight. I hope you don’t mind that I talk in my sleep.”

He looks at you, skin glistening and smelling faintly of aloe and eucalyptus, directly into your eyes, holding your gaze for a beat. “As long as you’re with me, honey, I won’t mind if you do anything.”

/

After breakfast in bed with Jimin, Hoseok and Yoongi all piled around you like a pack of baby bears, watching one of Hoseok’s shows on Netflix (“Shut up, Jimin! If I miss any more of this because of your infernal mouth-breathing, I’m going to shave your eyebrows off. Again!”), you find yourself being whisked away by a well-dressed Jin.

“I’ve got a meeting with my father,” he says, once you make a face at his expensive suit and tie, even though it’s definitely Saturday and it isn’t even noon. “Do I meet your expectations, petal?”

You roll your eyes at his smug expression, but you nod, excitedly. “You really do look like an idol.”

“God didn’t give me this face for no reason,” he says, gesturing to his puffy lips with a wink. “Isn’t that Jungkook’s shirt?”

You look down at the button up that you had been handed by a sleepy Taehyung (really, he’d shoved it into your hands before he fell back asleep in your lap, dribbling into the crease of your thigh), and nod, vaguely. “Maybe?”

“It smells like him,” he comments, lips turning down. “I should have given you my shirt. Quick, YN. Get changed into mine.”

“Why?” You ask, laughing at his conspiratorial look. “You’re being ridiculous.”

“I just- I want you to smell like me, is all,” he replies, pouting. “You spend so much time with the others… I don’t get to be with you as much.”

You move to deny his statement, but honestly, you can’t. You say, reaching for the sleeve of his blazer, “How about… After your meeting, how about we go for some food together? Just us?”

The way his eyes glitter at your words makes it all worth it. Despite the rolling of your stomach, the brilliance of his smile makes you feel as if you had somehow saved the nation.

“Let’s go, YN,” he says, grabbing your hand and leading you out of the apartment. He doesn’t let go of your hand the whole drive to his Dad’s building, holding it over the console, running his thumb along the seam of your index finger, only letting you go to change gears, before swiftly knitting your fingers back together, as if it had always belonged there.

Arriving at his father’s building, you feel significantly out of your depth.

“It’s huge, right?” The tall man says, staring up at the skyrise with barely concealed repugnance in his eyes. “Just being here brings my mood down. Knowing it exists makes me feel sick.”

You let out a soft sigh, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. He looks down at you, as if realising you’re still by his side. “I’ll be here for you, you do know that, right?”

He lets out a barely-there smile before setting his jaw. “I’ll be back out in an hour or so. You can sleep in the backseat, if you want.”

“I’m not coming in?”

He looks over at you, surprise raising his brows to nearly his hairline. “You want to meet my father?”

“I mean… I’m not opposed to it,” you mumble, feeling strangely put out. “You don’t want me to meet him?”

His smile dims slightly. “I want a lot of things, petal. I can’t get all of them.”

Then, he’s off, jaw hard and his expression so distant that it makes your heart clench in your chest.

You grab your phone and fire off a text to the only person you can think to ask.

Joonie… Jin and his dad have a bad relationship, right?

He replies within moments. Is he with him now?

He just left for the meeting.

Shit… Okay, after the meeting, he might be a little scary to you, or distant. But he doesn’t mean it, okay? His Dad brings out the worst in him.

Can I ask why?

Jinnie is the only one who can tell you that, baby girl.

Okay. Thank you for being honest.

Anything for you.

Deciding to sleep rather than stress out over the occurrences in the room hundreds of meters in the air, you slide off your shoes and curl up, using your coat as a blanket. You don’t think Jin will be back for a while, so with that thought in mind, you end up drifting off, the image of a happier, content Seokjin being the last thing you see.

/

The door slams open and closed with such force, the car shakes, waking you with a start. You look over, eyes still bleary with sleep, to see a murderous-looking Jin, eyes black with rage and his jaw wound so taut, you’re sure it hurts.

“Jin-”

“Not now,” he growls, tone clipped and ice-cold.

The sight and sound of him makes your jaw snap closed, shoulders stiffened with discomfort and, honestly, a small bit of fear. You care for Jin, a lot more than you feel is normal, but this side of him, you aren’t used to.

He glances at you, briefly, before letting out a soft sigh, wincing at the sight of you – withdrawing from him. He reaches across the console, and with a quick squeeze of your hand, he says, quieter, “Please, YN. I don’t want to take it out on you, so just… give me some time, okay?”

You nod. “Okay.”

His eyes plead with you to understand. “Petal…”

“I’m giving you space, Jin,” you say, removing your hand from his and curling it in your lap, the skin burning.

He sighs, returning his hand to the steering wheel and pulling away from the building. Although you are moving away from the cause of his stress, it feels as if the stiffness in the air only grows the longer you are both in the car. Rather than moving towards the dorm, you realise that Jin is driving you in a direction that you’ve never been before.

“What-” You catch yourself before you make another mistake by bothering him, crossing your arms over your chest and glaring, obstinately, out of the front window. You drive and drive and drive, until you start to feel sleepy again. And it’s only when you actually do drift off that he puts the car into park and you hear him shift his body to face you. You glance around – you’re in a fairly empty car park atop a hill, overlooking the Seoul mid-afternoon skyline. You can imagine that it would be awfully beautiful at night.

“Can you look at me, petal?”

You refuse, staring straight ahead.

He lets out a frustrated sigh. “Please, YN.”

A small part of your anger melts at the way he says your name.

He twists his hands in his lap, nervously, and shifts in his seat. “I don’t want you to be mad at me.”

“Then, you shouldn’t have spoken to me like that,” you reply, simply. “I didn’t realise me being here would have put you in such a bad mood. I wouldn’t have come if I knew.”

“Don’t say that,” he implores, weakly. “I always want you around.”

“Sure, you do,” you sass back.

He reaches, limply, for your wrist, and you against your better judgement and bruised ego, you let him take it.

“You’re so precious to me, to all of us. I just-” He lets out a disappointed noise in the back of his throat, holding onto you like a lifeline. “Sometimes, I wish I had never been born.”

This piques your interest, having never experienced this side of him. “What do you mean?”

He doesn’t meet your eyes, simply choosing to focus on the veins beneath your skin, tracking them obsessively with his eyes. Not in hunger, but as a reminder that you are here, that you are present and with him in the moment.

He continues, “I’ve always been the oldest of our cluster, meaning I had a lot of responsibilities from a young age, like most hyungs do. I did what I had to do, I loved my little brothers and cared for my cluster, following Namjoon’s orders and being the best I can be. But… Why is it never enough, YN?”

You turn to him now, brow puckering as his eyes lose focus and he becomes consumed with his thoughts.

“Why is it never enough for him? Nothing I do, nothing I say. It’s always nothing but shit to him. He looks at me like he wishes I were dead,” he says, and the honesty in his expression blows a hole in your chest. You feel as if he’s ripped your heart out with his bare hands. You knit your fingers with his, shuffling forward slightly so your knees are touching.

“I told you my brother is supposed to be CEO of the company in my father’s stead, right? Well, that’s unlikely to happen, considering he’s busy fucking through half of Europe, blowing our Dad’s money on hookers and expensive blood stimulant drugs. He won’t have to take that responsibility until he’s ready, just because he’s the oldest. But me? I’m forced to go to a university I hate, study a degree I despise for a man I would much rather never see again.”

“Jinnie…”

“He never sees my brother as in the wrong, no matter what he does,” he complains, grip tight on your hand. “But me, if I get anything less than a hundred on a test, or if I miss class because I have to work because I would rather starve than take his fucking money, I won’t hear the end of it for days.”

“He tears me down until there’s nothing left,” he growls. “He makes me so angry, and then I do the same thing that he always does. I get distant. I feel nothing inside, because that’s better than feeling everything and breaking down so pathetically like this.”

“You aren’t pathetic, Jin,” you tell him, pushing some of his dark hair out of his watery eyes. “You’re so strong and so important to me. To all of us.”

He lets out a shaky breath, hands trembling. “Just living in that apartment, knowing that he’ll willingly throw it back in my face, makes me so angry. But I do it. Because the boys need somewhere to live. And I wouldn’t forgive myself if I let them suffer because of my stupid pride.”

He cards a hand through his hair, forehead damp with sweat. He’s overwhelming himself into a panic.

“I hate him, YN. I hate how he never acknowledges anything that I do. I hate how he always takes my brother’s side,” he says, and when he finally looks at you again, his eyes are laced with pain and you practically feel his soul crying out for you. You grab his hand tighter when he chokes out a sob. “I hate that I keep wanting him to be proud of me.”

“It’s okay, Jin,” you soothe, crawling over and opening your arms for him to wrap himself around you. Patting his back, gently, you rub your hand in small, rhythmic circles, and whisper sweet nothings into his ear. “It’s okay to want his approval. He’s your father, this successful mogul, and the person who you have been looking up to for your whole life. You don’t have to feel stupid for wanting him to say he’s proud of you.”

He lets out a broken whine at your words, pulling your hand to his lips as he breathes against the skin. “I don’t know what to do anymore.”

You pull him in close, pressing dry kisses to his temple and letting him rest his face in the crook of your neck. The angle is awkward because he’s so much bigger than you, but he seems to need it regardless.

“You’re okay.”

“You’re safe.”

“I’m proud of you.”

“You aren’t alone.”

“We care for you.”

“You’re so strong.”

You keep the one thing you can feel bursting from behind your lips to yourself, too scared to ruin the atmosphere of trust that he had given you. You feel his tears stain your shirt, but you pay it little mind. This is about Seokjin – the one person who you had always looked at as a pillar of strength and playfulness. Little did you know, there was a maelstrom of pain and anguish hidden behind his bright smile.

Once his breathing calms and the tears have dried on his cheeks, you take a good look at him, watery eyes, pink cheeks, red-raw lips from where he’d bitten them to keep the sobs at bay, and you feel your earlier displeasure dissolve into nothingness. How stupid must you have been to have held something so petty over his head when he had needed comforting so much.

“Honey…”

He scoffs, lightly, scrubbing at his face with his sleeve, staring down at his large hands. “You and Jimin are the same, only using that nickname when you feel sorry for me. Or, when you want something.”

“I’ll call you honey all the time from now on,” you promise, reaching for his hand. He looks at where your hands are joined, sniffing a little more, and your heart aches at how much of a pathetic figure he seems, all scrunched up in the corner of his car. “You can talk to me, honey.”

He groans, staring at the roof of the car. “My brother isn’t exactly business-friendly. He’d wreck my Dad’s company in a year, tops, but my father has a very traditional mindset. He thinks because hyung is older, he deserves to run the company, no matter how bad his personality is. Unfortunately, that means I’m the one who has to pick up the slack, as his younger brother.”

He turns your hands over, playing with the ring on his finger, idly. “I didn’t want to do business, you know.”

“I can tell,” you say, softly, stroking his fingers in a gesture of comfort. “What did you want to do?”

He lets out a humourless laugh. “I wanted to act.”

And, honestly. It makes sense. Jin’s personality favours the ostentatious, the bright and the loud, the melodramatics of theatre fit his persona perfectly.

You ask, “Wanted, as in past tense?”

He glances at you. “It’s not like there aren’t actors who are supernatural. Lee Min Ho is a selkie.” His eyes widen, slightly, and he murmurs, contritely, “Oh, I shouldn’t have told you that. Well, you won’t tell anyone. I trust you.”

It doesn’t even surprise you anymore, so you simply smile at his admission and continue to draw soft shapes on the back of his hand.

“The first time I saw my father laugh was the day I told him I wanted to act,” he says, resentfully. “He said that there was no way someone as uninteresting as me could entertain anyone. He said that I should only focus on what I was good at – studies – and that I should throw my stupid dreams of acting out of my mind before he beat some sense into me.”

You decide, instantly, that you hated his Dad more than you’ve hated anyone else in your life.

Cautiously, you ask, brow puckering, “He didn’t ever… you know, hit you, did he?”

“Sometimes,” Jin replies. “Nothing I couldn’t handle. It wasn’t like I didn’t deserve it. I was a flighty kid, even more than I am now, so… Yeah.”

“Nobody deserves to get hit, Jin,” you tell him, eyes shining with unshed tears. “I’m really… I’m just sorry this happened to you.”

He smiles, softly, and wipes his thumb across your cheek, catching a stray tear and flicking it away. “Don’t cry for me, YN. I’m made of tougher stuff.”

I’m not,” you grumble, holding his hand a little tighter. “I’m upset for you.”

He chuckles, wetly, at your scowl, bringing your hand to his lips and pressing a quick kiss there. “You’re so cute.”

His smile slowly disappears as he stares out at the city in front of the two of you, hands intertwined over the console in the car, before he sits up a little straighter. “Once I graduate, I’m leaving.”

The bottom of your stomach falls out at his words, instantly, at his words.

Drawing away, slightly, you ask, “W-What do you mean ‘leaving’?”

“I don’t want to stay here anymore,” he admits, quietly. “I’ve already talked to Joonie about it, and he’s willing to let me go.”

“Seokjin.”

He looks over at you, surprised by the hard tone of your voice, and his eyes widen even more at the sight of the tears in your eyes. “What’s wrong, petal?”

“You can’t leave us,” you tell him, gripping his sleeve, as if he’s getting ready to go away now. “W-What are we supposed to do?”

“I’m not leaving forever, petal,” he says, softly, reaching to tuck some hair behind your ear. “Just a year or so. To find myself, you know? It’ll be good for me.”

You still can’t make sense of the agony rushing through your system. The idea of not seeing Jin, of not hearing his loud laugh or seeing the mop of dark hair poking out of the burrito of blankets in the living room at 3am when both of you can’t sleep. Or, holding his hand in the dark under those same sheets and feeling his slow heartbeat pulse against your ear, lulling you to sleep.

You can’t say anything, not wanting to guilt him for wanting to explore, but also being unable to force yourself to support him either.

You simply can’t imagine him being absent from your life, it just doesn’t make sense.

Chapter Text

After Jin’s admission of his impending departure, you feel completely unsettled. As if a piece of you is slightly crooked, and you can’t ever get comfortable enough to relax. Sleeping feels impossible, no matter where you do it. That same night, you slept with Jimin, between his olive-green silky sheets, wearing his cartoon matching pyjamas, a cup of hot chocolate and you even wore socks, but no matter how much tossing and turning you did, you just couldn’t drift off properly.

You ended up sitting up for half of the night, with Jimin coiled around you like a protective, sleepy puppy, breathing into your stomach, while you scroll through your social media until your eyes burn. Jimin stirs a few times in his sleep, but you pat him on the back until he drifts back off, nosing at your skin with a content, little smile on his face.

“Honey, you’re still here,” he mumbles, sleepily. “I thought you left me.”

“I’m not going anywhere, I promise,” you reply, taking a chance to press a soft kiss to his temple. “I’ll be here as long as you want me, Jiminie.”

“You smell so good,” he whines, shifting onto his back. He settles before a childish pout twists his lips and he weakly tugs at your sleep shirt, whining, “Come here.”

His eyes are closed, and you can tell he’s practically still asleep, but something in him won’t settle until you are curled up beside him.

Conceding with a fond smile, you roll over, letting him lay down in the crook of your shoulder, breathing languidly into your neck, arms locked around you in an unyielding embrace, one leg thrown over your own.

He smells good – fresh, from his shower – and the sensation of his breath puffing against your skin settles the thrashing anxiety in your gut. It’s only then that you find yourself drifting off.

Even there, in the safety of your subconscious, you are plagued with dark, eerie images that set you on edge. When you wake, Jimin is already staring down at you, eyes narrowed in concern. You try to open your mouth but your jaw twinges sharply and you wince.

“You were grinding your teeth,” he says, voice rough with sleep. He traces your jaw, apprehensive. “You kept saying Jin-hyung’s name. Were you having a bad dream?”

You avoid his eyes, staring down at the sheets below you, damp with your own sweat. Embarrassed and more than a little uncomfortable, you disentangle yourself from him and pull your knees to your chest.

“I don’t really remember,” you admit, glaring down at your hands. “I just remember bits and pieces, but it didn’t make me feel good.”

“I don’t like seeing you in pain,” he replies, just as softly. He pushes himself up with his arms and sits back on his haunches, blankets bunching at his waist.

It’s only when he’s in the shower, singing along to one of the tracks that fit his obscure taste (something that surprised you about the dancer), that you let yourself ruminate over the vestiges of your night-terror.

A dark room, with seven empty seats illuminated by pillars of white light. Only one sat off to the side, isolated, and burning with white-hot flames.

In the morning, rather than the other seven vampires, you are the one who seems as if you were one of the undead.

Taehyung looks over at you, glancing suspiciously at the bagel in your lap that you have spent the last fifteen or so minutes just picking apart instead of eating, brow puckering as he questions, “Are you feeling okay? Jiminie didn’t do anything to you, did he?”

“Aish! Idiot, what would I do to her?” Jimin curses, kicking Taehyung in the back. You don’t even have the energy to condemn them both for their actions, choosing, rather, to roll onto your back, and stare up at the ceiling, staring listlessly at the chandelier overhead, putting the plate to the side. Jimin and Taehyung share a long look of concern before the orange-haired boy slides over towards you. He says, softly, “Taehyung’s right, though, YN. You don’t look so good. Are you still feeling bad about your-”

“Just sleepy,” you cut him off, not wanting the others to know about your nightmare. Drawing more attention to your bad dreams would inevitably lead to them asking about the causes, and that isn’t something you want to discuss with them, no matter how much it must be aching them.

Even if they couldn’t hear the garble in your pulse indicating a falsehood, your tone of voice was hardly convincing, wavering slightly at the end and it only worried them more.

“You didn’t sleep much last night?” Jungkook asks, walking into the room, towelling off his hair after his shower. He had been working out with Jin and Joon in their building’s gym since the crack of dawn (some weird ritual the three of them had together that you couldn’t and wouldn’t understand). “Jiminie-hyung looks like he slept well. Why didn’t you?”

“Jimin snores,” you murmur.

Jimin snaps to look at you, eyes and mouth open, offended. “I do not!

Taehyung giggles, his smile wide and boxy. “You do, too, Jiminie. I had to swap out rooms because it got so bad. It’s lucky that Jin-hyung sleeps like the dead, otherwise it would be you in the spare room, not Yoongi-hyung.”

“Shut it, you!” He shoves an accusing finger in the blue-haired boy’s direction, before turning his glare to you. “And you! Enough of those lies out of you, missy!”

He approaches you, threateningly, fingers bent into faux-claws and before you can even think of pulling away and running off, he has you pinned in place. He calls, “Boys!”

In seconds, you have a giggly maknae line mobilised around you.

“Don’t you dare, Jimin,” you warn, but the mischief in his eyes is practically tangible. You wiggle under him, bucking up, but it’s no use. Jimin is physically one of the strongest out of the boys, so you end up tiring yourself out. His eyes darken slightly at the sensation of you moving so raggedly beneath him, but he pushes the bubbling desire for you to the side, in favour of playing with you. This wasn’t the time for sex thoughts, although he has found himself practically plagued with them since you had come back to them. “Please!”

“No mercy!” He shouts, and the three of them descend.

A barrage of fingers assaults your ribs, tickling you without care, without compassion, watching you squawk and shriek out, practically seizing on the floor, while the three of them laugh merrily at your terror. Tears stream down your face, and you plead with them to let you go.

“Please! Please, no more,” you beseech. “Taehyungie! Kookie, please! Jiminie, quit tickling- I’m so ticklish!”

The leader of the mischievous pack pretends to think for a moment, before he grins, evilly. “Take it back and say sorry first!”

You sob, more tears staining your cheeks, “’m sorry!”

Taehyung enquires, cheekily, “Who are you sorry to?”

“Jimin-ah!”

Jungkook asks, pressing a particularly mean poke to your neck that has you jerking away, “What for?”

You howl, clenching your eyes shut, “Lying! You don’t snore! You sleep so quietly, I thought you might’ve been dead!”

“Exactly!” The boy in question hisses in victory, before rearing back. “I don’t appreciate besmirching of my good name, honey. You’ll do best to learn that.”

In an instant, the tickle torment is over, and Jungkook pulls your limp body into his lap, while you catch your breath. He snickers at your miserable state, messy hair and flushed cheeks, before he says, gently, wiping some of your tears with the side of his finger, “Noona, you’re so cute sometimes.”

“You guys are evil,” you breathe, but settle in the boy’s comfy lap. Although he has a really firm body, from months of working out intently, his lap is always comfortable to you. You tilt your chin up to look him in the eye as you enquire, “How was the gym?”

“Fine,” the youngest replies, throwing the towel around his neck. His strands are poking out all over, messy atop his head, but he seems unbothered. His roots probably could do with a touch up, but somehow the dark roots make his reddish locks stand out even more. “Jin-hyung was a little moody, so Joonie-hyung and I left him to his devices in the swimming pool while we did cardio on the running machine.”

You ask, in what you hope is a casual way, “He wasn’t in a good mood?”

He nods, an adorable pout to his lips. “He was kind of quiet, is all. Usually, he’s lively and cracking jokes about how easy everything is, because despite his looks, he doesn’t mind working out. But today, he just looked- well, miserable, for lack of better word. We asked him to talk to us, but he brushed us off.”

You feel your throat close around the words that wanted to choke you. “Oh…”

“Hyung will work it out,” he comforts you, assuredly, mistaking your quietness for worry. Well, that isn’t to say you aren’t worried, but the crushing weight that had been resting on your chest for the last few hours seems to have returned, full-force. “He always does.”

And then, it strikes you.

Jungkook doesn’t know.

You would bet that none of the boys, besides Namjoon, knows about his decision to leave.

It makes you feel ten times worse inside.

They trust him implicitly, and while you know this would be best for him, you also are aware that losing Jin is going to destroy them. He’s the glue that keeps the boys together, the voice of reason that supports and trusts Namjoon’s words implicitly. His caring presence keeps the group together, holds them up. You know he knows how important he is, but you wonder if he has forgotten just how much the boys – how much you all – need him.

You try and ignore the growing guilt pulsing in your gut, sharp as a shard of broken, jagged glass, but even looking at Jin wrecks your mood. When he and Yoongi return later that afternoon from where they had been in the library studying, you refuse to even look at him, despite the fact that he greets you, warily, from the door. You mutter out some pathetic response, before turning back to the game of cards that you and Joon had been playing, much to the leader’s confusion.

The eldest gets the picture quickly, disappearing into his room with a quiet grumble, citing a pile of assignments that he had left in his room. You know he’s lying, and the boys know he’s lying (if the long moment of silence after he left says anything), but nobody says anything. You do watch him go up the stairs, sad eyes trailing after his slumped form, feeling your heart clench painfully in your chest.

Namjoon stops you when you move to leave later that afternoon, citing a shift at work (one that doesn’t even start until early evening), with a gentle hand on your elbow. “Can I drive you?”

You shrug, not really feeling the need to speak much.

He sighs. “Let me get my keys, okay? Wait by the door.”

You do as he says, giving half-hugs to the others, leaving them in a state of confusion, especially the younger ones.

“Did we do something?” Jimin asks as you pull away from hugging him last. He looks up at you from where he’s sat on the couch, with such heart-breaking apprehension that you have to look away. “Honey… You need to talk to us, otherwise we can’t… you know, we can’t make it better.”

You let out a soft gust of air through your nose, pulling out of his hold completely. “I’m just not in the mood, that’s all.”

His jaw sets, he doesn’t believe you at all, but he drops it, not wanting to alienate you more. Taehyung says, leaning back into Yoongi’s lap, “You can talk to us whenever you feel up to it, YNie. We’re always here for you.”

Yeah, until you leave.

“Thanks,” you reply, instead, moving to the door, rubbing at your arm, suddenly uncomfortable.

Namjoon shares a meaningful look with the boys as he shrugs into his coat, promising, without words, to make this better. To fix whatever this is.

The drive to your work is quick, and Joon doesn’t force you to speak. Instead, he plays a mix of music that you haven’t heard before.

“I made this, you know,” he says, after a while, gesturing to the radio with a tilt of his head. “For Jinnie’s birthday.”

Just the mention of his name has you flinching.

If he notices, he doesn’t say anything about it. He simply continues speaking, tone still just as light and airy, “He cried like a baby when he first listened to it. Still does, when he’s feeling particularly melancholy. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard him listening to this very mix this morning at the gym.”

You feel your stomach clench up.

Joon continues, changing lanes on the road. “He just told me he told you he wants to leave.”

You purse your lips, biting down on the fleshy skin.

Joon glances your way, briefly. “It’s okay to be sad. I’m still sad about it.”

Your still stare out ahead, but your lower lip trembles as you ask, “Why does he have to go?”

“Because he feels stifled here,” Namjoon explains, a soothing lilt to his voice. “Jin isn’t going forever. We can still speak with him and visit him. Plus, you’ll be busy with university, so you won’t even have time to miss him.”

“But-” You begin but end up snapping your jaw shut, feeling pathetic.

“No. Talk to me, baby girl,” Namjoon says, reaching for your thigh, squeezing the skin once. “You can always talk to me.”

It takes you a second to get through the sniffles, wiping your cheeks with the back of Jimin’s sleeve (you always end up getting tears and snot on their clothes, it’s a wonder they even let you wear them), before you question, “What if he doesn’t want to come back?”

The light ahead turns red, the rouge light casting a bright glow against Namjoon’s honeyed skin.

Joon looks at you, blankly, for a moment, before he lets out a soft chuckle. “Have I ever told you my nickname for Jin?”

You shake your head.

“Beaver,” he says. “Because they’re nocturnal, like hyung. And they horde food, just like him… And they mate for life. He isn’t going anywhere. He just needs space, so the resentment he feels for his Dad doesn’t bleed into the love he feels for us.”

He looks at you, eyes practically sparkling. “And he does, you know. Love us, I mean. He loves us all for different reasons. We’re the family he could choose but never had to, because we were always there.”

“You were always there,” you mutter, a little bitterly. “I’m the newbie.”

“You’re just as important to us,” Namjoon says, tenderly. “We haven’t really talked with you about why, or how, or the inner workings because there isn’t any need just yet. For now, we just want to get accustomed to each other. To get back to trusting one another.”

“I do trust you,” you say, and your heart doesn’t skip a beat, making his pulse race in euphoria.

“I know you do,” he says. “I trust that you do. But, we still need to build on our foundation. And this is just one part of that. Jin-hyung leaving for whatever continent to find himself doesn’t automatically mean that he will forget how he feels about us, about you.”

You feel a stubborn tear trickle from your eyes, scrubbing at it in frustration. “I don’t even know why I’m crying.”

“You’re feeling my feelings,” he explains. “It’s a consequence of the bond.”

Surprise coats your features like a lacquer. You ask, voice trembling, “Joonie… You want to cry?”

“All the time,” he replies, with a sad smile. “My big brother and my second-in-command told me he wanted to leave my cluster. It was kind of hard not to blame myself for making him feel like he had to go to find peace. But I realised quickly that it wasn’t about me. It was about Jin. And to say I loved him, but I wanted to keep him by my side, despite his feelings, was entirely selfish.”

You feel strangely chastised.

He jumps to explain. “I’m not saying that to make you feel bad, baby girl. I promise. It’s a realisation that took me a while to get to. Jin-hyung is one of the more selfless of the group. He would sacrifice himself to keep the rest of us burning happily. But, at some point, his fire was going to run out. And I would rather him not be with us for a year, or two, than watch him grow bitter with resentment.”

You sniffle and wipe your cheeks again.

With a disapproving sound in his throat, Joon parks up on the side of the road and pulls his seat back, making room. “Come here.”

He gestures to his lap and you don’t even think twice about awkwardly climbing across the console and straddling his surprisingly thick thighs, wrapping yourself around him like a koala. He pats your hair and rubs your back as more tears seems to just pour out of your body. He worries how intensely you are absorbing his feelings, contemplating for a moment if he should numb the connection between you (like he had done with the others, so they couldn’t sense his seemingly unfounded misery), but a small part of him is fascinated by how receptive you have become.

He should probably discuss the development with his mother, as the older vampire would know the technical knowledge behind the bond. Honestly, Joon and the boys had never thought they would find their bonded in such a small and precious package, especially not before they had fully matured as vampires. It wasn’t unfounded, of course. Stranger things have happened in the history of his people. Hoseok and Yoongi’s parentage are testaments to that. But still, the sight and scent of your visible sadness makes his heart cry out for you, and he can’t help but murmur sweet words into your ear while you sob.

“You can be sad.”

“This isn’t forever.”

“He cares about you so much.”

“Jin wouldn’t ever forget you. You’re too important, you’re too special.”

“We’ll keep you safe while he’s gone.”

“You’re safe, it’s okay. You can cry it all out, baby girl.”

He comforts you for a while, clandestinely wiping away his own few tears that escape his eyes at the sight of the one of seven who holds his heart breaking down so fiercely.

“You didn’t sleep much last night, did you?” He asks later, once you’re finished and all you have left are a few sniffles and clumped up lashes. He strokes the dark circles under your eyes. “I’ll pick you up later tonight and you won’t go to class tomorrow morning. Instead, we’ll sleep and recover. How does that sound?”

You nod, words escaping you. Namjoon, up close, is a sight to behold. Tan skin stretched over shapely cheekbones and a wide smile that renders you breathless. His dimples are so deep, and his sharp eyes shine under the dim lights overhead.

“Joonie…”

He hums in acknowledgement, rearing back to look at you properly. “Yes, YN?”

“You’re really pretty.”

He lets out a body-shaking laugh at your childishly innocent words, ignoring the swooping in his gut at your admission. “Coming from the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen? What a compliment.”

You feel your ears burn at his words. “’m not.”

“Stop being silly,” he says, pushing some hair behind your ears. The curl is stubborn, popping back out as soon as he pushes it away, but he thinks it’s cute. Everything about you is cute. “We all think you’re gorgeous.”

You stumble over your tongue, sitting up in his lap, realising just how little space there is between you. His hand drops to your hip, stroking over the curve there, noting idly how soft and squidgy you are in places. Places he wants to explore, in depth, with his eyes, hands, lips, tongue, d-

You tilt your head adorably and repeat yourself, noticing how distracted the other man seems to have become as he got lost in his thoughts, for the second time, “Joonie?”

He seems to stir out of his reverie with a gentle flutter of his eyelids. “Mmm?”

“I have to go to work now,” you tell him, ears burning at the memory of the dark look in his eyes. You had enough sex to understand what that kind of look meant. “Can I-”

He lets go of you as if he had been burned, his cheeks redder than anything you’ve ever seen. “S-Sure, my bad. I’ll, uh, I’ll be here later.”

“I finish at 11,” you tell him sliding out into the cool street. “See you, Joon-bug.”

His stomach clenches at the adorable nickname, wanting to record you saying it and somehow make it the only thing he’s able to hear. “See ya, baby girl.”

He waits until you get into work, waving intermittently at you as you walk away, watching with not-so-innocent thoughts as your hips sway in your jeans.

He adjusts himself in his own pants and worries, for the hundredth time, if you think he’s weird for always wanting to touch you. He tries to control it, but sometimes the urge takes over and he has you in his arms without thinking. He has pretty strong self-control, as evidenced by his title as leader, but sometimes you get this soft look in your eyes, as if you’re practically begging for him to take care of you and he loses it. It drives him crazy.

“Get yourself together, Namjoon,” he curses himself as he feels his length pulse at the thought of your heat pressed up against every nook and cranny of his body. “She deserves better than that.”

/

Your shift goes by slowly. Slower than usual, honestly. Your mind keeps going back to the conversation with Joon, and, by consequence, Jin. You realise, belatedly, that you were doing the same thing that you had done before. You were pulling away after he had disclosed something personal to you, and you do slap yourself on the forehead for your actions.

Stupid, you chastise as you stare in the mirror at the end of your shift.

Your phone vibrates in your back pocket and taking care not to catch yourself on any of the glass shards (you needed to change it soon, but your wallet just couldn’t handle another pricey expense) and answer the call.

“I’m outside, pretty girl,” Hobi’s voice sounds through the receiver. You make a face in the mirror, adjusting your collar.

“I thought Joonie was picking me up,” you reply.

“Don’t sound so excited to see me,” he answers, pout clear in his voice. You grab your bag, grinning, before saying your goodbyes to your colleagues and disappearing out the back door. “Don’t keep me waiting, pretty girl.”

He doesn’t end the call, simply listening to the sound of your breathing as you traverse the near empty parking lot nearby.

“I can’t see you,” you complain.

A series of flashing lights ahead catches your attention, and Hobi waves out the window. “Can you see me now?”

You roll you eyes, ending the call and jogging over. He comes out of the car to give you a tight squeeze and he even spins you a little, dramatically.

“There’s my girl,” he says, staring down at you once he sets you down, eyes glittering under the street light.

You ask, curiously, “Where’s Joonie?”

He pouts, brow instantly puckering at what he perceived to be your lack of excitement, and he grumbles, “He got caught up. Is it... really so bad that I came instead? You don't seem all that excited to see me.”

“I’m excited,” you promise, reaching over to squeeze his hand tight. You catch his shifting eyes and reiterate, with a cheerful smile, “I’m more than excited to see you, Hobi. I've missed you. A lot.”

For a moment, he just eyes you, suspiciously, before his bright smile breaks across his face, practically lighting up the parking lot. The two of you slide into your seats and once he has made sure you have clipped yourself in, he glances at you to ask, “How was work?”

“Boring,” you reply. “Slow. I’m glad to be done. I need to get a new one of these.”

You hold up your shattered screen and his lips thin, unhappily.

He starts the car and peels out of the parking lot, looking awfully comfy in his sweats and under-armour black shirt. It fits every pane of his body so well that you must avert your eyes, lest you continue to eye-fuck him. Inappropriate thoughts.

“If you let us get you a new one, you wouldn’t have this issue,” he sing-songs.

“I couldn’t let you buy me a new phone because I got drunk as a skunk and broke it,” you reply. “How was work?”

“The kids were great,” he says. “I feel like I’m always dancing, but when I teach, I really feel useful, you know?”

You nod. “I haven’t found my special thing yet, but when I do, you’ll be the first person to know.”

He beams, radiantly. “I’m holding you to that, pretty girl.”

He drives in relative silence, comfortable and balmy, from the steady flow of warm air blowing from the fan at the front of the car. You pick at your nails, awkwardly, as thoughts spiral around in your head. He notices but says nothing – wanting you to come to him first.

Eventually, you murmur, “Uhh, Hobi?”

He glances at you, showing you that he’s paying attention.

“Do you know anywhere that will be open now that sells apology gifts?”

“For…”

“Jin,” you admit. “I made a mistake with him and I want to say sorry.”

He observes you, quietly, for a minute, and you feel yourself break out in a light sweat at his intensity. “Is that why he’s been so off since yesterday?”

You nod.

“Fine,” he says, after a minute. “I’ll take you somewhere that I know stays open late. I’m the master at picking out apology gifts. I'm always fucking up somehow, so I practically have it down to a science."

Relaxing, instantly, at his blasé attitude, you match the intensity of his grin with vigour.

/

Pushing open the doors of the apartment, you realise that most of the boys are in their room, or even asleep. The only person that you meet is Taehyung, sat in the living room, with his glasses perched on his nose and scanning his tablet, seemingly in the middle of sketching out something.

“Hey, jagiya,” he greets you, craning up to kiss your cheek when you hug him. “You smell good, like coffee and flowers.”

Hoseok trails behind you, holding the bouquet of pale pink and yellow flowers in his hand, tied together with a band of peach.

Suspiciously, Taehyung glances between the two of you and quirks a brow. “Who hurt who’s feelings this time?”

Shyly, you raise your hand. “I did.”

He laughs at your shamefaced expression. “Already learning how to get back into our good books, are you, YNie?”

“It’s good for her to get a crash course, considering we’re always going to be together,” Hobi mutters, dropping down, exhausted, in the seat beside the artist. He turns his eyes to you. “Hyung should be in his room. Go up and just… be honest, okay? We won’t listen in, I promise.”

Taehyung nods in agreement. “Scout’s honour.”

“You were never in the Boy Scouts,” Hobi chastises with a laugh. “You wouldn’t know honour and valour if it bit you on the tip of your adorable nose.”

Taehyung shoves Hobi’s feet off his lap, sulkily. “Hyung!”

You take the flowers and the bag of apology gifts from Hobi and leave the two to bicker in the living room to ascend to the second floor, each step feeling heavier than the last. You pass the pictures of the boys lining the walls, only stopping to admire a few of the ones clearly taken in their younger years. Namjoon had a blue buzz-cut and Jimin used to wear heavy eye liner. Adorable.

You knock on his door, waiting for permission to enter.

“Come in!”

You do so, stepping into the lavender-scented room to see Jimin laying on his bed, facing the wall. He glances over his shoulder at you, eyes filling with surprise. His face splits with the brightness of his smile and he squeals, excitedly, “Honey!”

Jin freezes in his seat, tucked under the computer desk in the corner, but doesn’t turn around. You can see the tension in his shoulders at your very presence. It makes you feel rotten inside.

“Hi, Jiminie,” you say quietly. You shuffle inside, a little awkwardly, and close the door shut behind you. “Can I… Is it okay if I talk with Jin? In private?”

The orange-haired dancer stands to his feet instantly. He takes in the sight of your gifts and his eyes soften in sympathy. He puts his hand on your shoulder and says, warmly, “No worries, YN. I’ll be downstairs if you need me, okay?”

He kisses your forehead as he goes, closing the door behind him. The sound feels… final.

Jin continues to type away on the computer as if you weren’t even there.

“Jin?” You try, quietly.

He ignores you, shoulders stiff.

“Jin…”

He still doesn’t show any outward sign of having heard you, the tap, tap, tapping of his fingers against his keyboard being the only sound in the room. Well, besides the loud pounding of your heart, which you are pretty certain he can hear.

“Please, can we talk?”

Then, he freezes. He lets out a light scoff and asks, bitterly, “Now you want to talk?”

He spins in his seat to look at you, eyes widening at the sight of the gifts in your hands. “What’s this?”

You hold them all out towards him, lower lip trembling, as you murmur, “I’m sorry?”

“You bought all this… to say sorry… to me?” He rolls over towards you, long strides bringing him inches closer to your pathetic figure. He looks between the flowers, to the small balloon hovering from inside the gift bag, before letting out a soft snicker. “Was this Hobi’s idea?”

“How did you know?”

“Hoseok is the only one who buys these shitty candles,” he laughs, pulling out the orange blossom candle, rolling it between his long fingers. “I’ve got six already. Three of them are the same smell.”

“I’m sorry… for not being original,” you mutter, cheeks burning. “I’m a really bad gift giver.”

He looks up at you, seemingly committing each of your features to his memory, burning them into the seam of his mind. “You didn’t have to do all this.”

“I- I didn’t know what to say,” you whimper, eyes falling to the floor.

He stands up, crooking a finger under your chin and he says, orbs shining with fondness. “You didn’t have to say anything, petal.”

“I hurt your feelings,” you say.

He nods. “Yeah… you did.”

“I’m sorry.”

He shakes his head slightly. “I forgave you as soon as I saw you. I can’t stay mad at you if I tried, silly girl.”

Sniffing slightly, you clear your throat of the lump of emotion. “Can you take the gifts at least? They’re kind of heavy.”

He snickers at your sheepish expression and takes them off you. He moves the flowers to a makeshift vase in the corner, removing the long-wilted flowers and replacing them with yours. He puts the chocolate bear with your message of apology on the top of his closet and ties the balloon to his headboard.

“I’ll see that every night and think of you,” he explains, with a cheeky smile. “Where are you sleeping tonight? How about keeping me company?”

“I think Joonie already called dibs,” you answer, rubbing the back of your neck. “I don’t know when I became such a hot commodity.”

“Since the day we met you, duh,” he says, chuckling. “Fine. Next time, your butt is mine.”

Amused, you raise your brow at his choice in wording and he stammers, “N-Not like that, of course. I just mean- Well, you know what I mean.”

“Right…”

He scoffs. “Enough of that, you brat.”

Jin wraps his long arms around your mid-section, pressing his forehead against your own, lingering there for a long moment. His eyes are closed, and the two of you are swaying, just a little, as he holds you in his embrace. You clench your fists in the material of his t-shirt, unwilling for even a second to let him go. He murmurs, “I’ve missed this.”

“Me too,” you admit. “It’s only been, like, a day, and I still felt like I was going crazy.”

He exhales into your hair, grip tightening fractionally. “I know that things are new, and we’re getting to know each other, but this- It really wasn’t fun. If- If we ever have a… disagreement like this again, please, just… talk to me, okay?”

You nod into his chest, practically melting into his embrace, gripping the back of his hoodie. “I promise.”

He cards a hand through your hair, tugging you to look up at him. “I promise, too. If something is bothering me, I’ll talk to you about it, okay?”

You nod, pulse pounding under your skin. “Okay.”

“Bye, Jinnie,” you say, wiggling your fingers at him as you close the door behind you.

He stares after you for a long time, breathing coming easier in the seconds since seeing you than it has for the whole day. His eyes turn to the balloon, floating innocently above his bed, and he hears Jimin enter the room.

“Did you two sort it out, hyung?”

Jin nods, lips still pulled up in a private smile. “Yeah, Jiminie, we did.”

“Good,” the dancer says, plopping back onto his bed and turning back to the manga on his phone. “I thought I was going to have to choke on the scent of your misery all night.”

Jin musses up his hair, much to his annoyance, before returning to his laptop screen, able to get his composition out much smoother now that his brain isn’t lingering on your petty disagreement.

Namjoon pokes his head out of his room when he hears Jin’s door close. “Are you tired, baby girl?”

Shaking your head slightly, you approach him. “Why?”

He shrugs, pushing open the door wide. “Do you want to watch a movie? Kookie is still at the gym, so we’d have the room to ourselves. That’s only if you want to, of course.”

“Of course, I want to,” you giggle, stepping inside and taking his hand in yours. His palm is so much bigger than yours. Cooler, too. You want to hold on to it forever. He gives your fingers a playful squeeze. “I want to spend as much time with you as possible, Joonie.”

He beams at that. “I love it when you call me that. Have I told you that before?”

You tap your chin, impishly. “I think you may have mentioned it once or twice.”

Chapter Text

As January melts into February, and with it, the brisk winds gave way to softer gusts of air, the relationship between yourself and the boys morphed into one of absolute comfort. You brushed your teeth at their place, used their bathroom without fuss, ate breakfast in their beds – you name it, you did it. They never so much as batted an eye at your presence.

In fact, they seemed to only crave your presence more.

Your intangible bond with the boys only seemed to grow stronger as your friendship did.

But they still had yet to explain what that bond meant exactly, and it was making you feel somewhat frustrated inside.

Initially, you had been fine with leaving your connection nameless, content in just being around them, and learning about them, and growing to care for them the more they show you of their private lives.

You think you’ve seen all of Taehyung’s beauty spots, from when he had asked you to count them for him. He would lay on his back on his floor while Jungkook edited a project and asked you to trace every kiss from God that marked his skin; the tension would have you red-cheeked and stuttering as his eyes tracked your movements with intent. His long, skilled fingers would kiss against your ribs as you counted (aloud, at his behest, because he ‘liked your voice’) and it played in your mind for days, haunting you.

Namjoon has given you a verbal synopsis of every book he owned, starting with his favourites, and when he would get confused or repeat himself, too excited about the book, you would watch on fondly instead of correcting him. He’d act out his favourite scenes on his bed, bouncing up and down in his delight, well into the night, dressed in his orange striped pyjama set that his Nana had sewn for him (as he had told you when you had picked them out in amusement).

Jungkook has bench pressed you once or twice, to show off his strength to you, and to rub his sheer physical power in his hyungs’s faces. He snapped pictures of you, in black and white, in sepia tones, in vibrant, bright colours – and he never got bored. The maknae was never far from his camera, always within arm’s reach, just in case you did or said something that sparked the flame of creativity in his chest.

Yoongi let you sit in with him when he’s writing lyrics, something apparently, he doesn’t let any of them do – because it was so personal to him, and he felt closer to you in those few silent hours than ever before. He’d reach over for you, to loosely hold your fingers within his own, thinner ones, staring at you as if you hold all the answers to every doubt he had ever felt in his heart. He gets choked up, more than once, and you see him, off to the side, dabbing at the corners of his eyes, trying, so valiantly, to keep his soft heart hidden from you. A useless endeavour, of course, as you would see, and you would hug him, holding his head to your chest and let him get lost in the delicate sounds of your body.

Jimin danced for you, showed off his prowess, bare-foot and panting, until his legs felt like jelly, but he perfected his triple aerial and you couldn’t contain your pride when you had seen his exhausted but satisfied smile. He never felt more content than when your eyes were fixed on him, on the way his body moved like water with the music. He encapsulated elegance, beauty and finesse. And you felt blessed that he would grace you with a bright, sparkling smile at the end, the tips of his fiery orange hair dark with sweat and stuck to his forehead.

 

Hoseok let you come to his sessions with the kids, showing you that while he can goof off and mess around with the best of them, he also has a mature side that he taps into when he’s left responsible for someone who is dependent on him. He years for you to see him as a viable protector, to see that he can be more than the fuck up he always feels like whenever the silence is too loud. He stumbles, of course, because you make him shy, and the kids laugh when he stutters, but it all works out – because he has you by his side.

And Jin, well, you have both taken steps to understand each other more. You learn more of his relationship with his father, spending late nights on the balcony, staring out at the twinkling lights of the city, two cups of hot chocolate long drained by your feet, under one blanket, sharing warmth. He holds you as if you were a buoy and he was deserted, at sea, clinging to you as if you were the last thing tethering him to the world. He cries, sometimes. And, you do too. His wounds are raw around the edges, still bleeding in places, but rather than leaving them to fester and get infected, he airs them out and they slowly begin to heal.

But, after a while, you started craving more. You can’t say when, but you notice a significant greed swelling in you whenever you have to go home, or when they have to leave you alone.

Why? Why should they go? Why do you need to go? Why can’t they come back? What is more important than being with them, in that very moment?

Little things tipped you off to their reluctance to expand on exactly what your bond constituted.

Like on the fourth day where both you and Yoongi would wake up at exactly the same second, when you asked why this was happening, Namjoon practically scampered out of the room, mumbling something about toast burning in the kitchen, and you don’t see him for the rest of the day.

Or, one day in late January, when you just felt that Jungkook was uncomfortable with the attention he was receiving from some of the older women at the gym he worked at, despite being in your own apartment miles away, he distracted you with promises of cuddles and Chinese food, effectively ending the discussion.

Hoseok outright refused to talk with you about it, staring at you blankly until you dropped the subject.

This almighty nameless, shapeless ‘bond’ was driving you crazy.

You almost snapped once at Taehyung when he murmured something about your meeting being ‘fated’, because what did that even mean. You were spiritual, sure, but you didn’t believe in God, or Fate, or Destiny. You made your own – you had freedom of choice, so what the fuck was he implying?

They refused to answer, they refused to respond when you would pelt them with questions, regardless of the time. You tried to be sneaky and ask before bed, or when they had just woken up and were more susceptible to persuasion, but they would simply brush you off and tell you to stop pushing it.

It almost felt as if they were hiding something from you, but they promised not to do that anymore, so you were trying – emphasis on, trying – to trust in them.

But, that didn’t mean you weren’t frustrated.

Huffing, for the eighth time in the last hour, you feel Jimin turn to look at you while the others continued to watch the film ahead, dim light being cast across their slack-jawed faces.

He whispers, “Are you okay?”

The two of you are bundled on the couch, while Tae and Hobi took the other sofa, the smaller of the two in his lap and Jungkook had Yoongi lying in between his legs. Namjoon and Jin were off to the side, the eldest resting his head on the taller boy’s shoulders.

They all looked the epitome of comfy.

And here you were, ruining that tranquillity.

“I’m fine, honey,” you reply, just as quiet. He tugs off his hood to look closer at your face, eyes narrowing slightly. You babble, “Just got a lot on my mind. Sorry for interrupting the movie.”

“You could never do that,” he soothes, moving his hand to the back of your neck to play with some of the hair there. His fingers draw odd shapes in your scalp as he continues, “Want to get something off your chest?”

“Later?” You say, curling into him. “I just want to forget about my worries.”

He looks down at you, just admiring the precious slope of your nose and the way your lips are blushed a soft rouge. “Anything you want, honey.”

You give him a small smile before returning to your position, curled under his arm.

He presses a soft kiss to your temple, lingering against your skin, soft puffs of his breath brushing against your face. He doesn’t move, just resting his plush, soft lips against you, and you feel your lungs constrict as your face burns.

“Are you nervous, honey?” He asks, and his voice is playfully coy. His hand tightens fractionally where it rests on your hip, and his voice dips an octave deeper as he rasps in your ear, hot air kissing at your skin, “Oh, baby, you’re so tense.”

You don’t know why but you are acutely aware that the others are paying attention, that they have given up the pretence of watching the movie, but they don’t turn to face you. Somehow, that feels worse than if all of their eyes were directly on your body.

The tension in the room feels stifling.

Jimin’s grip on your hips isn’t overbearing, and his skin isn’t actually hot (they run cooler than humans, Jungkook had told you one night after you had asked, hand rubbing absently over his bicep) but somehow, it feels like his digits are burning through your (read, Taehyung’s) sweatpants.

“Stop teasing,” you grumble, ducking your head, shy. “Or, I’ll go sit with Joonie.”

“Like Joonie-hyung would be much better,” he sniffs. “But fine, fine. You’re no fun, honey.”

He pouts, but backs off, brushing his nose to your hairline and relaxing back into the sofa.

You still feel as if you are sucking air through a straw with the end blocked off.

The evening continues without anymore of Jimin’s overt flirtation, but the boys engage with more obvious skin-ship, like with Yoongi resting his palms on the curve of your neck while you eat, or Jungkook brushing an errant lash from your cheek and staring deeply into your eyes for a beat too long to be considered normal, or Hoseok scratching at your scalp while you silently stew in your frustration over your university assignments.

They were being really caring towards you.

“We’re making up for the time we lose when you go home,” Jungkook explains as he spoons some banana-flavoured yoghurt into his mouth. The others left the two of you in the living room with strict instructions to finish your homework, but you got distracted with food and TV. He offers you a spoonful but remembers belatedly that you can’t eat dairy. He ducks his head, shyly. “Sorry… Well, as I was saying. You go home, but we miss you so much, so when you come around, we can’t help but want to be close with you.”

His cheeks are burning as he explains, staring intently at his cup of yoghurt as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.

Tucking some hair behind your ear, you ask, shuffling closer to him, “Is that a vampire thing?”

“It’s a cluster thing,” he says, absently. “When we separate for longer than a day or so, we have this… uncomfortable feeling in our stomachs. Well, for me, it’s in my stomach. Joon says he feels it in his gut, and Yoongi says he gets headaches. But, I guess it changes depending on the person.”

“Is it painful?”

He shakes his head. “It’s just a pressure that we’re aware of. It doesn’t ever hurt because of distance, because our cluster bond is quite strong.”

You ask, tilting your head inquisitively, “And I’m supposed to feel this cluster bond too?”

“That’s a distinctly vampire thing,” he chuckles. “What you feel is something…” he pauses to stare, deeply, into your eyes, and you find yourself getting lost in the deep pools of chestnut brown. “Unique.”

“Will you ever tell me what that ‘unique thing’ is?” You huff, blowing some hair that is handing in your eyes, in frustration.

He chuckles, corners of his eyes crinkling as he does so. “One day.”

“Kookie…”

“Don’t ask me, noona,” he pleads, chancing a glance in your direction. You can tell that he feels conflicted, and it’s in that moment that you realise that Jungkook is probably the weakest to your minimal charms. You assume it’s his age and lack of experience, but sometimes, with a flutter of your lashes, you can have him a bumbling mess. Even worse than Hobi, who you thought had ample experience with women who far surpassed you in terms of appearance. It’s almost cute. He continues, his eyes recapturing your attention from where it had strayed to his bottom lip, “I can’t lie to you. And I don’t want to. But, we’ve decided that, for now, it isn’t necessary to talk about.”

“That’s the problem, Kookie,” you mumble, picking at the lint of your socks. They belong to Yoongi’s and sit weirdly on your much smaller feet, but the peach Mario socks fill your gut with a blossom of warmth. You can imagine Yoongi wearing them, curled in a small ball, watching TV with blankets and pillows bracketing him in, like a comfy little burrito. “You guys decided. Without asking me. And I’m just as much of a part of this as you are.”

He avoids your eyes. “’m sorry.”

“Don’t do that,” you grumble, brushing his cherry red hair from his eyes. “You’ll make me feel bad.”

“I just don’t like making you sad,” he says, softly.

“You aren’t making me sad,” you laugh. “I’m just saying that rather than consulting me, you all made a choice for me. And that isn’t fair, baby.”

He exhales, gently, the table becoming infinitely more interesting to him. “We just don’t want to scare you away.”

“Kookie,” you begin, your voice brokering no room for argument. “You guys are literal vampires, and here I am, eating mango chips and yoghurt snacks with you while watching Pororo. There’s nothing that you could do or say that could scare me away.”

He lets out a light laugh. “It is a little ridiculous, isn’t it?”

You nod in agreement. “I’m not going to try and convince you to tell me the truth, that isn’t… my style. I’d rather you just be honest with me, when you’re ready. But, I wanted you to hear my side. It’s important to me, to understand what’s going on with me, and how that might affect us, you know.”

He nods. “I know, noona. Thank you for being understanding.”

He reaches across for your hand, hooking his fingers snugly around your wrist, brushing his thumb along the ridges of your veins.

Suddenly, a thought comes to you.

“Can you hear the blood pumping around in my body?”

His eyes widen in surprise and he rears back. “Where did that come from?”

You gesture to where his hand is holding yours and then you point to where his other finger is tapping a rhythm out on his thigh. He seems surprised that you noticed. His fingers stop, and he shoves them both into his sweatpants’ pockets.

You stare at him, incredulously, and ask, “You do that, all the time. And, at first, I didn’t know what it was, but now… are you listening to my heart, Jeon Jungkook?”

His cheeks burn such a deep red that you are surprised he doesn’t get dizzy. “I-I… I’m sorry, I didn’t- Are you uncomfortable? I can turn it off.”

“Turn it off?”

“My hearing,” he explains. “We can heighten it, so we can hear more, or turn the sensitivity down, to a near-human level. For privacy and stuff.”

“Privacy?”

“It’s not exactly pleasant when you live in a house and can hear every sound,” he clarifies, giving you a meaningful look. “And I mean, every sound.

You pale at the implication. “Kookie, have you heard me poop before?”

He bursts out laughing, and someone down the hall (Joon, his laugh is so distinct to him that you could pick his voice out in a crowd of a thousand people) does the same thing.

“No! We give you more than enough privacy,” he says, shoulders still shaking. “We have enough practice with each other, so it isn’t hard for us to just zone out.”

“That must be so… cool,” you tell him, grinning to yourself. “You’re basically like Superman.”

“Not exactly,” he replies, but you see him puffing up his already-broad chest in pride. He glances at his watch and curses, softly. “I’ve got to go to work.”

“Are those ladies still harassing you, Kookie?” You ask, and you feel a gelatinous, bitter taste coat your tongue. “Because I don’t have a problem writing a letter.”

He grins down at you, reaching over to brush your hair out of your eyes, thumb brushing against your chin. “I can handle it, noona.”

“I know you can. But you shouldn’t have to,” you grumble. “If they do something again, just tell me and I’ll kick their asses.”

He lets out a soft chuckle at your fiery temper. “There’s my firecracker.”

You hold up your fists, tiny but clenched, and make a face that you think would come across as intimidating. He cups one of his hands over both of your fists and brings them to his lips, pressing a quick kiss to them.

“If I had it my way, noona, you’d never have to raise your fists to anybody,” he murmurs. “I’d take care of everything for you.”

“I know you would, you’re my hero, Kookie,” you reply, shyly. “But, I want to be able to do things for you too.”

His expression softens at your earnestness. “You already do more than you know, noona.”

/

Namjoon’s phone rings late in the evening, much to his confusion. He had already had his daily call with his mother, so as he takes out his headphones and moves to answer it.

“Yellow?” He says, amicably.

Jooheon’s voice comes through the receiver, and he sounds… nervous. “HI, Joon.”

“What’s good, my man?” He asks, leaning back in his seat, brow furrowing at the late time. Jooheon liked sleep more than anybody else he knew (even Yoongi), so to have him voluntarily call when he could be asleep already has his attention piqued.

“So, uh… We might have a problem,” he says, somewhat apprehensively.

“That doesn’t sound good in the slightest,” Namjoon replies, rearing up as tension builds in his body. “Explain.”

“Soohyun has run away again,” he says, all in one breath, as if he were tearing off a band-aid. “She heard about Taehyung apparently seeing somebody else and left the main house. I think… Well, I think she’s coming to find out for herself.”

Namjoon feels sweat break out at his temples. “That girl is going to drive me nuts.”

“She’s… attached,” Jooheon says, awkwardly. Namjoon can picture him tug at him collar. “I know I’m overstepping by asking, but, uh, is Taehyung seeing somebody?”

Namjoon purses his lips, somewhat uncomfortable with exposing his beloved to someone outside of his cluster, so he simply says, “There is somebody he has his eye on. But… well, it’s complicated.”

Jooheon snorts. “I was dating my cluster leader when I found my bonded. You don’t have to tell me about complicated, Joonie.”

The dimpled men both smile at the memory, no longer a bitter and ragged wound but more of a lived experience that they both learned from. The three men made it work, and Jooheon didn’t have to leave his cluster, like he had initially worried about when he found his beloved at the burger joint where the personal trainer worked. Despite naysayers, despite the awkwardness and the pain, they made it work.

Namjoon’s gut is telling him that this is going to be a mess, a fucking trainwreck of a situation, but he can’t deny the manners his parents spent so long drilling into him, so he asks, “When will she arrive?”

“Probably early morning,” Jooheon says. “She can’t drive, so she’s probably taken the train. Coven mate to coven mate, could I ask you to take care of her, just until I can come up and get her? It shouldn’t be more than a couple of days. It’s our anniversary tomorrow and I can’t miss this, Wonho will kill me.”

Namjoon lets out a light sigh, but he understands Jooheon’s situation. He wouldn’t ask if he wasn’t desperate, so Namjoon relents, “Sure, she’s more than welcome here. You know that. But I have rules, Joohoney.”

“That nickname is so annoying,” he laughs. The fixer’s mother used to call him that and considering Namjoon and Jooheon were more like diaper-buddies than just friends, and for a short period of time, Jooheon and his Moms used to live with Joon at the main house in Ilsan, he got accustomed to calling him that whenever he was feeling nostalgic. “Joonie, take care of her, okay? She means well, she’s just…”

“Obsessed,” Namjoon supplies, unhelpfully. “I didn’t mind it before. We’re in Seoul and she’s in Daegu. But, if her fixation on Taehyung causes any issues while she’s here, I will have no choice but to act, you understand that, Jooheon?”

The blond goes quiet on the other side of the phone for a moment, and the pause is heavy with meaning. “I understand, Joon. Thank you.”

“Good,” Namjoon says, grinning to himself and the tension dissolves. “I’ll see you when I see you.”

He ends the call and turns his eyes to the ceiling, a heavy, uncomfortable feeling settling in his bones. Something doesn’t feel right with the situation, but he hopes that Soohyun had matured since he last met her a few summers ago. That was a fucking train-wreck if he’s ever seen one.

Unable to concentrate on the work he has in front of him, he leaves his room to go and find Taehyung. The blue-haired boy is in his room, in the middle of a painting, crouched barefoot above an easel that is lying atop an off-white paint-stained sheet on his floor. His fingers were stained all different colours and the room had an overpowering scent of paint, despite his windows being open more than half way.

Soft jazz music tinkles out of his speakers as he glances up, hair pushed back with a headband. He looks like a teenager again, so innocent and young, dressed in white linen. He even has some cerulean paint smudged on his cheek and nose.

“Joonie-hyung,” he sings, moving to stand. His knees crack a bit as he does so, and Joon notices the light bruising under his eyes from a lack of sleeping. The leader’s frown deepens. “What’s up? I thought you were doing some work.”

“What are you painting, pretty boy?” Joon asks, avoiding the question as he closes the door behind him.

The leader approaches the easel and looks down at it. What stares back at him are a medley of distorted faces melted together in silent screams, the tips of ragged teeth are dripping with red. The grotesqueness of the image is contrasted with bright and almost happy colours (various blues, pinks, yellows and oranges). Namjoon feels himself stare between the painting and the boy, noting his fingers stained with dried paint, nails caked with it, as if too enraptured, too obsessed with getting the images in his head down on paper that he ignored his multitude of brushes and went straight at it with his bare hands.

Taehyung had mentioned once that art felt more natural that way - more organic. 

“Do you like it? I kept dreaming of these faces,” he says, absently. He reaches for the leader’s hand and pulls him closer to the art work. The two men crouch down to get closer to it and with his fingers, he points at various parts. “These are all me.”

The one he pointed to is crying, clawing at his own throat. The one beside it has its bloodshot eyes rolled into the back of its skull, nails digging into its cheeks until blood is welling up at the surface. The third seems emotionless, eyes blank of anything, a pitiable figure with gaunt cheeks and a sickly pallor to its skin. The final face is shouting at the black sky above, brow pitched in anger, spittle flying from its mouth.

“Taehyung…”

The younger man looks at his leader, face soft with childlike wonder, despite the frightening, gruesome nature of the painting. He almost looks lost, and it makes Namjoon’s heart ache. How long must this have been bubbling inside of him, like poison, while he continued to smile so brightly as if nothing were wrong? How long must he have been suffering alone? Crying inside, for someone, anyone, to hear him?

Namjoon chances a glance at the table where Taehyung keeps his medication, noting the plastic case covered in painted fingerprints is still there, the days of the week leading up to today empty of the tiny bitter yellow pills. He asks, just to be sure, “Are you taking your meds?”

Taehyung huffs. “Yes, mom. Wanna check?”

“I have to ask, you know I do,” he says, coming closer. “And I trust you.”

Silence engulfs the room, making the blue-haired boy feel as if he’s suffocating. He gnaws at his bottom lip, his brother’s presence feeling oppressive and comforting at the same time. A maelstrom of emotions bubbling up in his already foggy brain.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Taehyung mumbles, softly, staring down at his feet. “It makes me feel like a freak.”

Namjoon makes a face, before he asks, “Are you thinking about what happened again?”

Taehyung’s silence is answer enough.

Namjoon continues, mollifyingly, “You know it wasn’t your fault, right?”

He nods, but he doesn’t seem convinced. “You know, I tell Jiminie-hyung that he wasn’t to blame for what happened. He got hungry and did what we do, as predators. But me… I almost got my family killed Joon. There’s no excuse for that.”

Namjoon rationalises, for the thousandth time since the incident, and he’ll tell him a million times more if that’s what he needs to hear in order to let go of the pain he feels when he starts spiralling, “You were in love.”

“And that almost left me without my Moms,” he says, sitting down into the lotus position, fists clenched. He looks up at Namjoon, his eyes watery, sniffing at the memory. “Mom was pregnant with Bug. I wouldn’t have my sister if I had got there a minute later than I did. There’s no way I can justify that.”

Namjoon takes his headband out of his hair and watches as his tendrils fall into his downcast eyes.

“You need a haircut,” he comments, lightly. “This is getting ridiculous.”

The leader pushes some hair out of his face, carding a hand through and scratching at the other’s scalp soothingly, letting the younger man rest against his chest and let out a ragged breath.

“Your therapist is right, Tae,” Namjoon mutters, reaching down to hold his hands, rubbing along his long fingers with his own dexterous ones. “You make as many of these paintings as you need. The pressure in your chest, when it gets overwhelming, you make beautiful, spectacular, scary, weird and fascinating pieces of art. These hands are the medium in which you create your own universe, you get build up and break down every and anything you want. You control it all. So, when you’re feeling you have no control outside, you always can regress into your mind and create something wonderful.”

Taehyung glances over at Namjoon, eyes shiny under the bright light overhead.

Joon tuts, but feels his own throat clench up. “Don’t cry, Tae. I’ll cry if you do.”

“But-”

“No,” Namjoon grumbles, pressing a dry kiss to his forehead. He pushes his hair back again, staring down at him, a serious glint in his chocolate brown eyes. “No tears. Not today, baby boy. I didn’t even come in here to talk about this.”

Taehyung wipes at his eyes with a clean patch on his sleeve, before glancing up again, strangely suspicious. “What did you want?”

He pauses to think about how he was going to approach the situation, knowing that while Tae is the softest with them, he’s also very easy to make anxious. He asks, “How mad would you be if I told you that someone was on her way for a surprise visit?”

His brow furrows as he thinks about who his leader may be referring to. “Why would it bother me, hyung?”

Namjoon chews the inside of his cheek. “She’s coming to see you.”

Taehyung’s face pales instantly as one name pops up in his brain. “Don’t tell me it’s who I think it is…”

“Yeah,” Joon replies, grimacing. “Soohyun. She arrives in the morning.”

“She isn’t staying here though, is she?”

“She has to,” Namjoon replies, and Taehyung lets out a loud groan. “She’ll get to use the feeding room just for a couple of days. We can’t trust her to be out in the city by herself.”

“She’s going to stake me and wear my skin,” he whines, kicking out his feet in vexation. With a exaggeratedly pushed out bottom lip, he pleads, hands together in salutation, “Hyung, does she have to come?”

“She didn’t ask,” Joon explains. “She heard about YN through the grapevine and I guess lost her cool.”

“YN and Soohyun can’t meet under any circumstances, hyung,” Taehyung states, reaching for the leader’s shoulder in a sudden bout of uncharacteristic seriousness. “I can’t even stomach the thought of them being in the same room.”

“Soohyun won’t hurt YN,” Namjoon comforts with a gentle pat on his shoulder. “We’ll make sure of that.”

“You don’t know that,” Taehyung denies, thick eyebrows puckering. “I wish I had never done it, hyung.”

“You were a kid,” he says. “So was she. You were making thoughtless decisions and she got attached. It isn’t your fault, the same way it isn’t hers. But she can’t hold it over your head for the rest of your life. If everything goes well, you’re going to be a mated man, there’s no way she can keep this up.”

At the reminder of their potential mate-ship with YN, both men find themselves smiling stupidly at each other. “Jungkook and YN were talking earlier. I think maybe we made the wrong choice by keeping the decision from her.”

“You heard them too?”

Taehyung nods. “I was in my room, and I was trying not to be nosey, but she sounded so cute, so I just listened in a little bit. I tuned out after she said she doesn’t feel happy because we took the choice from her. And I agree.”

“Yoongi, Jimin and Jin wanted to tell her,” Namjoon says. “But, I just- I didn’t want to overwhelm her with the whole ‘ah, yes, we’re vampires… and also, we’re soulmates’ conversation.”

“It isn’t that simple, hyung,” Taehyung laughs. “She would let us explain at least. She would accept us, it would just take some time.”

“I know,” Namjoon murmurs. “I guess I was just nervous.”

“We all get nervous, hyung,” he comforts, patting him on the shoulder. “We just have to trust her.”

Namjoon’s lips thin, but he agrees, resting his head on Taehyung’s shoulder and smelling his sweet cologne that lingered on the skin of his throat.

“You’re right,” he says after a minute. “We’ll talk to her about it. Open and honestly.”

Taehyung nods, his smile widening in his excitement. He echoes, gently, “Open and honestly.”

Chapter Text

You wake up to Nayeon banging on your bedroom door, calling your name.

She shoves open your door and snaps, “Get up, YN.”

Huffing, you roll out of bed, eyes barely open and mouth tasting like boiled ass, and grumble, rubbing at your watery eyes with your fist, “’t’s going on?”

“Your pet bunny is in the living room and it’s barely 8 in the morning,” she grouches, scrunching up her nose at the sight of you. She jerks her head to the where your ‘guest’ is and commands, with a flick of her head of thick dark hair. “Go deal with him.”

Confused but not willing to deal with Nayeon’s famous white-hot glare, you roll out of bed and grab the sweats you had kicked off in your sleep and pad out into the shared living room. Peering through the kitchen door, you see a familiar head of cherry red hair and let out a noise of inquisitiveness.

The photographer was surfing through the minimal channels on your TV, looking at the picture of comfort in your house.

“What are you doing here, Kookie?” You ask, crossing your arms over your chest as you walk in.

Upon hearing you, he clumsily rises to his feet, and you see that he’s decked out in workout gear (a white baggy hoodie and some shorts with leggings underneath it). He grins at you and gestures to the two helmets on the edge of the chair’s arm.

“We’re going on a date,” he says, confidence shining from beneath his skin, beaming brightly.

“A… date?” You echo, eyes narrowing, but you feel your cheeks burn. “How am I supposed to take that?”

“You can take it however you want, noona,” he says, still smiling, eyes twinkling despite the early hour. “You in?”

“Of course, I am,” you laugh, grabbing the smaller reddish helmet. It’s heavier than you thought it would be. You glance up from it to see him staring at you already, and all of a sudden, you are aware of how rough you look. Some asinine part of you feels embarrassed, although he’s seen you pull out wedgies before. “Let me shower first, okay?”

“You smell good anyway,” he mutters.

“I smell like morning breath, Kookie,” you giggle, taking a conscious step back from him. “But, thank you.”

He flushes around the collar, rubbing the back of his neck. “Take your time. I’ll be here.”

He drops back into the seat and you hear in the distance that he’s watching some cartoons. It makes you smile, how innocent at heart he is.

“Don’t look at me when I come out,” you yell at the photographer as you pass him by, towel held close to your chest. “I’ll know if you do.”

He makes a grumbling noise, but his eyes don’t stray from the screen, transfixed on the animated characters interacting on screen. Making quick work in the bathroom, you brush your teeth, shower and lotion up so your skin smells pleasant enough before running past him again, damp coils stuck to your back.

True to your command, he doesn’t look at you as you retreat to your room, and you smile at his respectful demeanour. You knew Kookie to be polite and forthright, but he was still a boy, and most boys got horny – or, so you had been told. You would’ve been disappointed if he had made a leery comment about your nude body, but the fact he didn’t makes you happy. As low as those standards are.

You dress in your only set of work out leggings (Young-mi had forced you to buy it when she signed you up for hot yoga, which you went to once and spent the entire time on your phone, dripping sweat down your ass crack) and a hoodie.

“Ready, Kookie?” You ask, stepping into your socks.

He looks at you, scanning you top-to-toe, eyes a little wide in wonderment and he nods, grinning. “Let’s go.”

He grabs his backpack that was hidden by his feet and you freeze, glancing down at it, eyes narrowing. “What’s in there?”

“A surprise,” he says, smiling down at you, and you just about melt at the stars in his eyes. “Grab a coat, will you? It’s a little cold.”

You glare at his partially dressed form and quirk a brow. “Where’s your jacket?”

He scoffs and stares you, as if to say, really? And it’s then that you remember. Grinning sheepishly, you both turn to kick into your shoes, and you lock the door behind you as you step outside, leaving Nayeon and her ants bathed in silence.

It’s early February, so the weather is still chilly, and you shiver slightly as the two of you grab an unused bike from the station at the end of your complex. He glances at you when he catches you trembling, brow puckering. “Are you cold?”

You shake your head, stepping onto the bike and securing the helmet onto your head. It is a little difficult to adjust the straps by yourself, and Jungkook snorts, watching you struggle.

“Come here, noona,” he says, grabbing you by the helmet and tugging you closer. He fiddles with the straps by your jaw and tightens it slightly. “How does that feel?”

“It could be a little tighter,” you murmur, staring up at him, entranced by the way his lips shrug up in a tiny, private smile. His front teeth kind of hang lower than the others, and you see how strong and shapely his nose is, being so close. His breath smells minty and you catch yourself before you can lean up on your tiptoes to press your lips against his, just to see if they were really as soft as they looked.

“Good?” He asks, and his voice sounds quieter than normal. He’s staring down at you, eyes fixed on your face, tracing the lines and curves of you as if committing the image of you to memory, and his fingers are still cupping your jaw, gently.

“Perfect,” you murmur, just as serenely.

He smiles, soft and gentle, before rapping his knuckles on the helmet once and turning away to the only two-seat bike left.

“I thought it’d be a good idea to go to the Han River,” he says, putting on his own, expertly. “Is that okay?”

“Just being with you is fun, Kookie,” you admit, softly, taking the spot behind him. You miss how he has to take a moment to swallow his emotion before starting to pump his legs, too focused on not burrowing your face as far into his back as humanly possible.

The two of you ride for nearly an hour, at such a languid pace that you don’t really take note of the chilly weather. You hop off the tandem bike whenever Jungkook sees something fun to take pictures in front of, or somewhere where he wants to show you. God, you take so many pictures, your jaw feels as if it’s about to dislocate and fall off your face, but when you see how excited he looks, showing off his pictures, you can’t help but go along with his will.

“This is where Joonie broke his leg,” he says, gesturing to the wide-open park. He points at a large oak far off in the distance. “He jumped off that tree.”

“You guys can break bones?” You ask, surprised.

He chuckles. “Yes, if we hit something with enough force, our bones will break. They heal within a few minutes, but it’s definitely not a pleasant experience.”

“Have you broken any bones?”

“I’ve broken nearly every bone in my body, noona,” he teases, before he looks off in the distance, recalling some fond memories, by the small quirk to his lips. “I like to play contact sports, and they can get a little intense sometimes. I’ve had teeth knocked out in a spar session with Jooheonie-hyung, my wrist was sprained when I hit a bag at the wrong angle a couple of weeks ago. It’s part and parcel of being a competitive sportsman.”

“A meat-head jock, more like,” you grumble. His injuries don’t sit well with you, and you don’t know who this Jooheon is, but just knowing that he’s caused some pain to Jungkook has made you instantly dislike him. “s’not cool.”

He taps your chin with the crook of his finger when he notices you’ve gone quiet. As soon as he sees your pouting, he feels like he's responsible. He murmurs, softly, “Don’t be upset. It doesn’t really hurt for too long.”

“You don’t take care of yourself,” you complain, gripping the bottom of his hoodie, sulkily. The contact serves to sooth the hole that had appeared in your stomach, but still. It makes you worry.

He thinks you look so cute like this, pouty for his wellbeing, that he can’t help but milk it a little.

“I mean… I don’t think about it when I get in the zone,” he explains, eyeing you, playfully. “A little pain goes a long way.”

Scowling, you shove at his shoulder. You warn, “I’ll show you pain, Jeon Jungkook.”

He grins at you, brightly. “Don’t threaten me with a good time, noona.”

He bops the tip of your nose and grabs your hand, pulling you along. You, on the other hand, are shocked into silence. You clamber up back onto the seat behind him, pumping your shorter legs to match his pace, observing the broadness of his back with a vested interest.

When you arrive at the riverside, you find yourself somewhat out of breath. Kookie seems perfectly fine, smiling fondly at you as you bend over the handlebars and try to gather your bearings.

“Shall we go?”

You glance up at Jungkook, seeing him stood there, palm splayed out, patiently waiting for you. You don’t even think to wait a moment before fusing your fingers with his, and the two of you bike, together,

he leads you down towards the riverside. The scent wafting off the surface of the river is pleasant, carried on the wind that brushes against your skin.

The sight in front of you is nothing short of stunning. The early morning sun is cast across the crystalline surface of the water, ripples forming wherever the wind kisses it gently. High cherry blossoms line the banks of the river, standing tall and proud against the powder blue sky. You tug your coat collar a little closer to your face as you stare on, entranced.

You’re too busy staring at the river and its surroundings that you don’t notice what Jungkook is doing.

“Noona!”

His voice, captivatingly, carries on the wind.

You look over, wind rushing past your head, sending your hair billowing around your face.

Jungkook is standing, his arms splayed out wide, and he’s making jazz hands.

“Ta-da!”

You feel tears prick at your eyes at the sight that awaits you.

Jungkook made a picnic for you, spreading out a large blanket out on the dewy grass, with Tupperware containers of food and snacks all piled around.

“Was this what was in your backpack?” You ask, shuffling over towards him, eyes wide in disbelief. “You carried all this all the way here?”

He reaches for your hand, nodding excitedly, and giggles, “Yep! Did I surprise you?”

“Of course, you did,” you reply, hitting his chest lightly. You bite down on your lower lip and whine, “I’m going to cry.”

“Don’t!” He exclaims, hooking his arms around your shoulders and hugging you tight. “I can’t do much… and I don’t have any experience with this kind of stuff… But I just- I wanted to make you happy. Just me, you know.”

He rests his chin on the crown of your head and you hold the back of his shirt in your hands as you squeeze his middle, tight. “You really did this all for me?”

“I’ll do this for you every day for the rest of my life if you want me to,” he murmurs into your hair. You choke on a sob that wants to escape, swallowing it down fiercely. He suggests, “How about we get something to eat? You must be tired.”

You nod, and he leads you to the blanket, letting you find the best spot and curling up beside you.

“Try these dumplings first,” he says, already pulling out a pair of chopsticks and gathering the creamy looking dumplings, offering you the first bite. “It was my first time doing it by myself.”

You bite into the morsel, and you can tell he tried his best. The dough is a little thick, but the inside filling is seasoned so well, and his expression is so hopeful that you can help but over-exaggerate with your praise.

“It tastes amazing, Kookie,” you say, reaching up to fluff up his hair. “You did so well.”

He preens under your touch and grins, shyly, to himself. “It wasn’t anything too hard.”

You scoff, nuzzling closer to him, resting your back against his chest. He shifts to accommodate you, and you open your mouth.

He glances at you, fondly, and asks, “You want me to feed you?”

You nod, playfully, pointing more intently at your opened mouth.

He pretends to be put upon, sighing before picking up the other half and plopping it on your tongue. “Our baby YN.”

“You try some,” you say, taking a pair of chopsticks and feeding him some.

“I’m not hungry,” he says, moving his head back slightly. You shift onto your knees and even then, you just about are at eye-level with him. You pout, heavily, and he scoffs at your cute expression. He says, earnestly, “Seriously, YN. It’s okay. You eat.”

Insistently, you hold his jaw in your hand and stare into his eyes. “Just one bite? For me, baby?”

He groans, loudly, cursing the hold you have on him. With just those few words, he’s putty in your hands. He opens his mouth, and you put it between his lips. You ask, catching his eye, “How does it taste?”

He shrugs, brushing his thumb against his mouth. “’s not bad.”

“It’s better than ‘not bad’, Kookie. It’s yummy,” you chastise, and you sneak another mouthful between his petal soft, pink lips. “What else did you bring? I feel so unprepared. Next time let me treat you, okay?”

He nods, his smile only stretching into something wider. “Next time?”

“Of course,” you reply, chewing happily. “We’re going to go on these dates all the time, aren’t we?”

He freezes, staring at you with his Bambi-like eyes. “You- You want to date me? For real?”

“Jungkook, I might not be totally aware of everything that is going on behind the scenes, but you guys are clearly not just friends of mine,” you mumble, suddenly awkward. “I don’t get it, but… I don’t know. I know that I want you in my life. All of you. The labels and… the rest of it… can it come later?”

“It can come whenever you want, noona,” he says, grasping your hand in his own and squeezing tightly. He stares at you, sincerely. “We want nothing but for you to be happy. What you feel inside, I need to tell you, we feel it too.”

“Doesn’t it weird you out? There’s seven of you, and one of me,” you mutter, frowning. “Don’t you think I’m kind of… you know, easy?”

He tuts at your words, eyes flashing in anger. “If anyone says anything like that to you, noona, I’ll break their faces.”

Surprise colours your tone as you say, “Violence doesn’t suit you, baby.”

His frown deepens. “I’m being serious. Our bond transcends human concepts of monogamy. For our kind, three-way and four-way relationships are common enough.”

“I’m going to repeat, there’s seven of you,” you enunciate. “No amount of supernatural mojo can take away that weirdness.”

He snorts, brushing your hair out of your face from where the wind had blown the strands out of place. “Call it unique. What we have is special.”

You settle back against him, ears and cheeks burning at your admission. “Can we keep this between us for now? They’re going to be overbearing.”

The maknae nods, diligently. “Of course.”

Cautiously, he snakes his arms around your middle in a bold gesture of affection. He pulls you closer, so you are practically sat in the crease of his lap and he rests his chin on the crook of your shoulder. The two of you watch the scenery ahead, quiet and content to bask in the comfortable silence that has encased the two of you. He hums along to a song you don’t recognise, his voice surprisingly stable, and you trace shapes on the back of his hand, satisfied with touching and being touched.

At that moment, you don’t think you’ve ever known such a degree of peace.

Chapter Text

When you get back that afternoon, Yoongi is outside your apartment in his car, curled in a ball and asleep, face mushed against the window, sleeping.

Jungkook pulls his phone out to take a picture, but you don’t let him, covering the lens and rapping your knuckles against the window quickly, causing the blond to jerk awake and sit up, bleary-eyed.  Once his eyes land on the two of you, he smiles in greeting before he winds down the window, quickly, and leans out, kissing your cheek.

“Where have you two been?” He asks, and his voice is scratchy considering he’s just woken up. He rubs at his eyes with the sleeve of his large hoodie and relaxes into his seat, giving you a meaningful glare. “I’ve been waiting for ages.”

“Sorry, honey,” you apologise, but you’re just so excited to see him, having been deprived of his pretty face for too long (a couple of days, but whatever). “Come up for some tea?”

“Make it a coffee and I’m there,” he replies, opening the door and stepping out. Grumpily, he draws his jacket closer to his body, and glares up at the taller maknae, accusingly. “You didn’t tell me where you went.”

“Because I didn’t want to, hyung,” he replies, pouting. Jungkook reaches for your hand but thinks better of it at the last moment and lets his own arm swing, uselessly, at his side. Yoongi catches the motion but says nothing. “We were spending quality time together.”

“Sounds like a date to me,” Yoongi utters. You feel your cheeks redden at the implication in his tone. He’s always way too discerning for his own good. “When are we going on a date, YN?”

You splutter, practically tripping over yourself as you push your key into the door. Your roommates are all out now, so the house feels empty, and you all pile into the living room, with the boys instantly commandeering your couch. You’re surprised at how comfortable they are in your space, remembering how Jungkook basically commandeered your couch earlier while you were getting dressed, but it made your heart flutter in happiness. They felt safe with you, and for that, you’re so grateful.

You disappear into the kitchen, rooting around for clean mugs and sugar to make their drinks, while they flick on the TV. In the background, you hear a K-drama rerun in the background, and the voices are slightly familiar, but you don’t pay much attention to it, too focused on making their drinks to their tastes.

When you come back with two mugs of hot drinks (Yoongi’s coffee and Jungkook’s warm cinnamon milk), they’ve already gotten into position.

Jungkook’s thighs are spread across the couch, and Yoongi, despite his smaller stature, spreads himself just as intimidatingly across the space. The blond quirks a brow at you, daring you to come closer.

“Move over,” you chastise, nudging their knees, meeting little resistance.

Yoongi steadies your hips as you drop into the seat and Jungkook grabs the blanket that is hanging over the back of the sofa. You stare up at him and he shrugs. “’ts cold.”

It actually isn’t, but you don’t call him out on it, too warmed by the intimate contact.

Jungkook sips his drink and makes a noise of enjoyment in the back of his throat. “You always make it so perfect.”

“I’d like to try, but I’d like to avoid accidentally shitting myself today,” you murmur with a chuckle.

Yoongi snorts, moving closer to you, if that was even possible. “What is it with you and defecation? Are you trying to clue us in on a secret kink of yours or something?”

“Don’t kink shame me.”

He lets out a laugh, before disappearing into his cup. He takes a long sip of coffee, seemingly letting the flavour explode on his tongue, before he asks, pointedly, “How was your date?”

“It wasn’t a date,” Jungkook denies, weakly.

“Yes, it was,” you laugh, resting your hand on his knee under the blanket. The warmth of his skin practically burns your palm. You glance over at Jungkook, who’s cheeks are feverish in shyness, before returning your eyes to a somewhat envious-looking Yoongi. “It was fun.”

The blond reaches for you, tugging you closer until you were practically leaning into him. His tongue runs over the bottom row of his teeth in a display of frustration before he whispers, quietly, eyes tracking your features in awe, eyes hooded and shiny, “Let me take you out.”

You feel dumbfounded. “I- I…”

“You let him take you out,” Yoongi remarks, lightly. “I’m assuming that means you’re aware that we’re interested in you.” He pauses to listen to your racing pulse, practically salivating at the excitement he can scent in the air. He takes an unwitting breath and bites down on his lower lip to hold himself back.

Jungkook moans from behind, “Fuck…”

Not one to be ignored for too long, Jungkook winds his hand around your waist, pressing his chest against your back, bracketing you in between the two men, practically stealing your breath away, catching the scent of your hair on his tongue, practically salivating in his seat.

“You smell so good, noona,” Jungkook whispers, lips grazing your neck as he speaks. The sensation of his lips against you has your body shivering without your permission. He tracks the movement with dark eyes, fixated. “Why do you always smell so good?”

“It’s not your blood either,” Yoongi mumbles, pressing his nose to the other side of your neck and taking a quick sniff. It doesn’t turn you off at all. In fact, it makes your skin burn and your core clenches around nothing, a wave of red-hot arousal pulsing from you, making them groan in unison. “It’s just you.

“It’s like heaven,” Jungkook surmises, dreamily. His cock throbs in his pants, stirring slightly, but he can barely focus on it, too shaken by the combined aroma of pungent arousal pouring off your body. Yoongi catches his eyes, and the two men share a loaded look – fuck Namjoon’s rules.

You let out a soft whine, grinding down on nothing, as Yoongi’s fingers trail along your sides with purpose. You gasp, “What… What’s going on?”

“Don’t think about it,” Yoongi says, moving even closer, moving to bump his nose against your own, giving you an endearing nuzzle. His stomach burns with how much he needs to be inside of you. “Just let yourself feel it.”

You stare into his shiny, dark eyes and find yourself lost in them. He ducks down, so slowly that it feels as if you are moving in slow-motion, before freezing right against your lips. His chest is moving in rapid succession as he takes in short, excited breaths, and he waits for you to make the next move.

As if enchanted, you tilt your head ever so slightly to the side, and just as you are about to feel the press of his dry, soft lips against your own – something you have been thinking about for months, if you’re being honest with yourself – you hear keys jingle in the door.

Ripping yourself away from them, you shoot up, sending the blanket flying to the floor and you knock Jungkook’s mug over, sending the remnants of the brownish milk to the floor. The clatter of the mug is the only sound in the room, cutting through the haze of lust in your head, making you feel cold all over.

Young-mi walks in, carrying a bunch of bags in her hands, and you stare at her, wide-eyed.

“Hey, love! Oh! You have guests…” She stares between your alarmed expression and the two frozen men on the sofa. They might as well have been statues, for how rigid they were. She asks, with a quirked brow, “Am I interrupting something?”

“No!” You practically yell, wincing at your own volume. Tapering your tone, you clear your throat and say, awkwardly gesturing to the milk on the floor, “Let me… I gotta clean this up.”

Jungkook seems to have snapped out of his stupor, immediately moving to help Young-mi with her bags.

“Let me,” he says, gruffly, taking the bulk of them from her and disappearing into the kitchen.

Young-mi practically coos at him for being so polite and trails behind him. She tells him, “You won’t know where everything goes so let me help you.”

Hastily, you move to the bathroom, leaving Yoongi alone in the living room, too embarrassed to say anything to him.

You almost kissed him! You wanted to kiss him… you wanted to kiss them both.

If Young-mi hadn’t come home, you wonder if you would have taken it further, inviting them into your bedroom. You imagine it, the feeling of them on you, fingers that aren’t yours touching parts of you that have practically grown cobwebs for how long it has been since you’ve engaged in intimate actions. Their breath on your neck, their tongue lathing at bruises of their own creation. You wonder what they look like, when they’re about to come.

You feel queasy at the thought, so surprised by your readiness to bed two of the most important people in your life. You know you told Jungkook that you were aware your relationship wasn’t normal, but to turn on a dime so fast and let yourself spread your legs for them… it makes you feel ashamed.

You hope they don’t think less of you for it.

“Are you okay?” Yoongi’s voice makes you jump. He’s leaning against the bathroom door, an image of black breaking up the brightness of the small white and yellow room. His reflection in the mirror gives no feelings away, and if you hadn’t been the one to experience it, you would never have thought he had been so worked up from his current appearance. “You’ve been in here for a few minutes and your heart-rate is through the roof.”

“I’m fine,” you assure him, grabbing the tissue and waving it uselessly. “Just need some tissue for the spill.”

“I already cleaned it,” he says, stepping to the side to let you out into the hallway when you pause, awkwardly, in front of him. Clearly jittery, you rush past him, but a call of your name has you freezing, instantly. He sounds as if he’s pleading with you, voice faint. “You understand that our situation is special, right?”

You chew on your lower lip, still too frazzled to look at him.

He lets out a soft sigh and approaches you, turning you to face him. “I won’t argue with you about it. You can take as long as you need. We’re waiting for you. Just don’t push us away, okay? My heart can’t take it again.”

He gives you a small smile, and you feel yourself slowly relax under his tender gaze. “There’s my girl.”

You grin back, and move to hug him, burrowing into his chest. He pats your back, comfortingly, and rocks you from side to side, euphoria bleeding into his veins at the sensation of holding you. He doesn’t want to let you go, but he does, pulling away to look at you. The way you stare up at him, your chin pressed against his pectoral, eyes wide and practically glittering, he has to bite down on his tongue to stop himself from kissing her silly.

“I did come for a reason earlier,” he says, after a moment, already regretting having to put an end to the bubble of comfort you had found yourself in. “Namjoon told me to tell you that we’re having guests, so for the next day or two, you probably won’t see us.”

Your brow puckers. “Why?”

He smooths out the mar with his thumb. “She’s like us, and we need to keep an eye on her until she goes home.”

She?”

“Jealous?” He asks, smirking down at you. He still has you in his arms, hands crossed over your lower back while you play absently with the strings of his hoodie.

“Not at all,” you reply, honestly. “I trust you.”

He feels his stomach swoop at your candour. Brushing his nose against yours, he murmurs, “Thank you.”

“When will she leave?”

He takes a moment to think. “The day after tomorrow. Jooheon is coming to pick her up.”

“Jungkook mentioned him earlier,” you tell him, pouting. “He said he knocked his teeth out.”

Yoongi snorts at the memory. Namjoon had panicked at the sight of Jungkook’s bloody mouth, Taehyung and Jimin had tag-teamed the other cluster’s resident sunshine to the floor and given him a black eye for his trouble. Yoongi had been out of the room, but at the spike of panic in their bond, he rushed in and, although he wouldn’t admit it, he almost fainted when Jungkook opened his mouth to give him a gruesome smile.

He explains, “Jooheon fancies himself as somewhat of an amateur boxer. Jungkook thought he could take him in a fight. It didn’t end well.”

“You’re kidding,” you gasp.

Yoongi shakes his head. “I thought Hobi was going to kill Jooheon in his sleep for what he did. He’s always been a little heavy-handed, especially with the kids of the coven.”

“I don’t think I like him,” you mutter.

“He’s one of the best people you’ll ever know,” Yoongi says, earnestly. “Next time, you can meet him and see for yourself.”

“I guess,” you grumble.

Yoongi leads you back into the common spaces, where Jungkook and Young-mi are in the middle of making fruit and veggie smoothies, the loud mechanical whirring of the blender practically echoing through the house.

“Can we go into your room?” Yoongi asks, quietly. “Joonie says it looks nice, and I want to see it for myself.”

You nod, leading him to your abode, and as soon as he steps inside, he lets out a fond laugh. “He was right, it is cute.”

You drop onto your bed, and he does the same, leaving a respectful distance between you, but he can’t help but reach for your hand, sliding his fingertip across the smooth surface of your nails.

Curiosity gets the best of you and you ask, lightly, “Who is this girl that is visiting?”

“Taehyung’s ex… fling, I guess,” he replies, shrugging. "We're in the same coven, but she belongs to a different cluster. A Busan cluster."

At his words, a trickle of something dark enters your body. It bubbles in your gut before you can catch it, settling in your stomach and spreading, like a black, viscous liquid.

“Oh…”

Now, you’re jealous,” he says, scenting the slightly tart emotion in the air. It coats the inside of his mouth like resin and he commits the aroma to his memory. He mumbles, absently, “So, that’s what your jealousy smells like. Interesting.”

You strike his chest and cry out, self-conscious, “Stop doing that!”

He snorts, but raises his hand in surrender, and says, “Sorry, I’ll stop from now on.”

Then, he shuffles just a touch closer, and affirms, his usual air of seriousness even more pronounced than usual, “There’s nothing to be jealous of, honestly.”

You purse your lips slightly. “Sure.”

In your head, all you can picture is another vampire woman, undoubtedly just as drop-dead (literally) gorgeous as any one of the boys. Taehyung, as stunning as he is, by her side, touching him and holding him in a way you hadn’t even had the opportunity to do yet. It makes you feel grubby, as if you need to wash your hands.

He assures you, “Taehyung is just as obsessed with you as we are.”

“Oh, yeah?”

He nods, and he looks more like an eager puppy than ever before. “He doesn’t even talk to Soohyun anymore. She hasn’t let go of the past and I guess someone mentioned something about Tae seeing somebody. The supernatural community is a cesspool of gossip. So, she decided to come and… I don’t know, meet the ‘competition’.”

He even does finger quotes over the word, and makes a mocking face, as if the mere idea if laughable to him.

You try and aim for casual as you ask, playing with the corner of your bed-sheet, “Were they dating?”

Yoongi shakes his head, internally grinning at your terrible acting. “Taehyung has had one girlfriend in his whole life. He swore he would never date anyone else after her.”

You feel your breath catch in your chest, a hole tearing inside of you. “So, he was in love before, but not with her?”

You don’t know why but the thought makes your heart ache so deeply, you worry you might have something wrong with you. Your breathing comes out funny, almost as if you were in a tin can.

He sits up instantly, sensing your pain as if it were his own, white-hot in his head, where he always feels the connection with his cluster, and crowds in on you. He grasps your chin in his hands, tilting your head up at him and observes you with a critical, sharp eye. He murmurs, softly, “You look like you’re about to cry. Don’t do that.”

He presses a kiss to your forehead and hugs you tight, feeling himself take on your acrid emotions.

“Taehyung is an emotional boy, much more than he gives himself credit for. He loves harder than anyone, which is why their breakup was so traumatic for him.” He spots you open your mouth and cuts you off, with zero room for argument. “Don’t ask me what happened, I absolutely won’t tell you. It’s his story, not mine.”

You frown slightly, and retort, defensively, “I wasn’t going to ask. I know what privacy means.”

His gaze softens a fraction when he can hear your honesty, and see in your face that his assumptions had upset you. He squeezes your hand gently and assures, quietly, “I know you do. I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t, sweetheart.”

He manoeuvres himself around you, so you are more comfortable, and he finds himself playing with your hair, scratching gently at your scalp. Slowly, you feel yourself drift off in his arms.

Before you realise it, you ask, almost inaudibly, “Why didn’t you kiss me earlier?”

His grip freezes on your hair, before he looks away, cheeks pinking. “Why didn’t you kiss me?”

You snort, lightly. “I asked first.”

He grasps your hand in his own, his palm resting on the back of your hand, admiring the size difference between your digits, the contrast of colour between your skin. He replies, faintly, “Because you weren’t ready. As much as I wanted to kiss you, as much as I want to be kissing you now, you aren’t there yet.”

You chance a glance up at him, meeting his dark and intense gaze.

He snorts and warns, with a playful wink, “You shouldn’t look at me like that.”

You can’t help but keep staring at him in a moment of pure intimacy, feeling his words wash over you, and letting the enchanting sensation of him stroking your fingers lull you into a sense of calm. “How am I looking at you?”

He gives you a flat look. “You’re flirting with me right now.”

“I’m flirting because I can’t kiss you,” you murmur, lips stretching into a soft grin. He lets out a low groan, shifting slightly under you. His eyes close for a moment, and you pull back minutely, eyeing him. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“Not uncomfortable,” he counters, tone syrupy and warm. He brushes his nose against your cheek, taking a moment to sniff at your soft skin behind your ear, letting the scent calm him down. “You never make me uncomfortable, sweetheart. I’ve got good self-control, but I’m not a monk. There’s only so much I can take before I lose my cool.”

You frown at that, only slightly. “How am I supposed to feel, Yoon? My heart… It aches with how much I miss you, all of you. I can’t put it into words anymore.”

He nods, understandingly. “That’s how I felt when I first realised what was happening with us. I started to notice you more in my periphery. Then, I couldn’t get you out of my head – your smile, the way your eyes light up, the way your laugh practically bounced off the walls. Even the things I shouldn’t notice. When you get irritated, you blink a lot. And you blow air out of your nose.” He imitates you, and you nudge at him for his ridicule. “You repeat yourself when you get super excited, and your scent… it drives me crazy.”

“In a bad way?”

“In the worst way,” he admits, playing with his sleeve. He seems uncomfortable with this line of conversation but makes no move to shut himself up. You want to let him talk as much as he wants – to get whatever is sitting on his chest out in the world. He seems to toil over the words before he finds them, mouth opening and closing periodically before he seems to settle on what he needs to say. “I have had bad experiences with control in the past. With my blood-lust. I’ve learned to control it, to curb my desires. I lose myself in the music, rather than in some random guy’s neck. I’ve been doing better, but I still struggle, and I just- I don’t want you to look at me and see that weak side of me.”

You reach up to cup his jaw and stroke his skin, waiting patiently until he gives up and looks down at you. “I’m proud of you, for telling me that.”

He gives you the ghost of a smile but can’t hold your eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”

“Don’t do that, Yoon,” you murmur. “I might not truly be able to comprehend how hard it must be for you, for any of you, to deal with the blood-lust, or with the urges that come with it. But I know your heart. You’re a good person, and I’m proud of you for fighting against your impulses when I’m sure it would so much easier to just give in.”

He looks at you then, staring down at you, searching your eyes for the edge of a lie. All you can do is stare back, orbs open, honest and practically glistening with your sincerity. If there was ever a moment in his life where he wishes he was purer, it was now – with his hands on your body, practically worshipping at your altar. He wants, he burns with how much he wants, but he holds back.

“Baby, you’re making this really hard for me,” he whispers, nose pressing against your own, foreheads rubbing gently. His lips are right there, it wouldn’t take anything to just join your lips together in sweet perfection. He can practically taste you already. “So hard for me.”

“I’m sorry,” you whisper back, just as quietly.

“No, you aren’t,” he replies, grinning widely.

“Yoongi…”

You practically feel his name slip from your tongue, silky and soft, and it draws him in, like a moth to a flame.

“Just once,” he whimpers, practically melting against you. “Just once.

Jungkook knocks on your door then, making the two of you regretfully draw apart. Yoongi clenches his fist as his side to distract himself from the urge to twist your face back up to him and kiss you until he had your flavour committed to memory, until he’s had his fill of you, until you can’t tell where he ends and you begin.

“Come in, Kookie,” you beckon, and the maknae shuffles into the room, holding three cups of reddish smoothie, shyly.

Yoongi shifts on the bed, angling his hips away from you and discreetly adjusts himself in his pants, lips twisting in discomfort at the pulsing sensation between his legs. He needs to cum, soon.

“I made you guys something,” he says, chest puffing in pride. “Try it, quickly. Hyung, I know you don’t like bananas, and YN, I remembered – no milk.”

He hands you both a glass each and settles on your bed, resting with his back against the wall. He looks at you, the comfortable way you are practically enveloped in each other, and feels his chest tingle with envy. He watches your eyes sparkle as the flavours dance on your tongue, a happy dance taking over your body as you enjoy it. Yoongi even seems to appreciate the amalgamation, brows rising in appreciation.

“You want to cuddle too, baby boy?” Yoongi asks, cheekily. He opens out his other arm and it doesn’t take a second before Jungkook is practically curled up in a ball beside you as you suckle on his gift. You are stuck in the middle of a man-sandwich; the peanut butter to their bread and jelly. “You don’t ever have to ask, Kookie.”

He mumbles, shyly, “I didn’t want to intrude.”

“How long were you waiting outside?” Yoongi ask, brow raising in challenge.

“Not long, a couple of minutes,” he admits, cheeks heating up. “I heard something, but I thought… It was private.”

“I’ll never not have time for you, Kookie,” you promise, reaching up to touch his cheek. “Just say the word, and I’ll be there, okay?”

His face breaks out in a bright grin and he noses closer to you, one arm thrown over your middle, resting on the swell of your tummy.

“I could stay like this forever,” you admit after a minute of serene silence. “I’m always so happy when I’m with you guys.”

“We’re happiest with you too, noona,” Jungkook admits, kissing your cheek. “You make us happy.”

Yoongi nods in agreement. “We were content with each other, but there was always something missing. We might not have had the word for it, but the feeling was always there.”

Jungkook hums in acknowledgement. “Joonie-hyung says that it was like an empty space that always had a draft. It wasn’t obvious, but when the wind blew, it felt like you couldn’t concentrate on anything but that blank space. Now… I feel full. All the time.”

“It’s a little overwhelming sometimes,” Yoongi continues to explain. “But, in a good way.”

“You make us feel so many new things, YN,” Jungkook explains, gently. “I don’t think I’ll ever get to thank you enough for that.”

You slap his arm, chastising. “You are the ones doing that for me. I’ve never been so happy than when I’m with you.”

The three of you settle into silence, sharing warmth, breathing in tandem, holding each other close. The two boys hope and pray that this feeling can be maintained forever, but they know the reality - Soohyun had arrived that morning and was going to bring an absolute shit-storm with her.

Chapter Text

Yoongi and Jungkook arrive back at their apartment late that evening, having waited until YN fell asleep, burrowed in Yoongi’s chest with Jungkook massaging her scalp. They watched her, silently, for a little while, before disappearing out her front door, leaving a quick note and two kisses to the apples of her cheeks. The boys knew that when they got back to their apartment, shit was going to it the proverbial fan, so they wanted to bask in the comfort of their soulmate for as long as they could.

“You think Soohyun is going to already be arguing with Hobi?” Jungkook asks, glancing over at his hyung.

Yoongi snorts. “Hobi hasn’t been able to stomach being around her since she broke into his phone and stole those pictures of Taehyung.”

“She’s scarily good with technology,” Jungkook murmurs.

“She’s been hacking since we were kids,” Yoongi says. “Her Dad works for the government, for god’s sake. I’m surprised it took her this long to find out about YN.”

“So, she didn’t hear about YN through other people?” Jungkook asks, eyes wide in surprise.

Yoongi shakes his head. “She probably has tabs on Taehyung somewhere. Someone might be watching us for her. She is incredibly persuasive when she wants to be.”

Silence encases the two for a moment, both mulling over the seriousness of their situation.

“She won’t… She won’t hurt YN, right, hyung?” Jungkook asks, brow puckering. “Soohyun is a pain, but she isn’t dangerous, right?”

“She’s obsessive, not violent,” Yoongi reasons, but his gut tells him that, to be on the safe side, they should follow Namjoon’s order of keeping YN far away from the apartment while Soohyun was around. “It shouldn’t be more than a few days.”

Jungkook groans into his hands. “I miss her already.”

Yoongi nods in agreement. “I know, Kookie. I do, too."

When they open the door, it’s to the sound of arguing. Yoongi can’t even take a breath before he hears raised voices, and he can practically taste the aggression in the air.

“I told you Hobi-hyung was going to be at her throat,” Jungkook grumbles, kicking off his shoes.

“If you don’t get your creep-ass out of my fucking room, I’ll bite your fucking face off!”

“This isn’t your room, stalker! You’re our guest – and we don’t even want you here!”

“I’m not here for you!”

He doesn’t want you here!”

"Let him tell me that, rather than your annoying ass bothering me while I'm trying to sleep!"

"Quit lying, you whack-job. You think we're all dumb, but we see through you. You're absolutely evil!"

“Shut up, you piece of shit!”

“Psycho bitch!”

The two turn the corner to see Namjoon stood in between the two warring vampires, fangs dropped and eyes flashing a mercury-silver. “Stop acting like children, you two!”

“He started it!” Soohyun growls, ash blonde hair flying around her pretty face as she swipes for Hoseok’s dishevelled form. “He kept fucking with my stuff!”

“You were in Taehyung’s room, you liar! I saw you leave and watched you put something in your bag,” he accuses, angrily. He turns to the purple-haired leader and pleads, “I was just checking, Joonie.”

“Don’t lie,” Soohyun snaps. “You just don’t like me and are making anything up to get me out of the apartment.”

She sniffs, pathetically, eyes watering instantly. The boys, used to her antics, barely pay her any mind. Jungkook is the only one who moves to comfort her, stopped only by Yoongi’s hand on his chest. The shorter man shakes his head, slightly, and the maknae falls back.

Namjoon eyes her and says, “Enough with the water-works, Soohyunie. Look at me." She does so, lashes damp and eyes red-rimmed. He sets his jaw, the air around him getting heavy with seriousness, "Did you take anything from Taehyung’s room? I’ll know if you’re lying.”

She blinks at him, barely needing to tilt her head up considering her model-like height, and then looks away, guiltily. She kicks at the floor and grouches, quietly, “I didn’t take anything important.”

“Give it to me,” he says, firmly, holding out his palm. "Now."

She turns on her heel to rifle through her small suitcase in the corner of the room, head ducked down in shame. They can smell the waves of embarrassment flowing off her over being caught. Yoongi and Jungkook share a look from where they are stood, just outside of the room.

“She probably just wanted his scent,” Yoongi tells Namjoon, stepping inside. He doesn’t like the tension in the room, and he’s always had a soft spot for her, remembering the girl with the pigtails that helped him when they were kids. “I doubt she meant anything by it.”

She turns around to see Yoongi by her side, and she gives him a small but grateful smile. Turning to Namjoon, she drops a strip of fabric in his awaiting palm – Yoongi recognises it as one of Taehyung’s favourite shirts – and before anyone can say anything to her, she disappears into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her, effectively ending their conversation. Namjoon stares between the now-closed door and the cloth in his hand before he lets out a hard-pressed sigh.

Hoseok doesn’t wait before he’s complaining.

“I told you having her here was a bad idea as soon as you told me,” he states, crossing his arms over his chest.

Namjoon gives him a sharp look before gesturing to the living room with his chin.

The four of them leave the room, Yoongi closing the door behind them giving her the illusion of privacy, and shuffle into the main room. Hobi drops onto the sofa and glares, hotly, at both Yoongi and Namjoon, but says nothing else.

Jungkook hovers, awkwardly, by the arm of the sofa, clearly not wanting to be there. Yoongi would probably have laughed if the situation would have allowed it.

“Kookie, you can go to your room if you want,” Namjoon says, giving the maknae a viable exit. “You’ve been out all day, right? Go ahead and wash up. It’s time for bed anyway.”

“Hyung…”

“Go ahead, Kookie,” Yoongi tells him, eyes never leaving Hoseok’s fiery gaze. The dancer meets his glare with just as much ferocity. “Save yourself the headache.”

Hobi scoffs, eyes rolling to the ceiling. Jungkook glances between his hyungs before nodding, slightly, reluctantly scuttling up the stairs.

“What’s the point of coming in here? The stalker will still hear us,” Hoseok snarls, tossing a vitriolic glare towards the feeding room.

Namjoon sighs, already knowing where this was going. He takes a step back, dropping into one of the solo chairs, observing the two ex-lovers duke it out in front of him. He’s used to them arguing, knowing how high both of their emotions can get, and how sensitive they both are, especially to each other. He knows that they can get ugly, can say things they don’t mean in the height of anger, so he decides to mediate instead.

Yoongi replies, unbothered, “One, don’t call her that. Two, she won’t listen. She has too much pride for that.”

“You seem to know a lot about what she would and wouldn’t do,” Hoseok challenges, resting his elbows on his knees, getting increasingly frustrated. He feels something dark well up in his chest over Yoongi defending her in front of him. How could he do that? Didn't he see how dangerous she was, especially to Taehyung?

“I have known her the longest,” Yoongi remarks, glaring at him. “She was my friend before you were, Hobi.”

Affronted, Hoseok moves to stand, crowding into Yoongi’s space. Namjoon knows it won’t escalate to blows, Hobi would rather die than hit any of them, but the proximity puts him on edge.

Hobi snarls, feeling that dark emotion rise in his throat like bile, the mere reminder of their long-standing relationship making his hackles rise, “You’re in my cluster, Yoongi. You don’t defend her when she poses a threat to our family."

Yoongi lets out a sigh, used to Hobi's aggrandising. He knows that he's just being protective, that he's letting his jealousy cloud his judgement. But, he also is aware that Soohyun's presence does rock the fragility of their family. Having YN so closeby, but in potential danger, no matter how unlikely, is probably wreaking havoc on Hoseok's mind.

“She doesn’t pose a threat, Hobi,” he says, quietly. He’s pleading with Hoseok to understand, eyes shining under the low light. Even as angry as he is, Hoseok still thinks Yoongi is so pretty. “She’s in love with him.”

Hoseok snickers, mockingly. He growls, “And, how well did that work out last time?”

Namjoon hisses, moving to stand, having had enough of the low blows. He grabs Hoseok's shoulder and squeezes in warning before he growls, “We don’t talk about that, you know we don’t, Hobi. What if Taehyung heard you?”

Thoroughly chastised, Hoseok turns his eyes to the floor, avoiding his leader’s heated glare. He mutters, quietly, “I didn’t- I’m sorry. I just don’t want this to hurt him. She could trigger anything in him, you know that.”

“She’s here for two days, then she’s gone,” Yoongi says, firmly. He puts a hand on Hoseok’s other shoulder, disregarding how the younger man jerks to shove him off, ignoring how bitterness rises on his tongue. He murmurs, reassuringly, “I promise I’ll keep her in line.”

“Taehyung said he’s coming home soon from the library,” Namjoon tells the two. “He’ll make his decision and we’ll respect his wishes, do you understand?”

The two other men remain at an impasse, eye contact heated and intense.

“I said, do you understand?” Namjoon repeats, staring pointedly at the warring boys.

Yoongi breaks contact first, dropping his hand to swing by his side, feeling his gut slosh in displeasure over Hoseok’s distance. “Yes, Namjoon.”

“Yeah, Joonie,” Hobi whispers, taking a step away from Yoongi’s body, licking his lips in displeasure, needing the physical distance to keep himself from losing his temper even further than he already has. Namjoon's hand drops too, no matter how much he wanted to hold the dancer close and assuage his worries. Hoseok murmurs, absently, brow still puckered, “I’m gonna head to bed.”

Softly, the blond whispers, “Hobi…”

“Don’t, Yoongi,” Hoseok barks. “I don’t want to hear it.”

Yoongi watches, heart practically throbbing in his throat, at the sight of his ex-lover’s back.

Absolute silence falls on the two remaining men, and Namjoon watches Yoongi’s eyes fill with tears, in sympathy.

“He won’t stay mad. He just wanted you to be on his side,” Namjoon reasons, putting a hand on his shoulder. Yoongi curls up into his leader’s chest, sniffling, pathetically. Joonie rubs his back in soothing circles, used to Yoongi’s emotional outbursts wherever Hoseok was concerned. It was usually Taehyung who dealt with Yoongi, the artist more of an empath than he lets on, but he's comfortable offering physical and emotional comfort to his cluster members, so he doesn't fret. “Don’t cry, hyung. It’ll be okay.”

“I know,” he tearfully replies. “I just hate when he gets like this.”

“He needs his space to get over his own feelings,” Namjoon explains, reassuringly. “It’s better if you leave him to work through them himself. You know Hobi better than all of us.”

This is why we broke up,” Yoongi jokes, sniffling once before wiping his eyes with his sleeve. His face is red, eyes wet and practically glowing with how irritated they are. “He never spoke to me about what was wrong, he would just get angry and disappear for two days at a time. I got sick of it really quickly.”

“He hasn’t grown up as much as he thinks,” Namjoon teases back, pressing a kiss to the crown of Yoongi’s head. He notices the growth of his noir strands and asks, “Are you changing your colour?”

He nods. “I’m going back to brown. The blond was nice but it’s too harsh on my scalp.”

“Your Papa is going to love that,” Namjoon remarks, knowing that Yoongi’s fathers both preferred their only son natural and soft. The blond was ‘too rough’, according to their tastes. “How about I do it for you?”

“No offence, Joonie, but I’ll end up with more on my face than on my head,” he replies, lightly. “I’ll get Taehyung to help me if I need it.”

The two share a moment of mutual amusement, chuckling over Joonie’s clumsiness, recalling the time he ended up shaving off half his eyebrow when he had been trying to clean up his facial hair.

“I’m heading to bed then,” Namjoon replies, communicating with his eyes that Yoongi should do the same, knowing that their resident night owl prefers working at night than during the day. “Wanna share?”

Yoongi shakes his head, giving him a soft but sad smile. “I won’t be able to sleep if I don’t make it up to him, but he doesn’t want to see me.”

“You’re such a subby boy,” Namjoon teases, much to Yoongi’s embarrassment. He kicks at his shin, making the taller boy wince. Rubbing at his leg, face contorted in pain, he hisses, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”

“I’m the dommiest dom to ever dom, and don’t you forget it,” Yoongi replies, an amused grin on his face. “Night, Joonie.”

“Night, hyung,” he replies, moving to his shared bedroom with the moping dancer. Instead of bothering him with conversation, he moves to the bathroom to get ready for the night. If Hoseok wants to talk to him, he’ll make the first move. He always did. 

Back in the living room, Yoongi drops onto the sofa, throwing a hand over his eyes to block out the light and he lets out a low groan. He hears her approach but gives no outward response to her presence. He’s too tired.

“I’m sorry for causing trouble with you and your brothers,” she apologises, softly. “I didn’t listen in, but I can smell the tension.”

“You coming over here was a mistake,” he tells her, blandly, removing his arm to glower at her. “You knew that before you left, but you still did it. Why?”

“I love him.”

“No, you don’t,” he replies, sitting up. She looks like a pathetic figure, hair damp from a shower, towel draped over her slumped shoulders. She’s wearing some pretty pyjamas, peach and polka-dotted shorts and a cami shirt. If he were attracted to her, he probably would be having a hard time looking at her. Alas, he looks at her like a little sister, and he feels nothing but irritation over her presence.

Her lower lip trembles and she shuffles closer to Yoongi, shoulders bunching up even more. “Can I sit down?”

“Do what you want, Soohyunie.”

She drops into his lap, throwing her arm around his neck and burrowing her face there. “You smell weird.”

He tenses up all over, knowing that she’s smelling YN’s scent on his clothes and his body. He feels his stomach roll at the thought of being caught, and he scrambles to find a viable, believable excuse for why he smells so strongly of human. He stammers, “Uh, yeah. I was around a bunch of humans today at work. I probably smell funky.”

She takes another quick sniff before she makes a soft noise of intrigue. “Whoever that is, they smell sweet.”

He shrugs. “I guess so.”

Then, she perks up, blinking down at him. “Are you still working at the botanical garden?”

He nods, lips pursed, hiding his twisted expression. He can’t lie to his cluster, they know him inside and out, but to someone who is outside of their close-knit family, he’s very convincing. He doesn’t like it, but he’ll do anything to protect YN.

She mumbles, sleepily, “You always wanted to work somewhere with flowers, didn’t you, Yoongi?”

He nods once more. “I get to do what I love. But beyond that, let me dry your hair off. You’ll get sick.”

She slips to the floor between his knees, her back to him, and she happily lets Yoongi pat at her ash blond strands, making sure to dry behind her ears and her forehead. Her eyes are closed, neck craned back as she enjoys the feeling of his dragging the material across her scalp.

“I missed this from when we were kids,” she mumbles, softly, cracking open one eye to survey the younger boy. She was born a few months before him, and never failed to lord it over his head when they were kids, much to his annoyance. “You always took good care of me, Yoongi.”

He mutters, carefully, “I promised your sister, didn’t I?”

She goes quiet at the mention of her older sibling, throat clenching around a lump. “I’m sorry, Yoongi. For letting you down.”

“You haven’t let me down, Soohyunie,” he soothes, flicking her forehead. She winces, frowning at him and rubbing at the reddening spot between her eyes. He continues, warmly, “You’re impulsive. And dismissive of other people’s feelings. But, you care. Sometimes too much.”

She sniffles, and rolls onto her knees to give him a hug. She smells like Taehyung’s shampoo, and the aroma makes his stomach turn. As much as she says she’s sorry, she couldn’t seem to let go of her fixation on the artist.

“I’ve missed you, Kitty,” she murmurs, softly.

“And I’ve missed you,” he replies, feeling the bitter lie settle on his tongue. “How about we go to bed?”

“I’m going to wait for Taehyung to get back,” she replies. He can’t help but feel a swell of pity for her, the petite fantasist than he knew when he was a weird, awkward, miserable kid and she was the only person in their class who would give him the time of day. “He said we’d talk when he got back.”

Yoongi pauses, lips thinning into a line, before he nods. Taehyung would have never said that, but somehow… she has convinced herself that he was coming to console her. He feels the pity grow into something greater, something darker. He can’t bear to look at her anymore, so he turns away. “Night, Soohyunie.”

She hums, playing with her fingers, shyly, staring at the door, a hopeful glimmer in her eyes.

Rather than go to bed as he had said, Yoongi spends the next few hours pacing in his room, unable to get the image of Hoseok’s sharp glare out of his head. As much as he appears unruffled at the time, his insides were at war. He hears Soohyun disappear into her room around midnight once she realises that Taehyung wasn’t coming home. He listens to her cry herself to sleep, stomach in knots. Then, a little after two in the morning, he hears Taehyung come home, shifting through the dead silent apartment as quietly as he could.

Yoongi occupies himself with his music, with his lyric book that he stashes under his mattress, black sketches that he’s retraced a thousand times, until his pen breached the paper and poked out through the other side. When he can no longer empty his mind onto the stark white pages, he scuttles over to the window, staring out at the slowly awakening city below, watching at the stars wink teasingly down at him. He counts cars, as he did when he was younger, and insomnia would plague his nights, and he thinks he’s at around 106 when he hears his bedroom door push open.

“Why aren’t you asleep, Yoon?”

The composer cranes his head to the side to look at a crumpled-looking Hoseok, dressed in his sleepwear, clutching one of Joonie’s plush toys to his chest. He looks beautiful. Yoongi hates how his tummy still swoops at the sight of him, so he turns back to the street ahead, following a deep green Audi as it pulls out of their complex. Someone must be heading to work early, he thinks, idly.

He explains, voice croaky from hours of misuse, “I can’t sleep well when I’m stressed out.”

“And I’ve stressed you out, right?” Hoseok breathes out a laugh and Yoongi imagines the small smile he must have on his face. Chancing a glance his way, he sees it present, and Yoongi feels a crack appear in the bubble of frigid anxiety that had grown in his chest.

A sliver of hope wells up, and he feels pathetic inside.

He asks, cautiously, “You’re not upset with me anymore?”

“I stopped being mad once I got into my room,” Hoseok explains, sitting down on the edge of Yoongi’s bed. “Come here, Yoon.”

Without needing to be told twice, he shuffles over and collapses around Hobi, practically straddling his lap and nosing into his neck, wrapped tight around him. He inhales deeply, feeling the raging white noise in his head dim instantly at the calming scent of his cluster-mate.

“I can’t breathe like this,” Hoseok teases, but snakes his own arms around his ex-boyfriend’s middle. This was his favourite way to have him, held tight to his body and safe. He mutters, softly, “I’m sorry for being so stubborn. I just- I’m really protective of you all, and knowing she’s here, and how sensitive Tae can be – it makes me feel crazy.”

Yoongi nods in understanding, playing with the collar of his sleepshirt. “I just wish you’d trust me.”

“I do trust you, baby,” he replies, softly. The unused nickname makes Yoongi feel like he’s sixteen all over again. His cheeks flush instantly and he closes his eyes, nostalgia washing over him. “I trust you with my everything. I was being pig-headed. Forgive me?”

Yoongi sniffles, feeling more tears spring to his eyes at the dancer’s words.

Hoseok asks, tentatively, seeing how Yoongi refuses to look him in the eye and takes it negatively, “Are you still mad at me?”

“You’re an ass,” Yoongi grumbles, voice muffled by the skin of Hoseok’s enticing neck. Yoongi eyes the stretch of soft skin and bites down on the urge to mark it, mark it with his teeth and his tongue. He’s never stopped being attracted to him, and he knows that that attraction is more than just mutual. But, for some reason, it just didn’t work when they tried to be together. It frustrated him to no end.

“I’m your ass,” he retorts, playfully squeezing Yoongi’s sides. His hands hover, purposefully, over the swell of the pale composer’s rear-end, eyeing the curve of his body with interest. “Speaking of asses…”

“Hobi…”

“Just… Relax, okay?” He says, grip shifting to around his ribs, using his thumbs to swipe in soothing circles. Yoongi rears back to look down at Hoseok, expression heady and filled with yearning. “Let me take care of you, baby boy?”

“Please,” Yoongi whines, grinding down slightly, the rush of arousal from earlier hitting him like a freight train.

“You’re always so needy, baby,” Hoseok murmurs, lips brushing against the base of his throat, tonguing at his Adam’s apple. “What do you need me to do for you?”

“Just touch me, Hobi,” Yoongi groans, squeezing at his lover’s shoulders. “I just want you to touch me, make me feel good.”

Hoseok lets out a cheeky chuckle at the sight of his baby, practically throwing himself at his feet, knowing just how submissive and needy he can make him. “I can do that, princess.

Yoongi groans at the familiar nickname and lets Hoseok bite down at the crook of his neck, bruising his skin.

Disregarding the fact that they had a guest, the two boys lose themselves in each other’s bodies, crying out into each other, unearthing their feelings for one another and marking it permanently on their skin.

Chapter Text

Being without the boys felt weird.

It reminded you, distantly, of the time you weren’t on speaking terms. The only saving grace was that you guys still talked over the chat and they sent you all kinds of pictures and voice messages to keep you content. It hadn’t been a full day since you saw Yoongi and Jungkook last, the last thing you remember being the feeling of Yoongi pressing light kisses to your temple while Jungkook massaged your scalp, slotted perfectly between their bodies, and you had drifted off into obliviousness, a small smile on your face.

When you woke up, you wished like Hell you had been a little braver and had just kissed Yoongi when he had been beside you. The thought of it plagued you, like a virus, infecting your every thought. Instead of just the blond, you imagine Joonie’s dimpled cheeks and purple locks above you. Taehyung’s infectious smile and washed-out blue hair brushing against your cheeks until you could barely breathe. Hoseok’s dark eyes watching you intently, holding you in an unyielding grip until he had his fill. Jin- oh, Jin, with his suave smile and his impish mannerisms; he would probably make faces between each peck, crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue while his dry lips meet yours. Jimin would hover above you, rubbing his nose against yours before he captured your mouth with his own sinfully plump one.

Regret lashes at your back at every turn.

Part of you wanted to turn up at the house. You would be lying if you said you didn’t care about this nameless girl, living it up in the house with the boys – your boys. Thinking those words alone has your cheeks pinking. But, you respected them way too much to go against their wishes, despite the niggling in your tummy every time you thought about Taehyung and this stranger – his ex-lover – being in proximity.

Despite Yoongi’s comforting words, you feel strange, as if suspended in air, waiting for the other foot to drop, for lack of better word.

To distract yourself, both you and Young-mi went to the library to study (read, not study, but pretending to do so), and have been for the last few hours, sharing snacks across the table tucked away in the airy library. As you spoon another mouthful of salsa into your mouth, your phone buzzes in your lap.

A glance tells you it’s a text, but you don’t recognise the number.

Hey, baby, it’s Tae. I dropped my phone in some paint last night. Can we meet today? I miss you.

Brow furrowing at the weird tone of the text, and the significant lack of emojis that usually would indicate whatever mood the blue-haired artist was in, you adjust the phone in your lap and scan it once more. Taehyung only called you ‘baby’ if he wanted something, so you assume he’s in a sneaky mood today. Smiling to yourself at his playfulness, you type out your reply.

No problem, Taehyungie. See you at the café we usually go to in an hour?

Your phone buzzes again within seconds.

How about this place? I hear it’s good and I wanted to try it with you before the others found it.

And following that message is a location. How sweet, you think, for him to try and make a special memory for just the two of you.

I’m at the library on campus. Can you pick me up?

Not today. I’ll meet you there instead.

Brow puckering even more, you feel strangely chastised for asking, but you bite down on your lower lip instead and type out an affirmative.

“You look… irritated,” Young-mi remarks, staring up at you over her thin-rimmed glasses. She pauses before she asks, “Care to offload?”

“Taehyung’s being… weird,” you say, finally settling on the word. “I don’t know why, but it feels weird.”

She goes quiet for a minute, lips pursing slightly. She recently dyed the ends of her hair, a soft brown, and had taken to keeping it up in a high ponytail. You think that maybe she might be dating someone, your brain supplies the image of the tattooed girl from the party all those weeks ago, but she has yet to tell you. Not for lack of trying, of course. You’ve been busy with the boys, and you feel guilty for denying your friend the space to vent about her trysts.

“Trust your gut,” she tells you, before turning her attention back to her page filled with doodles. She was supposed to be putting together an essay discussing the origins of traditional African movement, but she kept getting distracted by memes on Twitter. “If it feels weird, it’s weird.”

“Taehyung is weird, though,” you remind her with a snort. The two of you giggle, and you say, showing her the address, “Can you drop me off here? I don’t feel like catching the bus.”

She nods, absently. “I’m not doing anything anyway. Might as well.”

The two of you pack up your bags and grab a snack from the vending machine at the bottom floor, chatting the entire way. She drops you off outside of the café, with a promise to pick you up afterwards, but you deny her help.

“Taehyung will probably take me home after,” you tell her, throwing your backpack over your shoulder. It feels heavier than normal, laden with books and your small laptop. “I’ll catch you later.”

“Be safe,” she calls back, pulling away from the café and driving down the street.

You rush inside, excited to see Taehyung after the few days of physical distance, but you don’t spot a familiar tuft of blue hair anywhere. Maybe he changed his hair colour, so you search for the impressive line of his back, but most of the boots were empty.

Frowning, you spin on your heel and glide from booth to booth, secretly glancing at the unfamiliar faces that occupy each one, until you reach the bar, rapping your short nails against the wood.

“You do smell like honey,” a distinctly female voice states, directly to your left. Glancing over, flustered, you notice a woman occupying a bar stool, two seats down. She raises her cup of coffee to her lips, eyeing you intently. “YN, I presume.”

She’s a svelte woman, with ash blond hair, cut short in a sharp bob at her chin, and her eyes are dark and shiny. Her stare is inquisitive, as she surveys you from head to toe.

Sufficiently freaked out, you ask, eyes wide, “How do you know my name?”

She observes you for another long moment before she makes a small ‘hm’ sound and stands up. It reminds you of your first meeting of Yoongi, and her lacklustre reaction fills you with the same cautious nervousness. She explains, flicking her hair as if irked she even has to, “Don’t play stupid.”

Her poised appearance and the entitled way she’s looking down her nose at you reminds you of the boys. There was always a certain distance between you and them, between the humans and the vampires. Of course, being unconscious of their speciation, you just thought they were rich boys who thought themselves better than everyone else. Now, having been exposed to their supernatural reality, you realise that their ‘entitlement’ that you registered was actually a learned self-confidence that came with knowing that they were, in fact, always the strongest, fastest and most dangerous beings in the room.

“Soohyun,” you murmur, a tinge of hesitation in your tone. She perks up, surprised you know her name. You clarify, “You’re their guest.”

“’Guest’? Is that what they’re calling it?” She asks, scoffing to herself. She gestures with her head to the seat beside her, and it makes you recoil as a trickle of annoyance courses through you. She demands, eyes narrowing, “Sit down, human.”

Jerking at the harshness of her tone, you follow her command, if only to maintain the fragile sense of peace amongst the public. Jin’s warning echoes in the back of your head, about what would happen if anyone else found out about them. You are very aware of where you are, and how many other humans are in the café. You don’t know what her personality is like, so you find yourself angling away, nervous.

She stares at you, as if trying to figure you out, like a puzzle she just can’t quite work all the way out. You take a moment to do the same.

She’s wearing make-up, light and pretty, with tailored clothes that fit the lines of her body perfectly. A trim waist covered in a long, peach-coloured, flowing skirt, some expensive brogues on her feet, and a thin, cream blouse over her lean shoulders. She looks like a doll, almost. She’s far slenderer than you are, her skin paler and softer-looking, and it makes you… well, incredibly insecure.

“This is it?” She says, more to herself than anybody else. “This is what has Taehyung questioning himself?”

Your frown only intensifies at her words, and the words are out before you can help it. “I don’t like your tone.”

She blows some air through her shapely, button nose. “I don’t like you.

A woman approaches dressed in the uniform of the café, a polite smile on her face that hides her apprehension. Not well enough, because even you can see the tension in her shoulders and the insincerity in her smile.

“Anything I can get you ladies?” She asks, and you think she probably can taste the tension zinging in the air between the two of you,

Soohyun doesn’t even address her directly, eyes never moving from your face as she demands, “No. Go away.”

You feel your cheeks burn over her rudeness, and you turn to the girl, giving her a short, stiff smile, clarifying, “I’ll call you over when we’re ready. Thank you.”

She tosses Soohyun a brief glare before her professionalism takes over and she’s nodding, tucking some of her dark hair behind her ear and flicking the notepad shut, moving to another customer. On the other side of the bar, avoiding you and your ‘companion’ like the plague.

You turn back to the girl, who has turned her eyes to the empty coffee mug in front of her, no longer deigning you important enough to observe.

“You don’t know me, Soohyun,” you gripe, crossing your arms over your chest, defensively.

You knew a shake-down when you saw one – you’ve seen enough high school drama shows to spot the tell-tale signs of a bully – and you weren’t letting her shove you around. Yoongi might have been convinced that she wasn’t anything special to Taehyung, but your earlier distaste of her comes back in full force, bitterness spreading across the palate of your mouth.

“I don’t need to,” she says, tapping on the table with her index finger. Her tone almost sounds as if she’s not talking to you, but to herself. Reassuring herself that what she’s saying it true. Her eyes narrow as she scents the air, smelling notes of Taehyung on your clothes. It makes her feel small, and the mere idea of comparing herself to you, a human, fills her with a heavy feeling in her gut. “I don’t want to.”

“I don’t understand why you hate me so much,” you mutter. Your palms are damp with sweat, anxiety stewing in your stomach. You weren’t stupid. You knew what she was capable of by consequence of being a vampire, and the fact that you were… special to a man she had slept with – the thought alone fills you with anger – means that her lack of affection towards you isn’t a surprise. But still. You continue, “I’ve never met you before.”

“That doesn’t matter,” she says, steadfastly. “I’ve heard enough about you hovering around Taehyung. Don’t you think it’s a little pathetic?”

“I’m not hovering,” you deny, tips of your ears burning. “Taehyung and I-”

“There is no Taehyung and you,” she corrects, brow ticking in annoyance. “Understand that.”

You want to roll your eyes, but you think that would only make her more frustrated and potentially worsen the situation, so you reluctantly acquiesce. “Fine. There’s no Taehyung and me. Does that make you feel better?”

“Much.”

“This whole situation is childish,” you mutter, pursing your lips. “What is your deal?”

Her glare intensifies, sending a chill down your spine, and she spits out, “I just told you. Are you slow?”

“No, I’m confused,” you reply, shifting your body to face her. Tilting your head slightly to the side, you elucidate, “You lure me here, pretending to be Taehyung. Which means he doesn’t know about this.”

She rears back, brow furrowing slightly, not following.

“That means you aren’t here with their permission, and the Taehyung that I know wouldn’t take too kindly to someone being so rude to his friend,” you explain, slowly. Spreading your hand across the table, you watch as she observes your behaviour, closely. “If I take this and call him now, I wonder what he’ll say.”

You pull your phone out of your pocket and with eyes on her, you move to call him.

Soohyun, with a speed that you weren’t expecting, snatches the phone from your hand and crushes it between her fingers. She shouts, “Don’t do that!”

Staggered, you exclaim, mouth falling open, “My phone!”

She stares at the two pieces of machinery, a small furrow in her brow, as if confused. “I- Sorry. I- I panicked.”

“You… panicked?”

“Please don’t tell him,” she pleads, reaching for your hand before thinking better of it, clenching her fist and shoving it into her lap. You note the aborted movement but flinch away, thinking she was trying to get at you, to hurt you. She murmurs, weakly, glancing away, “I… He’ll get mad at me again.”

Letting out a long sigh, you push the two pieces of your phone back into your bag, already knowing you were going to have to buy another one, and echo, “Again?”

“He was supposed to talk to me last night, but he ignored me,” she explains, staring down at her hands, picking at her cuticles. The first sign of humanity in her that you’ve noticed. She complains, pitifully, “He’s being mean.”

“That’s not like the Taehyung that I know,” you reply, lip drawn between your teeth.

“That’s because the Taehyung you know is a lie,” she grouches, indignantly. “The whole persona is a lie and I can’t believe he has had you all fooled.”

Your silence is the only answer you can give.

She scoffs. “Look, then.”

She pulls her own phone out and scrolls through some files, shoving the mobile, screen up, across the table, her stare intense.

Hesitantly, you pick it up, with trembling hands to see a photo.

It’s of Taehyung, a few years ago if the soft roundedness of his jaw, the dark liner beneath his cocoa brown orbs and the short dark tresses atop his head said anything. He’s dressed weirdly too – in black, leather and metal chains. He’s on a motorcycle, middle finger up in the air and his jaw in jerked up in a crude gesture of defiance. Soohyun is taking the picture, sitting in front of him on the bike, back against his chest, dressed similarly. They look like a good pair.

“What is this?”

“This is the real Taehyung,” she says, a dreamy lilt in her voice. “I met him when we were kids, but only briefly. Clusters tend to keep to themselves, even if we're in the same coven. Plus, he’s younger than me, and so we didn’t spend much time together alone. Not until we were in our late teens, of course." She tosses you a knowing look that has your mood souring even further before she continues, "Yoongi and I were friends from school, in the same coven, and always spending time together. That naturally turned to Taehyung, Yoongi and I being together nearly all the time.”

“That doesn’t explain this.

“Taehyung was the bad boy that your mother warned you about,” she says, bluntly. “He stole, he truanted, he smoked, and cursed out his teachers. His Moms almost sent him to reform school when he was fourteen for his bad behaviour. Then, from what I hear, he met her.

“Her?”

Soohyun’s lip curls up, and you almost flinch at the fire in her eyes. “The bitch that ruined his life and turned him into a shell of himself.”

The vitriol in her voice makes you sit up a little straighter. You knew it was bad, from what Yoongi had told you, but with all the secrecy, and with how bright and happy Taehyung was all the time, you weren’t sure what to think.

She continues, ignorant of your inconsolable expression, too lost in her ire for this nameless, faceless woman, “For months, Taehyung wouldn’t speak, and would barely eat. He never left the house, no matter what any of us said or did for him. He disappeared for a while, and it freaked us all out. But, one day, he was just… back. Well, whatever this Taehyung is.”

You feel your gut twist even tighter at her words, as if she were plunging a knife into your stomach with every syllable. You know you should tell her to stop, that you wanted to hear this from Taehyung himself, but you can’t make your mouth form the words.

“Whatever medication he’s on, whatever pills they’re forcing down his throat, it’s turning him into a marionette,” she curses. You didn’t know Taehyung was on medication, not that it made you look at him any differently. It’s just, well, you didn’t know anything, it seems. “I just want my Taehyung back.”

Her words are setting you off, a dark feeling growing deep in the pit of your stomach. “The two of you… dated?”

“We’re meant to be,” she explains, simply. “It’s fated for us to be together. He’s my soulmate.”

You echo, practically weak at the knees, “Soulmate?”

She snorts, and stares down at you, judgementally. “You really have no clue, do you?”

“Tell me then,” you snap, frustratedly. “You are acting as if I’m supposed to know all of this stuff, but they don’t tell me anything, and now you’re speaking in riddles.”

“They don’t tell you anything because you don’t want to know anything,” she mutters, insistently. “You aren’t ready to hear the truth about them, so you let them keep things from you.”

“I don’t force them to tell me things they don’t want to,” you deny, heart aching from the roughness of her tone. “I respect their privacy.”

“You want them to keep parts of them hidden, so you don’t push for the truth. You are ashamed of them,” she claims, slamming a hand down on the booth.

An elderly couple in the booth behind you glance over, surprised by the raised voices. The older man holds his wife’s hand, while the older lady puts her fingers to her lips in shock.

Quickly, you reach over to put your hand over her trembling one and whisper, gravely, “You need to calm down.”

“Take your hands off me, human,” she hisses, just as quietly, just as seriously.

“I will when you relax,” you tell her, firmly. “You are around humans, and unless you want them to figure out what you are, you need to calm down.”

She looks down at your hand, noticing that your own hand is shaking in fear, but your eyes are burning with righteousness. The sight of you makes Soohyun sick.

“How dare you touch me?” She snarls, moving to shake your hand off, but you hold firm. “I mean it, human. Let me go.”

“Please, calm down, Soohyunie,” you plead, softly. “We can talk about this. There doesn’t need to be any violence.”

Soohyun glares at the couple, watching as they recoil in fear, noticing the burning wrath in her eyes. Seeing them flinch appeases her greatly, a small, cheeky smile tugging at her lips. You notice, glancing between the couple and the girl opposite to you, realising that her amusement stemmed from their fear.

She looks back at you, taking note of your displeasure before she snorts. “Humans are easily frightened. But, apparently, not you.”

“Not me,” you repeat, softly. “You aren’t as scary as you think, Soohyun.”

She lets out a bark of a laugh at that, nodding to your hands, now tied together in your lap, then asks, “Is that why your hands are shaking?”

“I was nervous that you would hurt someone else,” you clarify. “Not that you would harm me.”

“You’re awfully confident for someone who has no protection,” she murmurs, lips pulling higher in a visible grin, apparently tickled pink over something that she chooses not to share. Her slowly descending fangs glint dangerously under the light, hidden in a way so only you were privy to the sight. “I could kill you and everyone in here in less than a minute, and nobody would know.”

“You could,” you reply, reaching deep inside of yourself, searching for the bond and latching onto a bubble of calm – Jin. It wraps you up in a long, warm hug, pulling you in and practically melting into your bones. It gives you the push that you need to say the next words. “But, you won’t.”

She rests her elbow on the table, pressing her chin on her fist, eyeing you, once again curious. “And, how are you so sure?”

You shrug. “You say that Taehyung is a liar and that the boy you remember is the real him, but even I know that Taehyung likes humans. He wouldn’t be happy with you. And if you care as much about him as you say you do, you wouldn’t do anything to upset him.”

She rears back, one brow raised in surprise. “Fine. So, I won’t kill them. Or you. For now.”

“At all,” you reaffirm, seriously. “Taehyung wouldn’t forgive you if you exposed their secret. He likes living here.”

She settles back in her seat, clearly upset with your words, but after a moment of intense deliberation, she nods.

You ask, “Soohyun, why did you call me here? You have to have had a reason.”

“I wanted to see you,” she says, simply. “I wanted to see the girl who I’ve been hearing about in person.”

“Something tells me you wouldn’t have been so cordial if we weren’t in public,” you mutter, caustically.

She laughs then, and it sounds as light and airy as an early morning bird song. “I thought that if I saw you with others around, I would be less inclined to break your neck.”

You inquire, in bated breath, “And, are you?”

She pauses, holding your gaze, intently. “No. I still want to kill you.” She shifts slightly, observing her nails. “But I won’t. Like you said, for some reason, Taehyung has an affinity for you humans. As exampled by his fixation on you. And I can tell he hasn’t fed on you. Yet.”

“Taehyung has never tried to feed on me,” you tell her, strangely proud. “He wouldn’t do that to me.”

Somehow, that makes her relax, and her smile only grows wider, more pleased. “Oh, really?”

The smirk on her face makes you feel like you’ve said the wrong thing.

She continues, flipping her hair, “Well, in that case, I really worried for nothing.”

“What do you mean?”

“If Taehyung were really attracted to you, he wouldn’t be able to help himself when it comes to your blood,” she explains, candidly. “He would want to feed on you every second of the day. Human-vampire relationships, if you can even call whatever you guys are doing that, don’t last long for that very reason.”

She leans forward then, and says, mockingly. “He’d drain you dry before you could get a satisfying fuck out of it.”

You feel your mouth go bone dry at her words.

She rears back, grabbing her purse and moving to stand. “I almost wish this was more amusing for me. I wasted my time coming down here, thinking that you were something special.”

She glides past you with a grace that you couldn’t achieve if you lived a hundred lifetimes. It makes you feel tiny.

"You ought to remember that you are nothing to him," she mutters, spite dripping from her every word. She looks down at you, glare hot but firm. She believes every word she is saying. "You don't matter to any of them, and the faster you acknowledge that, the better it'll turn out for you. Who knows, you might make it out of this without me breaking your spine."

She bends down at the waist, making you realise just how tall she is, like a model - stately and poised. She crowds your space, mouth beside your ear, and whispers, dangerously, "But then again, I've always liked to play with my food."

And then she's gone, leaving nothing but the scent of pine blossom whirling in the air. The empty coffee cup stained with black reflects the darkness that is spreading in your gut, and it takes you an hour before you can even muster the energy to ask the waitress to use her phone to call Young-mi. You don't realise it, but the teary look in your eye was enough to worry the woman, to the point of her offering to call the police, thinking you had been harassed. 

Strangely, you think it would have hurt you less if she had just smacked you around some.

You sit on the edge of the pavement, watching happy and unhappy families mill on by, until your best friend pulls up beside you. She takes one look at your red nose and watery eyes before she has you in her arms, letting you cry your little heart out. She doesn't ask, not with words, but you are aware she wants to know. 

For the first time, you resolve to tell her. Maybe not everything, but you need to unload some of the weight pressing down on your chest, constricting your breathing.

She holds your hand the entire drive back to your apartment, reminding you constantly that despite how you might feel, you weren't alone.

You can't thank her enough for that.

Chapter Text

Once you get back to your apartment, you toss your phone in the garbage, knowing that it’s beyond salvaging. You endeavour to buy another soon, but for now, you are too raw from your emotional unravelling. Truthfully, you know Soohyun’s words hold little weight, not without confirmation from the boys, and you’ve promised them, and yourself, that you will trust them more in the future, despite their refusal to expose their truths to you. But, something she said stuck with you, like molasses. Maybe… maybe you have been subconsciously telling them that their vampirism was off-putting to them. And that… you have been making them feel as if you were somehow ashamed of them.

The thought leaves you despondent, in pain… physical and so sharp that it fills your eyes once more, tears spilling over uncontrollably.

Young-mi gets your blankets all bundled up in a burrito and finds your favourite pyjamas (your Dad’s shirt that Joonie wore that one evening and some fluffy socks) without issue. She knows the map of your mind better than you do sometimes, so finding your things was little problem. She mutters soft words of encouragement while the emergency movie flicks (Mulan, followed by Aladdin, topped off with Beauty and the Beast) play in the background. You listlessly mumble along to your favourite parts, hopelessly, of each song, tears spilling over and staining your shirt collar.

You’ve done this for her before, when she’s been overwhelmed with her strained relationship with her distant father, or when she broke up with her boyfriend in first year. Both of you were going through a rough break-up at the same time and found solace in each other… and Disney movies.

“It’s okay, sweetie. Cry it all out and we’ll talk after, if you want,” is all she murmurs into your hair, letting you stuff your face with her stash of snacks that she keeps in her secret drawers. “You’re safe and I love you.”

Once you’ve cried until your face is swollen and your eyes are practically the size of golf balls, she turns the volume down on your laptop and turns to you with burning eyes.

“I’m not going to step out of line and force you to tell me anything you don’t want to,” she says, softly, taking your hand with her own, knitting her thinner fingers with your own, skin rough on the knobs of her knuckles, palm side up, from years of gymnastics. “But, I can’t have him making you cry like this. You remember what happened with Mei and Hoseok, right? You remember how upset you were? That’s how I feel right now.”

“It wasn’t Taehyung,” you mutter, stuffily. You clear your throat and explain, “He didn’t show up.”

“So, he stood you up? You wouldn’t be crying so much over that, YN,” she says, sternly.

You shake your head. “They have a friend over.”

“A friend?”

“A girl,” you clarify. “She wasn’t exactly nice to me.”

“Did she do something to you? Because I have no problem dragging somebody off the back of this,” she says, seriously. Her jaw ticks in annoyance and she exhales through her nose, glaring at the ceiling. “I can’t believe Taehyung would set you up like that.”

“He didn’t know,” you defend, instantly.  “She pretended to be him and got me there.”

Her eyes widen slightly. “And then, what happened?”

“She just said some really mean things,” you tell her, staring unseeingly ahead, the conversation whirring at the forefront of your brain. “She told me that they didn’t really care about me, and that Taehyung was… he was lying to me about who he was. She showed me pictures.”

She cards her hand through your hair. “What kinds?”

“Of him, when he was younger,” you say, frowning at the memory. “He looked so different, so angry. I wouldn’t have known it was him if it weren’t for the look in his eyes. His eyes are the same.”

“So, because she knew him before he grew up, she, somehow, feels like she has the authority to speak on his feelings for you?” She says, quirking a brow, in challenge. She reminds you, constantly, why she is your best friend, with how rigidly she sticks by your side. “You know how stupid that sounds?”

You sniffle, trying to keep your tears from falling once more. Your eyes were too sore for that. “But-”

“I know what you’re going to say,” she says, shifting closer to you and squeezing your hands tightly. “That she knows him, and that you are the ‘new one’ around, so therefore she must know what is best for him. But that’s absolute bullshit. And you know it is.”

You can’t find the words to dispute her, without feeling as if you were simply kicking yourself when you are already down in the dumps.

“I don’t know what is it that you have got going with those boys, but I know something special when I see it,” she assures, warmly. She gives you a reassuring smile, bumping her nose with your own. “Those boys think the sun shines out of your pretty little ass, and I do too. You’re that something special. And there’s no way I’m going to let the words of some raggedy ex make you second guess that fact.”

You give her a watery smile, small but real, and turn her hand over in your own. “What about you? I’ve been awful to you recently. I don’t ask you about anything going on with you.”

Her eyes flutter wide, in surprise. “Oh, you noticed?”

“I noticed how pretty you’ve gotten,” you giggle, wetly. “And that always comes with good sex and good food.”

“Of both I’ve been getting in droves,” she jokes, her own smile turning shy, almost private.

“The girl from the party?” You suggest, with raised brows.

She flushes lightly, her ears burning at your playfulness, before she illuminates, “Her… and her boyfriend.”

“You’re in a poly-situationship?” You tap her on her shoulder, worries having been forgotten for the moment. “You should’ve told me!”

She giggles, falling over with the strength of how funny she finds your shock and awe. “It’s early days, I guess. When Jihyo – that’s her name – and I went home together that night, we had fun. A lot of it. All night, until the early hours of the morning. And when we woke up, she just… stayed over. You didn’t come home, so she didn’t need to go for a while, and we got to talking.”

“Where did her boyfriend come into things?” You prompt, crossing your legs and nudging your laptop down the bed. “That’s quite the development.”

She shrugs. “She got a call, and I felt super guilty, for helping her cheat. But, after talking to him on the phone, he explained that they have an open relationship.”

“How did that then turn into a three-way?”

“We went on a date,” she says, delicately. “It was a nice evening. We went for food and ice-cream afterwards. They invited me over, for wine and a movie, and next thing I knew, I was eating her out, with his fingers in my ass.”

You rear back in resolute surprise at her frankness before bursting into peals of laughter. “You are crazy.”

She pushes your shoulder, lightly. “Don’t act like you haven’t been just as naughty with those boys.”

“I haven’t had sex with them,” you mutter, somewhat begrudgingly. “I haven’t even kissed any of them.”

That throws her for a loop. “And, why the hell not?”

“I’m… scared,” you reply, softly. “Scared of what this whole thing might turn into.”

“A fun time,” she laughs, before sobering up. “Honestly, they’ve proven that they’re trustworthy enough. Taehyung obviously didn’t know about today. Give him a call, talk to him. Be honest for once.”

You feel your cheeks burn at her light chastising. “I know I should. I miss them. I miss talking to them and being around them.”

She purses her lips, deep in thought, before she suggests, “How about this… I take you there. We go there now, sort this once and for all.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” you mutter. “They told me not to go over until she left.”

“Fuck that girl,” she exclaims, throwing herself onto her back. “She doesn’t matter. You matter. They matter. Her opinions, her thoughts, her feelings – she is not important. They deserve to hear about what happened from you.”

“Do you think it would be a good idea?”

She nods, sitting back up and holding your hands once more. “I’ll even come up with you, if you want me to.”

“You’re such a good friend,” you tell her, leaning forward to kiss her forehead. “Tonight, it’s about us. Tomorrow, I’ll confront my problems with the boys. I want to hear all about how good the sex was.”

She gives you a long look, not happy with your momentary deflection, but understanding your need for respite. She curls up beside you and says, “Get ready for the most comprehensive and disgusting account of a sexual encounter you’ll ever hear in your life. It was nothing short of legendary.

/

“You were told to stay in the apartment,” Jimin tells Soohyun when he sees her walk in. He’s been sat at the dining room table for the last hour, waiting for their ‘guest’ to come home. He had a hunch that she would try to slither out of the house without supervision, for whatever reason – he doesn’t know. But, he wants to find out. “Now, if I were to tell Hoseok about this, he surely wouldn’t like it, would he?”

The ash-blonde rolls her eyes as she kicks out of her shoes, swapping them for a pair of slippers. “I don’t give a fuck about what that loser thinks of me.”

She crosses her arms over her chest and hovers by the table but doesn’t sit down yet. She surveys him, inquisitively – her default expression, according to Yoongi.

Jimin purses his lips for a moment, irked by her sharp-tongued words against his hyung. “I’m sure you don’t. You don’t like him, he doesn’t like you. That is a mutually understood fact.”

“You don’t like me much either,” she remarks, sliding gracefully into the seat opposite him. “Why are you talking to me, instead of just going to Hoseok? In fact, why aren’t the rest of them here already? I’m sure you’d like to get rid of me.”

“I don’t hate you,” he tells her. “I don’t know you, not like Yoongi or Taehyung. And I trust them. Yoongi-hyung has a soft spot for you, so out of respect for him, I haven’t tried to break your neck.”

He leans forward, eyeing her seriously. “But don’t push me.”

A soft scent catches his attention, strangely familiar, before she rears back and puts distance between them. She murmurs, intentionally teasing, “Careful… I bite, Jimin.”

“You’re not the only one,” he says, giving her a fang-filled smirk. “And I don’t let go until the body stops shaking.”

“Oh, you’re so scary,” she mocks, but he sees tentativeness bleed into her eyes. He’s stronger, and faster, than she is. The only thing she has on her side is her precognitive ability, and even then, if he pulls her eyes out first, she won’t be able to see anything anyway. “If you don’t mind, I’m a little tired. I’ll be in my room.”

“Jooheon is coming to get you tomorrow,” Jimin calls after her. She freezes for a moment, clearly listening. He traces his fingers along the seam of the table cloth, levels of irritation rising as he thinks of all the ways YN could be in trouble. He doesn’t think Soohyun is dangerous, but she isn’t of their cluster, and anybody not implicitly with him, in his eyes, is a threat. “Whatever you came here for, I suggest you give it up. You’re already in a lot of trouble as it is.”

“What happens in my cluster is none of your business, Park Jimin,” she hisses.

“It wouldn’t be, if you hadn’t gone AWOL and turned up outside our door like a lost puppy, wagging its pathetic tail, waiting for its master to come home,” he replies, gliding past her, shoulder bumping against hers in warning. “If Taehyung ghosting you all those years ago wasn’t message enough, I’ll be the one to tell you: you were a one-time fuck. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you, as a coven-mate, but all this soulmate talk makes you look crazy.”

She glares down at him – he loathes the fact that she’s taller than him, even if only by an inch or so – but he notes that her eyes look distinctly glossy. Gnashing her teeth together in warning, he smells the venom filling her mouth, and he rears back, brow simply quirking up.

“What’re you going to do? Spit on me?” He prompts, borderline mockingly. He would have her fangs before she had a chance, that much he was confident about. “How mature.”

She steps forward and growls, “Go fall on a stake, Jimin. And this time, make it stick. I hear that’s what you’re good at.”

And then she’s gone, slamming the door to her room shut so loud that it makes him wince. Images of a stormy night fill his vision, the scent of heavy rain and the threat of thunder and lightning fills his nose and he crouches down, pushing the heels of his hands into his eyes.

Enough, enough. You’re enough, he chants in his mind. You’re home, you’re safe. You’re loved. It wasn’t your fault, you deserve to live. Doctor Moon's calming voice echoes lightly in his subconscious. You made a mistake, but you aren’t defined by it.

After taking a calming breath, he sits up, head swimming with thoughts, flashing back and forth at dizzying speeds. He reaches into himself, searching blindly for the silky connection that always resides in the back of his mind, dipping into the cool waters and finding the first interlocked wire he can find. Each of them envisions their bond as something different, but to Jimin, it appears like a bundle of cables, all interconnected, and all glowing a dull colour, subconsciously associated with a different member of their cluster. Hoseok, he thinks, before he abandons the sunburnt orange connection. He’s too flighty, still too keyed up by Soohyun’s presence to really calm him. He pushes further in, brow puckering in concentration. Usually this process is as easy as breathing for him, but his momentary lapse in emotional distress has him discombobulated.

The connection that bubbles up feels foreign to him, and yet, distinctly familiar. It smells like… honey. YN.

She’s unhappy, even in her sleep. But, the calm that accompanies her unconscious state fills him completely. She’s been asleep for a while, and her dreams feel fluffy, but empty. He exhales, shakily, feeling the fatigue from his emotional rollercoaster settle in his bones, and he sits down on the floor, legs splayed out, unable to keep himself upright, latching onto the profound nothingness that emanates from YN’s pale peach cable.

Fuck,” he murmurs to himself. He needs to call Doctor Moon, quickly.

/

Taehyung hikes his backpack up on his shoulder, the weight of his art supplies pressing uncomfortably in his back. He’s spent more hours in his university’s art studio in the last day and some change than he probably had for the whole time he’s been taking the class. He checks his phone, absently scanning the scarce messages in their group chat, wondering idly how YN was doing and if she had eaten yet. In fact, he perks up at the idea of surprising his special lady with something warm and cheesy to eat, and moves a little faster to his car, hoping to see her pretty face and forget about the walking, talking ball and chain that has occupied his precious safe-space.

“Taehyungie!” He barely has time to brace himself before he has arms filled with Soohyun, her hair pinned back in a low bun, some strands escaping and framing her face charmingly. “You’ve been so bad, avoiding me like that.”

He startles at the weight of her in his arms, nearly dropping her on the floor but holding fast. She isn’t heavy at all, but he’s so taken aback by the way she caught him by surprise that he can only stare, wide-eyed at her. He stammers, surprise painting his every word, “S-Soohyun, what are you doing here?”

“Waiting for you, silly,” she replies, hopping daintily out of his arms but hooking her own long arms around his neck, staring up at him, a dreamy sheen to her dark eyes. “You took forever to come out, I thought I was going to catch a cold and die.”

“You can’t die from a common cold, Soohyun,” he remarks, unamused.

She rolls her eyes and pouts. “You’re no fun.”

“You should be at the house,” he tells her, heavy brows furrowing. “You shouldn’t be out alone.”

She scoffs, glaring at the floor. “You think I’m going to hurt somebody?”

“I don’t know,” he replies, honestly. “I just know that you were given an order by Namjoon and you’re acting in direct opposition to that.”

 “I wanted to see you,” she admits, softly. She reaches for his collar, smoothing down the lapel of his maple-brown coat. “You’ve been avoiding me.”

The two of them slide into his car, Soohyun taking in the sight and scent of the upholstered leather, the vanilla and pine air freshener at the front (Taehyung had bought it on a whim, just in case YN’s scent had become indistinguishable from the interior of the vehicle) and she settles comfortably in the chair, practically melting into it. She feels close to him in here, like she has entered a personal, warm bubble, surrounded by impressions of the man she holds near and dear to her heart.

Looking at him in the dim light, she thinks he has never looked more handsome. She isn’t fond of the blue hair, thinking it too immature, but combined with his white collared shirt and wide pants, cuffs and thighs stained with dried paints of all colours, he is a classic beauty; something eternal and somehow fleeting simultaneously.

“I didn’t know what to say,” he replies, simply. “You’ve put me in a really difficult position.”

“There’s nothing difficult about it,” she denies, sniffing. “You said you’d be there for me.”

“I told you that, as a friend,” he clarifies.

“After you took my virginity, Taehyung,” she cries.

He closes his eyes, letting some air out his nose. “Please don’t do this, Soohyun.”

She goes quiet, gnawing at her trembling lower lip as her eyes fill with angry tears. “So, what now? You and that human are going to play happy families while I’m left at the wayside?”

He perks up at that, eyes finding Soohyun’s – glowing silver and burning in enraged defiance. “How do you know about her?”

She scoffs, the sound bitter and wretched. “Wasn’t hard to find out. You and that slut were hardly being stealthy.”

The growl that rips from him is completely instinctual, that word bringing a haze of red into the field of his vision, and he has to steel himself to stop his body from reacting viscerally. “You say that again and I’ll have your tongue.”

She sneers, mocking him, daring him to follow through with his threats. “You touch me, I touch her.”

“You’re playing a dangerous game, Soohyun,” he warns. “If you think that being of my coven means that I will allow you to harm what is mine, I will show you just how wrong you are.”

She glares at him, jaw ticking in anger. “You haven’t marked her from what I could see. That flimsy scent-marking doesn’t count, Taehyung, and you know it.” She shifts in her seat to face him, and continues, voice raising with each word until she’s screaming at him, “You think your cluster is so intimidating? You’re nothing but babies, still suckling on your mothers’ teats compared to the High Court's cronies, and I’m sure they don’t know how wilful you’ve been with our secret. What do you think will happen, if I tell them you’ve broken the Accords?”

The air between them practically fizzes with rage, it vibrates around them, coating them in black resin and she practically feels her skin throbbing under the intensity of his glare.

“I’ll ignore this blatant threat,” he bites out, finally, eyes never leaving her own teary ones. “And save you the shame of telling Namjoon and the rest of my cluster about what you just implied, because if I did, you know the ripples wouldn’t just affect the two of us, but our whole coven. Your cluster would be excommunicated, Soohyun. There’s no way Namjoon’s own mother would cut ties with him, especially over someone as non-essential as you.”

He leaves her to ruminate over his words, letting them settle in the air. “Now, get out of my car. And if I see you, hear you, smell you, before Jooheon comes for you tomorrow, I’ll tear your fangs out myself.”

He turns from her, to glare out of the front-screen window, dismissing her completely.

It takes her a moment before she even takes a shuddering breath.

“I-”

He snarls, “Out, Soohyun!”

Scrambling out into the breezy night air, she practically falls over herself to get away from the vitriol in his voice.

He pulls off without a second’s thought, needing to get to YN, needing to touch her, to smell her, to hear her pulse in person. He needed to make sure that she was safe.

/

You barely have gotten out of the shower, hair still dripping wet and a towel secured around your chest, when an incessant and aggressive pounding on your door startles you in your room. Throwing on the nearest pair of sweats and a hoodie (Jin’s and Jimin’s, you note, idly, only having a few pieces of each of the boys’ clothes at your apartment), you rush out into the hallway and peek through the peep-hole to see the distorted image of a ruffled and frantically pacing Taehyung.

You pull open the door, surprise etched on your face, and he freezes, shell-shocked and face contorted in pain.

“Baby…”

“Taehyung, what’s wrong?” You murmur, softly. He tosses off his flat-cap as he hugs you tight, arm coming around your middle and he sweeps you off the floor, spinning you in a circle. Unable to stop yourself, you burrow your nose in the crook of his neck and inhale his heady and familiar scent.

“You need to talk to me,” you murmur into his skin, lips working against the warmed honeyed flesh. He practically shudders in your arms at the sensation of your mouth against his skin, and he wishes that he could be returning the favour. He wishes he could be tasting more than just your skin, fresh and soft from your shower. His gut burns with how much he wants to taste your essence. You prompt, lightly, “Honey?”

He hums, absently, as if in a daze. “Just wanna hold you.”

You ask, in a small but playful voice, “Can we do this in my room? I’m still, kind of, in the air.”

He smiles against you, you can feel his lips pull up in a small grin, and he sets you on your feet. When he looks at you again, his eyes are somewhat more settled, less manic and wild.

“Lead the way, jagiya,” he tells you, knitting your fingers together with his longer ones. You note that his fingers are stained with paint splotches, his nails having been caked with the rich pigments, and you wonder if he’s been busy at university for all this time.

“You haven’t been talking much in the chat,” he says, once the two of you are in bed. Clearly, he has no plans on leaving tonight, having shed his clothes and slid into bed with nothing but his boxers on. It had surprised you, and made your cheeks practically burn with how warm he felt, despite his skin being several shades cooler than yours. He had beckoned you close, needing skin-on-skin contact, pressing a kiss or two to your exposed shoulder, your cheeks, staring down at you as if you were something eternally special. “What happened?”

Your first instinct is to lie to him, but you recall Young-mi’s words – they deserve the truth. And that truth should come from you.

“I met Soohyun,” you say, quietly. He stiffens behind you, obviously not expecting you to speak her name. “We had… words.”

“Did she hurt you?”

You shake your head. “No, but my phone became a casualty of war.”

He relaxes, minutely, at your denial. “Good… Good. Well, not good. But, I’m glad she- you know, she didn’t hurt you. I don’t know what I would’ve done if she had hurt a hair on your pretty head.”

“She did say some things to me,” you say, cautiously, playing with the sheet in front of you. “Things about you… And, I guess I want some clarification.”

After a moment of deliberation, he nods, seeming to have come to a conclusion with himself. “Tell me what she said.”

“She showed me pictures of you, when you were a kid. She said that the you that I know isn’t real.”

He purses his lips slightly, expression contemplative. “She’s partially right. She doesn’t know this me, not really. I got help after I went through something really… traumatic, and the me that you know is the result of that. It’s still me, just… older. More mature.”

“Do you… Do you want to tell me about what happened?” Your tone is light, but undoubtedly hopeful. “I… She said that I was making you feel like you had to hide yourself from me… and I don’t want that… at all, Taehyungie.”

His brow puckers at the trembling in your voice. “Don’t cry, baby. Please? It feels like you’re ripping my heart out whenever you do. It hurts.”

“I won’t,” you reply, sniffing and blinking away the wetness in your orbs.

He presses a kiss to your cheek before settling into your pillows, staring at you, love shining clearly in his shiny, brown eyes. “I’ll tell you, because you deserve to know. You’re one of the most important people in my life and hiding things from you isn’t what I want to do. Not anymore. Namjoon said that it’s okay for us to be honest with you, even about the… not so good stuff. But, please. Don’t interrupt until I’m done. I don’t like talking about it for longer than I need to, even though Doctor Moon says it’s good to do it.”

“Doctor Moon?”

He nods, seemingly lost in his own memories, voice subdued, and eyes dimmed, even in the dull light from your yellow-tinged lamp. He explains, softly, trailing concentric circles on your wrist with his thumb, “Our coven therapist and resident brain. She works with me, Jin-hyung, Yoongi-hyung and Jimin, quite closely. The other boys have had conversations with her, but the four of us… she knows everything about us – the good, the bad and the really ugly.”

Chapter Text

*flash back*

“Kim Taehyung!”

He turns, hand freezing halfway to his mouth, an unlit cigarette between his thin, charcoal-stained fingers. “Yes?”

“Is that a cigarette in your hand?” It’s his class president, he remembers, vaguely. He has barely been going to class this last semester, but he recalls the other student’s stuffy expression, his too-tight tie and his perfectly tied shoes. Boring.

“Well, it isn’t a pen,” he replies, putting it between his lips and patting his pockets to find his trusty lighter. He always keeps it on his person, a gift from Yoongi-hyung that he doesn’t like to part with. One of the few that the older boy had given him. When he finds it, he lights the end and takes a long drag, keeping his eyes on the boy, challenging him to say, or do, something. “Clearly.”

“Enough lip,” he chastises him, pushing his circular glasses up his nose. His hair is cut neat, perfectly to the school’s regulations, clashing with Taehyung’s mop of dark curls that he has left to hang in front of his eyes. “Give me your ID card. I’m giving you a sanction.”

“Do what you want,” he replies, tossing his ID towards the other student. The boy scrambles for it, nearly dropping it to the floor, before he straightens out, clearing his throat, embarrassed. Taehyung tacks on, quirking a brow slightly, “I don’t use it anymore anyway.”

He just wants to be alone, he needs the other boy to leave now, but he just won't go away. Taehyung feels his palms grow damp but he fights to keep his expression neutral, his default expression when he feels his anxiety rise like a ball of fire in his throat.

The boy pauses as he writes up his student ID number in his pocket notebook – fucking loser – and he asks, voice painted with curiosity, “Why bother coming to school if you aren’t going to turn up to classes?”

He asks, eyes narrowing slightly as he observes the other boy, “You want the truth, or are you just being nosey?”

The other boy sniffs, offended. “I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want the truth.”

Taehyung can hear the lie in his voice, he’s just like everyone else who have come to stare at the Kim family fuck up. Scoffing, he turns his eyes out to the open wide space, noting that despite the sky being a pretty powder blue, he hasn’t felt much other than grey for as long as he can remember.

“This is the only place I can get away from people like you,” Taehyung says, so used to lying that it has become second nature to him. He gives the other boring boy a smirk and mutters, “If you don’t mind, I was about to finish this,” he gestures to the cigarette, “Then, have a nap. Unless you feel like joining me, I suggest you be on your way.”

The class president pauses, surveying Taehyung’s striking side-profile, before he leaves, a strange but heavy weight in his stomach. He doesn’t know why but the sight of the boy makes him uncomfortable – sad, even.

Taehyung groans as he tugs his too-tight tie a little looser as he shuffles into his class. He doesn’t recognise the change in the seating plan, nor does he recognise the posters on the walls. He’s missed enough class that he’s lost as to where he’s supposed to go, and he only vaguely recognises his classmates from the start of the year.

He hates it already. He would much rather be on the roof, with nothing but air separating himself from the sky above him. Alone.

“There’s a spare seat at the front,” a voice calls from his right. He glances over, surprised that anyone is talking to him, considering the negativity associated with his name. He misses Yoongi-hyung; the only person who doesn't judge him for his unkept appearance, for his abysmal grades, or for his gangly way of existing. A woman, dressed in dark clothes with her soft brown hair pinned back, watches him just as intently. “I’ve heard about you, Kim Taehyung.”

He ducks his head slightly. “You’re the new teacher, I’m assuming.”

She nods, daintily, twisting her body to face him. He notices that she has on an anklet – and in retrospect, he wonders if she did it on purpose, to make him focus on the swell of her calf trailing up into her skirt – and wonders how she got away with that, being a teacher and all. She’s not supposed to wear excessive jewellery, or too much makeup, but she’s pretty. Pretty enough to not need it, apparently.

“That I am,” she replies, smile widening slightly. “Call me Ms Choi.”

He learns later, but not that much later, that she prefers he call her Daehee.

It starts small, with lingering looks and touches that rest for a beat too long on his shoulder. She somehow always finds him in the library, leaving a book recommendation once or twice, with a little note scrawled inside, telling him to enjoy himself. When he carries his notepad filled with doodles to class, she asks to look inside, but that’s like looking directly into his head, and he doesn’t want that – he wants to keep that to himself – but somehow, she ends up inside it, her nose practically pressed to the charcoal, eyes wide and compliments a plenty. He doesn’t think much of it, being a kid, but looking back – the signs were all there.

She was an older woman, and attractive, and he was a little boy.

He didn’t have a choice, he figures out.

When she kissed him the first time, it was in his safe space, on the roof. She pressed him into the wall and held him there, her eyes on him like a hunter would its prey. At the time, he thought it was lustful, but some part of him – the predator in him – recognised her intention and fought against it. His instincts would always be on edge, but to his immature mind, he thought it was fiery attraction. The reason why his body would never relax around her wasn’t because she was a threat, but because she was hot, he had reasoned.

She tells him that they are meant to be, that they are written in the stars, and it doesn’t take long for him to fall hard and fast.

When she takes his virginity, he’s fourteen and she’s old enough to be his mother. He cries, during, and after, because he thinks he’s in love. He doesn’t have the control he does nearly a decade later, and shifts while he’s inside of her, fangs dropping mere inches from her face. She doesn’t look scared, she doesn’t smell it either, but he can’t really distinguish between the sweat and her heavy perfume that makes his head spin. She kisses him through the tears and holds him close, whispering softly cooed words of comfort. He thinks, though, that he hears amusement in her tone, chiding and sharp.

The sound haunts his nightmares for years afterwards.

When they are done, and he’s sweating and sticky and entirely exhausted, she curls around him and asks questions. Nothing too invasive, nothing that sets off any alarms in his head – stupid, stupid – but he answers, too tired and too comfortable to do anything but be honest with the love of his young life. She would card her fingers, painted red and sharp, through his hair and murmur soft words into his ear, watching as his chest would rise and fall languidly, drifting into unconsciousness.

How long can you live? For as long as we want.

Are you immortal? Practically.

Can anything hurt you? Silver… fire. Beheading… Another vampire’s venom.

Do you want to feed on me? I never want to hurt you, I couldn’t. I’d rather die.

Do you love me? More than anything.

Would you die for me? In an instant.

He can’t believe it, honestly, how easily he became a pawn to her. She moved him to her will and he let himself be moved, as if he had nothing to his name – no pride, no shame. He fought for her, with his family. Of course, they couldn’t know who she was, she was older and even though she loved him, she could get into trouble, and he didn’t want that, did he? She would ask with the sweetest expression, eyes wide and glittery, and he would do anything to keep her smiling, even fight with his mothers over her. It almost became second nature to him to do everything to please her.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Mom,” Taehyung shouts, eyes blazing with righteous anger. Daehee was waiting for him to sneak out, but his pregnant mother was standing in the way of the door, distended belly hidden by her frumpy nightgown and slippers swaddling her swollen ankles. Normally, Taehyung would have felt bad about having her out of her bed at three in the morning, but Daehee was waiting and he needed to go now. “You can’t stop me from leaving this house!”

“I can do whatever I need to, to keep you from disappearing at all hours of the night,” she huffs, crossing her arms over her chest, brow quirking as if daring him to respond. “As long as you are living under my roof, you need to follow my rules. Up those stairs, right now, young man.”

His other mother, his Mama, pokes her head around the corner, long brown hair tied back in a bun, sleepily observing the scene unfolding. “Tiger, it’s time for bed. You know you aren’t supposed to be leaving the house this late.”

“I just-” He snaps his mouth closed, remembering how dark Daehee’s expression gets whenever he brings up exposing their relationship. He sees how his Moms get to be all lovey-dovey out in the open, and he wants that. Some people judge them when they introduce each other as ‘my wife’ and not ‘my friend’, or when Mama tells people the pronouns she prefers, but they don’t care. They don’t pay any mind to the naysayers, only those who show them love. And he wants that.

He knows they look weird together; he’s immature and young, but he loves her, and he should be able to show that.

“What, Tiger? Talk to us,” Mama says, approaching him and putting a hand on his shoulder.

Instantly, he shrugs her off, nearly shoving away from her and stomping up the stairs. “It doesn’t matter! You don’t care about me anymore, anyways!”

“Don’t say that, Taehyung,” his Mom says, sadly.

“Why?” He stops, turning on his heel and glaring at her. Daehee’s words about his mother’s waning attention spring to mind, turning his vision red. “Since you got pregnant, it’s all you can talk about! You don’t care! I hate you!”

He scampers up the stairs, slamming his door behind him and letting out a frustrated yell into the air, punching his closet door, leaving a dent in the metal.

When his mind clears enough for him to grab his phone, he sends Daehee a message, telling him he can’t leave, and that he’s sorry, he’s so, so sorry for disappointing her.

Whatever. I don’t know why I expected you to make me happy.

His heart aches over her words.

I’m sorry, please don’t be mad. I’ll try again. I can meet you extra early tomorrow.

No need. Bye.

Daehee…

She doesn’t reply, and he can’t sleep.

He can never sleep if she’s mad at him.

He finds himself getting less and less sleep every day that goes by.

“Taehyung, have you been losing weight?”

Yoongi’s question has Taehyung glancing up, over his math homework. His vision had been swimming for the last hour, unable to concentrate on anything since Daehee had sent him a scathing text, bemoaning the fact that he agreed to hang out with Yoongi, if only for the afternoon because he hadn’t seen him for the last few weeks. Actually, he tries to recall the last time he had seen his hyung, and he can’t bring it to mind.

“I don’t think so,” he replies, listlessly. “Maybe I have been eating less… Exam stress.”

He isn’t really lying, so his pulse doesn’t wane too much. Still, Yoongi’s feline eyes seem to narrow in suspicion.

“How is your Mom doing? My Dads saw her when they went for lunch,” Yoongi murmurs, voice gentle as always. “They made plans to go to the main house over the winter break. Are you coming?”

His stomach drops out at his words, having completely forgotten about their family tradition of emigrating to the main house in Ilsan for half of the winter break, meeting up with his potential cluster-mates (he already knows he’s Pledging to Namjoon, but he has to wait until he turns eighteen before he can start the official proceedings) and goofing off. His blood runs cold over how he is supposed to tell Daehee about it, considering how off she has been acting towards him these last few days.

“I, uh… I guess so.”

“You guess so?” Yoongi echoes. “You’re always the most excited to go and see the boys, especially Jimin. What’s with the change?”

“No reason,” he replies, but his pulse jerks and his eyes widen fractionally.

Yoongi noticed, he sees near enough everything, especially the nervous ticks of Taehyung, someone who he considers important and irreplaceable in his life, but he doesn’t say anything. He wishes Taehyung felt comfortable with him to express his feelings, but he wants to give him space to do so. Looking back, his complacence is something that Yoongi regrets so deeply that it keeps him up at night, choking on his tears, sometimes.

“Fine,” he replies, glancing back down at his statistics papers. “Well, let me know.”

“Okay, hyung.”

His mouth goes dry when he feels his phone vibrate in his back pocket, jolting him back to reality.

His maths papers go untouched for the rest of the ‘study’ session, and he disappears off to find Daehee at the first opportunity, needing to see her, needing her approval to make the weighty guilt disappear from his chest.

It all comes to a head when he gets a message from Daehee to meet at their spot – a little hideaway in a field where they usually met up to have sex under the moonlight, he supposes it was romantic at the time – and he is practically skipping there, riding on the back of his bicycle, pumping his legs faster and faster, heart pounding in excitement. It’s early evening, with the sun slowly have descended behind the trees and the moon’s glow breaking up the inky blanket overhead, and he feels at peace, having finally been taken off ‘punishment’. She's talking to him again, which means she isn't mad anymore, and maybe she'll let him kiss her again. He doesn't think he's felt her lips for nearly a week and he's going crazy inside with guilt.

It’s only when he breaches the city line that he notices a shift in his bones.

That sensation practically stops him in his tracks, stumbling over the pedals and raising his head to the sky. He recognises it as his bond response to sensing emotion from his biological cluster.

Fighting through the haze that had slowly coated his bonds like sticky syrup, he has to actually try and distinguish who the different strings belong to. Before he never had an issue, it was second nature for him to read his family, but now… he feels ashamed for having caused the distance between his mothers and himself.

He whispers, voice carrying listlessly on the passing wind, “Mom…”

White-hot fear that doesn’t belong to him slashes through his bones, and he spins on his heel before he even thinks about it, umping his legs so fast that he’s almost scared that he is going to pull a muscle in his thigh. When he gets to his house, he is covered in sweat, patches of damp soaking through his sweatshirt and staining the material, and his hair is stuck up in random places from the punishing winds.

He shoves open the door, the sound reverberating through the dark corridor, and he scents tears. The smell makes his panic rise to heights he had never experienced before.

“Mom!”

“In here, lover boy,” a sultry voice calls, and he feels sick to his stomach at how familiar he is with the way their tongue curls around the words. “Hurry, hurry.”

He stumbles into the living room, chest heaving, to see his mother on her knees, bump exposed to the air, and he feels his stomach drop to the floor.

His attention rises from his mother to the woman behind her, and he feels his throat close up. “Daehee…”

His teacher, his girlfriend, smirks, adjusting the gun pressed against the back of his mother’s head slightly, to get more comfortable in his sofa. She sing-songs, “Yes, handsome?”

He feels his legs tremble as he notices Ma on her back, knocked unconscious, blood seeping from her temple, staining her collar a dark red. He gulps, tears stinging his eyes instantly, not comprehending the scene before him, “What are you doing?”

“Me? Nothing,” she mutters, lightly, carding a hand through his Mom’s hair, making the vampire twitch and close her eyes, more tears spilling over to stain her cheeks. She has something pressed into her mouth, keeping her jaw agape, and he recognises it as some dirty socks, probably grabbed out of the laundry basket in the kitchen. She asks, mockingly, “Why? Does it look like I’m doing something?”

“Put the gun down, okay? We can talk about this,” he says, softly, stretching his arm out, palm-up. "Give it to me, please?"

She tuts, shifting the gun ever so slightly, and it sends a jolt of fear through him once more. More tears escape his mother’s brown eyes and he feels nauseous at the sight. Her hands are bound behind her, and all he wants is to protect her and his little sister inside of her belly.

“You don’t have to do this,” he whispers. He doesn’t understand what is going on; he knows what he can see, what he can smell, but his brain can’t make sense of it. This has to be some kind of sick nightmare. “Baby, you don’t have to do this.”

She purses her lips, humming contemplatively. “See, that’s where you’re wrong, handsome. I do have to do this… And, well… I want to.”

His mother cries harder around the cloth forced between her teeth.

“My mother has done nothing wrong,” he hisses, hurt painting his every word.

“She has done everything wrong,” she replies, voice raising ever so slightly in her anger, before she controls herself. She takes a calming breath, before she spits out, venomously, “All of you make me sick.

He blinks, lost.

She gestures to your mother’s sensitive bump, and her movement makes Taehyung jerk forward slightly, wanting to defend and protect his cluster, even if the one causing them pain is the woman who he thought he would spend the rest of his life with. “Vampires having babies… And yet people like me, humans like me, can’t? What a fucking joke.”

She ducks down to whisper in his mother’s ear, tone mocking and filled with spite. “You see, while you were gestating this monster, I was with your little boy, turning him into a man. It was exhausting, listening to him moan and whine about how hurt and alone he felt, but I had to do it. I had to gain his trust, if only so I could figure out how to end you.”

“Daehee, get away from her,” Taehyung yells, tears finally leaking over. “I’ll do anything, so please, please, I’m begging you, let her go.”

“You’ve done enough begging, don’t you think, Taehyung?” She asks, quirking a brow at him before she moves to stand. She addresses his mother, spitefully. “He certainly likes to beg.

He feels his cheeks burn in shame, but he doesn’t see any judgement in his mother’s eyes – only blazing anger and fear. He stares at her, blinking the sweat out of his eyes as his mouth moves to form words that never rise out of his throat.

Daehee swaggers over towards his Mama, pushing her head back and watching as her neck lolls, lifelessly, from side to side. He would have thought she was dead with how lax her body was, if not for the sound of her thready breaths.

“It was awfully easy to knock this one out,” she mutters, and it seems as if she’s disappointed that it wasn’t more of a challenge. “I’ll kill it after she watches me cut the abomination out of her stomach.”

Taehyung can’t breathe – he can’t get enough air into his lungs. He’s panicking, he’s sweating, he feels his stomach roll and he almost empties his guts all over the floor in front of himself, swallowing the bile that rises in his throat.

She walks back towards his mother, watching him, a distant look in her eye. “Be a dear and take a seat, Taehyung. Don’t make me shoot you in the leg.” She raises the gun and shakes it, teasingly. “Bullets made of pure silver, soaked in vampire venom just in case.”

His legs give out and he drops to his knees, putting both hands together and he begs, tears streaming relentlessly. “D-Daehee, p-please, I-I… I love you.”

She freezes, stare twisting meanly, before she lets out the loudest and most animated laugh he has ever heard come from her. She laughs so loud and so hard that she has to sit down, to catch her breath.

“You… love me? Don’t make me sick,” she snarls, showing her teeth. In that moment, he doesn't know who looks more like the monster. “You don’t know me… You can’t actually think that any of this was… real, can you?”

He hiccups, snot dripping down his chin, intermingling with his salty and bitter tears. “I-”

“Shut up, Taehyung,” she snaps. “I’ve listened to you whine for nearly a year, and frankly, I’m sick to death of it. You do nothing but moan about things that I truly, truly couldn’t care less about. In fact, every time you so much as touched me, I thought about doing this – about blowing your mother’s head off, about gutting her like a fish… It was the only way I could get through it, honestly.”

And, her pulse never wanes. She wasn't lying, she hated him. She hated him. She hated him, and she was going to hurt his mother. Mother- Mom. Mommy? He needed to save her, he needed to- No, D-Daehee. He loved her, didn't he? He can't- He can't think, his thoughts were practically fighting in his skull, reverberating around his brain like a windstorm. The ringing in his ears intensifies and he goes dizzy, swinging, helplessly, from side to side, before it all fades away.

Honestly, if you ask him what happened after that, he won’t be able to tell you. He remembers a knife being drawn – the light overhead ricocheting of the silver blade nearly blinding him, and he remembers the smell of blood… his mother’s blood.

After that, it’s black.

He comes to later, and he feels… distorted, like his body isn’t fitting, or like his skin is stretched too tight over his bones. His ears are still ringing loudly, as if a bomb had gone off right beside his ears and he can’t concentrate on anything, observing his surroundings with a blank expression.

Everything is black, bathed in darkness from the night sky outside, and there is glass shattered all over the floor. He reaches out to touch it, absently, trying to bring himself further into consciousness, but all he ends up doing is cutting into his skin, the glass biting into his flesh and drawing blood. More blood.

He follows the splatter down his arm, across his chest, and he tastes it in his mouth, bitter and dark. It usually doesn’t taste like this – blood is sweet, most of the time, and sometimes a little creamy in texture. But this… he spits on the floor and a mound of flesh falls from between his jaw. He doesn’t remember eating anything, but there, in front of him, is sinewy, pinkish skin, ravaged by his teeth and spurting blood. He wonders, idly, if he stares at it long enough, it'll start to talk back to him, and explain how things went so wrong, so fast.

“T-hyung…”

He follows the echoey sound to catch his mother’s open-eyed expression, and she drops to her knees. Her hair is a mess, he thinks, but she's alive. Her face is splattered with arterial spray, and her eyes are a molten silver, but he supposes that so are his own, a natural response to emotional arousal amongst his kind. His subconscious spits the word out, and he has to take a breath because he has never thought of his people as anything other than special. Now, that emotion is tainted with vitriol, and he wonders if it is his own.

“T-hyung… can… hear me?”

He blinks at her, trying to make out her words by reading her cracked lips, but he can't concentrate for that long.

“Tiger… hear… look at me…”

He lets out a shuddery breath and tries to move his hands, but they lay weakly at his sides, limp and useless.

“Relax, Tiger… It’s okay. She’s gone… She’s gone.”

He sees his Mama put a hand on his shoulder, but he can’t feel it, his body is cold inside. She shakes him, jostling his line of sight slightly, but he doesn’t respond, sitting catatonic, in a pool of blood.

He doesn’t even cry; not when the supernatural police arrive, not when the ambulance takes his mother away to survey her injuries, not when he is taken outside and Yoongi-hyung is waiting for him, cheeks wet and still dressed in his pyjamas. He can’t cry, he doesn’t feel much of anything.

Well, that’s a lie, isn’t it?

He does feel something.

They wheel her body out after the police deem the scene cordoned off, and when he locks eyes on her mutilated and practically broken corpse, he does feel a distant bubbling of something in his chest.

He feels… grief.

Chapter Text

Dr Moon calls it PTSD.

He calls it dealing with the consequences of his fuck-ups.

He can’t go back to school. The scandal, while controlled, thanks to the involvement of the High Court and his coven's prestige, was big enough to have some blow-back in his educational life. The rumour mill was driving him crazy, the sounds of the whispers grating at his ears, so much that he had to clap his hands over his ears just to block out the noise. He can’t go to the roof, the whole area had been corrupted, poisoned, destroyed beyond recognition, so he finds a little cubby hole at the back of campus. It smells, and it’s gross – he can’t touch anything with his hands without feeling grubby all over – but he can smoke and draw, and that’s enough for him.

His pictures, though, are so dark and chilling that he can’t bear to show them to anyone. He runs his hand across the empty page until he gets the images of ruptured and bloody skin, ribbons of welted and mangled flesh and glassy, unseeing eyes out of his head and immortalised on paper.

Taehyung makes quick work of the pages, burning them after he’s done straining his wrist until he is surrounded by broken and chipped wedges of charcoal. He smokes to get rid of the scent of burning wood from his sensitive nose, overwhelming his delicate senses until his eyes sting and water. He doesn’t cry though, he hasn’t been able to get the tears to come out. He feels the panic, the rage, the fear, the pain, but nothing comes out.

Moving schools isn’t much of a big deal for him. He would have preferred to take a year out, but his Mom wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted him to have a normal life. Normal, he scoffs. There’s nothing normal about him anymore. He’s the antithesis of normal, of regular, of sane. Ever since he met her, the poison had been spreading, slowly but purposefully, until it infected his every cell.

He can’t think of her name anymore, he can’t even smell her perfume, the same one he used to feel clog his very pores and stick to his clothes like molasses. He burned all the clothes she touched one night, manic with fury and pain and agony, and nearly set the yard on fire. But his mothers understood his trauma, or they tried, at least.

They moved to a different house soon after. Too many memories. For himself, and for them. He forgets, sometimes, that he isn’t the only one who suffered – is suffering.

Bug was born early – the doctors say it was stress from the attack, and she was a healthy 6 pounds 5 ounces. She smiled at him when she first laid eyes on him. He didn’t smile back, he couldn’t.

He can’t see through the fog of his own depression, he can’t breathe past the thick smoke filling his lungs to open his eyes to the way the blowback nearly ruined his parents’ marriage.

They ended up going to couple’s therapy, after Bug was born. He hears them arguing at night, in the early hours of the morning when they think he’s asleep (he can’t sleep anymore, not properly anyway). They slept in different rooms for months, with Ma shuffling from the living room to their bedroom before the sun fully rose, in an attempt to hide the truth from him. Bug is too small to notice that her Moms aren't touching each other, and every look seems to be imbued with hidden yet intense meaning. Taehyung isn't though. He sees it all, and it makes him sick.

Instead of drowning in his misery in his room, he goes for walks around their new garden, touching the pricks of the rose bushes that Ma keeps herself occupied with while she recuperated from the injury to her shoulder (she had torn her rotator cuff when she roughly tied her hands during her submission, shredding the muscle in her arm). He watches as the blood wells to the surface, and, absently, as the wound heals over before it even registers as pain in his head. The scent of his own blood sickens him. He does it repeatedly, one thought ringing loudly through his head – you should have died with her.

He doesn’t know where the thought came from, but it sits with him and grows inside of him, like a cancer.

He hates himself for it, for missing her. For wanting to see her smile again, because he thought he had found himself in the way her eyes would crinkle at the sides and the way her teeth would poke out. For wanting to hear her laugh, because he swears he could have sown the sound into the stars and the night sky would never look more beautiful. For wanting to feel her skin on his, because he never failed to ground himself in her, and he craves that feeling of being settled again.

He hates himself even more when the boys show up.

Yoongi doesn’t leave his side for days after, waking up beside him, seeing Taehyung awake and staring serenely at the ceiling above his head, as if he isn’t quite there. He tries to hug him, but he flinches so viscerally that the older boy can only stare, wide-eyed, at the shell of the boy he once knew, cowering away from him.

Namjoon turns up the day after the next, and he has clearly been crying his eyes out during the trip over. He tries to be strong, but he’s only sixteen and one of his was hurt right under his nose, and he knows he shouldn’t make it about him, but he couldn’t handle losing one of his brothers. He would break into pieces.

Jimin and Jungkook are next, and as the baby of the group, he’s practically inconsolable. He hugs Taehyung, ignoring the strong sickly scent of cigarette smoke that clings to the older boy’s clothes and buries his head in his chest (it was when he was still small enough to be held, rather than being the one doing the holding), ignoring how stiff Taehyung is, how rigid his back goes, and how quickly he rips himself away from him once he lets him go. Jimin doesn’t say a word for days, he just holds him tight and cries silently, inconsolably, over what could have been lost.

A cavernous ringing sounds in Taehyung’s head every time one of his brothers comes to see him, a never-ending ringing that makes him feel as if he’s listening to someone run their nails along chalkboards.

Hoseok is the last to turn up, with Jin in tow, and the two older members can only stare at the hollow of the boy they remember. His eyes were dead, he was practically swaying on his feet, physically present but to anyone with eyes, it was clear as day that he wasn’t with them.

Conversations went on over his head, but he may as well have been underwater, drowning in the waves of black that crash over his head.

He shaves his head in the dead of night, staring at the razor in his hand, breaking it apart before he sets about shearing his hair until he can no longer feel the ghost of her fingers running along his scalp. His Mom thinks he was trying to hurt himself, but really, there isn’t anything left of him to hurt.

She forces him to see Dr Moon four times a week after that.

He doesn’t talk much about anything, although she’s nice enough about it. She never seems annoyed, but he can’t trust anything he sees anymore, can he? He was so easily tricked, and he’s supposed to be better than humans – smarter, stronger, faster. But, feelings got in the way of that. The best thing for him, the only way for him to live, is if he stops feeling.

So, he switches it off.

She starts him on a trial of medication, but he doesn’t take it, thinking that he deserves to suffer. He crushes the little white pills until they turn to dust – a kind of ritual that he gets into the habit of – and ignores the ringing in his head until it turns to whispers he can manage.

With each pill he wastes, he thinks that maybe one day he might be brave enough to join Daehee and save his parents the shame of having a son as broken as he is.

It takes him a while before he can be nude in front of anyone. Actually, even alone, he can’t really look at himself without seeing her fingers on the soft grooves of his body. But, in front of anyone else, it is a strict no-go.

He doesn’t ever want to be touched.

It starts with when his Mom tries to kiss his forehead and he moves away, ever so slightly, to avoid the press of her lips against his skin. He tries to apologise, not because he feels bad, but because he notices how her eyes twitch at the sides. She’s sad.

Whenever any of the boys try to hold his hand, or touch his shoulder, or even rest themselves against him, he edges away, curling deeper in on himself, further isolating himself from their love. He can’t stomach it, is all.

Ma tries to make him hold Bug, to bond or whatever, but he can’t look at her, at those trusting, big brown eyes that look at him with such innocent wonderment and know that she almost died before she even had a chance because of his stupidity.

That changes one night, though. Mom and Ma are out, and he’s the only one left in the house. Dr Moon had suggested the idea, of them doing couple’s date nights once in a while to revitalise their relationship, and giving Taehyung some more responsibility in the house, to allow the boy to begin to trust himself and his judgements.

He hates it. Fuck, he hates it so much, being alone with her. Because she cries for him, she whines for him, she reaches a chubby hand out into the air and wiggles around, just wanting to be held and loved. At first, he ignores her. He stays close by, just in case something happens, but he ignores her cries for him. Ma stares at him, disappointed but not surprised, when she realises that he had done that. Then, when he realises that ignoring her doesn’t make the tears stop, he sits beside her. Still, he can’t touch her, but seeing him seems to have her more excited than scared and alone.

One night, though, it’s storming outside, and she seems so freaked out that he’s worried she’s going to cry herself sick. He can’t stand the sound anymore, so he offers her a finger, which she latches onto and sucks on immediately. The feeling of her gummy and wet mouth on his fingertip makes his stomach twist strangely, and he realises belated that the size of his hand is bigger than her whole torso.

He could crush her into dust, if he wanted to.

The dark thought enters his mind before he can stop it and he rips himself away from her, chest heaving.

“How have your brother-sister dates been going?” Dr Moon asks, lightly, skin fair with her circular glasses perched at the end of her nose. Her eyes are kind and her demeanour has always been non-threatening – she reminds him of a field mouse. “Have you and Soomi connected more than you had in our last session?”

The metronome ticks in the background, quiet, but the sound pricks at his consciousness, and he can’t concentrate. The room feels too sterile, too many sharp corners and not enough comfort. He supposes it’s necessary to maintain a feeling of professionalism, but fuck, what he wouldn’t give for a colourful pillowcase to break up the monotony.

“Not much,” he mutters, picking at his fingers. “I almost killed her.”

She stops writing instantly, eyeing him over her glasses. “And by that you mean what, exactly?”

He lets out a breath. “I thought about how easy it would be to hurt her.”

“Did you want to?”

He shakes his head, vehemently. “Of course not!”

She writes something out quickly, brow ticking in curiosity. “Then why did you say you almost killed her?”

“I- I can’t be trusted around her.”

She lets out a small breath, not in frustration, and she smells just as serene as she always does. “We have discussed how what happened was not your fault, right, Taehyung? The responsibility does not lie with you.”

He scoffs, but nods his head, not accepting her words but being sick of hearing them. “Yeah, whatever, Doc.”

She sits back, resigned, twisting the pen between her short fingers. “Have you thought about holding her? About kissing her? She’s almost four months old, correct?”

“She’ll be four months tomorrow,” he tells her, throat constricting. “Mom wants to throw a party for her, to celebrate her or some shit.”

She tilts her head to the side slightly. “You don’t like that idea?”

“I think Mom can do what she likes with her,” he replies, tone curt. “She’s her kid.”

“And she’s your sister.”

His lips thin. “She deserves someone better than me. They all do.”

She shakes her head, slightly. “You don’t realise how special you are, Taehyung. Truly.”

He ignores her words, in favour of staring out of the window, at the rainy, wet city below.

“I think you should trust yourself a little more with her,” she tells him, fairly. “You should try and hold her once. Maybe then you’ll feel like the older brother that you are.”

He takes her advice one evening, although unwittingly.

Bug is inconsolable, crying her little eyes out, screaming the entire house down because she has Colic. Mom tried everything, holding her a certain way, rocking her from side to side, feeling her warmed milk to ease the pain in her tummy, but nothing seems to stick. Ma tries to sing to her, tries to give her kisses, tries to rub her belly but she only cries and cries and cries, until Taehyung feels as if he’s going to tear his eyes out.

He storms into her room, eyes ablaze with frustration, and stares down at her hysterical form.

“Come here,” he murmurs, softly, before he scoops her up and holds her belly-down over his knees. He kisses behind her ears and wipes her tears as he rubs her back in soothing motions, simultaneously moving his knees in a controlled away to keep her from choking and from being smothered. “It’s okay, it’s okay. Big brother’s here, it’ll be okay.”

He doesn’t notice his mothers peeking around the door to her room, and watching him comfort her, with tears in their eyes.

She babbles, hysterically, for a moment, before scrunching up her face adorably and letting out the longest and loudest wind that he’s ever heard come from someone her size. His eyes widen in surprise, before the two of them begin to giggle together – the first laugh he’s let out in months. He adjusts her when he thinks she’s finished, sitting her upright and cradling her head against his shoulders.

“You’re so gross,” he mutters, catching the smell of her skin and her baby shampoo. He thinks he might become obsessed with how she smells, so soft and delicate. He massages her scalp, fine black hair sticking up all over, before he pulls her away from where she’s drooling onto his clothes.

“I’m so sorry, Bug,” he murmurs, pressing his nose against her flatter and smaller one. The stinging is back, and he feels overwhelmed, like he can’t control the wave welling up inside of him. He tries to cut it off, but it fizzes in his chest, and he has to put her down because his hands are shaking too much. His knees give out beside her crib and he holds the bars with waning strength as he gasps for air. “I’m so sorry. You’re so precious and so special and I love you so much, and I’m so sorry.

“It’s okay, Tiger,” he hears from beside him, his Mom, and she’s kissing his hairline and holding him close. “You’ll be okay. We’re here. Mommy’s here.”

He can’t stop the crying now. The tears are falling out of him, they are practically being ripped from his eyes at this point and he can’t get enough air into his burning throat and lungs.

After his emotional breakdown, things don’t get better, but they do feel different.

He goes to his sessions with Dr Moon and talks with Yoongi more. He calls Jimin back and plays his videogames with Jungkook. Jin and Hoseok videocall him and send him short videos of them doing whatever they were doing to occupy their days. Namjoon still feels a heavy degree of responsibility towards Taehyung and does everything in his power to alleviate that guilt – even when his actions aren’t necessary.

“Hyung, I’ve told you already, I’m feeling fine,” Taehyung murmurs into his phone, stretching his legs out on the roof’s perch by his window. He stares up at the moon overhead and prays to Gods he doesn’t believe in for Namjoon to get the picture. “I’m going to my sessions, I’m taking my meds and I’m telling you, I’m fine.

He’s lying through his teeth, of course, but talking about it doesn’t do anything but remind him of how not-fine he is.

“I know you said that, Taehyungie,” he replies, and the younger boy can imagine him frowning. “But, still. I want you to know that I’m here, that we’re all here for you.”

“Hyung,” he begins, but lets out a breath. “Look, I get it. I’m the broken one. You feel like you need to fix me, because you feel guilty, but I’m telling you, it’s a wasted emotion.”

“You’re in my cluster, Taehyung,” Namjoon replies, quietly.

“I was going to be,” he corrects, bleakly.

Namjoon is quiet for a moment, but when he answers, his voice is shaky, almost watery. “And now?”

“I’m,” Taehyung exhales. “I’m no good, Joonie.”

“Don’t say that, Taehyung,” Namjoon exclaims. “You’re so good, you’re the best of us all.”

“I’m not! I’m bad for you, I’m bad for the cluster. I don’t… I don’t deserve it,” he answers, rubbing his hands through his hair. He licks his lips before he discloses, almost inaudibly, “I’m leaving the coven as soon as I can.”

He cries, completely side-swiped by the younger’s words, “Taehyung…”

“Don’t try to convince me to stay,” he answers, firmly, but he feels his gut twist nastily at the bitter way the words feel on his tongue. “You won’t be able to. I’m sorry, hyung. But, I’m not going to change my mind.”

He ends the call and throws the house phone back into the window, unable to bear having it close by.

He spends the rest of the night, smoking and trying to count the number of stars in the sky before they disappear as the moon gives way to the sun.

He isn’t an off-the-rails as before, but he still hates school and can’t take adults telling him what to do, worse still when it’s a woman that he doesn’t know, so he skips a lot. They put it down to the trauma, but he can tell the difference. He’s smart, but not school-smart, you know, and seeing those D’s, E’s and F’s just make him feel shittier than before.

Soohyun comes in there.

She feels like a buoy in the middle of a storm.

He finds her in the woods that he has been frequenting, playing with her Nintendo and cursing up a storm over losing another game of Mario. He vaguely recognises her scent first, her looks later, because she appears different. Long gone are her chubby cheeks and freckles. Instead, she has kohl-lined eyes and black chipped polish on her nails.

She observes him, head to toe, before she lets out a judgemental little ‘hm’ and goes back to her game.

“You’re in my spot,” he says.

She snorts before she replies, scornfully, “Where’s your name?”

He scoffs, jabbing his finger at the base of the trunk she is sitting on. “Right there. T-A-E-H-Y-U-N-G. Can’t you read?”

“How about this instead,” she replies, glaring up at him, chin hutting up. “Suck. My. Ass.”

He rears back, brow raising slightly before he clicks his fingers and says, “You’re Yoongi’s friend, right?”

She echoes, mockingly, “You’re Yoongi’s tag-along, right?”

“You’ve got a shitty attitude,” he mutters, taking a seat on the floor.

She half-shrugs. “Don’t like it? Fuck off.”

“I didn’t say that,” he replies, lightly. “Can I draw you?”

“That sounds perverted,” she replies, eyeing him cautiously. “This isn’t a sex thing, is it?”

“I want to draw you, not fuck you,” he replies, too busy setting up his papers and pulling out his tin of chipped charcoal. “You aren’t my type.”

“You prefer them older, right?”

He freezes at the blasé tone of her voice.

She can smell the change in his scent instantly, and she frowns, strangely apologetic. “Sorry, my Mom always tells me I’ve got no tact.”

He shrugs. “It’s fine.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“No, it isn’t,” he agrees, and they don’t say another word to each other.

He draws her prettily, the first living model that he has had for months. His well of inspiration had been running dry, and he’s been getting sick and tired of drawing the same traumatic and gory scene for months.

“Was that you?” She says, gesturing to the charred trashcan off to the side, a bundle of ash at the bottom.

He nods, tearing the page out of his book and handing it over to her. She makes a noise of interest as she surveys the work, before she remarks, jeeringly, “So, you’re a pyro?”

“What’s that?”

“Someone who gets off on burning shit down,” she replies. “My sister used to do that.”

“I don’t get off on it,” he says, indifferently. “I just burn the pages after I draw the pictures.”

She hasn’t looked away from the picture, strangely enamoured, as she enquires, “Why?”

“I don’t like keeping them,” he replies, opening his palm, waiting for her to give it back. “I make it, then I destroy it.”

Her brow puckers. “Are you going to burn this?”

“Yes.”

“Like Hell you will,” she snaps, holding it defensively to her chest. “It’s mine.”

“I drew it,” he tells her, not understanding. “I can do what I want with it.”

“It’s my face, you can’t burn my face,” she says, hotly. “It’s… offensive. Just look at it – it’s perfect!”

“Have it,” he scoffs, rolling his eyes. “I don’t really care what you do with it.”

“If I was a lesser woman, I might be insulted by how easy that was,” she mutters, begrudgingly.

“If I were a different man, I might care,” he answers, brow ticking up in amusement.

“Will you be here tomorrow?”

“Probably,” he replies, gathering his belongings.

She goes quiet for a moment. “Good. I will too. See you tomorrow, Taehyung.”

“I guess so,” he answers, without glancing back.

These forest meetings go on for weeks, and he honestly grows to like the ritual of it. He skips school, jumping the gates and meeting Soohyun in the forest, and the two of them just… escape together.

She explains her family life, mentioning her older sister briefly, and he can tell their relationship isn’t great. She loves her sister, but she also resents her, a lot. He, in turn, discusses his past. Of course, he doesn’t go into detail about why his life is so fucked up, he still can’t do it, but she seems to already know. He supposes news of a vampire who almost gets his parents killed and flayed by a notorious supernatural hunter because he was too busy getting in between her legs would get around pretty fast.

He realises why she doesn’t like her sister one evening.

They’re laughing about something stupid, he can’t even remember what is was, but one minute Soohyun is shoving his shoulder, the next she’s on the floor besides their janky barely-there fire and having a seizure.

He panics, of course, because what the fuck is going on, but vaguely remembers the first aid presentations that they had to watch in health class. He gets her into the recovery position and makes a pillow out of his school blazer, making sure she wasn’t throwing up.

Neither of them have phones on their person, so he can’t do anything but wait until the seizures are over.

“What… was that?”

She sits up, hair littered with leaves and dirt, dry mud smeared across her chin and cheeks, mixed in with tears.

“I… I get these visions,” she says, voice thick and croaky. She clears her throat and sniffs, scrubbing a hand across her face in frustration. He tuts at her and uses his sleeve to do it for her. “I can’t control when it happens, only that when it does, I have to wait it out.”

“You see the future?”

She scoffs. “Nothing that fun. I get impressions of the future. Think of the concept of the future like the surface of the ocean, and I’m a rain drop colliding with that surface. The waves that ripple across after the collision are the visions that I see. One decision can bring about a hundred different variations of ‘the future’. There’s no one thing that I see, it’s a thousand different ghosts all funnelling into my brain at one time.”

His eyes widen at the magnitude of her power. He knew it was difficult, having seen Hoseok deal with the repercussions of using his own ability of memory manipulation, but he hasn’t ever heard of anyone else’s power having such an adverse effect.

“If I weren’t a vampire, I would be dead from the sheer force of it,” she finishes, expressionlessly. She shifts to look at Taehyung and notes the shock on his face, and snorts. “No need to look so upset, Tiger.”

“Don’t call me that,” he grumbles, sitting back on his haunches. “Are you okay?”

She nods, giving him a small smile. “I’ll be fine. Do you have any water?”

He shakes his head. “Sorry.”

“Absolutely useless,” she teases. “My sister got those too.”

He perks up then, blinking at her. “She did? How did she stop them? Can’t you just do whatever she did?”

She goes quiet, staring at him but it feels as if she's looking through him. It's unnerving, to say the least. “I could, couldn’t I?”

He frowns, not following the almost mocking way she is staring in his direction.

She exhales, shakily, before staring up at the greying clouds overhead. “She couldn’t take it anymore, so after a series of really bad visions, she blew the back of her head out all over our bathroom floor with a silver-plated gun that my Dad had in his office.”

Jesus…”

Soohyun finishes, with a small smirk, “Mary and Joseph.”

“Don’t joke about that,” he chastises.

“If I don’t joke about it, I won’t ever stop screaming,” she admits, lightly. “She didn't even leave a note. She just... Pew." She makes the gesture of the back of her head exploding with her fingers, squelching noises coming from her throat. "Gone, just like that. She died a few years ago, so it’s easier to talk about. Why don’t you remember her? Yoongi does.”

“You and Yoongi-hyung are two years older than me. I would have been too young to ever really talk to her,” he explains. “We’re in the same coven, but we’ve all subconsciously chosen our clusters. We don’t get to socialise like they used to in the past.”

She nods in understanding. Her eyes don’t leave his face, observing his features in strange fondness. “I wish I would have met you before… Maybe I wouldn’t have been such a fuck up if I had someone like you in my life.”

“You aren’t a fuck up, Soohyun,” he tells her, softly.

“My sister was, and so am I,” she replies, indignantly. “She had those pictures forced into her head until she couldn’t take it and killed herself. I hear my Dad talk about how I’m going to lose my mind one day and kill myself too.”

Taehyung sniffs, huffily. “Your Dad’s an asshole.”

She giggles. “He is, right!”

He grows serious then, staring at her intently before he says, “Soohyun, you aren’t your sister. You aren’t anybody but Soohyun. And that should be more than enough. For them, and for you too.”

Soohyun and Taehyung end up using his room as a meeting point once the weather starts to get worse, and they can’t be out in the forest without them both getting soaked to the bone. His Mom doesn’t have a problem with it, just happy that her baby boy is socialising with someone, but she does ask that the door is open.

The implication alone is annoying, because Taehyung hasn’t even thought of her in a sexual way, not even once.

Which is why when she asks him, he doesn’t quite know what to say.

His eyes are as wide as saucers as he asks, mouth full of pizza, “You want me to, what, exactly?”

She repeats, casually, “Take my virginity.”

“Yeah, yeah, I heard that, but I… I’m not understanding why.

“Because you’re the only person who I feel safe with,” she explains, cautiously.

“I’m… I’m not in a good place for all that, Soohyun.”

“I’m not asking for a relationship,” she says, softly, holding his hand over his sheets. He wants to pull away, but the look in her eyes keeps him pinned in place. “I’m just asking for you to make my first time… safe.”

“I know what it’s like to have your first time not mean anything,” he admits, quietly. “Nobody wants to look back and regret it.”

“I won’t,” she exclaims. “I know I won’t.”

“I… I’m not comfortable doing that for you, Soohyun,” he murmurs, pulling away and giving her a firm look. These were his boundaries and she should respect that, he doesn’t like having to reaffirm his boundaries. “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to.”

She lets out a soft sigh, curling in on herself. “You aren’t attracted to me?”

“It’s not that,” he says, although he isn’t. He isn’t attracted to anybody anymore. “I just… I have a problem with being intimate with other people.”

“Since D-”

“Don’t say her name,” he snaps, before he exhales, sharply. “I don’t like hearing her name.”

“But it was her, right? That did this to you?”

He nods, staring down at the floor, feeling more and more pathetic as the seconds tick by.

She enquires, reaching for him once more, “Why don’t you take it back?”

He asks, frowning, “Take what back?”

“Take back your freedom,” she says. “You don’t like being touched because your memories of being intimate have been tainted by your experiences with her.”

He scowls in distaste. “You just want to get into my pants.”

“I do not,” she grumbles as she nudges at him. “It’s a suggestion.”

“A bad one,” he snorts, turning back to his pizza slice. Soohyun feeds him some of her veggie supreme but he doesn’t like the onions, so he only takes a bite or two. He can’t say her proposal wasn’t circling in his head. “Let’s say we did this… You know that after, nothing could happen between us, right?”

She nods, somewhat subdued, a little nervous. “I wouldn’t expect anything now.”

Her pulse is thready, but he thinks it’s because she’s nervous. He doesn’t think it’s because she’s lying.

“Good,” he replies, taking a long sip of his Sprite. He lets out a long sigh, before he claims, “Fine. Look. We can do this, one time and one time only. We don’t let feelings get involved after, and we both use this to our advantage.”

She nods, sitting up and sucking the grease off her thumb. “No strings attached, one time only. Got it.”

“Not today,” he says, letting out a little chuckle at her eagerness. “One day, soon. I stink of pizza and my sheets aren’t clean. I want to make your first time at least somewhat sanitary.”

She giggles, softly, before she nods, and settles back on his pillows, playing with her long hair. “Thank you, Taehyung. Really. Thank you, so much.”

It ends up being much more normal than he thought.

He doesn’t break down, he doesn’t cry, he doesn’t even flinch too much when she touches him in places he hasn’t been touched in nearly a year at that point. At 16, he’s taking Soohyun's virginity and holding her as she wriggles under him.

They don’t kiss - he doesn’t like it - but he does wipe away her few tears of discomfort that slip out when he first enters her. She’s older, but he has more experience – whatever that means – and while he doesn’t finish, she does and it’s a far better situation than the last time.

He feels more in control, and she isn’t wrong.

He does feel better afterwards.

Sex isn’t scary, it isn’t disgusting, it isn’t something for him to run away from.

But, it also isn’t something to take advantage of. Nobody deserves to feel how he felt when he realised she had lied to him. So, while she sleeps in his bed, and he stays awake (because he always is), holding Bug close to his chest, he promises himself that he won’t do what was done to him to anyone else.

He might be weak, he might be an embarrassment, he might be a fuck up, but he isn’t an abuser.

He is a good person, despite what happened to him.

He is a good person and he deserves to be loved and cared for.

He’s good and he’ll continue to be good, even during the days he doesn’t feel good.

He kisses the crown on Bug’s head and she sniffles in her sleep, gripping his collarbone in her meaty fist, sucking on his skin for comfort.

“I’ll be good for you,” he whispers into her soft hair. "I'll be good for you and for all of them and I won't let you down. Not again."

Chapter Text

You can’t see through the tears. Or, well, you wouldn’t be able to, if it weren’t for the fact that your face is pressed so tightly into Taehyung’s bare back that you can’t breathe in anything but him. He had turned away from you, mid-story, unable to bear seeing your face as the words spilled from his lips, but he couldn’t part from you once he had started talking. He couldn’t smell any shame or embarrassment on you as you listened, horrified but alert, on the edge of your seat, rigid with terror and pain, and with love and silent encouragement in his time of need. He clung to your scent like a baby clutching his mother’s hem, and he felt himself fall into the shallow but warm waters of your encouragement, finding in them the courage to push forward with the unearthing of his trauma.

He can feel your tears on his back, the rivulets staining the bed sheets and pillow below you both, and it’s like you can’t stop sobbing. It feels as if each breath you push out is being ripped from you. Taehyung can’t look at you, his own sobs making it hard for him to keep steady, focusing on choking down the bile in his throat at the reminder of his origin. He never wanted to show you this side of him, the fragility of his past, the ink splotches on his history, but you deserved to know. You asked to see all of him, and you got it – dark, unfiltered, unflinching. And you were openly and earnestly weeping for him.

Taehyung learned that it wasn’t wrong to cry, it wasn’t shameful, and it didn’t show weakness. If anything, allowing himself the time to be sad and experience his sadness fully and without constraints was the strongest thing he could ever do.

He holds your hands, wrapped tightly and firmly around his torso, resting above his pounding heart, and the two of you rock together in the darkness.

“I love you so much,” you murmur, softly, brokenly, painfilled and earnest. It tumbles out of you without restraint, spilling like water from a dam. You have felt it in you for a long time, more than just the friendship, more than just a passing attraction, but an earnest, honest adoration for the man you are barely holding together in your hands that the mere thought of keeping it to yourself is almost offensive. He deserves to know. You need him to know. “I love you, Taehyung. You’re so strong, and so loved and I love you.”

He nods, finally able to look at you, shifting to face your flushed and messy face, and god, he hasn’t felt such a burst of light in his chest since his alignment ceremony with Namjoon and his brothers all those years ago. He knew it before, he could smell it on you a mile off, but to have those words run over him like water – there’s no other feeling like it. He feels a piece of him fit into place that had been just slightly off, bothering him like a bug bite deep in the folds of his brain, too deep for his fingers to relieve. Now, it feels as if he is truly, totally complete.

He feels the bond with his brothers, the one they all share, light up like an Aurora, and as best he can, he pushes her acceptance to them – she’s ours, she’s ours, she’s finally ours.

“I love you too, YN,” he replies, brokenly, ducking into your neck and sniffing deeply, taking in the soft and warm tones of your natural scent, letting the notes rest on his tongue, spreading like honey across his palate. Even if you don’t mean it in the way he wants, he lets the grounding feeling rise from his gut and wrap him up in cotton. “I love you more than I can say.”

You sit in silence, the two of you catching your breath and finding solace in one another.

“I never would have known you went through something like that,” you admit, softly. “You don’t seem as if you were someone affected by something as… traumatic as that.”

You think back to all the times where he was your umbrella; he shielded you from the rain bludgeoning down on your head. He helped you out of the pits with nothing but a smile and the promise of better, brighter days, and the guarantee that he would simply just be there. There weren’t any flashing lights, there wasn’t ever any fanfare – he just held out his hand for you and waited until you were ready.

You would be damned if you didn’t do the same thing for him when he needed you the most.

He lets out a wet snort, wiping his tears on his shoulder. “Nobody does. It’s not exactly the sexiest of topics.”

You pat his chest in chastisement, unable to keep a small, but sad, smile on your face. “I’m being serious.”

“So am I,” he jokes, eyes crinkling in the corners as his smile widens until it is boxy and brighter than the stars in the sky. His cheeks are wet, but his smile is real, and you nuzzle his nose with your own. “I never want to be defined by what happened to me. It’s something that I grew from, and something that is important, but it’s isn’t all I am, and to let it be the only thing I ever talk about doesn’t help me.”

“Well, then, thank you for opening up to me,” you reply, pushing some of his hair behind his ears. It was getting a little long in the front, but you loved it. He looked like even more of a prince than usual. “And thank you for letting me be here for you, even if I wasn’t doing anything but cry.”

He brushes your tears from your cheeks, marvelling at the brightness of your smile, despite the morbidity of their origin. “I don’t expect you to be anything more than you are. You do everything you need to… you fulfil a specific role in my life, as a cornerstone of my support system and one of my best friends.”

Your heart twitches at the label, wishing he would have said something more. It seems, for a moment, that there was something else he wanted to say, but kept it to himself, swallowing them down like bitter poison.

Instead, you take the lead, knowing that while you wanted him – them – to admit his – their – feelings, you were just as equal in terms of the blame-game for how the situation was turning out.

“Can I hold you?” You ask, feeling the need to have his heavy weight resting on your chest. You both shift quietly, leaving you laying on your back with your arms wound around his neck tightly. The two of you breathe in tandem, and he rests his palms on the swell of your hips, wanting to have you just as close.

The position you were both in looked sensual, but there wasn’t even a breath of intent between you.

He pulls back, if only to look at you, pushing a few strands of your hair from your face, before he gives you a grim smile. “I don’t want my past to make you feel sorry for me, I didn’t tell you for that.”

You shake your head. “I know that. I know that you probably would have never told me if you could have kept it to yourself, which would have been your right. I just… meeting Soohyun today left me at a loss. I felt like there were parts of you that I wouldn’t… couldn’t ever reach.”

“Because you’re human?”

You nod. “I don’t begrudge what you are.”

He shudders slightly against you, but his expression sharpens, momentarily. “Say it,” he commands, voice low. “I’m a vampire, YN. We’re all vampires.”

You avoid his eyes, feeling small but still safe, protected, in the cage of his arms. “I know that.”

He replies, softly, carefully, “But, it scares you, right?”

“The not-knowing scares me,” you admit, after a long moment of deliberation. “I only have comics and movies to go off, and I’m a scaredy-cat.”

He presses his nose against yours. “Our silly girl.”

“Tell me about what it means to be one of you,” you plead, catching his eye and giving him an imploring stare. “It’s the only way I’ll ever learn… the only way I’ll ever know.”

“You’re right about that,” he mutters. “But, not tonight.”

You open your mouth to protest, but he hushes you with a small kiss to your nose and a purposeful squeeze to the thigh. “It’s incredibly late and I’m exhausted. Physically, and emotionally. If I’m tired, then you are too, and that isn’t the way I want to have this conversation – not something so important.”

Unable to deny his words, you huff before snuggling into your own bedsheets, permeated by your combined scent.

He hooks himself around you, using you like a buoy in the middle of a storm, wrapped up so tightly in you that he has never felt safer. Yes… you make him feel safe.

...

The next morning, he wakes up beside you, and it’s the best feeling in the world. He feels good, as if a hulking, disgusting weight has been lifted off his shoulders and he can finally feel the breath entering his starved lungs. The first breath he takes is filled with notes of you, of your room, of your detergent, of your sweat, of your body’s natural aroma – it tingles from the tips of his toes to the follicles in his scalp. He feels hot all over, and almost sticky.

He hasn’t felt this out of sorts since his first feed, honestly.

“Morning, honey,” you mutter, eyes still closed, but your hands are reaching out for him, all grabby-hands and adorable. “C’mere, miss you.”

He snorts, closing the already imperceptible gap and wrapping himself around you. “Good morning, my love.”

Your ears burn with how gooey inside his words make you feel. Mushy, you think. Whimsical and playful but filled to the brim with sincerity.

“I don’t feel like leaving this bed,” he admits, playing with the ends of your hair. “I don’t feel like leaving your side ever again.”

“It’s a good thing you won’t ever have to,” you reply, grinning into his skin. “Unfortunately, I am the human and my tummy waits for no man… or, uh, vampire.”

He snorts, but sits up, eyes glittering excitedly. How he looks so good at such an early hour, you will never know. It’s almost as if the sun itself cast her light against his honey-toned skin at just the right angle to make each of his features stand out to be as striking as possible.

“I suppose that means I have to fill you up,” he replies, before realising the implication of his words, and he stutters, shyly, “With food… I mean.”

You pull your knees up, playing with your chipped nail polish, awkwardly. “I know that.”

He clears his throat, rubbing the back of his head, further messing up his bed hair. “Right… What do you want to eat? I make a mean scrambled eggs. And… Well, that’s about it, honestly.”

You snort. “Yoongi told me that you were more Picasso than you were Wolfgang Puck,” you tease, pushing at him with the tip of your big toe. He catches your foot and pretends to bite at it, before letting the sole of your foot rest against his diaphragm. You can feel his heart pounding dully under the pad of your foot and in that moment, he hasn’t ever felt more alive to you.

Distractedly, he traces some distorted shapes against the knob of your ankle as he murmurs, softly, “Jagi… You promise this won’t change, right? You won’t look at me weird, like I’m going to break into a million pieces?”

Letting your foot fall soundlessly onto your bed, you reach for his cheek, tracing his defined jaw and resting your fingers beside his ear. “I look at you like you are the bravest man I’ve ever met,” you murmur. “You face everyday with this smile that lights up my whole world. I won’t treat you as if you were a victim, Taehyung, because, to me, to everyone who matters, you aren’t one.”

He lets out a breath that had held his shoulders taut and looks at you, his gentle smile returning.

“Good,” he says, sliding off the bed. “You got a shirt I can wear?”

Without thinking, you flirt, “Why would I ruin a perfectly good view with a shirt?”

He freezes, eyes dramatically wide at your overture and moves to cover his nipples, playfully. “Honey…

You giggle and move to stand, retrieving a large and clean shirt from your chest of drawers. You turn back to see him spreading your sheets, taking care of the corners and lining up the pillows at the perfect centre position.

You cock your head to the side in silent question.

“Outside of my art, I don’t like… disorder,” he explains. “Dr Moon says that if I start the day in an orderly way, I can maintain that feeling whenever I’m in a panicked state. With my art, I can be as messy as I can’t be in my real life.”

You nod, understandingly. “That makes a lot of sense.”

He shrugs as you hand him the shirt, sitting down on the edge of the bed to put it on.

His lips turn up as he takes a quick sniff. “It smells like… dude.”

He doesn’t sound happy at all.

“It’s my Dad’s,” you clarify with a chuckle. “No need to be jealous.”

The frown slides off his face as he tugs it on, reaching for you and pinching your hips, playfully, pulling you flush against his chest. “You’ve gotten awfully cheeky recently. I think I’ll have to do something about that.”

You giggle, uncontrollably, at the sensation of him plucking at your squishiest and most sensitive parts, but his grip is unyielding. “Stop, stop, okay. I’m sorry!”

He lets himself be a little mean, holding you firmly to his chest as he tickles you, watching your face turn a delightful shade of red. “Alright, alright, let’s get some food in you and we can finish the conversation from last night.”

You freeze then, looking down at him with bright eyes, before you ask, “Can we postpone the conversation?”

“Why?”

“I think we should discuss this with everyone, don’t you?”

He ruminates over your words, briefly, before he nods. “You’re right. It’s best if we get together as a group. Everyone should weigh in on the subject, considering it affects us all.”

“I want to talk with Soohyun, too,” you tell him, once you are both in the kitchen and he is beating a bunch of eggs in a bowl until they are frothy and yellow.

He freezes, instantly, the lines of his back taut and visible through the aged and loose fabric of your Dad’s shirt, and he replies, glancing at you over his shoulder, “Honey…”

“I just- I want to talk with her, on an even playing field,” you explain. “I don’t mean to hold what happened yesterday over hear head, because I… I can understand her a little bit more after hearing your story. She saw you at your most vulnerable, she helped you in her own unique way, and that… I have to thank her for.”

“You don’t owe her for being a decent person,” he says, lightly, but he seems more receptive to your idea. “But, fine. I don’t mind if you two talk, but I have to be around. We all have to be there.”

“You don’t trust her?”

“Not with you,” he replies, simply. “Never with you.”

He drops the eggs into the sizzling pan and shifts the cooking egg around until it was clumping together in well-seasoned nuggets. You take this time to just watch him shuffle around your small kitchenette, clumsily handling the pan and spatula, breaking the eggs into smaller than necessary pieces. But, he does it all with such grace and an air of fun that you can’t help but laugh along with him.

“Eat up,” he commands, pressing a kiss to your cheek as he puts a plate in front of you. He takes a larger bowl for himself and sits opposite you at your tiny kitchen table. He observes you as you eat, chewing happily on the only meal he could cook for himself. “I don’t feel as bad as I thought I would, after telling you.”

You glance up, mouth protruding with chewed up eggs, and he bursts out laughing at how cute you are. “How do you feel?”

He takes a second to check in with himself. “I feel… settled, does that make sense?”

“Those are your feelings, they always make sense to you,” you tell him, fairly.

He snorts. “You sound just like Dr Moon. It’s uncanny.”

“I’d like to meet her one day,” you giggle, reaching for his hand, stroking along his neat and smooth nails. “Maybe she might give me some insight as to why I’m the way I am.”

“Delightfully adorable and irresistibly charming?”

You roll your eyes at his cheesiness but feel yourself heat up all over. “I have a question.”

“What about, jagiya?”

You push your eggs around the plate, suddenly shy. “Soohyun said something yesterday about… about feeding.”

He clears his throat, pulling his hand away and avoiding your eyes, but after a second of deliberation, he says, “Go on.”

“She said that you wouldn’t be able to help but feed on me,” you explain, quietly. “If you… If you were really as attached to me as you say. It felt like there was a bunch she didn’t say, so rather than filling in the blanks with my lacking knowledge, I thought it best if I just asked.”

He freezes once more, licking his lips subconsciously, before he clarifies, “Vampires don’t kill, not purposefully, at least. Since we started to properly integrate into the world with the intention of co-existing with humankind, we try to avoid killing as a general rule – it brings too much attention because it can get, uh, messy.

You barely hide the shudder, but he notices, steeling himself. “It’s okay to be freaked out, YN. It’s our reality, but you’ve just been exposed to the fact that there are much bigger and scarier things in the world than just humans. It’s okay to be scared.”

You exhale, nodding, and, satisfied, he continues, “While we don’t kill, we do actively feed. We have donors, we have blood-banks, we have all kinds of things in place that mean we can feed happily and comfortably without being exposed to the rest of the world. Soohyun is of the mindset that human-vampire relationships should only extend to that of a donor-feeder kind.”

“And you?”

“I love you,” he replies, without a second’s pause.

You choke on your juice, surprised at his candour.

“Soohyun isn’t entirely wrong about the dangers of human-vampire relationships,” he explains. “There’s always the threat of going too far, and humans are so delicate… so breakable. But that comes with experience… with confidence… with trust. Do you trust me?”

You don’t even hesitate before you nod. “Completely.”

“I could feed on you,” he says, with a minute shrug. “But I won’t.”

“Why?”

He raises a brow, surprised by the scent of frustration that wafts off you at his denial. Interesting.

“I don’t want to sully the moment,” he says, smirking to himself. “It might make you feel… uncomfortable.”

You reach for his hand once more, squeezing slightly, and you plead, brows furrowing, “Tell me, Tae.”

“When I feed on you for the first time, it’ll be because you’re so lost in your own head that you don’t know up from down,” he says, finally, stabbing his eggs with meaning. “Your insides will be on fire and you won’t be able to do anything but take what I give you.”

Heat slashes through you like a white-hot knife, your core clenching around nothing, and you can practically hear your blood pulsing past your ears, deafeningly loud. He holds your gaze for a long moment, dark and intense, before he exhales and looks down at his bowl, releasing you from his enchanting hold. “But, like I said, that comes later.”

Taehyung…”

“Don’t,” he warns with a half-smirk. “We haven’t had ‘the talk’ yet.”

“But…”

“You’re horny,” he jokes, pulling back and it feels as if you can breathe easier. You can only imagine what it must feel like to be the recipient of his attention, in bed, alone. “You smell…” he takes a deep breath, and you feel so embarrassed that you clench your thighs tighter. “Captivating.”

“Stop sniffing me,” you complain, cheeks burning. “Yoongi promised he wouldn’t.”

He grins, widely. “That was Yoongi-hyung. Not me. You smell too good to stop. Especially like this.”

“I’ll never get used to compliments like that,” you mutter, moving your attention from the cheeky artist back to your food, filling your mouth to stop you from cursing him out for stirring you up and leaving you suspended and frustrated.

The drive to the apartment was quick, and Taehyung doesn’t let go of your hand the entire time, playing with your fingers as the two of you sing along to the playlist of love songs that Yoongi had composed for Taehyung’s birthday mere months ago. You wave at the concierge who has steadily become less frost towards you as he realised your presence was more stubborn than he had first assumed and you both take the elevator together. You squeeze his hand in both of yours, transferring your nervousness and anxiety through touch and letting him absorb it. He is confident in you, in his feelings for you, in their feelings for you, but he cannot help but ruminate over Soohyun’s threats from the night before. If it came down to it, he would have no problem taking her out, damn the consequences. His cluster – his family – is too important for that.

“Ladies first,” he charms, pushing open the door and letting you in first.

“Honey?” Jimin pokes his head out first, cheek-splitting grin spreading across his face when he spots your face. “Baby! I’ve missed you.”

His hug takes you off the floor, spinning you slightly in a circle, before he sets you down and presses a kiss to your forehead. He punches Taehyung’s shoulder in greeting before he grabs your hand. “Namjoon isn’t going to be happy that you brought her here. You-know-who is in the guest room.”

“I know about Soohyun,” you say, simply. Jimin freezes, glancing from you to Taehyung, then over his shoulder towards where you assume Soohyun’s room is. He puts two-and-two together, and a deadly expression takes over his face. It’s as if your cherub-like sweetheart never existed, and in his place stood a stony-faced killer – he seems so distant, so cold, that you can’t hold back the flinch.

“As happy as I am to see you, YN, I want Taehyung to take you home,” Jimin says, voice as cold as ice. “I need to have a conversation with our house guest.”

Taehyung murmurs, “Jimin…”

“I warned her, Taehyung,” he says, simply. “She couldn’t behave, so now she has to face the consequences. And you were incredibly irresponsible for bringing YN here. I can’t believe you would do that.”

“I don’t like you guys talking over my head, as if I’m not here,” you tell him, squeezing his hand in displeasure. “I wanted to come and see Soohyun myself. I asked Taehyung to bring me.”

Jimin casts a curious look your way, releasing some of the tension in his thrumming jaw, and he asks, after a moment, “Why would you do that?”

“Because I want to talk to her,” you reply, giving him a private smile that you hope errs on the side of sweet and persuasive. “I want to talk to all of you, about us. It’s about time that I got some answers, don’t you think?”

“Namjoon said-”

“As much as I love that big oaf, he doesn’t get to make these decisions for me anymore,” you say, letting go of his hand and moving into the living room. “I’m assuming everyone can hear me.” You pause, and Taehyung nods slightly after taking a second to take note of the heartbeats in the house. “Can everyone come to the living room, please?”

“They’re coming,” Jimin says, moving to take his spot on the floor. “I hope you know what doors you are opening up, YN. It’s harder to close them once they’ve been yanked open.”

Jungkook is the first out, dressed in his pyjamas and messy hair. He kisses your head and drops onto the sofa, practically falling back to sleep. Yoongi is next, fully dressed and uncharacteristically alert, despite the early hour. He probably hadn’t slept the night before. Namjoon appears after, avoiding your eyes and holding his Ryan plushie to his chest. He looks tiny, despite taking up the most space. You try to give him a reassuring smile, but he doesn’t catch it, making you frown slightly. Maybe he thinks you’re mad at him. Hoseok strolls in, chest puffed up in what looks like pride, and drops right beside you, hooking himself around you and pressing lingering kisses to your temple.

“I’ve missed you, pretty girl,” he says into your hair. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever. My brothers are being awfully selfish with your time.”

“I’ve been busy,” you tease, jabbing him in his ribs when his fingers wander a little too low for your liking. “Hands.”

“Can’t help it,” he replies, rubbing at the spot listlessly. “You smell determined. It’s exciting me.”

“We need to put some rules in place if this scenting thing is going to become a regular occurrence,” you complain, pulling away from him only to have him wrap himself around you tighter.

“Alright, alright, I won’t do it anymore. I promise,” he says. “Let me just hold you. I feel like I haven’t been able to have you in my arms for weeks.”

Jin follows a while later, with a reluctant Soohyun trailing behind him. She doesn’t look chastised at all, with her squared shoulders, jutted-out chin and forceful glare, and strangely, you take strength from that. You didn’t want her to feel attacked, but you also wanted to make her aware that her actions were wrong, no matter how much you could empathise with her.

“Morning, petal,” Jin says, kissing your forehead and dropping in the seat beside Namjoon. He offers the leader his shoulder, which the younger man eagerly takes, and they knit their fingers together, hidden in the seam between their body. “We all heard you, so how about you kick this conversation off?”

You swallow, suddenly aware of all the eyes on you and you feel as if you were back in class, on presentation day. “I, uh, I don’t really know where to start.”

Hoseok ducks down and says into your ear, warmly, “Usually at the beginning.”

Taehyung smiles, encouragingly, from across the room, giving you a small nod of reassurance. “Go ahead,” he mouths.

“Yesterday, Soohyun and I met and had a conversation about some things that I need clarification on,” you say, pursing your lips. “I don’t want you to feel compelled to tell me anything, but I want to tell you that I really want to know about you, all of you. If I’ve made you feel like you have to… hide parts of you because of how I feel… I’m sorry.”

Soohyun surveys her nails, clearly bored and wanting you to know that she wasn’t interested in what you are saying.

Jin replies, cautiously, “We knew it would be hard to adjust, so we haven’t taken offense, I promise.”

“But you did notice?”

Yoongi nods. “It’s hard to not to when we’re so attuned to your scent.”

Soohyun hums, “Told you so.”

“Hush, Soohyun,” Yoongi chastises, lightly.

“No, she’s right,” you reply, softly. “She’s actually the one that made me aware of what I was doing.”

She glances at you, taking note of your subdued tone, before glaring out of the window. “I just told the truth.”

“You were being a bitch,” Hoseok corrects, angrily.

Soohyun sticks her tongue out at him, not rising to the bait, which seems to surprise the other boys.

“Carry on, YN,” Taehyung prompts, gently. “We’re listening to you. All of us.”

The last part seems to affect Soohyun, who ducks into herself, slightly.

“Can I ask some questions, and just get honest answers back?”

They all nod, even Jungkook, somewhat sleepily.

“What are we? What is this thing between us?”

Namjoon licks his lips slightly as he observes his group. It’s now or never, he thinks.

He explains, carefully, “Amongst our kind, there are such couplings like ours. A pair, sometimes three, but of course, we have to be something special.” He lets out a nervous chuckle. “The closest human concept that we can liken it to are soulmates. An intricate connection that transcends the body… or even blood... the mind. It’s almost like granules of a singular soul sprinkled within the bones of the people who form the soul-bond. We might not consciously recognise each other, but our souls recognise their other fractures – that’s why Taehyung got so attached to you. His soul was crying out for you.”

You give the blue-haired boy a shy smile.

Yoongi continues, staring down at his hands, pulling at his cuticles, “I knew you before. I recognised you as soon as I saw you, in the café.”

“I thought I knew your face,” you murmur. “But I would have never forgotten you.”

“You were black-out drunk, so I wasn’t surprised that you didn’t know who I was,” he clarifies, with a snort. “It was a first-year frat party that I was deejaying at. I didn’t tell the boys because, well, it wasn’t their business at the time.”

A light-bulb goes off in your head and you ask, wide-eyed, “Oh, you were the one who brought me home?”

He nods. “You remember?”

“Young-mi told me the next morning that someone brought me home because I was too fucked out of my head to get home by myself,” you explain, shame-facedly. “Why did you never say anything?”

He shrugs his shoulder. “It was something just for me. Honestly, I tried to keep away from you, especially after realising that I wasn’t the only one who felt something for you, but it just… wouldn’t go away. I kept wanting to be near you, I wanted to hear you laugh and see you smile and keep you fed and safe. It was like my base instincts kept going off like sirens in my head.”

Jungkook clears his throat, catching all your attentions. “It’s hard for me to be open about this kind of stuff, just because I don’t know what to do with all I’m feeling at any one time. I just always want to be near you, because I feel grounded, like I finally have something to plant my feet into and keep me steady.”

Jimin nods. “Joonie says that we’re soulmates, and I believe it. My parents were- are soulmates, and they always told me stories of what it might feel like if I met my fated one. You’re everything for us, YN. That’s what we mean to each other. Everything.

“An eternity of promises,” Jin says, quietly. “We can live for a long time, and I mean a long time, my love, but I can promise you, as I stand before you, the vampire that I am, the man that I am, that I have never, and I will never again, feel this way about another.”

Hoseok murmurs into your ear, charming and sultry and so warm, “We’ve been running to you, and you’ve been running towards us for your whole life. We’re so close because it means we get to love you better. We’re a unit, a cluster, a coven, but more than that, we’re a family, YN. You are our home.”

You blink past the tears that have blurred your vision and feel them trickle down the side of your cheeks. “I love you.”

Hoseok takes in a sharp breath, the others do too, stunned at the ease of your admission. “We- We love you, YN.”

Jungkook nods, excitedly. “Noona, we love you.”

“Love you so much, petal,” Jin breathes, wanting to fall to his knees in reverence.

You had lost yourself in their sentiments of adoration, so much so that you had forgotten about your guest – Soohyun – who watched on, in equal parts envy as she did in disgust.

“Taehyung, you can’t be serious! She’s human,” she exclaims, shooting up from her seat. Gnawing at her bottom lip, she glares so intently at you that you feel as if you would have caught aflame, had she had the ability. “She can’t give you children, she can’t further your line. Your parents would never allow it.”

“My mothers would support me,” he exclaims, firmly. “You know me, but you don’t know them to speak on them."

“Not you,” she denies, eyes turning to another member, becoming more emotional as the seconds' tick by. “You, Seokjin. And you, Hoseok. Do you think your parents would let you lay with a human? Do you think they would allow you to sully your bloodline so intensely by taking a human for a mate? Your fathers would rather tear out her heart and eat her face.”

“Watch your mouth, Soohyun,” Yoongi warns, strangely serious, eyes cold and detached. He doesn’t look like the boy she knew, none of them do. “You know better than to speak so frivolously about things you don’t understand.”

“Jooheon is coming for you within the hour, don’t make this any harder than it needs to be,” Taehyung says, after a moment of tense silence. “Please, Soohyun. Don’t make us part as enemies.”

Tears are actively streaming down her beautiful face as she bites out, “You have never doubted my visions before, why now?”

“Because what you saw and what I know to be my future aren’t the same,” he says, solemnly. “It simply isn’t going to happen.”

Curiosity niggles at you, like an itch you can’t scratch. “What did you see?”

She gnashes her teeth in your direction, and Hobi tightens his hold on your waist, defensively. “Careful, baby,” he whispers into your ear.

You shake your head. “Soohyun, tell me. What did you see?”

She cries, tears finally spilling over and you can practically smell the grief rolling off her in colossal waves, “Taehyung and I… I was holding his child in my hands. I had given birth to a beautiful, beautiful baby girl, and he was right by my side, holding me, cherishing me, while I was sweaty and still crying from how much love I was practically drowning in. I felt the connection with her – our daughter – grow inside of my chest. How can you tell me that wasn’t true? How can you tell me that what I saw wasn’t real?”

“I can’t tell you that,” you say, softly. “I can’t tell you that what you saw wasn’t real, because I don’t understand. But, can you say, honestly, that you’re living? And not just… waiting?”

“For what?”

You feel everyone’s eyes on you as you continue, but you ignore them all, in favour of holding her steely gaze.

“You’re waiting for whatever comes next,” you explain. “You’re waiting for any evidence that backs up what you saw in your visions. Any little thing that validates whatever pictures and scents and images appear in your head makes you feel… right. And that feeling of being right is driving everyone else away. Because we don’t see what you see. We only live now. And the now is what’s most important.”

She swallows, eyes wide and red-rimmed, before she bites out, “You don’t get to say that to me, after taking my future away.”

“I’m sorry,” you whisper, earnestly. “I’m so sorry that this is how it happened. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”

She slides to the floor, sniffling, feeling as small as anything. All she wants is a hug, she just wants to be warm and held and safe, but instead, all she feels is as if she is under a microscope in the middle of a sterile lab with nothing and no one to save her.

“But, no matter how apologetic I might feel, I can’t tell you what you want to hear,” you say, approaching her and dropping to your knees directly in front of her. You whisper, nearly soundlessly, “I love him. I love each of them, and I can’t tell you that I don’t feel the way I do.”

She holds your eyes for a long moment, biting on her lower lip, molten silver eyes tracking your features intently. “I hate you.”

“I know,” you reply, gently. “I’m not your biggest fan either.”

At that, she lets out a wet chortle, before catching herself, surprise etched across her face. She glances down to where your hands are joined and snatches her hands away, rubbing at the skin until it chafed. She stands up, gathering all her grace into her shoulders, and she wipes her tears with the back of her elegant fingers.

“When this all blows up in your face, don’t expect me to help pick up the pieces,” she mutters.

Yoongi rolls his eyes at her dramatics. “Yeah, right.”

She grits her teeth at his blasé tone of voice and exclaims, seriously, “I mean it, Kitty. This isn’t… sustainable. Something has to give at some point. Be it her mortality, or your immortality – something has to go.”

Taehyung stands then, drawing her attention, and he says, solemnly, “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

Jimin lets out a loud snort at the saying. “Don’t you mean ‘cross that bridge when we come to it’?”

“No, he’s right,” Namjoon clarifies. “It’s a malaphor. A combination of two idioms.”

Taehyung rests his hand on your hip, a purposeful sign of support, and presses a quick kiss to your temple. Soohyun cuts her eyes away, so she doesn’t have to see the gesture of affection.

“God, you make me sick,” she groans.

Yoongi moves towards her, nudging her with his hip. “Jealousy is a sickness. Get well soon.”

“Suck my ass, you fucking loser,” she growls back, gnashing at him with her sharply-pointed fangs. “I’ll eat you, don’t think I won’t.”

“Soohyun is all bark, no bite,” Yoongi tells you, but then, after a moment, he deliberates. “Actually, she’s more bite than bark, whatever that means.”

“Kitty, your jokes… Yeah, they suck,” Soohyun criticises, much to your amusement. “Royally.”

“Your sense of humour has always been… delicate,” he replies. “You think fart jokes are peak humour.”

“They are pretty funny,” you murmur, quietly.

Soohyun glances at you, holding your eyes for a moment, before she says, firmly, “Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Try to… relate to me,” she clarifies, lips curling in distaste, as if she smells something rotting. “It’s weird.”

You think it over for a moment, before you agree, grimacing slightly, “It is pretty weird, isn’t it?”

The two of you stare at one another for a long moment, before a peal of laughter falls from your throat, and, strangely enough, she joins in, hiding her stunning grin with her fingers. When she smiles, her eyes practically turn into crescent moons, cheeks rising and the crinkles at the corners of her orbs pinch into adorable folds.

“You should do that more often,” you say, after a moment.

She tilts her head slightly, so you clarify, “Smile.”

“Are you flirting with the girl that tried to eat you not twenty-four hours ago?” Jimin asks, scandalised, poking his head over your shoulder.

“I’m not flirting, I’m trying to start over,” you groan, shoving at his shoulder. He chuckles at you, grinning at your burning ears. “Do you think we could do that, Soohyun? I’m not asking to be friends, but… you’re in their coven, and this is the start of something.” You hold Taehyung’s hand tightly in your own, and he gives you a warm smile in response. “You’re important, Soohyun.”

She purses her lips slightly before she flips her hair. “Of course, I’m important. I’m me, duh.

Chapter Text

Jooheon comes within the hour, and even he can sense the tension in the air. Despite there being some degree of respite, Soohyun spends the last hour in the spare room, ignoring you and the boys as though you were not there. Of course, that was fine by you. You didn’t have the energy to argue again, and you think that it’s best she leaves with some of her pride intact.

Jooheon isn’t at all like what you had imagined.

With all the teeth knocking out and hyper-aggressive past events, you had imagined someone huge and imposing and, for lack of a better word, scary.

You almost drop your cup when he first barrels into the room, hair clearly fresh off the back of a wicked-bright orange dye. He tackles Joonie first, taking him to the floor and hugging him tightly. His dimples are so deep, you think that if you pushed your finger in them, the tip of your digit would never resurface.

“Joon! My guy! How’ve you been? I hope she hasn’t been too much to deal with, I know I’m late and- oh… hello,” he says, breaking off and scanning your body up and down. “This is interesting.”

He sashays over and puts out his hand. “Jooheon, but the ladies like to call me Joohoney. And by ladies, I mean my mom.”

You snort, and Jungkook’s lip curls up at the degree of cheesiness in his hyung’s words. He mutters under his breath, “So disgusting.”

You shake his hand, lightly, and giggle. “Nice to meet you, Joohoney.”

“Enough of that,” Jimin grumbles, chopping his hand in between the two of yours to separate you. He puffs his chest up slightly and glares up at the taller, significantly buffer orange-haired man. “Stop flirting with our girlfriend.”

Girlfriend?” You mouth, eyes widening at the burst of butterflies that erupt in your stomach.

Jooheon looks between the eight of you, slightly surprised, if the raised brows mean anything. “That’s quite the development. Namjoon, you didn’t mention this on the phone.”

“It wasn’t… concrete,” he says, rubbing the back of his messy hair. He’s still avoiding your eyes, but he had hugged you and pressed a light kiss to the crown of your head once Soohyun had left, so you thought he was over it. Maybe not so much. “Now, it is.”

“Well, congrats,” he replies, clapping a hand on Namjoon’s back. “All of you. Congrats.”

The ease at which he accepted their bond with you made your eyes sting, without your permission. Soohyun was wrong, clearly. Not everyone would disparage you, or deny you for being human.

He grins, cheekily. “Oh, she’s a delightfully emotional one, isn’t she?”

And, just like that, you glare hotly at him and he snorts at how tiny you are. He explains, hands up in surrender, “I mean nothing by that. I’m just- I always knew you guys were special, I mean look at Yoongi and Hoseok. But this… The Elders are going to have a field day with this.”

Jin reaches for Jooheon’s shoulder and grips him tightly. “We aren’t disclosing this yet. Especially not to them.”

“I assumed as much,” Jooheon replies. “When you’re ready, you know you’ve got a friend in me.”

He grins, brightly, up at Jin and the eldest vampire is reminded of why he is so fond of the fixer. “Thanks, kid.”

“How’s Hoseok-hyung doing? The other one,” Jungkook amends when he sees your confused expression. He ducks down to explain to you, “Jooheon is also dating a human. Is he still human, hyung?”

Jooheon nods. “Wonho doesn’t want the Bite yet, and I get it. He wants to finish acting school before he thinks about the change more seriously.”

Yoongi spots your surprised expression and pleads with his own eyes. Later, he mouths. I promise, we’ll explain later.

Exhaling, you nod, cheeks puffing slightly in frustration over yet another hurdle being erected between you all.

Jooheon and the boys exchange friendly, healthy banter for a few minutes before Soohyun exits her room, all wrapped up with her suitcase beside her.

“Joo, grab the bag for me,” she says, addressing only her cluster-mate, shoving her sunglasses onto the tip of her nose. You think it’s to cover the redness under her eyes, to hide the fact that she had been crying.

The younger boy rolls his eyes but accommodates her, knowing that it would be easier for him on the ride home if he just did as she asked. Still, he can’t help but be a little mischievous as he sing-songs, “You’re in so much trouble when we get back. Shownu-hyung already said you’re on night patrol for the next month.”

“Shownu can suck my ass,” she sasses back, but decidedly more mutedly. She appears intimidated by this Shownu character, and you wish you could meet him if only to ask him for his secret. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand. I’m bored.”

“Whatever, noona,” Jooheon replies, dragging the case behind him. He fist-bumps all the boys and hugs them tightly as he moves down the line. “Thanks again, hyung. You really helped me out.”

Namjoon shakes his head. “We’re a coven, you only need to ask.”

“Maybe if this one knew the concept of asking permission, we wouldn’t be in this predicament,” he answers, gesturing to a bored-looking Soohyun. “Anyway, I’ll call you when we get back.”

“Great,” Namjoon replies, and the two of them lock hands in a strange-looking gesture before pressing their foreheads together. “Be well.”

“Be well, hyung.”

 Just as he approaches the front door, he pauses and twists on his heel. “Ah, Yoongi-hyung! Hyungwon-hyung wanted me to tell you something.”

The blond puckers his brow from where he is sat, trying to adjust some dials on his deejaying gear. “What?”

“He says… He said that you still owe him,” he answers, with half a shrug. “Whatever that means.”

Yoongi freezes, momentarily, before his expression darkens considerably, and he nods. “I got it.”

Hoseok frowns down at Yoongi and tries to catch his eye but the deejay expertly avoids him, pressing his nose deeper into his electricals.

You don’t miss the interaction between the two of them, but you want to leave them to their moment, so you turn your attention back to Soohyun, only to find her already staring at you.

Steeling yourself, you move to stand, feeling eyes on you the entire way.

Jimin warns, voice low, “YN, don’t.”

“Trust her, Jimin,” Jin says, quietly. “Trust her.”

You approach her, cautiously, and stop a few steps away from her.

“If you’re expecting an apology, don’t hold your breath,” she mutters, quirking a brow in challenge. “I’m not sorry.”

“I know you aren’t,” you answer, gently. “I don’t expect you to be sorry. I don’t expect you to be anything. I want to give this to you.”

She watches you, guardedly, as you scribble something down on a square of paper you tore from inside a magazine tossed to the side. “You broke my phone, so this will have to do for now.”

She scans the paper before she asks, mockingly, “Your… e-mail address? What is this, middle school? You gonna ask to hold my hands and feel my boobs under the bleachers or something?”

Someone chokes behind you (Jungkook), and Jooheon lets out a tired sigh. He seems to be used to her attempts at making everyone uncomfortable.

“No!” You reply, affronted. “They are pretty nice, though.”

She frowns.

“Your breasts,” you clarify, with an eye-roll. “I want you to contact me if you ever want to talk.”

“And, why would I do that?”

“We all need someone to talk to at some point,” you tell her, softly. “And it sounds like you only have boys in your cluster.”

“So do you,” she snaps.

“Exactly,” you reply, rolling your eyes. “I’ll go crazy if I don’t have a little bit of female conversation. Especially about this… crazy stuff.”

“Your other human friends aren’t in the know-how, yet?”

“They won’t be,” you promise. “Ever.”

“You know this entirely selfish and self-serving, right? You give me this, send me on my way, and somehow convince yourself that you’re the innocent party in all of this,” she murmurs. “You’ll carry on, thinking you did nothing wrong, and that I’m the crazy one for being upset by this.”

“I don’t think you’re crazy,” you answer, quickly. Your heart-rate doesn’t shift even slightly. “I think you’re sad and being sad makes us do and say and feel all kinds of things. I can’t say I know what you’re going through, but I can promise that if you ever want to talk, I’ll be here.”

“Oh, you’re so righteous, it makes me sick,” she growls, shoving her hands in her pockets and storming off. “I’ll be in the car when you’re done sucking their dicks, Joo.”

You watch as she goes, a contemplative expression on your face, and you feel Jungkook approach you, slowly.

“Sorry, noona, she… she’s always been difficult,” he murmurs.

“No,” you reply, and your lips spread in a bright smile. He stares at you, confusion filling his expression, making his eyes go wide and bright with innocence. You turn to all the boys and give them a triumphant smirk.

“What’s got you smiling so prettily?” Hoseok asks, wrapping his arms around you and bumping his nose with your own.

“She didn’t tear it up,” you reply, smile widening as a strange, foreign burst of happiness rises in your body. You don’t know where it was coming from, but you let it wash over you, doing a little jib in Hoseok’s firm grip. You boop his pointy, adorable nose and sing-song, happily, “She could have, but she didn’t. That, Hobi, is something to celebrate.”

Despite being happy to see the back end of Soohyun, you feel at a loss as to where to go once the buffer of their guest is gone. Jungkook wraps around you and plays a few rounds of his video game with Jimin and a reluctant Jin, who are sat either side of you on the floor. Namjoon and Hoseok disappear into the elder’s room, and Yoongi practically disappeared the first chance that he got without even saying goodbye. Taehyung needed to take his medication, and according to Jungkook, he fell asleep pretty much immediately after.

You play with Jimin’s hair, surprisingly fluffy despite the over-dyeing and scratch at his new-growth, to distract yourself.

“What’s on your mind, honey?” Jin asks, casting a glance over to you, while the two younger ones carry on playing, groaning at each other when they both knocked each other off the podium to their pixelated characters’ deaths. “You smell… confused.”

“I am,” you admit. “I’ve still got so much to learn about you all.”

He smiles and leans up to kiss your cheek. “We’ve got our whole lives for all of that, honey.”

“Tell me something about you,” you say, dazedly. “Something unique to you. Actually, all three of you.”

Jimin tilts his head to the side and murmurs, “I’m allergic to most fruits.”

Surprise paints your tone when you ask, “Vampires have… allergies?”

“We can get sick,” he says, voice strangely hard as he twists his fingers in the fabric of his sweats.

“Like cold and flu?”

“Like cancer,” he replies, tone clipped. “I don’t like talking about that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he murmurs. You reach down to press your hand against his collarbone, feeling the hard bone jutting from under his creamy, soft skin. He looks up at you, lashes long and lips pouty and enticing. “My mother has a rare form of vampiric stomach cancer, that’s why. She can't digest blood of any kind, so she has to have plasma fed through a drip so she doesn't starve. But, her body rejects the nutrients from the blood, so she gets sicker.”

Your stomach plummets to the ground and you suck in some air, sharply. You can't imagine your mother being sick, let alone hospitalised, and you feel your heart grow heavy for the dancer who you hold in your hands. He never lets on to any pain he may be experiencing, none of them ever do, and you wonder how much agony you miss out of because of their well-trained personas that keep strangers at a distance and away from guessing their truths. 

“Is she okay?” You feel stupid for even asking such a cliché question, but it spills out without your permission. “I’m sorry, that’s a dumb question.”

“No, she’s getting better,” he replies, reaching to knit his left hand with the digits of the hand against his collar, tapping out a rhythm you can’t follow against your skin. “She wants to meet you. My Dad does too.”

You feel your cheeks burn in surprise. “T-They… Really?”

He nods. “My Mom’s really eager to meet the lady who stole her baby boy’s heart.”

“Stop, you’re making me nervous,” you whine.

Jin rolls his eyes at Jimin’s behaviour, a trickle of envy spilling down his spine over how accepting his parents were. He wishes he had that, but he doesn’t, and to keep yearning for it was not only redundant but harmful. Dr Moon’s words echo in his head and he takes a deep breath, concentrating on the scent of you, using it as a tether.

“I’m tee-total,” Jin says, proudly. “I don’t drink or do drugs. At all.”

“I’m proud of you,” you tell him, giving him a private and earnest smile.

He feels your pride blossom in the emerald petal settled in his chest that represents his bond, eight delicate petals attached to a vibrant, iridescent centre. Jungkook’s ruby and Jimin’s peach petal both glow in support, and he gives them appreciative looks in response.

“Do you want to tell me what led to that decision?”

He nods. “When I was in high school, I used to make… bad decisions. Going to university away from my support system only made those decisions worse. By the time Yoongi and Hoseok got to university, I had already fucked my way through half the campus. They would have to peel me off the floor of some bar in the middle of nowhere sometimes, covered in sweat and my own vomit.” He takes a deep breath, settling himself, and you feel as if he is holding something huge in his heart. You learn forward slightly, showing him that you are listening, that you are present and that you are supporting him. “When I was 19, I got a girl pregnant.”

Your eyes widen, in shock.

He lets out a snort. “Yeah… That’s another reason why my Dad hates me. I fucked up, big time.”

“So, you have a kid?”

He shakes his head and your stomach drops even further. “My Dad paid off her parents, she had an abortion. I didn’t even know until she turned up outside my job, so pale and weak from the procedure, calling me a monster and crying her eyes out. I didn’t get it at the time, but, I do now.”

You ask, stomach souring, “Did she… not want to do it?”

“I don’t think so,” he murmurs, softly. “I would have tried to make it work with her, even if we weren’t together-together, because I was raised to take responsibility. But my father would have cut me off without a second thought. He would have made it impossible for me to live, let alone be a good father myself. Honestly, it was the best thing for me. Not for her, for me. Last I heard, she moved to Australia to get away from it all.”

“Seokjin…”

He gives you a sad smile. “I want to see her, just once, to properly apologise. To get on my knees, and beg for her forgiveness. She shouldn’t have had to go through something like that, just because she met a dirt-bag like me.”

“Kim Seokjin!”

He glances up at you, blinking out of his self-imposed reverie, and you grab his chin firmly between your fingers. “You never talk about yourself like that, ever again, do you understand me?”

“YN-”

“I don’t want to hear you speak like that about yourself, I mean it,” you reiterate. “You don’t get to talk down on yourself for your past mistakes. You are a wonderful person, you’re so smart and so special and you’re my Jin.”

He sniffles, scrubbing at his eyes. “Fine, fine. I take it back. My Dad is the dirt-bag.”

That I’ll allow,” you reply, thankful for the change in tension. “Carry on, honey.”

He lets out a breath. “I decided after Byunmi left, I wasn’t going to put myself or anyone else in that position again, so I gave up the drugs and the alcohol. I don’t even go to clubs anymore. I wasn’t an addict, but I could have been, and I’ve seen what it did do and does do to my brother. I can’t live like that, not if I want to keep what I have now close to me.”

He cards his hand through Jimin’s fluffy hair and bumps Jungkook’s chin lovingly. “This is all I need.”

You hold his chin and press a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth. “I love you.”

He sighs, happily, against your skin, nodding. “I know. I love you too.”

Jungkook perks up then and says, “I guess it’s my turn?”

You nod and all three of you turn your attention to the young gamer.

He cards a hand through his cherry-red hair and purses his lips, strangely nervous. “I- I came to this conclusion years ago, but I never really said it out loud to anyone but Yoongi-hyung.”

Jimin turns on his side and asks, “What conclusion, Jungkookie?”

“I’m demi-sexual,” he says, all in one breath, twisting his fingers together, apprehensively. He avoids your eyes. “When I was with Seulgi, I realised that it took more for me to be… into it. I wanted to be closer with her, rather than have sex. I never liked being touched by her in the beginning, but I thought it was just nerves, you know? It was embarrassing half of the time, and I felt like I let her down a lot.”

“She cheated on you with some muscle-head idiot at her university,” Jimin replies, dryly. “She doesn’t deserve a droplet of your guilt, Kookie.”

You agree with him, but you understand that Jungkook was a sensitive person, and his feelings are valid.

“So, did you ever talk to her about it?”

“Once,” he admits. “She laughed and asked to suck me off two seconds after.”

Jin sucks his teeth in annoyance. “That is irritating.”

“Very,” Jungkook says, with a dry laugh. He shifts uncomfortably in his seat, before he says, “I never felt like I needed to label myself, but… Noona, I know you might expect some things later and if I can’t give it to you the way you want, or the way you need, then maybe we should just-”

“Enough of that, silly boy,” you murmur, holding his hand tightly in your own and watching as his long fingers practically envelop your own. “If this relationship is going where I think it’ll be going, then whatever you want to give me, whatever you want to share with me, or show me and experience with me, will entirely be on your terms. We’ll talk it out, and there won’t be any overstepping. I’ve never dated someone who is demi before, but I want to learn. I want to make you feel comfortable. I only want you to be happy.”

His cheeks go pink at your words and he shuffles a little closer to you, until he is close enough for you to smell his heady cologne, and you catch his eyes flit down to your lips, if only for a breath of a moment. He whispers as if entranced. “If I ask to kiss you, can I?”

The air around you is charged with electricity, zinging sharply against your skin and the blistering sensation of Jimin and Jin’s fiery gaze on the two of you as you hover so close, you probably wouldn’t even need to push too far before your lips would be colliding.

“Do you want to?”

“I want to,” he mutters, softly. “I want to, more than I’ve wanted anything else.”

You let your eyes trail down his face, tracking his wide eyes, glittering with innocence and spiced with heat, to the slope of his charming nose and the bow of his pretty pink lips, slick with saliva from his tongue that swiped out to wet them in preparation. Jimin is staring unabashedly at the two of you, eyes hot and fascinated. Jin, on the other hand, has reclined slightly, enjoying the heat and the fire boiling between the three young ones, taking a moment to imprint the scene in his head. He feels his gut grow hot at the implication – he’s wanted to fuck the soul out of you since the day he met you if he’s being honest – and he smells the spicy notes of arousal lighting up Jimin’s scent. Jungkook, on the other hand, reminds him of thunder and lightning, dangerous but distant, growing slowly but powerfully on the horizon.

“Then, do it,” you whisper.

And, that’s all it takes before he has your face in his firm grip. Despite his youthful and apparently lacking experience, the feeling of Jungkook’s lips on yours is like nothing that you can explain. You feel the sparks that had been steadily growing behind your eyes explode, and you are practically tasting colours.

He groans against your mouth, lips pressed together as he works his thin and soft lips against your own. He tastes of his cherry chapstick that he always carries around and you feel the hesitation in the way he holds you. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in vigour, and in his arms, you feel as if he is reshaping you, pulling you in, moulding you into something new – something shiny and pretty and revered.

You both hear a low moan in the distance and a glance to your side reveals Jimin’s hungry gaze.

“If he gets to kiss you, so do I,” he spits, pettily. “C’mere, YN. I want to taste you.”

His words give rise to a wave of passion in you, setting your bones alight. Where Jungkook’s kiss was firm but sweet, Jimin’s is all fire and ice.

He replaces Jungkook’s grip on your chin with his own and he presses you into the back of the sofa, leaving you with nowhere to go.

“Open your mouth,” he commands, firmly.

You are weak to him, unable to even shift against his unyielding will.

His tongue is soft and slick against yours as he presses you into the soft material of the sofa, one hand on your hip, the other on your jaw, holding you in place. If Jungkook reshaped you, then Jimin dismantles you completely with his bare hands, ripping you apart from the inside out and burrowing a hole into you, shattering the glass walls that Jungkook had immortalised you in and used the shard to tear a hole in the fabric of your very being. It wasn’t violent, but it was so overwhelming that you have to catch your breath.

“Fuck, you taste better than I imagined,” he groans, pulling back just enough for you to be able to breathe, directly into his mouth, before he dives back in again, teeth tugging at your lips, sending pulse after pulse of want and desire and lust straight to your painfully empty core. “All mine, fuck.

Jungkook whines and paws at Jimin to move over. He complains, pouting, “You’re hogging her.”

Jungkook takes over again, pushing some of your hair out of your face and holding you securely. He commands, letting some bass in his voice for the first time to express how sincere he is, “Keep your mouth open, I want to feel your tongue on mine.”

His words go straight to your core and despite yourself, you feel your insides clench around nothing. You moan, wretchedly, “Jungkook…”

Jimin doesn’t go far, simply letting the maknae take advantage of your mouth while his hands explore your back, stroking along your spine through your clothes. He wishes like hell that he could pull you out of them and have you over the couch, leaking and close to tears. Alas, he’ll be grateful for what you give him, and he watches, amused and excited beyond measure, to see Jungkook tongue you down properly.

“Noona, you taste amazing,” he whines, feeling his cock harden in his pyjama pants. He wouldn’t be able to hide his pleasure if he tried, but the shame of being so easily excited in front of his hyungs makes him want to hide. He feels seen.

Jin clears his throat, then, and the two vampires perk up in realisation. “If you don’t mind, I’d like a chance to show my appreciation to our pretty girl.”

You whimper slightly, lips sore but aching in the best kind of way, and you reach out for him, floating in a sea of bliss. It almost feels as if your head isn’t attached to your body anymore, and if this is how you feel after only kissing them, you feel your body quake at the idea of sleeping with them, or even… being bitten by one of them. The thought feels almost blasphemous, and yet you feel yourself clench once more around nothing. Maybe something was wrong with you.

“Pretty, pretty girl,” Jin murmurs, crowding into your space and moving to help you into his lap, straddling him. He settles his hands on your hips and draws you close, following your dazed expression with amused, sharp eyes. “What am I going to do with you?”

“Kiss me,” you plead, rocking slightly in his lap.

He lets himself smile at your words, how piteous you were, how soft you sounded. He wishes, god he wishes, he could really show you how submissive you could be – he can already smell it wafting off you in waves.

“Come here,” he says, holding your face with one hand and using the other to hold you in place. “You kiss me.”

Huffing, you lean forward, pressing him into the couch and showing him that you mean business. Despite the switch in position, you still felt as if you were the recipient, that you were the one giving in to him, and that knowledge only made you want to push harder.

You bite down on his lip, plump and soft and fuck, it only makes your panties slicker at the sensation of his experienced tongue working against your own.

“Careful, YN-ah,” Jimin sing-songs, peeking over your shoulder, eyes dazzling and cheeks flushed. “Jin-hyung is the worst of us all. Don’t get him too riled up.”

You notice then, just how tight Jin’s grip on your side is. Peeling back slightly, you take note of the dilation of his smooth brown eyes and the aborted movements of his hips, demonstrating to you just how much he wanted you.

“Maybe we should… slow it down,” you murmur, eyes flitting back down to Jin’s lips, even more swollen and enticing after a round of intense kissing. He seems just as tempted to continue, but after locking eyes with Jimin, he silently agrees.

Jin nods, helping you out of his lap and you have to purposefully avoid the significant tent in their pants, betraying just how into it they all were. You didn’t want to embarrass them, but Jungkook seems to be the only one actively trying to hide his erection. Jimin stretches out languidly and Jin simply adjusts himself discreetly. Jungkook, on the other hand, holds a cushion in front of his lap and his cheeks burn in mortification.

“Can we watch a movie? I don’t want to leave you yet,” you murmur, softly.

Jimin bumps his nose against you, exhaling in amusement. “You don’t have to go anywhere that you don’t want to, honey. Your place is right here, next to us. Forever.”

“That’s an awfully long time,” you comment, getting comfortable with your head on Jungkook’s shoulder, Jin resting his head in your lap and Jimin say right in front of you, tufts of orange hair messy from where your fingers had subconsciously been running through it. “You sure you won’t get tired of little old me?”

“There’s an entire universe that lives in your eyes, petal,” Jin says, groggily. Listening to your slow, calm heart rate has him feeling sleepy, and he gives in to the sensation, allowing his eyes to close as he gets drowsier. “I could see you every day for a thousand years, and still find more things to love about you.”

“Cheese-ball,” you joke.

Jungkook’s shoulders shudder as he stifles a laugh. “Hyung is right, though, noona. I’ll never get tired of you. None of us will.”

Jimin says, simply, “We’ll only love you more as time goes on, as we know you more and as we grow older. And vice versa.”

His words settle on your bones like a lacquer, and you grin, silently, as the film plays out overhead.

Chapter Text

As soon as Yoongi returns home, he smells the tangy tendrils of lust lining the air. Initially, he thinks maybe someone beat off somewhere and didn’t close their bedroom door or something, but when he pokes his head into the living room, he sees the source of the scent. Jimin is curled around the back of YN, spooning you tightly as a movie plays out in front of you both. You are both alone, but really, he think neither of you would have noticed if there was a crowd in front of you, eagerly eyeing your intimate moments, considering how vivaciously you were both making out. Jimin’s tongue was pushed past your teeth and his palm was pressed into the base of your throat, thumb resting on the groove between your collarbones, chasing your quick breaths, and he watches, enraptured, as you whine into him, fingers digging into his lower back, exploring but cautious.

“Oh… This is quite the development,” he mutters, blandly, as he drops his keys on the bowl on the table. Jimin doesn’t pull away, instead dropping his head into the groove of your neck, but you are surprised. He can smell the mortification rolling off you, and your cheeks grow hot instantly. Your eyes are glittery under the chandelier light (dimmed, to set the mood, Yoongi notes, with a scoff), and you stammers, but no words come out.

“It’s okay, YN. I don’t blame you. I blame this one,” he says, teasingly, gesturing to Jimin’s tense form. He still hasn’t moved, obsessively sniffing your scent so intently that Yoongi worries he’ll take some of your skin off with his intensity. “When did this happen?”

“This afternoon,” you murmur. “Jin and… Jungkook left already, to go to work. Jimin- he stayed with me, to keep me company.”

“I’m sure he did,” Yoongi lilts, teasingly. He drops down onto his knees, staring at you, deep into your pretty eyes, holding your gaze. “Sit up for me, YN.”

Jimin snarls lowly, but moves away from you, arousal evident by the tent in his pants. He groans, carding a hand through his hair, frustratedly, “You couldn’t wait a little longer, hyung?”

“Why would I do that, Jiminie? You’re being awfully selfish with her,” Yoongi mutters, fingers unconsciously trailing up your shin, resting on your knee, touch as delicate as a butterfly’s wing yet so blisteringly hot that you have to let out a shuddering breath. Yoongi makes a noise of intrigue as a shiver passes through your body. “You’re especially sensitive after kisses, aren’t you, YN?”

His tone is warm and silky, and a little bit leading, like he wants you to reply, but somehow, you can’t get her tongue to move, too fixed on the sensation of his digits kneading the meat of your thigh. He keeps drawing abstract shapes, slowly, and you can’t concentrate. He continues, unabashedly brazen, “I get really dizzy after kisses, especially good ones. Long ones, with someone's tongue pressing against mine, and their fingers lingering in places they ought not to be.”

You let out a sharp breath, and Yoongi nudges your knees apart with a firm grip. He feels his gut burn, wanting Hoseok by his side, yearning for the commanding and deep tone of his lover’s voice, directing his actions. He knows how to please his partner, he has had his head between enough thighs to know what makes someone tick… what makes them twitch… what makes them cry… what makes them make a mess all over themselves. But he likes being told what to do – it’s like the match that sets him alight, and he fidgets slightly with how much he wants Hoseok to be near him. To order him around, to make him make her come.

He leans slightly forward, briefly eyeing Jimin’s fussy expression with barely suppressed glee, before returning his silky gaze to the partially open-mouthed girl in his hold. He traces your plump bottom lip with his thumb, palm caressing your jaw lightly, before he stares into your eyes and asks, quietly, “YN… Do you want me to show you just how dizzy you can feel inside? Don't you think I can make you feel... more?"

“You shouldn’t be making promises you can’t keep, princess,” Hoseok’s voice trails down the stairs, and Yoongi feels his back straighten out at the sound. He’s alert, and every nerve feels like it’s been set alight simultaneously. And that's just off hearing his voice alone, sometimes that's all it takes to make him cum - the promise of pleasures falling from Hoseok's shapely and sinful lips. “Let go of YN.”

Yoongi tosses him a hard look. “Don’t want to yet, Hobi.”

Hoseok snorts and approaches the two, reaching for Yoongi’s hand on your face and manually moving it away. He gestures to the empty seat beside you and orders, “Sit.”

Yoongi feels his cheeks burn red, but he complies, easily. He can never deny Hoseok anything, especially when he can smell the domineering energy radiating off him. Jimin glances between the two men, curiously, and you feel your mouth drop open at how compliant Yoongi is being. There isn’t even a breath of the cheeky man you know, and you remember Jooheon mentioning something about their relationship being unique. Maybe you aren’t the only one who has a bond that transcends the platonic. The implication warms your insides and an image of you, sweaty and sated, sandwiched between the two men, flashes in front of your eyes.

“YN-ah.” Hoseok has all your attention. He doesn’t look like he did earlier, flirty and playful. Instead, his hair is wet, slicked back from a shower, skin freshly washed, and dressed in something casual – a pair of soft-looking grey sweats and red shirt that fit the panes of his body so well, they might as well have been a second skin. “Look at Yoongi for me.”

Your gaze trails from the dark-haired dancer, to the fidgeting composer, who is staring, just as desperately, up at Hoseok. His eyes don’t move an inch. “See how pretty he is?”

You do.

Hoseok moves some of your hair out of your face, carefully tucking it behind your ear and he murmurs, “See how pretty he looks when he’s flushed?”

You do.

He replaces Yoongi's hand with his own, resting on your throat, the pressure just a breath heavier than Yoongi's thinner ones. He traces your dry bottom lip and your tongue aches to follow behind the motion to wet your mouth. You ache inside. “Do you think he could look prettier?

You think so.

He prompts, tightening his hold briefly, making your breathing speed up instantly, “How?”

You can’t find the words.

Hoseok steps further in front of you, and you know if you tilt your head up, you’ll be eye-line with his hips and… his other parts. You can't do it, you just can't do it. He reiterates, voice growing hard, “I’m talking to you. I don’t like silence.”

“I- I think he’s pretty always,” you murmur, throat dry. You feel your ears grow hot at the implication, head swimming with meaning, as you turn to face the man in question. It feels like the only way to get some fresh air into your system, with Hoseok's grip still present on your neck. You never knew you had a thing for choking, but the mere presence of his hand on your neck makes you want to beg for more. Yoongi blinks, shyly, at your admission, meanwhile Hoseok simply hums, orbs trailing along your side-profile, marvelling at the swell of your cheeks, at the curve of your throat, at how smooth and unblemished your skin is. He wants to bite into you, piercing your skin with his teeth and draw from you your very essence, swallowing parts of you down and practically painting your very soul on the inside of his throat.

“But he could be prettier, couldn’t he?”

You mutter, honestly, “I don’t know how.”

“When he’s split down the middle on my cock, of course,” Hoseok whispers, directly into your ear. Shrinking away from the heat falling from his lips, you sharply intake a breath, and he feels himself smirk at your adorable reaction. He knows it’ll take time, but he’ll burn that innocence out of you. He'll take pleasure in it, as he did with Yoongi. He knows how to make you feel, but he'll go at your pace - always, always at your pace.

Jimin’s brows rise at the candour in his tone, having heard the two of them go at it periodically over the years, but still, there had always been a degree of… privacy about their courtship, especially when it ended all those years ago. Still, he isn’t surprised, considering both he, Taehyung, Hoseok and Jin share certain… sensibilities.

You murmur, breathlessly, eyes still unmoving from the couch cushion, “Hobi…”

“Yes, YN?”

“I- I can’t breathe,” you say, all at once, pushing the words out into the air and hoping that he’ll take a step back, just one, so you can sort your muddled thoughts out. "I feel- I feel dizzy."

“That’s the point, pretty girl,” Hoseok teases, but he does as you want, moving out of your space and taking his spot on the floor, facing the TV. He kicks out one leg and rests his elbow on the other knee, before he complains, pouting, “Jimin, why did you put this of all things on? It’s boring!”

YN thinks she’s going to ger whiplash from how suddenly the conversation changes.

“What-”

Yoongi reaches for her knee, resting his palm there, a comforting weight despite the heated conversation that just passed. He mouths, “Don’t.”

You feel yourself frown, but you trust Yoongi, so you let the question die in the air. You notice, though, that Hoseok doesn’t stop touching Yoongi at all, his hand resting on his calf, pulling his whole leg to rest on his shoulder, knitting their fingers together, or letting the older man card his fingers through his hair, absent-mindedly.

You want to join in, so you let your hand rest on Yoongi’s knee, silently showing him comfort and support… and a little bit of your desire to be a part of whatever is going on. Jimin moves to your other side and settles his arm over the back of your neck, resting his own fingers on the dip of your shoulder, playing absently with the skin there, twisting and squeezing at your softness.

Sometime during the movie, Yoongi’s fidgeting becomes too obvious to ignore. Hoseok glances slightly to the side, not entirely facing the older man before he snorts and moves to stand. “C’mon, princess. You look tired.”

You frown at the two of them, knowing you have questions for Yoongi, for both of them, and you move to interject, but Jimin gives your shoulder a meaningful squeeze. “You don’t want to do that, baby.”

“Why?”

“You just don’t,” he says, giggling to himself.

The two other men scuttle off upstairs, and as one of the bedroom doors close, Jimin simply turns his head slightly to the side, hearing something that escapes your physical capacity, then reaches for the remote.

“It’s loud enough already, don’t you think?”

He snorts. “Not quite, honey.”

Once the movie is playing, and honestly, you’re intrigued, but not so much that it can distract you from the sensation of Jimin touching you. “Why are you doing that?”

“You’re soft,” he replies, simply, nosing against your shoulder. “I want to squeeze every part of you.”

“Jimin…”

“You don’t want me to? Do you feel uncomfortable?”

You shake your head. “I just- It aches.”

Jimin preens on the inside at your pretty grumbling, but he continues to act unaware as he asks, candidly, “Where, honey?”

“You know where,” you reply, pathetic and with an edge of a whine in your voice. He loves it. He wants to make you sound like that all the time. “I don’t know what’s going on with me, I’ve never been… I haven’t… done this in a while.”

He asks, playing with the curls bunching at the base of your neck in your low bun, a style he really loves on you, but really, you could have your hair in any style, and he thinks he would think you were the most attractive woman - the most attractive person - in the room. “Make out?”

“That, or anything, not seriously,” you reply. “The last person I kissed was my room-mate.”

He pauses, grip tightening fractionally on your hip. “Young-mi?”

You nod, pouting. “We were both fresh off break-ups, drunk off wine and ovulating. I think it was bound to happen at some point, honestly.”

He scoffs. “So, you were interested in her… before?”

Something about his tone makes a ringing go off in your head. “Are you jealous?”

“What if I am?” His jaw is set, slightly, and he seems more pouty than aggressive. “You made out with your best friend… who you live with, and I’m only finding out about it now.”

“I don’t want to date my best friend,” you murmur, holding his cheek.

“People often fall for their best friends,” he replies, lips screwing up in a frown. “Why would you be any different?”

“Do you want to bone Taehyung?”

“Honestly?” He cheekily raises his brows at you. “He’s a good-looking guy. Maybe if I weren’t me, and he wasn’t him, and you weren’t you – we might have had a round or two.”

“See, just like that! I can acknowledge that someone is cute, and still maintain boundaries,” you exclaim. “Not all of us think with what’s in our pants.”

He stares at you, eyes melting all soft and warm, and he nods. “Sorry, honey. I wasn’t being fair.”

“You were being silly,” you reply, stroking your thumb along his strong jaw. “My silly boy.”

“Your silly boy,” he agrees, bumping his nose against your own. “Can we carry on watching this shitty movie, so I can ruin it for Jungkook and watch him implode inside?”

You giggle, happily, and cuddle around him, and he feels himself float in nothingness, soaking in your scent – your skin, your clothes, your blood, all of it. “I’d like nothing more.”

///

Taehyung wakes up just as Yoongi and a reluctant Namjoon are finishing dinner. He’s sleepy, face puffy and striped with creases and redness from where he had been lying crumpled into a corner, when he drops into his seat and pulls you into his lap, wrappinghimself around you and sniffing, in comfort.

“S’good,” he murmurs, before drifting off once more, eyes closing and breathing evening out almost instantly.

“Maybe we should talk to Dr Moon about how his medication is making him sleep so much more,” Hoseok remarks, carding a comforting hand through Taehyung’s messy blue hair. “He wasn’t like this before.”

“It’s only been a few weeks since he changed meds,” Joon explains, putting down four bowls filled with rice. “His body needs to adjust.”

You find yourself playing with the bracelets on his wrist, trailing along the plaited fabric of the brown one, and the knobbles of the charms attached to another. “Are these meds helping him?”

Jimin pauses, to think, before he nods. “He doesn’t get nightmares as much.”

“But he sleeps too much,” Yoongi reaffirms, unhappily, putting down two plates of spicy meat and fried vegetables. “I know she talked about the potential side-effects with his Moms but seeing him struggle is hard.”

Jin purses his lips. “I’ll send her an e-mail in the morning. Maybe she’ll call him and have a comprehensive consultation about where to go from here. If it’s causing him that much discomfort, then his medication will have to be changed. Simple as that.”

Joon nods in agreement. “I’ll let my Mom know too.”

“Don’t, hyung,” Taehyung mutters, tiredly. He yawns into your back, hot breath soaking into the fabric, and he squeezes you adorably, like a teddy bear. “Your Mom is only going to worry, and I can’t do another intervention. I’m still getting used to them. My other ones made me gain weight and made my anxiety unmanageable, and I was allergic to the first batch I ever took. It’s trial and error. The only side-effect of these ones is the sleeping, and it’s getting better every week.”

“Hold off on the e-mails?” Jin asks.

Taehyung nods, scrubbing at his eyes sleepily, before he releases you with a comforting smile to go back to your seat, between himself and Jin. “For now.”

“Fine, fine,” Yoongi mutters. “Let’s eat. It’s our first meal as a family, and I want it to go perfectly.”

You grin at his enthusiasm, finding him even more adorable than before, now that he’s dressed in an apron and matching oven mitts. Hoseok seems to share your sentiments, as he presses a kiss directly to his brow, and you watch, fascinated, as Yoongi’s eyes flutter closed.

“Mom and Dad are being icky at the table,” Jimin yells, petulantly, and Jungkook kicks at his shins to get him to be quiet, although the both of them seem to find the joke hilarious.

Yoongi rolls his eyes and disappears to retrieve the final two plates of food, to be shared between you all. The boys certainly out did themselves with the spread of food, spanning the entire dining table. Vegetables, meats, fish – all seasoned and cooked to perfection. Some smoky, some barbecued, some boiled, some raw and mixed with natural herbs and sauces.

You couldn’t wait.

Your stomach couldn’t either, apparently, as you let out the loudest and most ravenous grumble, catching everyone’s attention.

“It’s not my fault I’m the only one who does that!”

Jungkook giggles and puts some meat on your plate, gesturing for you to start first.

“It’s tradition, for the youngest to provide for the newest in the cluster,” Joon explains, at your delightfully adorable confusion. “It goes from youngest to oldest, then myself, as leader. Food is the easiest way for us to show that we’re accepting you into our clan.”

“If we were all vampires, it would be different,” Hoseok amends. “We would be sharing a donor, or a blood-bag, or even an animal – whatever fits the taste of the cluster members. From youngest to oldest, then leader, to show that we’re all open and willing to feed you, to provide for you, and vice versa.”

You feel warm all over at their consideration. Everyone’s eyes are fixed on your expression, measuring your smallest movements, observing you for even the slightest impression of discomfort or unwillingness. Your scent expresses nothing but glee, nothing but joy and excitement, and the smell is even more enticing than the meal that is before them all.

“Do I need to sign anything?”

They laugh, because of course you would ask something so cute.

“Not at all,” Jin answers, chuckling to himself. “It’s all symbolic. There are seven of us, and Joon and I are acting as witnesses to the whole endeavour. We’ll report back to the High Court and the Elders once the time is right, and from there, you’ll officially be inducted into the Bangtan Coven.”

“You make it sound so easy,” you grouse.

“Because he’s skipping over a few steps,” Jimin clarifies, lightly. “The stuff behind the scenes will be for our parents to figure out. Although our rules about human/vampire interaction are very clear, our situation is unique. There are seven of us, destined for one of you. It hasn’t ever happened before.”

“You don’t pay attention in History class,” Joon remarks. “Something similar has been noted to have happened in our kind’s past.”

“If you’re talking about that old maiden’s tale, I really don’t want to hear it again, Joonie,” Hoseok teases. At your confused frown, he explains, “Joonie’s Mom loved telling him stories when he was younger, to help him fall asleep. And there was this one that he always would tell us whenever we stayed at the Main House. It was a typical star-crossed lovers tale, of love and misfortune, of pain and anguish, of life and of death. A man was the human, the First Man, with four wives… like us. They all loved him and lived for him, and they all wanted for him to be theirs. Only downside? None of them liked each other.”

Jin takes over. “That's putting it lightly, they absolutely abhorred one another. They would fight for his attention, always wanting to out-do each other. Be the prettiest, the smartest, the most special, etcetera.”

“Of course, it didn’t end well,” Jungkook says, hesitantly. He avoids your eyes as he says, “They would feed off him, enjoying his body and his youth and virility until they could no longer. One of them got greedy.”

“She took too much, leaving him disorientated and sick,” Jimin carries on, brow puckering. “Now, when we were kids, Joonie’s Mom changed the story’s ending to be more… PG.”

“She told me that he got sick, but while he was healing, the women all realised they loved him,” Namjoon says, delicately. “They were all willing to sacrifice their love for him to be healthy and happy, and upon realising that they all wanted the best for him, they joined together, to form the first all-female coven. Their original covens cast them out once they realised, they were in love with a human, the relation still being considered profane. But they found a home in each other, and they lived with their destined one, who was turned into a night-walker because of the errant feeding, for years until they met the sun together.”

You feel as if there’s something they aren’t saying, something important, so you push. “What actually happened?”

Yoongi glances at you. “They killed each other. They tore each other apart, in jealousy, in rage, out of anguish and pain. Only one was left, the one who originally bit him and sent him into sickness, and when he woke up and realised what happened – he saw them for the monsters they were – he cast her out. In agony, she fed on him wildly, until his heart stopped.”

“Once she came out of the feeding frenzy, she was covered in his blood, and fell into madness, haunted by images of their dying expressions and their pain-laced screams. Eventually, she met the sun alone, miserable and afraid,” Taehyung says, voice barely above a whisper. "That's a horror story they tell us when they want to keep us from falling in love with humans. They consider relationships like ours as damned."

“That won’t happen to us,” you tell them, voice firm and unwavering. “No matter what happens, that won’t ever happen to us. I love you all too much to let that happen.”

The last part trips out clumsily, words clumping together as you rush to get them out. “We love you too,” Jimin says, softly, softer than you’ve ever heard him say anything before. “Gods, we love you so much, it doesn’t even make sense.”

“Which is why we have to get on well,” Jin explains. “We already had a strong bond, practically unbreakable. But you, you’ve made it something impenetrable. These are my brothers in venom and in eternity, and you are my other half. It only makes sense that we live together.”

“I can’t imagine my life without all of you in it,” Jungkook admits, gently. “I don’t want to.”

“It’ll never happen,” you assure him, all of them. “I may not understand everything about what this is, what this will mean for our future, but I want you. I want you all in my life, I want to show you how much you all mean to me.”

Yoongi’s fingers twitch on the table as if he wants to reach for you, but he doesn’t. Hoseok holds his hand over the table, squeezing tightly, pressing a comforting kiss to his temple. “If you ever don’t want this, if you ever… change your mind…”

Hyung!” Jungkook slams a hand on the table, so hard you know his palm is smarting, as he exclaims his dissent. “Don’t talk like that.”

“She has the option, Jungkook,” Namjoon reminds the maknae. “She doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to, and we need to all be reminded of that. None of us do.”

He sinks into the chair, unhappily. “Fine. But I’m not going anywhere.”

“Neither am I,” Jimin counters, impishly. “I’m in this shit for life.”

“As crass as that sounds,” Jin replies, “So am I.”

Yoongi huffs. “If we’re all in agreeance, can we get this show on the road? The food’s getting cold, and I refuse to have a Unification Ceremony with cold food.”

“What princess wants, princess gets,” Hoseok announces, teasingly. “YN-ah, eat a bite of each piece of food you’re offered, before doing the same to us, in the same order it was done to you.”

You nod and move to take a nibble of the piece of meat (beef) that Jungkook had dropped on your plate. Chewing happily, you notice that the youngest member’s eyes are blown wide at the sight of you accepting his offering. The ceremony may be old-fashioned, but seeing you accept his offering makes him want to shout from the rooftops – you accept him, you want him!

Taehyung goes next, dropping some fish into your bowl and watching with the same heated look in his eyes, almost going cross-eyed with how intently he is staring at you. Jimin is after him, and he loads you up on steak, puffing his chest out in pride as you must chew extra hard to swallow down his thick offering.

Hoseok is after that, and although he wants to put the food onto your tongue, although he wants to help you swallow the pieces of fish, he needs to put it on your plate and let you feed yourself. The act of feeding oneself something offered is sacred to his kind, and even though he hates his parents, they taught him the importance of tradition, if nothing else.

Yoongi is next, and he drops some vegetables onto your plate, bouncing excitedly from side to side, seeing you give him a private and genuine smile before you suck down the asparagus and cabbage medley. Jin follows behind him, and he takes a moment to choose a wafer-thin, delicate slice of raw fish onto your plate. He even rolls it up for you, winking as you pick it up and suck in between your lips, chewing happily.

Joon is last and he trails along the table, searching for the final piece to put on your plate. He spots it and beams, excitedly, dropping a healthy mound of minced meat onto your plate, putting a comforting hand on your shoulder as you eat, pressing a kiss to the high point of your cheek once you are done.

You do the same for them, choosing carefully the slice of meat or fish that you feel they would most appreciate, and once they are done, you mimic Joonie’s gesture and kiss somewhere on their face, received a heart-wrenchingly beautiful grin in response.

“And with Jeon Jungkook finishing his mouthful, this Unification Ceremony is concluded,” Joon says, his voice all professional and serious. It makes you want to laugh. “With the passing tide and the next rising moon, Y/L/N Y/F/N is formally inaugurated into our cluster, ascribed to the Bangtan Coven, headed by my mother, Kim Yerin.”

Jungkook makes a show of finishing his mouthful, sticking his tongue out to show that every scrap is missing, before the seven of them rise to their feet and clap, excitedly.

You find yourself swept into long arms, trapped between two tall bodies and the words that you’ve been waiting for floating through the air.

“Welcome home, YN-ah.”

Chapter Text

It seems after the ceremony, you couldn’t physically get closer to the boys even if you wanted to, it seemed as if there was always someone near you, just waiting to make sure you were never alone. You woke up beside Jin and Jimin, stuck between the two on the orange-haired boy’s bed (although, he had complained about having his hyung in between his sheets, something about the smell of him sticking to his quilt, despite Jin’s insistence that by consequence of them sharing a room, his smell was all over him anyway, and Jimin was only complaining because he didn’t want to share you), and you curled into them naturally and instinctively, seeking out the feeling of them in your half-conscious state. Jin curled his arm around you a fraction tighter, sniffing the crown of your head, and Jimin pressed himself closer to the both of you, a small smile pulling at his lips unconsciously.

Jungkook interrupts your rest when he clatters into the room, all loud noise and smug smirks once he realises that you were all still asleep and he did, in fact, ruin your peace and quiet.

“Jeon Jungkook,” Jin hisses, voice cold and filled with white-hot anger. “You did that on purpose.”

“That I did, hyung,” the shameless maknae sing-songs, tossing back the curtains and letting in a stream of painfully bright light. “You’ve been sleeping too long, and YN hasn’t spent any time with me, with us, since last night.”

“You’re awfully needy today,” Jimin remarks, sleepily, from where he has pushed his face into your back. “YN, tell him to get out. He’ll listen to you.”

“No, I won’t,” he replies, dropping onto the bed and crawling over to you, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. “Morning, pretty.”

His breath smells like mint and he’s so close that it makes you feel cross-eyed. Too much for the morning, you reason, as you turn away and feel your face grow hot.

“Morning, Kookie,” you mutter, quietly. You feel strangely awake, alert, and you know you aren’t one for the mornings, so it strikes you as strange. A warmth blossoms in your chest that makes you want to get up, get up, get up, so you do, making Jimin groan as a cold wave of air blows over him. “What time did you get up?”

“Early,” he replies, simply. He trails behind you, like an excited puppy, eyes fixed on your every movement. You couldn’t look prettier if you tried, in his opinion. Now that everything was out there, and you had accepted their proposal, you were finally on the same page. “I went to the gym to work out.”

“You’ve already been to work?”

“No, the gym downstairs,” he replies, snorting. He jumps onto the side and watches you, intently, as you rife through the refrigerator, nudging the bags of almost-purple liquid that still make you feel itchy inside. “Pass me some A-pos, please, noona.”

You rear back a little, as if you misheard, brow crumpling slightly. “Some, what?”

“A-positive, it has it written on the bag. Bottom shelf is mine,” he explains, a gentle smile on his face, noting your visible confusion. God, you were so cute. He can’t explain it, but he just wants- well, he doesn’t know what he wants anymore. Just, you, safe, and looking just as soft as you do now, in Hobi’s tie-dye shirt and some of Taehyung’s (he isn’t certain, considering they all wear each other’s clothes, save for distinctive items that obviously belong to certain members of their cluster) shorts that go past your knees. You’re bare-footed, but the floor had been cleaned recently, so you didn’t have to worry about dirty feet. And even if the floor was dirty, he’d clean them for you if you asked. He’d do anything you asked right now, he feels so… needy.

She grabs the half-empty baggie from the shelf and hands it over, but not before squeezing it slightly, face contorting a little in clear discomfort.

Jungkook feels his collar grow hot at the implication. “Do you- Should I eat this in the living room?”

His tone of voice (shy, a little ashamed, and even a bit hurt) made you look from the bag in his hands, and you blink. “No. Why?”

“You look uncomfortable,” he mutters, kicking his feet. You had always likened him to a bunny, but if he had bunny ears, they would have been dropping in sadness right now. You feel as if your whole world was burning, seeing the pain etched onto his face. “I didn’t mean to make you feel like that, noona. Sorry.”

He slides off the table and hovers for a moment, as if unsure of how to proceed, before he brushes past you, back the way you both came, clutching the bag tightly.

“Jungkook, I never asked you to leave,” you murmur, quietly. “I don’t want you to go.”

He freezes at the door, letting out a soft puff of air through his mouth. “You do. You just don’t want to.”

“Jungkook…”

“What we are still makes you uncomfortable,” he explains, carefully, as if choosing his words is causing him physical pain. “You won’t understand unless you’re one of us. It isn’t disgusting, or scary, or violent – whatever your human tv shows have made you think, it isn’t true. We eat, like you eat.”

“Jungkook, look at me,” you assert, a touch more firmly than you would have otherwise done so.

His back is still tense as he follows your order, eyes fixed to the floor, but he appears to be listening.

“Come here, please, Kookie,” you whisper.

He drags his feet but approaches you, anticipating whatever you were about to give him. You grasp his hand, the one not holding the bag and tug him so you can jump up onto the side and get comfortable. There was no other way for you to look him in the eye, not when he’s being so stubborn (rightfully so, your brain unhelpfully supplies).

You play with the short hairs at the nape of his neck, watching as he closes his eyes, momentarily losing himself in the sensations of your fingers on him, not in a sexual way, but rooting himself in the comfort that you are giving him through a warm and loving touch.

“I’ve never once been afraid of you, baby,” you murmur, nosing at the side of his temple, holding him close to your chest. He can practically taste your pulse on his tongue, parts of him stirring to life that make him want to run, to burst, to yell, to squeeze. “You’ve never scared me.”

“I said uncomfortable,” he garbles out, voice thick with hunger (both kinds, he thinks). “Not scared.”

Letting out a gentle sigh, your breath puffing out against his ear, a spot he never knew to be sensitive now singing with desire. “I’m not used to it, that’s all.”

Pulling away, for his own sanity, he asks, eyeing you carefully, “How does one get used to having blood-drinking soulmates?”

Taking a moment to ponder his statement, you purse your lips, eyes falling to the bag in his much looser grip. You take it from him, watching the thick liquid fill crevices inside of the half-empty baggie as you twist and angle your wrist. Jungkook watches you, absolutely entranced and more than half-way turned on. He’s yearned for your blood in the past, they all have either passively or proactively thought about tasting you, both intimately and for the purpose of sustenance, but he would resolutely never touch you without your permission.

Having you so close to a source of food was making his thoughts get muddled up in his head and he moves to shuffle away, just to get some air, but you clutch his collar. “Don’t, baby. Just- How about this, and tell me if this is a bad idea, okay?” He nods. “Drink this. Now. In front of me.”

He blanches at your suggestion, but he would be a liar if his groin didn’t light up with the implication. “I don’t think that- You might be really grossed out. I couldn’t bare it if you were disgusted with me, especially with something I couldn’t control.”

You lick your lips before you explain your motives, rather quietly, “Whenever I picture you drinking- eating… whatever, I think of the movies I saw as a kid. I don’t see you, or Joonie, or Yoongi – I see this scary stranger, and some unwilling, terrified victim. I want to see you, look at you with your face and your eyes and your smile, and know that the person that I love and care about is getting sustained, not some kind of sick sexual pleasure from a scared girl.”

He seems reluctant, but at least he’s listening to you.

“I want to see it, I need to see it in front of me. I need to get used to it, Kookie.”

Your use of his nickname seems to bring him out of whatever reverie he had trapped himself in, and he sets his jaw taut. “Fine… Fine, I’ll do it.”

“Thank you, Jungkook.”

He shakes his head. “Don’t thank me, not yet.”

“Is there anything I should be careful of?”

“We don’t go into a violent rut, if that’s what you mean,” he replies, with a small injection of amusement in his voice. “We feed once every few days, but we can go longer as our control improves. Plus,” he shakes the baggie, “This isn’t human. It doesn’t taste like a person, it tastes like… blood. It lacks that sweetness, I suppose, that comes with a living person with a real pulse.”

“You prefer humans?”

“Of course,” he replies, uncapping the bottle with expert hands. “We all have our preferences, of course. Take me: with bagged blood, it’s always A-pos. From the vein, however, I liked anybody, as long as they were my age. Nineteen, twenty at a push. There was just something spicier about the blood that really tickled my palate.”

“We’re talking about people as if they were steaks,” you remark, lightly.

He snorts. “To us, they might as well be. We don’t disrespect humans. In fact, we respect them a lot. Their resilience, their determination, their drive. But they’re also fucking delicious sometimes.”

Cautiously, he brings the neck of the baggie to his lips, eyes on you the entire time. “Are you sure about this?”

“Drink the blood, Jungkook,” you answer, voice barely above a whisper and clearly imbued with nerves. “I trust you.”

He puts his hand on your thigh, his palm encompassing the meat there, and uses you as a buoy. You stare, enthralled as he puts the neck between his lips and rests it on his tongue. His jaw ticks and moves as his mouth suckles at the neck of the baggie, barely using any strength to suction the blood into his mouth and splatter along his palate and gums.

For all intents and purposes, the whole endeavour was normal. He didn’t tear the bag open, he didn’t cover himself in blood. In fact, he seemed to be a clean eater, barely moving save for the fluttering shut of his eyes and the tug and pull of his strong jaw. His nose flared slightly, and you watched as his eyes shifted beneath his lids as he drank until he was full.

His hands, hands you know to be both immovably strong and painfully gentle, hold you down with one and hold the bag up with another, and you knit your fingers in the material of his shirt, feeling anxious for no other reason that he was showing you who he was at his most core, at his most carnal.

“You’re holding me too tight, Kookie,” you murmur, quietly, as his grip intensifies as the seconds pass by. He barely seems to hear you, eyelids fluttering, and a sliver of silver appears before being gone the next moment. “Kookie…”

“Stop, noona,” he murmurs, so quietly you barely hear him. His jaw thrums as he grinds his teeth, clearly holding himself back, before he opens his eyes – his pretty dark eyes, pupils edged by a molten silver that you haven’t had any opportunity to properly examine yet. “Fuck, that’s good. It usually doesn’t taste so good.”

He’s pressing you into the table top, disregarding the now-entirely empty baggie with a nonchalant flick of his wrist, and he pushes his hips into you, slotting between your legs almost perfectly. You must widen your gait slightly to accommodate him and, oh, the idea has you slick in seconds.

“You smell so good,” he hums, absently, nose trailing down your jaw to rest in the dip of your clavicle. “You always smell good, but now… you’re divine.”

Instinctively, you wrap your arms around his neck, losing yourself in the sensations of him. He smells good, clean and strong and intrinsically masculine. His back is so broad and taut with coiled muscles and the promise of power. His waist is narrow, and his hips sit at the perfect height for you to rest your calves on – which you do, unconsciously. He hisses at the movement, rubbing your centre purposefully against the prominent and pulsing bulge in his sweats. It doesn’t nothing to hide his arousal, something you feel strangely proud and responsible for.

His mouth opens against your collar and you feel the drag of something warm and wet against your skin.

“I want to taste you, so badly,” he whispers into your skin.

“My blood?” You suggest, lightly, meaning it as a joke.

His silence that follows is telling.

“Not just your blood, noona,” he replies, seriously. “I want to taste all of you, anything you’re willing to give me.”

“You have all of me, Jungkook,” you admit, breathlessly. “You all do.”

“Gods, you have no idea what you’re doing to me,” he whimpers, bucking against you helplessly.

“Alright, alright, enough of that, I cook on there,” Jin chastises, walking into the room and acting as a human (or, should you say a vampire) alarm, jolting the two of you out of your momentary lapse in judgement. “I’m glad you aren’t as turned off by the blood as you first thought, but with Kookie here about to blow his load into the fruit basket, I thought it best if we turned the heat down in here.”

Hyung…”

“Not a bad thing,” Jin says, teasingly.

You feel your cheeks and ears practically set aflame, your chest hot with shame over being caught. “I’m sorry, Jinnie.”

“Nothing to be sorry for, petal,” he says, helping you down. Jungkook attempts to hide himself with the front of his oversized shirt but it does little to salvage his pride. “Go and sort that out, maknae.”

Jungkook practically scurries out, leaving you without so much as a ‘bye’ in his wake. You feel how sticky you are, and you wonder if Jin can smell it. If he can, he doesn’t seem to be letting it bother him, barely giving you a once over before he disappears into the fridge.

“How about you go into the living room and leave breakfast to the kitchen master, huh?”

“Okay,” you squeak, and shuffle out.

As soon as you leave, you miss the dark look that passes over Jin’s features as he watches your dainty calves move. How he wants to wrap them around his waist and drill you until you cry, he thinks, passively, feeling his lower half twitch to life.

He opens up a window and sets off the air conditioning in the kitchen, hoping that the thick scent of your arousal disperses before anyone else gets up. He can hear Jungkook beating off in the shower, so he gives the younger man his privacy, a small, somewhat sadistic smile on his face. He enjoys teasing – not too much, mind you, but just enough to make the other party feel embarrassed, but never bullied or mortified. It’s in his nature, he supposes, thinking of his witch of a mother. Instantly, his half-mast dies a rapid death, and he feels his mood sour.

Jimin pokes his head into the kitchen when he’s in the middle of the kimchi pancakes (Yoongi’s Dads had sent a care-package the other day, knowing how much their little one enjoys experimenting with the side dish) and asks, “Hyung, can I, maybe, go wake the others? It’s been a while, and I don’t think Taehyung wanted to sleep in this late. He had some idea about taking YN out later, to a museum or something.”

Jin nods. “It’ll be a good idea to wake them, even Yoongi, if you can.”

Jimin blanches at the idea. “Hyung…”

“Take YN,” Jin suggests. “He always responds better to her than any of us.”

Jimin beams at the proposal, loving the idea of spending more time with you, even if it was to wake up his brothers. His connection with you feels bright and new, mint-coloured bubbles that rise like seafoam in his mind that contrasts the other colours of his worn yet strong bond with his cluster-mates.

“YNie, honey! Let’s go wake the rest of the rabble,” Jimin says, bouncing into the room, orange-hair wild with the morning and face bare of everything but a smile. “It’s breakfast time soon and I don’t want to hear Taehyungie’s complaining about an empty stomach and cluster abuse.”

He rolls his eyes in an exaggeratory manner and you take comfort in his friendly appearance. He had showered and washed his hair, pushing the long strands out of his face with a headband, his roots poking through attractively. It almost is enough to distract you from your absolutely shameless display earlier in the kitchen.

“Coming,” you reply, hoisting yourself out of the comfy little ball you had wrapped yourself in, hiding away in your embarrassment and hoping your shame isn’t as clear as day on your face. You stare down at your feet, trailing behind the other boy, missing the confused look growing on his face.

“You look… shy,” Jimin remarks, inquisitively. “You won’t even look me in the eye. Is this because we slept together last night? I promise I didn’t mean to do anything untoward to you, if I did… in my sleep.”

“No, no, you did nothing wrong,” you murmur, softly. “Jungkook and I- We… I watched him feed.”

“Ah,” he says, quietly, as if it makes sense. “He got horny?”

You nod, hiding your face in your hands. He stops on the landing, leaning against the wall beside their medley of photographs. “Did he get handsy?”

Shaking your head, vehemently. “Nothing that I wasn’t okay with.”

He surveys you, briefly, before looking away, down the hall where the other rooms are. “Where does the problem lie?”

“I-”

He looks back at you, brow pitching up in amusement, before he asks, voice dropping low and mellifluous, “Did you like it? Watching him feed, I mean.”

Unable to deny his suggestion, you nod, clenching your eyes shut, too embarrassed to meet his heady gaze. “Ah, honey,” he sing-songs, approaching you like a man who has all the time in the world. He’s teasing you, wanting to watch you squirm, and squirm you do, under his intense gaze. He asks, lightly, as if enquiring about the weather, “What are we going to do with you?”

You whimper, squeezing your eyes shut tighter, “Jimin…”

“Stop teasing her,” Namjoon’s voice floats from down the hall. You look up to see your sweet saviour poking his head out of his room, a stern furrow to his brow as he observes Jimin’s predatory grin. He catches your eye and for a split second, you note the echo of distance in his eyes, before he smooths over his expression into something perfectly amicable, and he says, “Morning, baby girl.”

“Morning, Joonie,” you reply, skipping over to him, happy to no longer be under Jimin’s suggestive and playful stare, but still nervous. What if he was still upset with you? You had yet to talk to him about what was bugging him, but he seemed… okay. He gives you a warm hug before taking a step back, surprising you. You shake off his weird behaviour, trying to brighten up your expression as you ask, reaching for him, “Did you sleep okay?”

He nods, letting you hold him briefly, “I did, thank you, YN.” As he looks over your head, at Jimin, he peels your hands off his wrists and moves out of your orbit, purposefully. “I’m assuming the person cooking is Jin-hyung?”

Jimin must nod in response, because Namjoon closes his door behind himself, securely, and steps out, past you and approaches him. You say ‘must’ because you don’t look away from the spot where Joon had stood.

Jimin asks, gently, “Are you coming, YN?”

You try to shift your expression into something bright, something fun and happy, but the furrow in your brow won’t move. You clear your throat and reply, “Uh… I’ll get Taehyung and Yoongi, if that’s okay?”

You hope your voice doesn’t sound too garbled, but Namjoon’s dismissal feels like a brand against your neck, hot and unyielding.

Jimin pauses, for a moment, before he answers, cautiously, “Sure… See you downstairs, honey.”

You hum in response, feet taking you further down the hall to Taehyung’s room. You knock, softly, but there’s no answer. You recall that the others have mentioned that his medication makes him sleepy, so you gently nudge open the door and step inside, hoping that he won’t be offended by your invasion of his privacy.

He’s in bed, wrapped up in his sea-blue sheets, face down in his fluffy pillows, mouth partially open as he lightly snores, lost in his own mind.

You almost want to take a picture of him, but you shove down the urge, knowing it to be wrong.

Sinking into his sheets beside his head, you card a hand through his blue hair and scratch at his scalp, soothingly. Ducking down to his ear, you murmur, softly, “Taehyungie… Taehyungie, you’ve got to wake up.”

He makes a noise in his throat, a clear dismissal of your words, as he turns around in bed, pushing his back further against you but his head away from your voice. “Come on, baby. Seokjin made some breakfast for us all. You don’t want to come down and eat with everyone.”

“’m tired,” he moans, rolling onto his back and opening out his arms for you. “Jagiya, just lay with me.”

“I won’t get up if I get in bed with you,” you complain, resting on his chest. He puts his hands on your hips, lifting your shirt, using his thumb to draw small circles on your skin. His eyes are still closed, and his cheeks are puffy from his rest, but he looks so happy, a gentle little smile on his face as he holds you in his arms.

“You don’t want to get comfortable with me?” He asks, flirtatiously, cracking open one eye. He stares at you, as if you were something precious, something gorgeous, something eternal, and it fills you with such joy that you would do anything in that moment that he asked. “Jagi, come on. Get in bed. Just for a minute? The food will wait. They’ll wait for us.”

“I don’t think this is a good idea, honey,” you murmur, quietly. “Come on, please. For me?”

“You drive a hard bargain,” he replies. “Asking so nicely, with such a pretty look in your eyes.”

He sits up onto his elbow, resting his weight onto one of his arms, and he reaches up for you, to cup your cheek in his palm. His thumb traces along your bottom lip, catching on the plumpness there, before flicking the skin playfully, watching as your tongue swipes out to soothe the sensation.

“Taehyung…”

“Don’t say my name like that,” he mutters, quietly, but firmly. The look in his eye is serious, filled with promise. “Not when I want you so badly.”

Your eyes flick to his lips, so soft and pink, in a purposeful movement, and he exhales, sharply. His grip tightens fractionally, before he pulls you down and before you could even process it, his lips were pressing against your own. Instantly he sucks your lower lip into his mouth to lathe at it, peppering you with attention and affection, moaning slightly at the taste of you.

“Fuck, you taste so good,” he mutters against your lips, barley pulling away enough to speak before he’s kissing you, hard and firm. “I love you. I love you, so much.”

You slide further onto his bed, holding his jaw with both of your hands, and just exist in that moment – him kissing you, and you kissing him. You don’t say it back, you can’t – he tastes too good for you to stop, the swipe of his tongue, wet and hot and silky against your own – but you feel it burn inside of you. The same sensation that had you get out of bed earlier in the morning overflowed in your chest, then, and you let out a choppy breath.

“We can stop, we can stop, baby,” Taehyung murmurs, comfortingly. “It’s okay.”

“I feel- I feel dizzy,” you admit, pathetically.

He pulls back, holding your chin in his hand, eyeing you carefully. “You look flustered, but beyond that, you seem okay. Let’s go for breakfast, though. Maybe you’re hungry.” Then, after a moment, his eyes take on a smug glint. “For more than food, perhaps?”

Shoving at him, bashfully, you move to stand. “Breakfast,” you assert, firmly.

“Okay, okay, let’s go,” he concedes, standing up and fixing his pyjamas. Then, as you both left the room, he holds your hand and asks, “Is Yoongi hyung awake?”

“He’s the last on the list,” you admit, watching your joined hands swing between the two of you. “I wasn’t supposed to take so long with you.”

“I can’t help but get lost in you sometimes,” Taehyung remarks, gently, pushing some hair out of your face. “We all do.”

“You’re making me feel shy,” you confess, hiding in his side. “Does it always feel like this?”

He shrugs, not unhelpfully. “Sometimes? Most of the time? I can’t tell you if how you’re feeling is normal, because your feelings are unique to you, but what I can say is that we all feel something regarding our bond and each other, all the time. Even in our sleep, we’re hyperaware of each other’s presences and moods.”

“That feels… invasive,” you admit, quietly.

He nods. “It can be, but over time you get used to it. We instinctively give each other privacy now. There are seven of us in one house. We’re bound to hear things we don’t like, or things that might gross us out. So, to save us any uncomfortable discussions about beating off in the wrong place, or kink-shaming or whatever, we shut off our hearing.”

Your cheeks feel warm at his words. “But the bond can’t be shut off, can it?”

He shakes his head, almost offended by the mere suggestion. “Not naturally. It takes a lot of effort to break a bond like ours, especially between soulmates. In fact, I’ve never heard of someone willingly terminating a soul-bond.”

“That won’t happen to us, will it?”

Taehyung stops short instantly, glaring down at you, as if you had said something offensive. “Don’t even suggest that, jagiya. We’ll never leave you, never. You’re one of us now, you’re our family. We’ll tell you every day if we have to – you’re our safe space, our home.”

“I love you, all of you,” you reply, holding him lightly around his trim waist. “We’ll make it work, won’t we?”

“Of course,” Taehyung agrees, pressing his nose against yours. “Let’s get hyung out of bed, then eat some of Jin-hyung’s breakfast, how does that sound?”

“Perfect,” you reply, grinning brightly, feeling significantly lighter inside.

Chapter Text

It seems like having completed the ceremony with the boys served only to make things somewhat more painful for you. Well, you can´t imagine having to spend hours away from the men who, all of a sudden, have become the single most important beings in your atmosphere would be a pleasant experience. But, like clockwork, every night when you had to say goodbye was harder than the last – and you did have to, on Namjoon’s command.

He claimed that it was important to set up personal boundaries, despite the fact that in all other aspects of your life, there was no such thing as solidarity. You were huffy when he told you, so was Hoseok and Yoongi, who seemed to want to be near you more than any of the other boys, but you did as he said.

He was the reigning authority, after all, and even though you weren’t a vampire, you still felt his influence over you. It was subtle, like a slight nudge to the shoulder, but the more you denied him, the more the pressure bothered you. It never hurt, he never compelled you, not using their abilities, but it only ever took one firm look from the leader to have you scampering away into the hall closet to grab your coat and shoes.

That was only during the week though. On weekends, you were allowed to stay as long as you wanted, and you took advantage of that.

Snuggling deeper into Jimin’s bedsheets, you let out a happy little sigh over the weight of his muscular arm around your middle. He liked to rest his face in the crook of your neck, and because their bodies always ran a few degrees colder than yours, you never sweat out at night. It almost felt like you were sleeping with mild air-conditioning on, so it made you feel comfortable to snuggle tight with them.

“What’s got you so happy this morning?” Jimin asks, voice thick with sleep. His face is slightly puffy, his eyes tinged red as he cracks open one orb to look you over, and he licks his lips out of habit more than with the intention to tempt you. That doesn’t mean you weren’t tempted though. “Is it me?”

“Of course, honey,” you chuckle, smile only growing as you look at him. “It’s always a good day when you’re the first thing I see.”

He pauses to look over at you, eyes cracking open at the cheesiness in your words, and his stunned expression makes your cheeks burn in embarrassment. He hugs you tight, pressing his nose into your neck and inhaling deeply, letting the scent of you rest on his palette, and he whines, “Honey… Why do you always say things that make my heart feel like it’s about to burst out of my chest?”

You giggle, sweetly, and play with the black hair at the base of his neck.

He had dyed it back to his natural colour one day as a surprise and turned up outside of the coffee shop to pick you up. You dropped a muffin on the floor mid-conversation when you spotted him pushing open the door and your new colleague Mingi dropped over his own feet at the striking sight of your partner – you would call him your boyfriend, but the thought alone makes you feel shy. He had been wearing his signature leather jacket, a thin white shirt that showed off his collarbones and some chunky jewellery around his neck and on his fingers. You almost jumped him in the car, but instead you kept pinching the inside of your thighs every time the urge to dip your tongue in his collar arose in your chest.

“Maybe you bring the softie out of me,” you admit, warmly. He lets you play with his hair for a long moment, the two of you simply breathing in tandem. You enjoy his weight on top of you, it reminds you of the closeness that your bond gives you, and you press intermittent kisses to his temple, smelling his shampoo from his late-night shower and the smell of his body wash.

“Did you go to the gym last night?”

Jimin shakes his head. “I was feeling a little stressed out, so I just went for a short run.”

You quirk your head slightly to look at him. “Short? How long?”

He goes quiet for a moment. “Maybe two hours? Nothing big.”

“We went to bed together, Jimin,” you murmur, softly. You aren’t chastising him, but you don’t like the feeling of him sneaking out of bed to go for a run at night. “You should’ve woken me up.”

He sits up on his heels and grins at you, eyes crinkling. “So, you can come running with me?”

You blanche at the thought. “Maybe?”

“Don’t lie, honey,” he teases, pressing his finger into your tummy. “You looked too cute, sleeping in my bed, to disturb.”

“I don’t like the thought of you being alone,” you mutter, softly, playing with his short fingers in your own. You rub the pad of your fingers against his smooth and neatly-clipped nails, feeling the ridges of his skin. “Especially when you’re feeling so restless.”

He shifts, so he sits on his butt and he opens his legs, beckoning you forward. You shuffle to sit in his lap and wrap your arms around his thick neck. “Honey, can you look at me? Just for a second, okay?”

He waits for you to follow his command, which doesn’t take long, but still, you feel shy. He has this ability to make you feel so… seen. His dark eyes naturally sparkle with mischief, and it sets off a warmth in your stomach that you can’t shove away with ease.

He turns you on. A lot. And he knows it.

And he likes to use it to his advantage, especially when you’re both alone like this.

When he catches your eyes, he squares his shoulders and says, seriously, “YN, this isn’t your issue. Sometimes, things with my mother get on top of me, and I need some space to not think about it. I find that feeling of escape when I run. That’s my private time, you know?”

You nod.

“I don’t want you to feel like you can’t be around, because it isn’t that serious,” he amends, softly. He ducks closer to you, pressing a loving kiss to your cheek. “If you are serious about coming with me, then we can make a date of it. A sweaty, gross date. Okay?”

A giggle escapes you at his playful expression. “Okay.”

He rests his hands on your spine under your shirt (it’s actually Jin’s, but that’s neither here nor there), cupping your lower back in a strong but affectionate hold, and strokes his thumb along your skin. “What did we ever do to deserve somebody like you, huh, honey?”

You laugh, because of how silly you think his words are. You are the one who must have done something immeasurably good in your past life to have not one but seven amazing, supportive and tender-hearted lovers.

“I don’t know, maybe I saved the country or something,” you tease, pushing back his hair and kissing his forehead. “Are you hungry?”

He rears back and for a second, there’s a dark look in his eye that disappears as you blink down at him. “Not for food, baby.”

Licking your lips, you let his words wash over you. “Oh, really?”

You quirk up a brow defiantly, one that he meets head on without a second’s hesitation. He warns, playfully, “Don’t start something you can’t finish, sweetheart.”

“It wouldn’t be me finishing early, honey,” you sing-song.

He chokes slightly on his spit, as he laughs, loud and long. “That sounds like a challenge.”

You nod, giggling.

“Have it your way,” he says, manoeuvring you to lay on your back and presses his weight on you once more. He settles between your legs and hoists your calves to rest on his sides. His hands slowly descend down your sides to settle on your hips, thumb swiping against your hipbones and bumps his forehead against your own. He whispers, quietly, “Is this okay?”

“So okay,” you reply, breathlessly. “I love you.”

He closes his eyes, letting the words wash over him, and he whines, gently, “I love you so much.”

You seal your lips against his plump ones, feeling the softness of his petal-pink pouty mouth work along with yours. “Fuck, you taste good.”

“I taste like the morning,” you complain, embarrassed.

“Me too,” he replies, burying his fingers in your hair. “I don’t care. Come here.”

He holds your head in place as he practically fucks your mouth with his tongue. He nudges the muscle into your mouth, slow swipes of his tongue that match the pace of the way his hips were grinding into your centre. You whimper into his mouth, and he feels the heat inside of his stomach burn brighter. He wants to make you cry out even louder, even more desperately for him. You feel him harden slowly in his loose shorts but instead of reaching down to touch him and feel his hot length pulse in your palm, you want to take a moment to just enjoy the feeling of him caging you in his arms and the suppleness of his skin beneath your fingers.

“Is this all okay?”

You nod, words escaping you.

“Can I take this off?” He asks, pulling at the edges of Jin’s shirt. You don’t reply, simply throwing your hands up and letting him shuck the shirt off. He tosses it over the side of the bed and sheds his own shirt. You feel your mouth literally dry up at the sight of his ripped chest. His obliques are practically vibrating as he shifts, his abs practically bulging out as he moves and his arms? There aren’t words. You wonder which barbarian invented t-shirts, if the result was this sight being hidden from your eyes.

“Are you okay, baby?”

“Are you kiddingme?”

His brows raise at the shrillness of your voice and looks down at himself, brow puckering slightly. “What’s wrong?”

“Have you seenyourself? You’re fucking gorgeous, oh my god,” you whine, tempted to run your hands along his body to just make sure he wasn’t fucking with you, or if this was all a fever dream.

His cheeks flush with your floundering, and he rubs at the side of his nose, trying to hide his proud smirk. “Well, I mean, you know. I dance, a lot, so… it just happened over time.”

“Can I?” You ask, nodding at his stomach and you raise your hand, implication clear.

He reaches for your wrist and guides you to touch his abdominal area. At the first press of your fingers on his skin, his stomach muscles jump, and he lets out a soft sigh of appreciation. “Your hands are warm.”

“Sorry,” you say, quietly.

He shakes his head. “It’s good. It feels nice.”

You trace along the ridges of his stomach, trailing from his pectorals down to the lightly dusting of hair on his snail trail that leads under his waistband. Your eyes take in the impressive bulge in his shorts, before flitting back up to him, looming over you on his knees.

“You want to keep going?” He asks, sounding just as breathless as you feel. “We can stop, you know. Whenever you want.”

You shake your head. “Not yet.”

He smiles, softly, before nudging you back into place onto your back, spreading your knees with a strong hand and holding you in place. He rests his other hand on the base of your throat and says, seriously, “Tongue out.”

“I-“

“I said what I said, honey,” he sing-songs, eyes sparkling playfully. “Tongue out.”

You feel your heart flutter in your chest as you let your tongue peek out from between your teeth. He smiles, happily, at your compliance, before he pushes his index and middle finger into your mouth, pressing down on your tongue, forcing your throat to clench around nothing and spit to rise in your mouth on instinct.

He presses light kisses to your throat, and he watches as your throat bobs pathetically, watching as you try not to choke on nothing. He feels his fingers get coated in spit, sticky and wet, and he wants – god, he wants – to shove them inside of you. Specifically, your asshole, but that’s got to wait until later, he supposes.

You reach for his forearm, clutching tightly onto him like a lifeline, as he sucks dark marks onto your soft brown skin.

They look so pretty, splotches of purple and red breaking up the suppleness of your body, and he ducks into your cleavage, wishing you didn’t sleep with a sports bra on last night.

You gurgle, pitifully, and it’s then that he glances up, to see spit dribbling down your cheeks and your eyes are watery as you buck up into him, pitiably.

“Ah, ah, ah, enough of that, honey,” Jimin chastises, softly, withdrawing his fingers and watching you take in ragged breaths. He pulls your head back by your dark strands and holds you firm. He says, “Sit still and maybe I’ll let you come.”

“Baby…”

He tuts. “I’m not going to say it again, okay? Sit still, be a good girl and let me get used to your pretty little body, okay?”

You nod, stretching out and letting out shuddering breaths. “Please…”

“I know it doesn’t feel too good right now,” he mutters as he descends down your body, tongue peeking out to lap at your skin, leaving a trail of heat. “But I promise it’ll be worth it if you just relax for me.”

Closing your eyes, you feel him hook his fingers in your shorts and tug them down your thighs, tossing them to the side, and descend between your legs playing with the seam of your underwear along your bikini line.

“Do you want me to eat you out?”

The question sends a flash of surprise through you, and your chest instantly gets hot.

You hadn’t shaved in a few days. You showered last night but still, you weren’t sure what you were going to look like down there, or taste like, and it’s been so long since you last got some, you felt the pre-sex anxiety wash over you immediately.

“You don’t have to,” Jimin amends, sensing your fear and misunderstanding it as reluctance. “It’s just a suggestion, but we don’t have to do anything more than this.”

You shake your head, reaching for him, making grabby hands. He settles in your arms, resting on his elbow slightly, waiting for you try and find the words to explain. “No, I’m just a little… uh, nervous?”

He tilts his head to the side, unspoken question hanging in the air.

“I haven’t had sex in about a year,” you admit. “I don’t… I’m just a little nervous about doing it again, that’s all.”

He makes a noise of understanding, and his fingers slowly stroke along your hipbone once more, a soothing sensation meant to calm you down. “You don’t have to be nervous with me, or with any of us, honey. We’ll only go as far as you’re comfortable with.”

You exhale, licking your lips and nodding, gently. “Okay.”

“So, can I eat you out, or do you want to go down for a different kind of breakfast?”

You snort at his terrible joke and curl up into him, shy.

“Ah, ah, ah,” he says. “You have to use your words, baby. Do you want me to eat you out?”

You don’t think your cheeks could feel warmer as his eyes scan your face. “Yes.”

“Yes, what?”

You pause. “Yes, please.”

“Good girl,” he compliments, before rolling you onto your back and spreading your legs once more. “Hands in my hair if you want to direct me, and if you want to stop, say ‘red’, okay?”

You nod.

He repeats, seriously, “Do you understand? I need your words, baby.”

“I understand, Jimin. Please,” you whine, grinding your butt into the sheets below.

(---)

He smiles once more, before his expression becomes calculating and intense, hooking his fingers in your underwear and tugging them down and off in one swift motion. He wasn’t interested in teasing. He just wanted your pussy out and in his face. He’ll do all of the romancing next time.

You try and cover yourself with your hand, but he holds your wrist tightly and he squeezes in warning. “None of that, silly girl.”

He nudges your legs open, taking in the sight of your warm, supple and inviting flesh and he feels himself pulse in his shorts. If only he could slide inside, he thinks he would die a happy man.

“Stop staring,” you whine, shyly.

He blinks, surprised. “Sorry, baby. Relax for me, okay?”

You sigh and try your best to settle in his bed, the scent of him swirling around you and you feel your body clench up instantly at the first swipe of his wet and pointed tongue against your most private place.

“It’s okay, baby,” he soothes, swiping his thumb along your hipbone once more. He looks up at you from between your legs, to make sure you’re alright, before he goes back to work, working his tongue flat over you, using the tip to stimulate your clit until you’re a weeping mess in his bed. He keeps your legs open as his tongue vibrates against your body, wrapping around your swollen bud, using intense pressure to make you cry and jerk, before circumventing it with light and quick flicks of his tongue to keep you on edge.

“Fuck, Jimin, please,” you whine, grinding against his face, instantly losing your feelings of embarrassment or shame. “More, I want more.”

He acknowledges your words, just this once considering he hasn’t had chance to teach you howhe likes to be asked and shifts his weight slightly to get his hand free from where it has been caged by the outside of your knee. His fingers, short but thick, slip between your labia circling lightly at your entrance, waiting for you to naturally relax before working his finger inside, pumping in and out until the sounds of you are bordering on obscene. He curls his fingers up as his tongue suckles at your clit, to press against the spongy patch at the front of your vagina, and he watches you seize up, utterly helpless.

He pulls off but keeps his fingers pumping into you, and he compliments, pressing kisses to your tummy, and he says, softly, “You’re doing so well, baby. Good girl. My good girl.”

He groans as he feels you subconsciously clench around his fingers at his praise, imagining what it might feel like if he had his cock inside of you, not just his fingers that he knew weren’t reaching the depths of you that he wishes he could. He really just wants to split you in half with his dick, to make you really go crazy, not just whimper and whine as you were doing with his tongue. Still, these sounds are better than none, and he works his mouth harder, sucking your clit into his mouth and feeling another gush of wetness seep from your entrance and coat his fingers, making them sticky.

He knows you aren’t close, it takes a lot longer to work you up into the kind of frenzy he wants you to be in, but he’s happy with keeping you so turned on that you can’t control your movements and are practically completely under his control.

“Wanna come, baby?”

You nod, reaching for him and making grabby hands once more, eyes wet with tears that just won’t fall.

“Want kisses?”

You nod, vehemently, and he cranes his head up to kiss you on the mouth, pushing his tongue into your mouth so you can taste yourself.

“Keep your legs open for me,” he commands, and he waits until you push your knees apart, exposing yourself, and the sight of his fingers disappearing into your entrance, to his greedy eyes. “Fuck, you’re perfect.”

He feels someone’s presence outside of the door, atune to his brothers more than he is to his own parents, and he can tell that it’s someone older than him. He knows they can hear, and a sadistic part of him wants them to hear. He’s the first one getting into her underwear, he’s the first one who’s going to make her cum all over herself, he’s the one who’s cock she’s begging for. He can’t help but be proud of that.

“Louder for me, baby,” he says, playfully. “Someone’s being nosey outside. I think they want to hear you cry for me.”

Your cheeks burn and the colour looks so precious on you.

“Come on, honey,” he goads, pressing into you just a little faster, and you can’t hold back the cry of surprise. “Let’s give them a show.”

“Jimin, please,” you cry out.

“It seems as if you like it,” he murmurs, curiously. “The way your pussy is sucking me in, it’s like you want to be watched. Is that what you like, honey? What’re we going to do with you?”

Shame crashes over your head, but your stomach is practically aflame with arousal and you can’t help but keep bucking up into his hand, meeting each flick of his wrist with a bounce of your own.

“I wish I could see your pretty tits,” Jimin laments, softly, glancing up at the training bra strapped to your chest. “Are you gonna show me, next time, honey?”

You nod, wildly.

“Words, honey,” he chastises, thumb circling your clit firmly.

“Ah, ah, I’ll show y-you n-next time,” you whine, inching closer and closer to your high. You want to deny his words, but you find that you do like the idea of being watched by others while you’re being pleasured by your lover.

“I like the sound of that,” he murmurs, before pausing. A mischievous smile spreads across his face. “Joonie-hyung seems to like the sound of that too, if my ears don’t deceive me.”

He bends down to whisper in your ear. “He’s touching himself right outside the door.”

He isn't, but the effect in your body was immediate: tense internal muscles, a throbbing sensation that would feel absolutely divine around his dick.

You cry out at the image your mind has supplied. “Fuck, Jimin. Please, please, please. I’m so, so close.”

“I know, honey, I know,” he says, quietly, pressing a kiss to your clammy temple. “Sit back for me.”

You do as he says, as he settles back between your legs, mouth curling around your clit once more, sucking hard and fast, drawing broken wails from deep inside of your chest. He doesn’t stop until your back is bowed off the bed and your practically leaking down his throat. His arm is holding your hips down as you grind into him, and his fingers feel all pruny, but he doesn’t want to give up until you come and come hard.

Which you do, mere moments later, when he pushes three of his fingers into you and lightly nibbles at your clit simultaneously.

“Good girl,” he compliments, feeling your insides clench around him as you twitch and shudder on his now-soiled sheets. You had squirted a little, which makes his chest puff out and his cock ever harder, and now you seem utterly exhausted.

(---)

He pulls his fingers out and grabs the shirt to help you into it, so you don’t feel too exposed once you come back to yourself. He gets you onto your back under the sheets and waits until your breathing levels out, proving that you’ve fallen asleep, before he slides out of the bed and opens the door to a red-faced Namjoon.

“You good, hyung?”

He gets a light punch to the chest in response, and he notices that Joonie’s hands shake a little as he does so. The older says, quietly, “Open a window, unless you want Jin to come up here and finish the job.”

Jimin snorts but acknowledges his hyung’s words. “Did you want something?”

“We’ve got a coven meeting in half an hour,” he says, eyes fixed on your sleeping form, concerned. “Is she okay?”

“Didn’t you just hear? She’s more than okay. She's great,” he replies, smugly, as he leans against the door. “You can come in if you like?”

Namjoon takes a step back before he shakes his head. “No. It’s- It’s fine.”

Jimin feels his jaw set in a momentary flash of annoyance with his hyung. “Whatever is going on with you, Joonie, you need to get over it before it starts to affect your relationship with her.”

“I know, Jimin,” he says, suddenly seeming exhausted. “I just- I can’t put it into words.”

“The longer you leave it hyung, the more she’s going to feel uncomfortable,” Jimin explains, sympathetically. He might be running on the high that you gave him, but he still understands his hyung’s internal conflict. “She might think it’s her, and then what are you supposed to do?”

He presses his forehead against the wall beside Jimin’s room and groans, low, in his throat.

Jimin puts a hand on Namjoon’s shoulder and says, “Honestly, she’s been so accepting of us so far. She’s tried to accept everything about us, and if it’s too weird or hard, she still tries. Hyung, you have to try, too.”

Namjoon nods in understanding. “I’ll take to her. Not now, but later. Get ready for the meeting. My mom misses your face.”

Jimin flushes at Namjoon’s words. “I miss your Mom, too. Give me a few minutes, hyung.”

“Wash your face first,” Joonie chastises, playfully.

Jimin simply rolls his eyes and turns back into his room, to cuddle you a little before he has to be downstairs. He settles into the crook of your neck and breathes you in,

“Was that Joonie?”

Jimin chuckles into your neck and says, “You were listening then, huh?”

He doesn’t sound angry, or even annoyed, but more intrigued by your sneakiness. He actually hadn’t realised you were awake, which speaks more to how comfortable he is around you.

“Sorry,” you whisper, curling into his chest further. “I didn’t want to listen, but it was kind of hard not to.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, honey,” he tells you, pushing some of your bushy hair out of your face to see that your eyes are a little watery. “Joonie just has some of his own issues going on.”

“Is it me?”

Jimin shakes his head, instantly. “He already said it wasn’t anything to do with you, baby. It’s all Joonie. He’s an overthinker. It’s what makes him such a great leader, but unfortunately, it’s also what keeps him stuck up here most of the time.” He taps his finger against his temple with a grim expression on his face. “None of us ever want to make you feel inadequate. We don’t want you to feel bad about who you are, or how you think. This whole thing is an adjustment period for us all. You think I ever thought I’d be dating the same girl as my best friends?”

You giggle, wetly, and sniffle. “I love you, Jimin.”

He preens, happily, at your praise, and presses a kiss to your forehead. “Love you too, honey. Get some sleep, I’ll bring some breakfast up for you once the meeting is over.”

“I don’t get to meet his Mom yet?”

“Honestly, we’re probably going to be discussing you,” he laughs, sliding out of the bed and grabbing his shirt as he goes. After he tucks you in, he disappears out the door with a kiss blown your way and a promise to be quick, leaving you to your thoughts.

What could possibly be going through Joonie's mind that he would need to avoid you so intently?

Was it something with his bond with you specifically that was bothering him?

Did something happen in his private life that he doesn't want to tell you just yet?

You're reminded of Taehyung's past, and you find yourself deflating. What kind of girlfriend would you be if you forced yourself into a part of his life that he wasn't ready to share with you? You roll over to the side and take a deep sniff of Jimin's sheets, feeling your anxiety settle slightly. 

You promised yourself that you would be patient with him, and give him the space to come to you. You owed Joonie that much.

Chapter Text

Jimin bounds down the stairs, a spring in his step and a shit-eating grin on his face, to see his brothers all gathered around the TV in the living room, passing around snacks and candies, getting ready to hold the albeit-brief coven meeting.

“You couldn’t shower before coming down?” Jungkook grumbles, frustratedly, as Jimin drops down beside him on the floor. The dancer simply sends him a smug smirk before throwing his arms out and reclining against the edge of the sofa.

He feels the annoyed glares from his brothers – he could feel the heat from a mile away – but he doesn’t even register their annoyance. He feels too good. He can still taste you on his lips, and he keeps sucking at his bottom lip periodically, unable to help himself.

“You’re so disgusting,” Hoseok hisses, kicking him in his back with the tip of his toes, without heat and envy dripping off his every word. He grumbles, quietly, “I’m calling next.”

“Fuck that shit,” Jin practically growls, inching forward as if to dare the other to say anything in contradiction. He and Hoseok lock eyes and both men feel their fangs itch in warning. “If you think you’re getting to taste her before me, you’ve got another thing coming.”

The tension in the room rises slowly, and the younger three teens glance between the two older dominant personalities, suddenly nervous. They haven’t really fought much, growing up there were a few bumped heads, a few knuckles scraped, but they hadn’t raised a hand to each other in years. Years. And the urge to assert their own dominance hadn’t really been an issue, considering they all respected Joonie’s authority over them as leader, despite his lack of dominant personality. Once Jin, the most dominant of the seven, conceded to his leader, there was no reason for the rest of them to argue about it, because they all usually followed the eldest member’s lead.

But right now, it felt like they were inching close to throwing fists, or fangs, over something that, in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t that big of a deal.

Namjoon growls, losing his composure for the first time with his brothers when the screen says ‘connecting’, “Behave yourselves, otherwise I’ll send her home for the rest of the week and none of you will see her until you get your heads out of your asses!”

Jungkook whimpers, “Hyung…”

“Quiet, maknae,” Yoongi chastises, quietly, a firm hand on his meaty shoulder. He whispers, quietly into his ear, “Don’t take it personal, kid.”

Jungkook feels his shoulders droop but he nods, quieting down.

Namjoon feels bad at the sad look on his face, so he approaches him, and drops to eye-level. “I’m sorry, Kookie. I’m just- I feel a little on edge. I’m sorry for shouting at you.”

Jungkook nods, feebly. “’s okay, hyung.”

They bump foreheads together, feeling the anxiety settle in their stomachs over the momentary blip of aggression in the room, before everyone returns to their positions, getting comfortable before Joon initiates a call with his mother.

It doesn’t ring three times before she answers, and instantly, the change in their leader is evident.

Namjoon sets his shoulders when his mother’s gorgeous face appears on screen, the corners of her eyes and lips wrinkled with age and amusement, and her hair, which years ago was as black as night, is now streaked with lines of silver.

Kim Yerim prided herself on being a happy-ish woman, content mostly with the way her life was, and if there were aspects of her life that weren’t great – well, that’s what gave her character. The pain, anguish, despair that she has lived through all felt like the end of the world at the time, but now that she’s in her mid-forties, she can look back at the map of her life and pinpoint those many moments of sheer euphoria that etched the lines of happiness in her face.

That same kind of happiness she sees in her baby’s face in front of her.

He beams at her, dimples appearing in an instant. “Hi, mommy.”

“Morning, handsome,” she sing-songs, eyes crinkling at the sight of her only son. The boys marvel at just how much they looked alike, the mother and son pair. “Peanut, have you been getting enough sleep? You look tired.”

The boys behind him let out short giggles at the babying he receives from his mother, knowing that while their leader might blush and appear unwilling, he loves receiving the coddling. They all get called little names by her, of which they all appreciate and find comfort in, especially when their own family isn’t as emotionally comforting as Joonie’s.

“I’m fine, mommy,” he replies, bashfully running a hand through his faded lavender hair, feeling his cheeks burn and his eyes close of their own volition. “But I promise to get some more sleep at night.”

She leans back, acquiescing. “Okay, good. How are the rest of my boys? Let me see them.”

Joon stands to the side to let the rest of the boys be shown on the screen and his mother claps happily as she looks upon their happy, smiling faces.

“Auntie, you look so beautiful today,” Hoseok charms, playfully. He’s dressed in a thin shirt and drop-crotch pants, having just got back from an early morning dance class, preparing for a street-dance showcase. He’s tired but there’s nothing that he wouldn’t do for the woman who has been more of a mother figure to him than every other woman in his life.

“Squirrel, enough flirting, what would my husband think?” Everyone ignores the way Namjoon freezes momentarily, before she continues, eyes fixed on the resident sunshine of the group. “Your hair is getting a little long in the front,” she says, lips pursing up slightly. “You should let Taehyung cut it for you.”

“I tell him that all the time, Auntie,” the blue-haired artist says, pouting as he ruffles his hyung’s still-damp hair, before he gets batted away. “But he doesn’t listen to me. Maybe he’ll listen to you.”

“You know Squirrel doesn’t listen to anybody,” she laments, a faux-sad look in her eye. “Jiminie, how are you? You look awfully comfy back there.”

The black-haired dancer glances up from where he’d been staring at his phone, replying to YN’s texts lamenting over how she misses him and is feeling lonely upstairs by herself, despite the fact that he just left her, to see everyone’s eyes on him. “Sorry, Auntie,” he says, sheepishly, pushing his phone in his back pocket. “I’m just a little distracted.”

“Why? Is everything okay?” She seems instantly concerned.

He shakes his head, giving her a soft smile. “It’s all okay. YN’s just hungry, I guess.”

Her brows raise slightly, and she asks, an intrigued lilt to her voice, “She’s at the house?”

All of a sudden, the tension in the room seems to heighten. She doesn’t seem angry, or disappointed, but they’re worried, nonetheless. If their coven leader doesn’t like her, it won’t stop them pursuing her, but it’ll definitely make it sofucking hard later down the line. It won’t just throw a wrench in their plans, but it’ll completely throw their plan off course.

That’s why they wanted to prepare YN before they brought her in front of Joonie’s mother. Even though they were modern people, there were still traditions that they had to follow, to pay respect to their ancient roots, to pay homage to their ancestors and all that jazz. And, YN had no knowledge of their world – it would be like throwing a baby rabbit in a cage with starving foxes and waiting for them to eat it alive.

“Yeah, she stays over on weekends,” Hoseok tells her, carefully. “Joonie makes sure she goes home during the week, and that she’s on top of her class work and studies. But she doesn’t really need our supervision – she’s so smart.”

“She’s a talker, like Joonie,” Taehyung says, chest puffing out proudly. “Since she realised what we are, she has always been open to discussing vampire stuff. She’s so open-minded.”

Jungkook nods, like an excited puppy. “She watched me feed one time.”

“Baggied-blood, of course,” Jin clarifies, when he notes Yerim’s eyes widen slightly. “She hasn’t seen that side of us yet. We make sure we are always fed when she’s around, so we don’t have any accidents.

She nods along, seemingly appeased. “Good. So, what is she like?”

Yoongi shifts a little in his seat, clutching his pillow to his chest, before he says, a tender smile on his face, “She’s warm. She’s always warm towards us.”

“She always thinks the best of us,” Taehyung says, quietly, his smile sentimental as he runs his fingers along one of his fingers. “She might not know everything, but when we do tell her, we know she’ll try and understand us.”

Jimin feels his stomach drop at the implication. He knows he has to open up to her, about everything that the others know about, but he wants to do so at his own pace. He prays that she’ll accept him, as she did for Taehyung, and for Seokjin.

Joon half-shrugs, playing the buttons of his shirt, suddenly feeling like the shy boy standing before his Mom talking about his crush at school, “She never makes us feel as if we have to be anybody else, other than who we are.”

His mother looks them over, a contemplative look in her eye, before she nods. Although she was his mother, and she loved him very much, she wasn’t an idiot, and he knew that. There’s a reason why she’s their coven leader, and not any of the other pure-blood parents. Her control, power and leadership amongst their parents knows no bounds.

So, he wasn’t particularly surprised when she says, “I want to meet her.”

Jungkook stammers, “N-Now?”

“Is that a problem?” She raises a challenging brow at her bunny-boy, waiting for him to explain himself. “Is there something that I need to know?”

Jungkook jumps to explain, but Jin is faster. The elder says, “She’s in bed.”

She rears back in her plush seat, crossing her arms over her chest, and instantly, the boys know they’ve made a mistake. “Oh, really?”

The way she says it makes their faces burn, especially Jimin, who, all of a sudden, feels like a teen caught with his fingers in the cookie jaw, except the cookie jar in question is his girlfriend’s underwear.

“Not like that, Mom!” Namjoon says, ears burning in mortification. “She’s just not dressed to meet you. She’d be mad at us if we brought her to you while she hadn’t had time to ‘get ready’.”

“Peanut, I know you. You’re my son, and there’s nothing about you that I’m not aware of,” she says, almost teasingly. “You can’t lie to me.”

He pouts slightly, before he huffs, “Fine. It’s true, she’d be mad, but I guess it’s, also, that we… we don’t want her to make a mistake.”

She repeats, “A mistake?”

“She’s fiery,” he explains. “She doesn’t know about our customs yet. I don’t want you to think badly of her.”

“Peanut, do you think I could do such a thing?” She asks, and the flash of hurt that she tries to obscure is clear in her voice. “Have I ever made you feel that I would be so judgemental?”

He shakes his head and clarifies, “I’m just scared.”

“Don’t be,” she replies, softly. “Fine. How about this? I want to meet her, in person, during your next break from school.”

Hoseok perks up at her words, and he asks, “For real?”

She nods. “That gives you, what? Three months to get her ‘prepared’ to meet me?”

Jin licks his lips, clasping his hands together, nervously. “Will our parents be there?”

“Potentially,” she answers, pity shining in her eyes. “Sorry, Beaver.”

He sighs, pressing his fingers into the corners of his eyes and rubbing slightly, barely holding back his groan of annoyance. He really didn’t need to see his witch of a mother, nor his idiot of a brother or bastard of a father any time soon. Nor did he want YN to be anywhere near them, and the anger over his lack of control over the situation makes him want to scream. In fact, all he wants to do is go upstairs and duck his face into YN’s neck and go to sleep. But he simply squares his shoulders and prepares to face the shit-storm coming his way, head on. He’ll need to prepare YN thoroughly if she was going to survive the psychological warfare that were his parents.

He thought he’d have more time with her, to be blissfully happy, before she was exposed to the fucked-up way he was brought up. He’s worried that it’ll taint the way she looks at him, if she takes a peek behind the curtain and sees the real way he grew up, the toxicity that he was forced to be around, the mistakes he made when he would lash out in his adolescence.

She only knew what he told her, briefly, about the drugs, the girls, the women, the nights where he was so out of his mind that he could only sit paralysed as Joon and Yoongi cleaned the sick out of his hair and off his clothes, but he could control that. He needed that control over the information that she knew, or didn’t know, to not let this anxiety fester in his stomach.

He resolutely doesn’t want her to meet his family, she doesn’t need to see any of that to know him – the him that he is now.

Hoseok was across the room, going through a similar mental struggle. He bites down on his thumb, gnawing at the nail, avoiding the piercing gaze of his lover from across the room. He knows one look from Yoongi would have it all tumbling out of him, like an avalanche of barely restrained emotion, so he avoids his cat-like, knowing eyes and continues to move. If he doesn’t pace, he thinks he’ll vibrate out of his skin with how nervous he is.

“I have a question, and I don’t want you to be offended by this in any way,” Namjoon’s mother says, and her tentative tone of voice catches the attention of all the boys in the room. “You said that she hasn’t seen any of you feral, and I respect that. So, it implies that she hasn’t been present for any live feeding. But, considering the abilities that one of you holds, I have to ask: have any of you fed on her?”

The silence in the room is deafening.

“How could you ask that?” Joon asks, brow puckering in both surprise and pain. “Mom… She isn’t a donor. She’s our soulmate.”

“I can’t believe you would think I’d do that, Auntie,” Hoseok stammers, his shock and anguish etched in every groove of his face. His shapely lips are down-turned and he feels his stomach roll at the implication. He’s nothing like his father, he doesn’t use his gift frivolously to get what he wants. He barely even uses it now – only for the benefit of the cluster. He swore to Joonie, he wouldn’t turn out like that.

“I understand that, son, but I still have to ask,” she says, quietly. “Squirrel, please, don’t look so upset. You know I don’t mean to hurt you.”

“Mom!”

“Don’t raise your voice at your mother, Joonie,” Yoongi chastises, with a calming hand to his leader’s chest. He stares over at Hoseok, but he’s glaring at the floor, as if he wished it to set aflame with the intensity of his thoughts alone.

“You didn’t raise me to think of humans as mere chicken feed, Mom,” Namjoon nearly shouts. “The last thing I’d want to do is make her feed used.”

Jin finishes, “We already spoke about it between us. We have no intention of feeding on her.”

Jimin leans over to whisper into their maknae’s ear, “Unless that’s what she wants.” He tosses him a smug wink after.

Jungkook shoves him away, the scent of you still too strong for him to handle, and he sends him an evil glare, as he hisses, “Don’t be so gross when Auntie might hear.”

“She can’t hear me from all the way over here,” he denies, smile only growing at Jungkook’s huffiness. “But, fine, I’ll shut up about the inevitable.”

Yoongi reaches over to smack the back of Jimin’s head, and he glares down at the boy, and he whispers, voice sharp and an ice-cold glare in his dark eye, “Just because you got your rocks off earlier doesn’t mean you can be so disrespectful in front of our coven leader. Tread carefully, Jimin.”

Jimin whines, rubbing the back of his aching skull, “Hyung…”

“If I have to say it again, you won’t like where this conversation goes,” he warns, before turning back to the screen, pretending as if nothing had happened. Thankfully, their super-hearing doesn’t translate over radio-waves and therefore none of what happened was overheard by their matriarch, but the iciness that had swarmed the room could be felt by everyone inside it.

It did little to help soothe Hoseok’s nerves, and as the conversation with Yerim moves to more menial and mundane things (like the new tropical fish enclosure at Joonie’s work, and his older sister moving back to New York after being home for the last three months, walking for some well-known fashion designer that none of the other boys really care about), Yoongi decided that it was time to act.

“Come with me,” he demands, grabbing onto the younger man’s hand as he passes by him. When he feels some resistance, he growls and tugs a little harder, “I’m not taking no for an answer, Hobi. Come on.”

The two leave the apartment after the shorter man grabs two coats strewn in the hall, albeit unwillingly on Hoseok’s behalf, and rather than take the elevator to the ground floor, where the dancer thought they were going, Yoongi pressed the ‘R’ button.

The roof.

Ah. It made sense.

“We haven’t been up there for a while,” Hoseok admits, quietly, hand itching inside of Yoongi’s cooler, smaller palm. He glances down at the shorter man and quells the urge to kiss his temple. He doesn’t think it’s the appropriate time, but still, Yoongi has the cutest side profile. He can’t help himself. Even in the maelstrom of emotion, Yoongi still felt like coming home.

He couldn’t describe him as anything else – he was his ‘home’.

“I thought you’d appreciate the privacy,” Yoongi murmurs, softly, staring ahead, ignorant of the longing look he’s receiving from his lover. He loves the feeling of Hoseok’s eyes on him, but he doesn’t want to give in just yet. He’s being a little stubborn too, he guesses. “You always liked the open space.”

As soon as the two men burst through the roof doors, a gust of icy air blew past them, billowing in their comfy house clothes. Still hand in hand, Yoongi leads the two of them to the edge, their edge, overlooking the metropolitan city beneath them, before he releases his lover’s palm, in favour of staring out at the beauty before him.

After a long moment of silently watching the silhouette of his partner, Hoseok feels his racing pulse slow down. He can feel himself calming down, by just being alone with Yoongi, in a space that they call their own. He only wishes YN was with them – he thinks he could die happy in that moment of bliss. He feels relaxed, and warm, and happy – emotions that he could never associate with the thought of his parents, nor his sister.

He asks, voice thick with emotion as it carries on the wind, “How did you know I’d need this?”

“You only bite your nails when you’re nervous,” Yoongi says, gently, still refusing to turn around, sharp eyes fixed on the buildings in the far distance. “You always rag on me about it, but you got that nasty little habit from me, so when I saw you biting them, I thought maybe you were feeling overwhelmed.”

Hoseok approaches him then, Yoongi can feel the pressure of him at his back, before a familiar and comfortable weight is pressed against his shoulder. Hoseok rests his forehead in the crook of the shorter man’s neck and exhales, body trembling with the weight of his own emotions.

“I don’t know what to do, princess.”

Yoongi reaches for his hand and holds it against his stomach, knitting his fingers over the top, keeping them warm.

“They’re going to ruin it,” he laments, voice thick with frustration.

Yoongi hums, knowingly.

“She’s going to hate me,” Hosoek groans, pain lacing his every word. “Somehow, they’re going to get into her head and they’re going to ruin it.”

“You must think really lowly of her,” Yoongi comments, absently.

Hoseok freezes, his grip on Yoongi’s stomach tightening fractionally, but he doesn’t let go. He can’t let him go, not now.

“If you think your creep of a father or your evil mother is going to be able to weasel their way into YN’s brain and change the way she feels about you, then you really don’t trust her at all,” he explains, trailing a finger along the jagged thumbnail. Yoongi’s voice is sweet and soft, but his words hit like a smack to the mouth. Hobi needs to hear it. “She isn’t so easily swayed, and you should know that by now.”

“Yoongi…”

“I brought you up here because I didn’t want the others to hear you,” the smaller man admits, quietly. “I wanted you to be able to express yourself without feeling judged. But, Hobi,” he turns in his arms and stares up at him, eyes sparking with light amusement, “You’re being really dumb right now.”

Hoseok blows air out of his mouth, fluttering through his too-long fringe. “You sure know how to soften a blow, princess.”

Yoongi giggles softly, hiding his face for a moment. “Sometimes, you need a reality check, baby.”

“Is that what you are for me, a reality check?” Hoseok asks, settling his arms around his thin waist and settling his palms above the swell of his butt. He pulls him close, kissing under his left eye and pushing his head into his shoulder once more. His safe spot. “What am I supposed to do?”

“Trust her,” Yoongi replies, after a moment’s thought. He starts playing with the long hair at the base of Hoseok’s neck, pulling and scratching his fingernails along his scalp, peeking over his broad shoulders to stare up at the white-blue sky. “Or, you can tell her yourself. Either way, she’s going to have to find out at some point. Your family is dysfunctional, Hobi. Your parents are manipulative abusers. That isn’t your fault, baby. You didn’t ask for that.”

Hoseok exhales into his boyfriend’s shoulder, holding him tight. “I love you.”

Yoongi feels a shudder pass through him, and he murmurs, hesitation burning itself into every line of his body, “Don’t say that just because you feel like you have to.”

“I do,” Hoseok whines, pressing further into him, lips tracking down his neck “I love you so fucking much.”

His hands move of their own volition, lower until he’s cupping Yoongi’s pert ass and he gives a solid squeeze to the supple flesh there. He says, playfully, “Say it back.”

“I don’t want to,” Yoongi grumbles, but his eyes are practically rolling into the back of his skull at the feeling of being his lover’s arms again. His gut is churning with the implication of Hoseok’s talented and experienced fingers trailing along his waistband, tempting him. “I didn’t come up here for this.”

“I know,” Hoseok hums against his skin, tugging at the arm of his shirt and exposing his shoulder to the air and tonguing at it, biting at his skin, tinging the pale flesh pink. “But, tell me you don’t want me.”

“Hobi…”

“Tell me you don’t want me,” he repeats, pulling him further to their corner. They have only ever briefly kissed on the roof, during the time where they weren’t together – stolen moments in a place where Yoongi could just be Yoongi, and Hoseok could be Hoseok and they didn’t have to think about anything important and where the only things that mattered were each other – but couldn’t quite leave each other alone. “If you want me to stop, just say it, princess.”

Yoongi lets out a low groan in his throat when he feels Hoseok’s teeth nibbling at his jaw, and his cock hardens when his lover tightens his grip on his throat. “Fuck….”

Hoseok grins, self-satisfied, and he reaches down, down, down, until he’s gripping his length and he asks, quietly, “Who’s my good boy?”

“I am,” Yoongi gasps, eyes crossing as sparks of heat gather at the base of his spine. “I’m your good boy, Hobi.”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Hoseok chastises, squeezing at his member, warningly. “What’s my name?”

“Sir,” Yoongi gurgles as Hoseok presses into his throat, making him choke. His face grows slightly pale as he feels the urge to submit overwhelm him, burning along his spine. He fuckingloves it. “’m sorry, Sir.”

“You should know better,” Hoseok says, but his words lack heat. This was how they worked: Yoongi took control of their relationship, he brought Hoseok back to Earth, then, in an instant, the two men swapped out their power dynamics, allowing Hobi to take back the control that he didn’t before. They didn’t even have to exchange words for it to happen – they worked well together, physically, emotionally. They couldn’t ever figure out why they didn’t work before, considering they knew each other like the backs of their own hands. “I suppose I’ll have to teach you again, won’t I? I didn’t think you’d forget our lessons so easily.”

“’m sorry,” he hums, but he isn’t – not really. He always gets off the best when Hoseok is a little irked with him, when he’s a little defiant, even though Hobi treats him nicely either way. He’s never hit him harder than a spank on his pert ass when he’s being a little too mouthy, and he never raises his voice past what needs to keep him in line. “Touch me, please?”

“How can I turn you down when you look so pretty, huh, princess?” Hoseok asks, trailing along his bottom lip, pressing and pinching at the pretty pink flesh until it blushes a dark red.

His favourite colour in the whole fucking world.

If he could paint the colour of his elbows, the pink of his gums, the blush of his cheeks, the rose of his knees, the blush painting his cock behind his eyes, he would.

God, he would, and he’d never open his eyes again.

Chapter Text

You fell asleep in the middle of replying to a meme that Jimin sent you – it was dirty and made you snort into his fluffy pillow, which, then, distracted you and you drifted off before you could latch onto any one thought that could keep you conscious. When you came to, it was to the sound of someone burrowing under the sheets near you. Instantly, cold hands pressed against the curve of your spine under your shirt, seeking you out with a gentleness that could only belong to one person.

Their presence gives you pause – a pleasant surprise that, simultaneously, fills you with a bitter sense of dread.

You wince at the sharp change in temperature, and his soft voice lulls you back into the warm grasp of contentment.

“Sorry, baby girl,” Joonie’s enchanting voice murmurs. He presses his button nose against the crook of your shoulder and inhales, deeply before he croons, warmly, “Relax for me.”

“You came,” you sing-song, almost giddily.

He snorts at your blissful expression before he snuggles infinitely closer to you.

You do as he says, still pliant from your momentary lapse of consciousness, and you ask, letting him curl his body around you until every square inch of your back is pressed against his front. “How was the meeting with your Mother?”

He hums, absently, one palm curling around your tummy, the other resting on the swell of your hip. He continues, tone of voice edging on almost bored, “The usual.”

“I don’t know what that means, baby,” you reply, inclining your head at an angle to face him.

You don’t feel so nervous around him now, with it being just the two of you, but that all changes when you crack open an eye to see his expression. He doesn’t seem all that relaxed to you, despite the gentle way he is holding you in his arms.

His eyes might be shut tight, feigning rest, but his lips are slightly pursed from where he’s chewing on the inside of his cheek. Namjoon’s body betrays the tension that he is holding in his bones and you feel your heart stutter in your chest – he’s still upset with you for some reason.

He snorts a bit, brow puckering in frustration. “I suppose you wouldn’t. Mom was fine. She told me about my sister and asked a bit about you.”

You blink, surprised. “So… She wants to meet me? She isn’t upset?”

Joon cracks open one eye at your words, disbelief momentarily colouring his striking features as he locks eyes with you. He tilts his head slightly, and asks, “Why would she be mad, sweetheart?”

“I dunno,” you murmur, turning back to avoid his penetrating gaze. “Just because.”

He pushes, squeezing your middle a bit to prompt you to spill your guts, “Because, what?”

You go quiet, not wanting to upset him more, but the words sit like poison on the tip of your tongue.

You want to know.

He taps your cheek with the tip of his finger, petulantly. “Words, baby girl. Use them.”

You sigh, inaudibly, before you brace yourself to bare the brunt of whatever Namjoon’s frustration might look like. You can’t imagine seeing Joon angry, or frustrated, considering the older man had never shown you anything but his pleasant side, but you understand that he is a fully-realised person.

He gets angry and sad and mad – just like anybody else does.

And, apparently, you have done something to earn that ire. You just don’t know what that thing might have been.

You hold the wrist of the hand resting on your tummy in both your palms, needing the weight to keep you tethered to the moment.

You explain, quietly, “I’m human. I’m sure she wants you to be with someone more like… you, right?”

He asks, “You mean a vampire?”

You nod, eyes fixed on the pillow in front of you, unable to bear the idea of lifting your gaze and seeing his face – of having his expression potentially confirm your fears.

He tuts. “My mother couldn’t care less about what you are.”

That gives you momentary pause.

“She isn’t discriminatory like that,” he explains, playing with one of your braids. He twists the braid in between dexterous fingers, tugging at the tips of your hair before he lets it go and watches it fall limply to the side. The image of a little girl with his sharp eyes and your bouncy, thick curls flashes in his head before he can stop himself and he feels his heart seize in his chest. That was the future he was yearning for, the same future that terrified the life out of him. “She wants me to be happy, that’s all.”

“You don’t seem very happy… with me,” you admit.

He pauses then, feeling his gut burn at the thought of you feeling as if you were somehow the reason for his recent tentativeness. “Baby…”

“It’s okay,” you say, cutting him off. Although, god, it was anything but okay. “I understand. You can’t help how you feel, and I don’t want for even a second to make you feel guilty for those feelings. But… I just never want you to feel as if I’m doing something on purpose to make you upset. That isn’t the kind of person that I am. And… I feel like I’ve done something wrong.” You break off, choking on your words that are spilling from your lips like volcanic sediment. “Fuck… Forget I said anything. I’m being stupid.”

He listens to you talk – he doesn’t move an inch as you spill your guts and bare your soul. He can’t. He feels as if you have reached into his chest and ripped his heart out with your perfect, tiny hands.

It’s only when you finish, your entire body facing away from him, that he feels as if his tongue isn’t glued to the palate of his mouth and he mutters, almost inaudibly, “Is that how I’ve been making you feel, baby?”

You don’t answer, but you do sniffle a little, and instantly, he’s heartbroken all over again. The one sound that he never wished to hear from you. Never again, he had sworn to himself. Yet, here he was – the cause of your pain. He manually twists you onto your back and sees his worst fear play out in front of his eyes. Your eyes, usually sharp with wit and humour and love are shiny with tears, even in the dull light of Jimin and Jin’s room.

“Please, don’t cry,” he begs, eyes wide. His voice gets all choked up and thick with emotion as he murmurs soft pleads for you to calm down, to just stop crying, to let him explain, but you can’t get them to stop rolling down your cheeks.

“’m sorry, I’m trying not to,” you reply, voice trembling, and you feel pathetic. So fucking pathetic.

It seems as if once you opened the door inside of yourself to express your emotions, those same treacherous feelings overwhelmed you. You scrub at your eyes with the back of your hands, willing the tears away. You didn’t want to feel as if your tears were making him feel bad for how he felt – you recall the words gaslighting, manipulation, abuser in the back of your mind and it fills you with an even greater sense of dread.

You scrub harder, but the words only resound louder in your head, giving you a headache.

“Hey, hey, hey, you’ll hurt yourself,” Joon chastises, holding your wrists in his limp grip once he realises that your skin is turning red from the pressure. He sits back on his knees, giving you some air and helps you into a seated position, pushing some pillows behind your back, before sitting away from you. No part of him but his hands are touching your body. “I’m sorry for asking you not to cry, especially when I’ve been such a dick these last few days. It’s not right of me to ask that, but please, can you take some calming breaths? Follow my breathing, angel, okay? Just breathe... That’s right. Good girl. You’re doing so well. One more.”

“’m sorry,” you apologise again, more tears spilling over and you sniff pathetically.

Your cheeks feel puffy and your eyes are swollen – you already know you must look like a crazy person – but when you blink past the vestiges of the tears in your eyes, you see that Joonie’s face is just as flushed as yours.

A few stray tears had leaked from his orbs while you had been having your breakdown.

He’s still holding your wrist, using his thumb to draw shapes on your palms, absent-mindedly. You figure out that he’s drawing the infinity symbol over and over again.

“Talk to me, Joonie,” you plead, trying to catch his downcast eyes. “I want to give you space and time to talk to me, to be comfortable with me. But, I feel like I’m suffocating every time I see you.”

He winces as if you struck him in the face. “Don’t say that…”

“I can’t explain it in any other way, honey,” you mutter. “Please. Tell me something.”

He takes a minute, seemingly to measure his words, to find the right things to say, but his brain is filled with a terrifyingly loud ringing. His heart is lodged in his throat and he feels sick.

The only thing he can force out from his mouth are four words.

“My Dad is dead.”

You freeze all over, feeling ice shoot through your veins, but you don’t say anything. It isn’t your time to talk – it’s his, and you promised to wait for as long as he needed to get it all out.

He exhales, a salty trail dripping down the side of his nose before he wipes it away with his other hand, a frustrated scoff tumbling from between his lips.

“I told you about the stories my Mom used to tell me, right? Well, when I was nine, my Dad died… And some years later, I realised that most of my life was based on a story.”

You frown, snuggling a little closer to him, shifting your hold on his palm up to his wrist where you begin to stroke along the veins there. He relaxes slightly at the motion, tossing you a gentle smile before he continues. “I thought my parents were soulmates – written in the stars, eternally bonded, made for each other. All of that good stuff. But it turns out, that wasn’t… true.”

“So…”

“So, my parents lied to me,” he finishes, bitterly. “And, after my Dad died, my Mom continued to lie to me. Until… she remarried.”

You can see the visible shift on his face when he mentions his step-father: anger.

His nostrils flare and his eyes flash the icy silver that betrays his emotions even more than just his facial expression.

“She didn’t even… tell me about him,” he explains, licking his lips and scoffing, resentfully. “She just said that she met her person, and that she was getting married to him. I was thirteen… my Dad was my hero, and she broke my heart when she told me the truth.”

You shuffle closer to him, opening your arms, gesturing to him that you were there – you were always going to be there, and he could use you as a fetter if he needed you. And as he wraps himself around you, layi