Actions

Work Header

little fangs

Chapter Text

14 years ago

A stifling cold erupts in Mid-December.

Jeongguk was playing with his toys by the window, sullen. The mansion they lived in was always especially lonely in the winter time, freezing and abrasive with not much to do. He couldn’t play in the garden, couldn’t go for a stroll with mother. They kept him near shackled by the window, and he wouldn’t complain; instead, he would push his toy cars around with indifference, mostly focused on the world outside.

He could see the front yard. The winding road up the hill towards their great house.

Sometimes, he could see mother arrive from the car with her draping clothing and gleaming jewelry. Sometimes, she would look back and see him from the ground below, as well.

She would never smile. Only raise an eyebrow in greeting, prettily gloved fingers curling out in the dullest of waves. Jeongguk would wave back, grinning, only to falter when she looked away.

That day was different. He was in his room once more, playing quietly as a nanny watched him from the door. Then, they both startled- a loud shriek resounded through the large house, the nanny immediately going on alert as resounding bangs followed after. It sounded like chaos. Jeongguk, so used to the dreary quiet of the blue room he stayed in, felt his stomach drop in anxiety.

It all happened so fast. The nanny disappeared from his room, so focused on tending to the panic that she left Jeongguk behind. And once alone, for the first time in so long, Jeongguk stood from the toys he was surrounded by and faced the empty door. Six years old and having so rarely made a single step without someone to hold his hand, he was unsure what to do. Still, he did not falter.

He walked out the door. Followed the path down the hall, took the winding stairs into the living room. So many doors, so many places to go- he simply followed the noise, the sounds of collision and screaming, the deep-seated howls of terror that seemed so odd for a place so usually quiet. He kept following, kept waiting to reach a door that seemed correct, and eventually found it. The silence was abrupt. There were bodyguards on the floor, maids curled up, lifeless, outside the entrance to the study.

Jeongguk looked on, confused yet not apprehensive. There was a small sliver where the door in front of him was opened, the bare light cascading into the dark and blood-stained hallway. Curiosity piqued, he leant forward and glanced through the opening. The lights were bright, several more dead bodies laying on the ground. It wasn’t what caught Jeongguk’s eye, however- it was the blood. White walls splattered with red, the carpet soaked with crimson; Jeongguk had never seen a thing like it, and in the midst of it all, his mother.

This dainty little woman he had come to think was incapable of lifting a finger stood in the midst of it all, hands stained red and gloveless. In front of her, two bodies lay without a hint of recognition. Bloodied, torn apart, disfigured- Jeongguk stared on, fighting back a tiny gasp that hid in his throat with fear.

The remaining bodyguards stood around her, making panicked, angry calls that Jeongguk could barely hear. All the while, Jeongguk was frozen; his body seemed to be stuck outside the door, crouched and strummed with fear. He stood, pushed one foot back in an attempt to run back to his room, only to falter when his mother glanced up. Catching his eye, she glared, eyes flashing a vibrant red. She wasted no time rushing towards him, heeled feet brushing against the now red carpet, and Jeongguk felt his breath come shallowly as his limbs locked up in fear.

His mother flung the door open. Looking down on his then small body, she inhaled sharply and seemed a moment from lashing out.

Will she do that to me? He couldn’t help but question, eyes glancing behind her to the mangled bodies, the blood that seemed to stain every available surface.

Instead, she stared at him. Hands digging into her pocket, she retrieved two dark violet gloves and slowly placed them on her bloodied hands, finger by finger disappearing into the velvet encasement. He stared on, petrified, and shivered when she turned her sight to him again. Reaching toward him, Jeongguk flinched back, but his mother did not pause. She leaned down, grabbing and hitching him onto her waist.

It was silent. Instinctually, he wrapped arms around her neck as she held him close to her body and walked down the hall, away from the blood and the bodies and the hurried voices of the remaining guards.

“Mommy,” Jeongguk whispered. “What did you do to them?”

She initially stayed silent, glancing at him with sharp eyes. “Do not ask what we’ve done to them. Only ever ask what they’ve done to us.”

Feeling chastised, he pressed his head against her shoulder. Blood. He had seen it so often, and it seemed almost a part of him to be drenched with it. But to see it come from something so violent, from the hands of someone he considered so distant yet gentle- he could not erase the still image in his mind, the gore and insensitivity of lives lost.

His mother took pity on him. Leading them into the sitting area by the stairs, she sat them both and placed him softly in her lap, gloved fingers feeling near sterile as she brushed fingers over his soft, panic-reddened cheeks.

“My child,” she breathed, combing fingers through his hair and looking at him with dear eyes. It was the warmest she’d ever seemed, even with skin so cold. “You must be anything except what you are. Some will hate you for it. Others will try to kill you for it. If you make any promise to me, let it be that you are not yourself. Can you promise me that? Please?”

Jeongguk could not understand. After all, what did it mean to be Jeongguk? He was not sure yet, and all he knew was being alone. Being alone, being guarded, protected- being kept under lock and key the way his mother always held him. So, without another way to think, he nodded and smiled up at her, hoping it would appease the woman he so ardently tried to gain the attention of.

For the first time Jeongguk could remember, his mother smiled back.

14 years later

Taehyung doesn’t know why he’s here.

“Is this song okay?”

Looking up from his place in the backseat, he meets the driver’s eyes. Kind eyes, surely- Taehyung has no complaint of the older man who picked him up from the airport even in the dreary gray of a mid-spring storm. Quiet, Taehyung presumed. The man was simply quiet, and Taehyung needs silence right now, beckons it forth even if weeks ago he’d be wriggling in his seat from the lack of noise.

When he arrived, he wasn't fond of the slow classical music playing in the car. He never said a word of complaint, and he shakes his head now when prompted. It calmed him somehow, as he obtained the strange feeling that he was heading towards a certain death. Now, he can tell they're getting close; it's been a while since he got in the car, and the houses are beginning to get bigger and more isolated as they weave through the bright streets. This, he decides, will be one of two things- the beginning of his life or the end of everything he's ever known.

“Bad weather,” his driver idly comments. “Was worried you’d get caught at the station with how stormy it’s been.”

He resists the urge to snort, fiddling with the ring hooked onto his thin silver necklace. It takes him a few moments, glancing at the thing and watching it reflect the sunny light of the day, but he eventually sighs and hides the thing away behind his shirt. It was the only thing that was truly his, an ounce of calming metal against his chest; he never wanted anyone to find it lest they take it.

“The weather was fine back in Liera,” Taehyung replies.

“Must be Asora, then.”

“Must be.”

The radio suddenly murmurs with a bit of static, eventually leveling back out to an even, tempered voice. “Today marks nearly a century since the emergence of the first starlit beast. With the decimation of the human population, leaders Sun and Moon are still discussing with those in power across the world how to universalize the laws.” Clicking his tongue, the driver changes the radio station, something new and non-abrasive filtering through the speakers. It’s jarring.

Taehyung knew all too well of the problems plaguing their nation. It has, indeed, been nearly a century since the emergence of the first vampire. At the time, he wasn’t born- humans existed plainly by themselves with no worry of what were once considered “mythological” beasts, and it was only through a string of strange murders that humans finally came in contact with the creatures of the underground. The victims, all mysteriously falling to their death from blood loss and strange fang-like markings on their bodies, were the first sign of something existing outside of the human realm.

At the time, vampires lived in hiding for centuries. It was only when they were discovered that other species grew courageous enough to stand from the shadows; werewolves, conniving fae and witches, vampires, all of the underground and hidden creatures- they all stood from the darkness, and with time, a struggle of the fittest occured. Humans were a rare species to come across nowadays, so weak compared to their dark counterparts that it was never truly a battle. After all, they did not have fangs, they did not understand magic. It was only a matter of time before their kind dissipated the way it did.

But it also left room for evil to spur, the bloody paws of pride and fear bracing many more marks over Earth’s once green sphere. The powerful underground species that made their mark renamed themselves the “starlights”, grouping together all the non-human beasts, and vampires, werewolves and witches constantly struggled for power in a world where law ceased to exist.

There were so few left that cared to retain peace. Sun and Moon, the unnamed leaders of the world, were left to try to retain balance, but it’s nearly a lost cause. Taehyung knows it. Everyone knows it. And in a world without rules, everyone is left to fight for themselves.

“I heard about that,” the cab driver suddenly says. Taehyung glances up, finding his eyes lost in the darkness of the night, only his mouth visible in the small rearview mirror. “Lots of vampires going missing, lately. Witches, too. Hard to keep track with no one to worry.” At first, his voice seems sympathetic; Taehyung sees it, however, when he grins roughly in the mirror, sharpened teeth glinting from the passing streetlights.

A werewolf. Taehyung’s mouth quirks on a smile as he looks down, rolling up his sleeves with antsy fingers. He reflexively licks over his own teeth, feeling out the two sharpened canines that make out his fangs. One of the only ways to show his identity, and he’d grown to reflexively keep his mouth shut, not grin in fear of the wrong creature making note of what he is. “Really? There are a few vigilantes, you know.”

“You’re kidding. Everyone here looks out for themselves. You know the truth just as well as I do, kid. Or are you just that naive?”

Taehyung doesn’t give an answer. He looks out the window, spotting a dimly lit tavern on the side of the road. It’s nearly deserted at this hour, the world dark and streets shining with the leftovers of a bad storm. He hums, sits up straight in his seat, and meets the cab driver’s gaze. “Here’s fine.”

“You sure? Diner looks closed.”

“I’m sure,” Taehyung reaffirms. The taxi eventually stops outside the doors. The driver was, in fact, correct- the dim lights allow him to see inside, and from the looks of it, the dining-like area is empty. Something catches his eye, however- the slightest glimmering of something in the open space behind the bar, gradually fading away as he looks on with curiosity.

He doesn’t waste more time. With a sigh, he gets out the car and thanks his driver, tipping him well.

“Thanks,” the driver says, smiling out the open window with those eerily big teeth. “Good luck wherever you’re going, huh?”

Taehyung nods.

He holds onto the handle of his suitcase as the car drives away with tires skidding across the wet roads, leaving him to watch and wait before suddenly, he’s alone. The sky is nearly black, a crackle of thunder greets him, and Taehyung eagerly turns and begins walking towards the entrance of the diner. There, he knocks once, twice, and stands calmly until the door begins opening.

At first, he thinks no one is there; the door slowly cracks open, revealing the diner with all its homeyness and overwarmed comfort, all the booths burgundy and the walls and floors wooden with character. Most of the room is shadowed, but the few candles lit around the area give him the ease to take a few steps in, looking around for who might’ve opened the door only to disappear. As soon as he takes three steps in, the door slams behind him, leaving him and his suitcase standing idly by the bar. Calmly, he takes off the gloves covering his hands and settles them atop his suitcase.

He smells something bright and fluttery, like spring after rain.

Vampires have different strengths. In Taehyung’s case, he was born with a telling nose- able to figure out what species a being was with just a simple sniff, and it was all too helpful in attempts to hunt. It doesn’t take him long to realize what two entities must be near- a fairy and a vampire, both alike in kindness, as he doesn’t feel at all threatened by the air.

“I can tell you’re there,” Taehyung murmurs, slowly taking off his coat and tossing it on the rack. It’s warm in the room, nearly too hot. “Doors don’t just open themselves, do they?”

“For the right people, they do.” Glancing up, Taehyung finds the source of the voice easily, walking towards him after coming out from the door behind the bar. Seokjin is every bit as handsome as he was the last time Taehyung saw him, nearly a decade ago. With a softened smile, he greets Taehyung with a hug, leaving an arm locked around him as he pulls him towards the nearest booth. “How are you, Taehyung?”

At one point, Seokjin was his mentor. When Taehyung was only a fledgling, incapable of understanding the world around him, Seokjin taught him about their world and brought him into his clan. It was one of the few ways to stay safe in their society. There would always be strength in numbers, and managing to have a stake in a powerful clan is key to survival. At the time, Taehyung was orphaned and lost, on the verge of death after months on his own. It was only with the help of Seokjin that he managed to get by without his parents.

Then, he grew up. He moved away from the clan on his own, finding a place to stay in another city and doing side jobs to pass the time, make money. Many vampires in their world become starlit rangers- performing tasks, shipping cargo, and most importantly, performing vigilante work. In a world where there are no laws, many step up to the helm to try to protect the world they live on. Taehyung was one of them, at some point. Not because he cared, but because they told him it was his only option. Kill off the werewolves, the demons. Kill off any species that was to come after them, and they would survive.

Taehyung swallows, too many memories of blood-stained hands and scythes littering his memories.

“Well, Seokjin. How are you?”

“Just fine. You’ve met my assistant, haven’t you?”

They seat themselves in the darkened booth, Taehyung interlocking his fingers on the wooden table as Seokjin takes his spot across from him, tapping on the surface. The glimmering he saw before returns again, this time with a flourish of light; a tiny being appears on the table, complete with translucent wings and tiny clothes.

“Why is he...” Taehyung begins, trailing off. “Why is he like that?”

The small fairy glares up at him before stomping around, clearly unable to speak. Seokjin sighs and puts a finger out, watching with an adoring smile as the fairy climbs up and makes his way up to Seokjin’s shoulder to sit with a pleased grin. “The last time he was big, right?”

“Right. Our size,” Taehyung murmurs. “Jimin, was it?”

The fairy nods vigorously.

“Nice to meet you again. Sorry about that.”

A small shrug. All’s forgiven.

“Yoongi may or may not have temporarily cursed him to remain in his fairy form. Punishment for stealing one of his books without permission. You know how fae are- quite cunning. I told Jimin to be careful, that Yoongi always figures out, but-”

“He didn’t listen,” Taehyung finishes, smiling warmly. “At least it’s only temporary. Now.” He looks to his side, reaching over to his bag to rifle through the contents. Quite easily, he pulls the carefully tied envelope onto the table and flattens his face into something more serious. “You called me here, didn’t you? It’s been some time since we’ve seen each other.”

“Always so quick to get to business,” Seokjin sighs. His smile is wistful as he glances down, eyes closing a brief moment. “What have you done all this time on your own?”

“Lived,” Taehyung says. “Survived. The alone time, you know it’s what I’m used to. Which is why I was so surprised to see you needed me in town.”

“In our world, blood isn’t thicker than water. Our clan is the closest we come to having a family, isn’t it? Besides-” He glances sharply to his shoulder where Jimin still sits, snoozing and curled up on the wide expanse of Seokjin’s shirt. “Besides those we meet along the way. And you- you are the closest I have to a brother. One of the smartest, strongest in our clan.”

“I’m not really a part of the clan anymore,” Taehyung murmurs, cutting in. “You know that.”

“But they’ll have you,” Seokjin is quick to say.

“The only one I want to have me is myself. I left the clan for that exact reason. What’s the problem?”

Seokjin inhales sharply, looking away from Taehyung. It’s so obvious to him now that Seokjin is hiding something, and he should’ve known from the awkward tone of his letter that something was wrong. Just a few weeks ago, he received the letter in the mail, Seokjin asking him of his exact whereabouts and curious of whether he’d be willing to take a trip back home. The reasoning listed had seemed like Seokjin merely missed him, but with the awkward tone of his voice now, Taehyung can only assume that something has gone gravely wrong.

“I’ll be honest. I was worried about you,” Seokjin confesses.

Raising an eyebrow, Taehyung leans back in the booth. “Why is that?”

“Being a vampire means that we’re stronger. Faster. More powerful,” Seokjin starts to explain. “But it also makes us a target. We used to be villains to society after the humans discovered us from the initial murders. One rogue vampire violated our pact to not interfere with human society. And now, we fight with each other over pride. It’s ridiculous.” His voice turns to a mere murmur as he stares at his linked hands on the table. “And members of our clan have gone missing recently. You may not be a member anymore, but many people will remember and see you as one.”

Taehyung grits his teeth, turning to look out the sheer curtains onto the wet streets of Asora. The little city he grew up in was hardly a violent one compared to many, and in Liera, the place he ultimately moved to, it was even quieter. In the woods of Liera, it was easy to find yourself lost amidst the trees, one of the few places one could do so. Taehyung had always been one to simply avoid danger. For so long, it followed after him like a shadow, and he felt for years that he was finally able to avoid it.

With his silence, Seokjin stands from his side of the table and walks over to the bar. Taehyung can hear glasses clinking as he attempts to make them both a drink, and when he comes back, Jimin is in his palm atop a gathering of mint leaves. Seokjin carefully sets him on the table, his small yellow wings shaking and sending a bout of glitter through the air as he settles in his sleep.

As he ponders, he eyes the night sky through the murky window, finding the candle’s glare fighting its way into view upon the reflective surface. Even so, he knows that outside lingers a frightening world; while many species agreed to live in peace, he could not lie. Those who try to find their way alone would always end up underfoot. Chuckling drily, he reaches for the drink Seokjin brought him and slips his fingers over the ice cold surface. “You called me here to protect me.”

“You’ve never really needed protecting, have you?”

Taehyung looks up. Shakes his head. “Perhaps at one point or another-”

“But not really,” Seokjin says, soft and disheartened. “You made it far on your own. I wouldn’t call you to protect you, only to make sure you’re okay.” He pauses, toying with the edge of the napkin sitting under his drink. “But I would call you for help.”

“I don’t do work like that anymore.” At some point, he was one of their clan’s most powerful fighters. They sent him searching for trouble, and he would expel it before it became a problem. They were hunters in their own right. Perhaps with skewed morals, but- they always found out who was targeting the clan, even if it took a spillage of blood they always expected. He left that life behind on purpose as soon as they would allow him, as the newly turned vampires around him would surely take his place. He didn’t like blood. As much as they thought he might’ve, he’s an anomaly.

A vampire without much bloodlust. It keeps him reluctantly alive at best.

Seokjin smiles at him, but it’s dim, disappointed. “We were your family once.”

“I’ve never had a family,” Taehyung says over a sip of his drink. “A favor for an old friend, however. I think that can always be arranged.”

It’s true. Seokjin saved his life at one time, even if he was always alone. It’s nearly impossible for Taehyung to not feel indebted to him in his own way. With a calm glance over his glass, he finds Seokjin with eyes lit anew. He places the cup back on the table, eyes the gloves on top of his bag. When he looks down at his bare fingers, he finds them barren and cold- there was a time, he remembers, that they were always bathed in red.

↞ ☆ ↠

No need for a fight,” Seokjin told him. “We’re still not sure who’s targeting us. We’ve got a lead on one location, the first place a vampire from our clan went missing. I just want you to head over, snoop around. One of the higher ups in the clan says you should ask the employees there if they saw anything strange.

It’d been years since Taehyung did any detective work, if that’s what one could even call it. In his younger days, it was about following leads and lashing out at the first person who gave him the wrong look- the clan taught them that they had many enemies, and as such, they fought tooth and nail to remain superior. So often, he was right in his intuition, but he knows he can’t follow the same line of thought now. What Seokjin told him was disturbing- it wasn’t only their clan. Vampires were going missing left and right, and in itself, it’s odd- vampires, along with witches, were the two species that had no trouble hiding their true selves from the world. Without a look at their fangs or a personal admission, a vampire could be confused for a human, however rare they may be.

It meant one of two things to Taehyung. Either the killer was extremely lucky, or most likely, they knew exactly who they were targeting.

The address Seokjin gave Taehyung is one he’s familiar with. A small bar on the other side of town, a hotspot for vampires looking for willing feeders. For this to be the place the killer started off with is risky, nearly intimidating- with so many vampires around, Taehyung would think it something impossible to infiltrate and kill. But with enough skill, patience, awareness, he has no doubt that it could happen

He drifts calmly through the darkened streets of Asora. At this hour, only certain areas are populated. Many stayed safe in their own homes, and some of the most dangerous prowl the streets at night, simply looking for a place to find trouble. Asora had always been dangerous. Lively, too. When he was young, Taehyung looked at his hometown with a caustic eye; even younger, a child, it felt much sweeter. There are vague glimpses of what his life was like before he met Seokjin. The clan found him, barren and weak, with no knowledge of where he’d come from.

Sometimes it bites at him. At other times, Taehyung knows that fate greets its master like a freezing kiss; so dishearteningly intimate, so knowledgeable of what he should expect, and Taehyung- perhaps he has always been a lost boy, meant to wander indefinitely without a sense of purpose. The worst curse for a vampire, he thinks, is knowing eternity will string on cruelly without a reason to keep going.

He shakes his head, the thoughts invading his head dispersing with a noise of annoyance. In front of him, he finds the correct address, shoving the hastily written note in the pocket of his coat. He left his bags at Seokjin’s tavern, and he feels bare without something to rest his gloved hands on. Even so, he pushes on with hands tucked into his pockets, ignoring the heads that turn toward him with each wary step forward. The neon lights of the small bar blink soullessly onto the reflective streets, Taehyung only staring a bleary moment before he walks inside, immediately overwhelmed by the crowd.

The scents are too strong. Taehyung can sense a few humans lingering about the confines, many of those brushing shoulders with him being esteemed vampires. The talk of the crowd raises high as he swallows and attempts to make his way through, aggravated by all the emotions his intuition feels out in the air. Humans always smell so desperate.

“Not your kind of place, is it?”

The bartender immediately makes his way over to Taehyung as soon as he finds an empty bar seat. Impressive. With an inhale, he sits straight and regards the man in front of him. Average looking. Tall. And when he speaks, Taehyung doesn’t have to double take and realize those long canines could only belong to a vampire.

“Not really,” Taehyung sighs, deciding to play it cool. “Does this bar belong to a specific clan?” It was a question he never thought to ask. Most clans work willingly with each other, domestic wars being quite rare. However, he’s right outside of Kim clan territory, so it wouldn’t be odd for the bar to be owned by another. The bartender shakes his head, and Taehyung hums in acknowledgement. Perhaps it wasn’t a case of inter-clan disputes.

“You look hungry,” the bartender comments, leaning onto the counter. “Anything you’d like to drink?”

Taehyung knows how things go here. A vampire can either ask to have access to a feeder or pay for a drink- how they receive their blood, he still has no idea. With the rarity of humans and other lifeforms vampires can feed from, there are many who go into simple professions of being feeders; it pays reasonably well, but it comes at the cost of their health. Taehyung glances around the room before ordering the easiest drink on the menu. He’s unsurprised when the bartender comes back with a cup filled with crimson liquid.

“I haven’t been in town recently,” he speaks when the bartender lingers close, using a rag to wipe down behind the counter. The bartender glances up towards him, nodding in acknowledgement. “I heard it hasn’t been too safe, lately.”

“For us, no,” the bartender nearly scoffs, shaking his head. “Unbelievable. When I was a kid, I thought the lack of laws was good for us. Nowadays, it’s hard to walk around without feeling uncomfortable.”

“You don’t belong to a clan?” It is, after all, the easiest way to stay safe. Most creatures wouldn’t dare to go after a vampire with numbers; it’s usually the lone ones that go missing, the ones who wander too long without a true home to greet them. A vampire could win a fight in most cases, but there’s only so much one can do in a situation where the numbers are against them.

“I do,” the bartender answers with relief. “But that’s not enough to keep us safe anymore, is it? Heard that the Kim clan was having a tough time with that lately. People going missing without a trace, showing up murdered during the evening reports. Numbers don’t do much for us anymore, do they?”

“I heard about that as well. Didn’t the first disappearance start around here?”

The bartender shoots him a sharp glance, something cold and awkward filtering into his gaze. “Not supposed to talk about it. Boss says it’s bad for business. But-” he looks left and right, finding the other bartenders busy with the crowd. Lowering his voice as much as he can around the chatter of the room, he moves closer to Taehyung’s corner on the counter and angles his head downwards. “You’re right. I wasn’t working that night, but my coworker said the boss found the vampire out in the alleyway. Whoever got him didn’t think to clean up after himself.”

“Sounds like it was at random,” Taehyung murmurs, dragging his finger through the condensation on the table. “Is that coworker on staff tonight? I can imagine that would shake you up a little bit, maybe even make you quit.”

The bartender gives him a funny little smile. “Definitely seemed like it was random. Until, well- the other vampires started showing up in the reports. But my coworker, he’s not the type to quit. He’s working nights just like the rest of us. Goes by Seraph, he’s a feeder.”

The information piques his interest. It was a feeder that discovered the vampire? Curious, he hums and lays off, not wanting to pry too much and make himself a person of interest.

Even so, the bartender doesn’t seem suspicious. He begins drying a glass, expression so clearly distracted that it strikes Taehyung as strange. “Funny- we move so far into the future just to fall back into what used to be. Aren’t we supposed to be stronger than humans? Yet we listen to the radio and can barely move forward. Things they thought they’d do away with because of technology, and can’t figure out a way to make the laws work for all species. We could’ve done much more in this time than turn Earth into a wasteland.” He sounds wistful as he says it, and Taehyung can’t help but internally agree.

His studies as a child in the clan taught him about humankind’s history. What was once an innovative, changing society became a deserted home to the most powerful creatures on the planet. Vampires didn’t care about the Earth. Their bloodlust was so profound that innovation was secondary.

“Maybe,” Taehyung says, fishing through his pocket for his wallet. “But humans don’t have the power to be this greedy. Our capacity for evil is much larger, isn’t it?” He slaps a bill on the counter and nods to the bartender before getting up, slowly merging into the crowd as he attempts to look for more employees. It’s a busy night, vampires lingering in every corner, sinking their fangs into eagerly awaiting necks.

He ultimately makes his way to the front of the bar, standing by one of the few empty tables until a girl walks up, dressed in black. “You looking for someone to feed off of?”

Nodding, he watches as she brings out a tablet and scrolls through it idly, a hologram filled with names and identification photos standing before them.

“We’ve got plenty of people available on the floor. You can pay here through-”

“I’m looking for some specific,” Taehyung interrupts, fishing through his pocket for his wallet once more. “Seraph?”

She pauses, looking away from the tablet to stare him up and down. “You’re looking for Seraph? He’s on a private basis only.”

That’s strange. Taehyung hums before ultimately nodding, trying to come off as confident in order to gain her trust. She stares at him a moment longer before looking down, putting something in on her tablet. “What’s so special about him?”

“You come in asking for him and don’t know?” Scoffing, she shakes her head and rolls her eyes. “They say Seraph knows what people desire.”

Part of him wants to ask what in the world that means. The last time he came here, years ago, there was no such thing as a private feeder. All of the ones they had were eye candy, waltzing around the bar and attempting to meet some kind of quota; some blood tasted better than others, and they must be capitalizing off of it now. Perhaps this “Seraph” is much more popular than he assumed.

He’s led through the crowd to a back room. It’s simply furnished, not much more than a couch and a few ornate chairs surrounding a small fireplace. It’s abruptly home-like, and he takes his coat off to avoid the gathering heat, looking around and sitting down as he does so. There were, indeed, humans with blood much better than the others. Some were so unhealthy that it was unavoidable to notice. And on the opposite end, there were those whose blood tasted sweeter, perhaps even giving a greater sense of fullness, and vampires would usually go out of their way to keep these humans as their servants. This person must be quite special to have a private room, and even more than that, be paid as much as he is considering the grand price difference between his and other feeders’ rates.

He doesn’t get much more time to think about it. The entrance opens slowly, and Taehyung looks up just in time to catch the man’s back as he gently closes the door. Wearing all black, he nearly blends into the side of the room without light, Taehyung himself being bathed in the soothing yellow light of a few lanterns. With the light of the gently glowing fireplace cascading in gentle rivulets across the room, Taehyung almost feels soothed in his apprehension. When the man turns, greeting him, his face is overshadowed by the darkness; Taehyung can make out a straight mouth, a strong nose. His eyes appear as he takes a few careful steps forward, and Taehyung-

Taehyung is breathless. He can see why he may be worth so much more. Those delicate eyes are more than alluring- they’re beautiful and wondrously open, and perhaps he’s hallucinating, but he swears, if only for a moment, that they flash a vibrant, starry violet as he meets Taehyung’s gaze.

But Taehyung can’t help but notice. A seraph- this man seems anything but, his gaze so deafeningly strong that Taehyung, for the first time in years, feels intimidated.

“You’re pretty,” Seraph comments idly, sitting down across from him in one of the smaller arm chairs. “Can’t vampires like you con an innocent little human into living with them forever?” He leans his arm onto the rest, so casual, balancing his head on his pointed finger. As he looks at Taehyung from under his eyelashes, Taehyung feels--overwhelmed. Something in the air seems to be swirling with abrupt uncertainty, his nose suddenly flushed with a different scent from anything he felt outside the door. Not a human. Not a vampire. Something- something else, this Seraph is-

“I've heard of you,” Taehyung lies. He sits back, crossing his legs and attempting with difficulty to come off unaffected by the scent. Everyone in the bar smelled desperate. Frenzied. This Seraph’s scent is gentle and barren. Confident, Taehyung thinks. A scent so sweet that it could only be given off by someone who is used to getting what they desire. “I wanted to see if what they said was true.”

“Really?” The man smiles at him, slight. “Come here.”

The words are sudden. Taehyung swallows, nervously looking at the man across from him and worrying his lip. He can’t properly remember the last time he felt like this, as if all the energy in the room was swirling around his head and making him feel near feverish, his limbs feeling loose and hardly controllable. The darkness starts to overpower him, even with the help of the light; it seems to swell around him, growing so fierce that he wonders if he’s getting tunnel vision.

Because as soon as Seraph is saying it, he’s standing, following the words and walking to where he’s seated as if commanded. The man looks up at him, straightens in his seat and allows Taehyung to stand nervously between his slightly spread legs. Yet even looking down at him feels daunting; has Taehyung ever felt afraid of heights? It’s mystifying, this pull in his abdomen, the drop as if he’s rolling from the highest mountain’s peak down to the flattened ground, and these eyes, oh-

Taehyung knows what it is. He feels like he’s staring down the barrel of a gun.

He’s startled as Seraph drifts a hand over his wrist, holding it carefully in his palm and flipping it over, glancing at all the veins and touching gently over his cold skin as if he’s something to cherish. “I do feel it,” he starts, voice a careless mumble. Taehyung can’t bring himself to respond. “I feel--nothing.” A sharp glance is gifted his way as Seraph tilts his head. Only a moment. For only a moment, Taehyung thinks he sees it again. A flash of violet, and then as soon as it came, it’s gone, leaving a trail of inky obsidian in its wake. “It’s hard to tell you what you desire when you aren’t sure what you want in the first place.”

“How can you tell?” Taehyung finds himself asking. All other thoughts are gone; his order, what he’s supposed to be here for in the first place, the questions he should be asking- all he can feel is the drowning sensation of being pulled underwater, a blurry mirage taking over his vision as the man in front of him keeps his hold on him.

“When I touch you,” he begins, softly explaining, “I don’t feel what you want. With other people, I see money. Sometimes, I see sex, power- things like that. With you, I see nothing. But- I can tell you want answers. And something stronger than that, although I’m not sure I’m used to feeling someone desire this. Not anymore.” He looks genuinely perplexed, eyes stuck on a puzzle Taehyung cannot see.

“And what--what is that?” Taehyung feels his breath catch in his throat as Seraph drifts gentle fingers higher on his arm, grasping around his elbow and pulling. He lands gracelessly on his lap, knees falling to either side of his hips as he attempts to not crush the man below him, even with a brain filled with fog.

The smile he’s given in return is so strangely warm, he can’t understand it. His limbs feel heavy, arms almost reflexively gathering around the man’s neck as he pulls him close by the waist. “I think…” he trails off, voice mellow, so quiet Taehyung can barely hear it as he slowly closes his eyes, dissolving into the warmth of skin on his. “I think you want someone to care for you.”

Taehyung can barely understand what’s happening. It’d been years since he felt this warm, surrounded; it’s as if he’s been covered with a thousand blankets in the middle of a freeze, coddled by an embrace that leaves him a near pile of goo. Everything turns black, and all he can focus on is the voice next to his ear, the feeling of fingers gently carding through his hair. All the questions from earlier, his motive to be here- it dissolves under the weight of this heat, and the walls he’s tried to put up around him ardently for years are broken down for all of a second.

Cared for, Taehyung thinks, swallowing around the emptiness that thought brings him. Have I ever been cared for?

He lethargically blinks, humming in surprise when Seraph brings him close, Taehyung’s mouth dauntingly close to his neck. He hasn’t drank from a being like this in years. Yet the need to consume overwhelms him, and he merely presses his fangs against the skin, not sinking in out of the bigger part of him that’s unused to the feeling, perhaps even scared.

“Drink,” he hears, the voice small yet somehow grandiose in intention. “That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it?”

No, Taehyung thinks. Even so, the desire overwhelms everything in that tiny moment, and he pushes forward, teeth puncturing skin. Seraph’s blood, as he assumed, is much sweeter than any he’s ever had before. And near mind-numbing, with how it tastes, everything about the situation leaving Taehyung as frenzied as the humans he so often looked down on. All the while, Seraph is brushing fingers through his hair, and Taehyung- he can feel it. As if he’s cared for. As if this strange person he’s only just met holds his heart in his hands, carries him warmly like a stray kitten. It’s both humiliating and horrifically tender.

He pulls back easily, licking gently over the fang marks until any trace of the blood Seraph spilled is gone. It only proves what he thought before- this is not a human. The blood he ingested leaves him feeling sore with desire for something, anything, and he can’t tell whether he wants to run or melt into it. Part of him is beginning to panic- this isn’t normal. The feeling he’s getting, being pulled under and without control, as if only part of his brain is working. He pulls back, beginning to shiver from the onslaught of emotions, and-

He’s startled by the fingers that graze over his chin, cupping his jaw. The pleased smile on the face of the man in front of him is disarming. “You have little fangs,” he murmurs, grin so biting yet intoxicating. It’s so easy. Taehyung is calm again, the waves of what once felt like drowning pushing him to even shore. “Baby fangs.”

How he says it so calmly, even with Taehyung licking over his teeth to rid them of blood, leaves him spiraling for a hold. All he finds is the solid body beneath him, and as he comes to, the haze of the night starting to dissipate, he has to bite his lip to keep him from whimpering at the realization. He meant to come here for answers. The plan was to pay him for his time, ask him what he needed to, not actually drink from him. Yet here he sits, wrapped up in his lap, and Taehyung can’t explain it- the weight in his limbs, the safety of it all.

It doesn’t take him long, however. As he looks at Seraph, nervous, it becomes clearer than ever.

He’s not here with any other human, creature. He’s in the room with an incubus.

Chapter Text

“What? An incubus?”

Taehyung sighs. On the second floor of the tavern remained Seokjin’s small abode, where he quickly ran back to after his run in with the mysterious Seraph. Taehyung’s still not sure what to make of the time he spent in that room. It was as if everything simply--went away. The background noise, the light, any of his thoughts- they dissipated with that warmth, and the way he felt since, lost in a heavy bout of confusion, only confirms his initial thoughts.

“They’re rare, but they exist.” He sits awkwardly at the edge of the couch, watching as Seokjin moves about the small kitchen with Jimin hovering over his shoulder. Earlier, when the lights were out, Jimin floated about with a sparkle following after him; it was odd, to see such a bright beam of light flowing out from the nearly pitch black space, and in the time it took for Seokjin to light a candle, Jimin seemed like a manifestation of hope. Bright things are constantly snuffed out for the sake of darkness, but Taehyung finds Jimin’s perpetual light to be awe-inspiring at its worst.

Now, they sit in the living area, Taehyung dressed down to something more comfortable. Lucky timing, he thought, that Jimin was cursed. He could borrow his bed while he visited, and although he hates to think that way, Jimin didn’t seem too bothered when Seokjin offered up the place to stay.

“At a feeding bar, however,” Seokjin says with a shake of the head, bringing a mug along with him and sitting on an armchair. Jimin sits on Seokjin’s right thigh, wings shaking with delight as he stares up at Taehyung, eyes curious. “Incubus blood is sought after like a commodity in itself. Most avoid the feeding bars out of worry for their own health, so I have no doubt he makes a substantial living. You drank from him.”

Nearly clearing his throat, Taehyung retains some semblance of dignity and lets his eyes drop from Seokjin’s. “Yes,” he murmurs, awkward. “The first time in years.”

“You don’t feel sick?”

“I had human blood from time to time, just never fed off of one directly. I’m surprised I don’t feel strange- isn’t incubus blood supposed to have my own blood boiling?”

Seokjin grins something amused, fangs showing even in the darkness. “It depends on how much you drink. Seems your body might’ve had the intuition to stop before you fell too deep. Was he handsome?”

“Very,” Taehyung mutters reluctantly. His cheeks heat gently with the words, a cold blush forming over the highs of his face as he attempts to reign it in. No sense in lying, however- Seokjin always knew him too well, and despite his valiant desires to keep all that he felt locked safe within him, it meant nothing when in the face of someone he cared for. “I’m afraid he charmed me. Made it difficult to ask a single question when whatever he did to me was so powerful I could barely think a word in between it.”

“He must’ve been rather strong. I’m surprised you didn’t catch it early on with that nose of yours.” It's always been a troublesome power when not backed up with proper experience. Seokjin, on the other hand, has always been exceedingly intuitive. Perhaps the reason why he could always sense out Taehyung’s lies, and it did not help that Taehyung could be so--open. His face would tell before he could, and with Seokjin’s inherent understanding, he didn’t feel he could keep a secret.

“He smelled like--cinnamon. But just barely. I knew he wasn’t human, but I never thought he could be a demon. Most keep in hiding, these days. Hard to live a public life when you’re always under scrutiny.”

“And isn’t that funny,” Seokjin chuckles, “that the likes of vampires and werewolves would go as far as to judge demons. But I can understand it. With powers like that, it would make anyone want to run in the other direction.”

Seraph was an excellent example. It took no effort from him to completely hold Taehyung down without lifting a single finger. It’s daunting, and with the potential for what a creature can do with a power like that, even horrifying.

“I’ll assume you didn’t get to ask the questions you wanted.”

Taehyung finally glances up. It’s been so long since he’s felt this embarrassed. Digging his teeth into his bottom lip, he curls his fingers into his lap and shakes his head. “Not at all. Before I got the chance to say a word, he was telling me to come close.”

“Telling you?” Seokjin smiles at this, and it’s so conniving, teasing, that Taehyung nearly jolts back in alarm. “How interesting. I thought you didn’t take orders from anyone.”

Swallowing, Taehyung looks away. “I don’t. He had me under his control.”

“You know,” Seokjin starts, smile easing to something methodical. “Incubi are excellent at seeking out what people desire. Even if they have you under their control, they act according to what they think you want. It seems you wanted to be told what to do. He was only following what his intuition told him.”

“Oh, shut up,” Taehyung mumbles, gritting his teeth. Even Jimin is grinning in amusement now.

“It’s a simple truth. Did you find any other information?”

Easily taking the out, Taehyung sits up and inhales. “Barely. Bartender said it seemed random, that Seraph was the coworker that found the vampire. Which is why I wanted to pry, but-”

“He didn’t let you get the chance. He might’ve felt it when you came near.”

The man did seem strangely intuitive from the start, much too at ease for someone who was approaching a stranger. Taehyung couldn’t scent it out, couldn’t place a single mark of worry in the air. He nearly curses himself for not noticing earlier, but he can’t exactly feel bad for what he couldn’t control. If Seraph could feel that Taehyung was meaning to ask questions about a sensitive topic, he might’ve worked quickly to distract him. The powers of demons are no small joke. They have the ability to completely overcome a person, and Taehyung is no exception.

“I suppose so,” Taehyung answers, lost in thought.

“I guess that means you’ll have to go back, hm?”

Taehyung looks up so quickly, he nearly hurts his neck. Seokjin is smiling, but it’s all too obvious- he’s much too amused by the dreadful situation.

↞ ☆ ↠

And, just as Seokjin said, Taehyung ends up facing the feeding bar once more a few nights later. It was strange staying with Seokjin. They once shared a grand mansion with plenty of other vampires, all a part of the Kim clan. Now, they’re spread far and thin across the Asoran city. Taehyung is all too used to being alone. Perhaps he never preferred it, but it was always what he was used to. A little bleakness, a little lack of true home. Taehyung has protected his clan, he has protected himself, but-

He has never been protected by anyone else.

It was simple. He didn’t need anyone. He grew up alone, was found alone, learned to fight alone. And even with people by his side, he felt it something strange to be loved. He could understand it. He loved Seokjin, for example- he loved those who kept him close like family. As always, he wanted to protect them. But simply, as Taehyung would always conclude, he is alone and lost. The kind of person meant to be, really.

So for Seraph to tell him so easily that what he wants is to be cared for- he can’t help but think it was a lie. A small thing to distract him. But he can’t even hope to deny how wonderful it felt to be sat in that warmth, arms around him and fingers intertwined in his hair, as if he was in some kind of overwhelming simulation where someone cared ardently for him, was willing to do anything for him, kept him close and coddled him.

And-

Little fangs.

Taehyung’s fangs are not little. He scoffs as he walks up to the bar, swinging the door open with more force than necessary. He tries earlier in the day, this time. No longer is it dark outside, but overblown with the murkiness of a humid afternoon. The sun is setting on the skyline, and the clouds are always so thick that it never really seems bright. Pollution, ugliness, dirtiness- it took over a once beautiful world, and Taehyung doesn’t know where to see beauty anymore.

Inside, it’s much less frantic than the first night he came. A few feeders walk around, some stare at him, but he ignores them all to approach the bar with a familiar face behind it.

“I remember you,” the bartender says cheerfully. “Earlier in the day this time, huh? What would you like to drink?”

“No, I’m-” he smiles a bit regretfully. “I’m looking for Seraph. Is he here today?”

With a hum, the bartender nods and grabs the attention of a passing girl with one of the ordering tablets in her hands. She looks at Taehyung, nods, and gestures to the back rooms.

“They always come back for Seraph,” the bartender says, too agreeable. “You’d think his blood was made of gold.”

Hardly, Taehyung thinks to himself, giving the bartender one more amicable smile before racing to follow the girl with her tablet. She lets him into the room with one final look, and Taehyung’s greeted once more by the room he was in only a few days ago. This time, he barely manages to look around before he hears the door open behind him, turning quickly to find Seraph, hair dark and eyes as vibrantly violet as they were before. Taehyung finds it lucky that the man in front of him looks just as surprised by his appearance, but the expression is lost as easily as it came.

“Oh. Baby fangs,” Seraph says, voice nearly a mumble. Taehyung catches it nonetheless, feeling as if his teeth might shatter from how his jaw clenches together with irritation at the words. “It’s you again.” He walks closer to Taehyung, steps seeming to resound forcefully in the air even with each stride being so gentle.

It’s happening again. The darkness of the room begins to swirl, a starry cascade of what might be the sky veiling over his eyes and leaving the man in front of him a near blur. Taehyung feels locked in place once more, throat swallowing painfully as his mind races to understand what’s happening, and his eyes lock onto Seraph’s raising hand. Instinctually, he’s taking a few steps backwards, allowing some space in between them.

Seraph’s mouth twitches on an amused smile. Voice soft, he explains, “Hard to feed from me if you’re afraid to touch me. Did you find out? It’s rare a vampire is able to spot the difference.”

Even with his smile, Seraph looks so honestly out of place for a moment as he asks. Taehyung hesitates but ultimately nods. “You’re an incubus.”

“I suppose that’s correct. You came here to feed nonetheless? Even if I touch you, I promise not to do what I did last time.” The loss of control. Barely being able to speak. Taehyung knows why he feels so unnerved in his presence, now. No other being has ever convinced Taehyung that they are more powerful than him in magic. Seraph has intimidated him so quickly that it comforts Taehyung to see him regress a bit, hands falling to his side as the murkiness he felt from last time dissipates instantly.

“I’m not here to feed,” Taehyung blurts.

The stranger seems to process his words for all of a few moments, glancing over him curiously. “I felt that last time. I thought I was wrong.” With a blink, he looks at Taehyung once more before deflating, the confidence seeping from his body in a simple snap. “I can only tell what you desire. You seem to desire so much I can’t afford.”

“I just have a few questions.”

Perhaps it’s the desperation in his voice. Seraph looks at him for a moment, obviously contemplating, before gesturing to the seats they sat on the last time he was here. As his eyes drift over the armchair, he blushes in recognition; that was where he cuddled up into his lap like a deserted kitten, and it leaves him so oddly embarrassed that he wants to curl up and die. Instead, he sighs and moves to the couch, sitting stock still as Seraph awkwardly takes the seat he did last time.

“Tell me,” he begins, mouth setting seriously. “What are you so curious about?”

“Do you have another name?” Taehyung doesn’t know why he asks it so blatantly. In all of a second, Seraph is frowning and tilting his head in confusion.

“I don’t exactly tell my clients what my real name is.”

“Ah, I-”

“But,” he interrupts, leaning back in his seat. “I can feel when someone has evil desires, intentions. You seem to be asking quite innocently.”

Taehyung stays silent, awkwardly playing with his fingers in his lap.

“Jeongguk,” Seraph murmurs. “My name is Jeongguk. And I think it’s only fair you tell me what your name is.”

“Taehyung,” he answers. When Jeongguk only looks at him, expectant, he looks down to avoid his seeking eyes. But it’s not right- newly determined, he looks back up and meets Jeongguk’s gaze, unsure why the eyes of a strange incubus make him so unfortunately anxious. “I came here to follow up on a mission for the Kim clan. Our vampires have been going missing, and this was the first place one turned up dead. The bartender told me you were the one to find them.”

Unexpectedly, Jeongguk’s eyes don’t turn cold at his explanation. He only sits back in his seat, regarding Taehyung comfortably, and it nearly unnerves Taehyung to see him that unaffected. Then, he remembers. Jeongguk isn’t a human, nothing of the sort- he’s a demon. A demon made to rip people of their most sacred desires and bring them to life. Of course he wouldn’t shiver like a weak human at the mention of something that could be traumatic. Instead, Jeongguk seems to stop holding back whatever he kept close to him the last time they were here; his eyes are vibrant now, and just as Taehyung thought, seem almost hypnotic with the way glimmering glitter floats through his irises.

Taehyung has no doubt that Jeongguk charms people easily. His eyes are a night sky beings so often get lost in, and he has to force himself to look away in the case he gets captured again.

“Yes. But I don’t know much more than that. They’ve been going missing for some time, haven’t they? It happens. You can’t expect everyone to survive in a world like this.” Jeongguk trails off with his thoughts, seeming near entertained by the thought. “I understand you have your curiosities. In this world, the most you can do is stay quiet and pretend to be someone else. Asking too many questions nearly always leads to disaster.”

Taehyung feels as if Jeongguk only says as much because incubi are such a tiny species. Hidden often in plain sight, they don’t stick together as well as wolves or vampires do. Of course, for a demon it’d always be better to hide away, but it doesn’t even strike Taehyung as a possible outcome. He’d always been taught that vampires are superior. Powerful, smart, peaceful- they’re nothing like the chaotic werewolves or the sneaking fae, and amongst the dark streets of Asora, they are as close as it comes to normalcy. He never had to hide. He won’t start now.

Jeongguk seems to sense it. Of course he would. He shakes his head, silently appraising him. “I don’t have the information you want. My boss might, but he’s a difficult one to deal with.” With that, he stands, turning from Taehyung to face the door. “I’d be careful, if I were you. People here don’t like meddlesome creatures.”

It’s obvious that Jeongguk won’t work willingly with him, nor does Taehyung sense that he has more information than he lets on. Standing, he follows after Jeongguk towards the door, staring at his back. He’s so focused on his thoughts that he’s shocked when Jeongguk turns, starry eyes locking with his. “You paid to be fed.”

“I don’t need it.”

“You haven’t eaten since you saw me,” Jeongguk claims evenly, smiling when Taehyung only looks at him. “Am I right?” This time, Taehyung doesn’t react in time to move away, startling when Jeongguk lifts a hand and trails fingers delicately over his nape. Only it doesn’t feel as murky, his head still clear, and he takes a deep breath knowing Jeongguk kept his promise. “Your desires are stronger than most people. I don’t have to touch you to see them any clearer.”

Feeling off balance, Taehyung’s hand moves before he can process what he’s doing. He digs his fingers into the front of Jeongguk’s shirt, fabric curling under his hand as he looks at Jeongguk and attempts not to lose himself in the inklings of what he felt before. Jeongguk must be charming him again, perhaps unintentionally, but it’s not nearly as panic-inducing as it was the first time. It’s more controlled, allows him to breathe and think through the mess of his emotions.

Jeongguk pulls him closer, lips ghosting over his ear. In this position, Taehyung’s mouth is much closer to Jeongguk’s neck than he wants it to be, the thought of sinking his teeth into the flesh much more tantalizing than he thought it would be. He thought that his desire last time was about the lack of control- surely, Jeongguk charmed him into that bloodlust he hadn’t felt in years. But he feels it again now with the tendrils of his sanity still firmly in his clutches.

“Baby fangs, tell me why,” he whispers against his ear, grossly playful, “when I touch you, I get the feeling you want me to bite you?”

Eyes wide, Taehyung stands still against Jeongguk and tries to fight back the shame the words give him. Jeongguk leans forward, lips ghosting over his neck, and it’s only when Taehyung feels teeth graze over his skin- none nearly as sharp as a vampire’s- that he blinks and nearly trips backwards.

Jeongguk is smiling at him.

“There’s no use in lying to me. If you’re hungry, I’m always here waiting.”

Taehyung stares at him, eyes glancing down to his neck, before rushing forward and swinging the door open next to Jeongguk. Without a look back, he rushes back onto the streets of Asora, and tries to understand why he let someone- much less, someone who is not a vampire- place their teeth so close to his neck.

↞ ☆ ↠

Taehyung doesn’t remember.

While Seokjin is away at meetings with the clan, he lies on Jimin’s bed and stares up at the ceiling. With gentle fingers, he finds himself mindlessly playing with the thin chain on his neck. It was the one thing they found him with, all those years ago. A simple chain and a tiny ring placed on its chord, too simple to have any meaning behind it. But when they tried to take it away, he fought for it, and now he has it so many years later.

His parents--he remembers them, at times. Small things, like smiles and words, but it burns him at others to know he can’t remember their faces. If his parents were in a crowd, it’d be impossible for him to recognize them.

What he knows of a family has always been the Kim clan. They took him in, raised him to be an excellent fighter. They taught him how to live for himself despite joining the group, and so continued this confusion within himself: does he know what loneliness feels like? Does he live this way because he likes it, or does he live this way because it’s all he’s ever known? Alone in his small house in the woods, away from the clan. It’s how you fall in love with the stars.

Taehyung thinks of space in two forms: the infinitely lost and the limited understanding.

If he measures the space between himself and the stars, he would find it unquantifiable from some relatable historical human lens- like a thousand kilometers or yards, which doesn’t really work on a galactical spectrum. Instead, he must quantify in light years and parsecs, as perhaps space would always exist in this way, with undeniable confusion and ultimate, endless curiosity; like diving deep below sea level and watching it grow dark, unsure of all that lies below.

But if space is infinite, if understanding would always be limited, he finds there must be something deeply ingrained within him to hold at space like a lover- see its foreboding darkness as some image of himself.

Some people are born like that. Lost. Taehyung just happens to be one of them.

No home to speak of. No one to find at the end of the tunnel. Just Taehyung, wandering freely for eternity, and sometimes-

It kills him. To be a vampire and see his eternity spread out before him, knowing he has no one. Perhaps he knows loneliness as intimately as he would a family member. He convinced himself long ago that it was simply a part of his nature, but Jeongguk said it himself.

I think you want someone to care for you.

Someone. Anyone. The words ring within his head, Jeongguk occupying more space within his mind than he ever would’ve thought after only meeting him twice. But the wallowing despair in his stomach that was once quelled to a simple ache seems to burn something fiery now, and it’s hard to ignore. He has always been alone. Will always be alone. People like him, abandoned since birth, don’t suddenly find people who think them worthy enough to care for. At the very least, he’d always cared for himself.

Besides, he always thinks. Love barely exists in their world. It exists as an exchange, as desire, but never comes to fruition when people place their greed before their hearts. Taehyung has never wanted, and maybe that’s what makes him odd. Jeongguk couldn’t feel it, at first. He said he felt nothing. That emptiness has always been there, as Taehyung once thought of himself like a machine. Built to destroy, built to collect. He lived as a ranger and did tasks for his clan, went out on bounties and fought creatures to their deaths. Had he ever desired it? No. But has what Taehyung desires ever been important? Not really, he thinks. It was never his desire to be alone, yet he always stays that way, afraid for the moment someone comes close.

He sighs and sits up when the upper floor door to the tavern opens. Seokjin’s voice is hushed, followed by a few unfamiliar voices he can’t recognize.

He’s shocked when he walks out the room to find familiar faces. Yoongi, Namjoon, Hoseok- their backs are to Taehyung as they walk into the room, placing their things on the closest open spaces. Seokjin’s home is a bit crowded, a bit small, but beautifully homey, and it only seems to add to comfort as Yoongi sets his stack of books down on the counter, Namjoon tossing his bag on a chair and Hoseok still attempting to take off his shoes by the entrance.

“Taehyung?” It’s Yoongi who notices him first, face seemingly unexcited even if his eyes perk up in surprise to see him. “I haven’t seen you in years. Am I hallucinating?”

“No,” Seokjin says simply, blinking. “That is Taehyung.”

Hoseok looks up from toeing his shoe off, making a noise of excitement as he rushes over to the open door of the bedroom and gathers Taehyung in a tight hug. Instantly, Taehyung feels warmth bleed into him like it always does when Hoseok is around; he isn’t like he or Seokjin or Namjoon, the vampires of the group, nor is he like Jimin or Yoongi. He’s special. A sunlight nymph, perhaps one of the last of his kind, who managed to become an ally with their clan despite the vampires’ own aversion to sunlight.

So, he may be the only sunlight they can handle. The only kind that doesn’t burn them from being around it too long.

Taehyung tentatively hugs him back, giving a hesitant smile. As he looks over his shoulder, he sees Namjoon giving him his own smile, obviously happy to see him, while Yoongi still looks stupefied.

The last time they saw each other-

A sword slashing through flesh, blood spurting through the air as Taehyung quickly withdrew his weapon from the assailant and took a few heavy steps back. Yoongi stared as the man in between them fell to the ground, not an ounce of fear in his eyes. The strange man had been following Yoongi for days to and from his shop, and perhaps he had not noticed; as Taehyung would visit Yoongi nearly every day, it was easy to see that something wasn’t quite right. He thought he should take care of the problem as soon as possible, and when the stranger drew a weapon behind the unknowing witch, there was not a minute more to think about the details.

“You’ll always protect me, won’t you?” Yoongi asked, amused, and Taehyung only nodded.

It’s all he’s ever been good for.

-Taehyung learned he was tired of blood and bloodshed.

Hoseok lets him go, giving him one last cheerful look. “Have you come to visit? What brought this on?”

He’s surprised Seokjin didn’t tell them. “Seokjin invited me back once the clan members started going missing. He wanted me to help investigate.”

“And keep an eye on you,” Yoongi scoffs, finally turning his head away to look at Seokjin. “Taehyung protects himself. What were you worried about?”

With a noise of complaint, Seokjin sets about boiling some tea as they all look on with curiosity. “Taehyung doesn’t depend on anyone, which means he doesn’t tell us when he’s bothered. I didn’t want him to be carrying a weight without telling us how he really feels.”

“How considerate of you.” Yoongi sounds sarcastic.

“Anyway,” Namjoon interrupts. “It’s good to see you, Taehyung. What have you been doing to take up your time out there in Liera?”

A reasonable question. People only went to Liera if they wanted to pass time in boredom or get lost. Filled with too many woods to be properly and entertainingly livable, his neighbors would build houses amidst the trees and travel out to market when it was necessary. Honestly, a difficult feat for a vampire, as blood in itself was a hard thing to procure even in a city like Asora, where things felt relatively modern. It was with the fall of the human race as superior that things started to go backwards. As they so often discussed on the radio, vampires simply--did not care. About technology, moving forward- they’re truthfully selfish creatures, and as such, focused in on living in tiny clans and societies where they would not be judged, with no particular interest in the “privileges” of life, only the necessary and naturally opulent.

“Bounty jobs,” Taehyung says, smiling at Hoseok shyly and walking towards Namjoon where he sits by the counter. “People in Liera are surprisingly diligent. They found me in the marketplace and would often ask me to take up small jobs.”

“Like what?” Seokjin asks, curious.

“Many people in Liera are there just so they won’t be found. Too many homes mixed into the nature there. They would ask me to find people that went missing, punish people who did them wrong. Easy jobs.”

Hoseok walks over to stand by Yoongi. He looks nervous as Taehyung explains.

“I suppose it’s what you’re good at,” Yoongi remarks with a tiny smile. He’s right. Since the moment the clan found him, he was trained in close-counters fighting and ultimately, how to fight with weapons. At the time, Taehyung was taught everything about what it meant to be violent. They tried to ingrain in him a way to enjoy whatever bloodshed he caused, make it a part of a greater mission. While many clans live in peace, many had one mission: fight their way to the top. Be the most respected and revered. And anyone who came in the way of that was seen as a point of interest.

Kill or be killed, they taught him. It wasn’t until he was older that it inexplicably began to make him sick to his stomach, even if he swore he always fought who the clan told him to for the fear of their safety, for the fear of those he grew to love.

He decides to change the subject. “Where have you all been?”

“We just came back from a mission ourselves,” Namjoon explains. Yoongi and Hoseok must’ve went along. Despite not being vampires, they had close ties with their clan on account of helping them. Most clans had an advisor of the sorts, and Yoongi was exactly that- a witch proficient in knowledge on all species, but also heavily capable of magic. Hoseok, an excellent healer due to some of his powers as a nymph, was considered their resident nurse at the time Taehyung left the city, and it seems he’s kept the title if his bag of medical supplies- set by the door- is any indication.

“Ever since people from the clan have gone missing, Leader Jun asked many of us to visit places that the vampires went missing. In your case, I assume Seokjin called you back to help with the scavenger hunts. We went out days west to talk to the leader of another clan. A vampire went missing in their territory,” Yoongi tacks on.

Taehyung sits down on the couch, looking at them warily. “And did you find something?”

“Yes and no,” Namjoon says, standing up with his arms crossed. He looks perturbed and confused, but mostly at ease. “It’s only natural. Information comes at a price in our world. He said he had a few answers for us, but only if we do something in return for him.”

“And what is that?”

Somehow, Yoongi and Hoseok look nervous as Seokjin and Namjoon communicate a bit with their eyes, as if unsure whether or not to tell Taehyung.

“Well, we might need your help. You were our best bounty hunter in the day with those scavenging skills. He says he’s looking for someone.”

Taehyung hums and stands, walking over to the counter as Namjoon rifles through his bag. He takes out a large manila folder, slapping it on the table and gesturing to it as Taehyung approaches.

He opens it, looking at the papers.

ONE BOUNTY ORDER, it spells out across the top. In small print, the name of the clan leader, Nan Zera, is listed below the title. It lists out a simple description: one boy, missing from the age of twelve. It’s been ten years since he left home. Light brown eyes and hair, simple looking, no marks of an identity. Unsure of starlit status due to age- had some powers indicative of being a demon variant, but could also be half human.

“A permanent feeder, huh?”

Namjoon nods. “Born and raised to be one.”

“What were the signs of him being a demon variant?” Taehyung closes the file, the rest of the words being useless to him. For demons, it was difficult to find a marking- most were special to one demon and one demon alone. Like Jeongguk, for example, with his starry eyes. Others would have certain markings, tattoos of their identity littered across their face or body, different colored eyes or even hair.

“Zera said he was born with ink on his back. A set of black wings from shoulder to shoulder, neck to hip-line.”

“How interesting,” Taehyung mumbles. “Must’ve been quite powerful. Any leads?”

Yoongi sighs. “Barely, which is why we need as much help on this as we can get. The kid disappeared ten years ago, ran some direction towards Liera, then all but disappeared. I told Zera he’s asking a hefty deal considering this kid might just be dead, but he says what he has will be worth it.”

It’s been years since he considered himself a ranger. Some vampire bounty hunter of their city, simply following orders. It wasn’t as if there was much he could do. He was brought in by the clan, taught what he should be, so he never thought to second guess what they taught him. It’s only when his heart started to fail him that he moved away, but now it seems they want him to get his hands dirty again.

He looks around. Seokjin, Namjoon, Hoseok, Yoongi- even Jimin who Seokjin so obviously cares for, away sleeping in another room.

He remembers why he did it then. Even if he did not know himself, there was one thing he could never escape. The desire to protect. The desire to keep the people he loved safe, even if love has and will always be confusing to him. And it’s the worry of any of these people going missing just as well that keeps him from shaking his head and finding his way back home to Liera. He’d always be lost, but he’s never been one to hide.

“You’ll always protect me, won’t you?”

Of course he would.

↞ ☆ ↠

They start off with the only lead they have.

Namjoon gathers the group on a stormy day, the only days they seem to have in a place as depressing as Asora.

“Reports say that a majority of people who move out of Liera tend to go in one of two places. Asora or another heavily populated city. Seems like people get tired of the quiet life and go for something bigger.”

Taehyung walks behind the group as they trail up the sidewalk, looking around at the buildings of the place he used to call home. It seems it always went one way or the other. People fled the city for quiet or fled the quiet for the loudness of the city. And now, it seems quite silent, only a few people wandering up and down the streets in the cold weather. Taehyung hugs his coat tighter to himself and tries to pay attention. There’s no use in looking around too much, the nostalgia not stinging as much as he expected it to. No place is ever really a home.

“People at the homing office should have some stats on people who recently moved here from Liera, and it won’t be hard to buy some information. Zera says the last time someone thought they spotted the boy, he was on a road to a bigger city. Hard to tell which one considering the main road splits off into three.”

As Yoongi explains, Taehyung looks up at the alley they’re passing. It’s hard to see, but he watches as a man comes out the door, waltzing into the darkness with a long coat on and a black turtleneck. The man rubs his gloved fingers together and breathes out into the open air, a puff of smoke following him as he turns his back to Taehyung and walks in the other direction, turning around a corner. At the last second, Taehyung sees it- something falls from his pocket in the distance, hitting the ground with a barely conceivable noise.

Taehyung pauses.

“Those sleazy people at the office really give up information for anything,” Yoongi is sighing. “Makes me glad the clan decided to split off instead of homing together like they used to- Taehyung?”

“Um,” Taehyung says, glancing up before looking at the alleyway once more. “I’ll catch up with you guys in a moment, alright?” Besides, he knew his way to the building they were going to. They look at him, Seokjin ultimately nodding before they move on and begin walking, leaving Taehyung by the alley. He sniffs, hopping a little on the balls of his feet, before trailing into the dark hall, surrounded by damp brick walls and trash bins.

Crouching before the corner, he picks up what the stranger dropped. It’s a black leather wallet, rather heavy in his hand. It must be important. He stands, tucking it into his pocket with a sudden mission to find the stranger, and goes in the direction he went.

He doesn’t make it far. He takes all of five steps before freezing in place as a hand locks onto his wrist from behind and pulls him flush with a body, the stranger’s other arm locking tight around his neck. He feels it, then. The cold edge of something just barely grazing his neck, forcing him to quell his breathing lest he want to be cut by its sharp side.

Even with eyes closed and focused, he can’t tell who’s holding him. This doesn’t smell like a vampire or human. As he grits his teeth, forcing them not to chatter, he sees it again. A vision of violet eyes, so strange and rare; it seemed he was right on his first guess, even if it seemed the man was trying so hard to hide it.

“Jeongguk?” His voice is much more tentative than he expects it to be, but the loosening hand around his wrist seems to be an answer in itself. There’s a pause where Taehyung thinks he’s wrong, but then he’s being spun around in the grip, chest to chest until he’s pushed in the other direction. He’s not surprised to see the face in front of his, but he is surprised by the way Jeongguk looks. Almost angrily defiant, eyes not the violet they were last time. This time, one eye is a vibrant maroon while the other is plainly gray. It disconcerts Taehyung, but it’s gone as quickly as it came. With both eyes dark, he slips the knife in his hand back in his boot.

“It’s you,” Jeongguk says. His voice isn’t nearly as warm as it was the last time he saw Taehyung. “I got the feeling a vampire was following me.”

Taehyung is never afraid. Yet somehow, seeing Jeongguk’s reaction and the starry veil of red that cloaked his eye for only a moment leaves him shaky. He gives Jeongguk a look of tempered anxiety before sticking a hand in his pocket, watching as Jeongguk flinches only to relax when he takes out his wallet, holds it in both of his hands and presents it to him gently.

Jeongguk tsks before snatching it out of his hands.

The hostility in the air throws Taehyung off. In any other situation, he would feel calm and unbothered, but the fact that Jeongguk acts nothing like he would within the bar leaves him reeling. Jeongguk puts his wallet back in his pocket, shaking his head disdainfully.

“It pisses me off that I can’t feel your intentions,” Jeongguk gripes, smirking without an ounce of amusement. “I couldn’t tell if the person behind me had desires to hurt me or not. You haven’t been following me, have you?”

“No, I-” Taehyung starts, swallowing when Jeongguk gives him an even, frightening look. “We were walking, and I saw you come out of a building and drop your wallet. I didn’t even know it was you.”

Jeongguk gives him a long, hard look. He’s reminded of something then- a lesson he received with the clan when they were teaching him about different species of starlights. Demons and incubi in particular are nearly professional actors. They’re sacred to the people who need them- or maybe “need” has never been the right word to describe a being that is often taken advantage of for being a safeholder for all people desire. Want, Taehyung thinks, makes much more sense, and an incubus is best known for all they have to offer for another person. They are not people who live for themselves. They’re protected by the people who feel they can take something from them, but they live to fulfill the worst wishes in the most sinful ways.

When a life is all about fulfilling wishes for others, Taehyung thinks a person must lose themselves somewhere in the midst.

Maybe Jeongguk is just as lost as he is.

“I don’t like liars. But I can’t figure you out well enough to say if it’s true,” Jeongguk says, cold and simple. He turns as if he’s going to walk away but pauses at the last moment, turning back to Taehyung. “You still haven’t fed yet, have you?”

Jeongguk is correct. Taehyung hadn’t been able to properly stomach anything since he fed from Jeongguk last, and vampires could only go so long without feeding. Yet he hadn’t reached a point where it felt overwhelming, simply thinking he didn’t have the appetite for it. Still, he feels his eyebrows draw together in confusion. “How did you know?”

“Because,” Jeongguk says, nonchalant and trailing off. Taehyung nods with hesitation, feeling himself take a hesitant step backwards until his hands, folded behind his back, graze the bumpy surface of a brick wall. Jeongguk backed him into a corner without even taking a step his way.

Even so, he doesn’t seem surprised or pleased by this fact- just use to it. He should’ve expected as much. With Jeongguk’s energy being so high- as he imagines any demon’s would be- it’s hard not to shudder when locked into such a narrow space with him. Jeongguk takes a step forward, another, and Taehyung finds he doesn’t shiver in apprehension when Jeongguk lifts a hand towards him this time. But he doesn’t touch his shoulder or neck like Taehyung had grown used to. He brushes gloved fingers through the hair above his ear, looking at them when he pulls his arm back.

“You smell like me,” Jeongguk says, eyes flashing that starry violet as he looks at Taehyung with a hint of what could only be disdain. “As if I’ve branded you as my own. That scent doesn’t go away until you take a bite elsewhere. And I haven’t seen you since then, so my only conclusion could be that you’ve stayed away from any other blood.”

“I haven’t felt an appetite since then,” Taehyung whispers.

At this, Jeongguk looks startled. He steps away, passive face gone confused, and eyes Taehyung with curiosity. Whatever he’s thinking about passes quickly, as he ultimately straightens his face as he looks at Taehyung once more. “You should eat again. It’s not safe to go so long without blood.” He turns this time, walking calmly to the end of the alley.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung finds himself calling. The incubus turns his way, a question in his eyes. “You’re the same Jeongguk I met at the bar, right?”

Jeongguk laughs at him. “Of course.” He walks out the alleyway then, leaving Taehyung shuddering against the wall as the tendrils of whatever energy he left leave his heart near staggering. A professional actor puts themselves in roles to fulfill people’s biggest dreams on the big screen. Taehyung thinks he can understand now what they meant when they said as much- at work, Jeongguk is whoever his client wants him to be. And outside--outside…

He is nobody.

Chapter Text

Jeongguk was right. It isn’t safe to go so long without blood. But the kind Seokjin attempts to give him tastes rancid, and he ends up vomiting whatever he tries to ingest.

“Perhaps it’s a side effect we don’t know about?” Namjoon asks, troubled. Hoseok’s been patting his forehead and cheeks, certainly an old school method for finding out if Taehyung’s sick. He’s been bedridden for a day, which puts an indefinite halt on the investigation they’re doing- at least Namjoon said so when Taehyung said to go along without him, citing that it would be crucial to have Taehyung with them.

“I don’t know,” Hoseok mumbles. “One of the biggest side effects of drinking incubi blood is the state it can leave you in. It’s an aphrodisiac. People will have vivid dreams or feel sick, but this is going a bit too far. Taehyung can’t get any blood down, and human food just isn’t enough for his body.”

Seokjin rubs one of his temples, Jimin standing on his other shoulder to reach up and rub the other one with a worried look on his face. “Taehyung has never been this sick.”

“Well, I’ll give him some gentle medicine for now. We’ll see if he feels any better in a few hours.”

“Thank you, Hoseok,” Taehyung says. It all started last night. Taehyung began feeling extremely dizzy, and after nearly passing out, Seokjin ordered him into bed and attempted to give him a blood bag. Upon ingesting it, he easily threw it up, and Seokjin called over Hoseok to check up on him. He could take tiny sips from the bags, but it was not nearly enough to keep himself level-headed and energized. All the while, he can’t stop thinking about Jeongguk.

“At worst, it seems we’ll have to contact that bar and try to get in touch with- what did you say his name was?” Namjoon sits at the edge of his bed, looking over Taehyung before reaching out and combing fingers through his hair. The tiny bit of warmth is so gratifying that Taehyung can’t help but revel in it. “Seraph?”

Taehyung nods, head fuzzy. Saying Jeongguk’s name has him spiralling, however- the last time they saw each other, he was so distant and cold, it nearly burned Taehyung. It’s not as if he knows him. Not at all. But the whiplash he received from having him at one moment be coddling and the next as if pelting him with ice is undeniable, and Taehyung can’t help but shiver in fear under his sheets at the thought of them having to contact Jeongguk. He knows, though. If it’s between him dying and staying alive, Seokjin will make the step to find Jeongguk.

“The boy we’re looking for,” Taehyung finds himself saying, all eyes turning towards him. “Did you ever find out why he left?”

Appreciating the turn in subject, Seokjin nods. “He was a feeder. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? A lot of feeders try to escape when they’re born into it.”

“Zera mentioned that the demon was obsessed with immortality. Demons can live a long time, but they don’t have our immunity or eternal lifespan,” Namjoon explains, voice soft.

Taehyung can’t even conceive it. All his life, he wished for anything but to be eternal. It seemed like such a curse to have this life spread out so far before him. The humans seemed to be lucky dying in the years they did. Yet it seemed they all wished for what they did not have, as humans would so frequently complain and go on painful conquests to become vampires- to “experience” the world, they would say, as if the world they live on now isn’t festering with horror.

“Immortality,” he murmurs. “He wanted to turn, and they wouldn’t let him.”

“Of course not,” Namjoon nearly scoffs. “Demon blood is more of a rarity than any other. And when a demon becomes partly vampire, their powers are lessened. They may have immortality, but it’s like alchemy. You can have one thing, but something must be taken away. Their blood isn’t nearly as valuable, even rumored to be disgusting after turning.”

“A demon fledgling is worth nothing,” Taehyung concludes.

“Which might mean everything to them,” Yoongi says as he enters the room, holding a book. “If you’re sought after for your entire life, you’d surely want to escape by any means possible. It’s long and arduous work to become a vampire, but once a demon takes on the task, their blood won’t ever be wanted again. They’d grow fangs, and people will assume they’re a vampire. Even if they don’t, someone’ll take one taste and spit it out.”

“Does this happen often?”

Yoongi looks at Taehyung, gesturing for Namjoon to get up and taking his spot. “Quite often. Demons are already a hidden species. Even if their population may be similar to ours, they have to be extremely strategic about the lives they live. They’re powerful, but they’re also sought after by enough people for their numbers and strength to be irrelevant. But on the topic of what’s happened to you, Taehyung.” He props open the book he has in his lap, snapping and watching as the book falls to an exact page. “I was reading on what happens when a vampire feeds from an incubus. Nothing in particular matches what’s happening to you. There’s always the chance that the incubus poisoned you, but on the optimistic side of things that he did not, we have to stop looking at him and start looking at you.”

Taehyung frowns, sitting up in bed and leaning against the headboard. “What?”

“Maybe it has nothing to do with him. Vampires- your body chemistry can be so different going from individual to individual. Perhaps your body grew too attached to Seraph’s blood. However, the only way we would have enough information on this is if we talked to an incubus, and in particular, the incubus who did the damage. So, tell me. Why do you seem so nervous when we bring him up?”

Swallowing, Taehyung’s limbs lock up in fear. They all look at him with confusion, even Jimin swinging his tiny feet from Seokjin’s shoulder and glancing at Taehyung.

“Je- Seraph,” Taehyung says, near silent. “He tells me he can’t feel anything when he’s near me because I-” never know what I want. He lets the words be swallowed up by the tense air, instead choosing to follow along nonsensically even if his thoughts are spiraling in confusion. “I don’t like how he reads people. He’s the first person who can get in my head, and it unnerves me.” He doesn’t mention that he saw Jeongguk outside of the bar, that he felt threatened by him.

“Well, demons are textbook manipulators,” Hoseok explains. “He can get inside your head. It’s part of who he is. An incubus’ entire intention is to rip you of your desires and play them out in real time. Sexually, non-sexually- these demons have control over people, which is what makes them so powerful. If he’s the person to make you nervous, it makes sense. But you have to stop showing him that.”

It’s impossible, Taehyung thinks. He nods nonetheless. The energy Jeongguk carries around with him is so powerful, nearly tangible, and Taehyung can only imagine one thing that would make it as if a cloud of black ink permanently followed him around- anger. Hatred. The way Jeongguk looked at him that day was a clear indicator of it, but why, Taehyung can’t understand. Vampires are the same way. Some of them are more powerful simply because they have so much fury in their hearts. It makes them smarter, more agile and driven.

The kind of vampire that would be an excellent ranger or hunter. The perfect scavenger.

Taehyung pushes himself farther down the bed and buries his head in the pillow as Hoseok talks to Yoongi about everything he learned of demons and their livelihoods. He’s terrified, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. It’s been some time since he felt he was anything but static- a barrage of noise and movement with no sense of identity, personality. When Jeongguk is near, he feels it all come to the surface like oil on water, and to not know who he is outside of the life that’s been created for him is more jarring than the look Jeongguk gave him on that day, measured and angry.

↞ ☆ ↠

It doesn’t get any better.

Taehyung feels near feverish by his third day in bed, and every time he tries to stand, he either gets so dizzy he has to sit down or immediately gets throttled back into bed by Seokjin. At first, it was as simple as feeling like he was starving- an empty stomach seeming to turn over on itself, Taehyung feeling more frail than he had in his entire life. Then came the flashes of heat that would make him throw his sheets off himself. All the while, Seokjin has been tending to him with worry while Hoseok thinks aimlessly for a solution that doesn’t seem to come. Even Yoongi is confused- he hasn’t ever seen anything like it, a vampire completely rejecting blood, and the human food they give him is the only thing he can get down, but it also isn’t filling nor particular nutritious for him. It only allows him about an hour of calm before everything starts up again, his body going into rejection.

By the fourth day, his vision is spotty every time he wakes. He’ll open his eyes to a bleary world, Seokjin placing a cool rag on his head to combat the heat flashes, close them and wake up hours later to the world going dark. Everything seems dream-like, an unhinged playout of events with no seeming connection or understanding.

“Is he okay?” He’ll hear. And then an, “Obviously not!”

The world escapes him once more. He wakes up.

“Taehyung, you’ve never been this sick-”

He thinks he sees Seokjin standing over him, but when he blinks, it’s Namjoon.

“Hoseok’s the closest person we have to a doctor-” Yoongi’s saying it this time, nonchalant.

“How can you be so calm?” Seokjin asks.

Yoongi makes a shuffling noise, and Taehyung nearly hiccups on a groan as his chest clenches tight with pain. “I don’t sense death. At least not yet.”

The small moments he gets of respite all come from them forcing water down his throat or some other human food, something that makes him sputter and cough only to sit up and visit with them shortly, barely having the energy to speak.

“We have no options,” Namjoon speaks, solemn. “We have to contact someone who has more expertise on incubi.”

“Or,” Yoongi cuts in, “we track down this Seraph and get him to talk.”

They ignore Taehyung as he looks on dubiously from the bed.

“I don’t think it’ll be that easy,” Namjoon mutters. Before Taehyung loses all energy and falls back into slumber, he can’t help but agree.

He feels like he must sleep for days. The ins and outs become much less frequent, and “out” seems to become his norm. He dreams of many things. Random little activities that make no sense, memories of his past littered across, and occasionally, he will remember life before they found him. Taehyung was cheerful, once. Exuberant. The kind of child who would make friends with anyone. Then he was trained to become someone else. Just like Jeongguk, he is nobody.

The flashes of things- playing in the water as a child, being chased by a friendly presence, rushing across fields and hiding in familiar places- they all pitter out with a murky kind of sincerity. What bothers him is when they become more frequent, so frequent he starts opening his eyes more, tossing and turning, his overwhelming sleep feeling drowned in melancholy.

The memories, at first, are long and drawn out. Trips to places he doesn’t remember. Days in the company of people he can’t see. Then, they become snippets. Flashes. They come so quickly that he thinks his mind must be making them up. Walking a few steps forward. Picking a flower. Hands under his arms, pushing him towards a blue sky. Fangs growing in; two faceless beings cheering at their appearance. Hands cupping his face. A green field, a cloudy sky, a brick house. Being picked up, carried, held-

A sudden warmth overcomes him, yet it seems as if no one is in the room. Seokjin made a habit of turning the light on when he came in, turning it off when he left, so Taehyung would often gain a bit of consciousness when the lights would flicker and shine through his eyelids with disturbance. This time, there are no lights to disturb him, just the conclusive darkness of the room. Even so, he can feel the bed dip, can feel as a hand touches his face. It’s tentative, at first. Merely drags over his skin with soft pads of fingers and a whittling force, unsure in a way that’s almost odd. A question lingers in that touch, the pause it gives as it simply stills, pets at him like a disturbed kitten soon to be roused from sleep. The touch is effortlessly warm despite its simplicity- it feels like when Namjoon brushed fingers through his hair amplified by a thousand, sparking over the surface of his skin and forcing his eyebrows to frown in curiosity.

The presence moves, climbing to sit on the bed with him, pulling his head into a lap, his head pillowed against a soft thigh. Hands cup his face and thumbs brush against his cheek, and even in his sleep, he finds himself pushing his head into the hands, nudging himself into a firm stomach, wallowing in the warmth the hands bring and nearly crying at it. He feels surrounded. Comforted. Disgustingly overwrought with tension and grief and softness, like cursed butterflies are flitting over his skin with their gentle wings.

“Baby,” he hears, the word murky to his confused ears. His stomach flips just from hearing it called, the hands on his face moving and tugging him up into half-consciousness, barely being able to make out the form in front of him as he’s adjusted and pulled into a tight embrace. It takes him too long to reciprocate, but when he does, wrapping arms around a sturdy torso, he feels so insanely relieved that he thinks his heart must be beating out of his chest.

Fingers are in his hair. They tighten the slightest bit, and Taehyung’s lips are against something soft, something that smells good.

“It seems I can’t let you die,” the voice whispers. “But you don’t bite at me as easily as the others do. Is it those tiny fangs of yours? They’re not very intimidating. Only your eyes are.”

Taehyung tucks his chin against a shoulder, mumbling sleepily as he tries to respond. Not tiny. Very intimidating.

He hears a dull chuckle. “Do you want me to force you to stay alive?”

Possibly.

“I could feel that, you know. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way.” The stranger sighs, all the life seeming to leave him in the gust with exhaustion. Even so, it’s not without care, as hands still cradle him carefully as Taehyung attempts to open his sleepy eyes only to find them much too heavy to do anything else but flutter helplessly under the weight of what must be sickness. “Eat, my daisy. A flower can’t bloom without water, can it?”

Cared for. Taehyung feels-

Like someone loves him. Really, really loves him.

Even without all of his consciousness, he manages to press his mouth forward, landing his lips on the warm surface. It smells so nice, like cinnamon and honeyed milk, and he enjoys the startled gasp he gets in reply, the freezing hand in his hair that tightens even further now, his head tilting the slightest bit back from the force. He whines, and the hand goes gentle once more.

“How funny,” he hears, the breathless tone dancing on quiet amusement in a way that would dig at Taehyung’s pride if he was more conscious.

Taehyung presses his teeth to the skin once more, slowly sinking his fangs in and nearly sighing in relief when he feels blood begin to fill his mouth. The body under his tenses up, the hand leaving his hair to sit tightly on his hip as Taehyung finally begins to feel sane. Even then, he feels so ridiculously sleepy that he wants to fall back into bed, but a hand pets calmingly over his back and near encourages him to drink his fill.

When he hears a hiss, he pulls back, head nodding until it falls against a shoulder.

He expects it all to disappear, for it to simply be an elaborate dream born from desire. But the body stays locked beneath his in seeming confusion only to mellow out and pull Taehyung against it. The comfort of it all leaves him sleepier than before, and he must fall asleep in that embrace, arms tucked around the body of a stranger. Yet it doesn’t feel like a stranger at all. Taehyung can smell it, he can feel it.

He thinks he knows who it is. Who he must be dreaming of. But somehow, he isn’t scared at all.

↞ ☆ ↠

Waking up has never felt so dreadful. Taehyung blinks his eyes open to a dark room, eyes seeming to stick as he fights the desire to fall back into bed. Oversleep, he thinks, must be the cause- it seems like he’s taken a thousand year nap with how groggy he is, and at first, he can barely understand why he’s here. It seems like any other day, waking from the folds of his sheets, but he stares across the room and notices a few pictures set on a drawer. Right. Jimin’s room. Seokjin’s place above the tavern.

He was sick.

Sitting up, he rubs his fists against his eyes. The memories he has from the last few days, maybe even weeks, make him feel lost. There are blips of things he barely understands, and all the while, not much of a sense of panic from within. Taehyung wasn’t really afraid. Things always turned out fine, as his body seemed to fight for him even if he wasn’t sentient.

But- it was different this time. Or was it?

He finds a glass of water on the side table. Only a moment from picking it up and chugging, he startles when the door opens and Seokjin steps inside, turning the lights on as he goes. When Seokjin turns, finding him up on the bed, he barely jolts before smiling with relief.

“You’re awake,” Seokjin says, stepping over to sit on a chair besides the bed.

“Sorry,” Taehyung croaks. Seokjin shakes his head and gestures to the water, which he gratefully drinks, watching as Seokjin crosses his legs and blinks patiently at him.

“I see no reason for you to be sorry. You were just as confused as us, weren’t you?”

Nodding, Taehyung worries his lip and sets the empty glass back on the table.

“I was sick?” Taehyung asks.

Seokjin hums, seemingly mulling this over. He reaches over, playing out a pattern on the quilted bedspread with his finger, drawing lines over printed flowers and bright, circled suns. “Something like that. We’re still not sure.”

“But you found a cure,” Taehyung murmurs, curious. “Because it seemed as if you weren’t surprised to see me awake?”

Seokjin gives him a wary look. “Always so attentive. Days were passing, and before I knew it, you were out sick for a week. We were all getting anxious. Even Yoongi seemed perturbed that you weren’t growing healthy with the days. As Hoseok would always say, the best heal for any ailment is really time. Medicine can escalate it, but in the end, we can only wait for the pain to leave us. But time didn’t seem to help. We waited and waited, but-”

“I couldn’t pull myself from the slumber. It’s the heaviest thing I ever experienced.”

“So, we felt no option but to reach out. Find some person knowledgeable in the facets of an incubus,” Seokjin mumbles, waving a hand around in a distracted fashion. “Namjoon did research, went through all his books on the matter, but we found nothing to be of particular importance in your case. In the end, we had to contact the source.”

“You found Seraph,” Taehyung breathes. It all clicks together in that moment. The voice he heard, the feelings he had through the murkiness of what felt like an eternal slumber- and it was only with Jeongguk’s blood that he was able to wake fully, as if his body knew no other, could not stand the idea of some other taste. And what a dangerous thing, he’s already thinking. To fall for blood that only belongs to one, get sick without it.

“I assume that’s not his name,” Seokjin nearly chuckles. “But he wouldn’t tell us much more. Finding him was certainly a task. Apparently, he’d taken a few sick days from the bar. When he came back, he took one look at us and seemed- for half a second- determined to run. It was luck that he sat down and heard us out, and we offered him the highest pay to come see you in the case it would work. He seemed insanely reluctant, but maybe it was just the uncomfortable expression on his face that makes me think so.”

Oh. It only makes sense that they pay him, but he can’t help the way his heart squeezes painfully in his chest. Jeongguk, from what he learned, also wouldn’t have been so tender and soft if it hadn’t been for money. It seems it means a lot to him, if the acts he puts on are any indication.

“You don’t seem happy,” Seokjin comments, voice content. “He pulled you back, somehow. Yoongi and Hoseok are working hard to come up with an explanation. We don’t want a repeat of this situation.”

Taehyung mindlessly brushes fingers through the hair Jeongguk seemed to love to touch, grasping the back of his own neck before letting it fall. “I guess it is best I woke. Regardless of how reluctant Seraph seemed to be.”

Seokjin leans forward, grasping Taehyung’s hand in his. His smile is enough for Taehyung to give a tiny one of his own, bashfully looking away. “It is best. You’re one of us, aren’t you?”

He only hesitates a moment before nodding. Of course he is. He’s always been.

↞ ☆ ↠

“Pretty boy he is, that Seraph,” Yoongi says, propping his boots on the table. Namjoon looks over with a face of disapproval, Hoseok seeming a moment from slapping the shoes from the surface. They’ve hovered in and out of the room for days now while Taehyung is recovering, oftentimes taking up the entire kitchen table to do their research. “But much too angry. He seemed fine to see Hoseok and I, but as soon as Namjoon and Seokjin introduced themselves, his eyes went dark.”

Taehyung doesn’t comment. As they take up the space at the dining table, he wanders off to the small bar that separates the kitchen from the emerging hall, taking a seat. Seokjin has been cooking something for the two non-vampires, both of which have been working tirelessly for a solution as Taehyung remains sane enough to speak.

“He didn’t like the vampires much at all,” Hoseok laughs.

Namjoon huffs. “As if demons are much better than us. An incubus has no room to judge us. And he works most his day around vampires, so I imagine he’s unpleasant most times.”

“But he did what he was asked. We told him not to hurt Taehyung, and he seemed rather gentle about it. We can’t complain too much,” Hoseok says. Namjoon shrugs, shaking his head and looking back to his book.

“And what did he say when he left?” Seokjin spouts, indignantly tossing the words over his shoulder.

Yoongi straightens up in his chair, boots dropping back to the floor with a thud. “‘It seems ‘that one’ has taken quite a liking to my blood’, is what he said. Snarky about it, too. Well, jeez. I don’t think Taehyung was asking for it. I should put a hex on him.” Easily, he seems to be plotting over this, whatever curse would be most suitable for the vampire. Everyone else is shaking their heads in admonishment- they surely shouldn’t put a hex on the incubus, even if he is a vampire hater. It’s no surprise to Taehyung, anyway. The moment he met Jeongguk in that alley, it became all too apparent that Jeongguk wasn’t fond of people. Or, more specifically, wasn’t fond of the vampires he saw at work.

“Do you think that’s just it?” Cupping his chin in his hand, Namjoon mumbles out a line in his textbook before looking at the group. “That Taehyung took a liking to his blood? There’s no such thing as soulmates for our species, not like the werewolves feel connections with each other. But if you like the taste of a certain being’s blood enough, it’s not too uncommon. Taehyung’s case would just be a little bit--different, considering most vampires’ bodies don’t go that far in attachment. Perhaps we’re overcomplicating it.”

Taehyung feels a blush overcome his cheeks, hiding his face in his hands. Namjoon sounds right. There have been plenty of cases of vampires who took a liking to either a species’ or person’s blood, and often, they’d keep a feeder to themselves for as long as they were able. In his case, he just happened to take a liking to an incubus’ blood, regardless of how disturbed Jeongguk seemed to be by his general existence when not in a working environment.

Sighing, he deflates in his chair. It would be just his luck.

“I didn’t think it was possible because Taehyung only fed from him twice. I didn’t think Taehyung was nearly that insatiable,” Yoongi mutters, slapping his book closed.

Even Hoseok is pondering. “Yes, Taehyung must be quite the greedy soul.”

“Don’t you think it’s too early to jump to conclusions?” Taehyung blurts. All three heads turn towards him from the table. “I mean--maybe I was just sick. And Seraph came at the right time.”

“Early? I’ve been considering this from the moment you told me you drank from an incubus.” Seemingly flabbergasted, Namjoon raises his eyebrows and crosses his arms. “You know, we vampires don’t start feeding on blood until our teen years. Human food sustains us till then. And I remember you quite well, Taehyung. If it didn’t taste a certain way, your body would reject it. But I still thought years of living in Liera would toughen you- there’s not much of an option there, so I thought you’d widen your palette. What a picky eater.”

“I did,” Taehyung mumbles, reluctant. “I could drink any blood.”

“Yet you take a liking to one strange incubus who has a grudge against vampires,” Yoongi speaks under his breath. “Your luck is certainly something to behold, little one.”

“This is good news,” Hoseok interrupts. With a cheerful look, he begins stacking the books on the table, weary eyes growing relieved.

“How so?” Taehyung groans.

“Well, if we know you’ve simply taken a liking, we’ll just find a way to stock up on incubus blood. You could keep seeing Seraph until then, but incubus blood isn’t all that difficult to find with the right resources. And luckily, Yoongi is a witch with many, many hands in different pots. It’s only a matter of time and money, and there are cures that enable vampires in your situation to wean off and begin taking in human blood or otherwise. We just have to be patient.”

Patient, Taehyung thinks with a swallow. Right, patient.

Jeongguk’s irritated eyes flash in his mind, forcing his legs to jitter nervously.

Taehyung sighs. Patient.

↞ ☆ ↠

The night is unlike any other. It only takes a few days for Taehyung’s body to recuperate, and by that time, Taehyung already feels at peace with the fact that he has some kind of--sickness. A well-developed one, actually. He finds himself thinking all too much in his free time, the other members of the clan often having to tap him on the shoulder to break him from his train of thought. Well, it’s just embarrassing. Jeongguk embarrasses him, and easily, at that. Taehyung has always been the one to fight for himself, for others. So the moment he feels as if he’s looking up rather than down, it’s hard to deal with the lack of balance.

So, he acts rather thoughtlessly. The first night he’s able to walk out on his own, he waits at the side exit of the feeding bar, huddled in the cold with his hands in his pockets.

He’s not sure how long he waits there. By the time the door opens, he nearly falls from where he was perched by the wall, trying not to fall asleep.

“Christ,” he hears, a voice mumbling with irritation into the dark of night. “What an asshole.” The person doesn’t seem to notice him as he’s crouched in the dark, taking a few steps forward and spinning a half step to the left with a deep exhale. He freezes then, tapping aimless fingers against his thigh, before rounding about and looking at Taehyung head-on. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

Jeongguk looks more irritated than furious, patiently glaring at Taehyung as he stands from his spot on the ground. “I was looking for you.”

Shaking his head, Jeongguk rubs his face in exasperation. “You. Baby fangs. You’re lucky you’re still alive, much less talking to me right now. You thought it’d be a good idea to stand outside of where I work until I come out?”

“I didn’t have another option. I don’t know anything about you. And from what you said, you know what made me like that, then,” Taehyung states, keeping his voice strong even if Jeongguk’s eyes, flashing bright with a mirage of pink, unnerve him. Even Jeongguk seems surprised, going from irritated to exhausted in all of a second.

“Yes. Maybe. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, so I’m sure you and all your friends know, too,” Jeongguk sighs and stands against the wall, closing his eyes and arching his head against it. His neck extends slightly, the unmarred skin seeming to call Taehyung’s eyes to attention, and he has to clench his teeth together as his fangs call to latch onto the flesh.

“Vampires’ bodies are simple. There are things you’re sensitive to, like light. And in some cases, you develop patterns- your bodies are malleable enough that, with enough time, you can make it feel ‘used’ to something. Even sunlight. If you visit it enough for varying amount of times, it will lessen your sensitivity to it. But vampires don’t do this. Why? Because most of them are weak,” Jeongguk explains pointedly. “Both in mind and physicality. They get stuck on things very quickly, and they make other people take responsibility for it. Instead of finding blood elsewhere, they’ve depended on the blood of humans, demons, werewolves, witches, fae--I could go on, for years. They don’t seek to evolve, the same way they allowed the rise of technology to fall. They stick to what’s easy.”

“My body stuck to something easy?”

Jeongguk looks at him, tilting his head and smirking. “No. It stuck to something very difficult.” When Taehyung says nothing, fidgeting with his fingers, he rolls his eyes and nods his head. “Follow me, alright?”

Even if Taehyung shouldn’t trust Jeongguk, he follows after him as if it’s his only choice. Jeongguk keeps a fast pace in front of him, and it doesn’t take them too long to find a run down apartment building some ways away from the bar, stepping into it with ease. Jeongguk takes them through the halls, most of them looking wide and clean, somewhat of a surprise after seeing the mossy brick walls outside. But he shouldn’t be shocked- most buildings are like this in Asora, run down yet maintained on the inside for the purposes of luxury, which starlights love.

Jeongguk doesn’t seem the type. He takes Taehyung up two flights of stairs, digs a key out of his pocket and nearly pushes him into a room. The inside is dark, but Jeongguk lights it up easily as Taehyung looks around. Everything looks simple, clean. Nothing particularly elaborate stands out, no pictures or decorations or even color to really speak of.

It’s in the light that Taehyung sees it. As Jeongguk moves about the small space, he can see the cloud of black that seems to surround him at all times, swirling through the air and nearly doubled in size since the last time Taehyung saw him. Or, at least, saw and properly remembered him.

“Are you always so angry?” Taehyung mumbles.

Jeongguk gives him a sharp look, a noise of complaint slipping past his lips as he pulls out a chair from a circular dining table. “You. Sit here.”

“You could ask nicely.”

Taehyung barely gets the reluctant words out before a force is tugging at him, mind going abuzz as his feet seem to move for him towards the chair. He stops himself at the last minute, glaring at Jeongguk.

“The things you use your powers for don’t seem so kind,” Taehyung complains.

“I can’t make anyone do what they don’t want to. You wanted to listen to me, you were just being a brat.”

Taehyung reddens at this. But it’s true- with Jeongguk’s anger seeming constant, he was easily growing used to it and acting accordingly. A bit annoyed and flustered by it, but otherwise unbothered- Jeongguk was proving to be less than a threat, more of an angry bystander in the situation than anything.

“But fine,” Jeongguk says, waving his hands in dismissal. “If you won’t sit, you won’t sit. I just need to p-” The words seem to get caught in his throat. He inhales, sharp, and flexes his hands by his side. “Just need to plea-”

“Please?”

“Yes,” Jeongguk nearly groans in relief. “That word. Speak to you.”

“What is it? Just tell me.”

Jeongguk pauses, lost in thought. “It’s about what happened to you. It wasn’t exactly- an isolated incident.”

“What?” Taehyung asks. “I mean, I know. Many vampires have experienced this before.”

“No, no. I mean…” he trails off, eyebrows taught with what Taehyung has been realizing is his usual annoyance. “Me. Ever since you came to see me the first night, I’ve been having troubles doing feeding of my own.”

“Feeding,” Taehyung mumbles. It takes him a moment to realize that Jeongguk means that kind of feeding. The kind where he- oh. “You’re an incubus. Right.”

For the first time, Jeongguk seems humbled by something. “Working at the bar tends to be a give and take for me. I give vampires my blood, I get money and food of my own back. I eat the desire of the people who feed from me, so obviously, it’s quite easy to obtain a meal when vampires are so greedy for blood. That sexual desire seems to come hand in hand, especially considering my blood is an aphrodisiac for your kind.”

“I don’t understand. Isn’t it natural then? What’s the problem?”

You’re the problem,” Jeongguk grits. The frustration he feels is overwhelming, forcing Taehyung a few steps back until he hits the wall. He nearly launches himself over the table towards Jeongguk at this, aggravated that he keeps pushing him in different directions without even seemingly meaning to. Yet he doesn’t look apologetic, only balls his fists and crosses his arms with a look of dissent. “I can’t seem to take in their desire. I can feel it, but it doesn’t fill me like it used to. And now, after not being ‘fed’ for so long, my blood is starting to turn sour. The clients are complaining.”

“Well, incubi certainly don’t have soulmates. So what’s your excuse?”

It’s silent, Jeongguk staring at him head on. The anger eases from his face, leaving him relaxed and nearly amused. “Do you think it’s any different?” He takes a step forward, another. Slowly, he’s making his way to Taehyung, smiling softly as he does so. But with his knowledge now, Taehyung only feels unnerved by the sterility of it, as if Jeongguk’s perfected the act till it became first nature. “The way you vampires hold onto the taste of blood. You think I can’t taste desire? That some tastes better than others?”

Taehyung shivers involuntarily. “I thought you said you couldn’t feel my desire.”

“I can,” Jeongguk assures. “It’s just different. Rare. Like now.” He comes so close their shoes nearly touch, grasping the front of Taehyung’s shirt in his fist and pulling him forward like a ragdoll. Taehyung pushes back this time, breathing harshly when Jeongguk barely budges, just lets him go and takes a step back. “I felt a flash of it then. If I pulled your hair, I’m sure I’d taste it again. Your anger is sweet, but your desire to be held is like no other.”

For some reason, Taehyung feels his lip tremble at the words. His heart feels at the cusp of breaking, and he can’t even explain why- perhaps to have his mind read like this leaves him uneasy, as these things were meant to be under lock and key. Even to himself, these things were unknown. His desire to be cared for as if he were someone’s own was a secret, and the moment it was uncovered to his own eyes, he felt his knees weaken from the pain of it.

Because, he thinks. It’s a wish that just won’t come true, no matter how hard he begs for it. Abandoned. Taught to fight. Protecting himself for years. If he was loved, he’s unsure he’d even know what to do with with the emotion.

He turns, hasty, rushing for the door. As he places his hand on the handle, he’s surprised to feel a presence come up behind him, a merciful hand pressing to the surface of the exit. Taehyung chokes. His hand lingers on the knob, but he doesn’t press. Only freezes as Jeongguk comes close to him, chest against his back, and speaks into his ear.

“Just let me ask you one thing. People pay me to become someone else for the night,” Jeongguk murmurs to him. “What if I told you that you didn’t have to pay? That we could make an arrangement?”

Taehyung swallows around nothing, if only a wish for peace in a time that seems terrifying. Jeongguk’s furious energy is surrounding him in a black cloud just from being near him, yet he summons the strength to take his hand off the doorknob. What is it, he thinks, that leaves him drowning in this presence? Even with all his irritation, it is undeniable. Jeongguk has him tied around his pinky like a string, but it’s not as disastrous as he thought it to be. Not with Jeongguk tied to Taehyung’s own finger, reluctant as his grasp may be.

Turning in Jeongguk’s arms, he watches as Jeongguk looks at him questioningly, waiting for an answer.

He’s much too curious to leave now.

Chapter Text

With a sigh, Taehyung pushes out into the cold air of Asora and walks back to Seokjin’s tavern. He feels exhausted in a way he didn’t think he’d be after his conversation with Jeongguk, stressed and on edge. It went better than he expected, even if it couldn’t have gone that bad in the first place. It wasn’t as if Jeongguk seemed to have intentions to kill him, or- at least not today, he didn’t. Taehyung nearly yells in frustration, looking up to the starry night sky. He still smells like Jeongguk. Cinnamon, honeyed milk, peaches. How a boy so frightening could smell so sweet, Taehyung does not know.

By the time he’s back to Seokjin’s, he’s surprised to see Yoongi in the living area, Jimin seated next to him.

“How long will he be like that,” Taehyung mumbles, slightly worried.

“Who?” Yoongi asks. When Taehyung gives him a pointed look, he glances to his side and seems surprised to see Jimin there, glaring up at him. “Oh, right. Uh, shouldn’t be much longer until this one is big again.”

“I doubt it’s good for him to be in his fairy form that long,” Taehyung says. Dropping his coat off the back of a kitchen chair, he finds his way to an armchair near Yoongi and nearly collapses, drained after his experience with Jeongguk.

“Where were you, anyway?”

Taehyung freezes. He hadn’t told the group what he intended to do, even if they were already planning to meet with the infamous “Seraph” once more in hopes of finding preventative measures for Taehyung. Should he be honest? He stares at the ceiling, grinding his teeth, before giving up. “I went to see Seraph.”

“You didn’t,” Yoongi deadpans.

“I did,” Taehyung murmurs, holding back a whine as Yoongi gives him a look that could only be considered disappointed. “I had to figure out what to do, and he knew best about my situation.”

“The point was that we were supposed to go together. As a group. You worry me, sometimes.” With a sigh, Yoongi turns to the book in his lap and idly flips a page. “Always working for yourself, even if we have your back. Don’t you think it’s best to be in a group sometimes? I spend my days in my shop being completely alone, and I’m comforted by it most times. But the way we are interwoven with other people often keeps me from staying there forever. I have the sense that you would stay in Liera for the rest of your days, alone, if given the choice. If you hadn’t been called back.”

Taehyung doesn’t deny it. He never had that much fun in Liera, but it was peaceful. There was rarely any violence, and the days were monotonous in a way he found calming. He grew so used to it that he simply knew no other way; now, in the company of strangers, he’s utterly confused by the dynamics of a group he left behind so long ago.

“Do you like being alone?”

He doesn’t expect the question, staring up and finding Yoongi looking at him, perplexed.

Taehyung closes his eyes. Thinks. When he opens them again, Yoongi seems to have pity in his gaze. “I’m not sure.”

“Tell me,” Yoongi says, sudden. “Tell me how it went.”

Taking the out, Taehyung sits up and thinks back. Jeongguk told him they could make an arrangement, and after that, it seems to be a blur.

“What are you suggesting?” Taehyung had asked.

“I told you, didn’t I? Working at the bar is a give and take. What if we restricted that give and take to just you and me? My blood for your desire. Until we both wean off or find another option, this seems like the best course of action- we know each other, to an extent. Trying to go off and find another incubus is not only difficult but a risk.”

Taehyung looked at Jeongguk. He eventually relented, both of them sitting at the table to talk it out civilly. Jeongguk must’ve been thinking about it for some time with how he explained it, factual and straightforward. Jeongguk’s right, however. In a way, it’s almost a thing of simple biology- a symbiotic relationship that would benefit them both for the time as Taehyung needed to stay in good health for the hunt, and Jeongguk can’t go back to work until his blood stops souring with hunger.

But Jeongguk’s side of the bargain comes with many more contingencies. Taehyung was never extremely well-versed in demons aside from the basics, and all he knew was that Jeongguk’s an incubus, that he fed off desire. Sexual desire, to be specific, carried the most weight. Yet Taehyung didn’t know if he had ever felt that towards Jeongguk. He found him handsome; anyone would, so of course he did. And it’s hard to deny that, under his spell, he liked the way it felt to be cradled in Jeongguk’s lap, to feel the firmness of his thighs beneath him, to land a mistaken kiss on his neck.

Perhaps Jeongguk’s heart was this indefinitely mysterious and seemingly tarnished thing, but it can’t be denied: he’s beautiful, alluring.

He looked up once more, cheek cupped in his own hand as he thought aimlessly about the right decision. It seemed the clan and Seokjin were always helping him choose, and the times he made decisions for himself were mostly confusing. But Jeongguk wasn’t simply looking at him- he was practically glowering, the color in his irises shifting wildly around his pupils. As they settled to black upon seeing Taehyung meet his gaze, Taehyung felt his feet drag against the floor, pulling his legs closer to himself under the table, defensive.

Taehyung couldn’t tell if Jeongguk wanted to kill or eat him.

“So, what?” Taehyung asked, perking up and lifting his chin, trying to come off more confident than he was. “I come here anytime I need to feed, and you find me and-”

Jeongguk slowly smiled.

“And what?” His voice came out as a murmur.

“It shouldn't be that difficult. When you feed from me, I get half my fill. That other half, well. I think it’d be interesting to see where your desire leads us. The first night you came to visit me, I had you in my palm. I said I wouldn’t do it again, but. It’d make things very easy if I put you in that place again.”

Taehyung nodded slowly, a bit embarrassed. The charm was disorienting which forced him to complain, but he'd be lying if he said it wasn't easier to feel and be honest about his desires when Jeongguk pulled him under the glimmering, intense cloud of his charm. However, with the way Jeongguk was speaking, it left him curious about something.

“But what do you want?” Taehyung blurted.

Jeongguk looked shocked, torn from his explanation to stare aimlessly at Taehyung. He blinked, clearly lost for words, and even Taehyung had nothing to say to make up for what he asked. Still, it was strange to see Jeongguk look at him like it was the first time he’d ever been asked the question, as if his desires have never been a thought. Jeongguk huffed, expression stagnant and repelling.

“Does it ever really matter?”

Taehyung paused, then nodded. “It’s a give and take, isn’t it? And for what reason would I take and take without holding up my end of the bargain?”

“You’re honorable,” Jeongguk whispered. “But much too optimistic. If I have what I want…”

Looking away from Taehyung, Jeongguk propped his head on his fist and looked about the room. Maybe, Taehyung thought, Jeongguk was much more like him than he’d ever want to admit. And when one cannot feel desire or intention, it becomes obvious that the individual themselves lacks an idea of what truly calls for them. Or perhaps Jeongguk’s desires were too big to be composed into words, and Taehyung should’ve known that asking a question to one who always looks for desires in others would only end in confusion.

“If I have what I want in this situation,” Jeongguk clarified. “You’d be terrified of me.”

“I’m not scared of you,” Taehyung said. He was. Jeongguk didn’t seem capable of managing his emotions, and Taehyung thought that was the scariest problem a person could have. A demoncould have. Even then, gray clouds swirled like diluted watercolor around Jeongguk’s head, and the moment Taehyung was forced close, he could feel it overpower him just as well. Jeongguk was inconceivable in every way. So kind when he first met him, but in his own skin full of anger. Taehyung knew that was not simply born from within- it was harvested, brought upon him with time, and he would be scared to find out what brought it on.

Inhaling, Jeongguk only took his free hand and drew a straight line on the marbled table. “Is that right? You shake like a leaf in my presence. I don’t often intimidate vampires, you know. Many can’t even find the sanity to figure out what I really am.”

Taehyung didn’t answer. He had no answer. Biting his lip, he came to the only conclusion that made sense. “If it’s what’s best, this is what makes the most sense.”

“Let me remind you,” Jeongguk said as he sat up, face still passive. “You’re making a deal with a demon, here.”

“And you’re making a deal with a vampire. Shouldn’t you be just as scared?”

Jeongguk looked up. Reaching out, he hung a hand in front of Taehyung, and for a moment, he froze- could only stare at his palm, his strong looking fingers. He realized quickly what was intended, reaching out to grasp Jeongguk’s palm in his own, and nearly flinched back when black smoke erupted from their clasped hands. When he pulled back, he stared at his palm. In translucent black lettering, “Jeongguk” was spelled out across his skin. Looking up greeted him with Jeongguk’s own palm, Taehyung’s name spelling out across it before dissolving into transparency.

“I’m not scared of vampires,” Jeongguk coolly murmured, bringing his hand back to himself and giving it a slow look. “As it is, things will be this way for some time. A business relationship always ends when both partners find it is no longer mutually beneficial. And as long as I am yours and you are mine, I suppose we have no reason to be afraid.” The pointed look he gave Taehyung made it seem as if it was more for his sake than Jeongguk’s.

He huffed. With nothing more to say, he got up to leave. He only managed a few steps before it was back. The choking feeling from the first night, amplified. A burning sensation in his right hand left him startled, frozen in place as swarms of black air crowded around him, seeming to pull at him with hands he could not see. Jeongguk was even more powerful than he thought. As he looked over his shoulder, eyebrows knitted, he found Jeongguk sitting in his chair, completely unbothered.

“Will your charms always feel so heavy?” Taehyung breathed, trying to maintain himself as he felt it come over him, all encompassing. It was like he was being absorbed into Jeongguk’s entity in itself.

“You should get used to it. I was only curious- don’t you need to feed? My aura is already eating away at the hunger you feel.” Standing, Jeongguk followed after him until the cloud that seemed to follow him everywhere he went merged with the one surrounding Taehyung. He felt like he could breathe easier then, without Jeongguk pulling at him from afar and holding him in place, breaking down his wants until they were easy enough to devour. Taehyung turned in the hold, greeting Jeongguk face-first, and hesitantly placed a hand on Jeongguk’s chest.

The first night, Taehyung remembered, Jeongguk’s eyes were violet. His favorite color. Then, they shine purple again as he looked at him, eyes of amethyst glazing over at the simple touch.

“My baby,” Jeongguk murmured, so subtle it might’ve gone lost in the air had he said it with any less vibrancy. He stared at Taehyung in such a convincingly soft way, eyelids shadowing the usual intensity of his dark eyes. The words instantly settled warmly on Taehyung’s heart, feeling woozy with distress at being under Jeongguk’s charm. “I enrapture you much too quickly. Why do you so easily allow me to pick you apart like this? You’re not really afraid of letting others see your heart, are you?”

Taehyung shook his head, reluctant. There was still the smallest part of him that would always fight back against the hold of such an encompassing charm, even if he knew it was pointless. Besides, the moment they made the deal, it was sealed in their handshake. Then, for as long as he would be in Jeongguk’s hold, he could only consider himself another person. There’s no comparison- devoid of desires, flipped inside out, Taehyung knew he was not his usual self. Within his shell, he was a vampire with no sense of direction. With Jeongguk clutching him in his hand, he was everything he swore himself not to be.

Cupping his nape, Jeongguk nosed along the side of his neck, nipping at the soft skin. “Your desire is sweetest at moments like this,” Jeongguk murmured, near thoughtless and distracted. “Not even when you bite me. Not even when you feed.”

“What does that mean?” Taehyung asked, breathless.

Jeongguk lifted his head. For a moment, Taehyung nearly thought he’d kiss him; his mouth brushed along his cheek, the slightest of pecks, before pulling back in time to miss his lips. “I can’t tell. I can feel out your wants, but only the basics. Can’t read your mind. But if what you want is to be bitten, don’t you think it was a mistake to be born as a vampire?”

His bloodlust was merely biological. He couldn’t help but think Jeongguk was right, but he avoided his question and instead leaned forward, pressing his lips to Jeongguk’s neck. He enjoyed the way Jeongguk finally froze up, backing them into a wall and allowing Taehyung to kittenishly lick at his neck, bite at his skin without puncturing. The hands that wound their way around his waist left him anxious, but only in a way that could be described as wishful.

“Bite me, Taehyung,” Jeongguk said. “What holds you back each time you try?”

Taehyung was unsure. Always was. Leaning back, he thoughtlessly looked at Jeongguk’s shirt, unbuttoning the first three buttons on his black shirt. With just enough room, he pulled back the collar, instead brushing his lips over Jeongguk’s collarbone, searching for a new place to bite. The neck, so sensitive and intimate, was always difficult for him to calmly bite into. When his teeth grazed Jeongguk’s shoulder, it felt better. Made more sense to his perplexed mind.

Jeongguk’s hand grasped Taehyung waist, perhaps more roughly than intended. It forced a gasp out of him, barely able to think around the feeling of Jeongguk’s hands on him. Without the charm, Taehyung thought he must feel terrified to be in Jeongguk’s presence; with it, he melted into his hands too easily, just as Jeongguk said. Just as he was about to bite, he stilled, trying not to shiver apart as Jeongguk trailed a hand down, ghosting over his back and feeling over the curve of his ass.

“What are you doing?” Taehyung hiccupped. Jeongguk only crouched slightly, hands finding their way behind Taehyung’s thighs and hefting. It was so startling, so physically intimate to feel himself pressed up against Jeongguk as tightly as he could be, arms on his shoulders to balance himself out. Jeongguk looked up at him, a sparkle of lilac in his eyes.

“You like being held,” Jeongguk commented, straight-forward. “Don’t you, little angel?”

He never thought he’d experience it again, what he felt on that first night. It was inescapable when it came to Jeongguk, it seemed. Jeongguk held him in his arms, and Taehyung was helpless but to cross his legs behind Jeongguk’s back, hold on tight as Jeongguk carefully tucked him against his body. Warm, Taehyung thought- he was so helplessly warm, drowning in it once more, feeling so oddly cared for and protected in a way he never allowed people to make him feel before.

It was easy, then. To press his fangs against Jeongguk’s shoulder, surprised when Jeongguk let out a shaky exhale. He never felt hungrier, as if he had to devour something whole; the bloodlust he felt before was nothing compared to the desire he felt in Jeongguk’s hold, fingers digging into the fabric-covered flesh of his thighs and possibly painting bruises across his flesh. Jeongguk’s reactions hadn’t been so visceral in the last three times he fed from him. That time, Jeongguk seemed to be vibrating with it, grip so hard on Taehyung that he nearly whimpered from it.

“Sorry,” he was surprised to hear, grip loosening on his thighs. Taehyung swallowed down a mouthful of blood, pulling back and licking over his wounds, watching them close up easily. The sourness Jeongguk spoke of was non-existent; as always, his blood tasted so sinfully delicious that Taehyung was worried he wouldn’t be able to control himself. Especially with Jeongguk’s dark mist surrounding them like a cloud, the outliers began to stop mattering as much, desire overtaking all his sane thoughts and leaving him scrambling for Jeongguk to hold onto.

Gently setting Taehyung down, Jeongguk brought his hands to his face, thumbs caressing his cheeks. Taehyung looked at him searchingly. With eyes half-closed, Jeongguk was giving him an expression he hadn’t seen yet before. But he didn't feel enamoured by the bright eyes, knowing all too well that Jeongguk was as easily a victim of his own charm as Taehyung was. The moment they step into that cloud together, Jeongguk will only do as Taehyung wishes, and even if Taehyung asked, it seemed Jeongguk didn’t know or care enough to speak out on his own.

Taehyung felt jittery on his own two feet. With Jeongguk holding his face so gently, he could only close his eyes and bask in the warmth of hands on him.

“You’re beautiful,” Jeongguk commented. Taehyung didn’t know if it was from the charm or his true thoughts that he spoke the words so softly, as looking at him didn’t glean any results. Regardless of its sincerity, Taehyung’s stomach flipped, a certain touch of softness leaving him even more unstable on his already shaky legs. Gone was any more time to ponder over it, as the cloud that surrounded him was slowly dissolving, seeming to shrink back into Jeongguk even if it never completely went away. The purple spark died from his eyes, leaving a black canvas, and Taehyung felt the biting cold of being alone as Jeongguk stepped back into his relentless freeze.

“You’re well fed, aren’t you?” Jeongguk asked, eyes distant and unknowing. With his back turned to Taehyung, it was as if he dreamed the entire thing up. Heart shrunken in his chest, he nearly felt it was best to believe as much.

Even with the exception of the more embarrassing details, Yoongi looks unamused to hear the story.

“Entering a contract with a demon is bad news,” he chastises. “Even a vampire can get caught up in the rules and find themselves indebted for life. You’re lucky this Seraph doesn’t seem unhinged as others.”

Taehyung stares at his palm, where Jeongguk’s name was once splayed out in curling letters. It’s now gone, leaving behind a blank space of skin, but he can’t help but curl his fingers into a fist. How it burned, just to be in Jeongguk’s vicinity. Is this the price of being Jeongguk’s?

“He scares me,” Taehyung admits.

“Yet you accepted an agreement with him?”

“It’s not the kind of fear spurred by action,” Taehyung explains with a shake of the head. “Not as if he’ll hurt me, I don’t get the sense that he would unless I lashed out first. What’s scary is how he knows. It’s scary that someone can read your mind before you have the chance to tell them what you’re thinking.” Taehyung doesn’t know if that’s all. The harrowing anxiety he feels in Jeongguk’s presence is unfathomable, and all he knows is that Jeongguk’s perception of his desires uncovers things even he would rather not know.

Jeongguk has only ever lived to serve. Maybe what Taehyung really fears is the blurred line- in the few times he met Jeongguk, he was treated so gently he could believe it was real. Yet his lips skipped his mouth, his heart lay still in his chest, and Taehyung was solely a card in Jeongguk’s endless deck.

“It’s too late to back out now, anyhow,” Yoongi says, voice soft. “Be careful, won’t you?”

Taehyung nods. If it was not for himself, he’d at least protect himself for the sake of others.

↞ ☆ ↠

The housing facility doesn’t give them much information. In the decade or so Taehyung spent in Liera, it seemed things became more ineffective in the city. In a world run by monsters, it’s hard to see how these things could be prevented; buildings were owned solely by the people who gained money from them, and not much rulemaking went into the bearing of these facilities. And as such, those who moved into the city weren’t really accounted for, and the few names they get lead them nowhere.

“There’s a good chance this kid got kidnapped and taken in elsewhere,” Yoongi complains, crowded next to Namjoon in a booth at the tavern. It’s open today, different starlights and humans making their ways in and out. Seokjin dashes back and forth with his few employees, and Taehyung has been oblivious to it all. “Right? Incubi- if they can’t manage themselves well, if they aren’t powerful enough or don’t know how to use their powers, vampires will take them in as feeders.”

“But anger can make you do crazy things,” Namjoon comments aimlessly.

“What do you mean?” Taehyung asks, attention back on his two friends.

“Well, feeders try to make a run for it pretty often,” Namjoon mumbles, chin balanced on his palm. “Don’t want to live that way, and I can understand. Must not be fun to be seen as a blood bank. You get angry enough about it, you’ll fight through anything to escape. Now, that leaves us in a tough spot. If an incubus has gone through enough trouble to cover up their tracks, it’s hard work trying to brush the top layer away.”

“We’re searching for a needle in a haystack,” Taehyung sighs.

Shrugging, Namjoon exhales something shallow. “We know a few facts, characteristics. We know where he started, where he was seen, and we simply don’t know the end result. I say we travel out to the vampires who last saw the kid, see if they have more details than they’re letting on.”

Yoongi’s already clicking his tongue. “Long travel.”

“Not as bad as the one we just came back from. We can take the trains up north and hitch a ride close enough to town.”

“Let’s focus on our own investigation first,” Yoongi interrupts Namjoon’s thoughts. “Maybe we won’t need this information. Taehyung said Seraph mentioned his boss having information, so we should start there and move backwards, retrace our steps. If we have to, we’ll consult with Zera again. We never guaranteed we’d find him.”

Taehyung’s already thinking about logistics. Puzzles. Distance between himself and this story they’re trying to unravel, distance between himself and Jeongguk. Something he’s quickly growing to understand as impossible, not with the deal they’ve made. He huffs to himself, gathering his hands in his lap and trying not to grow too stressed about the seemingly easy situation. It’s just--obvious. Jeongguk doesn’t like him, and he’s uneasy around Jeongguk. Yet Jeongguk somehow needs him, and he hates how…

He swallows. Namjoon and Yoongi are deep in conversation when he glances up from his hands.

Not even this is something he can admit to himself. But to be needed, isn’t that something nice? If no one has ever wanted Taehyung, needed him to be by their side, then perhaps this small something is okay to revel in.

It happens. Taehyung can’t explain it. Feeling somewhat like his emotions are too deeply invested within himself to properly explain them to other people. And with it, the ides of something furiously unforgiving like an insecurity, a little pervasive thought that tells him he matters to no one, really. That the only person he could really exist for is himself, that being lonely has always been some kind of unknowing fate that he would have to relinquish his will to. He hates to admit it, but maybe Jeongguk was right. Of course he was, it’s within his powers to be. But it’s hard for Taehyung to admit to himself that his desire to be loved is simple. Simple but impossible. People will forget him as they always do, and Taehyung will live to remember them with half a heart.

Taehyung hates to admit it. Nearly curls in on himself even as he tries to maintain his calm in the middle of the tavern. It’s strange to live with something that seemed factual. The moment he made it known to himself, he felt ashamed.

The door to the tavern opens somewhere behind him, and Taehyung doesn’t turn to look until he feels it, smells it. At the last moment, he turns sharply in his seat, unsurprised to see Jeongguk wandering into the tavern with his eyes black as night. Speak of the devil, and he shall appear, Taehyung thinks, watching Jeongguk look around curiously, hands shoved into the pockets of his warm looking coat.

He must remember this place from the time Seokjin asked him to come feed Taehyung.

Which means-

He huddles in his seat, turning around and slumping down. For no reason, he attempts to convince himself, as if he isn’t scared out of his wits just from being in Jeongguk’s presence. Not scared, no- he shakes his head slightly, eyes closing in confusion. Just intimidated. And not intimidated, just-

Unsure. He’s so unsure. Jeongguk knows everything about him, and he knows nothing about Jeongguk.

He’s startled to feel a presence loom over him from the left. As he slowly looks over, he notices Namjoon and Yoongi looking equally confused, and Taehyung feels that same pressure of Jeongguk’s air overcoming him.

The feeling of fingers weaving through his hair is gentle at first, merely threading through the strands with nearly affectionate care, but Taehyung can’t avoid being startled when Jeongguk pulls a bit, forcing Taehyung to glare as he looks up at him from his place in the booth.

“I know you knew I was here,” Jeongguk says, plain, head tilting with amused curiosity. “Making good work of ignoring me, hm?”

“Trying,” Taehyung mutters under his breath.

“Well. I’ll try to be civil,” Jeongguk says with a smile. He grabs at Taehyung’s coat, nearly lifting him from his seat and dragging him away from the booth.

“Um, Taehyung?” Namjoon is asking.

Taehyung shakes his head in dismissal, pouting as he’s pulled away like a kitten by the scruff.

Jeongguk pulls him into the back hall by the storage closet, unperturbed by how dark it is. “We need to talk.”

“About what?” Taehyung is still flattening out his coat from the way Jeongguk pulled at the fabric, side-eyeing Jeongguk’s own pristine clothing. “Hungry again? Couldn’t wait a few more days?” He’s snarkier than he intends to be, not regretting it even when Jeongguk gives him a cold look.

“I’m an incubus.”

“If I didn’t already know this information, there’d be some bigger issues to discuss,” Taehyung bites. “But please, inform me on what I already know. If you wanted to talk to me about something ridiculous, all you had to do was say so.”

“I just need to--double check. Make sure we didn't enter this deal without proper understanding,” Jeongguk states. In the dark of the hallway, he’s all demon, not a bite of human left within him. Taehyung doesn’t know if he’s more unnerved by Jeongguk as a concept or reality- when he’s far, Taehyung shivered in confusion. When he’s close, Taehyung feels himself powered by an odd anger, and Taehyung realizes with a start that it has everything to do with Jeongguk’s proximity. Jeongguk’s sweltering aura is filled with hate, and Taehyung doesn’t know why he thought he could escape the taste of it. “When I said I could get half of my fill from your bloodlust and half from your desire, what do you think I meant?”

“That you’re greedy,” Taehyung says, voice all too cutting.

“Me? Greedy? You can’t get enough of my blood. Better yet- you don’t care about my blood at all,” Jeongguk murmurs to him, taking a step closer as Taehyung squints in suspicion. “You’re greedy for my hands on you. Greedy for me to care. And don’t you think the worst greed there is comes from something we can’t get?”

Swallowing, Taehyung feels his shoulders slumping. “Why do you dislike vampires so much?”

“As if there’s something you could do about it if you knew the reason,” Jeongguk scoffs.

“But you want my desire just as much. You want the desire that comes from something you hate. That must burn, right?”

Jeongguk only stares at him. The slight light of the tavern comes grazing down his face as he steps past the entrance to the hall, lets Taehyung instinctually walk backwards until he’s crowded into the corner. Taehyung’s really sick of feeling like his options are so limited.

“You’re foolish,” Jeongguk says. “You put on a brave face, but on the inside, you’re soft. I dislike people like you. Vampires like you. Pretending to be something you’re not, and for what? You act as if there’s no other way to be.”

“That’s rich coming from someone who lies for a living,” Taehyung grits.

Taehyung fights the urge to stagger when Jeongguk lifts his hand, thumbing across his cheek with the softness of a kiss. “Don’t you get it?” Jeongguk asks. “I want to eat you alive. I’ll admit it, I’m greedy. I can’t stand it. Don’t want anything to do with you. But it’s getting hard to deny that I want to rip you apart and put you back together with my bare hands.”

“That doesn’t sound too appealing,” Taehyung stammers. That’s why Jeongguk reminded him he was an incubus. The other half of his desire- where exactly would he get it? By taking control of Taehyung, grabbing at his desires and reading them back to him in action? Dressing him down, holding him close, using him in the same way Taehyung uses Jeongguk? His teeth rub hard against each other, eyes blinking rapidly as Jeongguk stares patiently at him. Even so, he feels the thrill of curiosity flare within him, inhaling sharply as Jeongguk caresses his cheek, lets his hand fall until his thumb is grazing against his bottom lip.

“I told you, didn’t I? If I have what I desire, you’ll be terrified of me.”

“You did,” Taehyung whispers.

His breath whittles to a nervous huff when Jeongguk presses the pad of his thumb to the plush of his bottom lip, looking so intensely at him that Taehyung could swear he wants to kiss him. And the thought of kissing Jeongguk isn’t altogether unpleasant. Maybe Jeongguk is angry and aggravating and senseless, but he’s also beautiful. His presence is commanding. Taehyung can’t help it- he’s entranced with or without Jeongguk’s charm, and he must hate it as much as Jeongguk hates the idea of desiring him.

“You don’t seem scared,” Jeongguk says, somehow amused. “It seems like you just want more. I can’t understand you, little fangs. No matter how much I try to figure you out, it seems like a lost cause. The more I push you away, the more I feel you asking for me to look at you. It’s nearly endearing. You’re just a puppy begging for attention, aren’t you? Don’t you think you should be a little more discriminating?”

Of course, Taehyung thinks, biting down a response. Internally begging for Jeongguk’s attention is humiliating, at this point. If his heart cared more about who he was asking, perhaps he wouldn’t think himself so crazy. There’s nothing particularly special about Jeongguk, Taehyung wonders. If anything, it seems his heart is attracted to things it can’t understand.

“Taehyung?”

Jeongguk turns quickly, Taehyung looking over his shoulder. It’s Yoongi, staring on with an unamused look.

Nothing has to be said. Jeongguk looks at Taehyung again, apathetic, and takes two steps back.

“Find me tomorrow,” Jeongguk says, grossly ambiguous. He reaches into his pocket, handing Taehyung a piece of paper with directions scribbled onto it, before walking away. Yoongi’s eyes follow him out, arms crossed defensively across his chest.

“What was that about? Got worried when you didn’t come back.”

Shrugging, Taehyung sighs and follows Yoongi back into the tavern. “I don’t know what he wants from me.”

Yoongi chuckles, gives him an amused look. “He’s an incubus, isn’t he? What else could he want from you?”

Of course, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure that out. Incubi feed off desire, but they also feed off of dreams- when Jeongguk says he wants to eat him alive, Taehyung knows exactly what he means. The only thing Jeongguk cared to be honest about is the way he wants Taehyung; a feeble and odd desire, no doubt, as Jeongguk seemed reluctant from the start to bend to his own will. Taehyung doesn’t know how he feels, either.

“I think I bit off more than I can chew with this deal,” Taehyung mutters.

Yoongi laughs. “No kidding.”

Chapter Text

“Why are your fangs so much smaller than the other vampires?”

Taehyung only whimpers into the force of the hand gripping his jaw, teeth biting into his lower lip as Jeongguk stares at him, a bite of humor lingering in his eyes. Violet now as they always are with him, shimmering like a night sky or a vase filled with swirling glitter, Taehyung blinks lazily and tries to sit still. Why is Jeongguk touching him? Why does his face look so hazy? Even so, Taehyung’s more confused by how warm his eyes look- caring, undoubtedly. Oddly. Taehyung melts under the touch into the soft surface beneath him, nearly shaking out of his skin when Jeongguk presses fingers into his cheeks and softly kisses the forced pout of his mouth.

“Have you ever seen a stray cat,” Jeongguk whispers, loosening his grip to lower his hand, gently thumb over Taehyung’s throat instead. “How at first, it’ll hiss and bite at you, only to cuddle up when you keep feeding it? And a kitten feels like he’s so much more menacing than he is when he hisses and shows his tiny fangs, doesn’t he. Don’t you?”

“No, I-“ Taehyung feels his eyes roll to the side as Jeongguk shuffles between his bent knees, presses a feather soft kiss to his cheek, his jawline, whittles away at the complaints he was about to spew with sudden affection. It’s hard for Taehyung to digest. He’s confused. Doesn’t really remember how he got here. Everything is tinged like sepia and drowned out like he’s underwater, and Jeongguk is soft like a pillow yet harsh on him like sandpaper and-

“I can feel what you want. Why do you still try to lie to me?”

“Because you hate me,” Taehyung whispers, weaker than he intends. Jeongguk’s elbows are caging in his head as he props himself up, the look on his face as passive as Taehyung would expect it to be.

Jeongguk looks up at him. His body is heavy over Taehyung’s, presses down in a way that’s half warm and half suffocating. “I don’t hate you.” When Taehyung only stares at him, he rolls his eyes. “Let’s say I was a child scratched by a stray cat. I grew up, I hated them. Got nervous every time I saw one. Then, I saw a little cat on the side of the road begging for a bit of food. Starving for it, really. I got close enough to see it wouldn’t scratch me, and I fed it. But the cat grew attached as all cats do, and it kept coming back for more and more-”

Even through a haze of confusion, Taehyung can’t help his reflexes. He turns his head, nipping at Jeongguk’s arm just to get him to stop talking. The shocked look on his face is worth it, one of the few hints of genuine emotion he’s gotten from the typically indifferent incubus. “What am I supposed to be getting from this story?”

“Well, sometimes we find our exceptions,” Jeongguk murmurs. “The kind we can’t understand.”

“I’m your exception,” Taehyung says back, quiet and questioning.

Jeongguk hums, leaning down to nuzzle into Taehyung’s neck. “I guess. That, or a nuisance I can’t get rid of.”

“What everyone would want to hear from someone who just kissed them,” Taehyung mutters under his breath. “Why are you here, anyway?”

Jeongguk pulls away, blinks. “What do you mean? You called me here.”

“I- what?”

Jeongguk swoops in before he can say much more, mouth meeting his in a way that doesn’t really--feel right. It does all the right things to Taehyung’s heart, has his stomach flipping in uncertainty and attraction, but his lips feel numb to the warmth and the fabric of Jeongguk’s pants rubbing across his feels secondary to his spinning thoughts. The talking feels distant, like he’s being spoken to through a mirage, and Taehyung feels like his movements are slow, trudging through a sea of invisible molasses.

“I thought you wouldn’t kiss me,” Taehyung gasps as Jeongguk pulls back, sitting back on his knees and tugging Taehyung’s waist up onto his lap.

“Here, I do.”

Taehyung frowns in confusion.

“Tell me,” Taehyung attempts around Jeongguk looking at him, eyes hard. “What happens when the cat gets food from someone else?”

The dry chuckle Jeongguk gives is hearty yet difficult to stomach, his eyes so equally dismissive of the thought that he might as well be talking about toys and play and other innocuous things. There’s a sudden burning that rushes across Taehyung’s fingers, his palm, the first sense of clarity he’s gotten since Jeongguk appeared seemingly from nowhere. “You felt it, right? You’re mine, little fangs. That doesn’t go away until the contract ends- when one of us no longer finds it beneficial.”

“It wouldn’t be beneficial to me if I found someone else.”

“But you don’t want anyone else,” Jeongguk says, breathing easily around the words like it’s all too laughable. Even so, his nose is briefly flaring in irritation, eyes flashing red in annoyance, and his grip tightens on Taehyung like he doesn’t quite want to let him go.

Taehyung just wants to push. “What…” he trails off, feeling his will bend under Jeongguk’s glance. “What if I do?”

“Cute. But you’re a terrible liar.” Jeongguk’s hand is suddenly over the front of his pants, Taehyung’s hands nearly flying down to land on top of his fingers, cheeks going red and warm from the sudden touch. He didn’t remember feeling that before, but the sudden arousal pulling at his abdomen has him reeling, shocked from the potency of it. Jeongguk seems too assured, smiles softly and presses forward with lips looking something like the devil’s.

“Pretty boy,” he whispers, mocking and mean. “You want me so bad you can hardly stand it. It’s too obvious. Can’t you act a little harder? Put on a tougher face?” He’s gripping Taehyung through his pants, the small amount of rough friction enough to get Taehyung hardening and whimpering around the slight pinch of pain. “You beg for it with your eyes. Like a puppy, right? Like I told you? Can’t even control yourself now just because I talked down to you?”

Taehyung moans, knowing his face must be bright red from the humiliation he feels rotting at his insides. Jeongguk’s feeling him up, roughly unbuttoning his pants and pulling down his boxers as Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut and feels an abrupt heat fill his stomach. He’s startled, embarrassed. And more than anything, he can’t help but want to cry at how he still pushes his hips into Jeongguk’s touch even so, wanting it so badly but feeling too shy and ashamed to do so.

The only thing that keeps him from completely losing his sanity is his unwitting hips, legs shivering against Jeongguk’s sides as his ass rubs against Jeongguk’s own length. Jeongguk wants him just as bad, and it gives him the confidence to breathe a little easier around the confusion.

“Admit it,” Jeongguk nearly seethes, palm hot and heavy around Taehyung’s cock, thumb digging into the slit and forcing a groan out of Taehyung. “You want me, don’t you? Can’t breathe around it?”

Yes, Taehyung thinks, breathless. He can’t stand Jeongguk, but he doesn’t even know whether it’s within his jurisdiction to stop wanting Jeongguk the way he does.

“No,” Taehyung says instead, unsure why he even does. It's like he knows, like he's searching- for what, he's not sure. A reaction, a bite of amusement and frustration from Jeongguk that results in something, something he wants but can't quite put into words- something Jeongguk probably knows he wants just as much. He feels the gratifying sting before he sees it, back arching against the bed as Jeongguk lands a slap on the side of his thigh. Maybe it’s the desire Jeongguk mentioned. The tinge of pain has him sighing out, more startled than hurt, and Jeongguk is staring at him with eyes darkened like the night sky.

“No?” Jeongguk repeats back to him, free hand trailing up towards Taehyung’s chest, dragging the fabric of his shirt up along the way. “What did I tell you?”

“N-Nothing,” Taehyung hiccups, unintentionally coy, yet the false innocence means nothing with words so purposeful.

This time, he feels himself brace for the impact, Jeongguk bunching his hand in the side of Taehyung’s waistband and pulling until he’s nearly flipped over onto his stomach, landing a rough slap on the back of his thighs. Taehyung’s rutting into the bedsheets, curling in on himself as his thighs press together. He can feel himself practically leaking. Jeongguk’s harsh hands on him are enough to have him on edge in a way he didn’t think was even possible for himself. The heat between his legs is unimaginable, chin pressing into his pillow and eyes squeezing shut.

“Tell me,” Jeongguk whispers, but it’s so menacing Taehyung feels his stomach swoop in anxiety, arousal, Taehyung doesn’t know. A hand goes to the back of his neck, pressing him down into the pillow, and the other is pulling Taehyung’s pants down the rest of the way, palming at his ass with strong hands. Taehyung nearly feels his eyes roll, dick twitching against the sheets at the simple touches.

It’s barely a whimper, but Taehyung forces it out. “Terrible liar.”

“Huh?” Jeongguk asks, and Taehyung can’t see him, but he can hear the smirk in his voice. “What was that? Speak up a little louder.”

“You said,” Taehyung starts, breathless as he props his chin up against the pillow, Jeongguk’s hand still firm on his neck, “I’m a terrible liar.”

Jeongguk hums in approval. Bending until his front meets Taehyung’s back, Taehyung can barely stop himself from pressing himself backwards just to get more of Jeongguk on him. “If you know that, then stop being a brat and tell me the truth. It’d be so easy, wouldn’t it? I’d give you everything you want, baby. All you have to do is tell me how you feel.”

Whining, Taehyung smothers his face into the pillow. Jeongguk speaking softly against his ear is enticing, so enticing, but the thought of bending to his will is somehow less entertaining that gritting his teeth and lying. But with Jeongguk’s hands on him, with the promise of getting everything he wants, Taehyung feels weak.

“I want you,” Taehyung simpers, expecting Jeongguk to be cruel.

It surprises him to feel Jeongguk pause, pull at his shoulder, tilt Taehyung’s chin toward him with a kiss that presses to the corner of his lips. “Oh, my baby,” Jeongguk says, voice so caring Taehyung recoils from it, eyes watering in surprise. “I want you too. So badly.”

Taehyung wants to look at Jeongguk clearly. It seems he doesn’t have the time- Jeongguk’s face is a blur, darkness fading in abruptly, and Taehyung blinks once and the room disappears. When he blinks again, he’s staring up at a dark ceiling.

“Oh,” Taehyung says, sitting up with a groggy head. “Oh, fuck.”

The room feels much clearer now, not as hazy as it was with the awkward touch of a dream. Taehyung stares at the wall, gathering himself, before abruptly looking under the sheets at his bottom half.

“Right. Yeah. It’s fine. It’s- it’s okay.” But his voice comes out higher than expected, and he mostly wants to scream. He just had a dream about Jeongguk. A really, really ridiculous one, and he needs to take a shower now and-

Calming himself, he rushes himself to get ready. Jeongguk asked yesterday for Taehyung to “find” him, whatever that illusive statement meant, and the number burning in his pocket seemed to light a fire inside his coat from the moment it was placed there. By the time he’s drifting back onto the streets of Asora, he’s pulling the paper from its confines and skidding nervous fingers across its surface, watching the ink blur with a rapidly expanding hole in his gut.

He turns his head high regardless. Allowing Jeongguk to wiggle into his mind like this was giving him unnecessary power over Taehyung. It’s what Namjoon said, right? He can’t show him his fear, even if it sits within him with worrisome weight. Even with his caution, constantly looking over his shoulder as he makes his way to the only place he could imagine the address to be- Jeongguk’s apartment, which he easily remembered the directions to- he spends so much time thinking about how to remove Jeongguk from his thoughts that Jeongguk becomes the only thing he can think about.

Taehyung huffs, suddenly irritated. Jeongguk’s an incubus, a species known for inducing lucid dreams on unknowing captors. And with the way Jeongguk stormed into the tavern yesterday, all his wants and needs spilling from him like a faucet, Taehyung wouldn’t be surprised. Perhaps Jeongguk felt this was a part of the dealing, didn’t think to ask him if that was okay, and even if Jeongguk said his powers couldn’t be used to make him do anything he didn’t want, Taehyung’s unnerved.

By the time he makes it to Jeongguk’s buzzer, he’s boiling over with confusion.

The question comes after the slamming of a slim finger against the button next to Jeongguk’s surname, Taehyung shaking as he bounces on his feet anxiously outside the compound. “Hello?” Jeongguk’s tone is easy, buttery, flits over Taehyung’s ears like a summer breeze, and it nearly drains Taehyung with aggravation as he tilts his head against the low volume and seeks to hear it out.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung states, voice tight. “Let me in.”

Jeongguk’s hum is staticy yet inexcusably vocal. “A bit early, don’t you think? Incubi need our sleep, even if you coffin-lovers just do it to pass time.”

Nearly groaning in annoyance, Taehyung shakes his hands out, rounding about in a circle before greeting the buzzer again. “We’re on my schedule, not yours. You ask me to go on a scavenger hunt for you, fine. But we’ll do it when I say so.”

“You’re adorable,” Jeongguk says. His voice is neither amused nor upset, so eagerly plain and cusping on sarcastic that Taehyung has to close his eyes in sheer irritation. The buzzer clicks, momentarily forcing Taehyung to believe that Jeongguk must be leaving him out in the cold as some sort of ridiculous punishment, but the buzzer beeps a moment later, allowing him in the complex without any further conversation.

He stomps up to Jeongguk’s floor, knocks at the entrance to his room, and tries not to choke Jeongguk as soon as he opens the door.

“What the hell did you do?”

He’s greeted by abrupt silence. Jeongguk, despite complaining, is fully dressed. He looks like a gothic prince wearing shades of black and marveling at Taehyung with his nearly opaque eyes, and it only serves to unnerve Taehyung more, nose upturned in fury. “Excuse me. What?” Arms cross Jeongguk’s chest, his nonchalance almost breathlessly attractive- he doesn’t turn at Taehyung’s anger, only seems to slide under it without thought, like Taehyung is--a stray cat. A being unbeknownst to him, one he greets from afar but appraises with interest.

Taehyung’s cheeks are red.

“Listen to me. You can’t just--visit me in the middle of the night without asking me first. I know we have a deal, I know you can’t make me do anything I don’t want, but I don’t like feeling that way, so confused and out of it and- we didn’t discuss doing those kind of things-”

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk intercepts, voice calm. “What are you talking about?”

“The,” Taehyung starts. There’s no sense of knowing in Jeongguk’s eyes. No expression that passes his face to let Taehyung know his ramblings are even minutely familiar. His voice is small as he attempts to grit out the next words, abruptly confused. “The dream?”

He hears silence again, but this time, it’s followed up by a bit of breathless laughter. “The dream,” Jeongguk murmurs to him. “Like--vivid dreaming? Is that what you mean?”

Taehyung hesitates. “Yes. I think so.”

“You do realize we have to be in the same room for anything like that to happen,” Jeongguk says, bland. Turning, he gestures inside, Taehyung following after him awkwardly. “And trust me, I don’t think I’d make my way into your place with Seokjin without getting caught. Not to mention I’m not a creep, and I can’t exactly morph my way through walls and move from place to place at the speed of light. Sorry.”

Taehyung doesn’t know whether to be relieved or embarrassed. He ends up being an odd combination of both, cheeks heating up as he hears the door close behind him with a thud.

“But,” Jeongguk starts, “you’re admitting you had a wet dream about me?” He sounds half aggressive, half amused, eyes glancing over Taehyung’s frame as he turns back to him. “I’m sorry you couldn’t blame this one on me. Do you find it so painful to admit that maybe- just maybe, you enjoy the thought of being with me? I think honesty would save you the embarrassment. Or, and this would be even more entertaining, maybe you want to be embarrassed this way.”

“Shut up, shut up,” Taehyung cuts Jeongguk off, brushing past him and freezing as he greets the living area. He doesn’t know Jeongguk’s space well enough to storm off, and it leaves him seething for a spot to hide in, think in.

He dreamed of Jeongguk. Dreamed of Jeongguk touching him, spanking him, and Taehyung felt so much arousal then that he thought he might explode.

But what hurt the most, what dropped him from the dream back into the pain of reality, was Jeongguk’s voice. The gentle touches, the kisses Jeongguk avoided so ardently just a day before. Taehyung swallows around the apprehension. He does want Jeongguk. It seems he wants Jeongguk to do everything he hinted at and more. That’s not what worries him, however- it’s the way his desires always spin another tale, some story of Jeongguk being affectionate and loving, that cuts him deeper than the rest.

He breathes around the wallowing feeling squeezing at his throat.

“You know,” Jeongguk murmurs to him, “You are perhaps the strangest vampire I’ve ever met.”

“How so?” Listening to the sound of Jeongguk walking behind him is terrifying, unknowing of where he might go, but Taehyung resolutely stares ahead at the black seats, white walls, the caustic and the cold.

“Something about you doesn’t irritate me nearly as much as it would with other vampires.”

“Well, I should obviously be honored,” Taehyung snorts. He wants to roll his eyes, gesticulate with anger and pull his arms to his chest like a guard; the shock gets him first, a hand sliding from the back of his neck to the front, thumbing at his jaw like he’s an ornate glass or piece of art, something to be spectated and glanced at with safe and distant fervor.

“I didn’t kill you when I had the chance, did I?”

“Is that truly supposed to be the standard?” His voice comes out as a titter, a nervous buckling of the knees. “The greatest compliment from Jeongguk? To not be killed? Does that make me special?”

Jeongguk only hums, his hand dancing across Taehyung’s chin almost playfully before he’s bringing it back, sliding it between Taehyung’s shoulders and sideways over the slight curve of his waist. There’s a pause, thin fingers soft on his back and a noise of content littering the air as Jeongguk only thinks of an answer, and Taehyung’s frozen, holds his arms close to him and bites down a feeling of distrust, a desire to race forward, to run.

“If I lied and told you yes, would that be more painful for you or me?”

Taehyung’s breath hitches.

“I thought so,” Jeongguk mutters. “But your lack of self awareness when it comes to me makes you interesting. You turn your back to me but fear me almost nonsensically. I told you from the beginning- I can’t really tell what you want, most of the time. I can’t read your mind nearly as much as I’d like to.”

Staying silent, Taehyung allows Jeongguk to put gentle hands on him even if he feels his stomach turn in an ambiguous feeling of dread. Even if Jeongguk can’t read his mind the way he wants to, it’s still so obvious that he has a certain understanding of him that no one else does- and what a daunting thing for Jeongguk to know the answers to questions before he asks, as if some words only exist to hurt Taehyung; whether or not for his own good, he’s unsure.

“What did you dream about?”

The question is so silent Taehyung wants to ignore it. Does, at first, but Jeongguk doesn’t seem to be the type who will let him go silent without at least outright refusing. He pinches at Taehyung’s side, comes close enough that their shoulders bump.

“Answer me, baby.”

Taehyung’s jaw seems to jitter the slightest bit with nerves, teeth biting into his bottom lip as he considers all the possible outcomes. He never considered himself a stubborn person before Jeongguk, before the unnecessary desire came to keep every secret within him under lock and key, but it seems so blissfully obvious that he keep it that way- Jeongguk’s intentions are dubious at best, his desires framed behind a veil of opaque wondering, and Taehyung doesn’t want to trust as easily as it would be to open his mouth and let the answer fall from his lips.

“What color are your eyes now,” Taehyung murmurs, not flinching even as Jeongguk fits both hands around his waist and squeezes.

Jeongguk hums. “Your favorite color.”

“Will you ever tell me what you want?”

“I want you.”

Jeongguk says it like it’s obvious. Like it’s a reflex. Yet Taehyung thinks it something scary to be wrapped in the arms of a liar by nature- Jeongguk’s eyes afloat like a lilac sky, his words a mirror of everything Taehyung wants to hear; any honesty seems blurred in this moment, but perhaps Jeongguk isn’t completely lying when he says it. He needs Taehyung, however much he may be irritated by him. He needs Taehyung the same way Taehyung needs him, and maybe that allows the line of desire and need to blur so evenly that he could be telling the truth.

“Everything within you is telling me that you want me to pry your words from you,” Jeongguk chuckles. “How exactly do I do that?”

“I dreamed that you were touching me,” Taehyung confesses in a rush, cheeks ruddy around the words.

“Touching,” Jeongguk murmurs. As if an answer, he’s pressing a kiss to the curve of Taehyung’s neck, the warm pressure enough to make Taehyung shiver. “That could mean so many things.”

“You--slapped me. On my thigh.”

A pause, Jeongguk humming to cut the silence. “Was I hurting you? Or, wait- you liked it, didn't you? Like when you're a little hurt? Press on a bruise just to feel the thrill of the pain, like the idea of someone gripping you roughly, don't you?”

Taehyung only bites gently at his lower lip, unsure how to respond as his face goes hot to the touch, undoubtedly red.

“And you like being commanded,” Jeongguk continues, softer now. “Like a little direction. Because you're not sure, are you? But you're so prettily stubborn, too. Would you want me to put you in your place?”

He may be naive, but Taehyung can imagine several things Jeongguk may be intending. The same force against his skin in his dreams, maybe being held and bound, and the idea of Jeongguk nipping at his skin always seems so enticing still. He loves how small he feels next to Jeongguk despite being the same size, how sitting in his lap and drinking messily from his neck has become more ritual than routine, feeling himself whine against tepid skin and reside on those warm, firm thighs-

“Enough,” Taehyung says in a hush, not having to turn to know Jeongguk must be smiling the same way he always seems to, a bit devilish and conniving and ultimately so knowing, as Taehyung’s desires have never been a stranger to him, even in their rarity. Taehyung may not have the same bloodlust as other vampires. But he has a lust for love, a lust for punishment, a lousy lust for Jeongguk that feels as treacherous as it is pliable, incapable of coming to fruition with such dastardly hands clinging to the hard edges of such a desire. Jeongguk is nothing like him- only alike in need, in desire, and Taehyung hates the small fragments within him that think it'd be nice for Jeongguk to look at him in another way.

A loving way. Are his standards so low?

“You're shy, my dearest,” Jeongguk comments, voice soft and almost endeared. “Your naïveté is rather charming. A baby bear in vampire’s clothing. Perhaps you are special, in your own way. I don't think I'd want you nearly as much if you weren't.”

“You don't want me. Whatever demon’s inside you does.”

Jeongguk taps on his shoulder, pulls him around so they're eye to eye now. “I don't have the soul of a demon. I am a demon. Pretending there's some part of me that's not drenched in a desire to destroy would simply be too optimistic.”

For once, Jeongguk’s charm doesn't dissipate in a rush. Taehyung watches as his eyes dull to black from violet, as if the energy of keeping up Taehyung's façade was much too heavy for the simplicity of the moment. Perhaps he should be scarier like this, but Taehyung finds himself staring on in relief. When Jeongguk’s pretending, it's much scarier. There's something so awkwardly terrifying about a mask, and even more worrisome, knowing all too easily when the mask has been put on to deceive and hide.

“But you're a doll, Taehyung,” Jeongguk whispers in his ear, warm, firm fingers squeezing at his waist. “I want so badly to destroy you, but I know I can't. You just seem so alive for a vampire- those blushing cheeks, the pink of your mouth. I want you warmer, more colorful than you already are. Want to dress you down just to dress you back up with whatever colors you'll let me paint you with. Not just any doll, but my doll. You're mine, aren't you?”

Breath catching in his throat, Taehyung feels himself shake against Jeongguk's hands on him, the light kiss he feels press to his throat. His arms, at first, lie still by his sides, but then he finds the strength, finds himself fisting at Jeongguk's shirt and arching into the hold.

For now, he thinks, blinking lazily around Jeongguk's sudden affection.

“What do you say, Taehyung?” Jeongguk murmurs once more, pulling back to look him in his hazy eyes.

His eyes are not violet. Not quite black, either. Taehyung shudders, watching as a shimmering black seems to mingle with something dark and murky, constellations embedded in a usually bland surface. Taehyung's confused, can never seem to find Jeongguk out, but finds himself nodding with clarity nonetheless.

“Yes,” Taehyung breathes, watching as the smallest of smiles waltzes across Jeongguk's visage. “Yes, I am yours.”

Chapter Text

“You want it, then,” Jeongguk murmurs to him. “To be under my spell?”

Taehyung nods, hesitant. It may be scary or confusing, but he at least confesses to enjoying the honesty of it. When Jeongguk pulls him in, allows his mind set free under the guise of his aura, Taehyung can't help himself- he is both embarrassed and free, always confined to dishonesty but for a moment, a small moment, knowing and forward with his desires.

Jeongguk's bedroom is simple. Simple, like most things seem to be with him.

“Words, Taehyung,” Jeongguk murmurs, chancing a glance back at him as he walks into the room with the smallest of chuckles. “I’m not trying to be brash or blunt. I just don’t like the room body language leaves for doubt.”

“I’m startled every time you call me by my name,” Taehyung says, unwitting, drags his fingers over the sleek top of Jeongguk’s dresser. Jeongguk turns towards him, gestures towards the bed with an amused look on his face, almost haughty in its confidence. “But yes. Yes, I want to be under your spell.”

Jeongguk hums. “That’s what you’re focused on? Would you like me to call you something else?”

“N-No,” Taehyung falters, stumbling for words as he walks forwards and eases onto Jeongguk’s bed with fingers digging deep into the soft black sheets. He attempts to look Jeongguk directly in his eyes, finding them obsidian, but subconsciously glances away as he ponders. “Taehyung is fine. Other things are much too playful, don’t you think?”

“But I love playing with you,” Jeongguk nearly laughs. Taehyung swallows as he watches Jeongguk’s fingers lift towards his own shirt, slowly unbuttoning his top. “You’re so--defensive. You’re strong, I can tell as much. And some strong people are so used to showing that, it becomes strange to be any other way. So, defense mechanism. You pull out your claws, hiss. You fight back. The idea of being seen as weak is a punishment and gift to you all at once. It’s what makes you so interesting.”

“But I’m not,” Taehyung murmurs, still entranced by Jeongguk’s fingers, revealing more and more skin as he goes. “Weak, I mean.”

“Let’s be pragmatic, sweetheart.” Jeongguk’s voice is so soft, nearly feathery as he tilts his head and pulls another button smoothly through the loop. He’s nearly halfway down, exposing his soft looking skin and the artful dips the light tone of his muscles creates. “Everyone’s weak, in their own way. It’s all about having the strength to expose those weaknesses, isn’t it?”

“Well, what’s your weakness?”

Jeongguk glances down, huffing as if the question is funny. “Now, if I told you that, you’d have an advantage over me, wouldn’t you? That’s why we only expose our weaknesses to people we-”

“Trust,” Taehyung finishes in a whisper, looking up at Jeongguk from under his lashes and reaching out, balling his fist in Jeongguk’s shirt. It’s satisfying to watch him go still, eyes flaring a vibrant red before mellowing to brown. “Don’t you think you owe me one? I think I--deserve to know one. Just one. Anything.”

At first, Jeongguk only stares plainly at him, but he eventually drops a hand over Taehyung’s and squeezes. “Anything? Will it quell your horrible curiosity?”

Taehyung murmurs a noise of acceptance.

Hesitant, Jeongguk gives the smallest of frowns; it’s abnormal on his usually put together expression, but it leaves as quickly as it came. “Family,” he admits, seeming half-entertained. “That’s an easy one, isn’t it? What most would say, anyway.”

“I don’t have a family,” Taehyung whispers to him.

Jeongguk seems startled.

“Not a blood one. I mean, I guess the clan could be considered my family, but I suppose it’s not the same. It isn’t, right?”

I wouldn’t know goes left unsaid.

The hand that lingers over his softens in its grip, Jeongguk’s fingers lacing with his as he regards Taehyung from above, eyes careful and contemplative. “No, darling. I suppose it wouldn’t be.”

Taehyung nods.

“But,” Jeongguk starts again, seeming to struggle with his tone, “having the choice to make your own family is beautiful, too. They’re just as special, even if you may not share the same blood.”

It’s perhaps the softest, most sentimental thing Jeongguk has said to him; Taehyung pulls back the shudder that lingers under his skin, staring at Jeongguk only to shake his hand free and grab at him once more. He pulls him down this time, hand sliding against a collarbone as Jeongguk’s mouth almost meets his, instead passing right by to kiss at Taehyung's collarbones. Jeongguk seems to take the out with grace, holding himself above Taehyung and disregarding any slight vulnerability that may have occurred.

Jeongguk complains that he’s this way- won’t show his weakness. But he thinks Jeongguk must be equally stubborn, fighting back any soft edges until he’s nothing but sharp, boxed in by his own assumed pain.

As Taehyung knows, people only become like this when they have been hardened by a wound much too internal to show in a scar on warm skin; perhaps it is frustrating to not know or understand Jeongguk, but it's with understanding that he realizes Jeongguk was most likely not born this way. Their world crafts strange and evil people, and Jeongguk may not be normal, but he's as normal as they come in Asora.

He can feel when Jeongguk begins to encompass him; when his aura seems to shroud, delicately pulling him into his embrace in a way that is much more emotional than it is tangible. The first time he felt it, it was terrifying. The lack of control startled him. Now, it feels--safe. As if Jeongguk is holding him close, kissing at his scars and breathing new air into his deflating lungs. And what a thing it is, to feel so fragile until another is near, and Taehyung knows it mustn't be too typical by any standard, but it’s the only thing in so long that has made him feel as if his chest wasn’t constantly pulled tight with lonesomeness.

“Jeongguk,” he murmurs as he pulls back, not surprised at all to find the other’s eyes flitting purple. “What do you want?”

It’s a repetition. A pattern. And Jeongguk seems to react the same way as he had the first time, a little perturbed and confused and ultimately vulnerable for a moment, as if it strikes him funny every time. “I told you-”

“You didn’t tell me anything at all,” Taehyung whispers, reaching up to caress Jeongguk’s nape, brush at the soft hair as if taming a lion. Jeongguk doesn’t relax, only purses his lips for the tiniest moment in utter loss. “You avoid answering me so well. But it’s hard to read someone who isn’t clear with their intentions, isn’t it? The same way you’d rather me say yes than nod or hum in acceptance.”

“I said I wanted you,” Jeongguk says after a bleak moment.

With a hum, Taehyung is gritting his teeth in slight frustration and tilting his head against the sheets, hair musing along the way. “Which part?”

Jeongguk’s eyes seem to be locked onto his throat. “Every part.”

Liar. Taehyung resists the urge to scoff. Even so, he blinks at Jeongguk and nods, trying not to falter. “You can have me,” Taehyung answers. “I said I was yours, didn’t I?”

God, Taehyung must be so greedy. He feels his heart twist awkwardly in his chest knowing Jeongguk doesn’t truly want all of him- the ugly parts, the parts ridden with a lack of self esteem and guarded; his heart, a metalled piece of flesh hidden behind fear- but it doesn’t strike him as odd to ignore it for a moment, allow Jeongguk to look at him almost curiously and lean forward, nip at his neck like he’s searching for blood. Like a fledgling, a bit timid but ultimately so hungry for more that they lose themselves in it, Jeongguk kisses marks into his skin and allows Taehyung to strain with his own nerves- apprehensive, aroused, curious. Taehyung’s never sure how to feel in Jeongguk’s presence, but he wants-

He wants more. Perhaps Taehyung is even greedier than he thought.

When Jeongguk backs off of him, Taehyung gets a glimpse of the ceiling before a hand is grabbing his, hoisting him up into a seated position. Jeongguk’s looking at him cautiously now, a question in his eyes, and as he backs a few steps away and ponders aimlessly, Taehyung is both breathless and silent- awaiting instruction, a sudden seeming game of cat and mouse leaving him earnestly apprehensive.

“That’s not what you want, is it,” Jeongguk murmurs, head tilted.

Taehyung makes a subtle noise of confusion. “I said-”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “I know you want me, Taehyung,” he says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world; Taehyung feels his cheeks heat, a bit warmed and embarrassed at the confidence in his voice, as if there’s no other answer. “But I want you to enjoy this. I’m an incubus. I don’t just take what I need- I do it well.”

Silent, Taehyung swallows and sits up even further.
Jeongguk snaps, subtle and clear in the silence of the room. When he points to the floor, Taehyung’s face goes red. “Kneel. Do it for me, baby. Let’s get some pretenses out of the way.”

Taehyung is frozen. The warmth filling his gut seems to snap tight for a moment, breath caught in his throat as he stares at the point Jeongguk is directing him to. Soft carpet, but the kind that would surely burn his knees if Jeongguk-

He presses his knees together, inhaling sharply.

“Taehyung,” he hears. Glancing up, he’s unsurprised to see Jeongguk with a look as if he’s gloating, the tiniest of smiles on his face. He crosses his arms, blinks innocently at Taehyung. His voice is so soft as he continues, “You heard me, didn’t you? Or do I have to pull you down myself?”

Relenting, Taehyung quickly stands and kneels on the floor near Jeongguk, fists atop his knees; he’s sure his face must be beet red, and as Jeongguk approaches to thread fingers gently through his hair, he finds himself tilting his chin down to stare at the floor. Jeongguk’s presence is ridiculously overwhelming as always, and Taehyung finds himself on edge in the most desiring of ways, trying his best to stay still as Jeongguk appraises him patiently.

“In your dreams, your desires,” Jeongguk starts, rounding behind Taehyung and leaving him anxious, unable to see the incubus towering above him, “we are never on equal footing. It’s like you want to serve me. You want so badly to know what I want just so you can fulfill it. Don’t you think that’s dangerous, little one? To give up control so easily?”

Taehyung stays silent.

He’s startled when he feels fingers in his hair, but this time, they pull- it’s the dullest of pinches, but it forces a gasp out of him, head tilted back as Jeongguk loosens his grip and rubs softly at his scalp. “I need an answer.”

“No,” Taehyung sputters, head lolling forward once more as Jeongguk completely retracts his hand. “No, it’s not bad. Not dangerous.”

Jeongguk hums, comes around to face him, head tilted down to greet Taehyung’s glazed over gaze. “Why?”

“Because,” Taehyung says, a bit nonsensical as he finds himself overwhelmed with so many feelings at once, and with Jeongguk having pulled his hair, unsure how to push down the rising sense of desire burning at the back of his throat. “Because I don’t think you’d hurt me, not in anyway I didn’t want.”

The startled look in Jeongguk’s eyes nearly snaps Taehyung from his daze. It’s a bit funny, the way his eyes widen in confusion, as if it’s the last thing he expected to hear. But he doesn’t keep it for long, eventually mellowing his expression into one of pure apathy as he squats down onto his haunches in front of Taehyung. He reaches forward, caresses Taehyung’s cheek and huffs when Taehyung seems to preen and blink rapidly from the simple touch. “You’re entirely too naive.”

“But am I wrong?”

The hushed question is greeted only with silence. Jeongguk smirks, but he doesn’t look amused, standing and turning away. “Make me two promises.”

Humming, Taehyung awaits a request.

“One, call me Seraph if you ever find a reason to call my attention. To tell me to stop doing something, that you’re uncomfortable. I can sense when you don't want something, but boundaries make people more comfortable. Think of it as a safeword,” Jeongguk explains clearly. “And two,” he says, stepping closer and tilting Taehyung’s chin up to look at him clearly, “do not be like this with anyone except me. Being this trusting could get you in a lot of trouble, Taehyung.”

It’s remarkably possessive, yet the way Jeongguk explains it is as if it’s simply logical. Taehyung wants to wallow in it for a moment, that tiny moment of feeling cared for, but he doesn’t. He only blinks at Jeongguk, tilts his chin down until Jeongguk’s fingers are no longer holding it but wavering curiously in the air. Coyish, he leans forward, suckles Jeongguk’s pointer and middle finger between his tiny fangs and gently licks over them, looking up and watching Jeongguk’s eyes flash from violet to red in all of a moment.

Jeongguk entertains him for a moment. Presses at the inside of his wet cheek and then down on his soft pink tongue, crouches once more to meet Taehyung's eyes and drags his fingers down, past Taehyung’s plush bottom lip and back to his chin, where he grabs roughly at his jaw and seems to relish in the responding noise of surprise Taehyung lets out. “You know you’re cute, don’t you?”

Taehyung shakes his head, struggling around the grip, and Jeongguk only sighs.

“Then why are you playing with me, Taehyung? If you want me to do anything more, you need to make a promise. Unless- you don’t want this? You want to leave? I told you the deal is over when one of us doesn’t want to have a hand in it anymore, didn’t I? I don't want you to feel held down.”

Whining, Taehyung shakes his head again. “No, I-I promise.”

There’s a pause. Jeongguk lets go of Taehyung then, smiles warmly at him and pats at his cheek almost patronizingly. “You’re so adorable. I can’t imagine the things other incubi would do to you if they had the chance. They’d ravage you alive, sweetheart.”

Taehyung doesn't respond. He allows his breath to catch as Jeongguk takes a few steps back, keeping his eyes focused on Jeongguk's. As Jeongguk blinks, Taehyung finds himself enraptured; they are both black and violet, seeming to mix as if pouring two vats of glitter into a pool- Taehyung sniffles, rights himself on his aching knees and tries not to find himself too shocked or curious by the sudden change.

“Since you made me a promise,” Jeongguk simpers, crossing his arms in a way that doesn’t seem so much defensive as it is grounding, “I’ll fulfill something you want just as well. To keep it balanced, right?”

The eager nod Taehyung gives is a mistake, as Jeongguk huffs in amusement and looks away from him like he’s trying to keep his composure. It forces a blush onto Taehyung’s cheeks to watch him look so amused, entertained by Taehyung’s state, the way he falls at his feet as if worshipping some old god; what’s worse, to watch Jeongguk be so obviously enthralled by his temperament, constantly regarding him like a little pet he must care for but distantly, near begrudgingly.

“Well, what do you want?”

Taehyung regards Jeongguk’s seemingly earnest expression. There are a million things that come to mind, and Jeongguk must feel it all in flashes if the narrowing of his eyes is any indication. But Taehyung’s mind can barely settle- from the beginning, Jeongguk was beautiful to him if not anything else, and now- now he has him in his clutches even if it feels like he’s in Jeongguk’s.

But he’s fearful. So unused to the many thoughts that consume him, things that he hadn’t truly delved into prior to meeting Jeongguk and finding himself read like an open book.

Jeongguk must sense his sudden apprehension, as his face goes slack with neutrality. “Don’t worry too much. I feed on your desire, don’t I? The best meal will always be one in which you’re enjoying yourself most- we don’t have to go any farther than you want to.”

It appropriately soothes him. Taehyung finds himself curious then, glancing down to eye the bulge in Jeongguk’s pants, the swell of his thighs and- he looks up, takes in Jeongguk’s hands with fervor, the pretty angles and the boyish roughness that curves at his knuckles.

“I want you to- to-”

Jeongguk hums, questioning, as Taehyung fights past the way his throat clenches in apprehension. But Jeongguk must already know, doesn’t he? He must see the thoughts littering Taehyung’s mind, the brainless desire that sees him with Jeongguk’s cock hot on his tongue, his hands on the back of Taehyung’s head and fingers intertwined in his tousled hair. He must see it, but he-

Smiles. Tilts his head all innocent-like. “To what, Taehyung?”

An unspoken command- say it.

Taehyung feels himself trembling with nerves, excitement, fear, so many things, but he forces it past his lips as he looks up at Jeongguk, blinking earnestly around his own sweltering desire.

“Fuck my mouth,” Taehyung whispers. “Please.”

For the briefest moment, Jeongguk finally seems to lose his composure. He looks shocked, as if he can’t believe Taehyung actually confessed to what he was thinking about. And then, he simply looks impressed, coming close once more to thumb over Taehyung’s pouting lips and stepping in between Taehyung’s spread thighs. “Yeah? Pretty boy wants his mouth stuffed full with my cock?”

Taehyung whines, wanting to pull his thighs together but finding Jeongguk’s legs an opposing force in between.

“Well, since you were so good,” Jeongguk mutters like he's doing Taehyung a favor, but his eyes have gone half-lidded. He reaches, threads his fingers through the hair on the back of Taehyung’s head, using his other hand to tug down the zipper on his pants. Taehyung's eyes stay locked on Jeongguk's hand- watches as it pushes the waistband of his pants down just enough to show his boxer briefs. Taehyung nearly salivates. Jeongguk's length is hard and thick, straining against fabric and begging to be freed.

As Jeongguk palms himself, teasing, Taehyung feels his breathing skip on an inhale. “Jeongguk, please-”

“Rules, Taehyung,” Jeongguk murmurs. “Keep your hands on your thighs. No touching. If you want me to stop, reach up and tap on me twice. Okay?”

“Yes,” Taehyung says, hurried.

Chuckling, Jeongguk gently pets at the back of his head. “You're so eager, little fangs. Which reminds me-” He thumbs at Taehyung's top lip, pushes it up to rub a finger over one small fang. “Do you know how to be careful with these?”

Taehyung pulls back, cheeks gone red with embarrassment. “I do.”

With a cocky, aggressively attractive smile, Jeongguk is tilting his head to the side and pulling his hand back to tug at the waistband of his boxers. “I'll take your word for it.”

He slowly reveals his length, inch by inch uncovered for Taehyung's viewing. Taehyung worries his lip, tries to control his breathing as it's revealed to him. He's not sure he can fit it comfortably in his mouth, yet the thought of his jaw sore and aching afterwards only entices him more. Jeongguk has a good cock, seeming to weigh heavy in his pretty hand, and Taehyung wants nothing more than to lean forward and suckle at the rounded head, get Jeongguk breathing heavy and losing his composure.

When he only watches anxiously, peeking up at Jeongguk for permission, the incubus arches an eyebrow and soothingly touches at his head. He locks his fingers in the hair at his nape and encourages him forward. “You wanted it, didn’t you? C’mon, show me, baby. It's yours.”

He's hesitant, at first. Looks up at Jeongguk like a question and nearly stops breathing when Jeongguk beckons him forward even more, fingers tightening in his unruly hair. Shy, he kisses at the head, licks kittenishly and tightens his fingers over the fabric covering his own thighs. He's straining; part of him wants to reach between his own legs, give himself some relief, but he also wants to follow the rules Jeongguk gave him.

Jeongguk is just as thick as he expected, as Taehyung has to widen his mouth as he takes his cock in between his full lips, feels the velvety weight glide across his tongue and push as far as possible into his mouth. He glances up, watching the incubus’ eyes flash purple, his chest rising quickly as he inhales.

“You're so pretty like this,” Jeongguk compliments, pulling back just to feed his cock back into Taehyung's warm, wet mouth. Taehyung nearly preens at the breathless praise, loves how Jeongguk, for once, seems unsteady. “Pretty all the time, fuck.”

Really? Taehyung glances up only to close his eyes. Pleasure seems to be a cause for loose lips with Jeongguk, tidbits of honesty leaving Taehyung pleased yet confused.

“And I can feel it, you like it so much,” Jeongguk continues on, voice more settled even as Taehyung holds his breath and attempts to force himself down as far as he can go, mouth sticky with spit and precum. “Like the feeling of a cock in your mouth? Imagine warming it for me, baby. Sitting with it in your mouth for hours. And I wouldn't let you off until you were crying and begging for it.”

Taehyung moans around the weight in his mouth, regaining his senses just to hallow his cheeks and press forward again. Looking up at Jeongguk as he struggles not to gag, Taehyung can feel drool pooling at the corners of his lips. Jeongguk must enjoy the sight as his breathing seems to skip on an exhale, fingers tightening in Taehyung’s hair and locking him in place. Taehyung can barely control his breathing, swallowing around Jeongguk’s cock and cheeks burning at how he can feel his eyes watering already.

“You wanted me to fuck your mouth?” Jeongguk murmurs. He lets Taehyung go, allows him to come up for air. His lungs widen gratefully as he gasps and leans forward, panting as Jeongguk cradles his head in his palms and looks down at his watering eyes with arousal and amusement.

He wonders how his desire tastes to Jeongguk- if it's as tangible as it feels to Taehyung, as painful and heavy with guilt. It must be something delicious with the way he looks at him, eyes hooded and intoxicated, maybe just as intoxicated as Taehyung is with Jeongguk's alluring eyes.

But he does. The idea of Jeongguk having complete control over him, guiding him by his own desires and leaving Taehyung to follow his lead, it beckons him forth a little guiltily, deliriously. He wants himself completely at Jeongguk's mercy, he wants to feel Jeongguk indulge, he wants to be a vessel for pleasure, he wants-

He wants to be desired. To be full heartedly wanted, to leave Jeongguk breathless without him.

So, “Yes,” he says, still breathless, drool and precum dripping messily from his chin until Jeongguk swipes at the mess with an interrupting thumb, presses into Taehyung’s bottom lip and over his front teeth just to feed it back into his mouth.

Jeongguk hums. “Messy baby,” he comments, as if talking about something inane, a storm on the horizon, some predicted weather. “And desperate, aren't you? A bit shameless yet so disgustingly reluctant.”

Taehyung whines around Jeongguk's thumb pressing into his tongue.

“But if that's what you want,” Jeongguk says, placating, “I'll do that for you, Taehyung.”

He acts like it's such a blessing for him to bestow, thumb withdrawing from his mouth as Taehyung hiccups on an inhale and stares up at him, a bit apprehensive at his tone.

When Jeongguk holds his cock, rubs the head messily against Taehyung's parted lips, there's more purpose in his actions. Taehyung tongues at the slit just to hear Jeongguk hiss in surprise. His free hand fists the hair at the back of Taehyung’s head, a pleasing sting that Taehyung can't help but shudder at.

This time, Jeongguk lets Taehyung kiss up the side of his length before he fucks into Taehyung's mouth, a little rough and careless. Taehyung moans around him and looks up, satisfied when Jeongguk lolls his head back and groans, sweat leaving his skin slick and aching to be touched. Taehyung tries his best to relax his throat, but he finds his eyes tearing up once more, struggling to breathe as Jeongguk doesn't let up, using Taehyung's mouth as a fuck toy, controlling him fully and most likely reaping up the desire radiating off of Taehyung.

After all, Taehyung can’t deny the way an erection swells between his legs. With fingers digging into his thighs, he follows Jeongguk's rules well, but he wants nothing more than to alleviate the pressure, thighs shifting against each other for the tiniest bit of friction.

Taehyung only feels tears spill over his closing eyes when Jeongguk forces him down, burying Taehyung's head at the base of his cock and leaving him to helplessly moan and swallow around the length, begging for breath but knowing his own cock throbs in his pants at the rough treatment. He gags and sputters, and Jeongguk lets him go; Taehyung knows he must look an absolute mess, lips pink and swollen, slick with spit- his eyes tear stained and eyelashes fluttering as they stick together from his unwarranted crying.

It's subconscious, the way his hand seeks between his legs just to press against himself, but Taehyung finds himself all too aware of the fact once Jeongguk pulls away from him completely, leaving him messy and confused.

“I thought I gave you instructions,” Jeongguk carefully murmurs. “Didn't I?”

Taehyung quickly snatches his hand back with a noise of dissent, eyes carefully meeting Jeongguk's.

He wonders if part of himself wanted to see exactly what Jeongguk would do when he broke the rules; it’s a part of his nature, maybe, to peek over the fence and look at the other side of things, to see exactly what the point of the instructions were if there are no repercussions. But Jeongguk's eyes are heady and a bit too excited, dark as his mouth curls on a smile.

Taehyung won't admit it. He won't, but part of himself is quite eager to see what Jeongguk might do, likes how Jeongguk's eyes are no longer violet but dark with unsettled desire. These things, these wants and thoughts hidden behind a once curious mind, were things Taehyung never thought to be uncovered, and he's not sure- can't be honest with himself about the things he might like, even if his stomach churns when Jeongguk tightens fingers in his hair or holds him breathless with fingers shoved in his mouth. The bites of pain and pushing and pulling, Jeongguk's pretty hands harsh on him and seeking through his brain for shameful thoughts Taehyung only thought of in lust-

“What do you want me to do about it?” Jeongguk asks as he decidedly tucks himself back into his boxers and crouches down, looks at Taehyung's ruddy cheeks and wet lips with a funny kind of disdain, like he's forcing it just for Taehyung to feel even more shy with understanding of how distraught he must look right now. “What do you think you deserve for breaking the rules?”

He wants Taehyung to say it. It's clear as day. He wants him to be honest about what he desires, to not have to rip it from his reluctant heart and bring it into reality, but Taehyung purses his lips and looks down, unsure how to word these thoughts.

“I don't know,” Taehyung murmurs, a bit shy and unsure in a way he wouldn't normally be.

The hum Jeongguk lets out is half patronizing, half thoughtful. “You know, I don't have to let you come to feed off your desire. I can feel well fed even without it.”

Taehyung immediately reaches out, balling a hand in Jeongguk's shirt with a pout. He wants to whine, but he doesn't think Jeongguk likes him so foolish. Perhaps he wants him to stand his ground, but it's so hard to when Jeongguk looks at him like that, so ardently beseeching of an answer that Taehyung can't seem to give.

“Jeongguk,” he whimpers, watching as the colors shift hazily in Jeongguk's eyes, a mess of splotches and rainbows and blurry galaxies. Then, they quiet back to brown, leave him sated in Taehyung's misery, perhaps, that he can't seem to word any desire, not when he feels so openly ashamed.

“What, dearest? What do you want from me?”

Taehyung pauses. Jeongguk's asking even if he can feel it in the air, which means he wants to hear it, won't go on without the words he's looking for.

“I want whatever you want,” Taehyung answers, clear as day even as his breath hitches on the last word, a bit nervous at so often requesting this of Jeongguk, something he obviously is unsure of bending to.

“Tell me, Jeongguk,” he starts again with a surge of confidence, fingers curling over Jeongguk’s bent knees, steady on his haunches as he looks searchingly at Taehyung. “You can see what I want. I can’t easily seek you out in the same way. So won’t you answer me, dearest, when I ask you to tell me the truth?”

He doesn’t mean for it to come out so bitingly, dripping with blood and insatiable wonder, but he likes the way Jeongguk’s eyes redden from the tone even so. His throat is rough from being so thoroughly used just moments prior, and Jeongguk is thinking, thinking, only to grab at Taehyung’s collar and beckon him up as he stands- no, rather, force him onto his feet.

One moment Taehyung is trailing fingers over Jeongguk’s thighs; the next, Jeongguk is leaving him standing in the middle of the room to sit back on the bed, patting his thighs with a small smile on his face.

“You want to know what I’m thinking of, don’t you?” Jeongguk looks so relaxed as he says it, but Taehyung can’t help but notice how his eyes haven’t been reflecting his favorite color from some time, only pulling him in with a warm, natural hue of brown.

“Yes,” Taehyung stutters, eyes lowering to where Jeongguk wants him. It’s obvious.

“Lie down,” Jeongguk says, all calm and edgeless, but his face is emotionless. “I won’t tell you what I want. I’ll show you.”

Taehyung attempts to keep his breathing steady as he wanders over, lying pliantly across Jeongguk’s thighs and gritting his teeth when Jeongguk palms a hand over his ass, merely pondering.

“Remember when I told you I want to paint you?” Jeongguk asks. His voice is so sweet. So easy to hear. Taehyung thinks he could listen to Jeongguk talk forever, if he let him. In a whisper, Jeongguk continues, “Right now, I’d love you red. Love to remind you even days from now that rules are very important to be followed. What do you think? Do you trust me?”

I have no reason to at the moment, he wants to reply, snarky. Instead, he swallows it down and tries to stop moving shakily with nerves, his cock pressed so satisfyingly to the hard curve of Jeongguk’s thigh but not nearly enough for any kind of relief.

“I do,” he says instead, trying not to flinch when Jeongguk reaches over him to the bedside table, fishes through the drawer and pulls a tie from the confines.

“Hands,” Jeongguk requests, helping Taehyung pull his arms behind him. He holds his thin wrists in one hand, carefully ties them off with the black silky fabric. “To keep you from trying anything again.”

Arms pulling slightly up his back, Taehyung fidgets with the end of the tie he can feel in his palm. It’s soft, loosely wrapped around his wrists, and Taehyung has no doubt that with a bit of struggling he could pull his wrists free. He presses his cheek against the soft sheets, trying to look at Jeongguk but only catching view of his side, his arm as it reaches out, grabs at his wrists just to squeeze warmly at them. It’s seemingly for no reason, but Taehyung catches himself sighing out and sinking into the bed and Jeongguk’s thighs, slightly less tense at the contact.

It starts out with the lightest slap. Taehyung jumps from the surprise, cheeks going red and warm as he realizes exactly what Jeongguk wants to do. The fabric of his pants is a tiny barrier, but Taehyung can feel it in intention nonetheless. His flinch forces friction where Jeongguk’s thigh is pressed against him, and it leaves Taehyung panting, wanting to rub against him but knowing it’d make Jeongguk just as disappointed.

“Okay?” Jeongguk asks, voice light, entertained in a way that almost irritates Taehyung, makes him want to break the rules just a little bit harder. But maybe the part that wants to obey and please Taehyung weighs just a little more, because the balance beam falls slightly to the right side of things and has him nodding, answering with a breathless yes.

Fingers find their way under Taehyung's pants, nudging his waistband down just enough to sit under his ass. Jeongguk squeezes at his soft skin, almost like he owns him, and, well-

Taehyung did tell Jeongguk he is his, but it doesn't stop the blush that blooms on his face from the salacious treatment.

The next slap has much more force behind it, a sting of pain lingering in its wake with his pants now pulled down enough to reveal skin. “How many?” Jeongguk ponders, a bit listless and unaware, like he has no idea where he is or what he's doing. “Five? Ten? Fifteen?” He chuckles then, and even though Taehyung can't see him, he can imagine how he might look with a devilish little grin on his face. “What do you think?”

Taehyung balls his tied up hands into fists. “Didn't you want to paint me red?”

Jeongguk pauses, a soothing hand ghosting over the backs of his thighs. “Another time, maybe. When you're more comfortable with me.”

“I didn't think you'd care,” Taehyung says under his breath. Snide, he thinks, but Jeongguk only squeezes at one of his thighs in admonishment.

“I said I do my job well, didn't I? What's the use of fulfilling a desire if I make it painful or don't listen to you when you tell me to stop? Maybe some demons would indulge, but I don't find that very attractive,” Jeongguk explains.

He smooths a hand over Taehyung's backside, forcing a sharp exhale out of him when he suddenly pulls back and lands a sharp, strong slap on his ass. Taehyung's face goes aflame at this point, startled by the moan Jeongguk pulls out of him.

“And you, my dearest,” Jeongguk goes on, “would be so hard to hurt.”

There's a certain irony there, but Taehyung knows all too well what he means. In a way Taehyung wouldn't want, in a way he would run from; Jeongguk may enjoy fulfilling the wants of others, but he certainly isn't so unhinged that he'd break whatever little trust Taehyung has for him. Not in that way.

“Let's start with ten. Three down, seven to go. Count for me, will you? Wouldn't want to get carried away.”

Taehyung wants to roll his eyes, but he only nods and bites back whatever bitterness and inherent reluctance he's been dying to let out all night, knowing he's ultimately at Jeongguk's beck and call. He doesn't expect the next spank, the way Jeongguk seems to be leveling out each one with more and more force behind it, but it's pain and pleasure that filters through his veins with each one. With each bite of pain comes Jeongguk's soothing palm, groping at his ass but also seeming to rub the pain out with his firm hands.

It's at six that Taehyung yells the number out with tears beginning to line his eyes once more. “Fuck, Jeongguk. You don't hold back, do you?” Even with his question, he feels himself teetering on the edge of something, each spank forcing him to rub up against the firm muscle of Jeongguk's thigh and leaving him aching for more, for a release.

“Too much? Would you like me to soften it up for you?” Jeongguk's voice is teasing but mostly serious, leaving Taehyung to blush and bite at his lower lip with frustration. He hangs his head, feels his forehead push into soft sheets as he lies near comfortably across Jeongguk's thighs.

“No,” he admits silently, shamefully, after he realizes Jeongguk isn't going to let him get away without an answer, waiting patiently for a response.

“Jesus,” Jeongguk curses, and it's so shocking to hear something that isn't so collected coming from Jeongguk's mouth, he nearly looks over his shoulder in confusion. The name, meant for those invested in something holy, is just that much more blasphemous when uttered between a demon’s lips; Taehyung is enraptured by Jeongguk like this, less composed and hands hard on him. “You're a slut for pain, aren't you, Taehyung?”

Taehyung nearly yelps when Jeongguk slaps him this time, trailing behind the pain with an almost forgotten, “Seven.” He's still clinging to Jeongguk's words, how harsh Jeongguk's voice sounds now when he's not clinging to a sense of control in how he appears. His guard is down, and Taehyung is both humiliated and out of his mind with arousal, teetering dangerously close to a release despite barely getting the touch he needs.

“Say it,” Jeongguk says, tone beseeching. “If you want it so bad, why are you so ashamed of it? What's wrong, baby?” He punctuates it with another spank, and Taehyung feels hot tears finally spill onto his cheeks as he grips the ends of the tie into his fists and pushes his head against the blankets, overwhelmed by the back and forth of pleasure-pain that leaves him breathless, barely able to count out around the nerves.

“C-can’t,” Taehyung mumbles, startled when he feels Jeongguk's empty hand come up to his head, pulling at his locks until he forces his head up with a gasp. His fingers aren't tight on his hair, not enough to truly hurt, but the intention and force is enough for Taehyung to lift up in surprise.

“Can’t? Or won't?”

Jeongguk doesn't leave him room to answer. He gives him the ninth slap, Taehyung clenching up in surprise as Jeongguk leaves him to drop his head back to the sheets and whimper around the pain. What leaves him even more embarrassed, however, is the way he can feel his cock throb in his pants, wanting to surround himself with Jeongguk after knowing how good he can make him feel, how he feels allowed to indulge in these stupid, private little desires that always felt a bit too daunting, a bit too sinful, to really partake in. And how ridiculous, Taehyung thinks, that he could do bad with weapons in his hands but feel strange at liking the idea of a hand raised against him.

But how pleasing, how pleasing. Taehyung knows he's odd, but Jeongguk must be even odder to fulfill him without question, break apart the same way he is just by having a hand in his downfall.

“You're so good at sucking cock,” Jeongguk murmurs to him, disgustingly saccharine. “But you're terrible at using your mouth to be honest. Why do I have to steal all your words from you? Don't you think you'd get more from asking outright?”

“Don't say that,” Taehyung nearly slurs, trying not to skip and stutter on his words even with the humiliation leaving him boneless and murky-minded.

Jeongguk laughs, breathless now. “What? I love how shy you can be even in this position. You're something special, baby.” He runs his fingers through Taehyung's hair so softly.

The slight shaking of his limbs is something Taehyung attempts to keep slight, but it does nothing to help his problem with Jeongguk's thigh. His cock rubs painfully against him, and Taehyung doesn't know what to do with himself, doesn't know whether to lift his hips up entirely to run away or press forward for the relief he needs.

It's in this panicking that Taehyung doesn't expect the last spank. It comes nonetheless; this one, harder than the rest, forcing a cry from his lips. He shudders apart on Jeongguk's lap with hurried breaths, eyes rolling back and shortened nails digging into his own palms as he presses forward against Jeongguk's thighs just to get away from those hardened hands.

Jeongguk's immediately on him, however. Rubbing at tender skin, plucking the tie from Taehyung's wrists and massaging at the places Taehyung's hurt. He's a bit startled by it, the sudden comfort, and nearly jumps out of his skin when he feels Jeongguk fix his pants and carefully nudge him over and into his arms, turning to set him on his back on the dark sheets.

“Well, little fangs,” Jeongguk says, a lovely looking smile on his face that Taehyung nearly gets lost in. “I was going to offer you relief for being so good, but it seems you found it yourself.”

If Taehyung's cheeks weren't already so red, tear tracks lingering in the rosy wake of embarrassment, he's sure he'd flush once more a thousand times harder. Sure enough, there's a wet spot on the front of his pants, and he never thought himself capable of such a response until Jeongguk did all he could to tear him apart without violence.

Taehyung realizes it with a start. He wants Jeongguk to eat him alive.

“You're alright?” Jeongguk asks, blinking up at him near innocently as he continues to massage at his tender wrists. “I didn't go too far, did I?”

Taehyung swallows, tries not to read into it as much as his heart wants him to. Jeongguk isn't plainly heartless, after all. “I'm fine.” He glances down to where Jeongguk kneels on the bed, sees his thick length pressing against his pants and wants so, so badly for something he can't even understand. “Jeongguk-”

“I'm alright,” Jeongguk murmurs. “It's not about my wants, is it? Tonight was a slip up, when I-” When Taehyung asked him, and he answered.

“Jeongguk-”

“No,” Jeongguk cuts him off, tone ambiguous.

Taehyung wants to complain, but he keeps his lips shut tight, only nodding.

“We need to have more discussions about--these things. We were a bit rash there, and I don't want things to spiral out of control. There are a lot of rules involved, you know.” Jeongguk seems to be rambling despite his detached tone, which is extremely odd.

Taehyung stares up at him, watches his eyes as they lock onto where his fingers are pressing at Taehyung's wrist. His back was turned for so long, he was not able to clearly view Jeongguk's gaze. How long had his eyes been brown? At first they flashed insolently between purple and a more natural hue, but now, as he carefully presses his fingers into Taehyung's skin until he feels alive again, they're carefully mellow. His eyes move to the strong curve of Jeongguk's nose, the dip of his cupid's bow and the pink of his lips. In his dream, those lips were on his.

I want a kiss, he thinks. Then blushes once more when Jeongguk immediately glances up at him and clears his throat.

Right, Taehyung watches as Jeongguk falters in his movements, retreats a bit. Right.

“It's best you stay here. You must be tired,” Jeongguk suddenly says. “We’ll clean up and get you changed, hm?”

Taehyung only takes a moment to nod in acceptance, but he finds himself reeling. So much of him wants Jeongguk in ways he can't comprehend. His brain wants his blood, his body wants him, and his heart wants…

He cuts his thoughts off before he can reach any further. There are things, he thinks as he watches Jeongguk turn away from him to search through his wardrobe, that some people are simply born to live without.

↞ ☆ ↠

He wakes the next morning to the bed cold beside him.

It wasn’t as if he expected Jeongguk to be there, no. Yet the shock of subconsciously reaching out only to feel fabric has him slowly blinking his eyes open, wondering if all of yesterday was but a dream. Everything smells of Jeongguk. The clothes he lent him, the bedsheets, the entire room seems to be drowned in it, and Taehyung- he nearly chokes as he sees Jeongguk. He’s rifling through his drawers, presumably for something to wear for the day, but it’s not that action that leaves him stunned.

Under the dissipating haze of a deep sleep, Taehyung doesn't quite recognize why a flurry of nerves sparks in his stomach as Jeongguk lifts his shirt over his shoulders, revealing toned skin. At first, Taehyung thinks it must be a simple reaction at seeing Jeongguk unclothed, but as he gazes over his back, he finds himself slightly curious. It's not unmarred- shoulder to shoulder, Taehyung sees what seems to be an elaborate tattoo of deep black wings. It feathers across his shoulder blades and into the dip of his waist, tapering towards his tailbone with harsh lines.

Taehyung has never seen anything like it before.

Seraph, Taehyung thinks. And the Seraphim. Angelic beings, considered to be of the highest order in all of the celestial hierarchy. Yet the purity associated with the name doesn’t seem parallel to the darkness of those intimidating lines, stretching across the wide breadth of Jeongguk’s beautiful shoulders.

He’s too tired to properly think anything of it. Jeongguk chooses a new shirt, begins turning to him, and Taehyung only gives a small exhale as a greeting, head pillowed against his hand. Approaching him, Jeongguk sits on the edge of the bed and reaches out- Taehyung’s eyes flutter in apprehension, but it’s nothing. Jeongguk simply brushes his fingers over Taehyung’s cheek. An odd action that Taehyung might balk at in the bright light of day, but with fog still clinging to his brain and the world seeming dark with a lamp to cast the room aglow, he only shifts under the covers and sighs.

Jeongguk isn’t an angel. Far from it. But when the last thing he sees before falling back asleep is Jeongguk’s face, blinking slowly at him with a look that could only be considered affectionate, he nuzzles into the hand brushing his cheek and bites back the desire to hum. After all, perhaps this is a dream- Jeongguk could never be so soft with him. Could never be the angel Taehyung dreams him to be.

Chapter Text

15 years ago; 5 years old

“Jeongguk, do you know why it rains?”

Jeongguk stared up at his mother’s face, a childish pout appearing on his own. He could see the outline of a black umbrella above her, two suit-clad men walking side by side the small family and shielding them from the beginnings of a thunderstorm. They took the winding road back towards the house from the garden with slow steps, his mother seeming to enjoy the light drizzle enough to gesture a gloved finger downwards. The guard on her side carefully dropped the umbrella, even while Jeongguk stayed sheltered under his own.

“Mommy, mine too!”

“But Jeongguk, you’ll get wet,” his mother chastised, squeezing his small hand in her own. Her bare palm was soft against his, the forgotten glove tucked in a cashmere pocket.

Jeongguk frowned. “But you’re not using an umbrella…”

His mother sighed, a quick glance to the man at Jeongguk’s side relieving him of the shade from the rain. Jeongguk smiled as the water pittered onto his skin. It felt soft and cold, cool against the humid air.

“Have they taught you in lessons, Jeongguk?” His mother asked of him once more. “Why it rains?”

“Not yet, mommy.” He’d learned of many things. Counting, how to read, the shades of the rainbow. But not yet why it rained. It was a spectacle, for sure. As Jeongguk lifted his childish eyes to the sky, he stumbled on his feet, his mother quick to heft him back into a straight gait with her gentle hands.

She hummed, joined him for a moment in staring at the gray sky. “Your father used to say it meant the angels were crying.”

Jeongguk stopped looking at the sky to stare at her. She never mentioned his father, or at least tried to as rarely as possible. And when Jeongguk read of stories in lessons, ones with mommies and daddies and a world seeming so far off from theirs, he asked and was quickly snubbed. His mother seemed cold to the mention of his father, and Jeongguk learned easily not to mention it again. His curiosity flared once more, but he didn’t ask. Didn’t make a peep. Just looked at his mother’s sleek dark hair against the gray background and sweltered with uncertainty.

“I suppose he may be one of those angels now, crying and crying,” she went on in a barely conceivable mumble. He’d rarely seen his mother distracted, but her usually sharp eyes went glossy with an unfocused perception, only to snap back to his after realizing where she was. “Now, do you know why I didn’t want you to relieve yourself of the umbrella?”

Jeongguk shook his head.

His mother stopped suddenly, everyone coming to a halt as she knelt down and used one bare hand to swipe at both of his childishly rosy cheeks, now damp with rain. “I’m afraid you’ll catch a cold, my dear. But I don’t want to stop you from having fun while you have the chance. Do you see the confusion you’ve put your dear mother in?”

“Sorry,” he mumbled softly, attempting not to show a sad face.

“Don’t say sorry.” Her face was apathetic, so cold and unaffected, but her voice was warm and touching. “I know you only wanted to feel the rain. I think we all do, sometimes. It’s so fun to be touched by something we don’t understand, isn’t it?”

With a nod, Jeongguk attempted a smile at his mother. As usual, it went unreturned, but her eyes at least seemed welcoming rather than cutting.

“And I only want to keep you shielded because it keeps you safe. It’s important we keep the things most precious to us safest. You, my love, are the most precious, most special, to me.” Her ungloved hand reached to grab his small fists within hers, squeezing in assurance. Then, she stood up, grabbing his hand within her warm one once again. With a glance towards the still weeping sky, his mother seemed alight with emotion even if she never seemed to quirk a smile or an upset frown. A face so pallid, so fixed, Jeongguk couldn’t help but think she knew no other way, or perhaps she was stuck like that- perhaps her face was unmoving, incapable of showing the same feelings any other being could.

But as he glanced up at her once more, watching her peer at the sky, he swore he could see the edge of melancholy on her face. Her eyes were damp, shiny in a way he hadn’t seen them before, but if she cried, it was hidden by the rain.

8 years ago; 12 years old

The sound of heavy breathing permeated the night air. Aside from the light pitter-patter of a thin rain that coated the dirt road a shade darker, it was ominously silent. If Jeongguk stood still, closed his eyes against the humid night and sat carefully within the trees, he’s sure he could hear the aching of all those withering branches, those heavy trunks straining against the breeze as the leaves shook with it. But it was no time to sit and ponder, much less admire the world around him. He had no choice but to walk forward, even when his legs started aching and his stomach rumbled with a desire to be filled.

It’d been hours. Jeongguk sniffled, dragging the fabric of his long sleeve shirt across a runny nose. A head cold, perhaps, but surely the least of his concerns; his shirt was red, and not simply from a determined color- splattered, blood-stained, torn. Jeongguk was never afraid of blood; in fact, there were times he was so filled with rage he desired it, felt surrounded by it. It didn’t happen often, however. It was the kind of anger fueled by grief, by sorrow, by…

Loss, Jeongguk thought. It had been two years since they took him from her. Since they took her from him. And two years of pain followed it, two years of endless suffering and attempts to see optimism through all the shadows his life had formed.

Suddenly, he ached with want. Not for food, for a place to rest. He ached for something he hadn’t thought of in so long, not since they took his mother from him and left her for dead, and certainly not after, when he became so numb to the world that he nearly accepted his fate. Perhaps it was born out of being finally free, even if he considered himself lost, unaware of where to go. He merely trudged on without direction, knowing the only thing leading him was the increasing distance between him and the place that took her.

Strangely, for the first time in years, he ached for home.

Shaking his head, he didn’t allow his lower lip to wobble in uncertainty. Didn't allow vulnerable tears to climb to his eyes. He stared up at the sky, watching as the first few stars made their appearance on a dreary dusk. The numbness within him kept him safe. When they brought him to that place, locked him up and used him as a blood bag, he couldn’t do anything but pretend he wasn’t in pain- pretend so long that it became a reality.

And then- then, maybe it was how he learned to survive, for the one person who told him to be anything but himself. It was that strength that lead him to where he was. The moment they turned their backs, it was as if his vision went red. He didn’t quite remember what happened in the time it took that idiotic vampire to turn around as Jeongguk was no longer tied to a wall. They learned to trust him, but it was their biggest mistake. By the time Jeongguk had awakened from his own spell, his clothes were red. He was standing in the middle of a vacant dirt road. And for once, he could breathe without shaking.

He never really wanted to continue on. But for her and whatever fragile love she gave him, Jeongguk plodded through the trees with eyes dark as night.

It must have taken hours before he reached a place with any sign of life. He emerged from the forest on the outskirts of a small city, suddenly even more aware of his bloodstained clothing- while the laws were certainly loose in their society, drawing eyes to yourself had always been dangerous in itself. A young boy covered in blood would be sure to attract attention, but Jeongguk had no other clothes, not one ounce of personal belongings on him besides the dirtied fabric covering his body.

He walked in a daze, staring at the milling people walking about and the small buildings, tiny businesses and homes filling the space. It seemed akin to a barren wasteland, at least in the low energy and lack of true life and saturation, but maybe that was a result of being among the green for so long.

“Hey.”

Jeongguk kept walking, numb to the noise.

“Hey, kid.”

Stopping at the hand that grazed his shoulder, he turned and glared, fists balling on instinct. Behind him lingered not a vampire or werewolf, but something else. Jeongguk guessed that he must be a nymph of some sort or perhaps a demon like him.

“You're a fighter, huh?” The man sounded amused, but he still took a hefty step back in his boots and swallowed. Jeongguk turned and watched the man eye his clothes, running over the bloodied fabric with apathetic yet curious eyes. The stranger seemed older, a bit average looking if not tired, dark circles lingering under his eyes and a cigarette hanging between two fingers. Jeongguk hated those. Nose upturned, he had every plan of turning around, but the words the man spoke left him frozen.

“You seem hungry.”

Jeongguk tilted his head.

“You don't speak? Cat got your tongue?” A dry chuckle, and the man threw what was left of the cigarette onto the dirty sidewalk, crushing it with the heel of his boot. “Ah, wondering how I knew? I guess hunger is different for us all, isn't it. It's not like it's easy to tell from a face, right?”

Silent, Jeongguk continued to stare at the man.

“Okay, I get it. You don't wanna talk. Well, I will. I'm a mammon,” the man explained. “Name’s Jaehyun. Us demons, we have a sense about us, don't we. I looked at you, wasn't very hard to tell that you’re starving.”

Mammon, Jeongguk thought with a bit of annoyance. Demons that feed on wealth and the material, most often at their best in a room full of the most opulent, lost in their greed. Jeongguk should've known, but the man, Jaehyun, was also right- hungry, Jeongguk felt nearly moments from losing himself. He was in the time of transferring, when a demon became a teenager and then an adult, and while he did not fully feed on the desire of others- rather, human food often worked- he was beginning to feel the edges of his fate take over him; one day, human food would be of no use to him, and he'd have to find ways to supplement that with the wants of others.

“So, funny thing,” Jaehyun went on. “I know a place for people like you. You must be an incubus, I assume. Can see it in the eyes.”

Jeongguk blinked. Maybe when he turned towards him earlier, fists tight with fury, they were red.

“They would die to have an incubus like you in their hands. You're pretty young though, huh? But, considering your status and all, I’m sure they'd feed you. Take you in and all that. It's a feeding place, so they'd wait till you were older, pay you for your blood. You've heard of the concept, right?”

Jeongguk's jaw immediately tightened in annoyance. “I just came from a place like that. They wanted to sell me to a vampire when I was older.” He negated to mention that they drank his blood even now, that he'd grown to hate the feeling of teeth sinking into his skin and vampires all alike, with their pride and greed and stupidity.

“Ah, he speaks,” Jaehyun said. “Well, they just kept you locked up, right? Didn't let you move a muscle?”

Jeongguk gritted his teeth, then nodded reluctantly. Jaehyun hummed, continuing, “These feeding places, they're gritty but not totally unethical. They'll pay you, and they'll keep you safe and well fed, clothed and give you a place to stay, all because you're an incubus. Comes with the title, consider it a privilege. Vampires love incubus blood, so they see it as an investment. They take a percentage of your future profits- you're both happy.”

The thought of giving his blood to anyone left him revolted. After all that happened, he wasn't sure he could allow it, not without a fight. But Jeongguk was also out of options. With no place to go, he surely wouldn't survive past the week. He'd either die famished or be killed by the hands of some other starlight on a power trip.

“What do you get out of this?” Jeongguk asked, dubious. It'd been lingering on his mind since he was stopped, especially considering a mammon wouldn't normally offer help without getting something to fulfill their greed in some way.

Jaehyun huffed in amusement. “Who says I get something out of it?”

“You're a mammon. A demon. We don't just do things because we feel like it- we have to do it to get something in return. Actually,” Jeongguk paused, inhaling sharply. “Everyone is like that. Not just born demons.” They're all so selfish. So greedy. Jeongguk would know it first hand, after all. They stole him from his mother just to use him for his blood. They saw him as a prize, something to be sold off for profit. And perhaps Jeongguk was no different, enlightened by anger, drifting about now like a criminal with no aim. He wanted freedom, so he killed to get it.

“Well, that's the way the world works, I guess. Can't live without feeding ourselves, right? It turns us into monsters, at times,” Jaehyun pondered. “Let's just say I get a small return for bringing you in. If you accept their offer, that is. They don't deal in petty promises- they'll give you a contract, discuss it with you. You're a kid, but I can tell you’re smart.”

It wasn't exactly that, Jeongguk thought. More like Jeongguk was always in tune with others intentions. When it came to Jaehyun, Jeongguk couldn't quite tell- his air felt so ambiguous, and he couldn't tell if he meant harm or not. Perhaps that meant he was neutral. He saw an opportunity, and he'd make an exchange.

Out of options, Jeongguk stared at Jaehyun and then to the sky, darkening as if on the cusp of a storm. It was death or this, wasn't it? Even if he hated it so deeply, even if a part of him was dying inside at the thought of it, he'd always survived, even when he didn't want to. If his mother’s life was cut short, would it not be the best that he live in the way she could not? He sighed, teeth rubbing against each other. There had never been many options for demons. At the very least, Jaehyun was like him. At least he could understand, to whatever small extent, how painful their existences were.

“Fine,” Jeongguk said, frustrating as it was. “Where is it?”

↞ ☆ ↠

“This'll be your room,” a young woman, Hyunghwa, said. She was the first person he met at the feeding bar, a slight and sharp looking woman with darkened crimson eyes and the sharpened teeth of the werewolves.

“I run the place,” she had introduced herself with zero emotion, not a trace of invitation in her expression or voice. “Consider me the person to come to when you have any problems.” Yet she didn't seem too inviting; Jeongguk had no plans of coming to her with any complaints.

He was in her care now. Trust no one in the reigning time of starlights, Jeongguk recalled hearing at some point or other in the news, and while he thought nothing of it at the time, he certainly held it close to him now after everything had changed. Even with Hyunghwa as his caretaker, he didn't smile at her or feign kindness, and neither did she mirror it back. Strictly business, he concluded.

She left him to his devices. With a sweeping glance around the room, Jeongguk established his surroundings: a single bed in the corner, a small wardrobe and rug. It was cold. A draft slithered under a slim crack of an open window, and he drifted towards it, shutting it with a resolute slam.

The past few winters, Jeongguk became accustomed to living in the cold; it was difficult, at first, to tolerate it, but he eventually grew numb to it in a way he would to most things. It was many years ago that he questioned why his mother never seemed to smile or even grimace, why her emotions were never displayed across that bland countenance. Suddenly, he understood. Skin flushed by winter and graced by the cold, even he couldn't be too grateful for the warmth of the room, a sheet to lie under, however thin it may be.

“It's not much, is it?”

Jeongguk turned slowly. A young girl, only slightly older than him, greeted him by the door. She seemed much friendlier than Hyunghwa, eyes bright and arms hidden shyly behind her back, as if attempting to appear non-confrontational. It was instant, however, that gleam of understanding; she must be a demon of some sort, and it didn't take long for Jeongguk to realize she must be an incubus if she worked at the feeding bar.

“It's fine,” Jeongguk stated.

The girl wandered in, fingers dusting over an empty drawer on her right. “My mother always said beggars can't be choosers.”

“I see,” Jeongguk exhaled, unbothered by the added presence but unsure of how to react. It'd been so long since someone last spoke to him without some kind of “but”, some preemptive strike against his consciousness as he was considered a thing of use rather than a person of companionship.

“You must be confused,” the voice came out as an amused little whittle, almost musical in its tone. Jeongguk’s gaze floated over to the now closed window, glanced out just to see the cold streets glittering with lonesomeness and frozen over dew. Then, back to the girl, whose eyes were locked outside as well. “I'm Yeeji. I'm the only other person who stays at the inn.”

“Inn?” Jeongguk found himself asking.

“Well, I call it an inn,” Yeeji laughed. “I've been here for almost ten years now. I've seen a lot of people come and go, so it's like an inn to me. Maybe downstairs is a feeding bar, but up here, I'm on vacation.” She walked past him, arm brushing up against his; he flinched at the warm breath of contact, but she didn't mind him, only pressed herself to the window with wide eyes.

There was some unpalatable bit of mystery in Yeeji’s eyes. Something Jeongguk couldn't quite understand, at least not anymore, and he found himself staring for some time as she idly glanced around at the few people straggling through the darkened streets. A dream was colorless to Jeongguk, no different than a nightmare, and he no longer dared to dream when the future was more a forceful act of persistence than one of glee and fulfilling wishes. But Yeeji called it an inn and said it was a vacation, and Jeongguk looked around his small room, stripped bare and lonely, and thought it looked something like a broken reality. Their reality.

“And you?”

Jeongguk righted himself, face confused.

“Your name,” Yeeji corrected. Her round eyes were oddly pure for a demon, friendly and forthcoming. Jeongguk thought it seemed quite dangerous to be like that, but he didn't say anything.

“Jeongguk,” he answered.

Yeeji hummed. Walked away from the window to stand by the door, but stopped at the last minute to lean forward in a rather open, inviting manner. “Your eyes are pretty. Why are they blue?”

A sharp inhale, and Jeongguk blinked his eyes to hopefully correct the mistake. “They change, sometimes.”

“Do you know why?”

Jeongguk considered whether or not to answer, but finding her energy rather innocent, he went along awkwardly. “Your favorite color. They, um. When I meet a new person and consider their desires, I can see them with these- I guess, splashes of color-”

“And mine are blue,” Yeeji gasped, excited.

“Yes,” Jeongguk murmured. “It's a color that pleases you, so my eyes reflect it.” The vampires thought it to be part of his charm. To anyone, his eyes could be beautiful, entrancing, not only because of his power but because of his body’s will to bend to others. Even his eyes could reflect what they wanted in the smallest of ways. Jeongguk was trying to control it, but at times like these, confused and out of depth, he easily lost sight of his own feet on the ground.

However, it was more important than ever to remain in control, as running for his life from those vampires meant he had to change his appearance to hide in the smallest of ways, as well. Controlling his eye color consistently, dyeing his hair a deep black. These things were unknown to Yeeji, and Jeongguk thought it best to keep it that way. The more people knew about something, the less safe a secret could become.

“Since you told me a truth,” Yeeji began, a soft grin on her face, “I'll tell you one of my own. You know of demon markings, don't you?” Jeongguk nodded. Of course he did, he had his own wings on his back, and the color of his eyes would be considered a marking just as well. While it was uncommon for a demon to have two markings, it wasn’t altogether impossible- or, well, Jeongguk had never met another demon with two, but he was a demon and therefore proof of it to himself.

Yeeji turned her arm until he could see her palm, the translucent veins at the thin of her wrist. There, at the center, was a strange marking- a deep black line curving into itself, the ends curling around each other as if in an embrace.

“That's mine. The marking of a wanderer.”

Jeongguk glanced at it once more before peering up at Yeeji, the older girl giggling softly under her breath before taking her arm away. A wanderer confined to an inn, Jeongguk couldn't help but think. Well, he supposed all demons were not meant to fulfill any other duty than the ones bestowed upon them, and a wanderer couldn't have the privilege of fulfilling a silly little interpretation of a mark.

“I think it means I'm destined to do something other than this. I'd like to wander elsewhere, someday. Wouldn't that be nice? To decide where to go, for once?” Her earnesty charmed Jeongguk, as cold as he was to the idea of knowing another person in any capacity. He nodded senselessly, watched her smile warmly at him before exiting the room, the slight thud of a door closing not far down leaving Jeongguk with the conclusion that she must have been next door.

To wander meant freedom, and to have freedom meant something larger than Jeongguk could even begin to comprehend. Part of him wanted to shake his head at Yeeji, at her foolish desire and the lack of reality it held, but Jeongguk was not unkind even if pragmatic, not so cruel as to ruin another's dream just because he felt as if his own were crushed so, so long ago.

He closed the door to his room, unfeeling to the cold. A long winter awaited ahead, and he was still alive, whether it was a gift or not.

↞ ☆ ↠

7 years ago; 13 years old

Adjusting to life at the feeding “inn” was difficult for Jeongguk, only because he was not used to having so much freedom. As he was not old enough to be a feeder just yet, he had so much free time, and he wasn't quite sure what to do with it. He found old books to read tucked in corners and often stared out the window most days, watching the streets sprawl with people at night and thin at daylight, all the vampires going back to their homes. Hyunghwa fed him, made sure he was living appropriately, but otherwise didn't look in his direction.

With so much free time, Jeongguk became very aware of his own thoughts. When the vampires of that clan, Zera’s clan, took him away from his mother and locked him away for later use, Jeongguk didn't allow himself to think. He shut down for years, moving on autopilot for grief; he believed his mind did it for himself, as he couldn't quite bear the sorrow of that loneliness if he'd fully allowed himself to think about it every day. And now, he has the freedom and time to think, and it scares him.

To ponder has never felt so terrifying.

It didn't click that he could leave any time he wanted until he'd been at the inn for nearly a year. He always stayed inside, only ever going to the perimeter of the inn; even when he was young, his mother had such a tight hold on him that he never went very far. Now, he could go anywhere he wanted, and he chose to stay inside. It was scary, he thought. Scary to venture out with no idea what the outside world was really like. The only time he truly explored was when he made his way into the city, and since then, he's stayed firmly planted within his room.

He's walking out for a bit of fresh air one lonely morning when he caught sight of Yeeji. Their paths crossed often, but aside from a few cordial conversations with Jeongguk offering more silence than substance, nothing had become of Jeongguk’s connection to the older incubus. She was admittedly friendly, maybe too much so, and seemed overly optimistic for Jeongguk's pessimistic tastes. She often listened to the radio early in the morning- Jeongguk could hear the crackling of its static and the dull noise of voices and music through the wall- sometimes Jeongguk would catch her walking back and forth through the corridor while flipping through a book as well, which Jeongguk thought to be incredibly strange.

She was excitable, enigmatic, a bit eccentric and terribly stir-crazy. Jeongguk realized this all through his observations, and learned about himself as well; he must be nothing like this girl. To show so much about oneself through actions alone and play funny little expressions across a face like a film. Jeongguk was intrigued but not quite curious or envious of her upbeat attitude.

There she was in front of him, walking down the path of the entrance with that same book as always. She’d look down at it, look up and make sure the path was clear, then look down again and begin walking. Several steps, a quick turn and repeat.

Jeongguk, despite his apprehensive nature, couldn't help himself. “What are you doing?”

Yeeji stumbled and regained her footing with a shocked little gasp. “Oh, I didn't think anyone would be out so early.”

“I wanted fresh air,” Jeongguk explained, uneasy.

“Oh, I'm not judging you,” Yeeji was quick to explain. “I was just surprised to see you out at all. Hyunghwa called you a recluse, you know.”

Jeongguk ignored that. “But what are you doing?”

She took a quick glance down at her open book, shutting it with a snap. “Oh, this? I read and walk. I don't like sitting in one place for a very long time, so I thought I could kill two birds with one stone. It also helps me be less clumsy, I think. I have to really focus on how I’m moving, but I try to do it when no one's around because I know it looks a bit strange-”

“I see,” Jeongguk interrupted. “Don't let me stop you, I was just curious.”

With a huff, Yeeji tilted her head and brought the book down to her side. “You’re very serious for such a young kid.”

“You don't look much older than me,” Jeongguk mumbled, frowning. Indeed, Yeeji couldn't be much older than him at all, even if she was taller and had a somewhat mature looking set of eyes.

“I'm eighteen,” she said. “Now it's only fair you tell me your age. See, these exchanges are fair, aren't they.” Her voice was awfully pragmatic despite the situation being rather silly or innocuous, which Jeongguk found somehow comforting, easing his nerves.

“I'm thirteen.”

“You really are a baby,” she exclaimed, eyebrows raising. “See, you're way too serious about everything.”

“You're not serious enough,” Jeongguk murmured.

“No,” she said with a head shake. “It's best to remain positive in times like these. Mom always said that the key to survival was seeing things like the glass is half full. It makes every bad situation much better, that way.”

“Bad things are just bad. There's no need to see them any other way.” He didn't mean to be cutting or demeaning, but he felt it was the truth. With a shrug, he began walking past her, eyeing the sun on the horizon as the minutes passed dawn. There was a bit of a chill in the air, and despite the bright sun coloring the sky orange and pink, clouds began to merge over them and paint it gray.

He heard Yeeji hum behind him. “That's what I used to think. It's easy to feel that way when you're alone.”

Jeongguk didn't consider much about whether she was right or wrong or whether he was too pessimistic about the world. These things weren't important, he convinced himself. But for a moment he allowed himself to ponder it, about the strength it would take to remain positive in a situation like theirs, and determined that maybe, just maybe, he was weaker for seeing the world in black and whites.

“But,” Yeeji began, beckoning Jeongguk to turn back to her at the tone of her voice, “you don't have to be alone while you're here. We’re both demons. I can protect you, if you ever need it.”

“I don't need to be protected,” Jeongguk was quick to say. The last time someone tried to protect him…

He swallowed. “I don't need to be. It's better I fight my battles alone.”

Yeeji shrugged. “We all need help sometimes.”

Jeongguk stayed silent, watching her walk around him and out towards the street, a place Jeongguk never dared to go. She seemed free, even if she was confined. A butterfly within a glass, clinking against the barriers, but somehow, flying away unscathed. Jeongguk found himself wishing he could be that way, but it vanished in a second. There was no use thinking of such stupid things.

“I'm just going for a walk,” Yeeji explained, pulling him from his thoughts. “You're welcome to come along, if you'd like.” Her expression was all too knowing as she smiled at him, as if daring him to leave the safety of the spot he'd created for himself, his little broken nest of tiny branches and tattered safety. Part of him was terrified to leave even a step outside of the barriers he'd created. Perhaps he'd be found again, taken, or maybe he wouldn't be able to protect himself, even if he swore to Yeeji he could.

Then again, he thought- what else could he lose by leaving? Himself? Jeongguk couldn't help but think he'd lost himself so long ago, it no longer really mattered.

He stared out at the street, at Yeeji, and she stared back for a few seconds before beginning to walk away.

The decision was made at the last second. Jeongguk walked forward quickly, stopping in his tracks like a fearful cat when Yeeji paused to look back at him. She seemed to notice his anxiety, only glancing at him with big eyes before turning back and continuing her walk, allowing the distance between them.

They'd only made it so far before Jeongguk felt a cool drop of water hit his nose. He stared up at the sky and lifted his upturned palms as it began to rain, allowing it to coat his skin; it looked strange from down below, watching the rain fall towards him in angles and drip against the ground below his feet.

What did you do to make the angels cry this time?

“It's raining,” Yeeji said, calling his attention back down to earth. He looked to see her also staring up in awe, as if she'd never experienced it before in her life. “Maybe there’ll be a rainbow afterwards. We should try to find it.”

Jeongguk only looked at her, watched as she stared upwards and smiled against the falling rain. She may not have been looking, but Jeongguk nodded anyway, thinking it may not be so bad to look for a rainbow for once.

↞ ☆ ↠

6 years ago; 14 years old

“Are you daft?”

Jeongguk hissed as he was thrown back by the vampire, landing harshly on his bottom. Looking up left him dizzy; he could feel the sharp sting on his cheek from where he'd been hit, but the fury boiling within him was prioritized by his weak mind. It was his first customer he'd ever properly taken after years of staying at the inn, years of training seem to trickle weakly through his fingers as he gazed up, vision hazy, at the angry vampire before him.

“I don't come here and pay to have demons like you telling me what I can and cannot do,” the vampire went on, voice full of arrogance. Jeongguk stood from where he'd been pushed. Hyunghwa, his boss, had taught him to remain docile. When dealing with an angry vampire, he was taught that the best solution was to take any beating with a head held down.

Yet no training could prepare him for the way his vision went blurry when the vampire tried to take more blood from him than healthy, when Jeongguk struggled to get away and was held between strong arms. Jeongguk couldn't help it. He broke free from the grip, landing a few faint punches on the vampire before he was violently hit himself, thrown to the ground in anger.

“You could kill me,” Jeongguk bit. Fingers held to the point where he'd been bitten, he felt at the wet of a bloody neck and tried to stand straight despite the way he felt light-headed. “All the money in the world could not buy my submission to you while I'm dying, you blood-sucking monster.”

“You're lucky you're here,” the vampire seethed, grabbing his coat with resolute fingers. “Most demons like you have learned their place and don't complain, much less fight back. If you don't learn to kneel without a fight, you might end up dead.”

The words unwittingly struck something within him. Some lost memory buried for his own health, something he'd tucked under miles of anger and melancholy, as he could no longer stand his vision remaining red or tears brimming his eyes. He hated the weakness of it. Of dampness cloaking his cheeks and the biting quality of it, of trying to hold back only to choke and feel tears well nonetheless.

His mother, taking her last breath as her knees hit the ground. His own knees hitting the ground so many times after those vampires had taken him even after his mother attempted to protect him and died trying. So many times they'd attempted to break him in the exact way that vampire alluded to, struck him violently until he bled and expected him, at some point, to look up with a mind finally subdued.

His vision went red for the first time in years.

He heard the screams before he properly understood what was happening, coming to in a daze. His arms were being held behind him, the vampire from before lying on the ground with wide, fearful eyes. Blood was flowing from his nose, a split lip marring the center of his face, and Jeongguk, when he looked down, saw his balled fist reddened with swipes of blood and felt himself struggling against the hold behind him, arms looped through his elbows. He went still in all of a moment at the realization, swallowing around his harsh intakes of air.

“Jeongguk,” he heard. It was Yeeji, her voice as soft as always but now stricken with anxiety. At him going slack, she sighed in relief, but the vampire in front of them left them both to stay silent, unaware of what would happen.

“You truly are a demon,” the vampire breathlessly raged. Jeongguk only looked up at him from the floor as he stood and nearly ran out of the room, leaning back against Yeeji as she was still holding his arms.

“You would've killed him.”

Jeongguk wrenched his arms from Yeeji’s loosened grasp, coughing as he leaned forward and crawled away just to roll over and fall to the ground. “Hyunghwa will have me killed.”

“She wouldn't. You’re too profitable, you know how they think,” Yeeji sighed, but her face held a small pinch of amusement. They'd seen to much; even watching Jeongguk pummel a vampire bloody and broken to the ground didn't seem to phase her, even if they were both still breathless from the physical exertion. “What's one lost customer when thousands and thousands of dollars are on the line?”

“Right,” Jeongguk breathed, sitting up.

He sat there in silence for a moment, staring at the ground with his arms wrapped around his knees. It'd been a long time, but he suddenly felt his heart squeeze in his chest; was he feeling it again? That same heartbreak?

“You're crying,” Yeeji stated, shocked, and Jeongguk was equally confused, reaching a hand up to graze fingers across his cheeks. As she said, he pulled his hands back to see his fingertips wet with tears and dried stains of blood; he felt mortified. He hadn't cried in years. Staring, perplexed, at his fingers, he didn't notice Yeeji moving closer to him until arms wrapped tight around him. He immediately flinched and stiffened with the older girl’s arms around him, his nose pressed to her shoulder as he exhaled shakily.

“My mother used to sing me a song when I cried,” Yeeji continued before Jeongguk could even think to struggle out of her grip. It wasn't that he hated it, nothing of the sort- in fact, he felt a bit warmed by it, but after so long without a gentle hand near him, he had no idea how to react, was scared to be touched so kindly. It couldn't be possible that she was offering him softness. There had to be something to give, something she needed from him, some way for him to be used. “Something so ridiculous, too.”

Where was her mother now? Jeongguk wanted to ask, but he didn't. He knew some things were better left unsaid.

Yeeji began mumbling, her voice stable yet hushed as she broke into the lullaby. She didn't even seem to be singing, just speaking in a melodic lull, but Jeongguk found his eyes closing against her tight embrace. For once, he was not alone, and even if he did not know Yeeji well, part of him found an appreciation for the comfort he didn't think he could have anymore.

We walk through the meadow
No fence or wall in sight
I collect a flower
And hope we’ll see the daylight

It's green and hard to frown
With your warm hand in mine
I can’t feel so lonely
As we’re lost in the sunshine

I worry for the nights
You’re gone from beside me
But for now we’re here
And we’re under the big tree

We walk through the meadow
No barriers I can see
I hold your hand in mine
Free to wander and be

↞ ☆ ↠

now; 20 years old

He hasn’t felt so full in years.

It wasn’t on account of the client that just left, leaving Jeongguk wipe hastily at his neck where the bite marks quickly healed themselves over. Jeongguk knew it wasn’t. The woman that came to greet him only thirty minutes ago had desire that tasted palpable, sure, but nearly tasteless, like water. And perhaps most blood had come to taste that way or even foul since the day he met him.

The rough threads of a small damp towel drag across his neck where the bite marks once were. It’s mindless, the way he swipes back and forth just to clean the feeling of lips against his skin, and before he knows it, he’s rubbed the skin pink and sensitive from his incessant cleaning. He stops, throws the towel onto a nearby drawer.

He always feels disgusted after meeting with a client. Finds himself rubbing at his skin too harshly or staring at himself in the mirror until his vision goes a hazy red with anger. It takes a while for that emotion to settle, and only then can he release a tense sigh.

Legend has it that a demon is incapable of love. It's something he always considered when given into great situations that impacted his life, from the moment he was able to remember being alive, to the moment he was taken from his mother. He remembers the day he took on the name Seraph, as Yeeji earnestly advised him it'd be best to not use his real name- customers could be strange at times, could use the information to their advantage.

He then recalled a time that his mother traced the once small wings on his back, her touch a gentle feather to the harsh world. Perhaps she was not the outwardly kindest, but she was always soft towards him; even more, Jeongguk became aware that his mother was hardened more so by life than an intrinsic desire to be cold.

She traced them mindlessly before helping him put on a shirt, and her hands were soft without the barrier of gloves.

”Jeongguk, your markings are that of an angel,” she said, voice calm. “A seraph.”

At the time, Jeongguk had no idea what his mother was speaking of. It was only much later that he recalled the, at the time, passive comment, and he took on the nickname with what felt like a heavy heart but what he convinced himself was only a moment of uncertainty.

Demons are, as it's told, incapable of love due to a desire for more. Constantly wanting and wanting, their lives depending on it, and in the case of an incubus, being taken advantage of by those who want someone who will fulfill everything they wish, uncaring of the fact that the demon would feed at all. Jeongguk has always considered it something of a half truth. He knows he loved his mother, but since then, he's unaware if he's felt the feeling since. It's never bothered him much; always alone, it was never a question of ability, as he had bigger things to focus on.

But Jeongguk found himself wondering for many years the same startling question- what was worse? The times he had grieved ardently for the one person he ever truly loved, his mother, or the times in which he came to the thunderous realization that he no longer knew anyone closely enough to feel that same grief again? As it is, loss cannot be felt when one does not keep those around them close enough to feel it in the first place.

“Jeongguk.”

It’s Hyunghwa’s voice that rings out into the darkened room. Jeongguk tries not to huff and grit his teeth as he turns in his seat, meeting her sharp gaze from the opened door. His boss, a werewolf with sharpened fangs and an even sharper tongue, has never been the kindest of women. Jeongguk has always seen her as a dictator. Abrasive like sandpaper and long nails always seeming to be counting at a wad of bills, and if not that, tapping impatiently at the nearest hard surface, simply waiting.

“The last few customers have complained that your blood is still a bit sour. Better, but sour. Are you taking care of the issue or will you be looking for a new place to stay,” Hyunghwa begins, “on the streets?”

“Taking care of it,” Jeongguk answers, carefully monotone. Frustration slithers across his skin as if being coiled by snakes, and Jeongguk wants to show it sometimes. Wishes there was a way for him to yell or even snap at Hyunghwa, but she has power over him. When he was younger, she was just as cold. Perhaps a bit more accommodating as she had no choice but to be at least civil- if she were too mean, Jeongguk could leave, after all. And with an incubus being a pricey rarity, the last thing a feeding innkeeper would do in her case is turn him away or leave him to desert. But now, she’s simply another reason to leave the bar behind.

Anger, he thinks, is an emotion even he cannot comprehend within himself. Sometimes, he feels like he barely knows himself, and even more so when he feels bloodlust born from fury.

“Good.” For a moment, it seems Hyunghwa will leave him to his devices, but she pauses at the last moment. “You’re our last incubus, so it’s important this works out. Hasn’t been long since Yeeji left, has it?”

Left, Jeongguk repeats back to himself, wanting to laugh as Hyunghwa gives him a cynical expression, something edging on a bitter smile. She walks away, leaving the door to close behind her.

↞ ☆ ↠

5 years ago; 15 years old

Yeeji was far from a mother figure- too young to be one, really. Yet Jeongguk sat in the dark red chair fixed by her vanity table, watched as she powdered her nose and fixed her hair with rapt attention. She'd never minded, not even when he'd tuck his chin against his folded arms and nearly fall asleep, and it'd been years like this, tucked under her wing at the feeding house. She was an incubus, just like him. The only other one at the house, and it soothed Jeongguk to know her, to know somebody knew him in whatever fragile way.

As Jeongguk knew, he was the only one who knew himself. He always followed his mother's request from all those years ago. To not be himself, to not allow vulnerability; it was a thing that got you killed in their world, so he pretended to be cold and nonchalant. He believed he was incapable of love, as it was better that way- loss came hand in hand with caring for other people. To care too much was a contract he could not sign without a heavy heart.

“You'll be old enough soon,” Yeeji started, breaking him from his thoughts. “Soon enough, you'll be on your own. Won't be able to play around and watch me do my make-up anymore.”

Jeongguk only hummed, looked away. Leaning back in the plush chair, he eyed their dark surroundings and the thin lighting of a wavering candle. “I'll be fine.”

He could feel eyes on him. “Will you?”

“Of course. I'm no stranger to being alone.”

“Neither am I. No demon is unused to being alone. But our comfort with it is more of a requirement to survive, isn't it.”

She said it so lackadaisically, but Jeongguk knew the words could burn. As it was, Jeongguk was at some point not alone in this world, but it always seemed to end up this way, a bit barren and cold with no one to lean on. It was a thing he learned to live with, as painful as it might be, and Jeongguk gave up on a childish dream of seeing his mother, even unsmiling, once more.

“I will always be fine. It's not a matter of what I want; living by requirement is something most of us do.”

“Want, want,” Yeeji murmured.

“Yes, want.”

“But is it wrong to want to be free? There is more to life than living by requirement.”

“It's a privilege to live otherwise,” Jeongguk sighed. “You can't seriously expect freedom.”

For a moment, all was silent. Yeeji continued to apply her make-up in the mirror, and Jeongguk folded his arms against his chest, the slightest bit insolent at the way the conversation reminded him of dreary times.

“It's not impossible,” Yeeji eventually whispered.

“An incubus in a vampire’s world is a commodity.” Jeongguk's voice was sharp, begging for Yeeji to argue. Despite the difference in their age, a broad five years, Jeongguk was always too snippy with her, a bit commanding in his presence as it felt odd to be any other way. When he trained with customers, he had to learn to be laid back. Charismatic. Flutter his lashes and raise his eyebrows, tilt his chin up and pull the edges of his lips into a smile. But as soon as the curtains were drawn and Jeongguk stepped away from the spotlight, his eyebrows drew together in frustration. The smile disappeared. His voice was cutting, and any affection was a mere act.

“Jeongguk, did you know that a vampire can turn an incubus if they drink from them long enough?”

Jeongguk frowned. “Well, a vampire can turn anyone so long as they take enough blood over a long enough period of time.”

“Exactly, but,” Yeeji began, then paused, glancing at the closed door and lowering her voice. “Do you know what happens to an incubus that gets half-turned? Their blood sours. They can't be fed off of anymore, and they become useless to vampires. But the feeding places, they know this, so they limit us to a certain amount of customers. But I…”

“But you what?” Jeongguk asked, startled by what Yeeji was saying. He'd never heard anything of the sort before, and the sparkle in Yeeji’s eyes as she glanced at him left him breathless.

“I have been bribing the schedule girls, asking them to send in customers without registering it on the tablets. I fill up my time without the boss knowing. I think in time, my blood will sour.”

Jeongguk’s reeling thoughts paused if only for a moment. “And you'll leave?”

Yeeji looked at him, and Jeongguk hated the pity that colored her gaze. Jeongguk would be fine on his own. She was a mentor of sorts, someone he learned to lean on and talk to regarding his place at the feeding bar, but he could always make it on his own. He'd been through much worse before than a friend leaving his side. “Yes, to Liera. It's a place people go to get lost, have you heard of it?”

“Yes,” Jeongguk murmured.

“There are many people like us there. People who just want to stay away from the corruption of the big cities. And Jeongguk, the reason I tell you this is not to warn you of me leaving. It's to tell you- there are options. Perhaps we have to become useless in the only way we've learned to profit ourselves, but there will be a day that you can't be used anymore, so long as you turn.”

“But if you turn, you live so much longer.” Vampires didn't live forever, but they lived long, arduous lives. They could live hundreds of years before their light burned out. To Jeongguk, it felt like an exchange he didn't want to make.

“But I will live at peace and for myself,” Yeeji explained, turning back to the mirror and eyeing her own determined expression. “I can make up for the time I’ve lost serving others. I will finally know a life where I seek out my own desires rather than fulfilling others’. Haven't you ever wondered? What it'd be like to do what you want?”

No, Jeongguk thought. But there was no denying the picture Yeeji painted was an enticing one. After all, perhaps he did not want to live a few hundred more years, but would a longer life doing what he wanted be better than a shorter one tainted by anger? Jeongguk did not know at the time, but he nodded nonetheless. As she continued to do her make-up, flicking mascara through her long lashes and patting red lipstick across her mouth, Jeongguk struggled to understand an entirely new perspective.

What do I want?

He'd spent so long asking others of their own desires, he'd forgotten what it meant to look for desire in himself.

↞ ☆ ↠

3 years ago; 17 years old

“What is it like, feeling yourself turn?”

Jeongguk whispered it under the breathless hum of some far off trees, a single candle lit between him and Yeeji’s face. She looked strange that way, although Jeongguk had seen her so many times alight by candle and not much else, as the feeding bar wasn’t incredibly bright considering the amount of vampires filtering throughout the corridors. Darkness trailed down the hallows of her cheeks, her eyes seeming ringed with shadows as she glanced up at him, a bit furtive and nearly shy.

They were huddled across from each other under blankets, shielded from the cold of the dark night, one of Yeeji’s few free days off ending in a relatively filling dinner and a shameful looking pillow fort in Jeongguk’s living quarters born from boredom.

“We’re not humans, so it’s not instantaneous. It takes so much longer to kill a demon.” Jeongguk knew as much, considering how powerful demons were. “It’s so slow, you nearly lose sight of it. The same way I watched you grow up,” she said, only to pause and look up at him, smiling softly. “One moment you were a child, and the next you were big. Taller than me. I wonder if that’s an instinct within all living things, do you think?”

“What?”

“I’m not sure,” Yeeji mumbled. “When we see something young, something vulnerable, do we all wish to take care of it?”

“I don’t think everyone’s like that,” Jeongguk huffed, pragmatic. “Have you seen the people we live around? The kind of leaders we live under? They know violence before they know nurturing. So it must be something special then, to want to care for someone.”

“We meet special people?” Yeeji asked. “Or we are special ourselves, to feel that?”

“Maybe both. Who knows.” Jeongguk no longer wanted to talk about it. Things like love- Yeeji always had these thoughts about them, and when Jeongguk asked what she’d do when she left to Liera, she always speculated about family and finding people to make home with and a thousand other things Jeongguk couldn’t quite empathize with. He suspected at some point he might’ve nodded along, bit his eager teeth into his own bottom lip and grinned with excitement, thinking of his own future. But that was such a long, long time ago, and then the thought of such things came to burn him rather than soothe.

“Well, Jeongguk,” Yeeji murmured, leaning forward to gather his cold hands in hers. “You’re special to me. No matter what you may think.”

Jeongguk didn’t know what to say. He swallowed, shivered, but no words came to mind. It was only fear that coursed through him at the words- fear for what, even he did not know. Blinking harshly at her, Jeongguk balled his hands within her fists and tried not to pull back, even if the feeling of her bare palms against his reminded him all too much of some broken puzzle of a memory.

When her hands left his, he felt cold. He didn’t complain.

“I only have a few weeks before I can leave this place. Before the process is over,” she sighed. “It feels like it’ll be years.” She yawned into her fist, catching his eyes at the last second. “You’ll be fine like you promised?”

“Of course,” Jeongguk responded on instinct.

Her eyes were so unsure, yet she didn’t say a word. Jeongguk, in some ways, felt envy at that moment. Not only for her chance to be free, even if in some ways, he felt joy for her. He also felt envy for that sparkle in her eye, the way hope remained unrelinquished in her small palms. He knew, was self aware enough to see that he’d grown bitter, cynical with age. That his smile, at some point, had dampened, and somewhere far along, he learned to act better than be himself. Perhaps it was born from his mother’s wish, but he couldn’t help but envy for whatever that was, that charm about Yeeji that left her wishing for more than this life had given them.

Because God, Jeongguk could not have been angrier. At the world, at how he’d been born. The thing he was and the fate it brought him. It seemed all he’d done was lost and lost, and Jeongguk no longer knew who to blame. Surely, he’d done something along the way to deserve this. Surely, it was not just the world laughing at him. Jeongguk was angry. Jeongguk was helplessly angry, and he saw Yeeji smile and didn’t know whether to be glad for her or beg her to take him with her, to show him how to smile that same way again.

↞ ☆ ↠

It was only a few weeks later that Yeeji told him she’d not turned fully, but was close enough that she could leave the inn in a matter of days.

“Will you miss me?” she asked.

Jeongguk didn’t answer, arms folded over each other at the door where he watched her pack. A lone envelope sat at her bedside table, untouched, and she picked it up to shove it in the back of the drawer. “When are you leaving?”

“I’m not sure.” With a sigh, she sat on her messy bed, blowing air up towards her frazzled hair. “I feel like you don’t want me to leave all that soon.”

Her knowing gaze left Jeongguk startled, as she rarely ever made note of his own wants. While it was harder for an incubus to sense the desire of a fellow demon, it was not impossible, but perhaps Yeeji was making a mere assumption. After all, Jeongguk had become just like his mother with time. Stern, face pallid, and only rarely did he let emotion slip into his voice. So long ago, he couldn’t comprehend why she was the way she was. But so much had happened since, and Jeongguk came to understand her in a way he never thought he’d be able to.

If an incubus was to succeed in becoming free, they had to become someone else. Whether that was turning like Yeeji or completely losing themselves like Jeongguk and his mother, it depended on the spines of whatever poisonous transgressions they met along the way.

“You called it an inn, didn’t you?” Jeongguk asked rather than directly answering. “People were bound to come and go.”

At first, Yeeji looked a bit hurt. But the look quickly vanished under an exasperated smile and exhale, her nervous fingers playing at each other as her gaze drifted to the window. Jeongguk walked up to it the same way she did to his on the first day they met, pressing his fingers to the murky glass. Yeeji’s window, however, was cracked, and Jeongguk could feel a small breeze as he looked down at the streets.

“Perhaps people were meant to come and go,” Yeeji murmured. “But you will always be like a brother to me.”

Jeongguk meant to ask her more, to not let her hushed words in her living quarters be the last they spoke of it, but that night, she disappeared.

It wasn’t something he noticed immediately. He went about his work, thinking Yeeji was simply busy fulfilling the last of her tasks before she could properly make a run for it. After days without sight of her, he grew strangely worried. She wouldn’t leave without a goodbye, would she? Or perhaps those years of friendship didn’t mean as much as she claimed they did? Jeongguk could only grit his teeth against those thoughts.

What does it matter? He found himself asking the question too many times. It was always bound to end this way, with Jeongguk alone once more, left to fend for himself.

A week after she vanished, Jeongguk stepped into a back room for a break. Breathing slowly, he found himself listlessly walking towards a seat, only to pause as he heard hushed voices. Hyunghwa’s and a few other manager’s offices sat at the back of the large break room, mostly filled with clothes and chairs and mirrored vanities strewn about for the humans to prepare before heading to the feeding floor.

Hyunghwa’s door was cracked. Even from a distance, Jeongguk could smell the bitterness of a lit cigarette. “With Yeeji gone, we’ll need to keep our eyes out for a new incubus. Maybe a fairy, even. Not as great as a demon, but the vampires will still pay more.”

It wasn’t a surprise to Jeongguk that they knew she was gone, but to hear them talk about it and confirm his suspicions sent his heart falling once more. He thought he had gotten over it, but he couldn’t help it; aside from his mother, Yeeji was the only other one that ever seemed to care. A second voice joined Hyunghwa’s, unfamiliar to Jeongguk. “I doubt you’ll be able to find another incubus. You found that Jeongguk kid, what? Nearly a decade ago?”

Hyunghwa hummed.

“Consider this a loss, Hwa. There’s not much to do about this one,” the man’s voice continued. “And it’s hard to find a loyal one, isn’t it? Too many incubi look for places like this just to find a way to turn. Playing the system and abusing your trust. You should pray your other incubus doesn’t go down the same road.”

“Jeongguk? He’s a kid. I doubt it,” Hyunghwa laughed. “He knew Yeeji, but it won’t be hard to do a few things that’ll open up his eyes to exactly why he should stay loyal to us.” She sounded so oddly amused, Jeongguk began to grow confused.

“Well, keep your eyes peeled. I can’t keep doing favors like this.”

Hyunghwa chuckled, voice uncaring as she continued, “It’s difficult to kill a demon, isn’t it? Especially one half turned.”

Jeongguk felt his stomach drop.

Breath catching, he stumbled out of the break room as quickly as he could, trying not to make too much noise. But the thudding of his heart seemed immeasurably loud, beating in his ears as his palms broke out in a cold sweat. His vision was hazy, clouding over with darkness, the room seeming to spin as he leaned against a wall in the dark hallway and slid to the ground. Just down the corridor, he could hear the bustle of the feeding floor, and if he waited long enough, he had no doubt a vampire and some dazed feeder would come stumbling back looking for a private room. But he stayed there nonetheless, unsure how to regain his bearings. For so long, he’d shut himself off to the pain of losing another; he convinced himself that he healed from that night so long ago, and even more than that, he convinced himself that he was not bothered by Yeeji leaving. He imagined her among the trees and flowers, finally happy even if it meant she was now partially something she hated.

To know that she must be cold, dead, underground. He resisted the urge to empty his stomach, suddenly nauseous and unsteady.

He dragged himself to his feet, found his way into the back corridor and up the stairs to Yeeji’s living quarters. Wandering in, he tried to stop himself from falling to his knees as he scanned the things around him, her small amount of personal belongings left untouched. Her clothes still sat within the confines of her drawers, the small bag she’d been packing was covered with a thin layer of dust, and her sheets were still messy from the last time she must’ve stood from her bed, thinking of the freedom that lay ahead.

Turning, Yeeji said, was something one couldn’t really notice. Like having a child or owning a pet, watching it grow by the day until it blooms into an adult; it’s something one doesn’t really see until it’s already happening, until tiny, chubby hands have grown into strong palms, until skin has grown rough with use. And perhaps, Jeongguk thought for only a moment, love was one of those things a person could not notice until it was there. Because although Yeeji had joked countless times about being his older sister, Jeongguk had always brushed her off. The moment he met her, he couldn’t help but be reclusive and scared, but somehow, sometime, he relaxed and grew close to her.

Could a love be small, non-existent, and become big? Could it grow like a coddled child and embrace a person at the last minute, squeezing them breathless and suddenly aware? Did Jeongguk not notice that he still cared, that his inability to smile did not mean he had an inability to love- did Jeongguk really not notice that Yeeji was gone forever, was there not something he could have done, if he’d listened harder could he have changed the outcome, if he begged her that once to take him along would he be able to fight alongside her-

Jeongguk stared at her bedside drawer, noticing an envelope flipped on its back. When he carefully toyed at the edge and flipped it, his name was revealed in scrawling letters, quick and messy as Yeeji always wrote. Jeongguk felt his lungs grow tight in his chest. A moment of pondering left him to pick the paper up between his shaking fingertips, touch at the flap of the opening and bring forth whatever letter may lie in its confines.

At the last minute, he closed it. Shoved it in his pocket, eyes hardened, and forced his breathing to slow and steady. He didn’t read it. He never did.

It’s important we keep the things most precious to us safest.

Jeongguk wanted so badly to cry, but he didn’t. He only knew that he suddenly felt colder, colder than ever, and if he had a heart, it was no longer possible to feel with it. After all, there had always been a legend that demons were incapable of love.

If Jeongguk could convince himself the legend was true, perhaps the sorrow of loss would be but a figment of his imagination as well.

↞ ☆ ↠

now; 20 years old

The wind whistles through the trees. Jeongguk can hear his shoes skip lightly against the ground as he walks down the darkened streets of Asora. When he first moved from the inn into his own apartment not far from it, Hyunghwa told him the story of a fairy who lived alone and was attacked by a pack of werewolves, never to be seen again. At the time, Jeongguk was young and the slightest bit paranoid, but it didn’t keep him from finding a place of his own. It had been many years since he felt even remotely safe. Another test was nothing to Jeongguk.

He hasn’t heard from Taehyung in a few days, but he didn’t find himself all too bothered by the fact. The vampire was something strange to him- while he was always aware of the intentions of those around him, his perception honed, Taehyung often left him out of depth. He has a soft soul, but it’s tarnished by a strange edge. Jeongguk can’t truly comprehend it. There’s something he doesn’t know about Taehyung; perhaps a history that would explain it all away, but Jeongguk doesn’t dig beneath the surface.

He never does.

Desire, he learned some time ago, is a finicky, ever-changing thing. It can be thick and textured, colored by mischief, coated with anger. Taehyung’s desire tastes too sweet yet undefined. He can tell Taehyung is searching for things like love, care- things most people don’t worry to desire anymore. And Taehyung desires to please, to make others happy. Taehyung is a strange one, surely. Selfless and touchy yet reluctant.

But Jeongguk feels something else there, too. Something hardened and dark red, fueled by anger and confusion. Sometimes, he wants to ask what made him that way. Sometimes.

He shakes his head, carefully levelling his expression as he reaches the feeding bar. He pulls on the handle walking up to the bar to nod to the bartender on his way to his own back room.

“Seraph,” he hears. Turning, he greets the bartender with curious eyes. “There was someone here for you, earlier.”

Jeongguk inhales sharply, imagining Taehyung’s wide eyes, his strange push and pull of defiance and obedience. A bizarre feeling tugs at him, an apprehension that leaves him perturbed due to its unfamiliarity. Hands dig into his pockets with force, a forced whittle of ignorance being stabbed into his heart as he feigns complete disinterest. “Who?”

“Some girl,” the bartender shrugs. “Made an appointment, though. Thought she might be special since she seemed so excited.”

The excitement dulls in his chest.

Jeongguk feels his eyebrows pinch slightly in a frown. Excitement?

“Thank you,” he mumbles, shaking his head and walking towards the back room. Yet part of him still questions where Taehyung disappeared off to, as he had somehow, somehow became a part of Jeongguk’s once mindless routine.

But he is not sad, not disappointed. If Taehyung never appeared again, he would learn to live somehow, even if his body seemed to rely on Taehyung’s desire like an addiction. Loss is nothing to him, much less one from someone he’d known for such an insignificant amount of time, and as he’d once learned, people are always bound to come and go.

↞ ☆ ↠

10 years ago; 10 years old

Jeongguk woke from the nightmare with a gasp. He was safe in the confines of his plush sheets, and the moon shone through his sheer curtains onto him like a hug; at the pinch of reality, the soaring wind outside and the soft pillow beneath his head, Jeongguk could retain a sense of peace even as the memory of what woke him stayed freely in his mind.

In the nightmare, he was being chased by a giant monster with no face. He screamed helplessly, fell and got up so many times, but no one ever came. At the last moment, the monster came near enough to grab him- instead of being taken, he heard his mother’s voice, and the dream dissipated to reveal the safety of his bedroom.

With a halted breath, Jeongguk swung his feet over the side of the bed, heart beating up a frenzy in his chest. At times like these, darkness seemed scarier than ever; Jeongguk wished sunlight would never leave them even if the moon was something beautiful, but his mother always told him that the world desired a balance. For all good there must be bad, even if from the news, Jeongguk was convinced he lived in a world where “bad” was the instinct.

Opening the door, he dragged his sleepy feet up the hallway and down the stairs, heading for the master bedroom where his mother would lie quietly asleep. It was rare he had a nightmare, but she would always hum and coddle him close until the fear dissipated, until his hands stopped shaking and the darkness no longer felt like an enemy. She was his sunshine, even with all her darkness, and Jeongguk often thought that she may be the balance she always talked about. When he told her as much, she’d laughed for the first time in what seemed like years.

"Oh, my silly, silly boy,” she had said, shaking her head and ruffling his hair with her soft hand. “Your mind is something to behold.”

He was about to turn into the arch of the common room when he stopped in his tracks. There, at the end of the main hall, the large front doors stood open wide. Curtains of the tall windows near it billowing, Jeongguk squinted against the bright moonlight and tried to make sense of what he was seeing; surely, in his mind, it did not make sense that the door was open at such a late time, but it took a moment for his heart to begin beating even faster in his chest, skin chilling over and shivering at the realization.

“Mom,” he called, hesitant and quiet, nearly tripping backwards as he attempted his way to the common room. His exhales reverberated in his ears, hands gripping harshly to his own night shirt for a sense of peace in the middle of what felt like another nightmare. With no answer, he senselessly called again, “Mom?”

“That must be the little brat.”

The voice was completely unfamiliar. Jeongguk froze in the archway as he turned with trepidation in his veins. There, in the common room, was a sight Jeongguk could barely comprehend. Strange men and women filled the room, all of them staring with amusement at Jeongguk as he walked in, nearly stumbling to his knees with fear. He struggled to look around, take in all those unfamiliar faces, but he never finished.

“Jeongguk, no,” a voice said. That, Jeongguk thought, was too familiar. Yet something about it was so strange; Jeongguk had never heard his mother sound so alarmed, and as he spotted her in the center of the room, held back by two struggling women, he nearly cried out in panic. “Jeongguk, run, I need you to run as fast as you can, okay?”

Jeongguk felt a whine building in the back of his throat, feeling faint as he caught the eyes of all the strange people in front of him. He felt completely frozen, limbs locked up in absolute terror.

Never had he dealt with something so horrifying, not even in nightmares. At least the night he found his mother surrounded by bloodied bodies ended with them safe, but somehow, he couldn’t imagine leaving this situation unscathed. He felt cold, so cold, and what left him the most terrified was the look on his mother’s face. For once, she was not apathetic. Her face was completely swarmed by melancholy, anger, fear- so many things that Jeongguk couldn’t even grasp when placed on his mother’s usually terse face. “But mommy-”

“Jeongguk, listen to your-”

“Shut her up, please,” the unfamiliar voice from before commanded. At the words, his mother immediately got muffled by a hand clasped over her lips. “Grab him before he actually makes a run for it. Let’s not have any more trouble- we’ve tried to take him with us too many times.”

Jeongguk recalled the night his mother’s hands were dirtied with blood.

Were those people after him? Were they the reason they always seemed to be surrounded by guards, the same ones who must now be dead or locked away for this situation to have ended this way?

Hands grabbed at Jeongguk as he lost himself in his own panic, and it was only at the touch that he began to struggle in the grip, beginning to scream in terror as they attempted to pull him away.

“Let him go!” His mother’s voice was sharp, one of her hands now freed from the hold it was previously in to rip the stranger’s hand from her mouth, fighting out of the strangers’ holds. “I told you to take me rather than him, anything but this. That’s my son, Zera, you can’t do this-”

“Why can I hear her talking?” The strange man, Zera, asked. “Don’t you understand? We won’t take you instead of him. Vampires aren’t looking to buy old blood, they want something fresh, something young. Something different. And it’s hellish to deal with a demon who’s been alive for so long.”

“She’s a demon, sir, she’s very strong. She’s hard to hold back-”

It was outright chaos in a mere moment. His mother broke free from the holds, immediately lashing out in an attempt to get to Jeongguk. Jeongguk found himself kicking his feet and pulling at his arms to try to get away as well, but he was so much younger, so weak, and couldn’t do much but flail and cry in pain as his mother ran towards him. He thought she might reach him, but he should’ve noticed how no one seemed to be properly reaching out to her or even trying to stop her.

One moment she was running towards him. The next, she froze, eyes going blank as she stumbled, slowly reaching for Jeongguk, and finally fell towards the ground with knees meeting the hardwood first. Jeongguk swore he could feel his heart freeze in his chest. No, no- surely, he was having a nightmare, a continuation of that same race against time as a headless monster tried to eat him whole and his mother’s voice appeared to save him, save him as she always did, perhaps not the kindest but always the softest, always alive and-

Now, lifeless. Jeongguk felt his scream go silent, eyes trained on his mother as she slumped over with one last muted call of his name. He didn’t understand why she stopped until she fell, a sword protruding from her back with Zera’s strong hand at the handle.

“I didn’t want to have to do that,” he said with a sigh, clicking his tongue. Hand at the sword, he withdrew it with a grunt and eyed the reddened edge as she fell onto her side, blood already forming a puddle around her. “I thought she could live, maybe. Or we could take you both and have you sold. It’s a shame she wasn’t more submissive, isn’t it? A demon who doesn’t learn to listen is one with a death wish. She only would only kneel to me when her heart stopped beating. So, so proud, you creatures.”

Jeongguk felt numb. This couldn’t be a reality, could it? Soon enough, he’d wake from his sheets with a gasp once more, and his mother would be safe in her bed with the covers pulled over her. The guards would be at her door, and they’d eye him with amusement and allow him in as he whined to his mother about his nightmare. Perhaps she wouldn’t smile, but she’d allow him in her bed and pull the covers over him, an arm pulling him tight in her embrace.

No, he convinced himself. This was just a nightmare, the worst he could ever conjure.

“Take him away,” the man ordered, and Jeongguk began to feel himself being dragged back, eyes wide as he stared at his mother’s lifeless form. Her head was turned on its side, locks of obsidian hair trailing over her face and around her parted lips, and Jeongguk swore, even if it was a nightmare, that she mouthed his name once more before he disappeared into the night.

Chapter Text

ONE BOUNTY ORDER, the paper spells out across the top. In small print, the name of the clan leader, Nan Zera, is listed below the title. It lists out a simple description: one boy, missing from the age of twelve. It’s been ten years since he left home. Light brown eyes and hair, simple looking, no marks of an identity. Unsure of starlit status due to age- had some powers indicative of being a demon variant, but could also be half human.

“A permanent feeder, huh?”

Namjoon nods. “Born and raised to be one.”

“What were the signs of him being a demon variant?” Taehyung closes the file, the rest of the words being useless to him. For demons, it was difficult to find a marking- most were special to one demon and one demon alone. Like Jeongguk, for example, with his starry eyes. Others would have certain markings, tattoos of their identity littered across their face or body, different colored eyes or even hair.

“Zera said he was born with ink on his back. A set of black wings from shoulder to shoulder, neck to hip-line.”

“How interesting,” Taehyung mumbles. “Must’ve been quite powerful.”

↞ ☆ ↠

Taehyung doesn’t remember until he starts going home. It hits him like a freight train all at once- it's not something one would think easy to forget, like leaving a watch at home or a day without watering a plant. Taehyung had always been immaculate when it came to following the rules and making plans. It was what made him so good at what he did, to be able to pick everything apart with precision, always thoughtful and never seeming to skip over a detail.

So how Taehyung could skip over a detail as big as the wings on Jeongguk’s back, he's unsure. He was sleepy, of course. Was still in the place between dreams and awake, where the world is murky and slow and warm under the press of a cover. But even in sleep, Taehyung thinks he was once a fearful predator; the kind of vampire to flit his eyes open with fearsome focus and dig his nails into the meat of a target.

When it comes to Jeongguk…

Taehyung slows. Feels his brain grow syrupy and glossy with a shallow kind of distraction. Taehyung is no longer sharp even if he is strong, he is no longer the predator, he is--prey. Unaware, oblivious, scared prey. Waiting for Jeongguk to sink his teeth into him and rip him to shreds.

One part of Taehyung wants to ask what this demon is doing to him. The other half is suddenly so fearful, dread filling his stomach and coating his heart with lead, as he realizes that he has to make a decision, quick.

There's Jeongguk. There's his clan. Both on completely different sides of this dilemma, and Jeongguk stands as a source of information to them. It was Zera asking he be returned, and Taehyung knew the person he'd be searching for would be nothing more than a blood source. An object, in a sense, as Zera thought Jeongguk was one to steal back. And Taehyung has no proper loyalty to Jeongguk aside from their deal.

He freezes in the middle of a sidewalk, head down even when he's bumped into and a passing individual clicks their tongue at him. Turning, he strides quickly back to Jeongguk’s place, determined.

This time, Taehyung doesn't have to hit the buzzer; Jeongguk gave him the security code for future visits. He walks up to Jeongguk's floor, knocks rapidly on his door and waits until it opens, revealing Jeongguk with a look of curiosity.

“Did you forget something-?”

“You're on the run, aren't you?”

A mere quirk of the eyebrow, Jeongguk leaning against the doorframe as his eyes squint briefly in confusion before he's crossing his arms over his chest, defensive. “From what, exactly? You?” He laughs under his breath, glances away like he's amused despite Taehyung's heavy breathing, the way his fingers jitter with realization. “Dearest, I don't think you could hurt me if you tried.”

“Not me,” Taehyung urges, flushing at Jeongguk's aloof attitude. “Zera.”

Jeongguk seems to freeze in place. His gaze is stoney, fearsome as he looks back to Taehyung, and Taehyung doesn't know why it's suddenly so hard to stand his ground. He's killed before. Made a wreckage of blood and bones. Yet one look from an insolent demon sends him spiraling for a hold, a bit intimidated in a way he's never been before. He grits his teeth regardless, stands proud against the wicked vapor of Jeongguk's startling gaze.

“Zera,” Jeongguk murmurs. “I haven't heard that name before.”

“Jeongguk, they're looking for you. They sent my clan a bounty order, and you have the exact same markings- it's very rare. They said they'll give us information on our missing vampires if we turn you over, but we have a deal and-”

Jeongguk lifts a finger, stopping Taehyung's rambling all at once. “What did I say, Taehyung?” His name rolling off Jeongguk’s tongue sounds so cold now. “I don't know that name. I was born here, in Asora. Whatever you saw was a mistake. You've got the wrong demon.”

However, Taehyung knows it's hardly true. Markings like Jeongguk’s are so individualized and unique that it'd be a one in a million chance that any other demon would have them. He deflates under Jeongguk's tone, opening his mouth once more to explain his confusion, when Jeongguk abruptly cuts him off.

“You need me,” Jeongguk says, cold. “I need you. That's what this is, isn't it? So be careful about what you say.” He slams the door in Taehyung's face then, leaving him with the confusing warning and a heart full of doubt, and strangely, pain.

↞ ☆ ↠

Jeongguk leans against the door as soon as it’s shut, feeling his knees nearly give out with how hard his heart is beating. It’d been a while since anything had gotten such a visceral reaction from him; a while since he felt afraid. For so long, he’d, in a way, convinced himself he was invincible. Not only that, but that his past was firmly behind him. He’d traveled a long way and kept many mouth shuts to get to a place of safety, so for it to be compromised by something so--so stupid has him gritting his teeth and closing his eyes.

He doesn’t even know if he made the right decision. Shutting Taehyung out like that was a mere reaction rather than a logical sequence of events, it wasn’t necessarily something he wanted to do, but more a part of him deep down inside speaking, some part of him so dearly afraid that he wanted nothing more than to run. And he did, he supposes; he ran in his own way, shutting that door in Taehyung’s face, for the small boy still within him suppressed by fear spoke on his own then. Brash. Angry. Defenseless. The best thing he could do was put a barrier between himself and the outside world.

But now there’s more fear. More concern for what may happen now that Taehyung knows. After all, Taehyung isn’t stupid. There is no way markings like this would belong to any other demon, so surely he’d make the connection and tell his clan. They’d come here, and although Jeongguk is powerful, he wouldn’t be able to take on multiple vampires by himself.

He has no choice. He has to pack what he can. He has to run. If he does what he can now, he can make it to the outskirts of the city in time to lose himself in the crowd, and he’ll have to start over. God, how many times will he have to start over-

A quiet, hesitant knock on the door behind him nearly gives Jeongguk a heart attack. He almost ignores it but ultimately stands and turns to slowly open the door, revealing Taehyung with no shock. Taehyung looks a bit nervous, but not as Jeongguk might’ve expected him to be- smirking with satisfaction, angered by Jeongguk’s secret, none of that. As unassuming as he’d always been, Taehyung only greets him with his big, wavering eyes and soft lips set on a tiny frown.

“Why are you still here?” Jeongguk asks, wanting to smack himself upon hearing how his voice seems to shake. He glares regardless, unsure of Taehyung’s intentions and as always, so untrusting, especially of a vampire. “You acted so sure of yourself. Aren’t you going to run back to your clan? Ask them to hunt me down?”

“If I wanted to hunt you down, I’d do it myself,” Taehyung says, and his voice is so innocent and mellow that Jeongguk wants to scoff in frustration. “You don’t think I’m confused as you are?”

“And why would that be?”

“Because,” Taehyung attempts, fiddling with his fingers and seeming to notice, as he abruptly drops his hands to his side, “you’re not my enemy. As you said, I need you. You need me. Wouldn’t it be in my best interest to keep you safe?”

Keep you safe. The words ring in Jeongguk’s head as he stares at Taehyung, trying to comprehend what Taehyung is even suggesting to him. For so long, he was alone. And surely, he’d always been capable of keeping himself safe- Taehyung was confident that he’d be able to hunt him down individually, but Jeongguk knows what he’s able to do. He knows the powers he has. Yet something within him rings a bit, sparks a flurry of nerves and something else he can’t quite catch.

“You want to keep me safe,” Jeongguk states. “Do you not think I’m capable of that myself?”

“I think…” Taehyung trails off, gaze seeming to get lost as he stares towards the floor, thinking. “I think that we have a very complicated situation on our hands. And that sometimes, we need a little help to make sense of the trouble. Isn’t it such a cruel existence, to be alone?”

Jeongguk knows that tone in Taehyung, the same wistful cry that came from him as he told him he had no family. And despite Jeongguk’s priorities, he knows what it’s like to be alone- to protect himself and see his failure to protect others in the way they needed to be. In a way, Jeongguk thinks he lost a Jeongguk that could’ve been, someone softer and more optimistic, as his hope had been squalored in the same way someone might step on the tail of a puppy. He blinks, shakes his head. Being hopeful in their world is for nothing. For the worst. But he can see, regardless, that Taehyung is extending a hand to him in the simplest of ways.

“Taehyung, you are certainly something strange,” Jeongguk murmurs, releasing some of the tension that kept his shoulders held high, teeth grit in frustration.

“And is that a good or bad thing?” Taehyung cocks his head to the side, eyes seeming to soften rather than being so apprehensive.

Jeongguk pauses, attempts to think over the sound of blood rushing in his ears.

“I’m not sure yet.”

↞ ☆ ↠

“Last time,” Taehyung starts from across the table, fiddling with the handle of a mug. “Remember when you said we may have been too--impulsive? What did you mean?”

Jeongguk startles at the question. They’d been sitting in relative silence for some time, not as nearly awkward as he would’ve predicted; Jeongguk made them tea, and they both seemed to be lost in thought over what would come of the situation now. He looks at Taehyung, finding him slightly apprehensive, and nods.

“What did you mean?”

“It makes it easier to tell how you feel, what you want or don’t want when I can sense your desires. Like right now…” he reaches out, feels across Taehyung’s arm for a stronger connection, and sees splotches of gray cloud his mind. “I can feel you’re unsure. That you want answers. So, of course, these connections feel stronger when you’re full of desire. When you want me, I can feel it. When you don’t want me, I can also feel that. But of course, our words are the best form of communication- they are what connect us all, after all, even if it’s so easy to deceive.”

“So you sometimes get worried? That what you feel within me isn’t completely correct?” Taehyung looks so demure for a moment, eyes softening to look at Jeongguk, and Jeongguk finds he likes it. Likes that look on Taehyung, as if he’s sweltering with warmth and at ease.

“Well, yes,” Jeongguk says. “There are a lot of incubi who use their powers for the worse. But so often I’ve learned what it feels like to have things taken from me without my approval, so I can’t find it within myself to do the same to others. And while I can see, sometimes. These things within you that you want, they aren’t exactly…”

“Typical,” Taehyung mumbles. His cheeks light a fiery red, ears tipped with warmth as he eyes the table resolutely rather than meeting Jeongguk’s eyes. Jeongguk can feel it then, the tingling heat of Taehyung’s desires, the way his mind floods with images. Hands slapping his skin red, his hands tied behind his back, the idea of everything being tangible in such a rough, untethered way, and Jeongguk, Jeongguk of course, with his starry eyes and the way they sink low with his own desire in response, Taehyung can’t help but want-

“So,” Jeongguk says, cutting it off before he gets lost in it, and he can feel himself, for the first time, wavering with some kind of strange nerves, “don’t you think it’d be better to establish rules, so it doesn’t feel so- impulsive.”

“What did you have in mind?” Taehyung asks. The innocence in his face is striking even when he's talking about something so sinful. It's at moments like these that Jeongguk wants to give in, give Taehyung everything he wants and more. “I'm not exactly--experienced, when it comes to these things.”

“There's a color code we can use,” Jeongguk explains, tapping a finger across the surface of the table. One, two, three. “Green, yellow, red. Like a traffic light. If things are too much and you want to slow down or take a break, yellow. If you need to stop completely, red. If you like it, want to keep going-”

“Green,” Taehyung purrs, laughing when Jeongguk startles. He props his own head on his palm, blinking at Jeongguk like he's considering the proposition. “And last time, Seraph was our safe word?”

“Yes. But we should’ve discussed it first a little more. The minute someone gets hurt, it's not something we can just reverse. It sticks with us.” Jeongguk likes what he does with Taehyung. There are many clients he has heard the wishes of and felt nauseated by, but with Taehyung, it works. It clicks. In the bedroom, away from the world, they're acting out a play where everything is different, where all emotions are fair game and their lives fade to black. But he knows that these things come with contingencies, and making sure Taehyung is safe has become an odd concern for him.

He needs him, after all.

“For someone who hates vampires, you care an awful lot about my safety,” Taehyung blurts, regret filling the air as soon as the words take flight.

Jeongguk feels an unwitting smirk bloom across his face. “Surely, you don’t think I’m heartless. You didn’t kill my mother, did you?”

The question obviously stuns Taehyung, as he blinks rapidly and swallows down a noise of shock; Jeongguk stands from his seat with a shake of his head and collects the dishes, dismissing the subject as if he hadn’t brought up something that would send most people reeling from the trauma. But it’d been years, and he’d seen many deaths- Taehyung had as well, it wasn’t a question, but Jeongguk isn’t surprised by his shock at all. For Taehyung had shown to be empathetic in a way Jeongguk didn’t really know how to be anymore, or at least in a way that was much more forthcoming than a majority.

“No,” Taehyung eventually murmurs, voice soft behind Jeongguk’s back. Jeongguk only hums, dumping the rest of the water from the teapot and watching as it winds down the drain of his sink.

“It happens. I wasn’t old enough for it to really sting, anyway.”

It feels like a lie even to himself.

“But it must hurt regardless,” Taehyung says quietly. “To be alone.”

“You’d know just as well that loneliness gets easier with time,” Jeongguk scoffs.

“Not to me,” Taehyung confesses, voice a new whisper, as if it’s more a thought than a confession. “I guess you learn to live with it, but I believe we’re always searching for something more. Maybe one day you gave up?”

“I have no idea,” Jeongguk is quick to change the subject, not enjoying the way his stomach begins to swirl uncomfortably with thoughts of his past, people he left behind. If he thinks too hard, maybe he’ll be dragged back to an old faded photo of himself at seven years old, perched on his mother’s lap, or maybe it will click and flash forward to a brighter photo, fifteen, but with a gaze so muted he might as well be looking at a slab of concrete. There were times when he was convinced there was no place for him on this earth, and home lost its form in the shape of his mother and instead took on this ghastly outline, a blurry question tattooed to the back of his hand.

He doesn’t like to think about it. Often rubs over the back of his palm to erase it, knowing that lost people like himself don’t get to question where home is. They wallow in a despair that seems to follow them always, grow used to it, create a home out of grief, and by the time people like Taehyung enter their life- I believe we’re always searching for something more- they have forgotten what it’s like to hope. Or when the last time he took a look into the book of optimism or thought about looking for a “more” was. And oftentimes as a boy he wondered why he plodded on if life would always be so heavy, but wouldn’t she want it? Hadn’t she tried to protect him? Would he let her hopes die with him?

Perhaps he just has too much pride for that.

When a gentle hand touches at his shoulder, Jeongguk jolts out of the reverie and looks down. A tea cup is shattered at the bottom of the sink. He slowly turns, meets Taehyung curious and worried gaze; there’s a desire there, something pressing on him a little too heavily from Taehyung’s side.

“I won’t let you hold me,” Jeongguk murmurs, cold.

For half a second, Taehyung looks hurt. Jeongguk almost regrets his words.

“You held me when I was sick.”

Part of Jeongguk is surprised that Taehyung didn’t simply turn away. He wants to explain that he wouldn’t know how to feel with someone’s arms wrapped around him- perhaps a little revolted, he doesn’t think he’s touched deprived and the weight of arms around his own limbs might feel more like a restraint than a hug, and when you spend an eternity locked in the arms of the moonlight and nothing more, it gets a little harder to stomach warmth and even accumulate a desire to get that warmth-

Taehyung’s arms are around him before he can stop it. Arms catching on his shoulders and head pressed against his, and Jeongguk’s hands are too busy holding himself up against the counter and creating space between them to reciprocate. Taehyung’s body is lithe and cold, softness hidden under layers of clothing, and Jeongguk doesn’t know how to feel.

“What are you doing?” Jeongguk questions, closing his eyes. “Didn’t I say I wouldn’t let you?”

“I wanted to see if you’d push me away, but now I’ve already gotten this far and don’t know what to do. I didn’t think I’d be able to get my arms around you.”

Jeongguk nearly laughs at the oblivious nature of the claim. Instead, he keeps his face straight and sighs, finding himself not minding Taehyung’s clingy arms. If anything, it’s a distraction, something to stop his thoughts, so he backs up against the counter and feels as Taehyung takes tiny steps to keep closer.

“Does it make you feel any better? Sometimes, in private, Yoongi used to come to my room if he knew I was upset or stressed and held me like this. He said it’s what parents do to their young. I don’t quite understand what’s so calming about it, I guess it’s one of those natural things in animals, to be close to each other this way.”

It doesn’t comfort Jeongguk, but maybe only because he’s so unused to the feeling of arms wrapped around him that he’s more focused on how unusual it feels. He doesn’t say this to Taehyung though, feeling his jaw move against his shoulder and the earnesty of his words forces him silent. “He’s right. You didn’t have parents hold you when you were young?” He can’t help his curiosity with Taehyung’s frankness about the entire subject.

Taehyung softly shakes his head. “The only family I have ever known are my clan, my friends.” He finally pulls back, allowing Jeongguk a full inhale that he didn’t realize he’d been suppressing. With eyes seeming forcefully avoidant, he drifts backwards slightly and chews on his lip, little fang peeking out to poke at the plush skin. “Do you feel healed? Like I did when I was sick?”

Jeongguk doesn’t feel much different. A cold, indifferent part of himself wants to shake his head and turn away, but he finds himself nodding blankly in response. Taehyung smiles, a small little thing that disappears as he turns, and Jeongguk feels something within him he’s not quite used to. Something like satisfaction.

↞ ☆ ↠

Taehyung peppers in and out of his life for those next few days, a bit of an alarming presence forming in Jeongguk's life. His cold apartment is suddenly taken over by Taehyung's coats which he forgot over the back of some chair or other, and he’ll pop up suddenly, even if to Jeongguk's dismay, a thousand questions on his tongue. Taehyung seems to have realized that he has Jeongguk in a very--strange predicament. He can't exactly be cold to Taehyung with the understanding that his life is metaphorically in his hands, but he also doesn't know how to be explicitly welcoming.

The only thing they seem to have mutual understanding on is this: Taehyung with hunger in his eyes but his gaze so unsure. Jeongguk's liked it about him from the beginning. That bit of questioning, not so full of himself as to leap at an opportunity. Instead, the pearled white of his sharp fang will poke into his bottom lip, his head tilting on a question, and Jeongguk knows what he wants- can feel it sweltering in the air, Taehyung's aura tainted red- but doesn't say anything, wants to hear it from Taehyung himself, perhaps likes to torture him like this more than he'd ever admit.

“Can I,” Taehyung starts, hands carefully propping on the sofa as his knee presses into the soft surface, approaching where Jeongguk is leaned back with such a cautious nature. That flushed face. The way he looks at Jeongguk from underneath his lashes, simpers like he's trying to pull him into a trap. The worst part is that Jeongguk knows it's not intentional- Taehyung is just like this, cloyingly sweet and not a bit bitter, bright like cotton candy and soft to the touch. “Can I touch you?”

“How?” Jeongguk asks as he sits up, knowing exactly how. He keeps his face carefully calm, raises an eyebrow.

“Like-” Taehyung leans forward, hand wrapping over the firmness of Jeongguk's shoulder. His eyes are locked on his neck though, dragging down to his collarbone to feast upon any revealed skin like a weak, dying mortal. “This. Or- I'm hungry, can I-?”

“You're greedy, aren't you?” Jeongguk asks just to watch Taehyung's cheeks go red, to watch a petulant frown form between his eyebrows, but he curls a hand around Taehyung's waist nonetheless and squeezes, urges Taehyung onto his lap with patient eyes. “But you always ask. Such a good boy, aren't you?”

Taehyung frowns even harder, leaning forward to tuck his head into Jeongguk's neck like a reflex. “Don’t do that. Don't talk to me like that.”

But Jeongguk can feel how pleased Taehyung is, how much he likes it, so he can't help a smile. “Like what?”

“Like,” Taehyung mutters, “calling me good. It’s embarrassing- it feels childish.”

“I’m only being honest,” Jeongguk murmurs. He cups Taehyung’s face in his hands and brushes thumbs across the tops of his cheeks. Taehyung’s desire, when it begins to crowd into Jeongguk’s space, is as enigmatic as it is overwhelming. Right now, it’s tinged dark blue, his soul seeming to ache for a gentle touch, a calm pair of eyes. As if he’s anxious. Jeongguk hums, scans the tight set of Taehyung’s shoulders and his eager eyes. “Anxious, love?”

“You can tell? Is part of your demon power seeking out my emotions?”

Jeongguk chuckles, allowing himself to let loose, watching as Taehyung deflates a bit in his lap as he concentrates on pulling him into his haze. “I can put the pieces together. You’re an open book. What could be bothering you?”

Taehyung glows even darker at this. He doesn’t seem to want to say, and his mouth stays firmly shut for a few bleak moments. “They ask...they ask me for progress, and I have no idea what to say.”

“You’re scared,” Jeongguk notes, one hand pressing calmingly to Taehyung’s lower back and another above, sweeping Taehyung’s hair away from where it seems to cover his face as he leans forward. “But not for you,” he notices, picking out the little whispers that seem to float by his ears as he looks at Taehyung, at the air that surrounds him, choking them both as he grows more and more apprehensive. “For me?”

“How could I be afraid for me?” Taehyung asks, as if the idea is outrageous.

“Most people would be more worried about what would happen to them if their clan found out they’re harboring a secret demon. Not so much scared of what will happen to the demon when the truth is revealed.”

“But it won’t,” Taehyung spurts. “It won’t happen because I’m keeping you safe.” His words nearly slur, and Jeongguk can see as Taehyung’s eyes turn into a mirror of his own; he’s there with him, in that haze, loose-lipped and half unaware. But his mind is as conscious and clear as ever, his desires running across Jeongguk’s mind like a marathon. He can feel them all. Visions of Taehyung’s teeth pricking into the skin of his neck, the odd vision of a plate of cookies he must be craving, hugs, hugs, always a thousand hugs and touches and blankets of warmth, and finally, Jeongguk. A vision of Jeongguk, but not quite normal; free on a field, looking out towards the horizon as a gate sits precariously behind him, broken and splintered from some great force.

Oh, you fool, Jeongguk thinks with a small shake of the head. I don’t need a knight in shining armor.

Freedom as such doesn’t even exist for him. Hiding, perhaps, but not true freedom; it’s just not the society they live in. Nonetheless, he acts without thinking. Leans forward and peppers and soft kiss to Taehyung’s forehead, then pushes his face towards his neck at his noise of surprise.

“You were hungry, weren’t you?”

It feels a bit different this time. Taehyung’s gentle by nature, not as rough as many vampires would be with their meal. He leans forward, presses his tiny fangs to skin, then leans back as if burned. “Are you sure?” His eyes, doll-like and confused, make Jeongguk’s head spin. Jeongguk nods.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You smell different,” Taehyung answers with a bunny-like twitch of the nose. “Softer.”

“What in the world does that mean,” Jeongguk mutters. “Just eat. If you don’t hurry and eat, I’ll tell the witch I know to turn you into a bat.”

Taehyung squints at him but does as he’s told, leaning forward once more to put teeth against this neck. They sink in with little preamble, and Jeongguk has to flinch at the sting.

When he palms the area where Taehyung’s ribs reside, they don’t move, don’t flex in and out with every heavy inhale and exhale like a human’s would. Taehyung’s cheeks are always a ruddy pink, his lips the same, and Jeongguk nearly forgets he’s not really alive until moments like this. Wonders what it’s like to live an eternity alone, as Taehyung made it out to be. He must’ve been alive many more years than Jeongguk even if he sometimes seems younger with that palatable friendliness of his. Many vampires seemed to grow weary with age, even ornery. Hopelessness and anger did not make for good growth, Jeongguk found, but when he thinks about it too deeply, sees his own reflection in those angry vampires he met, he doesn’t like to think about it anymore.

And Taehyung...Taehyung is so different. Oblivious to the world around him, the way he should be. It's like he ignored every action from a past that had attempted to scar him, mindless to a gun pointed in his face, and Jeongguk never knows whether to be wary or envious of it.

Taehyung pulls away. Jeongguk catches a glimpse of his own crimson blood on his lips, and he remembers. That night, many years ago, his mother prone on the ground. Tiny fangs, so small, but very much capable of the same things, aren’t they? And the most inconspicuous of forms could still do what they did. His guard is up. It's always up.

Then Taehyung smiles at him, a tiny thing, and Jeongguk halts the aggravation in his heart. Swallows down a pang of hatred for the kind who destroyed his family and listens to Taehyung's desires instead. Holds him by the hips and tightens his grip a bit just to hear Taehyung’s sharp intake of breath, a stuttering gasp filled with surprise. Smiles to himself, enjoying it all too much, the way Taehyung reacts without thinking.

“Those rules we talked about-”

“What rules?” Taehyung jumps to ask, fingers flying to Jeongguk’s shoulders. “A long time ago-?”

“Not our arrangement, precious,” Jeongguk denies with a shake of the head. “Remember when I said we were too impulsive? That I want guidelines to make sure you don't get hurt? The color code?”

Taehyung’s eyes are half-lidded, cheeks rounded out with innocence, as he says, “Yes, but I trust you.”

God, when Taehyung says things like this. Jeongguk doesn't know why, but he wants to devour him. Such a naive little thing. A soul without enough edge. Jeongguk wants to keep him that way. Wants to tear him apart until he has a reason to fear. Wants to hide him inside his coat so the world can't touch him. Wants to throw him to the sharks to see how he'd fair.

Ah, Jeongguk thinks. A victim to his own unknowing desires. And how does one feel when they can no longer tell the difference between their own hate, their own love? Jeongguk stopped feeling like there was a reason to try to decipher so, so long ago.

“And why is that? Have I given you a reason to trust me? I can't understand you, dearest,” Jeongguk says with ease. He's genuinely curious, but he likes even more how full he feels with each seeming purr from Taehyung, the way he'll melt a little further into his palms with each touch, each cautious and warm word.

Taehyung pauses. Worries his lower lip and leans in to press soft lips to Jeongguk's ear. He's shocked, eyes wide as he waits for Taehyung to make some sort of move; it's the first time he initiates so confidently, and it throws Jeongguk from his role so quickly, the one he constructed from Taehyung's endless desires, that he finds himself speechless.

“You know what I want,” Taehyung finally answers, softly kissing his ear before pulling away, ghosting his lips across his cheekbone.

 

“So I can't really get scared of what you'll do to me. And if it really needs to be said,” Taehyung continues, a little coy smile playing at his mouth, “want you to touch me,” he grabs Jeongguk's hands, leading them from his hips to his ass, “want you to make it hurt a little,” he whispers.

“And maybe, if you want to,” he says, sounding shyer this time as he places his hands on Jeongguk's chest and leans in, pecking his cheek, dangerously close to his lips. “I want you to fuck me.”

This time, it's Jeongguk's breath catching in his throat. “Yeah?” He asks, much more breathless than he intends, and Taehyung hums softly, kisses once more up towards his cheekbone before leaning away, tilting his head like he's talking about the weather rather than wanting, wanting so badly Jeongguk feels like he's nearly there; fucking him open until he's a weak, drooling mess, sweetly bruising his skin up in the shape of fingerprints.

Jeongguk wants to ask, What’s gotten into you? But he knows. Having Taehyung around him while he's aroused, feeding on it until he's sated and more, Taehyung’s just a fountain of honesty. Doesn't carry the same shame and embarrassment over saying what he wants, not when Jeongguk lets go completely.

And surprisingly- surprisingly, he wants Taehyung, too. His desire is sweeter than any others. The vampires who came before him were bitter, longing, angry and tainted with mischief. Taehyung is sweet. Too sweet. Like frolicking through a meadow filled with daisies or taking a sip of his favorite drink, and too often he dreams of things vibrant and optimistic, things he can’t have or things that just don’t seem plausible in their world. Jeongguk doesn’t know whether it’s fair to call him naive when Taehyung seems to genuinely believe and think of these things, and he doesn’t know now whether he’s right and practical or just too negative to see how Taehyung could be right. Does it make sense to yearn for love like Taehyung does?

He looks at Taehyung. Really looks. Sees the soft slope of his nose and his awaiting lips, and most of all, his bright eyes, darkened now with arousal but still hoping. Ardently. Like the world isn’t falling apart around him.

A fool, he thinks, but this time, more forceful. A foolish, foolish boy. Taehyung couldn’t be right. To have hope is to allow yourself to be disappointed.

Taehyung cuts off his wandering thoughts with fingers at his nape, dragging through his hair and pulling until he feels the slight touch of a burn. With a hiss, he knows his eyes must be darkening, and he can’t control it. He always seeks to show what people want. Even in color, he tried to be purple for Taehyung, tried to be soft at first, and even now, knows that sometimes his eyes must flash black with his own emotions.

He moves before he can think. Grasps Taehyung’s forearms where they linger above his shoulders, twists them behind his back and watches as Taehyung jerks a bit in his hold, a soft breath of surprise peppering from his lips. “You tell me what you want, but you can’t even be good and stay still for a second?”

“Well,” Taehyung says, breathing slow, “you won’t ever tell me what you want. So I thought I should test the barriers.”

“I told you that what I want doesn’t matter.” It’s true. Jeongguk wouldn’t know where to begin and end with his own wants, and speaking from his heart is a talent he hasn’t touched, much less mastered. But Taehyung always looks so disappointed, eager to fulfill, that he finds himself doing and saying the strangest things, and this time is no different. “But if you really must know,” he whispers, “I think it’s fun to punish you. Even better, the look in your eyes when I reward you. It makes it feel like-” You’re in my hands.

“Like I have control,” he says instead, swallowing drily. Because it is true, at least. To have control of something for once, to know Taehyung, for some reason, trusts him in this way, leaves him grossly sated. Fulfilling desires was an occupation for others, but with Taehyung, he can’t help but watch, admire. See as a flush blooms across his face and the way his expressions shift with every touch Jeongguk graces him with. Even now, Taehyung’s eyes widen slightly with his words, and he can feel it in the air, feel as Taehyung is wringing himself dry of desire of feeding it back to Jeongguk. His cheeks are red, so red, and Jeongguk wants so much.

“Then do it,” Taehyung says, ripping his arm from Jeongguk’s loosened hold to cup his cheek, lean in close, as if he might kiss him. “Control me, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk exhales, a shuddering, confused breath.

“It’s okay to want me, you know,” Taehyung murmurs, pressing down harder where he’s sitting on Jeongguk’s lap. Jeongguk’s arousal is so plain when he does that, hands leaving Taehyung’s other arm free to instead cup reflexively at the soft plush of Taehyung’s ass. Taehyung giggles then, a thing too soft and distracted from the moment to not be jarring. “You act like it’s a sin.”

Something snaps within Jeongguk at that moment. He drags Taehyung down by the neck, presses a fleeting kiss to his throat before nipping at the skin, biting down in a way that’s sure to bruise. Taehyung whines into it, clutches at Jeongguk’s shirt for dear life and ruts down on him.

There are no words spoken, no sense of affirmation that tells Taehyung in clear words that Jeongguk wants him back just as much, but when he’s pushing Taehyung down onto his couch and slowly unbuttoning his shirt, Jeongguk thinks he knows. When he’s kissing a line from his collarbone to his sternum, he’s sure he knows. There’s no way Taehyung could doubt it, surely. Jeongguk presses too hard. Too quickly. Jeongguk thinks it’s too obvious, shamefully so.

Jeongguk kisses at one of Taehyung’s nipples, pinches the other between his fingers and tries not to smile as Taehyung practically vibrates under his hands. He’s endearingly sensitive, a touch more than most people as Jeongguk can see when Taehyung flinches with each bit of pressure. When Jeongguk bites at his chest, laves his tongue over his nipple and pinches even harder, almost cruelly so, Taehyung outright jolts, grabbing at Jeongguk’s shoulder.

He’s surprised to see when he sits up that Taehyung already has tears in his eyes. But he still feels Taehyung’s want in the air; if anything, it’s gotten stronger, and Taehyung only nods at him and blushes so prettily, like he’s embarrassed. “Too- too sensitive, there.”

“You don’t like it?” Jeongguk huffs, leans back down to kiss his other nipple, bite it between his teeth and hear Taehyung keen like a cat in heat.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung whispers, all whiny and nearly imperceptible.

“Okay, okay,” Jeongguk murmurs back, moving farther down instead, kissing at the soft skin of his abdomen instead. When Jeongguk sits up, drags his hand down the tan skin and clutches at his side just to see how it gives, Taehyung covers his face with his hands; Jeongguk finds he doesn’t like that, makes a noise of dissent and taps Taehyung’s wrists until he moves his hands away. “Listen to me. Don’t cover your face, baby.”

“But you have- you have actual abs,” Taehyung whines. That’s why he covered his face? Jeongguk shakes his head, trails gentle fingers over the softness of his tummy, not quite understanding Taehyung’s complaints when he’s as beautiful as he is. Jeongguk would be blind not to see it, anyone would; he’s a pretty boy, a little angelic and doll-faced, and Jeongguk still, even now, can’t tell if he hates it for making him want Taehyung or loves it because seeing Taehyung’s face is a mystifying experience on its own.

“So do you,” Jeongguk whispers, placing one hand, fingers splayed, by Taehyung’s belly button. “They’re just under here.”

Taehyung makes a noise then, a little “oh” that makes Jeongguk’s eyelids lower, his skin grow hot. “You’re a gorgeous boy,” Jeongguk says, honest and forthcoming, and he can see it in Taehyung’s eyes, the disbelieving nature yet hopeful desire for the truth. “You make it hard to look away. Nearly makes me angry. Would be easier to ignore you from the beginning if you just-”

If he could just stop being so handsome. So striking.

“Just?” Taehyung asks, hopeful.

“Nothing,” Jeongguk counters softly instead, not daring to meet Taehyung’s eyes and instead tugging at his pants, trying with difficulty to get Taehyung naked underneath him. But Taehyung helps him, shimmies his hips and lets Jeongguk bare him completely, throw his clothes to the side and drag hands down his thighs, hook his palms behind his knees and press down, baring his hard cock, straining up towards his tummy, already beginning to drool; he looks below, smarting immediately at what he sees. The base of a jeweled plug, lilac and heart-shaped. “Oh,” he’s saying this time, and when he glances up, Taehyung is staring at him with his flushed face, lip bitten into his mouth by a tiny fang.

He wants. Jeongguk can hear it, feel it. The way Taehyung’s always begging for a hard hand has Jeongguk lost.

“You’re so bad,” he says with a breathless smile, too shocked to remain passive. “Came over here expecting, huh? Did you plan to ask me to fuck you? Or are you that much of a slut?” His words come out sharp, practiced, and he likes the way Taehyung moans in response. “Need something filling you up all the time? So many shops for adults in this city, but I never thought you’d be the type to go in.”

“I’m not,” Taehyung says, all whiny and muted. “Not a slut. Just went for you. Only you.”

“Only me?” It’s almost amusing.

“You’re so big,” Taehyung simpers, reaching down teasingly to his own cock to jerk himself off in a way that has Jeongguk tightening his grip on Taehyung’s knees. “I thought if I wanted to get you to fuck me, I should prepare. Didn’t want to waste time, even if I love the idea of your fingers in me.”

Jeongguk only stares, trying to comprehend the situation, how badly he wants Taehyung. It’s simply unusual, the things he brings out of him when they’re in these situations. Outside of sex, they’re plain with each other, even awkward or angry, but here, they’re compatible. Communicative. Maybe it’s the fact that they need each other to feed off of, but god. Jeongguk is nearly scared by how much he wants to bend Taehyung over the couch and fuck him right now.

He slaps Taehyung’s hand away, pinching his inner thigh and filling with a strange kind of satisfaction when Taehyung shivers. “Keep your hands off yourself. Just hold your knees for me, Taehyung.” Taehyung listens even if it’s with hesitation, holding his own knees close to his chest and crossing his ankles as if to cover himself.

“Only you can touch me? Not even myself?” Taehyung still sounds too smug.

“Last time got you more confident, huh?” Jeongguk leans back, tilts his head with a smirk as he begins taking off his own shirt. The glassy eyes below him stay planted on his face, allured, and Jeongguk knows he has his attention when he speaks to him like this. “Decided it’s time to be a brat? Got tired of being called a weak little kitten?” With his shirt finally off of him, he cups the back of Taehyung’s thigh, their fingers meeting where his hand is holding his own knee. With his other hand, Jeongguk is grabbing at the base of the plug, tugging and watching as the flared base comes into view, Taehyung’s hole stretched all pink and wet, presumably from stretching himself out earlier.

“I’m not a- a brat,” Taehyung huffs, stuttering as Jeongguk shoves the plug back in him, palm flat against his ass.

“Ah.” Jeongguk hums, grabbing at the base of the plug. This time, he fucks it in and out of Taehyung, little hard thrusts that have Taehyung’s toes curling in surprise. It must hurt a bit, that wide, flared base tugging at his rim, but he only throws his head back with a groan. “You’re not? You don’t want to agree?” When Taehyung only shakes his head, Jeongguk finally pulls the plug out, watches as his little wet hole clenches on nothing. Jeongguk rubs a thumb over it, listens as Taehyung whines and blubbers mindlessly, pleading. “If you say it, I’ll reward you.”

Jeongguk might be toying with him now. After all, it’s a little too fun to watch as Taehyung frowns, to see him worry his lip and look away, all the while flushed and teary and wanting.

“No?” Jeongguk asks, punctuating it with a slap to the back of Taehyung’s thigh. A hiccup bubbles from Taehyung’s throat, seeming more shocked than pained, his cock kicking at the impact.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung pleads, squirming uncomfortably. “Want you to- put your fingers in me-”

With a shake of the head, Jeongguk gives Taehyung a hard stare in response. “That’s not what I want to hear, and you know it.”

It’s not that he wants Taehyung to admit those words specifically. There’s just something so interesting, so lovely, about the way Taehyung burns with want whenever he toys with him like this. Like the words are sitting right behind Taehyung’s teeth and somehow, he wants it, wants Jeongguk to force it out of him, wants Jeongguk to spank him red and bite at his skin until he says the words.

Like now, as Taehyung shakes his head petulantly in response. Jeongguk lands two quick spanks on him, slaps across the back of his ass again and watches the skin turn pink, and Taehyung can only moan breathlessly and hold tight to himself, watching Jeongguk above him with tear-filled eyes. Jeongguk might be fucked up, but he feels his cock throb when Taehyung looks at him like that. Seeking. Needing. Like he’ll fall apart without Jeongguk’s hands on him.

Pressing himself between Taehyung’s knees, Jeongguk cups the base of Taehyung’s neck and kisses his cheek, almost patronizing in action. “I’m not going to take it back. You either do what I say or get nothing at all.” His voice is strict, even more commanding than he intended, but it’s worth it in the end when Taehyung shakes against him.

“‘M a brat,” Taehyung whispers, so, so silent, but enough for Jeongguk to hear.

Jeongguk still acts like he can’t hear. “Oh, I’m sorry. What was that? Can you speak up a little louder?” He’s teasing, he knows, and when he backs away to look clearly at Taehyung’s face, he’s not surprised to see that the tears bubbling at his eyes from earlier have finally begun to trickle down with embarrassment.

“I’m a brat,” Taehyung repeats, louder this time. He’s wiping his eyes now, trying to turn his face into the couch, and Jeongguk tuts in response.

“Was that really so hard?” He asks, dragging a hand to Taehyung’s neck. Pausing, he reads the want in the air and squeezes at Taehyung again. “Color?”

“Mm, green,” Taehyung hums, nodding as he rubs at his eye and looks at Jeongguk again, this time with a mixture of humiliation and gratefulness, as if surprised he asked even if Jeongguk's been so adamant about following the rules.

Rubbing a finger at his entrance, Jeongguk watches Taehyung’s mouth part in surprise, face frowning up when Jeongguk presses two fingers into his wet heat. It’s a little dry, needs more lube to aid the sting, but Taehyung is red, shaking in his hold and acting like he might cum right then and there. “You like that, don’t you?” Jeongguk asks, using his other hand to reach up, thumb at the slit of Taehyung’s length to see how much more he can gasp and moan and beg. “Gonna cum just like this?”

“Don’t wanna,” Taehyung babbles. “Wanna cum with you, you in me-”

“I can make you cum again.” Jeongguk feels even hotter at Taehyung’s request, but it’s true. He’s an incubus. Making Taehyung cum again and again until he’s oversensitive and screaming isn’t exactly something he considers a difficulty. It’s too fun, to watch as Taehyung drops one of his knees and lets his leg fall over the side of the couch, reaching to grab at Jeongguk’s wrist as he palms over the head of Taehyung’s cock and presses at the slit, all the while driving two fingers into his hole at a near punishing pace. But Taehyung’s all opened up for him, and he can’t resist doing his worst. It’s when he leans down, licks at the place where his fingers are connected to Taehyung that the vampire whines and breaks apart in his hands, releasing over his fingers and his stomach.

Yet Jeongguk doesn’t let up, removes his fingers but still slowly strokes at Taehyung’s cock and watches the boy underneath him jolt and cry out at the sensitivity, hold at Jeongguk’s wrist with a grip much too gentle to stop him. He uses his free hand to collect the mess, Taehyung’s release pooling on his fingers. Then, he leads his fingers down, presses them back into Taehyung’s hole and delights in the surprised moan Taehyung lets out.

Jeongguk hums, freeing both of his hands. “You’re a bit insatiable, aren’t you?”

“It’s you,” Taehyung admits, still breathless. His eyes, a lilac swirl, just like his own, and Jeongguk wants to do anything Taehyung wants. He wants him so full and catered to that he never has to ask another, not for these kinds of desires. “Whenever you touch me, I want more. Even if it really hurts, I just-”

“It shouldn’t hurt, not in a way you don’t like,” Jeongguk says, and oh, for a moment...for a moment he looks at the way Taehyung’s lips, slick with spit, shape innocently around his words, every single one distraught with softness and rounded out, and he wants to kiss him. Wants to be the first and only reason he’s begging for another lungful of air. “But if you like the way I touch you, that’s an easy request to fulfill.”

“Your eyes.” And Taehyung’s lifting one of his gentle hands to Jeongguk’s cheek, palm grazing the side of his face. “When they’re black. What does that mean?”

Ah, Jeongguk thinks, jolting backwards and feeling strangely regretful when Taehyung looks at him with an expression of hurt. But it wouldn’t be easy to explain that black is the center of everything. A neutral, a color that isn’t a color, and a color that’s meant to be Jeongguk. If Taehyung is purple and his mother was red, Jeongguk was always to wear black, and a demon like him is not meant to show their true colors. It’s only ever an accident.

“What if I told you I had horns, you just couldn’t see them? And you’re not meant to see them because demons are supposed to stay hidden, but if I had less control, I’d stop hiding them and- poof. They’d appear on my head,” Jeongguk murmurs to him, light in a way he hopes will wipe that expression off of Taehyung’s face. He’s not lying, just presenting a different angle of the truth. “And there are things about demons that aren’t so pretty, things that make it hard to hide. My eyes could slit like a snake, if I wanted to. And they can go black, but it’s harder to control all the time, especially when I’m- servicing someone.”

“Servicing,” Taehyung repeats back to him, and luckily, it comes with a tiny smile.

With a hum, Jeongguk is tugging Taehyung’s knees around his waist and hitching him up, ignoring Taehyung’s voice of complaint as he quickly grabs onto Jeongguk’s shoulders. Taehyung’s skin is so soft in his hands, and he almost doesn’t want to put him down when he makes it to his bed, but he knows it would be strange to hold on any longer. Like this, Taehyung’s hair spreads like a short little halo above his head, and his cheeks, they’re so much warmer than usual, as if his world is colored in shades of red.

“Will you fuck me now?”

“You’re so impatient,” Jeongguk scoffs. Taehyung looks sated, exhausted, yet somehow way too entranced. He doesn’t wait for Jeongguk to make a move. Turns onto his stomach and gets on his hands and knees, tucking his head against the sheets as if he has the right to be shy after wiggling his hips playfully in Jeongguk’s direction. “You’re much too bold when I have you like this.”

“Can’t help it,” Taehyung mumbles, dropping down to his elbows and bunching his fingers in the sheets as Jeongguk removes the last of his clothing. “Have you ever felt what it’s like to be under the spell of an incubus? I just want to tell you everything. I feel like I have no control, but at the same time I do.”

“It’s a give and take like that, my love.” Taehyung always shivers when Jeongguk calls him so endearingly. He makes it a point to speak so softly to him, his wants always tasting the most delicious when fattened up with a little too much affection, twenty times more than Jeongguk would ever be prone to in reality. Getting on the bed behind Taehyung, he grips at the meat of his ass, wondering if tomorrow will leave Taehyung with bruises on his hip bones where Jeongguk’s hands lingered. Wonders if he’ll be able to sit without remembering how Jeongguk slapped him, if he’ll find himself wanting more every moment he’s away from the demon. “You really want it now?”

“Can we take this slow and steady some other time?” Taehyung’s voice is muffled, but Jeongguk can still hear the hurried embarrassment in it. “I’ve wanted this for so long, you-”

A startled whine pulls from his lips as Jeongguk rubs three fingers to his entrance.

“Where- where did you get-”

“Ah, well,” Jeongguk starts, pressing the tips of his fingers in, a crooked smile blooming on his face as Taehyung tries to thrust backwards. “While you were taking it ‘slow and steady’ while talking to me, I was reaching over and grabbing lube from the side drawer.”

There’s no time for a response, as Jeongguk shoves all three of his fingers in deep, finding Taehyung’s prostate and rubbing at it relentlessly. Jeongguk knows it’s both pain and pleasure when being so forceful, so direct, but Taehyung only lets out these little staccato moans, barely able to get a breath out.

Jeongguk feels full, finally. As if he’s eaten the biggest meal in a century, something he simply wasn’t capable of getting before.

Taehyung cock is hard and kicking between his legs, precum trailing down to the sheets and leaving him a dirty mess. When Jeongguk said he wanted to devour him, he thinks this is what he meant; he’s got Taehyung crying, helpless from begging for it.

He pulls his fingers from Taehyung’s hole. Listens to him gasp insistently, envisions him crying and begging for more. Doesn’t know if it’s his own desire or Taehyung’s speaking then, and nearly has a heart attack; a shake of the head. With the press of his thumb, Jeongguk spreads Taehyung open, watches his little pucker flutter around nothing, begging to be filled up.

“You’re such a mess,” Jeongguk chuckles, voice warm despite the way he teases. Taehyung’s ears are red like the rest of his face must be, and his noise of funny dissent makes Jeongguk want to laugh. “It’s me, you said. Me, right? I know I said you were a slut earlier, will you only accept it if I say you’re a slut for me?”

There’s an imperceptible response from Taehyung, a small quirk of the head that he doesn’t let go unnoticed. He drags a hand up Taehyung’s back, fits his fingers between his sharp shoulder blades and presses at his nape.

“What was that?”

Taehyung lifts up onto his elbows, looking back at Jeongguk with such pretty, pretty eyes, all glassy and lost and seeking. “I said yes,” Taehyung responds, but it’s still so quiet, a beautiful blush fluttering across his cheeks. “I’m your- your slut. Just yours.”

Jeongguk can’t help the way he stops breathing for a fraction of a second. Watches as Taehyung smothers his face back into the sheets and put his arms back, hold himself open for Jeongguk like a gazelle offering itself up for a lion. And Jeongguk is struck then, stupefied, knowing Taehyung is a vampire- a hunter, by all means, a killer in his own sense, yet lying down here for Jeongguk to take and take and take. To think, this vampire with his small fangs is capable of so much, yet desires nothing more than to be broken down.

He’s moving on his own accord, lubing himself up and pressing his cock to Taehyung’s entrance. Despite the way his heart seems to beat out of his chest for a moment, he’s still teasing, wants to hear Taehyung whine and gets it when he simply rubs the head of his length against his hole and sees Taehyung try to shuffle backwards. And Taehyung gets it, sits back on Jeongguk’s cock and easily takes in an inch before Jeongguk is slapping his hands away and landing a harsh spank on his ass when he feels the way Taehyung is asking for it, asking for a bit of punishment to cut at the pleasure.

“You’re so damn greedy.” But his voice is a stuttering mess. It’s hard to remain collected when Taehyung is tight and hot and swallowing him up, but he pulls out and braces a hand on Taehyung’s back with a bit of iron will. “If you want to fuck yourself on my cock so bad, do it. Since you’re such a whore for me, right?”

Taehyung is whining, moaning in satisfaction as Jeongguk removes the braces of his hands and allows him to sink back, shuffle as far backwards as he can until his ass meets Jeongguk’s hips. He’s grateful for Taehyung on his stomach, knows his eyes must be flashing a thousand different colors as he attempts to right himself, Taehyung feeling so right around him. His skin is soft and forgiving, red where Jeongguk spanked him, and he can feel as Taehyung continuously squeezes down on him, fists balled tightly in the sheets.

“You’re so big,” Taehyung keens, only taking a moment to relax before he’s moving forward, thrusting clumsily onto Jeongguk’s cock and stopping every few seconds at the base like he can’t take it but wants more and more. “Feels so full. Jeongguk, fuck me- fuck me-”

“I thought you wanted to do it all yourself, baby,” Jeongguk says, breathless as he cups Taehyung’s hip, watches him needily try to get as much of Jeongguk’s cock in him as he can.

It’s nearly too much. Taehyung’s voice when he’s like this, the way it gets almost high-pitched and drowsy, he couldn’t hide the way he’s affected if he tried. And it’s even hard for Jeongguk, practiced in this like it’s a second nature, to push down the way he wants to fuck Taehyung hard and leave all the pretenses behind.

It seems to be seething with heat and anger in the room, and Jeongguk realizes now that it’s the emotion they carry above anything else. The thing that allows Jeongguk to be who he is, the thing that made Taehyung who he is- perhaps it falls apart in the bedroom for them.

“Please, Jeongguk,” Taehyung cries, pressing his hips back against Jeongguk and swallowing him whole, squeezing down on his length and breathing harshly, waiting, begging without even being asked.

“Desperate,” Jeongguk whispers, but he doesn’t mind. Likes it, even. “You asked so prettily.” Taehyung nearly wails when Jeongguk actually thrusts into him, grabs onto his hips and listens to the sound of their skin meeting in the middle.

Taehyung is a blubbering mess, even worse when Jeongguk reaches forward and grabs at his hair and his arm, roughly pulling him up until his back meets his chest. Taehyung is drooling. Making a mess all over himself. “Jeongguk,” he’s repeating, and god, Jeongguk just wants to fuck him senseless and unaware.

He rams his hips against Taehyung’s ass, thrusting deep and slow just to hear Taehyung whine and attempt to get a breath out before it’s punched from him with every pitch forward.

“Happy now?” Jeongguk asks, holding both of Taehyung’s upper arms and pulling him back, fucking into him like a ragdoll, like the fucktoy Taehyung wanted to be, losing control and turning to putty in Jeongguk’s hands. Is this what he likes? Jeongguk can’t help but ask himself. To finally lose control, to have it all be in someone else’s hands for once? To be restrained, to not have to think?

Taehyung only whines, crying out as Jeongguk tugs at his hair.

“Answer me, Taehyung. When I ask you a question, speak,” he demands, words surprisingly rough, leaving no room for argument.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Taehyung gasps. It's obviously hard for him to get the words out, but the way he's trying so hard only makes Jeongguk want to ruin him more. Getting him so mindless that it's hard to speak- maybe this is what he's wanted all along.

Taehyung losing himself is a surprise, as he suddenly clenches down on Jeongguk’s cock and bows his head, a quiet, strained moan leaving his mouth. It’s a shock to Jeongguk- he didn’t think Taehyung would cum without being touched, and it must equally surprise Taehyung as his ears go red again. Jeongguk would feed him that punishment at any other time, but now he’s too hot, too pent up, and wants to seek his release just as well; pushes Taehyung down on the bed between his shoulder blades and fucks into him quick and sharp, getting off while Taehyung searches for purchase, tightens down on him wildly and whimpers quietly.

He really is insatiable. His thoughts are always so vibrant, so telling, and Jeongguk can’t tune them out; can’t stop seeing what Taehyung wants. It’s like he wants to be torn apart, and well, who is Jeongguk to tell him no? Surely it’d be better for it to be him rather than anyone else.

Jeongguk grabs at Taehyung’s hips roughly when he feels his release oncoming, forcing his hips backwards and spilling into him with a groan. Immediately slumping over, Taehyung stretches his arms up onto the bed, whining when Jeongguk pulls out. There’s a mess of lube and cum spilling from his entrance, and Jeongguk can’t help the way he reaches out, presses two fingers into Taehyung’s sore hole and fucks it back into him just to hear him sniffle and beg, shimmying his little hips like he’s not sure if he wants to move towards or away from Jeongguk.

“Hurts,” Taehyung whines, and Jeongguk finally leaves him alone as the desire slowly tapers off into a need for something else: comfort. And Jeongguk is full, could be as cruel as he would to any other and request Taehyung leave, but there are lines he refuses to cross with Taehyung. Whether it’s because he needs or cares about him, Jeongguk refuses to debate, but as he wipes his hand clean on a tissue from the bedside drawer and stares at Taehyung’s back, he just doesn’t think it’d feel right.

Taehyung eventually flips over, eyeing Jeongguk cautiously as he pulls clothes from drawers and sets them aside. “What are you doing?”

“I thought you might want to take a bath,” Jeongguk says plainly. If he thought any harder, he might think he’s being a bit apprehensive, even shy, but that’s not typical for him. He can’t really afford to be shy. But Taehyung is the one who’s lost an expression when he looks back, looking apathetic as he nods. His cheeks, however, are as red as always, and Jeongguk doesn’t know how to feel.

It’s a process, after all. If Taehyung wants comfort, it’s Jeongguk’s job to make sure his wish is fulfilled, and-

“You don’t have to do this,” Taehyung says, sitting up and moving to get off the bed. “I know this isn’t exactly part of the deal-”

“It is,” Jeongguk cuts him off, tone allowing no room for argument.

“O-Oh,” Taehyung murmurs. “Okay.”

Jeongguk never really had a use for such a big tub. A shower lover by nature, it sat empty for the many years he lived in the large apartment. They rinse off in the shower, and Jeongguk suddenly learns to love baths. With Taehyung between his legs and an excessive amount of bubbles- he’s somewhat certain Taehyung added two cups of soap to the tub when he had his back turned- it’s warm and satiating. He rubs across all of Taehyung’s bruises, massages shampoo into his hair and humors him when Taehyung forms a bubble beard and turns to him, looking for approval.

Fingers drag over the softness of Taehyung’s tummy, Jeongguk a bit too enticed with how his skin feels in the water. And if it’s under the veil of attempting to satiate his desires, under the veil of a deal, a responsibility, rather than his own wants, he feels okay being a bit warm for once. Maybe he doesn’t smile or laugh. But holding Taehyung like this, for a moment. Jeongguk doesn’t know how to love anyone, but he thinks he can understand why other people grow enticed with their lovers’ bodies.

“So you have horns,” Taehyung states hesitantly, then reaches up to fluff at his own hair as if they’re hidden somewhere beneath in Jeongguk’s. “You get to be scarier if you want to?”

“I guess that’s one way to put it. But incubi became stronger with time, went through an evolution, if you will. We became better at hiding in plain sight, even pretending to be humans.”

“Because demons aren’t treated that well,” Taehyung murmurs, head tilted back on Jeongguk’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, quiet and short. “I guess. It’s easier to pretend to be a human. Maybe you’re not powerful to people, but no one really thinks of ways they can use you when you’re powerless.”

“That’s why you ran, isn’t it?”

The question is a touch too brash, but Jeongguk doesn’t get angry. Just frowns a bit and rubs fingers over Taehyung’s soapy legs, knees folded and peeking up from the water. “Not hard to guess, is it? And you knew about Zera, so you must know what they wanted me for.”

“But--were you born there? With Zera?” Taehyung must know he’s being a bit too heavy for Jeongguk’s tastes, his words all fragile and nearly stuttering with hesitation. But Taehyung is curious by nature, always questioning and wondering and speaking without thinking, and Jeongguk hates to think it but- he’s gotten used to it, that voice, that way of speaking, and while it once surprised him, he allows it now without question.

Sighing, Jeongguk lifts his hands from where they were clasping Taehyung’s knees and instead sets them on the edges of the bathtub. He’s fidgeting, a bit nervous. “No. I lived with my mother for years.”

He expects the question. And what exactly happened to her? But silence only follows, Taehyung humming a soft little tune and placing his big hands on top of Jeongguk’s, nuzzling back towards him and vibrating so subtly, like a pleased cat. Maybe he knows. Taehyung’s smart enough to understand how the story goes. It’s not like it’d be typical for his mother to just give him up, so the only way he got to Zera is if-

Fingers thread through his and squeeze.

“I wanna see your horns,” Taehyung says.

Jeongguk swallows. “Maybe one day.”

↞ ☆ ↠

The thing about secrets is that they rarely find a home in a grave.

Secrets aren’t really secrets, after all; they’re told by word of mouth, whispered and promised, and suddenly, they become a little known fact. Something held between two lips and confessed, or perhaps caught in the act by eyes to action. There are the secrets that are never told, those considered much too embarrassing or incriminating to be left with cracks in their facade where a person might fight their way in. But Jeongguk, well-

He thinks most secrets end up devouring away at people. Whether that means someone found out or a person confessed, he doesn’t care. It always ends the same way, however. And how he ever thought he’d get away with the biggest secret of his life, he’s unsure.

It’s been two weeks since he last saw Taehyung. Very unusual, but he went about it the way he would in most cases. Uncaring, although he sometimes caught wind of Taehyung in his thoughts and found himself frustrated, then forcing himself to shake his head and mind what he was doing. There is just a worry, a strange kind, that leaves him tapping his fingers on any available surface and frowning when alone.

There is no link between he and Taehyung. No way to contact and ask his whereabouts aside from his phone, which goes unanswered with one call. He tries to satiate himself with the inevitable. If Taehyung never appeared again, he’d live. He’d survive. He needed him, but not in the sense that he’d die without him. He might be sick, uncomfortable, under duress, but he’d always make it through. He doesn’t care, he convinces himself, and for a while, it works.

That is, until he bumps into a familiar face.

“Oh,” the man says, smiling brightly at him in a way that makes Jeongguk wince. “You’re Seraph, aren’t you?’

Jeongguk nearly gags. He can’t tell what this fellow is. Perhaps a human or a witch, maybe even a nymph of some sort. “Call me Jeongguk. There’s no reason to call me that name unless I’m at work.”

“Oh, well,” the stranger says, obviously a bit frazzled by his frank nature. “Perhaps you remember me? I’m Hoseok, I was there when Taehyung got sick.” He offers a hand to shake. Jeongguk stares, grips his hand, then quickly releases when Hoseok yelps in surprise at the force.

“Taehyung?”

“Yes,” Hoseok answers. He looks confused.

“I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Jeongguk responds, casual and unaffected, but secretly hoping for an answer.

“That’s actually why I was hoping to eventually run into you. I was planning to stop by the feeding club, but- as a nymph, it’s a bit hard for me to make my way through there, and you were never working when I stopped by. I was actually wondering if you knew where he was.”

“No, he- he hasn’t been home?” It’s embarrassing. Even he knows he sounded worried, and Hoseok quirks an eyebrow at his response, like he’s growing equally as perturbed.

“He came back a few weeks ago. Was there for a few days and all was normal, and then he and Seokjin seemed to- poof! There, just gone. I and the others were under the assumption that he was staying with you as he was going back and forth to your home and ours so frequently, but I see I was mistaken. Taehyung- we try not to care too much because we know he’s capable on his own, but he’s not really the type to disappear without a word, at least not for this long.”

“Well, no,” Jeongguk murmurs, blinking rapidly. “I haven’t seen him at all.”

Hoseok leaves after a few words of worry, telling him he’ll contact Jeongguk if he gets any more information. But he seems so lackadaisical about it all even after Jeongguk’s confirmation that he hadn’t seen him, and Jeongguk knows that his clan must have a lot of faith in him to protect himself. Jeongguk has his own faith, but it just doesn’t feel right. There’s been something amiss for weeks now, and Jeongguk could be deluding himself, but it’s not often that intuition pokes him so hard in the gut and tells him to not look the other way.

That night, he goes back to his apartment with more thoughts on his mind than he’s had in years. For so long, he stopped himself from worrying about others; it’s not worth it, he thinks. Too many people had been lost on his watch, and he couldn’t let it happen again, couldn’t let it bother him. But there’s something about Taehyung. He might’ve annoyed him at first, he certainly had to get over the fact that Taehyung was a vampire at all, but he’s envious of him. Thinks it’s cruel that not everyone on earth can have the mindset he does. Their world is seemingly going down in flames, nearly lawless and ruled by opposed leaders, Moon and Sun, yet Taehyung lives like he's forgotten.

He's not naive, Jeongguk finally decides. He's brave. Brave in a way most of them can't be.

He walks up to his door, ready to twist the key, when he glances down and sees an envelope stuck under the door. Inside, there's no lettering, no words to dictate what he's seeing. Just a map with an X on it, a time and date written above. Tomorrow at noon. Jeongguk doesn't know what to think, how to feel, so he shoves the map back in the envelope and walks inside, locking the door behind him.

There's anxiety there, knowing that someone could've found him. The idea of someone from Zera’s clan knowing his whereabouts or worse, taking Taehyung as some kind of hostage, leaves him threading his fingers through his hair with frustration. But when he takes a closer look at the map later into the night under his lamp, seeks out where it could be, and finds the X to be marked at a public bar right outside of Asora. Still strange, but not nearly as bad as some open spot in the wilderness- he’s comfortable with this, has been there while passing through cities and would know his way well enough if he needed to run.

That night, he carefully prepares for tomorrow. Picks his clothes and sets them aside, setting one of his long coats on top to prepare for the cold. There’s a chance this isn’t even related to Taehyung, but the timing is too perfect. Too strange. There’s something telling him to go, and maybe there’s a tiny part, a small, small part, that allows him to think he might be sincerely worried.

They’re not friends. Not lovers. At best, they’re business partners. But Jeongguk needs him, doesn’t he? And Jeongguk only said that the deal would be over when one of them no longer finds it mutually beneficial. The minute Taehyung did, the cursive of his name would disappear from his hand, and it’s still there, branding him as Taehyung’s own.

Besides. It’s a chance. One simple chance to make up for a thousand losses.

At the end of the night, he steps into his walk-in closet. There’s a simple drawer set at the back which he rifles through, pulling what’s hidden under a pile of socks. A gun, something he purchased as soon as he had the money to, so many years ago. He was young then, not a very powerful demon, and he thought that it would help protect himself. Now, he sticks it inside his inner coat pocket.

When he walks past the mirror on his way to bed, his eyes are red. Slit like a python. Something he learned to control years ago was now breaking apart, like part of himself could no longer hold in what was rearing to get out. Is it a secret? Jeongguk doesn’t know. He’s never known the difference between Seraph and Jeongguk, a concept of him and the reality hidden within. There’s a child in there somewhere, scared and alone, but he also knows there’s a demon. That thing they’re all so afraid of.

Jeongguk closes his eyes. When he opens them, they’re black.

He said he’d protect me, that fool, Jeongguk thinks. I guess it’s about time I returned the favor.

Chapter Text

“Are you out of your mind?”

“No, I just-”

Seokjin is quick to cut him off. He’s seething, Taehyung can tell, but it’s not exactly scary. They’ve been “brothers” for years, and he was the one Taehyung could trust the most of anyone in the clan. After all, when they took him in, Seokjin was the one to raise him, treated him like he deserved love even when the clan taught him he should be a machine. Perhaps Seokjin is to thank for keeping him sane.

“You’re telling me Seraph- Jeongguk, whatever- is that little boy? The boy with wings on his back?”

“No,” Taehyung says, eyes begging from where he’s sitting on the couch. Seokjin is distraught in front of him, pacing aimlessly around the empty room. “Yes. I mean-”

“And you admitted you kept it a secret! Oh my god, you-”

It wasn’t the intention. To tell Seokjin, anyway. Taehyung has never been good at keeping secrets, especially to those close to him, and it was eating away at him for the last few weeks. Being with Jeongguk was making him lose it- it feels like a dream to be with him, and for all the wrong reasons. He’s always in Jeongguk’s haze, and while he was telling him the truth, that he’d protect him, he also couldn’t shoulder the weight of knowing this massive clue was the thing lingering between his clan and the lives of other vampires. On the other side left Jeongguk, who he refused to betray- he felt an odd sense of protectiveness over the strange incubus, and the idea that he’d be sending him back to a blood sucking coven of traffickers leaves him sick to his stomach.

It was too stressful. He didn’t tell Jeongguk. Refused to allow him to see that he was nervous, didn’t want Jeongguk to shut him out again. It was becoming overwhelming, hard on his system, so as soon as he and Seokjin were alone, he burst like a faucet- Jeongguk is the incubus we’re looking for, and I don’t want to tell the clan.

It’s the first time he’s outright refusing an order, and he can tell. Seokjin is outright perplexed.

“What do you expect me to do, Taehyung? Keep this secret for you? I can’t, the clan comes first-” he begins walking towards the door, and Taehyung follows him with a quickness, cuts him off on the way there. He has two knives on him- one on his waist and one on his boot, and Seokjin knows this. Seokjin’s baring his fangs to him in a reflexive show of anger and betrayal, knowing what Taehyung must be warning him of with a simple glance. “You’ve lost it. You’ve lost it, Taehyung.”

“Seokjin, what is this,” Taehyung pleads, pushing Seokjin backwards, away from the door. He lifts his hands, baffled. “What kind of clan am I in? I thought this was my only family. But are we willing to pawn off someone’s life in exchange for information?”

“And that would be at the cost of other lives, to keep him safe!”

“Well, it’s not our job to determine whose lives have more value,” Taehyung’s tone is so beseeching, but he’s in pain. In pain to see some of the reality. He thought he could do it. Find whoever this incubus is, throw them back to the place they belong. But what the hell does belonging mean? Jeongguk isn’t meant to be in a place like that. He may be cold, difficult, but Taehyung knows this must be at fault; who would Taehyung be if he had to run all his life? He’d be just as hurt as Jeongguk is.

“Why, Taehyung?” Seokjin asks, forcing Taehyung’s eyebrows to waver in confusion. “Why does it matter so much? Before, none of these people mattered to you. You considered them a threat to our clan’s safety. And suddenly, you meet this Seraph, and everything changes?”

“I don’t know,” he whispers, shoulders slumping.

“There has to be a reason. You can’t just do things like this without a reason-”

“I don’t know!” It’s an exclamation that makes Seokjin flinch. Taehyung never raises his voice, but the frustration has been eating at him for weeks now. His world has been flipped in a day. To see where Seokjin’s loyalties lie, to know that most of what he has done in his life has probably been for selfish reasons. He can’t understand it. He can’t understand this world anymore. Maybe he lived in isolation in Liera too long, maybe his wants have always been too foolish. “It doesn’t make any sense. It’s horrible. But when he looks at me, when I can tell he’s not faking it, I just. I feel like someone cares, for once in my life.”

“He’s an incubus, Taehyung,” Seokjin scoffs. “His job is to make you feel like everything is perfect. He’s an actor. A master of deception. Demons are just pathological liars, and incubi are the worst of them all.”

“Let’s ignore it all then,” Taehyung says. “Let’s pretend I don’t care about him. Is it not enough that I’ve realized this isn’t right? We lost a few clan members. Fine. So what. We lose them all the time, look at the world around us. None of us are safe. So I send Jeongguk back to Zera? Zera, who sells incubi like they don’t have an ounce of humanity within them? Why are we safe while he isn’t?”

Seokjin sighs. He lifts his hands up, placing them on Taehyung’s shoulders, and looks him in the eye. “We have to be logical about this. We can’t go through life playing with our hearts, you know. Not in a place like this. We’re monsters. Not a bunch of frolicking humans. And even they’re not free from corruption.”

“I just- I need to keep him safe, Jin,” Taehyung begs. “He and I both know what it’s like to be alone all our lives. I want to be there for him.”

“But would he be there for you?”

It’s a question Taehyung doesn’t want to think about. Of course, life isn’t simply made of rainbows, of plush green grass and blue skies, but Taehyung would like to think that it doesn’t have to be a balance beam of who has done what, who would do what. Maybe it’s a matter of what’s always been in Taehyung’s bones. He’s a protector by nature, and Seokjin can’t be mad at him for something he created.

“I don’t know,” Taehyung says again, brushing Seokjin’s hands from his shoulders. “But I can’t stand beside you now. I know the clan brought me here to solve their mystery, but is it worth it, to deal with people like Zera? Knowing we haven’t had another disappearance in months? Are we fighting for simple pride?”

Seokjin looks at him long and hard. It’s a look he used to give Taehyung when he was younger, when he wrote in pen on his bedroom wall or broke a glass plate. It’s a look of disappointment, but it’s also a look of wonder, of learning.

“Get ready,” Seokjin says, plain and simple. He’s walking away before Taehyung can say anything, lifting a jacket from where he threw it over an armchair.

“Where are we going?” Shocked, Taehyung scrambles after him, not sure how to decipher his tone, whether or not he should fight Seokjin on his command.

“If you want to keep a secret like this, you can’t stay so close to the clan. We need to figure out how to work around this and fast. Zera is the leader of a strong clan, and while we had assuaged their territorial jackasses in the past, if he catches wind of this- we’re done for. Get ready.”

An exhale filled with relief is all Taehyung can give for a moment. Finally, he’s not shouldering this weight alone, but a question that had been lingering on his mind all day turns in his head once more.

“And Seokjin,” he calls, hesitating when the older vampire greets him with cautious eyes, questioning. “I need to know. Need to know everything you know about where I came from.”

At first, Seokjin looks bent to reply. But then he’s nodding, sighing, turning around and leaving Taehyung to ponder alone.

He’s just tired. Tired of being alone, of following the pack, of being left in the dark.

↞ ☆ ↠

Life as a rogue vampire is not easy.

There's no other way to describe the fear that comes with always looking over your shoulder, feeling as if each step you take is a stab in the back. In 1995, Kim Heehyun feels this emotion in tides- she has nowhere to go, and with a baby on her hands, the world seems much more scary now. With a baby, she’s not just accounting for her own fear, her own health- there’s a counterpart to her now, one that’s struggling for life and depends on her, and she can’t move selfishly anymore.

Heehyun presented with her own vampire power when she was fifteen, just two years shy of the normal age. By that time, her parents were accustomed to living with other vampires as they lived in a place filled with them, and her presenting as an anomaly in the lineage didn't provide a problem. Vampires had existed for hundreds of years, but they’d only now begun to make their way into the society of what were once called the Normals- Humans, they now know, who are absolutely terrified of vampires and thought they were mere myths. Vampires took to the streets with a vengeance at first, but soon enough tried to make arrangements with the powerful Humans of Earth to have peace, to make law between all of the Starlights that began to appear- vampires, werewolves and witches alike.

That was until the murders started happening- by the time vampires were docile enough to live alone, they started to disappear. The Humans took advantage of how the vampires felt calm in this new age, and soon enough, the vampires started to die out with the new existence of vampire hunters. All out war began, and the streets turned to chaos. Without a clan, vampires might as well be the walking dead.

Living a normal life before it falls apart does not help. The same way seeing before blindness does not help or hearing before deafness does not help. It is a sharp knife in her side to live in the village, to almost live like a Normal, before these powers overcame her and left her scrambling to gain a hold on her life again. Her parents were killed two years after she presented, flourishing into a fully grown vampire. Her family- the only living side, the Humans- rejected her. On her father’s side, she did not know the family. Did not know the vampires she could call to help. It was tough until she met- him.

Now he’s gone, too.

The only one left is this little baby cradled in her arms, closed eyes peeking out above the bundle of blankets. In the light drizzle, Heehyun becomes worried about shelter- hiding- but when she breaches the alley of a dark street and looks down to see her baby, warm and safe in her arms, she’s okay. They’re okay.

She frowns when she realizes they can’t be okay for long. But she knows she’ll never forgive herself if she lets this baby get hurt because of her. There’s always the thought. This baby should be safe forever as long as she lets him go. If she dropped him off at the porch of some clan, they’d most likely raise the baby as their own, not willing to turn one of their own away when so young. But it hurts- it burns, burns, burns- and she knows not all clans are safe, most so corrupt, and she feels lost once more.

The night is dark and damp. Seeking shelter has been difficult in this unknown town, and while she could usually depend on finding a hostel for the night, she’s lost with nowhere to go on one of the worst days of the month. She finds herself moving down dark alleyways for cover with exhaustion, thankful for every moment the baby stays peacefully asleep in her arms. She wishes some odd store was open. Sometimes, she’d find a place to stay for days, and she could pretend everything was fine again, like when her parents were alive.

Kim Heehyun is tired. Days without rest have sent her down with a near plague. But each step, despite how hard it is, seems to carry her forward for the simple sake of her child. She’s done everything for him. Every day she traveled, it was for him. Every moment she stayed awake restlessly was for him. And as she rounds the corner, takes one tired step, another, barely able to keep her eyes open, it’s all for him.

Death doesn’t always arise slowly. Heehyun knows this in the same way she knows her parents died, both with bullets to the head by angry Humans. Knows those battling Normals will use sharp swords and guns and knives and anything harmful to kill each other off, and now, to kill the vampires off. All they needed was a common enemy to bring their species together. But vampires have always been stronger, and Heehyun thinks the war will end soon, even if the casualties are much too large to ever make up for.

She knows that death doesn’t always arise with suspense, with a careful slowness. But she closes her eyes a moment too long. Doesn’t look at the darkness of her surroundings or even attempt to sniff out an enemy in the dark. One moment she’s walking, holding her baby in her arms, and the next, she’s tripping and falling to the hard asphalt with a gasp. There’s a sharp pain bleeding into her stomach, her already fuzzy surroundings seeming to blur as she attempts to keep a tight grip even as she rolls onto her side, the baby now awake and crying in surprise.

“It’s alright,” she tries to say, blinking and watching her world go dark with a sleepy panic. “It’s alright, Taehyung.” The baby quiets under her words, yet it feels like a nightmare. As three figures emerge from the shadows, one crouching down to thumb at her chin and stare at her teeth, she wants to blink and wake up safe in some bed she managed to find for her and the baby.

“You idiot,” one of the strangers says. “She’s a vampire like us.”

“She smelled an awful lot like a human. Little fangs, too. Could barely tell the difference even if we saw.”

“Must be a mutt,” one chuckles. “Plenty of humans and vampires breeding to make peace these days.”

“Wait, what’s that?” The third stranger, having not spoken yet, seems to shock the other two. He points to the bundle in her arms, and when neither of his companions budge, he leans down and picks it up. As he suspected, it’s a tiny baby, sniffling quietly into the night.

The vision shifts, swirls.

Seokjin is holding a baby in his arms. It isn’t the first time, but it doesn’t exactly feel normal to hold something so soft and innocent in his grasp. Soobin and Namjoon seem absolutely perplexed, and that’s when they hear it. A gurgling noise that cracks through the night in a way that sends his stomach toiling. Looking down, he sees the woman Soobin shot attempting to sit up, falling when her arms give out. She’s trying so hard to reach for this thing in his arms, calling out something nearly imperceptible over and over.

“Taehyung,” she says, gasping out as she coughs up blood. It’s a hard sight for Seokjin to stomach. They were trying to hunt down the humans who had been stalking them for days, and Soobin shot at the wrong person, thinking he smelled a human in the air. In the end, the woman was the product of a marriage between a vampire and human. It makes it easy to see why she was so easy to kill, as well. Vampires are immortal, only capable of dying with a lethal blow to the head. With one shot, she was left gasping for air.

When she finally falls, breath escaping her, Soobin only tsks and walks away, as if the woman somehow inconvenienced him. Seokjin feels guilty beyond words. He’s seen death too much to be shocked, but this is the kind of death that was unnecessary. The kind that will stick with him for years.

Looking up, Namjoon seems to share his sentiments. Gives him a grimace of a smile before following after Soobin.

Seokjin looks down at the woman once more before swallowing and walking away. When he emerges from the alleyway, Soobin is giving him a look of complete bewilderment.

“What the hell are you gonna do with that thing?”

“What? This baby?”

“Yeah,” Soobin laughs. “Gonna stick it with the other bounty hunters in training? He’s a little young for that.”

“He can’t even walk, Soobin,” Namjoon comments. “How’s he gonna lift a sword or throw a knife?”

“You ask Seokjin that. I certainly don’t know what else he plans to do with a kid. If it were up to me, we’d be leaving the baby back in the alley with his mom.” He walks off, and Seokjin glares at his back. There are too many vampires like him. Stupid, insensitive prick.

“Well, what are you gonna do with him?”

Seokjin sighs. The baby is just staring at them, big eyes tear-filled but cries silent. A strong child, or maybe just shocked- regardless, he knows the clan will accept him even if reluctantly. The baby in his arms is small but seems to be at least mostly vampire, unlike his mother. He shrugs to Namjoon, not bothering with an answer. He’s not sure now, but he doesn’t know if he could bare any more guilt by leaving a child alone.

Taehyung, he bleakly remembers his mother calling him. And when the baby yawns, still sleepy even through his stressed tears, he sees fangs beginning to poke from his toothless gums. It nearly makes him laugh.

“What will you do with those little fangs?”

↞ ☆ ↠

Taehyung is hungry.

Scratch that. Taehyung is starving. It’s been a long time since he’s had to go more than a few days without Jeongguk near enough to him to bite at, their routine falling into place so easily that he nearly forgot how it felt to crave something. Seokjin forces blood bags down his throat, but they don’t quite taste right. The feeding place outside of Asora is filled with desperate humans who stare at him too long and always ask to see his fangs as if they’re something to behold.

But he doesn’t have much of a choice. Seokjin forced him into a little cabin outside the city with him, and they haven’t spoken much about the big issues. He wonders what they’re waiting for. After all, it seems a bit dangerous to waste time with the way Seokjin was speaking to him, as if the clan finding out he was hiding Jeongguk would be inevitable and within a few moments he’d be burnt at the stake. The days are slow, almost as if Taehyung is back in Liera, passing each day with little difficulty. The only difference is that-

He misses Jeongguk. His blood, his smell. Even the way he looks at him is something Taehyung’s body is begging for. He knows if they saw each other again he wouldn’t cheer. Wouldn’t jump into his arms and squeal with delight. But seeing him, he thinks, would be nice.

“I don’t understand why we’re waiting here,” Taehyung complains as Seokjin drags him out onto the street. “Do you want me to rot? I hate not knowing what’s going on.”

“Can you stop whining like a baby?”

“I’m not a baby,” Taehyung mutters with a pout.

“You sound like one,” Seokjin mutters. Taehyung isn’t sure why they keep going back to this particular bar every day. They don’t even need to feed every day, so Seokjin’s insistence is a bit strange. Taehyung’s practically dragging his feet on the way there, not nearly prepared to have to drink more of the disgusting human blood that tastes too bitter and nearly rancid.

But as they near it, Taehyung thinks he finally understands why. Why Seokjin has been pulling him along every day and looking around for something Taehyung can’t ever see.

Jeongguk is there, waiting outside of the bar with his hands tucked into his pockets. It’s all so casual. The way he leans against the wall, wavy hair seeming to cover his eyes as he looks downwards and waits patiently. At first, Taehyung thinks he must be hallucinating. What could Jeongguk be doing here, after all? But it’s him, it’s really him. Taehyung knows it the moment he looks up, when he catches a glimpse of those eyes- too dark, nearly black. On any other, Taehyung might be scared, think him soulless, but the look of abrupt shock tears away at any bit of Jeongguk that might seem deathly.

“Why- why is he here?” Taehyung is muttering to Seokjin, who catches him standing still on the sidewalk and grabs his wrist, tugging him forward.

“He’s kind of an important piece in our current issues, isn’t he?”

“But how did he know?”

“I got Jimin to deliver a bit of mail for me. I was waiting to see when it’d be delivered and Jeongguk would grace us with his beautiful presence.”

As they grow nearer, Taehyung is overwhelmed. Jeongguk is always so handsome. Tilts his head so charmingly, removes the look of shock on his face to instead give something so dubious, something Taehyung can’t decipher, eyes dark. He smells even better than usual, and Taehyung feels himself wanting and wanting, watches with disbelief as Jeongguk’s eyes flash red and his pupils slit; it must’ve been his imagination.

“It was you,” Jeongguk murmurs as they grow close enough, directing his gaze to Seokjin. Taehyung misses it instantly, breathing unsteadily. “Could’ve added a note. Was under the assumption I’d be here fighting someone.”

“Oh, come on,” Seokjin laughs, sarcastic. “We’re not in the middle ages. I just didn’t have a way to contact you.”

“You came all the way here thinking you’d have to fight?” Taehyung asks. He’s bewildered. Did Jeongguk know he’d be here? When Jeongguk’s gaze is on him, he’s not sure how to feel. There’s no relief there, but it’s always too hard for him to read Jeongguk. Jeongguk only nods, doesn’t give him a boisterous explanation. Just pulls Taehyung in by the wrist, and right when he thinks Jeongguk might do something completely out of his nature like hug him, he’s shoving Taehyung’s hand inside his coat and forcing his hand on his inner pocket. It feels an awful lot like- like a gun-

“Look at the things you make me do, baby fangs,” Jeongguk is laughing in his ear, forcing Taehyung to blush. “Thought I’d have to come save you. I like to keep things fair, you know. I'm not just your damsel in distress. You can be mine, too.”

Taehyung snatches his arm away and backs towards Seokjin, face inflamed. “You’re such a dick.”

“Mm,” Jeongguk hums, eyes unfocused as he reaches forward, thumbs at Taehyung’s cheek and abruptly drops his hand. “Thought you might be dead.”

It’s so straightforward, Taehyung doesn’t know what to make of it. Frowns as Seokjin steps ahead of them both with a roll of the eyes, beckoning them both inside.

It's the first time he's sitting down with Jeongguk and they're not alone. Jeongguk sits across from them both, and Taehyung imagines that anyone else might be uncomfortable, especially an incubus in the vicinity of two vampires, two of which who now know his biggest secret. But Jeongguk's eyes are even if not dark, fingers tapping against the table and an arm swung over the back of the booth. Taehyung thinks then that he might be trying to come off too calm, but he can never be sure.

“So, why are you both here?” Jeongguk looks up, his eyes lingering on Taehyung’s. It's unnerving. “And why have I been invited?”

“I don't know how else to say this,” Seokjin starts, and Taehyung is balling his hands into his trousers beneath the table, staring at his lap. There's a nudge against his foot, and he can see the edge of Jeongguk’s boot placed against his; when he glances up, Jeongguk is looking curiously at Seokjin, however, and Taehyung thinks the call to his attention must've been nothing but a mistake.

“I know,” Seokjin confesses seriously. “I know who you are. But I’m not going to do anything with that information.”

Taehyung watches as the blood drains from Jeongguk's face; his expression stays neutral, but maybe Taehyung’s just had enough practice with the incubus to see how he looks when he's on edge. His jaw tightens, his fingers stop tapping. If he didn't know any better, he'd think he was enraged, get scared or even run for his life. But Jeongguk seems terrified.

A twitch of the eyebrow. Jeongguk balls his hand into a fist on the table, and it's intimidating.

“Ah,” is all Jeongguk says at first, like he's not sure whether to lie and defend himself or accept it. His eyes drift to Taehyung, half-lidded and threatening, before he's scoffing and sitting back. “I'm not exactly surprised about this. I mean, how much running could I do before the secret got out?”

“I didn't mean to tell him-” Taehyung finally tries.

Jeongguk gives him a look, eyes cutting. For some reason, Taehyung almost feels like he could cry. He wouldn't betray Jeongguk like that. Well. It looks like he did, but he couldn't do this alone. Taehyung is still in the clan, after all; if they keep searching without him, if they scoured the area for every incubus and found out that conveniently, Taehyung had been keeping particularly friendly with one of them, he can't help but think it'd make more suspicion arise than having never told anyone at all. And he trusts Seokjin. Maybe he battled him at first, but Seokjin isn't the type to give someone their word and go back on it.

He wishes Jeongguk didn't affect him so. As it is, a simple look can send his stomach aching with sadness or burning with want, and he can't understand it. Wishes he were stronger, that he could turn the other way from the very beginning.

“I made Taehyung leave Asora temporarily until I can find a place for him to stay within the city that's not so close to clan territory. I work within my tavern, but the rooms above me are filled with other members. The rest live in a home not far from us, and while I can trust Namjoon, Hoseok, Yoongi and Jimin with Taehyung- although I promise they know nothing of your situation- I’m worried what will happen if too many conversations including Taehyung’s name and his situation come out. We talked to a few members when he was sick about his condition, and some are nosy or even bad at heart. I don't want them to grab ahold of Taehyung and try to get word of your location.”

Jeongguk gives a hum. It looks like he's still processing that someone other than Taehyung knows what he's hiding from, that the information could be used against him at any minute. Maybe Seokjin can feel that same tension, because he continues talking.

“I know it's not much. We’ve only talked a few times. But I don't think Taehyung had bad intentions,” he says, glancing his way with soft eyes. “He's not good at showing it, but when he's upset or stressed, it sits heavily upon him. I think he just needed someone to tell, and if he can trust me, I'd hope you can trust me in the same sense- that your secret is mine, and I have no reason to turn you in to Zera. I know what kind of man he is, what kind of group he runs, and while we needed information, maybe something else can be done to right the wrongs in this situation.”

Taehyung has no idea what it must be like to constantly have to look over your shoulder. He grits his teeth, eyes the line of Jeongguk's tense fingers and wishes there was something more he could do, that he hadn't just stressed Jeongguk out more. He was slowly gaining his trust in some ways, and maybe he'd just ruined it, even if like Seokjin said, he didn't have bad intentions. Just wanted to keep Jeongguk safe, and didn't know what to do anymore.

“I called you here so we could talk. Talking in the city doesn't make me feel safe, not with so many members of our clan walking around.”

“I see,” Jeongguk murmurs. “Well, thank you. For protecting our safety.”

The gratefulness in his tone shocks Taehyung. He isn't used to that positivity but thinks it must be for the sake of pleasing Seokjin. The older vampire smiles, after all. Takes the thank you without knowledge that it might be fake.

“The other reason I called you here was, well. I thought you two might have some things to discuss. Or that you might want to, I don't know. Go out to eat together,” Seokjin quips, clearly holding back a laugh as he slides out of the booth. Taehyung looks at him with pleading eyes, wanting nothing less than to be alone with Jeongguk right now. “Taehyung, you can find your way back, right? It’s close.”

Taehyung tries to argue, mentions that he might get lost, but Seokjin is waving him off and winking. “See you when you get back to the cabin, Taehyung!”

And then he's left alone with Jeongguk, whose hand is now flat against the wooden table. Taehyung’s throat feels lodged, as if words are stuck in his lungs and he can't quite get them out. His eyes are glued to the table for fear of meeting Jeongguk's, scared of what he might think now.

The mild chatter doesn't help how awkward he feels, but Jeongguk is eventually standing. “Come. There's too many people here.”

With a quiet hum, Taehyung is swallowing and following after him, out the door of the bar and into the midday air. Jeongguk seems to know the area reasonably well, Taehyung following the line of his back as he casually walks down sidewalks, hands still shoved in his pockets; he turns every corner with purpose, finally landing them in front of a small potion store that must be close to Asora. Taehyung can make sense of his surroundings a bit but doesn't understand why they're here.

“I used to come here when I was younger. I lived in this city for about a month until I decided the vampire population wasn't high enough for the feeding clubs to be truly profitable, so I ended up going back to Asora even if I hated it,” Jeongguk explains, opening the door with a jingle.

The dark room reminds Taehyung of Yoongi’s home. Bookshelves filled with books, dusted from age and character. Light shines in at odd angles through the multi-colored windows and paints them green, red, yellow, orange. And so many plants, too- Taehyung nearly screams when he feels something brush his arm, looking up to see vined plants hanging from every corner, growing across the bricked walls and trailing across the floor.

There's even a cat wandering through the store, and when he looks at the back, a short old woman sorting through a mess of books. Jeongguk nods to her, the woman greeting them back, and Jeongguk is quick to then grab Taehyung by the wrist and pull him to the side. There are three small rooms set off to the side with sliding glass doors, the same multi-colored glass that sits in the front. It's so pretty, Taehyung wants to stare at it; he doesn't get the chance, for Jeongguk is opening the door and shoving him in the room before he has a chance to think.

“They have study rooms for young witches and wizards,” Jeongguk tells him, shutting the door with a click. “When I had nowhere to go, this was a nice place to hide.”

Taehyung can see why. It's dark in a quaint, comfortable way. Daylight peaks in from outside, but most of the light is coming from a small glass lamp in the corner. There's a short table and bean bags on the floor, books stacked around them like people strew them about and forgot to put them back. It's warm, it's pretty, and Taehyung is comfortable-

His back slams against the nearest wall, but it doesn't hurt. Just shocks him a moment as he looks up, finds Jeongguk glaring at him with deep orange eyes. “If you’re trying to get me to trust you, you have a funny way of going about it.”

“I wasn’t trying to do anything-” Taehyung begins, righting himself with a glare. He’s upset. Bone deep and dreadful, because he knows what this must feel like to Jeongguk- betrayal, like he’s now tip toeing on eggshells, and that’s never what he wanted to happen. Jeongguk stares at him, frowning and showing his emotions so plainly for once. He just can’t keep it in this time, Taehyung sees- how infuriated he is by what happened, how infuriated he is by Taehyung. “Jeongguk, I couldn’t just- keep it. They told me that we were looking for you to save the lives of other vampires, and that’s stressful for me, okay? It may not worry you, but I didn’t want to have to choose a side-”

“Those vampires were horrible people! Do you even understand what kind of vampires you’re shacked up with in that clan of yours?”

Taehyung arches an eyebrow. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Shaking his head, Jeongguk inhales and backs away from Taehyung. “You don’t get it. You don’t. Taehyung, you’ve lived with these vampires all your life. But you’ll never understand what it’s like to really be alone when you have those people by your side. Your clan isn’t made of angels. Why do you think they make deals with people like Zera? Why do you think they have entire league devoted to raising fucking--bounty hunters? Kids, like you, who turned up at their doorstep- doesn’t that sound strange to you?”

“I-I don’t know. It wasn’t my choice. I didn’t choose to go there, I was just- there-”

“And how many of those vampires that you call family abuse their power? And you’re just one of their weapons, someone for them to use-”

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung calls, walking forward and fisting at Jeongguk’s coat. “I’m not a liar. You know I’m not a liar.”

Jeongguk stares at him. His eyes have mellowed, aren’t such a fiery orange anymore, but they’re still bright and brown, pupils seeming so oddly sharp as he takes in Taehyung’s face. Fingers are winding around his wrists and squeezing, tossing them away as Jeongguk inhales sharply. “I don’t know if you’re a liar. You’re a vampire, Taehyung. I don’t know how- how from the beginning, the very beginning, you could ask me to trust you when you’re like this.”

“Because I’m not like them! I told you, I didn’t choose this. I left a long time ago to Liera when I felt like things weren’t right anymore. I came back as a favor to Seokjin, but when I met you, what? Did I find out and toss you away? No, because I said I’d protect you. I wasn’t lying when I said that. And Seokjin doesn’t make promises he can’t keep, okay?”

“Well, why do you want to protect me?” Jeongguk asks, tilting his head at Taehyung. His eyes are stoney, calculating. “Do you love me? Is that it? Have I given you some reason to?”

Taehyung swallows. Thinks of times Jeongguk held him close, when he carefully washed his hair for him in the shower or ran fingers over his legs, soft and caring. But he also remembers Seokjin’s words- he knows how demons are. Knows why, even if they’re powerful, people are scared of them, try to find ways to weaken them rather than sourcing their power for the better. It’s a lie, it always is, and Jeongguk’s patience and care towards him are better a myth than a reality. He’s tortured by it. Embarrassed. But he also feels like he can’t do anything without it; his body is addicted.

His stomach drops, and he feels so empty. He tries not to let it show as he draws near to Jeongguk, always taking steps towards him and trying not to fall apart at the way he steps away. “I don’t. I don’t love you. I promise. But I do care. I don’t know why, but I care.”

Jeongguk’s eyes are entrancing. Taehyung watches them fall from a light brown to black, as if he’s calmed completely at his words. He’s still staring at him, but it’s not so harsh like this. Taehyung can breathe again, shakes out his nervous hands and turns, ready to leave, to put this conversation behind them and discuss their next step. “I’m sorry for telling Seokjin. I really didn’t plan to. The weight just became too much to bare, and-”

A hand is on his shoulder, tugging him quickly until he’s spinning back towards Jeongguk. Taehyung can’t even begin to process what’s happening before lips are on his and his back is against the wall, this time with more care. He shuts his eyes even as he makes a small noise of distress, of confusion; Jeongguk’s lips are so soft against his, the hand against his neck gently holding him in place. When Taehyung finally settles, he’s placing hands against Jeongguk’s chest, feeling out his rhythmic heartbeat; it thuds behind his ribs like a metronome, so calming and pleasing under Taehyung’s hands.

Jeongguk pulls away slowly, plants a second kiss at the corner of his mouth like it’s for safekeeping. “I’m sorry,” he says, so quietly Taehyung has to crane to hear it properly. It goes unsaid, but Taehyung knows that Jeongguk must’ve been scared. Taehyung can only nod and press his lips together, entirely dazed as Jeongguk turns away from him and opens the sliding door, waiting for him to follow after.

It’s the first kiss they’ve shared. Taehyung waits till Jeongguk’s back is turned and presses fingers to where Jeongguk’s lips once were, shocked at the ghost of a feeling. He can never understand Jeongguk, but he thinks it might’ve been one of those tiny things left unsaid when he always asked Jeongguk what he wanted and Jeongguk responded with dismissal. Taehyung could only think of leaving in that moment, a desire for peace and calm and silence, so it’s strange to think that maybe, just maybe, Jeongguk was the one who wanted to kiss him.

↞ ☆ ↠

There’s more than one room at the cabin. Seokjin invites Jeongguk in like an old friend, and the incubus, to Taehyung’s great surprise, doesn’t say no. Besides, it’s too late to head back to the city anyway.

Accepts when Seokjin says they need to figure out all the details of how they should move forward with evading and closing out Zera’s interest in Jeongguk. Seokjin believes that it won’t be as simple as saying they don’t want to accept the deal anymore, that they couldn’t find him. Clans as close as theirs are frequently keeping close eyes on the movement of rival vampires, and Seokjin doesn’t want to arise any suspicion if they were to claim they found the incubus he was looking for, but he was dead for years now. If they were to say the incubus ran far away with no chance of being found again.

“Because I don’t want to just stop my clan from looking for you,” Taehyung murmurs, splaying the folder on the table. It’s his original bounty order, and Jeongguk thumbs it open as he sits at the coffee table in the small living area of the cabin, eyes serious as he goes through the information. “I want Zera to never look your way again.”

When Jeongguk glances up at him, he thinks there might be an easy question in his eyes.

“Call it even for keeping me alive when I was sick,” Taehyung says with a small smile. He doesn’t want to think any deeper into why he cares so much whether or not Jeongguk is alive or not, whether his existence is enjoyable. Protecting people is what he’s valued since he was young. He doesn’t think it’s what his clan really expected when they taught him to hunt and seek out prey, but he thought it was always about keeping other people alive, the people important to him. Now, he doesn’t know what his clan stands for, if people he killed were innocent and merely got in the way of their power. To think his whole existence was founded upon a beautiful lie is daunting, so he ignores it; stashes away those concerns for later, and focuses so deeply on Jeongguk and his problems that his own seem to take a backseat.

Jeongguk stands from the couch. They may be the same height, but Taehyung sometimes wants to cower in his presence; Jeongguk’s aura, this cloud that seemed to permanently follow him, was once black, tainted with anger, but now it’s gray. Has been a dark gray for some time now, and Taehyung doesn’t know what it means. Is Jeongguk unsure? What could he be uncertain about?

“Are you some agent sent to make me like vampires more?” Jeongguk seems to be joking. The words sit awkwardly on his tongue, however. Taehyung humors him, lets him relax with a dry chuckle that shows amusement even when he’s toiling inside from Jeongguk’s presence. He hasn’t had his blood in weeks. And he knows all the same Jeongguk hasn’t fed from him, so maybe that’s why his stomach seems to simmer with need.

“No, just me,” Taehyung counters. “I’d hope, at least. That you’d grow to like rather than tolerating me.”

“I don’t really like anyone,” Jeongguk snorts. “Mm. You could call it a great dependence on myself.”

Taehyung looks at him, tries to scour out how genuine he’s being. He can understand; being alone is something one can grow so used to that it burns to stand by another, but he can’t understand the bigger part of Jeongguk that desires to be alone, seems to fear contact with another. Well, it’s not as if they’re friends or lovers. It’s not like he has any right to knowledge about Jeongguk, but he likes when it feels like Jeongguk trusts him more than others, when he’ll let bits of information slide from his lips and into Taehyung’s heart.

Seeking, Jeongguk’s eyes scan over his face. It’s dark now, a single candle lit within the room to keep them from complete blindness. It’s cold in the cabin, but Taehyung feels warm when Jeongguk looks at him, when he raises a brow and looks over his lips, the same ones he kissed earlier. Taehyung warms, blushes. He’s still not sure if he imagined it or not.

“But you,” Jeongguk says, swallowing. “I suppose you can be an exception.”

Taehyung’s nearly forgotten what they were talking about. “Ah. You like me?”

“I’m not really sure what that means,” Jeongguk admits, and his voice is surprisingly awkward, shy, like he’s ashamed to admit it. “But sure. I think you’re likable, in whatever sense that could be…”

A giggle is bursting from Taehyung before he can stop it, and for the first time, he watches Jeongguk’s face grow aflame. “No, thank you. I like you too. In whatever way is convenient for the moment.” It’s just as vague and oblivious, and watching Jeongguk’s face sour as he scoffs, like he’s simply not sure how to react, is much too pleasing. But Taehyung keeps telling himself he doesn’t want to think about it. That the “like” he spoke of is probably much different than Jeongguk’s, much more juvenile. It’s stupid. If anything, he likes a figment of his imagination, but-

Taehyung’s always been an optimist. A dreamer. Of course he’d like what he can’t have.

“I hate to interrupt you two, but I was wondering if I could speak privately with Taehyung?” Seokjin appears from the room Taehyung is sharing with him. Jeongguk nods, exiting after a moment of stern eye contact with Seokjin that seems to make the older vampire uncomfortable. Taehyung holds back a laugh as he takes a seat on the couch where Jeongguk once lingered, the folder in front of him still open on a list of key descriptors.

When Jeongguk leaves the room, Taehyung shivers, tugs on the ends of his sweater for a bit of warmth. Seokjin drags a chair to sit across from Taehyung at the coffee table, reaching out to close the folder as if he’s nervous, fumbling for things to do with his hands in the moment. He glances once more to the door Jeongguk went through, one Taehyung knows leads down a hall to a small spare bedroom and bathroom. He’s anxious, Taehyung sees. Wary of Jeongguk hearing. It makes Taehyung nervous just as well, worrying his lip and staring at his long time friend with a bit of suspicion in his gaze.

“Before we left, you asked that I tell you everything I know,” Seokjin begins. “And I know a lot more than I’ve let on. There are reasons, however, that I’ve never told you much. I thought I was keeping you safe.”

“You can’t keep someone safe by keeping them oblivious,” Taehyung murmurs warmly, understanding but knowing it hurt much more all these years to be kept in the dark. Whenever he’d ask in his youth about his background, Seokjin would say he turned up at their door like the biggest blessing of a mystery. And Taehyung, none the wiser, would accept with a smile, even if with age he found it harder to believe that was all there is to it.

“I need you to know before anything that I care about you. I always have, and that’s the only reason I ever kept these things from you.”

Heart thudding violently in his chest, Taehyung finds himself frowning uncontrollably. “You’re worrying me. Is it really so bad?”

“I just don’t want to ruin your trust for me.” Seokjin, usually so chaotic in the way he approaches things, seems too serious for the moment. In the past, any arguments they had would be fleeting yet aggravating, Seokjin’s lackadaisical nature while Taehyung became emotionally invested easily upsetting Taehyung. But now, he clears his throat and pulls something out of his pocket. It’s a rectangular identification card, a stranger’s face pictured in the corner.

She looks an awful lot like Taehyung.

“Your mother. Kim Heehyun,” Seokjin whispers carefully.

“Where’d you get this?” Taehyung reaches out with a violence, holding the card with confusion. He scans over every bit of text, looks at the photo like he’s attempting to burn the vision into his memory, but it’s like he can’t see. The world is wavering around him, closing in and leaving him breathless. It feels too cold now, goosebumps erupting on his skin and leaving him shivering, wanting nothing more than a blanket or another jacket to shield him from the freeze, the fear.

His mother's face. Could it really be his mother? They have the same eyes, a similar visage; the photo is old, faded, a corner of the card chipped from the wear and tear of time. Under species, both human and vampire are listed- it's his mother, he thinks, but just as easily a stranger. A blurry piece of himself printed on plastic and Taehyung is forced to come to terms with it, this person he is and is not.

“When you were an infant. I took it at the last moment, figuring you’d like to see it at some age far down the road. It was the only thing she had on her.”

Taehyung glances up, sharp. “She gave it to you? Did she give me away?”

“Taehyung…”

“No,” Taehyung says, standing up from the couch. “Did she give me away? Why are you beating around the bush?”

“Because I don’t know how to say it. I don’t know how to explain that someone from our clan killed her.”

Seokjin’s words are frank yet melancholy. The fury drops from Taehyung’s face. He feels it then in his gut, a twisting pain that isn’t nearly surprised as it should be. As soon as Seokjin drew the ID from his pocket, Taehyung knew something wasn’t right. It’s an odd thing to keep from someone, an even odder thing to give away. His mother wanted him. He was never abandoned. She was killed, and he’s here now, working with the same people who took her life from her.

“They killed her,” Taehyung mumbles, senselessly looking around for something to ground him. “They killed her, and you were there. You-”

“I didn’t do it, Taehyung,” Seokjin blurts as he stands up. “We thought she was a human. She had too much human blood in her, and they sniffed her out and killed her. It was a different time, okay? We were running for our lives in the middle of a war. I took you when I noticed you in her arms, I couldn’t leave you behind.”

“Maybe you should’ve!” Taehyung can barely speak around the way his throat closes up. He feels so many things at once that he can’t stand straight, can’t move without shaking. There are tears pricking at his eyes, burning as he tries to blink them away. It’s hard to mourn for a person he never knew, but the betrayal stings much more. Knowing this thing he tried to brush aside so often was exactly as he suspected makes his head spin with uncertainty and despair. “You brought me back. You made me into a monster. You killed her-”

“I didn’t kill her! I didn’t pull that trigger,” Seokjin yells back at him, looking close to tears himself. “If it was up to me, you’d be with her to this day. She died quickly, Taehyung. She was too many parts human in a world that hated both sides of her, and she wouldn’t have lasted long outside of us. You’d be dead by now, and I couldn’t leave one of our own to rot at such a young age.”

“How can you know these things and still stand by their sides?” There’s no energy left to be incredulous. Taehyung is still trying everything in his power to hold back the tears as Seokjin’s face becomes a blurry vision of a stranger’s. He doesn’t understand it. As soon as Jeongguk became angry at him, he couldn’t imagine supporting his clan any longer. But Seokjin has stayed by their sides for years. Allowed Taehyung to be turned into a hunter for their benefit. It hurts. It does. It forces him bitter and angry and so, so lost.

He was always alone. Even more alone than he thought.

“It’s not that simple. Life isn’t sunshine and rainbows, Taehyung. Do you see the world we live in? Being alone as a vampire is suicide.”

Taehyung looks at Seokjin. Really looks. Sees how tired and upset he is, sees how hundreds of years on a dying Earth must’ve aged him even without a humanely beating heart.

“Sometimes, we make sacrifices to move on. The world isn’t as simple as you think it is,” Seokjin sighs.

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” Taehyung bites, newly angered, taking an impulsive step forward and not even flinching when his shin bumps into the coffee table, sends the folder flying to the wooden floor. “Do you think I haven’t lived in this world just as you have? I don’t believe I should stand for nothing and allow these things to go on around me. I won’t allow myself to paint the world powerless just because it’s easier than fighting to make things right. It’s cowardly. To have a choice and stay where you are even knowing how bad things can be, it’s the move of a coward.”

“It was between life and death-”

Taehyung shakes his head, walks away from the couch to put some distance between them. “No, it’s not. There are options. There always are. Don’t tell me that killing my mother was a move made for safety, don’t tell me it was justifiable. I will always, always be alone because of you- you will never understand what it’s like to have nothing to call your own.”

Seokjin takes a deep inhale. Tries to take a step forward, one that sends Taehyung stepping back with shaky legs, feeling like a newborn deer trying to take its first steps. His heart is pained, broken. He can’t understand what’s happening anymore, nothing seems to make sense; his world has shattered within a few words, and Taehyung doesn’t know how to take another step without giving into death or crying for an eternity. “Taehyung-”

The door to the hall cracks open with a quiet creak. They both jolt, heads turning to the entrance and finding Jeongguk standing there with absolute confusion on his face, but even more than that, a bit of ire.

“Why is Taehyung yelling?”

“We were having a conversation about something important,” Seokjin sighs, sitting down. Taehyung doesn’t know what to do. He can’t just run back to Asora, can’t find his way back to his tiny place in Liera. He’s stuck here between a person he can no longer trust and another who doesn’t know how to feel about him. It hits him then how lost and alone he feels, and his face feels on fire as he tries to hold in a sniffle but can’t. Jeongguk is staring at him, gaze fighting between Taehyung and Seokjin, who has his eyes downcast.

Taehyung looks away, grabs at his own fingers and squeezes.

“I see,” Jeongguk is saying into the awkward air. There’s another silence, the sound of boot-clad feet walking across the ground. Then, a touch to his shoulder, and Taehyung is looking up with alarm, nearly gasping aloud as he meets Jeongguk’s eyes. Red. Snake-like. They’re the eyes of a demon, through and through, and Taehyung glances up to see twisted black horns above his head, standing proud yet unusual, difficult to comprehend. “You should sleep in my room,” he says. Taehyung doesn’t know how to respond. Can’t. He can’t even force a word out as he stares at Jeongguk, watches his eyes mellow to black even as the horns stay atop his head.

Jeongguk gives Seokjin one last glance before pulling Taehyung away and into the hallway, shutting the door behind him. “I have the feeling that it wasn’t just a ‘serious conversation’ being had.”

Shaking his head, Taehyung keeps his eyes on the ground. The last thing he wants right now is the stress of trying to understand Jeongguk, and worse, worrying how he might feel about him.

A hand cradles his face, fingers fitting against his nape as a thumb drags across his cheek. Taehyung forces his gaze up, greets the purple of Jeongguk’s irises and abruptly shuts his eyes, knowing he’s a moment from crying, embarrassing himself in front of Jeongguk.

“Did he harm you, little fangs?” His voice is so soft. It’s a lie.

“Don’t,” Taehyung responds instead of answering, opening his tearful eyes and patting Jeongguk’s hand before pulling it away. He knows he’s crying now, the tears making their way down his regretful cheeks. “I don’t need it now. None of that, I mean.” Of lilac eyes and whispered affections. Maybe Jeongguk sensed his need for comfort and attempted to pull it out of himself, but it hurts Taehyung more to feel like someone would have to force themselves to give it.

“Look at me,” Jeongguk commands, and it’s not begging, it’s not a whittling tone with a lack of confidence. He asks it of Taehyung like there’s no other answer, so Taehyung blinks his blurry eyes open and sees Jeongguk standing there, watches as he looks at him with his eyes dark as night. “I want it.”

“You want what?” Taehyung murmurs, sighing. He's so exhausted.

“I want to- to comfort you. To hold you. I want you to stop crying.”

Taehyung’s breath hitches in his throat. It doesn’t make sense, really. Maybe this is all part of the haze, another stupid part of an incubus’ powers over him. He wants to shake his head, snort in Jeongguk’s direction and lie down, go to bed. But Jeongguk’s frowning, absolutely determined, and Taehyung is as confused as he is wanting.

“Are you just saying that?”

“Why would I?” Jeongguk asks, genuinely confused, like he isn’t a creature all too familiar with deception.

“Then,” Taehyung takes a deep breath, ignores the part of himself that says he’s being an idiot, “you can do it. You can hold me.”

And Jeongguk does. He wraps his warm arms around Taehyung’s waist and squeezes like he cares, and Taehyung gets lost in it, even if he shouldn’t. It hurts. Perhaps Jeongguk can feel his pain. He doesn’t seem that affected by it, never does, but Taehyung’s also realized that emotions for Jeongguk are hard to explain and show. But it doesn’t matter for the moment. He wraps his arms around Jeongguk’s neck and closes his eyes, cries even if it feels much too weak to.

It’s so, so scary to be locked in Jeongguk’s arms. He isn’t cold like himself, has a heart that beats and strains with his movements. The warmth of his embrace never fades whether his eyes are purple or black, and Taehyung knows he’s come to love something that can’t love him back. After all, Jeongguk doesn’t even know what love is, forgot it somewhere along the way, and Taehyung’s always been too much- too much of a lover, a fighter, a protector. He wants it all to be real. He wants Jeongguk to look at him and smile, to hold him without question and kiss him without it being an apology.

But Seokjin may have been right. The world just isn’t as simple as he thought it was. People like Taehyung, born into distress, don't suddenly get what they want.